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living on a fault line

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June 17, 2025.

 

“You’re avoiding her in your own apartment.”

“I’m not avoiding her, Wells.”

Lexa is not avoiding her ex-wife, she’s simply gearing up for when she sees her again, and she thinks she should be allowed that. Too many things come flooding back to her when she sees Clarke, and ever since she let her walls down for the woman so many years ago, it’s been a constant battle to put them back up.

Clarke disarms her, always has.

Clarke has a boyfriend, and Lexa is not entirely sure if he came to the party.

“Sure,” Wells says. “And I’m not Charlie’s favorite uncle.”

“You’re not, Lincoln is.”

“If it makes you feel any better, I think she’s avoiding you too.”

“It doesn’t, but thank you.”

  


 

(December 24, 2024.)


“You could just be honest with yourself.”

Lexa hears Raven’s voice through the walls of Abby’s house, coming from somewhere in the kitchen, and assumes that must be where Clarke disappeared to. She told Charlie she’d find her mama for her, but the conversation sounds heated, and Lexa gets the feeling it’s somehow about her.

“You could just be honest with yourself, Clarke. Starting with the fact-”

“That I blame myself?” She hears Clarke’s voice, and her stomach sinks. Her chest feels as though it’s been split open. “I don’t. Of course I blame her!”

Lexa opens the door, meeting Raven’s eyes above a head of blonde curls.

“Clarke-” Raven tries to warn her.

“You could’ve just said that,” Lexa says, and her voice wavers. “All those times I asked you could’ve just told the truth-”

“For fuck’s sake, Lexa! I don’t blame you for- for that. I never did. But the divorce? I do blame you.”

“You gave me the papers to sign,” Lexa says.

“You didn’t leave me any choice,” Clarke retorts.

“Your daughter is out there,” Raven interrupts. “And this is a fucking Christmas party, so I don’t care how you do it but you’re going to play nice and make this the best Christmas ever, are we clear? Now excuse me, I have a bunch of kids to entertain with coke and mints.”

Raven lets the door close quietly behind her, and they’re left staring at each other. It’s been roughly ten months since she moved out, and the pull of longing and pain and love and anger it’s tightly coiled in her chest, as strong as ever.

It’s all encompassing, what she feels for this woman, and she can hardly believe it’s been ten months since they shared a bed, since they shared a life.

She can’t believe there was a time the sight of Clarke’s eyes made her sick.

 


 

“Clarke!”

“Wells!”

They hug, and Lexa looks away. There was a time when she and Clarke shared that same easy affection, even before they started dating, and she doesn’t know why she’s missing it now. Perhaps because it’s been a little over a year now, the second of their daughter’s birthdays after they separated. Perhaps because she knows that now Clarke has someone else.

She knew it would happen. Clarke is gorgeous, and smart, and despite everything that happened between them, how they might have hurt each other, she can attest to that, and the fact that she’s an amazing mother.

She’s wearing her hair shorter, blonde tresses just past her shoulders, straightened. She looks different. Still beautiful.

“Clarke.”

“Lexa.” She says it on an exhale, and Lexa wonders if she might be genuinely happy to see her. They usually avoid it for a reason, it’s been months now since they’ve spoken face to face for more than a few minutes during switch days. “I’m sorry,” Clarke tells her. “I didn’t see you when I got here. Raven opened the door.”

“No, it’s fine. I was just…caught up in the kitchen.” Hiding. “I made cupcakes.”

“Oh, that’s great.” Clarke wrings her hands together, like she does when she’s nervous, before stepping forward and giving Lexa an air kiss, her cheek pressed to hers, her hands on Lexa’s elbow. She steps back before Lexa can find out if she still wears the same perfume.

“How have you been?” Clarke asks.

“I’m good,” Lexa says. “Everything is good.” It’s the first physical contact she’s had from Clarke in months, perhaps a year. It throws her off balance and this, this is exactly why she was avoiding -not avoiding- her ex-wife.

“I’m glad,” Clarke says.

“Mama!”

Lexa silently thanks her daughter for breaking the awkward atmosphere.

Charlie barges in the room, her sneakers lighting up with every step. She jumps into Clarke’s arms, thin legs wrapping around her mother’s waist.

The birthday girl is wearing a blue shirt with a purple tutu, her favorite colors, and the sneakers Lexa got her last weekend. Her hair is just a shade darker than Clarke’s, but they share the same eyes. She was born with them, these bright blue orbs -Lexa waited for them to change color, but they never did.

“I missed you,” Lexa hears, muffled from Charlie’s place on Clarke’s neck. It’s only been two days since she last saw Clarke, and she’s leaving with her tonight, but Lexa knows that to her daughter it’s always difficult being away from one of them.

“Look at my shoes,” Charlie exclaims, puling away. Clarke nearly stumbles with the movement. Charlie's 7 today. Their girl is getting so big.

“They light up,” Clarke says.

“Mommy bought them for me,” Charlie says. “They match the shirt you bought. Do you like them?”

“I think they’re very nice,” Clarke tells her, putting her down.

Charlie pulls her out back by the hand.

 



(March 12th, 2024.)

 

She nods to Clarke, and she turns around without another word. And, God, everything inside Lexa burns, it dissolves in pain, like there’s acid wearing away at her insides. Just looking at Clarke makes everything come back, and Lexa feels like crying, but she can’t.

“Hey, baby.” Lexa rubs her daughter’s back, the little girl holding on to her desperately.

“I missed you lots and lots and lots,” Charlie says into her neck, squeezing the life out Lexa. “Mommy,” Charlie whines.

“I missed you too,” Lexa says, a knot in her throat. It’s only been three days.

She feels better and worse being away from their home; it’s a relief to be a away from Clarke and she hates herself for it, because it’s her fault her daughter misses her.

“I love you, Mommy,” Charlie says, and Lexa’s heart squeezes in her chest when she feels a pair of small lips pressing kisses to her cheek. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

 


 

Their small group of friends gather on the balcony, drinking and exchanging stories once Charlie blows the candles out. Lincoln sits with River in his arms, the little girl a dead ringer for him but with Octavia’s eyes, a striking combination. The 10 year old girl is like a sister to Charlie, and her daughter disappears inside the apartment once it’s clear River is too tired to keep playing.

Octavia stands talking to Clarke and Wells, and her rounded stomach is impossible to hide. Lexa thinks River will make an incredible big sister, that Charlie will love having a baby around. That Charlie herself would have made a great big sister.

Lexa hasn’t talked to Octavia in weeks, but looking at her figure is easier than she expected.

Lexa feels Abby’s eyes on her, and resolves to go inside to find her daughter. She doesn’t need mothering, not tonight.

She finds Charlie in the kitchen, trying to braid the hair on an American Girl doll. Lexa is no longer surprised by her daughter having things she’s never seen before, simply takes it in stride when Charlie shows her clothes and toys she acquired during her time with Clarke.

“That’s a nice doll,” Lexa says.

“Mama just gave it to me,” Charlie says. She bites her lip, looking up at Lexa, seemingly unsure. “She said it’s from Finn,” she says, and Lexa gets a feeling her daughter is waiting to see how she’ll react.

Lexa smiles tightly.

“That was very nice of him,” she says.

Charlie puts the doll down on the breakfast island. “I don’t like Finn. He talks to me like I’m a baby. I’m not a baby.” Charlie pouts, and Lexa picks her up and sits her on the counter.

“I know,” Lexa says, pushing Charlie’s hair behind her ears. She doesn’t want to think about it at all, doesn’t want to feel validated in her dislike of a person who could be a reasonably good human being.

Charlie’s eyes light up.

“Mommy, I could be your spy,” she says. “I could tell you about Finn!”

“You’re- you’re my kid,” Lexa stutters. “You’re not a spy.” It’s the first damn thing in every website she ever read, don’t try to turn your kid against their other parent, don’t try to get information from your ex from them. Lexa never tried to do that, and certainly never thought Charlie herself would offer. “What kind of movies have you been watching?”

“Mama showed me a movie the other night, the spy fell in love with the villain and they run away together.”

Lexa breathes, smiles faintly. It’s just a movie, she hasn't fucked up as a parent yet. She still remembers the conversations she and Clarke had in their senior year of college, all those thoughts about their life and marriage and children, how they would show them their favorite movies and shape a world for them that was never scary, never mean.

Despite everything that happened, they at least managed to do that.

“You know, that used to be one my favorite movie when I was in college. But I wouldn't tell anyone, because it was so silly.” Clarke had laughed when she found out the big, bad Commander’s favorite film was D.E.B.S, ridiculous special effects included. God, she was just 21 when they met. She was a kid, it was a lifetime ago.

“It’s not silly,” Charlie says. “It reminds me of you and mama.”

Lexa swallows.

It’s their hair, nothing more; brunette and blonde, like she and Clarke. They didn’t get the happily ever after movies promise anyway.

“Oh, so you’re calling me a villain?” she asks Charlie, getting out of her own head. She needs to enjoy the time she has with Charlie before Clarke takes her home.

“No!”

“You sure?” She picks up Charlie and she squeals. Lexa throws her while she still can, and Charlie laughs when she catches her.

“I want to dance, mommy,” Charlie says, panting.

“Okay.”

“Call mama,” Charlie pleads.

“You want to dance with mama?”

“With both of you,” Charlie says. “Like when I was little.”

Lexa remembers it so clearly, a four year old Charlie mushed between she and Clarke’s chest, while they slow-danced together.

“You remember that?” she asks Charlie.

“You’re still little,” Clarke says, suddenly a step behind Lexa.

“More little,” Charlie pipes up. “Littler. Please.”

 


 

(April 6th, 2019.)

 

“Clarke, she’s going to walk. You should bring the camera.” Lexa looks up from her place on the carpet to find her wife rolling her eyes at her. “Don’t do that, she’s going to walk. I can tell.”

Charlie’s attention lays with her plastic tambourine, clueless to her mothers’ conversation.

“You said that yesterday,” Clarke says. “And the day before.”

“She had a very convincing walking face yesterday,” Lexa insists, shaking a toy just out of Charlie’s reach to get her to stand up.

“I think it was just flatulence,” Clarke says. She walks over to Lexa, scratching her scalp. Lexa closes her eyes at the fond gesture, and it’s enough time for the baby to stand up.

“Lexa!”

“Clarke, oh my god-”

“I’m going to get-

“No, don’t go!” She pulls on Clarke’s sleeve without looking away from Charlie, and Clarke complies, kneeling beside her. “Don’t go.”

“Come here, baby,” Clarke pleads. “Come here, Charlie.”

Lexa just stares.

Charlie squats back down, before pushing her hands out and getting back on her feet. A tiny foot lifts off the ground and lands just an inch forward.

“That’s a good girl, you’re such a big girl, look at you. That’s it!” Clarke is smiling so wide and Charlie is taking her first steps and Lexa’s eyes burn.

Charlie giggles at her mother’s praise, and does it again, taking two, three more steps until she’s falling on Lexa’s arms. Lexa kisses her forehead, laughing.

Clarke takes Lexa’s cheek gently in her hand, and wipes away the mirror tears from her cheeks.

“She did it,” Lexa says. “She walked.”

“Our baby is walking,” Clarke whispers. Lexa nods, in awe.

She leans up to capture Clarke’s lips in a sweet kiss, while Charlie gleefully gurgles between them.

 


 

Clarke is as soft as Lexa remembers.

Her hand lays over Clarke’s shoulder, the skin warm beneath her hand, and Clarke’s hand rests lightly over her waist. She can barely feel the touch. It’s awkward and stiff, and she’s thankful their free hands are on Charlie, who hangs on to Lexa and seems not to notice the tension.

If it wasn’t for their daughter between the two of them, Lexa would think she was back in middle school, a cousin of hers taking her to the winter formal because her mother wanted her to attend, and Lexa couldn’t be bothered to say yes to either of the two boys who asked. (Her lack of a dating life at age 14 turned out to be Lexa just being overwhelmingly gay.)

But she’s not fourteen anymore, though she doesn’t seem to have her life together any more than she did back then.

They sway gently while Clarke leads the half-hearted dance.

Charlie pulls away from Lexa’s neck to smile at her, the toothy smile that she loves the most, and Lexa decides right then it’s worth it.

The song ends too soon, and they’re hugging Charlie as tight as they can, until Lexa is sure their daughter can’t breath. Lexa can’t either. All air has left her lungs. Clarke tickles Charlie and as she dissolves into laughter, the moment is over.

 


  

(August 4th, 2017.)


“Lexa, I know you’re doing dying to say something, just do it. You’re making me nervous.

“Well, do you feel any different?”

“We were at the clinic yesterday!” Clarke exclaims, but feeling just as nervous as Lexa, just as eager to know.

“I know. I know it’s silly but- you could be pregnant, right now. Like, an actual baby could be forming in your stomach as we speak.”

“I know.” Clarke stretches her hand over the table and Lexa grabs it, rubbing across her knuckles. They share a secret smile, full of expectancy and barely contained nerves.

“Do you-”

“I don’t. I don’t think it would be normal if I felt any different so soon.”

“What did you tell Raven and Octavia?” Lexa asks.

“Just that we’re trying,” Clarke shrugs. “It might not happen this time around,” she reminds Lexa.

It doesn’t. It takes two more tries, two more appointments and the two weeks of wait between, for the pregnancy test to come back positive. When it does- ecstatic is too small a word to explain it. It feels as though happiness will burst right out of Lexa’s chest. 

 


  

 Wells is the last one to leave, right after Raven. The apartment is mostly clean, nothing like their days in school after a party, and Lexa thinks her college self would be surprised to know she’d be divorced and with a kid now, or that her friends -barring Lincoln and Octavia- would be getting married and having kids as well.

She knows Clarke is in the bathroom -though she’ll deny she kept an eye on her ex-wife the whole evening- and she knows Charlie is in her bedroom. She said she was leaving her presents inside and never came back out.

Sunday is one of their switch days and Clarke’s supposed to take Charlie home, for two days until Lexa picks her up Tuesday afternoon. They very seldom interfere with the schedule, and it’s one thing Lexa’s thankful for, but she still dreads telling her daughter goodbye.

She dreads her empty apartment, the days where her daughter isn’t there to fill the space with her laughter.

Lexa assumes Charlie must have been distracted with one of her newest toys, but when she enters her room she finds her daughter sprawled out on her small bed, deep asleep. There’s a book open on her chest, and Lexa carefully removes it. It’s a thick book for a 7 year old, with small letters but plenty of pictures. The planets and the universe shine off the glossy paper of the $19.99 book someone must have gotten from the Nasa gift shop.

Lexa takes Charlie’s shoes off, changes her into a nightgown barely disturbing the girl. Her big eyes fall open and closed again as Lexa works, and when she finally tucks her in, she’s asleep again. But it’s a switch day, and so it means talking to Clarke.

She finds her ex-wife standing in the middle of the living room, and the image it’s so out of place it hurts.

“I know she’s supposed to leave with you,” Lexa makes clear, and Clarke turns to look at her. “But Charlie’s passed out in her room and I don’t want to wake her.”

“If she stays here tonight then she spends the night with me on Tuesday,” Clarke says.

Lexa didn’t expect to be granted extra time for the sake of it.

“Of course,” she agrees. Clarke nods.

“You can drop her off at the house in the morning,” Clarke concedes. She walks to the bedroom, and Lexa follows after her.

Clarke takes off her heels before entering the room, and the sight shocks Lexa. They’re not familiar with each other anymore. She hasn’t seen Clarke barefoot since they separated, and she never thought she’d see that in her apartment, her home that has never known the presence of Clarke before today.

Clarke presses the barest of kisses against Charlie’s forehead and fixes her sheets carefully, and then she’s walking back out. It must be a lot easier to say goodbye to their daughter when she knows she’s seeing her again the next day.

Clarke sits down in the couch to put her shoes back on, and Lexa stays at Charlie’s door, looking into the room.

“She’s outgrown the Disney bed.” Clarke’s voice is unexpected behind her, close, and Lexa doesn’t turn around. It would be so easy to pretend that things are still alright, that they’re just having a conversation about their daughter, that things didn’t go to hell.

“I know. I ordered a Queen for her, it should be here next Friday…Galaxy quilts and all.” Lexa smiles faintly. After going through dinosaurs and fairies, it’s Charlie’s latest obsession. “I guess…” She doesn’t know why she keeps talking, but she can’t stop now. She swallows. “I guess I just didn’t want to face how big she’s getting.” It’s hard, because it’s Clarke, and it’s been months since she’s actually talked to her, or wanted to -but it’s Clarke. She’s the only person who could understand.

She feels Clarke step closer behind her, the warmth of her body radiating off her, so close to Lexa.

“One good thing we did, isn’t she?” Clarke asks. She sounds wistful, that familiar regretful longing that Lexa’s come to know so keenly.

“She looks more and more like you,” Lexa tells her, and she doesn’t mean for the worlds to come out. But it’s true, Charlie has Clarke’s eyes, Clarke’s nose, her lips and the same cute furrowed brow when things don’t go her way. If it wasn’t for her darker hair, Lexa would have called Abby and asked her to send some of Clarke’s baby pictures, just to see how similar they were.

“She speaks like you,” Clarke says, and she sounds fond of it, maybe. Lexa’s forgotten how kind Clarke can sound in regards to her. She wonders if they both look at Charlie just to find things that remind them of each other.

She wonders if it hurts Clarke too.

“She does everything like you- I think she’ll grow up to be a lawyer.”

“I just want her to be a kid first,” Lexa says. She’ll wonder for the rest of her life if they did the right thing, or if they ruined her childhood. Lexa’s parents were divorced since before she could remember, while Clarke’s parents loved each other until Jake passed. They don’t have anything to compare it with.

Did they do the right thing? Lexa knows it’s pointless to wonder now.

“How are you and Finn?” she turns around to ask. She can’t help it, maybe it’s masochistic but she needs to see Clarke’s face. She doesn’t know what she wants the most: too see her happy, or to see her miserable. Clarke simply raises her eyebrows.

“Charlie mentioned him,” Lexa says by way of explanation. Clarke looks away.

“…we’re just seeing how things go.”

Lexa nods. She looks back to the room.

“What did she say?” Clarke asks.

Lexa has never been one to lie to Clarke. But she would, just this once, if she didn’t think it was in her daughter’s best interest to tell her.

“That she doesn’t like him,” Lexa says. She tries to turn it into a joke, but it falls flat and awkward. She wishes she had just shut up.

“Is that Charlie speaking, or is it you?” Clarke asks, a little bite to her tone. It was too quiet, like the calm before a storm. Lexa thinks maybe this is why she asked, to cement the belief that they did the right thing because not a single conversation can go by without a tense atmosphere. Lexa closes her eyes, and is thankful Clarke can’t see.

“She said he speaks to her like she’s a baby,” Lexa says, and all the while she’s thinking, I don’t know what to do with the fact that you’re moving on. “You know she hates that.”

Clarke is quiet for a moment.

“I’ll talk to him,” Clarke concedes. She’s doing a lot of that tonight, and Lexa wonders why. Truth be told, everything is too bright when she’s with Clarke, everything hurts and burns and she’s terrified of the day it will stop. She wonder if for Clarke, it has already. “Is that all?” Clarke asks.

Lexa nods.

This is them now, Lexa thinks. Only able to be polite when it comes to Charlie, exchanging pleasantries just to get to where it concerns her, squeezing little apologies in between speaking of their daughter because they can’t remember how to treat each other any differently. It’s her fault, too.

Lexa blames herself for the divorce, like Clarke did all those months ago. But she blames Clarke too. For not being more patient, for not loving her enough.

They don’t speak after that. Lexa turns back around to face Charlie’s room. She looks so carefree. The purple night light illuminates the room, and soon enough she’ll have a big girl bed, Queen sized and tall because Lexa isn’t afraid her baby will fall off anymore. Lexa’s buying her an actual desk too, because Charlie’s starting 2nd grade in the fall and she’s going to have real homework to do. She knows from Clarke’s last e-mail that she wants the three of them to go shopping for school supplies too, and Lexa’s already penciled that in for the second weekend of August.

Maybe they did the right thing after all.

“If something was bothering her, why didn’t she tell me directly?” Clarke asks, and Lexa doesn’t know if it’s directed to her, but she answers anyway.

“If she sees you’re happy, she won’t say anything,” Lexa says. Clarke doesn’t answer for a while, until she does.

“She’s like you that way.”

 


  


(January 13th, 2023.)

 

Lexa twists her right hand in the sheets, the other gently grabbing Clarke’s hair. Lexa’s hips undulate of their own accord beneath the sheets, her body climbing towards release.

“Clarke.”

Her wife’s tongue works at her clit, two fingers pumping inside. She’s so close.

“Clarke, God. I love you. I love- ah. God.”

“Who knew I could turn you into a talker?” Her wife’s smirk is devilish when Lexa lifts the sheets. She’s about to nudge Clarke’s head back down, when they a doorknob turning.

“Oh my God.”

“Mama. Mommy!” The barefoot little girl barges in the room, and Lexa’s just glad her hands are clean because suddenly she’s stopping the five year old from climbing on the bed.

“Baby, what are you doing up?”

“Where are your pajamas?” Charlie asks. Lexa can feel Clarke containing her laughter against her stomach. “What’s Mama doing hiding?”

Clarke laughs out loud, and Lexa slaps her side with the side of her foot.

“Mama, what you doing?” Charlie asks, and Lexa grabs her hand before she can pull at the sheets.

“Why don’t you go to your room and we’ll be there in a second, okay?” Lexa pleads.

“But-”

“And you can go get a chocolate while you wait.”

“Really?”

“Yes, go.”

Charlie agrees right away, her eyes lighting up at the prospect of sweets. She runs out of the room at the same speed she came in.

“You let her get candy first thing in the morning?” Clarke asks as she comes out, wiping her lips with the sheets. They’re going to have to throw these in the wash. She’s sweating from the heat beneath the sheets, and her cheeks are pink. Lexa loves the sight.

“The fridge is locked,” Lexa confesses, pulling her panties back on.

“What kind of parents are we?” Clarke asks, biting her lip to avoid a smile. “Did you come?”

Lexa frowns pitifully. Clarke laughs.

“I couldn’t.”

Clarke laughs harder, and in a moment of absurdity Lexa pushes her off the bed. She yelps and grabs Lexa’s arm, bringing her down with her. They fall on a tangle of limbs and sheets onto the soft carpet, laughing.

“Are you twelve?” Clarke asks, bringing Lexa closer. She kisses her, a difficult feat when she’s smiling so wide.

“I hope not,” Lexa answers. “Imagine having a wife and a kid at age 12. What a nightmare.”

“You’re a nightmare,” Clarke says. Lexa silences the words with her lips, pressing closer to her wife, ignoring the hardness of the floor.

“You love me,” Lexa insists.

“I love you,” Clarke tells her, reverently, the way she has since they were just a pair of college kids, like she did when they got married, the way that leaves her with no doubt of how much her wife means it.

“Me too,” Lexa says.

“Mommy! The fridge doesn’t open!”

They laugh.

 


  

“An order of pancakes with extra strawberry jam for the birthday girl.”

Lexa places the plate in front of the little girl, the small stack of perfectly done pancakes wafting their smell through the kitchen. Cinnamon and strawberry, powdered sugar and butter. Lexa will sometimes make pancakes for herself, even if she’s not that fond of the sugar, simply because the smell reminds her of home.

“It’s not my birthday anymore, mommy. That was yesterday.”

“Well, since I didn’t make you pancakes yesterday morning we can pretend, okay?”

Charlie smiles, her tongue poking through the hole where her tooth hasn’t finished coming in yet.

“Okay.” She digs in with a grin that will have Lexa in a good mood the rest of the day.

Charlie gets through a pancake and a half before she slows down, becoming pensive. It’s odd for a child that often eats everything in her plate, it makes Lexa frown.

“Everything okay?” she asks, pushing away a few dark blonde curls from her small forehead.

“I didn’t get what I wanted for my birthday,” Charlie says quietly.

“Oh.” Charlie got so many presents last night, from their friends and her grandmother and Kane. From her classmates too, Friday night when Clarke took them to Chuck E. Cheeses. She got presents from herself and Clarke and even Finn as well. She is such a loved little girl, what could they possibly have missed? “And what’s that?” Lexa asks.

Charlie shrugs. “S’okay. I can ask again for Christmas.”

“Christmas is a long while away,” Lexa mentions, trying to get the petition out of her daughter. She’s been known to spoil her rotten, and if it’s something she wants this bad, Lexa isn’t opposed to finding a way to get it for her.

“I know,” Charlie says, sighing.

“What did you ask for?” Lexa asks again, smiling at her daughter’s expression.

Charlie looks up at her, biting her lip with indecision. Charlie is usually so open with her, Lexa gets an inkling of what she might say. A stirring of dread twists her stomach.

“For you and mama to love each other again.” The words are so innocent, so sad, and they break Lexa in half. They bring her back to a year and a half ago, when she and Clarke decided it was over, they bring her back to 8 months after that, when they finally signed the papers. The cold of the room and the stiffness of her suit and the tears that she hastily wiped away and saw Clarke do the same. The constant ‘we’re doing something wrong’ that circled her mind with every signature she laid down, finalizing their life together.

They remind her of every cold lonely night she spent hugging herself in a big empty bed, the love of her life now her ex-wife, and her daughter spending her alloted time of the week away from Lexa.

The words break her because love was never the problem.

“Baby, I love your mom,” she tells Charlie, giving her the truth but hoping to avoid confusing her. She never wants their daughter to think her parents hate each other. “And your mom loves me too.” Lexa knows. From the last time Raven took Clarke out and she got drunk and called her, just after Lexa had put Charlie to bed, she knows. It was five months ago and Lexa still remembers every word. ‘I love you. How did we get here?’

Lexa will always love Clarke, if not for her, for giving her Charlie.

You can’t be as madly in love as Lexa was, share your life with someone, raise a child with them, and then not love them anymore one day. But loving is not the same as being in love, and she and Clarke decided that they wouldn’t explain to their daughter that love faded. They wouldn’t do that to her.

“Then why don’t you live together anymore?“

It’s a valid question. Some nights Lexa feels like a child herself and will ask it, but there won’t be anyone in her empty apartment to answer.

“Sometimes-” she can’t. She won’t tell her seven-year-old daughter that sometimes love is not enough. “It’s complicated.” It’s such a cop-out. It’s the kind of answer her parents gave her when she was being a nuisance, and she swore if she ever had kids she would never do the same. But she is. “Sometimes it’s better if the parents stop living together. It’s a grown up thing, okay?” She’s an asshole. “Do you remember when we explained what a divorce was?”

Charlie nods, pushing her pancakes around her plate.

“I know what it is. I’m 7 now.”

“You’re so old.”

“It’s like mama and you love each other, but like friends. Because you don’t like each other enough to be married.” She says it so matter-of-fact, Lexa cringes.

“It’s a little like that. But you know we love you, we can agree on that,” she tells her daughter gently. It’s the one thing she can offer that it’s true, that wouldn’t be just another stalling tactic to not break her heart. “We both love you so, so much. More than anything. More than all the stars in the sky.”

“Well maybe you can take a little bit of that and share it between the two of you,” Charlie suggests. She looks up at Lexa pleadingly, those big blue eyes destroying Lexa’s heart. She really is her mother’s daughter. “I don’t need all of it,” Charlie insists. “If you had like, extra love, maybe you wouldn’t have to be just friends, you could get married again with white dresses and cake and we could move everything here back home.”

“It’s not that simple, baby,” Lexa sighs. She’ll have to talk to Clarke about this, because Charlie had been fine. After the first few months she’d settled in, and had stopped asking them to get back together.

Charlie’s face falls.

“Come here,” Lexa asks, and Charlie jumps into her arms, her legs wrapping around Lexa’s waist, ruining her pressed suit.

Lexa kisses her cheek twice, tasting strawberry jam.

 


  

 

(February 21st, 2024.)

 

Charlie’s feet swing from her place on the couch.

She looks so small as they looked up at then, engulfed by the enormity of the seat and that they were about to tell her. Lexa’s knee keeps bobbing up and down. Clarke wrings her hands in her lap even as she smiles reassuringly at their daughter.

"You know how Mommy and Mama have been arguing a lot lately, and we always seem to be in a grumpy mood with each other?” Clarke asks, and Lexa sends her a scolding look for not even waiting before starting the conversation.

Lexa knows it’s one they need to have, but she’s been dreading it.

Charlie nods.

They don’t fight in front of her, as a rule, but even a stranger could pick up on the tension whenever they’re in the same room, and if that’s lacking, the pain, sadness and exhaustion are enough to show that something is wrong.

“We decided we need to take some time to fix that, so we won’t be living together anymore.” Lexa explains.

“Mommy will be moving to an apartment in a week, and I will stay here,” Clarke says. “You’re still going to see Mommy all the time.”

“You’re leaving me?” Charlie asks, becoming alarmed.

“No! Never.” Lexa swallows, but she can’t push down the knot in her throat. “You’ll live with me some days, and with your Mama some other days, yes? No one’s leaving you.

“Lexa.” Clarke says carefully. Lexa knows they said they wouldn’t get upset, but she can’t help it.

“We love you so much,” Lexa tells Charlie, quickly wiping her eyes before tears can fall. Charlie stands up, she’s used to seeing Lexa sad after the past months, but she’s never seen her crying.

“Mommy is going to live in an apartment, and you’ll have your own bed there,” Clarke explains. “Sit down, honey, let us explain.”

Charlie obediently climbs onto the couch again, her big eyes and furrowed brow a testament to how she’s beginning to understand.

“We’ll live in different places from now on, okay?”

“Who will take care of Mommy?” Charlie asks, and Lexa’s heart breaks all over again.

“I can take care of myself, baby,” she says, even if the past few months have proved the opposite. She can hardly function anymore, and it’s cost her her marriage.

“You can have my room, mommy,” Charlie says. “You can live in different places and we can all just stay here.”

Her daughter is so incredibly smart, but her intelligence is so innocent still.

“That’s a really good suggestion, Charlie, but it’s not that simple,” Lexa says, and she knows she has to make her understand. “This is a grown up decision we had to make, and it’s done now. We can go see my new apartment in the morning, would you like that?” She offers.

“And Mama?”

“Mama will stay here, at the house.”

“Can’t you come too?” Charlie begs Clarke, stepping down from the couch.

“No, baby. But I’m going to be right here waiting for you when you come back.” Clarke holds her hands, pushes her hair away from her face. Her face is ruddy and wet. “Okay? And that’s how it’s going to be from now on. Do you understand?”

Charlie nods, wiping her nose with the back of her hand.

“But why? Did I-”

"No.” Lexa says firmly.

“No, baby girl,” Clarke repeats. “Sometimes things just happen with mommies. And we're really sorry that it happened to us, but it's not anything you've done. We promise."

“Sometimes grown ups are not happy with how they're living their lives and decide they want to live a different way,” Lexa explained slowly, repeating the practiced sentence. “But that doesn’t mean how much we love you has changed. Okay?”

“Snuggles,” Charlie pleads, seemingly too tired and sad with the conversation. She throws her arms around Clarke, fully expecting Lexa to follow so they can envelope her in the joint hug she’s used to. “Mommy, snuggles.” Charlie looks alarmed that snuggles time, too, could be over, and Lexa thinks she’s broken her daughter’s heart enough for a day.

She meets Clarke’s eyes, asking for permission first, and then leans down and hugs Charlie as well. She avoids touching Clarke’s skin as much as possible.

She’s warm and soft and smells familiar, and it makes Lexa ache because she can’t wait to step away. All the things she loved about Clarke now fill her with pain, and she can’t stand to be this close to the woman.

When Charlie has fallen asleep, exhausted, they step away -and breathe.

 


   

“Can you drop her off at my mom’s?”

Lexa holds the cell phone to her ear, biting her lip. She has never been able to just leave it. She checks Charlie is still watching TV before walking into her bedroom, closing the door.

“Clarke, I told her you’d be at home, waiting for her-”

“Something came up at work, Lexa,” Clarke says harshly. “They called me in, there was a car crash. I’m needed here. And I don’t owe you explanations-”

“When it comes to Charlie you do,” Lexa interjects. “It was your day. You won’t get her an extra day this week because I stayed with her all morning, not if it’s your fault.”

“I’m not going to ask you to make up for today. But we agreed on last night.”

“I know.” She hears Clarke’s huff and keeps talking before a fight breaks out. She’s just tired of them disappointing their daughter. “I’m dropping her off at Abby’s.”

“Okay.”

A beep signals the end of the call, and it’s just enough time for Lexa to push her hair out of her face before Charlie is barging into her room.

“Mommy, are we leaving? Can you have lunch with Mama and me?”

“Baby, there was an emergency at work, okay? Mama’s working right now.”

“Oh.”

“But I’m taking you to grandma’s!” Lexa perks up, the familiar happy face she sometimes has to fake in front of Charlie falling into place. “How about that?”

“Okay.” Charlie smiles. She loves going to Abby’s, especially loves Kane’s Husky. They'd promised her a dog way back when, and like so many other things, it never came to fruition. 

“Yeah?” Lexa extends her hand. “And you’ll get to play with Shadow.”

Charlie holds her hand, grinning.

“Okay.”

 


   

(Some day, the week before finals, fall, 2011.)

 

“I didn’t pay attention to the class at all.”

Lexa looks up from her desk, where she’s busy gathering her stuff to hightail out of there and to her next class, on the other side of the building.

Clarke stands there, Clarke Griffin, whom she shares this single class with.

They’d done a group project together, she’d talked to her at a party twice, and they’d toed the line between classmates catching up and flirting, but studying had consumed Lexa, and she had given no further thought to her embarrassing crush on the blonde.

Her eyes were so blue they made Lexa’s mouth go dry. She was a mess.

“Clarke.” She couldn’t help a smile. “So…do you want help with notes, or-”

“I didn’t pay attention because I spent the whole time wondering how to ask you out.”

“Oh.” She’s just- she’s got nothing. Her heart is pounding.

“Yeah.”

“So. Did you-” she swallows, trying to tamper down on her excitement and act like a sensible human being. “Did you figure something out?”

“You were leaving so I panicked and decided making a fool of myself would be the best course of action,” Clarke rambles, and it’s goddamn adorable. Lexa’s smiling wide now, and she looks down to her lap to hide it. “Care to tell me how’s that working out for me?” Clarke asks, just a hint of insecurity Lexa has never seen in her before.

“Why don’t you walk me to my next class, I’ll tell you on the way.”

 


   

"Grandma!”

Lexa smiles at Charlie’s eagerness while she climbs the steps of Abby’s house. It’s a nice two story home, a different one from the house Clarke grew up in. When they were just a a year out of college Abby bought a new one with Kane. They married after that, and Lexa remembers Clarke was torn between being happy for her mother and losing her childhood home and the memories it held.

Abby opens the door and in the next second Charlie is jumping into her arms.

“Grandma!”

Lexa smiles at the scene.

“Grandma, where’s Shadow?” Lexa bites her lip. She knew Charlie wouldn’t last five minutes without asking

“She’s out back,” Abby tells her, and Charlie climbs down and sprints into the house. Her excitement makes Lexa wish her apartment allowed pets.

“Abby.”

She doesn’t think about offering a handshake, and promptly accepts the hug Abby gives her. Neither women are that tactile, but after Charlie was born, they became close. After the last two years, she’s the closest Lexa has to a mother.

“Lexa.” Abby squeezes her arms fondly. “It’s been a while. How have you been?”

“I’m good.”

“How’s work?”

“It’ good.” She affirms, and at Abby’s disbelieving stare, she amends. “It’s…work, Abby. It’s okay. I just want to spend as much time with Charlie as possible.” She shrugs. “She’s growing up too fast.”

“It always feels that way,” Abby says. She leads Lexa into the house.

A few of Clarke’s pictures hang on the wall, and Lexa sees herself in the one where they’re graduating from college, her arm around Clarke’s waist, their friends around them and sitting at their heels. Her smile is so big she can hardly recognize herself.

Or perhaps, she can’t recognize herself now.

“What’s on your mind, Lexa?” Abby asks, inviting her into the kitchen. Abby serves her a glass of wine and takes one for herself, and Lexa accepts it, grateful.

She evades the question.

“You didn’t like me at first, you remember that?”

She believes Abby positively hated her for the first six months of their relationship. Lexa was never one to suck up to parents, so it didn’t make it easier, and back then Clarke’s relationship with her mom was a lot more tense, which didn’t help.

“You walk into my house, leather jacket, combat boots, tattoos.” Abby shakes her head. They can hear Charlie playing with the dog outside. “It was the look on Clarke’s face that made me not like you, though. She was twenty, with her eyes on med school, and she looked at you like she couldn’t care about anything else. It terrified me.”

Lexa swallows.

“Well, we know how that one worked out.”

“How long it’s been?”

“A year and four months,” Lexa answers.

“Jesus. A year and a half already.”

“Four months. Just a year and four months.”

 


   

(August, 2023.)

She feels off the whole morning. She drops Charlie off at kindergarten, and spends the rest of the morning walking around the house, tiding up. She doesn't have to go to the office that day, and maybe that's what has her feeling off kilter. Clarke keeps telling her she works too much, but Lexa is nowhere close to believing her. 

She feels off the whole morning, and the feeling doesn't go away.

Twelve o' clock finds her doubled over in pain, calling Clarke over and over again from the bathroom floor. She doesn't answer.

She calls Abby.

 


   

“What’s on your mind, Lexa,” Abby asked again. And after everything, after how Abby helped her -she couldn’t lie.

“I’m scared they’re going to take Charlie.” The words are so simple, but they encompass everything she’s been worrying about, the reason she’s been avoiding Clarke and her boyfriend. It’s not just losing Clarke, she did that already and she lived, but losing her daughter would kill her.

Her parents are gone, Anya is gone. Her friends are Clarke’s friends. She has no one to talk to, and it’s never bothered her before. Then again, Lexa has never felt as vulnerable as she does these days.

“Clarke would never-”

“It didn’t feel real, you know? Logically, I knew it was over, I signed the divorce papers, I moved out. We share custody of Charlie but …it didn’t feel real. And now with Finn. What happens when they get married? When Charlie has a mom and a dad and a house in the suburbs, what happens to the shitty apartment and the extra mom still on anxiety meds?”

“It’s a really nice apartment, Lexa,” Abby corrects her, distracts her; her former mother in law did learn how to deal with her. Abby gives her a sad smile.

It’s not a fear that Clarke will wake up one day and decide she doesn’t want Lexa in their daughter’s life anymore. It’s not her thinking that Finn will replace her as Charlie’s parent, or even that he can give her things Lexa can’t. It’s none of that. Lexa simply fears she’ll be forgotten, that Charlie herself will stop wanting to come around, that her daughter will pick Clarke and their home and a picture of a nuclear suburban family over the apartment and too-small-bed that Lexa can offer. She really should have ordered a new bed sooner.

“Clarke is never going to take Charlie from you,” Abby repeats. “I know my daughter, and she would never-”

“Do you know Finn?” she asks, she can't help it. If Abby knows Finn then it’s over -not that there was anything to salvage in the first place, but…it didn’t feel real. It still doesn’t feel real, sometimes, that this is her life. This was never supposed to be her life.

“You will always be Charlie’s mother, Lexa. Nothing is going to change that,” Abby says, ignoring her question. Lexa’s stomach sinks. She wishes Abby wouldn’t treat her with kid gloves, but she supposes she earned that. “Look at her birth certificate, who’s name is on there? Certainly not Finn’s.”

    


      

(April 28, 2018.)

 

“Why don’t we just name her Charlotte?” Clarke offers.

“I don’t see the point of naming her Charlotte when neither of us like the name, and if we’re going to call her Charlie anyways,” Lexa says. It’s the one name -or rather, nickname- that overlapped on their lists.

Lexa’s baby names list was too old-fashioned for Clarke’s taste, while Clarke’s list included far too many ‘creative’ names that Lexa couldn’t imagine calling their baby. (“We’re not naming our kid Laykenn, Clarke.”) But Charlie…they both like Charlie. Lexa when it’s short for Charlene, and Clarke when it’s short for Charlize, but still.

Clarke bites her lip. Her hands roam over her large swollen belly.

“My aunt thinks its more of a boy’s name.”

Lexa snorts.

“Okay, ‘Clarke’.”

“They’re going to ask her what that’s short for for the rest of her life, Lexa.” A smile begins to bloom on Clarke’s face. “She’s going to hate us as a teenager.”

“I’ll teach her how to answer,” Lexa says, crawling across the room to the cushion where her wife seats. Lexa rubs her swollen ankles gently, before leaning down to press a kiss to Clarke’s forehead. “It’ll be one of her first words. It’s Charlie, just Charlie. Right after ‘my mommies are the best’.”

She kisses Clarke gently, a smile on her lips the entire time.

“Good luck teaching a baby that; Lexa, just Lexa.”

 


      

"How have you been lately?"

"Stop mothering me, Abby."

 Lexa meets her eyes over the rim of her glass. Brown eyes, nothing like Clarke’s, but the same worry reflected in them. The same caring disposition that drove them to help people, to open them up and put them back together. Clarke is so like her mother in some ways.

"It’s just…" Lexa sighs. "It’s still hard."

"I know." Abby squeezes her hand.

Lexa's mother passed away when she was in middle school, and her father followed on her fist year of college. She found out early on that life didn't pull punches, that it didn't amke things easier for anyone. She found a friend in Anya then, a mentor, and lost her too. That it's Clarke's mother who's there for her barely registers, she just feels comforted for the first time in a while. Lexa never thought she'd enjoy spending time with her mother-in-law back in the day, but Abby has become more than that- she's not even her mother in law anymore.

"Is there anyone…?"

"You know there isn’t."

"Do you want there to be. Eventually?"

She can’t. She can’t, she can’t imagine another woman sharing her bed, another woman touching her or buying a house with someone else. She can’t imagine a life with someone who isn’t Clarke. It's been a year and four months, and it's starting to feel like she'll never be able to.

Abby pats her hand.

 "You know...when Jake died, I thought my heart died with him," the woman confesses. "And it did, part of it. But not all. I wasn’t dead."

"How is Kane?" Lexa asks, deflecting. Her throat itches. "I didn’t see his car outside."

"He went fishing with friends for the weekend," Abby tells her, not fooled. "He’s a good man, you know, a good husband. It’s not the same, if that’s what you’re wondering. Jake and I were married for 20 years, raised an amazing child together. But we’re allowed to love again, Lexa. You should know that."

She does know. She just doesn’t want to. Doesn’t think she even could.

"I should be going before Clarke gets here."

Abby sighs. "Okay." She pats Lexa's hand again, and Lexa thinks this is the way they cope without Clarke in the room. Lexa doesn't know how to be comforted all that well, and Abby isn't the most reassuring person, but they manage. A strange sort of care and respect and love has formed there, and Lexa appreciates it. "Charlie! Come say goodbye to your mom."

Abby puts the glasses away, and Charlie comes bounding into the kitchen, pink cheeked and sweaty.

"Mommy!” She extends her arms like she did when she was still a toddler, and Lexa picks her up, settling her against her hip. Charlie rains down kisses on her cheek. "I’m going to miss you lots and lots and lots,” she says, hugging her tight.

“Me too. But I’ll see you-"

“In three days," Charlie finishes for her.

"Yes, and your new bed will be waiting for you."

"Okay," Charlie agrees. She holds on to Lexa, staring at her for a moment. "I love you, mommy."

"I love you too. More than anything." She presses a kiss to Charlie's forehead and cheeks, and sets her down on the breakfast island. Abby will be making her some lunch, Lexa's sure. The sound of a motor comes from the driveway.

Lexa gives Abby a tense smile, waves Charlie goodbye, and

she leaves.