I want more grounder music. More songs like Take a Life With Me. Songs about love
and loss, of myths and legends. I want songs about heroes and their battles; songs
about Lexa. I want instruments forged from scrap metal and leather. Instruments
salvaged from pre-war caches; some of which are used as designed and others
repurposed to wonderful effect.
I want grounders dancing.
Men dancing with men to flaunt their prowess on and off the battlefield. I want
men dancing with men to fall in love and women doing exactly the same. I want
grounders of all traits and clans, dancing to music that echoes and pounds
Give me grounders dancing around fire pits in the dead of
night, with nothing but ale and off-key singing as accompaniment. Give me huge
festivals where the music is so loud it can be heard across the seas. Show me
the graceful turns and intricate footwork that only the best warriors can
master. Bring the mountains down with the foot stamping in the aftermath of
Show me a celebration of alliance. Show me Clarke on the
outskirts of a great hall, trying to hide, mesmerised by all the dancing
figures. This is not the music of the ark, or the symphonies of her ancestors
the mountain men lauded so much. This music is life. It’s in her blood and
making demands she doesn’t know how to assuage.
There’s a pattern to some of the madness. Grounders dance in
groups and some as partners. They spin circles around each other and tattoo the
flagstones with their boots. Some look locked in combat, with others showcasing
that grounders love as fiercely as they fight.
But recognising the pattern and making the movements are two
entirely disparate concepts. Clarke says as much when Titus asks if she’s going
to join the celebration meant to honour Wanheda and her people. But curiosity
does get the better of her; gaze flickering to Lexa on her throne.
Does the Commander dance? Is she like the lithe warriors whose steps would
dizzy the butterflies? Or is she the kind for big and bold, and raucous singing
along? Somewhere in between?
Titus raises his glass with the hall when a new chant begins
that tells the story of the first grounder wars. Whether the wine or the music,
or wicked mischief, a knowing smile plays around his mouth. He looks at Clarke
and – barely loud enough to be heard above the descant – says, “You have seen
my Heda fight, no?”
And soon she gets to see Lexa dance. Clarke is watching the
footwork of a broad-backed warrior so intently, trying to shuffle her feet to
the same, when Lexa is abruptly by her side. Lexa’s pupils are wide in the low
light and a faint sheen of sweet has gathered at her hairline. The ‘no’ on
Clarke’s lips dies before she can breathe it. Lexa has pulled her onto the
dance floor. Someone has taken her drink and it’s just the two of them trapped
in the press of exuberance.
Lexa can dance. Clarke can’t. She stumbles and stops and
steps on Lexa’s feet often enough to be sure she’s caused lingering damage. But
Lexa is eminently patient and smiling.
The smile alone is enough for Clarke to persevere, even though she knows her
friends are laughing at her somewhere.
The steps don’t get easier but Clarke gets steadier. It
helps that Lexa’s hands are at her waist and her shoulders and low on her hips.
She tucks in behind Clarke to show her how to twist one way and move her feet
the other. Their dresses whirl to mad effect around their ankles. Lexa’s dress
has even slipped away from one shoulder. She spins away to draw Clarke with her
and Clarke is helpless but to follow.
When the humming-bird tremors of instruments fade away,
Clarke stumbles to a stop in Lexa’s arms. Her hair is falling free of its
intricate braid work. Her cheeks are flushed red and her mouth is open to draw
rapid breaths. There’s an evanescent moment to wonder at the smile so clear in
her eyes, before the drums start.
This music, Clarke can move to. This was the music her genes
knew without question. She can stamp her feet and clap her hands, and lose
herself in the journey back to her origins. The room is rocking off its axis
with the circles they turn. But with Lexa as her fixed point on the horizon,
she isn’t going to fall off the edge of the world. Or so she thinks.
Clarke was not raised among the rivers and trees like Lexa;
her cousins were the stars and galaxies. She knows what happens when two bodies
with immense gravitational force get too close. Light leaves the room. They’re
swallowed by a vacuum where all she can hear is Lexa’s laboured breath. They’re at the
event horizon of stars about to go nova. A single electron out of orbit and
Clarke knows she’ll be beyond the point of no return.
Lexa saying her name pushes her too far. The slope of her
shoulder and the way her ribcage expands and contracts is too much: her soft
skin over lean muscle, the scent of her sweat, and her inescapable aura. All
Somewhere between the drum beats, she yanks Lexa into a kiss
that is too much teeth and too much heart. She’s going to die if she stops. If
she doesn’t get her hands in Lexa’s hair and her body tucked in close, she’s
going to cease to exist. If she doesn’t kiss Lexa like the world is ending, she’ll
end up as one of those stars that never becomes anything more than a brief
phenomenon, one soon forgotten.
Clarke isn’t ashamed of the whimper of protest that leaves
the back of her throat when the kiss ends. Nor that it’s heard by the entire –
now silent – hall. She’s too mesmerised by Lexa blushing to care about the grounders all hollering and whistling;
or her mother’s stunned face in her periphery.
The music starts again and Lexa stumbles through the steps right
along with Clarke. She’s so turned around that she gives up on the dancing
entirely, drags Clarke to a secluded corner, and gets to learning the steps to
an entirely new dance. And Clarke is happy to let her. She’s pretty sure she
can teach Lexa a thing or two in this dance.