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don't go slow 'cause you're gonna be someone

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The longer Lena stands in her bedroom, her still-wet hair slowly dripping onto the hardwood, the more she wonders whether screaming will make her feel any better. She’s been waiting for this phone call for the last twenty-four hours and now she's staring at the missed call banner. Somehow she already knows that calling back isn’t going to work out in her favor, so instead she closes her eyes and clicks on the voicemail.

“Hi Lena, this is Kara Danvers! I got your messages, all seven of them. I’m so sorry that we didn’t have a chance to sit down this week in person, although it sounds like you’ve had your hands full at work. I have some stuff I need to take care of before we leave, so I’ll have to meet you at the airport. Since I’m cutting it a little close, I’ll send a courier to pick up my ticket from you this afternoon. And Lena? Take a deep breath. This is all going to be fine. Your ex-fiancée will wish she’d never left you and your family will think we’re in love. Trust me. Look, I’ve got to go, but I’ll see you at the airport. Can’t wait to meet you.”

There’s something confident and soothing about Kara Danvers’s voice, and Lena needs all the calm she can get right now. She takes a deep breath as the message ends and hits ‘play’ again, while looking absently around at the mess that is her bedroom and closet.

Nearly everything she owns is haphazardly strewn about. There are two open suitcases on her floor, into which she’s stuffed every single item of clothing she might need for a four day wedding extravaganza. Her brother can never do anything small. Lena’s sure that half of the pageantry is as much about Luthor Corp as it is about the actual nuptials, but if she’s going to spend nearly a week back in the viper pit, well, she’s going to look amazing doing it.

Switching to the weather app on her phone, Lena squints at the five day forecast. It’s a maddening mix of sun, clouds, and rain in no particular order with a high of 65 degrees. Of course Lex has to get married in fucking Scotland.

Lena sets the phone down on the bench at the foot of her bed, choosing to ignore the four other messages still un-played on her phone. One is from her research director and the remainder are from her step-mother. She already knows what the three from Lillian will say: something chastising about how late she’s arriving for the wedding weekend, a reminder that Lena must be on her best behavior with all guests regardless of how shitty they’ve treated her in the past, and suspicion disguised as enthusiasm regarding the fact that Lena is bringing a date despite none of the family knowing she was involved in a romantic relationship. No point in listening.

She feels a tension headache coming on and consciously unclenches her jaw, bringing her hands up to massage her temples. Lena closes her eyes. This wedding hasn’t even begun and she already wants it to be over. Maybe she can come down with a stomach bug so bad that she can’t fly. Hell, maybe with a bit of luck she can get hit by a car on her way to the airport and spend the weekend in a coma instead. But, barring catastrophe, Lena knows she has no viable outs.

She sighs and opens her eyes, decides that’s enough wallowing and opts to deal with the problem in front of her. She grabs another dress from where she’d flung it earlier and tries to remember where she’s put the matching earrings.

The intercom in her foyer buzzes once.

“Ms. Luthor?” The garbled voice of her doorman comes through the speaker. Lena drops the dress and trips over a discarded pair of heels in her haste to get to the front door. She yelps and hops awkwardly through the hallway, scrambling for the intercom button.

“Hi Frank, my car isn’t here yet, is it? I won’t be ready for at least another twenty minutes so I’ll need them to wait, I’m so sorry.” Lena winces and looks back towards the bedroom. Twenty minutes is pushing it, more like forty.

“No Ms. Luthor, it’s a courier. Shall I send them up or would you like to come down?”

“Oh, ah, up is fine, thank you, Frank.” Lena looks down at her right pinky toe, trying to see whether it’s bruising already or if her having broken it on the heels is just wishful thinking. If she’s got a broken foot, no one can make her play golf this weekend, right?

“Of course, Ms. Luthor.” Lena releases the intercom and grimaces down at her foot. Her toe looks fine. Definitely wishful thinking. She can hear her phone buzzing in her bedroom, Lillian again, no doubt.

Lena barely has time to retrieve the envelope containing Kara’s plane ticket before there’s a knock at her door. She opens it to find a disheveled bike messenger, helmet still on, crossbody bag swung open and around on his chest.

“Lena Luthor?” Oh god, she thinks. This is actually happening. Lena realizes somewhat distantly that she’s kept the entire endeavor at arms length until now. Even the voicemail from Kara hadn’t perforated her sense that the whole thing might be made up in her head. Faced with this rumpled, sweaty cyclist, however, the full weight and measure of what Lena is doing hits her square in the chest. I’m hiring an escort to pretend to be my girlfriend. At Lex’s wedding. In front of every single person I’ve ever known.

The messenger furrows his brow. He clears his throat and shifts his weight. It becomes clear to both of them that Lena isn’t going to respond.

“Do you have the envelope?” He finally asks, breaking the silence. “I really need to get going, traffic is a mess out there right now.”

The envelope. Right. Lena brings it up, getting ready to hand it off to him. She stares at the wrinkled, white front of it where she’s practically crushed it with her fingers. It says ‘Kara Danvers’ in Lena’s own neat, block print. He grabs for it and looks almost off balance when Lena tightens her grip instead of releasing it.

“Um, look, lady? I’m going to need you to let go of it,” he says. Lena tears her eyes away from the writing and looks up at the courier.

“It’s a plane ticket. For a date.” Her voice breaks on the word ‘date’ and she clears her throat. “My date. For my brother’s wedding. In Scotland.” She stops. The guy nods slowly.

“That’s great, but you’re going to have to let go of it,” he responds. Lena closes her eyes.

“You’re going to have to help me,” she says. She feels his other hand close gently around her wrist as he pulls the envelope from her grasp. “Thank you,” Lena breathes out.

“No problem,” he answers. She can hear him adjusting his bag as he continues, “uh, my sister always says deep breathing helps? Good luck with your date.”

Lena opens her eyes and watches as the guy jogs back down the hallway to the elevator. This is it. This is her last chance to call this ridiculous thing off. This is her last opportunity to stop what is absolutely, positively the stupidest and most desperate thing she’s ever done in her entire life.

“Wait!”

But the elevator doors have already closed

Lena hears a ‘thunk’ from her bedroom as her phone vibrates its way off the bench. She can only imagine how many voicemails Lillian will have left before she gets to the airport and can finally turn it off.

_______________

By the time she’s in the back of the car on the way to the airport, Lena has run out of excuses to avoid checking her voicemail.

She pulls her phone out of her purse and sees five new missed calls. She’s just unlocking it and thinking that Lillian can’t possibly be so unoccupied as to bombard her with this many messages when another call starts to come through. Brainy’s LinkedIn picture pops up on her screen and Lena swipes to answer.

“Oh thank goodness you finally picked up. I have been calling you all afternoon, we have a problem with the capacitor on project two that no one has been able to diagnose and the lab manager for project seven is having a meltdown and I told her to just use boxes for her emotions and to get back to work but she says boxes don’t sound healthy and—"

“And I’m not working again until next week. Brainy, you’re my R&D Director. You’re going to have to handle this on your own. I haven’t seen my family in two years, my flight leaves in an hour, and I need at least two drinks before I get onboard.” Lena’s headache is coming back and she debates pretending to lose signal.

“But Dr. Luthor! I am already dealing with three final phase trials and the manager in lab four called out sick! Please!” Even garbled through the phone, he’s starting to sound mildly panicked.

Lena sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. Brainy is absolutely capable of solving these problems himself, but this is the first time since L Tech launched nearly two years ago that she’s left it in his hands for more than twenty-four hours.

He also never calls her Dr. Luthor anymore unless he’s really stressed. She sighs again.

“Fine. The capacitor—I’m assuming that physical inspection yielded no observable damage to the motor or wiring?”

“Correct. Visual inspection was negative for damage and the shaft is intact.” She can hear the relief in his voice.

“And the thermal switch has been reset?”

“I reset it myself.”

“Was the voltage within acceptable limits?”

“Nearing 10%, but not over. And it was locked out and tagged per policy before I directed the tech to disconnect the incoming power leads,” he tells her, confidence returning as he goes through the protocol aloud. Brainy is in his element now. It’s one of the reasons she likes him so much. Lena feels a small smile break onto her face as he continues. “The ohmmeter read infinity, indicating that it is not a short. I am worried we might have to replace the motor but I did not want to do that in the absence of your explicit approval.”

“Well, you have my approval, Brainy. I put you in charge for a reason. Make sure someone checks the centrifugal switch, too. It might not be the motor.” She suddenly remembers something else. “Early on weren’t we having problems with broken springs?”

“Yes! We were! I will direct the tech to examine the switch, assuming repairs to the motor do not address the problem, prior to replacing it.” He pauses and she can hear him inhale. “And the boxes?” He asks tentatively.

Lena rolls her eyes. “Jess needs a pep talk, Brainy, not boxes. She’s worried about FDA approval for the trials. Go over the protocols with her and if there isn’t anything to refine, tell her to take tomorrow and Friday off. She’s earned it.”

“Absolutely, Lena. And good luck this weekend. I am happy that Nia was able to connect you wi—”

“Goodbye, Brainy.” Lena hangs up on him before he can launch into whatever he thinks of her decision to hire an escort to be her date for this godforsaken weekend. It’s just as well, anyway, as the car has come to a stop along the departures drive at National City International and she can hear the driver getting her bags out of the trunk. She checks one last time that her passport is in her purse and then her door is being opened.

Lena steps out of the car and into the mid-June heat, wishing (not for the first time) that she’d chosen to base L Tech somewhere that wasn’t quite so sunny. Maybe she was a little hasty in cursing Lex for getting married in the UK. The driver has already handed the luggage to a skycap who looks at the car as if he had been expecting more than one person to get out of it, which, considering the three bags she’s checking, Lena doesn’t find unreasonable.

And then she’s breezing through check-in and wondering how much is a reasonable amount to drink before boarding the plane. She knows, logically, that flying hungover is a terrible idea and, more importantly, that there isn’t enough alcohol in the world to dampen her fear of flying.

The skycap has been replaced by some sort of concierge and she’s directed to the suite-class lounge, which she supposes is meant to be stunning. There are plush armchairs and couches, all oriented toward beautiful floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking one of the runways.

All Lena can think is, why do they have to remind me that I’m about to get on a plane?

Her phone buzzes, again, and Lena shuts it off without even looking at it. She has an hour till she can get onboard and she’ll be damned if any part of that is going to be spent getting guilt-tripped by Lillian.

_______________



Settling onboard in the open suite, Lena thinks to herself that she can be forgiven if the most Luthor thing that she’s done in the last two years is probably booking these plane tickets. Rather than the usual first class set-up with open seats spaced out through the cabin, she’s standing in something akin to a small office—there’s a single captain-style chair that is fully adjustable and a moderately sized screen on the wall next to the door she’d just stepped through. She knows from reading about it that the aft wall contains a compartment with a single-size murphy bed that will be folded down and made up for her following the dinner service. Per her instruction, the steward is lowering the partition separating her from the opposite suite where Kara will ultimately be seated in a mirror image of her side, assuming, of course, that her date makes it to the airplane before they depart.

The tickets were absurdly, unconscionably expensive, but if she’s going to fly eleven hours to this stupid fucking wedding then, goddammit, she’ll do so in a seat that allows her to pretend she isn’t even on a plane.

It isn’t that Lena dislikes flying, it’s more that she’s convinced she’s going to die while doing it. Sure, she’s an engineer by training—if asked, Lena can talk about the aerodynamics of lift and the physics of flight. She can go into depth about the mathematics of wing and fuselage design that make it possible for this behemoth to fly. She knows that, statistically speaking, flight is one of the safest methods of commercial transport.

And yet.

And yet, white-knuckled, drinking her third Corryvreckan of the afternoon, Lena knows she’d be just as likely to recite from memory a recent Scientific American article entitled “No One Can Explain Why Planes Stay in the Air.”

Facing her first flight in two years would be bad enough without the surrounding circumstances, but there’s that to factor in, too. She hasn’t seen anyone from her old life since Andrea called off their engagement, except for Jack Spheer and Sam Arias—both of whom came to visit National City exactly once after she’d established L Tech’s labs. She and Jack talk regularly via various messaging and video apps, but she knows it isn’t the same.

It’s not exactly accurate to say that Lena had fled Metropolis for National City following the break up. But it’s not exactly inaccurate to say that, either. Andrea’s decision had just been the final nail in the coffin that was her life there, coming, as it did, on top of Lillian’s continued indifference to her and Lex’s cold response to her work being stolen by Lord Industries. A year’s worth of work—work that could have changed the direction of their family company—down the drain, and nothing from her brother beyond insincere condolences and attempts to cajole her back into development work that had more overt military applications. It had just confirmed the overall feeling that she was drowning, alone, and that no one was going to be there when she went under.

Lena blinks herself out of it and flags down the attendant. Enough of her anxiety must show on her face because he stops quickly and looks mildly concerned.

“Ma’am? Is there something else I can get you?”

“No, no nothing. I just.” She breathes deeply and pushes on—maybe venting some of this to a stranger she’ll never have to see again will help. After all, isn’t her therapist always telling her to talk about it? “I need to warn you. I’m terrified of flying. I know it’s safe, I know we’ll be fine, I know that this plane in particular has been recently serviced by the chief of maintenance and is also the third newest in your fleet.” She pauses to see how he’s taking it. His face is warm but impassive although Lena suspects he’s drawing on all of his professional acumen to remain calm in the face of what is clearly a nearly unhinged customer. “But I actually have a bigger problem.” Here his eyes widen in the smallest of surprises. Lena hears movement across the aisle outside as boarding continues.

“The reason I can’t breathe at this particular moment is that any second my date is going to board this plane and enter the other side of this suite and sit down in that seat across from me. And I need her to look absolutely perfect.” She knows she’s looking at him with a beseeching expression, knows also that there is nothing he can do about either of those things, but she’s still startled when he is momentarily distracted by movement to her right.

“Hello, 2A.” He murmurs in a low voice, then looks back at Lena, smile shifting to something nearly conspiratorial as he pats her arm. “I think you’re going to be just fine.” Lena turns in her seat, startled by the sound of someone dropping a bag onto the floor only a few feet away from her.

The attendant disappears, or more accurately, Lena simply ceases to notice his existence because the woman standing on the other side of the suite divider is gorgeous. She’s got golden blonde hair up in a bun, dark-rimmed glasses, and she’s wearing a slim black sweatshirt with the sleeves pushed up, on top of soft, grey joggers and white sneakers. As she stands up from stowing her bag, she flashes a smile at Lena and steps forward, reaching across the divider with her right hand.

“You must be Lena.”

And now Lena can’t breathe for a whole new reason. Well, at least she doesn’t have to worry about Kara looking perfect. She nods her head as she gets up to take Kara’s hand while her stomach makes a disconcerting swoop.

“I promise I’ve packed appropriate clothing, but we’re about to be stuck on a plane for a little more than ten hours and I wanted to be comfortable. I didn’t realize they provided pjs.” Kara’s smiling even wider as she disengages and reaches up to adjust her glasses, eyes crinkling. “I’m sorry we couldn’t leave sooner, I know you wanted to have more time to settle in before the events start.” The attendant pops in behind her, holding a printed menu.

“Drink?”

“Absolutely!” Kara looks delighted and the man’s smile is no longer professional, but full of genuine warmth. She looks at Lena, whose own drink is still in her left hand. “Scotch, right? I’ll have whatever she’s having.”

“Very good.” He disappears again.

“I’m glad we’ll at least have some time on the flight to get to know each other. Can’t say I’m going to want to get off the plane when we arrive, though.” She looks around. “I think this room is bigger than my first apartment.” Kara takes her seat. The attendant returns and hands Kara a glass, then informs both of them that they’ll be pushing back shortly and requests that they buckle in. Kara takes a sip. “Wow. This will certainly make the flight quicker.”

The shock of how good Kara looks is wearing off and the reality that the plane is going to take off momentarily is sinking in in its place. Seeming to finally key into the fact that Lena hasn’t actually said a word to her yet and also hasn’t sat back down, Kara makes eye contact with her and furrows her brow. “Are you alright?”

There’s absolutely no stopping her anxiety from taking over Lena’s mouth.

She closes her eyes tightly as she sinks into her seat and speaks rapidly. “I’m terrified of flying. I’m sorry you don’t even know me yet and this is not the first impression I’d hoped to make but given that you’re here now I no longer have to worry about whether or not you’re going to show up and I’m back to thinking about about whether or not we’ll die in a fiery crash on the way. I booked this whole thing so I could pretend we aren’t on an airplane but it isn’t working.”

She hears the click of a seatbelt coming undone and then some shuffling, and opens her eyes to find that Kara has set down her scotch and is climbing over the low divider between their adjoined areas. On some level she registers movement outside the window, they’re clearly taxiing, but then all of her attention is back on Kara who is kneeling beside her. Kara pries the glass from Lena’s grip and replaces it with her hand.

“Sorry, I just, you looked like you were going to pass out.” Kara says, as if this explains why she’s out of her seat while the plane is moving. Lena has a moment to wonder why no one has come to tell Kara to sit down.

“What helps?” Kara asks.

Lena wants to snap that nothing helps, but Kara is looking up at her so earnestly that all she can do is squeeze her hand and try to explain.

“Not flying helps. If it weren’t for this stupid fucking wedding I don’t think I’d ever fly again. I’ve always had the fear that I’m going to die flying somewhere,” Lena grits out. “It’s ridiculous, I know.”

Kara starts sweeping her thumb across the back of Lena’s hand and Lena feels herself begin to unclench against all expectations.

“This. Um. This is helping,” Lena whispers. As if being quiet will help with her embarrassment. “I’ll feel better once we level off, it’s the takeoff and the landing that I have the most trouble with.”

“Ok, I can do this unless someone comes by and tells me to get back in my seat. And it isn’t ridiculous.” Kara gives her a sympathetic half-smile. “I suppose if I had a secret hunch about how I was going to die, I’d avoid that situation, too, so we have that in common. Would talking help? Can I distract you?”

“I don’t know, you’re welcome to try.”

“Sure,” Kara says. Her voice has taken on the same confident, soothing quality from the voicemail. “Sure, let’s try that. Well, Lena Luthor, what can you tell me about the future of technology in humanitarian aid crises?”

“What?” Lena jerks back a little, confused as to why Kara is asking about her professional sphere of work.

“I looked you up before agreeing to this and found the TED Talk you gave last spring. You’ve clearly got a lot to say about it, I’m all ears.” Kara’s smiling up softly at her, voice even, eyes genuine, and Lena finds herself starting to tell Kara about L Tech and their latest initiatives.

Kara asks her to keep going even when the attendant comes back and regretfully informs her that they cannot take off unless Kara is belted in. She breaks in occasionally with thoughtful questions and so Lena, bewildered by this turn of events, walks Kara through nearly all of her active portfolio of projects. By the time she finishes going through an abbreviated version of how distributed ledger technology might make access to medical records or cutting edge IP easier during a disaster, the attendant is back, opening the door to Kara’s side of the suite and stating that they are now free to move about the cabin.

For the first time in her entire life, Lena didn’t even realize she was taking off.

The next hour is, well, if not relaxing, then certainly not the nightmare that Lena had been prepared for. Kara keeps her distracted with the most ridiculous questions once they’ve exhausted L Tech’s current initiatives. She starts off asking Lena who she’d go to dinner with if she could have dinner with anyone, alive or dead.

When Lena says Hedy Lamar and Kara says Nellie Bly, they end up talking about what it would be like to be famous and what they’d each like to be famous for (“Arguably,” Kara points out, “you’re already famous. That TED talk had a lot of hits.”). When Lena apologizes for the barrage of messages she’d left Kara, Kara confesses that she’d probably have done the same thing in Lena’s shoes.

“Although my messages wouldn’t have been so succinct. I tend to ramble when I’m nervous.” She grins at Lena (does she ever stop smiling? Lena isn’t sure) and Lena can’t imagine Kara Danvers nervous.

“I do, too, actually. Clearly,” Lena huffs with a self-deprecating laugh as she thinks back to takeoff. She wonders what it is about Kara that’s compelling her to confess like this. Maybe Kara just has one of those faces. “But I rehearse what I’m going to say before I make phone calls.”

Kara looks intrigued, so Lena continues. “I can’t risk coming across as young or unpolished. Being a woman in tech, or business for that matter, doesn’t leave any room for that. Getting L Tech off the ground meant dealing with investors and regulators and I suppose the habit stuck. I can’t remember the last call I didn’t do that for.”

“Huh. I’ve never thought about doing that. Maybe I’ll have to steal your idea,” Kara says, head quirked.

The attendant interrupts them to ask about dinner orders and it’s in the middle of the third course that Lena flushes as she realizes that she feels very much like she’s on a date with Kara.

Their discussion topics don’t help the impression. It isn’t as if they’re delving anywhere deep (Kara’s last question was about what ability she’d like to wake up with one day, although it had come on the heels of what would constitute her perfect day) but there’s something about the give and take of the conversation that feels much more authentic than Lena had prepared herself for.

The attendants have just cleared away dessert and are turning the suites down for the overnight when Lena turns to Kara. “Thank you. For earlier, I mean. I’m sorry. I feel like between that and the half dozen voicemails I left you yesterday, you must be wondering what you’ve gotten yourself into.”

Kara’s gaze is warm when Lena makes eye contact. “Honestly, Lena, you need to stop apologizing. I get the sense that this weekend is going to be complicated for you in more ways than one. I’m here to help with whatever you need.” Kara smiles at the attendant who’s finishing her lay-flat bed, before she looks back to Lena. “I promise, everything is going to be fine.”

She’s not used to being on anything but an even playing field and Lena is suddenly very aware of how uneven this feels, no matter how open Kara seems to have been with her. Maybe it’s the unsettling feeling that Kara actually does seem to understand how difficult this weekend is likely to be for her, or the realization that she’s essentially just spent the last hour and half talking about herself to a woman who she has hired to be her date, but Lena is struck by the desire to unbalance Kara, if only for a moment.

As she settles on the converted bed, the attendants having departed and left them alone once more, Lena starts to pull up the partition that will separate them while they sleep. She pauses just before she clicks it into place, letting it obscure her face. “Kara? You know those families where everyone is out of their mind, but they’re your family so you love them anyway?”

“Sure.”

“Mine’s not like that.”

Lena locks the partition and turns out her light. With any luck, by the time she wakes up, they’ll be on the ground.

_______________

Kara sighs as the partition clicks into place. Over the last two hours, she’d really begun to feel like Lena was opening up to her. More than once she’d caught herself thinking that this weekend might be truly fun, even if she was going to be working the whole time. She can’t remember the last time she enjoyed getting to know someone so much (client or otherwise, now that she thinks about it). And just when she’s feeling like the rapport they’ve built is going to make the whole thing easy, Lena’d suddenly shut down.

She glances at her watch and runs a hand through her hair, taking it out of the messy bun she’d wrapped it into before heading to the airport hours earlier. They’ve got another eightish hours until landing and Kara sighs to herself.

Alex, who’s always been skeptical of Kara’s choice of side job anyway, had been a little put out that morning when Kara had told her she’d be gone through the weekend and that they’d have to reschedule sister night.

“I thought you were quitting that. You’re finally about to start full time at CatCo as a reporter!” Alex had whined as she started opening a large cardboard box with the words utensils and napkins scrawled along the top.

“I am, Alex. This is actually going to be the last one. It’s ten grand for four days—some destination wedding? That’s four months rent plus my entire potsticker budget for the year.” Kara followed her into the kitchen.

“Fine, fine. But I’m still pissed at you for cancelling. We haven’t hung out in ages and I just miss you. Grab that box, will you? It goes in the study, not the kitchen.” Alex pointed at the box Kara had just put down next to the dishwasher. “So, big fancy wedding, huh? Who’s the client?”

“Alex! You know I can’t tell you that! But, actually, I wanted to ask Kelly for her thoughts.”

“My thoughts on what?” Kelly walked in the front door of her and Alex’s new apartment holding a box of donuts and a tray of coffees.

“Kara’s escorting some woman to a wedding all weekend.”

“Oh, anywhere nice?” Kelly put the donuts and to-go cups down next to the sink and walked over to Alex before leaning with her back against the countertop.

“I’m not supposed to say. But this isn’t like any of the events I’ve done where I’m just some anonymous date for an evening. It’s a little more, um.” Kara paused. “Look, promise not to laugh?” Alex and Kelly both nodded. “The client has asked me to pretend to be her long term girlfriend in order to—hey! I said no laughing!”

Alex wiped at the coffee she’d just spit onto the counter. “Oh my god Kara you can’t be serious. That’s the plot of a 2000s romcom.”

Kelly seemed to be biting back a smile. “What do you want my help with, Kara?”

“Ugh, thank you for taking me seriously even if she,” Kara glared at her sister, “won’t.”

Alex chucked a piece of the donut she was eating at Kara. “I take you exactly as seriously as you should be taken,” Alex laughed out. Kelly smiled and rolled her eyes at the two and gestured for Kara to continue.

“I remember reading an article in college about questions that can quickly build intimacy between two people who’ve never met before,” Kara said, wiping some chocolate icing off of her cheek. “It was some psych study, but I can’t remember the author and googling hasn’t been super helpful. But! You’re a clinical psychologist!”

Kelly looked thoughtful for a moment. “I am. What’s your goal with these questions?”

“Well, the people she wants to convince know her well. It’s her brother’s wedding and her ex-fiancée is going to be there as a guest. So it’s not as simple as just hoping we have physical chemistry. I guess I just want to see if the questions might be like, I don’t know, a guide or something to building a believable base.” Kara looked at her hopefully and grabbed one of the donuts.

Alex looked up. “That actually makes sense. Nice idea, Kara.”

“It does,” Kelly agreed. “And I know the questions you’re talking about. It’s from a 1997 study called The Experimental Generation of Interpersonal Closeness. Kara, I wouldn’t necessarily suggest following the guide directly, but it makes sense in the context of what you’re trying to do. I can e-mail you a copy, if you’d like?” Kelly had already pulled out her phone.

“You’re a lifesaver, Kelly! If Alex doesn’t marry you, I’m next in line, ok?” And with that, Kara had scooped up the box and left her sister sputtering in the kitchen.

Now, listening to the quiet mechanical hum of the plane, Kara pulls out her phone and runs over the list of questions Kelly had sent her that afternoon for the umpteenth time. She realizes that she’s inadvertently already gotten through the first third of the questions with Lena already. Guess I’ve internalized the list, she thinks to herself.

She’d intended on telling Lena about the study and seeing if this was something that she would be interested in doing, but in the face of Lena’s fear and discomfort, Kara had just wanted to distract her. Well, they sure seem to work.

It helps that she naturally likes Lena. Thank god for that TED Talk, otherwise Kara is near certain she’d have tripped over her own feet when she saw her for the first time. Even terrified and a little tipsy, Lena Luthor is stunning. She’d somehow gotten prettier as she’d allowed Kara to coax her into conversation. By the time the attendants had been preparing their small cabins for bed, Kara was feeling genuine warmth toward her.

And then Lena had shuttered.

Kara huffs as she sets her alarm for six hours and tucks into bed. Lena is a bundle of contradictions—she’s clearly brilliant and personable, but also anxious and insecure. Kara is struck by how lonely Lena had sounded when Kara had asked about her life in National City.

She clicks the button next to her pillow to turn off the light. She’ll ask Lena about the rest of the questions in the morning. They’ve got four days and Kara feels certain, no matter what Lena had said as she’d closed the partition, that they’re off to a solid start.