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Falling, Yes I'm Falling

Chapter Text

Lena is hardly out of the courtroom before her phone starts ringing. She takes a deep breath, hands shaking. This is going to be… well, she said what she said and there’s no taking it back now. She swipes to open the line and brings the phone up to her ear.

“Kara.”

“You told them we were MARRIED? Lena!”

“Well what was I supposed to say? They had me backed into a corner; I had to protect you.”

“Oh, and what are you going to say when they want proof? There’s no documentation. There was no WEDDING. Supergirl doesn’t exist as a citizen, you can’t-”

“Kara, I-”

“-It’s not like you to not think things-”

“Kara.”

The line goes quiet. Lena hears Kara take a deep, steadying breath. “What are we going to do?”

Lena glances around her, double and triple checking that she’s out of earshot. Too many people. She ducks into a bathroom instead and locks the door.

“We’re going to tell them that we got married following Kryptonian tradition. We’ll come up with something, some Kryptonian sounding alternative to Earth paperwork. Something symbolic but still binding. And it’s not conventional but I think they’ll respect it. The United States does respect marriages performed in foreign countries, and this is sort of the same thing, just… to another extreme.”

There’s a long silence from Kara. And then, “There is - was - something like that on Krpyton. Symbolic and binding. Like exchanging wedding rings on Earth. But Lena… the symbol alone won’t be enough. We’re going to have to keep up appearances, be seen together, make sure they can’t come after you for lying under oath.”

Lena tries not to think about the warm feeling that fills her at the thought of being seen with Supergirl. Kara’s arm around her waist, her lips whispering against her ear, that soft soft smile every time Lena turns to look at her. God. Nothing would make her happier. Nothing could be more difficult to endure.

“We’ll make it work,” Lena says, suddenly aware that she’s been quiet for too long. “It’s just for a little while.”

“Right. Okay. I trust you.” And then, after a pause, “I guess  I’ll come and get you from the courthouse then. You know. Seems like your wife should probably be there for you at a time like this.”

Lena laughs, high and forced. “You really don’t have to.”

Kara lets out a scoff. “Honestly Lena, did you think I wasn’t already here? Just come outside so I can take you home.”

Chapter Text

“Are you sure about this?”

Kara kicks at the leaves along the trail with a sigh, her hands as deep into her coat pockets as they will go, though she doesn’t feel the cold. Clark trudges along beside her trying not to look anxious. It isn’t working. They’d thought maybe out here in the woods, in nature, where it’s quiet, where there aren’t so many prying eyes, things might feel less insane, but they don’t. If anything, the quiet is only making Kara more restless.

“Yeah, I’m sure,” she says. “And you’ve sorted it with Argo?”

“Oh yeah. Anybody questions your marriage and we’ll have all kinds of paperwork to back you up. Not that anyone on Earth will be able to read it, but I gathered from Lena that’s not really the point here.”

Kara nods her agreement. “No. It just has to be enough to keep the courts off her back.”

“So…” Clarke says, shoving his own hands into his jeans, “We didn’t think just exchanging the bracelets would be enough? I mean you don’t really have to do the thing properly if a misdirection is all you want.”

Maybe that’s not all I want. Kara doesn’t say it. “It’s better to stay on the safe side; you know how people like to call for Luthor blood. Honestly, Clark, I was never going to marry anyway. And the vows? Her needs are my needs, my blood is her blood. C’mon. That was already true.”

“Yeah, but this is forever. Like, forever forever.”

“She’s my best friend, Clark. It was always going to be forever.”

Clark hesitates on the path, looks like he’s about to say something, visibly swallows it. They walk in silence a little longer, closer and closer to the cabin Lena has booked for the occasion. Kara suspects Sam is at the kitchen table even now giving Lena exactly the same look Clark is giving Kara.

“And how does Lena feel about all this?”

Kara shrugs. “What does she care if she’s considered married on a planet she’ll never see?”

“Kryptonians don’t believe in divorce.”

“Good thing she’s not Kryptonian.”

“Kara…”

Kara looks away. “This will all blow over in a couple of months, and then… And then we can say we had a falling out. Maybe stage a couple of public disagreements. And she can carry on with her life.” She shrugs again. “She told a stupid lie, but she told it to protect me. Now it’s my turn to protect her. That’s how these things go.”

“But you’ll still be married. So you plan to stay faithful to your best friend while she moves on with some guy? Will her needs be your needs, your blood her blood, when she marries him and carries his children?”

Kara tries to ignore the hot, sick feeling in her stomach at the thought. She ignores the way her hands tremble, the way it creeps into her voice as she cracks a joke. “Lena doesn’t seem like the childbearing type.”

“I could refuse to marry you.”

“Yeah but then I’d have to kick your ass, so.”

Clark chuckles a little. They come around the corner and the cabin comes into full view. Even from here Kara can hear that Sam is, yes, also lecturing Lena on her life choices. Which is not unreasonable, considering. But this is all going to blow over. It’s just a few months, and then everything will go back to normal. Lena will live her life, and Kara will protect her, and they’ll be best friends until one of them dies and it won’t be weird. It doesn’t have to be weird. Right? Just two best friends looking out for one another. That’s all this is.

Clark catches her shoulder on the front porch, and for a moment he looks again like he’s going to say something. Maybe argue again for something less legally binding, less spiritually binding. Maybe raise another logistical concern about the paperwork that will have to be done on Argo. But he can’t hold her gaze and, eyes somewhere in the trees behind her, he says, “I just want you to be happy.”

Kara smiles. “I am happy,” she tells him. And if her voice is a little high, if the words catch a little in her throat, well. That’s just the nerves.

Chapter Text

It’s late, and the crickets are singing outside, the fire is low on the hearth, and Lena is reasonably certain that Kara and Clark are both asleep. Clark certainly is; she can hear his snoring reverberate through his bedroom door. Kara’s light is off, and though Lena has never actually asked whether Kryptonians can see in the dark, she’s not overly concerned about it. She creeps down the wooden stairs two at a time, quiet quiet lest an errant step jar sensitive ears awake.

Sam is at the kitchen table poring over her tablet. Lena lingers in the kitchen doorway watching, though Sam’s momentary hesitation reveals that she’s aware of her presence. Once, Sam would have been working long into the night for business reasons. These days things are a little different.

“Are you going to come in, or are you going to linger in the doorway like a creep?” Sam asks without looking up. “The water’s still hot if you’d like some tea.”

Tea would be good. Lena pours herself a cup and tops off Sam’s for good measure, settles in across the kitchen table to watch Sam trace unfamiliar letters into the tablet with her stylus. She wonders whether Sam knows that she mouths the words as she spells them out. She wonders how close Sam is to fluent by now, after three weeks spent on Argo. Ruby is still there with Lois. Sam had to come home to keep the company running while Lena stumbled in the public eye.

“I want you to teach me the vows in Kryptonian,” Lena says. Might as well drop the bombshell all at once.

Sam freezes. She does look up now, an expression of extreme skepticism on her face. “You don’t know what you’re asking,” she says.

“I think I do,” Lena says. “Marriage was a religious rite on Krpyton, was it not? A deeply spiritual institution. And the religion of Krpyton is inseparable from the language.”

“Who told you that?”

“Ruby talks a lot when she’s avoiding her homework.”

Sam raises her eyebrows. “Well, at least she’s talking to you, and not, say…”

“The rest of humanity?”

Sam half shrugs. “All I’m saying is that I think she’s a lot safer going to boarding school on Argo than she was at a public school in Metropolis.”

“It’s hard to keep big secrets when you’re fourteen. Don’t change the subject: according to Kryptonian tradition the marriage isn’t valid unless I say the words, and if I understood Ruby correctly when she was explaining the idea that the Kryptoian language was a direct gift from Rao, it isn’t valid unless I say the words as they were written in the Book of Rao originally.”

Sam opens her mouth and then closes it. She reaches for her tea. Out of old habit Lena almost reminds her that she’s just poured boiling water into it, but then, boiling water can’t hurt Sam these days.

“You’re not wrong,” Sam says slowly, “But you aren’t really marrying Kara. It’s just a legal defense.”

“Is Kara going to say the words in Kryptonian?”

“You would have to ask Kara that.”

“Sam.”

Sam sighs. “If I give you these words, you have to promise me that you’re going to respect them. Kryptonians don’t believe in divorce; if you do this, you’re committing to Kara for the rest of your life in front of our god. You can never stray from her. You can never remarry.” Sam’s eyes flicker back and forth between Lena’s. “There are easier ways to tell her that you’re in love with her.”

Lena scoffs and prays that the light in the kitchen is too dim for Sam to see the flush coloring her cheeks. “I’m just trying to do the right thing,” she says. “If Kara gives her vows in English, then so will I. But if she gives them in Kryptonian, it’s only appropriate to respond in kind.”

It’s a weak defense, and for a moment Lena thinks Sam hasn’t been swayed. But then Sam clears the screen of her tablet and motions Lena to her side.

“You know Kara and Clark are going to kill me for this, right?” Sam mutters as she traces out the first words.

“Don’t worry,” Lena says, squeezing Sam’s shoulder. “I’ll protect you.”

Sam chuckles and leans into her with a smile. “Do you know the alphabet already? Let’s start here…”

Chapter Text

"Who's the groom?"

Kara looks up from the onion she’s chopping with a frown. “What do you mean? No one has to be the groom; it’s a same sex marriage.”

Clark gestures to the paperwork spread out across the kitchen table. “You said you wanted to keep this as close to Kryptonian tradition as we could, and that means respecting the naming ceremony, which means I have to file paperwork with the guild, which means…”

“Oh.” Kara puffs out her cheeks for a moment while she thinks about it. “Somebody has to be the groom.”

Sam and Lena have gone out for a morning walk, ostensibly because Lena isn’t feeling well and needs some fresh air, but it hasn’t escaped Kara’s notice that the pair of them have been spending secretive moments together here and there wherever they can find them. It has been leaving Kara with a feeling of restless unease, but in this case it’s also a blessing, because Kara doesn’t want to ask Lena the Kryptonian version of ‘so who’s supposed to be the man in this relationship’ if she can help it. It’s just for paperwork, she tells herself. It doesn’t matter to Lena anyway.

“It could be Lena,” Clark suggests, “Because she has a higher status on Earth - don’t look at me like that, she could buy your apartment building with her pocket change - or it could be you because you’re the higher ranking member of Kryptonian society.”

“Uhm, also on Earth I’m literally a superhero.”

Clark waves a dismissive hand and then chuckles and ducks as she chucks a piece of onion at him across the room.

“Okay,” he says. “Okay. You can be the groom. So your hand goes on top then, and she has to-”

“Present the gift. I know. I lived on Krypton for longer than you’ve spent on Argo.”

Clark makes a face. The fact that Kara remembers Krypton and Clark doesn’t is sometimes a point of tension between them, especially when Clark’s excitement over Argo leads him to explain things to Kara that have been common knowledge to her for as long as she can remember.

“Sorry,” he says. And then, “So Lena Zor-El.”

Kara pauses again in her chopping. At this rate Sam and Lena are going to get back from their walk and this same damn onion is going to be on the cutting board. “She’s not marrying my father,” Kara says. She gestures with the knife. “You wouldn’t give Lois your father’s name.”

“I know,” Clark says, “But I’m a-”

Kara gestures with the knife again. “Be very careful how you finish that sentence.”

Clark’s jaw closes with a snap.

And it’s not his fault, really. It’s not his fault that Krypton has never recognized a same sex marriage as far as anyone knows, or that the naming convention is patriarchal, or that Kara is more stubborn than stone when she wants to be. But it is certainly his problem.

“Kara-El doesn’t exactly roll off the tongue,” he points out, echoing Kara’s knife gestures with his pen. “And it will probably reveal your identity the second anyone on Earth looks carefully at your paperwork.”

Kara scrunches up her nose. “Fine. I will concede that point.”

“So Zor-El it is,” Clark says, leaning forward to fill in the form.

Kara points the knife at him and he stops with a resigned sigh, hand hovering just above the paper. “Kar-El,” she says. “Just drop the ‘a’ and it works fine.”

“Lena Kar-El,” Clark repeats. Kara ignores the hair rising on the back of her neck at the sound of it. There is something about the idea of Lena bearing her name that makes Kara feel, well, something. She’s at a rare loss for words even as Clark continues to speak. “That sounds-”

But Lena chooses that moment to push through the back door of the cabin, shedding her jacket as she goes. Sam, lingering just inside the door to kick off her shoes, studies Clark and Kara with curious eyes.

“Lena Kar-El?” Sam asks.

Lena opens her mouth a little, cocks her head to one side, fixes Kara with a thoughtful expression. “Is that what we’re going with?”

Kara fumbles for a smooth reply and comes up with anything but. “It’s- I mean we don’t- I mean if you don’t-”

“I like it,” Lena says at last. “Lena Kar-El.” She moves past Kara to wash her hands in the kitchen sink and then reaches across her for the towel tossed carelessly beside the cutting board. Half of Kara is wondering why Lena didn’t use the towel hung over the sink for precisely that purpose. The other half of her is frozen in place by Lena’s proximity, by the heat of her as her arm brushes Kara’s. And then all of Kara is frozen when Lena leans up and presses a delicate kiss to her cheek.

“I’m going to make coffee,” Lena announces. “Does anyone not want any? Kara, darling, are you planning to chop that onion or just stare it?”

It’s not the onion Kara is staring at. Perhaps it’s Kara’s imagination, but Lena doesn’t seem to mind.

Chapter Text

The shadows outside are growing long, the evening light burning a brilliant orange through the trees, and all is quiet at the little cabin in the woods but for Lena sprawled across Sam’s bed reciting the same handful of Kryptonian words over and over like a prayer. She’s mostly certain she’s got them down. In fact, she’s mostly certain she’s going to be reciting them in her sleep for the next thirty years if she isn’t dreaming about Sam’s exhaustive reminders of their meaning and significance and gravity. 

Sharing the cabin with Kara these last few days, Lena feels as though she’s come to a whole new understanding of gravity. She understands it in the way she catches herself leaning towards Kara even when she’s on the other side of the room. The way the world seems to quiet when Kara speaks. That inexplicable solidness to Kara’s body whenever Lena can excuse an innocent touch: a comforting hand on the shoulder, a kiss on the cheek. She understands it in the weight of these unfamiliar words on her tongue, a promise thousands of years old entrusted now, improbably, to Lena.

“Kara’s back,” Sam says.

Lena falls silent mid-recital and sits up. She looks at Sam and she feels... too many things. Warmth. Anxiety. Inadequacy. Pride. A rush of contradictions held at bay by the repetition of the words and brought to the surface again whenever Lena has to actually think about what comes next.

“I think you’re ready,” Sam reassures her, and Lena knows that what she means is that Lena is able to say the words without sounding like a fool.

“I don’t know,” Lena replies, and what she means is that she isn’t sure she will ever be ready to be married to Kara, even if it is just a legal charade. Especially when it’s just a legal charade.

“You can always say the words in English instead if you get scared.”

Lena makes a face. Sam laughs and offers a hand to pull her up off the bed. They tease one another all the way down the stairs - not about the vows, not now that Kara is around to overhear them - and so it is that neither of them notices that Kara isn’t alone until they arrive in the kitchen. Clark is sitting at the table in his super suit, head in his hands, and when he looks up he fixes Lena with an expression so heavy that Lena knows at once that something is wrong.

Kara won’t even look at him. She’s standing with her back to the room, fiddling with her cape, worrying at the edge of it so intensely that Lena is concerned she’ll tear it with her fingers. “I don’t even know him,” Kara is saying. “He was an infant when I left Krypton, he- How could you even suggest such a thing?”

“I’m not suggesting it,” Clark says. “I’m just the messenger.”

Lena has crossed the kitchen before she realizes she’s decided to do it. She tugs the cape gently free from Kara’s fingers and, back still turned, Kara opens her hand for Lena to take.

“Any solution that doesn’t protect Lena is a non-solution,” Kara says, threading her fingers through Lena’s and tugging her forward. Lena nearly stumbles - Kara is too upset to be graceful in her strength - and catches Kara’s shoulder with the other hand to compensate. She’s shaking under Lena’s touch. Quickly, before she can think better of it, Lena presses in close and wraps her arm around Kara’s waist, brushes her lips against the back of Kara’s neck just inside the collar of her suit. Kara’s grip tightens around her hand, and the shaking stops.

“I understand that, but Argo is more concerned with the preservation of your bloodline-”

“I understand Argo’s concerns, but I think I’ve made myself clear: I won’t marry for duty.”

Lena’s heart jumps. If not for duty, then for what? And then something awful twists inside of her. Who is she marrying for duty if not Lena?

“I think you need to be honest with yourself,” Clark says. “I think you need to carefully consider what this is really about.”

Kara rubs her thumb across the back of Lena’s hand, squeezes once, steps out of the embrace, half turns to look at Clark over her shoulder.

“If I ask you to marry us tomorrow, will you still do it?”

There is a silence so long and so thick that Lena feels as though she might choke on it. And then Clark says, “Of course I will.”

Kara turns away again. She stares out the window for a long moment and then she says something in Kryptonian which Lena can’t understand and she sweeps out of the cabin without looking back.

“Where is she going?” Lena asks.

It’s Sam who answers. “Into solitude to commune with Rao. It’s- On Krypton she would do this for days. It’s meant to give Rao the opportunity to weigh in on the engagement before it ends.”

“Before it ends,” Lena repeats. She looks up at Sam, who reads the unspoken question in her face. How does this end? But Sam doesn’t answer this time. Lena rounds on Clark instead. “What is this about?”

What she means is what is this marriage about for Kara but if Clark catches her meaning he avoids the question.

“Argo is having second thoughts. You have to understand, very little of Krypton’s nobility still lives. Kara is one of the last; they want her to return home, marry into one of the other houses, ensure the survival of the bloodline.”

The thought of Kara ‘ensuring the survival of the bloodline’ with some Krpytonian boy makes Lena feel vaguely sick. “I notice they aren’t asking you the same.”

Clark makes a noncommittal gesture. “I’m not bucking thousands of years of tradition to play at a man’s role - Argo’s words, not mine - in a marriage that will never produce an heir for the House of El. Or, if Argo has their way where Kara is concerned, the House of Ar.”

So this is about nobility, and blood, and the preservation of the status quo. Lena wants to flip a table. She wants to run after Kara to tell her that she understands the tension that lives in the space between principle and duty, especially where family is concerned. She wants to run after Kara, period. She pushes the thought aside. “Is there anywhere in this shithole of a galaxy that isn’t overwhelmingly patriarchal and homophobic?” she asks.

“No,” Sam and Clark reply in unison.

It would be funny if it weren’t so depressing. Lena pulls up a chair across from Clark and snatches an apple out of the fruit bowl just to have something to do with her hands. “So what now?”

“Now we wait for Kara to come back and tell us whether or not there’s still going to be a wedding,” Clark says.

Lena’s stomach ties itself neatly into a knot. “And if there isn’t?” A pragmatic question, of course. If there isn’t a wedding then there’s little more than the implicit threat of Kara’s wrath to protect Lena from the consequences of lying under oath. But she can’t bring herself to think about consequences or about the law just now. She can think only of Kara’s hand in hers, of the way the world seems bigger, brighter, boundless when Kara is around.

Sam scoffs. “Don’t be an idiot; she’s still going to marry you.”

Hopefully Clark can’t hear the way Lena’s breath stutters or the butterflies that have suddenly burst into life inside her rib cage because frankly it’s a little embarrassing. He’s nodding along as Sam speaks. “The marriage is still her best shot at protecting you,” he says. Then, looking at Lena out of the corner of his eye, “I understand Sam has been teaching you the vows in Kryptonian.”

Sam and Lena both begin to deny it at once, stumbling over one another until Clark raises a hand to silence them.

“I swear,” Lena says. “Sam has been very clear about how important this is, and I mean every word. I wouldn’t say them if I-”

“I know,” Clark interjects. And then, eyebrows raised, “I don’t think Kara has caught on. Actually, I think she suspects the two of you are sneaking off to make out whenever you get the chance, which is funny but kind of painful to watch.”

“Oh my god,” Sam groans. She puts her head down on the table. “Oh that makes sense but oh my god.”

“Aren’t you supposed to say ‘oh my Rao’ now,” Lena teases.

Sam kicks her under the table.

Clark clears his throat. “I think it’s a sweet gesture. And I was thinking that if you were open to the idea there are a couple of other Kryptonian traditions we could arrange while Kara is out communing in the woods. This wedding matters to her; I want to make sure we get it right.”

Lena offers Clark a hesitant smile. “So do I,” she says. “What can we do?”

The smile Clark offers in reply is so genuine and so warm that Lena at once and for the first time sees his resemblance to Kara. “I know on Earth the bride traditionally wears white, but is there any chance you’d consider red?”

“For Kara, I’d consider anything,” Lena says, and she means it. The truth is, she’s always meant it.

Her tone must be a little too sappy, because Sam rolls her eyes. “Oh my Rao,” she grumbles. “Here we go.”

Chapter Text

“So are we going to talk about it?”

Lena, on her knees in a meadow she’s reasonably certain hasn’t seen human footsteps since some time last year, looks up. She can just make out Sam’s smirk in the predawn light.

“Are we going to talk about what?” Lena asks. There’s no doubt she’s going to regret asking this question, but then, it’s Sam, who will see to it that she regrets it either way.

Sam crouches down next to Lena. “Those look nice,” she says, nodding towards the sprig of tiny white flowers that have caught Lena’s eye. Theoretically they should be looking for red flowers, but Lena has decided to compromise with Earth traditions in this case and go for white out of sheer practicality.

“Talk about what, Sam,” Lena repeats, holding out her hand for the clippers.

“Kara doesn’t want to marry for duty.”

“Yes, I think she made that clear.”

“But she still agreed to marry you in about four seconds flat.”

Lena huffs. It’s too early and too cold for this conversation. “I get dragged to court, they ask for her identity, I panic and plead the 5th-”

“Yes and she agrees to marry you for your protection because you lied for hers, which sounds an awful lot like duty to me.”

There’s the jagged edge of guilt again, twisting in Lena’s gut. “I know,” she murmurs. “And it’s my fault. But it’s just for a little while. We put on a big show, we hold hands in public, we pick a fight in the tabloids, we get a divorce, and we’re both free.” Lena punctuates her sentence with a snap of the clippers and gets to her feet.

“But Kara won’t see it that way, and neither will Argo, and you know that or else you wouldn’t have asked me to teach you a religious ceremony from another planet overnight.”

Lena makes a face. “Legally if Kara says the vows in English I think you or Clark can move to have the marriage invalidated on Argo. Or have I misunderstood?” She turns away to look for another cluster of flowers, not a small task when the sun hasn’t yet crested the horizon, let alone the tree line.

Lena. Would you look at me? Kara was never going to say the vows in English.”

“I know! I know. So you taught me to say the words back. Thank you for that. What more do you want from me?”

“I want you to be happy! I want you to admit that you’re in love with her, and I-”

“Yes.” Lena does look at Sam then. “Yes, okay? I’m in love with her. I was in love with her the very first day sh- fuck.” Her voice cracks and she has to stand a moment breathing in the cold to shove the tears back down where they belong. “This isn’t about love for Kara, okay? Not that kind of love. Not duty either. This is about friendship. But it doesn’t matter what it’s about, because I’m not going to stand by and let her make a sacred vow to protect me and then say ‘okay well thanks bye’ and walk away from her like it means nothing. It means something to me too. And I need her to know that, even if I can’t ever tell her that I- If I can’t tell her how I feel.”

Sam stares at Lena for a long moment and then she sighs. “You’re an idiot,” she grumbles, “Lord- Sorry, Rao help us all.”

“You know, that doesn’t fill me with confidence about your religious guidance.”

“Shut up and pass me the clippers.”

They work in silence for a few minutes, picking out the most perfect sprigs, slowly but surely gathering the bouquet Lena will offer to Kara if she chooses to proceed with the wedding. And she will, if Sam and Clark are right. Lena isn’t sure whether she hopes things turn out that way or not. What a mess. What a mess and Lena is the one who got them into it.

“Stupid,” Lena mutters.

“Hmm?”

Lena gestures at the flowers. “This tradition. Kara gives me her protection and I give her… a symbol of new life?”

“I believe you are implicitly promising to bear her many children.”

Lena gags. “I think trading children for physical protection went out of vogue some time in the 20th century. Catch up, Krpyton.”

The first of the sun’s rays are just creeping through the trees when Sam grins slyly at Lena over the flowers they’re examining. “Aw, that’s a shame. Are you telling me you don’t want Kara to be your baby daddy? Because I think you two would have very cute friendship babies.”

One of the perks to having a Kryptonian best friend is that Lena doesn’t have to look for something soft to throw. She chucks a rock harmlessly at Sam’s face, and the two of them laugh for a long moment in the dawn.

“Friendship babies,” Lena says, chuckling into the sleeve of her sweater. But there is something there. The thought of Kara’s arms around her, nose buried in Lena’s hair, and in Lena’s arms a sleeping child…

Lena puts the thought aside. “C’mon,” she says to Sam, brushing the last of the mirth from her eyes. “You said we had to get all of these gathered before the sun comes up, and I don’t like to be late.”

Chapter Text

Kara perches on the edge of dawn, listening. On Krpyton she would be out here seven days and seven nights, silent but for prayer, alone but for Rao whose guidance she would await with patience and an open heart. On Earth, things are neither so poetic nor so simple. She doesn't have seven days and seven nights; she has one long night and perhaps a few hours of morning before Alex and Nia will be arriving to witness the ceremony. And isolation? What is isolation when you can traverse the globe in a handful of minutes? What is the meaning of the word when you can hear every whisper from here to the horizon?

And prayer. What is prayer when your god is halfway across the known universe? Kara fidgets in the darkness. This is supposed to be a time for Rao to weigh in on the engagement. A time for Kara to ask questions like, is this marriage the right choice? Is it done for the right reasons? Only Kara doesn't know whether the light of Rao has ever traveled so far as to touch this place, whether anyone is really listening, whether any of this means a damn thing, whether she's foolish for wanting so badly to believe that it does.

"C'mon," she whispers. "Give me a sign."

There is a certain irony to all this. Kal is right: with the birthing matrix destroyed and only a handful of nobility surviving, the continuation of the line matters now more than it ever did. But the same series of events which has elevated the duty of marriage to such importance has taken Kara away from her people for so much of her life that she's long since shrugged off any lingering sense of the obligations placed on her by her blood.

Hasn't she? And yet the creeping weight of responsibility seems to claw at her in the quiet. Go home to Argo, bear the house of Ar an heir, take her rightful place in the Science Guild after all these years. But Ren-Ar was an infant when she saw him last, and Argo is hardly a home to her these days -- that much has been clear for some time. And what about her obligation to Earth? As a protector, yes, but it’s more than that. Alex is here. Nia and Brainy, James and Kelly, J'onn and Eliza. What about her duty to that family?

And to Lena.

She takes a deep breath, shivering though she doesn't feel the cold, wishing she could taste the bite of the early morning chill in her lungs, and she listens. Here are the footfalls of the ants, there the constant whisper and crackle of decay, here the hum and scrape of new life unfurling in the branches above, there an owl cutting across the sky on near silent wings. From Rao, there is only silence.

"Could really use some guidance," Kara whispers. If Rao is too far to hear her prayer, perhaps it will help to speak the words out loud. Perhaps Earth's yellow sun will hear her if Rao cannot. "Earth is my home now," she says. "These people are my family now. And Lena is..."

My best friend feels inadequate and hollow and dishonest when addressing a god, so Kara swallows those words. "I love her, so. I know it's not like that for her; I'm not asking if this is going to be a happy marriage. I mean she has Sam, and I'm- I don't think she's ever looked at me that way, is what I'm saying. So the marriage, it's a practical thing, you understand. As practical as marrying Ren-Ar. Only... Only it matters to me that I love her, and it matters to me that I can protect her. I get to be the one to- I said I would always protect her, and I can't do that if I go and marry someone else, and I swore I was going to marry for love, and that's what this is and-"

Kara swallows her rambling. Even a god needs a moment to get a word in edgewise, right? "It matters to me that I do this," she says at last. "And it matters to me that I do it right. But just because it matters to me doesn't mean that it... matters. So I'm just hoping you're going to point me in the right direction here. And I guess I'll just... I'm just going to be here listening for a while, okay? So if you'd like to come and talk to me, come and talk. But don't take too long, because I've only got a couple of hours to make the biggest decision of my life. No pressure or anything.”

She waits. She waits, and she prays, and she listens for Rao's answer as the yellow light of Earth's sun trickles over the horizon. The birds begin to waken above just as all around her life is stirring on the forest floor. She listens and she watches as the sky turns purple and orange and pink and, finally, that piercing endless blue she's learned to love so dearly over the years. She listens until all she can hear is the crunch of tires over gravel, WALK THE MOON with the bass turned down too low, Alex and Nia double checking the address, Sam telling Lena to hold still for heaven's sake, Clark pacing back and forth on the back porch murmuring ceremonial words to himself over and over. Kara's time is almost up.

"Speak now or forever hold your peace," she mutters.

Both Rao and Earth's yellow sun remain silent as ever.

Chapter Text

Lena handles the bouquet like it’s a talisman, like these sprigs of white mountain flowers might shield her from the inevitability of Kara’s decision. She stands on the porch feeling suddenly inadequate in the clothes Sam picked out for her: red button down, red converse, black slacks, black blazer, hair plaited. She should have gone for something dazzling, something that shows off her body, something that implies sex and grace and power. But Sam said, "Something comfortable, classy, and red. Let’s go for something understated. A Kryptonian wedding is not about the dress."

Lena has long been accustomed to wearing dresses like armor, and so she feels naked now under Kara's gaze, the bouquet her only protection. Sam's done her best to prepare her for this moment. She knows that if Kara means to go through with the wedding she will remain silent until the vows. She knows that if Kara means to break from the plan she can end as easily as greeting Lena when she returns from her contemplation in the woods. And perhaps that would be for the best, but there is a preemptive feeling of loss and grief in Lena's chest that has nothing to do with the fear of what might happen to her if she gets caught out for lying under oath.

So when Kara approaches the porch, brow furrowed, and opens her mouth to speak, Lena rushes forward and presses the flowers into her hands.

"I gathered these for you," she says, stumbling over the last porch step in her urgency. "Before dawn. I couldn't find red, but..."

Kara's expression softens. She spends a long moment admiring the flowers, and longer still studying Lena. Then she looks up to where Clark is standing by the kitchen door, watching, and she nods just once.

There will be a wedding today after all.

They stand in a circle in the woods behind the cabin, all seven of them: Kara and Lena to be married, Clark to marry them, Alex, Nia and Sam to witness, and, ostensibly, Rao to bless the union. Lena doesn't miss the way Kara's eyes keep drifting to that empty space in the circle, to the sky, to her own feet, to the flowers carried by Alex now so that Kara will have both of her hands free for the ceremony.

"Are you ready?" Sam whispers in Lena's ear.

No. "Yeah," she breathes. "Anything else I should know?"

Sam makes a noncommittal gesture. "I really hope not."

How reassuring. And then Clark is clearing his throat, and Sam is taking her place again with a guilty expression, and Alex is nodding slowly to Kara as if to say this is going to be okay, and Lena is cursing every Krpytonian who ever said there had to be silence between communion with Rao and the offering of the vows because all she wants on this whole Earth is to ask Kara if she's sure. She settles for flashing Kara a shy smile. Kara smiles back weakly, and Lena's stomach twists as the ceremony begins.

Clark speaks slowly and clearly, his voice even though his hands tremble. The ceremony is in Krpytonian, and so Lena understands only a word or two here and there but she tries to listen anyway, tries to feel the gravity of the moment. She wonders idly whether Sam or Kara have told Alex and Nia what to expect. Clark has gone over this with Lena in exhaustive detail, and so she recognizes the steps: the summoning of Rao, the official announcement of Clark's intention to bind Kara and Lena, the blessing of the witnesses. There is no opportunity given for an objection; only Rao or the couple themselves may put a stop to this now.

And then there is the exchanging of the bracelets. Lena silently wills her body to stop shaking as Kara approaches, shy and soft in the morning light, holding out a band of braided metal. This is the first of two opportunities to back out: Lena can reject Kara's gift here and now in front of everyone and call the whole thing off. But she is still as Kara meets her eyes, as she fits the bracelet to Lena's left wrist with a silent reverence that raises the hair on the back of Lena's neck. And Kara is still in turn when Lena offers her the bracelet Sam has helped her to acquire: a simple thing, slim and flat so that Kara can hide it under her watch at work if she should wish to.

Clark is moving on, but Lena is caught in that moment, her eyes lingering on a promise made physical, a band across Kara's skin that marks her as Lena's and Lena's only, and she almost misses the transition into the binding. Almost. And then Kara is smiling at her, laughter in her eyes though she remains silent still, the fingers of her right hand weaving through Lena's left. Clark fastens a single thread to Kara's wedding bracelet and then he waits.

There is a silence over the woods so profound that Lena wonders whether all the world is holding its breath. Kara's lips part, but for a long moment she doesn't speak, her eyes darting back and forth between Lena's as though she's still deciding. This is the second and last opportunity to back out: Kara could refuse to say the vows.

But the words that fall from her lips are familiar to Lena, ancient and well worn, melodic in Kara's first language. Clark wraps the thread around their wrists as Kara speaks. To you I make this promise, my love, before Rao that it may be the truth this day and all days to follow. From the moment of this binding your needs will be as my needs, your blood my blood, the desires of your heart my desires too. We are to be no longer two strangers on the road, but one traveler bound to a common destination and a common cause. This in Rao's light I freely swear to you.

Lena wants to look to Sam for reassurance but she feels caught in Kara's eyes. Clark's hands have paused in their work, three and a half turns around, and Lena knows she's supposed to speak now. Sam's words echo in the back of her mind, reminding her that she can always give the vows in English if she's afraid, and she is afraid afraid afraid, but not afraid enough to let Kara commit to this alone. She licks her lips and swallows. Kara's eyes dart down to her mouth for a split second, and Lena is suddenly aware of how close they are.

"To you I make this promise," she begins, Kryptonian words a little more awkward in her mouth than in Kara's.

Kara's eyes go wide as Lena speaks, a gasp slipping unbidden from her lips. Lena can see the tears gathering, can feel Kara trembling, and enough doubt creeps into her mind that she very nearly trips over her own tongue. But Lena didn't survive a Luthor upbringing for nothing; she's not about to let doubt interrupt a well prepared speech. Clark finishes as Lena does, seven turns of the thread around their hands, and fastens the end to Lena's wedding band.

"In Rao's light, so may it be," he intones.

Sam has gone over this particular moment with Lena a couple of times, double and triple checking that she’s emotionally prepared, because on Krpyton as on Earth the vows are sealed with a kiss. And Lena is expecting something chaste, something simple and symbolic. Nothing has prepared her for Kara to step suddenly into her space with a dark expression and tears in her eyes. Nothing has prepared her for Kara's unbound hand tangling in her hair, holding her still as Kara hovers devastatingly close, her nose just brushing Lena's, her breath unnaturally ragged for a being who could break the very Earth apart with her hands should she choose to.

The kiss is, if not chaste, respectful. It's slow and deliberate and Kara doesn't pull back so quickly that Lena doesn't have time to put her own unbound hand on Kara's waist, to kiss Kara back, to feel the barest brush of Kara's tongue against her own before they part.

"In Rao's light, so it is done," Clark says.

And so it is. Lena doesn’t want to move, lost still in Kara’s eyes. All that's left now is to survive the relentless teasing of their witnesses until sundown, whereupon the thread binding them symbolically together can be undone and they can return to their lives. Lena will go home to L-Corp and await the inevitable legal complications against which this marriage is intended to protect her. Kara will return to her dual life as CatCo’s star journalist and Earth's bright eyed champion. They'll have lunches and movie nights and never speak of this outside of the public appearances they'll have to make once in a while for credibility's sake. And that, Lena tells herself, swallowing down the lump that has suddenly appeared in her throat, will have to be enough.

But Kara leans forward, lips brushing against her ear, to whisper in Krpytonian words that are not unfamiliar to Lena after these past few days with Sam. "I'm sorry, my love," she says. And then, to Lena's horror, she pulls away. Not just out of Lena's personal space, but away from Lena altogether, snapping the thread that binds them as she goes. And it's just a symbol, doesn't impact the validity of the marriage, but Sam has warned Lena in advance that breaking the thread before sundown is considered a dark omen or, in some cases, a curse. Lena isn't superstitious, but something in her sickens as Kara stalks across the circle to stand face to face with Sam, a little too close, her eyes faintly aglow, her right hand clenched.

"It was you," Kara says. There's no question in her tone. "You taught her the vows."

Sam meets Kara's eyes, unflinching, her expression impassive.

"You had no right," Kara hisses.

"I had every right," Sam replies.

Kara reaches out and for one terrifying moment Lena thinks she might strike Sam, but all she does is rest a hand against Sam's chest as if she's going to shove her, as if there's going to be a fight right here in the middle of what should be, if not a beautiful moment, at least a moment of relief.

And then Kara turns and walks away back into the woods without another word, and Lena feels as though her legs are going to give out beneath her.

Chapter Text

Lena sits in the passenger seat of her own car with the window rolled down, listening to some old tune from the 60's tumbling so softly out of the speakers she almost can't quite catch it. The forest passes by at a pace that would feel unbearably slow if she were the one behind the wheel. Which, of course, is precisely why she isn't.

Alex has gone after Kara. That much was inevitable the moment Kara left the wedding ceremony, the moment Sam's arms closed around Lena to hold her up, the moment Clark cocked his head to one side and announced quietly that Kara was in the air. Not just storming off then; good and properly leaving. Alex was grim faced and apologetic and lingered just long enough to be sure that Lena was going to be okay.

"I'm fine," Lena said what felt like a hundred thousand times.

"You're not," Sam replied, faithfully, tirelessly.

And Lena wasn't. But it didn't feel like there was any reason to talk about it.

Nia stayed behind to make sure everything was in order at the cabin before checkout in the morning. Sam went with Alex, and that felt inevitable too. She claimed it was for Alex's comfort, but Lena recognized the telltale signs of upset in the set of Sam's shoulders, in the crease of her brow, and she knew that in truth it was the other way around. Sam and Kara have grown close these past few months; the sudden rift between the two of them is painful for Sam and Lena knows it.

But Sam wouldn't have gone if it'd meant leaving Lena alone, which is how Lena has come to be seated beside a pensive Clark, traveling at precisely the speed limit down a winding mountain road, headed for home.

Clark drums his fingers on the steering wheel, not quite in time with the music, his gaze lingering on Lena for long enough that she'd be snapping at him to keep his eyes on the road if he were anyone else. Lena turns her face into the wind and fidgets in silence.

"Kara..." Clark begins. He drums his fingers over the steering wheel again. It's been half an hour of empty, tense quiet between the two of them, and Lena can't fathom why they're deviating from that uncomfortable but predictable norm now. "She's a very religious person," Clark says.

The single, soft note of laughter that comes out of Lena surprises them both. "I know," she replies. How could she not know something like that? Something as inherent to Kara as blonde hair and blue eyes and a kindness deeper than the sea.

"On Krypton we believed that speech itself was a gift from Rao, that the language itself was sacred."

Lena knows this too, wonders idly whether Krpyton always had one language or if there's an unspoken history of conquest there, says nothing as they trundle across an old single lane bridge over a ravine that might once have been a river, might be a river again when the drought passes.

Clark is still speaking. "There's no hard and fast rule about sharing the Book of Rao with the uninitiated - all of Krypton was initiated, you understand, so there was no need for a rule - but there was always a certain guardedness about it around alien visitors, even back then. And now that Argo is the last bastion of our civilization, folks are feeling more guarded than before. The sacred texts were Rao's gift to us. There was a big debate among the council about whether even Sam and Ruby should be taught, as outsiders."

"Was there a big debate about you?" The words are out of Lena's mouth before she can really think about them. Clark glances at her sideways and she looks away.

"The House of El is an important noble family," he says at last. His voice sounds tired.

"I remember. That's why they want Kara to marry that boy from Argo."

"Wanted. She belongs to you now; nothing they can do about that."

Lena shivers in spite of herself. She runs her thumb thoughtfully over her wedding bracelet, rolls the broken thread between her fingers. Mixed in with the guilt and the sadness is a streak of satisfaction: no one on Argo can force Kara to leave Earth behind now, and no one can force her to marry a stranger. She tries not to wonder whether Kara considers being bound to her just as distasteful.

"She doesn't think I understood what I said to her at the ceremony. What I was doing," Lena says. It isn't a question but she still hopes Clark will answer her, will tell her that she's wrong, will provide some other explanation. She's disappointed when he remains silent. "She thinks I copied her traditions out of a book as a silly... as an aesthetic. She thinks I played dress-up with something sacred, and she blames Sam."

Clark glances at her again. "But you didn't. I would have put a stop to this days ago if I'd thought you were taking this any less seriously than Kara."

"But Kara doesn't know that."

"She doesn't," Clark agrees. And then, "I'm sorry. I know how Kara feels about the Book, and maybe I should have warned you off. But I thought... I thought she would see how you felt about her, and it would ease things."

Lena's stomach flips. She runs her thumb over the wedding band again, her eyes far away. The woods are fading now. Soon it will be the hills, and then the suburbs, and then the city. The everyday bustle of the corporate world will assert itself and Lena will have to be able to set this all aside, to sweep it into the corners of her life where it isn't in the way. As if Kara could ever be in the way. As if Lena could ever move a feeling as heavy as this out of center stage. She has a feeling she's going to do a lot of drinking tonight.

"I'm going to prove to her that I meant those vows," she says. It's her turn to glance at Clark then, gauging his reaction. To her surprise, there's the ghost of a smile across his lips.

"Of course," he replies. "I wouldn't expect anything less. If you- Kara describes you as a very thorough person; you've never given me reason to believe otherwise."

Lena inclines her head. You have to be thorough to survive Lilian and Lex; loose strings tend to become weapons in their hands. She fiddles with the all too real loose string on her wrist. "Do I do something with this?"

"What? No. That- You can just throw that away. Any thorough understanding of a topic must be grounded in context. To take something out of its context is to risk subverting its meaning." He drums his fingers across the steering wheel again, and Lena tries not to squirm, tries not to anticipate where this is going. "We're not an evangelical people; you can't convert someone to our religion; you were either born in the light of Rao or you weren't."

Lena raises her eyebrows. "No one is born in the light of Rao anymore. What does that mean for your religion?"

Clark opens his mouth as if to answer, frowns, closes it again. "That's a terrifying thought and a conversation for another time. What I'm trying to say is there's no rule against giving you the Book of Rao just as there's no precedent for it. So if you'd like a copy... Sam would have to help you read it, or I could, if you'd be comfortable. But-"

"It should be Kara," Lena interrupts.

"Sorry?"

"If I ever read the Book of Rao, it should be with Kara. To do otherwise feels... It feels like going behind her back." There's a long silence between them, and then Lena adds, "But I would love to have a copy. For when she's ready. Thank you."

"Of course. You're family; the Book belongs to you as much as it does to me, if you want it."

Lena turns the word 'family' over in her mind. She tugs the thread from her wedding band, balls it up between her fingers, tucks it into the handle pocket of the passenger's side door. Loose ends. "We've never talked about the history between your family and mine."

Clark doesn't glance at her this time. He keeps his eyes firmly on the road, his jaw set, and Lena wonders which of a thousand awful encounters with Lex he's recalling now. And then he takes a deep breath and the tension bleeds from his expression. "We don't have to talk about it," he says. "Kara made it clear a long time ago that you weren't like the others. And I know we still have a long road ahead of us getting to know one another, but Lena, I don't see Lex when I look at you."

"Thank you," Lena whispers.

Clark reaches over to squeeze her shoulder. "And there is no 'your family and mine' anymore. I mean it. Kara and I are the same blood. You and Kara are the same blood. By the transitive property..."

"A = C," Lena says, chuckling to cover the lump that has suddenly risen in her throat. "Thank you for the refresher on elementary algebra."

"Just doing my part," Clark says with a chuckle of his own. The forest has become shrubbery, the hills rising deep and gold around them, dotted here and there with wildflowers. "She loves you, you know," Clark says. As though it were a simple thing. As though he were commenting on the weather.

Lena reaches for the stereo to turn up a song she doesn't recognize. "This one is one of my favorites," she tells him, her voice breaking just a little, and she turns her face again into the wind. That ghost of a smile flickers across Clark's features, and he clicks the volume up a few ticks higher.

Chapter Text

"It's me," Alex murmurs. Her voice is all but a whisper and still it sounds too loud in the empty stairwell of Kara's apartment building. Alex feels like an intruder, like a stranger, like she's suddenly stepped into an unfamiliar place of worship, and the quiet isn't helping any. Her footsteps feel heavy on the stairs, her very breath clumsy and inconsiderate as she climbs.

Maybe this time won't be like the other times. Maybe this time...

She lingers at Kara's door with her hand raised to knock, and she listens. Knocking, of course, is a waste of time. If Kara is here, she's already aware of Alex's presence. And if she isn't here, well, knocking on the door certainly isn't going to summon her back. Alex knocks anyway, winces as the sound of it seems to thunder in the silence, strains her ears for anything, anything at all.

"She's not here," Sam says from the stairwell. She tosses Alex the car keys as she makes her way down the hall. "I parked us a couple of blocks down. You ready to go in?"

Alex shuffles a little and looks away. "Give her a minute. Maybe she's got headphones on."

"Alex. She's not here."

Alex knows this already, knew it before Sam dropped her off at the curb, knows it even as Sam gently takes Kara's wedding bouquet so that Alex has both hands free to fumble with the keys. She knows it even without Sam's x-ray vision or the super hearing, but it was nice to indulge in a little wishful thinking for a moment. A moment or two longer would have been nicer. She pushes the door open, and she pushes the thought aside.

Kara's apartment is almost exactly as it was the night before she left for the cabin in the woods. A little dustier perhaps, and a little tidier. Alex has had increasingly less to do on her weekly visits, and so the throw pillows on the couch are meticulously straight and the handles on the coffee cups are all pointed the same way. Anything to prolong her time in this place where she can imagine that Kara has just stepped out. She'll be ducking through the window any minute now, brushing something off the sleeves of her super suit, flashing Alex that cheeseball grin before she superspeeds into a pair of pajamas for movie night. Alex can almost see it all play out as she steps into the empty apartment. Almost.

Sam settles the wedding bouquet into a vase with steady hands and a studious expression, the perfect counterpoint to Alex's trembling fingers and anxious wandering eyes.

"In the bedroom, you think?" she says. "That room gets the least light..."

"Sure," Alex replies. She doesn't rehash the argument they've already had about the flowers, though the tension of it lingers thick in the air. Sam feels that having the bouquet preserved was a gift, something Kara will be grateful for in time. Alex fears it'll be the thing that sends Kara running again as soon as she returns, and she knows the fear isn't rational, but then, neither was Kara the last time they saw her.

"Don't forget about the succulent in the bathroom window," Sam calls as she makes her way down the hall.

"Right," Alex mutters. She nudges open the fridge door. Nothing has expired yet, but she and Sam have brought fresh groceries anyway. All of Kara's favorite foods to rotate in, and they'll take the old with them to be sure it isn't wasted. And if Kara comes home - when Kara comes home - it'll be one less thing for her to worry about. That's all Alex can do about any of this now.

"How was Lena this morning?" she asks when Sam wanders back into the living room.

Sam makes a noncommittal sound. "She's been better. Been worse. Can you hand me that tumbler?"

"I heard about the perjury trial."

Sam hesitates at the sink just long enough that Alex doesn't quite believe her when she says, "Clark will handle it."

There's a long silence between them then. Sam waters the plants and Alex considers echoing her reminder about the bathroom succulent but the words die in her throat as she wipes imaginary grime out of Kara's spotless fridge. Rotate in a new carton of milk, a carton of eggs. Sam brushes dust off the door frames.

"Maybe she's on Argo," Alex suggests for the hundredth time.

"She's not," Sam says.

"Well what if she-"

"She's not."

She isn't. Alex knows this, has been caught up on the details around Kara's hastily suggested engagement to Ren-Ar, understands the implications of her decision to marry Lena anyway. It may be a long while before Kara can show her face on Argo without causing a scandal big enough that Clark and Sam would have heard about it even from Earth. Alex tries not to wonder whether Argo will still cooperate when it comes to protecting Lena from the law.

"We should check the Fortress again," she says.

"Clark was there this morning. No sign of her. Kelex is still saying she hasn't been around since before the wedding."

"She could have asked him to-"

"Alex."

Alex bites back the words I'm sorry because Sam will only tell her not to be. "It's been six weeks," she says instead.

"I know."

There's another stretch of silence. Alex thinks she's beginning to hate silence: the silence growing between the two of them, the silence in Kara's apartment, the long silence over the coms line she keeps open for Kara all the goddamn time. Simon and Garfunkel were onto something when they said 'silence like a cancer grows.' She stands in the kitchen under the unbearable weight of it wishing there were something left for her to do here, and there's nothing. There's just Sam emptying the tumblr into the last of Kara's houseplants, brushing a spiderweb from the windowsill as she goes.

"Lena still thinks she'll show up to the gala next weekend," Sam says. She doesn't look up as she says it.

"Kara?" Alex doesn't know why she asks. It's not as if Sam could be talking about anyone else, but something about the way Sam refuses to look at her draws the question out of her anyway.

Sam shrugs. "It's Lena's first big public appearance since their marriage was, uhm, exposed."

"Fabricated."

Sam shoots her a look then, brief and meaningful. "Exposed. Lena thinks Kara will make an appearance just to keep the press from noting her absence."

"The press has already noted her absence from the entire planet."

"Well, that was before there was a perjury trial on the horizon."

Alex lets out a long breath. It's absurd to suggest that Kara might be more concerned about the press seeing her with Lena than she is about the world seeing her in National City, but the more Alex thinks about it, the more she follows Lena's line of thought. Sam has been here to wear the cape in Kara's absence, and she's done a passable job for someone brand new to the whole beacon-of-hope gig. But she can't protect Lena from the press; only Kara can do that.

"You'll text me," Alex says. "Right? If Kara shows, you'll tell me right away."

Sam swallows, her eyes on the floor. "Well actually, I was hoping you'd be there."

"You need the DEO to run security?"

Sam laughs at that, and she looks Alex in the eye at last. "I didn't say the DEO," she says, and her tone is warm and still full of laughter in a way that makes Alex's stomach flutter. She wants to look away, fearful somehow that Sam will see the nerves in her, will see desire and affection and it will be too much. But Sam's gaze holds her in place.

"I'm not exactly National City high society," Alex says, tugging on the lapel of her leather jacket for emphasis. "And I'd make a terrible undercover bodyguard."

"You do clean up nice though," Sam comments, and Alex flushes. She flushes even worse when Sam adds, "You'd clean up even better if you'd let me do your hair."

Alex does look away then. "Nobody touches the hair," she jokes.

Sam is suddenly close. Too close for someone who was just watering a plant clear on the other side of the apartment not half a second ago, and Alex wonders absently whether there was a super power involved in their sudden proximity. She looks up just in time for Sam to brush a daring hand across her cheek and through her hair and fuck. If there's an Earth where she never stops doing that, Alex would like to go there.

"Nobody, huh?" Sam says.

Alex swallows, but no clever quip leaves her lips.

"That's a shame," Sam continues, twisting a lock of Alex's hair between her fingers. "Because I was hoping you'd be my date for the evening. Have a dress picked out for you and everything."

Alex stumbles right over the word 'date' and lands on, "You want me to wear a dress?"

Sam half shrugs, and then she locks eyes with Alex so intensely that it almost feels like a challenge. "Do you want me to wear a suit?"

Alex's internal monologue is replaced by a distant warm buzzing as her gaze drops to Sam's mouth. "Yes?"

"Good. Then that's settled."

And just like that the moment passes. Sam scoops up the bag of groceries rotated out of Kara's fridge and pantry and starts towards the door. Alex stares after her for a long moment and then has to hurry to catch up before it's awkward. Sam did say 'date,' right? As in the two of them, together, possibly with romantic intentions, possibly-

"Alex," Sam says without looking back. "The keys."

Still on the kitchen counter. Fuck. In her defense, there are other things on her mind.