The sun bled across the dark blue sky, leaving its blood-red fingers painting the blue canvas above as they walked arm-in-arm down the evening quiet of Seattle's moderately busy streets. Couples, some with children, strolled in the evening light. Atypical of the time, many were making their way towards the multitude of restaurants that lined the streets, and as Clarke watched, she clenched her jaw as the feeling of longing and loneliness threatened to consume her.
"What would you like to do for dinner?" Clarke asked her daughter, trying to distract herself. The two women had their arms linked together as they ambled along the sidewalk.
"Can we go to Chez Bistro?" Quinn's request was innocent enough, and as they continued walking she did not notice her mother's sudden discomfort. Clarke felt her throat restrict with the emotions that began to well up, her heart clenching painfully at even the mention of that place.
Her posture was stiff, and despite the years that had passed between now and her last visit, Clarke could not fight the memories that rose, unwanted, into the forefront of her mind. "I can't." She blurted. She stopped abruptly, pulling her arm from her daughter's hold.
Quinn looked at her with surprise. "Why not?" Then it dawned on her, the recognition shining in those familiar green eyes. She stepped closer to her mother, pulling her into a warm embrace. Clarke was still stiff, uncomfortable in the hold, but within seconds she relaxed into it, her arms coming to wrap around the other woman.
"I'm sorry." Her apology was muffled in the fabric of her daughter's jacket. "I'm – I just can't go to that restaurant, or anywhere that we've ever gone as a family, when she was still here." Quinn's hold on her only tightened in response.
"It's okay mom." She pulled back so that she could meet Clarke's gaze. "I know how hard it is for you." Clarke released a watery chuckle as she beheld the solemn woman before her.
"You are so much like your mother." Clarke said quietly, a hand cupping Quinn's cheek gently. "We were so lucky with you." Quinn snorted at those words, but she did not break away from Clarke's hold, allowing her to scrutinize her appearance. "If only she were here to see how much you've grown." She sighed, her gaze drifting off to the restaurant across the street, her face adopting a mournful expression.
That was where she had sat. Clarke's eyes traced the window seat, a table for two. That was where they had their first date.
Quinn felt her own grief threatening to overflow, and she inhaled sharply to contain the emotions attempting to swim up to the surface of her calm façade. "We should probably just go home then?" She asked gently.
Clarke snapped out of her reverie, her eyes reclaiming their previously sharp and inquisitive quality. "Yes, let's." With her daughter's offered arm, they strode off in direction of their car, leaving behind Lexa's memory with each short stride, causing Clarke's heart to fragment with each step.
When they had finally gotten home, Clarke was drained. She felt a heaviness weighing in her bones like lead, pulling her down as she moved. Yet she toiled, and she gathered her strength and walked into the kitchen.
"So what would you like for dinner?" She asked. Her hands instinctively reached for the frying pan, placing it onto the stovetop in preparation for her child's request.
"Actually, I think I'll handle it." Quinn walked over. She placed a hand over her mother's shoulder, steadying her. "You look very tired." Clarke's mouth was opening in protest, but her daughter shook her head. "Mom, seriously, go watch some TV, just leave me to it."
Their dinner was eaten in silence. To Clarke's chagrin, Quinn had made chicken carbonara. It was Lexa's favorite dish, and also the first – and last – recipe that the woman had ever taught her daughter. Nonetheless, Clarke ate it with false heartiness, making sure to compliment her daughter's cooking and to politely decline the offered glass of wine. Despite how she felt right now, Clarke knew better than to drown her sorrows in glass after glass, not when her daughter had much greater cause to do so that her.
After the dishes were washed and the dining table was cleared, Clarke's steps took her down the hallway and to her room without even a conscious thought. She closed the door, and immediately slid to the ground, her back against the door. Her eyes scanned the room. In the dark and the quiet, the moonlight streaming in through the windows, Clarke's gaze roved over the cabinets, the bookshelves lining the walls, the pictures adorning the nightstands. When she finally stood, making her way over to the centerpiece of the room, her fingers reverently grazed the soft comforter that her wife had loved so much. The bed had seemed immeasurably larger for a long time, yet now as she set her sights on it once more, all those hidden and squelched thoughts reared upwards into her mind again.
"Oh Lexa, what will I ever do without you?" The words came from her mouth unbidden and unknowingly, and she sat down on the edge of the mattress, covering her face with her hands. She closed her eyes, and she imagined her wife's gentle touch at her waist, her lips grazing the soft flesh at the back of her neck. Suddenly, there was that all-too familiar creak in the floorboards that always made itself known just inches from the door, and Clarke smiled wryly. "You can come in sweetie." She called softly.
Quinn opened the door silently, and she took her place next to Clarke on the bed, an unspoken understanding passing between them. They sat together in the darkness; the moon beams the only light that adorned the room, until Quinn decided to breach the silence.
"Mom, can you tell me how you met – "
"How I met your mother?" Clarke interrupted. There was a mischievous gleam in her eyes as she said it, and as she met her daughter's gaze, the two chuckled lightly in the dark. It was after the laughter had ended that Clarke took her request seriously.
She shuffled back, moving so that she wriggled under the covers, her back against the headboard. She motioned for Quinn to join her, and as she did, the corners of Clarke's mouth turned upwards. "Are you sure you want to hear that boring old story?" She asked quietly. Quinn rested her head against Clarke's shoulder comfortably, and nodded. With a smile, Clarke took in a deep breath, and began. "We were – like you, college students – when we first met."
The morning sun was brilliant, shining down with unrelenting heat. Clarke sat on the deck of the apartment, her sketchbook in her hands as she drew the landscape before her. This building had many issues from the beginning, from the laughable conditions of the showers, the nosy neighbors, and the high cost of rent. However, what had really sold her and her roommates – Octavia and Raven – was the breathtaking view. The instant Clarke had stepped foot into the apartment, she had seen the world, the city, from the floor-to-ceiling windows, and it was love at first sight.
From the moment they had moved in, every morning, Clarke had made it part of her ritual. She would, every morning without fail, sit out on the deck and sketch. From the skyline that stood faraway, proud and unhindered before her, to the surrounding trees and the calm of the lake that nestled a stone's throw away from her reach.
She was admiring the view this morning, the pencil she had with her unused as she looked, not upwards or beyond as she typically did, but downward at the street. The figure of a runner, eating up the concrete in long, languid strides had captured Clarke's attention. The young woman's long legs were on full display, the blue shorts she was wearing riding high on her thighs as she ran.
Every morning at 7 o'clock for the past few days without fail, Clarke had seen the brunette running past the building. From the distance of her deck, Clarke could not help but admire the woman from afar. She rested her chin on her hand, her elbow propped up on her crossed legs as she looked down and watched the woman race past the building, toned arms pumping at her sides as she ran. Clarke had noticed on the second day, when the woman had foregone her t-shirt in exchange for a tank top that she had what appeared to be a tribal tattoo on her right arm. It was an intricate design, and though she would never admit it, Clarke had often dreamed about drawing the tattoo, among other parts of the brunette that she shamelessly thought about.
Clarke sighed loudly. She had seen the woman's face once, when she had looked over her shoulder before passing a man with an easily distracted husky in tow. She was beautiful, and young, likely around her age. High cheekbones, what Clarke made out to be green eyes, and a chiseled, defined jawline, even the thought of her made her embarrassingly excited, and she sighed once more as the brunette's lean figure disappeared from view as she turned the corner and continued her workout in the adjacent street.
"You're drooling again." At the sudden intrusion, Clarke nearly leapt out of her seat, her sketchbook landing on the floor of the deck with a distinctive plop. When she had regained her senses, Clarke glared at the newcomer.
Octavia leaned against the sliding door, wearing jeans and a t-shirt, clearly ready to go to class, a shit-eating grin on her face as she watched Clarke fumble to grab her sketchbook and the pencil that had rolled under the patio chair. "You're an ass." Clarke retorted when she finally stood up, all of her belongings accounted for.
"Please." Octavia waved a hand carelessly. The blonde sidestepped the other girl and walked into the apartment, collecting her bag and the travel mug that Raven handed to her on her way past the kitchen and towards the hallway.
Octavia was right behind her, putting on her boots as Clarke slipped into her sneakers. The two were out the door in seconds, with Raven waving them off, eyes never leaving the paper she was reading as she sat at the kitchen table.
"Seriously Griffin, you've been pining after that runner girl for days now, just go down and talk to her." Octavia encouraged as they boarded the elevator.
"And say what O? Hey I've been watching you run for the past four days, and I think you're really hot?" Clarke retorted as she took a sip of her coffee.
"Yes!" Octavia chirped, and Clarke rolled her eyes. "Clarke seriously." Octavia grabbed the blonde by the shoulders, facing her with a solemn expression in her eyes. "It's been, what? Months since you've been with anyone."
"And I'm enjoying the time I have by myself." Clarke answered. The elevator doors opened, and Clarke stepped out quickly, leaving Octavia to scramble after her. Clarke had made it out the door before Octavia caught up to her.
"Come on Clarke, let's be honest with each other right now, okay?" She panted as she padded after her. When she finally made it to the blonde's side, she inhaled loudly. "You've been so uptight since January, and I think Raven would agree with me when I say that you seriously need to get laid." She wiggled her eyebrows suggestively. "It'll loosen you up."
"O, as much as I appreciate the concern that you have for my sex life, I am perfectly fine, and I don't need you pimping me out just to get me to loosen up." Clarke sighed as they walked.
"Really? Then why have you been watching that brunette with the same sappy look on your face as you had when you were still dating Finn?"
"Octavia, just drop it." Clarke groaned. "And I said never to mention him again." They soon were enveloped into the crowd of college students on campus, and in the madness of the crowd, Octavia linked her arm through Clarke's so as not to lose her.
For a few minutes, to Clarke's relief, there was no time to talk as they pushed through the campus grounds. It wasn't until they had reached the quad, where the typical crowd began to filter off into different veins of the school grounds, that Octavia continued the conversation.
"I'm just saying Clarke, Finn was an asshole, and he deserves every bit of that pregnancy shit he's dealing with right now, but now it's time for you to move on." Clarke fought the urge to roll her eyes at the cliché words, and she just squeezed Octavia's side, eliciting a yelp of surprise from the brunette.
"I get it O, okay? He was an ass, but I have moved on." Clarke said. "I haven't thought about him in ages, and I'm doing perfectly fine, I got an A plus on that midterm last week, I'm way ahead on my readings." She glanced down at her watch, and she began walking backwards as she spoke, eager to get to class. "I'm doing great." Clarke added, before she turned and began a brisk walk off in the direction of the lecture hall.
"If you say so!" Octavia shouted after her, before she lost sight of the blonde in the crowd of students.
It was a lazy Saturday morning, and Clarke was sitting out on the deck again. This time however, she was actually sketching. She had been inspired the instant she saw the sun's arc up in the bright blue sky, illuminating the sidewalk and the cherry blossom trees that bordered the concrete. For the next few minutes, Clarke was engrossed, fully committed and throwing herself into the work.
"Whatcha sketching today Griffin?" Raven sat down on the chair next to her, and Clarke acknowledged her with a slight twitch of her head. She applied the finishing touches on the tree she had toiled over, then looked up.
"The street." She handed the sketchbook to Raven, and the other girl took it, examining the drawing. Clarke cracked her knuckles, checking the time on her watch before she remembered what day it was.
"This looks great Clarke." Raven praised her, and Clarke smiled. Clarke stretched her arms above her head, the other girl flipping through the other sketches in the book. The blonde took a sip of the coffee Raven had brought out for her, and she was in the process of savoring the deliciously brewed drink when the other girl had turned a page, and Clarke instantly abandoned the mug.
"Raven give me the book." She said quickly, panic filling her voice.
"Oh my god, is this the girl that you've been looking at?" Raven asked rhetorically, her eyes squinting as she looked at the sketch of the runner captured within the confines of the page.
"Raven give it to me!" Fighting to ignore the warm flush that spread up her neck and cheeks, Clarke leapt from her chair in an attempt to snatch the sketchbook from her roommate's hands.
"Nope!" Raven jumped up from the chair, avoiding the blonde as she reached out both hands to reclaim her work. "O was so right! You are into this girl!" She crowed as she swerved to avoid the desperate girl. Raven moved closer to the other side of the deck, and Clarke was hard on her heels.
"I'm going to kill her, and you!" One of Clarke's hands managed to grip a corner of the book, and she pulled. "Let it go already!" She yelped, mortified. It was a mad scramble away from the blonde, with Raven putting one hand out to push Clarke away by the face. Clarke made a frustrated sound, and she resumed her assault on the other girl, pushing her closer and closer to the railing.
Before Raven could even retaliate, she felt her side contact the railing, and in a jolting sense of panic and a persistent fear of heights, she relinquished her hold on the sketchbook in favor for gripping tightly to the metal railing.
The two girls watched in bewildered astonishment as the large sketchbook soared out of Raven's grasp, and over the railing and out of sight. Clarke and Raven met each other's gaze, and the two girls rushed over to see it flying down the side of the building, and then hitting a brunette squarely on the top of her head. The following yelp sent Clarke's heart into overdrive as she recognized the girl.
"What the hell?" The brunette exclaimed, a hand coming up to rub her head.
Immediately, Clarke hid out of sight, dropping to the ground to cower in the safety of the covered railing and Raven, once she had connected the dots, let out a loud chortle. "What are you doing?" She asked between her laughs. Before Clarke could answer, they both heard a loud, angry voice from the street below.
"Which one of you idiots is the owner of this notebook?" Raven nudged Clarke with her foot, but the blonde refused to budge. With a dramatic eye roll, Raven looked down to the streets and the waiting brunette below.
"That's my friend's, I'm sorry she dropped it by accident." Raven called down to her. "If you could wait a few minutes she'll come down and apologize."
The runner glanced up at her, her sharp green eyes narrowed as if she was trying to determine if she was being hoodwinked. Then she gave a brief nod with her sharp chin, and Raven turned her head to Clarke.
"Go down there!" She urged her.
"Are you serious?" Clarke faux whispered, her eyes alit with fear and indignation. "I just hit her with my sketchbook! That thing weighs a ton, and she sounds pissed!"
"Go down!" Raven reached down and pulled Clarke to her feet. "Remember that movie we watched, We Bought a Zoo?" The blonde gave Raven a bewildered look.
"How is that even relevant?" She snapped. Clarke chanced a glance down at the street below, and low and behold, the brunette was still standing there, her hands on her hips.
"Twenty seconds of extreme bravery." Raven said. She shook Clarke wildly to make her concentrate on her words, her hands clasping her shoulders.
"That is so cliché, and you're using that to get me to go down there?" Clarke asked incredulously, her eyebrows scrunched up with mild annoyance."
"Don't fight it," Raven shook her again, slapping her lightly on the cheek. "Twenty seconds okay? Now go!" She shoved the blonde away with a hand behind her shoulder blades, and Clarke gave her one last glare before she walked to the hallway. "Run girl!" Raven called after her, and Clarke did not bother giving the other girl the satisfaction of responding verbally, flipping her off instead.
She did however, heed her advice, and strode at a brisker pace.
"You hit mom on the head with a sketchbook?" Quinn asked incredulously, her head turning to face her mother. Clarke laughed. The sound was melodious and genuine, and the blonde seemed to light up at just the thought of her wife. She looked younger as the smile broke out across her face, and Quinn nuzzled closer to her mother's shoulder.
Quinn noticed the change in Clarke's attitude, and she smiled inwardly, happy that her mother was starting to regain some of her former joy. She had not seen nor heard such a genuine chuckle from her mother in a very long time, and she urged her on with a gentle smile.
"Yes I did, and she was mad. Well at first." Clarke said, a goofy smile on her face as she recalled that day.
By the time she had rushed out the apartment building, the brunette was facing away from her, standing one-legged on the side of the pathway. She held the black sketchbook in one hand, the fingers of her other hand gripping her shoe as she stretched well-toned, muscular quadriceps.
"Hey there, um, sorry I hit you on the head with my sketchbook." Clarke started, trying her best not to ogle at the toned muscles of the other girl's legs.
"I hope that you have a better apology than that." The brunette's tone wasn't as angry as it was minutes before. "That thing probably gave me a minor concussion." Her voice had a tone of resignation as she released her leg, and finally she turned to face her.
At once, Clarke felt powerless under the other girl's gaze. Her eyes were green, Clarke mused. From afar, she was beautiful, from a few feet apart, she was even more beautiful than she could have ever imagined. She stood there, gaping at the brunette, and to her surprise, she found the other girl doing the exact same thing to her.
"I'm sorry, I uh, came across as angry and volatile." The brunette struggled, the strict set of her face softening as she looked straight into Clarke's eyes. She raised her hand, offering it to Clarke in a conciliatory gesture, which the blonde took gently. The brunette's hand was calloused but paradoxically gentle, as if she was afraid she would hurt her.
"I'm sorry I hit you on the head with my sketchbook, its super heavy so it must have hurt like a bitch." Clarke amended, releasing the other girl's hand almost reluctantly. She missed the contact immediately, and nervously pushed her hands into her pockets.
"No, it's all right, I'm just not used to getting interrupted on my runs." The brunette gestured skyward with her chin. "I never would have expected a notebook to fly out of nowhere and hit me on the head." The offending object in question was offered out in the space between them, and Clarke took the sketchbook from her hands.
"Well, yeah I think the forecast was for sunny skies, not raining notebooks." The joke burst from her mouth in a momentary lapse of judgement, and Clarke internally kicked herself. "I'm sorry, that was a bad joke, I'll just…" She curled a wayward piece of her hair behind her ear, attempting to hide the blush that was forming on her face.
To her astonishment, the brunette simply chuckled in response. "That's okay, it wasn't that bad." She smiled tentatively. "I'm Lexa."
"Clarke." The blonde returned the smile, hugging the sketchbook to her chest. Lexa reached up with both hands to tighten her ponytail, and Clarke resisted the urge to stare at the well-toned biceps in display.
"Do you always throw your notebooks down at innocent runners?" Lexa asked in a teasing voice, and Clarke grinned.
"Only at the attractive ones." She said, and Lexa smirked.
"So you think I'm attractive?" The brunette asked, cocking her head to one side. Clarke's eyes widened, and she blushed.
"Well an artist should never ignore a beautiful example of the female form." Clarke mumbled, and Lexa's grin only widened.
"Well then, Clarke, I can't fault you on that." Lexa chuckled. She glanced at the watch on her left wrist. "Shit, I've got to get going. I've got a meeting in an hour." The brunette knelt down on one knee and began to retie her shoelaces in preparation for her run.
At her words, Clarke felt a flash of disappointment, and she scuffed the concrete with the heel of her shoe. "Okay, again, I'm sorry for giving you a potential concussion." Lexa glanced up as she tied her shoe, the ghost of a smile on her face.
"Apology accepted, and sorry for snapping at you." Lexa said. She stood, and after stretching out both legs, she casually said. "Hey, what are you doing this afternoon?"
"Probably nothing, just lying around in my apartment." Clarke gesticulated with her index finger to the building behind her.
"Would you, um," Lexa stuttered slightly, "like to get dinner with me?" She asked. Clarke looked at the brunette with a stunned expression, shocked into silence, and after a few heartbeats Lexa cleared her throat. "You know, to make sure I didn't go home after that meeting, fall asleep, and never wake up." Lexa joked.
Clarke just stared at her, stunned. It seemed too good to be reality, that the girl she had dreamed about and admired from afar would even be interested in her.
"Or not, that's fine." Lexa chuckled awkwardly, her eyes avoiding the blonde in front of her before she moved to continue her run. Those words immediately snapped Clarke from her reverie, and she scrambled to find her voice.
"No wait," In a panic, Clarke reached out and took hold of Lexa's bicep. She marveled at the muscle in her grip, and she released her arm before she lingered for much too long. "I would love to."
Lexa, whose expression had been somewhat flushed and embarrassed moments ago, lit up into a smile. "Great," The brunette searched for her phone, instinctively reaching down for her pockets in vain.
"Here." Clarke opened a blank page of her sketchbook, and she quickly scribbled her number on the corner of the page. Tearing out that section of the page, Clarke offered it to Lexa. "Text me after your meeting?"
Lexa took the piece of paper, sliding it into the iPod carrier on her arm. "I will." She smiled at Clarke. "I guess I'll be seeing you then." She grinned and waved before she spun on her heel and was taking off down the street.
"So who's the best wing woman ever?" Raven called down to Clarke. Clarke looked up to see Raven's eager face, and she once more raised one finger into the air to her, which only elicited a less than favorable response from her roommate. "Hey, save that for the hottie tonight." Raven nodded to Lexa's retreating form with a shit-eating grin, and Clarke rolled her eyes.
"Shut up Reyes." She retorted, looking down to hide her reddened cheeks at the thought of what Raven was implying.
Instead, Clarke watched Lexa's rapidly retreating form, her eyes never leaving the lithe figurel. "Lexa." She repeated. The name rolled off her tongue naturally, smoothly, and at the repetition of her name, her heart raced with excitement.