Lena Luthor is going to die.
She’s going to die very soon and she’s going to do it right here on the road to god-knows-where, Colorado, her hands still clutching the wheel of this foul-smelling rental car, buried under five feet of snow for the remainder of the season until some fortunate family of possums digs her up in spring, probably. (Do they have possums in the mountains?)
But before she dies, she’s going to kill Sam Arias.
It’s the heartwarming revenge fantasies that have kept her going — well, that and the snow plow she’s been trailing for the last fifty miles of zero visibility. She’s fairly certain that she’s imprinted on it at this point, like one of those orphaned baby ducks. It’s practically dark by the time she (finally, finally) spots the distant lights at the end of the road where Sam promised her they’d be, and Lena is dizzy with relief.
She's briefly taken aback by the silence that engulfs her after she slams the car door shut. Snow is still falling, and she imagines she can hear it now that the engine is off. It’s a faint clinking, like a room full of champagne flutes meeting in a toast somewhere far away.
It’s an arresting view, she allows. Not that she’s going to tell Sam that, or forgive her for making her drive all the way up here. Or for taking out the exact files Sam knows she needs for her pitch to the Swiss investors next week, the ones that state clearly they are NOT TO BE DIGITIZED.
“Absolutely not,” Sam had told her that morning over a phone connection that was precarious at best, “I’m not cutting my family vacation short. You want those files, you can come get them yourself.”
Sam’s log cabin is larger than Lena had expected and much more modern, with large windows on both the first and the second floor. The light emanating from them casts a pleasant orange glow over the snow out front. Beyond it is a breathtaking backdrop of snow-covered mountains and the prettiest indigo sky Lena has ever seen. The first stars are already blinking into view.
“Lena, you idiot!” Standing in the doorway, a black silhouette framed by the warm light coming from the cabin, is Sam. “Get in here, you deranged person.” Sam meets her halfway down the driveway and pulls her into a tight hug that Lena indulges in for a brief moment.
“Lovely to see you, too, as always.” Lena aims for sarcasm but lands, to her chagrin, solidly at sincerity.
When Lena pulls back, Sam grabs both of her arms and holds her in place, looks her over with concern. “When we heard about the flight cancellations, we figured you’d do the responsible thing and get a hotel in Denver. Did you actually drive the rest of the way up?”
“You didn’t leave me much of a choice,” Lena points out, earning a glare from Sam. Behind her, another, shorter form has appeared with eyes just as dark as Sam’s but a smile three times as wide.
“You made it!” Before Lena can register what’s happening, she’s enveloped in another hug. She notes with surprise that she no longer needs to lean down into it; Sam’s daughter Ruby is almost fourteen and apparently well on her way to exceeding Lena in height. Not that it takes much, especially once Lena’s out of her heels. Which is something she’d really rather like to be right now.
“Are you hungry?” Ruby asks her. “Kara and I made cookies. Would you like some cookies? They have Christmas sweaters on them.”
Lena doesn’t know who Kara is — one of Ruby’s friends? But she has to admit the offer is tempting; the snow hasn’t let up and it’s definitely dark now. Lena is tired and hungry and even though she hadn’t planned on lingering any longer than necessary, she can’t imagine getting behind the wheel again any time soon.
“I could actually really use a drink,” she concedes.
“Well then.” Sam smiles at her, then steps aside. “Follow me in merry measure.”
The warmth that greets Lena when she steps inside the cabin is delicious. Lena was expecting the interior of the cabin to match the cool, clean lines she saw outside, and she’s surprised to find a cozy space that immediately feels like home. To her left, a vaulted ceiling arches over a long, heavy industrial table with a natural wood top, surrounded by mismatched chairs. To her right, a prominent fireplace forms the inviting centerpiece to a generous living area, with two comfortable looking couches facing each other and a couple of oversized armchairs in between. The windows on both sides of the room offer a spectacular view of the mountains on one side, the lights of the town below on the other.
“What’s up, Scrooge?” Sam’s girlfriend Alex is already at Lena’s elbow, stealthy and sharp-eyed, taking Lena’s jacket and handing her a glass of whiskey in return.
“Surprised you left me some, Danvers.” Lena clinks her glass against Alex’s near-empty one and grins. She remembers a different Alex, from when Alex and Sam had first started dating, an Alex with flint in her eyes and steel in the set of her shoulders. Alex and Lena had circled each other like old west gunslingers for months before an exasperated Sam had finally sat them down and demanded they talk it out.
Things are better now. Mostly.
Lena takes a quick sip and lets out a slow breath, briefly closing her eyes against the soft, familiar feeling of home at last. Best not to get caught up in that, though; she’s here on business. Time is precious and she is definitely intruding, no matter how welcome she’s being made to feel, no matter how good the spicy-sweet fragrance drifting from the kitchen is, or how attractive the stranger that’s standing in it.
This is Ruby’s friend?
The stranger is tall, and solid, perhaps a couple of years older than Lena herself, with storybook princess hair bouncing in blonde waves off of a set of unfairly broad shoulders. She’s regarding Lena with candid curiosity, throwing her a brilliant smile when their eyes meet. It’s so kind and so bewilderingly genuine that Lena instantly panics. Does she know this woman? Why doesn’t she remember her?
“Lena, this is Kara, I don’t believe you’ve met,” Sam says, and Lena is thankful for the save for about three seconds before she notices the gleeful way Sam’s eyes dance between the two of them. There’s a weight to Sam’s words that Lena doesn’t understand. Is the name supposed to ring a bell?
When Kara strides over, her posture is loose but graceful in a way Lena has always envied in others and never quite managed to emulate herself. Oh, Lena would have remembered her.
“Hi, Lena.” Before Lena has a chance to say hello, she is engulfed in her third hug of the day, which, well. It might be more than her preferred average for her entire year, but. For a moment Lena is aware only of a sure hand at her back, a remarkably hard body under a thick layer of soft cotton pressed against her own, and the scent of sugar and cinnamon surrounding her.
So, um. Her reserve falters. Just a tiny bit, but enough to be alarming.
The hug is quick, so Lena is spared the indignity of having to admit she isn’t really in a hurry to end it, but then she’s left standing very close to this stranger smiling at her, radiating warmth and joy. Sam is smiling too, regarding them both with an eagerness bordering on predatory. Lena would wonder at it if she wasn’t so thoroughly distracted. Kara’s eyes are Very Blue, and she’s holding up two comically oversized cookies.
(What do you know? They do look a little like Christmas sweaters.)
“Do you like cinnamon, or chocolate?” Kara asks, eyebrows waggling for no reason Lena can think of, and she’s thinking hard.
But Alex is inexplicably right there again, snatching the cookies Kara is offering up out of her hands. “Nuh-uh,” she says, “you’ve ruined your appetite enough. No more treats until after dessert.” She disappears, taking the cookies with her.
Kara gives Lena a lopsided smile. “Sorry,” she says. “She does that.”
It’s all familiar, like a sitcom playing out live in front of her, so that even though Lena hasn’t exactly had a proper example of the way siblings are supposed to interact — she carefully steps away from that thought process — she’s been provided with enough cultural references to figure it out anyway. “You’re the younger Danvers.”
“Yup.” Kara beams at her, and then blurts, “and you’re the younger Luthor.”
It sobers Lena instantly. Even those pretty lips can’t diminish the discordant note that Lena’s last name strikes. “Oh good,” Lena says, finally wobbling back to her straight-backed, sarcastic self again, “you’ve heard of me. I was worried we’d have to do the whole ‘that Lena Luthor?’ song and dance.”
The remorse that registers on Kara’s face, in those frankly implausibly bright eyes of hers, makes Lena feel like she’s never said anything more cruel in her entire life, and she’s like, 98% sure she has said far, far worse. She feels a ludicrous urge to apologize.
“Hey, awesome, I see we’ve arrived at the hangry stage,” Sam helpfully interjects.
“It’s fine,” Lena says tersely, feeling uncomfortably, uncharacteristically off kilter. “So. Sam, about those files?”
Sam’s eyes are flitting between Kara and herself. “One condition,” she says, and Lena has spent enough years in Sam’s company to know it isn’t going to be anything good. “You stay for dinner.”
Well. It’s not an entirely unreasonable offer. “Who’s cooking?”
Sam grins. “DiGiorno's.”
Lena’s stomach growls unsophisticatedly. “We have a deal.”
It’s supposed to be a simple frozen pizza dinner, but in the hands of Samantha Arias that means a properly set table, a mountain of fresh pizza toppings and a bottomless salad on the side. Ruby seats Lena and the salad bowl at the head of the table and plops down next to her. “Stacey and I got an A on the remote control car,” she announces, flushed with pride. “She said to thank you for your help.”
Lena feels proud, too. It’s an unfamiliar feeling, a bit like heartburn, maybe slightly less unpleasant. “The solar power project?” she clarifies. “You hardly needed my help with that. Your design was very elegant.”
“You’re responsible for that car?” Kara laughs, one of those unselfconscious, infectious laughs that really shouldn’t be attractive. “That thing is awesome! I was hoping Ruby would bring it. I swear it’s two screws and a microchip away from learning how to make me breakfast.”
“I hope not,” Lena says. “L-Corp has a very strict policy on artificial intelligence.”
Kara catches her eye, and then winks at her. Winks. (Who winks, anymore? Who winks at strangers?) Only years of training in the form of the psychological warfare Lillian Luthor would casually unleash on her at family dinners prevent Lena from dropping her fork.
Sam is marginally less enthusiastic about Ruby’s invention. “Mrs. Leahy was a little surprised at the high-quality materials they were able to get their hands on,” she grumbles, one eyebrow quirk away from genuine disapproval.
“Hey, it’s not my fault public schools are grossly underfunded,” Lena protests mildly. “And I made sure the whole class got access to those materials, didn’t I?”
Sam squints at her. “I’m fairly sure you didn’t grant the entire class access to the L-Corp labs.”
“But my mom’s the boss,” Ruby says. “I get to have some perks.”
Lena clears her throat pointedly, and Ruby rolls her eyes. “Fine. Semi-boss.”
“And you never let me forget it,” Sam sighs.
“Really.” Lena swirls the wine in her glass. (It’s a truly excellent Cabernet; Sam is as discerning when it comes to choosing her wine as she is making financial decisions for her company.) “And yet here I am, in your dining room, out in the middle of nowhere, chasing after files you absconded with when you knew I needed them to prepare for the Swiss.”
Sam gestures broadly at the window facing the mountains. “What better way to prepare for the Swiss than to get on their literal level?”
Alex glances at Sam’s glass. “How many of these have you had, babe?”
Sam side-eyes her girlfriend, but sets the glass down. “Look, the meeting with the investors isn’t until the end of next week. I had no way of knowing you were planning on spending your holidays going over information you could probably recite backwards and upside down.”
“Bullshit,” Kara says, but she’s smiling, brightening until she looks like something out of a toothpaste commercial when all eyes fall on her.
“Excuse me?” Lena blurts.
“Also, language,” Sam says, prompting an eye roll from Ruby.
“Sorry,” Kara says, leaning forward on her elbows. “Bull crap.” Her eyes are on Lena again, confident and intent. “I’ve heard enough about you to know you’re an incurable workaholic. I doubt Sam genuinely expected you to actually take a break over the holidays.”
Lena agrees. “You really should know better.”
Sam picks up her glass again. “So sue me.”
“I might. I almost died driving up here.”
“Did you really?” Kara asks. “I mean, drive all the way?”
Lena chews her last bite and swallows. “I made it as far as Denver before they cancelled all remaining flights. I got the last car they had available.”
Alex grins. “Lena Luthor flying commercial. I would love to have seen that.”
Lena stares sullenly into her glass. “I’m sure by tomorrow the footage will have found its way to social media.”
Kara coughs, reddens. “Really?” she asks, a little eager. “Are you that big of a deal?”
God, Lena really hopes not. In truth, it hadn’t been the crowds or the graceless waiting to board that had aggravated her; it was the frenzied energy that thrummed beneath it all. There was a sort of appetite to the crowd, an eager hankering that Lena had found deeply unsettling.
“You’re not trending on twitter,” Ruby assures her, turning her phone so she can see. The National City Lakehawks win again, another Instagram celebrity has fallen out of favor, and the European parliament takes a surprising third place.
“No phones at dinner,” Sam reminds her.
Kara nudges Ruby. “Also, dude, did you literally steal every single olive from this salad? What kind of kid likes olives?”
"Not a kid," Ruby says.
“The kind of kid who went through a two month-long sashimi phase in first grade,” Sam answers for her.
“I happen to have a very sophisticated palate,” Ruby claims.
“Sure you do, miss chicken fingers and applesauce.” Sam starts stacking up their empty plates and hip checks her daughter out of her chair. “Go wash up. It’s late.”
Ruby makes a face. “Not my fault aunt Lena was late for dinner.”
Alex refills Lena’s glass. “C’mon. Take this to the living room. Put your feet up. Consider it your Christmas vacation.”
Kara trails after her with her own glass, and for the first time it registers that Kara has been drinking water instead of wine. “Are you joining us?” she asks her sister.
“Let me just get these out of the way,” Alex calls back from the kitchen.
“Can’t relax when there’s dirty dishes on the counter,” Kara explains to Lena, then calls over her shoulder, “I wonder where you get that from.” Kara’s voice is dripping with sarcasm.
“Eliza,” Alex admits, rolling her eyes, then looking at Lena, “My mom. She can never actually kick back and relax though, I’m nowhere as bad as that.”
Lena smirks, observing Kara who’s already made herself comfortable, a collection of loose, long limbs practically dangling upside down in one of the armchairs. “Let me guess," she says, "You take more after your father.”
There’s a tiny snag in Kara’s joyful expression. “I do, you’re right,” she says, voice a little lower. “But Alex and I actually don’t have the same parents. Biologically.”
Lena has known Kara for five minutes and is already fully prepared to beat herself up over bringing up a subject that could be painful for her. You’d think that, as the formerly orphaned, adopted, turned (surprise!) illegitimate-and-once-again-orphaned stepchild Luthor, she would know better.
“Alex is my foster sister,” Kara explains.
Alex adds, “But we’ve been family since junior high.”
"That's. Great?" Lena would have gotten a pedicure if she'd known she was going to shove her entire foot into her mouth today. "I mean, I know a thing or two about complicated family dynamics, and that connecting with the one you get isn't always a given." Lena is a little lost, a little embarrassed with herself, and Kara seems to mistake it for lingering awkwardness from their introduction earlier.
“I’m sorry,” Kara says, “if I, you know, offended you before. I don’t always know when to keep my mouth shut.”
It’s funny how Lena tends to always find herself in the company of friends who have that problem. “It’s fine, Kara,” she assures her. “I suppose anyone living in National City who has so much as glanced at a media outlet has heard about my brother.”
“Sure.” A smile tugs up only one corner of her pretty mouth. “You’re about ten times more interesting than Lex Luthor, though.”
Lena forgets how to swallow for a second, which is inconvenient since she’s just taken a rather large sip of wine. “What could possibly have given you that impression?”
Kara smiles at her, regarding her openly, with that same unsettling focus Lena’s beginning to think is typical for Kara Danvers. “Well. Alex has told me a couple of things about you.”
Alex is finally sitting down on the other couch and Lena’s eyes find hers, sharp and suspicious. “You, too?”
“Oh relax,” Alex hushes her. “I shared only the horrible stuff. Just the truly heinous anecdotes.” She makes some kind of gesture that’s meant to be placating, but wine or warmth or whatever this fuzzy comfy magic is that’s buzzing between all of them tonight has made her sloppy and soft, so it doesn’t really go anywhere and Alex just gives up.
"Not sure I agree with you anyway, Kara." Sam joins them, sliding down the back of the couch and folding herself around her girlfriend’s body in a gymnastic maneuver Lena thinks she may have seen in a modern dance performance once. “Lena's pretty dull, with that whole 'ecological sustainability, universally accessible health care, human rights, goody two-shoes thing she's got going. Say what you will about Lex, but at least you can count on him to shake things up a bit.” She blinks. “Well. You could, before the seven life sentences, I guess." Sam shoots Lena a soft look. "Lena looks better than him in an evening gown, though,” she allows.
Lena successfully convinces herself she’s only imagined Kara’s eyes glancing casually down Lena’s body at that remark.
“Also, Ruby would like all of you to know she loves you very much, and that we’re all guilty of age discrimination for not allowing her to stay up with us tonight.”
Lena smiles. “Isn’t she supposed to be entering that sullen, silent teenager stage?” She loves Ruby too, she thinks. She's definitely feeling squishy about it tonight.
Sam shakes her head. “I know. Clearly I’m doing something wrong.”
“She’s a great kid,” Kara says. “You should be dying of pride.”
“I am. Don’t tell her.”
Alex leans her head back into her girlfriend and looks up at her. “You tell her enough.”
Sam smiles back down at her, soft as Lena has ever seen her. “I hope so.”
“You’d better,” Lena says, and Sam answers her with a heavy look that tells Lena Sam will never repeat the mistakes their parents made.
So, as mentioned, it really is a very excellent Cab, and Alex is never stingy with her pours, and Lena really shouldn’t be surprised when the evening’s end finds her snuggled up tightly into the pillows of what is possibly the most comfortable couch in recorded history, legs tucked under her body and covered by a soft quilted blanket. Her belly is full, her mind quieted by alcohol and her body warmed by the fireplace, the burning wood cracking right along with her resolve to not overstay her welcome.
Lena feels like Kara’s attention has been on her pretty much nonstop since they were introduced, to the point where she’s a little surprised to look her way and discover she’s fascinated by something on her phone.
Sam has noticed, too. “Present company not interesting enough for you, Danvers?”
“No,” Kara says without looking up, “I’m just seeing for myself whether Lena really looks better in evening wear than her brother does.”
Lena guffaws at that, a full bark of startled laughter. She blames it on the Cabernet, this looseness in her chest. “So what’s your verdict?” she asks before she can think better of it. The wine has her cheeks and the tips of her ears burning already, now is the perfect time to be bold.
Kara glances at her, briefly, her eyes catching momentarily somewhere around her Lena's collarbones. “There is literally a whole ‘WHO WORE IT BETTER?’ article here, comparing your brother’s fits to yours.”
Alex dribbles a little bit of wine down her chin trying to laugh and swallow at the same time. Lena just smiles, knowingly, closes her eyes and nods.
“Do they have him in evening gowns?” Alex asks, still wiping wine off her chin, at the same time that Sam exclaims “I’ve seen that one!”
Kara holds out her phone to Alex, then tugs it back, appearing to have changed her mind. “I don’t actually know if I should show you,” she says, a funny little wrinkle of consternation between her eyebrows. “You may just be too gay for this.”
Alex swats uselessly in the general direction of Kara’s phone until Kara takes pity on her sister and hands it over. “Holy shi- ...shingles,” she exclaims, prompting a loud snort from Sam. “Lena fu— uh… fun-loving Luthor, are these three piece suits? Is that a waistcoat?”
Lena just drinks deeply from her glass.
“Hold on to your hearts,” Sam says, taking Kara’s phone. When Alex gasps at something she pulls up, Kara abandons her armchair in favor of the armrest of the couch Sam and Alex are lounging on. "That, my dears, is Lena Luthor wearing a bow tie.”
Alex makes a dramatic attempt at swooning that makes Lena hope she never had any acting ambitions, while Kara’s eyes are legitimately glued to the tiny screen, her face a picture of perfect wonder.
“So, Kara,” Lena dares to drawl, surprised herself by the rich smooth tone the late hour and the long day have given her voice, “What do you say? Do I win?”
Kara blinks very slowly, very deliberately back up at Lena, long lashes bouncing off pink cheeks as though she's waking from a dream, and then holds Lena's eyes silently for a beat. “I — I don’t know,” she says. Lena’s already smiling triumphantly when Kara’s mouth curls around the words, “Your mom is pretty hot.”
Sam dies, right there, of an acute case of hysterical laughter, and Alex will probably follow her into the grave. “Can I change my mind,” Sam howls, “Alex, I’m so so sorry to do this, but Kara, will you please marry me?”
“I guess that depends,” Kara deadpans, “How good do you look in a suit?”
The jokes bounce back and forth between them for a while, the easy laughter they provoke never really fading away entirely, and Lena is warm and content and kind of never wants to get up off this couch again for the rest of her years. Who needs a company or a career when she has these soft, perfectly arranged pillows?
“Cozy there, Luthor?” Sam asks her gently.
Lena knows she’s close to dozing, can feel the glow of the fire on her cheeks, the way her shoulders feel softer against the cushions than they do even after a massage.
“The house is gorgeous, Sam.” she says, blinking over at her with tired eyes. “I’m sorry I’ve never visited before.”
“Not for my lack of trying to get you here.”
“Three years she’s had the place,” Alex tells Kara.
“Three years of midsummer getaways and winter vacation invitations, and nothing.” Sam shakes her head.
“I like to work through the holidays,” Lena protests weakly. “An empty office, free of interruptions or distractions. I've also just, never really understood the point of celebrating the seasons changing.”
“You wouldn't believe it listening to Ebenezer here," Sam tells Kara, "But getting the cabin was actually Lena’s idea. We wouldn’t be here if it weren’t for her.”
Lena smiles at Sam fondly, remembering when Sam had come into her office a couple of days after Christmas three years ago, crying about how she’d never get to build a snowman with Ruby again.
“I told you to take a holiday,” Lena points out, “Instead you went and bought a house.”
“I’m so glad you did,” Alex says. “It’s a miracle you ever leave this place.”
“Speaking of which,” Lena says with a reluctant glance at her watch, “I should be heading out.”
Lena rises along with the volume of their protests, escaping to the darkened hallway for a bathroom break before having to head out into the cold. When she checks her makeup in the mirror, she is surprised to find she’s smiling.
When she steps out of the bathroom, Sam is waiting for her in the hall. “Here you go,” she says, mystifyingly handing Lena the quilted blanket Lena had been snuggled up under on the couch. “This should keep you nice and warm tonight. Do you still sleep with two pillows?”
Lena has taken the quilted blanket from Sam before fully understanding what’s happening. “I’m sorry,” she says, “What’s this?”
“Oh, did I forget to tell you?” Sam reappears with the pillows, shooting Lena a look that tries too hard to look innocent. “You’re staying with us tonight.”
Lena rolls her eyes. “Sam —”
But Sam is already climbing the stairs to the second floor landing, leaving Lena standing at the bottom step, too dignified to call after her, and too stubborn to follow her up.
Kara appears at her shoulder, smiling kindly. “You don’t snore, do you?” she asks, and before Lena can process that question, or work out Kara’s reason for asking it, “It’s fine, I mean, if you do. I’m a really deep sleeper. And I can always use my earbuds —”
Sam’s voice comes from upstairs, clear as a bell. “Lena doesn’t snore.”
Kara’s eyes are dancing with mirth. Not breaking eye contact with Lena, she calls back “And she doesn’t, like, move around a lot, right, or wander off? Or insist on sleeping fully naked?” Kara clearly has none of Lena’s reservations about calling after Sam.
(Lena does her best not to flush red at Kara’s implication. She would really appreciate it if they would stop talking about her and listen to what she’s saying, instead. Also if Ruby could stop giggling from her bedroom, that would be great.)
“I don’t do that,” she claims, even though she does, arguably, but there’s no way Kara needs to know that.
Kara has two eyebrows in her hairline and the widest eyes Lena has ever seen on an adult woman. “Never? Not even, like- wait. Are you a never-nude?”
Lena huffs. “That’s not a real thing. And honestly I don’t see how it’s any of your concern.”
“Well, we’ll be sleeping together.” And while Lena’s brain does a hard reboot, Kara brightly clarifies: “Didn’t you hear? We’re roomies!”
Kara takes the quilt from Lena’s hands. Lena just stares after her as she walks briskly up the stairs.
Next up is Alex, apparently. She nudges Lena’s shoulder with her own and holds out her hand. “Give me the keys to the car.”
Lena scoffs. Surely Alex is still on her side in all of this. “Alex, I swear to god —”
Sam appears at the top of the stairs. “Lena.”
“Come on,” Alex insists, “I’ll put it in the garage.”
“Guys, I really can’t.”
Sam gives her one of her (frankly unfair) mothering looks. “You’re going to drive back in the dark? In the snow?”
Alex adds, “While angling for a DUI?”
“No, of course not,” Lena frowns. “That would be irresponsible. I’m getting a hotel room in town.”
“Don’t be stupid.” Sam has made up her mind, Lena knows that tone. “We have an extra bed.”
Ruby has appeared next to her mother at the top of the stairs. “You know,” she says, “If you don’t want to sleep with Kara,” and Lena takes a moment to die a little bit inside, “You can always bunk with me!”
“I wouldn’t,” Alex mutters under her breath.
“Why are you up?” Sam asks Ruby, incredulously.
“Her room has actual bunk beds,” Alex says.
“You’re all very loud,” Ruby states simply.
Alex shudders. “She gets these terrible, absolutely otherworldly evil sleep farts.”
“You can take the bottom bunk!” Ruby calls out to Lena, excited.
Lena knows she’s already lost, but she has one last, heartfelt protest left in her. “I refuse to intrude on your family vacation,” she sighs at Sam.
Sam smiles beatifically at that, knowing she’s won. “Guess what, asshole,” she says, “You’re my family, too.”
Lena lets out the last bit of indignant air left in her lungs, clenches her jaw. “Fine.”
Kara pops back up at Sam and Ruby’s side. “So are you bunking with Ruby,” she points two unnecessarily long and flexible forefingers, “Or are you sharing with me?”
“I’ll share with you,” Lena tells her, with a quick glance at Alex, who shudders again.
“Boo,” Ruby says, defeated. “See you in the morning then, asshole.”
Sam’s jaw drops. “Ruby! Language!”
Ruby gapes. “But you literally just—”
“Bup!” it’s the most maternal sound in Sam’s entire repertoire, and frankly Lena is relieved it wasn't aimed at her. “One more word and it’s your phone, young lady.”
In the small upstairs bathroom, Lena finds the obvious signs of Kara having stayed here for a few days already. There’s her electric toothbrush (Sam has handed Lena a manual spare), an oddly salty tasting toothpaste that has pictures of some kind of plant on it, floss and mouthwash, two packs of differently sized toothpicks and a Waterpik®. It explains why Kara’s smile looks like the ones on the posters at her dental hygienist’s office, Lena supposes, and she wonders seriously at the number of hair products Kara must have tucked away in the cabinets under the counters.
The pajamas Sam has handed Lena are almost as soft as the look she gives her sometimes, like when she believes Lena is being too hard on herself. They also manage somehow to be both much too large and far too small for Lena to wear with any kind of dignity. The top fits her not unlike a shift dress, long sleeves hanging down well beyond the tips of her fingers. The waistband of the pants won’t stretch beyond the first swell of her hips, and Lena could have done without the reminder of exactly how short or sturdy she is in comparison to her best friend. She opts out of the pants. Rolls up her sleeves. Takes a breath, leaves the bathroom and heads down the hall.
Kara’s room is cozy, but there’s a definite chill in the air. It’s almost enough to make her shiver when she glances at Kara — whose attention is suddenly quite obviously not on the book in her hands, but at some point just beyond, which happens to be exactly where Lena’s thighs are.
“Good book?” Lena asks pointedly.
The tips of Kara’s ears are pink, but her eyes linger for an absolutely maddening second and a half longer before snapping back to the page. “Lovely,” she hums, mouth twitching into something not quite a smile.
Lena climbs into bed, feeling like she’s all limbs, and the sheets are somewhere around -500 degrees. “Is it always this cold in here?” she demands, shivering and indignant, as if her plummeting mood is part of her autonomic nervous system response.
Kara puts her book down. “You’re cold?”
Kara's smile is lopsided. “I don’t really get cold.”
“Lucky you.” Lena might actually be shaking, goosebumps prickling at her arms and legs. They make her itchy. Friction, she thinks, right, it should manage to both warm the sheets and help the itch. Lena kicks her legs out, stretches them, pulls them back into her chest.
Kara is looking at her again.
“I’m very uncomfortable,” Lena says, by way of apology / formal complaint.
“Yeah, I imagine the thread count isn’t quite what you’re used to.” Kara reaches for the chest at the foot of her bed. “Here.” She’s thrown her an extra blanket, which Lena accepts eagerly. “You know, I’d heard that whole thing was just an invention to make Bed, Bath & Beyond more money.”
Lena considers a dignified response to this, forgets about the cold for a minute and blurts, “Only someone who has never experienced non-IKEA brand bed sheets would say such a thing.”
Kara lets out a short laugh, an unpolished, pleasant sound. “You know,” she says after a beat, “This is kind of nice. I haven’t had a sleepover since eighth grade.”
Lena considers this. “I went to boarding school. My entire high school experience was one big sleepover.”
Kara’s eyes spark with something that is decidedly not the sympathy she pretends to offer. “My condolences.”
Lena shrugs. “Well.” Why not, right. “I am gay,” she says. “So.”
Kara’s whole face splits in half with the power of her smile. “Yeah? In that case, well done.”
Kara is quiet for a moment, it stretches thin between them.
“Still doesn’t seem like you got the true sleepover experience, though,” she says eventually. “If you want I can, like. Braid your hair, or something.”
Lena snorts, actually snorts, a horribly undignified sound that she never wants to hear again in her life. “No thank you.”
“Probably for the best. I should get some sleep. We’re going skiing tomorrow.”
Lena looks at her. Kara’s eyes are closed. “My condolences,” she quips.
Kara smiles, but doesn’t open her eyes. “Not a fan, huh?”
“My family went to the mountains every year until I was twenty one. Not a fan, no.”
“You must be good.”
Lena has a low chuckle for that. “You would think, right? But you’d be wrong.”
Kara hums. “I don’t believe you.”
Lena feels the corners of her mouth tugging up in the dark. “I’ll show you.”
Lena can hear the smile in Kara’s voice when she says, “Deal.”