Chapter 1: Baby It's Bad Out There
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.”
Chapter 2: Don We Now Our Gay Apparel
To everyone who’s sent comments, kudos and shared to social media, I owe you my life. You, dear reader, are my hero.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lena Luthor is fearless.
As CEO of multinational conglomerate L-Corp, she has destroyed men’s careers — and occasionally their marriages — with little more than a single critical glance. She strikes billion dollar deals (after, fine, months of careful deliberation — she may be brave but she’s not a fool) with a bold-yet-graceful stroke of her favorite fountain pen. Lena Luthor is a force to be reckoned with: someone who sees what needs to be done, and then sees to it that it is.
Lena Luthor is freezing, and she is not going to forgo another hour of sleep just because she doesn’t want to risk disturbing the woman in the bed beside hers.
Wincing at the stiffness in her shoulders, Lena rolls over and glances blearily over at the woman in question. Kara is sprawled belly-down in bed, her face turned away, shoulders rising and falling in an enviably relaxed rhythm. She’s an oblivious Cerberus to Lena’s Eurydice, the chest of extra blankets at the foot of her bed the only way for Lena to escape her frigid torment.
So Lena takes the type of breath she usually reserves for entering a hostile boardroom, pulls her quilted blanket tightly around her shoulders and flings her body forward blindly, reaching the source of her salvation in two frantic, graceless hops.
The chest is empty.
So this is how it ends, after all, with Lena dying of hypothermia-induced sleep deprivation on the side of a mountain at the tragically young age of thirty three. She spares a thought for the family of possums that will go hungry this spring, now that she will perish inside this icebox masquerading as a luxurious log cabin instead of at the side of the road, as originally intended.
Maybe Kara can make a meal of her, instead.
Lena can see her more clearly, now; the pale light passing through the curtains casts a silver luster on the skin of Kara’s arms and shoulders, accentuating the sort of muscle definition Lena has only ever seen on the flexing fuckboys at the L-Corp gym. It takes her an embarrassing amount of time to realize, with a sort of confusion that borders on rage, that Kara has pushed her own covers down, her careless comfort forming an audacious contrast to Lena's suffering.
Kara is hot.
Right, obviously, but also, and much more pertinently, hot in the sense that she doesn’t need the blankets she’s so thoughtlessly cast aside. Hot in the sense that it wouldn’t be a problem if Lena took one for herself.
Driven by the realization that she can no longer feel her bare feet on the hardwood floor, Lena grabs for the blanket that has been kicked down to Kara’s hips and tugs, internally high-fiving herself for finding such a tidy solution to her problem.
But before she can claim her bounty, the woman beneath it stirs.
“Lena?” Kara is blinking up at her, mortifyingly awake, eyes black in the darkness. “What’s wrong?”
“I’m sorry,” Lena whispers, embarrassed, remorseful, “I was trying not to wake you. I’m just — so cold, and you’re obviously not, and it didn’t look like you’d mind if I—”
“If you climbed in with me? No, of course not,” Kara says, as if it isn’t the most preposterous suggestion ever made.
What, Lena tries, and probably No, of course not, don’t be ridiculous, but her voice catches on a violent shiver. Her body has registered the heat rising from Kara’s own and is directing her toward it without her permission, goosebumps prickling up from the back of her neck to the tops of her toes.
“Come here.” Kara moves over to make room for her, looking like she’s already half asleep again. All of her blankets are now tucked securely under one perfectly sculpted arm, and Lena bites her lip — first at the lost opportunity, and then at the bizarre-yet-dangerously-tempting option of actually getting in beside her.
She’s insane to even consider it, right?
(She gets in. Absurdly.)
It’s a move she instantly regrets.
Because what Lena, in her half-frozen state, has failed to realize is that lying down in Kara’s bed means lying down in Kara’s arms. The twin is a snug fit for two grown women, especially when one of them has a set of unreasonably broad shoulders, and unless Lena’s okay with falling off the side of the bed as soon as one of them takes a deep breath there is simply nowhere else for her to go. She has chosen, for modesty’s sake, to lie down on the side facing away from Kara, letting out an involuntary sigh of relief at the touch of warm cotton against her skin. But then Kara tucks her into her body, chest pressed fully against Lena’s back, her ass fitting perfectly, shamelessly, in the cradle of Kara’s hips. For a moment, Lena is convinced she can actually feel the ice melting in her bones.
“Gosh, you are freezing,” Kara mumbles groggily, warm against the top of Lena’s head and it’s horrifyingly tender, to be held like this, to be felt like this. Kara still smells faintly of cinnamon.
It is exquisite, and Lena doesn’t think she will survive it.
Why, she laments, is Colorado so intent on bringing about her untimely end?
Kara hooks her legs into Lena’s own, noses into her hair and promptly starts snoring.
Lena doesn’t know if she’s in heaven or in hell, or exactly what she’s done to deserve any of this, but she doesn’t have time to wonder long before she too sinks down into blissful unconsciousness.
She wakes up in an empty bed, a reluctant streak of morning light squinting through a small gap in the curtains. The room is somehow even colder now that she’s alone and faced with the impossible task of throwing off the covers, exposing herself to the serious risk of getting frostbite on the way from the bed to the bathroom. But she steels herself, and is rewarded with the kind of euphoria only a hot shower with perfect water pressure can provide.
She will have to make it through the rest of her life knowing the feeling doesn’t hold a candle to the experience of falling asleep with Kara Danvers’ body wrapped tightly around her own.
She’s an idiot.
She’s a prepared idiot though, grateful for the emergency stash of skin care products she keeps in her purse — a leftover habit from when Lillian would routinely make her cry in the middle of her workday. What she had not been counting on, however, is having to convince her hair — accustomed to silk pillow cases and carefully controlled humidity — to not fly up like zero gravity in the Colorado winter static. She settles on keeping it semi-contained in a half-updo, after checking every drawer and cabinet and finding no scientific explanation for Kara’s Disney princess waves. In the shower, as an absolute insult to Lena’s own meticulous hair care routine, she had found a single bottle of store brand shampoo & conditioner (in one, you have got to be fucking kidding), because that hair apparently really just grows out of Kara’s head like that.
It’s considerably warmer downstairs. Ruby has parked herself on the couch closest to the fire going in the hearth, watching the morning cartoons (they still have those?). Blankets and pillows are piled as high as her shoulders, and Lena struggles briefly with a powerful urge to burrow in right alongside her.
“‘Morning, Ruby. Is your mom up yet?”
Ruby makes a noncommittal sound. “Was kind of a late night for them. They might still be asleep.”
So that’s why Sam believes the temperature in their bedroom is acceptable for humans: she's accustomed to finding alternative ways to generate heat. Lena really should have guessed, she muses, glancing at the time. There go her hopes of making it back to the airport before noon.
There’s a loud, metallic clanking coming from the direction of the kitchen, along with the enticing scent of fresh coffee brewing. Lena isn’t sure how she’s supposed to face Kara, considering the unexpected intimacy of last night’s sleeping arrangement, but. It’s coffee.
Lena barely stops herself from mirroring the broad, blinding smile when Kara’s dumb, handsome head pops up from where she was crouched behind the counter, digging through the cupboards.
“Thought you'd be sleeping in," she says genially. "You looked like you needed it.”
“How flattering.” Lena is feeling overdressed in yesterday’s blazer and pencil skirt, with Kara looking rested and relaxed in joggers and a sleeveless top — which, sweet god in heaven, the sight is even more dizzying in daylight.
She wouldn't mind being conscious next time those arms are wrapped around her.
Lena has got to stop allowing this woman into her personal space like this. Combined with last night's surreal transaction — perhaps not a fair term, considering it was exclusively for Lena's benefit — Lena is going to end up sending her the wrong message entirely. It seems like her own body has already misunderstood, judging by the way she can feel it leaning into Kara's presence. It's embarrassing how effortlessly she's been charmed; a handful of friendly exchanges and one six hour long hug, and Lena finds herself having very foolish thoughts.
Disgraceful. She's going to call her therapist as soon as she gets back.
“So,” Kara says, reaching across Lena to grab a ladle from the rack by the coffee maker, “You like blueberry pancakes, right?”
Lena smiles reflexively. “Well,” she reveals, “I am human.”
“Oh good,” Kara says, sounding greatly relieved, “I wondered,” and if Lena didn’t know any better she would swear she sees Kara’s eyes linger on her collarbones again. Lena shifts experimentally, tilting her shoulder slightly as she leans back against the counter Kara has claimed as her cooking surface, and watches as Kara’s eyeline shifts a subtle couple of inches lower.
Ruby joins them in the kitchen, helpfully handing Kara a gallon of milk from the fridge. “Can you make some chocolate chip as well?” she asks. “They’re—“
“Alex’s favorite! Yeah, of course!”
Kara adds a generous amount of milk to the batter she has started, Ruby regarding her process with a critical eye. “How are your animal shapes?” she inquires.
“Best in state,” Kara boasts.
Which is how Lena finds out Kara Danvers is an outrageous liar, as well as a horrible cook.
Kara’s African elephant comes out looking more like the entire continent of Africa. She also attempts a bear, then tries to pass it off as a turtle, but even at her most forgiving Lena can’t see anything beyond a sad-looking blob with burnt edges.
When she takes a tentative bite, Lena discovers it tastes rather sad, as well.
It’s an odd kind of relief, finally discovering a way in which Kara Danvers is not perfect.
“See?” Kara smiles, interpreting Lena pausing her chewing as something that indicates pleasure. “I told you they taste better than they look.”
Lena swallows bravely. Lillian may not have raised her right, but she did instill a crystal clear and comprehensive set of manners that prevent her from emptying her mouth in the sink. “Yeah,” she says thoughtfully, “You did, and you’re wrong.” Kara looks comically devastated when Lena continues, “Ruby, do we have any more eggs?”
Ruby sets them down in front of her a moment later, Lena already whisking away at a new batch of batter. “Salt, please.”
“I used a mix, you know,” Kara tries to defend herself. She’s honest-to-god pouting, her bottom lip plump and indignant.
Lena grins, not at all kindly. “You realize that only makes your failure to produce something edible more tragic, right?“
“Wait.” Kara freezes. Then she asks, preposterously, “Are you edging me right now?”
Lena stops whisking, stops moving, stops breathing. “Am I what now.”
Kara huffs impatiently. “You are totally edging me! You know, that thing that men do where they insult women so they’ll forget that they’re too good for them.”
Ruby giggles. “That’s negging. You know, from saying something negative?”
In perfect synchronicity, Kara and Lena turn to Ruby, worried. Lena tries her best to be delicate and reassuring but feels her voice waver dangerously when she asks, “Ruby, sweetie, did someone do that to you?”
Ruby shrugs. “Not really. Mom told me about it so I will recognize it if it happens, I guess.” And then, brightly, “Have you guys ever had someone gaslight you?”
“Here,” Lena says quickly, setting Ruby up at the griddle. She finds a couple of smaller spoons and a set of chopsticks, laying them out like surgical tools. “Let’s give this a whirl.”
Lena may not have made an animal pancake before, but she has an above average understanding of basic design and the way matter behaves under a wide range of circumstances. Becoming increasingly giddy and confident with each successful attempt, Lena manages: a perfect giraffe (complete with markings); a unicorn with a beautifully textured mane; and finally, as her pièce de résistance, an almost fully anatomically correct T. rex skull.
Kara smiles delightedly at the first, becomes speechless at the second, guffaws at the third. “Now you’re just showing off.”
”Well, obviously.” Lena shoots her a cheeky grin and watches as Kara’s eyes land on her lips and linger there.
They set a hasty table, including plates for their absent hosts. Lena is beginning to think Alex and Sam are familiar with Kara’s cooking and have deliberately opted out of breakfast. She sits down at the table with a fragrant cup of coffee that may, on second thought, actually be a soup bowl, but whatever.
Ruby is marveling at the artistry that is her breakfast. “I don’t want to eat these.”
“More for me then,” Kara says and, smiling brightly and ignoring Ruby’s horrified expression, swipes the unicorn off of Ruby's plate and bites off its head.
Lena forgets to intervene and can only watch Kara’s face journey as she quickly realizes her mistake. Lena hisses in sympathy as the burn registers, in spite of herself, in spite of the fact that Kara is a barbarian who has no respect for fine art or personal boundaries.
“Are you okay?” Ruby asks, truly worried.
The faces Kara makes as she’s trying to minimize contact between her mouth and the angry pancake inside it should help make Lena’s struggle with her ill-advised infatuation a little easier. Ruby slides over her cold glass of milk, and Kara empties it right away. “Why did you let me do that?” she asks Lena, like a child.
Lena raises a cool eyebrow. “You didn’t consider the possibility that food fresh off the griddle might be hot?”
Kara is pouting again, gingerly poking her fork at the beheaded unicorn she’s dropped on her plate, cutting off the tiniest bite and warily taking it into her mouth. “I don’t think you’re a very nice person.” But then she begins chewing, and her face lights up like a burst of sunlight breaking through clouds. “On an unrelated note," she says reverently, "Will you marry me?”
“I thought you got engaged to Sam last night." Lena jumps as Ruby lets out a loud squeak in response, making Kara snort. “It’s a joke, sweetheart,” Lena hurries to assure her, “Obviously your mom —”
But Kara and Ruby aren’t hearing her, exchanging meaningful looks across the table, and Lena thinks she might be missing something.
Ruby’s cheeks are pink. “Are we telling her the secret?”
Kara grins. “Obviously.”
Ruby blurts it out before Lena can check if the secret is really hers to tell. “Alex is going to ask mom to marry her.”
In the kitchen, the tap drips. Lena realizes absently that it’s snowing again, or that maybe it never stopped.
Alex is going to propose to Sam.
Impossibly, Lena finds herself blinking back tears, completely blind-sided by Ruby’s announcement and the resulting warmth blossoming in her chest. She’s thinking of Sam and Alex entwined on the couch last night, Sam looking down at her girlfriend with complete adoration. She’s thinking of the unwavering support Alex offered both Sam and Ruby all through Sam’s illness and during the months it took them to find their way back to normal.
Kara is watching her, an affectionate, knowing look on her face. “Come on,” she tells Ruby gently, “hand me those chocolate chips. We’re not done here.” As she gets up from her chair, she briefly lays a warm hand on Lena’s shoulder and squeezes. “Lena’s going to teach us how to make those giraffes.”
When Lena rejoins them a long moment later, she surprises herself by pulling Ruby into an abrupt hug. It’s almost clumsy, but Ruby giggles and Lena breathes her happiness into the teenager’s hair. Lena is sure now: she loves her. Loves all these women, and the family they make. She’s unsure she’s ever felt it quite as acutely as she does right now.
Alex and Sam finally come down at the tail-end of Lena’s impromptu cooking workshop. Alex is looking satisfied, and Sam entirely too pleased with herself. “Something smells good,” Alex remarks with surprise. Definitely familiar with her sister’s cooking, then.
“Looks even better,” Ruby says, holding up the T. rex she saved for Alex to admire.
Alex steps closer, stunned. “Okay, I know Kara didn’t make this.”
Kara, who has yet to produce a recognizable giraffe despite Lena’s extensive tutoring, only mutters out a weak protest.
Sam likes her turtle best. “I didn’t know you could do this.”
Lena smiles at her, feeling flattered and foolish. “Neither did I.”
“Of course." Alex scoffs. "You know what, Luthor, I often do not like you at all.”
“I understand the feeling,” Kara jokes, but she’s looking right into Lena’s eyes as she says it, and her expression indicates an altogether different attitude.
Lena isn’t sure whether she’s relieved or disappointed that there’s no time left to further examine this strange pull between them.
“Alright,” she announces, “That’s the sound of me having officially overstayed my welcome. Sam, Alex, I appreciate your hospitality and your unparalleled taste in wine. Get a space-heater for the upstairs bedrooms. Ruby, it was lovely to see you as always, please stop getting taller, I need my low altitude buddy.”
Ruby begins to say something, but receives a stern look from Sam for talking with her mouth full.
“I thought you were going to teach me how to ski!” Kara argues.
“I made no such promises.”
“You said you were going to show me how bad you are at it.”
“That does sound like you,” Sam points out delicately.
“Alright,” Lena decides, “as wonderful as it’s been getting roasted by you all, I need to get myself to the airport before I lose my seat.”
“Been trying to tell you,” Ruby says, finally having made her way through a mouthful of pancake and strawberry jam, “they closed the pass because of the snow. They kept interrupting my show with updates on avalanche warnings.”
Lena blanches. Please let that be a joke.
She rushes over to the TV, finds a weather channel and unmutes. “—pass closing just about four hours ago,” a reporter who is clearly trying a little too desperately to emulate Lois Lane says gravely. “The State Patrol confirms multiple vehicles were trapped in that slide. There are no reports of any injuries yet. CDOT says they don’t know how long it will take to get the road open.”
Lena massages her forehead, suddenly feeling the effects of last night’s overindulgence. “You have got to be fucking kidding me.”
Sam sucks her lips disapprovingly. “Language.”
Well, this is just great. Lena looks up at the ceiling and considers her options. Private jet? No, she's sent both of her pilots on leave to spend the holidays at home. Renting a chopper? Probably not with this relentless snowfall, and hardly feasible if she can’t thoroughly vet the companies and their employees first.
“I’m never going to forgive you for this.” Lena glares at her best friend. “How long do these things usually take?”
Sam smiles placatingly at her chagrin. “... Snow day?” she tries in a small voice.
Kara is dancing in the kitchen while putting their dishes away. “Sounds like our ski lesson is back on,” she sings.
“Not with those avalanche warnings it’s not,” Alex argues.
Kara shrugs, keeps dancing. “What’s life without a little risk?”
“Stop talking,” Lena grouches. “I’m calling my assistant.”
“Ooh, let me speak to her!” Sam skips over. “Jess owes me twenty bucks.”
Lena knows better than to ask. “Will do,” she deadpans, “right after I inform her I’m being held hostage.”
“Oh, don’t!” Alex calls out, sounding genuinely concerned. “That poor girl. I think she’s still traumatized from your last abduction.”
Kara freezes mid-Dougie and blinks slowly over at Lena. “Your last —”
Sam helpfully clarifies, “Abduction. Kidnapping?”
Alex shrugs. “Never made sense to me to call it that when it’s an adult that’s being taken.”
Kara gawks at Lena. Lena gazes back calmly, her phone to her ear. “I think you might still be underestimating exactly how hated my family is,” she tells Kara.
Alex snorts. “Or how rich.”
“Well,” Lena allows, “true, that one time it was about the money, but—”
“That one time?” Kara is yelling now. “How many times have there been?”
Lena glares down at her phone, her shoulders tight with frustration. “I can’t get a signal.”
“Figures.” Sam is looking out the window, where the gusty winter tableau Lena previously thought picturesque now makes for a much more malicious display. “You could try your luck at the library downtown,” Sam suggests. “They have a landline you can use, and their WiFi tends to be pretty reliable too, even with inclement weather.”
Lena’s practically out the door already. “Where are my keys?”
“You are not taking your car,” Alex rules. And at Lena’s stunned silence, “No snow chains.”
“You’re shitting me,” Kara says. “I know: ‘Language!’ I’m sorry. But how did they even allow you off the lot in Denver without snow chains?”
“And what is that smell?” Alex interjects. “Is there a body in the trunk? I was afraid to check last night.”
Lena seriously considers it. “You know, there might be. It *is* a rental.”
“I’ll drive you.” Kara concludes. “I actually have a quick errand to run, so it works out.”
Lena says it before she realizes it: “Please tell me you forgot to bring hair products and need to stock up, too.”
Kara’s eyes are wide and confused. “... No? I ran out of this one kind of floss I like —”
Lena glares at her. “Of course.”
Kara raises a hesitant hand to her own head. “Is there something wrong with my hair?”
“No,” Lena spits as if she’s insulting her, “it’s perfect.” Kara preens under the compliment anyway.
Lena shoots a deadly glare at Sam’s delighted laughter. At least someone is entertained.
The drive into town is short. It occurs to Lena that it’s the first time she and Kara have been alone since last night’s encounter, and she finds herself intimidated into reticence, afraid of making things awkward. But Kara doesn’t seem to mind the quiet. Lena admits it is kind of nice, after the constant clamor of a house full of friends. Kara is a skillful, confident driver, even in these calamitous conditions, and Lena is struck by how safe she feels with her behind the wheel.
The shopping area downtown is — and Lena Luthor doesn’t use this word lightly — adorable.
“I mean, it looks like a movie set,” she says to Kara, exasperated, observing the fairy lights strung along the streets, the Christmas villages continuing from one store’s window display to the next. “People actually live like this?”
It’s a serious question, Lena thinks, she’s not just venting. The holidays are just a silly social construct, why do people lose their minds over them?
Kara is distracted, making faces at a tiny child ambling towards them with its parents. The child in question is wearing a Santa hat and a white scarf clearly made to look like a long beard. Lena rolls her eyes.
Kara smiles at Lena next, eyes sparkling with the reflection of the lights surrounding them. “Why are you so angry?”
Lena deflates, feeling like a reprimanded child. She’s not angry. It’s just. “The lamp posts are wearing scarves, Kara.” It makes her — whatever. Impatient.
“They do that in my hometown, too,” Kara says. “Well. I think they still do it? I had to kind of get that tradition started, but it really took off.”
Lena stares at her, incredulous. “You put scarves on lamp posts.”
“Well, winter coats, mostly. They’re a little more effective.”
“Kara, lamp posts don’t —”
“They’re for the homeless population,” Kara explains. “And for those who don’t want to be seen or aren’t allowed at Goodwill, anymore.”
Oh. That’s actually... “Oh.”
Lena bites her lip, but ultimately can’t resist. “This town has a large homeless population, then?”
Kara rolls her eyes, but smiles while she does it. “No. Here it’s just to be ridiculous and have fun. Come on.”
The library is actually pretty impressive, and Lena makes note of the fact that it wouldn’t be a bad place for her to get some actual work done. The WiFi connection rivals the one at her office in both speed and reliability, and Lena manages to send not just a quick word to her assistant (who immediately texts her back telling her to ‘TAKE A VACTAION YOU DICK’, sic erat scriptum) but also to answer a few of the more urgent emails she finds in her inbox.
When she’s done, she tracks down Kara in the children’s section, engrossed in a well-loved copy of The Story of Ferdinand.
They spot the faint glow of a Walgreens sign just down the street, and while Kara goes on a search for her very particular brand of floss, Lena fills up a basket with several unfamiliar brands of hair and body care products. Their prices inspire little confidence in their usefulness, but it will have to do for the duration of her stay. The clerk that rings them up is wearing a sweater that urges them to MAKE CHRISTMAS GREAT AGAIN, and Lena narrowly avoids punching him in the face, throwing aside her would-be purchases and making a run for it.
Kara seems to understand the impulse, stepping closer and gently nudging Lena’s shoulder with her own. It helps: Lena breathes and eases down her temper. Best not to make enemies of the locals, she tells herself. God knows how long she’ll be trapped in these mountains.
It’s a sobering thought; the idea alone of having to make it through even one more night of slowly freezing to death makes her shiver instinctively.
Unless, her body suggests, the prickle of goosebumps on her skin evoking a powerful sense memory of the comfort she had found in Kara’s bed.
“I need to get some warmer clothes,” Lena announces sharply. “Maybe a few scarves. Or some blankets.” Her tone betrays only a fraction of the panic spiking in her chest. “Do you want to go back to the library? It may be a while.” Lena makes a beeline for the nearest store with a mannequin in the window, Kara rushing after her, a little perplexed.
It’s a self-defense move, obviously. Lena can not fall for the temptation of that warm embrace again.
The shop they’ve walked into is a tourist trap, there’s really no kinder way to put it. The smell of pine is so strong it bites, the lights are blinding. Lena counts six Christmas trees and almost reflexively turns on her heel, intending to walk right back out the door — but then she sees it: a sign advertising thermal underwear.
She has come to the right place. Not only will the atrocities on offer keep her warm, there’s also absolutely zero percent chance she’ll be feeling frisky while wearing them. “Sold,” she tells Kara, grabbing a convenient 3-pack. They’re printed with 1. dancing santas, 2. prancing reindeer and 3. candy canes, which makes Lena very, very irritable. They’re perfect.
Kara stops her from walking straight to the register. “Aren’t you going to try them on?”
Lena stares at her. “They’re underwear.”
Kara still looks troubled. There’s a tiny divot just above her left eyebrow, a scar from chickenpox maybe, and it twists into a charming little crease when she frowns. “But how will you know if they fit you correctly?”
“Kara, I don’t care, it’s not like it’s a —”
“You girls need help with something?”
Kara twirls around at the saleswoman that has ambushed them. “YES!” she states, before Lena can stop her. “My friend here isn’t quite sure what size she needs.”
You’re not my friend, Lena almost says, I have no idea what you are.
“Oh! That’s not a problem. We can measure you real quick.”
“No no,” Lena tries, “I don’t need —”
But apparently nobody in the entire state of Colorado cares about what Lena Luthor does or doesn’t need.
Lena is used to tailor-made. What she’s not used to is having a complete stranger’s hands around her chest as Kara watches with a wide grin on her face.
“Oh, yeah, for sure,” the saleswoman says, “We’re going to have to get you a size up.”
Lena once again finds herself breathing through an intense episode of righteous indignation. “I hate you so much right now,” she tells Kara, tenderly.
Kara holds up a small stack of pajamas in a variety of colors and materials. A peace offering. “I found you some other options you might like better. They look a little warmer to me.”
Warmer is good. Lena would rather be charbroiled inside her own bed tonight than end up in Kara’s again.
She feels ridiculous. She has known Kara for less than 24 hours, and in that time has managed not only to sleep with her, but also to allow her to knock Lena so thoroughly off-balance that she’s willingly enduring the indignity of undressing in front of a full length mirror, bathed in lights one hundred times brighter than the sun and ten times as unflattering, while squeezing herself into off-the-rack sleepwear.
One of the items Kara has handed her is a one-piece. Lena hardly would have given it a second look if the fabric didn’t feel so implausibly soft between her fingers. But. What? Is that - are those fucking antlers ?
“Did you just. Kara!” she demands. “Did you just hand me a reindeer costume?”
“It’s not a costume,” Kara says, sticking her head around the curtain without warning or apparent sense of propriety. “It’s a onesie!”
Lena is too stunned to protect her modesty.
“Gosh, your skin is so pretty,” Kara says, looking at her unselfconsciously and a little dazed. “It’s like mother of pearl.”
Lena laughs, a bitter, sarcastic sound. “Grey and lifeless?” she effortlessly deflects, desperate to take Kara’s attention off of the feature she just tried to compliment, very aware that it’s rapidly turning red from her cheeks down to her chest.
Kara’s eyes are pleading. “Just try it. You’ll never want to take it off.”
Lena zips it up as Kara watches her, then faces the mirror along with the inconvenient truth that Kara is not wrong. She looks like a character on Barney & Friends, but never before has an article of clothing so successfully emulated the feeling of being hugged.
Kara has the audacity to reach for the hood and pull it over Lena’s head, as if her hair hasn’t been terrorized enough. At Lena’s thoroughly unimpressed glare, she lets out a delighted bark of laughter.
Lena folds her arms in front of her chest. “I’m glad you find my suffering so hilarious.”
Kara looks dangerously pleased with herself. “But are you comfy?” she gloats.
Lena strokes the soft fleece, tries not to look at Kara’s face. “Whatever. This had better not be some fetish thing, Kara. I know what a furry is.”
Kara’s smile is pure sunshine. “I promise you won’t regret this.”
She hands Kara the 3-pack of long underwear the saleswoman so helpfully exchanged for the ones Lena had originally picked out. “Get these a size down for me?”
Kara frowns. “I thought these were the right —”
Lena waves her away. “They’ll be baggy, Kara. I want something skintight.”
Kara blinks a few times at the adjective. “Well, I mean. Not to like, person-who-is-used-to-colder-weather-splain to you? But it actually helps to have a bit of room between the fabric and your skin.”
And Lena knows this. She’s a literal genius, she knows the science, okay. But “The idea is that I'll be able to wear these under my regular clothes. I won’t be walking around in a reindeer costume all day.”
“Reindeer onesie,” Kara corrects her. “And that remains to be seen.”
By the time Lena is finished getting dressed, Kara is at the register, paying. Lena is mortified. “What are you doing?”
“Well,” Kara shrugs, “I figured, I didn’t get you anything for the holidays, and we’re friends now. Sisters, even!”
Lena winces at the words, making sure to file them away for later.
In case the added layers of clothing don’t provide enough of a barrier between herself and another Very Dumb Idea.
Compared to Lena’s ordeal at the tourist trap, their trip to the grocery store is a relatively quick and painless affair. Even though Kara is apparently one of those people that likes to go down each aisle and taste every sample on offer, digging her hands into the open bags of seeds and grains.
She also insists Lena try out that mortal sin inflicted by Starbucks upon a perfectly fine bean called Pumpkin Spice when she discovers (with a frankly excessive outcry of surprise) that Lena has never tried it before.
“No wonder you hate the holidays,” she says, practically in tears, “What is there to celebrate if you don’t enjoy delicious seasonal treats?”
(Lena actually kind of likes it, but Kara doesn’t need to know that.)
By the time they pull into Sam’s garage, several hours have passed. It’s still snowing. Lena fears she may never get out of here.
She may actually not even make it out of the car: when she tries to undo her seatbelt, the mechanism catches, and Lena is trapped.
“Wait,” Kara says. “Can I just...” Before Lena’s brain can properly register what’s happening, Kara is leaning across her body, her face hovering right in front of her own, and Lena realizes that Kara is about to kiss her.
It’s. It’s? A little abrupt, a little awkwardly timed perhaps, but it’s also surprisingly welcome. In a moment, Kara’s scent is all around her. With a distant twinge of dismay Lena realizes it’s the cloyingly sweet fragrance of the shampoo/conditioner combo she found in their shower this morning. Kara is devastatingly close, her breath warm against Lena’s lips, and Lena tilts her head slightly, her eyelids fluttering closed.
So this is happening.
It’s embarrassing how ready Lena is for her. Her lips have parted without her conscious intervention, and when Kara murmurs “Is this okay?” and presses a deliciously firm hand into her thigh, Lena’s legs fall open, too. Kara’s touch is so sure, and Lena feels it everywhere; her body is blooming. She suddenly recalls the arm Kara had slung over her body to keep her from tumbling out of bed, how it had grown increasingly more possessive as the night went on, and her body wants exactly that, wants more of that, damn the consequences, damn the fact that Kara manages to push buttons Lena never even realized she had.
She’s eager to find out in which new ways Kara will push her next.
“GOT IT!” Kara whoops, nearly giving Lena a heart attack. She realizes belatedly that her seatbelt has released her — and then that it was Kara’s doing.
Lena practically throws herself out of the car, getting as far away from the source of her mortification as quickly as she can.
Lena Luthor is going to die.
Kara Danvers is going to kill her.
Please don’t kill me before I get a chance to publish the rest. I love you all.
Chapter 3: Hold Me In Your Fingers (Now The Game Can Begin)
You've all been absolutely lovely. I adore hearing about the various food items I've made you choke on while reading this.
Lena Luthor has rarely witnessed a crueler thing than Kara Danvers taking off both her jacket and her sweater — leaving her only in that cursed sleeveless top — before gathering up all their grocery bags with an entirely too satisfied sounding grunt and carrying them inside the house.
It’s an excruciatingly casual show of strength and beauty. Kara is briefly, perfectly framed by the warm yellow light pouring from the doorway where she pauses, somehow managing to balance all of her bags on one arm as she raises the other to touch her fingers to what Lena now realizes isn’t a home security device, but a small, new-looking white ceramic mezuzah. The light itself takes on an almost reverent quality, turning Kara’s hair and skin a glinting gold, casting stark shadows into the dips between her more prominent muscles and highlighting the soft hair on her forearms. Lena thinks she sees a faint dusting of freckles there.
But not. Like. Lena isn’t watching her, or anything.
She is actually quite studiously not looking at Kara as she follows her into the house, so Sam has no reason to suggestively quirk one eyebrow as if she’s caught Lena doing exactly that. Or to saunter up to them smiling like the cat who got the canary and remark, “You two were out for a while! Did you decide to go and have fun without us?”
Lena narrows her eyes at her, now flat-out suspicious. Sam blinks innocently back.
“We stopped to stock up.” Kara has hopped up on the kitchen island and is enthusiastically digging into the grocery bags surrounding her, looking like a child on Christmas morning. “You know, since we’re snowed in and all.”
“Did you buy out Whole Foods’ entire inventory?” Sam demands, holding up a large tin of Iranian saffron in one hand and the box with the Bamix Gold Crown blender in the other. “This is a little excessive, even for you.”
Lena delicately plucks the items from her hands. “You are aware I am a literal billionaire.”
“Are you, really?” Kara asks, her enthusiastic interest entirely too much for Lena to handle after the kind of day she’s had. Lena needs those layers she so carefully picked out, but Kara hasn’t given her the bags from the boutique since pronouncing them a gift.
“Observe the irony that is you buying me clothes,” Lena says with a pointed eyebrow to the bags in question, hoping Kara can take a hint.
Sam’s eyes bounce between the both of them. She’s wearing the exact same expression she does on the nights Lena will have a few too many drinks and try to explain to her best friend the intricate psycho-sociological model she’s constructed to prove that, deep down, Lillian is right about Lena’s character flaws and the ways in which she’s failed both as a daughter and as a businesswoman. “You... bought her clothes ?” Sam blinks.
Kara shrugs, sniffing at a net of Jerusalem artichokes. “Just some underwear. Hey, are these truffles?”
Lena observes sharply as Sam chokes on air, looking entirely too thrilled for someone who is unable to breathe.
Lena is tired.
Sam is a little shit.
Kara reaches behind her back, takes the brightly colored bags that contain the physical manifestation of Lena’s latest coping mechanism and holds them out for Lena to take. “They’re a gift,” she informs a still faintly wheezing Sam, as if that will clarify the matter.
Lena holds out a hand to take them from her, then hesitates. “You sure you don’t have a tree somewhere you want to put these under?”
Why is she arguing? Take your layers and run, Lena.
Ruby, previously unnoticed only because she’s buried herself in her blanket nest by the fire again, calls out: “ Someone decided we’re not getting a tree this Christmas.”
Sam clears her throat, having finally recovered. “Funny,” she tells her daughter, “I distinctly remember yours being the deciding vote to celebrate Hanukkah this year, instead.”
Alex appears out of nowhere just behind Lena’s shoulder, like the ninja she is, making Lena jump and visibly enjoying doing so. “I told you we should just do both,” she says to Sam. “Ruby just saw a loophole where she wouldn’t have to wait until the 25th to exchange presents.”
“Not true,” Ruby argues, before adding “I enjoyed the dreidel games, too.”
“You certainly enjoyed my gelt,” Kara calls to her. And lower, to Lena, “First time this kid plays, and she takes me for everything I’m worth.”
Alex bites into an apple. Then confesses, “I may have practiced with her just a teensy bit.”
Kara looks utterly betrayed. “I guess sibling loyalty means nothing, anymore.”
“Okay, look —”
Kara holds up a stern hand to her sister, shaking her head sadly. “I will only hear your apology if it comes in the form of cheap, tin foil covered chocolate.”
“I’ve got you, babe.” Alex kisses her sister’s cheek. “Day after Valentine’s.”
“You’d better.” Kara holds out the bags to Lena again. “Happy belated Hanukkah. Or merry early Christmas. Whichever you prefer.”
Lena prefers padding her whole entire body against both the cold and Kara’s relentless charm. Still, manners. “I didn’t get you anything,” she points out.
Kara sighs dramatically. “Awful,” she says, leaning into Lena’s space conspiratorially, her closeness alarmingly reminiscent of the seatbelt incident earlier. “You have failed me as a friend.”
Lena’s eyes land on Kara’s lips, the way they twitch and curve and stretch into a smile. I’m failing you much worse as a ‘sister’, she thinks but doesn’t say. Not with Sam looking at them like she wants to forcibly shove their faces together and tell them to kiss.
Alex has started putting the groceries away, occasionally wrestling her sister for a couple of the more immediately edible items. “I don’t think we have enough room in the refrigerator to store all of this stuff.”
“Nonsense,” Kara says, jumping down off the kitchen island and then, disastrously, with an appreciative pat on what Lena supposes might be the sleek metal rump of the thing, if fridges had rumps, “Look at the size of this beauty. It might be a tight fit, but I bet she can take it.”
Lena never would have thought she’d be able to tell the exact moment her gray hair would begin to grow in.
“So,” Kara says brightly, “who else wants hot chocolate?”
Sam smiles like the devil nobody ever believes she can be. “Lena is looking pretty thirsty.”
Fuck it, Lena decides. She doesn't need to subject herself to any more of this.
She’s upstairs, cursing the world while attempting to squeeze herself into one of those infernal sets of long underwear, questioning every single decision she’s made in her life, but especially the ones that got her to board a plane to Colorado in the middle of fucking winter and somehow become inextricably entangled with Kara Danvers.
Much in the way she’s now entangled in a piece of festive, unyielding fabric.
There’s a knock on the bedroom door. Oh, she’s respecting her privacy now, is she?
“Kara, I swear to god,” Lena calls out, “if you open that door, I’m charging you admittance. You’ve seen enough of me naked today.”
“Oh really?” Sam asks, gliding into the room and making herself comfortable on Lena’s bed. She’s brought a bag of mini marshmallows and pops a couple into her mouth, looking satisfied with herself. “That’s my girl. Moving fast! Good for you.”
“Shut it, Arias.” Lena has come too far in life to have her suffering serve as someone’s entertainment. “It’s your fault I had to get an entire winter wardrobe just to survive the arctic temperatures this bedroom reaches at night.”
Sam hums, looking over at Kara’s bed. “Maybe you could push these two together,” she gestures with her finger, “Keep warm that way?”
Lena pauses her current struggle with a stubborn sleeve to glare at her. “Stop it. I know what you’re doing.”
Sam laughs. “Oh thank god.” She looks Lena up and down, appearing unimpressed by her efforts to willpower her way into an outfit Lena will never admit may simply not have been made to fit her body. “You have no idea how exhausting it’s been waiting for you two idiots to figure it out on your own.”
Lena narrows her eyes at her. “Is the pass even closed? Or did you pull some strings at CDOT?”
Sam throws a marshmallow into the air and catches it neatly between her teeth. “The snowstorm was a happy coincidence,” she says. “I was going to sabotage your car.”
“Just out of curiosity,” Lena poses, “What exactly is your interest in this?”
At that, Sam gives her one of those looks Lena really doesn’t like. “Honey, how long has it been?” she asks. “Since Andrea?”
“You swore never to mention that name to me again,” Lena warns.
Sam drops it. “Fine,” she says matter-of-factly, “I think you need to get laid, and I happen to know first-hand — no pun intended, of course — that Danvers women have some truly extraordinary abilities.” She has the audacity to make an attempt at jazz hands while she says it.
Lena takes a calming breath. “Okay. One, you’re disgusting, and two, Kara and Alex aren’t even blood related —”
“Oh, so you fall on the nature side of the argument now?”
Lena cuts her a sharp look; it’s not as if Sam doesn’t know exactly which of her deep-seated fears those words play into.
Sam admits, as an afterthought, “I also have a lot of money riding on this.”
Lena nods. Of course. “Jess.”
Sam hums in the affirmative. “Alex, too.”
Now that Lena refuses to believe. “You’re telling me Alex is complicit in your plot to set me up with her little sister?”
“No.” Sam snorts. “Obviously she’s betting against you. Insists Kara ‘isn’t your type’.”
Lena has been looking around hoping to find a pair of scissors, or maybe a hydraulic rescue tool to help loosen this soft cotton torture device, but she clings to Alex’s judgment like a drowning man. “She’s right,” she says, “what makes you think I even find Kara attractive?”
Sam laughs at her, actually throws her head back and pulls her knees into her chest and cackles. “I’m sorry,” she says, sobering a little at Lena’s pissed off expression, “but honey, you’re either a really, really bad liar or super awesome at fooling yourself.”
Lena catches a glimpse of the state she’s in, courtesy of the small mirror by the door, and resumes her brave endeavor to wriggle a second leg into the strangling grip of the long underwear bottoms that, she now supposes, may just be Colorado’s latest effort to end her life.
“Whatever,” Lena tells her, ever so eloquently. “For your little self-serving set-up to work, you’d still need Kara to actually be interested in me in that way. And at this point, I’m not even convinced she knows she likes women.”
Sam’s smile is amused. “But you’ve noticed that she does. And you must have seen the way she looks at you. Which, who can blame her, right? Look at —”
She takes in the sight of Lena, standing there looking like a sad sausage, half clad in underwear obviously tailored to someone with the body shape of a piece of linguini.
“This present situation excluded,” Sam amends, “You’re fucking gorgeous. And I’ve seen Kara stare at you with a hunger I’ve only ever seen her direct at Eliza’s world famous sweet noodle kugel. In what universe is that a woman who isn’t interested in you?”
Lena patiently waits for Sam to pour another handful of marshmallows into her mouth, biding her time until she sees Sam is about to swallow. Then she adds, perfectly casual: “I spent the night in her bed. Kind of think she would have made a move then, if she wanted to.”
Breaking her vow to pretend it never happened is worth it, just to watch Sam choke on corn syrup and gelatin.
Sam’s eyes are wide as saucers. “You — what?”
“Don’t get too excited. She was literally asleep the entire time.”
Sam groans. “Kara, come on. I was rooting for you.”
“Anyway,” Lena decides, “Alex wins, and good. She needs the money more than you.“
Sam looks appalled. “She’s a hot shot heart surgeon!”
“And you’re the CFO of the multinational tech conglomerate that owns her research hospital.”
Sam goes oddly still. “It may very well all be hers soon, anyway,” she says, suddenly hushed, suddenly serious.
Lena feels a chill take hold of her heart at the change in Sam’s energy. She sits down beside her on the bed, nervous. “Sam, is there something I need to know?”
“I’m fine, I’m sorry,” Sam says, understanding in an instant where Lena’s mind has gone. “My scans are clean. All I have is like, a shit ton of anxiety right now. And this... ring.”
From an inside pocket of her long cardigan, Sam has produced a black velvet box. She pops it open and stares, a little apprehensively, at the beautiful piece of jewelry inside. “I’ve been thinking of proposing to Alex before we return to National City,” she says, breathless, looking terrified, “and I need you to talk me out of it.”
Lena Luthor once took part in a celebrity poker tournament to raise funds for charity. She’s had to walk into a courtroom to testify against her once very favorite brother, knowing she’d be putting him away for life. She’s even managed to smile graciously through an awards ceremony with Lillian at her side like the eagle to Lena’s Prometheus, the cameras pointed at them holding her in place as efficiently as shackles would as her mother purposefully pecked away at her self confidence.
But she will count this moment, right here, keeping her composure at the priceless revelation that her favorite bully / best friend is going to be outplayed by her soon-to-be fiancée during her own marriage proposal, as her proudest accomplishment to date.
“Sam,” she says, kindly, just the right amount of pleased surprise in her voice, “you’re asking Alex to marry you? That’s wonderful!”
Sam is visibly spiraling. “Am I? Is it?”
Lena is a little confused. “... Are you?”
“I’m — I’m fairly certain. I mean, I might. I want to. But do you think I should? Is it a bad idea? Oh god, it is, isn’t it?”
Sam looks genuinely distressed, and Lena instinctively shifts into supportive best friend mode. “Okay,” she says, “Just — to be clear. You’re asking me if proposing to the woman you love, affirming what has to be the most nauseatingly healthy relationship I have ever seen you in, is a bad idea?”
Sam looks younger and more timid than Lena has ever seen her look before. “...Yes?”
Lena blinks, softens. “Where is this coming from?”
Sam closes the ring box, tucks it back into her pocket. “It’s Alex, Lena,” she says. “She’s amazing. I don’t think I’ll ever want anything more for myself than to spend the rest of my life with her.”
Lena wants to grab Sam and shake her, that’s how happy she feels for the two of them. “So tell her that!”
Sam looks ashamed. “But that’s a pretty shitty deal, isn’t it? Considering I can’t promise I’ll be around in like, two years? Or three? Or ten?” Her voice shakes on the last word, as if she’s scared to even think that far ahead.
But who can promise that, really?
“Sam.” Lena lays a gentle hand on her knee. “Your scans are clean.”
Sam shakes her head, casts her eyes down. “It’s not a guarantee. And what if Alex thinks this is all about Ruby? That I’m just setting her up to take over for me when… if it comes to that?”
Lena thinks about it. Asks, maybe a little too forwardly, “Is that why you’re proposing?”
“No.” Sam takes a second. “... Yes? It’s part of it, if I’m being honest. But how could it not be? They adore each other. We’re already a family. I feel like we were family from the moment I introduced them.”
Lena can’t disagree. She remembers Sam sending her increasingly incredulous texts about it, for weeks.
There’s something she needs Sam to know, though.
“You do know Ruby would be safe even in a scenario where you didn’t have this amazing partner, right?” Lena means it: she’s sure, at this point, that she would stop at nothing to ensure Ruby’s wellbeing.
Sam gives her a grateful smile. “Thank you,” she says, “really. But you understand that isn’t quite the same thing.”
“I know.” And Lena does, although it still stings a little.
“I just don’t think it’s fair,” Sam sighs, “to ask Alex for that kind of a commitment.”
Lena takes Sam’s hands in her own and squeezes gently. “That’s not up to you. Alex deserves to make that choice for herself. That’s how this works: you ask the question, and she gives you an answer.”
Sam is looking a little more optimistic. “So you don’t think I’m being selfish?”
“You’re proposing, Sam!” Lena wants to shake her for entirely different reasons, now. “Stop acting like this wouldn’t be a mutually beneficial arrangement. Alex adores the both of you. Here you are talking about the way Kara looks at me, allegedly, but have you seen the way Alex looks at you? Have you forgotten about all that you bring to the table?”
Sam blinks at her, and for a moment Lena almost thinks she sees her best friend blushing. “God,” Sam whispers, “I really may have gotten way too far into my head about this.” She rakes a hand through her hair, looking relieved. “Thank you,” she tells Lena, “That helped.” She sounds a little too surprised for Lena to consider it strictly flattering.
Sam finally regards three-time Forbes ‘30 Under 30’ honoree, Mensa certified genius, billionaire business woman / Scorpio bitch Lena Luthor clad top-to-bottom in pine green long underwear adorned with snowflakes and tiny prancing reindeer. Sam’s face is a picture of perfect childlike wonder when she asks, “What in god’s name are you wearing?”
Lena grits her teeth. “Armor.”
By the time Lena and Sam join the rest of them downstairs, Lena has smoothed a new pair of sweatpants and a soft, deep purple boat neck sweater over her thermal underwear. The initial discomfort of their restrictive fit has settled into a pleasantly warm, pleasantly corseted feeling, and Lena feels vindicated.
Kara’s in the kitchen piping whipped cream directly into Ruby’s mouth. “Hey,” Ruby sputters out when she spots them settling down by the hearth, “Aunt Lena still hasn’t tried your cookies!”
“Oh sweetie,” Alex calls out to Ruby, “be sure to bring her a napkin too? We don’t want to get crumbs everywhere.”
Lena blames catching the tail end of Alex’s warning look only after she’s taken a bite on the fact that Kara’s now casually gripping her own elbows above her head in the kitchen in a wholly unnecessary stretch that puts entirely too much of her golden skin on display.
For a moment, Lena forgets that she lives in a universe where Kara Danvers can not be trusted with any combination of flour and sugar.
So huh, Lena notes, the cookies taste a lot like Christmas sweaters, too — or at least what Lena imagines a Christmas sweater might taste like had it been doused in cinnamon and then baked in a hot oven for approximately seven hours. “Yummy,” she manages for Ruby’s benefit, trying her best to mold her mouth around the word without allowing any more of the dry (and somehow salty?) crumbs to touch her tongue.
When Ruby turns away, her attention on her phone, Lena shoots a panicked look at Alex and Sam. Sam snorts indelicately. Alex already has her napkin handy for Lena to empty her mouth into.
Fuck Lillian’s manners.
“I tried to warn you,” Alex points out.
“Oh my god,” Lena heaves, “they’re bad, right?”
Alex shudders. “So bad.”
Lena ventures a look at Kara, huddled together with Ruby at the kitchen counter, cooing at what Lena assumes is a TikTok featuring some kind of baby animal. “How does Kara make it look like they’re the best thing she’s ever tasted? God, the woman is a saint.”
“Oh, no,” Sam interjects, already cocky again, no trace of the anxiety Lena witnessed earlier. “I’m pretty sure she actually likes them.” Smugly, she adds, “That woman just loves to eat.”
Alex shoves a sharp elbow into Sam’s ribs.
Lena ignores them.
No one argues when Lena announces she’s cooking them dinner that night, but Lena feels a little disappointed when Ruby barely responds to Lena’s statement, blushing at her phone and angling it away when her mom becomes a little too interested in what she’s doing. Lena assumes she’ll have to make do without her sous chef, until Kara bounces over and asks, “How can I help?”
Kara appears unreasonably excited at the prospect of food. Any food. Lena notes with displeasure, as she ties her hair up in a more convenient bun, that the woman truly must have an oral fixation when she catches Kara attempting to bite into a raw piece of turmeric root. She has the gall to look wounded when Lena tells her to put it back where she found it.
Once Lena sets her up at the cutting board, though, she also discovers Kara takes instruction rather well. She slices and pares the basque peppers Lena gives her quickly and confidently as Lena preheats the oven and sets a large pot of water to boil, seasoning it lightly. Lena can’t stop sneaking glances at Kara’s hands as she works. They’re elegant, but strong — broad palms, long fingers. Her nails are clean and clipped short.
Stop it, Lena tells herself, conscious of the fact that Sam and Alex are watching them, talking too quietly for Lena to understand.
In an effort to explain away her appreciation of Kara’s fingers, Lena says, “You’re good at that. Did Eliza teach you how to cook?”
Kara blushes. “I’m actually not allowed in Eliza’s kitchen anymore.”
Lena laughs. “I have a feeling there’s a story there.”
“Nope. Nothing happened ever, at all.”
She smiles. “I’ll have to ask Alex about it.”
“Please don’t.” Kara looks so crestfallen it takes all of Lena’s presence of mind to keep from taking her handsome face into her hands and promise passionately to never bring up the matter again.
She shows Kara how to separate the eggs next. Then she watches serenely as Kara runs a victory lap, collecting high fives from the others after her first successful attempt. When Kara returns to her, she has a suspicious look on her face. “Why does that already smell so good?”
“Garlic and onions,” Lena explains. “Effortlessly impressive.” The oven timer beeps. “Get those out and wrap them in tin foil for me?”
As soon as Kara gets her oven mitts around the fragrant dish, Lena sees they’re going to have a problem. Eyeing the roasted peppers greedily, breathing in deep, Kara asks, “Do I have to? Can I just eat them, instead?”
“Kara,” Lena warns.
With a swiftness Lena is pretty sure defies the laws of physics, Kara has already popped half a pepper into her mouth. And for the second time that day, Lena can only watch as terror and regret register on Kara’s reddening face.
Lena fills a glass with cool water, hands it to her. “Is this something you’re going to do at every meal? Should I start keeping an oral ice pack handy?”
“I’m sorry,” Kara says, looking properly embarrassed as she watches Lena expertly fold the foil around the dish, hiding the peppers from view. “They smell really good.”
“Watch this,” Lena says. And then, with another warning glance, “But no touching until I tell you to.”
Kara stands up straighter at that. “Yes ma’am.”
Lena pours a royal amount of olive oil into a frying pan before something occurs to her. “I know Alex doesn’t keep kosher,” she says, “But do you have any restrictions that are different from hers? I can easily adjust for them, if you do.”
Kara squints her eyes at her in a sweet little smile that also scrunches her nose in a manner that is almost maddeningly cute. “I would have said something earlier,” she assures her. “you’re fine. No pork, no shellfish, that’s it.”
“Fresh pasta?” Lena confirms. “Cheese in the sauce?”
“Yes and also please.”
While the olive oil heats up, Lena gently massages a little more pepper and salt into the center cut steaks she’d set aside to marinate, before lowering them into the pan and adding a chunk of butter. “Keep an eye on these?”
There really is no need, Lena assesses, for Kara to pass behind her as closely as she does when they switch places. Lena’s body follows Kara’s excruciatingly slow progression with keen interest: the fleeting, almost phantom touch of hands on her hips; thighs brushing against her ass; breath tickling the hair at the back of her neck. Goosebumps race up Lena’s arms, covering her shoulders and her chest, and an almost aching warmth spreads behind her ribs before thumping down heavily between her legs.
Lena barely manages to contain the shuddering sigh ready to spill out at the sensation.
It’s such a move, and it’s infuriatingly effective, leaving Lena practically swaying on her feet. If Kara is paying attention, she can’t possibly have missed the effect she’s having on her now.
And if she is genuinely not trying to get into her pants, Lena would greatly appreciate it if she’d stop seducing her.
With renewed resolve, Lena uncovers the roasted basque peppers and begins peeling them. The repetitive motion requires attention and delicate control, and Lena finds it soothing.
Kara regards her curiously from her place at the stove. “Why do you know how to do all of this?”
The question surprises her. “Why do I know how to cook?”
“Yeah. I mean.” One corner of her mouth curls up in a cheeky half smile. “Rumor has it you’re a billionaire. Don’t you have people to do this for you?”
“I did,” Lena admits, the words tumbling out as if they’ve been waiting for an excuse to do so. “We had this truly excellent chef the summer before I went to college.”
Once Lena starts talking, it’s as if she can’t stop. “She was — kind,” she tells Kara. “Most beautiful woman I had ever seen, at fifteen. She had this impeccable poise, but not in that tight way I was used to seeing in women her age. She’d look like a dancer, the easy way she’d move around the kitchen, as if she was performing actual magic, not just the culinary kind.”
Lena’s heart is pounding, remembering her. She attempts to ground herself, feeling the knife in her hand, the wood surface of the cutting board, the slippery, yielding texture of the peppers beneath her fingertips.
“She had this adorable four-year-old I’d see in pictures,” she continues, “but Lillian would never allow her to bring him by the house. I spent as much time with her in that kitchen as I could reasonably get away with. She told me I had a natural gift for cooking, that it was a shame I'd already chosen to go into engineering.”
“Sounds like someone had a crush,” Kara teases.
Lena knows she’s blushing. “I hope not,” she says. “In retrospect, I think I just wanted her to be my mom. She was patient with me. I cut myself once, a blunt knife, and she fussed over me for the better part of an hour.”
Lena doesn’t know why the faded images suddenly appear so vividly. She’s almost breathless at the memory of feeling seen, of being taken care of. Her eyes flicker over to Kara’s. She’s feeling foolish, utterly unused to sharing like this.
But Kara just regards her with an open, understanding expression on her face. “I think I’d want her to be my mom, too.”
For a moment, they’re just looking at each other, Lena feeling oddly settled, until she remembers the steaks are definitely ready to come out of the pan. Adding a last dash of pepper, she sets them aside to rest.
“So did your mother fire her to get rid of the competition?” Kara jokes.
Lena pushes out her breath on a wry smile. “Actually, a few weeks before I was due to leave, approaching autumn, I got sick. Just, intense headaches, fevers. Stomach cramps. Lillian thought I was being dramatic, until I developed this charming rash around my mouth, and her dermatologist suggested an allergy, and it turned out Rhea had actually been poisoning me.”
Kara’s face falls, and for a second, everything goes still.
“Lena, oh my god. I’m—”
“Don’t,” Lena says, already deeply regretting her silly little tangent. “It’s in the past.”
“Is it?” Kara prods, gently. “What happened to her?”
Lena gives her a dark look, hoping Kara can read minds so she doesn’t have to say the next part out loud.
“It’s okay,” Kara course-corrects. “We can talk about something else. Tell me — tell me about turnips. What is the point of those? I’ve always wondered.”
Lena feels her body swaying toward Kara again, but the warm, magnetized sort of feeling comes from an entirely different place this time.
“She died in jail,” Lena says, looking up bravely and apologetically into those kind, patient eyes. “She was killed before her trial.”
“I’m sorry,” Kara says, and it’s nothing Lena hasn’t been told over and over before, but something hits differently this time, and it has nothing to do with the gentle hand that Kara slides from Lena’s shoulder down her arm. She hesitates when she reaches the joint of Lena’s wrist, and Lena wonders for a moment if Kara’s about to hold her hand. “I don’t even know how you’d be able to trust someone again, after that,” Kara says.
It’s too hot, Lena thinks, the oven and the stove, her carefully assembled layers of clothing, Kara’s honest empathy. She feels like she’s melting from the inside out.
Lena takes a step back in an effort to compose herself. “I just don’t like having other people handling my food,” she shrugs. “And I was fine. I mean I have an ulcer, but who can say I wouldn’t have had that even without the failed assassination attempt?”
Lena becomes aware that she’s smiling a little manically, tucks it back in. “Her little boy was the only true victim,” she says. “I hope she was doing it for him, you know? That she was planning on that big reward check to send Mon-El to college, give him a good life. I don’t know.”
Alex has come up behind them, startling Lena again.
“Mon-El?” she asks. “Are you guys talking about that intern in L-Corp’s legal department Sam’s always complaining about?”
Kara’s eyes zero in on Lena immediately. Lena feels pinned by them. “That’s not a very common name,” Kara notes.
Lena blinks too quickly an obnoxious amount of times. So much for her poker face. “It may be more common than we think,” she tries, very deliberately slanting her eyes down to the sauce that’s simmering on the stove.
Sam has risen too, roused by the name of her adversary, making a show of popping her shoulders and knees as she joins them in the kitchen. “God, I can’t stand that guy,” she groans. “Too charming. Has everyone in that office fawning over him. Got a good head on his shoulders, though. Went to all the best schools, the top programs, prestigious internships — that boy definitely has someone pulling strings for him. I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s the one running that department in ten years.”
Alex and Sam take over the conversation, collecting plates and glasses and setting the table for dinner. By the time Lena is slicing the steak, Alex is bickering with both Arias women about which Spotify playlist should serve as the soundtrack to their dinner — but Lena still feels Kara’s eyes on her.
Taking advantage of a particularly loud outburst at the table, Kara leans close to Lena again. She says, quietly, her lips almost brushing Lena’s ear, “You’re a good person.”
Then she’s gone, joining the others at the table.
It takes Lena several moments to shake it, this hot glow she feels all over. Her heart is pounding again, feeling like it’s taking up too much room in her chest.
“This looks like something from Top Chef,” Ruby exclaims when Lena sets her plate down in front of her.
Kara’s eyes have gone completely black. “Wow,” she breathes as Lena sits down beside her, “this smells amaz—“
“Stop.” Lena manages to catch Kara’s hand this time, a still steaming slice of steak dangling dangerously from the fork she has in her grip. Kara looks at her, the full force of her hungry gaze suddenly directed right at her, and, oh, now Lena sees what Sam meant, maybe. “You’re going to burn yourself again,” Lena says, her voice shaking hardly at all. “I want you to repeat what I say.”
Kara blinks. “Okay?”
“I’m aware,” Lena recites slowly, as if addressing a preschooler, “that this food is hot.”
Kara’s eyes have a dangerously amused gleam to them. “Are you serious?”
“Repeat after me,” Lena demands, a little more stern than strictly necessary.
“Hot food,” Kara concedes. “Gotcha.”
Lena glares at her, but allows it. “And I will be careful,” she continues, “no matter how good it looks.”
Kara smirks. “I'll be careful.”
Lena tilts her chin at her. It’s a practiced move. “No matter how good it looks,” she warns.
Kara’s eyes track the sharp line of her jaw, but she hasn’t stopped smirking. “You have a sadistic streak.”
Lena lets go of Kara’s hand as if she’s the one that’s been burned.
“You would think, right?” Sam says, leaning forward on her elbows, dark eyes glinting, “But, interestingly—“
“Finish that sentence, Arias, I dare you,” Lena says sharply, but Alex has it handled.
Lena suffers through dinner, trying very hard to focus on the Christmas classics Ruby has picked out for them.
They do nothing to block the frankly pornographic sounds of satisfaction Kara insists on making as she inhales her food.
Lena is never cooking for her again.
The evening ends much like the one before, with Ruby in bed and the rest of them scattered around the fire drinking wine.
What’s different tonight is Lena feeling like her body has been set to a low simmer, a vivid, curling, restless kind of heat sitting low in the cradle of her hips, urging her to close the distance between Kara and herself. They’re sitting on opposite sides of the same couch, Sam having helpfully thrown them a single quilt to share, and Lena can feel the warmth between their bodies blend and build in a powerfully pleasurable reminder of the night before.
It has her hanging onto her armrest with the white-knuckled grip of an anxious flyer.
The Danvers sisters are exchanging harmless barbs with Sam, their back-and-forth reading like a favorite game, familiar and fond. It occurs to Lena that this is the first time she’s had an opportunity to watch Kara without being watched in turn.
Had she been sober, Lena would have followed a far more respectable scientific method to study the rare phenomenon that is Kara Danvers, and the effect she has on Lena Luthor.
But Sam really does have a very excellent taste in wine, so. Lena reverts to the tried-and-true tactic of poking at the unfamiliar thing until she provokes some kind of response.
When Kara announces her intentions to never leave this house, saying she could open her own bakery, Lena laughs.
“A bakery,” she repeats. “You’re kidding, right?”
The little crease between Kara’s eyebrows deepens. “What do you mean?”
She looks at her, tired. “Kara. You’re a terrible cook.”
Kara has the audacity to look affronted. “I wouldn’t cook. I’d bake.”
“She’s right, Kara,” Alex concurs. “I love you, but I think it’s time we ban you from our kitchen, as well.”
“Unless you’re lending Lena a hand, of course,” Sam amends, trying (and, in Lena’s personal opinion, failing) to make it sound suggestive.
“I haven’t even thought to ask,” Lena considers, “what do you do for a living?”
“That’s a boring question,” Kara answers, surprising her. “We need to stop buying into the idea that someone’s occupation determines who they are as a person.”
“Let me guess,” Lena says with a lazy smirk. “You’re a writer.”
Kara looks up at her with wide, desolate eyes. “Thanks a lot, Alex,” she sulks.
Alex’s face is a perfect picture of innocence. “I didn’t say anything!”
Sam laughs. “That was harsh, Lena, even for you.”
“Are you really?” Lena asks, delighted. But then a truly terrifying thought occurs to her.
This almost irrepressible urge she’s been feeling to expose herself to Kara, both literally and figuratively — is it a result of careful questioning? A conscious building of trust?
“Are you a reporter?” she asks Kara. It comes out sounding a little sharp, but not like the blade of a knife; rather like a musical note that doesn’t hit quite the way it was intended.
“Oh, no, never,” Kara assures her immediately. She adds, with an easy smile, “I’m an English teacher. But right now I’m taking some time off to work on my novel.”
“I still think that’s really admirable, Kara,” Sam says while Lena’s heart settles down. “Most people don’t have the courage or the discipline to really commit to their personal goals like that.”
“Yeah, well.” Kara slouches a little, picks at a piece of lint on her sock. “It’s not exactly going the way I’d hoped.”
“Fortunately art is one of the few career paths where suffering may actually lead to something good,” Alex tells her sister encouragingly. “Whereas in my field, they torture us for absolutely no good reason.”
Sam gives Alex a fond look. “You know, the offer to bring you on board still stands.”
Lena has to agree. ”I told you before that we’d be lucky to have you.”
“Thanks,” Alex says, mirroring the soft smile on her girlfriend’s face, “But I like what I do.”
Sam leans into her. “I know.”
“Well,” Lena says, addressing Alex and Kara both, “I couldn’t do it. Not either one of your jobs.”
Kara gives her a dubious look. “Are you squeamish? Does the sight of blood make you faint?”
“Is there that much bloodshed involved in teaching?” Lena asks, amused.
“You’d be surprised,” Kara says.
“It’s mostly her own,” Alex clarifies.
“Reassuring.” Lena winks at Kara, not really aware that she’s done it until she sees Kara’s cheeks flush pink.
Kara’s not looking away, though. In fact, in a near cataclysmic move, she holds Lena’s gaze as she sucks her bottom lip between her teeth, and bites it.
Lena clears her throat, dragging her eyes back to the older Danvers sister, for the benefit of her own health and safety. “I actually think the mechanics of cardio-thoracic surgery would be quite enjoyable,” she tells Alex.
“But not the people,” Sam suggests.
Lena raises her glass to her best friend and tilts it a little, as if in a toast. “Thank god the Luthor empire comes with that convenient ivory tower.”
“Please tell me you’re not trying to say your highly stressful career is actually a crutch,” Kara laughs, a little incredulously.
Lena has a feeling she’s being baited, so her smile is a little bitter when she sets down her glass. “That’s me. Limping up the Fortune 500, slouching toward the top of my field.”
Sam chuckles. “An appropriately apocalyptic image.”
Kara ignores her, pinning Lena with her steady gaze. “You’re making it sound like you took the easy way out,” she says, sounding puzzled. “As if doing what you do isn’t incredibly challenging.”
Lena considers that for a moment. “No. I suppose if I never left my comfort zone I’d be down in R&D, getting my hands dirty.”
From the corner of her eye, Lena sees Sam making another attempt at jazz hands. Alex calmly covers them with her own and pushes them down, a long-suffering look on her face.
Kara is smiling, so Lena assumes she must have managed somehow to set herself up for the point Kara’s been trying to make.
“But you’re not,” Kara says, “because you’re drawn to being more than that. To really put your brilliance toward a greater cause. You knew you’re capable of changing the world for the better, and so you did.”
Lena resents the way in which she is unable to get through one damn conversation with this woman without being completely thrown off kilter. She’s flustered, and tries to hide it behind her glass, mumbling into her wine as she tells Kara, “You’re making me sound like some sort of saint.”
“I know you’re not.” There’s a devastatingly fond glimmer to Kara’s eyes. “But a hero, maybe.”
The sisters decide it’s time for popcorn, after that, and since Kara is no longer allowed in the kitchen without supervision they leave Sam and Lena alone by the fire.
Sam waits until Alex and Kara are out of earshot before turning urgently toward Lena and saying, “If you don't kiss that woman, I will.”
Lena Luthor has felt more sober.
She considers herself in the mirror as she brushes her teeth. Much of her hair has fallen out of her messy bun, her lipstick no more than a distant memory. Her mascara has smudged into a lewd smokey eye, completing a look that, if she’s being completely honest? Lena actually thinks is pretty damn hot.
If this is what she was serving Kara all night, then maybe —
Lena spits, runs the faucet, splashes cold water on her face.
Kara’s comment about them being like sisters earlier was brutal, but Lena has to admit it wasn’t completely off the mark. Sam and Alex are engaged — even though they don’t know it yet — meaning Kara really is part of her family, now. Lena needs to shake whatever this sort of lustful vulnerability is that she’s been feeling around Kara, because she can’t think of a mistake with more devastating consequences than hooking up with a woman in a short-lived frenzy of sexual infatuation and then having to spend every birthday, graduation, every wedding, god, avoiding her.
Maybe Kara has already come to that conclusion herself. It would explain why she has made no move, sent no signals, done nothing to consciously instigate an escalation of what Lena has to believe is a mutual attraction. Lena has had her attention, and even her hands on her — and her brain and her body both are having a tremendously difficult time not interpreting that as romantic interest. But Kara has given no indication that she’s interested in taking it any further.
Lena opens the door to their shared bedroom carefully, hoping maybe Kara is already asleep. But she’s awake, regarding Lena expectantly as she walks into the room, as she makes her way over to the far side of it, as she climbs into her own bed, and turns off the light.
It’s quiet, for a minute.
Then Kara speaks up. “I feel like I’ve offended you again.”
Lena frowns into the dark, frustrated with herself. “You haven’t, Kara,” she admits. “You’re —” she falters. Lovely, her brain suggests. Witty. Kind. Fucking built like a Greek god. “You’re something else,” she decides. Adds, reluctantly, “I wasn’t expecting you.”
“Yeah,” Kara says, after a while. “I wasn’t expecting you, either.”
Lena feels like she can’t go a moment longer without addressing at least part of the elephant in the room. “Thank you for — sharing, last night.” She grimaces at the awkward wording. “That was very generous.”
“I am,” Kara says simply. “But it was my pleasure, truly.”
Lena breathes through it, through this overwhelming need to just — bare all, to not leave it all unsaid like this. To just cross the distance between them like she had last night and lay down beside her, and have Kara's hands on her again.
But she knows so much better.
Lena Luthor is a certified genius.
She’s capable of making one fucking responsible choice.
Chapter 4: I Spin And Spin Till I Fall To The Ground
Big hugs to everyone who has left kindness in the comment section. You have all made my heart grow three sizes and soon I, too, will no longer be able to fit into my thermal underwear. Thank you.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lena watches as the bread rolls she has prepared begin expanding in the oven.
They’re rising too fast, flowing into one another, a mountain of bread dough taking up the full sheet. What had she been thinking? She watches as it presses up against the glass, begins panicking when it starts squeezing through the seams of the oven door until it bursts open and dough is spilling out all over the kitchen floor, fat and pale and glistening.
It doesn’t stop expanding. With horror, Lena realizes it’s going to envelop the whole house and everyone in it, and it’s because of her one, stupid mistake.
There’s only one thing to do: she’s going to need to eat it all, before everyone finds out what she’s done.
Lena is shoving it down her throat, without chewing, drawing it into herself until she feels ill. She’s not fast enough, she can’t keep up, and she can hear them coming; they’re all going to know it was her, and no one will ever take Lena Luthor seriously again.
But it’s only Kara who walks into the kitchen. She looks at Lena, looks at the mess she’s made. Then she grabs a handful, takes a big, happy bite, and smiles.
“Lena.” Kara is pressing on her shoulder, but she’s also pressing on her mind, it’s very uncomfortable. “Lena, shh, you’re okay.”
With reluctant effort, Lena blinks awake.
“You were having a nightmare. Breathe with me for a minute?”
Lena realizes she’s hyperventilating, her heart pounding wildly in her chest. Kara is on the floor next to Lena’s bed, her hair a halo in the silver light coming from the window. It’s a cloudless night. Lena wonders absently if that means she will actually be able to escape this town today.
“Hey.” Kara’s hand squeezes around her shoulder, then moves to cradle her jaw. She tilts Lena’s face until she’s caught her eyes, and Lena sighs at the tenderness of her touch. “That’s it.” Kara’s smile is grateful. “You’re fine.”
“I’m sorry,” Lena says, eyeing the diffident goddess kneeling by her bed. “Did I startle you?”
But Kara is smiling, looking a little relieved. A careful thumb strokes Lena’s cheek, but as Lena watches her, Kara seems to become aware of what she’s doing and removes her hand.
Lena realizes too late that she’s leaning forward in an unconscious effort to prolong the touch, and disastrously, Kara appears to have noticed it too. Her hand hesitates.
Lena is still a little drunk, but she’s never bought into the excuse that alcohol makes people act wildly out of character. Lillian has never had a drink too many and confessed to harboring warm feelings for her only daughter. None of the men she does business with have gotten caught at strip clubs buying scholarships for the dancers - at least not without expecting something in return. No far-right member of the European parliament has ever gone on a hedonistic rampage through Brussels swearing drunken oaths to uphold equal rights for all.
So when Kara asks her, all patient and kind, hand still hovering by her face so close Lena can feel its warmth, “Do you want me to lie here with you for a while?” Lena can blame absolutely no one but herself when she says, after only a nanosecond of hesitation, “Please.”
The mattress dips below Kara’s weight as she slides in between the sheets and stretches out next to her.
Lena doesn’t know where to put any of her limbs. Their knees knock together, and Lena feels stiff trying to keep her body from careening into Kara’s, unbalanced by what she can’t divine as simply gravity or the ever mounting magnetism between them.
A stray lock of hair has fallen over her face, but she’s afraid to move it, because that would very definitely mean having to move the arm that’s currently nestled snugly against Kara’s breast. Kara fixes it for her, her finger grazing the shell of her ear as she tucks the hair behind it. It’s intimate and tender and Lena feels it all over, but particularly in the hidden, humid places that Kara will never touch.
They’re closer than they were last night, Lena feels, now that Kara is in front of her. She can see the freckles on Kara’s face, the divot above her eyebrow, the tiny creases by the corners of her mouth, even now that she isn’t smiling. Her eyes are on her, earnest and intent and ruinous to Lena’s presence of mind.
“I think you’re shaking,” Kara mutters, the words tiny puffs of air Lena can feel against her lips. “Can I put my arms around you?”
Lena nods, on some sort of misguided self-preservation instinct to get those eyes off of her. Kara folds herself carefully around Lena, and for a moment she thinks she’s okay. This is fine. She sends a prayer of thanks to whatever demon manufactured the thermal underwear she’s wearing. It’s uncomfortable, sure, but it would be about seven hundred percent worse if she was being made to survive this moment with nothing but a few flimsy pieces of cotton separating them.
But then, with a smooth effortlessness that Lena fights very hard not to find alarmingly arousing, Kara curls one strong arm around Lena’s back, gripping her waist with the other, and pulls their bodies together so that Lena ends up laying half on top of her. One of Lena’s thighs ends up draped over Kara’s hip, connecting their lower bodies in a way that’s deeply detrimental to Lena’s sanity.
Lena lies very still, watching as a few strands of the blonde, wavy hair that has tumbled over Kara’s shoulder move with the quick cadence of Lena’s breath. The low simmer of her body has been brought to a rolling boil.
Lena is only a faint glimmer of modesty away from rolling her hips into the delicious firmness of the thigh wedged between them. She wonders if Kara has noticed the heat between her legs, wonders if the slickness Lena can feel there has managed to breach the barrier of all of those layers yet.
“What do you need?” Kara asks, making matters infinitely worse. “How can I help?”
Now would usually be the time for Lena to use one of the grounding exercises her therapist has taught her, but something tells her that mindful body awareness might, at this particular instance, actually be diametrically opposed to Lena’s wellbeing.
“Do you want to tell me about your nightmare?” Kara asks. Her voice is a smooth, calming thing, a low rumble against Lena’s cheek that does absolutely nothing to ease Lena’s predicament. “What was it about?”
Oh, Lena thinks, remembering, relieved, well, that might just do it. “Bread,” she says firmly, proud of herself.
Underneath her, Kara tenses as her breath catches in her chest. She’s trying not to laugh. She doesn’t quite manage, but Lena appreciates the effort. She breathes out slowly as she feels some of the tightness between her legs abate.
Kara begins to say something, falters. Tries again. “Was it, um. Were you —”
“I was baking it,” Lena says. “And then, well.” She deflates a little, realizing how deranged she must sound. “Eating it.”
“Oh,” Kara says after a moment. “Mood?” The lilt of humor in her voice is less teasing, more warm. “I mean. Gluten, right? I hear you. So terrifying. So tasty.”
Kara squeezes Lena closer on the final word. Lena’s mind can’t decide if it’s an unconscious move, but her body understands perfectly. The secure confinement of Kara’s hold strikes a familiar, lascivious chord low at the base of her spine and Lena’s gone, her body going slack and pliant in response. She barely manages to swallow the moan that results, attempting to turn it into a hum that she is not 100% confident could be interpreted as polite acquiescence.
It’s silent for what feels like hours, Lena listening only to the sound of her sanity slowly rubbing down until a mere handful of threads remain.
The hand Kara has on Lena's hip begins painting a debilitating pattern onto Lena’s skin. “I wonder if maybe...” Kara stops, starts over. “I kind of want —” Then she falls silent.
Lena is breathless, fearful, doomed. She feels like she’s standing on a precipice, waiting for Kara to form a fucking sentence, her need pulled taut like a string waiting for the friction of the cellist’s bow. All she needs is a word, one gesture of acknowledgement that Kara wants this, too.
“...I don’t want to be insensitive,” Kara says.
Lena fists her hand into the fabric of Kara’s shirt. “Just tell me.”
“I think maybe you already know.” Kara hesitates. “I feel like you’re already mad at me for it.”
Lena sighs, watching Kara’s hair blow against the strong line of her throat. “I’m only angry at myself, Kara.” Lena begins to move, trying to raise up on an elbow so she can see her face, but Kara tightens her hold again at Lena’s words.
Lena feels both brave and stupid when she says, bluntly, “Because I want it, too.”
Kara releases her hold abruptly, turning her head so quickly Lena feels a little dizzy. Kara’s eyes are large and hopeful as she looks at her, as she asks, “Do we have all of the ingredients?”
Lena’s thought process stumbles and halts. “...Par— pardon?”
“For fresh bread.” Kara’s smile is blinding, even in the sparse light of the moon. “Do you think we could make some in the morning?”
Lena blinks at her. She imagines she can hear the heavy bubble of sexual potential burst between them with the disappointed little pop of cheap gum.
A crazed, compulsive giggle tickles up in Lena’s chest. Because of course this is what happens. Lena just doesn’t understand how this is the second time in the two minutes she’s known this woman that she’s ended up entangled with her like this, the second time she’s ended up making a complete fool of herself.
Resolutely, Lena flies out of bed. She grabs the first piece of clothing she can find and begins tugging it on over her thermals, realizing belatedly and with a perfect absence of surprise that it’s the reindeer onesie. Of course.
Kara sits up in bed, confused. “Wait— where are you going?”
Lena zips up, pulls on a pair of socks and opens the door. “I’m going to bake some fucking bread.”
Because Lena is — fine, a masochist, she only does the initial mixing of ingredients before handing Kara the task of kneading the dough. Before she gets started, Kara pushes up the sleeves of the cardigan she’s thrown on over her sleepwear, completely oblivious to the hungry look Lena gives Kara’s forearms.
It’s the altitude, Lena decides, the unfamiliar change in atmospheric pressure that is causing this unprecedentedly quick ignition of her feelings for someone who, objectively, still counts as a stranger. Under normal circumstances her interest in Kara would have halted at a reasonable admiration of a beautiful human specimen. If Colorado would just, you know, let her breathe, she wouldn’t be dealing with this smoldering heat liquefying the very foundation of her.
She certainly would not be having to deploy new, creative methods to cope with this baffling fondness blossoming in her chest.
“Make sure you do it thoroughly,” Lena instructs with a disaffected air. “Really get in there.” Then she finds the bottle of bourbon she’d stashed away after their grocery run yesterday and begins preparing two cocktails, taking her time browning the sugar and burning the rind as she watches Kara work with blatant appreciation.
Because fuck it, she’s tired and horny and angry at herself, and too sober to deal with any of it.
Kara is really putting in her best effort, obviously excited at the prospect of food. She’s pushing into the dough with the full strength of her upper body, her shoulders rising and falling in a mesmerizing motion. She’s digging in her thumbs, closing her fingers around it, bending and stretching it and then pushing down again.
Lena allows herself some time to speculate what it would feel like to have Kara handle her like that. As a result, Kara is flushed with exertion by the time Lena finally tells her she’s done.
“There,” Kara says brightly, before giving the pale rounded bun in front of her a flat-handed, resounding smack. It trembles at the punitive touch.
Lena observes it all, aching and weary, one tired eyebrow raised. She observes, too, Kara’s hands as she runs water over them. They’re strong but elegant, bones and tendons dancing beneath the skin. The water catches the low light of the kitchen, making her long fingers glisten. Lena wants to put them in her mouth.
She hands Kara a cocktail, instead.
Kara sniffs at it, looking curious, then pleased. “Pretty. What is it?”
“It’s an Old Fashioned. An old favorite.”
Kara smirks at her. “Do you smoke cigars, too?”
Lena leans back on the counter and takes a sip. Holds Kara’s gaze and says, “Rarely.”
Kara is still looking a little flustered. She blows an imaginary strand of hair from her face. “Smoking isn’t very good for you.”
Lena would like to show Kara exactly what it is that is good for her.
“I have my share of bad habits,” she says, swirling her drink, watching the light play in the glass.
Kara’s lips twitch into that half smile that already feels familiar. “Like what?”
Lena takes another sip, catching Kara’s eyes again. “I drink too much.”
Kara looks down at Lena’s lips as she says it. Maybe she’s feeling a little guilty having them both down here at four o’clock in the morning. “So what happens next?” she asks.
Lena slants her eyes to the dough she’s covered with a towel, sitting in a bowl on the counter. “We wait,” she says.
Kara steps closer, and Lena is sure she’s going to reach for the bowl and take a bite like she had in her dream. She’s reaching out an arm to stop her before she realizes the bowl doesn’t seem to be Kara’s destination at all. “What are we waiting for?” Kara asks, crowding her, her tone completely incongruous with the topic of their conversation.
Lena’s throat is dry as she watches Kara reach out a hand to her, watches as she strokes it lightly down the length of her arm.
Kara giggles. The cocktail must be getting to her. “You look so cuddly,” she says. There’s a high blush on her cheeks. It makes her look like one of those happy characters in a Hallmark movie, the kind where the love interests keep getting pushed together and pulled apart before they finally end up kissing.
Lena can’t relate.
“You have something in your teeth,” Lena gestures with her pinkie finger.
Kara is penitent. “I guess you’re not supposed to eat the orange rind,” she says.
The dough rises as they move around each other, as they talk in low voices, careful not to wake the rest of the house. At one point, Kara brings out a board game and teaches Lena so well, so patiently and precisely, that Lena beats her in their very first round.
Lena is the one that shapes the rolls, measuring out fifteen even strands and knotting them neatly before setting them aside. Kara has drifted into her space again, close enough to crowd her. “Give me some room to work, Kara, god.”
“I can’t help it,” Kara says, stroking the fleece fabric over her lower back this time. Kara’s eyes have lost their watchful apprehension. They’re still alert, but there’s a guilelessness there now, something that makes her blink more slowly. Her gaze is heavier as it lands on Lena’s lashes, tumbles down to her mouth, then to the collar bones that are only partially obscured by the thermals she’s wearing. “You’re like a grumpy teddy bear. It just makes me want to touch you.”
In one of the empty tumblers on the counter, the ice clinks as it melts down. Lena shivers.
“Are you cold?” Kara asks immediately. “How much longer do those need to rise? We can lie down in bed for a while, if you want. You know. To keep warm.”
She’s reaching for her again, and this time Lena's lust-muddled mind almost manages to convince the rational parts of her that there’s a different kind of purpose behind it.
Lena has some idea of what she must look like, barefaced and sleepless, her hair the kind of chaos that would make Helena Bonham Carter proud, drinking bourbon in someone else’s kitchen at four o’clock in the morning while dressed like a stuffed animal.
But Kara is looking at her the way she does when there is delicious food in front of her. Her voice is well-worn leather and silk when she says, “I think I might be able to —”
“What is happening here?” Alex’s voice sounds out, booming and bright in the hushed half light that’s characterized their night as it crept slowly into morning. “Why are you people up?”
Lena Luthor has fought more than her fair share of battles. She’s a woman in a man’s world. Only half a Luthor and a bastard to boot. On Saturday mornings, she frequently feels she’s fighting her entire musculoskeletal system trying to master the arabesque in her cardio ballet class. She does not give up, and — unless it’s under a very specific set of circumstances — she does not surrender.
But leave it to Colorado to finally bring her to her knees in a most unenjoyable way.
She’s been battling her long underwear for twenty minutes when she finally accepts she’s not going to be able to escape its confines by herself. And since she’s in dire need of a (cold) shower, she has no choice but to do that thing she always has been too proud to do, that hellish curse of the human condition that is asking another human being for help.
‘SOS’, she texts Sam. ‘Wardrobe emergency. Bring power tools.’
There’s a knock on the bathroom door not a minute later, and Lena opens it gratefully just as a text message pops up on her screen. It’s from Sam.
Kara is standing in the doorway, holding a pair of scissors.
‘You’re welcome,’ Sam’s message says.
Lena may not have thought this through.
“Top or bottom first?” Kara says, cheerfully snipping the scissors in the air.
“...No,” Lena manages.
“C’mon,” Kara insists, stepping inside and closing the door behind her. “It looks like you’re wearing, like, a straight jacket, or something.”
Lena has a hand outstretched in front of her, maintaining the distance between them in the close quarters of the bathroom. “I’m just.” She clenches her jaw. “I’m going to go ahead and convert to Mormonism, I think.”
“Come here,” Kara says. “I’ll be gentle.”
It’s such a simple, such a self-assured command that Lena has dropped her hand before she’s made a conscious decision to.
And it’s not fair, because when Kara hooks her thumbs under the hem of her shirt and begins to slide it up her frame it’s simple, it’s actually almost fucking smooth.
For a minute she almost wishes Kara had used the scissors instead. The feeling of cold metal against her overheated skin would have been easier to handle than the feeling of Kara’s fingers sliding boldly up her waist, stroking over her ribs, brushing the sensitive skin under her arms. The top slides over her chest like it’s easy, the sleeves peeling off her arms like silk until Lena is finally, blissfully free, and the way Kara smiles, that cocky tug at the left corner of her mouth, it’s really. All very annoying, and Lena is not going to indulge it.
Kara is shamelessly ogling her chest. “You sleep in a bra?” she asks with obvious disapproval.
Lena huffs and grabs a towel to cover herself. “I was literally unable to take it off, Kara.”
“Whatever,” Kara says. “I’m still unconvinced about this never-nude thing.”
Lena folds her arms and waits for Kara to leave, but Kara just looks at her, her attention slowly drifting south again.
“So do you need help getting out of your pants, too?”
Lena opens the bathroom door and pushes Kara out. “I can handle it from here,” she says. “Thanks.”
Alex agrees wordlessly when Lena tells her, still damp-haired and wrapped in four layers of clothing plus two blankets, to drive her down to the library so she can work.
Alex is as capable a driver as her sister is, but where Kara’s hands had rested loosely on the wheel, happily pointing out particularly gorgeous views, Alex keeps hers firmly at 9 and 3, her eyes on the road, sharply vigilant. “Sorry I scared you this morning,” she says.
Lena snorts. “No you’re not.”
“No I’m not.” A tiny smile pinches at the corners of Alex’ mouth. “It’s just fun to see you ruffled.”
In that case, Alex must be having the time of her life this week. “Sam is a bad influence on you,” Lena informs her.
“She’s a turd,” Alex readily agrees. “I can’t believe you’re her friend.”
Lena turns her head to regard Alex fully. Raises one eyebrow and says, “You’re the one who’s marrying her.”
Alex laughs, looking surprised more at the sound she just made than at Lena’s words. “Ruby wasn’t supposed to tell you that.”
“Oh, it wasn’t easy, getting it out of her,” Lena assures her. “I had to use some truly terrifying interrogation techn—”
“She blabbed the second she saw you, didn’t she.”
Lena smacks her lips. “First chance she got, yup.”
Alex shakes her head, untroubled. “That girl has no chill.”
“Stick around,” Lena says smoothly. “Some of your cool is bound to rub off on her.”
Alex looks pleased. “I intend to.”
Lena tries to sound a normal amount of interested, not at all like she’s looking for a way to get back at her best friend as she asks, “So do you have a ring for her yet?”
Alex laughs, a short airy sound. “Uh, yeah. I don’t want to leave it at home where Sam might find it, but it’s doing a number on my nerves taking it everywhere. I’m scared I’ll lose it.”
“You could always give it to Ruby for safe keeping,” Lena teases.
Alex interrupts her steady gaze on the road to give Lena a sceptical look.
Lena looks out at the snowy mountains surrounding them. “I could hang on to it for you,” she muses, “if it would make you feel better.”
“Lena Luthor.” Alex sounds scandalized. “Are you angling to be my best man?”
Lena juts out her chin, curls her lip. “I imagine that position has been filled,” she says.
“Oh, Kara can’t decide whether she wants best man or maid of honor,” Alex says. “She might be grateful to you for breaking the tie.”
Lena gathers her hair in her fist, displeased to find it wavy as it often will be when she allows it to air dry. “I can take the ring back to National City with me,” she tells Alex. “You could just give me a call when it’s time, and I’ll send a courier.”
Alex is quiet for a moment. Then she says, “I actually think I’ll do it before we head home. Like, maybe — maybe Christmas Eve? Ruby mentioned this ‘tiniest present under the tree’ idea that sounded, I don’t know.” She shrugs. “Kind of sweet, I guess.”
Lena smiles to herself. Oh, this is going to work out perfectly.
She turns to Alex, waits until she meets her eyes. Then she says, “I’m happy for you, you know.”
It might be the first time Lena has seen Alex blush. “Well. Let’s see if she says yes, first.”
“You know she will.”
Alex’ smile is blinding. “I do.”
Lena still wonders about one thing, however.
“She’s. Something, your sister,” Lena fishes, cautiously. “Very friendly.”
Alex’ eyes shift to her quickly, then she fixes them firmly on the road again.
“Very enthusiastic,” Lena presses.
“Oh,” Alex says, “yeah,” she adds, “psh,” as a very important modifier. She takes a few seconds, then comes up with “She always has been, you know, like that. With everyone.” There are her eyes again, checking if her words are having the intended effect.
Lena just watches her flail, enjoying herself in an only mildly nefarious manner.
“It confuses people sometimes,” Alex continues when she’s not getting the desired response. “They’ll be like, are you into me? And Kara will be all clueless and innocent, like haha, um, no?”
Alex is beginning to sound a little hysterical.
Lena deduces that Sam has not informed Alex that Lena is aware of their bet. A turd, indeed.
Alex parks her car behind the library. She opens the door for her as Lena grabs her laptop and her briefcase, but she hovers a little awkwardly by the car after Lena gets out, trailing both blankets behind her like a train.
She digs her hands deep into her pockets. “Will you be okay here for a couple of hours?”
Lena waves her off. “Go home, Alex. Have Sam pick me up by sundown and I’ll make us dinner again.”
The library is empty except for the woman at the information desk. Lena allows herself to be led to a cubicle covered in college recruitment posters, pictures of smiling students covering the walls. She sets up her laptop, spreads out the files Sam so inconveniently borrowed, and pulls out her phone.
Jess picks up on the very first ring. “You’re fired,” Lena greets her.
“Good morning to you too.” Jess is a little pixelated, but her voice comes through clear. She’s wearing her glasses and her hair is down. Squinting at her phone screen, she says, “I see your vacation is going well. Are you at a dentist’s office?”
“Stop pretending that we’re friends,” Lena tells her. “I know what you did. I’m never speaking to you again.”
“Could you start now?” Jess inquires, yawning discreetly. “It’s seven am, and since I’m a recent member of the unemployed masses, I’d really like to go back to sleep. ”
Lena ignores her. “I want in on that little bet you and Sam have going.”
Jess’ pokerface is actually impressive. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”
“What are you betting on, exactly?” Lena wonders out loud. “Sam said you already owe her money. Is it whether I’d be hooking up with Alex' baby sister, or when?”
Jess makes a face. “You make it sound so distasteful.”
“Oh no, betting on your boss’ sex life is totally above board.”
“The bet is off,” Jess decides. “The subject has become self aware. As a woman of science, you should know that means it’s time to terminate.”
Lena is clenching her jaw again. “Fine,” she says. “New bet. But not a word to Sam or Alex.”
Jess is suddenly looking very much awake. “Let’s hear it.”
Lena’s biggest hurdle in getting work done turns out to be the fact that most of Lena’s messages are answered by automated out of office replies. By the time noon rolls around, Lena isn’t just most of the way through the work she had figured would take her the entire day, she’s also starving.
She’s yearning for one of the bread rolls she’d left at the house, but knowing Kara’s insatiable appetite, they’re likely gone by now.
By some kind of miracle, Sam shows up with a bright smile and a bag in her hand that mentions bagels and beans in a creative crest and Lena needs both, right now, very much, thank you.
Sam stares at her until she’s taken her first bite. Then she points out, “You left early this morning.”
“I had a lot of work to do,” Lena says with a mouth full of bacon and rye.
Sam scoffs. “That’s a lie.”
Lena wipes her mouth with the back of her hand, because she’s sophisticated like that. “Not everyone celebrates Christmas, Sam.”
“You’re telling me,” Sam says. “But most of the rich white jackasses we do business with, do.”
“You’re aware the whole reason I drove up here was to make sure I could prepare myself for that meeting I have Thursday.”
“Right. So you fleeing the house couldn’t possibly have anything to do with the younger Danvers sister.”
“Mmhm,” Lena hums, “Or with the fact that you sent her upstairs to undress me this morning.”
“You’re the most stubborn person I’ve ever met,” Sam says fondly.
“And you’re the dumbest,” Lena counters. “I don’t see how you would think this setup was a good idea.”
Sam looks at her the way she usually saves for when she’s making Lena tell her what manner of vitriol Lillian dumped on her this time during her bimonthly phone call. “I told you two years ago the two of you would get on like a fucking distillery on fire,” she says sternly, “but you were too stubborn to let me introduce you. So I think what you are trying to say, Lena Luthor, is thank you, Samantha Arias, for your tenacity and determination and for being such an incredible, good-looking friend.”
Lena narrows her eyes at her. “What do you mean, two years ago?”
Sam blinks. “Yeah,” she says thoughtfully, “you may have been drinking bourbon that time, too.”
“I can’t —”
Then it occurs to her, the way Alex’s bicurious little sister had come up one drunken night when Lena had lamented her lack of a love life, or rather Sam had lamented, and Lena had insisted she had a life-life. “You suggested setting us up,” Lena says, mortified. “I think you actually told me to go,” she raises her hands in disgusted air quotes, “pop her girl-on-girl cherry.”
“I’m a dick, I know,” Sam admits graciously. “Also it’s come to my attention that that cherry has definitely already been popped, so to speak.”
“Stop talking,” Lena groans, pushing her hand into Sam’s face. “You’re revolting.”
Lena thinks there may be a small chance she’s projecting, considering the circumstances. Even in her drunken state two years ago, she had understood fully how bad of an idea it would be to hook up with the sister of the woman who was shaping up to become Sam’s one true love.
If only wisdom came with age.
Lena drops her head in her hands and groans. “You’ve been sitting on this terrible, stupid, absolutely atrocious idea for two years.”
Sam’s eyes and teeth are glinting with glee. “Imagine how much I’ve looked forward to the moment the two of you would finally meet.”
“I hate you.”
“You like her.”
“But hot, right?”
Lena gently thumps her forehead on the desk. “She’s delectable,” she breathes, defeated.
“You know,” Sam says, leaning forward so their heads are pressed together, “What happens in the mountains can stay in the mountains.”
“Lies,” Lena says, her face still pressed against the desk. “She’s Alex’ sister. And a writer.”
“She’s not some gossip rag reporter, Lena, dial down the venom a bit. ‘Tis the season, and all that.”
“Do you think the original Welsh version of that song had a verse about spontaneous hookups with people you’ll have no chance of avoiding for the rest of your life?”
“Hey, stupid.” Sam nudges at Lena’s head. “I just want you to be happy.”
Lena sits up straight, pouts. “I’m a modern woman. I make my own happiness.”
Sam grabs her hands. “No,” she says. “You sabotage your own happiness.”
“Shut up,” Lena says. “I want to talk about you, and about that proposal you have planned.”
It’s three pm by the time Sam and Lena pull into the driveway to the cabin. Lena is feeling energized, invigorated by the large cup of coffee and the tantalizing prospect of giving Sam a taste of her own medicine.
Sam stops the car abruptly when their windshield is hit by a big clump of snow. After a moment of stunned silence, Sam says “Oh, it’s on,” and jumps out of the car.
Lena is left behind, watching as Sam throws herself behind the nearest snowbank. She’s moving like she’s an extra on HBO’s Band of Brothers. Alex and Kara and Ruby are closing in on them from all sides.
Lena considers her options. Then she lifts up slightly from her seat, folds her blankets over the top of her head, and starts sprinting for the house.
She’s immediately caught in a near relentless onslaught of snowballs pelting her from all sides. She takes most of their hits with pride and dignity, taking elegant, even strides up the driveway, not at all struggling with the weight of her blankets or the cover of snow coming up to her knees, not at all dizzy or panting or losing. At all.
Oh, fuck it, she’s an absolute mess. After slugging forward for three, four steps, a particularly forceful hit to her back nearly pitches her face forward into the snow.
It’s time to fight back.
“Get behind me,” Sam screams at her, apparently oblivious to the fact that they’re completely surrounded. She’s been constructing snowballs at an alarming rate; a large stack of them is piled by the snowbank she’s chosen to die on.
Lena takes a risk, takes a peek behind the back of the car. Kara is advancing on them from behind, her cheeks and her nose red with the cold, dressed in ski gear — minus the skis — and sporting a white beanie with a menorah that’s inviting Lena to LET’S GET LIT.
Lena’s throwing arm may not be very strong but she’s dead accurate when she tries, like a sniper, and Kara is completely surprised when it hits her like, right in the mouth.
Kara is uncomfortably cute when she’s rubbing snow out of her eyes and pouting. “That wasn’t fair,” she calls out, looking almost offended.
“How was it not fair?” Lena shouts back. “Am I expected to just let you pick us off one by one?”
But Kara is advancing again, and Lena realizes there’s a definite downside to this kind of close combat. Lena won’t pretend to have ever been the fastest runner in any race, but the snow and the clothes she’s wearing — even after throwing her blankets off in a frantic, self defensive move — impede her progress significantly. Kara, however, doesn’t seem to be affected at all.
It’s a five second chase, tops.
It’s five horrible seconds, during which Lena has enough time to let her survival instinct go to war with the part of herself that really wants Kara to catch her, that’s so, so curious about what she will do when she does.
As five second wars go, it doesn’t last very long. Suddenly Kara is just on her, like on her, and Lena is face down in the snow with Kara’s heavy weight on her back and — it’s good, it’s welcome, and god, what is she doing?
She’s doing a lot of foolish things. Like reveling in the feeling of Kara’s weight on top of her for a long enough time that her lungs begin reminding her that oxygen is important, kind of, and a face full of snow doesn’t really allow for a lot of it.
Kara is laughing in her face, and then Lena is pulling in hard breaths, because Kara has grabbed her shoulder and flipped her onto her back and she’s still on top of her, now pressing down on her hips with her own, and it’s everything Lena has tried very hard not to want, except they’re outside, in the snow, with an audience of one (1) actual ninja, a cheeky teenager and a best friend who is far too invested in this entire thing.
“You need to get off me,” Lena instructs Kara, who answers, “What, before I do this?” and then shoves an entire handful of snow down the front of Lena’s sweater.
Lena is gasping, furious. She has never been one for temperature play, and she just got warm and comfortable, and half of the clothes the snow is soaking icy water into are her two layers of thermal underwear that will now refuse to come off for the next two months, or until she loses all of her winter weight, probably.
“I can’t believe you just did that,” she pants, and Kara is so cocky, and so close, looking like she won, like Lena is the loser here, and Lena just. Well, she can’t let that stand, can she?
So if Lena allows her lashes to rest just a little lower over her eyes, drops her voice an octave when she says, “You got me” — if she tilts her jaw up just so and pulls a smirk off of the corner of her mouth, and says “What do you plan to do with me now?” And then licks her lip?
It’s just to distract her, right, to stop Kara from looking like that.
And it gets exactly the reaction Lena hoped it might.
Kara has gone apoplectic. She’s staring at her mouth like it’s a winning lottery ticket. She sways a little, the plank she’s holding over Lena’s body faltering, dropping her body closer. Kara’s lips are parted, and Lena sees it just a little too late — she’s going to kiss her, this handsome idiot, so she puts both of her hands flat against her chest and shoves.
From above them, Lena hears a cooing sound and then Ruby’s cherubic voice singing “Lena and Kara, sitting in a —”
Lena rolls Kara away from her and pushes herself up just in time to see Alex looking a little queasy and Sam pressing her glove against her daughter’s mouth, successfully cutting her off.
“Sorry about that,’’ Sam says. “By all means, carry on.”
As soon as Alex has spun Ruby away, Lena flips off Sam’s smug face with both hands.
It's a Hallmark trope AU, you all knew what you were getting yourselves in to. Also the next chapter should arrive in much less than a week, this time.
Chapter 5: Now I Know (What A Fool I’ve Been)
Lord have mercy. Also: I love you all. Every time a comment notification arrives in my inbox, an angel gets its wings.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Dinner prep that evening is a fairly straightforward affair, with Lena deciding on a simple risotto. It's also an infinitely stranger one than the previous night. Where the evening before Lena had felt almost lonely in the kitchen until Kara had volunteered her help, tonight she finds herself having to shoo people away.
Alex, in particular, seems very interested in placing her body in whatever space there is between her sister and Lena herself.
It’s making Sam grumble and frown in her seat at the kitchen island, so Lena doesn’t mind it much.
“Who wants to cut these into half rings for me?” Lena asks, holding up a couple of leeks, and already three people are volunteering. Alex wins, pointing out that Kara’s glass of wine is empty and therefore neither she nor Ruby should be handling knives.
“Always looking out for everyone else, my big sister,” Kara says, pleased, petting Alex’ head a little roughly.
“Back off,” Alex warns her. “This thing is very sharp.”
“Kara, parsley, fridge,” Lena instructs.
“Alex started teaching me life’s important lessons when I was twelve,” Kara tells Lena over Alex’s shoulder. Her sister seems to be deliberately taking up space at the counter, wedging them apart.
Lena looks at Alex, amused. “Is that so? And how old were you?”
“Fourteen,” Alex confesses, “But wise beyond my years.”
“Hey,” Ruby protests, turning toward Alex so furiously that Lena ends up with some of her ponytail in her mouth.
“Like this one!” Alex amends, reaching behind Lena to poke at Ruby’s ribs. “Lots of wisdom in this one, too.”
Kara tosses a bag of greens over Alex’s head. Lena is proud of herself for catching it. After a moment’s consideration, she tosses it back. “Parsley,” she tells Kara. That is baby spinach.”
Kara hums, opening the refrigerator again. “What was it you told me? That I was not very brave, or all that funny—“
From her barstool, Sam snorts. “That was the professional estimation of miss Killjoy over here? I’m amazed.”
“ You can shut right up,” Alex tells her sweetly.
“... and that I didn’t run very fast,” Kara continues.
“Still true actually, that one,” Alex pontificates with the beer bottle she’s traded for the knife in her hand. “Meet us at the park any given Sunday morning and watch her eat my dust.”
Forcibly pushing past her sister this time, Kara presents Lena with a bunch of leafy greens. “Kara,” Lena says. “I said parsley. This is basil.”
Kara frowns, takes it back, heads for the fridge again.
“And you seemed plenty quick this afternoon,” Lena remarks pointedly. “If that’s called ‘not very fast’, Alex, I may just have to take you up on your offer. It’s time I get this useless body back in shape, anyway. Kara, are you seriously trying to hand me a bunch of carrots right now?”
Kara isn’t listening, because she’s too busy checking her out, taking Lena’s words as permission to let her eyes roam freely over Lena’s form — or what’s visible of it underneath her many, many, many layers of clothing.
Ruby is frowning at Lena. “You should be kinder to yourself,” she says. “All bodies are good bodies.”
Sam’s eyes light up when Ruby’s words sink in and she sits up, pointing at her daughter with both hands, victorious. “Boom!” she exclaims. “I knew I raised this kid right.”
“Also,” Ruby adds, “that booty is bodacious. So.”
Sam blinks at her daughter, slowly dropping her arms. She takes a pull from her beer bottle, swallows, then says, “I’m going to have to give up my principles and transfer you to a private school, aren’t I.”
“She’s not wrong, though,” Kara chimes in, adding, with another heavy look down Lena’s body, “You look like you’re in fine shape, to me.”
At that, Alex too takes a deep drink from her beer.
The thing is, Kara said it casually, easy as pie, and she’s not even looking at Lena anymore, instead digging a fork into one of the Jerusalem artichoke chips sizzling in the frying pan Lena has been stirring. She looks exceptionally pretty, with the warm light on her face, her fingers graceful against the glinting silver, sucking on her lip in anticipation of tasting something she knows is going to be good.
Lena isn’t staring so much as she’s collecting scientific data. She needs to figure out the baseline for this woman, or she’ll continue to drive herself crazy wondering if she’s actually interested in her, or just an idiot.
Kara burns her mouth again. So it’s likely the second thing.
After dessert, with everyone lingering at the dining room table, Sam switches out their wine glasses and beer bottles for tumblers and sets a bottle of Glenfiddich down between them. “Time for bed, Rubes,” she decides. “Mommy’s about to get her drink on.”
Ruby sneers. “Gross.” She seems happy about getting to skip the dishes, though, hurrying upstairs before Sam realizes what she’s done.
“That girl’s getting some serious texting action this week,” Sam remarks when her daughter is out of earshot. “Has to be a boy, right? Has to be. She won’t tell me, though.”
“Ew,” Alex says, “boys,” before pouring them all two fingers of scotch each.
“Hey,” Sam says, “In this house we embrace the full spectrum of sexual attraction.” She takes her glass and holds it up as if in a toast. “No kink shaming.”
“Are you calling heterosexuality a kink?” Lena asks, amused.
“No,” Sam says firmly, “I call that an abomination. Love thy ace and bi and pan neighbors, though.”
“I do,” Alex says, kissing Sam’s cheek and smiling at Kara.
“I worry, though,” Sam says. “She’s not that much younger than I was when I started making some very bad decisions.”
“I think you might be doing a slightly better job than your mother did keeping you on the straight and narrow,” Lena tells her, before hearing how that sounds and frowning.
“Oh god, I would be so thrilled though, if she were crushing on a girl instead,” Sam says. “Is that horrible? I am not ready to become a grandmother, and I don't think I will be for at least another ten years.” She cringes. “Even if at that point I’ll be getting up there a bit.”
Alex flinches. “Don’t you dare,” she says. “You’re younger than all of us and I have seven years on you. None of us is ‘getting up there.’”
“Yeah?” Sam says. “Someone may want to give my breasts the memo.”
“You have beautiful breasts!” Lena and Kara protest, passionately and in perfect sync.
A couple of things happen at once.
First, neither one of the women who praised Sam’s (honestly pretty fucking amazing) breasts are the one that’s currently dating her, so a series of significant glances is exchanged: Alex gives Lena a warning glare, almost as a reflex, while Sam throws a flirtatious wink at Kara, who raises her eyebrows and her glass to her — then Alex does a slack-jawed double take at Kara while Sam flashes Lena a self-indulgent grin.
“Been a while,” Sam leers at Lena from under those dark lashes, “Not sure you’re still able to give a correct assessment.”
“Did you see my girlfriend naked?” Alex asks her sister, incredulously, at the same time Kara pipes up with “Wait, you two used to date?”
Sam is already smiling in that dangerous way that she does, and Lena is trying to stare her down without being too obvious, which is how Lena usually ends up mumbling into her glass trying desperately to look aloof while Sam spills every deeply private moment they’ve ever shared.
“Oh honey, you’re already blushing,” Sam tells her with an expression on her face that broadcasts the exact opposite message from the one her tone of voice conveys. “I was really hoping you’d be used to it by now.”
Alex cuts in, mercifully. “Do not make me listen to you talk about our very dear, very present friend’s favorite strap again. Do not.”
Sam shoots Lena a wolfish smile, then glints her eyes at Kara, holds her hands about a foot and a half apart and mouths ‘big’.
Lena could murder Sam right now, but that would mean losing the bet and having to pay Jess twenty bucks, so she’s at a pretty impossible impasse.
Alex closes her eyes in defeat. ”I wish you hadn’t done that.”
Kara has thrown her head back and is laughing freely. Lena is briefly distracted, fascinated by the way the exposed lines of her throat somehow manage to look vulnerable and strong at the same time. Lena shakes with what is equal parts mortification and the tremendous effort required to keep from reaching out and running her fingers along the smooth skin revealed there.
“Relax, babe,” Sam tells her girlfriend, a soothing hand at her back. “At least I’m not talking about you.” She winks at her. “This time.”
Alex puffs out a breath. “I would just very much like to never have to go to dinner again with people I have never met once in my life, and have you eagerly inform them of the brand of our favorite toy or which one of us does most of the topping.”
“I love topping,” Kara sighs, and Lena can’t help but look over, a little scandalized. But Kara follows it up with a dreamy “Raspberry swirl is my favorite, but hot fudge and vanilla are pretty amazing too,” so now Lena can't decide if she’s talking about sex or food.
Sam seems to have no such problem. “Amen, little sister,” she says with a broad grin, raising her glass before drinking deeply.
“Sam,” it’s Alex, “How many times do I have to tell you—”
“That you’re no fun?”
“—not to discuss our sex life with your friends!”
Sam pouts. “But how else will they know how awesome I am?”
Alex groans and leans her forehead on Sam’s nearest shoulder. “You make me so mad,” she says, her voice muffled by Sam’s sweater, “Remind me again why I haven’t left you yet?”
“Because you love me,” Sam tells her, looking pleased.
Alex hums, then reaches up to grab her chin, a little roughly. She presses her lips to Sam’s before leaning back in her chair again.
“So,” Kara says to Sam, looking intrigued, “between the two of you...” she leans toward her while giving Lena a shit-eating grin. “I guess that would make Lena more of a —”
“Not. Another. Word,” Alex says, her tone so low and threatening now that the whole table goes still for a moment. Lena gives her a look meant to convey her gratitude, but Alex’s eyes are boring into Sam’s.
Sam straightens. “I don’t kiss and tell,” she informs Kara sweetly, making Kara frown at her sister and surprising Lena enough that she just barely manages to not spit her sip of scotch back into her glass.
“Since when?” she blurts, like an idiot, ignoring the look of delight it puts on Kara’s face.
Alex says primly, looking proud of herself, “Since I explained to her that it’s distasteful and not everyone needs to hear about everyone else’s private business.”
Lena can only blink. “What.” Impossible. “I’ve been trying to hammer that into her head for almost a decade. How did you manage to—?”
“She said no orgasms for a week each time it happens,” Sam blurts.
Alex goes crimson, and then Sam gets nervous and apologetic, and it becomes this whole comedic routine that goes on for a while and that Lena can’t help but laugh at, especially since Kara is already giggling bonelessly in a way that just might be more contagious than the flu strain Lena played around with in grad school.
Kara is throwing her head back again, and her neck is lovely, and right there —
Kara catches her looking, and her laughter halts on a little breathless hum. Her eyes hold hers, looking sharply amused, until Lena looks away. “So, wait,” she hears Kara say to Sam, “is this a cumulative kind of punishment, or…”
Sam looks ecstatic at having found a loophole. “No!” she yells, then looks, chastised, in the direction Ruby disappeared to. Then, squeezing her girlfriend’s hand in apology but ignoring her answering glare, in a voice a little over a whisper, “The damage is done. What do you want to know?”
Lena raises an eyebrow and her chin in a double-whammy-kill-bill-siren-warranting move that men with twice the strength and stature of Sam Arias have failed to recover from. “This ends here,” she informs her.
But Sam is not so easily intimidated. “C’mon,” she says in a smooth, almost seductive voice. “Don’t pretend you don’t love being teased. What’s a little bit of harmless humiliation between friends?” She gives Lena a look so darkly suggestive it reminds her of a time they weren’t friends, they were something else entirely, and it’s so brazen Lena forgets to be indignant.
“Wait, hang on a second,” Kara says, now turning to Lena fully and leaning in a little. Or, a lot.
Lena meets her gaze headlong, feeling vulnerable, and fine. Let’s hear it, she thinks, lay it on me, sure in this moment she’d willingly unfold it all for her, every depraved inch of herself, every exquisite cruelty she’s wanted Kara to inflict on her.
Kara is gazing at her intently. When she’s this close, under the spotlights above the dining room table, Lena can see her blue eyes sparkle and flash. She can count every freckle on her face, the pale individual hairs of her eyebrows. Kara’s mouth twitches before she licks her lip. The flash of pink of her tongue is telling Lena to relinquish life and await her redemption in death.
“I have this impression,” Kara says, staring, and Lena has the distinct feeling she’s been in this exact moment before, probably because she has, “and if I’m wrong, I apologize, but I need to ask.”
The whole table goes quiet and still. Lena is utterly captivated by the expression on Kara’s face and the determined way she’s holding her gaze, moving only to flicker back and forth between Lena’s eyes, but Lena’s still aware that Sam is watching them, and she is pretty sure Sam is no longer breathing. From the corner of her eye, Lena can see that Alex is white-knuckling the bottle of scotch, looking primed to pour it out right over Kara’s head, but she’s frozen for the moment, watching them like one would one of those Seconds From Disaster documentaries.
After a brief moment, during which Alex ages ten years, Kara finally asks, “Are your eyes actually two different colors, or is that just a trick of the light?”
Lena Luthor needs a drink.
Fortunately Alex is already there, and Lena only needs to hold out her glass for Alex to fill it with a triumphant look on her face. Sam is rubbing her own temples as if she’s trying to get rid of a headache.
“Okay, so,” Kara says after Alex has finished refilling the rest of their glasses, “What is the most humiliating thing you’ve ever done for a crush?”
And Lena is still dying a little, because clearly Kara isn’t quite willing to let go of that particular thread, although she’s grateful to her for steering the conversation towards slightly safer territory.
Sam has her answer ready. “Joining a hot yoga class.” She snorts with distaste. “Never again.”
Kara squints at her. “Did you injure yourself or something?”
“No,” Sam says. “It was just. God, that place reeked. I was turned off of people in general for like. A week.”
“I find that hard to believe,” Lena says smoothly.
“That’s hardly humiliating,” Kara declares. “Try enlisting your entire cheerleading squad to help you convince your high school principal it’s normal for girls to hug each other with their legs in friendship after a teacher catches you making out with Siobhan Smythe.”
Lena chokes. “You did not.”
“She really did,” Alex says. “You know I met her as a resident later, right? Still closeted. Still the thirstiest woman I’ve ever met in my life.”
Sam gives her girlfriend a fond look. “What about you, babe?”
Alex frowns down at her drink. “Oh, you’ve heard this one: coming out to my friends and family before I was ready, because she didn’t want to date someone who was ‘scared of herself’.” She takes a deep drink before adding, “And then getting dumped anyway because she wasn’t into ‘showing a newbie the ropes’.”
“I mean,” Lena posits, “I guess I can understand her perspective too?” Alex glares at her. “But ugh,” Lena winces in sympathy. “Women. I’m sorry we suck so much.”
“I’m not,” Sam quips.
“Boo, too easy,” Kara heckles her. “Lena, let’s hear yours.”
Lena runs her forefinger over the rim of her glass. “How about saving her father’s failing tech company from bankruptcy by becoming the majority shareholder and steering it well into the Fortune 500,” she offers, “and then handing it all over for free in the settlement she had her lawyers present to me when my brother was arrested?”
Sam breathes out cautiously. “Andrea was a little bit more than a crush.”
Lena cocks her eyebrow. “Maybe to me.”
“Wait,” Kara says. “Are you talking about Andrea Rojas from Obsidian North?” Her tongue trips on a failed attempt at the correct pronunciation of Andrea’s name. “You two were involved?”
Lena hums. “Back when the Luthor name was still worth something and everyone was searching for an in. She approached me at a premiere party, and we dated for a while.”
“I’d say nine months is a while, yeah,” Sam adds.
“It was,” Lena agrees. It was shamefully long, actually, considering it had taken her all that time to figure out that their entire relationship was based solely on Andrea’s hunger for fame. “Too bad it turned out I was little more to her than an inside scoop she could use to drive up her follower count on Instagram.”
Kara is looking at something on her phone again. Lena hopes she’ll find the photos that were taken that first night they were introduced; that emerald backless dress she’d worn had made her shoulders and her ass look amazing.
“Hang on a second,” Kara shouts. “You had a speaking part in a Batman movie?”
“Outlandish lies,” Lena tells her. “Bruce Wayne was a friend of mine, at the time, and we had brunch on set one morning. They got me to say three lines on camera, tops.”
Sam is watching her with that familiar, soft look in her eyes that Lena really wishes she would use only when Lena is in need of a good cry. “You know she wasn’t worth your time,” she says.
Lena attempts a smile, but knows how bitter it must look. “But she meant something to me.”
Kara looks as if her own heart is breaking. “She never loved you?”
Lena shrugs, keeping her eyes on her glass. “No more than she would have loved any expensive piece of jewelry she could show off at black tie events. Something to make her feel powerful. A secret to hold in the palm of her hand and turn over and think to herself, ‘Not all she pretends to be.’”
The table has gone quiet. When Lena looks up, everyone is looking at her with varying degrees of empathy in their eyes. Alex looks a frightening amount like she’s about to get up and hug her, as if she’s just barely holding herself back.
Lena swipes her hand over her face. “I have a lot of issues involving trust and honesty, okay.”
Sam reaches all the way across the table to grab her hand, and smiles. “Don’t forget about the mommy issues,” she says encouragingly. Then, to what Lena is sure is no one in particular, “And she’s single, ladies!”
“I know.” Lena is almost surprised when she ends her exhale on a giggle. “Why, right?”
Against her better judgment, she chances a glance at Kara.
When their eyes meet, the lines around Kara’s eyes smooth as her expression changes from fond concern to dark interest. It’s something Lena isn’t quite sure she’s seen so far, her pupils so wide her eyes are almost completely black, even in the bright light above them.
It’s a look Lena recognizes. A look that tugs at her, pulling that cello string inside of her tight again.
Waiting for the player’s first bold move.
Oh, Lena thinks. Oh. I see.
“I think we all need to take a break and drink some water,” Alex suggests, pushing herself up out of her chair. “I, personally, would prefer not to feel like death in the morning.”
“Agreed,” Lena says, blinking up at her. “Please have a double waiting for me when I come back.”
Lena flees the kitchen, careful to slow her stride so it doesn’t look like she’s making an escape, careful to take measured breaths, attempting to calm down the hammering heart inside her chest.
The light in the hallway bathroom is dim and forgiving, and Lena thanks a number of deities from various religions for the small mercies they’re still willing bestow upon her, in spite of her numerous sins.
At least, Lena thinks, smiling at her reflection in the mirror as she washes her hands, it seems she might not be the only one involved in this queer little entanglement that’s interested in sinning.
She closes the bathroom door behind her, preoccupied with the possibilities, with all the ways she might have Kara in her bed again tonight. She’s calculating distance and temperature, and speed, and the range of motion the average human body is capable of. She’s adjusting for their respective levels of inebriation and temerity. In other words, she’s a little distracted, so when suddenly there’s a firm, broad hand at her hip, she’s a little surprised.
It’s a pleasant surprise, though, when she also feels Kara’s breath on her cheek, the brush of her hair on her collarbone.
“Sorry,” Kara says, in a voice that makes it very clear she’s not sorry at all. She also doesn’t step away.
Lena lifts her eyes to Kara’s in a slow, appreciative glide, after lingering perhaps a little too long on her lips.
“What is it now?” she asks, a little too loose, a little too salty in the way she gets when she’s been drinking scotch instead of wine. “What do you want this time? Would you like to bake some cookies? Is it time for your second dessert?”
For a moment Kara looks like she’s genuinely tempted by her offer, but she recovers quickly, meeting Lena’s eyes and her insolence head-on. Her lips part. Then she says, “I think you know what I want.”
Lena feels hot all over at the words, but she’s been fooled too many times already and she wills her body not to fall for it again. She may just sound the faintest bit bitter when she asks, “Then what the fuck are you waiting for?”
But Kara doesn’t seem intimidated, just thoughtful. “It’s something Alex said.”
“You know they have a bet going?” Lena says. “Her and Sam. And my assistant, too.”
Kara’s lip curves up in a curious smile. “What kind of a bet?”
Lena clenches her jaw. “What did Alex say?”
Lena can think of a thousand pieces of ammunition Alex Danvers could have used to curtail Kara’s interest in pursuing her. Lena Luthor is a jaded member of National City’s royalty fallen from grace; an out of touch, world-weary snob. She’s damaged and in denial. She refuses to wear appropriate protective gear for handling hazardous materials when conducting experiments down in the L-Corp labs.
Kara’s lips are twitching. “She said you like to be in charge.”
Kara shrugs. “So I’ve been waiting, I guess, for you to make the first move. But you wouldn’t, and so I figured maybe I was misreading —”
“Kara.” Lena does manage to sound commanding just there, an echo of the queen-among-men brand of authority she’s perfected as part of her professional visage.
Kara stops talking abruptly, regards her with slight apprehension.
“Your sister was lying,” Lena says, stepping closer into Kara’s space.
Kara watches her advance, her eyes alert. “I’m beginning to realize that.”
“So let me ask you again,” Lena continues, now directly addressing Kara’s lips. “What do you want?”
Kara’s tongue slides slowly past the space between her lips. “I want to kiss you,” she says.
Lena tilts her chin, slants her eyes up to meet Kara’s again. “So kiss me.”
And Kara leans in to do just that.
At least, that’s what Lena thinks is happening, until Kara stops and keeps Lena from closing the distance remaining with only a whisper of space left between their lips.
“Aren’t you going to make me say it?” Kara asks, a teasing lilt in her voice.
Lena frowns in confusion, her brain working hard to process the sudden reality of Kara’s body pressed close — and, finally, with obvious intent — against her own.
“I’m aware,” Kara says slowly, laying a heavy hand on Lena’s waist, “that you’re hot.”
Kara steps into Lena’s body, her hand now a firm grip on Lena’s hip, and begins walking her backwards until Lena feels the wood paneling of the wall behind her. “And I’ll be careful,” she continues, leaning down and nosing into her hair, into the sensitive skin just below the hinge of Lena’s jaw. “Even though you smell delicious—” She breathes the final words directly into her ear. “Even though I know you’ll taste divine.”
Lena Luthor doesn’t think she’s ever been angrier at herself for wanting to fuck someone — and she’s survived a prolonged, crippling sexual obsession with one of her brother’s girlfriends.
”Oh my god, Kara,” she groans, bringing up a hand to rub her brow, “I can not believe —” but Kara swats her hand away, presses it into the wall next to her head and slants her lips against Lena’s, all in one bold move.
Kara kisses exactly the way Lena feared she might — with focused intent, confidence and impossible sweetness — and already Lena knows this can’t possibly be the last time it happens. She wants infinitely more of exactly this, but also, maybe, a little extra, with perhaps a layer or two less of her beloved / loathsome thermal underwear.
Lena brings up her free hand to tangle it in Kara’s ridiculously perfect hair and drags the tip of her tongue over the crease between Kara’s lips, making Kara gasp and then push back with her own, soft but a little messy, teasing, exquisite.
Lena bucks back against Kara’s unyielding frame, her legs going wobbly to the point of bonelessness when Kara runs a large hand over her ass and squeezes her closer.
“Why didn’t we do this sooner?” Lena asks, feeling breathless and unsteady and overwhelmed with need.
“Because we’re idiots,” Kara answers.
Lena is far too intelligent to ignore the fact that Alex and Sam will understand what’s happening if Lena and Kara linger here for too long. She attempts to calculate the odds of Sam popping around the corner to ask if they want to borrow one of her straps, but math is hard, and Lena is too busy surrendering her lips to Kara’s and melting at the feeling of her licking into her mouth to bother much with it.
Maybe, you know, maybe it’s fine. Lena may even take Sam up on the offer, if it comes to that, especially if Kara keeps pawing at her body the way she is. Lena’s almost mournful when one of Kara’s hands leaves her ass, but sighs when it settles on her breast, stroking her with a firm thumb. Lena realizes that she’s clutching Kara’s shoulders, and takes the opportunity to dig her fingers into the flexing muscles she’s been very absolutely not lusting after when Kara rubs her lower lip over the edge of Lena’s own in what feels like a very deliberate move to smudge her lipstick.
Lena breaks away to touch her fingers to the smear. “Did you have to do that?”
“Yes,” Kara says. “I’ve wanted to do that since the moment we met.”
Lena is torn between annoyance and the need to kiss her again. “I can’t go back out there looking like this.”
“Then don’t.” Kara’s eyes are positively burning now. “I’ll tell them you had too much to drink.”
“Sam will never buy that,” Lena says, thinking. “Tell her I have a migraine. She’ll know to leave me alone for the rest of the night.”
Her words sink heavily down in the space between their bodies. Lena licks her lips. She really needs Kara to kiss her again.
“Go on,” Kara says. “I promise I won’t keep you waiting long.”
Lena doesn’t bother with the bathroom mirror as she brushes her teeth this time. She keeps the lights off as she washes up and makes her way to the bedroom, feeling flustered and reckless. It’s cool there, and quiet. Inside Lena is bright, and hot, and loud. It can’t be the alcohol, she knows. She routinely drinks five glasses of scotch just to get from work to sleep mode, and yet she doesn’t think she’s ever felt more intoxicated as she does now.
A wave of fluttering, almost giddy anticipation washes over her when Kara enters, clicking the door shut behind her. She looks hauntingly handsome, like the cover of a Harlequin novel, only 100% (50%?) more gay.
She also has a bag of frozen peas in her hand.
Kara regards her, and it, sheepishly as she tosses it between her hands. “Sam sent me up with it.”
Lena raises one eyebrow. “I guess you really sold the migraine.”
Kara drops it on the dresser and takes two long strides across the room, and then they’re kissing again. Kara’s hands come up to cradle Lena’s jaw, and they’re oh god they’re so cold, Lena gasps at the frigid touch, but Kara only sees it as an invitation to press her tongue past the precipice of Lena’s lips, finding her own, tracing it delicately, the heat of her mouth forming an exquisite contrast to the the chill of her fingers against the pulse in her throat.
Maybe Lena is one for temperature play, after all.
“Stay there,” Kara says, planting a steady hand on Lena’s hip as she moves around her. Lena hums when strong arms encircle her waist from behind. Kara’s fingers press against her firmly, trying to compensate for the ridiculous amount of clothing Lena is wearing. Her thumbs glance the underside of her breasts.
Kara’s breath is hot in her ear. “I wanted to do this when you first climbed into my bed.”
She pulls Lena close, warm and solid along her back like she had been that first night, but this time her hands dip under her sweater, and her undershirt, and her thermal underwear, and cup her breasts, digging her thumbs into the padding of the bra that’s still, tragically, covering them. But Lena is sensitive there, and even with the sensation muted like it is, she swoons. Her head rolls back, gratefully supported by the firm comfort of Kara’s shoulder.
So, Lena thinks, Kara is smooth, but she’s also a liar. She hums. “Is that why you slept so soundly through the night?” she feels the urge to ask.
Kara reaches one hand up to brush Lena’s hair out of her way, her fingers tracing over the top of Lena’s shoulder. “I dreamed about you.”
Lena has to roll her eyes at that. “Oh please,” she says.
Kara just hums, approvingly. Her voice is tinged with dark amusement when she says, “You’re already begging. I’ll take that as a good sign.”
“Don’t be a dickh—,” Lena says, unable to stop herself, but the last part of the word is cut from her breath when Kara’s fingertips brush over the nape of her neck. There’s a shock of sensitivity there, surprising both of them. Kara seems to approve, repeating the caress, and Lena bites back a moan, blushing as her body bucks and shakes.
“Don’t do that,” Kara says. “I want your voice. I want to hear what I do to you.”
The words and the tone in which she’s said them hit Lena like a shot of tequila, warmth pooling between her legs and lingering there. “We’re in a house filled with people,” she protests feebly, almost unable to gather enough breath to say it.
“And have you heard a peep from the other bedrooms?” Kara asks. “Ruby snores like a trucker. Sam and Alex get up to all sorts of things at night.”
Lena breathes out a laugh, and then just breathes, as Kara’s fingers slide over her nape again. It sends a lascivious frisson down her back, thudding down, down, down, and this time Lena does moan, helpless and stunned. She feels like a conduit, the electrified feeling on her skin that happens right before goosebumps rise, every inch of her on high alert. Kara brushes her fingers along Lena’s collarbone and she wants to catch fire. Every part of her where Kara is lights up, sparks; everywhere she’s not shivers and wants.
“Do you want me to use the scissors, this time?” Kara asks, like a boob.
Lena shoves a half-hearted elbow into her ribs. “You did just fine this morning.”
“That’s what I thought,” Kara says, sounding pleased with herself. The smug confidence in her voice makes Lena clench with equal amounts of arousal and irritation.
“Don’t sound so proud,” Lena warns her, “I may still change my m—”
Kara puts her tongue against the spot her fingers had found earlier, licking up to just below her ear, and the pleasure is so immediate and so distinct that it makes Lena shudder and gasp; first with relief, and then with urgent need. Kara responds eagerly, almost greedy, fisting a hand into the hair at the back of Lena’s head and tilting it to expose more of her neck. Her mouth is so hot Lena feels it like a brand wherever it touches her skin.
In a much more enjoyable repeat performance of this morning’s bathroom encounter, Kara hooks her thumbs under the hem of Lena’s thermal underwear top and slips it off, taking her undershirt and her sweater with it. Her fingers are warmer, now, deliberately stroking her skin, taking their time. Lena shivers when she feels Kara trace them up her spine, circling the birthmarks on her back before hesitating at the clasp of her bra.
“Lena,” Kara says, now sounding clearly affected, her voice slightly raspy, “Are you sure about this? We can cool this down if you want, and talk—”
Lena turns toward her, Kara’s fingers never once losing contact with her skin as she moves. “What I want,” Lena enunciates, “very much,” with a firm hand on Kara’s chest and not a trace of modesty, “is for you to fuck me tonight.”
Kara stares at her, blushing, her lips a perfectly rounded ‘o’.
Lena moves her hand down, splaying it over one of Kara’s breasts, applying gentle pressure there before moving down further, skidding over what she realizes has to be a set of clearly defined abs. “Assuming you would be... amenable to that,” she emphasizes.
“I’m, I —” Kara says, blinking with obvious effort, “Yes. Please.”
Lena raises an amused eyebrow. “And I thought I would be the one doing the begging.”
“Only if you —” Kara says, her eyes moving wildly between Lena’s. “I mean.” She straightens. “Not if you don’t take off your bra. Right now.”
Lena smirks charitably. Her hand is already at her back, undoing the clasp in a practiced two-finger move.
She’s never seen Kara’s eyes look so large, or so hungry, before.
Lena only has time for a brief triumphant smile at the look on Kara’s face before the cold air hits her chest, making her shiver and ramping up her sensitivity by about a thousand hertz. When Kara finally stops staring and starts touching, Lena’s already half gone.
Kara is clever hands and harsh breath and wet heat, her fingers tracing the curve of her waist, lightly scratching the back of her arms before grazing her breasts. Her mouth is slick along the length of Lena’s throat, down her collarbone, the side of her breasts, never quite reaching the subtle ridges and creases at their crest where Lena needs it the most.
Lena isn’t sure if Kara is teasing her or trying to pace herself. She’s not so much kissing her as she is dragging her bottom lip along her skin and flicking out her tongue, sometimes sucking, sometimes grazing her skin with her teeth, as if she’s genuinely just enjoying the taste of her. She keeps coming back and starting over as if she’s distracted, as if she’s already half out of her mind.
It’s graceless, it’s messy, it’s completely unselfconscious, and it’s absolutely, bewilderingly hot.
Kara seems perfectly content to limit herself to the parts of Lena that are already uncovered, but Lena doesn’t think she can stand this directionless grazing much longer. There’s a slow throb heavy between her legs, and it gets heavier with each soft touch of Kara’s tongue. She needs — more, she wants —
“Your mouth,” she manages, blinking away the thick fog of arousal briefly to find her words. “Please, I need —,” and mercifully, Kara doesn’t need her to say any more before she’s moved down and closed her lips around one of her breasts. Lena cries out, arching into the clever touch of her tongue, at the shocking spike of pleasure and relief.
Lena finds it hard to believe that she’s still standing, that her trembling legs are capable of supporting the full weight of her desire.
As soon as the thought occurs to her, Kara is fitting two broad palms around her ass and lifting her up. Lifting her, like it’s nothing, like Lena wasn’t frowning at herself in the mirror just this morning and making urgent plans to maybe begin taking advantage again of L-Corp’s gym on nights she doesn’t have a better excuse to stay at the office late.
It’s disorienting, and maybe a little bit wonderful. Lena doesn’t think she’s been carried by another human being since she was four years old.
“Your place or mine?” Kara smirks up at her, not a trace of exertion in her voice.
Kara may not be completely human, Lena thinks.
She’s okay with it.
She doesn’t really want to answer her either way, reveling as she is in the sensation of being so thoroughly held. It makes her feel light and heavy at once, light in her head and heavy in the place between her thighs where she’s pressed firmly against Kara. She runs her fingers down Kara’s shoulders and upper arms, grips the muscles there. Kara seems perfectly willing to indulge her.
“Yours is closer,” Lena says eventually. “So take me to mine.”
Kara laughs and walks, perhaps a bit slower than strictly necessary, to the bed at the far side of the room. She kisses Lena again, sloppy and a little wet, making Lena whimper and sigh, her thighs twitching restlessly.
Kara lowers her gingerly down onto her bed. But Lena doesn’t want gingerly. They've been holding themselves back long enough, she thinks, and she can’t stand the idea of it a moment longer, so she glides her hands behind Kara’s neck, tangling her fingers in that stupid, perfect hair, and digs her heels into Kara’s lower back until Kara comes down heavily on top of her, both of their breaths coming out in a huff.
Kara blinks down at her. “I’m sorry about that,” she says.
“I’m not.” Lena feels mesmerized, hypnotized, drunk. All of her focus is zeroed in on the places where she has Kara: on the way she’s captured securely between her thighs, Lena’s calves pressed against Kara’s ass; on the magnificent weight of her, pushing her down solid and sure, trapped between Kara’s warm body and the cool mattress at her back.
Kara’s tongue is in Lena’s ear — something that should make her want to jump out of her skin, but instead just makes her want, her body arching into Kara’s, hips bucking gracelessly in a desperate search for friction. Kara’s hands are grabbing the back of her thighs, lifting Lena’s hips to grind their bodies together. Lena feels her lower back slacken at the authoritative gesture, the slow drag of Kara’s hips between her own setting off an increasingly insistent throbbing between her legs.
“Who even are you right now,” Lena wonders, a tiny bit piqued at the tremor in her voice, “where have you been hiding all of this?”
Kara answers by finally slotting a firm thigh between Lena’s own, in a mirror image of the way they had been entangled here this morning. Lena’s hips jump forward reflexively, a strangled moan wrenching itself from her throat. This time, Lena doesn’t have to hold back — this time she allows herself to roll her hips up into Kara, searching, gasping in relief, reveling in the slow, deliberate motion of their bodies, in the way they fit together.
She bites down on Kara’s shoulder and gets a mouth full of soft wool. Absently, she realizes she should be grateful for not having to explain at breakfast tomorrow why there’s a perfect imprint of Lena’s teeth on Kara’s collarbone.
“Tell me what feels good,” Kara says, breathing the demand into the sensitive skin just below her ear. What feels good? It all feels good. Right there, she wants to say each time Kara moves, and just like that, but all she can think to vocalize is kiss me, touch me, push all of yourself against and around and inside of me.
“Need you,” she manages, “I’m close, I don’t—”
And she is, she realizes, with some bewilderment, and this is not — Kara is fully dressed, Lena naked only from the waist up. Why are they making out like high school students in the back of the auditorium? More importantly, why does Lena feel so tightly wound, whimpering helplessly at every drag of Kara’s thigh against her, so close already that she fears one more well-timed press of Kara’s hands on the back of her thighs could set her off, bringing this entire thing to an end before they’ve even gotten started? Before she’s even properly touched her?
Kara’s voice is thick, reminding her exactly how perceptive Kara is when it comes to Lena, even now, when she asks, her lips brushing her own, “Can you come like this?”
“I‘m — I’m not sure,” Lena says, absolutely certain now that she can but not sure she wants to, not ready for this to be over. Wanting to last. “I want to feel you. All of you,” she adds, tugging at the collar of Kara’s sweater.
“You will,” Kara promises, pressing a kiss against her lips. Lena feels her smile against her mouth when she follows it with, “Gonna make you come, first.”
And, well. Sweet mother of god, and all of that.
Kara takes Lena’s moan as permission to begin driving her in earnest, cradling Lena's hips in her hands, setting a steady pace at which their bodies meet and part, dragging Lena’s body up and down her thigh.
“Good Christ, Kara.” Lena feels as if she’s somehow both running behind as well as rushing ahead, stretched taut between warring desires. Release is a mere whisper away, but she wants so much more, had sort of hoped Kara might tease her, hold her suspended for a little longer, had hoped to strip Kara naked, strip her of that cocky smile and have her stretched naked beneath her, was ready for Kara to have Lena worship her body the way it’s been asking her to before finally allowing Lena her own release.
She whines, high and breathless. “I’m going to — I need—” She grinds aimlessly up at the firm body above her, feeling wired, strung taut, stunned.
“Here.” Kara moves her hands, freeing up one of them to stutter down to the buttons of Lena’s jeans. Lena swats her away, undoing them all at once with a sharp jerk of both of her hands, and then Kara is groaning as she pushes her fingers down between their bodies, past every single barrier that Lena has put between them.
Lena realizes she’s so wet that there almost isn’t any friction at all when Kara slips between her, breathing heavily, telling Lena how good she feels as she glides her fingers in a few bold, long strokes before she finds her. She circles her, two, three times, then drags the pads of her fingers over her, and Lena is coming, going over in spite of herself, helpless to hold off any longer, bucking and rolling and committing blasphemy on various divine beings, including Kara herself.
After a few moments, Kara extricates herself from Lena’s hold with no difficulty or protest, stretching her arms above her head and rolling her shoulders as if she’s just woken from an afternoon nap. Lena feels leaden and weightless. Newton’s Law of Gravity is clearly a lie.
Kara is watching her from where she’s straddled across her hips, smiling and flushed, looking a little rumpled but also entirely too pleased with herself. Lena watches her right back, watches as Kara winks at her, as she lifts her hand and sucks the tips of her fingers into her mouth.
Lena shudders at the sharp tug of what she believes to be an aftershock, then flushes all over when she realizes the release Kara just granted her has not put a break on her arousal whatsoever-at-all, and seriously, what in god’s name? But also, she thinks Kara may not mind it much, considering the hungry way she’s eyeing Lena before she lowers herself, the way she smiles when she’s hovering over her again.
“Knew you’d taste good,” she says against Lena’s lips, and then she proves it by kissing her deeply, languidly, her hands playing a tantalizing little tune on Lena’s breasts that make her hips want to twitch up at her again.
“I’m going to take these off, alright?” Kara asks, splaying the fingers of one hand over the roundness of her belly, the other paused at the waist of her jeans.
“God, please, here,” Lena says, lifting her hips, but Kara has her, lifting her hips again like she’s weightless, some flimsy, insignificant thing. It makes Lena feel weak and trembly, even more so than the wildly out of character climax she’s just experienced. Kara pushes her thumb past the waistband of her underwear and it’s almost rough, because it’s been functioning like a fucking corset all day and Lena just needs to breathe, so when Kara continues to pull them down it’s relief and pleasure and jesus-is-it-fucking-cold, all rolled into one, but combined with the touch of Kara's fingers and her tongue licking out at the crease of her thigh, it’s turned into that exquisite kind of discomfort that smolders, slick and salacious, between her legs.
There’s a beat, once Kara gets her pants off, once Lena is laid out naked before her. Kara is looking at her the same way she did when she was eyeing the Jerusalem artichoke chips. “I’m going to go down on you now,” she decides, the words landing soundly between Lena’s legs, adding to the pressure that’s building there again. Kara kisses her breasts, sucking, biting gently. “Is that okay?”
“Yes,” Lena says, “fuck,” she adds, for emphasis, hoping it’s enough, and just when Lena thinks Kara will put her mouth where it’s wanted, where it’s required, really, at this point, she moves away, making Lena sigh out a protest and reach for her. But Kara stands up, grabs the backs of Lena’s knees and yanks her down to the foot of the bed. Then she kneels down before her and, in a move Lena fears might be incompatible with life, dips down and puts her mouth on her.
It’s, Christ. The second coming, pun fully intended.
As Lena shudders and sobs, surrendering to pleasure, Kara hooks her arms under her thighs and holds on, pressing her hips into the mattress to keep her still. It’s liberating, Lena thinks, through the haze that must be her spirit departing her physical form, freeing, to be so taken, so caught by her. She wants Kara to hold her down and keep her there forever, touch her until Lena is no longer able to remember where else she would possibly want to go.
After, Kara shimmies up next to her, cradling Lena in her arms. Lena feels smaller than their height difference justifies, and tender to the point of liquefaction. It also occurs to her that Kara has yet to shed a single article of clothing. Lena isn’t tall enough to check, but she’s fairly certain she may actually still be wearing her shoes.
“You know,” Lena says, “I’m beginning to think you’ve been projecting, with the never-nude thing.”
Kara is trying to somehow be delicate about pressing what has to be one of Lena’s hairs out of her mouth with her tongue. It makes Lena want to kiss her again. She plucks at her sweater, instead. “Are you ready for this to come off?” she asks.
Kara helps Lena pull off her shirt, then steps out of her — yup, shoes — and her pants, and for a moment, regarding her, Lena doesn’t know whether to weep or fall to her knees. Kara, in moonlight, nude, is a piece of art, and seeing her like this is nothing less than a numinous experience.
Lena doesn’t understand why she’s not already running her tongue all over Kara’s body. As she climbs into her bed again, Lena tries to grab her shoulders, nudge her hips, ready to prostrate herself at the shrine of Kara Danvers, but Kara’s hands are quicker than hers, and they catch her around her wrists.
Kara’s eyes are the deep indigo of the sky at dusk when she smiles down at her, teeth glinting. “No touching until I tell you to,” she says. She lifts Lena’s arms above her head, grasping her wrists in one hand, skimming the fingertips of the other down her arm, down her body until they’re resting at the top of Lena’s thighs.
"I want to be inside you," she rasps into Lena's collarbone. “Can you go again?”
“God,” Lena says on a shaky exhale, “Remind me never to tell you what edging actually is.”
Then she gasps, feeling Kara’s hand slide down, trembles when she cups her in her warm palm, wails, low and wretched, when she feels Kara push inside, curling her fingers, deep and full, and she’s flying, and Kara is carrying her.
Lena closes her eyes against the onslaught of sensation and is grateful for the reprieve it allows her — from the near debilitating sight of Kara, naked above her, straining; from the stark reality of what it is they’re doing, and where they’re doing it; from Kara’s determination to coax every sound from her that Lena is capable of making as she twists and tightens around her capable fingers — and, she finds, it’s a little easier to let go, a little easier to submit when she’s not looking up at the elf on the shelf over Kara’s dresser.
Under Kara’s unwavering, exuberant attention Lena comes apart, completely and without restraint, and, she's sure, beyond all hope of repair. When Lena opens her eyes again, much later, still trying to steady the roaring thunder of her heart, Kara is gazing at her as if she’s the only thing left in the world.
She presses their foreheads together, nothing between them but their panting breaths.
Kara’s voice is gruff, her fingers greedy.
Kind of really wanted 2020 to go out on a bang, so.
Chapter 6: Later On We'll Conspire
Thanks for not giving up on me! This picks up precisely where we left off, so if you're disoriented, I'm sorry, you may have to do a bit of rereading.
(Get comfy, friends. This is a long one.)
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
If Lena Luthor had known dying would feel this good, she would have done it sooner.
It’s impossible to say how much time has passed, with her and Kara alone together in this room. In a way, Lena feels as if she’s been in Kara’s arms forever. It’s dark out, still, but perhaps a little less so than it was before, and exhaustion has settled over her like a weighted blanket, turning her movements languid, her mind syrupy-slow.
Kara appears to have no such problems.
She’s pressed close against Lena’s back, breathing encouraging depravities into Lena’s hair as her fingers move inside her, slow and deep and insistent. Her other hand is drawing an incomprehensible pattern across Lena’s chest, her throat, her jaw; Kara’s fingers wickedly twisting one moment, her palm a gentle caress the next.
In a distant past, some seven hundred years ago or so, Lena had been sure Kara was finally winding down, and Lena had been more than ready to treat her to her personal — hopefully much more enjoyable — brand of Luthor Retribution™. But Kara hadn't given her the chance, not once, and at this point, it’s hurting Lena’s pride a little.
Lena can’t die before she tastes her. It would be an injustice of the highest order.
She turns in Kara’s arms until she’s mostly on her back, trying to smoothly untangle herself, wincing when her skin sticks and skids gracelessly against Kara’s. The movement dislodges Kara’s hand from between her legs, but Kara simply adjusts it, cupping her gently instead.
“Are you okay?” Kara asks, eyes soft with concern.
Lena smiles blearily back at her, taking a moment to thoroughly enjoy her view. Kara is flushed from her face down almost to her stomach, her hair a gorgeous mess. Her shoulders are rising and falling with quick, shallow breaths. It’s light enough now that Lena can see that her freckles continue all the way down her chest and Lena wants to kiss every last one of them, follow them until she can dip her tongue into her belly button, paint a wet stripe down to the junction of her thighs.
“You’re perfect,” Lena tells her, reaching up to brush her fingers over the sloping muscle of Kara’s shoulder and down her collarbone, “but it’s my turn, now.”
Kara moves the hand she has between Lena’s legs again, experimentally, fingertips dipping shallowly inside her. “I don’t think I’m done with you,” she says when Lena gasps, lips quirked in that infuriatingly cocky half-smile Lena has become far too familiar with. But Lena has learned that she’s incapable of focusing on anything else when Kara is touching her, and she can feel sleep tugging at the edges of her consciousness already. If this night is a one-time thing — and she sternly assures herself that it is — she can’t allow Kara to gain the upper hand again.
“Jesus, Kara.” Lena halts Kara’s movement with a gentle hand, shakes her head as if it will help her clear it. “I told you I wasn’t expecting you, before. But I definitely wasn’t expecting this.”
“Yeah?” Kara grins. “So you’re telling me you weren’t looking for a holiday fling when you hopped into bed with a stranger?”
Something heavy loosens and thuds in Lena’s chest at Kara’s choice of the word ‘fling’, the squeezing sensation she’s been feeling there each time she looks at Kara finally easing up a little. She glints her eyes up at her, smirking. “I wasn’t trying to get into your bed,” she reveals. “I was stealing one of your blankets. You practically dragged me in.”
Kara stares at her, blue eyes wide, startled. “Then when did you— how—? If you—”
She’s absurd, Lena thinks, observing Kara as she flounders. How can one person be both this adorably clueless and so preposterously confident at the same time? She draws a lazy, contemplative circle around the blushing peak of one of Kara’s breasts, not counting on Kara to form a proper sentence anytime soon anyway, and smiles when she shivers in response. Kara’s breath hitches. It makes Lena feel lightheaded. A little warm. A little proud.
It also makes her feel tremendously foolish for feeling these things.
“Tell me something,” Lena says, continuing her gentle exploration, biting her lip when Kara hums a little unsteadily. “The other day, when you were helping me with my seatbelt. Did you mean to make me think you were about to kiss me?”
Kara lets out a shocked laugh, looking delighted. Lena retaliates with a firm pinch, and Kara moans, hips stuttering against Lena’s thigh. Her eyes are a bit darker when she looks at Lena again, her voice a little rough. “Would you have let me kiss you?”
Lena’s hand trips down Kara’s abdomen. Kara is surprisingly soft for someone so solid, though Lena can feel the hard muscle jumping under her fingers, flexing against her as she moves closer. Kara is tracking her movements with the focus of a cat stalking prey.
“I wanted you to.” Lena knows she’s blushing, feeling stupidly, sweetly vulnerable. “If I’m being honest, I think I would have let you kiss me that first night in our room.”
Kara regards her for a moment, looking pleased and faintly cross-eyed. “I didn’t think you liked me at all.”
Lena feels a smile twitching at the corners of her mouth. “I believe we’ve established that we’re both idiots.”
Kara looks at her a few moments longer before leaning closer, bumping their noses together before pressing her lips to Lena’s, slick and a little messy. She tastes like salt, she’s been working so hard, she’s fragrant with want and warm and so, so soft. She nudges her hips into Lena’s again, releasing her breath on an almost startled, halting huff when Lena flexes her thigh to offer her something firmer to grind against. Lena leans in, wanting to get even closer, pressing her body up against the cobblestones of Kara’s abs, but when she moves her hand down between their bodies Kara takes her wrist and stops her.
“Kara.” Lena lets it out on an entirely undignified whimper, her voice and fingers trembling, sounding petulant even to her own ears when she asks, “Are you ever going to let me touch you?”
“I don’t know.” Kara’s tone is teasing, her smile flinty, the gravel in her voice sparking something bright and hot between Lena's legs when she suggests, “Maybe you could try asking me a little nicer?”
Lena blinks up at her slowly, heavily. With the negligible amount of sleep she’s gotten over the past 48 hours, it’s an effort not to let her eyes drift closed. She licks her lips and counters, with perhaps a teensy smidge of scandalized defiance, “Kara, are you asking me to beg for you?”
Kara smirks, then breathes the answer right back into Lena’s mouth. “I absolutely am.”
Lena holds her breath for a moment before bouncing it back between them, puffing the word against the softness of Kara's lips. “Please, Kara,” she voices, hushed but urgent, like a prayer, like it’s been waiting to be let loose from her chest. “Please let me touch you.”
Kara’s hips roll against Lena’s thigh in response and Lena can feel her, finally, sliding hot and slippery wet against her. Lena rocks back into her, pressing more firmly between her legs and feels gratified when Kara groans, making no move to stop her. Kara’s eyes flutter shut as Lena’s fingers trip up the impossibly soft skin on the inside of Kara’s thigh. Again, she allows it, and it emboldens her. She slides her hand between their bodies, Kara welcoming her touch, soft and wet and yielding against the pads of Lena’s fingers.
“There you are,” she mutters, before ducking down to slide her tongue over Kara’s collarbone, up toward the hinge of her jaw. Her teeth are on the blushing skin of Kara’s neck, a freckle under her ear demanding all of her attention, irresistible. When Kara’s breath catches, her thighs squeezing around her own, Lena hums, charmed. “You like my mouth, don’t you?”
Kara groans, back arching to grant Lena easier access to her body. “God yes.”
Lena recalls suddenly, vividly, having Kara on her knees for her and feels herself clenching again, her fingers applying firmer pressure almost without her permission, before she catches herself. But when she blinks her eyes open to look at Kara, she’s watching her intently, a flush high and bright on her cheeks. Lena's strokes are more deliberate now, drawing harsh gasps from Kara on every exhale. "Will you allow me to put it to better use?" Lena asks her. And, bringing her lips to Kara’s ear, whispering, “Would you like to come on my tongue, Kara?”
Kara goes rigid at the words. “Oh, Lena…”
Kara’s eyes are squeezed shut, hips stuttering against her hand, and in one frantic, uncoordinated movement Kara cants her hips just so, and just like that, almost without meaning to, Lena has slipped two of her fingers inside, feeling Kara throb and tighten around them.
They both gasp on the same breath, at the sensation, at the shock of it, and then Kara tilts her head back with a soft whimper, exposing the smooth skin of her throat the same way she had when she was laughing at the table the evening before, vulnerable and free. Her hand closes around Lena’s wrist, holding her there.
Lena worries for a moment that she’s gone too far. Kara is clenching down so hard Lena feels it almost like a pinch, and she winces at the possibility of having caused Kara discomfort. But when she tries to move away, Kara doesn’t let her. “Don’t,” she rasps. “You feel good.”
“Yeah?” Lena asks, nudging her nose against Kara’s throat, bolstered by her words. “You should see what I can do when I’m actually trying.”
Kara opens her eyes, grins at her. “You know, for someone who claims she doesn’t like to be in control, you seem pretty reluctant to hand it over to someone else.”
Lena smirks back at her. “What do you plan to do about it?”
Kara gives her a darkly appraising look. “Thinking I may have to tie you down,” she murmurs, a flutter of pressure around Lena’s fingers as Kara seems to savor the idea. “Bet you’d look pretty, all spread out for me like that.”
Kara’s suggestion hits Lena like the third glass of wine, heat coiling low in her belly. “Maybe you should find out.”
“Maybe I will.”
The words are thrilling and evocative, inspiring a litany of images, things Lena wants to do, wants Kara to do to her, a promise of good things still to come — but then Lena remembers herself, a somber resolve muffling the bright spark of excitement blooming behind her ribs. A fling, she reaffirms, what happens in the mountains should stay in the mountains.
(Never mind that it’s making Lena wish she could stay there, too.)
She blinks the thought away before it gets its claws into her throat, before she cries, god damn it. She leans in closer, attempting to mask her momentary sentimental lapse with a kiss, but Kara pulls back, watching her much too knowingly. “Kiss me,” Lena demands. She no longer feels strong enough to beg for it.
Kara’s eyes are brighter now, a lighter shade of blue, illuminated by the light of morning peeking through the curtains. When did that happen? Wasn’t it just midnight? “Maybe I’ll deny you just like that,” Kara grins. “Tease you for hours.”
Lena flushes and huffs, a little heated, a little relieved. “Judging by how this night has transpired,” she points out, “I'm not sure you have it in you.”
There’s a beat where Kara just looks at her, heavy and already deeply entertained. It takes Lena a moment more to realize what she’s done.
The potential for a Very Bad Joke hangs over them like Damocles’ sword, heavy and inevitable.
“Don’t,” Lena warns. She arches the sternest eyebrow she can muster in the current situation, but she fears, from Kara’s gleeful expression, that it will not be enough.
Kara looks at her, pinches her lips, drops her eyes significantly to the place where their bodies intersect. Her eyes bounce back to Lena’s again. “I mean, I’d think you would know better than anyone—”
Lena groans. “Kara, don’t you dare.”
But Kara won't be stopped. “In fact I’d say at this moment in time you’re the leading authority on what is, and is not, in —”
Enough. “Finish that sentence,” Lena growls at her, “and I will throw you out of this bed, I swear to god.”
The words are a prophecy, because the next second Lena is doing exactly as promised, and Kara hasn’t even said another word — instead, there’s a sound that’s infinitely worse:
Someone is knocking on their bedroom door.
Kara lands on the hardwood floor on the far side of Lena’s bed with a thud that sounds like it's going to leave a bruise and an ‘oof’ that indicates all of the air just got knocked from her lungs. Lena would feel bad, but she’s a little busy panicking right now.
“Luthor, are you alive in there?”
“Yeah!” Lena squeaks once her heart starts beating again. “I’m okay! I’m getting up!” and, in a much softer but just as urgent whisper, “Jesus Christ, what time is it? Kara, please tell me you locked —”
Sam opens the door.
Lena wraps her sheet around her tightly and shoves her blanket on the floor, hoping it will hide at least some of Kara’s body. “Don’t come in!”
Sam freezes in the doorway, giving Lena a look of deep concern. Kara is still unmistakably there, hidden mostly from view by Lena’s bed but not at all by the blanket, pressing herself against the floor, quiet as a mouse. Lena is grateful, considering it must be freezing and Kara is naked as the day she was born.
“I’m sorry,” Sam says, wincing in sympathy. “Are you still actively dying?”
Lena is, in many ways, none of which are the aftereffects of the faked migraine Sam is referring to. Lena squints at her from her pillow, very dramatically and with only one eye. “I’ll feel better once you bring me a glass of water and some ibuprofen,” she improvises.
“You got it.” Sam turns to leave, leaving Lena lightheaded with relief, but then her eyes fall on Kara’s bed. It’s perfectly made, which makes sense since Kara hasn’t touched it since yesterday morning. Lena freezes. Sam frowns. “Kara’s up? I didn’t see her downstairs.”
Think fast, Luthor. You’re an intellectual. “Uh,” she says.
Sam hums. “I hope she’s not planning on making us breakfast again.” Lena can almost feel the indignation radiating off of Kara’s body, sends a prayer she’ll be capable of reigning it in and for Sam not to insult her further.
“She um, she may have offered to run into town for me?" she says. “The hotel contacted me about an issue with your reservation for tonight, but I couldn’t get through.”
“Lena!” To Lena’s horror Sam strides further into the room, now four, three, two steps away from spotting Kara. “You told her I’m proposing?”
Lena panics. “Don’t,” she says, almost sitting up before remembering she’s not wearing any clothes. “Don’t come any closer,” she pleads, scrambling for a logical explanation for her desperate request. “I got really sick last night.”
Sam stops. Her eyes narrow. Lena attempts to breathe like a normal person. On the floor beside her, she feels rather than sees Kara trying to do a slow-motion, crab-like scuttle in an attempt to maneuver herself under Lena’s bed.
“Sam,” Lena says, trying to sound grave, holding her gaze like a snake charmer, “I am in great amounts of pain.”
Sam instantly softens. “Sorry. I’ve got you. I’ll be right back.”
As soon as Sam has closed the door behind her, Lena is hanging off the bed, her hands on Kara’s body, checking for damage. “Oh god, I’m so sorry, are you —”
Kara pops up like one of those creepy clowns in a box, the blanket sliding off her, hair looking the most chaotic Lena has seen it thus far. “I’m okay!” She’s blinking, looking a little dazed. “Also, not to be rude or anything, I couldn’t help but overhear, and maybe I misinterpreted, but did Sam just imply she’s asking my sister to marry her tonight?”
Lena hushes her. “You are not supposed to know that.”
“Well, apparently I do!” Kara’s lowered her voice but she’s on her feet now and pacing, deeply dismayed. Also, still perfectly naked. (Nakedly perfect?) “Apparently I’m off this very second, making arrangements to help her do it!”
“It’s all taken care of, don’t worry,” Lena assures her. A little peevish, she adds, “I thought it was a very elegant explanation for your absence, actually.”
Kara stares at her. “But Alex is supposed to be proposing to Sam!”
Lena nods. “That’s the plan, yes.”
Kara stops pacing. “There’s a plan?” She furrows her brow. “You have a plan? A plan that’s your plan?” She blows at an errant strand of hair that’s fallen in her face, plants her hands on her hips. “What’s the plan?”
Lena turns her head decisively, away from the picture of magnificence that’s manifested in front of her, and tugs her sheet more securely around herself. “Nope.”
“Absolutely not! You’re lousy at keeping secrets. Help me find my pants.”
But Kara’s just gathering steam. “I’m excellent at keeping secrets! Alex told me she was going to propose, didn’t she? She trusted me with that, and I didn’t tell a soul.”
Lena just looks at her from the bed, giving Kara a moment to let her own words sink in.
Kara shrinks a little. “Okay, but this is different.” Is she actually blushing? “Technically it was Ruby who told you,” she grumbles.
Lena grins. “And who was it that told Ruby to—”
Kara misunderstands, scandalized at the implication. “Alex told Ruby! She asked her for her permission. And also for her help.”
“I know that.” Lena reaches for her, clasps her fingers in a placating gesture before remembering something Alex said. Ugh, of course. “You’re the one who gave Ruby the idea to incorporate a Christmas tree into Alex’ marriage proposal, aren’t you?”
Kara shrugs. “Ruby was really bummed about not getting a tree this year. I figured, two birds with one stone—”
“Sure,” Lena says without a trace of empathy. “Plans have changed a little bit.”
Kara looks grief-stricken. “We’re not getting a tree?”
“A proposal is supposed to be about two people making a decision about their future together,” Lena tells her. “Not some dumb holiday.”
“I think it’s romantic,” Kara pouts.
Lena scoffs. “Christmas isn’t romantic.”
It’s Kara’s turn to give Lena a significant look, Lena’s turn to blush. “The plan is for Alex and Sam to ask each other,” she explains, just to move them past the moment. “At the same time, without either of them knowing what the other is about to do.”
Lena watches as Kara’s face lights up, delight dawning slowly but then almost blindingly bright. “Oh, my god,” she whispers, “Alex is going to be dealt the ultimate metaphorical Uno reverse card — during her own marriage proposal.”
Lena blinks. “I understood maybe twenty five percent of the words you just said.”
Kara waves her away. “So, the awesomeness of all of that aside, this is still going down on Christmas Eve, right? Under the twinkling lights of a lovingly decorated tree, as friends and family clap and cheer?”
“It’s happening tonight,” Lena corrects. “Under the stars, while being allowed their perfect, appropriate privacy, on the rooftop terrace of the Ritz-Carlton hotel downtown.”
Kara blinks at her a few times, then whistles low. “Fancy.”
Lena shrugs. “Hardly. But it sure is more romantic than hunching around some chopped down foliage in their living room.”
Kara gives her a pleading look. “Can we at least get them one of those horse-drawn sleighs to take them to the restaurant?”
“You’re no fun.”
“Never pretended otherwise.”
Kara gives her another three whole seconds of what she must believe is a disapproving glare but comes across more like a sad little pout, and then drops the matter entirely with an untroubled little shrug. “Whatever, Ebenezer, I’m going to take a shower.” She waggles her eyebrows at her, like a dork. “Wanna join me?”
Lena laughs incredulously. “Uh, no? We have to find a way to get you out of here before Sam finds out you never left?”
“Lena.” Kara’s smile is far too fond for someone who fucked all night and didn’t get to come even once. “We’re all adults here. It’s probably good that Sam didn’t find me naked in your bed, but why don’t we just. Go downstairs and be adults about this? It doesn’t have to be a big deal.”
Lena gives her a stern look. “Have you met Sam?”
Kara blinks back, then bites her lip in a failed attempt to hide a grin. “So it will be a little, tiny bit of a deal.”
Lena clenches her jaw. “I don't want to tell them, Kara.” She doesn’t fully realize the weight behind her words until she sees Kara’s smile falter, then fade entirely.
“Oh,” Kara says, blinking rapidly. “Okay. Sure! If that’s — I mean. We can keep it clean, if you want. Just.” She clears her throat. “Pretend it never happened, or whatever.” She looks lost, and embarrassed, and like she’s trying very hard to be understanding.
Lena hates it. Especially that last one. It wrecks her. She’s struck by a tremendously foolish urge to make it better, to smooth that crinkle in Kara’s brow, to explain. Why does she even want to, when it looks like Kara is getting the message perfectly?
“It isn’t like that,” Lena hears herself say, bewilderingly. “I’m —” But she can’t tell Kara about the bet, can she? How prideful is she willing to reveal herself to be? “I can’t have Sam be right about us,” she offers eventually, feeling stupidly stubborn and faintly, irritatingly contrite. “It’s humiliating.”
“It’s fine,” Kara says, but her tone makes Lena feel like she’s just killed a kitten. And animal cruelty? That’s where Lena Luthor draws the line.
She takes a breath, rolls her eyes. “Remember that bet I mentioned they have going? About us —?” she gestures between them.
Kara stares at her for a long moment. “No way,” she says eventually. “You can’t be that petty.”
Okay, so maybe it is a little bit petty. But. “Your sister bet against us,” she points out. “Remember what she told you about me?”
Lena watches, gratified, as realization dawns on Kara’s face. Raising her eyebrow in what she’s fully aware is a perfect, triumphant arch, she inquires, “Feeling a little petty yourself, now? A little vengeful, perhaps?”
“But she lost,” Kara says. “Why would I want to keep that a secret—”
“... so you can lord it over her and use it to your benefit?”
There’s a beat. Then Kara’s whole demeanor changes, from small and hesitant to determined and vindictive. “Do you think that window opens?”
So it’s possible Lena oversold it a little. “Are you insane?” she demands. “That’s a two story drop.”
“Snow is soft, right?” Kara’s already got the window open, she’s looking out at the ground below. “I can climb out on the ledge here, make my way over to Ruby’s balcony, I think, and slide down the side —”
Lena regards her, freckled and golden and dressed only in sunlight. “Put some clothes on first, maybe.”
Kara looks down at herself a little sheepishly. “Yeah, yeah. Good idea.”
Five minutes and a fully padded, neon green-and-pink snowsuit later, Kara’s got one leg out the window, Lena attempting to help her, harried and still half naked, when Kara freezes.
“There’s —” Kara sighs. “How could I possibly have gone into town? All of our cars are here.”
There’s another, much less gentle knock on the door.
The words are whisper-yelled right into the wood of the door: “Kara? I know you’re in there.”
Lena and Kara stare at each other.
In her relatively brief time on this Earth, Lena Luthor has had to mastermind some sophisticated escapes. By the time she was nine, her brother had already helped her perfect the art of slipping smoothly from church pews, from holiday galas, from gin-fueled parental rages. Three weeks after her breakup with Andrea, she’d spotted her at a fundraiser and gracefully managed to disappear offstage in the middle of her own speech without anyone noticing something was amiss; and earlier this year, she’d had to fling herself off of her forty fifth story balcony on a hastily improvised tether to avoid the bullet a disgruntled ex-contractor had fired at her head. None of these escapes, in retrospect, seem quite as daunting as the one she’s facing now.
“Open up before I kick the door down,” Alex hisses.
Kara looks genuinely nervous. After a moment’s consideration, and with an apologetic look at Lena, she climbs back inside.
“Kara, don’t,” Lena demands, mortified. “What are you doing?”
But it’s too late to intervene. Kara has opened the door the smallest crack, just wide enough for her sister to slip through. Alex is shielding her eyes, her face the color of murder. “Are you both even decent?” she demands, before peering through the space between two of her fingers, clearly unhappy to see Lena standing there wearing only an unbuttoned shirt. In her other hand, she’s holding a glass of water and a strip of Tylenol. “I assume you don’t really need these.”
Kara reaches for the glass. “Actually —”
Alex shoves it into her hand. “Oh, gross, get away from me.”
Lena’s been on the receiving end of some truly threatening gazes, but she’ll never get used to the one Alex has trained on her right now. She tries, though. Squares her jaw and tells her, “You should have known better than to bet against me, Danvers.”
Alex’s lip twitches with disdain. “Should have known better than to count on you two to keep it in your pants, you mean.”
Kara claps her hands together, her face lit up in much too bright of a smile. “Alright! Now that the pleasantries are out of the way, maybe we can consider how to move ourselves past this super comfortable and totally emotionally sound little situation?”
Alex regards her sister with suspicion. “You mean you’re not going to gloat?”
“About you losing the bet? In spite of playing really really dirty?” Kara purses her lips, cocks her shoulder. “Saving that for later.”
“Wait, seriously?” Alex takes a moment longer to scrutinize her, puzzled and a little wary. “Whatever, I’ll take it. Just. Let me lead, and say as few words as humanly possible.” She straightens, looking them over like they’re military academy cadets. “Lena. For the love of god, put some clothes on and go distract Sam. We’ll follow you down in a few minutes. Kara, please tell me you weren’t about to climb out of that window.”
Kara shrugs. “Snow is soft, right?”
Lena finds Sam in the kitchen, pondering coffee grounds. “Reading your fortune?” she asks her.
“Yes. Everything is horrible and we’re all going to die.” With what seems like tremendous effort, she turns to face Lena, giving her a watery smile. “Are you feeling any better?”
“Right as rain.”
(She is absolutely asking Alex later to outfit her with a coffee IV drip in order to get through the next twelve hours without falling over, but Sam doesn’t need to know that.)
Sam looks about as good as Lena feels. Lena waves a hand at her slumped shoulders and clearly distressed hair. ”What’s happening here?”
Sam glares at her. “I am panicking, Luthor, have you not been paying attention?”
Lena gets two soup bowls and fills them with coffee. “The weather’s looking better. Are you thinking of going up the mountain today?”
Sam groans. “I’m mostly thinking of throwing up. Alex is in a really weird mood this morning and it’s freaking me out, especially with what’s supposed to go down tonight.”
Lena impresses herself with the disaffected sound she manages to make, considering she has a pretty good idea what Alex’ weird mood is about. “I’m sure you’re just projecting,” she tells Sam. “It might help if you stopped being such an obvious wreck.” She sets Sam’s coffee down on the table in front of her, gently squeezes her shoulder. “Want me to make you some eggs?”
Sam sighs deeply. “Two, overeasy. And I want avocado toast.” She dolefully sips her coffee. “You’re an awful best friend.”
“I’ve been telling you this, but you never listen.”
Alex and Kara join them just as the toast is beginning to brown.
“Look who I found in the garage, trying to get your snowmobile started,” Alex announces brightly, presenting her sister with the subtlety of an amateur magician pulling a rabbit out of a hat. Lena groans internally. Fortunately Sam just looks relieved at her girlfriend’s cheerful tone.
It’s too early for optimism, however. Judging by the ecstatic look on Kara's face, Alex failed to relay to her sister the exact details of their cover story and Kara blurts, “You guys have a sn—?!”
“This one,” Alex efficiently silences her by jabbing a not-very-subtle elbow into her ribs, “apparently discovered it in the garage yesterday and decided she couldn’t wait another minute to take it for a spin. Too bad it hasn’t worked since last winter.”
Lena apprehensively checks Sam’s response to the obvious lie, but Sam is too busy scheming to notice anything’s amiss. She winks at Kara, blissfully ignorant of the wool being pulled over her eyes. “Lena could give you a hand,” she says. “She’s got magic fingers, can fix that right up. You should take her for a ride.”
Kara is grinning like a cheshire cat. “She does,” she says, “I’d love that,” she says, her smile growing wider with every word, and then Alex jabs her again, a little more sharply this time, making her sister flinch.
Sam is too busy gloating to notice their painful exchange.
Kara is still rubbing her side when she notices the food Lena’s preparing. “Breakfast!” she rejoices, leaping forward like she’s ready to start eating the eggs right out of the pan. “Y—”
“Not before you lose the snowsuit,” Lena tells her, stepping in front of Kara to keep her from reaching the stove. “That thing is so loud I think it’s triggering another migraine.”
Lena can see the conflict playing out on Kara’s face as they size each other up, the temptation of making another awful joke involving Lena demanding Kara take off her clothes going to war with the prospect of breakfast. They’re standing a little too close to be entirely friendly and Alex looks ready to strangle them both, but as expected Kara’s insatiable appetite wins out and her sister barely needs to nudge her out of the kitchen and up the stairs.
When Kara and Alex are out of earshot, Sam tiptoes up behind Lena. “So,” she fishes, clearly attempting to sound casual but coming off suspiciously eager, “since Kara couldn’t confirm the reservation, I assume dinner at the Ritz is a no-go?”
“Jess has it handled,” Lena fibs, knowing there never was an issue in the first place.
Sam scoffs. “Oh, that’s just great.” She turns, rakes her fingers through her hair and stops at the kitchen island, leaning forward on both hands. “So, does literally everyone know?”
Lena turns off the stove before facing her friend fully, folding her arms and tilting her chin in what she knows is a truly formidable disapproving expression. There’s only enough room in this beautiful friendship for one of them to be a disaster at any given time, and currently Lena is barely holding it together herself. “Samantha Luciana Gabriella Arias,” she says, watching Sam stiffen involuntarily at being called by her full name, “are you getting cold feet?”
“Um, obviously?” Sam frowns at her. “I thought it was clear to you by now what a coward I am.”
Lena’s eyebrow barely twitches, but it gets the message across.
Sam slowly pushes out a breath. “Please tell me at least my girlfriend is still in the dark.”
“I guess that depends,” Lena says, far more coolly than she actually feels. “Do you think Kara is capable of keeping a secret?”
Lena observes as Sam’s face drains of all color. She straightens, clearly spooked. “She wouldn’t.”
“If you say so.” Lena gives her a sideways glance, purses her lips. “You know her better than I do.”
“Did they go upstairs together?” Sam’s sudden grip on Lena’s arms is like steel. “Alex?” she calls out, her voice shaking. “Come get breakfast, babe!” And to Lena, furtively, “You’re like, Kara Danvers catnip. Come up to the lodge with us today. You can help me keep them separated.”
Lena laughs without a trace of humor and pulls away to grab a knife, makes a smooth cut into one of the avocados. “No way never, it’s like you’re trying to get me killed.”
Sam follows her like a bullheaded puppy. “You can borrow Ruby’s boots. I had to get her new ones this year.”
Sam peers around the corner and down the hall. “Babe,” she yells, a touch of hysteria in her voice, “Your eggs are getting cold!” Then she bounces back to Lena again. “The lodge has a restaurant. It has a really nice sundeck.”
“Oh, well.” Lena rolls her eyes. “Count me in, you know I adore burning to a crisp in the company of drunk middle aged men.”
Sam bites her lip and takes a deep breath. “Come up with us and I promise from here on out I’ll personally deal with the Lord account.”
Now that’s a truly desperate bid. This can only really mean one thing, and Lena isn’t even sure how to feel about it.
“That’s it,” Sam says, “I’m going up there. I bet Kara’s telling Alex right now.”
“They cleared the pass, didn’t they?”
Lena notes that she sounds disappointed even to her own ears, but Sam doesn’t seem to notice. She just stares at her, her mouth a rigid line, eyes wide with panic. When Lena moves toward the living room to search for the TV remote, Sam blocks her path.
Lena fixes her with a level gaze. “Sam.”
“Are you guys gonna wrestle?” Ruby has been hiding in her blanket fort on the couch again. Lena is happy to know Ruby is using the ninja stealth she’s obviously picked up from Alex for good, unlike her future stepmom.
“Honey,” Lena tells her, “be a friend and find the local news channel for me?”
“Ruby, actually, could you go find Alex?” Sam shoots her daughter a desperate look. “Now, please?”
Ruby blinks at them, unmoving, then slowly lifts the remote.
Sam’s tone turns sharp. “Ruby, I’d like to remind you that I’m in charge of your wardrobe. I can make sure to purchase some truly bold statement pieces for when you go back to school next month.”
Ruby’s finger hesitates.
“Ignore your mom, sweetheart.” Lena points out smoothly, “I can buy you all the graphic tees you want.”
Ruby smiles slyly at that, clearly tempted but still very carefully weighing Lena’s offer. She inquires, “Would a dress for Winter Formal be included in this deal?”
“Jeez babe, what’s the rush?” Alex has entered the kitchen behind them, rounding the counter to bite into a piece of toast. “Oh hey, Lena, did Sam mention they cleared the pass?”
Lena lifts a pointed eyebrow at Sam.
Sam sighs and pinches the bridge of her nose. “You can’t go yet,” she says, and Lena watches calmly as her best friend scrambles for an excuse to keep her within reach of Kara Danvers’ charms. “You’re recovering from a migraine,” she tries. “Doesn’t that affect your ability to drive?”
Lena pauses, buying time to weigh the pros and cons of allowing Sam to persuade her to stay another day. It would help her ensure their proposal happens as planned, help secure her win. It would also give her another night with Kara.
(Facing the inescapable reality that her ever growing infatuation with the woman is creating more and more of a conflict with Lena’s resolution to keep things casual, she’s not sure if she should mark that last one down as a pro or a con.)
“Not… that much,” Lena defers.
“But if you’re leaving, who’s gonna feed us?” Ruby asks.
“Here you go,” Alex says, handing Ruby one of the plates of eggs and toast she’s carried over and plopping down next to her on the couch.
“Actually,” Lena announces, with a warning glance at Sam, “I got the two of you a dinner reservation at the Ritz-Carlton tonight. A thank you, for being such courteous hosts.”
Alex and Sam both swallow nervously, exclaiming “That’s so nice!” and “Lena, you shouldn’t have!” in perfect, exaggeratedly cheerful sync.
Ruby is pouting. “What about me and Kara?”
Lena smiles at her, genuinely wistful. “I was going to suggest the drive-in for burgers and shakes,” she says. “Guess I’ll have to take a rain check.”
Ruby’s despondent expression serves as a perfect mirror to Lena’s own heart. She steels herself against it. Suck it up, Luthor. Muster some of that stone-cold, unshakable resolve.
As if sensing her hesitation, a shark detecting blood in the water, Sam ushers Lena back to the kitchen where Ruby and Alex can’t overhear. “One more night,” she begs. “Help me keep Kara occupied until dinner at least.” She’s practically pouting now. “Please. It’s Christmas Eve.”
Lena snorts. “No it’s not.”
“It’s as close to it as we’re ever gonna get. All of my favorite people are here.”
And that’s, well. Unfair. “Fine.” Sizing up her best friend, who has worked very hard to get her into an impossibly complicated but also unequivocally pleasurable situation, Lena can’t resist one final jab. “Probably best that I’m here to pick up the pieces when Alex inevitably breaks your heart.”
Sam’s distress is immediate and highly gratifying. “Why would she do that?” she hisses.
Lena gives her a smug look. “Because you are a lousy host, and you have a frankly frightening natural ability for emotional blackmail.”
Sam blinks back at her slowly, thoroughly unamused, and mimics taking a cap off her middle finger and making a show of using it like lipstick while vengefully maintaining eye contact.
If Sam is surprised that’s all it takes to persuade notorious workaholic Lena Luthor to tack an extra day onto her involuntary vacation, she takes great care not to let it show.
“You alright there, Luthor?” Sam calls out.
Lena Luthor needs a nap, or a gurney, or maybe a shoulder to cry on. It’s barely 11 am, and she’s nearly fallen facedown in the snow five times already. It doesn’t help that Ruby’s old boots are at least two sizes larger than her usual Louboutins and honestly probably equally unsuited for traversing the hundred yards from where they parked their cars to the aerial tram that will take them up to the lodge.
Why did she agree to this, again?
“You can grab on to my arm,” Kara offers gallantly, and then continues in a softer but much more lascivious tone, close to Lena’s ear, “I recall that really worked for you, last night.”
Lena Luthor does not shiver at the tickle of Kara’s breath on her skin, and if goosebumps do happen to rise from her neck down to her chest it’s clearly due to the fact that Colorado’s freezing temperatures are incompatible with human life. “I’m fine,” she barks, trudging bravely ahead.
Alex is hanging back impatiently, ready to pry the two of them apart. “So Kara,” she yells much too loudly, plucking her sister off of Lena like a stubborn weed and shoving her forcefully toward Ruby and Sam, “do you think you’re going to try snowboarding today?”
“Oh hey,” Sam says, performing some impressive choreography in an effort to put as many bodies as possible between the Danvers sisters, “Kara and Ruby could take a class together! Haven’t you been wanting to try that, Rubes?”
“Not when it was just me and a bunch of three-year-olds,” Ruby says, “but if Kara’s in, hell yeah!”
“I’ll allow precisely one hell yes today,” Sam says graciously. “I hope you enjoyed that.”
Lena stumbles for the six hundredth time that morning, and Kara is at her side in a second.
“Maybe you should let Kara carry you,” Sam suggests.
Lena blushes. Alex sneers. Kara’s grin can be seen from space.
“Fuck you all very much,” Lena growls.
It’s not the snow, or the cold, or the posturing jocks that make Lena hate skiing.
(Or, you know. Those aren’t the things she hates the most.)
The worst part by far is the undiluted terror of being hoisted up a mountain, a single hauling cable the only thing keeping her from tumbling to an icy death, all while her would-be fellow victims ooh and ah over the stunning views the gigantic windows offer of the ground below.
Lena Luthor isn’t fond of heights, let’s say.
The aerial tram is packed. Lena hasn’t been crammed this close to a bunch of strangers since that one party she got dragged to in college. They haven’t taken off yet, and Lena is getting antsier by the minute, praying furiously that the mechanical defect that must be the cause of their delay will be enough to derail the day’s plans altogether.
“Would you relax?” Kara is pressed firmly into Lena’s personal space, having stubbornly refused to get jostled from her side during the rush of people boarding. The same can not be said for the rest of their small group, their faces and voices lost in the din of the swarm. “I swear my jaw is cramping up just looking at you.”
Lena regards her skeptically. “Really,” she says, “you think that’s why your jaw is cramping up?”
A firm thumb digs gently into the muscle at the small of Lena’s back, startling her, but then she sees Kara’s smile, recognizes the warmth of her, even through her coat, and her sweater, and both of her undershirts. It’s comfort, reassurance, support — everything Lena has taught herself not to need.
“So you’re not scared,” Kara says, smiling impishly.
Lena is indignant. “Why would I be scared?”
The tram swoops into motion, lifting them up, and Lena is unable to contain a squawk.
Kara chuckles, leaning in close. “So elegant,” she says. “So brave.”
Lena straightens a little stiffly, glares at her. “I don’t like you at all.”
Kara’s breath is on the skin of Lena’s nape, washing over the electrified spot she had discovered the night before, and Lena shivers involuntarily. “Liar,” Kara breathes.
Lena hates that she’s so sure, that she knows, that Lena had told her as much this morning. Hates, too, that it’s as close as she’s going to get to telling Kara how she truly feels about her. Hates that what she feels is afraid — of leaving, of losing.
Of wanting like this.
Kara inches even closer, pressing herself against her back and looping one arm around her waist, resting a hand low on Lena’s stomach. “Close your eyes,” she says.
Lena Luthor has, historically, faced her various potential final moments with steely-eyed dignity and determination, so the idea of following Kara’s direction seems ludicrous. “Why would I want to do that?” she huffs.
Kara’s fingers twitch against her belly, instigating a quick flicker of interest a few inches further down. “Just be here with me for a minute,” Kara urges.
“I’m fine,” Lena lies, irritation spiking hot at the tremble in her voice.
Kara’s words glance warm against her jaw. “Then why are you not breathing?”
Vindictively, Lena sucks in a deep breath and then lets it out, the movement pushing her belly more firmly against Kara’s hand. Kara inches it down slowly, splaying her fingers, humming, and the sensation is distracting enough that Lena realizes a moment too late that her rigid shoulders have melted back against Kara’s chest. “That’s better,” Kara says. “Isn’t that better?”
Lena is acutely aware of the touch of Kara’s hand as it continues on its downward path. “Kara,” she warns, staring resolutely ahead, still aware of where she is but now significantly more worried about dying of mortification rather than from traumatic aortic transection, “What are you doing?”
“I’m distracting you,” Kara mutters. “Is it not working?”
Lena slants her eyes surreptitiously at the strangers standing nearby, boisterously ribbing their friends or exclaiming loudly about the view. She finds herself beginning to relax at the realization that no one is watching them — and then she meets the full force of Alex Danvers’ homicidal glare.
She looks more than willing to inflict a little aortic trauma, herself.
Alex is the first one to reunite with them after the doors of the tram slide open to spit its passengers out onto the slopes. A modest-looking ski lodge is settled snugly against the side of the mountain, its pale wood paneling gleaming in the sunlight. Lena can practically taste her first sip of Zinfandel already. If she’s learned anything over the past few days, it’s that it’s always wine o’clock in the mountains.
Alex is so mad she can barely breathe, blushing furiously as she pulls them aside. “Could you two stop groping each other for five damn seconds?”
Lena bristles. “Uh, excuse me—?”
“We were being discrete,” Kara argues, which is precisely not the point Lena was trying to make.
“Right,” Alex spits, “It’s not as if, as Sam remarked, you can ‘spot the heart eyes you’ve been giving each other from space’. For fuck’s sake, try to muster at least a speck of self-control.”
Kara giggles. Lena seethes. “Bite me, Danvers,” she sneers.
“Um,” Kara interjects hastily, “which Danvers did you mean to address, there? Because I believe I’m much better suited to the—”
Lena smacks her.
“Yes. Good. Better. Let’s see more of that energy.” Alex glares at her sister, who smiles serenely in return. And to Lena, gesturing at Kara, “Could you just, like. Keep her restrained, or something?”
Lena can’t resist. “Not exactly what I had in mind,” she tells Alex suavely, gratified when two jaws drop in response.
“What has gotten into you?” Alex asks, stupidly, perfectly, as Kara beams, looking proud.
“I didn’t think you wanted the specifics,” Lena deadpans.
“Damn!” Kara whoops. “Be right back, going to run to the first aid station real quick to find you some cream for that burn.”
Alex is looking marginally less entertained than her sister. “Act your age, Luthor,” she grumbles.
Lena spots Sam and Ruby waving, making their way toward them, and straightens, putting a respectable distance between Kara and herself. “You could try showing a little gratitude, Danvers,” she says. “I’ve handed you the perfect setting for your grand romantic proposal. You only need to muster up the courage to actually see it through.”
“Shut up.” Alex coughs, flustered, but she recovers quickly. “There’s a far more important matter at stake here,” she says, dark eyes glinting.
Lena smirks and nods, matching her grim tone. “Agreed. If we let Sam win, we will never live it down.”
Alex’ mouth twitches into something almost resembling a smile. “I’m glad we have our priorities straight.”
Kara watches them, baffled. “You both need therapy.”
Sam wasn’t lying about the lodge’s restaurant. The outside terrace is heated, suspiciously uncrowded, and bathed in sunlight save for one shaded spot in the far corner — and that’s where Lena installs herself, arranging her blankets and her laptop and her files around her, content in her own little approximation of an office. Hidden behind her Ray-Ban Jackie Ohhs and an indecently large glass of wine, she’s settled in for the afternoon.
Burying herself in her work is a comfort, almost meditative. She’s at ease with facts, with figures, takes pleasure in arranging them all in a palatable form. Enjoys, too, reviewing LCorp’s small triumphs and successes, acknowledging how well it’s managed to recover from her brother’s high profile disappearance and subsequent arrest.
What Lena hadn’t been counting on was for the view to be so thoroughly distracting. The mountains are breathtaking, sure, and now that Lena’s feet are on solid ground again she’s actually able to appreciate them properly, but she also has a straight shot to the beginners’ class Kara and Ruby have signed up for and it’s hard not to let her attention wander when Kara is goofing off in her peripheral vision, looking like someone threw a bucket of kindergarteners on her. It’s clear that Kara’s got the snowboarding coach, as well as the handful of parents not treating the class as a babysitting service, thoroughly charmed.
“Oh, that’s more like it,” Jess grins appreciatively, taking in Lena’s surroundings over a crystal clear video call connection. And then, a little jealous, “Why doesn’t the sun ever shine like that in National City?”
Lena peers critically at her laptop screen. Jess is looking a little flushed, and while she’s talking, a guy Lena has never seen before walks into frame, wearing nothing but a pair of AirPods and shorts. When he pauses in front of what looks to be a full length mirror to take a selfie, Lena narrows her eyes at her assistant. “Are you at the gym?” she asks incredulously.
Jess hums noncommittally. “It’s called working remotely, maybe you’ve heard of it? My boss pretty much started the trend when she took off on a ski trip giving absolutely zero notice.”
Lena’s attention snags briefly on Kara’s acrobatics again — she’s somehow managing to follow along with the coach’s instructions without dropping the clown act, falling on her ass dramatically before turning the practice maneuver the coach just demonstrated into a silly-yet-effective, knees-and-elbows-swinging dance routine.
Pulling her eyes back to her screen, Lena glowers at her assistant. “You know just as well as I do that I’m being held here against my wishes,” she reminds her.
“Really?” Jess' smile borders on predatory. “Because I subscribed to CDOT’s updates, and I heard they opened the pass this morning.”
Lena keeps from blushing through sheer force of will. Down in the snow below, Kara is making a theatrical production out of chasing after a runaway board, navigating her own board down the practically non-existent incline balancing on one leg while the kids scream and cheer. “I still have a bet to win,” Lena informs Jess primly.
Jess pulls a long sip from her water bottle. “There’s no way you’ll pull it off,” she says. “Too many variables. One of them is bound to chicken out at the last minute.” And, on the same breath, “Did you sleep with her yet?”
Lena sighs, pulls up a new email and starts typing.
Jess frowns, confused. “What are you doing?”
Lena doesn’t look up. “Emailing HR to file a report against you.”
“Right! So,” Jess deflects seamlessly, “about those emails we’ve been getting from Max Lord’s legal team—”
They get down to proper business, then, but not before Lena glances down one last time. Kara has taken Ruby’s hands and they’re spinning leisurely down the ramp together, laughing so loud Lena can hear them, a slow but joyful pirouette.
Kara is a fool.
An absolutely lovely, undeniably gorgeous fool.
It’s maybe an hour and a half later when Lena stretches and yawns, ready to take a break. Jess has brought her fully up to date, muting her mic off and on to do a couple of reps on various intimidating-looking machines. They’re wrapping up their call just as Sam and Ruby saunter up.
“Is that Jess?” Sam asks. “I want to talk to her. Rubes, sweetie, go get us some food, I’m starving.”
“Can we get hot chocolate?” Ruby asks.
Sam sinks down in the chair next to Lena, throws her feet up on the table and starts pulling off her gloves. “Um, obviously.”
“Some ice cream, too?”
Sam groans indulgently, leaning her head back against the chair. “Why not.”
Sam waves her off. “Knock yourself out, kiddo.”
“Bye Ruby!” Jess calls, then waits patiently until Sam gives the all clear. “So did they sleep together yet?” she asks as soon as she has it. “Lena’s not telling, but she’s looking alarmingly relaxed.”
“I’m recovering from a migraine,” Lena retorts, worried there might be some truth to Jess’ statement. “I’m on a lot of drugs.” She holds up her half empty glass. “Also Sam’s appalling behavior is driving me to drink.”
“You don’t need anyone to drive you,” Sam counters, taking the glass from her hand. Lena chokes on a high def vision from last night proving quite the opposite. “By the way, Jess,” Sam continues, “Thank you for smoothing things out with the Ritz tonight.”
To Jess’ credit, she needs only a brief nod from Lena to pick up her cue. “No problem,” she says smoothly. “I hear congratulations are in order. Although, are you absolutely certain you want to go through with this? I hear divorce rates are —”
“Bye Jess, thank you,” Lena sings, and hangs up. Sam snorts. Lena side-eyes her. “Jackals, both of you.”
“We love you,” Sam says, reaching over to pat her cheek a little roughly. “We want you to be happy.”
Lena swoops her long lashes dismissively, before realizing the gesture isn’t very effective when half her face is hidden behind sunglasses.
Sam sniffs at Lena’s glass of wine before taking a long sip. “You do realize, with this whole hermit thing you’ve got going, you’re essentially robbing other people from the privilege of your friendship, right?” She grimaces, hands Lena back her glass. “That’s not very humanitarian of you.”
Lena feels her mouth twitching in spite of herself. “Friendship, huh? Is that what you’re hoping will happen between Kara and me?”
Sam regards her tiredly. “I’d settle for it, at this point, honestly. It’s exhausting work. I could use a backup BFF.”
Lena throws back what’s left of her wine and studies the mountains, the snow, the ridiculously bright blue sky above them. It’s an almost exact match to the color of Kara’s eyes. Speaking of which, “Where are Alex and Kara, anyway? I thought you were afraid to leave the two of them alone.”
Sam groans, steering Lena’s attention to the slopes with a tilt of her chin. “You try keeping up with those two. It’s like a dick measuring contest out there.”
Lena peers out over her glasses, raising a hand as a shield against the unrelenting sunshine. Amidst the constant stream of people coming down the mountain, exhibiting varying amounts of finesse, Lena makes out two tiny figures that are clearly racing each other, one on skis and the other on a board. “Are they — is that them?”
Out of the two Danvers siblings, it’s obvious that Alex has had more practice — her movements are razor sharp and quick, her balance absolutely impeccable. But Kara is a sight to behold. She’s flowing down the mountain like she’s made of water, demonstrating a sort of languid, almost heavy poise, and she’s only marginally slower than her sister.
In fact Lena wonders, watching Kara come to a stop inches from her sister and spraying her with a perfect arch of snow, if Kara didn’t allow Alex to win precisely so she could do that.
Lena’s mouth is dry. Other parts of her are decidedly less so. “Didn’t Kara learn how to snowboard literally five minutes ago?” she asks, her voice faltering hardly at all.
Sam shrugs. “She’s like that. I don’t know how.”
Lena blinks. “She’s not human, I think.”
“That might be it.”
Lena blames the wine for her soft heart, for the way it’s squeezing in her chest, urging her to clarify that she recognizes Kara for more than just the perfect physical specimen she is. An apology. A defense. “She’s kind,” she says.
Lena takes a breath, holds it for a moment before letting it go. “She can do a lot better than me.”
Sam rolls her eyes dramatically. “Not this again.”
“It’s true, isn’t it?” Lena asks, not even sure anymore why she said anything at all but clumsily seeing it through. “You’ve said it yourself. I don’t let people in.”
“Oh, I know. you’ve always had a tendency to disappear into your work. But Lena, since Lex—”
Lena shifts uncomfortably at the mention of her brother’s name. “I just worked harder,” she says stubbornly.
“You’ve had a different thing to drive you,” Sam corrects. “You’re no longer just making the world better. You’re making reparations.”
Lena picks at the sleeve of her sweater, carefully avoiding her best friend’s eyes. “That sounds like the same thing, to me.”
Sam takes her hand. “Except it’s not. Not when your driving force is regret rather than idealism.”
A clinking of plates accompanied by Ruby’s triumphant voice announces the arrival of an outrageous amount of food but before Sam digs in, before she voices her appreciation of Ruby’s eclectic selection, Sam leans in and captures Lena’s eyes, giving her one last heartfelt look.
“You’re going to have to find forgiveness, Lena,” she tells her. “You’ll run yourself into the ground if you keep punishing yourself.”
Lena needs to turn away, take a moment, take a breath, before she’s ready to show her face again. Sam is right. She realizes this.
Lena Luthor may not have the best track record when it comes to choosing romantic partners, but she definitely knows how to pick her friends.
For two people already committed to each other and more than ready to start the rest of their lives together, Sam and Alex are awfully skittish about the business of actually proposing. Lena is beginning to wonder seriously if, had she not chosen to interfere with their affairs, they would have managed to get it together enough to ask each other at all.
They hang out in Sam and Alex’s bedroom while the brides to be get ready to go to dinner, Ruby and Kara belly-down on the bed kicking their legs in the air and Lena propped against the doorframe, passing a bag of kettle corn between them while they watch Alex and Sam sprinting back and forth between their walk-in closet and their master bath in an awe inspiring, one-time-only performance of perfectly synchronized desperation.
It would be hilarious, had Lena not had a stake in the evening’s events taking place exactly as planned.
“Lena, do you have some concealer I can borrow?” Alex pleads. She’s wearing a pencil skirt and a bra and the most tightly tensed shoulders Lena has ever witnessed on a woman outside of a Madonna music video. “I need something to cover up this hideous burn.” Her cheeks are barely flushed, just a faint remnant from the afternoon sun that only makes her look younger and a little less severe, but Lena doesn’t dare disagree with her. “In the bathroom, upstairs.”
Sam has methodically tried on every single outfit she’s brought to Colorado and has now moved on to putting them together in new, creative and horribly misguided combinations. “You know you’ll just end up wearing the gray pinstripe Armani,” Lena tells her. “Stop stalling.”
Sam drops face first on the bed next to Ruby. “I’m going to take just, like, a tiny little bit of a nap,” she nuzzles. “I think it will help me feel better.”
When they finally get them out the door, only twenty minutes late, it feels like a triumph. “Have fun, kids,” Kara tells her sister with a quick peck on her cheek. “Use protection.”
Sam pauses on the steps. “Lena, are you sure the suit is okay? I think the turquoise top might be—”
Kara closes the front door on the rest of her sentence, stepping back into Lena’s personal space in order to do so. “Don’t you kiss me,” Lena warns.
Ruby giggles. Kara grins. “Maybe later. Burgers first.”
Big Belly Burger is busy, evidently a major draw even this time of year. Browsing the menu through the rolled down window of the car, Lena tries not to think of the grilled eggplant with cumin confit she could be having instead and bravely decides to go for deep fried chicken wings and a baby spinach salad and, at Ruby’s insistence, a supersized Seasonal Mint Master Blast™.
Lena has a feeling she’ll be regretting her choice later. Her stomach is already churning, trying to digest the unfortunate combination of relief and mild depression that comes from knowing her job is done here, knowing this night with Kara will be their last.
“You’re going to taste delicious,” Kara grins into her hair while Ruby relays their order through the intercom.
Kara’s order is a chicken sandwich with extra pickles, two large fries, one with chili cheese, mozzarella sticks, a double cheeseburger with garlic sauce and three servings of onion rings. “You, maybe not so much,” Lena notes with just a hint of polite-adjacent distaste.
The food takes half a century to arrive and by the time Ruby and Lena are finished with theirs, it’s almost ten pm. Kara is still eating, the mountain of food in her lap enough to keep her occupied for at least another twenty minutes. “We should head home,” Lena suggests. “It’s late.”
Kara sucks the tips of her fingers exactly the way she did when tasting her, the night before. The memory hits Lena like a shot.
“You in a hurry to get to bed?” Kara asks, her eyes sparking with humor.
“Actually,” Ruby says from the backseat, “I’m kinda tired. I hardly got any sleep last night with the way the wind was howling around the house.”
Lena’s heart goes still in her chest at the realization that it was a perfect, starlit night; that the only moaning Ruby may have heard would have come from their bedroom.
“I wouldn’t know,” Kara says breezily. “I slept like a babe.”
Ruby makes a face. “Lucky.”
“I sure am,” Kara says, giving Lena a wildly obvious wink.
Lena can’t stand it a moment longer. “Get out,” she tells Kara. “You can eat while I drive.”
Kara coos before doing as she says. “I’ve never tried that one, before.”
Later, at the hospital, when attempting to explain to Ruby’s mother exactly how she traumatized her child, Lena will throw Kara under the bus without a moment’s hesitation. It was her fault, after all; if Kara was less of a messy eater, if she hadn’t made an urgent request for napkins while Lena was supposed to be watching the road, there would have been no collision at all.
There would have been no tires skidding, no frantic swerve, no sudden, eerie silence. Kara wouldn’t have her hand on Lena’s breast, probably, at least not in a reflexive protective gesture.
There definitely wouldn’t be a lifeless shape lying in the middle of the road a few feet ahead, framed by the headlights of their car.
Ruby is the first one to speak. “Holy shit, dude,” she whispers, her voice strange in the perfect stillness of the moment.
“Language,” Lena says, absently, preposterously, her heart having fallen to the floor, rolling around somewhere between the gas pedal and the brake.
Kara’s hand is still on Lena’s chest. “I’d like to state for the record that bad things happen when you refuse to let me take the wheel,” she says.
Lena stares blankly ahead at the figure in the road, still hearing the thudding sound when she glanced it with her car. Is it alive? Is it human?
… is it wearing a Santa hat?
“Uh, aunt Lena?” Ruby asks. “Did we just kill Santa Claus?”
Excellent, Lena thinks distantly, there’s another one for the wall above the Luthor mansion’s mantle.
All this time, she’d been expecting Colorado to bring about her own untimely end.
Never once had Lena Luthor considered that she might actually be the one doing the killing.