“Clarke,” she hears Lexa murmur from behind her, and just the simple sound of her name on Lexa’s tongue is enough to pull tears from her stinging eyes and a strangled sob from her throat. She clenches her eyes closed and wraps her arms around herself as she stands in the middle of the room, her back to Lexa and her heart in her throat, and despite how awful and messy this night has been, something feels like it is finally, finally, falling into place.
And when the warmth of Lexa’s breath suddenly ghosts across the back of Clarke’s neck, when Lexa’s hands timidly settle against Clarke’s waist and make her feel alive in a way nothing ever has, she understands what that something is.
Everything is turbulent and temporary and terrifying and so completely fucked up, but it is the middle of the night, and they are alive, and Clarke is in love with Lexa.
Clarke trembles in the quiet room, her back pressed to Lexa’s strong chest, and Lexa’s fingers braced atop her waist. She can’t seem to make it stop, the quaking in her muscles and bones, like she is crashing, crashing. Her adrenaline is leaking away, and all that is left in its wake is this consuming realization, too loud to ignore, too immense to keep inside. She feels like she is going to burst.
“Breathe, Clarke,” Lexa whispers, just as she had in the woods, just as she has since the beginning. The words puff against the back of Clarke’s neck, hot and soft, and send a shiver down her spine. She nearly buckles around it.
Her words vibrate between her teeth when Clarke draws in a fast breath and says, “I thought…”
“I know,” Lexa breathes, not even needing to hear the completed thought. She squeezes Clarke’s waist, holds her steady, and rubs her thumb over the swell of her hip over and over.
A throat clears from behind them, and they both jolt at the sound. They separate quickly and turn toward the intruder.
Octavia stands in the frame with her hand on the door. A small smirk graces her lips despite the slight pink of her cheeks. She clears her throat again, more pointedly, before saying, “I’ll just, um, go ahead and close this for you, Commander.”
Lexa’s nostrils flare and her jaw clenches, but she only gives a hard nod and says, “Octavia.”
Octavia doesn’t give either of them a chance to say anything more before she closes the door and leaves, and Clarke and Lexa can only stand there, staring, until Clarke lets out a sigh that sounds almost like a laugh. She shakes her head with it and runs a hand over her braided hair and down her face.
“I can go,” she says, but instead of moving toward the door, she heads shakily for the opposite wall. The surface is cool against her forehead as she braces her hands against the wall and collapses inward. “I should go.”
“I should,” Clarke says, letting out a staggered breath. “I should go. You need to rest.”
“I am fine,” Lexa says from behind her, and Clarke shakes her head again, her forehead rubbing against the wall with a quiet squeaking sound that makes her cringe.
“You haven’t slept in days, Lexa.”
“I will survive.”
Clarke closes her eyes at those words, feels them sting and stab at her. Survive. They barely survived the night. Clarke thinks she has been barely surviving since the day she landed on earth. Maybe she and Lexa are the same in that way, always just barely surviving but surviving nonetheless. She doesn’t know if it is a blessing or a curse. Perhaps both.
“You may stay, Clarke.” Lexa is closer now but not quite close enough to be touching, not quite close enough for Clarke to feel her warmth or her breath, be encased in her shadow.
Clarke stares at the floor, her heart thudding heavily in her chest, and she wants to say yes. She wants to say that, right now, staying here, staying with Lexa, is the only thing that feels right, the only thing that feels good. She wants to let go of every ounce of strength in her body, every inch of resistance and all that survival, and just collapse backward into Lexa’s arms. Hold me, she wants to say. Hold me. But instead, Clarke licks her lips and tentatively asks, “Is that what you want?”
She isn’t sure how she expects Lexa to respond, maybe a non-answer or something incredibly vague that leaves the Commander’s actual desires up in the air, because Lexa is so accustomed to pretending she has no desires at all. So, Clarke is taken completely by surprise when Lexa simply says, “Yes.”
That single, small word is enough to reach in and pull all her aching, needing, wanting pieces straight to the surface, and Clarke barely sucks in a breath before she is pushing off the wall and spinning on her heels. She crashes into Lexa, and they stumble backward as Clarke catches the back of Lexa’s neck with an urgent hand and swallows the small gasp on her lips inside a searing kiss.
It is messy and desperate and wet with the tears Clarke didn’t even realize were still washing her cheeks, but it’s the kind of kiss that says a million things in a single press. It’s the kind of kiss that latches on and tugs you in, tugs you hard, tugs you closer, tugs sound from your lips and the ground from beneath your feet. It’s the kind of kiss that demands to be felt, demands to be remembered.
It is a goddamned disaster of a kiss, and Clarke knows it will leave her, leave them both, in ruins, but she wants to crumble in Lexa’s arms. She wants to crumble against her lips. She wants to fall apart over and over until they are only rubble and remains, mixed together like wind-stirred ashes. They should get to choose how they are destroyed, and this, Clarke thinks, this is how she wants to break—on Lexa’s lips.
They fall into the heady explosion, and Clarke is intoxicated by the sudden rush of blood to her hands and between her legs, pulsing, pulsing, and by the thinning oxygen that barely makes it into her lungs with each quick gasp between wet presses. Her hands are at the buckle on Lexa’s chest before she even realizes what she is doing, but she doesn’t stop. She pulls back only enough to catch Lexa’s gaze, green eyes dark and beautiful, and when she receives a small nod, she tugs the buckle open.
Lexa’s shoulder guard falls to the floor with a thud and clatter, and Clarke thinks they are one step closer to absolute, divine destruction. Her fumbling hands jerk awkwardly at Lexa’s pieces, all metal and leather and ties, and when she looks up briefly to see the other girl’s lips painted with an amused smile, a hard, resounding laugh rips up from Clarke’s throat. She presses it against Lexa’s smiling lips like she wants to share the taste, and it is just as messy as the last.
Lexa makes quick work of her armor, weapons, and top as Clarke yanks her own shirt over her head, hissing a bit as the material rubs over the bandage on her wounded arm. She barely gives it a thought, though; pulling Lexa back in before the material has even touched the floor.
A hard moan claws its way up from Clarke’s chest when she feels Lexa’s fingers scratch across her bare lower back, down her still-clothed hips, and grip into the backs of her thighs. When her back hits the wall a moment later, Clarke yelps against Lexa’s lips. She hadn’t even realized they were moving. The sharp contrast between the wall’s cold surface at her back and Lexa’s heat pushing against her chest and stomach, though, is overwhelming, and Clarke wants more. She needs more.
Gripping at Lexa’s neck, Clarke pulls her in harder, sinks her teeth into a full bottom lip and tries not to come undone at the soft, quiet growl that rumbles in Lexa’s throat. She slides her hands down Lexa’s back, pushes and pulls at the material of her bindings until they are loose enough for her to easily untie and unravel.
When the material goes slack in Clarke’s hands, Lexa breaks their kiss. She pants heavily against Clarke’s lips, only an inch away, and presses their foreheads together. Her open bindings are caught between their heaving chests, keeping her covered, and she lifts her hands to cup her palms around Clarke’s cheeks as she remains molded against her.
“Slow, Clarke,” Lexa whispers breathlessly. “Slow.”
Clarke takes a deep breath and nods against Lexa’s forehead. Her hands shake against Lexa’s bare back, her palms sweaty, and she presses them down harder to steady them. “Sorry,” she mutters, slipping one hand up to anchor it in Lexa’s hair. “I’m sorry. I just—”
“I know,” Lexa says, her fingers sliding down Clarke’s neck and over her shoulders, down her arms like they are silently mapping every inch, “but you have nothing to fear here, now, Clarke. I will not disappear.”
Clarke’s breath releases in a stutter of a sigh, fresh tears squeezing free as she closes her eyes and pushes her forehead just a bit harder against Lexa’s. “You’re alive,” she croaks, and the way her voice breaks around the words only causes the tears to rush up faster, more relentlessly. She is amazed at how easily she breaks. She clutches desperately to Lexa, and she knows her short nails are digging into Lexa’s back, but the other girl doesn’t say a word or move a muscle. She only continues to hold Clarke steady. “You’re alive.”
“Yes.” Lexa nudges her nose against Clarke’s cheek, catching a stream of tears and streaking through it.
“It almost doesn’t feel real,” Clarke mutters with a sad, strangled laugh. She is a mess of melding emotions that don’t fit together but somehow manage to merge. “I thought … in the woods, I thought maybe it wasn’t. I went into that tent, Lexa, and everything was burning, and I thought you were dead, but then you weren’t, and you were there in the woods, and I thought I was imagining it, you. I thought—”
Her rambling words catch and die in her throat when Lexa shifts back just enough to let her bindings fall to the floor and leave her chest entirely bare.
“Touch me, Clarke,” she whispers, taking Clarke’s hand and pressing it against her chest. The thudding rhythm of her heart beats against Clarke’s palm, soothing and steady. “I am real.”
Clarke’s stomach clenches as Lexa’s strong heart races beneath her fingers. She swipes her thumb over the swell of a small breast and heaves out a wet sigh. Her insides are bubbling, full and alive, ready to boil over with all the things that demand to be felt, to be said, to be shared. Closing her eyes, Clarke pulls Lexa into her again, kisses the line of her jaw, the corner of her mouth, and thinks of Lexa’s quiet confession in the dark of their room in Polis.
“Lexa.” It is barely there, just a brush of sound against the air, but then Clarke opens her eyes, brings Lexa’s hand up to her own chest to settle over her heart, and says, “I’m weak, too.”