When Kara woke up, for a moment, she was disoriented. This wasn’t a gradual wake-up; she was as wide awake as if this was the middle of the day. Twisting around towards the windows, she saw that there was no light coming in from the sides of the blinds. Kara groped under the sofa for her glasses and slid them on, before fishing under the pillow for her phone.
It was 4:52am. Kara groaned, before quickly stifling the noise when she heard Lena shift in the bed to her right.
Oh right. Yeah, she wasn’t alone in this room.
The house was quiet. Nobody else would be up yet, although Eliza would get up in about an hour. Eliza always did like an early morning, not that Kara understood it. Since New York was four hours ahead of them at the moment, she figured that she was slightly jet-lagged. She’d also slept so much yesterday, and they’d gone to bed relatively early, so all in all, Kara wasn’t surprised she was awake at the moment.
Lena must really be exhausted if she was sleeping right through her jet lag. Kara wondered what time Lena usually arrived at L-Corp in the mornings. She was pretty sure from what Jess had told her over the years that their boss showed up at 7am at the very latest; at CatCo, she usually arrived at about 8:30am. Kara had the sneaking suspicion though that just because she only arrived then, didn’t mean that Lena hadn’t already been working or busy before that point. In fact, she would bet money on Lena having been up for several hours before she took one designer-clad step into the CatCo building.
Kara listened carefully. Lena was breathing deeply and evenly, which meant that she was fast asleep, and likely wouldn’t wake up if Kara got up now. As slowly and as quietly as she could, she pushed her covers off herself and snuck over to the closet to grab some running clothes and her old sneakers. Deciding against changing in the bedroom just in case, she scooped up her phone and crept out of the room.
Lena didn’t even stir.
Downstairs, Kara changed into her workout clothes and used a new toothbrush she found under the sink in the guest bathroom. After tying her laces and strapping a comical head lamp around her head so she could see any possible debris in her way, she let herself out of the front door and into the dampness of the early morning. There was a path that she liked to run on around the house and part of the island, and after a quick stretch and warm up, she set off. She relished the fresh air she breathed as she ran along the familiar path. It had been laid some time ago, and every time she was home, Kara took advantage of it.
A lot of the trees Kara passed on her way were spruce, very old and tall with their fallen spiky branches littering the ground. As her headlamp swept around her, she caught flashes of color from the arctic lupine, fireweed, and blue columbine that grew naturally here. One year, Eliza had battled with the Alaskan seasons and planted loads of daffodils; although they sometimes struggled, a lot of them always grew, and Kara loved the dashes of yellow amongst the blues and purples of the other plants.
There was just something about sitting there and being surrounded by a riot of color and the sound of the sea nearby. Kara loved it. In New York, it wasn’t possible to get the same sort of peace and serenity that she got from being here, and for the first time, Kara wondered whether she’d be able to come home more often when she was no longer Lena’s personal assistant. When she was a journalist, she would have more freedom.
That is, if the fraud against the government went off without a hitch. Kara’s stomach clenched, and she pushed the thought away. She was in it now, for better or worse.
Kara jogged on the spot when, after a while, she reached the boathouse. She’d check the weather when she got back inside, but if they were going to have a stretch of clear, dry days, she and Lena would be able to brush the flakes off it, and then repaint it. It wasn’t an overly large boathouse, just large enough to squeeze both Streaky and Eliza’s boat. The whole thing could be done in less than a day, if they were quick about it, and then it would need several days to dry. Kara nodded to herself; yup, it could be done.
Kara checked her phone and saw that she’d been running for an hour, so she headed back to the house, stretching her muscles out before she went inside. Eliza would be up by now and, sure enough, she was puttering around the kitchen, making herself a cup of coffee and putting away some of the dishes from the night before.
“Morning,” Eliza greeted as Kara slipped into the kitchen.
“Good morning,” Kara replied, giving Eliza a quick hug.
“You’re all sweaty,” Eliza complained, but she was smiling. “How was your run?”
“It was great,” Kara sighed happily. “It’s been too long since I’ve been able to run around here. I can’t wait to walk back through the woods later and see all the wildflowers properly. I think I’ll take Lena on a walk later and let her see the place properly. Show her around a bit. Ooh! I’ll show her the treehouse!”
Eliza laughed. “I’m sure she’ll enjoy that,” she said, taking a sip of her coffee as they both sat down at the kitchen table. “You’re up early. Are you jet-lagged?”
Kara groaned and playfully dropped her head gently on the table. “Yup. I slept for the majority of the flight as well. I don’t think I helped myself really, but there’s not much I can do about it now!”
“Did Lena have any problem falling asleep?”
Kara thought about their chat the night before, and the kiss on the corner of her mouth that Lena had given her before going to sleep. Kara smiled. “None at all. She was still asleep when I left, but she didn’t get any sleep on the flight yesterday. She spent a lot of time working, and the flight was pretty turbulent at one point, so she wasn’t too happy.”
“Poor dear, she must be exhausted,” Eliza tutted in sympathy, and Kara saw her eyes dip down to the ring on her finger, which she’d forgotten to remove before she went for her run. Funny how quickly she’d grown used to it being there already. “I must say I was… surprised, Kara. I understand yours and Lena’s reasons for not telling us,” she said, holding up a hand when Kara opened her mouth to object. “I’m just surprised that it’s… well, that it was Lena Luthor, is all. You’ve always been polite, but I used to get the impression that you didn’t get on with each other very well at all. In fact, it was only last month when you told me that she’d spent a whole week walking past you without even saying hello.”
“Oh,” Kara floundered. She had, in fact, complained about Lena a little when she’d spoken to Eliza the month before. There had been something rather dire going on at L-Corp; one of their investors had voiced some extremely racist opinions. Rather than keeping the investor on, Lena had chosen to break the contract and the fallout had been massive. It happened to coincide with the quarterly content meetings at CatCo and Lena had walked around with a face like thunder for the entire week. It was understandable, but at the same time, Kara was someone who thrived on friendly relations with her colleagues, and Lena’s continual stormy mood and monosyllabic answers to any questions had been difficult to deal with. And she had, in fact, not said hello to Kara for the whole week. There wasn’t even a cursory nod. It was the coldest she’d ever seen her boss.
Kara took a sip of her water and looked over at Eliza, who was still waiting for a response. She sighed, catching a drop of condensation with her fingertip as it ran down the glass. “It was just a very busy week, and she was quite upset. The whole thing with that investor being really racist was a big issue for her. It was a hugely lucrative contract, but she just cut it dead once it became clear that the other company wouldn’t come on board without this guy. So she had to make a really tough decision.” Eliza was nodding along, but this was all information that Kara had already told her. What Eliza really wanted to know about was Lena, and Kara had to improvise. “She was really quiet that week. I ran her a lot of baths and I banned her from doing any work after eight at night, because if I didn’t, she would’ve just kept going. We put her favorite movies on and just chilled out on the sofa every evening until it passed. She’s fine now. She took some fallout from the other company, but I was proud of her for rejecting the contract.”
Eliza was silent for a while as she slowly stirred a spoon around her coffee. Kara bounced her leg silently under the table nervously, because she wasn’t entirely sure she was going to like whatever Eliza was stewing over. “I’m familiar with her scientific achievements; in fact, I’m a great admirer of her work and what she’s done to turn that company around. I’ve no doubt that she’s a hard worker. But Kara, all a mother wants to know is that the person her daughter is with is the right one, and that she treats her more kindly than perhaps she’d been told about,” Eliza finished as she leveled a stern, knowing look at her.
Instead of withering under it, Kara let out the breath she was holding in relief. These were slightly easier waters to wade through, especially since her talk with Lena the night before, even if Kara still didn’t know Lena that well yet. “She’s so much kinder than she lets people see. She’s determined for L-Corp to be seen to be doing good, even if that’s at the expense of her own reputation. She didn’t want to be the CEO of L-Corp, she wanted to be a scientist, tinkering with robots down in the labs. And I think someday she’d like to go back to that. She doesn’t want to be her brother, and I think that fighting against the weight of expectation that she will be takes a lot out of her. She’s very funny, although her sense of humor is quite dry. She kind of, I don’t know, drops her stern persona at the door when she comes home and she’s so cute in her reading glasses. And she’s kind to me. She’s a real sweetheart, mom, and I love her. Even if it sometimes seems like she could crush annoying people just by looking at them.”
At that, Eliza laughed, and Kara felt even more relieved.
“Well, as much as this has come as a surprise, I look forward to getting to know Lena better,” Eliza said, settling back in her chair. “She seems like a nice woman, and not at all like how you’ve described her in various phone calls.”
Kara smiled at her, even as guilt stirred in her stomach. “I feel like I’ve done her a real disservice. She’s a wonderful person. I hope you’ll grow to love her, too.” Eliza held up her mug, and Kara clinked her glass of water against it. “So, what have you been up to lately?”
For the next little while, Kara and her adoptive mother chatted about Eliza’s work and the town gossip. Eliza caught Kara up on all the news from Midvale, from who was now dating and who wasn’t, fun things she and Alex had done together, and cooking experiments that had gone wrong.
Eventually, Eliza pushed her chair backwards and stood up. “I actually have to get going,” she said apologetically. “I know it’s Sunday, I didn’t know you and Lena would be here, and I told doctor Hartmann that I’d go into the lab today. We have an experiment running and our tech has been out sick the last few days.”
“Oh! Oh, that’s okay, don’t worry about us, we’ll be alright. I’m going to check the weather; I’ve got a few things I want to do and they all require some good, old-fashioned sunshine!”
“I think it’s meant to be dry for the next few days actually,” Eliza said, collecting Kara’s glass and putting it in the sink along with her coffee mug.
“Great,” Kara replied, pulling out her phone and checking the weather app. It was, as Eliza said, going to be dry and unseasonably warm for the next few days. Lucky! She put her phone back in her pocket and rubbed her hands together gleefully.
She was going to make Lena work for her today, for a change.
Kara gave Eliza a hug when she picked up her car keys to go to work, and Kara locked the door behind her when she left. Kara headed upstairs, mindful that it was still reasonably early for a weekend, just before 7am. Alex and Maggie were still here, although Kara remembered them vaguely mentioning that they had work in the afternoon, so she crept past their rooms towards hers… and Lena’s.
She pushed the door open, and immediately had to stifle her laughter before turning around, the snick of the door closing sounding loudly in the quiet room. She didn’t know why, and it wasn’t as if she’d thought of this very often (because what reason would she have to think of this, anyway?), but she’d fully expected Lena to be a dainty sleeper. Lena was a very elegant woman. Her reserved nature aside, her manners were impeccable, and she was never at work with a single hair out of place. Kara expected a sleeping Lena to be somewhat similar, like a piece of art.
But the reality was… exactly the opposite of her expectation.
The room was brighter than it was when she’d left, weak sunlight coming in around the blinds. She could see well enough, and what she saw made her smile.
Lena was basically nesting under the duvet and blankets. Kara could see almost nothing of Lena at all; instead, it was as if she had half rolled on top of the duvet, tucking it under herself, and then rolled back the other way. She looked like nothing less than a Lena-burrito, and the only part of her she could see was a mass of dark hair sticking out of the top of the burrito. It was quite warm in the room, so the reason for her being all bundled up like that couldn’t possibly be that she was cold. Lena was, very clearly, a blanket thief.
Just as Kara started to move across the room, intent on a shower, Lena turned over, and took most of the blankets with her across the bed. Kara clapped a hand over her mouth when laughter threatened to escape, and it must have woken Lena up, because she poked her head out above the covers.
“Kara?” she mumbled sleepily, rubbing her bleary eyes.
“Good morning,” Kara replied, the amusement in her voice clear enough for Lena to notice.
“What’s so funny?” she asked, sitting up a little and brushing her hand through her hair, only for it to tangle slightly in some knots. Kara could see her frowning even in the dim light of the room.
“I was just thinking that this is something I could tell Eve Teschmacher about,” Kara said, walking over and turning on the bedside lamp on the side of the bed that Lena wasn’t on.
Lena grimaced at the sudden light and slumped back down in bed. “And what are you going to tell her?” she asked, her voice grumpy.
“That you’re a blanket thief,” Kara said with a laugh.
“I am not!” Lena exclaimed indignantly, sitting upright abruptly and dislodging the blankets. They pooled around her waist and Kara had to snap her eyes back up to Lena’s face even as Lena put her hands on her hips.
“I love that you’re trying to look imposing even while sitting in pajamas,” Kara said, openly laughing now.
The side of Lena’s mouth quirked up in a smile. “I’m always intimidating, Kara,” she replied, raising an eyebrow.
Kara’s eyes took in the baggy X-Files tshirt, Lena’s disheveled and tangled hair, the blankets bunched up messily over the bed, and the pillow lines across one of Lena’s cheeks.
“If you say so,” Kara said, in a voice that was softer than she intended it. Lena heard the change in tone, and she gave Kara a smile that was almost fond.
Lena brought her hands up to her hair and tried to untangle it, combing it through with her fingers, as she watched Kara potter around the room. “What time is it?” she asked, and Kara looked over in time to see her wincing as she caught her fingers in a particularly tangled knot.
“It’s after seven. Would you like a hairbrush?” she asked.
Lena looked sheepish for a moment, before she pulled her hands out of her hair. “Please. I’ve got one in the bathroom, or there’s one in that suitcase there,” she added, pointing. “I must’ve been really tired. It’s past eleven in New York. I never sleep this late.”
Kara opened the suitcase Lena had pointed to, and rifled through her belongings, pushing books and various bottles aside until she located the elusive hairbrush. She passed it over to Lena, who thanked her, before climbing out of bed. One of her pajama legs was twisted up above her knee, but Lena didn’t seem to mind much, wrapping one hand around her hair and pulling the brush through it with the other. Kara’s eyes were still on the pale skin of Lena’s leg, and when Lena caught her eye, she blushed. Lena shook her leg out until the pajamas fell around her ankle again.
“I guess I’m just used to you wearing hose,” Kara said without thinking. “Your skin is paler than I… thought… not that I was- not that I was thinking about how pale your skin would be, I mean-” Kara said, wondering why on earth she was still speaking. She felt her blush deepen as blue eyes met amused green ones, before she clapped a hand to her forehead.
“I don’t go out in the sun much,” Lena replied, flipping her hair around her shoulders and running the brush through it as she watched Kara watch her. “I burn really easily, and I don’t really see the need in sitting in the sun just to increase my risk of skin cancer for no real reason. I don’t have any issue with people who do, of course, but there’s not much point in my doing it when I can’t go in the sun without bathing in SPF 50.” She looked thoughtful for a moment. “And I suppose…”
Lena trailed off, her eyes wandering the room, and Kara recognized the look on her face as the same lonely expression that had crossed her face the night before. What on earth would cause Lena to look like that while they were discussing factor 50 sunscreen?
“Lena?” she asked, a little worried as she watched the brunette’s knuckles whiten around the handle of the hairbrush. And then she clicked. “Is it something about your past?”
It seemed like Lena was steeling herself up to say something, and Kara felt a pang of guilt (guilt?). Although she did need to know the crucial things about Lena’s past, she was obviously not comfortable here. She opened her mouth to say that Lena didn’t have to tell her right now, that it could wait, but Lena got there first.
“I suppose that my mother… must’ve been quite pale, too,” Lena said, more slowly than she’d spoken before, as if she regretted starting the sentence.
Kara blew out a breath. “Your mother? Lillian?” Kara said, more than a little confused. She sensed that she was about to be told something very important, but that it wasn’t going to be pleasant. Were all of Lena’s stories going to be sad? “You don’t have to tell me if-”
“I was adopted, too, sort of,” Lena interrupted in a tone of voice that warned Kara not to ask questions. A haunted look passed through Lena’s eyes. But when she turned back to face Kara after putting the brush on the table behind her, it was gone, replaced with something that was more careful. “Lillian is not my biological mother, although Lionel was my father. For all intents and purposes, Lionel was American. In actuality, he was Canadian, and lived in the US under a spousal visa with Lillian. He was rich, and he was married to an American, so it didn’t matter too much to the government,” Lena said, her voice somewhat bitter. “My birth mother was Irish, and I was born in Ireland. My own citizenship is Irish, and because I was Lionel’s child and not Lillian’s, since she never formally adopted me, I never gained American citizenship. When he came to get me from the orphanage after my mother died,” Lena said, the careful look replaced by one that spoke of pain, “I guess his money spoke for him. He must have kept track of me, even though we lived on different continents. And instead of making me American then, by formally adopting me, I guess Lillian just… decided not to. I slipped through the cracks, somehow. I was always made to feel other by Lillian, and this was one of the ways she could most easily enforce the issue.”
Lena turned away suddenly, picking up the brush again and putting it in her suitcase. Kara was full of questions about Lena’s past, but respected her enough to not ask them right now. Why was Lena in an orphanage? What had happened to her birth mother for her to be put there? Why would Lillian and Lionel Luthor have never formally adopted Lena? She didn’t suppose it mattered now anyway, since they had never done it and now Lena was in this predicament, but guessed that their insane wealth had something to do with it. How old had Lena been when this all had happened? Nothing of this was listed anywhere; Kara was sure that something as basic as Lena’s nationality would’ve made the news had someone realized somehow that she wasn’t American. Kara had certainly had no idea.
What she was certain of, though, was that Lena was trying. She had just disclosed something deeply personal about herself, not to mention the fact that it must have been incredibly difficult and hurtful. Although Lena’s somewhat hesitant willingness to discuss her life with Kara was brought on by their situation, Kara nonetheless felt honored that Lena was sharing with her.
“Why are you dressed already?” Lena asked suddenly, changing the topic to one much lighter than the one that they had just been talking about, and startling Kara out of her reverie.
“Oh, yeah, I went for a run this morning. I woke up quite early, I guess because of jet lag, and I didn’t want to wake you or anything. So I went out and when I got back I talked with Eliza for a while before she went to work.”
“On a Sunday? I like her,” Lena said, a wry smile crossing her face, although her eyes still held the slightest hint of discomfort. “You do smell a bit actually, are you going for a shower?”
“I do not-” Kara said, before realizing that Lena was teasing her, and the mood lightened instantly. She picked some jeans and a ratty old shirt out of the closet, along with her bra from yesterday off one of the armchairs. “Yeah, I probably do actually. Do you mind if I go take a quick shower? We’ve got a long day ahead of us. Dress in something you don’t want to get ruined,” she said, before heading into the bathroom with a grin on her face.
“Ruined?” she heard Lena squeak as she closed the door. There was a pause, and then “what do you mean ruined?” Lena said, her voice louder, but muffled. Kara imagined her cupping her hands to the wood of the door to ask her question.
Kara laughed to herself before turning on the shower and adjusting it before it became a good temperature. She stepped under the hot spray of water, groaning a little as it ran through her hair and down her back. She’d always loved this shower. It was powerful, but not so much that it felt heavy. She washed her hair, shaved her legs, and used some of her favorite body wash. It wasn’t that she didn’t love her shower in her Brooklyn flat or anything, but there was just something about this one that just made her feel so much better.
She turned the water off, and squeezed her hair before stepping onto the mat. She pulled her towel, and as she did so, accidentally knocked Lena’s onto the ground. Instead of putting it back on the rack, she decided that she’d put it in the wash and just get her a fresh one. As Eliza had warned Lena the evening before, Kara went through towels quickly. She always somehow ended up dropping them on the floor or getting mascara on them, or some other disaster would befall her defenseless towels. Eliza was used to her by now, but Lena wasn’t, and she didn’t think that Lena would appreciate using a towel that had been on the floor.
Kara quickly dressed herself in the clothes she’d brought in with her, and left her hair damp around her shoulders. She stepped back out into the bedroom to find that Lena was still in her pajamas, although she’d fully opened the blinds. The weak morning sunlight filled the room, and Kara felt her heart flip over as she looked through the windows into the sea; she hoped she’d be able to get her paints out later in the week.
Kara tossed both towels into the laundry basket and turned to look at Lena, putting her hands on her hips. “So you’re going to spend the day in your pajamas?” she joked as she rocked back and forth on her heels.
Lena shot her an exasperated look, but there was no heat in it, and Kara was pleased that Lena’s usual distance was nowhere to be found.
“Of course not,” Lena replied, “but you didn’t tell me why you wanted me to dress in something I didn’t mind ruining. What are we doing today which could possibly ruin some of my clothes?”
“Today, Lena, you get to work for me, for a change!” Kara exclaimed with a straight face.
Lena’s eyebrows figuratively disappeared into her hairline, before she took a step closer to Kara. “Oh, is that right, Miss Danvers? I’m working for you today, am I?” she asked, her voice low and coquettish. The memory of Lena’s lips on hers flashed through her mind and all of a sudden, Kara flushed deeply. Lena chuckled at Kara when she saw how easily she’d reacted, and then they were both laughing.
Lena had a really nice laugh, Kara decided. She loved the sound of it, and the way that laughter lit her face up was something she wished she could see more often. Kara was so used to Lena as the stern businesswoman that seeing her laughing now, standing there in her pajamas and her hair loose, was like bright sunshine breaking through storm clouds. Kara felt herself warm all over as she basked in Lena’s glow.
They looked at each other a moment longer, Lena’s green eyes shining, before Kara cleared her throat.
“So, we’re going to help Eliza out a little by repainting the boat house, if you don’t mind?”
Lena looked surprised. “Oh, not at all. It’s been a while since I’ve done… that,” Lena said, “and I didn’t bring anything really that’s suitable for painting,” she added, looking a little worriedly at her suitcases. Kara saw the way her eyes flicked to the closet, and privately marveled at the fact that Lena had ever done any painting in her life.
“Don’t worry, you can borrow something of mine,” she volunteered, pulling open some of the drawers and starting to search through them. “I’ve got plenty of things here that I don’t mind getting covered in paint. Baggy old shirts, jeans or jogging bottoms, old hoodies…”
Lena was silent for a moment. “Are you sure you don’t mind?” she said uncertainly.
“No, not at all. That would probably look quite good for… Lena?” she said, standing up straight and turning back to look at the brunette, “I think it would actually be good in more ways than one. Eve Teschmacher said that we have to provide photos for Immigration after the interview. Do you think we should… maybe, if there are photos of you wearing my clothes, it’ll look good?”
Lena looked thoughtful. “Actually, you’re right. We have to be aware of the digital footprint, but we could get away with that somehow if we’re careful and just print photos out somewhere, or use one of those portable Polaroid printers. Ruby, Sam’s daughter, has one. We could spin it by saying we didn’t want to get our relationship leaked somehow by accidentally sending a photo to a friend and just keeping photos physical. And,” she smiled that soft smile again, and Kara felt like her stomach was on a rollercoaster, “you’re right, it would look really good if there were photos of me wearing your clothes.”
“Yup, I hear that’s a thing people do in relationships,” Kara said. “That being said, you’re a little shorter than me, and you’ll probably have to cuff the trousers.”
“That’s no problem,” Lena said, her voice coming over her shoulder as Kara rooted through the drawers, pulling out various clothes and tossing them onto the nearby armchair.
“How do you feel about cargo pants?”
“They’re fine. I used to have quite a few pairs.”
“Oh?” Kara asked, looking over her shoulder. “Somehow, I can’t imagine it.”
Lena smiled at her. “They were useful for rock or metal shows. I didn’t have to check a bag if I could fit all my stuff in my pockets.”
Kara grinned. “Lena Luthor, secret rock chick, got it.” She pulled out a pair of black cargo pants that already had some paint dotted on it. “Here, these might fit you okay and they’ve even got paint on them already.”
Lena took them and sidled up to the armchair near the closet. She picked out a handful of clothes and went into the bathroom to change.
Kara opened another drawer and dug out a few more items. A minute later, Lena breezed back out, tossing her pajamas on the bed. “Do we need anything else?”
She turned around to look at Lena, and all the breath seemed to leave her body in one whoosh. Lena had the black cargo pants on, and Kara was right, they were too big for her, because they hung low on her hips. She’d also chosen a black tank top that had a tree on the front and a dark blue plaid shirt, and she’d rolled the sleeves up. She looked like… like… Kara swallowed. Lena looked like nothing short of Kara’s idea of relaxed perfection.
With all the dark clothes and her inky hair hanging over her shoulders, Lena’s eyes looked especially green, and Kara found herself floundering in them as Lena gazed back at her with a shy smile on her face. She blushed a little under Kara’s silent appraisal, and Kara was left wondering where all the air in the room had gone.
Lena was the one to break the moment. “Do I look alright? Do I need anything else?”
“Um,” Kara said dumbly, before handing her a blue Red Sox baseball cap and a pair of old sunglasses. “You’re going to need these as well.”
Lena took them without question, but didn’t put either of them on just yet.
There was something Lena was missing, and as she thought of it, Kara snapped her fingers. “Did you bring any sneakers? Somehow, I don’t think Louboutins are going to be very practical.”
“Har har,” Lena replied with a roll of her eyes. “Yes I did, actually,” and out of one of her suitcases, she pulled an old, comfortable-looking pair of sneakers that had definitely seen better days. Kara had the feeling that she’d had them forever.
“Perfect!” she exclaimed.
Kara busied herself for a moment taking the sheets off the sofa, throwing the pillows back on the bed, and putting the sheets in her empty suitcase to hide them. She didn’t think that anyone would come in their room while they weren’t there, but at the same time, she didn’t want to take a chance on anyone seeing that they weren’t sleeping in the same bed.
Once they had both slipped their phones into their pockets and Lena was clutching their two hoodies, Kara gathered up a bluetooth speaker that she’d brought with her. She stuffed some earphones in her back pocket as well out of habit. They made their way downstairs and into the kitchen, and Kara dropped her things on the table while she went to forage in the fridge. Kara fixed herself a sandwich for breakfast using the leftover roast chicken from the night before. Lena made herself a bowl of fruit from Eliza’s healthy fridge drawer, the drawer that Kara never touched if she could possibly help it.
Lena noticed it when Kara turned her nose up at the fruit, and laughed. “Is this something I need to know? You’ve got a vendetta against fruit?”
“You know I do,” Kara replied loudly, pointing upstairs. Lena followed her finger and looked back down in confusion. “Alex and Maggie are still here,” she said in a much quieter voice, and above her, Kara could hear one of them walking around. “That’s why I’ve got this speaker. We’ll put music on while we’re at the boathouse and we’ll be able to see them before they get anywhere near us. So we can do some learning about each other while we work. We’ve got a week to teach each other about ourselves, and I think we need to… start.”
Lena nodded her agreement. Then she hummed as she poked at her fruit with her fork for a moment, before she speared a strawberry and held it up, looking at it thoughtfully. She didn’t elaborate on what she was thinking or say what she found so interesting about it, so Kara took a bite of her sandwich.
“How do you feel about chocolate covered strawberries, darling?” Lena suddenly asked in a deliberately husky voice, looking sideways at Kara as she did so to see her reaction.
It took a moment for Lena’s words, and her tone of voice, to sink in. Kara choked on her bite of sandwich, barely keeping herself from spraying crumbs all over the table. She coughed around it and Lena calmly got up to fetch her a glass of water, setting it in front of her and running her hand along Kara’s shoulders. Kara felt goosebumps erupt in the wake of her touch.
Just as she was turning to look at Lena, Alex walked in with a grumpy expression on her face. Alex did a slight double-take at Lena and her lumberjack-lite clothes, before she shuffled over to the coffee machine. “Morning,” she mumbled. “Nobody talk to me until I’ve had my morning caffeine hit.”
Kara cleared her throat after her little coughing fit. “Morning sunshine,” she said in a singsong voice, only to receive a death glare over her shoulder. Lena looked amused as she sat back down to finish off her fruit, and they both watched as Alex made two cups of very strong coffee. “Are you and Maggie working today?” Kara asked.
“Yeah,” Alex replied, stirring some creamer into her coffee and three teaspoons of sugar into Maggie’s. “Both of us are on duty, but not until the afternoon. We’re going to hang out here for a little while before we head back into Midvale. Maggie’s cable is fucked so she wants to catch up on a few shows she’s been missing.”
“Oh right, cool,” Kara said. “We’re going to paint the boathouse.”
“That sounds like a whole lot of nope for a Sunday morning, but have fun kids,” Alex said, picking up the two mugs of coffee and headed out of the kitchen.
Kara listened to Alex’s footsteps trudging back up the stairs and rolled her eyes affectionately. When they were both finished with their breakfast, Kara dumped their crockery into the sink, deciding to deal with it later, and filled bottles of water for them both.
The air outside was, as Kara’s weather app had predicted, unseasonably warm. The sky was eggshell blue with fluffy clouds, and although the air was cool, it wasn’t cold enough at the moment to need the hoodies that Lena was carrying. It was perfect weather, actually; they wouldn’t boil to death, and they wouldn’t be cold either.
Lena seemed to be thinking along much the same lines. “It’s a lovely day,” she commented. “It’s so beautiful here. I don’t often get to enjoy a quiet Sunday morning. I’m usually spending the time catching up with work without my phone ringing off the hook.”
Kara thought that was sad, but decided not to comment on it. “Well! Now you’re going to be doing work of a different kind!” she said, rubbing her hands together. The boathouse really was in need of a fresh coat. Situated next to the coast, there was a lot of salt in the air, and it needed to be repainted every few years. It could probably go a few months longer yet, but Kara loved a project, and since they were here with some time on their hands, there was no time like the present.
Plus, it would give she and Lena some more time to get to know each other. They couldn’t bring out the Immigration folder while Alex and Maggie were still around, but Kara planned to go and get it once they’d gone.
Kara took a deep breath of the fresh, clean air, and then motioned to Lena to follow her down to the boathouse. “You said you’ve not done any painting in a while?” she asked.
“Not for a long time, actually. Not since I was a teenager,” Lena admitted, but she didn’t elaborate.
“Oh? What was it that you painted then?” Kara sensed after it became clear Lena wasn’t going to say anything else.
“I helped Lex paint the rooms in the first house he bought himself,” Lena said, as if the words hurt her to say.
Kara was silent for a moment. “Well,” she said cheerily, kicking some dew across the lawn as they reached the boathouse, “painting outdoors is quite different to doing it indoors!”
“Because it’s so exposed, and the walls aren’t smooth,” Kara said. They walked around the off-white building. “We just call it the boathouse. I’m sure there’s a more technical name, but we just call it that. We use Streaky so often because it’s the fastest way of getting into town, but if the weather is really bad, we bring her up the slipway into the boathouse. It’s made of brick, but it’s rendered with concrete, and that’s what we’re going to be painting. See how it’s going all sort of… grey?”
Lena looked closer at it, before she realized what she was looking at. “Oh! It’s not supposed to be grey, is it?”
“Nope,” Kara replied. “It’s been recently power washed, but Eliza doesn’t really have the time to paint it. Because it’s by the sea, the salt gets to it really easily, and mildew and mold grow on it. We’re going to use an anti-mold masonry paint, and by the time we’re done today, it’s going to be a brilliant white!”
Lena helped Kara carry two buckets of paint down to the boathouse, along with several old canvas dust sheets that were crispy with old paint, and Lena spread them out next to the building while Kara went back for the paintbrushes, rollers, and a hard bristled broom. Kara also set up a paint-stained foldup table, and put the Bluetooth speaker on it.
Lena gave her a curious look when Kara then brandished the broom at her, her hands on her hips.
“What’s that for?” Lena asked, dodging it when it came near her.
“You, Miss Luthor, are going to use it to brush off the dead flakes of paint,” Kara said, grinning and handing the brush to her.
Lena took it. “Is this you putting me to work, Miss Danvers?” she asked.
“Yup,” she replied. “And I’m going to enjoy every second of it.”
“I’ll bet you are,” Lena said, pitching her voice low. She was looking up at Kara and her green eyes were sparkling with something other than sunshine. She had a small smirk on her face, as if she knew exactly how dry Kara’s mouth had gone at the sheer flirt in Lena’s tone of voice.
Having to deal with a flirty Lena while Kara was already nursing a small crush on the woman was going to be difficult. Kara hadn’t realized that Lena had such a teasing side to her personality before, and if Lena kept it up, Kara’s small crush was going to be much harder to manage.
Lena was still looking at her with those mesmerizing eyes, and there wasn’t even any reason for it; nobody was around to see them, or to overhear this conversation. So why is she flirting with me? Is she flirting with me?
At the very thought, a comfortable warmth seemed to spread throughout Kara’s body, and as blue eyes met green, she felt a blush rise up her neck. Kara decided to try to unpack that at a later time, if at all, she chastised herself. What kind of disaster would it be if she went and developed real feelings for her boss when they were destined to be nothing more than a fake marriage and a quickie divorce?
Kara cleared her throat and stepped away from Lena, missing the brief look of disappointment that flashed over Lena’s face. “Now,” Kara said, moving closer to the wall. “See these flakes? You don’t need to brush too hard to get them off. They are going to fly everywhere, and you don’t want to get them in your eyes, so put those old sunglasses on and the baseball hat. I brought a mask for your nose and mouth as well if you want, too. If there are any particularly stubborn bits, you need to scrape them off with this.” Kara handed Lena a metal scraping tool with a wooden handle, and watched as Lena carefully put it blade up in her pocket. “Be careful with that, okay?” Kara said, seeing how close it was to Lena’s arm when it dropped back down.
“I’ll be fine,” Lena said. “Okay, so are you going to give me a demonstration or just stand there and watch me mess it up on the first go?”
“I’m sure you’ll be fine,” Kara said with a laugh, “but sure. Here.” She put a mask over her nose and mouth, put her sunglasses on and topped her look off with a baseball hat, then started brushing the wall. It was quite satisfying watching the flakes fly off, and they settled on the canvas sheet Lena had spread out along the bottom of the wall. “Got it?” she asked.
Lena nodded, tying her hair up and donning her own mask, hat and sunglasses. Kara smothered a laugh at how ridiculous Lena looked in her getup, and pulled out her phone. She waved it in Lena’s direction, earning a nod in return, before aiming the camera at her. Lena flipped her the bird as she was about to take the photo, and Kara nearly dropped her phone in surprise.
“That’s one for Instagram,” Lena said with a smile Kara couldn’t see behind the mask, but she could hear it in her voice.
“You’ve got Instagram?” Kara asked, hearing the incredulity in her own voice.
“I know it must seem strange to you, but I’m not a complete recluse,” Lena said, her voice teasing. “I do. Ruby, Sam’s daughter, set it up for me and insisted that I use it. Apparently, it’s what all the cool kids do these days. It’s private, of course. I do have a reputation to uphold, after all. Oh! I’ve got an idea. What is it your friend Nia calls me at work? The witch?”
Kara reddened in embarrassment. She hadn’t any idea that Lena knew that’s what people called her at work, and she felt ashamed. If Lena knew that, what else had she heard? “Lena-”
“It’s fine, Kara,” Lena said, but her somewhat muted tone belied her words, and Kara felt even worse. “I’ve been called worse than a witch. It’s pretty mild, all things considered. Anyway, I’m going to pose. Can you take a picture? I want to send it to Sam. She’ll get a kick out of it!”
“Sure,” Kara said, holding her phone up. Lena swung one leg over the broom, and posed with it as if she was indeed a witch from a storybook, and Kara couldn’t help but smile. Lena held her hand up at the camera with her fingers in the shape of horns as if she were at a rock concert, and Kara snapped the photo.
“Can I see?” Lena asked, pulling her mask down over her chin and stepping up to Kara, leaning against her side. Was there any reason for Lena to be standing quite this close? Lena was warm, and Kara resisted the urge to put her arm around her waist, instead clearing her throat and holding the phone up so Lena could see it.
It was a funny photo, and Kara sent it to Lena when she asked for it, pulling her phone out of her pocket and immediately uploading it to Instagram when it arrived. Kara tried not to look over at the account, but she could see that it had several hundred photos on it. What had Lena posted before?
So that she wouldn’t be tempted to be nosy, even though she felt it, she moved away from Lena and immediately her side felt cool. “You get first dibs on the music by the way, the password for the Bluetooth speaker is a very imaginative 1111.”
Lena laughed, and walked over to it. “I’ll warn you now, my music taste is pretty eclectic. It’ll range from Dolly Parton to heavy metal, atomic music from the 50’s, to the soundtrack from the Sound of Music.” She connected her phone to the speaker and scrolled through her music, then pressed play. Immediately, something Kara didn’t recognize started playing.
On her way back to collect the broom from the floor next to Kara, Lena bopped her hips from side to side to the music as it played. Kara tried not to stare at the sliver of pale skin that became visible when the cargo pants slipped lower over Lena’s hips, and turned abruptly to prise open the nearest can of masonry paint, feeling her cheeks heat up once more.
Golly, she sure was blushing a lot around Lena. Before she could delve any deeper into that thought though, Lena stood next to her. “Do you want me to start brushing?” she asked.
“Sure! I’m just going to stir this paint. If you brush this wall, start from the end of it, I’ll follow behind you with the paint. Hopefully that way we save some time,” Kara replied, pointing at the wall that was nearest to them and the one that had no windows on it.
Lena nodded at her and pulled the mask back up to cover her mouth and nose. The music was loud enough to be heard, but not loud enough that she couldn’t hear Lena’s muffled singing under the mask. She was off-key, and it made her smile. She’d found something Lena couldn’t do – carry a tune. As she stirred the paint, it didn’t seem like Lena cared that she couldn’t sing. She didn’t project her voice, probably thinking that Kara couldn’t hear her, but Kara could, and somehow she found it endearing. She was also happy that Lena was comfortable enough around her to sing, even though they’d only really spent just over a day together. For part of that time, they’d been bad-tempered and snappy with each other, and Kara marveled at the difference between yesterday morning and now.
The contrast could not be more vivid. Yesterday, Lena was dressed as if she was heading to a board meeting, wearing an outfit that clearly cost a fortune, and still acting like Lena Luthor. Today, she was wearing Kara’s old plaid shirt and cargo pants, a ratty old baseball cap on as she brushed the paint off a wall of a boathouse, and singing. This was definitely Lena.
And Kara liked Lena. She liked this Lena a lot. She was funny, self-deprecating, intelligent, and willing to poke fun at Kara. She knew she’d always thought that the brunette was beautiful, and there was something about the imposing, assertive businesswoman she was at CatCo that was attractive, but now she’d had a glimpse beneath the mask. Ever since the plane ride yesterday, Lena had been a lot more willing to talk, and had shared several things about herself that Kara knew had been difficult for her. Lena was private, and Kara respected her privacy, but they needed to learn about each other. Kara had expected Lena to dig her heels in a little more, but she was surprised to find that Lena volunteered information without being asked.
The more time she spent around Lena, the more she liked the person she was discovering existed. The mask she wore at work was just that, a mask. The woman beneath it intrigued Kara in a way that nobody had in a long, long time.
As Kara poured out paint into the tray, she recognized the song Lena was singing now as All That Jazz from Chicago, and she hit another bum note. Kara smiled to herself and started to sing along quietly to herself as she picked up the tray and put it down behind where Lena had already brushed.
Immediately she saw an issue with her plan. She was going to be going along behind Lena, painting as they went. Behind Lena. She was going to have a view of Lena from behind no matter what position Lena was standing in or… if she was bending over… well. Golly. Damn. Kara pushed her sunglasses further onto her face and forcibly averted her eyes from Lena’s… view, concentrating instead on making sure her roller didn’t have too much paint on it. Having the perfect opportunity to check her boss out without being seen didn’t mean she should, even though… even though, Kara wanted to.
Kara brushed a stripe of paint onto the wall, pleased at the difference even with that first line. She quickly brushed a second stripe onto the wall, and got into a rhythm. When All That Jazz neared the end, Kara couldn’t help herself. She burst loudly into song, startling Lena in front of her, who turned around in amazement as Kara carried the notes flawlessly. Lena pulled her sunglasses off and her mask down, and her green eyes were shining as she listened to Kara sing the last of the song. Kara couldn’t resist a pose as she hit the last note.
“Wow!” Lena exclaimed, wide-eyed and smiling broadly, her dimples deep in her cheeks. “Kara! You can really sing. That’s definitely something a fiancée should know, wouldn’t you say?”
Kara grinned, the compliments of both Lena’s words and her smile washing over her and causing her heart to skip a beat. “Definitely,” she replied. “I was in theater club at school, and I was in basically every musical that the school put on.”
Lena put her hands on her hips and looked at her, her head cocked to one side, dark hair with paint flecks in it spilling over her shoulder. “You know, I can see that,” she said, raising an eyebrow before giving Kara another bright smile. “What else?”
“What else? Oh, should we play twenty questions?” Kara asked, feeling excitement bubble up inside her.
“Hmm, sure,” Lena said. “Start with easy stuff.” She pushed her sunglasses back onto her face and pulled the mask back up. Lena poked the brush in Kara’s direction. “Don’t ask anything weird,” she said, but Kara could hear that Lena was still smiling.
Twenty questions with her boss. Okay. Kara could do this.
“Which would you rather be, a vampire or a werewolf?”
Kara heard Lena snort with laughter behind her mask. “Seriously? Of all the questions to ask.”
“What? It might come up,” Kara replied, although she was pretty sure it wouldn’t. It wasn’t on any of the example question pages in the folder they had upstairs. She wondered whether Lena would even answer the question.
“Vampire,” Lena stated, brushing the wall quite hard. Paint flecks flew through the air and littered the canvas sheet. “No thinking required.”
“Oh? I’d definitely be a werewolf,” Kara responded. “Why a vampire?”
Lena turned around briefly to look at her, before brushing some more paint off the wall. Kara’s eyes focused on the way that Lena’s forearms flexed as they moved.
“Vampires are much sexier than werewolves,” Lena said, as if it was a fact. “Don’t you think so? They have all this… erotic energy. I blame Bram Stoker personally, but a lot of vampire fiction and media ever since then has played up to that. And who wasn’t a fan of Kate Beckinsale in Underworld? Oh, and Kara?”
Kara, who was standing with her mouth agape as Lena was speaking, startled out of her thoughts and coughed a little. “Uhm, yes?”
“If you’re going to be a werewolf, make sure to keep your wet dog smell out of my carpets, okay?”
At that, Kara let out a loud laugh. “Oh, and she’s funny too! Alright then, Miss Luthor, toilet paper. Over or under?”
“Over. Anyone who says under is a heathen,” Lena replied seriously, and Kara decided to continuously turn all the toilet rolls in the house around at some point during their stay. And then Lena countered with a question of her own. “Pineapple on pizza, yes or no?”
“Definitely yes. Pizza is pizza. I’ll eat whatever one is in front of me.”
“I think we’ll have to test that, Miss Danvers.”
“Oh? So you really do cook?” Kara asked Lena curiously.
Lena seemed to sense that this wasn’t a silly question. “Actually, yes. I don’t have time to do it as much as I’d like to, but whenever I get the chance to, I like to try my hand in the kitchen and see what I can come up with. But,” she said in an authoritative tone that made shivers run down Kara’s spine, “I am going to make you the worst pizza on earth and you are going to eat it.”
“Challenge accepted!” Kara exclaimed. After all, pizza was pizza, right? She gulped when she saw Lena pull her glasses down far enough for her to see the evil little glint in her eyes.
What had she let herself in for? And would Lena really cook for her?
They made their way slowly around the boathouse, Lena brushing the flakes off and Kara painting around after her. Lena’s job was harder, it demanded more pressure, and she had to stop quite frequently to dig out some of the more stubborn flakes; eventually Kara put her paint down and fetched another brush from the garage so that she could help. Between the two of them, in another two and a half hours, they’d scraped enough of the boathouse that Kara was satisfied that they’d be able to paint the first coat on without incident.
During those hours, Kara had learnt a lot about Lena, and discovered that the woman definitely had the most eclectic music taste she’d ever heard. In fact, it was so varied that Kara would venture to say that Lena had no music taste at all; Kara couldn’t identify any specific genre that Lena liked more than another. Her phone shuffled from musical soundtracks, to heavy metal, to Dolly Parton, bombastic classical music, pop, and country, among others. There was also some kind of folk music that was so madcap that Kara had to ask for an explanation; it turned out she’d heard it while in a Christmas market in Bucharest one year and it reminded her of some of her travels. It turned into a discussion about how many places each of them had visited, and where they’d love to go in the future.
Kara learnt that Lena had a small home in several countries (France, Greece, and Ireland) to which she retreated if she was in those countries for business. Lena almost never took time off; aside from one occasion where she went to southern France for a week and came back as pale as she’d left, Kara couldn’t remember any time when Lena had taken an extended vacation. It was just long weekends here and there, spaced throughout the year.
She also learnt that Lena put salt on her eggs and nothing else, that she loved soft blankets, dogs, and would rather never use the internet again than not be able to read a book for a year. She found out that Lena won competitions for writing short stories when she was a teenager, hated running but loved fencing, and that her favorite cheese was Camembert. Lena adored riding horses and used to ride regularly. Lena was some kind of chess prodigy and, with heavy prompting from Kara, she modestly admitted that she had multiple trophies locked away in a vault for winning state and national chess championships.
“The next thing you’ll be saying is that you’ve given some kind of TED talk or something,” Kara said, as they finished brushing the last part of the walls. They dropped their brushes gratefully on the canvas, rubbing their sore palms. It was a few moments before Kara realized that Lena hadn’t said anything. “Seriously?” she asked in astonishment. “On what?”
Lena removed the baseball hat from her head, showering paint flecks everywhere. “The future of quantum technology,” she said, pulling the mask off as well. “Ah, that’s better. It was rather hot in there.”
“Lena,” Kara said weakly, gaping at her. “You did a TED talk?”
“Yes,” she replied. “On how quantum technology can be used to improve everyday life, for example by making batteries last long, quantum encryption for privacy, improvements in medical imaging. Things like that.”
“Golly,” Kara said, causing Lena to look over at her in amusement at the antiquated word. “I didn’t realize I was in the company of a bona fide genius.”
Lena shrugged, a faraway look in her eyes. “My intellect is just a fact of life. It’s often served to make a pariah out of me. That, among other things,” she added in a tone of voice that Kara was beginning to recognize as Lena’s attempt to forestall any questions.
Although she was definitely enjoying getting to know Lena on a surface level, Lena was a little more still reticent about sharing details of her life that were more than skin-deep. The few things she had shared that were harder, like her story of her adoption, or her fear of flying, were harder to pull out of her. After their talk the day before though, Kara knew it would take a little time.
She hoped, though, that it wouldn’t be too much time. They only had a week, and in the grand scheme of things, that wasn’t a very long time to get to know someone as well as they needed to know each other.
Even with that thought in her head though, Kara still felt like she wanted to cheer Lena up. “Well,” she said in a bright voice, “you can do amazing things that other people can’t, and your intellect is going to do a great deal of good for people around the world. And you have Sam, and Ruby, and now you’ve got me too. We’re friends, remember?”
Lena sent her a grateful smile, and it made Kara feel warm inside. “Friends,” Lena repeated.
“Would friends have lunch together? I’m starving after all that work!”
Kara laughed. “All that work? We’re only halfway through the job. We still have to paint this whole building!”
Lena shook her arms out. “But I’m so tired!”
“Too bad,” Kara said with a grin. “We’ve got a few days of no rain after this, and the paint needs that time to dry, otherwise we’ll have to do it twice.”
“Slave driver,” Lena grumbled, but she was smiling. “Can we at least get a lunch break?”
“Sure,” Kara said, bending over to pick up both of their brushes. “I could eat a horse. We’ll put these back in the garage when we go back up to the house.”
As they walked back up to the house, Kara could hear Lena chuckling beside her. Before she could ask why, she felt Lena’s hands batting gently at her clothes, before brushing them down her right arm, across her shoulders, and down her back. Kara felt her light touches almost like caresses, and she couldn’t stop a shiver of pleasure from running through her. She stopped walking, and she felt Lena’s hand still between her shoulder blades.
“Sorry, that tickled a little,” Kara said, trying to pass it off, and hoping her voice didn’t sound as shaky as she suddenly felt. Lena’s cheeks were dusted with pink as well, and still, she kept her hand on Kara’s back. As they stood there looking at each other, Lena’s hand moved down Kara’s back a little more, before it came to rest just above her waistband. They were standing very close to each other.
“You… were covered in bits of dry paint,” Lena said, the timbre of her voice low.
“Oh,” Kara said quietly. “Well, thanks.” Her eyes traveled over Lena, and she smiled. “So are you.”
The pink color on Lena’s cheeks deepened a little. “Would you mind…?”
Kara understood the unspoken question, and as carefully as she could, she batted away some of the paint away from Lena’s clothes. She wasn’t very effective, though, and Lena seemed to know it. After a moment Lena huffed and pulled her shirt off, shaking it away from herself and sending tiny pieces of dried paint everywhere.
At first, Kara wondered why on earth she hadn’t thought to do the same, because it seemed obvious in hindsight. But she was immediately distracted by the blush that had spread across the top of Lena’s chest under the tank top, and by the freckles on her pale shoulders. In the warm spring sunshine, Lena’s pale skin seemed to glow. She wondered what Lena would look like if she caught a bit of sun, but quickly decided that it would probably make her look a little strange. She was naturally pale, and her green eyes and dark hair only emphasized that. It suited her well; the effect of that combination was striking, and Kara couldn’t tear her eyes away from Lena as she knotted her shirt around her waist.
This was the most exposed Lena had ever been in front of her, and as Lena looked down at herself and came to the same conclusion, Lena gave her a slightly bashful smile.
“I don’t think anyone’s seen me in a tank top for quite a long time,” she said, lifting her hands to her shoulders as if to cover them up.
“Don’t,” Kara said, moving her hands towards Lena’s, and then stopping halfway at Lena’s curious look. “Uh, I mean, you look… um, nice,” Kara mumbled. “I mean, definitely put the shirt back on when we come back out otherwise you’ll burn if the sun stays out, but… yeah. You look good, Lena. Don’t hide yourself.”
Lena flushed even deeper at Kara’s words. “Alright,” she replied. “Come on, let’s go get some lunch.”
Kara glanced up towards the house, and then held her hand out for Lena to take, which she did with no hesitation. Kara squeezed her hand, and together they walked into the house.
Maggie was in the kitchen putting a glass in the sink when they entered, and she let out a low whistle when she saw them. “What’ve you two been up to then, both of you blushing like a pair of schoolgirls?”
“Kara was just… helping me with the bits of paint I had all over me,” Lena said in a somewhat coy voice.
“I’ll bet she was,” Maggie replied, raising her eyebrows at both of them.
“We’re just uh, coming in for lunch.”
“I’ll bet you are.”
“Maggie! How could you possibly misconstrue-”
Lena silenced Kara with a warm kiss to her cheek. “Nothing fun happening unfortunately Maggie,” Lena said, letting go of Kara’s hand. “She’s been working me really hard out there.”
“I’ll bet she-”
Kara threw her hands up in the air and stalked over to the fridge. “Oh for the love of- I cannot deal with both of you,” she said, yanking the fridge open to the sound of Maggie and Lena’s laughter behind her. “Lena, I’m making you an anchovy, pickle, and peanut butter sandwich.”
“Harsh,” Lena said, disgust marring her delicate features.
“That sounds disgusting,” Alex said, coming into the kitchen in her sheriff’s uniform. “How could you treat your loving fiancée like that, Kara?”
“Yeah, Kara, how could you treat me like that?” Lena said, clasping her hands in front of her and pushing her bottom lip out in a pout. Kara’s eyes widened as she took the adorable look in, and caved immediately.
“Fiiiiiine. Just because you’re cute, you can have a decent sandwich. Or, as decent a one as I can make, anyway. You’re the chef, not me.”
“We’ll leave you two to it,” Alex said, dumping some dishes into the sink. “Wash these for me won’t you, Kara?”
“Alex!” Kara huffed.
Alex ignored her, waving her hand in the air and giving her a smirk. “You wouldn’t want me to be late stopping some kind of high-tech bank heist in Midvale would you?”
Kara rolled her eyes. “I doubt if David Jacobs even remembers to lock the door to the bank half the time. No special tech required when you can just open the door.”
“All the same. I’ll be back late tonight after my shift, so don’t wait up. I’m helping mom out with taking some of her equipment to the lab in the morning, so I’ll be around,” Alex said, before picking up two muffins and passing them both to Maggie, before wrapping Kara in a hug. “It’s so great to be able to hug you again, you know,” Alex said, tightening her arms.
Kara sank into the hug from her sister. “I know,” she mumbled, but after glancing at Lena, she was unwilling to say anything else about it in case it made Lena uncomfortable. Her boss had a guilty expression on her face, and she averted her eyes when Kara looked at her. Shelving that for the moment, she reveled in being close to her sister, before letting her go and giving her a wave.
“See you in the morning!” Alex tossed over her shoulder, as she and Maggie made their way out. Just as she was going out the door, Maggie turned around and waggled her eyebrows at Kara, who threw a dishcloth at her in jest. Maggie cackled all the way to the front door.
Kara turned back to Lena in the much more silent kitchen. “I’m not really going to make you an anchovy, pickle, and peanut butter sandwich you know,” she joked, when the tension fell over her like a cobweb.
“Kara…” Lena said, her voice downcast. “I’m sorry I-”
“Let’s talk about it over lunch, okay?” Kara said gently. “We’re going to have the place to ourselves for the next while. Why don’t we take the opportunity to go through some of the questions from that folder Immigration gave us? I don’t know about you but I’m pretty sure knowing that you’d rather be a vampire over a werewolf won’t really be the first question they ask!”
Lena gave her a tiny smile that made Kara feel sad, before she nodded and headed for their bedroom. Kara busied herself by making both of them a thick roast chicken and avocado sandwich, ground some salt and pepper into it, and grabbed a couple of bags of chips from the cupboard. She was just choosing some bottles of soda or juice from another cupboard when Lena came back into the kitchen carrying one of the Immigration folders in a canvas bag. The second one was in her arms, along with a handful of pens, and a portable phone battery and a wire. She put the bag on the table and put the pens inside it, before standing next to Kara and perusing the drinks. To Kara’s surprise, instead of reaching for a Coke Zero, as she expected, Lena picked a mango Snapple.
“I know this is going to sound rather strange coming from me and all the junk you saw me eat yesterday,” Kara said, staring at Lena, who was holding the bottle in her hand, “but do you know how much sugar is in one of those?!”
“I do,” Lena replied, looking at the label before putting the bottle in her bag. “But, I let myself have one of these maybe once a year, and on a day where I’m certainly burning more calories than I usually would, today’s the lucky day.”
Kara stared for a second longer, before shrugging and pulling out a bottle of Sprite for herself, and then two bottles of cold water from the fridge.
She led Lena out to the porch swing that overlooked Midvale Sound so that they could sit in the shade to eat, but still be outdoors in the fresh air. “Oh, wait,” she exclaimed loudly before Lena could sit. She froze, halfway between sitting and standing, and looked askance at Kara. “Oh, um, I was just going to ask if you wanted a blanket to sit on, but the mattress thing is soft enough, I guess,” she finished, feeling a little silly.
Lena sat down, and Kara didn’t miss the smile that crossed her face as she turned away from her to put her bag down on the seat next to her. “I brought both of them down,” she said, handing Kara one and pulling the other out of her bag. “I thought we both might need to write answers down. I have an excellent memory, as Lex used to like pointing out, but all the same, I’d rather have something to refer back to if needed.”
“Alright,” Kara said. “Can we eat lunch first though?” She gave Lena her best puppy dog eyes expression, and although Lena’s expression was distinctly unimpressed, Kara could see the corner of her mouth twitching as if she was fighting back a smile. After a moment, her eyes crinkled with amusement and she took a bite of the sandwich, using the folder as a table for her plate.
They were quiet as they ate, except for Lena expressing her gratitude that Kara hadn’t made her as gruesome a sandwich as she’d threatened. Once they’d finished their sandwiches, Kara sat back in the seat and swung them a little, enjoying the gentle motion as they opened their bags of chips.
Lena twirled her Snapple in her hands as she looked out over the water, looking thoughtful, and Kara wondered what was going on in her mind. She didn’t have to think long though, before Lena was twisting around to look at her.
“Kara,” she said, her voice contrite. “I just wanted to say that I’m sorry. For… well, a lot of things as it turns out, but for taking your time away from your family. I don’t have much family, and the one that I do have has never been warm. Home has never been a place of acceptance, or of comfort, and although I know of course that it is for other people, I don’t have much experience of it, and therefore I don’t attach as much importance to it as I should. I’ve kept you from your family through denied vacation requests far too often just to make my own life easier, and I- I apologize. I’m sorry.”
Kara was startled to see a film of tears in Lena’s eyes; she’d been smiling only a few minutes ago, and Kara was thrown. At the same time as the thought upset her, she was impressed by Lena’s ability to show one emotion, but feel something entirely different. Once again she marveled at the difference between the rather tough businesswoman she was used to, and the woman she’d seen in the last day and a half. A week ago, Kara would never have said she’d be sitting next to Lena and listening to her give a genuine apology.
She reached across the small gap between them and put her hands on top of Lena’s, which were fidgeting with each other on top of the folder. Lena’s hands stilled under hers, and she looked up, a single tear spilling down her cheek. Kara’s heart cracked, and before she could think too much about it, she reached up and brushed it away with her thumb.
“I’m not going to say it’s okay,” Kara began, and when Lena would’ve turned away, she brushed her thumb over Lena’s cheek again, causing Lena to look up at her and meet her eyes. “Hey. What’s done can’t be undone, but for what it’s worth, I accept your apology. I know this whole situation has you like a fish out of water, but if I’m really honest with myself, and with you, you seem… this is the most relaxed I’ve ever seen you. I know your reputation matters a great deal to you, but here, with me, just be yourself, okay? That’s all I can really ask of you, and I happen to quite like the Lena that I’ve been getting to know since yesterday.” She bumped Lena’s shoulder gently. “I think that if we keep talking the way we have been today, getting to know each other should be easier than we thought. You don’t have to pretend to be anyone other than you when you’re with me. And you’re doing really well with my family.”
Lena didn’t say anything in response, but Kara hadn’t been expecting her to. She wasn’t naïve enough to think that a day and a half would completely change everything or flip their situation on its head or anything like that. She did feel like she and Lena had made a great deal of personal progress with each other in a short space of time, as evidenced by Lena’s apology, and she hoped that they would continue in that vein as best as they could.
After a moment, Lena shifted awkwardly on the seat as it moved under her. The next thing Kara knew, Lena was hesitantly leaning against her, and she could feel the warmth of Lena’s pale skin even through her shirt. “Thank you,” Lena said softly.
Kara and Lena watched the birds fly over the sound, the gentle sound of the waves a distant rumble in the quiet of the early afternoon. It was nice, sitting here with Lena like this, and Kara couldn’t lie; she liked how Lena felt pressed up against her like she was. She itched to put her arm around Lena’s shoulders, but she resisted, even as she felt her heart hammering in her chest.
Clearing her throat, Lena sat up a little, and Kara immediately missed her soft weight against her side. Lena flipped through the pages of the Immigration folder, coming to rest on the first of the pages of the example questions. “Would you like to go through a few of these?” she asked, before unscrewing the lid of her Snapple to take a sip.
“Sure,” Kara replied. “But while we do that, can we at least get a slice of pie? We can do a few questions and then take the folder down to the boathouse, and continue it there. We need to keep painting.”
Lena’s eyes shone. “What kind of pie?”
Kara grinned at her, before standing up and taking their sandwich plates indoors. Eliza had made a key lime pie as one of the desserts the night before, but they’d eaten the vanilla cheesecake instead. Kara dished them up a generous slice each, grabbed two forks, and took them back outside to Lena.
Lena looked down at the pie, before back up at Kara with a downcast expression. “I’m allergic to lime,” she said solemnly.
Damn. “What, really? I’ll go and find you something else. And I’ll have to remember that you’re allergic to it.” She made to stand up, but a warm hand on her forearm stopped her.
“I’m joking, Kara,” Lena said, her voice colored with amusement. “I love key lime pie!”
Kara narrowed her eyes playfully at Lena before she pointed her fork at her. “If they ask me about your allergies, and I say lime, it’s all your fault.”
Lena raised an eyebrow before cutting a bite of pie with her fork, and lifting it to her mouth. She closed her eyes briefly as she chewed, and let out a happy sounding hum.
“It’s good, huh?” Kara asked.
Lena nodded. “Incidentally,” she said, covering her mouth a little with the back of her hand, “I am actually mildly allergic to a couple of things. You might want to write this down somewhere-”
“Oh!” Kara said, interrupting Lena while she turned the pages in the folder. “I know some of them, I think.” Lena gave her a curious look at that. “Oh, I need to know for when I have to send your replies to gala invites; sometimes they ask about food allergies. Oh, look, there’s an allergies question. Right,” she said, twisting to look at Lena with a serious look on her face, and adjusting her glasses. Lena smiled fondly at her. “What allergies do you have?”
“Which ones do you already know about?”
Kara wrote a few words out on the paper. “Shellfish, kiwi fruit, and chamomile. To be fair, the chamomile is easy to avoid at galas; they’re not usually serving the tea, right?”
“True,” Lena conceded, “although sometimes it would be nice to have a supposedly relaxing drink on stressful days. I’m also allergic to passionfruit, by the way.”
“Huh,” Kara said, noting them down. “Bit of a shame, passionfruit. Really good in cocktails.”
“You can’t miss what you don’t know. What about you, any allergies?” Lena asked, opening her own folder and flipping to the allergies question. She sat with the pen poised over the page and looked at Kara expectantly.
“Nothing,” Kara said, taking a sip of her Sprite.
“Nothing?!” Lena raised her eyebrows and let her hand with the pen slump on the page. “Well, I’m jealous. Let’s have a look at these other questions. Hmm. What’s your favorite food?”
“Potstickers? Huh,” Lena said, writing it down in her neat script.
“What’s wrong with potstickers?” Kara said, ready to leap to the defense of her favorite.
Lena’s smile was soft when she looked up at Kara. “There’s absolutely nothing wrong with potstickers. If you behave yourself, I’ll even make them for you sometime.”
The fact that this was the second time Lena had made mention of some sort of normality outside of their strange situation made Kara’s heart leap in her chest. Lena would cook for her? When? But also, potstickers. “Seriously? You can make them?” Lena nodded. “You’re amazing.”
Lena looked pleased, and looked back down at the questions. “Which of you likes to cook? Well, me, by the sounds of it. Which of you likes to clean? From what I saw, your apartment was pretty tidy, especially since you didn’t know you were about to have someone in it,” Lena said, and Kara preened at the compliment, “but I usually just pay someone else to do it. So, shall we say you?”
Kara laughed. “You pay someone to do your cleaning?”
Lena shrugged. “I’m at work a lot, and when I’m at home, I’m usually working. I don’t really have the time, so why not? Saves me doing it.”
“Fair. Okay, shall we take these down to the boathouse so we can keep painting?”
“Sure,” Lena said, gathering up the folders. Kara carried their drinks down to the boathouse, and they set themselves back up again. Lena pulled her shirt back on to protect her skin from the sunlight. They left off the masks, not needing them now, and Lena ditched her sunglasses as well. The sun had gone back behind the clouds, although it was still warm.
Kara had managed to paint half of one of the walls before she’d stopped to help Lena brush them, so it was fairly easy to see where they needed to start from. Kara set up the paint roller trays and mixed the paint a little more, before pouring it into the bucket end. Kara let Lena start on the unpainted part of the wall while she flipped through the folders, coming across a section for-
“Oh hey, Lena, look! There are some questions here specifically for a foreign spouse.”
Lena turned around, accidentally getting paint on her trousers. “Oh? That’ll be me then, the Irish spouse.”
“Have you ever committed a crime of any kind, in this country or any other, even if you were never arrested?” Kara read out, then looked up at Lena from her position, sitting cross-legged on the canvas.
Lena pretended to think hard about it. “No, your honor,” she replied, before she added more paint to her roller and carrying on painting.
“Have you ever been a member of a Communist group?”
Lena cocked a hip and lifted a questioning hand to her face, pretending to think about it. “Nope!” Lena said, painting a very precise stripe of white right up to the corner of the wall.
“Have you ever been a member of a terrorist group?”
“No! Are they serious? I get asked this every time I go through an American airport, thanks to Lex,” Lena said over her shoulder. Kara could practically feel Lena rolling her eyes from where she was, but she could sense in the tone of Lena’s voice that the question had hit a nerve, which was understandable, given that Lena herself hadn’t done anything wrong. How tiring it must be to be consistently tarred by the same brush as her brother.
Kara flipped randomly through the question section, and decided to go through it more methodically. She asked the more boring questions first, questions about Lena’s address, phone number, email accounts, job titles, and other more general questions like what color her eyes were. Lena answered all of them patiently while she worked, gliding the roller smoothly and methodically over the wall. Kara told Lena her own answers to the same questions, and wrote hers in Lena’s folder.
“How long have you known your spouse? Three years,” Kara read out loud, writing down the answers in each folder. “When and how did you meet? Boss and employee relationship,” she wrote, and then raised her voice. “You came in and brusquely demanded your fancy hot chocolate and didn’t tell me where the machine was!”
Lena lazily flicked some paint in Kara’s direction. “I did not. I believe I at least… pointed it out,” she said. “Are you going to do some work or are you just going to watch me do it all day?”
“Oh, but I’ve been enjoying telling you what to do for a chance,” Kara said, ducking her head as Lena flicked more paint at her. It landed on the back of her hand, and she wiped it on the canvas under her knees.
“Miss Danvers.” Kara looked up. Lena had arched one of her eyebrows and was smirking at her, and Kara felt breathless – how was it that this one woman was so darned beautiful that it took her breath away? “I believe it’s my turn to ask the questions.”
Wordlessly, Kara stood up and walked over to Lena, who handed over the paint roller and sauntered (there was no other word for it, Kara thought) over to the folder. She sat down gracefully on the canvas, crossed her legs, and settled the folder across her knees. Lena took her baseball cap off, pulled her shiny hair over one shoulder, and replaced the cap, before clicking the pen open against the page. She looked up, and tilted her head at the expression on Kara’s face, who belatedly realized that she was staring. Lena’s smirk grew before she looked back down at the paper.
“Let’s do some more interesting questions. Let’s see…” Lena said, tapping the pen against her upper lip and causing Kara to paint a wonky line across the wall. She mentally slapped herself out of it while she waited for the question, painting over her mistake before Lena saw it. “Where did you go on some of your first dates?”
Kara considered her answer. Where would they have gone? “Hmm. You know, because we were hiding our relationship from my colleagues, we couldn’t really go on dates. Let’s say, we spent time at each other’s apartments, otherwise, we went out of town like some sordid couple trying to hide our affair from our spouses.”
“I’ll have you know, Kara, that had we gone on any real dates, none of them would have been anywhere close to sordid,” Lena said, her voice low and serious. She kept her eyes down, not looking up at Kara as she made notes on the page. “I would have treated you beautifully.”
And just like that, Kara was breathless again.
* * * * *
They made their way through the questions regarding the beginning of their fake relationship, inventing cooking disasters (Kara), elaborate meals (Lena), bowling nights, walks in parks, and hikes in the hills. Romantic getaways to the secluded cabin that Lena owned just outside of Salem, Massachusetts (“what? I love the history there!”); this was the same cabin that had the pond that Lena had supposedly proposed to Kara at. Quiet birthdays spent together, various gifts they’d bought or made each other, and late nights at the office ordering takeout to get work finished.
When they finished the first wall, Lena took over the painting and described her apartment and her cabin in minute detail, down to what color the furnishings were, which kinds of paintings she’d hung on the walls, and how many bathrooms there were. The more detail the better. Anything that a spouse would be reasonably expected to know about where the other lived, Lena covered it. She told Kara about the shampoo that she used (Oribe), which brand of toothpaste she preferred (Crest), face cream (La Mer), and shower gel (L’Occitane Verveine; that explained the citrus scent that clung to Lena’s skin. Kara blushed when she remembered how close they’d been yesterday when Lena had been showing her how to work the seat on the jet).
Kara provided the same information when they’d worked their way around to the third wall. She horrified Lena by disclosing that she often forgot to use her own face cream to the point that Alex wouldn’t let her buy any expensive stuff anymore, because she only ended up throwing it away. Kara’s own tastes when it came to toiletries were fairly simple – if it smelled like cookies, cupcakes, or some kind of mix of fruit, she bought it. One of the cupboards in her kitchen was overflowing with supplies from Bath and Body Works.
As she rolled the paint across the wall, she told Lena funny stories about her apartment in Brooklyn, the bartender in the bar next door who was always halfway to tanked, and about the shower being in the kitchen. Lena looked horrified at the thought of it, much to Kara’s amusement. She described the cosy armchair from which, on a winter’s morning, she could see the New York skyline, and the books she had on the nearby bookcase. She told her how much the rent was, where the wooden floors creaked, and which flowers decorated her windowsills.
By the time they’d finished the second coat on the boathouse, Kara felt like they knew a whole lot more about each other than they had done before. Granted, they were all miscellaneous details, but every detail was important. Kara was sure that Eve Teschmacher would focus on the minute details of their lives rather than the big moments, and both Lena and Kara willingly shared them.
“What kind of car do you drive?” she asked Lena, frowning down at the page when she realized that she didn’t actually know. “I’ve never known you to drive to or from work.”
“That’s because I don’t,” Lena replied, dipping the roller in the bucket of water Kara had brought over recently. Her hands were covered with paint, her forearms were splattered with it, and there were streaks and handprints all over the shirt. She leaned the roller stick against her leg and took her baseball cap off briefly to wipe her forehead, and left a white steak of paint behind. “I have a driver that takes me to and from work. It’s just easier that way, because I can get work done on the way.”
“Do you drive outside of work? Can you drive?”
“Of course I can,” Lena said, swishing the roller around in the water. “I have a car at my cabin; I have a valet that is essentially employed to leave it there for me when I want it, rather than leaving it on the property.”
“Why? Is it something expensive?” Kara asked, grinning.
“It’s… yeah,” Lena admitted, sounding a little embarrassed. “I wanted something fun to drive while I was out of the city. It’s an Aston Martin DBS Superleggera.”
“That’s so expensive that I don’t even know what it looks like,” Kara deadpanned, making sure the paint on her hands was dry before pulling her phone out and googling it. After a moment, she let out a low whistle. “Lenaaaaa, that’s some car!”
Lena shrugged. “I’m a good driver, I’m not going to crash it.”
“I’ve crashed three cars so far,” Kara said, counting them off on her fingers as she stood up to collect the smaller paintbrushes they’d used to dab paint into more awkward places. “There was Eliza’s work car that I drove through a fence and into a ditch. Alex’s car that ended up in the harbour. And there was my first car which I reversed into the garage and hit Alex’s car, which had replaced the one in the harbor. I was just always better at boats. I’ve never even scratched Streaky.”
Lena’s eyes were as wide as saucers. “I am never letting you drive my car.”
“Rude,” Kara said, unthinkingly flicking the paintbrush at Lena. She then watched, as if in slow motion, the paint flying from the brush and splattering on Lena’s cheek and chin. There was a moment of stunned silence. “Oh god, Lena, I am so s-”
She was abruptly cut off when a large glob of paint hit her face, dripping from her nose onto her chest. She wiped at it before any got in her mouth, and was immediately hit with another splatter, this time in her hair. Kara looked up in time to see a mischievous Lena, grinning to herself, dipping one of the paintbrushes into the paint and loading it up for another attack. Kara lunged towards the paint tray and picked it up, swiped a paintbrush through it, and flicked it in Lena’s direction. Lena squealed with laughter and dodged out of the way, but quickly realized her error when Kara had a portable supply of paint and all she had was her one brush full.
“That’s cheating!” Lena squeaked, quickly turning her back as paint flew towards her, landing on her back and in her hair. She kept hold of her loaded paintbrush, and Kara chased her around the boathouse, throwing paint at her every time she got close enough to aim. Lena was pretty good at dodging her though; much to Kara’s surprise, she missed more than half of the time as Lena was able to duck out of her way with quick movements. Whenever Lena got close enough to the paint bucket, she dipped her brush in it and flung more paint in Kara’s direction.
They chased each other like children, almost screaming with laughter as one of them landed a hit. The canvases on the ground fell victim to their play, and both of them would have paint stuck to the bottom of their shoes for a long time.
“How are you so… hard to hit?” Kara called after Lena, who had disappeared around the corner of the boathouse.
“I’m a champion fencer, remember? I’m quick on my feet, especially when I’m not wearing Louboutins,” Lena’s raised voice replied, floating from somewhere Kara couldn’t pinpoint.
She paused, paintbrush in hand, and crept around the corner, ducking as she did so. Lena wasn’t there, and Kara looked behind her. No Lena. She snuck back the way she’d come, hoping to catch Lena unawares, but felt a tap on her shoulder. Kara swung around with her paintbrush, but hit only air as Lena ducked beneath her arm. Before she could recover, Lena stood back up and swiped Kara across the face with her own paintbrush, coating her glasses and her right cheek with the gloopy paint. “Too slow, Miss Danvers,” Lena said, and although she couldn’t see her, the pure delight in Lena’s voice was evident.
When she tried to raise the hand her paintbrush, intent on revenge, she felt a warm hand on her forearm, pushing it gently back down. “Now now, I think I’ve won this battle,” Lena said, her paint-covered fingers sliding up Kara’s arm to rest in the cusp of her elbow.
Kara took a small step closer to Lena. “You’re right,” she replied in a sorrowful voice. “I can’t even see you.” She felt Lena’s hand move around the back of her arm, her skin tingling where Lena had touched her. She dropped her own paintbrush to the canvas, and took hold of Lena’s arm, gliding her own fingers underneath Lena’s rolled up sleeve. They were standing close enough for her to be able to hear Lena’s slightly ragged breathing.
Quick as a flash, before Lena could react and move away, Kara held onto Lena’s arm and lifted the paint tray she still had in her other hand, upending it over Lena’s head.
Lena spluttered indignantly as the paint dripped through her hair and down her chest, and Kara leaned close to her, trying to get her cackling under control. “You may have won the battle Miss Luthor, but I seem to have won the war.”
“I yield!” Lena chuckled, slapped her gently on her upper arm, no doubt leaving behind some a sticky white handprint. “I yield,” she repeated, her voice suddenly much closer. Kara still couldn’t see anything, so she took her glasses off and tried to wipe them with the hem of her shirt. Lena was blurry, but she could just about make her features out. Suddenly, she felt Lena’s arm snake around her waist, and she drew in a sharp breath as Lena pressed herself to Kara’s front.
Kara held her breath for a moment. She could feel all the soft contours of Lena’s body as she got herself as close to Kara as she could, and Lena’s breath fanned across her face. “Put your glasses back on,” Lena murmured in her ear. Kara did so, fumbling a little, although whether that was to do with how closely they were standing or Lena’s closeness, she didn’t know. There was definitely a difference. She could still barely see, having just smeared the paint across the glass, but a little nervous giggle escaped her as she took stock of the sight in front of her.
Lena tightened her arm around her waist, pulling Kara closer to her. Her dark hair was run through with paint, and she had white streaks across her face. Dots and blobs of paint covered her chest and shoulders, and that was all Kara could see of her, until she looked into Lena’s eyes. They were darker than usual, and they were crinkled at the corners from amusement. That much, Kara could see. She cursed her paint-smeared glasses.
“Let’s take some photos,” Lena said quietly, her voice a little hoarse, pulling her phone out of her pocket and unlocking it with her passcode, since her thumb was covered in paint. “Say cheese!” she said, selecting the camera and holding it up. Lena pulled away from Kara a little so she could capture their paint-covered bodies in, and Kara wrapped her arm around Lena’s shoulders as they both grinned goofily at the camera. Lena took several of them pulling funny faces and laughing, and then she pressed a gentle kiss to Kara’s cheek, snapping that photo too.
Keeping her arm around Lena’s shoulders, she snaked her other one around Lena’s waist and pulled her flush against her front. Lena let out a little “oof” at the contact, and Kara smiled softly at her. Lena’s gaze moved over Kara’s face like a caress. Kara almost felt it as Lena’s eyes dropped to her lips, and Kara felt an almost irresistible pull towards her. She let go of Lena’s shoulders and touched Lena’s paint-filled hair, twisting strands of it between her fingers. “This is going to take ages to come out,” she said, her voice low.
Lena snapped photos all the while, but her attention was not on the camera. It was on Kara.
The air around them felt heavy with anticipation. Even though there was a breeze ruffling her hair around her face, somehow, the moment felt still to Kara. She stood there, holding Lena gently against her, and let her hand rest on top of the dark hair across her shoulder. Kara could feel her own heart hammering against her ribcage, and slowly, she let her thumb brush against the side of Lena’s neck.
Lena shivered under her. Kara dropped her forehead to Lena’s, and they smiled shyly at each other as Lena took another photo.
Lowering her arm, Lena cleared her throat and stepped away from Kara, breaking the quiet moment they’d been sharing.
The world seemed to jump back into motion. Birds flew overhead, somewhere in the distance a boat horn sounded, and the water lapped at the shore just beyond them. Kara’s head felt like it was filled with balls of cotton wool though, and couldn’t help but wonder; had Lena had been as affected by their closeness as she herself had been? Surely that moment wasn’t… nothing? Surely it wasn’t just a photo opportunity?
“Oh wow, look at the sunset!” Lena exclaimed, turning her head to look into it. The orangey tone of the setting sun made Lena’s cheeks glow with color, and all of a sudden, Kara couldn’t tell any more whether Lena had been blushing or not. She felt a sudden, desperate need to know, but before she could give voice to it, Lena had walked off towards the pier.
Kara shook her head, as if she could physically dislodge the thoughts flowing through her brain about Lena. She absolutely had to get this crush under control. Doing her best to push that particular thought to the back of her mind, she followed Lena to the pier.
Lena was carefully taking a photo of the sunset without pointing her lens directly at the sun, and Kara stopped before she went too far on the pier. The air was still quite warm, and the running around they’d been doing had made her feel hotter, not to mention the… moment with Lena. Kara kicked off her shoes, put her phone and earphones in one of them, and waded into the Sound.
The water was cold and refreshing, and Kara gasped as she went deeper, the water reaching her waist.
“Kara! What are you doing?!” Lena called from the pier as she watched Kara go even deeper. “That’ll be freezing!”
“It’s nice, actually!” Kara called back, choking a little on the last word as the cold gripped her chest. “You should come in. It feels so good!”
Lena tapped her foot on the pier. “No, I don’t think I will,” she said.
“Oh come on,” Kara said teasingly, fully in the water now. She lay on her back and floated, and flicked water towards Lena’s feet. “Are you afraid of a little cold water?”
“Not specifically, no.”
Kara splashed some more water at Lena. “Come in, then! It won’t hurt you.”
“No,” Lena said flatly, pocketing her phone and watching Kara float around.
Kara looked over at her, and even though she couldn’t see too well, she could tell that Lena’s posture seemed… defensive? “Lena? Do you- do you have a problem with water?”
Lena shifted from one foot to the other, and she stood still with her arms folded over her chest. “I can’t swim,” she admitted in a voice that sounded slightly gruff.
Kara pushed her feet down and treaded water. “You can’t swim? Seriously? Why not?” she asked, amazed at that information. She didn’t think she’d ever known someone who couldn’t. For Kara, living around water much of the time, it was a necessary, and enjoyable, skill.
“I don’t want to talk about it,” Lena said, still watching her.
Kara frowned. “Lena, we need to discuss- you not being able to swim is one of those details that Immigration would expect me to know. Why can’t you swim?”
“I’m not discussing this,” Lena said, and her tone was now as defensive as her posture.
“Lena,” Kara said, her own voice coming out a little sharper than she intended, and she winced immediately.
“I said, I’m not discussing this,” Lena repeated emphatically, the unspoken back off loud and clear, even in Kara’s paint-covered ears. “I’m going… for a walk,” she said suddenly, her voice thick with an emotion that Kara couldn’t place. And with that, Lena turned and walked back up the lawn towards the side of the house, leaving Kara floating in the Sound, alone.
What had just happened? How had the mood gone from playful to- to that in just a few short moments?
Kara waded back out of the water, realizing belatedly that actually, getting wet had been a rather silly idea when she still had to pick everything up. Heading back towards the boathouse, she took her wet shirt off and wrung it, then, after sending a look up at the house even though nobody was there, pulled her tank top off as well, before pulling one of the dry hoodies on that Lena had left behind.
She pulled her phone and earphones back out of her shoe, since she hadn’t put them back on yet. Choosing a playlist with a lot of songs she could sing to, she turned up it up loud and sang to while she worked. She wondered briefly where Lena had walked off to and considered going after her, but then, the island was small enough, she couldn’t really get lost. And besides, she wanted to give Lena her own space if she was feeling a little heated. Slowly, Kara put the lids back on the paint buckets, rolled up the canvases, and made several trips to the garage to put everything away. She also brought the Immigration folders, just in case they got forgotten outside and caused awkward questions.
Under the tap in the large work sink in the garage, Kara sang along to Kelly Clarkson as she rinsed the paint out of the rollers as best as she could. Leaving them out on the wooden worktable to dry, she headed back outside to pick up the paintbrushes she and Lena had left lying around after their paint fight.
The whole place was a mess, and Kara smiled when she thought of how free Lena had seemed, how her peals of laughter had rung out across the garden. She knew Lena had a reputation to uphold, but Kara knew that if more people saw the Lena that she’s seen today, then the perception of her would change dramatically. Why was Lena holding on so tightly to her almost emotionless business persona? Surely if people saw how warm she really was, it would only do wonders for her personal life?
She picked up everything she could, and carried it back to the garage. It was getting colder, and her wet trousers were doing nothing to keep her warm. Closing the garage for the night, Kara headed into the utility room and peeled her trousers off, dumping them on the floor. She took her glasses off as well and left them on the side to clean later; she knew the house well enough to not need to see properly, and walked down the hall towards the stairs. She left the front door unlocked so Lena could come back in after her walk and headed up the stairs, already dreaming of the hot shower she would shortly be taking. As much as she enjoyed painting, she was looking forward to taking the paint from her face. It was dry and making her face feel crispy.
When she came into the bedroom, it was just as they’d left it earlier. She tossed the Immigration folders onto the bed. Not having pockets, Kara stuck the corner of her phone in her mouth and bobbed her head to Wherever You Are by Ke$ha as she stripped off her hoodie, tossing it towards the laundry basket. She took her phone out of her mouth and stood there in her underwear, hands on her hips, taking in the deep blue of the sky as the sun set for good behind the mountains.
As she was turning, intent on opening the bathroom door, she was suddenly almost knocked off her feet by someone crashing bodily into her. Already off-balance, she stumbled as their momentum pushed her backwards and over. She let go of her phone, hearing it clatter away somewhere, grabbed onto the person’s arms as they started to fall, and their combined weight sent them both tumbling to the ground. Kara landed on her back, the wind knocked out of her as the other person landed directly on top of her. The whole thing had taken less than a second.
For a second, there was utter silence. Neither of them moved. As Kara registered the wet, dark hair in front of her face, Lena spoke. She sounded more than a little agitated. “K-Kara?”
“Lena?” she spluttered, not daring to move. Her hands were still on Lena’s upper arms, which, she belatedly realized, were wet. And bare. “What- what happened?”
“I um… my towel wasn’t in the bathroom. I came out to get another one and I- I…” Lena stuttered. “And I came out to get one, and… and- you…” she trailed off in a strangled voice.
All of a sudden, as if someone had smacked her upside the head, Kara realized their situation. Lena had come out of the bathroom after a shower. She was looking for a towel.
Lena was naked.
Lena was naked. Lying on top of her, naked, soaking wet, her body pressed slickly against Kara’s, water dripping from her hair and down her shoulders and onto her and… god, she was naked and Kara could feel every single point where their bodies were touching. Lena felt so good where she was. Heat flared through her, followed closely by adrenaline and a dry mouth, and unconsciously she tightened her hands around Lena’s arms. All the moisture in her body seemed to gather in one very specific area, and she suppressed the groan that was building up in the back of her throat.
And then she remembered herself, and Lena’s modesty, and shut her eyes tightly. Willing herself to relax her hands, she let go of Lena.
“There’s… um,” Kara stopped when she heard how croaky her voice came out. She cleared her throat, and tried again. “There’s no way to do this without it being even more super-awkward, so you’ll- you’ll just have to get up, okay?”
“Mmmh,” came the reply. Lena shifted slightly before she put her hands on the floor and pushing herself upwards as quickly as she could, scrabbling backwards and off Kara.
Kara kept her eyes squeezed closed. She didn’t know what to do with her hands, so she brought them across her stomach, wiping at the water that Lena had left behind. “The towels are in the closet, on a shelf on the left,” she said. She heard Lena moving around and opening the closet door.
“Do you want one too?” Lena said, her voice a little unsteady from what Kara assumed was the awkwardness of the situation.
“Yes please.” She felt a towel dangling over her and touching her arm, and she reached up to take it, still keeping her eyes shut. Once she’d wrapped it around herself, she stood up. “Are you decent?”
“Sometimes,” Lena replied suggestively. “Sorry, that was- I mean, yes,” she said, and Kara opened her eyes to find Lena standing there, the ghost of a smile on her face from her comment. Kara walked over to her suitcase, feeling Lena’s eyes on her, and dug around in it for her spare glasses case. When she found it, she shoved her glasses onto her face and stood up, facing Lena.
“Well, that was… um. I’m sorry, Lena, I thought you were on a walk.”
“Didn’t you hear me?” Lena asked, pulling her towel tighter around herself and her eyes anywhere but on Kara.
“No I… I had music on,” Kara said sheepishly, moving to pick her phone and earphones up off the floor. She put them down on the table, and turned back to face Lena. “I’m sorry. When I showered this morning I knocked your towel onto the floor and I thought you’d prefer a fresh one rather than use it again. But I forgot to put one out.”
Lena nodded, but Kara could see that her cheeks were pretty red, and Kara rushed to reassure her. “Hey, it’s okay, at least we can’t say we’ve never seen each other at least partially naked, right?” she joked.
Lena raised an eyebrow at that. “I’m at a distinct disadvantage here. You’re still wearing your underwear at least. I had no such luck.”
“Well I didn’t see anything or well, yeah, except your shoulders and you felt- uh, um. I didn’t have my glasses on so I couldn’t see much except… yeah. I’m going to stop talking and go and take a shower now,” she said, words not feeling like words anymore. “I didn’t see anything, but you have… very nice shoulders,” she finished, feeling a blush bloom on her face. Oh god. Why did I say that?!
Lena smiled shyly at her. “Thank you. Go shower. And wait at least a few minutes for me to get some clothes on at least.” She pulled her towel up a little more, but she hadn’t chosen the largest towel, and it exposed more of her thigh than Kara thought she realized.
“Right!” Kara said, nodding frantically. “I’m just gonna…” she stuck her thumb over her shoulder at the bathroom door and then rushed through it, shutting it quickly and leaning back against it. She pushed her fingers through her paint-filled hair and blew out a deep breath.
Kara turned the shower cold before she got in it, and tried not to think about the way it had felt to have Lena on top of her like that.
The water was freezing and she shivered as she let it cool her overheated skin down.
She needed it. She stood under it for a few very long, icy minutes before she warmed it up and began to scrub the paint off herself and out of her hair.
* * * * *
When she ventured back out of the bathroom, Lena wasn’t in the bedroom. Kara carefully listened to see whether anyone was about to come into the room, and decided better safe than sorry; she got dressed into her pajamas in the bathroom instead of the bedroom. Just to, you know, avoid further mishaps.
Lena had hidden the Immigration folders somewhere as well; Kara briefly wondered where they were, but left them wherever Lena had put them. Eliza might be home by now and that wasn’t a conversation she wanted to have.
She was still quite warm from the shower, and the heating was on, so Kara didn’t pull her usual cozy hoodie over herself before she went downstairs in search of Lena. As she came closer to the kitchen, she heard Lena and Eliza deep in conversation about Midvale.
Eliza’s voice drifted down the hall as Kara approached. “Did you know that after her twenty-first birthday, Kara drank too much vodka, if I’m remembering the story correctly, and fell into the harbor?”
“Hey! That’s not quite how it happened,” Kara interrupted as she came in, seeing the two other women sharing a bottle of red wine over the kitchen table. Lena’s hair was drying in waves and she had a big smile on her face, and Eliza was still dressed in her work clothes, sporting an equally big grin. “I’ll have you know that Alex pushed me into the harbor!”
Lena took a slow sip of her wine and considered Kara over the rim of the glass. She put it down and licked the remnants of the wine from her top lip. “It’s hardly fair that you’re blaming Alex for your clumsiness, darling,” she said slowly.
“Alex wasn’t even there, honey,” Eliza said, backing Lena up. “She was helping Maggie. You were with Winn and… Mike.” Kara didn’t miss the way that Eliza’s eyes flicked towards Lena at the mention of that last name, and she knew that Lena had noticed the slight pause before it as well. She put a pin in that one to explain later, along with the reminder to ask Lena about the swimming thing.
“I haven’t seen Winn in a while,” Kara said, sitting down after getting herself a wine glass and pouring herself a little.
“Maybe you could go into town tomorrow? Take Lena, I’m sure she’d like to look around the place. You can show her all your haunts. You could meet Alex, Maggie, and Winn for lunch.”
“That’s a great idea,” Lena said, looking over at Kara.
“Alright, but I warn you, Winn is almost as big a nerd as you,” Kara said with a laugh.
“He is that,” Eliza said. “Right, now that you’ve surfaced, Kara, I wanted to thank you both for the spectacular job you’ve done on the boathouse.” She learned over and put a hand on one each of Lena and Kara’s, squeezing. “I could see it as I came in, even as it was getting darker. It looks so bright! I moored up in front of Streaky, I hope you don’t mind. Alex is borrowing the police boat tomorrow morning and we’re filling that and mine with lab equipment to take into town.”
“You’re welcome! We had fun,” Kara replied, “and that sounds like a good idea. I’ll send them a message and see if we can set that up. Either way, we’ll definitely go into town. I’m dying for a milkshake.”
“You and your sweet tooth,” Eliza replied, shaking her head. “Now. Are you ladies hungry? I brought home a few frozen pizzas and they’re in the oven already.”
Once the pizzas were ready, Kara sliced them up and they made their way into the lounge, where they put the TV on. Eliza sat in one of the armchairs, and Lena sat down next to Kara, angling towards her a little so that their knees touched. She ate her pizza daintily, with small bites, and Kara felt a rush of affection for the woman next to her. She couldn’t say why watching Lena eating her pizza with graceful bites made her feel so cozy, but it did.
The 1999 version of the Mummy was on, and once they were finished eating their pizzas, Lena lifted her arm up, indicating that Kara could lean against her. Kara didn’t need to be asked twice, and snuggled up against her as politely as she could. After a few moments, she brought her phone out of her pocket and took a photo of them, relaxed smiles on their faces. Lena was very comfortable to lie against, and Kara fought the urge to snuggle into her even deeper. She reminded herself that they weren’t actually a couple, and the thought made her wistful. She felt a strong pull of longing towards Lena. At least, Kara sighed to herself, it would make it easier to convince Eve Teschmacher that her feelings were real if she couldn’t get her crush under control.
Lena surprised both Kara and Eliza by knowing almost the entire script of the movie, not realizing at first that she was speaking the lines quietly as they came up in the movie. When Kara noticed, she teased her at first until Lena blushed, and she mouthed along with the rest of the dialogue. It only made Kara feel an even bigger wave of affection for the unexpectedly geeky woman whose arm was currently dangling down over her shoulder. She lifted her hand up to hold Lena’s. Lena squeezed her hand, and with her other hand she lifted her phone to take another photo of them, this time from the side.
Kara was quite tired from the day; all the fresh air they’d been breathing the whole day had her yawning as she and Lena slumped slowly further down the sofa. Near the end of the film, Lena actually dozed off, her hand loose in Kara’s, and Kara smiled a goodnight to Eliza as she snuck out of the room.
When the film ended only ten minutes later, she squeezed Lena’s hand again. “Hey, Lena? Lena,” she said a little louder, sitting up and shaking the sleepy woman gently by the shoulder until she blinked slowly.
“You were asleep. Do you want to go up to bed?”
Lena smiled softly. “Yeah,” she said, sitting up as well and rubbing one of her eyes.
“Come on then.” Kara stood up, and extended a hand to Lena, who took it. She pulled Lena upright, and she stretched luxuriously while Kara switched off the TV and the lights. They made their way up the stairs after Kara checked that the front door was locked, and when they reached their bedroom, Lena went into the bathroom first.
Kara made up her own bed on the sofa again, tucking the sheets and blankets where they needed to be, while she waited for Lena to be finished. When Lena came back out of the bathroom, she looked askance at the sheets on the sofa with a slightly confused, almost disappointed, expression, and Kara wasn’t sure why. Before she could ask, Lena climbed into the bed and burrowed herself beneath the blanket. Kara heard her groan of pleasure even through the layers, and she smiled to herself as she headed to the bathroom.
By the time she came back out, Lena was already asleep again despite the lamps still being on, dark hair spread across the pillow. She had both hands tucked under her chin, and the little flutter that Kara’s heart gave was becoming very familiar, now. If they were a couple, a real couple, she’d be able to climb into bed now and hold a sleeping Lena close to her. She would able to bury her hand in that dark hair and kiss her forehead, before drifting off to sleep herself.
Kara wondered how nice it would feel to be the one who got to do that.
She shook off the thought. It wasn’t real. They weren’t a real couple. She turned off both lamps and used the remote to lower the blinds, smiling as Lena snuffled indignantly as the noise disturbed her.
Kara climbed into her bed after plugging in her phone to charge, and pulled the covers up over her head.
The image of cuddling Lena as they both slept was still on her mind when she fell asleep only minutes later.