The four walls of her office were a barricade, a form of protection, except they weren’t shielding Lena from any kind of danger, but from the thoughts of a particular superhero.
As the CEO of a multimillion-dollar company, losing yourself in work was easy. For the past month, paperwork, meetings, conference calls were like Lena’s medicine – a regular dose to keep unwelcomed emotions at bay.
There would be times in between her hectic schedules where her mind would idle, treading dangerously close to a chasm so wide; it could devour her entire being without her knowing. She would pick up her phone to type something, and then struggle to find the courage to press ‘send’. There would also be times when shades of red and blue would emerge vaguely in her peripherals, and she could have sworn Kara slowed just enough to catch a glimpse of her, but Lena would always muster every ounce of control she had in herself to look away, too terrified of detecting a hint of suffering in her best friend’s eyes.
Another barricade. Lena had been so comfortable hiding behind the safety of this platonic name that the possibility of having other kinds of feelings spawning from it seemed unimaginable.
Lena wondered if she was the cause of this mess. After all, she was the initiator of this train-wreck of a relationship. Best friend with benefits. Staring at the blank screen of her laptop, Lena finally let her mind wander. Like a self-aware magnet avoiding the natural attraction of the opposite pole, she was completely drained of energy and couldn’t hold herself back anymore.
She found her happy place. The first time. Kara had one too many Aldebaran Rums and didn’t want to get fined for drink-flying, especially not with a very intoxicated human in her arms. The cab ride to the penthouse was filled with slurred conversations and stifled laughter. After a nightcap and a few risqué questions, Lena flung a leg over Kara and straddled her best friend on her couch.
“You’re telling me, the all-powerful, ass-kicking Supergirl likes to submit?” Lena remembered how pleasantly stupefied she was at the new information. She had grabbed both of Kara’s wrists, pushing them above their heads, against the wall.
Kara giggled, alcoholic breath filling the narrow space between them, “Are you trying to restrain this all-powerful, ass-kicking, Supergirl?”
“I’m not delusional. I know my limits,” Lena sneered at the blonde beneath her, “I just need you to hold back your powers. Can you?”
The smirk that appeared on Kara’s face was so… sexy. She felt herself hovering. The ground seemed farther, and Lena yelped, releasing Kara's wrists to claw frantically at her shoulders for support.
“I can’t control my powers, Lena. Just like how you can’t control your urge to straddle me.” Kara floated higher, it was fortunate that Lena’s penthouse had high ceilings, or Kara wouldn’t be able to prove her point. “I do have an idea though.”
That was when Lena learned to never allow the law-abiding, responsibility-laden hero to get so incautiously drunk again. All symptoms of tipsiness left her body when she saw two luminous beams fire out from her balcony.
“Kara, no!” Lena was foolish to think she could stop a stubborn and somewhat horny Kryptonian. “You have superhero-ing to do tomorrow!”
“I’ll call in sick!” Kara shouted into the crisp, night-time air. “Stay back, you might get hurt.”
It was hard to watch. The corners of Kara’s eyes glowed an angry red, the air felt warmer and thicker almost instantly and the humidity became almost a little too uncomfortable to bear. In about two minutes, Kara was mostly drained out of energy from the Earth’s yellow sun.
“You can tie me up now.” Kara lilted, bracing herself on the balcony’s railings while fanning her scalding eyes with a free hand.
“That was reckless Kara. What were you thinking?” Lena chastised, but the pout on the Kryptonian’s face looked so annoyingly adorable. That was one of Kara’s superpowers, she thought, as she succumbed to the death grip of the hero's cuteness. “But I guess we shouldn’t let you solar flare for nothing… We need a word.”
It took a moment for the hero to understand what Lena was asking. “A safe word?”
“Yes. You know, just in case.”
After a few seconds of careful thought, “Emerald.”
Lena raised her eyebrow, “Okay. Emerald it is. Use it if anything feels off and you want to stop.”
And that was the first time the two women started their dance on this blurred line separating friendship and something more. A line so delicate, that not many can tolerate waltzing on it without tripping. It’s ironic, really, because on this thin line, you’re safe. You are allowed to fall back into your comfort zone, unscathed and out of harm’s way. You can still ease back into familiarity and with time, you’ll soon forget ever striding along this dangerous threshold.
But now, they'd both fallen, face-first, on the other side of that line. They weren't supposed to go that far.
She wanted to be the most productive businesswoman of the day, not some feeble human being soaking in tribulation, pondering over things that couldn’t be fixed all while fantasizing about reliving one of the best moments of her life.
But one hand on the keyboard and the other on a wireless mouse only mimicked the act of a hardworking CEO.
The room started to smother her. The first droplet of tears threatened to crack her resolute facade. Lena sniffled and erased the evidence of weakness with the back of her hands, careful not to ruin the makeup she’d forced herself to put on as she dragged herself to work. She stood up swiftly and slid the balcony door open to hopefully cleanse the air of its intolerable bitterness.
She made her way to the cabinet at the left end of the room where the bottles of hard liquors are. A large swig of scotch stung the roof of her mouth. The burn swirled in her mouth until it diminished into a reassuring glow that settled in between her ribcage. Initial pain before dulling comfort. It helped a little.
A strong breeze made its way into the office, the piercing cold had almost knocked away the soothing warmth embracing her entire body. But Lena felt herself melt into the body pressed firmly behind her. She almost choked on her own saliva, because as much as it felt like Kara, it couldn't have been.
And if it wasn’t Kara, it was someone who wanted to cause her harm. She imagined being swept off her feet by this kidnapper where they'd keep her in a damp, rancid-smelling underground chamber and demand a hefty ransom from her family, which would end up in her being left for dead since the people who could actually help her were locked behind bars.
Two strong arms wrapped around her waist, Lena breathed deeply, lifting an arm and bracing herself for the impact that would follow after knocking this intruder out with her elbow. Time to put self-defense class into good use.
A scarcely formed silhouette formed on the reflective wall in front of her. And it looked too identical to the one etched in her mind. The blue sleeves that crept around the waist were the only confirmation she needed.
It felt like ache and grief at first. The Luthor felt herself being squeezed tightly, then it felt like desire and affection. Lena fought hard to keep extremely still although her body was trembling and her heart fluttered like a hummingbird, afraid that any movement or sound would cause the superhero to flee, just like a young deer in the wild.
But little did she know that her pounding heart and shallow breaths sounded like a lion’s roar in Kara’s ears. Kara buried her face into the dark hair cascading past Lena’s ear; she inhaled so deeply that it was almost invasive.
The hero needed this. To feel Lena close again. It felt wrong but Lena was like a drug, a stimulant triggering the release of endorphins. And quitting cold turkey had made Kara understand the true meaning of insanity. Perhaps one day she wouldn't find herself tangled in the vines of addiction. Perhaps one day she wouldn't have to medicate.
“Don’t leave.” Lena had no choice but to speak when she felt Kara loosening her grip around her. It seemed to have caused some hesitation within the hero. Strong, contemplative arms clung for a while longer.
Then, the room returned to how it was minutes ago, bleak and suffocating. Kara was like the wind, coming and going without a sound, but still succeeded at leaving evidence of her brief presence. It still smelled like floral-scented shampoo, it also smelled like the sky. Lena patiently waited for any grain of sadness to dissipate naturally with the rousing scent.
With immaculate timing – her mobile phone burst to live. It was a video call from Jack. “Hi, Jack. You're early, our call isn’t for another two hours.” Lena answered.
It was Jack, all right – prim and proper, dressed in a nice dress shirt with a loose button. He sat there, motionless and unreadable. His callous gaze pierced through the screen as if he was looking at something miles away.
“Jack?” Lena thought they were experiencing some technical problems – ironic, for a call between two tech geeks.
“I left him alone for a couple of months and he went to get a girlfriend.” A woman stepped into the frame. Lena had never seen this woman before. She looked businessy, probably one of Jack’s colleagues. But her expression scowled with something that looked like jealousy and it wasn’t difficult to infer that Jack might’ve had another woman.
“You are?” Lena’s jaw stiffened and her glare intensified.
“I am Beth Breen.” She pushed Jack away on his roller chair with such disrespect. Lena felt the first sparks of anger coursing through her veins. “Business partner and CFO, surely you’ve heard of me?”
Twenty seconds into the call and the Luthor already felt an urgent need to slap the smugness out this woman’s face. Lena knew Jack had a business partner, no names were mentioned because he’d assured time and again that he still called all the shots.
“Jack said you weren’t all that much involved in the project. So what do you want?” Lena's words cut back. “And what happened to Jack?”
Beth laughed an evil and diabolical laugh. She dragged Jack back into the frame and appeared to push something on a tiny controller. The soul in Jack’s eyes shimmered back to live, as though Beth had actually activated a robot of artificial intelligence. It was horrific. Jack looked around before focusing on the woman on his screen.
“Lena! That’s strange, I don’t reme-“ Beth caressed Jack’s shoulder with both hands to let him know that she was there as well, “Oh, Lena I would like to introduce you to Beth-”
Jack froze again.
“Ya-da ya-da, there’s no need for a second introduction, Jack.” Beth set the controller down, now that she was done with it.
She could hear her own heartbeat in her ears. Lena started to break out in a cold sweat when she realized that this malevolent, vindictive creature who called herself Jack’s business partner, possessed the ability to control the man with God knows that technology.
“You see, our dear Jack was so caught up in saving the world that he injected himself with his own nanotech. The nanobots merged with his body, his freewill gone with it. You get the idea, right?”
It felt like a lump in her throat. Lena wanted to speak but all she could do was choke.
“Mind you, I’m not as well versed in the Bio-Med side of things, but getting the nanobots to respond to this little controller was simple enough.” Beth continued, “Thank you, though. I can’t believe you’ve managed to improve the tech. That’s really, really impressive… So, business! Does 80-20 sound good to you? I’m getting 80 of cour-”
“You psychotic bitch.” Lena snapped. Her chair bounced backward as she stood up forcefully. She ended the call and slammed her phone onto her desk. Something cracked but it didn't matter. Pacing around her office, Lena mentally prioritized. The most important thing was to stop this product from making it into the markets, or anyone who gets injected with this poison could suffer under Beth’s control.
Lena rushed to the door but it wouldn’t budge. “JESS!” Lena screamed at the top of her lungs at the thick doors.
Fuck these soundproof walls.
She pulled her phone out and dialed the number to L Corp, but her signal was jammed.
What the f-
The TV screen next to her desk powered down and up again, showing static lines and Beth’s voice came through the speakers. “I didn’t think Lena Luthor would be that naive to believe I’d let her off after exposing the truth.”
“I will find you, and I will have you arrested.” Lena retorted with outrage, sparking another vile laugh from the woman behind the speakers.
“I’ll give you three minutes to think about the fabulous life you’ve led thus far. You should have considered taking the 20 percent when I offered. Oh, and forget about writing down your last words because the entire floor will be shredded to pieces.”
"What? How did you-" The static on the TV disappear, and all she could see was the reflection of a pale, mascara stained face. The look of someone about to face her end. The look of someone who had already given up.
She felt numb. The kind of numbness that radiates through your entire body when you realize that death is in your immediate future had a way of making the air around you so thin that your lungs constrict. Your tightening throat seems to be the catalyst propelling you to your inevitable end.
It felt different from the car accident. Idling in her last moments gave Lena time to think how much she was going to lose. How much she had lost.
Would Kara come if she screamed? Lena scoffed. After putting the hero through emotional turmoil, all she could think about was calling her for help.
And the hero would be forced to save the person whom she was feeling these… these encumbering feelings for. She would be burdened by green eyes staring at her longingly, not from affection, but gratitude. She would feel pain. Again.
Perhaps Lena deserved to die.
Her heart ached. Regret weighed down on her shoulders until she sank to the floor, lying there motionless, like the worthless prick she was. She should’ve told Kara how much she meant to her. And promise her that they’d figure things out together. Because they were always stronger together.
And instead, the only thing she was going to do is die. Once again, the mighty Lena Luthor had made things worse by disappearing forever, without last words, and leaving the hero alone to deal with this mess. Then, Kara would feel pain. Again.
Not only did she deserve to die, but she also belonged in hell.
There was a loud crash. The morose woman didn’t even flinch.
“I heard everything, Lena.” A voice cut the sullen air. Lena sobbed harder.
“Kar- Supergirl, how- why are y-”
“I’ll answer everything later. Everyone in L Corp is evacuating as we speak. Brainy is working remotely to disable the bomb. Let’s get you out of here.” Kara explained as concisely as she could, given the time constraint. She offered her hand and Lena held it immediately, like a drowning man lunging for a lifebuoy.
Lena’s knees buckled and Kara was carrying her bridal style. Strong winds caused by Kara’s speed stung her face, but Lena was glad she could feel again. It was Lena’s life that was threatened and almost lost. But it was Kara who seemed wrecked. She can see it in the duller sapphire orbs.
“My comms are on,” The hero warned quickly.
Lena nodded understandingly, “Thank you.”
“You will never need to thank me, ever.” Kara’s steely eyes stared straight ahead, her voice grim and tender at the same time. It must be how she felt towards the woman in her arms – devotion and affliction.
Thankfully, there we no devasting sounds of explosion by the time they landed on Lena's balcony - the balcony Kara had spent hours basking in the Sun while the Luthor slept it. Bringing a finger to her ear, Kara said 'thank you', most likely to the genius who disabled the explosives.
Lena was relieved that she didn’t need to go through torturous rounds of paperwork with her insurance agent if L Corp were to be destroyed. The trouble she would have to go through just because of one evil-
“Beth Breen.” Lena uttered.
“We will work with the FBI on this, Lena. She will be prosecuted, I promise.”
“Jack is…” Fresh tears flowed like rivulets down her pale face. And it pained Kara so much to see her cry; to see her crying for someone else. If only she had the power to take it all away.
“I- I’ll bring you to Jack when we find him.” Kara wiped mascara off of Lena’s face and she felt the trembling woman leaning into her touch.
Kryptonian warmth probably had healing powers. Lena felt like a heater was pressed to her face, drawing all the negative feelings to the surface of her ice-cold skin, where Kara's thumb would wipe and erase until they stopped showing. She closed her eyes, her eyebrows furrowed as she pleaded internally for Kara to stay. Just for a little while longer.
And then she thought Kara was psychic when she offered to stay. “Wou- would you like me to stick around?” Perhaps the superhero had learned the ability of mindreading from J’onn.
“No- I mean, I don’t want to impose. You should probably go back to the DEO to help them find-”
“I can fight, I can shoot lasers out of my eyes, and I can see through walls. But I cannot – for the love of Rao – work a computer faster than Brainy’s brain.”
Finally, a hearty, genuine, chuckle. Kara laughed with Lena like old times and for a brief moment, they’d forgotten why they’d stopped talking to each other.
Their giggles tapered off, leaving them in a silence that was still comfortable.
"Kara," Lena's voice was soft, "Why did you come by earlier?"
“Lena… I- ”
“Wait. I'm sorry, we don’t have to talk if you aren’t ready.” Lena wanted Kara to call the shots, to do what felt most comfortable to her.
"I- I'm sorry for creeping up on you like that. I felt you flinch." The railing under Kara's palm almost dented. "Also, I didn't mean to eavesdrop. I was at the roof. Just- just making sure you were really fine before I leave."
"Thank you," Lena's smile was so soft and disarming. "I miss you, Kara."
No, no, no.
Kara weakened at the words. She willed herself to stay put when the other woman took a small step forward. Her gaze dipped and she turned her face sideways, not being able to see the Luthor eye to eye.
"You know what, I should be making some rounds." Kara's wavering voice struggled to maintain its conviction. "I'll let you know when we find something."
"Okay." There wasn't anything more Lena could say. She stood there, alone, until it didn't smell like floral-scented shampoo. Until it didn't smell like the sky.