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take my mask, i'm home now

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After the intensity of their night, during which they woke up once more to make love to each other, they both slept late. When Kara woke up, the sunlight was already streaming into the bedroom through the balcony windows. Lena was sitting up next to her, reading a book, and weaving her fingers through Kara’s hair.

“Mmm don’t stop,” Kara mumbled into the pillow, closing her eyes again against the brightness. “Feels good.”

Lena chuckled, the sound coming from low in her throat. She obliged and dug her fingers further into Kara’s hair, scratching gently along her scalp. Kara groaned in pleasure, moving closer to Lena and wrapping her arm around the bare skin of her waist. It seemed that when Lena got up to open the blinds, she hadn’t bothered to put any clothes on, and Kara was… moved by that.

Even though they had been intimate quite a few times by now, it was one thing to be naked when things were about to happen; it was quite another to be willingly vulnerable when intimacy wasn’t expected. Kara’s eyes snapped open. Lena was lying there, the covers pushed down around her waist, and she wasn’t wearing anything save her reading glasses. There was nothing sexual about her nakedness; Lena was just feeling comfortable and relaxed with Kara, if the soft look on Lena’s face gave her any indication.

Lena smiled, then shuffled down the bed so that they were at eye-level with each other. She kept her hand in Kara’s hair, twirling it between her fingers, and pressed a chaste kiss to Kara’s lips.

“Good morning,” she whispered, kissing Kara once more.

“Good morning, swamp witch,” Kara replied, her voice still hoarse from sleep and stroking Lena’s hip with her thumb. “What time is it?”

“It’s ten minutes past midday,” Lena replied, just as Kara’s stomach growled loud enough to stop Lena from saying whatever she was about to say next. Instead, breathy laughter spilled out of Lena as surprise crossed her face. Lena looked so adorable that Kara wasted no time before cuddling her closer, giving her an affectionate squeeze. When her giggles subsided, Lena glanced up with a scrunchy-nosed smile. “We really need to feed you,” she said, patting Kara’s stomach.

“That’s probably a really, really good idea,” Kara agreed with a smile. “I’m shocked that Alex and Maggie haven’t tried to wake us up.”

“One of them did knock an hour or so ago, but you were still fast asleep then.” She paused, before her face turned a little more serious. “I think we should talk about Sam’s visit and what it means for us, if anything,” Lena said, in a tone of voice that suggested that she’d been thinking about it for a while that morning already. “And I’d like to look through some more of the questions from the folder. I want to learn more about the woman who takes my breath away,” she added with a smile.

And just like that, Kara’s whole body seemed to flood with warmth and affection. She moved impossibly closer to Lena, laying her head on her chest, wrapping one arm around her waist, and tangling their legs together. “I’d like that too,” she murmured into Lena’s skin, pressing a kiss to her sternum.

“We should wait until Alex and Maggie have gone back to the mainland. They both have a shift today, I remember them telling me yesterday.”

Kara nodded, and she felt Lena’s fingers trailing through her hair again. “Yeah. I’m sure there are a lot of things I still don’t know about you. Like,” she said, craning back a little so she could look at Lena, “you kind of… tap your fingers on my skin when you’re sleeping, as if you’re playing the piano. Have you ever played?”

Lena huffed out an amused breath, dancing her fingers along Kara’s spine. “As a matter of fact, I did play for a little while; Lillian thought it was befitting, so I started learning when I was six. But at school, they had more instruments, and I when I was a little older I discovered that I was better at the flute. I played for years, but not regularly for a while now, not since running CatCo as well as L-Corp.”

Kara felt a smirk crossing her face. “And this one time, at band c-”

Before she could finish the sentence, Lena had clapped a hand over her mouth. “Do not finish that sentence, Miss Danvers.”

“But it’s tradition-” she started to say, her words muffled against Lena’s palm.

“Not a single word more about band camp,” Lena warned authoritatively, a stern look on her face, but there was no heat whatsoever in her words.

“Miss Luthor, I do believe you’ve lost your touch,” Kara teased. “I’m not intimidated at all.”

Lena raised an eyebrow, and Kara’s insides turned to jelly. “Is that so?”

Kara surveyed Lena for a moment. As usual after waking up, her hair was a bird’s nest, there were small bruises in her skin that Kara had left the night before, and she had sleep in the corners of her eyes. Her eyes were sparkling behind her reading glasses, and they were crinkling as she fought to keep a smile off her face. She failed miserably, her dimples deepening in her cheeks as she gazed at Kara in mock-exasperation.

“Yeah, it’s so,” Kara confirmed with a nod. “You’re just so charming that any intimidation techniques just aren’t going to work on me. Besides,” she said, trailing her hand up and down Lena’s side, loving the way that Lena shivered under her touch, “I’ve seen you with cake flour on your face and paint in your hair. It’s going to be hard to be appropriately daunted by you at work when in my mind’s eye, all I can see is your beautiful smile.”

“You are really something else, Kara Danvers,” Lena whispered, a slight blush high on her cheeks.

“So are you, Lena Luthor,” Kara returned seriously. Her stomach chose that moment to rumble again. “And apparently, so is my stomach! Shall we get up?”

Lena threw the covers off herself and climbed out of bed, stretching luxuriously once she’d stood up. Kara could see her back muscles working as Lena reached her arms as high as she could make them, before her body seemed to slump. “I hate how great stretching feels but how crap you feel after you’re done,” Lena grumbled.

“Would some breakfast make you feel better?” Kara asked, looking around for her pajamas or something else to put on quickly.

“You know, I think it would!”

“In that case, we should go and have some,” Kara said, pulling a pair of sweatpants and a plain hoodie out of the closet. Lena watched her as she wandered around starting to get dressed, but made no move to do so herself.

“I think I… need to take a shower,” Lena suddenly said, clearing her throat.

The non-sequitur made Kara frown a little in confusion, and she turned around to see Lena standing with her hands on her hips and a mischievous smile on her face. Kara stared for a moment, the smile on Lena’s face only growing as the seconds ticked by. And then-

Oh,” Kara finally said, feeling a blush creep up her neck.

“There it is,” Lena said with a laugh. “Do you want to brush your teeth before I go in the shower? I did mine when I got up earlier.”

Still feeling distinctly warm at the reason why Lena felt she needed a shower, Kara dashed into the bathroom, and took care of business. As she was squeezing some toothpaste onto her brush, the thought that she should probably shower as well crossed her mind, her blush deepening. Beside her, Lena knocked before cracking the door open. She caught Lena’s eyes in the mirror behind her when she came in a moment later to turn the shower on. They were dark, and as Lena passed her, she ran her fingertips slowly across Kara’s lower back. She felt a shiver run through her as Lena’s fingers left her, and she hurriedly spat her toothpaste into the sink, turning on the tap to rinse her brush.

Kara watched her through the mirror as Lena turned the shower on. While it was warming up, Lena stepped up behind Kara and propped her chin up on her shoulder, pressing herself into Kara’s back with her hands sliding around onto her stomach. Lena didn’t say anything, she just looked at Kara in the mirror while one of her hands slid lower.

Heat pooled between Kara’s legs and she gripped the sink with both hands as Lena’s hand crept lower still. She held off reacting a long as she could before she spun around in Lena’s arms, meeting Lena’s seductive smile with her lips and walking her backwards until they both climbed into the shower together.

Half an hour later when the water was starting to run cold, Kara was feeling happy and giggly. The heat inside her sated for now and there were some fresh marks on her body courtesy of Lena’s nails. Lena herself looked supremely satisfied with herself, her wet hair hanging down her back and a smile on her face like she was the cat that got the cream.

They both dressed in comfortable clothes. Lena was wearing Kara’s sweatpants again; she doubted at this point whether she’d ever get them back. Today, Lena’s shirt had a picture of a cell with a camera and said biologists take cellfies. Kara groaned when she read it, which only made Lena smile harder; she wondered whether Lena would ever run out of science pun shirts, and what she would do if she did. So, she asked.

“I’d just buy more, or make them myself. I buy these types of shirts whenever I see them,” Lena said, pulling it away from herself by the hem and looking down at it. “You can never have too many of them. Lillian absolutely hates them, as you can imagine. But,” her eyes twinkled, “that’s never stopped me from doing what I want to do. She hates all my piercings too. Oh Lena, is it really necessary to turn yourself into Swiss cheese?” she drawled in a tone that was so reminiscent of Lillian’s phone manner that Kara burst out laughing.

It was past one in the afternoon by the time Kara placed a tall glass of orange juice in it in front of Lena, who sipped it gratefully.

“Parched, are you?” Maggie said very loudly from behind her, causing Lena to cough into her mug in surprise and spill a little over the side. Kara whirled around to see both Alex and Maggie, fully dressed, coming into the kitchen from the lounge where they must have been sitting.

“Nice of you both to make an appearance,” Alex joked, shoving Kara lightly in the shoulder.

“Finally thirsty for something other than each other?” Maggie teased, sitting down in the chair opposite Lena and sending her a suggestive wink.

Lena’s initially taken aback expression was replaced by one that Kara recognized from the boardroom. Although there was a little color on her pale cheeks, she flipped her hair over her shoulder and leveled a stare at Maggie that would quieten even the loudest board member.

“We only got up so that we could replenish our energy levels,” Lena said, her voice deliberately provocative. There was silence for a moment before Maggie slapped her hand on the table, throwing her head back in laughter, while Alex choked a little as she avoided Kara’s eyes.

Lena 1, Alex and Maggie 0.

“Touché Lena,” Maggie managed. “I’d think of a good response but I think Alex is about ready to bolt away from this conversation as soon as she humanly can.”

“That’s definitely true,” Alex said grumpily into her coffee.

Once Kara had made herself a drink, she sat down at the table as well. There was little she loved more than lounging around in comfortable clothes on a lazy morning with some of her favourite people. The kitchen window was open, the smell of the sea breeze in the air. It was warm in the kitchen and the cool breeze from the window was welcome, especially once Lena started pottering around and cooking various things for lunch for everyone.

Alex was talking about the NYPD application she’d sent in, and wondering whether her experience up in Midvale would be enough. It wasn’t like she’d be going in as a complete rookie, she was saying, but she also hadn’t grown up in a large city like New York. Seattle had had its issues, plenty of them, and she’d seen a lot of bad things while working as a doctor there, but the hospital was almost always the end result of what went on on the streets. Midvale wasn’t large enough to have anywhere near the kind of crime level or variety that New York had, but, she asked with a shrug, “some experience has got to be better than none?”

“I’m sure you’ll at least get an interview,” Maggie said, leaning over the table and putting her hand on top of Alex’s. “And,” she said, drawing the word out slyly, “you’ve got more motivation now. If you do get accepted, you’ll be able to take Sam on a date.”

Alex’s eyes lit up at the sound of Sam’s name, and she twisted in her chair to look at Lena. “Hey, Lena, Sam’s definitely single, right?”

Lena snorted over the pan of bacon she was frying. “Did she somehow give you the impression that she wasn’t?”

“Well, no,” Alex said, rubbing the back of her neck nervously. “But I just wanted to… check.”

Lena turned away from the pan long enough to raise an eyebrow at Alex. “She’s single. She finds it a little hard to date because it seems that a lot of people don’t want to date a single mother with a teenage daughter. Ruby is a sweetheart, by the way, and although Sam works a lot, her life revolves around her daughter.”

Kara knew that Alex’s greatest desire was to be a mother, and she also knew that the way that she and Sam had seemed to hit it off the night before was rolling round and around in Alex’s mind. Alex was a cautious woman, not quick to trust someone with her heart, but she’d also not had such instant chemistry with someone in a long time. Kara knew that Alex would be thinking about Sam a lot in the weeks to come, and given the way that Sam had silently asked Kara about Alex, she thought the feeling would be mutual. She wondered whether they’d swapped numbers, and resolved to see whether she and Lena couldn’t contrive some reason to get them to meet each other again as soon as possible.

Ten minutes later, while Maggie was pondering about what she would do if Alex did in fact move to New York and “leave me behind entirely, Alex, honestly, I should be offended,” Kara laid the table with plates and crockery while Lena piled up heaping piles of crispy bacon and scrambled eggs onto serving plates. She put them in the middle of the table before quickly chopping some fruit for herself, and Kara made sure to get some bacon and eggs onto Lena’s plate before Alex took all the bacon and Maggie all the eggs.

“Thank you,” Lena said when she slid gracefully into her seat, a glass of orange juice in her hand.

“Thank you, Lena,” Alex and Maggie chorused.

“This bacon’s amazing,” Alex said, already on her third piece by the time Lena had sat down. “Kara, I don’t know how you’re not the size of a house if Lena cooks this well.”

Kara glanced over at Lena, who looked up as well with an unreadable expression on her face. Thankfully, Maggie misinterpreted the look they were giving each other. “They burn off all that energy, Alex,” she said blithely.

At that, Alex choked on a piece of bacon so badly that Kara had to get up to pass her a glass of water. Alex’s eyes were streaming and her face was beetroot, which completely nullified the indignant glare she tried to give Maggie. “You- you-” she tried, before shaking her head and drinking more water, spluttering into it.

“Take your time, take your time,” Maggie said with an airy wave of her hand.

Kara rolled her eyes fondly. Alex and Maggie had a great friendship now; it was a pity that they had differed so strongly on whether or not to have kids. But then again, it meant that they’d almost become even closer than they had been, now that the pressure of that decision was no longer on their shoulders. Kara had always been grateful once she’d moved to New York that Maggie was still there for Alex, and it was with sadness that she thought of Maggie being left behind if Alex left for New York. She’d been in their lives for so long that Kara thought of Maggie as a sister as well by now. She suspected that if Alex moved to New York that sooner or later, Maggie would follow. When her own family had kicked her out for being gay, Maggie been adopted in all but name by the Danvers’ as well, and if most of the family lived in New York, then Kara wouldn’t be at all surprised if Maggie showed up a few months later with her rucksack and a cheeky grin, ready for a new adventure.

She kind of hoped that was what would happen. Maggie and Lena seemed to get along quite well so far, and in her mind’s eye, Kara could see their friend group expanding.

Providing, of course, that she and Lena passed the interview on Monday and Lena was allowed to remain in the country; Kara barely suppressed a wince at the thought of what would happen if they didn’t. Lena noticed, frowning at her quizzically and laying her hand on her thigh under the table.

“Are you alright?” she asked under her breath.

“Yeah, I’m fine,” Kara said, stroking Lena’s hand with her own. “I was just thinking about- um, about being back in New York next week.”

Lena’s eyes darkened, not with desire this time, but with sadness when Kara’s double meaning registered in her mind. Lena was silent for a moment, and Kara looked down at her plate.

“We’ll be back up here before you know it,” Lena said firmly, and Kara’s eyes snapped back up. Lena still looked sad, but there was determination in her eyes too. The sight of it bolstered Kara’s spirits, because she knew from experience that when Lena was determined to do something, there was almost nothing that anyone could say to talk her out of it. Even though Lena was somewhat fragile on the inside, outwardly, she was a pillar of strength and support; Kara appreciated that more than she could reasonably voice right now.

In this ridiculous situation, there was nobody she’d rather have at her side than a determined Lena Luthor.

She squeezed Lena’s hand under the table, and Lena smiled softly at her. Her eyes held sympathy, concern, and understanding. Kara felt a rush of love towards the woman that she’d never dared to dream or hope she would have holding her hand right now.

They enjoyed their very late breakfast together, practically lunch, lingering over it and passing the time happily before Alex and Maggie had to leave to go to work. They’d only see each other once more before she and Lena left on Sunday morning, at the Red Lion pub the following evening, so they were making the most of their time now. Lena ate all her fruit and was now busy stealing pieces of bacon off Kara’s plate, even though she had some on her own; she was being quite brazen about her theft, and before long they were having a fork battle over who would get the last piece.

When the doorbell rang, Kara took her eye off her fork just long enough for Lena to reach in with her other hand and swipe the bacon. “You’re such a cheater!” Kara cried, crying foul, but not really being that upset about it. Lena chewed her victory bacon with glee, and raised both her eyebrows at Kara in mirth with a look that clearly asked, what are you going to do about it?

“Who on earth would be ringing the doorbell?” Alex asked. “We’re all here and Eliza is at work.”

“It could be Carole, I suppose,” Kara said.

Alex pushed her chair away from the table and stood up when the doorbell rang again, and for longer this time. “Yeah yeah yeah, I’m a-comin’,” she drawled, wandering off down the hallway towards the front door.

Kara heard Alex pull it open, and a voice that Kara never expected to hear in Midvale floated down the hall towards the kitchen.

“Hello, dear. Are you Kara Danvers? Are you keeping my daughter here somewhere?”

Kara could tell from the way that Lena had gone rigid in her seat that she had heard it too. That was Lillian Luthor at her front door. In Alaska. What on earth she’d be doing here, Kara had no idea. Lena turned confused green eyes to Kara, just as a second visitor made themselves known.

“This isn’t Kara,” a bright and bubbly voice said. “This is… well, I’m not sure. Are you Alex Danvers?”

“Who the hell are you two?” Kara heard Alex say.

“My name is Eve Teschmacher, and I work for the USCIS. The US Citizenship and Immigration Services department,” Eve said in a perky voice that could be clearly heard all the way down in the kitchen.

Lena and Kara both shot to their feet immediately, Lena shakily reaching out for Kara’s hand. “What are they doing here?” Lena hissed in a hushed tone, alarm in her voice. “What are they doing here together?”

Kara had no answer. All she could do was clench her teeth together and hold Lena’s trembling hand.

“And what exactly does that have to do with us?” Alex asked, and Kara just knew that she was standing with her arms crossed and a frown on her face. Alex had always been protective.

“I’m here about Lena Luthor.”

There was a silence. “Yes. We’re here about my daughter.” In person, although she wasn’t in front of her, Lillian’s voice was somehow even deeper and more authoritative than on the phone. Lillian had almost drawled her words, but stopped short of actually doing so, as if she wanted to give the impression of being relaxed. The result was that she sounded vaguely threatening, and Kara gulped.

Lillian Luthor, who she’d never met in person but had been the bane of Kara’s life on the phone, was at the door. She’d never much liked the sound of her, and since hearing more about her from Lena, she certainly wasn’t looking forward to meeting her in person. Especially not while she was wearing a ring from her daughter around her left ring finger.

Kara scrubbed her face frantically with her free hand. Her skin was crawling, as if her stress had taken a very physical form, and she felt very uncomfortable.

And Eve Teschmacher was here too. Fuck. Fuck, fuck, fuck. Kara’s stomach twisted in knots, and then sank to the level of her fuzzy socks. They weren’t supposed to see her until Monday; why on earth was she here?! Kara and Lena had been spending a very lovely week with each other, with Kara’s family and friends, convincing them that their relationship was real. They’d spent this time together, learning each other and falling in lo- Kara shook her head. It felt like a beautiful way to spend time, falling in love with the person she didn’t even realize she’d been missing in her life, and she’d thought they’d have a few more days to enjoy it. And now, Lillian and Eve had shown up and were holding a very sharp, threatening needle up to their happy little bubble.

Neither she nor Lena had had any intention of involving Kara’s family in their Immigration issues yet. Kara’s thoughts spiraled; logically she knew that if Eve had caught scent of any wrongdoing before their interview, she would be following the trail. She’d said so herself when they’d met her a week ago back in New York. Someone she’d spoken to had obviously said something to set Eve off, and since she was here with Lillian, Kara bet she knew who that was.

As far as Kara knew, Lena had said nothing whatsoever to Lillian about their engagement, nor their trip to Midvale. Lena avoided all of Lillian’s phonecalls at work, clearly having had enough of the sarcastic passive-aggressiveness that Kara was now so familiar with. Lena’s phone had broken earlier in the week, and obviously she hadn’t been at work. Kara had read about Lillian during Lex’s trial; the Luthor matriarch was just as clever as Lena was, but far more cunning.

Kara glanced over at Lena. Her naturally pale complexion was now an almost sickening white; any color she’d had in her face had drained right out of it. Her eyes were wide, and the hand that wasn’t gripping desperately to Kara’s was running through her still-damp hair frantically as if trying to neaten it.

The fact that Lena was letting her own stress show like this only made Kara worry more. Kara had seen Lena stand up to all sorts of hostility, threats, and nastiness from people like Siobhan Smythe, and seeing her panic even for just a few moments threw Kara off. Obviously Lena was allowed to react however she felt fit; her less-than loving mother and their Immigration officer randomly showing up at Kara’s house certainly was a legitimate cause for alarm.

But something told Kara that panic would not be something that Eve would expect to see from a real couple. If they were caught looking stressed, surely it would look to Eve like they were getting caught with their hands in the cookie jar.

“Lena,” she said in a hush. “You need to calm down. They’ll definitely think that something’s up if they see us like this.”

Lena cast an irritated glance at Kara. She felt her shoulders droop in response, even though she knew that Lena’s sudden anger wasn’t directed at her. Straight away, Lena rushed to correct it. “No, hey, I’m sorry,” Lena apologized. “It’s just-” she blew out a frustrated breath. “This is just, not good at all.”

Maggie looked between the two with wary eyes. She got to her feet as well, as if she could feel the worry radiating from both Kara and Lena. “Do I need to fight someone?”

“What do we do?” Lena asked, as if Maggie hadn’t spoken, squeezing Kara’s hand so hard that it hurt. Her eyes were fixed on Kara’s. “We can’t just pretend we’re not home. They’ve flown all the way here from New York and we’re stuck on an island.”

For a brief moment, Kara had a vision of them sneaking out the back of the house, running towards the boathouse, and speeding away towards the mainland. She could still hear Alex and Eve Teschmacher talking at the door, although they’d lowered their voices and she couldn’t hear specifics anymore.

“We’re… we’re just going to have to deal with them,” Kara said.

“Right,” Lena said flatly, looking over at Maggie, who looked like she was ready to fight the women who’d interrupted their lunch.

“Deal with them, you say?” Maggie asked with a smirk, raising her fists.

“No! Not like that,” Kara burst out, a hysterical adrenaline-fueled giggle escaping her at the same time. She didn’t have time to say anything else before Alex led their guests into the kitchen, her face like thunder. She very determinedly didn’t catch Kara’s eye, and Kara’s stomach metaphorically hit the floor with a painful thump.

Eve had obviously explained to Alex why they were here; there was no way that Alex would’ve let them into the house if they didn’t have a real reason.

As much as she desperately wanted to go and talk to Alex privately, she knew she needed to deal with the matter at hand first. Eve was holding a clipboard- a clipboard, Kara thought derisively- in her hands, but it was on Lillian her eyes fell.

She was very tall, her posture was excellent, and she radiated haughtiness. She was wearing all-black; a black silk shirt, black pants, black shoes, and a black pea coat. Her hair was clipped back in such a way as to make Kara think of someone who had a huge stake in the Homeowners Association. Her face held a smile, but it was one that Kara imagined a wolf might make to a lamb. Her eyes were icy blue, cold and calculating, and when they landed on her adopted daughter, Kara didn’t imagine the way they narrowed infinitesimally.

Kara looked at Lena just in time to see the last vestiges of the relaxed woman she’d been this week disappear. Lena drew herself up to her full height, her shoulders were thrown back and straight, and her face was carefully blank; considering how Lena and Lillian weren’t blood-related, it was almost scary how well Lena mirrored her. It was almost as if Kara could see the emotions bleeding out of Lena; all the soft parts of her that Kara loved were being hidden away within her, leaving behind the woman Kara recognized as her boss, not her lover.

While Lena’s face and posture were more closed off, she was still standing there with a science pun shirt on, Kara’s baggy sweatpants, and lime green fuzzy socks on her feet. Her hair was damp and tangled after their shared shower, and, she was still holding tightly to Kara’s hand.

As she had done back in Lena’s office the week before, when Lena was clearly stressed, Kara ran her thumb across the back of Lena’s hand. The soft gesture was meant to remind Lena that Kara was still there by her side, and it worked. Lena’s face softened for a moment as she glanced over at Kara, her eyes warming, before she turned back to face their visitors. Kara took strength from the flash of softness and from the firmness of the grip Lena had on her hand.

“Miss Teschmacher, it’s nice to see you again. Mother, what are you doing here?” she asked. Lena’s voice was calm and steady.

“Can’t a mother visit her own daughter?” Lillian said.

“Of course she can, but it’s rare that you ever do, much less fly all the way to Alaska.”

“I would visit more, if you’d return my phone calls,” Lillian said, her eyes darting like a snake’s at first to Kara and then down to hers and Lena’s joined hands. “Oh. So you must be Kara, the one who Eve tells me is engaged to Lena. You’re also the one, if my mind doesn’t deceive me, who never puts my calls through to Lena when I call her at CatCo.”

Lena’s face acquired its own haughty expression. “She is,” Lena said, not elaborating on which part she was replying to.

“Well,” Lillian said, drawing the word out and primly extending her hand, “it’s lovely to meet you at last.” It was clear where Lena had got her regal sense of holding herself at work.

“A pleasure to meet you too, Mrs Luthor,” Kara said, stepping forward to take Lillian’s hand in hers. It was cold and her grip was strong. Kara was more than up to the task of giving a firm handshake though, and didn’t let it faze her.

Eve was watching their exchange like a hawk. Kara could see her smiling out of the corner of her eye, and she knew with a flash of understanding that Lena’s cold reception of her mother had done them no favors in front of Immigration.

“Did you have a good flight?” Kara asked, injecting as much enthusiasm into her tone as she could. “That trip is brutal. We hit terrible turbulence on our way over here and, as I’m sure you know, Lena doesn’t like flying much. It was just awful.” She let go of Lena’s hand and gestured vaguely towards the lounge. “Shall we make ourselves more comfortable? Can I get either of you a drink? Tea? Coffee? Hot chocolate?”

Lillian looked slightly taken aback at the sudden friendliness, but it didn’t last long. “Coffee, please. As strong as you can make it. No milk.”

“Eve?”

“I’ll take a fruit tea if you have some?”

Of course she would have fruit tea, Kara thought to herself. “Sure. If you want to go into the lounge, I’ll just bring them in. Alex, Maggie? Would you like something else to drink?”

“No thank you,” Maggie replied, “we’ve really got to be going now.” Maggie sent a sidelong glance at Alex, who was shifting from foot to foot in the kitchen doorway. Alex was looking at Lena with a shrewd look in her eye, and Kara didn’t like it.

So that she could be doing something else with her hands, Kara set about making the tea and coffee while everyone stood around awkwardly watching her. Only Lillian had gone into the lounge, not everyone like she’d hoped. Once the kettle had finally boiled and she had a cup of tea in one of her hands, Eve started speaking again.

“Before you go,” Eve said to Maggie, her smile fake, and her high voice full of false cheer. It made Kara want to stick her fingers in her ears. “I’d like to talk to you. You obviously know the family well, and in order to help Kara and Lena through this situation, we need as many witnesses as possible to speak about their relationship.”

Maggie folded her arms and stared at Eve until Eve looked away. “And what situation would this be? You haven’t told us anything. And you don’t even know who I am.”

Eve glanced over at Kara and Lena, standing once again with their hands joined by the kitchen table. “Lena Luthor is in violation of her residency visa. While in the process of renewing it, she left the country, and that effectively nullified her application, removing her right to reside in the United States. She is an Irish citiz-”

“Oh, that’s the lilt I can hear in your accent sometimes,” Maggie tossed at Lena with a smile.

Lena smiled back. “If I’d had one more Guinness at the Red Lion the other day, you’d have heard it in full force.”

“Remind me to get you more Guinness next time. Beautiful women speaking in Irish accents,” Maggie said dreamily. “If that’s not perfection…”

Kara snorted a laugh. “She’s taken, Maggie.”

“Yeah, yeah.”

“Anyway,” Eve interrupted with a bite of impatience, clicking on a voice recorder. “The USCIS has reason to believe that their relationship is not real. It’s been suggested to us that they have fabricated their engagement in order to get Miss Luthor a green card to stay in the US permanently. Essentially, we believe there is a possibility that their relationship is a sham, and therefore it is under investigation until such time as we are satisfied either that it is genuine, or that it’s fake.”

Maggie’s face was incredulous. Her eyebrows had almost disappeared into her hairline as Eve had been speaking, and Kara felt the sudden desire to laugh at the way Maggie rolled her eyes before replying.

“Okay. First of all, my name is Maggie Sawyer. Maggie, not Margaret. Make sure you get that down on your little clipboard,” she said when Eve started to write her name down. “Secondly, sure, we might not have heard about these two being in a relationship until very recently, but who among us hasn’t dipped their nib in the office ink, am I right?” she asked, tapping her fingers on her arm. “You only have to spend a few minutes with these two before you realize how strongly they feel for each other. That much was obvious to me when I picked them up at the airport the other day, and at dinner the first night of their visit. Kara could not keep her eyes off Lena’s ass- uh, you know what, actually, no, leave that in. She couldn’t keep her eyes off any part of Lena. She looks at her like Lena invented painting, and for Kara that’s… huge. And Lena looks at her like Kara’s the sun in her sky. There is no way in hell this relationship is not genuine. They moon over each other every second they get even when they don’t realize they’re doing it. They had good reason to hide it from everyone and frankly, if I was as high profile as Lena, I would’ve kept it hidden too. There’s such a thing as a private life, you know.”

While Maggie was talking, Kara moved towards Lena to embrace her from behind. She wrapped her arms around Lena’s waist and swayed them both gently, and she felt Lena relax against her front. Kara was sure that it was a combination of Maggie’s firm words and the hug as she heard them that helped Lena feel better. She hoped it lent her strength in the way that Lena holding her hand gave Kara strength too.

“Come on, Alex, we really have to go or we’ll be late for work. You know. Dealing with real criminals,” Maggie threw at Eve. Kara didn’t know whether to groan or cheer at Maggie’s parting shot.

Alex didn’t seem like she knew what to think, and she was still leaning against the doorframe. When Maggie reached her, she pushed away from the frame. “Are you two going to be alright?” she asked Kara and Lena.

“Yeah, we’ll be fine,” Kara replied with a smile. Alex hesitantly returned it, and relief flooded Kara at the sight of it; maybe Alex wasn’t too angry, if she was smiling. It mattered a great deal to Kara with Alex thought, and with Lillian and Eve here, she wouldn’t be able to talk to her about anything.

“Alright. See you tomorrow Kara. You and your swamp witch have a good day, okay?” she finished, winking at Lena, who burst into surprised laughter.

“See you, Alex,” Lena replied with a cheery waggle of her fingers.

Just as the front door closed behind Alex and Maggie, Lillian spoke once more. Kara had almost forgotten that she was there. “Now I know I can’t have heard this correctly, but did someone just call Lena a swamp witch?”

At that, Kara cracked up laughing as well, ignoring Lillian’s affronted face. “Yeah, well, it’s because of how she proposed.”

“I don’t mean to be rude,” Lillian said slowly, and Kara had the feeling that she didn’t care whether she came across as rude or not, “what on earth about the way Lena proposed would mean that her nickname is swamp witch, of all things?”

“We’ll tell you the story once we’ve got settled in the lounge,” Lena said, turning around in Kara’s arms. “Would you like a hot chocolate?”

“Yes please,” Kara said, leaning forward to give Lena a quick kiss before releasing her.

Kara heard Lillian scoff behind them. “Lena. When are you going to stop drinking hot chocolate and drink something a little more grown up?”

“There’s excellent scientific evidence to suggest that chocolate, when it has no sugar in it, is good for your cardiovascular health,” Lena said. “Plus, I listen to my tastebuds. I just prefer the taste of hot chocolate.”

“Shall we go into the lounge?” Kara said, sensing this was an argument that they’d had many times before. Kara urged both Eve and Lillian, now with her coffee in hand, into the lounge ahead of her. She pulled a face back over her shoulder at Lena, who looked gratefully back at her.

Kara watched as Lillian perched on one of the armchairs, a barely-disguised look of contempt in her eyes as she looked around the room with its slightly worn furniture. Kara bristled at the sight of it, but now was not the time to call out her haughtiness, so she shoved it aside; let Lillian be judgmental, if she wanted to be. Eve sat down on one of the sofas so that she could put her clipboard next to her, and sipped her tea with an approving smile on her face. Nevertheless, she barely took her eyes off Kara, and trepidation swirled in her gut. Now that Alex and Maggie had left, the buffer that had been between them all had vanished, and Kara’s nerves returned full force. Lillian wasn’t so much of a problem at the moment, but Eve certainly was.

“So,” Kara said, trying for joviality and slapping her knees before she sat down on the smaller sofa opposite Eve’s. “May I ask what it is you’re doing all the way up here when we were due to come and see you on Monday?” She directed the question at Eve, who smiled blandly at her before putting her mug on the side table.

“Of course,” Eve replied. “I was doing some background research on you and Miss Luthor. Nobody at CatCo nor at L-Corp knew that the two of you were in a relationship, and if what you’ve told me is correct about you wanting to keep it a secret for Lena’s sake,” Lillian scoffed again into her mug, “especially considering that she’s your superior, that wasn’t surprising. However, since I couldn’t speak with anyone there, I decided to try contacting family members. Alexander Luthor, when contacted, only stated that he and Lena have not spoken since his trial. Considering he is in prison and we have access to his phone and postal records, we have no reason to disbelieve him.”

Kara couldn’t think of anything to say in response to Eve’s statement about Lex, other than, “Lena misses her brother. I think that she was planning to tell him about us once we had something concrete to show him.”

“That’s right,” Lena said from the doorway, coming into the room with two mugs of hot chocolate with the by-now ubiquitous candy cane in them. She handed one to Kara and then sat down next to her, the furthest away from her mother that she could be. Lena stirred her hot chocolate with the candy cane and studiously ignored Lillian’s contemptuous look. “I was going to give him a call next week, but I’m going to have to order a new phone first. Mine was destroyed by an impromptu dip in the sea earlier this week and it didn’t seem sensible to order a replacement here when we’d be back in New York on Monday.”

“Oh? Is that why I couldn’t get hold of you?” Lillian asked, crossing her legs and gazing across the room at her daughter.

“Yes. I fell overboard when the boat hit a large wave at the wrong angle, and I had my phone in my pocket at the time. Unfortunately, despite many bags of rice, it couldn’t be saved,” Lena said. Kara sipped her perfectly-made hot chocolate and rubbed Lena’s thigh in sympathy, even though they both knew that they’d made no attempts whatsoever to save the phone and Lena had seemed quite glad to be rid of it.

“Well, that’s a pity,” Eve said, sounding completely insincere.

“Oh, cut the crap, Eva Braun,” Lena muttered to herself, too quietly for Eve to hear. Kara bit back a laugh and elbowed Lena again, who sat up a little straighter. “Yes, it was actually,” Lena said. “Because we kept our relationship a secret, most of the photos of us were on my phone. For security reasons, and I’m sure you can understand, I don’t use Cloud software to save anything; it’s so easily hacked. And Kara is always uploading the wrong photos to her Instagram page, so we just kept everything on my phone. I’m sorry again, darling,” Lena said, turning to Kara, her brow furrowed.

“It’s not your fault,” Kara soothed. “It’s not like it was your choice to go swimming anyway. We can take more photos. I’m not about to start calling you a sea witch though; swamp witch suits you much better.”

“Ah!” Lena exclaimed, slapping Kara’s upper arm lightly before giving her a soft smile.

“Sorry to interrupt,” Eve said, not sounding sorry at all, “but you were going to contact Alexander Luthor once you were back in New York and had a new phone?”

“That’s correct,” Lena replied to Eve, her green eyes warm on Kara’s before she turned to look at Eve. “That was my plan. I generally prefer to tell him about developments in my life myself, instead of letting him read about them in some tabloid.” She stirred her hot chocolate a little more before taking a long drink out of it. “Even if I abhor his actions and his plans, it’s impossible for me to stop loving him. He’s the brother who sat in my treehouse with me.”

“And you didn’t plan to tell your mother?” Eve asked.

Lena looked over at Lillian, who was still sitting very properly in the armchair as if it were a throne. “Of course I planned to. I assume it’s because of her that you’re here today instead of waiting to speak to us on Monday?”

“Yes,” Eve replied, setting her cup of tea back down on the side table after taking another sip. “After Alexander, Mrs Luthor was the next person on the list that I wanted to speak to regarding the two of you. When I spoke to her, she was under the impression that you two only shared a professional relationship. Which, of course, tallied with your story that you didn’t want people to know, but when she mentioned that she couldn’t get in touch with you, that was a red flag for the USCIS.”

“Oh?” Kara asked, surprised by that information. “Why is that?” she continued, curious about the answer.

“Often, people in your situation flee the country and get married elsewhere. Miss Luthor has access to a private jet, as well as a great deal of money at her disposal. It wouldn’t be the first time that someone flew out of the country incognito by bribing officials.”

“What?” Lena spluttered, coughing a little on her hot chocolate and putting it between her knees. Kara rubbed her back for her as Lena cleared her throat several times. “You thought I’d possibly fled the country like some kind of international spy?”

Put like that, it did sound ridiculous, and Eve had the good grace to smile. “Clearly, you didn’t. Your jet is, of course, registered with international aviation industries and we were able to track your jet here without resorting to any breach of privacy. But Lillian’s inability to contact you did raise the red flag, as I mentioned, and so the decision was made to fly me up here.”

Lena raised both of her eyebrows. “All we’ve done is painted a boathouse,” she said, a smile quirking at her lips. “We’ve spent time with Kara’s family and friends. We haven’t flown to Ireland and got married. Kara deserves far better than a rushed wedding with none of her family or friends there.”

Kara reached over and squeezed her hand. “We’ll have that small wedding in the woods you’ve always wanted, Lena,” she said quietly, leaning over to kiss her on the cheek.

Everyone sat in an awkward silence for a minute before Lillian brushed some imaginary dust off her pants leg. “Well, as fun as this has been, we have ascertained that you have not, in fact, absconded from the country. We have been travelling for quite a long time today, and I’m in desperate need of a shower.”

Lena raised her eyebrow. “What a shame you can’t stay for dinner.”

Lena,” Kara admonished, elbowing her again.

“Yes, don’t be rude, Lena. I did fly all the way up here to see you, after all,” Lillian said, cynical amusement lacing her tone.

“Would you like a lift back to the mainland, Mrs. Luthor? Eve?” Kara interjected, before either Lillian or Lena could say anything else.

“Yes please, Miss Danvers. I dread to think how long it would take to get a helicopter out here.”

“I don’t think there are any,” Kara said wryly, “but my boat will get you back there in no time. Miss Teschmacher, are you coming too?”

“Not just yet,” Eve said, surprising Kara. “I think I’ll stay here a little longer.”

At that, Lena threw Kara a veiled look of panic. Her expression clearly said don’t leave me here alone with her, but as Kara had already offered to take Lillian back to the mainland, there was no way she could back out of it.

“I’ll be as fast as I can,” Kara reassured her, turning to Lena and cupping her face in her hand. She brushed her thumb over her cheekbone and Lena leaned into the touch instantly, closing her eyes and letting out a deep sigh.

“Hurry back,” she murmured, not loudly enough to be heard by anyone other than Kara. “Or I’ll not be held responsible for my actions.”

Kara smiled at her, before letting her hand drop from Lena’s face and turning back to Lillian. She found Lillian’s eyes already on her, no doubt observing the way that she and Lena were interacting with each other. Her eyes were slightly narrowed, as if she’d seen something that she either didn’t want to see, or something that she didn’t expect.

Kara fervently hoped that it was the latter. If they were successful on Monday, then she’d be staying with Lena as long as Lena wanted her around, and that meant that Lillian would be in her life as well. The last thing that Kara wanted to do was leave a bad impression of herself with Lena’s mother; at least, worse than being the one who always told her that her daughter wasn’t available to speak with her.

“Are you ready to go or is there anything you need before we leave?” she asked Lillian.

“I’m fine, thank you,” Lillian replied, her voice polite as she stood in one graceful movement.

This whole emotionally fraught visit had lasted just less than an hour, and Kara was ready for it to be over as she crossed the lawn with Lillian following closely behind her. The knot of stress that had lodged itself in her stomach had dulled a little during their conversation, but now it returned full force once again as she reached Streaky.

Lillian came up silently behind her. Kara wasn’t short by any means, but she was utterly dwarfed by Lillian, who was at least six feet tall and she was wearing heels. How she hadn’t sunk into the grass, Kara had no idea. But standing next to her, Kara was intimidated. Lillian was an imposing figure, and she gave off an air that some of Kara’s teachers used to have; she expected complete obeisance, and she got it. She knew from their short interaction inside the house that Lillian was where Lena had learnt her boardroom-silencing eyebrow raise.

“Do you need some help getting into the boat?” Kara asked, glad to hear that her voice was steady when it came out.

“No, thank you,” Lillian replied, and to Kara’s surprise, she slipped off her shoes before stepping onto the boat as if she expected it, too, to obey her wishes. The removal of her shoes, though, did tilt the balance in her favor, and Lillian made her way up to the passenger seat while Kara stepped in. She threw off the lines and stood in front of the wheel.

“Would you like a lifejacket?” Kara asked.

Lillian gave her a piercing look that Kara refused to quail under. “No, thank you. I am not afraid of the water as my daughter is. And I am an excellent swimmer.”

Kara didn’t doubt it as she turned the engine on and backed the boat into the Sound.

Lillian didn’t say anything about how fast she was comfortable going, but Kara doubted that Lillian made a habit of going anywhere in a boat any smaller than a private yacht, so she kept the speed slow. It felt like she was crawling along in the water, which was very frustrating because Kara was painfully aware that she had left Lena on her own with Eve back at the house. It wasn’t as if she thought something was going to happen, but Eve was the person standing between Lena and her ability to stay and live in the US. Lena was perfectly able to take care of herself, and she didn’t need Kara to fight her battles for her, but Kara wanted to be there as a source of comfort for her. And, if she was honest, she wanted to be there for herself as well.

When Kara approached the halfway point between Kasiana Island and mainland Midvale, Lillian signaled to her that she wanted to stop. Kara slowed the boat down gradually until they drifted to a stop, funnily enough, not far from where Lena had fallen in earlier in the week.

“Is everything alright?” Kara asked, turning to Lillian in concern. She looked fine, but there was a strange look on her face that Kara couldn’t place.

“I’m perfectly fine. I just wanted to talk to you about Lena,” Lillian replied.

Oh fuck, Kara thought.

“Sure,” she said instead. “What would you like to know?”

“So she asked you to marry her,” Lillian said slowly, twisting in her seat so that she could face Kara properly.

“Yes she did. Nearly three weeks ago,” Kara replied, feeling a little like she was under interrogation, even if it was relatively benign. She’d felt the same when meeting Mike’s terrifying mother Rhea, though. What was it with her and frightening prospective mothers-in-law?

“And you saw fit to say yes,” Lillian said, glancing down patronizingly at Kara’s left hand, where the ring Lena had given her shone on her finger. The sunlight danced within the diamonds and made the tanzanite almost glow. It was beautiful, and Kara loved it. The tone that Lillian had used, however, was less than lovely.

“Of course I said yes,” Kara said, feeling a little defensive. “Why wouldn’t I have? Your daughter is a wonderful person and I’m lucky that she chose to ask me. There was no way I was going to say no to her.”

“Lena is, let’s say, afraid,” Lillian said, waving a hand in the air as if she were indicating all of Lena’s flaws at once, and it made Kara angry. “She’s also ruthless, and she’s too clever for you. She’ll chew you up and spit you out as soon as she’s bored of your all-American good looks and your cheery optimism. She’ll never love you the way that you need her to. She’s too good for you.”

The silence between them was stark as Kara let the words that Lillian had said batter against her like hail on a windowpane. The boat bobbed gentle in the water, the call of the gulls overhead the only sound to be heard over the lapping of water against the hull of the boat.

“I should say that Lena knows her own mind very well,” Kara said eventually. Her voice was measured as she fought to keep her voice calm in spite of her rising anger on Lena’s behalf. She bit back the desire to say something about the cold, emotionally abusive way that Lillian had raised her, about the way that she’d deliberately left her at the mercy of the USCIS by never formally adopting her. The mess that Lena’s life was in was Lillian’s fault, blaming an innocent child for the sins of her father.

“I’ve never known anyone so determined to do the right thing,” Kara said. “She makes me happy. She’s got a beautiful heart and a kind, loving soul and I intend to spend my whole life making her feel as loved as she absolutely deserves to be.”

Lillian gave her a look as if she were studying her. Kara was standing with her arms crossed over her chest, and she knew that she was frowning at Lillian.

“I love the way she dresses in science pun shirts and knows all the dialogue to the Mummy movie. I love how she can’t sing but does it anyway. I love how she’s so poised but didn’t care one bit when I tipped a tray of paint over her head this week. She loves salad but loves burgers too. I love how she doesn’t hide anything from me and I love how she doesn’t care if I see her looking less than perfect in the morning. I love how her eyes light up when she talks about the things she’s working on in the labs at L-Corp and the passion that she has for what she does there,” Kara said resolutely, on a roll now and not wanting to stop. “She really believes that she can do good things for people around the world and with her intelligence and her education, and her sheer drive to make the world a better place, I have every faith that she’ll do that and more. She’s an extraordinary person. But,” Kara softened when she thought about Lena standing by the edge of their bed, her hair a mess and her pajama pants leg twisted up around her knee, rubbing her eyes with a sleepy smile on her face, “I love the ordinary in her more than anything else.”

As she’d been talking, Lillian’s eyes had first narrowed, but slowly her expression had cleared until she was looking at Kara with something akin to respect. Kara would’ve bet her left leg that it wasn’t real respect. The things that Kara had been listing about Lena might not be the things that Lillian herself valued, if what Lena had said about her was accurate, but perhaps Kara’s true feelings for her daughter were things she could understand on some level.

“You do actually love her,” Lillian said quietly, surprise evident in her voice as she regarded Kara with her blue eyes. They weren’t quite as cold as they had been before.

“I do,” Kara said. And yes, she had wanted to say that to Lena first, but if there was any time to drop her own desires, it was when she was defending the woman she loved from her awful mother.

“Miss Teschmacher is strongly under the impression that you are faking this relationship. And so was I,” Lillian said, crossing her arms and giving Kara a considered look. “If I didn’t know better-”

“Forgive me, but whatever you were going to say about Lena and I, you don’t know better,” Kara cut in. “I can’t believe that you can’t even fathom the thought that someone else might love Lena the way she deserves,” Kara said pointedly, drawing herself up to her full height. “She deserves the world and I fully intend to give her as much of it as I can.”

There was an uncomfortable silence between them while they stared each other down, until finally, Lillian broke eye contact. “As you wish, Miss Danvers. I hope you don’t get your heart broken.”

“If I do, it will be between Lena and I,” Kara stated, turning the engine back on and effectively blocking out anything else that Lillian might have said. She didn’t think that Lillian was the type to yell over a loud engine, and Kara had nothing else to say to her. As much as she wanted to give a good impression, there was also no way that she was going to let Lillian verbally run roughshod over either Lena, or her relationship with Lena. Kara wouldn’t stand for it.

Kara gave the boat a little more speed than she had done before. Out of the corner of her eye, she could see Lillian trying to remain composed, and had the perverse pleasure of watching Lillian trying to keep her hair flat while the wind whipped it into a frenzy. Kara was somewhat surprised that Lillian hadn’t hairsprayed her hair into some kind of solid helmet in an attempt to look as perfect as possible, but hey, miracles happened.

As they approached Midvale, Kara aimed towards her usual mooring spot. Once the boat was idling, Lillian eyed the rusting ladder with disdain, but Kara chose not to comment on it.

“Do you need help getting back to your hotel?” she asked instead.

“No, I don’t think so. Thank you, though,” Lillian replied, and Kara heard the first bit of sincerity in her voice. Her shoulders relaxed a little at the sound of it. “Miss Teschmacher and I are both staying at the Royal, and I’m sure we’ll be quite comfortable.”

“Okay. Well, I hope you have a good evening. I know the flight over here can be rough,” Kara said politely.

“Thank you. And, Miss Danvers,” Lillian said, before removing her shoes and slipping them into her large handbag, “despite what you might think, I do care about my daughter.”

“I’m sure you do,” Kara replied. She hesitated a moment, dithering over whether or not it was her place to ask, before she added, “but does she know that?”

Surprise flitted across Lillian’s face, along with a little bit of guilt before she carefully schooled both feelings away. Ultimately, though, she chose not to answer the question. “Goodbye, Miss Danvers,” she said, raising her eyebrow slightly before turning around and climbing the ladder barefoot.

If you had asked her a week ago if she would ever see Lillian Luthor climbing a rusty ladder barefoot in Midvale of all places, Kara would’ve said you’d had too much tequila. But this was her life now, apparently.

She waited until Lillian was safely up and over the top, expecting her to maybe look back over the wall, but she didn’t. Kara sighed and maneuvered the boat back through the harbor, and into the Sound, leaving Midvale and Lillian behind for now. She had to get back to Lena and Eve.

Thanks to Lillian’s little stopover, she had been longer than she expected to be, and she wanted to get back as soon as possible. The thought of Lena being alone with Eve didn’t sit well with her at all, when it was her job to catch Lena in a lie. Lena could handle the situation just fine, Kara thought, but all the same, she wanted to be back there. Kara wanted to be a party to as many of the conversations with Eve as possible; being out of the loop worried her a little, mostly because she didn’t know what she would be saying to Lena when there was nobody else around to hear them.

It all boiled down to the fact that she just wanted to be by Lena’s side at a time when she was in threatening company. Eve had the power to decide the direction of Lena’s life, and Kara felt sick at the thought of Lena’s soft heart being up against an arm of the government, even if it had been her own choosing. The fact was that Kara knew that Lena now had more to lose than she did before. And Kara, knowing Lena better by now, knew that Lena had an altruistic streak. She would shoulder a great deal just to make sure that people she cared about were kept safe.

Without knowing why, that thought caused Kara’s body to blaze with adrenaline, and she sped the boat up. Something like dread settled in her stomach, and her mind filled with foreboding. She kept her eyes fixed on Kasiana Island, as if looking away would cause something bad to happen.

She was practically flying across the Sound now, and she was very grateful for the fact that it was a relatively calm day and that the water was mostly flat, even if the sky was heavily overcast. She felt like she was making record time, and despite the anxiety swirling within her, speeding across the water always made her feel like she was free. The spray of the water and the wind in her face made her feel exhilarated.

When she was close enough to see the house, she could see Eve wandering around the front lawn, alone. When she saw the boat, she meandered down towards the pier and waited as Kara moored the boat, slinging the ropes around the bollards to secure it.

“Hello Miss Danvers,” Eve said, walking slowly down the pier and then back up it towards the boat. She reminded Kara of a circling hawk.

“Hi. You can call me Kara,” she returned, climbing out of the boat and standing next to Eve. “Are you ready to go back to the mainland too or is there something else you need to see here?”

“Oh, I think I’ve got what I needed,” Eve replied. The slightly smug expression on her face worried Kara, but before she could ask what had her looking so self-satisfied, she changed the topic. “When do you think your adoptive mother,” she checked her clipboard, “Eliza, will be back?”

Kara stared at her. “She’ll be back in a few hours. She has multiple experiments running and sometimes works late on Fridays,” Kara said. There wasn’t any sense in lying to Eve, but she might still text Eliza and tell her not to rush home tonight.

“Oh, alright,” Eve said. “I just wanted to meet her before I leave.”

“You’re leaving?” Kara asked, trying very hard not to obviously sigh in relief.

“Yes,” Eve confirmed, flipping through the sheets on her clipboard. “Really, this trip was just so that we could confirm that Lena Luthor hadn’t left the country. She doesn’t currently have permission to leave the United States, at least, not until either she is granted a new visa, or she is deported.” Eve said all this as if it was just matter of fact for her, and not as if she held sway over someone’s entire life. And not just Lena’s life, but Kara’s as well.

The consequences of what she and Lena were doing were brought home by the fact that Eve was now standing right in front of her. They’d been happy up here in their little bubble, but Eve and Lillian’s sudden appearance had rammed home the reminder that they weren’t just here on holiday. They weren’t just having a nice time getting to know each other and growing closer to one another. They were going to be attempting to deceive the government, to deceive the woman facing Kara right now.

“Where is Lena?” Kara asked, wondering why she and Eve were just standing on the pier instead of going up to the house.

“She’s indoors somewhere. I think she went to the bathroom,” Eve said, tucking the clipboard under her arm and looking back up at Kara with a politely interested look on her face. “So, how well do you and Lena get along?”

Instantly, Kara knew the question was a trick one. You wouldn’t ask a couple who’ve been together for a while that question, subtly implying that she thought that they hadn’t been.

“Oh, we’ve always got along very well. Like any couple we have our ups and downs, but we always make sure to talk about things,” Kara said with a nonchalant shrug. “Lena’s been hurt by a lot of people, and I didn’t want to be another one at the end of a long list. When things started getting serious together we made honesty the bedrock of our relationship. But to be honest we don’t have that many downs. We’re very similar in terms of our humor and things like that, so like I said, we’ve always got along well. She’s my favorite person to spend time with. We had a storm the other day and she was all actions stations, getting supplies for a neighbor, helping me with the boat, and stuff. I tipped a tray of paint on her head the other day and she didn’t mind one bit.”

Eve’s eyebrows rose in surprise. “Granted, this is only the second time I’ve met Miss Luthor, but when we met in my office last week, I would not have said she was a woman you could tip paint on.”

Kara smiled. “No, but you don’t know her like I do.”

“Why don’t you enlighten me as to the person she is?” Eve asked.

How could someone describe Lena in a soundbite? This was awfully similar to what had happened between herself and Lillian on the boat not very long ago, and not for the first time she wished the day hadn’t taken this turn. Not to where she had to defend Lena from her mother and from Immigration on the same day.

“Lena is a kindhearted person. She carries a great deal on her shoulders and takes on a lot so that other people don’t have to. She just wants to tinker with robots and build things to improve the state of the world. She just wants to help. The world keeps giving her crap and she keeps taking it because the way her mother raised her and the way people treat her have almost made her believe that she doesn’t deserve any better,” Kara said, her voice sad. “She gives off this aura of being impenetrable, but she hears everything that people say about her. And she comes home or comes to mine and is sad about it. But…” Kara felt her face split in a smile when she thought of something. “Look at this,” she said, fishing her phone out of her pocket and showing Eve the lockscreen of Lena with the spoon dangling out of her mouth.

“She’s playful. She laughs so easily and she’s so beyond kind. She brings me flowers all the time because she knows I love them. She could run rings around me even in her Louboutins. You’d think she’d be all about business and technology, but she just loves to cook, and cooking for me is one of the ways she shows she loves me. One of her favourite things to do is go for walks around her cabin and look at all the trees and tell me about them. She knows all the names of the trees and the flowers that grow around the cabin. She has books piled everywhere because she loves stories and she loves to learn. You can’t open a cupboard in either of her places without finding a book in it. She kicks her high heels off as soon as she gets home and pulls on fuzzy socks. Underneath that business persona mask she wears at work is this soft, cuddly woman who has the biggest heart of anyone I’ve ever met.” Kara sighed wistfully and turned around to look at the house. Lena was somewhere inside it and her smile got even wider. “She’s constantly surprising me with some story about her travels or some skill she mastered years ago. Did you know she’s a champion fencer? Anyway, I- she’s just this treasure box of brilliance and she makes me so ridiculously happy.” Kara looked down at the ring on her finger. “It was the happiest day of my life when she gave this to me,” she finished quietly.

Eve looked at her, curiosity all over her face. “You love her,” she stated, simply.

“Yes,” Kara replied, still looking at the ring. It was the second time she’d admitted her feelings about Lena today, and neither time was actually to Lena. Damn. She ran her finger around the platinum of the ring. “It’s funny. For everyone else, she’s like this tremendous force of nature. Terrifying, or imposing. But for me she’s… she’s all soft parts and gentleness. She’s warm hugs and pancakes for breakfast because she knows I love them. She calms my storms.”

Kara felt the tears on her face before she even knew she was crying.

She cleared her throat several times and wiped her face with her sleeve. “I’m sorry,” she said, forcing a smile back on her face. Eve was looking at her with something like pity in her eyes, and for the life of her, Kara had no idea why.

“Don’t be sorry,” Eve replied, actually sounding genuine since the false perkiness was gone from her voice.

“I don’t even know why I’m apologizing,” Kara said with a wet laugh. “I want to go and see Lena before I take you back to the mainland. Would you like anything before you go? Some more tea or something?”

“No thank you,” Eve said with a smile. “I’ll just wait here. Take your time, I’m not in a hurry.”

“Alright,” Kara said, starting up towards the house. She thought the conversation with Eve had gone reasonably well. It wasn’t the interview, of course, so it wasn’t as official as that, but she knew that Eve would be taking note of everything that she said and the way that she said it. And Kara knew that she’d come off as genuine, because everything she’d said was the truth. They were either things that Lena had told her, or that Kara had deduced for herself. And the rest were her own feelings, and she wasn’t about to lie about them now, not when they were so beautifully real.

Kara pushed the front door open, calling for Lena as she did so. She heard a thump from upstairs, and she smiled, making her way towards and then up the staircase. When she reached their bedroom door, she found it closed. She knocked and waited for Lena to call out before she opened it, revealing Lena sitting in one of the armchairs and looking up at the storm painting again, a book on the floor next to the chair.

“Hey,” Kara said, quickly crossing the room and sweeping Lena into a hug as she stood up from the chair.

“Hi,” Lena said, her voice muffled by Kara’s hair. Lena wrapped her arms around Kara’s waist, one warm hand slipping under her shirt and stroking her lower back. “You were ages.”

“Your mother wanted to stop in the middle of the sea and talk to me,” Kara said with a snort.

“What?” Lena said, pulling back and looking at Kara with her brows furrowed. Only then did Kara get a good look at Lena. Her eyes were rimmed red, as if she’d been crying.

“What’s wrong?” she asked straight away, ignoring Lena’s question and raising a hand to Lena’s face. She gently stroked her cheek. “Are you okay?”

“I’m alright,” Lena said with a weak attempt at a smile that Kara didn’t buy for a minute. “It’s just been a strange last few hours, you know? I’d- I guess I’d kind of got used to being up here, tucked away from everything. And then they appeared and they brought the real world with them.”

“I know,” Kara said, pressing her forehead to Lena’s before giving her a quick kiss. “It’s been a lot.”

“I just wish that we could stay here forever,” Lena said, her voice a little wobbly. “I just wish I could- I wish we could stay up here forever, living a quiet sort of life. The longer this forced separation from work has gone on, the more reluctant I am to return to it the way it used to be. Sam’s perfectly capable of running L-Corp with me as a figurehead rather than an actual CEO. It’s funny how quickly my thoughts on work have changed. Working in the labs again, working on creating technology to help people… building a life with you… it seems like a dream, even if it feels like trying to hold water in my hands.”

“Hopefully it’s a dream we can have,” Kara said, holding Lena close and wrapping her in an even tighter hug.

Lena didn’t respond, but Kara knew she’d heard her. She lifted her hand and stroked Lena’s hair.

“I defended your honor to your mother, by the way,” Kara said, hoping to cheer Lena up with a joke.

Lena sniffled. “Oh?”

“Yeah. She told me that you’re too clever for me and that you’d… what did she say? Get bored of my cheery optimism someday.”

“That sounds like something my mother would say,” Lena conceded. “She’s wrong, though. Your optimism is one of the things that I like best about you. You see the good in everything, even in me.”

“There’s so much good in you, Lena,” Kara said, the chastisement soft, but there.

A wet-sounding scoff escaped Lena then, and the sound twisted at Kara’s heart. “There are much better people out there. People who don’t make you lie to your entire family and all your friends and make you risk prison-”

“Hey, hey, don’t be so self-deprecating,” Kara said, interrupting Lena’s spiral. She lifted Lena’s chin and really looked at her, at the sad look in her eyes. “We’ve been through that part already. And I just spent a while telling both Lillian and Eve what a wonderful person you are and how happy you make me.”

“You shouldn’t have,” Lena said, pulling away from Kara. Her shoulders hung low, defeated, and she folded her arms over her chest before she looked back up. “I asked you to do something terrible. Unforgivable, really. I asked you to lie for me, when you didn’t even know me, to your whole family. And your family are such wonderful, wonderful people. I- and I- the guilt of this is crushing me, Kara,” she said, her voice hitching on the last words. “Today has been a lot and… I just need a little bit of time to think. Is that okay?”

“Of course it’s okay, Lena,” Kara burst out, holding her hand out for Lena, but letting her make the decision on whether to take it. Lena didn’t hesitate before slipping her hand into Kara’s, entwining their fingers together. “I have to go and take Eve back to the mainland. Will you be alright here on your own?”

Lena smiled. It was faint, but it was there, and Kara would take it. “I’ll be fine. I’ll make myself a cup of tea and look at your painting some more.”

“You really love it?”

“I really do,” Lena replied, turning her beautiful green eyes on it once more. “If you were to ever sell it, I’d give you whatever you asked for it.”

“It’s yours,” Kara said. If Lena truly loved it that much, then she wanted Lena to have it.

“Kara…”

“I mean it,” Kara said, stepping closer to Lena and keeping hold of her hand. She looked over the painting, taking in the safety that Lena derived from it. “It’s yours. You connect with it. It belongs with you.”

Lena did smile then, her dimples briefly visible before she pressed a lingering kiss to the corner of Kara’s mouth. “You are far too good for me. And you should go and take Eve back to the mainland before she comes and looks for you.”

Lena still seemed pretty on edge, but Kara considered that with the afternoon they’d had, anyone would be. Her own gut was still twisted in knots, and she couldn’t wait to drop Eve off on the mainland. The nerves that she supposed she should’ve been feeling all week, had she not been too busy falling in love with Lena instead, were now making themselves known.

She raised Lena’s hand and kissed each of her knuckles, before turning her hand over and pressing a kiss to her palm as well. Lena watched her, her eyes soft. “You’re lovely, you know,” Kara murmured, smiling against Lena’s palm and kissing it once more. “You’re always lovely, even when you think you aren’t. And I would love for you to remember that.”

Lena stepped forward, into Kara’s arms, and slid her hands up Kara’s chest to rest above her sternum. “You make me want to try,” she said quietly.

“That’s a start,” Kara said, stroking Lena’s hair and kissing her temple. “Okay, I really do have to go now, otherwise Eve will probably need to stay the night.”

“Oh, don’t,” Lena said with an exaggerated shudder. “The only thing worse than that would be Lillian coming back here and requesting a room.”

Kara laughed then, although she could feel an unfamiliar weight clinging to it that wasn’t usually there. She supposed the heaviness of the afternoon was weighing on her in more ways than one.

“Let’s curl up and watch a movie tonight,” Kara suggested. “We can even watch the Mummy again, if you like. I think we just need to relax. Today’s been really stressful for both of us.”

“That sounds… perfect,” Lena sighed, before giving her a little push. “Go on, now. Or Eve really will be up here looking for you.”

“Okay, okay,” Kara replied, stepping away from Lena and walking towards the door. “I’ll be back before long.”

“I’ll see you later,” Lena said, and Kara caught the sadness in her tone even though Lena had tried valiantly to hide it. Kara sent her a gentle smile before she closed the door behind her and headed down the hallway.

Eve was sitting on the swing under the tree on the lawn when Kara came out of the house, although she stood up when Kara made her way towards her. It reminded Kara that she hadn’t sat on the swing the whole time she’d been home, and she’d meant to.

“Are you ready?” Eve asked when Kara reached her.

“Yeah,” Kara confirmed, gesturing towards the boat. Eve wasn’t wearing heels as Lillian had been, but she was far less sure-footed, somehow; she slipped a little on her way into the boat. Kara wondered just for a second how terrible it would be if Eve fell into the water and ruined her little recording device and any other notes she had. Shaking her head at herself at the mean-spirited thought (if nothing else, she thought, it would mean that Eve would have to reconduct any interview she’d already done and that would just prolong Lena’s visa issue), she climbed into the boat.

When asked, Eve did want to wear the lifejacket. Kara passed her her own, rather than the one that Lena usually wore. Such a small thing, she thought to herself, and yet, there it was. The lifejacket was Lena’s now. She waited until Eve had tightened the straps around herself before she maneuvered the boat into the sound for the second time that afternoon.

Unlike Lillian, Eve did try to talk, or shout, over the engine. It turned out that Eve had grown up in a similar town on the coast of Maine, and that like Kara, she didn’t get home to visit it too often, even though it was much closer than Midvale. Kara knew that her questions were designed to make her talk, but she didn’t mind talking about just herself or her hometown. She also supposed that maybe Eve was a little homesick, because she certainly did seem to enjoy the ride on the boat in a similar way to how Kara herself did. Kara still didn’t go very fast, not wanting to hit a freak wave on calm water and pitch Eve into the sea the same way she had Lena. She figured that wouldn’t go down very well with their Immigration issue, even if it would be an accident. It could easily be misconstrued as deliberate, and they didn’t need additional complications.

When Kara drew the boat up at the mooring spot, Eve held her hand out to shake. Kara shook it.

“I’ll be in touch,” Eve said, nodding before she climbed more nimbly than Kara expected up the ladder.

I’ll be in touch, Kara thought. That was a rather ambiguous thing to say to someone who they were definitely seeing on Monday morning.

At any rate, there was nothing she could do about it now, whatever Eve had meant. Backing the boat out into the open water, she set a course for home once more. Hopefully she wouldn’t need to go back out on the boat once more today. The feeling of the wind in her hair helped to quiet the worry in her mind at the events of the day. Once again, as the water was still calm, Kara increased the speed at which she ran the boat, and practically flew home. Lena had definitely seemed a little off before she left, and she didn’t want to leave her alone while she was upset. She’s said she needed some time, and Kara intended to give her as much of it as she wanted, but she still wanted to be in the house somewhere. Perhaps she could read a book out on the porch swing and Lena could join her, or not, as she wished.

The fact that Lillian and Eve had left for now, though, was a huge relief to her, and she’s sure that it would be to Lena as well.

Kara was going so fast that she made it back in almost record time. When the house came into view, she could see that Eliza’s boat wasn’t there yet. She wouldn’t be far behind, though, so Kara moored Streaky and climbed up into the deck quickly, intending to go and see if Lena was alright and if she needed anything.

She was halfway up the lawn when Lena came out of the house carrying a cup of tea in one hand and Gone With the Wind tucked under the other. Kara waved at her to catch her attention, and Lena gave her an awkward half wave with the hand that wasn’t holding a mug. Kara’s stomach sank.

“Hey,” Lena said dully when Kara reached her.

Kara sat down next to her, but without touching her in case Lena still needed her time. “Hi,” she replied. “That’s Eve safely back on the mainland.”

“Good,” Lena said, blowing across the top of her tea and taking a sip. “This has been a horrible, horrible day.” Her voice was melancholy.

“Hey, it didn’t start out so badly, did it?” Kara asked, hoping to lift Lena’s mood a little.

Lena smiled, then. “It didn’t,” she replied, shuffling closer on the porch swing to sit closer to Kara, laying her head on Kara’s shoulder. “Would you like a hot chocolate?”

“I’d love one,” Kara replied, “but first, can we just… sit here? Together, I mean. Today’s been stressful and I know it’s only been a few hours, but those few hours have really done a number on my brain.”

Lena let out a sigh. “On mine, too.”

“So, can we? Just sit here?”

“Of course we can,” Lena replied, leaning over to the balustrade and setting her mug on top of it, before resting back against Kara.

Kara could almost feel the tension radiating from Lena, and didn’t know what she could say to calm her. As far as Kara was really concerned, nothing much had really changed. Eve hadn’t come up to get any more information out of either of them, and she hadn’t even stuck around long enough to talk to Eliza, which she’d been fully expecting her to do. Unless something had happened that Kara wasn’t aware of, the only thing that had really changed was Lena’s mood.

Lena was very still against her, even when Kara wrapped her arm around her waist to pull her closer. It was as if Lena was lost in thought, her mind absolutely elsewhere. Did Lena know something she didn’t? No, Kara thought; if she did, she was pretty confident that Lena would tell her if Eve had threatened her or said anything to provoke her.

No, she thought that something else was bothering Lena, and it wasn’t Eve.

Kara swung her legs a little in order to make the porch swing move, and they sat there quietly together. Although the weather wasn’t bad, it wasn’t exactly a nice day, and she thought that it probably reflected Lena’s mood. The clouds were heavy and it looked like rain, the air was cool. The light breeze was turning colder as the day lengthened, and it tossed strands of Kara’s hair around her face.

Lena was subdued, with none of her soft smiles or bubbly laughter that Kara had grown to love. The weather seemed to be as grey as the water, and if Kara were to try to paint right now, she wouldn’t even bother to pick up a color palette that contained anything other than white, grey, or black. As she stared out at the grey water of the Sound, she realized that everything did just feel as if the color had been leeched right out of it.

Next to her, Lena was silent. Her hands were tucked into the pocket of Kara’s favorite thick hoodie, and her face seemed void of all emotion. Beside her, Kara worried. This was the quietest that Lena had been since they’d arrived, and it made her feel apprehensive. She was used to Lena being quiet in the office, but this felt like a different kind of quiet. The fact that this was coming on the heels of their visitors today just meant that the swirling feeling of dread that Kara had hoped would disappear once their visitors had left was now sitting in her stomach like a rock.

The longer they sat there without speaking, the more concerned Kara grew. She gently stroked Lena’s side with her thumb, not even sure whether Lena could feel it through the layers she was wearing.

When it finally started to rain, drops splashed into Lena’s tea, but she didn’t lean forward to move it into shelter. It would be cold now, anyway, she was sure. The rain was heavy; the kind of huge, fat raindrops that soaked you in seconds, leaving you cold and miserable.

“I’ve always loved the rain,” Lena murmured suddenly. Kara barely heard her speaking over the sound the rain was making, and angled her head towards Lena in order to hear her better. “I love the way it refreshes things, and the way the earth smells when it’s damp. Lillian didn’t like to get caught in it, so whenever it rained like this, I’d run down through the gardens to the treehouse, and climb up into it. It was like a respite from all the disdain and the… the feeling of just not being seen, or appreciated. It was always like she didn’t even care enough to be disappointed in me. I wasn’t Lex, and I was a reminder of my father’s indiscretion, and that was enough for her.”

Kara shifted a little closer to her. “I’ve always preferred the sun, but rain has its own beauty too.”

“I’m used to what Lillian thinks, or doesn’t think, of me,” Lena continued, as if Kara hadn’t spoken. It was almost as if Lena was just talking to the rain. “While it does bother me, I’m so used to it that I’ve learned to be able to look away from it. But what I’m not used to is someone caring for me the way that you do. I’m not used to caring for someone in this way, either. I- I think I’ve made it obvious by now that I felt something for you long before this whole mess ever happened, and I never dared hope that you might return my… my feelings.”

“Lena…”

Lena turned shimmering green eyes on her just for a moment, before resting her head back down again and looking out at the rain that was making the view even greyer than it was before.

“I don’t know how to feel. On the one hand, I wish that we had- that I had been brave enough to talk to you before Immigration got involved. I wish that we’d got to know each other more organically. I wish that I’d been able to ask you to go on a real date with me. I would have loved to have picked you up, and brought you flowers. Made terrible small talk over dinner because I would’ve been nervous, and leave you at the end of the evening maybe having shared a kiss at your door if I was lucky enough. I would’ve wanted to treat you perfectly, the way you deserved. I would never have thought that I’d be forcing you into a fake marriage with me, and that I wouldn’t have given you the choice. Of all the people to walk into my office at that moment, it was you. And in that split second I was more conflicted than I’ve ever been about anything in my life. I didn’t even have time to sort out my feelings about that before I said what I did to Cat Grant. And in that moment, I took your choice away from you.”

Kara’s chest felt like there was something heavy sitting on it, making it hard for her to breathe. “Lena-”

“Kara, please, let me talk,” Lena implored, resting a hand on her knee.

Kara swallowed. “Okay,” she replied, but the word came out choked.

“I never had any hope that you’d be so… kind to me, after that. I know we’ve talked about this before, but it’s… weighing on me, the guilt. You would think that you returning my feelings would just make this easier but it makes it so much harder, because you’re… involved. I had no idea you felt anything for me, and this could’ve been almost like a business transaction. Financially, I’d have looked after you. You’d have the job you wanted, anything you wanted. And I would’ve left and licked my wounds and tried to mend a broken heart, and watched you go on to do great things. But then you felt things for me too,” Lena said brokenly, her voice cracking on the words. Her words came faster now. “I’ve never had that. I’ve never felt this. I can’t bear the thought of hurting you, of hurting your family by association. I didn’t think that I could ever have hurt you, but I am doing exactly that by forcing you to lie to everyone in your life. I’m putting you through something that seems to have been tempered a little by the way we feel about each other but it doesn’t make what I’ve done any less terrible. Your family is- you have a family. You have people who love you and who you love in return. You have Maggie who may as well be family, she certainly treats you as if you are. You have friends, and god, you had Mike. And in one selfish, unbelievably selfish move, I made you lie to them. I took away your choice. You wanted to marry someone you loved, and I took that away from you too. I made you risk prison, your future employment, your career, because I wasn’t brave enough to talk to you years ago when I first wanted to.”

Lena stood up suddenly, dashing away angry tears from her face with jerky movements before turning to face the water. Kara could only see her profile, and it was etched with pain. And the more Lena talked, the more upset she got, the more Kara noticed her accent changing. Such a stupid thing to notice right now when Lena was pouring her heart out. She was taking on an Irish twang, as if Lena didn’t have the strength or the energy to keep up the American accent. Until now, Kara hadn’t even realized that Lena did sometimes speak in her natural accent. The thought that it was only coming out now, during a moment of pain, cracked something within Kara’s heart.

What on earth had Eve said to Lena earlier to cause all of this to come out?

“I would do anything to keep you safe, anything, and I’m so furious at myself for putting you in this position. And I just couldn’t help myself. You made me nervous by being so nice to me and wanting to be my friend and I just- I just couldn’t help it. You were talking to me and I flirted with you. I- I should never have pursued this with you, even if this week has been the happiest of my whole sorry life. You deserved so much better than this. You deserved dates, lots of them. You deserved romantic vacations and quiet nights in and movie marathons wrapped in blankets. You deserved things like someone converting a room in their apartment for a painting studio. You deserved to be truthful to your family. You deserved so much more than a week frantically learning things about me in order to pass a test that could determine the course of both our lives.”

“Lena-” Kara tried again, standing up and reaching for her. But Lena flinched and stepped backwards, her hands coming up as if to ward off a burn.

“I’m terrified,” Lena admitted in a whisper that was almost drowned out by the rain pounding on the porch roof. “I’m terrified because for the first time I want a future with someone. For the first time, I can really see myself being happy with someone, with you, and I want that more than anything. We’ve been so happy together this week…” Lena’s voice was wavering with emotion, now. “And it’s astounding that you’re happy with me, too. I’ve never been h-happier in my life as I have been with you and… and I’d give everything else up if I could just stay with you, if I could promise never to hurt you. None of… none of this was fair to you, and it still isn’t. I can’t bear the thought of you having to lie to everyone in your life because of me. And this is so selfish of me to be even saying any of this to you right now…” Her words were coming out more brokenly now, Lena’s voice catching in her throat as she struggled to get them out. She harshly cleared her throat before continuing, “B-but our time here is ending soon and our- ah, our whole relationship is- it’s all built on a lie. Everything’s been built on this m-massive lie and I can’t- I can’t bear the thought that someday you’re going to turn over in bed and hate me for it.”

A sob ripped through Lena’s chest just as she finally crashed into Kara, hiding her face in her hands on Kara’s chest. Kara wrapped her arms around Lena’s back and held her tight; it was all she could do as Lena cried out her pain, her guilt, and her self-loathing caused by what she’d asked of Kara. For the second time that day, tears Kara didn’t even know she was crying ran down her face and dripped into Lena’s hair; Lena’s words were heart-wrenching, and Lena’s pain spilled over into Kara. When Lena’s knees threatened to buckle, Kara held her up, nearly picking her up in order to sit her down on the porch swing. Lena gripped handfuls of Kara’s shirt in her hands and pressed her forehead into her chest, Kara could feel Lena’s whole body shaking with force of her sobs.

Throughout Lena’s whole disjointed, messy, and emotional speech, Kara had listened with a growing sense of heartbreak and the feeling that someone was pulling the rug out from under her. Lena’s whole speech was riddled with pain and fear, and the worst thing about it was that Kara knew there was nothing she could say that she hadn’t already told her.

From what Kara could gather from what Lena had said, both now and previously, Lena’s guilt centered on her not having given Kara a real choice. No choice in whether to go along with this charade in the first place, no choice in whether she had to lie to her family or not. Of course, Kara had chosen to be with Lena now that they were holed up here together, enjoying each other’s company and spending a great deal of time together. The issue in Lena’s mind seemed to be that she had been the one to force the issue in the first place; that it had been her suggestion to Cat Grant, her forcing Kara’s hand, and her making her lie to everyone she loved.

The worst thing was, Kara couldn’t even fault her on her logic, because it was true.

As she held Lena tightly against her with one arm, she stroked her hair, her shoulder, anywhere she could reach and could give comfort. It hurt Kara deeply to see Lena feeling this way about herself. She was terrified herself that things could go wrong, that they could be split apart on Monday, but for the first time, Kara allowed herself to think of a new and horrible possibility: Lena could leave her.

To avoid hurting Kara further and forcing her to admit her lies to her family, Lena could leave her first. A sick feeling rose within her at the thought that Eve had said something to Lena today that might make her think that was the best option. And then she remembered Eve’s smug face when she’d got back from taking Lillian to Midvale. Eve’s assertion that she’d got what she needed. Her ambiguous comment at the harbor. They all flooded into Kara’s mind. All of those things individually could be explained in a way that didn’t lead to Lena leaving. But all together?

Lena was still here, now, in her arms. But the words she’d choked out were ominous, and things added up in a way that Kara was frightened to think of.

What if Lena left her?

Subconsciously, she tightened her grip around Lena, pulling her as close as she could. She murmured nonsense words into Lena’s hair, nosing into it and kissing the crown of her head.

“If only we could do this differently…” Lena mumbled hoarsely into Kara’s chest. “I allowed myself to live in a fantasy. If only I could keep you- if I could just keep you…”

“You can keep me, Lena,” Kara said urgently, sensing her opening and grabbing it with both hands. “You can keep me. I’m not going anywhere. I don’t hate you, I could never hate you. If I could, I already would. But I feel the complete opposite of that. Lena, I- I lo-”

“Don’t say it,” Lena burst out, fresh tears coursing down her cheeks and dampening Kara’s shirt further. Kara felt Lena’s fingers on her lips. “Please, don’t say it.”

“Okay, okay,” Kara said quickly, swallowing the words that were desperate to escape. Her chest burned with the effort not to break down herself, and her eyes and head ached from tension. One of them had to be strong right now, and since it couldn’t be Lena, it had to be Kara. But right now, Kara was frozen in indecision. She didn’t know what to say to comfort Lena, or to take away her fears. She couldn’t promise her that things would be alright, because she didn’t know if they would be.

And now that Lena’s fingers were on Kara’s lips, it seemed like she didn’t know what to do with herself either. Lena’s breath was hitching, and she finally, finally looked up at Kara. Her beautiful green eyes were swimming with tears, her skin was blotchy from crying, and her expression was anguished. Kara wiped Lena’s tears away with her thumbs, drying her cheeks as best as she could. Lena’s eyes were on hers, her thumb brushing Kara’s lower lip gently. Reverently.

They gazed at each other for one long, fraught moment.

There was something else growing in Lena’s eyes that Kara could see, and that she didn’t like.

It looked a lot like determination.

She didn’t know where it came from, only that the sight of Lena steeling herself suddenly was not a cause for relief.

“Lena?” she asked, hesitantly.

“You are a marvel, Kara Danvers,” Lena said, her voice rough with emotion. Lena’s fingers moved to her cheeks to trace her cheekbone, her jawline, to run her fingers through Kara’s hair. “A marvel.”

“So are you, Lena Luthor,” Kara replied quietly, pressing a kiss to Lena’s forehead, before pulling Lena hard against herself to give her a tight hug. She buried her face in Lena’s neck, one arm around her waist, one around her shoulders. Lena’s arms came to rest around Kara’s waist, and together they stood there, swaying from side to side, as the rain thundered on the roof above their heads.

It was so heavy that they could barely hear the sound of Eliza’s boat coming to rest at the docks; Kara didn’t hear the engine so much as she suddenly heard the lack of it when Eliza switched it off. Kara let go of Lena to turn around, seeing Eliza rushing toward the boathouse.

“Shit,” Kara suddenly said. “The boats. We need to get them both into the boathouse.” She took her phone out of her pocket and tossed it onto the bench.

“But they’re waterproof,” Lena said, clearing her throat before rolling her eyes and frowning at herself in realization. “Oh. But… that doesn’t mean they can’t sink in very heavy rain.”

“Yeah,” Kara said, rushing towards the porch steps. “You don’t have to come-”

“I want to help,” Lena said, coming along with her anyway, starting to take Kara’s hoodie off.

“We should hurry, leave it on,” Kara insisted, and Lena nodded before they both stepped off the porch and ran down to the boats. Lena slid a little on the way, the fuzzy socks she was wearing not being made with grip on soaking grass in mind, but she made it down to the pier in one piece. Kara wasn’t quite so lucky. Halfway across the lawn, she slipped and fell almost sideways, landing heavily in the wet grass. Groaning, she slowly rolled over and pushed herself back up. When she stood up and started walking, she limped a little from the pain in her hip where she’d landed.

By the time she made it to the boathouse, Lena was already pushing Streaky’s trailer towards the water, the winch rope slack behind her. Kara rushed up behind her to help, while Eliza moved the boat forward. She had turned on the bilge pumps as well, by the sounds of it. Between the three of them, they made short work of winching both boats into the boathouse. By the time they were done, all three of them looked like they’d been swimming in the ocean, and it wasn’t long before Kara’s pent-up emotions from the last while on the porch caught up to her. She started to laugh as Eliza wrung her hair out onto the floor, which was already awash with sea water and their own footprints. Lena’s sweatpants were almost black with water, and were dragging so low that Kara could barely see her fuzzy socks anymore. Kara knew that she didn’t look much better herself, and she and Eliza stood in the boathouse, pointing and laughing at each other helplessly while Lena chuckled.

It was the kind of hysterical, helpless laughter that came along once in a while and left you propping yourself up with your hands on your knees, and within only a minute, Kara’s face ached with it.

“Lena, you look like a swamp witch again!” Kara burst out between breaths, and Lena’s face split into a wide, dimpled smile. Her hair was hanging in wet ropes around her face and shoulders, and she’d somehow got a streak of mud across one cheek, which she was wiping at with her wet sleeve.

“Come on girls,” Eliza choked eventually. “We still have to make it back to the house!” Luckily, the boathouse door was on the side of the building most sheltered from the rain, so they could lock it up without too much of an issue.

“Are you ready for it?” Lena asked, peering through the rain at the garage door.

“As ready as I’ll ever be,” Kara said, adopting a pose as if she were about to run a race.

“Set?” Eliza asked.

“Go!” Kara shouted, and with that all three of them sprinted back up to the house, whooping and laughing as they got even more drenched than before. Mud from the lawn splashed up Kara’s legs, and by the time they were all standing in the garage, they were leaving muddy footprints everywhere. Lena’s sweatpants left wet streaks across the floor, and her dark hair was plastered to her face. Standing by the garage door, Lena wrung her long hair out as best as she could, but she was so wet, she may as well have not bothered.

“I think we should all wash our clothes straight away,” Eliza said, looking at all of them. “You two go first and leave your stuff in the machine, and I’ll follow once you shout and tell me the coast is clear.”

“Sure,” Kara said. “Come on, Lena.”

Lena followed her up into the laundry room, leaving Eliza in the garage. “You mean, we’re just going to strip naked? Here?” she asked, sounding absolutely shocked.

“Of course,” Kara said, peeling her pants off and dropping them with a satisfyingly wet thud into the washing machine. “We don’t want all this water in the house!”

“But we’d be running naked through the house,” Lena insisted, as if Kara wasn’t understanding something.

“That’s the idea,” Kara replied, amusement creeping into her tone as she dropped her shirt into the washing machine. “Who’s going to see us?”

“I can’t imagine anything like this happening in Luthor Manor,” Lena said wryly.

Kara wasn’t naïve enough to think that their earlier conversation had been forgotten, but she let Lena have her moment of levity while she stripped off the rest of her clothes. Her hip ached from where she’d hit the ground, and she couldn’t wait for a hot shower. She was also exhausted.

Once Lena had, more tentatively than Kara, shoved her own clothes into the washing machine, Kara led the way down the hall. But when she was halfway up the stairs, she remembered her phone on the porch swing, opening the front door and walking out onto the porch in all her naked glory.

“Kara!” came Lena’s scandalized shout from the stairs.

“What?” Kara said, coming back in and closing the door, her phone in her hand. “Nobody’s going to see me in this weather. And anyway, have you never got caught naked in the rain?”

Lena raised both of her eyebrows. “No.”

“You’re missing out. Running through rain like that while not wearing anything? It’s almost primal. It’s freeing.”

“I’ll take your word for it, but for now we’re still standing in your hallway naked,” Lena insisted, looking back towards the kitchen door as if Eliza were going to walk through it any second and spot them. She tried to cover herself up as best as she could with her arms and hands.

“We’ve done this a lot,” Kara said, leading Lena up the staircase and down the hall towards their bedroom. “It’ll be fine.” Kara gestured for Lena to go into the bedroom, before standing by the door like a sentinel. Cupping her hands around her mouth, Kara took a deep breath. “The coast is clear!” Kara bellowed down the hall. Lena made an indistinct noise behind her, probably shocked by the sudden shout.

Thank you!” came the loud reply from Eliza downstairs, and Kara shut the door with a grin.

She turned around to find Lena shaking her head. “Growing up here must have been wonderful,” she commented quietly.

“It was,” Kara said, equally quietly. She looked at Lena, standing there with her wet hair hanging around her shoulders and her hands twisting in front of her stomach. Kara’s heart sank at the sight of it; Lena hadn’t exhibited any signs of anxiety for a while now, and after their talk on the porch, the resurgence of it made Kara’s chest ache. An unfamiliar tension was rising between the two of them, and Kara didn’t like it. It wasn’t them. As soon as Lena had dropped her mask, everything between them had been easy, and this felt like anything but.

In an effort to stave off whatever this was for when they weren’t soaking wet and dripping into the carpet, Kara stepped up to Lena and trailed her fingers down Lena’s forearms until they reached her hands, before she tangled their fingers together. Lena didn’t hesitate before tightening her grip.

“Hey, I think I’m going to shower,” Kara said quietly. “I know I can’t get much wetter, but all the same, I think I’d like to at least feel cleaner. Dealing with boats and winches, and grubby trailers, doesn’t make for the most hygienic feelings.”

Lena gave her a crooked smile that didn’t reach her eyes. “You’re right, actually. I think I’ll do the same. Would you like to go first?” she asked, gesturing towards the bathroom with her other hand.

“I’ll just use the one in Alex and Maggie’s room. That way we can both get clean and stuff, and go and have dinner with Eliza. And, maybe watch a movie and relax a little?” she finished, hoping that Lena would agree to that.

“That sounds really nice,” Lena said, squeezing Kara’s hand before letting go and walking towards the bed.

Lena still didn’t seem much like herself, Kara though as she watched her pull her pajamas out from underneath the pillow. She wasn’t exactly hiding herself, still being completely naked, but all of her usual bravado was absent. She seemed a little distant, although, with the afternoon they’d had and Lena’s crying spell on the porch, that was only to be expected. She just hoped that the rest of their evening would help Lena to unwind from the stress, because she still seemed a little tightly-wound, and Kara was worried.

Kara fetched her towel and razor from the bathroom, wrapping the towel around herself and slipping her feet into her slippers. She also grabbed the Bluetooth speaker they’d used on the day they’d painted the boathouse. Taking a long shower with a singalong seemed like one way to boost her own mood, and with that in mind she gave Lena a little wave and disappeared down the hall into Alex’s bedroom with its double shower.

She turned the shower on and scrolled through her playlists until she found one that was aptly labelled Singalong Shower Tunes. Pressing shuffle and turning the volume up loud, she hung the speaker over the shower door and climbed in.

The shower was hot, but Kara turned it up a little further until it was so hot that it made her skin itch. She stepped under it slowly, letting her skin get used to it before she was finally able to stand underneath it. The knot in her stomach that had been there all afternoon and through the early evening was still there, twisting round and around until Kara’s body was tight with tension. Seeing Lena in such distress earlier sent cracks through Kara’s heart. She’d seen Lena cry before, when she’d pulled her from the sea earlier in the week, but most of that could be put down to shock. This time, Lena was crying because of something that couldn’t be so easily fixed with a hug.

Kara’s body felt like it was humming with nervous energy, and she didn’t know what to do with it, so she danced it out. She sang at the top of her lungs, not caring that both Lena and Eliza could probably hear her through the walls. Eliza was used to her and Lena knew she could sing, anyway. The hot water was going some way towards relaxing her, even if it did make her skin feel like it was on fire, and she could feel the tension ease off a bit in her shoulders. She carefully shaved her legs, forcing herself to go slowly instead of the usual speed she would do it, in order to take longer in the shower than usual. Lena clearly needed some time to herself, and Kara wanted to let her take it.

She washed her hair, before adding some conditioner to soften it, and when she had finally run out of things to do, she turned the shower off and stepped out of it. Kara toweled herself off before heading into the bedroom and laughing at how pink her skin was thanks to the hot water. She looked like she’d been boiling herself alive, which she supposed wasn’t too far from what she’d been doing. The heat had also made her a little sleepy, and she let out a cracking yawn. Checking the time on her phone, she found it was nearly half past six, a full hour after she’d left Lena to shower.

With some trepidation, she headed back down the hallway. To her surprise, she could hear that the shower was still running. Lena wasn’t done yet? Maybe she’d been doing something before she’d got in? Kara opened the door and slipped into the room, shutting it behind her and cracking the bathroom door a little. The steam billowed out and curled around Kara.

“Hey, it’s just me, swamp witch,” she said. “Are you going to be much longer?”

“Hi,” came Lena’s voice from the direction of the shower. Kara could barely make out her shape through the steam. “No, I don’t think I’ll be long. I’m just washing my hair.”

“Okay sure. I’m just going to get dressed and go downstairs to see Eliza.”

“Alright,” she heard Lena reply as Kara closed the door.

Back in the bedroom, Kara draped her towel over the back of one of the chairs and pulled fresh underwear out of the closet, pulling it on along with her pajamas. Ditching the slippers for a new pair of blue fuzzy socks, she headed downstairs to where she could hear Eliza humming along to a song in the kitchen.

“Hi sweetheart,” Eliza said, giving Kara a quick hug. “Lena’s not allergic to rosemary, is she?”

“No,” Kara replied. “What are you making?”

“I’m going to cook some steaks, but I thought I’d cook these to go along with them,” Eliza said, pulling a bag of frozen thick-cut fries out of the freezer. They were sprinkled with rosemary, and instantly, Kara was hungry. They hadn’t eaten since their very late breakfast, and those hours between then and now had been emotionally fraught.

“They look perfect.”

“Would you be a dear and chop up the mushrooms into quarters?” Eliza asked, sliding the chopping board in Kara’s direction.

“Sure!”

Dutifully, Kara chopped the mushrooms up the way she’d been requested, while Eliza seasoned the steaks she must’ve bought before she came home earlier. When she was done, she poured the fries onto a tray and stuck them in the oven. They sang along to a few songs on the radio, and Kara helped herself to one of the leftover chocolate chip cookies. When Eliza finally asked about Kara’s day, though she took a deep breath and found it best not to lie.

“We had some visitors,” Kara hedged.

“Oh?”

“Yeah. I don’t know whether I mentioned this before or not, but Lena doesn’t actually have American citizenship.”

Eliza put down the pepper grinder and turned to Kara with an astute look on her face. “I take it this is why I had a call from someone called Eve Teschmacher the other morning?”

Kara sighed and closed her eyes, putting the knife down on the chopping board. “You never said anything.”

“I didn’t think there was anything to say. If it had been important, I’m sure you would’ve told me,” Eliza said in a careful, knowing sort of voice. “She just wanted to know how close you and Lena were, and whether I thought your relationship was genuine.”

“It is,” Kara said firmly, opening her eyes and looking across at Eliza. “It is. I love her. We just have to deal with Immigration because when Lena was applying for an extension of her residency here, she left the country for a meeting in Paris when she shouldn’t have. Apparently, that’s not allowed. And since we’d been quite private about our relationship, they came to the conclusion that we’d fabricated the entire thing to get her a green card. The timing was just… very bad.”

Eliza didn’t say anything in response, and the silence made Kara fidget. “She’s Irish, actually. Her father was Canadian, and when her birth mother died, he came to get her from the orphanage she was in over in Ireland. Her adoptive mother Lillian, I guess, kind of took her anger at Lena’s father’s affair on her and never formally adopted her. So when Lionel died, she was left in limbo.”

“Poor child,” Eliza tutted.

“Yeah. Lillian is a piece of work alright, and not very kind about Lena at all. I have to deal with her calls every week at work, and she almost never has a kind word to say, and if she does, it’s because she wants something. Eventually Lena stopped taking her calls at work. She showed up here with Eve today, actually.”

“And how did that go?”

“About as well as could be expected. It was a bit of a shock for everyone, because we had no idea they were coming. We’ve- we’ve been trying to keep the issue with Immigration under wraps because we didn’t want to worry any of you,” Kara said with a wavering voice. “But actually it’s- really, it’s been quite stressful. We thought coming here for the whole week before we have to do anything more with Immigration might help us relax a bit, instead of coming just for the party.”

“What is it that you have to do?” Eliza asked, crossing her arms over her chest.

“We have to do an interview on Monday morning. You know, one of those ones where they ask you lots of really stupid questions about your life together to try to catch you out.”

Just then, Lena drifted into the kitchen in her pajamas with an apologetic look on her face. “I’m sorry, Eliza, that we didn’t tell you before,” Lena said, starting to twist her hands in front of her before catching Kara’s eye and folding her arms instead in an attempt to stop herself. “We didn’t want to worry you.”

“You’ll worry me regardless,” Eliza said, moving across the kitchen to give Lena a hug as well. Lena sank into it, having grown used to the fact that Eliza liked to hug her. It was a far cry from her stiff response the first time, and even though Kara had no hand in it, it did make her happy to see. “So, you’re Irish?” Eliza asked Lena when she let her go.

“Yes,” Lena replied, tucking her damp hair behind her ears. “My birth mother was Irish, and I was born south of Dublin. I lived there for a few years until she passed away, and then I was brought here. I’ve spent a lot of time there though, because I was sent to boarding school in Ireland for a while. I have a home there, too, and on the rare occasions I get to visit, I love it. I hope to take Kara, one day,” she added, although to Kara’s ears, she sounded hesitant.

“I’d love to visit,” Kara replied with a smile.

“So do you have anyone back in Ireland?” Eliza asked.

“Not that I’m aware of, but I do plan to trace my birth mother’s family tree and see whether I have any living relatives,” Lena replied, moving further into the kitchen and helping Eliza to season the steaks. “I have this vague memory that she might’ve had a sister, and so there’s the possibility of an aunt, or even cousins. Since the Luthor half of my family was so…” Lena waved a hand in the air, “well, you know, maybe the Irish side will be more normal.”

“You’ll have to let me know when you find anything out,” Eliza said interestedly. “I love genealogy. I’m always watching Who Do You Think You Are? when it’s on. Did we watch it your first night here? In fact, I think I’ve got a couple of episodes queued up. Would you like to watch some once dinner’s ready?”

“I’d love to,” Lena smiled. Once again, Kara saw that Lena’s smiles weren’t reaching her eyes, but Eliza didn’t seem to notice. Her stomach sank, and the little that the shower had done to loosen the tension within her was undone. Kara shook out her hands to release some of the adrenaline that surged through her, and stepped up to Eliza.

“Is there anything else I can do to help?”

“You can make the drinks, if you like,” Eliza said. “I could do with a decaf coffee.”

“Sure,” Kara said, moving over to the cupboard with the mugs in it. “Lena, would you like something?”

“A hot chocolate, please,” Lena said, her voice soft and much closer than Kara had expected. She turned her head to find Lena standing near her. Her expression seemed to be caught somewhere between longing and worry, and instinctively, Kara reached over to cup Lena’s cheek in her hand. Lena pressed her face into it and closed her eyes, and Kara felt her heart warm at the sight.

Are you okay? Kara mouthed to her.

Lena’s only answer was a helpless shrug and a lopsided smile, which didn’t make Kara feel any better in the slightest. She let the hand on Lena’s face fall to her shoulder, and stepped closer to her. Kara slid her hand around to her back, rubbing soothing circles in it while Lena took over making the hot chocolates. Kara fetched the can of whipped cream from the fridge, since the stuff Lena had made herself had all been used in the last few days, and sprayed it liberally on top of the drinks. Lena produced two mini candy canes and stuck one in each of them.

“You’ll never have a hot chocolate without one now, will you?” Kara asked.

Lena picked up her mug and held it between both hands as if it were the source of all joy. “Probably not.” Her gaze flickered over to Eliza, who was turning the fries over on the tray. “I don’t think I’ll see one without thinking of you for the rest of my life.”

Kara’s heart flipped over in her chest, and then she felt it sink. Had she imagined how Lena had said that? Was the projecting her own stress from the day onto Lena’s words? Because it had sounded bittersweet, like it had hurt Lena to say, and the only reason Kara could think of for that to make Lena sad was if she thought that Kara wouldn’t be around her much longer. Her breath caught in her throat as the fear of that lodged itself in her mind like a knife.

But here, now, with Eliza in the kitchen and with them about to have dinner together, it wasn’t the time to talk. So Kara pushed down anything she might have said to Lena, any questions she might have asked, and wrapped her arm around Lena’s shoulders instead.

“Come on. Let’s go sit in the lounge. Eliza’s very particular about the way she makes her steaks and she won’t appreciate us getting in the way of that.”

“Damn right,” Eliza said with a smile, shooing them into the lounge. “Lena, before I cook yours, how do you like your steak?”

“Somewhere between rare and medium-rare,” Lena replied with a grimace that said she’d had more than a few negative reactions to that in the past.

“Exactly how I like mine,” Eliza said with a wink. “Kara likes hers practically burnt, but I’m sure you know that.”

“The engagement is off,” Lena joked in a deadpan manner, and Kara clutched a hand over her heart before she let out a laugh.

In the lounge, Kara put her mug down on the end table next to one of the sofas and sat down, sighing deeply as she sank into the fabric. Lena sat down next to her and let out a similar groan of contentment, causing Kara to chuckle even though she couldn’t feel less like doing that.

“So you told Eliza,” Lena said, looking down and picking at a stray fiber that was coming loose from the sofa.

“Not about everything, obviously,” Kara replied, “but she got a call from Eve the other day, basically asking the same thing as she asked Maggie today.”

“And… you had to lie to her,” Lena stated. It wasn’t a question.

Kara answered it anyway, swallowing the lump that seemed to have formed in her throat. “Yes, I did.”

Lena was silent for a moment, but she was drumming her fingertips on the side of her mug, the tink of her nails loud in the quiet room. “Kara-”

“Let’s talk about it later, when we go back upstairs, okay?” Kara said, reaching over to put what she hoped was a comforting hand on Lena’s knee.

Lena seemed to deflate a little under her touch, but as Kara watched, the solemn expression on Lena’s face slowly cleared until it was almost void of any feelings. Her posture straightened, she stopped drumming her fingers on her mug, and crossed her legs, dislodging Kara’s hand. Lena’s jaw was clenched, and it seemed like she was piecing her walls back together under Kara’s very eyes. The sight of it made Kara’s heart ache, because she’d seen Lena do this often when she was about to go into a meeting where she had to do something difficult like break a contract with an antagonistic investor. It was pre-emptively defensive, and the obvious tucking away of Lena’s soft parts for the second time that day made Kara’s eyes burn once more.

The day had been hard. The things that Lena had said on the porch put Kara on edge; since the thought that Lena could possibly leave her in order to stop Kara having to lie to her family had crossed her mind, she couldn’t stop thinking about it. It was as if someone had planted a malevolent seed within her, and now it was growing roots and poisonous little flowers.

She stared across the room at the fireplace, and all of a sudden, Kara needed to get up and move. The air between herself and Lena was oppressively heavy, even if there was nothing angry in it, and she needed to breathe a little easier. She set her mug back down on the side table with a sharp clack, startling Lena with the abrupt sound, and got up to build a fire. She needed to do something with her shaking hands. She could feel Lena’s watchful eyes on her while she emptied the ash into a bucket on the side and replaced the tray. Kara could feel her heart pounding frantically in her chest, and she forced her hands to be steady while she balled up pieces of newspaper for tinder. Carefully, she built the kindling into a grid-like pattern on top of the tinder, making sure there would be enough air for the fire to burn. Finally, she added the two smallest logs they had on top of everything else and reached for the matchbox.

But try as she might, she couldn’t light the match. She struck one after another, but they all refused to light. A frustrated tear fell down her cheek as the sixth match failed to light, and she tossed it angrily into the fireplace to burn with the rest of them.

“Here, let me do it,” Lena’s soft voice said, as a hand landed on her shoulder. Kara looked over to see Lena kneeling next to her by the grate, a sympathetic look on her face. Gentle hands took the matchbox off her, and Lena struck the match, holding the flame under parts of the tinder until it caught. The tinder flared, fire spreading to the kindling, and Lena dropped the match in the grate, sitting back on her haunches.

The light from the flames danced across her pale skin, and through blurred eyes, Kara could see that Lena’s face had softened. They sat there together for a moment, Kara wiping her eyes and clearing her throat. Lena looked over at her; the same anguish from the porch was back in her eyes, but it was tempered by something else Kara couldn’t identify.

They held each other’s eyes.

“I hate today,” Lena whispered.

“Me too,” Kara replied.

“I’m sorry, my love, I know it’s my fault-”

“It’s not your fault, it’s this situation,” Kara murmured, looking back into the fire and watching the bottoms of the logs blacken with heat from the kindling.

“The situation is my fault, too,” Lena said quietly, before standing up and holding her hand out to help Kara up. “And try as I might, I can’t seem to forget that.”

“What do you mean by that?” Kara asked, her voice hushed and intense.

Lena’s eyes were sad as she replied, “I mean that today…” she cast her eyes around the room a little before they landed back on Kara’s, “it’s hammered home the fact that I’m hurting you by making you lie to your family. I don’t know whether I can deal with that, or whether it’s right to expect you to keep letting me.”

Kara’s eyes filled with tears just as Eliza popped her head around the door. “Dinner’s ready when you are!” she called over to them.

“Thank you,” Lena said to Eliza politely, before turning concerned eyes back to Kara and wrapping her hands around her biceps.

Kara lifted her hand to tangle with the ends of Lena’s hair as they stood in front of the fire. The heat of it was warm on Kara’s legs, but she felt cold inside. Only Lena’s hands anchored her. She took a few deep breaths and tried to calm herself down. Shoving negative emotions deep inside to deal with later was never something that Kara had been able to do very well.

“Do you need me to tell Eliza that you’re unwell?” Lena asked, ducking her head so that she could look into Kara’s downcast eyes.

“No. No, I’ll be alright,” Kara said, trying for a smile. If the almost-wince on Lena’s face was any indication, she hadn’t succeeded.

“Okay,” Lena replied, but she sounded very unsure. She picked up Kara’s hand, tangling their fingers together, and stroked Kara’s hair with her other hand, twisting strands of it gently between her fingers.

Kara huffed out a breath. “Okay,” she said, rolling her head around her neck and shaking her shoulders out.

Lena ran her thumb across Kara’s cheekbone. “Sure?”

“Yeah.”

Lena gave her the ghost of a smile and pulled her towards the kitchen.

For all that Kara loved steak, the meal that Eliza had cooked was almost tasteless to her. The last time that Kara had been this stressed was the night before she and Lena had flown up to Midvale, and before that, she couldn’t even remember. It wasn’t that she typically avoided bad situations, but she just wasn’t involved in them that often, and she didn’t feel she had the experience necessary to deal with it appropriately.

She looked across the table at Lena, who was busy telling Eliza stories about boarding school in Ireland. Eliza had been to Ireland once, years before Alex was born, and she was happily telling Lena about places she’d visited.

It would be wrong, Kara thought, to be envious of Lena’s ability to hide her own emotions when she needed to. She knew that Lena had been forced to learn how to do it through her years of living with the Luthors, and from her role at the head of L-Corp. In a job where the weight of Lex’s reputation sat heavily on Lena’s shoulders, she’d learnt how to hide her feelings.

Lena was talking to Eliza now as if nothing was wrong, as if she hadn’t been brokenly pouring her heart out on the porch only recently. To look at her, a smile on her face and her eyes bright with interest in Eliza’s travel stories, she looked the picture of happiness. Her posture was relaxed, her hair drying into natural waves, and she was animated when she described in detail some of her own favorite spots in Ireland to Eliza. Kara didn’t contribute much to the conversation, but listened intently to the stories being traded across the table.

Toward the end of their meal, Lena was telling Eliza about the distilleries in Scotland that she’d visited while on a business trip there once. A few minutes later, Lena was excitedly teaching Eliza how to properly taste and appreciate scotch from different parts of the country. They didn’t drink much, on account of Eliza coughing on every mouthful until she got the hang of drinking it properly, but Kara eventually found herself chuckling at the faces Eliza was making.

Once they’d eaten, Kara filled the dishwasher with their plates and they all moved into the lounge holding plates of cookies and leftover cake from the day before.

Had it really only been yesterday that she and Lena had been standing in the kitchen talking about cake? Today had been so long that it felt like yesterday was a week ago.

Kara settled herself into the sofa, tucking her legs underneath her while Eliza flicked through her recorded shows to find Who Do You Think You Are?, before she found the episode she wanted and started it. Lena was sitting on the opposite side of the sofa, her legs stretched towards Kara, but she wasn’t touching her. It seemed that Lena was trying to respect Kara’s feelings by letting her make the decision on whether to initiate physical contact.

Kara could tell by the way that Lena’s face fell every time she looked over at Kara that she was just as affected by the day as she was; Eliza, sitting closer to the tv, didn’t notice. Lena had admitted that her guilt was crushing her, and as much as Kara wanted to relieve her of it, there was nothing she could do. Ultimately, only Lena could decide whether or not she was willing, or even able, to bear it. Dread filled the cracks in Kara’s heart and the food she’d eaten only made her feel sick.

She inched her leg across the divide between them, eventually touching her foot to Lena’s leg, and Lena rested her hand on Kara’s calf. Kara could feel the warmth of her palm through her pajama pants, and she let it soothe her as much as she could.

She had no idea who the celebrity in the episode they were watching even was. Kara wasn’t paying attention to the tv as much as she was the fire, getting up every now and again to put another log on it, always returning to find Lena’s hand landing on her calf again. The heat of the fire made her feel a little sleepy, though; the day’s emotions catching up with her the longer she sat still on the sofa. Midway through the second episode, Kara and Lena were both yawning, causing Eliza to joke that they were a pair of old ladies and that they should go up to bed sooner rather than later.

When Kara checked her phone, she was shocked to see that it was only ten at night; it felt much later. Covering her mouth as she yawned once more, she stood up and walked over to give Eliza a hug goodnight. Lena did the same, and it made Kara feel a little sad that Lena’s hugs with Eliza were probably the only motherly ones she’d had since her birth mother had passed away.

Kara slipped her hand into Lena’s when they left the lounge, needing the comfort of Lena’s touch now that her hand was no longer on her leg. They each got ready for bed, the silence between them louder than ever, before they both finally climbed into bed. Kara closed the blinds the whole way and plugged her phone in to charge, before pulling the covers up around her waist. Both of their lamps were dimmed quite low.

It seemed that, after all, it was easier to talk in the near darkness.

“I’m sorry about earlier,” Lena said, closing her eyes for a moment before turning onto her side to face Kara. “About what happened on the porch, and for this whole evening. I know we’ve talked about this before, but talking about it doesn’t mean that my guilt hasn’t been eating away at me.”

“But you don’t need to feel guilty, Lena,” Kara insisted, louder than she intended with the strength behind her words. She turned to face Lena too, reaching over to push some of Lena’s hair behind her ear. “Lying to my family is my problem, not yours. You’re my swamp witch, and I just want you to be happy.”

Lena smiled a little at the nickname. “I am happy when I’m with you.”

“It feels like there’s a but in there somewhere,” Kara replied.

“The but is all everything I said outside,” Lena said. She hesitated before saying anything else, brushing her other hand down Kara’s upper arm repeatedly, before letting her hand come to rest in the crook of her elbow. “I meant what I said.” Her voice was stronger now, less fraught with the emotion that had choked it on the porch. “I feel sick at the thought that you have to lie to your whole family, all your friends, your colleagues, for me. You say that lying to them is your problem, but it isn’t only yours. When you lie, so do I. And you don’t deserve that at all.” When Kara went to interrupt her, Lena raised herself up on one elbow and shook her head. “What I did… frankly, it’s something that Lex would’ve done. A means to an end, Lena, he would’ve said. I can hear his sanctimonious voice in my head now. He stepped on people to get where he wanted to go, and didn’t care who he hurt along the way.”

“But you’re not like that, Lena,” Kara said, desperately needing Lena to understand that. “You’re not like your brother. I know how kind you are. You’d never hurt someone on purpose.”

Lena smiled sadly, and looked down at her hand as she brushed her fingertips gently along Kara’s forearm. “I know I’m not like Lex,” she said slowly, “but I still did something he would’ve done. I used you. I could’ve thought of other ways to get around the issue of my visa-”

“But Cat Grant put you on the spot,” Kara protested.

“She did,” Lena replied with a frown, “but it wasn’t like I didn’t know about my visa issues before. I’ve been dealing with visas since I’ve been an adult. But when it came down to it, you just happened to walk through my office door while Cat and I were talking about what could be done. And just for a moment, a vision of you holding my hand while we laughed at some event flashed through my mind. One of the easiest ways to get status here is to be married to an American citizen. I mean, just look at my father, married to Lillian.” She continued to stroke Kara’s arm, not meeting her eyes. “And I’ve told you… I liked you long before this whole situation started. The thought of you holding my hand went through my mind. And for that moment I was conflicted; it was a way I could get maybe two things I wanted. Settle my Immigration status, and get to know you better. In the half a second that I had to think about it, the consequences for you didn’t even enter my mind. I took the selfish option; I asked you to come in, we told Cat. And then you- then you-”

“And then I held your hand,” Kara supplied, finally seeing the link between what Lena was saying and what actually happened.

“And then you held my hand,” Lena confirmed, “on your own volition. And at first, after the visit to USCIS, I don’t think I thought about the consequences for you beyond the practicalities of what we had to do. But you were so angry at me. And once I truly thought about it, when we sat down that first night before dinner and you told me how you were feeling… I didn’t sleep very well that night. And the guilt has been… building since then, especially since we were at the Red Lion. But at the same time, to my delight, we were getting along so much better than I thought, so much better than I’d ever hoped, and I just couldn’t help it. I just… I liked you so much, and I wanted to bask in the warmth that you made me feel with your smiles and your care. I should never have done it, but you just made me feel so warm all over. And I wanted to do things that made you happy. I wanted to bring you flowers, and cook for you. I flirted with you, and your blushes were just so cute. They still are. And I’m afraid that I let my heart rule my actions.”

Lena still couldn’t meet Kara’s eyes. She looked at Kara’s arm instead, at her fingers as she traced meaningless shapes and circles into Kara’s skin.

“And all the while, we got closer. And as much as I wanted us to be close, I knew it would only complicate things. And yet… you were too much for my lonely little heart to resist. In the end, I fear all I’ve done is help to make things harder for both of us. Had we not… you could’ve just chalked this up to your family as a failed relationship, gone on with your life, hated me. You could’ve found someone else, done the whole thing properly. But now, no matter how much I- how I feel, your heart is involved, too. This is no longer just a week away, an interview, a quickie marriage and an even quicker divorce. This is now you having to lie to your family forever. It would be me looking at them and wondering how they’d feel if they knew how I’d used you, no matter how much I… I didn’t lie yesterday, Kara. I want there to be an us more than anything, but I don’t know whether I can bear the burden of the guilt on my shoulders. And Eve just made me see that more clearly.”

“What did Eve say to you?” Kara asked urgently, feeling like her head was whirring too fast for her to keep up with it. “What’s she said to make you talk like this, like you want us to…” Kara trailed off. Like you want us to break up, her brain tossed at her, and she felt tears burn behind her eyes again at the thought of it. How could she be without Lena, now, after all this? How could she be without the woman she loved?

“She didn’t say anything I wasn’t already thinking,” Lena said, breaking into Kara’s thoughts with her voice tinged with sadness. She looked up at Kara, the lovely eyes that Kara adored now shining with emotion. “Up here, on this island with you, I’ve felt so free. We’ve been so free. But we’ve been in a glass bubble with wolves prowling at the door. And today, they broke in.”

“What are you saying?” Kara asked, hearing the unsteadiness in her own voice.

“I don’t know what I’m saying, really,” Lena replied, shuffling closer to Kara and lifting her hand to Kara’s shoulder instead. “We’re just talking. Or, I’m thinking out loud. And even now I can’t stay away from you, but… I feel sad. I’m conflicted, and I don’t know what to do.”

“What exactly are you conflicted about?” Kara asked, not sure whether she wanted to know the answer. Something heavy was sitting on her chest again. Her breath felt almost forced from her lungs under the weight of it.

Lena sighed. “It just seems that whichever way I look at it, someone gets hurt somehow. There’s no way to avoid it any longer. It’s you, or me, or most likely both of us. Or it’s your family when they find out the truth, you by association, and then me.”

If they find out the truth, Lena. If!” Kara blurted out. “Our relationship is no longer a lie. We want to be with each other. I know that we’re trying to keep from making plans post-interview just in case things don’t work out, but I know we want to be with each other!”

Lena gave her a look that would’ve been almost pitying, if it wasn’t also so full of compassion. Her eyes were swimming with unshed tears, and they spilled down her cheeks as closed her eyes.

“I know, my love, I want that too. You know I do,” Lena said, a hint of pleading in her voice. “I just don’t know whether I can bear the weight of this guilt. Of whether I can bear knowing that I’m the one who may cause you so much pain.”

“Lena…” Kara said, the burning in her own eyes giving way, finally, to tears. She plucked desperately at Lena’s dark hair as it hung over her shoulder. Rested her forehead against Lena’s and touched their noses together. She could feel Lena trembling underneath her fingers, and she slid her arms around Lena’s waist, pulling them flush against each other. Kara didn’t know what was happening between them, all she knew was that she wanted to be touching Lena for as long as she could be, in case…

In case… Kara couldn’t even finish the sentence, because this felt like the end of something.

Eve Teschmacher had truly come up to Midvale and burst the bubble that she and Lena had been living in. It felt like everything was falling down around her as she clutched Lena tightly to her, warm against her. For the first time, Kara was the one to fully give way to her emotions and the stress of the day, great heaving sobs wracking her body as she held the woman she loved more than anyone close to her. Lena rolled onto her back, pulling Kara with her, and stroked her hand up and down Kara’s back, through Kara’s hair. She felt drained as her sobs slowly subsided, until finally she was silent.

They lay there together, Kara resting her head on Lena’s chest, listening to her heartbeat with her fist wrapped around a handful of Lena’s X-files shirt. Lena didn’t say anything, but she continued her gentle ministrations, touching every part of Kara that she could reach, and pressing kisses to Kara’s forehead. Warm hands brushed down Kara’s arm, ran over the knuckles on her hand, drew meaningless shapes on her back. With soft touches, Lena traced the contours of Kara’s face and wiped away the dampness on her cheeks.

When their lips met, it was with the taste of the salt of both their tears. Lena pulled her pajamas off, throwing them behind her somewhere and slowly divesting Kara of hers. When Lena touched her, it was with gentle hands and love in her eyes. When Kara tried to touch Lena in turn, Lena pinned her hands above her head, whispering that she should leave them there.

Slowly, almost torturously in the way she took her time, Lena made love to Kara. Lena loved her with her hands and her mouth. Every bite was soothed with her tongue, every little bruise Lena made had a gentle kiss pressed into it. Kara’s body was so wound with tension that her back arched with every pass of Lena’s fingers through the slickness between her legs. When Lena crawled down her body to nose against her thighs, to press up and into her with her fingers, Kara felt the familiar pressure building. When Lena wrapped her lips around her clit and flicked it with her tongue, once, twice, before pressing the flat of it against her, Kara couldn’t help it. Her hands shot down to keep Lena’s head still as she bucked against her tongue, seeing white behind her eyes as her body clenched in pleasure as she tipped over the edge.

Lena kissed the insides of Kara’s thighs before resting her head against one of them, feathering touches up and down Kara’s other leg. Kara’s breath was slow to return to normal, but when it had, Lena began exploring Kara again. This time, she didn’t mind if Kara touched her back, pulling her up every now and again to kiss her. Kara could taste herself on Lena’s tongue, and she groaned into her mouth. Lena resisted when Kara tried to flip their positions, though, and it wasn’t long before her body was opening to welcome Lena’s fingers inside her once more. Lena’s hand moved quickly, slipping easily in and out of her, filling her up in a way that made Kara clench around her. Lena’s thumb moved teasingly around her clit, building Kara further and further towards the crest before pulling back. Kara almost growled into Lena’s mouth, but Lena only smiled, kissing her again before curling her fingers just so inside Kara at the same time as giving Kara the friction where she needed it the most. For the second time, Kara’s body seized in pleasure, a tear spilling out of her eye as she recovered.

Lena kissed the tear away. She pressed kisses all over Kara’s face before settling her body between Kara’s legs, and resting her head on her chest, her fingers over Kara’s heart.

Lena didn’t protest when Kara turned Lena onto her back with a slow push to her shoulder. Kara thought that she had never seen any sight so achingly beautiful as Lena looking up at her with her radiant eyes darkened by desire. Lena’s hair was in a very messy bun from where she’d tied it up out of the way; it was loose from where Kara had dug her hands into it multiple times. Lena looked ravished, even though Kara had barely touched her, and she felt her heart swell with love as she looked down at her.

By the time Kara had Lena writhing beneath her, biting into the pillow as her body spasmed with her third orgasm, she was desperate for Lena to touch her again. Lena had barely recovered from her own orgasm before she was back between Kara’s legs, her mouth bringing Kara to heights so intense that she was nearly tearing the sheet with her nails. Her other hand was twisted in Lena’s hair, only more gently, but Lena’s sounds of approval as she pulled at it only pushed her higher until she crested her orgasm with a bite to her own wrist to keep her from crying out.

Gently, she untangled her hand from Lena’s hair and encouraged her upwards until they were face to face. Lena’s eyes were soft as they gazed at each other, their sweat-slicked bodies pressed against each other. Lena seemed to be trying to tell her something without words, stroking her hand again and again down the side of Kara’s face, brushing her thumb over her bottom lip before kissing her with her breath hitching in her throat. When Lena pulled back again, Kara could read everything she needed to in Lena’s tear-filled eyes. “I know,” she whispered in a choked voice, holding Lena’s beautiful face in her hands, brushing her nose against Lena’s and kissing her again. “I know.”

Kara did know. All of Lena’s longing, all of Lena’s pain, and all of Lena’s love were clear in her shining green eyes.

Those love-filled eyes haunted Kara’s dreams.

And when Kara woke up in the morning to find Lena’s side of the bed cold, she didn’t need to see the letter propped up against a vase of freshly picked wildflowers to know that Lena was gone.