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how can we be lovers (if we can't be friends)

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Lena sees her tutoring assignment for that semester and her eyes nearly bug out of her head. A bolded Kara Danvers, Section 3B stares back at her in some kind of mockery.

It’s not that she has a problem with Kara Danvers necessarily. She’s never actually met her face to face despite having been in at least one class together nearly every semester. All Lena knows of Kara is her reputation, and she’d rather not spend her semester trying to get some dumb jock to understand a physics class she’ll probably get gifted a passing grade in anyway.

At least she plays a tolerable sport - hockey - and not something insufferable like basketball or soccer. Lena’s seen those athletes around campus before, has even made the regrettable decision to attend a party at the soccer house when Lana was dating their star midfielder. The night involved some very questionable MDMA, a soccer ball kicked at Lena's face and a one-night stand with her organic chemistry TA. It's not something she likes to remember. Hockey players were notorious morons, but at least they weren’t known for anything more severe than a couple of all-out brawls on their front lawn.

For a few moments while she stares at the corkboard with the list of tutoring assignments, Lena ponders the virtue of requesting a trade. It seems like a decent idea until she spots Jack’s partner - Beth Breen, Section 2C - and realizes that things could be worse. At least she’s not meant to tutor someone that’s all but stalked her for two years. A heavy dose of amusement has her smothering a laugh as she turns away from the board and texts her friend.

did you see who you’re tutoring this semester?

Jack’s reply is quick - he’s supposed to be in the middle of some pass/fail English elective, but Lena knows he never pays attention. I hope it’s Mike Matthews and his two total brain cells just for a fucking laugh.

Lena shakes her head, takes a delight in texting him: Nope. Just your number one fan.

Shit is all Jack sends back and if Lena wasn’t busy searching for an appropriate gif to send him in reply she might have been paying better attention to where she was walking. As it is, she’s got her focus on her phone and usually the Academic Affairs building is abandoned at this time of the day, but just as she’s found a great gif of a dancing baby to send him, she turns a corner and runs into something tall and hard.

“Fucking hell,” she spits out, agitated at being bumped backward into a stumble. Her irritation deepens when she looks up to see what she’s run into and sees none other than Kara Danvers, grinning stupidly at her. “Watch where you’re going.”

Kara’s smile doesn’t waver in that irritating, unflappable way she has. Lena’s seen her enough around campus to be familiar with it. In the classes they’ve shared, there’s never been an ounce of panic on Kara’s face when she gets startled into answering a question. The only difference right now is that Kara’s face is mostly obscured by a low baseball cap with the school logo on it and sunglasses. Who the hell wears sunglasses inside? Assholes, Lena thinks.

“Sorry,” Kara says, looking and sounding anything but as she shrugs a shoulder and pulls the strap of her backpack up further. “Didn’t expect anyone to be here.”

Lena rolls her eyes and adjusts the messenger bag slug across her body. “Whatever, just watch where you’re going,” she repeats.

“I’m Kara,” Kara says suddenly, thrusting her hand out between them and Lena feels her eyebrows shooting straight into her forehead.

“Yeah,” Lena says, drawing the word out into an unimpressed tone. “I know who you are.”

It’s the wrong thing to say. Kara’s grin goes the kind of smug that Lena’d like to smack off her face, but she channels the feeling into ignoring Kara’s outstretched hand and walking past her. Maybe not the best course of action in dealing with someone she’s going to have to see regularly all semester, but Lena’s far beyond caring about anything other than her annoyance at the moment.

“Nice to meet you too!” Kara calls out past her, but Lena doesn’t turn to give her the satisfaction of a response.

--

Thankfully, Lena doesn’t have to see Kara until their first scheduled tutoring session - a formal meeting set in one of the study rooms in the library, so they can square away some housekeeping tasks.

It gives her a week to ignore how much she’s dreading the entire thing and she fills it with getting her semester organized and hanging out with her friends.

“The best thing you can do is just be positive and get through it,” Jack says, sprawled across her couch and scrolling through something on his phone. “It’s just going to be worse if you’re all pissy about it the entire time.”

“I’m not sure I know how not to be,” Lena admits and Jack laughs.

“You could always just not do it,” Jess says, coming into the room with the cheese plate she’d been arranging in the kitchen. She’s serving it on a cutting board with Grandma’s Kitchen carved into the wood. “It’s not like you need the money, you snooty bitch.”

“But, Jess, how would she piss her mother off by having an independent stream of income with which she can order all her sex toys without oversight?” Jack replies with a put-on snotty tone that has Lena swatting at the legs he has draped across her lap. “It’s also the only job in town Lillian Luthor doesn’t have her dirty fingers in.”

Lena makes a face at that, but Jess laughs.

“You could be a stripper,” Jess teases, laughing again when Jack makes a show of gasping as if scandalized and Lena just rolls her eyes.

“I think they’re hiring at the Kitty Cat Club,” Jack says, full body chuckling at the thought until Lena pinches him hard in the calf.

Jess takes a seat on the floor in front of Jack and cranes her neck to look at his phone, grabbing it suddenly. “I take it back,” she says, her finger scrolling on the screen and smile looking ominous. “Who wouldn’t want to tutor her?”

The phone is suddenly thrust in her direction and her eyes focus on the Instagram page they have open - a picture of Kara stares back at her and it’s not a flattering one. Lena makes a face as she takes in Kara’s ridiculous expression, red cheeks, backwards cap and the red solo cup she has vaulted towards the camera. “You’re making it worse,” Lena says, pushing the phone out of the way and laughing.

“Come on, she’s not that bad,” Jack insists, plucking the phone from Jess’s hands and sliding his finger across it until he’s showing Lena a second picture. This one is more put together, but not by much. It’s clearly the Fourth of July - or at least Lena hopes it is, judging by the obnoxious American flag tank top Kara’s sporting along with matching board shorts and flip flops. She’s got her arm slung around two other girls that are both holding mini flags and beers in their hands and they’re all three grinning at the camera.

“Yikes,” is all Lena can say as her friends laugh at her misfortune.

--

Her mother calls her at six in the morning on Saturday because Lillian never forsakes an opportunity to torture Lena. The ringing of her phone pulls her out of a particularly nice dream involving a girl she met in Cyprus two summers ago.

“Good morning,” she says, grateful her voice doesn’t sound too muted by sleep. Lillian would surely pounce on the implication she hadn’t been awake and attacking the day already. Luthors work, Lena. They don’t sleep.

“Lena, I’ve heard a nasty rumor that you’re continuing working at the learning center,” Lillian says, voice dripping with disdain on the last two words. Lena can imagine the haughty look on her face just fine and she debates the virtue of just hanging up and dealing with the consequences after she’s had a few cups of coffee.

“You’ve heard correctly,” Lena tells her, knowing it’s sometimes easier to just remain straightforward when faced with Lillian’s never-ending disappointment.

“I know that your brother convinced Maxwell Lord to offer you a junior position in his R&D department,” Lillian says. “Surely that’s more fulfilling than tutoring the lowlifes of Vandermeer.”

“It’s good money, Mother,” Lena interrupts, already having rehearsed this speech in her own head when she and Jack renewed their tenure as student tutors.  

“What on earth do you need money for?” Lillian spits, incredulous at the idea Lena’d like to earn her pay rather than dip into the family coffers.

“My heroin addiction,” she replies dryly, wincing as she says it but unable to take it back. Best to cut her losses and run. “We’ll talk about it later. Have a good Saturday, Mom.”

It’s snotty, but Lena’s already deep in a hole at this point so she promptly hangs up over her mother’s objections and throws her phone towards a chair across the room.

--

The first tutoring session falls on a Tuesday at 8pm to accommodate Kara’s practice schedule. Lena doesn’t generally mind tutoring at the end of the day, but her annoyance prickles anyway when the academic advisor for the hockey team sends over Kara’s availability.

She gets there early enough to make sure their room is open and takes a few minutes to get settled - gets a coffee from the shop on the first level and makes sure her laptop is plugged in and running properly. Anything other than sit in the room and wait for the dreaded moment Kara shows up.

When the clock ticks to eight, then to five minutes past and Kara’s still not there, Lena thinks maybe Kara’s no showing. It starts to lift her spirits just the slightest - particularly the idea of reporting her - until she hears a knock on the wood door and it’s opening to reveal Kara’s form ambling into the room.

That same irritatingly smug smile is on Kara’s face along with the same worn baseball cap and sunglasses and she closes the door behind her casually like Lena’s time doesn’t matter and it’s totally fine that she’s arrived late. She’s dressed more appropriate for bed than a library - a pair of sweatpants and a large sweatshirt with hockey laces at the neck. Not to mention the boat shoes worn so far down that her socks are showing through at the toe.

“You’re late,” Lena tells her as Kara pulls the chair back next to Lena and drops down into it.

Kara looks at the obnoxious lime green calculator watch on her wrist and back up at Lena, her smile never faltering. It makes Lena frown. “Sorry. Practice ran late and then dinner ran late and -” Kara sits forward in her chair, twisting to get a better look at Lena. “You’re the girl I ran into in the academic affairs building.”

Lena arches a brow, fiddles with the pencil she has on the desk. “I’m your tutor.”

“Lena Luthor, right?” Kara says and Lena’s lips thin. Her ego scoffs at the idea that Kara doesn’t know who she is. Besides having had a class together every semester since freshman year, Lena’s a fairly known entity on campus if only because of her family, just the same as Kara and her goon teammates are well-known.

“I see your reading skills are intact. Nice to meet you,” she says sarcastically. “Don’t be late next time. And if you are, contact me ahead of time.”

Kara makes a face like she’s trying not to laugh - though Lena can’t entirely tell as most of her face is obscured. It irritates her enough that she reaches up to pull the hat off Kara’s head by its brim. Long blonde hair drops out of the hat and around Kara’s face and a waft of shampoo hits Lena’s nose. Kara startles a little, the phone she’s dropping on the table clattering against the wood.

“Also, no hats or sunglasses in here,” Lena says, throwing the hat across the table with a pointed look and trying to ignore the pleasant, fresh smell of Kara’s hair.

With a shrug, Kara pulls her sunglasses off. “Suit yourself,” she says and as her face is revealed Lena realizes the actual purpose of her disguise. There’s massive bruising all over Kara’s left eye, a cut held together with butterfly tape over her eyebrow and her face just a general mess, more obvious now as Kara pulls her hair back up off her shoulders and into a bun. There’s another bandage just under her eye over her cheekbone and she looks almost unrecognizable from the posters Lena’s seen around school.

“Did you get into a fight or something?” Lena vaguely remembers a video going viral on campus last year of Kara getting into a fight at the hockey house, complete with a memorable image of the two combatants tumbling into a castle composed of beer cans.

Kara makes a face. “Fighting is super illegal in college hockey, you get a game disqualification.”

“That’s not what I -” Lena stops herself. She really doesn’t care what Kara did to fuck her face up that badly. “It doesn’t matter, let’s get started.”

“I got hit in the face with a puck,” Kara explains anyway.

“Don’t you wear…” Lena gestures over her eyes, trying to think of the word and then realizing what she’s doing a moment later and ceasing her motion.

Kara laughs. “Yeah, but it was after practice,” she says, settling back into her chair and pulling a notebook out of the bag she’d dropped next to her chair. “Sam and I - she’s my winger - were doing a snipe contest and she was trying to hit a bar down but it sort of went bar out and hit me in the face. Blood everywhere.”

“Charming,” Lena says, shaking her head, but laughing just the softest at Kara’s explanation. “Why don’t we get some preliminaries out of the way?”

“Sure,” Kara agrees, opening her notebook and fishing in one of her pockets for a pen. Lena opens up her calendar on her laptop, but glances over to see Kara writing something down in her notebook.

Don’t be late, is scrawled there in nearly illegible handwriting and Lena makes a noise.

“What?” Kara says, not even looking her direction as she starts to write no hats, no sunglasses under it. “Just making sure I have all your rules straight.”

“Being timely is just having good manners,” Lena says testily and that at least draws Kara’s attention.

There’s something genuine on her face, but Lena can’t quite make it out through all the purple and yellow skin around her eye. “I’m sorry about being late. Seriously. Sometimes my schedule just gets thrown off like that. I’ll be better about letting you know as much as I can.”

It’s more sincere than Lena expects and maybe that’s why she has no snarky response for it. She accepts the apology with a soft nod. “Okay.”

They go over their schedules, settle on Thursdays as a good meeting time - before Kara has games on the weekend and usually the day of the week she has the lightest practice. When a discussion of where they should hold their sessions, Lena immediately suggests neutral on-campus sites, but Kara makes a face at that.

“Do you live on campus?” Kara asks, twirling her pen around in her hand absently.

“No,” Lena answers immediately, unable to stop the curl of distaste in her expression at the memory of the one semester she spent in a small, cramped campus dorm room. Just thinking about it makes the smell of burnt popcorn return to her nose.

“Where do you live?” Kara asks and Lena hesitates at disclosing her apartment’s location. It’s only fifteen minutes away, in a fresh new condo building.

“Off-campus,” she says in a deadpan that has Kara frowning, but laughing at the end of it.

“Well, I live a little off-campus, too,” Kara says. “Maybe there’s some place in between us that might work better.”

There isn’t much nearby as far as places that are suited to tutoring. They’re on the north side of the city where streets tend to be more residential, but it’s still a heavily trafficked area and the thought of going to the Starbucks four blocks down from her apartment building on a busy afternoon makes Lena annoyed just thinking about it. Not to mention the idea that someone might see them out and about and mistake her presence with Kara Danvers as a social call.

Her disastrous relationship with Veronica fucking Sinclair last year had done enough for her reputation around campus. She doesn’t need anyone thinking she’s rebounding with a idiot hockey player with a mangled face and an altogether questionable understanding of style.

“Campus is fine. I have a car,” Lena says, arching a pointed eyebrow that only makes Kara laugh again. The sound of it tightens in Lena’s stomach.

“So do I,” Kara says, shifting back in her seat and slouching in a way that has Lena’s spine straightening in response. “I just thought it’d be easier if we didn’t have to deal with coming onto campus, parking and all that.”

“We’re not meeting at my place,” Lena says, just to be clear, but Kara shrugs.

“I don’t know where you live, but my house is over on Harmon,” Kara says though Lena’d already known that. The hockey house – or Hockey Haus as its been nicknamed, by idiots – is notorious around school for their parties and it’s located on the street with most of the group or team houses. And she knows the murderer’s row of shitty townhouses Kara resides on is at least fifteen blocks west of campus. Sometimes if you stand on the quad fifteen minutes before class, you can see a mess of dumb jocks, frat guys, and general malcontents come piling off at the bus stop there.

Just the idea of stepping foot in that house makes Lena cringe a bit, but with the alternative being inviting Kara to her own apartment, Lena finds herself leaning towards agreement. Kara’s right, sometimes dealing with driving and parking on campus is more trouble than it’s worth and it’s not as if Lena’s going to be jumping on public transportation any time soon.

“Fine,” Lena says, albeit with considerable reluctance.

“Great!” Kara replies, sitting up and fishing a phone out of her pocket. “I’ll text you the address.”

In the interest of not letting Kara know Lena’s already well aware of the where the Hockey Haus is, Lena exchanges phone numbers and waits for the text message to come through. She saves Kara’s number in as K. Danvers and just barely avoids adding an angry face emoji at the end.

They part ways with plans to meet next Thursday at Kara’s house. Kara slings her hat back on her head, sliding it until it sits backwards, but neglecting to put her sunglasses on and instead sliding them into a side pocket on her bag. Lena thinks she looks ridiculous, but spares a thought to wonder what her face looks like when it’s not marred by injury.

The picture her mind composites in accordance with what little she’s seen of Kara’s Instagram or posters around campus is not completely repulsive, but Lena dismisses that with a roll of her eyes at herself.

Smacking on a piece of gum she’s just slid into her mouth, Kara grins as she stands and extends her hand towards Lena. “It was nice to meet you again,” she says and this time Lena summons her own manners to clasp Kara’s hand and shake it. Her grip is strong, her fingers long and surprisingly soft. “Thanks for deciding to be my tutor this semester.”

Lena considers telling her that assignments aren’t really a choice and that Lena’d been considering putting in for a switch but bites her tongue and just smiles thinly. “Have a good week,” she says before sliding her laptop into her bag and striding out of the room.

--

“We do not need that much vodka,” Lena says as Jack starts to pull the magnum sized bottle of Belvedere off the shelf. Jess is ahead of them inspecting the shelf of energy drinks at the end of the aisle.

“You always say that,” Jack says, huffing a little as he gets the bottle into his hands. “And then we always run out.”

Lena makes a noise of disagreement, but doesn’t stop him from hefting the alcohol into their cart. “Maybe if you stopped inviting every single person you know on campus to these parties, we’d stop running out of alcohol.”

“A party requires people, Lena,” Jack insists, moving around her towards the flavored vodkas to their right.

“And what?” Lena asks, propping a hand on her hip and blocking Jack from putting a butterscotch flavored vodka into the cart. “We don’t qualify as people?”

Jack follows the way her finger indicates the three of them with a mixture of amusement and pity in his smile. “I worry about your social calendar without me.”

“I’m sorry that I don’t particularly enjoy surrounding myself with people I know are only interested in the size of my family’s bank account and if I’m vacationing in Tulum this summer,” Lena says dryly, but doesn’t stop when Jack reaches around her to inspect a bottle of locally distilled vodka.

“That’s not all they’re interested in,” Jack replies, chuckling and making a suggestive show of gazing up and down her body.

“Gross,” Lena says, making a face, but laughing at the exaggerated wiggle of his eyebrows.

“I’m just saying. Unearned popularity has its perks.”

Lena rolls her eyes but is prevented from replying as Jess returns to the cart with two boxes of some green labeled energy drink. The sight of it makes a phantom headache spike in the back of Lena’s head. “I think I’m feeling an anticipatory hangover,” she grumbles as Jess slides the drinks onto the bottom section of their cart.

Her two friends laugh and ignore her glaring as Jack finally gets the rest of his vodka selections in the cart and starts to push it down the aisle, leaving her to follow.

--

The party isn’t tradition so much as just something they normally do on Saturday nights. Jack lives in one of the larger houses on campus - unofficially the Robotics Club House - and is known for hosting weekend parties there. Jack’s last name doesn’t quite bring the same sort of attention as Lena’s does, but that’s tough to do. All the same, their two families are fairly well known and there’s never a lack of students trying to suck up to them in hopes of getting an in for an internship or an invite to spring break in Barbados.

Lena’s always found it irritating to wade through all the fake offers of friendship – and has just sworn off new friends as a result – but it’s never bothered Jack nearly as much. “Think of them like minions,” he’s told her. “They’ll do whatever I want just to sweat in my shadow.”

“Not everyone wants to spend their Saturday night being fawned over like that,” Lena’s said, but Jack always waves her off.

“As if you have a better offer.”

It’s true. Much as she hates admitting Jack is right. She does wish she had something better to do those nights, but as it is, she doesn’t. And spending the night alone in her apartment studying or shuffling through her Netflix queue makes her mother’s reminders about maintaining a healthy social life resonate in her head.

Much as she’d like to, Lillian’s voice is hard to drown out.

So here she is, lingering in the kitchen while Jack mixes drinks and Winn, one of Jack’s roommates, complains about the grading rubric in his statistics general this semester. Jack hands Winn his signature tequila sunrise and slings his arm around the other man’s shoulders.

It makes Winn stutter a bit midsentence, his cheeks going pink and Lena wants to roll her eyes. Winn and Jack have been dancing around each other for two semesters now and the flirtation is getting old.

“You know, if you need a copy of the problem sets, Lena took that class freshman year,” Jack says, pointing at Lena with his beer and this time she doesn’t stop herself from rolling her eyes.

Winn looks at her hopefully, but Lena sighs, plucks a bottle of whiskey off the nearby table and walks away from them without another word.

The house is fairly packed. Some of the people she recognizes, but most she doesn’t. A few people try to catch her eye, and there are a couple calls of her name that she promptly ignores in favor of walking through the house in search of Jess.

There’s a rowdy game of charades on the couch as she’s passing by and Lena very much avoids it when they try to get her to join, in favor of finding the back deck where she thinks Jess must be hosting a poker game.

Sure enough, Jess is out on her deck holding court at a hexagonal felt table, a cigar burning in an ashtray next to her as she shuffles the cards in her hands. There are upended shot glasses littered across the game that show they’ve been playing for some time now – Jess never likes playing for money, would rather modify the rules of betting to turn it into a drinking game. She usually wins that way, anyway.

There’s an empty chair opposite Jess and Lena slides into it, setting her bottle of whiskey on the table and smiling at the little grin Jess sends her. There are two other woman at the table, one of them slouched so far in her chair that Lena’s fairly sure she must be deep in shot debt at this point, but the other one is a pretty brunette that Lena recognizes from her English elective.

The brunette startles a bit when she recognizes her, but recovers to bat her eyelashes at Lena in that irritating kind of flirtation she’s always complaining about.  

Ignoring the play for her attention, Lena turns to Jess. “Deal me in,” she instructs, reaching for an unused shot glass and putting it in front of her.

Her friend laughs, but does as she’s told.

--

They’re fairly intoxicated by the time a decision gets made to leave the house in favor of one of the bars. There aren’t many on their side of the city that don’t blink at underage students, but there are definitely a few less than fastidious ones.

One of them is a campus favorite – The Crossbar – and it sits on a less trafficked street three blocks behind the university’s ice rink.

It’s the grungy kind of place that’s nearly always breaking fire code and that you’d never want to see in the light of day, but it also doesn’t look too hard at IDs and serves a really strong long islands for the price of entry. Its floors start the beginning of the night sticky and end them slick with dropped cups and God knows what else.

Sober Lena hates The Crossbar, but Drunk Lena is easily talked into going just about anywhere, so when Jess says she’s calling them an Uber, Lena doesn’t really care where it’s headed as long as it’s somewhere away from the drunk couple on Jack’s couch that are about two minutes away from indecent exposure.

When they pull up and get in line to pay cover, Lena can hear the loud pumping sounds of “Africa”  blasting out of the doors, a disharmony of voices screaming along to the lyrics. Typical Saturday night at Crossbar. Winn starts singing along as he sways in place and James tuts out a percussion beat to go with it as he scrolls through his phone, swiping mostly right on Tinder.

Lena’s drunk. She can feel the way her extremities are starting to feel floaty and there’s a melon aftertaste on her tongue from the last round of shots they did before leaving. It’s a pleasant kind of intoxicated, where everything feels a little muted and Jack lets her lean up against him while they wait.

They’re nearly at the entrance where a bouncer is disinterestedly checking IDs and taking money when there’s a commotion not too far away from them and a side exit door is bursting open to clang loudly against the exterior wall.

“Get the fuck off me,” a girl is saying, shoving at the security guard who’s attempting to pull her out of the bar by the elbow.

She’s not successful and he gets her out toward the sidewalk before releasing her. “You’re banned for a week, Leslie. Don’t make me ban you for longer.”

“Oh, fuck you, Greg,” Leslie spits and it looks like she’s going to lunge at him, but another girl comes barreling out of the bar and steps between them before it happens. Three other women are tripping out of the bar on her heels and it’s like watching clowns pile out of a clown car.

Lena’s vision is a little unfocused, but as she continues to watch the altercation she recognizes a figure towards the back of the pack, lingering in the side door with a beer in her hands and an arm draped around a shorter blonde girl that’s plastered to her side. It’s Kara Danvers.

“Leslie, let’s go, you’re kicked out,” the girl that got there first is saying.

“Fuck you too, Smythe, I’m kicked out when I say I’m kicked out.”

“That’s not how it works,” the other girl says, and the security guard is puffing his chest up, arms crossed.

“Either get her out of here Siobhan or she’s banned for a month,” the guard says.

You’re banned for a fucking month, you doucheweed,” Leslie counters, going to point at him, but getting dragged away quite handily.

Jack shuffles her forward in the line, but most everyone waiting to get in has stopped to watch the interaction and Lena can’t help but laugh when Leslie almost maneuvers her way out of Siobhan’s hands.

“Little help guys,” Siobhan grunts and the two other woman watching in front of Kara move to help their friend.

The security guard turns back around to walk back inside and stops in front of Kara, giving her a stern look. “Finish that or take it inside, Danvers,” he says, gesturing towards her beer.

Locking eyes with him, she tips the plastic cup of beer to her lips and finishes it. She hands the empty cup to the girl that’s been pressed up against her as if in silent instruction to take care of it. To Lena’s surprise, the girl doesn’t bat an eye as she takes the cup and scoots from under Kara’s arm to retreat back inside the bar.

They’ve made it to the front of the line as Kara’s moving past the security guard to join her friends. Lena’s pulling her ID out of her bra, one eye still watching to see if the group successfully pulls Leslie away. That’s about when Kara notices her, the bruising on her face more visible now that she’s stepped out into the lights of the street.

And then, to Lena’s complete horror, Kara puts her hand in the air to wave at her. “Hey, Lena,” she calls out like they’re old friends.

The bouncer is handing her ID back and giving drink tickets to Jack in exchange for the price of cover, so Lena uses that as an excuse to pretend she hasn’t heard Kara.

Jack, however, has apparently heard and so has Jess who’s craning her neck around to place who just yelled out. “Who was that?” Jack asks, his glossy eyes searching around but distracted by Leslie falling bodily against a nearby parked car.

Kara looks like she might come closer to the line then, and another short call of her name rings forth, but Lena shoves Jack ahead of her in line and shuffles quickly past the bouncer and inside.

They push their way to the front of the bar and flag a bartender, exchange their tickets for their drinks and Lena thankfully doesn’t see Kara Danvers or her friends for the rest of the night.

--

Sunday morning comes with a wicked headache, a mouthful of cotton and about six missed calls from her mother that she ignores in favor of groaning and kicking at Jack where he’s passed out on the bedroom floor snoring.   

They spend their day eating takeout and slogging through homework in Lena’s living room. Lena’d gotten most of hers done Friday, but she has a few things she has to prepare for the coming Monday.

It’s lazy kind of end to their weekend and Lena enjoys the familiarity of it – of Jack over-ordering waffles and Jess running to the gas station at the corner to buy them all Gatorades.

With her phone on silent and the rest of campus sleepily doing much the same as they are, Lena’s life feels quiet and still and devoid of its normal pressures. She likes Sundays. She wishes every day was Sunday.

--

The week goes by uneventfully. It’s still too early in the semester for anything really interesting to be happening and most of her classes are still in that early stage of the material where she doesn’t have to pay attention too closely.

Her first official tutoring session with Kara comes far too quickly, however, and it’s only until that afternoon, an hour before it’s slated to start, that she remembers she has to go to the damned hockey house.

Though she’s never been there, she’s driven past the infamous house before and has seen it featured frequently in social media posts. It’s not as notorious a place as the softball house on the other end of the long street, but it’s still fairly popular for the kind of parties that leave the front yard littered with plastic cups and empty kegs.

When Lena rolls up on Thursday, the lawn is surprisingly devoid of such trash. There are, however, no less than six cars parked Tetris-style in the driveway – the contrast between the clean looking Jeep Wrangler and the beat-up blue pickup truck gives her some pause. There’s a Pride flag hanging out of one of the windows and a mannequin that’s missing its arms leaned up against a wooden bench on the porch.

The house is quiet, but she doesn’t let that fool her. She’s heard enough stories to be wary of what she’s about to walk into, but she’s certainly no stranger to chaos.  

The door opens rather swiftly after she rings the bell, but it’s not Kara on the other side. Instead it’s a taller girl with dark brown hair and attractive cheekbones and she’s smirking at Lena as she pulls apart two Twizzlers and sticks one in her mouth.

“Hiya,” the girl says, eyebrows raising as if to ask and you are?

“Is Kara here?” Lena says, impatient and barely restraining herself from tapping her foot.

The girl laughs, waggling the licorice stick not in her mouth towards Lena’s face. “Should have known,” she says, stepping aside to allow Lena into the house. “She’s in her room.”

The house smells like stale beer and something burning in the oven – maybe a pizza. Lena’s nose wrinkles up as she’s led inside and she hitches her bag higher up on her shoulder as she navigates the pile of shoes strewn across the entryway.

To the left, there’s a small kitchen where Lena can see an enormous metal rack with masses of boxes and foodstuffs on it. On her right, there’s a living room with a very large television and a large sectional couch that has multiple rips on its surface. There’s also an ad for STI testing plastered to the wall that looks like one of the ones that occasionally show up on buses or trains.

“I’m Sam, by the way,” the girl says, stuffing the second string of licorice in the side of her mouth and sticking her hand out to shake Lena’s.

“Lena,” she says curtly, shaking Sam’s hand, but not lingering on it.

Sam seems to find something amusing, but she doesn’t share with the class. Just points to a staircase down the hall. “All the way up, down the hall, turn right, up again, can’t miss it,” she instructs.

From the look of the house around her, Lena’s fairly sure she can in fact get lost, but Sam departs for the kitchen without any further instruction and Lena’s left staring down at a staircase wondering again if she should just call the tutoring office and bribe someone to switch assignments.

But she’s Lena Luthor. And she wants this job, wants something that her mother can’t touch. And Kara Danvers and her disgusting face and house won’t take that from her. She steels her jaw and paces forward, following Sam’s instructions until she’s up in what must be a lofted area of the house and facing a dark brown door with the number 18 painted across its face in bold red script.

When she knocks, something sounds like it crashes and then thumps on the ground somewhere in the room, but moments later the door is swinging open and a flushed looking Kara Danvers is smiling back at her. She’s in soft worn looking sweats and a faded sweatshirt that’s cut off at the collar, her hair swept up in a high ponytail.

“Hey, hi,” Kara says, sounding a bit out of breath. Her face looks much better than it did a week ago, the bruise yellowing around her eye and the cut on her cheek close to healing. She’s wearing glasses that Lena didn’t know she needed, the frames bulky in a sort of hip way. It’s the first time Lena realizes how blue Kara’s eyes are.

“Your face looks better,” Lena comments before she can think not to and Kara laughs, touching her eye gingerly.

“Yeah, I can barely feel it,” she says and then steps aside to beckon Lena further into her bedroom.

“That’s good,” Lena says as she surveys the room.

It’s clear Kara must have just been cleaning if only by the haphazard way her laundry is shoved under the bed and the faint hint of Febreze in the air, muffled only by the mahogany and teakwood candle burning on Kara’s dresser.

The room is a complete hodgepodge of décor – if one can even call it that. There’s a line of hockey sticks propped up next to Kara’s bed and beside it sits a small black mini fridge with a mix of fitness supplements and half-empty bottles of liquor on top of it. There are three different jerseys pinned to the walls – all of them with Danvers sewn into the back – and above the head of Kara’s bed there’s a huge Jackrabbits Hockey flag. Christmas lights are haphazardly strewn across the ceiling, held up by a mismatched array of hooks and duct tape. Lena eyes the way some of the lights are drooping as if they'll fall any moment with trepidation. 

“So welcome to the house,” Kara says, tucking her hands in the pockets of her sweatpants and shifting back and forth on her heels while Lena stands awkwardly in the center of the room.

Lena arches a brow. “Are you going to offer me a seat, or do you want to do this standing?”

Kara flushes and Lena looks away, irritated that she finds the panicky way Kara looks around the room somewhat charming. It’s so at odds with the smug expression she’s used to.

“I thought maybe the bed,” Kara offers and Lena’s back aches with the idea of hunching over books for the next hour like that.

“Don’t you have a desk?” Lena asks, pointing towards it. The surface is littered with books, an errant sweatshirt and a pair of hockey gloves. On the wall above it there’s a collection of papers taped up – what looks like a class schedule and a few children's drawings of what must be a hockey stick and goals with lots of hearts. “There is a desk under all that, right?”

“Yes, yes there is,” Kara says, moving forward and sweeping everything on her desk into her arms at once and then precariously depositing it on her bed.

Lena tries not to wince at the cluttered mess that creates, but her hands flex with the desire to reach out and straighten everything. Thankfully, the seat at Kara’s desk turns away from the sight and she can try to put it out of her mind.

She’s pulling her tablet out of her bag and setting up when a loud bang at the door behind them startles her and she jumps.

“Yo, Danvers, heard you had a girl up here,” a voice calls out from the doorway and Lena turns to see a girl with silvery hair standing there – the same one she’d last seen being thrown out of Crossbar Saturday night. Leslie.

“Get out of here, Willis,” Kara orders, standing and moving towards the door to shove the girl out. It begins a bit of a power struggle in the doorway, Kara shoving and Leslie clutching the doorframe to keep in place.

“I’m just here to see who thinks so low of themselves that they’d slum it with you,” Leslie says, resisting Kara’s push to look over her shoulder and smile at Lena. “Hey, you could do better, just so you know. Get out while you still can.”

It’s clearly directed at her and Lena’s only been here for ten minutes, but she knows enough not to engage. Instead, she arches a brow and smiles her most fuck you smile she can muster. “I’m fine, thanks.”

Leslie looks amused at the answer and finally gives in to the way Kara’s manhandling her out of the room. Kara gets the door shut and locks it with a shoddy looking deadbolt, turning to lean against it with an exasperated roll of her eyes. “Sorry about her,” she says, striding back over to the desk, grabbing a folding lawn chair from the corner on the way. “She doesn’t get out much.”

“And when she does she manages to get kicked out of such esteemed places like Crossbar on a Saturday night,” Lena muses dryly, fishing the rest of her materials out of her bag.

Kara laughs as she flops down into the lawn chair that basically brings them to the same level. “So it was you,” she says and Lena looks pointedly away from the quirky smile on Kara’s face. “I wasn’t sure with the way you basically ran away from me.”

“I did not run away from you,” Lena denies, defensive at the idea.

“Oh sorry, maybe you just didn’t hear me,” Kara says and it’s clear how much weight she puts behind that idea.

Lena rolls her eyes. “Maybe I didn’t want to associate with the group of people getting thrown out,” she says and Kara shrugs a shoulder, pulling her backpack towards her from where it’s leaned up against the bed. The bag is littered with iron-on patches - there’s a big one of the Jackrabbits logo colored in with a rainbow, another that just says FBI, and one of an alien giving a peace sign that Lena can see before Kara turns it around.

“Fair enough,” she says. “But when you’re friends with Leslie, you get kind of used to it.”

Curious, Lena watches as Kara starts to shuffle around the front pocket of her bag before pulling out a pencil. “What did she do anyway?”

“Threatened to kill some woman,” Kara answers, the pencil she’s put in her mouth muffles the words a little and the delivery is so casual that Lena thinks she maybe misheard.

“I’m sorry?”

Kara finds her notebook and removes the pencil, setting it on the desk. “She told some chick she was going to fucking kill her,” Kara explains, putting airquotes around the last bit. “And then they complained to security and so they had to throw her out.”

“I can’t imagine why,” Lena deadpans, glancing towards the door Leslie had just occupied. “It’s a wonder she hasn’t been expelled.”

Kara seems dismissive of the fact her friend’s been issuing weekend death threats. “That’s just the way Leslie talks. Her bark is way worse than her bite. Everyone knows that. Especially the bouncers at Crossbar.”

Smiling, Kara seems to have moved on from the conversation and she pulls one of her textbooks towards her, a leaf of paper in the front that Lena sees is a syllabus. “Should we get started?”

Remembering why she’s there in the first place, Lena nods and they get to work.

It’s not as awful as Lena’d expected. Kara’s rather attentive and she doesn’t interrupt Lena when she’s going through a complicated problem. It’s actually kind of satisfying to explain something and see Kara understand it so quickly and reminds Lena why, aside from the steady stream of Luthor-free income it provides, she actually enjoys tutoring.

They get almost entirely through the problem set before Kara’s stretching her arms over her head and standing. “You want a drink?”

Lena’s a bit wary of whatever kind of drink Kara’s offering, not expecting much out of the black mini fridge in the corner. “I’m okay,” she says, spinning her pen around in her fingers absently.

Kara paces to the fridge to open it and peer inside. “You sure? I have…well I mostly just have Gatorade and beer, but I’m sure there’s a water in here somewhere.”

“I’m fine,” Lena insists and Kara shrugs as if to say suit yourself before pulling a bottle of light blue Gatorade from the fridge and twisting it open.

There’s a loud crashing sound from somewhere in the house, distant and muffled by the closed door, but still enough to make both Lena and Kara jump.

“Jeez,” Kara breathes, glaring at the door as if it were the culprit. “I’m going to kill Nia.”

Lena has no idea who Nia is, but she can hear the sound of two women shouting at each other and it seems to be coming from somewhere below them.

“How many roommates do you have?” Lena asks, as Kara moves to sit back down.

“Seven,” Kara answers, her lips twisting wryly and the look of horror on Lena’s face. “It’s not as bad as you think.”

“There are seven women in this house?!”

Kara nods. “Eve and Nia live in the room right below me and then Sam, Grace and Julie share that big room at the end of the hall,” she explains, ticking her roommates off on her fingers. “Leslie and Siobhan split the basement and if you’re smart, you just…don’t go down there.”

“That’s about six too many roommates for my taste,” Lena says and Kara rolls her eyes a little, just in Lena’s periphery.

“Well, not all of us can afford swanky apartments by ourselves,” Kara says, a little pointed and a little teasing.

Lena bristles, but before she can retort, a knock at Kara’s door interrupts them and they turn to hear a slightly muffled. “Kara, have you seen my water gun?”

Lena watches as Kara’s attention draws to a neon green and orange Nerf gun propped up in the corner, covered in little stickers.

“Maybe!” Kara calls out, winking at Lena with her good eye and standing up to walk to the door. “What do you need it for?”

“Eve’s being a little bitch,” the voice calls out and Lena notices a mischievous look in Kara’s eye when she slowly, quietly unlocks her door and reaches for the handle.

Moments later, Lena realizes why, when Kara yanks the door open so swiftly that the body on the other side comes tripping into the room, falling onto the cheap rug under Kara’s feet.

“Fuck, Danvers,” the girl complains, picking herself up and glaring at Kara. “The hell was that for?”

“I’m trying to study, Nia, I don’t have time for your shit,” Kara answers and it’s then that Nia’s attention drags to Lena, her eyes widening noticeably, a surprised grin appearing on her face.

“You have a girl up here,” she says, voice a touched awed like this is some cosmically significant event. Lena wonders offhand if any of the women in the house have ever socialized with other humans before.

“Yes, and we’re studying,” Kara says pointedly before reaching for the plastic toy gun against the wall and thrusting it towards Nia. “So, get out and stop making so much noise. Tell Eve to calm the fuck down too.”

Nia takes the gun but keeps grinning as her eyes dart between Kara and Lena.

It’s what prompts Lena to sigh and reach for her bag. “It’s fine, we were just finishing.”

“Nia’s leaving, sit back down,” Kara says, pulling Nia back out of the room by her arm, but Lena’s already shoving her stuff back in her bag and standing.

“No, I should go,” Lena says, ready for the quiet of her own apartment instead of the circus of sound she can hear stirring in the house below them. “I think you can finish the last problem on your own.”

“No I can’t,” Kara insists, almost comically certain of it.

“Yeah, Kara’s a known dumbass,” Nia says, patting Kara on the arm in mock support until Kara swats at her.

“Shut up, Nia,” she says, but Lena’s done with this and she shoulders her bag intending to brush past them.

“I’ll walk you out,” Kara says, pushing Nia out of the way so Lena can pass by and following her toward the stairs.

“I can find my own way out,” Lena replies, but Kara continues her pursuit, skipping down the stairs behind Lena.

“I’ll walk you out anyway,” Kara says with a happy grin that Lena wants to find annoying but is almost cute in the way it stretches the purpling skin of her cheekbone.

“How chivalrous,” Lena says drily and under her breath when Kara shifts quickly in front of her to open the door.

“See you soon?” Kara calls out as Lena’s double checking that her key fob is in the front pocket of her bag on her way out the front door.

“In a week,” Lena replies and doesn’t wait for an answer before sliding into the front of her car.

Kara watches her from the porch, waves as she pulls away from the curb and Lena actually waves back before she can stop herself.

--

That weekend is thankfully tamer than the last – Jack decides against a Saturday party and instead has a much smaller group of friends over to watch some MMA fight he and James have bought on pay-per-view.

Lena declines the invitation – uninterested in spending her night watching two men beat the shit out of each other. Even if Jack had offered his best whiskey and cigars. It’s not that she has anything against the activity, but she feels too exhausted to listen to James’s unending claims that he absolutely could be a contender in the MMA if he just got serious about his training.

So, Saturday night finds her in her room working on a coding project she’d started earlier that month and binge-ing some show Jess had recommended on Netflix. It’s quiet, but nice and she’s certainly grateful for the lack of hangover she has Sunday morning. Especially when she agrees to drive Jack, James and Winn to the diner at noon and sees how green they all look when her plate of egg whites and asparagus arrives to the table.

The diner is where most of campus can be found on a Sunday morning, exhausted and dehydrated from the night before. The place is teeming with students drinking bottomless pots of coffee and taking advantage of the brunch deals.

Which is why it’s no surprise that two tables down from them, Kara Danvers is tilted back in her chair and laughing at something her tablemates are saying. The sound of her laugh draws Lena’s attention and she recognizes Sam – the girl that let her into the house – and Nia, but hasn’t seen the fourth before.

They don’t look as hungover as the rest of the crowd. Certainly not with the way Nia is shoveling oatmeal in her mouth and Kara’s laughing at her as she eats an apple.

It’s not that she’s staring, necessarily, but they’re the only lively crowd in the entire diner and Kara’s wearing an obnoxious combination of purple gym shorts and a long sleeved grey shirt and from the foot she has propped up on the table leg to keep her chair tilted, she’s wearing sandals with socks.

“Do you know them?” Winn asks around a mouthful of dry toast, his eyes squinting the direction Lena’s looking.

James looks over his shoulder and she almost kicks him under the table lest he draw attention their way. “That’s the women’s hockey team,” he supplies, turning back to his coffee.

“Oh!” Jack says, perking up and craning his neck to look. “Your new student?”

“Who? Which one?” James asks, looking back again and this time Lena does kick him.

“Kara Danvers, right?” Jack’s slouching in the booth, his feet coming up to rest on the bench between Lena and Winn.

“Which one is Kara?” Winn asks, squirming when Jack’s boot taps his thigh.

As if overhearing the question, Kara looks over in that moment, her eyes locking in with Lena’s in quick recognition.

“Shit,” Lena mutters and then Kara’s dropping all four legs of her chair back on the ground and for a moment Lena fears she’s going to stand up and walk over to their table.  

“I’m guessing that one,” Winn says and Jack laughs, the bastard.

But thankfully, Kara doesn’t head their direction. No, she’s just sitting in her chair whispering something to Nia who looks over at Lena as well and gives a little wave that Kara smacks out of the air.

“You don’t know who Kara Danvers is?” James says, drawing Lena’s attention back to the table.

“Keep your voice down, she’s right there,” Lena says out of the side of her mouth, wondering what possessed her to have Sunday brunch with a bunch of idiot boys.

Winn shrugs, plays with his fork. “Is the hockey team any good?”

“I think they won the MAC last year,” James answers and Lena’s not sure how they’re a competent team at all from what she’s seen of them so far. “Their team pictures have been all over campus.”

Movement out of the corner of her eye tells her that Kara and her teammates are standing to leave. They pass by Lena’s booth as they do and Kara lingers towards the back, grinning when she draws near and giving Lena a ridiculous little chin lift as if that counts as a greeting.

“‘Sup,” Kara says, surveying the table as she twirls a set of car keys on her fingers.

“‘Sup,” Jack mimics, but he draws the word out in mockery and puts two of his fingers in the air in a tiny wave.

Kara doesn’t seem to pick up on his making fun of her and it’s likely because her eyes are trained on Lena, focused there so singularly that Lena almost squirms.

“Can we help you?” Lena asks, a touch snottily, but Kara just laughs.

“Nope,” she says simply, and she gives another chin lift to the rest of the table. “See you around.”

And with that, Kara follows the rest of her friends out of the diner.  

“Jocks are weird,” Winn mumbles as they all watch Kara exit out the front door and onto the street.  

--

That Monday comes with the first meeting of her philosophy lecture that she’s been dreading since coming back to school. Thankfully, the class hadn’t had to meet for the first two weeks because the professor had been at some conference.

It takes an extra shot in her americano that morning to drag her feet into the liberal arts building on campus and find the right lecture hall.

By the time she gets there – a few minutes before class starts – most of the seats in the back row are already taken. It’s where she’d prefer to sit, far enough away from the professor that she can snooze through the lectures and no one behind her to snoop on her laptop when she’s not paying attention.

A quick scan of the back row reveals there’s still an empty spot over in the far corner, but as she approaches she catches sight of who it’d sit her next to. Because of course it would.

“Didn’t know athletes actually went to class,” Lena says as she rounds the corner of the row to plop down next to Kara. The lecture hall is cramped enough that she nearly elbows Kara in the side when she reaches down to grab a notebook from her bag.

Kara laughs when she pulls up from her phone to notice Lena. “Only for syllabus day,” she says and Lena can’t tell if it’s a joke or not.

As most of the student-athletes do, Kara’s dressed in a pair of team-branded trackpants and a shirt with the school mascot emblazoned on the front modified so the usual Jackrabbit is holding a hockey stick.

“Well, you won’t be getting any help from me if you skip,” Lena says and Kara just laughs again like everything Lena says is hilarious.

Her glasses slip down and she pushes them back up her nose. “I wouldn’t dream of asking.”

They’re interrupted, thankfully, by an enthusiastic TA with a stack of papers in his hand calling for their attention at the bottom of the auditorium and then class begins.

--

“Are you a philosophy major?” Kara asks, as they’re packing up to leave class. It’d been only a half hour of housekeeping information and a quick review of the syllabus before the professor had released them.

Lena scoffs at the idea and gives Kara a look. “This is a philosophy general for non-majors,” she says, emphasizing the word, but Kara doesn’t seem shamed by the condescension. She shrugs, stepping into the aisle and holding up like she’s waiting for Lena.

“Just making conversation.”

Shouldering her bag, Lena makes to leave and Kara follows after her, keeping in step as they file out of the room. “Are you following me?” Lena asks when they both turn out the side door of the building and out onto the quad.

“No,” Kara says, a happy little grin on her face that Lena is starting to find irritating. “My next class is this way.”

In the sunlight, Kara’s hair shines a little more golden than it had been inside, and she notes that the bruising around her eye is nearly gone completely. The lack of swelling and visible injury certainly makes her face look different, and Lena turns away lest she take too much notice of how casually attractive Kara might be, if she could dress well and become at least sixty percent less annoying.

“So what is your major?” Kara asks, her hands holding the straps of her backpack where they hang from her shoulders. Her long legs keep time with Lena’s as they stride across the grass toward the student center across the way.

“Astrobiology,” Lena deadpans, not understanding what has Kara so interested in the first place.

“Oh,” Kara says, her mouth going fish like a second. “That’s cool.”

Lena pulls a face. “That’s not a real thing,” she says. “Not at Vandermeer.”

It makes Kara laugh. Again. Lena’d really like it if Kara stopped laughing because it’s a pretty sound and developing a senseless attraction to the girl in front of her would be inconvenient at best.

“Well, I don’t know, it could be. Sounds kind of fun.”

They arrive at the student center doors and Lena makes to open them, but Kara beats her to it, pulling it open for Lena to walk inside. Though she rolls her eyes at the display, she takes the opening and beelines for the coffee shop just inside.

Kara still trails her until Lena turns and gives her a pointed look. “Don’t you have class?”

A flush pulses across Kara’s cheeks, but she doesn’t seem all too put off by Lena’s frosty attitude and she smiles. “Yeah. See you Thursday?”

“Yeah, whatever,” Lena says, waving Kara off and wondering what the hell she’s doing to make Kara smile like that so often, and how she should go about stopping.

--

Wednesday nights mean trivia at Legends Pub and Lena looks forward to the tradition as a nice break in her otherwise mundane week. It certainly helps that their trivia team has been undefeated since fall of sophomore year, except for that week Lena had the flu and had almost passed out mid-game.

“Do you want to make t-shirts this year?” Jess muses, twisting a sucker around in her mouth as they walk to the bar.

“Yes,” James answers immediately, his eyes lighting up at the idea. He’s already wearing an absurd looking shirt from last year’s Fall Festival that Lena wishes he would burn. It’s got a Jackrabbit on the front with a jack-o-lantern for a head and the color scheme is somehow worse than the normal school colors with they way they’ve shaded orange and black in.

“We need another player first,” Jack says, shaking his head at the t-shirt idea. “Now that Lana’s graduated, we’re one short of a full team and we’ve got no one to answer all the dumb culture questions.”

“I think we’ll be fine,” Lena replies, scrolling through a trivia app on her phone as some last minute prep. Jess has her arm twisted around her own so she doesn’t trip on their walk.

“Said like a true antisocial nerd,” Jack says. “Why go into a game without every weapon at your disposal?”

“Maybe we can hold auditions,” Winn says, walking fast to keep up with Jack’s much taller form.

“Does a team as powerful as Big Thick Roosters really need a sixth member?” Lena asks, following Jess’s tug as they turn right around a corner. Her phone buzzes with a text, interrupting her game: it’s Kara Danvers, asking if she needs any drinks for tomorrow to stock her fridge with. She ignores the message, irritated all over again.

“It’s always good to have as many members as you can get,” Jack says, and she doesn’t even have to look up to see him waggling his eyebrows.

--

Thursday rolls around again. She heads over to the hockey house for her second tutoring session with Kara about as reluctantly as she’s done just about anything in her whole life.

It goes a bit better than the first if only because it doesn’t involve Sam smirking at her at the front door or Nia chasing after Eve with a watergun. It does, however, involve Kara steering her wide of the living room when she walks inside because apparently Grace has a guest over and the couch is occupied.

“Is it normal to just have sex on the living room couch?” Lena asks when they safely make it to Kara’s room and close the door.

Kara shrugs, looks to consider the question for a second. “The couch, the kitchen, once I caught Leslie and Siobhan in the laundry room, and when we have house parties there’s always something going on in the hot tub. I mean even the roof –”

“Oh my god,” Lena interrupts, eyes having widened as Kara went on. “You’ve had sex on your roof?”

Lena doesn’t mean to ask it so personally, but that’s what comes out and Kara smirks a little.

“No,” she says, “But other people have.”

Lena makes a noise just thinking about how dangerous and exposed that is and Kara laughs.

“That’s ridiculous,” Lena says.

Kara’s face seems to indicate agreement. “Hey, I’ve always been perfectly fine with my bed,” she says, gesturing towards the furniture in question. Furniture Lena’s currently leaning against.

She jumps away from it as if it were scalding and it only pulls deeper amusement across Kara’s face. It makes Lena’s cheeks feel hot and she scrambles to find higher ground.

“Oh please, your roommates were so scandalized you had a girl in your room last week. As if that bed has seen any action.”

It doesn’t do the trick of swiping Kara’s smug little smile off her face and Lena feels the urge to fume.

“I don’t usually have girls up here on weekdays,” Kara says, still smirking.

There’s something about the implication of what Kara does on the weekends that makes Lena feel a little tingly and she boulders through the feeling before it becomes something significant. “Don’t you have games on weekends?” Lena asks, arms crossing over her chest and she feels a bit like she’s scolding a teenager, but it doesn’t stop her.

“Sure, but not every weekend,” Kara says, unrepentant as she leans back in her desk chair and puts her arms behind her head. Her shirt rides up the slightest, showing a hint of tan midriff. “And it’s not like they take up the entire day. There’s time.”

Lena’s not winning this conversation. Not with the way Kara’s biceps strain against the fabric of her t-shirt or the way the cotton falls over her stomach when it rides up.

“Whatever, I’m wholly uninterested in what you do with your free time,” Lena says, picking her bag up and striding over to the empty chair next to Kara.

“You sure about that?” Kara asks, still rocking backward and eying Lena a little cockily.

Lena pulls Kara’s textbook off her desk and shoves it in her stomach, satisfied when Kara lets out an oof and falls forward to grab it.

“Positive,” Lena says and then they get to work.

--

“Do you think I should get a tattoo?” Jack asks as they wait in line for coffees at the only Starbucks near campus. On Fridays, Jack’s always doing something with the robotics club, and Lena’s always trying to get her homework squared away at the library. Jess has a Friday morning Spanish class that she complains about near-religiously. But they still make time to meet before all of that and grab a quick coffee while talking over weekend plans. 

“Of what?” Jess asks while Lena scans the front page of the school newspaper.

“Like something tribal on my arm,” Jack says and Lena looks up from an article on the new library policies.

“Absolutely not,” she tells him, all but glaring at the limb in question.

“Just making sure you’re listening,” he says with a grin.

With a sigh, Lena folds her paper back up and tucks it back into the Burberry tote she has hanging under her arm. “You’re an attention whore.”

“Guilty,” he says with a little salute that has Jess giggling.

“How’s tutoring going, Lena?” Jess asks as they step forward in line.

Lena shrugs. “Fine.”

“And Kara?”

“About what you’d expect,” Lena says which isn’t entirely true – she’s not as dumb as Lena anticipated, but she’s still just insufferable enough to make Lena feel like she spends most of their session rolling her eyes.

“I hear Hockey Haus parties are legendary,” Jess says, a little pointedly. “I can’t believe we’ve never been to one.”

“Because it’s at a place called the Hockey Haus,” Lena points out, looking at her nails and trying to remember if she made a salon appointment for the weekend.

“Well now Lena can score us an invite,” Jack tells Jess, clearly amused by the prospect.

“I don’t think you need an invite,” Lena counters and they step up again. Lena scans the baked goods behind the glass and contemplates ordering a danish.

“It’s always good to have an in with the host,” Jess adds and Lena arches a brow at that, but instead of replying turns to the barista looking at her expectantly and gives him her order.

--

There aren’t many good bars within stumbling distance of campus, but there are a few gems and inevitably any Saturday night after a party at Jack’s house, they’ll spend twenty minutes trying to decide between them all. Lena immediately vetoes Crossbar from the list because she’s not drunk enough yet, and Jack refuses to go to the 1025 Bar because he claims they served him nonalcoholic beer last time he was there.

They end up landing on a place called the Hive that’s relatively new, mostly because James says he knows the manager and can get them all in for free.

Though it hasn’t been around that long, the place is fairly full when they get there but they’re able to find a table near the back. Jack orders a bucket of beers and James a round of shots and just like that, the second phase of their night has begun.

Lena sticks to white wine in favor of the less than palatable beer Jack’s ordered and after two glasses of it, she’s excusing herself into the crowd in search of the restroom. What she finds instead is Kara Danvers in cut-up jeans and a red flannel standing near the back hallway on her phone.

If it weren’t for the fact that she actually does have to go to the bathroom, Lena would turn around. Maybe she can just walk past her and not notice the way Kara’s forearms look with the cuffs of her flannel folded over them or how her hair is falling over her shoulders or the million other attributes that’s making two-drink-Lena want to press up against Kara’s body like some slut.

Two-drink-Lena seems to have fairly low standards, but maybe that’s because she’s forgetting about the whiskey she’d consumed at Jack’s house before they even made it to the bar.

Irritation at the drunken arousal curling in her gut somehow makes her capable of steeling herself and walking forward, but she still nearly curses when Kara’s attention draws up from her phone to zero in straight on Lena.

“Hey,” Kara says, clearly surprised to see her. “What are you doing here?”

“It’s a bar,” Lena says. “What do you think?”

Kara laughs and with the wine in her stomach, Lena feels the sound straight between her legs. It makes her exasperated with her baser instincts – as if she’d really be attracted to a sloppy jock like Kara in the light of day.

“Are you with people?”

“Yes,” Lena says simply and Kara just grins at that, sliding her phone in the front pocket of her jeans. Lena watches the motion and the way it pulls the flannel up to reveal her brown leather belt.

“This is twice we’ve wound up at the same bar,” Kara says, flirtatious little quirk of her lips. “If I didn’t know better, I’d say you’re stalking me.”

Lena scoffs into an eyeroll. “In your dreams.”

Leaning back against the wall and looking far too good for Lena’s tastes, Kara just shrugs, crosses her arms. A bundle of girls come out of the restroom down the hall, rushing past Lena and forcing her in closer to Kara’s body, close enough that Kara puts one hand out to stabilize her. Kara’s hand on her arm is a little sweaty, but it feels good, warm, and Lena is distracted immediately by it.

“You know, I was thinking - maybe we could be friends,” Kara says. “I’ll buy you a drink.”

“I don’t need you to buy me a drink,” Lena returns. “I can buy one myself.”

This makes Kara laugh, again. Lena wants to reach forward and shove the other girl for all the fucking laughing, has half a mind to say something about it. The other half of her mind is still hovering somewhere around the primordial feeling of Kara’s touch on her arm.

Kara opens her mouth to say something – something deeply irritating no doubt – but never gets the chance.

A haughty, “Lena?” interrupts them and Lena feels all the warm annoyance and arousal in her stomach drop like a rock as she recognizes the voice.

“I didn’t expect you to be here,” Veronica says, voice silky, but somehow demeaning. It makes Lena shift in place. 

“You think of me so often as to expect me somewhere?” Lena replies, arching a brow and refusing to be cowed by the sight of her ex-girlfriend confronting her with a new flame.

“I suppose not,” Veronica says, prickling at Lena’s senses. Veronica turns to the redhead at her side. “Excuse my manners, let me introduce you. Lena, this is Margaret. Margaret this is Lena.” Veronica smiles her third most evil smile before adding. “An old toy of mine.”

“What did you just call her?” Kara’s voice interjects, her body suddenly very close to Lena’s and just the littlest bit in front of her. Lena startles, having completely forgotten Kara was there.

There’s a pause as Veronica looks Kara up and down, a look of disdain in the curl of her lip. Kara doesn’t seem to much care, similar to how she doesn’t seem to much care about dressing well or Lena glaring daggers at her throughout their interactions.

“Sorry, do I know you?” Veronica says, sounding the kind of snobby that makes Lena think unerringly of her mother. It truly kills whatever boner she might have had once for the other girl. The contrast between the two women in front of her couldn’t be more stark – Veronica in her designer shoes and perfectly coiffed hairdo and Kara in her ripped jeans and mussed blonde curls.

“What the fuck did you just call her?” Kara repeats. It’s a little more apparent now, with the adrenaline kicking in Lena’s veins, that Kara is somewhat tipsy. But she’s standing tall, her fists clenched. Lena reaches to grab at the fabric over her biceps tugging backward, trying to corral whatever neanderthal instinct is running in Kara right now.

“I believe I might’ve said toy,” Veronica says. Her hand raises between the two of them a smirk on her face. “My name’s Veronica.”

“Well, you seem like a bitch, Veronica,” Kara says. She does not extend her hand to shake, and Lena almost laughs, almost cries but becomes too startled by Kara’s next words to do either. “I’m Kara. I’m Lena’s girlfriend and I think you’ve about overstayed your welcome.”

The threatening way Kara says it is bolstered by her arms crossing over her chest and chin lifting and Veronica’s eyes flicker to Lena a moment in question. Lena, for her part, is a bit shellshocked.

“Is that so?” Veronica is more curious than skeptical, and Lena is so surprised by what Kara’s said that she can’t answer right away. But apparently the helpless way she doesn’t deny it is answer enough, and by the time she thinks to say something, call Kara out for being crazy, she decides against it.

It’s a decision she’ll likely regret in a few minutes when Veronica and her overwhelming aura are out of sight, but for now it feels safer to idle behind Kara’s back and see what unfolds. There’s a fleeting feeling of satisfaction that comes when Lena catches the surprised blink of Veronica’s eyes.

“Lena,” Veronica starts, the name coming out on a laugh, but whatever she’s about to say next gets cut off when Kara steps up to even further block Lena from view.

“She doesn’t want to talk to you,” Kara states firmly. “So back the fuck off.”

Lena’s not sure what’s gotten Kara in such a protective mode, but if it gets Veronica away from them, Lena’s fine with it for the moment, even if there’s a dangerous alarm going off in her head with the way Kara and Veronica stare each other down.

Whatever Kara’s face looks like, it seems to do the trick. With a last lingering glance over Kara’s shoulder, Veronica chuckles lowly and though she’s observing Kara, she speaks to Lena. “You ought to put a leash on this one, Lena,” she says with dark amusement. “I think she might bite.”

“Walk away before I make you,” Kara says firmly, but Veronica keeps smiling anyway.

“We were on our way out anyway,” she says, never one to cede ground willingly. “The crowd here’s not to our taste.” Veronica waltzes off then, with her Margaret on her arm and it leaves Lena and Kara alone again in the long hallway leading towards the bathrooms.

Kara turns to her and puts a placating hand on her bicep, nothing but concern in her eyes when she asks, “Are you okay?”

The question startles Lena out of her shock and her brain starts to rapidly process the last few minutes. When she realizes what just happened, what Kara’s said – really realizes it – anger and panic bubble up so swiftly she snaps at Kara.  “What the hell was that?”

Kara’s hand retreats from her arm quickly. “What was what?”

“That with Veronica,” Lena says, gesturing wildly at the direction Veronica had just retreated. A few people pass them on their way to the bathroom but seem to ignore the hysterical lilt to Lena’s voice. She thinks for a second that it probably just looks like a couple fighting, and that makes her even more irritated.

Kara remains defensive. “I was helping you! She was an asshole.”

“You thought that the best way to help me was to tell her you were my girlfriend?” Lena asks.

Kara looks mystified as to what could be the problem with that plan, but frustration edges into her voice on her response, her body close and tone heated. “Well, it got her to go away didn’t it?”

“And what happens when she finds out that it’s a lie?!” Lena asks, hearing her voice squeak higher, as she looks around to make sure Veronica’s still not lurking in ear shot.

“So what? Why would that even be a big deal?”

Lena pinches the bridge of her nose. “Oh, I don’t know, maybe because she’s Veronica Sinclair and she goes to our school and is the most gossipy bitch I’ve ever met,” Lena says, emphasizing the last name strongly to get through to Kara. She should recognize it. The Sinclair family is infamous in the city and certainly on campus. Veronica has eyes just about everywhere and had a reputation for leaving a path of destruction behind her.

“Sinclair like…” Kara’s eyes go wide.

“Like Sinclair Bank, yes,” Lena tells her, wringing her hands in an exasperated manner. Just thinking about how she’s going to backtrack this one if Veronica finds out is giving her anxiety. She’s fairly certain her mother has had Veronica in her pocket for years now and the thought of having a conversation with Lillian about how she’s parading around lying about having a girlfriend - Lena, how pitiful. Veronica is so worried for you.

“Didn’t she get a professor expelled last year?” Kara asks, her voice hushed now, like she’s just as paranoid as Lena that Veronica’s going to jump back out at them. Her body has slipped closer to Lena’s against the wall in the hallway.

“Professor Flesthon, yes,” Lena says, remembering Veronica’s single-minded vendetta against the man that culminated in the ruination of his career. “Because she has stuff on everyone who’s anyone at this school! My family does business with hers, Kara. I already have to see my ex at family functions enough without the added humiliation of her knowing I faked a fucking girlfriend just so I wouldn’t have to talk to her and her new toy.”

Why she’s explaining all this to Kara, Lena’s not sure. She should just go and fix this problem herself, go tell Veronica that Kara’s hopped up on some bad shrooms or something and laugh it off like it happens all the time. Veronica might buy it if she sold it hard enough.

But she’s irritated at the prospect of having to fix something she didn’t break and she wants to shove at Kara until she fixes it. Everything feels big right now and maybe in the morning it’ll seem blown way out of proportion, but right now, Lena doesn’t fight the overwhelming feeling blurring up her brain.

“You could have said something, Lena,” Kara says, a bit hysterically, brought on likely by Lena’s own irrational panic. Her blue eyes are wide behind her glasses.

“I was in shock!” Lena defends with an irritated snap of her teeth. “Once you put it out there, what was I supposed to do?!"

“What was I supposed to do? Just let that bitch talk about you like that?” Kara asks, every bit as irritated sounding as Lena is. “She called you a toy.”

“Oh fuck you,” Lena bites, bristling at the protective look in Kara’s eyes like they know each other well enough for that reaction. “I can handle the way she talks about me just fine.”

“You shouldn’t have to handle the way she talks about you if it’s like that,” Kara says, clearly having stumbled onto a strong sticking point. Lena has half a mind to just punch her in the stomach, fuelled largely by the anxiety rippling through her.

“It isn’t your job to tell her to fix her attitude,” Lena says. “And I don’t need you to save me, either.”

“Well, I’m sorry that I was trying to be nice,” Kara says, not sounding at all apologetic. Her arms cross again, and Lena’s eyes can’t help but drop to the clear muscles of her arms. The mix of anger and a newfound arousal and panic make her want to scream.

“Trying to be nice by constructing an embarrassing lie to tell the school’s biggest gossip whore?!”

“You think pretty highly of yourself if you really think she’s going to run around telling everyone we’re dating,” Kara points out and Lena wants to throttle her.

“You know who I am, don’t you?” Lena says. Kara laughs, mid-argument, her head actually tilting back and looking up at the ceiling.

“I’m pretty sure you’re just my physics tutor,” Kara says in a surprisingly amusing impression of  a frat guy sort of moron, shrugging. “Of course I fucking know who you are, I’m not an idiot! Look, I get that you’re freaking out, but what is she going to do?”

“I don’t know what she’s going to do,” Lena says feeling a throbbing at the back of her neck from how hysterical everything’s getting. “That’s what makes her dangerous.”

Kara seems to realize that Lena is reaching the maximum threshold for pure and unadulterated panic, because she takes a deep breath, her hand reaching out to grip ahold of Lena’s wrist for a second before Lena jerks it away.

“It’ll be fine,” Kara says. “We won’t tell anyone, she’ll think I was just a dumbass, and it’ll blow over. You’ll be fine.”

“Of course we’re not going to tell anyone,” Lena hisses, barely biting back the urge to flick Kara in the temple. The ridiculousness of the situation is making Lena’s head spin and she reaches up to rub at her temples. When Kara looks to speak again, Lena stops her with a lift of her hand. “No, stop. Stop talking. I can’t think.”

Kara shuts her mouth promptly.

“I’m going to the bathroom and when I come back out, I don’t want to see you,” Lena says, thinking the only thing she can really do in this situation is to ignore it. A flash of irritation crosses Kara’s face, but whatever, Lena had been trying to have a good night and all of this is killing her buzz and she really needs to pee.

Without another word she turns and stomps into the restroom, but not before she hears the heavy sigh that escapes Kara’s lips.

--

The rest of the night goes considerably better, though it takes switching to whiskey sours for Lena to get rid of the annoyance from her altercation with Kara and Veronica.

A quick scan of the bar tells Lena that Veronica actually has left the premises for greener pastures and though she sees Kara’s posted up at a table corner with half the hockey team, the two of them stay in their respective corners until bar close.

“You know, Kara Danvers has been like glaring at you all night,” Jack tells her, bumping into her shoulder drunkenly. His cheeks are flushed and his eyes glossy and Lena has to lick at the thickness she feels in her mouth in order to answer. Maybe that last drink was a bad idea. “Or like. Seducting. It’s unclear.”

“I ran into her earlier,” she says, glancing over to where Kara’s standing in a corner talking to some girl Lena doesn’t know. It looks flirtatious from this angle – the way Kara’s got her arm up on the back of the girl’s chair even as she leans back in her own. There’s a smile on her face but when she looks away from the girl to grab her drink and her eyes meet Lena’s, it drops into a frown.

“You piss in her Wheaties or something?” Jack asks, laughing at himself enough that she rolls her eyes.

“We got into a fight.”

“You know each other well enough to have a fight?” Jack looks incredulous and Lena’s brain gets fuzzy all over again from the lie Kara had told earlier and the truth.

She settles on a firm, “It’s none of your business.”

The lights of the bar turn up abruptly, signaling the end of the night and the crowd groans as they start to shuffle out.

She catches Kara’s eye again when they’re leaving – Kara’s got one arm around the girl she’d been talking to all night and she’s leading her out along with the group of her teammates. Kara’s face is impassive, but she watches Lena for a long moment before turning away.

--

Sunday morning – or more like afternoon by the time she finally wakes up – brings a headache and an all too vivid recollection of the previous night’s events. Lena turns to groan into her pillow and ponders the virtue of just never leaving her room again.

There are about sixteen texts on her phone and a few missed calls and when she hears her mother’s voicemail she feels her hangover get worse somehow.

“Lena, I’ve heard another interesting rumor about a new girlfriend you’ve failed to mention. And to hear about it from Veronica Sinclair, no less. You know she’s still so stuck on you and I don’t think I need to remind you about –”

Lena clicks out of the message before she has to hear more. That’s something best dealt with after she takes about twelve ibuprofen and drinks a gallon of water. She should have fucking known Veronica would go running to Lillian like a little pet. It makes her want to throw something at the wall.

The texts are thankfully easier to deal with. A couple from James asking do you remember how we got home last night?

Jack’s sent her two pictures and a video from the bar last night and Lena tries to watch it, but the sound is so loud and discordant that Lena’s head throbs and she files it away for later.

Jess’s text is an amusing: did we get food last night because I have a lyft receipt for like a hundo and I’m vaguely remembering speaking spanish in the taco bell drive-thru

The last one is an early morning message from Kara and all it says is can we meet up today and talk? I feel bad about last night.

In the light of day, Lena does feel a little regretful about her panicked reaction to running into Veronica. Not because she’d been wrong about how Veronica was out to ruin her life, but because it’s not Kara’s fault she didn’t know that, and Lena probably didn’t need to yell at her and make everything seem so dramatic. Even if it really, really was.

She texts Kara back I’m free later tonight before setting her phone back on its charging pad and heading to the kitchen for coffee.

--

They meet that night when Lena feels like she’s finally prepared to join the living again and has gotten enough of her work done to afford taking a break. Kara texts her to meet in a park that borders Lake Kandor east of campus. Lena finds her on a park bench there looking like she’d just been on a run. At least that’s what Lena hopes Kara’s just been doing, considering the sweaty way her hair is poking out from beneath her baseball cap and the damp spots in the grey of her t-shirt.

“Hey,” Kara says, scooting over on the bench for Lena to sit down.

“Hey,” Lena parrots, not nearly as irritated as she’d been the night before, hyped up on chardonnay and panic upon seeing her ex.

“So,” Kara starts in a slow drawl of the word, but Lena interrupts her.

“I’m sorry I got so crazy last night, Veronica’s just a sore spot and she makes me go a little insane,” Lena says, laughing at herself. The lingering dredges of her hangover and the quiet way the sun’s setting over the lake is making Lena feel softer than normal.

Kara clearly hadn’t expected the apology. There’s shock on her face that Lena rolls her eyes at a bit.

“It was still really stupid to pretend we’re dating, but I probably didn’t need to yell at you,” Lena adds and Kara laughs softly.

“Actually, that’s kind of what I wanted to talk to you about.”

“About how I yelled at you?” Lena asks, arching a brow in challenge. She already apologized, Kara doesn’t get to dress her down for it.

“No,” Kara says with a chuckle. “I was thinking about pretending to date.”

“About how stupid it is?”

Kara pauses. The silence of it and the way her jaw works around like she’s picking her words out carefully makes Lena think maybe Kara’s about to say something stupider.

And so she does. “Actually, I was thinking about how I think we should do it.”

Lena blinks. “You’ve lost your mind.”

“Think about it,” Kara entreats, shifting a bit to better face Lena. “You were so worried about Veronica finding out it was a lie. What if we just make it…not a lie?”

Squinting at Kara like she’s a child, Lena nearly laughs. “It would still be a lie.”

“Sure,” Kara acknowledges, “But we’d be the only ones that know that. We date for a few months, make everyone think we’re together, break up publicly when it feels natural. Veronica never has reason to think it was a lie and,” Kara chafes her hands together. “No harm no foul.”

It’s an illogical, ridiculous plan clearly born from the mind of someone who’s been hit too many times in the head with a vulcanized piece of rubber. And yet, something in Lena’s brain whispers that it’s not completely without its merits. Maybe it’s the crazy Luthor part of her. It’s all about how you play the board, Lena.

Not having to worry about setting Veronica straight or talking to her mother about how the rumor she’d heard was just that has its virtues. And even if Kara spends most of her time bothering her with inanities, she’s nice - protective too. A good buffer to have on her arm whenever she’s getting shaken down by drunk college students eager to get an in with a Luthor. She feels more susceptible to the idea than she really should be.

“What’s in it for you?” Lena asks, still skeptical.

Kara twists the strings of her headphones around in her hand, shrugs a shoulder. “My adoptive mother Eliza and my sister have been on my case about meeting a nice girl and bringing her home,” Kara says with a touch of exasperation in her tone, though it’s rounded with affection. “They think it will give me much needed stability.”

“I don’t think this qualifies,” Lena tells her, eyebrows raising at the mention of something like a parent. The subtle slip that Kara’s adopted isn’t lost on Lena and she files that away for another time, surprised to find something in common with the other girl.

“So if we do this,” Kara says, ignoring Lena’s comment. “You have to agree to come make nice with my family for me, get them off my case for a while.”

Looking out at the lake, Lena weighs the pros and cons of the situation and tries to decide how necessary it is – how bad the fallout would be in telling her mother that Veronica heard wrong or worse, that she’d lied.

A more enjoyable thought floats across her consciousness. The look on her mother’s face when Lena tells her she’s dating a hockey player that wears socks with her sandals, will probably lose all her teeth before graduation in some sort of puck-related incident and worse, that they met because Lena’s tutoring her.

Just thinking of the horrified shape of Lillian’s mouth makes Lena start to think this plan isn’t entirely terrible. It could be fun, even. If she can just get past the idea of being romantically linked with Kara, that is.

“What about all those girls you bring upstairs on the weekends?” Lena asks. Kara snorts, shaking her head and watching a dog passing by with its owner.

“Those are usually just really drunk girls that seem to find me at parties. I bring them up to my room so they can sleep it off,” Kara says, her shoulder raising up and dropping in a hesitant shrug. “I’m a lot less worried about you puking in my bed. So it’d be an improvement.”

The image makes Lena grimace, but she pushes past it.

“You want to pretend to date,” Lena says, enunciating the words slowly. “Even though we barely know each other.”

Kara laughs. A biker passes them on the narrow lake path. “We’ll have to change that,” she says simply.

Lena’s nose scrunches up a bit, but she can already feel herself giving in. “I suppose.”

“Eliza will think I’m settling down and your ex will think you’re happily moved on and all we have to do is smile at each other a little more for a few months,” Kara says with a convincing little quirk of her lips.

Maybe it’s reckless, but it’s actually starting to sound like a good idea. The satisfaction of sticking it to both Veronica and Lillian is really all Kara should have led with.

“Okay,” Lena says softly, hoping she won’t regret this. “Let’s try it.”

Kara grins and sticks her hand out. Lena shakes it, but makes a good show of wiping her palm off on her shirt after she’s done. Kara doesn’t seem all that bothered by it, just starts laughing at her.

Chapter Text

Lena spends the next few days considering calling the whole thing off at least twenty times. 

On Wednesday, it starts in the morning when her brother texts her an article about a female Chinese billionaire who’s married a gorgeous actress in what she assumes is an attempt to be inclusive as he says something resembling it’s okay, there are models out there for you, too. The thought alone of Lex and Kara in the same room together has her stomach turning. With what, she’s not sure. 

Then, later, on her way to her electrical engineering class, she spots Nia Nal and another girl arguing over something at the coffee shop. Nia manages to spot her and a delighted smile crosses her face as she whispers something to her companion and waggles her fingers Lena’s direction. Lena ignores them.  

At trivia, there’s an unfortunate category called What Rhymes with Puck Me that’s about a mix of sex positions and hockey rules that feels, honestly, too on the nose to be anything but a cosmic joke. Especially considering Jack and Jess spend the entire time trying to egg her into texting Kara for help.

What keeps her from pulling the trigger, in the end, is the reminder of Veronica’s smarminess, and the sound of her mother’s voice preserved in numerous sardonic voicemails. Kara is, by far and away, one of the most irritating people she’s ever met, but if she’s willing to serve as a barrier between Lena and her mother, or Lena and Veronica, Lena’s not stupid enough to turn that down. 

There’s something selfless and genuine about Kara’s offer to help - sure, Kara’d acted like she was getting something out of the deal too, but Lena knows it’s far more lopsided in her favor. 

So Lena can put up with the exasperating way Kara is always laughing, or wearing some ridiculous outfit, or teasing Lena relentlessly. It’s all a means to an end, anyway. 

That’s what Lena reminds herself when Kara is being particularly insufferable. 

“So what does a girlfriend of esteemed It Girl Lena Luthor do exactly?” Kara asks Thursday when they meet at the Haus for tutoring. She’s sprawled out across her bed amongst a messy pile of papers and textbooks, and when Lena looks over, Kara’s wiggling her eyebrows idiotically.

“Don’t call me that,” Lena tells her, barely resisting chucking a pencil at the smirk the order pulls across Kara’s face.

“Seriously,” Kara insists, sitting up on her elbow. It crinkles the few pieces of paper she’s now propped up on and Lena really hopes those aren’t the notes she meticulously copied for Kara just that morning. “What am I expected to do? Take you shopping? Order you…I don’t know…what do Luthors eat? Foie gras? Oysters?” Kara pauses ominously, a wicked look in her eye. “Babies?”

“Fuck you,” Lena says even though she can tell Kara’s just goading her. It doesn’t stop her from chucking the hockey glove that’s sat on Kara’s desk in the direction of the bed. It’d been smelling anyway.

“I’m just asking,” Kara says defensively, laughing when the glove fails to make it as far as the bed and lands with a thud on the scuffed wood of Kara’s bedroom. “If I’m going to play the part of your girlfriend, I want to be prepared. Do my homework.”

“Have you considered the virtue of doing your actual homework?”

“Considered it, sure,” Kara says, shrugging her shoulder.

Lena makes a noise through her teeth, but it only seems to make Kara laugh again.

“I’m just trying to figure out what our plan is,” Kara points out and Lena can’t deny the same concern had been egging the back of her mind all night as well. “I feel like you of all people would like to have some kind of plan for this long-con. Like, should I be getting some fancy outfit for meeting your parents? Do you need me to stock my fridge with like…” Kara makes a face. “Kombucha?”

“I only have the one parent,” Lena corrects, unsure why that’s the point her brain sticks on, but it does. “And I hate to think of what you’d consider a fancy outfit.” Her eyes roam up the obnoxious pair of cut-off sweatpants Kara’s wearing to the ratty-looking t-shirt she’s got on – sleeves cut off to reveal unfairly toned biceps.

Kara looks down at herself, poking a finger through a hole at the hem of her shirt. “What, this isn’t kosher for the Luthor Family Christmas Party?”

Lena’s glare goes frosty, both at the consistent mention of her last name and Kara’s unflappable ability to tease her. “Maybe I’d talk to you about a plan if you could take anything halfway seriously.”

Kara’s smile softens to something less teasing and she puts a hand up in concession.

“Okay, sorry,” Kara says, and she takes a moment to wipe the smile off her face in favor of a more bland serious expression. “What does a girlfriend of Lena Luthor do? For real?”

“Do you want my mother’s version or my friends’ version?” Lena asks, huffing as she stares down at the problem set in front of her that they’ve yet to get to. She has a feeling Kara’s avoiding it on purpose.

“I feel like I should have an option for your version,” Kara says. 

“This whole deal is about other people,” Lena says. “If I wanted someone to care about what I wanted out of a girlfriend, I’d get a real girlfriend.”

Kara’s expression is blatantly unimpressed with that answer. 

“I just feel like - you know, if we’re going to be spending a lot of time together doing whatever it is your mother or your friends want, then maybe there are things I could do to make it easier for you. Like, if you have a favorite ice cream - ”

“My mother and Jess agree that ice cream is fattening and if one must indulge it should be in gelato,” Lena says, rolling her eyes. Kara snorts, shuffling some papers around.

“Right. But what’s your favorite ice cream flavor?” Kara asks. Lena stares at the odd drawings tacked to the wall in front of Kara’s desk and considers, again, cancelling this deal and engaging in a life free of Kara Danvers being attached to her name. 

“Moose tracks,” Lena says. Kara nods in appreciation, a smile on her face that gives off a sort of aggravating glow. “My mother would expect you to have a 401k, be polite to the point of blandness, and to, quote challenge me.

Kara laughs and Lena feels her lips pull up at the sound. “What does that even mean, challenge you? Like to a duel?” 

“Mmm, yes,” Lena says, deadpan as can be. “Traditional pistol dueling between couples is a bit of a Luthor tradition.”  

It looks like Kara believes her for a bit, blinking widely before she seems to catch wind of Lena’s sarcasm and lets out a loud, boisterous laugh. “Did you just tell a joke?” Kara asks, sounding baffled by the prospect, but laughing so brightly that Lena smiles even as she rolls her eyes. 

“My mother has some sort of vague notion that partners should intellectually challenge each other and that some of my past…” Lena makes a motion. “Not everyone has been equal to the task.” 

Laughter dying off, Kara shrugs a shoulder like Lillian’s standards are some casual affair. “I’m sure I can pull that off.” 

Lena arches a brow, but decides against telling Kara she’s out of her mind if she thinks she’s going to intellectually impress Lillian Luthor. A small kindness, perhaps. “Well, we’ll see I suppose.” 

Kara hums, nodding a bit. “Eliza and Alex are pretty simple. Just like, old-fashioned affection and support.” It’s said kind of pointedly and Lena lifts her eyes to the ceiling at the smirk on Kara’s face. 

“How boring,” she says. “Can’t you achieve that with a dog?” 

“I already tried that,” Kara laughs, “they weren’t satisfied and now Krypto lives with Eliza.” 

Lena makes a face at the unusual name, but doesn’t comment and Kara continues on with a much more hesitant, “Actually, I’ve been thinking,” she starts ominously and Lena adopts a wary look that Kara chuckles at. “Nothing bad, I swear.” 

“Sure,” she says skeptically, not pointing out that Kara thinking is how they got into this mess in the first place. 

“I don’t know if you’d be down for this, but I promised Eliza I’d come home for fall break and I think it would be, I mean she’d probably be pretty impressed, and like it could be a good way for us to - I mean it’s just an idea, but I was thinking and -”

“Kara, spit it out,” Lena commands, but she wants to laugh at the messy tumble of words that seem to spill endlessly out of Kara’s mouth. 

“Right, sorry,” Kara says, shaking her head at herself. “I thought it’d be cool if you’d come with me. Home, I mean. For fall break.” 

“Fall break,” Lena says, blinking down briefly at the planner she has lying open on Kara’s desk. “Fall break as in two weeks from now?” 

“Yeah,” Kara says. “Friday to Wednesday. I have a game that weekend, so it wouldn’t be the whole thing.”

“You want me to meet your mother in two weeks,” Lena says, somewhat shocked that Kara would be so idiotic as to even suggest this. 

“Adoptive mother,” Kara corrects, as though she says it all the time. Lena chalks it up somewhere in her mind, that Kara doesn’t quite think of this Eliza in the same way Lena thinks of Lillian. “I know it sounds crazy, but Eliza is way easy in comparison to Alex or my idiot teammates. She’ll just be happy with how you’re a genius and that you’re like with me and stuff. And we probably won’t even have to spend that much time with her, either - I can show you around Midvale and go cow tipping or go to Eli’s.”

“Cow tipping,” Lena says, her voice dry and heart despairing. It takes her a few seconds to realize Kara is laughing at her. “Fuck you.”

“Yeah, yeah,” Kara says, plopping back on her bed. “Think about it, maybe? It’ll be a good opportunity to like...get to know each other and practice in front of other people away from school. Saying we’re dating is one thing, showing it is another.”

It’s not the worst idea, but Lena fully intends to say no anyway. She settles on a soft sure instead, however, because she doesn’t want it to seem like she rejected the idea out of hand. “Have you actually told your friends we’re dating? Or thought about how you’re going to convince them.” 

Kara’s expression seems to convey she’s not concerned over the difficulty of such an endeavor either and Lena can’t choke back the scoff that escapes her mouth. 

Nevertheless, Kara smiles, shrugs a shoulder. “It won’t take much. You’ve been up in my room on weekdays, so they already think something’s up with us.”

“I’ve been up here because I’m your tutor,” Lena points out, arms crossing. She can practically feel a headache storming behind her eyes. “Not because you’re getting laid.”

The way Kara’s lips quirk up makes Lena want to roll her eyes, but she knows it’ll lessen the effect of her glare so she focuses on keeping her gaze steely so that Kara answers.

“Yeah,” Kara says, drawing the word out onto a little laugh that has Lena’s eyes narrowing even further. “They don’t think you’re tutoring me.”

The implication is all too clear. Lena balks at it, offended and prepared to throw something at Kara’s casual smirk, anything. She even glances around her for ammunition, but at the lack of anything satisfying gives up the notion in favor of indignantly squeaking, “You’ve been telling your friends I’m sleeping with you?"

“No,” Kara denies quickly, sitting up at the accusation, expression confused. “What? Of course not. That’s not what I’m saying at all.”

“Why else would they think something’s up?”

A grimace flashes on Kara’s face, quick, but obvious. “They just know that I…” There’s something in the way Kara pauses, white teeth poking out against her bottom lip like she’s resisting against admitting something. “I don’t really need a tutor.”

It takes a second to hear her, but when she does, Lena laughs, thinking it a joke. The sound turns incredulous when Kara doesn’t do the same.

“They think you don’t need a tutor,” Lena repeats, her tone indicating just how believable that is.

“They know I don’t,” Kara corrects, face impassive.

“We’re talking about the same teammates that call you a, what was it again?” Lena arches a brow. “A known dumbass?”

A flush takes root in Kara’s cheeks, her lips twisting. “Nia wasn’t – she meant it about something else.”

Lena can’t catch on to what Kara means and her expression must show as much because Kara’s eyes dart away and the pink in her cheeks deepens.

“She was talking about,” Kara gestures between them as if to explain and when Lena continues to look at her expectantly, Kara sighs. “Because you were in my room and stuff and I don’t really…do that…like ever.”

Lena hates the way Kara adjusts her glasses as she explains, looking away again and laughing at herself in a way that’s all together too charming considering the still ridiculous looking ensemble she’s wearing and the fact that just twenty minutes ago she watched Kara dip an Oreo in a jar of peanut butter without blinking an eye.

In the interest of making Kara just stop looking like that, Lena presses her lips together, unimpressed. “That still doesn’t explain why they think you don’t need a tutor.”

Kara looks back at Lena, still red in the cheeks, but grinning in the same way that makes Lena want to look away. She doesn’t. Of course. Because Lena Luthor isn’t cowed by girls with holes in their socks and posters of D2: The Mighty Ducks on their walls.

“I don’t need a tutor, like, brainwise,” Kara says simply. “I’m just mandated by the athletic program to have one.”

That explains next to nothing. “Why?”

Kara chews at her bottom lip a moment. “I flunked this class last semester.”

A loud laugh bursts forth from Lena. “That’s a pretty good indicator you need a tutor.”

Sighing, Kara rolls her eyes a little, even if her lips quirk up at Lena’s laughter. “I didn’t flunk because I didn’t understand physics. I just had a really bad semester last year.”

“Sure,” Lena deadpans and Kara just makes a face.

There’s a long pause that stretches between them, thick with Lena’s disbelief and what seems to be Kara’s consideration over something. Eventually, Kara’s shoulders deflate and she scoots back on her bed until her back is resting up against the wall, a knee pulling up to prop her arm on languidly.

“My estranged bio aunt and uncle showed up unexpectedly and basically tried to rob me of my dead parents’ estate about ten years after their death,” Kara says, delivery so dry that it takes a second for Lena to catch the weight of what she’s saying. “I missed a month of class and the final and almost dropped out of school. I practically had to beg to stay on the hockey team.”

Lena doesn’t know what to say other than a soft, “Oh.”

“This was part of the deal,” Kara says, making a small gesture towards Lena. “That’s also kind of why Eliza and Alex think a girlfriend would be good for me.” Kara’s head lolls back against the wall, her face expressing clearly how much stock she puts in that idea. “I went a little bit crazy. According to them.”

“And what do you think?” Lena asks quietly, trying to catch up to all that’s been said and find whatever sympathy she can muster.

Kara shrugs slowly, looking somewhat contemplative. “I think I had a really bad semester last year,” she says, wry twist to her lips and thick sounding chuckle that actually manages to tug just the slightest at Lena’s chest.

“Certainly sounds like it.”

“So yeah, that’s why I flunked.” Kara’s eyes lift to the ceiling briefly. “Not because I’m an idiot. Physics isn’t that hard.”

Lena’s still not sure she’s unpacked everything from dead parents to physics isn’t that hard, but she keeps her brain moving forward best she can. “Why don’t you just explain all that to the tutoring office?”

“I tried. That’s what I was doing when we ran into each other at the academic affairs building and you tried to glare my very injured face off.”

It still feels like she’s getting whiplash and Lena’s jaw works her mouth open and closed wordlessly a moment, the only emotion she can seem to keep a grasp on is indignation.

“So you’ve just been playing me this whole time?”

Sure, Kara had been picking up the material easily and they hadn’t had any issue getting through the problem sets, but Lena had attributed that to her tutoring skills. Not some kind of hidden affinity Kara had for the subject.

“No,” she denies, a dusting of embarrassment in her cheeks. “I just figured it was easier to let you tutor me once a week than spend the next month arguing with the tutoring office and the athletic office and Professor Doolidge over whether I needed a tutor or not to qualify for the hockey roster.”

Lena blinks. “So you’re just lazy.”

Kara rolls her eyes as Lena adds, “And kind of a moron.”

An infuriating smirk takes shape on Kara’s lips at the insult. “Can you blame me? You’re such a joy to be around, why wouldn’t I contrive a way to hang out more?”

Refusing to be baited, Lena lifts her chin. “You’ve been wasting my time for a month,” she points out, a hint of heat under the words. It’d only been three sessions, but still.

It does the trick. Kara’s smug expression fades into something more contrite. “You’d be surprised by how shitty the Athletic Department can be about rules like that. Even if I had appealed, there was a chance they’d say no. I’m sorry you feel used.” Kara drops her leg down to the bed, her hands falling in her lap as her fingers twist together. “It just felt easier.”

Lena’s not sure what to say. She thinks of their first encounter, of bumping into Kara in the academic affairs building…

“When did you decide that it was easier to go along with it?”

Kara’s cheeks go immediately pink, her knees pulling up as if hiding from something and the answer becomes clearer to Lena. “I’d been thinking of it way before I met you, if that’s what you’re suggesting.”

“You were still trying to get out of it when you nearly bulldozed me over that day,” Lena points out with an incredulous chuckle.

“Yes, and you were so nice to me that day that it instantly convinced me I needed to spend more time around this irresistibly charming, pretty girl who’d spent two years ignoring my presence in a class every semester,” Kara says, sarcastic as can be.

A flush crawls up Lena’s neck at the accusation and the way Kara’s voice wraps around the word pretty, but whatever, Kara was being an asshole that day with her sunglasses and the little smirk she had when Lena had slammed into her.

“You think I’m pretty?” Lena says, matching Kara’s tone to a tee.

Kara laughs, but surprisingly doesn’t seem embarrassed by the question. “Is that something up for dispute and not just objectively true?”

It chokes something thick in Lena’s throat which is absurd because Lena’s been called pretty thousands of times in hundreds of different ways by people so much more appealing than Kara Danvers. But there’s a note of unabashed sincerity in the way Kara just puts it out there and doesn’t take it back. There’s a slow tingle of heat that spreads out under Lena’s skin and she hates the way this girl she doesn’t even really know manages to affect her like this.

Like, Lena knows she’s pretty, so what the hell does she care if Kara’s somehow smart enough to see the obvious. 

“I mean, you’d have to be pretty to make up for your personality,” Kara adds, completely pulling any other feeling out of Lena other than outrage. 

The only thing even close to Lena is a pillow at the end of Kara’s bed and she stands up to chuck it straight at Kara’s face. It hits against Kara’s laughter and though Lena’s doing a good job of acting pissed, she wants to laugh at the sound, at the way Kara pretends to cower away from it.

“I have a great personality, just so you know,” Lena says, hating the way it sounds immediately, but sticking to her guns.

“Yeah, you’re so nice all the time. How could I forget?”

“I’m your tutor, I don’t have to be nice to you.”

Kara tsks, setting the pillow to the side and shaking a finger at Lena. “Sure, but my girlfriend…she should probably learn how to be nice to me.” 

Lena sighs, exasperation dripping off the sound.

They manage to settle down, Kara getting her laughter under control and Lena picking up her things now that she’s realized Kara has no need of her excellent tutoring skills.

“I’d say I’ll see you next week, but now that I know these sessions are pointless,” Lena says, sliding her tablet into the back pocket of her bag.

Kara’s stuffing papers haphazardly in her drawers in a way that has Lena itching to reopen them and rearrange the whole thing. “Actually, I was kind of thinking we could just use the sessions as like get-to-know-each-other time,” Kara suggests, eyes lifting to meet Lena’s.

Frankly, Lena was a bit happy to no longer have to spend more time than necessary in the Hockey Haus, but Kara continues on, making more sense than Lena’d like.

“It’d help us pull off this whole dating thing,” Kara says and Lena can’t deny that. Even tonight when they were accomplishing nothing she’d learned some crucial details about Kara Danvers – like a pair of dead parents, an inheritance and an estranged, gold-digging family. “And if you decide to come with me on break, it’ll be good prep.” 

“I suppose you’re – ” Lena licks the distaste of admitting Kara’s right out of her mouth. “That’s not a terrible idea.”

Kara laughs. “It’s a good idea,” she corrects. “The team thinks we’re fooling around, we get pretty much uninterrupted study time, you still get paid doing nothing and I get to stay on the team.” Kara dusts her hands together. “Win. Win.”

Lena hums, playing at considering it all when she knows Kara’s got a point. It makes sense.

“Come on, you know I’m right,” Kara cajoles, infuriating smile on her face as she stands between Lena and the door.

“What I know is that I’m regretting this entire endeavor,” Lena says, shifting her bag onto her shoulder and fixing Kara with as unimpressed an expression as she can muster, but as is becoming commonplace, Kara just laughs.

--

“What are you going to tell your friends?” Kara asks, quiet as they step across the lawn of her house towards Lena’s car.

Kara had insisted on walking her all the way out there because that’s what Kara Danvers does for girlfriends and Lena’s trying to outpace her to no avail.

“About what?” Lena asks, unlocking her car, but failing to open the door before Kara dodges in front of her and does it for her.

“Dating me,” Kara clarifies as Lena slides in. “Like why you hadn’t told them before or whatever?”

“Easy,” Lena answers breezily. “I’ll say I was too embarrassed to say anything before.”

She closes the door on Kara’s laughter, but watches the image of her fade in her rearview mirror as she drives away and doesn’t realize she’s smiling until she’s pulling into her own apartment complex.

--

It’s not as easy as Lena had hoped it would be. Telling her friends.

She waits until Sunday to do it. They’re nursing hangovers and waiting for their food delivery to arrive, an old movie playing softly on the television across the room. Lena’s mouth still feels a bit like it’s full of cotton and there’s a lingering pressure in the back of her skull that ibuprofen hasn’t soothed yet, but she just wants to get it over with so she blurts the story out a few minutes after Jess returns from the kitchen with cold Gatorade.

“Kara Danvers,” Jack deadpans, looking like he might still be drunk from last night. “Like your tutoring assignment?”

“The hockey player?” Jess asks, squinting at her from the other end of the couch. She’s wearing sunglasses even though all the shades are drawn in Lena’s apartment.

“Yup,” Lena answers them both with a defiant pop of her lips.

“You are not,” Jess says as Jack lets out a bark of a laugh, coated with disbelief.

“I am.”

“There’s no way,” Jack adds, exchanging laughing looks with Jess that are doing nothing for Lena’s headache.

“Except that I am.”

“You’ve barely known her a month,” Jack points out. “Unless you’ve had some secret tryst you didn’t tell us about.”

“We’ve had classes together since freshman year,” Lena counters vaguely, to the harmonious scoffing of her friends.

“So…what? You had one tutoring session with her and fell madly in love?”

“I’m not in love with her,” Lena says, unable to stop from cringing. Jess laughs.

“Yeah, Jacky, don’t accuse Lena of something so torrid,” Jess says, voice nasally in clear imitation of her mother. “A Luthor in love? How pedestrian.” Lena swats at her.

Jack affects a look of faux innocence. “Just trying to decipher how we got from hate-stalking this girl’s Instagram to dating her.”

Lena crosses her arms over her chest. “Does it matter how we got there?”

“Yes,” Jack and Jess respond in unison, laughing at each other after it happens.

“Come on, Lena. It’s just hard to believe,” Jess says as Jack continues to chuckle. “I’ve seen the women you date, and Kara doesn’t exactly make it on the list of Lena Luthor’s Type.”

“I don’t have a type,” Lena denies even though she knows Jess is completely on the mark.

Kara ticks off next to no boxes when it comes to what Lena looks for in a woman. Admittedly, her choices up until now have been motivated by her mother’s standards more than Lena’s own, but they’ve been fairly consistent across the board.

Still, she’s a tad offended. Sure Kara may do irritating things like respond to Lena’s texts with memes and emojis instead of actual words, but she’s attractive and though Lena would never admit it aloud, she doesn’t hate every minute she spends with her.

“Name one thing you like about her,” Jack says. Lena immediately thinks of about a million dumb things she could say - Kara’s absurd hat collection, her forearms, how angry she had got when Veronica had called her a toy. She thankfully doesn’t have to sort through all those thoughts, because Jack scoffs when she pauses.

“She must be good in bed,” Jess murmurs, mostly to herself.

Lena nearly admits that she wouldn’t know before Jack is adding to the conversation with, “Do we know anyone that’s slept with her?”

Jess seems to muse on the question. “Don’t think so, but I can ask around.”

“Shouldn’t be too hard,” Jack says. “I’ll ask James. He knows everyone who’s fucked everyone on this campus.

“Excuse me,” Lena interrupts. “Can we maybe not discuss the sexual history of the girl I’m dating?”

“Sure,” Jess replies far too easily. “We can discuss her sexual present instead.”

“Too true,” Jack adds. “We can go right to the source. So. Lena. Is she good in bed?”

With an irritated set to her brow, slouches farther down the couch. “Fantastic,” she deadpans. “Unstoppable. Best I’ve ever had.”

“Such a convincing endorsement,” Jack laughs. “Give us some details.”

“I’m not discussing my sex life,” Lena says, closing her eyes against a headache that’s only deepened.

“Because it doesn’t exist or because you’ve suddenly become a prude?” Jess says snottily enough that Lena shoves her heel into the nearest body part of Jess she can reach.

“Because I’m hungover and you’re both unbearable right now.” Lena pinches the bride of her nose. “I’m dating Kara Danvers, it’s a thing whether you believe it or not.”

There’s an ominous silence, but Lena doesn’t open her eyes. Just silently begs for their delivery to get there and put her out of her misery.

“So you’ll bring her to the party Saturday?” Jack asks, failing to make the question sound casual.

Jess makes a pleased noise like Jack’s tripped her up somehow and Lena’s too exhausted for all this.

“Of course.”

Jack chortles, delighted sounding. “Great, can’t wait to meet her.”

--

Monday means her shared philosophy lecture with Kara. By the time she gets to class and plops down in the far back row seat, Kara’s already there and handing her a tall plastic coffee cup with Kara’s name scrawled across the side in black marker.

“What’s this?” Lena asks, picking it up gingerly. It’s warm against her hands and Kara’s already holding a second cup, leaned back in her chair. She is, unfortunately wearing socks, slides and a pair of shorts that naturally have rips in them.

“Coffee,” Kara supplies, taking a sip of her own and smirking at Lena over the rim like she’s won some kind of competition.

“I see that, genius,” Lena snarks, but she takes a sip of the coffee nonetheless.

“Just felt like bringing my girlfriend coffee,” Kara says and it’s loud enough that the other students milling about as they find their seats can surely hear her. Lena half expects someone to turn around and look at them with a look of clear doubt, but no one does. The reality of their new arrangement starts to make itself known and Lena realizes she’s going to have to start shifting her behavior if this is going to work.

“Something wrong with that?” Kara asks, the nudge for Lena to respond clear.

“Of course not, darling,” Lena says, saccharine smile that has Kara huffing a laugh out between her closed lips. “Thank you.”

Kara’s arm extends over the back of Lena’s chair, her voice lowering as she hovers in near to give them privacy. “You might want to work on your my girlfriend is the best smile because that one isn’t going to fool a blind man.”

Lena takes another sip of her coffee, smiles at a student shuffling by in front of them and waits for him to pass before she eyes Kara with disdain. “I drink extra shot americanos for the record. My girlfriend should know that if she wants to earn a smile.”

Kara laughs, leaning back away from Lena to slouch down in her chair. “Should have known you’d drink something disgusting.”

Class begins before she can even formulate a reply.

It’s oddly distracting to sit next to Kara after that – as if the sudden awareness of how their relationship has subtly shifted is all Lena can think about. It makes her all too cognizant of Kara’s body next to hers, the way her arm stays slung across the back of Lena’s chair and the clean scent of what must be her perfume.

Paying attention to anything other than every movement of Kara’s body becomes irritatingly difficult for Lena and she considers for a moment elbowing Kara in the ribs to get her to move away.

Before she can put such a plan into action, however, Kara’s ripping a piece of paper out of her notebook and scribbling across it. Lena does well at not trying to read what Kara’s writing, but it doesn’t matter because Kara folds the note up and slides it to Lena as if they’re teenagers in high school.

It’s such a bizarre action Lena nearly flicks the note away from her but restrains herself and instead plucks it open to discover its contents.

what’s your favorite food

Oh, cute, Kara thinks they’re going to pass get-to-know-each-other notes to each other in the middle of class like children. Fat fucking chance.

Sending Kara a look, Lena scribbles her response: pay attention. She doesn’t bother passing it back – Kara’s eyes are tilted down at the paper – but she ends up wishing she had because Kara leans more into Lena’s space to read the words and she catches another inhale of spicy fresh scent and Kara’s arm brushes across Lena’s shoulder.

Kara lets out a noise, but reaches over to write under Lena’s words this prof posts all his ppts Instead of continuing, Lena just scrunches the paper up in her hand and shoves it in her bag.

Kara stares a moment, and Lena can feel it even though she’s turned her eyes back to the powerpoint slide at the front of the room.

Seemingly undeterred, Kara rips a new piece of paper off her notebook and scribbles again. This time it’s: ever been to marvin’s

Marvin’s is a small little deli not far off campus and though Lena’s never been there she’s heard enough about it – its kitschy décor that hasn’t been updated since the 80s, the two dollar sandwich deals they have on weekdays during lunch and the fact that they deliver to campus until 4am.

no, Lena scribbles quickly under Kara’s question, but when Kara makes as if to write a followup, Lena scrunches the paper up again and glares at Kara to stop, finding only twinkling blue eyes and a smile in response.

“Trying to pick a date spot,” Kara whispers, leaning far too close in order to shield her voice – they’re in the back of a massive lecture hall with a professor that doesn’t really pay them any attention.

“During class?” Lena hisses back, this time not restraining herself from shoving against Kara’s body to get her to move away.

Kara laughs softly but does finally remove her arm from across the back of Lena’s chair. “What’s your favorite food?” Kara tries again, and Lena rolls her eyes.

“If I tell you, will you shut up and pay attention?”

Making a motion as if zipping her lips, Kara nods.

Lena says the first thing that comes to mind, “Sushi,” and Kara keeps her end of the bargain, even if she makes a face at Lena’s choice that has Lena kicking her shin in retort.

--

On Tuesday, Lena gets a text from Kara as she’s leaving the library to head for her car. 

dunno if ur near south quad, but there’s a bunch of therapy rabbits if u feel like calming down for 10 secs. petted a rabbit named grumpy who was very soft and who reminded me of u babe <3

There’s an attached picture of a pen full of rabbits and Kara’s thumbs up in the foreground. Lena rolls her eyes before she responds, hovering in the atrium of the library.

We’re breaking up.

It barely takes a second for Kara to respond. 

i’m changing ur name in my phone to honey bunny

Lena doesn’t bother responding. But she does give it five minutes and decide to turn around toward the South Quad. The longer she can avoid going home to hear her neighbors’ renovation the better. The rabbits do turn out to be very soft.

--

Her mother calls on Wednesday as Lena’s getting ready to meet Jess and walk to Legends for trivia. It’s been two weeks of mostly avoiding her mother’s calls and ignoring her voicemails and Lena knows she has to face the music some time lest it only get worse.

It takes less than a minute of practiced pleasantries before Lillian brings up the dreadful rumor she’s been hearing.

“A hockey player?”

Lena feels a migraine come on at the shrill tone her mother has adopted. It reminds her of getting caught in the gardening shed with the chef’s daughter when she was sixteen. It had been nearly the same sentence. Honestly, Lena, the help’s child? 

“Yes, that’s correct, mother.” She focuses on fishing through her closet for a good pair of heels to go with her skinny black jeans. 

“I thought perhaps Veronica had said as such in jest.”

The mention of Veronica makes Lena shove aside a pair of shoes a bit more violently than normal. “Does Veronica know how to jest?” 

Lillian clicks her tongue disapprovingly and Lena can feel her hackles continue to rise. “If this is some kind of petty display to get a rise out of Veronica or – ”

“It’s not.” It kind of is. 

“How long has this been going on?”

Lena finally finds the pair of shoes she was looking for and drags them out of her closet. “Long enough,” she answers, keeping it vague and making a mental note to maybe nail down a few pertinent details they’d forgotten about later. 

“And I’m just hearing of it now? From Veronica no less.”

“Veronica should learn how to keep her mouth shut,” Lena snaps, irritated with the constant gossip wheel and Lillian’s unwavering affection for her ex-girlfriend.

“She’s concerned for you,” Lillian says only making Lena’s irritation worsen. “I keep trying to tell you how much she obviously cares for you still.”

“Yes, she really showed how much she cared when she was sleeping around behind my back.”

Lillian makes a scoffing noise as if scandalized by the very true accusation. “People make mistakes, Lena.”

Before Lillian can spend the next twenty minutes trying to convince Lena that Veronica is worthy of a second chance, Lena goes for the heart of the phone call. “It doesn’t matter. I’m with Kara now and we’re very happy. She’s in the other room, too busy hockeying to come to the phone.” 

“And yet you’ve been keeping her a secret this entire time.”

Lena does her best to keep most of her personal life secret from her mother, but she knows now is not the time to mention that. “It’s pretty new, mother. I didn’t want to get her subjected to the Inquisition.” 

“Kara, is it? Does she have a last name?”   

“Why? So you can stalk her from your ivory tower?”

“You should mind your manners when you speak to me, Lena,” Lillian says in that superior tone Lena’s heard her own voice shape one or twice. It makes the back of her neck itch.

Knowing that arguing will just prolong the call, Lena’s voice goes small as she lets out a soft, but still slightly snarky, “Sorry, mother.”

There’s a long pause, as if Lillian is well aware Lena’s apology isn’t quite sincere, but thankfully she seems disinclined to comment.

“You’ll bring her to Thanksgiving,” Lillian says brusquely. It’s the kind of order Lena knows there’s no sense in protesting.

Not that she gets the chance with the way her mother hangs up the call immediately after.

--

“My mother wants to know how long we’ve been dating,” Lena says the next day as she strides into Kara’s room for their tutoring session and throws her backpack heavily against the wood of Kara’s desk. “And Jess asked me what your major was last night, and I couldn’t remember.”

Kara’s hanging off the end of her bed tossing a tennis ball at the wall and wearing an obnoxious tank top that reads USA Drinking Team across the front. “You told your mom?” Kara asks, catching the ball and sitting up.

“Veronica told her about your little display at the bar, like I told you she would.”

Kara makes a face, hums a bit before going back to chucking the ball against the wall. “Yikes.”

“So we need an answer,” Lena says, exasperatedly swatting the ball away from Kara before she can catch it. It bounces away into a pile of dirty laundry in the corner of Kara’s room and Kara sits up, twisting to better face Lena.

“I don’t know, a month maybe? Two?” Kara squints at Lena like she’s looking for something and it makes Lena feel squirmy. “You okay?”

“I’m fine,” Lena dismisses. “Just irritated my mother is badgering me about my fake relationship and I don’t have answers to completely fundamental questions like how long we’ve been dating.”

“Fake dating,” Kara clarifies and though there’s tease in her smile, Lena’s glare does the job of flicking it away. “Sorry.”

With an exasperated puff of breath, Lena sits down at Kara’s desk, shoving away a pair of discarded sweatpants towards the pile of laundry before she does. “We need answers to these questions. Especially if we start seeing people socially."

It looks very much like Kara’s trying hard not to laugh. “Seeing people socially,” she says in a dry tone. “So, hanging out?”

Ignoring the tease, Lena pulls her laptop out of her bag. “Answers, Kara,” she says, but there’s something about the way Kara bites at her lip to keep from laughing that has Lena softening even if she should be irritated.

“Right, yeah, sorry, boss,” Kara says with an exaggerated show of sitting up straight and paying attention. “Okay. We met for a tutoring session, had class together, and we decided to give it the old college try.”

“Alright, so you asked me out and I, mysteriously, said yes,” Lena mutters. She has an urge to write this down, but a little voice in her head that sounds suspiciously like Lex tells her there shouldn’t be a paper trail.

“No way would I have asked you out,” Kara insists, incredulous sounding as she unscrews the cap to a nearby water bottle and takes a long pull.

Lena scoffs, offended by the sound of Kara chuckling. “I’ll have you know I get asked out all the time.”

Technically not true – Lena knows she can come off as relatively unapproachable – but she does just fine when she wants to. If she had any interest in getting laid, it certainly wouldn’t be hard and for Kara to act otherwise –

“Oh, I believe that,” Kara says, laughter dropping off into something more warm and liquid that has Lena softening against her will. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

“Then how did you mean it?”

“No it’s like – ” Kara chuckles again, sounds a bit like she’s at a loss for words as she gestures aimlessly at Lena. “You look like that and I look like this.”

“Oh, so because I’ve actually done laundry this month, you wouldn’t dare – ”

“Lena,” Kara interrupts, still with that insufferable laughter that has Lena’s lips pressing together. “We’ve talked about this. I know you know how pretty you are.”

There it is again. That little flip in her gut that Lena seems incapable of stopping. The casual way Kara’s smile somehow cuts into the core of her and makes Lena actually feel pretty. They have talked about this and it’s no news that Lena’s hot, but for whatever stupid reason Lena feels a warmth scratch up her neck once again.

“Not sure what that has to do with anything,” she murmurs, affecting as irritated a tone as she can.

“Trust me when I tell you that no one is going to buy that I was the one that did the asking out. I’m like historically terrible at talking to pretty girls.” Kara’s laugh is self-deprecating this time in a charming way. “Like my family would not buy that at all. No way. They wouldn’t think I would have the balls to shoot for someone so far out of my league.”

It must be the muted smell of dirty laundry and Febreeze that’s going to Lena’s head because she nearly blurts out you’re hot enough for me like an idiot. “Under that logic, should I just assume you’ve never asked anyone out?”

Hand to her chest in a fake look of pain, Kara lets out a wheeze of a laugh. “Damn, Lena, ouch. That’s your girlfriend you’re talking about.”

Lena rolls her eyes. “We need a convincing story and you’re making me feel like that’s impossible to contrive.”

Kara shrugs, unconcerned as she crosses her legs underneath her. “I’ve heard that the best lie is the closest to the truth.”

“The truth being?”

“What I said before. That you got paired with me as a tutor and one thing led to another because I’m just so incredibly charming and you’re weak for hot hockey players and – ”

The words get lost after starts to throw discarded clothing in Kara’s direction, but they’re both laughing, and Lena hates it .

Honestly.

She does.

--

“Okay so we’ve been together a little over a month after you,” Lena pointedly emphasizes the word at Kara, “asked me out after a tutoring session.” 

Kara hums agreement even if it still sounds like it comes with significant reluctance. 

“Why’d you ask me out?” Lena asks. Kara rolls her eyes.

“Because I’ve been sort of into you for the past two years and getting to know you a little better convinced me to at least give it a shot,” Kara says, repeating their rehearsed story back to Lena. “Why’d you say yes?”

“I was intrigued by how nice you were when I originally thought you were a douche,” Lena says. “What’s your favorite thing about me?”

“Who’s asking?” Kara asks, raising an eyebrow and waggling it around. Lena tosses a balled up piece of paper Kara’s way. “I don’t know, uh. How smart you are?”

“Where was our first date?” Lena asks.

“We went to the park and had coffee,” Kara says. They had agreed on keeping that somewhat close to reality. “And then you kissed me first, probably.”

The reminder of the physical aspect of this whole deal settles in Lena’s mind suddenly. Having Kara draped all over her in class was something she could get used to after much practice and probably some nose-plugging. Holding hands was sweaty and weird, but whatever. But she hadn’t stopped to consider kissing, hadn’t really considered that Jack and Jess know full well that after a few rum-and-diets she’s likely to try to mount someone at a party. Or that people in college had little-to-none in the way of PDA control.

It doesn’t help that the idea of kissing Kara doesn’t immediately make her recoil. Weird, sure, but not…disgusting.

“Because you don’t have the balls,” Lena says, clearing her throat.

“Right,” Kara says, glancing out the window. “No balls. That’s me.”

“But enough balls to tell my ex-girlfriend to fuck off when you barely knew her,” Lena says. Kara laughs a little, shrugging.

“Yeah, but someone with a brain might’ve tried to hit on you after scaring her off,” Kara says. “If they had managed to get a word in with all your yelling, maybe.”

“I wasn’t yelling,” Lena says, rolling her eyes and reaching for her textbooks to pack up.

“Lecturing,” Kara says.

Lena decides to settle for lecturing, lest she actually start yelling right now. 

--

The Jackrabbits have a home series against the Blainesdale Whitetails that weekend and Lena wakes up Saturday morning with a text from Kara telling her she should come to the game that night.

Lena doesn’t want to do that. Not at all.

There’s a party at Jack’s that night and she likes the slow crawl of her Saturday mornings leading up to the hectic energy of the night. The idea of spending her pre-game time sitting in a packed arena watching hockey with a bunch of drunk college students isn’t exactly appealing.

But she also knows she needs to attend some games if they’re going to really pull this off and this is a relatively harmless activity in the grand scheme of things. It’s not as awful as sitting in Kara’s room with her or having to spend a meal together. Kara won’t even really be there – not technically. She’ll get all the credit of doing something for Kara without actually having to see her.

Maybe if she does this she can convince Kara into stopping by Jack’s party afterward. Two birds, one stone. Rip the band-aid off so to speak.

Which is what has her reluctantly agreeing, and in turn cajoling Jess into joining her.

“Are we even good?” Jess asks as they make their way to the Warren – The Argo Center, officially, but students never call it that. “The hockey team I mean.” 

“We won four three in overtime last night,” Lena tells her, having looked up the score earlier that afternoon.

“Is that good?”

Lena shrugs, laughs. “Winning is winning.”

The place is fairly full by the time they get inside. The facility is relatively old, but in that way that’s considered too classic now to really renovate it. It means that it feels more cramped than a newer stadium might, despite fitting the same amount of people and it makes the cheers from the designated student section boom loudly across the ice. She remembers vaguely coming here on a tour during orientation and Jack whispering that it smelled like wet socks.

Which it does. But whatever.

The band plays the fight song over and over again from their little section next to the students and Lena has to hover near Jess to hear her talking.

“Is that Mike?” Jess asks, bumping into Lena’s shoulder as she gestures with a nod of her head.

“Who?” Lena asks, scanning the crowd of jostling bodies. Jess gestures towards a shirtless guy pounding on the glass so violently Lena’s a bit concerned he’s going to smash right through it. The boys and girls around him look similarly hyped, jostling him and cheering him on.

“Mike, of the abs? Son of a Senator?” Jess clarifies significantly like that’s not an incredibly common name with a relatively common background in their friend group. When she glances at her friend, Jess is readjusting her shirt to expose more of her cleavage and Lena laughs, rolling her eyes.

“You’re shameless.”

Jess doesn’t deny it, just shrugs a shoulder unapologetically.

“You could do with a little more shameless,” she says, shoving at Lena’s arm as they find an acceptable row in the back of their section. “You’re a puck bunny now after all. It’s practically the name of the game.”

“What is? And don’t call me that.”

“Tits out,” Jess explains, gesturing to herself and then unabashedly pointing at a girl they pass who is indeed fully tits out, with some numbers painted on said tits. Lena recognizes Kara’s number painted right over her heart and rolls her eyes. 

Kara’s text this morning had offered for Lena to come pick up one of Kara’s jerseys - all the so’s do it - but the thought of wearing a sweaty, hot jersey basically proclaiming her as Kara’s so-called significant other had bothered her. Looking at the girls and boys trying to flag down their favorite players makes her wish, a little, that she had accepted.

Lena doesn’t comment other than shaking her head at her friend half amused, half exasperated at the crass expression.

The game starts soon after they’ve squeezed into a spot amongst their classmates. The Jackrabbits and Whitetails are lined up across from each other and Lena spots Kara immediately where she’s hunching towards center ice in anticipation of the puck drop.

“Your girl’s a starter,” Jess muses, the amusement in her voice clear enough as she glances at Lena. “Could be worse.”

Honestly, Lena hadn’t really known for sure what line Kara was on – if she’d be starting the game or even what position she played. But she’s happy to see Kara lined up across from a Whitetails player and quickly and brutally winning the draw. The puck settles on another player’s stick – Leslie, Lena thinks as she tries to read the names and numbers on the jersey – and play moves fast.

Lena’s grateful for how action packed hockey can be. She isn’t sure what she’d have done if Kara was a softball player.

“Of course she is,” Lena says to Jess as they watch the Jackrabbits take the puck up the ice away from them.

It makes Jess laugh. “As if anything less would drag you to the Warren on a Saturday.”

Lena hums her agreement, internally pleased with something that sounds like approval form Jess. She’s thinking of something to add, something clever and familiar about Kara maybe, when she spots a familiar spot of brown hair a few rows in front of them.

“Fucking hell,” she mutters when she recognizes who it is, and Jess must hear her because she cranes her neck around to follow Lena’s gaze.

“Is that – ?”

The name gets choked out of Jess’s throat the minute Veronica turns around to look straight at them as if she could feel their attention. It makes Lena’s blood boil, her stomach flipping unpleasantly.

With a sardonic smile, Veronica gives them a little wave that Lena does not return.

“Since when does Veronica watch sports?” Jess murmurs when they both pointedly look away from her and back towards the game.

“Since I started dating Kara, I’m sure,” Lena says, happy in some small part that Veronica’s presence here means she’s bought into the lie. Even if she’s probably spying for Lillian.

“She knows?”

For a moment she considers mentioning they’d run into each other at Hive, but decides that’s not worth the story and settles on a simple, “Yup.”

Jess blows out an unimpressed breath. “What a fucking stalker,” she says, teasing enough that Lena laughs.

A loud thud precedes the image of Kara getting pinned against the boards right in front of their section. She can just make it out over the heads of the students in front of her, but the jumbotron suspended over the ice shows it clear enough. 

Despite Kara’s hips moving around for positioning and her skates working hard, the two Whitetails players jabbing at the puck are successful in their mission and manage to wedge it free from under her, chucking it down the ice to another player who takes it out of the zone.

Instead of pursuing the play into the defensive zone, though, Kara whaps the ice in frustration with her stick as she takes a fairly leisurely skate back to the bench. Someone comes scrambling over the wall to replace her, but the Whitetails have already turned a shot on goal. Even from here, Lena can see Kara’s coach lean down next to her and point vigorously down the ice.

Down at the glass, a still shirtless Mike has started up a very loud and boisterous chant of RUN RABBITS RUN that Jess gets wrapped up in and eventually manages to get Lena to do. Though not without some protest.

--

The game isn’t terrible, if Lena’s honest. Hockey is interesting enough and Lena’s understanding of the game deep enough to keep her attention. The score stays close until late in the third period when the Whitetails manage to score two goals in five minutes.

Despite the loss, Kara plays well as far as Lena can tell. She’s on the ice for both of the Jackrabbits’ goals and even tallies an assist on the first – a perfect breakout pass to Leslie as she’s skating out of the penalty box. But there are still some small moments of what Lena might call laziness – a bad pass here, an icing there.

But Lena’s certainly no expert – her knowledge of the game is derived primarily from attending Metropolis Mammoths games when she was younger and Luthor Corp had just begun their sponsorship deal. Her father had explained some intricacies of the game, but that was ages ago – sometimes it feels like a lifetime.

The loss clearly has the players dejected as they give a half-hearted salute to the students from center ice with their sticks raised in the air. Lena watches as Kara lingers behind her team, grabbing ahold of Nia - who was apparently the starting goalie - and talking to her a little away from the rest of the team, knocking their helmeted heads together.

There’s a girl next to Lena absolutely screaming Kara’s name as if it will get her attention, as if the sound isn’t lost in the cacophony of other students yelling at players as well. With a wincing look at Jess over the decibel of the screaming, they both turn to file out of the arena.

“You know, hockey players lose their teeth a lot,” Jess says offhand as they get out of the arena and into the chilly autumn air.

Lena laughs, shoves Jess a little. “Gross.”

“Seriously, have you thought about that in your decision to date her? Like, she’s going to lose her teeth,” Jess continues, smiling at the face Lena makes. “Think about it. You’re on your back and it’s good, but then you look up and there’s this toothless –”

Just as Lena’s about to shut her friend up with another disgusted laugh and a harder shove, a cool, distinctive voice breaks through their conversation.

“Lena,” Veronica says, appearing before them as if out of thin air. Jess practically jumps back with a hiss that Lena does her best to ignore in favor of staring straight into Veronica’s icy gaze with her chin lifted.

“Veronica,” she replies, the name dropping off her tongue like it’s something foul tasting.

“Your…” Veronica pauses unnaturally, a hint of a smirk at her lips. “Girlfriend played adequately. You must be so proud. Bit of a lovable loser, isn’t she?”

“Didn’t take you for a hockey fan,” Lena replies, barely resisting from spitting out the words testily. Veronica can’t have an advantage.

“I suppose it makes sense you’d need an athlete’s kind of skill and stamina to please you,” Veronica says, ignoring Lena’s jab and smiling smarmily. “Though this Kara seems too much of a goon to really do the job well.”

Lena doesn’t even care about Kara enough to be offended by the insult, but the face Veronica is making as she says it makes Lena clench her fists. For a moment it looks like Veronica might step in closer, might invade Lena’s personal space and Jess must notice because she can sense her friend shifting closer. Thankfully Mike, bare-chested and screaming, comes barreling through the crowd screaming RUN RABBITS RUN like they just won.

It starts a bit of a frenzy that Jess takes advantage of – thank God because Lena was about seconds away from karate chopping her ex-girlfriend – by pulling Lena through crowd and away from Veronica.

--

After the game, Jess abandons Lena with the excuse of needing to change for the party and Lena’s left waiting for Kara alone. She doesn’t have to wait for Kara of course, but Jess looks at her a bit oddly when Lena suggests not doing so and now she’s stuck here just waiting.

Whatever. She has to convince Kara to come to Jack’s anyway, better to do that in person.

Plus, there are still some lingering nerves from her run-in with Veronica and it feels nice to idle in the stillness of the quickly emptying front plaza of the arena and just sit.

It takes forever for Kara to emerge from the arena, but she eventually does, packed in the middle of a few of her housemates. Lena feels foolish immediately because they made no plans to meet up after the game and it’s clear she’s waiting on Kara which is just…not something Lena Luthor does and honestly why didn’t she think this through?

The team looks a bit downtrodden, silent as they pace away from the doors. Kara in particular has her head focused on her shoes, but somehow manages to look up just as Lena stands. Their eyes connect and Lena tries to act like she wasn’t just contemplating fleeing the scene.

With a soft word to her teammates, Kara breaks away from them to beeline towards Lena. Behind her, the other girls are whispering to each other, looking at Lena with looks somewhere between confusion and amusement. 

“Shooters shoot!” one of the girls yells after Kara - Lena’s not sure which one - and Kara lazily flips them off without looking. 

Kara’s not dressed as Lena’s used to. Instead, she’s in a respectable pair of light wash jeans and a dark blue oxford shirt with a little Jackrabbit on the breast pocket.

“I didn’t know you owned something without holes in it,” Lena comments as her eyes drag up Kara’s body. It does very little to affect the sullen look on Kara’s face and Lena tries very hard not to care about that. It’s just a bit jarring not to have Kara laughing at her like she usually is.

“Athletic Department mandated gameday outfit,” Kara replies, holding her hands out at her side as if for inspection. Lena has an urge to reach out and tug at a couple creased spots, but manages to hold her hands away. There’s a quirk to Kara’s lips, but that’s it before her mouth sets back into a subtle frown, her shoulders drawn in.

Maybe it’s the relative privacy of where they’re standing, or the chill night air, or Lena trying to be a halfway decent human being to her fake girlfriend, but she feels compelled to ask, “Are you okay?”

It makes Kara laugh this time, but it’s an off sound and accompanied by a shrug. “Not a fan of losing,” she says, eyes darting around and digging her hands into her pockets. “I’m sorry your first game had to be a loss.”

Before Lena can reply, Kara continues, looking away. “I didn’t know you were going to wait for me, sorry, I would have hurried up out of the locker room, but I know you didn’t really want to be here in the first place and –”

Lena raises her hand to halt the sudden outburst of emotion. “I just hung around to see if you’d want to go to Jack’s party with me tonight.”

Truth be told, Lena hung around to tell Kara she was coming to Jack’s party, but when faced with the despondent way Kara blinks down at her, Lena feels her edges softening imperceptibly.

“Oh,” Kara says softly, her eyes connecting with Lena’s. “A party?”

“Yeah, Jack’s normal Saturday party,” Lena says, trying to sound detached and impatient, but feeling offput by the look in Kara’s face. “We talked about them Thursday.”

“Yeah, you’re right, sorry,” Kara says.

“Stop saying sorry,” Lena says with a slight roll of her eyes.

“Sorry.”

At least Kara laughs at that, a little chuckle as she adjusts her glasses and Lena has to swallow at the purely biological response her body has to the obviousness of Kara’s well-toned body under a somewhat structured shirt.

They smile at each other though, Lena not noticing she’s returning the expression until Kara’s grin widens and she sighs, forcing it off her face.

“Jack’s party,” Kara says, nodding as if mustering some resolve.

It must be something in the air. Or the dejected way Kara’s shoulders still sit even if she’s putting on a good show of acting normal again, but Lena finds herself resistant suddenly in taking Kara to Jack’s. It could also be the leftover emotions from seeing Veronica and knowing Jess has surely gone and spilled all the beans to Jack and she’ll have that to unpack when she arrives at the house, but whatever it is, she ends up saying:

“Well, I can’t take you there if you’re going to act like a kicked puppy all night.”

Kara straightens, her lips thinning and she gets half of a sorry out before she rolls her eyes. “I’ll be fine by the time we get there.”

Lena considers a moment before making a decision. “I can’t trust that,” she says, trying not to sound so affected by Kara’s mood. “Come on, my car’s here. We’ll go get something to eat instead, be seen amongst the postgame crowds. Are you hungry?”

The mention of food lights something up in Kara’s eyes and Lena catalogs the small spike of victory she gets in her stomach when she sees it. “I am, actually,” Kara admits, smiling enough to lift some of the shadow off her face. “But I know I said I’d go to Jack’s parties. You came to my game and that’s…part of the deal, right?”

“Yeah, it is,” Lena says. “But I can’t bring you there like this. They’ll think I yelled at you or something and you’re in a mood about being there. Jack throws a party every week, it can wait.”

Kara looks to protest again, but Lena cuts her off, moving past her and pulling her along by the sleeve of her shirt. There’s enough streetlights on and enough people still milling about and doing a poor job of pretending they’re not drinking in the parking lot that Lena doesn’t immediately tug away when Kara grabs her hand.

--

They fight about where to eat in the car – it seems once Kara’s accepted that they’re not going to the party and are in fact in search of food, she has a lot of opinions on where to go. Those opinions include fried food and a complete lack of any truly healthy greens.

Lena has some immediate regret about suggesting she take Kara out for food, but she’s stuck between knowing she can’t show up to Jack’s solo and that having Kara there in a bad mood isn’t a great alternative.

They end up at some shitty diner popular with drunk college students after bar close. Thankfully they’re hours away from the drunken rush so the diner is filled with locals and the occasional smart student packing away carbs to combat the weekend drinking fest.

By the time Kara’s gigantic stack of pancakes, plate of chicken tenders and milkshake have arrived, her mood has shifted considerably, and Lena feels any unease or regret about her decision start to ebb away from her. 

“That seriously sucked,” Kara grumbles, almost to herself as she shovels fries into her mouth. 

Lena makes a face at the way the words sound around the food she’s chewing. “What? The game?”

Kara makes a noise. “I played like fucking shit.”

“You weren’t that bad,” Lena tells her, playing idly with the cheap fork under her fingers. It’s true. Kara played a bit lazy and over-emotional, sure, but shit is a bit harsh. “You had an assist and you won a lot of your face-offs.”

When Kara swallows and looks up, her face looks considerate, a hint of amusement playing on her lips. “You know things about hockey?”

Lena rolls her eyes. “Things,” she says dryly, taking a prim sip of her diet soda.

“Wouldn’t peg you for a sport-o,” Kara says, leaning back in the booth and pulling apart a chicken tender as she goes.

“You don’t know me very well.”

“Yeah,” Kara laughs. “I’m trying to change that, honey bunny. But it’s like pulling teeth with you.”

There’s a pointed look as Kara says that and Lena sighs, still resistant to opening up to anyone, let alone some dirty jock she’s pretending to date. “I’ve been to a hockey game before. Once or twice. When I was younger.”

More like dozens of times, but that’s an unnecessary detail.

It makes Kara laugh though, her eyes bright and at a contrast to the way she’d first looked after the game. With her hair freshly washed and falling over her shoulders, it’s hard for Lena to ignore that Kara’s relatively attractive. If not for her personality, Lena might even consider her hot.

“Three times if you count tonight,” Kara teases and Lena smiles thinly, but doesn’t laugh.

They’re quiet a moment before Lena finds herself saying, “I ran into Veronica tonight, actually.”

It comes out before she can stop it and she doesn’t know why she’s telling Kara of all people, but the urge to talk about it, unpack it, feels like it’s beating its way out of her chest. The fact that Veronica can still get under her skin just by being in the same building makes Lena feel like punching something.

Kara goes still, a careful soft look on her face as she sits back up and regards Lena for a second. “You did?”

Lena hums affirmatively. “She was at the game and then I ran into her on the way out.”

“She say something fucked up again?”

Lena sighs. “She always has something fucked up to say,” she admits and perhaps it’s that Kara doesn’t know her, doesn’t know Veronica or anything about their relationship, that has her more comfortable in talking about this than she might be with Jess or Jack. “Even when we were dating.”

“How long were you guys together?” Kara asks, the words careful, like if she’s too loud she’ll startle Lena.

“Long enough,” Lena replies, still hating how much time she wasted on someone that was just never going to love her the way she secretly craved. “We were kind of off and on for a few years.”

“She seemed like a bitch,” Kara says bluntly, plucking fries into her mouth. “The one time I met her.” 

It makes Lena laugh. “She is a bitch.” Lena tilts her head to the side a bit, conceding. “But so am I, so I guess we were kind of made for each other.”

Kara clicks her tongue. “You’re not a bitch,” she says, but the words sound thin and when Lena gives her a don’t lie look they both laugh. “Different kind of bitch, maybe?”

“I’m not sure that’s better,” Lena says dryly.

“Just trying to be nice,” Kara adds, holding up a hand defensively.

“You don’t have to be nice to me,” Lena says, rolling her eyes at Kara’s chuckle. “No one important is in here to see us right now.”

“Sorry, habit,” Kara jokes and she leans over the table like she’s about to divulge a secret, her voice lowered. “I tend to just be nice to my girlfriends, fake or otherwise. I know that must be new to you.”

Lena kicks her hard enough in the shins that Kara nearly chokes on a fry.

--

It’s actually pleasant, Lena thinks, as they sit there across from each other and finish their food. The conversation flows naturally though it’s peppered with teasing and insults that seem to be losing their bite the more Lena hangs around Kara.

“What does Lena Luthor do for fun, anyway?” Kara asks as she’s stacking her empty plates up and pushing them towards the corner of the table.

Lena cups her hands around her glass and shrugs, unsure how to answer that. “I don’t have much time for hobbies,” she says, knowing that getting plastered with her friends every Saturday isn’t exactly the most meaningful answer to that question.

“That can’t be true.”

Lena lifts a shoulder. “Not all of us are half-rate hockey players that sit around playing video games all day.”

“I don’t play video games,” Kara laughs, but then seems to consider it a moment. “Well not all day at least. I do other stuff.”

Arching a brow, Lena takes a sip of her drink to hide her smile at the dusting of pink in Kara’s cheeks. “Like what?”

“Stuff,” Kara answers, seeming just as baffled by the question as Lena was and just like that they’re both laughing.

Lena’s not sure when it went from Kara laughing at her near constantly to the two of them laughing together and as she attempts to stifle the sounds coming from her mouth she’s not sure she likes it.

--

“Thanks for this,” Kara says as they walk back out to Lena’s car.

“For what?”

Kara’s expression is inscrutable, her smile mysterious. “Just. Thanks.”

Lena thinks to press the issue, but before she can, someone she doesn’t know is passing by them and raising a stiff hand in greeting. 

“Kara, hello,” the guy says, his voice almost mechanical sounding. He’s got longer black hair pushed back. For half a second, Lena thinks he’s LARPing as Spock or something, based on the way he places his hands behind his back. “I wished to express my sorrow for your loss earlier today.”

“Brainy!” Kara says, jovial. “Thanks, man. I didn’t know you were coming.”

“Miss Nal suggested that I might enjoy it,” he says. “I did enjoy the statistical information, but I suppose I did not enjoy the barbarism as much. Perhaps we can discuss it over a meal sometime. And I do apologize for interrupting you and your companion.”

“Oh, shit, sorry, this is Lena,” Kara says, throwing an arm around Lena’s shoulders and pulling her in so that they’re pressed together at the side. Lena smiles as wide as she can manage, tucking into the warmth of Kara. “My, uh, girlfriend.”

“Lena Luthor, correct?” Brainy says. It almost sinks Lena’s stomach, until he keeps talking with an amusing speed. “Miss Nal mentioned you had a mysterious friend, but I had not realized she was the genius behind the hologram technology Dr. Yvette is experimenting with. Congratulations on your romantic partnership, Kara. And you as well, Lena.”

“Thanks,” Lena says. She can’t help the smile on her face - it’s the first time Lena’s run into someone on a Saturday night and not been reminded of her last name without the attachment of money or influence.

“Lena, this is Brainy,” Kara says. “We met freshman year in a ballroom dancing class and he broke three of my toes.”

“Kara exaggerates,” Brainy says. “I broke two, and only because she was out of step.”

“I can imagine that,” Lena says. Kara huffs, but keeps her arm around Lena’s shoulders. “Nice to meet you, uh. Brainy?”

“It’s a nickname,” Brainy says. “But one I have gained affection for. Pleasure meeting you as well. I will see the two of you around?”

“Hell yeah,” Kara says, reaching out for a high five that Brainy returns in a questioning fashion. Lena lets herself get guided away from the man, surprised that they’ve managed to go through an interaction with another human being as purported girlfriends and that they weren’t immediately doubted. 

She unlocks her car as they approach, and Kara jogs a little ahead to pop open the driver’s door for Lena, shutting it gently when she’s slid into her seat. 

“He was nice,” Lena says, after Kara’s settled into the passenger seat.  

“Yeah, you think that because he called you a genius,” Kara says, her hand settling behind Lena’s headrest as she stretches out in the seat. “You love a good compliment.”

“Maybe my girlfriend should be giving me more of them,” Lena says airily. Kara laughs loudly, and when she reaches over to adjust Lena’s radio to crank some country song she’s never heard of, Lena doesn’t mind all that much.

--

For the first time on a Saturday in ages, Lena’s home and in bed around midnight and she’s sober. She wonders what her friends are up to and just the thought of having to push her way through the crowd at some bar right now exhausts her. 

As she’s settling under her covers, she checks her phone. There are a few texts from Jess and Jack and a couple from Winn, all different ways of asking her where she is and when she’s coming out. As she’s replying, a new message comes through. 

thanks for saving me from this

It’s from Kara and attached to the text is a picture that Lena can’t help but laugh at. It’s clearly the Hockey Haus and though it had seemed relatively quiet when Lena had dropped Kara off there earlier, there had clearly been a party. There are beer cans stacked in a pyramid on the living room coffee table and on the couch is a very passed out Leslie Willis. 

It’d look relatively harmless if the picture wasn’t clear enough to show that Leslie’s face has been drawn all over with Sharpie. There’s a particularly graphic picture of genitals on her cheek. It makes Lena laugh, a bit horrified. 

that could have been you, she texts back and Kara’s response is an immediate: i know with a long series of laughing emojis. 

you live in a house of barbarians  

Another picture comes through and this time it’s of Kara’s bedroom door. It takes a second for Lena to recognize what looks so different about it but when she does she lets out a second horrified gasp. It looks like someone’s taped condoms all over Kara’s door in a series of multi-colored shapes. 

i am aware, Kara texts back.  

--

Jack and Jess are both immeasurably grumpy with her when she arrives at Jack’s doorstep Sunday morning with a bag of muffins and coffee. Whether it’s because she missed the party last night or because she’s not hungover like the two of them are, she’s not sure.

“You’re the worst,” Jack says, but he grabs at the bag of food greedily. “I love you, but I also hate you.”

Lena shoves him back inside towards the living room and even though she’s not in any kind of state like her two friends, takes her usual position on the couch and uncaps the bottle of ibuprofen on the coffee table when Jess groans out in pain.

“Where were you all night?” Jess asks in a huff, kicking her feet out against Lena’s thigh and taking a long pull of water.

“With Kara,” Lena answers, shifting down on the couch and avoiding the feel of Jack and Jess both staring at her.

“Thought you’d bring her to the party,” Jack says, sounding almost like he’s challenging her.

“She had a rough night, we got something to eat and went home.” Lena’s not even lying so she doesn’t know why her cheeks feel hot, but Jess is looking at her critically and Jack waggles his eyebrows up and down like she’s implying something else went on.

“Is this going to be a thing again?” Jack asks, rearranging pillows under his head.

“Is what?”

“You ditching us for sex,” Jess supplies and Lena lets out a scandalized sound.

“That’s not what happened,” she says, but she acknowledges there’s no harm in letting them think that – protest just enough so it seems true.

“Judging by the look on your face, that’s exactly what happened,” Jack chortles and Lena rolls her eyes.

It couldn’t be farther from the truth so Lena doesn’t know why heat is creeping up her neck and clawing at her throat.

She thinks of the way Kara smelled after the game, the fresh scent of her that got trapped in the small front seat of Lena’s car. She thinks of the way Kara softened as the night went on, how her frown turned into soft laughs as she devoured all the food on her plate. She thinks especially of the way Kara smiled at her when Lena drove her back to the Hockey Haus and the quiet way she said, “See you Monday.”

It’s a series of benign, meaningless, stupid little things and yet Lena feels protective over the entire thing, like she doesn’t want her crass friends to have any part of it.

“A lady doesn’t kiss and tell,” is what she settles on which just sends Jack into another series of laughs that has Jess joining in along with him and Lena throwing a pillow at her when she asks, okay, but who tops?

--

It’s not that Lena’s looking forward to seeing Kara on Monday in class, but she’s also not dreading it the way she might have before. It’s like something settled between them and everything feels just a step closer to comfortable. Like Lena attending a game and sharing a meal with Kara afterward made everything more real, more normal.

It’s not as startling to find a coffee already waiting for her when she slides into her seat and she even smiles at Kara when she does so.

“Extra shot americano,” Kara says proudly.

“So jocks can learn,” Lena snarks, wrinkling her nose at the pleased laugh Kara lets out.

--

Things go relatively well that week. She doesn’t run into Veronica again, doesn’t even have any phone calls from her mother. The Big Thick Roosters win trivia on Wednesday by one point and Kara’s room is actually marginally clean when Lena shows up there on Thursday for their tutoring session.

“Wow,” Lena comments upon seeing the folded clothes on Kara’s bed. “You actually did laundry.” 

“Figured you didn’t want to see me naked,” Kara says, spreading her arms out wide.  

Lena blinks, steadfastly refusing to linger on the image that immediately evokes and pushing it aside with an exasperated exhale. “How wise,” she deadpans to Kara’s laugh. 

“I’m glad you’re here actually,” Kara says as if they didn’t have a standing Thursday meeting. “I need to ask if you thought about Fall Break.”

“What about Fall Break?” Lena asks, sliding into her usual position at Kara’s desk and wondering if she should even bother pulling her laptop out of her bag. 

“Midvale. Coming home with me?” 

Right. She’d forgotten.

Perhaps purposefully, truth be told. 

Lena spares a thought for her incredibly important Fall Break plans of holing up in her apartment and doing nothing. It’s one of the few breaks she’s not obligated to return home or attend a family gathering. It’s her favorite break. 

“Why should I go with you to Midvale again?” Lena asks, already knowing Kara’s answer. 

“You could meet Eliza,” Kara reiterates like it’s not a Big Deal. 

“And you think we’re ready for that?” Lena asks. Kara shrugs.

“It’s the best opportunity,” Kara argues. “And it’ll be good practice for convincing people. She’s already asked that I bring you, I don’t want to disappoint her.” 

Pushing aside the knowledge that Kara’s been talking about her to her mother, Lena scoffs softly. “There are other breaks,” she points out and Kara makes a noise of acknowledgement.

“Do you still want to be dating me in December?” Kara counters, sounding far too logical and irritating Lena. “The sooner we get it done, the sooner we can break up.” 

“There’s no way we’re going to convince your mother,” Lena says, knowing next to nothing about Eliza, but knowing she’s just barely confident they could fool their friends much less family. 

Kara laughs. “I feel like I would know best, but if it makes you feel better, we have time to practice,” she says like Fall Break doesn’t start in a week. “It won’t be that hard and it’s not like Eliza has much to compare you to.” 

Lena blinks. “What do you mean?” 

Kara shrugs. “I’ve never really brought a girl home,” she admits, looking a little embarrassed by the admission.  

It’s all she can do not to laugh, but she rolls her eyes. “Well, what if I have other plans for fall break?” 

“Do you?” Kara says with an infuriating arch of her brow. 

“Yes,” Lena lies, just for the sake of protest. 

Kara just regards her a moment, her lips quirked up like she knows Lena well enough to see through the deception. “It’ll be fun, Lena,” Kara says, and Lena does not at all like the way her name sounds dropping off Kara’s tongue like that. “And we’ll have ten hours in a car together to prep for it all.” 

“Ten hours?!” Lena all but shouts, but Kara’s laughing at her and turning to her bedroom door. 

“I’m getting a drink from downstairs, do you want anything?” 

“Ten hours?” Lena just repeats incredulously, but Kara’s already headed for the door, like she knew she’d get a strongly worded lecture if she hung around. Just before she gets out the door, though, she pokes her head back through.

“By the way, there’s moose tracks in the fridge for you,” Kara says, nodding at her little mini-fridge. “I’ll get you a spoon.”

And then she leaves, jogging down the stairs very loudly, and Lena contemplates what, exactly, she’s got herself into.

--

Though they argue about driving to Midvale for far too long - Lena insisting she could charter the Luthor private jet for the journey and Kara scoffing a lot - Kara finally convinces her. The week doesn’t drag along like Lena might have hoped, and instead the days pass quickly, sped up no doubt by knowing she’s going to be stuck in a car for ten hours and not knowing what that will bring. 

Lena’s a city girl, born and bred, and just the idea of leaving civilization for open pastures alone is making her itch. She’d gotten through one link in a Google session on Kara’s hometown before she had to shut her computer down and avoid thinking about it all together. 

The one thing she hadn’t thought to consider is which car in the array of vehicles outside the Hockey Haus might be Kara’s, but honestly, she should have known. 

They agree to skip that Thursday’s tutoring session and instead Lena arrives at the house on Friday morning to find Kara bent over the hood of the one beat up piece of junk pickup truck Lena’d wrinkled her nose at before. 

“I’m not getting in that death trap,” Lena greets, slamming the door of her car and walking across the lawn to where Kara’s working. 

“You planning on walking to Midvale then?” Kara jokes, slamming the hood down and wiping her hands on a towel. It’d be halfway attractive in a grungy way if Lena wasn’t chiefly concerned with getting stranded in the middle of nowhere because Kara’s driving a car held together by duct tape. 

“That thing looks like it’s not even going to get us out of the city limits,” Lena accuses. 

“She runs just fine,” Kara says as if the fond way she pats the car is reassuring. 

“Excuse me if I don’t take your word for it,” Lena says eyeing the dented passenger door with trepidation.

“You’ll survive, pumpkin,” Kara says in that smug tone Lena’s starting to get far too familiar with. “Now where are your bags?” 

With a sigh of resignation, Lena gestures to her car, flipping Kara the keys. “The trunk, assface.” 

Kara has a far too pleased smile on her face as she moves away to go for Lena’s luggage and Lena runs another cursory glance over the car, kicking lightly at its front tire and already picturing the headline: Luthor Heiress Found Dead In Small Town America  

They heavy sound of Kara throwing her luggage haphazardly into the trunk pulls Lena’s thoughts away and she glares at Kara’s exaggerated look of exertion. “You pack enough?” Kara teases. 

Lena doesn’t answer other than wrenching the front door of the truck open and sliding inside. It’s an old enough truck that it has one seat in the cabin, and Lena rolls her eyes at the mess of stains and the occasional duct tape covering up holes. There’s a bobblehead of some hockey player Lena doesn’t know taped to the dash, and a gold necklace with a teardrop pendant draped on the rearview mirror. Lena’s reaching out to touch it when the driver’s side door pops open and Kara is handing over a bag full of snacks and water and Gatorade.

“You ready?” Kara asks, reaching up for her seatbelt and twisting the key in the ignition. The car gives an ominous sputter that has Lena wincing before its engine kicks in. 

“No,” she says, scoffing the word into the small cabin of the truck, but Kara just laughs. 

“It’ll be fine.” 

“Famous last words,” Lena points out, eyeing the hood of the truck like it might start smoking at any moment. “I think we may have underestimated how ridiculous this entire thing is.” 

Kara laughs again. “Which part? Pretending to date or going to Midvale?” 

“All of it.” 

In fact, the whole thing is starting to feel crazier and crazier as Kara shifts the truck into reverse and turns to look out the rearview. 

“It’ll be fine,” Kara repeats, glancing at Lena with a soft smirk. “You worry too much.” 

“You don’t worry enough,” Lena counters just making Kara laugh again

“Which makes us a perfect match,” Kara says brightly, punctuating it with a wink and Lena tries to roll her eyes at it, she does, but she ends up chuckling and looking away. 

And then they’re backing out of the driveway and heading out of town.  

Chapter Text

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.

It doesn’t.

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.

“What’s that?”

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.

“Why?”

“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?”

“Actually better?”

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.

“Yeah, maybe.”

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?” 

“You did.” 

“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.” 

“Sounds tiring.”

“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. 

“Everything okay?” 

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 what?”

“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. 

God.

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. 

“Thank you.” 

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.