The Thrill Of It All
In the boardroom, Lena Luthor is dangerous.
Sharp, too sharp.
A loaded gun, a tightly wound spring. She is all arching confidence and speeding pulse. She has a reputation that she has worked hard to achieve, and a family name she is desperate to overshadow. She is nothing. Nothing if not confident, nothing if not ambitious. She’s ready to rip her own world apart at any moment.
In the boardroom, Lena Luthor is dangerous.
But she feels deadly under darkness.
The early hours of the morning drip past, and she doesn’t remember the last time she slept. Bare-faced, the smudges of purple under each of her eyes remain.
A delicate reminder that she is exhausted. Overwhelmed. Starving.
(Starving to be touched.)
God, is this what she’s become? A Luthor scared? A Luthor scared to sleep?
Maybe she hasn’t slept for two days. But she hasn’t been touched in weeks.
And now it’s four in the morning.
An hour only lovers and revellers and young parents should see.
(The thought sends her reeling. Suddenly breathing is a little harder.)
And she’s twenty-four and she’s in her ensuite bathroom, on her own. She should be used to this by now. She’s only ever been on her own. Alone in her six million dollar penthouse apartment. Alone with the thought of that continent-sized bed just a wall away. And nothing but freezing empty sheets and colder hours separating her from the morning.
The comedown from the high, the fall from the adrenaline rush of closing the deal, of winning an argument, winning a fight, winning a war, the comedown threatens to crush her. She is sober in the day, the thrill of her career is all she needs. But some nights, the comedown threatens to shatter her. She can feel it now, teetering on the edge of her consciousness.
Blurring into the corners of her eyes.
This will keep her up all night. And her speeding pulse will keep her company. Her racing heart will keep her warm.
Flat on her back in the middle of her bed.
She doesn’t want to sleep anyway. She’s got something else for when she wants to sleep.
The ziplock bag measures 2x2cm.
The countertops of her bathroom are marble. Pristine white.
And if her cleaner has ever noticed the sparse scattering of tiny white crystals at the edge of the sink, she doesn’t say anything.
Her hands shake.
She drops it.
She shouldn’t do this.
(She cuts it.)
She could just go to sleep.
(She can’t. She can’t sleep.)
She doesn’t need this.
(She cuts another line.)
(She doesn’t take it.)
She rests her hands against the edge of the countertop, and contemplates the lines. Her knuckles against the marble are as white as the powder.
White white white white white white. Wait.
(She doesn’t want to be on her own right now.)
(She doesn’t want to do this.)
And she knows. Of course she knows. Lena Luthor is a lot of things, (emotionally stunted, a borderline addict, the biggest philanthropist of her generation, loyal to a fault, scared of her own kindness, soft, gay, and terrified of the dark) but she isn’t stupid. She’s not a multibillionaire at 24 for nothing.
Of course she knows.
She takes three steps away from the counter top.
A whisper is all it takes. If her voice breaks a little, what does it matter? Only one person is going to hear her.
“I really, really need Kara Danvers right now.”
Lena Luthor does not believe in god.
A prayer to her guardian superhero? The girl of steel who is only a pair of glasses away from her best friend. And her mobile rings almost instantly, before she has an opportunity to second-guess herself, buzzing in the other room against her bedside cabinet.
She closes her eyes, enters her bedroom.
The two thin lines she’d cut burning against her eyelids. But she hadn’t taken them.
When she opens her eyes, she averts them from the endless white sheets of the bed, and looks instead at the frantically buzzing phone.
(When exactly did the colour white become triggering?)
Kara’s name in beautifully kerned Helvetica Neue.
Her heart beats just a little faster. She sits on the edge of the bed, and answers her phone.
Kara’s voice is not matted with sleep. It is laced through and through with a concerned urgency that makes Lena’s skin crawl, prickling with a selfish pleasure. Kara cares.
“Hey Kara” her voice is little more than a breath.
“I was, um, out…out walking, I couldn’t sleep, and I’m in the foyer of your building. I just wondered if you couldn’t sleep too…and if you’d like me to come up?”
“You were out walking?”
“I didn’t wake you, did I?”
It’s an empty, redundant question, but Lena appreciates it nonetheless. Her skin burns, with the combined shame of her own weakness and hot relief.
“No, it’s okay Kara, it’d be…lovely to see you. I’ll buzz you up.” She pulls her phone from her ear and opens the app to unlock her private lift.
“Thank you Lena!” Kara’s endlessly cheerful voice buzzes up from the phone before the line cuts off.
The eighteen seconds the lift takes to get to Lena’s forty-second floor apartment might have been the longest eighteen seconds in her life.
She lets her phone drop from her hand.
It hits the pristine bedsheets.
Her back straight. Her feet cold. Her hands trembling, wrapped together in her lap. She almost bites at the edges of her nails, her hand halfway to her mouth before she jerks it away.
As though she’d been burnt.
(She has a good memory.)
The lift cooly glides up, she can hear it.
She can’t hear Kara step out onto the thick carpet.
“I’m in my room Kara.”
“Can I come in?” Kara’s voice is outside her bedroom door far, far too quickly. She pretends to not notice. She doesn’t need to notice. (She notices everything. She’s too sharp. Especially where Kara Danvers is concerned. Her edges are too sharp for Kara’s incredible softness.)
The thought of Kara flying through her apartment to just step outside her bedroom door a moment sooner nearly makes her swoon.
She stands as Kara enters the room. She’s wearing a long coat over soft-looking pyjamas, and a soft frown on her face. Everything about Kara is soft-looking, as she crosses the room, slipping in and out of the beams of moonlight towards her.
“Can I hug you Lena?”
Lena doesn’t reply, she just practically falls into Kara’s arms. God, Kara’s arms. Her stomach does a dull, uncomfortable backflip (a backflop?) as they tighten around her back.
“Thank you for coming,” Lena breathes into soft blonde curls that smell just like the night sky and something so inexplicably Kara that Lena has to choke back a sob.
“Shhh, shhhh it’s okay Lena” Kara whispers, and holds her a little tighter. Lena wishes she would stop saying her name like that. Like it was something that mattered. She wishes that Kara knew about the drugs in the bathroom. Maybe she already does. Maybe it doesn’t matter.
“Did I wake you?”
It’s a breath, a secret that they probably won’t speak about tomorrow. She feels Kara tense against her just slightly, and for a fraction of a second she can feel the tightly wound body capable of pulling planets apart, and then Kara relaxes once more.
“No, I was…stargazing?”
It’s a statement, which lilts up at the end like a question.
Kara finally pulls away.
“Do you want to talk?”
Her blue eyes meet Lena’s with no hesitation. No judgement. Just a dim flicker of concern and overwhelming affection.
And in that moment, they both know. They both know the other knows. She knows Kara’s secret, and Kara knows her’s. Kara raises her hand to brush at something on her cheek, and it’s only then she realises that a tear has escaped from the corner of her eye.
“Can we talk tomorrow?”
It’s a question directed to the carpet.
“Would you like me to stay over?”
Kara’s words rush over her, and they feel like nothing but relief.
And she feels so grateful, so grateful to Kara for not forcing her to ask for what she wants. Soft, gentle Kara who just offers and suggests and never presses. Kara who always gives her a chance to back away, back out. Kara, who understands just how important her escape routes are to her.
She’s nodding almost desperately, but that doesn’t matter.
Crawling under cold, pristine bedsheets in the early hours of the morning, doesn’t feel so much like a morgue sheet when Kara’s inhumanly warm body and soft-smelling hair is climbing in beside her.
“I’m so tired Kara.”
It’s a confession. A confession aimed at the ceiling.
And Kara is reaching for her, wrapping herself around Lena’s body. She rests her head beside Lena’s shoulder and presses a soft kiss against her collarbone. The intimacy of the touch is almost overwhelming for Lena, but this is Kara. Kara who never presses, never asks too much of her.
So there’s just a warm stretch of silence, in which Lena focuses on her own heartbeat.
It’s slower. Regulated.
Her skin feels like it’s burning, but only where it’s pressed against Kara’s skin, where her t-shirt has ridden up a little at her waist.
“I’m here, I’ll stay as long as you want me too.” Kara’s voice is saturated, heavy with sleep.
There’s a moment of silence. Lena doesn’t remember the last time her pulse felt this safe.
“You’ll still be here when I wake up?”