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A Perfect Stranger

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Lena Luthor has had a long day, and it's only 2pm.

She rubs her temples as she surveys the enormous piles of paperwork covering her desk. Her inbox is filling with emails from irate businessmen who seem to be completely incapable of making a decision without her, despite their over-inflated egos. She's almost certainly late for some sort of meeting, although she can't remember for the life of her what it is. And, most frustratingly, her mother has been nagging away at her for what seems like hours. Lillian has never been a fan of Lena's speedy trajectory to the top of the family company, and despite her own complete excommunication from the company after The Incident, she is insistent on backseat driving.

And what's more, she's been needling away with little jibes and a particularly painful monologue about how you really should consider meeting with the Richardsons' boy. She says meeting with as if she's proposing some pleasant small talk and not actually trying to force her into a relationship with some vapid corporate puppet who can run L-Corp exactly how her mother wishes.

All Lena needs, she thinks as she pinches the bridge of her nose, is a way to piss her off enough to make her leave. Just enough to make her stop. For now.

Opportunity walks in the door and her name is Kara Danvers.

That's the meeting. A one-on-one interview with a reporter from CatCo as part of L-Corp's new open-book, approachable policy. It was, at some point, Lena's own idea. An idea completely forgotten however, until this morning, when her PA Jess slipped a fact-file in with her daily schedule. And again, until now, it seems. She blames her mother. (She usually does.)

The blonde hasn't been working for CatCo long, at least, not as a reporter. Her recent stories have shown promise, the research had informed her, and she's been touted by a few publications as someone to watch. Most interestingly, however, she survived two whole years as Cat Grant's personal assistant. Any woman who could manage that is a woman made of steel.

And most pressingly, as she pushes nervously through the door, she is unbelievably beautiful.

Which is why, Lena supposes in hindsight, she does what she does next.

 

“Kara!” Lena beams, turning away from her mother. “You made it!”

And before she can tell herself that this is a terrible, terrible idea, she envelopes her in a hug. She immediately feels the woman stiffen in her arms and she tenses, hoping that she's not buying herself a one way ticket to Very Bad Press. A tiny glimmer of hope ignites when she feels Kara's arms slip around her back and hug her back.

“I- uh, yeah, I-“ Kara stutters, utterly bemused. “I’m sorry-"

Lena releases her from the hug but fixes her with a slightly intense expression. Kara would be concerned, but the pointed look on Lena's face indicates that she's trying to tell her something. Lena raises her chin in the slightest motion and draws Kara's eyes to the woman who is eyeing her with great distaste over her shoulder. Oh.

Kara might not know a lot of things - well, actually, she does know a lot of things - but if nothing else, she can read a ‘save me’ face from a mile off. And well, that's something she knows how to do.

“I’m sorry-“ she repeats, her voice slow as she calculates, “that I’m late.”

(She’s not late. In fact, she’s perfectly punctual. Which is admittedly unlike her, but when you score a one-to-one interview with THE biggest name in National City, you turn up on time. What you do when that big name proceeds to act like you've been friends for years is... another thing.)

Lena’s face flickers with poorly concealed relief. She thanks god that she’s not facing Lillian. That woman can sniff out her deceits like nobody else. It's disturbing.

“Oh don’t worry darling-“ she says.

Darling? Kara thinks, with a start.

“-but we’d better jet off.” Lena turns to the woman behind her. “Sorry mother, but I must go. I’ve been promising to take Kara out on a date for a week now.”

A date??

“A date?” Lillian echoes, with the air of someone discussing a vermin problem. Kara has never seen someone look at her with so much dislike having never met her before, and she can't shake the idea that the feeling is entirely mutual.

Lena’s face lights up with a fierce look. “Yes. A date. I’ll see you next week?”

Lillian doesn't deign to reply. She doesn't have to. She'll be back. Every week, like clockwork, complaining in Lena's ear about what a terrible job she is doing with the family business. She turns on her heel, predictably curt, and leaves.

The moment the door slams shut behind her, Lena sinks into her desk chair and covers her face. She takes a deep breath and then fixes Kara with an apologetic look.

"I am so sorry for being... overfamiliar. My mother has been on my back all day and I just wanted her out and..."

"Family troubles?" Kara asks, smiling at her, somehow settling in a chair instead of bolting for the door. "I get that."

Lena sighs with relief, taking a moment to collect herself, and then smiles at her. "Well, considering I've already completely ruined this interview, would you like to get that lunch that I have apparently been promising you? We could start again. I could try to prove to you that I am not, in fact, entirely mad."

Kara beams. "I don't think you're mad." She pauses to nudge her glasses higher up her nose. "But I never say no to food."


 

Lena directs them to somewhere that looks hideously expensive. She ushers her in through the door, greeting the concierge by name, and slides into a booth.

"Is this ok?" Lena asks, flashing that smile at Kara again.

"Uh, yeah," Kara fidgets slightly, pulling her equipment out of her handbag. "Would you be happy for me to record this? You can tell me if you want anything off the record. It just helps if I'm not trying to write while also trying to eat."

The interview. Of course. Lena fights a little fall of sadness in her gut; somehow with the easy conversation they had made on the way over - all phatic nothingness, but pleasant anyhow - that this wasn't a real date. It would be nice, Lena thinks, as an aside, to think that a girl as pretty and nigh-on delightful as Kara might like to sit across from a Luthor on an actual date. But, she thinks, as she schools her features back into their professional mask, this is business. Just business.

So they chat about the company, politely covering the current aim and goals, digging gently into some recent innovations that Lena discusses with enthusiasm, and then about some other things that Lena didn't know were entirely public knowledge. The research was right, this Kara Danvers is certainly one to watch... In any other circumstances, a journalist to keep her eye on; to keep at an arm's length.

And yet, despite the fact that her research is clearly thorough, she doesn't ask anything, not one question about-

"If you don't mind me asking..." Kara says, gently hedging, and Lena feels herself tense. Here it comes.

"What exactly was happening back there? With your mother and everything."

Lena pauses for a second, taken aback. It's safe to say that's not the question that she was expecting. But Kara seems nervous, worrying at her lip with her teeth.

"I'm sorry, that's personal, I shouldn't have-"

And Lena swoops in with her easy charm, unexpectedly earnest and soothing. "No, no, it's fine, Kara. After all, I was the one that got you involved in all of this. But, uh, off the record...?" She leans in slightly, her tone almost conspiratorial.

Kara smiles and switches off her recorder. "Here," she says, slipping it into Lena's hand, fingers brushing. "Completely off the record."

Lena looks down. It's definitely off. It's not one of the models that can secretly record, thank god, and she would know, Lex having designed one or two of them.

"My mother doesn't approve of how I'm running the family business," Lena explains, stopping when Kara looks incredulous and says something about how the profits have been steadily climbing ever since Lena's takeover, "and she certainly doesn't approve of my habit of dating women. I figured reminding her that I am still gay would annoy her enough to leave me alone for a day or two."

Kara has opened her mouth to say something, but her phone suddenly lets out a cacophony of noise and she swears under her breath.

"Shoot, it's my boss. I was meant to be back at the office ages ago. Raincheck? I'd love to hear the full story. Off the record, of course." And as she says it, she flashes Lena a smile so radiant she honestly worries her knees might give way, just a touch.

Despite that, Lena rises as Kara does, and is surprised to find that the idea of a second chance to talk to Kara about her mother is, in fact, an inviting concept.

"That would be nice," she says, offering her a genuine smile back. And because it would seem weird to end it with a handshake, given that she's already hugged the poor woman, and they've been talking far too comfortably for the formality, she kisses her on the cheek.

And for a second, she freezes, hoping she hasn't been too overfamiliar (again) but Kara just beams, adjusts her glasses and whisks out of the restaurant.


Lillian Luthor should never be underestimated, Lena reminds herself, when the morning arrives with the rising sun and her picture plastered all over National City's front covers.

Technically, it's just the gossip mags, and specifically it's a picture of her and Kara. Kissing.

Lena rubs her temple and exhales slowly. She reaches over the quickly cooling cup of coffee on her desk and presses the intercom.

"Jess, could you get me a copy of every publication concerning this... incident please? And Ms Danvers on the phone."

Jess, to her credit, keeps her face professionally schooled. "Yes ma'am."

And when she deposits the stack of magazines on Lena's desk, tall enough to obstruct her view of her laptop screen, Lena pops an aspirin.

As she waits for Jess to connect her through to Kara, she flicks through the articles. It amazes her, honestly, that they managed to frame such an innocent interaction as something... more.

The moment Kara handed over her recording equipment is now her reaching over and taking her hand. A second's glance and a brief smile looks romantic in the low-lighting of the restaurant. And the brief, completely platonic kiss to Kara's cheek has been framed by some brilliant (read: asshole) photographer to seem like so much more, with Lena's mouth shrouded by the fall of Kara's hair.

And so, for the second time in as many days, Lena finds herself apologising to Kara Danvers.

"Kara. I am so, so sorry. I'll release a press release in a few hours completely discrediting their claims and I'll-"

Kara cuts her off. Her voice, even gently modulated by the phone call, is light and easy. "Lena, it's fine. It's funny, honestly. I need to shake the hand of whoever framed that photo. It's seriously genius editing."

"You're... not mad."

"Are you kidding? Lena, it's kind of hilarious. I can't decide whether it's brilliant or atrocious journalism. Possibly both. The only thing I don't understand is how they got the pictures. These weren't just opportunistic paparazzi. They're too good."

Lena sighs. "I think I can answer that one. My mother hired them."

That silences Kara for a moment. "What?" She asks after a moment's pause, "how does that even work? I thought you said she didn't like you being a, uh-"

"A lesbian?" Lena asks, raising an eyebrow as Kara skirts around the word. "No, she doesn't. Unfortunately I miscalculated. I thought that her fear of being badly perceived at the country club and her general dislike of who I am as a person would overrule her willingness to discredit my role in the business. Apparently not."

"Well, she sounds like a ray of sunshine."

"Mmm," Lena hums darkly. "Honestly Kara, it concerns me sometimes that I have her genes."

She doesn't expect her off-hand comment to come out so sharp and truthful, but it does, and it stings. Luckily, Kara doesn't seem to notice.

"Well, at least you inherited her good bone structure," Kara replies thoughtfully, and Lena laughs. Honest-to-god laughs. When was the last time she did that?

"But, if you don't mind me asking, why would you be discredited by being in a relationship with me? I mean, it's not like being gay is a... bad thing-"

Lena nearly says, "why thank you, darling," in that slow, lazy deadpan she reserves for straight people who are trying to negotiate LGBT issues without being offensive, but she gets distracted by Kara's next comment.

"So, like, is it me? Am I that bad?" Her voice is suddenly small, a little unsure, and Lena is wracked with the sudden need to wrap her in a hug.

"Oh god, Kara, no, it's not about you. You're wonderful." (Whoops, she didn't quite mean to drop that in there.) "It's just my mother and her prejudices. Unfortunately my company's board is still made up of straight white men who don't take nicely to being ordered around by a woman, and certainly not by a gay woman. If I know my mother at all, she'll be hoping to cause a nice little coup and install herself in my seat when it's all over."

"God, she really is something." Kara says, sounding as if she's mulling something over.

Lena rubs at the steadily increasing crease in her forehead. "You're telling me."

There's a long pause. Long enough that Lena would worry that the line has cut off, but she can hear the light sound of Kara's breathing on the other end.

"Well," Kara says, a plan forming. "What if we play her at her own game?"

"I'm sorry?"

"Well, I am against intolerance in all its forms," Kara says righteously, and Lena tries not to huff out a laugh at how cute that phrasing is. She's obviously lining up for a proposal. "And, therefore, I think we should show her just how brilliant you are, exactly as you are."

Lena bites her lip, her ears ringing with her compliment. "What are you suggesting?"

"That we pretend to date. Stick it to the man. Or woman, technically."

"You can't be serious."

Except she is. And somehow, after very little persuading, Lena agrees. But then, Lena has always been easily persuaded by pretty girls with nice smiles. And especially ones with, apparently, a little vengeful streak. Or perhaps simply a penchant for justice.

Either way, she thinks with a smile, this is the worst idea I have ever had.

Chapter Text

 

"Please hold for Lena Luthor."

Those words alone send a warm bolt of anxiety through Kara's middle. It's like electricity, fluttering and fizzing in her stomach and spreading almost down to her fingertips. It's not bad, per se. Actually, it's kind of... not terrible. Kara fidgets and shifts in her office chair and considers the fact that when Lena's assistant said 'please hold' she didn't actually mean her breath. Kara lets it out in an urgent sort of huff just before the phone clicks.

"Kara," Lena says, her voice as rich, warming, and intoxicating as liquor. "Are you ready to put our plan into action?"

"I, uh, yeah, sure am!" Kara pipes up, unconsciously nudging her glasses against her temple. "You have something in mind?"

"Do you like the theatre?" Lena's voice seems to ooze ease and charm. Kara feels antsy by comparison. Which is stupid, considering she literally spoke to Lena like, yesterday, and she did a perfectly good job of not sounding like a lunatic. She hopes.

"Uh, yeah, I do-"

As she speaks, a voice thunders through the office and stops Kara in her tracks.

"Does somebody want to tell me why the fuck one of my reporters is on the front cover of our biggest rival?"

"Oh, shoot," Kara cusses - if it can be called cussing - and Lena bites back a laugh on the other end of the line. "Lena, I've got to go. My boss just got in and I think he might actually be about to kill me."

Immediately, Lena switches from suave to apologetic. And a little... concerned?

"Kara, this is my fault-“

"Please don't apologise," Kara says, watching with trepidation as Snapper's shadow travels through the bull pen. "I signed up for this, remember?"

"You can back out. I don't want you to suffer because of me-"

"Are you trying to get rid of me already?" She asks, almost teasing.

And then Snapper appears at her desk, practically steaming from the ears. It would be funny if it wasn't just a little scary. Kara falters, watching Snapper's face as she says, "I'll see you later? Text me the details."

She hangs up the phone and, as she expected, Snapper unleashes hell.

"I sent you to interview her, not to fucking marry her!"

Kara winces like his words physically hurt. Which they might do, actually, considering their volume. She skates her eyes around the room and finds that everyone in the office has their eyes glued to her. As if they didn't already, given that, as Snapper so delicately put it, her face is all over the front pages. A twist of embarrassment writhes in her stomach; lighting her cheeks a rose-pink.

"My personal life isn't relevant to my job, Snapper," she says, in a low tone, trying to calm him; to deescalate; to avoid making a scene. Snapper doesn't seem to get the memo.

"Your personal life is relevant to your job when I send you to interview your own bloody girlfriend, and you don't think to mention the conflict of interest!"

Ok, so he has a point.

But, to be fair, she wants to say, she wasn't my girlfriend when I left here to interview her. But that will make her 1) sound insane and 2) blow their cover, so instead she flounders for just a second, then reluctantly leans into the surrender.

"You're right. I'm sorry. You can... you can have my copy. Give it to one of the others."

Snapper pauses for a second, taken aback. He crosses his arms, narrowing his eyes at her.

"You've already written up?"

She has. With so much of Lena's life being public - so much, God - it's easy enough to construct a perfectly passable article even without the interview. But the interview - or lunch, or whatever it was, in the end - had somehow opened a door to the real Lena Luthor. Despite everything, despite her family's fame, that Lena, the real Lena, was still an enigma in National City's eyes. Her surprising openness coupled with Kara's journalistic itch had resulted in an article that would put all the others to shame.

(Although, she supposes, none of the other articles were written by someone who was dating her, fake or otherwise. She does have a rather bizarre advantage.)

Either way, it's the first article to truly illuminate the city's hottest new mogul/genius/philanthropist. The first one, at least, since the trial... Front page stuff, maybe. Or at least headlining in the Science and Technology section. A young journalist's dream. And now...

"Yeah, it's complete," she says, and fights a sigh. "I'll send it over."

"Fine." Snapper says, appeased. Just. "But you run everything through me from now on. No surprises. You seem to have forgotten, but there are journalistic rules, Danvers. It's what separates us from the shitrags. Break them again and you'll find yourself out of a job, even with that recommendation you got from Cat Grant. Capisce?"

"Yes sir."

Kara drops her head into her hands as Snapper walks away. She can still feels the eyes of the entire office on her, and the blush has spread across her chest.

For a second, she wonders why she's doing this. And then her phone blinks cheerily at her:

1:05PM Unknown Number
Looking forward to this evening. Hope your boss didn't chew you out too much? Lena x

And then she remembers.


Her mood significantly brightened by Lena's message - which is ridiculous, of course - Kara finds herself at the end of her work day sooner than she was expecting. She rushes home, scattering an armful of papers onto her kitchen counter to look over later. Later, when she doesn't have a (fake) date with a beautiful woman. A beautiful woman who has a voice like honey and who puts kisses on the end of text messages and who is totally only doing this as a business arrangement, Kara.

Just to piss off her mother. Just-

In her total distraction along this line of thought, Kara doesn't notice the intruder in her apartment. The woman sits calmly on her sofa with her arms crossed. Waiting for her.

Alex.

"You're dating Lena Luthor?" She asks from behind her, and Kara whirls around in surprise. Alex's tone is accusatory, and she is wearing that look, that older-sister-who-disapproves-of-something-you're-doing look, except... scarier?

"Alex? What are you doing here? Shouldn't you be at work?"

"I," Alex says, rising, and striking an imposing figure, as usual, "have come home early to talk some sense into my idiot little sister."

Kara splutters out a laugh and blinks at her owlishly. "And why would you need to do that?"

"You're dating Lena Luthor." Alex says again, tone pointed. And when Kara just looks at her like she's mad, she continues, "A Luthor. After what Lex did to Clark?"

Oh.

Kara's heart sinks a little bit. Alex took that whole situation much harder than she did, even though technically Clark is her cousin, not Alex's.

They ate a lot of ice cream that week.

But-

"Lena had nothing to do with that. She's not her brother."

And she's not. She'd been pigeonholed into that image, yes, by everyone who could get their hands on the story. By everyone who heard the name Luthor and decided that she was just the same as all the rest of them. By everyone who refused to watch as she tore down her brother's company and built her own in its ashes-

"That whole family is bad news."

Kara scoffs. "You don't even know her-"

"I know enough, Kara. You know where I work. You know what I do. I know people like this. Lex isn't exactly in prison for no reason."

"I know exactly why Lex is in prison, thank you." Kara says, gritting her teeth. "And suggesting that I am completely unaware of what my cousin went through is hurtful, Alex. But Clark would be the first one to tell that you that you're acting like an ass right now."

And then Alex says the thing that explains why she's acting so... why she's being such an asshole.

"I'm just trying to protect you, Kara."

Of course she is. It's all she ever does. It's sweet and totally well-meaning and absolutely stifling.

"You don't have to protect me anymore, Alex," she says, and she means it.

Because god, she doesn't. How doesn't she see that Kara isn't that frightened little kid anymore? She's a grown woman now, capable of looking after herself. Eliza, Alex, Clark, even James - all of the people who are important to her in her life - they know what happened, and they all look at her in that same way. Like she might break. Lena doesn't.

"Lena-" Alex begins, and Kara interrupts her.

"Not just from Lena! Not from anything! I can look after myself."

And though it kills her, god, it does kill her, she fixes her sister with an iron gaze.

"If you don't mind, I've got a date to get ready for."

"You're gonna get hurt, Kara."

"Go home, Alex."

Alex looks at her like she's slapped her in the face. She actually wonders if her eyes are watering before her gaze turns suddenly steely. The change in her demeanour makes Kara's stomach churn.

"Have it your way," Alex says, and turns on her heel and leaves.

Shoot. This has really not been a good day.


 On the other side of National City, Sam sits at Lena's kitchen island and sips wine, looking smug. As usual. She presses her elbows onto the cold marble surface and pins Lena with a knowing look over the top of her wine glass. Her tone is innocent; her question is less so.

"So you're telling me that if they'd sent some glorious tree trunk of a man through your door at that specific moment, you'd have pretended to be dating him?"

"Well, that wouldn't have pissed off my mother nearly as much," Lena quips, turning to analyse the latest outfit in the mirror. "In fact, she'd probably be delighted. Zip me up?"

Sam hums and abandons her glass. It clinks against the countertop, and Lena uses the short moment it takes for Sam to cross the (admittedly sizeable) penthouse to check herself out. The dress is tight, accentuating her curves, and the neckline dives perhaps a little too dramatically for polite company. In short, it looks incredible.

"And," says Sam, from behind her, as she fastens the dress at the nape of her neck, "you wouldn't have the possibility of actually falling in love with him. Which would have made it far too easy."

She catches Sam's eyes in the mirror, and Sam quirks an eyebrow. There is a little impish uplift at the corner of her mouth, and Lena would bristle at her knowing amusement if it wasn't her best friend. Even so, her reply is a little more brusque than she means it to be.

"What are you saying?"

She's aware that it's a little too terse, a touch too tense, and Sam grins triumphantly as she turns to face her. She flattens her expression when Lena shoots her a classic Lena Luthor 'don't fuck with me' glare, but when she speaks she's modulating shit-eating glee.

"I'm not saying anything."

Sam's eyebrow raise is a little too telling. It strikes her with a blunt poke of frustration that Sam has known her too long; far too well. Lena exhales loudly through her nose.

"I'm not going to fall for her. This is purely a business arrangement."

Lena flattens her hands like she always does to shut down a debate. Accompanied with her usual pointed, glacial stare, it tends to shut up any adversary with great efficacy. Unfortunately for Lena, her adversary is Sam, who has known her forever, and who has an uncanny ability to look inside her skull and read her thoughts, it seems. Sam visibly bites down a grin.

"Do I spy some iddy biddy boxes?" She asks with a mock-gasp. "I think I spy some iddy biddy boxes."

Lena massages her fingers over her eyelids before replying. Sam is twisting every cog she can to wind her up. Lena absently wonders if this is how it feels to grow up with a sister. She wouldn't know.

"I mean it Sam. This is just to get my mother off my back."
"And the fact that she is a real-life amazon is just an added bonus?"

Lena ignores the question.

(It is.)

"How do I look?"

"Devastating," Sam says, confirming what she already knows. "Are you trying to kill the poor girl?"

"The poor girl is straight; I don't think this neckline is going to be a problem," she replies blithely, and Sam laughs.

"No girl could be straight after seeing you in that dress," she replies, "but I think you might distract the audience from the show."

Lena grins, a little wolfish and triumphant. "I'll change."


Before she leaves, Kara checks herself in the mirror. She's gone low-key: cute patterned blouse tucked into a navy skater skirt. She slips on a blazer in case it gets breezy and tousles her hair a little. She puts her phone on silent, sort of hopes Alex will text her, and heads out the door.

There's a park in the centre of town, not far from the theatre. It's as about as inconspicuous as a meeting spot gets when you're (fake) dating the CEO of one of the biggest tech companies in the country, and has the added bonus of being idyllic. Kara sits on one of the benches and nervously swings her legs as she waits.

Lena approaches her with a smile. She's dressed modestly, in a dress that hints at her figure but doesn't cling to it, and her hair is twisted into a relaxed updo. It's stylish, but her outfit is less professional than it was when Kara went to interview her. Softer. All her features are accentuated - her cheekbones look sharp enough to cut - but somehow perfectly balanced and almost understated. Stunning.

Is she staring?

"You look lovely," Lena says kindly; appraisingly. Her compliment is rewarded with a spluttering laugh from Kara, all awkward and blushing and glorious. She fiddles with her glasses for just a second, like a nervous tic, but when she returns her attention to her, Lena finds herself bathed in a bright grin.

"Thank you. So do you," Kara manages, and Lena bites down a smile. Her eyes track along her outfit for a second, then she holds out her hand.

"May I?" She asks genially, and Kara finds herself slipping her hand into Lena's without an ounce of hesitation.

The touch is pleasant and surprisingly welcome. Internally Kara cringes. How long has it been since someone held her? Is she really that desperate? Apparently the answer is yes, because she finds herself preoccupied with the feeling of Lena's fingers intertwined with hers; the way Lena gesticulates as she talks with her held hand just as much as the free one, and every accidental squeeze tingles in Kara's palm.

"Forgive me," Lena says, interrupting Kara's thoughts and pausing in her explanation of a project that Kara had asked her about, "I've been talking about myself this whole time."

"Oh, don't apologise," Kara says cheerfully, budging her glasses with her hand. "It's nice. And anyway, I should probably know some stuff about you. You know, keep our story straight and everything."

Lena purses her lips together to hide a smile. She fixes Kara with a wry look.

"Do you imagine that someone is going to test you?"

"From what you've told me about her, I'd not put anything past your mother."

Lena purses her lips in earnest.

"Good point. What would you like to know?"

Everything, Kara thinks, but that's kind of a weird thing to say on a date, real or otherwise. She takes a second to think and finds Lena awaiting her response with an amused look.

"Don't you do this for a day job?" She teases, and Kara jumps on the first thing she can think of.

"Favourite colour?"

Lena gives a dry laugh and says, "my mother wouldn't know that, don't worry."

"That's-" Depressing. Awful. "Uh... Pets?"

"The Luthor household was not one to welcome strays. I would know." She pulls a little self-deprecating face and then, before Kara can say anything, raises an eyebrow and deadpans, "I seem to recall some koi inhabiting one of the ponds at some point."

"Ok..." Kara says, deciding not to probe too hard on her answer. Not... not now anyway. "How about hobbies?"

"My mother would say polo." She smiles indulgently. "Parties."

"You like those things?" Kara asks, raising an eyebrow.

Lena smirks. "I like champagne. But no, not particularly. That was more my scene when I was younger."

Kara takes a second to try to imagine a younger Lena, carefree, life of the party, and almost manages it. The image is so at odds with the businesswoman in front of her that her imagination falters. Lena grins like she can see what's happening inside her head.

"I was fun once," she says, squeezing Kara's hand. "Promise."

What happened? Kara wants to ask, but she knows what happened, is acutely aware of what happened, and god knows it isn't first (second?) date material. It's easy to forget that Lena is, in reality, a stranger, when her hand is in hers and they're trading smiles like they've known each other forever.

"Earth to Kara," Lena murmurs, and Kara blinks at her. "We're here."

She looks up and finds herself under the great awning of the theatre. There's a smattering of camera clicks and flashes around them, and Kara finds Lena drawing her a little closer.

"Is this ok?" She asks, dipping her head down a little so that her words are for Kara alone. She uses her free hand to tuck one of Kara's curls behind her ear and looks at her with such care that Kara thinks she might melt a little bit. It's for the cameras. It's all for the cameras.

"Yeah, don't worry, they're friends," Kara murmurs. She can spy a couple of CatCo photographers and one or two from other publications that can be trusted not to utterly decimate Lena's positive but somewhat tenuous public image. "I tipped them off."

Lena raises her eyebrows and Kara smiles. "Anonymously, of course."

"Very sneaky," Lena teases, her eyes sparkling. "Shall we go in?"


At the interval, when Kara has finished extolling the virtues of the entire first half in detail, Lena looks thoughtful.

"We should probably kiss," she muses, and Kara's eyes bulge.

"I'm sorry?" She manages, her heart racing.

"For the cameras." Lena explains calmly, searching Kara's face. "Is that ok? You don't have to."

Kara takes a deep breath. "Oh. No, yeah, sure. That's fine," she says faux-breezily, as if the prospect doesn't make her need to jiggle her leg anxiously through the whole second half.

Lena presses her lips together to hide a bizarre amusement. Very rarely has the prospect of kissing her been referred to as 'fine'. But then, seeing as Kara is straight, she supposes that her reaction could be much worse. She lets it lie.

 

At the end of the date, walking home, Lena pulls her aside gently. She draws close, grazes Kara's jaw with her fingertips, and questions with her eyes. Kara feels her own hand brush Lena's side, as if it has a life of its own, and she smiles up at her. A silent, unmistakable yes. She notices as Lena leans in, just before her eyes flutter shut, that Lena's eyes are flecked with different shades of blue and green.

Not that she's meant to be noticing anything.

The kiss is sweet, short; respectful. Still, Lena's bottom lip brushes gently against Kara's and the sensation is just enough to make her lips buzz. Like she's been drawn by magnets, or the tide maybe, she feels herself pressed close against the warmth of Lena's body. Lena's free hand - the one not gently brushing along her jaw and setting off sparks in her bones - drifts to her elbow. It guides her close and keeps her balance, but it doesn't hold; doesn't pull. It's like the kiss is a question. Like-

Cameras flash behind her and Lena pulls away as if caught in a private moment and shifts protectively in front of Kara. But not before they snap a picture of Kara wiping Lena's lipstick off the corner of her mouth.

Mission accomplished.