There’s something undeniably relaxing about leaving behind civilization for open roads and fields, as cliche as it is. Not that she’d ever admit that to Kara. Or anyone for that matter.
In fact, she’s beginning to discover that there are many things she’d loathe to admit to greater society.
Like how her stomach has started to flutter at the attractive way Kara keeps laughing, or that her forearms look good when they flex on the steering wheel, wisps of blonde hair blowing lightly out of her ponytail. The farther they get away from the city, the softer Kara seems. And when she glances over, Lena feels something dangerous happen to her insides.
It’s much easier to ignore Kara when they’re still deeply entrenched in society. Out here with nothing but road in front of them, Lena’s having a hard time squashing the passing thought of what Kara’s fingers might feel like if they were working her over.
It's reason six million why Lena’s regretting having agreed to this road trip. It was ridiculous enough knowing she was going to meet Kara’s adoptive mother after barely knowing each other. Thinking about any facet of the situation, from an inconvenient attraction, to the logistics, makes her feel crazy.
“So what’s Midvale like?” she asks, scrambling for conversation. The silence had started to sound deafening even though Kara seemed unconcerned, a gentle smile on her face as she drove.
Kara’s propped one elbow on the open window next to her to hold her head up and she glances over at Lena, fingers tapping idly on the steering wheel.
“Small,” she answers, humming it out through a smile.
“Descriptive,” Lena deadpans, rolling her eyes when Kara laughs. “Anything else critical to know before I get there?”
Sitting up, Kara shifts to hold the steering wheel by her thumbs, low in her lap and shrugs a shoulder. “Not really. There’s not much going on.” Kara looks over with a teasing grin that makes Lena press her lips together. “It’s a town of only one stoplight, so…”
That takes a second to process. “I’m sorry, what?”
“We only have one stoplight.”
“You’re saying that like you’re proud of it or something.”
Kara laughs. “It’s on our welcome sign and everything.”
Lena makes a face that only pulls deeper laughter out of Kara and she has to turn to look out the window lest she grace Kara with the satisfaction of a smile.
The ride is blissfully uneventful for the first few hours. They don’t talk much apart from disagreeing over which radio station to keep on – after Lena marvels at the fact the car has no other method of playing music other than the radio. Kara ends up winning the argument if only because she claims to know the only station that won’t fizzle out the farther they get away from civilization.
Town after town passes them by, seeming to get increasingly smaller as they go, until all they seem to drive through are endless open spaces speckled by the occasional farmhouse. It’s peaceful. The soft lull of music, Kara’s low humming and the shaky sound of the truck engine chugging along. Lena reads, dozes, stares outside as cars fly by in the opposite direction.
Peaceful until the engine starts sputtering ominously and Lena knows immediately what’s about to happen even as a series of surprised noises tumble out of Kara’s mouth and the truck starts to slow towards a stop.
“Oh, come on, not now,” Kara says, hitting at the steering wheel like that’s going to get the engine to rev back to life.
Kara manages to steer them to the side of the road before the engine stalls completely and Lena sends her eyes skyward in a silent plea for help. The headline blinks in her head: Heir to Luthor Throne Found Dead on Side of Country Road. Somewhere in the article, there’ll be a quote from Lillian about how Lena’s relationship with Kara, the moron who got her killed, was always a questionable endeavor.
“It’s fine. I can fix this,” Kara says. Her expression is all panic.
“I’m sure,” Lena says skeptically, slouching in her seat and crossing her arms. Though she doesn’t look over, she can sense the way Kara silently hypes herself up, nodding as if to reassure herself.
Kara cannot fix it. That becomes quickly evident after about five minutes of Kara just staring under the hood and waving smoke away from her face. How Kara’s survived with this truck for any length of time with an apparent total lack of knowledge is beyond her.
Lena doesn’t have many options. She either sits there and lets Kara impotently stare at the problem until they’re murdered by some passing small town serial killer or she gets out of the car to fix it herself so they can be on their way.
Out of spite, she sits there a few more seconds before finally shoving the truck door open with a creak and putting Kara out of her misery.
“I’m fixing it,” Kara says immediately, hands on her hips as she looks at Lena apologetically.
“No, you’re not,” Lena says, pulling her sweater off and throwing it back in the truck before pulling her hair up and off her head and tying it back with the small band on her wrist.
“I’m sure it’ll start up again in no time,” Kara replies, clearly trying to continue to reassure Lena of the impossible. If Lena wasn’t irritated by the delay, she might find it cute. “She always does. I checked the oil before we left, I’m not sure what’s wrong.”
“Just move,” Lena says, pushing Kara out of the way a bit so she can get a better view of the engine.
“It’s okay, I’ll just call triple A,” Kara says, but Lena knows well enough that her phone doesn’t have service and even if it did, no one’s getting out to help them for a long while. It’s been miles upon miles since they last saw anything that looked remotely lived in.
“Yeah, you do that,” Lena says dryly, pulling the neck of her shirt up to cover her nose and trying to make out what could be the problem with Kara’s truck.
There are about five immediate issues that Lena can diagnose, but none of them are too threatening. It takes her a few more steps in her default checklist to find out why the engine’s stalled and if it’s something she can at least put a band-aid on that’ll last them until the next town.
“This thing is a piece of junk,” Lena mutters, standing up and shooting a droll look at Kara’s expression of indignation.
“She is not,” Kara defends, but it sounds much thinner a defense than it had in the driveway of the Hockey Haus.
“Tell me you have a screwdriver or something.”
Kara perks up, darting around Lena to the passenger side and retrieving something from the glove compartment. “Here you go,” Kara says proudly, handing over a small flathead screwdriver.
Lena takes it and turns back to the now mostly cooled engine, reaching out to unscrew the cover over the air filter.
“Do you know what you’re doing?” Kara asks, skeptically watching her from the side.
“Yes,” Lena says, holding the screwdriver in her teeth as she reaches to pull out an air filter that looks as if it’s never been changed.
Lena holds it with one hand and reaches for her phone with the other, dangling the filter in front of Kara’s face and shining her phone’s flashlight through it from the other side. When it doesn’t penetrate the dense collection of dust and particles in the filter, Lena lowers her phone and plucks the screwdriver back out of her mouth. “That’s reason one of about twenty why your truck is a piece of junk.”
“Hey!” Kara tsks indignantly, peering around the filter to glare at Lena. “This piece of junk is your ride home.”
Lena sighs. The likelihood of Kara having a replacement air filter is low and she’s not even positive it’s why the engine’s stalled. Either way, it’s at least something to do and Lena lightly taps the filter against the front bumper in an attempt to clear it of some of its debris.
“You need a new air filter,” Lena tells her, intentionally angling the direction of her taps so some of the dust floats over Kara’s legs. “Among other things.”
“What other things?”
“Things,” Lena deadpans, holding the air filter back up towards the sun to see if it’s looking any better.
“Things you can fix?”
“I don’t know,” Lena says testily as she leans back over the engine to replace the filter, satisfied it’s better enough the truck might start. “Do you have a new filter in your trunk? A tool set? Duct tape? A working knowledge of car mechanics?”
“I thought you were the one with a working knowledge of car mechanics,” Kara says, crossing her arms and glaring as though she isn’t the reason they’re standing on the side of the road over a smoking pile of trash masquerading as a car. “Don’t engineers know things about cars?”
Lena sighs, shoots Kara a look that hopefully conveys just how she feels about Kara’s assessment of what an engineer is, but declines comment other than, “We need to find a mechanic as soon as we can.” The air filter is about the only thing she can fix without more complicated tools, replacement parts, or a car jack.
“Not sure how that’s going to happen,” Kara says, gesturing around as if to demonstrate the obvious desolation that surrounds them.
“There has to be civilization eventually,” Lena says, moving around Kara towards the driver’s seat.
“Whoa, whoa, what are you doing?” Kara exclaims as Lena gets behind the wheel, just quick enough that Kara doesn’t catch her in time. “No one drives my truck except me.”
Lena doesn’t answer, just turns the keys before Kara can yank her out of the truck like she looks liable to do at any moment and after a few ominous spurts, the engine finally sputters back to life in a low, fragile-sounding rumble.
Hopping back down, Lena maneuvers past a gaping Kara Danvers and closes the hood back up, returning to the passenger side and getting back in.
“Let’s go before this piece of shit dies again,” Lena says, eyebrow arching at where Kara’s still marveling at the running truck like Lena’s worked some kind of magic. The insult, at least, seems to jar her out of it, her jaw setting into a frown.
“You know, she can hear you,” Kara says as she slips back into the truck, but her little smirk betrays the tease in her words.
There’s a few moments of silence as Kara buckles her seatbelt, and then she glances over at Lena again. “Kinda hot. My girlfriend fixing my truck and all that.”
“Fake girlfriend,” Lena amends, but Kara just keeps smirking proudly.
“Still hot,” she says with a little half-shrug.
Lena rolls her eyes but can’t stop the little laugh that escapes as Kara pulls carefully back onto the roadway.
Through no small miracle, the truck lasts them until the next town big enough to have an auto shop. They get it squared away with the mechanic and thankfully it can all be done quickly enough that they can get away with waiting it out at the only restaurant in town – a small rundown looking diner within walking distance of the shop.
They sit at the counter and Kara marvels at the glass case nearby showcasing the different pie selections, while Lena gingerly picks up the faded menu in front of her and wonders when the last time the place had a health inspection.
“Welcome,” a middle-aged waitress says, greeting them with a smack of her gum and a once over for Kara who’s still ogling the pies. “What can I getcha?”
“Coffee,” Lena says succinctly, not trusting much else in the place. “Black.”
The waitress quirks her eye at Lena in acknowledgement, turning the white coffee cup next to her placemat over before looking back at Kara with a look of interest. “And you, doll?”
Lena’s not sure what’s so fascinating about a bunch of pies, but Kara doesn’t pick her eyes up at all as she answers. “Do you have a pie recommendation?”
The waitress smacks her gum again into a smirk. “Cherry pie’s my favorite.”
Whatever it is on the woman’s face, Lena’s body shifts closer to Kara’s on instinct. Her hand twitches with a fleeting urge to draw Kara’s attention.
“Does it come with ice cream?” Kara finally turns away from the pies, her expression hopeful.
“No,” the waitress answers, jutting a hip out to prop her hand on it. “But I’m sure I can find some for you.”
“That would be awesome,” Kara gushes, sitting up and grinning enthusiastically.
“Sure thing,” the waitress returns with another smack of her gum before turning to retrieve their orders.
“She’s nice,” Kara says when they’re finally left alone and Lena straightens a bit away from where she’s caught herself leaning into Kara’s personal space.
Lena hums skeptically and doesn’t say much as the waitress returns to pour coffee into her mug and set a plate down in front of Kara – a sloppy looking piece of cherry pie with a significant helping of ice cream on the side.
With an enthusiasm that Lena thought was only reserved for children, Kara digs into her food, a low appreciative groan escaping her as she shoves pie and ice cream into her mouth. Lena takes a careful sip of her coffee, pleased to find it pleasantly bitter and hot. It’ll do.
“So where’d you learn how to fix cars if it isn’t engineering school?” Kara asks after swallowing a far too large bite of pie.
“I don’t know how to fix cars,” Lena says, checking her phone to see if they’ve got better service out here than they had on the road. A few texts have peppered in from her friends, pictures of them on fall break getaways around the world. There’s a photo of Jack and some French girl out on a ski lift in the group chat with Jess that has prompted some sort of argument between Jack and Jess that she can’t track.
Kara peers over at Lena’s phone nosily and makes a noise, pulling her own phone from her pocket. “Oh, we should take a picture too,” she suggests and Lena chokes a bit on a sip of coffee.
“Pics or it didn’t happen, right?” Kara jokes with that goofy little grin Lena’s starting to get used to seeing.
“I don’t think there should be photo evidence that we were ever here,” Lena says, repocketing her phone and setting her coffee down.
“You’re really bad at this fake dating stuff,” Kara says, voice lowered to a whisper as if they’re in any danger of being found out in this dump. Lena looks around at the other patrons a tad incredulously, laughing at Kara’s serious expression, but it doesn’t seem to deter her. Instead, she’s holding her phone up, arm extended to get them both in the frame and leaning back into Lena’s personal space.
“Stop it,” Lena says, smothering another laugh at the silly expression Kara makes before snapping a picture.
“Come on, look like you love me,” Kara entreats and Lena sends her eyes skyward.
“We’ve been dating a month, I don’t love you.”
Kara scoffs as if offended. “That hurts, babe.”
Unable to resist, Lena pinches at Kara’s side, biting her lip when Kara lets out an exaggerated squeak that just turns into a laugh. “Sorry, sugarplum,” Lena deadpans.
Shaking her head, Kara just grins, pushing once again into Lena’s personal space until she’s basically backed up against Lena’s side. “Come on, I know you have it in you. Do it for the people.”
Sensing Kara won’t give up until Lena gives in, she shifts enough that Kara’s sliding between Lena’s legs, her back against her front until Lena can settle her chin against Kara’s shoulder. The abrupt change in arrangement sends a shiver of warmth up Lena’s arms, but she ignores it, smiling up at the view of them in the camera.
They don’t look awful together, truth be told.
“Perfect,” Kara murmurs after snapping a few of them smiling at the camera. She sits back on her own stool, leaving a chill in her wake that makes Lena turn back to the counter and reach for her coffee.
The picture is posted to Kara’s Instagram in between bites of pie. “Make sure you like it,” Kara tells her as Lena pulls the post up on her phone. Lena has half a memory of Kara grabbing her phone during a tutoring session and demanding they follow each other on Instagram, and a stab of regret comes with it as she navigates to Kara’s profile.
The caption is a simple Shooter broke down but we found pie!
“Your truck is named Shooter?” Lena asks as she double taps the picture.
“What? You have a better name?” Kara’s fork clanks against her empty plate as she pushes it forward and smiles at the waitress who returns to retrieve it, refilling Lena’s coffee as she does it.
“Yeah, not naming it at all,” she says, eying the way the waitress lingers in front of them for a beat too long, wiping down the counter a few feet away and glancing at Kara.
“You’re no fun,” Kara pouts.
“You’re just learning that?”
“I guess I was just hoping that dating me meant you’d pick up some fun through osmosis or something,” Kara shrugs, dropping her cracked phone on the counter and bumping their knees together. Her eyebrows waggle with such exaggerated suggestion that Lena laughs, but she knocks her knee sideways hard enough that Kara stops being ridiculous and just smiles.
Lena has some satisfaction in seeing the waitress drift away then, a resigned kind of drop to her shoulders.
“Can you give me some actual advice about Midvale?” Lena asks, sipping her coffee and glaring when Kara sighs, looking up at the ceiling.
“I don’t know what you could possibly need advice on,” Kara says.
Lena scoffs. “Because going to your hometown to meet your family is hardly cause for alarm when we’ve known each other as long as we have.”
Kara’s lips thin, but she seems to relent to Lena’s logic. “I just don’t know what to say. Eliza’s nice. She’ll like you.”
“You don’t know that.”
Half-turning in her stool to face Lena more fully, Kara shrugs a shoulder and fiddles with the silverware over Lena’s paper placemat. “It’s really not as big a deal as you’re making it out to be.”
Lena can’t help but be skeptical of that. It seems where Lena is a chronic over-preparer, Kara’s approach tends to lean towards we’ll figure it out as we go along. It grates against her sensibilities.
“If this were us coming to meet my family and all those associated, there’d be a two-hundred-page brief on how to act, what to wear, what not to wear…” Lena can’t help but glance at Kara’s outfit with a reproachful look. From the rips in her jeans to the raggedy way the sleeves of her shirt are cuffed up, Kara’s the very picture of everything Lillian Luthor tends to turn her nose up at.
Kara laughs, clearly unbothered by the implication, and Lena can’t help but imagine the very real possibility of Lillian and Kara face to face. The stern voice of her mother demanding Kara be brought to Thanksgiving knocks against the back of her head and she tries to will the tight feeling in her chest away.
Irritating Lillian is half the point of having Kara pose as her girlfriend anyway.
“No one in Midvale is going to care that much about what you’re wearing,” Kara says, reaching over to pluck up Lena’s coffee and take a careful sip, undeterred by Lena’s glare. She makes a grossed out face at the taste.
“That’s becoming clearer,” Lena says, this time looking down to the scuffed up boots Kara has propped up against the counter’s brass foot rail. All it does is make Kara smile, her fingers tap tap tapping against the counter.
“You’ll probably have some thoughts about all the mud you’re liable to get on your Gucci sneakers, but other than that…”
Lena frowns, looking down at her own shoes, the pristine white of them shocking against the backdrop of the diner floor. The thought of traipsing through mud of all things pulls an expression across her face that makes Kara chuckle.
“I really wouldn’t worry so much about people judging you,” Kara continues. “Midvale’s not like that.”
“Then what is Midvale like,” Lena says, grasping at straws as best she can.
Kara seems to go introspective a moment, her fingers dancing against the countertop in a quick flutter. “It’s a small town, like I said,” Kara starts and at the half roll of Lena’s eyes, she makes a face. “Seriously. It is. Everyone kind of knows each other. But they’re nice. They mean well.”
There’s a little frown on Kara’s face, a heavy set to her expression and when her leg joins in with the staccato of her fingers, Lena feels compelled to ask, “So then what has you so nervous about it?”
“I’m not,” Kara denies, laughing a little as she glances around, eyes darting from the waitress changing the grounds in the coffee machine to the patrons in a booth not too far away and then to the open kitchen where a teenager is lazily dropping a fryer basket into oil.
“Sure,” Lena draws out and when she just regards Kara long enough to pull her attention back to Lena, Kara sighs.
“It’s not about you,” she says. “Like not about you and them. You’ll be fine. I was serious when I said Eliza will like you and everyone else will kind of just follow suit.”
Lena’s eyebrows rise expectantly.
With a shrug, Kara fiddles with Lena’s silverware again, twirling the slightest on her stool. “I’ve just known a lot of those people my whole life. Like they’ve known me since the day I moved there, right after I got adopted by the Danvers and it’s like…” Kara’s lips push together a moment. “It’s a small town. Everyone is kind of in everyone else’s business.”
“And you’re worried that they’ll…” Lena trails off, searching Kara’s face for clues but finding very few.
“I mean, I told you I wanted to bring you out here to prove to Eliza and Alex and everyone that I was better,” Kara explains and Lena has the strangest urge to soothe the nervous crinkle that’s formed between Kara’s brows. “Especially after last year and everything.”
“I remember,” Lena says, encouraging.
“And I think they’ll be happy for me now that I have this like super hot girlfriend that’s crazy smart and likes hockey and is super into me and –”
“I get it,” Lena interrupts, trying to sound stern, but laughing at the smile that had started to replace Kara’s frown.
Kara sighs, a heavy sound that beats across Lena’s skin. “I just want them to know that I’m good now. I’m better.”
With a nervous cough, Kara adjusts her shirt collar, shrugs around in it for a moment before taking a breath.
Unable to help herself, Lena reaches out to fix the collar properly, laughing softly at the way Kara’s only made it worse, but doesn’t meet Kara’s eyes when she asks, “Well, are you?”
“Am I what?”
Their eyes do meet then. Locking together solidly enough that Lena’s cheeks warm, but she doesn’t look away.
It takes a few seconds for Kara to reply. “Yeah,” she says, voice lighter than before. “I think I am.”
“That’s good,” Lena says and this time she’s the one that lets out a short soft cough before turning more fully back to the counter and picking up her coffee. “Anyone I should be going out of my way to impress then?”
Kara laughs. “Besides Eliza and Alex? I don’t know. Maybe Cathy at the yarn shop.”
Lena’s not sure she’s ever been in a town that boasted a shop devoted solely to yarn, but she sets aside processing that in favor of realizing Kara’s listed Alex’s name.
“Alex. As in your sister, Alex?”
“Yeah,” Kara says, looking at Lena like the question is stupid before something dawns across her face and she shoots up, pulling her phone out. “Oh, shit, yeah, sorry. She texted me right before we left saying she has the next two days off. So she’s coming home for a bit.”
It takes a second to rein in the burst of annoyance that runs through her system that Kara neglected to mention this beforehand. It’s hard to be overprepared for a situation when you don’t even know to be prepared for the situation at all.
“You didn’t feel like that was something you should have mentioned earlier?”
Kara blinks, but her expression is contrite. “I got distracted by Shooter’s mishap,” Kara says as an excuse, cringing at the glare that’s settled on Lena’s face. “If you’re thinking of murdering me right now, I should remind you that there are a lot of witnesses here.”
There’s a little smile on her face as she says it, like the thought of Lena murdering her in this diner is cute, and Lena can’t figure out how the glacial death stare she’s spent years of her life cultivating seems to have no effect on this girl at all.
“We’ll be in the middle of nowhere soon enough,” Lena grumbles, pushing the dredges of her now tepid cup of coffee away from her with disdain.
“Aw, baby, you don’t mean that,” Kara coos, draping an arm across Lena’s shoulders and seemingly unbothered when Lena lets her elbow press sharply into Kara’s side.
“You’re an idiot,” Lena says, not entirely thrilled that it comes out sounding half-affectionate instead of insulting like she means it.
“Yeah, but I’m your idiot,” Kara says, all saccharine.
Lena glances up to see the waitress has returned in front of them to refill Lena’s coffee, but Lena waves her away. “We’ll take the check, please,” Lena says, doing her best not to smile when Kara leans heavily into her side, pulling them warmly together.
It’s ridiculous and performative and unnecessary for this podunk diner miles from anyone they know, but Lena allows it. Reminds herself she’s got to get used to this behavior if they’re going to truly pull it off.
The waitress totals their bill and drops the handwritten check off in front of Kara with a rip of the paper off her pad. “You sure you don’t need anything else? Slice of pie to go?”
“We are not taking pie to go,” Lena says when Kara’s eyes light up at the prospect.
Ignoring Kara’s pout, Lena swipes at the chit, pulling her wallet out. “Why not?”
“Because I said so,” Lena says, searching around for cash. The waitress chuckles softly at the exchange before wandering off back towards another couple at the end of the counter.
Kara sighs, aggrieved, before snatching at the bill when Lena’s too distracted to stop her.
“Hey, I was paying that,” Lena protests, but Kara’s pulling out her own wallet and shaking her head.
“It was my fault the truck broke down and therefore my fault we were in this diner and I think I can afford to buy my girlfriend a cup of coffee,” Kara points out, an arch of her brow as if daring Lena to continue to protest.
Her instinct is to fight over it, just because, but she can’t summon the energy. “Fine,” she relents. “But I’ll get the tip.”
Kara lets out a little snort of a laugh like Lena’s said something funny, but doesn’t argue, just drops a credit card on the counter and pushes it forward. “Will you sign for me? I have to pee.”
Lena makes a face at that, but Kara’s striding away to the restroom too quickly for Lena to comment. She just shakes her head and goes back to shuffling through her cash, mentally calculating how much to leave as the waitress comes to swipe Kara’s card through.
“You two are a sweet couple,” the waitress says, leaning across the counter as Lena scribbles an attempt at Kara’s signature on the bottom of the bill.
It’s a surprising enough statement that Lena smiles reflexively. “Thanks,” she says softly with a small laugh.
For half a second, she thinks about asking the woman why she thinks that, but she’s moving away before Lena can do so and Kara’s striding back from the bathroom with a bounce in her step.
“Ready?” Kara asks, retrieving her credit card from where Lena’s holding it.
“Yeah,” Lena says, watching the waitress turn back to them and nod when Kara calls out a quick thanks her way.
Lena drops a twenty on the counter and follows in Kara’s wake towards the doors.
From the outside, the truck looks just the same as it did when they left campus, but Lena takes a cursory look at the engine when they pick it up and is satisfied enough with what she sees. It’ll last them to Midvale certainly and then she can negotiate a way to take a plane back to school. Surely there’s some municipal airport in the region.
Kara squares the cost away with the mechanic and Lena observes her from the passenger seat as she talks to him, laughing over something so genuinely that Lena feels her lips pull into a smile unwillingly. It turns into something more neutral when both Kara and the mechanic look her way, saying something Lena can’t make out at this distance.
“All good?” Lena asks when Kara slides back into the driver’s seat, throwing her wallet into a small compartment under the stereo where her phone sits.
“All good,” Kara returns and Lena’s curious how much the bill totaled. It might be a small town auto shop, but parts and labor can still add up. Especially on a truck that needed as much work as Kara’s had.
The engine starts without any struggle, the sound of it a far cry from how it had sounded when they’d left campus. Kara grins. “And worth every penny,” she adds, looking delighted as she shifts out of park.
“I can Venmo you for some of it,” Lena asks. It’s her usual response when Jess complains about a Lyft bill or Jack groans about a drink tab, if she’s not already paying for it. Kara gives a scoff.
“It’s my truck,” Kara tells her, laughing off the suggestion.
“Well, I know that,” Lena says, a bit off kilter at Kara’s easy dismissal at her offer to pay.
“Weren’t you the one telling me that it was my own failure at being a responsible truck owner that caused her to break down in the first place?”
“I stand by that,” Lena says, crossing her arms over her chest, and trying not to smile at the casual grin on Kara’s face. “Your truck is old and it’s going to need some serious maintenance if you want to unnecessarily prolong its life.”
“Unnecessarily prolong its life,” Kara repeats, miming her in a high pitched voice. She runs her hand on the dashboard very gently, her long fingers catching the sunshine outside. Lena focuses on them for a second too long. “It’s okay, baby. She’ll love you one day.”
“Don’t count on it,” Lena says, but catches herself leaning a little closer to the dashboard as she says it like she’s actually talking to the damn thing.
Kara laughs, waggles a finger in Lena’s direction as they begin their drive back onto the county road they’d broken down on hours ago. They’ll be in Midvale close to midnight at this rate.
“You say that now, but one night you’ll call me wasted from some party and you’ll be all Kara, take me to McDonalds right now where are you, and I’ll come and get you because I’m an amazing girlfriend who cares about your needs even though I’m tired because I had a hard practice that day as well as a presentation that I aced –”
“Are you hallucinating?” Lena ogles Kara, trying very hard not to laugh and only slightly succeeding.
“ – but that doesn’t matter because my baby needs McDonalds, so what do I do? I pick you up and then get you like five McChickens and a bunch of french fries and you’ll be in this very seat you’re in right now, making a total mess because you’re hammered and – ”
“I’ll have you know I’m an extremely put together drunk person.”
“ – and you’ll be grateful for Shooter here because her seats are so soft and comfortably worn in and you’ll fall asleep with a half eaten sandwich in your hand and more french fries all over the floor and I’ll probably have to carry you home, which I can do, because I am very strong.”
“Did you just go into a fugue state?” Lena asks, a bit dizzy with the spiraling fantasy Kara’s spun.
“I am very strong,” Kara insists, flexing her bicep like that’s the bit Lena’s stuck on. “Our strength coach made me carry like a two hundred pound weight bar for ten laps so I could definitely carry you.”
It’s a good thing Kara keeps her attention mostly on the road ahead of them because it means she doesn’t quite catch the flush in Lena’s cheeks that makes her have to glance back out her window to hide.
“You’ve lost touch with reality,” Lena says, biting against the smile that threatens to break out at Kara’s laugh.
“Have I?” Kara asks imperiously, slouching against the seat and letting her knee steady the steering wheel while she cracks her knuckles.
“First of all, I prefer tacos when I’m drunk,” Lena says haughtily and then flushes even deeper when Kara glances over with a smirk.
“Of course you do.”
Lena swats at Kara’s arm, but Kara evades the move, laughs again. “Hey, hands off the driver!”
“Second of all, if you ever think I could form an attachment to something as junked up as this thing,” Lena says gesturing around them. “You’re out of your mind.”
Kara just smiles, unaffected by the certainty in Lena’s tone. “Never say never.”
Lena looks out the window to passing farmland and the sun dipping towards the horizon in the distance. “Never,” she mumbles to the backdrop of Kara’s laughter.
Midvale is precisely as Kara described. Small, with one stoplight.
The Danvers home is on the far side of town near the coastline and it’s nice in a provincial sort of way. The house is larger than Lena expects, but she supposes that has a lot to do with the fact that the nearest neighbor is about a mile away. Real estate is clearly not at a premium out here. Ocean views or not.
“Better put your game face on,” Kara says ominously as they pull down a stretch of winding road towards the driveway. When Lena just thins her lips at Kara with a half roll of her eyes, Kara laughs. “Try to remember that you’re supposed to like me.” A dramatic pause. “Like like me.”
“Try to remember we’re not in high school,” Lena retorts, fighting a smile that tugs at her lips.
When they pull into the driveway, a woman steps out onto the wraparound porch and smiles at their approach.
“That’s Eliza,” Kara murmurs, throwing the car into park and jumping out with nothing else.
Lena has to steel herself against a touch of anxiety, but she manages to put on her most well-mannered expression and opens the car door to join Kara outside.
“Welcome home, honey,” Lena hears Eliza say as she steps close. Kara’s wrapped her adoptive mother up in a tight hug. It looks affectionate and warm and Lena can’t help but compare it to the perfunctory air kisses she gives her mother each time they see each other.
“Eliza, this is Lena,” Kara introduces as she shifts out of the hug and just like that Eliza’s stepping forward with a wide welcoming smile that Lena’s seen mirrored on Kara’s face so many times.
For a brief moment, she’s worried Eliza’s about to hug her just as tightly, but thankfully she must sense Lena’s hesitation because she presents her hand instead. “So nice to meet you, Lena,” she says, palm warm and solid as it grips Lena’s.
“You as well,” Lena returns in a practiced tone.
A loud bark breaks their handshake apart and Lena peers over to see a large white Boxer come bounding out of the front door towards Kara. It looks almost like a ghost darting out from under the porch lights into the dimly lit driveway.
“Krypto!” Kara lets out a thrilled little sound as she squares her feet and lets the dog jump on her, large enough that it knocks her back a bit, but not over.
Lena and Eliza watch as dog and girl greet each other, Kara grabbing at his face and making incoherent noises as Krypto wiggles around happily – a dopey looking expression on his face as his tongue lolls out of his mouth.
“He’s been waiting by the front door ever since you left,” Eliza says, exchanging a smile with Lena.
“Don’t tell me that,” Kara groans, still petting over Krypto’s head. “You’ll make me feel guilty.”
Eliza laughs affectionately. “Come on inside, I have leftover lasagna in the fridge.”
Kara makes another happy sound, almost jumps in place before she’s making to run into the house. Lena forgets Eliza’s there for a second as she lets out a sarcastic, “Yeah, don’t worry, I’ll just get our bags.”
It stops Kara halfway up the stairs to the front door and she turns around immediately with a laugh before walking back to the truck to grab their luggage out of the back. “Yes, dear, sorry, dear, right away, dear,” she jokes, getting Lena to smile even if she rolls her eyes.
Eliza watches it and catches Lena’s eye with an unreadable expression that might make Lena blush if she were anyone else.
They eat day old lasagna at the dinner table and she listens as Kara catches Eliza up on her life – barely capable of speaking with the way she inhales her food and goes for seconds. Krypto sits near Kara’s side, propped on his heels and eyeing her as if she might drop some of her food for him at any moment.
Eliza is smiling throughout most of it, silent as she nods along with Kara’s rambling stories and glancing at Lena occasionally. There’s no interrogation like Lena’d expected, but she suspects it has more to do with the late hour and the way she’s caught Eliza stifling a yawn once or twice.
Eventually, Eliza takes a break in Kara’s monologuing to stand from her chair and smile at both of them. “I should be getting to bed,” she says. “I put clean sheets in your room, Kara, and there are towels in the bathroom. Show Lena where everything is.”
“Thanks,” Kara says around a particularly large piece of lasagna, smiling when Eliza presses a kiss to her forehead.
With a warm press of her hand to Lena’s shoulder, Eliza smiles down at her as well. “I look forward to getting to know each other,” she says managing to make it sound both genuine and ominous all at once.
And then she’s gone, padding out of the kitchen and up the stairs by the back door.
Kara hefts their bags upstairs towards her room and it isn’t until Lena’s standing inside it staring at a single queen sized bed that she realizes another grave error in her judgement.
They’re expected to share a room.
“You didn’t tell me we’d be sleeping together,” she hisses at Kara the second the door closes.
Kara shushes her, but it sounds amused. “Keep it down, these walls are thin.”
“Isn’t this inappropriate?” Lena asks in a hush, hating the shrill tone her voice takes that sounds far too much like her mother.
It seems as if Kara’s confused by the suggestion, her eyes darting between the flannel comforter on her bed and Lena’s look of panic. “Why?”
“Your mother is just going to let you spend the night with your girlfriend?!” Lena’s not sure why her voice has started to sound hysterical. It’s not as if Lillian ever cared that Lena and Veronica shared a room over the holidays. In fact, Lena’s fairly certain Lillian contrived it to be that way in an encouragement of their relationship.
Kara does a poor job of suppressing her smile, but she clearly tries. “What would she be worried about?”
Lena gestures about, feeling suddenly ridiculous at the look in Kara’s eye, but stubborn enough to push the issue. “You know,” she says and the warmth in her cheeks deepens at the sound of Kara’s low laugh.
“What?” Kara asks, the look on her face mischievous. “Afraid I’ll get you pregnant?”
Thankfully, Lena’s near enough to the bed that the first thing she grabs to throw at Kara is just a pillow and it hits Kara square in her laughing face but does nothing to ebb the mirthful sound. “You’re the worst.”
“I’m sorry,” Kara says between chuckles, only sounding half-sincere. “If it bothers you that much, I’ll sleep on the floor.”
It’d probably be the polite thing to at least make a show of protesting or insisting on not kicking Kara out of her own bed, but Lena’s not much concerned with manners at the moment. As an answer, Lena grabs for more pillows off the bed, smothering a flutter of a smile when Kara pretends to shield herself, and drops them on the ground. “Sounds good.”
Kara looks a bit put out, like she didn’t expect to be taken up on her offer, but doesn’t argue, just chuckles softly and goes to the closet to pull out a stack of blankets.
It takes ages for Lena to fall asleep, but she attributes that to the eerie silence of the countryside and not the unstoppable awareness of Kara lying just a few feet below her, snoring lightly into her pillow.
In the morning, Lena awakens to an empty bedroom and a loud commotion coming from below her. Sunlight is streaming into the room intensely enough that she has to squint and she pulls a pillow over her face as she tries to make out the sounds downstairs.
Kara’s laugh is easy to make out – the clear lilt of it as it floats up through the barely ajar bedroom door – but a second laugh joins her and the sound of it foreign to Lena’s ears. When it speaks, she realizes it’s not Eliza and thinks perhaps it’s Alex, finally arrived.
From the interrogation Lena had given Kara over every aspect of Alex’s life and her relationship with Kara in the drive, Lena’s got the base facts. Alex is in her third year of medical school in Metropolis. She’s smart, allegedly smarter than Kara, and she broke a boy’s noise in tenth grade when he called Kara a shithead. She had played hockey with Kara when they were younger, and Kara had said that she was pretty bad, but that she had stuck around to be with Kara. According to Kara’s reporting, they Facetime at least once a week and see each other when Kara’s hockey travels take her toward Midvale or Alex can get away from school.
They seem close and Kara had a certain admiration in her voice when she spoke about Alex. Lena couldn’t help but think of Lex, how they’d been as kids and how much their relationship had shifted with their growing age. Kara seemed perfectly certain she and Alex would always remain close and Lena didn’t have the heart to tell her she’d felt the same about Lex once upon a time.
With the realization she’s about to meet Alex as soon as she goes downstairs, she takes her time getting ready, washing up and changing into a respectable enough ensemble of jeans and a sweater to meet her fake girlfriend’s sister.
They’re in the kitchen when Lena finally makes her way down, the smell of coffee enticing enough to fight against the spike of social anxiety she feels at the sound of conversation.
“I caught some of that game against Blainesdale,” a voice Lena assumes is Alex floats towards the stairs.
Kara makes a noise that Lena thinks is a fair assessment of Kara’s performance in that game – presuming it’s the same one Lena herself attended.
“It wasn’t that bad,” Alex says. “You played well. Got some good shots.”
Lena comes around the corner to find Kara in a ridiculous looking ensemble of cut off sweat shorts, a long sleeve t-shirt with holes in the arms and oversized work boots with their laces undone. Why she’s even in the house with her shoes on, Lena’s not sure, but from the looks of it both sisters have been outside – windblown cheeks and hair. Alex, at least, looks dressed for the weather in joggers and an oversized sweatshirt.
There’s a hang dog expression on Kara’s face, Alex’s hand reaching towards her shoulder in consolation.
“Sure,” Kara says to her sister, but her eyes slide over to where Lena’s entering the room and the frown slowly morphs into a smile. “Hey, morning.”
“Hey,” Lena says, coming closer. Kara seems to be uncertain what to do for a second – they both just kind of hover there, not sure how to react – before Kara reaches for Lena and draws her into her side with an arm over her shoulders. For a second, Lena considers addressing the moody look in Kara’s eyes, but she knows it’s not the setting, nor is she too confident on what exactly she’d say. So she settles for a friendly smile that at least gets Kara’s grin to widen ever the slightest.
When Lena turns to address Alex, there’s an openly appraising expression on the older sister’s face for a moment before it becomes more neutral.
“Alex, this is Lena,” Kara says. “Lena, Alex.”
“When Kara told me who she was bringing home, I thought she was joking,” Alex says, her lips pulled into a conspiratorial smile. “Seeing the Lena Luthor in the flesh is certainly illuminating. You do a great job hiding the horns. Your brother, on the other hand - ”
Whatever Alex is set to say next chokes out of her when Kara immediately overreacts and steps in between Lena and Alex with a chastising hiss of her sister’s name. It reminds Lena of her encounter with Veronica except the stakes are so significantly lower that she wonders if this is just always how Kara reacts to situations.
Probably something they should discuss.
“I’m kidding,” Alex says, sidestepping her sister and rubbing at her side even as she laughs a little. “Damn, Kara, chill.”
“Don’t mind, Alex,” Kara tells Lena, moving to the side again, but staying just in front of Lena as if her physical presence is meant to protect Lena against her sister and her probably-true thoughts on Lex. “She was dropped repeatedly as a child.”
“By you,” Alex interjects and Kara makes a face at Lena that neither confirms nor denies that accusation.
“She’s crazy,” Kara stage whispers, “ignore her.”
“Oh, stop it. I don’t bite.”
“She absolutely does bite. Don’t believe a word she says.” At least now Kara seems as if she’s joking, a playful banter between sisters that immediately feels familiar even though this is the first Lena’s ever been around them.
“You really want to start that? I’m sure Lena would love to hear about Katie McGill and the Incident,” Alex says, dropping her voice dramatically on the last word.
Kara’s eyes go comically wide and she hisses out another warning for her sister, but Lena hasn’t had enough coffee for all these sibling antics.
“Hi, Alex. I’m Lena. Kara’s girlfriend,” she greets, holding her hand out and making an obvious show of drawing out a pause before adding, “For now.”
Kara makes a show of looking incredulous, but she laughs, stepping around towards a tray of coffees on the counter.
“Hi, Lena,” Alex says, also laughing as she swats at Lena’s hand. “Unless you’re allergic, we hug in this family.”
Alex opens her arms, but pauses at least to judge Lena’s actual consent to the gesture and as she has nothing necessarily against hugging people, Lena allows it with a return of the motion.
If anything, she can feel the way Kara gapes at them and that alone is worth hugging a virtual stranger.
“Nice to meet you, for real, actually,” Alex says as they break apart. “I’m so happy Kara finally found someone she could pay to date her.”
“Wow, Alex, nice,” Kara draws, but she comes up to Lena with an offer of coffee and Lena decides that at least deserves some small reward. Especially when she catches the distinct scent of americano, just the way she likes it.
“It should be fairly obvious I’m not in it for the money,” Lena says archly, brow quirked, but smile playing at her lips.
It makes Kara laugh and when Lena takes the mug of coffee from her hand, she wraps an arm across Lena’s shoulders again. Lena’s proud of herself for not reacting much other than comfortably sinking into the warm solid feeling of Kara at her side.
Maybe they’ll be better at this pretending thing than she realized.
It’s the first true test of it – even though they’d seen Eliza just last night. Something about being scrutinized by Alex makes it feel more real and Lena’s pleased to find it easy enough to relax and travel into the living room, Kara and Lena dropping onto the long couch and Alex into the love seat. Alex turns on golf even though Kara scoffs, and then scoffs more when Lena knows enough about the season to hold a conversation.
It’s warm, restful even, as Lena sips her coffee and sits against Kara’s side. At some point, Krypto comes ambling over and jumps up onto the couch next to her, shuffling around and then half-collapsing into Lena’s lap.
It startles her a bit, but when she looks over at Alex and Kara neither of them pay it much mind. Lena eyes the dog warily, but then lifts her hand to hesitantly pat him on the head. Krypto lets out a loud contented sounding exhale and licks his chops. The sound of it prompts Kara’s attention who leans over to add to Lena’s rubbing, scratching behind his ears and cooing as if talking to a baby.
“You tired, boo boo?”
Lena makes a face at the pet name and it seems Alex’s caught it, laughing from her spot on the loveseat.
“Don’t tell me you haven’t been victim to Kara’s penchant for weird nicknames, yet?”
“Unfortunately, I have,” Lena says, swatting Kara’s hands away from the dog when she leans over too far into Lena’s personal space.
“I’m sorry,” Alex offers with a chuckle.
Kara seems unconcerned with the ribbing, just smiles at the way Krypto’s flopped against Lena’s lap. “He likes you.”
Lena’s not quite sure why Krypto merely accepting the rubs of a stranger means he like them nor why Kara seems so pleased by this assessment, but she’s too focused on checking her sweater for shedding hair to really respond.
“He likes everyone,” Alex says, waving the comment off. “Just like his owner.”
Kara scoffs, offended. “I’m going to train him to bite you,” she warns, but Alex just rolls her eyes and scrolls through her Netflix queue.
“He certainly doesn’t seem fearsome,” Lena says, amused at the incredulous way Kara continues to react.
“Also just like his owner,” Alex adds.
“Don’t listen to them, baby,” Kara murmurs, leaning across Lena’s lap to whisper the words into the dog’s snout like it’s a child. Lena wonders – fears – what Kara might be like with an actual child.
Alex and Lena share an amused look that lingers when Alex’s turns something more curious. “So, Lena, I’d be a bad sister if I didn’t ask you a bunch of random personal questions.”
“Oh, jeez,” Kara says, abandoning the dog to sit up and look at her sister. “Be nice.”
Alex makes a look of innocence. “What? I can’t ask her what her major is and stuff like that?”
Kara slouches back against the couch, close enough that their sides are still pressed in against each other, her hand landing back on Krypto’s head. It’s maybe an intentionally protective move, with Kara’s arm stretched out as a small shield. “Oh, sure, fine.”
“What did you think I was going to ask?”
“I don’t know,” Kara says, shrugging.
Alex laughs, looks at Lena. “That protective act will get old, let me warn you.”
“I’m well aware,” Lena teases, rolling her eyes when Kara makes yet another offended sounding noise.
“Okay, so, Kara says you’re like a quadruple major or something,” Alex says, drawing Lena’s attention back her way.
“Kara exaggerates,” Lena says, trying to ignore the way Kara’s pinky brushes over her stomach every other pass it takes over Krypto’s head. “I’m double majoring in engineering and business.”
“With two minors,” Kara says, a proud lift of her chin that Lena shakes her head at.
When Alex’s expression turns curious, Lena adds, “Political science and biology.”
“She’s basically a genius,” Kara says and there’s a genuine-sounding pride in her voice.
“I’m surprised you have time to sleep, let alone date a basket case like Kara,” Alex says ignoring Kara’s indignant squeak. “Makes medical school sound like a walk in the park.”
“Well, it’s not so rough as it sounds,” Lena says, thinking of the same conversation she’s had with her mother or her mother’s friends. Those conversations were always like job interviews and Lena’s resumé eternally lacking.
“And you do tutoring? Do you have a Time Turner?”
“I’m studying upstairs right now,” Lena says, face serious until Kara laughs. Alex smiles too, and Lena feels like she passed a minor barrier.
“Morning, girls,” Eliza interrupts, striding through the door with a warm smile for all three of them. Krypto immediately leaves his pampering session to go jump on her, stepping on Lena’s thigh on the way and making Kara make a sad whining noise. “Pancakes?”
“Yes!” Kara and Alex answer in enthusiastic chorus.
Pancakes at the Danvers house is apparently an intense affair. As intense as something like breakfast food at eleven in the morning really can be. Eliza makes a mountain’s worth of pancakes and Kara snatches eight of them immediately like she’s concerned there won’t be enough. Alex takes a more respectable six and Eliza shoots Lena something like a I’m sorry my daughters are savages look before serving a much more normal sized portion of pancakes to Lena’s plate.
They sit around the kitchen counter and Krypto lingers under their stools in clear hopes for scraps. Kara admonishes him every time he turns doleful eyes towards Lena – clearly hoping the newest member of the household will be the most susceptible to his silent pleas.
“Thanks, mom,” Alex says around a mouthful of pancakes and Kara joins in, muffled as well by the pancakes she’s chewing.
Lena takes a more well mannered bite and offers her gratitude as well, Eliza’s smile warm and inviting in return.
It’s strange, truth be told. Lena’s not used to sharing a meal so casually and congenially all at once.
Breakfast in the Luthor household is always held in the smaller dining room on their lower level. It’s usually a large spread of healthy foods prepared by the same cook the family’s employed for years.
It’s also prime opportunity for Lillian to host a meeting between her children – a run down of their days or a review of their performance at an event they’d attended the previous evening.
She imagines that if she were home now instead of at Midvale, she’d be prepping for a lunch with whatever LuthorCrop ally her mother wanted her to woo that evening, maybe a tennis match that afternoon with one of Lillian’s country club friends and their daughter. Dinner would be at the club shortly after and there'd almost inevitably be a discussion of politics that would set alarm bells off in Lena’s heads or endless talk about Lena’s eventual position in the company.
If she were with Veronica, it’d be the most jovial Lillian ever was and the discussion would eventually exclude Lena in favor of Lillian and Veronica fawning over each other. Though Lena would spend most of the dinner contemplating whether the club had any hot sauce to improve her chicken dish, it was much more preferable to biting her tongue while her mother extolled the virtues of stricter immigration control.
This is different. Markedly so.
“Do you all have plans for the day?” Eliza asks. “I was thinking we could go to Connie’s for lunch, like old times, but if you’d rather relax…”
“Sounds good to me,” Alex says. “I’ve been thinking about that lemonade for days.”
Kara glances Lena’s way, clearly giving Lena the option of saying no. Whatever Kara reads on Lena’s face makes her laugh a little.
“Maybe tomorrow?” Kara says. “I think we want to relax a little from the drive. Maybe we’ll go to Frank’s tonight?”
“Can’t do Frank’s tonight, I’m meeting with Madi to go do – I don’t know, I think she said axe throwing?” Alex says. “But for sure Connie’s tomorrow. The cheese fries will change your life, Lena.”
Lena isn’t sure how cheese fries could change anyone’s life, but Alex looks deadly serious, and Kara is nodding along like this is gospel.
“I’ll be at the library all night for the bake sale,” Eliza says. “But I know Frank will be happy to see you and meet Lena. And I’ll call Connie’s to make a reservation?”
“Connie would move heaven and earth to make sure Kara has a seat, especially if she’s brought a girl,” Alex says, laughing. “I don’t think you need to make a reservation.”
“It’s polite,” Eliza says, as Alex rises up from the counter and Krypto comes careening her way. She has to gently knee at his shoulder to get him to move out of her way. “We shouldn’t rely on people to accommodate us.”
This is so far and away from Lillian’s expectant face as she stares down a hostess at a packed restaurant that Lena almost laughs. Kara glances her way for a second in confusion, a crinkle appearing between her eyebrows.
“I know, mom, it was a joke,” Alex says, grabbing for her mother’s empty plate and taking Lena’s from her as well. Kara is still shoveling food into her mouth, of course. “Well, if we’re chilling, I’m going to go back to sleep for a bit. I came off a twelve hour shift and drove straight here.”
“And I think I’ll head to the library early to help set up,” Eliza says. “Will you two be alright?”
“Are we sure they don’t need a chaperone? I don’t want to come home to them humping on the couch,” Alex says and Kara coughs abruptly, choking on a bite of pancake. Lena pats her back to make sure she doesn’t choke to death while Eliza chastises a laughing Alex.
They spend all day settled in the living room. Kara puts on Netflix and watches Blue Planet while Lena does some reading for classes. Eventually, Kara falls asleep and starts snoring on the couch, legs akimbo and burrowed into a nest of hand-knitted blankets. It’s sweet, in a way. Lena looks over at her more times than she really means to.
At some point, Lena steps out with Krypto in the backyard of the Danvers house just like she’d seen Kara do earlier when he whined long enough near the door. He runs off to what appears to be a favored corner of the yard to do his business, and she looks out over the well-manicured lawn that’s fenced in. Even with the fence, Lena can hear the ocean, can see a glimpse of it beyond the slats that Krypto is running along in the back of the yard.
It’s a nice house. And even though it isn’t technically more than three hours from Luthor Manor, it’s worlds away. It feels peaceful, open. The backyard has a mid-sized tree that looks younger than the foliage around the property, small raised gardens, and a fire pit just off the patio.
Krypto appears in front of her, his white fur sticking out against the green grass. He’s slobbery and gross, and he’s shaking his whole butt in the absence of his docked tail, but he looks up at her obligingly with a tennis ball in his mouth.
“That ball looks disgusting,” Lena says. Krypto does not seem perturbed by this judgment, just sits down and drops the ball directly onto Lena’s feet. “I don’t know what you want me to do with that, but I’m not touching it.”
He doesn’t react – naturally. Because he’s a dog. But Lena still glares at him as if he can understand until he nudges the ball against her legs so pitifully that she relents.
It’s about as slimy as it looks, but she picks it up gingerly in her fingers and throws it as hard and as far as she can, laughing softly when Krypto shoots off in its direction.
He’s almost tireless. Even when his tongue is more out of his mouth than in it, he keeps coming back with the ball and she keeps throwing it, amused by the enthusiasm and simplicity of the whole thing. She doesn’t realize how long she’s been at it until the back door slides open and a bleary looking Kara steps out, blinking into the sun.
“So this is where you two went,” Kara says. Her voice is low, gruff, and Lena catches her stomach flipping at the sound of it. It’s attractively thicker than her normal tone. “I was gonna make lunch. You want?”
“It’s four in the afternoon,” Lena points out.
Kara seems unconcerned with the proper time restraints on meals. “You want food or not?”
“Can you cook?” Lena asks, watching as Krypto comes bounding up to Kara and flops onto his side, rolling so that Kara can kneel down and rub his chest and belly. It’s almost cute, the way Kara dotes on him.
“Athletics department teaches us how, actually,” Kara says. “Nutrition is very important to a young athlete.”
“Is that why I’ve seen you eat four Twinkies in a row?” Lena asks. Kara flips her off.
“You’re mean,” Kara says. “She’s so mean, isn’t she, baby boy? But she played with you, huh, and you love her now?”
Krypto simply rolls more onto his back so Kara can rub more of his body, panting with his tongue lolling out.
It’s sweet. Easy. Lena wonders what it is that’s made Kara seem so effortless in her affection and why it’s becoming so much harder to resist the pull of it.
Lena knows that if she were to check her phone right now there’d be a handful of messages from Jack or from Jess. Most of them asking for details on what Midvale is like, if she’s been murdered yet, how provincial the town is. She knows that there’s probably a missed call from her mother, a voicemail haranguing her for not answering promptly.
But she doesn’t have to think about that here. Instead, her phone sits untouched up in Kara’s bedroom and she can focus on the distant sound of the ocean, the cool breeze that ruffles through her hair and Kara’s laugh as she playfully runs around with Krypto in the backyard, yelling food options for Lena to reject.
Midvale’s not so bad.
Frank’s turns out to be a bar named The Swine & Fiddle. It’s about what Lena’d been expecting considering what she’s seen of the rest of the town – a small stand alone watering hole a mile away from the house. It looks more like a double-wide trailer than a bar and the only sign indicating its name is barely hanging off a single chain, swaying and creaking in the light wind. The neon sign in the window advertising some beer Lena’s never heard of is only half lit, some of the letters flickering off and on.
It looks like a great place to get tetanus or maybe murdered, frankly, and Lena says as much as they approach.
“That’s how you know it’s good,” Kara says in response, a cheeky little smile that does nothing to nullify Lena’s horror.
But then Kara slings an arm over her shoulders and pulls her towards the entrance with a, “you’ll be fine, I promise.”
It’s warm inside, a stifling contrast to the autumn chill that had settled in her extremities on the walk over, but it smells a bit like stale beer and burnt pizza.
“Kara Danvers, as I live and breathe,” booms straight for them as they walk in. Behind the bar, a tall lanky bald man is smiling at them, an off-white towel slung over one shoulder as he rearranges glasses and greets them.
“Hey Frank,” Kara says with a gleeful grin.
There aren’t many patrons inside the bar. Two men huddled together down at one end, another couple ensconced away at a corner table and what Lena assumes is another server cleaning off one of the large round tables towards the back wall.
It’s cleaner than she’d expected from the outside, cozier too, and when Kara leads them to two corner seats at the bar and Frank starts pouring a beer without even taking their order, Lena starts to glean why Kara likes the place so much.
“How you been, kid?” Frank asks, putting the beer in front of Kara and propping his hands up on the bar to observe them both. “Sister coming in too?”
He gives an eye to Lena as if in question but doesn’t address her or attempt to take her order as if waiting for Kara to give him the go-ahead.
“No, just us,” Kara says. “Frank, this is Lena. Lena this is Frank.”
Frank gives her another once over, an amused quirk to his lips. “Nice to meet you, Lena.”
“She’s my girlfriend,” Kara blurts a bit too suddenly to sound natural and Lena gives her a look, nearly laughs at the expression on Kara’s face – like it’s important to perform their relationship in front of Frank of all people.
“Is that so?” Frank arches a brow and as he looks at her again Lena thinks maybe it is important for whatever reason.
Lena smiles politely, shifts in close enough to Kara that her hand reaches over to rest against Kara’s thigh, squeezing there when Kara jumps the slightest at the touch. “Nice to meet you too.”
“Home for break?” Frank asks, turning back to Kara and clearly finished with the pleasantries.
“Yeah,” Kara says, taking a long pull of her beer and darting her eyes between them.
Frank nods, slowly as if digesting something before looking at Lena once again. “Can I get you a drink?”
Lena eyes the row of dusty looking liquor bottles against the back wall before moving on to the tap handles she doesn’t recognize and wavers indecisively a few moments before Kara laughs.
“The beer is cold,” Kara tells her, with amused little smirk that makes Lena want to order rail whiskey neat just to prove a point.
She doesn’t. Because she loves herself.
“Whatever you recommend,” she says and Frank laughs, but turns away to pour her the same beer he poured Kara.
It’s practically tasteless and Kara points to a chalkboard above the bar that boasts its two dollar price point. Lena’s fairly sure it’s just water disguised as beer and they’re both being swindled, but when she says as much Kara just laughs and takes a long exaggerated sip.
The bar is nice. Easygoing in a way Lena’s not used to on a night out. She and Kara just sit at the corner and sip at their beer, exchanging light conversation with Frank ever so often as Kara laughs at an old television hung in the corner playing black and white science fiction films.
Most everyone that walks in the bar seems to know Kara. They all turn to her with a smile and a wave or a raise of their glass. Lena’s not sure if that’s from frequenting the bar or the spattering of newspaper clippings she can spot above the cash register that all seem to revolve around the local high school hockey team. She’s pretty sure she can see a younger Kara Danvers in full uniform grinning on the faded front page of one of them.
“You’re very popular,” Lena eventually feels compelled to comment when someone sends them an unprompted round of shots - some peanut butter flavored whiskey that has Lena eyeing the brown-ish color with trepidation.
“I’m very cool,” Kara jokes, raising her shot glass to a guy in a flat-brimmed hat at the other end of the bar. “Thanks, Drew.”
“Good to see you, Jack Off,” Drew replies with a drunkenly crooked grin that makes Kara laugh.
When Lena’s eyebrows raise at the name calling, Kara shakes her head. “It’s a Jackrabbits joke,” she explains, which Lena could have probably figured out herself, but she chalks that up to being thrown off by her environment.
They throw their shots back, Lena wincing at the sickly sweet taste of the so-called whiskey, but laughing when Kara seems to do the same.
They don’t get drunk, but Lena’s comfortably buzzed. The kind of warm pleasantness that has her laughing freely at Kara’s dumb jokes and actually smiling more than frowning as they talk about nothing. Frank regales them with tales about what’s been going on around town - his stories of some of the more drunken hijinks at his bar are admittedly hilarious.
Especially when he leans towards Lena with a conspiratorial look and asks, “You wanna hear about the time Kara talked a woman into signing her divorce papers in the bathroom?”
“No,” Kara intones lowly, but she laughs at the end of it, putting a hand up to halt Frank’s words.
He just smiles at her and Lena shakes her head, teasing Kara with a smile. “Why am I not surprised, you homewrecker.”
“It wasn’t like that!” Kara defends.
“And after that they ordered shots of Jager,” Frank continues, but Kara sits up, indignantly.
“She ordered those,” Kara turns to Lena, with her hands up defensively. “I swear I’m a nice person,” she defends like ordering shots of liquorice liquor is a tall offense.
Lena chuckles, reaches out to grip at Kara’s bicep in a reassuring gesture. “I know you are, darling.”
It comes out so genuine and natural that Lena almost takes it back, balances it with something more insulting, but Kara’s shoulders are relaxing and she’s leaning into Lena’s touch with a smile. “Thanks, buttercup,” she jokes and Lena flushes under the way Frank just regards them a moment longer.
“So shots of Jag, then?” he offers until Kara shoos him away with a groan.
It’s comfortable to sit there with Kara and not think about much other than sipping at tasteless light beer. She enjoys the easy banter between Kara and Frank and the peppered commentary about the television that’s now shifted to late night informercials, but no one seems concerned with changing the channel.
She even joins in a bit herself, explaining the misguided science behind the massive jug of Alpha Testosterone Pills they watch a four minute advertisement for. Kara listens intently, head propped up on her hand, elbow planted on the bar and soft smile permanently etched into her features.
The scrutiny makes Lena shift uncomfortably and shoot Kara a look. “What?”
Shrugging a shoulder up, Kara just laughs, lips press together into her smile. “Nothing, I just like you here.”
It’s such a juvenile sounding statement, but Lena flushes nonetheless. “What is that supposed to mean?” she asks, wary as she takes a sip of her beer.
Kara shrugs. “You’re nicer. Midvale’s made you nicer.”
Lena clicks her tongue, unimpressed. “Maybe I’ve just grown to like you more.”
“That seems less likely than the power of Midvale rubbing off on you.”
“We’ve been here one day,” Lena points out, but privately admits that the exposure to Kara’s personality the last few weeks has surely tempered - if only in the slightest - the kind of general irritation she normally carries for the girl.
“That’s all it takes.”
“Maybe I’m just drunk.”
Kara eyes the half finished glass of beer on the counter with a skeptical arch of her brow. “Then I’d say I should probably take you home before you start dancing on the tables.”
Lena swats at her, but laughs, lets herself enjoy the teasing glint of Kara’s eyes.
“Frank,” Kara calls out, waving the man over. “Can we close out?”
“We don’t have to leave if you don’t want to,” Lena says, admittedly tired enough that a bed sounds nice, but not sure she’s ready to leave the snug atmosphere of the bar.
“Nah,” Kara says as Frank approaches. “If we stay any longer we’ll end up doing another round of shots and then you’ll pass out in a field or something.”
“You’re good, Danvers,” Frank says as he gets to them, waving her off when she reaches for her wallet. “You don’t have a tab.”
“What do you mean we don’t have a tab?” Kara says, laughing, but her eyes are serious as they regard Frank.
“Drinks are on me tonight,” he says, but Kara’s shaking her head before the sentence can finish.
“No way,” Kara says, pulling cash out of her wallet and counting it out.
“You can pay me back with tickets when you sign your big contract,” Frank says with a friendly grin.
“No,” Kara insists, a bit harsher than Lena expects. “We’ll pay you now.”
Frank’s eyebrows raise in surprise, but he doesn’t protest, just takes the cash Kara’s holding out and turns to an old fashioned cash register behind him. Lena goes for her own wallet, but Kara stops her with a hand on her forearm.
Before she can protest, or inquire as to what’s up with Kara’s reaction, Frank returns with Kara’s change, depositing it on the bar top in front of her. “All settled, kiddo,” he says, turning to Lena with a smile. “Nice to meet you, Lena.”
“Thanks, Frank,” Kara says, swiping at the change and counting out a few bills to leave near their empty glasses. “I’m sure we’ll see you again.”
“Looking forward to it,” he says as they gather their coats and head to the door. “Get home safe.”
They exit out into the chill night air, past a man smoking idly on the steps outside the bar, and turn around the corner towards the road that will lead them back to the house. Kara buttons her coat up all the way as they walk, but is otherwise silent, seeming lost in her own thoughts.
“Nice of Frank to offer to pay for our drinks,” Lena comments, unsure what to say, but fishing for what could have caused Kara’s mood swing.
“He does that too casually,” Kara replies, but there’s a reserved smile at the end of it. “It’s going to run him out of business.”
“Still nice of him,” Lena says, trying to read the expression on Kara’s face, but finding it uncharacteristically inscrutable. “You’ll definitely have to get him hockey tickets.”
Kara noticeably bristles at that and Lena realizes she’s found the source of the issue. Especially when Kara breathes out a soft almost inaudible, “Yeah.”
“He seemed pretty confident you’re going pro,” Lena says, thinking of the newspaper clippings Frank had tacked to the wall behind the bar of Kara’s team winning high school state championships and her debut at Vandermeer.
“Yup,” Kara says with a pop of the word, pulling the collar of her coat up around her neck and shoving her hands in its large pockets.
“Don’t you have to get drafted for that?”
“No,” Kara says and then after a beat. “But I have been.”
Lena should probably know that – it’s easily accessible information for that matter – but she hadn’t and her eyes must show her surprise because Kara laughs softly. “You have?”
“Yeah,” Kara says, steering them down the correct road towards home. “The St. Paul Lightkeepers are the proud owner of my rights.”
She can’t help the little face she makes at the name, but she doesn’t regret it because it makes Kara’s shoulders lose their tension just a little as she chuckles again. “I didn’t know that.”
“Yeah, after my senior year they have the option of signing me if they want to,” Kara says, sounding very much like she doesn’t see that happening.
“Why wouldn’t they?” The answer isn’t exactly elusive, but Lena’s curious at Kara’s tone, at the way she’d bristled at Franks insinuation she was going to make it big in professional hockey. It’s not that Lena puts much stock in sports as a career, but for someone like Kara she’d think there’d be a lot more excitement.
Kara shrugs, kicking at a collection of twigs on the ground. “I haven’t exactly been playing up to snuff recently.”
“Because you’re lazy on the ice,” Lena says before she can stop herself. It’d been her general observation in the one game she’d seen Kara play in, but she really hasn’t seen enough to make such an assessment and she almost takes it back, but Kara just laughs it off.
They’re quiet for a bit. Nothing but the dark road in front of them, the rustling of the trees in the fall wind and the soft patter of their footsteps as they continue their walk. It’s nice, but Lena senses the unease in the girl next to her and though she doesn’t care necessarily, she’s curious.
“Do you not want to play hockey after college?”
Another shrug, but this time Kara looks over at her, blowing out an indecisive sounding breath. “Honestly? I don’t know.”
That’s a surprise. Not that Lena’d had much insight into Kara’s aspirations before, but she’d made her own assumptions. “Do you not like it?”
At that, Kara’s face morphs into something more affronted at the suggestion. “I love hockey,” she counters.
“Then what’s the problem?”
Kara just sort of gapes a moment, brow furrowing before she decides on a dismissive. “It’s complicated.”
Lena hums skeptically, but doesn’t press when Kara offers nothing more. Instead, she takes pity on the pitiful way Kara’s kicking at the pebbles beneath her feet. “I liked the bar,” she tells her, stepping a bit closer to draw Kara’s attention back. “Frank’s nice.”
It does the trick. Kara’s mouth finally shaping into a familiar grin. “Good,” she says with an authoritative tilt of her chin. “You passed the first test.”
“It was a test?” Lena asks, arching her brow.
“It’s all a test,” Kara says imperiously and Lena laughs.
“Good thing I’m amazing at taking tests,” she says, pulling her coat in tighter against a sudden gust of wind that makes her shiver.
Kara slings an arm over her shoulder and Lena doesn’t shove her off if only because the added warmth is more than welcome. “Good thing,” Kara parrots.
They stay locked together until they arrive back at the house, pulling away only when they get to the front door and Krypto greets them. A loud bark is the only warning before he’s pouncing on Kara, throwing her off balance and making Lena laugh.
When they get upstairs into Kara’s tiny childhood bedroom, Lena just doesn’t have the heart to make her sleep on the floor. She’s already decided they can share the bed before they’ve even climbed the stairs, but that doesn’t mean she stops Kara from going through the motions of pulling a pillow off the bed and a blanket out of the closet.
She’s already in the bed herself, wrapped up in its covers before she peers down at where Kara’s settling in her makeshift bed on the floor. With one last moment’s hesitation, she invites Kara up.
“You can come sleep up here,” she murmurs, grateful the room is dark to disguise the way she can feel her cheeks warm. It’s ridiculous. She’s shared a bed before. With girlfriends and with friends and even once with Jack and a stranger they met on a night out in Mexico, but for whatever reason the idea of Kara in the same bed as her is making her feel nervous.
Kara darts up from the floor and her enthusiasm is palpable. “Really? You sure?”
“Yeah,” Lena says, the happiness she can feel rolling off Kara is pushing any hesitance she has away.
“Thanks,” Kara says and Lena scoots over when Kara climbs into bed, shifting as far to the edge as she can and hoping Kara doesn’t notice. She scrunches up the covers a bit as if to create a barrier between them.
“Just stay on your side.”
Kara laughs. “You don’t want to cuddle?”
“I can change my mind,” Lena says, grinding the words out through her teeth, but Kara is, as usual, unperturbed by her tone.
“Why do I feel like you’re going to kick me in your sleep?”
“I’m going to kick you while I’m awake.”
“I’ll be good, I promise.”
“Shut up and go to sleep,” Lena instructs, rolling her eyes when Kara makes a zipping motion across her lips and pulls the covers up high on her shoulders.
It takes her much longer to fall asleep with how aware she is of Kara’s body so close by, but she scolds herself for acting like a teenager and falls asleep through sheer willpower.
They fall into a routine rather quickly.
It’s pancakes in the morning with Eliza and Alex, a lazy wake up in the living room watching movies or playing the occasional board game. Lunch is a long drive towards the nearest half-decent restaurant or to a local market for freshly made deli-sandwiches. Then it’s afternoons of doing not much at all.
It’s not far off of what she’d be doing back on campus, but with more human interaction and a lot more laughter.
Kara’s different in Midvale.
Well, not different necessarily. She’s still dorky and ridiculous and wears socks with holes in them far too often, but there’s something about her hometown that’s softened the otherwise rough edges. The dumb jokes and near constant stream of laughter isn’t as irritating as it was back on campus and Lena finds herself smiling more often than not.
It's also apparent that Kara is some kind of local celebrity in Midvale because every single place they go, someone is there to gush over her return from school. At first, Lena’d chalked it up to just how small towns are, but there’s something about the way everyone has some story to tell Kara about how they’d caught a game recently or they’re planning a trip sometime soon, that makes Lena think it’s different.
When they have lunch at Connie’s, the owner practically swoons when she sees Kara and takes both of Lena’s hands in her own to convey her pleasure at getting to meet Kara’s Girlfriend like it’s some kind of mystical title.
“Sorry about that,” Kara mutters, after Connie’s taken their order and bustled off. Lena can feel more than one set of eyes on them around the restaurant.
Lena’s used to scrutiny, so it’s not a new feeling necessarily, she just hadn’t expected all of this in the backwater town Kara’d grown up in.
“You know she’s in back somewhere grabbing a Vandermeer jersey for you to sign,” Alex says, laughing.
“I hope not,” Kara mumbles, grumpily enough that it makes Lena reach for Kara’s thigh under the table and squeeze there quickly. It at least makes Kara smile.
“Have you gotten used to all the fawning, Lena?” Alex asks. “Must be a trip being escorted around town by the hometown hero.”
“Hero, huh?” Lena teases, trying to draw Kara’s attention from where she’s glaring at her sister.
“Oh yeah, local celebrity,” Alex continues, undeterred by Kara’s souring mood at all the attention.
“Did you save a busload of puppies or something?” Lena asks, bumping her knee against Kara’s to try and jolt her out of it. It works. Even if only the slightest.
Kara chuckles. “And nuns,” she says.
“Wow,” Lena says, pretending to marvel at the story with such exaggeration that the whole table laughs. “I’m so lucky.”
And with that, Kara seems to relax into the joke, slinging her arm across the back of Lena’s chair and grinning. Alex rolls her eyes, but when Eliza and Lena’s gaze connect, Kara’s adoptive mother smiles at her for a long moment before looking away.
“How does someone even get that good at Uno?” Kara says, later that night, after they stuffed themselves at Connie’s, walked to Frank’s for a drink with Alex and Eliza, and ambled home to play a few rounds of games. Kara’s still got a drink in her hand, leant against the bathroom’s doorframe and watching as Lena puts moisturizer on her face.
“It’s about playing the people, not the cards,” Lena says.
“I’m no good at that,” Kara pouts.
“I know,” Lena says with a laugh as she recaps her moisturizer and throws it back in her bag. Kara’s just lingering there, watching. “Why are you staring at me?”
There’s a drunken smile on her face, her shrug somehow looking uncoordinated with how she’s leaning against the wall. “I don’t know. I’m curious about skincare.”
“You’ve been overserved,” Lena says, turning to move past Kara and back into the bedroom.
“It’s possible,” Kara mumbles, looking down at the drink in her hand. It’s mostly ice now, melting the longer she holds it. “Who let Alex mix my drinks?”
“Right,” Kara says, pointing at Lena with the hand holding her drink. The ice shakes around dangerously enough in the glass that Lena reaches for it, plucking it away from Kara before she spills.
“Bedtime,” Lena instructs, setting the drink down and steering Kara towards her bed. It’s a good thing Kara’s always wearing something that could halfway be construed as pajamas because Lena is sure as hell not going to approach the prospect of undressing her.
“Seriously, why are you so good at Uno?” Kara whines, faceplanting into her bed and letting out a sigh as if losing at a child’s card game has irreparably damaged her ego. Her shirt rides up to expose the muscles of her lower back and Lena tugs down the hem of her own shirt in response.
“Luthors always win,” Lena answers, flipping the light off and shoving Kara over to make room on the bed. “At everything.”
“That’s an annoying trait.” The words are muffled by the pillow under Kara’s face, but she turns when Lena shoves at her side again and scoots over enough that Lena can get in.
Lena laughs, slipping under the covers and making sure there’s a good distance between she and Kara. She puts a throw pillow between them for good measure. “I know.”
“And you’re all like that?” Kara asks, waiting for Lena to confirm it with a nod. “Is that genetic or do they teach you at some boot camp when you’re a kid?”
Lena rolls her eyes, fluffing up the pillow under her head. “Genetic,” she says dryly.
“Remind me to never play Uno with your family.”
It’s hard to even imagine the scenario. “I don’t think you’re in any danger.”
Kara shifts around, twisting the covers until she settles with a comfortable, tired sigh. “What’s your family like?”
Lena can’t help but laugh, but when she looks over, Kara’s serious. So she answers with the first thing that comes to mind. “Ruthless,” she says, glancing at the full moon she can spot outside the window. The moonlight streams across the backyard and into the bedroom. “Impossible to please.”
“Ruthless?” Kara asks, a touch surprised and curious like she thinks maybe Lena’s telling a joke.
“It’s why we always win.”
“It is,” Lena admits softly, eyes now on the ceiling. She thinks of the voicemail waiting on her phone from her mother. She hasn’t listened to it yet, but she knows what it’ll say. Just thinking of it makes Lena want to sink further under the soft flannel covers of Kara’s bed.
“You don’t seem like that,” Kara says, sounding seconds away from slumber.
“You don’t know me very well,” Lena whispers, but when Kara doesn’t respond, she turns to see her eyes closed, mouth hanging open in the beginnings of what will likely be a snore.
Lena rolls her eyes, but turns onto her side and follows Kara into an easy sleep.
The day Alex is supposed to leave for Metropolis, Lena wakes up to a loud thumping sound outside the bedroom window. When she glances outside, she sees Kara there shooting pucks into a goal with a tarp stretched across it.
She looks ridiculous in her gym shorts and long sleeved flannel. She’s got her boots on, laces flopping haphazardly to the side in a manner that makes Lena worry for her safety, and hockey gloves the only piece of gear other than her stick. There’s what looks like fake ice assembled under her feet and Lena only recognizes it because she’s seen the same arrangement at the Hockey Haus on campus.
“Isn’t this how you disfigured your face a few months ago?” Lena says when she makes it downstairs and out the back door, Krypto bounding out after her.
Kara jumps a bit in surprise, but grins when she sees Lena. “That was Sam’s fault,” she says, leaning on her stick as Lena strides closer.
“Sure it was.”
“It was,” Kara insists and they share a laugh.
“What are you doing out here?”
Kara shrugs, twirls her stick idly in her hands. It’s a quick agile motion so absent Lena’s not even sure Kara knows she’s doing it. “Alex left this morning and I was bored so I thought I’d shoot a few.”
“Alex already left?”
“Yeah, sorry, she wanted me to wake you up, but I told her to let you sleep. She made me send her your cell phone number though, so if you get any creepy texts, it’s probably her.”
Lena’s not sure if she should be insulted they didn’t wake her up to say goodbye, or grateful Kara let her sleep in. “Too bad that I missed out.”
Kara shrugs. “You’ll see her again,” she says and Lena’s not sure that’s true, is set to remind Kara of the inevitable dissolution of their arrangement when a bang of the back door interrupts them and they both turn to see Eliza standing there.
“Good morning, girls,” she greets, with a motherly smile and a cross of her arms. “When you’re done, would you like pancakes?”
That’s all it takes for Kara to abandon her stick and gloves to the ground and start her stalk back inside the house. Lena doesn’t know quite what possesses her, but she makes a noise at Kara’s mess.
“I don’t think that’s where those go,” she says, arching a brow when Kara turns back to look at her.
Even though she rolls her eyes, Kara tracks back to pick up her gear and haul them back towards the house, huffing at Lena, but smiling as she passes.
“Tell her to stop bossing me around,” Kara says to Eliza as they step into the house again.
Eliza laughs and shakes her head. “I’m not sure that would help you, sweetheart,” she says, winking at Lena when she catches her eye.
Kara makes a pitiful sound, but puts her stick and gloves away in a section of the back hallway, even taking off her shoes before heading into the kitchen.
It takes two more missed calls from her mother to make Lena finally relent and listen to the voicemail. Better to get it over and done with before she just makes the consequences of not responding worse.
She waits until Kara’s on her morning run to take her phone out to the back porch, Krypto ambling outside with her to run around in the yard. The calm scene before her is a contrast to the chilly tone of her mother scolding her over the phone.
It’s the usual fare.
Lena throws a stick out for Krypto while her mother expresses her discontent that Lena’s not coming home for fall break and curiosity as to what her plans are. There’s the regularly scheduled mention of Veronica and some big company event at the end of the week. She’ll send a plane ticket for Lena if she decides to actually be a contributing member of this family.
The voicemail finally ends and Lena sighs, deleting it immediately and hovering over her mother’s contact.
Eliza’s voice interrupts her indecision and she jumps a little, turning to where Krypto’s bounding up the patio to drop the stick they’ve been playing with at Eliza’s feet.
“Yes, of course,” Lena says, setting her phone down and putting on her best smile.
Oddly, it doesn’t seem to work on Eliza, who absently throws the stick out into the yard and moves closer to Lena’s side, observing Lena critically like there’s something to be found in her expression.
It feels heavy to pretend like she’s not drained by her mother’s voicemail, but she manages, keeps her smile persistent even through the length of Eliza’s regard.
“Kara on a run?” Eliza asks, mercifully not inquiring further into Lena’s mood.
“Yeah, she should be back soon,” Lena answers, looking at time on her phone.
Eliza hums, watching as Krypto runs back to them, dropping the stick again between both their feet. Lena bends down to grab it and chuck it back out. “You two make a nice couple,” Eliza says. “I’m glad she brought you here.”
“Thank you,” Lena says softly. There’s something both settling and unsettling about it. Convincing Eliza had been the entire point, after all, but the deception of it coils strangely in Lena’s stomach.
“You know, I never did ask how you two met,” Eliza says casually, arms in the pockets of her oversized cardigan. “Kara just said she’d been seeing someone in one of her classes.”
How they’ve gone this entire trip and have yet to answer the one question they’d prepped relentlessly for, Lena’s not sure. But here she is finally faced with something she has answers for. “I was assigned as Kara’s tutor, actually,” Lena says, hearing the practiced script in her head. “She asked me out after our second session.”
“Took her long enough,” Eliza jokes and Lena laughs, watches Krypto race around in the yard, stick now abandoned in favor of chasing a squirrel up a tree.
“Yeah, real slow mover, that one.”
“I was beginning to think she’d never work up the courage,” Eliza says, smiling fondly. “I’m glad she did.”
Before Lena can respond, the back door slides open and they both turn. Krypto goes bolting between them with a loud bark and skids across the patio to where Kara’s joined them, sweaty and disheveled from her run, but smiling easily.
“Hey,” Kara says, wiping sweat off her face with the neck of her faded t-shirt. “What’re you guys up to?”
“Oh, I was just offering to show Lena your old choir recital videos,” Eliza says, her smile teasing as she winks at Lena.
“Uh, no,” Kara says, even as Eliza brushes past her, Krypto on her heels. “Nope, I object!”
It isn’t until the day before they’re set to head back to campus that Lena realizes just how acclimated she’s become to the gentle rhythm of the Danvers household. She wakes up that morning to the feeling of Kara shifting around in bed, reaching out to a side table to pull her phone off it and the bright white light of her screen making Lena squint up into wakefulness.
“Eliza got us a reservation at the nice restaurant the town over,” Kara says, clearly unconcerned whether Lena’s actually fully awake or not. “She wants to know if you want anything from the coffee shop while she’s out.”
“Bagel,” Lena huffs, digging her face into the pillow to avoid the absurdly bright light of Kara’s phone in the dark bedroom. It smells like a combination of Kara and Krypto and Lena probably shouldn’t press further into it, but she’s tired and it feels good.
“Everything? And an Americano?” Kara asks. Lena nods. Kara fires off a text and drops her phone on the bedside table. “I’m gonna go for a run, meet her over there. Need anything else?”
“No,” Lena says. Kara pats at her head like she’s some kind of child and Lena swats at her for being an annoying asshole, but Kara just laughs, jumping away from the motion and out of bed.
“Okay, I’ll be back in like thirty,” Kara says, and though Lena’s eyes are closed she can hear the now familiar sounds of Kara shuffling through her closet and around her room. The second she opens the bedroom door, Krypto comes rumbling in, jumping up onto the bed and immediately coming over to snuffle at Lena’s head. “Shit, sorry - ”
“It’s fine,” Lena yawns. She can feel Krypto sit down on the bed next to her, a suitable resolution for the lack of the warmth that’s grown without Kara in bed.
“Right,” Kara says after a few seconds, voice soft. “Be good, scruffers.”
The door half-closes after that, Krypto lying down and setting his head on her hip.
As she listens to Kara’s footsteps down the stairs, the familiar creaking of the second to last step and the slam of the front door, Lena sinks into bed and realizes with some startlement that this is maybe one of the most relaxing school breaks she’s ever had.
It doesn’t make much sense considering how foreign the environment had been when she’d arrived, but as she rolls over and blinks the sleep out of her eyes, she acknowledges just how acclimated she’s become to it.
Krypto huffs a bit at all her shifting around, but settles again when she reaches out a hand to pet him.
“I might actually miss you,” Lena whispers, scratching against the crown of his head and laughing when his tongue lolls out of his mouth contentedly.
He doesn’t answer her, of course, because he’s a dog, but she thinks maybe he presses in closer against her hip.
“Don’t tell Kara,” she says, rubbing against that spot behind his ears she’s found out he loves. “But I might miss Midvale too.”
Krypto’s silent, as is the rest of the house, and Lena lets the feel of it lull her back to sleep, only waking when Kara comes bounding up the stairs thirty minutes later holding a tray of coffee, a bag of donuts, and one singular everything bagel.
After they go to the alleged fanciest restaurant within ten miles for dinner, Kara hugs Eliza goodbye and says they’ll see her in the morning. There’s a secretive smile on her face as she tells Lena she has something planned and though Lena struggles not to look wary, Eliza looks suspiciously pleased about the whole thing, her smile warm as she wraps Lena into a hug as well.
It takes a good twenty minutes to get to where Kara’s taking them and though Lena jokes about Kara taking her off into the woods just to murder her, she otherwise acquiesces silently, watching the landscape float by and the stars seeming to get brighter as they drive.
“Did you take me to a lookout point?” Lena asks, laughing around the incredulous way she asks the question.
They’re stopped in the middle of nowhere, a path off a bend in the road that overlooks a cliff’s edge and suddenly Lena feels like a teenager in every shitty romcom she’s ever seen.
Kara scoffs softly, the noise escaping through an abrupt exhale as she maneuvers the truck backwards towards the cliff.
“Not like that.”
Lena looks back through the rear view window skeptically. “Then like what?”
“It’s just a cool place, don’t make it weird,” Kara says, parking and popping open her door. “Now come on.”
Lena follows her around to the back of the truck, laughing when she sees the blanket and basket in the truck bed, her hands propping on her hips as Kara unlatches the tailgate. “Are you trying to woo me, Kara Danvers?”
It shouldn’t be so endearing to watch Kara roll her eyes against what Lena senses is a flushing of her cheeks, but something about the chill in the air around them, the impending knowledge they’ll be back on campus this time tomorrow and the way she’s maybe starting to actually like Kara is making her want to press in close and stay that way as long as she’s allowed.
“Do I have to? We’re already dating.”
“That could change at any moment,” Lena says, but accepts Kara’s help in getting on the back of her truck, scooting across the thick flannel blanket spread out and peering into the basket of stuff. “Especially if this is what you’re bringing to the table.”
“I just thought this would be better than spending the night with Eliza. Her and Alex both always get kind of clingy before I’m supposed to go back to school.”
Lena hung out with her for a few days but she can’t imagine Alex Danvers ever being accused of being clingy.
“Come on, we can talk, get to know each other more,” Kara insists as if they haven’t spent every waking moment (and non-waking moment) together the past few days. Lena thinks she’s starting to understand Kara far more than she ever set out too.
“Then I sure hope you have something stronger in that basket than beer,” Lena jokes, and Kara just smiles, proud.
“Of course I do,” she says, reaching back to pull out a bottle of amber liquid.
“Then you already know me well enough,” Lena says, swiping at the bottle and smiling when Kara laughs.
They sit on the blanket Kara’s spread out and let their legs dangle off the end of the tailgate, nothing much but stars and open land as far as the eye can see. Lena can barely make out Midvale proper, the sparse little collection of lights in the distance that Kara points out with a laugh.
The beer Kara brought is the same swill she’s been choking down at the Swine & Fiddle whenever they go, but Lena finds it’s somehow grown more palatable than when she’d first arrived.
“Cheers,” Kara says with a crooked smile, hitting her can against Lena’s.
It’s comfortable and quiet and despite the light autumn breeze that ruffles the trees nearby, Lena feels warm, solid, tethered to the moment.
“Tell me something no one else knows about you,” Kara says softly into the night air.
“Why would I do that?” Lena asks, but the warmth in her chest nearly answers for her.
Kara smiles. “Because it’s fun,” she says. “And we’re supposed to be dating.”
“Fake dating,” Lena reminds her, the words more of a mumble against the can of beer she’s sipping. She pauses a moment. Considers. “I will if you do.”
Kara laughs. “You first.”
“How am I supposed to trust that?”
A shrug. “You just are.”
Maybe the air is thinner in Midvale or something because Lena doesn’t even feel up to protesting. There’s a soft tilt to Kara’s eyes and the bed of the truck feels small against the backdrop of open land in front of them.
“Okay,” she says, thinking a moment. There are a lot of options. As she thinks on it, she realizes how little any of her friends actually know about her. It’s not that she has secrets, necessarily, but she’s never been a particularly forward person. “I’m adopted.”
Why that’s the fact she decides to divulge, she’s not sure. It’s a matter of public record, but something the family has taken great steps to keep out of public discourse.
“You are?” Kara seems appropriately surprised by the information, eyes widening. “So you’re not actually a –”
Kara seems to pause a moment, her expression delicate, but Lena brushes it off.
“I found out after my father died. Lillian told me at his funeral, actually,” Lena explains, and it doesn’t feel as vulnerable as she expects. “She adopted me after my birth mother passed when I was young. I had no idea.”
“Wow. That’s a lot.”
“It was a bit unexpected,” Lena admits with a short laugh.
“How old were you when she died?” Kara asks it so frankly it’s almost refreshing.
“My mother?” Lena asks, waiting for Kara to nod. “Three.”
“That’s young. I’m sorry.”
“It was a long time ago,” Lena says. “I should also mention it’s not exactly something my family likes discussed, so I’d appreciate it if you kept the knowledge to yourself.”
Kara looks at her a bit incredulously, but her eyes are sincere. “I don’t gossip about my friends,” she says in such a way that makes Lena trust it without any reason. “Especially about this stuff.”
Lena nods, looks away from the intense way Kara’s connected their eyes. “Bet you never thought we’d have something in common,” she jokes and Kara laughs.
“We have a ton in common,” she argues, swinging her legs back and forth. “We both like hockey –”
“I never said I like –”
“We go the same school –”
“That hardly counts as something in common.”
“We’re both super good looking.” At this one, Kara pulls a wide proud grin and Lena scoffs her way into a laugh, shoving at Kara’s shoulder.
“One of us is,” she says in a droll tone.
“I am, you’re right,” Kara says, sagely and with a pitiful look for Lena that has her reaching out to shove her again even if she continues to laugh.
“You are the worst, why am I dating you again?”
Kara laughs. “Fake dating,” she corrects, pointing at Lena with the hand still holding her beer can.
“Thank god,” Lena replies, rolling her eyes. Her face feels flush, her chest light and easy. Eager to change the subject, Lena points right back at her. “Okay, now it’s your turn.”
“For telling me your deepest darkest secret.”
“That was not the game,” Kara counters, lips thinned into a secretive smile. “And if that was your deepest darkest secret, I’m disappointed.”
Lena shakes her head, unimpressed. “Stop stalling.”
Kara takes a sip of her beer, looks out towards the stars. “I almost quit hockey last year.”
Lena almost says I already knew that because Kara’d said as much when they’d been discussing their tutoring arrangement, but it’s clear that’s not all Kara has to say.
“I told Eliza and Alex that I was doing everything I could to stay on the team, but really I was about ready to give it all up. I had a letter drafted for the Lightkeepers and everything.” Kara turns back to Lena like this is the real secret. “Sometimes I still think about quitting, actually.”
“Why don’t you?”
Kara makes a face like she’d expected Lena to talk her out of it or something, her eyebrows hiking up. “I don’t know.”
Lena considers that, takes the last sip of her beer before setting the empty can behind them. “If you want to quit, you should.”
“You’d be the only one who thinks that,” Kara says into the lip of her beer. “You’ve seen. Just about everyone and their mom thinks I’m going to be some kind of hockey superstar.”
“Does it really matter what everyone else thinks?”
Shooting Lena a look, Kara laughs. “Coming from you?”
Lena rolls her eyes, but acknowledges the implication with a tilt of her head. “I’m just saying that you should do what you want. Surely you have that kind of freedom.”
“Doesn’t always feel like it.”
That’s something Lena understands probably more than anyone, and understands even more after having spent the last few days seeing how much the town loves Kara. “I just think that once you make a decision you should commit to it,” Lena says. “Give it everything. You can’t be one foot in and one foot out the rest of your life.”
Kara seems to muse over that, her lips pushing together in contemplation. “I guess you’re right.”
“If you don’t want to play hockey, don’t play hockey,” Lena continues, matter-of-fact as she can be. “But if you do, you should start caring about that.”
“But what if I don’t know what I want?” Kara says, groaning out the question pitifully as her head tilts back.
Lena laughs at the dramatic way she looks over. “Then you should probably figure that out pretty quickly.”
“You’re zero help, you know that?”
Lena smiles, a snarky kind of grin that makes the bridge of Kara’s nose wrinkle up. “I do know that, yes.”
They’re quiet for a bit. Lena takes another sip of the whiskey Kara’s brought and winces at the bitter taste of it, shoving it towards Kara when she chuckles at her.
“You know what I think?” Kara asks, taking a swig herself before handing it back.
“I’m sure I don’t want to know.”
“I think we should probably practice kissing.”
Everything goes silent abruptly.
It’s definitely the beer and the pull of whiskey that’s even making Lena consider what Kara’s said in a serious manner. That’s the only excuse. The warmth of the drink and the contrast of the cool air is making her head a little loopy because why else would she not completely balk at the suggestion.
Thankfully her faculties return enough for her to regard Kara with a furrow in her brow. “What? Why?”
“For when we get back to school,” Kara argues, crushing the beer can in her hand and chucking it back in the basket.
“You’re not making any sense,” Lena says and she takes another pull of whiskey hoping it will ease the flutter of her stomach.
“It’ll be weird if we never kiss,” Kara says in a logical tone, though her words are nothing of the sort.
“How on earth could that be weird?”
“Because we’re dating and in love and stuff,” Kara says with a casual shrug of her shoulder that has Lena taking a long enough pull of whiskey that she winces.
“You do know we’re not actually dating, right?” Lena says dryly as she can with the bitter taste of cheap whiskey scratching at her throat.
Kara’s laugh does nothing to temper the fluttering feeling in her chest at the thought of actually kissing her. Now that Kara’s put it out there, it’s all Lena can think about. Ridiculous as the idea is.
“I just mean that people are going to expect us to kiss probably and it might be kind awkward if we do it for the first time in front of people.”
“We’re not doing anything in front of anyone,” Lena argues, but her lips feel dry and in the back of her head she can feel herself start to see the logic behind what Kara’s saying.
“You know what I mean.”
“What if I’m not into PDA?”
Kara lifts a skeptical brow like she’s well aware of Lena’s history of drunkenly mounting Veronica at parties and clubs. “Is that true?”
Lena just hums, but when she goes to take another drink of whiskey, Kara’s plucking the bottle out of her hand. “Come on, what are you so afraid of?”
“I’m not afraid,” Lena says, knowing Kara’s baiting her, but unable to stop her reaction.
“Wouldn’t you rather have it out of the way before we end up getting goaded into it at a party or -”
“I don’t know what kind of barbaric parties you attend, but the idea we’d be made to kiss each other in front of some crowd…”
Kara laughs, shrugs a shoulder. “I just thought you’d want to be prepared for any possible scenario.”
Lena hates that Kara’s making sense, that she keeps making sense when they’re talking about the most ridiculous, idiotic things. “The possibility of that actually happening is -”
“What’s wrong?” Kara interrupts, a challenge in the way she smirks. “Never been kissed?”
It’s clear Kara’s joking, but Lena scoffs, offended anyway, and that’s enough to spur her forward, cutting through hesitation like a knife. She fists the fabric of Kara’s hockey sweater where it sits over her chest and yanks her forward, swiftly pressing her lips against Kara’s before she can say anything else irritating.
It’s not the best first kiss Lena’s ever had, but maybe that’s because she slants her lips against Kara’s a tad aggressively and Kara’s shocked enough to not react immediately. It’s like kissing a statue for the first few seconds until Lena pulls away enough to comment, “You’re terrible at this.”
That gets a reaction, but not the one Lena’s expecting. Kara’s body surges forward until their lips are locked again and her arm reaches around Lena’s waist until she’s hoisting Lena forward into her lap. It’s a quick, strong, fluid motion that pulls the breath out of Lena’s throat abruptly.
It goes from awkward and stale to all heat quickly, like a physical whiplash coursing up her chest.
Kara’s lips are pliant now but demanding enough that Lena’s grip loosens against Kara’s sweater to slide up around her neck, holding her in close.
It’s been long enough since Lena’s kissed someone, really kissed someone, that her head feels like it gets swamped with sensation. Kara’s hands are hot and solid against Lena’s hip and the small of her back and her lips are soft. It’s hard not to imagine what they’d feel like if they travelled further south.
Just the thought of it makes her throb with a sudden rush of desire and she has the abrupt realization that all her body wants to do is yank Kara closer until they’re spread out across the truck bed.
From the noise Kara makes into her kiss and the way her fingers twitch against Lena’s side, she’s pretty sure Kara wouldn’t protest too much if they did.
It doesn’t matter, right? They’re in the middle of nowhere, miles upon miles away from campus and anyone who might care about what they’re doing. Kara’s attractive enough and she makes Lena laugh and she kisses adeptly enough that Lena feels it between her legs. It probably wouldn’t be half bad if they just gave into it.
They could get away with it too.
Lena could let Kara push her backwards, could guide Kara’s hands below her waistband, could pant an orgasm out between their mouths and no one would have to know. It’s just a quick release of tension that naturally builds up between two people that have been sharing the same bedroom for the past few days. They’re young. It happens.
As the thought gets stronger and stronger, Lena brings one hand down to cover the hand Kara has at her hip, has every intention of bringing it into her lap and pulling Kara down on top of her when Kara pulls out of the kiss so suddenly Lena’s head bobs forward to chase the loss of pressure.
Kara’s eyes dart across Lena’s face, the only sound Lena can hear is that of their breathing, shallow and quick as they hover near each other. The breeze ruffles around them, cooling the heat against Lena’s lips, and she glances down at Kara’s mouth, the way it’s gaped open and the faint sheen of their kiss still imprinted there.
“Well,” Kara says, breathing the word out more than anything.
Lena licks out at her lips. It’s just one word, but the thick sound of it feels like liquid in Lena’s ears. She blinks against the feeling, takes a breath, and steadies herself, moving away from the warm invitation of Kara’s expression.
“Well that’s that,” Lena finishes for her, swallowing against the lump in her throat.
“Yup,” Kara says with a pop of the word, reaching out to touch lightly at her lips. It does nothing to quell the urge Lena has to press closer and god that’s an inconvenient feeling. The last thing she needs to add to all this mess is some kind of ridiculous physical attraction.
“Good then,” Lena says, and she shifts away from Kara’s body, untangling her legs from where Kara’s pulled them into her lap and putting enough space between them that they’re no longer in danger of touching.
“Yeah,” Kara says, seeming to regain control of her senses with a laugh. “Glad that’s out of the way.”
“Mhmm,” Lena hums, reaching back for the whiskey bottle and taking a sip. When she offers it to Kara, she declines, falling back against the blanket until she’s lying down in the truck bed.
An awkward silence threads between them, stretches out around the truck for long enough to make Lena want to squirm. She settles for lying down next to Kara, but a respectable distance away.
The sky is crystal clear out here so far from the artificial light pollution of the city. It’s gorgeous to look at and Lena lets that distract her for a few more seconds until she feels compelled to say something to break the tension. “You’re a terrible kisser,” she whispers, her smile all tease when Kara turns over to look at her.
Kara laughs, loud and clear in the night air, as she lets out a joking, “Fuck you.”
Somewhere between laughing the tension of their kiss away and talking about their upcoming week at school - Kara’s game next weekend and Halloween parties - they drift off, falling asleep in the back of the truck.
Lena hadn’t even made the conscious decision to do so, but she wakes up with her hand outstretched atop Kara’s stomach as if holding her there. When she realizes where it is, she pulls it away so abruptly it shakes Kara awake, groaning into consciousness.
“What time is it?” Kara asks, pulling her phone out of her pocket and peering at the screen through squinted eyes. Lena gets half a glance at the three in the morning timestamp over Kara’s background and groans.
“We fell asleep,” Lena says, feeling the ache in her neck from her uncomfortable position against the hard bed of the truck. Kara blinks at her, glasses askew.
“Yeah,” her voice is low and gruff again, and Lena has a now-active memory of Kara’s hands on her that pairs easily with it. “Shit. Sorry.”
“It is your fault,” Lena says, allowing that. Kara is shuffling slowly toward the edge of the truck bed, climbing down with a grunt as her feet hit the ground. “Take a girl to the middle of nowhere, get her tipsy, fall asleep. Textbook teen movie.”
“If this was a teen movie we would have probably slept together and then you would have run off in the middle of the night crying,” Kara says, snorting. She makes grabby hands at Lena, gripping the blanket underneath her and pulling hard enough she actually moves. Lena yelps a bit. “C’mon.”
“Crying because you were so bad in bed,” Lena grumbles, moving toward the edge of the truck bed, placing her hands in Kara’s waiting ones and inevitably almost falling flat on her face when she climbs out. Kara holds her up easily, and she’s reminded of Kara’s anecdote about carrying around a weight bar.
“Crying because you’re desperately in love with me and don’t know how to handle your emotions in a constructive manner,” Kara corrects, laughing as Lena finds her balance and straightens out her wrinkled clothing.
Kara folds up the blanket and throws it in the basket, flipping the tailgate up after making sure all their empties have been secured. Lena blinks blearly at the scene, still trying to get her brain to wake up. “Are you okay to drive?”
With a nod, Kara puts a hand at Lena’s back, a brief solid pressure that pushes her towards the passenger door. It burns into Lena’s skin, a lingering sense of intimacy from before making Lena shiver. “I’m good. You okay?”
Lena nods, moving rapidly away from Kara’s touch and trying to shake off the palpable memory of their kiss. “I’m good,” she says, throat feeling thick.
“Good, let’s get home before the coyotes come after us,” Kara says, sounding serious enough that Lena practically darts into the truck, but when she catches Kara’s eye as the engine starts up there’s enough tease there that Lena swats at her arm.
“I hate you.”
Kara smiles, voice warm. “I know.”
The morning arrives abruptly after a night of restless sleep. The drive back to the Danvers house had slowly woken her up, her mind free to consider her actions without sleepiness or alcohol affecting her thoughts. Lena could do little other than toss and turn ever since they got back, replaying the instant when she was moments, seconds, away to throwing caution to the wind and just fucking Kara Danvers in the back of her truck.
The memory stays imprinted across her skin like a brand, throbbing against her ribcage so heavily she can’t think of anything else. It certainly doesn’t help that Kara’s mere feet away from her in bed, radiating warmth and breathing deeply in easy slumber.
In the light of day, she feels nervous and uncertain. How she’s going to act normal today, she’s not sure. Just thinking of the long drive ahead of them is feeling torturous and she really should have gone with her instincts in buying a plane ticket home.
The bedroom is empty when Lena’s alarm finally goes off and she’s not sure how she missed Kara’s exit. Regardless, it’s a small moment of grace that allows Lena to push out of bed to gather her things, hoping a splash of water on her face and a decent outfit will make her remember who she is.
Because who she is is definitely not someone that makes out with some dorky hockey player in the back of their truck at a lookout point in Nowheresville, USA after three light beers and a few shots of cheap whiskey.
Washing her face doesn’t exactly soften any memories from the previous evening, but she feels a little more human at least. Enough so that when Kara pokes her head around the bathroom door, Lena only jumps a little.
“Hey, you almost ready?”
“Yeah,” she answers, clearing sleep out of her throat and hoping the way she avoids eye contact isn’t obvious. “Be down in a sec.”
“Can I take your bag down?”
Lena nods. “Thanks.”
She spends the next few moments looking at herself in the mirror as an internal pep talk runs through her mind. Below her she can hear the muted sounds of Kara shuffling around, talking to Eliza.
By the time she makes it downstairs, Kara’s jangling her keys and laughing at something Eliza is saying, her head ducking. When Eliza spots her, she comes swiftly, and only hesitates a second to feel Lena out before wrapping her up in a tight hug. It feels easy and warm and Lena feels another touch of melancholy at leaving Midvale behind.
“It was so nice meeting you, Lena,” Eliza says, her voice calm and affectionate in Lena’s ear.
“You too, Eliza.”
Kara coughs from behind them. “I’m going to go start the truck,” she announces, dipping the Jackrabbits hat she has on her head low and all but bolting out the front door towards the truck.
Eliza laughs, pulling out of Lena’s hug to regard her for a moment. The smile on her face is genuine and the warmth she radiates is real in a way Lena’s not quite used to even after the last few days.
“You’re welcome here anytime,” Eliza says and though it may have sounded like a hollow platitude from anyone else, Lena believes Eliza means it.
With a glance to the driveway out the open front door, Eliza’s expression turns a touch more serious as she looks back at Lena. “Take care of her for us.”
Lena glances outside as well, sees Kara idling in front of her truck, scrubbing something off the front bumper, waiting. It feels like a heavy ask considering the circumstances, but Lena doesn’t know how to deny her.
“I’ll do my best,” she says, dreading the reality that she’ll likely never be back in Midvale. She’s not going to see Eliza again and she’s sure the next time Kara mentions Lena in any kind of conversation it will be to begin their slow decline towards a break up.
“Then she’s in good hands,” Eliza says, pulling Lena’s attention back with a smile.
It takes some restraint not to say something. An uncharacteristic stab of guilt turns Lena’s stomach thinking that they’ve spent the past few days deceiving a woman that’s been nothing but kind to her, but she swallows against the feeling.
“Wheels up!” Kara yells out and Lena rolls her eyes for Eliza who laughs at the display.
“I’m coming, calm down,” Lena calls back and with a last smile for Eliza, she turns out the door and towards the truck, willing herself not to look back.
“Everything good?” Kara asks, wary like she’s worried Eliza’s done something to Lena.
Lena slouches down against the truck seat and slides sunglasses on her head, mouth dipping into a half-frown. “If this piece of shit dies on us again I’m running you over with it.”
Kara laughs. “How would you accomplish that if it’s broken down?”
“Don’t underestimate me.”
“Never,” Kara says, solemn sounding even though she’s smiling.
With a last wave for Eliza, who’s watching them from the porch, Kara backs the truck out the driveway and turns down the road.
“Back to reality,” Kara sighs, almost to herself, as they make it to the county road that will lead them out of the state.
Lena watches as they pass Midvale’s big white welcome sign and tries to quell the turn of melancholy in her stomach. “Thank god,” she grumbles.
“It’s still just us,” Kara teases. “You can admit that Midvale isn’t that bad.”
Lena turns to where Kara’s smiling at her, clearly fishing for a positive comment about her hometown. “I like your dog,” Lena offers, hoping the dark black sunglasses on her face is hiding the crinkle she can feel forming around her eyes.
“You know what, I’ll take it,” Kara says through a laugh. She reaches forward to fiddle with the radio. “Anything you want to listen to?”
As if there’s more than one radio station to choose from.
“Just drive,” Lena instructs, thinking maybe she should try and sleep to make the time go by quicker. Anything to get her to stop being so aware of the truck bed behind them, or the memory of kissing Kara last night and how much she wishes they weren’t going back to campus, that tonight they’d eat at Eli’s and walk to Frank’s and she’d fall asleep to the sound of Kara’s snores.
“Yes, ma’am,” Kara says, settling on a station and turning the volume up just enough that they can hear it.
Lena slinks down even farther into the seat, falls asleep by the time they cross state lines.
The truck makes it all the way back to campus, all the way to the front of the Hockey Haus where an array of cars are parked back in the driveway. Lena’s happy to see her own car is still parked out front looking no different than how she’d left it. It’d been a concern in the back of her mind that it’d fall victim to some ridiculous hockey team shenanigans and she’d come back to find a spray-painted dick on its side or all its tires slashed.
What they do return to, however, is Eve and Nia in the front yard with a hose and a long stretch of tarp laid out across the lawn. They’re dressed in an unseasonable ensemble of shorts and tank tops considering the fall chill and are currently spraying down the tarp with so much water it’s flooding part of the lawn.
“What the hell are they doing?”
Kara sighs through a chuckle, parking the car near Lena’s. “Look, if we make a run for it, we probably won’t get wet.”
“Make a - ” Lena turns a wide eyed look Kara’s way.
“I’ll get your bag and you just go straight to your car. Oh shit, Nia just noticed us.”
Lena turns to see Nia looking straight at them, the hose in her hand and a maniacal smile on her face.
“No time to think about it, let’s go,” Kara says quickly and just like that she’s bolting out the car door.
It’s clear what Kara’d meant by getting wet because as soon as Kara’s out the door, Nia’s yelling her name gleefully and pointing the hose straight at her, directing the water as best she can to try and reach Kara from her spot in the yard. Eve starts laughing as Kara’s darting in and out of the spray.
It’s ridiculous. Completely and utterly ridiculous.
There’s no way she’s engaging in that nonsense, so she steps out of the car and calmly goes for her bag. She has every intention of just walking to her car and driving away, but she hears Kara say, “Nia, no, she’s off limits.”
When she turns, Nia’s seconds from pointing the hose her direction, Eve looking between them all with an excited smile.
“She’s your girlfriend, Danvers. Puts her in the game.”
Kara’s moved to hover in between Lena and Nia and shuffles as Lena ignores them all and continues moving to her car, popping the trunk and throwing her suitcase inside. “You’re all children.”
“Hit her and I’ll upper decker your bathroom every day for the next month.”
Lena has no idea what that means but both Eve and Nia make absolutely revolted noises at the threat.
“Hit me and I’m running you all over with my car,” Lena adds, glaring at all three of them.
Kara turns to her, a plaintive smile on her face as Lena moves to the driver seat and gets in. She almost gets the door closed too, but Kara stops it, leans down to speak to her in a more private tone.
“I had a nice time this weekend,” Kara says with a genuine smile that reminds Lena unerringly of Midvale. It’s such a contrast to the last few seconds it makes her freeze a moment, her brain having trouble sorting out her irritation with arriving on campus and immediately being assaulted from the look on Kara’s face.
“Yeah. Sure, me too.”
It makes Kara grin. “Come to my game Friday? Crossbar after?”
“I’ll think about it,” Lena says and that, at least, gets Kara to stand and release the door frame.
“Great, love you, honey bunches of oats,” she says loudly, clearly for Eve and Nia, and with such exaggerated saccharine that Lena glares at her, thinks about slamming the door hard enough it might hit Kara. She opts for flipping her off through the window and pulling away, just in time for Kara to get sprayed with a heavy stream of water that makes her yell loud enough Lena can hear it halfway down the street.
When she turns the corner, out of view, she lets out a soft laugh, shakes her head, and drives towards home.