As a rich woman, Lena Luthor has known her fair share of indulgences—fine pastries, silk dresses, houses of many rooms—but the look on Clark’s face when she enters is a pleasure that surpasses any other she’s ever known. There’s something thrilling about a calculated plan well-executed, especially one with such an appealing risk and reward ratio and hardy economics. For one tailored bustier and a robe, she sees her husband (her wife? A thrill runs down Lena’s spine at the thought) like that.
The thing of it is: Clark Danvers makes Lena feel like green moss is growing around her heart, a river rushing between her legs, wet and alive. She wants Clark’s naked body, wants to parse it apart like a child would peel an orange. And then, having altered Lena emotionally, having placed terrible greenery about her rib cage, Clark should distract her from it physically. Instead of having these treacherous, soft feelings, Lena imagines herself stretching around her wife’s hand. Concealing bruises left by her mouth and teeth, being caged under her body and made sore. The click of the door closing behind Clark is the sealing of the envelope of her fantasy.
That time will come. For now she remains at the entrance with her hands crammed in her pockets looking like she’s had too much wine and been spun around. Her disorientation is perfect. Lena is the wolf from Little Red Riding Hood, perched and lying in wait. What big eyes you have, my dear.
“Come closer, Clark.” Lena gestures to a chair positioned catty corner with a pointed toe. Above all other things, she wants to know Clark’s real name. She wants to feel it in her mouth, on her tongue. Would it be something proper and feminine, like Elizabeth? She’s certain it’s nothing plain, Clark is no Ann or Mary, but something exotic perhaps. Cecile, Philomena. “Sit there. Let’s talk.”
“Talk?” She's stalling, staying a safe distance from where Lena sits.
“Unless there’s something else you’d rather be doing.” As part of her first act, Lena shifts and uncrosses her legs, in the process gaping her robe open and leaving her knees slightly parted. What a delight it is to see her action reflected in Clark’s face like a refractory glass. What a delight it will be when everything is laid bare and her view is less obstructed.
“No.” Clark says in a wonderful stutter, then: “Okay.” In one quick, jerky movement she’s sat in the chair. Her back is ramrod straight and her hands are folded in her lap, polite. It’s such a frail facade that Lena can’t wait to take a sledgehammer to. “What would you like to talk about?”
“Your meeting.” Lena says, struggling to keep a straight face. She takes a moment to inspect the lacquer on her nails. “With Mr. Tapper.”
Clark looks down for a moment before nodding her head as if she’d known all along. She adjusts her already perfectly straight glasses. The absurdity of it, and Clark’s easy belief of her reasoning, makes Lena want to giggle. As if she would have invited her up to her bedroom, wearing this, to talk shop. “Of course! Yes, of course.”
As Clark launches into whatever chauvinist nonsense went on that afternoon, Lena leans slanted onto the arm of her chair, the beginning of act two. Her knees open wider, reveal more. One hand rests open on the bare skin of her leg. Like a trained dog, Clark’s eyes fall to the invitation of her thighs and then dart immediately back up—there’s no pause in her speech and the only indication that she’s seen anything at all is the redness of her cheeks.
So she opens them more. Only a sliver, but it’s enough. Clark is dragged back to that focal point between her legs, the look corporeal enough that it’s a hand coming to rest squarely on her. Her hips itch to lift into it.
“Clark?” Lena prompts, legs gaping. “You were saying about the cost benefit analysis of fox furs?”
“I—“ Clark works her jaw and squirms in her chair. “I’m sorry, it’s just that you’re naked. It’s making it hard to concentrate.”
“I would say I’m somewhat clothed, if you want to be technical.”
“I’d rather not.” Clark crosses her legs. “It makes no difference.”
“Do you like it?”
“What do you mean?”
“My being naked.” Clark looks away sharply and clears her throat. She digs the heel of one boot against the wood floor as if trying to tap a restart button. One plump, pink lip disappears into her mouth and pops out again glistening wet. Lena figures that it’s a simple question that shouldn’t require this much thought to answer, and the last thing she wants is for Clark to have the time to avoid it. “Do you like it?” She asks again, firmer this time.
“Yes, yes. I like it.” Clark admits quietly, still not quite meeting Lena’s eye. The dark of the room works in her advantage, obscuring her face and her body, and she leans into it. But Lena knows Clark can’t hide from her for long. She won’t allow it.
“I could take off more, if you wanted.” Lena offers casually. This captures Clark’s interest, or her surprise, and her eyes move back up to look at her. “I know you think about what it would be like. My clothes off. Your hands on me. I just need you to answer a question.”
“What’s your name?”
Taken off guard, Clark sits up a little straighter. “Clark Danvers?” She says. When Lena remains unimpressed, she continues. “Clark Jeremiah Danvers? My mother calls me chicken.”
Realizing that her tactic is being stonewalled Lena shifts gears. “Take off your shoes.”
“Your boots, Clark. Don’t you know it’s rude to enter a lady’s room and track in mud?”
Eyebrows knitted, Clark bends over and begins to fumble with her laces. The only noise in the room is cotton sliding against leather and the muted pop of her freeing her feet and setting them aside. Once finished she begins to relax back into the chair, which won’t do.
“Stand up, I want to get a look at you.”
Clark does, and she does it so obediently that Lena’s mouth waters with expectation. There’s so much less resistance than she’d anticipated. It’s almost as if Clark wants her to come to the truth. The thought crosses Lena’s mind that perhaps she’s more in on the game than Lena had given her credit for. It’s ludicrous, of course. Clark is beautiful, but she’s a bit simple.
“The vest can go, too.” Clark shrugs it off without complaint. Lena licks her lips. “And your shirt.”
The other woman gives her a look is all at once fierce and guarded, and in a telling move she crosses her arms over her chest. “I don’t think that would be prudent.”
“I’ve never seen a men’s undershirt before. I’d like to see what it looks like.”
“I find that implausible.”
“Are you challenging me, Clark?”
Clark inhales deeply and looks at the ceiling as if seeking counsel from a higher power. Then she relaxes her arms and begins to work at the buttons of her shirt. Lena knows in that moment that she’s won, achieved her checkmate. It sends delicious ripples throughout her body to sense the inevitable outcome of this encounter, to wonder if Clark senses it too.
The shirt falls to the floor with a muted sound, leaving Clark in her long undershirt, britches, and socks. Lena can’t help but search the gauzy fabric for any sign of the feminine body she knows lies underneath. It gives nothing away, to her disappointment.
“Is my lady satisfied?”
Lena hums. “The undershirt as well.”
“Surely you can’t be serious.”
“Quite. Take it off.” She moves forward to the edge of her seat, fully exposing the black fabric of her bustier and her naked lap. Clark gapes at her and traces her eyes over Lena’s chest, spilling over the top of her garment.
“Are you sure that’s what you want?”
Instead of answering, Lena beckons Clark to come closer. When she does, she takes her undershirt in her hand and begins to untuck it herself, trying not to submit to the gaze she can feel burning at the top of her head. When she’s finished she looks up, meeting that look head on.
“There. I’ve started it for you, so finish.”
“Earlier you called me treacherous. You said I’d ruined your life. You don’t know the half of it.”
“You always had a flair for the dramatic.”
“Something tells me you like it.” Clark says, and lifts the hem of her shirt. It’s everything and nothing like Lena imagined. Being face-first in her abs is a nice addition, and gives her an excuse to take her time dragging her eyes up to the real focal point of the journey.
And there it is, in all it’s sweet relief. Bindings that look like they were cut from a flour sack concealing, but not entirely, the curve of Clark’s breast. Lena’s plans unravel and the cacophony in her head quiets. She tilts her forehead to rest on Clark’s firm stomach, then presses a kiss there, sighing at the tremble she feels against her mouth.
“What’s your name?” She asks again, eyes closed. Ann, Philomena, Mary, Elizabeth?
“My name is Kara.”
Lena’s fingers are at work discarding Kara’s britches before she’s finished with the last syllable. It echoes in her head— Kara, Kara, Kara . She pushes the pants and socks down to her ankles and Kara steps out of them, whittling her to only a pair of white linen underthings.
There’s a buzz of pure excitement locked in Lena’s gut at the prospect of laying with her, being fucked by her, enough that she forgets to be slow. One hand reaches past the hem of Kara’s underwear and the other stabilizes her when she bucks forward at the contact.
She grasps onto, then produces, a bundle of socks balled up. They’re warm in her palm from Kara’s body heat. “Confident?”
Kara blushes. “It was all I had.”
Lena shakes her head. It’s inconsequential. The only thing of consequence is Kara’s skin and her wondrous body. She places another worshipful kiss where her underwear and hips meet, then another, each increasingly hungry. There’s no stopping her hands from starting to pull at the waistband of Kara’s underthings until those too give away to her appetite and slide down to her knees. Lena is consumed by the feeling of it, Kara’s hands tangling at her nape, the coarse hair between thighs tickling her bottom lip, and most of all Kara’s consummate tremble.
“Lena, wait.” A little miffed to be distracted from her work, Lena looks up, lower lip catching on the skin of Kara’s stomach. There’s red smears all over her lower body from the paint on Lena’s mouth, and she’s sure her own face must look a fright. It’s the messy work of it, she supposes. Kara is pulling at her biceps, bringing her to stand so they’re equal, or as close as they can be. Her lover’s face is nearly feral, you couldn’t see the color of her irises even if there was light in the room. Between them are still the flower-sack bindings. Hateful things. Lena reaches to find the seam and tear them away, only to be stopped by Kara’s hand. “Please, wait a moment. Look at me, look at me--”
Lena does, surprised by the frankness of her grip on her wrist, and then taken away by her look. Blonde curls askew, glasses low on her nose, mouth open. This isn’t Clark, this is Kara. Her husband, her wife. Lena wants to know her from the inside out, from her toes to the top of her sweet-smelling head. She tugs again at the fabric separating her from Kara’s breasts, desperate. “Take it off. I can’t stand this for another minute.”
“Are you meaning to tell me that even after--you’d still want to, with me?”
“I’d never have considered it before now.” Lena breathes, and Kara’s hand falls away in astonishment. Newly freed, her fingers make quick work of the cinching of her binding and she unravels them with uncharacteristic attentiveness, wanting to savor the gift she knows is underneath. The bandages slacken, then fall away, revealing her breasts. They’re small, with nipples a pale pink and hard even in the trapped warmth of Lena’s room. “God in heaven you’re lovely. Handsome.” She buries her face into Kara’s neck and inhales, wraps her arms around her middle and pulls that pliant body against her own.
“You really think so?” Instead of responding, Lena nuzzles her way from Kara’s neck, to the skin under her ear, to the corner of her mouth, and kisses her. She’s never kissed anyone before, but finds herself confident that she could be good at it. They break apart chastely after only a moment. The kiss has left Kara’s eyes big like moons and just as glassy. “Even with my hair like it is? Short, like a boy’s? And, and, my--well, they’re small, for a girl--” Lena cuts her off with another press of her mouth, deeper this time, running her tongue along the seam of her. Kara gives in instantly, parting her lips and letting her lick her way inside. Arms wrap around Lena’s slight frame, pushing her robe off her shoulders and letting it fall to the ground.
Lena strokes Kara’s tongue with her own, cups her face in one of her hands and reaches between them to feel the form of her breast with the other. A subsequent moan is trapped between their mouths, increasing in pitch when Lena captures a nipple between her fingers and rolls it. There’s a wet sound when they break apart and Kara’s heavy breathing filling the room. “Everything you have is just perfect for you. Exquisite.”
“Y-you too.” Lena smiles at the ineptness of it and puts one foot forward, walking them backwards. Kara shuffles a little, kicking her last layer down and away before allowing Lena to guide them toward the luxury of her bed. Fingers move to the stays on the back of the bustier, plucking at them fruitlessly. “How do I get this off?” She pulls once, mightily, and it breaks apart, buttons popping against the wall and floor. “Nevermind.”
“Strong.” Lena chokes out, hands on Kara’s biceps, thumbs tracing over the whip-like scars there. She’s never been so excited to have a piece of expensive clothing totally ruined. One more tug and the bustier is gone, clattering to the floor, and Lena’s most scandalous pair of panties (it’s scandalous that she has them at all, really. Lillian would be appalled) follow suit.
Nakedness is uncanny to her. As a lady of certain means she very rarely spent more than a 15 minutes a day unclothed or unsubmerged inside a tub of water. The idea of being nude with another human being is even queerer. As a young woman her mother told her that she would wake up one morning and understand what it meant to desire a husband. The only thing that Lena ever learned to desire were the bodies of her day school classmates and, later on, her governess. She’d indulged endlessly in fantasies. Rich ones. Ones of her governess reaching under her skirts during a piano lesson and bringing her to the screaming edge. Ones of two of her classmates helping her in the bath, kissing along her shoulders and chest, licking at her nipples.
But this wasn’t a fantasy, was it? Kara is real and their bodies are real and naked against each other. Lena can feel the suppleness of her skin, her taut nipples, her blunt nails scraping along her shoulder blades. Twenty five years of need are breaking open inside of her at Kara’s look of naked adoration, her hands reaching between them to skim over the curve of her breast. It’s all at once too much and too gentle for Lena to cope with but she lets Kara drag her onto the bed and over her body all the same.
Their mouths connect again, open. This being Lena’s third kiss of her life, she finds herself more poised than the ones previous. Their tongues slip against each other and bodies move in tandem with the motion. Lena’s hips between Kara’s thighs have a mind of their own and buck in a sloppy rhythm. She thinks this is how men and women make love, or so she’d been told, but it’s so much better this way. Kara quakes underneath her and goosebumps pop up on her skin, goosebumps that Lena had caused with her hands and mouth. Every flick of her tongue has a responding jerk of Kara’s hips, or pass of her hand over Lena’s back.
“Lena.” Kara breaks apart and grapples to make some distance between them, much to Lena’s distaste. She dips back in for more, more of her mouth, more of her touch. “Can we take a moment?”
“For what?” Lena murmurs, catching Kara’s earlobe between her lips. The other woman seems to lose her train of thought. Perfectly according to plan.
“To slow down.” Even as she says it, Kara’s gaze falls to Lena’s front, to her bare breasts, and lingers there. “You’ve only just met me.”
“I’ve known you for months.” To demonstrate, Lena takes Kara’s hand and cups it over her right breast. It’s a good move, and she can swear she sees Kara’s eyes briefly roll before she squeezes it, causing a ripple to move throughout Lena’s body and land between her legs. The evidence of Kara’s own arousal is smeared on her lower stomach.
“You’ve known Clark.” She manages as she continues to fondle over Lena’s chest. Lena buries her face again in Kara’s shoulder, opening her mouth to suck, and grabs her behind her knees to pull them around her hips. The resulting position leaves Kara open to her, closer than ever to her center, and yet she still speaks. “But not me—as Kara.”
“Is there a difference?”
“Yes. I’ve loved you since I was 16, and you barely know my name.”
This stops Lena cold in her tracks. She remembers now why she hated Clark, and why she still might hate Kara. The moss rubs against her rib cage, pads the pounding of her heart.
“Why do you insist on saying such horrible things to me?” In the cradle of Kara’s body she relaxes, defeated. The other woman has the audacity to laugh.
“Because they’re true.” It’s not until she feels her rocking, shushing, stroking her hair, that she realizes that Kara must feel the heat of her tears at the crook of her neck.
Stories are a funny thing. Everybody must have one, even the scullery maids, even the tailor shop owners, even her mother. Lena has never cared to know one before Kara, and thinks that none would be as compelling as her journey from a creek-bathed baby to the woman in her arms.
“Don’t you think it’s a little extreme?” Lena drags her fingers along the sharp relief of Kara’s collarbone. “To have lived as a man for so long.”
“I don’t know that I’ve been living as a man, not all the way. If that makes sense.” Kara shrugs. “I’ve been living the life I would want to lead as a woman, if I could. The only lie I’ve told is my name.” She brings her eyes up to meet Lena’s. “Everything else is the truth of me. I swear it.”
She likes this story the best. The one where Kara beats the odds to live her life. There’s something special in those words, like a fairy tale. Instead of witches or orphans or tricky wolves, there’s a blonde haired girl telling her sister to rid her of her hair in the kitchen.
“Your letters, Ms. Luthor.” Lena would not look up from the paper if it weren’t for the gust of cold air that accompanies Jess as she enters the room. Nearing the middle of December it’s cold enough that she spends most of her time in her chambers, and Kara in hers or entertaining partners in the drawing room. She has a thick shawl over her shoulders and a half eaten breakfast sitting on the tray in front of her. “A word of warning: there’s one from Mrs. Luthor.”
Lena sets the paper down and gives Jess a tired look. “Are you quite sure?” Her mother hasn’t written her in nearly a year. Jess bows her head in confirmation. Lena picks up the stack of letters and finds the one with Mrs. Lillian Luthor in her mother's careful hand on top. “Stay in here while I read this, would you?” She says as she rips into the envelope, producing three or four thick pages. Hardly worth the postage. But the name scrawled on it gives her a thought. “Jess, before I forget.”
“Yes, Ms. Luthor?”
“I think it’s time that you began to refer to me as Mrs. Danvers, don’t you?” She stares down at the letters on the page, not yet processing them, as she speaks. “And the rest of the servants. It is, after all, my legal name.”
“Yes, Mrs. Danvers.” Lena’s lips tick up at the sound of it, even with the uncertainty with which it leaves Jess’s mouth. It brings to her mind thoughts of Kara and puts her in the right kind of headspace to begin reading the letter. Opening correspondence from her mother with anything but a positive disposition would be unwise.
It is a testament to Lillian Luthor’s skill at her trade that Lena has a headache before she’s done with the first page. The subsequent two and a half grow only worse, and by the time she’s placed the last face-down on her table she has a pounding migraine. “Shall I fetch you a glass of water, Ma’am?” Jess inquiries. Lena waves her off with a flick of her hand and begins folding the pages together and assembling them back into the envelope, then tossing the whole package in the hearth where it belongs.
“Summon Mr. Danvers for me. And while you’re at it, tell the servants to prepare the guest room in the far East Wing. Mrs. Luthor intends to stay for the New Year.”
The walls are thin and Lena can hear Kara whistling her way to her rooms from a yard out. To her distaste, the sound lessens the pain behind her eyes. Kara knocks respectfully at the door and enters with a little bow. Unnecessary, but fetching. “You called for me, my love?” The ache diminishes by another degree. Lena curses herself.
She could say that she’d wanted Kara’s presence only to talk over the upcoming logistical nightmare of the New Year. Winn Schott would be joining them for near a fortnight, Alexandra would be there for longer. And now Lillian, too, for an undetermined period of time. They had rooms to ready, china to select, meals to plan. Over the course of these months Kara had picked up some of the finer details of her new station, but remained overall rather green. She wouldn’t know how to properly select bed linens if they slapped her in the face.
But Kara’s mere presence in her room has made the thought of these things more bearable. That is the pit to be prised from this. It is both Lena’s balm and her eternal fluster. She’d hoped--longed, really--that Kara’s revealed secret would transmute their relationship into something more manageable. Lena’s sexual agitation had been perhaps mistaken as soft feelings, warped by her confusion as to Clark’s sex. And that sex would perhaps be the cure for her sickness.
But there had been none of that. No sex. No transmutation. Only soft lines in Kara’s face that she can’t unsee, a new name to learn, and a wife who has only redoubled her efforts to win her affection. In Kara’s eyes and in her world, all poems are written about Lena. All flowers bloom for her. Songs written for the pianoforte are naught in comparison to her voice. God had only her eyes in mind when he made emeralds, or green silk dresses, or the gleam of the ocean.
It’s hateful, what she’s asking of her. All the people that Lena has ever loved are dead or left her and she has no room left in herself for another disappointment. So she takes Kara into her bed every night, naked again as the first time they’d lain together, and hopes that she’ll give in and break her curse. The only thing that has come of it are ardent kisses and whisperings that get lost somewhere in the embers of the hearth. She thinks that she may not be trying hard enough. It would be so much easier if Kara could just be cruel to her.
“What’s on your mind, darling?” Kara is sitting across from her, pouring herself a cup of coffee from the carafe on Lena’s breakfast tray. She looks so casual in Lena’s rooms now, as much a part of the minutiae as one of her chairs or tables. “Ms. Huang was in a state when she said you needed to see me.”
“My mother would like to stay with us for the New Year.” Lena grouses, watching Kara steal a bite of scone off her plate. “Lord, can you imagine what horrible luck she’ll bring to this household?”
“Don’t be like that.” Kara claps crumbs of scone from her hands and wipes them from her trousers. “We’ll have a grand time, don’t you think? And whatever bad luck Mrs. Luthor brings with her, I’m sure we can counteract it through devices of our own. What if I read the rest of these letters to you while you warmed your feet on the fire, hm?”
It does feel better, hearing Kara’s voice doing impressions of Mr. Person during his droll legal correspondence. Her stocking feet she extends toward the heat of the fire, wiggling her toes every now and again to keep her circulation moving. Outside snow is falling and covering the windowpane that frames Kara’s face, her tawny curls. When she catches her shivering, Lena beckons her over and they pull their chairs close, each stretched out to capture some warmth, and once the letters are done they talk about other things. If Lena were the type of woman to be able to put things out of her mind, this would be the perfect moment for it. But she isn’t, and it’s not.
“Why don’t you just do it?” Lena pants, arching up and pressing her breast firmer into Kara’s hand. Kara squirms on top of her, body bare and legs tangling underneath the blankets like rope-knots. There’s no response, there hasn’t ever been one, just Lena asking questions into the chilly air. She grabs Kara’s hand, the one that rests fondly over her chest, and drags it up to her mouth.
If she won’t answer Lena’s questions verbally, there’s always the tell of her body. When her fingers drag over Lena’s lips, Kara’s breathing breaks into a pant. Her eyes widen when Lena opens her mouth and separates two to lave with her tongue, then wrap her lips around and suck.
It’s like she can always work her up to a certain point. Kara will go to the limit of heavy breathing, sucking, moaning, and grinding but go not a shade further. Not to the outer reaches of where Lena needs her. Kara’s fingers leave her mouth with a pop. “Is it because I’m awful to you?”
“What?” Kara blinks, dazed. Lena takes her slick hand and puts it against her cheek.
“Don’t you ever feel like getting back at me, for being so cruel?” There’s spit drying on Lena’s cheek. “I would let you.”
“I—you’re not—you’re not cruel. Not since you found out, and not really before then either.” Lena’s heart clenches in her chest when Kara smiles. She hates her. “A little cold, maybe, but.” Then she leans to place the tenderest of kisses on Lena’s mouth. Instead of a slap, instead of spit, or pulling her hair. A kiss. Lena trembles. She wishes Kara had struck her instead.
Lena wakes up alone in her bed on the day of Lillian’s arrival. It’s an omen if there ever was one. She’s left to break the ice in her washing bowl on her own, shivering in her nightgown, while the sounds of servants shouting and thudding along the hallways echo from outside. The sight that greets her when she’s dressed and downstairs is that of Kara in her Sunday best, directing maids with armfuls of linens with a sense of organized chaos. Her face brightens when Lena descends the staircase.
“What’s all this?”
“Last minute preparations for your mother.” Kara chirps. “I noticed that we’d selected green linens for her room, but I remember you said that she’s quite fond of purple.”
“It’s a royal color.” Lena says faintly. Kara beams.
“So I’ve had them changed, and picked the china for tonight’s dinner.”
“Oh, please tell me--”
“It’s the ones with the swallow pattern. Jess is already unwrapping them from storage.”
Lena’s eyes widen in disbelief. Kara’s choices are perfect, even better than the ones she herself had made in her stress-addled state. “Will you be joining me for breakfast?”
“No time! Winn and Alex will be here by noon. There’s still so much to get done. But,” She pauses to deliver a chaste kiss to Lena’s cheek. “Enjoy. And for God’s sakes, relax. I’ve got a handle on it.”
Kara does. She works like a well oiled machine until luncheon, when Winn and Alex come in the same carriage. By the time they step in the door, there’s not a flower or a curtain out of place, and the servants are waiting in a line around the entrance as if they’d been dallying all the day. They ‘oh’ and ‘ah’ appropriately, despite having seen the house before, and Kara is overly keen to show them around to the rooms full of her personal touches. Lena is proud, too.
The tone for the afternoon is set when, before settling in the parlor for a game of gin rummy, Kara inquires after Lena’s well-being and touches at the crook of her elbow with her hand. “How are you feeling, my love?” Winn and Alex’s eyes dart over and furrow in tandem, as if they’d practiced it beforehand. Kara drops her touch from Lena’s elbow and chuckles nervously, bypassing the moment by asking to pour the group a drink.
Alex beats them in cards every round. It’s a mix of her skill and the distraction of her opponents. Winn seems dead-set on monopolizing Kara’s attention, sometimes with words, sometimes with soft touches that do not go unnoticed by Lena. When he’s not sweet talking her wife, he is looking at Lena like she has a series of colorful insults about his mother tacked on her forehead.
Alex, for her part, squints at Kara with a sense of misgiving. These looks are amplified whenever Kara shows Lena any touch of husbandly affection—adjusting an errant curl of her hair, or refreshing her drink before she’s thought to ask for it. At one point she thinks Winn’s head might really explode off of his body watching Kara squeeze her shoulder when she lays down a good hand.
The tension grows so swiftly that Lena recommends they retire from cards to the drawing room for music. Winn elbows his way to the pianoforte and proceeds to play a long (albeit lovely, unfortunately) love song with his eyes locked on Kara all the while. To Lena’s great distress, she looks pleased, even nodding her head along as his fingers work over the keys. Alex hasn’t detached her lips from the rim of her whiskey glass all the while.
“Mrs. Danvers. Mr. Danvers. Mr. Schott. Ms. Danvers.” Jess curtsies to each of them when she enters, looking breathless. She doesn’t seem to notice the tension. “Mrs. Luthor has arrived and is waiting in the Grand Hall.”
“Lord.” Lena sighs, straightening her skirts and rising from the couch. “Tell me her things have been taken to the East Wing room.”
There’s a flurry of activity. Kara and Lena tell Winn and Alex to prepare for dinner and meet them in the dining room by half seven. Despite the bluster of earlier, Kara looks shy as they make their way to the grand hall. “What if your mother doesn’t like me?”
“I’m sure she won’t. It’s a testament to your character.”
Lillian Luthor has looked the same since she plucked Lena from an Irish orphanage all those years ago. Lena supposes that demons don’t age. This is to Lena’s benefit, however, as over the course of her life she has seen her mother so few times that if she looked any different she likely would not recognize her. She waits in the Great Hall, surrounded by panicked looking servants, paying Lena no mind as she enters. The first person she notices, in fact, is Kara.
In retrospect, this is the beginning of the whole downhill trajectory of the evening. Had things been different—perhaps if Lena put off their meeting until dinner, or had the foresight to try and make Kara as Clark look less charming—something may have been salvaged of it. But things aren’t different. In this moment, Lillian sees Kara. Or, really, she sees Clark, and her eyes narrow with pleasure. She smiles and Lena can pinpoint the exact moment that Kara is trapped in her web. In retrospect, she should have prepared her better.
“Lena, so nice of you to finally greet your old mother.” Lillian says, not looking at Lena at all. “Or should I say Mrs. Danvers?”
“Good evening, mother. I’m glad to see you traveled safely.”
“Yes, uh. Good evening, Mrs. Luthor. I’m glad to meet you finally.” Kara stutters. Is she blushing? Now Lena is narrowing her eyes.
“Indeed, Mr. Danvers. I see my daughter neglected to mention how handsome you are. Or to mention you at all.” Lillian removes her gloves and hands them to Lena, still without so much as glancing her way. Lena is frustrated to see that Kara hasn’t looked at her either. Lillian extends her hand. “Don’t be shy. Didn’t your mother ever teach you manners?”
Kara stoops to kiss Lillian’s hand and Lena sees red.
Lena can, and has, endure any number of indignities. The death of her parents. The upbringing of an upper class woman. Marriage. And even at the hands of Kara Danvers, being made out of control of her own life and feelings. But this? The burden of jealousy? It will not stand. She should’ve known that this is how things would play out, and to think how close she’d been to you-know-what.
Lena huffs into her room and pulls the pins out of her hair impatiently. “Jess!” She hollers. “Ms. Huang!”
“Yes, Mrs. Danvers.” Jess comes in through the door, eyes wide. Lena nearly says don’t call me that, but stops herself. There are other needs to attend to that aren’t her basest and most petty ones.
“Prepare me an outfit for dinner tonight. And make it a good one. Actually, just lay out my slip. I’ll eat dinner in that.”
“I believe that would be inadvisable, Mrs. Danvers.”
“Fine, then the blue dress, with the—“ Lena gestures around her breasts and Jess understands, scurrying to her wardrobe and pulling out the appropriate drawer. She dresses her in near complete silence as Lena glares at her reflection in the mirror.
“Any special occasion, Ma’am, for the dress?”
“I’m trying to impress my husband.” Lena says, wincing when Jess pulls the stays particularly tight.
Once finished, she sends Jess to the dining room to oversee dinner preparations and, most of all, to give herself a moment to breathe. The dress and complicated updo of her hair put a fine mask over her vexation. She exits her bedroom into the parlor, surprised to see Winn sitting at the games table.
“Mrs. Danvers.” He greets. He’s not looking at her, rather focused on a tumbler of brown alcohol that sits next to his arm. “Fine evening, isn’t it?”
“Mr. Schott. I thought you and Ms. Danvers would be in your rooms until half seven.”
“I was hoping to run into you before supper.” Lena is no great reader of minds but she can sense that his energy is off. There’s something quietly disheveled about his appearance, although he’s in a fine outfit. “I wanted to talk to you about Clark.”
“My husband?” She prompts, notices how Winn’s fist clenches and releases. “Has he said something?”
“Your husband.” He laughs when he says it and it hits the wrong chord in Lena. “Has he told you he loves you?”
“Yes.” Lena responds. “Every day.”
“He can’t, you know. He’s a queer. A dandy.”
She’s not sure if it’s the brandy she’d had in her room, the stress of seeing her mother flirt with the object of her affection, or the audacity of Winslow Schott sitting in front of her and telling her that her wife is a man who lays with other men. It could be all three. With a placid expression she’d perfected in day school, she picks up his glass from the games table and drops it to the ground. It shatters at Winn’s feet. She doesn’t register his expression, whatever it is. “Do you think he loves you , then, Mr. Schott? Last night he fell asleep drooling on my bosom like a baby.” Winn exhales and his first clenches again. Lena’s voice drops to a hiss. “I don’t know what’s wrong with you and I don’t care. All I know is that tonight we are going to get together and have a pleasant dinner, am I understood?”
Alex chooses that moment to enter the parlor, looking as startled to see Winn there as Lena had been. “Winn, could you give me and...Mrs. Danvers a moment, please?”
“Happily.” He stands all in a huff and retreats to the dining room, feet stomping. “I’m finished here anyway.”
“Is everything quite alright Ms. Danvers? I really should be getting downstairs and making sure—oh!” Lena squeaks as Alex grabs her by her shoulder, moving to sit them together at the parlor table, dresses blended together. She leans forward, face serious.
“Has my brother been untoward with you?”
“Untoward—he’s my husband, Ms. Danvers! Is there really any such thing?”
“Listen to me, he’s well intentioned, but stupid. And blinded very easily from his morals by pretty women. If he’s touched you, tried to trick you into anything—“
“Ms. Danvers, I have to confess something to you—“
Footsteps come thudding up to the door. Lena knows they belong to Jess. “Mrs. Luthor, I’m sorry to disturb you, but your mother is downstairs harassing the servants…”
“Oh, thank God.” Lena murmurs under her breath, rising from Alex’s grasp. Alex looks right on the verge of arguing with her, but she moves on too quickly to allow her the chance. “I believe that’s our cue to join the others for dinner.”
The seating arrangements are also cursed, as it turns out. To Kara’s credit, there’s no way she could have foreseen this outcome when she was making them. They’re in the smaller dining room with the doors shuttered tight but for the servants coming in and out of the warming area. Kara is flanked on either side of the round table by Lillian and Lena, a blush affixed to her face and eyes downcast. Lillian seemed to have also chosen that evening to wear her most revealing dress. Across from them sits Winn, popping potatoes into his mouth and glaring at Lena. Alex sits to his side and does the same, Kara the object of her ire.
“Well!” Lillian says pleasantly, apropos of nothing. “I will say, the last thing I expected to hear from Mrs. Lord is that my Lena had married. She was always such a sullen girl, not really fit for love. But here we are! And to somebody so dashing. Although blonde.” Lillian reaches and sweeps at one of Kara’s errant curls with a finger. It bounces and springs back into place on her forehead. Kara blushes. Lena’s grip on her fork turns deadly. “We all have our faults. Tell me, Mr. Danvers. What was your trade before marrying my daughter?” She looks pointedly at Kara’s biceps, then reaches out to rub her hand over them. Kara chokes on a piece of steak.
This is ending tonight. One way or another, Lena is putting a stop to it. She toes off her flat and tosses it to the side. Then, slowly but with assuredness, she reaches her stockinged foot to wrap around Kara’s ankle. Never the master of subtlety, and faced with the dual assault of Lillian’s hand on her bicep and Lena’s toes crawling into her lap, she jumps. In the background, Lena faintly hears Alex telling Winn to keep his feet to himself.
By the end of dinner, everybody looks tired. Winn may be on the verge of tears, Alex has drunken herself into a half-stupor, and Kara’s best pants are stained in the groin from wine (wine that Lena had spilled, on purpose, to she would have an excuse to lean over and clean it up). The only person looking pleased with themselves is Lillian, who dabs at her mouth with a pristine white cloth napkin before dropping it daintily to the table. “ Bellisimo . Not quite as good as my cooks in France, but it was a fine try. Now what do you ladies say we retire to the parlor and leave the boys to talk politics?” Lena looks askance at Kara, who glances up at her with heavy eyes. She looks south of happy.
The parlor and the drawing room are Jack-and-Jill style, one leading into the other and separated by a wall and a door. Winn and Kara’s serious, muted voices can be heard over the sipping of coffee and clinking of China in the drawing room. “I am not a queer and I will not have you insinuate it to my wife!” Kara yells, voice clear as a bell.
“Politics must be interesting this year.” Lillian remarks, and sips her tea.
It takes several hours and 5 fake yawns for Lena to extract herself back to her chambers. She can’t say exactly what will happen—nobody can see the future, after all—but she has a fine idea of what might come to pass. With that in mind, she asks Jess to lay out a slip and a pair of stockings before dismissing her for the evening.
Kara comes stomping in, just as she’d hoped, all apple-cheeked bluster, and slams the door behind herself. Lena has been waiting—very patiently—and rises at the sound of wood against wood. The force of it trembles the room and trembles Lena.
There are no words passing between them when Kara tumbles up and into her space, hand darting out and grabbing Lena’s wrist. Her grip is hot and so tight that Lena knows she couldn’t break free of it with her best effort. She wants that grip everywhere on her body, wants to feel it sing to her, but there’s something even more satisfying in the way Kara loosens it in the end. There’s an implicit dare in it. Lena could free herself, if she wants to, but she doesn’t.
“What do you think you’re doing?” If anything were going to break the myth of Kara’s power it might be her trembling, liquid voice. But it only magnifies the experience, reminding Lena how easy she’ll be to unravel, finally, when the time comes. “Your mother was down there, and my sister! And Winn! What on earth has got into you?”
Lena deliberately presses her chest, covered by a sheet of fabric so thin it’s edging in on a joke, against Kara’s. “Please tell me you’re not cross.” She says in a mocking voice, earning herself renewed pressure on her captive wrist.
“This isn’t a joke, Lena.” Kara hisses. “It was—that was—wildly, I mean, wildly inappropriate.” There’s endless revelment to be had in the way Kara rises to chomp at her bait. It has the predictability of turning the crank of an ornery Jack in the Box. If only Lena’d known how well this would work weeks earlier, the time that could have been saved.
But wasting time in looking back on the past is futile. The only thing that matters now is Kara’s blown out eyes and the fire of her hand. “You’re right.” Lena concedes, to Kara’s apparent confusion. She wets her lips in preparation of her next words. “I’ve been so, so bad.”
Kara turns a shade of red that Lena hadn’t realized human beings were capable of. Her jaw hinges open but she snaps it closed just as quickly. For a moment Lena thinks Kara might actually grab her and shake her for all the scarcely contained frustration in her face. Not touching her is an impossible task. Lena reaches her free hand up only to have that too be snatched and held. Putting up a token struggle, Lena squirms this way and that as Kara uses her arms as a buffer between their bodies. “Stop it, I mean it.”
“I don’t know.“ The tremble returns to Kara’s voice. For the first time, Lena recognizes the arousal and frustration lurking underneath. “Whatever you’re doing to me, stop it. It’s not fair.”
“Poor baby.” Lena coos. “What are you going to do about it?”
“Are you going to punish me, Kara? You don’t have the nerve. I could do anything I wanted and you wouldn’t lay a single finger on me.” To demonstrate, Lena wretches her hands from Kara’s grip. It’s an easy maneuver and leaves Kara, chest heaving and impotent, with her arms hanging at her sides. Maintaining eye contact, Lena reaches underneath her dress and rolls her stockings down her legs, watching as Kara’s eyes break away to observe inches of skin revealed.
Stepping out of them, Lena crumples them into her fists and presents them to Kara. During the time she struggles to form a reaction, Lena crushes them into her face, noting the way Kara takes the assault willingly. Her head turns to one side as the fabric, with the aid of Lena’s palm, rubs into her cheek and mouth, and slowly turns back when it falls down to the floor. “See? Nothing. You’re docile as a lamb.” Kara’s eyes are wide, searching her face. Her mouth is open. Lena aches to see anything from her, a reaction, a stirring. The longer Kara stays unruffled the more perturbed Lena is.
Lena’s palm itches. She reaches up with it and taps Kara’s left cheek. It’s not much. Just enough to again tilt her head. Still nothing, that same dizzying look. Lena recognizes it as sadness in that moment, pity maybe, and it roils in her like a great wave. The next slap isn’t gentle. It sounds in the room and almost echoes. It leaves Kara’s body twisted and her own hand touching the assaulted cheek.
A dam broken, Lena comes at Kara with hands flying, and Kara struggles to catch her. They talk over each other and Lena lands two open-handed hits against Kara’s chest before they’re again are again captured in Kara’s grip.
“I hate you, I hate you—!”
“I don’t understand!” They’ve walked back so that Lena’s back is pressed against the edge of the bed. She’s stopped struggling but her hair is a mess and her slip is twisted about her body. “You’ll pretend you love me, but you won’t fuck me, not even out of pity—”
“Pretend I what? Would you just listen to me for a moment? You’re being—”
“What am I, hysterical?” Lena spits. “I hate you. I wish you were dead. You disgust me endlessly.” She watches Kara’s throat bob, watches the color continue to rise to her cheeks. She’s just as disheveled as Lena is, maybe even more so. Lena gives an experimental wriggle and finds her still ironclad. “What’s the matter with you? Are you deaf as well as stupid?”
“What do you want from me, what do you want me to do?”
“Hit me, tell me you hate me, do anything—“
Before Lena’s completed her sentence, her body is being pivoted around. In a second she finds herself facing away from Kara but hinged in the middle by her forearm. Her cheek is against the fabric of the duvet, hands resting there too, and there’s a gust of cold air on her bottom. Lena recognizes that her slip has been pushed up and that without her stockings the skin there is bare. That’s all she’s able to process before she feels the hot sting of Kara’s open hand on her ass.
She squeals and her body jolts. Kara holds her fast and delivers three slaps, each increasing in intensity, to her bottom and the backs of her thighs. Lena’s hands fist in the fabric of her bedcover and she lets her mouth fall open, lets herself taste the fabric and the dye. The pain is exquisite, but temporary.
“Is that what you wanted?” Kara’s voice is raw. She drops her forearm and Lena’s fawn legs nearly collapse from under her. The arms bracing on the bed are her only saving grace from falling completely to the floor.
“Why did you stop? Do it again.” Now that Kara is no longer striking her, other feelings start to seep back in. But Kara doesn’t come back to her. She stays removed, and Lena allows her body to lower until she’s on her knees with her hands still holding the bedsheets.
“Do you love me?”
“I hate you.” Lena says again, with no bite. Her mouth is trembling.
“I know that’s not true.” Kara whispers. Her voice makes Lena feel suddenly and inexplicably like she could cry. She hears footsteps, then feels the whisp of Kara’s presence behind her. Solid hands grab her under her biceps and lift her until she’s back in her position from before. An arm around her middle, her face in the fabric of the duvet. She hasn’t seen Kara this entire time, but she doesn’t need to have seen her. Or thinks that she maybe couldn’t bare it. “Do you really think that this is going to help?”
Her hand travels up the naked back of Lena’s thigh as she says it. For the first time, Lena wonders. Fingers skim over the welted red marks where Kara had struck her and Kara’s other hand slips from beneath her stomach to rest in her hair. She doesn’t grab, but tangles, strokes. “You’re so beloved to me I feel like my heart can’t stand it.”
She chokes out a sob when Kara enters her. The hand tangled in her hair moves to rest next to her own, the one clenched in the fabric. She uses it as a brace to lower her body over Lena’s in a protective shape and reaches out with one pinky to link it with Lena’s. Before she moves, she whispers “Are you alright?” Lena turns her cheek so that Kara’s lips brush at the corner of her mouth. She wants to feel her breathing while it happens. “Has it fixed you yet?”
“Can I look at you while you’re doing it?” She says in lieu of a real answer. Kara happily obliges her, jostling their bodies until she’s on the bed and Lena’s hips rest in her lap. Her fingers resume their movement for a few blissful strokes. “I meant really look at me, Kara. Put your face next to mine.”
“You didn’t answer my question.”
Behind her closed eyes. Lena sees Kara being cradled in her mother’s arms as an infant, baptised in a creek bed. She sees her picking through romance novels and jimmying out the words she’ll use later to endear Lena to her so deeply. “I do love you.” As soon as the words leave her mouth, Kara is moving toward her, wrapping her up in her arms. She has other words, says other things, but they’re lost to that place that inconsequential things go, into the rock of their bodies.
“Is this a joke? Jessica, is there no way for you to talk to your mistress?”
Jess pinkens, scrubbing harder at the plate in front of her. Above them, the chandelier trembles rhythmically. There’s a pause, a distinctly feminine moan, and then the shaking continues twofold.
“For two known homosexuals, they’re making the best of their situation. I will say that.” The maid tuts.
“You too?” Alex says when she opens her bedroom door to see Winn looking harried. “Come in, I’ll fix you a brandy.”
Winn thinks he may have made a mistake. The sounds of it are even clearer in Alex’s bedroom. He distinctly hears Lena’s voice cry out a name.
“Kara?” Winn’s brow furrows. “Who’s Kara?”
“Must be a coping mechanism.” Alex says, downing his finger of brandy as well as her own.
She’s being swallowed in her mouth, and her slip is falling off her body. It’s not what she’d imagined. It’s not her governess or the girls from day school, and it’s certainly not Clark. It’s Kara, pressed so deeply inside of her that she’s not sure where she ends and Lena begins. It’s her mouth and the hot promise of her body and her voice saying I will never, ever go if you don’t want me to. There are so many things outside of the bubble of her bed. They’ll be sitting for their portrait next week. Kara needs new white shirts. Lena needs to talk to her about the appropriate way to react when her mother flirts with her. But while Kara is moving in her, while her mouth is occupied between her legs, she can only think of only one thing.
What a funny trick we’ve played. She has to press her knuckles into her mouth to suppress a laugh made up of pure joy. Kara Danvers, her love, her woman, legally wed to her. She has to remember to bring it up to her tomorrow morning. Kara will find it funny too, Lena is sure.
The attic door opens with a violent sound and a cloud of dust rising.
“Clark, dude, what the fuck? Grandma just died man, have some respect.”
“My hand slipped.” A red head pops up into the cramped space, swiveling around. “Are you sure this is where mom keeps her weed?”
“Positive, I saw her crawl up here with a box yesterday.”
“Where is she now?”
“‘Kay.” Clark emerges fully into the attic. The ceilings are high enough that he can stand at his full height but the cowlick at the back of his head brushes the ceiling. He looks around as the other boy crawls up the ladder behind him, adjusting the thick-rimmed glasses on his face. “There’s some funny shit up here, Al.”
“No kidding. You know grandma was a stone-cold weirdo. God rest her soul.” Alex makes the sign of the cross over his Canucks sweater. Clark reaches over and wipes some dust off of his brother’s head, hair the same dark red as his, and face a near mirror image. On an unspoken pact, they split up to scour the wooden confines of the attic, upturning vases, sending cardboard boxes tumbling to the floor. “Can you believe we’re in this shithole for the summer? I fucking hate Ontario.”
“Don’t let mom hear you say that. She’s sad enough already--I think I found something.” Clark beckons his brother over to a large square tarp-covered object. It sits half as tall as Clark’s body and is flanked on each side with a steamer trunk.
“That’s not mom’s kush, man.”
“I know. But maybe it’s something better?”
“Better than weed?”
Clark rolls his eyes and reaches for the corner of the tarp, giving it a sharp pull. It falls away, leaving the painting underneath exposed.
“Woah.” Alex whispers. “Dude, I think that’s our great-great-great grandparents.”
“What? No.” Clark hasn’t torn his eyes from the picture. “Dude, I told you to get glasses. That’s two ladies.”
“Fuck off, that’s great-great-great grandma Lena.” Alex points at the darker haired woman in the painting, her gaze cracked with age. “And that’s great-great-great grandpa Clark. You were named after him, fucko.”
“That. Is. A. Woman.” Clark enunciates each word with a jab of his finger. “I might be twelve but I know a woman when I see one. That looks exactly like Aunt Barb.”
“You’re on crack, Clark. If that was a woman how would they have had babies, huh, idiot?” Alex’s attention has already been stolen away. He’s opened one of the steamer trunks and is pilfering through on his knees. “Woah. This is full of like, letters and stuff.”
“What do they say?”
“Nothing interesting.” Alex’s eyes skim over the yellowed pages. They feel like tissue paper in his hands. “The worst New Year’s Eve dinner of the last decade ended in Mr. Schott trying to walk back to town in the middle of the night and my mother showing up at Clark’s bedroom half-dressed. I guess that’s spicy.”
“Some of these are kind of dirty. Listen, this one’s from Lena to Clark--I think of you fondly, my love--me on top of you, you inside of me…”
“Hold your boner, freak, those are your great-great-great grandparents.”
The sound of another set of feet clamoring up the ladder makes them both startle. A girl’s head pops up into the attic, twisted into a mask of anger. “Alex! Clark! You guys are not supposed to be up here.”
“Shut up, Olive.”
“Yeah, Olive, get that tree branch out of your ass. You’re just up to it because your dad abandoned you and your grandma is dead.”
“We have the same dad.” Olive huffs, climbing all the way up the ladder. Slightly taller than her younger brothers, she has to stoop in the confines of the room. “What are you guys doing, anyway? Is that great-great-great grandma Lena? Who’s that other lady?”
“How weird is it that we know our great-great-great grandparents on sight?” Alex wonders aloud, still skimming over the contents of a fragile letter. Clark reaches into the trunk and produces a gold locket on a long chain, popping it open with a stubby finger.
“This family is obsessed with history. Mom always says they’re the reason we’re rich. Seriously though, who’s that woman?” Olive moves closer to inspect the painting. “Is that supposed to be Clark?”
“The OG.” Alex hums. “Look—this is him...or her?” He turns the opened locket for his sibling’s inspection and they crowd around it, humming. “I’m not crazy, are I?”
“I guess. But they had 3 kids, dude. Last I heard chicks can’t get chicks pregnant. Also, that’s insane.”
“Adoption?” Olive suggests. Clark and Alex shrug. “They lived in Creemore, right? Or whatever it was back then. You don’t think that the county clerk’s office or the library might have...I don’t know, records or something, of the adoptions or births?”
“I mean. It sounds more fun than playing ding dong ditch with grandma's neighbors while mom cries over her and dad’s wedding album.” Alex shrugs. “I’m in.”
“I think it’s stupid. But Al is right, so I’m in too.” Clark shuts the chest with finality. “Wait—mom’s weed?”
“She keeps it in grandma's old matrushka doll collection.” Olive says as she descends the staircase. “Last one to the bikes has to ride on my handlebars.”
This sparks the boys into action. They scramble down the staircase behind their sister, feet clomping on the wooden slats. Alex makes it down before Clark, who lingers for a moment. His body on the stairs and his head poking into the attic. He looks at the portrait, eyes steady, and then he begins his descent, shuttering the attic door after himself.