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Be the Lightning in Me

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Lexa learned that her family was poor at a very young age. It’s not really something that a happy kid like Lexa would realise without a frame of reference, without people who had more than her to compare her life to, so while it was just her and her family she never realised that she was growing up with very little. She was fed, clothed, and warm (albeit due to copious layers of clothing and blankets rather than lots of central heating) so she was content.

The happiness cracked away a little when her ignorance of all things monetary was lost. It was kind of an odd discovery for her and it forever changed the way she looked at the world. It was a journey that began on her very first day of school and that first reality-inducing moment stuck with her for many years to come, though she didn’t realise exactly what had happened at the time.

It had been a sunny day, the sky was that bright shade of blue that Lexa loved so much, and her tummy was wiggling around inside her all weirdly. It could have been nerves or excitement, she wasn’t sure and she didn’t really mind. School was going to be great, she just knew it. She walked into her classroom with her rucksack high and heavy on her back, packed with every tiny thing she thought she might possibly need on her first day of kindergarten. She probably wasn’t going to use all seventeen pencils scattered in her bag amongst various toys, notepads, a few books, and her incredibly squished sandwiches but Lexa always felt better when she was prepared.

The first kid that spoke to Lexa was Gus Brown and he asked her why she had holes in her jeans. He was big for a five year old, something that kids often found intimidating, but little Lexa wasn’t fazed. She just stood boldly before him, looking adorable with her usually messy hair teased back into braids, and glanced down at her exposed knees before turning her gaze back to Gus.

“They were my sister’s jeans so I dunno,” she shrugged with an ease that only a very young child could have under the scrutiny of her peers. She blinked up at him with wide, forest green eyes. That’s what her mom always called them. Lexa liked that, she felt that she was made for big adventures in the wilderness back in those innocent days.

“Why are you wearing your sister’s jeans?” Gus had asked, no real malice in his voice but a frown pulling at his brows. Lexa regarded his confusion with polite curiosity.

“‘Cause my mom says sometimes we have to share clothes, sharing is nice.”

“I never share clothes,” Gus told her simply before walking away, leaving Lexa to ponder as to why his family weren’t so nice as to share clothes too.

She headed further into the classroom, dismissing the boy’s remarks. School is going to be awesome, she reminded herself. And it was. Mostly.

Lexa was so happy a few weeks later when she inherited her sister’s cookie monster t-shirt. She had always loved it, completely adored it in fact, and she knew that one day it wouldn’t fit Anya anymore and it would become hers. She was frustrated to find that Anya was reluctant to give it up, her stubborn streak always had a way of peeking out just to annoy Lexa. Or so she believed anyway.

“But Mom, it’s my favourite!” Anya had whined, pouting down at Lexa who was two years and eight inches her junior.

“But Anya, it doesn’t fit anymore! Mommy says we have to share, it’s nice to share,” Lexa told Anya with a proud nod to her mother who just smiled sweetly at her. She was too young to see the way that her mom’s mouth turned down a little at the corners when she gave her that smile and the lines that were already drawing themselves around her eyes from working two jobs and constantly feeling like she wasn’t giving her daughters a good enough life.

“But I’m the only one that ever has to share,” Anya huffed.

“You can share my stuff too.”

“You’re too small, I can’t wear your clothes.”

“Um…” Lexa bit at her lip, little mind working to think up something to balance the scales. Anya was right, it was only her that had to share. If Lexa had been the only one that had to share then she would have been annoyed too. “You can share my toys!”

Anya folded her arms, her mouth a harsh line as her gaze burned down at Lexa.

“I don’t want your stupid toys, they’re for babies.”

Lexa folded her arms too.

“I’m not a baby!”

Anya put her arms by her sides.

“Are. Baby.

Anya’s fists were clenched and Lexa felt the sadness bubble up inside her. Her eyes began to sting and she swallowed hard, she didn’t want to look weak in front of her sister. She wasn’t a baby, no matter what Anya said, and she had to prove that to her.

Anya was her favourite thing in the whole world. She loved her more than candy, more than that cookie monster t-shirt, more than her mom, even. She was big and strong, and Lexa was pretty sure she was the cleverest seven-year-old there was. She taught Lexa to do roly-polys and how to say supercalifragilisticexpialidocious (which took her hours and she took Lexa over and over it syllable by syllable one rainy Sunday afternoon until she could do it all by herself). She even taught her to tie her shoes because their mom was always working and their grandpa who took care of them had arthritis in his fingers and couldn’t show her himself. Sometimes when Lexa had a bad dream she’d crawl into bed with Anya and Anya would complain, tell her that she had cold feet and that she was stealing the covers, but she never kicked her out. Sometimes she’d even put her arm around her and Lexa would fall asleep with a ball of warmth in her stomach, all of her fear banished by her protector. So yeah, Anya could be mean sometimes but all the other things she did made up for it so it was OK. She hated it when Anya was angry with her but it never made her hate her, it just made her want to try to please her more.

“You can have my lion,” Lexa offered, fidgeting where she was stood in the middle of their tiny living room, scuffed shoes kicking at a rip in the carpet. She didn’t notice the way her mom held her breath from where she was sat on the couch watching them, stifling the urge to cry with a hand pressed to her mouth, the emotion instead building in her eyes until they glistened.

Anya stepped forward, all signs of anger gone.

“No, Lexa, he’s yours.”

Her deep brown eyes, so unlike Lexa’s, were soft and she put her hand on Lexa’s shoulder. Lexa just looked up at her, utter devotion set in her steady jaw.

“We share in this family, he can be yours now.”

Lexa ignored the sadness she felt inside at the thought of not having her lion anymore. She remembered getting that lion, she remembered her dad taking her and Anya to the fair, she remembered how he won it on one of those claw machines. She had made a fuss until he chose to give the toy to her instead of Anya, though he promised to keep playing until he won her one too. Anya was a good big sister and she just sighed when Lexa got her own way.

But of course Lexa was oblivious to all of this.

What she remembered most clearly was that when she took the toy, giggling and hugging it into her chest, her dad beamed bigger than she had ever seen. She had flung herself into his arms, whooping with glee as he swept her up and onto his shoulders where she sat proudly, the lion clutched under one arm, her free hand gripping onto her dad’s straggly hair that she had always loved to play with. He never did manage to win another one for Anya but his next promise was that he’d buy her another toy soon.

He left a week later.

Two years had passed but Lexa could tell that Anya wished she had a lion of her own to cuddle up to when she missed him.

“No, Lex, I don’t want him,” Anya said, shaking her head, “you can have my t-shirt, it’s OK. It doesn’t fit anymore and it’s too cool to get left in the closet.”

And then Anya did something she rarely ever did. She pulled Lexa into a hug.

Happiness flooded through Lexa even though Anya’s already long and wavy hair was tickling her nose. They had never been affectionate siblings, they bickered a lot and Anya invariably went off in a huff. Lexa was always the one to try and bridge the gap between them.

Anya was starting to harden even at the age of seven, her ignorance already having burned away with two years at school throwing her into the harsh reality of growing up as a poor kid. (Lexa didn’t even learn about the racism Anya faced until she was a lot older.) But sometimes Anya was that soft girl she had been before Lexa’s dad had left, back when they were a family, back when she’d felt like she had a dad that wanted her even though he hadn’t been her own.

Over the years, when she knew Anya was unhappy in some way, Lexa would leave her lion in Anya’s bed. He always returned a little while later with the faintest smell of Anya clinging to his increasingly ragged fur and Lexa would nuzzle her nose into him, glad she had been able to help a little. She had never been very good with emotions and she dealt with her rather temperamental sister in the best way she knew how.

Stood there in Anya’s arms Lexa was safe and loved, and Anya helped to protect her from the harsh world for a little longer. Lexa always felt indebted to her for that.

But over time she began to notice things, especially when she was at school, and her innocence began to fade. Her classmates talked about vacations to countries she’d never even heard of when she herself had never left the state. They were always talking about going out to dinner, going bowling, watching their new videos in their bedrooms. Lexa was amazed, they had a tiny TV in their living room, she’d have loved to have her very own one! She also noticed that the kids looked at her strangely sometimes when she said certain things. She quickly stopped mentioning that her clothes came from Anya a lot of the time and that she was so good at cutting out things because she liked to help her mom cut coupons out of the paper before they went grocery shopping. She started to notice that when things got really tight and she asked if she could go to a birthday party, her mom would get this pained expression on her face. It wasn’t long before Lexa realised it was because she didn’t have enough money to buy a gift for her to take with her. By pretending that she didn’t want to go to parties she saved her mom the awkward conversation Lexa knew would come one day and eventually she stopped actually wanting to go to parties at all. Before long she didn’t even get invited anymore anyway. People whispered about her sometimes but she didn’t mind, she generally just buried her nose further in whatever library book she was immersed in that day. She loved to lose herself in other worlds, it was her escape before she even realised what that meant.

Lexa, Anya, and their mom may have been poor but they loved each other and they were happy in their sweet, if a little shabby, home. Lexa liked being the baby of the family and she didn’t even realise how much easier that had made her life until she wasn’t the baby anymore. She watched her mom grow bigger with wide eyes and bright smiles, so in love with a person she hadn’t even met yet. She’d snuggle into her mom’s side on the couch every evening, her baby sister kicking her hand each time she smoothed it over her mom’s swollen stomach. Her heart thumped even harder than the baby’s kicks and she couldn’t believe her mom was clever enough to grow a person inside her!

The birth of Ontari drove a wedge between Anya and her family. She knew how much harder things were going to get, especially when Ontari’s dad never appeared, but Lexa found a new sense of pride and responsibility when she first laid eyes on the tiny baby sleeping in her mom’s arms.

That was the day everything changed for Lexa, it was the day that she learned of her duty to her family, and it was the day she realised that Anya wasn’t going to be the only one sharing anymore.

 

*

 

Although she was slower to harden than Anya, by the age of twenty-one Lexa was pretty much closed off to all but her family. Oh and her roommate Raven, she’d somehow managed to get herself an invite into Lexa’s rather exclusive clique too. Lexa couldn’t deny that the ever effusive Raven was incredibly observant, learning more about her than she even knew she had divulged. It was the longest time before Lexa realised that the two of them were friends and, actually, Raven had to point that fact out to her. So it was only those few people that ever really saw past Lexa’s cool and calm exterior and she quite liked it that way. They were probably the only people that really saw her at all, something else that didn’t bother her.

It was on a chilly Thursday in November during Lexa’s third year at college that things were set to start shifting in her usually calm life. She had just thrown her coat on and was about to head for the door, her bike helmet clasped in one hand, when her phone rang. She fished it out of her pocket and was greeted by a photo of a grinning woman with dark hair and green eyes on the screen. Unfortunately for her she was running ahead of schedule that day, much like most days, and she so she actually had a little time to talk. She sighed, knowing she couldn’t in good conscience ignore the call.

“Here we go,” she said to herself, resigned, and she answered, leaning against the door she had almost escaped from. “Hello?”

“You bought Aden new shoes?” Her mother’s unusually stern voice shot straight through her.

Busted.

She willed herself to be as tactful as possible going forward.

“Yes, his old ones were falling apart, Mom, he needed some new ones.”

She heard a sigh on the other end of the line. She understood that her mom felt guilty but her duty to her little brother outweighed her own guilt at overstepping with her family’s precarious financial situation. She knew when she bought the shoes that her mom wasn’t going to accept them easily and though she felt guilty every time she tried to help out with her siblings, she was powerless to resist. Her mom had a lot of pride but Lexa thought that perhaps eighteen years of struggling to raise kids alone was enough. She was an adult now and she wanted to help. And if maybe she could stop her brother and sister from getting teased the way she and Anya had, perhaps she could save them a lot of heartache.

She still remembered the time her mom couldn’t afford to replace her shoes when she was eight, the same age Aden was now. It had been winter and she’d had to walk to school each day with Anya. She’d always turn up with soaking wet socks and have to sit all day uncomfortable with freezing, sopping feet. She never told her mom because she hadn’t wanted to be a bother and she hadn’t wanted Aden to be one either.

“I know they were, Lexa, I was going to buy him some more after I get paid next week.”

“And now you don’t have to.”

“Lexa,” her mom warned.

“Mom, honestly, it’s fine.”

“It’s not fine, Lexa!” Lexa slunk across the room and threw herself onto the couch, slumping back into the slightly lumpy cushions. She put her helmet on her lap and braced herself for an argument. “You’re my child, I don’t expect you to help me out, I’ve got this under control. I’m better off now than I was with all four of you under my roof.”

“I just wanted to help, Mom. It’s OK to accept some help, you know? I’m working, I can afford it. I’m not a kid anymore.”

“You’ll always be my kid though and kids don’t need to buy stuff for each other. You should be spending that money on yourself or buying stuff for that little apartment of yours, I know it could do with some work.”

“My apartment is fine, Mom. Raven and I are happy with it the way it is. Aden’s shoes, however, were not fine.”

The line was silent for a moment, Lexa knew her mom wouldn’t be able to argue forever. She may have been a proud woman but she really did hate to see her kids go without. If Lexa had her way she’d help out a lot more but she knew it was pointless to even try.

“I’m going to pay you back next week.”

“And then I’ll just put the money you give me towards that new phone you promised Ontari when she broke hers the other week.” OK, so maybe she would always keep trying to help. Her siblings were her weakness and she thought that was alright.

“Lexa, please, just stop.”

“Mom, stop worrying, OK? I’m doing fine, just let me help you out sometimes. You gave me everything when I was a kid, let me help you do the same for Ontari and Aden.”

Her mom’s reply was quiet.

“I didn’t give you everything.”

Lexa traced her finger over a scratch on her helmet, awkward in the silence that fell between them. She pulled in a deep breath, taking extra care with her words.

“You gave me everything you could.”

For a second she thought she heard her mom sniff but then she spoke and her voice was steady and bright. Perhaps Lexa had been mistaken (she hadn’t been and they both knew it but she could pretend for the sake of her mother’s dignity).

“Thank you, Lexa. You come by and see us soon, OK? I miss you.”

“I miss you too, Mom, but I have to get to work now. Give the kids a kiss from me, yeah?”

“I’ll give Aden a kiss but I’m afraid Ontari is too cool to let her mom kiss her these days.”

Lexa let out a small laugh, shaking her head. Her mom was definitely right there.

“OK, I’ll pin her down myself when I come over. How’s Sunday?”

“Sunday’s perfect. And Lexa?”

“Yes, Mom?” Lexa braced herself, she knew what was coming.

“How’s your sister doing?”

Anya’s name wasn’t often used in the Woods household anymore. Ontari and Aden quickly learned not to ask about her or even mention her, they didn’t want to make their mom sad. Lexa wasn’t even sure when it was that she’d last heard her mom use it. (It was the day Anya left, Lexa realised later, it was after the argument. She could still hear her mom screaming at Anya’s slowly fading figure, each time her name reverberated around the neighbourhood it became more desperate, an unanswered plea that left their sobbing mother in a heap on the sidewalk.)

“She’s fine.”

“And she’s still out in Africa somewhere doing that house building thing?”

Lexa grimaced, glad her mom couldn’t see her. She hated being stuck in the middle.

“Yes.”

“Which country was it, again?”

“I’m not sure, she moves about a lot I think.”

“But you’re still keeping in contact?”

“Yes.”

“Good, good. I’m glad.” A pause. Lexa imagined her mom sat on the ageing couch and twirling her hair around her finger like she always did when she was feeling uncomfortable. The way her sigh cut through the space between them made Lexa sad. “Will you tell her I miss her?”

She always asked her to do that. Lexa had only done it once.

“I… I really have to go, Mom.”

“OK honey, sorry.”

“Bye, Mom.”

“Bye, Lex.”

Lexa hung up the call and dropped her phone to the couch, hands coming up to her face as she exhaled deeply. She sat and breathed for a minute, trying to ignore the way her stomach squirmed. She gritted her teeth and pushed the guilt down, grabbed her phone again, and sent a quick text to Anya.

 

I can’t keep lying to Mom for you.

 

Lexa was about to bike to work when she felt her phone vibrate in her pocket with Anya’s reply.

 

Just a little more time. Please, Lexa.

 

*

 

Lexa had been surprised to discover that she actually quite liked working at the bar at the edge of campus. She’d never really been a drinker herself, she was way too conscious of the fact that she was on a full academic scholarship at college to be so frivolous with her time, but she didn’t mind making drinks for other people. Due to the size of the college, and her relative anonymity being the work-focused hermit she was, not a lot of students recognised her. Occasionally she would see people she knew but often they didn’t know who she was. It didn’t particularly bother her, in fact it was kind of preferable to the few times when people from her classes had tried to make awkward small talk with her as she made them their various drinks.

Lexa was a loner and she liked it that way.

She had panicked at the start of the semester when her boss at the coffee shop had told her he needed to cut her hours but within a few days she’d managed to get herself a job at Sanctuary, one of the best hangouts that Arkadia University had to offer. Indra had been wary at first, Lexa had only just turned twenty-one after all, but she could be quite persuasive. She was quite a serious young woman and had learned well how to relate to adults seeing as though they were the people she had mainly associated with her whole life. Teachers always loved her, she had a way with them that she just didn’t with people her own age.

So Lexa was the youngest employee at Sanctuary and she was quite happy about that. She learned how best to deal with drunken young adults pretty quickly and she became very good at her job. On this particular Thursday night she had been working there for couple of months and, for some ineffable reason, Indra had decided to hire a new girl and disrupt Lexa’s carefully planned life.

It was about ten minutes before opening and Lexa was using her time to brace herself for the onslaught of energy that always erupted the moment those double doors opened and the students came pouring in. In her last blissfully unaware moments Lexa was wiping down the ageing wood of the bar, one of many charming features that compiled themselves into the rustic feel of this homey yet vibrant place. First she heard the soft footfalls of her boss and the slightly more cumbersome ones of her companion, next a voice bringing her the news she was reluctant to learn.

“Lexa, I’d like you to meet our new bartender,” Indra said in her usual serious tone that demanded immediate attention.

Lexa already felt anxious just knowing there was someone unfamiliar stood with Indra and she gulped hard, willing herself to be the sociable person she knew she could pretend to be. She pushed a polite smile onto her face, dropped the rag she had been cleaning with on the bar, and turned around.

Her smile dropped quicker than the rag when her eyes found a familiar face.

“This is Clarke, I just hired her this afternoon,” Indra told her, motioning to the gently smiling blonde next to her. “Clarke, this is Lexa.”

Clarke didn’t seem to recognise Lexa and it took all of her strength not to roll her eyes at her. Of course she didn’t recognise her. Sure, Lexa didn’t usually mind that people didn’t notice her so why did it sting a little this time?

Lexa considered pretending that she didn’t know who Clarke was, feigning ignorance would probably be the smart move here, but in the few seconds that Lexa hesitated she had a feeling that her face had given her away. There was something in Clarke’s expression that seemed to be questioning Lexa and that, plus the flash she felt when those vivid eyes locked with her own for the first time, made her tighten with unexpected nerves. She felt vulnerable somehow, exposed in that gaze, and she felt herself go on the offensive.

She couldn’t help the bitter way in which she replied.

“We’ve met, actually.”

Clarke had held her hand out to shake Lexa’s, an oddly formal gesture that only served to puzzle Lexa, but Lexa ignored it. At Lexa’s tone, Clarke clenched her hand into a fist and returned it to her side.

“We have?”

While at first Lexa had reacted harshly to defend herself against those piercing eyes, her irritation began to return as she thought about the reason why she knew Clarke. Something about this girl had rubbed her up the wrong way as soon as she’d first laid eyes on her a little over two months ago and perhaps that was what irritated her so much about the fact that Clarke didn’t recognise her. She felt safer in deciding that Clarke was merely annoying, it was better than thinking about the fact that Clarke unnerved her. She clung to that tightly.

“Well, we’ve never spoken to each other, exactly, but you’re in my Genetics class.”

Clarke cocked her head to the side, pretty blue eyes narrowing as she strained to remember. Lexa had not been able to tell what colour her eyes were before, the lecture hall was quite big and she tended to sit near the back. She conveniently ignored the fact that this was possibly why Clarke had never noticed her before.

“I am? I mean, I know I take Genetics but you’re in that class?”

Yes,” Lexa could feel herself getting more annoyed and she was grateful when Indra interrupted their awkward conversation.

“OK girls, sort that out on your own time. Lexa, you’re going to be showing Clarke the ropes tonight. You’re the same age so I’m hoping she’ll learn better from you… though judging by that interaction, perhaps not. Don’t kill each other, alright? I’ll be out back if you need anything.”

She gave a curt nod to both girls and left them, Clarke frowning at Lexa, her gaze much bolder than Lexa felt. She decided that her best course of action would be to ignore her past misgivings about Clarke and treat this purely as a business matter. Clarke, however, didn’t seem to want to follow her lead on that.

“OK, so you can just watch me at first, you’ll need to learn where we keep all of the drinks and how to mix certain cocktails, we only serve a select few but we have a menu somewhere you can study.”

“Great, more studying.”

Lexa grabbed the rag off the bar and handed it to Clarke, trying to ignore the way those eyes seemed to be watching her every move, a slight smile pulling at smug lips.

“Here, you can finish cleaning down the bar before we open in a minute.”

“It looks clean to me.”

“Just do it, Clarke.”

“Fine. This is probably why I don’t recognise you, you don’t seem like you’re much fun.”

Lexa ignored her comment, checking the cash register was filled with enough change to start them off for the night. She also ignored the childish pout on Clarke’s lips but she couldn’t help but notice it in her periphery. Lexa knew she was in trouble when Clarke’s quizzical expression returned.

“Do you go to many parties?”

“Clarke,” Lexa warned.

“What? It’s a simple question! I thought perhaps I might have seen you somewhere else and that it might jog my memory.”

“No, I don’t go to parties.”

“Right, right. Do you have any friends in our Genetics class? Maybe I know them.”

“I go to class to learn, not to make friends.”

“Figures,” Clarke said quietly as she wiped absently at the countertop.

“Excuse me?” Lexa bristled, it was definitely going to be difficult to ignore Clarke’s annoying nature.

“You know, if you’re as work-focused as you claim, I’m surprised you even noticed me,” Clarke said casually, passing behind Lexa to clean the other side of the bar. Lexa caught a whiff of something soft, perfume and perhaps a hint of laundry detergent. Apparently even annoying people could smell nice, something that just irritated her further.

“It’s hard not to notice someone that frequently distracts the majority of our class.”

Lexa couldn’t help but look over at Clarke to see how she reacted to her comment. A devious smile pulled at the corners of her mouth and Lexa just rolled her eyes.

“As far as I can recall, I’ve never been called out by the professor for disrupting the class so perhaps it’s just you I’m distracting, ever think of it like that?”

Damn it, this girl was good.

“Well whoever you’re distracting, it’s annoying.”

Clarke stopped cleaning and tilted her head again in that cute, curious puppy kind of way that Lexa had already decided she hated.

“I think maybe I was wrong about you, Lex.”

“Don’t call me that.”

“Fine. Lexa.”

Lexa tried not to be curious, she tried not to ask what Clarke had been going to say, but she failed. She was weak.

“What were you wrong about?”

“I think maybe you actually are a lot of fun.”

Lexa frowned.

“You do?”

“Oh yeah,” Clarke said, smile setting Lexa on edge, “you seem so uptight and I think that trying to loosen you up and get you to actually react to things is going to make long nights working here a hell of a lot more fun.”

There was a darkness at the edges of Clarke’s playful expression that Lexa didn’t like. It was the only thing that stopped her biting back with what she would like to believe would have been a scathing response, though she really, really wanted to. She couldn’t believe Clarke’s audacity, she’s only been working there five minutes! Apparently she was just a game that Clarke wanted to play and Lexa was determined that she wasn’t going to lose. If she lashed out she’d definitely lose the upper hand and so she just sighed, wishing she hadn’t asked. Working with Clarke was already proving to be quite the battle.

Of course, she couldn’t know how different a battle she would soon be facing with Clarke.

While the way that Clarke had first interacted with Lexa had made her nervous, she was actually quite normal once the hoard of people came pouring in a few minutes later. Lexa had expected her to keep flashing her that grin that made her seem as if she were staring right past those walls that she liked to keep up but Clarke remained calm and attentive for the rest of the evening. She watched as Lexa showed her where they kept everything, nodding politely to show that she was listening. She was good with the customers, she noticed when things were beginning to run out, and she kept their little space behind the bar nice and tidy. Lexa couldn’t fault her and she was actually thinking that perhaps it wouldn’t be so bad working with Clarke after all. She’d made a snap judgement based on observations from afar, it was perfectly reasonable to think that perhaps she’d been wrong. Perhaps first day jitters had just made Clarke act all overly confident, perhaps she wasn’t going to spend her time trying to rile Lexa up after all.

Lexa wasn’t often wrong but, oddly, she hoped that she had been this time. Of course that was just because she wanted her work life to be as easy as possible, not because she actually wanted to like Clarke.

It was with a soft happiness humming through her body that Lexa left the bar that night. She always left her bike chained securely out the back and she went to retrieve it, tugging her gloves on as she went. Winter was settling deep into Arkadia, Lexa’s breath plumed out around her and she glanced up at the sky. She found it cloudless and dazzling with stars. Her lips twitched with the beginnings of a smile and suddenly there was someone at her side. Such was the calm inside her, it didn’t even startle her. She turned her head to look at who had fallen into step with her. It was Clarke.

“You did well today, Clarke,” Lexa said, offering a slight inclination of her head as they continued to walk.

“You sound surprised,” Clarke replied, raising her eyebrows a little.

“Not surprised, pleased. It’ll be good to have a little more help.”

“I’m glad I please you,” Clarke said seriously and Lexa couldn’t help it, she laughed. Clarke, however, didn’t.

“Uh, yeah, sure.” Lexa began to feel a little uncomfortable as her lone laugh echoed in the frosty air and she stopped walking, pointing over to her bike. “Anyway, I’m going this way so I’ll see you soon?”

“You can count on it,” Clarke replied, a smile returning to her lips.

There was something mischievous in that smile and the feeling that Clarke was delving into her soul with her eyes had returned. Lexa pretended to be focused on unlocking her bike but she watched Clarke walk away and get into a sleek, shiny car that she thought was probably blue, it was hard to tell in the orange glow of the streetlights. That uneasy feeling was back in her gut and she tried hard to push it down, she didn’t know Clarke well enough yet to know for sure if having her around was going to be a bad thing. She was a little concerned that she may have been right about her after all. Only time would tell.