Lena Luthor is in desperate need of some fucking air conditioning. She can already feel her shirt starting to stick to her back, sweat beading under her bra strap and along her spine. The Boston weather is unseasonably hot for June, made worse by an oppressive humidity that gives the air a physical weight even in the shade; east coast summers are not something she’s going to miss at LuthorCorp’s new headquarters in National City.
“I still can’t believe you’re doing this.” Jack eyes Lena like he’s not sure what to do with her as he sets the last bag down heavily on the curb.
“Going to work for Lillian?” Lena asks, not looking up as she rifles through her canvas tote and wishes that it wasn’t so gross out already. “Me, either.” The cobblestone street they’re standing on is a stone's throw from the MIT campus across the Charles. She peers past the brick and stone stoops that line the block she’s lived on for the past two years and scans the cars making their way down the one-way street. “Do you see a gold Toyota Camry? My ride is supposed to be here already.”
“No, I don’t. And working for Lillian I can believe,” Jack says, sounding more than a little judgemental about the whole thing. He folds his arms across his chest. “It’s driving across the country with some stranger you found on the internet—in what is guaranteed to be a vehicle more revolting than anything you’ve seen in your life—that I’m having trouble with.”
“That’s a little bit the point,” Lena says, laughing, and abandoning her bag for a moment to lean down and fix the zipper on one of her suitcases. “I’m about to lose my life to the corporate tech grind. I might as well get a communicable disease on the way there, maybe it’ll delay my start date another week.”
She pulls her cell phone out of the tote finally and checks the screen, but there are no missed calls. Sighing, she slides the phone into the pocket of her shorts, hooks her sunglasses onto one of her belt loops, and drops the tote on the ground next to the rest of her bags.
She has the tote, her backpack, and three enormous black hardshells, courtesy of Lex the previous Christmas. At the time she’d rolled her eyes; they have the LuthorCorp logo done in a heavy metal decal stamped on the center, but he’d laughed and said they’d be required when she travelled on the company dime. Packing up her apartment is the first time she’s been grateful for them since unwrapping them. She’d completely forgotten to buy moving boxes and they’d been sold out at every store when she’d finally remembered—one of the pitfalls of moving from a college town the week of all the undergrad graduations.
“I’m pretty sure you’re joking about communicable diseases, but I might check up on your vaccinations if I were you.” Lena glances up at Jack and he points his chin at a decrepit looking mid-90s sedan pulling up to the curb in front of them. “On the other hand,” he cocks his head as Lena turns back to him, “your chauffeur seems exactly the right type for a proper final fling.” Lena squints at him, the teasing tone of his voice giving her pause, then turns toward the vehicle again.
The car is, as Jack predicted, both hideous and slightly concerning. The color might have been gold once, but now it’s a sad sort of shiny beige. It makes a strange chirping noise as it comes to a stop in front of them, a clicking continuing to emanate from the hood—maybe a timing belt issue, if Lena’s thinking about it, but she’s not really, because the girl behind the wheel is enough to distract her from just about anything else.
The person sitting in the driver’s seat, rolling down the passenger-side window and waving at her like an idiot, is gorgeous. Long blonde hair and slightly tan skin and blue eyes, and she’s smiling at Lena like they’ve known each other for years.
“Are you still breathing?” Jack whispers. Lena elbows him and tugs nervously at the v-neck she’s wearing.
“Lena?” The blonde asks, a hopeful uptick in her voice. At Lena’s nod, she continues, the smile nearly doubling in size, “Hi, I’m Kara Danvers.” She turns off the engine and gets out of the car, walking around to where Lena and Jack are standing, which is somehow worse, since now she’s in front of Lena in a cutoff t-shirt and jean shorts, a pair of dirty white Vans high tops on her feet and absolutely acres of toned leg on display. When Lena doesn’t say anything, Kara nods to the bags in a pile on the sidewalk. “Want a hand with those?”
“Oh, she definitely wants a hand,” chortles Jack. Lena elbows him, again, and clears her throat.
“Um, yes, a hand would be great.”
“Sure, I’ll throw these in back, and, uh, hop in, I guess.”
Kara moves to pick up all three of Lena’s oversized suitcases at once, arms flexing as Jack nearly doubles over behind her with silent laughter. As the blonde hoists the bags and shuffles them to the back of the car, Lena shoves him gently in the chest.
“Not a word,” she hisses, watching as Kara tries to get the trunk open without setting any of the bags down.
“Wouldn’t dream of it, love.” She can hear the twinkle in his voice. “I can’t believe you’re going to be stuck in a car for three days with your wet dream. What did the ad say again, she’s going to start a journalism job? Your mother would love that.”
“Jack, I swear to god. If you don’t shut up…” The trunk slams and Kara walks back around.
“Are you good to go?” Kara wipes her hands off on the shorts and smiles at Lena again, glancing at Jack. “I’ll, just, uh, get back in and let you say goodbye.” She slides back into the driver’s seat and shuts the door, putting the window back up and staring studiously ahead.
“You know, I do believe she’s trying to give us privacy,” Jack says, peering at Kara over Lena’s shoulder. “Fancy a make-out?”
“As if that would do anything for either of us.” Lena laughs and turns to him. “But I do want a hug. I’m going to miss you.” She throws her arms over his shoulders and buries her head in his neck.
“And I, you,” Jack says, scooping her up and lifting her clear off the pavement. He shakes her a bit for good measure. “I’m still gutted that you don’t want to cure cancer with me in the garage. We really could make headway, given the right round of VC funding and another decade.”
“You’ll do it without me, Jack, I have no doubt.” There’s a tightness in her chest as she says it. He sets her down gently and then bends to grab the backpack and the canvas tote, handing them to her while she brushes out the wrinkles he’s left on her t-shirt. “Come visit?”
“As if you could keep me away,” he says, smiling. “Your misanthropy means my status as your best and only friend is safe—be a shame if I let that change simply by not bothering you enough. Now, go make bad decisions for three days and make sure to call and tell me all the dirty details. She’s perfect, meets all your criteria, and just think, after this you never have to see her again, no complications!”
Lena pushes at his chest and he fakes a stumble backwards. “For that, you get nothing,” she says, laughing, backing towards the car.
“Love you, Lena,” he yells out as she opens the door, stuffing his hands into his front pockets and rocking on his heels.
“Love you too, Jack,” she calls back as she opens the door. She swings the tote into the footwell, tosses the backpack into the rear on top of a laundry basket filled with what she hopes is clean clothing, and then bends down to fold herself into the front seat. She shuts the door and buckles in.
“So, Luthor, as in LuthorCorp?” Kara throws on her indicator, looks over her shoulder, and starts slowly making their way toward the traffic on Chestnut St.
“Did you just google me?”
“What? No. I just.” Kara laughs, glancing at Lena before looking back out the windshield. “Your bags had the logo, I can’t believe I didn’t put it together.”
“Some journalist you are.” Lena rolls her eyes, a little annoyed now at the suitcases. So much for anonymity.
“Hey, I don’t start as a journalist until next week.” Kara shrugs, picking up speed as soon as they turn onto Charles St, the wide, green expanse of the Boston Commons visible in front of them. “I just finished my masters. But your family is like, gazillionaires, why on earth did you respond to my craigslist post about a rideshare to National City? Don’t you have private jets?”
Lena nods and hums in assent. “I wanted to piss off my mother.”
“And paying for someone’s gas while driving cross-country is going to piss off your mom?” There’s a skeptical lilt to Kara’s tone.
“She wanted me to start work at the National City office immediately after graduation,” Lena says, as Kara gasses it a little to make the light to turn onto Beacon. “I’ve been putting it off for a month and a half, but I finally had to cave since my brother has to go back to run the Metropolis division. This is my last hurrah.”
“Well then,” Kara says, turning toward Lena and smiling again, “I’ll try to make it a good one.”
Lena can feel herself flush for no reason at all at Kara’s words, and she casts about the car for a distraction. The inside of the car is as much of a disaster as the outside, the back seat taken up by a laundry basket full of folded clothing and half a dozen family size bags of off-brand cheetos and assorted junk foods. She looks back at Kara.
“It doesn’t look like you need it, but the ad said to bring snacks, so I did.”
“Oh awesome! You can never have enough food. What do you have?”
Lena opens the bag at her feet and starts rummaging through it. “Wild salmon skin, dried seaweed, kale chips, and an assortment of low-sodium nuts.” She sits up. “I also have seltzer.”
“I’m sorry, was anything you listed actually edible?”
“Yes!” Lena frowns, looking around at the junk food Kara has piled all over every available surface. “More edible than anything in this car, anyway, all of the ingredients in those cheese puffs other than the corn meal are carcinogens.” She pulls the bag of salmon skin crisps out and opens it, the bag crinkling.
“Oh my god,” Kara suddenly says, “what on earth is that smell?”
“It’s wild salmon skin with sea salt.”
“I thought you were kidding.” Kara mimes throwing up.
“It has ten grams of protein and omega-3s.”
“It smells like the ocean crawled into my car and died.”
“Fine.” Lena huffs. “I’ll roll down a window. Don’t be so dramatic.”
“I’m not being dramatic, that’s disgusting,” Kara says, taking a deep breath as soon as the window is down. Lena barely resists pointing out that Back Bay doesn’t smell any better. “Pass me those cheese puffs, I need to cleanse my soul.” Kara may be gorgeous, but something tells Lena they aren’t going to get along. Which suits her just fine; the last thing she needs is a complication.
She folds up the top of the crisps as Kara merges onto the highway and grabs a clip from her bag before shoving them back inside the tote. Rolling up her window, Lena reaches for the climate control knobs. “Is it okay if I turn the air up a bit? It’s way too hot with the window closed.”
“Oh, hey about that,” Kara sounds sheepish, “sorry, but my AC is busted, so, um, you might wanna keep that window down.”
Lena looks over at Kara and narrows her eyes. “You didn’t mention that in the ad.”
“Well, no, it didn’t really feel like a selling point.” She has the grace to wince a little. “But it’s not like I said there would be AC, so, really, it’s a buyer-beware sort of situation.”
“We’re driving across the country, in June, in a heat wave.”
“If I drive really fast, it’ll feel like there’s AC?”
Lena rolls the window back down. “Please tell me your sound system works.”
“Oh, yeah, for sure.” Kara nods. “I have a cassette adapter cable, too, if you wanna plug your phone in. Just jiggle the connector in the tape deck, it’s a little old.”
“We can listen to your music to start,” Lena offers, eyeing the wire snaking out of the cassette slot. “Driver picks.”
“I feel like you’re going to regret saying that,” Kara says, laughing a little. “I’ve got like, the collected works of NSYNC in my playlists and a bunch of workout mixes saved to my phone.”
“NSYNC is fine.” When Kara raises her eyebrows, Lena rolls her eyes. “Okay, NSYNC is great and I actually really like them, happy?”
“Very,” Kara grins, but makes no move to turn on any music. She drums her fingers along the steering wheel. “So, that guy who dropped you off. Boyfriend?”
Lena laughs. “Oh god no.”
“Shoot! I’m sorry.” Kara looks concerned, as if she’s somehow offended Lena. “I shouldn’t have assumed. You just looked really close, and I thought -”
Lena cuts her off. “He’s as gay as I am. Jack is my best friend.”
“Best friend. Cool, cool, cool.” They’ve started to make their way out of the city, joining the turnpike as it curves away from the Charles. “So, you said you’re going to start work at your family company, huh? Doing what?”
“I’m starting in R&D.” The car is hot despite having the windows open and Lena can feel sweat starting to trickle down her lower back. The air outside is stifling, heavy and humid, even at seventy miles an hour. She leans towards the window a little, trying to capture some of the artificial breeze.
“Neat!” Kara looks over, seeming to look Lena up and down. “Did you just graduate?”
“Mmhmm,” Lena hums.
“I loved college,” Kara says, “I majored in mass comm, but with minors in astronomy and chemistry. I just finished my master’s in science communication.”
Lena can’t help rolling her eyes. Kara thinks she just graduated from college.
“Is that right,” she replies, letting just a touch of boredom into her tone. “My master’s degrees are in business, and mechanical engineering.” She sees Kara choke slightly out of the corner of her eye, it’s satisfying. “And if my lab work at LuthorCorp goes the way it’s supposed to over the next two years, I’ll have my doctorate in microbiology, too.”
“Oh gosh, I’m sorry, I just, you’re younger than me,” Kara glances over, “right?”
“Probably,” Lena says, closing her eyes again. It’s so fucking hot in this car.
Lena opens her eyes and turns her head. “Did you just say ‘golly’?”
“It’s a legitimate word,” Kara defends.
“If you grew up in the nineteen fifties, maybe. What’s with all the questions? Just put on NSYNC.”
“I wanted to get to know you first.” Kara looks over, a nervous half-smile on her face. “We’re about to be in the car together for thirty-six hours, I think we should be friends.”
Friends? Jesus, who is this person. “Not going to happen.”
“What do you mean?” She looks almost affronted at how quickly Lena shut her down. “I don’t know anyone in National city, besides my sister, and you don’t know anyone there either. Unless you do, wait, do you know people?”
“Kara, we’re not going to be friends.”
“I’m a Luthor.” Lena huffs out a sigh. “We don’t do friends.”
“Jack is your friend.”
Oh my god, thinks Lena, is she really arguing with me? “Jack is gay.”
“I’m gay! Well, I’m bi,” Kara amends, “but still.”
“That makes it worse.” Lena almost regrets the words as soon as they’re out of her mouth, but it’s too late now.
“What?” Kara looks legitimately bewildered. “How?”
Later, Lena will blame the heat, her mounting frustration with Kara for not just dropping it, her own short temper, and, of course, the lingering pain and bitterness surrounding Andrea. “Because you’re stupid hot and apparently queer and one of us will develop feelings and it’ll end poorly, and I’d rather just skip all that okay?”
Kara’s eyes go wide and she turns a little red, but she shuts up and reaches down to the cupholder to hand Lena her phone. Spotify is pulled up, No Strings Attached already in the queue.
Lena hits play and resumes leaning against the door, looking out as the last of the city flies past.
“Has that happened to you?”
Lena blinks awake at Kara’s voice. She yawns. “Has what happened to me?” She glances at the dash, but apparently the clock is another thing that’s broken. The bridge from Just Got Paid is coming through the speakers but Lena’s neck is sore, so this must be at least the second time through the album.
“Falling in love with a best friend?”
Lena sits up and rubs at her neck. She squints at Kara, but Kara is staring attentively at the road. “It happens to every queer woman,” she settles on saying.
“It does not!” Kara’s eyes cut over to her before drifting back to the highway stretching out in front of them. A forest lines both sides of the interstate, no exits visible for miles.
“Well, it hasn’t happened to me.” Kara sounds certain and it settles like an irritant on Lena’s skin.
“Just because they don’t tell you they’re in love with you doesn’t mean it hasn’t happened,” she mutters under her breath as she reaches for Kara’s phone to change the music. “Any requests?”
For the next ten minutes, the only sound comes from the murder podcast that Lena has chosen and the wind rippling through the open windows.
“I’m just saying,” Kara starts again, raising her voice a little to talk over the hosts and the open windows, “I’ve had best friends and I’ve never fallen in love with one of them.”
“Kara, it isn’t...” she huffs out a breath, “I’m not saying people fall in love with everyone they know. We can be,” Lena casts her eyes around at the pine trees whipping by, “acquaintances if you’d like.”
“Why is it okay to be acquaintances and not friends?”
“Because then we won’t really know each other and there’s less danger of feelings.”
“What if we were just regular friends and not best friends.”
“I already told you, Kara, I don’t do friends.”
Kara lets out a humph.
“You think I’m stupid hot?” Kara asks when they pull into the motel parking lot just outside Indianapolis. It’s just before midnight and Lena is exhausted. They’ve been swapping the driving responsibilities every four hours and she's ready to be out of the driver’s seat.
“I think you’re stupid annoying right now,” Lena says, flexing her hands on the wheel and hitting the brake a little harder than necessary as she pulls into a spot.
“Well, I think you’re kind of mean.”
“Yep.” Kara nods. “You’re mean, which is just not my type.”
Lena looks over at her. In the neon and fluorescent lighting of the parking lot, she can see that Kara has one of the enormous bags of cheese puffs on her lap, her fingers caked in orange flavoring dust. It’s annoying. Everything about her is annoying. “And what, pray tell, is your type?”
“Nice, for starters.” Kara wipes her fingers on a roll of paper towels she’s shoved next to her feet. “Kind. Interesting. Smart, which you are, but I don’t think that makes up for the mean.”
Lena can’t help laughing.
“Gosh, do you even believe in love?” Kara looks over at her, eyebrows drawn up like she’s just realized how Lena is going to answer and is pre-experiencing horror in anticipation of Lena’s confirming it.
“People always want something from you, I’m not sure truly altruistic, romantic love even exists,” Lena says, and maybe she’s playing into it just a bit. Kara gasps. “Well, not the fairytale happy ending kind, which it’s now clear to me is what you believe in.”
“Don’t sound so scandalized.”
“Don’t you want that, though?” Kara asks as she shoves the puffs into the footwell, the polypropylene bag crinkling. “To fall in love, have a person who loves you back?”
Lena doesn’t respond, just reaches behind the center console for her backpack and gets out. She’s only wanted that kind of love with one person before and she doesn’t feel like having this conversation.
“Okay, okay, love is off limits,” Kara says, jogging through the parking lot to catch up to her. “There’s gotta be something we can find common ground on,” she adds as they approach the lobby. “Ooh I know! Wanna have a sleepover and watch a movie on my laptop? I’ve got all the good Disney and Pixar stuff.”
“Those movies are for children.” Lena turns her attention to the scruffy-looking hotel employee at the front desk. “Separate rooms, please.”
They’re passing the arch in St. Louis the next day when Kara turns down the music, Britney Spears fading into the background. “What if I wanted to get to know you?”
Lena has her feet pulled up on the passenger seat, and is leaning her arms on the window. She manages to keep her groan internal. “Oh my god, you really need to let this go.”
“Nope.” Lena isn’t totally sure why Kara seems so intent on fighting her on this. “I think you might be really cool even if you’re grumpy, and I want to get to know you.”
“Then ask me out on a date and we’ll see where it goes.”
“But you’ve already made it clear you don’t believe in love,” Kara says, then adds, “and I’m not looking for a relationship right now anyway.”
Lena doesn’t move to face Kara in any way, she can imagine the pout on the other girl’s face well enough already. “Well then you understand my position: neither am I.”
“That’s different! I’m not looking for a romantic relationship. You’re apparently not looking for any relationship.”
“Does that make my boundaries any less important than yours?” Lena finally turns her head and fixes her with what she hopes is a withering stare.
“Well, no,” Kara’s face pulls into a frown, maybe because Lena’s got a point, “but we could be really great friends!”
Lena doesn’t dignify that with a response, just untangles herself long enough to turn the music back up, and goes back to leaning her chin on her arms on the door.
“Let’s try this again: that’s now two fives, a number six—hold the lettuce, extra large fries, a six-count nuggets with barbecue, a large coke, a large vanilla shake, a water, and a side salad?” The disembodied voice coming out of the drive-through speaker sounds as exhausted with this process as Lena feels. “You’re sure this time? I can ring you up now?”
“Yes,” Kara nods, yelling into the speaker, “that’s it, I promise.”
“Okay,” the voice says. “That’ll be twenty-six seventy-eight at the wind—”
“Really,” Lena mutters, looking out the passenger-side window, “you don’t want to add another bacon burger to the mix?”
“Shoot, you’re right.” Lena whips around to Kara who looks regretful as she turns back to the microphone. “Wait! I need to add another bacon burger, hold the lettuce!”
Lena isn’t sure who groans louder, her or the guy taking the order.
She’s going to murder Kara. They’re sitting in the motel bar in Amarillo, Texas. It’s more of a pool hall than a bar, the ‘bar’ part consisting only of five sticky stools sat in front of a plywood surface, and there’s a mirror propped up on the wall behind the liquor bottles.
Lena can see their reflections in the mirror, Kara’s eyebrows knit together so tightly that she must have a headache. Four-drink Lena can admit that she looks kind of adorable like that, but Kara also seems like she’s actually trying to continue the same argument they’ve had for two days now, and that’s just absurd.
“Help me understand,” Kara says again, a light slur to her words. “Are you saying everyone falls in love with their best friend?”
“I’m saying that queer women have a special affinity for it,” Lena repeats, fishing the cherry out of the bottom of her drink. “The whole ‘falling for your straight best friend’ is basically a rite of passage.”
“Everyone.” She eyes the cherry, holding the stem between her thumb and forefinger. It’s the bright, garish red of supermarket maraschino, more red dye number forty than actual fruit. “The L Word, although terrible, was built entirely on the premise that a friend group of queer woman in LA dated each other in some sort of ridiculous repeating circle for like, god, however many seasons that went on. And it’s been my experience that when two people are attracted to each other, and they’re close, feelings are likely to develop.” She puts the cherry in her mouth, bites it off the stem.
“That’s just, I mean, come on.” Kara’s cheeks are a little pink. “A trope and a tv show? That’s your evidence?”
“Okay,” Lena drawls out, looking down at her empty glass, “so you’ve never been in love with your best friend?”
“No!” Kara sounds affronted, as if this is the single most outrageous question she’s ever been asked. It’s nice to finally see her as off-balance as she’s made Lena feel. “No, I have never been in love with my best friend.”
“Tell me about her.” Lena looks for the bartender, and lifts her glass. He nods and pulls the bottle of whiskey from behind him, starts pouring another.
“She is a he. And his name is Winn.”
Lena looks at her and bursts out laughing. Kara had been looking down at her drink, the glass nearly empty, but she whips up at that.
“What? I don’t have any close female friends.”
“Right.” Lena shakes her head, then nods at Kara’s drink. “Do you want another?”
“Yes, please. What am I drinking?” Kara looks at her drink, frowning, but knocks the rest of it back without waiting for an answer. She sets the glass down. “See? I have a best friend and there are no feelings involved.”
“Putting aside that this Winn is not a queer woman, which was central to my thesis, is he straight?”
“And does he think you’re attractive?”
The bartender puts Lena’s whiskey neat with a cherry on the bar in front of her and points to Kara’s empty glass. Lena nods and he takes it away to start another amaretto sour.
Kara scrunches up her face and looks at the ceiling. “Sometimes when we’re drunk he calls me beautiful?”
“Yeah,” Lena downs half the whiskey in one gulp. “There are feelings involved.”
“There are not!”
“There are.” Lena shrugs, rolling her glass between her hands on the bar top.
“I have a perfectly platonic relationship with Winn.”
“I believe that you believe that.” Lena can see Kara swivel on the stool towards her in the mirror, hands on her hips, mouth open in frustration. “Do you think he’s attractive?”
“He’s not ugly, if that’s what you’re asking.”
“Not what I asked.” She goes back to concentrating on the way the fruit rolls around in the glass as she moves it back and forth. “Are you attracted to him?”
“Poor Winn.” Lena tries poking at the cherry with her cocktail straw.
“Poor...you’re impossible.” Kara throws up her hands and spins her stool back to the bar. “You should know that my sister, who’s a lesbian by the way, had a best friend, Vicki Donahue and…” She trails off.
“And…” Lena prompts. She stops trying to grab her cherry stem and looks over at Kara, who has the smallest frown on her face, like she’s just realizing something.
“Shoot,” Kara says to herself. “Okay, bad example, but this sounds like a you problem, not an everyone problem.”
“A me problem?” Lena arches a brow. “Explain.”
“I think you fell in love with your best friend and it didn’t work out and now you’ve made up a ridiculous rule.”
It’s the four and a half drinks that makes Lena say it, but the next thing that comes out of her mouth is, “I’d fall in love with you, if we were best friends.”
“No you wouldn’t, you find me annoying.” Kara is pouting. Lena doesn’t want her to pout. It’s sad.
“Naive,” she corrects, “not annoying—I’m sorry I called you annoying, and it probably wouldn’t work out.”
“Well I think you’re cynical. It definitely wouldn’t work out.”
“Cynical?” Lena laughs. “Tell me something I don’t already know.”
It might be the hangover, but Kara has to admit to herself that it’s absurdly hot already when they pull out of Amarillo just before seven in the morning; I-40 might as well be melting, the blacktop shimmering in the distance before the sun is even fully up. She really should have gotten the AC fixed before she left. If the car doesn’t overheat, or otherwise break down, they’ll reach National City this evening just before midnight, and, although she’s looking forward to getting to see Alex, for some reason Kara feels like she wants another day to try to figure Lena out.
She glances over at the woman in question. Lena is sitting in the driver’s seat, big mirrored aviators jammed closely over her eyes, dark hair pulled into a messy bun, and a worn grey MIT t-shirt that’s two sizes too big tucked into white shorts. She’s been funny, cantankerous, and downright rude to Kara at different points since they left the East Coast, and she might be (really, extraordinarily, breathtakingly) very pretty, but talking with her is like getting whiplash; one minute she’s cracking a joke and the next she’s telling Kara how wrong Kara is about literally everything.
It should be off-putting. It is off-putting, and maybe that’s why all Kara wants to do is solve her like a puzzle. She just wants to stop feeling so off-balance. Heck, at this point, she’s not even sure she wants to be friends with Lena, but Lena’s absolutely bonkers reasoning as to why they can’t be is like a sore in Kara’s mouth: she just can’t leave it alone.
“Let’s say I accept your stupid argument that at least one person in every set of queer female best friends catches feelings, which I don’t, but let’s say I do.” She can practically feel Lena’s groan. “Why is it so bad if someone falls in love with you, anyway?”
“Because it’s never them falling in love with me,” Lena answers her, keeping her face pointed out at the road. “It’s the other way around.”
“Aha!” Kara can’t keep the exclamation in. She wiggles in the seat and sits up straighter. This is the first time Lena’s answered any of her questions in a way that’s remotely personal. “So this is your villain origin story! Did you fall in love with your best friend and it didn’t work out, is that why you’re so sure about this?”
“Yes, actually.” Lena sounds tired, as if maybe she’s only saying this because Kara’s been badgering her for three days.
“Oh.” The flush of victory fades a little at the tone in Lena’s voice. Kara chews on the inside of her cheek. “I’m sorry.”
Kara’s quiet for a moment. “You don’t have to tell me about it if you don’t want to, but if you do want to, I mean, we’re stuck in the car until tonight anyway, and I’m a good listener. So, if you want to talk about it, you can.”
“I don’t,” is the clipped reply.
This time, it’s Kara who turns the radio back on.
“Her name is Andrea.”
Kara is staring out the window at the interminable red desert flatness outside, day-dreaming about lunch, when Lena starts talking.
“What?” She turns her head away from the window so she can face Lena, reaches forward to turn down the volume.
“My best friend.”
“You mean the one…”
Kara waits to see if Lena wants to continue.
“We’ve been—” Lena stops herself, seeming to collect her thoughts. “We were best friends from the moment we met in boarding school.” She shakes her head. “I didn’t even know I was gay then, I just knew I liked her so much and that everything, every feeling with her was...intense,” she laughs the word out, but there’s no humor in her tone. “It’s obvious now. We used to make out at parties, only when we were drunk. That’s how I figured it out.”
“Figured out that you were in love with her?”
“Figured out I was into girls.” Lena sighs and rolls her head from side to side, adjusting her grip on the wheel. She doesn’t look at Kara. “The falling in love, I don’t know. Maybe I always had feelings for her, but in college she started dating this guy, Russell. And I got jealous. So jealous.” Lena lets out another hollow laugh. “I thought at first maybe it was just that she was spending time with him instead of with me, but anytime I saw them together I wanted to throw up. And given that we were roommates, that was pretty much all the time. I thought there was something wrong with me, like, medically.”
Lena goes silent, so Kara prompts her. If Lena’s going to talk about this, she doesn’t want to let the opportunity go. “How’d you put it together?”
“How did Jack help you figure that out?”
“We were absolutely trashed one finals week, I think a whole group of us had gone out to celebrate being done.” Lena frowns, then changes lanes and speeds up to get around a line of slow moving semi-trucks. “I guess he’d seen me looking at them, or looking at her, or something. He found me outside crying in the snow, asked me what was wrong, and I said I didn’t know. And instead of letting it go, he just pursed his lips at me, and said, ‘You’re in love with her, aren’t you?’” She looks quickly at Kara and then away again. “He got me blackout drunk that night to stop the sobbing, took me home to his apartment, and in the morning, once he poured about a liter of pedialyte down my throat, he made me talk it out. We’ve been best friends ever since.”
“What about Andrea?” Kara frowns. That can’t be the whole story.
“What about Andrea?”
“Are you still friends?”
“Not really, no.” Lena’s hands flex on the wheel. “We don’t talk anymore.”
“Because I fell in love with her, Kara,” Lena’s voice is sharp. “I fell in love with her and she fell in love with someone else, and seeing her with him felt like dying a slow, painful death. And once I’d named it, I couldn’t stop thinking about it. And I knew I couldn’t be friends with her anymore. It hurt too much.”
“Did you tell her?”
“Of course not, don’t be absurd.”
“So you, what, you just drifted away? Cut her out?”
“It’s called self-preservation.”
Kara opens her mouth to protest, but Lena turns the volume on the radio back up, and, for once on this trip, Kara decides to let it go.
They don’t talk the rest of the way, from Albuquerque to National City. Kara doesn’t understand why it stings so much, but she doesn’t know what to say to break the silence. When they finally pull up to Lena’s new apartment building, Kara feels like something more than a road trip is ending. It’s weird.
“Want help with your bags?” she asks, throwing the car into park, as Lena unbuckles and starts the task of grabbing her stuff from where it’s drifted around the inside of the vehicle.
“That’d be great, thanks.”
Kara gets the three massive suitcases and a backpack out of the trunk and onto the sidewalk. A doorman sees her and starts towards them with a luggage trolley.
Lena shuts the door and walks around to where Kara is standing.
“Well,” Lena starts, fidgeting slightly with her tote bag, “thanks for the ride.”
“Right,” Kara says, rubbing at the back of her neck. She sticks her other hand out to Lena. “It was nice knowing you.”
“Likewise.” Lena takes Kara’s hand and pumps it twice.
“Have a nice life, I guess?” Kara says as Lena disengages.
Lena laughs one last time. “You, too, Kara Danvers.”
And then she disappears into the building, the doorman trailing behind with her bags.
Kara gets back into the car and sits there for a moment. These have been the weirdest three days of her life. Lena’s probably right, they shouldn’t be friends—they’re polar opposites in too many ways and it’s hard to be friends when you can’t agree on the fundamentals. Still. It feels odd. Kara’s never met someone whose boundaries she had so much trouble respecting.
She shakes her head and plugs Alex’s address into her phone, clicks it into the holder on the dash, and pulls back into the California traffic.
It’s time for the next chapter of her life.
Four years later, Star City Innovation Conference
It’s Kara’s first business trip. She’s walking out of a panel on nanotechnology when she spots a familiar profile standing to the side of the stage, just off the mass of bodies heading for the exits. It’s been years, but she once spent nearly forty hours trying not to stare at that profile and Kara is a little embarrassed to admit to herself how often she’s wondered about Lena Luthor.
Glancing down at her watch, she considers the time. There’s a fifteen minute break before the next talk she needs to attend. Lena probably won’t have time to talk to her anyway, but Kara feels compelled to walk over and say hello. It’s the polite thing to do.
Lena is standing by herself, a green sheath dress and black pumps on - a far cry from the worn chucks and oversize t-shirts she’d been wearing the last time Kara saw her. She looks great and Kara feels an inexplicable bout of nerves walking up to her. She smooths out the front of her button-up, tucking the press-pass lanyard under her collar.
“Lena?” She asks when she gets close.
The woman in question turns towards her, but her face is furrowed in confusion. “Yes?”
“Hi, I thought it was you,” Kara says, sticking out her hand.
Lena takes it, but her eyes are searching Kara’s face. It’s like she doesn't recognize her.
“I’m sorry,” Kara says, letting go. She reaches up to adjust her glasses. “It’s Kara Danvers, we once—”
“Oh my god, Kara!” Lena’s whole demeanor changes. Her face eases into a warm smile and she shifts towards Kara, her body relaxing. “I didn’t recognize you!”
“It’s the ponytail and glasses, isn’t it?” Kara laughs. “My sister says I look like a whole different person.”
“Must be,” Lena shakes her head, “what are you doing here? Are you in Star City now?”
“Just for the conference, I’m covering it for the National City Tribune. I saw your name on the program, and when I recognized you, I just had to come over and say hello.” Kara’s realizing now that she doesn’t have much of a plan beyond saying hi.
“I’m flattered you’d ever want to be in the same room as me again, after that trip.” Lena raises an eyebrow and chews on her lip. “How’ve you been? Journalism seems to be working out, I see.”
“It’s good, I’m good,” Kara says. The mention of their road trip triggers a synapse in her brain. It reminds her of their three-day argument and suddenly she finds herself confessing something. “You were right, by the way.”
“Unsurprising, but you’ll have to remind me. Right about what?”
“Oh my god, I’d forgotten Winn.” Lena really does have a lovely laugh, Kara had forgotten how nice it was to hear her laugh. “Winn, the best friend who you swore wasn’t in love with you?” She cocks an eyebrow at Kara, clearly biting back a grin.
“Yes.” Kara grimaces a bit. “Turns out he was. He confessed like, two months after I moved, although I still maintain that it’s possible to be friends with someone you’re attracted to.”
“Mmm, I’m coming around on that.”
“You’d be proud.” Lena nods, a cheeky grin on her face. “I’m up to two friends now.”
“A whole two?” Kara can’t help teasing, Lena’s so much more playful than she’d been four years before. “Jack and…”
“Her name is Sam.”
“How’d she convince you to be friends?”
“We work together, or, well, LuthorCorp took over her company last year and I was in charge of the acquisition. She was always there during the transition period, working late.” Lena hums as if trying to recall. “She’s drop dead gorgeous and, at first, I tried avoiding her, but she’s absurdly nice and rather perseverant…” She purses her lips, as if weighing her next words carefully. “She reminds me a little bit of you actually, that whole dogged determination thing.”
“My determination didn’t work on you, remember? We never became friends.” Kara affects a pout and Lena smiles in response. Kara feels her face shift to match.
“Yes, well, you only had three days in a car,” Lena says. “The acquisition took months.”
“And you’re friends now?”
“Oh, we tried something else at first,” Lena’s smirk is back and Kara’s heart skips an uncomfortable beat as she blushes. Yep definitely the same woman I drove cross-country. “Sadly we’re just not compatible.” The smirk settles into something much softer. “But she’s wonderful and she has a daughter whom I adore so, yes. We’re friends now.”
“Does this mean we can be friends?” Kara doesn’t know what compels her to ask, but whatever had been present the first time she and Lena met—some frisson of connection, some strange pull—is still there.
“This again?” Lena purses her lips, but there’s no bite to it.
“Why not?” Kara scrunches up her nose. “You just said you’re friends with this Sam person now!”
“Kara, surely by now you have enough friends in National City…” Jack is waving at Lena near one of the convention center doors. “I’m sorry, I have to run.” She pauses before she turns away. “It really was nice seeing you again, Kara.”
And then she’s gone.
“You were brilliant, Jack,” Lena says when she reaches him. “I’m so glad we’re finally working together again.”
“It’s nice when the biggest tech company in the world is also run by your best friend’s family. I told you Spheerical just needed a good venture capitalist, not that I thought it would be your mother.” He grins at her. “Who did I just tear you away from, love? Anyone I should know?” He wiggles his eyebrows at her. “She was making you smile.”
Lena rolls her eyes and shakes her head. “You remember that girl I drove cross-country with four years ago?” He nods, his expression shifting to confused. “Kara Danvers. She’s the Tribune’s science reporter now.”
“You’ve got to be kidding me,” Jack whips his head around to try to catch Kara, squinting through the crowd. “You should have invited her to brunch. You couldn’t stop talking about her for weeks.”
“Clearly you’ve forgotten the reason I couldn’t stop talking about her,” Lena says dryly.
“I have not,” Jack turns his attention back to her, affronted. “You thought she was ridiculous and you absolutely wanted to have sex with her.”
“She was ridiculous, and she wanted to be friends.” She glares at him, but it doesn’t seem to have any effect. “I was twenty-one and unhappy and still in love with Andrea. I told her we couldn’t be friends because one of us would catch feelings and it would all end in tragedy.”
Jack starts laughing. Lena smacks his shoulder. He doesn’t stop.
“And now I certainly can’t be friends with her because there’s no way I’m ever going to live that down. Stop laughing.”
“I can’t, it’s too hysterical.”
“Shut up and take me to brunch like you promised.” No amount of fake seriousness can disguise the affection in her voice and Jack knows her too well to miss it.
“As you wish.” He offers her his arm. “So, is there anyone in your life I should know about?” They start to make their way through the convention center, heading for the Northern California sunshine outside.
“No, Jack,” Lena sighs, leaning into him. “The great love of my life is turning out to be LuthorCorp.”
“There, there, you’re only twenty-five, spinster-hood doesn’t begin until thirty.”
“Shut up, Jack.”
Another four years after that, National City
“Alex, I love you, but you need to get out of bed.” Kara walks over to the window in her sister’s bedroom and pulls open the blinds. National City is sunny most of the year, but there’s a special golden quality to the light in June and, judging by the way her sister practically hisses as Kara pulls at the cord, Alex is trying to avoid it.
“I can’t.” Alex has pulled the covers over her head in response, the blankets muffle her voice. “I‘m depressed. Possibly clinically—I’m not sure.”
“What do you mean you’re not sure?” Kara looks around the room. It’s a veritable disaster—clothing (dirty, from the looks of it) covering the floor, a multitude of water glasses on the nightstand in varying states of fullness. “You’re a doctor! This isn’t healthy.”
“I’m an orthopedic surgeon, Kara, not a psychiatrist,” Alex says, pulling the covers down a few inches until her eyes are visible, “and I have to admit I didn’t pay a lot of attention to the psych rotation in med school.” She tracks Kara around the room as Kara grabs empty energy drink cans and shoves some of the scrubs into an already overflowing laundry basket. “I googled it. The internet says I might be depressed, or possibly suffering from something called ‘adjustment disorder.’”
“Okay, well, labeling is only important if it helps you treat something. And I’m pretty sure ‘adjustment disorder’ is a fancy way of saying ‘life happened and it really sucked.’” Kara pauses at the door, her arms full of protein bar wrappers and old five-hour energies. “Either way, you have to get out of bed: my last therapist was really big about opposite-to-emotion action.”
The covers come down another couple of inches to reveal Alex’s mouth. She’s frowning. “That sounds fake.”
“I assure you, it works,” Kara says, rolling her eyes. “Now, come on. Get out of bed, get in the shower, and then we’re going to breakfast. You can tell me all about this depressive episode over french toast.”
Alex seems to weigh her options for a moment, but she sits up and peels the sheets back. She swings her legs over the side of the bed and rubs at her face with both hands. “I really love her, Kara, I love her and I walked away and, oh god,” she flops back on the bed, eyes to the ceiling, “what if I’m making the biggest mistake of my life?”
“You’re not, Alex, I promise. Maggie is great, but you want more, and you’re gonna find it.” Kara leans against the doorframe. “But, even if you were making a mistake? I’ll be here with you to pick up the pieces.”
Alex doesn’t move. “Did you feel like this when you broke up with Mike?”
“Not exactly,” Kara feels herself frown as she thinks back to her break up six months earlier. The ache is still there a little, but it doesn’t make her flinch anymore. “I was in love with him, but he was clear that he never wanted to settle down and get married. I thought maybe that was enough for me, until it wasn’t anymore.” She shrugs, the wrappers shifting in her arms. “Did it suck? Yes. Was I really sad? Absolutely. But you were engaged, Alex. It’s okay to feel this way. It won’t go away overnight, but you’re not alone.”
“Stronger together?” Alex asks, sitting up again.
Kara nods. “Stronger together.”
It takes almost an hour, but Kara manages to coax her sister into showering and getting dressed in public-appropriate clothing. She practically shoves Alex out the door with the promise of caffeine and carbohydrates drenched in more carbohydrates, and finally gets her outside to make the walk to Noonan’s. By the time they’re sitting down, black coffee in Alex’s hands and a caramel frappe in hers, Alex admits maybe planning on staying in bed forever wasn’t the great recovery plan she thought it would be.
“Part of it is Maggie—I love her and I’ve broken my own damn heart.” Alex frowns down at her mug. “But part of it is just, what if I never meet anyone again? I mean, I never would have met her if she hadn’t brought that gunshot vic in. And if I never meet anyone and I never have kids, then what was even the point of breaking up with her?”
“First, you don’t need a partner to have kids,” Kara says, and Alex nods, one side of her mouth ticking up as if to say you’re not wrong. “And second, you’d have a much easier time meeting people if you ever went anywhere beyond the hospital and your apartment.”
The waiter interrupts briefly with their food, creme brulee french toast made with challah for Alex and cookie dough stuffed french toast with a side of chicken and waffles for Kara. As he starts walking away, Kara calls him back and adds a side of bacon and an order of hashbrowns; Alex rolls her eyes, used to her sister’s ordering and eating habits.
“I’m an attending, Kara, I don’t get to leave the hospital. The residents might kill everyone.” She grimaces looking at Kara’s plates. “And I still don’t understand how you can eat all of that and never gain weight. It’s not fair. Do you know how many miles I’ll have to run this week to make up for this?”
“It’s a superpower,” Kara says, shrugging and pouring maple syrup all over both of her plates. “Besides, running will help with your adjustment disorder.”
“Yeah yeah,” Alex says, reaching for the syrup. “I do remember endocrinology.” She looks at Kara. “So, it’s Tuesday and I know I have the day off, but aren’t you supposed to be at work?”
“I have a big interview this afternoon, so I flexed some hours this weekend doing research for it.”
“Oooh, who with?”
“Lena Luthor,” Kara says, as she takes her first bite, doing her best to talk around the food. “Can you believe it?”
“Wait.” Alex rests her hands on the table, knife and fork poised. “Your assignment is to do a profile on Lena Luthor?” Kara nods. “The same Lena Luthor you were trapped in a car with for three days like, a decade ago? Didn’t you tell me she was the most miserly person on the planet? Doesn’t believe in love, hates everything you hold dear? How are you supposed to be unbiased?”
“Don’t be ridiculous Alex. She wasn’t that bad, maybe I exaggerated a little.” Kara swallows. “You know I saw her a few years back?” Alex blinks in surprise as she starts to cut into her food. Kara nods. “Yeah, the first conference The Tribune ever sent me to cover in Star City.”
“Well?” Alex takes a bite.
Alex rolls her eyes. “Was she the same?”
Kara pauses with her fork in midair, syrup dripping on the plate below. She has to think about it. “Yes, and no,” she finally settles on.
“What do you mean?”
“I’m not really sure,” she takes the bite and chews, giving Alex a shrug. “We only talked for a minute, but she seemed happier, I guess? Playful almost.”
Alex’s eyes go wide. “Playful? A twenty-whatever-year old tech exec and the word you feel applies is ‘playful’? Hey,” she adds, frowning, “didn’t her brother just get indicted for insider trading or something?”
“Yeah,” Kara takes a sip of her drink, “that’s part of why I’m interviewing her. She’s the youngest chief executive of any company that size now. And, playful is the right word. It’s hard to explain.” Kara casts her mind back to her run in with Lena four years ago. She shakes her head to clear the memory. “But none of that matters because I’m a journalist and I’m writing about a subject, and we don’t really have a history at all.”
“Yeah,” Alex looks at her skeptically, cutting another piece of her toast, “maybe mention that to your editor at some point.”
“You’re sure you’re going to be ok?”
“Sam,” Lena says, looking at the videochat window on her computer screen and frowning, “for the ninetieth time. I’m going to be fine. I’ve got Jess, and, with the shitshow Lex left us, it’s not like I’m going to have time for socializing anyway.” She takes another sip of coffee from her mug and looks around the kitchen island for a stack of financial records she needs to review today. The early morning sun is streaming into her apartment, and if she weren’t quite so stressed out at the moment, Lena might take time to sit on the couch and enjoy the view of downtown National City before she has to get to work. As it is, she’s already dressed and on her third cup, so relaxing isn’t an option.
“I know, I know, but Jack says the last time you were left to your own devices for more than a month, you became a hermit and stayed at work for four days with no sleep. And Jess is wonderful, but even the best assistant in the world isn’t going to be a substitute for friends unless you decide to actually let her in.”
“Jack is a dirty liar.” And a traitor, Lena thinks, ignoring the comment about Jess. “It wasn’t four days, and I don’t think it counts as hermitage if I made it to work.”
“We just worry about you is all,” Sam frowns back. “Ruby’s going to miss seeing you all the time.”
“I’m going to miss her, too,” Lena says, meaning it. She’s not just losing Sam for twelve months, she’s losing Ruby, too. “I still feel awful asking you to relocate for the school year.”
“Don’t worry about it. Eighth grade was rough, as you know. I think she’s looking forward to a fresh start. It’ll be nice to be out there for the summer so she can spend some time at camp before she has to start school.” There’s a clattering in the background. “And here she is, speak of the devil,” Sam says, grinning off camera.
Ruby’s head pops into view. “Hi Aunt Lena!”
“Hi Ruby,” Lena breaks into the first real smile she’s had all morning, possibly all week. “All packed for soccer camp?”
“Yep! And Mom already showed me the new cleats you got me and they are so awesome.” Ruby’s excitement is clear even over the pixelated screen. “Also, Mom says you have to promise to leave your apartment.”
“Et tu, Brute?” Lena asks, laughing. “I’m a twenty-nine year old woman, I think I can be trusted to take care of myself. I go on dates, you know.”
“Mom says they don’t count if you never go on more than three with the same woman,” Ruby starts, as Sam smacks her on the shoulder.
“Ruby, go get changed, our flight leaves in four hours and we need to get going.”
“Love you Aunt Lena, bye!”
Sam comes back on the screen.
“It doesn’t count, huh?” Lena asks, raising her eyebrows.
“Well,” Sam’s tone is bordering on chagrined, “she might have overheard Jack talking about wishing he could move to National City so you’d have someone around to actually talk to.”
“I talk to both of you!” Lena sets the mug down and stops looking around for the papers. “Not everyone needs a lot of friends, Sam.”
“I hear you, Lena, I do. But with me three hours ahead and Jack nine hours ahead, it won’t be the same. We love you, is all.” She gives Lena a remorseful looking smile.
“Fine,” Lena lets her shoulders drop. “If I become a hermit though, can we just blame Lex’s poor life choices instead of my poor social skills? If he hadn’t gone and gotten himself fucking arrested, I wouldn’t be in the position of having to take over as CEO, and you wouldn’t be flying back to Metropolis for the year to help me get all this under control.”
“Yes, well, your brother’s always had a lot of charm and not nearly as much sense as you.” She pauses. “Just promise me you’ll, I don’t know, join a book club or something.”
Lena just stares at her, unimpressed.
“Okay, maybe not a book club.”
Her cell phone chooses that second to start buzzing like mad. Lena looks at the screen, it’s Jess with an S.O.S. text and a note from Legal: the U.S. Attorney’s Office is seeking to interview Lena about her brother.
“Shit, Sam, I love you, but I have to call Jess. I think I’m getting called into another deposition and I do not have time for this today.”
“No worries, and hey,” Sam says, and Lena looks back at her face on the screen, “do something nice for yourself today, ok?”
Lena rolls her eyes. “Yes, Mom, I will.”
“Love you, Lena. I’ll call when we’re settled.”
“Love you, too, Sam.”
Lena closes the application, and then her computer, walking it back over to the workstation in her home office and plugging it in, before returning to the kitchen. In the six weeks since Lex was indicted and arrested for securities violations, Lena’s been forced to take on the mantle of Chief Executive at LuthorCorp and given the unenviable task of steering the company through its largest scandal ever. It’s a job she hoped she’d never have, and, now that she has it, she wishes she could hide back in the lab. Her apartment looks like a hurricane hit a copy center: there are reams of paper on nearly every surface, organized mostly by gravity at this point, rather than any sort of sensical system. This mountain range of paper is the attempt by every single department and subsidiary to get her up to speed.
Lena sighs. There’s more waiting for her at the office.
She grabs her purse and leaves before the urge to set it all on fire becomes too much to resist.
“Yes, Jess?” Lena doesn’t look up from her computer, there’s something about the financial statement that one of their departments has forwarded that doesn’t look right. She squints at the spreadsheet, reaching forward and tilting the monitor to try to see it better; having the windows to her back means the sun glares off the screen. Trust Lex to have set up the CEO’s office in a way absolutely not designed for productivity...she’ll need to have facilities management re-decorate soon if she’s going to be able to get anything done up here.
“Your eleven-thirty is here,” Jess says, and Lena gets the feeling this might be the second time she’s had to say it.
“Shit.” She looks up. Jess is standing just inside the door and at Lena’s exclamation, she reaches behind herself and tugs it closed. “I’d completely forgotten. It’s that CatCo piece, right?”
“I thought you might’ve,” Jess says, nodding, “and yes, the reporter is from CatCo.”
“Jess, if it’s—”
Jess holds up a hand to stop her. “Two buzzes on the intercom and I’ll come in with an emergency that just can’t be handled without you.”
Lena feels her face relax into a smile. “What would I do without you?”
“I’m sure you’d manage,” Jess says, smiling back. “You don’t have anything else on your schedule until three, but Legal asked me to make sure you had a chance to look at those numbers.”
“I’m not through them quite yet.” Lena grimaces and glances at her screen again. “Why the hell did Lex have to play the stock market? Insider trading is so Martha Stewart of him. I miss the lab.”
“And I miss the days when you and I would get to go home at reasonable hours.” Jess raises both eyebrows and thins her lips. “Times change. Shall I send her in?”
“Please,” Lena frowns back at her computer screen, clicking the document closed, “might as well get this over with.”
When Jess steps back out, Lena stands up from the desk and smooths out her red blouse where it’s rumpled from sitting. She pulls at the black pencil skirt she’s wearing and retrieves her blazer from the back of her chair, slipping it over her shoulders and pushing up the sleeves, before making her way over to a sideboard along the wall opposite the door. She hears the door open behind her and casts a glance over her shoulder.
Lena stops in her tracks and blinks. It can’t be.
The reporter walking into her office is Kara Danvers. She’s wearing the same glasses as the last time Lena saw her, but her blonde hair is done in a braid now instead of a ponytail, her cuffed button down swapped for a grey sweater over a white button up and dark green chinos. She looks good.
“Dr. Luthor?” Kara asks, as she steps further into the office.
“Ms. Danvers!” Lena says, surprising herself with the warmth in her own tone. “I never thought I’d be saying this, but it’s good to see you again.” She gestures to the chair across from her desk. “And it’s Lena, please. I don’t let anyone call me Doctor.”
Kara grins and ducks her head, one hand coming up to adjust her glasses. “Well, if I’m calling you Lena…”
“Kara it is.” She smiles. “Can I get you a glass of water? I was just about to pour some for myself.”
“A glass of water would be great,” Kara says, looking back up at Lena and setting her messenger bag on the ground next to the chair.
“Of course.” Lena turns to the pitcher on top of the sideboard. She pours two glasses and walks them back to the desk, setting one in front of Kara, before walking around to retake her seat. “So,” she starts as Kara pulls a notebook from the bag and pats her pockets for a pen, “I didn’t realize you work for CatCo now. I thought they were more, ‘high waisted jeans, yes or no’ than science reporting, or are you branching out?”
“Actually, it’s CatCo that’s branching out,” Kara says, smiling and bending down to rifle through her bag, her pockets having come up empty. “Ms. Grant is starting a series of special interest sections, and Science and Technology is one of them.” She pulls out a pen and uncaps it, scribbling on her pad to make sure it works. “That’s why I’m here, actually. We’d like to run a profile on you and your work at LuthorCorp. You’d be the first in a ‘Women in Science” series.”
“I’m not sure I’m all that interesting…” Lena frowns. “There are some incredible women in some of our labs, I’d be happy to—”
“Lena, with all due respect,” Kara laughs and interrupts her, “you have two PhDs, the work you’ve done in micro-electro mechanical systems in partnership with Spheerical Industries is revolutionizing the medical field, you hold seventeen patents related to biofuels and alternative energy technology…”
Lena can feel herself blush as Kara rattles off some of her achievements over the past eight years. It’s not that she doesn’t know all of this, and she knows it seems impressive at face value, but she’s used to being behind the scenes. Lex was the face of the company.
“...and as of a month ago, you’re the only CEO of a company this size under the age of forty,” Kara finishes. “I think that qualifies you as interesting.” There’s a challenge in her smile, and Lena can’t resist rising to it.
“Well, then, Kara. I suppose all press is good press. Where would you like to start?”
They end up talking for nearly two hours, covering everything from Lena’s thesis to her time in Research and Development, and then on to her transition to the helm of LuthorCorp in the wake of Lex’s arrest. Kara is a pleasure to talk to, clearly well prepared with thoughtful questions that go beyond what Lena has been coming to expect from most reporters. Kara doesn’t seem interested in writing something that could be copied from Lena’s wikipedia page—she wants to know what challenges Lena has faced, what her personal triumphs have been. And she’s clearly smart, so smart that she makes it easy for Lena to get lost in some of the minutiae of the work, but Kara doesn’t seem to have any trouble following.
Perhaps that’s why Lena’s startled when she hears Jess’s voice.
“Ms. Luthor?” Jess pokes her head through the office door. “I’m so sorry to interrupt. It’s one-thirty, should I order lunch for you now or will Ms. Danvers be staying longer?”
“Oh my goodness,” Lena says, letting out a small laugh. “I didn’t realize the time.” She looks at Kara. “Have you eaten?”
“No, but I don’t mean to trou—”
“It’s no trouble at all, unless you have somewhere you need to be?” Kara shakes her head, so Lena takes a chance, remembering their road trip and the fights about where to stop to eat. “Do you still eat burgers?” She smirks at Kara. “I’m not sure I remember you eating anything else beyond bacon burgers and those terrible cheese puffs, but I don’t think Big Belly Burger has the puffs on the menu.”
“You willingly eat fast food now?” Kara’s eyebrows shoot up. “What happened to Ms. I only eat weird health food?”
“This is a special occasion,” Lena says, nodding at Jess, who smiles back and ducks out.
“What’s the occasion?”
“Off the record?” Lena pushes her chair back slightly from the desk.
“Off the record,” Kara repeats, making a big show of closing her notepad and tucking it and the pen back into her bag.
Lena eyes Kara for a moment, considering. She has no real reason to trust her, but Kara’s been a journalist for years and there’s never been a blind item about how terrible Lena is to share a car with...
“The truth is, I’ve always had a weakness for their fries. And with the month I’m having, well,” Lena shrugs, “sometimes junk food is self care.”
“I think I should be concerned that self-care constitutes a special occasion.” There’s a teasing rhythm to Kara’s voice. “But somehow I’m not surprised.”
Lena gets up from her chair and walks around her desk, gesturing for Kara to follow her to the small sitting area, two chairs facing a low table with a couch along the back wall, to wait for their food. “You know, when we first met, I really didn’t like you that much—”
“I thought you were mean,” Kara interrupts her, laughing to take the sting out of it. “I liked you anyway.”
“I was a little mean.” Lena gives her a rueful smile. She takes a seat on the couch, catching her left thumb between her fingers and twisting it. “I seem to recall being nothing but grumpy and rude, and you were nothing but nice to me for three days.”
“Well,” Kara reaches up to adjust her glasses, sitting down on the opposite end of the couch, “I’m not sure ‘nice’ is entirely accurate. I remember spending a lot of the time trying to badger you into explaining yourself, when I probably should have just let it go.”
“I didn’t make it easy for you.” Lena laughs lightly. She looks down at her hands and then back at Kara. “What’s the statute of limitations on apologies?”
“Um,” Kara grins, “ten years?”
“Oh good, there’s still time to make amends then.” They smile at each other for a moment. It shouldn’t be this comfortable to just talk with her, Lena thinks, but it is.
“It’s funny.” Kara breaks the silence. “Every time I see you, I’m compelled to tell you that you were right about something.”
“Do tell,” Lena sits back on the couch. She leans one arm on the back of it and props her head up with her hand. “What is it this time?”
“I did finally catch feelings for one of my friends.”
“Her name is Lucy.”
“And are you and Lucy…?”
“No,” Kara quirks one side of her mouth up, looks down at her lap. “She was more interested in our friend James. But, you weren’t entirely right.” She flashes Lena a grin, the same effortless charm Lena remembers finding so irritating in the car. It isn’t irritating here. “We’re still friends. It didn’t end in tragedy.”
Lena can’t help laughing. “I’ll never live that down, will I?”
“Nope.” Kara shakes her head. “Burned into my memory.”
Jess delivers the food shortly after and the afternoon flies by. Before she knows it, Jess has returned to let her know she only has ten minutes until her three p.m. meeting.
“I can’t imagine there’s anything you need for your article that we didn’t cover,” Lena says when she gets up to walk Kara out.
“Oh gosh, no, I mean, I’ve got everything.” Kara stops just short of the door, swings her bag over her shoulder. “And that last hour is completely off the record, promise.”
“I should hope so.” Lena gives Kara a warm smile and reaches for the handle. She finds herself making an unexpected joke, “I suppose I’ll see you again in another four years?”
“Lena, I was thinking,” Kara fidgets with the strap on her bag, but she keeps her eyes on Lena’s, “would you like to have dinner with me sometime?”
“Are you asking if we can be friends, again?”
“Well, I…” Kara pauses, eyes widening for a second before she breaks into a big smile, “it’s tradition, right?”
“I’d say no, but…” Lena trails off, her fingers on the door handle. She’s a little surprised to find her usual impulse to keep someone at arm's length is dulled. Sam’s words from this morning echo in her head; Kara isn’t a book club, but that was never going to happen anyway. She lets go of the knob. “Actually? I could use a friendly face whose motivations I don’t have to question. And you have been trying for the last eight years.” She raises an eyebrow at Kara. “If I can’t trust your intentions, whose can I?”
“Right.” Kara adjusts her glasses. “Purely platonic! What are friends for?”
Me, starting off an author’s note with a disclaimer?? I made a joke on tumblr that this is a When Harry Met Sally au only in the sense that La Croix flavored seltzer might be best described as ‘transported in a truck near bananas’ or ‘a hint of a hint of lime,' because what I really did with this was take supercorp and gently waft WHMS over it while grabbing a couple of lines from SG canon along the way. Certainly I’ll be including versions of famous scenes from the movie, but they’re not going to look exactly like you remember them. I hope you like it anyway :)
Did I spend too much time using street view to figure out the exact route that Kara and Lena take across the country, only to use pretty much none of the things I looked up? Yes. Yes, I did.
Title from like no one does by Jake Scott. Although the mood music for this chapter is more along the lines of Happy Love by RØMANS (the SAINT WKND remix) and Maybe Don’t (feat. JP Saxe) by Maisie Peters.
as per usual this wouldn't be up without a massive amount of love/encouragement/support/fixing everything I do wrong, so thanks to @jazzfordshire, @vampire-chunks, and @thesaltycrocodile. Plus @coffeeshib who made maybe the coolest moodboard ever cause I wanted one :)
Chapter 2: Act Two
there's a fic playlist in the end notes if you're into that sort of thing
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lena is having a terrible, no good, absolutely crap day at the office when her cell phone vibrates twice in rapid succession. July is always her least favorite month; wrapping up the previous fiscal year is difficult to begin with, but this one is doubly so since part of the accounting involves untangling Lex’s less than legal financial activities. And to top it off, she’s currently stuck on the world’s worst conference call. She checks to be sure she’s still on mute and then flips her phone over to see two notifications from Kara Danvers.
Odd, she thinks, frowning slightly.
Maybe Kara needs to cancel the coffee they’d scheduled for this afternoon. Her heart dips a bit at the thought; they’ve only had a handful of friend-dates over the past seven weeks, but Lena finds herself looking forward to each successive one even more than the last. Kara is disarming and funny, and a really good listener. She never expects Lena to pick up the check, despite what has to be a clear imbalance in their respective bank accounts. The idea that this totally shitty day won’t be redeemed at least in part by coffee with Kara is disappointing, to say the least.
Lena swipes on the notifications anyway, she’s never been one to delay bad news.
The first message is a selfie of Kara with her arms wrapped around a golden retriever on the sidewalk. She looks incredibly happy, her eyes bright, face crinkled from the size of her grin. Lena’s smiling reflexively in response before she realizes it.
The second message, below it, is text in all capitals: SORRY THAT WAS FOR ALEX I DIDN’T MEAN TO SEND IT TO U.
Before she can think about it, Lena sends her own text back. Please, this is the only good thing I’ve seen all day. Thank you for the smile.
As an afterthought, she adds, I didn’t realize you had a dog.
Ellipses appear almost immediately.
I dont i met him outside noonans and his owner let me take a pic
Lena has to stifle her laugh. Another text comes through right after, vibrating the phone in her hand.
Im sure ur super busy tho sorry to bug u! ur contact info was first up when i went to send it
Lena wasn’t lying, this is absolutely the only thing that’s brought a smile to her face all day—maybe even all week. And friends text each silly things, right?
Actually, Lena sends back, smiling to herself, I’m a little hurt you didn’t send this on purpose. I’m sure I like puppies as much as your sister.
Kara doesn’t text back immediately, so Lena puts the phone down, feeling a little like she shouldn’t have sent the last message. Maybe a lunch and two coffees aren’t enough for this level of familiarity. She considers sending another message to clarify that she isn’t really hurt, but Lena Luthor has never been a double texter before now and she doesn't intend to do it more than once in a single conversation.
Ten minutes later, her phone buzzes five times in a row.
It’s four pictures, each featuring Kara with a dazzling grin and different dogs, and a text that reads, ur going to regret telling me that.
The profile of Lena that Kara writes comes out two weeks later on the heels of some especially hellish damage control Lena has had to do regarding the ever increasing number of people it seems were involved with Lex’s trades. His charm now appears to have brought down a few of LuthorCorp’s board members, and Lena’s the one suffering for it. The apology fruit basket he’d had his lawyer send didn’t make her any less mad at him.
Kara e-mails her an advanced copy the night before the issue hits stands, and, the moment Lena finishes reading it, she sits back on the couch, legs tucked underneath her, and opens a new browser tab. Kara had been to Lena’s office to drop off pastries two days ago after Lena had cancelled on her, and she’d commented on the flowers Lena had in a large arrangement on the coffee table. She’d looked practically wistful, fingers lingering on the petals as she asked about their varieties and told Lena that she loves fresh flowers.
It’s not that Lena doesn’t have people in her life who love her and believe in her—Jack and Sam are her best friends, after all—but there’s something about Kara that Lena can’t quite put her finger on. Even if she can’t figure it out exactly, she’s grateful all the same. The prose of the finished piece paints a picture of Lena that’s far more complimentary than she thinks is fair—for starters Kara gives her too much credit for the direction she’s trying to steer LuthorCorp in, it’s what anyone in her position would do—and yet the writing doesn’t feel anything but honest and genuine. Kara clearly took the time to really see what Lena’s trying to accomplish in the wake of Lex’s fall from grace, the impact that Lena believes that LuthorCorp can have, and all the work that’s going into making this new vision a reality. So, if Lena is feeling the need to find a way to show Kara just how grateful she is? Surely she can be forgiven.
Satisfied with her order, Lena enters the only delivery address she has for Kara: CatCo. Hopefully there will be enough room for it all.
“Walk me through this again?” Alex eyes the massive floral arrangements in her sister’s arms while holding the front door to Kara’s loft apartment open for her.
Kara’s kitchen island looks like a florist’s shop; it and the rest of her kitchen counters are covered in a fragrant riot of blooms—pink roses and hydrangeas, plumerias and yellow lilies, camellias and delphiniums. Alex has a beer in her hand, and as soon as Kara is inside, she resumes leaning back against the kitchen counter, nestled between handfuls of lisianthus and quicksand roses. Kara shuffles past her to put the last of the vases down on her dining room table, the sills of the enormous glazed windows running the length of the apartment’s outside wall already full.
“She filled your office with flowers?” Alex prompts when Kara doesn’t respond. “I thought you said you weren't dating.”
“I’m not a hundred percent certain these are from Lena,” Kara says over her shoulder as she finishes adjusting a wayward petal. Alex snorts. “The card doesn’t have a name! It just says ‘thank you.’ The article dropped today, though.” She turns around and makes her way over to the fridge to grab a soda, bending over and leaning in a bit to see what she has. “I can’t really imagine who else it could be, but she hasn’t texted or called or anything to ask about them.”
“Oh, it’s her alright.” Alex flaps a hand dismissively. “But Kara, you said she turned you down for a date.”
“That’s not what happened!” Kara bangs the back of her head on the freezer door in her haste to stand up. She rubs the injured spot gingerly, cradling a soda in the crook of her arm as she shuts the fridge door. “Well, not exactly. See I thought I was asking her on a date when I asked her to dinner after our interview, but then she said the whole needing a friend thing, so clearly she didn’t think that’s what it was. And I can be her friend!” Kara steps around Alex and opens a cabinet. “Honestly, I don’t know what I was thinking asking her out anyway, that would have been so inappropriate.”
“Right,” Alex says slowly, looking around Kara’s loft and squinting at the bouquets everywhere, “inappropriate.”
“And I’m actually really glad it happened this way.” Kara is too busy finding a clean glass to pour the soda into to catch onto her sister’s tone, just continues her same train of thought. “We’ve had like four friend dates now and there’s just something…” she shrugs, popping the top of the can and emptying it into a plastic novelty cup from the National City Zoo, “comfortable? She’s brilliant, obviously, I feel like we can be talking about anything and she knows something about it. And she’s so generous, I mean, I probably should have expected something like this. She always tries to pay, she’s over the top like that—she’s like the banana meme.”
Alex looks at her blankly.
“You know,” Kara says, lifting her eyebrows, “the ‘how much can a banana cost, ten dollars?’ with that lady from Arrested Development. That meme.”
When Alex continues to look at her blankly, Kara rolls her eyes. “Gosh, you really need to leave the hospital sometime.” She gestures to the couch. “Now, come on, it’s sister night and since you spent the last hour helping me get these home from CatCo, you can pick the movie.” At the grin on Alex’s face, Kara hastens to add, “but no Saw! It was bad enough the first time and I don’t need to see the seventeen sequels. It’s just gross.”
Later, when the dinner delivery has come and Alex is queuing up her selection, Kara grabs her phone and pulls up her message thread with Lena. She knows Alex is right: there’s no one else who could have possibly done this, and she really needs to thank her.
She starts typing and deletes it a couple of times before settling on, So my office was overflowing w/ flowers…
Ellipses pop up immediately. Really? comes the reply, followed quickly by, Was?
Kara snaps a picture of her apartment, the vases and artful arrangements on display, and sends it to Lena. Couldnt leave it all at the office. She bites her lip. U didnt have to do that.
Yes, I did, Lena responds. It makes Kara smile and shake her head.
Kara starts typing as Alex tells her to get her butt into gear and get the popcorn. She takes a deep breath. Brunch this weekend?
I can’t, working through the weekend, Lena responds quickly, and Kara feels her smile fall a bit, disappointment settling in her stomach at the rejection. She bites at the inside of her cheek.
Kara meant what she said to Alex: she wants to be Lena’s friend—although perhaps she left out the intensity of that desire when she told her sister. There’s something absolutely magnetic about Lena Luthor that Kara can’t quite put into words.
Right now, they’re somewhere beyond acquaintances (Kara certainly doesn’t send acquaintances pictures of dogs she meets with the frequency that Lena is starting to get them), but they’re not yet firmly in solid friend territory. It’s probably weird to want to see Lena every day, so she’s trying to temper the desire to ask Lena to do things with her all the time; one invite every week or so feels safe. But it’s reasonable, she thinks, to want to spend time with her, to make sure this fledgling friendship takes off. Lena’s obviously a busy person, and Kara doesn’t want to come off annoying, or too eager...
Her phone vibrates in her hand as she tries to work out an appropriate response. It’s Lena again, and Kara’s smile comes back full force when she reads the message. But I can provide a contra account: breakfast next week, instead?
Yes!!!! Kara types back, not even trying to resist adding what Alex would call a truly horrendous number of emojis. C u then.
The August weather has put Lena in a terrible mood. Why on earth National City is currently doing it’s best impression of the New England summers of her youth is beyond her—it’s probably the result of climate change, but it doesn’t ultimately matter. Regardless of how little time Lena endeavors to spend outdoors, even the few minutes it takes to get from her apartment to the car and the car to the office seem to be enough to frizz her hair and wreak havoc on her skin. She’s feeling frumpy, generally miserable with the mountains of administrative work her new position now requires, and desperately counting the minutes until she can go home, pour a giant glass of wine, and lay prone on the couch until bedtime.
Kara’s voice pulls Lena out of the e-mail she’d been considering. When she glances up from her monitor, Kara herself is peeking around her door.
“Hi, what are you doing here?” Lena scans her desk for her phone but can’t immediately find it. Had Kara tried calling? “Did we have lunch scheduled?”
“No, you’re fine,” Kara says, and Lena looks back up at her. Kara’s wearing light grey chinos and a soft looking oxford in some sort of pastel green. She looks really good. “I was interviewing one of your lab directors for a ‘What’s Next in Science’ piece we’re trying to flesh out and we wrapped up early, so I figured I’d drop by and see if you had time for a lunch break?”
“A lunch break,” Lena repeats, not having quite shifted gears. She looks back down at her computer. A break of any kind right now sounds amazing. A lunch break with Kara sounds perfect. She squints at her computer screen. Where the fuck is her calendar?
“It’s fine if you’re not!” Kara says, coming to stand in front of her desk. “Jess said you might have an hour, but she wasn’t sure if you had a project you needed to follow up on.”
Lena gives up on the calendar immediately. “If Jess said I have an hour, then I’m yours for an hour.”
“Great!” Kara gives her a blinding smile and rocks back and forth on her feet. “Do you feel like a walk today? We ate at Noonan’s last week, so I was thinking maybe we could go to the Vietnamese place you texted me about.”
It’s horrendous outside; it’s a million degrees and it’s sunny and humid and… “Sure,” Lena says, finding that, suddenly, she doesn’t mind quite as much. “A walk sounds great.”
“So that’s two iced coffees with condensed milk, an order of the grilled pork and rice noodles, the lemongrass tofu bánh mì,” the waiter rattles off, “and the fresh spring rolls with shrimp. Is that it?”
“Yes,” says Lena, closing her menu and holding it out for him to take. “Thanks so much.”
He moves to take Kara’s menu, but Kara snatches it back before he can close his grasp on the cover. “Wait!” She looks sheepishly at Lena. “I’m sorry, I just saw those crepe things come out of the kitchen. Can we add two orders of the bánh xèo?”
Lena can’t help laughing when the waiter disappears, having finally, successfully retrieved Kara’s menu, but not before she’d added the shaking beef as well.
“What?” Kara takes a sip of her water while Lena puts her napkin on her lap, and glances around the restaurant. “What’s so funny?”
“You really can’t order everything in one go, can you?” Lena shakes her head, smiling.
Kara sets her water down and takes her own napkin off the table. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, I am perfectly capable of ordering all at once. I just get food fomo, okay?”
Lena can’t hold the snort in. “Tell that to all the poor drive-through workers you terrorized on our road trip.”
“It’s true!” Kara protests, but she’s smiling too. “I just don’t want to have any meal-related regrets! Whatever. You and my sister would get along.” She cocks her head as if remembering something. “I’m pretty sure I got dumped over it once.”
“Dumped?” Lena can’t help leaning forward, curious. “Over your inability to order in a reasonable fashion? It would take a lot more for me to dump you than just that.”
“I resent the implication that I’m unreasonable.” Kara rolls her eyes. “And, well, no, it wasn’t just that.”
Lena gestures for her to continue.
“Fine. It was in undergrad and I was dating this guy named Adam,” Kara scrunches up her nose. “Ugh I can’t even remember his last name. He hated going out to eat because I could never make up my mind, and also probably because I could outeat him. Why are men such babies about that? He—”
“You can outeat anyone,” Lena can’t resist interjecting, “I can’t believe he didn’t know that going in.”
Kara glares at her, but there isn’t much heat to it. “As I was saying, it drove him nuts,” she pauses and frowns slightly, “...but, now that I’m thinking about it, that wasn’t what made him break up with me.”
“No.” Kara goes a little pink. “You’re going to laugh.”
Lena sits up straight. “I won’t, I promise. Come on, don’t hold out on me.”
“Okay, but I’m holding you to that.” Kara takes a breath. “I had these days of the week underpants.”
Lena immediately bites the inside of her cheek, but can’t stop the grin from forming on her face.
“I can see you trying not to laugh, Lena,” Kara pouts, drawing her eyebrows together, a small crinkle forming between them. “You promised!”
“I’m not laughing, darling.” Lena tries to tamp down her smile. “Days of the week underpants are nothing to be embarrassed about.”
“I thought they were funny when I bought them.” Kara’s blush is steadily getting worse. “Anyway, one day, Adam was like, ‘Hey, how come you never wear Sunday anymore?’ and he got all weird about it and suspicious, like maybe I’d left Sunday with someone and it wasn’t him. And I told him why I didn’t have them, but he didn’t believe me. And then he broke up with me!”
“He sounds like an idiot,” Lena says and Kara nods. “What happened to Sunday?”
“I used a laundromat in college ‘cause our dorm didn’t have a washer-dryer set, and one time the Sunday pair got mangled in one of the dryers! It was totally shredded. I had to throw it out.”
“Huh.” Lena sits back as the waiter brings their coffees and the spring rolls out and sets them on the table. Kara pours the coffee over ice after he leaves, and stirs in the milk. “Well that’s just about the dumbest reason I’ve ever heard for breaking up with someone. He sounds incredibly insecure.”
“It wasn’t really a loss, he chewed with his mouth open.” Kara shrugs as she passes Lena her coffee and takes one of the spring rolls before pushing the plate toward Lena. “I wasn’t about to break up with him over it, but it was gross. Do you have any dumb break up stories?”
Lena scoffs. “That would require me dating anyone long enough to actually have a break up.” She uses her chopsticks to retrieve a roll of her own.
“And you don’t?” Kara frowns, somehow managing to fit half the roll she’s holding into her mouth in one bite.
“I’m not averse to the idea.” Lena hums, taking a sip of the coffee. “I just don’t have the time. When Sam moved to Metropolis to help me get LuthorCorp under control this year, she and Jack were worried I was going to become a hermit entirely.” She points at the peanut dipping sauce and Kara slides it across the table. “They’re big fans of you, actually, for getting me out of the office.”
Kara puffs her chest out, eyes crinkling with the size of her smile. “You can tell them the pleasure is all mine.”
The Tuesday after Labor Day, Kara is sitting in a staff meeting listening to one of the editors drone on interminably as every attendee plays on their phones. Nobody really wants to be back in the office after a long weekend anyway, and, on top of that, there’s a general sense of malaise about the room that Kara associates with the end of summer. To pass the time, Nia has been texting her fun internet memes, but she hasn’t sent any for the last several minutes. Kara looks up from her screen and glances around the room. She spies Nia in the corner, head leaning against the wall, shoulders slumped, clearly asleep.
Faced with having to pay attention or find her own distraction, Kara scrolls through her texts thinking about who might be free. Alex is passed out from working the weekend, Winn’s new tech job confiscates his phone when he arrives for work, and James and Lucy just haven't been as available since they moved away. She comes to a stop at Lena’s name.
There’s a funny calculus to her friendship with Lena so far. The more time they spend together, the more time Kara wants to spend together. When Lena reaches out to ask her to grab lunch, or sends a picture of paperwork in response to one of Kara’s animal selfies, she finds herself feeling, well, giddy seems to be the best way to describe it. And over the course of the summer they’ve grown—close isn’t the right word yet—but closer, for sure. At this point, Kara sees her for lunch or breakfast almost every week and it’s Lena reaching out to ask as often as Kara does.
And they text now, a lot. It started with dog selfies from Kara. She was worried that Lena would think it was silly, or dumb, but Lena’s enthusiastic about it each time. Enthusiastic enough that Kara’s begun to branch out, sending pictures of people at work or the line at Noonan’s or funny jokes Nia passed along to her. And Lena has started to respond in kind. Beyond the pictures of paperwork, she’ll send Kara pictures of food she thinks Kara should try or restaurants she wants to go to. Kara’d be a little embarrassed at how quickly Lena clocked on to her bottomless stomach, but given that the time they spend together is almost always around a meal, it isn’t exactly surprising.
Lena had told her sometime recently that Kara’s texts are often the best part of her day. She was probably exaggerating, but, it’s nice, is the point. Lena is nice.
The upside to all of this is that Kara no longer spends as much time hesitating before texting her. So, even though it’s nine-thirty in the morning and Lena is probably busy, Kara can’t resist. She likely won’t get a reply, but, if she’s lucky, whatever she texts will bring a smile to Lena’s face whenever she does check her messages.
She takes a surreptitious picture of a row of interns in the back of the room sleeping just like Nia and captions it, Leeeenaaaa im bored. There. Perfect.
...and you’re telling me why? The reply comes through immediately and Kara grins down at her phone, shifting slightly in her seat.
Staff mtg. She adds a vomit face emoji for good measure. Help me get unbored
I’m afraid I’m not going to be very entertaining, I’m waiting for my own meeting to begin. Kara can picture the bemused look on Lena’s face, the way she’s sometimes surprised when Kara asks her to schedule another date before they’re even finished with the one they’re on—like Kara’s enthusiasm for her is somehow befuddling, but ultimately pleasant.
So ur bored too, Kara writes back.
Yes, Kara, I’m bored too
What do u do when ur bored?
You mean when I don’t have somewhere I’m supposed to be?
If I’m at work, I go down to the lab or bother my assistant; in that order
I dont have an assistant
Or a lab
Take a buzzfeed quiz, Kara
I took them all
Well then I’m out of ideas
I CAN TAKE THE QUIZZES AS U
Been wondering what disney princess u r
First q what is ur fav disney movie?
I don’t have one
No u have to wait til i give u the options
It won’t matter, Kara, I haven’t seen any
What do u mean
I mean I haven’t seen any.
What r u doing friday night
Curling up with wine and a book
NO UR NOT PLS COME OVER WE NEED MOVIE NIGHT
The ask is impulsive, but heartfelt. Hanging out, beyond coffee and lunch, is the next step in friendship, after all, and this seems like the perfect opportunity. Kara feels strangely nervous after she hits send though. Was it too forward? Too directive?
There’s an agonizing minute where no response comes, not even an ellipses to indicate that Lena is crafting a reply. Kara is about to rephrase it as a question, to tell Lena no pressure and that it’s fine if she doesn’t want to have a movie night, when her phone vibrates again.
Movie night sounds nice. I’m bringing wine
Lena is still talking to Jack when she arrives at the address that Kara sent, tote bag full of wine and a few bags of gourmet popcorn that Ruby recommended. It’s only seven p.m. in National City, but it’s morning for Jack in London, who has paused his complaining about having to wake up terribly early on a Saturday long enough to ask her how she’s feeling about the evening ahead.
“Do you think I should have picked up more snacks?” Lena asks, stepping into the elevator. “You have no idea how much she can eat, and what if she doesn’t even like any of them? And she said wine is fine, but I’ve never seen her drink!”
“Why are you so worried about this?” He sounds amused and Lena scowls, even though he can’t see her. “She invited you and said you didn’t have to bring anything at all!”
She hits the correct floor with her free hand. “I just want her to like me, Jack, I don’t know how to do this.”
He laughs outright. “You don’t know how to do this?” She can hear the air quotes. “Lena, I know you love to believe you’re terrible with people, but you’re not. You managed to make friends with me just fine, and it’s not as if Kara hasn’t made it perfectly clear she likes you plenty.”
“You don’t count...is it weird that I’m nervous?” She shifts her weight, transfers the phone to her other hand and wipes her palm on her jeans, then tugs at the bottom of her purple long sleeve shirt. “It’s weird that I’m nervous, isn’t it. We eat lunch together all the time.” The elevator dings as she arrives at Kara’s floor and she steps out when the doors open.
“You’re going to be fine, love, although I can’t believe she talked you into a Disney marathon. Can you name a single movie?”
Lena almost doesn’t give him the satisfaction, but it’s Jack. “I had Jess make me a list,” she admits as she makes her way to Kara’s door at the end of the hallway. “So I’m at least a little familiar with the body of work. I had no idea there were so many of them.”
He laughs. “Just relax and have fun.”
Lena’s about to tell him she has to go, that she’s standing in front of Kara’s door, when he starts speaking again. “I’m glad you’re taking a chance on Kara. It’s nice knowing you’re not alone even if Sam and I aren’t around.”
“She’s easy to take a chance on.” It comes out like a reflex. “Okay, I’m here. Love you, Jack. Have fun at your conference in Paris, maybe next time you’ll consider flying in the night before.”
“Love you too, Lena.”
She tucks the phone in her pocket and raises a hand to knock at the door, but before she can make contact with the wood, it swings open to reveal Kara. She’s grinning, the kind of full-face smile that bunches her cheeks and crinkles her eyes, and Lena’s not quite sure anyone has ever looked that happy to see her. Lena’s mirroring the smile before she realizes it, her nerves dissipating as she thinks about what Jack said: Kara asked her to come over, there’s nothing to feel nervous about at all.
“I thought I heard you out here,” Kara says, stepping back from the door and gesturing for Lena to enter. “I’m so glad you came.”
“Thanks for inviting me.” Lena ducks past her, looking into the apartment as she enters.
Her first thought is that it suits Kara. The apartment is an open loft—all high ceilings and exposed brick, but the decorative stye is anything but industrial. The furniture is a warm mismatch of well-loved pieces set on top of comfortable carpets that cover the worn wood floors. There’s a kitchen island set about ten feet back from the front door separating the cooking and dining spaces, and, beyond that, a cozy living room with a variety of chairs and a couch circled around a television.
Any fear that Lena had about things being awkward falls to the wayside as Kara launches into how utterly boring her entire work week has been (apparently the staff meeting really set the tone) while she divests Lena of the bags of popcorn (“oh gosh, these look so good, let me grab a bowl”) and directs her to the wine opener (“first drawer to the left of the fridge, glasses are in the cupboard above”). They make small talk while preparing a mountain of snacks, in spite of Kara’s plans to call for take-out at some point.
“Okay,” Kara finally says, taking two bowls of popcorn from Lena and leading the way out of the kitchen and over to her couch. “Since this is your first time, we’re gonna go old school followed by new school so you really get a sense of Disney’s reach.”
“Old school?” Lena follows, settling in on the couch where Kara points her before accepting a blanket and a bowl. The difference between new and old school hadn’t featured in Jess’s list.
“Old school,” Kara repeats. “The OG, actually, Snow White.” Kara sits down on the opposite end so that Lena is between her and the television at an angle. “It was the first ever feature-length animated film! It’s super old, I always forget when it was made but we’re talking pre-world war two.”
“1937,” Lena offers. That was on the list.
Kara grins at her. “You did research.” It isn’t phrased as a question and Lena feels the tips of her ears get red. “I love that you did research,” Kara continues without waiting for a response. “So we’re starting with that, but we’re pairing it with a modern classic, Wall-E. We can order dinner between them, sound good?”
Snow White is fine. Lena can appreciate the music and the artistry, can understand it’s place in the pantheon and why Kara decided to start them off with it, but it’s the second movie that undoes her. By the time Eve is desperately trying to reboot Wall-E, chasing him out of the container at the end of the movie, Lena is full on crying. Which is absurd. It’s an animated movie about a lonely robot, for christ’s sake, and just because he was lonely for 700 years and managed to melt the heart of another equally lonely robot is no reason to be hugging the pillow that Kara provided and blubbering.
Kara leaves the lights dim until the final credit has rolled, but when she reaches behind herself to click on a floor lamp, Lena doesn’t waste a second.
“Kara Danvers, you did not warn me!” Lena’s still wiping at her face, grateful for the lighter makeup she’d chosen after work. “These are supposed to be children’s movies!”
“Okay, that’s on me, the emotions are all adult,” Kara’s wiping her own eyes too, Lena’s gratified to realize, “but really, that’s Pixar’s sweet spot.” She smiles at Lena. “Wait till we watch Up!”
It’s Lena’s birthday—a week before the end of October—and, under normal circumstances, that would mean treating herself to an absurdly expensive meal, drinking an entire bottle of wine, and going to sleep as soon as possible after talking with Sam and Jack (trying her best to ignore Lillian’s performative text and Lex’s inevitable ‘sorry I can’t be there, ace’ voicemail). But this entire year is turning into nothing but exceptions—her birthday now included.
Kara had spent lunch earlier in the week moaning about how Alex was bailing on their Halloween tradition this year. When Lena inquired as to what the tradition was, Kara lit up and, by the end of lunch, had secured Lena’s promise to take Alex’s place accompanying her to the National City ScareFest, some sort of pop-up horror theme park at the fairgrounds on the edge of the city, complete with what Kara swears is the best haunted house on the whole West Coast.
And if Lena just doesn’t mention that it’s her birthday? She doesn’t want Kara to fuss.
They’ve agreed to meet just off the main entrance, and Lena spots Kara before Kara spots her, standing next to a row of palm trees that separate the asphalt of the drop-off lane from the open concrete esplanade in front of the walls of the park. She’s impossible to miss, dressed in a hideous full body banana suit, and it’s Lena’s unrestrained peal of laughter that alerts Kara to her presence.
“I can’t believe you didn’t dress up!” Kara says, pouting and sounding legitimately put out when she sees Lena walking up to her in jeans and a leather jacket, plain grey t-shirt underneath.
“I thought you were kidding,” Lena replies, trying to tamp down her grin. People are streaming in and out of the gates just behind Kara, and a quick glance reveals that most of the attendees are in some sort of costume—pointy black witches hats and baby yodas in strollers abound. Lena hasn’t worn a Halloween costume since college, and she already felt a little silly going to a haunted house (even if Kara repeatedly swore up and down that “it’s totally legit Lena, they don’t even let kids in without a parent”); she had to draw a line somewhere. Kara’s absolutely devastated expression at her casual clothing makes her regret that decision a tiny bit, but she’s not about to admit that.
“Lena, look at me,” Kara says, eyebrows drawn together in a tight line, mouth flat, “do I seem like I would ever joke about something like this?”
Lena can’t suppress the laugh that prompts, because Kara’s right—nothing about her led Lena to believe she was joking when she sent the text two days ago telling Lena to wear a costume.
“I don’t see why I need to wear a costume when you’re done up enough for the both of us,” Lena responds, gaze drifting over Kara. She raises an eyebrow and shakes her head, giving into the impulse to laugh again. “I’ve never actually seen one of these giant banana costumes in real life. Aren’t you hot?”
“Our group costume for the CatCo party this year is fruit salad,” Kara says, ignoring Lena’s question and grumbling a little, face screwed up in some approximation of regret. It’s more endearing than it has any right to be. “Although I’m realizing that it doesn’t make as much sense without Nia and the rest of the group.”
“There’s certainly something lost without the rest of the fruit,” Lena says, smiling, “but, if it means anything, you’re the best banana I’ve ever seen.”
Kara brightens up. “I’ll bet you say that to all the bananas.”
“I can honestly say that I’ve never said it before to anyone, banana or not.” Lena feels her own face matching Kara’s wide smile. “Now come on, there’s got to be some way I can make this up to you. Candy apple?”
“I won’t say no to that,” Kara starts, looking over Lena’s shoulder, “but I’ve got something else in mind...”
And that’s how Lena ends up getting a spiderweb painted on her face, taking over her entire left cheek. Kara makes them take about a dozen selfies until she’s satisfied, pressing their sides together to get them both in the frame. She immediately sets the result as Lena’s contact picture and looks so pleased with herself that Lena doesn’t even think to protest.
They spend the next forty-five minutes wandering around the fairgrounds and stopping at every food vendor, even after Kara swears she’s done eating. When their ticketed entry time rolls around, Kara drags her over to the entrance to the haunted house by the hand, warning Lena that she’s easily scared and could they please link arms the whole time? But it’s Lena who ends up screaming, clutching at Kara when two teenagers dressed as zombies pop out of the dark halfway through.
They’re walking around the festival afterwards, Kara debating the merits of playing what are sure to be rigged carnival games, when Lena’s phone starts ringing. She pulls it out of her back pocket and glances at the screen. It’s Sam, no doubt calling to sing with Ruby.
Lena looks over at Kara, who is staring with interest at a ring toss booth. If she answers, will Kara figure out that it’s her birthday? It’s a silly thing to keep secret. Does she care if Kara knows?
While she’s debating what to do, her phone goes dark, having rung through to voicemail.
“Who was that?” Kara asks, nodding at the phone.
“Sam,” Lena says. “She’ll leave a message. If it’s important, she’ll call ba—” The phone starts ringing again, Sam’s picture lighting up the screen.
Kara raises an eyebrow. “You gonna get that?”
Lena looks down at the phone and takes a deep breath. She swipes to answer and brings the phone up to her ear. “Hi Sam, I’m still out wi—” But Sam and Ruby have already launched into song. Lena angles herself away from Kara slightly, mouthing sorry as she does, but Kara just waves her off good naturedly and keeps walking them between booths as Lena lets Sam and Ruby wish her a happy birthday. She apologizes to them both for not being able to stay on the phone, and they let her go after she promises to call tomorrow.
“First,” Kara pulls her to a stop as soon as Lena’s tucked her phone back in her pocket, “who are you, a senior citizen? Even old ladies don’t keep the volume on their phones turned up that high, it might as well be on speaker. And, second,” Lena flushes because she knows what’s coming next, “it’s your birthday? Why didn’t you tell me? I wouldn’t have dragged you to this if I’d known! We could have done something else, anything el—”
“It’s not a big deal,” Lena tries, interrupting her. “It’s not really something I like celebrating. There’s nowhere I’d rather be right now, I promise.”
Kara stops talking, fixing Lena with a thoughtful expression, before her face smooths back into a smile. “Well,” she finally says, “I’m glad you felt like spending your birthday with me. Now come on, I think I’ve finally found us a game that isn’t rigged. Let’s win you a stuffed pumpkin.”
Lena’s phone vibrates while she’s driving home, the lock screen lighting up with Kara’s name. As soon as she’s parked at the garage below her building, she unbuckles and swipes at the notification.
Did streaky make it home ok?
Lena smiles to herself and takes a picture of the enormous plush black cat still strapped into her passenger seat. Safe and sound.
Kara doesn’t reply until Lena is getting ready for bed, but she sees the message when she goes to plug her phone in. It’s simple really, and Lena knows that Kara wasn’t thinking anything special when she sent it, but seeing the words next year i’ll get you a REAL present does something funny to her chest.
Next year, like it’s nothing, like of course Kara will be in her life.
She sends a single heart in response, and turns off the light.
“I thought you said you had work to do,” Lena says after Kara sighs loudly for the third time. Flicking her eyes up from the paperwork piled in front of her, Lena can see Kara is now stretched out on her back along the length of the couch in her office, laptop closed on the coffee table next to her, notebook clearly discarded on the floor. She has one arm thrown over her face and she is clearly not doing any work at all.
“I think I’m still in a food coma from Thanksgiving.”
Lena can’t help snorting as she goes back to writing notes in the margins of the report she’s working on. “Thanksgiving was four days ago.”
“Fine,” Lena can hear as Kara rolls over to face her. “Maybe it’s all the leftovers. Too much tryptophan from the turkey.”
Lena hums. “I’m pretty sure they busted that myth.”
“What?” Kara sits up.
“There are too many other amino-acids trying to traverse the blood-brain barrier after a meal like that for tryptophan to affect serotonin production at the level you’d need it.” Lena looks at the paper in front of her and makes a decision, capping her pen and pushing back from the desk. “It’s more likely the pie, since all that sugar triggers an insulin release that takes care of tryptophan’s competition.”
“It’s weird that you know that. You know it’s weird that you know that, right?” Kara’s smiling when she says it though, her voice warm as she watches Lena get up from her desk.
“Scientific American had an article about it.” Lena shrugs and walks across her office toward the door.
“Where are you going?” Kara asks when Lena grabs her coat from the stand.
“We’re,” Lena gestures between them, “going for a walk. It’ll help with the digestion and hopefully your concentration. Some of us have work to do, and I need you to let me do it if I’m going to leave the office at a reasonable hour tonight.”
“That’s a great idea.” Kara brightens and stands up, pulling her own coat off the arm of the couch. “Can we stop by Noonan’s? I’m really craving a hot chocolate.”
“Come on.” Lena rolls her eyes, knotting the soft belt around her waist and adjusting her collar while Kara buttons herself up. “We can stop on our way back.”
“I’m just saying, how sad is it that I don’t have anything fun to do for New Year’s?”
Lena smiles in commiseration at the disappointment in Kara’s tone. They’re at Kara’s apartment again, about to settle in to watch Cinderella followed by Toy Story. She’s grabbing drinks from the fridge while Kara plates their pizza. Kara holds up a second slice of veggie in question and Lena nods.
“Nobody I know is even throwing a party this year!” Kara frowns and adds two more slices of Hawaiian to her own plate. “It’s just going to be me, a bottle of Martinelli’s, and the Time Square countdown.”
Lena finishes pouring two root beers. “Honestly, Kara,” she says, walking their drinks over to the couch and setting them down on coasters, “Martinelli’s and watching Jonathan Bennett ring in the new year sounds perfect.”
“You have a gala at the Science Foundation!” Kara replies, having followed her. She places Lena’s pizza in front of her and sits back on the blankets she’s laid out.
“I do,” Lena points at the pillow Kara’s dropped to the floor and Kara picks it up, passes it over to her. “And I will be working the entire time and it’s going to be terribly boring and no fun at all.”
“Still.” Kara takes a mouthful of pizza. “You get to dress up and be fancy and drink real champagne.”
“Well, if it sounds like that much fun, you can always be my plus one.” Kara’s face lights up and Lena hastens to add, “but I warn you, I really do have to work most of the night.”
“Yes,” Kara squeals, sitting up and wiggling a little on the couch, “no take backs! Is there a dress code? Will you have food? Should I pick you up?”
Lena can’t help laughing. Kara’s enthusiasm is infectious, and she can’t help thinking that maybe there’s something to look forward to with this event after all. “It’s cocktail attire, but many of the guests will be in formal wear, so whatever you want to wear is fine. There will be heavy hors d'oeuvres, but no sit-down dinner, and no need to pick me up unless you want to get there four hours early, which is when I have to arrive to make sure everything is set up.”
“I’m so excited!” Kara’s whole face is crinkled from the size of her smile. “I’m gonna make sure you have fun.”
The next two weeks fly by and, between the holidays and LuthorCorp business, Lena doesn’t see Kara until New Year’s Eve. She sends Kara the details the day before with an apology for not getting them to her sooner and telling her to text Lena when she arrives. The day of, Lena is too busy with approving last minute additions to the guest list to think much about the evening ahead. In fact, she almost forgets Kara is coming entirely until her assistant for the evening walks up to her to say that Kara Danvers has texted and would Ms. Luthor like Ms. Danvers to wait anywhere in particular for her? If not, she’ll be by the coat check.
Lena smooths out the black satin of the strapless, knee-length dress she’s wearing and looks around the cavernous lobby of the National City Science Foundation, scanning the crowd near the double-doored entrance. Guests are streaming in, and the hall is full of dark suits and bright dresses, flashes of jewelry and patterned ties. When she finds Kara amongst the crowd, Lena does a momentary double take.
Over the past six months, she’s seen Kara in all manner of clothing—button ups and chinos, slacks and blouses, sweatpants and college t-shirts. Kara looks good in everything, and it isn’t as if Lena doesn’t know that. Kara’s attractive. Lots of people are.
But the woman standing just off to the side of the cloakroom is stunning. Kara isn’t wearing glasses and her hair is pulled back into a sleek chignon, a style Lena’s never seen her wear. She has on a slim black suit that fits too well to be anything but tailored, over a white button down which has been left undone to what has to be the third button.
Lena shakes her head and takes a deep breath. It’s Kara. So she’s gorgeous? What of it. This isn’t news. Lena starts across the space, smiling when she gets close enough to make out the way Kara is biting her lower lip and looking down at her phone.
“You certainly clean up nicely,” she says, stopping two feet away.
Kara looks up, her mouth curving into an immediate smile at Lena’s voice. “Lena! I—wow.” Her eyes drop to Lena’s dress. “You look amazing.” Kara’s cheeks go a little pink, and something in Lena’s chest trips over itself.
“I hate to abandon you right after you’ve arrived,” Lena says, feeling it more acutely than she’d planned, “but I need to make the rounds for the next hour or two.”
“You warned me,” Kara says, smiling. “Just point me in the direction of the food.”
A little more than two hours later, Lena thanks her assistant and dismisses them for the evening. The night to this point has felt interminable; it’s nearing eleven, and she just wants to find Kara and get a drink.
“You look like you could use this.”
Lena spins around to find Kara walking up behind her, holding two champagne flutes. She holds one out for Lena.
“Have I ever told you you’re my favorite?” Lena takes the glass gratefully and drains half of it in one go, the bubbles tickling the back of her throat and making her cough lightly.
“Whoa there,” Kara laughs, “You’ve got a whole hour to catch up to the rest of us. But I do need to know: I’ve been listening to this band absolutely kill it all evening, can I talk you into dancing?”
They end up dancing until midnight. It’s easy; Kara dips her and spins her, keeps up an endless stream of jokes and comments about the guests she talked to while Lena was working the room. The band transitions to slower standards as they dance and, at some point, Lena’s surprised to find that she’s not ready for the night to end. She’s content, a little tipsy, and more relaxed than she’s ever been at one of these events—something probably to do with the fact that Kara is humming along to the song under her breath, one hand low on Lena’s waist, the other loosely intertwined with Lena’s as she leads them around the floor.
Kara brings them to a stop when the singer finishes the last piece and announces the countdown, grinning at Lena, her oxfords keeping her perfectly eye level despite Lena’s heels. She’s chanting along with most of the crowd, but when she hits three, her eyes flicker to Lena’s lips and stay there.
It’s unmistakable. They’re standing as close as they had been when they were dancing, and her hand is still resting on Lena’s hip. Kara’s palm is hot through the fabric and Lena can feel her own heart kickstart into a sudden uneven rhythm. They’re friends, good friends. Friends can kiss each other on New Year’s and it doesn’t have to mean anything, right? Does she want to kiss Kara? What if—
She’s startled back to present only when Kara does lean in, brushing her lips to Lena’s cheek, and saying warmly, “Happy New Year, Lena.”
Kara pulls back, smiling softly.
“Happy New Year, Kara.”
“So?” Kara has the phone pressed against her ear. It’s nearly ten p.m. and she’s sitting on her couch, Lena on the other end of the line. “I know we got interrupted by that fire alarm last week and this isn’t the optimal way to watch, but come on, what did you think?”
“I can’t believe I just watched a movie about the dangers of pet adoption, unethical genetics experiments, and social services,” Lena sighs, but Kara can already hear the smile in her voice, “and enjoyed it.”
“Yes!” She fist pumps. “You can’t see me, but I just fist pumped. Nobody doesn’t like Lilo & Stitch.”
“I’m beginning to regret not taking you up on your movie night offer a decade ago.”
“Of all the bad decisions you made during that road trip,” Lena lets out an affronted hey, but Kara continues, “not watching movies with me was definitely the worst.” She stretches her legs out on the couch and pulls a blanket off the back of it, wrapping herself up and leaning her head back against the arm. “Not being friends with me then is a close second though.”
“Mmm, and here I thought you were going to say it was those salmon skin chips.” Lena laughs and Kara feels the size of her own grin stretch across her face.
“Yeah,” she yawns. “Those too. Maybe you’re right. Maybe the friend thing is third.” She hears a scuffling outside her front door and then the lock turning. “Hang on a sec, someone’s here.”
Sitting up again and twisting around, Kara sees Alex letting herself in.
“Hey Kara, sorry to bust in but I’m out of—” her sister starts, but she must see that Kara’s on the phone because she mouths sorry and points to the fridge.
“Is that Alex?” Lena asks. “I can let you go. I have to get up early for a call with one of our Chinese partners.”
“Fine,” Kara draws out the word just a little, turning back to the television and looking around for the remote. “I miss you, stop being so busy so we can have lunch, okay?”
Lena laughs through her nose. “I’ll ask Jess to find some time to protect on my calendar, next week things should be a little better.”
“Tell Jess I’m not above bribery, okay?” She turns off the tv and switches the phone to her other ear.
“I’ll let her know. Night, Kara.”
As Kara hangs up the phone, Alex sits down heavily on the other end of the couch, a bowl of cold leftover lo mein in her lap, and props her feet up on the coffee table.
“Hey! I was saving that.”
“I’ll buy you more,” Alex mumbles through her mouthful, then swallows. “I just got off shift and I’m out of food and you’re only a fifteen minute walk. If I ordered something myself it’d be, like, an hour.”
“I’m holding you to that.” Kara rolls her eyes but pulls her legs up a bit to give Alex more room on the couch. Her sister settles in further.
“So,” Alex nods her chin at the phone Kara’s put on the coffee table. “That was Lena?”
“Yeah, we got two thirds of the way through Lilo & Stitch last week when that fire alarm thing happened, and she had to go before we were allowed back inside. This is the first night she’s had free.”
Alex squints at her for a moment then takes another bite. “You gonna ask her out?”
“Okay first of all, mom taught us not to talk with our mouths full, and second, no. I am not going to ask her out. We’re friends.”
“Tell that to your face,” Alex says, swallowing again. “You get this look when you’re on the phone with her.”
“Well, she’s my friend. I like talking to her.” Kara pulls her knees in all the way to her chest. “And even if there were a world in which I wanted to ask her out, she’s not interested.” Alex frowns as she takes another bite. “I almost kissed her on New Year’s—platonically,” Kara hastens to add, “and she kinda froze up right before, so, yeah. There’s zero chemistry there, I promise.”
“You’re sure about that?”
“Yeah. I’m sure.” Kara picks at the blanket.
“Great,” Alex says, “because I’m setting you up. One of my co-workers has a sister and she’s apparently super hot, and since I don’t have any time to date, you’re going out with her so I can live vicariously through you. Her name’s Leslie, you’re gonna love her.”
It turns out that not even Jess can find time in Lena’s schedule for lunch right now, so a week later, Lena takes it upon herself to find time to see Kara. When she complains that she doesn’t have any time free until the weekend, Kara volunteers to go with her to her regular spin class on Saturday.
Despite having spent the last several months making fun of Lena for attending religiously and joking that biking to nowhere for an hour sounds like it violates the Geneva Convention, Kara shows up at three in the afternoon, energy drink in hand (“to ensure I survive this”), and wearing more spandex than Lena thinks is fair. The pull of attraction in her gut when she sees Kara in gym clothing solidifies the answer to something that Lena’s spent the five weeks since New Year’s Eve trying to figure out: she definitely has a crush on Kara. Now she’s faced with a bigger question—what should she do about it?
They’re friends, good friends, but Lena can tell that Kara finds her attractive too. Even beyond the almost kiss at the party, there’s been mounting evidence that Kara might be harboring non-platonic feelings. Nobody spends that long looking at Lena’s neckline if they don’t want to sleep with her just a little bit.
She spends the whole session in somewhat of a daze, barely following any of the instructor’s directions, and it isn’t because of the cardio.
They walk out together after they finish in the locker room. Instead of throwing on her usual weekend staple of joggers and a crew neck, Kara has gotten dressed in her work clothing, a white button down, slim olive khakis, and a dark brown belt, in sharp contrast to Lena’s soft leggings and a fleece. Lena almost comments on the reversal of their usual sartorial formalities, but she’s feeling too nervous. She’s going to ask Kara to dinner, and then at dinner she’s going to broach the subject of them potentially going out—on a date.
She waits until they reach the sidewalk, twists the strap of her gym bag where it runs across her chest. “Thanks for coming, I know that’s not your idea of a good time.”
“Anything to spend time with you,” Kara says, grinning at her. It’s exactly the kind of remark that gives Lena the confidence she needs.
Now or never, she thinks. “Kara... would you like to go to dinner, with me, tonight?”
“Lena, I’d love to,” Kara starts, but her tone doesn’t match her words at all and her face falls just a bit. She sounds more like she wishes Lena hadn’t asked. “But I can’t.”
“Oh, sure,” Lena says, tamping down a tiny twinge of panic. She says the first stupid thing that pops into her mind. “Hot date?”
“Actually,” and now the energy coming off of Kara is even stranger, “I do have a date.” She clears her throat but doesn’t add anything and shifts her weight awkwardly.
“Really?” Lena can’t help the vulnerable way it comes out. She scrambles to cover it up. “That’s great! I’m just...You didn’t say anything.”
“I was going to tell you,” Kara twists her mouth and looks down at the ground between them. “I don’t know, I felt weird about it.” She shakes her head like she isn’t sure how to explain.
“Why?” Lena can’t help asking, even as her heart drops precipitously in her chest. They don’t keep secrets, or at least, she doesn’t think they keep secrets from each other.
“I don’t know,” Kara starts, “we’ve been so…”
Lena’s hit with a sudden sense of clarity—Kara has picked up on Lena’s crush and doesn’t feel the same way. Lena’s read her entirely wrong. She hasn’t mentioned having a date because she doesn’t want to hurt Lena’s feelings. That’s...that’s fine, that’s very Kara; she’s not trying to keep secrets, she’s just afraid of hurting Lena.
“Hey,” she interrupts before Kara can finish the sentence, “we’re friends. I’d never want you to feel like you can’t tell me something like that.” And that’s true, because regardless of whether or not a small part of her is sad that Kara isn’t interested in her that way, a much larger part is suddenly relieved that she won’t have the opportunity to mess up their friendship.
In fact, now that she’s faced with evidence that wanting something more with Kara may have impacted their friendship in even this small way, Lena’s sure that it’s a road better not taken at all.
“You’re sure? Because—”
“Really,” Lena says, injecting as much certainty into her tone as possible and forcing a smile. If she’s lucky, Kara will assume the dinner invitation was no different than usual, it was certainly ambiguous enough. “I think it’s great, really. It’s great that you have a date.”
Something flickers across Kara’s face, but Lena is concentrating on keeping her smile as natural as possible.
“So,” Lena swallows, casting about for something to convince Kara that she’s fine with this, “is that what you’re wearing?” It suddenly makes sense as to why Kara hadn’t pulled on sweats like usual. God, she feels so stupid.
“Yes?” Kara looks down at her outfit, then back up at Lena. “Well. I mean, it was. Is it—should I change?”
“You should wear blue.” There’s a small painful twist in her chest when she says it, but Lena’s an expert at moving through discomfort. And this is worth moving through. “You look really good in blue.”
“You think so?”
“I do.” And this time Lena’s smile feels a little more genuine. Kara really does look good in blue.
“You know,” Kara says, after a moment. She adjusts her glasses. “You should get out there too.”
“No,” Lena lets out a soft chuckle, “I don’t have time to date anyone.”
“You make time to see me,” Kara offers, and Lena almost looks at her sharply, but Kara’s smile is soft. “If you met the right person, you’d make time for them.”
“Well right now, no one’s asking.” She shrugs.
“They will,” Kara says, fidgeting with her glasses again. There’s a moment where Lena is certain that she’s going to say something else, but she seems to swallow it down. “Movie night next week, if you’ve got time?”
They part ways soon after, Kara to go back to her apartment to change and Lena to go home to allow herself one glass of wine to wallow. She’ll spend the rest of the day reviewing a set of proposals from one of LuthorCorp’s European divisions and trying not to think about whether Kara’s enjoying her date.
Dropping her bag in the front hall, she tries to parse through the feelings in her chest. She’s disappointed, and that’s worth acknowledging, but there’s a measure of relief that is equally present. Kara’s become an important person to her, too important to risk losing over something as trivial as a crush. And Kara’s right—she should get out there, if only so that Lena can distract herself before these feelings actually take root.
The next time a woman asks her to dinner, Lena resolves, she’s going to say yes.
“No, it has to go the other way, it’s going to look weird,” Kara says. Lena frowns as Kara points to the rug she’s trying to unfurl. They’re at Lena’s apartment and Kara is helping her rearrange some of the furniture in her living room to accommodate a new reading chair. “Sorry, I interrupted you. What were you saying?”
“What?” Lena’s still frowning at the rug. Kara’s right, they need to turn it so it’s facing the other direction. She walks over to the other corner and picks it up as Kara does the same. They start to drag the rug ninety degrees to the left. “Oh, nothing really. It was the most uncomfortable night of my life. Seriously. Up there with the worst first dates of all time.”
“You’ve been out of the game a while,” Kara hums, glancing over at her, “the first date back is always the toughest.”
“Same goes for you!” Lena laughs as they drop the corners and take a step back to evaluate. “How do you know it won’t get worse for both of us?”
Kara looks over at Lena with a somewhat scandalized expression. “How much worse can it get than having her finish dinner, reach over and pull a hair off my shirt, then start flossing with it?” She crosses her arms and grumbles, “I’m never going to forgive Alex.”
“Okay, maybe for you it won’t get worse.” Lena can’t help laughing. “That still kills me. But you’re talking about a dream date compared to mine.”
“It’s gotta go this way, see?” Kara nods at the carpet. “Then you can put the chair by the corner windows and you’ll have great light for reading. What was so bad about it?”
“You’re right.” Lena nods at her. “And it started out fine, we met at that luncheon you couldn’t make, like, a month ago. She dropped by my office last week to ask me to dinner, right?”
Kara picks up the new chair and starts carrying it over to the corner she’d pointed at. “Yeah,” she says over her shoulder, “you said she was nice, right?”
“Nice, and also apparently batshit crazy.” It’s absurd how easily Kara handles the chair. This is exactly why Lena had turned down the decorator’s offer to hire a crew. “Dinner starts out fine, we order drinks—wait, not right there, I need room for a side table—” Kara groans, but readjusts the chair a foot to the right. “Perfect. Anyway, we’ve got wine, but we’re waiting on our food, and she launches into how many kids she wants and the color scheme at her future wedding.”
“I know. I nearly had a panic attack in the bathroom between courses.”
“Yikes.” Kara walks back over to where Lena is standing, next to her couch at the edge of the living room space. “I mean, I get why she might bring it up. With the way things turned out with Mike, I’m not sure I’d want to start dating someone who didn’t want the same things as me long term, you know?”
Lena hums in consideration. “That’s fair, but before entrées? Really?”
“Okay, that’s a bit quick,” Kara frowns. “Look, it might be a while before each of us finds someone we click with. You can’t expect it to happen right away.”
“Yeah,” Lena sighs. They both look at the chair. “I think we need to move the coffee table back over.”
Kara nods and moves towards it. “And even if we find someone we click with,” she says, bending down and lifting it smoothly, “it might be longer until we find anyone we really want to—” She cuts herself off with a blush.
Lena can’t help smiling. “Want to what, Kara?” There’s a teasing edge to her voice.
“You know.” Kara sets the table down and adjusts it. “Sleep with or whatever. You knew what I meant, why'd you have to make me say it?”
“It’s fun to see you blush.” Kara rolls her eyes at Lena and Lena laughs. “But really, I still would have slept with her, I haven’t had sex since before Lex got arrested. If this goes on much longer, I’m going to lose my mind.”
“You would have slept with her, even though she wants totally different things with you?” Kara’s eyebrows are up around her hairline.
“She can’t talk about kids if she’s going down on me.” Kara chokes and Lena softens her expression to let her know she’s about to be serious. “Really, though? I just need someone who is going to be discreet. I have to be able to trust they aren’t going to go to the tabloids.” She shrugs. “The real problem is that most of the people asking me to dinner are people I have to work with, which just feels like a terrible idea.”
“I don’t think I could sleep with someone if I didn’t have feelings for them,” Kara says, chewing on the inside of her cheek like she’s really thinking about it, “but I hear you on the work-thing. There’s this guy, William, who’s pretty new in the culture section? He kind of asked me out. I was going to tell you about it after we finished up with this.” She waves a hand around the room.
“Oh?” Lena asks. This is the first time Kara’s mentioned him, but her body language is relaxed. It doesn’t feel like before, when she was afraid to bring up a date. Thank god.
“It was just to go get coffee this morning.” Kara shakes her head, her expression saying it’s not serious. “I told him I’m not interested right now, but mostly it’s like, we work together! What if it goes terribly, you know? Then I still have to see him all the time. It just feels like a bad idea.”
“Yeah,” Lena agrees, nodding. “Definitely a bad idea.”
“...the Luthor matriarch’s arrest for allegedly violating aspects of SEC rule 10b-5 comes nearly a year after her son was arrested on securities fraud. The charges that Lillian Luthor was herself involved in the enterprise sent shockwaves through the business and technology world today...”
The afternoon anchor’s voice drones on as Lena takes another mouthful of scotch, tipping the heavy glass back. She’s teetering on the edge of drunk, not yet numb enough to pass out, and certainly not in the space to turn this off.
The whole thing is Lena’s fault; the least she can do is watch the wreckage unfold.
She goes to take another sip as the coverage continues and finds that her glass is empty. She reaches for the bottle on the table and sees that’s empty too. Lena frowns, distracted momentarily by hearing her own name on the television.
“Reports indicate that Mrs. Luthor’s alleged activities were discovered by her adopted daughter, current LuthorCorp CEO Lena Luthor, who approached authorities with the information. LuthorCorp issued a statement this afternoon shortly after the arrest, stating that they cannot comment on any ongoing investigation, but that the company and the younger Ms. Luthor are cooperating fully with authorities—”
Loud knocking pulls Lena’s attention away from the report. She turns the volume down, but makes no move to get up.
“Lena?” It’s Kara. Of course it’s Kara. “I know you’re in there. Jess said I’d find you here and I tried calling first, but since you’re not answering your phone you couldn’t tell me not to come over.” She pauses. “Harvey let me up.”
Lena glances over to her phone, turned off and discarded on the counter. Maybe if she doesn’t say anything, Kara will just go away.
“If you don’t say anything, I’m just going to sit out here.” Lena can hear her setting something down. “I have take-out and my plan is just to sit here and eat it all and talk to you through the door until you let me in because you shouldn’t have to be alone right now and I’m guessing you aren’t answering Jack or Sam either…” She keeps talking through the door and Lena stands up a little unsteadily.
She’s not sure when it happened, exactly, but some time over the past couple of months, Kara has slotted into her life right next to Jack and Sam. And even though her own plan had been to drink herself stupid and be alone, because that’s what she deserves right now, maybe she can be alone with Kara instead.
Being alone with Kara sounds bearable.
She pulls open her front door and Kara falls in backwards, clearly having sat down leaning against it. It’s probably funny, but Lena can’t bring herself to laugh.
“Hi.” Kara blinks up at her.
Lena goes to respond, but what comes out instead is a sob. At the sound, Kara scrambles to her feet, wrapping Lena into a tight hug, one hand on the back of her head, tucking Lena into her neck, and the other wrapped around her ribs. Lena just lets her own arms hang uselessly at her sides and feels the first hot tears start to roll down her face.
“Oh, honey,” Kara says, leaning back just a bit and wiping at Lena’s cheek. “Come on. Let’s get you to the couch.”
Lena’s drunker than she realized and she sinks into the feeling as Kara fusses over her, getting her water, coaxing her into eating, and then telling her that she’s going to clean up while Lena sleeps some of this off. Lena starts to lay her head on the couch, but Kara shakes her head, murmurs, no not there, and scoops her up, carrying Lena down the hall and toeing open doors until she finds Lena’s bedroom.
When she goes to leave after tucking Lena in, Lena can’t help tugging on her sleeve and whispering, “Stay.”
Lena wakes up some indeterminate amount of time later. She’s tucked into Kara’s chest and for a moment, she’s disoriented. It's clearly late. The afternoon sun has disappeared and Lena can tell that it’s dark outside. Her head is aching and she blinks herself into consciousness, twisting around to try to see the clock by her bedside.
“Hey, you,” Kara’s voice, soft and scratchy as if she, too, was asleep, pulls Lena back around. She has an arm wrapped around Lena, a hand on her lower back. “How’s your head?”
“Do you wanna take anything for it?” Kara’s thumb absently strokes at Lena’s t-shirt.
Lena takes stock of her body. She’s warm, a little hungover, and somehow exhausted, but the discomfort isn’t overwhelming. “No, thanks.”
“Do you wanna talk about it?”
“What’s to talk about?” Lena can’t help the derisive tone to her voice. She starts the process of separating herself from Kara, sitting up and looking around the room. She reaches over and clicks on the table lamp. “I’m assuming you saw the news or you wouldn’t be here. I sold out my own mother in order to save myself and the company.”
“I know what they reported, but that’s not what I’m asking about.” She can feel Kara sitting up behind her, can hear the concern in her voice as she reaches for something on her side of the bed. “How’re you feeling?”
“Pretty fucking shitty.”
“Here,” Kara taps her on the shoulder and Lena turns to see her holding out a glass of water. “I brought it in earlier just in case.”
Lena takes the glass, looks down at it in her hands, unseeing. She doesn’t want to talk about this, but she also feels like she can’t stop the words that are bubbling up now that Kara has asked. “I found the file by accident. It was on Lex’s old machine and I needed something off his hard drive.” She pauses to take a sip, but Kara doesn’t prompt her. The water is room temperature and it feels good when she swallows. “They’ll still have a hard time proving she did it, but if they can establish she saw the information he sent her, they’ll lock her up. I couldn’t...” Even with the water her mouth feels dry, her tongue too thick. She takes another sip. “It was either hand it over or become an accessory and get charged with obstruction.”
“You found yourself in the worst position imaginable,” Kara says. “You did the right thing, you’re a good person, Lena.”
“Don’t say that.” Lena shakes her head, focuses on the glass, the water inside. She takes a deep breath. “There was a moment…” She can tell her hands are shaking from the way the water moves. She places it on the nightstand, “I almost deleted it.” She looks up at Kara. “I’m so weak that I almost committed a federal crime that could sink the entire company just to save my step-mother, who doesn’t even—” She pulls in a breath, trying to head off the tears.
“Hey, hey,” Kara pulls Lena back into her, wrapping her arms around Lena’s shoulders and folding her into her chest. “You are not weak, you are a brilliant, kind-hearted, beautiful soul. And if I was faced with the same decision...Lena,” she punctuates it by holding her tighter, “I’m so sorry you went through this alone. I don’t ever want you to feel alone.” She’s silent for a long moment. “You’re my best friend, you know that?” Lena can feel Kara press a kiss to the crown of her head when she says it.
“You’re mine too,” she whispers into Kara’s neck. “I’m so glad you’re here.”
They go out to dinner two nights after Lena arrives back in National City from a three week trip through LuthorCorp’s pacific rim holdings. It was a rough trip, and although she got to spend time with Jack and Sam in Singapore for three days, she’s terribly glad to be home. Home, meaning her own bed, a change in wardrobe, and being able to see Kara over something other than FaceTime. The high-end steakhouse she’s chosen is relatively new to the city, and it’s one that Kara’s been bugging her about for weeks now. It’s fun to watch Kara’s eyes light up when she realizes where they’re going, even more so seeing her order a truly absurd cut of meat.
By the time they’re midway through their meal, Lena feels more relaxed than she has in a month.
“So,” Kara clears her throat and looks studiously down at the thick ribeye she’s cutting up. “You haven’t talked about going out with anyone in a while...how’s that, uh, whole finding someone trustworthy thing?”
Lena takes a large sip of her wine and swallows. “Kara, are you trying to ask me if I’ve found someone to have sex with?” She tries not to laugh as Kara’s cheeks bloom red, and doesn’t know why the next words come out of her mouth. “Are you volunteering?”
Kara’s knife skitters across her plate. “Lena! Oh my gosh.” She looks up across the table and rolls her eyes, before softening her expression. “I know you’ve talked about how it’s important, and I was just…” Lena cocks an eyebrow, “hey no, not like that, I just want to make sure you’re doing okay?”
Lena decides to put Kara out of her misery. It’s sweet that she’d be thinking about this. “I did actually find someone.”
“That’s great!” Kara gives her a big smile and goes back to examining her food. “So, like, who? You haven’t told me about anyone lately.”
Lena waves a hand dismissively before reaching for her wine glass. “A woman I went to boarding school with, actually. We reconnected recently.”
“Boarding school?” Kara seems to choke on something, even though Lena hasn’t seen her take a bite. “Are you,” she clears her throat, “is it Andrea?”
“God no,” Lena feels her chest tighten a little reflexively, “her name is Veronica.”
“Veronica, okay.” Kara loses a little of the pinched look she’d affected. “Is it, um, is it serious?”
“Of course not.” Lena can’t help laughing, what an absurd question. This whole conversation feels a little strange, like she can’t quite get a read on Kara—maybe she’s stressed about something at work? Lena should ask, if Kara doesn’t bring it up herself. “First of all, I’d tell you. And second, you know LuthorCorp—even if I had time for a real relationship, where am I going to meet anyone? I’m not looking for anything serious with Veronica, and neither is she. It’s embarrassing to use the term friends-with-benefits when I’m on this side of thirty, but that’s the best way to describe it.”
Kara splutters, giving up on cutting her steak and bringing her knife and fork to rest on either side of her plate. “How do you know she’s not looking for anything serious?”
“I’ve been very upfront about it, and so has she.”
Kara gives her a look, halfway between scandal and disbelief.
“I know you don’t think it can be done,” Lena rolls her eyes, “but it’s easy. You go out on a date, you have a good time. If there’s chemistry, you act on it, and then you clearly communicate what you’re looking for. I feel like we’ve,” Lena gestures between them with her fork, “had this conversation already.”
“What if she’s not on the same page?”
“Then I won’t see her again!”
“Lena, I mean, you’re,” Kara gestures up and down at her, knife still in hand, “...you. And you’re telling me this woman doesn’t want more with you?”
“She doesn’t!” Lena can’t help laughing again. “She wants my connections maybe, to be seen with me. I mean the sex is good too, so there’s that. It's not like she isn’t getting anything out of this.”
“And you don’t think she has any feelings for you?” Kara’s eyebrows are furrowed together and her cheeks are bright pink. She looks legitimately concerned that Veronica Sinclair of all people is harboring secret feelings, and that Lena somehow just doesn’t know.
“No. And if I got the slightest inkling of it, I’d break it off.”
“You think you can tell when people are lying?”
“I do. You’re forgetting I was raised by liars, Kara,” Lena raises an eyebrow, “I can tell when someone is lying to me.”
Satisfied she’s made her point, and not at all inclined to keep talking about Veronica, Lena looks down at her salad, poking at it. The arugula isn’t very good, a little wilted to be honest, and she tries to put together a bite without it. Really, she should call the waiter over, but the rest of the salad is passable and she doesn’t have time to order another...
She looks up. Kara looks inexplicably nervous, has put her silverware down and is twisting her hands together. Lena ducks her head and catches Kara’s eyes. She’s about to ask what’s wrong, but Kara’s next words make her forget how to speak.
“I’m in love with you.”
Lena’s heart stops. This is a joke, surely. Her eyes dart around Kara’s face, but none of the usual tells are there. There’s no crinkle in her brow, no avoidant gaze. Just Kara: eyes wide, lips slightly parted, glasses framing her face with wisps of blond hair coming out of her ponytail.
Lena’s chest feels tight.
“I’m in love with you,” Kara says again. “I don’t know how I didn’t know or why I haven’t told you. You’re funny, and smart, and, even though you never want anyone to know it, you’re one of the kindest people I’ve ever met. And you’re absolutely beautiful. Sometimes I look at you and it’s like I can’t breathe.” She swallows and then continues, “I want it all with you, I want to fall asleep with you and wake up with you. You’re perfect for me.” She takes a deep breath. “So, this is me saying it out loud. I’m in love with you and I want to spend the rest of my life with you.”
Kara doesn’t break eye contact with her, just keeps her gaze on Lena when she finishes.
This must be a joke, a voice in her head screams, even as her body is clearly taking this another way. Lena’s heart is beating irregularly, and her mouth is dry, and there’s a strange twisting feeling in her stomach. Is this why Kara looked so off when Lena admitted to seeing someone, has she somehow fallen for Lena without Lena even noticing? Lena had thought, for a minute, that maybe they should date, but that was—that was months ago. It’s not as if she doesn’t find Kara attractive. She admitted that to Kara, and to herself, and, okay, maybe she’s thought about what it might be like to sleep with her, but Kara’s made it perfectly clear that she believes in marriage and love and happy endings, and maybe Lena doesn’t hate the very concepts anymore, but she still isn’t sure that she’ll ever have any of those things…and maybe that didn’t matter as much earlier on, but Kara is now as much a part of her life as Jack, or Sam, or Ruby; Lena can’t imagine jeopardizing that.
Kara bursts out laughing and it startles Lena out of her thoughts.
“Oh my god, Lena, you look like you’re having a heart attack,” Kara reaches across the table to put her hand on top of Lena’s. “I just…” She shakes her head and gives Lena a warm smile, “acting isn’t that hard, ok? That’s all I’m saying.”
“Good god, Kara. I think you missed your calling,” Lena says dryly, a little thrown off still and not particularly interested in examining why. She pulls her hand away from Kara’s touch and reaches for her wine.
The waiter interrupts, holding a bottle of champagne and two glasses. “Ma’ams? This is courtesy of the two women at the bar. They send their congratulations.”
“Ooh, champagne!” Kara takes a glass and raises it to the two women behind Lena, giving them a little wave. “Gosh, people are so nice.”
“I’m sorry, you said what to her?” Alex doesn’t sound amused which means she clearly hasn’t been listening to Kara explain how dinner went with Lena. They’re sitting in Kara’s apartment on her couch, Lost reruns on in the background. “I thought we talked about this months ago.”
“This is an objectively funny story, Alex, you’re not listening. Lena practically panicked! And then two ladies thought we were getting engaged or something and they sent over drinks.”
“So you’re saying you don’t have feelings for her, but you confessed that you did in order to…” Alex trails off, squinting at her, forehead scrunched like she has a headache.
“To make the point that she needs to be careful with this Veronica person,” Kara says, picking up where Alex left off. She shakes her head and slumps further against the couch. “I swear, if Lena could just meet someone, someone that she really likes, I wouldn’t be so worried about this. She’s like you though,” Alex raises an eyebrow at that, “she’s always saying she doesn’t have time to meet anyone, or if she does, they work together and something about company ink.”
“Well from what you’ve told me, there’s a pretty small group of women who would qualify.” Alex takes a swig of her beer. “It would have to be someone she didn’t work with, but she never goes anywhere except work and out with you.”
“Exactly,” Kara says, relieved that Alex is beginning to understand. “And they have to be someone she can trust, so it isn’t like she can just download tinder. I mean honestly, between the two of you…”
She sits up.
“I don’t like the look on your face,” Alex says, taking another drink and frowning.
“Hear me out! Alex, you’re my two favorite people in the world, this is brilliant: You should go on a date with her.”
“Kara, that’s weird. You tried to ask her out last year. You totally had a crush on her six months ago. I’m not going out on a date with her.”
“Pssh, Alex, that was like, a baby crush before she became my best friend. I promise. It’s not weird. She’s amazing, you’d totally be into her.”
Alex looks at her sceptically for a long minute.
“Fine, whatever, it's a night out away from the hospital. If—and this is a big ‘if’ Kara—if Lena is interested, I’ll go to dinner with her.”
“You’re going to be in town to prep for your move back anyway, just do this with me?” Lena tries to keep the pleading note out of her voice. She can hear Sam struggling not to laugh on the other end of the line.
“You know it’s weird that you want Kara and me to go on a blind date with you, while you go on one with Alex, right?”
“No it isn’t,” Lena says. Maybe it’s a little weird that she doesn’t want to go to dinner with Alex alone, but somehow it just seems easier to bring Sam, and besides—Sam’s her best friend, Kara’s her best friend—if they hit it off, that’s two birds with one stone. Or something. Sam isn’t even really Kara’s type, not that Lena has thought about it much lately, it’s more about wanting a buffer with Alex. “Look, it isn’t even really a blind date, okay? More of…” she trails off. “More of a soft set up.”
Sam laughs out loud at that.
Lena sighs. “Honestly Sam, I’m only going because Kara is convinced Alex and I will hit it off, and it’s easier to go than to persuade her otherwise. You might really like her, and if you don’t, well, you’ve saved me an awkward evening and gotten a free meal out of it. Please? You’re going to be here anyway.”
“Fine,” Sam finally says. “But I’m only agreeing because it’s criminal that I haven’t gotten to meet Kara yet, not because I’m all that interested in dating her.”
“Thank you,” Lena says as the waiter circles by with another glass of wine for her. She’s not the only one drinking faster than usual; it seems all four of them are using alcohol to help ease the awkward air trapped around the table. Alex, on her right, smiles and declines when he nods at her nearly empty whiskey. Lena turns to her. “So, Kara says you grew up in Midvale?”
“Yep,” Alex says, reaching up and tugging on the top button of her shirt. “Kara mentioned you’re from Metropolis?”
“Yes.” Lena takes a sip. She’s normally better at small talk than this, and she does want to make a good impression with Alex—this is Kara’s favorite person on the planet, after all. But Alex seems determined not to give her much to work with. “I’ve never been to Midvale.”
“It’s nice. Near the water.”
What a disaster. She never should have agreed to this. Lena glances across the table at Sam, who is fiddling with her blouse, and then around to Kara, who appears to be having just as much trouble making small talk, although perhaps for different reasons. She’s watching Lena instead of trying to talk to Sam, and she must see the distress on Lena’s face because she intervenes.
“So, how’s work?” Kara asks, prompting her sister. She leans over to Lena, “Alex is always complaining about her residents.”
“Actually,” Alex takes a drink, “we’ve started using a virtual reality training program called OrthoPaed with the residents for complex knee arthroplasty, it’s totally changing how much babysitting I have to do.”
“I developed that program,” Sam says with surprise, sitting up a little straighter and putting down her wine.
“What?” Alex mirrors Sam, setting her glass down and turning her full attention to the woman.
“You know, Lena’s done work in medical biotech...” Kara breaks in, trying to redirect.
“That’s great,” Alex flashes Lena a smile, then turns her attention back to Sam. “What do you mean you developed that program?”
“I wrote it. It’s housed under one of our subsidiaries at this point, but that’s my patent and it’s still sold under my name: AriasTech.”
“Holy shit, I could marry you.” Sam goes a delightful shade of red. Alex does too, once she realizes what she’s said, but she plows through it. “I just mean, our outcomes are better across the board with it. It makes our training program so much stronger.”
After that it’s impossible to get Alex and Sam to disengage, and, as the meal goes on, it’s increasingly clear to Lena that the chemistry she’s watching between the two of them isn’t anything she wants to get in the way of.
“Wow,” Kara says, watching Alex giggle as Sam pulls her into a cab after they walk outside. “I did not see that coming.” She turns to Lena and makes an unhappy face. “I feel like I messed this all up, I really thought you and Alex would hit it off.”
“I know you did.” Lena steps in towards her and reaches up to fix Kara’s shirt collar where it’s gotten turned up. “And it was a sweet thought, but this is probably for the better.”
Kara’s frown deepens. “If this is where you tell me you’re too busy for love or that you’re no good at relationships so why bother—”
“No,” Lena laughs, “no, more that I’m happy right now and I’m not looking for anything complicated. I appreciate that you tried, though.”
“She is,” Lena agrees. “Between her, and Jack, and you, what do I need a romantic relationship for?”
“Is this you telling me to let it go?”
Lena nods, still smiling.
“Okay,” Kara sighs out. “I’m clearly not cut out for matchmaking anyway.”
“You have lots of other wonderful qualities,” Lena says and Kara grins at her. “What’re you doing for the rest of the night?”
“Movie night?” Kara loops their arms together and they start walking down the sidewalk, heading in the general direction of Lena’s apartment. “I didn’t really plan on us being done so early.”
“Absolutely,” Lena smiles at her, “we’ve been putting off The Princess and the Frog for too long.”
For those of you who hit up the end note first: july Little Numbers by BOY // august Through the Phone by Wild Youth // september Meet Again by Mark Sixma feat ANVY // october Home by Edward Sharpe & The Magnetic Zeros // november As It Is by Matilda Mann // december Are We a Thing by Leidi // january Long Shot - Mount Pleasant Remix by Transviolet // february I’ve Been Starting To Love All The Things I Hate by Aluna // march Keeping Your Head Up by Birdy // april On Your Side by The Veronicas // may Lie Like This by Julia Michaels // june Take Care of You by Ella Henderson
I TOLD YOU IT WAS A SLOWBURN PLEASE DON’T YELL AT ME
All food described is food I love, don’t @ me, vietnamese iced coffee is amazing. If it hadn’t been so hot out they would have gotten pho. I stand by my disney choices, especially WALL-E. Lena would sob. I will not be taking criticism.
Part three is gonna be a doozy! Happy endings only.
Chapter 3: Act Three
in which everything happens a lot
Lena’s been irritated off and on all morning (maybe all week) and she’s not totally sure why.
It could be that there’s too much going on with work, that she feels like she’s barely seen Kara over the last four weeks, or simply that she hates shopping (even if it is for a birthday gift for Ruby), but whatever the reason, she can’t shake it. Normally being in Kara’s presence is enough to settle her, but today, even that isn’t working. They’re both in shorts, walking around downtown National City, crowds out in force with the late-July sunshine warm and pleasant and, by all rights, Lena should be in a good mood with no caveats.
“I’m glad Alex kept encouraging me to give him a chance,” Kara says, picking up the thread of their conversation and shifting the shopping bags to her left hand so she can pull her phone out of her jean jacket pocket to check it. Alex is supposed to let them know when she and Sam are ready for them to head over to help with the decorating for Ruby’s party, and they’re mostly killing time now waiting for the call.
“She did press that pretty hard.” Lena hopes there’s no edge to her tone; the irritation is back. She tugs at her t-shirt.
“Alex just wants to see me happy.” Kara shrugs and adjusts the bags again. “And she had a point: it’s not like William and I have any overlap at CatCo, so I don’t have to be super worried about what will happen if we don’t work out.”
Sam and Alex had started dating—immediately and exclusively—following their group dinner back in the first week of June, and part of the result is that the four of them have been spending time together, cooking the odd dinner at one of their apartments or meeting up for brunch whenever their schedules align. It’s been wonderful to see Sam more now that she’s officially moved back to National City and finally getting to know Alex, the most important person in the world to Kara, has been an unexpected bonus.
The only downside, really, is that Alex seems to be way too invested in her sister’s love life. Over waffles and mimosas about a month ago, Kara had mentioned to the group that William had asked her to coffee again and her sister seemed to seize on it.
It had been hard for Lena to bite her tongue. Kara just hadn’t seemed all that excited about him. Lena’d felt like arguing with Alex on Kara’s behalf, listing out all the reasons that it didn’t make sense for Kara to date William, but without a solid rebuttal, she’d settled for maintaining as much neutrality as she could in the moment. She was relieved when Alex dropped the subject, and then less so when Kara confided later that she was going to say yes to him. Lena had smiled and wished her luck and offered to black-list him if it didn’t go well.
Kara hums, looking at the department store window displays before continuing, “I mean, it’s not like, wapow or anything. But he’s really nice. Maybe I’m just not meant for wapow.” She’s frowning a little, and Lena wants to break in and say something kind of stupid about how Kara deserves that kind of moment, deserves to be swept off her feet, but Kara pauses in front of the high-end electronics store they’re now passing and points to a set of noise-cancelling headphones. “Aren’t those the ones Ruby was talking about?”
Lena leaps at the subject change. “I can already hear Sam saying that we’re spoiling her, but what’s the point of a birthday if we don’t?” She offers Kara a conspiratorial wink.
Kara grins in response and tugs her inside.
As Kara drags her across the floor of the store, babbling about all the technical features that Ruby is going to want to make sure she gets, Lena can feel herself finally relaxing.
It isn’t that she doesn’t want to hear about William; he and Kara have been on three dates in the past month and she’d be more upset if Kara didn’t want to talk to her about how it’s going. But over the past two weeks, any mention of him has started to set her teeth on edge. Their second date had coincided with a luncheon that Lena had been hoping Kara would be her plus one to. She’d taken Veronica instead, which had been nice, but she’s gotten so used to going to everything with Kara that there’s a small sense of lingering resentment.
Her heart stutters a little in her chest as Kara stops them in front of the display inside, Kara’s chatter blurring into the background as an uncomfortable picture starts to click into place in Lena’s head.
Maybe it isn’t work, or shopping, or even feeling like she has less time with Kara.
Maybe this irritation is about William.
About the fact that Kara is dating William…
“Are you okay?” Kara asks, a tiny crinkle starting to form between her eyebrows, and Lena realizes that she hasn’t listened to a word that Kara’s just said.
Lena shakes her head, clearing out her thoughts and lifting her lips into a smile. “Yeah, sorry, just remembered something I have to send Jess.”
“Oh, do you need to do it right now? I don’t mind—”
“No,” Lena shakes her head again, more firmly this time. “No, it can wait. Tell me which headphones we’re getting.”
It takes them half an hour to decide which model to go with (during which Alex texts to say she’s gotten to Sam’s and they’re ready for help), but they finally agree on a pair and head back up front to pay.
“OhmygoshLena,” Kara squeals as they walk toward the register, grabbing Lena’s elbow and turning sharply to the right. She pulls Lena along in her wake, stopping in front of a small square machine with a wireless mic set on top of it. “It’s a karaoke machine! We should get it for the party!” She looks back at Lena, eyes hopeful and a pout already forming on her face.
Lena bites her lip to stifle a smile. “Is this about getting something for the party, or for you?”
But Kara’s no longer paying attention; she’s set the bags down next to the machine and is flipping through the digital library. She claps her hands together at something and Lena can see the size of her smile even in side-profile.
“Kara Danvers, what are you doing?” Lena asks as the intro to As Long As You Love Me starts playing and Kara adjusts the volume. She turns back to face Lena.
“What does it look like I’m doing? I know it’s not NSYNC but…” Kara is full on grinning now, a nearly maniacal twinkle in her eye. It’s as concercerning as it is endearing. “I’m going to show you exactly how much fun this can be since you clearly lack the imagination required.”
Lena steps forward, reaching to take the mic away from her to prevent this spectacle, but Kara twists her body away while maintaining eye contact and giggling, already singing the first lines.
“Oh my god,” Lena huffs, starting to laugh but attempting to keep a serious face as she stretches her arms around Kara, grabbing for the mic. “You absolute ass, put that down…”
Kara settles for dancing away from Lena, backing her way through the aisle along the wall, singing to her the entire time as they fight for the mic until Lena gives up the pretense and just lets Kara take her hand, swinging their linked fingers as she gets to the first chorus.
“Fine, we can get it,” Lena laughs out while Kara twirls her, “we can get it.”
“Really?” Kara asks, face lighting up even more as she stops singing and sets the mic down. She wraps Lena in a hug, lifting her clear off the ground. “Thank you thank you thank you, this is gonna be so much fun!”
“Okay, okay.” Lena can feel the size of the smile on her own face as Kara spins them in a circle. “We have to get goi—”
A voice cuts her off. “Lena?”
Lena’s chest seizes and she goes rigid in Kara’s arms, the easy moment they’d been having evaporating in an instant. She hasn’t heard that voice in person in nearly a decade, but Andrea Rojas is standing behind Kara’s shoulder, making direct eye contact with Lena and there’s no mistaking her.
She looks beautiful, in a soft green blouse and white linen pants, her hair down. She’s older than the version of her that lives in Lena’s head and also somehow exactly the same.
“Andrea,” Lena chokes out, loosening her arms from around Kara’s neck and sliding down. “Hi.”
Kara lets Lena unwrap herself without a word. She can feel Kara’s eyes on her as she smooths out her shirt, grateful for the way Kara steps in close to her side.
“I thought that was you. It’s been a while…” Andrea trails off, as if she isn’t sure when they last saw each other.
“Graduation,” Lena says.
“Graduation,” Andrea repeats, nodding. “Russell just stepped out to take a call.” She glances towards the front of the store, running her left hand through her hair. Light catches on the rings on her left hand, and Lena feels an odd sort of pressure around her ribs. “He’ll be sorry he missed you. How…how are you?”
“I’m well.” God. Nearly a decade and Lena doesn’t even know what to say. She feels twenty years old again, nervous and unsure, only this time the gulf between her and Andrea might as well be the Grand Canyon. “And you?” she manages to ask. “What are you doing in National City?”
“We’re considering relocating the company.” Andrea’s eyes flicker to Kara and back to Lena. “With LuthorCorp so established here, this really is the new tech hub and Obsidian North is looking for a US headquarters.” She fidgets. “It’s nice to see you.”
There’s a moment of awkward silence, and then Lena feels Kara’s hand on her back. “Lena?” Kara says, her voice quiet. “We should get going, Sam and Alex are waiting.”
“Right,” Lena breathes out, leaning back into Kara’s touch. “I’m sorry, Andrea, we’re running late.”
“Oh,” Andrea says, her face falling almost imperceptibly. “Of course, don’t let me keep you.” She gives Lena a small smile.
Kara guides her out of the store and they get halfway down the block before Lena realizes they didn’t even buy the headphones. When she starts to protest, Kara tells her she’ll go back for them before the party.
“It’s fine, I’m fine,” Lena says in a tone of voice that is distinctly not fine a few blocks later. She can tell that Kara’s been trying not to say anything, can feel Kara’s eyes on her as they navigate the sidewalk on the way to Sam’s.
“You don’t seem fine, you seem upset.”
“I don’t want to talk about it.”
“That’s okay,” Kara says, weaving around two teenagers in the middle of the sidewalk. “We don’t have to talk about it, we don’t have to talk about anything, I’m just really aware that you—”
“Kara,” Lena turns to her as they come to a stop at the light across from Sam’s apartment, “please just drop it.”
They walk into the building in silence, Kara still holding their shopping bags, and make their way over to the elevator. Casting about for a distraction, anything to change the subject, Lena remembers there’s been something she keeps meaning to ask Kara, it just keeps slipping her mind.
“If you really want to cheer me up right now,” she says as they step into the lift and Kara brightens, “I have a Luthor Foundation dinner coming up and it’s going to be mostly terrible old men. If I don’t have a date they’ll be insufferable, any chance you want to come?” She hits the button for Sam’s floor.
“Of course!” Kara smiles. “Good food and time with you? Always. What night?”
Lena leans against the back wall as the elevator starts its ascent. “Next Friday.”
“Um,” Kara’s face falls, “I uh, I told you this morning that William and I, I mean, I could ask him to reschedule, you know, if you wanted…”
Fuck. Kara had said something about a fourth date. Lena just hadn’t really been paying attention.
“Kara, don’t be ridiculous I’m not going to ask you to reschedule your date just so you can save me from being bored.” Lena clenches her jaw so hard that it hurts. She feels irritation ripple through her again, hot and uncomfortable, bubbling up from somewhere that she really doesn’t want to look too closely at. It’s unreasonable to be upset with Kara right now; it’s her own fault for not listening, her own fault for not asking Kara sooner. She’s been feeling off the whole day and this is just the cherry on top of it all. “I’ll ask Veronica.”
“She’s been my date to a few events already, it’s fine, Kara, don’t be stupid.” There’s an edge to her voice now, even she can hear it, and Kara’s expression moves into something hurt. This is where, usually, Lena would be quick to fall over herself, to apologize, to tell Kara that this isn’t on her, that Lena’s just upset at herself.
But she doesn’t.
When the elevator doors ding open, she makes her way into the hall without waiting for Kara and heads for Sam’s door.
She’ll apologize later. Right now, she needs a drink.
Kara’s not sure how to go about addressing the fact that Lena is in the worst mood she’s ever seen, Lillian’s arrest included. Her instinct is to comfort Lena, to pull her into a hug, but Lena makes it exceedingly clear as soon as they step into Sam’s apartment that she doesn’t want to be touched or comforted in any way.
It takes twenty minutes of Lena snapping at Sam, snarking at Alex, and absolutely housing one and a half glasses of wine before Kara points at the door and tells Lena to step out into the hallway. Sam looks at Kara, confused, as Lena drains the rest of her glass and stomps out, but when Kara says, “We ran into Andrea,” Sam’s eyes go wide and she nods.
“We’re not done decorating,” Lena snaps when Kara rounds on her after shutting the door.
“Oh no, you’re not allowed back in there until you stop whatever this,” Kara waves a hand up and down at Lena, “is.”
“This,” Lena hisses out, “is nothing. I told you to dro—”
“I know you said to drop it, Lena, and I did, but you’re clearly upset and you’re taking it out on all of us right now.”
Lena bites at the inside of her cheek and glares at Kara, leaning back against the wall. Her arms are crossed, every muscle rigid with tension, but she doesn’t try to walk away and Kara takes that as a sign to continue.
“Did you know she was married?”
Lena looks away from Kara, down the hallway. She doesn’t respond right away, and when she does, her response throws Kara. “I sent her a wedding gift.”
That’s news. But she stays quiet, hoping that Lena will keep going on her own.
They’ve never really had this conversation—Andrea is a topic that always seems off-limits. There’s a wound there that Lena hasn’t recovered from and it’s occurred to Kara before that maybe Lena’s still in love with her a little.
Lena sighs, the fight leaving her as she slumps against the wall. “She sent me a thank you, and that was that. It wasn’t…” Lena looks back to Kara. “I didn’t go to the wedding,” she settles on at last, “but not for the reasons you’re thinking.”
“I’m not thinking anything,” Kara says, keeping her voice soft to match Lena.
“They got engaged maybe two or three years after we graduated.” Lena shifts her weight and drops her gaze, brings her hands together, worrying at her left thumb.
“You don’t have to talk about it,” Kara tries when Lena’s been silent for a moment. “I’m not trying to make you talk about it, I really…” She ducks her head, trying to make eye contact with Lena. “It’s okay to be upset, it’s just not okay to take it out on the rest of us.”
“I know.” Lena looks at the floor. “I’m sorry.”
Kara is about to ask her if she wants to go back inside when Lena starts talking.
“I remember when I got the invitation, I was so fucking upset.” She shakes her head, not looking up from the floor. “But it wasn’t because I was in love with her anymore.” She flexes her jaw. “I don’t think I knew I wasn’t until I was looking at that stupid piece of cardstock and realizing that what sucked so much about the whole thing wasn’t that it didn’t have my name on it, but that I hadn’t been there when this big thing had happened. I didn’t know her anymore, and I didn’t know how to get her back.”
Lena looks so small now, shoulders curled in, voice quiet.
“Seeing her just, it hurt in a way I wasn’t expecting.” Lena shrugs. “I don’t know…I don’t know at this point if the thing that hurts more was the being in love with her part, or the fact that I let it mean losing her as a best friend.” Lena whips her head up suddenly, drawing in a breath as if something is just occurring to her. “I mean, god, I spent so long hung up on my feelings for her, it almost cost me the chance to know you.”
Kara gives her a half smile. “Luckily the universe had other plans for us.”
“Lucky you’re so stubborn, you mean?” Lena finally matches Kara’s expression, the corner of her mouth lifting up.
“Po-tay-to, po-tah-to,” Kara shrugs. She opens her arms. “Come here.”
Lena all but falls into Kara’s chest, wrapping her own arms around Kara’s waist and burying her face in Kara’s shoulder. “Thanks,” she says, her voice muffled by Kara’s shirt. “I’m almost ready to go apologize to Sam and Alex. But…can we stay out here for a minute?”
“Of course,” Kara says, tightening her grip and pressing a kiss to the crown of Lena’s head. “As long as you need.”
After their run-in with Andrea, Kara seems to go out of her way to make more time for just the two of them, something that means more to Lena than she’s able to put into words. She drags Lena out of the office one Friday afternoon near the end of August, claiming to have bribed Jess to cancel Lena’s slate of meetings—and, while Lena’s not sure about the actual occurrence of bribery, her afternoon has certainly been cleared. Kara takes her to a new brasserie four blocks from LuthorCorp and orders them both steak frites along with a carafe of Beaujolais and an extra helping of fries, keeping up a steady stream of small talk while they sip and watch the city go by from a table on the sidewalk, waiting for their food.
It isn’t until the first sip of her third glass that Lena truly relaxes, the stress of her week finally melting away with the light wine buzz. As she leans back in her chair and lets out a sigh—glad that she doesn't have to go back to the office—Kara clears her throat and Lena suspects that she’s been softened up for exactly this moment.
“Alex and Sam are organizing game night.” Kara sets her knife and fork to the side of her plate, having already finished eating. She’s eyeing the fries on Lena’s plate.
“I know, Sam told me.” Lena pushes her plate in Kara’s direction, nodding at the fries. She signals the waiter to bring a third order for Kara.
“Thanks.” Kara’s smile turns into a small pout. “Alex told me you said you aren’t coming.”
“I’m so busy right now,” Lena starts, carefully cutting another bite. It’s true, she is. And even if that’s maybe not the whole reason she’d declined when Sam mentioned game night, it’s an easy enough thing to fall back on and it doesn’t require an ounce of the uncomfortable introspection she’s been avoiding. “We have a series of IP acquisitions…”
“Oh come on,” Kara rolls her eyes affectionately, grabbing a fry. “Alex and I used to host game nights all the time and we haven’t had one in years. Please?”
“Who else is coming?” Lena asks, already mostly knowing the answer, but stalling for time.
“It’ll be Alex and Sam because they’re hosting, Nia, Brainy, um,” Kara swipes the fry through some ketchup, “William, and me.”
Lena pauses, lowering her fork without taking the bite. “Kara, that sounds like a triple date, and third wheeling three couples is not my idea of a good time.” She sets her utensils down on her plate, steak still skewered on the tines, and reaches for her glass instead.
“You’re not a third wheel, you’re my best friend!” Kara’s affected an expression she knows damn well usually works on Lena, eyebrows slightly furrowed and raised. “And you missed both of the brunches I brought William too. It’s weird that he hasn’t met you yet.” Kara reaches for another fry. “…I mean, he and I aren’t even that serious yet or whatever, but he’s met everyone else.”
“Aren’t even numbers sort of required for game nights?” Lena takes a measured sip of her wine.
“What about Veronica? You could bring her,” Kara says, smoothing out her forehead and smiling like she’s solved Lena’s only objection. She fidgets with her napkin. “You’ve been out with her a lot lately.”
“Kara…” Lena’s not sure what to go with next. Clearly Kara has come armed with answers to most of what she’s going to be able to throw up as objections. ‘Game night’ still feels like a group date, though, and it isn’t as if Lena and Veronica are dating…
“Lena, bring her please?” Kara pleads, switching her attention to the stem of her wine glass before Lena can put voice to it. “I know you aren’t dating,” and not for the first time Lena wonders if Kara is psychic—she has an uncanny ability to anticipate Lena’s excuses, “but you’re friends. It’s not meant to be a couples night; it’s friends getting together and hanging out and I really want you there.”
“Veronica and I aren’t that close,” Lena tries, but that’s not really true anymore and Kara already knows it. The more time Kara spends with William, the more time Lena spends with Veronica, and, over the course of the summer, she and Veronica have become actual friends again instead of simply acquaintances who happen to see a lot of each other while naked.
“That’s not true, you are close,” Kara says, taking yet another fry and dragging it through the sauce on her plate. “You guys went to dinner last week, and that wasn’t because of an event, and you were just telling me how often you talk now. I know you pretend like you’re not, but you’re actually friends with her.”
“Yes, but,” Lena starts, feeling oddly caught, “everyone else will know each other, it’s not…”
“Pshh, no,” Kara looks up at her, eyes bright. “Bring her. Please? Besides, I want to meet this woman. As your best friend I’m supposed to know everyone in your life.”
That reasoning alone feels flimsy to Lena. But Kara’s expression is guileless—hopeful, almost. Veronica will probably say no, anyway.
“Fine,” she says at length, and Kara’s face lights up. “I’ll see if she’s free.”
Veronica says yes.
Sunday night finds them all at Alex’s apartment, a two bedroom not all that far from Kara’s place. Alex and Sam have set up the living room, pushing the couches and chairs back so there’s room around the coffee table and everyone is packed in around it, mostly sitting on the floor or leaning back against the furniture. They’ve made their way through Jenga and are now on the final round of a game Lena is sure should have been left in the 1980s from whence it came: Win, Lose, or Draw.
The gist of it is that they’ve been divided into two teams (with Alex forcing Kara and Lena onto different teams to both of their annoyance, saying “None of that weird best friend telepathy thing okay? If I can’t be on a team with Kara, neither can you.”), with one team timing while the other team tries to guess what word or phrase their team member is sketching out onto an easel.
Kara’s currently sketching, leaving Sam, Veronica, and Nia to guess. Brainy has already calculated their odds of winning at only 27% after seeing the card that Kara had picked, and while Lena would usually point out that Kara’s superior skills as an artist should be enough of an advantage to overcome that, she has to agree that this isn’t going particularly well.
“It’s a monkey, it’s a monkey!” Nia is yelling out. “Um, ‘monkey see, monkey do’?”
Kara shakes her head no frantically.
“An ape? Going ape!” Nia shouts this time, enthusiastically if incorrectly.
“It’s a baby?” Veronica tries, and Kara nods, writing the word ‘baby’ above what is…sort of a drawing of a baby on the sheet.
“Planet of the apes!” Nia guesses.
“Planet of the apes?” Sam laughs at Nia. “She already said it’s a baby.”
“Well, it doesn’t look like a baby,” Nia says, draining her rum and coke. Brainy hops up to get her a refill.
“Thirty seconds,” William says, smiling at Kara who is frantically drawing a series of arrows coming out of what could be the baby’s mouth, but might also be two large slugs on the baby’s face.
Veronica and Sam start throwing out guesses with abandon, interspersed with Nia’s increasingly unhelpful additions as she becomes fixated on the exaggerated mouth that Kara has drawn. Sam rattles off every baby-based wordplay she can think of, growing more and more nonsensical with each subsequent guess.
“Big baby, baby mouth, big baby mouth,” Sam keeps trying as Kara starts nodding and waving her hands encouragingly while William counts down, “baby teeth, baby spittle?”
“Crying baby, feed the baby, baby food,” Veronica tries, laughing harder as Nia shouts “Baby ape!”
“Ten seconds,” William yells to be heard.
“Baby food,” Sam repeats in case she missed it and Kara drops her head into her hands.
“She got excited when you said mouth,” Nia says, frowning in thought as Kara brings her head back up and starts nodding and pointing at the drawing again. “And that looks like… wait!” Nia is now standing up, pointing at the drawing. “I’ve got it!” She yells. “Baby fish mouth!”
“And that’s time,” William says.
“Baby talk,” Kara groans out as the rest of them collapse in laughter on the floor. “It was baby talk!”
“Baby talk?” Nia looks confused. “That’s not a saying.”
“Oh, right,” Sam wheezes out next to her. “Because baby fish mouth is a saying.”
“You yanks and your games,” William is shaking his head. He steps over to Kara and starts to put an arm around her. “I thought you did great, these cards are difficult!”
Kara smiles at him, but ducks under his arm to retrieve her soda from the floor, looking over at Lena and shrugging. Lena smiles back and looks down at her mostly full jack and ginger, putting it down on the coffee table as Brainy starts to pull out several boxes of Trivial Pursuit, asking Veronica which version she prefers.
“Lena?” Sam asks, standing up and gathering a few of the empty drinks. “Come help me open a bottle of wine in the kitchen.”
As soon as they’re out of earshot of the rest of the party, she turns on Lena. “If I get you something you’ll actually drink, are you going to tell me what you’ve got against William or do I have to guess?”
“Who says I have a problem with William?” Lena frowns, her stomach dropping a small bit. She’s barely interacted with him all night and she’s been very careful to avoid being short with him when they have had to talk; Sam’s grasping at straws.
“You’ve been oddly quiet all evening, and every time he tries to engage you, you suddenly have to make a phone call.” Sam walks over to the counter on the other side of the fridge to grab a bottle of wine and the corkscrew, pointing Lena to one of Alex’s cupboards.
So. Not straws, then.
“I tried telling Kara I’d have to work a little tonight, you know the negotiation around that acquisition isn’t going well.” Sam just raises an eyebrow at her and Lena rolls her eyes in response, opens the cupboard and pulls down two stemless wine glasses as she contemplates her answer. “Whatever. He’s just so…British,” she decides.
“I hate to break it to you honey, but Jack is British,” Sam says, laughing as she trims the foil off the top of the wine bottle.
Lena walks the glasses over to where Sam is pulling the cork. “Jack’s not insufferable about it.”
“I’m not going to even bother making you unpack that.”
“Well, Kara doesn’t seem all that interested in him,” Lena continues, taking a different tack and ignoring Sam’s comment. “Did you see how she keeps moving away from him anytime he puts his arm around her? Does she even like him?”
“She’s certainly been going out on dates with him.” Sam narrows her eyes at her. “Lena…”
Sam’s expression isn’t anything Lena wants to give time to, so she just waves a hand in the air and keeps going. “I mean, he’s fine, he’s not totally unfortunate looking and I suppose he’s nice enough, I just, I don’t totally understand what she sees in him. He’s—” She flounders, trying to put words to it. “He’s not who I picture her with.”
“Spend much time thinking about that?” The amusement in Sam’s voice causes Lena to scowl at her.
“He ruined Jenga earlier! I didn’t think it was possible to mess up Jenga.”
Sam laughs and passes Lena an overfilled glass of wine.
“It shouldn’t be possible to mess up Jenga,” Lena mutters to herself as she takes a sip.
“You’re not wrong,” Sam says, grabbing her own glass as well as the bottle. She fixes Lena with a pointed look. “And it’s fine if you don’t want to talk about it, but I’m not buying for a second that you dislike William because he’s bad at following directions.” She takes a sip from her glass. “Now come on, it’s time to save Veronica from Brainy. I like her too much to let him bore her to death with a lecture about the best editions of Trivial Pursuit.”
“That was more fun than I expected,” Veronica says almost two hours later as they walk the few blocks from Alex’s place to where she’d parked. “Thanks for the invitation.” She reaches into her bag for her keys as they approach her car and then turns to Lena. “Any interest in coming over tonight?”
When she’d invited Veronica to game night, Lena had assumed that would be exactly how they’d end the evening. But something—something Lena knows and absolutely does not want to acknowledge in any way, shape, or form, even if Sam had tried to tease it out of her in the kitchen—has changed over the course of the night. The upset feeling in her stomach that had lodged there the third time she’d had to watch William try to drape himself over Kara hasn’t gone away, and for once, Lena’s realized that sleeping with Veronica isn’t going to fix it, even if she isn’t quite sure how to say that.
“Veronica, I've been thinking—” Lena starts after a long pause, but Veronica interrupts her gently, finishing the sentence herself.
“—that maybe we should take a break?”
Lena looks at her in surprise. “Yes, I—you agree?”
Veronica’s expression is inscrutable, but not cold or upset. “We’ve had fun, right?” There’s no edge to her tone and she sounds like she’s genuinely checking.
Lena moves her head in assent.
Veronica purses her lips and nods. “But that’s not enough anymore, right?”
“I don’t—” Lena feels oddly off-balance, albeit not for the reasons she’d imagined going into this conversation. She breathes out. “I’m not sure what I want.”
“You don’t need to explain.” Veronica gives her a small half-smile. “It was nice to meet Kara.”
Suddenly, Lena feels off-balance for a whole new reason.
Oh god, Lena thinks, oh god. If Veronica can tell that her feelings for Kara aren’t perhaps as platonic as they should be, is it possible that Kara...
Lena won’t complete the thought.
Veronica cocks her head, perhaps catching on to the way Lena has begun to radiate a small measure of panic.
“Let me know if you ever change your mind,” she says after a moment, and Lena lets out a breath she didn’t realize she was holding. “Arrangements like ours are hard to find. And—” Veronica takes a breath of her own. “We are friends, Lena. Don’t think you’re getting out of being my plus one to that fundraiser next month just because we’re not sleeping together anymore.” She raises an eyebrow and gives Lena a playful half-smile, then reaches a hand out and rests it on Lena’s forearm, squeezing gently. “I’ll call you with the details.”
Nearly everyone has left. Sam is helping Alex bring dishes into the kitchen and William has just handed Kara her coat, pulling his own off the hook and slipping one arm into it.
Kara chews on her lip instead of putting her coat on. She’s feeling agitated and she’s not sure entirely why. Game night was good, it was fun, it was great even, having everyone all in one place. She’s been wanting Lena to meet William for weeks now, thinking that maybe once he’s really part of their group, she’ll feel more comfortable getting serious with him.
But the evening has somehow had the reverse effect.
“You know, I think I’m going to stay behind to help Alex clean up, okay?” Kara smiles at him and goes to hang her coat back up.
“I don’t mind helping,” William says, starting to shrug his jacket back off.
“No,” Kara says, surprising even herself with the shortness and immediacy of her answer. “It’s, um, don’t feel like you have to, I mean…” She casts about the room for an acceptable excuse, some reason that it makes sense for him to leave without her. When she brings her gaze back to his face, William is wearing a confused frown, but he’s stopped pulling off his jacket.
“Is everything alright?”
“Of course,” she replies, perhaps a little too brightly, and it sounds thin even to her ears. “I’ll call you tomorrow, okay?”
“Sure.” He leans in to kiss her goodbye and Kara turns her head at the last second, his lips catching her cheek instead. He leans back and clears his throat, rocking a little on his feet. “Well, ah, goodnight then.”
As soon as she’s shut the door after him, Kara walks into the kitchen. Sam and Alex are standing together at the sink, leaning into each other, up to their elbows in dishes. They don’t notice her walk in and she watches them for a second, the strange agitation coalescing into an understanding that she finally finds words for.
“I have to break it off with William.”
Alex and Sam look back, their eyes wide and on Kara, twin expressions of surprise on their faces.
Sam is the first to recover. She reaches for a dish towel and dries her hands, then kisses Alex on the cheek. “I’m going to head out,” she says to Alex, “let you two have some time to talk.”
At the kiss, Alex immediately turns into Sam, her whole body relaxing and a smile taking over her face. “I’ll call you before I go to bed?”
Alex looks so happy with Sam, and it sparks a particular sense of yearning in Kara’s chest.
“Sounds perfect,” Sam says, a matching smile on her own face.
And gosh, if Kara had any doubt at all that she needs to end things with William, seeing her sister and Sam—the easy, carefree affection, the way they glow when they’re next to each other—well, it’s all the confirmation she needs.
Kara waits in the kitchen while Alex walks Sam to the door.
“So,” Alex begins when she walks back in. “Is this a couch conversation or…”
Kara shrugs. She looks at the dishes stacked on the counter. “Can I help you finish washing up?”
Alex nods, walking back over to the sink.
Kara reaches for the dish towel that Sam had been using and takes the spot next to her sister. For a few minutes, they make their way through the dishes, the only sounds coming from the faucet, the squeak of a sponge on glass, or the rattle of ceramic as Kara dries and stacks the plates.
“Did something happen?” Alex breaks the silence.
“No.” Kara squints at the bowl in her hand, trying to figure out if Alex missed a spot or if there’s something weird about the glaze. It’s something about the glaze, she decides. “No, nothing happened. Or, well.” She stops and frowns, sets the bowl down and turns around to lean against the sink, picking at the towel she’s been using while she tries to collect her thoughts.
Alex shuts off the sink and takes the towel from Kara to dry her hands, leaning back on the counter next to her and waiting patiently.
“He asked me to be his girlfriend two weeks ago,” Kara says, looking at her sister and bringing her fingers together to fidget now that Alex has taken the towel away. Alex is keeping her face infuriatingly neutral. “And he was so nice about it, said he didn’t want to pressure me at all and that he just wanted to make his intentions clear since we’ve gone out like seven times or something…” She trails off. “I told him I wasn’t ready.”
“I didn’t realize you two hadn’t made it official.” Alex’s eyebrows are knit together and her eyes are tracking over Kara’s face, like she’s just now putting something together. “Why didn’t you say anything to me about this?”
“I don’t know.” Kara shrugs and looks down at her hands. She presses her thumbs together. “You seemed so excited about me dating him, I think maybe I wanted to be excited about it too.”
“Kara,” Alex says, reaching out to still Kara’s fingers. “I only…” She sighs and squeezes Kara’s hand. “Let’s go sit down on the couch, okay?”
Alex pulls out two blankets when they walk back into the living room, then tosses Kara a pillow and tucks herself into one end of the couch. Kara takes the opposite end, wrapping the blanket around herself and tucking the pillow between her knees and her ribs. Alex waits for her to start again.
“He’s so nice, and he’s good looking, and he likes me, and…” Kara squeezes the pillow, not totally sure how to end the thought.
Her sister does it for her. “…And none of that matters if you don’t like him.” There’s no judgement in Alex’s tone, only understanding, like somehow she already knew even though Kara hadn’t said anything.
“I do like him, just. Not in that way.” Kara looks at Alex’s feet tucked in on the couch in front of her. “I thought I could. I honestly did.” She meets her sister's eyes. Alex has a sympathetic half smile on her face. “I don’t know, I kept thinking, maybe this will be the time it clicks, you know?” Alex nods. “And kissing him…is fine?” Kara shrugs, frowning back down at the pillow in her lap. “But I don’t want fine. Or, well, I want more than fine, you know?”
“Oh, Kara,” Alex says, stretching out her leg to poke Kara in the shin with her toes. “You deserve way more than fine.” She’s frowning too. “I’m sorry if I pushed you into this.”
“I mean, I could have said no,” Kara says, shrugging one shoulder. “It just became really clear to me tonight that he isn’t what I want. And trying to pretend like that’s going to magically change isn’t fair to me, or to William.”
They sit quietly for a moment.
“Does this…” Alex pauses, seeming to choose her words carefully, “does part of this realization have anything to do with who else was here tonight?”
Alex doesn’t actually come out and say Lena’s name, but Kara knows exactly who her sister is talking about. This is the closest she’s gotten to asking Kara about whether or not there’s something going on there since Kara tried setting them up back in the spring.
If it was a month ago, she’d probably laugh it off.
But Alex isn’t wrong, and it makes her chest feel kind of tight. She’s not totally sure what’s changed, but something about the past few weeks, or maybe months…it doesn’t matter in the end. She likes Lena as more than a friend, has for some time now. And she’s finally admitting that to herself.
Although, apparently, Alex already knows she likes Lena like that, which is whatever. Sometimes it really sucks that her sister is so perceptive.
“Maybe,” she settles on. Alex opens her mouth to say something else, but Kara cuts her off. “It doesn’t matter though, okay?” Alex’s jaw snaps shut. “The only thing it means is that I can’t keep leading William on. The rest of it?” She sighs. “Nothing’s changed there, okay?”
“Nothing except you’re actually admitting you like her.” Alex sits up straight, “Kara, what if—”
“Don’t,” Kara says, pulling her knees up further. Just because she’s aware of it doesn’t mean she wants to talk about it. “Don’t, okay?”
“Okay, okay I won’t.” Alex visibly deflates. “I just want you to be happy,” she offers at last.
“I am happy,” Kara replies immediately. “As long as she’s in my life, Alex—I know that sounds ridiculous, but I promise that’s enough.”
Alex considers that for a long time, long enough that Kara has to break her gaze and look away, has to resist trying to explain that the reason it’s enough is that not everyone gets a happy ending.
“I’ve got ice cream,” Alex finally says. “Chunky Monkey feels like break-up ice cream, right?”
Kara laughs and starts to untangle herself from the blanket. “Chunky Monkey sounds perfect. You don’t have any Half Baked to go with that, do you?”
They don’t really talk about it. ‘It’ being the fact that Kara has ended things with William and that Lena is no longer sleeping with Veronica. Kara’s not sure how to feel about that.
She brings William up casually, while Lena cooks them dinner three days after game night—that he doesn’t feel right, that she gave him a chance but it just isn’t going anywhere. And it isn’t that Lena doesn't act interested; on the contrary, she asks Kara how she’s feeling and whether she wants to talk about it. Lena goes out of her way to make space for Kara to feel whatever it is she’s feeling about the dissolution of her first almost-something since breaking up with Mike more than a year and a half ago.
But Kara can’t help feeling that Lena isn’t wholly present, that she’s holding something back. She just can’t figure out what it is.
And afterward, when Lena shares that she and Veronica have amicably decided to put a stop to their sexual relationship, Kara almost asks. She hears Alex’s voice in the back of her head, feels the words forming in her throat, do you ever think that we could be something?
She doesn’t though. The fear that the answer will be no, and the near certainty that any sign Lena might be interested in her is just wishful thinking, are enough to keep her silent.
They fall back into an easy rhythm instead, borne out of more than a year of the closest friendship that Kara has ever had. She’s Lena’s plus one to a truly dizzying array of events (many of which Alex points out don’t actually require a plus one at all). It’s enough. Being on Lena’s arm, being Lena’s best friend, just being with Lena is more than enough.
And no matter how many times Kara brings it up, trying to suss out whatever it is that Lena is keeping from her, Lena maintains that she’s never been happier.
She even goes so far as to tell Kara that, for once in her life, there isn’t a single thing about it that she’d change if given the chance.
She says it on her birthday, at the tail end of the dinner Kara organized for her. They’re the last two at Kara’s apartment, Alex and Sam having left with Jack some time earlier, and Kara goes into her bedroom, ducking behind the makeshift sheet to grab Lena’s present. When she comes back out, Lena is staring at her from the couch. She’s holding a nearly empty glass of red wine, and she looks at Kara with such blinding affection that Kara almost confesses her feelings right then. But Lena speaks before the words come, thanks her for the best birthday she’s ever had, and as Kara is slipping the cable bracelet she bought for her onto Lena’s wrist, Lena lays a hand over Kara’s and tells her that she doesn’t know what she’d do without Kara’s friendship.
So Kara smiles and swallows the words down, wrapping Lena in a hug, starting to understand—for the very first time—why Lena never did tell Andrea that she’d fallen in love with her.
She puts on Toy Story III, draping them each in blankets and when they’re both sobbing at the end, Kara tells herself she’s only crying about the movie.
Three weeks after Lena’s birthday, her phone rings at eleven thirty at night.
It’s Kara, and Lena can tell that something is wrong right away. First, there’s the strange, stilted way that Kara asks her if she’s busy (not an unreasonable question these days, even at near midnight on a Thursday), and then there’s a catch in Kara’s voice—a shakiness that Lena’s never heard before—when she asks Lena to come over. It wouldn’t matter if Lena were in the middle of a board meeting, hearing Kara upset means she’d drop anything in the world.
As it is, all she’s doing is skimming through the IRB applicatication for one of their medical device trials. She throws on jeans and a well worn MIT sweatshirt, calling a rideshare instead of getting her car out of the garage. When Kara opens the door of her apartment, Lena’s immediate reaction is to step over the threshold and pull her into a hug.
Kara is similarly dressed, wearing jeans and a soft sweater that she might have gone to work in. Her glasses are off, hair back in a loose braid—if it weren’t for the red around her nose, like she’s been wiping it, and the way her eyes are swollen and puffy, Lena might think nothing is wrong.
The moment she wraps Kara in her arms, though, Kara bursts into tears, bringing her own arms up around Lena’s ribs and clutching at her so tightly, Lena almost considers asking her to loosen her grip. But the way Kara has her face buried in Lena’s neck, and the tears she can already feel at the juncture of her skin and the cotton crew neck stop her.
“Oh, love,” she breathes into Kara’s hair. “What’s wrong?”
“He’s getting married,” comes the muffled reply.
“What?” Lena leans back until Kara lifts her head. “Who?”
Kara releases her long enough to let Lena close the door and get them both glasses of water, then allows herself to be led to the couch. The story pours out there—how Kara ran into Mike outside of Noonans when she was heading home from work that evening.
She didn't notice him at first, he had to call her name twice before she heard him. She tells Lena that her first feeling on seeing him was something like relief; he smiled at her when he finally caught her eye and, instead of tugging at her heart, she just felt happy for him that he looked like he was doing well.
That’s when a woman Kara didn’t recognize had walked up next to him. He’d leaned down and kissed her, then introduced her to Kara as his fiancée.
“I felt fine at first.” Kara’s stopped crying. She blows her nose and balls up another tissue, lobbing it into a small pile in front of them on the coffee table. Lena goes to hand her another, but Kara waves her off. “The whole way home I just kept thinking, I’m happy for him, I’m over him, you know? And then, and then…”
Lena lays a hand on Kara’s back, rubbing small circles.
“All this time,” Kara’s voice is wavering again. “All this time I’ve been saying he didn’t want to get married. The truth is, he didn’t want to get married to me. He didn’t love me. What if—” She cuts herself off as a new wave of tears starts to escape down her cheeks.
“Is it…are you…” Lena doesn’t really want the answer to the question she’s trying to ask, but if Kara needs to say it, then Lena wants to hear it. “Are you still in love with him?”
“No.” Kara answers so quickly, wiping at her face, that Lena doesn’t doubt her. “But why didn’t he want to marry me? Why didn’t he love me? What’s the matter with me?”
“There is nothing the matter with you, Kara.” They’re pressed so close together now and somehow Lena still wishes they were closer. She wants to climb into Kara’s lap, to hold her, to rock her back and forth until this is somehow all just a bad dream. “You’re incredible, and if Mike couldn’t see that, then he never deserved you.”
“It’s more—” She looks down and away from Lena. “What if—” She lets out a small sob. “What if no one ever loves me back?”
“Kara Danvers.” Lena reaches out and cradles Kara’s face in her hands, pulling her gently up until she can look Lena in the eyes. “You are so, so lovable. And someday, you’re going to fall for someone who loves you so much they won’t think twice about it.”
Someone who loves you so much they won’t think twice about it. It’s prophetic in the worst way, because, when she kisses Kara in the same breath, Lena isn’t thinking about anything at all.
She has Kara's face in her hands and she’s wiping away the tears and, truthfully, the only thing Lena wants in the world is for Kara to stop hurting. She wants Kara to know how amazing she is, how much the future holds for her, how Mike made a mistake in not realizing how special the woman in front of her is, but that, someday, someone else is going to see it and do everything in their power to hold onto her and never let her go.
One second she’s inches away, watching a tear break down Kara's cheek and the next…
It’s like gravity.
It’s nothing more than the light pressure of lips, the most intimate way Lena’s subconscious can think to let Kara know that she’s not alone. There’s no heat to it, nothing sexual at all, in fact. It isn’t even a question mark, just a statement: I’m here.
There’s a world in which, between the right people, a kiss like this would be nothing more than a wordless expression of platonic love.
Lena doesn’t realize she’s done it until she’s pulling back and opening her eyes. Kara’s stopped crying; her eyes are wide and, for a brief moment—milliseconds that stretch on for an eternity—Lena’s heart freezes in her chest. She scrambles to catch up to what she's done and the words to take it back, to apologize, are already in her throat when Kara leans forward, one hand slipping up into Lena’s hair, pulling her into a second kiss.
The second kiss resembles the first in the way that a wildfire resembles a candle. Lena forgets herself, gets lost in the wet heat of Kara’s lips, the way her tongue feels in Lena’s mouth. She has no idea how long it lasts, only that it isn’t nearly long enough and that her entire body feels electrified—each nerve on fire in anticipation of what might finally be happening. Lena has never, ever felt like this, has never been so undone by only a kiss.
They’re both breathing hard when Lena pulls back. She doesn’t know what’s going on in her own head, only that her body is crying out for more, something hot and molten already settling between her hips. She wants to pull Kara against her, to kiss her again and again and chase this feeling to its inevitable conclusion.
But this is Kara.
They’ve never crossed this line, and Lena isn’t sure if they should.
“Kara…” she starts, but she doesn’t know what to say. Her heart is hammering and she feels lost, like maybe Kara’s hand still on her neck is the only touchpoint she has.
“Please?” Kara breathes out, something desperate in her voice. “Kiss me. Please.”
Lena knows she shouldn’t, knows that this will complicate everything, knows that this is something she can’t undo…but it’s Kara. And Lena wants her so badly that when Kara asks, she can’t find it in herself to say no.
The third kiss is a continuation of the second, starting right where they’d left off. It’s hot and wet and increasingly wild, as if there’s been something building forever between them and it’s finally reaching a crescendo. Lena’s hands end up in Kara’s hair as Kara’s slip down her back, squeezing her ass and thighs until she just lifts Lena up and onto her lap.
The easy, casual show of strength has Lena pressing down with her hips before she can think about it, a breathy whine escaping her when Kara slips her hands underneath Lena’s sweatshirt, fingers flexing into the soft skin of her back. Kara sucks on her bottom lip, pulling Lena in and encouraging the roll of her hips, dragging her hands up and down Lena’s spine until she breaks away to ask, Can I?, her fingers holding the hem of Lena’s shirt.
Lena nods, not trusting herself to speak, and lifts her arms to help as Kara slides the sweatshirt and tee underneath up and over her head. Kara keeps eye contact with her, letting the clothing fall to the side and it’s unbearably intimate, more so than anything that’s happened so far. Lena feels suddenly overwhelmed, like she might cry.
Instead, she leans back into Kara, kissing her again and wrapping her fingers around one of Kara’s wrists, pulling her hand up until she’s cupping Lena’s breast over the thin satin of her bra. Kara’s thumb swiping over her already hard nipple fractures the moment, and the sound that leaves Lena at the stimulation seems to break Kara. Before she knows it, Kara has flipped them, laying Lena down on the couch and draping her own body over Lena’s, slipping a thigh between Lena’s legs and grinding down as she starts to suck on Lena’s neck.
It’s inevitable after that, Lena couldn’t stop her orgasm if she tried. The combination of Kara’s hand on her breast, her tongue on Lena’s neck, and the pressure of her leg on Lena’s clit even through both of their jeans is too much. She’s so lost in the sensations, the overwhelming feeling of everything Kara that she’s nearly there before she even notices.
”Fuck, Kara, oh god I’m—” She tightens her grip in Kara’s hair, needing to kiss her as she comes and Kara responds immediately, abandoning Lena’s neck and kissing her so deeply that as soon as their tongues touch Lena is flung over the edge.
Kara’s hands are now on either side of Lena’s head and she lifts herself up as Lena’s hips slow, her arms shaking slightly. “Did you…?”
Kara’s eyes are wild, darting all over her face, cheeks pink from the exertion and suddenly all Lena can think about is making Kara feel like she does right now. Lena swallows hard and makes a request she’s been trying not to put voice to since she laid eyes on her a decade ago.
“Can I go down on you?”
They make it to Kara’s bed eventually, mostly as a result of Lena deciding she’d rather not ride Kara’s face with her knees on hardwood, but the desperation doesn’t ease once they’re wrapped in sheets. There’s an intensity, an almost frantic edge to them both, as if neither one is sure what will happen when they stop. Lena is more than okay with that—and it doesn’t seem as if Kara is in any hurry to find out either.
She’s lost track of the number of times each of them has come by the time Kara flops over on the bed next to her, smiling and stretching, her back popping as she flexes. She looks as comfortable as Lena feels, and while Lena has no doubt they’ll both be sore tomorrow, right now she might as well be boneless.
It isn’t until Kara’s excused herself to go to the bathroom, kissing Lena softly before rolling out of bed, that the reality of what’s just happened starts to sink in.
There are a thousand ways this can end in disaster. A thousand ways that this can ruin their friendship.
And only one way that Lena is sure it won’t: they can’t ever do this again.
Kara can tell that something is wrong the moment she walks back into the bedroom. Lena no longer looks relaxed, and when Kara smiles at her, the smile she gets in return doesn’t quite reach Lena’s eyes.
It’s like Lena’s holding her breath, waiting to see what Kara will say.
The thing is, Kara’s not sure what to say. Kissing Lena was like leaping off a cliff without looking. And even though the sex was amazing—desperate and needy and safe and fun all at once—Kara still isn’t sure where they’re going to land. When she started crying on her way home, sure, maybe some of it was about Mike; about the fact that apparently she hadn’t been enough for him. But Mike isn’t who she wishes she were enough for anymore.
It’s been Lena for longer than she’s been consciously aware of it. Seeing Mike? That wasn’t what hurt. It was seeing what he had, and wanting it desperately with Lena, knowing that Lena doesn’t want that with her.
When Lena kissed her, Kara had reason to hope like never before. Reason to believe that maybe she’s gotten this all wrong, that perhaps there’s a chance that Lena feels this way too. There were moments in her bed, after the initial intensity had faded, that Kara felt like whatever it was that was happening went beyond physical—like Lena was pouring her heart into the way she was touching Kara.
But whatever passed between them, Kara can’t find it in the way Lena’s looking at her now, the anxiety rolling off of her in waves. So Kara takes the easy way out. For both of them.
“You’re staying right?” She asks, looking at Lena over her shoulder as she makes her way to her dresser.
“Of course,” Lena says, swinging her legs over the side of the bed. “I just need to use the bathroom.”
“Here,” Kara tosses a pair of sleep shorts and a t- shirt next to where she’s sitting on the bed. “There’s an extra toothbrush behind the mirror.”
When Lena comes back, she’s still skittish. She climbs into bed, but she doesn’t move closer to Kara, staying near the edge instead and flicking through something on her phone. Kara almost can’t bear it, she won’t let this dissolve into awkwardness. They had sex (a lot of sex), sure, and that probably changes things (or at least makes certain feelings harder to ignore), but right now, what she needs is her best friend. So Kara opens her arms and says, “I know we have to talk but I’m tired.” She gives Lena a half smile. “Let’s go to sleep?”
It’s the right tack to take. Some of the tension leaves Lena’s shoulders and she sets the phone down, scooting over and melting into Kara. As she settles and Kara pulls the sheets up around them, Lena finally seems to breathe.
It’s a sign of how exhausted she is that it doesn’t take Kara long to fall asleep.
She wakes up when Lena’s alarm goes off a scant few hours later. Lena swears in the dark and rolls away from her, scrabbling for her phone on the nightstand before silencing it. When Kara sits up after her and turns on a light, Lena tells her to go back to sleep, that she has an early meeting and that, if Kara’s interested, Lena would like to take her to dinner tonight.
Take you to dinner. Lena’s never asked that way before. It’s the kind of invitation that Kara should be over the moon about, given the context. But the strange way it’s delivered, without any of the ease that defines their relationship, gives her pause.
And when Lena hesitates before kissing her quickly on the cheek, and then practically runs out the door, it feels like the final nail in her coffin.
She really needs to call Alex.
“Pick up, pick up, pick up,” Lena mutters to herself holding her phone and glancing down Kara’s street. She shivers, waiting for Sam to answer the phone as a trash truck clatters past. The car she’d requested on her way out of Kara’s apartment isn’t here yet, so Lena is standing on the sidewalk, underdressed for the November morning chill, dawn not yet even a whisper on the horizon.
“Hello?” Sam’s voice is rough, like Lena’s just woken her up.
“Oh thank god,” Lena says. “Sam, I fucked up.”
“Lena?” She can hear rustling on the other end of the line, like Sam is sitting up in bed. “Wait, you what? Are you okay?”
“No, I’m not okay, hang on,” Lena can hear Sam protesting, but a car is pulling up to the curb, the driver rolling down the window.
“Lena?” The driver asks.
Lena nods at him and walks around to get in the back seat, then puts the phone back up to her ear. “Sorry, Sam, my ride just got here.”
“Your ride? Lena it’s like five in the morning, what on earth is going on?”
She gets into the car and buckles her seatbelt, fumbling a little with the phone. “I slept with Kara.”
“Oh, Lena.” There’s relief in Sam’s voice. “That’s not a fuck up. Honestly, we’ve been hoping you two would get your acts together for months now. Why are you upset, was it not good?”
“No, no, the during part was kind of amazing,” Lena says, choosing to ignore the part where there’s a ‘we’ that’s been hoping she and Kara will have done this because she’s going to break out into hives if she thinks about it. “But you’re not listening to me. I’ve ruined everything. We’re best friends, and I only have four friends, five if you count Alex, and since I slept with Kara maybe Alex doesn’t count anymore. Oh shit—”
“Lena, breathe,” Sam breaks in, cutting her off. The relief has shifted to concern.
“—I shouldn’t have done that, I really shouldn't have done that.” Lena brings her free hand up to her temple, pressing the heel of her hand to her head.
“Let’s take this one thing at a time,” Sam tries. “Sleeping with Kara isn’t the end of the world. Sex doesn’t necessarily ruin anything, right? You slept with me and we’re still friends. And I know you’re counting Veronica as a friend. You slept with her for months.”
“Why?” Sam’s voice is gentle.
“It just is.” Lena squeezes her eyes shut, leaning back against the headrest. “You know it is.”
“Lena, I can’t help you if you don’t tell me what’s going on. You’re telling me you’re friends and you had sex, but you have been able to do that before. What is so different this time? If anything, the fact that you’re best—”
“I never felt about either of you the way I feel about her!” She claps a hand over her own mouth but it’s too late. If there’s one thing becoming incredibly clear to her since last night, it’s that the only thing more terrifying than the way her feelings for Kara are all suddenly bubbling to the surface is a world in which she loses Kara as a result.
There’s silence from Sam as the car comes to a stop at the curb outside of Lena’s building.
“Oh, honey,” Sam finally says as Lena is getting out of the car. “Lena, I know it’s scary, but this could be a good thing.”
“No, Sam. It’s not.” Lena feels like crying as she walks to the elevator. “I’ve never had a successful romantic relationship; I don’t know how. You’ve said it yourself: I don’t go on more than three dates with anyone.” She hits the button for her floor and a new reason to panic occurs to her. “Oh god. Sam. What am I supposed to do if she says she wants to see where this goes? I told her I’d take her to dinner tonight, I wasn’t even thinking…I can’t—I’ll mess it up. I’ll mess it up and ruin it and we’ll drift apart and then I won’t have her at all.”
“Lena, you’re going to have to be an adult about this. You slept with her, and if you’re telling me that you really don’t want to take it further than that, then that’s up to you, but you’ve got to be honest with her, okay? The only way this really ruins your relationship is if you can’t do that.”
Lena ignores Sam. “I’ll wait to see what she wants to do. I could be blowing this out of proportion. Maybe this was just one of those things,” and Lena knows she’s reaching but she can’t stop, “where we’re both just, I don’t know, confused about how we’re feeling because we’re so close.”
The silence tells Lena what Sam thinks about that.
When Sam does speak again, her voice is firm, but not unkind. “I think you know how you feel about her, Lena. And I also think you know what I think you should do about it. The rest is up to you.”
Kara lays in bed for fifteen minutes after Lena leaves before she decides she has to call Alex right now. It’s five thirty in the morning, and she feels badly about that, but if she doesn’t talk to her sister she’s going to freak out completely.
Alex already sounds awake when she answers.
At first, her sister seems excited. “I knew it!” She’s practically crowing. “I knew she liked you, Kara, I told you. I’m so happy for you.”
“No, you don’t understand. It’s not—” Kara lays back down in bed and covers her eyes with her arm. “Oh gosh, Alex, it was great, and then...” She frowns remembering the change in Lena’s demeanor when she’d walked out of the bathroom, a sour feeling taking shape in her gut. “It was weird.”
“Weird?” Alex sounds wary.
Kara stops, trying to figure out the best way to talk about it. “Everything happened so quickly. One minute we were talking on the couch and I was upset and the next second, I was kissing her. It just…it just happened.”
“It just happened,” Alex repeats. “Kara, did you two talk about this at all?”
“No,” Kara says, picturing the pinched look that Alex gets when Kara’s made a bad decision. “I didn’t—we just. I wasn’t thinking, okay? And then it was happening and afterward it was like she totally freaked out, so I didn’t want to talk about it then because she seemed like she didn’t want to talk about it.” The feeling in the pit of her stomach grows in size, seems to take on physical shape and weight as she thinks about the way that Lena walled herself off after they were done.
Alex doesn’t interrupt so Kara keeps going. “And this morning she ran out so fast. She has to know I have feelings for her and it’s so clear that we’re not on the same page—” Kara’s eyes are starting to burn and her throat feels like it’s closing up. “We’re supposed to have dinner tonight.”
“Kara, if you haven’t actually talked about it…” the soft tone of Alex’s voice makes it even harder not to cry. “How can you be sure—”
“No.” Kara can’t hold onto hope like that, not after this morning. “I can’t risk losing her, Alex.” The very idea of Lena not being in her life makes her feel claustrophobic, like the walls of her apartment are collapsing in on her. It’s untenable, she won’t contemplate it. “You don’t know what she was like, she’s never been like that with me before.”
“Kara—” Alex starts.
“The only thing I want is for us to go back to normal.” As soon as she’s said it, Kara knows what she’s going to do at dinner. “I’ll tell her it was a mistake.”
Alex is quiet in response. So quiet, Kara actually looks at her phone to make sure they haven’t been disconnected.
“I think you should be honest with her,” Alex says eventually. “But I love you. And I’ll be here for you no matter what you decide.”
“Thanks, Alex.” Kara squeezes her eyes shut. “I love you, too.”
She lays in bed for a long time after hanging up. The idea of telling Lena that this was a mistake hurts, but the alternative, which is Lena being the one to say it first…well, Kara doesn’t think she can handle hearing that without crying. And she has no doubt that’s what Lena is going to say. If they’re going to get back to normal, the last thing she needs is Lena knowing the true depth of her feelings.
It’s better this way.
It has to be.
When Kara arrives at the restaurant, Lena’s already seated. She starts to stand up as Kara approaches, but Kara waves her off and pulls out her own chair. The relieved look on Lena’s face at not having to navigate a greeting hurts, but Kara takes a sip of water from the glass already at her place and smiles, swallowing it down.
They start talking at the same time. The silence that follows is awkward and uncomfortable, and when Lena gestures for Kara to go first, Kara knows she has to say something to address what has clearly become an elephant in the room during the last fourteen hours.
The waiter interrupts them briefly with a menu for Kara, then melts into the background again. She takes a deep breath.
“So, we slept together.” Rip it off like a bandaid, Alex always says. “And we should probably talk about it.”
“We did,” Lena agrees, biting her lip, eyes widening just a bit. “And you’re right. We should.” She clears her throat but doesn’t add anything.
“I don’t regret that we did,” Kara starts, she has to look away to say the next part. She focuses on her water glass, on the cubes of ice, pushing one another to the surface. “We're both attracted to each other, it was probably bound to happen at some point.” She shrugs in a way she hopes is nonchalant. “But, I don’t think we should do it again.”
“Oh thank god,” Lena breathes out and Kara looks up. All of the tension has gone out of Lena’s shoulders. “I completely agree. You’re too important in my life to ever risk something like this if we’re not sure, you know?”
Kara nods, and even though she knows she’s sure about Lena, this confirms that Lena isn’t in the same place. “Exactly,” she says anyway, pushing through the hollow feeling between her ribs. “You’re my best friend. I don’t ever want that to change.” She musters the most genuine smile she can manage.
“I was so worried,” Lena says, reaching for her own water glass now. “I mean, last night was out of nowhere.” Kara hopes her wince is internal, but she can tell it’s not when Lena adds quickly, “Not in a bad way! Just, we work this way, you know?” She takes a sip and puts the glass down carefully. “I can’t imagine my life without you in it.”
I can’t imagine my life without you in it. That’s the crux of it, isn’t it? Kara reaches a hand out across the table. Lena takes it, grabbing onto it like a lifeline.
“Me, too,” Kara says. “Me, too.”
The relief from Kara being on the same page carries Lena all the way through the rest of November. She and Kara seem to be able to fall back into the same easy rhythm as before, they still meet up for lunch and they still have dinner, and they’ve even had a movie night. And if they sit a little further away from each other, if they don’t hug as long, if Kara isn’t as quick to respond to her texts, Lena chalks it up to the natural ebb and flow of all relationships. Kara’s busy with work, and so is Lena, if she’s being honest, and they’re both stressed, but the bottom line is this: she’s just so grateful they’re okay.
The first inkling that maybe they’re not entirely okay comes in the first Wednesday in December. They’re grabbing an early morning coffee at Noonan’s and Lena’s going through her email while they wait in line.
“Shit,” she mumbles, seeing a calendar invite that Jess has added to her schedule.
“What?” Kara looks up from the pastry case. “Everything okay?”
“Edge Global is throwing some sort of holiday party on Friday.” Lena grimaces to herself, scrolling through the details attached to the invite. “I hate Morgan, he’s such an unmitigated ass.”
“So don’t go,” Kara says, smiling and turning back to the sticky buns.
“I wish. We’re trying to get them to buy some property and a lab from one of our smaller divisions.” She looks up from her phone. “Come with me! With you as my date, I’ll have an excuse not to interact with anyone. They’re doing a sit down dinner, surf and turf, you can eat my lobster.”
“Oh,” Kara straightens up. “Oh, I wish. Alex and I are doing sister night on Friday so I can’t. But next time for sure.” She smiles at Lena. “Now come on, we’re up, order whatever you want for breakfast, it’s my treat.”
Kara swivels to the barista and starts explaining which pastries she’d like, but Lena is frozen. Kara turning her down isn’t unprecedented, their schedules don’t always align. But sister night? Lena knows that isn’t true. Sam texted this morning that she and Alex have their six month anniversary date planned for Friday. Ruby will be spending the night with a friend from school and Sam wanted to ask Lena’s opinion on restaurants and…
And Kara is lying to her.
“Lena?” Kara looks back at her, concerned. “What do you want to eat?”
She spends the rest of breakfast in a confused daze.
Kara thinks she’s handling the mess that is her emotional state about Lena pretty fine until the week after Thanksgiving
She’s been determined not to let anything change between them, because that’s what Lena wants, and if it’s sometimes a little hard, well, it’ll pass eventually. The problem is that now that Kara is aware of her feelings, she’s started to second guess everything about their relationship. It’s like that stupid cave allegory from freshman philosophy; now that she knows what happening, she can’t unsee it. She’s suddenly hyper aware of all the things between them that aren’t platonic at all—how long she holds Lena when they hug, the way they always end up touching and sharing a blanket when they watch movies, how Lena is the first person she wants to talk to when she wakes up and the last person she wants to say goodnight to when she goes to sleep.
So over the course of the next few weeks, she tries to dial it all back to a place that’s less…hopelessly in love (because that’s what she is, she’s named it now). She’s pretty sure that Lena doesn’t notice. And that’s, that’s great. Everything is great.
The thing that Kara ends up being unable to do is such a small thing, in the end. They’re out for coffee at Noonan’s one morning before work, like normal, and Lena is checking her schedule, like normal, and there’s an event she doesn’t want to attend alone, like normal.
She asks Kara to be her date. Like normal.
Except that the idea of being Lena’s date suddenly feels impossible. And that’s not normal. Neither is her reaction: she lies to Lena about having a sister night planned with Alex.
She doesn’t even remember that Alex has been talking about having a big date with Sam planned for the same night until she’s walking into the bullpen at CatCo.
“Oh kiddo,” Alex says when she calls in response to Kara’s panicked text message. “You gotta talk to her, no way she doesn’t know.”
“I didn’t think it was gonna to be this hard, Alex. The idea of being with her, but not? I freaked out.” Kara drops into her chair and leans her forehead down on her desk. “Have I been in denial this entire time?”
“Pretty much,” Alex says, and if it weren’t for the gentleness in her sister’s voice, Kara might be upset with her. As it is, she’s just upset with herself.
She takes a deep breath and counts to ten. Alex waits quietly.
“How am I ever going to get over her?”
“It’s gonna take time, Kara. Time, and maybe a little space.” Alex gives that a moment to sink in. “But in the meantime, you gotta talk to her. She’s your best friend, she’ll understand.”
So it’s with more than a little trepidation that Kara texts Lena to see if she’s free for lunch. Confessing to her best friend that she needs a little space because she might be having some inconvenient feelings and that avoiding said feelings caused her to lie to Lena doesn’t feel like something she should be doing over the phone.
She grabs Big Belly Burger for both of them and heads over to LuthorCorp just after one. When she gets there, Lena’s just off enough that Kara knows Alex must be right.
She waits until they’re both sitting on the couch, unwrapping their food, to start.
“I, um, I need to apologize to you.” Kara takes a deep breath. “This morning, when you asked me to the Edge party? I lied about why I couldn’t go.”
Lena stops peeling back the wax paper on her burger. She glances down at it, before looking back up at Kara. “I know.”
“I’m so sorry, Lena.” Kara puts her own burger on the coffee table in front of her. “I won’t do it again. I think, maybe just for a little while, I shouldn’t be your date to things. I…it’s confusing for me, you know?” There. It’s not exactly the whole truth, but the idea of having to hear Lena’s reaction to her confession of feelings is just not something she’s up for today. “Just until we’ve got a little more distance from everything?”
Surely Lena will be able to read between the lines. She scoots towards Lena, laying a hand on the couch between them.
“Oh,” Lena says. Her eyes dart between Kara’s and she looks so unsure that Kara almost wants to take it back. “I didn’t think about it that way.” She reaches out and squeezes Kara’s hand. “Of course.”
Kara squeezes back, and then lets go to start unpacking the rest of the bag, laying out the fries and digging out ketchup packets. She could have sworn she remembered to grab more napkins.
“We’re okay, right?” Lena asks abruptly. When Kara looks up at her, she realizes that Lena hasn’t moved, her burger still half-wrapped on her lap.
“Yeah,” Kara says, smiling and wanting to mean it. Opposite to emotion action. “We’re okay.”
Lena’s sitting in her reading chair, the one that Kara helped her move, when Jack calls the week before Christmas.
She barely gets out a greeting before he interrupts. “Sam told me what’s going on. You’re letting Kara believe you don’t have feelings for her? Are you actively trying to break her heart, or just your own?”
“Happy holidays to you too, Jack.” She sighs and reaches for the glass of whiskey on the small table next to her. “And neither, that’s exactly what I’m trying to avoid. This is for the best.”
“That’s complete bollocks. I can hear the ice in your glass by the way.” Lena puts it back on the coaster. “Do you want to know why I let you get away with not telling Andrea how you felt?”
“No,” Lena says. “But I get the feeling this isn’t the sort of call where what I want factors into much.”
“Lovely, I’m so glad we’re on the same page.” He’s always met her sarcasm tit for tat. “I let you avoid telling Andrea because telling her wasn’t going to change the outcome. She was in love with Russell; it wasn’t the right thing to do. And I understood that you needed space so I never tried to talk you out of walking away. But I will not sit by and let you sabotage your relationship with Kara just because you’re scared.”
“No. I’ve seen the two of you together; whatever it is you’re feeling, she feels the same. What on earth are you doing?”
Lena doesn’t respond.
“Let’s say your terrible plan works,” Jack tries again. “And she gets over you and you stay just friends. I’ve seen you like this before; you may be able to fool yourself, but you can’t fool me. What are you going to do when she finds someone?”
“I’ll handle it,” Lena says sharply.
“I just don’t understand, love,” Jack responds, softening his tone. He seems to realize he’s hit a nerve, although why that should stop him now is beyond her. “Are you sure about this?”
“No,” Lena says after a long moment. She picks up the glass again. “But I’m less sure about the alternative.” She takes a long sip. “Sometimes it’s the devil you know, right?”
The problem is that the devil Lena knows isn’t the one she wants.
Contrary to Jack’s current belief, it isn’t that Lena’s a complete idiot; she’s Kara’s best friend. She knows that Kara never would have crossed this line with her if she didn’t have any romantic feelings for Lena. And even if she hadn’t known that already, the way Kara is slowly pulling away now, like she’s protecting herself? Lena’s been there. She’s done that. She can see her twenty year old self in the way that Kara’s curled inwards.
The more Kara pulls away, the more Lena knows that Jack is right about her own feelings too. No matter what she’d tried to tell Sam, this isn’t just a crush or confusion about how close they are. It’s orders of magnitude bigger, and deeper. And it makes Lena feel like she’s drowning in an ocean of her own making.
But she can’t seem to find the courage to tell Kara the truth.
Sam takes her out for breakfast on the morning of December 31st. Lena’s in a bad mood, not only because she has to host the annual gala tonight, but because Sam has bailed in order to go to the hospital’s benefit with Alex instead. And they’re taking Kara.
“I just want to skip all of this,” Lena says, draining her coffee. She pokes at her omelette with a fork.
“Are you talking about the gala tonight or about the weirdness with Kara still?” Sam takes a bite of her toast.
“Both, I guess.” Lena puts down the fork. She purses her lips and looks at her empty coffee cup, sighing. “Mostly Kara. I just want us to get back to normal. This is exactly what I was so scared would happen, that things would change and that I’d lose her somehow. It’s what she and I agreed we wanted to avoid.”
“Lena, has it occurred to you that this normal thing you’re both chasing…” Sam trails off. She sets the toast on the edge of her plate. “Jack and I were talking about this the other day.”
“Wonderful,” Lena mutters, signaling the waitstaff for more coffee.
“You know we’re coming at this from a space of loving you.” Lena rolls her eyes at Sam, but she knows it's true. “So please hear me out: I don’t think you’ve been honest about your feelings for Kara since you met her, let alone since you actually became ‘friends’ with her.” Sam has the nerve to use actual finger quotes when she says friends. “Can you look me in the eye right now and tell me that these feelings are new? That you haven’t been trying to push them away and box them up the entire time you’ve known her?”
“She and I are friends, Sam. Don’t try to tell me we’re not.”
“I know! I’m not saying you’re not.” Sam wipes her hands and folds her napkin on the table as the waitress interrupts briefly with coffee. “But I don’t think you’ve ever been just friends with her. And, no offense, but you two might as well have been in a relationship this entire freaking time for how platonic it’s seemed to the rest of us.”
There’s an unfortunate sinking feeling in Lena’s stomach as Sam continues.
“All those things you’re afraid of, all that vulnerability, all that potential for heartbreak, when has that not existed between the two of you? The only thing you haven’t done is named it. And guess what? That hasn’t stopped any of this,” Sam waves her hand in the air, “from happening—it’s happening right now and you’re too stubborn to do anything to stop it. So come on. Tell me what the block is. Why are you so scared?”
Sam is right and Lena knows it. Has known it consciously for weeks. She can feel it every time she sees Kara now, the way everything has changed. And she hates it.
Lena looks down at her lap, brings her hands together on top of her napkin.
When she speaks, she keeps her voice quiet. “What if her feelings, what if the way she feels about me isn’t…what if my feelings are too big or too much or—”
“Lena.” Sam’s voice is warm and when Lena looks up at her, there’s only understanding in her gaze. “The only way you’re going to find out is by telling her how you feel, and asking how she feels in return.” She pauses, her eyes searching Lena’s face for something. “Loving someone, being loved? On some level it’s an exercise in blind faith. We choose to be vulnerable, to be seen, to be known, and in exchange for that we get a shot at something magical. And what you and Kara have, or could have if you don’t fuck it up? People spend their whole lives looking for it.”
Lena looks back down at her lap, feeling as if she wants to cry. It’s an uncomfortably common occurrence lately.
“Just think about it, okay?” Sam asks.
“Okay,” Lena says.
As if she can think about anything else.
“Ms. Luthor? Ms. Luthor, can you sign off on the—”
Midnight feels like an eternity away, and in the meantime, Lena’s unhappy, exhausted, and not doing a great job listening. When she’d had LuthorCorp rent out the National City Science Foundation again, she’d stated that she was making the decision because of the space: it’s beautiful, stone archways and vaulted ceilings and gorgeous tiled floors. Last year had been a success and she wanted to replicate it.
It’s occurred to her since that perhaps the event itself isn’t the only thing she’d hoped to recreate.
From the looks of things, this year will also go down as a success. The hall is full of people in formal wear, drinking and dancing and writing checks for the new LuthorCorp charitable partnership with the Science Foundation.
The problem is, ever since she arrived, all she can think about is last year and it’s driving her to distraction. She doesn’t remember half the conversations she’s had tonight and she’s pretty sure her staff are at their wits end with her, but she can’t help it. Instead of being present, she keeps replaying every moment of dancing with Kara, right up to that almost kiss at midnight.
I should have kissed her, she thinks, not for the first time this evening. I should have kissed her right then…
And if this were a movie, it’s where the montage would play.
Suddenly Lena’s thinking, not just about that almost kiss, but about a hundred other memories of Kara. She can see Kara climbing out of the car in Boston to help with her bags, and the two of them arguing for three days straight across the country—except it wasn’t just arguing; it was laughing and singing along to the endless 90s playlists on Kara’s phone too. She remembers how different Kara seemed, how grown up, when they’d run into each other in Star City. And then she flashes forward to Kara walking into her office a year and a half ago, walking out with a dinner invitation, and the coffees that followed. How office lunches became movie nights and haunted house dates and galas—until there wasn’t a single piece of Lena’s life that Kara wasn’t intimately part of. How there isn’t a single piece of Lena now that Kara doesn’t know.
Except how I feel about her.
And just like that, Lena knows what she’s going to do.
Lena turns to her assistant for the evening. He’s holding a tablet and looking concerned, his mouth open as if to repeat himself. “I’m sorry,” she says, before he can say anything. “What time is it?”
He glances at the device. “It’s eleven thirty-five, if I could just get you to review and sign—”
“Can you call my car around?” Lena takes the tablet and stylus from him and scribbles her signature, not even bothering to read what she’s okaying. “Please find the museum director and let her know I have a personal emergency.”
The emergency is that she needs to get to Kara. Before midnight, preferably.
She’s out the door even as he trails after her, trying to ask about something else. The nice thing about deciding to abandon her own party now is that there isn’t any traffic in National City. It takes barely ten minutes to get across town to the Arts Ballroom, where the hospital benefit is being held.
Lena realizes that there are several flaws in her plan the moment she steps out of the car and hurries towards the entrance: First, she has no way to find Kara; she’s left her phone with her assistant. Second, she doesn’t have any way to get in because she doesn’t have her purse (hosting means shaking hands, ergo no clutch, hence the assistant). And third, she’s not really sure what she’s going to say.
The third thing won’t matter so much if she can’t find some way around the first two.
“Hi,” Lena starts, walking up to the guest check-in just inside a set of large, glass double doors. “I’m sure you get this a lot, but my friends are inside and I’ve left my ticket with them.” She smooths down the front of her dress, adjusting the neckline for maximal effect. It’s not quite as dramatic as the strapless number she’d worn last year, but the deep v-neck on this year’s black dress ought to be enough.
The young man sitting behind the desk doesn’t even look at her neckline. “No ticket, no entry.”
“I completely understand, and usually I wouldn’t argue,” Lena says, starting to feel a little desperate. “But you see—”
“Lena? What are you doing here?”
Lena whirls around.
Kara is standing on the other end of the glass lobby. Her hair is down and she has her jacket tucked over one arm, the sleeves of her white button up cuffed twice, but Lena’s struck by a dizzying sense of deja-vu anyway.
“I thought you’d be inside,” she says, abandoning the check in and walking over.
Kara shrugs. “I wasn’t really in the right mood.” She gives Lena a small smile. “Aren’t you supposed to be at your thing?”
Lena stops two feet from her, her heart starting to pound. “You aren’t there.”
“Lena, I know things have been weird.” Kara’s face twists. “I just need a little time to reset, okay? This isn’t forever.”
But what if I want you forever?
She can feel her hands start to shake. What was it Sam had said this morning—an exercise in blind faith? If there’s anything that Lena still has faith in, it’s that Kara will catch her and help her pick up the pieces, even if this all goes sideways.
“What if we never get back to how things were before?” Lena asks. A crinkle starts to form on Kara’s forehead, but she presses on. “I know you said that’s what you want, hell, it’s what I said I want, but nothing about what’s going on right now feels normal for us. And I’m so scared because I can’t imagine my life without you—”
“Lena.” Kara sounds tired, and sad. “You don’t…I know you’re worried.” She sighs, runs her free hand through her hair. “You’re not going to lose me, I’m not trying to shut you out. It won’t be like it was when you—with Andrea. I just need some time, okay? We’ll get back to where we were. I prom—”
“Kara. Stop.” Lena swallows. God, she really should have practiced this on the way over. “That’s not what I’m terrified of, that’s not what I’m saying.”
“Then what?” And now there’s a frustrated edge to Kara’s voice, like she doesn’t understand why Lena won’t drop this. Her eyebrows are furrowed together. “What are you saying?”
The words hit her like a bolt of lightning.
“I told you the moment we met that if we became friends, I was going to fall in love with you."
Lena’s not sure how to read the expression on Kara’s face, but now that she’s started, she doesn’t want to stop. Kara deserves to know how she feels (even if Lena’s only just discovered it herself) and if she’s not interested after Lena’s explained, well, at least the truth will be out there.
“We’re friends.” Lena takes a deep breath. “Best friends, and it took sleeping together and everything going to shit, but I realized something: we’ve never been just friends. I spent so long trying to convince myself that that’s all we are that I missed this incredible thing that was right in front of me. And I let you think you were the only one who could see it. Getting back to normal?” She feels like laughing but swallows it down, shaking her head. “Do you know what normal feels like for me? I’ve spent a year—more—trying to tell myself that I don’t want to kiss you every single time I see you, that you’re not who I picture when I think about who I want to wake up to every day, that we’re better as friends because friends aren’t complicated. And if friends is all you want at this point, then I’ll take it. But I don’t want to spend the rest of my life wondering what could have been if only I’d told you.”
There are what might be tears in Kara’s eyes, but she’s not telling Lena to stop and she hasn’t taken a step away, so Lena decides to go for broke.
“I love you. I’m in love with you. I love that you can’t go out to eat without ordering half the menu, I love that every Disney movie makes you cry, I love that your sister is your best friend, and that when you smile you light up the whole room.” Lena can feel tears on her own face now. “I love how smart you are, and how kind, and how you make me feel. And I thought about waiting until tomorrow to tell you all this, but here’s the thing. When you realize that you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start right now.”
Kara is kissing her before Lena can think. Somewhere in the background there’s the muted pop of fireworks as the city rings in the new year, but the only thing she can focus on is wrapping her arms around Kara and kissing her back.
Her lips are soft and she tastes the faintest bit of tears, and Lena doesn’t think there’s ever been a more perfect kiss in the world.
“I'm in love with you, too,” Kara breathes out, resting their foreheads together gently. She’s dropped her jacket on the floor, and she has one hand cradling Lena’s head, the other pressed against the curve of Lena’s collarbone, a thumb stroking her throat. “I can’t believe I ever thought I could be just friends with you.”
“I’m so glad you tried, though,” Lena says, tightening her arms around Kara’s waist. “I’d never have let you in otherwise.”
Kara laughs wetly and kisses her again. “You knew me for ten minutes and you Babe Ruth called it, didn’t you. Have you ever been wrong about anything in your life?”
“You’re forgetting the other half of my prediction,” Lena says, smiling.
Kara smiles back at her. It’s the smile Lena loves, the one that lights up the entire room. “Remind me?”
“I said it would all end in tragedy.”
“And how do you think it ends now?”
Lena kisses her. “I don’t think it ever does.”
eta: well some of this end note is dumb now that I’ve written an epilogue so you can skip right to that if you want!
Thanks for joining me on this slow burn that at times seemed so slow that many of you accused me of not even having lit the stove. What can I say? I prefer gas leaks that end with explosions.
*crawls up on my soapbox* So. I know s6 starts soon, and given the history, we’re all going to have a lot of complicated feelings about it. I don’t have a lot of faith in the cw at the best of times (even if somehow I can never quite quash the hope that SC will make it), but you know what I’m looking forward to with no caveats at all? The fan work that we’ll create because of, and in spite of, whatever happens on screen. I continue to be awed every day by the creativity, love, and talent this fandom possesses—somehow, someway we’ve cracked the alchemical process for turning shit into gold, and I’m forever grateful.
+in case you’re wondering, Babe Ruth famously (probably) called his shot in game 3 of the 1932 world series before hitting a home run.
A million thanks to @vampire-chunks, @thesaltycrocodile, and @jazzfordshire who dealt with an absolutely epic I-should-just-delete-this-and-start-over level meltdown over this chapter. They said no, and the story is better for the suggestions they made once they talked me off the ledge.
All my love to each of you, you can bother me on tumblr @i-am-robie
Chapter 4: + a curtain call
in which we catch a small glimpse of the future
When Lena drifts into wakefulness in stages, her first conscious feeling is one of contentment. She might be alone in bed, but Kara’s side is still warm, the sheets a soft mess, and she stretches out and rolls over, burying her face in the scent on Kara’s pillow. She can hear muffled singing and the muted clink of dishes in the kitchen—six days of the week she’s the one up first, but on Sundays they have a routine: in exchange for Lena’s promise to sleep past eight a.m. (or at least to try), Kara gets up and brings her coffee in bed at eight-thirty.
They’ve been dating for a little more than six months, and every day is better than the last. Which isn’t to say it’s been without hiccups—Lena’s gotten scared and Kara’s gotten worried—but at the end of each day, their relationship is built on a foundation as unshakeable as any Lena has ever known.
And if there’s anyone that Lena has ever wanted to work towards in her life, it’s Kara.
She slides her arms underneath Kara’s pillow and burrows deeper. There’s nothing even particularly special about this morning, Jack is in town and in a couple of hours, he and Sam and Alex will descend on her apartment for brunch.
Well, not just her apartment, not for a while now.
Kara has had a key to Lena’s place for more than a year, but by the end of February it became apparent that Kara hadn’t been back to her own studio for anything beyond a change of clothing. So Lena had asked if she’d wanted to move in.
Kara cleaned out her apartment the next weekend.
At some point they’ll pick a place that suits the two of them (truth be told, Lena’s never felt like her penthouse fits her, it’s too much like her office), but for now, with Kara’s favorite paintings hung in the living room and the mismatch of furniture and books and blankets, it feels like nothing but home.
The singing moves from muffled to something more intelligible as Kara makes her way down the hall, bumping the door open with her hip. She’s carrying a tray, glancing down at it as she steps into the room and Lena takes advantage of the moment to admire the way Kara smiles to herself before she looks up, humming softly now like she’s trying not to wake Lena.
She can see the exact moment Kara realizes she’s already awake; smile growing, crinkling the corners of her eyes.
“I was hoping you’d still be asleep,” Kara teases, bringing the tray over and sitting down on the side of the bed while Lena shifts to make room.
“I can pretend if you want?” Lena says, but she’s already moving to sit up, running her hand through her hair and reaching for a cup.
“No, no,” Kara hands her the mug. “It’s probably better that you’re awake for this.”
Lena takes a sip. “Awake for what?”
But Kara has already placed the tray beside her and is moving off the bed. For a moment, Lena thinks she must have dropped something, because Kara is kneeling on one knee on the floor. It’s when she glances at the tray and sees a small bouquet of red tulips, and then back at Kara’s hands to see a small, rectangular box that she realizes what’s happening.
“Yes,” she blurts out, nearly spilling her coffee.
Kara starts laughing. “You have to let me get this out before you’re allowed to say yes.”
Lena’s smiling too big to even try looking contrite, but she claps a hand over her mouth and reaches to set her mug down on the tray. She might care a little more about shouting out her answer to an as of yet unasked question, but Kara’s still laughing and her cheeks are bunched up in the way they get when she’s so happy she feels like she could fly.
That Kara is asking Lena to marry her isn’t that much of a surprise, if she’s honest—perhaps the timing is, but they’ve already talked about getting married and in a serious this is what I want out of my life, is this what you want out of yours kind of way too. That first week in January had been full of big talks, about feelings and wants and wishes and all of the things that they’d each left unsaid for two years and Lena hadn’t wanted to keep the size of her emotions to herself. So she hadn’t.
Initially they’d left it at that—that each of them could see being with the other forever—but they’ve spent the intervening months filling in details about family and goals and dreams, and lately Lena can see the future in front of them, so close that it might as well already be happening. Kara had gotten tipsy a few months earlier at Alex’s birthday and pulled Lena close toward the end of the night, confessing that she knew they would get married and the only emotion Lena had felt at the prospect was unmitigated joy.
Maybe it’s crazy; they’ve been dating six months, they’ve only lived together for four, but they’ve known each other for years. Lena’s never been more sure of anything in her life.
Kara still deserves to get out whatever sappy speech she’s prepared though, so Lena mimes zipping her lips shut and tries to control the urge to pull the woman in front of her up onto the bed so she can convey exactly how she feels about the prospect of spending the rest of their lives together.
“Do you know what today is?” Kara asks, and Lena cocks her head, because it’s June, nearly a week after Memorial Day and nowhere close to either of their birthdays or any other day with particular meaning that she can think of.
She shakes her head.
Kara takes a deep breath. “Ten years ago today, I pulled up to a sidewalk in Boston and saw a girl so pretty I tried to get out of the car without taking off my seat belt. I spent the next three days trying to figure out why I just couldn’t leave her alone and telling myself that she was absolutely not my type at all, and then I spent the next four years wondering if we’d run into each other again.”
Lena doesn’t have to pretend to be quiet anymore, she’s suddenly speechless.
“The next time I saw her, she was just as gorgeous as she’d been the first time, but I guess the timing wasn’t right because I only got to say hello.”
Lena remembers Kara coming up to her in Star City, the same and yet different, and how she’d wished for a moment that she’d asked Kara to coffee right then. But that’s with the benefit of everything that’s happened now. She wouldn’t have been ready for this then, she wonders if Kara would have been either. And maybe that’s what Kara’s thinking too, because she continues, “Sometimes, though life has a way of working out, and it took another four years, but I got a third chance with her and this time she let me in.”
It’s with some surprise that Lena realizes she might be about to cry. Ten years to get to this moment—ten years and so many false starts—and the idea that there’s any world in which she and Kara don’t end up together is too difficult to imagine.
“Lena Luthor, I’m in love with you, and I’m pretty sure I’ve been falling in love with you in one way or another since we met, and, if it’s okay with you, I’d like to continue to fall in love with you every day for the rest of our lives.” Kara opens the box to reveal a white gold band studded with diamonds. “Will you marry me?”
Lena does manage to say “Yes” again, but then not a whole lot gets said after that.
Two hours later, they finally make it out of the bedroom. Kara starts laying out brunch while Lena finishes showering. She leaves her hair to air dry in favor of heading to the kitchen to help and while Kara slices fruit, Lena places a bottle of champagne in an ice bucket on the granite countertop to open when everyone arrives. As she scoops ice out of the freezer and packs it around the bottle, light catches on her engagement ring and she stops to run her fingers over it.
She’s going to marry Kara. She wants to shout it from the rooftops.
Kara catches her staring at her hand and sets the knife down, smiling ear to ear and nodding at the ring. “Do you think they’ll be surprised?”
“No one was when you moved in,” Lena says laughing and shutting the freezer. “Did you tell Alex you were going to do this today? Does Sam know?”
“Alex knows I was planning on it soon,” Kara picks up the knife again and moves to finish the cantaloupe she’d started, “but I asked her to keep it a secret.”
Lena hums, admiring the ring again and then walking over to stand next to Kara. “I can’t wait to see what Jack has to say, he and Sam are going to be insufferable about this.”
“They can be as insufferable as they want,” Kara says, grinning at her and reaching across the counter for the platter. “They’ve kind of earned it.”
“Are you insinuating something about how long it took us to get together?” Lena starts picking up the melon and fanning it out on the porcelain, cheese and prosciutto on one side, apples and strawberries on the other.
“I would never.” Kara steals a grape from the middle of the plate, leaning in to kiss Lena before she can protest.
Her lips are soft, a hint of sweetness from the fruit, and as she pulls Lena close, Lena considers texting Sam that the group will need to find brunch somewhere else since she and Kara are otherwise occupied, but that thought is quickly derailed by a series of loud knocks at the front door. She can hear Jack yelling something in the hallway.
Kara steps back, still smiling. “I’ll go let them in, would you grab the glasses? I forgot to get them down.”
Lena can hear them as they spill into the foyer and she places five flutes on the counter with a soft clink. Alex and Jack are agreeing on something about parents, while assuring Sam she’s not that kind of mother. With a jolt, Lena realizes that she’ll need to text her own mother about her engagement…but that can wait until the people in the next room know. Not all family is blood, after all.
“I come bearing pastries,” Jack announces, holding a box aloft as he crosses the threshold into the kitchen. “Do you want these here or—” He cuts himself off with a squeal. “Champers! Oh I do love coming here.”
He kisses Lena on the cheek as he walks around the island and through the open space to leave the baked goods on the table Kara has set before turning around and grabbing the bottle from the ice bucket.
“Sammy,” Jack calls, “Lena’s made the rash decision to ply us with Egly-Ouriet.”
Sam rounds the corner holding a container of orange juice and a large bouquet of flowers. “Well if we’re drinking that, we won’t need this. Lena, I’m just going to put it,” she lifts the o.j., “in the fridge.”
“Jack, would you mind popping the cork?” Lena asks. She can hear Alex and Kara making their way down the hall. “Glasses are over here. Sam, there’s a vase for the flowers on top of the fridge.”
When Alex and Kara walk in, Alex’s eyes shoot down to Lena’s left hand, but she’s holding it just behind her back. “Champagne, hmmm.” Alex hums as Jack hands her a glass, clearly trying to fight back a grin. “Are we celebrating anything special?”
“Actually,” Kara starts, taking two glasses from him and stepping over to Lena, holding one out for her. Lena smiles softly back and nods slightly, holding eye contact with Kara and reaching for the flute. Kara doesn’t look away from Lena, just mirrors her smile as she continues speaking. “I asked Lena to marry me.”
“And I said yes,” Lena finishes, but it’s practically drowned out by the reactions from the trio across from them. Sam and Jack yell “Oh my god!” at the same time and it’s hard to tell who’s voice is higher pitched, and Alex steps forward to wrap Lena in a hug, abandoning her glass on the counter.
“Welcome to the family,” Alex whispers in her ear, while Jack practically tackles Kara. “I’m so glad you both got your heads out of your asses.” Lena laughs as they all trade places, Alex moving to hug Kara, and Sam and Jack throwing their arms around her.
“Don’t get me wrong,” Jack says when they’re done toasting and have moved to the table to eat, “because I am over the moon about this and I mean I know u-hauling is a stereotype but really, do you both have to be such overachievers about it?” He makes grabby hands at the fruit plate until Sam hands it over.
Kara glances at Lena, a private smile on her face. “Well, maybe it’s like this: when you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with someone, you want the rest of your life to start right now, you know?” She squeezes Lena’s knee underneath the table.
Alex breaks the moment by throwing a piece of croissant at her. “Then why did you sit on the ring for like, six months?”
“What?” Sam practically chokes, wiping at her mouth. “You knew about this for six months and you didn’t tell me?”
“Sorry babe,” Alex shrugs. “I was sworn to secrecy. Kara dragged me ring shopping like five days after they got together. I’m actually impressed she held out asking for this long.”
Lena narrows her eyes at Kara. “You realize this makes your prediction cheating?”
“What prediction?” Alex frowns.
“Um,” Kara is as red as a fire engine, “I might have gotten a bit tipsy at your birthday dinner and told Lena we were going to get married.”
“My birthday is in March!”
“Wait a second.” Jack squints at Kara for a long moment, and then his gaze darts to Lena. “Is today what I think it is?”
Alex whips her head to her sister. “What’s he talking about?” But Lena is already nodding at Jack.
Before Kara can respond, Jack laughs. “Kara Danvers, you sentimental bastard!” He turns to Alex. “Unless I’m very much mistaken, ten years ago today your sister picked this one up for their cross-country drive.”
“It seemed poetic,” Kara defends.
“Well thank you for finally putting all of us out of our misery,” Sam raises her glass in a toast. “And, to the earlier point, it’s not really all that quick if we start the clock when Kara originally asked Lena out.”
“Oh my god, I’d forgotten that.” Alex groans. “To think any of this could have been avoided if the two of you weren’t so freaking dumb.”
“Wait.” Jack frowns. “When was that?”
“At their first interview, like two years ago,” Alex answers for her, looking at Lena. “When you sent all those flowers two weeks later after the article, I thought you’d said yes.”
“Those were thank you flowers!” Lena can’t help herself.
“Keep telling yourself that, love.” Jack reaches over to pat Lena on the shoulder. “That’s in the top seven gayest things you’ve ever done.” He pauses. “Come to think of it, all of them have to do with Kara.”
“Aww, babe that’s embarrassing,” Kara leans in to kiss Lena on the cheek.
“Like you can talk,” Alex says quickly. “You actually used the word ‘platonic’ to describe your desire to kiss her at New Years a year and a half ago.”
Kara rolls her eyes at her sister. “Whatever, I got there eventually.”
“I’ll admit that platonic kissing is bad,” Jack agrees, “but I’m not sure that touches the time Lena said Kara’s name when she was sleeping with Veronica and then tried to claim she didn’t understand how or why it had happened.”
“Jack! I told you that in confidence!”
“Oh my god,” Alex almost snorts the sip she’s just taken. “That’s almost as bad as when Kara decided to confess her love for Lena and seriously tried to claim it was a joke.”
“Hey! At that point I wasn’t exactly super in touch with my feelings.” Kara’s abandoned her own glass at this point, has scooted her chair close enough to Lena that she can throw her arm around Lena’s shoulders.
“Kara,” Alex says in the driest tone imaginable, “you were so out of touch with your feelings they might as well have been in another galaxy.”
“Well, I, for one,” Sam puts up a hand, “am terribly grateful for that because didn’t her panic to explain how not into Lena she was end up with her trying to set up you two?” She points to Lena and Alex.
Kara still looks absolutely betrayed by her sister. “Well if you knew I was full of crap why’d you say yes?”
“I was hoping you’d realize you were full of it!”
“Thank god Lena didn’t want to go and dragged me,” Sam adds.
Kara harrumphs. “Whatever, you both owe me for that.”
Jack shakes his head. “I don’t think you get to take credit for that since you weren’t trying to set them up at all.”
“Although we needed each other to survive that summer,” Sam leans over to kiss her own girlfriend on the cheek. “Watching Lena absolutely contort herself trying to avoid meeting William was just sad.”
Jack chortles. “Don’t think I escaped all the agony by being across the pond.” He adopts a falsetto that Lena supposes is meant to be a caricature of her. “‘Oh Jack, Kara is so great and she’s so gorgeous and so nice and I feel incredible when I’m with her, I’m so glad she and I are friends.’ I swear to god Lena.”
Lena can feel herself blush because she knows he’s right. She knows they’re all right. And, judging from the soft smile Kara’s giving her, it was the same for her.
“I told you they’d be insufferable,” Lena whispers, kissing Kara on the cheek.
“I’m glad we can all laugh about this now,” Sam says, standing up and grabbing the empty bottle, “because when you idiots slept together and then panic called me and Alex at the ass crack of dawn, we debated murdering both of you.”
The rest of the meal passes in much the same fashion—Sam and Alex and Jack reliving their favorite parts (and not so favorite parts) of the last two years, and Lena and Kara letting them because sometimes being loved means letting loved ones absolutely roast you alive. “It’s best to let them get this out now,” Lena hums under her breath to Kara as Alex is going on about Kara’s refusal to wear blue on any date after Lena had told her she looked good in it, “maybe we won’t have to hear about it during toasts at the wedding.”
“Fair point.” Kara smiles at her. “It’s all worth it in the end right?”
And Lena nods, because it is.
“We really should do family therapy more often,” Jack says, finally turning back to Kara and Lena as the laughter dies down. “But enough reminiscing about the past.” He claps his hands together. “I want to hear about the future.”
look, this epilogue was as much a surprise to me as it is to you ¯\_(ツ)_/¯