What was she doing here?
Kara regretted her decision the moment she stepped inside the shop and found herself face to face with a sea of products. Some of them she recognized: panties and dildos and vibrators were pretty self-explanatory. But the closer she looked, the more she found items completely foreign to her: harnesses whose purposes were left a mystery of sagging leather and implements whose use were simply unfathomable in the split second she glanced at them before her gaze instinctively slid away.
But she couldn't leave. With Maggie's teasing voice in her ear, Kara forced her feet further inside. She aimed for the middle of the shop, hoping that the more shocking products would be relegated to the fringes of the aisles.
A voice like velvet spoke up behind Kara, prompting her to spin so fast she nearly tripped over her own feet. The speaker revealed herself to be a young woman in jeans and a soft sweater, smiling warmly.
"Um, h-hi,” Kara stuttered. Her hands clenched into fists in her pockets.
She was gorgeous. Dark hair fell thick and soft around her shoulders, and her lips were perfect and pretty in a deep red. Kara swallowed, cheeks burning in a deep flush.
"My name is Lena," the clerk introduced herself. "Can I help you find what you're looking for?"
Kara immediately looked away-- only to snap her gaze back Lena's when she realized the shelf next to her was stocked full to bursting with edible underwear.
"I, um... I-- I don't really...?"
Green eyes softened into a warm smile. "Is this your first time coming to an adult boutique?"
In spite of herself, Kara huffed a laugh, ducking her chin sheepishly. "That obvious, huh?"
"Hey, it's okay," Lena assured her. "You're not the first person to be nervous coming in here for the first time. Women especially."
Kara shrugged. "I guess."
"Well, I can promise you there is absolutely no pressure, okay? You can take a look around if you like, or if you have an idea of what you're looking for, I can walk you through some of our options."
"Oh, um-- I don't really... know."
"That's okay too. How about we start basic? A lot of our first timers come in looking for vibrators?" At Kara's nod-shrug, Lena gave another soft smile. "Great!"
She took a few steps over towards a nearby rack, and reached for a black tube hardly bigger than a thing of lipstick.
"This is what we call a bullet vibrator," Lena explained. "It's used mainly for clitoral stimulation, and has a very gentle speed that some beginners appreciate." Long fingers pressed a small button on one end, and the device hummed to life. Lena reached for Kara's hand, who offered it a little to readily.
"See?" Lena continued, running the device along the inside of Kara's palm. To Kara's surprise, she found Lena was right-- the vibrations were gentle and steady, enough to be felt but not strong enough to jolt.
"I've seen some people go too big too soon,” Lena continued, “and then find that their choice was too rough, or too difficult to manage comfortably. This is really great for someone who's not quite sure if they like it, or want to take their time. Plus it's really discreet, and you can manipulate it with one hand pretty easily, which leaves your other hand free to assist."
Kara blushed, but the playful smile Lena shot her wasn’t teasing. It was… Kara wasn’t sure what, but judging from the flutter in her belly, she definitely liked it. The knot of tension in Kara's chest eased with Lena's conversational tone, which somehow normalized the fact they were talking about jacking off to a vibrator.
What was she doing here?
Talking to Lena, a calmer voice responded.
"It's cute," Kara admitted. She exhaled, and her shoulders relaxed.
"Right?" Lena drew back, and pressed the button again to make the bullet sleep. "Of course, it is one of our most basic options-- it only has the one speed, so some people find it a little limiting. If you're looking for more of investment, we also have these--"
Lena exchanged the device for one shaped like a tear-drop.
"These are still pretty compact, but with a bit more punch. You can adjust the intensity, and it has multiple vibration patterns."
Again, Lena demonstrated on Kara's palm. This time she's more preoccupied with the heat of Lena's hand than the vibrations tickling her skin.
"I would definitely recommend this one if you were looking for something more long term. It can grow with you better than the cheaper model."
Nodding slowly, Kara agreed. "Yeah... yeah I can see that."
She can see that Lena's skin was soft as butter, and fairer than cream--
"Wait, what?" Kara jolted, snapping back to herself abruptly. Lena pulled the vibrator away quickly, but not before Kara pulled free herself. "No, there's been a misunder-- I'm not here for myself!"
Lena blinked in surprise. "Oh-- okay..."
"Yeah, sorry. I probably should have--" Kara huffed, fidgeting with her glasses. "I'm shopping for a gift. A gag gift."
Green eyes brightened. "Oh! Why didn't you say so? The gags are this way--"
"No!" Kara yelped, grabbing Lena's arm before she could dart away and leave Kara floundering. "Not that kind-- It's for my sister."
"Yes," she released in a whoosh. Relief flooded her at finally having communicated properly.
"You're getting a gag for your sister."
Kara froze at the solemn deadpan. Her neck grew hot as she stumbled to explain. “N-no, not like-- see, she’s getting married, and um--”
The very corner of Lena's lips lifted into a grin.
“...and you are totally messing with me,” Kara sighed in relief. Lena’s smile broke into a full blown laugh, and Kara found her own lips turning up in response. “Oh, my god.”
"I’m sorry! I couldn’t help myself!” Laughter bubbled out of her, and the heat that rose to Kara’s cheek wasn’t embarrassment. Lena’s eyes shone with mirth, and she couldn’t help but stare as Lena’s hand settled on her wrist.
“I’m sorry, really, I don’t mean to tease,” Lena promised as she caught her breath. She met Kara’s gaze. “Why don’t you walk me through from the beginning?"
And so Kara did. She explained all about her sister's upcoming bachelorette party, and how Alex and Maggie told her that if she didn’t want to go to National City’s one and only LGBT strip club with the rest of the party, then she could bail after dinner and they’d totally understand. Kara explained how that assumption had rubbed her wrong way, and of course that had left only one option for her to take.
"So I decided I'd get her the lewdest present for her bachelorette party that I could think of, and make them blush for once. But then I couldn't think of anything so I came here and then I almost chickened out but I came in anyway and still managed to make an idiot out of myself… What?" Kara trailed off when she realized Lena was studying her.
"I think I have just the thing," Lena told her. She grabbed Kara's hand. "Come with me."
Lena's hand was warm, and pleasantly dry. She gripped Kara's hand gently, but her long fingers pressed on hers with gentle authority. Kara was all too willing to follow her to the next aisle over.
"Here." Lena released her to grab a tall metal hook, which she used to snag a leather harness off the top rack. She handed it to Kara, who turned it this way and that in an attempt to determine how to wear it. "Don't worry, most of the straps on this one are decorative, but it looks imposing, right?"
Uh, yeah. It did. "Uh huh."
"But if you pair it with this..." She ducked around to the next stall, and came back with a slim box.
Kara lifted the lid, and immediately barked in laughter at the sight of a double-ended hot rod-pink dildo, sparkling with the greatest concentration of glitter Kara had ever seen. She smacked her hand over her mouth, but lost her composure again the moment she gave it a second glance.
"Oh, my god!" she exclaimed. “That is… just-- Wow.”
"Double penetration for mutual satisfaction,” Lena explained. “It’s big, it’s gaudy, and yet guaranteed to give them a good time-- if your sister can bring herself to use a sex toy given to her by family.”
Kara snorted again. Imagining the look on their faces made the trip here worth it already. She grinned. "This is perfect."
Lena beamed. Kara followed her to the front, where Lena packaged both items into compact boxes and tucked them into a discreet bag. It looked like a bag from any of the clothing stores on either side of the shop-- only the minimalist flower design on one side indicated its source, and Kara knew most anyone she ran into wouldn't recognize it.
"Thank you so much for your help," Kara said when she handed her card over for payment. The good laugh had worked magic-- the tension was gone from between her shoulder blades now, and she couldn't stop smiling. "I really appreciate you taking the time."
"It was my pleasure," Lena returned smoothly. She passed back Kara’s card, along with the receipt. "And if you change your mind about the vibrator, feel free to stop by again. I can guarantee you won't regret it."
"Speaking from experience?"
"Well, I am a professional, you know,” Lena returned, bequeathing Kara’s bag with a teasing scrunch of her nose. "Have a great rest of your afternoon. Maybe if you have time, you can come back and tell me how your sister and her fiancée like the gift?"
Kara paused, nibbling her lip. "Maybe I will."
Green eyes warmed in another smile. "Until next time, then."
"Until next time."
The farewell lingered, hanging in the air for long interminable moments. Only then did Kara snap back into herself for the second time that day.
The words weren't lingering, she was.
"I should--" she pointed to the door. "Sorry. Bye again."
She was gone in a flash, before Lena could respond.
Then she sat alone in her car until her hands stopped shaking enough to drive home.
Kara stopped by the shop again a week later. To her disappointment, Lena wasn't there.
She wandered around to the same aisle that held the vibrators, and waffled for two seconds before snatching one of the teardrop models off the shelf.
To distract herself from being rung up by the tall unfamiliar woman running the register, Kara asked about Lena.
"Lena’s off today," the new woman told her when Kara asked.
"Oh." The woman’s name tag read Sam, and she seemed as kind as Lena had been. Kara swallowed. "Do you guys do a commission system for sales? Because Lena did a great job explaining things to me. She should get the credit."
Sam grinned. "We don't do sales incentives. We feel that they shift the focus away from the customer's needs. But we do have comment cards, if you'd like to fill one out and leave it for her. Our team members always appreciate positive feedback."
She slid a manila index card in front of Kara, who also accepted the fluffy feathered pen Sam offered. She paused only long enough to think of a note that would fit on the small card.
Maggie loved the gift. Thought she was going to die laughing. Don’t think Alex likes the taste of crow much.
Her sister's face had stayed beet red for almost an hour, refreshing every time she'd caught sight of Kara's self-satisfied smirk.
The tables had only turned when Kara had gotten two texts from her the following morning.
Alex: So, uhm
Alex: Thanks for the gift.
Kara pressed her eyes shut. Lena didn't need to know about that.
Thanks for all your help. Hope to see you next time. - Kara
At home, the vibrator stayed in its box for days. When she finally bucked up the courage to try it, Kara’s first orgasm came fast and sudden and hot.
So did her second and third and fourth.
By the fifth, she barely felt the stimulation at all for the green eyes and pretty smile that consumed her thoughts. When she finally finished, hot and sweaty with thighs quivering and fingers slightly numb, Kara grinned dazedly at the ceiling.
After a week with her new toy, Kara couldn’t imagine ever having been without it. Her shame diminished with every orgasm, and in a matter of days she'd found her favorite patterns and her favorite strokes and her favorite spread of her legs... Maybe, she considered in the haze after a powerful climax, she would have enjoyed sex with her ex-boyfriend more if he’d had one of these to play with.
She tried to give the shop a wide berth, both in person and online. But it didn’t last long. Soon enough, she found herself scrolling through their inventory pages, reading the descriptions of each item, and scrolling through the photos posted. Eventually she drifted to their learning page, which boasted a series of links-- and a full page calendar of seminars hosted at the shop every weekend.
Kara’s skin flushed when she noticed that the one for the coming Saturday was all about vaginal masturbation.
She didn’t need it, Kara told herself. Clearly, she managed just fine on her own. But what if there was something she hadn’t considered? Something that could put her hapless fumbling to shame, and show her a new meaning to the word orgasm?
What if Lena were there?
Oh god. What if Lena was there. What if Lena saw her going to a class about how to pleasure herself, and found out that Kara really was as inexperienced as she’d appeared that first day?
The thought was almost enough to put her off completely. Almost.
Ultimately the guarantee of beginner-friendly content and free refreshments were enough to pull her back to the shop with her vibrator tucked discreetly in her purse and her expectations left at the door.
Lena was nowhere in sight.
Instead, a completely new face directed her to a back room, where a series of chairs had been set up with a long table laden with cookies and drinks behind them. Sam stood at the front of the room, and her face lit up in recognition before Kara could hide.
“Hi!” Sam greeted brightly, closing the distance between them with a smile. “Welcome! It’s good to see you again!”
Kara flushed under the attention. "Thanks, you too.”
Fidgeting with the strap of her purse, Kara cast her gaze around the room. “So, um,” she continued awkwardly, “this is my first time doing one of these, and I wasn't sure what I was supposed to bring..."
Sam's features remained kind. "All you need today is eyes and ears, or pen and paper if you'd like to take notes. We just ask that you hold off on any video or audio recordings."
Oh. Kara's cheeks burned furiously, both for her assumption that there would be actual masturbation scheduled, and her complete readiness to participate.
"Right. Great. Thanks."
"We're about to get started. There's refreshments in the back if you'd like to get a snack. And feel free to introduce yourself around-- we have a great group today.”
Sam returned to her preparations, and Kara headed straight for the unmanned refreshment table, vision pulsing with every heartbeat. Pausing to catch her breath and reclaim some modicum of calm, she tipped her head back and took a deep breath. She lifted her head on the exhale, and opened her eyes.
And stared directly into a framed picture of naked skin.
She immediately clenched her eyes shut again.
What was she doing here? She wasn’t-- she couldn’t do this. She wasn’t ready. Not for this, not for being here… not for any of it.
Kara shoved her hand into her bag, intending to grab her keys and leave. Instead, her fingers met the soft rubber of her vibrator, still tucked into the pocket of her purse. The touch of it rooted her to the spot, grounding her.
She came here for a reason. She was here because one chance encounter and a tear drop the size of her palm had opened up a world of new experience. Because the device in her fist had let her feel more at ease with herself than she ever had before.
She came because it was a single step through the door Lena had opened for her.
Kara pulled her hand from her purse, and took another breath.
She didn’t leave. Commandeering a stack of Oreo cookies, Kara turned back to the room. The other students had gathered into small groups. Something in the way they smiled and joked together suggested to Kara a prior acquaintance. She couldn’t bring herself to insert herself into the bubbles of conversation, so she slipped into the rearmost row of chairs and nibbled tastelessly at a single cookie.
She could do this.
She would do this.
"Hello!" Sam called from the front of the room. Her wide, warm smile banished any lingering thought of Kara’s escape. “Welcome!”
The other attendees filed into the rows closer to the front, fully comfortable in the room and with their purpose there. Next time-- next time Kara would be up there too.
"For anyone I haven't met yet, my name is Sam-- I'm the owner and manager of White Dahlia. I'm also the host of our seminar today: Intro to Vaginal Masturbation. We like to stay pretty laid back, but there are some ground rules we enforce. The first and foremost is that this is a inclusive and judgement-free zone. No question is too basic, and the word embarrassing doesn’t exist for the duration of our class.”
Kara flushed, but when the rest of the class chuckled in good humor, it helped ease some of the tension still knotted between her shoulder blades. She inhaled, and it loosened further as she settled in to watch.
"You are welcome to leave at any time,” Sam continued, still with that same kind smile. “Towards the end there'll be a short video demonstration of some of the methods we discuss today, but there will be a small break beforehand, so if you'd rather not stick around for it, that's totally okay.
"And finally-- we're here to have fun. There aren't any grades, and we won't be testing your knowledge, so just take a deep breath and relax, okay?"
A small chuckle of laughter coursed through the group, and Kara felt herself relax in spite of herself.
"Okay!" Sam chirped. "So-- who here took sex ed in high school?"
Kara raised her hand, along with the rest of the room.
"Excellent! Now, who can name the constituent parts of the vagina?"
After a startled moment, Kara tucked her hand away with a blush. All but two of the other raised hands followed suit.
"All right, we’ll start here," Sam announced. "While we may not ever have a need to label an anatomical diagram, being familiar with the vagina and related erogenous zones are key when exploring your preferences, and can make it easier to communicate those preferences to your partner..."
As Sam spoke, Kara took notes. From anatomy they moved to the difference between clitoral and penetrative masturbation, and techniques associated with each. And questions were asked. Not by Kara-- overwhelmed by the sheer amount of knowledge she was receiving, she could barely manage to scribble her notes.
Some were basic, hesitant on some of the terminology, but others were more relaxed, asking specific questions about something they'd tried but couldn’t make work.
Sam answered them all with the same tone of patient understanding.
"Remember,” she told them, “the human body can become numb to any repeated sensation-- it's why capitalism works so well."
Another laugh, easier this time, filled the small room. Kara watched as Sam smiled. Throughout the seminar, she’d observed the easy way she moved around the room, the comfort with which she’d lean against the table, or gestured with long fingers to better illustrate her words.
She owned the space she took up, and filled out every inch of her skin with her warmth and personality. Kara admired her ease of being, and as they hour wound down, she found herself completely at ease.
"When something you like stops being effective,” Sam continued, “change it up. If you're the kind of person who usually gets down to business and just starts banging them out, try taking your time. If you go for the slow build, and it stops coming, ramp up the speed or adjust the pressure. Change the pattern, and explore new options."
A soft chime sounded, and the room perked up.
"All right," Sam announced, "that's our lecture time. Again, there will be a short video presentation if you'd like to stick around after the break. If not-- thank you for coming today. We hope to see you again soon."
Kara had intended to leave, but instead she drifted back towards the refreshment table. Pouring herself a small cup of lemon-infused water, her gaze drifted back up to the art that had nearly sent her running.
She forced her eyes to linger, when they instinctively slid away from the wide expanse of skin. She’d assumed it was pornography, but as she studied the photograph, it… wasn’t. Not really. A female model knelt facing the camera, hands behind her back with rope patterned across her shoulders and down her front.
The model was nude; Kara’s eyes traced the line of the ropes around the curve of each breast, to where they twisted together at the base of her sternum. They wove their way down and around her ribs, and curled around her hips.
The lighting in the photograph was soft, and intimate. It felt like art-- something more than to be simply consumed and set aside. There were others too. More photographs, with other models, male and female both, all posed in rope. Some were close ups, meant to capture the artistry in the knots themselves, but others were like the first-- captures of the human body pulled into beautiful, unnatural angles, and joints held fast by firm restraint.
Kara gasped at Sam's sudden appearance beside her, suddenly remembering how to breathe. She turned, swallowing thickly.
“Yeah,” she agreed. She met Sam’s gaze briefly before turning back to the pictures. "Gorgeous."
It lit a warm, gentle fire low in Kara's stomach, heat spreading to the apex of her thighs. With today's new knowledge fresh in her mind, Kara knew exactly what it was. Arousal. These photographs aroused her.
Suddenly, she wanted to see more.
"You know,” Sam said slowly, “we're holding another seminar next week-- an introduction to rope bondage. Would you like a pamphlet?"
Kara cleared her throat. "I uh... I don't have-- anyone."
"Singles can attend as well. It's just a good foundation for anyone who might be interested in learning more."
With a shuddering breath, Kara returned her gaze to the wall, and the rope designs it celebrated. She wanted to reach out and touch the taut cords, to stroke the soft skin constrained within. She curled her fingers around the strap of her bag to ensure she didn't.
"Yeah,” she said softly. “Okay."
Kara took the pamphlet home, and read it edge to edge. It provided a basic structure of the class, and the knots they would be going over. Once she'd exhausted the pamphlet, she googled the knots and started practicing, determined not to be behind anyone else. The pamphlet confirmed what Sam had said about all experience levels being welcome, but the preparation proved worth it when she walked into White Dahlia the next weekend with a calm heart.
Which started thundering like a jackhammer when she spotted a familiar smile at the front of the room.
This class was smaller than the last, leaving Kara nowhere to hide before Lena caught sight of her. Kara’s hand moved of its own accord, lifting in a hesitant greeting. The smile that bloomed on Lena’s face jolted Kara from head to toe. It rooted her to the spot, and left her gaping as Lena crossed the room to meet her.
"Kara!" Lena closed the distance in smooth, languid strides. She looked comfortable in a t-shirt and jeans, and sneakers that left her just a little shorter than Kara. "It is you! When I saw Kara Danvers on the list, I'd hoped it would be."
"Y-you hoped?" Kara sputtered, flattered. Then the rest of what she'd said sank in. "Wait-- how do you know my name?"
"Oh, it was on your card!" Lena returned easily.
"My... credit card?"
A sudden laugh bubbled out of Lena. It scrunched up her nose and sparkled in her eyes.
Kara's heart lurched, and then dropped straight into her stomach.
"No,” Lena giggled, “your comment card! You signed your note as Kara."
"Oh!” Kara blinked, shaking her head. “Right! God, I'd completely forgotten!" Now Kara started laughing with Lena, cheeks flushing with embarrassment. She shook herself again. "Right, yeah. Thanks again, by the way."
"You're welcome." Lena's voice wrapped around her like a hug. Lena smiled at her. "And thank you for the note. I was glad to get it. I'm glad it opened some new doors for you."
Looking around the space that was quickly growing familiar, Kara nodded. "Yeah. Me too. I never really thought about stuff like this, you know? And now that I have..."
"It's hard to put away," Lena filled in. She nodded, her smile stretching into something softer, thoughtful. Understanding. "We've all had that moment. And we're glad to have you."
Insides squirming with something not quite discomfort, Kara ducked her head, but soon found herself seeking Lena’s gaze once more. "So, um… are you leading the class?"
Her name hadn't been on the pamphlet but… Kara wouldn’t mind watching an hour of anything Lena had to say. But to her disappointment, Lena shook her head.
"No, I'm just helping out today. But James is great-- you'll love his class, promise."
"Well, you haven't led me wrong yet, so."
"See, that's the spirit!" Lena touched her arm gently. A tiny squeal climbed up Kara’s throat, only to stay trapped behind lips pinched tightly between her teeth. Lena looked over her shoulder, only to glance back in apology. "Sorry, we're about to start. I'll check in with you in a bit, okay?"
Kara managed a nod before Lena floated away back towards the front. Unlike her previous visit, there were no rows of chairs. Instead, there was a collection of pillows spread across the floor, just waiting to be sat on. Kara chose one near the front, in clear view of the projection screen that had been installed against the far wall. The other students filled in around her as a tall, attractive man with a bald head and engaging smile clapped his hands together.
“Hey guys! Welcome to Bondage 101. My name is James, and I’ll be your guide for today.”
“Hi, James,” the room intoned solemnly. They broke into laughter a moment later, and Kara joined in.
“The lovely lady you see passing out materials today is Lena--”
Kara grinned up at Lena, who paused in her task in handing out lengths of soft cord just long enough to wave and shoot them all a smile. Kara’s cords came with a playful wink, which sent another tendril of electricity coursing down her spine.
“...and if you have any questions, you can ask either one of us, all right? Our only rule for today is consent and communication. Bondage, rope sport, whatever you want to call it, is a partner activity. It can be fun, but remember-- restraint automatically introduces risk of injury. Our goal is to practice safely, and the best way to do that is to check in often and to listen to what your partner says. Sound good?”
A smattering of acknowledgement traveled around the room. It was enough for James, who smiled and turned on the projector. It cast the diagram of a knot illuminated the screen behind him.
“Today we’ll be going over single column ties and double column ties. Does anyone know the difference?”
Kara raised her hand.
“Hi, what’s your name?”
“I’m Kara… Kara D-- oh, um. Right. A single column tie is used to secure one thing to another? While a double column tie is used to secure two things together.”
James beamed, clapping his hands together. “Yes! Correct. A column is whatever you’re tying. For example, a wrist. A single column tie ties one wrist-- a double column tie ties two. These two ties are the foundation of a lot of the more complex ties you see in shibari and other forms of bondage art-- and they can be a lot of fun in and of themselves.”
Kara bit her lip in anticipation as Lena rolled a padded post into view. James collected a length of rope from the bin Lena had set aside. “The screen behind me has a diagram for the single column. I’ll be demonstrating up here so everyone can see. Lena’s handed out materials to each of you: go ahead and follow along, all right? If you get stuck, just holler.”
Kara’s itching fingers grabbed the cord and quickly got to work. This much was familiar-- her research served her well. Her fingers carefully navigated her rope along the familiar pattern, and she didn’t have to look at the diagram even once before she was cinching it tight. The knot closed, leaving two tails and a loop the size of her hand. It didn’t slide at all, no matter how hard she tugged on the loop or tails.
It was perfect.
“There we go!” James announced. “This knot should hold. If it slips or tightens on your column, you’re doing it wrong. You should be able to slip two fingers between the rope and your column-- anything tighter requires further conversation that should happen outside of play.
“Now,” James continued, “what happens next?”
A long silence passed. James let it happen, giving them room to think. Finally a hand went up, belonging to a stranger with long, curly hair and a bright smile. “Check in?”
“Check in!” James affirmed. “The knots are exciting, especially when you’re first starting out. But do not let it get to your head. If you are the one doing the tying, you are the rigger, and it is your responsibility to ensure your partner is comfortable and happy. If they for any reason rescind their consent or express discomfort of any kind, you immediately reset. That means release and re-evaluate.”
Another hand went up. “What should we be checking for?”
“The most common symptoms of an improper tie are friction against the skin and pinched nerves. So when you check in, your partner should be able to move comfortably in the tie, and you need to ask if they’re experiencing any numbness or tingling.”
“How often should we check in?”
“Fre-quent-ly,” James enunciated, emphasizing each syllable with a gesture of his hand. “There is no bare minimum, guys. And even outside of check-ins, you need to be constantly watching your partner for changes. Especially when you start adding other toys, like gags or blindfolds. It is on the rigger to maintain the comfort of your partner. Got it?”
The room confirmed in a chorus of affirmation.
“And if you are the one being tied, you need to be honest and vocal. If something doesn’t feel right, speak up. Your rigger won’t know unless you say so. And you do not have to wait for the check in. When you play, you should feel comfortable enough with your partner to be able to speak up at any time and expect to be heard. Every play scene is a relationship based on trust. If you don’t have that trust-- don’t play.”
Before the mood could grow somber, James flashed another grin, and announced they would have time for another round of single columns before they moved on. Kara worked her tie free with nimble fingers, and slowly began to redo it.
When they moved on to the double column tie, she moved just as seamlessly. It proved more difficult for others in the class though, leaving Kara to tie and re-tie the knot on her own. She didn’t mind the practice. It was soothing-- the repeated pattern felt like a mantra for her fingers, and feeling the snug cinch of each completed tie gave her a sense of satisfaction, and of ownership. Like she’d made something tangible, with physical proof she’d succeeded at something.
She was so absorbed in her efforts that she almost didn’t notice when a dark shape edged into her field of vision. When she finally lifted her head, the shape resolved into a pair of small, narrow bean bags, offered by long, pale fingers.
"Try working with these," Lena suggested.
Kara took them, only to stare at them. "How?"
Lena shrugged. "However you want."
She moved on, crouching to listen to the next murmured question. Kara stared at her gift, hefting one in each hand experimentally. In the end, she shrugged.
"Okay," she muttered to herself. She sandwiched them together and looped a coil around both of them. In less than a minute, they were bound together in a pristine single column tie. Not exaaaactly what the tie was meant for, but it was satisfying to see nonetheless. Kara grinned as she released the tie and started again, this time attempting the double column.
This one… didn’t work so well.
The bean bags were difficult to manipulate individually, and dropped to the floor multiple times in her attempts to secure them. Pinching them between her knees as she worked didn’t give her enough room to wind the rope between them.
When a bag dropped for the third time, Kara growled under her breath.
The same hands that had given Kara the bags plucked them away again. Kara jerked in surprise, then watched in shock as Lena sat on the ground in front of her and extended both wrists.
“Whaaa…” Kara stared, eyes flicking back and forth between Lena’s gaze and her hands. The prospect of two self-supported columns nearly eclipsed the sudden flutter in her chest at the fact that the subject was Lena. “A-are you sure?”
“Oh-kay.” Kara cleared her throat, and nodded. Her hands shook, but she covered it by talking. “Okay, I’ll leave it really loose, all right? Maybe you could space your hands a little farther apart?”
Lena increased the gap between them. “How’s that?”
“Good. Okay. So. First thing I’m going to do is wrap the bight around like this, a few times. And then next, I’m going to bring it through the top, and then down, and around…” The rope started to tighten as she drew it through, and Kara swallowed. “Does that feel okay? Is there any discomfort?”
“No, you’re good. Please continue.”
With a nod, Kara resumed the tie. “And then after that, I’m going to draw it through, like so…” Talking it through calmed her nerves and steadied her fingers. When she finished, the end product was a complete, but nonfunctional tie. The cords drooped Lena’s wrists, and if she moved even an inch she could simply slide out of it.
It was ugly, and filled Kara’s chest with disappointment.
She lifted her gaze to Lena’s in apology. “I’m sorry… would you mind if I tried again? That looks awful.”
To her surprise, Lena shrugged good-naturedly. “Go for it.”
Kara worked the knot free and tried again. This time as she talked her way through it, she guided Lena’s hands closer together, and let the ropes pull just a little against her skin. At the first tightening, she paused again. “How do you feel? Still okay?”
“Still okay,” Lena confirmed.
“Awesome. Okay, so now that this part is done, I’m just going to pull the bight through here, and… oh.”
The knot fell apart as soon as her fingers pulled away. “That… wasn’t supposed to happen. Do you mind if I…?” When Lena shook her head again, Kara gave the projection screen another glance. She found her mistake immediately. “Oh! I see… I’ll bring it through this way and-- voila!”
With a little bounce on her cushion, Kara pulled her hands away. The knot held, and Kara’s insides thrummed with pride. She cradled Lena’s hands in hers, eyeing her work for inconsistencies.
“Any pinching, tingling, numbness? Can you move your fingers?”
Lena wiggled them as proof, then stretched them flat so that her palms met flush against Kara’s. “Feels good.”
Kara slipped a finger under the ropes, and felt another flush of pride when she was able to move it comfortably. Then, without the distraction of discomfort or pinching, the enormity of the moment washed over her. "Wow."
With a grin, she sat back and stared. The red cords contrasted with Lena’s fair skin, beautiful and tantalizing. Suddenly, Lena’s hands felt very warm in hers, and Kara shifted on her cushion to find a position that didn’t feel like she was sitting directly on her vibrator. Arousal pooled low and deep in her stomach, and slowly trickled even lower.
She swallowed. "Wha-- what do you think?"
Kara looked up to meet Lena’s gaze, and found green eyes boring into hers, deep and piercing. "You're good," Lena said.
A hot flush started at the nape of Kara's neck, and quickly spread upwards to match the warmth coursing south. "You didn't even look."
Lena flashed a cursory glance towards the knot between her wrists, then back up to Kara. "The knot's okay too." She smiled, one eyebrow lifting in what could be a tease, or maybe... skepticism? Kara couldn't quite tell through the way her vision pulsed in time to her heart.
Why could she not breathe, suddenly?
"You've got the touch, Miss Danvers."
Lena's purr washed over Kara's senses. Her pulse raced, and her head swam as she shakily loosened the knot. “Thanks, I-- uh…. I should--”
The same soft chime as the week before announced the end of their time, saving Kara from having to complete her sentence.
"All right, guy-- we're out of time for the day,” James announced. “Please return all materials to front of the room. Keep an eye out for future seminars, and if you're interested in learning more, White Dahlia has a list of resources available that might interest you. But please-- take it slow. Learn responsibly, with safety first."
Released from the tie, Lena smoothly rose to her feet, taking the burgundy cord with her. She deposited it into the same plastic bin she'd taken around the room at the start of the seminar. In moments, she was lost in the crowd as the other students swarmed to return their own hanks.
Heart pounding, Kara shakily rose to her feet. She bundled up the bean bags, chin tucked to avoid eye contact with anyone else. She meant to return them to Lena as well, but turned tail instead, and tossed them into an empty plastic bin on her way out the door.
Later that night, Kara's vibrator remained locked away in her drawer, while her fingers and imagination alone worked her into the best orgasm of her life.
Kara dreamed of rich, wine-colored cord on pale skin.
Try as she might, she couldn’t put Lena from her thoughts. The woman continued to manifest, unbidden but much welcomed as Kara spiralled deeper into the realm of possibility sparked by that single afternoon.
It felt wrong, that Lena featured so heavily in her fantasies. She wasn't a celebrity, or some fictional character she pulled from the pages of some bodice-ripper stolen from her mother’s bookshelf. She was someone real. Someone Kara knew. Someone who had no idea that Kara conjured her image for the sake of of her own hedonistic pleasure.
But her guilt changed nothing. Lena continued to smile at her in the quiet moments between Kara and her vibrator, Kara and her fingers, Kara and the memory of warm skin under her fingers, bound by rope.
She barely made it two weeks before she was back at the White Dahlia, on the prowl for that same burgundy cord they'd had in class.
At least she managed to guess a day Lena wouldn't be there.
"Kara, hi!" Sam greeted as soon as she entered. It was a slow day, it seemed, with only a single other customer browsing the ball gags in aisle four. "How did you enjoy the class? James said you kept up really well."
Kara couldn't quite keep the pleased smile from her face. "It was really great. That's why I'm here, actually. I wanted to see if you had any idea when the next one would be. I didn't see anything on the site yet, but…”
An apologetic smile answered her. "Yeah, we typically aren't able to post our schedules until the start of each month,” Sam informed her. “Especially our rope classes, since James travels a lot, and we kind of have to wait to see what his availability is. But the goal is definitely to do one class a month, so I can give you a heads up as soon as we get something definite."
Some of the anxiety eased out of Kara. It wasn't exactly the information she'd been hoping for, but even the promise of more to come reassured her.
"That'd be great, thanks," she accepted in a whoosh. "In the meantime, do you guys carry the cord we were using in class? I've been trying to practice with shoelaces."
"We sure do." Sam came out from around the counter and nodded towards the back. "Follow me."
Sam led her to the rope section, and took down a bundle. “This is it! And it’s on discount this month, too.”
Kara hesitated. “Why? Is there something wrong with it?”
But Sam waved away her concern. “No, nothing’s wrong with it. But it’s a specialty color, and I held off ordering a different color until we got rid of what we had. Next up is cobalt.”
“Oh… that’d be pretty.”
Really pretty. Especially against--
Jesus christ, Kara. Pull it together.
“Can I get two of these?”
When Kara handed over her credit card to pay for the two coils of burgundy cord, she swallowed her pride and asked what was really on her mind.
"Does Lena assist with classes often, or...?"
Sam glanced at her. Her features remained conspicuously neutral, confirming to Kara that she’d deduced the precise reason for the sudden yet blasé curiosity. She tilted her head noncommittally as she turned her attention back to swiping Kara’s card through the reader.
“Depends on the class and the schedule,” came the vague response, “but she's not an infrequent helper."
With a nod, Kara took back her card without meeting Sam's eye. While she tucked it back into her wallet, Sam packed the rope into another flowered bag. Kara would be able to start a collection soon.
"You know,” Sam offered voice slow and even, “if you'd rather not wait for the next class, there's an event tonight you might be interested in."
Kara immediately perked. "Like a lecture?"
The corners of Sam’s eyes crinkled in a caveat. "More like an exhibition,” she allowed. “There'll be some vendors, but some experienced riggers will be displaying their talents. Mostly end products, but they usually get a couple of the more well-knowns to do some live demonstrations."
"You mean, like a... dungeon party?" Kara’s voice dropped to a whisper. She’d read about those, and as much as her comfort zone had expanded lately, the thought of attending one herself set her pulse to racing. And not in a good way.
To her relief, Sam shook her head. "No, not at all. Honestly, it’s more like a gallery opening. Stop in, see the art, rub elbows with others in the local scene… I have a pretty good bead on the group instruction in the area, but if you play your cards right you might fall in with someone willing to work one-on-one-- if that’s something you’re interested in.”
By now, Kara should have learned that saying no to anything while standing in White Dahlia was a physical impossibility. But she still somehow found herself surprised to be saying “sure.”
Sam handed her a card. “Here’s the address. It’s $30 cover charge, cash bar… dress code isn’t too fancy, but you’d probably be out of place if you just wore jeans and a t-shirt, if that makes sense. Light hor d'oeuvres are served about halfway through.”
“Will you be there?” Kara asked.
“Sure will. I’ll keep an eye out for you.”
Quickly getting lost in thought, Kara took her bag in one hand, still staring distractedly at the card she held in the other. “Thanks, Sam.”
She barely heard Sam's reply as she walked out of the store with rope in hand. She sat behind the wheel for long minutes, staring at the card. She didn't recognize the address-- she barely recognized herself for even considering going. But she knew in her heart she would. She had to. She couldn't wait until the next class at White Dahlia, which could be more than a month away.
She had to go.
And she did. That night she took a cab to the warehouse district and stepped out in a tasteful black dress and heels that were comfortable enough to walk in, but gave her enough extra height to make her feel powerful.
With her hair down around her shoulders, she mixed well with the other men and women walking in with her. The two men posted outside the door barely gave her a second glance as she handed over her thirty dollars and crossed the threshold into the warehouse.
In that first moment, the space felt more like a dance club than an art gallery. The space was dark, lit by colored lamps and with just enough mist to display the lasers that danced through the air. EDM pulsed low and gently against her ears, pulling her deeper into the warehouse. The light show calmed, then gave way to a more sedate landscape.
Curtains lined every wall, softening the industrial feel of metal siding and stone floors. An empty stage sat at the far end of the room, and between it and Kara were almost a dozen displays. There were no cordons designating specific pathways for the guests-- they followed the shadowed lanes that existed between each scene.
Kara followed the crowd along to the first, and found nothing separating herself and the rest of the visitors from the model. Like a museum, the visitor’s own decorum kept them from touching the model who knelt on a padded rubber mat with her arms bound behind her in an indistinct snarl of rope and knots. All of the free ends-- easily more than dozen-- had been left long and coiled among and around the model’s knees. Just… sitting there.
The work looked messy. Unplanned.
Kara didn’t like it.
The others around her stood admiring the exhibit, nodding and murmuring to themselves in appreciation of something Kara couldn’t quite fathom. Maybe she was just new--
Her foot collided with something solid, and swiftly realized she’d nearly kneecapped herself on a small standing placard that listed the name of the rigger, the model, and name of the exhibit.
“Floral strappado,” Kara read aloud, adjusting her glasses as she peered at the plaque. “Oh. Oh.”
She looked at the model again, and this time, she saw something entirely different. The random and seemingly purposeless knots along the model’s sleeve of rope weren’t meant to bind-- they were flowers among the ivy, trailing down towards the ground and nest of ropey vines that anchored the model to the floor and gave the illusion that the woman was growing into the ground and the carpet of rope beneath her.
In that moment, Kara realized Sam had been more literal than she'd given her credit for. It truly was an art exhibition, with rope as the medium and flesh as the canvas.
Just like in the photos Kara seen at White Dahlia, the strappado model and the others she could see were largely nude, but it lacked the crudeness of traditional porn. It was sensual, and visually stunning, but… it wasn’t simple pornography. It was so much more.
As she continued on her path, Kara took special care to see the models behind the design. Only some were fully nude-- others wore black briefs, or were shielded by artfully placed knots.
One woman knelt with her hands crossed over lap, wrists anchored at her hip bones by bright white rope, covering her exposure in a pose that almost seemed demure. Her nipples were covered by wrappings of more white rope, binding her breasts in a farce of modesty, thwarted by the soft skin that bulged around the cords.
She was covered, but something about it set Kara on edge in a way she couldn’t articulate. Where the strappado model had been bathed in a soft, earthy light, this exhibit was lit by pale, almost blinding white light that glinted off the white ropes.
Kara nearly had to squint to see it properly, and couldn’t help but notice the way the poor model sat slightly hunched, her head bowed and face obscured by chin-length blonde hair.
"Enforced chastity," recited a familiar voice, reading from the nearby placard. Kara turned, and found Sam standing next to her with a flute of champagne in each hand. She handed one to Kara. "Clever."
Kara accepted the flute with a smile of thanks. "What do you mean?"
"It's performative modesty," Sam elaborated. She gestured to the model’s trapped hands and censored breasts. "She's covered, but only barely."
"And it's not her choice."
The woman couldn't move if she wanted to. Which could be said of all the models. But within the context of this exhibit, Kara started to detect additional layers of meaning.
"It's a little hard to see, but do you see her collar?" Sam gestured towards the models neck. Kara looked closer, and saw the single cord that ran from the knot at her throat all the way down to the apex of her thighs. It was subtle, often obscured by the harness twisted and tied down her torso, but now that Kara's attention had been called to it she could see nothing else.
The model wasn't just bowing her head. She physically could not lift her her chin, tethered with her gaze glued to her crotch and her folded hands by a single cord.
"All of her energy is so focused on ensuring she's covered that she can see nothing else."
"And if you come round the back," Sam continued, guiding Kara to see the model from behind. "What do you see?"
Kara's brow furrowed. The model's back was completely bare. What she'd thought was a full harness was in fact a netting that failed to come around the ribs, anchoring only at the neck and hips. It partially covered her front, but left the skin of her back entirely unfettered.
"Nothing," she responded finally.
"Exactly. This is something you might see with impact play. You don't strike over roped areas, so the leaving a bare back implies a more… nefarious intent.”
Oh. “What does that have to do with chastity though?”
"External forces have her so fixated on her own decency that she can’t even lift her head to look over her shoulder. She’s left entirely vulnerable by the very people claiming to want what’s best for her." Sam rolled her eyes. "Such is the power of the patriarchy."
Kara stared at her, then the model. It made sense, but also seemed a bit of a stretch. "You seem to have considerable insight."
Sam smirked. "I know the artist. They got hit hard by some new anti-porn censorship laws in another state. Still bitter."
Kara opened her mouth to respond, but before she had a chance, Sam's eyes widened at something over Kara's left shoulder. "Oh! Sorry, I see someone. I'll catch up with you later, okay?"
Sam was already gone, leaving Kara alone with the model. Kara lingered only a heartbeat more before moving on. She paused at every exhibit, sipping on her champagne and brushing shoulders with people equally interested. Sam said it would be a chance to network, but Kara found herself too entranced to even attempt mingling.
Eventually, she found herself among a cluster of viewers all crowded around a model near the center of the room. As Kara slowly worked her way closer, she noticed the model was a woman, whose skin shone in the evanescent light that shone from directly above her head.
She stood fully upright, drawn up to the tips of her toes by the ropes that held her arms aloft, outstretched in a shallow Y. A full harness crossed over and between her bare breasts and down towards her groin before casting off towards anchor points to either side. A gobo had been installed directly overhead, casting eerie, ethereal light that rippled over the models skin and cast odd shadows.
The ropes were as black as night, seeming to strain in their task of containing the woman. It was a stark departure from the rest of the room, which captured poses that reflected the struggle of nature and humanity. In a garden of life, this model was a specter of death, the harness a mortal’s attempt to snare a goddess-- a goddess lying in wait, biding her time until a single strand dared to fray.
Kara’s breath vacated her body the closer she got. As she neared, she realized the model did in fact wear one piece of costume: an eye mask, as dark as the rope that bound her. Kara had missed it among the rippling shadows, but as the crowd thinned and moved on, she had a quiet moment to look closer, and saw how it adhered directly to the model’s skin.
Was it part of the exhibit? Or had it been at the model’s discretion?
She glanced at the placard. The rigger was a name she didn't recognize, but the model's name made her smile. Europa.
She ran her finger across the typing, thoughtfully rolling the exhibit’s name over her tongue.
Her breath returned in a huff of wistful appreciation. It was fitting.
From the corner of her eye, Kara saw shadowed eyes open from behind their mask. She looked up instinctively, only for the smile to freeze on her lips at the piercing gaze staring back. The hooded gaze sparked in recognition.
Kara’s heart flipped and bottomed out somewhere below her ribs.
"H-hi," Kara stuttered.
Lena's dark lips lifted in a beguiling smirk.
Kara cast a look over her shoulder for any sign anyone had seen their moment of mutual recognition, hoping it would cover the sudden pounding of her heart.
She also looked for Sam, but the woman was lost to the crowd. Kara was on her own.
When she turned back, she'd managed to regain some degree of control, but not by much. It dissipated the moment Kara realized she had no idea where to look to avoid Lena's gaze.
Oh, god. She'd seen everything.
"Enjoying your visit?"
Kara nodded, rubbing her forehead to hide her eyes. "Yeah," she said, clearing her throat. Her gaze flickered to Lena's despite herself. "Yeah, it's been-- I've seen some amazing things tonight.”
Lena smiled by a fraction, momentarily dispelling her goddess of death ambiance. Kara’s own smile softened, and the tension between her shoulder blades released by equal measure. “Is that comfortable? I’ve read that suspension for this long could be dangerous…”
She trailed off as Lena’s left eyebrow lifted, beckoning her closer. “Wanna know a secret?”
Oh. Don’t be creepy, don’t be creepy, don’t be creepy… Kara lifted her gaze to Lena’s hands, then traced the rope lower and lower, searching for the trick. She didn’t find it until she reached Lena’s bound ankles, and the enticing arch of her foot-- which wasn’t dangling at all.
“Oh!” Kara chirped, grinning at the realization that Lena stood on a slanted block, hidden by a dark cloth. It took the weight off her arms, and allowed her a measure of comfort. “Cool!”
"You should stick around for the live demonstrations later,” Lena said. “I think you'll enjoy it."
"I certainly do."
Whoah. The low rumble of Lena's voice did strange things to Kara's insides. Before she had a chance to respond, another clump of visitors drifted towards them. Lena reset with languorous ease, bowing her head in the mimicry of rest.
Kara booked it, trying to ignore the feeling of eyes burning a hole between her shoulder blades.
Heart pounding, her legs started to shake as soon as she broke eye contact. She-- she needed to sit down. Or leave. She needed to--
“Whoa, careful!” Sam warned, narrowly avoiding Kara’s stagger towards the door. Kara jerked to a stop. In the face of Sam’s cheerful smile, Kara’s tenuous calm shattered into a million pieces. Sam’s features immediately darkened in concern. “Kara? What happened--”
“What the fuck, Sam.”
Sam’s eyes widened, then flickered over Kara’s shoulder to where Lena still hung on display. Her mouth opened, but no actual words came out. “Ah.”
"What the fuck, Sam?! What the fuck, what the fuck what the--"
Sam grabbed her by the hand and dragged Kara off to the side. Hidden in a dark corner, she planted both hands on Kara’s shoulders and looked her square in the eye. “Kara. Chill.”
"What the FUCK. Lena--"
"Europa is the most highly sought after bondage model on the West Coast,” Sam supplied, eyebrows lifting in question. “She loves what she does, and she's good at it. Do you have a problem with that?”
Inhaling deeply, Kara shook her head. “N-no. Of course not.”
Sam’s features lifted in a smile. “I didn’t think you would.”
“Why didn’t you warn me?”
“I couldn’t. She keeps her identity hidden for a reason, Kara. I wasn’t sure you’d even recognize her.”
A hysterical laugh bubbled in Kara’s chest. Not recognize her? How could anyone who met Lena not--?
“Kara.” Sam’s hands tightened on her shoulders. “Her anonymity is not just to maintain her air of mystery, okay? If you out her, you’ll destroy not only her career, but the rest of her life as well. Do you understand that?”
Indignation flashed bright and hot. "What? Of course! I would never-- "
"Good,” Sam assuaged. “I didn't think you would, which is why I invited you."
Sam pulled her hands away from Kara's shoulders. In their wake, Kara’s mind started to race. On cue, her cheeks grew hot with embarrassment. "Oh, my god, I'm such an idiot."
"Why? Because you didn't guess she was a gold tier bondage artist?"
"I-- she let me practice knots on her during class. I-- I thought--" God. She'd thought she was hot shit for having practiced ahead of time, and then proceeded to absolutely bomb her first attempt at the double column. "She must think I'm an idiot."
"No, she didn’t.” Sam promised. “It was a learning environment-- no one expected you to have any prior knowledge. But…”
Sam shrugged. “I was surprised to hear she’d done that. Any rigger in this room would have given their left leg to be in your shoes that day."
Kara clenched her eyes shut. Oh god oh god oh god---
"She must have seen something special in you."
"I’m such an idiot."
“Hey.” Sam interrupted Kara’s self-reproach with a rub of her arm. "Look at me.”
Kara blinked, and received Sam’s gentle smile with eyes that burned with tears.
“Lena isn't embarrassed by what she does,” Sam told her calmly. “You shouldn't be either."
In the center of the room, a crowd had once again formed around Lena’s exhibit. Kara couldn’t see her anymore, only the eerie light shining down on her. She could readily conjure her image to her mind’s eye-- most specifically, the self-assurance with which she’d met Kara’s eye, despite her nudity, despite her bondage. There’d been no shame.
Morrigan Bound was a demonstration of constrained power-- and it was Lena’s power that brought it to life.
“Yeah,” Kara exhaled. “Yeah, no, I-- I get it.”
It was art. Beautiful art. Art that Europa and her fellow models proudly showed off for them.
“Deep breath, babe," Sam encouraged, giving Kara’s arm another rub. "You got this."
"Yeah. I got this."
A chime sounded then, and on cue the crowds started drifting towards another section of the warehouse, previously hidden behind a line of curtains that were now parted to reveal tall tables and platters of hors d'oeuvres.
"Come on,” Sam urged. “Let's go get some food while they reset. We're gonna get you some learning opportunities tonight if it's the last thing I do."
Sam made good on her promise. By the end of the apps and hors d'oeuvres, Kara had the names and numbers of three different riggers in the area willing to answer questions, and a few directions to follow to continue looking for resources on her own. One of the men she met was hosting a seminar further up the coast the following week, and told her to just give her name if she was interested in enrolling.
"The circles are small," Sam explained as they moved back into the main event space. "The good riggers are eager to share their knowledge with people genuinely interested in learning."
The live presentations proved more than fun. The previous exhibits had all cleared out, and the lights came up on the main stage to illuminate two new riggers, and a pair of models who appeared to be twins. Kara watched with a grin on her face, delighting in the way the twins giggled as their riggers bound them into simple, but playful positions. She soaked in the high spirits of those around her.
It was a coming together, of like minds and various levels of acquaintance. Everyone seemed to know someone, bound by a mutual love for rope and knots and the bodies within them. After the twins’ demonstration came to a close, the exhibit lights came up once more, this time creating islands of visibility where riggers and models engaged in short seminars and a smattering of Q&As with some of the featured artists.
Kara bounced between everything, anxious not to miss a single thing. The seminars held her attention more than the panels. She needed to know the how, not the why, and got it in spades. Her fingers twitched with the need to take notes, for the familiar feel of pen and paper. Instead she struggled to absorb everything, and internalize it before it call came dribbling out the opposite ear.
And if she kept an eye out for Len-- no, Europa-- she kept it her own secret.
When the panels started to wrap up, Sam came looking for her.
"Come on,” she urged. She grabbed Kara’s hand and tugged her towards the main stage area. “It's almost time!"
Kara's enthusiasm thrummed pleasantly in her stomach, her nerves eased by the drinks in her system and the energy in the room. It wasn’t long before the lights dimmed and the music shifted to a dramatic, pulsing vamp, Kara's stomach swooped with excitement.
"Ladies and gentlemen, please put your hands together for James Olsen and Europa!"
Sam burst into a bellow of enthusiastic cheers as the room exploded at the sight of the two silhouettes walking onto the stage. Laser lights danced across the stage until they hit center, and stepped into twin spotlights.
James stood tall in the rigger’s uniform of the night of black tank and black loose yoga pants. He grinned and waved a brief hello, but there was a distance to it that Kara recognized as deep concentration. Beside him Lena looked small and luminescent, dressed in a black bandeau and matching yoga shorts.
Despite the height imbalance, Lena exuded radiance, even from behind the mask still affixed to her cheeks. She lifted one arm in a wave, and then the music idled, giving the pair a moment of quiet to share a moment of joined hands and deep eye contact before breaking apart.
James went to his table of materials, and Lena planted herself center stage, exposing her back to the audience to face upstage.
Where the twins had knelt to start their sessions, Lena stood tall and powerful with her feet under her shoulders and shoulders back. She looked like a gymnast preparing to back flip, weight centered and muscles coiled, but when James neared, she slowly drew her hands in front and then slowly lifted out and up, before folding them behind her head.
The music stuttered and tripped rhythmically as James quickly wove a harness between her shoulders and across her chest. As he worked, the large screen behind the pair came to life with aesthetic close ups of his fingers deftly working the rope into knots. The clips stuttered through different tint, playing with shadow and light in an artful counterpoint to the technique happening on stage. Despite the entertainment factor, Kara sees mastery in every turn of the rope, the cinch of every knot.
Kara tried to keep her eyes focused on the pair, rather than the screen. She absorbed the way James' lips moved as he worked, and how Lena nodded minutely in response to his check ins.
"They've worked together for years," Sam all but shouted into Kara's ears over the music. On stage, James took Lena's hand and lifted it as though twirling her for a waltz. Lena turned to face the audience, revealing an ornate pattern of interwoven patterns. "Their dynamic is the best you'll find in the business."
Kara believed it. Where the twins had boasted an air of informality, competency without gravitas... this was pure showmanship. It was a performance, and a heart stopping one at that.
She could see the care James took with Lena as he helped her kneel on a black yoga mat. Their fingers squeezed in mutual affirmation before he stepped back to his table, and selected another length of rope.
This one he looped around her left ankle, then threaded around shin and thigh multiple times before cinching them together. The end result was an ankle bound to thigh in an elegant tie that Kara belatedly recognized as a futomomo.
Oh, wow. Kara noted in curiosity that James had chosen to leave the tails long, as though he had a separate purpose for them.
James stepped away, leaving to Lena stay kneeling, eyes downcast to show only the shadowed skin inside the mask. When James returned, Lena presented one wrist, held in front of her face in a closed fist as though she were Wonder Woman bracing behind her gauntlet.
As the first rope enclosed her wrist, a smattering of cheers traveled across the audience, which only increased to a roar as her bound wrist was carefully brought behind her. Her free hand came up and hovered behind her head until James snared it in a loop of its own, shortening the rope between them until her fingertips nearly touched. He anchored the join at the back of her neck, reducing the give and providing a degree of support.
As a finishing touch, James threaded the tails of the futomomo around her upper wrist. The choice made Kara pause-- to her untrained eye, it didn’t seem to serve any purpose. It seemed odd in a tie where every knot was either beautiful or pragmatic, and often both, but the crowd didn’t seem to agree. They cheered, and only increased in volume as James stepped back.
When their cries whipped up into a frenzy, Kara assumed it was in appreciation for the way Lena knelt in continued stillness, her flexibility and tension on full display. It was several long moments before Kara realized the cheers were for the metal ring slowly descending from the ceiling.
Kara's heart tripped in her chest.
"Cheer a little!" Sam urged, bouncing on her toes between screams. "They've worked hard for this!"
Shaken from her stupor, Kara cheered as James threaded his next length rope through the metal loop, and then wove it into the harness hugging Lena's shoulders and hips. The music started to crescendo as he tied off the final knot, and knelt for another check in. At Lena's nod, James assumed control of the winch through the remote he removed from his pocket, and very slowly let the ring ascend. He steadied Lena as she pushed onto her unbound leg, which earned a cheer of its own.
The winch lifted her higher, off her toes and into the hold of the harness. The ties and her bodyweight tilted her ever so slightly to the front, but James’ hand steadied her as it trailed from her thigh down to her ankle.
The music revved, crescendoing higher and higher as James paused, and waited until Kara saw the faintest double tap of Lena's toes against the inside of his wrist.
Signal received, James gave Lena a gentle twist.
His hand slipped away as the beat dropped, exploding the stage into shadows and light and throbbing music. Lena hung above them all, twirling slowly for all to see.
All Kara could do was stare, breathless with excitement.
There was little aesthetic to the curve of Lena's spine. It was a tie intended to demonstrate the hold of the knots and Lena's own athleticism, and it succeeded. Lena turned in the air, chest pressed outwards against the cinch of her arms, and her bound leg forced her to keep her free leg straight down, giving the illusion of a ballerina in pirouette.
Or so Kara thought. Just as Lena's spin began to lose steam, she drew both hips underneath and folded her free leg up to match its tethered mate. The shift lent her more rotation, increasing her speed once more. Then, amid the enthusiastic cries of the audience, Lena kipped her hips into a pike, and extended her free leg into a macabre hurdle.
“H--how…?” Kara stuttered to Sam, who leaned in close.
“What?!” she shouted back.
“How does she do that?”
But it was hopeless. The crowd cheered too loud, the music pulsed too deeply for Sam to hear.
James gave the crowd a minute to appreciate the pose, and the light show that came with it, letting the lasers and mist play over the knots and Lena’s pale skin before slowly descending Lena once more. He brought her down onto one foot, but instead of allowing her to kneel for the release, he instead began working again. His hands moved deftly, but his purpose wasn't made apparent until he stepped back, and Lena began to lift once more.
This time, her lower arm was freed, and Kara noticed less tension in the knots binding her ankle and thigh together. Now the tether between her ankle and shoulder was made apparent. James had affixed the shoulder line to the wrist still pulled back behind her head, and she used it to hike her ankle higher behind her head.
The futomomo shifted, then gave to allow an arabesque in attitude, and revealing a web of rope stretching between ankle and thigh. Sweeping her free arm out to the side, Lena created her own rotation, beginning a counterclockwise turn that gave them all a clear view of James' artistry.
Amid the cacophony, and the screams of the crowd-- Lena smiled.
The audience roared at the sight of the toothy grin, fueled by her enjoyment.
Kara screamed right along with them, clapping until her hands numbed. She continued to cheer when the music climaxed and then faded to curtain call the moment Lena touched down again. She whooped and hollered with the crowd around her and Sam at her side as James guided Lena back to kneeling, and then deftly began releasing the ropes.
Only when she was free, on her feet and steady did James turn his attention back to the audience.
"Europa, ladies and gentlemen!" he called. Still beaming, Lena gave a long armed wave and dipped into a brief bow before funneling the attention back towards her rigger.
"James Olsen, everybody!"
She clapped towards him, and stepped back to let him have his own bow. When he had, they joined hands for a final joint bow that earned mightiest applause yet.
"Thank you!" They cried together, but Kara could hardly hear them over the din. "Good night!"
Waving and smiling, they backed upstage until the curtain could close around them, and they were out of sight. The applause continued for long minutes after the curtains closed, only dying when the house lights came back up.
Kara stood rooted as the crowd began to dissipate. Sam waited with her, humorously allowing her to process.
Sam grinned. "Glad you came-- whoah!" She grunted when Kara threw her arms around her in a tight hug.
"Thank you," Kara muttered, voice grinding against the lump in her throat. Her eyes burned with sudden, inexplicable tears. "Thank you, for everything."
"You're welcome," Sam returned, her voice soft with an understanding Kara herself lacked.
Kara pulled away, wiping furtively at her eyes with a sniffle. "Sorry, I don't know why I'm-- ugh."
Sam smiled, and cupped her cheek gently. "Finding your people is a powerful experience. Everyone in this room has been where you are. There's no shame in it. It's a good thing."
Kara nodded tearfully, offering a damp smile.
"Welcome to the club."
Emerging into the cool night air outside the warehouse, Kara felt… raw. Tender. As though she’d shed some old skin and her entire being throbbed with the sensation of a whole new world. She tilted her head back and breathed.
“You said it,” Sam agreed blithely, firing off a grin when Kara blinked at her. “You hungry?”
“Honestly? I’m still not sure I’m not gonna vomit.”
“Coffee it is.” Sam stuck out her hand. “C’mon. My treat.”
Kara hesitated, casting a glance over her shoulder at the emptying warehouse. “Should… should we wait?”
The thought of seeing Lena again tonight nearly made her brain implode, but she suggested it knowing Sam was friends with both Lena and James.
To her relief, Sam shook her head no. "They’ll be knee deep in after care by now. We won't hear from them again until tomorrow morning."
Oh . A heavy weight settled in Kara's stomach. The air between Lena and James during the show had been magnetic-- paired with Sam's news, it suggested an intimacy that made Kara's heart dip in disappointment.
"Are they, um, you know..."
Sam’s eyebrows lifted incredulously. "Dating? Hah! No, Lena's gayer than an Irish leprechaun. Things between her and James are deeply professional."
"Oh.” Kara nodded, processing the new information as it floated through her consciousness. “Okay."
Maybe Kara could work with that. Sam seemed to be on the same page, because she leaned in with a knowing smile.
"Lena works until four tomorrow."
When Kara stepped into White Dahlia the following afternoon, her eyes immediately scanned for Lena. She found her behind the counter, wrapping a leather harness in tissue paper for a customer, chatting animatedly.
It took everything she had not to stare at Lena back in her torn jeans, with a light scarf styled artfully loose around her neck. Her eyes seemed to glitter with same flecks of silver that ran through the fabric, catching the light as Lena took the woman’s card and ran it through the reader.
Kara lurked behind the rack of lubricants, staring sightlessly at the labels as her eyes caught on the glint of pewter rings on long fingers with every tilt of Lena’s hand. Conversation options ran through her head, starting and stopping in quick order.
Last night was…
Not one of them lingered in her brain for more than a moment, all of them evaporating the moment the door dinged to signal the customer’s exit. Kara looked up and met Lena’s gaze over the top of the rack.
Just like the night before, electricity shot from the top of Kara’s spine to the pit of her stomach. Her heart started to race, and only pounded harder when Lena reached up to tuck her hair behind her ear.
Kara lurched into motion, moving towards the counter. A lump lodged in her throat, even as her face split into a smile.
Last night was…
“Hi," was all that came out.
Lena ducked her chin, then glanced up through her lashes. "Hi.”
Last night was…
All those conversation starters flickered again, then floated away. Kara blinked and looked away, flushing under Lena’s gaze. But when Lena didn’t speak, Kara realized she was waiting for her to make the next move.
Warmth pooled in the pit of her belly. Last night had been a surprise. Maybe Lena knew Kara might show, maybe she didn’t. But Kara definitely hadn’t expected the run in, and therefore she was the unknown variable.
Whatever happened next, was up to her.
Kara coughed a laugh, releasing her anxiety in a whoosh of air.
"Can I buy you a coffee?"
Pink lips lifted in a familiar smile.
"I'm off in ten."
Ten minutes later, Lena led the way to a small coffeeshop Kara had never noticed before. It shared the same strip as White Dahlia, but tucked off around the corner on a side of the building otherwise occupied by service entrances. It was privately owned and empty save for the middle aged woman behind the counter, who grinned at Lena’s wave of greeting.
“Hi, Val,” Lena said, making her way to the till. “Small coffee, please. Black.”
Eager to get the conversation weighing heavily in the air between them, Kara also kept it simple. “Americano for me. Thanks.”
They waited for their drinks, trading quiet glances until two mugs slid across the counter towards.
Kara appreciated the privacy of the empty shop as Lena headed for a pair of plush easy chair occupying a secluded corner. She couldn’t imagine having this conversation in a crowded space. Still, she felt Val’s presence behind the counter keenly.
When they sat, Kara waited, hoping Lena would fill the silence of her own volition. She didn’t, confirming the ball was still in Kara’s court.
Do not blow this.
“I’m sorry,” she blurted, earning a pair of raised eyebrows from Lena.
“Last night, I-- If I’d known you were going to be there, I wouldn’t have gone.”
"Oh." Suddenly, Lena features fell, before recovering with a deprecating smile. "Have to say that's the first time I've heard that."
Kara jolted in her seat, eyes flying open as she quickly scrambled. “No! I don’t mean--”
Cutting herself off mid-splutter, she ran a hand over her face.
Then she took a breath, and tried again.
“Sorry,” she said. “This is all really new. And I worry that I stepped on your privacy.”
Lena’s features softened. “You didn’t.”
“You wear a mask,” Kara reminded her. “Pretty sure I wasn’t supposed to recognize you.”
For a long moment, no response came. When Kara tore her gaze from the steaming foam of her coffee, she found Lena regarding her with a fathomless gaze.
“Did you enjoy it?” Lena asked.
Kara coughed into a laugh, cheeks heating. Her gaze wandered, nervous under the direct question that gave no room for obfuscation.
“Yes.” Kara curled her hands around her mug. “More than I’ve ever enjoyed anything else.”
“Then you were exactly where you were meant to be.”
Kara’s stomach bottomed out at the certainty that sat low in Lena’s voice. Green eyes held her gaze unwaveringly. “I only wear a mask when I can’t control who might see me. Events like last night, photo shoots, that sort of thing.” She shrugged, twisting her saucer under her cup. “I’m not ashamed of what I do, but if my family ever found out…”
Oh god. If Alex ever knew what Kara had been getting into… She couldn’t even imagine what her sister’s reaction might be. Alex loved her, but Kara remembered how her sister had reacted to the pink dildo, and the way she’d hidden her face in humiliation at the very thought of her baby sister in a sex shop.
Kara doubted a bondage kink would go over much better.
“I understand,” Kara said softly. She chewed her lip. Looking up, the image of Lena pounded in time to her heartbeat. “So you’re okay with me seeing you? Like that?”
The smile that answered was quickly growing familiar, and Kara warmed under the implied tease. “Well that all depends,” Lena murmured.
“Whether you liked what you saw.”
Kara’s ears started to ring, only fading when she remembered to breathe a moment later. Could she melt into the floor? Because that option would be preferable to Lena witnessing the deep, unmistakable blush that rose from Kara’s chest to the top of her head. She assumed Lena could hear the staccato thumping of her heart, and didn’t bother trying to fib.
“The display,” Kara hedged, in deference to the two teenagers who had just walked in the door, “was breathtaking.”
That, Kara discovered, was the right answer. Lena’s eyes warmed with delight, and it was her turn to flush. Pale skin reddened in broad splotches, soon evening out to a smooth blush.
“So if I were to ask you on a proper date? Say, dinner?”
Goddammit, Kara. Don’t give her an excuse to rethink it.
But Lena chuckled, tossing her hair over her shoulder. “Might as well,” she drawled. “You’ve already seen my tits, so…”
Kara choked on air, spluttering into a shocked laugh. “Oh my god! Lena!”
She burst into giggles. Lena grinned, devilish as she basked in Kara’s mirth. The heavy spell of her allure lifted, and suddenly, she was just a person again. Kara laughed and laughed, as her tension melted away.
Lena was still there. Kara hadn’t ruined anything. Not by stumbling into a masked Lena the night before, not with her inexperience or floundering attempts to navigate uncharted waters. Lena was still there, making jokes and looking at Kara like she could drink in the sound of Kara’s laugh and never go thirsty again.
“Oh my god,” Kara echoed weakly, laughter fading to chuckles. She wiped her eyes. “I… wasn’t expecting that.”
Lena grinned. “Industry humor.” Under the table, she nudged Kara’s ankle with a gentle foot. “The offer is genuine, though. I’d really like to know you better, Kara.”
Suddenly, Kara felt her reclaimed breath escape her lungs once more-- this time for a whole other reason. It took her a long moment to recover enough to speak.
“I would love to.”
Lena leaned forward in her seat. "How about tonight?"
"Great." Lena pushed to her feet, gathering her bag and downing her drink in one final swallow. "Let's go."
"Wait--what?” Kara stuttered. “Like, now?"
"Are you busy?"
"No, but I'm not dressed-- you said tonight?"
Lena checked her watch, completely unconcerned. "It's a quarter to five, by the time we get there it will be officially evening."
Kara quickly gathered her things, excitement buzzing at her nerves. "You don't like to waste time, do you?"
When she looked up, Lena had leaned in to prop one hand on the table, bringing her nose intimately close to Kara's. Kara gulped.
"I’ve wanted to ask you out since the day we met," Lena informed her, voice like silk. "I planned to do it the next time you came in, but you avoided me for three weeks until you came to James' class. I'm not about to let you slip away again, Miss Danvers."
She held eye contact for another beat, then smirked when she saw Kara's eyes flicker to her lips.
"We'll get to that too," she purred. "I assure you."
Kara cleared her throat. "You make an offer a I can't refuse," she returned.
"That's my hope." She pushed away from the table, and smoothly placed her cup into the dish bin on her way towards the exit. "Coming?"
Kara grinned as she ditched her own cup and bundled her bag into her arms. By the time she'd caught up with Lena, she'd managed to get the strap over her shoulder, skipping just a bit to fall into stride next to Lena.
"You should know that if you keep saying things like that,” Kara accused, “a girl's liable to float away."
Lena threaded their arms together with a sidelong glance. "Then I guess I’ll have to tie you down then, won’t I.”
"Isn't that my job?"
Silence answered her.
An immediate wave of panic flooded through Kara. She immediately began to scramble.
"Oh, god, that was too soon, I'm so sorry, I didn't mean--"
Lena burst into laughter, silencing Kara’s fumbling with a squeeze. "No, no, that was a good one! Just took me a minute." She giggled again, leaning into Kara’s shoulder. "Oh, I think I'm going to like you, Kara Danvers."
Kara's heart fluttered in response.
She sure hoped so.
Lena's dinner place turned out to be roadside barbeque, and their impromptu date took place at a wooden table amidst a sea of stained and crumpled napkins.
"You're right," Kara mumbled around a mouthful of ribs. "I love it."
“I know right?” Lena grinned from behind her pulled pork sandwich. With her scarf and rings, she was by far the most styled person in the parking lot, but no one gave her a second glance. Except Kara. Who had to fight to keep herself from staring as Lena used one hand to protect her scarf from drips with each bite. "I found this place last month, and I cannot stay away."
"I can see why. I am definitely bringing my sister here."
A dark eyebrow lifted. "Is this the one getting, ah... married?"
Kara grinned at the reminder of what else her sister is getting, thanks to her supposedly “gag” bachelorette party gift. It didn’t make her blush anymore, these days.
"Yes. I only have the one. She's great, and I love her to death, but--"
"Sometimes the urge to throttle is just overwhelming?"
Kara sat back on her bench, regarding Lena with a knowing gaze. "Sounds like you know from experience."
"Older brother. The golden child."
“Oh.” Kara shifted uncomfortably. “You might have more in common with Alex, then.”
“She’s younger? And she’s getting married already?”
“No. The golden child thing.” Kara waved it away, desperate to banish the queasy feeling squeezing at her now overfull stomach. “The Danvers adopted me when I was twelve, and looking back now, I can see that I got away with a lot more than I should have. And I’m only just starting to realize that the criticisms I should have gotten didn’t just go poof. They just got dumped onto Alex instead...”
She trailed off when she looked up from her styrofoam plate to find Lena staring at her with a dopey grin on her face. Instinctively, Kara wiped at her chin with a napkin. “What? Do I have--”
“Oh. Um, yeah?” No one had ever looked quite so excited about that fact.
The queasiness disappeared in an instant. “Are you serious?” Lena nodded. “Wow! Small world. So, your family… you mentioned they wouldn’t approve of your career choice. Are they conservative?”
Sipping at her Diet Coke, Lena shook her head. Stained fingers waved it off. “Everyone assumes it’s a religious thing, but it’s not. It’s just that in my family there are certain expectations that all of us are held to. There's been a space for me stamped into their lives since the day they got me, and if I can't manage to fit myself into that mold, then..."
Kara watched helplessly as Lena shrugged. As much as she wished she couldn’t fathom how a family wouldn’t be proud of what Lena did, she wasn’t an idiot. The stigma around kink and sexuality didn’t care that Lena was at her most powerful when she was bound with rope and hanging on display in front of a warehouse of admiring visitors. It didn’t care how well she was paid or how in demand she was, for her showmanship and professionalism. It didn’t care about the dedication to the craft-- the hours and hours of practice and preparation she and James must have committed to perfecting their demonstration, or the artistry it took to put together a show like that.
“I know it sounds bratty,” Lena continued, worrying a napkin in the fingers of one hand, “but there were times I felt more like an accessory than a true member of the family. Especially where my mom is concerned. It’s just… easier, for them not to know.”
Nodding again, with more enthusiasm, Kara met Lena’s gaze with a gentle smile. “I get it,” she offered gently. “Not the accessory thing-- the Danvers always did their best to ensure I felt included. But I definitely understand the feeling of being apart from things sometimes. No matter how hard they tried, and I tried... there were times I still felt so alien, y'know?"
Lena nodded. "Yeah. Wow, though." Her nose wrinkled in delight, dispelling the solemn cloud that had gathered over them. “It’s nice to find someone who gets it.”
"I know! What are the odds?"
"Better than you might think,” Lena returned in a sly voice. “You know Sam's adopted too, right?"
"What? No way!"
"Yes way! She was a TA of mine in undergrad, and that was one of the things we bonded over when I was the only nerd who showed up to her study sessions.”
Lena picked up her pulled pork sandwich, covering her scarf with hand to protect it from drips. Kara returned to her own ribs, reaching for the nearest bottle of sauce to drown her meat. She paused a moment later, squinting at Lena in puzzlement.
Nodding, Lena swallowed. “I’m in grad school at UC Stanhope."
Kara gasped, nearly inhaling her mouthful of pork. More commonly known as the “Ivy of the West Coast”, Stanhope was prestigiously difficult to get into and even more so to pay for. And grad school-- Lena didn’t look any older than Kara, who was only just entering her senior year of undergrad.
Lena dismissed her awe with a wave of her hand. "Don’t be too impressed,” she explained, “I started early.”
Sensing Lena’s desire to skirt the topic, Kara swallowed her shock. Still, she earmarked the conversation for later.
“Is that how you two met?”
“She was a young mom trying to make ends meet while she was getting White Dahlia up and running. I was just plain young, and chafing under the fact that my mother was leveraging my tuition and living costs to get me to fly back and forth to Metropolis almost every weekend. It was exhausting, but there wasn’t anything I could do to say know. It was Sam’s suggestion that I get a job, and earn enough to pay rent if my mom ever cut me off.”
“That’s… really smart.”
Lena nodded. “When I was 18 she offered me a job at White Dahlia, and… I never left.” Lena’s smile deepened, softening into something intimate. “I’m so grateful to her for it.”
“Is that how... everything else started?”
Lena nodded, but didn’t take it any further than that. Kara earmarked that one too.
"What are you studying?" Kara asked finally. She reached for her lemonade, and watched Lena's eyes light up with enthusiasm.
"Chemical and biomolecular engineering."
Kara blinked in shock, then grimaced. "Is it bad that I assumed you were a performance major?"
To her relief, Lena just laughed. "Not at all. Some of my best friends are performance majors."
Covering her eyes with a groan, Kara sagged onto her elbows. Her chagrin earned another giggle from Lena, promising all was forgiven. Still grimacing, Kara propped her chin on her fist, and watched Lena eat.
“So you’re like super smart,” she said. “Wait-- you’re at one of the most prestigious universities pursuing one of the most rigorous course of studies… and your brother is the golden child?”
Dark eyebrows shrugged good-naturedly. “Go figure, right?” Lena drawled, before flipping the conversation back on Kara. “What about you? Are you a student?”
Kara nodded. “NCU.”
“What’s your major? No, no, wait! Let me guess.”
“Turnabout is fair play. Assume away.”
Setting her fork down, Lena regarded Kara with a studious gaze. "Sports science."
Kara blinked, straightening in surprise. " What? Why on earth would you think that??"
“Because I have eyes,” Lena returned, eyes flickering across Kara’s shoulders. “Don't try to tell me the arms I saw last night are god-given."
She saw you, whispered a quiet voice in the back of Kara’s mind. Her mouth went dry at the thought. She’d been so caught up in the fact she’d recognized Lena through her mask that she hadn’t even stopped to consider that Lena had seen her-- in the dress that bared her arms and made her feel powerful, on heels that had made her legs seem longer, with her hair soft and loose.
Lena had seen her.
“Oh,” Kara coughed, shifting on her bench. “No. I mean I don’t lift, or anything. I’ve just always played a lot of sports? I even went intramural for a while, before my course load picked up.”
Dark eyebrows lifted in a languid smirk. “Could’ve fooled me.”
Kara stuffed a roll of cornbread into her mouth… All of it. She then spent the next eternity trying to chew it, until Lena started giggling again. Kara almost started laughing too-- until she nearly choked on crumbs and had to gulp at her Dr. Pepper to clear it.
When she could finally speak again, she managed to find her way back to the original question. "I'm a mass comm major."
A beat passed. "Really."
Kara rolled her eyes good-naturedly, as though Lena’s lack of enthusiasm didn’t sting, just a little. "Okay, you don't have to sneer at it!"
"I'm not,” Lena replied evenly. “What do you plan to do with it?"
Kara shrugged. "I dunno. I haven't really thought ahead that far."
“I dunno… After seeing you learn knots to prep for an intro rope class, I guess I kind of assumed you’d be the kind of person to have a job lined up already.” Lena shrugged. “I don’t mean anything by it. Plenty of people don’t have anything in the bag for after graduation.”
Maybe it was the fact that Lena was a prodigy going to an elite school. Maybe it was the lack of awe that came with Lena’s comment that made Kara’s stomach drop out from under her. But Lena was right. Kara had thrown herself into the bondage scene with both feet and just started swimming towards what she wanted. If she’d loved her field of study half as much, she’d know what her next step was.
“To be honest…” she confessed, running her finger along the wood grain of their picnic table. “It’s never really been my thing. Even college in general-- it’s just something that was expected. I almost majored in art, but Eliza was worried I wouldn’t be able to apply it towards a career, and I guess that scared me into a major that was more marketable.”
“There’s nothing wrong with that,” Lena assured her. She offered a smile. “And you don’t need to major in art to be successful in it.”
Except Kara didn’t feel all that strongly about art either. In high school it had been her sole creative outlet, a stand-in for friends she didn’t have and a way to process the emotions she never seemed to have the words to express. Colors were her poems, and she still enjoyed it… but it wasn’t her passion.
“I hate that I’m supposed to have my life figured out already. We’re told what to do and when to do it for twenty years, and then the second we graduate high school we’re supposed to spend tens of thousands of dollars towards a degree we don’t even know we’ll like? Or that we’ll be able to use it?”
Throwing her crumpled napkin on the table, Kara slumped in her seat, defeated. Quiet stretched in the air, broken only by the conversations of the other patrons around them and the occasional buzz of cars passing. When she dared to look up, Lena gazed back at her with concern in her eyes.
Kara forced a smile. “Sorry. It’s just… the closer I get to graduating, the more it feels like none of the past four years even mattered. Like I’m… trapped.” She shook her head. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to put a damper on everything. Way to kill the mood, huh.”
A warm hand stretched towards her, reaching for Kara’s hand. Lena held her gaze, deep with understanding. “I get it.” A small huff of a mirthless laugh puffed out of her. “More than you might think.”
Though Kara waited before responding, Lena didn’t share anything more. Kara straightened, reaching to reclaim the levity she’d ruined. “I bet you have your career planned out, Miss Prestigious Grad School.”
Lena smirked. “One would think.”
Again, she offered nothing more. Kara rushed to fill the silence. “Well, you showed me your food place. Can I show you mine for dessert?”
A dark eyebrow lifted playfully, easily falling back into the banter.
“On the first date? You better be careful or I might think you’re trying to take advantage.”
Kara rolled her eyes, seemingly impervious to Lena’s innenduous charm despite the tiny thrill that raced down her spine.
“I meant ice cream,” she returned. She smirked, lifting an eyebrow of her own. “Unless you’re already too full?”
“One thing you should know about me, Miss Danvers, is that I have many appetites.” Lena’s challenge came with a Cheshire grin that shot a bolt of arousal straight through Kara’s belly. “Do your worst.”
Kara’s secret weapon was ice cream from her favorite shop. Rich, creamy, and entirely too filling, she came close to eking a defeat out of Lena. But not quite.
She watched, bewitched, as Lena swiped her tongue around the rim of her cone, catching the languid drips of black raspberry chocolate chip that threatened to escape. Licking lightly at her own scoop of mint chip, Kara stared with flushed cheeks.
“You’re right-- it’s good,” Lena conceded, breaking the silence. “And dangerously close to the shop.”
“On Sundays they do ice cream sandwiches.” Kara watched Lena’s lips press into soft ice cream, pinching off another mouthful. Suddenly, she felt another rush of nervousness course through her. Her gaze dropped to her fingers, sticky with wayward smears of mint ice cream. “Would you maybe, um... want to come back? This weekend? With me?”
A dreadful, awkward silence followed. Kara’s gaze flickered up, ready to see reticence or even outright refusal. Instead, she realized with a jolt that Lena was gazing at her, eyes focused somewhere around Kara’s lips.
Lena blinked, coming back to herself with a jolt. She blinked over reddening cheeks. “Sorry?”
Kara smiled in spite of herself. “I asked if you’d like to come back on Sunday?”
“I would love to,” Lena replied, “but…”
Kara spirits fell as quickly as they’d risen. Holding her breath, she braced herself for the excuse that was sure to come.
“I can see you again sooner than that, right?”
There was an earnestness in Lena’s expression that defied explanation, and filled Kara with a warmth that bubbled in her core and spread outward until every inch of her tingled.
“Y-yeah,” she croaked. “Yeah, we can-- we can definitely do that, if-- if you want.”
Lena inched her chair closer in a series of undignified scoots, its metal feet scraping noisily across the cement patio. She leaned close, eyes flickering down to Kara’s lips before rising to meet Kara’s gaze intently. “I want.”
In that moment, Kara had only one wish of her own, and it spilled out of her in a single breath. “Pleaseletmekissyou.”
Their mouths met in a collision of lips and ice cream. Stars sparked behind Kara’s eyelids, and her ears whined in a tinny echo as her heart slowed, then accelerated into a sprinting gallop. Somehow, her free hand found Lena’s cheek, stroking soft skin that heated under her touch. The smallest of whimpers pulled from Lena’s lips when they pulled back, her eyes wide and fevered as they both sat, stunned and delighted.
When Lena smiled, bringing a trembling hand to her lips, Kara felt her heart melt.
Lena cleared her throat, busying herself with a napkin. “Well, I know what flavor I’m getting on Sunday,” she announced. “That mint chip is delicious.”
They walked back to the parking lot hand in hand. Kara sported a new stain on the collar of her shirt, courtesy of a forgotten cone dripping liberally, but Lena remained pristine, and Kara could barely tear her eyes away. When they reached their cars, Kara leaned into Lena, bumping shoulders. "You know, I don't even know your last name. I mean, it kind of doesn't matter. I feel like I already know the part that's important."
"But you know, if I were to send you flowers, and they asked for a last name, what should I tell them?"
Lena paused for only a second. "Carmichael. Lena Carmichael."
Kara absorbed the information with a nod, smiling playfully. Fully aware that she was lingering, she forced herself to start backing in the direction of her own car, but couldn’t quite get her fingers to release. Their arms stretched between them, pulling another smile to Lena’s lips.
“Well, Lena Carmichael… Until next time.”
A pink tongue darted out to moisten soft lips. “Next time.”
Their fingers parted, and Kara continued to walk backwards. Lena watched her go, eyes warm with affection. For the first time in her life, Kara wished she had a camera to capture the moment, and the way the sun glinted against Lena’s hair, and the glow of the soft smile that followed Kara until she folded herself into the driver’s seat.
She waited for Lena to drive out first, heart pounding as her shaking hands gripped the steering wheel. Only after Lena’s sedan disappeared around the corner did Kara feel herself breathe again.
And then freeze when she realized they hadn’t decided when next time would be.
Or traded phone numbers.
“Shit!” Kara cursed, fumbling for her phone. “Shit shit shit…”
She opened Sam’s contact entry, intent on begging the woman for Lena’s number-- and a protracted explanation assuring her that she wasn’t a creepy stalker customer creeping on Lena. Before she could press the button, however, her phone buzzed with an incoming text.
The number was unfamiliar, but the text sent a flood of endorphins rushing through Kara’s veins.
And when is next time, exactly?
(Sam gave me your number)
Hope that’s okay.
Kara laughed, pressing shaking fingers to her mouth before tapping out a reply.
More than okay.
How about tomorrow?
Over the course of the following week, Kara saw Lena no less than three times. After ice cream sandwiches, their schedules conflicted enough that official dates weren’t feasible, but Kara found herself drifting over to White Dahlia more and more.
Her excuse was that the coffee shop around the corner had hooked her with their americano, and figured bringing a cup for Lena was only the polite thing to do. But by the third week, the truth was Kara had yet to lose the thrill of Lena’s delighted smile whenever Kara arrived with her coffee order.
Sometimes she brought one for Sam too, just to help herself feel a little less stalkery.
"Hey Sam!” she greeted brightly. “Lena busy?"
"She's in a fitting with a client,” Sam returned from behind the counter. “Could be a while."
"That's okay, I'll just leave this with you. Here's yours,” she announced, delivering a chai latte with a smile, “and here's Lena's... black with two sugars."
"Black with--” Sam stopped herself with a muttered curse, covering her eyes with one hand. “Jesus christ that girl is going to be the death of me."
Kara’s stare bounced between Sam and the coffee, stomach fluttering in panic. “What's wrong?"
"Did she tell you that was her order?" Sam asked, straightening with a long-suffering sigh.
"Oh, well,” Kara stuttered nervously. “No? Not exactly, but-- it was what she ordered the first time we got coffee, so I just--"
"And she never bothered to correct you.” Sam rolled her eyes, pulling a long sip of her tea for patience. “Grade A lesbian material right there."
"Her drink is a white mocha frap with one pump hazelnut and whip," Sam explained gently. She met Kara’s gaze, and the kind understanding Kara found there was the only thing that kept her from bolting. "I don't why she ordered that swill the first time, but it is the absolute furthest thing from her preference."
Kara desperately fished through her memories, searching for an explanation. Nothing stood out. Come to think of it, Kara wasn’t even sure Lena had finished her coffee that time. They’d ended early to go to dinner. Crap.
Kara stared at the offending coffee, weighed her options, then looked Sam in the eye.
She marched back to the coffeeshop, and less than five minutes later returned with a large white mocha frap with hazelnut and whip.
"For the wench?" Sam surmised, a teasing glint in her eye.
"For the wench," Kara confirmed. "If anyone here actually likes black coffee, they can have it."
"Gotta run. Tell Lena I'll yell at her later."
"Gladly. Later Kar."
Five minutes later, Kara received a picture via text-- her tribute, accompanied by a heart eyes emoji. A message shortly followed.
LC: Sam’s a pest, but thank you.
Kara grinned, fumbling a reply even as she booked it into her lecture building.
KD: You're lucky I'm going into a lecture. You're getting one of your own as soon as I'm done.
LC: Only if it's in person.
The next text bubble contained an unfamiliar address.
LC: I'll make dinner.
Kara absorbed precisely zero percent of her lecture, using the time to instead scribble unrelated notes into her spiral between counting minutes until the time was up and the professor released them back into the wild. Kara raced to her car, firing off a quick note to Lena that she was on her way before pulling up her GPS. It led her to the south side of the city, and she soon found herself driving through a quiet neighborhood lined with trees and flowering window boxes.
Pulling in along a curb, she discovered that the unit Lena had listed was the lower half of a duplex. Kara trotted down the short flight of steps from street level to Lena's door and knocked briskly.
“Hi,” she greeted with a grin when the door opened to reveal Lena in leggings and a worn band tee. She was also barefoot.
“Hi,” Lena greeted back, flashing a delighted grin. Her hands reached out and pulled Kara in, closing the door behind them. “Thanks for coming.”
"This isn't the kind of place I imagined you lived in.” She let Lena take her messenger bag and deposit it next to the pile of shoes against the wall. Kara’s flats quickly joined the heap. "I like it."
"Thanks, me too." Lena led the way to a small kitchen, where the stove sizzled with chicken parm in progress. "My mother once said if someone was going to live below street level, they might as well live in the gutter. So of course when I left home I toured sub levels exclusively."
Despite the narrow entrance, the interior of Lena's apartment felt roomy, with a wide living room housing only a couch and a bookshelf, adjoining an open kitchen with ample counter space. One of the things Kara noticed was that the space felt like Lena, somehow. Relaxed, and unassuming, but bold. Confident.
She also didn’t have a television.
They made small talk until dinner was ready, and over the decidedly delicious meal Kara pretended she’d paid enough attention to her lecture that it had been good, interesting, whatever-- all while she watched Lena’s nimble fingers twirl pasta around her fork and then leverage each mouthful to her lips without spilling a drop of sauce.
It wasn’t until they retired to Lena’s couch that Kara asked what she really wanted to know.
"Why didn't you tell me I had your order wrong?"
Lena’s cheeks flushed, and her lips twisted into a smile of apology. "Because I appreciated that you noticed. And remembered. It meant a lot."
Oh. “I’d rather get you something you enjoy, though.” Kara gazed at her. “Why didn't you? Order something you liked, I mean."
Lena’s eyes wandered to her lap, where her fingers worried each other. She shrugged. "Habit, I guess."
The question of why Lena would order something she didn’t like as a matter of habit rose and died on Kara’s lips. She felt the air turn heavy, and she shifted tracks abruptly. Pulling out her notepad, Kara revealed the scrawled questions she’d scribbled during her lecture.
“Then to avoid further miscommunication,” she announced crisply, “I've compiled a list of questions for any and every favorite I could think of. I'm going to ask them, and you're going answer."
Lena brightened with a smirk. "So much for nuance, huh?"
"You can't be trusted with nuance."
"Fair point. Ask away, madam interrogator."
Kara uncapped her pen. "Favorite color?"
Favorite season. Spring. Favorite vegetable-- broccoli. And on and on and on. Some spawned more questions, at Lena's suggestion.
Lena tilted her head. "Gonna have to get more specific."
"Favorite food when you had a bad day."
Macaroni and cheese, with greasy bread crumbs on top.
To celebrate? The steamed barbecue pork buns at Angkor Al's.
After a while, the answers to Kara’s questions came with slow-wandering hands and featherlight touches. "Favorite movie."
"Don't have one," Lena obfuscated.
Kara didn’t relent. "Genre, then."
"Does that include slasher flicks?"
"Only if they include the classic elements of suspense. Otherwise it's just torture porn, and I don't go for that." Lena’s fingers trailed up Kara’s bicep. Her knuckle just brushed the side of Kara’s breast, and her entire body came alive with electricity.
"And what," Kara breathed, "kind of porn do you go for?"
"Take a wild guess.”
Lena leaned in, close enough for Kara to smell the scent of her perfume. She nuzzled the edge of Kara’s jaw, soft and intimate. Then her lips found the point of Kara’s pulse.
Kara took a shaky breath, shuddering and heated.
The warm hand that had settled on Kara’s knee moved, slowly stroking up the inside of Kara’s thigh. Kara squirmed, embarrassed Lena would find the heat at the juncture of her legs.
“Is this okay?” she asked. The words vibrated against Kara’s neck.
Kara swallowed. “Yeah.”
Lena smiled against Kara’s throat. “Carry on, then. I see quite a few questions left.”
“Yeah, uh…” The page jumped under Kara’s gaze, as soft lips dipped to her collarbone. A moan grunted in her throat, which turned to a gasp of pleasure when Lena’s hand spread over her thigh, fingers almost brushing her throbbing groin. “In-- in a minute.”
Her pad and pen spilled onto the cushion beside her as Kara twisted to meet Lena. Her hands filled with Lena: Lena’s hips, her skin, warm and soft beneath her thin t-shirt. Lena’s breasts, smoothed by the satin cups of the bra Kara was content to leave be-- for now. All the while, Lena’s lips and tongue tangled with Kara’s. Probing, tasting, nibbling until Kara’s lips throbbed.
When Lena lavished attention on the Kara’s throat, Kara’s questions attempted to resume.
“Fav-- Favorite kiss,” she breathed.
“The kind...” Lena replied, between warm, suckling kisses against Kara’s skin, “that take my breath away.”
Kara rose readily when Lena tugged her to her feet. Stumbling distractedly towards the bedroom, gentle hands pulled Kara’s shirt up and over her head. Kara staggered when her knees collided with the edge of the bed, dropping her ungracefully to the mattress. She stopped, and watched Lena peel her own shirt up and off, casting it aside.
Time froze, as they each drank in the sight of the other. Kara’s cheeks flushed deeper when she saw the heat in Lena’s eyes. The desire. For her.
“You’re so beautiful,” Lena purred. She prowled closer, and straddled Kara’s lap, planting a knee to either side. Kara wrapped her arms around her to help keep her in place, spreading her hands across the smooth skin of her back. Lena settled in, cupping Kara’s face in both hands. “So beautiful.”
Kara planted a trail of kisses down Lena’s throat. She could barely breathe. It felt like a dream, one that could shatter at any moment. But Lena was warm and real and present in her arms, grounding her. In that moment, she wanted to give Lena everything.
She leaned back, looking up into Lena’s eyes with only one last question.
Lena ran her hand through Kara’s hair. “You.”
Kara’s heart stuttered in her chest.
“You,” Lena continued, “flushed, and hot in my bed... writhing in pleasure."
“Holy… fuck.” Warmth gushed to coat the inside of Kara’s panties.
“I’m going to take your pants off,” Lena murmured in her ear. “And then I want to learn what you look like after multiple orgasms.”
Kara could only whimper in response. The sound shifted to a whine when Lena climbed off her lap, deftly reaching for the button of Kara’s pants. With steady, deliberate hands, she released the zipper and prompted Kara to hike her hips off the mattress with a light swat to her thigh. Kara obeyed readily, and in moments the denim slid tantalizingly down her thighs, freeing heated skin to the open air and lifting goosebumps to meet the softness of Lena’s lips and tongue. She kissed Kara from knee to hip, pausing at the hem of Kara’s panties.
Thank god she’d worn the lace.
She hadn’t expected this, hadn’t dared to assume, but ever since they met she’d been more mindful of every article of clothing she wore, every choice of jewelry-- and lingerie. That urge to look nice for Lena paid off when the pads of Lena’s fingers traced the floral lace with gentle care for a long moment before Lena tickled the crook of Kara’s hip with her mouth, suckling at the tendon stretched taut beneath her skin. When sharp teeth nipped smartly, Kara mewled.
Lena drew back, pupils blown wide and utterly breathless.
“That’s the hottest thing I’ve ever heard,” Lena huffed. When she blinked, Kara thought Lena might devour her right then and there.
“New favorite,” Kara quipped, smiling. “Got it.”
“Don’t go giving it away, now,” Lena warned. “I intend to work very, very hard to earn it again.”
She slipped her fingers under Kara’s panties and slid them off. There on her knees, Lena took a moment to simply look. It didn’t even occur to Kara to feel self-conscious-- not with Lena’s tongue just poking out, then swiping surreptitiously at her bottom lip.
The moment her lips made contact, Kara nearly came. Arousal pulsed at her insides, and oozed from her core only to be lapped up by an eager tongue. Arms shaking, Kara struggled to remain upright, to keep the top of Lena’s dark head in sight.
“Oh my god,” she moaned. “Oh god.”
Her breath picked up, sighing wantonly, loud against the moist sounds drifting up from between her legs. She reached to either side of her, but Lena’s sheets offered little purchase to clutch against. Instinctively, she reached for Lena’s head-- only to jerk away at the first touch of soft hair.
Without breaking her rhythm, Lena reached up and found Kara’s hand, guiding it back to rest against her skull. Gently, Lena curled Kara’s fingers into her hair, pressing oh so gently just as her tongue penetrated deep inside Kara in a single stroke.
Kara’s hand pulled sharply in response, but instead of pulling away, Lena began working in earnest. Her free arm curled around Kara’s hips, hugging Kara to her face. In moments, that same mewl popped out of Kara, again and again, with every breath, until they sharpened into sharp cries and Kara’s fingers tightened in long dark hair.
Lena only increased her fervor, quickly carrying Kara over the crest. She only slowed when Kara’s body grew limp, and her fingers relaxed to a slow, cherishing stroke. When Lena sat back on her heels, she met Kara’s gaze with blazing, self-satisfied eyes, even as she wiped the corner of her glistening mouth with long fingers.
“That,” Kara huffed, voice thin and strung, “that was--”
“A beautiful, gorgeous start,” Lena filled in. She rocked forward with a grin. “Come here.”
Kara pushed herself up, meeting Lena like a magnet. Heat and salt met her tongue as their lips collided, soft and bruising at once.
She tugged Lena’s hands, beckoning her closer. “Up. Up up up…” Lena came, crawling over her until Kara was flat on her back and Lena’s fingers were working at the front clasp of her bra, snapping the fastener as though she were unwrapping a Christmas bow. Kara almost lost herself again when Lena swirled her tongue around her left nipple.
“Ugh, no!” Kara growled, snapping back into focus. She shot Lena a feral grin. “My turn.”
Lena wasn’t willing to make it easy. Her tongue and teeth continued to tease, as Kara’s fingers fumbled down Lena’s soft belly to the seam of her leggings. No buttons. Good.
She managed to push the waistband down around Lena’s hips, but then lost patience when Lena continued to fill her senses and her hands itched to return to Lena’s breasts and the soft satin bra still cupping them. But the leggings still needed to be off so with a growl Kara folded her legs at the knee and reached up to hook her big toes under the elastic band, push them the rest of the way down.
Lena paused, looking down and then bursting into laughter at the sight of Kara’s bizarre contortion. “What the--?!” she barked a laugh, then rolled into a guffaw that contorted her entire frame. “What are you doing??”
Kara’s flushed cheeks were met with laughter, restarting every time Lena looked down between their legs and saw the ridiculous position Kara had gotten herself into. Kara weathered it with flushed cheeks and stars in her eye, until Lena almost managed to get herself down to a giggle. “You--! You’re like a monkey!”
“Ooh ooh ahh ahh ahh!” Kara hooted, scratching Lena’s head like an orangutan.
Lena lost it all over again. She laughed and laughed and laughed, howling until her cheeks turned red and tears squeezed from the corners of her eyes. She was still cackling when Kara flipped them, and pushed Lena’s leggings free with nimble toes. Her laughter vibrated the throat Kara lavished with kisses, sending waves of an all new kind of arousal down to her core.
Kara loved this sound.
She could live in the sound of Lena’s mirth.
Finally, Lena dwindled to giggles, and only then did Kara kiss her soundly on the lips, devouring the chuckles still rolling from her.
“You are such a dork,” Lena murmured breathlessly.
“Yeah,” Kara agreed, pausing to dip her tongue briefly into Lena’s mouth. “But you’re the one who laughed.”
She smoothed her palm down Lena’s ribs, delighting in the soft gasp that preceded white teeth trapping her bottom lip. When her fingers dipped below the thatch of coarse dark hair, she was still a little surprised to find that Lena was as wet as she herself had been.
“This okay?” Kara asked, pausing with her fingertips resting on Lena’s labia. The skin felt hot, swollen with arousal.
“God, yes,” Lena gasped. She reached up and captured Kara’s face in both hands, kissing her soundly. “Yes, yes, yes.”
Kara accepted the invitation with a kiss, and slipped her fingers inside. When Lena turned her head aside to gasp for breath, Kara charted a path down her pale neck with teeth and tongue, savoring the salt of Lena’s sweat and the jump and twitch of tendons pulling as Lena’s breath came faster.
Then she kept going, fingers slowing slightly to match the languorous path of her lips down the swell of Lena’s breasts. She pumped steadily, firmly, but slowly enough to prolong Lena’s pleasure. Lena’s eyes pressed shut, with one arm curled around Kara’s shoulders, and her other hand scratching at the sheets for purchase. Kara only increased her pace when Lena’s groans turned sharp with frustration, and this time added another finger.
“Yeah, yeah, fuck--”
Kara obeyed, until she knew Lena was getting close when she dug a heel into the mattress for a better stretch. Kara scissored her fingers, earning a curse and a blasphemous moan. “Fuck… fuck fuck fuck--”
Only then did Kara let her thumb rub against Lena’s clitoris. Lena’s hips bucked in reflex, then began to bounce with every stroke.
“Fuck, yes… Kara, I’m so close,” Lena whimpered, voice strangled by desperation. “Faster--” Kara obeyed, only for Lena to change her mind. “Nng, harder! Harder , harder harder, ah--!”
Kara thrust her fingers in as far and as rough as she could manage with muscles already starting to ache. This time, her thumb bumped against Lena’s clit, and rubbed with all her might.
Lena’s cries sharpened into silence, as her long fingers dug sharply into Kara’s shoulder blades. Her walls clenched tight around Kara’s fingers, gripping her for on interminable, blessed moment. Then, her entire body slowly melted against the mattress.
Perspiration glistened on Lena’s upper lip as Kara returned to her body, and drank in the sight of Lena post-orgasm. Her eyes shone an impossible green, hazy with pupils blown wide.
“You okay?” Kara murmured.
Lena blinked sluggishly. “Better than.”
She ran her fingernails up and down Kara’s bare back, light against her skin. They lay there spent for long moments, letting their breaths calm and skin grow chill with cooling sweat. Then, Lena’s sleepy smile turned devilish.
“Wanna go again?”
Kara bent low to capture Lena’s lips in a searing kiss. “Yes, please.”
Later that night, when they’d both worked themselves to exhaustion and multiple orgasms, they lay motionless atop ravaged sheets, fingers playing idly-- intimately-- with hair and skin. Kara couldn’t bring herself to sleep-- not with Lena’s skin glowing in the shadows, her body warm and soft beside her.
The moment felt tenuously ethereal, a glimmer of a dream Kara could scarcely believe belonged to her. But it was hers. Hers and Lena’s, together. Perfectly.
She almost thought Lena had fallen asleep, until a faint giggle twinkled in the quiet.
“Justin Timberlake died today.”
“What?!” Kara’s wandering thoughts snapped back into focus at her sister’s words. She reached for her phone in blind panic, pulling up her news feed and scrolling frantically. “When?”
“Relax,” Alex drawled, flicking a plastic flower bud in her direction. “I wanted to see how long it took you to remember I was here. Figures that’s what caught your attention. You don’t even want to know what I said about JTT.”
Kara snatched up the bud and pelted it back at her sister before taking up a strand of ribbon. She wound it around the glass jar of m&ms fated to be distributed as a wedding favor, and let her gaze unfocus on the softly colored candies. They were peach and cream, to match Maggie and Alex's wedding colors.
Lena would look good in peach.
She didn’t notice Alex’s stare until a hand reached into her field of vision and covered Kara’s fingers. Blinking from her daydream, Kara glanced up through her bangs to find Alex’s gaze soft and concerned.
“What’s going on?” Alex asked, as gentle as her stare.
Kara grinned, lifting one shoulder in a playful, dismissive shrug. “Nothing! There’s nothing wrong.”
“I didn’t say there was,” Alex returned, not unkindly. Her concern shifted to chagrin. “Look, I know I haven’t checked in with you lately, with all the insanity of the wedding, and I hate that. You’re still my best friend, you know that right?”
Kara smirked, tying a neat bow in the ribbon and sliding the jar along to Alex for hot glue and flower buds. “Second best,” she corrected.
Alex didn’t share her mirth. “Kara.”
Kara’s hands stilled on her next jar, riveted by the gravity in her sister’s voice. Again, her hand filled with Alex’s, and this time their fingers laced together.
“I love Maggie,” Alex informed her, “and I want to spend the rest of my life with her. If the worst ever happened-- if I lost her, or she walked out one day without a single word, I’d be devastated. But-- I’d survive.”
Alex’s lips twisted, and her grip on Kara tightened. “I wouldn’t survive losing you. And I don't want to look up one day and realize I've lost sight of you. Okay?”
Kara’s eyes blurred with tears. She nodded. “Okay.”
With a nod, Alex released her, and sat back. They both returned to their tasks for several quiet moments, before Alex cleared her throat with a smirk.
“So. What’s his name?”
Kara barked a laugh, but didn’t answer. Instead, she gave her answer in the form of a sly grin slowly curling her lips. Alex studied her, then connected the dots with a gasp and theatrically wide eyes.
“Her name? You sneak! You’ve been holding out on me!”
A handful of chocolate candy peppered Kara’s head and shoulders. She ducked, cackling, and collected the fallen candy to pop them in her mouth.
“Details!” Alex demanded. “NOW.”
Kara froze mid-munch. Details?
I met this beautiful kind stranger when I got that hot pink dildo for your bachelorette party, fantasized about her for week while simultaneously discovering my inner rope kink-- and then saw her naked at a bondage show and then I asked her out, and now she’s all I can think about?
Kara swallowed her mouthful with a light cough.
“It’s still really new,” Kara opted for instead.
Alex’s left eyebrow lifted, visibly unsatisfied.
“I’m not even sure how it happened, really,” she continued. “But, she’s really--” Hot. Amazing. Breathtaking, in everything she does. Kara shook her thoughts away and tried again.
“I like who I am when I’m with her, you know?”
Yes. That sounded better. And it was no less honest. Kara felt brave and sensual around Lena, as though her girlfriend’s confidence infected her simply by proximity. She grinned.
“And it’s so easy to be with her. I thought it might be really awkward at first, but… it feels really natural.”
Like they fit, and not just in the way their bodies slotted together: the way Lena’s thigh bumped in just the right spot when Kara nuzzled at the soft skin of her neck, or how comfortable her arm felt slung around Lena’s waist in the early morning. No, it reached deeper than that. It felt as though their souls knew each other already. As though they had already been friends all their lives, and only just now had a name and face to put to it.
Sliding over her completed jar, Kara weathered Alex’s deep and knowing grin without meeting her eye.
“Wow,” her sister remarked. To Kara’s surprise, there wasn’t a single trace of a tease in her voice. “You’ve never gone mushy like that before. She must be special.”
“She is. Lena… It’s-- It feels like how you looked, when you met Maggie. Like even the most mundane, everyday things sparkle."
Alex nodded. “And when did this start?”
“Oh, um--” Kara reached for another jar, funneling candy into it as a distraction until she could think of an answer. “Must have been… Around the time of your bachelorette party? I think.”
Kara’s cheeks flushed, but Alex didn’t notice for the indignation that gripped her. “That long?! Kara! Jesus--” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “Right. My fault. My fault.”
Kara said nothing, reaching for another vial and another handful of candy. She popped a piece in her mouth, satisfied. One bullet, dodged.
“Well,” Alex feigned a casual tone, “if she’s coming to the wedding, I get to meet her first.”
Kara inhaled a piece of candy shell in surprise, and fell into a coughing fit as Alex resumed her glue gun duties, a self-satisfied smirk curling her lips.
When Kara picked Lena up from White Dahlia later that week, Alex’s comment weighed heavy on her mind. Lena noticed her quiet within moments.
“Everything okay?” she asked.
Kara almost brushed it off, but the gentle concern in Lena’s voice pulled honesty from her lips. “My sister-- her wedding is coming up.”
“Oh yeah! I want pics of you in your maid of honor dress, by the way." Lena's grin grew solemn, her features softening “Is she freaking out?”
“No! No, nothing like that. It’s just-- she’s noticed something different about me, and, well, I kind of told her about you?”
Lena’s head tipped back, reaction carefully limited to a pair of raised eyebrows and lips parting in quiet acknowledgement. “I see… I assume that didn’t go over as well as you hoped?”
Kara blinked, until Lena’s meaning clicked a moment later. “Oh! No, not-- not all that. I mean, I haven’t even told her about my-- No, I mean, I told her about us . Together. And she was really excited about it. She even…”
“Even what?” Lena prompted.
“Kind of invited you to the wedding?”
Lena’s eyes widened. Her features schooled a moment later, and further hid her surprise by reaching up to tuck her hair behind her ear. “I see.”
“I know it’s-- I told her-- that’d be crazy, right?” Kara gestured widely. “I mean, it’s only been…”
But even as she reached for reasons not to ask, all Kara wanted was for Lena to tell her wasn’t crazy to want her there. Taking her eyes off the road, Kara glanced across the console to meet Lena’s gaze.
“It’s weird, isn’t it? I mean, there’s a rule, isn’t there? Bringing a date to a wedding requires at least six months, right?”
Kara swallowed thickly. “Yeah?”
“Would you like me to be at your sister’s wedding?”
Kara sighed. “Yes.”
The single word of confession cracked the dam of Kara's resolve, and words came pouring out in a flood. “I do. Of course I do! I only have one sister, and she’ll probably only have the one wedding. If I’m going to have this one chance at this one memory--- I want you to be in it. And maybe that makes me weird, or clingy, or, or-- whatever, but it's the truth. The past three days I've had to remind myself that you wouldn't be there, when I kept thinking about sharing a dance with you, or splitting the last slice of wedding cake, or toasting my sister, or, or...”
By the time they slowed to a stop at the next light, Kara had lost her momentum. She slumped in her seat, bracing for Lena's response. "It is weird. Isn't it."
For a moment, there was nothing but silence. Then, with a rustle of fabric, Lena leaned across the center console, pressing a kiss to the corner of Kara’s mouth.
“I think…" she said in a low voice, "we passed weird around the time you saw me hanging naked from the ceiling at a public event.”
Kara barked a laugh of surprise, twisting to face Lena nose to nose. Lena captured her lips in another kiss. This one seared Kara's senses, and left her lips tingling when Lena pulled back to cup Kara’s cheek in one palm.
“I say the rules don’t apply,” she said, eyes glowing with warmth. “So let’s do what we want, and fuck whoever thinks it’s wrong.”
Kara wrinkled her nose playfully. “I don’t want to fuck anyone else,” she countered. “Just you.”
“Well thank god for that,” Lena returned blithely, giving Kara a final peck on the lips. “Because I’m not ready to share you, Miss Danvers.”
Kara giggled, returning to the wheel as the cars ahead of her began to move. They rode in comfortable silence, until Kara’s smile grew even wider. “Oh! And Alex wants to meet you.”
“Oh.” Lena blinked, her gaze dropping to her hands. “Right, I guess that makes sense.” She swallowed audibly. “And you’re okay with that?”
“Well, yeah. Of course! Why wouldn’t I be?” Lena didn’t respond. When Kara looked over, she found Lena’s cheer noticeably dimmed. “Lena? Why would I not want you to met my sister?”
Kara watches the words conjure and evaporate behind Lena’s eyes for a long moment before her lips spread in a smile. “No reason.”
She reached over and grasped Kara's hand in a grip that was just a hair too tight.
“Let’s meet the family.”
For all her quick confidence in the car, Lena stepped out of the elevator onto Alex’s floor a bundle of a nerves. She all but vibrated beside Kara, and stopped short just as Kara reached to take her hand in reassurance.
“How do I look?”
Kara’s eyebrow lifted incredulously. As though Lena could look anything but amazing. Even for an impromptu game night-- converted from a regularly scheduled sister’s night-- Kara had found it hard not to stare. Still, Lena radiated tension, and Kara couldn’t bring herself to tease.
She pretended to study her, using the moment to appreciate the carefully cultivated comfort Lena wore in the form of a wrap around sweater over untorn fitted jeans. She still wore her assortment of rings, but the eclectic mix of studs in her ears had been replaced with glittering clear stones, granting a touch of added class. As though those cheekbones needed any help in that regard.
“You’re gorgeous,” Kara replied honestly, only for Lena huff in uncharacteristic frustration.
“You can’t say that just because you’re my girlfriend.” She plucked at the hem of her sweater, clearly unused to the fit. “Come on.”
Kara took another moment. Spotting a lock of hair off the part, she reached up and rearranged it so that it fell in line with the rest. Kara almost liked it better where it was, but Lena breathed a quiet sigh of relief.
“There. Now you’re perfect.” She grinned. “I’m glad you asked because-- oof. That would have bugged me all night.”
Lena gave her a look. “Fine, I’ll stop fussing--”
“Hey,” Kara murmured, reaching for Lena. She hooked her fingers through her belt loops and when she gave a gentle tug, Lena came, pouting only a little. “You can fuss all you want. But I promise you that Alex will love you.”
“Because she’s obligated--”
“Because I love you,” Kara corrected. “There is nothing obligated about how happy I am when you’re with me. There’s no way Alex could dislike anyone who can turn me sappy.”
Lena huffed. “And Maggie? And Winn? These are your people, Kara. What if--” She paused, glancing down in distraction to where Kara’s thumbs had slid under the edge of her sweater to rub enticing circles against her skin.
She stiffened, then let her head fall back in defeat.
“I forgot my belt,” she groaned. “Christ.”
Chuckling, Kara pressed a kiss against her lips. “It's for the best,” she murmured with a grin. “Too pretentious anyway. In this family, we hitch our pants up by hand, like good honest folk.”
“If they hate me as a peasant with no belt, it’s your fault.”
Kara laughed. “Fair enough. Come on, pizza awaits.”
When they knocked on the door, Alex called out from within. “It’s open!”
Kara pushed inside, and guided a stiff Lena over the threshold with a gentle hand against the small of her back. “It’s us!” she called.
“Be right there!” came Alex’s voice from further inside the apartment. “Sorry, just a second--”
Somewhere a door opened, and suddenly the scrabble of doggy feet came thundering towards them.
The large German Shepherd came careening around the corner, tongue lolling as she caught sight of Kara. Kara intercepted her neatly, only to feel gilted when the beast diverted to Lena.
“Oh!” Lena yelped in surprise. “Hi there!”
“Gertrude, no!” Kara scolded when the dog rocked back in preparation to jump up. “Sit!”
Gertrude settled, and wriggled with eager anticipation as Lena reached a hand out for a sniff. In moments, it was covered in wet, slobbery kisses. With a giggle, Lena crouched for a proper greeting, and soon her neck and cheeks received the same treatment.
“You are such a pretty girl,” Lena gushed, scritching her fingers deep into Gertrude’s scruff. “Yes, you are!”
“Gertrude, come!” Alex called, poking her head around the corner. Maggie slipped out behind her. “Gertrude!”
“Go on, go back to your mama,” Lena urged. At Lena’s nudge, Gertrude obliged, dancing her way to Alex and back towards the bedroom.
Maggie greeted Kara with a quick hug, then turned towards Lena, still crouched. “Sorry about that,” she offered with a wry smile. “She’s a menace. You okay?”
“Oh, yeah,” Lena returned, rising to her feet and dusting herself off. “She’s a cutie--”
Her eyes met Maggie’s, and she froze in abrupt recognition. “Maggie!”
Maggie blinked, equally dumbfounded. “Lena!”
“Oh my god! Hi!” Lena broke into a megawatt smile. “Wow! I haven’t seen you in forever!”
“Yeah!” Maggie returned, “It’s been a minute, for sure!” They embraced just as Alex joined them. She shot Kara a look, but Kara could only shrug in stunned confusion before snapping into totally chill mode as they pulled apart.
“Oh my gosh, look at your hair!” Lena exclaimed, giving Maggie’s hair a fluff. “I love it! You look so good!”
“Thanks, you too-- as though that’s anything new.” Maggie’s cheeks darkened in a flush, before she looked over to Kara. “Wait-- how did you two meet again?”
Lena broke into a wide grin. “Oh, Kara came into the shop! She was looking for…”
She trailed off, and a second later Maggie and Lena both jolted in realization.
“You’re the pink dildo!” they cried in unison, before bursting into laughter. Kara froze, flushing bright red as her gaze caught Alex’s. If looks could kill, Kara would be a pile of ash.
“Oh my god,” Maggie wheezed, wiping her eyes. “That’s unbelievable. Well, you haven’t lost your touch, let me tell you.”
Lena smirks. “It’s a gift.”
“Ahem,” Kara cleared her throat, pulling Alex forward. “Lena, this is Alex. My sister.”
Lena turned towards them, all smiles, and Kara felt her heartbeat stutter at the sight of the broad, confident grin. “Hi, it’s lovely to meet you. Kara’s told me a little about you." Lena grinned. "She loves you a lot.”
“I’ve heard a little about you too.” Alex offered her hand, which Lena took readily. “But I think Kara and I would both like to hear how you two know each other.”
“Lena,” Maggie answered, slipping an arm around Alex’s waist, “works at a shop over in Eastside. An ex and I were regulars, once upon a time.”
Before Kara or Alex had a chance to react to that, Maggie’s gaze fell to the bag in Lena’s hand. “Ooh!" she chirped. "What’d you bring us?”
“Wine,” Lena returned with a grimace. “Basic, I know. But I thought I’d play it safe.”
“Hey, wine is always welcome.” Maggie disentangled herself from Alex, wrapping her arm around Lena’s shoulders. “Come help me uncork so you can tell me how Sam is. And her kid! I bet she’s huge now.”
“Oh, you have no idea. She actually dyed her hair blue last week, but besides that, she’s the spitting image of her mom...”
Alex managed to keep her cool until the pair were out of earshot, before clamping her hand around Kara’s bicep in a raptor-like grip.
“Your girlfriend knows about my sex life?” she hissed, tugging Kara towards the couch for added privacy. “Kara--”
“In my defense,” Kara obfuscated, “she wasn’t my girlfriend at the time, and it’s not like told her! She sold it to me!”
“You-- you fell in love with the girl who sold you a dildo.”
Kara scowled. “And you’re one to talk, Miss Meet-Cute-at-a-Drug-Raid. Where was it you were flirting again?”
The grip on Kara’s arm disappeared, and Alex’s expression soured. “...interrogation,” she mumbled.
“An interrogation,” Kara reminded her, smirking. “That’s what I thought. So, who’s judging?”
Alex sighed. “Not me.”
“Not you. Good.” Kara softened, offering a small smile of enticement. “Because I really want you like her.”
“She seems nice,” Alex allowed. Together, they turned to watch their girlfriends chat animatedly in the kitchen, wine all but forgotten on the counter between them. “And Maggie seems to like her.”
“Yeah, that was… unexpected.” But in a good way. For a moment, it seemed that Lena’s anxious energy had evaporated in the shock of recognizing Maggie. The first inklings of relief started to bleed into Kara’s own stiffness, which she hadn’t even realized was there until that moment.
This… this was good.
“Is it weird?” Alex asked a moment later, her voice low. “That your girlfriend knows my fiance from when she visited a sex shop with her ex-girlfriend?”
Kara pressed her lips together against the memory of Lena hanging in a web of black rope, naked and powerful in a shimmering spotlight. No, that would be a conversation for another time-- Kara had given Alex enough surprises for the night.
“Nope,” she offered finally. She looped her arm through her sister’s and let her head rest on Alex’s shoulder. “Not weird at all.”
Meeting Winn went more according to plan. The only near-hiccup was the beat of silence that followed the moment Winn laid eyes on Lena. Kara spotted his utter dazzlement, and only released her bated breath when the moment passed with a broad, friendly smile and an outstretched palm.
After that, it was smooth sailing as the snacks came out and pizza was ordered. Between games, Kara sat back and watched as Lena chatted animatedly with Maggie, traded questions with Alex, and challenged Winn for control of the playlist. She smiled throughout, but her energy rode the edge of restless, her earnestness plain to Kara but invisible to everyone else.
“No!” Lena protested, stealing Winn’s phone away from him. “We are not playing that song again.”
Winn glared at her, then blinked into a smug, challenging smirk. “Arm wrestle you for it.”
“Are you serious?”
“It’s game night, baby! Or-- are you scared I won’t take it easy on you because you’re a girl?”
There wasn’t any malice in the taunt, just plain old Winn Schott, but Kara looked to Lena in concern. She needn’t have worried. Lena’s answering grin promised swift retribution. “Oh-- it is on.”
“Why do I get the feeling that Winn’s about to get his ass handed to him?” Alex asked with a huff, collapsing onto the seat cushion next to Kara.
Kara grinned as she accepted the bottle of orange soda her sister dangled in front of her nose. “Because he is.” She clinked her soda against Alex’s beer in cheers. “You wouldn’t know it to look at her but the girl is all muscle.”
“And you would know, wouldn’t you?” Alex teased, grinning.
Unable to help the flutter that filled her belly at the implication, Kara leaned into her sister’s shoulder with a self-satisfied smile. “Yes. Yes I would.”
They heard a dull thump, and an indignant squawk from Winn. “No way! I wasn’t warmed up! Come on, two out of three.”
Lena chuckled, low and confident. “I can do this all day, Schott.”
Kara watched them reset, leaning comfortably into her sister’s side. “I really like her, Alex.”
An arm circled her shoulders, and lips pressed a gently kiss to her hair. “I can tell. You’ve been staring all night.”
“You like her, right?”
Ale hummed. “Yeah. I’d probably like anyone you like, there’s something special about Lena that I never saw in any of your exes.”
“What-- because she’s a girl?”
A laugh puffed against Kara’s ear. “Well, she is way cuter than any of the boys you’ve brought home, but as pretty as she is…" Alex trailed off, and looked Kara right in the eye. "She glows when she looks at you.”
Kara pulled back, and Alex loosened her grip to let her. “What do you mean?”
“Kara, you’ve been watching her all night, but every time you look away, she’s watching you . And the last time I saw someone light up like that at the sight of another person…”
Kara swallowed. “What?”
“I decided to marry her.”
A deep burning flush started low in her gut and spread outwards, until her palms turned clammy and it suddenly felt too hot. Too hot, too hot, too hot--
“Relax,” Alex urged softly, pulling her in for another hug. “I’m not saying you have to marry her. I’m just saying that anyone who looks at my sister like she hung the moon is good in my book.”
Kara inhaled deeply, as the sudden knot in her chest eased. Alex gave her a playful nudge.
“And she’s definitely invited to the wedding.”
Kara engulfed Alex in a fierce hug, nearly upturning their drinks. “ Ack ,” Alex grunted, but squeezed her back just as tightly. “All right, all right, enough mush for one night. And, uh, you may want to remind Winn that Lena already has a date for the ceremony.”
When Kara turned back, she found that Winn had indeed shifted conversation away from his humiliating defeat and had begun talking animatedly about something on his phone-- a website, Kara thought, probably his latest design project. Or maybe his thesis. If Winn had caught wind of Lena’s own studies, there would be no stopping him. While he was leaning close enough and intently enough to be considered smitten, Kara couldn’t find a single ounce of jealousy in her.
Not when she caught Lena’s gaze over Winn’s shoulder, and Kara saw exactly what Alex meant.
The moment their eyes met, Lena’s features warmed and softened. The light seemed to glisten round her, giving her eyes a luster that made Kara’s heart trip in her chest.
Her distraction went totally unnoticed by Winn, even as Lena delivered a tiny wink before returning her attention back to Winn’s phone, falling seamlessly back into the conversation.
New arms looped around Kara’s neck, making her jump before she realized it was only Maggie, folding herself over the back of the couch to reach her.
“She’s a keeper,” her soon-to-be sister-in-law murmured. “Please tell me she agreed to come to the wedding.”
Kara grinned, all but melting into the couch cushions. They liked her. “She was open to the idea. Now I just have to check to make sure she likes you enough to RSVP.”
“Oh!” Maggie griped, giving Kara a playful shove. “Brat. She loves me.”
“Not as much as I do,” Alex purred, curling her fingers into the cowl of Maggie’s sweater and pulling her fiance in for a kiss. It was slow, and soft, and made Kara smile as her gaze slid back to Lena-- who was once more gazing at her.
Kara lifted an eyebrow, silently checking in. Her response was a faint nod, and a quiet little grin.
Yeah , she agreed silently. Definitely a keeper.
The ride home was quiet. Kara sensed Lena’s exhaustion, but took heart at the dearth of any signs of distress.
“Thanks for coming tonight,” she said, voice low. “I know they can be a lot sometimes.”
“Everyone was lovely,” Lena assured her, rolling her head to look at her without lifting it from the headrest. She wore a tired, but happy smile. “It’s just… new people, you know?”
Kara nodded. She’d seen how hard Lena had worked to remain engaged the entire night, how she’d expertly divided her attention between Alex, Winn, and Maggie, and charmed every single one of them.
“Alex was super nice,” Lena continued, regaining enough steam to grin devilishly. “Am I still invited?”
Kara snorted. “Pretty sure I’ll get disowned if you don’t come.”
Quiet followed. When Kara glanced over, Lena was staring ahead with a lidded gaze, heavy in thought. She reached across the console to lace her fingers with Lena’s. “Hey… you okay?”
“Yeah. It’s just… I’ve never seen a family so openly warm with each other. Well, besides Sam,” Lena corrected. Then she shrugged. “But I always thought she was a statistical outlier.”
Since their date at the roadside barbecue, Lena hadn’t shared anything else about her family. Kara hadn’t thought to ask, and now she understood why. Kara had gotten lucky, finding a family as full of love as the Danvers. Lena hadn’t.
Lena’s fingers tightened on hers, even as her gaze returned to the road ahead.
“I’m glad you have that.”
Hey guys: This is a content warning for an eating disorder. While not actively graphic, there is an in depth emotional conversation about it, which may be triggering for some readers. Please proceed at your own discretion.
Kara frowned at her phone. It had been a few days since game night, and her life had gotten crowded with a slew of exams. Her best intentions to check in had gotten lost in a haze of caffeine and cram sessions, and her apology text that morning-- the first moment Kara’d had to breathe-- had gone unread.
It didn’t have to mean anything. Lena was in school too: no doubt she’d gotten swamped too, even though she was mostly just working on her thesis. But when Kara tried calling at lunch, that too had gone unanswered.
Lena wasn’t one to hold a grudge, was she? She hadn’t texted Kara either. If she wanted to chat, she would have reached out, right? Anxiety sent Kara around and around in spirals all night. When her call the next morning also went to voicemail, she caved and drove to White Dahlia.
“Hey, Kara…” Sam greeted. “Lena’s off today. I thought you had her schedule down pat by now.” She smiled. “Or are you here to see me?”
“Um…” Suddenly, Kara wasn’t sure what she was doing at all. “Has-- has Lena said anything to you? About us?”
Sam’s features smoothed into a wary mask of neutrality. “I feel like there’s no right answer to that.”
“It’s just… my sister invited Lena to her wedding, and we did a game night so Lena could meet everyone, and she said it went well but then I got wrapped up in exams, and she hasn’t responded to any of my texts the past few days, and--” Kara swallowed, aware of her own rambling but helpless against the words that poured out of her instead of the tears that prickled at the back of her eyes and burned the inside of her nose. “It’s not like her, and I’m worried I did something wrong.”
Sam stared at her, stunned by the outpouring. In the silence, her phone buzzed. Glancing at the notification, Sam’s face melted into relief. “It’s Lena-- let me text her and… She just called in sick for tomorrow. Wait, what day is-- oh, shit.”
“What?” Kara asked, wiping surreptitiously at her eyes.
“It’s the fifteenth.” A dark pallor settled over Sam’s features, and sparked a kernel of fear in Kara’s chest.
“What does that have to do with anything?”
Shifting uncomfortably, Sam hesitated. Kara watched her chew her lip, weighing her options before surrendering with a blink of surrender. “Lena’s mom doesn’t check in often, but when she does, it’s on the fifteenth. The Ides, Lena used to call it. It… doesn’t usually go well.”
Kara’s stomach sank. “What does that mean?”
"It's not for me to say, Kara, I'm sorry,” Sam told her, truly apologetic. “I’ve shared more than I should have already. But, if I'm right, then Lena could probably use a friendly face right now."
The twenty minute drive to Lena’s felt like ages. As she drove, Kara kicked herself for not asking about Lena’s family sooner. Even if Lena hadn’t wanted to answer, she’d have known Kara was willing to be there for her. Kara knew better than anyone that Lena wouldn’t volunteer it-- adoptees usually didn’t, if they were unhappy with their family. They were the lucky ones. Any complaints were attention seekers, nothing more.
She smacked the steering wheel, making her palm sting. “Shit. Stupid!” she hissed at herself. “Stupid, stupid, stupid…”
When she pulled up to Lena’s curb, she barely had the thing in park before she was leaping from the car, purse swinging wildly from one hand behind her. Her knocking went unanswered for long minutes, but Kara refused to leave. Not until she saw Lena.
Finally, the door opened to reveal Lena, with crow’s nest hair and smudged eyes. She didn’t look surprised to see Kara on her doorstep. "Kara..."
"Hey. I--” Kara hesitated, suddenly uncertain. “I was worried about you--”
"I'm sorry,” Lena interrupted, voice dull. She ducked her chin, hiding her gaze. “Now's not a good time. I'm, um... I'm not very good company right now."
"I didn't come for company, Lena." Kara said softly. She studied Lena carefully, but Lena steadfastly avoided her gaze. "I came because I was worried, and... because I couldn't stand the thought of you hurting, by yourself."
She reached for Lena's wrist, and when Lena didn't pull away, she moved closer. She lifted her arms to wrap around Lena, but froze when Lena stiffened as though to pull away.
"Is this okay?"
She studied Lena's face. Though her gaze was averted, Kara saw the struggle in her eyes. On instinct, she stood there awkwardly instead of immediately rescinding the offer of comfort. Lena still didn’t pull away, but the tension remained.
Kara withdrew. “I’m sorry. I don’t mean to overstep, I just--” her voice caught, and something in her chest cracked when Lena still couldn’t bring herself to look up. “I’ll leave. Just-- please call if you need anything, okay? Or if you-- whenever you’re ready to talk.”
Lena didn’t respond. In the silence, Kara nodded.
“Okay,” she whispered. She retreated, but froze halfway up the steps at the strangled call of her name.
She turned back, and felt her heart shatter when Lena finally met her gaze, revealing heavy tears coursing down both cheeks. Haggard features twisted into a sob.
Kara closed the distance again in an instant, and this time, Lena pressed into her embrace, curling her hands into the front of Kara’s sweatshirt.
“I’m sorry,” she murmured, hiccuping. “I’m sorry, I’m sorry…”
Kara clutched her tight, and didn’t let go.
They ended up on the couch, legs tangled together as Lena leaned into Kara’s shoulder. Her tears came and went, but when they’d subsided long enough for Kara to suspect they’d finished, she risked speaking.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Lena’s shoulder shrugged under Kara’s stroking knuckles, where they rubbed comfortingly, back and forth. “What’s to talk about?” she ground out, voice gritty with lingering tears. “My mom’s a bitch, and I’m the pathetic loser who lets her get under my skin, every single--”
Cutting herself off, Lena grunted. She pushed away, finally putting the distance between them again. “It doesn’t matter.”
Kara saw the walls creeping back up, and desperately tried to find the middle ground. "It sounds like it does,” she says gently. “And that doesn't make you a pathetic loser."
Silence stretched for long minutes. "She’s threatening to pull me out of Stanhope."
Shock crawled over Kara’s skin. She blinked. “Can she do that? I thought you were paying your own way--”
“Whatever my mother wants, my mother gets. It doesn’t matter who’s fucking paying. The world bends to her will. Always has.”
Kara studied her. “But why?”
At that, Lena looked away. “She knows I’ve been procrastinating.”
Kara blinked. There were a lot of things she could call Lena and be a million times right. A procrastinator isn’t one of them. “Are you?”
“Of course I am!” Lena pushed to her feet. “You don’t understand Kara… the second I finish, I’m done at Stanhope. I go back to Metropolis: back to her and my brother and everything I’ve spent the last five years trying to get away from.”
Words of protest bubble up in Kara’s throat. That Lena didn’t have to do anything she didn’t want to. That she was smart enough to do whatever she set her mind to, that she could stay and live her life however she wanted. But even as they rose to her tongue, Kara sensed the information Lena withheld, and heard the echo of Lena’s words that first date at the roadside barbecue-- words of expectations, and the sense Lena didn’t fit.
Any Kara said now to assuage those assumptions would just roll off Lena’s back, and lose all of their meaning on the way down.
"What can I do?" She asked instead.
At that, Lena’s fight evaporated. Her shoulders slumped, and a quiet huff of chagrin escaped her as she ran a trembling hand over her face. When her gaze finally found Kara’s again, it was dull, but the gratitude Kara found in their depths was plain. Honest.
"You came to see me. That's more than enough."
“Well, that’s good then,” Kara grinned, ensconcing herself deeper into the cushions with a wiggle. “Because I can do this all day."
Kara could also order pizza, which she did when Lena slipped away to use the bathroom. When Lena re-emerged, her cheeks had been scrubbed, her eyes cleansed of their old liner. Barefaced, Lena looked young, and raw.
Distracting herself from staring, Kara waggled her phone, where the pizza tracker sat open on the screen. “I ordered your favorite. And mine. 'Cause yours is kind gross, no offense.”
Lena didn’t smile. “I’m not hungry.”
“Lena, you have to eat--”
“I said no!”
The silence swallowed the tail of Lena’s outburst, leaving the air thick and oppressive around them. Kara stared, uncertain how to respond. Lena looked away, at least having the decency to look chagrined, even if it underpinned by a scowl of anger.
“I’m going to change,” Lena muttered. She disappeared into her bedroom, leaving Kara stunned and speechless on the couch.
Just as the crushing pall of guilt and hurt began to press of Kara’s chest, the bedroom door creaked back open.
“I’m sorry, Kara.” Lena edged back into Kara’s field of vision, still in the same pajamas she’d answered the door in. “You-- you didn’t deserve that. You don’t deserve any of this.”
The self-recrimination pulled Kara out of her own misery. She shook her head. “No, I-- I understand. I overstepped. I didn’t mean--”
“You didn’t overstep.” Lena sat next to her, but her shoulders bowed as she curled in on herself. “You were trying to be supportive, and nice, and I bit your head off.”
Lena’s voice wobbled. She sniffled, wiping the sleeve of her pajamas under her nose.
“The truth is, my mother would never do that.”
Kara swallowed. “Order you a pizza?”
“Encourage me to eat.”
Lena studied her hands when Kara looked at her, her lips a thin line that screwed up against the fresh tears gathering in her eyes.
“Did you know,” Lena cut in, her voice rough like gravel, “when I was a kid, my mom shoved me into ballet lessons?”
She sniffed, and wiped her eyes again with the sleeve of her top.
“She said it was to teach me grace I was sorely lacking, but I'm pretty sure she just needed somewhere to stow me after lessons. So, for three hours every day, I was at the barre. And I was good. Really good."
Kara believed it. She’d seen the way Lena moved with her own eyes-- witnessed the grace and power that could captivate an entire room. Her confidence. Kara nodded. "I bet you were amazing..."
"Yeah, well. Then puberty hit.” Lena cleared her throat. Her eyes traveled the room, glancing everywhere but at Kara, before finally returning to Lena’s hands, twisted tightly between her knees. “And when I filled out instead of up, my mom did everything she could to slim me down. She upped my exercise, lowered my intake, but nothing worked. And when I failed to--”
Cutting herself off, Lena squeezed her eyes shut. She shook her head.
“When she still didn't like what she saw, she pulled me from dance. Said it was a waste of time... and not worth the sight of me squeezed into a leotard."
The lump that had been growing in Kara’s throat hardened, and sank to the pit of her stomach in sudden, unanticipated rage. “She shouldn’t have said that,” she rasped.
"I did everything I could to get it back,” she continued. “The only exercise I allowed myself was running, until even that went away. Nothing to build muscle, only reduce my body fat. I didn’t eat. After a while... it wasn't even me, anymore. My body wasn't mine: I didn’t live in it, it was just something that needed to be fixed.”
Kara pulled her hands into the sleeves of her sweatshirt, to hide her own trembling fists. Sam didn’t warn her about this. Does Sam even know? The air hung thick with Lena’s words, pressing in on Kara, making her itch to get up and pace, to get up and find Lena’s mother and scream how could you until she was blue in the face. But even with Lena sitting two cushions away, Kara knew moving even an inch in the wrong direction would send the wrong impression.
So she sat, and listened, and tried to ignore the ever-growing realization that she had no idea what comfort to give. What words could she give? Would Lena even accept a hug? Kara didn’t think so, given the hunch of Lena’s shoulders.
“When I found bondage,” Lena said quietly, “the ropework returned me to my body. It grounded me. I remembered how to move again, and striving to improve and push my own boundaries forced me to start eating again, and suddenly… I didn’t feel sick anymore. I could stand up without blacking out, and I had so much more energy, and I just-- I realized that for all those years trying to get back to ballet-- to just once have my mother look me up and down with something other than disgust-- I’d stopped living all together.”
Even as she sensed it was her turn to speak, Kara could find the right words to say. I’m sorry was a platitude that did little to help Lena. You deserved better went without saying. When the words finally rose in her throat, what spilled out was nothing like she intended.
“That’s why you ordered the black coffee,” she said, her voice scratching in her throat. Lena blinked, her head turning to stare at her with wide, damp eyes. Kara swallowed, and prayed her own tears would remain tucked away.
“Isn’t it?” she asked.
Lena lowered her gaze, turning to face front once more. “Habits die hard,” she said. She was careful now, the precise selection of words a jarring change from the flood of just moments before. “I’m not that kid anymore, but when I meet new people-- people whose opinions matter to me-- I default to black coffee. At least until I know they won’t judge me for being unhealthy.”
“Unhealthy,” Kara parroted.
Lena shrugged. “That’s how my mom phrased it. As a matter of health.” She smirked, but her features remained devoid of mirth. “Some doctor.”
“She’s a doctor?”
“The cutting edge kind. Not the kind who can tell when their kid is slowly killing themselves.”
The tears building behind Kara’s eyes finally twisted her lips, and it was all she could do not to sob. “Lena, I--”
“Please don’t be sorry,” Lena returned, her voice just as strangled by the tears that blink free from her own eyelashes. She scrubs them away with her sleeve. “Most days, I’m fine. I have gotten so much better. But talking to my mom-- I always feel like garbage after and eating a pizza is the last thing I want to do, so just-- please don’t ask me to.”
“No, of course not.” Kara blinked, and-- oh. She was crying after all. “I’m so sorry, I would never have mentioned it if I’d known.”
“I didn’t want you to know,” Lena confessed. “Kara, you look at me like I’m-- more than I am. I never assumed you would look down on me, but I… I couldn’t bear to disappoint you.”
Finally, Kara reached for Lena, scooting across the couch cushion to grip Lena’s hands and pull them into her lap. “You could never, ever disappoint me. Not ever, for a single second. I wish I knew what to say to help you get past this-- and I don’t know that I won’t screw up again. But I’m here for you, any way I can be.”
Lena finally made eye contact. “Forgive me? And then not let me talk for a while because I feel like I’m on the edge of snapping again, and I don’t want hurt you--”
Kara wrapped her in a tight hug, and felt something deep inside her awaken as Lena melted against her with a ragged sigh. With an unobtrusive tap on her phone, Kara canceled the pizza order, and then helped Lena to the bedroom, where they curled up beneath the covers, fully clothed.
Lena fell into an exhausted sleep within moments, leaving Kara with a gaping heart and unspeakable rage that surged and pounded to be heard. But it was tempered by the deep pull that tugged at her heart, tethering her to the woman sleeping in her arms.
In the quiet, Kara wanted nothing more than to bundle Lena up and shield her from her mother’s poison. But it was too late for that. The poison was already in Lena’s veins, rooted in her mind, and Lena knew that. She knew it, and by her own words had nearly succeeded in overcoming it all on her own.
She didn’t need Kara for that.
But Kara could stay. She could stay there in that bed and hold Lena tight.
So she did.
She did, and in the quiet moments metered by the slow tempo of Lena’s breath, Kara vowed that if she ever had the chance to meet Mrs. Carmichael, she would be the one to tell her exactly how strong Lena had become in spite of her.
The next morning, Kara woke to an empty bed. She crept out to find Lena in the middle of a yoga routine. Lena paused, but didn't break form as she offered a wan smile-- an echo of the plethora apologies she’d issued the night before.
"Morning. Did I wake you?”
"Not at all." Kara leaned against the doorway, watching Lena complete her routine with a tree pose. When she returned to both feet and began rolling up her mat, Kara risked probing. "Are you feeling better?"
"Yeah." Setting her mat aside, Lena toweled off the back of her neck. She met Kara’s gaze with solemn eyes. “I’m sorry again, for the way I snapped at you. You were just trying to help.”
“Thank you,” Kara acknowledged. “I just hope I was able to help, even a little.”
Lena nodded, her features curling in a quiet smile. “When I get like that, just being checked on would have been enough. The fact that you stayed… I can’t thank you enough. Truly.”
Kara found herself believing it. The change in Lena was palpable, and while the quick rebound threatened to give Kara whiplash, she was glad for it. The idea she even had a hand in it made her stomach flutter with happiness.
“To be honest, when I didn’t hear from you, I thought you might have been less okay with meeting Alex than you let on.”
Lena’s smile turned pained. “No, but-- to be honest… it didn’t help.” Lena shrugged half-heartedly. “Talking to my mom so soon after seeing a family who actually loved each other was an uncomfortable wake-up call.”
“I’m so sorry, Lena. You deserve better than that. Especially from family.”
As they parted, Kara watched Lena roll up her mat. "What are you going to do?" She asked.
Lena shrugged. "That's a problem for future-me. Today-me wants a poptart." Lena padded to the kitchen. "Want one? They're frosted strawberry, the best.”
It was a distraction if Kara ever heard one, but she took it readily, as much for herself as it was to give Lena a needed break.
“Um, excuse me?” she drawled in righteous indignation. “ Wild berry is the best. It has the most frosting.”
“But no sprinkles.”
“Sprinkles, shminkles. Icing or bust.”
Lena scoffed as she pulled open the pantry. “Right. Why enjoy a pleasant contrast of texture when you can have icing thick enough to chip a tooth?”
Kara laughed, and the sound of it broke up what remained of the heavy pall. “That’s the spirit!”
“Whatever, weirdo.” Lena’s fingers crinkled the silver wrapping, pinching precisely to break the seal. “Toasted or raw?”
” Kara sniffed haughtily. “What kind of heathen do you take me for?”
Lena heaved a theatrical breath of relief. "Oh thank god. For a second there I thought I was going to have to dump you on principle alone--”
She stiffened when Kara’s arms wrapped around her waist but melted against her in the next moment. Kara didn’t say anything, didn’t do anything but bury her face in Lena’s shoulder. She only loosened her grip when Lena turned to face her, looping her own arms around Kara’s neck. Their foreheads touched, and Kara kept her eyes closed against the urge to cry.
“Thank you,” Lena murmured softly. “For being here.”
Kara nodded, her thumbs rubbing circles wherever they lay. This time, she was the one who needed the contact.
This time, Lena was the one to give it.
Pulling her head back, Kara pressed a tender kiss to Lena’s forehead.
“Thank you for letting me.”
They stayed there until the toaster popped their pastries up, and then they ate seated side by side on the bare counter, fumbling too-hot pastries between their fingers.
“You’re still coming to the wedding, though, right?” Kara mumbled around a mouthful of steaming strawberry filling. “I wasn’t kidding about getting disowned if you don’t.”
Lena glanced at her. “You still want me to come?”
At the very least, Kara knew better than to respond with incredulous assurances. Instead, she shrugged dramatically. “Yeah. My cousin will probably be there, and I kind of want to prove that I’ve got the hotter girlfriend.”
Laughter bubbled out of Lena, confirming Kara’s approach had been the right one. “All right. I’ll break out the big guns. Just for you.”
“Sadly, you do have to wear clothes-- ack!”
“Brat!” Lena accused, poking Kara in the side. It was swiftly chased by a kiss: brief, but lingering. “You’re lucky I love you.”
“I know I am.”
The remaining weeks to Alex’s wedding passed quickly. Kara found herself caught up in a whirlwind of last minute preparations, but never let a day go by without checking in with Lena. Often it was just a text here and there, relaying the trials and tribulations of the brides-to-be. In return, Lena kept her sane with words of confidence and solidarity.
Maggie and Alex chose to spend their final unmarried night together, a decision Kara took as a blessing. It let her camp out on their couch to keep an eye on both of them, as they sat, silently, coiled tight with nerves. Still, they sat together, hands linked, and Kara felt the pang of missing Lena.
With a quiet sigh, she pulled out her phone and swiped it open to the chat window already open. Things have mostly calmed down , she texted. After a beat, she sent another. Wish you were here.
The response came a few minutes later.
That’s a relief.
Almost immediately, a knock rapped on the door, echoing in the quiet apartment. Kara exchanged a look of confusion with Alex and Maggie. Maggie was the one to rise, padding to the door and lifting onto her toes to peer through the peephole.
With a cough of a laugh, she thudded back to flat feet and opened the door with a wide grin. Turning, Kara caught a glimpse of Lena in the doorway, dangling a small baggie next to her own head.
“Call it an early wedding gift,” Lena greeted.
Maggie accepted the weed with a cry of delight, and thanked her guest with a two handed kiss to her cheek.
“You are a godsend.”
“Is that pot?” Alex asked. She stood to join them, with Kara close on her heels. “Babe, I think I found a new girlfriend.”
“Sorry, I’m taken--” Lena’s drawl halted in the kiss Kara pressed to her lips. She kept it short, in exchange for looping her arms under Lena’s and melting into her. “Hey, you.”
“Hey,” Kara mumbled back. Lena’s arms tightened around her shoulders, and hugged her for long, long moments. “Missed you.”
“I heard it’d been a tough week, so I figured in my role as plus-one of the maid of honor I could help you guys unwind before the big day.”
Already halfway through rolling a joint, Alex and Maggie. “Much appreciated,” they confirmed, not looking up. “You just got bumped up to usher.”
“No, you didn’t,” Kara whispered, toeing backwards towards the couch without disengaging. “You get to relax and do nothing. Have a good time.”
The back of her legs hit the couch and she folded, with Lena collapsing with an off on top of her. “So long as it’s with you.”
Kara tipped onto her side and rolled, until Lena was underneath her. A glance towards her sister revealed that Alex and Maggie had already curled into the armchair, legs tangled as they passed the smoking joint between them, smiling and visibly relaxed.
She nodded, letting her head pillow on Lena’s chest. When Lena giggled, Kara’s head bounced, pulling a laugh to her lips as well.
“After the ceremony, I’m all yours.”
“Hey, now,” Maggie warned on the exhale. “That’s our line!”
It didn’t take long for the pot to work its magic, leaving the brides melting together on the single armchair, murmuring to each in low voices Kara was fairly certain neither of them could truly discern what the other was saying. It was cute though, Kara watched her sister from where she cuddled silently with Lena. It was a comfortable quiet, one that spoke of their casual trust and a bond that didn’t require conversation. Kara reveled in it, perhaps slightly buzzed on a second hand high, and cherished it for the belonging it was.
Maybe she should thank Alex and Maggie for getting married in her maid of honor speech. If they hadn’t had their bachelorette party, after all, she never would have walked into a sex shop and met Lena. Maybe she should curse them for not having that party sooner.
She didn’t notice she’d fallen asleep until Lena’s nudging coaxed her back to wakefulness.
Kara groaned, and cuddled closer. “Stayyyyy,” she whined.
“Bit late for that, love,” came the rumbling reply. “It’s morning.”
Kara opens her eyes to the soft glow of morning. Blearily, she registers that Lena is still on the couch, warm under her cheek, but both Alex and Maggie are nowhere to be seen.
“They left to get ready,” said a soft voice from below. Kara turns her head, and sees Lena’s gentle smile looking down at her. “Good morning.”
“Morning,” Kara returned, blinking sleepily.
Lena laughed softly. Bending low, she bestowed a soft kiss to Kara’s temple. The movement brought more of Lena into contact than just her lips: soft breasts pressed against the back of Kara’s neck. A flush rose to Kara’s cheeks as she realized Lena was without a bra. The warmth in her cheeks promptly traveled down her neck to her chest, then further down when Lena ran her fingers through Kara’s hair.
“You’re cute in the morning,” Lena murmured.
Kara turned into Lena’s lap, leaving her own kiss on Lena’s thigh. “Thank you for coming.”
“Maybe you could make it up to me.”
The suggestion came low and teasing, rumbling against every one of Kara’s senses. Fire raced down her spine, pooling between her legs. Kara bit her lip in a moment of hesitation, the smoothly straightened to slip into a straddle across Lena’s lap.
Lena received her with a sultry grin. Tipping her head back, pink lips purse in a playful pout. “Looks like you have something in mind.”
“Maybe I do.”
Deep in the bottom drawer of her bedside table, Kara still kept two coils of the same burgundy rope she’d once used to tie knots around the delicate wrists Kara ran her hands over to link their fingers together.
She dreamed about using that cord again, winding it around the same wrists she did so many months ago, fulfilling the wish that had been growing in her thoughts as the weeks progressed and the trust between them grew.
As though reading her thoughts, Lena stretched her arms up over her head, bringing Kara’s hands with her. Her wrists crossed, and Kara slipped her hands free to pin them there, then leaning in to devour Lena in a deep, languid kiss. Lena arched into her, pressing their chests together in wanton need.
Kara kissed her way down the column of Lena’s throat. The skin under her tongue tasted of sweat and the faintest tang of smoke. A buzz vibrated in Kara’s chest, filling her with want. With need.
“I want to tie you up,” she whispered. A flush of Lena’s own rose to meet the words that brushed the small hairs below her ear. Kara firmed her grip on Lena’s wrists, and felt tendons flex as Lena’s hands curled into fists.
She pulled back, risking everything to look Lena in the eye.
Her heart leapt to her throat to find hunger gazing back at her.
“What’s taking so long?”
Kara paused. Suddenly, the room yawned around them, filling the world with cotton. Her senses muddled, and her body felt leaden. “Whuh?”
“Wake up! We’re going to be late!”
Alex’s voice disrupted Kara’s dream entirely, snapping her to wakefulness in an instant. Kara bolted upright, earning a yelp from Lena underneath her. Blinking rapidly, the room focused around her, revealing Alex rapidly throwing items into a duffel bag in a full frenzy.
“What are you doing?” Kara asked.
“We’re going to be late! For our own wedding!”
“Alex,” Lena said, only to be ignored.
“Where is Maggie-- Maggie! We’re late!”
Alex whirled on Lena, eyes flashing with irritation. Lena met her ire calmly. “What time is it?”
Brow furrowing, Alex’s features creased in confusion. “I--” She followed Lena’s pointed gaze to the clock. “Nine. In the morning. Ohhhhh, thank god.”
Alex deflated in a whoosh of relief, folding in half to brace against her knees. “Oh sweet Jesus.”
“Is there a reason my fiancee’s screaming like a banshee?” Maggie joined them finally, dripping in a towel, steaming faintly from the hot shower they’d apparently pulled her from. “Or can I return to my very nice, very relaxing shower?”
With Alex only able to offer a dismissive wave, Kara pinched out a smile. “I think we’re good, Maggie. Sorry.”
“Ooookay,” came the dry reply. “If you say so.”
After Maggie padded damply away, Lena and Kara quietly watched Alex until she finally straightened and took a deep breath. “I’m, ah--” She motioned to the bedroom. “Gonna just-- yeah.”
Alex disappeared as well, leaving the room in a pall of silence. Kara squirmed, her arousal demanding attention and leaving her unable to rise for fear of revealing the damp no doubt staining her shorts. Lena’s proximity was deliciously, unbearably close, and Kara’s voice caught between wanting to change the subject and asking the question she’s been dying to ask for weeks.
Before she could say anything at all, Lena beat her to the punch by pushing to her feet.
“I should get going,” she said. She stretched, arching her back and revealing a sliver of skin as her shirt pulled away from her waistband. Kara fought the urge to kiss the pale skin, an urge diverted to Lena’s lips when her girlfriend bent down to bid her goodbye. “See you there?”
Kara nodded numbly. “Yeah. ‘Course.”
A little thrill traveled up Kara’s spine. Two little words never felt so good.
“Love you too.”
Despite the extra hours awarded by Kara’s clock, it didn’t take long for chaos to consume them as they focused on getting the last of their supplies to the car and the brides to the venue. Before Kara knew it, their hair and makeup was finished, and guests began to arrive. Kara tucked herself away with the rest of the bridal party, and didn’t see Lena again until she was walking down the aisle with a bouquet in her hands to match her peach chiffon dress.
Lena had found a seat almost on the aisle, her lips ruby red and hair braided in a crown around her head. Draped in a sheer dress printed with florals, she was a vision of summer against the backdrop of the outdoor vineyard, and Kara felt herself flush when those red lips pressed into a smile of delight.
All through the ceremony, Kara’s gaze kept drifting back to Lena. Sometimes, their eyes caught, but more often than not she stole moments of watching Lena watch the exchange of vows, memorizing every crinkle of warmth, every sparkle of delight that glittered in Lena’s eyes like stars.
They didn’t truly connect until dinner, when Kara dropped into her seat with a fervent kiss to the corner of Lena’s perfectly painted lips. “You are so gorgeous.”
“You read my mind,” Lena crooned with a slow smile. Her fingers stroked the strap of Kara’s gown, sending bolts of electricity when their skin met. Dark eyes took her in, from head to toe. “Peach is your color.”
Kara caught her lip in her teeth, letting her own eyes linger on the drape of Lena’s dress over her breasts. “Bet it’ll look even better on your floor--”
“Oh, you must be Lena!”
They both straightened sharply at the sound of a new voice, bright and innocent to the sudden turn their conversation had taken. Swallowing a snort, Kara leaned into Lena as she extended her hand to Eliza.
“Guilty as charged,” she laughed. “And you must be Eliza. Pleasure.”
Kara watched their hands curl together, and watched her adopted mother’s eyebrow lift when Lena gripped her palm firmly. It seemed she wasn’t the only Danvers shaken by Lena’s tactile confidence.
“Wow,” Eliza gushed, swiftly recovering as their hands disengaged and Lena’s hand came to rest on Kara’s knee. “You are even lovelier than Kara said-- which is certainly saying something!”
“Oh, no, Eliza--!”
“I’m only saying it because it’s true,” Eliza scolded without malice. “We talk every week, and for months it’s been Lena this, and Lena that!” She broke into a laugh when Kara waved her hands between them in disruption. She pushed them away. “It’s true!”
“Oh my god…” Kara reclaimed her hands and buried her face in them.
Lena’s fingers tightened on her knee. “You should talk to my friend Sam. She’s had to listen to me wax sonnets about Kara every day at work. To hear her tell it, Kara’s turned me into Shakespeare.”
“Oh? And what do you do?” Eliza asked. “Kara’s never said.”
Kara stiffened, but Lena didn’t miss a beat. “I work retail part time. It’s mostly to fill my socialization quota while I wrap up my graduate degree.”
“Oh, how lovely. You’re nearly finished then?”
As the two of them fell into easy, superficial conversation, Kara forced herself to relax. Lena was an old hand at navigating these waters, regardless of how nervous she’d been to meet Alex. Perhaps she’d sensed that Kara cared more about Alex’s opinion of their relationship than Eliza’s would. Or maybe she’d had enough of the white wine in her glass for the buzz to keep her calm. Except…
The hand creeping up Kara’s thigh was more heat-seeking missile than tipsy fumbling. No, not a missile. A missile had zero stealth, while Lena’s fingers-- Kara jerked as warm fingers edged towards her groin. In an instant, they diverted to rest languidly on Kara’s hip beneath the table.
“Kara said you still live in Midvale,” Lena continued, her voice giving no indication of what else might be on her mind. “Do you like it there?”
“I do! The commute can sometimes be a drag, but the quiet and the view are well worth it.”
Lena’s hand stayed where it was, leaving Kara’s thoughts to wander on their own. Her mind drifted back to the dream she’d woken up to, and the vision of Lena ready and willing on her couch, all but begging to feel rope on her skin. Lena’s fingers shifted on Kara’s hip as she leaned towards Eliza, and Kara’s mind jumped to an image of Lena in her bed, naked save for the pretty burgundy cord binding her wrist and ankle to Kara’s bed frame.
“You better tie her up quick, sweetheart.”
Inhaling sharply at Eliza’s low voice, Kara choked on her wine, ears roaring. She blinked rapidly, reaching for a napkin, and accepted Lena’s when it was offered. Coughing, she turned to Eliza.
Lena’s attention had been pulled away by Winn, who’d come to take up the chair on Lena’s far side. Eliza leaned in with a laugh, blushing at her slip.
“Oh! I meant-- snap her up or tie her down! Either one.” When Eliza smiled, her eyes were fuzzy with wine. Kara breathed a sigh of relief that she hadn’t suddenly developed ESP. “I like her.”
“Me too,” Kara returned honestly.
“And with Alex married--”
“I heard my name,” Alex announced, dropping between them with a broad grin matched by her wife’s, who trailed at her side.
Distraction successful, Eliza surged to her feet to wrap her daughter in a hug. On Kara’s other side, Lena rose to loop her arms around Maggie’s shoulders. Kara watched, smiling when Lena allowed the embrace to last, even giving Maggie a little wiggle.
“Congratulations,” she heard in a soft voice.
“Thanks, Lena. So glad you’re here.” Maggie sounded like she meant it. Off to the side, the photographer clicked a quiet photograph.
When Alex disengaged from her mother, she shot Kara an inquisitive glance. At Kara’s silent plea for help, her sister seamlessly covered. “Y’know, Mom, Lois and Clark are here, maybe you--”
“Oh, they are! I haven’t said hi yet. Kara, honey, I’ll catch up with you later.”
Eliza disappeared in a flurry, leaving Kara to level a grateful look at her sister. Alex grinned. “Looked like you could use the save.”
“My hero,” Kara said without an ounce of sarcasm. She could kiss Alex, but there was someone else she wanted to kiss more. Her gaze slid to Lena, who laughed at something Maggie had said.
Alex followed her gaze, and slung an arm around Kara’s shoulders. “She’s not wrong though,” she said softly. “You need to tie her down. For real.”
Heat bloomed low in Kara’s belly.
“Yeah,” she sighed. “I know.”
If only Alex knew how much Kara wished she could do just that.
I could technically have cut the first part of this chapter, as it makes for an awkward intro, but it was so sweet I couldn't bring myself to snip it. And it's my story anyway, so there. Sorry for taking so long-- life got busy. Hope the update is worth the wait!