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take my mask, i'm home now

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To Kara’s dismay, she wasn’t able to call any of her family members to let them know that she actually would be arriving for her adoption anniversary week. Thanks to the four-hour time difference between New York City and Midvale, it meant that someone was generally always at work. Phone calls needed to be scheduled rather than spontaneous.

The combination of painkillers and shock of what she’d agreed to had seemed to have kicked her hangover to the curb, so she ordered in some pizza and spent the evening packing for her week away at Midvale. It was late April, so the temperature was beginning to warm up, but it was never perfectly guaranteed to be light sweater weather. She packed wool, thermal tops, some heavy sweaters, hats, and a pair of trainers; the kind that was meant for warmth and comfort, not high fashion. She had plenty of lighter clothes stored up in Midvale, anyway. She put her waterproof hiking boots by the door for her to put on in the morning, because they were great for slush. She’d kick them off on the plane. She wondered whether Lena had any, then decided that it wasn’t her problem. Kara had the feeling that Lena wasn’t going to listen to her when she’d asked her to pack more casual clothes; she was sure that Lena was going to stick out like a sore thumb in Midvale.

She smiled to herself at the thought of Lena walking down Main Street in her Givenchy dresses and expensive shoes, carrying a bag of groceries. The smile turned into laughter, and soon enough she was somewhere between laughing and crying, sitting on the worn old sofa in her apartment, a slice of pizza sagging in her hand.

She had no idea how she’d got herself into this mess. On the one hand, she was going to hold Lena to her giving her the job that she wanted. She was going to hold her to the settlement. She was going to get something out of this, but on the other hand, this was going to be the most wrong thing she had ever done. Not only was she going to be lying to every single person in her life except for Lena, she was breaking the law so badly that she risked a stay in prison and the loss of everything she knew.

And for what? Because a pretty lady with beautiful eyes asked her for help? Asked? Kara scoffed to herself. Who was she kidding? Lena hadn’t asked for her help, she’d demanded it, and she needed to keep the distinction clear in her head. She should’ve turned her down flat, but at that highly-charged moment in Lena’s office, she hadn’t felt like she’d had much of a choice.

Kara desperately wanted to text Alex and ask her advice on what she should do, but she couldn’t even do that, thanks to the knowledge that everything in her phone would be reviewed by the government. All she could do was let Alex know that she would be arriving the following evening, and that she was bringing someone with her, which she would do as soon as she’d finished eating her pizza. She was not looking forward to composing that text, considering she would have to explain who the someone was.

The someone being Lena freaking Luthor, her extremely indifferent boss, and the woman her family mostly knew from negative articles in the media. It was not like Kara to bad mouth anyone; she always stopped herself before she said anything truly rude, so the worst that she had said to her family about Lena was that she was not exactly personable. Kara was so mild-mannered that her refusal to say anything specifically horrible about Lena to her family spoke volumes to them, and she knew it. She didn’t exactly talk her up either, though; the best she could’ve said for Lena before this point was the same as anyone could’ve read in any article about her. She was intelligent, accomplished, and an excellent businesswoman.

Another thing that her family knew was that she was frustrated at the fact that she’d not been able to visit them at home in Midvale for more than a couple of days at a time since she’d started working at CatCo. They knew it was because of her boss.

And, what? She was going to show up tomorrow and tell her entire family that she was marrying Lena, completely out of the blue.

…Yeah.

Kara ate her last slice of pizza before packing her single suitcase and her backpack. She made sure to shove in a couple of books and a spare battery for her cell phone, since they’d be leaving so early. It was going to be a long, long day tomorrow.

Kara picked up her cell phone and opened the messaging app to tell Alex she was coming, and that she was bringing someone. And breaking the law, her mind tossed her. She shook her head. It was now or never.

Kara: Hey Alex! Just letting you know that my vacation was approved for once! And not for just the weekend either, I’ll be there the whole week!

To Kara’s surprise, Alex replied immediately. It must’ve been a slow day. I guess we’re having that conversation now then, Kara thought.

Alex: That’s amazing!! I can’t wait to see my baby sister. I’m sure you’ve grown a whole foot since I last saw you

Kara: Ha ha ha, very funny. It hasn’t been that long!

Alex: You haven’t been home since last August Kara, and it’s April now

Kara: Yeah, but work is work, you know

Alex: Work is work, sure, but I’m shocked that woman has allowed you an entire week. Did she die or something?

Kara: No, Alex, omg she hasn’t died!!

Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Kara stood up and walked around the table in her lounge a few times before she sat back down on the sofa. She felt really sick about what she was about to do next.

Kara: Actually, that woman is going to be coming with me

Alex: Why the fuck are you bringing your boss to Midvale?

Kara: Because she and I are dating

Kara watched Delivered change to Read, and the speech bubbles appeared indicating that Alex was writing back. Kara’s stomach felt like it was somewhere around the sole of her shoe right now. The bubbles disappeared and appeared a few times before finally disappearing altogether.

She stared at her phone.

Kara: Alex?

She waited a second longer and then Alex’s face flashed up on her screen. She was calling. Oh, no. Oh no. Damn, this was infinitely worse. This would be so much easier to do by text, but that wasn’t Alex’s style at all. Why couldn’t Alex have… She swiped to answer.

“Hello?”

“Don’t give me a hello as if you weren’t expecting me to call after that bombshell,” Alex said loudly. “What the hell, Kara? You’re dating that evil woman?!”

“She’s not evil, Alex,” Kara snapped, before reigning herself in. It was a shock for Alex. Hell, it was still a shock for herself. “She’s not evil, she’s just… you know, she’s just… always been quite distant.”

“How long has this been going on?”

Damn. She and Lena really should’ve talked about this earlier. She yanked a figure out of the air. “A year and a half.”

“A year and a half?” Alex yelled down the phone. “All those times you’ve bitched about her over the phone and you’ve been dating her for a year and a half?! Are you fucking kidding me?”

“Alex!!”

“Seriously, Kara. All you’ve done for the last three years is moan about her as she declined your vacation days or was rude about someone in the office, or fired a friend of yours, or was just generally unpleasant. I know you’ve never outright called her a bitch, but you really didn’t need to.”

Kara put her head in her spare hand. This was going about as well as she expected it to, and worse, there wasn’t really any way to make it better.

“Kara, I swear-”

“I just got to know her, okay?” Kara interrupted. “I got to know her after some late nights we had to spend at the office doing prep for something or other like she’s always doing, I can’t even remember what now. She doesn’t work normal person hours, and Lena’s just… she’s just closed off. She’s not rude. She’s under a lot of pressure from both of her jobs and she has to appear really professional and she’s a secret softie, okay? And she’s damn beautiful,” Kara blundered on, heedless of the silence from the other end of the line. “Lena’s so damn beautiful, Alex, and I l-love her, and it took me forever to see it.”

Alex was still silent, and Kara didn’t know what to say next. She hoped she hadn’t said anything that could be called a lie. After all, she really didn’t know Lena at all, and here she was making assumptions about her personality. She had no idea whether Lena was a secret softie or not underneath that shell.

The part about Kara thinking she was beautiful, though? That part didn’t hold even the slightest hint of a lie.

“Alex?”

“I’m here,” came Alex’s reply. “I just… I just don’t know what to say, Kara. It’s- it’s a lot. She’s basically been the bane of your life for three years and now you’re telling me that for half of that time, you’ve actually been dating Lena fucking Luthor. And honestly it hurts a little bit- no, it hurts a lot that you didn’t even bother to tell me. And I don’t know what to say about that either.”

“Alex-”

“It’s… it’s whatever, Kara. It’s your life. I just wish you wanted to involve me in it a little more, that’s all.”

Kara felt tears well up in her eyes. She had no defense for this at all, and lying to her favorite person in the whole world on behalf of a woman who wasn’t even her friend sucked more than she could ever have imagined.

“She’s coming up tomorrow,” Kara said quietly, her voice on the edge of cracking. She tried to force her voice into being steady. “Please, just please be nice. I don’t think I could deal with it if you didn’t like her.”

“She sounds like seriously bad news, Kara,” Alex stated honestly. “Besides the fact that her family are absolutely a bunch of- where do you even start with that mad family? Beside that, all I’ve ever heard about her from you is negative. So forgive me if I’m not exactly feeling like I’ll be rolling out the damn welcome mat tomorrow, okay?”

“I…” Kara started, before wiping a hand down her face and finding her hand wet from tears she hadn’t known had spilled. “Okay,” Kara croaked. “I’ve… we’ve got an early flight tomorrow so I- I guess I’ll see you tomorrow? I love you.”

There was silence from the other end of the line, and this time, Kara felt the tears roll down her cheeks.

“I love you too,” Alex said tiredly. “I’ll see you tomorrow, Kara. Have a safe flight.”

Kara hung up and tossed her phone across the sofa before burying her head in the cushions and crying her heart out. This was just… awful, awful, awful. Lying to her entire family about being in love with Lena? Marrying her? This was the worst thing she’d ever done. The worst thing that she would ever do, most likely. And she’d never be able to take it back. It was out there, now.

She cried until her eyes felt raw and her throat burned. After she’d cried herself out, she lay on her back on the sofa, staring at a water spot on the ceiling and listening to the band in the bar next door starting their set. The beat of the music calmed her down further, until finally she was able to sit up again.

If Lena was picking her up at 6am, she needed to go to bed early tonight. Glancing at the clock on the wall, she saw it was already close to 9pm. Her thinking and packing had taken up quite a bit of time, and her phone call with Alex had taken up all of her energy. Kara wished she had a bath so that she could go and soak in it. But she didn’t, so she took a long, long shower, screw the water bill. When she was as clean as she could possibly get, Kara climbed into bed with her hair wet and a glass of bourbon in her hand and switched her tv on, flicking through the channels mindlessly until she found reruns of Bones.

She’d be tired in the morning, but it was a long flight and she could sleep on the plane if she needed to. Fuck keeping Lena company, she thought viciously.

Three episodes and three fingers of bourbon later, she was asleep.

 

* * * * *

 

Kara was fully awake just after five, having slept very badly. The little sleep she’d had had been riddled with nightmares of jail cells. Considering that she was now on the road to becoming a federal criminal, that wasn’t a surprise to her. When her alarm clock blared at 5am, she snoozed it and lay there in the dark. There were a few blissful moments where she was so tired, in that time between bad sleep and wakefulness, when she didn’t remember why it was going off so early. And then it all came crashing down on her.

Before she let her mind spiral, she took stock of her body. The one good thing she could say about this mess was that her hangover this morning wasn’t anywhere near as bad as yesterday. She thought she could probably do without painkillers, but still. She’d slid backwards a little in her hangover recovery from yesterday.

By 5:30am, she was still in bed, silently panicking and reliving her phone call with Alex. Five minutes later, she snapped herself out of it. She’d already told Alex, and that was, for Kara, the worst part. Actually making that leap from this to that. She got up out of bed to make sure she had, in fact, packed everything she needed. She left her work laptop behind; for the first time since she’d started working at CatCo, she wasn’t going to need it, even for an emergency. Lena wasn’t allowed to work due to the situation she was in, so she couldn’t possibly need her for anything. And even if she did, there was nothing Kara was going to be able to do about it, because she was deliberately leaving her laptop behind. So there, Lena Luthor, she thought, sticking her tongue out even though Lena couldn’t see her.

At 5:55am, knowing that Lena couldn’t get into the building without her and not wanting her to pointlessly ring the intercom that hadn’t worked in years, Kara shoved her feet into her heavy boots. She pulled her surprisingly heavy suitcase into the hallway, put her backpack on her shoulders and her coat over her arms, and locked the door. She shuffled down the stairs as quietly as she could with her luggage and winced when one of the wheels crashed loudly against the banister. The walls in the apartments were quite thin, and she hoped that she hadn’t just woken anyone else up.

When she opened the door to the street, she spotted Lena’s town car already waiting for her.

“Good morning, Miss Danvers,” Michael said with a cheery wave as he opened the driver’s door and climbed out. He put her luggage and backpack in the trunk, and then opened the door for her to slide into the seat. Lena was sitting on her side of the car, tapping on the screen of her cell phone.

She put it away when Kara climbed in and gave her a small, hesitant smile. “Good morning, Kara.”

“Why do you look so alert and awake so early in the morning?” Kara grumbled, peering at her blearily in the dim light of the car.

“I’d say good genes, but the honest answer is that I’ve had my morning caffeine. I’m as good at making hot chocolate as you are,” Lena answered.

Kara narrowed her eyes at Lena, and the almost playful look on the brunette’s face vanished. Kara was exhausted, and it was too early for this. “Did you just pay me a compliment?”

“Since when does Lena Luthor notice other people?” Lena replied, and Kara slumped back in her chair as the car pulled away from the curb. It was going to be like that with Lena throwing her words back at her, was it? She knew she’d struck a nerve yesterday, and apparently, Lena hadn’t forgotten.

Choosing to ignore both that and the fact that she’d just elected to start the day off on the wrong foot, Kara rolled her eyes and changed the subject. “Where’s your luggage? The trunk was empty when Michael put my stuff in there. Don’t tell me you’re travelling light? I’ve seen your receipts for additional hold luggage, you know.”

“I took it to the airport last night,” Lena said. “I didn’t know how much you were going to bring, so it’s on the plane already.”

“That was efficient,” Kara remarked.

“Oh, Kara, I assure you that nobody has ever complained about my efficiency,” Lena said airily.

It really was, seriously, too early for this. Kara didn’t think she’d ever heard Lena make even a weak joke the whole time she’d known her, and she chose the morning they were leaving on their quest to commit fraud against the government to start being funny?

As if sensing that Kara wasn’t feeling very receptive, Lena’s tone of voice changed abruptly back to her most professional. The kind of voice that Kara had heard her use on the phone while she was trying to work out a deal with someone who was testing her patience just a little.

“The flight from New York City to Midvale is about ten and a half hours, give or take. Air traffic control is aware that we are flying directly there, with no stops. I’ll be spending part of the flight writing documents to send to Samantha Arias for L-Corp, just so that she can keep appraised of what the various labs are working on. I’d appreciate some quiet during that time, as I’m reasonably sure that it’s going to be the only chance that I’m going to get to do this.”

Kara snorted derisively, causing Lena to frown at her. “I’ve brought the documents from the USCIS,” she said, sullenly. “I thought that we could use some of the time on the flight to look over them and see how much we know about each other, considering, you know, I’m going to jail and you’re being deported if we fail these interviews.”

“And businesses don’t just stop because the CEO is away from the office, Kara,” Lena said, as if Kara hadn’t mentioned the interviews at all. “There are plenty of things that need to be handed over and you didn’t give me much time to-”

“Right. It was me that was inconsiderate. I’ll remember that,” Kara said testily, turning to stare out of the window. Beside her, she heard Lena sigh slightly. They spent the rest of the ride in silence.

When the car finally stopped, Kara was glad to climb out of the tense atmosphere within the car. She took a deep breath and stretched before looking around. And straight away, she noticed that she was at none of the airports that she recognized.

“Where are we?” she questioned when she saw Lena stand up on the other side of the car.

“We’re at Teterboro,” the brunette replied, and then she pointed. “That’s my jet, there.”

Kara looked over at it. It was smaller than she expected, not that she knew what she was expecting, exactly. From the look of it, she doubted that it would seat ten people, but those few people would be very comfortable.

“Nice,” she said, walking around to take the luggage from Michael when he pulled it out of the trunk. She caught a flash of color as she rounded the car, glancing over at Lena, and then doing a double take as if she was seeing her properly for the first time that morning. “I told you that you needed to dress down a bit more.”

In the weak sunlight of the morning, Kara could now see that under her coat, Lena was wearing pressed black slacks, a flattering magenta satin shirt with the top few buttons undone, showing off a thick, rose-gold spiga necklace. Her shoes were less high than they usually were, but they still had heels. Her hair was up in its usual severe ponytail, which made Kara wonder whether or not she ever got hair headaches.

She looked beautiful, but she would appear unapproachable in Midvale, and that was the problem.

Lena looked down at herself. “What’s wrong with what I’m wearing? I didn’t bring a single Diane von Furstenberg dress, as requested.”

“Nothing, if you’re going to a board meeting,” Kara said, watching as Lena frowned at herself. “Don’t you have any comfortable clothes?”

She gestured at herself as she spoke, and she felt Lena’s gaze travel over her. Kara was dressed for a long flight – faded blue jeans that were so worn they were almost soft to the touch, her heavy hiking boots, and a dark red NYU hoody.

As Lena looked at her for a moment too long, Kara felt a blush rise up her face. The look on Lena’s face was decidedly ambiguous and Kara couldn’t tell whether she was being judged, or if Lena had some other thought on her mind that she wasn’t sharing.

“Well,” she said in a low, slow drawl that made Kara want to clear her throat, “I certainly don’t have time to change clothes now.”

“But you didn’t answer the question!” Kara said as Lena turned and started to walk towards the plane. “You’re going to look like some kind of expensive office-wear model in Midvale!” she called after her, trying not to look at the way Lena’s hips swayed as she walked or at the hand she waved over her shoulder at Kara’s comment.

She swung her backpack up onto her shoulder. “Thanks Michael,” she said to him as he handed her her coat, before trotting after Lena. Behind her, Michael gripped the handle of her suitcase and took it to the plane, where it would join Lena’s luggage in the hold.

Despite herself and the dire circumstances, Kara had never been on a private jet before, and wasn’t sure what to expect. She was still cross at Lena, but as her feet carried her towards the plane, she couldn’t help it, her mood was chased away by the excitement she felt at being granted a new experience. She walked down the small red carpet (red carpet!) and bounded up the steps. Inside, it was decorated with dark brown wood, soft cream leather chairs that wouldn’t look out of place in someone’s lounge, and actual carpet instead of whatever the rough stuff was that they had on Delta. There were eight seats in total, four on each side of the plane, one behind the other, ending in what looked like two private stalls, with bathrooms behind them.

Kara inspected the stalls; each of them contained a cozy-looking single bed with two pillows and a soft cushion, a desk with an office chair, and more electrical outlets than her whole apartment had. The TV on the wall was large and adjustable, and there was a small fridge containing bottles of water and various snacks.

Lena was up front talking to the pilot, and Kara came out of the stall to find her walking towards one of the two front seats. She settled herself into it and sat back, closing her eyes. The pilot shut the plane door, and then the door to the cockpit.

“Kara, we’re about to take off. Put your bag underneath one of the seats and take whichever other one you want,” Lena called.

Kara walked up and took the seat directly across the aisle from Lena’s, strapping herself in, and looking out of the window. It was easily the most comfortable airline seat that she’d ever sat in. Michael was still outside, leaning against the car. He gave her a wave when he saw her looking, and she returned it with a big grin. The plane started the slow taxi towards the runway, and Kara felt her excitement jump. She was used to flying coach, and this was as close to first class as she was ever likely to get.

Scratch that, she was on a private jet with no screaming babies, no cramped space with some kid kicking the back of her seat, no sticky tray tables, and a whole bed available to her should she choose to take a nap later. Nobody was going to be hogging her arm rests, spilling drinks on her, or leaning over her to peer out of the windows. She decided to relish in the opportunity while it lasted. She was so excited and that had not really been dampened by the rather rude brunette in the seat to her left either. Kara wiggled back in her seat happily.

As the plane continued to move and then turned onto the runway, she glanced across at Lena, only to find that the brunette was gripping her armrests so tightly that her knuckles had gone white. Her usually pale face had blanched even further, making her look almost ghostly. Even worse, despite the sound of the engines, Kara could hear her taking short, sharp breaths even though she was clearly trying to keep it together.

“Lena?” she asked in alarm. “Are you alright? You’re gripping the armrests pretty hard.”

Lena made a small, indistinct noise. And then the penny dropped. “Wait, Lena, are you afraid of flying?”

Lena loosened her grip ever so slightly, but it looked like the effort truly cost her. “What an astute observation,” she said. Her voice was shaky, but there was no bite in it whatsoever, as if Lena just couldn’t spare the energy for it. When Lena looked over at her a second later, Kara could see that her green eyes were wide, and clearly frightened.

Shit, Kara thought. “I used to be afraid of flying too, but then someone told me I would be more likely to kill myself tripping over a broom than dying in a plane crash. Or being bitten by a shark off the coast of Australia or somewhere.”

“Thank you for that. I'll try to file that away in a safe place,” Lena grumbled.

Kara ignored her. She knew that Lena’s sarcasm was stemming from her fear right now, and despite how annoyed she was at Lena, there was just something inside her that couldn’t set aside the fact that Lena was terrified. She didn’t have it in her to be petty and just let Lena suffer through this alone. “I just heard that distracting someone who is afraid of flying during a take-off is the best way to get them to calm down. And look,” she added, a gentle smile spreading across her face, “we're already in the air.”

Lena blinked as she realized that Kara was right. She looked out of the window to see that the plane was already banking after take-off. Kara watched as Lena let go of the armrests slowly and spread her fingers out, flexing her fingers slowly, trying to relieve them of the cramps that had no doubt built up. The armrest had indents in it from where she had gripped it so hard, and Kara had to stop herself from reaching across the aisle to take her hand in hers and offer some kind of comfort. Kara never liked seeing someone suffer; her immediate response to it was to try to help, to not leave that person alone. She just wasn’t sure how receptive Lena would be to the intrusion into her personal space, and so, she stilled her hand.

The relief that washed over Lena’s face as the plane gained a steady altitude instead of a sharp one soothed some of Kara’s own worry over Lena; at least there would be a period of the flight where Lena might be okay, if she was more relaxed now. It would’ve been awful if Lena had to spend the entire flight in a state of near-paralysis from fear. With a jolt, Kara realized why it was that she had rarely had to book flights for her boss, and why Lena preferred to fly her colleagues into New York instead of herself out of it. She also flew her potential investors and business rivals in; Kara had spent so long thinking that that was a power play that she’d never stopped to think that there might be another, very valid, reason behind it.

Kara knew this wasn’t the end of it today for Lena, or anyone who was afraid of flying, but take-offs and landings seemed to be the worst parts.

Lena sank back against the chair and Kara waited until she heard her breathing go back to normal before she turned look back out of the window.

Kara realized that she’d just seen Lena in a completely unguarded moment, and not at a time where Lena could’ve chosen to reveal part of herself. She had never read in any article about Lena that she was afraid of flying, and having witnessed Lena just now, she thought she knew why. Lena had looked like she was about to faint out of fright, and she doubted that was anything that Lena wanted to divulge to anyone.

Seeing someone be afraid of something they couldn’t control was always a humanizing moment; in that moment, Lena wasn’t the genius businesswoman, her stern, aloof boss. She was just a woman who was afraid, someone who needed a little bit of help. Someone who needed comfort. Kara felt her heart constrict with sympathy for the woman who had to carry so much on her shoulders, and yet, had been afraid to ask for help when she needed it.

Kara figured that Lena probably wouldn’t want to talk about it, so she decided not to mention it unless she did. However, she had just learnt something about Lena that would probably come up in the interview, so she logged it away in the back of her mind.

The speakers crackled to life with the voice of the pilot. “We’re just above to level off, Miss Luthor, Miss Danvers. Feel free to do whatever you need or want to, and if I need to make you aware of anything, I’ll let you know.”

Lena unbuckled her seatbelt and stood up, stretching her lower back out. As Kara watched, she busied herself with flipping a few switches around her chair, and then to Kara’s surprised, swiveled it so that it was facing the chair behind it, before locking it back into place. Lena then pressed a button in the wall in the space between the seats, and out of a cabinet door Kara hadn’t noticed, Lena pulled a folded table out, steadying it with two legs near the aisle.

She couldn’t help herself. “Does mine do that?” she asked, as Lena dragged a laptop bag out from underneath the seat that was now in front of her.

“Of course,” Lena replied, before she paused. “Would you like- do you need me to show you?”

“Uh, yes please,” Kara said, unbuckling her belt and climbing out of her seat. Lena placed her bag on her table before leaning across Kara and showing her where the buttons she needed to press were. Kara tried her best to pay attention, but Lena’s proximity was distracting, especially when she was close enough to smell the citrusy scent of Lena; was that her shampoo? Her lotion?

Kara cleared her throat when Lena stood up, swiveling the chair the same way she’d done hers a moment ago, before repeating her actions to set Kara’s table up.

“Thank you,” Kara said, her voice sounding a little like it had a frog in it. She cleared her throat again, causing Lena to look at her.

“Do you need some water? There are some bottles in the bed stalls. If you’re going, could you get me some?” she asked, before she remembered herself. “Please?”

“Sure,” Kara said, before heading back down towards the fridges she’d seen earlier. She picked out two bottles of water and a bottle of some kind of tropical fruit juice. There were no cups, but she supposed that made sense considering they were on a plane and turbulence could hit any time. It wasn’t like they were on a large plane which might manage it better; a smaller plane might be a little more buffeted.

She brought Lena her water and set it next to the two laptops she’d set up on her table. Lena was typing furiously away on one of them while looking at a complicated-looking spreadsheet on the other screen. Kara shrugged and sat back down in her seat, and pulled out a book and her earphones. She didn’t really want to listen to Lena tapping away for the whole flight.

Kara ate the snacks she’d packed, collecting the trash at the far corner of the table. She read for half an hour before she got so comfortable that she started to doze against the side of her seat. She shook herself out of it slightly, before she unbuckled her seat belt and made her way down the plane to one of the bed stalls. As she reached it, she looked back to find Lena ducking her head back down to her screen.

“I’m just going to take a nap,” she said, pointing at the stall. Lena just waved a hand at her.

She left the door open, not feeling the need to close it. The only two people on this flight aside from the pilot were Lena and herself, and Lena was busy with her work. If she was going to lie down, Lena could close her own door anyway.

She kicked off her shoes and climbed under the covers. Kara could tell that she sheets had a ridiculously high thread count. She stretched luxuriously before she made sure the belt over the bed was loosely done up over her waist, and settled back down against the pillow. She’d never had such a comfortable flight in her life, and she was asleep before she knew it.

 

* * * * *

 

Kara woke up with a start when the plane lurched suddenly. The belt across the bed kept her from falling out of it, but it wasn’t a very comfortable feeling. Lena, Kara suddenly thought, as the plane shuddered. Heedless of her own safety, she undid the belt buckle and made her way quickly down the aisle.

Lena was sitting in much the same position that she had when the plane had taken off. Kara felt her stomach drop and instead of sitting in the same seat as she’d been in before, she quickly set herself up in the one opposite Lena.

She put her belt on quickly and leaned across the table.

“Lena?”

Lena let out a long, slow breath, before opening her eyes and focusing on Kara. The look in her green eyes was one of intense fear, and Kara felt that look all the way down to her bones.

“Hey, take my hands, okay?” Kara found herself saying, pushing her sleeves up and reaching her arms across the table. Lena did, and Kara could feel them shaking in hers. “Just focus on me,” she said as the plane lurched once more. Lena shut her eyes tightly, before opening them again to look almost pleadingly at Kara. For the first time since Kara had met her, Lena was truly asking for help.

“Okay, good,” Kara said. She cast her mind around for anything to say to hold Lena’s attention as the plane shuddered around them. Rain was pelting against the windows, and Kara had no idea how long this had been going on for before she’d been woken up by it.

Out of the corner of her eye, she could see one of the folders that Eve Teschmacher had given them, and it gave her an idea. “I’m going to ask you some questions okay? Might as well do this now,” she said with a smile that she hoped was calming. “You might learn something stupid about me that’ll come up in one of the questions.”

Thankfully, Lena nodded at her.

“What’s my name?”

“Kara Danvers,” Lena replied, her voice thin and much higher than normal. “Even I know that one.”

Kara smiled at her again. “Okay, and what was my birth name?”

Lena frowned at her, and when the plane shook again, she kept her eyes on Kara’s, although her fingers tightened around Kara’s.

“I’m… I don’t know.”

“My name at birth was Kara Zor-El,” she said, and she knew she had Lena’s full attention. “I was born on September 22nd, 1991. I’m 28 years old. I grew up originally in Seattle. My… my parents died in a house fire when I was 13 years old, and I was adopted by the Danvers family. My mother’s name is Eliza, my sister is Alex. My father’s name was Jeremiah, but he passed away when I was 15. For a-”

Kara was cut off as the plane dropped in altitude quite a bit further and faster than it had done before, and Lena slid her hands up to wrap themselves around Kara’s wrists in a vice grip. Kara wrapped her fingers around Lena’s in turn, marveling at how dainty they were. She ran her thumbs across the insides of Lena’s wrists and watched as it seemed to calm Lena down, even as her own heart beat wildly in her chest.

“For a while, Alex and I hated each other. She was two years older than me and really didn’t like having some random girl living in her bedroom. She was too old to suddenly have a teenage sister cramping her style and I was too sad to suddenly be able to love a new family so soon after losing my own. But eventually we started to get on. And now she’s my best friend. We tell each other everything. There’s nobody on this earth that I trust more than her.”

Lena was silent for a moment. “It must be nice to have a sibling like that,” she said eventually.

Kara decided not to dwell on that for now, packing away any questions about Lex. Lena didn’t need to answer questions about her brother when she was already terrified.

“What was my cat called?”

“Pardon me?” Lena exclaimed at the sudden change of subject.

“I had a cat when I first moved in with the Danvers. What was it called?”

Lena fixed her with a piercing look, and Kara suppressed a shiver. Those green eyes were certainly… something. “I’m not sure, Kara,” she said.

“He was called Streaky. He was a stray, and because I felt like one too, I looked after him. Eventually, the Danvers let me adopt him. He’s buried under a tree out in the yard, but I have a lot of paintings of him.”

As the plane shuddered and jumped through the sky, Kara continued to tell Lena stories about her life. She kept it simple, starting with a fact about her life, and went as chronologically as possible. She told her about her degree, and her time on the cross-country running team, and her short stint in the softball team; she was too clumsy with the ball and therefore fairly useless. All throughout the turbulence, they kept hold of each other. Kara tried her best to keep Lena as grounded as she could while 33,000 feet in the air. Lena kept her attention on her, and Kara could see her visibly calming down.

Eventually, the plane leveled out. The speakers came to life once more with the voice of the pilot. “Sorry, Miss Luthor, Miss Danvers. That was one heck of a storm we just flew through. The rest of the flight should be smooth, and we’ll be landing in Midvale in about an hour.”

“An hour?” Kara burst out incredulously. “How long was I asleep?”

“You fell asleep about an hour and a half into the flight, Van Winkle,” Lena said, and the ghost of a smile passed over her face.

Kara smiled back at her. “So I’ve been out for… eight hours or so? Wow. I guess you got a lot of your work done?”

“I did. Your rhythmic snoring made for good background noise,” Lena said slyly.

Kara gasped. “I do not snore!”

Lena’s face was passive, but she raised an eyebrow at Kara, and it made her stomach do somersaults. At the same moment, she became aware that still had a gentle hold on Lena’s wrists, and that Lena was still holding on to hers as well. She glanced down at them, and huffed out an embarrassed giggle before slowly letting go of the soft skin under her fingertips. Lena likewise let go of Kara’s wrists and folded her hands in her lap. Kara immediately missed their warmth.

She smiled at Lena, before climbing out of the chair she was in, and sitting back in her original seat. She picked up her book and took her bookmark out, settling back comfortably. She had barely read half a page before she heard Lena clear her throat across the aisle. Kara glanced over to find Lena already looking at her, and seemingly struggling to say something.

“Thank you, Kara,” Lena said eventually, in a way that said she was definitely unaccustomed to saying the words. But to Kara, that made them all the more important. “Thank you for… looking after me on this flight. I know that saying that I’m not your favorite person is a rather gross understatement,” she said with a hint of self-deprecation, “but your kindness has been much appreciated, and I won’t forget it.”

Kara felt a blush rise up on her face. “I’m sure anyone would’ve done the same,” she replied.

“No, they wouldn’t, Kara, not for a Luthor. Definitely not for me,” Lena said matter-of-factly. “I would also like to ask you for your… discretion, I suppose, when it comes to this, and many other things that you’ll no doubt learn about me in the coming days. I’m a very private person, as I’m sure you’ve noticed,” Lena said in a more business-like, detached voice, “and I’ve worked very hard to keep my life out of the press. I would be… disappointed, were I to find any mention of this anywhere.”

Just like that, Kara was exasperated with the brunette again. “You just had to-” she started, before cutting herself off abruptly, before she said something that she might regret later. She was sure that Lena meant nothing by what she’d just said other than to reiterate her desire for privacy, but still. She’d been trusted with essentially running Lena’s working life for the past few years; did Lena still not trust her, even a little?

She knew from working with Lena for so long that she appreciated directness, so she took a moment to formulate what she wanted to say in her head.

She took a deep breath. “Lena. I do appreciate your privacy. I just need to say that what I don’t appreciate is the implication that I would leak details of your life to the press, to what, spite you?” she said, making sure to look across at Lena as she said it. “Why on earth would you think I would do that to you?”

Lena had the grace to look at least a little bit ashamed of herself. Kara thought that the brunette looked like she wanted to say something, but couldn’t work out the correct response. Kara waited for a reply, but when it became clear that she wasn’t going to get one, at least for the moment, she sighed.

For the next hour, Kara read through some of the questions that Eve Teschmacher might be asking them in little over a week’s time. The good news was, she thought, that she knew quite a lot of the basic answers about Lena already, thanks to the fact that Lena was her boss and that knowing a lot of it was part of her job. The problem was going to be getting Lena to open up enough to answer the rest of them, or to talk about her life in general. She had to get Lena to trust her somehow, and she wasn’t sure how to do it.

Lena was fiercely protective of her privacy. Although on some base level Kara understood why, she also didn’t understand why someone knowing a little more would be a bad thing. Surely it would be nice for Lena to have a friend? She knew Lena had Sam Arias, but Kara couldn’t be sure how well they knew each other, and at any rate, Sam wasn’t the one who was going to be in a fake marriage with Lena, so it was all moot.

She stared at some of the relationship-related questions on the page her folder was open to.

- Where did you meet?

- When did your relationship turn romantic?

- Who proposed?

Kara blew out a frustrated breath. She knew that she’d have to learn all about Lena, and that Lena needed to learn all about her in turn, but she’d forgotten that they’d also have to pretend to actually be a couple. Between them, they’d need to craft an entire relationship story, down to the nitty gritty details such as where they went on their first date, who chose the sofa in their lounge, what they each liked to get as birthday presents for the other.

The pilots voice interrupted Kara’s musings. “Miss Luthor, Miss Danvers, we’re going to be landing shortly. Please make sure that your laptops are off, and that your tables are stowed away, if you’ve had them out.”

Kara shoved the immigration folder into her bag, and set about pressing all the buttons that Lena had showed her earlier. She stowed her table away, swiveled her chair back around, and set it back into place. Beside her, Lena was doing the same thing. Kara strapped herself back into her seat, and looked out of the window. Outside, she could see cars driving along the roads, and further to her left, the sea stretching out. Out of Lena’s window if she craned her neck, she could see mountains; her heart soared at the knowledge that she would be home very soon. She would see Alex. She would see Eliza. She’d see her friends. Her heart beat a happy rhythm and she felt herself grinning uncontrollably. She felt herself getting excited as she looked out over the expanse of water and greenery instead of the cold steel and glass of the city.

As the pilot set them on course for landing, Kara heard Lena shifting in her seat. She was still smarting a little from Lena’s hurtful words, so she didn’t say anything.

To her surprise though, Lena spoke.

“I have exactly one friend in my life, Miss- Kara,” she said. Her voice was less than steady, and Kara caught the notes of fear in her tone. She once again fought the urge to lean over and take Lena’s hand in hers, to comfort her during the landing. She didn’t want to snap Lena out of letting Kara have a peek over one of her high walls. “Even Sam doesn’t know everything about me, although I’m sure she’d love to know me better. I keep such a tight grip on my privacy because aside from Sam, everyone I’ve ever trusted with details of my life has hurt me with them. Everyone has a motive when they want to get to know me, and after being betrayed one too many times by someone I thought I could trust, I decided not to trust anyone anymore. I decided that being an unknowable pariah was better than being a broken soul.”

Kara felt like the breath had been sucked out of her lungs at Lena’s sad words about her life. She looked over at Lena in time to see the woman lean her head back against the headrest and close her eyes. Had she been looking at Kara while she’d been speaking?

The brief glimpse that Kara had been given into Lena’s life was heartbreaking. Had Lena really been so hurt by people in her life that she’d decided being almost entirely alone was better than having people close to her? There were so many questions that Kara had in response to what Lena had said, not the least of which was to wonder how deep in Lena’s life those betrayals went.

Instead of asking, though, Kara decided to simply let Lena know she was there, and that she acknowledged Lena’s answer to her question about trust.

She leaned across the aisle and rested her hand on top of Lena’s white-knuckled grip on the armrest. As the plane descended, Kara felt Lena’s grip on the leather loosen, and eventually she let go. Without opening her eyes, Lena turned her palm over, and Kara slotted her fingers between Lena’s.

Although neither of them spoke, Kara kept hold of Lena’s hand throughout their descent.

Like she did back in Lena’s office, she tried her very best to not think about how well their hands fit together.

She was unsuccessful.