Early update because I got excited!

Thank you so much for your patience everyone! We will now return to our usual once a week programming. I'm not sure what day of the week just yet, but for today, I hope you enjoy chapter 6!

PS: I opened up a tumblr for anyone who is interested! I haven't posted much yet, but I have plans for it to include all kinds of "behind the scenes" fun! My url is chloelovesclexa. Can't wait to hear from everyone! :)

The tension in the car was wound so tightly that the slam of the door startled Abby. Still, she said nothing as her daughter fastened her seatbelt and raised her head expectantly. She nudged the gas, and they glided off through the bustling parking lot.

"How was your half day?"

Abby glanced at her daughter, lifting an eyebrow at her cheerful tone.

"Slow today. Lucky, too, because they let me off early without a fuss." She paused, assessing the costs and benefits of the next three words. "How are you?"

"I'm good," Clarke answered without hesitation. "Classes went well; I got my test back in chemistry and it's an A minus. And tomorrow I start a portrait study in Miss Catherine's class."

"That sounds wonderful, Clarke. So, did your meds kick in? You seem to be doing quite a bit better than this morning," she pressed.

"I wouldn't say it's the meds, but I'm definitely feeling better. I, um, I got to help out a friend this morning, when she really needed someone. It kinda reminded me that I can't disappear anymore...things are different here."

"A friend? Who is it?" Abby tried not to let herself sound as eager as she was. This was the first time Clarke had spoken of anyone as a friend since the Griffins moved to Polis a little over a year ago. She worried about many things for her daughter, but most of all, she worried that she would never reopen herself to others. Teenagers especially need friends to help them struggle through the rougher parts of life, and having seen Clarke hurt by everyone she used to trust back home in Arkadia, Abby wondered if she would ever see her daugher recover.

"Her name's Lexa." The name tasted sweet in her mouth. "We got paired up for our last art project, the painting I showed you pictures of, and we decided to work together again. She's very focused, and headstrong, and we work well together. We'll be working on portraits of each other starting tomorrow."

"Portraits, hm? Sounds difficult. Will you two need to work outside of class?"

"Well," Clarke started thoughtfully, "we won't be required to. But it would be really helpful to have the extra time and maybe get ahead." Her eyes darted from her lap to her mother's face, grasping for some hint of a willing expression.

"Would you like to have her over this week? I have to stay late tomorrow night to make up for today, but say, Thursday afternoon? I'd love for her to stay for dinner, to get to know her a bit. Would you like that?"

"Yes!" Clarke pulled back, pocketing her excitement. "That would be great, Mom. Thank you so much. I'll text her when we get home." Try as she did, she couldn't hold back a spreading grin. Abby, confused, shocked, and excited, let her smile mirror her daughter's.

Tues 2:54pm: Lexa

Hey Clarke :)

Clarke's heart skipped a beat when her phone finally buzzed against her bed. She scrambled to reply, but promised herself she wouldn't rush the invitation. Lexa had said she wanted to text her, and it was likely that she had a reason. Something to say.

Tues 2:55pm: Clarke

Hi Lexa!

Tues 2:57pm: Lexa

I just wanted to thank you again for staying with me today. It really means a lot, more than I can explain.

Tues 2:59pm: Clarke

Of course. You don't even have to thank me. I'm just glad resorting to my instincts was helpful and not...idk, intrusive. Or awkward.

Tues 3:03pm: Lexa

Yeah...about that, Clarke. What you did there...no one's ever done that before. I've never wanted anyone to touch me during an attack, so everyone has always stayed away. But what you did, I've never recovered so quickly and smoothly like that. Especially not when I've blacked out. Whatever instinct it was that told you to do that, it was really right.

Tues 3:07pm: Clarke

Do you want to come over after school on Thursday?

Tues 3:08pm: Clarke

I'm sorry, I didn't mean to change the subject. I'm really REALLY glad that I caught you when I did, and that my crazy instincts were useful, and that you're okay now. And...and I hope that if it ever happens again that I can be there for you. But um, I told my mom that I had made a new friend at school, and that we would be working on the portraits together, and she offered to let you come over to work on the project and maybe to stay for dinner? I'm just really excited to tell you, because this means we can finally quit being secretive about hanging out

Tues 3:10pm: Lexa

I would love to! Please thank your mother for me!

Clarke's blonde locks splayed out as she fell back onto her bed, absolutely giddy.

"So, today's the day, huh?" Lexa squirmed in the driver's seat.

"Yeah," Clarke murmured. "Have you ever done a portrait before?"

"Are you kidding?" She laughed as she turned into the parking lot of her unit. "I've never done art until this semester. I know I won't be able to do you justice."

The blonde unbuckled her seat belt and reached for her bag in the back seat, aiming to hide the pink of her cheeks.

"If it makes you feel any better, I'm pretty sure I can't do you justice either," she quipped.

"I'm pretty sure you could do the Mona Lisa justice if you set your mind to it," Lexa laughed, shutting the car door.

"Well, sure, the Mona Lisa is ugly!"

They snickered together as they climbed the stairs, and Lexa's heart fluttered for a moment when she realized that this implication was not just a joke, but a compliment.

Inside, they removed their shoes, and Clarke unpacked a sketchbook and a fresh set of pencils. Lexa moved towards her room to retrieve her own, but pivoted on her heel in the doorway.

"I just realized, you've never been in my room," she said. "Did you want to see it?"

"Sure," Clarke answered, standing to follow.

Her bedroom, like the rest of the apartment, was neat and practical. A mossy colored blanket had been smoothed over her bed, and a matching rug covered much of the floor. On the far side of the room stood a pale wooden bookcase packed to the point of bulging. More books were slipped in horizontally atop the others, and more still lay in piles around it. In another corner sat a matching desk, and between them the door to a small closet. Lexa paced over to the desk and pawed through one of its drawers.

"So, what do you think? Exactly what you expected, huh?"

"Pretty much," Clarke grinned. "I like it though, it's cozy." She noticed a few pictures taped to the wall above the bed and wandered towards them.

The first was of a younger Lexa, maybe five years old, in the arms of a woman who couldn't have been anyone but her mother. From the sharp angle of their jaws to the gentle curls at the end of their hair, grown-up Lexa and her mother were identical. Had it not been for her mother's deep chocolatey eyes, Clarke might have mistaken the two. She couldn't stifle her smile at the sight of the girl she knew to be little Lexa, so small and innocent and joyful.

Next to this picture was a more recent Lexa with another girl about their age. It looked to have been taken by this other girl, whose arm reached up and out of the shot. She gave a goofy grin and pulled Lexa in by her shoulder; Lexa's eyes were shut tightly and her tongue hung out.

"That's my friend Anya I told you about," Lexa commented, noticing Clarke's interest in the photo. "The one I had to move away from."

"She looks like as much fun as she sounds," she replied. "Who's this?" Clarke pointed to the last picture, a girl with tiny, dark, spiraling curls, warm olive skin, and freckles across her nose. Thick lashes hooded her smiling silver eyes. She looked to be about thirteen.

"Her name is Costia," Lexa said, barely audible.

"She's beautiful."

"I thought so too. She was my girlfriend in eighth grade and the summer after."

"Awe, your middle school crush? That's so sweet," Clarke teased, but when she turned and saw Lexa's stony face, her smile faded. "Did something happen? Was it a hard break up?"

"She was in a car accident. Her driver was drunk. He survived, and she didn't." Her voice was barely above a whisper.

"Oh my God… Lexa, I'm so sorry, I-"

"It's alright. It was years ago, and I've accepted it." They fell quiet. Clarke sank down into the bed.

"If you don't mind me asking…who was she in the car with? Is he in jail?"

"My father was supposed to pick her up and bring her to my track meet. My mom was at work, so no one knew he had been drinking before going to get her. He was in jail, but he got parole and was let loose last year. That's- that's why I moved out." She drew a quick breath and paused, searching the floor, before continuing. "I have accepted her death, but I may never forgive my father."

"Lexa, I- I had no idea. I'm so sorry to bring it up, I didn't-"

"Clarke, it's alright. I wouldn't have told you if it wasn't. Actually…you're the first person I've told since I moved here. And it feels really good." She fell into those blue eyes, her smile returning.

"But why would you tell me?"

Lexa sat on her knees beside Clarke, her voice still intimately soft.

"Because since that day, the hardest thing I've had to do is try to trust people. He's my dad, you know? He's kinda the person I'm supposed to trust most, besides maybe my mom. But he broke that for me, for everyone around me. But...but you," she swallowed, "you make it easier."

"Oh come on, Lexa, you don't have to say that." The blonde shook her head and glanced down, picking at her fingernails.

"I'm not saying it, I mean it." She batted Clarke's left hand away and took the right in both of her own. Her hands were as warm as the blonde's reddening face. "I do trust you, Clarke." Clarke's mouth hung open briefly as she searched Lexa's eyes.

"Thank you, I...I can imagine that must be hard for you. And I'm not exactly most people's first choice, so, it really means a lot, actually."

Lexa's brow furrowed.

"What do you mean?"

"Nothing. I'm just glad you can trust me, because I trust you too. And because we're going to have to spend a lot of time together staring at each other's faces for the next few days," Clarke snickered. "Should we get started?"

"Sure, I guess we should."

Lexa volunteered to draw first, so Clarke settled on the couch and turned on the television to some angry chef screaming at his employees about burning the chicken. Lexa, kneeling at the coffee table she had dragged backwards towards the left of the television, had stared down at her sketchbook for almost an entire episode.

"I know you're nervous, Lexa, but it would probably help to use my actual face for reference."

"I-I am, I just, I don't wanna be weird. I don't want it to bother you," she stuttered.

"It doesn't bother me. That's why I chose you to be my partner, remember? Here, look." Lexa met Clarke's eyes as she pulled the hood down off of her head. "There. Does that prove it?"

"Yeah," Lexa nodded, a smile creeping to her lips.

She continued to sketch the lines of Clarke's face: the smooth bridge of her nose, the gentle curve of her brows, the shallow divot in the middle of her chin. When she arrived at the lips, her mouth was suddenly dry. She cleared her throat and shifted, trying to think objectively and hoping the blonde wouldn't notice.

"Is something wrong?" Clarke asked.

"No, it's nothing," she replied hurriedly. "I'm just having trouble with shaping- with your um-" her hand reached absentmindedly for the feature on her own face, the name of which she had suddenly forgotten.

"My lips?" The blonde smirked. "Can I help?"

"Y-yeah, sure, please," Lexa managed.

As Clarke wandered over to her side of the room, Lexa could have sworn there was an extra sway to the girl's hips.

"The best way to figure out the shape of something you're drawing is to trace it. If it's two-dimensional, you can trace it on a separate sheet of paper for practice, and if it's three-dimensional, you can use your fingers." She knelt across the coffee table and looked at Lexa expectantly.

"My fingers?"

"Yeah, to know how something's shaped. Go ahead, you can trace them."

"Your lips," Lexa swallowed.

"Yes, Lexa," Clarke laughed, "go on."

She raised a trembling hand cautiously closer to Clarke's face. As gently as she could, she pressed the pad of one long finger against the corner of her mouth, and dragged slowly upwards, following the curve of her lip. It dipped in the middle, and on the left side her finger brushed against a light, pin-sized beauty mark she had noticed the first time they spoke. She felt more than saw the pink lips part just slightly as she moved to the bottom, which was somehow even softer. When she had come full circle, she could have sworn time stopped as she stared, until the lips curled up into a grin and she drew quickly drew back her hand.

"Is that better?" Clarke whispered.