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“But I don’t want to.” Lena says, channeling the five year old she’s never been allowed to be. “I really don’t.”

“Okay.” Judging from Sam’s tone, she’s doing a good job. “Answer me this then. When’s the last time you’ve taken a vacation?” 

“I…” Lena pushes the stack of papers she’s been signing and her keyboard to the side, freeing a space on her desk while she tries to recall. It doesn’t jog her memory the way she hoped it would. “Last year?” She says, eventually, knowing deep down that it’s not the right answer.

Not even close. 

Sam’s eyes flash with something akin to triumph, and a piece of paper is magicked out of thin air in front of Lena.

“Try again.” She reaches across the desk, tapping a line of text on the document. “You can cheat and read the answer if you want to.” 

Lena frowns down at the printout. 

“Three...years?” 

That’s not. That’s not possible.

“Three years.” Sam does that thing she does when she feels particularly smug. Leans back into her chair and crosses her arms, a corner of her mouth tugging up. If she doesn’t smile it’s definitely out of pity.

“This file comes from HR.” Lena tries, weakly. “It’s supposed to be confidential data. I could fire you on the spot.”

“I’d love to watch you try and find another CFO.” Her threat misses the mark entirely. “So go ahead. Make my weekend.” Sam reaches for the glass of scotch Lena so generously offered her when she hadn’t known what this was about, and God but Lena wishes she’d spat in it preemptively.

The thing is Sam’s right. Lena could find another CFO, but none remotely as good as Sam is. And Sam, damn her to hell, knows it.

Her eyes search the office for something, anything, she can use as a counterargument, until her gaze inevitably returns to the keyboard. Lena doesn’t think that writing another email while Sam’s telling her she’s overworked is going to help her case. 

“How long?” She asks eventually, dreading the answer. “How long would you have me take off?” 

Lena reasons she can survive a few days working from home. A long weekend won’t be so bad. Her productivity will take a hit, and she’ll have to move the call with the Shanghai VP she’d scheduled for Saturday morning to show Sam she’s really making an effort to decompress or whatever, but she can make it relatively unscathed. 

“A week.” Sam says seraphically, like she’s not — like she’s not just stabbed Lena with a rusty knife. Repeatedly. 

“A week?!” Lena echoes unsteadily, air wheezing out of her in a cough. She goes for her own scotch, like it will help instead of making matters worse, but Sam swaps the glass out for a bottle of water at the last minute. Lena’s coughing too much to argue, but her glare says everything. At least she hopes it does.

Bitch came prepared.

“Impossible.” She exhales after the coughing fit subsided, her tone a little strained. “I’d have to rearrange my whole—” 

“Done.” Sam sips her scotch with a smile. She’s enjoying this. 

“The Austrian investors—” 

“Done as well.” Sam’s serving ace after ace, and all Lena can do is stare as the ball whizzes by, unequipped to stop it. “We’ll meet them when you come back.”

Come back

Lena’s not just supposed to stay at home? She’s meant to actually go somewhere

“Come back from where?” 

“Oh, that’s the best part.” A brochure slides across the desk. Lena really doesn’t want to look, but a sliver of curiosity betrays her. She finds herself staring at one of those pamphlets national parks send out, pictures of animals and arresting views interspaced by a list of all the activities available to visitors.

“Sam, no.” 

“It’s going to be good for you.”  

The last time Lena had been camping was in college. Sam surely knows, because she’d been there as well. And she must also remember how it ended, with Lena in the ER thanks to a poison ivy rash on her privates. (it’s not her fault forests don’t come with toilets.) 

It’s going to be very, very bad for her. 

“Sam, I’m not going camping.” That’s the opposite of a relaxing week in Lena’s book. She could understand a spa. Massages, a round or two in the sauna. Evening baths with a flute of champagne in her hand. That’s relaxing

Camping, with mosquito bites and the threat of a bear behind the nearest tree is the furthest thing from it.  

“I booked you a bungalow.” Sam sweeps her concern away with a wave of the hand. “I want you to get some rest, not die .” 

“So kind of you.” Lena says in a slight sneer. “And does this bungalow have wi-fi at least?” 

Sam throws her head back and laughs. 

“Your flight is tomorrow at 6am. Direct to Denver.” 

Denver? 

Lena takes another, more thorough look at the brochure, and her mind grasps for the first time how far away Sam is sending her exactly.

“Colorado? You want me to go to Colorado for a week?” Her voice rises, growing shaky with more than a touch of anger. She’s an adult woman, helming one of the most successful tech companies in the country. Some are calling her the next Elon Musk — she appreciates the sentiment, but ew — in short Lena Luthor doesn’t need anyone to make this kind of choice for her. Not even her best friend.

“I hear the Rocky Mountain National Park is beautiful this time of year.” Sam has been her friend longer than anybody else, which Lena’s not certain is an enviable achievement, and she knows the signs of a storm brewing. 

Still, she ignores them all, and Lena understands the outburst she’d very much like to have is only gonna prove Sam’s point. 

Lena could try the ice queen routine, but Sam’s been in so many board meetings she could recite the shtick back to her by heart. 

“All I’m saying is that there are National Parks in California too.” She is thankful they’re having this conversation in the office and not at her place. It’s harder to get away with murder here. “Places that would be… closer .” Closer meaning within a day’s drive. But Sam is asking her to head into the middle of nowhere for a week, and Lena’s discovering rather quickly that civilization is her safety blanket.

One that Sam will have to pry from her cold, dead hands. 

“Yes but where would be the fun in that?” Sam recovers the printouts from HR and makes to stand, stopping midway to her feet with a widening of the eyes that says she’s forgotten something. 

Which, of course, she hasn’t, and Lena perches on the edge of her chair, waiting for the other shoe to drop. 

“I just remembered,” here it comes, “your access to the company servers is going to be revoked at midnight. Only for a week, of course,” Sam adds, defusing any adequate-sounding threat Lena could think of before it can explode out of her mouth. “But we can make it two if you think you need more time off.”

“No.” Lena answers, pursing her lips and hating she can’t find anything more poignant than that to say. “One week will be enough.”

***

Lena has to admit the view is getting to her in ways she didn’t expect.

She’s actually enjoying the drive up from Denver, the Rockies looming closer with each travelled mile. 

(Sam can never ever know, obviously.)

Lena’s seen mountains before — these specific ones as well — but only from the windows of a private jet. 

Flying over them as she headed to New York or across the Atlantic to close a business deal was different. They’d looked like toys then, but as she carefully follows the road up to the park’s entrance, the mountains’ white-grey mass erases the horizon. Lena feels insignificant. She’s the toy now , entering a court of giants. 

A distracted glance at the GPS onboard the rental reveals the device’s not sure how long Lena still has to go. She’s not overly surprised. The signal has been iffy at best, the dense forest she’s travelling through and the nearby mountains often blocking it completely. Lena’s positive that the portable satellite hotspot she picked up in Denver before leaving the city will work fine at higher altitudes. Sam can try to keep her out of her own company servers all she likes, but it’s not gonna last. 

She’s fairly certain that it won’t be long now until she arrives at her destination. A first sign welcoming her to the Rockies National Park zipped by about twenty minutes ago, as the air got too nippy to keep the windows down. Lena’s rolled them up with a faint pang of regret; she’d not admit it under torture, but the smell of pine and herbs that tickles her nose is very pleasant. 

A few more miles and the road flattens out, which is good, because it also narrows to the point that if she met a car coming the opposite way, one of them would have to pull over and let the other through. 

And, since Lena’s side of the road is the one overlooking a ravine, the thought has her clutching the steering wheel until her hands hurt.

By the time the road flows into a gravel parking lot, flanked by a surprisingly sleek-looking Visitors’ Center it’s almost noon, and Lena’s had enough of being inside foul-smelling cars. The lot’s deserted, and the Visitors’ Center is closed, but a Yogi Bear knock off carved from wood leans against a signpost listing the park’s amenities. 

The bungalows are about 12 miles futher up from where she is, and even though the untarred road leading there is accessible to vehicles, Lena is sternly warned to “proceed with extreme caution in wet and snowy conditions.” 

Good thing the rental is a four-wheel drive. 

Even so, spotting the first of the bungalows at the end of the road — road, really ? — floods Lena’s system with relief. She’s almost woozy with it, and after she climbs out of the car, she has to spend a couple of minutes letting her heart slow down. 

The first thing Lena notices is the silence. It isn’t an absence of sound, but a vacuum with a timbre of its own. Lena is taken aback by the way it wraps around her, deepening until her only connection to the world of man is the subtle tickling of the engine as it cools under the hood. 

The bungalow Sam booked for her is the last one in a row of five, and the one with the best view. A few meters beyond it, the danger marked by a rustic but sturdy fence, the ground drops away abruptly, offering her an unobstructed view of the Rockies. 

It’s a dramatic vista, Lena begrudgingly concedes, getting a real sense of scale for the first time. 

On the approach she’d been too focused on the road, but with the valley spread at her feet, a sense of vertigo invades her. When the world begins to spin out of control, she has to stumble away from the fence, panting hard. 

Her moment of contemplation is brusquely interrupted when a bird — a tit in name and disposition — flutters through the branches overhead, leaving a gift behind to drip down the sleeve of her jacket. 

Nature's quite literally already taking the piss out of her.

One week, Lena tells herself, searching her pockets for something to wipe her jacket clean with. One week and then she can head back to National City to kill Sam Arias.

***

Kara tilts back in her chair until she’s precariously balanced on its rear legs, raising both arms above her head with a sigh.

“Stop that.” Winn warns from the other end of the office, not bothering to look up from the stack of papers he’s filling out. “You’re gonna fall.” 

“Am not.” Still, Kara lets the chair drop forward with a thump, and goes back to the inventory printouts. “We need to order more feed for the deer,” she says, earning an absent grunt from Winn. “And…” She frowns down at her list, doing some quick math. “Do you think we have enough fuel for the snowmobile?” 

The scratch of Winn’s pen stops, and he finally raises his head to look her way. “Kara, breathe. It’s not winter yet.”

“No.” She concedes, biting the inside of her cheek. “But it will be. Soon.” 

He’s right. Kara knows Winn’s right, but she can’t help it. It’s the end of summer, burning under her skin like an itch Kara can’t scratch. The park is emptying out, the days already noticeably shorter than they were a week ago, and in the lull between the peak of activity and the first snowfall she doesn’t quite know what to do with herself. They get visitors in the fall too, of course, but not many, and not as loud. Little by little the park’s parking lots empty out --- at first it’s just the RVs that go missing, the camping sites that grow quiet. Then, little by little, the day tourists stop coming too, and by the 1st of November the majority of the trails are shut to the public, due to the weather. After that it’s only the rangers living on the park’s grounds until spring. 

But November’s a long way away still, the road that leads out of the park and toward Boulder is still open, and she should stop worrying so much. 

Unspent nervous energy aside, Kara loves this time of the year. Each season has its merits, obviously, and Kara gets really excited about school trip month which begins in May, but after weeks spent telling people not to feed the wildlife and rescuing underequipped guests from the hardest trails, she has a newfound appreciation for the quiet.

With a heavy sigh, Kara puts the list away (but not completely out of her mind), eyes drifting to the window. 

Sunset has come and nearly gone, the bright reds and oranges that have filled the office with warmth melting away to the cooler pink-blue of the evening. Only the Rockies are illuminated still, dying sunlight setting the highest peaks ablaze. Already they are powdered in white, and Kara knows the snow is only going to show up at lower and lower altitudes as the hottest season wanes to fall. 

Normally she’d be soaking up the last shreds of daylight on the office’s front porch, but she’s been so absorbed by the checklist of things that need doing, the moment’s gone. No final rays of sun to bask in for her tonight. Nu-uh. No sir. Only— 

“You’re doing it again.” Kara blinks at Winn, confused. “The chair thing.”

“I’m not—” But she is, and this time, she’s rocked way too far back to recover. The chair is old, and under the strain Kara’s put on them, the rear legs snap . She fights to regain her feet, somehow, but fails, ending up in a messy heap among the debris.

Ow !”

“Knew it was gonna happen.” She expects Winn to at least get out of his seat and help her up, but he doesn’t. He— he— he picks up his cellphone and snaps a picture of her and then. Then he fucking grins.

“Lockwood owes me thirty bucks.”

“You made a bet? With Lockwood ?” One of the best things (okay, the best thing) about peak season being over is that Ben Lockwood is heading back to Boulder. He only works summers in the park — although work is too generous a term for the little he actually does.

“I was bored.” Taking pity on her, Winn finally stands and pulls her to her feet. “Why don’t you take a walk down to the bungalows? Check that everything’s in order?” 

“Why shouldn’t it be? They’re empty.” The last guests have left over the weekend, Kara’s seen them off herself. She or Winn always handle checkout — and do an extra sweep of the bungalows as people load their cars. She’s lost count of the iPads and cameras she’s saved from ending up in the lost and found bin down at the Visitors’ Center. 

“Not all.” Winn rounds his desk and shuffles through the ledger on which they log a physical of all reservations. “A guest came in earlier, but you were up at Gem Lake checking on last week’s damage. 

“And you didn’t think to tell me we’ve got someone at the bungalows until now?” Kara snaps, throwing her hands up. The irritation she’s feeling toward Winn mixes with what his word reminded her off. Some idiot thought it’d be funny to drag a log across the trail, which forced them to close it off so that Kara could get up there and cut it down to smaller chunks. Which she has, but what a giant pine in the ass.

“I forgot.” Winn shifts on his feet and crosses his arms the way he tends to do when he gets defensive. “Besides there isn’t much she can get up to in a few hours.”

He’s so very wrong.

She ?

“Name?” 

“Uh, hold on a sec.” He frowns down at the ledger, then scratches his nose. “Well, this is weird.”

“What?” Kara takes a step forward, already gearing up for some disaster. Their guest is a known arsonist, or something. “What is it?” 

“Well, the reservation’s been made by a Samantha Arias, but the guest...she’s listed… the name’s Jane Doe .” 

Oh.

Oh no .

***

Lena doesn’t remember falling asleep. 

She has a vague recollection of unloading the car — she travels light so it didn’t take much — but she can’t tell how she ended up on the couch. 

What she realizes quickly upon waking up, is how late it’s gotten. 

The dazzling brightness of the morning has dimmed to a lazy sort of glow, and the sky’s already softened. Not quite dusk yet, but the distinct brass of late- ish afternoon. 

Kicking away the blanket she snuggled with — she doesn’t remember doing that either, but the quilt isn’t hers — Lena totters to unsteady feet. 

The bungalow — the term cabin fits the place better — is furnished with a small but functional kitchen, and the refrigerator has been well stocked for her stay. There’s way more meat than she has back home at any given time, but beggars can’t be choosers. 

She might become bear-food before the week is up, but at least Lena won’t starve.

Lena is surprised to find she’s not even a little bit hungry, but chalks it up to tiredness. The couch she just left, the orange-gold of sunset draping over it, is a tempting sight, but she shakes her head, refusing to give in. She didn’t come here to relax. 

Sam may think she did, but Lena’s come here to work, and being forced to vacation in a stupid cabin, in the middle of an even stupider forest isn’t gonna ruin her plans.

She sets up shop on the table, and sits down facing the window. The cabin is big — the kitchen and the living room are one open, airy space, the bathroom tucked away at the back of the bungalow. There’s a fireplace with a pile of freshly cut pine logs stacked neatly on the side, and a wooden ladder leads to the loft. That’s where the bed must be, but Lena doesn’t dare climb up yet. 

If the mere sight of the couch is enough to make her yawn, that of the bed would put her right to sleep.

The windows are large and let in more than enough light, even at the cusp of dusk, that Lena doesn’t need to resort to electricity. 

A welcome message let her know the generator in the back has been topped up, and that someone will be by mid-stay to check on the gasoline levels, but Lena is loath to put it to the test just yet.

She knows that the moment she switches a light on, the glory of the sunset will fade to the background. 

Since it’s her first night here, spent somewhere other than in the midst of a bustling city or a gala dinner, she wants to savor every second of it. 

Recovering her laptop, she quickly sets up the portable hotspot, taking the time to complete a more thorough survey of what will be her home for the coming week while the machine and her computer interface. 

A quiet chime lets her know the hotspot is done installing, but her anticipatory grin melts away into a scowl.  

There’s no internet connection. Zero. Zip. Nada .

One reboot later, and Lena’s heart soars in her chest. She’s got a signal. It’s weak at best but it’s there . The connection holds a grand total of five minutes before crashing. Again.

And again.

Lena pushes away from the table, throat closing up with rage. She needs to take a walk. Clear her head then come back in to tackle the problem from a different angle. 

Snatching up the softshell jacket she’d so carelessly tossed across the back of the couch, Lena storms out.

She doesn’t look back, not even once, and when she finally slows down and does, the forest’s closed in on all sides. 

It’s already too late. 

***

Jane Doe .” Kara mutters under her breath in a passable imitation of Lockwood’s whiny baritone. He’d probably thought it funny to book it in without double-checking. Or, and that’s more likely, he’s just that fucking dumb.

Best case scenario she’s headed to an empty cabin and they’ll have a week worth of food to eat their way through.

Worst case, it’s college kids, thinking that a national park is a good place to mess around undisturbed. It’s happened before. Kara gets seasonal nightmares around spring break. 

She’d like to swear at Lockwood some more, but the shortcut to the bungalows — Kara insisted on going on foot — has her scrambling up an incline so steep she has to haul herself up in certain places. Best to save her breath. 

On the hillcrest, Kara pauses, slumping against the trunk of a leatherleaf to catch her breath. She immediately regrets it. 

Slaving up the hill had kept her warm, but up here where the trees thin out, it’s considerably chillier. The wind has a heck of a mean edge tonight, and tucking her head between her shoulders, Kara tugs her Stetson down. Time to swap it for her woolen beanie — if she wants to find both of her ears still attached come spring.

When the wind becomes a touch too handsy for Kara’s tastes (how about dinner first, jeez!) she pulls herself together and soldiers on. 

Half-frozen already, she has no idea how she’s going to survive another winter in these parts. It’s her fifth, and as she does every year when the weather starts to change she tells herself it’s going to be her last. Not that she wants to quit the NPS or anything, but put in a transfer request to somewhere that, sometimes, is y’know — warm

The numbness creeping up her legs and the rest of her personal woes are forgotten when the cabins come into view. Winn told her their Jane Doe has the last one of the lot, and there’s a mud-spattered four by four parked in the designated spot, but the cabin itself is silent. The windows dark. 

“Hello?” Kara calls, leaping up the front steps. Her hand is raised, poised to knock, but the door swings open at the first brush of her knuckles. 

That’s. Kara swallows past the sudden lump in her throat. That’s not good.

“Anybody home?” Pushing the door open further, Kara pokes her head inside. This is stupid. She should go in and make sure the cabin’s really as empty as it feels, but she can’t get past the thought it’d be extremely rude.

She’s not, like, been invited in.

She’s not a fucking vampire either. Kara’s a ranger, and guaranteeing that the guests are alright is in her job description. 

Shouldering past the half-open door and her own reticence, Kara steps inside.

***

It’s something about the way night falls that spooks her, Lena will tell Kara much, much later. 

There’s more darkness than she factored in under the trees, but in the beginning, with the sun still painting the towering peaks a delicate shade of pink, Lena has no issue seeing the trail in front of her feet. 

Then, night comes and it’s a shift without warning. The sky softens to indigo in the east, and after that the deep blue spills as fast as ink across the sky. 

That’s how she ends up getting lost. 

There’s that and there’s this tricky thing Lena discovers the Colorado sky does when the stars turn on, one by one. 

It expands, suddenly too vast for her to process. Too deep. Too many stars, compared to the pale imitations she’s used to in the city. 

It takes Lena a few stolid moments to realize she’s stopped dead in her tracks, nose pointed up. A star streaks across the velvet black, its trajectory ending on the other side of mountains Lena cannot see, but only perceive as a void darker than the night. 

It’s reckless panic that prods her into walking, convinces her to break into a headless dangerous run that could end with her down a ravine, spine broken in half. 

Lena should stop, but she’s too scared to. Her mind’s misfiring, and her thoughts have scattered in the face of something far older than logic. Something primordial. 

Lena’s so afraid, she doesn’t even register her first full body flush in about six years.

***

One of only two things can be happening right now, Kara decides. 

Either Jane Doe never existed, and Winn allied with Lockwood to play a very elaborate prank on her — which is statistically unlikely, but stranger things have happened in her life.

Or , and this is where all her evidence is headed, Jane Doe is one of those city people that go through the spiritual awakenings the new age side of Instagram is full of, and come to the sticks in Louboutins to reconnect with nature or some shit.

Kara hopes for option number two, because at least her rescue — how is she supposed to call a moron who goes for a walk in the woods at night without a flashlight anyway? — might be cute.

She’s come to a fork in the trail and she’s playing a round of where did the tourist go in her head when she hears it. 

Someone crashing through the underbrush. So noisy that every bear in a ten mile radius must have heard too and is probably scrambling for cutlery and a bib.

“Hello?” The snap -crackle- snap of breaking branches is coming from the direction of the stream, downwind from where Kara is and to her right. “Hello, miss, uh, Jane?” 

There’s no discernible answer, only a— a giggle ? Kara’s not sure, but it sounded a little hysterical.

“Stay where you are!” She calls again, certain there’s no chance of that happening. “Just— I’m coming to get you, okay? No need to be scared.” She slip-slides downslope, kicking up a storm of dead foliage and muck. 

God, this is all so stupid. 

“Ma’am?” If the rescue is a Karen-type, formal may work. “Ma’am, please stay where you are. We’re very close to the stream.”

That’s more worrisome in the spring, when the snowmelt and the rain have had a chance to fatten the mostly tranquil waters. But, even in summer, the streams that feed the numerous lakes the park can boast are treacherous. Shallower, but rife with whirlpools and studded by very pointy, much deadly rocks. 

“Ma’am?” Kara pans the beam of her flashlight along where she knows the streambank to be, and bingo , there she is. Right on the darn edge. 

“Oookay.” A bramble snags her perfectly creased khakis and she comes this close to a faceplant. “It’s super muddy where you’re standing and the stream flows fast here.” The swift waters gurgle and froth as if to drive the point home. “It’ll be cold too, if you fall in, and trust me, you’d really rather not.” 

“Won’t I?” The stranger replies with a titter, and Kara’s wholly unprepared for that voice. For the face connected to it, too, once she can get a good look at it. 

Because, damn

(focus now, Danvers. Ogle later.)

“I’m pretty positive, yeah.” 

They’ve already started to dip below freezing on occasion, and although the first snow is weeks away still, the water must be frosty already. Kara can feel the chill rise from the stream, crawl across her skin despite her bomber jacket. 

“You can’t tell me what to do.” The woman takes a hesitant step back, which brings her even closer to the swirling mass of water. She doesn’t look at it, like she doesn’t care, and thrusts her chin in Kara’s direction, eyes narrowed. 

Kara’s vaguely aware they’re as blue-green as the stream when hit by direct sunlight, but she’s more concerned with the rest of the woman right now. 

Something’s off about her.

For starters, she’s not wearing a jacket, only a turtleneck that looks way too thin to protect her from the chill, but what’s weirder still is that the cold seems to leave her unaffected. Her cheeks, when Kara shines her light a fraction higher, careful not to blind her, are stained a heated pink, and her eyes glow. Bright and glistening with— well, she can’t tell if it’s fever or if the guest is just plain drunk. 

“Can too.” She taps the badge pinned to her chest. “So, don’t move.” 

“Make. Me.” Jane Doe shoots back petulantly, and then—  

— she sticks her tongue out. 

Three things happen in quick succession after that. 

Sensing the rescue is about to do something extremely dumb Kara lets go of the flashlight and lunges, hands clawing at the empty space between them.

Jane Doe giggles again, takes an additional step in the worst direction, and the soft earth under her foot gives out, meaning Kara gets to watch her tip back in slow motion, arms whirling to cling to her balance. 

She’d laugh, except the sound of a body hitting water is what comes next.

***

The water’s surface shatters with a crack , and in that moment Lena gasps back to her senses. It’s like abruptly waking from a lucid dream, all air rushing out of her, but she’s not bolting up safely in bed. 

Gone is the feeling that her head is stuffed with wool, the hot flushes that led her to shed her jacket. 

She opens her mouth to yelp with the shock the sudden drop in temperature delivered to her system and water rushes in, making her sputter.

Lena’s fallen in a spot where the creek naturally bends, slowing the waterflow down, but it’s dark. 

She’s never been a good swimmer and anyway a few inches of water are enough to drown. 

Everything — the world itself — seems to be gone. Lena’s booted feet collide with something hard, and she tries to propel upward, but the water’s tugging her down and away. To where the stream rushes by faster. The roar of the surging water, which was dull and faraway moments ago, blots out every other sound.

Lena flails, and the water lurches again, more of it trickling in her mouth. She does her best to keep it shut against the mounting pressure, but her lungs are hollow, burning with the absence of air. It won’t be long until she caves and lets the river in.

Something, someone splashes into the stream next to her, strong arms snaking underneath her armpits, lifting her up. A body presses into her own, acting as a buoy.  

“Got you.” The voice is gritty with the strain, but Lena latches onto it, fighting to stay conscious. 

She’s not much help, she knows, so when her savior starts to drag her to shore, Lena just lets herself float. In a self-preserving reflex her feet kick against the current weakly, but she can’t feel the bottom of the creek anymore. 

Not so shallow after all.

Quicker than she thought it could be possible, they are back on dry land. Lena’s dragged none-too-kindly onto the muddy bank, but she’s too starved for air to care. 

She lies there, one cheek buried into earth that smells of reeds and rotting things, her brain still in the water, and thinks of the lake in which her mother drowned. Of how she’d gone as far as to take her shoes off, but couldn’t take a single step into the water. 

Lena only notices she’s crying — big, shiny tears that roll quietly down her cheeks — when her rescuer draws her close and shushes her. 

“It’s okay,” she says, thinking Lena’s crying because of the not-quite-drowning experience, and missing the truth entirely. “You’re safe now.”

Not giving a toss what it looks like, Lena burrows into the solid body next to hers and cries a little harder. 

***

“Put me down.” The woman in her arms rouses herself enough to order. “Put me down, I can walk.”

“It’s not that I don’t think you can’t,” Kara counters through chattering teeth. “It’s that I don’t trust you.” 

“Put me down, I said!” The woman wiggles harder, and Kara almost loses her footing. She’s inclined to, to be fair. Drop her in the middle of the trail and recover the jacket she so gallantly wrapped around her shoulders. It’s not like she’s getting any gratitude for it anyhow. 

The best thing is to ignore her, Kara resolves. What is the woman gonna do? Ask to speak to a manager? 

A gust of wind howls across her path and she shivers, mourning the loss of her hat. It’s probably in Boulder by now.

RIP .

“Do you know who I am?” At this point the woman must be speaking simply to antagonize her, because Kara can’t have nice things, like silence, ever. 

“Someone who doesn’t listen to directions?” 

“I’m Lena Luthor .” The assigned- Karen-at-birth says as if that changes anything (spoiler alert: it doesn’t). “One phone call and I could get you fired.” 

Yeah. Good luck getting reception here. Kara snorts.

“Is that supposed to scare me, or something?” Not-Jane-Doe isn’t heavy, but her clothes are waterlogged, as are Kara’s own, and her arms and back are starting to seize up with the effort. 

Not long to the bungalows, Kara cheers herself. She’ll make sure Not-Jane is safe for the night — locking her up in the cabin feels like a great idea — then she’ll get Winn to do some babysitting. 

She just took a dunk into a freezing creek, he can pull his weight a little. 

“You’re really not that smart, are you?” 

“You’re the one who got lost and fell into a river, are you really asking me that right now?”

Not-Jane is really doing her damnest to be irritating. She’s a wasp-nest in human form, but Kara’s run out of pinecones to give. 

It’s weird, though. 

She remembers when they were catching their breath down by the stream, how Not-Jane had clung to her, bent by stifled sobs. 

The woman in her arms is an entirely different person. Aloof and demanding, but Kara wonders whether it’s only an act. This could be a defensive mechanism and she should — 

“Have you heard anything I’ve said? I’m Lena Luthor . I will get you fired if you don’t set me down this instant.” 

This time, she enunciates each syllable slowly, and Kara rolls her eyes.

“I’ve heard you. I’m not listening to you though.”

Please, make that phone call and let the torture end. 

***

“You really don’t know, do you?” 

Fifteen minutes. Fifteen minutes of blessed quiet, and Not-Jane had to go and ruin it like that.

They’ve made it to the cabin, and Kara’s had to leave her on the couch unsupervised so she can start a fire. Technically it shouldn’t be possible for her to get in trouble.

(should Kara tie her up?)

Her fingers are shaking so badly it takes her three tries to strike the flint the right way, but finally embers float up the chimney like red-hot fireflies. The logs are dry and catch rapidly, yellow tongues of flame licking up, heating her cheeks. 

Kara knows she’s too close to the fire, but she’s so cold she’d rather risk a burn than pull back.

“You 100% sure your name isn’t Jane?” She answers the question with one of her own, and has the fleeting pleasure of seeing Not-Jane’s face scrunch up in a frown. It isn’t fair for someone this annoying to be so adorable. 

“Why Jane?”

“That’s how you were registered. Jane Doe.” 

Having absorbed enough warmth for the time being, Kara crosses over to the wooden chest where the extra clean laundry is stored. Every cabin has one, packed full with blankets, sheets and towels to meet a guest’s every need. 

They need to strip out of the wet clothing before they catch something worse than a cold. Lena — it suits her better than Jane — will have packed a change of clothes. Kara’s only extra is her birthday suit. 

She needs something to cover herself with.

Jane Doe .” Lena repeats, her voice tinged by disbelief. “I’m going to fucking kill Sam for real.”

Before she can go through with any of her threats, her face contorts in pain, and Lena pitches forward. She’d crash to the ground if Kara wasn’t there to save her. Again.

Not that she’s keeping a tally or anything.

“Hey, hey, breathe. What’s wrong?” 

“I— I don’t know.” But, for a second, Lena’s eyes shift away from hers, flickering with something. Kara may not know who Lena is, but she can recognize when someone’s lying.

***

“I— I don’t know.” As soon as the words are out of her mouth, Lena knows she’s made a mistake. 

Kara’s blue eyes harden (god, having eyes that blue should be illegal) and she snatches her hands back, working aggravation in between her back teeth. 

“Bullshit.” Another cramp rips through Lena’s belly, and at her inhale Kara’s expression softens. “Listen, if you ate something, like some berry or plant, I need to know.”

“N— No.” She’s cold again, as much as she had been in the water, but hot too. A prickling sort of heat that stands every fine hair of her body on its end. 

Lena knows exactly what it means. It’s her heat. The onset of it at least. 

She’s not had a proper heat since she broke up with Andrea. She’s not slept with everyone since then either. In fact, Lena’s put everything to do with her biology firmly out of her mind. Risen above, so to speak. At least that’s what she thought. 

Evidently her body has other ideas.

She just doesn’t have time to get tangled up in feelings, not with all the work still to be done. Paying for sex is off the table too — the risk of getting blackmailed far too high. 

There’s a drawer in Lena’s bedroom, full of the best toys money can buy. Top of the line, soul-sucking, world-shattering orgasms level of toys. But Lena’s not touched any in months. 

She never has the time.

And, oh, she doesn’t know what’s worse. If it’s the spasm tying her belly into knots, or the fact that Sam is right. Has been all along.

So many things have become routine. Just her floating along the flow of life, just existing, just doing the same things everyday because they are the things she’s done for so long she doesn’t know how to do new ones. Like taking the birth control pill, chalky and hard to swallow, every single morning along with her other supplements. Even though Lena doesn’t necessarily need it. 

A habit. Another safety blanket. Lena imagines getting a heat after so long is her body’s way of saying — enough.

She’s not sure a seven day vacation will suffice to sort it out.

“Hey.” Kara’s nostrils are flaring slightly but she doesn’t seem aware of it. “Look, if you didn’t eat anything strange, maybe it’s just the water you swallowed. Let’s get you out of those wet clothes and—” She rubs soothingly at Lena’s forearm, and Lena is invaded by the urge to sink into her arms. She can’t tear her gaze away from the slender fingers wrapped around her wrist. Kara’s hands felt so strong, hauling her out of the creek. Would she oblige if Lena begged to be pinned down? 

Because the other thing, now that her biology is very firmly on her mind, is the realization that Kara is an alpha.

A very handsome one at that. 

And maybe it’s Kara not knowing what the Luthor name entails that has Lena say what she says next.

“It’s not food poisoning.” Her heart stutters, and she has to cover Kara’s fingers with her own before she can continue. “It’s my heat.” 

Each word falls between them like a stone.

***

Kara should have known. She can smell it, for fucks sake. She just thought— She doesn’t know. And that’s the main issue, really. Her not thinking, as per usual. 

Winn says she has a knack for getting herself into fucked up situations and, honestly, Kara’s starting to see a pattern too. 

There’s been the Bigfoot enthusiasts, the nudist couple pitching more than just tents near Emerald Lake. And the bear incident last year — but they don’t talk about that

It’s what’s stopped her from putting her transfer request in — Kara just knows someone at the NPS headquarters would take one look at her track record and she’d end up in Alaska freezing her knot off. No thanks. 

However, she’s not convinced this qualifies as a screw up. She saved Lena, actually, which was very brave and she thinks she’s handled the initial tantrum as professionally as J’onn taught her when she was first hired. 

Tending to omega guests during their heats is not covered in her contract, though — or they’d have a line of applicants at the door.

“Well, you still need to change into something warmer.” She eyes the fire critically, and does all she can to ignore the enticing scent that’s drifting to her nose. 

It was easier outside, with the smells of the forest all around her. With the water washing Lena’s musk away. It’s getting to her now, the air thick with it, and despite herself, Kara closes her eyes and inhales.

Her cock instantly stiffens.

Fuck.

“I’m, uh, gonna turn around so you can change, alright?” The cabin has a bathroom, she should have suggested Lena change in there, but frankly it doesn’t look like she’s got the strength to walk that far. 

“Okay.” Comes the muted reply, and Kara would kick herself in the crotch if she could. She hadn’t meant for it to come out bossy, but her alpha’s pushing through, and Lena must have picked up on the change. Her scent has shifted, sweetening into submission, and Kara hates it because she can’t picture the Lena who gave her so much shit on the way here, willingly baring her throat for her. 

She vows to keep her own instincts in check the best she can. 

(Ugh. Okay — this is one of her screw ups.)

It’s not the rustle of damp fabric that gets to her the most. It’s the splat after each article of clothing hits the floor. Kara can hold her inner alpha back all she wants, but there’s no stopping the camera roll of images unspooling in her mind. Lena’s body has been plastered to hers — briefly, and admittedly not under the best conditions — but there’s no forgetting those curves. 

“You can turn back around, if you want.” 

She does, and it’s not as bad as she feared. Lena’s doing her best impression of a blanket burrito, hair still damp and tangled from the unintentional swim. She looks damn soft like this, close to dozing off thanks to the warmth that radiates from the fire. 

Kara starts to think that if she’s careful, she can sneak away to the bathroom to dry off. Take her sweet time, so when she emerges Lena will be fast asleep and they won’t have to deal with— She can drive her down to Boulder in the morning. They’ll know how to help her at the hospital.

“There’s no stopping a heat once it starts.” Lena says, rubbing the tiredness from her eyes. Kara’s a bit creeped out she’s guessed her thoughts so easily, but also tempted to ask for next Wednesday lotto numbers.

“Do you think—” Lena shifts, and the blanket falls away slightly, revealing a pale shoulder. “Would you help?”

She doesn’t mean a doctor, or the ER. Lena means — 

Yes. Kara feels the word form in her mouth, leaden on the tip of her tongue. It nearly rolls off of it, but she clenches her teeth and swallows it down. It gets stuck halfway through her esophagus and she can swear it’s ready to bubble up at a moment’s notice. 

“I don’t know if that’s a good idea.” She settles for, hoping it’s at least a little diplomatic.

“Don’t you take a pledge or something?To help people in need?” 

“That’s the alpha scouts.” 

“Ah.”

They study each other for a while, and the silence in the cabin grows thick. Swells with the heat of the fire, but that’s not the sole reason Kara finds herself panting. 

“Okay.” After getting the blankets she’d gone back to kneeling in front of the fire. She’s still there, but the one word of agreement is all it takes to set her body into motion. It feels that a stopgap has released inside her chest, and a lot of the things she’d kept bottled there are pouring out all at once. 

Lena says nothing, only staring hungry-eyed as Kara crawls to her. There’s a loneliness about her Kara had not noticed until now. It’s well hidden in the moss green of her eyes, and in how even now that she’s in visible pain, Lena sits up straight and tall.

Truth is, Kara’s been lonely for a long time too.

“It’s been a while.” She whispers once she’s reached the couch, her throat itching with something suspiciously similar to tears. “And if you’re not better tomorrow, I’m taking you to Boulder.”

She’s kneeling between Lena’s parted legs now, and at the perfect height to get an unobstructed view when the blanket drops away. 

“Okay,” Lena agrees, fingers sifting through Kara’s wet hair. Already, her hips are tilting forward. “Whatever you say.”

***

They both know Kara’s mouth isn’t going to be enough. 

She’s good though, hands grasping at Lena’s quaking thighs, holding them apart while she expertly licks at her folds. 

Lena watches her, although she can see little past the golden crown of her head, lips parted and chest heaving rapidly as though she’s drowning once again. It’s far better this way, and she grasps for the little death she can feel start to ripple in her belly. Wherever Kara touches it’s sparks of electricity dancing on her skin. Lena’s flesh tingles long past Kara’s hands have moved somewhere else, and she craves to feel the alpha roam higher, to her breasts. 

Pausing to kiss the inside of her thighs, Kara tugs her legs up, so that the back of Lena’s calves rests on the caps of her shoulders. She feels vulnerable this way, completely open, the alpha’s hot breath skating over her inflamed skin. Over her swollen, dripping folds. 

At the next open mouth kiss Kara presses to her center, a high-pitched whimper escapes her. It’s an obscene noise, a sound she’s never heard herself make before, but Kara’s responsive moan is enough to make Lena gush directly in the alpha’s waiting mouth. 

The same fire that’s burning in the hearth is consuming her alive. 

Kara lit it in her chest, used her ribs for kindling, and now she’s making her burn hotter with every swipe of her tongue. She’s glad that Kara seems to have understood her need — perhaps she shares in it — and hasn’t sunk too much time in foreplay. Lena loves that, usually, or she used to love it when sex was a thing she engaged in on the regular, but right now she just—

She just needs .  

“Please.” She whines, bucking a little, and Kara takes her aching clit into her mouth. “Please, god, I want—” 

But there’s only so much harrying the alpha will allow it seems, and even though Kara’s unquestioningly good at this — edging with the flat of her tongue, the tip barely teasing Lena’s dripping hole, teeth grazing her clit, rinse and repeat —  but Lena will lose it if she isn’t filled soon.

“God, Kara please.” Kara’s tongue is laving in soft strokes against her, matching the roll of her hips, and Lena has to go to war with herself, but eventually she manages to push the alpha’s mouth away. “Please I want you inside .” 

“Are you sure?” Kara looks up and her eyes are as vast as the sky outside. Burn with the same multitude of stars. “Because—” She pauses, and Lena watches in real time as she parts her lips and wets them quickly, watches the slow drag of her pink tongue and imagines sucking it into her mouth. 

"Because I could, y'know." Kara gestures, fingers hooking in a shape that would be vulgar if she wasn't trying to be so damn chivalrous about it.

Lena tightens the loose hold she has on her hair, gathering it in a golden rope that can be tugged. 

She yanks Kara up, and Kara's hands fly to the couch either side of where she sits for some semblance of stability.

Despite that, she tilts forward ungainly, but it’s okay. It’s good, actually, cause Lena kisses her next.

A gasp tells her she’s caught Kara by surprise. She’d not expected they would kiss either, to be fair, but she doesn’t mind. She needs the contact. 

What’s certain is that there’s no awkward staring at Kara’s lips, no embarassed blushing on her part. No understanding dawns on Kara’s face at seeing where Lena’s eyes are going. Simply, they’re not kissing until they are.

Lena follows instinct, hand dropping away from the soft mass of Kara’s hair to cradle the hinge of her jaw, and leans forward. At the first brush of Kara’s lips her eyes flutter closed. Kara is so warm. 

What’s also certain is that things shift between them then. Before the kiss this could have been discounted as a fuck-and-run; two strangers, one in need, a night of tangled sheets and done. But kissing Kara makes everything more intimate, makes Lena ache for things that go beyond the physical. She wants to know more about Kara, what makes her laugh, the things she likes, her favorite food. Suddenly Kara’s not a stranger anymore. Kara’s someone — Kara’s someone who’s whispering Lena’s own name into her mouth, breath hitching against her lips, fingers curled at Lena’s hips to pull her close. 

To pull her down from the couch.

Asking Kara to help had felt reckless in the beginning; now Lena feels that she’s meant to be in the ranger’s arms. 

She sighs into Kara’s mouth, and as they tumble-crawl to the carpet in front of the fire, kisses her again.

“You’re still way too dressed.” Lena observes, fingers scrabbling at the front of Kara’s wet-stained uniform. She is, the fool, too concerned with Lena’s wellbeing to think about her own. 

Unwilling to break contact, Kara tries to shrug the comment off, but the rise of her shoulders turns into a shiver that betrays how cold she is. 

“Off.” Lena gathers her closer for a moment, the palm of her hand rubbing circles at the small of Kara’s back. The light brown shirt Kara is wearing rides up, exposing a strip of skin, and Lena’s fingertips dance along it. Droplets are still running down Kara’s spine, like she’s just emerged from the shower, and the clamminess of her skin has Lena wince in sympathy. 

“Off.” She repeats in her boardroom voice, and Kara nods dumbly. “I’ll add wood to the fire and then—” 

She wriggles out from underneath the alpha and shoots a charged look to the carpet and the nest of blankets there. 

“Don’t worry,” Lena adds, when she catches Kara in the act of frowning at the fireplace. “I promise not to burn the place down.” That earns her an eyeroll.

As she feeds more wood to the fire, blanket wrapped like a cloak around her pale shoulders, Lena thinks this must be how Kara felt when she undressed. Painfully aware of it, but unable to turn.

“I’m done.” The bass rumble in Kara’s voice makes Lena quake from head to toe, and she’s grateful to be already kneeling. 

The sight of the naked alpha winds her anyway. Lena’s exhale seems to go on forever, and then they’re scrambling for each other, Kara’s erection rubbing urgently against Lena’s inner thigh as she’s lowered down onto the floor. 

“You’re beautiful.” Kara’s hovering above her, trembling. She’s planted her elbows on either side of Lena’s head, body suspended inches from where Lena needs her most. Almost in a plank position.

“So are you.” Lena bites her lip, gaze dragging up and down Kara’s naked form appreciatively. In the stream, with Kara molded to her, she’d gotten a fleeting sense of lean muscle, but this is— 

Every part of Kara is well defined, toned by the life she leads in the park. She’s tanned, Lena notices, even though probably not as bronzed by sunlight as she’d be at summer’s zenith, but golden still. Skin gleaming with a mix of water and sweat. 

Life outdoors has left its mark on her too. The skin of her cheeks is roughened by wind and exposure, her nose dusted with a smattering of freckles — Lena wants to kiss them all in turn. There’s scars too, and reaching out to trace a jagged thin line along Kara’s ribs, Lena feels the alpha’s lungs expand.

“Lena…” Kara falls forward, mouth seeking hers. Silky blonde hair tickles Lena’s neck, and she wraps both arms around Kara’s neck, whimpering quietly when she feels a hand wedge between their sweat-slicked bodies. 

Lena’s legs widen in welcome, Kara adjusts, and the broad head of her cock, skating along Lena’s wet slit has her breathing stutter.

She hadn’t let her eyes linger too long, but there is no way for Kara’s rather impressive length to go unnoticed. Lena hasn’t allowed anyone inside in a long time, but she doesn’t even need Kara to start pushing forward to know she will feel her for days after.

She wouldn’t have it any other way, and the heat licking along her bones has her angle her hips up in search of more friction.

“I’ll go slow.” Kara promises, nudging their noses together. Her eyes are deep obsidian now, a sky bereft of moon and stars. Lena experiences that vertigo again — the one who led her into getting lost in the first place — but there’s no panic attached to it. Kara is here, and Lena can’t wait to get lost in her. 

Calloused fingers forge a path to Lena’s hips, digging in greedily, and the throbbing head broaches her entrance. 

“I don’t want slow.” Lena grinds out, a hint of pain flashing red across her vision. “I want you.”

***

She should have asked Lena if she’s on the pill, or offered to go get condoms from the cabin, twin to this one, where she lives. At least, Kara could have told Lena that she’s clean, that she’s not been with anyone in years. 

A nagging voice in the back of her head reminds her she can just pull out when the time comes, but the instant Lena’s rippling heat surrounds her, the voice goes silent. 

Kara wants to go slow — she promised — but Lena’s words burn hot-blue inside her like butane. 

She stumbles forward, sinking down and sinking in, Lena fingers grasping at her biceps. The softest noise Kara’s ever heard rips from the back of Lena’s throat, and fearing that it’s pain, she stills. She doesn’t dare to breathe. 

“‘m ‘kay.” One of Lena’s hands slides up her tense arm, to her shoulder and then the back of her neck, fingers playing with the fine hair at her nape. “Please, Kara.” She clenches down below, and Kara moans. “Please, fuck me.”

Something snaps for both of them. Kara buries deeper, Lena scratching at her back, her shoulder blades, her forearms in encouragement. They’re both pumping out pheromones — Kara’s nose is full of them — their scents mixing, overlapping until she thinks they form a new smell. The sum total of the two. 

Warmth pulses around her, responding to the first slow thrusts. 

Lena’s moaning again, and Kara brings their mouths together, wanting to devour the sound. It echoes on her tongue, reverberates within her chest, and she can’t resist its call. She pulls out almost all the way, and when she slips back inside, it’s faster. Harder. Lena’s nails dig into her, and her mouth falls open in a silent yes .

Repositioning slightly, Kara directs some of her attention to Lena’s full breasts. It’s hard to focus, the heat of her is so encompassing, but the way Lena eagerly arches when she takes a pebbled nipple into her mouth, rolling it against her tongue, is such a sweet reward. 

Kara fucks her like that, mouth on her breasts, hands guiding Lena into her thrusts. It’s sloppy, with her cock slipping out more than once, but Lena helps her line up every time, frenzied by the demands of her heat. 

Kara’s not in rut, so there will be no knot, but that doesn’t seem to be bothering the omega. 

“So good.” Lena’s unmarked throat bobs enticingly when she swallows, and Kara’s front teeth hurt with the need to bite into her pulse. “Kara, please, please.” 

She doesn’t have to tell Kara she’s close. Kara knows. She can feel it in how Lena’s body’s opening for her as she spears forward, entrance gaping for a knot that isn’t there. 

“Gonna fill you up.” She growls, with a force that startles them both. Under her, Lena goes slack with surrender, eyes round.

“Y— Yes.” The word is jarred out of Lena by the churning of Kara’s hips. “Please. Need it.” 

The pressure in her belly breaks, washing over them both as relentless as the sea during a storm. 

“Kara. Kara. Kara .” Lena’s coming, clenching so hard around her that Kara can’t move, not without hurting her. She doesn’t have to anyhow. 

A spasm zips through her, and she feels she’s struck by lightning. She splinters into a million pieces and comes undone, and empties in a stream of thick fluid into Lena’s willing cunt. 

For a long beat they stay tangled in one another, just breathing, letting the crackling of the fire hold conversation in their place. 

Kara doesn’t think she’s ever been more aware of her own body. Once, maybe, two springs ago when she, J’onn and Winn had gone for a climb to celebrate J’onn’s retirement. 

Closest to the clouds than she’d ever been, Kara had buzzed with quiet excitement and awe, her nerve endings alight with the tiredness of the climb. Lena’s fingers, rubbing patterns up and down her back leave a blazing trail behind, and it feels similar. Kara’s dizzy again, but for entirely different reasons.  

“Do you want me to…” Lifting slightly, Kara throws a glance to their joined bodies. Even without the knot, she feels tied to Lena in a way she can’t explain, and is unwilling to pull out. But of course she will if Lena wants her to.

“Please don’t.” As though to underline her words, she tightens around Kara. “I mean— Unless you mind.”

“I don’t.” Kara’s fingers find the edge of a discarded blanket, and she tugs it closer, covering them both. She feels Lena sag into her, and thinks she could stay this way forever.

And although Kara knows she can’t, she wants to. 

***

“Am I supposed to know?” 

They’re walking down to the office the next morning so she can phone Sam when Kara pauses in the middle of the trail, scratching her head. 

They both took showers, but Kara had to put her uniform back on. It’s dry, but creased to hell, and yet she still looks hot in it. 

(she’d look hot wearing anything, really)

“Know what?” 

“Who you are.” 

Lena should tell her, but she doesn’t want to. She’s come to the conclusion she’d rather stay here than go back to National City (it’s the first time in years she wakes up without a headache), but she’s afraid to tell Kara who she is. Scared it’s gonna change things between them. For the worst. 

But she owes it to Kara. She’s also figured out she doesn’t want this — whatever they’re doing — to be a fling to be done away with after her heat, and for any hope that things will work, Lena can’t lie. Not even by omission. 

So, she tells her, right there in the middle of the woods.

When she’s done, throat raw from too much talking, she drops her gaze to the carpet of fallen leaves at her feet. Waiting. Hoping.

“I’m sorry.” Kara’s voice is an invisible leash, forcing Lena’s head up. “I just—” Kara squints at her, eyes searching her face. “I... can’t. You can be a CEO all you like, but to me you’re still the idiot who fell into the creek. I hope that’s alright.” 

“It’s more than alright.” Lena flings herself into Kara so hard she throws the alpha back a step. “Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. ” Kara’s arms rise tentatively around her, as if she’s not sure what she’s been thanked for, but the important bit is that she’s holding Lena, nose buried into her neck.

“You’re welcome.” The words paint a warm line on her skin. “You’re welcome, I guess.”

***

“I don’t know when I’ll be back.” 

Kara’s trying very hard not to listen in on the conversation Lena’s having, but it’d be a lie to say she isn’t interested. 

Winn’s elbow nudges into her side.

“She’s welcome to lengthen her stay,” he says with a knowing look. “But the bungalows aren’t serviceable in the winter.” 

“We’ll have something figured out by then.” Kara mouths back, accepting the cup of coffee is handing her with a smile. “Besides, I don’t even know if she’ll stay that long.”

“Oh, please.” Winn gives her the same patient look he does when he thinks she’s being particularly dense. “Her scent’s all over you, pal.” Kara debates throwing some of the coffee at him, but it’s far too good to waste. “She scent marked you, Kara.” Lena did, but Kara’s sure it was an accident. “You’ll be tying another kind of knot in a year or two. Just wait and see.”

“Are you going to make another bet with Lockwood?” 

“I don’t need to.” Winn pours another cup of coffee and sets it on the desk, next to Lena’s hand, getting a nod in return. “I already won.”

“A hiatus is just a longer vacation, Sam.” Lena’s saying into the phone, and even though Kara can’t hear the other side of the conversation, she can tell whoever Lena’s speaking to isn’t very happy about the news. “I could estimate when I’ll be back, but—” Lena pauses for effect, a smirk stretching across her lips, “— where would be the fun in that?” 

Minutes tick by, the person on the other end of the line pleading their case. Or simply pleading, depending on perspective. 

“I’m sure you’ll close the deal with the Austrian investors brilliantly,” Lena cuts in at some point. “And I intend to work remotely once I’ve rested up enough. Besides, you’re the best CFO we could have, Sam, you said so yourself.” 

“Well?” Kara asks a while later. After the call, Lena spent some time talking to Winn about the logistics of her stay, and they’re now heading back to the bungalow for the remainder of her heat. 

The heady scent was almost gone when Kara first woke up that morning, but it’s back now, simmering under the surface. Lena’s already drifted closer to her as they walk, one arm threading through with hers, and her own body is responding to the alluring call. Aching and hard where it counts. 

“Sam’s mad, but she’ll get over it. Mostly she’s just pissed she got played.” Grey clouds race overhead, and Lena snuggles into her side, trembling a little. Kara disentangles, but only to wrap one arm around her shoulders, and makes a mental note of taking her to Boulder to shop for warmer clothes. Bad weather is closing in. 

“And your company...?”

“Is in good hands. Sam will helm it in my absence, and the board isn’t stupid enough to go against me even if I’m away. They like their dividends too much.” Lena kicks at a loose rock, sending it to tumble among the trees. “Besides, once I can fix up the internet hotspot I can work a little. I just don’t want to head back. I thought I’d hate it here but—” Her gaze trails up, to the mountains. In the uncertain light of the overcast day, the Rockies frown back. Lena doesn’t finish the sentence, and Kara lets the matter rest. There’s more to it than the omega is letting on, but she’ll tell Kara when she’s ready. If she wants to. 

They walk the rest of the way in silence, Kara pulling Lena in a little tighter whenever she feels her shiver.

At the bungalow, they idle by the fence and take in the scenery, each of them lost in her own thoughts. A bird of prey wheels around over their heads, its shrill scream thin with the distance.

“Wanna go inside?” Kara asks gently when Lena shivers for the upteenth time. 

“Not yet.” Twisting away from the mountains, Lena buries into Kara’s chest, pulling the front of her jacket in her fists and tucking her head under Kara’s chin. 

With Lena snuggled in her arms, Kara pulls in a long, steadying breath, a cold flurry making her eyes water.

She breathes in deep against the wind, letting the solid weight of Lena’s body root her to the ground and, for a change, she doesn’t mind the promise of winter in her lungs.