Two lines and one word.
That’s all it took.
Shaky hands drop the white stick to the ground.
Clarke Griffin looks into the mirror, stares at her reflection for a moment, before raising her fist and shattering the glass.
Blood mixes with glass in the porcelain basin of the sink and she crumples to her knees. She lets the blood flow from her knuckles.
That’s how Finn finds her an hour later.
She’s crumpled in the corner of his bathroom with her arms wrapped around her knees. He reaches out for her, mostly for her bloodied knuckles, but she jerks away from him. He sits and he waits and she comes around. She crashes her head into his knees and she whispers, “I ruined our lives.”
And Finn thinks it’s impossible. There’s no way Clarke could ruin anything. She’s wonderful, a gift even. She saves. She doesn’t ruin. “Impossible, princess,” he murmurs. It’s meant to be comforting but just forces more tears out of her eyes. She reaches underneath the sink and puts the pregnancy test into his lap.
She continues to cry and blood continues to drip from her knuckles into the floor of Finn’s bathroom. He stands up and he grabs her gently by the wrists, pulling her up. “Let’s get you to the hospital,” he says, looking at down at her busted hand with concern.
They ride in silence.
Clarke doesn’t speak until the doctor in the emergency rooms suggests an x-ray and asks if there’s any chance Clarke could be pregnant. Finn’s throat goes dry and Clarke’s head shoots up. “Yes,” she says, her voice low. It rises in volume and in confidence when she continues, “I. I am pregnant.”
“I’m not getting an abortion,” is the first thing she says when they settle back into the car. She fixes Finn with a steely glare that lets him know this isn’t something to fight her on. Finn’s hands rest calmly on the steering wheel. Deceptively so though because Clarke notices his white knuckles.
“Okay,” is his response.
“Okay?” Clarke echoes, eyebrows raising. “I’m telling you that I’m keeping this baby and all you can say is okay?” she says, incredulous. Finn sighs.
“It’s your body. Your-” he pauses and takes a long, deep breath, “ our baby. I respect whatever choice you make,” he finishes and he’s calm, eerily so, and Clarke has to wonder when the dam will break.
She leans back in her seat, her head bouncing off of the headrest. “I can’t fucking believe this,” she mutters, looking out of the window. Her hand is carefully resting on her stomach.
“You know what they say,” Finn replies, a smirk on his lips. Clarke turns to him and arches an eyebrow.
“A condom a day keeps the baby away,” he says back. There’s silence in the car for a moment before Clarke starts to laugh. Soon, Finn laughs too.
“Something we never learned, I guess,” Clarke jokes, looking down at her stomach again. The somber mood settles back over the pair and then Finn drops his hand from the steering wheel. He reaches over and puts his hand next to Clarke’s, on her stomach.
“We’re going to be okay,” he murmurs, looking up at her through the cluster of hair that’s fallen in front of his eyes. She smiles back at him, her lips twitching because she still feels a little bit like she wants to cry. But Finn is here and he’s not running away from this. From them. They were going to do this.
Telling her mom goes exactly as she expects.
They both yell.
Clarke leaves their house feeling worse than she did when she’d arrived.
She doesn’t hear from her mom for months.
She’s eight months pregnant, all swollen ankles and protruding belly, when she finally calls. “Clarke,” she says in a broken voice that nearly makes Clarke pause before she hangs up the phone.
It’s the beginning of June and she’s entirely too sweaty and sore for this. She can’t argue with mother on top of carrying around what feels like a sixty pound weight in her stomach. She’s always had weak ankles.
Abby doesn’t relent though. She calls twice a day, every day, until Clarke finally picks up.
“If you’ve called to call me a slut again, I don’t want to hear it,” Clarke says in lieu of a greeting. She hears Abby’s heavy sigh on the other end.
“I’m calling to apologize. I said some things to you that night that I shouldn’t have,” she admits and Clarke knows it must have been difficult for her to call. Abby never likes to admit that she’s wrong. Even to her daughter, whom she’s hurt over and over again due to a refusal to apologize for harsh words.
“You’re damn right,” she mutters.
“Can you forgive me? I don’t want to miss out on my grandchild because I have a big mouth,” Abby asks and at that moment, the baby kicks. She sighs. Apparently her kid didn’t want to miss out on having a grandmother either. Clarke closes her eyes and she pauses, though that’s mostly due to indigestion.
It passes and she sighs into the phone. “I’m due in two weeks,” she offers and it’s not forgiveness, not yet, but she can hear Abby’s relieved sigh through the phone. She won’t admit it but she’s rather grateful to have her mom back, just in time for the baby. She’s sure she’s going to need all of the help she can get. She is only eighteen and wikihow didn’t help her much when she’d typed in ‘how to be a mother’.
She gives birth on a Saturday. Finn holds one of her hands, his hair pushed away from his face with a sterile cap. Abby holds the other. They both urge her on when she feels like she’s ready to give up. She’s been in labor for twenty six hours and it’s the most excruciating pain she’s ever felt in her life. She thought it couldn’t get worse than her broken tailbone in the seventh grade.
But it did. Oh it did.
Then she hears the cry and they put him in her arms and Clarke thinks she would do that thirty thousand times if it meant she got to experience this moment again. He’s a little gross, still covered in blood and fluids, and his face is scrunched up and small but he’s hers . He’s her baby. She made that. Finn leans down against her shoulder, tears spilling down his cheeks and Clarke leans her forehead against his. “You did it, princess,” he says and Clarke’s smile is lazy, tired, and most of all: relieved.
He opens his eyes and Clarke catches the first glimpse of that bright blue and she knows she’s sunk.
She’s never going to love anybody more than him.
His name is Jake Griffin. After Clarke’s father.
It’s a good, strong name.
Abby cries when she reads the birth certificate.
“I’m doing it wrong,” Clarke says into the phone. Abby laughs on the other end and Clarke scowls. Well that’s rude .
“You’re not doing it wrong,” she assures and Clarke scoffs.
“How would you know? You aren’t here, looking at my boob that my three day old son refuses to latch onto,” Clarke says. He’s yawning again and she wonders if she just….jams it in there, it’ll work. “Mom, he’s going to starve,” she adds, the worry in her voice betraying just how nervous about this she actually feels. The nurses at the hospital had helped her with his latch while she was in the hospital and it was easy when they were situating his head perfectly underneath her breast. He ate like a champ.
Now? Well he’s looking up at her with wide, blue eyes and downright refusing to put his mouth on her nipple.
“Worse comes to worse, give him a bottle. He’s three days old, he won’t know the difference,” Abby says before she hangs up. Clarke groans. She doesn’t want to bottle feed him. Granted, she’d pumped enough to feed him for today, last night but that didn’t mean it was something she wanted to resort to. She’s fairly certain that bottle nipples feel different than an actual nipple. She would know. She's tried both.
“This isn’t the first time I’ve been angry at a boy for not putting his mouth on my boob,” Clarke murmurs, looking down at Jake. He smiles, or more accurately he gets gas which forces his face muscles into something that looks like a smile. Clarke chooses to pretend like he’s laughing at her in-poor-taste joke. “You’ve got to give me an inch, buddy,” Clarke whispers and he wriggles, like he’s trying to escape her grasp, and she holds tighter. “Oh no. There’s nowhere for you to go. You can’t even walk,” she muses and she wonders if other mother’s talk to their newborns this way. Likely not.
It takes fifteen more minutes and many more groans and pleads from Clarke’s end, but he finally latches on and Clarke nearly scares him off when she lets out a yell of victory.
Motherhood isn’t easy.
She’d thought breastfeeding and waiting for his bellybutton to fall off was difficult.
She was hopelessly unprepared for things like colic, explosive diapers, and the first time he got a temperature. She’d cried in the waiting room of the doctor’s office because she was convinced it was ebola.
Finn is a great dad. Something that ought not to have been as much of a surprise to Clarke as it was. He’s attentive and sweet. He alternates wake ups with her and changes just as many diapers as she does. She’s lucky as far as baby daddy’s go. She could have done much, much worse.
The first year flies by.
Before she knows it, she’s cleaning up a pile of frosting below Jake’s high chair after his first birthday party ended. He’d gotten loads of gifts and loads of sugar, which he is currently sleeping off against Finn’s chest. “They get warmer as they get older,” he murmurs and Jake shifts against him, his jaw falling open in his sleep. Clarke’s nose wrinkles. She’s entirely too endeared. Her son is beautiful. And Finn’s alright too. But mostly, her son is beautiful like damn, she did a good job on that one. Not for the first time, pride flows through her. She’s got the best looking kid ever . Maybe if Toddlers & Tiara’s was still running, she’d enter him in beauty pageants just for the sake of showing off how good looking her kid was. He’d win grand supreme any day.
“He’s more like a tiny space heater than a person,” Clarke muses with a laugh.
She’s nineteen, a college dropout, with a one year old son and a baby daddy that she lives with and sometimes has sex with (always, always with a condom).
It’s nowhere near how she imagined her life. Not once in all her years of fantasizing did she ever come up with this scenario.
It’s good though. It works. She loves her son more than she loves anything else, material possession or otherwise, and she wouldn’t trade him for anything. Not even a bachelor’s degree.
She’s always hated tuesdays. There was just something about them. She’d found out she was pregnant on a tuesday. She’d told her mom on a tuesday.
Finn dies on a tuesday.
She has a bad feeling in the pit of her stomach all day. She waits by the door for Finn to pick her up. She has an appointment with an advisor at the local community college to talk about coming back. She doesn’t have a car of her own, or even a license, and she needs Finn to be there.
She checks her watch. 3:45. If he didn’t show up in the next five minutes, she would be late and then she would have to kill him. It’s the only possible retribution.
The clock ticks.
Her phone rings.
“Finn, where the fuck are you?” she seethes into the phone. There’s an uncomfortable silence on the other end.
“Is this Clarke Griffin?” a mysterious voice on the other end asks and Clarke’s heart stops.
She barely hears the rest of what they say.
….collision with another motor vehicle….
…..paramedics tried to save him…..
…..dead upon arrival……
Her head spins. Or maybe the room does. She doesn’t know. All she knows is that the phone falls from her hands and she collapses the ground.
Finn is dead .
How could he.
He could he do this to her? Didn’t he know she needs him? She can’t do this by herself. She can’t raise Jake by herself.
She’s not cut out to be a single mother. She was barely cut out to be a mother at all.
She can’t do this by herself.
Jake crawls up to her and puts his hands on her knee. “Mama,” he says in that tiny voice of his that usually makes her smile. Instead it’s the hammer that hits the wall and she breaks.
She cries. She doesn’t know for how long and soon, Jake starts to cry too.
A few minutes, or maybe a few hours, pass before she gets the strength to reach across the floor and pick up her phone. Her hands are shaking and she catches a glimpse of the scars on her knuckles from when she’d punched the mirror. Finn used to kiss them. ‘Battle scars’ he’d say. Told her that they’d always reminded him of the day he found out he was finally getting a family.
And now he was gone.
She calls her mom. “Mom….mom, he’s gone,” she whispers into the phone. She can barely hold it up to her ear, her hands are shaking so badly. Jake is crawling away and she can’t reach him so she grabs the back of his shirt to keep him from getting into something he isn’t supposed to. “Mom, I need you,” she cries into the phone. It’s maybe the first time since Clarke was a child that she’s admitted to needing her mother, but she does right now.
She can’t do this by herself.
The funeral is small and sad, as funerals tend to be. If there’s one bright spot that Clarke can pick out, it’s the way Jake looks in a tiny suit. She has tears in her eyes as she dresses him. She bends down and kisses his head when he asks, “Dada?” because Clarke doesn’t know what to say to him. How do you tell a one and a half year old that his father is dead? He can’t possibly wrap his head around it. Hell, she could barely wrap her head around it and she’d identified his body at the morgue.
Finn was really dead.
And Clarke really was a single mom.
Abby holds her hand throughout the service. Jake is asleep in his stroller and she’s almost glad. Glad he doesn’t have to see the coffin that holds his father’s body being lowered into the ground. She wishes she could fall asleep in a stroller too and not have to face this. There’s too many sympathetic looks and overly salivated kisses on the cheek for Clarke to handle.
She might not have loved Finn, not in the way that she wishes she did, but she cared about him deeply. He was the father of her child. He would always be some kind of special to her.
After the service, they hold a reception at Abby’s house. There’s too many people dressed in black and too many people who are giving her pity eyes. She leaves Jake with Abby for a moment before she steps outside.
Abby moved into a smaller brownstone just a few months prior. She couldn’t stand to live in their old house anymore. Too many memories of her father. Clarke thinks she’s starting to understand why.
She’s running her hands through her hair, letting out a long deep breath, when she hears the sound of a car door locking. She opens her eyes, wondering if it’s another one of Finn’s estranged relatives coming by to offer false sympathy and a casserole. It isn’t.
Instead, it’s a tall brunette wearing a grey suit, walking up the steps to the brownstone next door. She holds a briefcase and looks in Clarke’s direction before she has a chance to look away. She offers a short, tight smile, that’s given entirely out of courtesy rather than interest and Clarke rips her eyes away.
Maybe if she were anywhere else but at her boyfriend’s funeral, she would consider the soft green eyes or the golden curls the girl possessed. But she isn’t.
She’s saying goodbye to Finn and that’s the only thing today is about.
She really, really , needs a drink.
She changes Jake’s middle name to ‘Finley’. She wants to keep him close to his dad. It’s the only way she can think to do it.
Clarke cries when she gets the new birth certificate in the mail.
She makes it a month on her own before she breaks down and calls her mom. “I need you,” she whispers into the receiver for the second time in as many months. Her mom talks her down, quiets her sobs, which she’s incredibly grateful for because she doesn’t want Jake to be woken up by the sound of her crying. She’s been keeping him up enough as it is.
It’s harder to let go of him now. Even if it’s just to let him run into the kitchen. There’s this fleeting moment of panic that hits her and makes her feel like something terrible is going to happen to him and she’s going to lose him too.
She misses Finn. Every day she misses him. The ache in her chest is constant. She misses the way he’d cook omelettes on saturday mornings. The way he would kiss Jake gently on the tummy before tickling him, allowing his laughter to fill the room. He was a great father. Now he was gone and Jake would barely remember him. It wasn’t fair.
She can’t pay rent on her own. She doesn’t have a degree or a job and she thought maybe, maybe , she could find something so she wouldn’t have to rely on anybody else.
She has to go home.
She moves out in the beginning of June. The third, to be exact.
They have her and Jake moved out of the apartment and settled into Abby’s home in an afternoon. At least here, Jake gets his own room. That’s not something Clarke can really complain about.
They stand in the empty room, Jake hugging at her calf. His head leans sleepily against her knee and she plays with his hair. It’s a nice sized room. The windows are big and there’s a lot of natural light. She supposes it’s not bad as far as first ‘big kid’ bedrooms go. Not as big as her room in their old house, but bigger than the sliver of space he’d gotten in her apartment. It was a happy medium. Well, maybe not happy.
She picks him up and gives him a sloppy kiss on the cheek. “You get to decorate your own room, bud. What do you want it to be?” she asks him and he looks at her, blue eyes wide and excited.
“Space!” he shouts excitedly, his arms bursting out from her hold and she almost loses her balance. Clarke should have suspected. He loves space. Finn had - nevermind.
If she could press pause on her own thought process, she would. It hurts to think of Finn.
She carries him out of the empty room and down the stairs. Abby is moving boxes into the foyer and Clarke glances guiltily at her. “Sorry I’m not being much help,” she says, eyeing the way sweat is starting to soak the front of Abby’s t-shirt. She shakes her head, standing back up to her full height. She leans in to give Jake a kiss on the cheek. He giggles and it makes Clarke smile. She can always count on that kid to bring a little brightness into her day. He's like sunshine that way.
“Don’t worry about it. Someone’s got to keep this one from getting into trouble,” Abby says with a wink. She points to Clarke. “I mean you,” she adds and Clarke rolls her eyes.
“I already got pregnant at eighteen and dropped out of college. What other trouble could I possibly get into?” she says, walking away from the doorway. Abby walks in the opposite direction, ready to grab another box from the u-haul they rented. Clarke keeps Jake on her hip and she bounces him once to keep his eyes from drooping shut. It’s too early for nap time.
“I can think of at least ten different things, Clarke,” Abby calls from her spot by the u-haul where she’s begun to grab another box.
“Your grandma is being a grump this morning,” she whispers to Jake, kissing him on his temple. He isn’t really paying attention to her. Instead he’s focused on pulling at the frayed strings of Clarke’s tank top.
“I can hear you,” Abby calls out and Clarke’s lips lift into a smirk.
“I wanted you to,” Clarke yells back. Her arms are starting to get tired so she puts Jake on the ground. He plops firmly on his butt almost immediately and Clarke stretches out her arms. God, that feels good. He weighs more than an oversized bowling ball now and despite that, he still loves to be held. Clarke would never say no, but her arms? Sometimes they did. She walks toward the door, eyeing her son carefully.
“Mom, I’m going to close this. I let the beast out of his cage and I don’t want him falling down the stairs,” she says, flicking her eyes back to where her son was still sitting on the ground. He looked occupied now but Clarke knew better - his preoccupations never lasted. He’d be off and running soon enough. She just really didn’t need it to be down the concrete stairs.
“Alright, I’ll be in soon,” she offers and Clarke catches a glimpse of her walking over to the other side of the railing - presumably to talk to their neighbor. She doesn’t know who it is, the brownstone next door having been turned into apartments, but there’s an image of a brunette in a grey suit that flashes behind her eyelids.
Too soon, there’s the pattering noise of feet behind her. “Mommy, mommy, mommy!” Jake says enthusiastically as he bounds up to Clarke, gripping her knees She pretends he knocks her over, gasping as if he’s truly taken the wind out of her. She closes the door behind her, afraid Jake would plough through her legs and down the steps. She bends down and scoops him up, his hands wrapping around her neck in a tight hug. She bops her finger against his nose.
“Hungry?” she asks and he nods, playing with the edges of her hair.
“Ya,” he says, his mouth not fully forming the entirety of the word ‘yeah’ but she takes it. She doesn’t have the energy to correct her almost two year old on his grammar.
“Maybe I should just have you for dinner,” she comments and Jake’s eyes widen.
“No, mommy!” he says worriedly and Clarke has to laugh.
“I’m kidding. You’re too rotten to have for dinner,” she says, shifting him so his legs are wrapped around her front and she buries her face in his stomach, blowing raspberries against his skin, making him giggle. “Let’s have some ravioli. Sound good?” she asks and Jake bobs his head up and down in agreement. She’s lucky he was easy to appease because ravioli was about the only dish she could cook without help. They’d been eating a lot of it recently. Without Finn - well. She supposes that phrase speaks for itself.
Jake wakes up screaming for his father and Clarke does her best not to cry. Her bottom lip quivers as she holds Jake against her chest. She lets him suck his thumb to soothe himself. She doesn’t have it in her to try and tell him no. At least, not right now. His forehead is sweaty as Clarke rakes her fingers through his hair, gently, rocking in the chair that Abby had bought as something of a housewarming gift.
He quiets after a few minutes of rocking and soothing but Clarke can’t bring herself to stand up and put him back in his crib. She keeps him close to her chest. She’s wide awake now and there’s a tear that slides gently down her cheeks. It hits the top of Jake’s head but she doesn’t move her hand to wipe it away. There’s nothing that hurts Clarke more than Jake calling out for Finn, knowing that he would never be there to get him.
Clarke might have lost a boyfriend, a love, but Jake lost his father and there’s nothing that hurts more than that. She knows from experience. She wonders if maybe she feels this heartbreak twice. Once for Finn, her boyfriend and another for Finn, the father of her child. Jake doesn’t know what death is, or what it means, so Clarke has to bear that weight for him. Shoulder the sadness of losing a father. Again.
She watches the sun rise and light creep in through the blinds while she continues to rock Jake.
She’s not sure when she dozes off, or how, but soon Abby is shaking her shoulder gently. “Clarke, wake up,” she whispers ad Clarke jolts awake. She looks down at Jake and lets out a relieved sigh when she sees that he’s still sleeping. Thank God. She didn’t need to deal with a toddler who hadn’t gotten enough sleep so early in the morning. “I’m leaving for work,” she continues, her voice a quiet, raspy whisper. She kisses Clarke on the top of her head and Clarke leans into it. It’s nice being home. She hasn’t….needed her mom in a long time but she does now and more than anything, Clarke is happy that she’s here. Abby moves from daughter to grandson, kissing his forehead the same way she’d kissed Clarke’s. “Get some sleep,” she murmurs against Clarke’s forehead.
As Jake begins to stir, Clarke thinks that’s not really likely.
He rouses a few moments later, lifting his head from her chest. He tries to blink sleep from his eyes but his eyelids just fall shut again. She kisses his forehead and continues to rock. She wouldn’t be opposed to him falling back to sleep but she knows she likely won’t be that lucky. Once he wakes up, he’s awake. He turns his face toward her and she almost laughs. There are lines imprinted on the sides of face from where he had been laying against her chest. His lips are puffy, which they usually are after sleep, as are his eyelids. She’s always loved his groggy, post-sleep look. It reminds her that he still possesses all of his innocence. He hasn’t lost it yet. She hopes he won’t.
He starts to babble and Clarke knows that they can’t sit in the chair anymore. She gets her hands underneath his thighs and she pushes herself off of the chair. She carries him over to the changing table, another gift from Abby. He’s still babbling about something and playing with hands. Clarke changes his diaper at a breakneck speed. He’s nearly two, and she knows it’s a little early to start toilet training, but she doesn’t want to keep him in diapers forever. Diapers cost money. Money she doesn’t have. She can’t keep asking her mother to purchase bags and bags of diapers every week. It was too much. It was bad enough she was already taking up two bedrooms in her home.
She doesn’t dress him. He kicks his feet and she takes him down from the changing table. He starts to run in front of her and she has to speed walk to keep up with him. She grips his hand and they walk down the stairs together. Clarke herself only wears a long t-shirt and underwear. She figures, nobody else will be around for the rest of the day, there isn’t much point in putting pants on.
It’s her first full day in the house by herself. It’s quiet. Much quieter than she’s used to.
Clarke spends much of the day on her stomach, playing with blocks and trying to teach Jake how to say the word ‘green’ (he has trouble - his r’s tend to sound a bit like w’s). Abby comes home at dinner time, or what Clarke presumes to be the average person’s dinner time, with bags of food in her arms. “I went shopping!” she announces and Clarke raises an eyebrow.
“I can see that,” she replies. Abby sets the bags on the kitchen island and walks into the living room. She leans down to kiss the top of Jake’s forehead. “How was work?” she asks and she laughs when Abby’s nose wrinkles.
“I’m home now and that’s all that matters,” she coos down at Jake, who smiles, hitting his small fists against his thighs. Clarke’s brows furrows and she reaches across the empty space to grip his hands. He wraps his fists around her hands instead. She grins. She loves his hands. He holds Clarke’s entire world in his hands.
He lets go then and Clarke brings her hands back to rest her head on them. Her eyes start to drift shut but they snap back open. Abby is sitting on the couch, playing with Jake, so Clarke allows herself to close her eyes for a few moments. It’s been a long day. Just like every other day. “Clarke!” she hears and she jumps. Abby is staring and she has Jake on her lap now. Her head is tilted and she quirks an eyebrow at Clarke. “Go take a nap, sweetheart. I can watch him for a little while,” she offers and Clarke doesn’t bother to fight her. She’s exhausted. Jake doesn’t seem like he’s going down any time soon and any sleep is good sleep. She climbs the stairs to her room and crashes on her bed without a second thought.
She’s asleep within seconds.
She wakes some time later to the sound of muffled voices a floor below. She assumes it’s just the television, because as far as Clarke knows, Abby doesn’t really have any friends (no offense to her mother, she’s just not the most social). She doesn’t bother putting pants on.
She runs a hand through her hair, messing it up even further. She’s rubbing at her eyes with the back of her hand, her t-shirt riding up her stomach when she walks into the kitchen. “Mom, I’m awa-” she starts, her hand falling back to her side. The voices come to halt and Clarke’s own trails off when she notices that there are two people standing behind the kitchen island. Her mother and a vaguely familiar brunette wearing a white button up were engaged in a conversation. Or at least, they were. Now though, Abby is raising an eyebrow and the brunette’s face is stoic, save for the slight blush in her cheeks. Clarke bites down on her bottom lip. “I didn’t know we were expecting company,” Clarke murmurs, her fingers fiddling with the bottom of her shirt. She’s painfully aware of the fact that she’s not wearing any pants in front of this stranger who is….. wow . Really fucking beautiful. even from the small glimpse that Clarke got of her before she was forced to look away in complete embarrassment. “I’m going to,” she pauses, making vague hand gestures back toward the stairs.
“Good idea, Clarke,” Abby says, gesturing with her eyebrows and Clarke squeezes her eyes shut tightly, backing up, trying not to turn her back toward the stranger until the very last minute. She opens them when she feels her heel hit the stairs. Clarke swears she sees a smirk pulling at the side of the brunette woman’s lips but she doesn’t have time to dwell on it. She rushes up the stairs, nearly trips, and tries to push down the blush that’s invading her cheeks.
God, that girl, woman , was beautiful. She was all cheekbones, plump lips, and beautiful tan skin. Her hair was golden and Clarke didn’t know what the Gods and Goddesses on Mount Olympus really looked like but if she had to gander a guess, she’d be willing to put money on the idea that they resembled her.
And she’d walked into the room wearing nothing but an old rolling stones t-shirt, that had once belonged to her father, and ugly cotton mom underwear. Far from the greatest first impression on the hottest woman she has ever seen in her entire life.
She contemplates the merits of just...sitting on her bed until she hears the door slam, signifying the beautiful strangers departure, but it’s getting late and she needs to tuck Jake in so that’s less of an option than she wishes it was. She slides on a pair of yoga pants, looks in the mirror and tries to fix her hair as best as she can. It’s a rat’s nest and there’s no fixing it but she feels like she should try. That girl down there is positively exquisite. Possibly the most stunning woman that Clarke has ever seen and Clarke feels like yesterday’s trash even being in the same room as her looking like she does. She opts to simply throw her hair in a bun, hoping it’ll suffice.
She takes a deep breath before climbing down the stairs again. She pauses on the bottom step and straightens her back. Maybe if her posture is better, she can pass herself as a sophisticated woman. Someone that’s worthy of the company of the woman in her kitchen. Clarke crosses the threshold into the kitchen to the amused smile of Abby and the still blank face of the woman behind the island. “Can we pretend I walked in this way the first time?” she asks, raising an eyebrow. Abby’s smile grows and gestures to the woman next to her with a tilt of her head.
“Clarke, this is Lexa, our next door neighbor,” she introduces and Clarke’s eyes widen as it dawns on her exactly where she remembers her face from. She’s the woman from the funeral. Grey suit and pretty face. Of course she would be their next door neighbor. There was very little chance to avoid her now. There’s definitely a smirk pulling at the side of her ridiculously plump lips. God, she’s unfairly attractive.
“Uh, hi,” Clarke says, not moving towards her. Lexa’s smirk only grows.
“Hi, Clarke,” she responds and fuck , her voice. If velvet had a sound, it would be Lexa’s voice. Clarke has to swallow because her throat has suddenly gone very, very dry. She blinks slowly, turning her attention back to Abby.
“Where’s Jake?” she asks, realizing her son isn’t anywhere within her eyesight. Her heart rate starts to accelerate and she feels her eyes widen. Abby gestures to her right.
“In the pack and play,” she says and Clarke rushes over to him. He’s playing with a doll, which he drops as soon as he sees Clarke. His face lights up in a grin and he reaches his hands up to her.
“Mommy!” he says and Clarke feels almost all of her anxiety flow out of her. She pulls him up and he wraps his arms around her neck. She kisses him on his cheek.
“Are the big kids talking without you?” she coos and inwardly, she curses herself because really ? She’s baby-talking in front of Lexa? She can kiss any chance of ever seeing her again goodbye. Abby laughs and the smirk remains on Lexa’s face really, it’s starting to be a little infuriating. Does she do anything besides smirk? (And really, Clarke isn’t complaining. The smirk looks really, really good on her).
“Lexa and I are discussing the terms of our contract,” Abby says and that catches Clarke’s attention. She raises an eyebrow, trying to keep her eyes on Lexa while batting her necklace out of Jake’s hand before he puts it in his mouth. She doesn’t manage. Clarke narrows her eyes at her son. Can you let me have an adult conversation with a pretty woman please? She thinks and she regrets the thought almost immediately. She leans in and kisses his forehead as an apology. Not that he knows she had it but the guilt still courses through her anyway.
“What contract?” Clarke asks, still unable to turn her attention back to the other two women. She smooths down Jake’s hair. She really wishes he would let her cut it. It’s starting to get unruly. She could probably put it in braids if he sat still for long enough. He reaches for her necklace again and she has to bat his hand away. “Stop that,” she murmurs.
“Lexa is going to be doing some work on the house,” Abby says and Clarke freezes. Work?
“Oh,” she replies. It comes out strangled, like the words are caught on something in her throat and only come with half the momentum they’re meant to. “What kind of work?” she asks and it’s a stupid question - she knows that the the back of the house is in a shitty state. The deck is all kinds of broken and the roof could use a few repairs. The windows are drafty and most of the back rooms are in a large state of disarray. Clarke knows that most of the reason Abby had bought this brownstone was because it was a bit of a fixer upper. The only parts of the house that were in the twenty first century were the kitchen and the upstairs bathrooms. Most of the first floor, which included the living room, Abby’s bedroom, a bathroom, and the living room were….postdated. Ever since Clarke’s father died, Abby’s been a fan of pet projects. Clarke’s never been one to tell her mom how to cope. Though really, a house was a little out of her depth.
Abby makes eye contact with Lexa, asking a silent question with her eyes and Lexa’s lips twitch just a little but she doesn’t move to answer the question. Abby continues, “when Lexa isn’t in school, she works as a contractor,” and Abby lifts her hands, “I have to concede defeat. This project is out of my depth and with my hours, and you and Jake living here now, this house needs be a home. She’ll be here this summer finishing up the work,” she says and Clarke’s eyes flutter shut. She tries not to let her imagination run wild but she fails - horribly. Images of Lexa in a tight white tank top, taut muscles moving beneath tan skin, nail hanging from her teeth, tool belt around her waist invade her mind before she even has a chance to try and stop them.
Maybe she needs to make a withdrawal from her spank bank and schedule a solo consultation.
Because she really, really can’t afford to lust after the woman who is clearly going to be around - a lot .
“That’s...great,” Clarke says, as enthusiastically as she can. Jake’s managed to grab hold of her necklace again and she turns back toward him. “You break it, you buy it, kid,” she grumbles but Jake continues to grip at it, pulling it towards his mouth. She sighs. There isn’t anything immediately within her sights that she can grab and distract him with so she accepts that her necklace is just going to be slobbered all over. “When does she start?” Clarke asks and Abby’s lips quirk up.
“She’s standing right here, Clarke. You can ask her yourself,” Abby replies. Right. Of course. It’s not like Clarke could forget about the literal Goddess that is standing in her kitchen. She’s been trying to avoid eye contact but clearly time’s run out on that. She turns toward her. Lexa is watching her expectantly. Her green eyes are dark and wide, her smirk having finally fallen off her face and she just looks stoic now. Clarke swallows.
“So uh, when do you start?” she asks and her voice cracks near the end of her sentence. Lexa’s lips twitch and she brings her glass of wine to her lips. She takes a long, slow sip, all the while making eye contact with Clarke. Lexa brings the glass down and licks her lips. Clarke has to bite her own to stop the unruly words that threaten to spill out of her mouth. She figures blurting ‘oh god please do that again’ before the first date might scare her off.
“Tomorrow,” she responds and the sound of her voice sends vibrations all throughout Clarke’s body. Her knees feel like jelly and she puts Jake on the table and rests her hands next to him to support herself. She’s said all of three words and Clarke’s already feeling it in places she most definitely shouldn’t.
“Great, that’s great,” Clarke says, echoing her earlier words, and she wonders when her vocabulary became so limited. Probably when Lexa walked into her house and saw her in her underwear. Lexa’s smirking again and Clarke feels an urge to slap the smirk off her lips. Or kiss it off. Just do something to get that cocky thing off her face. Clarke’s eyes narrow and Lexa still doesn’t break eye contact. Abby clears her throat and Clarke turns her attention back to her mother.
“I told Lexa that you would be around to help if she needed anything,” and there was a note of warning in Abby’s voice. Behave . Clarke almost snorted.
“Well I don’t have anywhere else to be,” Clarke replies, a fake smile on her face. Jake starts to yawn and collapses his head against Clarke’s shoulder. She rubs her hand against his back. “He’s getting tired. I’m going to give him a bath and put him down,” she mumbles. Clarke picks him back up and legs hang limply around her waist. His head remains tucked against her shoulder and she pulls her bottom lip between her teeth. She doesn’t offer her hand, mostly afraid that touching Lexa might cause her to drop her son on his ass and she really doesn’t want this woman to call CPS on her. “It was nice to meet you, Lexa,” she says. Lexa tilts her glass towards her and nods her head in acknowledgement.
“You as well, Clarke. I’ll see you tomorrow,” she responds. She doesn’t phrase it as a question. Just a simple statement. Clarke nods. She flashes a smile back towards Abby once more, her eyes lingering as they pass Lexa for a few moments too long, before she turns towards the stairs.
She bathes Jake quickly and in the middle of his bath, hears the sound of the door shutting. Lexa’s gone. Despite the fact that they were a whole floor apart, Clarke feels like she can breathe now. She tries to push Lexa out of her head, at least until she can put Jake to bed.
She lets him pick his pajamas (he chooses the spaceships - she’s glad she washed them yesterday) and she rests him down in his crib. She rubs a hand on his tummy. “How much do I love you?” she murmurs and he grins, pointing above his head to the window.
“To the moon,” he replies, his words a little jumbled but Clarke gets the meaning.
“And back,” she adds, leaning down to kiss his forehead. “Goodnight, my love,” she finishes.
“Nigh’ mommy,” he mumbles, gripping one of his stuffed animals close to his chest. Clarke turns off the light but she stands in the doorway for a few long moments, watching him settle in. She feels her chest expand. She swears, she never thought she could love anybody so much. He’s her heart. She never understood it. The way people would describe parenthood as if it altered and changed everything. She was never a truly selfish person but she did…..put herself first quite often. Now she can’t imagine ever putting herself before Jake. Jake always came first.
She only tears herself away from the doorway when Abby rests a hand on her shoulder. She jumps. “You have to stop doing that,” she grumbles and Abby smiles.
“Pay more attention,” Abby retorts and Clarke sticks her tongue out. Abby gestures away from the door with her head. A clear notion that she wants to talk. Clarke slowly closes the door, leaving it open just a crack, letting a bit of hall light seep into the room. She knows he hates total darkness and they haven’t bought a nightlight yet.
Clarke and Abby settle into the kitchen and Abby pours them both glasses of wine. Clarke almost inhales it. “So, what do you think of Lexa?” Abby asks and Clarke nearly spits the wine out of her mouth.
“She seems...intense,” Clarke replies because she certainly doesn’t want to admit to her mother that she’d been fantasizing about licking sweat off of her abs. Abby chuckles. She raises her eyebrows while swirling wine around in her glass.
“Intense is a word for her. She’s a good girl. Got a good head on her shoulders. Very driven,” she replies. “She’s in law school,” Abby adds and Clarke nods slowly.
“Fascinating,” Clarke replies dryly. “How does she have time to play handyman in between being legally brunette?” Clarke asks, eyebrows raised. Abby shoots her a look but Clarke doesn’t back down.
“Clarke,” Abby warns.
“Abby,” Clarke mocks. Abby lets out a long sigh.
“Be nice to her,” Abby tells her and Clarke has to restrain herself from telling her mom just how nice to her she wants to be.
“I’ll be the perfect host,” Clarke replies, tilting her glass toward her. Abby shakes her head, a bemused smile on her face. She stands, pressing a kiss to her forehead.
“She starts at eight. Goodnight sweetheart,” she says. Clarke cranes her head into the kiss but she doesn’t reply. She downs the rest of her wine.
And maybe, that night when she slips into bed and she makes sure that her door is shut, she slides a hand beneath the band of her underwear and gives herself her first orgasm in months to the image of green eyes and plump pink lips.
Clarke wakes up to the sound of hammering.
Which is quickly followed by the sound of Jake crying. She groans. She’s tempted to pull a pillow over her head and chant ‘la la la’ but she knows she can’t. The second she heard Jake start to cry she knew she wasn’t getting any more sleep. She pulls herself out of bed and she makes sure she slides pants on before leaving the room. Jake is standing in his crib, gripping at the sides, his face red as tears flow down his cheeks. Clarke feels her heart start to ache. It has a tendency to that whenever he cries. She can’t quite control it. She sweeps him into her arms and he snuggles into her shoulder. “Loud,” he mumbles into her skin and she kisses his temple.
“I know,” she mumbles in response. Clarke feels heat rise in her chest and her she clenches her jaw. Quickly, she storms down the stairs. She finds Lexa near the back of the house, dressed in the white tank top of all of Clarke’s fantasies, and tight shorts. Her hair is in a long braid, a tool belt around her waist. Clarke’s argument almost dies in her throat because fuck this woman is sinfully hot. Then she remembers her son is sniffling into her shoulder because he was woken up by the noise and she’s quick to anger. She clears her throat, announcing her presence. Lexa’s smirk from the previous night is back on her lips and if Clarke wasn’t so angry, she might have swooned. Might have.
“Good morning, Clarke,” she says and then looks down to Jake. “Good morning, Jake,” she adds with the same inflection. Clarke’s eyes narrow and she wants to pull Jake against her chest and snap at Lexa not to talk to him but that’s just her protective streak. Clarke decides to skip the pleasantries
“Right. So I know that most of your job description is to smash things but I have a toddler on a sleep schedule. So if, in the future, you could hold off on hulking out near his bedroom til at least after 9am, I would really appreciate it,” Clarke says, more snark than she’d anticipated peppering her tone. Lexa’s eyes go wide and she drops the nail that has been hanging precariously from the tips of her fingers. She reacts as if she’d been slapped.
“Oh. I. Of course, Clarke. I apologize,” she says, stumbling over her words. “Abby told me I could start at eight. I didn’t realize I would be waking him up,” she adds, gesturing toward Jake with her gloved hand and Clarke feels her anger dissipate. Right. Abby did mention that. Clarke suddenly feels awkward and just a little bit guilty. Now that she’s not angry though, she can appreciate the sight in front of her and boy is it good. She’s already sweaty which makes her white tank stick to her the muscles on her body in all of the best places. She has muscles in places Clarke didn’t even know it was possible to have muscles. Her shorts are short and her thighs are slim but still strong enough that Clarke’s sure they could crush her head if she really tried.
And wow she really, really shouldn’t be doing this because she has her son in her arms and Lexa is probably straight anyway. It wouldn’t do to end up with a crush on the straight girl next door. She was already one cliche, she couldn’t afford to be another.
“Great, thanks. I’m uh, going to go make breakfast. Do you want anything?” Clarke asks, maybe just as a peace offering for jumping down her throat first thing in the morning when all Lexa was doing was what she was hired for. Lexa tilts her head, staring at her contemplatively.
“Are you making coffee?” she asks and Clarke snorts.
“I’m the mother of a toddler. Of course I’m making coffee,” she replies and gestures with her head towards the kitchen. “Come on,” she says and starts to walk. “I apologize for the fact that I probably smell like week old garbage,” she calls behind her, “I haven’t had time to shower since we moved in,” she adds. She buries her nose in Jake’s blond curls, inhaling the scent of his clean hair. A calm settles over her, the way it’s apt to whenever she catches a bit of his scent. She puts Jake in his high chair, strapping him in at what she’s sure is a record speed. She grabs a toy from the counter next to her and puts it on the tray. “Do you want pancakes this morning? she asks and Jake starts to grin, kicking his feet. “I’ll take that as an emphatic yes,” she says. Lexa stands awkwardly near the island and Clarke quirks an eyebrow. “You can sit,” Clarke says and Lexa does as she’s told.
“I apologize again for waking him up,” she says, her eyes trained on the granite but Clarke waves it off.
“Don’t worry. I overreacted. He woke up crying and I went into overprotective mode,” she replies, spinning around and standing on her tiptoes to get the coffee out of the cupboard. “I think I’ve been pavloved into becoming angry when he cries, you know? Because when I hear it, I’m immediately ready to fight the source,” she says with a light laugh. She spoons the coffee into the machine and presses the power button.
“You were ready to fight me?” Lexa asks, raising an eyebrow and Clarke has the decency to look a little bit sheepish. She pours some pancake mix into the bowl. She watches Jake out of the corner of her eye. He’s still playing with the toy Clarke had given him.
“I would have waved the white flag eventually. You clearly have the upper hand,” Clarke says, gesturing to her arms. Her smirk is back and it makes Clarke’s stomach swoop. She really is very attractive.
“Ah, but hell hath no fury like a mother scorned,” Lexa replies and Clarke bites her bottom lip. She’s staring, she knows, but she can’t quite manage to drag her eyes away from her. She’s beautiful. And sweaty. Very sweaty. Which, strangely, really works for her.
“I don’t think that’s how that quote goes but I’ll pretend,” Clarke responds, grabbing a pan from a cabinet and putting in on the stove. Jake starts to pound on the tray of his high chair. “Soon, baby. Be patient. I know it’s hard for almost two year olds to exercise that skill but try for me,” she says and that makes Lexa laugh. It’s short but it’s melodical and lovely. Clarke wants to hear it over and over again. More than that, she wants to be the cause of it over and over again.
“When’s his birthday?” Lexa asks as Clarke begins to spoon batter into the pan.
“July 16th,” she replies, keeping her focus on the pan.
“And he’ll be two?” Lexa asks, which causes an amused smile to spread across Clarke’s face.
“Yes,” she responds, “thought that was understood,” she adds and Lexa bites down on her lip. Clarke wants it to be teeth sinking into that plump lip. She can’t remember the last time she’d had this many dirty thoughts before 9am. Probably high school. If Sister Ruth could see her now….
“Right, of course,” Lexa murmurs and they fall silent. The only noises in the kitchen come from the sizzling of the pan and Jake hitting something against the tray of his chair. The coffee pot starts beep and Clarke can’t keep her attention on the coffee, the pancakes, and her son all at once. She hears the squeak of the chair and Lexa shifts out of her stool. “I’ll get the coffee,” she says, maneuvering herself around Clarke. She’s incredibly aware of how close Lexa is to her. The kitchen isn’t exactly spacious and the coffee pot is right next to the stove. Clarke watches the way her arms move as she reaches into a cabinet, which is not the one that has the cups but Clarke doesn’t tell her that. Lexa continues to search through various cabinets and Clarke watches her stretch, her tank top riding up her midriff and exposing the skin of her hip - and just the smallest hint of a tattoo.
If Clarke hadn’t wanted to lick the sweat off her abs before, she sure did now.
She nearly emits an audible groan but she’s saved from that embarrassment when Lexa clears her throat and points to the pan - which is smoking. “I think the pancakes are burning,” she says and Clarke’s eyes widen. There’s smoke rising in tendrils from the pan and if she lets it go any longer, she’s sure that the fire alarm is going to go off. She waves off as much as she can. She flips the pancake but it’s completely burnt. Clarke sighs.
“I’m usually better at this,” she assures and Lexa smiles, a real actual smile, not that smirk that Clarke’s used to seeing. It’s nice. Her smile is nice.
“I believe you,” she responds, finally bringing down two cups to the counter. “How do you take it?” she asks and Clarke just shakes her head.
“Just black,” Clarke says, spooning more batter into the pan. She has to get a few decent pancakes out of this otherwise Jake is going to start complaining soon. Lexa hums in response and she navigates the kitchen like she’s spent more time in here than Clarke has. She probably has.
Lexa leaves the cup next to Clarke and takes her own back to the island. The pancakes finish quickly now that Lexa isn’t distracting her with her tantalizing hip bones. She pulls a plate out of the cabinet, sliding the pancakes onto it and drizzling them with syrup. Clarke pulls a chair over near Jake’s high chair. “You ready for these hot cakes, kid?” Clarke asks and Jake grins. He babbles in response and Clarke finds herself grinning as well. She can’t help it. He’s cute when he’s hungry. She cuts the pancakes into pieces and puts a few onto his tray. She hands over a fork but Jake uses his fingers and slowly puts them into his mouth. He seems content to forgo utensils and Clarke is happy to let him. She pulls back just slightly, keeping an eye on him while she stands to grab her coffee from the counter. She leans against it, inhaling the scent. “Thank you for pouring the coffee, Lexa,” Clarke says. It’s her first time using her name and it rolls off her tongue smoothly. She likes the way it sounds in her mouth. She wonders how it would sound just an octave higher.
“It was no trouble,” Lexa responds, placing her cup back down on the table. “I should be getting back to work. Thank you for making the coffee, Clarke,” Lexa says with a nod. Clarke smiles and she wills herself to say anything to keep her here for a little while longer but she says nothing. Lexa offers her another smile smile before putting her mug in the sink and making her way back to the opposite end of the house. Clarke settles back into her seat in front of Jake.
“What do you think, kid? Think I’ve got a shot?” she asks and Jake makes a sour face. Clarke laughs. “Yeah, that’s what I thought.”
The day passes quickly. Clarke finally finds time to shower when she puts Jake down for a quick nap. She almost runs out to the backyard with her hair still wet just to prove to Lexa that she can shower like a real human being and she does have a grasp on personal hygiene. She manages to suppress that urge.
She does, however, find herself staring out of the window at Lexa more than once. It’s not her fault that the doors to the deck give her a great view from the living room. She watches as Lexa gets progressively more sweaty and Clarke’s head fills with more and more fantasies that she knows won’t come to fruition.
Abby comes home close to dinner time which draws Lexa inside. She’s left her tool belt out on the deck and there’s grease and dirt spread across her cheeks and clothing. Clarke’s eyes visibly widen. “Uh oh,” Clarke murmurs into Jake’s hair.
“Uh oh, uh oh, uh oh!” Jake repeats, drawing Lexa and Abby’s attention to him. Clarke shrugs, feigning helplessness.
“How was your first day of work, Lexa?” Abby asks and Lexa’s eyes flit over to Clarke momentarily, causing Clarke to blush.
“Fine,” Lexa replies and Clarke half expects her to tell Abby that Clarke had come barrelling down the stairs and tore her a new one. She doesn’t.
“Good. Do you want to stay for dinner?” Abby asks and Clarke’s head perks up at the invitation. She finds herself hoping for a yes but she’s almost immediately disappointed when Lexa shakes her head.
“No, I should be getting home. Thank you for the invitation,” she replies. She looks over to Clarke and they lock eyes. Green meets blue and Clarke knows she should look away because prolonged eye contact can’t mean anything good but she can’t bring herself to do it. It’s only once Jake starts to pull on her hair that Clarke is forced to look away. “But perhaps another day,” Lexa offers and Clarke buries her face in Jake’s hair to prevent her smile from becoming too obvious. Lexa says her goodbyes to Abby and she pauses in front of Clarke. “After 9am, right?” Lexa says with a smirk and Clarke feels her face flush.
“Perfect,” she responds and Lexa keeps her gaze on her for a few long moments. Then her eyes shift down to Jake. She ruffles his hair and he smiles up at her.
“I’ll see both of you tomorrow,” she says and she looks up at Clarke once again. “Have a nice night, Clarke,” she adds and Clarke swallows. Her eyes follow Lexa out the front door.
“Mommy’s screwed,” Clarke whispers into Jake’s hair. He giggles.
“Screwed, screwed, screwed!” he repeats and Clarke hits her forehead against his, laughing to herself.
It’s going to be a really long summer.