The first time it happens, Kara doesn’t process what she’s doing until it’s too late.
Lena’s over for a Friday night Star Trek marathon and it’s cool and rainy outside. They’re a little tipsy, having finished off some Chinese take out and a bottle of alien wine that’s safe for humans and, when the latest episode ends, they clear away their dishes and the detritus from dinner. Kara’s just drying off her hands at the kitchen sink, contemplating taking her hair down and changing out of her work clothes while Lena roots through an upper cupboard for tea. They’re laughing at something, Lena pushing Kara’s shoulder playfully and Kara pretending to be knocked over, when Lena finally spots what she’s looking for.
“Kara, the fresh box is on your top shelf, can you—”
There are a lot of plausible explanations for what happens next. Maybe it’s because they’re already goofing around, maybe it’s because Kara broke her step stool last week and she can fly so she hasn’t needed to replace it, or maybe it’s because she just really likes touching Lena lately, but instead of, well, anything else, Kara’s first impulse is to grab Lena just below her waist and lift her up so she can reach the tea.
It’s the soft, ever so slightly breathless “oh” from Lena as Kara hoists her up that knocks whatever autopilot is engaged in Kara’s brain offline, and her first conscious thought is that Lena’s thighs are soft.
Lena is soft, generally—and warm—and Kara knows this because they’re best friends. Best friends who hug a lot and cuddle on the couch watching tv shows. So the fact that Lena’s thighs are soft, even through jeans? It’s not surprising.
No, what’s surprising is that Kara is holding those thighs, Lena lofted above her in the small kitchen, resting a hand on the top of Kara’s head to steady herself and stretching for some tea that Kara put away on a high shelf after grocery shopping last week because she ran out of room on the actual tea shelf. And if her first conscious thought is that Lena’s thighs are soft, then her second conscious thought is definitely telling herself not to think about how soft her best friend’s thighs feel beneath her jeans and definitely not to think about how close her hands are to Lena’s…
“Kara?” Lena is looking down at her with some concern on her face. She’s a little flushed from the wine they’ve been drinking—it’s cute. Everything about her is cute, especially the way her brow is furrowed when she repeats Kara's name.
“I’ve got it, you can put me down now.”
Kara can admit that putting Lena down does not go optimally.
She’s overwhelmed by the situation, trying incredibly hard not to focus on all the ways she’s touching Lena, her friend, and also really wanting to not make this weird because when Lena asked for help getting a new box of tea from the high shelf, why was Kara’s first thought not something like, oh, I CAN FLY AND GRAB THAT because she can fly and that’s obviously the solution and what is absolutely, catastrophically, unequivocally not the solution is what she did instead. But none of that is the point.
The point is, in an effort to stop touching Lena’s thighs as quickly as possible (because that’s definitely what’s making this weird), Kara just sort of…lets go.
The problem she's faced with then is that Lena yelps, probably because now instead of being held up in the air she’s dropping quickly toward the ground and Kara panics (because that’s what she does now, apparently) and grabs Lena back out of the air, which solves the problem of Lena falling, and absolutely creates a whole brand new problem which is that Kara is now holding Lena in a bridal carry in the middle of her kitchen. Kara can hear Lena’s heart hammering away, can feel it reverberate in the arm she has wrapped around Lena’s back. This position is at least more familiar, even if it’s never occurred inside her apartment before.
“You’re better than a roller coaster, aren’t you,” Lena laughs out lightly, and her face is so close to Kara’s that it’s a wonder Kara doesn’t just drop her again.
“You hate roller coasters,” she says instead.
“Then the bar is low, hmmm?” But Lena’s smiling and Kara feels a little of her panic fade. “Now, if you’re ready to set me down gently, I think we’ve got time for two more episodes.”
And if either one of them seems a little shaky when Kara finally tips Lena back (safely!) into standing position? Neither one of them mention it.
It becomes a thing.
In Kara’s defense, the next time she picks Lena up to get something from a high shelf, they’re at Lena’s apartment and Lena asks specifically for her help. That feels like an important mitigating factor. They’ve just gotten back from the gym and Kara’s flopped on the couch, mindlessly scrolling through Netflix, while Lena’s in the kitchen making a protein shake.
“Kara?” Lena calls out. “Come here a sec?”
When Kara enters the kitchen, Lena is pointing up to the top of a high shelf where there are a variety of canisters.
“I forgot to get another one down when I noticed I was running low,” she explains, gesturing at an identical open container on her counter. “I’d get the ladder out but it’s a pain, would you give me a boost?”
A boost. That doesn’t sound complicated. It shouldn’t be complicated. And if Lena were wearing something other than spandex leggings, 'complicated' probably isn’t a word that would apply. But she is wearing spandex leggings. It’s one of those things that Kara generally tries to observe passively when it happens, because the alternative is observing it actively and since that generally results in some rather untoward thoughts, well. Yeah. Passive is the way to go.
But how is she supposed to passively observe this particular sartorial choice if she’s going to be touching them?
Lena’s smiling like she hasn’t just started the apocalypse inside Kara’s chest. At least Kara’s autopilot must be somewhat engaged because she can feel herself moving towards Lena like this is totally fine, but the difference between last time and this time might as well be the difference between waking up and getting up. The former just happens, the latter is a conscious choice.
This time Kara has the whole approach as she walks over to where Lena is standing expectantly to consider what she’s doing. The safest option (if any part of this is safe) seems to be to bend down and grab Lena around just above her knees—no danger of accidentally getting a fistful of ass—and far less intimate than going for her hips.
Think of it like you’re picking up a bag of potatoes, Kara tells herself.
Except uncooked potatoes don’t smell this good (is it weird to think she smells good after working out? Kara wonders as she reminds herself not to make this weird), and they don’t come encased in spandex, which is definitely a human invention designed to make people go crazy. It’s like touching Lena’s skin but not—she’s warmer through them somehow, even softer, the material thinner than jeans—although it’s not as if Kara is focusing on that, thank you very much, because now that she’s lifted Lena up, it’s very clear that the problem is not actually the spandex. Lena doesn’t make a sound this time, but she doesn’t need to because Kara’s already far too aware that the low grip she has on Lena’s legs—just above her knees—means that her face is lined up perfectly with Lena’s stomach.
The knowledge that it would definitely make things weird is the only thing that stops Kara from nuzzling in, which is at least a better reaction than wanting to bite Lena—something she’s been terrified of experiencing ever since Alex explained the term cute aggression to her—but…
This time it only takes Lena saying her name once for Kara to kick back into gear and set her down. Except that, horrifyingly, Kara doesn’t just let go once Lena’s on the ground. No, of course not, that would be the normal thing to do. What Kara does instead, which is definitely way worse than just dropping Lena like last time, is run her hands along the outside of Lena’s thighs as she stands back up until they’re resting on Lena’s hips.
Suddenly being face to face with Lena, who is cradling a container of protein powder against her chest with flushed cheeks, is absolutely more than Kara can handle.
“I’m just gonna,” she starts, letting go of Lena’s hips and nearly tripping over herself while pointing back out toward the living room. “I left the tv on.”
“Right,” Lena says, her brow furrowed and Kara just wants to put her lips there, which is a mostly new and totally alarming thought. “Thanks.”
And somehow not even that experience is enough to deter Lena from asking for help later in the week to get a package of pasta from the top of her pantry. Kara handles it better; there’s no extended thigh touching this time.
Lena seems a little disappointed.
It’s wrong to say that Kara gets immune to the fluttery feeling which invades her chest when picking Lena up, more like she stops melting down entirely while it happens. It becomes less of an experience of crisis and instead—well, Kara looks forward to it. Lena doesn’t give Kara the impression that she’s bothered by how flustered Kara gets. If anything, she seems...endeared? Sometimes it’s almost like she’s lingering in Kara’s space after Kara’s set her down. Three times now, she’s tucked a strand of Kara’s hair behind her ear before stepping back, causing Kara’s heart to begin some sort of manic mambo. Once, Lena even forgot to get whatever it was Kara was lifting her up for and Kara had to pick her up a second time.
And if there’s a small chance that Kara starts keeping things she knows Lena will want, like her favorite tea or the fancy hot chocolate they both enjoy, on higher than usual shelving in her cabinets just so she’ll have an excuse to help Lena when she asks? Well, it’s not like there’s a rule against that or anything.
Ultimately, though, it’s this new storage system that gets Kara busted—but not by Lena.
Kara’s hosting game night and it’s about three hours in. Everyone is tipsy and J’onn is telling some story about an intergalactic road trip gone wrong when Lena calls out to Kara from the kitchen.
Lena doesn’t say anything when Kara comes over, just smiles and points up at the scotch that Kara tucked away on what is now definitely Lena’s shelf. Kara shrugs and scoops her up, the undignified giggle that escapes Lena’s mouth lost in the noise of the group laughing at whatever J’onn’s just said.
The upside to this happening with increasing frequency lately is that Kara’s gotten comfortable putting Lena down. So comfortable, in fact, that perhaps the word ‘comfortable’ applies less than the word ‘bold,’ and maybe it’s a combination of that and the Aldebaran rum she’s been drinking, but instead of just setting Lena down this time, Kara shifts her hands so that Lena slides slowly down her front.
It’s as good an idea as it is bad an idea, because Kara’s entire world cones down to Lena—how good she feels against Kara like this, how there is absolutely nothing platonic about anything that Kara wants to do right now, how there’s this thing that’s been building between the two of them, and how, right at this moment, Kara’s positive it’s not just one sided.
“My hero,” Lena says quietly when her feet touch the ground. Kara’s about to let go, when Lena leans forward and kisses her softly on the cheek before backing out of the embrace, Kara’s arms having gone slack the moment Lena’s lips brushed her skin.
Kara is vaguely aware of Nia brushing past her on the way to the fridge, muttering something about how “the rituals are intricate, I just know it,” but what pulls her back into reality is Alex flicking her shoulder.
“You okay there champ?”
“Yeah.” When had Alex even come into the kitchen? Kara shakes her head to clear it, tearing her eyes away from Lena, who is now sitting down next to Kelly on the couch, to turn to her sister. She can think about what just happened later. “What’s up?”
“Nothing.” Alex squints at her. “Kelly wants tea, but I can’t reach it.”
“No problem,” Kara says, smiling. She hovers up, peering into the basket holding the boxes. “Any preference?”
“Something decaf, please.”
Alex is smiling oddly, almost maniacally, as Kara settles back on the wood floor, tea in hand.
“Not gonna pick me up?” Alex takes the box and opens it, pulling out two packets.
Kara can’t help crossing her arms, feeling oddly defensive despite having no reason to. “Why would I pick you up?”
“No reason at all." Alex shakes her head and plugs in the kettle, before nodding in the direction of the group. "Go sit down, Lena looks lonely.”
The next time Kara gets up to refresh the snacks, Alex follows her into the kitchen and corners her at the fridge.
“I told myself I wasn’t gonna say anything until you did, but I can’t pretend this isn’t happening.” Alex swats at Kara, glancing back at the group and then whispering, “When were you gonna tell me you and Lena finally got together?”
“What?” Kara says, only remembering during the second half of the word to keep her voice down because the object of Alex’s question is only twelve feet away and even Settlers of Catan only requires so much concentration when it’s someone else’s turn.
Alex’s expression turns from amused to confused. “You, Lena, together in a romantic fashion. When did it happen?”
“Keep your voice down! And it hasn’t happened, okay?”
“Kara,” Alex says, and it’s clear she’s making an effort to keep her voice even. “Are you telling me that this,” she gestures with her hands “is happening and you two somehow aren’t—”
“What is this supposed to mean, Alex?” Kara asks, putting finger quotes around the word this.
“Oh my god.” Alex’s face takes on a pinched expression that Kara associates with exasperation and she starts ticking points off on her hand. “She’s sitting in your lap to play games, all of the good stuff in your apartment is completely out of reach, which I assumed was just some sort of weird mating ritual after I had to watch you pick her up in the most non-platonic clothed display of physical intimacy I’ve ever seen, she kissed you on the cheek afterwards in front of me and Nia.” Alex starts nodding as Kara’s eyes go wide. “There’s the lightbulb. You didn’t even notice we were in the kitchen did you?”
“No,” Kara says, rubbing at the back of her neck and wondering if Lena had noticed, or if she’d have cared if she had.
Alex huffs out a breath. “Yeah, you can see why I thought you’d finally pulled your shit together.”
Kara has the grace to wince. It’s not like she doesn’t think about asking Lena out all the time, she’s talked about it with Alex, actually. But Alex has (to this point) resisted being so direct about it. It makes Kara’s heart pound.
She glances back at the group to look at Lena. She’s right where Kara left her, in their seat on the couch, smiling and surreptitiously taking Brainy’s drink away from him, swapping it out for a glass of water. He doesn’t seem to notice the difference when he reaches back down and takes another sip. Lena catches Kara watching, her smile growing somehow softer and warmer and she cocks her head just slightly, as if she’s asking Kara if everything is alright.
Kara feels her own smile shift to match Lena’s and she nods in response. Lena transitions her attention to Nia who’s asking for her input on something, but Kara doesn’t turn away.
“I’m gonna ask her tonight.”
“We’re all very grateful,” Alex says, her voice dry, but she’s smiling when Kara looks over. “It’s about damn time.”
The nice thing about having great friends is that everyone stays to help clean up.
The bad part about having great friends is that everyone stays to help clean up, and by the time she and Lena are left alone at the end of the night, Kara still doesn’t really have a plan as to how she’s going to do the asking. She knows it could be as simple as saying the words, Hey Lena, will you go on a date with me? That’s pretty classic, as far as these things go. No room for misinterpretation, no having to wonder if Lena understands what Kara is going for.
But while Kara may have no problem leaping into physical danger without any warm up, leaping into something like this feels a little more fraught.
Lena’s standing in the kitchen, the cabinet door open and she’s pointing to the basket of tea Kara retrieved for Alex earlier.
The rum is long gone from Kara’s system when she picks Lena up and this time the decision to let Lena slide gently down her front until they’re standing face to face is one Kara makes entirely consciously. Lena sets the basket down on the counter beside them when her feet touch the floor, but Kara doesn’t let go and Lena doesn’t move to step away.
Leaping doesn’t feel quite so scary when Lena’s in her arms like this.
“You know I put the tea up there on purpose, right?” Kara’s not sure why she’s almost whispering but being quiet right now feels right, like being too loud might break some sort of spell.
“I do,” Lena breathes out, equally quiet, with a smile so warm it glows on her face. “You know I could use a chair to get up there if I wanted to.”
It’s the admission Kara needed to hear.
“Will you go out with me?” she asks, hastening to clarify before Lena can respond. “On a date. A romantic date?”
“Yes,” Lena says, her smile becoming so big a second dimple appears on her cheek. “Can I kiss you now? I’d really like to kiss you.”
Kara nods, leaning in.
They’re both smiling too big for it to be much of a kiss at first, but the moment Lena slides a hand around Kara’s neck—Kara’s knees go weak. It’s like lifting Lena up for the first time all over again, in the very best of ways.
Eventually, everything in Kara’s kitchen goes back to being at reasonable heights (much to Alex’s appreciation), but sometimes when Kara puts their groceries away, she’ll put the tea up high anyway.
And Lena always asks for help.