Lena Luthor [11:22 PM] hey
Alex blinks down at her phone. She looks back up at the TV where an old rerun of Full House is playing on Nick @ Night, and then back down at the screen. How did Lena Luthor even get her phone number, she wonders, although answers her own question with a single word: Kara. But why on earth would she be texting her now, at nearly half past eleven, and well into her nightly moping hours? And why Hey? Is Lena not a 24 year old science prodigy? Why is she texting Alex like they just matched on Tinder?
Alex [11:45 PM]: whats up
She watches her phone screen closely. Three dots pop up on her screen immediately, then disappear. Lena never texts back. Alex sets her phone down on the couch cushion.
They do match on Tinder, about a week later. Alex swipes right out of the pure shock of it all, then wonders if it was some kind of programming error. Lena is, last time they spoke, dating James. And straight. And has no business showing up on Alex’s lady Tinder. When the screen changes to say that It’s a Match! She nearly spits her coffee across the kitchen.
Lena’s profile is about what you would expect. Three pictures, one taken of her at their Christmas party, and inexplicably what looks like a headshot from her senior year of college. Her bio is revealing of nothing. Business owner. Black coffee lover. New to this whole thing.
Alex looks down at her own black coffee and blinks.
Her phone vibrates to signal a new incoming message in the middle of her musing and Alex has to juggle it for a minute to avoid dropping it directly into her mug. When she sees its from Lena, she swears. This shit is about to make her late to to work.
Lena Luthor [8:52] can we grab a coffee sometime
Lena Luthor [8:52] my treat
So much has happened in the last 3 minutes that she really needs to just put her phone away and get into her car, use the drive to parse out what the fuck is going on exactly. But Kara, ever the master of timing, chooses that exact moment to call.
“No, it’s Barack Obama. Yes, Kara, it’s Alex.”
“You okay? You sound…”
“I’m fine.” Alex says, harsher than intended. She takes a hard drink of her coffee, feels the caffeine and the burn of whiskey (just a nip, to keep her easy). Her neck has a crick in it from falling asleep on the couch. She palms it and winces. “It’s just been a weird morning.”
“Oh.” Kara replies faintly. “Well, can you bring my bag to the DEO? I think I left it at yours last night.”
“Yeah.” Alex takes a finishing sip and leaves the mug in the sink, clomping into the living room to look for Kara’s knapsack. “Hey, you wouldn’t happen to know if Lena is still—I mean, how are things with her and James?”
“Fine, I think. Neither of them have mentioned it to me in a while.”
“Oh. Okay.” Alex grabs the strap of Kara’s bag and hefts it up. “I’ve got your bag.”
After they hang up Alex looks at Lena’s texts again, bag hanging limply from her other hand. She glances at the shut door of her bedroom, then to the nest of a couch, messy from her having slept on it for the past few weeks. Her normally pristine apartment cluttered with clothes and half-drunk water glasses and beer bottles. Kara hadn’t said anything when she came over, but Alex could see the worry on her face plain as a sunrise.
Alex [9:15 AM] sure. When are you free?
She breathes deep. Lena responds, asking about tomorrow, which is a Saturday. This is all just too fucking weird. Alex agrees.
What the fuck am I doing she thinks when she picks up the coffees and pastries. What the fuck am I doing as she walks down the street, around the corner, and up to the stairs to Lena’s apartment building. Seriously Alex what the fuck is going on as she punches in the special code Lena gave her and takes the lift up, up, up. It opens directly into the apartment, which doesn’t offer her a lot of time for more sophisticated processing.
Lena is in the kitchen putting out plates. For a couple of scones and coffees. Alex opens her dumb maw to make some kind of off color remark about it, but she looks so doeish and unsure of herself that all that comes out is “Nice digs.” Lena smiles, a twitch of her mouth, and the crease between her eyes eases.
“Thank you. Um, sit down.”
Alex realizes about 5 minutes in that she doesn’t actually have anything to say to Lena. This might have been a stupid idea because sure, they get along well enough in large social gatherings and when they grab lunch together with Kara, but one on one? It’s weird. And it would be maximum awkward if the way that Lena is picking apart the layers of her scone without eating any of it didn’t make it seem like she was fixing to say something.
Hopefully it’s not about Tinder, which has been admittedly haunting Alex all day. She’d stopped herself from bringing it up to Kara no less than 10 times on Friday, trying to figure out if Lena was asking her out on a date or what. The biggest inhibitor was that Alex has suspected for a minute or two that her sister might have, maybe, just the smallest baby-crush on her friend. These things are like cuts: if you don’t look at it, it doesn’t hurt quite as much. She’s not sure if she wants to give Kara a reason to look at it. So she keeps her mouth shut.
“So, I wanted to talk to about something.” Lena begins, having annihilated her scone and now working on the coffee sleeve, ripping at it. Finally. Alex sets down her own drink and leans forward, arms on the counter.
“Shoot.” Lena takes a deep breath and pushes it out.
“I broke up with James and I’m gay. A lesbian.” She says into her plate. Her hands are folded primly in her lap and a curtain of hair falls over one shoulder, partially obscuring her from Alex’s view. There’s a brief rush of excitement before Alex realizes that this is worst case scenario. She likes Lena, sure, but not romantically, and she’s now beginning to see the common sense behind Maggie rejecting her for being fresh off the boat.
“Look, Lena, I’m flattered, but—“ Lena’s face falls into a mask of confusion. This sucks. “I’m not interested.”
“What? No. No! No. I’m not asking you out.”
“Oh.” Alex sits back. “I just thought—because of the Tinder…”
“Right. That’s confusing. I was just trying to work up the courage to tell you. I didn’t know how. You’re actually...the first person.”
Life can be cylindrical in a funny, sick kind of way. A year ago she was having a similar conversation with Maggie, arms outstretched, looking for a lifeline. Something to make her feelings real, make them concrete, and now here Lena is looking for the same thing from her of all people. Alex Danvers, a year out of the closet, whiskey in her coffee, who can’t even sleep in her own bed anymore. It’s like being called for jury duty.
Alex thinks of Maggie, she thinks of sitting across the table from her and cracking open her ribcage. Then she reaches across the counter and places a hand on Lena’s wrist. Lena stutters for a moment, a piece of film stuck in a projector, and Alex sees that her eyes are wet. Then she smiles and it feels like a thank you.
Turns out, Lena is actually very fucking cool, and they have a lot in common. Also turns out that feeling that Alex assumed was indigestion was actually loneliness. Not that Kara and the rest of the Superfriends hadn’t been annoyingly present since she broke up with Maggie, but there’d been a void in Alex’s life that they couldn’t exactly fill.
Kara will never be as invested in watching all of the parts of Fingersmith on YouTube as Lena is. And Winn will never be as talented at swiping through her Tinder for her. It would be perfect, actually, except for one thing that bags at Alex—and it isn’t even Lena’s fault.
“Setting up a date?” Alex smirks. Lena has been talking hushed and sweet to somebody on the phone. It sounds like how Alex used to talk to Maggie, back when things first started. You can hear the butterflies in her stomach just from the way she says talk to you later and when it’s over she emerges from the kitchen with glassy eyes. Lena’s face scrunches as she brushes past Alex into the living room.
“I’ve never had any gay friends.”
“Me either. What is this again?”
“The L Word. Sure you don’t want a beer or anything?”
“Sorry, I just can’t believe you only have Budweiser.”
Alex shrugs. “Kara brought it over. It’s her favorite.”
There’s a pause and Lena refocuses on the TV, chewing on her lip. They’re sitting right in the middle of Alex’s couch bed, because Alex is a long ways away from feeling shame again. Lena doesn’t say anything when she enters the apartment, but unlike Kara there’s no look of concern. She has Alex’s duvet wrapped around her shoulders. “Kara’s favorite beer is Budweiser? It can’t even get her drunk!”
“Don’t get me started. She’s a small town girl at heart.”
They refocus on the TV for a minute, or Lena does. Alex is looking at her face because mess recognizes mess and behind the light flickering over her features there’s a rosy color to Lena’s cheeks. She’s crush-pink, and Alex hates that she can recognize it on sight, but she can.
Then again, maybe she’s wrong. Maybe the apartment is just hot. She doesn’t want to believe that what she thinks is happening is actually happening. While Kara might be infatuated with Lena, Alex doubts it’s romantic. The other woman would be cruising at 100 miles-per-hour toward total personal destruction.
Alex would know because she’s been there. And as Lena’s unofficial lesbian mentor, it’s her responsibility to steer her right. If what she thinks is happening is actually happening. Which it might not be. It had better not be, anyway.
“Fine.” Lena shrugs one shoulder.
Her mouth twists in a way that means what she’s about to say is, at max, 50% the truth. For a CEO, Lena is shockingly bad at keeping her tells off her face. “No. Nobody really my type.”
How do you know what your type is? The phrase is on the tip of Alex’s tongue before she answers her own question with a single word.
She and Lena go fishing together because Lena has never been and Alex loves it and it’s her sworn duty to teach Lena to be a better lesbian. They go out on a boat, drink some beers, cast some lines. Just like she used to do with Jeremiah when she was little.
Lena actually catches a fish, too, a little one. She screams until Alex cuts it off the hook, but still. Alex gets a pretty good Snap out of it without dropping her phone into the lake despite her unsteady hands, and sends it to Kara.
she really is good at everything. Her sister says.
“Did you send that to Kara?” Lena asks, scrolling through her phone like she doesn’t care.
“Maybe.” Alex responds. The boat bobs underneath them. Their lines are still out, as is a half eaten sandwich sitting on the unoccupied bench. She realizes belatedly that this is the most fun she’s had since Maggie left, then that she’s pretty drunk for a Saturday morning. With unexpected shame, she wishes she wasn’t.
“So you and Lena have been hanging out a lot.” Alex is surprised it’s taken this long for Kara to bring it up. She’s sitting on a desk at the DEO, full Supergirl regalia, swinging her legs back and forth. When she says it, one hand comes to pause in front of her forehead as if to brush hair away, a residual habit from when she’d had bangs in high school.
“Uh-huh.” Alex turns away from her computer. “Lena’s cool.”
“I know.” Kara is smiling. She has a twinkle in her eye that Alex doesn’t like. “I noticed that your apartment is cleaner.”
“Can’t have the CEO of a Fortune 500 company over with shit on my floor.”
“What do you guys talk about? When she comes over.”
“You.” Alex says it without thinking, meant to be a tease. Instead of laughing Kara’s hand goes straight through the desk and sends her toppling to the floor face-first with a boom that shakes the room.
Alex squints. First at the destroyed desk, then at her sister.
“Sorry.” Kara says. “I saw a bug?”
How does that quote go? Friends are like—stars, or boobs, or something. Lena isn’t like any person, place, or thing that Alex has ever met. It doesn’t take her long to see what it is that Kara’s so obsessed with.
They share a lot of things that they don’t talk about. Grief and the crushing weight of responsibility are sometimes better communicated through watching women’s soccer on Lena’s couch and playing marry, fuck, kill. Alex doesn’t talk about Maggie for a long time, just like Lena doesn’t talk about Kara, or her family.
But it’s a leaking dam, really, and Alex should have known that from the second they matched on Tinder. Lena leaves the main page for the National a City Alcoholics Anonymous meeting open on Alex’s laptop after using it to Google take out menus. Alex hugs her for the first time in the doorway of her apartment, both of them smelling like booze. It happens with the ease of a two year old tying her shoelaces, and Lena is clearly unpracticed as shit, which makes Alex sad.
“Do you and Lena hug?” Alex asks Kara the next night, the two of them walking along a deserted street home.
“Sometimes, yeah.” Kara gets a strange, gassy look on her face. “Do you?”
“We did yesterday. It was—I don’t know, I just get the feeling she doesn’t do it a lot.”
Kara and Lena are hugging when she stops by to pick Lena up for lunch a few days after that. Not just hugging but, like, hugging. Kara has Lena cradled to her chest and Lena is gripping at Kara’s shoulder blades. It seems like, after that, all Alex does is walk in on them holding each other.
(Lately, all Alex dreams of is Maggie. Maggie crawling into her bed and wrapping her up in her arms as if she’s just coming home from a temporary absence. She refuses to think that the two things might be related, or to let herself believe that her sister’s happiness is making her bitter).
They kiss on a Wednesday night, at 8 PM, in Lena’s apartment. Alex says: “I haven’t been doing well. Since Maggie left.” It’s the first time she’s said that out loud to anybody and the ache lays in her chest like a newborn baby. Lena touches her cheek with her hand and kisses her on the mouth and to Alex it’s something like the bite of whiskey in her morning coffee. It’s a firm, close-mouthed press that only serves, she thinks, to say something that Lena can’t vocalize herself. I know, maybe, or we can be friends anyway.
In the background, Lena’s apartment door comes off its hinges. When Alex looks up Kara is standing there with a take out bag in one hand and a slab of wood and metal in the other. She sees that cut clearly as if it was slashed across her forehead. She looks sick, and when she tries to take a step forward her foot goes nearly through the floor.
“Kara.” Lena is half-standing, moving forward, then easing the door out of Kara’s hands. Her petite frame looks so out of place in front of Kara’s bulkier one, half holding an enormous piece of hardware in her hands.
And God, Alex really had that one wrong, didn’t she? If a person could be green with jealousy Kara would look like a human piece of lime Jell-o. Her eyes keep flicking between the two women, although Lena is speaking to her and saying something like it wasn’t what it looks like. Like Kara is a scorned lover and not a best friend.
Yeah. She really, really had it wrong. Alex has never been so pleased to realize this.
“C’mere.” Lena guides her to the kitchen after laying the door on the ground. Her hand is on Kara’s bicep. Soothing her. Now that they’ve zeroed in on each other, Alex might as well not even be there, so she makes herself scarce. It’s easy enough because of the gaping hole where the door used to be. She steps across the debris and out of the threshold, taking a deep breath.
She goes back to check on them hours later and finds the door propped against the doorframe and her sister’s underwear on the handle. There’s only so much a woman can take in a day, even Alex Danvers, so she leaves immediately.
The coffee shop is mostly empty and Alex spots Lena right away. She’s set up at a table near the window, already seems to have had two coffees despite the fact that Alex is five minutes early to their agreed meeting time, and has her laptop open in front of her typing away.
“You didn’t tell me this was a working meeting.” Alex says, sitting down. “I didn’t even bring my badge.”
“Sorry, sorry, sorry.” Lena’s hands continue to fly over the keyboard until the crinkle up top her nose eases and she shuts the computer. Alex has her half-drunk coffee in her hand about to take a sip. “You’re disgusting.”
“Hello to you too.” Alex says around the rim of the cup, before handing it back. “I’m curious to hear what couldn’t wait until the meeting tonight—wait, you’re coming to the meeting tonight, right?”
“Yes, I’m coming to the meeting tonight.”
“The best part of AA is your impression of gay Darryl. I think it might be single handedly keeping me sober.”
“I know.” Lena says seriously. “I’m coming to the meeting tonight. I just wanted to—“
The little bell on the coffee shop door sings and Lena’s gaze moves over Alex’s shoulder. Alex twists in her chair to see what she’s looking at, and. Oh. There’s a brunette woman with a briefcase and perfectly tailored pants looking back at Lena with a wry grin and all of the blood in Alex’s brain rushes away from her brain. She turns severely back to Lena and glares.
“You’re a horrible person.”
“Sam, hi!” Lena stands to hug the woman, Sam, apparently. “Sam, this is Alex. Alex, this is my friend Sam Arias.”
Everything fades into the background when Sam looks at her and shakes her hand, even Lena hammily pretending that she just got a text from Kara and has to leave early. Before she goes, Lena makes eye contact with Alex, purse over her shoulder. She has a hickey on her neck left by Kara.
I’ll get you later. Alex mouths.
You’re welcome. Lena mouths back, and exits with the tinkle of a bell.