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She’s surrounded by, genuinely, every person she loves in the world, and yet somehow Lena has never experienced so much cognitive dissonance in her life.

As soon as Jack was directed where to park by a very friendly J’onn (“Parallel parking, love? What do I look like, a driving instructor?” Jack had laughed at the amused-looking doctor), two more chairs are pulled up to the mass of tables and Sam and Jack are settled next to Lena and Kara, with Winn on their other side.

Sam and Jack are here. In Midvale. Sam and Jack are in Midvale, looking distinctly out of place in their designer clothes, and it makes Lena wonder if that’s how she looked when she first got here. Pressed and polished, overly corporate next to the faded jeans and baseball caps of her new life.

Either way, here they are, and they’re looking at Kara and the arm she still has over the back of Lena’s chair with far too much interest.

“This is a surprise! Lena talks about you all the time, but we had no idea you’d be visiting,” Kara says genially once everyone has been introduced, and Jack’s answer is pretty much the exact opposite of what Lena was hoping it would be.

“We’ve come to rescue our CEO from her hermitage!”

Kara looks over at Lena quizzically, and Lena’s heart sinks to the soles of her leather boots.

“L-Corp is probably on fire with all three of us gone, but we had to see what was keeping our dear Lena here,” Sam says, raising an almost Luthor-worthy eyebrow in their direction. But her smile is genuinely friendly, and Kara reacts in kind.

“Well, we’re just happy to have her!” She says, smiling, but Lena can see across the table that Kelly’s face is slowly changing. It’s turning from pleasant curiosity to slow, stunned realization, and Lena’s heart is now back in her chest and pounding at a mile a minute.

She’s seriously regretting not letting her friends know more about her life here. Namely, that nobody in this town knows she’s a CEO, much less of a Fortune 500 company, much less that the company is L-Corp, so recently manned by her homicidal brother.

No. No, no, no -

“…L-Corp?” Kelly says, and the conversation quiets at her surprised tone. Alex looks surprised too, and follows up.

CEO?”

“Yeees,” Jack drawls, looking perplexed. “Lena, did you not –?“

Kelly makes a tiny, disbelieving noise of surprise, and Sam’s eyes widen just a little bit too late.

“Oh. Oh, no –“ Sam starts, touching Jack’s arm, but Kelly is already speaking.

“Oh my god. Luthor.”

Sam and Jack have been here all of 10 minutes, and already everything she built this summer is being swept out from under her. She’s fairly sure she’s on the verge of a panic attack, and everyone’s eyes suddenly on her are making it worse.

“What?” James asks, and Lena wants so, so desperately to have everyone just stop asking questions.

“You’re Lena Luthor,” Kelly says, her voice tinged with a little bit of respect. Even in her panic state, Lena can sense no vitriol in her tone – but it’s still a secret being spilled, still the one thing she didn’t want everyone here knowing.

“Yeah, where have you been? She’s been Lena Luthor all summer,” Winn says, his thick brows knitting in confusion.

Lena feels like she’s going to be sick.

“Lena Luthor, CEO of L-Corp. Took over 4 years ago. Ever since Lex Luthor went to jail, L-Corp has suddenly made leaps in affordable medical technology. Prosthetics, cancer treatments, blood filtration and synthetization, and all at lower than market values. I mean…you’re basically saving lives all over North America.”

Kelly sounds awestruck, and even with a list of her accomplishments in such a positive light, Lena wants to sink into the floor. She doesn’t even dare look in Kara’s direction, too afraid of the betrayal and confusion she’s sure to see there, her months-long half-truths finally coming to light. There’s blood pounding in her ears and she can practically feel the pressure of every set of eyes pressing into her skull –

“Luthor, what the hell?” Alex says, flabbergasted, but Lena doesn’t stay to hear the rest. She’s out of her chair and halfway down the street in a flash, and she can hear Sam calling out to her, but she doesn’t turn back. She runs, harder than she’s ever run before, until she’s in a blessedly empty soybean field she can vaguely remember walking past with Kara where she can hunch over and gasp for air, tears filling her eyes.

They know. They all know. There was no malice in Kelly’s tone, no accusation over her brother’s crimes, which is definitely new – but she had such an incredible thing going, here. She got to be just herself for the first time in her life. Not an orphan struggling to survive in a new family, not the odd Luthor out, not the perfect student or the pristine CEO or the hard-ass bitch – just Lena.

And now, it’s gone.

She doesn’t blame Sam and Jack, really. She deliberately left them out, told them only the barest hints of her time here, so they had no way of knowing that nobody in town knew who she was. But it still hurts, and she sinks to her knees in the dirt, savouring what she knows will be among her last few moments here.

It’s time to go back.

“Lena?”

Lena’s head whips around to her left, where Kara is cautiously approaching, her chest moving rapidly like she ran in pursuit. She doesn’t look angry, which is a massive relief – she just looks worried.

“Are you okay?” She asks, crouching down to get on Lena’s level and putting a hand on her thigh. “You ran off pretty fast there. Sam looked like she just ran over your puppy.”

Lena laughs humorlessly. “It’s not her fault. I guess the cat’s out of the bag, now.”

“What cat?” Kara asks, and Lena looks at her incredulously.

“Who I am. I probably should have told you, but I just…I wanted to be anonymous, for once. To not be the CEO whose brother went crazy. Just for a few months.”

Kara’s face, strangely, doesn’t change from its sympathetic expression. She just plants herself in the dirt right next to Lena and interlaces their fingers.

“Lena, I’ve always known who you are.”

Lena looks at Kara’s face, down at their linked hands, and back up again, her mouth opening and closing like a fish.

“…what?”

“Ever since I read the name on your receipt, that first time at the shop,” Kara says, shrugging as if this isn’t a massive fucking revelation. “I keep up with the news, even if most people here don’t.”

Lena blinks slowly, still not fully comprehending that Kara has known this whole time. From the moment they met, Kara has known who she is. What her family has done.

“…what?” She asks again, lost for words, and Kara squeezes her hand comfortingly.

“I knew who you were, and I figured you didn’t want the whole town knowing. You seemed like you were working really hard to get away from everything that happened with your family.”

“But you didn’t treat me any differently,” Lena says quietly. It seems unfathomable, for someone to know her background and not make a big deal out of it.

But, then, this is Kara.

“Of course I didn’t,” She says, as if it’s not even a question. “You’re just a person, just like everyone else. And I got to know you, on your terms. I know who you are.”

Lena laughs humourlessly. “Really? Because I don’t, lately.”

But Kara, as always, doesn’t let her spin into the vortex of self-loathing. She puts a finger under Lena’s chin to guide her until their eyes meet, and talks with a frank honesty that even Lena can’t ignore.

“You’re Lena Luthor. You inspired Nia to start her own clothing brand, and you never treat any of us like we’re less than you, even thought you could buy this whole town five times over. You like to cook, and drink good wine, and do 5000 piece puzzles to relax. You’re the smartest person I’ve ever met, and you use it to help people. You’re an incredible woman, and I’m insanely lucky that I’ve gotten to spend this summer with you.”

There’s a lump in Lena’s throat the size of a baseball when Kara finishes, and even though her chin is still being gently held, she can’t help but avert her suddenly-watery gaze. Kara’s intensity is too much in her emotional state, especially when it’s being directed in a way that Lena doesn’t necessarily feel she deserves.

“That’s not…how most people describe me, back home,” She manages to say, slightly hoarse. Kara easily lets her go so she can look at the ground, focusing on not crying.

“Well, they’re wrong.”

Kara doesn’t even have to think about it. Defending Lena against herself seems to come naturally. It helps Lena centre herself, having Kara’s steady presence next to her as she closes her eyes and tries to focus on the things she can feel. The cool breeze on her skin, smelling clean and fresh. The soil under her knees, still warm from the day’s sun. Kara’s hand intertwined with hers, a calloused thumb tracing over the back. Breathing in, breathing out.

Kara waits until Lena has opened her eyes to speak.

“You okay?”

Lena nods, feeling most of the tension leave her shoulders. “I’m okay. Sorry that I sort of freaked out, there.”

Kara shrugs. “From what you’ve told me about Jack, I think a little panic is warranted.”

Lena manages a laugh, and soon enough Kara is helping her to her feet and brushing the dirt from their knees. They head back to the bar together, hand in hand, and it’s a huge relief when everyone seems willing to ignore her rapid departure, instead offering her hugs and drinks.

“Man, I didn’t know we had a celebrity genius in our midst,” James says, an arm still around Lena’s shoulders as Winn hands her a martini.

“Yeah, we knew you were rich, but not like…Oprah rich,” Winn adds. Lena scoffs, taking a huge gulp of the much-needed drink.

“I’m not Oprah rich,” She insists, her voice a little raspy from the overly large dose of alcohol still burning in her throat, but nobody seems to take her at her word.

“Jack tells us a different story,” Alex says, nodding in the direction of the culprit, who shrugs good-naturedly. Lena glares at him, and he sticks his tongue out.

“Jack is a dirty liar,” She says, pointing at him threateningly.

“She’s right,” Jack says, taking a pointed sip of his own dirty martini. “I did lie. Oprah’s got nothing on her.”

Lena leans across the table and smacks him on the arm, and he gasps dramatically, clutching his drink like it’s his firstborn.

“You see what I have to put up with, being friends with her? Abuse,” He says, shaking his head, and Kara laughs. He points at her, still pouting.

“Does she beat you like this?”

Kara grins, throwing a wink that even Sam would be proud of.

“Only when I ask nicely.”

There’s a moment of quiet, where the statement seems to work its way through Jack’s brain – and then he roars with laughter, slapping the table, and Alex goes such a deep crimson that Kelly has to usher her away.

“I’m sorry about him,” Lena says, plucking the olive from her glass and throwing it in Jack’s direction. “He’s not fully housetrained.”

But Jack just blows her a kiss, and Kara laughs, her arm around Lena’s shoulder never leaving its place.

Winn and James seem to ignore her advice, soon spiriting off to the corner of the bar with Jack ostensibly to play darts, and Lena rolls her eyes.

He’s always been a charmer.

It’s a good evening. The old friends blend with the new easily, almost too easily, and Lena’s flight earlier seems to be forgotten. It should be carefree, and fun. But even though the whole thing ends up blowing over in what feels like minutes, and even though everyone is still having a good time – Sam and Kelly are getting along swimmingly, Alex looking back and forth between the two women with perhaps a pinch too much interest, and Kara doesn’t leave Lena’s side for a moment – it still feels like a funeral march. The weeks she had left to luxuriate in are gone, and she’s mourning before they’re even officially over tomorrow.

It gets hammered home when everyone is starting to turn in for the night, and Sam pulls her aside before she heads to the motel room she rented with Jack.

“I am so sorry, Lena –“ She starts, her eyes a little shiny, but Lena cuts her off with a shake of her head and pulls her into a hug.

“It’s okay. You didn’t know.”

Sam pulls away and nods, still looking penitent but relieved nonetheless. “Jack almost went after you to apologize, but Kara beat him to it. I’m starting to understand why you love it here so much. Everyone took that so well.”

“They’re pretty great.”

Lena clearly fails to mask the longing in her voice, because Sam frowns.

“You know, we came here because you were acting weird and we were worried. And, honestly, a little curious. But now that I see you here –“ She looks Lena up and down, from her sneakers and jeans to Kara’s flannel, which she’s been wearing to ward off the cold. “I think you’re right. I think you belong here.”

“I never said that,” Lena says immediately. She didn’t – she said she was happy here, not that she belongs. Even if, deep down, it feels like she does.

“You didn’t have to.”

It hits too close to the truth, as Sam is so often wont to do, and Lena shakes her head. “No, Sam. You were right in the beginning. I had my break, and I need to get back to reality. I’m going to go back with you and Jack, I’ll hire someone to pack up my things.”

“You don’t have to do this,“ Sam argues, but Lena stands firm.

“I do. I can’t stay here forever.”

The look on Sam’s face says otherwise, but Lena leaves it behind in favour of sidling up to watch Kara beat Jack at darts.

“Your girlfriend is sullying my reputation as a formidable darts player,” Jack grumbles as Lena approaches, soothed only by James putting a consoling hand on his shoulder. Kara just shrugs good-naturedly, throwing another easy bullseye.

“Can’t have been much of a reputation to begin with,” She says cheekily, and Jack laughs, nudging her with his shoulder at the height of her next throw in retaliation.

It takes almost 10 full minutes for Lena to realize that, even though she knows she’s leaving tomorrow, even though she’s been convincing herself all summer that this is a fling, she had no reaction to being called Kara’s girlfriend besides an overall feeling of contentment. By the time it hits her the moment is long since over, and Kara is subtly inclining her head towards the door like she always does.

And as always, Lena follows without a thought.

Their sex that night is tinged with a sort of desperation that she’s never felt before. No matter now many times they come together, it doesn’t seem like enough, and more than once she comes back to herself after her orgasm to see Kara looking at her with such concentrated longing that she has to start another round just to keep her chest from bursting.

There comes a time, though, when her trembling body can’t take any more distraction from the matter at hand. She flops onto her back, running a hand over her sweaty face, and Kara rests next to her, breathing hard. Everything below her waist feels almost numb, and it only serves to punctuate exactly how much the rest of her hurts.

It’s time to face the music.

“I have to leave tomorrow,” Lena says quietly, to the ceiling. Kara’s voice answers equally softly.

“I know.”

“I’ve been gone too long already,” Lena continues. She’s not sure who she’s trying harder to convince – Kara, or herself. “I kept putting off, and –“

“I know,” Kara replies, her voice never wavering. Even, understanding, calm. A rock in the tempest. The sound of it is like a beacon, and Lena finds herself rolling over to lay her head on Kara’s chest. A strong arm comes around her shoulders like it’s meant to be there, and Lena breathes deep. Kara smells the same as she always has, and she’s going to miss it so much.

“It doesn’t feel real,” She whispers, as if saying it quietly will make it hurt less. Kara squeezes again, kissing the top of her head,

“It doesn’t. But I’m…I’m grateful for the time we had.”

“Me, too,” Lena rasps, hoping Kara doesn’t hear the way her voice breaks.

 


 

The next morning is spent packing her essentials, gathering everything that she’ll need for the next week or so while the movers back her house up. Kara helps her, but Lena almost wishes she wasn’t there – it would be easier to let her go if she wasn’t determined to be so perfect. But she also refuses to waste any of their last few moments together, so she accepts Kara’s offer to ride with her to Sam and Jack’s motel room. Sam agreed to drive with her, leaving Jack on his own, and she’s grateful that she won’t be expected to be in the driver’s seat after this morning.

While Jack and Sam load their things into both cars, Lena takes advantage of their last moments alone, and pulls Kara around to the other side of the Porsche, mostly away from prying eyes. Kara looks as beautiful as always in a tight Henley and jeans, her hair down and loose (probably because Lena commented so many times that she liked it, she thinks with a painful jolt), and it makes it all so much harder.

For a minute, Lena struggles with what to say. She just lets Kara pull her into a hug, pressing her face into her warm neck and trying to memorize how it feels to be so cared for.

“Remember how you said you wouldn’t beg me to go with you when you left?” Kara says quietly, into her ear.

“Yes,” Lena whispers back.

“If you asked…I would.”

She couldn’t stop the tears if she tried. They run down her nose, betraying her emotions, and smear on Kara’s skin. Kara, who would be willing to give up her own happiness for Lena.

“I can’t take you away from here,” She says, refusing to leave the embrace when she’s still openly crying. “This is your home. I just…I wish I could stay.”

“So, stay.”

For a second, Lena isn’t sure she heard right. It was said so quietly into her hair, and the shock of it is enough to make her jerk her head back, meeting Kara’s watery eyes.

“I – I can’t,” She says, wiping at her face quickly. “I have a company to run.”

Kara grabs her hands, holding them both in her own as she makes her final plea.

“Sam and Jack have been running it. You could leave, Lena. And then you could stay.”

It’s about as close to begging as Kara Danvers will get. Lena knows this. And she wants to say yes. God, does she want to. But there’s a pit of fear in her belly, one that whispers at her – telling her that moving across the province for a girl she met 4 months ago is a bad idea. That she’s u-hauling, stuck in the honeymoon phase of a relationship they haven’t even defined. That her company needs her.

She can’t.

Kara seems to know it, too. Her face softens before Lena has even answered in the negative, and she nods as she lets Lena’s hands go.

“I won’t forget you,” She says softly, her face tightening in a way that Lena knows means she’s holding back tears, and Lena herself has to put all of her energy into keeping in the sob that claws at her chest.

She wants to say it back, wants to say all the things she’s been holding in all summer – I’m crazy about you, you’re perfect, I love it here, I love you, god, I love you – but no sound comes out, no matter how much she tries to force it. She’s just silent, her mouth quivering in the face of Kara’s sad acceptance.

Kara flashes Lena a pained smile, inclining her head towards the idling car where Sam is patiently waiting.

“You’d better get going, or you’ll be driving in the dark.”

“Right,” Lena says, her breath shaky. “Right.”

“One more for the road?” Kara says, holding her arms out, and Lena throws herself into them with no hesitation.

The kiss they share is just as intense as their first. Kara holds her so tightly that she can hardly breathe, but she honestly likes it that way – likes feeling like the only air in her lungs is coming from Kara’s mouth, that they’re connected in every way possible in their last moments together. She’s pouring everything she can’t say into it and it feels like Kara is doing the same, and soon Kara’s face is covered in her lipstick and is probably wet with both of their tears. It feels like she’s ripping a piece of herself away – like when she carved her name into that tree, it bound them together somehow. Like Kara’s initials are carved into her heart, immovable and deep.

But, let it not be said that Lena isn’t good at leaving her happiness behind. Their kisses finally slow, and Lena pulls herself away after one soft, final meeting of lips. Kara nods, stroking her cheek before letting her hand drop away.

“Goodbye, Lena.”

Before she can change her mind, before she can call this whole thing off, Lena rips her gaze away from Kara’s and gets in the car.

When she shuts the door behind her, Sam’s voice is right there in the passenger seat.

“One last chance to change your mind.”

Lena doesn’t answer. The tears are coming already, and she’d rather not try to speak.

She’s never been more grateful for Sam’s presence. Her best friend keeps a steady hand on the wheel and the other laced with Lena’s while she cries her heart out, not saying a word. Just a steady company, without judgement. Every kilometre she gets further from Kara it feels like a piece of her heart is stretching thin, refusing to let go, and Sam gives her blessed silence to lick her wounds before she gets back to work.

God, Lena hates her job. 

That job, as much as it took her away from Midvale, at least gives her the oppourtunity to put her sorrows out of her mind.

There’s less backlog than she thought – Sam and Jack are very good at their jobs – but there’s still so much for her to catch up on that for a few weeks, she’s almost able to think she’s okay. All she has to do is work from 6am to midnight, exhausting herself and interrupting any wistful thoughts with paperwork and research. Jack and Sam try to help, taking up her time with new projects and making sure she eats enough to keep her blood sugar up, and she’s mostly able to ignore the way they share worried looks every time they think she isn’t looking.

It’s almost a return to routine, if it weren’t for the ache in her chest whenever she has a spare moment to think.

With this cycle she doesn’t thrive, necessarily, but she survives. Her old clothes feel stiff and restricting after a summer of jeans and flannels, her feet aching for wont of her flat-soled boots, but she shoves her feet into her dusty stilettos and adapts. Thoughts about Kara are reserved for the few moments before she falls asleep, when her brain relaxes and that bright smile comes floating back into her memory.

She falls asleep crying most nights, but the pain has to ease sometime. Right?

It’s all perfectly manageable until mid-November, when she gets an interview request from a fairly high-profile newspaper.

It’ll be good press, Sam says. Help the public – and the shareholders – to remember who’s boss at L-Corp, after she’s been AWOL for so long. Publicize some projects that went unnoticed while she was away, and make it clear that she’s in the driver’s seat again. So Lena agrees, and sets aside half an hour of her time to answer what she’s sure will be a few very rote questions.

What she doesn’t expect is for a tall, well-built man in thick-framed glasses to sit down in her guest chair, shake her hand, and introduce himself as Clark Kent.

For a second, Lena doesn’t register why that name strikes her so hard, why the slightly crooked smile he flashes is somehow familiar. She just blinks dumbly, nodding politely while he gathers his things. It isn’t until he unfolds his notebook and scrawls the date and a few bullet points in the margin in slanted writing that reminds her of someone she’s trying hard to forget that it hits her.

“Clark Kent? Kara’s cousin?” She blurts, and immediately she regrets it.

Clark looks up from his notebook, his expression clouding with confusion as Lena contemplates how easy it would be to shatter her office windows and jump 30 storeys. He sits up straighter, his stance seeming protective in a way that reminds her painfully of the woman she’s been trying to put out of her mind.

Unbidden, an image of Kara at the Livewire standing up to Oliver Queen comes to her mind – the way her shoulders straightened, how she seemed to radiate a strangely gentle intimidation – and it makes her feel like all the air has been sucked out of the room.

“How on earth do you know Kara?”

It’s a good question, really. It would be unnerving to go into an interview with a stranger and have her blurt out a family member’s name as if she knows you. Especially when it comes with the note of longing that Lena is ashamed she couldn’t keep out of her voice.

“I –“ Lena stammers, her fists clenching in the tight fabric of her skirt under the desk. She’s never felt less in control of an interview in her life, including the ones after her family’s trial where most of the reporters were just hurling abuse in her face, and she desperately tries to right the ship as she focuses on her breathing. “We – I spent some time in Midvale. Recently.”

Clark’s stance relaxes slightly, but he looks, if possible, even more confused.

Midvale? I don’t mean to sound rude, Miss Luthor, but…why?”

Lena swallows, gathering her composure before continuing. “I was…doing research. Environmental research, for L-Corp’s new environmental initiative. It’s part of why I was gone this summer.”

Clark’s face clears a little, and he scribbles something into his notes. “Environmental initiative? Not something one would expect from the LuthorCorp of old.”

Lena sighs. Clark clearly doesn’t share his cousin’s sense of optimism, and it looks like she’s going to have to work for a positive image in this interview.

“It isn’t. I am not my brother, and L-Corp is committed to making a difference. Environmental work is a large part of our plan going forward.”

“Has that been announced?” Clark asks, and here, Lena feels more comfortable. This is the cover Sam crafted for why she went on vacation – L-Corp is working on an initiative to encourage plant growth in less-inhabited areas to decrease atmospheric carbon, and for the purposes of publicity, Lena’s reason for briefly stepping down was that she was conducting research in remote communities. Here, she can direct the conversation.

“Well, I suppose I just gave you the breaking story, didn’t I?” Lena says, her confidence returning. Clark smiles, but even as they have a fairly engaging interview about the initiative, the confusion never fully leaves his face.

When his recording device is turned off and he’s slipping his notebook into his messenger bag, though, he pauses. Lena, feeling a dawning sense of discomfort about what is probably coming, tries to make it clear that she has pressing things to deal with after this interview, but Kara’s determination seems to be genetic – Clark stays put, looking at Lena thoughtfully.

“May I ask you something, Miss Luthor?”

“I thought our interview was over, Mr. Kent,” She answers, using his title pointedly in the hopes that he’ll deviate from whatever personal question he’s about to ask.

“It is. This is…off the record.”

Terror seizes Lena’s chest, and she briefly considers tapping the intercom and getting her assistant to escort Clark off the premises. She could make up a reason, she’s sure. But the thought of Kara’s face when she found out Lena had her cousin thrown out of L-Corp makes her resist.

Clark apparently takes her lack of answer as affirmation, because he asks the exact question she was hoping he wouldn’t.

“Exactly how much time did you spend in Midvale?”

Lena swallows, averting her eyes to the papers on her desk and shuffling them blindly. She has no idea what they say – they could be fast food menus, for all she knows – but anything is better than looking into Clark’s face and seeing Kara.

“I don’t see how that pertains to the matter at hand.”

“You told me yourself that you know my cousin, Miss Luthor. You must understand my curiosity. Midvale isn’t exactly a place most people know about.” Clark’s tone, while friendly, also carries an undertone of suspicion that Lena doesn’t appreciate.

“I spoke out of turn. I know Kara…marginally,” Lena edges, clearing her throat and looking pointedly at the door.

Clark ignores the hint.

“Really?” He asks, leaning on the chair he just vacated. Lena would very much like to sweep it out from under his hand with her foot.

“Does this conversation have a point, Mr. Kent?” She snaps, perhaps too harshly, because Clark’s next points are devastating in their accuracy.

“It does. Because Kara and I talk at least once a month.”

Lena’s stomach drops. She’s dimly aware that her hands are shaking, and she wants more than anything to stop it, hide the weakness she’s showing, but she can’t seem to do anything but stare sightlessly at the desk as Clark asks his probing questions.

“And, for this entire summer, she’s been telling me about some woman who came to town and knocked her off her feet.”

Lena swallows, gripping her stylus in a nervous fist. She doesn’t like that a perfect stranger is revealing this to her, that something she holds so close to her heart is held in the hand of someone else. Someone with the power to bring her company to its knees in the media, should he so choose.

Am I having a panic attack? Is this what one feels like? I should ask Jess -

“A woman named Lena,” Clark finishes, and it’s the final nail in Lena’s coffin. She springs to her feet, her chair skittering across the floor towards the window and the papers in her hand scattering across the desk.

“So, what?” She says, gesturing wildly. “Do you intend on bringing this back to your paper? Evil Luthor Seduces Innocent Country Town for Unknown Purposes? Corrupts Local Mechanic? Because I do not react kindly to threats, Mr. Kent, and I’ve worked hard to separate myself from my family, as much as you might not believe it.”

“What?” Clark asks, looking genuinely thrown off his line of questioning by her sudden outburst of emotion. “No! I just...” Finally Clark sighs, rubbing his face, and his shoulders relax.

“It’s nothing like that. It’s just that…Kara has been different lately. Sad, in a way that I haven’t seen her in a long time.”

“I doubt that my absence has had the same impact as the death of her parents,” Lena says shakily, sitting again and gathering her scattered papers. “She made it clear that she didn’t want a long-term relationship any more than I did.”

Clark looks surprised, as if the fact that Lena knows about Kara’s parents is genuinely shocking. But he continues, clearly not thrown off his game.

“No, not to that degree. But Kara...is complicated. She’s always been inclined to allow herself less than she deserves. I think that’s at least partially my fault.” 

“She doesn’t blame you,” Lena finds herself saying, for god knows what reason. “She knows you had other obligations.”

Clark chuckles humourlessly. “No, she doesn’t blame me. She’s too good for that. But I do.”

He clears his throat, finally standing up, and Lena quickly stands with him to hurry his exit. “Anyways, I apologize. I shouldn’t have gotten so personal. But...I care about Kara, and finding out that the woman she’s still crazy about is right in front of me...well, I had to say something.”

It hits her like a punch in the gut. Still crazy about. Still. Kara still thinks about her, enough to tell her cousin about it. It makes it a little hard to breathe again, but luckily Clark is already showing himself out. 

Just as he reaches the door, Lena finds her voice again.

“Mr. Kent?”

Clark turns around, and Lena struggles for words for a moment. What should she even say? Thank you? I’m sorry I hurt her? I hate you for telling me this? 

“You...should visit her more. She misses you.”

It’s something that could easily come out as accusatory, but Lena’s tone is soft, and Clark seems to understand. After a surprised pause he nods, giving Lena a small smile, and then he’s gone. 

Lena sits motionless in her office chair, staring out the window at the city skyline that brings her no joy, until Sam knocks on her door for the 2:00 board meeting. 

 


 

The interview haunts her for weeks. She reads it when it gets published and finds that Clark painted her in a surprisingly positive light, highlighting how her leadership is actively working to reverse her family’s sins, but the positive press does nothing to alleviate the heavy weight that sits on her chest.

Not even work can distract her from it – in fact, as the days press on and the weather turns from cool autumn breezes to wintery ice and slush, she finds all enjoyment she used to get out of fixing L-Corp is gone entirely. She spends half her days staring listlessly out at the city, imagining what Midvale must look like right now – snowy probably, but cozy. Is Kara shovelling the driveways of half the town, like she did with mowing their lawns? She can imagine the blonde scraping the ice off her truck in the mornings, wearing the oversized, fleece-lined jacket she sometimes wore on cooler nights before Lena left. The river would be frozen over, the houses twinkling with holiday lights that nobody in the city seems to put up. Like a picture-perfect Christmas card.

She can see it in her mind’s eye just as clearly as she can see Kara coming home to her after a long day at work, at the lake house she never had the heart to sell, shrugging the wet jacket off and joining Lena in front of the fireplace. Lena would warm her chilled face with hot chocolate, and then kisses, until Kara spread her out over the soft rug –

“Okay, the merger is official, they signed everything and now we just need – Lena?”

Lena jerks out of the fantasy, Sam’s voice bringing her back to reality – she’s in her office, halfway through an email and definitely late to a lunch she scheduled with the head of R&D.

“What?” She asks, trying to brush the lack of attention off as being engrossed in the email she hasn’t typed into in over 20 minutes, but Sam spots the lie right away.

“Were you listening?”

“…they…signed?” Lena says haltingly, and Sam puts a hand on her hip, pursing her lips.

Who signed, Lena?”

Lena shrugs helplessly. She wasn’t paying attention, and Sam knows it – she sighs, taking a seat on the edge of her desk.

“Lena, you should go back.”

Lena scoffs, pushing at Sam’s hip to try to clear her desk space, but Sam doesn’t budge.

“I can’t go anywhere, I was already gone for almost 6 months,” Lena argues, finally giving up and crossing her arms. “No more vacations for me.”

“You know what I’m talking about. You’ve been different lately. You come into work, but you’re barely present. I know you’re thinking about her.”

Lena’s jaw clenches. Sam has been dancing around this for weeks now, commenting that she seems distant and distracted, but this is the first time it’s come to an actual conversation, and she’s definitely not ready for it.

“I’m fine, Sam.”

“I know you, Lena,” Sam argues, full ‘lawyer’ mode activated. “You never wanted this job, but you always worked your ass off because you had nothing else in your life.”

“Hey!” Lena protests, smacking her on the hip, but Sam just shrugs.

“Tough love, sister. And then you went up to Midvale, and I’ve never seen you look so happy. Never. Not even in college, when you were away from your mother for the first time.”

Lena stands up from her chair, putting some much-needed distance between herself and the human-shaped truth bomb. Her heels click on the floor of her office, a sound that used to make her feel powerful. In-control. Now, she just feels like an impostor.

“Of course I was happy, I spent the summer on a lake with nothing to do,” She says, facing the window so that Sam doesn’t catch the half-truth.

“You were happy because Kara made you happy.”

Lena’s chest tightens, and her hand clenches into a fist so hard that she can feel her fingernails digging into her palm. Hearing Kara’s name out loud is a rarity now, especially after the interview with Clark, because it makes Lena so overwhelmed that she has to leave the room – and now, paired with a confrontation from the single most stubborn person she knows, it’s too much.

“Sam…I can’t,” She manages to whisper, but there’s no disguising how her voice cracks on the last word. Sam leaves the desk, then, and tugs on Lena’s elbow until they face each other.

“I know you’re scared,” Sam says, more gently than before but still firm. “Leaving everything you’ve worked for, everything you know, for something fresh is scary. But I don’t want you to end up miserable, thinking about what you could have had if you’d just taken a leap of faith.”

Lena lets out a watery laugh, wiping at her eyes before the tears burning there have a chance to fall and ruin her mascara.

“This is completely different from the pep talk you gave me before I took over L-Corp,” She says, sniffling, and Sam shrugs.

“The one where I told you not to do it, but that if you did, Jack and I would follow you to make sure you didn’t have a nervous breakdown?”

“Yes.”

Sam puts an arm around her, her taller form as comforting as it always is. “Well, I’m fulfilling that promise. And besides, it’s Christmas.”

Lena sighs. She leans her head on Sam’s shoulder, for the first time in her life actually contemplating following her heart.

“Kara’s Jewish,” Lena says absently, and Sam huffs.

“Okay, then it’s Hanukkah,” Sam says, rolling her eyes.

“That’s not really how it works.”

“Whatever!” Sam waves her off, taking her arm back and grabbing Lena by the shoulders instead. “It’s the holidays, is what I’m saying. Go get yourself a little Hallmark magic.”

Lena laughs her first real, genuine laugh in what feels like months. Sam is right. She should do this. She can do this. Her happiness is in nobody’s hands but her own.

“I love you, you know that?”

“I love you too, sweetie. Now, go pack. And buy a real winter coat.”

 


 

When Lena arrives in Midvale, it’s everything and nothing like she remembers.

The roads are the same, the shops, the cars. The grocery store parking lot is still packed with Friday-evening shoppers, the lights at the Livewire still flashing over a parking lot full of trucks. Only, now, the streets are also lined with snowbanks taller than her car, each window frosted and glowing in the early winter evening. Lights twinkle around most of the buildings, as she thought they would be, and each streetlamp hosts a holiday-themed decoration.

10 minutes after she pulls in, she’s still sitting in the Livewire parking lot, her heart pounding.

She came up here to see Kara. To apologize for leaving, to ask if the offer Kara gave her still stands. To see if she can stay. But god, so much time has passed since then. No matter what Clark said, she can’t help but worry. What if Kara’s mind has changed? What if, in the months she’s been gone, Kara moved on? What if – worst of all – she’s found someone else?

After a few more minutes of solo hyperventilation, Lena manages to get herself out of the car. Either way, no matter the outcome, she’ll never forgive herself if she doesn’t at least try.

The moment she steps through the door into the warm bar, she’s assaulted by sense memories. It smells exactly the same – beer, decades of smoke that will never leave the walls and carpets, and pizza from next door. The noise hasn’t changed either, a country song on the jukebox almost drowned out by yells and cheers of tables full of people watching a hockey game on the TV over the bar.

Even Leslie is the same, barely looking away from the game when Lena walks in.

“If you want a drink, get it yourself. I’m busy.”

Lena laughs softly, shaking her head as she looks around. But as her eyes track towards the back of the bar where Kara’s usual table is, someone sees her first.

“…Lena?”

The deep voice that calls out isn’t the one she’s hoping for, but it’s familiar nonetheless. Sitting not far from her is James, with Winn, Brainy and Nia crowding the table around him, and he’s staring at her with his mouth agape.

In fact, they all are, and Lena moves nervously from foot to foot as James stands up. Will they be upset? Angry?

But James just strides forward, his face breaking out into a genuine grin as he scoops her into a tight hug.

“What are you doing here? We thought you left us for the big city!”

“I –“ Lena starts, but the truth catches in her throat. Luckily Nia appears next, hugging Lena somehow even harder, and soon enough the excitement of seeing her friends (her friends, she reminds herself. Why did she ever leave this?) and the burden is taken from her for a minute.

But only for a minute.

“So, why are you here, Lena?” Nia asks, as everyone settles into a seat. “Not that we aren’t happy to see you! But we didn’t think you’d be back. Like…ever.”

Try as she might, Lena can’t quite hide her flinch at the blatant truth.

“I came to see Kara,” She finally admits, scratching at the table with her thumbnail, and James shares a knowing look with Winn.

“Shoulda known,” Winn murmurs, and everyone looks so sympathetic that Lena feels slightly more comfortable.

“So, she’s not here tonight?” She ventures, looking around in the hopes that the blonde might appear from behind the jukebox, but James shakes his head.

“No. We haven’t seen much of her lately, honestly. Even Alex really only sees her at work and at home. She disappears most nights, and doesn’t come back until late.”

There’s no implication in James’ voice, but Lena’s mind jumps to the most obvious conclusion anyways, and the idea of it makes her feel like the floor has disappeared under her feet.

“Is she…seeing someone?” Lena asks quietly, her stomach turning even as she says it, but she’s spared too much stress by Nia, who snorts loudly as soon as the words leave her mouth. All eyes turn to her, and she turns red as a tomato.

“What?” She says, shrugging. “It’s a hilarious question. She’s too hung up on you to even look at anyone else.”

Relief floods Lena’s veins like a drug, assuaging a fear that’s existed in her mind ever since she left, and she finally relaxes into her chair.

“Well then, where could she possibly –“ But before she’s even finished her thought, Lena knows exactly where Kara is. It’s where she always is, where Lena’s idle daydreams have taken her in every spare moment since she left. But now, in the snow, she has no idea how she’s going to get there.

“Is there any way to get to the old treehouse out on 3rd line without going through the woods?” She asks suddenly, and the reaction she gets is 4 blank faces.

“The treehouse?” Winn asks, frowning as he takes a swig of gin and tonic. “Why would you need to get out there? I haven’t been since we were kids.”

But James has a look of dawning understanding on his face, and he’s already standing up and grabbing a helmet from under the table as Winn expresses his confusion. He tosses it to Lena, grabbing another larger one and tucking it under his arm.

“I’ve got my sled. I can get us there.”

“Hey!” Winn protests, as Lena holds the helmet with unsure hands. “That’s my helmet! How am I supposed to get home?”

“I’m coming back for you, babe. Calm down.” James stoops to give Winn a solid kiss on the cheek, and the smaller man pinks complacently as James ushers a confused Lena from the bar.

“I don’t see what a sled is going to do for us,” She says, as James puts his helmet on and raises the visor. “Unless it has a motor on it –“

But James has led them to a huge, shiny machine at the rear of the parking lot, and Lena shortly understands the mix-up.

“Ah. So, ‘sled’ is just your weird northern slang for snowmobile.”

James laughs, swinging a leg over the seat and starting the engine. “Sure is. Hop on!”

Lena hops on, and then she spends the next 15 minutes clinging to his back for dear life as he rips through town at a frankly alarming pace.

The ride through the forest is possibly even more terrifying than the streets, but at the end of it they’re emerging onto a field that’s familiar even covered in snow, with the treehouse that houses some of her fondest memories framed by a dusky twilight. Kara’s truck is under it as usual, this time with the addition of a snowplow blade attached to the front, parked in the exact spot where they sat on Kara’s tailgate the first time, where they had their first kiss on a picnic blanket, just under where Lena carved her name immovably into the wood and sealed Kara’s grip on her heart. There’s a dark figure up on the platform watching the sunset, legs swinging slowly in the cold air, and Lena practically leaps off the snowmobile in her haste.

Despite the noise of the sled approaching, Kara’s silhouette doesn’t look away from the sky.

“Alex comes out here sometimes to try and get her to come back, but it usually doesn’t work,” James says over the rumble of the engine, and Lena swallows. She swallows the guilt, the pain of missing Kara all those months, and faces forwards. It’s the only way she can go.

“You can go, James,” She says, handing Winn’s helmet over. “I’ve got it.”

“Are you sure?” He asks, staying put, and Lena nods with finality.

“Positive.”

With the confirmation James finally revs the engine and zooms away, and Lena takes the first step.

Her foot immediately sinks into about 2 feet of soft snow, and she has a fleeting second of regret in her decision to come back to this snowy hell.

But Kara is there, right there, finally, and the aching, familiar shape of her makes Lena take another step, and another. When she finally stands close enough to the tree to see the details of the woman she’s definitely in love with, her impractical heeled boots are completely full of melted snow, but she stands her ground anyways.

“Kara!”

For a second, Lena isn’t sure if Kara even heard her. There’s no reaction, just the slow swinging of Kara’s feet and the smoke of her breath in the cold air. It’s like this is something she’s used to, being called down and ignoring the caller.

But then, she freezes.

The movement of Kara’s legs stops, and Lena can almost see her entire body tense. Slowly her head turns and looks down, squinting into the coming darkness, and Lena can see her face, pink and ruddy and frowning as if she doesn’t believe what she sees. When she realizes who is standing there, her eyes go comically wide.

“...Lena?”

With jerky, surprised movements Kara pulls herself to her feet with an icy branch, and Lena has but a brief moment of relief that she’s finally been recognized before Kara disappears with a loud, jolting crack.

Under the compounding weight of snow and ice and Kara, just as Lena predicted it would, the treehouse has finally broken.

“Kara!”

There’s some movement from the pile of snow, and Lena bolts as fast as she’s physically able to see the blonde half-covered in white powder and pieces of wood, looking at her like she’s seeing a ghost.

“Lena – what – how –“ Kara sputters, taking Lena’s offered hand and hauling herself to her feet. “What are you doing here?”

Lena, dizzy with the closeness she’s been missing for months now, just stares. At Kara’s prolonged confused expression, she says the first words that come to mind.

“I came back.”

For a few long moments, the stand motionless, drinking each other in. Kara looks almost as drunk on the moment as she is – her eyes dart around Lena’s face, like she’s reconciling it with the memories she has, like she’s afraid Lena will disappear if she looks away for even a second, and Lena reaches a cold hand up to cup Kara’s cheek. Kara leans into it, her eyes still never leaving Lena’s face, and suddenly saying what’s on her mind seems like the most important thing that Lena has ever done.

“I missed you so much.”

Kara exhales all her breath in a shaky, broken whoosh, and the next thing Lena knows she’s being hugged like the world is ending. Kara’s arms are around her tight, squeezing just enough that she feels it, and Kara whispers quietly into her hair.

“You came back for me.”

“Yeah,” Lena chokes, caught somewhere between a laugh and a sob. “Yeah, I did.”

They stay like that for whole minutes, just holding each other, while the wind buffets around them. Kara still smells the same, feels the same even under her bulky jacket, and there are definitely a few tears freezing on her face as she sniffles into her neck.

“Kara?” She whispers finally, her hands flexing in the cold material of Kara’s coat.

“Yeah?”

“My face is frozen.”

Kara jolts, springing out of the embrace like it’s an emergency situation.

“Oh, shoot! Sorry, hold on –“

Kara moves away, and as much as it was necessary, Lena misses the solid pressure of her arms immediately. It’s like, having gone without it for so long, she’s soaking up the deficiency, and the further away Kara gets the more it feels like she’s a plant sitting in the dark. But the blonde fumbles in her pocket for a moment, before producing her keys and hauling open the passenger door of her nearby truck.

Lena climbs in gratefully, and a few seconds later Kara is in the driver’s seat and sweet, blissful, heated air is coming out of the vents. She holds her hands there, letting them defrost, all the while terribly aware of the fact that Kara is staring at her from across the bench seat.

“I still can’t believe you’re really here,” Kara says quietly, as if speaking too loudly will make Lena disappear in a puff of smoke. There’s still the full space of the middle seat between them, and neither of them makes a move quite yet to close the distance.

“I can hardly believe it, either,” Lena says, rubbing her hands together in lieu of meeting Kara’s eyes.

“I thought a lot about you coming back. I…dreamed about it,” Kara says, her voice breaking on the last few words. “It just doesn’t seem real.”

Lena’s heart breaks. Kara is so unsure, so timid, so deeply unlike herself, and it’s her fault. Suddenly the distance seems like too much again – she needs to touch Kara, to feel the solid realness of her. So she moves across the seat, bit by bit, until Kara shifts back and Lena is climbing into her lap, needing to be closer, closer. She presses herself down, lets Kara pull her in until they’re chest to chest, Lena’s face only a tiny bit above despite the height boost from Kara’s thighs.

“I’m here,” Lena whispers, cupping Kara’s still-red face. “I’m here.”

She says it to Kara’s face, eyes locked, says it into her mouth as Kara pulls her in for the searing kiss she’s been thinking about since the day she left. It’s much like their first – hard, messy, frantic – but tinged with a deep emotion she wouldn’t previously let herself feel. She murmurs it into Kara’s hair as four hands fumble with the button of her slacks, whines it into a broad shoulder as three cold, incredible fingers slip inside her. I’m here, I’m here, I’m here.

And I’m not leaving again.

Lena hears a seam rip somewhere between her legs, but she could care less. Kara is inside her again, is encouraging her to undo her coat and lift her shirt so that she can pepper hot kisses across her chest, and she’s half-topless in the cab of a truck in the middle of winter and it doesn’t matter. None of it matters – nothing besides the sweet curl of Kara’s fingers bringing her closer to the edge, the heat of her tongue, the reverence of her voice as she whispers stay with me.

Lena comes with a sob, clinging to Kara’s frame, sharing her breath, and in the stillness that follows she knows. There will be no more leaving, no more fear of her own feelings or of abandoning the familiar. No more of being a slave to her obligations. As long as Kara will have her, Kara is home.

“Lena…” Kara says quietly in the still moments after, so quietly that she almost doesn’t hear it over the sound of the heating vents or her own still-thundering heartbeat. “I –“

Her voice gives out before she can finish, and her eyes well up with unshed tears so quickly that she buries her face in Lena’s shoulder to hide them. Lena just strokes her hair, spreads a firm and comforting hand over the back of her neck as she feels the hot tears hitting her skin.

“I love you, Kara,” She says. Not in a whisper, not like a secret – she says it clearly, with feeling. So clearly that Kara can’t possibly be mistaken of its authenticity.

Kara stiffens beneath her in response, and Lena plows onwards through the rest of her thoughts before she can convince herself not to.

“I never sold the house here, you know. I never wanted to leave, and I guess…I never really let go of this place.” She takes a deep breath. “I never let go of you.”

Kara finally pulls her face free of Lena’s shoulder, and her eyes are puffy and red and achingly hopeful as she sniffles quietly.

“What does that mean?”

“I’m leaving L-Corp.”

It’s a decision she’d made before she even left the city. As she was packing her necessities and signing off on Sam and Jack taking over while she’s gone again, she had the underlying suspicion that solidified the minute she entered the town limits again, made stone by seeing Kara again.

“…what?” Kara asks, looking like she’s hardly daring to hope.

“Jack and Sam ran it just as well as I could in my absence,” Lena admits, pressing their foreheads together. “Probably better, honestly. And they actually want to run it, rather than feeling forced to because of a horrible family legacy. You were right.”

“Lena –“ Kara chokes, but Lena soldiers on.

“And, I was happier here than I’ve ever been in my life. At least, that I can remember. I don’t think I knew what genuine happiness was until I met you, Kara.”

She punctuates the truth with a deep kiss, one that Kara returns with verve, and by the time they pull apart again they’re both breathless.

“So, you’re actually staying?” Kara asks, her eyes wide and hopeful, and Lena nods.

“As long as you want me to.”

Kara laughs wetly, wiping at her face and looking somewhat shell-shocked. “Well, gosh, Lena. Ten minutes ago I was sitting in that treehouse and thinking that I’d never see you again, and now –“

“It’s okay if you’re not totally sure. I know I sprung this on you, I just…”

“Lena,” Kara interrupts her, halting her speech in its tracks. “The day you left, I almost went after you. The only reason I didn’t was because…well, you asked me not to. At the very beginning. So you, coming back here and saying you want to be here, you want to stay – if this isn’t a dream, I want that more than anything.”

Relief floods Lena’s veins, a relief so strong that it feels like an adrenaline rush. Her heart pounds away, revealing everything, and all she can do is pull Kara even closer and let all the stress of the last 3 months leave her body in a wave.

“One thing, though,” Kara says after a few moments of contented quiet, and Lena presses their foreheads together tightly.

“Anything,” Lena breathes. “Anything you want.”

“Could I…have my hand back? It’s starting to go numb.”

With a start, Lena realizes that Kara’s hand is, in fact, still buried inside her. Kara’s fingers wiggle slightly, prompting a bolt of desire down Lena’s spine, and she scrambles off Kara’s lap and onto the seat as Kara flexes the feeling back into her fingers.

Shit, I’m sorry, I forgot –“ She apologizes, but Kara waves it off with a mischievous smile.

“It was worth it, Lena. Besides, I figured you’d just want me to…cowboy up.”

“God, shut up –“ Lena groans, and with a delirious laugh she lays across the seat and pulls Kara on top of her, making short work of fogging the windows completely.

It’s all surprisingly simple, in the end.

Jack and Sam happily take over L-Corp for good, cashing in their shares in the company to lead as CEO and COO respectively. Lena stays on in an advisory capacity, at least – they call her every few weeks, or when some crisis pops up that her connections can solve – but for the most part, she gets back to her original love, and builds a proper research lab in the basement of the house she never sold. And independent contracting suits her – her friends visit bi-annually ostensibly to talk business, but really it ends up being a twice-yearly excuse to sunbathe and drink on her private dock.

And of course, Kara is with her every step of the way. In fact, Kara helps her with the first project she starts on after her return – the ultra-safe prototype vehicles she never got to finish. With Kara’s skills they come together even better than she could have imagined, and they get released in the spring as the new line of L-Cars: Zorel model.

The money made from that line she puts into the town infrastructure, and within the year the grants that the township has given to start new businesses and projects has filled all the empty shops on main street – one of those empty spaces goes to the re-vamped town newspaper, with Kara at the helm. Kara goes down to part-time at the shop, spending the rest of her hours at the paper.

And, in their free time, they rebuild the treehouse better (and safer) than ever.

 

 

 

Four years later

 

 

 

“Babe?” Kara’s voice rings out through the house, audible through the screen door Lena is sitting in front of. “You home?” The clatter of her boots hitting the shoe mat is familiar now – Kara moved in with her 6 months after she came back to Midvale, when it was made pretty clear that she never went back to her house with Alex anyways, and even after all this time it still makes Lena smile.

“On the deck,” Lena calls back, settling more comfortably into the Adirondack swing Kara installed last summer and looking out at the lake. She pulls the blanket tighter around her legs, warding off the autumn chill that she’s sure Kara will banish with a warm hug once she emerges. She can hear footsteps thundering up the stairs, and she takes a sip of her tea while she waits for Kara to change out of her shop clothes.

When Kara emerges onto the deck in her socks, with joggers and a warm sweater replacing her coveralls, the sight of her still lights a warm glow in her chest, even after all this time.

“Hey,” Kara says with a grin, sitting down and tugging on the blanket until it covers both of them. “Missed you today.”

“I missed you too,” Lena says honestly, accepting Kara’s kiss and hooking a hand around the back of her neck when she tries to pull away. Kara grins into it, giving Lena the deeper kiss she’s silently requesting, and for a few minutes the porch is quiet.

“How was work?” Lena asks when their lips finally part, and Kara smiles, settling in comfortably with Lena’s legs over her lap.

“It was great! Nia is really getting the hang of being second-in-command, and she’s making sure that the paper doesn’t interfere with her other business. And, the afternoon shift at the shop is always quiet.” Kara snags the mug of tea from Lena’s hands, taking a sip and humming happily. “How was your day?”

Lena sits a little straighter, still flush with happiness over her breakthrough in the lab this morning. “Actually, I finally figured out the mass water purifier I’ve been working on.”

“No kidding!” Kara exclaims, squeezing Lena’s hands in excitement. “That’s awesome! Did you call Sam?”

“I did. She and Jack are going to try to come down to look at it next month.”

Kara snorts, rubbing her calloused hands over Lena’s legs under her sweatpants. “You mean, they’re going to come down and drink all my beer.”

“More or less,” Lena admits, and Kara laughs. The sound of it is like a balm, soothing and comforting in one.

“Speaking of,” Kara says, tapping her forehead like she’s just remembered something, “We should have people over this weekend. Brainy reminded me that it’s been a while since we had dinner together.”

“That sounds nice,” Lena nods, taking her pilfered tea mug back. “Game night?”

“Sounds perfect. Only if you’re with me, though. J’onn keeps trying to switch up the teams.”

Lena smiles, cupping Kara’s cheek and wiping away a still ever-present black smudge from Kara’s shop shift with her thumb.

“Always.”

A single loon calls out over the lake just past the dock, echoing across the still water. Lena used to think it was lonesome sound – deep and melancholy, always reminding her of her own solitude. But it doesn’t strike the lonely chord in Lena’s heart that it used to. She snuggles closer to Kara’s warmth, sighing happily as the blonde puts a comforting arm around her shoulders and nudges the deck with her toe, making the bench swing gently.

Here in Midvale, with Kara, she’s never going to be lonely again.