Lena Luthor comes bursting into her life early one stormy morning.
She probably didn’t mean to slam the door so forcefully against the glass storefront wall, but the torrential downpour she’s escaping swings it forward so fast Kara half expects the glass to shatter. Lena (though in this moment Kara knows her only as the soaking woman currently letting in all the rain) spends approximately thirty seven seconds battling the forces of nature in a futile attempt to close the door again before just letting it bang back open against the glass store front with a noticeable crack.
Kara can’t help but wince at the sound. Miss Grant is going to kill her.
“I’ll pay for that,” the woman grits out between chattering teeth. Her voice is tight, shoulders clenched, jaw locked so fiercely Kara can see the muscles quiver. She’s wearing what was once a sharply tailored suit but is now a soaking mud-stained mess that clings tight against her skin.
She trudges forward with careful steps, her heels shaking dangerously along the slippery tile. Kara breaks free from her stunned observing to run forward and force the door shut, the roar of the storm quieting down enough so that the only significant noise in the shop was the swish squish swish squish sound of the woman’s slow but steady progress towards the bathroom just around the counter.
Kara sends a wide-eyed look over to Winn, her coworker and best friend of two years, who just looks back at her with the same confusion. The mysterious woman eventually reaches the bathroom and slams the door shut behind her.
“Should we,” Kara starts, but she doesn’t quite know what she was going to suggest. It’s barely ten in the morning and it’d been storming on and off all day, so wet lady is their first customer of the day. Should she offer her a cookie?
Winn holds his hands up in surrender.
“I’m a dude. Can’t follow a lady into the bathroom.” He turns to head back, making like he’s actually got work he needs to do. Like they ever have actual work to do. “Good luck!”
Kara takes a long, meditative breath, before steeling herself up enough to go knock on the door.
“Ma’am,” she calls through the door, “are you alright?”
“Fuck!” the woman says. “Fuck fuck fuck FUCK!”
Kara considers just walking away at that but a loud crash has her rushing in before she can stop herself. The woman seems to be in the midst of a panic, dry-heaving hunched over the sink. Her soaked blazer has been thrown across the room, a shattered iPad laying next to it.
Kara moves slowly, arms out in front of her like she’s approaching a wild animal.
“Ma’am?” she tries again, and while the woman doesn’t visibly seem to notice her she does finally respond.
“Everything is ruined,” she says, almost laughing now in a frantic sort of way, “today is the day it all begins and it’s already ruined!” She does a bit of a snort-laugh only to quickly cover it up with her hands, eyes wide. Kara reaches out to her with a hesitant, placating hand.
“What’s ruined?” she asks gently. When she first moved in with the Danvers, Kara would regularly have panic attacks that left her huddled in the corner shaking and crying. Eliza was always able to bring her back through soft words and touches, so Kara tries to replicate the comfort. She ends up just sort of patting the woman on the head.
The woman seems unfazed by her petting. She’s just shaking her head over and over, and she’s got tears streaking down her face mixing with the mud and it takes a moment for her to pull her hands away from her mouth to speak.
“The presentation is today, it’s on the complete opposite side of town and after, after is when the board votes on,” she sniffles hard, “on me, I guess.” She wipes at her eye with the back of her hand but only manages to smear mud even more across her face.
“I was supposed to be there hours ago preparing, but every time I tried to call for a car they’d say they were coming but they never came, so I thought,” she hiccups through her tears, “I thought perhaps I could just walk to the office and then,” Kara hands her a bit of the rough 1-ply toilet paper they stock despite her numerous complaints, “even the sky decided to work against me, and the next thing I knew I was on my knees in a puddle much too deep to be in a residential sidewalk! I will be writing a strongly-worded letter to our city council.”
Kara can’t help but smile at that, charmed even by the sadness. She recognizes this moment for what it is - she is witnessing the worst day of someone else’s life. She starts mentally mapping the city in her mind, thinking of where the presentation might be. The shop - CatCo’s Cookies and Cakes! - is on the eastern side of the city near the local university. Based on her description it’s likely her presentation is near the river to the west, where all the large corporations stand. They can steal Winn’s car and jet over there.
“Anyway, my tablet is probably fried and it has all of my notes. Not that it matters at this point-”
Traffic at this hour is usually somewhat heavy so taking the main highway will be a bust though. There are back alley routes they could take, maybe, but they’d never be able to fit in the van. That really only leaves one option.
“-I’d need to be there in the next, what? Thirty minutes?” the woman continues, having missed Kara’s methodical mental analysis of current traffic patterns, “And from here it’d probably take an hour even in sunshine. My life is over, and the only person I can tell this to is some random donut shop girl!”
“Cakes and cookies,” Kara corrects instinctually. Miss Grant doesn’t come in until eleven on Mondays, if she moves fast enough maybe-
“What?” the woman sounds incredulous.
Kara waves it off and moves towards her discarded tech.
“It’s a, uh.. Nevermind. So you need to get to Corporate Row, right?”
The woman just nods, finally taking notice of the severity in Kara’s eyes.
“Give me your iPad,” she says with newfound authority in her voice.
“What?” the girl says, hesitation in her voice even while handing Kara her iPad.
“Hang tight,” Kara says before racing out to the main lobby.
Winn looks at her with trepidation, “Kara, is that girl okay?”
“Water damage,” Kara says in reply, not answering his question at all. Her mind is already four steps ahead and she really needs him to catch up. “There are notes on here I need you to save. Can you do it?”
Winn looks at her like she just told him she was an alien.
“I’m sorry, did you just ask me if I can do it? Did you ask if I, Winslow Schott, Jr., can somehow pull data off this sopping wet, mud-covered piece of plastic that looks like it’s been thrown against a concrete wall and RUN OVER?” Winn says in dramatic escalation. Kara just stares at him blankly.
“Yeah, of course I can do it.”
Kara darts to the back and grabs two clean rags, running one under hot water real fast before sprinting back to the bathroom. The woman is much more composed now, though the weight of defeat permeates her presence.
“I am very sorry for what you witnessed before,” she says, and her voice has an almost robotic nature to it, like she’d rehearsed every word beforehand. Kara immediately starts unbuttoning her shirt.
The woman’s eyes go wide.
“Wait, what are you-“
“Quick! Take your clothes off!” Kara cuts her off, tossing her shirt on the counter before unbuckling her pants. A strange, throaty noise bubbles out of the panicking woman’s mouth.
“Look, I don’t know what you think is happening, but you have severely misread this situation!” The woman’s voice is almost shrill now and Kara’s honestly never seen someone’s eyes go so wide. Confused, Kara looks down at her half-naked body before realizing how it must look.
“No, I’m not- look. You need dry clothes for your presentation. I am dry. Ergo we need to switch clothes now.”
The woman just stands there staring, which is the exact opposite of what she needs to be doing. Kara huffs a little bit in exacerbation and tugs her pants down. The woman’s eyes immediately follow their journey before rolling up fast to look at the ceiling, her skin journeying from sickly pale to deep ruddy red in the span of seconds.
“I-uh, I,” she’s shaking, and she looks so hesitant and afraid, so small in the face of this sudden social deviation, and all Kara wants is to help fix this.
“Listen, I can get you to your meeting but we have to leave, like, right now. So please. Take your clothes off.”
The woman just stares at her for a long, hard second before slowly rolling her saturated blouse up and off her body.
“If I see any pictures of this in the press I will destroy you,” she mumbles. Her words would have been a lot more intimidating had she not said them in such a petulant manner. Kara snorts.
“What, are you famous or something?”
The woman seems to stutter in her undressing, looking at Kara in surprise. Kara wonders then who this woman really is, if she is someone she should recognize. Honestly, it doesn’t matter and she doesn’t care.
“Perhaps not,” the woman says after a moment, “considering you don’t know me.”
“Exactly. Now here, wipe yourself down, dry off, and get dressed. We gotta go.”
Kara sprints back out to find Winn sitting in the back with the destroyed tablet now in pieces, parts of it Kara assumes are the brain connected to Winn’s laptop.
“Who the hell is this lady, Kara?” he asks, only to go red, “and why are you in your underwear?”
“Focus, Winn! Can you get me the notes?”
“The encryption on this thing is top-notch, but maybe if I just,” a few more keystrokes and an aha! from Winn and Kara’s running back to the bathroom with a freshly loaded flash drive in her hand. The woman is now cleaner and dressed in Kara’s clothes, bent at the waist rolling up the pants legs so they don’t drag.
“Okay!” Kara exclaims, causing the woman to jump in surprise and nearly topple over on to the muddy floor, “Got your notes, now we gotta go!”
She grabs the woman’s hand and drags her back out to the main lobby before she can even get a word out in reply.
“Kara wait!” Winn shouts, and the woman only just manages to not slam into her as she stops immediately. “You’re not- you’re wearing-” His face is so red and he can barely talk around his flustering, and Kara belatedly remembers she’s only wearing a bra and briefs. She laughs as the woman’s face goes red as well, and both her and Winn pointedly try not to look at her.
“Wait here!” she says, sprinting back to the bathroom. The woman’s clothes are slopped in a pile and Kara can’t help but gag a bit at the chilly sensation of sliding the blouse and skirt on. The sacrifices I make, she thinks to herself as chill bumps break out all over her skin. Now more than ever she’s determined to get this woman to her fucking presentation.
Thankfully the rain has let up, although the dark clouds ahead threaten to burst at any moment.
“I really shouldn’t get in the car of a stranger,” the woman says as she’s dragged around the corner, “I appreciate all your, er, help, but maybe I should just get a taxi.”
“Lady, I promise you no taxi is going to get you across town in,” she looks at her watch, “11 minutes.” The woman just sighs in defeat, shrugging as if to say what else could possibly go wrong? and lets Kara drag her to the back of the shop where a half-broken down truck was parked.
The woman sneers a bit.
“You want us to drive there in this?” she asks, but then shakes her head in a chastising way, “sorry, that was rude.”
“Nah it’s fine, Winn’s truck is a dump. Which is why we’ll be riding in style!”
She pulls her around the corner to reveal the only possible machine on wheels that could feasibly get them across town on this time crunch: the CatCo cookie delivery Vespa scooter.
It’s a new acquisition for the business that Kara’s been so excited for, as she’s always had to make her deliveries on foot. Now she’s got this stylish scoot that she’s hoping, maybe, Miss Grant will let her borrow sometimes. Walking everywhere all the time gets kind of annoying.
“Miss Grant let me pick it out,” Kara says with a proud smile. The woman is just looking at her in a way she can’t quite decipher, but she’s sure it’s something like respect or attraction.
“Anyway, we don’t have time. We gotta go!”
The woman just looks up at the sky and lets out the longest sigh before giving in and just climbing on behind her.
“Are you sure this thing can get us there?”
“Trust me,” Kara says with a smirk, slapping her helmet visor down over her face. “I can fly.”
Kara revs the engine and immediately the otherwise quiet alley they’re parked in is filled with the sound of a voice chanting CatCo over and over again. Whenever she accelerates, the sound system built into the scoot plays one of a small handful of words and phrases (such as CatCo, Cookies and Cakes, or Cat Grant for some reason). Apparently Miss Grant stole the idea from some company over in Europe.
The woman lets out a squeak of surprise and digs her grip even further into Kara’s sides.
“What the hell is that?!” the woman yells, trying to be heard over the repetitive phrase blaring in time to the engine.
“Oh, uh, Miss Grant thought that would be a cool way to advertise!”
mmmmCookies! mmmmCakes! mmmmCookies!
“I said it’s advertising!”
“What are you saying?”
“Nevermind!” Obviously there are still some kinks in the system to work out.
They turn onto 8th street only to slam to a sliding halt as Kara just barely manages to stop them from crashing into a truck.
Traffic is at a standstill. Sirens blare from two streets over, suggesting an accident ahead. Cars are bumper to bumper with no room for their scoot to scooch through. They are in the middle of the shopping district, the street lined with sidewalk shops and pop-ups. She hears the woman sigh and lean her helmet against her shoulder.
“Thank you for trying,” she says.
Kara revs the engine twice, shouting a confident, “this isn’t over!” with a chorus of CatGrantCatGrants backing her up. The woman barely has time to grab on again before Kara yanks the steering to the left to bring the scoot up and over the curb. They weave dangerously down the sidewalk, dodging pedestrians left and right, flying dangerously above walking speed. Kara ignores the yells and curses shouted at them, her mind already four streets ahead, and with a confidence she’s never felt before she turns swiftly left down a dark and seemingly endless alleyway. Kara knows every back alley in this city and she knows this path will get them there without even taking them on the streets.
“You’re not a serial killer are you?” the woman yells, possibly startled by the pitch black alleyway Kara suddenly takes them down.
“You know,” Kara says as she floors it around a corner, hitting a fast 15 mph, “if I was a serial killer I definitely wouldn’t just say yes when someone asked!”
“Oh god,” the woman says, and Kara just laughs as she grips her waist even tighter, the soft melodic sound of CatCoCatcoCatco following along with them.
Her presentation is scheduled at 11:00 AM. The CatCo Cookies and Cakes delivery scoot comes flying across the open business plaza at 10:58.
“Holy shit,” the woman breathes out as she climbs off with shaky legs, “you actually did it.”
“We did it!” Kara says. She grabs the helmet from shaky hands and gives the woman a light shove. “Now you go finish this!”
The woman just looks at her with confusion and wonder, her mouth fluttering a bit like she’s trying to find the right words for this. There are no right words for moments like this.
“Go!” Kara says again, giving her another gentle shove. Finally the woman just nods, shakes her head, and then nods again before taking off towards the building entrance in Kara’s bright pink button up and too large pants. Just like that Kara becomes intimately aware of just how uncomfortable the woman’s tight, cold, damp clothing is to wear. With a sigh, she slaps her visor back down and scoots away.
Miss Grant is waiting for her with a mop and a glare that could sink ships.
“Oh, Kiera,” she drawls, “how nice of you to join us again! You know, Winslow has been coming up with the most creative lies to explain why my opener decided to run off with our brand new company vehicle for an hour.”
Kara can see her life flashing before her eyes and it looks a lot like scrubbing the floor with her toothbrush. Miss Grant would probably make her bring her actual toothbrush from home to do it. Maybe she should invest in that fancy one with rubber bristles -
“Kiera!” Miss Grant snaps. Apparently she’d been talking this whole time. “Why are you dressed like that?”
Sheepishly Kara glances down at her too tight, still damp clothes, trying to formulate an excuse, but Miss Grant just moves on without waiting, “I don’t know why my essentially homeless employee has come into possession of a stained yet exceedingly expensive wardrobe, nor do I really care to find out.”
“I’m only technically homeless,” Kara mutters a bit uselessly, but Miss Grant soldiers on,
“I’m going home, as is Winslow. But because you decided to take an unscheduled midday break I trust you will be fine with working the late shift today as well, yes? And you can clean up the mess you somehow made in the bathroom- buh-buh-buh,” she holds her hand up, cutting off Kara’s attempt to explain, “I don’t want to know. Just clean up your mess, work your shift, and never do it again.”
All things considered, Kara thinks she got off easy.
Late shift isn’t so bad, honestly, as the only folks who order cookies at 3 am are either pulling all-nighters studying or battling the munchies. Much more preferable to some of the snootier clientele they get in this area. She wonders how the woman from earlier fits in here, if she’s a student or a wealthy socialite. It was an interview that they had to get to, so maybe she’s trying for an internship at the new L Corp headquarters that’ve opened downtown. Good luck with that, Kara thinks as she drags the soapy mop across the bathroom floor, you’d need a PhD and a first class pedigree just to mop the floors in that building.
Once the bathrooms are clean of all the day’s muddy remains Kara drags the dirty bucket and mop to go rinse them out. She glances at the front of the store then only to see that there’s a business woman standing at the counter.
Surprised to see anyone in the store so late at night, Kara rushes to wash her hands before going to help.
“Hi, can I help you?” Kara asks. The woman gives her a tremulous smile.
“Oh good! You’re,” she clears her throat, “you’re still here.”
Kara doesn’t even recognize her at first. In her defense, the only time she’s ever seen her is really either in her underwear or in Kara’s clothes, so when mystery wet lady comes marching in to CatCo looking put together and clean it’s understandable for Kara not to immediately recognize. The moment she does, though, her whole face lights up in a grin, causing the woman’s smile to grow a little bigger, a little more steady.
“You’re here!” she all but yells, and the woman barely has time to react before Kara is throwing her arms around her into a tight hug. “I’m so happy you’re here! And look at you, you look so pretty! How did it go? Tell me everything.”
It takes a few seconds for the woman to properly react. She seems to still be processing the sudden physical contact, and Kara does tend to talk a mile a minute sometimes when she’s excited. Alex says one day she’s gonna be so focused on getting all the words out she won’t remember to take any in and she’ll just stop breathing all together. Alex is kind of a jerk sometimes.
Finally, the woman speaks.
“It went very well,” she says slowly, carefully. Every word she speaks when not in a crisis seems carefully selected. “I wanted to thank you for that. I would have never achieved it had you not gone so above and beyond.”
Kara just shrugs, beaming at her.
“Gotta always put the customer first, right?” she says, laughing a bit awkwardly.
“Do you usually strip for customers?” The woman asks, then seems to realize what she says. Her face goes bright red and she looks away but Kara just laughs.
“Only if they really need it,” she teases. She laughs even harder this time as the woman’s face goes an even darker shade and belatedly she wonders if the woman might faint from all that blood moving so quickly to her face. Instead of fainting, she just nods, then seems to remember part of why she’s there.
“Right. Oh!” she looks down to the bag in her arms. “I brought you your clothes. Thank you again for that.”
“No worries. Oh man! Did you dry clean them? Wow, that’s neat. How did you even have time to do that?”
The woman just shakes her head and shrugs half-heartedly, runs her fingers through her hair and glances at the door. Kara presses on,
“Hey! What’s your favorite kind of cookie?”
The polite shock on her face makes Kara think that’s a question no one has asked her in a long time, if ever.
“Chocolate chip,” she says after a long moment. Kara immediately reaches into the display by the counter and pulls out the biggest cookie in the bunch and hands it to her with a beaming smile. Confused but smiling, the woman goes to pull her purse out only to freeze as a warm hand closes on top of her own.
“No, no! You nailed your presentation today even when you were scared. That means your cookie is on the house.”
Instantly she sees tears misting over the woman’s eyes and she can’t help but pull her into a tight hug. The woman lets out a tiny huff but allows herself to be pressed against Kara’s chest, eventually bringing her hands up to grip at her back.
“Thank you,” she says against Kara’s shoulder, barely above a whisper. The moment feels heavier than it should, standing in the lobby of a cookie shop in the arms of a stranger. They stand like that for a while, Kara’s not even sure really, before finally the woman pulls away. Clearing her throat and wiping her eye, the woman smiles gently at her.
“I should go now. I just wanted to give you your clothes. Thank you for the cookie.”
“Of course. Oh, do you want your clothes back? I haven’t had time to wash them-” the woman just waves her words off.
“Please. Keep them, throw them away, I don’t care, but I really must be going. Have a good night.”
And with that she slips out the door and heads to a car idling outside.
Kara stands at the front and watches until the woman is safely in the car, then goes back to closing up the shop. As she packs her bag to leave she notices something tucked into the front pocket of her newly returned pants.
It’s two hundred dollar bills, folded over a post-it note that has written in blocky sprawl:
Kara hasn’t held more than a twenty in her hands in a long time so she’s not quite sure what to do with it. A part of her wants to chase after her, give it back because there’s no way she meant to give Kara two hundred dollars. But when she steps out the front all she sees are empty streets and dark windows, the city finally winding down to rest all around.
With a shocked, stutter of a sigh, Kara carefully slides the money into the sole of her shoe not trusting that much money to stay safe in her pockets.
As she closes up the shop, she can’t help but wonder if she’ll ever see Lena again.
Scoot inspired by this
Chapter 2: glad I didn't die before I met you
Alex and Kara talk. Kara tries to talk to rude strangers. Kara talks to Lena. The author talks to herself, probably.
Sorry for the delay. it's because of who I am as a person.
Also I'm working my way through the tv show Rectify right now, which is set in Georgia and full of terrible fake Southern accents. I was raised in Georgia and have never lived anywhere but the south, but I'd say I really don't have much of an accent. But because I've been watching so much of this tv show I've started saying certain things with a very fake Southern twang that I would otherwise never use. It's all very strange to experience, but if some phrasing in this chapter feels a bit colloquial know its at least partially inspired by that. I suggest reading the entire chapter out loud to yourself in a very fake southern accent. Only then will you truly feel the full impact.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kara’s painting when Alex comes home.
This in itself is not an unusual or surprising event, of course, but it does cause her to pull back from the meditative state she had only just managed to reach. Her painting is nearly done she thinks, its swirls of reds and yellows and chunky greens stretching out from the center mass. She wants to add black to it, feels like that is what will make it really complete, but she hasn’t had access to black paint in a while. She can hear Alex place her keys in the bowl by the door and step up behind her.
Maybe she can swipe some black food coloring from work. Miss Grant is strict on having employees there at the right times but loose with everything else. It’s not a well-kept secret how much of the store’s products both she and Winn consume throughout the day. If she’s being honest, Kara’s pretty sure CatCo is a money laundering front.
“Yeah Alex?” she realizes she hadn’t responded. Alex is right behind her now, watching her paint over her shoulder. Kara traces her thumb through the yellow smudge she’d made, causing it to swirl alongside a particularly bold streak of red. Her insides feel like fire, all the time. This painting kind of feels like fire, too.
“Is there a reason you’re smearing condiments all over that piece of cardboard?”
Kara glances down at the half squeezed out tubes of mustard, ketchup, and relish collecting beside her and tries not be offended.
“I don’t like the way you said cardboard just now, young lady. I’ll have you know my canvas is very significant, artistically. It’s commentary on the disposable nature of art in today’s society-"
Alex just looks at her with skeptical sisterly eyes.
“-Not to mention my decision to use condiments! Obviously I’m making a statement on how media is consumed like fast food.”
"So," Alex drawls, “You can’t afford art supplies.”
“Yeah no I’m like, crazy broke.”
Kara puffs her chest out a bit, jumping up to go wash the smears off her hands, but not without first licking at her palms to get some of it. She washes the muddied colors down the drain. Her hands feel extra smooth now, at least. Totally a bonus.
“Ah. Well please throw out your social commentary when you’re done with it. I really don’t want to deal with ants right now.”
Kara fake gasps, clutching her chest like Alex’s very words have strangled her.
“You want me to throw away my masterpiece?” she all but shouts at her now retreating sister, who has ducked into her bedroom to change.
“You’re the one who said it was about disposability,” Alex shouts back, “what better way could you honor it?”
Damn. Well played.
Kara notices then the huge stack of groceries Alex has deposited on the counter - way more than she usually buys for the two of them. Even with Kara’s colossal appetite she doesn’t need this much in a week. Then, Kara remembers.
“Oh my god, Alex!” she shouts, sprinting through her tiny one bedroom apartment and all but barreling her sister over, “LUCY IS COMING HOME!”
Alex laughs and hugs her back. Her face relaxes in a way it almost never does these days, not unless Lucy’s involved. That alone is reason enough for Kara to love Lucy endlessly.
“I know! I can’t believe her flight in is next week! You’re still gonna drive us from the airport right?”
They move to the kitchen to start putting away groceries. The small space barely holds their foods, so adding enough for a third has pushed it to overflow. They end up just stacking bags of chips and bread on the floor beside the counter.
“Yep,” Kara says, searching out an empty space for a particularly large can of diced tomatoes to go. Maybe she could balance the flower pot Eliza gave Alex when she moved in on top of the can? Mmm seems risky. “I’ll drive so you guys can mount each other the whole way home.”
“We’re not gonna mount each other, Kara. We aren’t horses. I mean we might fondle a bit, but-”
“Ok gross,” Kara gags out, earning a bark of a laugh from her sister. She remembers then the topic she’d been avoiding all week, the one she really has to broach sooner than later. She clears her throat, but Alex cuts her off.
“Hey, Kara, is there any way you could maybe go crash at Winn’s house for a few days? Just at first. We haven’t, you know, seen each other really in almost a year, so-“
“So you wanna bang without your baby sister sleeping one thin wall away?”
Alex makes a hilarious choked sound.
“Okay, now who is being gross?”
Kara shoves Alex playfully, shoves a bag of spinach into the barely there space left in the fridge. This apartment is barely enough space for one person, and soon three are going to be here. Kara has to tell her.
“I, uh, wanted to talk to you about that, actually.”
Alex looks at her in horror and Kara stumbles out, “Not about your sex life, you weirdo! About,” she clears her throat, looks away, “about maybe getting my own place, soon.”
She’s pretty sure she could hear all the air being sucked out of the room then, and she doesn’t have the nerve to look at Alex but she just knows she’s frozen in place. This is a hard subject to broach, no matter how much mental preparation she’s done for it. After a few more loaded seconds, Alex finally manages a quiet, “Oh?” It’s invitation enough.
“Yeah! I just, I’ve really appreciated you letting me stay here for so long, but Lucy’s coming, you know? She’s got leave for three months! I mean, have you guys even spent that much time together since high school?”
Alex looks conflicted and like she’s about to argue so Kara barrels on.
“No, you haven’t. And I know you want to spend time with your girlfriend - who you never get to see - and me sleeping in your living room isn’t gonna make it all that fun for any of us. And I really just,” she looks at Alex now, catching her concerned eyes, “I really think I’m ready, now?”
“How do you know?” Alex asks, and her voice breaks a little bit. Kara lets out a self-deprecating laugh, shakes her head.
“I don’t think we ever really know. Sometimes we just gotta do it anyway and hope for the best.”
Alex is crying a bit now, a tear slipping down her face before she could wipe it away with a sniffle.
“You are always welcome here, Kara. No matter what.”
Kara smiles softly at her, grabs her hand with a soft squeeze.
“I know I am. But it’s been seven months, you know? I just really think its time.” Alex is nodding, not because she believes what Kara is saying so much as she just needs to react in some way that isn’t crying. “I’ve been looking at places, too. I’m talking to a landlord right now about a place on third.”
Alex lets out a wet laugh, surprised.
“You’ve been thinking about this for a while, then.” Kara nods. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Kara shrugs, looks away.
“I guess I knew you’d react like, well,” she gestures to Alex’s tears. Alex huffs, face scrunching in teary annoyance.
“I don’t need to be coddled, Kara,” she teases, but Kara just tilts her head a bit, gives her a serious look.
“Neither do I.”
Alex seems to accept it then, at that. She knows her sister, knows that when her mind is made up there is no changing it. It’s just so hard, when you want to hold tight and protect someone who only ever wants to fly.
They smile at each other then - Kara with relief at having told the secret weighing on her soul and Alex with sad pride at the strong woman her sister has become - and hold each other’s gaze until Kara’s phone beeps an alarm.
“Ah! Well,” Kara clears her throat that had mysteriously thickened a bit during this sisterly moment (she wasn’t gonna cry! she’s not a baby like Alex) “looks like it’s time for work! I have a big delivery today, like three cakes or something to a party?”
Alex makes a small noise of disapproval.
“That sounds like a lot,” she says, because even after all this her first instinct is always to protect her sister, “Are you sure you should be carrying all that? The doctor said-”
“I know what the doctor said, Alex, and I’ll be fine! See you later!”
She sprints out of the apartment before Alex can say anything else.
Kara slams the tiny scoot trunk shut with her hip, just barely balancing her delivery in her arms. Somehow all four of the fairly large boxes she’s delivering fit into the scoot. She’s so proud.
There’s no way she can carry them all at once, though, despite her bravado. She has two in her hands now and plans to come back for the others. Hopefully she doesn’t have to walk up a lot of stairs, that’d suck. Belatedly Kara realizes the building she’s now entering is the same one that fun weird girl Lena works at now. Maybe they’ll run into each other. That'd be nice, Lena seemed nice.
Kara’s thoughts are cut off the second she steps in to what has to be the most extravagant building she’s ever seen. Even the floors look expensive, and they're so shiny Kara can even see the small cluster of acne happening on her temple from where she’d sat her face against her hand for too long. She’s pretty sure if she squints she’ll be able to see her eyelashes.
She approaches the massive front desk but can’t even get a word out before she’s being ushered to a much less extravagant hallway where she and the boxes are poked, prodded, and scanned. She steps through her fourth metal detector and tries not to whimper in horror when a guard takes a knife and chops into her carefully made cakes, checking for weapons or explosives or surprise chocolate filling. It’s more thorough than the TSA, and nearly twice as invasive if she’s honest. Does the pope work here or something? she wonders as her now murdered cakes are shoved back into her hands and she’s directed to a golden elevator.
The inside at least looks normal, with plain walls and disinterested looking people in business attire. Kara squeezes her way in, cakes delicately balanced in her arms, and is relieved to see the floor she’s headed already pressed. It’s kind of awkward and more than ever Kara is aware of how bright her CatCo top is, how there are holes in the soles of her shoes that squish every time she walks. The watch the man next to her is wearing probably costs more than everything she owns combined. Granted she doesn’t own that much, but still. It’s the principle of the matter.
So Kara does what she always does when faced with an uncomfortable social situation: she starts to talk.
“How’s everybody’s day going?” she says, breaking the smothering silence. No one even blinks in acknowledgement. The floors tick by at a sluggish pace. She thinks about the cakes in her hands that say “Congratulations Jerry! Happy Retirement!”
“So your boss is retiring, huh? That's fun!” Kara continues, never one to back down from a challenge. “Do you guys know who is taking their place?” That, finally, somehow gets a reaction. Every person in the elevator immediately flinches or groans or scoffs. Some do all three at once.
“You mean the witch?” One chimes in.
“God, I can't believe,” Another starts.
“Does she really think a new city will help her reputation?” Someone from the back adds.
“-think is gonna happen?” someone’s mumbling, words only just filtering to Kara’s ears.
“They should have just arrested all the Luthors and thrown away the key.”
Everyone seems to agree with that, as a chorus of affirmations echo throughout. Not quite the kind of conversation Kara was aiming for, but at least its something. Kara waits just a few beats hoping an answer will come without asking, before finally inquiring,
“I'm sorry, who are the Luthors?”
And just like that the tiny box is filled with shock and annoyance and disdain, now all directed at her rather than this allegedly evil woman.
“What, have you been living under a rock for the past year?” the woman who’d first responded sneers.
“Um,” she says, and thinks of her hospital bed.
the woman continues before she could possibly respond,
“They're all evil, and just because she’s never been caught doing something doesn’t mean she’s innocent. We all know she’s not gonna be any different.”
That doesn’t quite sit right with Kara.
“Well, sometimes people can surprise you, if you give them the chance.”
That just earns her more scoffs and, oh thank god, they’ve almost reached their floor. The elevator stops then to pick someone else up and Kara silently prays this will be the last one before their floor.
Then the doors open, and Lena is there.
Kara feels her entire spirit lift up at the sight of her.
“Lena!” She yells a bit too loud for a cramped elevator, not noticing the universal flinch across the elevator. “I was hoping I'd see you!”
Lena for her part only looks surprised for a few moments before giving Kara a muted grin.
“Hello again. Fancy meeting you here.”
Everyone on the elevator shuffles back to let Lena on, practically pressing themselves to the walls around them to give her space. If Lena notices she doesn’t react, her eyes still soft and on Kara. For her part, Kara’s just glad she finally found a friendly place in this elitist hellhole.
“Wow it is so nice to see you! Are you going to the retirement party? That’s so cool. You must be very smart to get a job here.”
Kara doesn’t really notice the shocked looks of horror all of Lena’s coworkers are throwing them. Really all she sees is the red tinge in Lena’s face, the barely there smile creeping up at the corners of her lips.
Soon the doors open to the floor they’re all headed towards and Kara is nearly bowled over by the rush of everyone trying to escape at once. Lena shoots her a sympathetic look before guiding her to the small kitchenette to set up her first two desserts. It’s almost overwhelming, how much incredible food is already set up for this party. Lena must notice the downright lustful look in her eyes because she laughingly says, “you can eat some if you’d like.”
Kara stutters, shaking her head in an exaggerated way.
“What? No! I, I couldn’t. I’m not,” there’s already a tiny sandwich in her hands, “well I mean if you really insist I guess I could just,” she grabs a cluster of grapes and slinks after Lena as she walks away.
Employees are milling about, sipping on sodas and looking uncomfortable. Lena is hovering, flattening and re-flattening her shirt while skittishly looking from person to person. No one is talking to her, no one is even looking at her. It looks for a second like she might talk to a small cluster near the punch bowl, but all that really happens is the group laughs at a joke and Lena quietly chuckles from afar despite not being close enough to hear.
It’s… really painful.
“Hey Lena,” Kara calls, and its like every conversation in the room stops at once. A little startled but determined, Kara continues, “I still have some stuff I need to bring up. Wanna come help me get it?”
Suddenly everyone is talking at once, practically clamoring over each other with loud exclamations of “oh no I can help! Don’t worry, I’ve got it! No I can” before Lena quietly but confidently says that yes, she’d love to help Kara. Everyone shoots them desperate little looks as they get on the elevator together, not speaking again until the doors close. God, this is the weirdest office Kara has ever been in in her life.
“Felt like you needed a rescue there,” Kara finally says, and Lena lets out a loud sigh.
“Thank you for that.”
“Don’t sweat it. The first couple of weeks on a job are always painful, plus your coworkers kind of seem like assholes.”
“No I’m sure they’re not all that bad. They just don’t know how to act around me. It’s understandable.” Kara can’t help but scoff at that.
“How would they need to act? Just talk to you like you’re a person. It’s not that hard.”
Lena just gives her a look that she can’t decipher, one she seems to be getting more and more with every interaction they have. It really feels like everyone in this building is speaking a language Kara just doesn’t quite understand. Kara tries to change the topic.
“So, are you excited about the new boss?” she tries.
Lena snorts so hard she chokes for a minute, and she shakes off Kara’s amused pats to her back. After regaining some control, she laughs, says,
“As excited as I can be, I guess.”
Okay, not a rousing cheer but much better than the witch burning vibe Kara’d felt from the others.
“That’s the spirit! Everybody else has such a bad attitude, but I think it’s great you guys are getting a new lady boss. Although she’s a Luthor, which is also apparently a bad thing.”
Kara has literally no idea what she’s talking about, but she wants to be relatable and at least seem like she’s in the know. Everyone else seems to know something so she can play along too, right? Only maybe she isn’t doing so well at it, because Lena’s amused smile has started to look a lot more like a hurt frown.
“Are you making a joke right now?” she says with pain her voice, and yep! Kara definitely fucked up. She really needs to get caught up on cultural references before she just starts talking about stuff.
“Er, no? Or I’m not trying to, at least,” she finally says, looking down, disappointed in herself a bit. Lena touches her shoulder then to bring her attention back and wow is she giving Kara an intense look.
“Kara,” she says slowly, earnest, “Do you not know who the Luthors are?” She asks like it’s the most important question she’s ever asked before in her life. God, Kara needs to catch up with society.
“Is it terrible if I say I don’t?” she finally says, rubbing her neck sheepishly. “Everybody else seems to, though. Sorry if I’m kind of socially stunted.”
She pulls her phone out at that and pulls up a browser, manages to just type LUT into her search before Lena slams her hand down over the screen.
Her eyes are a bit frantic when they meet Kara’s and she seems to take a moment to regain some control, clearing her throat and letting go of the phone.
“No, don’t, it’s not,” she clears her throat again, “they’re not important. Just the people who own the company. That’s why everyone here knows them, but it’s not a name you’d need to know.”
“Ohhh! That makes me feel a lot better!” Being out of the corporate loop is not worth sweating.
Lena seems to visibly relax when Kara slips her phone back into her pocket instead of continuing her search, and Kara makes a small mental note to look the name up later. It still feels important.
“Well, what about you? Do you like this Luthor lady?” Kara asks.
Lena seems struck by her question and takes a long while to think on it. Kara appreciates that; people don’t always take her seriously and having someone put genuine thought into her questions is validating.
“I’m not a huge fan,” Lena finally says, slow and careful, “but I think she’s trying her best. I think she wants to do the right thing for everybody.”
Kara can’t help but smile at that.
“That’s such a great outlook!” Lena is a breath of fresh air in this stifling environment, “Well, I like this Luthor lady too, then. All we can ask is for people to do their best, right? And try not to judge them too much on who they were before.”
Lena’s looking at her in that peculiar sort of way that Kara can’t quite distinguish, and it makes her a bit uncomfortable so she just shrugs and mumbles, “I’m a big fan of giving people chances, I guess.”
They step off the elevator and approach the lobby. Weirdly they are waved through without hesitation; guess the guards don’t check as thoroughly when you’re leaving.
There seems to be an internal fight happening in Lena’s eyes at that, and it seems for a moment like she might be about to say something when Kara’s phone chirps.
She glances down to see an email from the landlord she’s been going back and forth with, and she can’t help but sigh at the subject line of “LISTING NO LONGER AVAILABLE”
Lena is immediately on alert. “What’s wrong? Did something happen?” she asks incessantly, glancing nervously around the lobby they’re walking through like maybe a threat lurks nearby.
“No, it’s fine. I just,” she sighs again, “An apartment I was looking at is gone. It was basically the only one in my price range. It’s so hard to find a place to live in this city.”
They reach the CatCo scoot and each grab one of the boxes. She’s running a little late now, hopefully Miss Grant won’t notice. Besides, she likes talking to Lena. She’s nice.
“There are empty condos in my building,” Lena says as they walk into the lobby. “You can have one if you’d like.”
The words slip by unnoticed mostly, as Kara is a bit distracted by the security, or rather lack thereof, as they walk back in. The same security guard who murdered her beautiful sheet cake not even an hour before waves them through without so much as a scan, just nodding in deference. Honestly, Kara only half heard what Lena said.
“Nah, any place that calls itself a condo is way out of my budget. Thanks for thinking of that, though.”
She’s trying to contain the anger building inside of her on behalf of her murdered sheet cake. Lena huffs a bit, shaking her head.
“No, that’s not what I-“ she pauses, then says, “Okay, what is your budget?”
“Honestly? I could pay maybe $300 a month, which in this town would barely get me a floor to sleep on. At this rate I might just have to move back home. Maybe National City just isn’t for me.”
Lena reaches out to grab her then, a look of pure panic in her eyes.
“Don’t move back! The condos,” she clears her throat, calms her words down to a steadier pace, “They’re actually a special deal. Only $200 a month.” Her words sound confident but her face looks a bit constipated.
Kara just looks at her skeptically and exits the elevator as they arrive back on their floor.
“Where do you live that condos are only $200? A dump?”
A woman standing near them suddenly chokes into her drink, causing soda to dribble all down her chin and top. Lena walks determinedly on.
“I know the building owner, and I can guarantee that price.”
Lena’s shaking now, she realizes, nervously trembling with fire in her eyes. There really is no way Kara could say no outright to this.
“Tell you what,” she says instead, smiling, “what if you and I went and did a tour of the place and maybe talk to the owner?”
Pure joy seems to rush over Lena at that, and immediately Kara knows she made the right decision.
“Perhaps tomorrow?” Lena’s voice is so hopeful and nervous in equal measures.
“Sure! Let me see your phone.” Lena barely hesitates to hand it over - after all, if Kara wanted to steal her tech she’d have stolen it in the bathroom. Not that she would. She’s not a monster, gosh. Kara types in her phone number real fast and sends herself a text from Lena’s phone. She feels good now, even if this doesn’t work out. Even just hanging out with Lena for a day would be fun.
“Thank you, Lena,” she says, “For trying to help me like this. You barely even know me.”
Lena laughs at that, disbelief shining in her eyes.
“I know enough,” she finally says. Kara feels a tug at her heart.
“Can I tell you something kind of weird?” Kara asks. Lena just nods, and Kara takes a moment to fully compose her thoughts.
“I feel like my entire life was a puzzle, right? And I didn’t really love the picture it was making but I was still really good at putting it together. And then one day the whole thing just got… knocked right off the table, and all the pieces broke in half. And I just don’t know if I have it in me to start putting it back together again, you know? I’m not even sure if I want to anymore.”
Lena lets out a shuddery sigh, and Kara only just then notices the slight watery sheen to her eyes. Wow, she’s two for two at making ladies cry today. Killing it, Danvers.
“I can understand that,” Lena finally says with a sad smile. “Sometimes life gives you a puzzle that looks nothing like what you want, but you’re not sure you’re even allowed to pick a different one.”
“Right. But anyway, the reason I say that is, well. I always feel like games are better with friends, you know? So maybe we can figure out our crappy puzzles together.”
Lena really looks like she might burst into tears on the spot there so Kara decides its probably best to leave now. She smiles at Lena and walks backwards on to the elevator, never looking away even as she fumbles to press what she hopes is the lobby button.
“I’ll see you tomorrow, Lena!” she calls, and only just hears Lena’s reply as the doors slide shut.
“See you tomorrow, Kara.”
Kara is stopped by security on the way out and forced to go through a five minute search.
She forgets to look up the name Luthor.
Kara’s asleep on the couch when Alex stumbles home. She doesn’t wake until her sister slams the door just a bit too hard. She blinks her way back into consciousness to the sounds of Alex cursing quietly under her breath. This is the second time this week Alex has stumbled home drunk like this. Kara’s concerned, but she keeps her eyes closed and breathes slow.
She can hear Alex fumble with her shoes, hit the coffee table, nearly fall to the ground. Can feel the way Alex leans over her to hold her hand in front of Kara’s face. Drunk Alex always checks her breathing. Sober Alex might, too, she’s not sure. She may just be better about not waking her.
Kara lets out a slow, controlled breath, and she can hear the relief in Alex’s sigh at the feel of it.
“Still good,” Alex murmurs quietly to herself as she stumbles to her room, “still alive.”
Kara doesn’t fall asleep for awhile after that.
Dang I wonder what happened to Kara seven months ago that's made her live on Alex's couch? A mystery no one knows ((I know))
Coming up next: Lena takes Kara to look at the biggest condo of her life, holy cow Lena there is no way this is only $200?? Who is this mysterious property owner?
Also Lucy comes home! Maybe! We'll see. Love you all come yell at me on tumblr @karalovesallthegirls
Chapter 3: take my wallet if you want it now
the sugar baby lifestyle begins
cut this chapter in half so I could go ahead and get an update out so its a bit shorter than normal. Next one should be quicker.
This chapter, like all chapters, is best consumed in the nude
This has to be a joke, right?
There is no way this is the address. She double checked it with Lena three times the other day, but there’s no way this $200 apartment is located in this high rise building deep in the wealthy district of uptown National City. Pristine marble tile covers the entrance in swirling mosaics, the deep-set patterns dancing from the outside doors all the way to the front desk. Part of Kara feels like she needs to take off her shoes to even go into the building; most of Kara feels like this is all a mean-spirited prank by her supposed new friend. It doesn’t seem like something Lena would do, although admittedly Kara only knows so much about the other girl. One thing she does know, however, is that there is no logical reason an apartment in a building like this would be within her micro budget. Tightening her grip on her bag, Kara walks into the lobby.
A polite but firm doorman waits just inside with a small metal detector held in gloved hands. He traces the machine over her backpack, smiles at her. Kara shifts uncomfortably and wonders what he thinks of her mud-stained bag and thrifted jacket.
“I’m sorry, I think I’m lost,” she says to fill the silence. “I’m supposed to meet my friend to look at an apartment, but-”
“Are you Miss Kara?” he cuts in. Kara blanches, but nods. He smiles again, the lines on his face deep and defined from years of friendly expressions.
“No, Miss Kara. They’re expecting you upstairs.”
Despite his gentle tone she feels dread waft over her like a thick fog, and it takes a bit of inner strength to nod and walk to the elevator. So apparently this is somehow, unbelievably, exactly where she is supposed to be.
She tries not to startle when she realizes he has followed on to the elevator with her. Her silent questioning is answered when she realizes there are no buttons on the immaculately polished walls, just a thin slit for a card key to go in. He pulls one seemingly out of thin air and slides it in with a small confirming beep. The doors slide shut and soon they are moving up so smoothly Kara doesn’t even feel it begin.
“When it’s all settled you’ll get your own key,” he says after a moment, breaking the somewhat tense silence.
She has no idea how to respond to that.
In a matter of seconds the elevator opens to a short monochromatic hallway, at the end of which is a door partially propped open. Kara can hear voices whisper-yelling back and forth, although she can’t quite make out the words. She knocks gently and the voices go silent. Slowly, Kara peeks in.
It is, without a doubt, the biggest apartment Kara has ever seen in her entire life.
With high ceilings and dark wood floors, the main room seems to stretch endlessly into the sky - partially due to the floor-to-ceiling windows covering the entire eastern wall - resulting in a breathtaking view of upper National City. The walls have an industrial feel to them, mostly comprised of chunky concrete with smatterings of underlying brick peeking through. And there, standing in the middle of it all, was Lena, standing with a woman Kara had never seen before.
“Kara!” Lena yells before clearing her throat, then saying more quietly, “lovely to see you. This is Jess, she is the property manager here.”
Jess, for her part, looks thoroughly unimpressed.
“Yep. That is now the job that I have apparently. I’m the property manager here.”
Kara is painfully aware of how small she feels then, standing with these two confusing women in a giant empty loft.
“Lena,” Kara says with a questioning chuckle, “this is a joke, right?”
Jess snorts but Lena just looks thoroughly confused.
“No, Kara! This is the apartment I told you about! Jess, tell her.”
Lena shoves Jess forward a bit, a gesture the other woman clearly did not appreciate. With a sigh, Jess begins:
“Built in 2014, our condos blend state-of-the art amenities with a rustic, industrial feel-”
Kara can’t help but tune out the scripted spiel as she walks around the big open space, Lena trailing awkwardly behind her. Kara’s lived in a small handful of places in her life, and she’s pretty sure they all would have fit easily inside this condo. If anything, Kara is an expert at compact living.
She didn’t have a lot of stuff as a kid, even before her parents died. What things she did have were more or less lost during the four years she spent shuffled through the foster care system. By the time the Danvers adopted her she had nothing left from the life she lived before aside from one thing - the red baby blanket she’d had that day, clutched tight in her hands when Clark managed to break the dented lock off her car seat and pull her free from the burning wreckage that had been her family’s van. She wouldn’t let go of it for anything that day when he pulled her out and no one else. No one else but them. They were too far gone he said. Don’t look, he said, we have to get away from it. Don’t look, but she did anyway. They were good people, her birth parents. She doesn’t remember everything about them but she remembers that.
So she has a childhood blanket, and she has a few good shirts. A nice pair of slacks, some thick socks, a pair of shorts. A few dresses. She has a backpack they can all fit in to if necessary, and she has a family that loves her more than anything else. She has friends, and she has a job that’s slowly helping the numbers creep upward in her bank account. All things considered, she’s got a lot. She’s never been one to complain.
“-And your monthly rent,” Jess says, her amused voice cutting through the mental spiral as she seems to be fighting a laugh, “is $200 a month, including all utilities.”
Kara’s young, but she’s lived a lot of life in her 23 years. She knows when she’s being lied to, when there’s another shoe about to drop. On a normal day Kara could probably laugh this off, could aw shucks! her way through the inevitable punchline awaiting her. But it has been such a long, terrible week, and in a few hours she has to drive Alex to the airport to pickup Lucy. At this point she is out of time to find a new place and the one morning she has off to look Lena takes her here. It’s needlessly cruel, and despite herself Kara finds tears creeping slowly down her face. Lena doesn’t notice at first; all her attention is focused solely on Jess, her lips moving minutely along with the words, like she’s reciting the script with her.
Jess notices, though, and manages a shaky, “uh perhaps-” only for a loud sniffle from Kara to finally clue Lena in on what’s going on. Lena gasps, moves towards her, but the tears are free flowing now and even in this giant amphitheater Kara feels suddenly claustrophobic. Everything feels a bit too much and all she can do is quickly rush to the door.
She presses the elevator button and the doors open instantly, yet no amount of frantic hoping will make it descend. Lena stops just at the entrance and stands awkwardly outside, staring in at her with terror clear in her eyes, before quietly saying,
“Y-you need a key to make it move.”
Kara laughs, snotty and thick, and gestures half-heartedly for Lena to come in. She does, quietly sliding her key in. The doors close and the box descends.
Tension permeates the elevator as they twitch and shift about in their own separate hells. Kara has no idea what’s going through Lena’s mind right now, but it’s taking all of her focus to calm down. With every second that passes the more certain she is that this was all an elaborate prank. The building has armed security, for God’s sake.
Time seems to slow down in there, each floor ticks by like they are slowly but fatally sinking into quicksand. There is no turning back, no way but further down into the discomfort.
“I’m sorry for whatever I’ve done to upset you-“ Lena starts, but Kara cuts in with a firm,
“I don’t wanna talk about it.”
Lena just nods, subdued. They make it past another two floors before Kara slams her palm on the emergency stop button.
“No, you know what! We are gonna talk about this. Is this some kind of joke? A weird prank? Is there a clown hiding somewhere waiting to jump out and yell surprise ?”
Lena looks genuinely confused.
“I don’t understand.”
Kara can’t help but pace back and forth, a tight line considering they’re trapped in a small box together.
“Lena... I may not know a lot about housing prices but I know for sure that a building with a doorman isn’t gonna be $200 a month. What gives?”
A battle is happening in Lena’s mind. Kara can tell by the nervous shuffle of her feet, the way she bites her lip and squints her fluttering eyes. Finally, Lena speaks.
“I just want to be your friend, and I don’t know how to do that.”
Now its Kara’s turn to be confused.
“We’re already friends, Lena! There’s nothing for you to do!” and before she could stop herself she throws in with a wink, “Besides, you already saw me naked.”
Bright red and trembling, Lena presses on, “See? Like that! I don’t know how to be like that - just make jokes and be friends with people. But you do, and I want to too, and maybe if you live in my building instead of moving back to your home town we can keep being friends like that.”
Slowly the pieces are falling into place.
“So you were, what? Gonna pay for me to live in this crazy loft?”
“I don’t have to pay anything, Kara. This is my building. I own it.”
“What do you mean?”
“What do you mean what do I mean?”
“How do you own this building?”
“I- what? I own this building. This building was for sale, and I purchased it so that I could live here. I own all the condos.”
“You own this building?”
Lena finally laughs, breaking through the tension.
“Yes, Kara. I own this building.”
“How is that even possible?”
“I have a lot of money, Kara. Like, a lot. And letting you have this condo - or letting you pay me $200 a month or whatever you want - doesn’t set me back at all. It’s as easy for me as being a friend is for you. It’s amazing, honestly. I’ve never met anyone like you before, I mean- you literally gave me the clothes off your back within minutes of meeting me!”
Kara laughs at Lena’s charmed exasperation, wipes clumsily at her eyes.
“And I’m not good at stuff like this. Social things. I don’t know how to deal with emotions or know what to say, and I’m really not good at giving hugs-”
“You’re great at giving hugs!”
“- I don’t bring a lot to the table here, is what I’m saying. But I can bring resources like this. I can help keep you in National City. And I’d really like to do that for you. I’d really love to be your friend, Kara.”
It’s a lot, honestly. Never in Kara’s wildest dreams would she imagine herself in a position like this, standing in a high rise with someone who clearly has more wealth than Kara’s seen in her entire life and offering to share it. It feels too much.
“I don’t want you to buy my friendship, Lena,” she says slowly, shaking her head. Lena reaches out and grabs tentatively at her arm, lets go, then grabs again a bit more confidently. Kara rests her own hand on top of Lena’s and gives her a reassuring smile which seems to relieve some of the tension.
“I’m not trying to,” Lena says, “I just want to help you in the ways you’ve already helped me.”
Kara thinks for a long minute before nodding.
“I can do that.”
“Help you. Be better, I guess, or maybe just loosen up? You seem crazy tense, like, all the time.”
Lena laughs at that, high pitched and nervous.
“Great! I would love that, great.”
Kara gives her hand a squeeze before pulling it from her arm and lacing their fingers together. Lena stares intensely at their joined hands.
“But the apartment is it, okay? I don’t want you spending money on me left and right. I’ll help you because we’re friends, not because I want you to spoil me.”
Lena nods, but continues to stare at their joined hands. Kara can already tell she’s got her work cut out for her. Finally, Lena meets her eyes with a shaky, nervous smile.
“Got it. I won’t shower you in money,” she says, eyes shiny with emotion Kara can’t quite decipher.
The moment is interrupted then by a voice chirping from the speaker: “madams, are you both okay in there? The emergency break has been held for some time now.”
Lena pulls back a bit in surprise, but Kara just holds her hand even tighter.
“Yeah,” Kara says, “We were just going back up.”
Chapter 4: I would go anywhere with you
We meet Lucy.
sorry for the tardiness. life has been a doozy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Jess does not like her.
She hasn’t said or done anything to explicitly state this, but Kara’s met her fair share of people who can only just hide their loathing for her and she knows what that looks like. It looks like tight forced expressions, arms crossed defensively, side-eyed glares. It’s Jess standing barely a foot behind her the entire time Lena takes her on the apartment tour, like a predator waiting to pounce. Kara’s not really sure what her deal is, but Lena is practically shaking with excitement and Kara is no longer a few hours away from homelessness so there really isn’t much that can bring her down right now.
“And you’ll see here you actually have a second floor with enough space for another bedroom or maybe an office-” Lena trails off as her phone rings, and she frowns at the name it displays. “I have to take this. Jess, will you show her the rest?”
Jess smiles and nods, her smile tight and her eyes furious. They watch Lena walk out and Kara tries not to gulp when the other woman’s eyes turn sharply on her.
“So, Jess,” she starts, only for Jess to take a few quick steps into Kara’s space, backing her against the wall.
“Listen here, you little hussy,” Jess says in a threatening whisper, “I don’t know what your game is, but it’s not happening, got that? I don’t know what you did to make Lena think you’re some godsend, but I see right through you. I know your type, and I’ve gotten rid of girls just like you before and I will gladly do it again, do you understand?”
Kara gulps. She most certainly does not understand.
Before she can formulate a response though Jess is taking a large step back and Lena is huffing back up the stairs.
“Sorry about that. Jess! Did you show Kara everything?”
Jess stares Kara dead in the eyes.
“Yep. Told her everything she needs to know.”
Kara can practically feel herself being murdered and she makes a mental note not to be alone with Jess ever, ever again.
“So, when are you planning to move in? I can get you a moving service if you’d like,” Lena says. Kara just laughs a bit.
“Oh I don’t need a moving service, I’m just gonna make Alex help me bring stuff over in her car. Speaking of which,” she glances at her phone’s lock screen, “I need to get going. I’m gonna get Alex and then pick Lucy up at the airport. Wanna come?”
Lena looks genuinely shocked at the invitation but nods quickly, muttering ‘yes yep sure yes’ quietly under her breath. Jess clears her throat and says,
“Wait wait, so let me get this straight: you’re gonna get in the car with this woman you just met? This same woman you’re giving an apartment to?”
Lena laughs at Jess’s bewilderment, saying,
“Jess, please. It’s Kara.”
In that moment Kara truly feels like her life is flashing before her eyes. If this were a cartoon, Jess’s head would be swelling with fiery anger and steam would be trickling out of her ears. Time to go.
“Alright well let’s get going, nice to meet you Jess bye!” she grabs Lena’s hand and practically bolts. Surely the property manager can lock up behind them, right? Lena follows along humming to herself when Kara laces their fingers together.
“So is this your car?”
At least this time Lena tries to hide her discomfort, which Kara appreciates. In her defense though the mini van they’ve been driving since they were teenagers has certainly seen better days.
“Oh no, this is Alex’s. I don’t have a car.”
“Oh?” Lena’s tone is forced casualness, and a quick glance to the side shows her hunched a bit over her phone typing away.
“Lena,” Kara drawls, turning on to the highway, “do NOT buy me a car.”
Lena presses the phone against her chest to hide the screen, her face red.
“I- what? I’m not, don’t be ridiculous, Kara. Only a crazy person would do something like that.”
She types something else quickly and shoves her phone in her bag. Kara can’t help the tiny smile tugging at the corners of her lips. Her new friend Lena is absolutely bonkers, and honestly she’s kind of into it.
They drive in relative silence for most of the trip.
“The buildings here are so pretty,” Lena finally says, watching the skyline as they circle along on the defense highway.
And God, its been so long but she can’t stop the tidal wave of words that erupt from her explaining in detail the history of that building style, the inspiration she can clearly see in its structure and design. The words taste rusty in her mouth, like concepts from a dream she’d long woken up from. Lena just watches her with a wide-eyed sort of wonder.
“Wow,” she says, her voice high with appreciation, “you sure do know a lot about buildings.”
Kara laughs. They pull on to Alex’s block.
“I actually majored in that.” Seeing Lena’s confusion, she quickly adds, “Architectural engineering, with a physics minor.”
It feels weird to say after so long. Lena makes a small noise of approval, saying,
“That’s incredible. When did you graduate?”
She tightens her grip on the steering wheel, steeling herself. She tries for nonchalance.
“Oh, I didn’t.”
Thankfully before Lena can respond the back door flies open and Alex tumbles in.
“You’re late!” she says as greeting, and Kara’s gunning it before the door even fully closes.
“I know! I’m sorry! We lost track of time. Lena, this is Alex.” she gestures with a head tilt. Lena awkwardly sticks her hand back with a quiet ‘hello’.
Alex glances at her hand, smirks a bit, then shakes it.
“So you’re my sister’s mysterious new friend.”
Lena does her best impression of a fish while Kara glares at her sister in the rearview.
“Be nice, Alex. I’m giving you a ride to the airport, don’t harass Lena.”
Alex scoffs at that, “Yeah, in my car.”
“Would you rather drive yourself and not get to grope your girlfriend in the backseat?”
Now is Alex’s turn to be a fish.
“I - we aren’t going to grope each other, Kara! I am an adult. I can control myself.”
Kara doesn’t even dignify that with a response.
The airport is busy, so they drop Alex off and go in search of parking.
There’s only one lot at the airport and the flashing sign reads $10 PER HOUR. This is one of the things Kara hates most about this city; prices are outrageous for everything. She idles for a bit and just stares at the lot, thinking. Lena shifts beside her. Maybe they can just keep circling back on and off the highway until they come out? Though that may be a while. Maybe they can find a hidden place around the side to park? Hopefully no one will tow, Alex will murder her if she gets her car towed.
The car behind her honks long and hard.
“Kara,” Lena says in a low, imploring tone.
Lena gives her a look, and Kara concedes with, “Fine! But this is the last time you pay for something. This isn’t gonna become a thing, okay?”
Lena holds her hands up in surrender and smiles.
“Of course. It won’t be a thing.”
They catch up to Alex in the lobby. She’s pacing and muttering to herself about missed flights or sudden redeployments. Lucy’s plane is late it seems, and the help desk was decidedly unhelpful.
“She always gets like this when it comes to Lucy,” Kara whispers to Lena, who just nods thoughtfully. Alex tries to act unaffected most of the time, but there really is never a moment she isn’t worried about Lucy. Or Kara, for that matter. She’s always worried. Kara really needs to find her a therapist and some good weed, not necessarily in that order.`
“Incoming, Danvers!” a voice yells suddenly from behind, and they all turn to see a tiny woman decked in military camo sprinting towards them. Kara has only enough time to pull Lena out of the way before the small soldier leaps into Alex’s open arms, who just manages to stop them both from toppling over.
Immediately, they start making out.
“Uh, so Lena this,” she gestures towards the frothy display, “is Lucy Lane, my sister’s girlfriend.”
Lucy pulls away at that - her hat’s fallen off and her army jacket is already halfway open with Alex’s hand snaking inside - and shoots Lena the brightest smile. Alex seems undeterred and continues kissing at her neck, like they aren’t standing in the middle of this airport full of people. Kara feels like she’s in high school all over again.
“Nice to meet you!”
Lena just nods with a painfully locked in smile, clearly uncertain of how best to handle this situation. Lucy solves the mystery for her then by kicking her boots against Alex’s butt and loudly declaring, “Onward, steed! To the baggage claim!”
Alex grumbles a bit but carries her all the way, Lucy kissing at her face and neck the entire time while Lena and Kara trail behind.
“Are they always this…. affectionate?” Lena finally asks after Alex sets Lucy down on top of an unattended help desk only to try and climb on top of her. They’re shooed away moments later by an airport employee. Kara goes through all the stages of grief in five seconds before responding,
“They have always been a very expressive couple.”
It takes them nearly fifteen minutes to gather the luggage and herd the couple to the car. Every time Lena and Kara turn around Alex and Lucy are pressed up against some surface or other, but eventually they make it, and the two love birds collapse into the back seat like they're just happy to have a horizontal surface.
Alex’s van is a decade older than they are and its cassette playing radio only works some days. Today is apparently not one of those days. Kara tries for conversation instead, hoping to drown out the unpleasant sounds coming from the backseat.
“So can you see why I wanted to move out as soon as possible?” Kara asks. A foot kicks forward suddenly, almost hitting her head. Lena just gives her a wide-eyed smile.
“Definitely. You’re moving in tonight then?”
A chorus of moans echo from the back seat, and both Lena and Kara pretend not to notice the repeated jolts as the tumbling duo reacquaint themselves with each other.
“I mean I can’t sleep on the couch with this happening,” she gestures back to the groping mass, “but I don’t have a bed so I’ll probably be sleeping on the floor.”
Lena straightens with a start, shaking her head.
“No, don’t do that. It’s a nice apartment but the floors are way too hard and cold. I have a guest room in my place that you are more than welcome to use.”
“Wow, really? Is that- I hear zippers!” Kara cuts off suddenly, glaring over her shoulder, “I shouldn’t be hearing zippers, zip whatever that is right back up!”
She looks back at Lena who is now sporting an impressively dark blush.
“Are you sure that’s okay?” she finishes, turning her eyes back to the road.
“Of course. You’re my friend, Kara. I’m not gonna let you sleep on a floor.”
Kara smiles and glances at her, only now noticing Lena awkwardly holding her hand over her shoulder and yep; Lucy is holding Lena’s hand while kissing behind Alex’s ear.
“Lena, why are you holding her hand?”
Wide eyed and terrified, Lena just shrugs,
“I don’t know. She just grabbed it and I wanted to be polite.”
Before Kara can even consider replying the radio kicks into life, blasting some cheery summer pop song through the speakers. Alex squeals a bit and yells to turn it up, giggling the lyrics against Lucy’s lips. Lucy doesn’t know the words but she sings along anyway, off key and loud. Soon they’re all screaming an approximation of the lyrics, windows down and the city racing by.
Kara looks over to Lena then and sees her smiling, eyes closed, nodding along to the music. One hand still holds Lucy’s for god knows what reason, while her other rests on the open window, fingers dancing through the air. The sun is just beginning to set and the car is filled with its dying light - soft reds and pinks surround them. It is a perfect moment.
“Lucy! Get your hand out of Lena’s hair!”
“I’m making a new friend, Kara!”
Well, almost perfect.
my favorite scene in the gay and wondrous life of caleb gallo is when the couple is making out in the backseat while one of them holds hands with caleb driving the car. genuinely I cried with laughter at that image.
next up: sleepover !!
Chapter 5: sleepovers in my bed (oh yeah)
Kara assaults someone and Lena acts like a normal person who knows how to have normal interactions.
Since last updating this fic I have: studied for and passed the GRE, applied to grad school, began and completed another 5 chapter fic (Supercorp Good Place AU - I love it wholeheartedly you should read it), locked down a Grand Canyon + Clexacon weeklong trip with my lady friend, and decided to abandon this fic entirely out of spite only to realize the world is a mess these days and maybe a silly story about two gay disasters making each other happy is actually just what I need right now.
What a journey! Enjoy.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kara doesn’t know what she’s expecting when she walks in to Lena’s penthouse, but it certainly isn’t a waterfall that pulsates with bright, almost neon lights.
Especially not one so... well, gaudy. Garish in a way she would not expect from her new strange friend. It’s massive, flowing at least two floors high in her foyer.
“It came with it,” Lena says behind her, likely seeing Kara’s surprise. “All the more elaborate fixtures came with the place, actually. The only things I picked out are the furniture and the wall color.”
Despite its size there doesn’t seem to be any spillage; just insane amounts of water falling repeatedly in time with lights. It’s so ugly and Kara’s already a bit in love with it.
“Have you swam in it yet?”
“Well, considering that would never occur to me in a thousand years, no I have not.”
Kara’s brain is already running through strategies of how to get the both of them into that fountain as soon as possible. Definitely coming back to that one.
Lena’s home is similar to her new apartment but on a grander scale: bigger windows, nicer designs etched into the molding, buttons and touch screens within reaching distance at all times.
Most glaring of all, however, is the color pattern. Or lack thereof, really, as everything is a variation of white. The floors, the furniture, even the small notebook sitting on the side table all fall in the same families of greys and neutrals. Kara wonders if, when the sun hits the windows just right, the room reflects back with the same intense glare of new fallen snow.
In fact the only color in the entire room isn’t even in it; it comes from the skyline clearly displayed through the glass that makes up the two external walls of the living room. That at least provides some variety to the almost oppressing white.
“I bet I can guess your favorite color,” Kara teases.
“I find it calming. Don’t be an ass.”
Kara laughs and turns a corner, stumbling immediately into a strange man holding a giant meat cleaver.
At that point instinct takes over.
With a piercing battle cry she kicks up catching him hard between the legs, and as he falls forward to clutch at his private bits she shoves the palm of her hand up into his nose. The clang of his knife dropping to the floor sounds in time with the crunch of cartilage cracking.
“Oh my god!” the man screams, bent over, one hand clutching his crotch and the other trying to stem the bleeding.
“I’m armed, asshole!” Kara yells, pulling Lena behind her and dropping into a pseudo fight stance.
“You’re what?!” Lena exclaims in surprise, trying to get around Kara.
“You broke it, oh my god,” the man says.
“Lena, call the police!”
“Kara, it’s - calm down, it’s okay! This is Hector! He works for me!”
“What? Why is he walking around with a giant knife?”
“I was preparing your dinner,” he says through his bloody hand, voice distorted.
He shuffles his way over to the sink to try and wash some of the blood away. Lena hovers a foot away from Hector, looking like she wants to touch him but won’t. She glances nervously back at Kara.
“Kara, do you really have a weapon?”
“What? No! I just said that so he’d be afraid of me.”
“You broke his nose and possibly ended his ability to have children. I think he’s afraid of you.”
Based on the watery glare Hector shoots Kara’s way it may be a bit too soon for jokes. It hits her then that she just assaulted this stranger, that she could go to jail or get sued for that. Ah, shit.
Lena meanwhile is typing away on her phone, unfazed by the bleeding man or Kara’s impending lawsuit. Just then Hector’s phone dings with a cha-ching! and his expression goes from pained annoyance to pleasant surprise when he sees what has apparently been transferred to him.
“Thank you, Miss Lena,” he says through his bloodied cloth.
“Thank you for your understanding here, Hector. And your discretion. please, go downstairs, have one of my drivers take you to the Luthor clinic on fourth and have that taken care of.”
He nods, mumbles about there being food set out on the table, and stumbles away. Kara just stands there slack-jawed.
“Did you just pay him off?” she finally says, feeling a confusing mix of horrified and amazed.
Lena gives her an odd look.
“I compensated him for his troubles.”
“Yeah, so that’s super messed up, but thank you? I want to make him an apology card. Or a painting or something.”
Lena just smiles at that and guides Kara to what could possibly be the set of a 19th century aristocrat’s dinner party. Set at a table large enough to serve thirty is a plethora of foods with two seats set at opposite ends. Kara spends a few uninhibited moments straight lusting after the feast before her before moving to grab the plate she’s decided is hers. Moving along the table, she piles it high with fresh fruits and some pasta dish and at least four different kinds of meats before going to set her plate right beside Lena’s seat. If Lena thinks anything of it she doesn’t share.
“Is this what you eat everyday?” Kara says with food still held in her cheeks much like a chipmunk.
“Not usually, no, but I told Hector I was having a guest over and I suppose he got excited.”
“I don’t think he’ll be this excited next time I come over.”
“Perhaps not,” she says with a smile.
After enduring a half hour of watching Kara eat, Lena suggests they retire to the living room to watch a movie.
Kara quickly discovers Lena’s couch is in fact the most uncomfortable piece of furniture in existence and, after some minor finagling, she manages to get a solid pile of pillows on the floor for them instead. The exhilarated look in Lena’s eyes suggests this might be the most unorthodox thing she’s ever done. Kara can’t wait to change that.
Lena pulls up her digital library, clicks on the playlist titled Girls Night Sleepover. The collection reminds Kara of middle school, though she keeps that to herself.
“So is this your type of movie?” she asks, scrolling along.
Lena shifts uncomfortably.
“Not necessary. Truth be told I don’t watch movies; I had my social manager compile this list for us.”
There is a lot to unpack in that statement, and Kara fully intends to do so in the near future, but she can’t fully get past that first statement.
“What do you mean you don’t watch movies?”
Lena shrugs, curls her arms around herself.
“We never watched them when I was a child and at this point I don’t really see the point. But from what I’ve read I know movies are an essential part of a girls sleepover,” she says, like some sort of alien. Kara’s mind is reeling.
This might be Lena’s first movie experience. This could be a majorly defining moment in both their friendship and her life. It’s so obvious.
“So you haven’t seen Waterworld before, right?”
The confused look shot her way tells her all she needs to know and she immediately goes to pull it up on the system.
“Is it a good movie?” Lena asks hesitantly, and Kara snorts.
“Oh it’s not, it’s horrible. One of the worst by far. We have to watch it!”
Lena clearly didn’t understand the joys of consuming trash media, but Kara is more than happy to show her the way.
“Wow,” Lena says as the credits roll.
“Yeah? What did you think?”
“That was... pretty unpleasant.”
“Just overall I did not care for any of that.”
“Yeah that’s kind of how you’re supposed to feel.”
They lay around the living room for a long while after the movie ends just talking. Part of Kara was worried before about spending the night here. It’s one thing to spend time going and going, it’s another to sit in a room together alone and try to connect. But she’s quickly finding silence with Lena is not so painful, and the words she does share are surprisingly funny and smart. They talk of everything from favorite foods to the existence of an afterlife, sprawled out on blankets staring at the ceiling high above.
The only distraction from this moment is Lena’s phone, which keeps buzzing right by Kara’s head. When Lena finally scoops it up Kara is able to make out “DIE BITCH” and “KILL YOU” before Lena swipes them away and she immediately freaks out.
“Oh my god, Lena!” she says, sitting up in a hurry. Lena follows, looking sheepish.
“I know, my next security upgrade is taking a minute so some keep getting through. It’s ridiculous, I should be able to update sooner.”
“That’s not the ridiculous part of this!”
Lena shuffles a bit, clears her throat.
“It’s not a big deal, I promise. Can we just not talk about this?”
This is without a doubt something that needs to be talked about, but Kara can see the pain in her eyes and decides to let it go for now.
Besides, she’s exhausted and kind of excited to see the guest room because finally, after so many months, she can sleep in a bed.
And God what a bed it is.
Kara can stretch out all limbs as far as she can and still not reach the edges. After months of scrunching on Alex’s couch this bed is a spiritual experience. She manages to sleep four blissful hours before her bladder demands attention, and she stumbles down the unfamiliar hall half-asleep. It’s more quiet than she’s used to, quieter than she’s ever experienced even, and it’s that alone that lets her hear the faint sobs coming from Lena’s bedroom.
She hesitates for all of three seconds before approaching the door, pressing her ear against it. She can hear Lena mumbling something unintelligible, hear her sniffles and groans. It sounds like she’s in the thralls of a nightmare.
Kara’s knocking before she can even stop to think and all at once the sounds stop. She waits a few seconds but Lena says nothing, so Kara whisper-yells, “Lena!”
“Yes, Kara?” Lena calls back, voice rough from tears and sleep.
“I can’t sleep! Can I come in?”
There are a few more moments of weighty silence before she hears a hesitant yes.
Kara makes a point of not acknowledging the tear stained sheets or the red eyes blearily gazing at her.
Lena seems to be folded in on herself. Shaking like a Chihuahua in the rain, ringing her sheets between her hands. Kara doesn’t know a lot about Lena at this point, but she knows what someone on the verge of a breakdown looks like. Slowly, she pats Lena’s leg just to test. The tremble tapers off at least, but she can see Lena zeroing in on her hand. She gives her a comforting squeeze and Lena lets out a slow sigh. Kara knows exactly how to fix it.
“Scoot over,” she whispers, ignoring the immediate stiffening of Lena.
“What?” Lena whispers back.
“Scoot your boot,” Kara insists again, nudging at her leg. With the jerky movements of a newly born deer, Lena slides aside to make room that Kara waits no time to take. Kara gives her a moment to settle - she can practically hear the racing pound of Lena’s pulse - before finally whispering,
“Big spoon or little spoon?”
Lena makes a number of small confused noises and in the dark Kara can only imagine what kind of look she’s giving her. Time to make the decision for her, then.
“This feels like a little spoon kind of night, don’t you think?”
Kara repositions Lena with ease, her hands carefully pushing and tugging until she’s got Lena curled up in her arms. The effect is immediate; all the tension seems to slip from Lena’s body like ice melting in the summer heat, and Kara pulls her closer with a firm hand around her stomach. Lena gives just the barest bit of resistance, mumbling,
“I’m sorry if I’m sweaty. I was having a bit of a bad dream before.”
“That’s okay,” Kara says. “it happens. Sometimes I get sweaty when I eat potatoes.”
Lena genuinely laughs at that, a delighted sound Kara wants to hear again and again. It takes her a moment to settle after that, but when she does she lets her entire body press back against Kara, pulls her arms just a bit tighter.
“I’ll remember that next time I feed you.” she says sleepily, settling in.
“You’re gonna feed me again?” Kara can’t help the wonder in her voice. Her mouth is already watering thinking about it.
Kara sighs happily.
“Gosh, Lena, I think I love you.”
If Lena says anything in response Kara is already too deep into sleep to catch it.
Kara wakes to the sound and feeling of Lena crashing to the floor, dragging the covers with her.
“You okay?” she mumbles, one eye open. She can make out the blurry image of Lena popping up and wrapping the blanket tight.
“Yes! I am fine! I’m not used to waking up next to someone. Sorry for waking you.”
Kara sits up with a smile, more awake by the second as the cold seeps in.
“Did you sleep okay?” Kara asks, slipping her glasses on. Now she can clearly make out Lena’s embarrassment.
“Yes. Thank you so much, I’m sorry if I made you uncomfortable in any way.”
“Lena, please. There is nothing I love more in this world than cuddling. Really I should be thanking you.”
Lena gives her a small smile - the kind of smile where it’s obvious she’s trying to hold back and not seem to obviously delighted - and tucks a strand of hair behind her ear.
“Well. Would you like some breakfast? Hector sent over some pastries this morning.”
Kara stretches languidly, her body relaxed from her luxurious sleeping space.
“I’ll have to grab one to go. I promised Lucy I’d help her with something, plus I have the party tonight.” Kara’s eyes go wide, “Wow! I almost forgot! I’m having a party at my place tonight and you have to come!”
“I, uh, I don’t know-”
“Lena, it’s Saturday, if you tell me you’re going to work I’m gonna freak. This is a house warming slash welcome home Lucy party! A few friends I haven’t seen in a while are coming, plus Alex and Lucy. It’ll be fun and it’ll be a way for us to work on this whole social thing.”
“You’re gonna hold me to that now, aren’t you?”
“Absolutely. I take my work very seriously.”
They stare each other down for a few moments before Lena finally concedes with a sigh.
Party setup is a bit difficult when you’re broke.
Lucy and Alex buy pizza and booze, and James used his Real Job money to buy them a few handles. Winn brings his extensive collection of board and card games.
Kara has no furniture because prior to this week she had nowhere to live. But luckily for her Eliza sent her to National City with a backpack full of medication and approximately thirty million pillows and blankets, so Kara is able to arrange some semblance of a living room.
In the portion of space she’s decided will be her living room she lays out a bed sheet on the floor, on top of which she piles pillows and blankets in cozy piles. James sprawls his long man legs out across Kara’s body pillow in a Titanic-esque pose while Winn sits upright, propped on all sides by a pillow throne. Alex and Lucy tut around the kitchen space with Kara, ooing and awwing at the insanely sleek features. Lena is set to arrive any minute, and everything is perfect. Really, it is.
“Hey,” Lucy says, bumping her hip against Kara’s. “Why do you look like someone sneezed in your oatmeal?”
Kara bites her lip, wonders if this is something she should keep secret, but ultimately blurts out,
“Lena told me this thing that’s really bad."
“Oh my god, she killed someone too.”
“No, not- wait, what do you mean too?”
“Nevermind. What did she say?”
“Just that people send her death threats. Isn’t that the most horrifying thing?”
“Definitely, but I mean - it’s not surprising,” Lucy says with a shrug.
“What do you mean it’s not surprising?”
Kara is a bit horrified by Lucy’s casual response to this.
Lucy just looks confused.
“Uhh, probably because she’s related to-“
A sudden knock on the door cuts her off, and they both smile at the loud KARA YOUR GUEST IS HERE that bellows musically from the living room cuddle puddle. It takes her a minute to figure out how to unlock the damn thing - this building is more high-tech than Kara can handle - and her struggle is highlighted by the soulful singing coming from the living room as James and Winn duet in their improv show.
There Lena stands, a nervous twitch in her eyes and a bouquet of flowers in her hands. Lena is wearing a different silk pajama set that is still incredibly similar to the one she wore the night before. Kara can’t help but wonder just how many of these things she has. Still, she’s here and that alone is enough.
Kara immediately throws her arms around Lena in a tight hug, nearly smushing the flowers between them. Luckily Lena has learned what to expect when around one Kara Danvers, and she manages to navigate them out of the way just in time. She hugs Kara back and laughs a bit.
“I saw you a few hours ago, you know,” she says even as she pulls just a little tighter.
“God has it really been that long?” Kara teases, grabbing the flowers from Lena then taking her now free hand. “Thank goodness you’re here then.”
Lena just rolls her eyes, lets herself be led into the living room. Kara can feel the grip tighten as everyone comes over to meet her. She clears her throat.
“Hello, everyone. I am Lena,” she says with an unnecessary air of formality, one made worse by her reaching forward to shake Winn’s hand. The dope looked for a moment like he might have been going for a hug, which caused the both to do an awkward arm open-close shuffle dance before settling into a half-hearted hand-touch back-slap situation.
Thankfully James offers her a hand and smile the second she turns her bright red face his way.
All in all it’s a great start that really sets the tone of the evening ahead.
So it turns out Lena doesn’t know how to play games.
“I grew up in boarding schools,” she says as way of explanation, “I know chess and poker, and how to hide the smell of gin on my breath when the house mother comes by.”
“Well look at you! Rebel child,” Lucy says with an approving grin and a high five. Lena blushes, ducks her head.
“I had my moments.”
None of those moments equipped her for a game night, though. Lena doesn’t know the rules at first but then takes them too seriously, becoming so competitive and intense they have to switch games twice. She gets too excited at times and then goes silent for a bit, her hands clenching.
Kara can see the clench in Lena’s jaw, the whiteness in her knuckles. Casually, without even looking away from the ridiculous display, she reaches over to rest her hand atop Lena’s own and gently pry her fist open. It takes a moment, but Lena does relax into her touch with an almost sigh of relief, the tension draining from her frame. Kara keeps her hand there for who knows how long just rubbing her thumb against the back of her hand.
Things pick up just a bit after that, with Lena mostly sitting in silence while everyone else catches back up. Topics switch to their spring break trips and soon they’ve fallen down the rabbit hole of nostalgia leaving Lena far behind. James makes a joke referencing their particularly memorable trip to Daytona senior year and everyone bursts into laughter.
Lena laughs then as well, louder like she’s trying to compensate. This has the unfortunate effect of causing everyone else’s laughter to quiet down to an awkward stillness.
Lena clears her throat, grits her teeth.
“Pardon me,” she says after another awkward moment of silence, voice tight, before quick- walking to the restroom.
Kara gives her thirty seconds before following.
She can hear her sniffling through the door. One gentle knock and the sniffles stop.
“Lena,” she says quietly, “wanna let me in?”
“Give me a moment,” a shaky voice says back. Kara can hear water running in the sink before the door unlocks and opens just enough for her to slip inside. Lena smiles at her, small and trembling.
“Sorry, I just needed a moment to-” she trails off, clears her throat.
“Cry?” Kara offers. Lena looks horrified, almost like she might argue, before looking down in defeat. She laughs a sad little laugh.
“Yes. It’s silly, I know. I should have outgrown this sort of thing by now.”
“Outgrown what? Crying? Dude, I cry all the time! I cried this morning thinking about foster puppies!”
Lena’s eyes are glassy but her smile is sincere as she giggles out,
“Yes! They are so small and alone and they just want to be loved and just,” Kara trails off as she feels like she might genuinely start to cry. Lena coos a bit at the sight of it and reaches out towards her only to pause, reconsider. Kara is having none of it, though, and immediately steps in to pull her close.
It takes a moment but Lena sinks into her embrace, presses her face to where Kara’s shoulder meets her neck. It’s so strange just how comfortable this feels for Kara, how relaxed Lena always is with her. All the anxiety slips away from Lena. All the scattered thoughts constantly circling Kara’s mind fades. Everything feels warm.
“Hey love birds!” Lucy calls from the living room, pulling them both out of their shared bubble. “Are we playing Apples to Apples or what?”
Lena clears her throat and gives her a much more sincere smile.
In the end game night is marked as a success, the gang gliding past Lena’s idiosyncrasies as smoothly as can be expected. By the end of it Lena is relaxed, leaning into Kara’s side, making jokes with Winn about some nerd nonsense Kara barely cares about.
Winn and James leave around eight with Lena not far behind them, leaving a keycard for Kara to come up to her apartment after cleanup. Kara really needs to get a bed soon; she runs through some options in her mind while putting paper plates and empty bottles in boxes to recycle.
Lucy sits on the counter and kicks her feet happily, munching on one of the few pieces of pizza that escaped their earlier carnage.
“Damn, Kara, I’m honestly impressed. I didn’t think you had it in you.”
“What do you mean?”
“You know, all this,” she gestures to the apartment as if to explain. “I never saw you as the kept woman type, but I respect it. Very Pretty Woman.”
Alex spits out the sip of vodka she had just started to take and Kara can’t help stuttering as she says,
“That is not what’s happening! Oh my God, Lucy! We’re just friends!”
“Friends don’t give friends million dollar penthouses.”
“This apartment is a million dollars?!”
“Maybe, I don’t know. Point is you somehow became Lena Luthor’s favorite and that is a really big accomplishment. Kudos,” she lifts her pizza crust in a toast.
Kara scoffs, tossing the empty pizza box she held aside.
“Being friends with someone isn’t an accomplishment. I think-“ she freezes, face scrunching in
confusion, “Wait, what did you just say?”
“I said you’re a sugar baby,” Lucy teases, but Kara just shakes her head.
“No, I mean - did you just say Lena’s last name?”
“Yeah.. Luthor. Was it supposed to be a secret? I know I’ve been out of the country for a while but I do watch the news. Honestly knowing you got her attention just makes it more impressive.”
“How do you know her last name? Why do you know it?”
“Are you making a joke right now? She’s Lena Luthor. As in the sister of Lex Luthor?”
Kara just gives her a blank stare.
“Kara, come on. Lex Luthor.” Still nothing. “The serial killer!”
She’s not sure what facial expression she’s making but based on how quickly Lucy deflates it’s not a good one.
“Wait,” Lucy says slowly, “you seriously didn’t know?”
All Kara can do is shake her head, numb. Lucy looks horrified.
“Ahh shit,” Lucy says.
honestly tbh I loved Waterworld
Chapter 6: I will be late (but if you can just wait) I will make it eventually
Kara processes this new information with a little help from her friends.
Hello space cadets. I would apologize for this chapter being so late but we all know my words are empty and meaningless. Since last updating this fic, I have: gotten into grad school, gotten into my grad program (Professional Mental Health Counseling), finished 6 hours of credit, and planned a weekend trip (featuring around 26 hours of driving) to NYC with my gal pal this upcoming weekend to potentially see and touch one (1) Melissa Benoist. Fingers crossed we achieve it. I'll let you know how it goes in four months when I update this fic again.
Also content warning: brief mentions throughout of murder, cannibalism, and dead body disposal
“Kara! Open the door! Shit shit shit.”
“What’s going on?”
“She’s freaking out.”
“What? Kara! Unlock the door!”
“Give me a minute!” Kara yells back, scrolling further in her phone.
She’s barricaded herself in the bathroom and taken residence on the closed toilet lid, falling deeper and deeper into the rabbit hole of google links and think-pieces. It really feels like her head might explode.
LUTHOR SENTENCED TO TWENTY LIFE SENTENCES, the headline screams.
CORRUPT CEO TURNED SERIAL MURDERER: WHAT WE KNOW.
She quick-scans article after article, eyes flying fingers shaking, while Lucy and Alex attempt to get through the door.
Her feelings are reeling so she tries to focus on the facts:
Lex Luthor was the world’s youngest CEO who also owned the world’s largest corporation.
Lex Luthor was a party playboy with an instagram following of over 4.5 million.
Lex Luthor was indicted on the poison-related murders of over 65 people, although the actual number is thought to be much higher.
Lex Luthor is Lena’s older brother.
“What did you say to her?” she hears Alex saying as the door rattles, “she hasn’t had a panic attack in months!”
“Just give me a minute!” Kara yells again, but the door continues to shake and the two talk on.
The confirmed murders date back a decade, his first confirmed murder taking place when he was just 16.
“I didn’t mean to freak her out! How was I supposed to know she didn’t know about Lena’s brother?”
“Know what about Lena’s brother?”
Lex Luthor was a wildly famous instagram playboy, often documenting his lavish lifestyle and adventures. On rare occasions, his younger sister would appear in his photos, too.
“Oh my God, Alex! You too?”
Old footage is being heavily scrutinized after this discovery, videos and photos showing Lex interacting with some of his victims, cheesing for the camera on yachts and in night clubs. Photographs of him with his arm thrown around a much younger Lena who stares at him like he’s the moon and stars.
“That Lena’s brother is a serial killer!”
Lex Luthor’s younger sister, Lena, alerted the police to Lex’s possible criminality and helped orchestrate the sting operation that ultimately led to his arrest. He was not even considered a suspect prior to her actions.
The door stops shaking.
On unsteady legs, Kara climbs off the toilet and opens the door.
Kara has been sprawled out on the floor for nearly five minutes while Alex paces from one end of Kara’s outlandishly large apartment to the other. Lucy has been squatting over Kara attempting to coach her through the correct response to all this.
“Are you gonna be chill, Kara?” she’s saying, “You’re not convincing me that you’re gonna be chill.”
“Why does she have to be chill?” Alex snaps, “she’s living under a serial killer!”
“Lena is not a serial killer. She’s just related to one,” Lucy responds matter-of-factly, but it all sounds like buzzing to Kara’s ears.
The phrase ’65 confirmed murders but more suspected’ has played on repeat in her mind since she first read it.
Lucy and Alex argue. Alex finally snaps,
“Kara, pack a bag. You’re staying with us tonight.”
Kara doesn’t even acknowledge it, still mentally zoned out. Lucy does.
“Oh come on, Alex, don’t you think that’s a bit dramatic?”
“Dramatic? She’s the sister of a serial killer! And now she’s gonna serial kill my sister!”
“She’s not the killer in the family!” Lucy insists, “I know you two were a little checked out this past year, but I kept up with the news. I saw the whole Luthor thing go down. Lena’s the one who turned her brother in.”
“Oh yeah, probably so she wouldn’t go down as an accomplice! For all we know she traded him in to protect herself!”
“Everyone has family issues. Don’t act like the Danvers clan is perfect!” Alex scoffs in the most affronted tone but Lucy continues, “This chick is weird, but she gave Kara a free condo and I’m mostly sure she’s not gonna kill her. Maybe give her a chance?”
“A chance to what? Kill my baby sister in her sleep? Poison her food? Can we really know how innocent she was in all this?"
65 dead 65 dead 65 dead
“Here’s what we do know,” Lucy continues, “This girl gets blamed by everybody all the time for the shit her brother did even though she was the one who stopped him. And now she’s found a friend in you,” she gestures to Kara, ”someone who doesn’t give her shit because you didn’t know. Only now you know. Are you gonna become one of those shit-givers, Kara?”
Kara’s still buzzing a bit, but she shakes her head slowly in time with Lucy because it feels like the right thing to do. Lucy looks unconvinced but pulls her to her feet anyway, dusts her off, grips her shoulders.
“So Kara is going to go upstairs and act like everything is cool, because she can’t sleep on this hardwood and I accidentally left my muddy kit on the couch and you definitely don’t wanna sleep there.” Alex makes more horrified sounds but Lucy barrels onward,
“Be cool, Kara. Remember this sweet ass apartment that you will never be able to afford in your lifetime and that sweet girl you got waiting upstairs.”
65 or more, Kara remembers.
Lena’s still awake, despite the desperate prayer Kara prayed to every deity she could think of while slowly making her way back to Lena’s apartment. She’s very awake - practically floating, even, giddy and smiling and rushing to hug Kara the moment she steps in.
Kara goes stiff in her arms immediately and unintentionally, which causes Lena to pull back with a visible flinch. She deflates a bit, smiling still but with a scolded look to her eyes.
“Sorry, I just got excited. It went so well!” her voice is subdued, but still happy. Kara tries to smile but judging by how Lena visibly deflates even further it’s most likely a grimace.
“Yeah! It was great,” she says unconvincingly, which only brings out a deeper frown from Lena. She really needs to get out of this interaction as soon as possible. She clears her throat nervously, looks away.
“Would you like something to drink?” Lena asks, making like she’s heading to the kitchen. 65 poisoned, Kara’s brain whispers, prompting her painfully dry mouth to say, “Oh no! I’m fine. I just have a bit of a headache. I think I’ll go to bed now.”
“Oh, here! I have some medicine that should help,” she grabs a pill bottle sitting on the counter and moves to hand it to Kara only to freeze when, much to her own horror, Kara shouts out a reflexive NO! at the sight of it.
Slowly, the hand holding the bottle droops.
“Oh,” Lena says so quietly Kara almost thinks she imagined it. The room feels bigger now, somehow, in this moment.
Like Lena just takes up less of it.
“Okay. Well, I’ll let you go to bed,” Lena says.
Kara’s heart tells her to grab the medicine and drink the water, to hug Lena and tell her she did so good tonight and that Kara is so, so proud of her.
Instead she walks past her and into the guest bedroom.
Kara wakes up three hours later with the driest mouth that’s ever existed and tiptoes to the kitchen to sneak a drink.
Through the walls she can hear Lena crying in her sleep.
She grabs her drink and goes back to her room, shutting the door.
Attempts to wake up early and sneak out unnoticed are thwarted as for some reason Lena is up already and waiting. She even has made her coffee and somehow obtained an array of pastries.
“Good morning!” Lena says, voice a bit too loud for the hour, “I had Hector bring breakfast. I thought maybe we could sit together and share it.“
There’s a slight desperation to her eyes, an awkwardness in the way her hands clasp and unclasp. Kara feels panicky and nowhere near ready to talk about anything, so she spits out a “sorry I’m running late!” and tries to bolt past her. Lena grabs her arm and whispers wait, then flinches like she is as surprised as Kara by her own actions. She immediately retracts her grip and instead holds her hands together in front of herself, fingers fiddling uncomfortably. She clears her throat.
“I just wanted to apologize,” she says, voice more subdued, “I feel like I might have done something wrong without realizing so I just, whatever it was - I’m sorry, and if you tell me what it was I will make sure it never happens again.”
She’s so earnest and Kara can see the red in her eyes, can already tell what little sleep she likely got that night before. Lena probably never sleeps all that well these days.
“You did nothing wrong,” Kara says finally, her tone heavy. Lena looks hesitant and skeptical but when Kara steps up to hug her she melts. “You did nothing wrong,” she whispers against her hair, and she’s not sure which of them she’s trying to convince.
Kara takes the bus to work so she can continue her Luthor research and also because Miss Grant took the scoot away.
Not permanently, hopefully - she just said Kara has lost the privilege of using it outside of deliveries until the giant Lena-Luthor-created crack in the front window is fixed. Which will only happen when Kara pays for it apparently.
“Well I’m certainly not paying to fix it,” Miss Grant had said, “If I pay to fix it what lesson will you have learned?”
Kara’s pretty sure that’s illegal and also not how business repairs work, but Miss Grant hasn’t mentioned it again and Kara’s still getting paid the insane amount she’s been paid so she hopes this will all be forgotten. Plus she still has a key to the scoot, so if she really needs it? Well, Miss Grant isn’t around too often.
All this is to say, of course, that Kara now has ample bus riding time to study the deep dark details of the Luthor Murder case.
And they are dark.
“He melted the body in acid?” she whispers in horror. The elderly man next to her startles a bit, gives her a look of concern.
“Sorry, I’m just reading an article,” she says sheepishly. “Have you heard of this Lex Luthor guy?”
He looks at her like she’s asked if he’s ever had water. He scoffs, looks like he may spit on the ground but then reconsiders,
“That piece of shit? Of course, him and his whole family,” the man returns to his newspaper, flipping it dramatically, “You just know they knew all along what he was doing. How could they not? Shoulda thrown the whole lot in prison.”
Kara frowns at this, her instincts to defend Lena clawing at her throat, but she opts instead to continue scrolling.
43 of the bodies were found on the expansive acreage owned by the Luthors, a few even buried beneath their mansion itself.
“You just know they knew,” replays over and over in her head as the bus reaches her stop.
“Tell me, Kiera,” Miss Grant cuts in from behind her suddenly, making her jump so hard she nearly drops her phone in the sink. “Is dish washing so difficult that you must google directions for it? Because that is the only reason I can think for you to be on your phone during work hours.”
Kara shoves her phone into her back pocket and grabs another pie pan to scrub. She’s been at work for three hours already and she’s accomplished nothing beyond a deeper dive into the Luthor Legacy. There are so many conspiracy theories surrounding the whole ordeal - that Lex was framed, that Lena committed the crimes, that the whole family was composed of cannibals. It was all a lot to take in, really.
How can she possibly live in the home of a potential murdering cannibal?
She can’t. That’s the answer. Even if she knows (or thinks that she knows) Lena is innocent, can she really justify living in her home, enjoying her wealth?
She slips her phone back out and texts Lena:
-Gonna be home at 8? We need to talk.
There. Concise, to the point. Surprisingly she gets a response immediately:
-I can be for sure.
-Are you okay?
-Did something happen?
-Is something going on?
[Lena <3 is typing …..]
She clicks out of the app with a little shout, overwhelmed all at once. She can’t do this. How is she gonna do this? Her phone buzzes, then buzzes again. She can practically feel the panic in its vibrations.
She holds the off button until it shuts down entirely.
“Shouldn’t text at work,” she says to herself, voice high and neurotic, and begins to speed-wash dishes like her life depends on it.
“Hey Winn, can I ask you a totally hypothetical question.”
“Mmm that sounds like the start of a question that’s not at all hypothetical, but yeah go for it.”
“Okay, so. What if you found out that a friend you really like had a kind of crazy family member? Like, let’s say it was something really wild, like they were related to a serial killer or something.”
Winn stops his cleaning then, slowly looking back at her.
“Is this your way of asking about him?” he says with a dry, distant voice. Kara has no idea what he’s talking about.
“I have no idea what you’re talking about. Who is him?”
Winn swallows audibly, looks away.
Kara is so confused and Winn looks like he’s about to cry and things are really getting off course here.
“I don’t know anything about your dad, Winn. I’m talking about Lex Luthor.”
“Lex Luthor the serial killer?”
God, why does everyone know who he is but her?
“Yes! But… is your dad… ?”
“Uhh well, you see, the thing is,” he tugs at his shirt collar like the oversized polyester blend has tightened like a snake around his throat, “my dad kind of killed a bunch of people, too. So I thought you were just being really weird about telling me you knew.”
“I didn’t know. Are you okay?”
“Still alive, so I got that going for me!” he gives a weak smile which she returns, “but honestly, yes. It’s been a long time since he went to prison, and I’ve had a lot of therapy since then, so. I’m doing okay.”
Kara can’t help but wonder why so many people in her life are apparently one degree away from serial murder. Is there something about her that calls to them?
“But what were you asking about Lex Luthor?”
“Oh! Uh, do you know anything about him?”
“Not a lot. I didn’t follow him on insta but I know he was like, crazy famous. I know his family owns Luthor Corp and uhh the rest of the world, too, basically.”
“It’s L Corp now.”
“Oh. Well that makes sense, having the name Luthor right now is a death sentence.”
Kara remembers the death threats on Lena’s phone.
“If you found out someone you know was a Luthor how would you react?”
“Uhh probably like ‘Welcome to the murdering family club! Wanna get a beer and talk about it?’”
And it makes sense, it really does. Winn wouldn’t react with distrust or disdain because he knows what it’s like to be blamed for the actions of your family. And she likes Winn; aside from Alex he’s basically her best friend in National City. She would trust him not to murder her in her sleep. Does Lena not deserve the same?
“And you’re not a murderer too, right?” she asks, just to clarify.
“The only thing I kill is the dance floor. I mean I kill it on the dance floor. My moves are killer. I can, uh-”
“Yep! Stopping now.”
It’s nearly closing time when she wanders into Miss Grant’s office, the chaos in her mind demanding another opinion.
“Miss Grant,” Kara starts before she’s even entered the room.
She finds Miss Grant by the giant and somewhat tacky poster of a cartoonish, anthropomorphized cookie skipping and holding hands with an equally ridiculous looking cupcake that hangs in her office. Only instead of resting flat on the wall it’s pulled forward like a cabinet door, the poster now 90 degrees from where it was before. She’s crouched behind it, out of sight from Kara, who is reeling from the realization that that ugly poster hides a secret door, apparently. Kara immediately hears the fast clicking of a metal lock before Miss Grant steps back and slams the poster back, another locking sound clicking in to place.
“Uh,” Kara says.
“What is it, Kiera?” Miss Grant huffs, walking back to her desk like she hadn’t just accessed some sort of crazy spy wall. Kara figures it’s best to just follow suit.
“Can I, uh, can I ask your advice on something?”
Miss Grant quirks a brow, waves her hand expectantly. Kara plops down in the seat in front of her desk.
“Let’s say you had a friend,” she starts, gesturing for emphasis, “who recently started hanging out with someone who they really liked, someone who’s sweet and generous and gives your friend all kinds of fancy rich people gifts. But then one day you find out that they come from a crazy family, like mass murderer crazy. How should I, or. I mean. How should your friend react?”
Cat gives her a level stare.
“Did this someone commit mass murder as well?”
“No, they actually helped stop the mass murdering.”
“Well, if this someone is kind and generous and helped stop more people getting hurt, I think I would tell my friend that it sounds like they’ve found a good someone to be with.”
Kara nods, thoughtful.
“That makes a lot of sense. Thank you, Miss Grant!”
“But Kiera,” she calls just as Kara begins to leave the room, “I would also suggest that my friend be wary. There are undoubtedly people around that someone who may have less than kind intentions. Miss Luthor is in a very dangerous spot right now, and that danger might extend to those she cares for.”
And with that she just turns back to her computer, seemingly oblivious to the fish gape happening on Kara’s face and the way she practically runs from the office.
Kara turns her phone back on on the bus and there are 17 texts from Lena and two calls. Her stomach feels unsettled at the thought of it so rather than checking she calls Alex.
She intends to call about the shirt she thinks might be wedged in Alex’s couch that Kara would like back, but before she can even begin Alex is ranting about Lena.
“Kara, please. Just get off at my stop and come home. Please don’t put yourself in a dangerous position!”
Kara thinks of the man on the bus who spit vitriol, of the elevator companions at L Corp who loathed a boss they’d only just met. Of the death threats and nightmares.
“Lena is a good person,” she says, firm. “And she doesn’t deserve to be treated like this.”
“I’m not saying she’s a bad person, I just-“
“She isn’t going to murder me, Alex!” Kara cuts off, anger fueling her, “Just because her brother killed a couple dozen people doesn’t mean she’s gonna, too!”
She’s earning some stares from her fellow passengers but it doesn’t matter. This feels important. This is important.
“I’m not scared she’s gonna hurt you,” Alex reassures, using that soothing voice she does when Kara gets worked up. Kara hates that it works to make her feel calm. “I’m worried that this is a stressful situation to get yourself in the middle of, and I’m worried it’ll put too much pressure on your heart.”
“Sleeping on your couch hearing you bone your girlfriend through the walls is gonna cause my heart more stress than living in this nice apartment with Lena.”
“Living under Lena, not with her. You two have separate apartments.”
“Yeah, that’s what I said.”
Alex sighs, long and dramatic.
“I just worry about you.”
“I know you do, and I hate and love that about you. But I think my heart is gonna be perfectly safe from Miss Lena Luthor.”
“If she puts you in the hospital I’m gonna put her in a grave.”
“I love you too.”
65 dead, she thinks. And how many saved?
Kara walks in to Lena’s apartment at 8:13 PM and feels a bit like she’s stepping into a different world.
The space was already tidy before but it now seems spotless, the surfaces of furniture glistening under that soft light.
The kitchen table is covered in another feast, a collection of delights that has Kara’s mouth salivating just from the smell. There’s even a takeout container for her favorite restaurant back home - did Lena send someone to Midvale to buy it?
What really hits Kara, however, is the living room that has seemingly transformed into an art studio. There are canvases of every size lining the walls and displayed on easels. The coffee table is covered in brushes, paints, and tools Kara has only lusted after from afar when buying her cheap paints. There has to be at least a few thousand dollars worth of equipment in this room, all in pristine condition.
“Wow,” Kara breathes, stepping towards it.
That’s when Lena appears.
It’s only been twelve or so hours since she’s seen Lena and yet somehow she looks drastically different. The red in and around her eyes has grown, her face splotchy like she’s wiped at it repeatedly. Her lower lip has small patches of red from where she’s bitten to the point of bleeding. Without a doubt she has spent every moment of today agonizing.
She gives Kara an almost professional smile, her hands fiddling a bit before she puts them behind her back.
“Hello, Kara, I’m glad you’re home,” she says, “Please, have a seat.”
Kara follows her guidance in a somewhat daze, plopping on to the couch in amazement.
“What is all this?” she asks. Lena clears her throat, smiles again,
“These are part of my apology.” At the questioning look Kara gives her she continues, “I’ve messed up somehow, I know I have. And I wanted to make that right. I know you’re an artist so I thought getting you the right tools for the trade would be a good start.”
It feels like a vice has been secured to Kara’s ribs in that moment, squeezing and squeezing away. Lena must see the sorrow on her face then, because she quickly continues, "I made a list of all the things I might have done to upset you, and I was hoping we could brainstorm ways I can improve. Number one: I likely said a dumb thing in front of your sister-“
“Oh my God! Please stop!”
Lena freezes, looking at Kara in quiet concern at her outburst. Kara feels like she’s going to cry - she may already be crying, in fact - and she jumps up to pace away from Lena. She can feel her eyes following her and she just, she can’t do this.
“I know about Lex, Lena,” she finally says, “that’s where all the weirdness is coming from. I know you’re a Luthor.”
And just like that Lena crumbles before her eyes. She slumps downward, inward, falling gracelessly back on to the couch with a stunned oh.
Kara has seen a range of sadness in Lena’s eyes before but she’s never seen anything close to this. She was sad, sure, when she thought she had messed up in some way. When she thought she was too eager, too affectionate, too loud. But there is no comparison to how this revelation must feel for her, because this?
This is not something Lena can fix.
Kara lets out a hard breath, flops down on the couch beside Lena, runs her hands through her hair.
“This is really fucked up,” she mutters to no one in particular. She shouldn’t have started like this, she shouldn’t have done any of this. Lena’s lower lip is trembling but her eyes are dry. She nods sharply.
“If you want to move I understand. I can help you find a place, or if you’d rather I not-“
Kara is sputtering on her own spit trying to respond,
“What? No! I don’t want to move out!” she shouts, causing Lena to jolt a bit. She sighs and tries to center herself. “I’m also not just, like, ditching you over this. I read what happened. You were the one who turned him in, right?”
Lena nods, then scoffs.
“The bastard Luthor reveals murders so she can take control of the Luthor dynasty,” she says in a practiced sort of way, like it is a message she’d been given over and over. Any doubt Kara had in her pretty much falls away at that, replaced with pure protective rage.
“Fuck whoever told you that,” she says, “And fuck everybody else. You aren’t the bad guy here. You’re the hero of this whole story!”
Lena lets out a wet laugh.
“That’s a rare view you have there, Miss Danvers.”
“Look, this is a big thing to process. And I’ve spent most of today doing that, getting advice from everyone and reading articles. But I think I just have to go with my gut here.”
She turns to Lena fully, legs pressing together, and takes her hands in her own. She squeezes them softly until Lena finally meets her eyes.
“My gut tells me that you, Lena Luthor, are a good person. You are kind, and funny, and weird in the best kind of way.” This earns her another laugh, “and I think anyone who can’t look past your name to see that isn’t worthy of you.”
Kara pulls her into a hug and Lena clings to her tight, almost fearfully.
“Thank you,” Lena whispers. Kara bumps her shoulder, says,
“I’m not the fastest at processing things. Sometimes it takes me a while to get there. But I will always get there,” she pulls back from the hug, stares into Lena’s eyes, “and I feel like I gotta say this, because I don’t think anyone else has - you are not your brother. You are your own person, and from what I’ve seen that person is pretty great.”
Lena is full-on crying now, clinging tight enough to leave red marks, but Kara just holds her back. She thinks about the flinch away this morning, how Lena wanted to touch her but felt guilty about doing it and her heart burns at the thought of it.
“I really am sorry about today. I was horrible to you. And I’m really sorry about that text and the whole silent treatment thing. That was really shitty of me to just go quiet on you. I knew you were worried and I just let you sit in it.”
“Oh, no, it’s fine, Kara, really-“
“It’s not. That’s a really fucked up thing to do to someone I care about. You deserve better than that. I will do better, I promise.”
Lena squints at her in bleary disbelief, and Kara feels another tightening in her chest which she accommodates by squeezing Lena even tighter. After a moment, she mumbles,
“Also you don’t have to buy me gifts when you think I’m mad at you. I mean, these art supplies are rad as hell and I am about to go to town on that dinner buffet, but it’s okay to just use your words instead of your money. I’ll like you just the same.”
“You are nothing like anyone I’ve ever known,” Lena says with a laugh. Kara smiles against her hairline, giving her another squeeze.
“Back at’cha,” Kara says before pressing a loud, dramatic kiss to Lena’s forehead that earns her a groan, “Now come on. There is a bucket of chicken wings over there singing my song.”
And Lena laughs, wipes her tears for the millionth time that day, and follows after her.
Chapter 7: that don't impress me much
Kara gets a more in-depth look at Lena's past and is threatened by her own
First story arc consists of the first six chapters, in which Kara meets Lena and learns her identity. This chapter starts the second, in which Kara will learn what that actually means for both of their lives.
For those of you keeping track of my life's progress via my chapter notes, here's the update: I have finished my most recent semester of grad school with all A's and I'd have a 4.0 overall if not for one teacher I had in the summer who gave me an A-, whomst I will hate for all of my days. We did get to see Melissa on Broadway, it was fantastic and she signed my Supercorp zine which I will treasure forever even though it makes me feel like a fucking weirdo. We got to see four musicals in total and if you have ever have the chance you should go see Come From Away. I'm on winter break, my lady friend and I are going to Disney world for a week, and I've written like four other fics since my last update. Life continues on.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
"I don't think I can do this anymore," Lena says almost tearfully. "I feel like I'm going to die."
Kara flicks the piping bag at Lena causing some of the icing to flick on to her face.
"Stop being a baby and eat the cookie."
"Kara," she whines, wiping at her face but only further smearing the icing along her chin. "This is the tenth cookie you've made me eat in the last hour. They're all good, they're perfect! Now can I please leave?"
"Absolutely not! This cookie-" she holds her most recent one (It is shaped like a triangle and decorated as a Christmas tree) up like a sacred artifact, "- is the most important cookie I've ever made in my life."
"You said that about the last nine," Lena groans even as she takes the cookie from Kara and takes a bite.
Kara watches, stares deep into her soul as Lena chews. She wants to catch every expression, every moment of the entire process.
Lena stares back looking thoroughly unimpressed.
After what has to be a decade of chewing she finally swallows and speaks,
"I mean, it tastes fine. Like a cookie."
Kara's nod is frenetic as she grabs her flour-covered notebook and jots down notes.
"Mmm hmm, okay, that's okay. But what did you think of the decorating?"
"I thought it was beautiful and wonderful and the best cookie design I've ever seen," Lena says, like a desperate liar trying to escape her impending torture. Which, as far as Kara's concerned, is a bit dramatic. None of this is really that torturous - surely she's endured much worse things than eating few dozen cookies, right? What with her brother being a serial killer and all.
Regardless, Kara takes her opinions as they are and decides to let Lena have a small ten minute break before subjecting her to the next batch.
Kara’s never been much of a baker, but her current artistic endeavor requires an edible canvas and it costs a lot less to batch cook cookies than buy them from a store, so Kara’s been churning them out like she’s opening her own cookie place - a joke she accidentally made in front of Miss Grant, which resulted in her being cut four hours early.
Some people have no humor.
Regardless, Kara’s first massive batch had cooled enough that she could begin the true work of her day: decorating. It's easily her favorite part of her job and, if things go well, it will be the primary part. And thus with so much at stake she approaches this task with the utmost attention and care.
A big client has funneled down the pipeline looking for a cutesy culinary creation for an upcoming office party, and while this would usually be a task Miss Grant would handle herself, she has deemed Kara’s piping and stylization “adequate” enough to finally, finally take on her own ticket. Miss Grant told her to just make the cookies day-of without extra preparation, but there is no way Kara can do that. What if she gets it wrong? What if her rainbows and cloud designs are inadequate? What if she discovers after repeated effort a better, more efficient way to pipe that icing? No. Kara needs to practice, so she’s been making, decorating, and then stress eating cookies all day.
Then Lena made the mistake an hour ago of wandering into Kara's line of view and has regretted it ever since.
She knows this is all a bit ridiculous. It’s not that big of a deal. She’s just decorating cookies for some corporate party, not creating masterpieces for a fancy art gallery. She knows this, but the logical part of her brain is outweighed by the amazement inside her whispering “someone thinks your art is worthwhile” over and over again.
Silly or not, Kara's will be the best damn cookies any of these suits have ever seen, and to create that she needs lots of practice.
She also may need to loosen her belt a notch or two.
Her contemplation of culinary domination is interrupted by Lena's elbow shaking the table, thus causing a chain of events ending with a massive glass of water dumped across the entire counter and coating Kara's cooling cookies completely. Lena gasps and gives her that look she gets sometimes like she's terrified of how Kara will react. Like she thinks Kara is going to scream at her for fucking things up.
"Well, that's certainly one way to cool them down," Kara says instead, and smiles when Lena visibly relaxes. Kara counts that a win, cookies be damned.
"I'm sorry, I'm a bit clumsy today," Lena says.
Lena rubs her hands together and - now that her mind is temporarily cleared of sugar-centric musings - Kara realizes something is decidedly off about her today. She's been biting her lip to the point of bleeding in some places, and she keeps ringing her hands together like there's filth she can't quite scrub off. Kara doesn't totally know what is going on, but she knows this: Lena has a secret and she’s terrible at keeping it.
One would think someone so used to bad press and attention would be capable of acting chill for even a few minutes, but alas.
“Alright, weirdo. Spill,” Kara says, before quickly adding, “and I don’t mean anymore water.”
“Ha ha,” Lena replies with heavy enunciation. “So clever. You should be doing standup. We actually could make that happen, you know, if you-“
“No deflecting!” She cuts in. “You’re being super weird and it’s killing my creative cookie vibes. Tell me what’s up or I’m gonna have to assume the worst.”
“Oh? And what would that be?”
“God, you don’t wanna know, but it’s rough. Something with ball gags and mimes, probably. So tell me!”
Lena, who had giggled throughout the conversational divergence, tapers her laugh off into a resigned sigh and shifts nervously again until finally saying,
“There’s a Christmas party this weekend at an old schoolmate’s place. I’m expected to go, but I haven’t seen any of these people since,” the since Lex is unspoken, “and this guy, Jack. He’s gonna be there, and I’m kind of just,” she flails her hand a bit.
Lena laughs, shudders.
“To put it lightly.”
“Do you want me to come along?”
The look Lena gives her then can only be described as desperate.
“Would you?" she asks, words rushed, "I really don’t know if I can face the hyenas alone.”
"Of course! But if it's freaking you out so much why not just skip? We can stay home," she shakes the sloshing baking sheet, "make cookies."
That gets a laugh out of Lena at least.
“It’s expected. I have to keep up appearances, even if everyone there hates me. Not showing up would only make them hate me more, but, well." she shrugs, "I don’t think I can do it alone.”
Kara wraps her into a flour-caked hug, presses a powdered kiss to her cheek.
“Well then you don’t have to!" she promises, "I’ll come with you and help you navigate.”
Lena's smile shines brighter then, accented by the flour kiss and icing beard, though it dims a bit in nervousness.
“There is one thing I need you to do…” she says slowly.
“Oh, of course!”
“It’s a Sinclair party, so you’ll need a certain type of dress.”
"Beyond an ugly sweater? I thought you said it was a party at her house."
"It is," Lena says slow, smile tight, "but I imagine we have very different ideas of what constitutes a house party."
The way Lena laughs nervously at that is, to say the least, deeply concerning.
Kara feels a bit of deja vu as she checks, then rechecks the address Lena gave her for the dress shop.
She had been ready for something ridiculous, of course - this is Lena, after all - but this boutique in front of her now is, well.
"Fucking hilarious," Lucy says, so loud they gain stares from the sharp dressed clientele milling about in the courtyard. "This is fucking hilarious. I mean, is this for real?"
It took them nearly thirty minutes to even find the shop. Its location was off the highway, away from the outlet mall Kara assumed where Kara assumed it would be and instead in its own building with a cottage style structure and garden courtyard in front. If not for the small sign bearing the exact address Lena had sent her, Kara would have thought they were at some spa resort. But no, this is the place where she will find her dress for the party. Kara's pretty sure there's a rainbow peeking out over the hills.
Lucy is still laughing as they walk in the doors, much to Kara's discomfort. Everyone is looking at them and Lucy is making it worse. It doesn’t help that she came straight from work today, wearing her stained CatCo shirt with flour still in her hair. She told Lucy to dress up a bit, which in her world apparently means cargo pants and a raggedy US army shirt. Kara kind of wants to die.
“You know, I was joking when I said you had a pretty woman vibe, but come on,” Lucy continues, plucking at the few dresses actually on display.
The entire room is sparse, only a few items hanging from a handful of racks. Everyone in the room is watching them. Lucy reaches to touch something else, and one of the staff hone in on them like a heat seeking missile and practically wedges herself between Lucy and the clothing rack.
“Can I help you?” She says in one short, clipped exhale. Kara means to speak but Lucy is already talking,
"Yeah, we're here to find a prom dress."
"I'm sorry, this isn't-"
“They’re with me,” an agitated voice calls from just out of sight, and Kara is immediately filled with a new wave of anxiety as Jess strolls into view. Jess glances over them with the expression of someone observing road kill on the side of a highway.
“This,” the staffer gestures at Kara, “is the Luthor appointment?"
“Unfortunately,” Jess answers, which earns a snort from Lucy. The woman, to her credit, regains her professionalism quickly.
"Alright then! And which of you is here to be measured?"
Lucy shoves Kara towards her.
Kara has never really dressed up for an event before, nothing bigger than a graduation ceremony or collegiate award. When she first went to college, her essay on adoption and loss secured her a full ride scholarship that included a fancy dinner party. She and Eliza had gone to five different department stores in the mall to find the best dress for her to wear and spent nearly $150 on it in the end.
"It's an investment," Eliza had said. "You can wear it for all your future awards, and graduation."
She never made it to graduation, of course, but she still has the dress.
Buying that dress then was a fun if somewhat stressful experience, but it could never compare to this.
A half dozen strangers buzz about her grabbing and prodding while she stands in her underwear before them. They pull her arms out to measure, wrap tapes around her throat and arms, call out numbers to a small man with an iPad standing nearby who clicks away at his tablet. They pull various fabrics over her and use pins to make makeshift shifts that drape and fold around her curves, highlighting features she never even notices about herself. It feels almost as if they are building a dress on top of her, albeit one made of scraps. No one speaks to her beyond requests to move limbs, stand straighter, take a deep breath. All the while Jess stands in the corner scowling at her, Lucy beside her trying to win her attention and affection.
Eventually, the chaos fades and the cloth is removed, and she is allowed to dress again. The small iPad man shows his screen to Jess, who nods her approval, before bringing it to Kara. She can't help the gasp that escapes.
On the screen is a sketch of herself, simplified but recognizable, wearing the most beautiful red gown she'd ever seen. It clung and hung loose on her illustrated figure in stylized, deliberate places, and the skirt of it flowed around her ankles like moving water. It was breathtaking, and it was terrifying, and Kara wanted to go home.
Luckily they seem to be reaching a stopping point, however, as the man takes his sketch and one of the attendants tells her she may get dressed again. She dresses quickly and starts to go meet Lucy in the parking lot only to realize she left her phone back in the dressing room. She ducks back in to grab it and catches the tail end of a conversation happening on the other side of the thin wall.
"I'm not one to gossip, Frederic. Especially about my boss," Jess is saying.
"Of course, of course. I just wonder if this girl, is she Miss Luthor's new..." he lets it hang in the air. Jess scoffs, says,
"Of course not. She's just a new," she pauses, then says, "project. A temporary distraction. She'll be gone soon, I think."
Kara leans back against the wall, her hand pressed to her chest. That shouldn't hurt to hear. They're just talking, and she knows Jess hates her. It's just talk.
"Mm, and so no permanent prospects then? I heard Mr. Spheer will be attending the party as well."
"Lena's biggest prospect needs to be herself, right now." Jess says, firm, only to say in a softer tone, "Though I'd be lying if I said I wouldn't like to see her and Jack Spheer try again. He was good with her, before everything. He's better company for her than this."
The man hums at that, and by the sounds of it they both move away.
Kara stays pressed against the wall with her hand pressing absently to her chest before wiping at a tear she didn't even realize had fallen.
After a few more moments, she pushes off and heads outside.
That night, Kara can't sleep.
She was exhausted after her traumatic dress experience and every bone in her body ached, yet still she's awake.
It's been hours since she got home and she's done all the necessary steps; washed her face, laid in bed, closed her eyes. She didn’t even use her phone for the last thirty minutes before she got into bed. According to common wisdom, she should be halfway to snoozeville by now.
And yet she can’t stop replaying Jess's words again.
Granted, there is no reason for that to stick to her brain; Jess has never hidden her disdain for her, and talking up someone Lena knew before isn't that unusual. It's just interesting, hearing them discuss this Jack Spheer. Before this week Kara had never heard of him, and now talk of him is everywhere. Even Lena mentioned him, this guy Jack, she'd said. An old prospect becoming new.
It’s just that the way Lena said that coupled with the overheard conversation - it almost sounds like she and Jack have a romantic sort of history. Which just doesn't make sense to Kara, for some reason. Which is of course ridiculous! It shouldn’t weird her out so much knowing Lena might have dated before. She’s a beautiful girl, sharp and funny in the strangest ways. Of course she had boys interested in her.
It shouldn’t bother her, yet she finds herself awake long into the night tossing and huffing and fully conscious.
There's something about knowing the unknown of this man that makes her stomach turn. Then again, Kara always likes to be prepared for whatever challenges she may face, so perhaps her discomfort is from not knowing who exactly this guy Jack is to Lena. Maybe, then, a little research will help her sleep.
So now it’s nearly three AM and she’s somehow found herself “doing research” eleven pages deep into Lex Luthor’s still somehow active instagram (which continues gaining followers every day despite his multiple lifetime sentences) and she scrolls with no idea who half the people are until finally, suddenly, she sees Lena. A much younger, happier looking Lena sitting with Lex and a third person she sees tagged as Jack Spheer.
This guy Jack.
She barely pays attention to him at first, too captivated by just how youthful and free Lena looks. The picture is only a few years old but somehow it’s like seeing a completely different person. The three of them are sitting on what looks to be a yacht, Lena in the middle with Jack’s arm around her shoulder, her arm wrapped around his waist. They’re all laughing together. They look happy.
Looking at it makes her chest feel tight.
The photo is captioned with "another night out with my favorite pair". She hasn’t looked at many photos of Lex outside of his courthouse photos, so it is almost shocking to see him look normal. He has hair, for one thing, which is a shock. He shaved his head bald for his trials, even taking off his eyebrows, but apparently he once had a full head of black slicked back hair. The baldness with the grey suit left a striking, haunting impression on the court room photos, yet in this he just looks like a young man hanging out with friends. He’s kind of handsome, even, especially with his cocky half-smile. He looks like someone who might cut you off in traffic, sure, but not someone who would murder and systematically dismember a few dozen people. It’s jarring to consider.
And Jack, well. Kara supposes he’s nice looking, if you’re into ruggedly handsome bearded men.
Which Lena is, apparently. Or was at least.
Kara stares at the picture for a while, long enough for her phone to fall asleep, and she sits in the darkness for a few moments more before tossing the phone back on the side table. For some reason, putting a face to the name only made things feel worse.
It takes a long while after that for her to sleep.
The dress and the day of the party arrive and Kara feels terrified to move.
"What if I spill something on it?" she says, standing petrified in front of the mirror in Lena's bedroom as people flutter about. The dress is even more beautiful than she expected, made of silk and velvet and finely stitched laces that scare her half to death. Lena refuses to tell her the cost, but she feels confident it's more than she makes in a year at CatCo, maybe more.
"Then we get it cleaned," Lena says absentmindedly from her perch as her makeup is applied. "Or we get you another one."
Kara guffaws at that, hard enough displace some curlers in her hair and earn an agitated look from her stylist. She has a stylist - two, if you count Frederic who delivered his handmade dress himself and helped her slip into it. It fit her like a glove and he seemed pleased, though Kara feels a bit restrained. If she slouched even the slightest it tightened around her chest and restricted her breathing. But Lena had stared at her for a moment before looking away, red-faced and stuttering. That made it worth it, and if she weren't struggling to maintain her stance and airflow she would tease her for it.
"This dress feels one of a kind, I don't think we can just get another one."
Lena laughs at that before realizing Kara is in fact serious.
"Well, if you're really concerned it might be safe for you to just not eat anything tonight."
"Yeaahhh, you know, I think it'll be fine. I mean, worst comes to worst we can always get it cleaned."
"Mmm, that's what I thought."
When they arrive Lena has to pause a moment at the door and just breathe. She clenches her fists rhythmically, closes her eyes against the cold. Kara reaches over and gently pries her fist open to lace their fingers. Lena opens her eyes to meet Kara's, and Kara whispers,
"It's not too late, you know. We can just go. I'm pretty sure there's a bowling alley nearby that's open until 3, I think bowling shoes would go good with our dresses, don't you think?"
Lena laughs and squeezes her hand back even as she shakes her head.
"No, I really don't think so. I don't think I can hide anymore."
Then it’s like watching her slip into a jacket. The weight her role with its burdens and implications just glides across her frame, straightening and smoothing out all the expressiveness until she’s someone else entirely. Poised, unreadable, she’s Lena Luthor of the Metropolis Luthors, acting CEO of Luthor Corp and arguably the richest person on the planet.
It makes Kara’s stomach shift in the strangest of ways, seeing her fall into that.
"Shall we?" Lena asks with a twitch of her eyebrow, and Kara tries not to gulp.
If not for the soft jazz playing throughout the hall, Kara is sure the entire room would be silent the second they enter the colossal great room. It’s like every conversation ended the moment they were within ear shot. It strikes Kara then that this is likely the first social event Lena has attended since the trials, and she places a hand on the small of her back instinctively, protectively. Lena smiles at her, though it is dimmer than usual by far, and leads her into the main hall. There are a dozen or so tables, set before a small stage with a live band playing. She no longer feels overdressed in her gown.
"Are you sure this is a house?" she whispers to Lena, who smiles.
"This is one of her winter houses, and not even her favorite."
Kara mimes gagging, pulling a full, actual laugh from Lena which in turn garners them more attention but also helps her relax so, you know. Worth it.
"Lena Luthor," a gruff voice says from behind. "Aren't you a sight."
Kara can feel Lena full-body clench and she rubs her thumb soothingly against her back.
"Morgan Edge," Lena says in return. "I'm surprised to see you this far north. Don't you spend your holidays in the Caymans with all your money?"
His laugh is joyless and cruel.
"Well, when I heard our beloved Lena was gracing us with her presence I had to come."
She can practically hear Lena's teeth grind, so Kara pulls Lena the slightest bit against her till they stand frame-to-frame, and she can feel the other woman relax slightly in her grip.
"Mmm. Always a pleasure, Morgan. If you'll excuse us," she says, and guides Kara away. Kara waits until they're just barely out of hearing range before whispering,
"He looks like a toe."
"Yes, and his personality matches. He isn't the worst we'll probably meet."
"Joy! At least there's food at this shindig, right?"
Lena snorts at the look Kara must have in her eyes and gestures over to a table she hadn't seen before, one that is stacked high with goodies she can't see but can already smell. She grips Lena's arm with an (only somewhat) exaggerated gasp.
“Lena,” she says, a little desperate. Lena rolls her eyes.
“I know, I know. I’ll meet you at the table,” she shoos Kara with a smile, “go grab a plate!”
Kara grabs two.
She packs them to overflowing and what can't fit she stuffs into her mouth to chew on the journey, and just as she turns to leave she finds herself stepping into a terrifyingly beautiful woman suddenly standing beside her. She jumps back a bit only to bump into another equally terrifying beautiful woman and she realizes belatedly that she's been cornered.
“Hello, I don’t believe we’ve met,” says the first one, who bears intricate tattoos and a confusing smile. “I’m Veronica Sinclair, and you are?”
Kara chews furiously, swallows and speaks,
“Oh, hello!" there is still food chipmunk'd in her cheeks, "I’m Kara, I'm a friend of Lena. Luthor!" she adds, "Lena Luthor.”
The other steps in, smiling like the canary-catching cat.
“Mercy Graves,” the second greets as she extends a hand for Kara to take. “Lovely to meet you. Lord knows any friend of a Luthor is a friend of ours.”
Their words are kind and their postures imposing, and Kara finds herself stumbling back a bit in an attempt to create space. None is available.
“So you know Lena well?” Kara asks, and their smiles grow almost in unison.
“Oh yes. People like us tend to run in the same circles. I’ve known just about everyone in this room my entire life. Except you, of course.” She smiles, wide enough to show her canine teeth. “So tell me, how do you know Lena?”
“It’s a funny story, actually! We kind of just stumbled into each other’s lives-”
Before she can elaborate a bell rings out overhead with a soft call of "dinner". Veronica excuses herself to play hostess just as the sharply dressed staff begin to bring out platters of food. Kara eyes the food she already has in confusion, earning her a bemused grin from Mercy.
"Those are just the hors d'oeuvres. Come, sit by me, I want to know all about you."
And as Mercy places an arm around her to pull her towards her table Kara can't help but feel like an animal whose foot has fallen into a snare.
It doesn't take long for Kara to learn the names of their table mates. She's always been good with names and faces, quick to learn and long to remember. She knows Mercy and Veronica, who are a CEO and an art curator respectively. She meets two software engineers - Beth and Eve - as well as Siobhan, who describes herself as a 'social influencer' whatever the hell that means. She meets Imra, who does not give a job description beyond a coy smile that even Kara knows better than to question.
And she knows Lena, who smiles softly at her, even as she devours her food like a starved monkey, and refuses eye contact with anyone else. Not that they notice, really; all of their attention seems to be on Kara.
"So are you an owner there?" Eve is asking, genuinely confused. Kara laughs through her mouthful before pausing long enough to swallow.
"No, I'm just a delivery girl, although I do make and decorate the cookies sometimes. I actually have a pretty big job coming up for a company, gotta design a few hundred cookies for a party. Our apartment is overflowing with test batches now."
She and Lena share a warm glance.
"So you live together, then?" Mercy asks, and Lena's eyes are downcast once more.
"Kind of? It's.. a confusing situation, right now."
They seem to wait for an elaboration but Kara provides none.
"How thrilling," Veronica finally says after another moment. "Well, maybe next time I'll hire your company to cater dessert."
Her words are not meant to be nice but Kara smiles anyway and nods.
Lena, who hadn't spoken in ages, chimes in,
"Kara's an artist actually. You should see some of the things she creates," she smiles again at Kara, "even her cookies are art."
"Well Veronica owns several art galleries in the city," Mercy says, and Veronica adds in,
"Yes, perhaps I can look at some of your work sometime and see if it fits our current exhibit run."
They're all smiling at her but Kara knows deep in her chest that this is a mockery. Her heart hurts in its embarrassment, and she takes a bite to avoid talking for a while.
She glances over at Lena, who has finally started to loosen up under Eve's intense but affectionate questioning. It seems Eve is a fan of Lena's work and has a lot to say. There are various topics thrown across the table that Kara can barely follow.
Everyone is charmed by each other, laughing and exchanging jokes Kara doesn’t quite understand, and she finds herself zoning out for a moment before Imra catches her eye.
"So Kara," she says, politely trying to include her, "are you in school?"
"I was! I'm not anymore. I went to the university in Midvale, but I didn't finish."
"Oh Midvale? That’s where my husband went to college," Imra says, lighting up.
"What a small world!" Kara says, "Maybe we knew each other."
"Wouldn't that be something."
They smile at each other for a moment before Mercy loudly calls,
"Oh, Jack! I was wondering when you'd get here!"
Kara and Lena freeze at that exact same moment.
This guy Jack.
"Sorry I'm late, loves. My pilot's still learning how to land."
They laugh, charmed by his clearly relatable humor, and Kara takes him in.
Jack Spheer looks just like he did in the photo, tall and handsome and well-groomed with a smile that probably has girls swooning. A smile Lena swooned at once. He presses a kiss to the side of Beth's head and takes a seat beside her, smiling at them all in greeting until his eyes land on Lena.
They sit and stare at each other, equally frozen, until Beth speaks.
"Jack, this is Kara. She's Lena's friend," they all hear the slight inflection. "And of course you know Lena."
He nods and says, "hello, Kara," without taking his eyes off Lena. Then, in a softer voice, "Lena."
"Hello, Jack." Lena's reply is stiff, forced. They both deflate in the other's presence.
Kara hates every second of this. She instead tries to hone in on the quiet conversation between Siobhan and Eve.
"Did I hear someone say jet skis?" she cuts in, loud and aggressive, and the two look at her in a mix of surprise and annoyance.
"Yes! We're going on Siobhan's yacht this weekend, jet ski around and shoot fireworks," Eve says, glancing at Lena pointedly. "Would you like to come?"
Lena makes that face she does when she's trying to be polite but firm in her refusal, so Kara takes the initiative:
"Absolutely we do! I've always wanted to jet ski! What do you say, Lena?"
Lena looks dead inside at the thought.
"Sure.. sounds fun."
"I'm not sure you'd like it, Lena," Eve says with a sympathetic smile, "It'll be crowded and loud, and I know how you get at things like that. And my yacht is the biggest at the lake, obviously, but with all the people already going and my extensive wait staff there will probably be a good hundred people onboard."
"That does sound like a yacht of people," Lena says quietly to herself, unintentionally causing Kara and Jack to both laugh out loud, much to Kara's annoyance. In the midst of his laughter Jack reaches out and places his hand gently atop Lena's, leaving it there for a moment.
“God, I've missed you,” Jack says with a smile. Lena pulls her hand away.
"You two sure are cozy for exes. How nice," Beth teases, though Kara can hear something harder under her tone.
Jack seemingly does not, however, and instead continues to smile softly at her.
Lena just looks down at her plate, head heavy and eyes filled with conflict Kara knows nothing about. The conversation moves on but Lena does not look up again, and a few minutes later quietly excuses herself.
Twenty seconds later Jack stands up to follow her. Kara's ten seconds behind him.
"Lena," he calls, and she slows to a stop. Kara doesn't mean to pry (okay, yes she does), but it's her job to protect Lena at this and making sure she's okay when her ex corners her in a hallway seems part of the job. She loiters just out of sight but close enough to hear. "I'm so happy to see you."
There is so much depth to his tone whereas Lena's reply is flat.
"You look well."
"I've been trying to take care of myself lately," he says. "I hope you have as well. I've missed you."
Lena crosses her arms and looks away.
"What do you want, Jack?"
He steps closer.
"I want to talk to you, before the lake trip," he says with subdued affection. "Is there any way you and I could catch up? Alone?"
Lena shifts in discomfort and it takes every ounce of Kara's self control to not intervene.
"I don't know-" she starts, but he cuts in,
“I fucked up, Lena. I know that, and I don’t expect you to forgive me. I don’t expect anything from you. All I’m asking for is dinner, nothing else.”
Lena's shifting from foot to foot and Kara's already starting to step into their view when she hears Lena's reply.
“One dinner," she says, quiet, "Just to talk.”
Kara can't see Jack's answering smile but she can feel it in her chest.
The night finishes strong, and the days pass, and soon enough Lena is twitching about nervously preparing for Jack's arrival. They opted to have their dinner chat in Lena's apartment, catered by the still limping Hector, and Lena had very gently suggested that perhaps Kara go somewhere else for most of the night.
And she tried to, she did. She tried going over to Alex's place but accidentally walked in on her and Lucy going at it on her couch (the same one Kara slept on, for goodness sake!) and at this point there are no places she can go that don't cost money. So really, can she be blamed for coming back to the apartment twenty minutes into their dinner?
Of course not!
"Kara," Lena greets, genuinely surprised by what was really an inevitable return. "You're home early."
"Oh my God," Kara says in a completely natural and believable tone, "was tonight your dinner? I thought- oh wow, I'm so sorry guys! Okay well don't mind me, I just need to," and she gestures uselessly towards the kitchen before walking in with a confidence she does not feel. She fiddles around with cabinet drawers.
"Sorry about that," she can hear Lena say.
"No worries. I remember what it's like to have a roommate. It can be hard to find time alone."
Kara slams a pot down into the sink and sprays it full blast with the hose. It's loud.
"So as," Jack says, then raises his volume as Kara aggressively scrapes a pot and hums, "so as I was saying, I'm excited for this next chapter here in National City."
Kara drops the pot with a clatter and goes over to the stacks upon stacks of cookie-packed Tupperware they have as she hears Lena say, "What do you mean by that?"
She's already halfway in the dining room when Jack replies.
"I'm moving here, actually."
She sits down beside them with a huff, shaking the table and almost knocking Jack's glass into his lap.
"Hey guys!" she chirps, "Do you mind if I join in? I'm starving."
And she peels back the lid and grabs a cookie in each hand and shoves the first one in her mouth while staring ahead, pretending like she doesn't see the shocked looks they're both giving her. It's worth it, she thinks, to give Lena a second to process what Jack just said. He's looking at Kara with nothing short of disdain whereas Lena is still frozen in shock, though she thaws enough to mumble,
"Why would you do that? Metropolis has better infrastructure for your work."
He stares at Kara, who is glaring at him with a face full of cookie, before looking to Lena.
"I was working on a major project a few months after everything happened, and nothing I did was working right, and that's when it hit me and I realized," he leans forward, face sincere and vulnerable, and says, "I've made a terrible mistake. I shouldn't have left her. I'm no good without her." He leans back, takes a drink. "At that point I knew there was nowhere else in the world that would work for me except here."
There are a few quiet moments then when they just stare deeply into each other's eyes, and the moment feels like something from a romance novel up until Kara starts choking on the cookie conglomerate she's collected in her mouth.
Lena ends up doing the Heimlich on her for a solid minute before she can breathe again.
Everyone loses their appetite after that.
Kara puts the dishes away while Lena walks Jack to the lobby, and she can't help but feel like this was a success. Not for Jack, obviously, and perhaps not for Lena if you asked her, but Kara felt confident that this will ultimately be good for all the members of this household in time.
She's pulled from her self-congratulations by a firm knock on the door.
“I told you not to forget your key,” she calls as she goes to let Lena in.
Only it’s not Lena standing outside. It's Jack.
“Well," he says, stepping into her space, "I heard you’ve got a mean kick when men suddenly appear in your home, and I’m quite fond of my manhood so I didn’t want to risk it.”
Kara does her best to laugh, though it comes out mostly as a breath. Jack steps around her and walks towards the living room, tall with his hands held delicately behind his back.
"Where's Lena?" she asks, slow and confused.
"Talking with your doorman right now about security. I gave her a few suggestions that I knew would get her going, so she'll likely be a while," he's been walking slowly around Lena's living room but pauses to turn and grin at her. "Which is good as I was actually hoping to speak to you.”
The hairs on Kara's arms stand on end at the look he gives her.
“About Lena, of course. How is she?"
If ever there was a trap, this conversation would be it.
“She’s good," Kara says slowly and she finds herself circling parallel to him. "It’s hard still, for her. People think they know who she is from what they’ve read in the news.”
“People have always been very unkind to Lena,” Jack says almost wistfully, staring off for a moment before coming back to this. “But I really want to know how Lena is doing, what she’s doing.”
“I don’t understand," she says.
“You know, is there anything new in her life I might not know about.”
“I think Lena would tell you if there were things she wanted you to know.” She feels nervous, ansty, and she moves to grab her water from the counter. She sips at it and pretends her hand isn't shaking.
“Of course, of course,” Jack’s looking about with an intensity she does not care for, letting his fingers drift over the surfaces of Lena's things. “What I’m really asking is if there are things you know that she would not want me, or anyone else, to know.”
Kara is almost impressed by his audacity.
"I think you should leave," she says with a voice of steel.
“This is a very nice apartment, Miss Danvers,” Jack says instead. “Do you pay for it yourself?”
“No, no of course not. I checked the deed, it’s in Lena’s name. And I’d imagine you don’t have the means to get an apartment like this, hm?”
“- not with a credit score like yours. I didn’t even know scores could go below 400, but you, Miss Danvers, are just full of surprises, aren’t you?”
“How do you-“
“- delinquent student loans, multiple misdemeanors, nearly half a million in unpaid medical expenses? You are so much more than you seem. But I wonder, does Lena know?”
“What do you want?” she snaps as her circles her like a predator cocky and sure of its prey.
“I want information. I want to know everything there is to know about Lena Luthor’s life right now, every little secret. And in exchange,” he smiles at her, though it never meets his eyes. “I can make all of that go away.”
"Fuck you," Kara says, quiet, and he just laughs.
“Do you think Lena will let you keep living in her house if she learns about your past life? I doubt it, not after what she went through with her brother. But Lena doesn’t have to know, and I can make that criminal record just,” he snaps his fingers, “vanish. Money can make anything happen, really, and I’ve got enough to spare. What I don’t have is information. So here is my offer: You can keep living in her house, letting her dress you and feed you like a dog in her hand bag. I’ll keep your secrets, you can share with me hers, and we’ll all live happily ever after."
He stops in front of her.
“What do you say?”
Her response is instantaneous - she throws her drink directly into his face.
“How,” her voice shakes, and he's gasping in shock, “dare you,” she attempts to throw the cup down dramatically, but as a plastic solo cup it practically flutters down. She steps over it, steps into his space, presses her pointer finger aggressively into his chest while he wipes to clear his eyes.
“Lena cares about you, you fucking piece of shit!” Jack steps back, eyes wide and a bit terrified. “Do you know how hard this is for her? Everyone her whole fucking life has shit all over her and you think you can just swoop in and add more shit to the pile? Fuck you! How dare you try and hurt her through me!”
Jack stumbles a bit more but every space he vacates Kara immediately fills.
“Lena deserves so much more than shit faced fuckers like you, and I swear to God if you ever try to hurt her like this again I will come to your house and I will rip your throat out with my teeth!”
Jack manages to stumble around her and towards the door.
"Wait," she calls, and he freezes, looks back at her with wide eyes.
Furiously she asks, "Do you want to take some cookies? I have so fucking many. Let me make you a doggy bag."
She tells Lena the second she walks in.
Not everything, not the details (he knows, the voice in her mind taunts, he knows all about you) just the overall offer.
"He's a bad guy, Lena," she says. She really is apologetic, as much as she kind of hated him. Lena needs more people in her corner.
Lena sits and listens and taps her phone against her lower lip before saying, "that explains his text, then."
She shows Kara.
Jack Spheer [9:03 PM]
She's a good one. I like her.
Kara just stares.
"Okay, I am very confused."
Lena grins with sad eyes and says,
"Growing up a Luthor you're always surrounded by vultures just waiting for a pay day. When we were kids, Jack and-" she stutters, she always stutters, "and Lex, they would always try to bribe anyone who tried to befriend me. Offer them money or fame, whatever they thought would work. And if they agreed, I'd cut them out."
"That's.. pretty fucked up," Kara says. Lena laughs.
"That was their way of protecting me. It hurt, but I knew they did it out of love. What's fucked up is I can't think of a single person who didn't take the money, other than you."
There's nothing she can do then but hug Lena tight, try to press the overwhelming feelings into her skin. Lena holds back just as tight.
Finally, Kara whispers against her hair,
"You're allowed to miss your brother, you know."
Lena lets out a shuddery breath.
“I don’t miss actual Lex," she whispers back, "because actual Lex is a sociopath who killed people because he could. I miss the Lex I thought I knew. I miss him so much sometimes it hurts just to breathe.”
Kara can't hear her cry but she can feel it in the little shakes against her. She holds tighter.
“I missed Jack like that, too, I think," Lena continues. "There is a lot of hurt between us, but I think it might be worth trying. He really is a good guy.”
Every instinct in Kara's body disagrees, but she just squeezes her again and suggests they get ready for bed.
And later that night as they cuddle in Lena's bed Kara can't help but pull out her phone, pull up that old Instagram photo of the three of them.
She sees young Lena, leaning forward and laughing without a care while the two boys surround her and share a secretive, knowing smile.
"Oh my God," Kara gasps out as they approach the dock, "this is not a yacht. This is the Godzilla of yachts. This yacht ate all the other yachts and absorbed their powers."
Lena just tugs her along with a giggle, and soon they find themselves amidst the revelry.
They mingle for a while, talking with everyone she met at the party before. Kara's proud at how much better she's fitting in with this group already as she makes jokes that actually get laughs every so often. Jack nods at them and thankfully doesn't say a word, not that it stops Kara from glaring at him with a white hot intensity that could melt steel.
Eventually, they decide to hit the water.
It's fun. Kara grew up near a beach but they only surfed and swam. She had never been on a boat like this before or even ridden jet skis, and she loves every second of it.
They spend the entire day on the water, only boarding ship when the sun sets.
Fireworks launch from the other boat nearby, and she and Lena end up snuggled close together on the ship's stern watching them go.
"I think I need some more water," Kara says after a while, standing. "Want anything?"
Lena shakes her head no and Kara wanders off to find the kitchen she was told is on this vessel somewhere.
She finds it deeper inside but pauses at the door at the sound of her name inside. They're discussing her, she realizes.
"Not even funny," the voice is saying, and she recognizes it to be Mercy. "I wonder what Lena is getting out of her."
There's a sharp laugh from Veronica, mean and condescending, who says,
"I think it's more about Lena getting off on her," there is a round of laughter at that, "No, I don't think she's much of anything. Just another gold digger chasing the Luthor fortune. No, I'm sorry. She's an artist," they all laugh. "We'll probably never even see her again."
And oh, that burning sensation in her chest is back, and she rubs at it as if she can even begin to soothe an ache so deeply set inside her.
They are laughing still as she stumbles away, down the hall, away from their laughter and Lena and the sounds of music still playing across the water.
She ends up at the ship's bow without intention or realization, and she freezes where she stands when she realizes what she's seeing.
Jack hadn't left earlier, it seems, as he is now sat atop the ship's edge with his feet dangling over the bow. That in itself would not be too concerning, if they were not idling among rocks that are visible from this deck some four stories above. Kara gulps and steps forward slowly.
“Miss Danvers,” Jack greets the second she's within view, and she can hear the slur in his voice. “Have you come to throw more drinks on me?”
She takes another cautious step towards him.
“It’s not very safe for you to be up here alone. Come over here,” she responds. He laughs, tilts away from her a bit. She takes another step, close enough now that she can smell the alcohol on his breath.
“Are you worried about me? Worried I might,” he leans back dramatically, causing her to gasp and reach out, “fall overboard?”
She manages to get a firm grip on his shirt and arm but he resists her pull inward, all while smiling that sad drunk smile.
“That isn’t funny. Please come back here."
“You could push me over if you want. I’d let you.”
Instead she braces and tugs, resulting in them both falling to the ship floor safely away from the railing. He flops on top of her with a huff, then laughs and rolls off.
“Wow," he says, "you really are a good person.”
Kara shoves him away and sits up, furious.
“Because I didn’t let you fall off a fucking boat?”
He scoffs but makes no move to sit up.
“Don’t act like every person on this boat wouldn’t jump to off me if it could profit them in some way.”
He smiles at that though his eyes glint with unshed tears, and he sits up on his elbows to look at her.
“No, you’re right. Lena wouldn’t. She’s the only good one there is.”
They stare at each other another moment before he falls back down.
"The fireworks are lovely tonight, don't you think?" he asks, and they both turn to look at the sky just as another one explodes above in bright oranges and reds. Kara takes a moment working through her words, grinding her jaw.
“She deserves better than this," she finally says, "Better than you.”
He lets out a slow sigh.
“That she does,” he agrees before reaching into a nearby cooler and grabbing a drink. "She deserves the world. And someone who doesn't use her."
It feels for a moment like another gold digger insinuation, but Jack keeps talking in a long ramble,
"You know, I did use Lena. When we met we were barely teenagers and I immediately decided I had to seduce her. I knew that if I could win her affection, I’d get what I’d always wanted.” He pauses to take a long sip, then adds, “I’d be close to Lex.”
Kara can't help but jolt in shock, not that Jack notices. He's lost in his memories, staring at the bursts of color above.
“The moment I saw him I was in love. He was just so charming, and not in that backhanded way like so many of our peers. He’d talk and it was like the whole world was brighter. He was.. perfect, and I had to be close to him. So I came on to Lena. Again and again. And every time she shot me down. Eventually we both got so frustrated we ended up in a yelling match and I accidentally confessed that I was in love with her brother. And she just - accepted it. Said ‘okay, we can date’ just like that. She was always an odd one, still is I suppose. We ‘dated' on and off from fifteen onward and because of her I got to be a part of everything. If Lena was there, I was there, and most of the time Lex was too. And every second I fell more and more in love."
Tears have started to fall on his face but he doesn't notice or just doesn't care. He takes a long drink, then continues.
“Lena was the first to notice. I just didn’t see it, or maybe I didn’t want to. She’d ask me if I thought something was off about Lex and I’d just laugh and say anyone raised in our circles is going to be a little off. She said it years before they caught him. If I hadn’t brushed her off again and again, maybe-“ he hiccups, unable to continue. Kara puts a hand on his shoulder.
“When she turned him in it was like the entire world ended. I couldn’t process it, I couldn’t let myself believe that any of it was true. How could the man I'd loved half my life be a monster? It was like the light in my life had gone out."
He pulls himself up fully and wipes at his eyes and turns to Kara. He looks sunken, empty.
"Everyone turned on her. Everyone. She was completely alone, and she needed me, and I ... I couldn't even look at her. I couldn't see Lena; all I saw was the person who took my light away." his voice cuts off with a wet sigh. He takes a long moment to dot at his eyes, regain some composure.
"I thought I couldn't live without Lex, I thought he was what made life shine, but God," he laughs, swallows, "It was her. It was always her. She was my truest friend, and when she needed me most I abandoned her."
He levels a steady stare at Kara, who so far has done nothing but gape in amazement.
"I'm moving to National City, and I am going to try and win a place in her life again. I don't deserve one, but I have to try," he smiles, "I'm glad she's found you. Keep being good to her. Remember, I'm very wealthy and could very easily dispose of your body."
He said it as a tease but ends up groaning and falling back down on to the deck, covering his face with his hands.
"Oh my God," he says. "Lex used to make that joke all the time."
There are no words for Kara to say in a moment like this. The air buzzes with the weight of drunken secrets and shame.
A massive firework bursts overhead, filling the air with sound and raining blues and golds down over the water.
"Well," Lena says later that night as they get ready for bed. "That really wasn't that bad!"
Her smile makes Kara's heart feel full, and when they climb in together she pulls her close against her chest until Lena drifts to sleep.
Sleep escapes Kara. She lays there staring unseeing at the wall until the urge to look again nearly overwhelms her, and she pulls out her phone.
She stares at the photo again, stares until her eyes go out of focus and begin to water. No matter her effort it's like she can't fully breathe.
Lena, Lex, and Jack, sitting on a yacht so similar to the one they rode today.
Jack with his arm wrapped tight around Lena, smile bright with easy affection and love. His hand on the back of the bench, fingers extending out towards Lex sitting poised and just out reach. Teasingly close, but never close enough.
How did no one realize they were in the presence of a monster? The news had demanded over and over again.
“We see what we want to see,” Kara whispers back.
Lena jolts a little in her arms, murmurs, “what was that?”
Kara wraps around her more tightly and breathes in the smell of her shampoo, says, “Nothing. Go back to sleep.”
And together they slip into the darkness.
i have no idea how yachts work
Chapter 8: I feel so secure when we're together
Kara has to actually acknowledge the state of her health, and Lena has to... go on a date?
can y'all believe
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Unsurprisingly, the skyline view from atop the penthouse is breathtaking.
“I wanna punch it in the face,” Kara says, as one is oft compelled to do upon viewing such majesty. “I wanna punch the sky in its beautiful face.”
“I have a helicopter if you’d like to give it a go,” Lena says helpfully from her perch. She says it in a joking deadpan but Kara knows in her heart that Lena means it. She'd fly them in a heartbeat if Kara asked. She kind of loves her for that.
They’ve been up on the roof for nearly an hour since Kara discovered they had access (“I own the building,” Lena said, “I have all the access.”). Lena was a good sport and even helped Kara drag up her art supplies, helping her set up the easel and canvas facing the setting sun. Kara’s never been this high before without being in a plane and she wants to capture this feeling in color. She’s been working on a rough underpainting of blues and reds while Lena lounged nearby reading various articles on cake sculpting.
“You don’t have to do that, you know,” Kara says, as Lena gives her yet another tip on baking artistry. “I don’t even have the job yet."
Cat said she would call her this weekend to let her know if she gets the big bake job she's been stressing and planning over for weeks. There are still so many fucking cookies in their kitchen.
“You’re going to get the job. Why wouldn't she give it to you? You're incredible. Oh! This article here says you should do a crumb coat between icing layers."
She says it with such earnest focus it makes Kara's chest squeeze, and she's filled with the urge to go and hug her best friend. So, she does.
"This is very serious," Lena says, though her words are muffled by Kara's tight embrace, "we have to prepare for this."
"You're so cute I can hardly stand it," her smile drops and she sighs, "You don't have to keep doing that. I feel like we talk about my stuff too much. I mean, I’m just making a cake; I’m not navigating million-dollar deals. It’s really not important.”
Lena puts a firm hand on Kara's shoulder at that, leaning forward to catch her eyes.
“This is something that’s important to you, Kara. That means it’s important.”
"Ugh!" Kara groans before tackling Lena in another smothering hug that nearly topples them both off the chaise longue. "Stop being so cute!"
"It's effortless. I can't control it. Wish I could," Lena says solemnly, pulling her phone back out, “now as I was saying, this article says to…”
Kara waits for a moment, then glances at Lena who is staring at her phone in obvious confusion.
“You okay?” Kara asks, drawing her attention back. Lena looks genuinely perplexed.
“Er, yes, I think so. I just got the strangest email and I’m not totally sure what it means.”
She holds up her phone for Kara to read.
It was really great seeing you the other night! I was hoping I’d see you again, so I was so glad you were there! I tried to work up the nerve to ask you this in person but I got nervous. I was wondering if you’d like to go out some time on a date. My family sponsored a wing of the National City Aquarium, so we can go backstage and meet the sea turtles if you’d like! If that’s super weird and you’d rather not then please just ignore this! LOL!
Kara feels a number of things in this moment. There's confusion at who this Eve Teschmacher is, as well as concern at why Lena looks so shocked. These are familiar, expected emotions. There are others, however, simmering below the surface that she can't quite identify. Emotions that rush through her too fast to grasp, that make her heart beat a little faster and her palms ache. She settles on the easiest one to reach.
“Who is Eve Teschmacher?”
Lena does not seem to be experiencing the same rollercoaster of emotions as Kara. She seems just confused.
“You met her the other day on the yacht, the software engineer. Her father actually worked at Luthor Corp years ago. I don’t understand what she means by this email.”
Kara's mouth feels funny as she talks.
“Uh, it means you got asked out.” Lena’s blank stare prompts her to add, “on a date.”
“Oh. Why would she do that?”
“Because she wants to date you, I guess?”
Lena just looks more confused.
"That doesn't make sense."
"Lena, you're the coolest person I know. Why would someone not want to date you?"
Lena doesn't seem to have an answer for it and Kara's stomach is starting to feel kind of bubbly in a bad way. She probably got some paint in her mouth on accident again. She keeps talking.
"Dating is a good social outlet! This could be a good thing, if you want it to be," she's saying words but it feels disconnected. Something about this is really making her feel so strange.
Kara’s phone buzzes and she sees a familiar name flash across the screen: DR JAMESON OFFICE.
“Do you need to take that?” Lena asks, and Kara hits decline.
"Nope! Do you wanna date Eve?"
Lena's face twitches at the conversational redirect.
"I have no idea," she says honestly. She looks so lost. Kara decides to take control.
“Okay, that's okay! Let’s start small. Tell me about dates you’ve gone on before."
“Well, I’ve only really dated Jack. Usually we would go with Lex to the lake house, or the three of us would visit the vineyard. Or we three would take the family jet to whatever island-”
“Okay, Lena,” Kara cuts in, “it’s not a date if your brother is also there.”
“Well, then I don’t know! We only hung out with Lex, okay? It’s not like I was his real girlfriend.”
She's fidgeting with her hands and Kara takes them gently into her own. She rubs her thumbs comfortingly across her skin. Lena blows out a hard breath, then says,
“I guess I’ve never really dated, okay? I was with Jack all the way up till the trial and after that, no one wanted to date the last Luthor. I don’t know how to do this. I can’t, I can’t do this. I gotta block Eve’s number and move.”
“Close, what you actually need to do is take a chill pill and relax. As your social guide I can help you with this."
"Have you dated a lot before?" Lena asks, and for the first time in so many months Kara thinks about Mike.
It's a rush of emotions that hit so fast and unexpected it knocks the wind out of her. Her chest aches and her mind clouds and it's still too soon to think about him, to think about everything that happened, she can't-
"Some," she says in a voice too strained to be natural. "Enough to know a thing or two about a thing or two. I got this. We got this."
For a second, Lena almost seems to believe her. Then reality sets in.
"Nope! Absolutely not. I can't do that. Why would she want to do that? I can't do that.”
Lena is looking at her with scared, shining eyes, and her instincts are telling her to stop this before it can even take root. To tell Lena she should ignore the email, ignore Eve, go back to reading piping tips that Kara already knows.
But those are not good instincts, and she recognizes that, so she takes Lena’s hand and tells her to do what feels right to her.
“Ignoring this email feels extremely right right now,” she says, and some weight Kara hadn’t even realized had fallen upon her seems to lift.
“Then let’s ignore it!”
Lena nods with an air of finality yet continues to fidget about. Kara waits patiently for her to speak.
“I can never interact with her again,” Lena says with utter sincerity. Kara snorts.
“So the plan is, what? Pretend this never happened and hopefully never see her again?”
Kara’s phone buzzes again in her hand with the same caller, she hits decline again. Lena seems triumphant.
“Yes! That’s the goal,” Lena says with a smile Kara tries her best not to return.
“Excellent. Very healthy.”
They see Eve two days later.
Kara spots her first, as Eve is lingering near the incredibly appealing dessert table at the otherwise boring socialite event Lena had dragged her to.
Lena doesn’t notice her for some time, which is a blessing for them all, really. Better to defer that interaction as long as possible. Lena dips out to use the restroom and Kara immediately starts running strategies on how she can keep Lena away from Eve while also getting to that incredible looking pie Eve seems to be orbiting with no relief.
Then, ever the persistent specter, a call yet again buzzes across her phone, the name DR JAMESON shining bright in its mockery.
Kara is, again, quick to hit decline with a surprisingly shaky finger. There’s no reason for them to be calling her, right? She was just at the doctor.
It’s too soon, it’s way too soon. It’s only been- she does the mental math, her heart growing ever heavier as she realizes it hasn’t been just a few months since she last saw the doctor. It’s been many. Too many, most likely. Not enough.
Huh. That would explain why she kept getting emails about appointments in her inbox which she had been quick to delete. Why her most recent bottle of pills said NO REFILLS on the side, a sign she’d been adamantly ignoring. Her phone rings again and she hits ignore.
This is definitely a problem for future Kara.
"Oh God," Lena says as she appears beside her, ever the welcome distraction. "Eve is here. I have to hide, or run away, or go die in a hole."
"All valid options! But, consider this- you could go talk to her."
As if sensing their struggle, Eve turns to face them at that exact moment and, to Lena's horror, waves awkwardly at them both before looking away. It's adorable, and sad, and Kara kind of wants to hug her now, too.
"I can never talk to her ever again," Lena says with sorrowful solemnity.
"Hey Eve!" Kara calls out, grabbing Lena's arm to drag her with her. "Fancy seeing you here!"
The wide-eyed look of joy and terror that greets them hits Kara so sharply in the chest that she wonders if every eccentric rich girl had to take the same behavioral classes as youths. Do any of these people know how to interact?
“Oh, hey Kara!” she greets, then quietly adds, “Hey, Lena. It’s nice to see you.”
“Yes,” Lena says, and nothing else.
“Well!” Kara says after a few beats of terrible silence, “This sure is a nice party, huh? With all the lights and decorations and all.”
"It is nice," Lena says.
"Yes, it is nice," Eve echoes back in the same tone. They continue to stare at each other.
"Oh my God,” Kara says in absolute wonder, “there are two of you.”
They’re interrupted, thankfully, by someone calling Eve away, and with one final painful glance she leaves them. Lena immediately turns to look at Kara with such misery in her eyes that Kara can’t help but laugh and pat her arm.
“We’ll figure it out,” she says as comfortingly as she can, and Lena presses her face into her hands with a groan.
Just then, Jack appears.
"Hello lovelies,” he greets with an arm around both their shoulders, and Kara resists the urge to roll her eyes. Now that he’s deemed Kara worthy he acts as though they’re best friends. As if she doesn’t still kind of wants to rip his hair out. Can’t do that, though, so she’s trying to be civil at least. “Are you actually going to date her then?"
Another jolt. Kara can't help but be surprised that he knows about the date invite, that Lena’s told anyone other than her. He and Lena really must be rebuilding their friendship, though if that’s his opening approach he may be in for a struggle.
Predictably, Lena blanches at his words.
“Could you maybe not ever say that again please?” she croaks, and he laughs.
"No, really! I think you should. I think getting laid would do you wonders. A romp with a beautiful blonde might be just what you need."
I’m a beautiful blonde, Kara thinks out of nowhere, and then shakes the thought away. That was weird.
“You don’t have to do anything you don’t want to do, Lena,” Kara says. This is starting to bother her, she realizes, in a way it hadn’t before. Probably because Jack is here being loud and abrasive.
They see Eve walk back into the room and look at them, then look away, then look back with a small wave. Jack and Kara wave back happily while Lena just continues to stare. Like she’s deciding something.
“I want,” Lena says in a shaky voice, and Kara finds herself holding her breath in anticipation. “I want to… experience things.”
It’s said like a curse, like some burden she’s forced to now carry. Jack lets out a whooping cheer, saying,
"Go get laid, Lena!"
People glance at them and Lena’s face goes so red, she’s so shy and embarrassed at the attention and Kara would find it endearing if her mouth didn’t feel so funny. Lena stands decisive and she realizes something is about to happen, so she quickly says (at a reasonable volume),
"Or don't! It's okay if you don't do that, either! If you don't want to!"
After a deep breath and a nod, Lena marches towards Eve like a soldier headed to battle. She watches as Lena taps on Eve's shoulder, as she talks with stiff movements and strange expressions. They watch as Eve smiles brilliantly at her, twirls her hair like a schoolgirl in love, makes a joke. They watch as Lena laughs and laughs.
Kara is battling a tummy ache at the sight. Lena’s smile afterwards is so wide and happy, more than Kara thinks she’s ever seen on her before. Her chest burns. For a moment she pictures Lena and a pretty blonde woman laughing, holding hands. Kissing. Her heart beats a little too fast at the thought.
Her phone rings then and, in her discomfort, she forgets what she should not do.
“Is this Kara Danvers?” The woman asks, and like a fool she says yes.
“Miss Danvers, I’m calling on your missed appointment with Doctor Jameson’s office.”
That’s why Kara had been avoiding phone calls.
She moves away from Jack, goes to a quiet part of the room where she can speak low and unheard.
“I must stress that there is a fee for no-shows,” the woman continues, “and we are unable to fill your next prescription without you seeing the doctor in person.”
She thinks about how many pills she has left in her toiletries bag. How many more days can she put this off?
“I’m really swamped with work right now, I’m not sure I can come in this month. Can I not get an extension?”
“No ma’am. You’ve already gone 8 months without seeing the doctor. We are legally required to see you in person to refill your script.”
“And if I miss a few doses?”
The woman sighs in annoyance, and her voice is rough as she speaks.
“You can either come in to see the doctor now or come in in an ambulance later.”
That’s the moment Lena walks back over and, without thought, Kara hangs up. Lena must see something in Kara's expression as she asks,
Kara can feel how fake her smile is as she replies.
“Yep! Just a wrong number. How'd it go?"
Lena looks nauseous but accomplished.
"I did it. I got a date."
Jack cheers loudly and lifts Lena up into a swinging hug, and they're both laughing and excited and it's great, really! It's great for Lena. It's a happy moment they all get to share, and that's what makes the weird pit Kara feels in her stomach so unexpected and strange.
Lena has a date, and that's a good thing! Isn't it?
The date is scheduled for the following evening and Kara wonders if she might have food poisoning. The party they attended did serve seafood, which is always a questionable choice for buffet style meals, so maybe that's the reason her stomach has been rumbling tumbling since the moment they got home. She takes some Pepto-Bismol and does her best to comfort Lena as she laments her upcoming social obligation. That night they lay in the dark, faces close.
"I'm nervous," Lena whispers, close enough Kara can feel her breath against her lips. "What if it goes terribly?"
"What if it doesn't?" Kara whispers back. The fear in Lena’s voice makes her stomach rumble even harder.
“That might be worse.”
Kara presses an open hand to Lena’s face, traces the curves of her jaw with her fingertips. The skin feels soft and hot everywhere she touches.
“You got this,” she says, and she can feel the smile shaping in her hand.
“I got this,” Lena repeats back.
They fall asleep like that.
Kara spends her entire work shift thinking about Lena and Eve. How will Lena react if Eve holds her hand? What if she tries to kiss her? What if Lena says something strange and Eve doesn’t know how to react?
What if Eve makes her feel small?
Thinking about it makes Kara feel tummy tumbling in the worst of ways so she tries her best not to, but everything brings her back to them. Cookies remind her of Lena, laughing with Winn reminds her of Lena. Every woman who comes into the store reminds her of Lena. Everything about her day makes her focus on her friend, and she’s just so anxious to get home to Lena and make sure she’s okay.
A terrible little voice inside her chest whispers that maybe Lena won’t be home. Maybe she’ll sleep at Eve’s. Dr Jameson’s office calls once more and she hits ignore. Kara clocks out of her shift and practically flies home.
Her worries are lessened somewhat when she gets home to Lena on the couch watching one of Kara’s tv shows. She seems emotionally stable, which is always good, and there are no tear stains or bite-marked lips.
Kara sits beside her trying to read her vibes.
“How did it go?” she asks cautiously. Lena shrugs, barely reacts.
“It didn’t. I freaked out and cancelled.”
Despite the feeling of relief that hits sudden and intense, Kara’s supportive instincts kick in.
“Lena! No!” she says, “You were doing so good!”
Lena jumps up with a noisy exhale and starts to pace with Kara quickly trailing behind her.
“I can’t do it, I can’t. I can’t,” she says, shaking her hands in agitation. “I don’t know how to date! What if she asks me questions?”
“Then answer them!”
“Don’t be ridiculous, Kara.”
Kara finally catches her fidgeting hands in her own and pulls her to look at her.
“Okay, for real. What’s going on right now?”
Lena huffs, indignant even as her eyes fill with tears.
“Eve is someone who knew Lex. Not personally, but peripherally! She witnessed the insanity that has been my life all these years... why would she want to date me?”
“Because you’re amazing, how many times do we gotta go over this?” she swings their hands playfully, barely earning a smile. “knowing about you then isn’t gonna stop her from wanting to know you now.”
“It’s stopped everyone else.”
“Not true. Jack is here again, remember?” she wraps Lena up into a hug. “And I didn’t know you then but I know you now, and I’m here. I’m not going anywhere.”
Kara presses a kiss to her temple, then leans her forehead against her.
Lena writes Eve an overly detailed apology email that Kara heavily edits before allowing her to send. It’s not a great move, but it’s the best for Lena at that time. Lena asks for a second chance at a date which Kara is pretty sure Eve will politely decline, but she’s really just excited Lena was willing to try again.
They’re both surprised when Eve replies back immediately with ‘of course! How about Sunday?’ followed by a series of emojis: multiple smiles, one set of two girls holding hands, and a kissy emoji.
Lena points at the emojis in horror.
“What does this mean?” she asks, tapping her finger accusatorily against her phone. “What could this possibly mean?”
“I think it means she likes you still,” Kara says, just as surprised as Lena.
Maybe they really are a good match.
Alex absolutely loses it when she hears about Lena’s dating news and is still laughing when Lucy arrives much later.
Kara had come over to help Alex declutter some of their boxes of junk. Alex had so graciously let her little sister live with her for nearly a year rent-free, but she had finally decided she was no longer her storage unit and that all of Kara’s shit has got to go. No more free storage, not when she’s living the high life with her socially stunted gal pal. That same gal pal she’s now laughing about for some reason.
“Kara, please,” Alex says through laughter-tears, “please tell Lucy what happened.”
“Lena got asked out through an email.”
She doesn’t get why that’s so funny, but Lucy apparently does as she laughs as well.
“I would love to watch whatever socially awkward date that’d end up being.”
“She said yes,” Kara says. “Well, she said yes, then no, then yes again. We’re hoping this one sticks.”
Lucy continues to laugh, but Alex’s laughter tapers off as she narrows her eyes studying Kara.
“What’s happening?” She gestures at Kara’s face, “why are you doing that? Why are you crinkling?”
Kara slaps her hand over her traitorous forehead.
“I’m not crinkling!”
“You are, I can see it. Why don’t you want Lena to date Email Eve?”
“I don’t! I mean I don’t not want her to! I just, I’m worried she might get hurt.”
Alex scoffs, loudly taping another box shut.
“Everybody gets hurt,” she says gruffly, “Doesn’t mean she can’t get laid in the process.”
Another tummy tumble.
“What if she’s just using her for her money?” Kara asks, refusing to acknowledge Alex’s words.
“Kinda like you?” Alex snips, and ouch. That hits her in her sorest spot.
“That’s not true and you know it.”
Her voice wavers in sudden insecurity, and Alex flinches like she slapped her.
“Alright, I’m kidding! Jeez, can I not make a joke?”
“It’s not a joke if everyone says it all the time,” Kara says, small and sad. Alex looks at Lucy for help. Lucy sighs. Sits next to Kara, bumps her knee into hers, and waits. After a moment, Kara says quietly,
“What if it goes really bad and she gets hurt? She’s already going through so much.”
Lucy smiles at her and says,
“Then she learns from her mistakes and does better next time. Everybody’s gotta fuck up before they figure things out.”
It’s comforting, sort of, but not to the dark part deep inside Kara that seems to be growing as this date scenario goes on. This fear that she really doesn’t know how to place.
Kara’s phone rings again, this time with her CatCo ringtone. It’s Miss Grant.
She got the bake job.
It’s what she’s wanted, what she’s worked for, and the second she accepts Lucy is dancing and Alex lets out a little whoop, and Kara smiles and laughs but it doesn’t feel like it should. Doesn’t feel as good.
All night Friday Lena vibrates with nervous energy. The weekend is only just starting but her anxieties are already rolling off of her in palpable waves so thick Kara’s half-surprised she isn’t drowning in them. Still, it’s mostly fine, and she’s able to distract Lena most of the night. Kara falls asleep thinking things are actually going to be good.
Then, Lena has a nightmare.
Kara doesn’t know how long it’s been going on when she’s woken up, but Lena is deep in it. Her face is scrunched so tightly in pain and she’s soaked from sweat and tears and saliva and she looks like she’s fighting for her life. Kara would usually be gentle but there’s something in her expression that scares her, that causes her to shake Lena awake.
She wakes with a gasp, reaching at Kara as if to push her away in defense only to stop the second she sees who it is. Kara holds her close and waits. After some time, she finally speaks.
“I dreamt of Lex,” she says. “and bodies. So many bodies.”
Kara squeezes her extra tight.
“Okay, you’re okay! He’s gone and he can’t get to you, okay? You’re safe.”
It’s not the right thing to say she doesn’t think, but it’s all she can say. Lena doesn’t seem to hear her either way.
“I can’t go on that date,” Lena says decisively through a big sniffling gulp. As if the dream helped her realize. “I should send a letter to Eve explaining that. I can’t-” her words falter and Kara runs a comforting hand down her back. “What right do I have to try and – and date and do normal things when there are still so many bodies to find.”
She’s crying again, incoherent in that space between sleep and consciousness, and Kara speaks slow and gentle.
“If you cancel on her again, she really will never forgive you.”
Lena laughs, exacerbated.
“I mean, why should she?”
It feels like they’re talking about more. She sees that same desperate sadness in her eyes as she saw when they discussed Lex, when the pieces of Lena Luthor’s past fell into place before Kara’s eyes. All she wants is to take hold of her and fix this.
“Let’s go out,” she says decisively. “Tomorrow. For brunch or something. Do a practice run and work out the kinks.”
“The kinks?” Lena says, watching her with bleary eyes. “Like, a pretend date?”
“Not pretend! Practice! I’m your social coach, or whatever. This way you can get all your weird energy out on me so you can be smooth and cool with her. It’s perfect. Plus, I’m always down to brunch.”
She can feel the skepticism radiating off of Lena, but she can see her smile, too.
“Fine,” Lena acquiesces. “We’ll go on a practice date.”
Kara nearly knocks them both out of the bed in her enthusiasm, but it’s worth it to hear Lena’s laugh. For the first time since all this began, she feels excited about Lena dating. She falls asleep to thoughts of waffles and eggs and mimosas, and of Lena, laughing between each bite.
“Hi, Lena,” Kara says the next morning, doing her best Eve impression – wide eyes, big smile, lots of staring. Lena is clearly trying not to laugh. “How’s it goin?”
“I’m,” she’s laughing now, but Kara can see her nerves starting to peek through. “I’m well, Eve. How are you?”
Lena had gotten them a reservation at the most exclusive brunch spot in National City despite only calling ahead an hour. Kara’s lusted after this place from afar for months, but never in her life did she think she’d get to eat here. (Kara’s pretty sure they kicked someone else out so they could have the spot, but she’s not one to look a gift brunch in the mouth.)
Kara had made Lena go ahead of her so she could make a proper entrance into her new role as Eve, Lena’s newest social experience. It was a challenging headspace to reach but Kara is nothing if not a consummate professional.
“I’m in love with you,” Kara says with her wide eyes, then adds quickly, “I mean – I’m well as well!”
Lena laughs a quick burst loud enough to catch the eyes of other tables and she slaps a hand over her mouth to contain it.
“Kara, please,” she finally begs between gasps, “I can’t do this if you’re gonna be like that. It’s too much.”
Kara settled back into her seat with a cocky smile, pleased as can be as she sees Lena settle back as well. So much of the anxiety is already gone, and now Kara gets to eat something called a ‘Mudslide Omelet’. Everybody is winning.
“So, what are some things you’re worried about?” Kara asks around a mouthful of mushrooms and melted cheese.
“What am I not worried about?” Lena retorts. “God, I don’t know. I’ve never dated. I don’t know how to be charming or, or attractive. I don’t know how to make her like me.”
“She already likes you, silly. That’s why she asked you out. You just need to be yourself.”
“That sounds like a terrible thing to be.”
Kara gives her a highly disapproving look, so she amends slightly with, “I mean to say, my default is anxious. I don’t want to be like that. I don’t want her to think less of me for it.”
Kara slurps up a long string of cheese and sauce thoughtfully.
“You gotta be willing to face rejection if you want honest connection,” Kara says. Her chest aches for a moment and she rubs absent mindedly at it. “Maybe just go for genuine without oversharing. Just tell her you’re nervous and excited to be there.”
“That’s not pathetic?” Her voice is small.
“Of course not! And if someone says it is then they suck and we don’t wanna date them anyway.”
Lena smiles at her soft and warm. They eat in silence for a while, Kara far too distracted by the glorious monstrosity upon her plate to notice the contemplative look on Lena’s face. After watching Kara chew around a too-big bite of chicken sausage Lena speaks.
“There’s something else,” Lena says quietly. “More embarrassing than that.”
“Lay it on me,” Kara mumbles around her bite, mouth still filled to overflow.
“I’ve never- I mean, with Jack there wasn’t,” she runs a hand through her hair in frustration. “I’ve never had a... physical relationship before.”
“I know Jack was egging you on the other night but you really don’t have to have sex if you don’t want to-”
“No! No, I mean, yes, I haven’t had sex, but also, I never really did other things, either. Jack and I kissed maybe a dozen times over the years, and they were all like kissing a brother. I’ve hardly done anything at all.”
She looks so small as she says it, her face growing redder by the moment, and Kara reaches out with both hands to take hers across the table. She has to strain a bit to reach her, but it’s worth it to have the physical connection.
“That’s okay,” Kara says, genuine and open. “There’s nothing wrong with that, you know? Everybody goes at their own pace with stuff. How does that make you feel, not having done stuff?”
“Stupid,” she says quietly, “and like I’m some loser miles behind everyone else. I hate it, but I’m so scared I’ll be terrible and whoever I’m with will think less of me for it.”
“Once again, anybody who’d think that is the wrong person and they really suck,” Kara says decidedly.
Lena flexes her fingers in Kara’s grip and lets out a sigh.
“Even holding hands has been a jarring thing,” she says. “The hugs, the hand holding – it’s like going from 0 to 100 in a heartbeat.”
Kara starts to pull her hands away in alarm but Lena holds on tight.
“That’s not a bad thing!” she says quickly, giving her hands another squeeze. “You’ve already helped me more since I’ve met you than anyone has my whole life. It’s just still- a lot.”
Kara nods slowly, because she really does get it. She can see the strain in Lena all the time, that battle between wanting something so much and fearing it in equal measures. Every day is a struggle for her, and all Kara wants to do is help lift some of that burden.
Lena’s hand rests palm-up on the table and slowly, carefully, Kara drags her fingers across her skin, following the lines. She imagines for a moment that she could read palms, that she could feel Lena’s entire future laid out beneath her hands, and that each trail she followed was another detailed map of the joys Lena Luthor still had in store before her. Her fingers trace around the edges of her fingers, unphased in their journey even as Lena’s hand twitches beneath the ministration. In her mind’s eye Kara envisions years of laughter, of love, and the both of them sharing adventures and cups of cocoa. She sees Lena smiling without that weight of pain she always seems to carry.
Kind of like the smile she’s giving her now, actually.
“So,” Lena finally says, pulling her from her thoughts. “What’s next?”
Kara smiles, letting her hand fall to hold Lena’s fully.
“Part two of the practice date! Let’s hit the aquarium.”
It’s been years since Kara has gone anywhere like this before, so to say she’s a bit wonderstruck might be an understatement.
“There’s a dolphin!” She half-shouts, pressed against the glass. “Lena, are you kidding me? There’s a literal dolphin right there! Two feet away!”
Lena is trailing behind her with a fond smile on her face, clearly not as impressed by the majesty of a freaking dolphin basically within hugging distance. The blues and whites reflecting through the glass dance across them, giving Lena an ethereal glow, and Kara finds herself struck by the sight. She must be staring, though, because Lena begins to shift uncomfortably under hear watchful eye, and all at once she remembers why they are here. (Which is, tragically, not to hug a dolphin).
Kara gets back into the mindset she needs – courtship preparation.
“Alright!” she says, clapping her hands together. “Let’s get to it! Dating 101.”
She doesn’t know why she says that. That’s not at all how she should start, but something is throwing her off today, has been throwing her off since all this began. Her stomach is still tumbling away with nerves that she can’t quite place.
Lena doesn’t look to be faring much better, her arms crossed tight with her fingers white-knuckling in their grip. That at least gives Kara a place to start.
“So tell me exactly what it is you’re freaking about?” Kara says gently as she lets her fingers glide down Lena’s shoulders, round her elbows, and gently grasp her wrists. With the softest touch she pries her hands off her arms and holds them both in her own, swinging them softly. Lena looks down at them with a furrowed brow and laughs.
“This, I think,” she says, then adds, “what do I do if she touches me?”
Kara drops one of her hands but holds tight to the other, pulling her along. They walk together through the aquarium, Kara gawking at every weird sea creature she meets with full fascination. It’s like observing a box full of aliens, she thinks.
“Well, that depends. Do you want her to touch you?” she asks. A small family of grey fish swim past in a wave. Lena shrugs.
“I don’t know, I guess. I like being touched.”
Another tummy tumble. Kara wonders if maybe she’s coming down with something.
“So, if she touches you and you want her to, then just try to relax into it. Maybe touch her back.”
Her mouth feels funny again, her hands a little shaky. She’s nervous, she realizes, and she doesn’t know why. She tries to focus on the weird translucent sea critter fluttering in front of them rather than her weird feelings.
“I’m not sure I can,” Lena says in a strained voice, and Kara finally turns to look at her. She looks wrecked, as nervous as Kara is feeling, and her ‘helper’ mode immediately clicks on.
“Here, come here,” Kara says, and wraps an arm around her shoulders. Lena shakes in her grasp as she pulls her close, her hand falling instinctively to rest on Kara’s stomach. Her other arm wraps around her waist, holding tight. It takes her a minute to relax into the sensations, to breath out and in at a calmer rhythm. Luckily, it’s dark, their only source of light shimmering out from within the pools around them, and everyone nearby is too focused on the various fish to notice. They stand like that together for a long time.
Lena lets out a tiny laugh, shaking her head, which causes it to rub against Kara’s chin.
Kara turns into the movement, her mouth pressing against the tiny hairs around Lena’s temple.
“See? It’s not so bad,” Kara says quietly. Their faces are so close and the room is nearly silent in its reverent observation. Lena laughs again, and her breath puffs against Kara’s neck.
“That’s because it’s you,” she says. “It’s never bad with you.”
Things go smoothly after that. They meander through the aquarium and Lena gets to adjust while Kara gets to see a bunch of wacky critters. At one point, Lena goes to use the restroom and Kara takes advantage of the opportunity to dart over to the gift shop.
Lena’s standing looking a bit lost when Kara gets back to her, and the way her face lights up at the sight of Kara returning causes another tumble inside that Kara promptly ignores.
She eyes Kara suspiciously, which makes sense considering she’s walked the entire way with her arms behind her back.
“Now, I couldn’t get you backstage to swim with the turtles, but I can get you this,” Kara says, pulling from behind her back a plush sea turtle with cartoonish button eyes. It was the softest, absolute cutest thing she could find in the gift shop. “Though I wouldn’t recommend swimming with him because he seems cheaply made. Might disintegrate.”
Lena laughs and takes him with reverent hands, pressing him tight to her chest in a hug.
“I love him. Thank you.” She looks so happy and Kara can only bask in it, because she did that. She makes Lena happy.
“Alright,” Kara says, grabbing one of Lena’s hands in her own and swinging it between them. “What do you say we go look at some clownfish? Those things freak me out. Why are they named that?”
And Lena, bless her heart, actually tries to tell her why.
The rest of their practice runs smoothly. Lena falls into the pattern of handholding, side hugs, and close contact, and Kara does a great job at ignoring the ever-present discomfort deep in her stomach.
She’s doing such a good job at it, too, that she gets lost in her words and says something she hadn’t realized she was keeping private.
“-And now that I got the cake job I’ve got that to look forward to, I’m sure everything will be good.”
“Wait, what? You got the job?” Lena asks, gripping her arm with a gleeful chirp. “You got the job!! I knew you would!” She then pauses for a moment before adding, “Why didn’t you tell me?”
There’s a touch of hurt in her voice, and Kara hates herself for putting it there. She hadn’t deliberately kept it a secret she doesn’t think, it just hadn’t seemed like the right time.
“I dunno,” she says, voice small all of a sudden, “it just didn’t feel like the right time, and I didn’t want to distract you from your date and everything else going on. It’s not a big deal.”
Lena is looking at her with such concern right now that Kara has to look away, instead focusing on the weird spiky fish floating by.
“Okay,” Lena says, slow and careful, “so I know today has been focused on me but I feel like there’s something going on with you that you’re not talking about.”
“I, there’s not-” her voice is wavering and her heart is racing and her stomach is tumbling so hard she feels nauseous, and all the while Lena is smiling at her with the softest eyes.
She thinks of Eve, of the way her stomach tumbles.
“I’m... okay, yes. There’s, there is one thing.”
She’s not sure what she’s going to say until she’s saying it, and it catches them both off-guard.
“Before I moved to National City, my life was a lot different. I was different. And part of that was that I got really sick,” her mouth feels numb as she speaks and Lena holds her hands even tighter. “Like, got so sick I technically died for thirty-six seconds before they brought me back.”
“Oh my God,” Lena gasps, and Kara keeps talking, knows if she stops she might not start again.
“Yeah. And, the thing is it was my fault that I got sick, kind of. I made some really bad choices and trusted someone I shouldn’t, and I almost died because of it. And since then I’ve changed so much, you know? And I wouldn’t make those choices again, not in a million years, I just want to forget I ever did in the first place. Only I can’t. I never can, because my choices messed my body up in ways I have to deal with forever, and no matter what I do, I’m never gonna be free from that.”
It’s exhausting getting all that out and she’s practically shaking where she stands, but the tummy tumbles have stopped. She’s drained, but it’s also like a weight has been lifted. She told Lena. Sort of.
Lena continues watching her with those thoughtful, kind eyes, waiting patiently to see if any more words will bubble out of her. Slowly, Kara finishes with,
“I’m just tired of dealing with it and I hate that I have to deal with it forever.”
She’s crying, she realizes. She took Lena on a pretend date and started crying thinking about her heart. Great, good job, Kara.
Lena squeezes her hand supportively and Kara finds herself slumping against the other woman with a sigh, like getting all of that out took what strength she had left, and Lena wraps an arm around her comfortingly.
“I understand that feeling,” Lena says quietly. “Something out of your control that will follow you for the rest of your life.”
Kara thinks about how difficult it is for Lena to carry the weight of what her brother has done. She thinks of the scars on her chest and the heart off-beating beneath them. They really are a pair.
“You don’t have to tell me anything that you don’t want to,” Lena says after a while, “but I want you to know I’m always here for you. And the good thing about that is that, even though we both have these terrible things we have to carry around with us all the time, maybe- maybe we don’t have to do it alone. Maybe we can carry them together.”
It’s said so earnest Kara can hardly stand it, and she ends up pulling Lena into a tight hug that squishes the turtle nearly flat between them. Lena lets her hold her for a long time, which she’s grateful for. Then, finally, she pulls back with a small laugh.
“Hey, what gives?” Kara says with a hoarse voice, “I’m supposed to be helping you here. Not the other way around.”
“Too bad,” Lena says with a shrug, her forehead bopping gently against Kara’s. “You can’t stop me.”
“Gosh, you’re right. You’re just too powerful.”
The smiles they share are warm and intimate, their faces close. Lena squeezes her arm tight, laces their fingers. They watch as another small dolphin swims overhead, shimmering in the lights above.
Lena goes on her date and Kara goes over to Alex’s.
There’s not much left of hers to pack and it’s kind of sad to see. She’s lived with Alex for so many months that she feels almost homesick looking at the well-worn couch. How many nights did she fall asleep there? It wasn’t the nicest by any means, but it was a soft place to land after the hellfire she left before. It’s a safe space she’s outgrown, but it hurts all the same.
They end up marathoning a TV show together for most of the night, their talk light and comforting. Alex makes numerous jokes about how terrible Lena’s date must be going, but finally stops when she sees how uncomfortable it makes her. She doesn’t want to think about Lena having a bad time, she doesn’t want to think about her date at all.
“So Kara,” Alex finally says in a leading tone that has her nervous, “anything going on you wanna talk about?”
There are so many possible answers to that and the tumbling starts building up again deep inside.
“Nope,” she says, popping the P at the end of the word. “I’ve never wanted to talk about anything in my life.”
She’s going to ask about Lena. She can feel it, and she doesn’t know why the thought bothers her. It shouldn’t but thinking about what questions Alex might ask has her hands shaking and stomach rumbling. She’s going to say something about Lena.
She’s so sure of that, in fact, that she’s caught entirely unprepared for what Alex actually says.
“You know, I can’t think of the last time you went to the doctor. Shouldn’t you have an appointment soon?”
Lucy is pointedly looking at the TV with forced concentration while Alex stares right in her eyes challengingly. Knowingly.
“It’s not been that long,” Kara says, like a liar, “I think I have another month before I gotta go.”
“Liar!” Alex shouts, nearly jumping off the couch in her indignation. “You’re a dirty liar, Kara Danvers! You need to go to the doctor now!”
If she were more clear-headed she might argue some more, but honestly she’s just so thrown by this conversation she can’t help but say,
“How did you know?”
“I’m your emergency contact, ya dingus! When you make bad medical decisions I’m the person they call. Have you seriously been hanging up on them every time they call?”
“I’m always really busy! There’s been so much going on, with work and- and Lena’s date.”
“Pretty sure your health is more important than Lena going on a date!”
She stops herself from saying something smart because there’s something in Alex’s eyes that tells her that wouldn’t go so well. There’s anger, but underneath it she sees what she’s been trying to avoid – fear. That same fear she carried for so many months when Kara was sick. All at once her fight fades and she deflates.
“Fine,” she says begrudgingly. “You’re right, I need to go. I’ll set an appointment.”
Gone is the fear. Now Alex just looks smug.
“Don’t even worry about it, I already did!” She’s so triumphant. Kara should have held her ground. “You’re seeing Dr. Jameson tomorrow morning at eight.”
Instantly a panic sets in, which Alex spots. She puts a bracing hand on Kara.
“I know. I know. It’s gonna be okay, though. Lucy is gonna take you, okay? I would, but I can’t get off work.”
She looks so devastated to say it that Kara almost wants to comfort her, but she can’t really focus over the waves of nausea overtaking her. It’s familiar, she realizes, but amplified now that she’s really addressing what’s going on. It’s the same nausea she’s felt all week every time she thought about Lena’s date.
Kara’s home by the time Lena gets back.
She’s bright-eyed and nearly shaking in her joy, smelling like the outside air and popcorn. She wore a simple green dress with a leather jacket overtop, her hair hanging down in loose waves, and she’s easily the prettiest person Kara’s ever seen.
She also has a faint lipstick stain on her cheek. Kara tries not to look at it.
Lena gushes the rest of the night about the date. How she didn’t shake at all, how she made Eve laugh four times, how calm she was when Eve held her hand. She got to meet the turtles and even patted one on its little head (“he was cute,” she says, “but not as cute as my turtle.”). All their practice paid off it seems, and Lena couldn’t be happier.
She’s still gushing even as they lay in bed, faces close in the dark.
“So you like her?” Kara whispers, and her tummy tumbles again. Because of my doctor’s appointment, she thinks.
“I guess. I had fun with her, I think. She asked me out again and I said yes, so we’ll see.”
Lena has only passing interest in discussing Eve, more focused on her social success. Kara’s pretty fine with that.
“Proud of you for staying so calm,” Kara says with a smile, and she can feel Lena’s silent laugh hit her lips.
“Honestly,” Lena says, quiet like it’s a secret, “I just pretended she was you. That made everything easier.”
Kara can’t help but laugh at that, bopping her forehead forward against Lena’s.
“Incredible,” she says, and means it.
“What about you? How was your night without me?”
The joy fades a bit at that, and Kara finds herself swallowing twice before she can form the words.
“Remember that thing I’ve been avoiding because it freaks me out? Well I’m doing it tomorrow.”
Lena presses her forehead against Kara’s, breathing her in with a smile.
“Proud of you too, then,” she whispers sleepily. Kara can feel her skin against her lips.
She nearly bails. Twice.
Alex must have warned her Kara might, because Lucy was banging at her door at 7 to make sure she didn’t have time to escape. Lucy is small, but she’s a trained soldier with combat experience whereas Kara eats cookies all day and rides a scooter. There wouldn’t be much of a fight if she tried.
Lucy manages to get her out of the penthouse and to the doctor’s office with no blood shed, and she sits fidgeting with eyes flashing about as she waits for her name to be called. Lucy casually reads a magazine beside her, unphased.
“Sorry, I’m sorry,” she says for the thirteenth time. “I just get freaked out by doctors.”
Freaked out is an understatement, and she’s about four minutes away from a full-on panic. Lucy casually turns the page, not looking up.
“Yeah I bet. I’d freak out too if I’d gone through what you did.”
Kara laughs, high and strained, and Lucy finally looks at her with some sympathy.
“Tell me about Lena’s date,” Lucy says in an obvious bid to distract. “Everything went okay?”
Her next laugh was genuine and only kind of strained.
“Yeah. She was so nervous about it that we went on a pretend date beforehand to practice. She said when she got nervous, she’d just pretend she was with me, which is kind of nice.”
“Huh,” Lucy says, and she’s giving her that look again. “Pretty gay.”
“I mean, yeah. It was two women on a date.”
“No, I meant it’s gay she pretended she was dating you.”
“What? No, that’s not – you’re misunderstanding. She just meant she feels calmer when she’s with me so thinking about me helped.”
“Stop it. You think everything is gay,” Kara retorts, earning a shrug.
“I mean, yeah, but also this is pretty gay. Does it bother you she went on a date with another woman?”
“What? No, why would that bother me?”
Whatever Lucy says next is missed as the nurse calls out her name. The thought tickles at her mind: why would she care if Lena went out with someone? What a strange thing for Lucy to say.
Not one to dwell, Kara lets the idea slip from her mind and follows the nurse back.
I always love making Kara have emotional conversations while eating in the most disgusting ways
Chapter 9: it started with a whisper, & that was when I kissed her
Lena and Kara take 'practice makes perfect' to a whole new level.
it's taken 3 years to get this.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kara’s decided it, and there is very little that can persuade her when a decision like this has been made. She’s put it off for far too long now and she’s reached her limit – it’s time.
“We gotta swim in the fountain,” she announces decisively from her perch on the kitchen counter. Lena barely glances at her, too focused on the vegetables Hector is carefully cutting before her, so Kara just speaks louder. “We’re swimming in the fountain tonight.”
“What fountain?” Lena asks distantly. She’s been distracted all day, too busy preparing for tonight to pay attention to Kara’s schemes. That’s partially what made Kara realize it’s time – they both need it.
“The one at the front of our- your apartment. The big one, all lit up and spraying. You can’t miss it.”
Lena gives her a look.
“And we’re gonna swim in it?” She’s skeptical and still only half-listening, but Kara knows she’ll win her over. She can always win Lena over.
“Yup! Tonight. With Eve. I’ve decided.”
Hector asks Lena a question about the appetizer then and it pulls her focus away for longer than Kara would like, but after far too many minutes without acknowledgement Lena finally turns back to her and asks,
“Can we at least wait until after the movie?”
Kara can’t help but grin at her victory, jumping down from the counter to pull Lena into a hug.
“Of course,” she says, face pressed against Lena’s hair, her loving hold greatly interfering with Lena’s attempts to move around the kitchen. “I’m not a monster. I’m not gonna make you sit in your wet clothes for two hours of gay drama.”
Lena laughs and leans back into her embrace.
She’s smiling and giggling but Kara can feel her nervous tremble. She’s still so nervous about tonight.
Tonight- when Eve comes over for dinner and a movie with them. The two of them, that is, including Kara. It’s been three weeks of stilted dating and finally Lena is comfortable having Eve come over to their place – well, comfortable is perhaps not the right word. Honestly, Kara thought they’d want her to vacate for the evening but really Lena is so nervous about the prospect of being alone with Eve for that long that she practically begged Kara to stay. Besides, she’d said, this will give them a chance to get to know each other better.
Kara mostly thinks it’s just Lena being a coward, but she doesn’t say it. Instead, she focuses on the fountain.
“Tell Eve to bring her swimsuit ‘cause it’s going down tonight!” Kara throws her hands up with a loud shout. She’s still a little too close to Lena’s personal chef, who has been quietly slicing zucchini this entire time, and Hector flinches away from her instinctively. Yet again, Kara has to remind herself to be more considerate of his deep-set fear of her. You’d think he’d realize that whole nut-kicking thing was a one-time incident, but for some reason he’s still holding on to his fear (and to himself, she notices, as he instinctively cups himself every time she’s near).
She’s pretty sure he hasn’t poisoned her food yet or anything, so it’s probably fine.
“And it’s okay for us to do that?” Lena asks as she flips through one of Kara’s cookbooks, pointedly not looking at her, “for you to swim, I mean? It’s not- the water isn’t too cold, or-” she trails off and Kara is once again reminded of the unspoken between them that still hangs so heavy.
“I’m not sick,” she reassures for the fifty-ninth time, “or not like that, at least. I’m not gonna catch a cold if we go swimming.”
Lena hums in acknowledgement and lets the topic drop for now, but Kara knows they will revisit it. They always do.
In the weeks since Kara first tentatively discussed her health, Lena has been a constantly supportive and only slightly annoying friend. She never asks for specifics, thankfully, but she does constantly check and then recheck that everything they eat, breathe, or do together isn’t putting any sort of strain on whatever mysterious condition Kara may or may not have.
It’s sweet, and thoughtful, and kind of getting on her nerves in a major way.
Kara’s still so tired of talking about it, especially after her doctor’s appointment earlier in the month:
“I was two days away from calling your probation officer, Miss Danvers,” the doctor had said while checking her blood pressure. "Missing your meds is not something to mess around with.”
She knows. She knows she knows she knows - but knowing doesn’t make any of it any easier, nor does it make her more likely to actually do the damn things she needs to do to take care of herself. It doesn’t make it easier to have someone so attentively trying to take care of her without asking too many questions.
“Be gentle with your heart,” the doctor had sternly lectured. “With your history I can’t see you getting another one.”
“I really am fine,” Kara says, and her voice cracks.
Their big night is scheduled to start at 6:30. Eve arrives at 6:29 with a few seconds to spare, her gentle knock at the door jolting Lena up like an electric shock.
Lena stands patting down her clothes for a solid fifteen seconds before finally going to open the door, and Kara can hear her loud “Hello” from across the apartment. Her voice is tight, high-pitched. Careful and controlled in a way she never is around Kara.
They talk for a bit at the door, though Kara can’t hear what’s said over the rolling boil from the pot she’s awkwardly hovering by. Instead she tries yet again to strike a conversation with Hector who, as always, replies with monotoned one-word responses. She’s so used to this side of him, in fact, that it actually surprises her when he sees Eve and his entire being seems to light up.
“Miss Teschmacher,” he practically sings. “Can I get you anything? Some water? Maybe some wine? Let me take your coat.”
He’s a flurry of movements as he ushers her in and takes her things to the coat closet. Kara can’t help but pout. He loves Eve instantly and yet will barely give her the time of day. That combined with Jess’ adamant disapproval adds to the weight Kara feels sometimes.
Lena nudges her with a smirk, and of course she knows exactly what Kara’s thinking as she says,
“Give him time. Pretty sure he’s still aching from your last attack.”
Eve, for her part, seems demure in the face of his enthusiasm and, smiles kindly at Kara.
“Hey, Kara,” she says, and Kara perks up. She genuinely likes Eve, or at least she likes what she knows about her. They still haven’t had much one-on-one time so she only knows bits and pieces, but she seems sweet and she’s kind to Lena and, honestly, that’s all it takes to win Kara’s affection. Be good to Lena and of course Kara will like you.
They mill a bit waiting for dinner to be served, and most of the conversation is driven by Kara. So much so that she wonders if they just sit in silence together on their dates or if her presence is the upsetting factor. Either way, it’s like asking for volunteer readers in a remedial English class, and Kara’s about ready to give up when the topic shifts to their upcoming work week.
“Kara’s big presentation is tomorrow,” Lena says affectionately. “She’s spent weeks getting ready for it.”
It makes Kara blush a bit. Lena talks about it like she’s some big shot business lady. She’s just showing someone cookie designs for a catering job. She knows in her heart that it’s not really a big deal, but Lena always acts like it is. Everything is a big deal to her if it matters to Kara.
Eve, for her part, at least tries to act interested in hearing about it, and Lena jumps at the chance to brag on Kara for way too long until she finally steps in to change the subject.
“So, Eve,” Kara cuts in just as Lena is gearing up to talk about the artistic merit of icing, “tell us about that program you’ve been working on.”
This causes Eve to light up and mention some scientific discovery that in turn has Lena geeking out, and Kara just sits back to watch fondly as the two nerds spout scientific nonsense at each other until dessert. She only really tunes in when she sees Eve sit up straight, excited in a way she hadn’t been before.
“Didn’t Lex create that system?” she hears Eve say. “He was incredible. At his job, I mean... He really was an amazing CEO before you.”
Lena laughs in that sad way she always does when Lex is discussed.
“Yes well, I didn’t murder dozens of people so I’d still probably say I’m the better one.”
Kara laughs. Eve doesn’t.
She gets a weird look on her face that Kara can’t quite decipher, and before she has the chance Eve is excusing herself and disappearing down the hall. The jovial mood has shifted almost instantaneously, and Lena says,
“Oh god, was joking about my murderous brother inappropriate dinner talk?”
“Absolutely not,” Kara assures her. “She probably just… isn’t used to it! Or maybe she didn’t like the food and her stomach’s upset.”
She feels a thwap on the back of her head and looks down to see a crouton that had seemingly bounced off of her. She glances back at the kitchen to see a quickly retreating Hector.
“Probably not the food, though,” she says loudly, “the food’s great!”
She’s gotta stop making enemies with this guy.
Regardless, she’s confident everything will be totally fine. There’s no reason for Eve to be upset by Lex - she didn’t even know him. Most likely she just needed a minute or two to decompress and everything will be fine.
Only she feels less confident about how fine it is when the minutes drag on and Eve still doesn’t return. With every passing minute Lena shrinks further into herself, slumping away like a melting snowman on the first days of spring. Kara drums her fingers before slapping her palms down.
“You know what? I think I need to use the bathroom too. I’ll just-” she excuses herself before Lena can comment.
There are, of course, way too many bathrooms in this apartment, so it’s not entirely surprising when she reaches the first hall one only to find it empty. There are so many possible choices. It starts to be weird, however, when she passes the other two main ones only to find them empty as well.
Thinking she might have wanted extra privacy, Kara starts towards Lena’s private bath only to stop at a sound coming from her home office. She peeks into see Eve rifling through Lena’s desk.
“Uh,” Kara says, and Eve just about jumps out of her skin.
“Kara!” she basically shouts, slamming the drawer she’d been rummaging through shut. “You scared me!”
There’s something off in her expression. A panicky twitch, like a child caught with their hand in the cookie jar. A sinking sensation hits Kara deep in her stomach at that expression.
“What do you think you’re doing?” her tone is harsh, so much harsher than she’s ever used with Eve. It’s not the right choice, maybe, since Eve immediately straightens, looking down at Kara like she’s sizing Kara up. Almost annoyed, she says,
“I was going to the bathroom when I saw Lena’s desk, and I… I remembered how she mentioned losing her favorite protractor and I figured if she’s anything like me she probably shoved it in her junk drawer and forgot about it. So, I was just checking to see if I could find it.”
Kara finds herself gripping the door with a steadying hand, her arm blocking the exit. There’s a tension in the air.
“I don’t remember her mentioning that,” Kara says, and Eve laughs.
“Well yeah, she said it on our date the other day. You weren’t there, silly. And look!” she holds up the mathematical tool. “I found it!”
She stares Kara down almost challenging her to respond. Smiles in a way that’s unsettling in the dim room light.
It doesn’t sit right with Kara.
She lets Eve walk past her and back to the dinner, but she lingers a little longer looking around the room. Checking to see if anything is off. She even goes so far as to pull the drawer back open to look inside, but she’d never looked in it before so she can’t tell if anything is out of place. She hears Lena giggling then, so she jogs back out just in time to see her hugging Eve tight.
“Oh my gosh!” she’s saying. “You found it! I’ve been missing this for ages! Thank you!”
“Of course,” Eve says with the same lovestruck smile she’s given Lena since they met. But something about it doesn’t feel the same anymore. It’s like a new lens has fallen over Kara’s eyes and everything’s shifted, just a bit. It’s like there’s something almost malicious in the way she looks at her. Something hungry.
But the thought fades in the face of Lena’s genuine joy, so Kara tries to push the feelings down.
It’s probably nothing.
Their evening mostly recovers after that, although Kara still finds herself watching Eve. Looking for another slip. But there are none, and the rest of the night goes well. They all watch a movie together, some comedy that has them all giggling against each other. Eve reaches for Lena’s hand once and Lena held it for a solid thirty seconds before pulling away, which Eve accepted with grace and a smile. If not for the Lex joke and weird office situation, Kara would say this is the best third wheeling date she’s been on in years. So lost is she in the giggles and fun that she almost forgets the most important part of the evening, the one she’s been dreaming of since she first stepped foot into this place.
“Ladies,” she says with reverence, jumping up before them, “it’s time. We must swim in the fountain.”
Lena smiles, giggling, and says,
“Oh yeah, almost forgot!”
Eve’s smile is confused, as is her tone.
“Wait, that was serious?” she asks.
“Yeah, didn’t you get my text?”
“I mean yeah, but I thought that was a joke. We can’t swim in the fountain.”
“I understand your concern,” Kara says, “I know it’s like, 2 feet deep, but if you lay at the right angle it’s basically swimming. Mostly I gotta get under that waterfall.”
Eve’s smile, though present, is becoming increasingly more forced.
“Right. I get the logistics, thanks. I just don’t understand why we’d do that.”
Lena’s giddy grin has faded through the course of this conversation like a balloon slowly deflating and falling from the ceiling.
“You don’t have to do it, of course,” Kara says. “I just thought it would be fun.”
For the briefest moment, Eve’s expression sharpens. Just a flash and you’d miss it, but Kara sees it: she looks mean. Agitated.
“You have a weird definition of fun,” she says, and her face is back to that forced smile from before but Kara can still feel that lingering tension. “Besides, I didn’t bring anything to swim in and I can’t strip down in front of you just yet.”
It’s flirty. Her eyes are fluttery as she smiles at Lena, who is for her part entirely unphased, but Kara sees it. That strange feeling in her stomach hits again, which is probably what makes her say,
“If it makes you feel any better, we saw each other in our underwear within minutes of meeting each other.”
The flirty face drops instantly, replaced by an uncomfortable and alarmed look that has Kara back peddling immediately.
“That sounded worse than it was, honest,” she assures. Lena jumps in to try and help.
“We had to switch clothes, that’s why.”
“You switched clothes within minutes of meeting?” Eve asks.
“Well Lena was soaking wet and needed dry clothes, and I - Have you never told her this story?” Kara asks, and Lena shrugs.
“It never came up.” She tries then in her own stilted Lena way to tell Eve of how she stumbled into a cookie shop all those months ago during a rain storm and accidentally stumbled into her favorite person.
“I thought she was crazy, honestly,” Lena finishes, smiling at Kara. “I didn’t realize then that she was just kind. Kinder than anyone I’d ever met.”
They smile at each other softly until Eve clears her throat and they both seemingly remember she’s in the room. Eve places a hand on Lena’s thigh rather pointedly, staring at Kara.
“That sure is some story,” she says, and she smiles like it hurts to do so.
Kara feels uncomfortable and unsure about what vibes are happening around her in this moment, so she asks if anybody was in the mood to get ice cream. Eve shoots that down as well and instead says it’s getting late and she needs to head home.
“Walk me to the door?” she says to Lena, low and soft, and Lena shoots Kara a panicked look while taking her hand. Kara just gives her a thumbs up. She waits as they disappear around the corner.
After a few minutes, she can hear the door shut and soon Lena returns looking flustered and agitated, her lipstick smeared at the corner.
“Everything okay?” Kara asks. Lena, hands shaking, immediately grabs the bottom of her shirt and yanks it over her head.
“Let’s get in the damn fountain,” she says loud and decisive. Kara doesn’t have to be told twice. With a loud whoop! Kara chases after her, tripping over herself pulling her pants down as she goes. She can see the lights of the waterfall pulsating bright like they always do, raining down like shattered stained glass into the small rock-filled pool below. It’s such an unnecessary fixture for a home, and the absurdity of it makes her want to make a mess of it. If it wouldn’t break her back, she’d do a cannon ball.
Lena seems to carry that same frantic energy, one that Kara can’t read but can see with every move she makes. She can see it in the way Lena kicks off pants and tugs her hair into a high ponytail, in the way she flexes her toes even as she keeps her socks on for some reason. There’s an electricity in the air between them. Lena’s silhouette glows pink in the water’s light, and for a second Kara is struck by it. Seeing her standing there in her underthings, strong and sure even as goosebumps race up her arms – it strikes her. It makes her blush.
Which is super weird considering what they just talked about earlier, weird since this isn’t even the first time that she’s seen her like this. Just a bra, panties, and socks – she’s seen Lena like this before. This isn’t new, so it shouldn’t feel new.
Yet it does. Something feels different tonight. Stripping down together in the home they (temporarily) share, not as strangers but as friends, genuinely knowing each other – it’s different.
“You coming?” Lena asks over her shoulder before falling forward into the water.
The fountain is surprisingly large for an indoor water fixture. They have enough room to float beside each other on their backs, their heads bumping softly while they stare up at the dancing lights on the high ceiling. Every so often they take big, gasping breaths and dunk themselves under.
Kara finds herself opening her eyes under the water just to see the pretty lights, and Lena, eyes closed brow furrowed, looking so upset and frustrated.
She pulls them both above water at that. Smiles down on Lena, who looks so pretty in the water’s glow.
“Did you know,” she tells her, leaning in close, “that fountains are the best places to put your feelings?”
Lena giggles at that, and the bobbing of the water causes her head to bump against Kara’s.
“Is that so?”
“Mmhm. That’s why you make a wish and throw coins in fountains. They’re where feelings and dreams go.”
“I don’t have any coins,” Lena says, earning a snort-laugh from Kara.
“Yeah, not surprising, Miss Billionaire. Coins are only for wishes. The feelings you can just say. Like, here, watch,” and she takes a deep breath and then shoves her face under water to scream, “I hate brussels sprouts!!” at the top of her lungs. She makes a point to blow out as many bubbles as she can, and she can’t help the ping of joy she feels when she pops her head back up to Lena’s laughter.
“Come on, your turn,” Kara says. Lena rolls her eyes, takes a big dramatic breath, and then pushes underwater to yell,
“They taste good, you’re just a big baby!”
“Lena!” Kara gasps, pulling her head back out with a coughing laugh. “You’re not allowed to tell the fountain lies!”
She splashes at Lena, who of course retaliates, and soon they’re locked in a water fight far too dramatic for such a tiny indoor pool. It goes on for way too long, and results in the two of them laughing while floating on their backs, exhausted and out of breath, with half the fountain splattered all over the hallway floor around them.
“Calling me a baby, please.” Kara says, winded from the fight. “You’re the one wearing socks in the pool, you weirdo.”
Lena giggles, but Kara can tell it’s off. She tilts her head to check on Lena. She’s smiling, and laughing, but Kara can still see the tension. She knows how to read her.
“I don’t know about you,” she says, “but I for sure still have some feelings I don’t want. C’mon, we gotta scream them out.”
The look on Lena’s face tells her that’s the right answer. They both take big gasping breaths and then dunk their heads under and scream for as long as they can.
Kara doesn’t ask about what happened when she walked Eve to the door.
After slipping their way to bed and pulling Lena into Kara’s arms, she can feel how badly Lena wants to talk about whatever it is that’s weighing on her, but she doesn’t ask. She knows she’ll tell her when she’s ready, so she waits.
It’s not a long wait.
“I’m scared to kiss Eve,” she says, quiet.
Kara thinks of that cornered look Eve had when she’d found her in Lena’s room.
“Like, you’re scared of her?” she whispers.
“I’m scared because I know I’m not gonna be good at it. I know I’m not. And she’s gonna hate kissing me and she’ll hate me just like everyone else does and I just-”
“Woah there, let’s hop off the spiral train for a second,” Kara cuts in, giving her a squeeze. “She’s not gonna hate you. Especially not over that. Also, how do you know you’re not good at it? You’re Lena Luthor! I’m pretty sure there’s nothing you can’t do.”
Lena’s smile is small, subdued, like she’s just humoring Kara. A nervous sensation hits her deep in her chest then as a thought takes hold. A bad thought, she thinks, the kind of thought you have but never share.
“I mean,” Kara says as she licks her lips, they’re suddenly so dry, “we could practice that too, I guess. If you want.”
Lena goes quiet for so long Kara would think she’d fallen asleep if not for her quick, quiet breaths. Finally, after so many painful seconds, Lena whispers back,
Kara talks quick, like she’s scared she’ll lose the confidence to say it if she doesn’t just let it tumble out of her.
“Sure, I mean we already went on a practice date and that helped you feel better about it. It’s not too far of a stretch,” Kara says with a half-grin. Whatever Lena’s feeling Kara is not sure, as she’s so quiet and the room is too dark to make out any expression on her face, so Kara quickly adds, “Unless it is! At which point just pretend I never said anything!”
More painful silence follows and every second that ticks by is another pound of dread that drapes across Kara like a weighted blanket. She imagines the look of horror that must be on Lena’s face now, the disgust. She fucked up.
She starts to get up then, assuming Lena wouldn’t want to share a bed after that, but Lena grabs her arm to stop her. Shakes her head fast, almost panicked.
“No, no, that’s-” she pulls Kara down towards her, closer and closer until she’s hovering over Lena. Pulls her so hard Kara falls with her hands bracketing Lena’s head, body weight resting against her, hips pressing down into shaking hips. “That’s not too much I don’t think. Practice is important, right?”
She sounds nervous, like she’s trying to convince herself as much as Kara. Kara’s voice shakes as she laughs, and she shifts against Lena unintentionally. Even in the dark she can see how red the other woman’s face seems to be.
Kara stares at the dark outline of Lena’s face, the shadowed slopes hiding Lena’s expression from her. She can imagine what she looks like, can practically see the nervous but eager look of a Lena wanting to learn. Wanting to experience.
Whatever thread in Kara that was holding her back snaps at the thought. She drops herself down on to her forearms, framing Lena’s face. More of her features become clear – she can see Lena’s eyes flutter in the dark, see them hood over the closer she gets. See the nervous twitch of her lips. Kara leans down.
Lena lets out a sharp gasp.
“Hair,” she says, tugging, and Kara realizes her elbow has pinned Lena’s hair to the pillow. “My hair. Stop pulling.”
“Sorry, I’m sorry,” Kara slurs a bit, and she realizes a little too much saliva has started pooling in her mouth. She wipes it against the back of her hand.
“Okay, okay, here we go-” Kara says before kissing her.
She kisses her.
Hard. Way too hard.
Teeth clanging against each other through their lips too hard, but in her defense, her last shift had thrown her body off and she hadn’t quite balanced out before leaning over.
“Ouch,” she says, rubbing at her lip. “I think I’m bleeding.”
Even in the dark she can see the look of pure horror on Lena’s face so she quickly says, “but that’s okay! I’m still good, let’s still-” and then kisses her again.
Lena hadn’t anticipated it yet, or she was still too distracted by Kara’s possible bleeding, or maybe she was just realizing that Kara is maybe actually terrible at practice kissing – either way, Kara kisses her and Lena lays there like a sack of flour. No pucker, no pressure, no anything. Just waiting for it to end.
After way too many painful moments of nonmovement, Kara finally pulls back with a grimace. Falls to the side of her with a heavy slump.
“Uh,” Kara says, voice high and tight, “we’ll work on it.”
“Right,” Lena says in return. “Goodnight.”
She then rolls to face the other way and, after a few moments of staring at her back, Kara follows suit.
They fall asleep like that, backs pressed together.
Kara wakes to an empty bed.
Her first instinct is to text Alex, but she can’t imagine how terrible that conversation would be. Maybe she can text Lucy, or Winn. Probably not Winn. Honestly, there’s only one person she feels like talking to about all this and that person has left her sleeping here alone, so she pulls herself together and goes to find her.
Lena’s standing in the kitchen brewing a cup of tea and looking sad. She gives her the most miserable little look when she sees her that immediately sends panic and concern shooting through every nerve ending. She wants to pull her into a hug, but she resists.
“Hey,” Kara says almost like a question, hesitant and worried. Lena’s voice sounds just as miserable.
“Hi,” Lena says. “I made you toast. I wanted to make you something better but-” she gestures to multiple pans on the stove that contain charred and still smoking remains, “I can’t even do that right so I just. I toasted bread, at least. Hopefully.”
Lena turns away from her and she can see the slight tremble in her shoulders of held-back tears. All self-restraint is gone at that.
“Hey,” Kara says, hugging her from behind and squeezing tight, “Hey now, that’s okay. I love toast. Bread is like, my favorite food group. I’ll eat it all day every day. Thank you.”
Lena sniffles softly and nods. Her head rubs against Kara’s as she leans over her, practically engulfing her in the embrace.
“I’m sorry,” Lena says. “I don’t know how to do anything right.”
“One time I set the dorm microwave on fire making mac and cheese. I melted a bowl,” Kara offers, earning a funny look from Lena. “I didn’t know you had to add water.”
Lena is quiet for a long moment after that, and Kara just holds her. She can feel her thinking, feel it in the clenching of her hands, the stiffness of her body, the way her jaw rolls back and forth in contemplation. Finally, she speaks.
“I always thought,” she says with the quiet solemnity of a deep-held shame, “that my family is why everything always fell apart. Being a Luthor made people hate me. It made people treat me so terribly. But- now I wonder if it wasn’t my own fault all along. If I’m the reason I’m so bad.”
Kara whirls her around so quickly at that that they nearly collide. She holds Lena tightly by her arms.
“Okay, first of all, your brother is a literal serial killer so I think you’re pretty valid on the whole ‘my family fucked me up’ argument. And second, you have spent a lifetime dealing with constant… terribleness, and I think it’s maybe made it hard for you to do stuff.”
Lena looks at her with pure misery and whispers,
“I can’t even kiss right.”
“Nope!” Kara practically yells, grabbing Lena’s arms to drag her to the living room. “Nope! No ma’am, we are not doing that! Okay, let’s—here,” she pushes Lena on to the couch and follows close behind. Grabs her hands and pulls her closer till their knees bump, thighs press – “let me just try again, okay? Okay.”
Lena’s nose is red and her eyes still shine wet but she perks up when she realizes Kara’s intention. Pulls herself up, closes her eyes super tight. Like she’s waiting for Kara to kiss her. Only she doesn’t, she just smiles fondly at the other woman who, after a steadying breath, leans in quick - like she’s just trying to get it over with - so Kara catches her face in her hands to stop her just before their lips can meet. She lets her thumbs press at the corners of Lena’s mouth. Presses their foreheads together.
“Is this not-” Lena starts, already flustered and pulling away, but Kara quietly shushes her. Pulls her back close.
“Relax,” she says, running her thumb across her lower lip, “go slow.”
She can feel Lena’s jaw clench as she swallows, then nods, and she waits a few moments to just breathe her in before slowly leaning close enough to touch.
They’re small kisses.
Kara’s learned from her mistakes – Lena approaches every experience with a frantic, anxious intensity, so it’s Kara’s job to bring things down a few notches. Ease them into it.
So, the kisses they share are small. Just press after press after press. Kara can feel Lena relaxing more and more against her as they go. Each tiny kiss lasts a bit longer than the one before, until they’re holding against each other in a slow, shared breath. She can feel Lena’s heart racing through her palm where it rests against her throat. She’s focused, more so than she’s been on anything in a long time, like every fiber of her being is determined to make this work. Make this good for Lena.
And it seems like it is good. Lena keeps leaning heavy into her, shoulders pressed tight even as her hands sit awkwardly in her own lap. That won’t do, Kara thinks, and gently pries her fists open so their fingers can lace.
Slowly, gently, Kara uses her lower lip to push Lena’s down and then swipes her tongue across it. Lena moans quietly, unintentionally, and the sound hits Kara deep in her chest in a way she never expected. Makes her push forward until Lena’s half-laid out over the arm of the couch holding on to Kara’s hands like a life line
“S’okay to touch,” she breathes, giving her fingers a squeeze. After a slight moment of hesitation, Lena seems to relax into it with a sigh that Kara’s mouth catches. She lets her hands drag down Kara’s body. One holds tight at her neck, the other clings to her shoulders. She holds on like she’s scared she’ll get swept away. Like Kara will float into the sky if she’s not tethered down. Like she has to feel her to be sure this is real.
As for Kara, she loses herself in it. Her mind goes hazy. Thoughts of practicing for Eve float off into the haze, giving way to base sensations of touch and taste. No higher thoughts, no nothing. Just Lena.
Lena trembling slightly. The taste of mint still lingering on Lena’s tongue. The way Lena’s hands grip, release, then regrip around Kara. The quick breathy sighs Lena lets out every time Kara gives her enough room to breathe. Lena Lena Lena.
It’s understandable that her brain would shut off for a while during that.
Eventually, of course, it comes to an end. An alarm on Lena’s phone goes off to signify a conference call, and the smaller woman fumbles blindly to try and shut it off. Whines pitifully when she just knocks the phone off the table and across the room.
Kara finally has mercy at that and sits back on to her knees, still straddling her but giving her enough space to stretch for the phone. It gives Kara a chance to catch her breath – when had her heart started racing so much? – and take in Lena.
Lena with her mussed hair and kiss-swollen lips, smiling at her with the dopiest dazed expression. Kara laughs at the sight, and the sound of it is thick.
“I dunno about you,” Kara finally says in a husky breath, “but that felt pretty good to me.”
And with a girlish giggle and red-flushed face, Lena agrees.
Their spontaneous practice session does the trick. That heavy cloud of self-loathing and sadness has lifted, leaving Lena smiling and so giddy Kara can’t help but match it. She feels better herself – excited, almost euphoric, bursting with joyous energy that has her dancing in place on the elevator next to a smiling Lena as they both leave for work. Everything is just so much better, which is especially good since today is the day.
That pep stays in her step all through her work day as she finishes preparing her samples. Today is the day – the day she’s waited for for so many weeks, that she’s agonized over and baked endless hours for. Today she showcases her catering design for the major cookie job and everything needs to be perfect.
And everything seems to be. Winn has laid out the various designs she’s created as well as different flavor options for the cakes, and they spent the week before deep cleaning every inch of the shop to be sure it’s all spotless. They have together put more work into preparing for this than they’ve put into their entire job thus far.
It’s impressive, honestly, and a bit sad.
Cat is even here, which is a rarity, but she’s stopped by to make sure they’re all set up before going wherever it is she always goes. She watches silently as they get everything together, and while Kara can never really read her moods, she thinks it’s approving.
“This is a big customer, Kara,” she says. “The biggest we’ve ever had, and I am trusting you to land it. Give me good news when I get back. Or else.”
And then she departs, leaving Kara with those terrifying words and expectations. But she can do it! She knows she can, her work speaks for itself. She just needs to buckle down and focus.
The only problem with that, though, is that she can’t stop thinking about what’s happened with Lena. Not specifics, no coherent thoughts – she just sees flashes of them, wrapped together. Sensory memories of movement, touch, taste, all of which is highly distracting. So distracting, in fact, that she finds herself asking out loud something she should keep inside.
“Hey Winn,” she says, “have you ever kissed a friend platonically?”
He freezes, then pops his head up from behind the counter to stare at her skeptically.
“I’m flattered, really,” he says in a deadpan, “but you know I don’t bat for your team.”
She flings a puff of flour at him and he ducks back with a shout.
“I’m not asking to kiss you, you nerd! I’m just asking hypothetically.”
He pops back up and looks at her appraisingly.
“I mean, sure, I guess. In college. Sometimes you just want to make out a little but you don’t have any viable options so you go to your buds. That’s what friends are for, right? Helping each other.” He says it with a laugh, almost sarcastic, but Kara focuses on the words rather than the inflection. They’re more comforting that way.
“Yeah,” Kara says. “That’s what friends are for.”
Kissing is weird, she thinks. She kissed a lot of people in college, some for love and some just for fun. They didn’t always have to mean something, kisses.
The last person she’d kissed was Mike.
It had been quick and thoughtless in that way kisses can be when you know you’ll see them again soon. They didn’t realize then, when he’d visited her in the library the night it happened that that would be the last time they ever spoke. Right before she almost died. Right before he’d almost killed her.
“You okay?” Winn asks, and his voice sounds far off. Her heart is racing, ears ringing, and she hadn’t realized she’d faded a bit until Winn called her back.
“Yeah. Never better.”
He looks like he doesn’t believe her, but before he can press for more the doorbell chimes as a man enters.
His back is to them as they emerge from the kitchen. Winn carries out a tray of the last cookies to arrange while Kara approaches the stranger with her best retail smile.
“Hello!” she greets, “you must be here for the demonstration!”
He doesn’t acknowledge her, however. He just stands facing away with his back to her, and she realizes he’s staring at the glass wall front, specifically at the crack that Lena had caused so many months ago, and he’s tutting in disapproval.
“You know, I came in here planning to spend quite a bit of money on your cookies,” he says, slow and menacing in a way that terrifies. “You obviously need it, looking at this place, but I can’t support a business like this.” He points again at the crack.
“You want me to pay you when you can’t even keep your building in order? This is so unprofessional. There’s no way I’m working with people like you.”
And with that he’s out the door, slamming it behind him with such force that the crack grows another inch before her eyes. Sudden panic takes hold and Kara chases behind.
“Sir!” she calls, running ahead to stop him, “if you give me just a second, I can show you-”
“Don’t bother. Can’t believe I wasted my time coming here, I –” his words trail off as he finally, for the first time, gets a look at her. His eyes narrow. “…I know you, don’t I?”
Kara is taken aback at that. He’s vaguely familiar, in a generic white business man kind of way.
“You’re Luthor’s friend,” he says, and then it hits her. Morgan Edge. She’d met him at a party many weeks ago.
“Um, yeah,” she says. She doesn’t like the way he’s looking at her now, even as he says what she so desperately wanted to hear.
“Disregard what I said before. Of course you’re hired.”
“Okay, well, do you want to see the designs I have-” but he waves his hand.
“I am sure whatever you’ve created will be perfect for my party.” His smile is odd, almost calculating. “You’ll be there to setup and serve, correct?”
It’s everything she wants, what she’s worked towards for weeks, but it leaves an unpleasant burn in the back of her throat.
“Of course,” she says. He nods, smiles, and then tells her he’ll call her boss to hammer out the details. With that he turns and leaves without even a glance back.
“Thank you?” she calls after him, and she can hear his booming laugh.
“Of course,” he says. “Any friend of Lena Luthor is a friend of mine.”
The discomfort takes a long while to fade after that.
The house is cold and empty when she gets home that night. Lena is on another date, she realizes, so she’s left alone and sad.
It’s silly to be sad. She knows it is – she got the job. She worked hard and achieved something. Hell, even Cat told her she was proud of her, which is a rare treasure in itself. But she can’t shake the feeling that she didn’t earn this job. He never even looked at her work, for goodness sake. He only said yes when he realized who she was, or more importantly who she was friends with.
Still, a job like this doesn’t come along every day and she can still make it magical. It can still be something good.
She sits on the couch for hours just thinking about how to make it good.
Lena doesn’t come home until nearly two in the morning. Kara is still awake, still sitting in that same spot.
“How did it go?” Lena asks, grabbing her hands in concern. She probably looks a mess, so she tries to smile.
“I got the job,” she says, and focuses her mouth on smiling rather than adding because of you. Lena practically squeals with joy, hugging her so tight she can practically feel the negative vibes being squeezed out of her like toothpaste from the tube. In no time she’s laughing just as hard and hugging her back.
“I am so proud of you,” Lena says with such sincerity that Kara actually feels it. For a moment, actually feels worthy of it. She wipes a tear she didn’t realize had fallen.
“Well, what about you?” Kara asks. “How’d it go with Eve?”
Lena pulls back at that.
“We kissed. A lot, actually. It was okay, I think. Kinda weird.” Lena looks pensive, confused. “It just wasn’t very… good, I think.”
Kara swallows. That sad lump was back all of a sudden.
“Oh. I’m sorry to hear that.”
Lena’s quiet for a minute, fiddling with her hands like she needs to be doing something physical to keep from freaking out, before finally saying,
“Can I try something?”
Lena seems to resolve herself before Kara can even finish nodding as she leans in to her space to kiss her.
It catches her off guard. That’s the reason it hits her so hard, the feel of Lena’s mouth pressing against her own. She just didn’t expect it. Why would she?
So, of course her immediate reaction is a moan of surprise and her hands tangling in Lena’s hair to pull her close. It’s her breathing Lena in, pulling her against and over her until she’s practically sprawled out on the couch. Of course, she opens her mouth against her and lets their tongues glide for just a moment, just a touch.
She’s blinking in a daze when Lena pulls back just as abruptly.
“There we go!” Lena says, half-laughing in exasperation, “that’s how it’s supposed to feel! Why didn’t it feel like that when I kissed her?”
“I have no idea,” Kara says, and for some reason her voice cracks.
can y'all believe these dummies
Chapter 10: when we're waking up we're waking up (slow)
Kara Realizes some things
This chapter is the first time we get a more concrete answer to what happened to Kara. It doesn't go into detail yet, but future chapters will. It may be triggering for some folk, so I am adding it to the fic's tags. Check there if you have concerns.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
She doesn’t know why, can’t even pinpoint what specifically is making her feel this way, but there’s something going on that’s just… weird. Tense. Like there is some horrible, unspoken cloud weighing over them all. It makes her skin itch.
“So, uh,” Kara says, cutting through the silence they have sat in since she first arrived at her sister’s place. “What’s the plan?”
Alex isn’t meeting her eyes. Lucy keeps tossing things around with far too much aggression for a casual Saturday clean session. No one has said more than a few words since she got here, and it’s getting to be just a bit too much.
“Spring cleaning,” Alex says as way of explanation, which – duh. Kara knows that. She’s known that since Alex called her yesterday and demanded she come over to help because half the mess was her fault, anyway, plus she needs to decide what to do with some of her old boxes.
None of that is new information.
This tension, however, is new. Kara’s known Lucy since she was fourteen, and Alex a few years longer than that. Never in that time has she ever felt this between them.
Alex throws another box too hard on the ground and there’s the faint sound of something fragile cracking inside of it. Kara’s just thankful that wasn’t hers. It’s probably best to just keep quiet and finish up fast.
“So, um, Alex,” she says, holding up a box of trinkets. “Where do you want me to put all this?”
Alex snaps at her, words sharp and pointed.
“I don’t know, why don’t you ask Lucy? She’s making all the decision by herself these days.”
And with that Alex storms off, slamming the door behind her. Lucy sighs and rubs at her face, and some of the pieces of this confusing puzzle start to fall into place.
“So… she’s mad at you, right?” Kara asks. Lucy laughs sadly.
“My CO called. Asked if I was planning to redeploy. I don’t have an answer yet.”
“But you just got home.”
That doesn’t make sense.
“Alex has been waiting for you for years. And you just got home.”
“I know, Kara,” she says, tone hard like she’s sick of having this conversation. “I know, dammit! You think I don’t know what it means to redeploy?”
“I don’t understand why you’d want to.”
“You don’t get it. Neither of you get it,” Lucy says. “This isn’t something I can just walk away from. God! I spent so much of my life being fed patriotic bullshit about what it means to serve this country. My uncles, my dad, all my cousins serve. It’s always been the only fucking option. And it’s like…. I don’t even believe in any of it anymore, you know? It’s all bullshit. But it still feels like the only option.”
“Lois has always been stronger than me. I can’t do what she did. What else am I supposed to do? I’ve been training to be a soldier since I was a kid. Since I learned to walk and salute. Dad’s perfect little soldier.”
She tosses a box down with an angry huff. She looks exhausted.
“I don’t know if I can do anything else.”
Kara doesn’t know what to say. It’s not like she can give career or life advice – she’s a college dropout in a part-time job who is only able to hold herself above water thanks to her incredibly fortuitous friendship with Lena.
Instead, she keeps packing in silence until Alex stomps back in a few minutes later.
They end up in a sad state of silence and Kara feels a little like she’s suffocating in it, so much so that she just starts filling the void with whatever things she can. She talks about her how she and Lena swam in the fountain in their (her) apartment and how she thinks the CatCo scooter might be about to die and how worried she is about her upcoming catering job for Morgan Edge and she tries so, so hard to make them look at her, or talk to her, or do anything but Lucy is staring out the window and Alex has her head in her hands and it’s so much, so heavy and solemn and all Kara wants is to make the burden in the room more bearable, so she says,
“Plus Lena and I have been kissing a lot lately, so that’s something.”
That, at last, is what gets them to look her way.
Kara tells them everything in one long, breathless sentence. Every word she says seems to just make it worse, based on Alex’s facial expressions.
“I’m sorry. I’m still confused here. You’re saying you and Lena Luthor have kissed?” Alex asks for what has to be the twelfth time. “On the mouth?”
“I kissed her, yeah. On the mouth.”
Lucy has the biggest shit-eating grin Kara’s ever seen in her life. Her mood has at least taken a full 180 as she radiates barely contained joy. Alex just presses on.
“I don’t understand,” she says again. “Why would you do that?”
“Babe, Kara’s her gay live-in sugar baby. What are you not getting?” Lucy practically sings.
“I’m not- that’s not what’s happening. It’s not gay.”
“Kara, you share a bed and you kiss goodnight. What part of that isn’t gay?”
Kara doesn’t really have an answer for that.
“This isn’t healthy,” Alex says. “You can’t just keep kissing her when she’s dating someone else.”
“No, it’s not – they’re not exclusive! Also, this is just for educational purposes.”
“There’s no such thing as kissing for educational purposes.”
“Agree to disagree.”
“This is the funniest thing that’s ever happened to me,” Lucy adds unhelpfully. “Kara’s in love and acting on it in the worst possible way.”
“I’m not! Please stop.”
“This isn’t funny, it’s worrying. You’re gonna get hurt. You clearly have feelings for her.”
“I really don’t. We’re just friends.”
“Two kissing friends.”
“That was sarcasm.”
“Lucy, a little help?”
“The last time I kissed a girl who was just my friend we ended up dating for- babe, how long have we been dating?”
“I don’t know. A decade? The point is – you don’t just do that.”
“You don’t, maybe, but I can,” Kara says defiantly. “I’m helping Lena with something important! Just like she helps me… financially.”
“A very sugar baby thing to say,” Lucy says, earning a smack from Alex.
There’s no winning here, she can tell, but at least the heavy weight of dread had lifted from the room for a while.
“Whatever,” she finally says with an embarrassed smile. “I need to go. We’re doing a movie night with Eve.”
“Oh yeah? I can’t wait to hear about your date with your girlfriend and her girlfriend.”
“Shut up,” she says. She grabs the box she’s packed of her junk to load on to the scooter, pointedly ignoring the concerned look Alex is still sending her way.
“Have fun playing sister wives!” Lucy calls after her, and her face burns from the teasing but at least they’re smiling at her now. That makes it worth it.
They have movie night and it isn’t weird. It’s fun, actually, and it’s nice to see Lena opening up so much with someone else. Eve seems good for her, and she’s weird in that same fun way as them that makes it so easy to just… chill.
Thoughts of possible redeployment or sudden gay feelings are swept away pretty fast as her catering job approaches. She ends up spending four full work days preparing for it. Four days of rolling out dough, cutting inventive shapes, icing cookies, and eating more scraps than she should physically be capable of before finally her work is done and everything is prepared. She was told their theme was Aiming for the Stars, so she took it to heart. She has shooting stars, carefully colored planet cookies, even a moon-shaped cupcake that cuts open to reveal sprinkle stars inside. She even took the time to build a display stand for it spread out like the solar system, with each of her planetary pastries surrounded by sugary stars and beams of light.
It all looks so good, she did so good.
This will go well, she just knows it.
As far as parties go, the job is not exactly bumpin’.
She knew it wouldn’t be a wild rager - it is some corporate event celebrating a new sales milestone. None of the salesmen or workers are there, of course. Just the corporate figureheads who actually benefit from it. Even still, she expected a little more action.
It doesn’t matter. Any party can be a great party if you have the right attitude. She focuses instead on that which she can control: her cookies. She takes care to set up her display, focusing on every minute details. She even uses her little cookie repair kit she made to touch up the frosting on one of her planets. It’s beautiful, and fun, and creative, and she takes a picture of it and sends it to Lena who just sends her a wall of the !! emoji that fills the screen. She really did a great job.
She knows she did, which is what makes everyone’s avoidance so confusing. Only two people so far have taken a cookie from her table. Everyone else is just politely sipping on their drinks or munching on the carrot sticks at the table next to hers. She approaches two of them, who politely tell her they don’t really “do” desserts or sugar. Which, okay, that’s fine for them, but surely not every person in this room refuses to eat cookies? Surely this is just a fluke.
It’s not a fluke.
She spends forty-five painful minutes smiling and gesturing at her display only for every person to pass her by. Not even Morgan Edge, the man who hired her, ventures over to see her until nearly an hour in, and of course the very first thing he says upon seeing her is,
“Tell me, how is Miss Luthor doing?”
“She’s doing great! So good. Really just, so good.”
“That’s nice to hear,” he says like it’s the worst thing he’s heard all day. “I remember how hard it was for her after everything with her family happened. I know that’s a shame she’ll never escape.”
Kara thinks about the cruel way everyone has treated Lena since she’s known her, how malicious their words and actions have been. For that split moment, she forgets everything important, like that she’s working or that this is her employer or that her words do in fact have consequences. All she thinks of is Lena.
“Lena is so much more than her brother, Mr. Edge, and I would hope someone like you would know better than to talk about shame considering some of your behavior.”
And boy howdy is that a mistake.
It’s the smallest shift, so minute she would have missed it if she hadn’t been looking right at him. With just a twitch of the eye his amused smile turned crueler, sharper. He steps back from her with a huff of a laugh, turning instead towards his audience of party-goers, and loudly proclaims,
“I’d like to give a toast to our wonderful staff, without whom we’d be missing out on all these delicious treats.” He takes a bite pointedly from one of the cookies, smiling and waiting for the appropriate applause to die down. With every second that passes Kara’s chest feels the tiniest bit tighter.
“And a special thanks to this young lady right here-” he gestures to Kara and all eyes shift to her. “The artist of the evening. All those cute little designs you see on the cookies and cakes were done by her.” He pauses again for more applause and Kara wants to shrink into the floor. “She’s actually an artist in residence for a very special patron – our city’s beloved Lena Luthor! Who knew our favorite Luthor had a taste for the arts? But yes, Miss Danvers here has been her pet project for months now and as we can see, that support has really paid off. Give it up for Kara!”
The whole room applauds her. She smiles back at them even as her chest burns.
There are two more hours after that. She smiles and listens to people’s oh-so-well-meaning congratulations for all her success since Lena Luthor saved her, and how impressed they are that she started her own bakery. She gets to smile and say actually she just works at the bakery but thank you. Her eyes start blacking out around the edges, and she becomes so light-headed she has to sneak back into the corporate kitchen and squat against a wall. She breathes deep and waits for the spinning to fade, for the pain that’s been building in her chest all night to lessen.
She stays like that for several long minutes until the event coordinator stomps in to yell at her that they aren’t paying for her to just sit around. Then, with a still-spinning head and clouded eyes, she goes back to work.
Kara is exhausted. Beyond exhausted. She even cried a little on the drive home, just sniffled and stared out the window of Winn’s truck after he picked her up while he very graciously pretended not to notice.
The entire event felt like a waste. Did they do an excellent job? Of course. Her cookies are immaculate and her service skills are top quality. But she knows they didn’t hire her for her cookie skills, they hired her to get at Lena. Hardly anyone even touched her cookies. She brought home four boxes worth, for goodness sake.
Her eyes still haven’t fully cleared from her black-out earlier and she ends up just sinking to the floor the second she makes it into the kitchen, her back to the stove. She doesn’t have the energy to go any farther.
Lena finds her there some time later. She frets over her, touching at her face and hair checking that she’s okay until Kara finally just says she just got light headed, and then squats on the ground with her.
“Is this something we need to call your doctor about?” Lena asks, and like always her first instinct is to say no. To push all thoughts of that away, to assert again that she’s fine.
But she’s not so sure this time, and that scares her.
“Maybe,” she confesses with sorrow in her voice. “But not yet.”
“Okay. Just tell me when.” Lena says. She takes Kara’s hand and laces their fingers.
She’s not sure why she does it. There is just something about how Lena looks then, sitting on her kitchen floor with her, eyes bright even in the dim kitchen lighting. Just looking at Kara with open, honest regard.
She’s kissing her before she can even think about it.
It’s so soft, just the tiniest press of her lips, and she can feel Lena smiling against her and kissing her back. Her fingers float by Lena’s face, the barest touch against her cheek like she’s afraid to touch too hard lest this delicate balance break. They stay like that for too long, sharing gentle kisses and tender touches. It feels like she needs this physical connection to stay grounded. It’s the only thing that can give her the strength to do this.
Finally, she pulls away. Not much - their faces stay close, noses brushing – but enough so that she has room to speak.
“It’s from college. My health problems.”
Lena just hums in acknowledgement, not pulling away. Their foreheads rest against each other, their backs still leaning against the oven. Kara’s eyes are still closed like she’s scared to see what comes next. Her voice shakes as she continues to whisper her story.
“I was a crazy high achiever. Top of my class, a few credits away from Valedictorian, the whole nine yards. After my parents died… it was like succeeding was the only way to honor them.”
Lena falls towards her a bit, pressing another kiss to her lips. She kisses along her face as well, and Kara is dimly aware of the tears she hadn’t felt fall. She pushes on.
“It’s like I had to do everything right, and I pushed and I pushed and I pushed and I reached this breaking point where I knew there was no way I could push any further or I’d crack, and that-” her voice does crack then, dropping a bit. “And that was when I met him.”
It’s been years now since she met him, a year since she’d seen him last, and still the memory barrels over her like a rushing wave leaving her to flounder and gasp for air in its wake.
“He came in when I was at my absolute lowest, and he dragged me down even further than that.”
She wants to tell her everything. She wants to tell her about the pills. About Mike’s self-serving “help” that built her up with artificial highs and devastating lows. How he fed her quick fix solutions that left her mind in shambles and her body twice as bad. How she still felt the cravings, even now.
But she can’t. All she can do is cry and shake and cling to Lena with all her might. All she feels is the overwhelming weight of shame and guilt and sorrow at the life she lost.
Lena wraps her in her arms and just lets her cry.
Kara wakes in a cocoon of sweat and blankets. She can vaguely remember stumbling to bed with Lena in her arms, Lena pressing kisses to her tear-splotched face until she fell asleep.
Now she’s awake and it’s morning. A glance down tells her with a jolt that Lena is also awake, as she seems to be staring up at Kara with wide affectionate eyes.
“Good morning,” Lena whispers before popping up to kiss her under her jaw and then practically flop out of bed before Kara can even blink. “I’m starving.”
She’s only had about four seconds of consciousness so far so Kara blames her immediate tummy tumble on her latent wakefulness. She allows herself just another moment to blink herself awake before Lena’s loud call of, “please!” from the living room has her pulling herself up.
She goes and makes them breakfast.
Lena is extra soft this morning. She seems to fawn over Kara with kind remarks and gentle touches, even offering to help make pancakes until, after her third burnt attempt, Kara tells her she’s got it under control.
Even still, she focuses all her emotional energy on Kara. It’s nice. It really is just… nice.
Living with Lena is nice. Well, not living, of course. She’s only staying with her temporarily, although they still don’t have a set date for her to move downstairs. Temporarily sharing a bed and home with Lena for a temporary amount of time which is, of course, temporary, well – that’s nice.
It feels safe, being with her. Like she can tell her about the terrible things in her past and not have to feel so ashamed all the time. Like she can be herself without apology. Lena makes her forget how horrible it was in her life before. She even laughs at her jokes, which is always a bonus. Kara makes her classic ‘thin French pancakes give me the crepes’ joke (which is, admittedly, a real zinger) and Lena laughs so hard she snorts sparkling water right through her nose.
And then it hits her.
It hits with such sharp clarity that for a moment it’s like the air has been sucked from the room, from her lungs.
“Oh no,” she whispers quietly, eyes going wide. “Oh no oh no no no no no…”
“It’s okay, I’m okay,” Lena cough-laughs with teary eyes as she wipes the dribbling drink from her face. “Needed a good sinus rinse anyway.”
Kara’s eyes just go wider. She’s sweating, she can feel it, and her hands are shaking as she jumps up and quickly yells, “I gotta go to the bathroom!”
She’s gone before Lena can even question it.
“This can’t be happening, this isn’t- I’m not, Lucy just,” she’s talking fast, incomplete thoughts skittering across one another as she paces in front of the bathroom mirror. “I can’t be into Lena because that’s, that would be- that would just be like everyone has said this whole time, and I’m not. I’m not.”
She stops and grips the edges of the sink, staring at herself in determination. Willing herself to be as she wishes she were. Even she can see the lie written all over her face.
“Oh God,” she whispers, staring into her own horrified eyes reflected back at her. “I’m into Lena.”
She plays it super cool after that.
Like, super cool.
“Sorry about that,” she says when she finally reemerges from the bathroom and then promptly knocks over a lamp. “Also that.”
Lena watches her fumble to pick it back up with a confused amusement in her eyes.
“It’s fine,” she says with a giggle. “I barely even liked that lamp.”
“Good! Good, then that’s – that’s good.”
She promptly drops it back to the floor with an audible crack. Lena looks concerned.
“Are you alright?”
The green of her eyes seems to pop in the soft afternoon lighting.
“Ha! Yep. I sure am. I am peachy keen.”
She tries not to visibly flinch at her own ineptitude. Luckily, Lena seems unphased.
“So, I have an idea of something we can do tonight to cheer you up,” Lena says, her mischievous tone pairing with a lip bite that makes Kara’s entire face feel hot. Holy wow, Lena is pretty. Has she always been this pretty? There’s no way she’s been this pretty the entire time.
“Oh?” Kara’s voice cracks like cheap pavement on a hot summer’s day. “And what do you want to do to me tonight? I- I mean with me. Do with me.”
Lena barely even acknowledges her trembling mess, still too focused on whatever is in her mind.
“There’s a party at the art museum downtown, some gala of Veronica’s. I thought it might be nice to get a backstage look at the art.”
The thing is, that would be nice. Kara loves museums, loves spending hours staring at the art and learning all about the artists that created them. Without a doubt, this is exactly the kind of place she would want to be at a time like this. But a Veronica Sinclair event brings certain types, and those types have a knack of making Kara feel real small.
“And be around people like Morgan Edge?” she adds quietly, voice sad.
“And make fun of people like Edge with me,” Lena corrects. Kara purses her lips, still skeptical, but Lena goes for the kill. “Also, you can eat all the catered food without anyone trying to stop you.”
“Oh damn, you know how to speak my language. I’m in.”
“Mmhm. I thought so.”
The party is fine and normal, just like Kara.
All of her weirdness from before – gone. That whole ‘maybe being into Lena’ thing was very clearly just a phase, one she passed right on through with blatant ease. Granted, she hasn’t seen Lena since their morning conversation as Lena had immediately gone to meet Eve for lunch (a thing which did not bother Kara at all, by the way), but even still. It’s probably something they can even laugh about someday, if Kara ever finds an appropriate time to bring it up. Everything is totally fine and normal.
“There you are,” she hears behind her. She’d been waiting towards the front of the crowded museum hall for Lena and Eve to arrive. The sound of Lena’s voice brings an automatic smile to her face as she turns to greet them, a smile that freezes instantly in place at the sight.
Lena arrives on Eve’s arm, although for all it matters Eve could be a thousand miles away. All Kara can see in this moment is Lena. Lena with her hair down in soft curls, a dark red low-cut floor length gown that fits her body in ways that can’t possibly be legal. Lena, with that smoky look to her eyes Kara’s never seen, her lips painted red so deep Kara has a brief, terrible flash of how it would look against her own skin. Her smile is so small, twisted into a playful pout while her eyes lock only on Kara. It’s like all the light in the room has fallen on her alone, shining her bright while everything else fades into the shadows. It’s like it’s just her and Lena, alone.
“Hot,” Kara greets, only to quickly overcorrect. “Hi, I said hi. Hi! Hello!”
“Hi Kara,” Eve says, and all at once the world crashes back into focus. The room returns, the darkness recedes, and Lena is on Eve’s arm, holding it loosely against her side, even as she smiles at Kara in amusement. Right.
“Hi Eve,” she says, and just barely manages a smile.
The dinner portion is, thankfully, the first component of the party, and Kara takes Lena’s “no one can stop you” to heart. To her credit, Lena doesn’t even blink when Kara finally settles down at their table with three overflowing plates.
“I’m amazed you limited yourself to three,” Lena says, before catching sight of Eve trailing behind Kara with two plates of her own.
“Oh yeah, no, Eve helped me carry the excess.”
“Watching Kara eat is like watching a special on Animal Planet,” Eve adds helpfully as she slides the plate over to Kara. “I have a scientific duty to support her.”
“That’s the spirit!” Kara says. She feels better now, with her four plates of food and no distracting sexual thoughts. That really was just a phase.
Then Lena decides to take a slow, slurping bite of a raw oyster she’d grabbed that finishes with a deep, quiet moan.
“God,” she practically breathes out, and Kara shreds the napkin in her lap in half. “I forgot how much I like seafood.”
“Seafood sure is sexy!” Kara blurts out, “I mean something! Ha! Ha ha, yeah it is something great for sure!”
Lena just looks at her like she’s spontaneously started speaking a dead language. This phase is getting out of control. She settles on just sitting quietly and trying not to stare at the way Lena’s skin meets the sharp line of her dress.
Conversation flows pretty fine after Kara silences herself as all the business people talk about their little business things. Mercy Graves has been ranting about some product she’s using for some purpose. She’s not totally sure what they’re talking about, honestly, as she tuned out a minute ago when Lena excused herself to go to the restroom.
“There’s a device for sorting those, you know,” Mercy says. “Actually, didn’t Lex Luthor invent that?” She speaks low and secretive with a glance to Lena’s empty seat.
“Oh yes, I think you’re right.”
“Of course, he did,” Eve chimes in. “He really is amazing,” Eve says almost whimsically. There’s a beat before she seems to notice everyone’s questioning stares, after which she backtracks with, “As a scientist, I mean. He is amazing scientifically, not as a person.” And then she laughs, loud and out of place. Her mouth opens again like she might continue the spiral only for Lena to finally return and take her seat again. All Lex talk dropped at that.
Instead, much to Kara’s dismay, it shifts to her.
“Kara,” Mercy Graves says, teeth bared in something more grimace than grin, “I heard you sold some of your little cookies at Morgan’s party. That is so… quaint. So tell me, is your official title cookie decorator, or are you just listed as staff?”
Some of the other party goers snicker, and Kara can practically feel herself sinking into the floor. How nice it would be to go through an evening without someone demeaning her.
“Actually, Kara is an artist,” Eve said, voice firm and angry. Everyone looks to her in surprise at her outburst. “She’s extremely talented in ways you could only dream of being. I’d like to see you create something meaningful that wasn’t just inherited from your father.”
Mercy actually sputters a bit, her mouth opening and closing as if she didn’t quite understand what happened, before it settles into a firm line.
“Hmm. I see. If you will excuse me.”
And with that she gets up and leaves the table.
“Holy crap, Eve,” Kara says with delight, grabbing her hand. “That was amazing.”
Eve smiles at her with barely contained joy, squeezing her hand back.
“I’m sick of everyone being mean to you all the time. You’re a really cool person and you don’t deserve that.”
Despite her weird day of gay thoughts and blurted innuendos, Kara feels genuine joy build deep in her chest.
Lena returns and things are better. Kara is not blurting her latent homosexual desires, no one is criticizing her for being a poor person, Eve keeps laughing at her jokes. Things are actually feeling pretty normal.
The meal continues on for a while before Eve excuses herself to the bathroom with a quick kiss to Lena’s cheek that leaves her bright red and the entire table eyeing them. Once she fully vanishes from sight, Beth speaks.
“So, you and Eve, huh?” She says with a conspiratorial smile. Lena blushes bright, looking down. Kara suddenly feels a desperate, inescapable urge to escape.
“I think I’m gonna go look at the exhibit,” she announces, standing suddenly.
“Oh,” Lena says in surprise. “Well, Eve will be back in just a little bit if you want to-”
“No no, it’s okay. I’ll go by myself. You two can keep mingling.”
“Kara,” she says, and her tone carries such loaded concern it feels like an electric shock to her heart, so Kara is quick to say,
“Really, Lena. I think I wanna go look alone for a minute. It’s okay.”
She smiles the best she can, but it doesn’t lessen the worried look Lena gives her even as she nods and quietly mumbles okay. Kara practically sprints from the hall before she has a chance to change her mind.
Despite this event being in honor of the art, there is no one in the entire gallery. It is just endless walls full of beautiful creations with no one there to witness. That’s okay, of course. Kara really did need to be alone. Being alone means she can examine the paintings for as long as she wants to without anyone telling her to move along already.
She doesn’t know how long she stands staring at the painting before the voice speaks.
“I don’t care for this,” she hears, and she turns to see Veronica Sinclair standing behind her, hip cocked and arms crossed. “It’s too green.”
Kara’s not sure what to do. Part of her feels on guard, but then the artist within her just wants to talk to someone who actually knows what they are talking about.
“I dunno, I kind of like it. I feel like the green helps bring attention to the shapes forming in the background.”
She does a wide sweep with her hand, tracing in the air along the curves of the piece. Veronica tilts her head slightly, studying intently along with her movements.
“Huh. I can see that, actually.” She gives Kara a curious look, then gestures to the next painting. “What do you see here?”
Kara shoots her a skeptical glance before stepping forward and really, deeply studying the work. She half expects Veronica to tap her foot impatiently or sigh, but she stands waiting for the multiple minutes Kara spends studying the piece. Her response is honest.
“I see sorrow,” she says. “These blues here, where they meet with the black – it’s like the artist was desperate to get out that grief. And look, right here. There’s even grooves and tears in the canvas, like they pressed with all their strength. Gauging their sorrow into their work.”
Veronica is watching her with a thoughtful expression, and if Kara didn’t know any better she’d half believe she was impressed. Maybe that was what made her keep talking.
“It’s funny, I actually did a piece like this not too long ago, only I used bolder lines and a little more water than paint.”
“Got any pictures?” She must have given her a look as Veronica laughs genuinely and holds her hand up. “I’m serious. No ulterior motive. I’m just interested.”
Kara eyes her with so much skepticism, but Veronica just smiles back. Finally, after a very loaded few seconds, Kara pulls her phone out and scrolls to her ‘my stuff’ folder.
“Here,” she says, holding it up for Veronica to see. The other woman squints down at the phone with a critical expression. “This one is not as expressive as I like to get, but I think it matches that theme of loneliness pretty well.”
“I can see that. Especially in your contrast here,” she points at the photo. “Do you have any more?”
“Any more what? Pictures of my art?”
“I, uh- yeah! I do!”
And just like that she finds herself lost in a conversation with Veronica Sinclair discussing her own art. It’s actually surprisingly nice to talk to her. Veronica has an extensive knowledge that rivals Kara’s own, and her opinions are just distinct enough for them to have rapport without argument. It’s incredible. So incredible, in fact, that Kara thinks nothing of the way Veronica goes silent for a moment just to stare at her like she’s looking for something. Kara just stares back.
“You know,” Veronica finally says, “I’m opening a new gallery downtown in two weeks. I know that’s short notice, but I would love to have some of your work in it.”
“Are you being serious right now? I can’t tell if you’re being serious right now.”
“Do I seem like the type to joke?” she asks drily. Kara just looks at her with what she can only imagine to be a dumb expression. “Do you think you can have six gallery ready pieces by then?”
She thinks of what she has made already, what it would take for her to make enough.
“Absolutely,” she says with barely contained glee.
“Wonderful. It’s a deal.”
Kara manages to wait until she’s slipped down a hallway just out of sight to do her excited panicky victory dance. It involves a lot of twisting, twirling, and at times tumbling. She’s so caught up in the euphoria, in fact, that it takes her a long few moments to notice the shadow at the end of the hallway watching her move. She freezes mid-twirl and stands up straight, backing away. To her horror, the shadow follows her.
She nearly sprints around the corner trying to head back to the art gallery, only the corner she turns leads to a dead-end closet. Somehow in her tumbling she’d lost orientation, so instead she’s forced to turn back. She squares up, ready, and instead rushes at the shadow.
“What is your problem?” she shouts, “Why are you following me?”
The shadow – a man, she can tell, just stares at her. Finally, he steps into the light.
“Holy shit,” the man says, “I thought that was you.”
It’s like a nightmare come to life.
“Mike?” she says in horror, and the bastard just gives her a sheepish grin.
Elsewhere, miles away back in Metropolis, a detective responds to a tip he received anonymously and searches a long-abandoned warehouse, one that had once belonged to the science branch of Luthor Corp.
He finds a room full of oil drums, hundreds of them. With a crowbar he manages to jimmy one open and he’s greeted by a decayed hand seemingly mid-wave, surrounded by a disgusting sludge pile.
It’s filled with human remains.
He looks up at the hundreds of other barrels and immediately calls the police.