"I love you."
On the other end of the line Kara had gasped at Lena's words. She was so surprised, she had no idea what to say. Lena was gone before she had time to recover and respond.
Kara's brain spun through questions: Did Lena mean to say it? And more importantly, did she really mean it? Was it just the alcohol talking? Whatever the case, it seemed Lena didn't want a response, why would she hang up so fast?
Kara thought about her experiences with Lena, beyond just how phenomenal the sex was. The many ways Lena worried about her - thought of her comfort and looked out for her. How fiercely Lena fought to protect her. Her reputation, her privacy, her career. Lena had defended her viciously against Kate, and later Mikel. She was so powerful, so in control when she unleashed on others to protect Kara. She thought of how Lena loved to feed and take care of her. Even now, when Kara had insisted they only talk as friends while she worked through her experience with Mikel, Lena was still there, every night when she called. So willing to listen, to give good advice, and mainly just to encourage her. She was so patient, and kind.
And when they were having sex, even when Lena was clearly desperate to fuck her, she would still put Kara first. Kara groaned at the memory of weeks ago with Lena. How exhausted, yet turned on she felt after the game and the party, how Lena could see that and was determined to give her that release, not worrying at all about her own needs. Kara remembered the sight of Lena in her robe, clearly hard underneath in her silky briefs. Kara laid back on the bed, unable to resist the urge to touch herself at thoughts of Lena that night. She slid her hand into her sleep shorts.
She remembered Lena's mouth and tongue working her over as she made her way down her body. The feeling of Lena's hard cock pressed against her hip. Her velvety mouth felt incredible over Kara's clit, then slipping her tongue inside. And when Kara begged to be fucked, how Lena had eased her fingers inside, working her G-spot like no one ever had. Slowly adding more fingers, stretching her and fucking her more deeply, while never letting up on her clit.
As she remembered that night, Kara began circling her clit, then slid her fingers inside, eventually working up to 3, just as Lena had done. She remembered how Lena had been relentless, never letting up on her as Kara began to cry out her name. Driving her higher and higher until at last Kara gushed all over Lena's hand. Kara pressed hard against her own G-spot, thrusting over and over again trying to get relief. Remembering how Lena was biting her lips in determination to make her cum. Finally, the memory of watching Lena between her legs, ravenously licking Kara's cum from her fingers pushed her over the edge.
Kara came down quickly from her orgasm and felt the emptiness of her own bed deeply. She had been doing so well, staying focused on her process, trying to keep Lena in the friend zone of her heart until she felt she was ready to handle her feelings. She needed to compartmentalize. To finish with Mikel and all the baggage that had come with him. At least she thought as much. Lena's confession, whether intended or not, brought that carefully crafted world crashing down around her.
The next morning Kara woke up early and cooked piles of chocolate chip pancakes and bacon - her and Alex' favorite breakfast, hoping to lure her out so she could talk. As Kara inhaled her breakfast Alex eventually appeared, rubbing her eyes.
"Hungry?" Kara loaded up a plate and handed it over.
"Why are you up and cooking so early?"
"Kara..." Alex said in her big sister tone.
"Fine." Kara took a deep breath and blurted it out what she'd been dying to tell Alex. "Lena said "I love you" last night on the phone."
"She was drunk. I don't know if she meant to say it. Or if she even meant it."
"And what did you say?"
"Nothing, I...she hung up right after."
"So...I'm guessing you're now in full-blown panic mode." Alex let out a deep breath. "I knew these pancakes had a purpose."
"Well, yeah, sort of..."
"Kara, listen, I don't know what Lena is feeling, or what she meant to say to you when she was drunk." Alex said calmly. "She's been nothing but a perfect friend to you. Just as you asked - to be friends. You can't...ghost her because of something she said while she was drunk."
"I know. I won't. And I don't want to..."
"Then what is it?"
"It just...it made me think about a lot of things. The things she's done for me. The way she makes me feel. It just brought up...a lot."
"Like the way she is so patient and kind, but then turns into this powerful and furious alpha...when she's defending me. Even after I told her I wanted us to explore a relationship, then basically put us on hold, it didn't seem to phase her. Now she's listening and supporting me every night through all this. I just don't...I don't know how to..."
"Just spit it out, Kara."
"I think I'm...falling in love with her." Kara let out a deep nervous breath. "No...I mean...I know I am."
"It's OK, Kara. It's OK. People fall in love. I know you've got a lot going on right now. But it's going to be OK." Alex took her hand.
"Listen, I know it scares you to death, but this is a good thing. I promise. No matter what happens between you and Lena, this is progress. You're opening your heart. I'm really proud of you. Just so long as you don't run away.
"But I can't...tell her right now. I just...have to focus. I really can't..."
"It's OK to wait until the right time. You aren't obligated to do anything. Just so long as you don't disappear on her. That would be very cruel. I know you don't want to hurt her."
"No! No...I really don't."
"Then just...keep talking. Get through this confrontation with Mikel and whatever else you need to do. You can keep talking as friends and let her how it's going. It's not fair to leave her wondering, especially after what she said."
"I know. I know you're right. I guess I just needed to hear it. Sometimes I get inside my own head and get stuck."
"You can do this, Kara. I know you can. Stay focused on your mission." Alex squeezed her hand. "Just, don't push her away."
"I know. You're right." Kara squeezed her hand back.
"You've got this."
Kara didn't mention what Lena had said to her therapist. Instead, she stayed focused on her upcoming confrontation. She wanted to be as prepared as possible. She knew Mikel would never give her a second chance once he figured out the purpose of the call.
Together they developed a strategy and practiced every day during that week leading up to the call. The plan was to draw him out and get him to talk about the details of what he had done. Kara would do it under the guise of trying to work through their problems and to move on together. Kara didn't like lying about the idea of them getting back together, but she knew if she just immediately confronted him then he would just hang up. But if he thought he had a chance with her, then he might spend time discussing all that had happened. All that he'd done to her.
The hope was that by re-hashing it and considering it all at once, he would realize there was a destructive pattern, and that there was no way to justify his behavior, even in his own mind. The trick was that she had to do it very carefully or he would catch on and hang up before making a breakthrough.
So they drilled and drilled until Kara felt she was ready. Dr. Pierce would play the role of Mikel and test Kara with different responses and attitudes. Going through the details of her torment and injuries was painful. At the same time, she knew it was helping her put it behind her by acknowledging it and moving on.
Each night after she got home from her sessions, Kara would call Lena. Neither brought up Lena's confession - or mistake? Kara couldn't help but wonder. Did Lena even remember saying it? If Lena didn't remember it would only embarrass her. Most of all, Kara needed to stay focused on her task, just as she'd always said. Instead, she told Lena about the basic strategy and plan. Talking to Lena eased her mind. A few nights before the Zoom call she let Lena know about her Plan B.
"Lena, I want you to know that, if I can't reach Mikel, if he stays on his path of denial and refuses to believe he needs to change, there is a 'nuclear option'."
Kara took a deep breath. "It could have repercussions for the team. Maybe even for L-Corp as sponsor. And as your friend, I thought it only fair to warn you."
"This is your life, Kara. You can't make decisions based on what's best for the team, or the bottom line. I trust that you're doing all you can to do the right thing. To do what you need to do to put this behind you."
"The 'nuclear option' isn't so much about getting through this myself...though maybe that is part of it. I want to send out a warning to anyone who may be in a relationship with him, now or in the future. If he doesn't acknowledge that he's done anything wrong, or agree to get help, I want to know that I've done all I can to protect other omegas."
"Understood. I support you, Kara. Protecting others also has to be a priority over the bottom line, or any other fallout."
"So, you don't even want to know what the plan is?"
"I trust you. You've done the work and decided what you need to do."
"Thanks for understanding, Lena." Kara said, feeling very relieved. She was so close to the finish line. She hated to think that in the end she might do something that would hurt Lena. She knew how much L-Corp meant to her. How much she put into it. Lena said it didn't matter, but if she had to go through with Plan B, who really knew the consequences? In the end, Kara knew it didn't matter. She had to do the right thing in order to be able to live with herself. To finally let it go and move on, content that she had done all she could.
The next few days went by in a blur for Kara - training in the morning, meeting with her therapist in the afternoon, talking with Lena at night. Once she fell asleep while they were still connected. Kara had been reluctant to hang up and stayed on the line too long on the night before her meeting with Mikel. When she woke up the next day she wondered if she had fallen asleep in the middle of a sentence. She texted Lena.
K: Sorry for crashing on you last night. Thanks for staying up with me.
L: Anytime. Good luck with your call today. I'll be thinking of you.
In the end, all her preparation didn't pay off. Despite all her hard work, she wasn't able to break through to Mikel. Once he realized Kara wasn't really trying to work things out between them, it quickly went off the rails. He became defensive, angry, and ultimately denied everything. He even had the nerve to threaten her if she said anything about it to anyone. Kara was still trying to salvage the call when he abruptly hung up on her.
Kara looked at her therapist, who was watching and listening from the opposite side of the room. She tried to hold out, but she ended up breaking down. After all she'd been through to try to breakthrough to him, it was hard to face the end of that hope and accept that it would work.
Dr. Pierce came to her and wrapped her up tight and pressed her lips against the top of her head.
"You did everything you could, Kara. You couldn't have done more." She lifted her chin to look into her eyes. "Why don't you take a few days. Then we'll re-visit 'Plan B'"
"No, Julia." Kara choked back her tears. "I'm going through with it. First thing on Monday. I'll record it this weekend. There's nothing left to think about."
"I'm proud of you, Kara. You're doing everything you can to put this behind you and to protect anyone else from the same experience. I hope you can see that. You've paid quite a price. And it's time for you to be free."
As she moved to leave Kara looked directly at her therapist, just before she walked at the door. "Believe me, Julia, I will be. I'm washing my hands of him and all of it. Moving on."
Julia smiled and gave her a salute. After their hours and weeks together, there was nothing more to be said.
When she got home Alex was waiting for her with pizza and beer. Kara broke down telling her about the details of the call.
"I'm so proud of you, Kara. You really did it! You did the work, you got yourself where you need to be, and you confronted him. You're so, so brave." Alex hugged her tightly as she cried.
Eventually she spoke again. "I have to go to 'Plan B'"
"Are you sure, Kara? There's no turning back once you do it. You don't owe anyone anything."
"But I do. I have to do everything I can to try to stop this from happening to anyone else."
"Whatever you do, I support you one-hundred percent."
"Thanks, Alex. I don't know what I'd do without you."
That night for the first time Kara didn't want to call Lena. She didn't want to admit her defeat. She didn't want to talk about the details of 'Plan B', but knew she needed to. In the end she decided to just a send a brief text to let her know it hadn't worked with Mikel, and promise to talk soon. She just needed to let herself shut down and be still.
Lena was disappointed to read Kara's text, to know that all Kara's hard work hadn't paid off, and that she wouldn't get to talk to her that night. To try to make her feel better. Her heart ached for Kara, she felt her disappointment as if it was her own. She texted Kara back and put her phone away.
L: I'm so sorry, Kara. You did everything you could. Please let me know if there's anything I can do.
The next night Kara called at her usual time.
"Hi. Sorry I didn't call last night. I just..."
"No need to explain." Lena interrupted her. "How are you?"
"I'm OK. Disappointed. Not surprised. But I was hopeful that I could get through to him. After all that work..." Kara's voice cracked and she got quiet.
"I'm sorry. I was hopeful too. I know you worked so hard. Did everything you could to get through to him."
"He just...he can't see it. Or he won't see it. He has every excuse in the book. He just won't admit he's wrong. And he won't try to change."
"You did your best, Kara. And I know you're stronger and in a better place because of all the work you've done. In the end, you can only be responsible for yourself."
"Yeah, I guess so. I want you to know, I'm moving on to the 'nuclear option'. And I want you to tell you about it."
"You don't owe me anything, Kara. This is about you doing what's right for you."
"You're my friend, Lena. You should know what's coming. But I need to ask you not to say anything to anyone else."
"Well...I've decided I'm going to talk about my experience with Mikel...I'm going to make it public."
"Wow. That's...very brave, Kara." Lena said. "How...?"
"I've decided to record a video and release it on social media. To talk in detail about my experience. My therapist believes that my high visibility will cause it to go viral. Many will see it. Even others in similar situations. Maybe it will take away some of the shame and hopelessness to see someone like me has gone through the same thing! Maybe it will encourage them to get help. To get out of the situation. And it will be a warning. A fair warning to anyone involved with him. Or might become involved with him in the future. It's the only way I can try to protect others. At least it gives them a chance."
"That's... just...you're going to make a huge difference in many lives, Kara." Lena said. "Are you going to name him in the video?"
"No. I really wish I could, but don't want to open myself up to any legal prosecution. But I'm going to share some details that will be enough for people to figure out who I'm talking about, if they want to. We were together for a long time, and both being in the public eye, there is plenty known about the timeline of when we were together."
"It's really a brilliant plan, Kara."
"You aren't worried about what this might mean for the Spirit? About what it could mean for L-Corp's publicity?"
"Not at all. This is far more important than that. I'll support you anyway I can. Do you want to talk to a lawyer? Maybe one of our public relations experts?"
"No. I need to do this on my own. And I'm not informing Coach or the team PR office. I'm going to write it myself and read it myself, without anyone editing or advising. Or trying to stop me."
"That makes a lot of sense. The truth is, there are people in that mix that might try to stop you. Besides, no one can do this better than you." Lena said. "You're truly amazing, Kara. After all you've been through...putting yourself out there to protect other people like that. People you don't even know."
"Thanks. I have to admit, it's a bit scary. But nothing is going to stand in my way."
"I believe in you, Kara."
Both women got quiet.
"I wish you were here." Kara whispered.
"Me too." Lena said quietly. Lena longed to hold Kara. To try to take away some of the hurt.
"Thanks for listening, Lena. I can't tell you how much it means to me to be able to talk to you."
"About that. I wanted to let you know that I have to go to Japan for some business. I'm leaving tomorrow and I'll be in a different time zone. My schedule will be pretty packed. We may not be able to talk every night..."
"I understand. Thanks for letting me know."
"We can always text."
"Yes, of course. We'll text."
Lena heard Kara yawn.
"You should sleep. I'll let you go."
"Will you...stay? Just stay on the line a bit longer."
"Of course. Why don't you close your eyes? Set the phone on your pillow. I'll be here."
Lena stayed on the line until Kara's rhythmic breathing convinced her she was sleep.
"Good-night, Kara." She whispered as she hung up.
She stopped herself from her urge to follow it up with 'I love you', which brought the memory of that drunken night back to her full force. It had slipped so easily from her lips. Just as if she'd said it a hundred times. Just as she'd felt it many times. The baijiu had caused her inhibitions to drop, and speak what she was really thinking, as if it was the most natural thing in the world. In some ways, it was.
But the mistake had sent alarm bells off in Lena's head. She knew she'd let herself get in too deep, letting herself get caught up without really thinking things through. First by getting carried away, unable to resist each other sexually, and now, in doing whatever she could Kara through this difficult time. She knew that afterward they needed to talk about it. Lena had to start think of herself as well. To protect her own heart if Kara wasn't ready for more. She couldn't keep spending all this time with her, getting more invested and, she had to admit, falling in love. Her drunken confession had brought that starkly into contrast for her. It scared her, but for the time being, she wanted to be there for her friend and to help get her through, anyway she could.
Lena hated that she had to leave days before Kara planned her confrontation with Mikel. But the crisis in the Japan office had escalated, and she knew there was nothing she could really do for Kara since she'd turned down help from her lawyers and communications people.
Once she arrived in Japan Lena found the situation even worse than she thought. She decided the only sustainable option was to restructure the office and make major changes. Her days were packed with meetings and calls. As she suspected, the timing didn't work for talking with Kara, but she was able to text with her regularly.
During a particularly grueling meeting that was running into the evening, Lena received a text from Sam with a link to the video Kara had posted. She immediately called for a half hour break and rushed to her temporary office to watch it.
In the video Kara revealed she'd been a victim of abuse. She talked about her relationship with Mikel, even getting into some devastating specifics. She talked about how she'd managed to eventually get out of it. Just as Kara had said, she managed to provide many clues to Mikel's identity without using his name. By the end of it Lena was sobbing with the realization of all Kara had been through. She was also shaking with anger, just as she had been when confronting Mikel at the party.
Once she pulled herself together she called Kara. Not surprisingly, it went to voice mail. She was sure Kara must be buried in contacts from friends, family, and the media. Lena left a message of support. She felt frustrated not to be able to help, and it felt wrong to be so far away. Once again she had to remind herself of her place in Kara's life. As close as she felt to her and as much as she wanted to protect her, Lena wasn't her partner. Kara had more than handled herself. Lena had to let go of the intense feeling of responsibility towards her.
That night she returned to her hotel exhausted. She'd received a text from Kara thanking her for her message, but no call. She knew by the time Kara had dealt with the press and other calls it would be the middle of the night in Tokyo. Lena consoled herself with whiskey until she was able to pass out.
The next morning Lena woke to find a text from Kara.
K: Sorry I couldn't talk when you called. Complete media circus here. Please call when you wake up. Doesn't matter how late it is here.
Lena looked at the time and saw it was not the middle of the night in National City. She dialed Kara, her heart beating rapidly. They hadn't spoken in days, and she knew Kara had been through a new layer of hell since then.
"Hey, Lena. Thanks for calling."
"Of course. I've been following the coverage. How are you holding up?"
"I'm OK. It's been pretty crazy. But mostly it's been positive coverage and a real outpouring of support. I did receive a rather vague but threatening call from a lawyer. Someone trying to intimidate me, threatening me not to reveal more but wouldn't say who he was working for. I guess that would have been an admission of guilt to say he worked for Mikel."
"Kara, if you give me the phone number..."
"Lena, no. I'm sure you have the tech to track that guy down and the people to take care of it. But there's nothing they can do to me. My therapist and I worked out the text so that I wouldn't say anything they could take legal action on. It's annoying, but I'm not afraid of them. And you've done enough."
"I hate that he's still bothering you..." Lena said, gritting her teeth.
"He's not. I'm free, Lena. He can't touch me anymore."
Lena took a deep breath. "You're amazing, Kara. So brave. Are you sure there's nothing I can do to help?"
"Actually, there is something you can do."
"What I really want is..not to talk about it any more. Just to put this behind me. I want to do something that's for me. Something that I know will make me feel good."
"You deserve that. What can I do?"
"Just...can I see you? Once you get back from Japan? I mean like...on a date. I know you have a lot going on..."
"Yes." Lena said, not able to resist the smile spreading across her face. "Did you think I changed my answer from the last time you asked me?"
"I...well, maybe. You've learned a lot more about me since then. You've been really kind listening through all this, but, you have to be thinking twice about getting into a relationship with someone like me..."
"Someone like you?" Lena broke in. "You mean someone honest, and strong, talented, funny, and caring? Not to mention charming, and gorgeous, and..."
"Lena! You know what I mean. Don't you worry that I might be...damaged?"
Lena could feel her blood boiling again. The thought that this man had made Kara feel she wasn't worthy...
"You still there?"
"Yes! Yes, I just..." Lena tried to get her temper under control. "Kara, please never say or think something like that again. You've overcome everything that man did to you - tenfold! You've come through so much, and you're only stronger because of it. Not damaged. Never."
Kara was quiet for a while, so long that Lena began to worry that she'd upset her somehow.
"Kara...you still with me?"
"Yes. So...I know this great little Chinese place..."
"That sounds lovely." Lena said, relieved.
"Great. So...it's a date." Kara said. "When you get back to town have your people call my people. Isn't that how you big CEOs do this?"
"About that. Unfortunately I'm going to be stuck here longer than I expected." Lena sighed.
"Oh." Kara said, sounding disappointed. "How much longer do you think it will be?"
"I'm not sure. Things are much more complicated than I realized before I got here. Hopefully not more than a week. Definitely by the end of next week I should have it wrapped up. They just need to see that I'm not going anywhere and get serious."
"Sounds like a real cluster. Sorry Lena. You've work so hard..."
"Hey, Kara..." Lena broke in. "About that date. What would you think about Japanese food instead?"
"I love Japanese food!" Kara said enthusiastically. "Well, I guess I love about any food, but my sister says I can eat more raw fish than a whale."
"Ha, I believe it!" Lena laughed. "How would you like to go out for Japanese food...in Tokyo?"
"You mean, come to Tokyo?" Kara said, sounding amazed.
"Why not? Your Cup training hasn't officially started. I could set you up with a fantastic trainer here to continue your work. You could escape the media circus, all the fallout from the video. After all you've been through, wouldn't it be good to get away? Just leave it all behind for a while."
"Sure, but I can't just...leave." Kara's voice dropped off. "Can I?"
"Just think of it as a well deserved vacation. I'll be working most of the time. You can explore the city, eat lots of fantastic food. I've got a great minder here who can take care of everything. I'll put you up in your own suite. There'll be no expectation for you to do anything but relax and enjoy yourself."
"That sounds...fantastic, actually."
"Come on, Kara. You deserve it! Consider it a thank you from L-Corp for all the bonus publicity you've given us this year by winning the championship."
"I..." Kara took a deep breath. "OK. Yes!"
"Wonderful. OK, it's late there so, I'll have Jess work out the arrangements. She'll call you tomorrow morning with all the details. Can you leave by the afternoon?"
"Sure, I can leave anytime tomorrow. I doubt I'll be able to sleep tonight anyway!"
Lena's heart leapt at the sound of Kara's excitement. It had been so long since she'd sounded happy, even lighthearted.
"Perfect. OK, you go get packed and try to get some sleep."
"OK. And you go save your Tokyo office so you have time to go out with me when I get to there."
Kara hung up and rushed out to the living room where Alex was watching TV on the couch and yelled:
"I'm going to Tokyo! Tomorrow! To see Lena!"
Alex jumped up and looked at Kara, her eyes wide with disbelief: