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All That Glitters Is Not

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Lexa takes a slow lap around the arena, serving the dual purpose of warming up her jetlagged muscles and giving her the chance to look around. She can’t believe that after all these years of training and competing she’s actually here.

She comes to a stop by the balance beam and puts her hands on her hips to catch her breath. The flag with the Olympic rings on it is hanging overhead, and she’ll never admit it, but standing beneath it as a captain of Team USA Gymnastics makes her eyes sting just a bit.

As she jogs over to the floor area a rare smile creeps onto her face, and she lets it stay there even as she stretches. She’s going to let herself enjoy this -- everything is perfect.

“Hey, pretty girl. You should smile more often.”

Well, almost everything.

“That’s offensive, Clarke,” Lexa says, wiping all emotion from her face. “It perpetuates the stereotype that women are supposed to look cheerful all the time.”

Clarke grins at her and rolls her eyes good-naturedly.

“Yeah, I know -- that was the point,” she says. “I was saying it ironically.”

Clarke’s in short shorts and a sports bra -- a combination that Lexa’s teammates wouldn’t be allowed to practice in -- and the impropriety of it makes Lexa’s eyes narrow.

She gives her a once over, annoyance simmering inside her as she notes Clarke’s barely concealed cleavage and the way her ass is nearly hanging out of her shorts, which are covered in a dizzying pattern of tiny Australian flags. There really should be an official practice dress code.

Clarke snickers and cocks an eyebrow at her, and Lexa looks down at the floor, hoping the heat on her cheeks passes for exertion. Lexa huffs and turns away from Clarke before bending and placing her palms on the mat. It makes her hamstrings burn, and it’s a nice distraction.

“I don’t think stereotypes can discern irony,” Lexa mutters toward the floor.

Behind her, Clarke giggles. “You’re a trip, Lex,” she says. “Welp, it’s been fun but I’m off to soak in the ice bath of hell. See you back at home.”

“Stop calling it that,” Lexa says through clenched teeth. “The Olympic Village is not home, Clarke.”

“You’re right,” Clarke says, and Lexa can hear the smirk in her voice. “It’s better.”

***

Of course Team USA was randomly assigned to share a suite with Team Australia. Of course they were.

It was just Lexa’s luck -- not only was Clarke Griffin her biggest competition on the floor routine, but she was annoying as hell. To make matters worse, everyone loved Clarke -- Lexa’s teammates practically squealed when they rolled their suitcases into the suite to find Clarke sprawled out in the common room, braiding her hair and blasting hip hop music.

And to make matters even worse, Clarke had inexplicably developed an absurd affinity for Lexa, despite the intense cold shoulder she had given the Aussie over their years on the competition circuit. Clarke was always seeking her out and giving her compliments and offering her advice.

It had to be a strategy.

Lexa had to hand it to her -- Clarke had gone for the long con. But Lexa had been on to her from the start, and when Lexa’s standing on the highest podium with a gold medal around her neck in three days time, she’ll finally put the princess in her place.

***

Silver.

Lexa got the silver medal. Years and years of training and competing, only to wind up as the first loser in her best event.

The ice cubes in her drink are quickly melting, so she lifts the cup to her lips and swallows it down in three long gulps. It burns her throat -- the Aussies had bought some disgusting local vodka -- but the liquor helps to dull the ache in her chest, so she doesn’t mind.

“Hey pretty girl -- you should smile,” Clarke says, plopping down on the couch next to her. “And I’m not saying it ironically this time. Cheer up, it’s time to celebrate!”

“It’s time for you to celebrate.” Lexa scowls and reaches out to lift the gold medal from where it hangs below Clarke’s chest. “And time for me to commiserate. For myself, that is.”

“You’re not seriously beating yourself up for getting the silver are you? I only won by one-tenth of a point, Lex. Besides, it’s all so subjective -- I’m pretty sure that creepy judge on the end has a thing for me. So buck up, you were awesome out there! That combination you did at the end? Like, wow. Breathtaking.”

Lexa just frowns and tilts Clarke’s gold medal back and forth, watching the way it glitters in the light. She kind of forgets Clarke’s there until she feels a hand on her shoulder, warm and comforting. Shit, how many drinks has she had?

“You can stop now, Clarke.”

Clarke squeezes her shoulder and slides her hand over to the base of her neck. It makes goosebumps rise on Lexa’s skin, and she releases her grip on Clarke’s medal.

“Huh?” Clarke tilts her head and an adorable crease forms between her brows. Wait, no -- not adorable. Annoying. “Stop what?”

“This,” Lexa says, gesturing between them. “Being so nice to me. Whatever game you’ve been playing at all along. It worked -- you won. Now just leave me alone.”

Clarke drops her hand from Lexa’s neck and stands so quickly she knocks over the empty solo cup. Her face is contorted -- almost like she’s hurt -- and Lexa has to look away.

“Wow. So that’s what you think,” she says, voice wobbling. “Believe it or not, Lexa, I actually like you. Though god knows why -- it’s not like you ever gave me the time of day. Whatever -- screw you. Enjoy wallowing alone.”

Lexa watches Clarke stride away, back toward the heart of the party, and if she feels queasy it’s only from the alcohol. No, it’s definitely not from guilt.

***

Lexa never understood the point of the closing ceremonies. There’s far too much pomp and circumstance for her taste, and the silver medal feels like the infamous albatross around her neck, all heavy and taunting.

Things don’t get better after the ceremonies end. All she wants to do is rest before her long flight home tomorrow, but the Olympic Village is lit up and alive. It’s like elite athlete Mardi Gras.

She heads toward her room, hoping a combination of earplugs and prescription sleep aids will help her to dull the music’s thumping bass. Team Brasil is dancing up a storm in the common area so she takes the long way around, and just before she gets to her suite building she hears a familiar laugh.

Clarke’s standing to her left, surrounded by a group of tall, lanky guys -- swimmers, she thinks -- and they’re all so clearly captivated by her. Lexa slows to watch, stomach swirling with jealousy and pride -- not that she has the right to feel either.

The tallest dude with goofy ears says something lame and Clarke laughs, but the smile doesn’t reach her eyes. The guy next to him notices Lexa and waves, calling her over, and she has to stop herself from looking over her shoulder to check if he’s actually signalling to someone else. How do they know her?

“Lexa,” Clarke says, forcing a tight smile. “Hey.”

“Hello, Clarke.”

She feels queasy again, except this time she hasn’t had anything to drink. Shit.

The bro with the ears gives them a strange look, but then he’s off again, telling some boring story that doesn’t have a punchline but somehow makes all of his teammates crack up. Clarke just looks at them and Lexa glances among them, completely befuddled, and offers a weak chuckle for want of something else to do.

Clarke turns to her with wide eyes and raised brows. “If a guy says something that’s not funny you don’t have to laugh.”

“I know,” Lexa says, giving her a shy smile. “I was doing it ironically.”

***

Lexa’s a little amazed that Clarke agreed to talk with her in private, considering how they left things the other night. They walk in silence to the back of the building, where it’s still ridiculously loud, but at least they’re alone.

Clarke leans against the building and kicks at the grass with the toe of her flip flop, and she looks so beautiful in the moonlight that Lexa’s words come easily.

“I’m sorry,” she says, voice soft and earnest. “I was mean and rude to you before, and you didn’t deserve it. Congratulations, by the way. Your routine was impeccable and you earned it.”

Clarke nods and swallows, but when she meets Lexa’s gaze her eyes are wet.

“I just don’t get it,” she says. “Why did you think I was playing you? How could you think I’d be the kind of person who would do something like that?”

The boom of fireworks start to sound from somewhere off in the distance, and Lexa’s grateful because the noise masks the shakiness of her breath. She’s asked herself that question a lot over the past few days, but the answer is at the bottom of a can of worms that she doesn’t want to open tonight.

“I guess…” she starts, looking to the sky like she’ll find the words written in the stars. “I’m just not used to anyone caring about me.”

Crap, that didn’t come out right. Clarke gives her this sweet look and Lexa can’t stand it -- she probably thinks she’s so pathetic. Lexa leans back against the building, next to Clarke, and closes her eyes.

“Lexa…” Clarke whispers, and she sounds closer than she used to be.

“No, that’s-- I mean…” Lexa stammers, keeping her eyes squeezed shut, because shit, she’s fucking this up and she’s going home tomorrow and then there’ll be several oceans between them and she has to fix this.

“Lex,” Clarke says again, and she’s definitely closer now. Lexa feels her hand on her shoulder, just like the other night, but this time when Clarke slides her finger up her neck she keeps going until she’s cupping Lexa’s face. “Hey, pretty girl. Look at me.”

Slowly, Lexa opens her eyes and Clarke’s so close her features are out of focus.

“Clarke?”

Clarke’s eyes flutter closed as she leans in, pressing her nose into Lexa’s cheek and just resting there for a moment, breath warm and sweet on Lexa’s lips. It’s Lexa who tilts her chin up to press her mouth to Clarke’s, and when their lips meet it’s like the fireworks in the distance are going off right inside her head.

Lexa wraps her arms around Clarke’s waist and pulls her closer, tilting her hips against hers as she parts her lips to kiss Clarke more deeply. It’s hard to tell -- what with the music and the far-off explosions -- but Lexa thinks Clarke growls as she pushes her back against the building just before nipping at Lexa’s bottom lip.

There’s no masking the shakiness of Lexa’s breath when she gasps at the feel of Clarke pressed up against her, and when she slips her tongue into Clarke’s mouth it’s so damn hot her thighs start to quake.

Clarke pulls away first, and she looks so sexy with bleary eyes and swollen lips that Lexa starts to lean in for more.

“Holy shit,” Clarke pants. “Wait, wait -- let me catch my breath.”

Lexa changes course and nuzzles into Clarke’s neck, giggling against her skin.

“Come on, Clarke,” she says, linking their hands together and tugging her back toward their suite. “Let’s go home.”

***

(Sometimes, Clarke lets Lexa wear her gold medal.)

(But only if she’s wearing nothing else.)