She took her name, Alexandria, from the city where she was born.
Her first name—her mortal one—was lost to the sands of time, the memory of it long since crumbled to dust like the Lighthouse and the Great Library that she grew up in the shadows of.
For over two thousand years she has walked this earth, enduring when others of her kind have perished or willingly sought oblivion. Many lost their minds, unable to comprehend the enormity of forever, driven to madness and their eventual demise.
Lexa has shown more fortitude.
She is stalwart. A survivor. Ancient.
Eld won, in the crude, fractured language of their common tongue.
A creature apart, she has seen history unfold.
She observed the rise and fall of civilisations; lived (in a manner of speaking) through the reigns of vast empires built on the back of conquest and subjugation and human suffering.
From the prow of a ship she watched Rome burn. She picked her way through a plague-ridden Europe littered with the bodies of the dead and dying, the air thick and putrid from rot. She saw countless wars, cities ransacked, reduced to rubble by invading forces and siege weapons and later, much later, wailing bombs dropped from the skies. Watched as mankind tore itself asunder in an endless cycle of violence and destruction.
Bound by the Covenant and forbidden to interfere, she could do nothing to avert catastrophe. That law, above all others, held sacrosanct and ruthlessly enforced.
(Even now, Anya’s dispassionate teachings still echo in Lexa’s ears: it isn’t our place to become embroiled in the affairs of mortals, goufa.)
As a hot-headed fledgling, she’d bristled against those dogmatic constraints. Appalled and incensed by the Elders’ inaction, their passivity and indifference.
But bit by bit she, too, grew inured to the horrors. She had centuries to learn how to hold emotion at bay, to turn her cold, unbeating heart to stone.
It was impossible not to marvel at the ingenuity of human invention, the incredible advancements in science and technology. As a child, she’d held a deep fascination for the mysteries of the cosmos, had spent many a night gazing up at the sky in rapt wonder. Never in her wildest imagination could she have predicted that men would one day travel to the stars or plant a flag on the Moon, once believed to be the goddess Selene driving her chariot across the heavens.
In the passing of two millennia Lexa bore witness to mortals in all their frailties and tyrannies and glories, their capacity for greatness and predisposition to selfishness and greed.
Their great beauty, too.
And in this moment, there are none lovelier than the woman in salmon pink scrubs currently blocking the exit to the refrigerated storage room and threatening to summon hospital security if Lexa doesn’t relinquish those two bags of O Negative.
She is breathtaking—if Lexa still had breath to draw.
Dark blonde brows are pulled together, two slight creases lining the woman’s forehead as she stares Lexa down, suspicion burning in her eyes. Under the harsh fluorescent strip lighting, her irises are a clear sky blue, the likes of which Lexa hasn’t seen since the day she was turned.
“This is a restricted area. How did you even get past the secure entry?” the woman demands. She looks away and heaves an angry sigh through gritted teeth. “Jasper.”
During this brief reprieve from direct scrutiny, Lexa’s eyes dart to the identification badge pinned to the woman’s chest. Her name is Clarke Griffin and Lexa knows within seconds of their meeting: she is a force to be reckoned with.
Then that piercing glare is back on Lexa.
“There are protocols,” Clarke continues, not allowing Lexa the opportunity to speak. She strides closer and snatches the blood bags out of Lexa’s grasp. “You can’t just wander in and help yourself to whatever.”
She replaces them in the proper cabinet and turns to look at Lexa again, hands on her hips. Her eyes narrow further. “Which department are you from? I don’t recognise you.”
She glances at Lexa’s counterfeit ID then makes a broader critical sweep of her entire person. Lexa is not easily intimidated or unnerved, but she finds herself shrinking under this hard, calculating appraisal.
Standing taller, she raises her chin.
“I’m new. Filling in during Dr Blake’s paternity leave.”
A tidbit she overhead when passing by the nurses’ station on the third floor, one which adds a veneer of credibility to her story.
She offers her hand. “Dr Alexandria Woods.”
After a moment’s deliberation, Clarke’s cool fingers close around Lexa’s vastly chillier ones, and Lexa doesn’t miss the flinch that goes through Clarke or fail to notice the slight widening of her eyes. It must be akin to sticking her hand into a freezer.
Lexa holds on for an extra second, quietly savouring the warmth that seeps into her frigid bones. She hasn’t touched a mortal, ungloved, since… well, she isn’t certain, but it’s been ages. Quite literally.
“Poor circulation,” Lexa explains once they both let go.
Clarke’s frown deepens. “Maybe you should get that checked out. Does diabetes run in your family, Dr Woods?”
Lexa’s mouth lifts at the corner, the ghost of a wan smile. “No, not diabetes.” She tilts her head a fraction. “And please, call me Lexa.”
Blue eyes regard her steadily, still holding a touch of icy mistrust. “Well, like I said, Doctor, you have to go through the proper channels. There’s paperwork I need to sign off on before I can release anything.”
“Of course.” A subtle nod. “I’ll remember that in future,” Lexa says, arranging her features in such a way as to convey her solemn contrition.
In the ensuing silence, she lets her eyes wander, drawn to the artery at Clarke’s throat, almost able to feel its fast flutter against her open mouth, the rush of warm blood below the surface calling to her.
She swallows thickly and clamps her lips together. Forces her gaze back up to safer territory only to jolt when their eyes lock, some strange movement stirring within her chest.
“Is there something else you need?”
Clarke’s voice is a low, gravelly rasp and Lexa is curious to know what it would sound like late at night, in her ear, on the cusp of release.
That thought provokes a pang of hunger entirely unrelated to her body’s current demand to be fed, a feeling at once foreign and familiar, so long dormant that its sudden resurgence catches her off guard.
She’d believed herself above carnality, thought the pursuit of pleasures of the flesh a vapid obsession for the living, no longer something she sought or needed or paid much mind to.
Not that she condemned herself to a solitary existence either.
Over the centuries companions have come and gone; friends and lovers and those occupying the ambiguous in-between. Some stayed with her for years—decades, even—before complacency, contempt, or a yearning for change took hold. She crosses paths with them from time to time, the ones that managed to adapt as she has. She always senses them before she sees them, feels that warning tingle at the nape of her neck where the mark resides. Sometimes they choose not to engage. But on occasion, she’ll spot a face in the crowd, share a spark of mutual recognition before they vanish once more into the night, swallowed by bustling city streets teeming with people oblivious to the monsters in their midst.
The last encounter was many months ago, Luna’s unmistakeable wild red mane giving her away as she wove through the jumble of narrow alleys in the souk in Marrakech. Lexa hadn’t followed, content in the knowledge that Luna thrived, but part of her also mourned for the missed connection.
She feels an echo of that hollowed-out ache as she looks at Clarke now, seldom so aware of the dull emptiness in the petrified space where her heart once thumped steady and strong.
Perhaps that’s what compels her to ask, “When does your shift end?”
Clarke gives a slow blink.
She rears back slightly.
“Are you seriously asking me out right now?” Her lips thin. “I don’t date—”
“Co-workers.” A pointed correction.
“Strictly speaking, we aren’t.”
Clarke shakes her head, exasperated, when she registers Lexa’s slight smirk.
“I’m not going to argue semantics with you. I have more important things to do that don’t involve being hit on by arrogant doctors.”
The stinging dismissal is cushioned somewhat by the fact Clarke’s cheeks are stained pink and she won’t meet Lexa’s eyes as she ushers Lexa towards the door.
Clarke opens it and points to the laboratory area outside, where Jasper (Lexa presumes) sits hunched over a microscope, looking increasingly perplexed by the scene unfolding in front of him.
“How—?” he mumbles, face screwed up in deep confusion.
Pretending she hadn’t heard his hushed utterance from across the room, Lexa flashes a smile at Clarke. Holds her gaze for an extended beat. Turns the charm up to eleven.
“Absolutely not. Goodbye, Dr Woods.”
Lexa can’t deny she is intrigued by Clarke’s apparent immunity to her fine-tuned ability to hypnotise mortals into doing her bidding.
In essence, it’s a three-pronged attack: intense eye contact, coupled with a certain modulation of the voice and the release of an invisible, odourless vapour into the air. All of which serves to make the target highly susceptible to suggestion. While every one of her ilk is capable of performing this trick, it takes years to master to any degree of effectiveness.
Truthfully, it isn’t a tactic Lexa employs often, except as a last resort in circumstances of grave danger. Not least because it’s so unseemly and raises many ethical concerns. In any case, she prefers to rely on her own innate talent for persuasion as opposed to the preternatural gifts bestowed upon her.
The irony doesn’t escape her that the confrontation with Clarke could hardly be deemed dangerous. The only serious threat Clarke posed was to Lexa’s ego.
Indeed, to act as she had was rash and thoughtless and contrary to her normally cautious mode of operation.
The only explanation Lexa can provide for this complete dereliction of common sense is that she’s lonelier than she even realised and drawn, powerfully, to Clarke—to whom Lexa will surely bring ruin upon if she pursues her baser instincts.
For both their sakes, the most prudent course of action would be to withdraw; walk away; have no further contact. Perhaps relocate to a far away city, another continent to avoid temptation.
But for all her age and wisdom and experience, sometimes Lexa is a damn fool.
She returns to the hospital three days later.
This time, with the correct paperwork.
“As you can see, it’s all in order.”
“I’ll be the judge of that,” is Clarke’s flat reply, as she scrutinises the form with a deep pinch between her brows.
Blue eyes pour over the sheet of paper for a tense stretch of seconds and while Clarke’s attention is diverted, Lexa studies her covertly. Clarke wears the same pink scrubs but her hair is down, flaxen locks spilling over her shoulders in loose waves. It makes her look deceptively softer, and Lexa has to squash the urge to reach out, to push an errant strand away from Clarke’s cheek. She can well imagine how poorly that would be received, so she tucks her hands into the pockets of her borrowed lab coat instead.
“Dr Kane authorised this,” Clarke says, the slight inflection at the end turning the statement into a question. Her eyes flick up from the form, pinning Lexa with a stare.
Clarke shifts her weight and purses her lips. Her pen is poised over the space for her signature and Lexa is so close to acquiring that blood she can almost taste it.
There’s a pause, then: “You’re covering for Dr Blake, right?”
If Lexa was the type to tug uncomfortably at her collar, she would be doing so about now.
“Hm.” She pretends to ponder it. ”Yes, I believe that was his name, although we were never introduced. It’s possible I misheard.”
“Well, out of interest, I asked around about Dr Blake and it turns out his wife just gave birth to twin boys.”
Clarke’s shrewd eyes don’t leave Lexa’s face. “Yeah, his colleagues in Dermatology are thrilled. But the strange thing is, no one on staff seemed to know anything about you, Dr Woods.”
A muscle ticks in Lexa’s jaw, very subtly.
It seems she may have miscalculated.
Clarke sets down the clipboard and pointedly clicks the retractable pen before slotting it into her breast pocket.
“Not all that surprising when your badge says you’re a physician in Orthopedics. Which also leads me to wonder how you got the head of cardiovascular surgery to sign the release.”
Clarke continues to stare, one eyebrow slowly climbing up her forehead as she awaits Lexa’s response.
Lexa’s throat bobs. “I can explain.”
A snort. “I’ll bet.”
Clarke’s voice hardens. “Give me one reason why I shouldn’t just call the cops and have you arrested. Trespassing, impersonating a doctor, falsifying paperwork, attempting to fraudulently obtain hospital supplies...”
Lexa lets out the simulacrum of a weary breath (old habits die hard). “You wouldn’t believe me if I told you.”
Clarke folds her arms. “Try me.”
Heavy silence reigns for a moment, except for the low buzz of the ceiling lights, the hum of the refrigeration cabinets beyond the door, footsteps moving along the corridor outside the lab. The steady thud of Clarke’s heartbeat resonates in Lexa’s ears like a beating drum.
“I have a rare blood condition. Incurable,” she begins. At least it isn’t an outright fabrication. “I need regular transfusions, but my insurance won’t cover the cost of the procedures.”
Also true. Technically, the fanged are uninsurable on account of being, for all legal intents and purposes, deceased—which rather limits their access to medical care.
Clarke’s stance eases, her frown transforming into one of sympathy.
“Is it some form of anaemia? Just, your pallor.”
“Always trying to diagnose me.”
“Well, I’ve seen corpses with a healthier glow,” is her blunt riposte. Off Lexa’s raised eyebrow, Clarke adds sheepishly, “Sorry, go on.”
There’s a lengthy pause before Lexa speaks. She knows how to wield silence for dramatic effect, a talent honed during her stint on the stage in Paris in the ‘90s. The 1890s.
“Desperation brought me here,” she says, words imbued with the soft-spoken gravitas that made her so feted in the evening salons hosted by bourgeoise admirers, writers, artists, and thinkers. “If I had any other option, I wouldn’t have to resort to subterfuge and deception.”
There are alternatives. A black market exists, trading in blood stocks and humans willing to commoditise themselves—or others—for a fee. Some prey exclusively on evildoers and the morally bankrupt, but Lexa won’t stoop to those depths. She’d sooner starve than drink blood tainted by malevolence and misdeeds (too bitter for her tastes). And she won’t feed off anyone against their will, not even those who deserve to be drained dry.
Frankly, it’s tough being a bloodsucking fiend with a strict code of honour.
Clarke draws nearer. The squeak of the rubber soles of her white canvas shoes disturbs Lexa from her musings.
“Isn’t there an organisation who could help? A patient support group, a charitable foundation, a clinical trial at a teaching hospital—I don’t know,” she spreads her hands, “something.”
Lexa shakes her head, her expression grim. “I’ve already exhausted those avenues. And I refuse to be experimented on.”
“I’m sorry. Truly, I am.” Compassion shines through in Clarke’s eyes, the gentle huskiness of her voice, and Lexa feels a twinge of guilt about bending the truth. “But I can’t put my job and the reputation of this hospital at risk.”
She gives a small, somber nod. “I understand, Clarke. I won’t trouble you again.”
Resigned, she shuffles towards the door.
She halts. Turns back around. Watches with mounting intrigue as Clarke scribbles something down on the back of the form, tears off a section and folds it in half.
Clarke crosses the lab in a few strides, stopping in front of Lexa, eyes flitting around her face.
“My Mom is the chief of staff at Mount Weather Memorial. I’m not promising anything, but I’ll talk to her, okay? She might be able to pull some strings.”
A smile flickers at the corner of Lexa’s mouth as her own gaze moves over Clarke’s features. Pensiveness suits her; the crinkle in her brow, the downturn of her lips, those eyes shaded darker with concern. Once again, Lexa feels that odd wobble beneath her breastbone.
“Thank you,” she says, barely above a whisper.
“Don’t thank me yet.” Clarke sighs. “She’s kind of a hard ass.”
“All the same, I appreciate it.”
She hesitates a second before she presses the scrap of paper into Lexa’s hand. “Here.”
In the exchange, their fingers brush and the shock of warmth nearly makes Lexa’s knees buckle. Her lips part, but she swallows back an involuntary sound before it escapes.
“So you can reach me.”
Lexa drags her attention away from Clarke to peer down. Unfolding the paper carefully, she finds a phone number scrawled in black ink. When she glances up, it’s to catch sight of Clarke licking her lips. Nervous. Or perhaps daunted. Whatever the case, her pulse is racing.
“Since you don’t work here, I guess it would be okay if you called me.” Clarke crosses her arms again and rocks on her heels. Gives a too-casual shrug. “If you wanted to grab a coffee or lunch sometime. I mean, health permitting. If you felt up to it.”
Lexa does her best to conceal her happy surprise, to temper the pleasure that bubbles up within her.
“I’m more of a night owl,” she confides with a slight smile. “But, yes, I’d like that.”
Clarke visibly relaxes. “Okay. Good.”
For a beat they simply regard one another, and Lexa becomes aware of just how little space there is between them. If she took a half step forward they would be toe to toe, close enough for her to sink her fingers into Clarke’s hair and...
“I should get back to—”
“I won’t keep you from—”
Clarke’s short burst of scratchy laughter sends a tingle down Lexa’s neck. What she wouldn’t give to hear it again in a much more intimate setting.
She takes a gamble, encouraged by the appealing blush on Clarke’s cheeks. “Are you free this Friday evening?”
“Mm, night shift.” Clarke bites her lip, flexes an eyebrow. “Saturday?”
Lexa concurs with a tilt of her head. “Saturday.”
“You can text me to arrange the details.”
She retreats backwards, keeping her eyes on Clarke until the last possible second. Floating on air—metaphorically, of course. Levitation is just another fanciful invention by hack writers about her kind.
When Lexa’s shoulders bump up against the door, she hardly feels the impact. Too focused on the slope of Clarke’s smile.
So it isn’t until Lexa has left the hospital and wandered out into the night that it occurs to her: she doesn’t own a smartphone.
A trip to Target later and Lexa is in possession of a shiny new iPhone and an unlimited data plan.
It’s not that she’s a Luddite, obstinately resisting the march of progress, she just hasn’t had any urgent need for a pocket-sized computer/surveillance device thus far. Without question, the ability to retrieve the entirety of human knowledge within a few taps—anytime, anywhere—is a miraculous feat, one the scholars of antiquity would have been astounded by. But this sleek piece of metal and glass is also the means by which several hundred million cretins with a tendency towards relentless over-analysis vomit up their every unfiltered thought and feeling on social media. And that, she can quite happily do without.
She’s almost certain none of the other Elders are on Facebook anyway.
(Although, the notion of Titus and Nia sharing compilations of bat videos or commenting “You ok, hun?” on each other’s cryptic status updates does raise a glimmer of a smile.)
It’s past midnight when she returns to the hotel she calls home, one of several sanctuaries dotted around Polis. Located on the edge of town near the docks, a part of the city that’s so far evaded regeneration, the building’s crumbling Art Deco facade and flickering neon signage lend a certain grubby, offbeat charm to the place.
Tonight Gustus is in the office, his feet up on the desk, a rerun of the Golden Girls playing on the old portable TV in the corner while he swigs from a bottle of liquor. He may be a gruff, tattooed, beast of a man but he giggles like a teenage girl at Blanche Devereaux’s saucy one-liners.
“Oh, hey, Lexa,” he calls out, still chuckling to himself. “Letter came for you.”
He rummages around the scattered papers on the desk until he finds the envelope and slips it through the gap of the service window.
It bears the seal of the Council, the return address a PO Box in New Orleans.
Lexa suppresses an automatic sigh.
A summons for the Conclave already? A hundred years comes around so fast.
She thanks Gustus and continues to her room on the fifth floor. The lodgings are spartan to say the least, but the bed is firm and the solitary window is fitted with a thick blackout blind and heavy drapes. Unlike most other immortals, she eschews grand mansions, flashy cars, and designer apparel, all the trappings of vast wealth accumulated over centuries of long term investments. Because with such ostentatiousness comes sycophants and leeches and those who covet riches for themselves. It brings suspicion and rumours, and those things are every bit as perilous as daylight.
No, Lexa has always favoured practical frugality over excess, much to Anya’s great disdain. But looking around this sparsely furnished room with its drab off-white paint and threadbare carpet, she struggles to picture Clarke at ease in these surroundings, and for the first time she feels faintly ashamed of the shabby state of her accommodations.
Well... the Council has a global directory of approved realtors, most of them thralls, their discretion guaranteed.
Perhaps it’s time to consider a move to the suburbs.
Via a series of text messages, which Lexa spent far more time deliberating over word choice, grammar and punctuation than she cares to admit, she and Clarke make plans to meet at a craft brewhouse downtown.
Ever punctual, Lexa arrives too early and is dismayed to find the place heaving with rambunctious sports fans watching a basketball game on the large projection screen. Immediately assaulted by a strong waft of beer, peanuts and body odour, she wrinkles her nose and squeezes into a spot at the bar overlooking the entrance.
She asks the bartender for a glass of water, leaving it untouched as she turns her disinterested gaze towards the game while she waits.
Ten minutes trickle by before Clarke steps through the door, looking harried and windswept but no less beautiful. Once she spots Lexa across the bar, Clarke’s expression morphs, a fleeting smile appearing in place of her perpetual frown.
She weaves through the crowd to reach Lexa’s side.
“Hi. Sorry. I got held up in traffic,” Clarke says in a rush. She glances around the densely packed bar, the patrons all decked out in the green and black colours of the Polis Panthers. Her face falls. “Shit. I didn’t realise there was a game on tonight.”
“It’s fine,” Lexa assures, only to be drowned out by the entire bar booing and yelling obscenities at the screen. Once the ruckus dies down to low level grumbling, she leans in to make herself heard over the din. “We could go somewhere else, if you prefer.”
Clarke looks relieved at the suggestion. “I know a good Greek restaurant a couple of blocks from here?”
“Perfect. Lead on.”
And so they find themselves in a considerably more sedate setting, sharing a table for two by the window. The decor is an ironically kitschy celebration of taverna clichés: blue and white mosaic tiles and matching checkered tablecloths, paper lanterns strung across the ceiling, green vines wrapped around faux marble Ionic columns. On one wall there’s an enormous collage of whitewashed villas with the azure waters of the Aegean as a backdrop, meticulously assembled from shards of painted crockery. Impressive, but a potential death trap and a lawsuit waiting to happen for anyone sitting beside it.
“Sorry this evening hasn’t gotten off to a great start,” Clarke says wryly as she unzips her bomber jacket and hangs it over the back of her chair.
Lexa can’t help it; her eyes dip to the henley Clarke wears, all but two buttons left undone, revealing the low neckline of the undershirt beneath and a deep line of cleavage. Her gaze only rests there for a second, but it’s long enough to get caught staring.
Clarke doesn’t seem too upset about it.
On the contrary, she tugs the hem down a little further, which is tantamount to an invitation to look.
Lexa swipes her tongue across her bottom lip. “Well, who doesn’t enjoy being accosted by a bar full of drunk, rowdy Panthers fans? It’s among my top five favourite pastimes.”
“Oh?” Clarke leans her elbows on the table, chin propped in hand, an easy smile teasing at the corners of her lips. “What are the other four?”
“I don’t show all my cards on a first date, Clarke.”
She hums. “I get that. I like to retain some mystique too.”
Lexa quirks an eyebrow and pitches her voice lower. “Your shirt says otherwise.”
While they smirk at each other, the waitress arrives to take their order. Clarke chooses several small plates: keftedes, pork souvlaki, grilled halloumi, and dolmades; a glass of Tempranillo to accompany. Then comes the awkward part where Lexa has to make a show of being indecisive before she opts for salad and water.
“Not hungry?” Clarke asks, turning serious.
Lexa deflects with a vague, “the medication,” and Clarke gives her a sad, sympathetic nod.
The fact is, food and the undead do not mix. They can consume meagre amounts, but it invariably results in a regurgitated mess within a few hours, so it’s wiser to stick to the blandest, most basic fare to minimise the cleanup. Or avoid it altogether.
“On that subject… I spoke with my Mom today about your situation and she said she could put in a referral to a specialist. Dr Becca Franco at Saint Eligius is one of the leading haematologists in the country. Mom told me she does a lot of pro bono work. Real pioneering stuff.”
Of course, Lexa will have to wiggle her way out this referral. There isn’t a snowball’s chance in hell she’s going to permit a mortal to poke her with a needle, let alone draw a sample of blood. Still, she appreciates Clarke’s good intentions.
“That’s so kind. Thank you, and please extend my thanks to your mother.”
“I wish I could do more.” Clarke studies Lexa for a beat, and Lexa can practically hear the gears turning in her head. “These transfusions you get, are they—”
Lexa cuts her off gently. “Could we talk about something else?”
“Of course, yeah. Sorry, I don’t mean to pry.”
In the lull that follows, Clarke fiddles with the stem of her wine glass. Then she mutters, eyes downcast, “I swear I’m not always this insensitive.”
“Clarke.” Softly chiding. “Please stop apologising.”
Lexa tips her head as she looks across the table, watching the candlelight flicker in Clarke’s pupils.
“I don’t think you lack sensitivity. I think you’re curious and driven to fix things; a problem solver by nature with an excellent built-in bullshit detector. Too stubborn to let something that bothers you go. That’s why you felt compelled to turn detective and investigate my credentials.”
Clarke’s eyebrow goes up.
“You’ve only known me for five minutes. How could you possibly form that opinion already?”
Lexa shrugs, a small smile curving her lips. “I’m unusually perceptive.” She looks at Clarke steadily. “Am I off the mark?”
Spying the waitress’s approach with their drinks and a complimentary basket of pita bread, Lexa picks up her napkin and shakes it out before placing it neatly over her lap.
“No,” Clarke admits grudgingly at last, and Lexa chalks it up as a victory.
Clarke pops a vine leaf-wrapped rice roll into her mouth and chews for a bit, eyeing Lexa across the table. Washes the dolmades down with a sip of red wine then asks, “So... what is it you do? When you’re not pretending to be a licensed medical professional, I mean.”
It’s a gentle dig, but all the same Lexa feels a wave of regret for the lies she told and must continue to weave; for her own self-preservation and to shield Clarke.
“I’m between jobs at the moment.”
The modest stipend she earns as editor-at-large and a regular contributor to the quarterly newsletter, The Sanguinist, probably doesn’t count as gainful employment, nor does her sideline in correcting historical inaccuracies in Wikipedia articles, but Lexa can’t exactly tell Clarke that she hasn’t toiled since she was an apprentice in her father’s carpentry workshop over two thousand years ago either.
All things considered, it’s better to be vague.
She pokes the salad with her fork, idly moving the leaves around the plate. “My condition makes it difficult to keep regular hours.”
Clarke’s mouth forms a thin line of sympathy, her gaze softening in understanding.
Then she sighs, aggravated at herself. “Here I go putting my foot in it again. You can tell me to mind my own business. I honestly won’t take offence.”
The corner of Lexa’s mouth quirks.
“I’m flattered, actually.” She adopts a playful tone. “It’s not every day that a beautiful woman takes such a keen interest.”
They share a look and something in the air shifts and contracts.
“I find that hard to believe,” Clarke says, her voice gone a fraction huskier, sultrier. “I bet lots of girls would love to find out what makes the mysterious Alexandria Woods tick. If that’s even your real name.”
She holds Lexa’s stare for what feels like an endless moment until the waitress stops to check on them as she passes by.
The interruption causes a pretty blush to darken Clarke’s cheeks, but she only drops her gaze for a second or two before her eyes return to Lexa’s face.
“Tell me something about you,” Clarke murmurs above the gentle refrains of the background music, an inoffensive aural wallpaper of sweeping strings and acoustic guitar over sparse beats.
“What would you like to know?”
“A random fact. Something about your childhood. Or, I don’t know,” she smiles, a full flash of her teeth that makes the dimple in her chin more pronounced, “which extracurriculars you did in high school.”
Lexa considers how much is safe to reveal and settles once more on a heavily edited version of the truth. “I was born and raised in Egypt.”
Clarke cocks her head. “US military brat?”
“No, I’m native. My father was Greek, my mother Egyptian.”
“You don’t have any trace of an accent.”
“I’ve travelled widely. Lived in many different places.” And eras.
“What brought you to Polis?”
“The better question is what’s keeping me here.”
Clarke slices a lamb meatball in half with her fork. Spearing the morsel and mopping up a dollop of creamy tzatziki sauce with it, she takes a bite and the subsequent closed-mouth moan she lets out is almost obscene.
Distracted, Lexa watches in a daze as the tip of Clarke’s tongue darts out to collect a drop of sauce at the edge of her lip.
The seconds drag.
Clarke looks at her, both eyebrows raised; expectant.
Lexa comes to her senses with a blink.
“Actually, it’s whom rather than what.”
There’s a gradual change in Clarke as the meaning sinks in. Cheeks aglow, she dips her head and touches her neck, a coy smile tugging at her lips.
“Must be someone special.”
Beneath the table, something solid brushes against the inside of Lexa’s shin, over the pant leg. Up and down. The slightest pressure of Clarke’s foot.
Lexa schools her features but, inside, she’s a riot of feelings. Only the flicker of her lashes betrays any loss of composure.
Her eyes find Clarke’s and her lips tilt up.
“I’m beginning to think so, yes.”
The air holds a distinctly autumnal chill as they step out onto the sidewalk and continue down the street. Lexa feels no discomfort but Clarke shoves her hands deep into her pockets, shivering against the brisk wind. Without a second thought, Lexa slips off her wool coat and moves to drape it around Clarke’s shoulders.
Clarke rounds on her in an instant, appalled. “Lexa, are you nuts? It’s, like, 45 degrees out.”
“And you’re sick.”
“I assure you, I’m fine.”
Clarke releases a deep sigh then draws herself up, projecting an aura of authority that transcends her short stature.
“Look, I’m not going to be responsible for you catching your death, just because you have some idiotic, misguided sense of chivalry.” She advances a step, eyes blazing with enough heat to melt a glacier. “Now put your damn coat back on so you can walk me to my car.”
“Oh. You want to call it a night?” Lexa doesn’t succeed in keeping the note of disappointment out of her voice as she dons the coat and scoops her hair out from beneath the collar.
“No,” Clarke says slowly. She gravitates a little closer and the beguiling fragrance of her perfume ensnares Lexa, luring her in too. “But I have an eight a.m. start and I’m not remotely close to being a morning person.”
Lexa’s mouth twitches. “We have that in common.”
The distance between them shrinks by degrees and it takes every ounce of supernatural restraint not to eliminate the final gap.
Lexa’s eyes dart between Clarke’s and the tempting bow of her upper lip, drawn to the tiny freckle that sits above it. She hasn’t stopped admiring Clarke all evening, fascinated by every subtle, shifting emotion that crossed Clarke’s face during the flow of conversation.
And right now, with her dark, heavy stare and parted lips, the splash of pink on her cheeks, heart tapping double-time against her sternum, Clarke is telegraphing one particular feeling loud and clear.
Lexa tilts in slowly. Slow enough to signal her intent and for Clarke to pull away. Their eyes remain half open, only fluttering shut when the soft, warm puff of Clarke’s breath spills over Lexa’s mouth at last.
If she was at full strength, Lexa would’ve detected the threat. But days of hunger have dulled her senses and so, when a rough, frantic voice tells them, “Do what I say and nobody gets hurt,” she’s just as taken aback as Clarke is.
They spring apart, both noticing the glint of the knife at the same time. The hand that holds it is shaking, whether from adrenaline or some other substance pumping through the man’s veins.
“You don’t want to do this,” Lexa says in a calm, smooth monotone.
His eyes are shifty, pupils blown unnaturally wide, the whites bloodshot, all but confirming her suspicions. Irritatingly, he won’t meet her stare long enough for her to glamour him and swiftly neutralise the threat.
“Tell your girlfriend to shut the fuck up,” the man snaps at Clarke, jabbing the air with the weapon. “Hand over your wallets. Cash. Credit cards. Phones.” He gestures at Clarke’s wrist. “Gimme that sweet watch too.”
“No, please,” she blurts, stricken. “It was my Dad’s. You can have anything else, just please not that.”
“Do I look like I give a shit, lady?”
“You’re making a grave mistake,” Lexa warns. “Leave now and no harm will come to you.”
He lets out a wheezy, manic laugh and points the blade at Lexa. His amusement quickly turns sour, a crooked sneer on his lips as he takes a lurching step towards her.
“I’m gonna cut that pretty face of yours if you don’t,” he enunciates every word for effect, “keep your fucking mouth shut. Understand?”
“Lexa, just give him what he wants.”
“Yeah, Lexa. You heard her.” A taunt.
It’s the last straw.
But before she can make a move, there’s a blur in her peripheral vision. Clarke swings her bag at their assailant’s head. She gets a good couple of wallops in before he shoves her away, a wildly swinging fist connecting with her jaw and sending her reeling. She staggers back against the wall of the nearest building, stunned, and the sharp scent of blood reaches Lexa’s nostrils.
A red mist descends.
Lexa clenches her fists at her sides and squares her shoulders, fixing the man with a furious glare. Greater enemies than this pathetic excuse for a mortal have crumbled before her wrath and he at least has the good sense to look panicked.
“Bitch, I told you!” he spits, sweat beading on his forehead and upper lip. His eyes swing around without focus. He has a white knuckle grip on the handle of the knife now. “I fucking told you.”
Lexa lunges at the exact moment he lashes out. In the scuffle, he slices at her in a wide arc but she dodges. Grabs his wrist and twists.
The agonised wail torn from his throat as his bones splinter and snap is like a symphony to Lexa’s ears. The blade clatters to the ground and she kicks it away, out of reach.
She bares her teeth and his face goes ashen with shock and terror as soon as he glimpses the descended fangs.
Cowering, he stammers something unintelligible. From the stench and the puddle of liquid forming at his feet, she realises he pissed himself.
“I should rip you limb from limb,” she hisses. She releases him with a disdainful curl of her lip. “Get out of my sight.”
Not needing to be told twice, he takes off at a clumsy sprint, clutching his broken wrist and sobbing.
Lexa’s fangs retract.
She waits until he disappears around the corner before she rushes to Clarke’s side.
“Are you okay?”
Clarke ignores the question. “What the hell, Lexa? He could’ve killed you!”
“I think I demonstrated I can handle myself.”
“That’s beside the point,” she snaps, eyebrows pinched together. “It was stupid. Reckless.”
“But also brave... and kind of sexy?”
“My hero,” Clarke deadpans, but she lets Lexa help her up. “God, your fingers are like icicles.”
Lexa checks Clarke’s body for any outward signs of injury. Aside from a split lip, her bomber jacket is torn at the sleeve, but otherwise she appears uninjured.
“Seriously, what were you thinking?” Clarke demands.
“Excuse me, you were the one who smacked him with your purse like an old lady.”
“I was improvising!”
Still rattled, Clarke runs a hand through her hair. Wide eyes darting around as though she expects the attacker to return at any moment for a second attempt.
“Just, come here,” Lexa says softly.
She holds out her open arms and, without missing a beat, Clarke steps into her embrace. It’s a risk. To have Clarke so near. Heart racing and blood welling on her lip. When Lexa is weak from hunger and the single thought running through her head is how easy it would be to sink her teeth into the artery below the hinge of Clarke’s jaw.
“It’s okay. You’re safe,” Lexa murmurs, pressing her nose into Clarke’s hair. Enfolding her closer.
Lexa sways a bit on her feet, woozy; overcome.
Clarke draws back an inch. “Lexa?”
She looks down between them, touches Lexa’s abdomen and gasps. “Oh my god! Lexa, you’re hurt.”
Under the orange glow of the streetlamps Clarke’s fingers come away wet, glistening with blood.
Her face scrunches in bafflement, but she soon casts it off, switching into pragmatic mode. “We need to get you to the ER. Now.”
Clarke frowns deeply. “Is this about your insurance? Lexa, hospitals are obliged to provide emergency treatment, irrespective of your ability to pay.”
She peers at the dark patch spreading outwards from the slash in Lexa’s coat.
“Listen to me.” Clarke’s blunt tone brooks no argument. “You’re bleeding heavily. If we don’t stop it soon...”
“No hospitals,” Lexa insists.
Clarke curses under her breath. “Alright. Fine.” She takes Lexa’s hand and covers the wound, pushing down firmly. “I need you to maintain even pressure, okay? Stay here. I’ll be right back.”
She’s already charging off into the darkness when Lexa calls out, “Where are you going?”
“To get my car.”
Arm slung around Clarke’s shoulders, Lexa allows herself to be half-dragged down the empty hallway.
“4B,” Clarke says with a small grunt of exertion as she adjusts her hold. “Last door on the right.”
A few metres from their destination, Lexa stops short. “Wait,” she says, clutching her side. The loss of blood has slowed considerably but the wound still oozes. Had she fed recently, it would have healed already, but she feels the cut pull at her skin with every step.
“We’re almost there. Come on.”
Clarke tugs at Lexa’s waist in a fruitless attempt to propel them forward. She doesn’t budge.
Clarke grows exasperated. “Lexa—”
“Invite me in.”
“Aren’t we a little past formalities? I mean, I’ve got your blood all over my favourite jacket.”
“I’ll pay to have it dry cleaned.” Lexa shifts her weight and winces slightly. “But I can’t enter your home unless you invite me.”
Ckarke scoffs, incredulous. “Who are you? The Queen of England?”
Lexa only stares.
“Okay, okay.” An eye roll. “I invite you into my tiny one bedroom apartment, your majesty. Satisfied?”
Lexa’s shoulders sag in relief. “Yes.”
Even so, once Clarke has unlocked the door, Lexa braces herself as they cross the threshold, prepared for the singularly unpleasant experience of being knocked backwards by an invisible barrier. But she enters without obstruction and Clarke kicks the door shut behind them with her heel.
“In here,” Clarke says as they take a left, down a short, narrow hall into a neat, tastefully decorated bedroom. It’s painted navy blue with white coving, walnut furniture, charcoal grey bed linens, a few framed graphite sketches arranged in a cluster on the wall.
“Sit. I’ll go get some clean towels.”
While Clarke is out of the room, Lexa shrugs off her coat. It’s ruined, caked with blood. She folds it up and dumps it on the floor with a sigh. Looks around and, immediately, a photograph on the dressing table catches her eye. In it, a younger version of Clarke poses with a blond man and a dark-haired woman, all sunny smiles; likely, her parents. There are other pictures scattered around but Lexa doesn’t get the chance to examine them closely before Clarke returns carrying a basin of steaming hot water, a couple of large towels tucked under one arm and a first aid bag under the other.
She tuts to see Lexa still on her feet.
Clarke places the basin on the bedside table and spreads one towel over the duvet. With a stern look she points to the bed and, dutifully, Lexa perches on the edge.
“It’ll be easier to get you patched up if you lie down.”
Lexa thinks about objecting but Clarke’s stony expression disavows her of the notion.
“I need to lift your sweater, okay?” Off Lexa’s slow nod and with some obvious apprehension, Clarke tentatively peels the blood-soaked material up and away.
The quiet gasp that escapes is deafening in the silence.
Clarke’s eyes bulge, stuck on the black gore that’s congealed around the wound. The blood has dried into a crusty, inky mess, a dark smear across alabaster skin.
“What...” she breathes out.
She blinks rapidly.
Shakes her head, brow furrowed so tight it must be painful. Trying to make sense of what’s in front of her.
“Your blood—I thought it was just—”
Her hand hovers over Lexa’s abdomen, a fine tremble in her fingers. Then her eyes shoot up and she searches Lexa’s face, confusion warring with shock and dawning realisation.
“At the hospital, in the storage room. Tonight. It was cold, but I never saw any fog from your breath.”
Clarke’s gaze sharpens as the pieces fall into place.
“The extreme paleness. Your eyes. How you’re constantly freezing to the touch. A night owl. I—” Her jaw drops. ”I had to invite you inside!”
Lexa remains quiet. Only projects serenity and patience while Clarke has her epiphany.
“Fuck.” She draws the word out, astounded and amazed and disbelieving. She rests her hands atop her head and wanders over to the window, staring out at nothing. “No wonder you were so goddamn evasive about your so-called illness.”
“It is an affliction.” Lexa purses her lips. “One I never asked for, I hasten to add.”
Clarke drops her arms and turns back around.
“Also explains the weird, stiff, old-fashioned way you talk sometimes.”
“No need to add insult to injury.”
She puts her hands on her hips. “Show me, then.” She jerks her chin. “Your teeth. Fangs. Whatever.”
If Lexa was capable of blushing, her ears would be tipped red. It feels like being asked to perform a party trick on command, but the indignity of it aside, she supposes she owes Clarke the truth.
With an audible click, her canines pop down and she offers what she hopes is an unthreatening smile.
One hand flies to Clarke’s chest. “Jesus. You really are—”
“Don’t be afraid, Clarke.”
She approaches the bed slowly, as though not to spook Lexa, wide eyes fixated on the sharp points of elongated teeth. Fascinated.
“Is it painful when you do that?”
“No. Not since the first time.”
Clarke stares. “How old are you?”
“Didn’t anyone ever tell you it’s rude to ask a, uh—” Lexa winces as she tries to sit up, a searing pain shooting through her side.
“Hey, hey, no.” Clarke hurries over to press Lexa’s shoulders firmly back against the pillows. “Just stay put.” She glances at Lexa’s abdomen with grim resolve. “Let me get this cleaned up.”
“Luckily, it’s not too deep,” Clarke says, head bent close as she inspects the wound: an ugly gash just a couple of inches to the left of Lexa’s hipbone. “I don’t think you’ll need stitches.”
She drops the blood-stained washcloth into the basin then gently pats the area dry with a soft towel. Opening up the first aid kit, she takes out antiseptic ointment and a sterile pad. Hesitates, giving Lexa a probing look.
“Oh, we can’t contract infections,” Lexa says, matter-of-fact. “I will heal eventually. Albeit faster, if I…” She trails off delicately.
“‘Blood transfusion.’ Right.”
Forgoing the ointment, Clarke places the pad over the wound and tapes down the sides.
“When did you last…?”
“Almost a week ago. Let’s just say, the lab technicians at Polis General are less committed to enforcing the rules than you are.”
It raises a brief, small smile.
Clarke smooths over the edges of the tape, fingertips grazing Lexa’s skin in the process, and Lexa is powerless to prevent the reflexive twitch of her abdominal muscles.
“Okay, but why blood banks?” Clarke asks, glancing up. “Why not do, you know, the traditional thing?”
She gives Lexa’s supine form a quick once over.
“I’m sure there’s no shortage of Twilight fans who’d happily volunteer to be your next snack.”
Lexa barely refrains from rolling her eyes. “That woman has a lot to answer for.” She grumbles, “Sparkling in sunlight, indeed.”
“Sore spot, huh?”
Clarke wears an expression of wry amusement now, eyes dancing with unconcealed mirth at Lexa’s expense. And Lexa finds that she isn’t averse to being on the receiving end of Clarke’s light mockery.
“Well, there are so many fallacies floating around.”
“That we have no reflection. How on earth would we blend in if we couldn’t take care of our personal grooming?”
Clarke smirks. “Are you telling me you don’t wake up like this, flawlessly put together? Like the Beyoncé of the vampire world.”
It seems like a compliment, even if Lexa senses that Clarke is teasing her again. Although, one glimpse of her sunken cheeks in the mirror hanging on the far wall, the pronounced dark circles beneath her eyes, confirms she’s looking far from flawless at the moment.
“If only.” Lexa sighs. “Not even the undead can escape narrow beauty standards.”
“That’s depressing,” Clarke says flatly. But then her eyes take on a speculative gleam. “So... is it true you sleep in a coffin?”
“Casket,” Lexa corrects. “Coffins don’t have hinged lids and they’re a different shape. Cheaper. Less craftsmanship involved.”
It wasn’t intended to be humorous, but Clarke evidently finds this funny, smiling when she says, “Okay, nerd.”
In her two thousand-plus year existence, few have failed to show Lexa the proper respect and survived. During her tenure as Heda of the Council and sovereign leader of the twelve vampiric clans, she earned a storied reputation for forcibly bringing her opponents to heel, executing those usurpers who dared to question her absolute authority without mercy.
Since her retirement, she has (in modern parlance) chilled out a bit.
She would allow Clarke to call her every name under the sun if it meant she got to bask in that pretty smile.
“To answer your question, no. I don’t fly or turn into a bat either.”
“No effect. And anyway, I predate Christianity.”
That gives Clarke momentary pause, although to her credit, she doesn’t appear overly shocked.
“Aversion to garlic?”
“Good, because I love garlic on everything.” Clarke’s voice drops into a confidential whisper. “Kind of a dealbreaker for me.”
When she grasps the implication, it takes Lexa aback a bit. Surprised, because she fully expected Clarke to cast her out in horror and revulsion once the truth sank in. Not to flirt.
“And someone being clinically dead isn’t?”
A one-shouldered, insouciant shrug. “I’ve dated worse.”
Lexa takes in the measure of Clarke, watching the faint blush that rises up her neck and warms her cheeks under the open appraisal. There’s a shadow on Clarke’s jaw where a bruise is forming, a small cut on her swollen bottom lip. She must’ve bitten it when she received the blow and Lexa can’t peel her eyes away.
The craving returns (it never truly abates). But the bloodlust is mixed up with something darker and deeper curdling in her gut: rage. Fury that she failed to protect Clarke from violence. And Lexa vows then, to destroy anyone who would deliberately place Clarke in harm’s way—starting with the man who attacked them tonight.
Clarke clears her throat quietly and starts to tidy away the first aid supplies. When she’s done, she fiddles with the zip on the bag.
“I’m guessing you must be hungry,” she says, not looking up. “With the blood loss and everything.”
Lexa nods absently, thoughts elsewhere. Silently plotting to hunt down their assailant and end his wretched life—with her bare hands, if necessary.
So she isn’t prepared for: “You could take some from me.”
The shock of it slams into her chest, like a punch to the solar plexus.
Her mind reels.
“Clarke,” she chokes out. “No.”
“Just enough to get back on your feet.”
Her lips part and she girds against an intense ache. Yearning—for sustenance, for Clarke. A hard shiver goes through her as her fangs drop, an involuntary, primal reaction to the seductive visions swimming in her head: Clarke’s lovely throat, exposed for the taking; pale thighs and the tempting throb of the femoral artery; the heave of Clarke’s breasts while Lexa’s cool mouth trails over flushed skin and her hand slides lower.
Lexa collects herself, sucking air into her useless lungs and pushing it back out.
Ignoring that insidious internal voice that goads: blood, must have blood.
“No.” Vehement. She turns her face away and presses her lips together. Continues in a voice that’s strained at the edges, “You don’t know what you’re suggesting, Clarke.”
“I do. And I’m offering it willingly.”
She makes an indistinct noise; part sceptical scoff, part pained snarl.
“You asked why I go to blood banks. It’s because I don’t trust myself!”
A heavy silence descends after the outburst.
Lexa’s jaw works, a minuscule, tightly controlled sideways rotation. Her eyes slide shut, as if she could physically hold back the memories that threaten to engulf her by sheer willpower alone.
“I had someone, once; a mortal. But I lost her through carelessness and greed, and—”
She’s unable to dispel the vision of Costia’s black, unseeing eyes and her lifeless body cradled in Lexa’s arms. Too far gone even to be turned, although Lexa had tried. Opened a vein and held her wrist over Costia’s slack mouth and watched the drip, drip, drip.
Clarke touches that same wrist now and Lexa shudders, eyes springing open to find earnest blue peering at her intently.
“You won’t let that happen to me.”
“Clarke, I—it’s impossible to—”
Those eyes bore into her own.
Lexa tamps down on the objections that sit on her tongue. Despite her better judgment, she wants this, wants Clarke with a fervour she can’t describe or rationalise or fully understand.
“Are you sure?”
Clarke simply turns her hand over and Lexa’s gaze is drawn to the patchwork of blue veins that stand out in relief against the paler skin on the back of Clarke’s wrist.
“Come closer then,” she says, only a slight quaver in her voice.
Clarke scoots up the bed to sit facing her, cross-legged.
With hushed reverence, Lexa takes hold of Clarke’s outstretched arm, fingers wrapping around her hand and elbow. Clarke trembles, and Lexa doesn’t know whether it’s her icy grip or trepidation to blame. Gently, Lexa sweeps her thumbs back and forth over Clarke’s skin, trying to soothe her nerves and get her to relax.
“Will it hurt?”
“At first. You’ll feel a pinch, but the bite releases a neurotoxin into the bloodstream; a numbing agent.” Off Clarke’s alarmed expression, Lexa offers quick reassurance. “Don’t worry, it’s a temporary, localised anaesthetic. It doesn’t cause paralysis or loss of consciousness. Think of it as an evolutionary adaptation to make the act less unpleasant for…” She hesitates to say the victim or prey, but it’s the uncomfortable reality.
“Got it. Alright,” Clarke rolls her neck and shoulders, “let’s do this.”
Despite the false bravado, apprehension remains etched across her features, but there’s a determined set to her jaw. She holds her breath as Lexa brings the captive wrist to her mouth. Lexa pauses, checking on Clarke with a glance, before pressing a tender kiss to the pulse point. By now Clarke’s heart is pulverising her rib cage like a pneumatic drill and Lexa feels, hears the thunderous rush of blood below the surface, a tingling, electric buzz against her lips, a constant roar in her ears.
She watches Clarke beneath heavy lids. “Ready?”
“Yeah,” is Clarke’s shaky reply.
As soon as Lexa’s teeth pierce the skin, Clarke tenses and struggles, her body’s natural instinct to resist kicking in immediately. But within seconds, the effect of the neurotoxin takes hold.
“Oh. Oh, wow. Okay. This is…”
She sways slightly and a look of pure bliss blossoms across her face. Eyes closed and mouth hanging open, she tips her head back and laughs. Giggles. It bubbles up her throat, melodious and sweet. After a moment, she swoons, listing forward precariously, and Lexa is quick to catch her, one arm going around Clarke’s waist.
Lexa pulls Clarke with her to sit upright against the headboard, never breaking the seal between her lips and Clarke’s wrist, not wasting a single precious drop as she scoops Clarke into her lap.
Clarke, who is warm and pliant and pressing her nose into the side of Lexa’s neck. The hot gust of her breath makes Lexa suck harder, drink deeper. Eyelashes fluttering as the blood gushes into her mouth, thick and tangy and heavy, and spirits above, why did she deny herself this for so long? Blood from a bag, heated in the microwave is a pale imitation.
A hedonistic groan rumbles in Lexa’s chest and she clutches Clarke’s waist tighter, pulls her body closer. Heat surges through Lexa’s veins, warmth spreading to every cell of her body, bringing her alive. She is invigorated, awash with sensation, but amidst the clamour of sounds and scents, the rich flavour that coats her tongue, she remains attuned to one vital thing: the thud of Clarke’s heartbeat, even as Clarke breathes raggedly next to her ear.
With supreme effort, Lexa wrenches her mouth away and clamps a hand around Clarke’s wrist to stem the flow of blood.
She curls into Lexa, head lolling forward to lay upon Lexa’s narrow shoulder.
“Lumpy pillow,” Clarke grumbles, her tired complaint muffled by the fabric of Lexa’s sweater. Yet Clarke nestles even closer, and a warm feeling balloons in Lexa's chest that has nothing to do with the delicious draft of B Positive she just imbibed.
“Shh. Rest now.”
Manoeuvring carefully, she rolls Clarke onto her back, smiling at Clarke’s apparent reluctance to let go, how she reaches for Lexa, despite the valiant struggle to keep her eyes open.
“Wait. Are you leaving?”
Her huge, loud yawn is more endearing than it ought to be. Clarke in this state in general tugs at Lexa in a manner she hadn’t expected.
“I’m just going to bandage your wrist and freshen up a bit. I can stay awhile.”
“Oh, okay.” Clarke fights another yawn. Blinks repeatedly to stave off the pull of sleep, but her eyelids droop to half mast. “There’s a spare toothbrush in the… in the…”
Mid-sentence, she’s out like a light.
While Clarke slumbers, Lexa tends to the bite. She fetches a fresh, damp washcloth and wipes the dried blood away with the utmost care. The flesh around the wound is swollen and bruised and the sight makes Lexa’s stomach churn. Pushing aside her remorse for the moment, she dabs some ointment on the two puncture holes, wraps a length of soft cotton bandage around Clarke’s wrist then ties it off.
In the bathroom, she flinches at her reflection in the cabinet over the sink. The ruby red stains on her lips and teeth. The dribble of blood from the corner of her mouth to her chin. She washes her face, scrubs her hands with the nail brush until the water runs clear and her skin is pink and sore. She finds a toothbrush in the cabinet. Rinses her mouth with Listerine. Only when all traces of her savagery are gone does she return to the bedroom to find Clarke snoring softly, cheek squished against the pillow.
Lexa can’t curb the fond smile that arises, the swell of affection for the woman currently curled up on her side and letting out a quiet honk on every other exhale.
Rather than stand there mooning like a creep, Lexa busies herself with removing Clarke’s ankle boots. Clarke stirs and mumbles something but doesn’t fully awaken, burrowing further into the pillow instead. Lexa waits a minute to allow Clarke to drift off again before she takes the blanket that’s folded across a chair and drapes it over Clarke’s form.
On impulse, Lexa leans down to dust a light kiss against Clarke’s forehead. When she retreats there are lidded, drowsy blue eyes squinting up at her. And in that moment of lucidity, Clarke lifts up one corner of the blanket in silent invitation.
Lexa’s internal struggle is cursory and brief.
“I have to go before sunrise,” she warns, more for her own benefit than Clarke’s, slipping into the space Clarke creates.
“Mm, turn off the light,” Clarke says, voice gone grittier with fatigue. Then something occurs to her. “Hey, can you do that with just the power of your mind?”
“No, Clarke.” Accompanied by a slight, unseen eye roll.
Lexa levers up on one elbow to reach for the bedside lamp switch and when she settles back down, an arm snakes around her midsection, a warm weight resting below her breasts. Clarke huddles into her back, knees fitting behind Lexa’s, hips snug against her bottom. Not an inch between them. Heat soaking into Lexa from every point of contact. It’s simultaneously the best and worst kind of torture to have Clarke clinging to her like this, even fully clothed. But however strange and unfamiliar it feels to be spooned (Lexa can almost sense Anya’s derision across time and distance), there’s also comfort to be found.
Bit by bit, Lexa allows herself to sink into Clarke’s hold; luxuriating in it.
Until Clarke buries her face in Lexa’s mass of hair, nose rubbing from side to side at the nape of her neck in a sleepy gesture of affection.
Over the mark. Unbeknownst to Clarke, one of the most sensitive parts of Lexa’s body.
It sends an entire cascade of sparks down her spine, causes a tight, hot tingle to flare between her thighs.
In the gloomy darkness, she locks her jaw and goes very still.
Knows beyond a shadow of a doubt that the next few hours are going to be the most taxing of her afterlife.
The long fingers of grey, pre-dawn light are slowly edging across the room when Lexa wakes from a dreamless sleep. But her instinctive dread of encroaching sunrise is instantly forgotten once she registers the solid weight of something holding her down, the body sprawled half on top of her.
She remains frozen in place as she takes stock of her predicament: Clarke is still asleep, her deep, even breaths fanning across Lexa’s collarbone; one denim-clad leg is thrown over her own, an arm slung across her ribs, and Clarke’s chest is crushed into Lexa’s side. Sometime during the early hours, Lexa must have slid her arm around Clarke and now she has a toasty warm blanket in human form draped all over her.
So nice, Lexa doesn’t want to move from this spot.
Unfortunately, that’s not an option.
She lays a gentle hand on Clarke’s forearm and gives it a little shake. That garners no response, so Lexa tries again, a bit more forcefully this time. It only results in Clarke doing a full body stretch and pressing more firmly against Lexa.
“Clarke,” she says softly, striving to ignore the feel of those formidable curves; breasts and hips moulded to her flank; the thigh that’s now slotted snugly between her legs, putting pressure directly on her… She gulps. “Clarke, wake up.”
Loosening a quiet groan, Clarke turns her face into Lexa’s shoulder and her hand shifts upwards, landing squarely on Lexa’s breast.
Several awkward seconds elapse before Clarke stiffens abruptly, the sudden awareness of their entanglement and where her hand is, hitting her all at once.
She jerks her head up and Lexa is met with startled blue eyes and pink cheeks, Clarke gaping at her wordlessly.
“I never would’ve guessed you were a sleep-cuddler,” Lexa says, hoping to ease Clarke’s embarrassment by making light of the situation. Doing her level best not to stare at Clarke’s soft pink lips. Willing her nipple not to harden under Clarke’s palm. “But your secret is safe with me.”
Clarke appears chagrined now. “Ugh, God. I am so sorry for groping you while I was out of it. In my defence, that neurotoxin is pretty potent.”
“Well, it only induces feelings of euphoria for a short time. The effects tend to wear off within an hour or two.” Lexa’s eyes dart to the palm still cupped around her breast. “I’m afraid this isn’t my doing. It’s entirely down to you and your powerful attraction towards me.”
Face flushing again, Clarke takes her hand away.
She scowls. “You think you’re so irresistible, don’t you?”
“Evidently to you, I am.”
With a quiet harrumph, she lifts herself up, arms braced on either side of Lexa’s torso, and the view down the front of Clarke’s shirt promptly causes the smug smile to slide off Lexa’s face.
As a feminist, she knows she shouldn’t stare.
As a lesbian, she’s helpless not to.
“Seems it cuts both ways.” Sly humour laces Clarke’s tone, but she doesn’t move away.
Lexa stoically averts her gaze.
“You’re allowed to look. Touch, too.”
Their eyes catch and the moment lengthens, becomes charged.
“It’s only fair, right? Since I already felt you up.”
Clarke’s voice is a low tease that reminds Lexa of the thigh still lodged firmly between her own, the pressure doing little to alleviate the arousal that’s coiled tightly at the base of her spine.
“Quid pro quo?”
A smirk. “Tit for tit.”
She wants nothing more than to put her hands on Clarke’s body. And the dark, heated look Clarke is giving her only fuels the very vivid ideas in Lexa’s head; about reversing their positions, grinding her hips against tensed muscle, bringing them both to a slow, sensual climax.
But she’s also all too aware that they don’t have the luxury of time right now.
To start something and have it curtailed would be a tragedy, particularly the thorough ravishment Lexa has in mind.
Also, bursting into flames during the act is guaranteed to kill the mood.
So it’s with regret that she says, “Could we possibly take a rain check?”
Clarke’s face cycles through a few emotions, frustration and disappointment being foremost, and Lexa tries not to preen.
“I want to. Believe me, I do,” she says. “It’s just, you have work and sunlight is sort of my Achilles' heel…”
Clarke casts a glance towards the alarm clock on the nightstand. Her eyes go wide and round.
“Oh, shit.” She scrambles up and off the bed to pull the blinds down and the curtains shut tight. Whirls back around, fraught and full of panicked energy. “What are you going to do? I mean, will you have enough time to—”
“There’s a safe house nearby. If I leave shortly, I can make it.”
Her relief is palpable.
Lexa swings her legs around. Stands and massages the crick out of her neck. She notices her coat still in a heap on the floor and picks it up.
“I’ll dispose of this. Do you have a spare trash bag?”
“Yeah, in the kitchen.”
She follows Clarke through the apartment into a galley kitchen. It’s so cramped and narrow that Lexa almost walks into Clarke when she stops to search through a drawer. They’re standing far too close when Clarke turns around, a roll of black plastic in hand. She tears off one bag and gives it to Lexa.
An uneasy silence hangs in the air between them while they look at each other, neither sure what to say.
Clarke breaks the tension with a hollow chuckle. “You know, I figured you were the type to sneak off before sunrise. Admittedly, for totally different reasons.”
“I wish I could stay, Clarke.”
A nod. Clarke worries her lip as she scans Lexa’s face. What she’s searching for, Lexa can only hazard a guess but she keeps her expression open and sincere.
“I like the way you say my name.”
Apropos of nothing; not at all what Lexa expected to hear.
She’s even less prepared for what happens next: the confidence with which Clarke invades her space, crowding Lexa back against the stove until her rear bumps into the oven door handle.
Whatever qualms Clarke might be having are masked by the determined glint in her eyes as she closes in. Dropping the trash bags, she curls a hand around Lexa’s neck, the other going to Lexa’s hip.
And then Clarke is kissing her; soft, warm lips moving with gentle insistence.
Lexa is slow to react, mouth opening in blind reflex as Clarke leans up, angling in deeper. Lexa’s mind goes blank; fuzzy, white static ringing in her ears and drowning out the rapid thump of Clarke’s heartbeat as their lips cling together and a hot puff of breath hits her cheek.
It only lasts a moment, but Lexa feels a phantom flutter in her chest, a swoop in her stomach, a weakness in the knees. She tingles all over. It would be embarrassing if she wasn’t so inexplicably taken with this woman.
“You feel warm,” Clarke whispers, thumb stroking the side of Lexa’s neck and making her melt.
“The gift of your blood.” Lexa draws back an inch to look at Clarke, becoming solemn and serious. Voice going soft. “Clarke, what you did was—”
She’s cut off by Clarke kissing her again. With the kind of slow, soft hunger that has Lexa contemplating whether they could just barricade Clarke’s bedroom against the light. Potential death seems like an acceptable risk if it means she gets to continue doing this.
“I can think of a couple of ways you could thank me,” Clarke says, breathier. Her hand drops to Lexa’s sternum to push her away, retreating a half step. “But later.”
An eyebrow flexes. “My haemoglobin is that good, huh?”
“That’s not all I want to taste.”
Clarke ducks her head to hide a smirk. “Alright, alright. Get out of here or I’m gonna have to drag you back to my bed.”
“You say that like it’s supposed to be a bad thing.”
“Uh, yeah. It is if you, like, spontaneously combust in the next twenty minutes. And not because of what I’m doing to you.”
Lexa’s mouth curves. “Point taken.”
In truth, the increased sensitivity to light is already starting to affect her, eyes growing hot and gritty, a dull headache pulsating in both temples. Yet she tarries.
“So… you’ll contact me?”
“Yes, during my break. Now go, before you turn into a pile of ash on my kitchen floor.”
She’s waiting outside, leaning a shoulder against the wall, feet crossed at the ankles, when the automatic doors part and Clarke exits the hospital.
Glancing up from her phone, Clarke’s step falters the moment her gaze lands on Lexa. Drinking in her appearance in a slow, up-down once-over. Eyes flashing dark with lust as they trail over the black jeans and battered leather jacket ensemble. Clarke’s jaw goes slack as she stares, lingering on the deep v neckline of Lexa’s t-shirt, the angles of her collarbones and the slope of her throat.
Lexa knows this is a winning look, but to see and hear the effect it has—the way Clarke blinks and digs her teeth into her bottom lip, how her heartbeat kicks up a gear—is an undeniable ego boost.
Lexa can’t refrain from smiling as she pushes off from the wall and saunters up to Clarke, a little swagger in her step.
“Hi,” Clarke breathes out. She tucks a lock of hair behind her ear, a few strands escaped from the loose side braid she wears. Then her brow furrows. “I thought you were coming over at nine?”
It’s only an hour past sundown, and Lexa has never been so grateful for the shorter days of Fall.
“I couldn’t wait.” She looks at Clarke from beneath her lashes. “Too eager?”
Clarke shakes her head, no. A tiny grin pulls at her mouth and she takes a step closer, the front of her jacket brushing against Lexa’s. The subtle floral notes of Clarke’s perfume clouds Lexa’s senses and she feels dizzy with it. She is spellbound, entirely captivated by the scent and warm proximity of Clarke’s body, the sparkle in those blue eyes.
“I just wanted to make an effort, that’s all. Shower. Curl my hair. Do my makeup.” Clarke’s voice lowers and she wiggles her eyebrows for exaggerated effect. “Put on a nice dress you can enjoy taking off.”
Lexa lets out a laugh and Clarke’s whole face lights up at the sound. Her hands find their way to Lexa’s waist and, encouraged by this, Lexa brings her own up to rest on Clarke’s shoulders.
“You could be covered head to toe in dirt or wearing a burlap sack and you’d still be the most desirable woman I’ve ever seen.”
“You’re already getting lucky, Lex. You don’t have to charm your way into my pants.”
The nickname makes Lexa’s stomach do a little flip.
Her hand slides to Clarke’s neck. Thumb stroking the edge of her jaw as Lexa’s eyes sweep over Clarke’s face, absorbing every detail. Relishing the quiet hitch of Clarke’s breath, the slow bat of her lashes, how her grip on Lexa’s waist tightens by a fraction.
“In the past, armies waged wars over women less beautiful than you, Clarke.”
A scoff. “I’m hardly Helen of Troy.”
“No? I would tear down mountains for you.”
Clarke stares, long enough for Lexa to suspect that she said too much, with too much intensity.
(“Too dramatic by half” in Anya’s withering assessment.)
She’s about to backtrack gracefully when Clarke pounces, grabs her by the cheeks and lays a fierce kiss on her.
Lexa scarcely has time to react, to return the kiss before Clarke exhales roughly against her parted lips. “God, you can’t just say things like that and expect me not to…”
Clarke presses in again. The next kiss is softer, sweeter, but no less exhilarating. It leaves Lexa thrumming with desire and an urgent need to take this somewhere private, conscious of the heat of Clarke’s palms soaking through the thin vintage cotton of her shirt. But she reins herself in, pulling away with a gentle nudge of her nose against Clarke’s.
“Do you want to—”
The instant the door closes behind them, Clarke backs Lexa into the living room. Hands in her hair, attacking her mouth relentlessly. Always moving forward; always in pursuit. Even when they separate briefly for Clarke to gulp in some air, in the next shuddering breath she fuses their lips together again.
Lexa happily cedes control, thrilled by Clarke’s lack of restraint, the unapologetic aggression as they shove off their outer layers of clothing. She allows Clarke to push her onto the couch and climb on top, Clarke only breaking the kiss to pull off her scrub shirt and toss it away.
That first glimpse of Clarke’s uncovered torso, the ample swells of her breasts contained by white satin and lace, would surely stop Lexa’s heart dead if it wasn’t already a shrivelled husk.
She can’t help it:
Her fangs drop.
At her advanced age she should have better self-control, too long in the tooth (pun intended) to get a ‘fang boner’, this hair-trigger response to the provocative display of so much bare skin. But Clarke makes her feel like an over-sensitive fledgling again and Lexa would deserve every bit of Anya’s ridicule if her maker was around to see this.
Clarke freezes halfway to Lexa’s lips, eyebrows raised, her gaze trained on sharp teeth.
“Sorry, they’ll go away in a minute.”
Lexa quickly screws her eyes shut and forces herself to think about something other than the perfect shape of Clarke’s breasts. A cloudless day. Blue skies. The hot yellow ball of the sun beating down. Tanning. Maybe at the beach. But then her thoughts leap to Clarke in a swimsuit, glistening with lotion, and that really doesn’t help matters.
Anne Rice. Anne Rice. Anne Rice.
Abruptly, the canines retract and relief drains through Lexa.
When she opens her eyes, it’s to find Clarke smirking. “That happen to you a lot?”
“So I don’t need to be nervous about you going down on me then?”
There’s a slight slip but Lexa is able to stop it.
The smirk widens into an unrepentant grin. “I haven’t even taken off my bra yet and you’re a mess.” Seeing Lexa’s small pout, Clarke relents. “I like it. I like that you’re not so suave after all. It makes you more…”
Lexa nods in understanding, relaxing under Clarke’s softening gaze.
Clarke rubs Lexa’s hip, a gesture that’s both calming and stimulating at once. “How long has it been since you were with a woman?”
“Awhile,” Lexa admits. “I’m a little rusty, but I remember how everything works.”
“The last girl I dated was about two years ago, so I guess we can navigate this together.”
“Closer to two hundred for me.”
“What?” Clarke gapes in astonishment. “No way.”
“Mhm. Does it bother you that I’m an older woman?” Lexa asks, bracing against possible rejection with a twinkle of irony.
“Are you kidding? I’ve always wanted a cougar to seduce me.”
“Well,” Lexa glances down at herself sprawled over the couch, then at Clarke kneeling astride her thighs, “I think you’re the seductress in this scenario.”
“Huh, I am.” Clarke looks eminently pleased with herself. “I should get back on that.” Without further ado, she reaches behind to unhook her bra. She sends an impish smirk in Lexa’s direction. “Now, where were we?”
Lexa’s lips part soundlessly.
Her eyes fall to the crowning glory of Clarke’s nipples as Clarke peels the satin cups away and drops her bra over the side of the couch. The rosy tips stand puckered and erect, begging for attention. And Lexa is quick to oblige, filling her palms with the full, heavy weight of Clarke’s breasts, marvelling at the softness, how Clarke pushes into her hands without hesitation or self-consciousness, vocal in her appreciation when Lexa kneads the warm flesh in her grasp.
That low, throaty groan slices through Lexa. Is all the invitation she needs to crane her neck forward to lick around a pebbled areola, to wrap her lips around the hardened nub and suck it into her mouth.
It draws another noise from Clarke, her hips jumping, shunting forward as she leans over Lexa.
Lexa turns to the other breast, dragging her open mouth over soft, plump skin. She brushes her lips over the stiff point of Clarke’s nipple, drops a light kiss on the very tip. In no hurry, she spends a long while tasting, touching, adoring until every inch of Clarke’s chest is flushed pink and covered in goosebumps. Until there are fingers threaded into Lexa’s hair and she becomes aware of the restless motion of Clarke’s lower body, hips rocking into her own with purpose, seeking friction.
Lexa’s hands drift, sliding over ribs and sensitive sides down to a trim waist. She pauses above the edge of the drawstring scrub pants. Feels Clarke tense in anticipation, hears the anticipatory breath she pulls in, only to let out a sharp huff through her nostrils a second later when Lexa retreats. Lexa moves back up to fit her palms around Clarke’s breasts, to skim her nose along the column of Clarke’s neck.
“You smell incredible,” Lexa says, nuzzling the fragrant spot beneath Clarke’s ear. The combination of perfume, shampoo and Clarke’s natural scent is a heady mix and Lexa can’t get enough of it. “Is that—?”
“Lexa,” Clarke says, frustration bleeding into her tone.
It makes Lexa smile against her neck.
Taking charge once more, Clarke uses her grip on Lexa’s hair to guide their mouths back together. They meet in a crush of lips, the kiss deepening on an uneven exhale, and Clarke doesn’t wait to slip her tongue inside.
A hard jolt passes through Lexa, something electric racing up from her groin when Clarke licks at the back of her teeth. With a soft growl, Lexa pushes upright and savours the small, excited moan that leaks from the seal of their mouths as she abandons Clarke’s breasts to tug her closer by the hips, to urge Clarke to move against her, despite the barrier of clothing between them.
The kisses turn wetter, messier as Clarke’s arousal builds, as she rubs up on Lexa. The musky waft of sex reaches Lexa in waves and she feels drugged on it, on the heavy heat of Clarke’s tongue every time it invades her mouth. Clarke uses that tongue like a weapon and Lexa surrenders over and over again to its skilled strokes.
Before long, the urgent rocking of Clarke’s hips falters. She bucks once, twice, then stiffens so suddenly it catches them both unprepared. Gasping into Lexa’s mouth. Nails digging into her shoulders and scraping against her scalp. And Lexa watches it all unfold through half-lidded eyes; enraptured; coaxing a string of breathless, halting kisses from Clarke while she trembles in the aftermath, encircled in Lexa’s arms.
The rush of pride and triumph and exhilaration Lexa feels is incomparable to anything else, and she’s seized by an overwhelming, all-encompassing desire to make Clarke come again. Lexa has known true power, wielded it for the best part of four centuries, but she has never wanted to bow down and exalt another as she does Clarke; she would fall to her knees just for the chance to bring Clarke to the brink once more.
But Lexa holds her passion in check. Is gentle as she claims Clarke’s lips, as she runs her hands up and down the planes of Clarke’s back. Not to arouse, but to feel; to indulge herself in the wonder of Clarke’s body, burning up and a bit damp with perspiration from the exertion.
After awhile, the kisses slow to soft pecks dotted across Clarke’s mouth. She sighs and hugs Lexa around the neck, and Lexa feels the tug of some large, expansive emotion within her chest. When they separate an inch, Clarke must see a glimmer of it on Lexa’s face because her blue eyes widen a fraction.
Then Clarke’s gaze drops to Lexa’s lips and a gravelly, wanting sound escapes before she nudges into another kiss. This one is all heat and hunger and Clarke’s hands find the hem of Lexa’s shirt, yanking it up until they’re forced to break apart. Lexa’s bra follows quickly and Clarke dives back in, leading with her tongue.
The first touch of their bare breasts, the skim of hard nipples is almost too much all at once. The astounding warmth and softness. The way Clarke pushes even closer, like she can’t abide even a millimetre of space between them.
While they kiss, Clarke works on Lexa’s belt buckle and the zipper of her jeans, sliding a palm inside the open fly, into her underwear. The desperate, husky groan that Clarke lets out when she finds Lexa soaking wet rattles through her, makes her wetter still.
They remain liplocked even as Clarke withdraws her hand to shove ineffectually at the tight denim slung low on Lexa’s hips.
“A little help here?” Clarke says with a breathless half-chuckle against Lexa’s mouth. She leans back, yanks on the belt loops meaningfully. “Don’t get me wrong, I am all for this aesthetic, but you know they issue health warnings about pants that are too tight?”
“My health ceased to be a concern a long time ago, Clarke.”
After a bit of wriggling and some minor grumbling from Clarke about “stupidly hot vampires”, they finally get Lexa’s jeans and boots off, shedding her shirt and underwear too, leaving her bare. She lies back, watching Clarke watch her. Eyes burning as they track over Lexa’s breasts, trailing down her torso and lower, resting there for a few seconds before Clarke looks up. Pupils blown wide. Jaw hanging slack.
Lexa is entirely unfazed by her own nudity, having cast off the shackles of shyness and modesty within days of her resurrection, but under Clarke’s dark, voracious gaze, she feels a peculiar vulnerability and the visceral need to have Clarke’s body on her again, skin to skin.
“God…” Clarke breathes out. “You really are ghostly pale all over. Remind me never to put white sheets on my bed, you’d disappear into the mattress.” Noticing Lexa’s slightly offended frown, Clarke drawls, “Oh, please. You’re a gorgeous immortal being, so you can stop pouting.”
“I do not pout. I smoulder.”
“Keep telling yourself that.”
At the quiet huff she receives, Clarke laughs. “You’re also very cute.”
“If you’re going to continue to insult me…”
Lexa moves to sit up but Clarke pushes her back with one finger, a firm prod to the sternum.
A faint half-grin remains on Clarke’s lips. “You have this whole enigmatic, self-assured, smooth-talking facade, but underneath it all you’re just, so gay.”
Lexa opens her mouth to refute the accusation, but then Clarke drags that finger down between her breasts to the navel, and she can’t control the shudder it evokes. How she arches her spine, moving towards Clarke’s touch.
It’s as though Clarke has tapped into a deep reservoir of repressed longing and there’s no way to hold back the deluge now that the floodgates are open, the levees broken. Which is all just a euphemistic way to say that Clarke has barely touched her and Lexa is already wet enough to feel herself drip.
So it’s a source of mild consternation when Clarke’s fingers take a detour, sweeping over the site of Lexa’s injury, the patch of skin as perfectly pale and unblemished as it was prior to the attack yesterday.
“Amazing. Not even a scar.”
Lexa’s impatient shiver doesn’t escape Clarke’s attention.
“Two centuries without sex, huh?” she says, her voice dropping into a lower register. “You must be about ready to pop.”
She twists her wrist around and runs her hand lower, threading into the hair between Lexa’s legs. A bolt of pure need surges through her when Clarke’s middle finger brushes past her swollen clit, dipping into the wetness.
Then Clarke halts, a contemplative look on her face, and Lexa wants to groan. Because forget wooden stakes or silver bullets or decapitation, this is what’s finally going to end her.
“I’ve always wondered, though, how vampires are able to bone when you don’t have a pulse, ergo no flow of blood to—”
“Clarke.” She tempers her exasperation. “I’d be more than happy to discuss the finer points of our physiology with you. Later.”
“It’s arcane magic. Probably an ancient curse. That’s all I know. Now, please, could you…?” Lexa juts her chin towards Clarke’s immobile hand.
Wearing a knowing smirk, Clarke rubs in and Lexa is unable to bite back a quiet whimper, or the soft gasp as a thumb makes a slow, firm circuit around her clit.
And when Clarke presses her fingers inside at last, Lexa can’t stop the shaky moan that trips from her open mouth.
Not since the eve of her transformation has Lexa been so attuned to her own body, but this is a wholly different kind of death throe.
Every touch, every sensation feels amplified.
She’s aware of the slightest twitch of muscle and tendon; the nerves that buzz and fizz under her skin, electrified. She feels herself pulse around Clarke’s fingers while Clarke drives into her, picking up pace as Lexa rolls her hips in syncopation.
So when Clarke adds another finger, puts the weight of her pelvis behind each thrust, draws fast, tight circles with the pad of her thumb, Lexa’s dismantlement is swift and assured.
She cries out as she arches, a choked utterance of Clarke’s name that Clarke swoops down to smother with her lips. Kissing Lexa soundly. Fingertips curling with purpose. The constant pressure of Clarke’s thumb. Lexa shakes and shudders apart, a desperate, keening noise torn from her throat when she shatters for a second time.
And still Clarke continues to press in deep. Gentler now. Lazy pumps of her wrist that draw out the last fluttering tremors. Even after she slips out, Clarke continues to stroke through Lexa, swirling her fingers in the slick pool at Lexa’s entrance. Now and then letting the tip of one finger dip inside. Grinning like a fiend into the kiss when Lexa squirms and cants her hips up sharply, shamelessly, chasing the retreat.
But the merciless teasing soon becomes too much for Lexa to bear.
She flips them over, bearing down on Clarke. Seizes both of Clarke’s wrists and pins them above her head. Lexa takes deep satisfaction in Clarke’s lust-struck expression, those dark, hungry eyes that devour. Without a word, she bends to lick a broad stripe up the middle of Clarke’s throat and the sound Clarke makes, a low, ragged moan, vibrates through Lexa’s mouth and into her chest.
It’s her cue to release one wrist, to slide a hand between their bodies and into Clarke’s scrub pants, pushing below the waistband of Clarke’s underwear and into slippery heat.
Clarke curses, jolts as Lexa’s fingers run through her. In the twenty or so hours since Lexa fed, her temperature has begun to cool as the effect of the blood wears off. The extremities are the first to lose the residual heat, hands and feet gone tepid, but before long her whole body will return to its usual icy state.
Therefore, much as Lexa might want to draw this out and make Clarke plead for her touch, time is of the essence.
Together they hurry to strip Clarke of her remaining clothes. As soon as she’s naked, she pulls Lexa back on top, tugs her into a kiss that quickly turns dirty. Warm breath skitters across Lexa’s lips then Clarke’s hands wind into her hair, clutching her scalp and directing the slant of their open mouths.
Clarke dips her tongue in, a second later sweeping more fully inside, and she groans, fists her hands into Lexa’s hair when fingers sink between her legs once more.
She’s drenched now.
Swollen and open.
Lexa glides in and they both shudder at the sensation, the hot, wet pulse of Clarke around Lexa’s fingers as she pushes deeper, reaches further. Warmer than anything Lexa has ever felt and she never wants to leave this sanctuary.
There’s a languid, slow-building intensity to the way they kiss once Lexa starts to move in earnest. She fucks Clarke with smooth, long, measured strokes. Keeps that same, steady momentum going even when the rolling motion of Clarke’s hips becomes jerky and erratic and the kisses grow sloppier, losing form and precision.
And when Lexa drags a thumb over Clarke’s clit, Clarke pulls in a sharp, shaky breath. Exhales it roughly through her nose. She clamps down on Lexa’s fingers, squeezing tight. Grinds and rocks up in determined, unabashed pursuit of friction as she twists her hands in Lexa’s hair and pants into her mouth.
Lexa firms her touch, alternating between tracing figure eights and rubbing around and around, until she feels that telltale clench and release, the quake that starts small and rapidly builds in magnitude.
For one perfect, exquisite moment, Clarke’s muscles lock up.
Her heart skips.
Then the pressure breaks in a gush, bathing Lexa’s palm.
She doesn’t stop kissing Clarke throughout, greedily swallowing every sigh and whimper and groan as her fingers keep working inside. Miniature movements that make Clarke twitch and writhe. Until at last, Clarke plucks Lexa’s hand away, adjusting her hold so that their fingers slide together, intertwined.
Something about the small, understated tenderness of the gesture causes an ache, a pang of longing, and Lexa recaptures Clarke’s lips with gentle force.
For a long while afterwards they lie on the couch facing one another. Huddled together in the limited space. Basking in the afterglow. Clarke playing with a lock of Lexa’s hair, wrapping the loose curl around her finger and letting it unravel.
“Does your hair still grow?” Clarke asks in a hushed voice, like she’s fearful of dispelling the peace and tranquility by talking too loudly.
“So if you cut it short it would just stay that way, permanently?”
A nod. “Anyone who got turned in the 1980s has my deepest sympathies. Imagine being stuck with a bubble perm for all eternity.”
“Or a mullet.”
“An asymmetrical bob.”
Clarke’s lips stretch into a smile. “I think you’d have the attitude and bone structure to carry it off.”
“I think you give me too much credit.”
Blue eyes rove over Lexa’s face. “Well, disastrous hairstyle or not, you’ll be forever young and beautiful,” Clarke says, almost wistfully. She touches Lexa’s cheek, the slope of her jaw, mapping smooth skin that’s devoid of any lines or wrinkles. “I’m almost thirty and you don’t look a day over twenty-one.”
“Actually, I was twenty summers old when I was given the dark gift.”
Clarke shoots her an unimpressed look.
“Not helping, Lexa.” Then she scoffs. “God, my asshole friends are going to roast me royally for dating someone who looks like she’s still in fucking college.”
Lexa wraps her arm a little tighter around Clarke’s waist, gathers her a little closer. Is unable to contain a slight grin, too endeared by Clarke’s bout of faux grumpiness.
“Well, we both know that I’m the cradle snatcher here by some considerable margin.”
She chooses not to remark on the dating part or the potential introduction to friends, an implied future together. Because, in reality, none of those things will be without their inherent difficulties, and Lexa wants to cling to this feeling of warm, untroubled contentment for as long as possible.
But her words seem to have done enough to placate Clarke. She wriggles closer. They’re nearly nose to nose now, and Lexa, perennial stargazer, is convinced she can see entire constellations, vast uncharted galaxies in the deep dark of Clarke’s pupils.
It strikes Lexa that Clarke could be her Polaris; her compass and guide in navigating a world that advances too fast.
Clarke hums, gently running the back of her knuckles over Lexa’s cheekbone. Gaze soft, eyes bright and glowing. “My wonder of the ancient world.”
Lexa looks at Clarke and wishes something for herself that she hasn’t dared to want or imagine in centuries. To be seen and known; to be loved.
“Luckily, I’m in better shape than the Great Pyramid is these days.”
Wearing a small smile again, Clarke bumps the tip of her nose against Lexa’s and it causes a burst of warmth in Lexa’s chest. That swooping, soaring feeling of joy that’s become a frequent occurrence since Clarke entered her life.
“Lucky for me, mhm.” Whispered, before Clarke brings their lips together.
The annual German Christmas market takes place from mid-November in the main public square in Polis. Towering fir trees are decked with twinkling lights, oversized candy canes, bows and mirrored baubles, and a dusting of light snow clings to their needles. On a raised platform in the centre, a brass band performs a mix of traditional carols and modern festive staples, while faux Alpine log cabin catering stalls serve up schnitzel, bratwurst, apple strudel, mulled wine and frothy beer to the cheerful crowds milling around. The whiff of fried onions and sizzling meat is pervasive, carried by the breeze, and Lexa wrinkles her nose as she allows Clarke to tug her by the hand towards a stall selling wooden tree ornaments and other rustic gifts.
Browsing the wares, Clarke gasps delightedly when she spots a selection of hand-painted raccoons depicted wearing Santa hats. “Look, Lex! How cute are these?”
Lexa casts an imperious eye over them.
“They’re vermin, Clarke. I ask, would anyone hang a rat on a tree? No, because they’re carriers of disease.”
And as an eyewitness of the Black Death, she knows what she’s talking about from firsthand experience.
“If it was Remy from Ratatouille, they might.”
She looks askance. Frowns. “What does French cuisine have to do with it?”
Clarke gasps again, but this time from exaggerated shock. “You haven’t seen Ratatouille?”
Off Lexa’s enduring blank expression, Clarke throws up her hands.
“Seriously? Oh my God. I don’t care if you’re older than the hills, everyone should watch this animated Disney classic at least once.”
“Ah, I see. A cartoon. Banal entertainment for infants.”
Now Clarke appears affronted.
Privately, Lexa thinks her girlfriend’s reaction is disproportionate to the supposed crime of not being fully au fait with lowbrow popular culture references, but she keeps that opinion to herself.
Clarke sucks in a sharp breath and draws her shoulders up, as though she’s readying for a brawl. “Banal? It won an Oscar.”
They both turn their heads to look at the source of the interruption:
A man standing a few feet away, a half-smile on his face. His floppy hair falls into his eyes and Lexa supposes some might consider his general appearance to be boyishly handsome, despite the hint of crows feet that places him roughly in his mid-thirties. But there’s something about his demeanour, an air of easy arrogance in the way he holds himself, in the tilt of his mouth, that irks Lexa immediately.
Clarke blinks once.
Cordial enough on the surface but Lexa knows Clarke well enough to detect the way she bristles slightly, how her frame tenses.
It raises Lexa’s hackles too. Instinctively, territorially, she steps closer to Clarke.
Oblivious, the man doesn’t take the hint.
“You look…” His eyes glide appreciatively over Clarke’s form while he nods. “Wow. It’s crazy to run into you like this. It’s been, what, eight months?”
“Yeah, I guess.”
“How have you been?”
Clarke clears her throat. “Great. Never better, actually.”
She looks at Lexa and Lexa sees the wave of irritation and discomfort that flickers over Clarke’s features. And it only further sours Lexa’s assessment of this man that his presence here is causing Clarke such distress.
“Um. This is my girlfriend, Lexa. Lexa, this is—”
“Finn Collins. We dated for a year.” He laughs. “And I regret that I let her get away.”
Lexa barely holds back her contempt.
“I’m kidding.” He isn’t, she can tell. “Pleasure to meet you, Alexa.”
By his bland, unwavering smile, it isn’t clear whether he purposely got her name wrong, but Lexa puts another black mark against him in her mental ledger regardless.
He offers his hand.
She stares for a beat, then takes off one glove.
“Likewise, Flynn,” she murmurs and closes her fingers around his. A long, frozen handshake, stopping just short of crushing bones.
He winces, but tries to hide it with a forced chuckle. Flexes his hand several times once they let go. Brows knitting into a quizzical frown when he remarks, “It’s Finn. Strong grip you have there.”
She only bares her teeth in a vicious, predatory smile, and his frown deepens. A combination of distrust, confusion and unease flashes in his eyes as he edges away from her, the colour draining from his face. And Lexa isn’t above taking petty satisfaction in it.
“Well, uh,” he jerks a thumb behind him, “I’m here with some friends. I’d better go before they send out a search party, thinking I got abducted or something.”
“Perish the thought,” Lexa says, deadpan, and Finn gives her another strange, nervous look.
His eyes swivel towards Clarke.
“But, hey, it was really good to see you again. Maybe we could catch up soon? Over coffee or a beer? I’ll text you.”
Clarke seems to gather herself. “No.”
He looks surprised to be rebuffed so swiftly and brutally.
Behind them, the stall holder, who previously appeared bored out of her mind, perks up like this is the most interesting thing to happen all day. Which, in all likelihood, it is.
Clarke lifts her chin, beautifully defiant.
“No, Finn. I didn’t want to hear from you when I found out you were two-timing me with that OB-GYN intern, and I definitely don’t want to hear from you now she’s dumped your cheating ass too. So, please, just delete my number.”
He blusters. “Clarke, c’mon—“
“Perhaps the toxic fumes from all that hair product has gone to your head,” Lexa intercedes, “but which part of ‘no’ was unclear, you utter buffoon?”
His face contorts in anger, but he says nothing. Silently fuming, he turns, running a hand roughly through his hair, and stomps away. His heavy footfalls form a pleasing counterpoint to the brass band’s relentlessly jaunty rendition of ‘All I Want For Christmas Is You.’
(Though Lexa distinctly hears him mutter “psycho bitch” under his breath as he merges into the crowd, and for a brief moment she wonders if Clarke would be upset with her if she zipped over there and snapped his treacherous neck for the insult.)
“I can’t believe I wasted an entire year of my life on him,” Clarke says, pulling a grimace.
Lexa, meanwhile, is still thunderstruck by one particular revelation that arose from the exchange.
“What kind of idiot would be unfaithful to you?”
She can’t fathom it.
“I really think we’d be doing the world a service if you let me make him disappear. I could do it discreetly. Make it look like an accident. Of course, if you’d like him to meet a more gruesome end, I can arrange that too. A pack of lycanthropes in the South Side owe me a favour…”
Clarke puts a stalling hand on Lexa’s forearm. “Babe, much as I love it when you go all drama queen of the damned, that slimeball isn’t worth the trouble.” A thought occurs to Clarke and she snorts. “His face when you nearly broke his hand, though. He went paler than you!”
Lexa allows herself a devious smirk.
Biting her lip, Clarke sidles a little closer and takes hold of the ends of Lexa’s scarf, tugging her that last inch so that their hips bump together. More reflex than conscious action, Lexa slides her arms around Clarke’s waist, linking her hands at the small of Clarke’s back.
“If you take requests, I have a couple of other annoying exes you could scare the shit out of,” Clarke says with an arch of one eyebrow. Voice pitched low and husky when she adds, “Is it bad that watching you intimidate people kind of turns me on?”
Her gaze is focused on Lexa’s mouth, and Lexa can’t pry her own eyes away from the curve of Clarke’s lips, slightly chapped from the cold as they are.
“How excited are you?”
“Enough that I’d suffer Raven and Octavia’s collective hissyfit on the group chat for flaking on our brunch plans tomorrow, because you kept me up all night.”
“Then I should make sure it’s worth their rancour.”
They share a long look, one that’s loaded with flirty promise. Snow has begun to fall again and tiny flakes land on Clarke’s lashes and pinked cheeks before they melt.
“Well, if you need an extra incentive,” Clarke whispers, “there’s a bag of O Neg chilling in the fridge at my place. I’ll even add a sprinkling of that cinnamon, clove and nutmeg spice mix you like…”
It’s impossible for Lexa not to kiss Clarke then.
She keeps it short but heartfelt, because Clarke is already shivering despite being bundled up against the cold like an Arctic explorer. Adorably resplendent in a pom pom hat, a scarf wound several times around her neck, and a thick puffer jacket that reaches past her knees.
Clarke’s teeth chatter slightly as they separate, but her gaze is warm and steady.
“Not that I’m complaining, but what was that for?”
“Because I’m grateful. For you. That you carved a space for me in your life.” Lexa’s mouth twitches in remembrance. “That you didn’t call the police and have me incarcerated that night.”
“It was touch and go for a minute.”
Smiling, Lexa lifts a gloved hand to cup Clarke’s cheek. “I know it isn’t easy to be with… someone like me. But you persevered. Made adjustments; allowances; sacrifices.”
“You’re wrong, Lex.”
Clarke leans in, halting just a hair’s breadth away from waiting lips. Her eyes are lidded, so close Lexa almost feels the gentle fan of lashes against her skin.
“Loving you is the easiest thing I’ve ever done.”