Lena woke up with a crick in her neck and a horrible taste in her mouth, to the repeated sound of clapping.
She groaned as she rolled her head and straightened her stiff legs from where they were folded awkwardly in the armchair, one hand sliding into her hair to finger comb it back to approximate shape. Her eyes stung; she hadn't taken her contacts out. And she'd fallen asleep in her latest pony show dress.
What a shitty slumber party.
Clap. Thud. Clap.
The couch was now Kara- and Streaky-free, housing only Lena's blanket, folded into a neat little triangle. Like half a sandwich.
Lena stumbled into her kitchen, flicking on the coffeemaker and staring at her pantry. She thought of Kara the day before, closing her eyes in near orgasmic bliss as she chewed her mouthful of fried dough and mango chutney.
Sweet and junky , she decided, and pulled out white bread, chocolate spread and a couple bananas.
Clap. Thud. Clap.
Was that a grunt?
A plate of sandwiches and two precariously balanced coffee mugs in hand, Lena followed the noise into her bedroom.
First she spotted the tweed jacket and white shirt, wrinkled from having been slept in, discarded on Lena's desk. And then—bare feet braced on the floor; damn corduroy pants rolled up below the knee, exposing squarish calves with a dusting of golden hair; a ribbed white undershirt soaked through at the back with sweat, clinging to a straining torso; long silky hair knotted around itself to form a makeshift ponytail; and arms, pumping away, bulging with effort, coming together at the end of each rep.
Clap. Thud. Clap. Grunt.
Kara, practically nude and breathing heavy, eyes fixed on the floor, had invited herself into Lena's bedroom to perform motherfucking clapping push ups.
Well. This was Lena's bedroom. She would be completely justified in leaning against her own damn bedroom wall, sipping her damn coffee, and enjoying the damn show.
Surely, she would be, but—fuck.
Lena pointedly cleared her throat.
Kara immediately scrambled onto her heels and hands, staring up at Lena, looking like a beefy, startled rabbit.
"Shit." Lena swallowed. "Sorry. Breakfast?" She held up the sandwich plate.
Kara wiped a forearm over her sweaty face, a bright smile seeming to follow the motion. Said something in her language, probably—it had a strong zh sound—and sprang to her feet. Like a beefy, happy rabbit.
She smelled like greasy food and fresh sweat, but there was an underlying, almost metallic hint to it. She looked so human, but she was foreign down to the biochemical level. Her chest heaved as she picked up two sandwiches off Lena's offered plate. She bit into them both, stacked on top of each other, and moaned.
"Whash ish tha?" Kara asked through her mouthful.
"Toasted chocolate and banana sandwich."
"Ish beau'iful." Kara reached out and plucked a coffee mug out of Lena's hand. The one Lena had drunk from. She made a face at the flavor. The one Lena had meant for her had sugar in it. "Thank you, Miss Lena."
Lena sipped the overly sweetened coffee. "You're welcome."
Kara was warm from the workout, body radiating heat in a tight, exciting radius, and she was standing close enough for Lena to breach it.
"Sleep alright?" Lena managed behind her mug.
"I loved to sleep with your cat," Kara said, swaying closer, the whole sweet, sweaty mass of her. "And with you."
"Ohh-kay," Lena said brightly. "We'd better get you back to your ship. I have to get to work sometime today and you probably—"
“Shh,” said Kara, reaching out and carefully brushing Lena’s chin with a finger. She glanced over her shoulder, to Streaky on the bed, silently observing the proceedings. “We’re sneaking out.”
She had such a dopy smile on her face. Lena put her coffee down and texted in late to work.
The ship was as big as a shopping mall, with the sleek and overwrought design of men’s deodorant. Not exactly the stuff of a baby engineer's dreams, but Lena would be lying through her teeth if she said she wouldn't give up all her material possessions for a glance at the blueprints. All strictly forbidden by the El-Washington accord, of course.
All the ship’s residents wore traditional Kryptonian robes, woven into bold, pleasing symbols at the front. They greeted Kara warmly, and several drew her into hugs. Now, with other Kryptonians to contrast her with, it seemed so clear that she was stiff and ill at ease in human clothes, with human language; with her people, she spoke rapid-fire, and seemed to grow a couple inches taller.
Lena only knew her as a lion in a zoo, she realized. She felt a sudden intense desire to see her wearing her own clothes.
In the largest chamber, surrounded by monitors, sat a man in a dramatic black robe. Kara’s body stiffened noticeably as they approached him. “That’s my uncle, Non,” she told Lena, voice subdued.
He didn’t rise to greet her; said something, short and sharp, and Kara seemed to lose the inches she’d gained. She started replying, but he cut her off, and she—flinched. Caged lion again.
Lena itched to reach out, take her hand, but they were both held so stiffly at her sides, like those first dates. Untouchable.
Non’s eyes landed on Lena. Looking at her, he said something else in Kryptonian. Kara ducked her head, mumbled her goodbyes, and led Lena to the sleeping quarters.
Kara's cabin consisted of a pile of mattresses and a pile of bags. Kara claimed the bags, so Lena plopped down on the mattresses. Surprisingly fun and springy. Kara rubbed absentmindedly at her pile of bags, squeezing them in her hands. The gesture felt deeply familiar.
Lena gnawed on her lip. "He's the one who hurt you, isn't he?" she blurted out.
Kara jumped, looked at Lena, looked away. Nodded.
"Has he been doing that for a long time?"
Kara shook her head, a little frantic. "He's only scared," she said. "We're only scared, Miss Lena."
But your scared makes you give yourself up for your people, Lena thought, and his scared makes him…
She clenched her fist, curling her tongue over and over her piercing.
“If I talked to him,” she said slowly. “In an unkind and threatening manner, to be clear. Would that make things worse for you?”
“I don’t know.”
"I want to tell him if he touches you again in anger, I will rip his fucking throat out with my bare hands. What do you think?"
Kara stared at her in horror, furiously shook her head.
"I can be diplomatic about it."
"Miss Lena, I don't know that really you can."
Lena rubbed over her mouth with a knuckle. Chewed on it a little.
If Lillian had ever been confronted on Lena's behalf, it would've been disastrous. Lena knew that. But the powerlessness burned.
She looked up at Kara. “Kara. I’d like to hug you.” She swallowed. “Can I?”
Kara slid off her bag pile and slammed into her all in one fluid motion, melting against Lena’s body as if she’d simply been waiting for the invitation. She tucked her face under Lena’s jaw, arms snaking beneath Lena’s armpits to perfectly encircle her back, cheek and nose and what must have been a sliver of lip pressing into the skin of her throat. A tile sliding in to complete a tactile mosaic Lena hadn’t realized she was missing.
Kara shifted her head, nuzzling closer into the crook of Lena's neck, and yes, those were definitely Kara's lips, hot and electric on her skin.
Lena let out a controlled breath. It’s not a kiss, she scolded her bloated heart. Those are lips but this is not a kiss.
They were two rooms away from Kara’s abuser, on this ship of so many desperate survivors who’d lost a world, come seeking refuge, and found their future hanging on Kara’s fucking marital status. This was a relationship under extreme duress, which Kara hadn’t wanted, hadn’t asked for, and could not refuse. It was no relationship at all.
And this was not a kiss.
Lena wrapped both arms around Kara's back in its scratchy jacket, bulky body made compact to fit within her arms, and squeezed.
Their breathing had managed to sync up by the time Kara rubbed her face in Lena’s neck one last time and drew back.
"And then," she said, “would you like you meet him?”
Lena had to clear her throat twice before she could produce sound. “Who?”
Kara gave her the softest smile, pure crystallized affection. “My cat.”
The cat was black haired and bright eyed, with an understandably wary look about him, eyeing Lena with equal parts curiosity and suspicion. Perhaps more pertinently, the cat was an eleven year old boy.
The boy said something in Kryptonian, still staring at Lena, and Kara laughed, said something back. He turned to her finally, looking skeptical, and she advanced on him, hands held in front of her in cartoonish threat. He held up a forearm and backed up, serious expression cracking into a smile, and Kara pounced, picking him up by the waist and wrestling him over her shoulder like a toddler to the sounds of his laughter and presumable protests.
“This is Kal,” Kara said once she’d put him down, brushing his deep red robe with a hand he immediately batted away.
“Kal-El,” he corrected primly.
“Lena Luthor,” said Lena, pressing a palm to her own chest like an idiot.
Fittingly, Kal-El rolled his eyes. “I know.”
Kara said something else in their language, and he rolled his eyes some more.
He looked at Lena again. “You will want to marry Kara,” he said, and for a moment it hit Lena like a prophecy, and she stepped back, reeling, instinctive denial on her tongue.
Then she remembered the situation they were in, and his meaning registered. “Uh—yes. I will.”
“Why?” he asked.
Because I have no choice, Lena thought. Because my mom’s a bitch. Because I’ve seen her shirtless, and I could eat her up . Because I think we could make each other laugh, and maybe make each other happy. “Because I like being around her,” she told the literal child who didn’t need to hear any more fucked up bullshit about marriage than he might have already been exposed to.
He stared at her for another moment, then looked aside, suddenly shy. “Okay,” he said. “Would you like watch my... playing system?”
And thus Lena found herself spending the next two hours losing very badly at alien video games to an eleven year old boy/cat while her fiancée cheered decidedly against her.
"So… your cat, huh?"
Kara flashed her a proud smile.
"I think 'kin' would actually work better in this context." Lena scratched uncomfortably at her neck. "You take care of him?"
Kara nodded seriously. "Now as…" She trailed off. "Now I do. Trying."
Lena's first thought was, We're gonna need a bigger house.
Her second, once she'd brushed that one off, was that there'd been a lot of unspoken tragedy in that statement.
She glanced at Kara. Steady and calm, always ready to smile, stuck in uncomfortable alien clothes in an uncomfortable alien world, never anything less than careful and kind.
What a ridiculous person to be engaged to Lena.
They reached the main chamber, and there was that bastard Non on his technocrat's throne, and he looked up from his monitor and said something to Kara which had her back stiffening minutely, and before Lena could register her own intent, she'd clasped Kara by the arm and drew her into a hug without asking.
She pressed Kara's body against her own, a sudden possessive urge, staring at Non over Kara's shoulder.
"I like my wives to be healthy and whole," she said, conversational, eyes trained on Non's. "Just a thought."
She released Kara, but grabbed her hand, fleeing for the exit, a flush catching up with her.
At the outer hatch, Kara rubbed a thumb over Lena's wrist, said, "Umm."
Lena couldn't quite meet her eye. "I'm sorry, did I scare you?"
Kara shook her head. "You're not scary, Miss Lena," she said earnestly. "You're wonderfully."
Lena almost tugged on her hand just then, almost leaned in and pulled her close and braced a hand at the small of her back and kissed her and kissed her and kissed her.
Instead, she bit down on her tongue, teeth scraping against her piercing, swallowing the presumptuous saliva that had gathered in her mouth.
"Lena," she forced out. "Could you call me Lena, please."
Kara squeezed her hand, leaned in herself, the villain. "You're wonderfully, Lena," she said.
She squeezed again, and smiled, golden affection haloed by messy golden hair, and let go.
I'm wonderfully fucked, Lena thought, and tumbled out the hatch.