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Clarke seems unsettled and Lexa hates that it bothers her so much.

 

She’s not been the same since Lexa woke up to her talking to her mom on the phone at one in the morning. She leaves the room when Lexa arrives from class or she shoves earphones in and disappears into a world of her own. Her face is always downturned unless she’s with her friends and Lexa wonders if she intruded too much by asking her if she was okay. She wonders if she overstepped assuming that something might be wrong.

 

It really doesn’t help that Clarke has come back to their room late and drunk almost every night for the past week and a half. Sometimes she lets Lexa help her but other times she just shrugs her off and changes out of her jeans to fall into bed. The times when she does let her help are the times when she’s too far gone to care.

 

It happens more frequently than not. Lexa hates that Octavia and Raven just dump her in her room and hope for the best. She hates that Clarke only comes back on her own when she’s had enough to drink that it’s dangerous.

 

There’s only one night that really scares her.

 

It’s about two and a half weeks after the phone call and Lexa watches her quietly as she takes herself to the bathroom. She hears the toilet flush and the faucet start to run. She waits for Clarke to reemerge for a while but she doesn’t. She expects for the shower to turn on, because Clarke’s done that before, but it doesn’t. It isn’t until she hears a crash and a thud that she panics. She rushes for the bathroom door and calls Clarke’s name over and over again. She decides she doesn’t care what happens when Clarke doesn’t respond. She opens the door and finds Clarke sprawled out on the bathroom floor.

 

“Clarke,” Lexa says, approaching her carefully. There’s a dumb smile on her face and Lexa kneels down beside her before checking her over. “I heard a crash.”

 

Clarke chuckles. “I slipped.”

 

Lexa pushes her hair from her eyes because it’s habit at this point. It’s the only thing she feels comfortable enough to do. “You should be more careful.”

 

Clarke gives her a look. “We can’t all be as sensible and put together as you.”

 

Lexa ignores the comment and reminds herself that drunk people say things they don’t mean. “You’re going to hurt yourself.”

 

Clarke starts chuckling and throws her arms out dramatically. Lexa catches them as Clarke almost hits her with a stray palm. “I drink to numb the pain!” she hollers and only laughs harder when Lexa presses a hand to her mouth. “You’re so serious!”

 

“You need to go to bed,” Lexa tells her, panicked and quiet. She’s scared because tonight isn’t like other nights where Clarke grumps around until she falls asleep. Lexa knows there’s something wrong. “You need to sleep it off.”

 

Clarke’s head rolls as she turns to her with a sudden look of anguish. “But I’ll dream about him.”

 

Lexa frowns in confusion and starts to tidy all the things Clarke’s knocked over to avoid the discomfort she feels. “Who? Your boyfriend?”

 

Clarke shakes her head and swallows dryly. Her jaw quivers when Lexa watches her. “My dad,” she whispers. “He died four years ago today.”

 

Lexa stops fussing and can’t think of anything else to do than reach up and push the hair from Clarke’s eyes again. She hates how fucking blue they are when she’s like this.

 

“I miss him, Lexa,” she whispers softly. She nods her head and her eyes are glassier from more than alcohol. “I miss my mom, too. She—she disappeared. Changed. Broke. I don’t know. I don’t know. She drinks a lot, too.”

 

“Clarke…” Lexa whispers and she wants to say something. She wants to tell Clarke that she understands what it’s like to miss something, to miss someone who isn’t here anymore. She wants to explain so many things but she knows that Clarke probably doesn’t want to listen.

 

Clarke closes her eyes and when she looks up, Lexa’s sure she’s never looked at her with such clear and soft eyes. Her jaw quivers and she manages to prop herself up a little so that Lexa can help her to sit up and lean against the bathroom cabinets.

 

“I’m tired of acting brave,” she whispers now that she’s closer. “Everyone thinks that my life is perfect and it’s not. It’s not. I’m tired, Lexa.”

 

Lexa’s thumb wipes away the first tear that escapes down the apple of her cheek and nods in understanding. “Me too.”

 

Arms find their way around her shoulders without another word. Lexa sighs at the weight and feel of them as Clarke sinks into her arms. She falls into the embrace without thinking and grits her jaw against the onslaught of things she doesn’t want to feel. Clarke snuggles softly into her neck and Lexa’s hand finds the back of her head without even really thinking about it. She lets Clarke find the comfort that she needs until she pulls back and wipes her face.

 

Lexa decides to act like the last five minutes never happened. “Ready for bed?”

 

Clarke shakes her head and smiles. “I think I need to puke first.”

 

Lexa reaches out to push her hair back behind her ear. “I’ll wait with you.”

 

“You don’t have to,” Clarke mumbles and the expression that crosses her face tells Lexa she won’t be waiting long.

 

She shakes her head. “I’ll wait anyway.”

 

Clarke’s expression softens and Lexa busies herself finding a hair tie and a bottle of water. When Clarke finally vomits, Lexa rubs calming circles into her back and tries not to think about the fact that Clarke comfortingly holds onto her bare ankle as she leans over her. She helps Clarke wipe her face, puts toothpaste on her toothbrush, and hands her a cold bottle of water. Clarke strips down to her underwear right in front of her and it’s weird that it’s not weird. She takes the shirt from Lexa’s hands and lets Lexa pull the covers over her.

 

She thinks that Clarke’s asleep, her hands reaching for the now-cold covers of her own bed, when Clarke speaks again.

 

“Lexa?” she whispers.

 

Lexa stops and waits for her. She catches sight of her, laid facing the wall, curled into a ball.

 

“Thank you,” Clarke breathes and Lexa thinks that she might be crying again.

 

“You’re welcome,” she whispers back. And then— “I’m right here.”

 

Clarke nods and snuggles down under the covers.

 

“I know,” she breathes.

 

She sounds peaceful.

 

//

 

She rolls off of Finn and instantly reaches for her bra. She feels his smug smile pressed against the back of her shoulder and gets up to shrug him off.

 

“That was the last time,” she tells him. It’s not the first time she’s told him this and he looks at her with smug disbelief. It drives her crazy—makes her mad—and she shakes her head and lets the color rise in her cheeks instead releasing the anger. “I mean it,” she says warningly as she pulls her jeans on over the underwear that she’s pretty sure is inside out. “Last time.”

 

Finn shakes his head and smirks. “You want me.”

 

Clarke rolls her eyes and steps up closer to the bed as she reaches for her shirt. “I want to be fucked.”

 

“Yeah, but you always come back to me,” he reminds her, his smirk growing. His face softens and he looks at her in a way that she’s sure is supposed to be romantic. “You want me, Clarke.”

 

She pushes him back when he tries to reach for her again, palm flat and firm against his chest as she shakes her head. “I come back to you because I’m hard to please and too lazy to teach someone else how to make me come.” He narrows his eyes at her and she smiles kindly. “I’m here today because I told my mother that I’d go home for the Thanksgiving and I don’t think I’ll be able to cope without relieving some stress first.”

 

“You can make all the excuses you want,” he quips and she reaches for her coat in favor of responding to him.

 

She’s wrapping her scarf around her neck when she reluctantly looks at him.

 

“Last time,” she tells him. “I can’t keep doing this.”

 

Finn gives her a smile and pulls her down by her scarf to kiss her quickly. She turns her head so that he only gets her cheek. “I’ll see you next week.”

 

She doesn’t respond but there’s a part of her that thinks maybe.

 

It depends how messed up her trip home is. She told Finn that she agreed to go home, but that’s not the truth. She’d been arranging to go home with Octavia and her brother for the holidays, but her mother had emailed her early last week with little more than a flight reservation. Clarke had called her cursing and her mother had pretty much threatened to cut her off if she didn’t come home. She was already dreading it.

 

She takes a slow drive back to campus via the grocery store and picks up a ton of crappy food before heading to the Chinese take-out place. She orders her normal order and then orders what she knows Lexa likes too. She doesn’t realize she’s done it until they hand her the huge bag of food. It catches her completely off-guard and she’s in a daze the entire way back to her room. She’s glad that Lexa’s there, laying upside down on her bed, watching a movie on her laptop with her earphones in. She’s wearing her glasses and Clarke alerts Lexa to her presence by pushing them further up her nose.

 

Her eyes go cross-eyed cutely and she reaches to take her earphones out. She glances up at Clarke and there’s a smile that half tugs at her lips before it disappears.

 

“What’s up?”

 

Clarke shakes the bag of take-out at her. “Dinner.”

 

“Chinese?” Lexa asks. “I thought Friday nights were party nights. I was about to go down to the dining hall.”

 

Clarke ignores her and takes the containers out of the bag. She sets them on Lexa’s desk instead of her own because it was too cluttered and messy with crap before she left. Except, when she glances at it now, it’s not. Everything’s tidy and placed into piles. Her books are organized into the order that she’ll need them. Her laptop sits in the middle on charge instead of shoved on the floor under her bed. Her school backpack hangs off the back of her desk chair. It’s then that Clarke also notices that her bed has been made and her trashcan has been emptied. Her side of the room is tidier than she could ever make it herself.

 

Lexa looks away sheepishly when Clarke glances over at her.

 

She chooses not to mention it and answers Lexa’s question instead.

 

“Um, the guys whose frat house we go to have some dinner thing with their professors tonight so there’s no party,” Clarke tells her. “Plus, Raven is sick with a cold and Octavia has a project due, so… They bailed.”

 

Lexa’s face changes and she sits up stiffly, looking away from Clarke.

 

“Sorry you got left with my company, then,” she whispers.

 

Clarke feels her stomach drop before she shakes her head. “I’d already told them I was staying in tonight.” Lexa glances up at her timidly but Clarke just busies herself with the food. “I got you that chicken thing you like.”

 

Lexa takes the container quietly and holds it in her hands until Clarke falls to sit on her bed beside her.

 

“What were you watching?”

 

Lexa swallows. “A documentary for class.”

 

Clarke unsnaps her chopsticks and hands Lexa a pair of her own. “Can I watch with you?” she asks as she gets comfy anyway. Lexa nods and sets her laptop on the desk where they both can see. She restarts the whole entire thing from the beginning and then sits uncomfortably back on her bed beside Clarke. When Clarke sees the name of the documentary, she chuckles. “Is this documentary about sex?”

 

When she turns to her side, she finds Lexa rolling her eyes. “Are you going to be a grown up, Griffin?” she asks. “Or shall I find some cartoons for you to watch?”

 

Clarke smirks and lets the sudden joy of sitting beside her roommate overwhelm her. She hasn’t felt this at ease all day, regardless of what she spent most of it doing.

 

“I’ll be good,” she giggles as she shoves her mouth full of lo mien.

 

Lexa looks at her dubiously until Clarke nudges their shoulders together and urges her to look at the screen. She has that half-amused smile on her face and Clarke wishes she could see it more often. She likes it when Lexa’s playful. She thinks that Lexa’s more fun than she’ll ever know, than anyone will ever know. She’s glad she gets to enjoy these moments when no one else is looking. She likes that no one else knows Lexa can be like this.

 

It overwhelms her in a way that makes it difficult to breathe.

 

“Watch your dirty documentary, Woods,” she whispers, glad that Lexa turns away with a roll of her eyes.

 

Lexa bites her bottom lip and quietly eats beside her. The documentary is actually weirdly riveting and informative and Lexa tells her to wait for the really shocking parts and holds her food when she goes to get a drink for them both. It’s calming and she can tell when they get to the part Lexa got to because she goes quiet and sets her food aside to pay full attention. Clarke finds herself glancing at Lexa more than she does the screen, and it’s endearing how Lexa’s brow furrows, her jaw sets and her glasses slip down her nose.

 

Clarke can’t stop herself from pushing them back up her nose when the documentary finishes and Lexa looks at her carefully before reaching for her food again. She gets up to find a fork and Clarke watches her move around the room with ease before breaking the silence.

 

“Where are you heading for the holidays?” she asks innocently. She’s sure that Lexa’s got some big important family somewhere who will have awesome holiday parties and a lovely family dinner.

 

Instead, Lexa’s back stiffens and she stops where she is. She stands stock still for a moment before busying herself finding something else to watch. She doesn’t say anything until the opening credits of White Christmas are playing on the screen and settles back on the bed, farther away from Clarke than before.

 

“Um,” she starts. “I’m actually staying here.”

 

That surprises Clarke and she doesn’t understand why. She watches Lexa shift awkwardly for a moment and it occurs to her, for the first time since she walked through that door and discovered who her roommate was, that she doesn’t really know all that much about the girl she’s been living with. It also occurs to her, for about the millionth time, that she really wants to know more about her… She just doesn’t know how to ask.

 

“That’s cool,” she whispers. Lexa’s cheeks still turn pink and her body becomes more awkward than Clarke ever remembers it being. It’s like she doesn’t know how to control her own limbs. “I’ll be gone Tuesday night through to Friday night, so… You can go wild with the place to yourself.”

 

Lexa nods and they don’t say anything else.

 

Clarke still watches her. She still feels happy.

 

Lexa mouths all the words to every song in the movie.

 

//

 

Clarke wakes her up with a hand to the shoulder.

 

Lexa stirs with sleepy confusion until she opens her eyes and finds her, sitting on the edge of the bed. She’s so used to Clarke waking her up with a ruckus and the stench of rum that it’s slightly jarring to see her sitting there bundled up in her coat and hat with a bag in her lap.

 

“Sorry,” she whispers softly. “I didn’t want to wake you, but… Well, you’ve been napping for about four hours now and you should eat dinner—” She gestures to Lexa’s desk and Lexa feels her insides burn when she sees the container of mac and cheese and chicken tenders sitting there. “And because I’m heading to the airport now. I wanted to say goodbye.”

 

Lexa sits up and blinks away the sleep. She can barely see and she jolts when Clarke leans over to her nightstand to grab her glasses and slip them up her nose. She was sure she’d been wearing them before she went to sleep.

 

“Have a safe flight,” she mumbles brushing a hand over her face to wake herself up. “Enjoy the sunshine.”

 

Clarke smiles and, when Lexa glances down, she doesn’t understand the hand pressed against her wrist, stroking her pulse. She doesn’t understand why it doesn’t feel out of place.

 

“Can I get a hug?” Clarke asks. Her voice is playful but there’s something in her tone, something similar and reminiscent of a night many weeks ago, which makes Lexa think that this is something Clarke needs.

 

She nods and sleepily reaches for Clarke, not prepared for the way that Clarke clings to her. She’s warm and cold at the same time and Lexa’s sleepiness is still heavy in her bones as Clarke holds her for much longer than necessary.

 

“Be good,” Clarke whispers as she pulls back, pushing the glasses up Lexa’s nose before she gets off the bed.

 

Lexa looks up at her and watches as she gathers the small carry-on bag and her school backpack into her arms. Clarke smiles up at her when she sees her watching.

 

“You too, Griffin,” she mumbles and watches as Clarke leaves.

 

The room seems quieter than ever before after she’s gone. It’s probably because she knows she’s the only person left on this floor. She puts a movie on loud and quietly eats the dinner Clarke left for her. It’s boring, and she falls asleep watching Netflix only to wake up early the next morning to a text from Clarke.

 

It’s the first text that they’ve exchanged that hasn’t been something school-related.

 

It’s raining, is all the message says.

 

Lexa doesn’t respond. She doesn’t know how to do this. She doesn’t know if she wants to.

 

She goes back to sleep instead and only wakes up when she’s hungry.

 

//

 

Clarke comes home for the first time in months to an empty house.

 

There’s a note on the fridge from their maid that says her mother will be at work until Wednesday evening. Clarke rolls her eyes and wanders up to her bedroom to find it almost exactly the way she left it.

 

It’s mostly bare.

 

Clarke moved out most of her things when she left for college. Her mom threw out the rest of the art stuff in a drunken fit a year and a half ago. She’d given her the money to replace it all but Clarke had spent it on rum, condoms, and ice cream for her friends. All that’s left in the room now is her furniture, a TV and the medical textbooks her mother had kept on her bookcase.

 

The dresser is empty of her clothes because Clarke had held a ceremonial burning of all her old clothes during last Spring break after another fight with her mother. It had been shortly after she’d switched majors from Biology to Art History. She figured she didn’t need the smart clothes her mother had forced her to buy if she wasn’t going to be a doctor anymore. Her mother didn’t talk to her for the rest of the time she was home after that.

 

She turns on the TV and falls asleep watching infomercials in her underwear. She doesn’t wake up until the afternoon when the maid brings her lunch and a cup of coffee before going home. She doesn’t leave her room until her mother comes thundering up the stairs and wanders in without knocking.

 

“Honey, you’re here,” she says in lieu of a greeting.

 

Clarke raises her eyebrows and eats another chip from the bag sat beside her. “Blackmail works, huh?”

 

Her mother purses her lips. “Still. I didn’t expect you to actually…”

 

“Come back?” Clarke asks darkly. “Listen to you? You said you’d cut me off if I didn’t and I actually want this degree, so…”

 

Her mother folds her arms and watches her quietly. Clarke glances at her and misses her mom. She misses the woman who would crawl into bed with her and eat the chips too, the woman who would never not hug her daughter after months without seeing her. She misses her family. She misses the Sunday mornings they used to have. She misses her dad reading the paper and watching football. She misses her mom leaning over to kiss his cheek as she makes dinner. She misses the laughter and the feeling of belonging.

 

She hates that she and her mother are falling apart because they lost the one thing that was holding them together.

 

“I’ve… invited Marcus for Thanksgiving dinner tomorrow,” her mom says after a while.

 

Clarke rolls her eyes and gets out of bed, grabbing her jeans from the end of the bed and pulling them up her legs. Her mother watches her wordlessly as Clarke completely redresses. It’s not until Clarke searches for the cash in her backpack that her mother says anything.

 

“Where are you going?”

 

Clarke shrugs. “Out. I don’t know. I’m hungry, maybe.”

 

Her mother nods and lets her pass. Clarke takes one of the cars from the garage and doesn’t come back to the house until four the next morning. She sleeps until mid-afternoon when a hand on her ankle over the covers wakes her up.

 

“Hey, kid,” Marcus says softly and Clarke rolls over to glare at him. He’s her parents’ best friend, the peacekeeper, the man her mom somehow managed to “fall in love with”, even though she was still mourning Clarke’s father. She glares at him and he smiles, just like normal. “Good to see you, too.”

 

Marcus used to be one of her favorite people until he started pandering to her mother’s every whim and giving her excuses. Somehow that turned into love and Clarke thinks he’s an idiot because her mother is broken. Her mother is broken and if he doesn’t watch out, he’ll end up broken too.

 

“Can we try to have a nice, civil Thanksgiving this year?” he asks softly. “Dinner’s almost ready. She made it herself.” He looks at Clarke like that should make her happy and sighs when it doesn’t. “She’s trying, Clarke. She’s been desperate to see you.”

 

Clarke shakes her head. “I don’t care.”

 

Marcus squeezes her ankle. “Yes, you do, and that’s why you’re like this. But she’s okay, Clarke. She’s been going to therapy and she’s worked hard. She hasn’t had a drink in months and… Really, she’s trying.”

 

“She didn’t call me for months,” Clarke reminds him bitterly. “She blackmailed me into coming here.”

 

Marcus hums in amusement. “You ran away from home. You were only supposed to be gone for the weekend and you never came back. She didn’t know what else to do.”

 

“Then she’s not different. She’s not better,” Clarke spits before forcing herself to calm down. She can’t do this anymore. “I’ll eat later. I’m not hungry right now.”

 

Marcus gets up and she’s sure he’s gone back downstairs until he dumps her entire bag of things atop her head. “Get up,” he tells her. “And get your head out of your ass.”

 

She does as instructed and only goes downstairs when he calls her down for dinner. She sits far away from them and sulks, refuses to speak when they take turns to say what they’re thankful for. She talks calmly to Marcus about school, gives her mother one word answers to the things she asks. It’s not nearly as dramatic as it usually is. She actually agrees to play board games with them and wins every single time. They laugh at her like they expected no less and Clarke just misses her father. It feels like a hole in her chest: hollow and empty.

 

“Will you come back for Christmas, Clarke?” Her mom asks when they’re drinking coffee much later that evening. She looks sheepish but distant and Clarke eyes her harshly as she swallows and speaks. “It’ll be better this year.”

 

It sounds like a promise but her mother’s broken lots of them over the years.

 

“I’ll think about it,” she whispers.

 

She goes to bed and when she wakes up, her mother’s already gone to work. She’s left her an envelope of cash on the kitchen counter and Clarke pockets it as Marcus loiters around making coffee. He gives her a knowing look and she’s never sure what to think anymore. Nothing ever feels right. He tells her he’ll take her to the airport and Clarke lets him kiss the top of her head.

 

“We’re really proud of you,” he says and Clarke shakes her head.

 

She wishes she could believe that.

 

//

 

Lexa probably looks like she hasn’t moved since Clarke left when Clarke fumbles her way back into their dorm room. She groans as she throws all of her stuff on the floor by her desk and Lexa snorts when she flounces over to drop into the empty space at the end of Lexa’s bed. She kicks her feet up onto the footboard and falls closer to her before surveying the room.

 

“You look like you’ve had fun,” she quips and Lexa rolls her eyes. “This room is spotless.”

 

Lexa flicks her shoulder and scoffs. “I know you’re making fun of me, but I’m really glad you noticed.”

 

Clarke smiles at her and shakes her head. She looks at Lexa like she’s hopeless and Lexa hides her blush behind her glasses and the darkness of the room.

 

“You’re a dork,” Clarke tells her and Lexa shrugs it off as Clarke climbs off the bed to remove her coat. “Is anyone else back yet?”

 

Lexa shrugs her shoulders and wonders why Clarke’s asking her of all people. Clarke kicks off her boots and her jeans and finds some pajama pants before collapsing back onto Lexa’s bed.

 

“What are we watching?” she asks and then laughs when she sees that Lexa’s watching kids movies. Clarke gives her a look before squeezing her knee and Lexa finds herself staring, hating the fact that everything seems okay now that Clarke’s back. Clarke shuffles closer and pulls Lexa’s legs until they’re in her lap and then reaches over to shove her glasses up her nose like a habit.

 

Lexa gulps back all the weird things she feels and tries to concentrate on watching the bright colors of the movie. She tries to ignore the way that Clarke’s hand still squeezes her knee intermittently, like she’s trying to reassure her she’s still there. It’s too much and Clarke jumps a little when Lexa gets up and sits around properly beside her.

 

“I should order some dinner,” she whispers as Clarke eyes her in careful disappointment. “What do you want?”

 

Clarke doesn’t answer. Lexa shuffles through the pile of menus they keep by the window and tries not to let guilt and confusion seep through her body. She reminds herself she can’t do this. She reminds herself that she’ll be okay. She turns to find Clarke still reclined on her bed, toying with the blanket that had been thrown over Lexa’s lap. She watches Lexa carefully, eyes dark and sad. She looks like she wants to say something. She looks like she wants to ask a million questions. Lexa holds her breath because she knows that she doesn’t want to answer any of them.

 

She’s glad when Clarke gives her a timid smile and shakes her head. “Whatever you want is fine,” she whispers. “I’m happy with whatever.”

 

It feels like she means more than just dinner.

 

They order Thai food and sit in silence as they eat. Lexa lets Clarke put on some gritty, dark, action movie but she’s sure that neither of them watches it. Clarke’s eyes are too busy fluttering in exhaustion as her body slumps sideways. There’s a part of Lexa that wants to say that they should go to bed, that Clarke needs to rest, but she’s too busy watching the way that Clarke softens slowly into sleep instead. It’s so different from how she usually blacks out when drunk that Lexa feels like she’s intruding. She closes her eyes and looks away because it doesn’t feel right.

 

It’s not until Clarke’s head suddenly bumps into her shoulder that her eyes reopen and she takes an unsteady breath when Clarke just slumps further into her. Blonde hair falls over Lexa’s collarbones and tickles against her chin. She brushes it away out of habit and then chastises herself because Clarke isn’t awake and she isn’t drunk, either.

 

“Clarke,” she whispers but Clarke doesn’t make a sound, doesn’t move. If anything, she gets heavier against Lexa’s side and she feels her body shifting sideways under the weight. She lets it happen because she can’t do much else, falling backwards until Clarke’s head rests against her stomach and she can pull her feet back onto the bed. Clarke sighs in her sleep and Lexa watches as she moves, curling around Lexa’s body with a hand gripped in her t-shirt.

 

She should stop this. She should force Clarke awake and send her to her own bed. She should untangle Clarke’s fingers from her shirt and not enjoy the way that she feels warm with Clarke against her. She should stop this.

 

But she doesn’t. Instead, she reaches for her pillows and pulls them until they’re comfortably behind her head. She curls onto her side so that Clarke has just a little more room. She reaches for the blanket behind Clarke and pulls it over their legs and rests her hand against the back of Clarke’s head when she whimpers in her sleep.

 

She carefully sweeps blonde hair from Clarke’s face before tracing the shell of her ear. When Clarke doesn’t stir but instead buries closer into her, Lexa tangles her hands in the cotton candy pink ends of it, her fingers wrapping in it until it falls in perfectly soft curls.

 

Just this once, she tells herself. Just this once, and then I’ll stop.

 

She falls asleep with her fingertips against Clarke’s hairline at the back of her neck.

 

//

 

She never thought she could be so fucking idiotic.

 

She never knew she had the ability to be so foolish until this morning when she realized the last thing she ever thought she’d have to realize. And, for the most part, she’d gone into denial for fifty percent of the day. She’d attended her classes and seen her friends and somehow managed to act normal enough that they didn’t suspect anything. She’d gone for lunch with Raven and Octavia. She’d spoken to her professors about projects and things she needed to do before midterms. She’d acted completely normal until the minute she got back to her empty dorm room and let everything rush over her.

 

She lets everything rush over her at once and the tears have never come quicker because she’s honestly never felt so alone.

 

She momentarily debates calling her mom or, dammit, Marcus, because there’s no one else she can talk to about this. They’ve probably been expected something like this for a while now. It’s just what they need when everything seems to be settling down.

 

There’s no way she can tell Raven, not with their history and the circumstances. She could maybe tell Octavia, but she would probably judge her so hard that she’d never let her live it down. Clarke doesn’t need that right now.

 

She needs someone to give her sympathy, to tell her that she’ll be okay, that she’ll figure it out. She needs someone who will understand and she’s crying more for the fact that she doesn’t have anybody to turn to than anything else when the door to her dorm opens unexpectedly.

 

She expects maybe Raven or Octavia more than the person who actually appears around the door, even though she lives here. Lexa steps into the room with her hood up and her headphones in and Clarke buries her face in her hands to hide her tears.

 

Her eyes are blurry and noise is nothing more than a ringing in her ears. She thinks that she might be having a panic attack and the bottle of rum in her hand suddenly seems like a bad idea now that Lexa’s here. She’s got to stop putting her in this position. She’s already caused so much trouble for her already. She already makes Lexa uncomfortable enough as it is.

 

She never expects Lexa to wordlessly drop to her knees in front of her and press her hands on her thighs in concern.

 

“Hey, hey, hey,” she whispers softly, prying the bottle so expertly from Clarke’s hands that it just makes Clarke feel worse. A hand urges against her shoulder for her to sit up and Lexa narrows her eyes at her like she’s a riddle. “What’s wrong? Why are you drinking at five in the afternoon?”

 

Clarke shakes her head and lets her tears snivel pathetically from her. When Lexa strokes her hair from her face and manages to wipe away some of the tears, it reminds Clarke of the way she’d woken up pressed against Lexa’s stomach a week and a half ago. Lexa’s hand had been tangled in the back of her hair and Clarke hadn’t remembered waking up feeling so content in such a long time.

 

That comfort is what she needs now and she’s so surprised that Lexa’s so happily giving it to her. Lexa looks around the room for clues and Clarke can’t remember the last time someone cared as much.

 

“Breathe, Clarke,” Lexa whispers when that just makes everything feel worse. Because how is she supposed to know what to do when no one else cares. “Breathe, okay? You’re okay. You’re safe.”

 

Clarke takes her hands away from her face and lets Lexa look at her as she buries her hands into the fabric of her jeans. For all the embarrassment she feels at letting Lexa see her like this, it all disappears when Lexa’s eyes soften and her fingertips wipe away the rest of the tears. Clarke smiles despondently and shrugs her shoulders because she’s never seen someone so impatiently patient as the girl in front of her.

 

She smiles as she tries to explain.

 

“I’m late,” she whispers as the smile falls quickly. She waits for the judgment to cover Lexa’s expression, for her to get up and roll her eyes, shout and scream and make everything worse, but Lexa just keeps looking at her and wiping away her tears. Clarke’s chin trembles and she thinks maybe Lexa didn’t hear. “Lexa, I’m fucking late. I’m late.”

 

Lexa nods and calms her with gentle noises. “I heard you,” she whispers. “It’s okay. We’ll figure that out in a second. You need to calm down first.”

 

“But Lexa—”

 

Lexa hushes her softly and shakes her head. “You’re okay,” she says and she keeps saying it until Clarke’s tears slowly stop, until her breathing evens out. She keeps saying it until Clarke’s sure that her knees are probably numb and she’s desperate to leave, but instead she nods and gets up to disappear into the bathroom. She comes back with a washcloth and cleans Clarke’s face until Clarke can do little more than admire the sudden softness of her roommate. “There,” Lexa says and her mouth quirks up into a half-smile. “That’s better.”

 

Clarke smiles and takes the tissue Lexa offers her. “Sorry,” she says uncontrollably. “Sorry for piling all this on you. Sorry for being such an idiot… Sorry for crying. Sorry for—”

 

“It’s fine,” Lexa whispers. “Although you did look like a drunk raccoon for a second there. All your eyeliners run.”

 

Clarke laughs and takes the washcloth, standing to move over to the mirror on the wall. She blows her nose, wipes the rest of her face, and feels safe with Lexa standing behind her watching her.

 

“What’s the plan?” Lexa asks and Clarke turns around to her in confusion until she realizes what she’s asking. Lexa doesn’t look reluctant or annoyed. In fact, she looks kind of ride or die ready in a way that shocks Clarke more than anything else. “We can go to the pharmacy in town but—”

 

Clarke shakes her head and reaches for the bottle of rum. She takes a long gulp from the bottle until Lexa almost looks impressed.

 

“Probably not the best idea,” she mutters.

 

Clarke gives her a glare. “Alcohol is how I got into this mess and it’s how I’m going to hopefully get out of it. I don’t want to be sober for this and until something tells me otherwise I’m going to drink as much as I fucking want.”

 

Lexa snorts. “Fair enough. Gimme your car keys.”

 

“Can you drive?”

 

Lexa rolls her eyes. “I’m the most sensible human on the planet. Would I ask otherwise?”

 

“Good point,” Clarke nods. “Lemme get my stuff.”

 

Lexa is an incredibly sensible driver and at first they just drive around while Clarke drinks from her bottle of rum. It’s like Lexa knows she isn’t ready yet. She drives them around for hours until it’s late and they’re both ridiculously hungry. They’re probably about two hours away from where they should be when Lexa finally pulls into the parking lot of a Walgreens. She doesn’t say anything but she shuts off the engine and turns to Clarke.

 

“You’re really good at this,” Clarke chuckles because Lexa is calmer than she ever expected her to be. Something nags at her chest and she turns to her carefully to ask the thing she’s desperate to know. “Did you…” she starts awkwardly. “Have you ever had a scare like this?”

 

The smile that covers Lexa’s face is wide and pretty. She gives Clarke a look and Clarke remembers the rumors about Lexa but she’d never want to believe anything Lexa hadn’t told her herself.

 

“Uh, no,” Lexa shakes her head and she still looks amused, even as her face screams discomfort. “No, I haven’t. But it doesn’t really have a high probability of happening when you’re one, hugely gay and, two, a virgin… so…”

 

Clarke feels her brow rise at the information and keeps her gaze fixed ahead of her. There are about eight million questions she wants to ask her roommate at this moment but instead she just nods respectfully and tries not to explode. Lexa looks at her like she’s expecting something but when Clarke just nods she rolls her eyes and nudges her shoulder playfully.

 

“But one of my friends growing up had a lot of scares like this,” she nods in explanation. “A lot. Like, I remember yelling at her all the time that condoms are cheaper than pregnancy tests. We used to have to drive to the ass-end of New Jersey so that people wouldn’t wonder why we were always buying pregnancy tests.”

 

Clarke sighs at the mention and Lexa leans forward onto the steering wheel and closes one eye thoughtfully.

 

“Do you want me to go in?” she asks and Clarke just finishes the bottle of rum and lets the buzz sink in before nodding her head. She leans into the glove compartment to get her a hundred dollar bill and Lexa’s eyes widen before she disappears inside.

 

She returns fifteen minutes later, with water and some snacks and she throws most of it in the back before climbing into the drivers’ seat. She grabs one of the bottles of water and instructs Clarke to start drinking as she makes their way back to campus. She only stops to get Clarke a happy meal and more McNuggets than a human should ever need. She helps her back up to their room and forces Clarke to take the five pregnancy tests she bought. They leave them on her desk for way longer than they should and Clarke lays back on her bed as Lexa finishes the rest of her food in silence.

 

“I don’t know what I’ll do,” Clarke whispers and she didn’t know the words were coming until Lexa’s turning to her slowly. “If I’m…” she shakes her head. “I can’t tell my mom because she’ll probably fall apart again. I can’t tell Octavia because she’ll judge me. I can’t tell Raven because I’m sleeping with the boy she’s in love with who doesn’t want her back. I don’t know what to do because I can’t do anything.”

 

Lexa looks at her softly and shrugs. “Yes, you can,” she mutters. “You’ll make a choice and it’ll be the right one. You can do whatever you want, Clarke.”

 

Clarke closes her eyes and tries not to cry. She lies there quietly until Lexa reaches over and takes her hand, squeezing it tight.

 

“They’re all negative,” she whispers and Clarke can’t stop the tears any more than she can stop the hopelessness she feels. She sobs into her hands and laughs when Lexa starts chuckling.

 

The laugh until they fall asleep.

 

//

 

Lexa doesn’t talk about it after. She knows, from experience, that it’s just best to move on and get over it. It’s just a thing that almost happened and there’s nothing more to be done.

 

She remembers that one time that Anya told someone else about her scares and the judgment and hurt she received wasn’t worth it for something that didn’t even happen. It was more detrimental than the actual scare. Lexa doesn’t want to damage or hurt Clarke anymore than she already might feel. She wants her to know that everything’s still okay.

 

The only difference between before and after their little adventure across town is that Clarke seems to have calmed a little. She drinks less, comes home earlier, and can usually be found helping someone else deal with their drunkenness instead of her own.

 

Lexa doesn’t know if it’ll last but she likes that Clarke comes back, only ever buzzed from one drink, and falls asleep to the sounds of crappy TV shows on her computer. Lexa likes that the only thing she needs to do to take care of Clarke now is to take her laptop off her chest once she’s asleep.

 

She thinks that, maybe, Clarke will go back to her old ways once midterms are over and there’s less schoolwork to do. Maybe Clarke will get swept up in the parties of the pre-holiday season.

 

All she knows is that Clarke is somber and softer than she was before. She sleeps a lot and eats proper meals from the dining hall instead of take out all the time. She calls her mother more. She doesn’t let Octavia and Raven encourage her into doing things she shouldn’t. They come over for movie nights and Lexa sees the guilt eating away at her that she wasn’t able to tell her friends this important thing.

 

“I can’t believe we have like a week left of semester,” Raven groans from her place on Clarke’s bed. “I can’t wait to go home.”

 

Lexa looks over at Clarke and knows that she’s anxious about going home. Her mother’s called her a few times and the conversations seemed strained and forced. She knows that they’re both trying. She knows that Clarke doesn’t want to jinx the tentative effort they’ve made to be better.

 

“Lexa?” Clarke asks and Lexa shakes her head, suddenly aware that she was daydreaming about things she shouldn’t. She looks over at Clarke with a frown and tries not to wonder what her friends think when Clarke playfully nudges her with a foot. “Octavia asked where you’re going for the holidays. She wants to know where home is.”

 

Lexa glances over at Octavia who looks at her expectantly. She speaks without thinking because normally she wouldn’t answer such personal questions but Clarke’s blue eyes are curiously watching her.

 

“New York,” she says. “I’ll be in New York.”

 

Clarke smiles and looks ready to say something but the conversation has already moved on.

 

//

 

There’s three days until the end of school and Clarke feels strange and out of sorts.

 

She’s had a routine for a long time, even when she was back in high school and everything was much more difficult. She’s had a routine and that’s always included working hard to get good grades and finding someone willing to ease the tension that only knows how to leave her body through one thing. In high school, it used to be Wells and then maybe a girl here and there who was interested. In college, it was a few randoms and then Finn. It was Finn from early on and then it was not Finn when she realized that Finn was the same boy that Raven had told stories of being in love with. After that it was whoever was willing. She didn’t care who it was, just that they were capable.

 

(She still hates that it somehow managed to be Finn again after that.)

 

Now, it’s no one because sex makes Clarke stupid. Sex makes Clarke do dumbass things. Also alcohol. Alcohol makes her dumb as fuck and that’s why Clarke swore herself off booze and sex until she can figure her life out.

 

She can’t have another incident where her dumb, drunk self thinks that it’s an awesome idea to rip a condom packet open with her teeth and not do anything about it after because she was too drunk to remember. Nothing happened, but it could have, and Clarke never wants to have to drive to an unfamiliar Walgreens with a bottle of rum again.

 

The only problem is that she’s never been this wound up before. It’s been almost a month and she hasn’t had a goddamn orgasm.

 

The mere thought makes her want to cry. She hasn’t had an orgasm. She hasn’t had an orgasm and she’s on the verge of being ready to kill something if she doesn’t have one soon.

 

Clarke hasn’t masturbated in a long time. She’s never needed to. She’s pretty sure the last time she masturbated was when a girl she hooked up with in Myrtle Beach last summer asked her to. She can’t even remember the time before that. It’s not really something that she’s ever put enough effort into learning how to enjoy.

 

She knows that college dorm rules state that you do it in the shower or you do it when no one else is home but Clarke has serious issues with that. Masturbating in the shower scares her (she almost blacked out and tripped during shower sex once) and after Lexa walked in on her and Finn, what’s to say that she won’t walk in again?

 

She’s been debating these issues for about a week now and, short of fucking herself in public, Clarke knows that she’s going to have to wait until Lexa’s at class to do it.

 

Except Lexa sent her a text this morning saying that she wouldn’t be able to go for dinner until later this evening because she has a long exam that doesn’t finish till six. It’s four o’clock now and almost dark and Clarke feels her entire body fill with warmth as she realizes that she’ll be on her own for the next two hours. She was going to shower but she can do that after.

 

This is a more urgent matter.

 

She strips down to her underwear and turns off all the lights, lies back on her bed and pulls her blanket over her. It’s soft against her skin and after all these many days without release, that’s almost too much. Her hand finds the skin of her chest, tracing the curves of her body. Her eyes flutter closed and she sighs as she imagines the hand touching her isn’t her own. She thinks of long, lithe fingers and gentle hands. Her touch drifts down her body, fluttering over the bottom of her ribcage and the dip of her stomach as her diaphragm pulls with her suddenly heavy breaths. She wishes that there was someone kissing her skin, setting her nerve-endings alight. Her imagination runs wild, faces blurring in her vision as one hand hurriedly reaches up to grasp her breast while the other finally delves beneath the blanket and into her underwear.

 

She’s ridiculously wet and flashes of green burst behind her eyelids as a familiar body writhes atop her in her mind. Her fingers find her clit and sweep steadily, firmly, as a relieved shudder flutters through her body. She gets swept up quickly, her mind reeling with images of blushed lips and soft curls. Her hand sweeps up from her chest to her neck, wishing that someone was kissing her there, licking and biting and panting warm breath against her skin.

 

A familiar voice from her memory whispers that it’s okay and broken moans catch in her throat as she fits a finger inside of herself. Her thighs rise up, widening her hips and giving her more room. The voice is familiar, too familiar, and she only barely lets reality set in to realize who it is. She shudders and refuses to let herself acknowledge the want but doesn’t stop herself from thinking about thick, dark curls drifting over her skin. Her fingers swirl patterns over her stomach and ribs and she chokes back a moan as she adds another finger. She wants those swollen lips from her imagination against the wettest, softest part of her and she lets the name drop silently from her lips as her back arches and her toes already start to point against the covers.

 

She’s so close—so close—closer so much quicker than she’s been in a long time, than she thought possible. Broken little whimpers and moans flutter up her throat, and her neck and back are arched so tight that it hurts. The sensory overload is so overwhelming that she vibrates all over and she’s not even sure if she’s really feeling anything. She’s so ready to come, so ready to drop off the edge. She’s so close—so close—so close—

 

The light turns on and the mere shock of it is enough that she slips into her orgasm too quickly, too fiercely. It almost hurts and she groans in disappointment and alarm as her eyes fly open to find Lexa staring back at her. Those same green eyes are wide with shock and Clarke whimpers as she pulls her hand out of her underwear and rolls onto her side.

 

“Oh shit,” she hears Lexa hiss and Clarke’s pretty sure she knocks over about four different items of furniture, but she’s too busy being mortified to care.

 

She grabs her pillow and pulls it over her face, yanks the blanket over the front of her body and fails to cover the back as Lexa fumbles around behind her.

 

“You said you had an exam,” she groans and there’s another crash behind her.

 

“Fuck,” Lexa whispers and Clarke’s not sure she’s ever heard Lexa swear before. “Fuck, um. No. Well. My professor wrote the date on the schedule wrong and it’s actually tomorrow.” She drops something again and then Clarke hears her drop whatever it is in defeat as the door opens. “You know what? Fuck it. Carry on. I’ll go to the library. I’ll go to the library.”

 

The door slams closed.

 

Clarke doesn’t uncover her face until much later. She doesn’t think she’ll ever get over the embarrassment.

 

She doesn’t think she’ll ever get over the way Lexa whispered fuck.

 

//

 

Lexa spends the last three days of the semester pretty much holed up in the library.

 

She spends her last three days barely eating as she’s avoiding the dining hall, only sleeping when she can’t keep her eyes open any longer. She heads back to her room when she knows that Clarke will one hundred percent either not be there or be asleep. She sneaks in late and heads out much earlier than necessary.

 

She knows that Clarke is probably mad at her. She hasn’t said anything but Lexa knows. She knows that she accidentally overstepped a boundary that she never should have. She knows that she saw something she wasn’t supposed to, that she never wanted to, as much as she’s accidentally replayed it over her in memory in the hours since. She knows that what she saw has changed things. She knows they’ll never be able to come back from this.

 

It’s made things weird and Lexa doesn’t know what to do.

 

She’s overwhelmed with that same feeling she felt the first day she met Clarke. It’s nothing other than a desperate need to self-protect and avoid all the things that she knows Clarke will mean. Clarke is the thing that she’s deliberately avoided for almost all of her life.

 

Clarke is different. Special.

 

She’s not like everyone else and that’s a bad thing.

 

Lexa can’t disassemble special—she can’t figure it out—and it makes her feel unsafe and vulnerable. It makes her feel scared.

 

She’s sure all she needs is the time to get her head straight, to realize that Clarke is her roommate and seeing her how she did is just another fact of the predicament they find themselves in. She needs time to wipe what she saw from her memory, replace it with reminders of Clarke vomiting in the middle of the night and keeping her awake when all she wants to do is sleep.

 

She’s unable to avoid her on the last day of semester and she’s been preparing herself for it for the past twenty-four hours. They have to be gone from the dorms by five and Lexa’s taking the three o’clock train into New York from Boston. She sleeps in because she can. She stirs awake and buries into her covers when she realizes that Clarke is moving around behind her.

 

“I expected to wake up to find out that you’d left in the night,” she says and Lexa doesn’t understand how Clarke knows she’s awake because she hasn’t even opened her eyes. She doesn’t say anything and Lexa listens as she sits down on the end of her bed before throwing a pillow over at her. Lexa flinches and hates herself. “You can’t avoid me forever. You can pretend that you never saw what you saw. I’d probably appreciate that a lot. But you can also be a grown up and talk about it instead of hiding like a child.”

 

That makes Lexa mad. “I’m not hiding,” she says, still staring at the wall. “I just needed some quiet.”

 

“You’re full of shit,” Clarke says around a mirthless chuckle. “You’re also a big ass baby. You saw me masturbating, Lexa. I promise you it was one hundred times more embarrassing for me than it was for you, so get over it. I’m sure it’s something that you’ve done before yourself, so stop acting like you saw me murdering a puppy.”

 

The anger rises steadily within her. It hasn’t happened like this in such a long time. It’s the kind of rush of feeling that once used to get her in trouble. It used to leave her red with rage and with bloody knuckles. Now it just leaves her sore and breathless as she continues to hold it all back.

 

“You know what, Clarke?” she spits, sitting up in bed and shooting her a look of disdain. “Fuck you. Maybe if you stopped thinking about yourself and looked around you for one second, you’d see that maybe I don’t give a rat’s ass about the fact that you rubbed one out and I walked in on you. Maybe—just fucking maybe—you’d notice that the reason I can’t bear to be around you is because I’m so done with dealing with all of your shit that I needed a fucking break.”

 

She regrets the words as soon as she says them and she doesn’t understand why. It’s been four months and she’s surprised she didn’t burst ages ago. With anyone else, she would have probably smothered them in their sleep. She doesn’t take the words back, though. She jumps out of bed and gathers up the clothes she’d laid out last night before storming over to the bathroom and slamming the door.

 

She doesn’t expect the rush of panic and anxiety the minute the door is closed. She turns on the shower and lets the loud sound of the rushing water drown out the heavy panting of her breath and the ache in her chest. She leans against the counter and reminds herself that this is safer, this is safer and surer and better than anything else her body is desperate to do. This will keep her safe. This will keep her alive.

 

She showers for a long time and dresses slowly, dreading going back out and seeing Clarke again. She does it anyway, too familiar with confrontation not to, and is surprised when the room is empty.

 

There’s a piece of paper on her bed and she grabs it tentatively before reading what it says.

 

I’m sorry I made you feel that way. I’ll try to be better. Have a good break. Clarke x

 

She’s still holding it in her hand hours later when Anya meets her at the station. There’s a smile on her face and she instantly notices that Lexa’s responding one isn’t as wide as it usually is.

 

“You okay?” she says before she says anything else.

 

Lexa lets her arms fall around Anya’s slim shoulders and hold her tight in response. Her face buries in her shoulder and Anya pauses in confusion before wrapping her arms steadily around Lexa’s body and squeezing her tight.

 

“You’re okay,” Anya says when Lexa’s shoulders shudder just once before stopping. “You’re okay. You’re always okay.”

 

Lexa’s not so sure.