24 Epiphanies

3

"So how did the first date go?" Quinn was settled comfortably under the covers. She had transferred her head to a nearby pillow, lying on her side with her hair fanning out wildly behind her.

"It was horrible!" Clarke chuckled, shifting slightly to adjust her seat. The left side of her rear had gone numb, and she shimmied down the mattress to join her daughter. "The restaurant we went to had some sort of flower that I was allergic to. My eyes were swollen, and I could barely see Lexa's face."

Quinn laughed. "Wow that must have sucked for mom." Clarke frowned at Quinn, and her daughter grinned widely. "I mean, having to see you with tomato eyes, not very attractive at all."

Clarke used a hand to flick the side of Quinn's head gently. "Thank you for that, and I will have you know that your mother was much more compassionate and considerate than you."

"What did she do?" Quinn asked, a hint of eagerness in her voice.

"She saw what was happening, and at first I fought her on it. I told her I could tough it out, but after about three minutes, she shot out of her seat and escorted me to the pharmacy across the street." Clarke smiled as she imagined a 23 year old Lexa pulling her chair out for her, a hand gently on her waist to guide her out through the glass doors. "We ended up going for tacos, back when the food trucks still lined the streets down at the pier."


"I am so sorry that I brought you to that restaurant, I had no idea that you would have a reaction to those flowers, it's my fault." Lexa started as she led her date along the sidewalk, her hands in her pockets as she sheepishly glanced at the woman walking at her side. The apology had welled up within the confines of her mind as she and Clarke had walked out of the restaurant. Lexa had been the one to choose the place, and now that the night had gone so poorly, she could no longer maintain her silence on the issue.

"Its fine Lexa, you're right, you had no idea. It's not like we traded health records via text beforehand." Clarke assured her. The swelling around her eyes had gone down, thanks to a quick trip to the pharmacy a few streets from the restaurant building. Her face was, thankfully, mostly back to normal, the cool spring breeze wafting across her face soothingly. But Lexa could not help that sinking feeling that this whole disaster was her fault.

With slight nervousness, Lexa broached the topic. "Well, now that I've almost killed you by exposing you to those flowers, do you still think this was a good idea?"

At those words, Clarke stopped mid-step, and turned her head to face Lexa. She could not tell if the brunette was being serious or not. In the brunette's opinion, the girl standing next to her was more beautiful than she could have ever imagined, and quirky and fun and so intelligent, even the thought of being on a date with this girl was like a dream. She raised one eyebrow at the other girl. "Of course." She replied. "Why wouldn't it be?"

Lexa looked down as she scuffed the ground with her shoes. "I hardly think anyone would have wanted a disaster of a date to make a good first impression." She spoke haltingly with the words, fumbling to explain her line of reasoning to the other girl. "And I really like you and I just feel like I might have ruined– "

Anything that Lexa had wanted to say was forgotten immediately as Clarke stepped forward and pressed their lips together. The brunette surrendered into the kiss, her arms instantly wrapping around Clarke's waist, bringing the other woman as close as was physically possible. It was gentle and tentative, and at each stroke of their lips joining together, Lexa could feel the palpitations in her heart increase significantly.

When Lexa pulled away, her arms were still tightly wound around Clarke's waist, her green eyes seemed to take a few heartbeats to come into focus, the heady touch of the blonde's lips, her skin, intoxicating her and making her lose herself completely. Erstwhile, Clarke was watching her with a playful gleam in her blue eyes, enjoying the effect that she had on the brunette.

"Hey, earth to Lexa," Clarke teased her, one hand reaching gently to cup the brunette's cheek. She smirked at the brunette's dazed expression. The other woman finally snapped out of it, and once she had regained her senses and had returned to the sharp reality of the world, she grinned and kissed the top of Clarke's head.

"You surprised me, that's all." Her green eyes were still alit with wonder and bewilderment, still reeling from the feel of Clarke's lips, soft and flushed against her own.

"Lexa," Clarke murmured softly, and Lexa quirked one eyebrow at her. "I really like you, and nothing about this date was as bad as me hitting you on the head this morning."

"True, it felt like you dropped a piano on my head." Lexa quipped, and Clarke chuckled. With a grin, Clarke gently untangled herself from the brunette's hold, and instead linked their arms together, urging Lexa to continue walking down the street.

"So let's call it even," Clarke amended as they strolled along the sidewalk arm-in-arm. "I hit you on the head, and you exposed me to a flower that I could have been deathly allergic to."

"Okay, 'deathly allergic' is a bit of a stretch." Lexa argued good-naturedly as she allowed the blonde to lead them along. "It's not like you needed an EpiPen."

"Hey," Clarke squeezed Lexa side, "you're not the one who had swollen eyes for twenty minutes."

"I suggested that we leave multiple times, you didn't have to tough it out." Lexa pointed out, and the blonde pouted.

"You had said as we were walking over that they had the best chicken parmesan you've ever had."

"Well, chicken parmesan isn't worth your beautiful face swelling up."

"So you think I'm beautiful?" Clarke asked with a teasing look, and Lexa shook her head, fighting to hide the smile beginning to form on her lips.

"Beautiful is just one of the many attributes I happen to like about you." Lexa scoffed, and Clarke raised both eyebrows in challenge.

"Really, what else do you like about me?" Clarke asked, the corners of her mouth turning upwards. Lexa put one fist up before her face.

"Let's see, witty, talented, funny, should I continue?" She shamelessly counted out each trait with her fingers, and Clarke reached out and took hold of Lexa's hand to stop her.

"That's more than enough." Clarke said, placating the brunette. She entwined their fingers together, their hands connected. Lexa tightened her hold on Clarke's hand, and the two continued walking with the crescent moon high above their heads.

Quinn was still asleep when Clarke quietly slipped away and crept out from the room. With the click of the door, she entered the kitchen to get some air, letting Quinn rest for a bit longer.

She had just settled down out on the porch, a warm cup of tea and a book in hand, when she saw a red sedan pull up into the driveway. With a sigh, Clarke abandoned the cup of tea and stood from her chair, her feet finding her sandals, still warm from wear just seconds before. She pulled the corners of her cardigan closed, her face assuming a mask of calm and nonchalance as the newcomer cut the engine and stepped out onto the pavement.

"Anya, what are you doing here?" She asked as she walked down the steps to her sister-in-law. Anya pushed her sunglasses up into her messy brown locks as Clarke breached some of the distance between them, coming to meet her next to the vehicle.

Anya closed the door of her car and stood ramrod straight as she faced Clarke. They were only a few feet apart, yet Clarke felt as though she were miles away. The older woman sensed Clarke's detached air, and wordlessly pulled the blonde into a warm, bone-crushing embrace, pulling away after a few heartbeats.

"I haven't seen you or Quinn for a few months since the funeral." Anya paused, her throat constricted as she came across that last word. "I just wanted to be here for you guys, check up on you two." She nervously scratched the side of her head, clearly uncomfortable. There was more that she wanted to say, and Clarke could tell by the way she shifted from one leg to the other, wringing her hands together nervously. There was more to this visit than the reason that Anya had put forth, but for now Clarke decided not to pry.

"Well, you're more than welcome here." The blonde said quietly, crossing her arms over her chest instinctively. Her blue eyes flashed slightly, a sliver of suspicion making its way through the composed façade she was wearing, something that Anya caught immediately despite Clarke's attempts to hide it.

The older woman's head swiveled around the property, her dark brown eyes scanning the driveway and the green lawn beyond. "Where's Blue?" She asked in an effort to clear the air between them. She looked around, as if expecting the dog in question to appear out of thin air, tail wagging and tongue lolling out to greet her.

At the mention of the dog's name, Clarke's face seemed to almost crumple, but she held it together, her chin held strict and forward.

"She passed away yesterday morning." Clarke cleared her throat. Anya's face fell, the side of her mouth quirking. "Quinn buried her in the park."

Anya nodded, then frowned slightly in thought. "Is that even allowed?" Clarke laughed humorlessly, the sound hoarse and raw.

"No idea." She said, brushing a few stray golden hairs from her eyes. "Quinn wouldn't have it any other way." The mention of her niece seemed to make Anya's eyes light up.

"Yes, of course." Anya chuckled. "That girl is ten different kinds of stubborn. Just like – I mean," She paused awkwardly, glancing at Clarke cautiously as if she were going to shatter. Clarke hated that look; she had received the same pitying glances from so many of her friends and family, she was beginning to truly loathe it with a passion.

"You can say it." Clarke said, her voice tremoring slightly. "She's just like Lexa." Just casting her name out into the air physically hurt her, and her arms hugged tightly against her chest. She avoided Anya's perceptive gaze, and instead looked down at her toes.

The silence between the two women was awkward and uncomfortable, and Anya cleared her throat anxiously. "I'm sorry." She murmured. "I know how hard it is for you. It's been a pretty shitty three months for me too back in New York."

"I know." Clarke responded. "I, I just can't wrap my head around it." She said, the words low in her throat. "I miss her."

"I miss her too." Anya agreed, shifting closer to take Clarke's hands into her own. "Every day after the funeral has just seemed like one big nightmare." Clarke sighed, and she allowed the older woman to enfold her into her arms, resting her forehead against the taller woman's shoulder.

"Aunt Anya?" The sound of Quinn's voice startled Clarke, her head snapping up to the direction of the sound. Anya released her hold on Clarke and smiled generously at her niece.

"Quinn! Come here!" She said, grinning as she opened her arms wide.

Quinn was standing at the threshold of the open door, wearing a pair of grey sweatpants and Lexa's college hoodie. The girl rushed down the steps and into Anya's arms.

Anya released a grunt as the girl clinched her tightly around the midsection. "Have you been working out?" She choked out as she patted her niece's back. "Because seriously, I'm pretty sure you've broken all my ribs.

With a hearty laugh, Quinn released her aunt. "You've just gotten older, that's all." She retorted cheekily, which earned her a playful cuff on the back of her head.

Clarke watched the exchange with a slight smile, unwilling to interrupt the moment between the two of them. "Why don't we all go inside and have some breakfast?" She suggested.

Anya and Quinn heeded her words quickly enough at the mention of food, and the two women continued exchanging verbal jabs as they marched up the stairs after Clarke.

It was after breakfast was eaten and the dishes were washed that Anya finally revealed the true purpose of her visit. The three women had moved to the living room, with Clarke occupying the recliner while Anya and Quinn sat together on the leather couch.

As she sat, Anya reached into her satchel, pulling out a white envelope. She held it in her hands like it was a fragile young bird, and her eyes searched Clarke's expression cautiously. "This is for you." Anya handed the envelope to the blonde, holding it up in the space between their seats.

Clarke took the offered paper with two fingers and examined it with mild curiosity. The envelope was blank, and she turned it around in her hands a few times. "What is it?" She asked finally, her expression unreadable.

Anya wrung her hands together nervously before she answered. "Around a few days before Lexa died, she sent this letter to me, and this was encased along with it." She ran her fingers through her hair. "It was in regards to your anniversary date, which technically will come up in 24 days. As her gift to you this year, she wanted to take you down this special trip down memory lane for you. Really it was supposed to be some super sappy, un-Lexa-like display of affection." Anya chuckled at the memory. "She had this whole thing set up, you were supposed to get 24 different letters in the days leading up to the anniversary date." Anya licked her lips. "Since today is the 1st of July, I thought it would be appropriate to give this to you."

Clarke's mouth was set in a thin line as she listened, her posture stiff. "So this is the first one?" She queried. Anya inclined her head in affirmation.

"I was the one who was supposed to start it all off by giving the first one to you when I was meant to arrive for the anniversary preparations. The other ones are expected to be coming by mail, or by some other person." Anya explained. "At least, that's what she'd said a few months ago." She added ruefully.

Quinn glanced at her mother, who had gone silent. "Mum, you okay?" She asked in concern. Clarke blinked a few times, digesting the information.

"Yes, yes I'm fine." She shook off her daughter's concern, and her gaze now centered on the envelope in her hands. Clarke pursed her lips as she stared at it. Her expression was blank and aloof, enraptured within her thoughts.

Anya, who was eyeing Clarke, stood decisively. "Quinn, why don't we go for a walk? Let's leave your mom some space to think." She suggested tactfully. Without a word of protest, Quinn followed her aunt out the door.

Alone, Clarke looked at the envelope. She closed her eyes, trying to steady the racing of her heart. Finally, after a few heartbeats, shaky fingers unfurled the edges of the bleach-white paper, pulling out a folded letter. She took a deep breath, and abandoning the envelope, she unfolded the letter, and began to read. Within seconds, she felt a salty tear drip onto the surface of the letter, leaving a stain on the black ink spanning the surface of the page as the memory highlighted in the text swam to the forefront of her mind.


It was their first fight since they had moved in together. Clarke had received a job offer in New York City that she had rather swiftly– and without much thought or consideration – had accepted, and the argument had begun shortly after she had broken the news to Lexa.

"So that's how it is then?" Lexa asked angrily. "You get that dream showing you always wanted in New York, and suddenly you expect me to just pack up my life and go with you?"

"There are opportunities for you there too!" Clarke argued as she stood on one side of the living room, watching as the brunette paced back and forth on the other side of the room. "I know it would be an inconvenience, but I'm sure the NYPD would be an upgrade from Seattle PD."

"An upgrade?" Lexa repeated, furious. "I was going to make the homicide division!" She ran her hands through her hair. "And are we not going to talk about how you just accepted the job and didn't even consider to ask me if that would be all right?"

Clarke crossed her arms, a vehement expression now etched on her face. "You're one to talk." She spat. "You hardly considered me at all when you decided to throw yourself into harm's way two weeks ago!"

"I was saving a kid's life Clarke! That's my job!" Lexa snapped. She let out a frustrated sigh, stopping to face Clarke. "Is my career just a joke to you?" She asked in exasperation. "This is everything I've ever worked for, and you are asking me to drop it and move across the country for a pipe dream."

"Excuse me?" Clarke was absolutely livid now. Her face was red with anger, and she marched, stiff-legged, up to Lexa, her index finger poking the brunette hard on the left side of the chest. "That 'pipe dream' is a breakout showing of the artwork I had worked hard on for years, you could work a bit harder to be supportive of me." She snarled.

Lexa's green eyes were dark with fury. "Why can't you be supportive of me?" She shot back, crossing her arms. "You've always had an issue with my job since I took it five years ago."

"That's because you were a bar-certified lawyer Lexa!" Clarke retorted. "But no, you had to go join the police department instead! Because the threat of bullets flying at your head and high-speed chases is more suited to your adrenaline-junkie ways!"

"I enjoy what I do Clarke!" Lexa countered. "Which is more than you could say about yours!"

"And what," Clarke eyed the brunette dangerously, "is that supposed to mean?"

"You've been moody and stiff-necked for the past ten months Clarke! And if it's not your boss you're pissed at for not giving you the opportunity you need, it's me you've been taking it out on. And for God's sake, I can't take it anymore!" Lexa exclaimed.

"Well then if it's that hard for you maybe we should just go our separate ways!" Clarke snapped. The instant the words left her mouth however, she regretted them.

Lexa recoiled from the blonde, as if she had been slapped. Her nostrils flared as she glared back at Clarke. "Is that what you want, Clarke?" She challenged her, her chin raised imperiously. Clarke, who was never one to back away from a challenge, crossed her arms.

"Is that what you want?" She shot back, her eyes flashing dangerously. Lexa let out a loud groan of frustration.

"Damn it Clarke, if you want me to leave just say it, because if I'm not who you want anymore-"

"Why, am I not who you want now?" Clarke snapped back. "If you want to leave, just go!"

"Oh for fucks sake!" Lexa shouted. She spun on her heel and strode up to the door, her hand on the door knob. "You're so unbelievably difficult!" She threw the sentence over her shoulder.

"Go on then!" Clarke retorted, planting her rear on the leather couch with a loud huff, her arms still firmly crossed across her chest.

She counted the seconds under her breath since she had left, her heart rate slowly beginning to steady. She regretted every word she had said to Lexa, and 1,200 seconds had passed when she finally heard the door creak open.

Lexa slipped inside and closed the door quietly, facing Clarke. Her green eyes were calmer now, and as she met Clarke's gaze, the blonde only saw the same remorse and guilt reflected back to her.

"Clarke, I'm…" She shook her head slowly, traversing across the apartment, and in that pause of one-sided conversation, Clarke was moving towards her to bridge the gap.

They met in the center of the apartment, a few inches apart from each other, their eyes meeting in the space between them. Clarke, ever the courageous one, stepped forward just that inch, and without hesitating, she rested her forehead against Lexa's. Gradually, Lexa's fingers found purchase on Clarke's hipbones, and the blonde placed her hands against Lexa's cheeks.

"I'm sorry I said those things." Her voice was a whisper, quiet and hoarse with all the regret that she could evoke with her mouth. "I'm sorry I told you to leave, I'm sorry I took the job without asking you."

"No, I'm sorry I blew up like that." Lexa said softly. "I shouldn't have done that. And I shouldn't have called your job a pipe dream." She withdrew slightly so that she could capture Clarke's eyes. She needed to truly see her as she spoke. "I love you, Clarke."

Clarke met the intensity of Lexa's gaze, and she glanced down, away from it briefly, unable to see the hurt in her eyes and the honesty pouring out to her. "I know, and I love you too." She whispered. "I was just so excited about getting the opening, I forgot about how upsetting it would be for you when your dream is to be a detective, just like your father."

"Clarke," Lexa squeezed the blonde's waist gently, tilting Clarke's chin up to face her. "You're my dream." She said the words with conviction, her eyes unblinking. "I would give up everything else to be with you."

"Lexa, no I couldn't ask you to do that." Clarke shook her head slightly, distraught and guilty at what the other woman was implying.

"You don't have to ask." Lexa responded. Gently, Lexa brushed her lips against Clarke's temple, and under her touch, the blonde melted against her chest. They stood there, two broken creatures held together by love and sheer will, and as they held each other, Clarke could not ignore the previous panic that had filled her to the brim.

Her hands gripped tightly at Lexa's shirt, clutching to her for dear life, and her voice was broken as she spoke. "Don't ever leave me again." She whispered through clenched teeth as she held back the desperate tears threatening to fall.

"Never." Lexa's arms were strong and warm around her. "When I was outside, cooling off, I realized something. An epiphany." She murmured against Clarke's temple. "I could never leave you, despite what happens, we're destined in every circumstance, to be together."

"Good." Clarke whispered back, and Lexa chuckled slightly, her hold on the blonde secure and solid. As she rested her head against Lexa's shoulder, Clarke willed her to never let go.


The tears fell at their own accord, and Clarke was powerless to stop them as she finished reading the contents of the letter. The memory of their first fight had unveiled the emotions she had not yet resolved in the past few months, and as she wiped the salty liquid that dotted her cheeks and flowed down her chin, she trembled. Leave it to Lexa to find the sappiest thing to write, she mused morbidly. The brunette had always known just the right thing to say and to write, and as she looked over the letter once more, Clarke sighed bodily.

It was a part of her wife that she would now never experience again, and with a decisive exhale, Clarke folded the piece of paper, and wondered what the next 23 days would entail.

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