Actions

Work Header

breathe into my lips the life i do not have

Work Text:

The tragedy that befell 13 Chip Road was quite a bad one.

Of course, this was Lexa’s opinion. Which was quite biased.

It’d been a pretty little town, Polis, once. Not much really happened and Lexa had found herself easily cemented into the daily routine. The town was not known for much in the time that Lexa lived there, apart from the fact it’d been there probably before trees were invented. There’d been a burglary into a bakery once, though a mere two-day investigation had yielded that the answer lay in a son’s desperate last ditched attempt to earn recognition from his father, even if the recognition lay in a less than positive light.

He’d seen the ransacked bakery pictured in the newspaper the day after, lingering pieces of stone dust on his shoulder and he’d grinned wider than he ever had. It hadn’t been so enthusiastic when the police had come for him, but then, that was expected.

What was not expected was the death.                         

More specifically, the murder.

Even more specifically, the murder of Lexa Woods, in 1908.

Lexa had quite liked Polis before this.

But then, of course, her opinion was very biased.

-

Clarke was not at all what she expected.

There wasn’t exactly a job description for being a ghost. You didn’t so much apply for it as it was suddenly thrust into your lap and now, without warning, you found yourself the head of company you couldn’t even spell the title name of. There wasn’t really a welcome broche of Huzzah! You are dead! Here is how to entertain yourself for the next eternity.

Lexa had had to find the ropes on her own. It’d taken a few decades or two but she could just about lift a mug or a painting or leave a menacing scribble of paint across the wall if she concentrated hard enough—and if there was a convenient paint bucket lying around. It’d taken a century, too, but eventually Lexa even learnt to paint in blood.

This was very effective. She’d had squatters and teenagers and newly weds who’d barely stayed two weeks before bolting all because of that trick. Lexa was quite proud of herself, as it wasn’t really blood, because she wasn’t alive, so she didn’t have a source.

It was only energy, really. That indescribable energetic force that lingered in every moment created and every emotion felt and if you had nothing but yourself to deal with for a century you, too, would probably learn how to harness such a thing if only out of sheer boredom.

Lexa was stuck to this house. Tied to its history because its history was her. She’d been killed when she shouldn’t have been and that energy had to go somewhere. And unfortunately for her, that meant that Lexa was tied to this graveyard hidden as a nice two-storey soon-to-be-family home with a lovely view out onto a gracious backyard and enough closet space you could fit everything you own and your grandmother’s too.

This was the real estate’s opinion, though, not Lexa’s own.

Lexa’s own opinion was that the house was quite shit.

It’d been the same old routine. That same real estate agent had come round with another ignorant victim completely blind to how Sarah had almost quit four times over this goddamn job. Any time she brought anyone to this godforsaken house the paintings would move when they shouldn’t, doors would open and shut like the house had a party of fifty walking amongst it, not two, the mirrors would flicker out the corner of your eyes and it was just plain fucking creepy.

Sarah was, as always, doing her absolute best to maintain composure as Lexa went about her usual routine. The prospector she’d brought with her was a blonde woman, around Lexa’s age if she’d still been alive, and though Lexa would never admit it, was actually quite beautiful. This didn’t upset Lexa’s plans. If there was one thing that kept her entertained after spending a century trapped in the same fucking house, it was haunting it.

Maybe haunting wasn’t the right word. You had to have true, nefarious purpose for that. Lexa was just really fucking bored and this was her only source of joy. It was more wrong place, wrong time, really.

Sarah and the New Victim stepped into the bedroom, and Lexa took it upon herself to slip under the bed sheets. She flattened down to the size of a dust particle, trundled her way to the middle, and slowly, slowly, grew and rose up until the sheets framed up like a tent around her head.

Sarah paled till she was as white as the sheets Lexa were haunting, but strangely, the blonde only raised a brow.

The blonde watched the definitely-there haunting in front of her before turning to Sarah. “This place haunted?”

Sarah looked like she was going to throw up and only managed to nod weakly. Lexa was honestly a little disappointed. She’d think after all the fuckery she’d done, Sarah would have gotten used to her by now. It bordered on disrespectful.

The blonde glanced back to Lexa.

“I’m guessing that’s why this place is dirt cheap?”

Lexa frowned from under the sheets. This was meant to terrify people, but the blonde remained infuriatingly casual as if it was a normal occurrence that your sheets rose up with a ghost beneath it.

Sarah nodded weakly again.

The blonde seemed to think it over.

“They’re not like some serial killer, are they?”

“No the—the stories say she’s—she’s—”

For Sarah’s sake, Lexa decided to come back out the sheets and let them lay naturally. Sarah released a massive sigh of relief.

“She was shot, apparently. Years and—years ago.” Sarah swallowed, shooting the blonde a sad smile. “She took a bullet meant for her partner. Her guardian had disapproved of their relationship, they say, but when he came to kill her he instead mistakenly shot his ward. Lexa Woods.”

The blonde considered this. Eventually she just shrugged. “Hell, why not. It’s not like I have the money anyway.”

Sarah blinked like she’d never expected anyone to actually move in here.

And, well, Lexa was of the same opinion.

-

She did the usual tactics that always worked.

Except they didn’t.

Clarke—as Lexa learnt her name was—came back in a few days later and threw her bare few bags onto the bed. When she went to the mirror, checking her hair and frowning at seeing the amount of tangles in it, Lexa did what she did best and she’d manipulated that energy that had taken a century to master.

Get out, she wrote out in blood across the mirror.

Clarke clicked her tongue. “I’m going to take a shower to try and fix whatever the fuck is going on. You’re not a pervert, are you?”

Lexa frowned from where she was unknowingly standing next to Clarke. This was… not how this was supposed to go. This was usually the time of screaming and cursing and begging for god to wipe out whatever was left of her. Lexa reached out to write again, though this time a bit more hesitantly.

Now, she wrote underneath.

Clarke rolled her eyes. “Please answer my question. I’ve got class tomorrow and I want to shower before I collapse, so please just fucking tell me I don’t have to worry about you watching me in the shower, or something.”

Lexa stared at Clarke.

This was not at all supposed to be how this should go.

She waved her hand, the bloodied writing disappearing, and instead wrote, You do not.

“That’s exactly something a pervert would say,” Clarke muttered, but with a sigh she pushed open the bathroom door and pulled her shirt over her head.

Lexa did not know what to do.

-

The haunting continued.

The absolute refusal to admit there was haunting also continued.

At this point, Lexa was becoming a bit fed up. Nothing was working and it mystified her, which was not an easy thing to achieve with a ghost. Lexa was the one meant to mystify. There were few constants for a ghost but that was one of them.

She wasn’t being a very good ghost.

When she made the lights flicker menacingly in and out, Clarke would just sigh from where she was sat in her usual spot at her desk, textbooks strewn about her and her hand rubbing the building headache—a side effect from staring at the same block of text for an hour.

“Could you please knock that shit off? I’ve got a exam tomorrow and I’d prefer not to be totally fucked for it.” Clarke rubbed her at her head worse. “And this headache isn’t fucking helping.”

Lexa had paused from where she’d been running in between the electricity cables in the walls. A second later, she was back in the shape of the person, hovering by Clarke’s desk. Scowling, she concentrated her energy and slammed her fist against the wall. Clarke rolled her eyes but begrudgingly glanced up at the echoing bang through the house.

Why aren’t you afraid? she bloodily wrote across the flecking wallpaper.

Clarke snorted. “You haven’t met my mother.”

Lexa had been left even more confused and more than a bit offended that her haunting capabilities apparently couldn’t even match up to a single alive woman. This was quite insulting for a ghost.

“Could you give me some peace, then?” Clarke had finally said, and Lexa, wholly at a loss of what to do, spent the rest of the evening standing next to Clarke’s desk staring at the woman who didn’t seem to realise she was being haunted.

Lexa tried to do more, but it was all for naught. When Clarke grumpily shuffled her way downstairs to the kitchen in the morning, Lexa made all the cupboard doors slam open all at once in an action that would have sent a sane person running for the hills. Clarke just grunted and mumbled a thanks for opening the cupboard for her.

Then she reached in, grabbed her mug, and set about making the usual morning coffee that she put far too much sugar in.

Lexa made the television stutter into static that sometimes attempted to crawl out of it, but then Clarke just casually pulled out her phone and continued to watch Netflix on that. She made the paintings tilt and move, and Clarke just easily walked over and adjusted back so the frame was straight again.

The final straw came when Clarke was studying on her bed, laptop open before her, a pencil held between her teeth and a heavy knot in her brow as she periodically wrote into a notebook in her lap.

Fed up of being pretty much ignored for weeks Lexa channelled every fibre of that energy she knew, and she made every piece of furniture levitate in the room. The bed, the wardrobe, the rug underneath just everything.

And Clarke, instead of showing alarm, looked curious.

She took the pencil out her mouth. “You can lift shit?”

Lexa stared incredulously at her. Furiously, she looked to the wall, and wrote out in that same blood-that-wasn’t-really-blood, I am haunting you!

Clarke continued to calmly remaining sitting cross-legged on her bed considering it was no longer touching the floor. “I gathered that, yeah. Anyway, that’s not important. Would you be up for grabbing me a glass of water from downstairs? I’d do something to repay you for it but I’m not sure what ghosts really like. Is there like a ghost currency or something?”

Slowly, all the furniture drifted back down until it was back on the floor. Lexa realised that there really was no point anymore. Clarke just didn’t care at all. Sighing, Lexa waved her hand, the bloodied writing disappearing, and then drew on the wall again.

We do not have a ghost currency.

This was not at all how Lexa expected to live her afterlife.

Clarke nodded thoughtfully. “Alright. Can you eat?”

No.

“Don’t sleep?”

I am dead, Clarke.

The corner of Clarke’s mouth twitched up. “Your name is Lexa, right?”

Yes.

“What can I trade you, then? I get that you’re mad someone’s living in the house you were murdered in. Bit insensitive, really.” Clarke only shrugged. “But we’re both here now, so, might as well make it work.”

Lexa considered her words.

A minute or so later, there was a glass of water from downstairs floating in through the open door and placed delicately on the bedside table. This wasn’t at all how Lexa had been meaning to spend her afterlife, but then, she’d never expected to die so early either. Clarke smiled, though, one that Lexa had never seen before. It was small and soft and genuine, and it was the first time Lexa was glad to be dead, because it was almost impossible for a ghost to blush.

-

Lexa’s friendship circles hadn’t been grand even when she had a heartbeat in her chest.

Now without it, the situation was only more dire, and even those rare few who had managed to cement themselves into her attention were all long dead and buried now. Not that it needed to be said, but unlike her, they seemed to have been granted the privilege of an easy passing on to wherever the dead are meant to go.

Frankly, it was a miracle that Lexa even found solace with Costia in the first place. Costia had always been someone who had absolutely no idea what shy meant, and it’d been through her constant smiles and attempts to pull Lexa away from her work that led to her falling for her, because she was the one person that actually made Lexa look up.

Maybe it was a little ironic Lexa was trapped to this house. Alive, she’d spent her entire life desperate to escape her hometown wanting to see the world that everyone told her she couldn’t. She would never forget that first time, at seventeen, when she scrapped together every last penny she’d had and snuck out the house before anyone was awake.

She’d disappeared for weeks. Went everywhere you could dream, provided said dream followed a strict budget. It had been the happiest and most free Lexa had ever felt.

You could only outrun reality for so long, though. Eventually, you’ll slow your pace, run out of breath, that confident grin at handing the baker his change now turned hesitant and repeatedly patting down your pockets for what you knew wasn’t there. Her mother had been beyond furious when she’d finally trudged her way back home, shoulders hunched and looking completely unbefitting for a lady.

Oh if she could see her now, Lexa would think. A whole century and she’d stayed in the exact same place and hadn’t taken a single step outside. Maybe her mother would have been proud of her. Maybe she’d have been horrified.

The point standing was this: Lexa had never been good with making friends.

Clarke was not an exception to this rule.

But Lexa knew that at least there was something. She had absolutely no idea what to call it—because what do you call a ghost that isn’t that great at haunting and a broke college student who could turn up late to her own funeral sharing a house together?

All Lexa did know, at least, was that Clarke’s utter blasé attitude to what would terrify a reasonable person had started baffling, turned annoying, and now, by some incredibly strange turn of events, maybe even a little endearing.

“What do you want to watch tonight?” Clarke asked from where she was lazily sprawled across the couch. There was a bowl of half-demolished popcorn sitting on her stomach and a newly opened bottle of beer sitting on the coffee table in front.

The only reason there was a coaster under the beer being that the second Clarke put it down, Lexa frowned, and soon the bottle was mysteriously rising seemingly of its own volition as a coaster floated in from the kitchen and neatly placing itself under it. Clarke had only rolled her eyes from the couch and muttered about her being a neat freak.

Before Lexa could give a response, Clarke was already raising a hand.

“And don’t you say another documentary, because I swear to god Lex, I don’t give a shit if you’re dead, I am not spending another three hours learning about the sordid riveting past of pennies.”

Lexa sighed from where she was standing next to the Clarke, gently hovering in place, not that Clarke could see. That was an interesting documentary, Clarke, she bloodily wrote across the wall above the TV.

Clarke scoffed. Some popcorn jumped out the bowl and hit the floor. “It’s not my fault you have god awful taste in media. Come on, let’s just watch Friends.”

Lexa groaned. I’m not doing it again.

Clarke grinned, her head now almost hanging off the couch. “Oh come on, please, you know how much I love it.”

I’m not doing it, Clarke.

“I had a long day today,” Clarke said, seeming to try for a different angle. Lexa narrowed her eyes. “Please, just one episode. Then we can watch something we both agree on—that’s not a documentary.”

Lexa considered the deal.

It took a while. Finally, she could only sigh loudly, not that anyone could hear, and tiredly waved her hand so the bloodied writing disappeared and replaced itself. Fine. One episode.

Clarke’s smile spread so wide Lexa spent a little too long staring at it.

Sure enough, soon Clarke was loading up Netflix and switching to Friends. The episode loaded into one of the later seasons, where the writers were almost out of ideas but not quite there yet. “Lights?” Clarke whispered low, and Lexa shook her head, but dutifully she waved a hand and the lights cut out to only leave the television glow to fight the dark.

Lexa lingered a few seconds more, but at seeing Clarke’s expectant look at the screen, she came to accept her fate and jumped inside the TV. It was a bit of a nuisance settling herself into the wires and the cables but once she was all well and done, she slipped inside the show itself, embedding her very essence into codes of red and blue and green.

Clarke leant forward, watching the screen more intently than anything as the episode trickled by. And then, after making Clarke suffer as long as Lexa liked, midway through the episode, Ross Gellar stopped midway into one of his many, many tirades, and blurted out: “I love getting pegged.”

Clarke burst out laughing like she always did.

Ross sighed tiredly, glaring right through the screen. “You’re a child, Clarke.”

“Never gets old,” Clarke said, still chuckling a little under her breath. “Absolutely never.”

Lexa didn’t know if her and Clarke were friends. But she did know, with absolute clarity, that she was a fucking terrible ghost.

-

It was a while before Clarke finally brought people over.

In the back of her mind, Lexa had been mildly convinced that Clarke had been holding out hope that she’d simply never have to bring anyone round. She tried to be offended by this but then she thought, well, if she were the one living in a haunted house—no matter how poorly said haunting was fairing—she’d be reluctant to have anyone over too. Not everyone had a sheer lack of survival instincts like Clarke.

Her theory was given considerable credibility too when the only way her friends did come over was unexpectedly and with no warning whatsoever. It was late, Clarke was sitting on the floor in the living room, papers and textbooks strewn about her in what looked like pure chaos to Lexa yet Clarke somehow knew where everything was. A documentary was playing on the TV because it was Lexa’s turn for movie night and Clarke had made her watch some rom-com last week so wonderfully she had no legs to stand on to argue her way out of it.

You’d think that it was a pretty pointless endeavour arguing with a ghost, but Clarke could argue with a toaster oven and probably come out winning.

Lexa was happily sitting on the floor enjoying her documentary on deep sea creatures, as Clarke studied quietly next to her, when the door bell rang and both of them froze. Clarke frowned, looking up. Lexa jumped inside the TV.

David Attenborough abruptly stopped in his fasciation of bioluminescent fish, and in his deep and gentle English accent, instead asked, “is that for you, Clarke?”

Clarke’s frown deepened. “I don’t know, Dave. The only people I’ve told where I live are—”

“Open the door, bitch! It’s the only people who find you mildly tolerable!”

“Yeah, you’ve been hiding from us too long!”

Lexa did not recognise either of the voices. Clarke groaned though, and unfortunately, groaned too loud that the voices seemed to hear.

“Don’t you fucking groan,” the first one scolded. “Now open the door before I break in and pick your lock.”

“I’m busy, Raven,” Clarke snapped back, and as if to prove her point gestured to the papers around her. This wasn’t very effective as the intruders were in fact outside.

“So what? You can masturbate at any time Clarke, but hanging out with your best friends, however…”

Clarke stared incredulously at the door. “I’m not getting myself off Rae, Jesus, I’m studying.”

Raven laughed. “Oh, I’m sure you’re studying something, Clarkey. Now, put on your pants, and let me in. It’s fucking cold.”

Clarke groaned in anguish.

Despite their supremely unconventional situation, Lexa had found herself growing oddly fond over the only person foolish enough to shack up with a ghost. “You know,” David Attenborough said conspiratorially, keeping his voice low. “I could scare them off, if you’d wish. I haven’t made windows bleed in a long time.”

Clarke laughed, but when she glanced at the television screen, where deep ocean fish were swimming blissfully across, she was smiling softly now out the corner of her mouth. “That’s alright, Lex. Thank you though. You’re a good ghost.”

Lexa highly disagreed but didn’t say anything.

“Could you unlock the door for me, though?” Clarke asked in a whisper, and Lexa, the terrible ghost she was, indeed left the TV and instead possessed the lock.

Not seconds later and the door was kicked open. Clarke didn’t even flinch. Lexa assumed this must be a regular way of entry for her friends.

The first woman to come in had a six-pack in her hands and whistled impressively the second she stepped in. “Shit Griffin,” she breathed, and Lexa could recognise her voice as the one called Raven. “How the hell did you score a place like this?”

“It’s haunted.”

Raven laughed. “Good one, Griff, but seriously. Who’d you suck off?”

Clarke just sighed tiredly and shook her head. “Look, guys, you know I love you both but I really need to study right now—”

“Oh come on Clarke,” the other woman said, as Raven unceremoniously dumped the six pack on the coffee table and fell back into the couch, kicking her feet up like she definitely didn’t just turn up unannounced. Clarke grabbed Raven’s boots and shoved them off the table. “You’re clearly watching something and just pretending.”

“Exactly,” Raven added, putting up her feet again. Clarke’s shove this time was considerably harsher. Raven only rolled her eyes, but she kept her boots on the floor this round. “And what are you watching anyway? Since when do you have the attention span to watch a documentary?”

“My ghost roommate likes them and last week I made her watch Imagine Me & You so I can’t get out of it.”

Lexa huffed from where she was back sitting next to the Clarke. It wasn’t like she was forcing Clarke to watch them. And she never watched them properly with her, anyway. She always either fell asleep or studied during it so she had an excuse to look away.

Unlike before, Raven didn’t laugh, instead sharing a weird look with her friend next to her.

“Uh, Clarke, it was a little funny the first time but no one likes a joke told twice.”

Clarke raised a brow. “I’m not joking, Octavia. There’s a ghost that lives here. We had a bit of a rocky start, but we’ve come to an agreement.”

“More like forced,” Lexa muttered to herself.

Raven stared at her. “Have you lost your mind? Like, for real? Has med school finally broken you? Is that why you’re watching documentaries?”

Lexa was starting to get a bit offended about this constant documentaries hate. It had been an honest while, but she was starting to toy with the idea of some real genuine haunting. Maybe then everyone could goddamn shut up.

Sadly, that’d be a little too petty. Even for a ghost.

“I knew we should have come sooner,” Octavia said, glaring at Raven. “She’s finally lost it.”

Clarke seemed to finally give up hope that tonight was going to be productive and threw her notebook to the floor. “Guys. For the last time, I’m not crazy. This place is legitimately haunted. It’s why I didn’t want you two over.”

Octavia grew a nervous grin, unnerved by the sheer dedication to the joke. “Right… the reason you didn’t want us over was because… you didn’t want us to come to your haunted house and, what, get jumped by a ghost?”

Clarke frowned. “What? No, of course not.”

They both looked relieved by this, but unfortunately for them, she hadn’t finished her sentence.

“I’m not scared for you guys. I’m worried about Lexa. Ghosts don’t get visitors much and I wanted to try be polite about it. Which you’ve clearly ruined, so thanks for that.”

All of Lexa’s thoughts went to a screeching halt, then. She stilled, slowly looked to Clarke with such soft, touched surprise that even if she had been a spirit for over a century, had been dead and bodiless longer than the opposite—for a second, she could have sworn she felt the phantom stutter of her heart.

Clarke’s friends looked even more nervous now.

“Prove it then.”

Octavia shot Raven a horrified look, but Clarke met Raven’s challenge like she met any challenge—grinning, grinning, grinning.

“Alright,” Clarke accepted, never looking happier.

But Lexa saw a golden opportunity suddenly arise in this moment. And, while Clarke absolutely would argue with a ghost with no hesitation, it took a certain type of ghost anyway to deign to argue back instead of just making them see their darkest nightmares. And Lexa was absolutely that type of ghost.

The sharp ping of Clarke’s phone broke the building tension in the room.

Clarke’s eyes flicked down to her side, where her phone was lying on the floor. A new text was there. Lexa’s name was clearly shown above.

As I am not a show dog, I will only do something if I get something in return.

Clarke’s smile broadened like she wouldn’t expect anything less. She picked up her phone, telling her friends to hold a minute, and texted back. What then?

You have to actually watch a documentary with me. No multitasking. Or sleeping.

Clarke scoffed, but that smile still lingered stubborn on her lips. Seriously? How desperate are you for this?

You are the first company I have had in decades, Clarke.

That grin faltered then, slipping off, and if Lexa had a heart still, she knew it’d be pounding wildly as she could only anxiously watch as Clarke stared and stared down at her phone.

After a minute, Clarke blinked to herself, and texted back, okay. I’ll watch whatever you choose.

It felt more significant than it should have.

“So.” Clarke suddenly straightened herself up then, that eager grin now plastered back on her lips like it’d never left. “You want proof, do you?”

Raven narrowed her eyes while Octavia eyed up the six pack in clear longing.

“You want to see the walls bleed?” Clarke said, and despite herself, Lexa found herself grinning a little too. It wasn’t seconds after her words that phantom blood was now leaking down the walls from the ceiling, slow and menacing in a way only evil could look. Raven swore viciously and immediately jumped to her feet up on couch. Octavia gave up entirely and finally tore a can out of the beer pack and muttered under her breath how this is absolutely how she’s going to die and she’s certainly not doing it fucking sober.

And Clarke, just like she’d been since day zero, wasn’t affected in the slightest.

“You want to see static crawl out the TV, the table rise, the frames move?”

Even if it was draining, to do so many things at once, it was the first time in a long while where Lexa was just genuinely happy to haunt. It felt like showing off in the worse way imaginable and it was perfect.

Octavia skulled her beer faster. Raven’s breathing sped up by the second, her eyes wildly flicking about trying to take in the chaos.

Clarke opened her mouth to say more, but before she could Raven cut her off.

“Alright I get the fucking point!” she snapped, and Clarke lost her humour immediately at the genuine fear.

“Enough,” Clarke whispered.

The haunting stopped all at once.

The frames readjusted themselves; the static crawled back in; the table set itself back down on the floor where it belonged; the blood disappeared, the air shifted back to room temperature, the TV switched back on to the David Attenborough’s soothing explanation’s like nothing had happened.

It was a minute or two till the tense silence was broken. Octavia managed to finish her beer and reached for another, which Lexa found quite impressive.

“So you’re… you’re haunted.”

Raven’s voice shook a little and so Clarke only nodded. Raven licked her lips, nodding to herself as she presumably attempted to take in the rightfully terrifying knowledge. Not that Clarke would be scared. Because that would make sense.

“And you said—you said her name is, is Lexa, or something?”

“Yeah. She’s been here a long while. She’s not a serial killer or anything though, I asked.”

“Right,” Raven said, like this was a totally reasonable conversation to have. “So how did—how did she kick it?”

Clarke got weirdly quiet, then. “I mean, that’s sort of personal I think. You can ask her if you want but don’t expect anything back.”

Raven looked properly disturbed at the idea of asking a ghost and hurriedly shook her head. “No, no, that’s—that’s fine. That’s cool, it’s nothing, I’m not even that curious.” She paused though, eyes widening as something occurred to her. “Wait is… is she still in the room with us? Is she always with us?”

Clarke shrugged. “Probably. Though if you ask her to leave you be she will. Politely, obviously. It’s just like any roommate.”

“Except your roommate is a motherfucking ghost.”

Clarke rolled her eyes. “Please, she’s a far better roommate than any I’ve had. And yes, that absolutely does include you two. We have a cleaning roster and she actually follows it. I never really lose anything anymore because she knows this house like the back of her hand so I just ask and she finds it. She doesn’t make a mess. At all. So what if she’s a ghost?”

Octavia burped and carelessly put down her second beer. “You know, she makes a fair point. You’re a terrible fucking roommate Reyes.”

Raven went to retort, but after only a second she closed her mouth in reluctant agreement.

“Does she pay rent?” Octavia asked, slurring a little now.

Clarke grimaced. “Well. Can’t have everything. But she has made this place unbelievably cheap, so technically, you could argue that.”

Octavia considered it a moment before merely nodding with poor coordination and falling back into the couch, evidently satisfied. Raven’s discomfort seemed to have mostly eased back, at least a little, but there was something still cautious on her face as she glanced back to Clarke.

“You aren’t worried if she like, watches you in the shower or changing or anything, though, are you?”

“She says she’s not a pervert.”

Lexa sighed in exasperation. Honestly. What would it goddamn take to earn some benefit of the doubt?

“That’s exactly something a pervert would say,” Raven muttered.

Clarke nodded solemnly.

-

Despite the many warning signs against having a dead person as your roommate, they got on with a surprising lack of trouble. Lexa was honestly starting to become a little unnerved by it. Just months ago she’d been dedicated to making sure no one stepped foot in through the door and now she found herself genuinely looking forward to when Clarke got home.

She hadn’t felt like that in a long time. And not just by the standard definition of the phrase either, but a really, truly long time, a whole hundred years long time. Turns out being spiritually chained to the house she’d been killed in didn’t have a lot going for it. Even after Clarke had made the very much insane decision to willingly stay in a haunted lot, Lexa had never had much hope it’d make much of a difference in the grand scheme of things.

But Lexa learnt things, as the days went on.

She learnt that Clarke had terrible choice in entertainment and had forced her to sit through a god-awful amount of trashy comedies and rom-coms and now Lexa had a shameful amount of knowledge in the genre. She also learnt, though, that as much as Clarke made a huff about it, when she finally managed to sit down and hold her promise in the Dreaded Documentary Indoctrination, Lexa was not blind to how Clarke watched the whole thing and didn’t say a word.

Not till a few weeks later, where movie night came round again and Clarke gave a surprising lack of argument against Lexa’s excited suggestion for another.

She learnt that Clarke liked her coffee with enough sugar and cream it barely counted as coffee anymore and that her favourite snack on the surface was barbeque chips but actually was popcorn dipped in peanut butter, which Lexa had been sworn into secrecy over.

She learnt that her favourite colour was green and that one night where Clarke was sat on the floor downing her fourth beer of the night—celebratory, as apparently she’d aced her exam—Clarke drunkenly admitted that deep down, ever since she was a kid, she’d harboured this dream of living off art, not saving lives.

She had then immediately denied this, scowling and scoffing to herself like it was her greatest shame to even entertain the idea. Lexa had been quiet, though. Sat down next to her, Lexa had phantom carved into the edge of the table, what sort of art?

Clarke had stared at the neat script in wood for a long drunken minute. Then, blinking slowly, and smaller than Lexa had ever seen, she’d rambled on for a whole hour about multiple art genres with such an extensive vocabulary that Lexa had no idea she possessed.

The next day, for movie night, Lexa chose a biographical flick on Vincent van Gogh and Clarke had smiled something Lexa had yet to see from her. It was one of the softest and most beautiful things Lexa had ever seen and the image of it was still burned down into even the most stubborn places of her memory. It made her feel alive again, like any ghost shouldn’t.

There were a few hiccups, of course, like anyone has.

As much as Lexa had been growing fond of her, Morning Clarke was someone Lexa did her best to avoid. Usually, Clarke was at least fairly polite and she might be particularly stubborn over things that really could be let go, but generally, you could negotiate or talk your way out of it and defuse the situation with relative ease.

This rule was not applicable with Morning Clarke.

So when Lexa had learnt through Clarke’s swearing one day that she had an exam that was especially early in the morning, Lexa could already see the coming battle. She’d watched each day tick by on the calendar like a general watching an increasingly restless army. Oh there’d be blood, alright. And it would probably be hers.

As much as ghosts could bleed, anyway.

It started with Clarke’s alarm on her phone going off and a hand shoving itself out its nestle of blankets, somehow blindly grabbing the device, stabbing snooze with finger, and promptly retracting said hand back into its nest. Lexa had merely sighed from where she’d just floated in through the wall.

Here we go.

The old TV at the front of room flickered itself on. Static initially, till Lexa wove in deep enough into the wires she managed to switch it over to her favourite particular documentary of David Attenborough. His face flashed on the screen with an endeared smile, but before he could start on anything, Lexa was already borrowing his voice.

“You have your exam in an hour, Clarke.”

The pile of blankets groaned.

“You need to get up.”

“Fuck off, David,” Clarke grunted.

David Attenborough sighed tiredly. “It’s a twenty minute commute and you need to be there early before it starts. You need to get up now and get ready. You told me to wake you up.”

Clarke’s head finally surfaced, at least. Of course, Lexa’s relief was short lived, because it turned out to only be means for Clarke to find where the remote was on her bedside table and pointed it back at the TV.

“Finally,” Clarke sighed, the TV now off and back in blissful silence.

Lexa left the TV scowling. If Clarke wanted to play like this, fine. She could handle it. Denial only carried her so far and Lexa could be forced to admit that she actually didn’t want to see Clarke fail. Sure, she had terrible choice in films and was a demon half-asleep but Lexa also knew her as someone who greeted her every morning and night and asked about her day despite the fact she was very much dead.

Point being: Lexa wasn’t giving up that easy.

The nestle of blankets was already in early stages of sleep once more when Lexa easily drifted over to where Clarke’s phone was splayed out on the mattress. She jumped inside of it, and after thumbing through the wires found exactly what she wanted.

The ensuing alarm blaring was at max volume and could be heard from downstairs.

Clarke groaned. She didn’t move, though, which Lexa thought was just plain rude now, and so with a sigh left the phone on blaring but grabbed the duvet and ripped it off. Clarke’s groan went from anguish to fury. An arm flung out and snagged a pillow, shoving it over her head.

Lexa stared incredulously at her.

It took a longer siege than expected. Eventually Lexa realised she needed more firepower, so stretching herself thinner than any ghost should for such a mundane goal, she managed to rope an old record player into spinning and yelling out too. The TV stuttered back on to some daytime morning show at full volume to the point that Lexa expected some sort of noise complaint from the neighbours.

Clarke held out an impressive two whole minutes against the sheer cacophony of noise before surrounding defeat.

“Okay Lex, I fucking get it!” Clarke snapped, throwing the pillow off her and vaguely at the TV. She rubbed tired hands over her face. “I’m up, I’m up. Turn the fucking shit off or I swear to god I’m googling how to perform an exorcism.”

Lexa was quite grateful Clarke couldn’t see her smug grin. It would have definitely escalated the situation.

But she listened. The room was suddenly thrust back into quiet and Clarke collapsed onto her back in relief, muttering about the sheer lack of respect and common decency in ghosts. Lexa only rolled her eyes.

With what must have been herculean effort, Clarke managed the effort to push herself up so she was sitting. Lexa’s high off victory faltered at realising that Clarke’s sleep wear of just shorts and a shirt left a dangerous amount of skin on show and since she was not a goddamn pervert, she politely looked away. Not that Clarke would see and appreciate that.

“Could you throw me some clothes please?” Clarke asked, effectively destroying this brilliant plan of not being a pervert and having to look her way.

Lexa sighed to herself and shook her head. But considering the severe awakening she had just forced onto Clarke, she still moved towards the wardrobe. The door to the closet seemed to slide open on its own, and soon after a pair of pants and a shirt was floating out and hovering in the air.

Clarke clicked her tongue. “You have that navy blue shirt?”

Lexa exhaled through her nose, but dutifully the previous shirt glided back in and the blue one came drifting out. She would have been annoyed except Clarke smiled softly, murmured a sincere enough thanks Lexa had no idea how to react.

Luckily this was soon rectified because Clarke slid off the bed, approaching the clothes now laid out. “Right, I’m going to get changed, so please close the door on your way out so I know.”

It was the system they’d made together so that Clarke at least had some idea of where Lexa was. Being dead and invisible leaves privacy something of a blurred line, but Lexa was a woman of her word, and despite the constant jokes Clarke made she still gave her a concerning amount of trust. If Lexa went into a room Clarke was in, by courtesy Lexa left the door at least halfway open and Clarke just trusted her blindly on that front.

In the back of Lexa’s mind she knew that this meant something, something important so naturally she’d dedicated all her mental efforts into completely ignoring this and just accepting it wordlessly without a second thought.

No one ever said that being dead meant you had to grow up.

-

Not all days Clarke came home for the night.

Lexa didn’t think much of it, because it wasn’t really that much of her concern. She was already breaking a thousand ghost rules by allowing someone to live on her murder site and genuinely play nice them so she was at least trying to keep some of her ghost duties in tact. No matter how little they might be. Plus, Clarke had a life anyway, and Lexa knew some things she just had to let go. It was a lesson she’d learnt the hard way.

So, she didn’t think much of it and let it be, merely resigned herself to another night alone and did what all ghosts did to pass the hours: painted blood menacingly in windows to scare the absolute shit out of passers by.

Although, admittedly, Lexa nowadays had to be a bit careful with this, as there might have been incident where Lexa was doing her usual routine except when some scrawny kid saw the bloodied threat, that instead of running, their first instinct had been to call the police.

Clarke had not been impressed when she’d gotten home only to stop dead still in the driveway to find cops waiting at her door. She’d had to spend twenty minutes talking them down while Lexa watched from the window and grew increasingly nervous as Clarke’s periodic looks to the house became darker with every glance.

Lexa still remembered Clarke’s glare the moment the door shut and wasn’t keen on reliving it.

It was almost midnight at this point. Lexa had been floating upside down in the air, watching the end of some late night talk show on the TV—with no small amount of shame Lexa could admit that after spending so long watching it with Clarke she’d grown an annoying interest in the latest celebrity gossip—when she heard the front door knob rattle.

Lexa immediately jumped inside the screen and wrenched it off, because Clarke would legitimately never let her live it down if she discovered her greatest shame. She needn’t have bothered, though. The door swung open a second later but Clarke’s attention was nowhere near the TV or anywhere even the vaguest in her direction.

It was to the woman she was currently lip locked with.

They stumbled, Clarke almost tripping over her feet as she blindly moved backwards. She seemed to try and shove the keys back into her pocket, but her partner was apparently already mourning the loss of her hand and grabbed her wrist the second Clarke was even halfway done, using it to help push Clarke against the nearest wall.

Lexa raised her brow.

“Wait,” Clarke panted, finally pulling away enough she could speak. “Niylah, I thought we said your place, you said you just wanted to see—”

Niylah merely started kissing down Clarke’s neck instead. Lexa was already sighing, resigning herself to sit on the steps outside so they could at least have some privacy. Except then Clarke moaned, half strangled off like she’d been trying to hold it back and failed, and Lexa felt something that no ghost had the right to feel.

“Oh come on,” Niylah laughed, grinning up at her but relenting and pulling away from her neck. A silent hand still snuck under Clarke’s shirt and palmed her stomach. “Did you seriously think me wanting to see your place was anything other than an invitation for something else?”

Clarke blinked at her and didn’t say anything. Niylah actually paused at that, staring at her in disbelief.

Seriously Clarke?”

Lexa found herself wanting to smile. There was something constricting in her chest though, a feeling that she had thought she’d long, long outlived. Well. Maybe not outlived per se, but whatever.

Niylah was soon smiling anyway. “Come on, we’re already here, aren’t we? What’s the point in driving all the way to my place?”

Her hand was drifting up further under her shirt but Clarke grabbed her wrist this time, gently pulling it back down. “Listen, Niylah, I really, really want to, like please understand that—but let’s just go to yours, it’s so much easier that way.”

Niylah frowned slightly. She stepped back, a confused smile on her lips. “What are you so nervous about? You’re not hiding a dead body or something, are you?”

At least she got it half correct.

“It’s my roommate,” Clarke blurted out. Now Lexa was confused, still lingering when she really should have cleared off by now.

Niylah arched a brow. Clarke cleared her throat awkwardly.

“It’s just, we’ve been trying to make it work and I don’t want to traumatise her much, you know? I don’t want to make her feel weird or… something.”

Niylah softened. “It’s sweet you give enough of a shit for your roommate like that. Mine is in no way the same.” She shuddered then, likely reliving memories that no third party should be privy too. Clarke looked relieved to be understood, but then Niylah was craning her neck, scanning around the room. “Wait, is she here even?”

Clarke opened her mouth, but nothing came out.

How to politely tell your potential lover your housemate was a woman who had been dead for over a hundred years.

“Well,” Clarke said, grimacing somewhat. “I guess not in the standard definition, no…”

Niylah seemed to take this as something different. Her smile dropped, and glancing at her feet she stepped away and cleared her throat. “Clarke... I know we’re friends and nothing more, but if you want to go you can seriously just say so, you don’t need to—”

“That’s not it,” Clarke cut in, reaching out and grabbing Niylah’s hand before she could fully retreat. Clarke laughed a little, rubbed the back of her neck. “Look, I’m sorry, you’re right, I’m being weird. It’s fine.”

To prove her point she pulled her back in for a kiss again, and Niylah relaxed into it. Lexa knew that she definitely absolutely without a doubt had lingered as much as common courtesy allowed, but somehow, she found she couldn’t move. Her feet were cemented into ground despite the fact they were hovering in the air. She knew she was staring and she wanted to stop but she couldn’t.

Because it was the first time in so long that Lexa was reminded so viscerally of Costia.

Part of the reason she was so against the rom-coms Clarke kept forcing her through was less because of how cheesy they were and every other excuse she made, but that it reminded too painfully of what could have been. She’d died for love and while she didn’t regret it a second, because it meant that Costia lived, that didn’t mean that Lexa couldn’t mourn.

She’d had a plan. They both had. The few days before it happened, they had been lying in bed together, naked under the sheets and whispering low and loving of their plan to run away. They’d find somewhere, Lexa promised. Someplace where they could hold hands and they could kiss and it might have to be the remotest place on the planet but she would do it in a heartbeat if it meant she could love her openly.

And Costia had laughed and smiled, but she’d humoured her, given her a nod. Okay, she’d promised back. We’ll go somewhere far away. Someplace where there are more trees than there are people, we’ll make our living off tending to the earth, never hear a word against us again. We’ll have that sort of love they write books about and tend to it as well as we do to our home.

It was the sort of fantasy that could haunt you right into your afterlife, that no grave could save you from.

Sometimes ghosts were haunted too.

Lexa came back to herself at seeing them abruptly move. They were crashing into each other’s lips again, only barely keeping from falling over as they blindly staggered back for the stairs still pressed together. They got to the base of it and Clarke abruptly pulled away.

“I’ll see you upstairs in a second, I just need to leave a note for my roommate,” she whispered into her lips, and Niylah laughed and shook her head, but she listened, leaning forward and murmuring something into Clarke’s ear before disappearing up the stairs. Clarke swallowed, seeming to need a minute to regain herself, but the moment she was sure Niylah was gone she stepped out and called Lexa’s name in a whisper.

“Don’t be a pervert or I’m cancelling our Netflix subscription,” Clarke hissed, not even waiting for a reply before she was already running up the stairs. Lexa rolled her eyes to herself. The respect she got in this house was truly flattering. She soon caught the sound of muffled laughter though, a door slamming shut and Lexa’s chest ached at where her heart should have been.

As Lexa was in fact not a pervert, she sat herself on the front steps just outside the house. It was the furthest of the boundary she could push. She couldn’t hear anything here, thankfully, only had the silence of the streets to give her company.

She spent the night watching the stars.

It was Lexa’s deepest fear that Costia wasn’t up there.

-

Niylah snuck out sometime around dawn.

Lexa tried not to be offended when the woman walked right through her, adjusting at her shoulder strap and doing her best to not like she was wearing yesterdays clothes and her makeup had rubbed off. In a great show of self-control, Lexa didn’t do anything petty and merely continued to stay sitting on the front steps, watching as Niylah texted someone on her phone and crept her way out while the sun only just crawled up the sky.

The birds started chirping and singing up their songs soon after. Lexa lingered a couple minutes more, taking in the peace. She could see a neighbour from across the street knelt down in their garden, patting soil into the earth and bobbing their head to the headphones they had in their ears.

The sky went from red to lilac, but even as Lexa sat there with the sun’s rays finally reaching out and shining on her, she felt nothing. Not a drip of warmth. Not a touch of anything.

She sighed and went back into the house.

It was the weekend, so Clarke slept in later than she usually could get away with. By the time she was finally hobbling her way down the stairs, still half asleep on her feet and yawning wide, it’d been hours since dawn and the late morning light was beaming into the kitchen. Clarke shuffled her way forward and went about making her morning coffee.

As it brewed, Clarke turned around and let herself lean back onto the counter. She gently tapped her knuckle a couple times against the cupboard, and Lexa in response immediately left from where she’d been mindlessly running through the cables and appeared by her side. The knock was the method they’d come up with when they wanted each other’s attention.

“Morning,” Clarke murmured, seeming to only just succeed in the battle of opening her eyes. She soon shook her head after like it would wake her up more.

Lexa bit back smirk. Stayed up late last night? appeared on the opposite kitchen wall in black paint. Not blood this time, because it was much too early for that.

Clarke saw and glared at the wall. “Fuck off.”

Lexa wanted to laugh and push it a little more, but she was well aware of the fact Clarke was only just waking up. Not wanting to incite any wars with less than amicable parties, Lexa waved her hand and the writing disappeared. Instead she simply wrote, Good morning to you too, Clarke.

Clarke’s eyes softened like they always seemed to around her. They stood in the morning there together, sharing the quiet till the coffee was done brewing and Clarke could make it undrinkable because apparently she just didn’t have any tastebuds.

She sipped from the mug, hummed in relief and closed her eyes. Lexa thought that was the end of it when without warning, Clarke asked, “how many tattoos do I have?”

Lexa blinked slowly, staring at her. Caught between not knowing what to say at that completely out of blue question and now her brain rather traitorously imagining what tattoos Clarke could in fact have and where, she took too long to reply that Clarke rolled her eyes.

“Come on Lexa, answer me. How many tattoos do I have?”

Lexa could only write, How could I possibly know that? across the wall.

But Clarke actually smiled. “Correct answer,” she mumbled, and took another much needed swig from her coffee.

Lexa knew she should be annoyed from the unnecessary test, but even without a pulse she was being betrayed and found herself only scoffing with a smile and shaking her head. This whole thing was so stupid, and a part of her hated just how desperately she clung on to it.

Clarke’s smile soon slipped off. She cleared her throat, straightening herself up. “Hey look, I’m… I’m sorry about last night and all. Usually I’m good at making sure I end up at theirs, but Niylah was… persistent.”

Lexa frowned. Clarke’s phone went off from her back pocket, yet when Clarke blinked and reached for it, she checked her screen to find Lexa continuing the conversation there.

This is your house too, Clarke. I have no problem waiting outside if that’s what you need.

Clarke didn’t look at all relieved. It confused Lexa, because Clarke only pursed her lips, ran a nervous hand through her hair. “Look, uh, it’s alright, it won’t happen again.”

Her phone went off again. What is it you’re not saying?

Clarke laughed a little, but it was sad for some reason, aching with something Lexa didn’t understand. “You always know how to read me, huh?”

Lexa stared and didn’t know what to say. Clarke sighed with her shoulders caving in.

“It’s just, I remember what that agent said, about how you…” Clarke sucked in a sharp breath, avoiding it. Lexa just kept staring and staring at her because this all felt like something they couldn’t come back from. “I know that you died for love,” Clarke finally settled on. “It just feels insensitive, to bring someone round and just… flaunt it in your face like that when that’s the whole reason why you’re dead.”

Lexa stared at her and didn’t know what to say, what to do. This wasn’t what was supposed to happen with a ghost. The only love and care a ghost should know should be the carving into a gravestone, the gentle placing of flowers, kneeling into dirt, whispered confessions and a yearning for what wasn’t there. There wasn’t—there wasn’t meant to be more than that.

But Lexa looked at her, and every word that Clarke had said might have been nervous but it was absolute in its honesty. And it wasn’t fair. None of it, not a single fucking scrap of it was fair. Like the worst ghost in the entire world, Lexa felt seen and understood.

And she knew that somewhere, in some old, lonely grave, there was a heart pushing against her feeble ribs trying to crawl its way up through the dirt to home.

-

In her defence, Clarke had never really seen herself in this situation.

Though admittedly she can also say that if you’re the type of person who prematurely saw themselves having lunch out with your friends, except the topic of conversation was working out what was worse, celebrating your ghost’s roommate’s birthday or death day, if it was a breech of privacy to find their obituary from a century ago to work out the dates, then, well.

You’ve probably got bigger problems on your hands than gift buying.

But somehow that was where Clarke found herself. Sitting at a table at a café with her two best friends and having them both stare at her in utter disbelief when Clarke asked how she should go about getting Lexa a gift. For, you know, her birthday.

Or death day. The discussion was ongoing.

And after a deep sigh and Raven almost just straight up walking out because, “Clarke, I love you, but sometimes you say things that makes me want to fake my death and move to Mexico,” they’d surprisingly enough gotten into a helpful discussion about it.

“Could always do both,” Octavia suggested midway, but Clarke grimaced.

“No, I’ve only got the one gift. I can’t do both.”

“What gift?” Raven asked, though already she was looking a nervous, probably trying to envision something a ghost would like and only coming up with blood sacrifices.

Clarke merely shrugged. “She likes candles.”

Raven stared at her.

It wasn’t a lie. She’d been living with Lexa for months now, had become completely unfazed to letters splattered in blood across walls—asking her if in her study break she would have time to play chess with her—that Clarke thought it’d become pretty much impossible now, to surprise her, to do anything that wouldn’t just make her respond with a dull blink.

And yet she’d thought she’d been hallucinating when she got back home a little earlier than usual and caught Lexa playing with a candle. Well, maybe not playing exactly. But something. She had walked into the living room and halted to an abrupt stop at seeing a candle that was floating up in the air, the flame flickering in and out like a light switch gone haywire.

Clarke had then quietly knocked against the wall, to let her know, and the candle dropped back on the shelf in an instant as if Lexa hadn’t been caught so obviously red-handed. It had been something Clarke had taken note of it though, because originally it’d just been a housewarming gift from her mother—where Clarke made sure to talk to Lexa beforehand that Abby could in no way know about the fact her house was haunted.

Lexa had been mildly offended but went with it, didn’t make a sound. Clarke was thinking that the candle was probably going end up sitting there on that top shelf she couldn’t even reach collecting dust right until the house went down in however many years it’d finally take.

Now though, Clarke deviated from this plan.

“Candles,” Raven repeated, looking like she was already considering how to forge a Mexican passport.

“It’s the least I can do,” Clarke said, casual as anything.

“The least—? Clarke, do you seriously not see anything wrong with this? Like don’t you worry at all about living in a house with a fucking ghost? What if she’s possessing you and you don’t even know it and she’ll destroy your life?”

Clarke scoffed. “Please, Lexa wouldn’t do that.”

Raven flung her arms out. “Why the fuck wouldn’t she!”

“She’s too polite.”

Raven just gaped uselessly, but before she could yell anymore Octavia grabbed her wrist, gently pulled her arm back down, shook her head like a weary solider who’d seen enough wars to know when you’ve already lost.

“The ship’s already sunk, man.” Octavia said gravely. “There’s no saving it.” Raven’s gaze jumped frantically between the both of them, like begging for something to make sense, but Clarke just continued to calmly eat her sandwich as if nothing had happened and Octavia was pleading tiredly with her eyes.

Eventually Raven gave up and just slumped back, defeated, into her seat.

Octavia looked to Clarke. “For what it’s worth, I think you should go for the birthday. I feel like celebrating when she died is a bit of a dick move, right? Like it’s saying you’re glad she’s dead or something.”

“Good point,” Clarke murmured, nodding seriously.

Raven looked up plane tickets on her phone.

It was a few days later that Clarke stayed late once her lecture let out, instead found a desk that hadn’t yet to be claimed by anyone else in the library and pulled her laptop open. After wrestling with herself over it, finally she caved, searched for the thing she’d sworn herself not to the day she moved in to her new home.

Lexa’s murder.

She promised she’d look for dates only though, wouldn’t let herself read anything too deep. This was solely a reconnaissance mission only. She didn’t want to know anything that she didn’t already, spare for a birthdate. That was it. Nothing else. Nodding surely to herself, she went to work, but even the first google of murder in Polis, it didn’t give her a lot in narrowing much down.

Polis was old. Like old old. It’d started off small, and had been for a long, long time. It seemed more a miracle than anything that despite that no one ever had truly succeeded in wiping it out, taking it over, even through all the wars and skirmishes and rebellions throughout history. Polis was like a tower that would simply never fall.

Oh, it’d lost people, sure. It sat through the second world war and the first, it’d sat through the revolution, its history stretched back further and further and further, far past documents even, mounting to the point where Clarke was starting think it might have been there right at the beginning, started off as nothing more than a village, a home.

Maybe it was a little inevitable that Lexa had stayed here, too. Like the city was so ancient and stalwart against being taken it’d even kept one of its people as well. Had refused to let go of its own flesh and blood, yanked her back into her its arms when the sky started its long there calling. That the ground had seen so much, had lost so much, that for just this once, it wanted to be selfish. Build a city here if you must, but let me have this.

Clarke blinked back to herself. She glanced up to the time, almost thought she was hallucinating at seeing she’d spent a whole two hours of just falling down the Wikipedia rabbit hole. And she was nowhere closer to what she actually wanted to find.

This wasn’t working.

“New plan,” Clarke whispered under her breath, and closed all her tabs.

Instead, she searched for old newspaper archives. Probably should have started with that but that was Wikipedia’s fault. Not hers. Obviously.

It was another few hours before she found it. She was three coffees in deep now and her hands were definitely going to start trembling from the caffeine soon but that didn’t matter, because after sifting through newspaper after newspaper on every goddamn mention of murder from Polis-covering printing houses—the first one being Polis Tribune, which promptly went bankrupt a bare few years later, and only until after the ensuing death of a couple others it was Polis Post the only one still left kicking—did she finally, finally, find mention of it.

Clarke had been sipping her coffee, her vision going a little hazy as all the tiny printed words started blurring together until, from what felt like out of nowhere, it was just there.

Shot in Polis!—Alexandria Woods, 22, murdered in her own home.

She choked on her coffee. “Holy shit!”

“Shhh!”

Clarke’s eyes snapped to the student that was studying a few seats away from her. Although, calling it ‘studying’ might be pushing it. They looked like they were still pushing through the last dregs of a hangover, hunched over in their seat and staring miserably down at their laptop with the longing of a prisoner counting down their days. Clearly, they very much wanted silence for their self-imposed funeral, so Clarke mouthed sorry and ignored the glare she got in response.

Almost shaking with excitement—or, well, realistically it was probably the impending caffeine overdose—she set her coffee to the side, wiped the spill that had gotten on her chin and leant forward, eyes rapidly taking the words. She did her best to look out for numbers, dates, anything to do with a birthday, but after cautiously skimming the whole thing and even scouring through the obituary for the week with it, there was nothing.

It had her age, and the date she died, but nothing of when she lived.

Her excitement quickly sputtered out into heavy disappointment. Hours of research, and for nothing. It’d been a big event, sure, bigger than most things Polis had. The murder was front page and all, but even with that, all the explanations and accusations all neatly typed out didn’t care much for what Lexa had been doing when she had a heartbeat.

As much as she tried to be respectful about it, it was inevitable that Clarke still caught out details that she shouldn’t have. She learnt that the woman Lexa had died for, her name was Costia—she’d been a florist, the sort of woman that the sun woke up for—and that Lexa’s killer, Titus, something constricted in her chest at reading that he’d raised her, how Lexa was the closest thing he’d had to a daughter.

And it was true she’d been told this before. But something hit different here than being told by some nervous real estate agent that Lexa had been his ward—because this, this was deeper than that. Lexa might have been the one to breathe out her last, down on knees holding her stomach, and while it made Clarke furious and desolated her with an intensity she didn’t expect, she thought about Titus too.

With how it was written here, maybe he’d died too in a way. In some way that bullet had split in two and fired backwards. Clarke doubted Titus ever lived after that. For a second, she had the split thought to search more after him, but she was already banishing the impulse before it could finish settling. She’d learnt too much already, really. This wasn’t what she came for.

She closed her laptop screen and leant back into her chair with a sigh, dragging her hands over her face.

When she opened her eyes again, she found the student from before was eyeing her.

“Always got tomorrow,” Clarke said, breathing out a tired laugh.

The student smiled at her for that.

-

Like most things seemed to in her life the way that Clarke actually got her answer was completely unintentional.

If Fate was a thing that really did exist, that there was some cosmic outline written beneath her palms and woven in her blood that she’d spend her whole life following like a dog pulled along, then maybe there truly was no such thing as coincidence as like when Clarke was wandering through the grocery store, on the phone to Raven complaining at length of her failure, and a hand tapped her shoulder.

Clarke frowned, glancing back and having to stop midway in her miserable ranting about spending those hours and finding jack shit of what she wanted. And, honestly, she might just have to swallow her pride and just straight up ask Lexa when her birthday was—but that would be admitting defeat, which was one of the things that Clarke was notoriously terrible at. Go figure.

“And did you know that Lexa isn’t even her actual name?” she’d been saying, leaning her elbows over the shopping cart handle and drifting mindlessly towards whatever way her feet shuffled. “Yeah, I know, turns out Lexa is a nickname. Her full is Alexandria Woods, or something. Do you think she hates it? And that’s why she’s never mentioned it?”

Raven had sighed. “Clarke, I say this with love, but I need you to hear this: I do not care. At all. I’ve told you, I don’t want to know shit that has to do with the ghost you are living with.”

“She’s not just a ghost,” Clarke grumbled. “Don’t talk about her like that. She’s a person like any of us.”

“Yeah, but she’s dead.”

A hand touched her shoulder, then. Clarke had been mid-retort, but she stopped and looked back to see an elderly lady there, smiling kindly but with a strange excitement—and by elderly, she meant proper elderly, the sort of old where you can never complain about a thing when you’re around them, knowing they’ve already heard it all a thousand times before in about a thousand different ways.

“Alexandria Woods,” the old woman said, hair totally white and wrinkles folded into every inch of skin like it was barely holding on.

Clarke blinked slowly. For a moment she glanced around, like maybe there was someone around her that could explain what was going on, but at finding it really was just her and this ancient woman and shelves of discounted rice, Clarke eventually did what she always did in situations like this.

She went along with it.

“Gotta go,” she muttered into her phone, at least doing the politeness of turning briefly away and lowering her voice. “This lady just walked up and mentioned Lexa and if I’m lucky, maybe she’ll know something so I’m gonna talk to her. She might be crazy or she might not. I’ll keep you updated.”

“Jesus, Clarke, this is exactly the fucking reason why you’re going to be the first to die in a horror movie.”

“Love you too.”

“I call dibs for the eulogy at your funeral,” Raven quipped and promptly hung up without another word.

Clarke only shook her head and slipped her phone back into her pocket. She turned to the old woman again, who thankfully hadn’t wandered off. “I’d bet there’s probably a lot of Alexandria Woods out there,” Clarke started, but already the woman was frowning, shaking her head.

“She was my mother’s best friend. Alexandria, Lexa. Never stopped talking about her, not once.”

Clarke straightened up for that. “Your mother?”

“Becca,” the woman said, eyes lighting up like it should mean something.

“Right. Becca.” It didn’t. Not to her, at least. Clarke nodded and pretended anyway. “Well, I’m Clarke.”

She politely stuck her hand out. The woman smiled a little brighter and took it, shook it weakly. Her hand was warm and bony. “Allison.” She paused, and then, nodding to herself, corrected, “Allie.”

Clarke smiled. “Nice to meet you. Although, I mean, I know it’s a real shot in the dark and I don’t see why you’d care or remember or—” she stopped herself, biting her lip. She was rambling. Ghosts didn’t make her nervous, but Lexa did. “Just, I know this is going to sound really weird, but do you know when her birthday is?”

Allie took a moment, staring at her as she frowned behind her glasses. “Yes,” she finally said. Clarke’s eyes blew wide. “We had to do something, always, when it was. Loved her like a sister, my mother. Always said she was the something to only come around once.”

“I bet,” Clarke said softly.

Allie smiled wider. It was warmer now, but sadder. Like a wound that only healed when it was sore. “Hated it, didn’t she? Being inside, behind the window. Always had to be out. Kept trying to run away, but always turned back, loved them too much, never enough for herself.”

Something ached in her chest. Allie spoke in rambling, barley-there sentences, but that warmth and surety in them Clarke understood more than anything.

“Lexa Woods,” Allie said, but she chuckled here, grabbed Clarke’s hand and smiled again like it was secret. “Mother always laughed, always. Loved the trees so much, always said it was the fault of her namesake, wasn’t it? Would have lived there if she could, if she’d made it, wanted it too much.”

“She loves the woods?”

Allie blinked at her like she’d never heard anything so ridiculous. “Of course, of course. Always dirt in her hands, smelt like earth. They buried her—early, too early—but my mother, she said it was her coming home, let the ground take her, love her.”

“She never left,” Clarke found herself saying. Her heart was pounding now, for some reason she didn’t know. “She’s still here, I swear.”

Allie laughed and stepped back, shook her head. “Never met her,” she said, like she wasn’t even listening to Clarke anymore. “But my mother made sure I did, knew her like I did. Said she changed her life, everything, would have changed the world, too. Should have.”

Her voice was trailing off, losing that strength it had. Clarke knew she was losing her and got desperate.

“When is her birthday?”

And Allie told her.

-

Lexa didn’t realise it was her birthday.

She’d been dead for a whole century. At some point you stop counting just for the sanity of it.

Still, she did know one thing about it, at least, that it was when the cold started to ease back and begin its ageless retreat that reminded her she could expect to add another year to the tally soon. In the beginning, in those first few years of living in this new purgatory, she used to hate it. Despite the fact that Lexa had never really liked the cold, in those times she’d been desperate to keep it.

The warmer it would get and the longer the sun would stay out meant that it was another year gone. Another part of her lost. That timeless ache would revitalise in her chest and twist and twist until it was like an invisible hook that was stabbing further into her, right up to when it could finally rip back and tear her open, finish the job that should have been finished.

It never happened, of course. The snow melted and the sun rose and Lexa watched the trees breathe into life again as the cycled continued on. It seemed even the trees had it better off than her. Eventually, Lexa gave up on hating, as there was no point. On the world spun. What use was it to dig your nails in and demand more?

So Lexa was surprised and confused when Clarke came back home one day, and as Lexa like always came out to greet her, except when she drifted through the ceiling to the front door she stopped short at seeing Clarke nervously close the door behind her, cautiously make her way in.

This was immediately concerning, because Clarke was nervous. Clarke was nervous. The same woman who didn’t blink at bloody lettering and ghosts crawling up beneath her bed sheets. If something made her nervous, then it had to be bad, like really bad.

Lexa waved a hand to the nearest wall Clarke was facing. What’s wrong?

Clarke froze from where she’d been shucking off her jacket. “What? Nothing’s wrong, of course nothing’s wrong, why would anything be wrong?”

Very reassuring.

Lexa frowned. Are you okay?

This seemed to bring back a more familiar sight. Some of that strange tension leaked from Clarke’s back and her shoulders fell, softening. “Yeah, I’m fine. It’s, uh, actually,” Clarke frowned a little too here, ran a nervous hand through her hair that made it tumble like a wave. Lexa ignored how it made her stomach clench. “Actually, I need to ask you to do something.”

Lexa’s concern was shifting very fast into suspicion. You want a favour?

Clarke eyed her bloodied writing on the wall, nodded slowly. Unfortunately, Lexa had had experience with Clarke’s ideas of ‘favours’, and even groaned soundlessly to herself at the thought of it. She understood now a lot more why Clarke was being so weird.

Scowling, Lexa waved her hand sharply so the writing disappeared. If this ‘favour’ involves recreating a Paranormal Activity scene again for Snapchat, the answer is no, and that is non-negotiable.

Clarke grinned like she couldn’t help it. “Oh come on, I know you enjoyed yourself like at least a little when we did that. Don’t lie to me. If I could have seen you, I know you’d be smiling.”

Those films are degrading.

Clarke rolled her eyes, hanging her jacket on the coat hanger and turning back to the wall with a sigh. “You’re just upset because they’re better at haunting than you.”

Lexa grumbled to herself but didn’t say anything. Of course they were better in movies. Honestly, she’d like to see one of them have a go at being a real ghost. They wouldn’t be talking so mighty then. Haunting was a tough gig, Lexa would know. She couldn’t even get Clarke to stay away and she’d once made a teenage boy piss his pants after making the paintings bleed from the eyes.

“Anyway, you’re side-tracking me. That’s not what I’m talking about.”

Lexa raised a brow, but she raised a hand, let the writing go and waited in cue for Clarke to go on.

The nerves from before came back. “Could—could you just, wait upstairs for a moment? And only come back down when I say it’s alright?”

Lexa blinked, in no way expecting such a minor request considering how weirdly anxious Clarke looked. Some part of her was even mildly expecting that this was going to be the moment Clarke revealed she was going to move out. Throw in the towel, give up whatever this was. Let her be forgotten a second time.

Why?

Clarke huffed. “Can you wait upstairs or not?”

Now, Lexa was the one nervous. For how long?

“Until I knock,” Clarke said, those nerves being traded for the beginning of a excited smile. “You know, our urgent one. It’s just really, really important that you don’t come down till I say, okay?”

The urgent knock. Twice fast, one slow, twice fast again. Lexa considered this, before finally, like always, she wrote, Okay, I will wait upstairs.

What else could she possibly lose, really.

Though it left Lexa mildly uneasy, she gave Clarke the trust and drifted upstairs. She felt the front door open and close as Clarke slipped outside and that just made Lexa even more confused at whatever was going on.

At first she paced up and down the hall—well, floated back and forth—but then after ten minutes every lap felt like one more fraying of her sanity and she had to stop herself. Instead she went into the empty bedroom next to Clarke’s own and played with the bedside light there. Made it float, made it rise. Changed the sheets of the unused bed solely because she could.

She was gentle with this, though, was reverent and careful as she redid the sheets. This had been their bed, after all. The one she’d once laid in with another warm body pressed against her own. For all the give she allowed with Clarke, this was something that she was firm on, that had been immovable right from the start.

Clarke had never stepped foot in this room. Lexa made sure no one would. This was sacred, holy. Theirs. So Lexa was as gentle as always, as she made up the bed, brushed any of the dust that had built up. In the moments where the nights got too quiet Lexa liked to think that Costia was looking down at her from up there. She was watching her tidying up an already tidied room, checking drawers, ridding the dust off books they’d once shared together, and Costia was smiling to herself for this, like she’d never seen anything so ridiculous.

A ghost chasing ghosts.

That was the real truth of it. Why that, really, Lexa didn’t actually think she was terrible at haunting.

It was just that people are.

By the time Lexa felt the knock reverberate through her—she was connected to this house, too deeply to not always have some conscious awareness to it—it’d been a whole half an hour, long enough that the bedroom was looking worthy of what the price tag should have been on the house. Hadn’t she, you know, made everyone who stepped foot here run for the hills.

All but one, anyway.

Right before she had even had a leg halfway through the floor, Clarke’s panicked voice shot up.

“Wait! Take the stairs!”

Lexa wondered if Clarke had secretly developed psychic powers, or just had about the same reaction time as her. Either way Lexa listened and lifted herself up and instead moved for the stairs. It felt weird in a way it shouldn’t have, but she couldn’t even have a moment to dwell on the feeling before she’d made it to the landing and looked up and she just gaped.

There, hanging above from the ceiling to the kitchen doorway, a banner was dangling across. Happy 110th Birthday Lexa was written in what she almost thought was actual blood, but then she realised, no, it was just the work of oddly realistic painting. Astoundingly, the letters even all fit on the banner. There wasn’t any day squashed in right at the end like trying to shove a week in twenty-four hours. Adorable little cartoon ghosts were painted and dotted around, one of them even holding a tiny rainbow flag—something that Lexa had only recently learnt its symbology about.

Below it, though, was the small side table that should been in the living room now in the middle of the archway. On top was a small and neatly wrapped present. The wrapping was black and orange, with pumpkins and ghosts and zombies and vampires, clearly something leftover from Halloween, and a bow cresting proudly on top. Leaning against the front of the table was another gift in the same wrapping, but far bigger, only just under the size of the TV. There were even streamers and ribbons hanging from the ceiling too.

Clarke stood there in the middle of it all wringing her hands.

Lexa didn’t know what to do. This was… this was

“Since I can’t… actually, you know, see you or anything, I… really need you to throw me a bone.” Clarke’s cheeks grew redder with every word, her eyes jumping about to every usual surface that Lexa wrote on, trying to find something, anything that had an answer.

And Lexa wanted to say something, ease the clear anxiety Clarke was thrumming with, but she was still so genuinely shell shocked—a goddamn ghost, shell shocked, as if that wasn’t all the total wrong way around—and so Lexa only ended up staring at it all. Her chest felt like it was inflating, breathing with something she could never have.

Worse, there was this strange empty ache that was searing behind her eyes. It was like an itch she could never reach and the sheer shock of it made her laugh, too overwhelmed, as she stared and stared at all that was laid out for her—for her. For no one else.

Her hand felt like it was shaking, but when she raised it, the usual energy simmering through to write with, she glanced down at her arm and saw it was perfectly balanced as always, even if it still felt like it was trembling. Like her body was still acting out its habits and hadn’t remembered that it couldn’t.

For me? she just barely managed to write on the nearest wall.

Clarke’s gaze jerked to it the second the words started seeping. A relieved smile bloomed across her face, and Lexa hated how it made the entire universe feel insignificant in comparison. “Uh, yes, um. I found out it was your birthday soon and I wanted to do something. You’re always putting up with me, so, you know, it just uh, made sense?”

Lexa had never seen Clarke stumble over her words like that. Apparently, Clarke came to the same conclusion, because she blushed further and cleared her throat, scowling at her own antics. After taking a second to regain herself Clarke forced a smile and stepped back, waved a grand old hand at the presents set aside. “Sorry. Ignore me. Too much coffee. The important thing is: happy birthday, Lexa. I would have gotten you a cake too, but you’re a ghost, and I would probably burn the house down.”

Numbly, Lexa came forward to where Clarke directed and picked up her gift. With careful delicacy she undid the bow, did her very best to get the wrapping off with the least chance of ripping it to shreds—except this ended up taking too long, as Clarke let her repeatedly attempt to slide her non-existent nails under the tape for a good thirty seconds before finally coming over and doing it for her.

“You don’t have to be so careful, you can just rip it,” Clarke muttered through a smile. Her face was right next to Lexa’s now, not that she knew.

Lexa didn’t blush, because ghosts could not. But Clarke must have somehow sensed it anyway as that smile shifted into a knowing grin, that worsened into a smirk, before wonderfully Clarke was done with the careful unwrapping and stepped back.

Thank you, Lexa wrote on the wall anyway, half to just get Clarke’s knowing attention away and half actually sincere. The high ground didn’t last her long, as she peeled the wrapping away to find that, of all things, Clarke had gotten her a candle.

Even more embarrassing was the genuine happiness that overtook at seeing it.

“I saw you with that one my mother got me,” Clarke explained, back to wringing her hands again. “Figured you’d do better with one of your own.”

Smiling to herself, Lexa pulled the candle out so it was sitting up on its own. Like habit she waved her hand over it, and a phantom flame lit itself at the wick, flickering against wind that wasn’t there before Lexa wiped her hand back and it snuffed out. The wick remained untouched, like the flame had never been there.

She glanced up at Clarke to find her smiling softly down at the candle. The sight made Lexa’s throat close up.

The unwrapping of the second gift went about the same. Lexa wanted to be respectful about it—Clarke had done this, for her—but Clarke kept rolling her eyes and only gently shooed away Lexa’s useless attempts to unwrap it so Clarke could do it herself. She probably would have torn the wrapping straight off, but Lexa slammed her fist against the wall in warning against it, sending a loud bang through the house.

Naturally, Clarke didn’t even flinch. But she listened and undid the wrapping carefully.

Then Lexa saw what the gift was and wished she’d done it herself.

It was a painting. It didn’t have a frame, the paint just splayed across the canvas to every inch, every corner, but there was so much detail and effort and care and Lexa knew this must have cost far, far too much. Probably so much that she was half-convinced that Clarke had done something highly illegally to acquire it. And considering it was Clarke just about any scenario was possible.

It was a forest scene. Pushing right at the brink of dawn, the sort of sight that Lexa always pushed closest to the boundary to see. The trees were so massive and tall they could have been giants, where the canopies only barely showed themselves at the top of painting, but the harsh shadows from the rising sun stretched far along the grass. There were shapes blurred and hiding behind deeper in the trees, animals probably, rabbits and deer and maybe even a bear.

The style pushed right at the edge of realistic, though didn’t quite commit. Like a dream so real that when you wake up it doesn’t feel right, that you’ve already done this before, you’ve been here. Even though Lexa had definitely never seen something like this naturally when she was alive, the scene had that same familiarity. Tugged at her chest.

“You’ve been quiet for a while.”

Lexa blinked, snapped her eyes to meet Clarke’s. She was nervous again, but this seemed far more intense from before, as this time there was actual vulnerability being offered here. Clarke had her arms crossed, like she was trying to make herself small enough that maybe she could be forgotten entirely.

Lexa forced herself to function again. How did you get this?

Clarke’s brow furrowed at that. “I didn’t… get it. I made it.”

Lexa’s eyes blew wide. She glanced between the painting and Clarke, trying to fit it in her head that she had done this just with her hands and eyes alone. You painted this?

Clarke’s blush returned but she managed a nod. Lexa kept looking between them, at a loss for words and feeling the space where her heart should be ache and ache.

Lexa didn’t know what else to say. For me?

“Always for you,” Clarke murmured.

Lexa stared at her, this foreign warmth flooding through her whole body and making it difficult to keep her sanity intact. And really, it made more sense now, why the whole point of haunting was to keep people away, even if that went against every human instinct in you. This was worse. This was so much worse.

But ghosts can’t cry.

If they could, they would never stop.

-

Lexa never liked Finn from the start.

Obviously her opinion was unbelievably biased and the complete opposite of objective. But she’d been around a long time, was one of the very, very few of those who’d seen both sides of the equation and remembered, and even that first time Lexa met him—well, she met him, he didn’t meet her—there was just something about him that made her uneasy.

It was the way his eyes always wandered when Clarke wasn’t looking. The usual best friends get together had wounded up Clarke’s place that week, and while Clarke didn’t say anything Lexa knew this was probably the result of Raven losing a bet. But Octavia brought with her new boyfriend, Lincoln, so that he could presumably get interrogated, likely also the result of losing a bet, and so then Raven scrambled to find someone and then Clarke was and ten minutes later they’d given up pretence and decided might as well have a party.

Before they could, Clarke had shrugged Finn’s arm off her shoulder and scurried off to the bathroom with a smile saying she’d be back in a minute. Lexa remained hovering in the living room with everyone else, supremely enjoying nudging Raven’s drink on the side table just out of range whenever her hand reached for it. It was especially entertaining because Raven couldn’t actually say anything, otherwise she’d have to reveal to Lincoln, Finn, and Anya—Raven’s date—that, oh yeah, the house you’re sitting in just might have a minor ghost infestation.

Raven’s face was becoming increasingly red from her fury as she kept trying to reach for her drink that was scurrying away from her grabbing hands, when Lexa felt the quiet knock against the wall in the bathroom, the I need you knock. Sighing, Lexa finally let the beer bottle go and Raven actually let out a victorious cheer of aha! as finally she managed to snatch the bottle back.

Everyone in the room looked to her and Raven blinked at them. “Uh, sorry, um. Was just lost in my thoughts and…. Thought of something my proff said. Which was wrong! That I’ve now realised! And I was right, so, uh, I’m going to… remember that. And bring that up later.”

Lexa lingered a second more just so she could freeze the neck of the bottle facing Raven, and wrote smooth through the condensation. Raven saw and furiously wiped the fog off the glass.

In the next second Lexa was appearing by the door to the bathroom. She almost went straight in, but after a moment of debate decided to cautiously knock against the door first. She made sure it was their knock, so it couldn’t be confused for someone else’s. There was a quiet exasperated laugh from inside.

I’m the one who asked for you, Lexa. You can come in.”

If Lexa were physically capable of it, she’d definitely be blushing. Instead she carefully pushed the door open and glided in while leaving it half open. In spite of Lexa’s fears, Clarke was in fact decent and was only leaning casually against the wall bathroom, arms crossed and sporting an amused grin.

“I’m really starting to think you were forced to go to a girl’s school for manners or something. It’s the only explanation.”

Lexa glared at her, as useless as the action was. Something you wanted? she wrote in blood across the mirror.

Clarke’s eyes drifted to the lettering and she nodded casually. To her credit, Lexa knew she was probably going to turn out as a disturbingly good doctor. She honestly doubted there was anything that could really faze the woman. Frowning to herself, she tried to think to at least one time that Clarke had flinched or been scared but came up blank. For Halloween they’d done a horror movie marathon and even Lexa—an actual, not-breathing not-living ghost—was jumping more than her.

She imagined that Clarke would probably make a rather terrifying ghost were their positions switched.

“Lexa?” Clarke said after a while, and she blinked at realising she’d gotten caught up in her thoughts.

Lexa shook her head, waved her hand so the writing disappeared clean. Didn’t hear you, sorry. Repeat that?

Clarke gave something of a confused smile but dutifully repeated anyway. “Would you be alright? If we hosted something here?”

You mean a party?

Clarke nodded.

Now Lexa was the one mildly confused. Why are you asking me?

Clarke sighed with a smile. “It’s your house too, Lexa.”

But I’m dead?

Clarke shrugged. “So?”

And that was how Lexa ended up at her first party in a century.

It wasn’t so bad. It was far more people than she was used to and while at points she felt a little too much like a disgruntled housecat, it was distinctly enjoyable to be a quiet nuisance with strangers that she’d probably never see again. If nudging drinks away from Raven had been fun that was nothing compared to rigging card games and watching the chaos unfold.

She was starting to understand why so many mythologies were about ninety percent just the gods fucking with people. Be as almighty and holy as you want, everyone has scores to settle. Clarke was a lot more observant than she let on and absolutely noticed her petty dumb fuckery, but the only thing she did was laugh quietly to herself and let her be. She was smart enough to put down her cards though and find something else to do.

The house always wins, after all. Especially when said house was haunted.

Lexa entertained herself easily through the night, enjoying herself more than she had in a long while. But after making some guy named Bellamy, who Lexa was vaguely sure was Octavia’s brother, fail spectacularly in a game of drunk Jenga and then watching Bellamy almost throw a punch at the guy next to him after accusing him of cheating, Lexa grinned proudly to herself and went off to find Clarke to brag. It wasn’t every day you had people fight over a ghost’s invisible wrongdoings.

Her grin faded at finding Clarke in the kitchen, sitting up on the counter with Finn standing between her legs, kissing her deeply. There was a weird and distant ache in her chest, but Lexa swallowed down all she didn’t have the right to feel and stepped right back out. She’d been honestly surprised to find them like that, but not for the right reasons.

For Clarke, she sort of understood. Lexa had one living friend in the world and after so many months of living together she knew Clarke probably a little too well. So she’d seen it, how her eyes lingered on Finn’s face for a little longer than necessary and the way she laughed when he laughed and how she always sat just a bit too close to him.

Lexa understood that. She didn’t get it, but she understood.

What she didn’t understand was how Finn’s eyes lingered on Clarke, but they lingered on Raven too, and even Octavia—though he had to be a lot more careful with that, as Lincoln was never far from her and was jacked enough that you had to be either an idiot or into martial arts to pick something with him. And then even later, Lexa had idly noticed Finn chatting with some other girl before, with his charming grin and floppy hair and all.

But Clarke’s life and decisions were Clarke’s own. So Lexa said nothing, and she went back to the party to go find someone else to mess with, even if there was an uncomfortable turn in her stomach that she resolutely told herself to ignore. The fact that Lexa didn’t like Finn wasn’t Clarke’s problem, that was Lexa’s to deal with. She was probably reading into things, anyway. Lexa tried to convince herself of that.

But some things you just knew and would give anything not to be proven right.

Of course, by then you’ve already lost.

-

For a while Lexa barely saw Clarke anymore.

They still did their movie night and it wasn’t like she’d disappeared or anything, but she started sleeping less and less at the house, instead spent the night somewhere else. Lexa knew where. It didn’t take a genius. That same worry still ate at her, but she kept her mouth shut, didn’t say a thing when Clarke made the rare appearance home and they could catch up together.

On the bright side, lying, for a ghost, was one of the easiest things around. Even if Clarke was far more perceptive than she let on, when the only indicator of truth was some writing on the wall and blind trust—well, keep the story straight, and you could say just about anything and probably get away with it.

Lexa did her best to never bring the topic up. The fact that lying was so easy made her want to avoid it.

Because Clarke was happy. Lexa could see that, so it really wasn’t her place to say anything. So what the house felt twice as empty now with no one else in it, even if before she’d spent a whole century just fine; she could take this. That hole in her chest might be expanding by the day but she could push through it. As long Clarke was happy.

And she was, at least until a particular paper started piling on her and she ended up pulling more than one all-nighter at the house. Lexa brought up water for her when the headaches got bad and reminded her to pull away when she’d gone too long without a break. Clarke gave her a small smile every time for it, grateful.

For a whole week she didn’t see Finn. Couldn’t. He kept coming over, but he’d linger only an hour, and when his multiple attempts to tug her away and start something didn’t work, he’d frown to himself and head out. Clarke kept promising him, saying it was only for now, that just give it some time and they can go see that movie that just came out, try that new restaurant.

Turns out, a week was too long.

Lexa had been rereading some book that she’d read so many times she could recite it word by word when the front slammed open. And not any pathetic slam either, a proper slam that risked the chance of the sending the whole thing off its hinges. Lexa’s head snapped up, immediately dropping the book and flashing to the front almost instantaneously.

Unlike a burglar or maybe a whole damn elephant, the cause was, of all things, just Clarke. Which didn’t make immediate sense, as Clarke had always shown a quiet respect for the house even if she’d never admit it out loud. No matter how she pissed she got from calls with her mother or getting thrashed in Monopoly, she was careful with the house, always.

“Motherfucker!”

Clarke stormed in seething like a bomb. She violently kicked the door shut, which Lexa caught at the last second, slowing it down so it could click softly and safely. Clarke either didn’t notice or didn’t care, because already she was ripping her jacket off with the same fury and hurling into the vague direction of the coat hanger against the wall.

Lexa caught this too and silently hung it up.

It didn’t seem to solve anything. That rage only seemed to worsen with every second. Clarke’s eyes wildly flicked about, the amount of anger in making her hands shake and her nostrils flare, and so she only surged forward and shoved that decorative vase that stood next to the stair landing, to smash it into the floor.

It didn’t reach it, of course.

“Stop it,” Clarke snarled, making it clear that she’d noticed every one of Lexa’s quiet actions.

Lexa glanced helplessly between the old vase in her hands and the woman in front of her. I like this vase, she wrote on the wall next to her, not sure what else to do but carefully put it back where it was meant to be.

Clarke swore again, digging her palms into her eyes. “It’s a fucking vase, Lexa, what does it goddamn matter?”

Lexa waited until she had her eyes open again before replying. It’s got a dragon on it. Of course it matters.

“That’s not—” A stressed laugh broke out of her, like she couldn’t quite help it. “That’s not a dragon, those are vines.”

Lexa blinked, glanced to the vase. Squinted.

There was no way she was admitting to being wrong. She’d had that vase for fifty whole years. Her dignity might not be what it was, but she had some pride to upkeep.

Maybe the dragon is just on a diet.

It seemed like Clarke tried to hold on that fury she’d come in with, but instead it just came out slipping between fingers and she deflated like her entire body caved in under the weight. Lexa frowned, instinctively drifting forward only to stop at the last second. What could she possibly do?

Something built up in Clarke’s eyes. By the time it spilled over she was already furiously wiping at her cheeks like that could hide it and rushed for the stairs. “Don’t follow me,” she snapped out, but it was the painful crack in her voice that made Lexa obey, not so much the instruction itself.

The bedroom door slammed shut from upstairs.

Lexa already knew what had happened. The worst had come true, as it tended to.

Still, she couldn’t help it but drift in through the kitchen and open the freezer. Now that the weather was heating up again, the supply of ice cream was climbing with it too. Lexa got out Clarke’s favourite, scooped some into a bowl, and then carefully crept her way up the stairs. The bowl seemingly floated its way up, though it hesitated once it’d gotten to Clarke’s door.

Lexa nudged the door open the barest amount, slid the bowl through, and closed it back shut.

Even if she could easily recite the book by heart she still picked it up once she was downstairs again. When music started from upstairs, loud enough to drown the world out—drown yourself out—Lexa didn’t say anything then, either, even if she felt beyond useless just sitting here.

It took two hours before Clarke came back down again.

All that anger was gone now. No flame lasts. Now it was just a matter of picking through the ash, the remains. She didn’t even make it the whole way down, but stopped at the turn of the landing, where it bled out a couple steps after to reach the floor. Instead Clarke stopped there, slid down till she was sitting on the edge of that step. Her head tipped into the balustrade next to her.

Her eyes were red-ringed and tired and lost and all she shouldn’t have to know.

“Sorry,” she eventually mumbled. She inhaled slow, but it still trembled anyway. “For before. I shouldn’t have yelled at you. You don’t deserve that.”

Lexa was already sitting next to her. She was careful to give some space, mostly because if she even grazed her Clarke would instinctually flinch back. Ghosts aren’t made in mind for the living. But she could reach a hand out, cheat the rules and phantom carve her writing into the wooden banister Clarke was leaning on.

Who’s to say what we deserve?

Clarke rolled her head so she could see it better, eyed the scratched writings and sighed. “Don’t. You didn’t deserve it, full stop.”

Lexa stayed quiet. It wasn’t a purpose worth fighting.

“Thank you for the ice cream,” Clarke murmured. “That was… it was really sweet of you. So, you know. Thank you.”

Lexa smiled to herself. Always for you, she carved in under what she’d written before.

The edge of Clarke’s mouth tugged up, but it was jarring how her eyes got tireder, how the smile never quite made it. “Never thought I’d be here, you know.”

Haunted?

Clarke laughed through her nose. “You ever been cheated on?”

She’d known it from the start, but the confirmation still felt like a blow to the gut. And for someone who’d actually died from a shot right there, it was a feeling she was horribly acquainted with. Lexa wanted to do something to help her but didn’t know how. She’d never been good at it alive, and now was even worse. She was a very much suffer-alone-and-die-quietly type of person. Handling emotions had never quite been her forte.

Not knowing what else to do, Lexa fell back to open honesty.

No.

That smile that wasn’t a smile spread further. “Lucky,” Clarke hummed, and even if some sad laugh broke out of it, her eyes spilled over too.

Lexa frowned. She almost reached out to write again, but realised that what she needed to say would take up too much space. Instead she waved a hand towards the phone peeking out of Clarke’s jean pocket. It vibrated against her thigh and she reached to pull it out.

No, I mean, that there never really would have been the chance. I only had one real relationship. I wasn’t good with my heart, when I had it, I didn’t know what to do. I only really had Costia… and you know how that ended.

“You were too young,” Clarke said softly.

I was only a year under you.

“Exactly.”

Lexa didn’t know how to respond that. Clarke’s sorrow seemed worse, now, and it made guilt twist in her chest. She wasn’t doing this right.

She glanced around the room like in some idle hope that an answer would miraculously come tumbling out, but her searching gaze stilled once it reached the TV in eyeshot from the room across from them.

Perfect.

She left her spot by Clarke and instead jumped inside the TV, got herself settled within the cables and switched it on. Clarke glanced up slightly for this, at least, brow furrowing as she curiously watched whatever Lexa was doing. It took a bit of borrowing and manipulation of what wasn’t there, but she managed to hijack a channel into the episode of Friends it’d been playing last night.

Ross was in the middle of an argument when Lexa slipped into show itself. He jolted at the interruption, then blinked to himself, shaking his head and then looking right through the screen, to Clarke.

“Clarke Griffin, there’s something important I’ve got to tell you. I don’t have long, but this is really, really important, so you need to listen to me carefully.”

Already knowing where this was going Clarke shook her head, still pressed to the banister. “I swear to god, Lexa,” she warned, but her lips were betraying her and she seemed to know this, had to hide that growing smile trying to spread and smother it into the wood.

Ross shook his head gravely. “You don’t understand. Everything rests on this, Clarke. This secret, it’s killing me, you’ve got to spread the word before it’s too late.”

Lexa gave it a moment. Let the tension rise with the drawn-out dramatic pause. The whole time, Clarke closed her eyes and looked away like that could somehow hide the fact she was most definitely biting her lip to get rid of the grin that wouldn’t leave. She knew exactly where this was leading and Lexa let the wait build up to almost an entire minute before finally breaking it.

“I take it up the ass, Clarke,” Ross admitted solemnly, not even a hint of a grin at his mouth. “It’s my favourite thing.”

Clarke managed to hold out an impressive thirty seconds before that same laughter spilled out of her before she could stop it. “Classic,” she muttered to herself, a few lingering chuckles escaping that made Lexa grin so wide it should have hurt. It was just about the best sound in the world.

Having achieved what she wanted, she switched the TV off and resumed her position by Clarke’s side.

Her laughter trailed off into silence but the smile stayed. It softened at the end, curved into the sort thing reserved just for her. “Just have to be a ghost, don’t you?”

The hopeless shake in her voice made Lexa have to swallow, look away.

You should call someone, she wrote instead, on the closest wall Clarke was looking at.

“I’ve got you.”

Lexa sighed shakily. I mean someone alive.

“I’ve got you,” Clarke said, again.

-

It happened like this.

In hindsight, Lexa should have seen it—should have caught that resolve that’d built in Clarke’s eyes the same way hurricanes did. You couldn’t stop something like that. There were signs, which Lexa should have seen, but she’d been so focused on herself, eyes staring up at the ceiling holding the tears that couldn’t even form, that she’d been blind to the storm building in front of her.

Old habits never quite leave.

It had been a quiet night, a rare moment for the both of them where they wasted their time by doing nothing together. Not even a movie or documentary on in the background. They didn’t even touch the chessboard, where if they had played a game, then one of them would beat the other by a mere inch and it’d end with various accusations of cheating. As Lexa was a total fool, even that sounded appealing.

But they’d just sat there together talking. Clarke sipped from the cider in the hands occasionally, never enough to even get her eyes lazy. On the floor, back to the couch, she’d just reclined back like she’d never known any better peace and kept her gaze on the direct wall across from her where Lexa wrote across.

Lexa should have caught it sooner. Where the conversation was heading.

It was the one thing they’d always been careful to skirt around.

They’d been talking for a good two hours, as the night sank deeper and Clarke did too, but unlike their usual talks it was Lexa doing the majority of the speaking. To the point where she’d even run out of energy to maintain the blood, so instead she’d possessed Clarke’s phone and talked there. It took less energy that way.

Previously Lexa had told Clarke some about her life, of when she’d been alive. Fragments and pieces that mostly came like a confession and so were naturally rare. Small facts, like allergies and phobias and a grudging admittance to her deep-seated love of candles that she’d never quite figured out the origin for—stuff like that, Lexa gave freely. Mostly.

But things like who her parents were, who she had been. The sort of dreams she’d had, maybe still had, the school that she went to and the shops she used to frequent—the Before—that had become some wordless agreed no-go zone. Lexa had had a long time to grieve and she didn’t have any intention of digging back up that grave.

Something had changed between them, though. Even Lexa couldn’t deny that. Clarke had been spending more time than usual with her. She wasn’t going out as much, and while that really could have just been because of the weight of med school—a no doubt massive factor—nowadays Lexa was even struggling to remember the last time Clarke had spent the night at someone else’s. She’d certainly never brought anyone over again that wasn’t Raven or Octavia or both.

And for this night, Clarke was crossing that line they’d never dared to.

She was smart about it. Directed the conversation gently in that direction. It was subtle enough that Lexa allowed it, initially. Questions started like what her favourite food had been. Lexa answered. It wasn’t that important. But gradually it kept going further and then she found herself talking about that Before, stepping onto that no man’s land with eyes wide open and arms outspread.

Lexa knew and accepted it wasn’t fair to cast the blame solely on Clarke. This had been the both of them. Always had been, really.

“What do you miss?” Clarke finally asked into the quiet of the room.

Lexa blinked for this, stilled from where she was sitting next to Clarke on the floor.

Clarke must have sensed it. “I know it’s—I know I shouldn’t be saying this,” she started, glancing down at the bottle in her hands and picking the edge of the label. “And you don’t have to answer, not if you want, but I’m just curious about it. About you.”

She was going to ignore the question at first, just move on to something else that was easier. Clarke had given her the out, anyway, so it even made sense that she should, all the pieces already lined up for her.

Lexa had never been good with doing what she was told.

It’s a little stupid, she wrote instead, from Clarke’s phone. Those blue eyes flicked down, watched the words popping up on her screen. But I miss having weight.

Clarke’s brow furrowed and Lexa knew she had to explain.

If her heart still functioned, she knew it’d be pounding now. At admitting what she couldn’t even admit to herself.

If I don’t always have a focus on it, I’ll drift up. Through the ceiling, the floors, and I’ll only be stopped by the roof. To the edge of the barrier that keeps me trapped here.

Clarke stared down at her phone, her expression unreadable. It only made Lexa more nervous.

She forced herself to push ahead anyway. There is nothing to tie me. I have to do it myself. It’s a little stupid, I know, but I miss it sometimes. Gravity. Being wanted by it.

“Wanted?” Clarke said, but her voice came out tight and shaking.

You’re pulled back down. Always. No matter how high you jump or go, the ground, it’ll always pull you down towards it. Like it wants you. I miss that. I miss being wanted.

Clarke exhaled slowly. “I want you.”

Lexa smiled and it was old and full of despair. Then we were both doomed from the start, I think.

She couldn’t look at her anymore. There was that ache again, behind her eyes, and in some reflex her body had failed to forget she tilted her neck back, like to hold it in. It meant that she missed it, didn’t catch what she should have.

What she should have seen, it was the way Clarke leant forward. How her jaw tensed, eyes burned with something, and that bottle in her hands, it was being choked now, it was being crushed under the weight of the oncoming.

The promise.

-

Clarke didn’t quite know where to look at first.

It wasn’t exactly a resource that many people had curiosity in, even worse a genuine need. This wasn’t about knowing it was hopeless from the beginning, that this was for the closure of it. No, she wanted actual facts, real answers. Naturally, this faired far more difficult to find.

She started by going to the public library, driving out enough till she found one that had whole walls of books that you could drown in. Something had to be there, right? You couldn’t get that sheer quantity and be left with bits and pieces. On a tight schedule—she had another exam tomorrow, couldn’t spare a whole day of searching yet—she’d gone straight to the nearest librarian she could find.

It was a middle-aged looking man and the complete stereotype that there was no way it couldn’t have been on purpose. Sweater vest, square glasses, the whole thing. He smiled politely at her when she came up to him as he pushed a book-filled cart around, stacking and organising rows as he went.

“Need some help?” he asked, turning to face her.

“I’m looking for books on how to preform a resurrection.”

The smile fell off his face. He stared at her, taking the words in before finally erupting into a quiet laugh, shaking his head to himself. “Lost a bet, have you?”

Clarke shook her head. “My roommate is a ghost.”

“Right,” he said, smiling knowingly like he knew this was definitely the result of a bet, but went along with it anyway. “Well, we don’t have resurrection books, but we’ve got some witch and Wiccan history, if you’re interested, stuff like that.”

He led them out from the shelves of books they were in, instead pointed out for her an aisle a few rows down.

It would have to do. Clarke thanked him and he wished the best of luck, jokingly asked her to keep him updated on how the supposed resurrection faired.

Clarke promised that she would.

No one ever really liked the truth. It was the easiest way to lie.

Though she spent a good two hours curled up in there, drifting her fingertips over increasingly long-winded titles and flipping through enough pages the words were all starting to become just one big blur, she still didn’t find what she wanted. All the books weren’t instructional but intended to give the bigger picture, what supposed witches did, not how.

Eventually Clarke gave up, realised no library could help for this. If they could, then she wouldn’t have even been in this position in the first place. Lexa wouldn’t have. The method of how to escape something as inescapable as Death itself—that wasn’t the sort of secret you wrote down and freely gave out.

That was the sort of thing you protected, you hid.

No, it wasn’t a book that Clarke had to find.

It was a witch.

-

In no surprise to anyone, witches were not easy to find.

Being burned at the stake for centuries does that to you.

There were stores, though, shops dedicated entirely to witchcraft and all things alike that were easy enough to find, and that should have probably clued Clarke in first that they weren’t what she was looking for. For as clueless as she was, when she stepped in through those doors of countless shops proudly advertising their love of magic, it usually took even just a few minutes of wandering around, asking a couple questions before she’d be leaving again.

It was usually just that first question that gave it away. While the smell and sights did some job of convincing, the air thick with incense and herbs and spices, rows and rows of all your potion needs—realistic potion needs, nothing like werewolf claws and vampire fangs—it really only took when she walked up to the counter, to the nearest witch there.

“Are you a witch?” she’d ask, and usually they’d nod, of course, of course, why wouldn’t I be if I wasn’t here?

Her stomach would fall, then. Shouldn’t they be cautious, wondering why she was singling witches out? Clarke made sure to never whisper it, to be clear as possible so they knew this wasn’t someone seeking another of their own out, this was finding what she wasn’t.

Sometimes they would just smile cryptically and give no answer. That would give her a burst of hope, and she’d go on, asking them if they had the ability to resurrect to the dead, that they knew how.

And their face would fall too. Their eyes would fill with pity because now it was obvious why Clarke was here and why she looked so tired on her feet, why there was that desperation that was written across her face. They would shake their head, direct her towards the way of the healing crystals and incense that were supposed to ease your soul.

They would never be afraid. If they turned her away, it wasn’t out of distrust or caution that’d been honed into them since birth. It was out of sadness. And with that, Clarke would nod and she’d walk out. They didn’t have what she needed.

After three weeks of the same empty results she was starting believe she would simply never find it.

If there was a witch in Polis, they didn’t want anyone but their own knowing.

Clarke had been walking back from another failed venture when she found it. She had just about given up. Lexa didn’t know what she was doing, and it was eating at her more and more having to keep the secret. To make matters worse Lexa kept being so damn understanding about it.

When Clarke came in late and barely spent the time she usually did with her, Lexa didn’t even press her for it. She just welcomed her home, asked if she could maybe spare a twenty minutes for an episode of something together. How it didn’t even have to be a documentary.

It only made Clarke’s resolve harden. And the guilt get worse.

“What am I even doing?” Clarke said to herself, glaring down at the pavement as she trudged along. This all felt so stupidly hopeless. “God, what am I doing?”

Like it was made to be there, there was an empty Cola can sitting out on the path. That despair welled up in her and it felt good when she snapped her leg out with all the power she had so it went flying. The can soared and smacked against some door a few metres down, skittering along the street.

The relief was short lived. Sighing, Clarke followed after the can anyway so she could pick it up, put it in the nearest bin where it should have been.

She looked back up to the door it’d hit and froze.

At first she had figured it was some empty building, that someone had been forced out from rising rent prices and the landlord hadn’t roped anybody else in yet. There was a shop window, but black curtains were hung all across it from inside, so you had no way of looking in.

Only the smaller window on the door was unobstructed.

She leant forward, saw shelves so shrouded in shadow she couldn’t even make out what they were holding. But she could see that the rows were filled to the brim. Right at the back, the only source of visible light was a table of candles crowded around like a mountain, pushing so close to the edge it would only take a single brush and the whole thing would come tumbling down, light the place up in flames.

It took a serious amount of faith to leave something up to chance like that.

Clarke picked up the can and found the nearest recycling bin. But instead of going onwards to her car, she turned around and went right back to that door. She tried the handle, froze when it worked and the door eagerly swung open for her.

She stepped in slowly. While this felt a little like the exact sort of situation that Raven always said would be the death of her, Clarke walked into this strange hidden building and scanned the surroundings. The first thing that hit her was the smell. It was like a wave, so intense that it honestly left her a little surprised that none of it had leaked to the outside. She hadn’t smelt a thing from the other end of the door.

It was distinctly similar to like when she’d been in those witchcraft shops, but this was heavier, richer. Sharper. Some of it even smelt half rotting, like maybe there was something dead in here, that was in one of those jars that Clarke could see all across the shelves pushed against the walls—and there were a lot of jars. A truly insane amount.

It took a moment for her eyes to adjust to the dim candlelight, but once she did she drifted forward and eyed the rows. Everything was labelled with the same neat handwriting. There were no prices, though. So not for sale. Clarke frowned, a nag of worry rolling through her that maybe she’d unintentionally wandered into some hoarder’s incredibly weirdly placed home.

Another glance around confirmed that this was definitely not a home.

Those shelves were pressed against all four walls, even the ones where she could just make out the black curtains behind. Pots of plants were hanging low from the ceiling, dotted around without any obvious organisational structure that Clarke could pick out.

But the biggest giveaway to what this was, it wasn’t any of this.

It was the glass display counter to the side. Even more collections were sitting behind the glass, and above that was a woman that looked in her early sixties, dark brown hair and sitting calmly in the midst of all this chaos, reading a book so big it had to be spread on the counter, couldn’t even fit in her hands.

The older woman only glanced up once she felt Clarke’s staring.

“This place yours?” Clarke asked, because she didn’t know what else to say.

The woman arched a brow, glanced around like someone else might be lurking in the shadows. “I would say so, yes.”

“Is this a shop?”

A smile this time, only at the corner of her mouth. “It is.”

Clarke frowned. “There’s no prices.”

“I already know them. I don’t need to write them down.”

With no immediate retort for that, the owner nodded at Clarke’s silence and went back to her book. If the candles flickered right grey hairs glinted from her roots. Still feeling at a whole loss, but something like excitement tugging in her stomach, at finally feeling like she was doing something right, Clarke tore her eyes off the owner and instead went inspecting the shelves.

For a second, the owner’s eyes flicked up at this. Watched her. After another moment she looked back down to her book.

It wasn’t long before Clarke realised that the countless items that were all laid out there weren’t of the mundane variety. There were things that she’d seen before, ones that made sense like lavender and sage and wormwood, even herbs she’d never once heard of like dragon’s blood and vervain, but then there were the other collections. The sort of things that probably violated about a hundred different food and health laws.

Frogeyes, bird eyes; far too many eyes that seemed possible. Same with teeth too—she didn’t know fish even had teeth—but the more she kept sifting through each one, her own eyes getting wider and wider, the ones near the end started to shift into something else, the neatly written tags just as confident even when it used words like werewolf teeth.

She stepped closer, trying to see into this jar holding the impossible. The three fangs that were in there looked about the same as the wolf’s ones from further down. But if you squinted, maybe, then little details might come out, like how they were bigger and thicker than their natural law-abiding counterparts. That they weren’t dull from years of use, but sharper, like they’d only just been made.

Clarke looked over her shoulder, still keeping a finger hovering reverently inches from the glass jar. “These are really werewolf teeth?” she called back.

The owner didn’t look up. “Yes.”

“How did you get them?”

“They were given.”

Clarke glanced back to the jar, tried to imagine how desperate you had to be to rip your own tooth out. “Why?”

The owner shrugged. “Everyone wants something.”

No price tags. It made sense now. It wasn’t about money, but what you could give. What mattered.

Her heart thudded like a war drum in her ears.

The owner looked up this time at Clarke’s approach. Maybe she sensed it, that this was important. She even closed the book for her.

Clarke stopped once she was in front of the counter. “Are you a witch?”

The owner’s eyes narrowed, for just a heartbeat, and like what must have been more habit than anything else her eyes jumped out to the door before snapping back to hers. It happened so fast it that she probably wasn’t even aware of it, was an instinct that spanned back too many generations to shake off.

Clarke caught every second of it.

She blinked slow, had to pull in a steadying breath.

“Do you know how to perform a resurrection?”

The owner—no, the witch—sucked in a sharp breath. “Dear,” she said, and there was no pity this time, because her voice was full of warning and borderline fearful. “You won’t find that here. I’m sorry, and I mean that, but you’ll only end up hurting yourself.”

Clarke stared at her. “Do you know how to perform a resurrection?”

The witch tensed her jaw, eyes darker now. “You cannot bring back what is crossed. If you want to ease your pain, to find something to ease your heart—then I can do that, I can help you. But I can’t—”

“What do you mean crossed?” Clarke cut in.

“Once you step over that line,” the witch said, slower now, even if her hand was clenching from where it rested over her book. “There is no coming back. If you’ve lost someone, dear,” and her voice softened here, like it couldn’t help it, “then let me tell you now: there is nothing you can do but move on.”

Her hands almost felt like they were shaking with the revelation that was coursing through her. “And what if they never left?”

For this, the witch frowned.

“A ghost,” Clarke explained. “What about a ghost? Can you bring back a ghost?”

“Do you know a ghost?” the witch asked doubtfully.

Clarke smiled with only her lips. “I live with one.”

The witch stared at her for a long time. Like she was searching for something. Like there was something around her, or even in her, that Clarke couldn’t see but the witch could, so she was reading between these invisible lines that you had to train your whole life to get your eyes right to adjust.

Then, she raised her chin.

“You live with this ghost?”

Clarke nodded. She was scared to even breathe too loud.

The witch narrowed her eyes. “Ghosts don’t like that. They’d never let something live on their burial ground.”

“People get lonely,” Clarke said quietly.

It seemed to convince her.

-

The sun was almost gone by the time the front door was opening.

This wasn’t so unusual. At least recently. Lexa did her best not to show it—which, to be fair, as a ghost was pretty easy—but that single seed of worry was liable to sprout up into a whole forest if nothing eased it soon. Worse, Lexa couldn’t shake the feeling that it was her fault. And, sure, she knew that logically that was foolish and didn’t make a lick of sense, but deep down the thought still ate at her.

It was just… Clarke was confusing her. Not that she ever really stopped, but ever since the ordeal with Finn, things hadn’t felt the same. They’d spent too much time together after that. Where it became more painful and obvious with every day that Lexa was dead and gone and no matter how they played it that was the truth that couldn’t be turned.

Lexa had even celebrated Clarke’s birthday back. She’d waited until Raven and Octavia were over, and as like always Raven waited until the both of them were asleep before sneaking outside for a cigarette.

She only did this when that weight to the shoulders was particularly heavy. Raven had made Lexa swear not to tell Clarke, after Lexa had caught her the first time and curiously asked what she was doing. Raven had cursed so loud in surprise that a cat from across the street snapped their head up and bolted.

For this particular night Lexa had asked her about when Clarke’s birthday was and Raven quickly gave it. Probably because she wanted to get Lexa as far from her as possible, but helpful all the same. Unfortunately for her, Lexa had other plans once she had date to work around.

It had involved a lot failed test runs and a lot of swearing but Lexa managed to bake that goddamn cake even if it severely tested her faith in karma.

Measuring had been honest torture.

The agony of it was worth every second when Clarke got home, freezing at the door at seeing the banner hanging from the archway, Happy Birthday Clarke messily painted across. So she didn’t have an artistic bone in her body, sue her. The important thing was she’d tried.

Clarke must have had the same thought because by the way she beamed, that watery laugh that had broken out her at coming forward and finding that war-torn cake sitting proudly in the middle for her—for all that, yeah, every second was worth it. Heaven might have shut its gates to her, but for a moment it felt like she’d made her own down here.

And then they’d had that talk. On the floor, the night deep. And then Clarke had been more like a ghost than her, even worse than when she used to spend all those nights at Finn’s. So, Clarke coming home now so late, that wasn’t surprising. It hurt a little that it wasn’t, but that was the truth.

What did surprise her though was the way Clarke seemed to be shaking with excitement.

What’s got you so happy? Lexa wrote across the usual wall Clarke glanced at when she got home.

Strangely, Clarke’s excitement seemed to falter. She chucked nervously, ran a hand through her hair while glancing down at her shoes. “Well, uh, I might have… done something a little stupid.”

Lexa arched a brow. And you’re excited about this?

Clarke’s cheeks flushed. “It’s… okay, so, I’m going to tell you something, and I’m just going to ask that if it makes you hate me, then can you… you know, not kill me with supernatural means and give me the time to escape instead?”

You are making me very nervous.

“I found a witch,” Clarke blurted, like she just wanted to force it over with.

Lexa stared at her. That was… not even in the same realm of how she was expecting this conversation to go. Before she could say anything Clarke was already off again, the words flooding out like they’d waited too long.

“And I know that you’re probably happy like this, living like this because, well, what other choice do you have, right? But that night when we were talking and you kept going on about all those things when you were alive, and then what you missed and what you wanted I could—I could hear it, I think, or maybe I’m just crazy but I know that… that you missed it. That you really did. Being alive.”

Lexa stood completely still. Where are you going with this?

Clarke’s eyes flicked to the wall, carefully taking in the words. “I wanted to see if there was a way. To—to give you a choice. You’ve done so much for me, I want to give you something back.”

Lexa closed her eyes and shook her head. I didn’t do anything.

Clarke smiled sadly. “No, you didn’t mean to. But you did.”

A whole minute went by with nothing said.

“If you allow it,” Clarke finally went on, cautious now, “then the witch can come over. I’m pretty sure she’s just doing it ‘cause she’s ninety percent sure I’m lying and wants to prove me wrong. But I asked her, if… if she knew how to resurrect people.”

Even with no lungs Lexa felt like she couldn’t breathe. Can she?

“I don’t know,” Clarke exhaled, the honesty almost choking. “Maybe, maybe not. But there’s—there is a chance. A real chance. If you want it.”

Of course she wanted it. No one likes being dead. That was the whole point, wasn’t it? But as much as it hurt being like this, she knew that worse than that was the hope. At least with nothing she knew her place. She knew how to be, and she knew what to ask for, because that ache only really twisted her chest when she started longing for what she couldn’t. Like spending those nights with Clarke talking about nothing and watching movies. Like planning birthdays and healing through breakups and forcing the other out of bed even if it ended in civil war.

Like falling in love.

At least with nothing it was easier. There was nothing else to lose. The one good thing about rock bottom, it was that you couldn’t go any deeper. So long as that rock solid ground actually meant something to you, anyway.

Ghosts, though.

They could sink right through the earth if they wanted.

-

The witch came over a few hours later.

She was not what Lexa expected, but then her whole expectations of witches were probably wildly offensive. Still, Lexa couldn’t help but blink slowly as she watched the witch cautiously make her way up the driveway, eyes narrowed and constantly flicking about the house with an almost surgical precision. Clarke was waiting in the open doorway, clearly trying to tamper down her excited grin and failing terribly.

Lexa stood next to her, far more subdued, though she couldn’t help the affectionate smile at Clarke. It was oddly reassuring to see that at least one them had real, honest hope. Though Lexa had given in—had allowed this to go through—her hope was something that could barely fit in her hands. Realistically, this was probably going to fail.

It brought up the question why Lexa even bothered with this, if she knew it was only going to hurt them both.

But she already knew the answer to that.

“Thank you for coming,” Clarke said once the witch had made it to the doorway.

The witch’s face remained unreadable. Her eyes hadn’t stop scanning about, brows furrowed deep in concentration. As sceptical as Lexa was, this was a weirdly assuring sight. A con artist wouldn’t put in that effort, right? They’d want to keep you talking, keep your attention away. Not to be left on their own and where all it came to was blind trust.

Or maybe that was exactly what a con artist wanted. No one faking would be so ballsy, right? So of course you can trust me, let me in.

Lexa frowned to herself. She was overthinking this.

“This is where the spirit resides, then?” the witch asked.

“Her name is Lexa,” Clarke corrected, her voice a touch harder than was really necessary.

The witch looked as confused as Lexa felt. “The spirit?”

“The person.”

The corner of the witch’s mouth ticked up, liking that. “They are different?”

Clarke stared at her.

It didn’t really matter, but Lexa still tried to brush her hand down Clarke’s arm to try and silently say something, that it was okay. Clarke’s eyes snapped down to the trail Lexa had painted down the arm, where goosebumps were still raised.

The tension that’d snuck into her shoulders bled out.

“Can I get you something? We’ve got coffee, probably some tea somewhere. Lexa can most likely find it if you’re desperate.”

Lexa did in fact know where the tea was. Clarke swore by coffee and called tea just dirt in water. Raven swore by tea and called coffee bean sewage. Whenever they were both in the same house, they’d hide each other’s stash. Lexa had never really understood.

“I want to see this… Lexa first.”

Clarke looked pleased she’d used her actual name and stepped aside to let her in.

Lexa moved aside too, so she didn’t have to walk through her. According to Clarke the sensation could be a bit disconcerting, that shiver that’d wrack through that couldn’t be explained, that it was probably because of cold but something deep in you knew it wasn’t.

The witch didn’t go too far into the house. She had a rather large handbag slung over her shoulder, though when Clarke offered to take it for her or put it down somewhere, she’d just glared and secured her grip more thoroughly. Clarke raised her hands and stepped back, letting her be.

“Where is she, then?”

Clarke blinked from beside her. “Can’t you like, sense it?”

The witch sighed, annoyed. “Can you sense it?”

“But you’re a witch.”

“And I am also human. Witch is a craft, dear, not a species.”

Clarke nodded slowly, accepting this. “Alright. Uh, Lexa? Could you, I don’t know, make the walls bleed or something?”

Lexa huffed to herself. Sure, parade her like a show dog. Who needed dignity?

Clarke must have sensed her offence, somehow. “Call it favour? You can use it back on me, then. I’ll even watch that new Attenborough series you’ve been jonesing for.”

“The what?” the witch asked, looking wholly confused.

Clarke waved a hand. “She’s obsessed with documentaries. David is her favourite.”

The witch stared at her like maybe she was starting to regret this.

Lexa was already waving her arm, that brief bought of warmth in her otherwise numb body flickering through. A deal is a deal, after all. It wasn’t seconds after blood was seeping from the ceiling, dripping down the walls slow and horrifying, and solely because she could, Lexa made some of the furniture float too.

The witch’s eyes blew wide and she took a staggered step back, but Clarke only watched as the side table floated up and shook her head knowingly.

“Show off,” Clarke muttered through a smile, and it only made Lexa grin wider.

“You’re haunted,” the witched breathed. The way it came out, it was obvious that she hadn’t thought Clarke was telling the truth. She really had come here to prove her wrong.

Clarke might have next to no survival instincts, but she could read people like nothing else.

At least when her heart wasn’t involved.

“I wouldn’t call it haunting,” Clarke mused. “She’s rather terrible at it.”

The witch glanced between the terrifying bloody walls and the completely unaffected woman next to her. “You’re not afraid?”

She gave her a confused smile. “Of what?”

-

In the end, Lexa did have to go find that tea.

After, they all sat in the kitchen, Clarke with her mug of coffee and Vera—that was what the witch revealed as her name—with a cup of tea. It was black. Clarke offered some sugar, and Vera shook her head. Lexa was pleased that she’d finally found someone with tastebuds.

No one was saying anything. Vera stared down into her mug like there was some sort of answer hiding in the ripples, and Clarke sat across from her, her leg jumping up and down and nervously watching the witch for a sign. Lexa didn’t feel as deeply as she used to, her body not made for it, but even she could feel a healthy share of Clarke’s same anxiety knotting in her own stomach.

This was what it had all come to. If this failed, they probably wouldn’t come back from it. Lexa only had enough hope for one go. She knew that if this failed, it’d feel like dying again, to be forced to relive that horrible, clarifying moment of: oh, I’m still here.

Dying once had been painful enough. Twice, she could take—maybe—but a third?

Even an exorcism sounded better than that.

“So,” Clarke started, when it’d been a whole ten minutes and Vera hadn’t said anything. At least Vera glanced up. “Now that you have proof, what about us?”

Vera’s brow rose. “You want me to prove I’m a witch?”

Clarke nodded. She glanced down at the coffee in her hands briefly, fingers clenching and unclenching uselessly around the mug. “I believe you, mostly. But I know Lexa won’t. Not until she sees it.”

Lexa wondered when they got to point where they knew each other like this.

Vera reached into her bag. She scrounged around for a moment, Clarke perking up in her seat like she could maybe lean over and peek in, but the only thing that Vera pulled out when she was done, oddly, was a paper napkin.

Clarke sank back into her seat with obvious disappointment on face. She’d probably been hoping that Vera was going to pull out a snake or even a whole dragon.

Vera, though. She was smiling like she’d caught every second. “Take this, dear,” she said, handing the napkin over.

Clarke’s brow ticked up, but she took the napkin. Held it in her hands. Waited for something to happen.

Vera cupped her hands to her face, whispered something even Lexa couldn’t hear and then reached her hand out, just tapped the centre of where the napkin was.

It caught on fire.

Clarke dropped it onto the table immediately, but before it could start spreading and take the whole house with it Vera snapped her fingers and the flames vanished into a puff of a smoke. Unlike Lexa’s flames, though, these one’s weren’t phantom. The burn marks stayed on the lingering remains of the napkin, the singed hole carving through the centre.

And to prove all was fair, the moment this all happened Vera made sure her hands were open and obvious the whole way. So they could see there was no hidden match, no lighter. Just the magic of her touch.

“Leave it to you to actually find a real witch,” Lexa whispered in disbelief.

Clarke watched the last of the ashes finish burning below her. Her eyes were still a little wide, but it wasn’t in fear. Already, a hopeful grin was tugging at her mouth. “So. You’re a witch.”

Vera smiled too. “I am.”

“Okay. Alright. Holy shit. So—so can you do it? You said before, that if they don’t cross—”

“You cannot resurrect the dead, dear. It is one of things we are first told. You’d be surprised, or maybe not, but many of our witches start that way—the reason they come to us. It’s because they want to bring someone back.”

It seemed they both stopped smiling at the same time. Lexa swallowed, didn’t really know how to handle the gentle, knowing way that Vera spoke. She recognised that voice. It was how you let someone down carefully. Lexa knew it intimately, had used it far too often alive.

“But she’s not gone, not entirely,” Clarke pressed. Vera pursed her lips, but she nodded.

“No, she is not. I believe there is a ritual somewhere I should be able to find, that’s supposed to call the spirit back, see, to put it back into a body where it should be. We’re not meant to linger—the universe doesn’t like that. But there are some forces even the universe can’t stop.”

“A body,” Clarke repeated, testing out the words. “Are you saying that we need to… find a body? Like, a host?”

Vera tutted a laugh and shook her head. “Oh no, dear. We need the bones of a body. The remains. The soul will work the rest out. They’re very smart things, they are.”

Clarke grimaced. “I don’t have any human remains.”

“I’ve got some I should be able to spare. And even if you did, it wouldn’t matter. I need witch’s bones.”

Lexa shot Vera a horrified look, though Clarke remained astoundingly calm considering that Vera had, you know, admitted to owning goddamn human remains.

“Why a witch’s?” Clarke asked, apparently just breezing past this deeply concerning revelation.

Vera seemed eager to explain. Lexa wondered if it’d been a long time since she’d last had someone new to talk to, explain all the secrets that shouldn’t be revealed. “The bones aren’t for her. Your soul knows who you are, it was made with you, for you. You need a witch’s bone because there’s magic in them, and when we begin the spell, that magic will act like a beacon, so the spirit—sorry, apologies dear—so Lexa’s soul will be called to it. And she’ll be reborn, essentially.”

At seeing Clarke’s still confused expression, Vera went on to elaborate.

“Think of it like Lexa’s life, when she died but didn’t move on—that was like a disc freezing in a movie. What should have happened: that movie should have ended, be done with, even the credits finished rolling. But Lexa’s isn’t done. That she’s a ghost, that means something. All we’re doing is giving that disc a restart and nudging her back along.”

Clarke nodded slowly. Before Vera could get any further along, though, Lexa slammed her fist against the wall to get their attention. Vera jumped in her seat, wildly looked about for the cause of menacing bang, but Clarke just casually glanced up for the nearest wall to look at.

“What’s up, Lex?”

Ask her how she got these human remains, Clarke, Lexa wrote in exasperation.

Clarke rolled her eyes, but she still looked back to Vera and waved a hand toward the bloody writing on the wall. “So?”

Vera glanced frantically between Clarke and the writing. “She’s—that’s blood.”

“Nah, it’s not. She just likes making it look like blood for the drama of it all. It’s not real.”

“It’s not real?” Vera asked, but she was intrigued now, like she was trying to lead Clarke on.

Clarke took a sip of her coffee. “Mhm. Doesn’t stain, doesn’t do anything. If she ever starts writing in actual blood, then yes, I would be worried. But this isn’t that. She could make it look like normal paint if she wanted, but that wouldn’t be dramatic enough.”

Lexa glared at her but let the comment slide. Maybe there was truth to that. Maybe there wasn’t.

Vera stared at her. “Are you sure you’re not a witch?”

Clarke gave her a weird look and shook her head.

“Right,” Vera said, like she was equally confused. “But, anyway, the bones were donated. Some witches before they die sign explicit permission for their remains to be used in spells. Obviously, these are kept only within the coven, and are very well looked after. It’s all very above board.”

“Have you signed it?” Clarke asked curiously.

Vera smiled. “Of course.”

Well. To be fair, there were probably worse uses for human remains.

“So… what do we have to do? To bring her back?”

Vera’s smile vanished. Lexa narrowed her eyes, noting the reaction. “I don’t believe it’s really all that difficult. I will have to go and refamiliarise myself with the ritual, but I believe it won’t take too long gathering everything we need. Give me a week, I think, and I should be ready. We will have to do it late, ideally a Friday.”

“Because of Friday the 13th?”

“Hm? Oh no, I would do the Thursday, but that’s bingo night. Jeremiah won last week and his gloating has become beyond sufferable. I am not letting him win again. Friday will simply be much easier.”

“Alright,” Clarke agreed. She nodded surely to herself. “Next Friday we’ll perform a resurrection.”

Vera gave her a smile, but it wasn’t as strong as it should have been. It felt like she was holding something back, and Lexa couldn’t shake the nervous feeling that she was deliberating withholding something important, that they were putting all their bets in without even bothering to open their eyes.

“Here,” Vera said anyway. She reached into her bag, pulled out a small card and slid it across to Clarke. “This is my card. If you have any questions, that’s the shop’s number. We’re open just about any time.”

“Thank you,” Clarke said quietly.

It was obvious that she was thanking Vera beyond the card, the weight of her words barely making it above a whisper. Something in Vera’s eyes softened.

“For what it’s worth, dear, I think you have the real making’s of a witch. If you’re interested…”

Clarke chuckled and glanced down at her coffee. “My mother would kill me.”

Vera waited a moment, glancing a heartbeat out to where Lexa had written. The blood was gone now, had no reason to linger, but still Vera blinked an extra beat, like she was reassuring herself.

“Well, I’ll leave you to your coffee then.”

Clarke led her out through the door while Lexa hung back. Instead, she remained in the kitchen, unable to shake that feeling of impending doom descending over her. They were both being fools, Lexa knew that. They’d been lying to themselves right from the start.

There was only one way this was going to end. One way it was really going to end.

Convincing Clarke was going to be difficult.

-

She waited until after the episode finished, the TV the only source of light in the room.

They were idly chatting, throwing an unfinished Rubik’s Cube back and forth like a ball. It was only unfinished because Lexa had solved it probably upwards of a thousand times by now. Sometimes, when Clarke was away, Lexa had even started teaching herself how to juggle and solve it simultaneously. It was a slow process but she was reasonably sure she’d get there.

Except… maybe not. The past whole century, she’d been treating each day like forever. That time was the one thing she’d never run out of.

That wasn’t so true anymore.

“Do you think I’d be a good witch?” Clarke asked, throwing the cube to her.

Lexa caught it easily. If someone else had been standing in the room with them, they’d probably think they were going insane at the way the Rubik would just freeze mid-air, seeming to weight itself before being gently chucked back.

“I thought you wanted to be a doctor?” David Attenborough asked from the TV. It was a bit of a stretch having to keep one hand in the television and one hand for catching, but it was manageable. Ghosts were pretty flexible by nature.

Clarke sighed from where she was lying across the couch. A piece of hair near her mouth flew up and landed somewhere on her cheek. “I know it’s a little out there but… god, my mother would flip her shit. Can you imagine? If I turned up at the next family reunion and then, when they inevitably go round asking if I’ve ruined my life, or something, I can just go ‘oh yeah, didn’t mom tell you? I’m a witch now.’”

Lexa threw the Rubik back to her, already shaking her head. “Clarke…”

Even if it was with clear reluctance, Clarke dutifully got rid of her shit-eating grin with another sigh. “No, I know, you’re right. I shouldn’t be making life altering decisions just to spite my mother. Even if it would be funny. Like, so funny.”

Clarke threw the Rubik and Lexa caught it. But this time, Lexa held it, knowing that she’d put it off long enough. She even pulled her hand back out from the TV, let David Attenborough go so the show could finish like it was supposed to.

She had to say this with her own voice. Not someone else’s.

Clarke immediately sat up, noticing every one of Lexa’s actions. Because she always did, didn’t she? It was what made this so hard. Made her have to squeeze her eyes shut, exhale slow in and out to like that could calm that damning ache pulsating in her chest. When she finally opened her eyes, Clarke was staring at where the Rubik was floating mid-air. Lexa glanced down and realised that she’d started solving it without realising. Muscle memory had kicked in on its own.

“What’s wrong?” Clarke whispered, her voice low like she knew, somehow, that this was the sort of thing that had to be kept quiet.

Lexa slowly put the cube down the side table. Just for herself, she got up and floated over onto the couch, so she was sitting on it with Clarke. Their knees didn’t touch, but if Lexa reached her hand out it’d brush over Clarke’s cheek. Lexa allowed herself another selfish moment to have this before she made Clarke’s phone go off.

Clarke grabbed it from where it was sitting on the coffee table, pulled it into her lap.

Do you really think this will work?

Lexa watched Clarke’s expression. By the way it faltered, but then was smothered just as quickly like she knew that Lexa was watching, it only made this old, old smile spread on Lexa’s face.

Do not lie to me. Tell me, honestly. I know you. Do you think this will work?

“Yes,” Clarke said softly. No hesitation. Whether it was because she was entirely confident or if she was trying to convince herself of it Lexa didn’t know. Probably the latter, knowing them. Neither were good at following the rules.

They shared the silence.

Clarke blinked back what was building in her eyes. “You don’t think it’ll work, do you?”

Lexa stared at her, trying to memorise the exact lines of Clarke’s face. It had always been beautiful, but now, strangely, it felt like she was only just realising the extent of it. Though maybe that wasn’t so strange. Your eyes always change when you’re looking at something for the last time. So scared to forget, you almost don’t remember.

If this doesn’t work, I want you to exorcise me.

Clarke’s eyes went wide. “Lexa. That’s—that’s—

Please, Lexa added, hating that she had to put this through a goddamn text. But there was no other choice. I don’t think I can do this.

“Do what?” Clarke asked, even if it came out choked and her eyes were shining now, reflecting the lone glow of the TV.

Lexa laughed soundlessly, felt her ribcage crack right open. This. It hurts. To be here in the worst way possible. We’ve been pretending, Clarke, and I know you always say I’m alive, but I’m not. That’s the truth. I’m just not. Even Vera said it, I’m not supposed to be like this. Ghosts should move on.

Clarke didn’t say anything. It looked like she tried, but her mouth just worked uselessly.

Lexa scooted closer. Until they were touching. She watched that tremor rack through Clarke’s body, how her shoulders twitched unconsciously. She raised her arm, almost about to reach out when—

“Are you in front of me?”

Lexa had never heard Clarke so quiet before.

Yes.

Clarke’s eyes flicked down to her phone, the new text. After reading it, she had to close her eyes, but slowly, she reopened them and looked up. “Stay there,” she breathed, voice almost soundless. “Stay right there.”

Lexa swallowed her non-existent heart down and obeyed.

Clarke kept her stare straight ahead, but she didn’t move it and almost—almost—it was like they were staring right at each other. That they were meeting eyes and Clarke was seeing her. Slowly, she raised her hand and just let it wait there. Lexa brought hers up with same speed and pressed it, as much as she could, as close as she could, so it was almost like they were holding. That shudder went through Clarke again, the wrong one of her body trying to instinctively inch away, but she pushed through it and didn’t even flinch.

This was for them. This was for her.

For a moment Lexa was convinced she was alive and sitting with her.

It was one of the kindest things Clarke had ever done.

That wet sheen finally broke over her eyes, and Clarke laughed shakily, brought her hand back into her lap. “Alright. I’ll—I’ll do it. If this fails, and you’re still sure after, you are absolutely sure, then I’ll get Vera to do it.”

Her phone vibrated. Clarke glanced to it. Not Vera. You.

“Okay,” Clarke said, like it went against everything in her.

That ache was like a jackhammer behind her eyes. It shouldn’t make sense. She’d gotten what she wanted, she’d convinced her. It still felt wrong. All of it just felt so fucking wrong.

“I love you,” Lexa said.

Clarke didn’t hear, couldn’t.

Maybe that was better.

-

Vera called her on the Thursday morning.

Clarke almost dropped her phone in her haste to pick it up. Already, her heart was pounding, just about every scenario possible of what could have gone wrong flashing through her mind. Vera quickly assured her, though. Everything was fine; the plan was still on for tomorrow; but she wanted to talk with her before they went through with it.

Her first instinct had been to give a time she could come to the house, yet Vera had only quietly said it’d be better if it was just the two of them. Something tightened in her gut, and when eyes flicked up, seeing movement in the corner of her eye she watched as Lexa wrote Go with her across the wall like she’d expected this.

Those nerves still hadn’t left her stomach even by the time she was cautiously settling into the café chair.

Vera didn’t look at ease, either.

This wasn’t going to be a good conversation.

“If this is you backing out,” Clarke said slowly, trying to pick her words with care even if her hands were fisting under the table, “then you will point me in the direction of the next witch who will.”

Vera only shook her head. “No, dear, this isn’t that. I’m a woman of my word. Witches take promises quite seriously, you see.”

Clarke worked her jaw, but she nodded in surrender. “Alright. Then why’d you bring me here, so Lexa couldn’t know? I know you weren’t saying something before. When you came to the house.”

“Perceptive,” Vera commented with an acknowledging head tilt.

Clarke forced her hands to relax from where they digging into her thigh. “This isn’t about me. This is—”

“It is, actually,” Vera interrupted, though her voice still remained infuriatingly gentle. Clarke frowned and Vera merely sighed. “It’s about the both of you.”

“What about us?”

Vera took a minute, leaning back into her chair. They were sitting outside. The sun was out today, finally, made the pavement warm and left the inside of cafes empty rather than the out, servers having to regularly kick the door open and hoist up the shade umbrellas. There were more than a few couples dotted around them, with their faces barely inches apart without even realising, knees brushing each other’s under the table and completely oblivious to everyone around them. It meant you could say anything you wanted with little fear of being overheard.

When she’d first sat down, she had gotten caught up staring for a minute or two at the sight. Something that tugged in her chest, made the backs of her eyes burn.

“Do you know how ghosts come to be?” Vera asked out of nowhere.

Clarke’s frown deepened. Having a question be conveniently sidestepped was never reassuring. “No.”

Vera smiled sadly like she’d expected this. “Well, how do you think ghosts form, then?”

“I don’t know. Unfinished business, probably. That’s what everyone says, isn’t it?”

“Maybe,” Vera allowed. “But think about it. If everyone with unfinished business became ghosts after dying, then none of us would ever leave. That’s the point of living—you can’t finish it. There is no end goal, no finish line waiting for you. There’ll always be something left unfinished when you leave. That’s just the nature of it. Maybe it’s something small, like you never admitted your love to those who held it; maybe it’s the name of your killer that no one knows.”

“So… then what? What’s your point?”

“My point,” Vera went on, patiently ignoring the interruption. “Is that we move on. All of us do. The dead stay gone. The living pick up the pieces. It’s what we’re made for. As mysterious as the universe is, that is a rule that it abides to, that it wants us to. The one thing it didn’t quite account for, though, is love.”

It was almost involuntary, how she sucked in a sharp breath at hearing the word. In some way she knew this was coming. Like some part of her already just knew this was the thing that’d always been waiting for her, even if she’d wrestled against it the whole way.

Vera must have heard it. Her eyes softened, just gave her that same gentle smile like she’d seen this exact path that led her here too. “Ghosts are rare, dear. It’s what I need you to know. They are one of, if not the rarest thing on Earth. I’ve never met a real one before until now. No one in my coven has, and I’d wager that no one has for generations.”

Clarke swallowed what was trying to build up in her throat. It didn’t really work, and that feeling behind her eyes got worse. To add to it, even Vera’s eyes were wet now, her smile gone watery.

Vera pulled in a careful breath.

“The way ghosts are formed, it’s not because of unfinished business. It’s because of themselves. And usually, they don’t even realise this. What keeps them here—what holds them here—is that when they die, when they hear that completely irrefutable call to bring the soul to the other side… it’s… it’s love. That’s the only thing that can overcome it. Their love ties them here. They resist that pull, that call. Sometimes unconsciously. Sometimes not.”

“But that is going to be hardest part for us, dear. What’s going to make this so difficult. The spell—that’s nothing, I can do that eyes closed. What’ll probably be the reason this won’t work… it’s her. It’s Lexa. It’s undoing that choice. Untying that love. And for someone where their love is the whole reason they’re even still here… then, well, you must understand what I’m saying, don’t you?”

Clarke fell forward, locking her hands behind her head and forcing herself to breathe slow. “Yeah, I understand.” Her voice came out so quiet it was barely audible. When she finally glanced up again Vera was waiting on her. Unfortunately, that wasn’t even the end of it.

“You need to know,” Vera said carefully, making sure she held her eyes. “That we get one shot for this. The whole reason she’s still here now, like this, it’s because she’s caught between. Her soul is torn. By lingering here, it’s less that she made her final choice but put off making that choice. What we’re doing: we’re opening the door for her, giving her the option, but if she doesn’t come then that’s that. Her soul will solidify its choice to stay here. The spell won’t work anymore. The same trick won’t work twice.”

“She asked me to exorcise her,” Clarke admitted quietly. Her gaze stayed firmly on the ground. “If this fails.”

Vera nodded slowly. “If you love her, then you will. At least then she can move on. Otherwise, she’ll be doomed to spend eternity here. People aren’t made for that. We aren’t.”

Neither of them spoke for a while, letting the dust fall.

Clarke finally looked up.

“She can do it. I know she can. She’ll make it.”

Vera didn’t immediately answer. The sympathy written across her face made it obvious how she thought this was going to end. “You would trust her for that?”

“For anything.”

There was nothing else to be said.

-

They do it at three in the morning, what Vera calls the Witching Hour.

It was when the barriers between everything got weak, where lines between realms became blurred. Where rules could be broken and you might even get away with it.

Clarke stayed up for it. Lexa told her that she could sleep until it was time, but she’d just shot an exasperated smile at the wall and shook her head. Privately, Lexa was a little relieved, because the idea of being resurrected by a Clarke who had just woken up wasn’t the most motivating of ideas. At least as a ghost when shoes got thrown at you they had nothing to hit. Corporeal forms weren’t so lucky.

Vera had turned up around two. Instead of that bag slung over her shoulder, this time she had an actual suitcase rolling along at her feet. When it moved, Lexa had instinctually tried to listen out for the rattle of bones, but there was nothing—it was packed to the brim, either deliberately or not, and Vera even had to grit her teeth as she lugged it forward.

Clarke quickly took it from her hands, carrying it in for her.

Vera murmured a thanks that didn’t get a reply. Clarke only nodded, pulling it in and then gently laying the suitcase on the floor. “Is here alright?” she’d asked, and Vera had only nodded her confirmation back.

There was a pentagram painted across the middle of the floor now. Lit candles were placed at each point, a nest of too many herbs and plants to name circling them, but the thing that made both Clarke and her so quiet was the skeleton laid out reverently in the centre of it all. The bones were old. Even if they’d clearly been cleaned and cared for—as Vera had promised—the bones were thin, fractured and worn at the joints.

Whatever witch had given these, they’d lived a while.

Clarke glanced at her phone for the thirtieth time in the last hour. “It’s almost time,” she murmured. It was quiet enough that Vera couldn’t hear from where she was sat on the couch, a massive book in her hands and poring over the words with scrunched brows—this was only for Lexa to hear.

Lexa left the wires she’d been nervously running through and appeared by Clarke’s side. She was sitting on the stair landing, her leg jumping up and down.

It is.

Clarke’s eyes flicked down to the text. “Got any last words?”

It was meant to be like a joke, but the smile she gave with it never reached her eyes.

Lexa swallowed from beside her. Not yet.

Clarke’s brow twitched. “Not yet?”

I need to say with it my voice. Not here. Not written.

“First words, then,” Clarke offered. Her voice trembled when she said it. Lexa didn’t point it out.

First words, Lexa agreed.

The ensuing silence between them was tense. Clarke’s leg started jumping even faster.

“If… if this works, what do you want to do first?”

Lexa knew exactly what she wanted to do.

I don’t know.

Clarke laughed through her nose. “Yeah, you do. You’ve had a whole century to think. No way you’ve got nothing.”

Lexa closed her eyes. Tried to even herself. You don’t know that.

“I do,” Clarke smiled, not even a hint of doubt in her.

For a moment Lexa tried to work out which of them was making the bigger mistake, but it just led her in a useless circle like a dog chewing at its own stomach. There was no point to try and keep score with something like this. This far in, the numbers didn’t even matter. Here they were. Nothing could change that. There wasn’t anything coming to save them.

It was just the two of them.

There was no other way it could have gone, really.

“It’s time,” Vera said solemnly from across the way.

Her and Clarke stood up at the same time. Vera lingered another second, glancing between the book splayed out on the coffee table and the piece of paper she was furiously scribbling in. It didn’t feel right how quiet the night was. There was no thunder and lighting, no hard rain pelting the windows like the skies knew they were messing with forces that not even gods should touch.

Maybe it meant the world wasn’t watching. That they could slip through.

“Okay,” Clarke started, standing near the pentagram. “So, what happens now?”

Vera got up from the couch. She left the book on the table, but she brought the scrap of paper she’d been scrawling on. “You are going to read this spell—I’ve written it phonetically for you, makes matters easier—and Lexa will wait outside the pentagram.”

Clarke frowned. “Why outside?”

Vera looked pleased for the question, like she’d been waiting on it. Honestly, if Clarke wasn’t careful, she might end up becoming a witch solely by accidently asking the wrong questions. The right wrong questions. “She can’t, not now. Not yet. She can give it a go if she wants, but she’ll be pushed back. I’ve already gone about enchanting the bones. They won’t let her in until we begin reciting the spell.”

“So does Lexa have to do something?” Clarke asked, eyes flicking to the bones laid out before them.

Vera shook her head. “Nothing I can explain. She’ll know what to do, when it happens. Our souls are smarter than our minds. The ritual doesn’t… explicitly state what the spirit is meant to specifically do.” Vera offered a shrug. “I don’t think anyone’s really asked a ghost before. Usually, they’re not the conversation types.”

“Usually,” Clarke said, smiling like it was a secret.

Vera waved a hand. “Anyway, here is what you need to say. You’ll probably need to go through it more than once. Just make sure your voice is clear. Don’t mumble your words, that’s very important. You don’t want to go accidently saying the wrong words and end up with a demon in your living room, do you?”

Clarke blinked. “Uh, is that a thing that can happen?”

“Well,” Vera said breezily. “Only if you mumble your words.”

It probably said something about her that Lexa’s first thought about this was that if they did end up summoning demon—it was going to be an absolute pain to get those singe marks out. Sure, Lexa hated this house for chaining her here, but it was inevitable that she’d developed a weird sort of pride for it too. If a demon came crashing in here, they were paying for the damage bills.

Clarke looked like she was going to ask more questions but Vera handed her the sheet, pointing out the neatly written rows of writing for her. Lexa leant in from behind them, peeking at the sheet. It wasn’t a language she recognised. It wasn’t anything she could have recognised.

“This isn’t Latin,” Clarke noted with a frown.

Vera scoffed from beside her. “This is far older than that, dear. How long do you think death has been around?”

Lexa tilted her head in acknowledgement. Fair point.

“So this is…?”

“Trigedasleng.”

“What’s that?”

Vera smiled at her. “Exactly.” Clarke’s frown deepened and Vera went on to explain. “It’s been around a very, very long while. It’s actually not a language that should even be written down, but we’ve managed to scrap some bits and pieces through the years.” She gave her a long look. “You should know, the older something is, the more you should caution it. It’s no coincidence we’ll be using it for this. This sort of magic has had thousands of years to sew its roots.”

Clarke glanced down at the paper in her hands with different eyes, taking in the words with a new reverence. “Okay… okay. Shit. So I just, I just start speaking this? You’re doing it with me, right?”

Vera chuckled and waved a hand, stepping back. “Oh no, this isn’t about me. I told you before: this is both of you. You’re the link, here. What does Lexa care for me? Her soul’s got no reason to listen to mine. No, dear, you must do this. You both must.”

Clarke forced out a trembling breath. “You’ve got my back, right?” she said with a shaky smile, and it was obvious she wasn’t talking to Vera anymore.

Lexa nodded from behind her, the reaction too ingrained to forget. Always, she wrote on Clarke’s wrist, reaching an arm between them and ignoring how Clarke’s body shivered because of it, the trail of her finger leaving phantom blood in its wake.

Vera’s eyes widened, though this time she managed not to say anything.

Clarke’s smile softened.

And then, pulling in a deep breath, she stepped forward so she was right at the foot of the pentagram, and started reciting the ancient words. They sounded harsh, even if the actual translation was anything but, the words coming from a time where war was crawling up at every turn, when violence and blood was the first thing you woke to and the last thing you’d remember.

Lexa didn’t understand them but still they felt familiar in some indescribable way. They tugged at something deep in her, in the same place where she instinctively manipulated the reality around her. At first, the reciting of the words was just that—reciting—with nothing happening, nothing obvious at least.

Clarke didn’t stop, though. Vera had warned it wasn’t instant.

Lexa’s worry clawed higher as the nothing continued, that is right until the bones started shaking. Clarke tripped on her words at seeing this but righted herself just as quick. Lexa moved out from around them, watching the trembling bones with wide eyes as even the candles fell under the force too, started rising and levitating up into the air, the flames spitting fiercer at the wick.

Below them the bones stayed on the floor, still shaking worse with every second.

And further below the pentagram started glowing.

Lexa dropped to the ground.

No, the air dropped her. She’d always been hovering in some way, but without warning it was like that invisible rope stringing her up was snipped. The drop to the floor didn’t hurt like a physical body would have, but what did hurt was this pain sprawling out from the empty cavern of her chest. Wind from nowhere billowed in through the house, disrupting papers and shoving lamps off tables like the world was furious now, had caught on to them and wasn’t going down without a fight.

“Keep going!” Vera hissed desperately, even as she backed away and dove for her book, holding it down to the floor so the wind couldn’t steal it.

Clarke did. Her voice got louder, had to yell to be heard over the chaos. All the doors in the house slammed open, the pipes started shaking and screaming, the lights fluctuated in and out and the TV stuttered back and forth between static and some late night advertising that next to no one saw.

That pain got worse. It spread through the rest of her out from her chest like an infection. She ended up screaming from it, but the pentagram kept glowing brighter and brighter till the whole thing lit up in the flames. They must have been magic, though, or phantom or something because they didn’t touch an inch out from its boundary.

Gravity slanted over, and even if the ground remained as flat as always it felt as if it’d violently tilted to the side and the pentagram was pulling her towards it like a mouth hellbent to swallow her whole. Lexa fought against it instinctually, her hands scrabbling out to try dig at the floors, dig her nails in even as the force yanking at her legs revved higher with every second. It wasn’t right, it wasn’t what she was made for and that agony tearing through her vamped up with each inch nearer to it.

And because it’d become a guilty habit, Lexa’s first instinct at the pain was to search out for Clarke. Even with the flames licking at her feet and feeling them burn with every touch, her renewed desperation to get away from them—the first thing to break through panicked haze was the sight of her there, looking about as pained as her.

Lexa doubted it was same physical agony she was in. The sort of pain on her face couldn’t be incited by any blade, but what could only be lost, taken from you. For a flash instant Lexa saw every moment they’d had together. Right from the beginning, to rising up beneath her sheets and those weeks of trying to send her away with none of her efforts working to the quiet nights and the talks and the movies and the—

That unseen force was still tearing into her, except Lexa found that she could push through if she grit her teeth enough—shake that invisible jaw off her leg and crawl her way forward, get away. It was getting weaker. It might have come out swinging, but it wouldn’t hold for long.

Her eyes snapped up, though. To the painting that was still hanging up there, on the wall, by the door. The forest. The whole scene that Clarke had painted for like it was the easiest choice in the world, that Lexa was worth every second and more.

She threw her head over her shoulder, watched the flames behind her.

“Not this time,” Lexa spat, baring her teeth.

And then she did something she had never done before. Not once. Not alive, not dead, not in-between.

Lexa let go.

-

The flash of light blinded everyone in the room.

It took over everything, made the whole world nothing but white.

Everything stopped. The wind left like it’d never been. The pentagram was ripped away—had done its purpose, had nothing left to tie it—the candles fell back to the floor, the wicks empty and singed to almost nothing, and for that whole second, what might have been the most important second in entire history, even the universe got blinded too.

Enough that it couldn’t see. Couldn’t keep a close eye on those lines it guarded over, of who was who. What was what.

A real resurrection wasn’t about breaking someone out, bringing them back to you. It was the opposite. It was breaking someone in. Sneaking them back over the line. You don’t need an army for that. While it might have been a resurrection spell—it didn’t really do any resurrecting. You can’t save what’s lost. You’d be grabbing at nothing.

If all went right, it was a blinding spell. Its purpose was to make the world look away. For just a second, just a heartbeat.

A whole universe could be made in a second.

There was a lot else that could be done, too.

Just don’t look.

-

The first thing Lexa noticed was that the house was cold.

Not like how it became a fridge in winter, but the sort of cold that always snuck in with night. Her clothes, the outfit she’d been wearing for an entire century wasn’t quite made for this temperature. She’d died in the evening, too, way back when. She had ripped herself out of bed at hearing yelling from the other room. Just some loose fitting pants and a shirt of her father’s she’d stolen—it had been the first thing she’d blindly grabbed from the dresser.

But—Lexa actually felt it now. The brush of fabric against her skin. Her warm skin. Her heavy body. The weight in her feet, in her chest, her head. Lexa blinked slow in the aftermath, shaking her head and trying to rid her vision of the few lingering specs of white. She glanced down and saw that she was standing in the centre of where the pentagram had been. The candles were still there, knocked over.

Lexa pulled in a slow breath, exhaled it with the same trembling excitement. Her lungs rose and fell.

She was—she was

“Great Gaia,” Vera whispered, and Lexa spun around instantly.

Vera was backing away, cupping her hands over her face, but the only thing Lexa saw was the sight of Clarke there, her eyes the widest she’d ever seen and near frantically scanning Lexa up and down like trying to take in too much at once. She was breathing too fast with it, and even Lexa could see the shake in her hands from here.

Lexa opened and closed her mouth uselessly. A hundred years and she still didn’t know how to speak to a pretty girl. Figures, really.

“Look at you,” Clarke breathed, tears already slipping down as she just beamed at her. “A hundred years old and you don’t look a day over twenty five.”

“I love you.”

Impossibly, Clarke’s eyes widened even more. They were going to fall out her head at this rate. “You—what?”

“I love you,” Lexa said again, firmer this time. “I love you. The—the first words, like we said. I love you.”

“First words,” Clarke whispered, but she drifted forward now.

Lexa laughed, tears—real tears—falling freely from her eyes now, the sort of thing she’d never thought she would miss. “Yes. I don’t… it’s okay if you don’t feel that way for me, I just—I need you to know. I’ve wanted you to know for so long. But I couldn’t—”

Clarke was already in front of her, somehow. “Hey, hey, Lexa, breathe. You’re talking too fast.”

“Right. Yes. Sorry.” Lexa swallowed, closing her eyes and trying to reign herself in. So, needless to say, when she felt soft, apprehensive hands brush carefully against the inside of her wrist she just about had a heart attack. Her eyes flew open and Clarke jerked back with it.

“I—sorry, I know I shouldn’t have—fuck, you’ve been a ghost for a hundred years, I shouldn’t have touched with asking. Shit.”

“No, it’s—” Lexa blew out a shaky breath. She smiled up at her, felt her heart pound near painfully against her ribs at realising just how close Clarke was now. How she could actually feel the heat of her body near. See exactly how Clarke’s eyes still hadn’t stopped hungrily scanning over her so there couldn’t be a single thing to miss. “It’s fine, Clarke.”

She sucked in a sharp breath. “Say that again.”

Lexa’s brow furrowed. “Say what?”

“My name.”

Lexa realised only then that while Clarke had spoken her name a hundred times over, it had never been given in return. She was so close now Lexa could almost taste her air. “I love you, Clarke.”

“You mentioned that,” Clarke murmured through a smile.

She could feel her pulse in her hands. It was an incredibly surreal feeling. Still, even if she could see the eyes in front her weren’t on hers anymore but lower, trained on her lips, Lexa still didn’t dare move. Terrified she’d do it too fast, wake herself up from what had to be a dream.

Nevermind that ghosts couldn’t even dream.

“What are you…”

“There’s something I’ve been wanting to do,” Clarke said quietly.

And then she closed the last of that distance and kissed her.

It was the most alive Lexa had ever felt.

-

Vera left pretty soon after. She’d coughed from behind them—when that first tentative press lips started rapidly heating into something else—and they’d both jumped back from each other equally embarrassed. They’d both forgotten about the fact that they were very much were not alone.

It seemed to be what Vera had been expecting, though.

“Well, I've had a very exciting night, so I think I’ll just leave you two and I’ll be back in the morning to pick my things back up.” Vera paused, eyeing them closely for a beat. “Late morning, maybe.”

Lexa could feel her cheeks flaming up. And—shit, she’d forgotten about that. Ghosts can’t blush, but alive ones very much can.

Vera grinned and left with another goodbye.

“We shouldn’t just let her leave like that, should we?” Lexa asked, frowning and shooting nervous glances at the door. “She’s done so much. Don’t we owe her—”

“Later,” Clarke whispered into her ear, already pushing her back into the wall and dragging her teeth sinfully over her neck.

It was a very convincing argument.

“Later,” Lexa agreed with absolutely no fight at all.

Clarke laughed for this, brighter than anything Lexa had heard. It made her newly-formed heart trip over in her chest.

It wasn’t long after they were both stumbling their way up the stairs, knocking into more surfaces than they missed. It was hard to see where you were going with eyes closed and lips firmly pressed against another like if they even slipped for a second they’d lose it all. It was why Lexa swallowed her grunts at bumping into the wall, the knock of her ankle against a step higher than anticipated, because all of it was worth it if it meant she could have this. What she never should have in the first place.

She had wasted her chance, once. Now she promised she never would again.

Clarke pushed her down onto the bed, but unlike the desperation of the rush before, this was slower, gentler. Reverent. Like handling diamonds. Everything she could never afford. Lexa didn’t realise she’d somehow lost her shirt and Clarke had too until soft hands were trailing up her stomach, her open chest, finishing at her neck and curling behind there, pulling her in till they were breathing in the other’s air.

Clarke had also somehow wound up straddling her lap. Lexa was beginning to severely question the structural integrity of her memory. She’d felt Clarke against her and forgotten everything else. Some things just never really change, apparently.

“You’re beautiful, so beautiful,” Clarke kept whispering into her mouth, pushed her down with that same slow love till Lexa could feel the cool of the sheets against her bare back. The sensation was so overwhelming and so human that Lexa really couldn’t be blamed when the backs of her eyes burned under the weight of it.

“I love you,” Lexa said, again, didn’t know how to speak anything else.

Clarke’s eyes were shining too. “I love you too.”

With the way that warmth flooded through her Lexa was convinced she’d never be cold again.

Clarke briefly got off her, then, but only long enough till she could kick her pants off and unhook her bra, came back crawling over her completely open and vulnerable. Lexa could barely hear anything over the pounding in her ears and her hands were trying to reach for too much at once, couldn’t stay still at just feeling the unending surface of skin being offered to her.

They came back crashing into each other’s mouths, the weight of Clarke’s warm body pressing on top of her as close to heaven as she’d ever achieve. “Let me show you,” Clarke mumbled against her, pulling her lips away only the barest amount. Lexa was still reeling from having Clarke’s tongue in her mouth and had to blink a few times to get her mind back enough to listen. “Let me show you how much I’ve wanted you. Want you. Can you let me?”

“Yes,” Lexa said breathlessly, not even caring how desperate it came out.

Clarke smiled at her, though. It was one of the most breathtaking things she’d ever seen.

They kissed again, slow and languid like there wasn’t a single thing in the whole damn universe that could rush them, and then Clarke was pulling away and instead trailed down her neck and ran the wet heat of her tongue there. Lexa could feel every torturous inch that those fingertips creep down her navel until they were slipping under the loose waistband of her pants.

But they stopped at the last second.

“You’re sure?”

Clarke’s breath was hot and panting next to her ear and honestly, she could have asked her to do just about anything and Lexa would have said yes if it meant she’d stay there.

Clarke,” Lexa groaned, having to laugh at the absurdity of it all. “Do you even know how long I’ve gone without sex? Do you honestly want me to start begging?”

She could actually hear Clarke’s grin. “I mean, that’s not the worst idea out there.”

Lexa tried to turn her head to glare at her for that, but before she could those fingers finally stopped their teasing and pushed into her. A moan broke before she could stop it, and almost immediately Clarke’s mouth was pressed against hers again, like she was trying to taste the sound.

“Say my name,” Clarke begged just inches above her lips.

Who was she to deny her?

-

It wasn’t until the late, late afternoon that they actually, finally got out of bed.

Lexa did not regret a second.

What she did regret though was that when they did roll out, Clarke telling her that she could take whatever clothes she wanted from her drawers, Lexa rather impressively after getting herself dressed—and only mildly successfully fending off a certain pair of wandering hands—got up and left the room, intent on having breakfast for the first time in one hundred fucking years. It was a long time to go hungry.

Naturally, Lexa walked face first into the wall.

Muscle memory was a bitch.

And after Clarke was doing laughing until she couldn’t breathe, she helped her get up and this time opened the actual door to the room and walked out that way. Lexa still glared daggers at the stupid fucking wall and it was only Clarke’s quiet tugging that was enough to get her to attention away from plotting house homicide.

Could you even kill a house? Whatever the answer, Lexa swore she’d find it.

Before they could even to get the kitchen, Lexa pulled up short at seeing that all the candles and herbs that Vera had brought with her were gone. The bones were too, and now it just left the residual chaos of the messy house.

But nothing magic was left.

“Vera must have come in on her own,” Lexa muttered, frowning at the idea of Vera essentially breaking and entering into their home.

Clarke didn’t look near as worried. “Sounds about a right.”

Lexa’s eyes snapped to Clarke’s. “Are you telling that doesn’t worry you at all? That she just broke in?”

“What, broke in to get her own stuff back? After, quite literally, helping us with life and death? No, you’re right, how dare she. We could probably find a crossbow someplace, right? Go witch hunting?”

Lexa stared at her. “You need your coffee.”

Clarke’s face softened in genuine apology. “Sorry. You’re right.”

It wasn’t long before Lexa was distracted. Her eyes got caught on the sunshine blazing in through the living room window, spilling out all over the carpet and making the dust in the air glow. The sunshine from outside. Outside the house. Beyond the house. Where she hadn’t stepped a single foot through in far, far too long.

“Looks like it’s going to be a beautiful day.” Clarke put her chin on Lexa’s shoulder, wrapped her arms around her waist from behind. “Sun’s out and everything.”

Lexa exhaled slowly. “What if I’m still trapped here? That I might have a body now, but I’m… I still can’t leave this place?”

“I’ve always fantasied of becoming a hermit.”

“I’m serious, Clarke.”

A soft kiss against her neck. “Me too. But you won’t know until you try.”

Lexa swallowed down the fear in her throat, nodded and slowly, slowly, left the embrace of Clarke’s arms. She numbly made her way to the door, and opened it.

The sky was clear and deep blue. From across the street, she could see that same neighbour back in their garden, trimming a rose bush, head still bobbing along to their music and greedily taking up the sunshine. Lexa held her breath. The barrier was just after the last front step. The last remaining inch of the house itself, the rest bleeding out to pavement for the walkway.

Lexa closed eyes and stepped down the first step, the second.

She kept going. Her foot finally touched the smooth pavement and—

Nothing.

Nothing pushed her back. The barrier was gone. Or if it was still there, it didn’t care for her anymore.

Lexa was free.

A breathless laugh bubbled out her throat, and with what felt like her whole body shaking with the revelation she kept moving forward, each step slow like she expected to be thrown back any second. It didn’t happen, of course. The sun was pressing right onto her face and when she tipped her head back, eyeing the sky for the first time without longing, Lexa found herself grinning in a way she never had before.

“It’s warm,” she whispered, laughing again and turning back to look at Clarke. “It’s warm. Can you feel it?”

Clarke stayed leaning against the doorway, content to let her figure this on her own, her eyes warm and her smile even more so. “I do,” she said, and Lexa’s own grin widened.

“I’m hungry.”

“Well,” Clarke drew slowly, finally stepped down and came towards her. The moment she was close enough Lexa’s hand drifted out and settled on her hip like it was the most natural thing in the world. “I do believe I owe you some cake.”

Lexa gave her a gentle push. “My birthday was months ago.”

“When have I ever been on time?”

Lexa hummed. “You are pretty terrible that,” she murmured, and before Clarke could make another comment pressed their lips together and kissed her deep. Clarke fell into it immediately. The sun was still beating down on the back of her neck but Lexa couldn’t have given a damn for it with the way Clarke hummed pleasantly into her mouth when her fingers carded through loose blonde locks.

“I know what you’re doing,” Clarke mumbled against her lips. It came lower than usual, though, the sort of gravel tone that betrayed her.

Lexa did her best to curb her smirk. “Is it working?”

“Could be.”

“You know, we’ve got the time. We don’t have to immediately go and get food…”

Clarke huffed a laugh, but already her fingers had slipped through Lexa’s belt loops and were tugging her back. “We’ve got the time, have we?”

Lexa pulled back enough so she could actually get some air into lungs again, though she kept their heads leaning into each other’s. Knew there was no other place she’d rather be. “Exactly, so why don’t we—”

But Clarke suddenly jerked back as her eyes flew open. “Oh shit the time. I—fuck, I totally forgot.”

“Woah, hey, Clarke calm down. Forgot what?”

Clarke glanced down at her watch, hissed under her breath. “Shit. I was… I’m meant to hang with Rae and O today, for some lunch meet up.”

Lexa arched a brow. “You organised a lunch meet up… the day after you were planning to resurrect a ghost?”

“Well it was sort of, you know, a back up plan. If things… didn’t go well.”

Lexa sobered at that. Oh. That made a little bit more sense. When the whole ordeal Finn happened, Raven and Octavia had been over constantly in the following weeks. And if the resurrection had failed, it made sense they’d be the first ones Clarke would go to—even if Raven would no doubt lose her mind over learning what her and Clarke had done.

The thought made Lexa pause. “Wait, did you tell them what we did last night? About the resurrection?”

“What? No, of course not. That’s personal to you. I’d have asked you first.”

Lexa considered this. “So you’re saying they have no idea? That Raven or Octavia don’t know that you found a witch and brought back a ghost?”

Clarke hummed, pensive. “You were right from last night. We should do something for Vera. What do you think a witch would appreciate as a thank you gift?”

But Lexa had an idea forming. “We should go,” she decided suddenly. Clarke blinked at her. “To the lunch, together. You and me.”

Clarke narrowed her eyes. “You just want to make her squirm, don’t you? Because she hates ghosts.”

Lexa shrugged unapologetically. There was no point in denying it.

Clarke pretended to deliberate over the idea before shrugging too. “Who am I kidding, obviously my answer is yes. Raven’s going to lose her entire shit. What sort of maniac passes up a chance like that?”

“You’d have to be truly crazy,” Lexa said seriously.

Clarke shook her head fondly. Still, she grabbed Lexa’s hand and entwined their fingers, leading her forwards. “And we don’t know anything about crazy, do we?”

“Not a thing,” Lexa said, playing along with a smile she couldn’t stop even if she’d tried. “Not a single thing.”

Lexa’s first day back alive was a good one.

But that wasn’t a surprise.

-

Raven’s freakout was about as entertaining as Lexa had hoped. When they’d turned up and Clarke had introduced Lexa as her date—for a second she’d been going to say something else, but then Clarke had tripped over her words and backtracked into something safer—Raven had only scoffed, muttering that Clarke’s crush was getting completely out of control and, honestly, finding a girl with the exact same name was just pathetic and borderline creepy at this point.

It had been all they’d been waiting for.

When Clarke shook her head, casually explaining to Raven that no, this was the same Lexa, she’d just found a witch in town and they had performed a resurrection together last night. Raven had gone dead quiet and Octavia’s first reaction was to flag down the nearest server and begged for anything alcoholic they had, slapping cash into the poor waiter’s hands.

The server came back with a beer that Octavia skulled in one go. Lexa found herself impressed, again.

Raven didn’t believe them at first, but after demanding proof for something that only Lexa could know, and Lexa’s consequent admission of Raven’s secret smoking habit and Clarke’s outrage at discovering that, Raven burst up to her feet and almost broke down into hysterics right there.

“You can’t just fucking resurrect people, Clarke!” Raven hissed, once Clarke had finally pushed her down into her seat again and waved off the attention of the restaurant.

“To be fair,” Lexa interceded. “It wasn’t just Clarke’s choice. It was mine as well. I was the one who told her to go through with it.”

“Oh my fucking god,” Raven whispered to herself, spreading her elbows onto the table and putting her face into hands. “One day your bullshit is going to fucking kill me, Griffin. I know it is. Oh god. Oh god.”

“Are you sure you’re real?” Octavia asked, looking between the both of them. The server came back with the second beer and fled off just as quick. “Like, you’re really proper… corporal and stuff? There’s really no ghost left in you?”

Oh yeah,” Clarke said. “She’s real alright. Definitely, definitely real.”

For a moment Clarke’s thoughts drifted off and Lexa knew exactly where they had gone. She rolled her eyes to herself. Honestly, and she was the one always accused of being a pervert.

Raven’s head whipped up from where it’d been hanging over in despair. “Clarke, you fucking didn’t. Have you honestly already had sex with her? Fucking seriously?”

“What makes you say that?” Lexa asked before Clarke could say anything incriminating.

Raven snorted. “Clarke’s a total horndog.”

“Please,” Clarke scoffed. “As if you wouldn’t fuck anything on two legs, Reyes.”

“I’ll have you know I have a girlfriend now. I’m reformed.”

Octavia raised her brow. “Is that what we’re calling it now?”

Raven glared at her and thankfully the conversation shifted quickly so Lexa didn’t have to admit anything.

By the time the lunch was finally over and Lexa had had the best sandwich in her whole entire life; Raven’s freaking out had reduced enough that she reluctantly agreed to help Lexa with the whole possible forging of documents thing—considering that technically she was still dead and all, at least in legal terms.

They met back up with Vera again later in the week and the witch seemed ecstatic to see Lexa alive and well, reverently reaching out to touch her hand when they’d first stepped into her shop like she was trying to assure herself it really was her. It made Lexa feel uncomfortable in a way she wasn’t used to and so she’d spent the rest of the visit asking as many questions as possible to keep her attention away. Clarke must have noticed, because the whole time she never undid the tangle of their hands together.

All in all, though, the adjustment to being alive took some trial and error.

Her collection of bruises was getting worse with every day and at this point her hip was almost permanently aching now. So what she kept forgetting that she had to use doors and absent-mindedly hip checked just about every surface in the house. It still wasn’t funny. No matter how much Clarke laughed every time, then tried to smother that laugh into a cough at Lexa’s dark glare. It was a losing battle, really.

But there’d also been little things that Lexa realised she could still do. Though it was harder now, required a lot more concentrated effort, but still possible. As much as she really had been brought back from the dead and was more alive than the opposite, some of her abilities never quite left. They were more dormant now, sure. But something like that wasn’t so easily forgotten.

Lexa had discovered it one day on accident. When Clarke had gotten home from class and greeted her with the same soft smile, Lexa had only hurriedly grabbed Clarke’s hand and pulled her into the kitchen.

“I need you to get angry,” Lexa had rushed out, unable to tame her excited grin.

It only confused Clarke more. “Baby, what?”

There was also that now, that new endearment Clarke kept calling her. It made Lexa’s heart trip over every time. But not even that could derail her now. Lexa frowned, trying to think up the easiest way to make Clarke mad so she could show her.

It took less than a minute of thinking before she had it.

“Raven came by when you were out and—”

“What did she break?” Clarke cut off before she was even done. “Because I swear to god if she touched our fucking TV again I’ll—”

Lexa’s hands shot out and briefly swiped something at Clarke’s chest—right where her heart was—before snapping her arms back equally as fast, though this time she kept her hands cupped, her excited grin returning even as she glanced up to a very lost looking Clarke.

“Watch,” Lexa said, and holding her breath she extended her hand out and ran her finger over the kitchen counter.

Blood trailed behind in its wake.

Clarke’s eyes widened.

Lexa wasn’t done. She already had a candle sitting on the counter waiting for her, for this, and with that familiar rush of something indescribable travelling up her arm she waved a hand over the wick, where a flame lit itself. It disappeared as Lexa waved her hand back over it—the wick still untouched.

“I can’t just do it naturally anymore,” Lexa explained quietly. “I’ve got to have a source now, I’m pretty sure. It’s easier with intense emotions. I’ve been experimenting with it all day.”

“Can you still levitate things? Or… go through objects, if you wanted?”

Lexa sighed. “No, I don’t think so. Only this. I think that’s just for ghosts. I don’t have the right body for it anymore.”

“Good,” Clarke said, more serious than before. Lexa drifted closer at hearing it and tucked away that runaway hair behind Clarke’s ear, kissing her gently after.

Some things you don’t need to say.

There’d also been a particular moment for the both of them when her and Clarke had been lying in bed, the night too deep to ignore anymore with the way their eyes were both drooping, and like habit Clarke mumbled out if she could turn the lights off.

When nothing happened, their eyes both flew open and snapped to each other’s.

“Oh god,” Clarke breathed in genuine horror. “One of us has to actually get up now.”

That had ended in a ten-minute negotiation that Lexa eventually ended up losing.

But then, Clarke had showed her appreciation in a different way, and that wasn’t so bad.

It wasn’t so bad at all.

-

“You sure you’re ready for this?”

“It’s not about me,” Lexa said softly.

Clarke sighed from beside her, but she nodded. “Alright. I’m just a text away, yeah? Remember that.”

Lexa just nodded back. She didn’t trust her voice anymore.

“Alright,” Clarke said, again. To just fill the quiet. It was obvious she was still unsure about it, but in the end she seemed to let it be. “You know where to go?”

“I love you.” Lexa leant across the centre console and offered a firm kiss to Clarke. “Stop worrying.”

Clarke laughed shakily. “Can’t really blame me for it.”

No, she couldn’t. So Lexa let her be too, only gave another parting kiss and a reassurance before she was finally pushing the car door open and stepping out. She knew that if she kept delaying the moment she’d simply never reach it, and so while it made her throat close up and her eyes burn, Lexa forced herself to move without glancing back at where Clarke was still sitting in the car, no doubt staring out after her.

It took a while to find it. Eventually she gave up on exploring on her own and went to go find someone who could give her some direction, a path to follow. It was cooler today. The weather had a habit of swinging back and forth. By the time she finally found what she wanted, even the warmth of her jacket—well, Clarke’s jacket technically—wasn’t enough to stop the chill that swept through her.

She forced in a deep breath, gently placed the purple flowers she’d brought with her onto the stone.

“Sorry I’m late,” Lexa whispered.

She sat by Costia’s grave for a long time.

-

The clouds had gone dark by the time Lexa finally texted Clarke.

Already, the sky had started spitting and it wouldn’t be long till that rain built up to something fiercer. Lexa really wouldn’t have minded to sit there in the coming storm anyway, let the water wash away everything she was, but she knew that would only make Clarke more worried and, sitting there across from the woman Lexa had once loved, she knew that Costia also would have been frowning, if she wasn’t she where she was.

Plus she could actually get sick now. And honestly, it’d be beyond embarrassing and pathetic if after only being alive for a few months she would she kick it because of some cold left unchecked, or something. Even the angels would have been trying to hide their snickers.

Clarke texted back soon after, told her to meet her back where she’d been dropped off.

Lexa lingered one last second by Costia’s grave. She blinked away the wetness in her eyes, gingerly came forward and knelt down, gently kissed the cold headstone. “Hope there’s gardens in heaven,” she murmured, having to swallow the sudden thickness in her throat.

She stood back up and walked back the way she came.

The car was where she’d left it. Clarke wasn’t sitting it in, though, but stood up leaning against the side door staring out to something Lexa couldn’t see. It actually made Lexa frown a little, but when she glanced the way Clarke was looking out to she only saw the winding path of the graveyard, stretching out long and seemingly endless.

“Hey,” Lexa greeted quietly once she was close enough.

Clarke’s gaze snapped away from whatever she was looking at. “Hey.” She reached out and brushed away some wet hair stuck near Lexa’s eye. “You doing alright?”

“Best I can be,” Lexa said honestly. “Considering, you know,” and she just smiled something that was more a grimace to get across the unsaid.

Clarke’s hand trailed down her arm and squeezed her wrist. “Considering,” she agreed through a soft smile.

Lexa threw another glance the direction Clarke had been staring. “Can I ask what you were looking at before?”

“Not at,” Clarke corrected, gently. “For.”

Lexa frowned. Clarke only ducked her head with a quiet laugh, leant forward and pressed a warm kiss to her lips.

“Been here before, baby. This place has been here awhile.”

“So have I,” Lexa said. It was an absolutely terrible joke, but Clarke did her the politeness of chuckling anyway.

She smoothed out the non-existent crease in Lexa’s collar. “I know. Who knew I’d have such a thing for age gaps?”

“We must have broken a record.”

Must have, right?” Clarke continued seriously, though the smirk she glanced up at her with betrayed her. “Such a cradle snatcher.”

The rain started pouring in earnest. Neither made a move to get out from it, something too precious feeling in the moment. Lexa tipped her head back and closed her eyes. It was the little things that she’d honestly missed the most, like the almost earthy, metallic taste of snowflakes on her tongue, the burning smell of smoke in her nose after a day of cold—the touch of cold rain against her face.

It made her soul swell up beneath her ribs.

She was alive, alright. She was alive.

When finally blinked her eyes open and looked back down again, she found Clarke staring at her in that way that made her cheeks burn. Like she was holy. Like she was the one thing that nothing in the world could make her let go of.

“Time to go home?” Lexa asked, having to work around the rainwater that was getting into her mouth.

Clarke kissed her through it anyway. “Already there, aren’t we?”

Lexa smiled and knew there wasn’t a single place across the realms she’d rather be.

Still, she moved back and let Clarke step out and head around to the driver’s side. As romantic as she was, the rain was becoming less like a poem and more like why she was going to spend the week sneezing into her elbow and regretting every choice she’d ever made. The inside of the car was gratefully warm, the heater already running like maybe Clarke had already seen the way this was going to pan out and prepared accordingly.

Lexa kept a hand at the back of Clarke’s neck as they pulled out, let her fingers idly play across the cold and wet skin there. They didn’t need to say a thing as they drove back home.

Wherever that was, anyway.