Lena ponders long and hard before she asks it.
As with every big decision, especially one involving Kara as well, she debates it with herself, to and fro until her fears are worn like a pair of jeans that have been washed one too many times.
The first step in her decision making process is taking a trip to JCPenney and stationing in front of a rack of silk scarves long enough that three different salespeople approach her, asking whether she would like some help.
Lena declines each time, with a small shake of the head and a kind smile of thanks, before going back to her careful study. In the end, she settles for a simple black scarf, the silk adding a nice shine to it as she runs it through her hands in appreciation. It isn’t the best quality she could afford to buy of course, but it will suffice. If she came back with something more expensive, Kara may very well be put off.
The whole idea may put her off regardless.
She brings the scarf home, placing the small box in which they folded it for her inside her nightstand. And then, she argues the merits of it further. Lena has been drawn to the idea of blindfolds since she was a child; of course back then, nothing of it was sexual, but she remembers wrapping a length of cloth around her head and then spinning in place inside her mother’s garden. The exhilaration and the fear, as everything she knew was swallowed by darkness, flashes of color from beyond this world pressing behind her eyelids as she tottered to a stop.
And sometimes, the taste of blood in her mouth as her legs gave way and she collapsed - hard - onto the ground.
But what she believes solidified the idea in her head had been a trip she’d taken with her father to London, on one of the rare occasions in which she’d felt like she belonged to a normal family. They had visited the National Gallery, and Lena had stared at everything awestruck, but one painting in particular had followed her home, as if it had decided to hang itself on the walls of her heart.
The Execution Of Lady Jane Grey, the painting is called, and it depicts the death of the one they call “the Nine Days Queen”. The story, which Lena had thoroughly researched once she’d gotten back to the States, is a sad one. Lady Jane Grey was anointed Queen of England, only to be deposed and executed nine days later, but there had been something about the painting…
Something in the fallen Queen’s expression that is at once terror and disarmed relief speaks to her, and Lena has come to the conclusion it is so because a Luthor is never allowed to be weak.
The blindfold is all of this and more; weakness, helplessness, liberation.
This is why she desires to lose her sight, if momentarily, but Lena firmly believes the blindfold will be of benefit to Kara too. Her lover is always restrained, out of their bed and between the sheets, painfully aware that a wrong gesture on her part can inflict damage in the scale of a natural disaster upon Lena or another.
Lena doesn’t mind the gentle handling, on the contrary. Kara’s tender affections have the ability to disrobe her of all the armor accrued over the years, and Lena always feels lighter, after. But her lover clearly doesn’t always trust the control she has over herself, and Lena hopes that giving herself to Kara while blindfolded will improve things on that front.
Still, despite the fact she’s made up her mind, it takes a few more weeks before she brings the topic up between them.
It happens on an evening in which they have decided to have a quiet dinner in Lena’s house, eschewing the etiquette and silver cutlery of classy restaurants, in favor of laughter and a shared meal as they sit on the couch, bare feet tucked under them.
Lena has ordered from Kara’s favorite chinese restaurant, just so she can watch delighted as her lover makes an inordinate amount of potstickers simply… vanish.
Once they are done with the meal, cartons and plates piled on the coffee table and out of the way, she pulls Kara close for cuddles. They both ate a little more than they should have and lassitude settles over them and their conversation as they just savor quiet moments after a long day.
“I meant to ask you something.” Lena breaks the silence after some time, eyes lost somewhere out the window. Below them, the city sits white and gold, resplendent like a jewel in the deepening night.
“Hmm?” Kara nuzzles her jaw, and she feels a smile break out across her lips. She can’t help it; her lover’s closeness always makes Lena smile.
“I…” Lena clicks her tongue, frustrated, and draws in a sharp breath, past lips that are suddenly as cracked and dry as if she’d been sitting too long under the sun. She had prepared her delivery with care, but words seem to have deserted her, and she is left with nothing better than a direct question.
“Have you ever thought about blindfolds when we… You know.” She’s never had difficulties in talking about sex and all that it entails, her mind too curious to allow itself to be delayed by false modesties in research. And yet, as Kara pulls back to look at her, a delicate frown creasing her brow, Lena’s cheeks burn red, absolutely on fire.
“When we make love, you mean?” There is no disgust in Kara’s voice as she examines the idea, only curiosity. Her blue eyes have darkened, turning serious, but her expression remains open, and she takes one of Lena’s hands into her own, waiting for her to elaborate.
“Yes.” Lena nods for emphasis. “I’ve been… wanting it for a while, but I didn’t know how to ask.”
Kara inclines her head at that, face softening into that puppy-like grin Lena loves so well.
“Did you think I wouldn’t want to?” Her hand squeezes Lena’s fingers in reassurance. “I mean, we’ve never really done something like this, but we could always try?”
It’s true; their nights are soft and gentle for the most part, the flame of their passion a steady one rather than an all consuming fire. Lena doesn’t mind it in the slightest; for one who has known only cold affection in her life, measured with credit cards, expensive gifts and never hugs, Kara’s calming presence is like a merry fire, pushing back the winter’s chill after a long day spent outside.
“I would very much like to try.” Tension Lena hadn’t realized had been there leaves her shoulders and a grin matching Kara’s in brightness tugs at the corners of her mouth.
Kara nods and entwines their fingers, bringing Lena’s arm around her shoulders so that she can lean back and rest her blonde head against her. The matter is clearly settled in her mind, and Lena sighs, content. She is not exactly sure what she has done - in this life, or other ones - to deserve someone as accepting of all she is as Kara.
She doesn’t lack for friends, although it hasn’t always been the case, but, even though they try not to, sometimes all they see when they look at her is a Luthor. But Kara saw beyond that from the beginning, without needing to use her X-Ray vision, perhaps because, just like Lena, she is two people trapped in one.
They spend the rest of the night cuddled on the couch, slowly killing the bottle of Pinot Noir Kara picked from Lena’s expansive reserve, the silence between them light and easy. She loves evenings like this, where the companies that Lena oversees and the people Kara saves are the furthest things from both their minds.
The topic of the blindfold is put aside, filed away for later use but not forgotten, and they fall back into their routine until the box inside of the nightstand drawer starts to collect dust.
Then, after Kara has to save her from a bank robbery gone wrong, the matter becomes pressing.
It’s three weeks since their talk after dinner, when, for a twist of fate, Lena finds herself in need to withdraw cash, and the ATM is out of service.
Everything else is a blur that comes to her as she kneels over her toilet, retching bile and spit and nothing else, while Kara holds her by her shoulders.
Guns cocking, screams, a mad stampede of feet as people try to flee the scene.
One of the robbers forcing the branch director to lock the bank’s automatic doors, pistol pointed at his temple.
The loud, final pop of a gun when the lone security officer tries to draw on one of the assailants and ends up shot instead.
“There was so much blood.” Lena manages, teeth chattering so hard she almost bites through her tongue. The analytical part of her brain knows she’s going into shock, the numbness spreading from her hands to the rest of her a clear indication of that state. She closes her eyes, shutting out the pristine lines of her bathroom in an attempt to regain balance.
This time, darkness does not offer refuge.
Kara shifts next to her, reaching for something. The gurgling sound of running water fills the room, and then her lover is pressing a wet cloth to the nape of Lena’s neck.
“I know.” Kara repeats.
Of course she does. Their clothes are smeared with it, a testament to their attempt to save the man’s life. Breathing ragged, Lena lets her lover pull her from the toilet, Kara’s arms closing around her and lifting her up without effort.
She allows Kara to rid her of the blood-stained blouse she is still wearing, so soaked through with the guard’s lifeblood that she doubts it’ll ever return white. She’ll probably never wear it again anyway, given the choice.
The cloth moves from the nape of her neck to her front, and Lena welcomes its cool caress. The fabric is a bit scratchy against her skin, and the rhythmic passes of it along her collarbone and shoulders ground her to the quiet of her apartment and to Kara. It will take time for the violent images flashing through her mind to fade away - she doubts she will ever forget the man’s fixed stare - but slowly warmth returns to her, and she slumps against her lover’s frame with a grateful sigh.
Maybe the worst is over.
But, as it turns out later that night, when she bolts awake with a scream, sweat soaked sheets tangled all around her, Lena has never been so wrong.
The darkness which had always been a synonym with safety, becomes a treacherous landscape full of monsters that lay in wait specifically for her. Despite Kara’s reassuring presence in the bed they share, Lena starts to sleep with a light on, and, when she is awake, she avoids closing her eyes for too long.
“I cannot keep on like this.” She grumbles to herself as the days go by. The memory of the incident has paled, at least during the day, but the man’s dead eyes look for hers when she’s asleep, and Lena feels herself slip ever closer to another breakdown.
One that she’s not sure she’d effectively recover from.
Outwardly nothing shows of course; if there is one thing she has learned from her estranged mother is to wear well-fitting masks, but Kara knows.
Kara always knows when something ails her, even when Lena tries to pretend the nightmares are just that, or that they don’t bother her. She’s the one to come up with a solution.
Lena has just returned home from a day of business meetings, mind numb and eyes burning, when her gaze comes to rest on the box she brought home from JCPenney what feels like a lifetime ago. There is a sealed envelope to go with it, her name carefully penned in Kara’s delicate writing on the dove grey paper.
Lena picks it up and runs her fingers over her own name, curiosity piqued along with hesitation. Inside she finds a message, short and to the point. It reads almost like an order, and her legs grow inexplicably weak.
Bring the scarf to the bedroom.
She doesn’t stop to wonder how Kara had known where to find the box - she had never mentioned she’d bought something they could use as a blindfold, only the idea - but on the other hand she’s not surprised. They don’t keep secrets from each other, and Kara is extremely good at finding things before she is supposed to. Christmas is a source of endless frustrations because of that particular quirk of hers.
Heart quickening, Lena opens the box to retrieve the scarf, her hands shaking bad enough that she fights with the lid more than she normally would. The cloth feels heavier than she remembers, or perhaps the added weight is that of her own expectation.
With a frown, Lena wills her heart to slow, eyes rising to look past the living room and into the hallway leading to the bedroom. Something about the way her lover had phrased her request compels her forward, and Lena starts to move towards the hall before her brain can truly register what her feet are doing.
Whatever Kara has in mind, she’ll find out soon enough.