Disclaimer & Notices
Copyright: I do not own The 100 and certain characters but the plot is all mine.
Notices: This story may have violence, language, and sexual content for a mature audience.
Summary: A prequel to Hedatu that is set between the episodes Remember Me and Survival of the Fittest, before the arrival of the twelve clans. Clarke has agreed to take a riding lesson. Unexpectedly, her teacher turns out to be the commander herself.
AN: The plan was to post this tomorrow. However, due to the airing of episode 3.07, I wanted to post this today in hopes it could offer those hurting some solace, even for a little while.
Hedatu has around 1,300 followers. I surely can't say I've spoken to every single follower. But, please know I am here as support for any and all. I know many, many clexa fans are hurting from what happened to Lexa in 3.07. When I was 18 going on 19, I watched my tv gay role model get killed off during the time I was coming out to my family & friends. I truly understand those that are hurting from it. I am always here to talk to. I hope everyone finds a way to move on from the pain and take the best from the character's creation. For me, this has only inspired me to keep writing & sharing Hedatu with y'all.
Long live Leksa kom Trikru!
AN2: Tumblr me at lilredwings
Started: February 21, 2016
Ended: February 28, 2016
Series 1, Story #1
by Red Hope
Clarke stared down at the blood coating her hands and the knife in her left hand. Tears fell from her eyes, but she turned her head to the right after the furious yells. She watched the commander, Lexa, simply hold up a hand and ceased the grounder mob's movements. Words passed in Trigedasleng, but Clarke had no idea what nor did she really care.
Once the mob was silenced, Lexa stepped away from Indra and crossed the distance between her and Clarke. In the night's darkness, she was nearly invisible other than the torchlight shining off her tan features. Lexa came in front of Clarke. Briefly, her eyes flickered to the dead boy lashed to the wood post before she focused on Clarke again.
"You cannot lead and love, Clarke." Lexa lifted her chin when hollow blue eyes lifted to her. "Leave your heart in the stars." She reached and took Clarke's bloody hands into her own. She allowed the crimson, warm moisture to smear across her skin. "Because love is a weakness."
Clarke whimpered and leaned her head forward until her brow pressed against Lexa's temple. She released the blade that Raven had given her. It was meant for Lexa, but Clarke chose Finn. She tightened her grip on Lexa's hand. "Love is weakness," she whispered.
Slowly, Clarke lifted her head and opened her eyes. Before her stood Finn Collins instead of the commander, and he held her hands. His face was bloody and slashed as if he suffered the thousand cuts rather than being spared it by Clarke.
"Princess." Finn smirked then leaned in with his cut lips.
Just before Finn could kiss her, Clarke jerked awake from the nightmare and found herself in the campsite within Tondc. She scanned her surroundings and located Raven, Octavia, Lincoln, and Bellamy. All of them were still asleep. Towards the east, there was a warm glow that gave promise to another day.
No longer able to rest, Clarke pulled out of the sleeping bag and put on her jacket. She then jammed her feet into her boots and hastily laced them. Every motion was jerky due to the nightmare. Her eyes watered and stung until she blinked it back.
Clarke stood up and quietly left her friends. She had little desire to say goodbye to Bellamy but silently wished him luck on his journey into Mount Weather. She hoped he survived it and saw him again. Her conflicting feels for Bellamy made her walk faster through the village until she came to the building that housed the commander. She eyed the two guards and one of them went inside to check with the commander.
For a minute, Clarke paced until the guard returned and allowed her to enter the building. She stepped through the door and listened to the metal door shut behind her. She knew the way after being escorted through the building last night by the commander. After a few turns and down a set of steps, she arrived in a large room lit by candles and torches on the walls. In the center, the commander stood at attention and silently welcomed the Sky Princess.
"Morning," Clarke politely offered.
"You are up early," Lexa noted the obvious. She noticed a nightmare's mark along Clarke's taut features.
"There's too much to do." Clarke approached the commander.
Lexa second Clarke's assessment. She had been awake for at least a candlemark. She was dressed in her usual attire and now rested her hand on her sword hilt.
"You mentioned last night about lessons." Clarke saw the commander's nod so she added, "I'd like to do that before the generals show up." She was desperate to stay busy.
Last night's talks had included the discussion that Clarke would take one of the Trikru's horses for a mode of transportation. However, Clarke had no understanding of how to ride other than what she had seen in movies or in person. The commander recommended a riding lesson or two before Clarke departed Tondc. It was crucial that Clarke learned how to ride a horse, especially with a war. Most likely there was a warrior patient enough to teach Clarke this morning.
Lexa considered the request then freed her hand from the sword hilt. She held it out to the table with various foods. "Do you wish to eat first?"
Clarke turned her attention to the long table that had plated food at one end, closest to her. Last night was suppose to be the feast to celebrate the alliance, but it had been ruined by Gustus's attempt at blackmail. Clarke had not eaten anything since she left Camp Jaha and had yet to feel a desire to eat. "No." She looked back at Lexa. "I'm fine. I rather get started."
Lexa parted her lips, about to reprimand the other young woman about caring for one's self. However, she instead let it go because another lecture served little purpose in Clarke's mental state. "Very well."
Clarke turned away but mentioned, "I'll wait by the gates."
Lexa listened to the Sky Princess's boots scrape against the stone floor. She heard the front door open and close so Lexa broke from her thoughts. She looked to the table of food first then went over to her saddlebags.
Outside of the building, Clarke felt relieved to be outside rather than trapped in tight confines of buildings. Thanks to time in the Sky Box, she had developed a twinge of claustrophobia. She walked slowly to the gates and did her best to ignore the villagers' piercing gazes. She was hardly concerned they would do anything after yesterday's demonstrations. By the gates, Clarke impatiently waited for whoever would be giving her riding lessons. Most likely Lexa would have Indra teach her.
Finally, the clip-clop of a horse's hoofs drew Clarke, and she turned towards the white horse. She failed to hide her surprise upon seeing the commander guiding her horse.
Lexa held the horse's reins in right hand while her left hand rested on her sword. Behind her, the white horse obediently followed her through the village.
Clarke neared the commander and softly said, "I thought somebody else was going to teach me."
Lexa tilted her head, which allowed the sun to shine against her freshly applied war paint. "I have time." She also hoped to cement their alliance better than simply basing it off Finn's death and Lincoln's survival.
Clarke snapped her jaw shut and realized that Lexa was a better choice than any other grounder. She also knew if she refused then it would greatly insult the commander. She swallowed down her pride and gave a firm nod.
Lexa turned towards the gate guards and snapped an order in Trigedasleng.
Clarke listened and filed away the slang words for future use. Steadily she was beginning to understand tidbits of the language.
Lexa waited until the metal gates were wide enough then started traveling out of the city. She sensed Clarke fell into step beside her. Together, they left the village and the gates closed behind them. After a few quiet minutes, she reached into her jacket and fished out a black handgun, which she held out to the Sky Princess.
Again, Clarke was shaken by the commander's actions. She reached for the Glock handgun and felt the trust's weight when she picked up the weapon.
"You shouldn't be unarmed out here," Lexa merely explained. She glanced over her shoulder.
Clarke did the same but more so because she expected there to be guards with them. Amazingly, it was just the two of them on the dirt road to and from Tondc.
"Mochof," Clarke offered in perfect Trigedasleng. She checked that the safety was on then slid the weapon down in her waist band, at her back.
Clarke bit her lower lip and studied the commander's hard profile. Somewhere under the stone, Lexa was sharing at least an ounce of trust with Clarke. A handgun against a sword was an easy fight, but the commander still gave the weapon to Clarke. Perhaps the alliance afforded it, and yet Clarke knew there was more to the commander. Clarke silently swore she would care for the trust that the commander gave her.
The leaders continued their walk, and their boots crunched against the dirt and gravel. Occasionally the white horse nickered or tossed her mane to one side. Their silence was comfortable between them. Once they rounded the bend in the road, Clarke was startled by Lexa's sudden stopped. Clarke pivoted on her feet and looked towards the commander.
Lexa was bringing the reins over the horse's head. She met Clarke's curious gaze. "Ride with me."
Clarke blew out a nervous breath then approached the commander. She grew more uneasy as she came closer to the large creature. Only weeks ago she had been taken upon a black steed with two heads and whisked away by Lincoln.
Lexa waited beside her horse, who she had named Star Gazer. For nearly three years, she and Star Gazer had developed a strong relationship. She patted the horse's side then looked to the nervous Sky Princess. She invited Clarke by holding out her hand.
Clarke stared at the extended hand that jerked her back to last night's dream. She choked on a pained whimper that nearly escaped her. She blinked away the ugly nightmare and quickly took Lexa's hand.
"Come closer." Lexa drew the Sky Princess near her body. "Easiest way up into the saddle is to put your left foot into the stirrup and grab the saddle horn with your left hand."
Clarke nodded and did so, but her right hand remained in Lexa's callused one.
Lexa extended their linked hands upwards and hooked the rear of the saddle. "Now you will hoist yourself up and swing your right leg over the saddle." Normally Lexa would hold the reins as she mounted the horse, but she wanted Clarke to focus on first getting into the saddle. She could handle the horse. She withdrew her hand and allowed Clarke the chance to try first on her own.
Clarke used her arms to haul herself up and grew closer to the saddle. She attempted maneuvering her right leg over the saddle, but failed and also lost her strength. She went tumbling back with her foot trapped in the stirrup. Her descent was cut short by the commander's lithe but strong form.
Lexa hooked her right arm around the Sky Princess's waist and held her still before any damage was done to Clarke's ankle. She felt Clarke's weight against her chest until Clarke's scare calmed down. "Try again," Lexa instructed. "But this time, you want to bend your knees and hop up."
Clarke waited until the commander released her then she better focused on the horse and mounting it properly. She blew out a shaky breath then gathered her wits. She bent her knees and bounced slightly before she launched up, over, and into the saddle with zero coordination. She flumped into the saddle with messy blond strands in her face. She cleared her face and looked down at the commander.
"Move your foot out of the stirrup," Lexa ordered. Once Clarke did so, she released the reins, hooked her foot into the stirrup, and suddenly mounted Star Gazer with expert skill.
Clarke stiffened like a board when the commander landed in the saddle behind her. She leaned forward, which caused the saddle horn to dig into her empty stomach.
Lexa hooked her boots into the stirrups and pushed her heels downward. She then raised an eyebrow at Clarke's uncomfortable posture. "I advise you lean back." Lexa reached forward and fished for the reins. Her arms brushed against Clarke's side as she arranged the reins properly between her fingers. She waited to see if Clarke would heed her advise but no such luck. Lexa shrugged and decided Clarke would learn the hard way.
The horse walked forward after the soft tap to her side. Her steps were small and short as the walk took them further down the road.
Clarke gritted her teeth as the horse's motions caused the saddle horn to dig into her gut. At first the pain was welcoming after recent events, but her stomach grew more upset.
Lexa released a frustrated sigh and ordered, "Sit back." She tugged on the reins to halt her horse. "I will not have you throwing up on my horse or hurting my horse's back." The improper weight would work against the horse's spine. She was still losing the battle and grew frustrated at being ignored. This damn woman loved to defy her. Lexa transferred the reins into her right hand.
Clarke was utterly uncomfortable and felt unsafe out here with only the commander. She had made a mistake in taking the offer for riding lessons. She was on the brink of an emotional break any second. Her mental crash landing was interrupted by the strong arm snaking across her chest. Sharply she was jerked back into the commander's body.
Lexa was taken aback by Clarke's struggle to keep space between their bodies. She hastily dropped the reins altogether and snared her other arm across the squirming body in front of her. "You must calm down, Clarke."
"I don't want to do this," Clarke snapped. She fought to get off the horse, but the commander was much stronger than her. She struggled harder and inadvertently jammed her elbow into the commander's side. She felt the rush of air brush her ear then came the low, dangerous growl. Clarke was jerked hard enough that her emotions were thrown around in her head.
Lexa had fought many warriors in her past, but none were so empowered by emotions like Clarke. She remained firm with her hold on the Sky Princess and waited for the fire to burn out within Clarke. She first felt it as Clarke sagged in her arms.
Clarke slumped forward, loosely in the commander's arms. She warred with her feelings and memories, but she was towed under them without control. She broke in seconds and tears rolled down her flushed cheeks. Clarke grabbed the saddle horn and dug her nails into it. Pained whimpers shook her entire body. She closed her eyes and wished she was alone rather than broken before the commander of twelve clans.
Lexa softened her hold around Clarke and offered comfort rather than restraint. Years ago she had learned how to shut down her heart, but Clarke's pain matched what Lexa had felt on that day she received Costia's head. Lexa never wished such a hardship on another. Yet, she was here holding a woman that was following Lexa's very path.
Clarke's sobs shook her body over and over until she managed a scrap of control. She inhaled deeply and straightened some. She now started pushing off the saddle and weakly muttered, "I can't." She couldn't ride today, couldn't lead her people, and couldn't take another life. She couldn't break in front of the commander.
However, Lexa refused to accept Clarke's shut down. She instead drew Clarke closer against her firm body and was pleased when Clarke accepted it this time. She released a shallow breath after the back of Clarke's head landed on her shoulder. She gently whispered, "Hale op, Klark."
Clarke had closed her eyes when she heard her name in Trigedasleng for the first time. Her name rolled with power across Lexa's tongue, and she felt weaker than before in the commander's presence. She expected her name to be a curse in Trigedasleng, but it assured her just like Lexa's embrace.
Lexa withdrew her right arm from Clarke's chest and gathered the reins into her hand. She tapped Star Gazer's sides and used the reins to guide the horse down the road. With her left arm, she kept Clarke in the saddle and close, in hopes it would provide Clarke with new strength.
Clarke was anchored securely by Lexa. Slowly the horse's swaying motions soothed her. The quietness gave her a chance to collected herself and start her day over again. After a harsh swallow, she lifted her head off the commander's shoulder and wiped her face dry. She shifted in the saddle and when Lexa's arm started sliding away, she hooked it into place.
Lexa understood the gentle demand and tightened her arm once again. She wanted to give Clarke what Lexa had needed when Costia's frozen head was placed on a table in front of her. She needed Clarke to have the embrace that had been absent for Lexa. Today was Lexa's chance to fight a wrong that had already happened once before in the past. She felt all the trust bleeding through Clarke's grip on Lexa's forearm. They both had a need that could by met, together and away from judgmental eyes. Nobody had to know.
Star Gazer continued down the road but eventually was steered off the road and into the surrounding woods. She had to step over the occasional down tree branch. Her hooves rustled several fallen leaves, a sign that autumn was upon them. Eventually the trees ended and opened up to a large valley with a sea of green and brown grasses that whispered against the breeze.
Clarke stared in awe at the beautiful view. It was more gorgeous than any image she had drawn in the cell up on the Ark. She lifted her eyes upwards to the blue sky that was so clear. She thought she could touch the heavens.
Lexa gently tugged on Star Gazer's reins, which signaled the horse to halt among the swaying grasses. Like the Sky Princess, she admired the crystal blue skies and wondered if Clarke's eyes had attempted consuming them during the fall from the stars. She released a content breath then dropped the reins. In quick motion, she was out of the saddle and landed on her boots in the grasslands.
Clarke missed the commander's warmth and automatically blushed at her thoughts. She cleared her throat and looked down at the commander.
"You will want to slide out of the saddle but keep your feet out of the stirrups," Lexa informed. "Simply swing your right leg back over in reverse and use the saddle horn to keep yourself steady."
Clarke nodded and did as she was instructed, but the weakness in her thighs was unexpected once she was off the horse. She stumbled a few steps until the commander had her again. She silently cursed herself but was also thankful Indra was not her teacher. She was able to regain her composure and balance after a beat.
Lexa lifted the reins over Star Gazer's head. She turned to Clarke and mentioned, "We will start with the horse's tack."
Clarke nodded and moved closer to the commander when she realized the lesson would start at the front of the horse.
"Do you know any names for parts of the bridle?" Lexa tempted. She indicated the front of the horse's face tack.
Clarke rocked on her boots and warily eyed the beautiful horse. She pointed at the leather strap in Lexa's hand. "That's the reins." She then indicated the metal piece in the horse's mouth. "And I know that's a bit." She noted the commander's approving nod.
Lexa stepped closer to the horse's head and placed a hand on each piece of the bridle. "Noseband." She raised her hand up higher. "Brow band." Her hand went up to the highest band. "Crown." She then threaded her fingers through the side strap. "Cheek strap." She freed her hand and went lower. "Chin strap." Lexa bent forward slightly and grasped at a leather strap that went from the bridle to under the horse. "Martingale." She was about to move further back except Clarke stepped closer to the horse's head.
Like the commander, Clarke ran down the list to the anatomy of the bridle. She showed her interest to learn. She then followed Lexa alongside the white horse.
Lexa paused beside Star Gazer's head and placed her hand against the horse's warm coat. "When you move around a horse, the best habit is to run your hand along their side." She looked at Clarke. "The horse is aware of your presence and location." She nodded towards the rear of the horse. "Especially as you go further back." She met the Sky Princess's features. "Try to avoid going behind a horse unless you completely trust them."
Clarke had a slight frown. "They'll kick," she concluded.
Lexa gave a faint nod. "I have seen some die from a horse's kick." She then continued going over the anatomy of the tack around the horse's back. She was pleased when Clarke repeated the names of the tack perfectly. She decided the next step was ensuring Clarke understood how to tack the horse.
Clarke stepped back as the commander efficiently removed all the tack and laid it out in the grass. She curiously studied the beautiful horse that obviously respected Lexa. She half expected the horse to run off, but the horse remained there, patiently. She refocused when Lexa started explaining the process to tack the horse.
For nearly a hour, Clarke spent time learning and practicing taking the tack on and off the horse. She learned a few tricks from Lexa such as double checking the girth strap because some horse's liked to puff their chests. A loose girth could mean a sliding fall off the horse's back. After the tack practice, they took Star Gazer further into the open lands and had more space. Clarke suspected it was time to climb up in the saddle, alone.
Lexa stood back as she allowed Clarke to get up into the saddle. She still held the reins and kept them even when Clarke was comfortable in the saddle. She had already explained to Clarke about adjusting the stirrups to make sure they were at the right length. Fortunately, she and Clarke were close in height so they could leave them the same.
"I am going to guide the horse, but you have to get her to walk." Lexa had blue eyes solely focused on her. For a heartbeat, she admired the Sky Princess's soft features highlighted by her sunny hair. Clarke's appearance was rather unusual, especially among Lexa's people. "You can tap her sides, gently. But..." She noticed how Clarke was about to do so but thankfully hesitated from doing it. "The harder you squeeze a horse's side, the faster they will go." She tilted her head. "If you have never ridden before then a canter or gallop can be overwhelming at first."
"Are there different... speeds?" Clarke was unsure how to phrase her question correctly.
Lexa nodded and better explained, "The slowest is a walk then next is a trot." She stepped closer to Clarke and the horse. "After a trot is a canter and the fastest is a gallop."
"Walk, trot, canter, and gallop," Clarke summarized. "Alright." She grabbed the saddle horn with her left hand. "So, a light tap, right?" After the commander's nod, she gave it a try and was secretly excited when the horse began walking forward.
Lexa strolled alongside the horse and rider. She allowed both of them to grow accustom to the new relationship. She hoped Clarke liked being on the horse. After awhile, she curiously peered up with hooded eyes. She admired how Clarke swayed naturally with the horse.
Clarke gazed out across the grasslands and enjoyed the beautiful view. She sensed the commander's stare and looked down as green eyes pulled away. Clarke sadly smiled at the commander's stoic profile before she looked out at the landscape again. "I can see why you like being high up."
Lexa made no retort and instead continued across the field for another minute. She finally tugged on the reins and ended the walk. "So we will move onto a trot next." Now more difficulty came into play as she had to show Clarke how to post in the saddle.
Clarke listened carefully to the instructions about posting in the saddle, but she only truly understood it when they practiced a short trot. Her first attempt was poor, and it ended quickly so Lexa could show her better. From a still position, Lexa reached for Clarke's hip and repeated the explanation on a proper post.
With Lexa's hand guiding her, Clarke practiced the post in the saddle and nearly choked on her embarrassment from the lift and fall of her hips against the saddle. If she was red in the face, the commander gave no indication she noticed it. Clarke was grateful when Lexa's hand released her hip. A second round of trotting started, and Clarke did a better job.
Lexa jogged alongside the horse and continued guiding them across the field. From the corner of her eye, she saw the proper post most of the time. She had to admit that Clarke learned very quickly unlike many. However, posting in a saddle required more practice so Lexa stopped the horse. She then went to the saddlebags.
Clarke curiously looked over her shoulder and watched a coiled up leather piece materialize from the bags. "What's that?"
"A lead." Lexa freed the coiled up lead as she approached the front of the horse. She put the reins over the horse's head but hooked the lead to part of the bridle with a bronze hook. As she started unfurling the rather long lead and ordered, "Start a trot."
Clarke fidgeted for a second, but she tapped the horse's side into a walk. She watched how the horse walked in whatever direction until the lead went taught between them and Lexa.
"Trot," Lexa ordered again.
Clarke grumbled but hooked the saddle horn tighter and finally pushed the white horse into a trot. Immediately she was forced to post in the saddle. Shortly her legs, especially her inner thighs, began burning from the constant posting.
Lexa remained in the center and guided the horse in a wide circle. Her full attention rested on the Sky Princess and her posting ability. "You are becoming sloppy."
"You have no idea," Clarke muttered under her breath. She grumbled but put more energy into her posts, for another minute. Again, her thighs throbbed in protest to the vigorous workout.
Lexa made the pair do another two loops before she whistled at her horse.
Clarke groaned and flopped forward against the saddle. She tangled her fingers in the horse's mane. "Oh my god," she complained.
Lexa strolled up to the horse and sore rider. "It ill get easier with time."
Clarke lifted her upper body with her arms. She decided today's riding lesson may actually help her to sleep tonight. She put away her thoughts when the commander spoke to her again.
"Now you must learn the reins." Lexa pointed to them.
Clarke went ahead and took them into both hands. She recalled how she saw Lexa holding them earlier so she attempt to hold them more properly in both hands.
"Close," Lexa praised. She stepped up to the horse's side. "You want the main part of the reins to come through your pinky and ring finger."
Clarke made the adjustment on her left hand. "Like this?" After Lexa's nod, she made the change to her right hand.
"Your thumb should pressed down over your index." Lexa used the lead in her hands to make a fake set of reins. She demonstrate the proper way to hold the reins.
Clarke leaned to her side, which caused her sore legs to protest at her. She exhaled the strain in her body and focused on how Lexa had the mock reins. She made a final adjustment and memorized how they looked in her hands.
"You use the reins to steer the horse," Lexa explained. "If you pull the left rein then the horse will go left."
"Right rein to the right," Clarke summarized.
"And if you pull both reins together that will either slow or stop the horse."
"Depending on how hard I pull on them," Clarke guessed. She was pleased when the commander agreed with her. Horseback riding was fairly straight forward to Clarke. She found herself enjoying it too.
Lexa moved to the horse's head and freed the lead. She was coiling it up and stepped backwards. "Try walking with the horse."
Clarke felt slightly empowered when she gently tapped the horse's sides. She used the reins to turn the horse left or right.
Lexa brought the coiled up lead up over her head and allowed it to rest diagonal across her chest. "You do not want to pull the opposite rein too quickly without first releasing tension on the other rein. You can easily confuse the horse." She continued watching Star Gazer being rode by Clarke. It was the first time she had anybody else on her horse, but Lexa trusted Star Gazer.
Clarke heeded the commander's advice. She tempted fate by squeezing the horse's sides for more speed. As soon as the trot started, Clarke instinctively started posting but groaned from the renewed burn. She was going to be so sore tonight. She only lasted a short period before she tugged on the reins to slow down. With the left rein, she turned the horse back towards the commander.
The commander stood in the center of the field, which had a soft incline. She scanned over Clarke's proper posture and was pleased with it. She briefly wondered what else Clarke could learn so quickly. It certainly explained why Clarke was able to adapt to the ground faster than the other Sky People. As she continued staring at Clarke atop the white horse, Lexa sensed a heat in her chest that had occurred that first day she met Clarke. Many times it had been rekindled when it was just them but now Lexa made sense of it. The realization made her hands tremble and knees weaken in the joints.
Clarke sensed the horse climbing the slight grade towards Lexa. She instantly tightened her legs around the horse's sides thanks to the unexpected shift in the saddle.
Star Gazer huffed and responded to the order by lurching forward. She huffed louder and burst into a canter.
Clarke was thrown back from the sudden change in speeds. A scream erupted from her when the horse launched into a canter. She frantically pulled on the reins but also gripped the horse's sides with all her leg strength.
Star Gazer whined in confusion from the mixed signals. She picked one order and pushed into a full gallop now. She huffed louder as she rode up the slight hill.
"Lexa!" Clarke yelled. Her terror made her mind shut down, and she dropped the reins. She latched onto the saddle horn and mane.
Lexa was already sprinting after the runaway horse. She attempted whistling to Star Gazer, but her horse was far too confused by everything. She cursed and pushed more power into her legs as the horse came near her. Much to her dread, Star Gazer veered off from her when they were almost upon each other.
For an instant, Clarke thought she was safe until the horse steered away from the commander. "Lexaaa!" she screamed again. She hunkered forward and prayed to God that she just stayed in the saddle. Her heart thundered to the horse's hooves. For a split second, she looked over her left shoulder and saw the commander running after them.
Lexa cursed her armor and weapons' weight, but she pushed harder. She willed her commander's spirit to aid her and make her faster. Another of Clarke's screams made her surge forward and reach the horse's rear. She stretched out her right arm just as she inched further past the stirrups. Her finger slid through the loose reins that hung under Star Gazer's head.
Clarke amazingly heard Lexa's voice call for the horse to slow down. The air around her went quiet, and she gasped several times. She lifted her head and looked down when a firm hand touched her thigh.
"Loosen your legs." Even through the jeans, Lexa could feel all the tension in Clarke's muscles. "You're safe now."
Clarke did more than relax her legs. She freed her boots from the stirrups and hastily scrambled off the horse with no grace. She toppled due to panic and weakness, but it was better than being on the horse.
Lexa hastened to help the Sky Princess. She saved Clarke from hitting the ground and did her best to lower Clarke into the grasses.
Clarke was on her ass and crawled several feet away from the large creature that had gone wild. She was panting and trying to calm her heart. She placed one hand against her chest, almost sure her heart would break through her ribs. There was sweat all over her body, and her face flushed red.
Lexa ensured Star Gazer was calm now then she went over to Clarke. She knelt down and visually looked over the Sky Princess. She sighed in relief once she was sure Clarke was okay. It would be a mess if she returned to the Sky People with their leader in an injured state. Still, in the back of her mind, Lexa knew she had been possessed with sheer need to protect Clarke from harm. Distantly she recalled the last woman who made her feel that way, and her face drifted back to dark recesses.
"You did well for your first time."
Clarke huffed and lowered her hand back to the ground under her upright body. "And the last time." She shook her head and glared towards the horse. "I'm never riding again."
Lexa weighed the statement and decided to maneuver around it. "Perhaps a break would help." She stood up and held out her hand. She was relieved when Clarke took her offer.
Clarke groaned at her legs' soreness. Once on her feet, she still held onto the commander's hand longer than necessary and only needing it to regain her balance. She looked to the commander.
Lexa withdrew though and went to Star Gazer. She took the horse's reins then looked towards Clarke. "This way." She nodded to her right. Earlier she had spied a fallen tree that would make a decent sitting spot.
Clarke limped over to the commander and followed her through the field. Gradually her waddle worked into a mostly normal gait. She was crazy to think earlier that horses were fun. She was relieved to see the fallen tree and gimped over to it. She unceremoniously fell down onto it and grunted at the hard landing. She hardly cared how it looked to the commander.
However, Lexa had paid no mind and instead was busy with a saddlebag. She put away the lead then went to the other bag after putting the reins over Star Gazer's head. She opened the other bag and retrieved several items.
Clarke curiously studied the items in the commander's hands and arms. She bit her lip at seeing the water skin and food meant for them. She looked away as the commander sat beside her, close but not touching each other.
Lexa set the items on her left side, on the tree. She held out an apple to Clarke, who took it. She picked up the second apple and started enjoying it.
Clarke had yet to try an apple on the ground. She remembered them being quite smaller and slightly mushy up on the Ark. She frowned because she was hardly fond of apples. Still she made an attempt and refused to insult the commander. Clarke's first bite of the green apple overwhelmed her taste buds. She accidentally moaned from all the flavor.
Lexa tore her attention off the landscape and curiously looked at the Sky Princess. The normal darkness in Lexa's green eyes softened to a tender green that nearly matched the apple's skin. It was the only indication of her thoughts about the Sky Princess's enjoyment.
Clarke lowered the apple from her mouth and munched on it. Once she swallowed, she peered up apologetically at the commander. "I'm sorry... it's just the apples up on the Ark were horrible." She studied the green apple in her left hand. "They were my least favorite fruit."
Lexa found this curious and tilted her head to have a better view of Clarke's profile. A question drew across her normally stoic features.
Clarke understood the look and indicated the apple. "This is way better." She and Lexa fell into a comfortable silence as they enjoyed their fruit.
But it was Lexa that broke the quiet first. "Was all the food horrible in space?"
"It sucked," Clarke replied. She turned the apple between her fingers. She then caught the slight bewilderment in Lexa's features. She realized why and better explained, "Most of it was pretty bad but when you're hungry... it doesn't matter."
Lexa considered Clarke's previous life among the stars. She cocked her head after a moment. "Is the food better here?"
Clarke stared at the half eaten apple in her hand. She lifted her gaze up to the sky and imagined the remnants for the Ark floating lifelessly in orbit around the planet. "Yeah." She sadly met the commander's emotionless features. "A lot of things are better here." She shrugged as she looked away. "Not just the food."
Lexa sat in silence and finished off the apple. Beside the food, Lexa tried guessing what else was better about life on the ground. Up in the sky, it would be safer and easier than the hostility of the ground. It was unbelievable that the ground could be a better choice than the sky. While still thinking about it, she then tossed the core into the woods just behind her. She grabbed another item off the trunk that was wrapped in cloth with just a tie. She undid the tie and revealed small blocks of cheeses. She held it out in silent offer but kept all her attention on the horse.
Star Gazer was a few yards away, her head down, and she enjoyed eating the grass. She pulled at it and munched then occasionally shook her head. Now and again, she swooshed her tail from side to side.
Clarke tossed the apple much like the commander had done. She then plucked a few cubes of cheese. She realized she was famished after skipping a few meals other than the occasional snack. She curiously wondered if the commander had packed the food more for Clarke than both of them. She pushed aside the notion.
"When you ride up a hill, you must lean forward in the saddle," Lexa mentioned, out of the blue. "If it is downhill then lean back." She still studied the tall, white mare. "You will not feel the need to use your legs so much."
Clarke gave a faint nod. It made sense to her now, but it had not occurred to her at the time.
"I should have mentioned that sooner."
Clarke had gathered two more cubes that were cupped in the linen. It was an indirect apology that made Clarke relax. She rolled one of the cubes between her fingers as she considered what happened earlier. She swallowed the one cube in her mouth then looked over at the commander. "Thank you... for stopping the horse earlier."
Lexa exchanged a glance with the Sky Princess, but she kept silent. She could have easily brushed it aside as doing it to protect their alliance. However, Lexa was rarely the one to lie or twist truths. She instead turned her interest to the empty linen in her hands, which she folded up. She picked up the last food item, which was a small round loaf of bread.
Clarke was studying the field that was so peaceful. She wished to hide here rather than going back to Tondc. The Sky People needed her though and so did her friends. The weight of leadership pressed down on her shoulders again.
Lexa had torn a piece of bead and held it out to Clarke. She was pleased when the younger woman took it but noticed how careful Clarke was about not touching hands.
Clarke's first bite induced a pleasant hum. She had bread a few times in her life, but it barely compared to what Lexa held in her hand. Perhaps it was mistake to forego the food earlier this morning.
"Have you ever had chocolate?" Clarke prompted the commander. She suspected the answer already and also wondered if Lexa knew what was chocolate.
"I have not," Lexa replied.
Clarke had a piece of bread near her lips, but she lowered it and curiously studied the commander. "But you know what chocolate is?"
"It is produced from the cocoa bean." Lexa met the Sky Princess's gaze. "It cannot be grown in these lands." She looked again at Star Gazer.
Clarke finally took a breath after feeling outwitted by the commander. She wanted to ask how Lexa came across such knowledge. Her speech the other night to the commander about sparing Finn's life now washed over her. She looked down at the ground between her feet. She had indirectly called Lexa and her people savages that night.
Lexa sensed the shift in the Sky Princess. She suspected why but made no comment. She instead shifted their discussion to something she wanted to know since she first learned of the Sky People's arrival. With forging the alliance, there was hardly a chance to ask certain questions until now.
"Why did your people send unprepared kids down to the ground?"
Clarke finished off the tidbit of bread then chewed on it before she answered the question. She cleared her throat and honestly replied, "To die." She caught the commander's bemused glance.
Lexa ripped the remaining bread in half and handed a piece to the Sky Princess.
Clarke accepted it. The food's weight gave her empty stomach comfort after so many days. "We were delinquents." She shook her head and held up the bread near her lips. "Criminals," she better clarified.
Lexa rarely had expressive features, but for once she wore her confusion. She tilted her head slightly and softly asked, "What crime did you commit?"
Clarke smiled, bitterly. "It's a long story but..." She popped the bread into her mouth. She considered the easiest way to summarize it. She swallowed and met the commander's curious gaze. In those seconds, Clarke realized there was a human behind the commander facade. Under the alliance's pressure, there were no indications that the commander was ever angry or upset but mainly reserved and cold. Now the commander's hint of curiosity slightly jarred Clarke because she was already use to the cold commander. She thought their discussion was just information collecting about the enemy on the commander's part, but it was genuine self interest.
After chewing up the bread, Clarke cleared her throat and finished her earlier statement. "Basically I committed treason." She shrugged and added, "At least that's how it would show up on the books."
Lexa heard the unspoken depth under Clarke's simplified answer. Perhaps one day she would learn more about Clarke's treason. Today it was enough to understand why Clarke and the other kids had landed on Earth.
Clarke shifted on the log then continued explaining why her and the other ninety-nine were sent to the ground. "We were dying up on the Ark," she continued to explain. She hooked her hands together in her lap. "We were running out of air."
"So they sent you down to test the ground," Lexa summarized.
"Yes." Clarke nibbled on her bottom lip and continued studying the white horse. Her mind drifted back to that day she woke up on the drop ship, being rocketed down to Earth. "We were already expendable." She met Lexa's curious features. "So why not send us to the ground to see if it was safe?"
"Who made this decision?"
Clarke sighed heavily. "The Chancellor."
Clarke shook her head and instantly a dark smile curled her lips. "In part, yes. But Jaha was the Chancellor at the time."
Lexa easily recalled Jaha, who had very ridged and condensing opinions about her people. A twinge of pleasure pulled at her after the memory of putting a dagger to his throat came back to her. She cleared her mind and glanced at the sun, which was creeping higher from the east. Soon they would need to return to have the meeting with the generals from the various clans. Tondc would be filled to the walls with so many clans' arrival.
"We should think about returning," Lexa announced. She picked up the water skin and freed the cork.
"I hope it's by foot."
Lexa tilted her head and deciphered the Sky Princess's sarcasm. "You fell to the ground, but you still stood up again."
Clarke parted her lips as she met the commander's stern gaze. She remained at a loss and instead lowered her eyes to the water skin held out to her. She accepted it and distracted herself by drinking from it.
Lexa stood up and approached Star Gazer with the neatly folded cloths that held the cheeses and bread. She busied with putting them in a saddlebag. Shortly, she found the Sky Princess near her.
Clarke held out the water skin, in offer. "So, what's next for the riding lesson?"
Lexa had her hand halfway up but paused and slightly narrowed her eyes at the Sky Princess. She read the renewed determination in Clarke's bright blue eyes. The commander was pleased by the change in Clarke's attitude about riding lessons. Finally, Lexa took the water skin and replied, "We gallop together."
Clarke had a slight smile and gave a curt nod. She watched the commander tuck away the water skin first. She then took the hint to get into the saddle and did so with more grace than the first time.
Lexa mounted afterwards, directly behind Clarke. She kept her boots out of the stirrups and ordered, "You control the horse."
Clarke slipped her boots into the stirrups. She then gathered the reins into her fingers and adjusted them correctly. She gently tapped the horse's sides and started into a walk. "Where to?"
"To the opposite side of the field." Lexa pointed for good measure.
Clarke steered the mare towards the far side of the field, opposite of where they came from hours ago.
Lexa rested her hands on her own thighs. For those few minutes, she had a chance to observe Clarke's easiness with the horse. As soon as they gallop, she knew it would change, but she hoped doing it together would help the Sky Princess. As a kid, Lexa had similar fears with a horse, but she now enjoyed and even craved to ride a horse. A sense of freedom came with riding horses. Something that Lexa, the commander, had lost years ago when she took her position.
Clarke slowed the horse now that they were upon the woodlands in front of them. She softly asked, "Now what?"
"Let me take control." Lexa listened to Star Gazer's low huff after the reins went loose. She inserted her boots into the stirrups after Clarke moved them. She then stretched out her arms and was given the reins.
Clarke grabbed the saddle horn and tightened her grip as the commander's slim but shapely body pressed firm against her back. Momentarily, her eyes fluttered from the brush of Lexa's arms against her sides.
Lexa took Clarke's stiff posture as a continued sign of distrust, in her and in the horse. She was turning the horse around while she spoke to Clarke. "You have survived much since you fell from the stars." She allowed her horse to walk back across the field. "I do not imagine riding will be the most difficult thing you have to face on the ground."
Clarke placed her right hand on her thigh and twisted to her left as best as possible. She quietly checked, "Is this a pep talk, commander?"
"Merely an observation."
Clarke softly shook her head and straighten forward again. "Can we just gallop?"
Lexa raised an eyebrow when she tasted more of an order than a question. She adjusted the reins one last time in her hands then whispered, "Very well." She clicked her tongue twice and squeezed Star Gazer's sides with sudden force.
Clarke was taken by surprise and was thrown back into the commander's body. She clamped her legs around the horse, and her white knuckles showed against the saddle horn. Air whipped past her face and disheveled her hair, but Clarke was more worried about her panicked heart seizing on her.
Lexa easily detected the Sky Princess's distress about the gallop. She wiggled the reins into her right hand only then snared her left arm across Clarke's waist. Then she pressed forward and pushed both their bodies forward in the saddle so that they were less against the wind. With their closely joined bodies, she had Clarke safely anchored into the saddle during the charge across the field.
Clarke had her head slightly down and tried shaking the fears in her belly. However, when the commander's arm hooked around her waist, she became more secure about the gallop. She tested fate by lifting her head and absorbed the speed at which the horse rocketed across the grasslands. A thin smile began pulling at her lips. Each hoof beat changed her dread to raw excitement laced with adrenaline.
Gradually the shackles of leadership broke away from the commander. She forgot that it was the leader of the Sky People in her hold. Together, they lost their statuses and simply became two young women chasing after freedom.
Just ahead, the field came to an end near the woods, but Clarke wished for the gallop to continue further. She freed her right hand from the saddle's seat and grabbed Lexa's forearm. With a simple squeeze, she hoped she conveyed her request. The response was instant because Lexa tightened her arm for assurance then steered the horse to the left, in a sharp turn. Clarke gave a yelp that contained both shock and thrill.
Lexa's normally dark green eyes shined brighter from the sheer fun of it. She loved horseback riding as much as running on foot. Recent events with Gustus had hampered her mood, but she was able to put it away for now. There were barely few joys left in her life since she became the commander, but such a morning as this would stay with her for a long time. She thanked Clarke's very existence to warrant the riding lesson in the first place.
Under the mid morning sun, Star Gazer moved like a white thunder bolt across the lands. She continued huffing loud and heavy as she raced across the field. Her hooves pounded against the dry ground. All the grasses rolled like a wave behind Star Gazer.
Just ahead, Lexa calculated the distance to the end of the field. She was careful about slowing the horse rather than a jerky halt. She doubted Clarke would appreciate a hard stop.
Clarke released a heavy breath as the tall horse slowed to a comfortable walk. She ran her fingers through her messy hair and mostly fixed it. "Wow," she murmured.
Lexa allowed Star Gazer to continue at a walk and steered them back around a hundred eighty degrees. She then became conscious of the fact that she still held Clarke and even that Clarke continued clutching her arm. With a straighter back, she broke their equal holds by taking the reins into both hands.
Clarke returned her right hand to the saddle's seat. As the awkward seconds passed them, she cleared her throat.
"Do you wish to try the gallop?"
Clarke heard the resurfaced commanding tone from Lexa, but Clarke was rather use to it. She slightly smiled when the reins were held up in offer. "Alright," she agreed after a long moment. She blew out a deep breath and hoped she was ready to control the horse during a gallop.
Lexa slid her feet out of the stirrups and allowed Clarke to take full control. She prayed she was ready for this, but she could easily take over if Clarke lost her senses again. The riding lesson was turning out to be an exercise of trust between herself and the Sky Princess. Perhaps it would lead to a stronger relationship for their alliance.
"Here goes nothing," Clarke muttered. She squeezed her thighs against the horse's sides. She tapped her boot heels against thick muscles, which signaled the horse to speed up past a trot and into a canter.
Lexa was used in her leg muscles to stay on the horse. She gripped her own thighs tightly as the horse began to go faster. Trust's tension started wrapping around her chest. She was prepared for the gallop and also ready for it to backfire on her. She then felt the shift in Star Gazer's next lunge as they launched into a full gallop. She was use to galloping, but for once, she was startled simply by Clarke's unexpected holler. It was a yell of exhilaration from the speed and being in control of the horse.
Clarke's excitement outweighed her initial fears this time. Then the commander's hands suddenly latching onto her hips made her grin. She doubted the commander rarely rode as the passenger on the horse. The show of trust sent a warmth through Clarke's chest, but she stayed focus on controlling the galloping horse. It seemed as if the horse ate up the field quickly. Too soon Clarke was pulling back on the reins.
Star Gazer's speed reduced greatly before she came upon the trees in front of them. She whined happily and was turned to the left. She continued walking at a steady pace.
Lexa tilted her head to one side and studied the Sky Princess's profile. She was pleased by Clarke's happy features from the ride this time. It was a large improvement compared to earlier. "Ready to gallop alone?"
Clarke blew out a breath and followed the commander's voice. From a sidelong glance, she caught a twinkle in the commander's green eyes that were framed by war paint. Or at least the sun was glinting in them, if nothing else. Clarke tapped a few fingers against the saddle horn then looked straight ahead. "Alright... I'll try it again."
Lexa immediately swung her leg over and slid out of the saddle before Clarke could change her mind. She adjusted her sword into place then back stepped as the horse and rider continued along the field.
Clarke took a deep breath, a few times. She worked up her nerves to do this alone. She nearly looked over her shoulder at the commander yet refrained herself. She checked that she had everything ready and mentally prepared herself for the sudden rush.
Lexa curiously watched and wondered if the Sky Princess would be confident enough. She moved her left hand to the sword hilt and rested it there. Every muscle in her body was tight.
Clarke patted the white horse's neck. Somehow that eased the last of Clarke's holdback, and she tapped the large animal's sides. The transition from trot to gallop was fast, and Clarke was ready for it. This time, she imagined Lexa still in the saddle and holding her hips for support. Even without Lexa's real weight, Clarke felt the commander's security anyway. It made the first few seconds of the gallop easier until it became natural to Clarke. She was loving it this time.
Lexa loosened her grip on the sword hilt when no terrified screams rang out across the field. She released the unknown strain in her chest. Then when Clarke banked the horse to the left to turn around, it made the commander lift her chin, proudly. From her distant spot, she admired the white horse that carried the golden beauty on top. Lexa remained thick with pride after being able to teach the Sky Princess how to ride. She wished all students were so competent as Clarke.
Star Gazer galloped through the grasses and took long strides that ate up the distance. She breathed hard and whined happily at the connection she felt with the new rider. As they neared Lexa, she felt the reins pulled against her mouth. She slowed down until the reins told her a walk was best.
Lexa waited until the horse and rider were within earshot. She briefly made eye contact with Clarke before she turned on her heels. She started the walk towards the woods.
Clarke looked up at the sun, which was nearly at its highest point. They were going back to Tondc. She nearly called to the commander about riding the horse with her. But, if the commander hand any intent to do so then she would without asking. Instead, Clarke simply had the horse follow the commander's small trail through the grasses.
Once in the woods, the commander guided the way back to the road to Tondc. Clarke's ride through the woods provided extra learning because of guiding the horse around trees, over fallen ones, and past brush. Most likely that had been the commander's plan.
Just ahead the road peeked between the branches and shrubs so Lexa went directly to it. She waited on the dirt road until the white horse joined her. She tilted her head back slightly and asked, "Do you wish to ride or walk back?"
Clarke weighed the choice and secretly admitted that if she climbed off the horse that she may be waddling back to Tondc. However, she was already plenty sore from the lesson. If she remained in the saddle, it was possible the commander would join her. After today's events, she was unsure whether she wanted to continue the trend. So far, she and the commander had been in each other's personal space a lot. She was use to barriers and limits, even if it was nice with the commander.
As the silence stretched on, the commander wondered how much longer she would have to wait for a decision. She parted her lips, about to push the Sky Princess. She snapped her jaw shut when the Sky Princess took her boots out of the stirrups.
Clarke tried gracefully landing on her feet, but her legs pained her. She muffled a low groan, but the commander most likely heard her. She kept her back to the commander and worked the reins over the tall horse's head.
Lexa patiently waited now. She lifted her chin slightly when the Sky Princess held out the reins in offer. She collected them and watched the Sky Princess pass her. Curiously, she absorbed the hidden stagger in Clarke's steps. A first horseback lesson was always trying and also quite tiring on the body.
Clarke kept walking towards Tondc. Without the commander at her side, the unseen village weighted on her. Her steps became smaller, and she all but forgot the pain in her thighs. She was too overcome by dreaded memories that were now within Tondc. Perhaps Finn's ghost still lurked around the town; ready to remind her. She never realized she was standing still until the commander was beside her.
Lexa paused beside the Sky Princess. "The generals will be arriving soon." She peered past her shoulder as if half expecting the generals to materialize behind them.
Clarke blinked then turned her head to the commander. Those simple words provided her with a sense of purpose than the earlier, hollow sensation that wanted to consume her. She nodded mutely then continued walking towards Tondc.
Slowly, the life from Tondc tickled Clarke's ears and distinct smells drifted under Lexa's nose. With each step, Lexa's one degree of softness melted away to the commander's strength. Her back seemed straighter, eyes harder, and she was the strongest grounder among her people. Clarke distinctly saw the shift and now only realized that Lexa had been even remotely relaxed when it was just them. The change pierced Clarke's chest and made her wonder if this was her own future if she continued as a leader. Clarke pushed away the thoughts and focused on the now.
Lexa looked towards the Sky Princess, who was reaching behind her jacket.
Clarke produced the black handgun and held it by the barrel. She pointed the handle to the commander in offer.
Lexa retrieved the gun but sharply stepped into Clarke's path.
Clarke pulled up short and stared at the commander. She searched past the war paint to the young woman she had briefly met this morning.
Lexa now lifted the handgun in the small space between her and the Sky Princess. Like Clarke, she held the weapon by its barrel with the butt stock pointed towards Clarke. "You may need this."
Clarke stared oddly at the commander. Last night they both had agreed that a Sky person from the Guard, Major Byrne, would be her shadow for the duration of the war. However, it seemed as if the commander was dissatisfied with only a guard. Clearly the village's law was for no guns, of any kind. However, they both knew that the commander was above the law and could easily make modifications at any heartbeat. Now the commander was making an exception for Clarke.
"If you die," Lexa softly explained, "So does this alliance."
Clarke had tucked the weapon back in its hidden spot in her waist band. "That's not going to happen."
Lexa raised her chin and revealed the tension in her eyes. Yesterday had been a very ugly day for both of them. Gustus's betrayal had shaken Lexa's faith in her closest warriors. And yet, it had also cemented her already growing trust in Clarke. Last night during the talks, Lexa had confessed she had believed Clarke would not poison her but believing one of her very own had done it was far more difficult to believe. Clarke's forgiveness last night had been gentle and continued nurturing their fragile peace.
Last night, Clarke had learned more about the woman under the commander's war paint. She highly respected Lexa and understood Lincoln's speech about Lexa being a visionary for peace. When they put aside their differences, they both wanted the same things and perhaps one day they could be given the gift of peace. But for now, the enemy of their enemy was their friend.
As Lexa continued searching Clarke's eyes, they both locked onto the newly built trust between them. Perhaps their people could not share in it right now, but they could as mutual leaders. Together, they could extended it to their people one day. Clarke was warmed by the sheer start of it between herself and the commander.
Lexa leaned in slightly closer, into Clarke's personal space. She always had a hard tone, but her next whisper held a new softness meant only for Clarke. "See that it does not happen."
For a heartbeat, Clarke almost missed what they were talking about moments ago. She was drawn into the commander's obvious care, and she felt herself slip into the security of it. She was desperate to feel safe again after Finn's death. Finally, she weakly moved her head in agreement that she would keep herself alive.
Lexa was satisfied and retreated from Clarke's space. She continued the short walk to the village's sealed gates.
Clarke fought with a shiver, but it still raced down her spine. She pushed aside the newly built friction that started building between her and the commander since the first day. Such feelings were dangerous under an umbrella of war. She needed to focus on her people because once it was all over then she probably would never see Lexa again.
With one leg in front of the other, Clarke walked away from her thoughts surrounding the commander's care. She would ignore the pull in her heart that wanted to know Lexa more. Today's riding lesson was nothing else than another opportunity to adapt to the ground. All the secret touches and searching stares were hidden away in Clarke's memory. Even Lexa's comfort when she wept was just a lost dream.
As Tondc's gates loudly opened and squealed in protest, Clarke was jerked away from her heart. The open gates of Tondc made her refocus on the war. There was nothing else ahead of her but her people. As she studied the commander's hard composure, she knew to mirror it too because this was war.
Clarke of the Sky People had to be a leader, not a friend or lover to anybody, especially the commander. And yet, she sensed how her heart burned in her chest each time the gazed upon the commander, upon Lexa of the Tree People.