It was fifteen minutes before closing and Clarke was straightening the soap displays when the door to the shop opened. She silently cursed customers who came in when she was the only one working before putting on her customer service smile and turning around.
She wasn’t surprised to find that the customer was the professional young woman she not-so-affectionately referred to as Candle Girl. It wasn’t like the shop didn’t have other regulars, but mostly it was middle aged housewives who came in for the handmade soaps. Candle Girl came in at least once a week and only ever bought candles, which was just bizarre in Clarke’s opinion. Yeah sure it was an artisanal candle shop, but no one needed that many candles.
As usual, she spent way too long browsing, which, if Clarke were being reasonable, wasn’t actually all that long, but it was late and she just wanted to close up and go home. Eventually she picked out one of the large lavender scented candles, a medium unscented one, and a package of votives, paid, and left, all without saying a word.
That was the other strange thing about her: she never made small talk, never asked for help, never reciprocated Clarke’s customer service friendliness other than what was necessary to complete the transaction. It had gotten to the point where if no one else was in the store Clarke didn’t even bother with the pleasantries anymore, which seemed to suit Candle Girl just fine.
Clarke was unreasonably annoyed by the whole encounter, such as it was. Candle Girl bought at least two medium or large candles a week, and often supplemented that with votives or tea lights. Who in their right mind needed that many candles? Clarke had worked it out once and even if she was burning them literally 24/7 they would last well over a week. So either she was some sort of crazy candle hoarder or she didn’t believe in electricity. Either way it was weird.
All Clarke wanted to do when she got home that night was shower, so she didn’t smell like that damn vanilla spice candle Jasper had left burning all day at the register, have a drink, and go to bed, but Octavia practically assaulting her when she walked through the door meant that wasn’t to be.
“Guess what?” Octavia asked, bouncing up and down in excitement.
“What?” Clarke set her bag down and checked the fridge to see if she had any beer. She didn’t think she did, but it didn’t hurt to check. She should probably be more excited about whatever Octavia’s news was, but she was tired and definitely didn’t have any beer.
“Guess,” Octavia repeated, picking up on Clarke’s obvious lack of interest.
“Really?” She looked at Raven for help as their other roommate joined them in the kitchen.
“Hey, don’t look at me,” Raven said with amusement, hoisting herself onto the counter.
“Yeah, just guess already,” Octavia practically whined, obviously wanting to tell Clarke her news but too stubborn to give in.
Clarke cast around for something of significance but she couldn’t remember Octavia having anything important coming up other than moving in with Lincoln, which she already knew about. Some friend she was.
“Did Lincoln finally agree to a three way with your hot coworker…what’s her name…Anya?” If Octavia was going to play this game Clarke was going to give as good as she got.
Raven laughed as Octavia made a face.
“Really? Anyways, I got the job! You’re looking at the University’s new Assistant Athletic Director for Training and Nutrition!”
“That’s so exciting!” Clarke pulled Octavia into a celebratory hug. She did remember now that Octavia had told her about a job interview last week. “We should go out and celebrate, now that you have a real job with a salary and everything you’re pretty much a real adult and that deserves at least several drinks.”
“I can’t tonight,” Octavia said, looking slightly guilty. “I was just waiting for you to get home to tell you and then I’m going to Lincoln’s so we can go apartment hunting tomorrow. But maybe tomorrow night?”
“Apartment hunting? Is that what they’re calling it these days?” Clarke teased. Octavia rolled her eyes. “Of course we can do it tomorrow, O. Go have sex with your boyfriend.”
“You should call Anya and see if she wants to join,” Raven said while Octavia gathered her stuff to leave. “Nothing says I got my dream job like a three way with your hot coworker. Sorry, former coworker.”
“How many times do I have to tell you two that I do not want to have a three way with Anya?” Octavia asked, feigning exasperation. “And besides, she’s not even that hot.”
“She’s so hot!” Raven yelled after her as she left.
“How can she have such good taste but be so wrong about this?” Raven asked once Octavia had gone.
“She’s a mystery.” Clarke double checked the fridge for beer that she knew wasn’t there.
Raven followed her to the living room and took the other side of the couch when Clarke sat down, all thoughts of a shower and bed forgotten.
“So something is obviously bothering you,” Raven said. She hated how well Raven knew her. She just wanted to feel bad for herself in peace.
“It’s nothing.” Even she saw through her obvious deflection, but she had to try.
“It’s not nothing, so spill.” Why did Raven always have to see right through her? It was annoying.
She considered continued avoidance, but Raven was offering her an opportunity to actually talk about it so she might as well. They’d been friends for too long, and been through too much, for Clarke to ignore her offer of a friendly ear.
“It’s just that now that Octavia has a real job, I’m the only one left without one. I should just be happy for her, but it’s times like these that make me wish I hadn’t left med school.”
“No you don’t. You were miserable in med school. I was there, remember?” She was right. Clarke had hated med school, and leaving had been the right thing to do, but that didn’t making selling candles to hipsters any better.
Clarke sighed, frustration bubbling to the surface. “I just hate working at a candle store. I feel like you guys are all becoming real adults and leaving me behind.”
“You don’t just work in a candle store, you manage a candle store, so that’s something,” Raven joked. She wasn’t wrong. It wasn’t the worst job ever, and Clarke felt bad for hating it as much as she did.
“Easy for you to say, you’re an actual rocket scientist.”
“Rocket engineer thank you very much. I’m so much cooler than those science dweebs.” Clarke laughed at that. Raven was an asshole but she did always manage to make her feel better. “And besides, you’re not going to sell candles to hipsters forever. You’re gonna be a badass artist soon enough.”
“Why do you have to make me feel better? Why can’t you just let me feel bad for myself in peace?” Clarke threw a pillow at her, feigning petulance. She didn’t deserve such good friends.
Raven laughed as she swatted the pillow away. “Because you look so pathetic when you mope. You know what your real problem is, Griffin? You need to get laid.”
Clarke rubbed her hands over her face and groaned. “I really really do. Any suggestions? Because it’s not like I’m meeting any eligible candidates at work.”
“Really? I assumed that people who shop at an artisanal candle store are all cute hipster boys and lesbians.”
“I wish. It’s mostly middle aged moms.”
Raven raised an eyebrow and smirked. “Well, you know, middle aged moms aren’t all bad.”
“If you say that my mom can get it one more time Reyes, we’re no longer friends.” Clarke grabbed the other pillow from the couch and smacked her with it.
“Okay okay, quit it,” Raven laughed. “What about that girl that you complain about all the time?”
“Candle Girl? God no.” Clarke made a face. “She’s hot, but like, she’s been coming in every week for a year and she’s literally never said more than two words to me. She doesn’t even smile. And who needs that many candles? She’s gotta be a total weirdo.”
Raven rolled her eyes. “You’re not weirdly obsessed with her at all. And think of the mood lighting from all those candles.”
“More like a giant fire hazard. And I’m not obsessed with her. I’m just not mentally stimulated at work, and hating her is a distraction from how bored I am.” She could hear how defensive she was being, and from the skeptical look Raven was giving her it wasn’t lost on her either.
“So she stimulates you?” Raven’s smirk had turned into a shit eating grin.
“Shut up, that’s not what I meant and you know it.” Clarke felt her ears burning. She wasn’t into Candle Girl. No matter how hot she was in her tailored business attire. She was annoying and rude and Raven could eat shit for suggesting otherwise.
“Whatever you say,” Raven laughed, obviously not believing her.
“I’m glad you’ve come around,” Clarke said, feeling somewhat better about things. “Now we just have figure out what we’re going to do about the rent now that Octavia and Lincoln are moving in together.”
“Ugh, don’t remind me.” Raven pushed herself up from the couch. “That’s a problem for future us. I’m going to go to bed and think about more pleasant things, like complex engineering problems.”
Clarke lay awake for a long time that night, thinking about what Raven had said. She didn’t like Candle Girl, but maybe she was a little bit obsessed with her. It wasn’t like it meant anything. She was just frustrated and bored and it was a distraction from brooding about how all her friends were leaving her behind. That was all it was. And it wasn’t like she was ever going to see her outside of work so it didn’t matter anyways.
Between work, trying to find time to work on her art projects, and helping Octavia get ready to move the next month practically flew by. Before she knew it, Octavia was officially moved out of the apartment they had shared with Raven since college. It was bittersweet for Clarke, but Octavia was so happy about her job and moving in with Lincoln it was impossible to feel too bad about it.
Looking forward to getting embarrassingly drunk at their housewarming party the next night was the only thing keeping her going at work that day. It was a dead Friday afternoon and she had let Jasper and Harper take off early because it didn’t make sense to have three of them working, but now she was bored and lonely.
The only customer who had come in all afternoon was Candle Girl, who was currently browsing the new scents much to Clarke’s annoyance. It was an unseasonably warm spring day, and Candle Girl had taken off her coat, showing off her extremely well fitting blouse and vest, which was really just adding insult to injury. Raven was right, Clarke did need to get laid.
Suddenly, Candle Girl turned and came over the register, empty handed. The strangeness of that snapped Clarke out of her reverie, but she was even more surprised when Candle Girl actually spoke to her.
“I need your assistance.” Clarke was taken aback by the directness of the statement. She felt her hackles rise at the tone, which wasn’t even pretending to be polite.
“Really?” She knew she wasn’t being professional, but what was Candle Girl going to do? Ask to see her manager? She was the manager.
Candle Girl just looked at her impassively, not even blinking. “That is your job, is it not?”
“How can I help you?” Clarke asked, putting on her least genuine customer service smile.
“I need advice for selecting a candle.”
“I would think that you know the selection better than I do at this point,” Clarke deadpanned back. She knew that snark probably wasn’t the best way to handle the situation but she was annoyed by the whole thing.
“It isn’t for me,” Candle Girl continued as if Clarke was being completely reasonable. Either she didn’t pick up on her snark or she had the best poker face ever. “A friend of mine is moving in with his girlfriend and I want to get them a housewarming gift, but I don’t know what variety best communicates that I value our friendship but I don’t like his girlfriend and I think that he is making a mistake.”
That wasn’t what Clarke had expected. “That’s a lot to say with a candle.”
“Now you understand why I need your assistance.”
Clarke couldn’t help herself. She really couldn’t. She knew she should just suggest something boring and inoffensive but the temptation to try to get one over one this unreasonably attractive girl who was being rude was just too much. She blamed Raven for being a bad influence.
“Maybe something from our Secret Admirers Collection would do the trick?” She gestured to a bright pink display left over from Valentine’s Day.
If she hadn’t been watching Candle Girl for a reaction she probably would have missed the way her eyes widened ever so slightly in panic and her ears turned pink. It was all she could do to keep from laughing.
“No, I don’t…not like that no,” she stammered. “We’re just friends, and while he is very attractive, I’m gay, and I had a girlfriend, she’s dead now, and, and…it’s definitely not like that.” It all came out in a rush and Clarke had to admit it was kind of cute, even if it was more information than she could ever want.
She wasn’t quite sure what to do with her odd excitement at the knowledge that Candle Girl was gay, but before she could even really think about it Candle Girl composed herself. “That’s not what I’m trying to convey.”
“The Rustic Home Collection make good housewarming gifts,” she suggested, pointing at another display of woodsy scented candles near the register.
“That sounds good.” Candle Girl grabbed one of them at random and practically ran out of the store once Clarke rang her up.
Clarke laughed for a good minute after she left. She couldn’t wait to tell her friends about this.
“You’ll never guess what happened at work today.” Raven scooted over to make room for her in the booth across from Lincoln and Octavia. They had a long standing tradition of Friday night drinks at their favorite bar, going back to college after Clarke turned 21 and Octavia got a convincing fake ID.
“You finally asked Candle Girl out?” Raven guessed as Octavia handed Clarke the beer they had already ordered for her.
“Candle Girl?” Lincoln asked.
“Just some girl that buys a lot of candles who Clarke has a giant crush on,” Octavia explained.
“I do not have a crush on her, and no, I didn’t ask her out,” Clarke shot back. “But she did talk to me, for the first time in a year of buying candles every week.”
“Oh my god, did she ask you out? I guess I owe you money O.” Raven acted hurt when Clarke hit her in the arm.
“I’m going to kill you two if you made one of your stupid bets about whether or not I’m going to ask out a random customer, who I don’t even like.” Raven snorted and Octavia looked at her skeptically, but they let her continue her story. “Anyways, she came in today and asked me to recommend a candle that would communicate to her friend that she doesn’t like his girlfriend. Who even does that? I would never give someone a candle, especially if I wanted to like, tell them something important.”
Lincoln gave her a long look before turning to Octavia. “Yeah, I definitely see it. She’s totally into this girl.”
“Hey, I am not,” Clarke protested over Octavia and Raven’s laughter.
“The lady doth protest too much,” he said sagely. She expected this from Octavia and Raven but getting it from Lincoln too was too much. She felt betrayed.
“You totally are, Clarke. That story isn’t nearly as exciting as you think it is.” Raven wasn’t helping, but then again, she rarely did.
“Shut up and drink your beer, Reyes,” she huffed, crossing her arms and glaring at her friends. It just made them laugh harder.
She was saved by Bellamy’s arrival.
“What did I miss?” he asked, pulling up a chair.
“Just Clarke being in denial about the girl she has a crush on,” Octavia explained. Clarke gave Bellamy a pleading look, because she needed someone to be on her side in this.
“Well I guess if she says she doesn’t we have no choice but to believe her.” She could tell Bellamy was being sarcastic but she would take what she could get. Once Octavia and Raven got going on something they would never stop.
“Thank you, that’s what I’ve been trying to say. Screw these guys, you’re my new best friend Bell.” She turned to face him, pointedly ignoring the sound of Raven snorting into her beer.
Thankfully they let it drop after that, and the discussion turned to preparations for the party the next day. Clarke hated her friends sometimes, and if they wouldn’t believe her she would just have to prove to them that she definitely wasn’t interested in Candle Girl.
She spent the most of the next afternoon helping set up for the party. By the time people started showing up she was already a more than a bit tipsy from Raven’s special punch. Well to be fair calling it punch was probably a bit of a misnomer seeing as it was 85% liquor and 15% fruit juice. Clarke knew that, had even watched Raven mix obscene amounts of vodka and white rum while cutting up the fruit for it, and yet it still always managed to sneak up on her.
The guests were a mix of Octavia’s and Lincoln’s friends, and so Clarke knew most of them by now. She watched Raven aggressively flirt with Anya for a while before wandering over to where Lincoln and Octavia were talking to Bellamy. She was nodding along to their discussion about the pros and cons of CrossFit when she saw her.
“Oh my god.” She said it louder than she meant to and the others turned to look at her. “That’s her. That’s Candle Girl. She’s here.”
Lincoln followed where she was looking, to where Candle Girl was standing across the room, talking to a large man covered in tattoos. “That’s my friend Lexa. We grew up together.”
“Oh my god,” Clarke repeated, feeling very drunk all of the sudden. “Can you tell me why she buys so many candles?”
“She just likes candles I guess.” Lincoln shrugged, as if it was the most logical thing in the world. “She always has.”
Bellamy patted Octavia on the back as she coughed, having choked on her drink laughing. “I can’t believe she’s here, it’s like fate or something, the girl you have a crush on coming to our party.” she said, once she recovered enough to talk.
“How many times do I have to tell you, I don’t have a crush on her.”
“Say it louder, make sure the whole party knows.” Octavia looked around for Raven, who was still going back and forth with Anya. “Reyes, get over here!”
Raven looked over, a questioning look on her face. Octavia just gave her a look, jerking her head towards Clarke.
“This better be good, I was really getting something going with Anya,” Raven said when she got over to them.
“No you weren’t.” Raven pouted at that, but Octavia ignored her. “And this is more important anyways. Candle Girl is here. She’s Lincoln’s friend Lexa.”
“Holy fucking shit.” Raven looked practically gleeful about it. Clarke really hated her friends sometimes. Why couldn’t they just mind their own damn business? “You were right, O. This is more important. Which one is she?”
“Dark hair, talking to Gustus,” Lincoln supplied, inclining his head in their direction.
“No wonder you’re into her. She’s hot.” Clarke glared at Raven but before she could say anything Raven cut her off. “Yeah yeah you’re totally not into her, we know. So are you going to go talk to her?”
Talking to Candle Girl, Lexa apparently, hadn’t actually occurred to her. She knew she probably shouldn’t, because it was a small apartment and she was drunk enough to make an idiot of herself, but she was also drunk enough not to care.
She was tempted to just march up to her, but all she wanted to do was have a civil conversation with her to prove to her friends that she could. Otherwise they would spend the rest of the night trying to get them to talk and she didn’t want to give them the satisfaction of forcing her into an awkward situation.
She turned to Lincoln. “Introduce us.”
“Yeah, sure, but I should warn you, she’s kind of intense.”
“I’ve sold candles to the girl for a year. Trust me, I know.”
Lincoln laughed and lead her across the room. Gustus had left, and Lexa was standing by herself, looking at the painting Clarke had made for Octavia and Lincoln as a housewarming present.
“Hey Lexa, glad you could make it,” Lincoln said, giving her a short hug.
“Of course. I left your housewarming gift in the kitchen with the others.” Lexa turned back to the painting, a large portrait of the Milky Way extending over a dark forest. “I like this a lot, where did you get it?”
Clarke had to admit she was flattered. The painting had taken forever and had reminded her why she preferred digital art these days.
“Octavia’s friend Clarke made it for us. Have you met Clarke?”
“No, I don’t think so,” she said, looking at Clarke for the first time. Her eyes widened in recognition. “You.”
“Me?” She feigned innocence, well as much as she could feign anything after a cup and a half of Raven’s punch.
“You’re the rude girl from the candle store.” She said it in such a matter of fact way that it took Clarke a second to register what she had said.
“Wait? I’m the rude candle girl? You’re the rude candle girl.” She wasn’t sure what she had been expecting but it wasn’t this. Something about Lexa made her want to argue.
Lexa rolled her eyes dismissively. “You are very unhelpful for someone working in customer service.”
Now Clarke was annoyed. Who was this girl to come into her friend’s party and call her rude and unhelpful?
“How am I supposed to be helpful when you are the most unfriendly customer ever? And then one day you ask for a candle that will tell your friend you don’t like his girlfriend? There isn’t a single candle anywhere that gets that point across.”
“Wait, you don’t like Octavia?” Clarke had been so focused on Lexa she forgot that Lincoln was still there.
Lexa looked somewhat taken aback, like this wasn’t a conversation she wanted to be having, which, if Clarke was being fair, it probably wasn’t.
Clarke took that as her cue to leave, rejoining her friends, who were loitering close by.
“Well that seemed like it went well,” Raven said brightly.
“I told you she’s the worst.”
“I don’t know, that seemed like the type of fight that ends with you making out, if you hadn’t let it slip that she doesn’t like Octavia.”
“Yeah, O, what was that about?” Octavia could be intense at times, but Clarke didn’t know of more than a couple of people who didn’t like her.
Octavia looked away from the tense discussion Lexa and Lincoln were having and shrugged. “I don’t know. I’ve only met her like twice before. She seemed nice enough, if a bit humorless.”
“See, the worst.” Clarke felt vindicated. Lexa was rude and annoying and the little thrill Clarke had gotten while arguing with her was just the affects of the alcohol.
Clarke mingled with people as the party wore on, escaping to the kitchen once Bellamy and Miller set up beer pong in the living room. The kitchen seemed to be where Lincoln’s friends had congregated. She got herself a glass of water and leaned against the counter, watching Lexa and Anya talk animatedly about something. Well Anya was talking animatedly. Lexa looked like she was concentrating very hard on whatever Anya was saying, but she was swaying in place ever so slightly. Clarke wondered if Lexa was easier to get along with when she was drunk.
She busied herself with her phone when Lexa looked at her, embarrassed to be caught staring. To her surprise Lexa came over to her. Up close she could see that Lexa was well and truly drunk. Clarke poured her a glass of water and exchanged it for the drink she was holding.
“See. Rude.” Lexa’s voice was higher than it had been before, and Clarke wondered if her flat matter of fact tone was an affect. That only made it more annoying.
“You’ll thank me later, trust me.” Lexa huffed slightly but drank her water, and then fixed Clarke with what would probably have been an intimidating glare if she could stand still.
“I came over here to apologize for before. I was…It has been pointed out to me that…that I was being a dick, rude, a rude dick and I am sorry.” Watching Lexa try to look serious while stumbling over her words was too much for her and she started laughing.
Lexa looked confused, and Clarke had to admit that they way her brow scrunched up was adorable. “What? No, don’t laugh. I’m being…I’m being serious. I’m serious. I’m sorry about being a…a…rude dick. I’m not always so good with people.”
“I had no idea.” Clarke laughed again when Lexa made another unreasonably cute face. “But it’s fine. I was also a rude dick so, I think we’re even.”
They stood there staring at each other for a long moment. Clarke caught herself looking at Lexa’s lips, and when she looked up, just for a second Clarke could have sworn Lexa was going to kiss her.
Anya reappeared right then, breaking the tension. Lexa turned to face her, stumbling in the process.
“Whoa there,” Anya said, steadying her. “Just how much of that punch have you had?”
Lexa seemed to consider the question for a moment. “Too much I think.”
“Let’s get you home.”
“Do you need me to call a cab?” Clarke asked.
“No, she lives in the building.”
“Really? That’s convenient.”
“How do you think Lincoln found such a nice place?” Anya steered Lexa towards the door. “Anyways, great party, and hopefully my idiot friend didn’t offend you too much.”
“Thanks. Good night.”
“Good night, Clarke!” Lexa called back as they left.
Clarke didn’t have it in her to be mad at Lexa for earlier anymore. She was still the maybe the most frustrating person Clarke had ever met, and she still didn’t like her, but she had to admit that Lexa was kind of adorable when she wasn’t being a humorless asshole.
It was a slow Thursday afternoon at the store, after school let out so it was too late for the housewives but before most people got off work. Jasper had called in sick, and Munroe hadn’t shown up yet for the evening shift so Clarke was alone in the store when Lexa came in.
She gave Clarke a small nod before heading back to new arrivals displays. Apparently Lexa was opting for the high ground of acknowledging her existence after the party. Clarke would be damned if Lexa was going to be the bigger person in this situation, and decided to be super helpful so she had nothing to complain about.
“Did you find everything okay?” Clarke asked, flashing a bright smile when Lexa brought the medium unscented and large lavender candle she had selected to the register.
Lexa gave her a slightly confused look, her eyes narrowing slightly when she realized what Clarke was doing. “There’s no need for that, Clarke.”
“I’m just trying to be helpful. Someone told me that I need to work on my customer service skills.” Now she was just being bitchy, but she was rewarded by Lexa looking abashed.
“I probably deserved that.”
“You definitely deserved that.” Lexa winced slightly and looked away, obviously trying to maintain her composure. Clarke genuinely smiled at that. Who was this girl who was trying so hard to not have any fun?
“You are frustrating aren’t you?” Clarke asked lightly. Lexa looked back at her, studying her for a long moment, that same look in her eye from the party.
“Go out with me.” Clarke was taken aback by the frankness of it. It wasn’t even a question.
“Go out with me. On a date.”
“I…okay.” Clarke was too surprised to do anything but agree.
Lexa actually smiled, and scrawled her number on the receipt after Clarke finished ringing her up.
Clarke watched her leave, wondering just what she had gotten herself into.
“You owe Octavia money,” Clarke said, when Raven got home that night.
“Wait, why?” Raven and Octavia had a series of running bets about almost everything. Octavia usually won. “Did your mom finally admit that she’s totally into me?”
“Gross, no. Also, if that were the case, wouldn’t Octavia owe you money?”
“I don’t even want to know then.” It was times like these that she really hoped that Raven’s running joke about how she wanted to sleep with Clarke’s mom was only a joke. The alternative was too unpleasant to think about. “Anyways, you owe her money because Lexa asked me out at work today.”
That got Raven’s attention. “Finally. Tell me about it.”
“There’s nothing to tell really. She came in, I made fun of her for telling me to be more helpful, and she asked me out.”
“Well…what did you say?”
Clarke rolled her eyes. She hated proving Raven right. “I said yes. We’re getting drinks this Saturday.”
“I knew it! I knew you were into her.” Raven was far too excited in Clarke’s opinion.
“Calm down. You’d think that you’re more invested in this than I am.”
“I am just being a good friend, who cares about your happiness,” Raven said innocently.
“Yeah, right. It has absolutely nothing to do with being right I am sure.” Clarke shook her head, trying to keep a straight face.
Raven put her hand over her heart, looking shocked. “I’m offended that you could even suggest anything like that. Just so so offended.”
They both laughed at that.
“Seriously though Clarke, you know that we all just want you to be happy. You deserve it, especially after everything you’ve been through.”
She thought about her dad, and Finn, and the fight with Wells she was too stubborn to do anything about, and the disappointment of med school. Raven was right. Again. Maybe this wasn’t such a bad idea after all.
The bar Lexa took her to wasn’t quite dimly lit enough to be described as romantic, but it was definitely nicer than the cozy local sports bars Clarke and her friends usually frequented. Lexa was surprisingly easy to talk to when she let her guard down, and Clarke found herself having more fun than she had expected.
“Okay, though, I need to ask you a question.” Clarke was on her second glass of wine, and while not exactly tipsy, she was definitely feeling the effects. Lexa nodded her ascent, looking amused.
“What’s with all the candles? You buy so many. What do you do with them all?”
Lexa gave her a puzzled look, like she couldn’t quite understand the question. “I don’t buy that many.”
“Yes you do. No one else buys multiple candles every week.”
“I just like candles. They’re nice.” Clarke wasn’t satisfied with that answer but before she could press her, Lexa threw the question back at her. “What do you have against them?”
“I sell them to bourgie hipsters all day, it makes them hard to like.” She could hear the bitterness in her voice, and Lexa picked up on it too, giving her a searching look.
“You don’t like your job.” Clarke wanted to be annoyed that Lexa was doing that thing where she just made statements, but she was right.
“Working in retail after college wasn’t exactly the plan.” Lexa didn’t say anything, but she inclined her head slightly, inviting Clarke to continue. “I was always going to be a doctor, like my mom, but I got to med school and my heart just wasn’t in it, so I left.”
She left out the part about her dad dying and her boyfriend cheating on her. There was something about Lexa that made Clarke trust her, but she wasn’t going to unload all her issues on the first date.
“You’re an artist, right?” Clarke must have looked surprised because Lexa quickly clarified. “The painting you gave Lincoln.”
Clarke was touched that Lexa remembered. “Yeah. I want to be an illustrator actually, but without an art degree it’s hard to break in. I’m working on a webcomic, trying to get noticed and all that, but for now I’m selling candles.”
“Well I, for one, appreciate that you sell candles.”
“Was that a joke? I didn’t know you had it in you.”
Lexa gave her a small smile and shook her head. “I’m not as humorless as everyone thinks.”
“Noted,” Clarke said, smiling back.
By the time they left Clarke was pleasantly warm from the wine, despite the chilly night. They walked back towards Lexa’s building where Clarke had parked, shoulders bumping occasionally, enjoying each other’s company.
“Can I ask you a question?” Clarke ventured, breaking the comfortable silence between them.
“So many questions,” Lexa teased. “Go ahead.”
“Why don’t you like Octavia?” She felt Lexa stiffen beside her, and she worried that she had gone to far. “It’s just that she’s one of my best friends, and I like you, but she comes first.”
They had reached Lexa’s building, and Clarke turned to face her, waiting expectantly. Lexa looked uncomfortable, and wouldn’t quite make eye contact with Clarke.
“It’s not that I don’t like her, it’s that I don’t trust her.”
“Why don’t you trust her then?” Clarke realized that she was probably ruining what had been a very nice evening, but she wasn’t going to let Lexa off the hook without a real answer.
Lexa sighed and ran a hand through her hair, searching for words. “I have known Lincoln a long time, and I’ve seen him get hurt before and I have no desire to do so again.” So that was it. She was being protective. Clarke’s heart melted at the thought of Lexa trying to protect Lincoln.
“Well I’ve known Octavia for a long time, and I can assure you she has no intention of hurting him. If you get to know her I’m sure you’ll see that too. Besides, they’ve been together for like three years at this point.”
“That’s what he said.” Lexa had the good grace to look contrite.
“Smart man.” Lexa sagged a little and Clarke took pity on her. “I had fun tonight. We should do it again sometime, provided I didn’t ask too many questions.”
“We should.” Lexa smiled, and all of the sudden Clarke realized just how close they were to each other.
Clarke leaned forward slightly and the next thing she knew Lexa was kissing her. She leaned into it, burying one hand in Lexa’s hair and sliding the other under the light jacket she was wearing, letting it rest on her hip.
Lexa was a really good kisser. That was the extent of what Clarke could think as Lexa slid her tongue along the inside of her lip. She definitely didn't want this to end.
Lexa pulled back, breathing heavily, and the look she gave Clarke was full of passion, but also something more than that. Like she couldn’t quite believe what was happening. “Do you want to come in?”
All of the sudden it was all too much for Clarke. She wanted to say yes, she really really did, but she was unprepared for just how much she liked Lexa. So she panicked a bit.
“Uh I would like to, but…uh…I have to get up early tomorrow, so I should probably get home,” she stammered.
Lexa pulled back, and Clarke thought she saw a hint of disappointment in her eyes before she closed herself off.
“Yeah, okay. Have a good night.”
“You too.” Clarke had to keep herself from running to her car, out of sheer embarrassment at her own behavior. She sat in her car for a long time when she got home, wondering when exactly she had fallen for the annoying Candle Girl.
Lexa didn’t come into the shop that week. Or the next. They had texted a bit the next day, but Clarke got the distinct feeling that Lexa was avoiding her, and frankly, she didn’t blame her.
“I ruined everything, O.” She was sitting on Octavia’s floor, eating ice cream and feeling bad for herself. Raven had a presentation to prepare for work and Lincoln was out with Bellamy for a “guys night”, so for the first time in a while it was just the two of them.
“Stop being so dramatic. You went on one date.” Clarke had missed Octavia, she was much more practical than Raven in these types of situations. “If you like her so much why don’t you just talk to her? You’re both adults. Use your words.”
“And do what? Text her and say sorry I was so weird I was just overwhelmed by my feelings for you? She’ll think I’m crazy.”
“It’s either that or just get over her, so you choose.”
“I can’t just text her that out of the blue, and she didn’t come into the store this week, so it’s not like I can tell her in person.” She was aware that she was being overdramatic about the whole thing, but she couldn’t get the kiss out of her head. Why couldn’t she have something nice for once?
“Suit yourself,” Octavia shrugged, obviously done with Clarke’s self pity. “What movie are we watching? That romcom where the girl goes to all those weddings or the one where the girl falls for the neighbor who’s helping her get laid?”
That gave Clarke a very bad idea. “That’s it! O, you’re a genius.”
Octavia gave her a confused look. “I know, but I’m not sure how?”
“Lexa lives in this building. I can just go talk to her.”
Octavia wasn’t convinced. “Stalker much? That’s actually crazier than just texting her.”
“You’re the one who said I need to talk to her. And this way I can explain myself properly.”
“By showing up at her door at 9pm on a Saturday?”
When Octavia put it like that it did sound a little insane, but she was done with just letting things happen to her. Her date with Lexa had felt like one of the first really good things to happen to her since she had left med school and she would be damned if she let it slip away without at least trying.
“Yes. What apartment is she in?” Octavia shook her head, and by the set of her jaw Clarke knew she was settling in try and out stubborn Clarke. It usually worked, but Clarke wasn’t going to let this one go. “If you don’t tell me I’m just going to go check the directory in the lobby.”
“Fine. Number 25. But don’t come crying to me when it doesn’t work.”
Clarke had been pacing outside of Lexa’s apartment for the past five minutes. Now that she was here her plan didn’t seem nearly as good. She could hear the faint sound of the TV through the door so she knew Lexa was home. Octavia was right, this was crazy, but she was too stubborn to back down now.
She knocked. The sound of the television stopped but it was a long moment before the door swung open.
“Clarke, what are you doing here?” Clarke was unprepared for the sight of Lexa wearing only a thin tank top and leggings, and for a second she forgot why she was there. But the completely blank look on Lexa’s face brought her back to her increasingly bad idea.
“Why are you avoiding me?”
“How do you know where I live?” Lexa countered.
“I checked the directory.” It wasn’t quite the truth but she didn’t want to give Lexa more reason to not like Octavia. “And you didn’t answer my question. Why are you avoiding me?”
“I’m not avoiding you.”
“Yes you are. For the last year you haven’t gone more than a week without coming into the store, and now you haven’t been in in two weeks.”
Lexa sighed and stepped back. “Why don’t you come in?”
Her apartment had the same basic layout as Lincoln and Octavia’s, but it felt must less homey. Lived in, yes, but lacking any sort of personal touch. There were a couple of candles around the living room but not as many as Clarke had expected.
“This is kind of inappropriate don’t you think? Showing up here like this.” Lexa folded her arms across her chest, looking annoyed.
“No more inappropriate than asking me out at my place of employment,” Clarke shot back.
“That wasn’t planned.”
“Neither was this.” Lexa didn’t look like she believed her, but Clarke pressed on. “So are you going to tell me why you’re avoiding me?”
“I told you I’m not avoiding you.”
“That’s bullshit and we both know it.” Clarke wasn’t going to back down from this until she got an actual answer. Lexa stared back in defiance, but after a moment she deflated, running her hand through her hair with a resigned sigh.
“I wasn’t avoiding you, okay? I was giving you space.”
“Giving me space?”
“With the way that you freaked out after I kissed you, it seemed like you might need some space. I like you a lot Clarke, but I don’t want to do anything to make you uncomfortable.” Clarke could have laughed at that. If she looked at it from Lexa’s perspective she must have been giving her some very mixed messages. And now Lexa probably thought that she was a closet case that couldn’t deal with being kissed.
“It’s not like that at all.”
Lexa gave her a skeptical look. “You practically ran away from me. Was it that bad of a kiss?”
“Okay, I did kind of freak out, but not because I was uncomfortable. And wow, it was a great kiss.” Lexa smirked and Clarke felt herself start to blush. “It’s just…it’s been a long time since I’ve felt like this, and I wasn’t expecting it, and it kind of hit me all at once and I panicked a little bit. Oh god, now I probably really do seem like a crazy stalker.”
Clarke scrubbed her face with her hands, embarrassed. When she looked up, she was surprised to see naked affection on Lexa’s face.
“You’re beautiful, you know that?” Lexa said it so softly that Clarke almost couldn’t make it out.
This time it was Clarke who stepped into Lexa’s personal space. Lexa stepped back slightly, bracing herself against the back of the couch behind her. Clarke studied her face for a moment, the way that her lips were slightly parted and her pupils were blown out, before kissing her.
Lexa kissed her back so tenderly at first, one hand going to the back of Clarke’s neck, the other still steadying herself against the couch. Clarke slipped her hand under Lexa’s tank top, splaying her palm across the plane of Lexa’s stomach, feeling her slightly shiver at her touch.
Clarke sucked Lexa’s bottom lip between her teeth, biting it lightly. She was rewarded by a low moan from Lexa. She grinned against her mouth as Lexa upped the intensity, sliding her tongue into Clarke’s mouth and palming her breast.
Clarke shifted so her thigh pressed between Lexa’s legs, and she felt Lexa buck her hips against her. She broke their kiss and instead started sucking on Lexa’s pulse point, eliciting another moan.
“Bed, now,” Lexa managed to get out, breathing heavily.
Clarke pulled back, considering just how cute Lexa was with her face flushed and her shirt riding up, all previous composure gone.
“I wouldn’t have taken you for such a light touch,” she joked, enjoying how flustered Lexa looked in response.
“And I wouldn’t have taken you for a crazy stalker, and yet here we are.”
“Luckily, I think I know how you can make it up to me.” Lexa grabbed the front of Clarke’s shirt and kissed her again, practically dragging her into the bedroom.
Clarke took a moment to look around when they got to the bedroom. It was here that she could see the imprint of Lexa’s life. There was a large bookcase in the corner stuffed with well worn paperbacks, a slightly messy desk, a poster of a sports team Clarke didn’t recognize on the wall, and candles on nearly every surface.
“So this is where all the candles are.”
Lexa looked up from where she was trying to unbutton Clarke’s shirt. “Can you quit it with the candle jokes and take your shirt off already?”
Clarke laughed and obliged, dispensing with her undershirt and bra at the same time before stepping out of her jeans and advancing on Lexa, pushing her back against the bed. “How’s this?”
“Perfect.” Lexa’s voice was husky as she took Clarke in, a look of pure adoration on her face.
“Now you’re overdressed,” Clarke said, pulling Lexa’s shirt over her head and unhooking her bra. “That’s better.”
Now it was Clarke’s turn to appreciate Lexa, sitting on the edge of her bed half naked. She really was beautiful.
Clarke climbed up onto the bed, following Lexa as she shifted further up. Clarke settled on top of her and kissed her, letting her hand roam up and down her side. Lexa moved beneath her, pressing her leg into Clarke, making Clarke gasp. Lexa used her distraction to deftly flip them. She sat back on her heels and looked at Clarke with heavy lidded eyes before getting up off the bed.
“Where are you going?” Clarke could hear the whine in her voice but she didn’t care. Lexa couldn’t just start and then leave.
“Patience Clarke.” Lexa pulled off her leggings and then turned away from her, giving Clarke a change to admire the tattoo that ran down the length of her back. She was so distracted that it took her a moment to realize what Lexa was doing.
“You’ve got to be kidding me. You have me naked and willing in your bed and you’re lighting candles?”
“I’m setting the mood,” Lexa replied as she worked her way through the ones on her desk to those on her bookcase.
“I think you’ve set the mood just fine already.” Clarke sat up, pulling off her underwear and throwing them at Lexa. “If you don’t get over here I’m going to have to get started without you.”
Lexa laughed as she turned of the light and climbed back onto the bed, straddling Clarke’s hips and grabbing her wrists, pushing her arms back above her head. “Now what was that you were saying about starting without me?”
Later, when Clarke lay with her head pressed against Lexa’s chest, drifting off to the slow beat of her heart, she wondered what she had done to be so lucky.
She got home late the next morning to find both Raven and Octavia waiting expectantly in her kitchen.
“Clarke Griffin, is that a hickey?” Raven asked, practically grinning.
Clarke looked down at her chest. She hadn’t bothered to button her shirt this morning, and sure enough, a bruise bloomed on the skin that was showing above her tank top. “It would appear so.”
“I take it that means your crazy stalker act worked.” Octavia handed her a cup of coffee that she gladly accepted.
“Spill. We need all the details. All of them.”
Clarke made a face. “Don’t be a perv, Rae.”
“Okay, maybe not all the details, but definitely the pertinent ones. Some of us are living vicarious through you right now.”
“Let’s see. We talked, we had sex, I slept over, we had sex again, and then she made breakfast.” Clarke ticked off the major events of the previous night on her fingers. “And we have another date on Wednesday.”
“She made you breakfast? You’re totally fucked,” Raven said.
“That’s not even the worst part. I get the candle thing now.”
“What did I say, totally fucked.”
“Yep, totally fucked,” Octavia agreed.
Clarke couldn’t even argue, because she really really was.