Kelly laughed drunkenly at Kara’s confused face. The pucker between Kara’s eyes and drawn together eyebrows were just so damn cute.
“Seriously Kara, Lena looks at you like a fat kid locked out of an all you can eat buffet,” Kelly snorted indelicately and laughed again.
Kara’s shoulders hunched and she shrunk in the booth, her eyes fixed determinedly on her neon green Scovidian ale.
“Okay, firstly: that is a rude and insulting simile. Secondly: you’re exaggerating, we’re just friends,” Kara stubbornly repeats the tired mantra. Kara is getting tired of having this argument with people. First James, then her sister, Winn when he dropped in from the damn future with his cryptic remarks and now Kelly.
Kelly tips back her whiskey and sinks the last amber droplets, slamming the glass back down with a loud ‘thunk’ before pushing it to the side with the neat row of its empty brethren on the sticky table top.
Kara strains her ears and hears the strong thump of Alex’s heartbeat as she makes her way across town to pick up her intoxicated girlfriend. When Kara had met up with Kelly for some Alex assigned bonding time of her two favourite people, Kara had been unprepared for the fact that Kelly was not only a romantic match for her sister but also dealt with work struggles in the same fashion: alcohol, by the barrel. The recent disasters with obsidian tech had seen the life altering VR technology temporarily pulled and several of Kelly’s PTSD patients weren’t doing so well.
“You should just tell Luthor that you don’t swing that way,” Kelly mumbles as she peers into the half dozen empty glasses by her elbow, mournfully hoping for a magically missed drop of Whiskey.
Kara is dragged from calculating how much longer it will take for Alex to get here and blushes painfully, “Uh, well…I…” Kara chokes before drowning her incoherency in a large gulp of her ale. She should have just gone straight for the Balthoran Brandy.
Even in her intoxicated state Kelly is not to be deterred by such a clumsy diversion, “Unless you do play for Sapho’s band and your sister has been holding out on me?!” Kelly asks, her voice rising in excitement and curiosity. A mischievous grin splits her face.
Kara gulps her ale and groans before giving Kelly a hard glare, “What part of A-L-I-E-N don’t you get?”
Kelly’s face scrunches up in confusion, “Huh?” she grunts inelegantly.
Kara sighs into her drink before tiredly responding, her tone becoming haughty, “I’m an alien Kelly, my species evolved way past the point of caring about what hung between a person’s legs while humanity was still hitting each other with rocks.”
Kelly’s eyebrows, if possible, scrunch further in deep thought as she tries to comprehend this new nugget of information.
“Huh,” is Kelly’s articulate and highly intelligent response as her eyes narrow on Kara with a new speculative gleam.
Kara rolls her eyes and slumps back in her seat.
“I always forget that you’re different Kara, you just look so…” Kelly waffles, her hand fluttering as she sweeps at Kara in a vague gesture of illustration.
Kara’s eyebrow hikes up suspiciously like Lena’s as she waites for Kelly to finish her thought, “look so…” Kara prompts.
“Girl next door, playboy bunny pretty!” Kelly splutters, her cheeks pinking as she breaks down into giggles.
Kara blushes a delicate pink and smiles mischievously at Kara, “Oh boy, you are going to be so embarrassed when you remember this conversation tomorrow.”
Kelly tries to master her laughter and attempts to settle herself into seriousness as she points at Kara, “If I remember this conversation, if!”
Kara huffs a laugh, “Yeah, if.”
Kelly’s laugh peters out and her eyes widen as a thought suddenly occurrs to her, “Hey, Kara, you know what?”
“What?” Kara asks indulgently as she waits for the next drunken piece of wisdom.
“If you don’t care what Lena’s packing then that means you should totally go for it! You would be such a cute couple.”
Kara grits her teeth, “We’re just friends. Lena doesn’t see me like that and I won’t jeopardise our friendship just to satisfy some primitive mating need.”
“Mating need?” Alex asks confused as she stalks up to the table, catching the tail end of Kara’s exclamation, while J’onn melts from the crowd to stand at her elbow. Alex takes in her intoxicated girlfriend and Kara’s clenching jaw with a confused smile.
Kelly, seeing her girlfriend, dives off her stool to wrap Alex in a hug. Alex just manages to catch her intoxicated girlfriend before she hit the floor in a drunken sprawl.
J’onn’s placid face does not move but humour gleams deep in his dark eyes.
“Hi Alex, J’onn,” Kara says, ignoring Alex’s inquiry.
“Tell her Alex! Tell Kara that she needs to put Lena out of her misery and address their ‘primitive mating need,” Kelly cries drunkenly.
Alex’s eyes go wide in shock, looking between Kelly and her sister in horror. Kara groans aloud and sinks the rest of her drink while J’onn martials all his will to suppress a snort.
“Kelly!” Alex howls in outrage.
Kelly staggeringly stands up, turning in her girlfriend’s arms to face Kara, “Oh come on, you don’t need a psychology degree to see it. Lena filled her office with flowers, they have eye sex like constantly and they have date nights watching Netflix for crying out loud, they just need the chill part!”
Alex sputters, “Kelly, it’s not, their relationship…grr. Kelly, leave Kara and Lena alone, they will figure it out on their own, when they’re ready.”
Kara’s eyes swing to her sister, burning in betrayal at Alex’s implied agreement with Kelly’s assessment of her and Lena’s relationship.
“We -Are- Just- Friends!” Kara growls.
Kelly snorts, “Christ, Kara it was cute in the beginning, but I think I need to do a consultation and assess you for autism, no-one can be this oblivious!”
Kara freezes in her seat and Alex’s spine stiffens. The taunting voices of high school bullies echoing through Kara and Alex’s minds.
Alex’s eyes turn apologetic as she looks at her sister before more firmly pulling Kelly to her with one arm and reaching to the bar stool for her jacket.
“I think you have had enough babe. Time to go home,” Alex grits out in a controlled voice.
“Bye guys,” Alex says with false cheer and before Kelly’s drunk mind can comprehend the situation she finds herself being almost dragged out of the bar.
J’onn’s eyes flick between the hastily departing backs of Alex and Kelly, and the hurt eyes of Kara.
With the resolve of a man going to war and the paternal care of the father he used to be, J’onn slides onto Kelly’s vacated stool and reaches across to grip Kara’s hand.
“Hey, what’s up? What just put that look in your eyes?” J’onn enquires gently.
Kara’s body relaxes slightly under his paternal touch but the protective hunch of her shoulders remains.
Kara sighs, “I need another drink.”
J’onn’s lips tick down slightly and after examining Kara thoroughly for something only he can see, he nods. J’onn turns to face the bar, his eyes seeking out the enlarged cranium of the purple skinned Telmac behind the bar. The Telmac species have touch telepathy but welcome mind to mind contact and so J’onn’s eyes glow red for but a moment as his mind touches the bartender and he orders another round before turning back to his pseudo-daughter.
Kara sits silently, lost in thought and J’onn, unaccustomed to wasting 10 words when 2 will do, embraces the silence. The silence of Mars is always something he misses. Human’s seemingly spend their whole lives noisily talking, trying to be understood and trying to understand each other. How much simpler it was on Mars to merely touch each other’s minds.
The Telmac appears at the table in record time depositing small glasses of a thick tar like drink. Kara’s eyebrows rise in question and J’onn allows a faint smile to break across his features.
“Martian drel. It’s like a sweet liquor. M’gann brought it back the last time she visited,” J’onn informs Kara.
Kara lifts the glass and sips dubiously before her eyes widen in delight. “Mmm, it’s tastes like a fruity honey”
J’onn’s eyes lighten at Kara’s enjoyment of his home’s beverage. He chooses not to inform Kara that it is made from a type of black fungus that grows deep in the caves beneath Mars, that it’s thick consistency iss because of the scarcity of water on Mars and most importantly that this distillation was made by White Martian hands, not the Green Martian family of R’unv who first invented it and were slaughtered hundreds of years ago once they gave up the recipe to the Whites thinking it would grant them safe passage off world during the war.
Taking his mind from the dark thoughts J’onn cups his drink in the traditional Martian fashion and waits.
In typical Kara style she lasts less than five minutes before she begins talking. J’onn smiles internally. In social situations, just like in an interrogation, people hate silence.
“Autist,” Kara sneers, the tone and inclination harsh as she mimicks the bully’s tone from years gone by. “That’s what the bullies in Midvale called me when I first arrived. Rain-girl, autistic, Asperger idiot…Alex defended me, bloodied her knuckles too many times to count but Eliza used to play into it. She said letting people think I had a diagnosis helped cover my…oddity, when I first got here.” Kara’s tone turns mournful and she sips from her drink.
J’onn’s jaw tightens in impotent rage at the thought of the thoughtless bullies who would picked on a young Kara. With a sigh his face softens and after searching for just the right words, J’onn allows his eyes to unfocus as he dips back in time to when he first arrived on earth.
“It can’t have been easy arriving to an alien world, a foreign language to learn and a whole world to mourn as a teenager. I was at least an adult when I got here Kara and this world was so much simpler then, so much less populace. I often wonder how you did it. For all that I am an alien too, I had an advantage with my telepathy. Within a day of being here I had all the languages and human behaviours copied from the minds of those around me. When I ran into trouble, a brief surface scan of a person’s mind would tell me what people were talking about, the cultural references, or what I had done wrong, said wrong and how to best cover it up.”
Kara smiles wanly, “What I wouldn’t have given for telepathy when I first got here,” she snorts, “Heck, even now sometimes I would trade all my powers for it to understand the people around me.”
J’onn’s head cocks to the side deep in thought as he tries to understand, “You have been here over a decade Kara and you blend in remarkably well. You have a job, a hoard of friends. I think you underestimate your understanding of humanity.”
Kara’s eyes narrow and her frame stiffens. When she speaks her tone is syrupy and obnoxious, “Oh Kara, you’re so cute, so oblivious, so naïve, socially awkward!” – “That’s what everyone says J’onn, people laugh, they think it’s cute or that I’m dumb, or Rao, that I actually am autistic because I just can’t understand all the interpersonal cues of humanity, their body language, facial expressions, their innuendo, sarcasm, flirting and social cues. It is exhausting trying to understand it all, to fit in and to mimic. It doesn’t come naturally. I’m Kryptonian dammit, not human! Everyone looks at Kal-El and assumes I should be like him, but I wasn’t born here, hell I wasn’t even born, I was made by the codex on Krypton, I grew up on Krypton, I was socialised on Krypton during my formative years, I am not human! ” Kara’s fist slams into the table with just a little too much force as she loses control of her frustration. The alcohol and Kelly’s comments bring all the old hurts bubbling to the surface.
J’onn’s usually stoic face is a mask of shock and concern, his eyebrows high and with quick movements he pulls his seat around so he can drag Kara into a hug. His inhuman strength a balm to her sadness.
“Oh Kara,” J’onn sighs sadly. It is times like these that J’onn curses the fact his telepathy is unable to work on Kryptonians. If only he had known all these feelings were bubbling beneath Kara’s surface. If only he knew what to say to make it better.
“I didn’t know it was this hard on you Kara, I’m sorry. So sorry,” J’onn whispers softly, assured her hearing would pick up his words.
Kara takes a shuddering breath as she burrows further into J’onn. His arms constrict and his eyes turn hard over her head at the few nosey patrons who dare give them funny looks for their intimate embrace.
J’onn rubs Kara’s back for what feels like hours, both absorbing the comfort and understanding that only another alien on an alien world can offer.
Eventually Kara draws back and with shaky hands she reaches for her sweet drink, downing the last of the syrupy concoction. Her fingers play with the glass and her dark thoughts are interrupted by J’onn’s soft question, “This has been building up for a while, right?”
Kara hesitates for a moment before she nods.
“People have always made fun of my ‘obliviousness’ like it is some cute affectation, like it is just part of my personality, but these last few weeks it has gotten so much worse. Ever since Lena and I made up after the whole identity reveal thing, we have been closer, and everyone seems to have an opinion. Everyone seems to think that we are dating or that we should be. That Lena would even be open to that…I don’t know.”
J’onn’s warm hand rubs Kara’s back softly and he pulls his drink from across the table, offering it to her. Kara takes it with a soft smile.
“Is that something you would want Kara?” J’onn asks hesitantly.
Kara’s eyebrows scrunch and the crinkle appears, “Maybe. It’s hard to understand dating here. On Krypton the matrix and Council of Houses would have evaluated me and come up with a shortlist of suitable partners. Our houses would have discussed it and I would have been paired off according to what best served Krypton. Humanity’s relationships are so much messier, selfish desires count so much more, physicality is this massive component, and relationships are disposable…Divorce as a word, as a concept even doesn’t exist in Kryptonese.I was so confused and then horrified the first time I heard about a friend’s parents divorcing in high school.”
J’onn hums, “I can understand part of that. There was no such thing as dating or divorce on Mars either. When a Martian finds their mate, their minds harmonise, they reach an almost instantaneous understanding and we open the deepest part of ourselves to each other. We become one in a very literal cerebral sense. We can’t separate. I found it very disconcerting how often human relationships broke down or worse, stayed together while they ‘cheated’ on one another. It is still very confusing to me.”
Kara smiles in mutual understanding, her shoulder’s untense as her tension drains from her frame. Hearing J’onn empathise and share her experiences makes her feel less isolated and strange.
“I was raised to want to make a good match to strengthen my House, to better Krypton. Lena is a genius, rich, compassionate, civic minded…she would have been considered prime genetic material on Krypton and every House would have vied for her. Yet, I know if I said that to her or anyone on earth they would recoil. That kind of ‘cold’ logical deduction for a mate doesn’t consider the ’romance’ they all want.”
J’onn’s eyes soften, “I think humanity wants exactly what Kryptonians did but more subconsciously. They aren’t quite evolved enough to admit those desires, but neither are Kryptonians all about logic either, after all I remember you telling me, that unlike Astra and Non, your parents did love one another.”
Kara blushes softly as she confesses, “I love Lena. She is so much more than the things the Codex would have valued. She is beautiful, inside and out. She’s a nerd, she swears when she is excited, she snorts when she laughs too hard and despite every awful thing that has happened to her, she still forgives, still tries to be a better person and to better the world.”
J’onn hums as he sees thedepth of Kara’s feelings finally exposed. He hesitates for a moment but decides to push just a little more, “So why not try for more than friendship?”
Kara stiffens back up in an instant, her tone pleading, “How do I know that she wants that? Everyone seems to think she does, but I don’t see it. The flowers, the time we spend together…all of it could just be because we are such close friends. Human body language and social interactions are so complex and Lena uses her sexuality, her flirtation as a mask, as a business tool and a defence. It would have been so much simpler to know if she was interested back on Kyrpton, she would have plainly stated her desires, she would have petitioned the House of El and the codex for our compatibility. No games, no ulterior motives.”
J’onn nods slowly in understanding, “I understand. Human flirting and courtship rituals are very complex. What is construed as mere friendship in one context is apparently a show of interest in another. As a species their use of sarcasm and duplicity makes the whole thing even more complex. Lena in particular is used to hiding or falsifying her facial features and body language…the social and cultural cues are so different from what we know, what we understand, but Kara, what if she is interested in something more romantic between you?”
Kara’s eyes shine with hope for a moment before she shakes her head, “I could ruin our friendship again, and just after we have gotten back on track. It hurt so much when we were at odds J’onn, I couldn’t stand a more permanent break if I am mistaken.”
“If your friendship is as strong as we both know it is then it would survive such a misunderstanding,” J’onn persists.
Kara’s mouth opens and closes as she tries to find another excuse before she rallies, “If I pushed for more with Lena, I would want everything J’onn. I would want all of her, forever, but humans are scared by that level of commitment so fast. What is it humans call it? ‘Friends with benefits?’ What if that is all Lena wants? She might find me physically attractive/ She might like the idea of a sexual partner she can trust or she may want me for the idea of bedding a Super, of burying her families legacy. Any of those explanations could explain the looks everyone says she is giving me, but I don’t just want something physical or temporary. You and I both know that humans are much more prone to that type of temporary relationship than they are to commitment. Hell, I have tried to mimic them but only managed three relationships. I am still considered a bit of a prude. Human’s are so much more…mercurial with their relationships.”
J’onn and Kara both cringe. Their superior senses bearing out the unpleasant reality of knowing just how promiscuous humanity can be.
J’onn sighs seeing that Kara was obstinately setting barrier after barrier between herself and a chance at happiness.
“You would have to be clear about what you want Kara. Lena seems logical and from what I recall, she likes clear solid ground rules to operate within.”
Kara stares into her drink and then whispers, so quietly that even with his enhanced hearing J’onn almost misses it, “What if she doesn’t want me, and gives me that look?”
J’onn’s eyes narrow in thought as he tries to fathom what Kara is eluding to.
After a moment of silence Kara grows frustrated at J’onn’s blank look and exhales with deep aggravation, “The ‘look’ J’onn!”
J’onn sits back in surprise at Kara’s frustration and spreads his hands in the universal sign of open palmed confusion.
“You are going to have to enlighten me Kara,” he whispers back softly.
Kara groans and sniffles slightly, “You know, the look. The look humans who know what we are give us if we show interest in them that they don’t reciprocate. That brief, flickering fear. Lena knows I am Supergirl and if she didn’t reciprocate my feelings I couldn’t bear to see that momentary flash in her eyes. It’s always the same, that moment when they reject me and then their subconscious remembers how strong and fast I am, they remember on some level that I have to choose to walk away because there would be noting they could do to stop me if I really want them. That instinctive fear that floats at the back of their eyes for a fraction of a second. I hate that look.”
J’onn’s heart aches for Kara. In all of his years he has never had a relationship with a human who knew what he was before he sought something more with them so he actually doesn’t know the look that Kara is referring to. J’onn has some experience with human’s fearing him when they realize he is an alien and that he has powers, but they were relative strangers. He wonders briefly who it was that gave her that look in the past and wishes he could take her pain away. A fruitless wish though and he has to focus on the here and now.
“Is this why you are so hesitant to seek more with Lena?” he asks sadly.
Kara’s eyes have welled with tears, making her cerulean eyes appear even bigger than usual.
She sniffles quietly, “Everything I said is true. I don’t understand human culture, dating, social interactions. I work so hard at it every day but a lot of it still escapes me, frustrates me, and I can’t be sure that Lena wants me like that. It doesn’t matter what others say, I have to feel it, I have to believe it. I don’t want to risk our friendship if I’m wrong and I don’t want to risk seeing her afraid of me based on what I know is my own, often flawed, reading of human interest. I respect Lena too much for that. I will just wait, if it is meant to be, then Lena will approach me and it will be the greatest gift I ever receive, but until or unless that happens we are just friends.”
J’onn’s lips turn down sadly. He knows that Lena has severe self esteem issues, believes a Luthor is not good enough for a Super, has put Kara on such a pedestal that someone would likely have to kick her to get her to make the first move on Kara.
After a moment of deep thought J’onn hesitantly grips Kara’s bicep to draw her eyes to him. With reluctance he offers something he has to no other, “You know Kara I could check for you…” he trails off pointing to his head.
Kara’s eyes blow wide in shock before settling into an expression of deepest fondness, “Thank you J’onn. I know you don’ offer that lightly, but hiding my identity was a large enough breach of trust between Lena and I to last a lifetime. She is intensely private, and I could never break her trust like that again. Thank you again, but no, please don’t read her mind. If it is meant to be, it will be.”
J’onn nods sadly before a heavy silence descends on the table.
Kara neatly stacks their two glasses and reaching to her side she hugs J’onn.
“Thanks for listening J’onn. I didn’t realize how much I needed to get that all off my chest, but I have work in the morning, so I better go.”
J’onn returns the hug with gusto, the usually stoic Martian attempting to impart his love and care into the gesture.
“It will work out Kara,” he whispers as she pulls back. Kara smiles sadly and disappears amongst the crowd.
J’onn sits for a moment in the hustle and bustle of the alien bar, his thoughts spiralling before a devious smile curls his lips.
“She said I couldn’t read Lena’s mind, she didn’t say I couldn’t give Lena a crash course in dating a Kryptonian and a nudge in the right direction,” he mumbled quietly to himself.
Standing quickly and with purpose J’onn strides for the exit as he pulls his phone from his pocket, “Hey Vasquez, It’s J’onn. I need a favour, can you text me Lena Luthor’s private address?”
Chapter 2: J'onn's meddling
J'onn visits Lena for a heart to heart and a crash course in being an alien on earth.
Following the positive feedback to this one-shot I decided to give everyone the J'onn and Lena conversation they asked for.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
J’onn touches down gently across the street from the address Vasquez gave him after much persuasion. Oh for the days when he could merely order her to hand over the relevant information or simply hack the primitive human data networks for it himself. Alas, Lena Luthor’s paranoia had her sufficiently off the grid to stymie even his efforts. As it is, he grimaces at the thought of having to shapeshift into someone called ‘Elf’ for 60 minutes this weekend at the birthday party of Elana: Agent Vasquez and Lita’s 6-year-old daughter. There were worse things Vasquez could have asked for than bringing delight to a small child’s birthday party, but he can’t help but shudder at the thought of the white tights, green pointed hat and foolish face he will have to wear. A gusty sigh leaves J’onn as his body ripples red for a moment and his true alien appearance is replaced by the Hank Henshaw disguise.
Glancing both ways out of the dark alley, and using a quick telepathic surface scan of the area, he asserts that no-one has seen his arrival or is suspicious of his appearance. Another slight grimace comes to his lips as he remembers the few occasions when he has had to give prejudiced police officers a mental push to ignore the lone black man walking late at night in National City. After escaping Mars following the persecution of his people because of his skin colour, he supposes it is ironic that he now hides in the skin of a minority still persecuted on earth for such a superficial reason.
J’onn marches across the street ignoring the main entrance to the tower block he is approaching, instead swerving to the side access hidden amongst a delivery bay, dumpsters, vents and service doors. J’onn carefully counts the doors and pauses outside the fortified door of what appears to be a common fire exit of the non-descript building in one of the most exclusive parts of the city. Lena it seems has repurposed the top floors of an old municipal tower for her home and its bland exterior matches perfectly with the unassumingly expensive apartments, family law firms, accountants and various other mixed-use buildings surrounding it. The separate secret entrance to Lena’s home is hiding in plain sight and if J’onn did not know any better he would have assumed this building was just another office block.
J’onn consciously morphs and adjusts his pupils to prevent himself squinting from the glare of the high power LED spotlights which come to life as he gets too close to the door. He smiles as disarmingly as possible up at the numerous inconspicuous CCTV camera’s watching him. The faint mental wisp of hostility and caution echoes from within the building.
J’onn pushes the discreetly placed building intercom which sits in a recess below a “keep clear-fire exit” sign and waves jauntily at the cameras.
Part of the wall to his left flickers to life and reveals itself to be a camouflaged high-tech interface screen. J’onn almost steps back in surprise before recovering. A severe man of about 30, broad shoulders accented by his crisp suit and military haircut greets J’onn from the screen, “May we help you sir?” comes the cool inquiry as shrewd eyes measure him.
J’onn attempts to keep the disarming smile on his face, “My name is J’onn J’onzz. I would like to speak with Miss Luthor please.”
Not missing a beat, the cool building security gatekeeper glances at something off to his left before stating, “You don’t appear to have an appointment sir.”
J’onn grimaces slightly and tries to hide his surprise. He really should have considered that Lena Luthor’s home would be as regimented and secure as her workplace. All guests by appointment to maximise security. “I, um, am a friend? I was just hoping to have a chat about a personal matter.”
Instead of reassuring the gatekeeper, J’onn’s comments seem to make him more suspicious as his hands move swiftly across something below the screen and his eyes narrow in mistrust.
“A friend?” The gatekeeper asks disbelievingly.
Before J’onn can answer he stiffens as an infrared and X-ray beam flash across his person, invisible to the human eye but clearly visible to him. With a twitch of his eyes he now spots the source of the scanning from recessed equipment camouflaged to his left and right as part of the ventilation exit points of the building.
Paranoia, thy name is Luthor. Then again, considering the number of assassination attempts, J’onn can’t really blame Lena.
“Uh, yes. Well, acquaintance might be a better term…” J’onn explains, suddenly finding his usual stoic calm wavering. The guard tenses slightly at the redefining of himself as an acquaintance so J’onn hurries on, “but I am a close friend of Kara Danvers who is best friends with Miss Luthor.”
The guard’s face unconsciously softens at the mention of Kara and if he weren’t under such close scrutiny J’onn would laugh at the reaction. The guard catches his lips as they start to twitch towards the up ticking of a smile.
“Did Miss Danver’s tell you about this address? She knows that that is not allowed.” The now suspicious gatekeeper seems genuinely put out that Kara may have breached his security by letting their location slip but J’onn hurries to intervene, “No actually, I have my own resources that gave me this address. Resources Miss Luthor knows about and if you tell her I am here I am pretty sure she will not mind seeing me.”
The gatekeeper hums to himself as he eyes J’onn with professional distaste. The idea of any resources discovering Lena’s location and this entrance unnerving him. “We will be having a conversation about those resources Mr J’onns, but I will contact Miss Luthor and see if she is willing to allow you entrance. Please wait.”
Before J’onn can respond the screen flickers and resumes its disguise as another bland part of the grey wall.
J’onn waits patiently and after a few minutes the screen flickers back to life, but this time with a split screen of the stoic gatekeeper and Lena Luthor herself.
“Mr. J’onzz. I am surprised to see you here,” Lena greets him without preamble.
J’onn can’t help but notice her hair is down, and if he is not mistaken she is wearing a sweatshirt that he could have sworn belonged to Kara.
Deciding prevarication is impractical, J’onn uses his silver bullet, “My apologies for visiting without notice Miss Luthor, but I need to speak with you about Kara.”
The reaction is instantaneous. Both Lena and the gatekeeper tense and their eyes narrow. J’onn is always amused by the protectiveness that his pseudo daughter can engender in others, especially considering she is nigh on indestructible. Yet, people almost universally seem to want to protect her.
Lena’s reaction however is much more visceral, her eyes suddenly aflame with interest and her eyebrows scrunched in worry.
“What happened to Kara? Is she hurt? Where is she?” Lena demands with sudden intensity.
J’onn withholds his smile. Ah these foolish humans, even without his telepathy he can see Lena’s feelings for Kara. A pity Kara cannot.
“My apologies for alarming you Miss Luthor. Kara is fine. What I wish to discuss is something of a more…personal nature.”
Instead of calming Lena, she seems to tense further. Her shoulders hunching and her arms encircling her waist. For a flicker of a moment J’onn would swear that the impenetrable Luthor looked worried and so very young.
“Ah, of course,” Lena whispers, her tone resigned and sad. J’onn can’t fathom what he has said to upset Miss Luthor but before he can give it more thought he is distracted by a small slot opening beneath the screen and glowing blue.
“I apologise Mr J’onzz but before I let you in I will need you to prove that you are who you say. Can you place your index finger on the detection device below this screen please?”
J’onn looks closer at the slot and quickly surmises that the slot contains an alien detection device. A sensible precaution to ensure he is J’onn Jonzz and not the despicable human Hank Henshaw that he appears.
Offering a polite, tight lipped smile, J’onn nods, “Certainly Miss Luthor.”
J’onn places his finger upon the scanner and after a moment it beeps and glows red.
Lena lets out a breath and glances at the left of her screen addressing her Gatekeeper, “Mr Mullen, please let Mr J’onzz inside. All usual precautions and then send him up.”
The gatekeeper now revealed as Mr Mullens nods professionally, his feelings all hidden behind a cool mask, “Certainly Miss Luthor.”
The screen dies and with a resounding click followed by a hissing release, the unassuming fire escape exit unlocks. The door is obviously fortified and as it soundlessly, slowly swings inwards it becomes apparent that it is almost a foot of solid metal which only moves by the grace of the motorised industrial pistons and hinges it glides across.
J’onn steps forward into a dimly lit box of a room. He immediately takes note that the walls of the building have been reinforced with an extra layer of concrete, steel and some form of ceramic mesh as he passes through the door. The boxy room is bland white, obvious cameras and sensors of numerous kinds watch his entrance. The walls appear seamless but the moment the entrance door behind him closes two more doors in front of him open from the flawless wall. Two men in full tactical gear, reminiscent of the DEO going into a hostile situation, enter followed by the crisply dressed Mr Mullen carrying some form of scanning device. The doors behind them seal shut and two portcullises open behind J’onn revealing obviously non terrestrial weapons.
J’onn slowly raises his hands in the universal sign of a man who is unarmed and peaceable. Mr Mullen nods and steps forward.
“I will scan you for any foreign objects, weapons, poisons or communication devices. If you make any hostile movements these fine gentlemen and those weapons turrets will turn you into mincemeat, either by plasma bolts or good old-fashioned hot lead.” Mr Mullen explains as he points first to the alien weaponry and then to his companions who are unerringly pointing their heavily modified M16 Rifles at his centre mass.
J’onn nods slightly in understanding, while in the safety of his own mind he can’t help but be impressed by Miss Luthor’s security. The fact she passes through this every time she leaves or returns home is slightly mind boggling and he is surprised that Kara has never mentioned it…although considering her penchant for visiting Lena through windows and balconies, she probably hasn’t passed through here very often.
“Have you any weapons, communication devices, chemicals or sharp objects on your person at this time?” Mr Mullen’s asks.
J’onn shakes his head, “No, just my mobile phone in my front right pocket.”
Mr Mullen nods and approaches, slowly circling J’onn as he scans him. The men behind him moving on nimble feet to keep J’onn in their clear line of fire.
J’onn really can’t help but be impressed and wonder at what military experience these men have. They seem like exactly the types he would have wanted for the DEO.
Mr Mullen finishes scanning J’onn and then after a thorough and slightly rough physical pat down he gives the all clear, “Ok, clear. The visitor is verified as veritas.”
The two men lower their weapons and the gun turrets retract into the roof before the seamless doors of the kill box reappear and open.
“After you,” Mr Mullen indicates J’onn to precede him.
J’onn enters a well lit foyer. There is a welcome desk in the centre of the room with a small array of computer terminals, a nondescript door to his right and a normal seeming elevator at the back wall. The four corners of the room however are unusual as the each is occupied by a stubby metallic pillbox guard post with mounted weapons peaking out. The two guards at his back seamlessly slip back into position behind the guard posts to his right and left before Mr.Mullens guides J’onn to the elevator.
After tapping in a string of digits and offering up a retinal scan the elevator door opens.
Mr Mullen’s makes a sweeping gesture, “Please step inside Mr. J’onzz. This elevator will take you up to Miss Luthor’s penthouse.”
John nods and steps inside, “Thank you.”
J’onn can’t help but wonder what would happen to anyone not authorised who entered this elevator as he suspiciously eyes the small regular holes that seem to circle the elevators interior. J’onn notices that the elevator has not buttons or controls but before he can comment he sees Mr.Mullen return to the central desk and type rapidly on his terminal. The elevator doors smoothly close and J’onn feels the slight jolt as the lift takes off. The whole system it seems is remotely operated.
After a few seconds the lift stops, and the doors open with barely a whisper. J’onn steps out into a well-lit hallway. Plush red carpet beneath his boots, soft cream walls, a Georgian side table with luscious roses in a richly decorated Mason Ironstone vase lies before him, a mahogany chaise lounge to his right and delicately carved white doors to his left. The gold accents and beautiful filigree of the engraving of the doors panels telling the story of Persephone if he is not mistaken. There is understated opulence in every detail of the space.
J’onn steps up to the door and after a moment of hesitation as he expects the door to open at his approach, he notices the rather traditional gold and white doorbell to the side of the door.
Amused despite himself J’onn presses the button and listens to the tinkling chimes ring out as though he were calling on a friend at any other home in the suburbs.
J’onn’s hearing picks up the soft sound of bare feet slapping across stone floors.
Lena opens the door and smiles hesitantly, her features fixed and fake in a way that J’onn recognises from watching Lena do press conferences after one debacle or another. That smile is nothing like her real expression when in Kara’s company.
“Mr J’onzz, please come in,” Lena invites as she steps back.
J’onn steps forward with a small nod, “Please, call me J’onn,” he rumbles.
J’onn catches the slightly confused and hesitant look on Lena’s face before she schools it back to business professionalism.
“Of course, please take a seat. Can I offer you a drink? Tea, coffee, wine?”
J’onn takes in the large open plan living space. A large three sided sofa faces a large wall mounted television, a scattering of books and magazines across one side of the sofa and a soft multicoloured blanket lies in a pile in the middle as though J’onn had disturbed Lena while she was cuddled up on the couch. The blanket is strikingly at odds with the monochrome pallet of the rest of the furniture, but on closer examination J’onn begins to spot other anomalies: A small photo of Kara and Lena in a red wooden frame, a plumeria in a sea blue vase on the marble counter opposite the living space and at the back of the room, through reinforced French doors leading to a balcony, J’onn can see weather proof bean bag seats in green and blue.
J’onn wonders for a moment if Lena realizes that the only home comforts and sparks of colour in her sterile home seem to be from the points where Kara leaks into Lena’s life.
“Coffee would be appreciated,” J’onn replies in his deep baritone as he ignores Lena’s gesture to be seated in the living space and follows her to the kitchen.
Lena pulls down a space age looking French press and begins the task of making coffee.
J’onn leans against the corner of a work bench as he watches Lena stiffly move around her kitchen, filling a heavy kettle and lifting down a luxuriously packaged bag of coffee.
Once the kettle is set to boil and the coffee scooped into the press, Lena is left without a distraction so she girds herself and leans back against the corner between her stove and countertop, gazing warily at J’onn.
“So, what is it you needed to discuss with me?” Lena asks stiffly, deciding she is as well to get the ball rolling on what she assumes is J’onn’s shovel speech to get her to stay away from Kara, keep her secret or some other such nonsense.
Lena is resigned to it. She has been expecting this conversation for some time but since her and Kara made up after the revelation of her Supergirl secret, Lena had thought they were closer than ever and there would be no need for this sort of conversation. Alas, she is a Luthor, it is to be expected that she won’t ever be trusted…especially not with someone as precious and kind as Kara. Lena had been expecting Alex to give her the warning talk, but she has been oddly kind and even accepting of Lena’s reintroduction to game nights. Facing Kara’s pseudo space dad is not what she expected.
J’onn hesitates at Lena’s directness and at her guarded stiffness.
He has had limited contact with Lena besides DEO missions and this is in fact their first time speaking alone, so he is unsure if she is always this…disquieted when talking to people one on one or if it is just him.
“Firstly, I would like to know if there is anything I can do to make you less tense? I was hoping to have what humans call a ‘heart to heart’ about Kara but that will likely be difficult if you keep looking at me like I might attack you at any moment.”
Lena freezes in shock. A heart to heart? With J’onn…what could possibly be wrong with Kara that J’onn is here to talk to her in that context rather than to threaten her? Oh, gods, is Mon-El back and about to blow up Kara’s emotional equilibrium again? Lena’s mind races to make sense of this revelation before it slows and with all of her Luthor control she reassess the situation.
J’onn is not here for the purpose she assumed. He apparently could read her disquiet which is alarming and a bit shameful for a Luthor. Lena has walked towards her own death, stood up to her brother and Lillian…even her misassumption that this was to be a simple conversation warning her away from Kara should not have rattled her so.
Lena’s mind races for an alternative, less embarrassing explanation that she can offer for her nervousness.
Alighting on one that actually holds the flavour of truth she hums, “Yes, well, if you were stood in your kitchen across from a man who is the duplicate of someone who has tried to murder you on multiple occasions you might be a bit rattled too.”
J’onn’s eyes widen in surprise and then his grimaces in chagrin, “I apologise Miss Luthor-“
“If I am to call you J’onn then you must call me Lena,” she interrupts.
“-Lena. I apologise, I had quite foolishly never made the connection between my current form and how you may feel about Hank Henshaw. Interacting as I have with Kara, Alex and the others so regularly, they are used to associating this form with me and a sense of authority or safety. I imagine your associations are a lot less benign. Please pick a form that would put you at ease and I will transform. A celebrity, acquaintance or a general description of a form.”
Lena hesitates for a moment, caught flat footed at his generous offer and compassion. Her mind whirls as she tries to think of a single male form she would be comfortable for J’onn to take on.
“Just change into your true form,” Lena rushes as she twirls her hand vaguely at J’onn.
J’onn stiffens and his open body language closes down as his shoulders hunch protectively, “Is that wise? My Martian appearance is…” J’onn hesitantly begins.
A fire lights in Lena’s eyes as she aggressively steps forward, “I am not my brother or my family. I am not prejudiced against aliens. You can change into your Martian form! I honestly could never understand why you don’t use it more at game nights and in the alien bar. It’s like Brainy. We know you don’t look like us, you should be comfortable to be yourselves with those of us who know.”
J’onn’s stunned expression turns soft and a paternal air overcomes him. His posture straightens and he offers Lena a gentle smile.
Lena is caught off guard and hesitates in her diatribe.
“Thank you Lena. I didn’t mean to imply that you were prejudiced, merely that some humans, even those I am close to, are…disquieted by my natural appearance. I am over six feet tall, more than three feet wide, green and alien looking. Human instincts sometimes make people uncomfortable with me around them in my true form. I offered to transform to make you more at ease, not less.”
“Oh!” Lena gasps in comprehension, suddenly feeling her cheeks blaze in embarrassment.
J’onn grins before turning thoughtful, “As to why Brainy and I don’t wear our true forms on game night…I think it is habit rather than because our friends would be uncomfortable. You never know who will turn up on game night, peer through a window or what the delivery guys might see…it is just easier to stay in human guise. Complacency for aliens can be dangerous so we try to blend in even when it is hard, or we may think ourselves safe. You know this is actually a pretty good segue into what I wanted to discuss, but first pick a form. I want you to be comfortable.”
Lena’s brows scrunch as she thinks about what J’onn has said. The kettle whistles and Lena quickly dives forward to grab it and finish making coffee. With her back to J’onn Lena reiterate, “You’re safe in my home J’onn. No-one is coming to the door without notice, the windows are one-way mirrored glass and your Martian form no matter how ‘large’ is less intimidating than the face of a man who tried to kill me.”
“Alright, if you insist.” J’onn rumbles after a pause.
Lena fiddles with the French press plunger as she lifts down two mugs. She hears the faint alien sound of J’onn shapeshifting but focuses on the coffee.
Lena pushes down the plunger and fixes two mugs before turning around.
J’onn stands six feet and eight inches of dull green muscle. His red cross straps and dull blue Martian metamorphic armour shines dully in the light. Lena focuses on the angular ridges of J’onn’s face, the sharp dome of his cranium and the dull red of his eyes. Objectively, Lena can understand why a human may find his form disquieting. The superstitious nature of humans alone would make them shy away from his eyes. Lena has never been able to take the time to truly examine his features and she can’t help but be in awe. His Martian form shows the evolution of his species: the larger cranium which she assumes is needed for their telepathy, the eyes adapted for living on the red surface where dust absorbs blue light and the lack of external ear lobe tissue for a telepathic species with less use for traditional hearing. The planes and angles of J’onn’s features, mixed with his rigid, upright posture lends him an air of wisdom and authority that makes Lena feel safe in a way she doesn’t around others. Lena almost snorts at the realisation that three of the people she feels most comfortable around are aliens. Then again, humans have never exactly treated her kindly.
J’onn watches Lena quietly for any signs of distress as he calmly reaches out for his mug of coffee.
Lena’s brows furrow slightly as she glances at J’onn’s hand as he takes the mug.
“No fingernails,” Lena murmurs quietly, forgetting that J’onn has superior hearing.
Lena blushes as J’onn huffs a knowing laugh, “Truly a scientist through and through.”
J’onn’s lipless mouth quirks into a smile as he sips his coffee and examines the ends of his other hand.
“Sorry, I just couldn’t help but notice,” Lena stammers, afraid to upset J’onn with her curiosity or make him feel like a lab experiment.
J’onn waves away Lena’s concern and holds up his hand, “My species is older than humanity and while Martians haven’t pushed our evolution like Kryptonians did with their genetic manipulations, we naturally evolved away some of the more primitive characteristics. Our ancestors, like humans, had nails which evolved from our primal forefathers who had claws. Martians, having spent so many generations as shape shifters, a pacifist society and as vegetarians, evolved to no longer have nails and the ends of our fingers have squared off. Too long spent using technology and shifting into regular shapes.”
Lena nodded in understanding before sipping her coffee.
Silence settles between the pair as they drink their coffee.
Lena’s natural curiosity eventually gets the better of her, driving her to break the silence, “So, you said that you wanted to discuss something personal about Kara?”
J’onn nods slightly. “It is probably best if we sit down for this conversation.”
Lena returns his nod, suddenly tense again as she leads the way to the sofa.
J’onn follows and sits a few feet from Lena on the comfy black couch. He lowers himself gingerly until he is sure the couch can take his increased density.
J’onn hesitates for a moment before diving in, “I said before that aliens can’t become complacent in pretending to be human because it is dangerous, but there is a bit more to it than that. Humans can sympathise with how difficult it is for us to blend into their society, how those of us with abilities have to be so careful around humans, but there are more…subtle difficulties, culturally and socially. Do you understand?”
Lena’s eyes narrow in thought at she tries to divine the meaning behind J’onn’s words.
Hesitantly, Lena starts, “Kara has told me some, about how hard she works to blend in, to be human. About her lead glasses and not always getting the cultural references that we use.”
J’onn’s alien head bobs slightly as his brow muscles tighten, “That is some of it. How best to explain?”
Silence spreads between them anew as Lena gives J’onn a moment to gather his thoughts.
J’onn cups his coffee and leans forward earnestly, “How would you describe Kara?”
Lena’s right eyebrow quirks at the seeming non-sequitur, “Describe Kara?”
J’onn leans a fraction further forward, eager now for her answer, “Yes, in words!”
Lena offers a confused crooked grin, “In words…of course.”
Lena’s brows furrow as she gives the question genuine thought. She sips her coffee and her eyes become distant as she gets lost thinking about Kara. Her hand subconsciously smooths down the comfy Midvale Football sweats she wears that belong to her best friend.
“Um...well, she is kind, strong, goofy, a bit of a nerd?”
J’onn nods, “Yes, and?”
Lena’s lips quirk into a soft-hearted smile as she ruminates on her best friend, “Intelligent, compassionate, beautiful…” Lena cuts herself off as she blushes at the last descriptor but when her eyes cut towards J’onn and he makes no comment she continues, “She is passionate, dedicated, loyal, a bit clumsy and oblivious sometimes…”
“Aha!” J’onn cries, startling Lena from her thoughts. “That, exactly that,” J’onn points at Lena seriously.
Lena is thoroughly lost as she looks to J’onn in bewilderment.
“Oblivious. Everyone thinks Kara is oblivious, but she’s an alien,” J’onn states seriously as though the revelation is profound.
Lena’s vast intellect struggles to make the connection and seeing her hesitate J’onn intervenes.
“I am lucky, so far as being an alien goes. I can look like a human and with my telepathy I was able to grasp the language and culture in ways others cannot. Where my own understanding of human culture or social norms fails me I can cheat and glimpse surface thoughts to cover my mistakes. Other alien species don’t have that advantage and human culture is vastly different from most alien races. Considering too, the fact that by the time a species develops faster than light travel they are usually unified under a single government with a unifying agreed language and social norms. I don’t think earthlings fully grasp just how disorienting and confusing earth is for aliens. The diversity of religion, nationality, ethnicity, language, culture…and how integral individual ideas of sexuality and gender are to humans in just this city is mind boggling and confusing to us.” J’onn’s eyes bore into Lena pleadingly as he desperately tries to explain a concept so huge it has defined the last three centuries of his life on this strange alien world.
Lena shuffles forward and sets her coffee aside. Her mind whirls as she tries to make sense of everything J’onn is saying. She attempts to make light of his revelations to cut through the suddenly heavy atmosphere and prompt him to continue speaking, “I think I am beginning to see J’onn. By the standards of the greater universe earth society is in its infancy. We haven’t reached the unifying peak of our species social evolution yet. We’re a confusing melting pot of cultures, laws and social expectations.”
J’onn bobbles his head from side to side in a hesitant gesture which is alien to Lena’s human expectations but seems to fit his Martian body language.
John hums and sucks in a harsh breath in frustration before continuing, “It sounds simple when you put it like that but you have to understand, I could not wrap my mind around the level of difference and division on this planet when I first got here. I know Kara was the same. Learning all of the social rules and norms of humanity is a nightmare because, as a species, you all seem to be moving the goal posts constantly depending on geographical location, age, politics, religious affiliation…and a hundred other things we just don’t get. I come from a species that was homogenous in a way humanity can never be. We were a telepathically negotiated democracy with absolute shared values and etiquette. Krypton was ruled by a unifying council composed of the Houses, the science guild and the military. Apart from some minor differences in etiquette between the city states, Krypton as a country and its people were homogenously bound by their pursuit of knowledge and the honour code of Rao. There was no difference, no divergence and there hadn’t been any in generations. Understanding earth customs and social interactions is a daily trial…it often makes aliens seem socially inept or oblivious but that’s just a euphemism, a defence for how overwhelmed and ignorant we are.”
Lena is nodding shallowly, and she feels a well of sympathy spring up within herself seeing the desperation with which J’onn is trying to explain. Lena reaches across to grasp his hand reassuringly.
Lena’s eyes are wide in sympathy and surprise at how little she had really ever understood about what it meant to be an alien on earth. When Lena looks at Kara and J’onn they blend in so well that often she just assumes their species are mostly like humanity but with some extra powers.
J’onn grips Lena’s hand. His large green fingers engulf her nimble fingers and make her pale skin seem ethereally white juxtaposed against his dark green skin.
J’onn laughs slightly as he holds up their joined hands, “This for example. This was so strange for me when I first got here by Martian standards. Even three hundred years ago humans were much more tactile with each other than we were and in the modern era it is even more so. On Mars we rarely physically touched each other. Children were touched and carried as they grew. The tactile input a crutch and comfort as their telepathic awareness of those around them grows. By adulthood Martians are always aware and being peripherally telepathically touched by our fellow Martians so physical contact is redundant. The only time a Martian will touch another is to mentally open themselves wide to another when bonding with mates, transferring intergenerational memories or performing religious rights.”
Lena blushes scarlet and gasps, trying to withdraw her hand from J’onn’s as he explains how intimate touch was for his species, “I’m sorry J’onn, I didn’t know…” Lena begins, but is cut off by the reassuring pressure of J’onn’s hand as he squeezes hers in comfort.
“It is fine Lena. I have been on earth for a long time now. I understand that human’s use touch a lot like Martian children did. It is a way to connect with others, to reassure and be linked. With the absence of the Martian communal mind humming in the background I find touch to be a reassuring sensation now. In the beginning though it was a bit odd.”
Lena offers J’onn a small understanding smile. Her sorrow and compassion so strong that he can sense it at the edges of her mind.
“Is it wrong that I am a little amused by the thought of your reaction the first time you got caught under some mistletoe?” Lena asks in a poor attempt to lift the sad atmosphere.
J’onn smirks back, “well, I may have investigated to see if the plant had a latent empathic field that was causing people to kiss when they came into close proximity to it in the final months of the year.”
Lena barks a laugh, “A terrible alien sex plant.”
J’onn nods seriously, “A devious creation of nature. A nemesis worthy of the Martian manhunter.”
J’onn rolls his red eyes in a human gesture that seems so absurd that Lena can’t help but snort another unladylike laugh at the usually stoic Martian.
J’onn pulls himself back to his original reason for this visit. He sets aside his coffee and fully grasps Lena’s hand between his two large green ones.
“For Kryptonians this-” here J’onn raises their joined hands, “-would have been considered the height of impropriety and a terrible invasion of personal space. A primitive display of physical and tactile pleasure, something akin to a human rubbing themselves naked against you in public.”
Lena gasps in horror, her eyes blown wide and her mouth gaping like a fish. Blood rushes to Lena’s face and she drops J’onn’s hands as though she has been burned before she jumps to her feet and begins pacing worriedly.
“I didn’t- I wouldn’t- Why did Kara never say anything?” Lena questions shrilly.
J’onn smiles softly, “A combination of reasons I am sure. This is earth and Kara has been passing as human since she was a teenager, so she has had to adapt and learn to accept different, alien standards of personal contact.”
Lena has shifted from embarrassed to annoyed at the thin explanation, “That is as maybe, but as Kara’s friends, we should know these things and adapt. Around us she should be comfortable. If she needs us to be less – physical, then we can do that for her.”
J’onn’s smile turns from something soft to verging on pride. Lena struggles to read his facial expression and body language in his Martian form but she can’t help but think he is pleased with her retort.
“That is a wonderful sentiment Lena, but having two different standards for behaviour is exhausting for us aliens and it encourages lapses in our charade of being human. Better to try and fit in all the time. Besides, you are forgetting that Kara was socialised on earth for the latter half of her childhood so while intellectually and instinctively she may cling to the culture and social etiquette of her birth…she has adopted and even embraced some earth customs and behaviours to a limited degree.”
Lena doesn’t look convinced in the least. Her eidetic memory is flying over all of her memories of Kara and poking holes in J’onn’s supposition.
“Kara is one of the most tactile people I know, she doesn’t show any hesitancy with touching people. Are you sure this is as much of an issue for Kryptonians as you think J’onn?” Lena asks hesitantly
J’onn outright laughs at Lena’s response but before she can become angry he slaps the couch beside him and tries to explain, “Exactly Lena! Kara is one of the most tactile people you know, because she is demonstrative and gregarious with you. But really think about it, who else does she really hug, snuggle up with on the couch or even casually touch at all? Alex and Eliza. Kara is even slightly standoffish with me to this day beyond the rare hugs I can count on one hand. If you really watch Kara you will see that she gets fidgety and nervous when she first meets new people because she knows she has to shake their hand. Most people assume it is shyness, not genuine discomfort. A pat on the back, a semi awkward side hug or shoulder bump with her closest friends is the height of the physical contact she endures with others. The human psyche is funny. Kara seems bubbly and friendly, she is always willing to help, to visit people and to offer them food so people assume she is gregarious and their minds trick them into assuming she is tactile. In reality, actual physical contact is rare.”
Lena’s mind reviews every game night and social interaction she can remember being present for with Kara. She usually sits beside Lena or Alex, squished into our sides…but reviewing her memories now she can see that when around Lucy, Winn, J’onn, Nia and Brainy: Kara keeps a slight distance between herself and others. It is small. She always appears part of a group but there is consistently a small bubble of space. How has Lena never noticed this?
“Why me? I can understand her allowing so much physical contact with Alex but why does she allow it with me too? Have I been forcing it on her?” Lena asks seriously.
Her childhood worries resurfacing she begins blaming herself. Had she been too forceful? So touch starved that she ignored Kara’s discomfort? Had she allowed her unhealthy attraction to her best friend to cloud her vision so badly that she missed seeing how uncomfortable she was making Kara.
J’onn shifts uncomfortably, hesitant to divulge too much, rather wanting Lena to draw her own conclusions.
“I think there are a number of reasons why Kara is comfortable with showing you physical affection and is comfortable enough to bridge the cultural and species gap. I think one reason is that Kara is naturally more comfortable around you because of your position and status. To her Kryptonian mind, I doubt there are few Houses that can match the prestige of House El like House Luthor.”
Lena quirks her ubiquitous eyebrow in surprise and question, “Yes, the ‘House’ of Luthor is so prestigious: renowned for evil and greed.”
J’onn sighs, “Prestige doesn’t always mean good Lena, and despite what you yourself often think, you have redeemed your House. I imagine for Kara that she feels she can interact with you as an equal. One matriarch of a grand House to another.”
Lena still looks doubtful, “That still doesn’t explain why she hasn’t said anything about Kryptonians being less tactile and her breaking that custom with me.”
Throwing his hands up J’onn asks, “How does Kara usually visit you?”
Lena is thrown for a moment by this seemingly irrelevant off point tangent, “She flies onto my balcony here or at Lcorp as you well know.”
“Exactly!” John cries, “She treats you like Kryptonian elite even subconsciously. The higher a Kryptonian House then the higher from the wastelands of the surface they lived and worked. Only the unhoused entered from the ground floor or lived on the surface of Krypton. Kryptonians used small personal vehicles to move between buildings, getting dropped off at ‘balconies’ and entering without invitation because as individuals of high Houses they were beyond reproach. They were only turned away if their transport received a coded signal stating the building was closed to them due to family or personal reasons. Kara wanders into your work and home by the same access point she would have been accustomed to at home. I could have flown onto your balcony here too Lena but I came in through the front door because I don’t have that subconscious Kryptonian culture and drive.”
Lena huffs softly, “I originally thought Kara turning up on my balcony was a power move by a Super. Her being rude, but then as we became friends I wrote it off to it just being more convenient for her.”
J’onn shakes his head, “Kara only enters 3 buildings as she does yours. Alex’s apartment, the DEO as a government building for work and your home or office. It’s her subconscious reverting to Kryptonian standards of interaction and social norms.”
Lena returns to sit across from J’onn, her eyebrows still pulled together in a mild frown, “That only partially explains why she allows me such…’inappropriate’ liberties with casual touch. I might accept that my supposed status mollifies some of her cultural reservations but J’onn, we hug, hold hands, snuggle up watching films regularly, yet I am to understand that to a Kryptonain such things are abnormal. Even if I accept Kara sees me as someone of a similar House standing and she is doing it to ‘pass’ as human, that doesn’t explain her behaviour in private where she could easily tell me she is uncomfortable with touch.”
J’onn chooses his words carefully, speaking slowly as he thinks, “It is not that Kara is averse to all touch, it is just that she is selective. You know about Kryptonian marriages and reproduction correct?”
Lena’s cheeks burn and her eyes dart nervously around the room, “Somewhat. Kara explained the House system to me. How marriage was a political alliance and her people used the codex to engineer children in something like pods. Her people were asexual which, now that I think about it, would further explain their discomfort with physical contact.”
J’onn shakes his head, “While it speaks volumes that Kara felt comfortable enough to speak to you about Krypton at all, a sensitive subject at best for her….I am afraid it seems she has dissembled somewhat in her explanation.”
Lena’s jaw tenses rapidly and her eyes drill into J’onn, the soft jade of her irises darkening, “She lied to me?!”
J’onn rushes to explain and fix the misunderstanding, “Not exactly. First of all, Kryptonians would be asexual in the majority but a number would better be described as Demisexual. Marriages were political and they were arranged, a lot like two families drawing up contracts, but that isn’t to say that they were loveless. Most were loveless, and so naturally were never anything more than political alliances. Most were intellectual unions, but sometimes over time, if a couple was well suited, they would come to love each other. Astra and Non are an example of a typical Kryptonian marriage. They were bound to unite Houses and better Krypton. Kara’s parents however, while married for the same reason did come to love each other deeply on an intellectual level. Then we have Kal-El’s parents who were the minority of the minority on Krypton. They came to love each other and chose to express that love in a physical way. Kara tells me that it was quite the scandal when it was made public Ka-El was conceived and was being carried naturally. In the beginning Jor-El lied and said the child was being carried naturally but was conceived by IVF without genetic manipulation. That was scandal enough but when the council investigated and it was discovered Kal-El was the product of a sexual union…and an ongoing one at that…well, it wasn’t pretty according to the Alura program. While sexual congress was not illegal on Krypton it was frowned upon heavily as a primitive expression of love that detracts from intellectual union. It surely happened in private between a minority of couples, but it was a terrible taboo never spoken of or acknowledged.”
Lena’s mind is alight with wonder at the insight into the Kryptonian culture, but she is still confused by the point J’onn is driving at.
“How is this relevant to Kara?” Lena asks angrily, her patience waning.
J’onn grimaces, “Lena, Kara is Kryptonian, but she was socialised through her teenage years here on earth. How do you think that affects her?”
Lena rubs her forehead as she hunches forward, trying desperately to make sense of all the new information J’onn has given her. “I suppose that Kara would have conflicting drives. The intellectual memory and socialisation from Krypton telling her that close personal contact is lewd and wrong, while her human upbringing is…well, if it’s like any normal American high school: its hyper sexualised. A saturation of hormones, media images of close contact and sex.”
Lena grimaces before her eyes water with unshed, tears, “Oh Kara!” she laments, “That must have been so confusing.”
J’onn leans back against the couch, his shoulders sagging, “Yes. Confusing would be putting it lightly. Kara’s upbringing tells her that touching people is wrong, but now she is on a planet where it is expected to a degree. Then there is the added complication that on Krypton, courting was organised through House approval and marriages were final. Here though, humans use flirtation for manipulation rather than to express genuine desire. Their body language can express openness to touch but the social situations may preclude it, and facial expressions which may imply friendship may equally imply sexual desire. Courtship on earth is a messy, ad hoc affair and even marriage isn’t permanent. For a Kryptonian who has never had to read such signals or consider courting before and expected that if by some miraculously miniscule chance sex became a possibility for her, it would have been within an arranged marriage, with someone who would straightforward tell her that is what they want and would never lie or mislead her about it.”
Lena can feel a single tear roll down her face as she thinks about how confusing human interactions must be for Kara, how duplicitous and fickle humanity must seem. Knowing where to draw the line when touching someone is such a socially and organically learned behaviour for humans and we become adept at reading between the lines of situations and judging behaviour by location…for a Kryptonian who never had to learn that in her formative years it must be a constant trial.
Lena feels guilt well up in her stomach as she reflects on her own interactions with Kara. Lena uses flirtation as a business tool and often as a shield or just for the fun of it…how uncomfortable has she made Kara? Oh gods…is that why she never responded to Lena’s flirtations, not because she is oblivious, but because she didn’t know why Lena was doing it?
Lena gulps suddenly around a dry throat, “J’onn, “she croaks, “have I been making Kara uncomfortable all this time with my flirting? It’s just second nature.”
J’onn does that odd uncomfortable shuffle and head bob again as he considers his answer, “She was certainly confused in the beginning. I think that she has decided that it is just your expression of friendship and a tool you use to deflect when people say something nice to you, or something mean…or speak to you in general,” J’onn chuckles.
Lena can feel her lungs tightening in unease, “That might have been what it was in the beginning…” Lena begins hesitantly. Her head ducking as she looks at J’onn guiltily through her lashes.
J’onn jumps forward eagerly, finally seeing a chink of light and hope. “In the beginning?” he asks in his softest, most paternal voice.
Lena blushes and groans, “Kara is my first real friend in this city and in the beginning that was all we were, but after our falling out over her secret identity…things changed. When we made up it was like this barrier between us was gone, but Kara ignores my flirting. Not surprising really. She could never feel for a Luthor what I – I mean, I filled her office with flowers and she just thanked me, surely she knows- She can’t be that-“
“Oblivious?” J’onn asks soberly with a hint of steel in his tone.
Lena flushes guiltily. “But I bought a media Empire for her. I forgave her keeping her identity from me. I take her to dinner and hold her hand…how can she not know how I feel J’onn. It must be that she isn’t interested. She must be straight. Hell, if she is asexual like the other Kryptonians I could work with that, sex is not a deal breaker for me. I just want someone to love, someone who loves me.”
J’onn can’t contain it anymore, he slides across the couch and envelops Lena into a warm hug. At first it is awkward. Lena freezes as she feels the large Martian envelop her and his head coming to rest on her crown. Lena can feel her heart racing and all the emotions and desires she has kept hidden bubbling up to the surface. Hot, exhausted tears trail down her cheeks. J’onn’s arms are solid and warm and after a stiff moment she collapses into him, letting the small tremors of her silent tears rack her usually controlled and strong frame.
J’onns large hand smooths across Lena’s back and for a moment she becomes lost in a misty memory of her own birth mother doing the same for her when she was very young. The sense of safety with this virtual stranger leaving Lena feeling lost. How could twenty years with the Luthors never produce even one moment with this sense of safety and love?
J’onn’s broad chest rumbles under Lena’s cheek. His armour is surprisingly soft, and Lena can’t help her scientific mind from wondering if it reacts to J’onns thoughts, providing her a more comfortable surface to be comforted against.
“Is that what you want Lena? To love Kara, to have her love you?” J’onn whispers as though speaking to a frightened animal that might bolt at any sudden movement or loud noises.
Lena flinches slightly and makes a move to withdraw but J’onn holds firm, his grip still gentle but the implication clear. Lena can’t run from this. The soothing touch of his hands slowly returns her to ease and in exhausted confession Lena finally admits what she has held in her heart for so long, “I’m in love with Kara. I would do anything for her, but she doesn’t feel the same. Kryptonians just don’t have those kinds of relationships, no matter how much Kara pushes herself to blend in with humanity and no matter how she has learned to enjoy some limited touch.”
J’onn lets out a gust off air, his chest slacking in relief before he dives forth, “Kara’s socialisation on earth, despite her Kryptonian upbringing has made her much more demisexual than the average Kryptonian. Or at least that is what she says if you ever ask her.”
Lena pulls back, her eyes wide as she gazes into J’onn’s red pupils. “What? Kara never said anything!”
J’onn huffs a laugh, “Kryptonians don’t discuss such things off the cuff. Remember, such topics were private and somewhat taboo, but they are also very logical beings. If you ask Kara straight out in private she will tell you in clinical detail all about her sexuality…just like she would court you if you just asked her in plain, blunt English.”
Lena’s head is already shaking, anger now coalescing over her brows, “Damn it, I asked her to dinner more times than I can count. She has to know I like her, why hasn’t she made a move if she was in anyway interested?”
J’onn looks at her a little like she is a particularly slow child. Lena is a genius and she hates that look.
“Kara is a Kryptonian. To her alien mind, asking someone to dinner is nothing more than sharing a meal with an equal. Remember, Kryptonians approach each other’s Houses when they show interest. You would have had a better chance of Kara understanding your desire to date if you asked Alex if you could take Kara to dinner!”
Lena chokes on air, “GAH!”
J’onn muffles his own guffaws and with a mischievous grin rebuts, “Or you could have asked Kal-El if you preferred?”
Lena’s shocked face turns to horror at the mere thought of asking Superman if she could take his cousin out to dinner. The mental image that jumps into Lena’s head is of a cartoon version of herself from the newspapers asking Superman and him punching her through an Acme style wall in response.
“Somehow, I don’t think either of those options is on the table, and I don’t think I would ever be brave enough to make my feelings that obvious. What if Kara really does just want to be friends? I would have started something that could destroy our friendship right after we only got it back on track. I can just keep flirting outrageously until she finally gets a clue. Kryptonian or not, Kara is a reporter, surely she will put the clues together if she really is interested in me,” Lena reasons.
J’onn rubs his eyes in frustration. It would have been easier to lock the two of them in a room. They are both idiots with the exact same worries and self-confidence issues. In the safety of his mind, J’onn can’t help but spit the phrase Agent Vasquez used when Alex and Maggie were mooning over each other…’useless lesbians!’ ” It applies here too.
Biting the bullet and deciding he will have to reveal a little of what Kara confided in him, J’onn once more picks up his cross and takes another few steps.
“Lena, Kara is one of the strongest beings on this planet. Speaking as one of the others, I can tell you that being that strong, fast and powerful makes a person…hesitant, about assuming someone is interested in you. Consent is important, but for us it is doubly so. If we make a mistake, make a pass at someone who isn’t interested, how would that appear? There is a very good chance we could frighten someone because, in reality, there is damn little that could ever actually stop us from- shall we say- taking what we want. Kara will never make the first move, if not because of her Kryptonian upbringing, then because she is afraid she is misreading your alien ‘signals of interest’ and could make a mistake that would not only ruin your friendship but potentially frighten you.”
J’onn cringes at his mutilated regurgitating of Kara’s reasoning for holding back from Lena.
Lena doesn’t hesitate in responding angrily, “Don’t be ridiculous J’onn! No-one who knows Kara could ever really be afraid of her! She would never do…that! Hell, even when she was under the influence of Red Kryptonite, the worst she did was dress up a little smuttily and scare off one of Cat Grant’s nine lives.”
J’onn fights his smile. The reassurance that Lena is so confident in Kara, has such faith in her is heartening. It seems Lena thinks even better of Kara than she does of herself.
“You may have that confidence in Kara Lena, but often times she doesn’t. Her biggest fear is that she will misread a situation, will not understand a cultural reference or a human signal verbal or bodily and that she will inadvertently hurt someone. I am afraid that if you are serious about your feelings for Kara you will have to make your intentions blatantly clear…maybe even use some of your Luthor business acumen to draw up a proposal for dating with explicit detail, outlining your intentions paragraph by paragraph. That would be something Kara, as a Kryptonian could understand. Houses regularly had proposals of joining when discussing potential marriages.”
Lena snorts and mumbles under her breath too quiet for J’onn to hear, “Kara could just read my RPF on AO3, that damn well states my intentions pretty clearly.”
Lena coughs and after a moment’s hesitation starts, “It seems so cold, so…” Lena searches for the word before J’onn cuts her off with a deadpan tone, “Alien?”
Lena ducks her head in mild shame and chastisement.
“Kara is an alien Lena. If you ever want a chance with her, you need to approach her in a way she understands…” J’onn consoles, and in a last ditch effort to push Lena to act he drops the final lure…”and if you do, then you might fully discover, beyond friendship and acting as her human cover, why you are one of the few people Kara touches so casually.”
J’onn jumps to his feet and begins striding for the balcony doors as his words penetrate Lena’s mind.
Lena’s head snaps up like a blood hound scenting prey, “Wait, what do you mean the full reason? You said it was because she learned to accept touch to blend in and because I am of a suitably high House! Wait! J’onn, come back here damn it!”
Making a quick escape after dropping that bombshell, J’onn phases through the balcony doors before Lena can catch him and rises into the air.
“Heed my advice Lena and you might get exactly what you want. Kara is an alien, not oblivious to you. Good luck!”
Lena chases after J’onn, inevitably having to slow down to open the balcony doors as J’onn rises into the night sky. Lena’s skin has paled in panic and her pulse beats frantically as she tries to stop the surge of hope she feels singing in her blood.
Crying out she calls fruitlessly, “J’onn! J’onn! Get back here J’onn! Does that mean Kara has feelings for me too? J’onn, you can’t just fly off! Mr Mullen will think you are still up here if you don’t go back down the elevator and exit through security! He’ll think I slept with you if you don’t reappear before his shift change or- or that I killed you! God damn it J’onn J’onzz I’m a Luthor, I will get you for this!”
J’onn shoots into the sky, his soft baritone chuckles echoing between the buildings and the night sky.
Please comment and Kudos. I love hearing what you all think.
Chapter 3: The Proposal
Lena plucks up her courage and drafts the best damn Kryptonian House unity proposal a human ever has. The fact she is the only human to ever do so is irrelevant.
Right so, I had a mind blowing number of comments, really fabulous feedback and conversations with various readers. Mr Mullen, the security guy from chapter 2 got the outline of his own scene in the comments even. I was struck by inspiration at about 2pm today, an image of a scene to build on my idea and as soon as I got done with work I started writing. I hope this lives up to all of the high hopes and expectations.
Lena in my head just became this super detail orientated obsessive and decided it was now or never.
Thank you to all the loyal readers, kind commenters and Kudos givers.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lena stalks towards her office. Her killer heels click across the shiny marble floor.
Jess jumps to attention, iPad in one hand and Lena’s coffee in the other.
Jess moves like a professionally choreographed ballerina, or rather a ninja in a pant suit. Her movements are efficient and well-practiced:
- Lena exits the elevator -> Jess gathers her iPad and Miss Luthor’s coffee
- Lena glides across the foyer outside her office -> Jess circles her desk to stand at attention
- Lena comes parallel to Jess and smoothly takes her coffee-> Jess begins reading her messages and a summary of the schedule for the day.
- Lena sips her coffee and gives instruction-> Jess returns to her desk with a snappy and often dry humorous response
- Lena enters her office-> Jess is already on the phone cancelling, rearranging meetings or investigating why one of her employees has mistaken Lena’s lack of homicidal tendencies for corporate weakness.
This would usually be the running order for the beginning of a productive day, but today is not an ordinary day.
Today, Lena sips her coffee absently and zones out. The black, bitter liquid fails to give her the usual burst of energy she needs. The errant thought of Kara’s pouting face when Lena had joked that she likes her coffee like her soul: black and bitter, invades her mind. Errant thoughts, all surrounding Kara, have become a daily, nay hourly distraction of late.
“Miss Luthor, Miss Luthor…Lena!” Jess calls sharply.
Lena startles from her daydream at the use of her name. After three years working together it is only the fourth time that Jess has used it.
Lena smirks at her aggrieved assistant, “So I can add ignoring you to the list of ways to get you to use my first name Jess. A far simpler avenue than ordering you, getting arrested or being miserably drunk.”
Jess frowns and huffs before glancing back at the day’s schedule on her iPad.
“As I was saying, “ Jess pointedly responds without batting an eye at Lena’s apparent distraction or black humour, “you have a conference call with the European branch, a representative of Wayne Enterprises coming in to discuss the new thermal conductor project, briefing meetings with applied science division, the cyber division and the pharma R&D team about latest projects and projections. I have impressed upon them again that these new weekly briefings are intended to be just that…brief, and they should not take up the sort of time the monthly reviews do. If they throw your schedule off again this week because they distract you into multi-hour science binges, I will be displeased in the extreme. It is a tight day. Oh, and Kara Danver’s is pencilled in for lunch at 2. No doubt that will run long, so I will be pushing back your call with Ms. Arias about the Metropolis office to 4pm. No doubt she will understand. Is there anything else I can do for you this morning Miss Luthor?”
Lena nods distractedly. Her mind once again wandering back to the odd conversation she had last night with J’onn J’onnz.
“Hmm,” Lena hums as she sips her coffee distractedly.
“Miss Luthor? Does the schedule for the day meet your approval? Is there something you need? You seem unusually distracted this morning?” Jess ventures stiffly as her dark eyes narrow slightly in confusion.
Instead of dismissing the enquiry and sweeping into her office as Jess expects, Lena turns fully to face her loyal personal assistant and…friend?
Lena visibly struggles with the decision to ask Jess about what is on her mind. Her pearly white teeth nibbling on her bottom lip and smearing her scarlet red lipstick.
Jess feels herself tense in anticipation to dive into action. Whatever Miss Luthor is considering, it is obviously a complicated and delicate problem. Jess is preparing herself to call lawyers, to begin researching the finest scientific minds that don’t already work for LCorp or begin counterintelligence against a corporate rival. She relishes the thought.
Lena releases her slightly chewed lip and sighs in defeat, “What do you think about making the first move Jess?”
Jessica Huang’s mind goes blank. She would consider herself an astute person, but this question is without context and she can’t help but immediately seek clarification, “What? Like in chess? Or a hostile takeover? Personally, I prefer to take the initiative and go with the Sicilian Defence but considering I have never won a match against you, I doubt that is relevant.”
Lena laughs lightly. Some of her tension leaving her at Jess’s light-hearted response.
Lena controls her laughter and ducks her head slightly, a faint blush coming to her cheeks, “No Jess, not in chess. Uh, more like, um, dating? Making a first move to date someone?”
Jess’ eyes go wide and her mouth forms a perfect O of surprise.
The stars align in Jess’ mind. Jess wants to do an Irish Jig in happiness that Lena is finally considering doing something about her obvious crush on Kara Danvers. At this point it is ridiculous the way the two women are orbiting each other like planets around a sun. Jess had honestly considered locking Miss Luthor and Miss Danvers inside her office until they figured their shit out, but considering Lena was an engineering genius and Kara Danvers was so obviously Supergirl…an accidently broken door handle just wouldn’t cut it.
“Oh um…” Jess hesitates not knowing what to say. Lena for the first time ever sounds young, something she has never sounded in Jess’s presence before. Jess honestly forgets most of the time that Lena is six years her junior. At this moment Lena actually sounds like the young woman she is: hesitant and unsure.
Jess rallies quickly as she decides a small white lie is warranted in this situation.
“I think making the first move is always the way to go. If you want something in life then you can’t just wait for it to fall into your lap. With my current relationship I just walked right up to them and said, ‘I want you!’ It wasn’t my most eloquent moment, but we have lived together now for four years.”
Lena’s eyes widen in surprise at such a definitive answer. Lena knows Jess is direct and forceful, but she hadn’t even known she was in a relationship.
“Really?!” Lena asks in surprised wonder.
“You can’t wait for them to come to you. You have to be direct,” Jess replies with a sharp nod.
Jess leaves out the fact that her current relationship and live in partner is her cat “Thomas,” who she chose on a whim at the National City pet shelter four years ago.
It counts damn it!
Jess walked right up to his cage and said, “I want you” and a half an hour later she was walking out with him in a pert carrier. They had been very happy ever since…the scratched-up Michael Kores tote bag incident aside.
“Huh…” Lena whispers. Her confused and thoughtful expression slowly solidifying into one of determination and resolution.
Lena reaches forward and grabs Jess by her biceps in a tight grip. “Right. That is what I’ll do. Jess, call Kara Danvers and tell her I am busy all day and reschedule our dinner here, in my office at 6pm. Then book me a table for two at that nice little Italian place, Bella Scaleni for 7pm. Next, cancel all of my appointments for the day, forward all calls and ensure no-one disturbs me. I have a proposal to write!”
Jess gapes in surprise but before she can question her, Lena has swept into her office and the heavy lock on the double doors clicks shut.
Jess stands, staring blankly at the double doors for a full minute before she whispers to herself, “A proposal to write? What the hell is that useless lesbian doing now? Grr.”
Then the realisation that Jess has a lot of calls and apologising to be doing to reschedule Lena’s entire day at the drop of a hat hits her. Jess groans glumly before marshalling her willpower to march back to her desk to get started.
These two useless lesbians better get their shit together or Jess is going to take drastic action. If they don’t start dating after today and at least give one of their kids ‘Jess’ as a second name, she is going to push Lena off the damn balcony herself so she literally falls into Supergirl’s arms. Ninth times the charm, right?
Back in her office Lena boots up her computer and clears her desk. Post-it notes and her favourite pen make an appearance.
Her mind whirls in thought. By Kryptonian standards J’onn implied Lena should approach the heads of Kara’s family to petition for the right to court her and apply to the codex to measure their compatibility. The codex was destroyed along with Krypton so that is no longer a consideration and Lena cringes at the thought of asking Clark Kent or Alex Danvers for the right to court Kara, to join the House OF El. Lena is a feminist and even acknowledging Kryptonian social customs as alien, Lena can’t bring herself to ask someone else for Kara, as though she is a piece of property. Alex might agree but Lena is sure that approaching her to ask if Lena can date her baby sister is sure to either embarrass Alex half to death or engage her crazy overprotective instincts. Quite frankly, Lena has enough people trying to kill her as is without adding Alex Danvers to the list. Clark isn’t much better. His enmity to Luthors in general and his suspicion of Lena is well known. Lena’s recent mistakes with working with her brother and the terrible argument that herself and Kara only recently recovered from concerning Kara’s secret identity are likely to have done her no favours in Superman’s eyes.
Kara had told Lena that technically she is the head of House El because she is the eldest chronologically speaking. Also, Kara alone was raised for some of her life on Krypton, meaning she at least has some first-hand knowledge of her people, her House and her culture.
So really, Lena needs only to ask Kara if she can court her. Lena is the last Luthor in good standing and as the head of Lcorp is the head of House Luthor. That means she can approach Kara as an equal. One head of House seeking to unite with another.
Lena breathes a sigh of relief. That at least would keep things private between Kara and herself.
The second, much harder thing though, is creating a proposal for why their Houses should unite and how that should be done.
Lena feels her stomach flip and all of her self-confidence issues rise like a tsunami. How can she possibly make a valid case that she is worthy of Kara. A Super worthy of a Luthor? Lena knows she has let Kara down, has done some terrible things in her life. She is emotionally damaged and quite frankly, mentally too. Between being brought up a Luthor and the trauma from all the assassination attempts, Lena knows she isn’t the picture of a healthy and stable life partner. She knows she is suspicious, quick to judge, cynical, distrustful, secretive and a thousand other things that make her totally unsuitable and unworthy of Kara Danvers.
Lena feels the weight of her failings bear down on her. The vicious insults of Lillian and Lex whisper through her mind. Yet, singing above all that is Kara’s soft voice, telling Lena she is a good friend, and telling her she can be a hero too.
Lena might not be worthy, but she won’t give up without a fight.
She has written a thousand business proposals before, and a thousand glowing biographies from Lcorp PR materials sit in her top drawer. Lena can do this.
She pulls herself into her desk, straightens her ergonomic keyboard and open a fresh document.
The elevator dings and Kara Danvers literally skips into the foyer of Lena Luthor’s pent house office.
Jess’ face sours as she examines the embodiment of sunshine and rainbows. How anyone could not see that Kara was an alien was beyond Jess. No human is ever this happy without pharmaceutical aid, especially after a long day at work.
The fact Kara Danvers is this skipping bundle of joy, after a full day of working at Catco and flitting all over the city being heroic, just proves her alien-ness.
Kara skips right up to Jess’ desk, her face splitting into a wide smile and her infectious joy leaking out of every pore. The abomination of soft cardigans, bright colours and sensible shoes clashes terribly with the monochromatic penthouse office and Jess’ own professionally dower Hugo Boss power suit. Even against her will, Jess can feel her cheeks pinching her mouth into a smile in response to Kara’s natural exuberance.
“Good evening Jess. I am here to see Lena!” Kara almost sings.
Jess idly wonders if Kara Danvers is always this happy or if this version that Jess sees is just some sort of super cracked out, happy to be seeing Lena, version. How anyone can’t see the two idiots are in love is ridiculous. Jess hides a shudder at the very idea of being in the presence of someone this ‘perky’ all the time.
“Good afternoon Miss Danvers. I had assumed you were here for Miss Luthor, since hers is the only office on this floor,” Jess replies drily as she fights down her smirk.
“Oh yes, right. Of course,” Kara stammers, “Is Lena ready for dinner?”
Jess hums and without further comment presses the intercom for Miss Luthor’s office, “Miss Luthor, Kara Danvers is here for you.”
Something audibly crashes inside Lena’s office and Jess can’t help but roll her eyes as she catches Kara quickly dropping her glasses down her nose and squinting at the double doors to Miss Luthor’s office. Obviously using her x-ray vision to check on Miss Luthor.
“Yes, yes, that’s great Jess. Thank you. Send her in, and you can head home. I will see you tomorrow,” Lena’s voice echoes back from the intercom.
Jess does not need to be told twice, and wanting to escape the coming emotional scene that is sure to take place in the office behind her, she lifts her bag and pulls on her jacket.
She walks around her desk and negligently flicks a hand at the doors to Miss Luthor’s office.
“Miss Luthor will see you now Miss Danvers. I am sure you can see yourself in.”
Kara nods eagerly and bounces forward.
Jess picks up her pace to the elevator but can’t help jauntily calling over her shoulder to Miss Danvers, “Good Luck.”
As the elevator doors close Jess catches Miss Danvers confused face staring back at her, her hand frozen on the door to Miss Luthor’s office.
Kara shrugs off Jess’ odd farewell and breezes into Lena’s office.
“Hi Lena!” she calls happily.
Lena is ensconced behind her intimidatingly large desk. Kara notes Lena looks paler than usual, she is fiddling with the corners of a folder on her desk and her heartbeat is elevated.
“Good evening Kara,” Lena says formally as she rises. Kara is beginning to worry. Lena only falls back onto such polite and formal language when she is nervous.
Kara’s face scrunches as she tries to find the source of Lena’s anxiety, “Are you ready for dinner Lena?”
Lena holds out a palm, face up towards the empty seat across from her, “Actually Kara, I was hoping we could discuss something before we go for dinner. Our reservations aren’t actually for another hour.”
Kara can feel her own heart rate accelerate and her smile dim. What could Lena want to discuss with her? It sounds serious.
“Um sure, I suppose. We have time,” Kara stutters as she makes her way to the uncomfortable white chair opposite Lena. Kara perches herself right on the edge of the seat, her back ramrod straight and tense.
“W-what is it you wanted to discuss Lena?” Kara asks.
Lena sinks back into her own chair and Kara can see up close now how Lena is taking controlled breaths, trying to keep her heart rate low and her face relaxed. It serves only to put Kara more on edge.
“I have a proposal for you,” Lena states calmly. Kara can feel her eyebrows rise and she leans forward slightly.
“Uh, Lena, business is sort of your wheelhouse. I would be happy to report on any business proposals you are working on, but I don’t think I would be the best person to discuss them with.”
Lena laughs softly at Kara’s hesitancy.
“Um, no Kara. It’s not a business proposal…so much as a proposal for a potential future. I say potential because I don’t want to pressure you. Everything in the proposal is optional. There are procedures for refusal and returning to the status quo and procedures for acceptance, recommended timetables for actions, key milestones, projections for future events, mechanisms for premature termination of the arrangement, a cost/benefit analysis and a range of opt in or opt out clauses for certain….aspects of the proposal to potentially proceed to.”
Kara’s face is now the very picture of confusion. Her eyebrows dipped in a deep V of bewilderment and the crinkle on full display.
“Ooo-kaay…” Kara replies hesitantly, drawing out the syllables in tentative confusion.
Lena fidgets slightly before taking another steadying breath, “I think it best if I just let you see what I have drawn up. Take your time reading them.”
Lena slides Kara two folders across the chasm of her desk. Before Kara can even focus on them though, Lena has jumped from her seat and quickly marched to her drinks cabinet. She proceeds to make a large production of fixing herself a scotch on the rocks, keeping her back to Kara the whole time.
“It was brought to my attention that this may be a better way of doing things with a Kryptonian and technically we are both heads of our Houses. You are free to reject the proposal and we can carry on as things are.” Lena murmurs as she drops tinkling ice cubes into a whiskey tumbler.
Kara glances from the folders to Lena in absolute confusion, lost to what Lena could be talking about, but deciding that no further answers are forthcoming.
Kara pulls the folders towards herself and almost drops them when she sees the titles:
- A report considering the suitability and advantage of House El binding with House Luthor through Lena Kieran Luthor.
- The proposed courtship of Kara Danvers Zor-EL and Lena Kieran Luthor for the prospective unification of House El and House Luthor in matrimony.
Kara sucks in a gasping breath. Her shock freezes her, and it is only the faint tearing sound of the folders under her superhuman grip that has her consciously untensing.
Kara gapes, her mouth hanging open as her head swivels from staring at Lena’s tense back to the seemingly unbelievable documents in her hands.
Kara flicks the first report open and speed reads it. Out of the corner of her eye Kara notices Lena tense at the sound of rushing air and flicking pages. Lena sips her Whiskey, her eyes fixed on the National city skyline as darkness encroaches across the city.
The first document reads like a CV and a piece of persuasive writing worthy of any Presidential Candidates speech. A detailed summary of Lena’s family tree is outlined along with her families educational and social achievements. Lionel Luthor and Lex Luthor’s achievements, both good and ill, taking fifteen pages to enumerate. The short one-page detailing Lena’s biological mothers achievements show a woman of superior intellect and a potential which was cut short by her untimely death. Cora O’Malley as far as Kara is concerned surpasses all others by her creation of Lena, her masters in theoretical physics notwithstanding.
Kara can’t help but pause and try out the name in her mind, Lena Kieran O’Malley. It feels different, a life lost when Cora drowned, and Lena was whisked away by the Luthors.
All known medical history of Lena’s biological family is listed and despite a genetic predisposition to alcoholism and for heart attacks along the paternal line, Lena’s heritage reads like the kind of immaculate resume the Kryptonian codex and Science aligned Houses would have salivated over.
By far the largest section then is of Lena’s own achievements to date. Kara thought she knew Lena better than anyone, but in humble and self-doubting fashion, it seems Lena has been downplaying her brilliance. While Kara knew Lena had gone to boarding school in Ireland, she didn’t know she completed her Irish Leaving certificate with 12 H1 grades at the tender age of 14 and graduated Trinity University in Ireland with her undergraduate degree by the time she was 16. A first in the country’s history. A double undergraduate degree in chemical and mechanical engineering. A Masters Degree in both again and a Masters in business. Finally a PhD as is listed publicly but also an MD which Kara cannot fathom. She knows Lena is a genius but this is…insane. How did she ever have time for this?
The list of achievements continue. Top of her class every year and in every degree. A Chess Grand master at 15, awards for program design, business and industry awards right and left.
Then there are the achievements in this Pre-Crises world that no-one else will ever see: the radical salvation of LCorp in just two years, taking it from the brink of collapse to being one of the top technology companies on earth 38. In this reality there are the numerous donations to charities, the setting up of hospitals and even the covert funding of an alien clinic.
Lena has been honoured by the police, the city mayor, the state governor and even the President for her philanthropic works and for her aid in global defence. Often behind closed doors.
A persuasive paragraph explains how the House of El would be empowered by uniting with House Luthor, financially, politically, militarily, genetically, and intellectually.
Kara sets the folder aside to open the second one…the much more intimidating one.
Again, Kara speed reads the surprisingly thick document. 131 pages of meticulously typed words. A proposal for a relationship with every possible circumstance and permutation accounted for. It is a tour de force in what a House proposal for joining should be...all except for the rather large section on clauses for the right to initiate physical contact and sexual congress.
Just having read the words makes Kara blush to the roots of her hair. Every possible form of physical contact is accounted for, from holding hands, to kissing and more…intimate acts. Acts that would have been incredibly rare and private at best, and taboo at worst on Krypton. Kara can’t help but notice that every clause for initiating or escalating the proposed relationship into anything physical or sexual of any kind has been left up to Kara.
The words from ‘Section 8: Physical intimacy, sub section 2: sexual congress, paragraph 1.1’ catch her eye and she can’t help but slow her speed reading:
1.1 Following a minimum period of three months dating(the definition of which is outlined in Section 1) or six dates, whichever event comes first, the member of House El may initiate the physical intimacy clauses of this house merger agreement outlined below. The member of House El is under no obligation to ever initiate any part of Section 8 in part or whole, but should the honourable member wish to do so, all intimate acts outlined in section 8 would be acceptable and with permission, reciprocated by the member of House Luthor. The 253 sexual acts listed in subsection 2 is not intended to be an exhaustive list but a small sample to act as exemplar and may be added to at a later date with full joint consent of the members of House El and House Luthor as explained in subsection 2. The member of House El may activate any of the below physical intimacy clauses by written notice, verbal notice or by a suitably explicit physical action initiated by the member of House El.
1.2 The member of the House of El has the right at any time to withdraw consent for or deactivate any action of the physical intimacy section of the unification of House El and Luthor proposal without fear of repercussions, penalties or need for explanation, or notice of any kind. Consent and desire to engage in any of the 253 acts numerated in the Section 8: physical intimacy section may be withdrawn with written notice, verbal notice or by using the phrase: Deactivate clause(insert number here)
1.3 Physical intimacy acts which House Luthor will willingly engage in with the member of House El following the appropriate activation of these clauses as outlined in paragraph 1.1 include:
i.Chaste kissing of external contact between lips.
ii.French Kissing including internal contact of mouths and tongues.
iii.Physical touching of the entire external dermis of the members body
iv.Manual Falange stimulation of secondary sexual characteristics (e.g breasts.)
v. Kissing of the external dermis of the members body
vi. Oral stimulation of the secondary sexual characteristics.
vii. Manual Falange stimulation of external primary sexual organs 9e.g (Labia)...
On and on the list goes, and as Kara reads it she goes redder, and redder. She feels heat pool in her stomach and trickle lower…so much lower. Kara shifts uncomfortably on the seat, her thighs rubbing together to alleviate the sudden and alien burning need she feels. The descriptions of sexual acts becomes more and more detailed, the names of some Kara is sure she will have to Google at some later date lest she embarrass herself. Her breathing becomes shorter and shorter as she reads. When she reaches the subparagraph heading “Use of Toys and Lubricants” Kara couldn’t take the images that were popping into her head anymore so she flicked quickly back to safer sections such as Section 1: Introductory Declarations and Definitions and Section 2: Dating.
Yet, the Section 3: Optional union of matrimony and Section 4: Procreation, continue to draw her eye too.
Kara is caught completely by surprise. The detail and thought that has gone into this proposal for the union of Houses boggles her mind. She has seen nothing even remotely like it in her life since she fled Kryptonian.
A dull echo of pain flares in her chest as she closes the folders and strokes their plastic covers. They remind her of Krypton. They remind her of home.
Kara glances up at Lena and it takes two attempts before she can get her voice to work, “L-Lena?” She croaks.
Hearing the tremor in Kara’s voice, Lena whips around. She instantly freezes and sharp pain flares through her chest as she sees Kara’s blushing face and tear-filled eyes.
Lena slams her glass of whiskey back into the drinks cabinet and dashes across to Kara.
“No, no, no Kara! Please don’t cry. Please, we can forget about it all and carry on as we are, pretend this never happened.”
Lena reaches Kara and tries to pull the folders from her best friends hands. Lena wants to flinch at that platonic term as it floats through her mind and crawl into a hole to die of embarrassment. She is going to kill J’onn and fire Jess. This was a terrible idea. Of course a Luthor would never be good enough for Kara.
Lena’s movements are arrested as she tries futilely to pull the folders from Kara’s grasp. Lena’s embarrassed gaze returns to Kara’s soft, tear filled eyes.
Lena doesn’t think she has ever seen this soft, indulgent, half smile on Kara’s face. She is looking at Lena like she is a gift, like Lena has just rescued a box of puppies while simultaneously inventing pot stickers.
Kara stands suddenly, the folders trapped between the women’s bodies as Kara’s right hand rises to trail softly across Lena’s scarlet cheek.
“Oh, Lena. I wish you could see yourself as I do,” Kara whispers reverently.
Lena is frozen, her gaze lost in the bottomless pools of Kara’s eyes.
“How, how did you even know to do this?” Kara asks in wonder as she raises the folders between them.
Lena seems hypnotised by Kara’s penetrating gaze and answers in a daze, “Um, well I didn’t really consider how different dating and relationships would have been on Krypton. I figured the flowers and the flirting kind of tipped my hand as it was. I thought you were either oblivious or uninterested but then it was pointed out to me that aliens don’t always grasp the social cues we humans use or understand our social interactions in a romantic context. J’onn gave me something of a crash course about Kryptonian courting…”
Kara groans and interrupts, “I don’t know if I should kill J’onn or buy him a giant bag of Oreos.”
Kara shakes her head tolerantly before bringing her focus back to Lena.
“There is something missing from this first folder Lena,” Kara whispers with a small smile.
Lena’s blush returns and consternation overtakes her face as she snaps back to reality, “Uh, I didn’t know everything that the codex would have used to judge if I was a good match. I put in as much as I could find about my relatives, their education, genetics, life expectancies and the benefits of uniting with House Luthor. And I know I sort of stacked the deck a bit, but while I have been arrested a few times I have never been formally charged with any crimes and you know about all of my short comings, but if you want me to rewrite the proposal and have them included I could…”
Lena’s self-conscious and self-flagellating rambling is cut off by Kara’s soft laugh, “No silly, I mean you left out all your best points. The fact you always order extra pot stickers for me, that you let me share your dessert when we eat out, that when I need you, you always answer your phone or let me visit you even if you’re in a high powered meeting. You snort when you laugh, you steel the blankets and snuggle almost on top of me when you’re sleeping on the couch, you forgave me even when I broke your trust, you always strive to better humanity despite their hostility to you and you are one of the most beautiful people I have ever met, inside and out. You always sell yourself short Lena Kiernan Luthor, but I see you. I see the treasure that you are.”
Lena’s pale cheeks are burning red. She honestly can’t remember ever blushing so much. She coughs uncomfortably and struggles to come up with something to say, some way to deflect. “Well, you’re the only one who sees those things. The only one who could attest to any positive characteristics in a Luthor.”
Kara sighs sadly at Lena’s evasion.
“Come on, sit down with me,” Kara pulls Lena to the leather sofa at the side of the room.
Lena trails after Kara, her head ducks as she tries to control her blush.
Kara pulls Lena close to her on the sofa and spreads the two folders out on the small coffee table before them.
“I, uh, I have some questions,” Kara hesitantly asks.
Lena straightens on the couch, and a fire lights in her stomach. This is what she had waited for, the chance to defend her proposal, to put forward her case for them to be a couple. Lena marshals her thoughts and the arguments she has pre-prepared rush to wait behind her teeth, ready to be let loose.
Lena nods in agreement and Kara flips the second folder open to the section on physical intimacy.
“I uh, I just wanted to ask, why this was here, why is it so…detailed?” Kara asks.
Lena clears her throat, “J’onn explained about the nature of physical relationships on Krypton and sort of mentioned how your mixed socialisation on Krypton and Earth has made you more Demisexual?” Here Lena pauses until Kara nods slightly, her head ducking in embarrassment and blood rushing to her cheeks.
Lena continues, “Physical intimacy was the exception rather than the norm for Kryptonians and while I would like any potential relationship we form to have some physical intimacy, it’s not a deal breaker for me. I would only want that if you are comfortable. We would move at your pace in that area and only engage in those activities if you initiate it. Physical intimacy doesn’t have to be a component of our relationship.”
Lena’s voice is devoid of emotion and her face is the picture of earnest seriousness.
Kara’s eyes are wide in surprise, “You would be willing to not…if I didn’t want to…?” Kara asks, making vague hand gestures between Lena and herself.
Lena nods decisively, “J’onn told me how even holding hands in public was scandalous on Krypton. I would never do anything to make you uncomfortable Kara.” Lena accompanies her words by subconsciously shuffling backwards from Kara, their knees which had been just brushing, separating.
Kara gasps and her hand darts out to grab Lena’s hand and settle on her lap, “This isn’t Krypton Lena and you…you’re an exception. I still find the ‘tactile’ nature of American humans a little discomforting sometimes, but never with you. I love snuggling with you to watch Netflix or the way our shoulders brush when we sit beside each other eating lunch and our hugs…Rao, I love our hugs.”
Lena blushes again.
Kara lowers her head and her voice comes in a whisper, almost too low and embarrassed for Lena to hear, “And while I have never done… that stuff in section 8 with a human, never mind with a woman…I think, I think in time I would like to try some of it with you.”
The business mask that Lena had donned to defend her proposal slips as she gasps a soft, “Oh.” Kara peaks at Lena through her eyelashes and she smiles shyly. Kara’s thumb gently brushes across Lena’s hand.
They sit quietly for a moment, enjoying the silence and the moment of mutual understanding.
“Do you have you a pen?” Kara asks abruptly.
Lena leans back in surprise at the non sequitur, “What?” she asks confused.
Kara smiles and then as though talking to a child she repeats, “Do you have a pen? I want to sign the front page accepting your proposal.
Lena’s face flies open surprise. Her eyebrows jump to her hairline and her jade eyes grow huge.
“To sign? You mean…you accept?” Lena asks disbelievingly.
Kara nods happily, her head bobbing like a happy dog as her golden hair comes loose from her ponytail.
“You don’t want to read it again? Take some time to think about it?” Lena asks disbelievingly.
Kara laughs softly and her nose scrunches up, “Do you want me to change my mind?” Kara asks hesitantly.
Lena almost falls flat on her face as she dives off the couch, “No!” she cries. Twice more Lena almost topples over on her four-inch heels as she races to her desk to grab a pen.
Stumbling back and diving down onto the couch Lena brandishes the pen out to Kara, “Here!”
“Thank you,” Kara says happily and then without any further fanfare she turns back to the front declaration page of the folder and signs her name, first in English and then in Kryptonian beneath Lena’s looping signature which had already been filled in.
Lena reverently reaches across and lifts the folder from Kara, she coughs and clears her throat without tearing her eyes from the signed document. A document that in a few pen strokes has changed her life, “I will have a copy made for you in accordance with Section 1 : Introductory Declarations and Definitions , sub section 2: Formal acceptance, paragraph 1.2 and give it to you tomorrow.”
Kara’s eyes sparkle, “Thank you. I look forward to it. Have you learned every clause and section of this proposal?” she teases.
Lena’s entranced gaze still doesn’t leave the signed document as she distractedly answers, “Between my eidetic memory and the fact I wrote this proposal in its entirety today: Yes, I know every clause, comma and full stop.”
Kara chokes on air, “You wrote it today…and know it off by heart?” Kara splutters.
Lena finally drags her gaze from the folder and offers Kara a smug grin, “It is probably the most important document I have ever drafted. Of course I know every word.”
Kara’s gaze softens, the atmosphere growing thick and heavy between them.
Lena smiles and rises, “I’ll just file these and we can head to dinner.”
Kara nods and as Lena rises her smile becomes beatific, “Yes Lena, dinner with your girlfriend.”
Lena freezes mid step before throwing a flirty look over her shoulder, “ Yes, in accordance with Section 1: Introductory Declarations and Definitions, you have activated paragraph 6.8: terms of endearment, point 1. I am your girlfriend and you are mine.” Lena looks incredibly smug.
Kara smiles happily, but as Lena files the folders and returns with her bag and jacket, she feels a tension in the atmosphere, “Lena?” Kara inquires softly as her new girlfriend comes to stand beside her.
“Yes darling?” Lena enquires.
“Technically, we went to that art gallery at the start of the month which according to the proposal would be constitute a date or date like activity. Right?”
Lena’s brows scrunch but she nods as her mind reviews the proposal.
Kara nods seriously in return, “That means I can hold your hand then, if I want to, right?”
Again, Lena nods and a small smile steals across her ruby lips as Kara shuffles closer to her, her warm hand slipping up beside Lena’s pale one, their fingers entangling and gently squeezing.
Kara gives their entwined hands a jaunty swing as she giggles, and they step towards the door. Lena can’t help the dopey smile that has stolen across her face.
Kara abruptly stops before the door and her face shifts into an expression of such exaggerated deep thought that Lena must force down a snort.
“And Lena, we technically had dinner four time this month, lunch a half dozen times, three Netflix nights and we have been in regular contact by phone right? So that means tonight is like, our thirteenth date this month alone really, so if I wanted…if I chose to…” Kara seems to lose steam and she blushes. The hesitancy and embarrassment stealing her words.
Lena steps closer to her girlfriend, her voice dropping to a low husky whisper, “If you wanted what Kara?”
Kara’s ducked head rises slowly and her shoulders square. The courage of Supergirl infusing Kara Danvers, “If I wanted to kiss you. That would be ok right? We are past the sixth date clause I saw in Section 8: Physical intimacy, sub section 2: sexual congress, paragraph 1.1, so I can initiate a kiss if, if I want? The proposal says you would be ok with that but I don’t want you to feel pressured to-“
Kara’s words are cut off as Lena dives forward, her lips slanting to cover Kara’s mouth and smother her adorable rambling. Kara freezes for a moment but then she groans and pushes forward to deepen the kiss. Months of pining and passion burn between them.
Their kiss tastes like love, it tastes like a beginning.
Please let me know your thoughts and drop me a comment.
Chapter 4: Am I worthy too?
Kara is a dutiful daughter of House El, and in accordance with tradition, she presents her own report of worthiness to House Luthor.
Firstly, thank you so much to all the readers, commenters and Kudos givers who have made this one shot a roaring success and led to it growing and growing.
Secondly, this is definitely the last chapter. For real this time, I mean it. lol.
This chapter came about because of some truly fantastic comments that Chapter 3 generated. The discussion from those comments with some readers and with my GF lead to a scene popping into my head and it sort of spiraled from there.
This chapter heavily explores my head cannon of Kara's alien heritage and culture. As such it has some pretty lengthy pieces of dialogue, Kara giving Lena a lot of background on Krypton and her culture. This naturally necessitates her making little speeches or recounting old memories. If that isn't your thing then you should skip this.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lena paused with take out in one hand and the key to Kara’s front door in her other.
The spare key is small and made of cheap metal but held in Lena’s hand at this moment, its significance way heavy. It is perhaps one of the most precious things she owns, stupid bobble headed dog keyring and all.
Lena snorts a quiet laugh at the absurdity of it all. In the last six weeks she has come to reorder the value of many things in her life. Her multibillion dollar company tumbling down the list behind two A4 folders containing the documents that link her to Kara, this stupid, cheap key and a small cloth patch with the House of El crest that Kara had hesitantly offered to her the day after they agreed to formally court.
Kara had stumbled through an explanation of how Houses which were in formal courtship and considering one another for binding would swap family crests. The crest in pale bronze, no larger than the span of Lena’s palm was intended to be worn on the right outer bicep as a public declaration of intention. An old Kryptonian tradition which harkened back to their feudal heritage and which was continued for sentimentality sake. An oddity in the highly scientific and evolved society of Krypton. Kara explained how the patches were worn until the full unification agreement was thrashed out and through the formal courtship period, then after the wedding ceremony they were framed in a home, while the couple began wearing only the dominant House crest that one party had become party of through marriage.
Kara wanted to at least acknowledge the tradition and share it with Lena. She had admitted that she knew that Lena couldn’t actually wear it, and wouldn’t expect her to, but wanted to give her the crest none the less. Lena had been touched and cherishes the small scrap of fabric as though it were worth its weight in platinum.
In response, Lena had ordered a hand woven handkerchief with the Luthor coat of arms delicately embroidered onto it. The tradition of exchanging favours in the form of handkerchiefs was to Lena’s mind the closest thing from human feudal history that would match Kara’s gesture. The handkerchief was made from the finest silks and the bright azure of the Luthor coat of arms shines in a way that reminds Lena of Kara’s eyes. Kara had taken the small piece of fabric as though it were the most precious gift. Her eyes welled with emotion. Kara’s reporter tendencies had seen her dive headfirst into researching heraldic imagery and the symbolism of the Luthor crest. The Azure blue supposedly symbolising Loyalty and truth, the red rose a symbol of hope , but also martyrdom and finally the traditional apples which would symbolise God’s Kindness and salvation are inverted on the Luthor crest. Lena remembers Lex once joking it was because they are scientists and seek their own knowledge and salvation. Altogether, Kara had thought the Luthor crest suited Lena perfectly and symbolised a House worthy of the beacon of hope and unity that was House El. Lena often scoffs at such sentimental ideas, but coming from Kara, Lena can’t help but feel a sense of warmth and validation.
These small tokens to each other rest securely in the top drawers of their respective night stands and when Lena last stayed over with Kara she had accidentally caught her girlfriend peaking in at, and reverently stroking the small favour.
Yes. Lena’s valuation of the things in her life have certainly changed in these last six weeks.
In the time since Kara has accepted Lena’s proposal to court her, with the prospect of unifying their Houses, their relationship has moved in leaps and bounds.
Lena can now admit to herself that she had been fantasizing about what a relationship with Kara, beyond friendship, would be like. As a logical person and one not given to romanticism, Lena had always assumed that reality would be very different to fantasy. She had thought that actually dating Kara wouldn’t be the fairy-tale, blissful experience of her dreams. Life just doesn’t work like that, especially the life of Lena Luthor.
Yet, dating Kara has been everything Lena could ever have dreamed of and more. Perhaps that wasn’t entirely surprising either, since Lena could never have dreamed of someone like Kara wanting her in the first place.
Being with Kara felt natural. It felt effortless. Whereas their friendship had always been comfortable, and Lena had thought effortless, it is only now that they are dating that Lena realises how much work she was putting into holding back her true feelings. She had been spending so much energy to modulate her body language and her instincts when around Kara into friend mode. Now though, Lena is at peace. Smiling at Kara, kissing her, cuddling her, telling her she is beautiful, holding her hand…it is all as easy as breathing.
Lena has no experience of a relationship ever being this natural, this easy. Before dating Kara, Lena always calculated, she worked to meet expectations in a relationship. The irony of the fact that her relationship with Kara has a literal road map and written document setting out what can be expected and a sort of timetable for possible escalation is not lost on Lena. It is just freeing though, having this Kryptonian style of courtship. There are no hidden expectations, no uncertainties of what to expect and what her partner expects. Perhaps humans should consider formalising the courtship process more, there would certainly be less misunderstanding and wasted time.
Lena huffs at her wool gathering and grips the key more firmly in her hand. The proposal document that Lena had drafted has done wonders for Kara’s self-confidence. Where before they had moved at such glacial speed and Kara had struggled to express her wants and desires, the Kryptonian style proposal document seems to have finally given her a way to express herself comfortably.
Take the exchanging of keys to each other’s apartments for example. Lena had expected that such a development would be months away and, in Lena’s fantasies, would surely have been a production in Kara rambling and using clichés from romantic comedy films to present Lena with a key. Lena can now see that a lot of Kara’s awkward conversational styles and her over reliance on media clichés or troupes as scaffolds for social interactions has been her way of coping and trying to navigate an alien culture. With the proposal document though, Kara had now been able to casually pull her spare Key from a drawer and confidently tell Lena she wanted to invoke Section 2: Dating, Sub section 3: relationship milestones, paragraph 2.8: Exchanging of entrance permissions and methodologies to respective members primary living abodes.
Lena had blinked in surprise at the confident and radiantly smiling Kryptonian, quickly reviewed the proposal in her mind and then accepted the key with an agreement that she too would like Kara to have access to her home. She informed Kara she would have a key cut and inform her security of her new co-residency privileges.
The invoking of Section 2: Dating, Sub section 3: relationship milestones, paragraph 2.4: The designation of storage space in sleep quarters and washrooms, was later invoked by Lena herself. While technically intended to come before the swapping of keys, Lena contended that now that they were able to come and go freely from each other’s homes, and considering there had been some natural diffusion of clothes, books and toiletries into each other’s homes from sleep overs, it seemed logical that they designate wardrobe, drawer and bathroom shelf space for each other.
Kara had agreed and accepted without hesitation. Discussion over. Lena was still slightly unbalanced by how…easy, and un-stressful each new step in their relationship was.
Lena slips the key into the lock and without further hesitation opens the door to push into Kara’s apartment.
“Hi babe. I have takeout,” Lena says in a conversational tone of voice despite Kara being nowhere in sight. That was another new adaptation for Lena. Kara had used Section 5: Healthy communication, subsection 2:Raising of a personal issue, Paragraph 4.1:Alien clarification, to give Lena a gentle reminder that she was an alien with super hearing. When people were in the know and talking to Kara when she is in the same building, she prefers they don’t shout unless it is an emergency or there is a need to maintain the human cover.
Lena had wanted to kick herself when Kara raised the issue, because it was so logical when Lena stopped to think about it. Someone shouting Kara’s name when she was in the same house or building must be quite uncomfortable for her super hearing. Kara had quickly nipped Lena’s self-flagellation in the bud, reminding her that the communication section of the courtship proposal was there exactly for issues like this. So that they can communicate fairly and without judgement.
Lena was equally pleased later when she used the same clause to impress upon Kara that as a human alien, Lena cannot eat the number of calories that Kara as a Kryptonian does. While she loves sharing food with Kara, the little treats of sticky buns she drops off at Lcorp and snacking while watching Netflix, Lena simply can’t eat like Kara does. Often Lena doesn’t want to be rude so will eat whatever Kara brings her, or is so desperate to spend time with her that she will suffer an extra hour at the gym to go to the newest burger Bar with Kara. Yet, Lena knows she shouldn’t really be eating the quantities and types of food she is when around Kara. She just can’t. Not without having to worry about coronary heart disease or gaining fifty pounds. Kara had nodded thoughtfully when Lena raised the issue, agreed that she would be more considerate about Lena’s food needs and the issue was closed.
Lena could have cried in relief. Something she had always worried over and thought would be a huge issue if she raised it with Kara because of her need for and love of high calorie food. Yet, with the courtship document, the issue was raised and dealt with painlessly. While they still enjoyed takeout, the odd sugary snacks together, and Kara continued Lena’s culinary exploration of all the food carts in National city, it was more balanced now. Kara would keep granola and yogurt in her apartment for Lena to eat the morning after she stayed over, she would bring Lena Kale salad or a healthy option at least twice out of every three lunch visits and cacao nibbles, light potato chips and sugar free gummies had become staple options for snacking while watching Netflix.
Lena, her coronary health and her waistline, really appreciated the small changes.
Kara’s voice calls out, “Hi honey, I’m in the shower. I’ll be just a minute.”
“No problem,” Lena replies as she discards her coat, kicks off her heals and pads into the kitchen to retrieve plates, silverware, and drinks. They may be eating takeout but Lena refuses to eat from boxes like a barbarian.
A few minutes later, just as Lena is scraping her Moo goo gai pan onto her plate, Kara pads into the sitting area on soft bare feet.
Lena glances up at her girlfriend and her breath catches as she sees Kara fresh from a shower. Her skin and hair are still slightly damp, her cheeks flushed and her skimpy sushi pyjama shirt sticks to her damp abs and breasts.
“Oh food! I am starving! Did you get me extra potstickers?” Kara asks excitedly as she dives over the back of the couch with the aid of her flight.
Kara lands with barely a sound and begins peaking into the bags at her feet. Lena finally manages to reboot her brain enough to tear her eyes from her gorgeous girlfriend and dramatically tut at Kara.
“No faith. Do I ever forget the extra potstickers? Especially after you spend the afternoon dramatically saving people from that apartment fire on 76th street”
Lena cocks a shapely brow at Kara, her lips pulling into a sexy, teasing smirk.
Kara blushes beautifully, exactly as Lena intended.
In leu of answering, Kara stretches across and plants a chaste kiss on those glistening red lips. Kara draws back to capture Lena’s opalescent emerald green eyes while softly bumping their foreheads together. For a moment they share breath and the Kara pulls away.
Lena’s lungs seem to have seized and she drags a slow breath back in to rouse herself. Lena is still unprepared when Kara does things like that. The contact is often fleeting but the depth of emotion, the conscious closeness and eye contact still catches her off guard. Such interactions are alien to Lena and perhaps to the outside world such frozen moments of prolonged intimacy would seem strange, yet to Lena, they are becoming an essential part of how Kara shows affection. Every touch is profound, a conscious decision to reach beyond her Kryptonian upbringing and indulge in new sensations and ways of expressing love.
Lena coughs as her mind stumbles on the ‘L’ word but luckily Kara has become distracted as she digs out her General Tso chicken, fried rice, BBQ ribs, egg rolls and double order of potsticker.
“I know you never forget anything I need Lena and I appreciate it,” Kara reflects as she surveys her food and casts a sideways glances at Lena.
Lena merely nods and tries to move their conversation forward before it becomes too emotional and profound as so many of their simple interactions have been becoming of late.
“It seems a bit early for pyjamas? What gives?” Lena asks to sate her curiosity and redirect their conversation.
The ploy partially backfires as Lena’s eyes are once again drawn to the goddess like physique which sushi pyjamas are barely covering. A small line of delicious tan skin and the hint of a dimple at the base of Kara’s spine is revealed as she leans forward to reach for some napkins.
Lena’s mouth goes dry and she has to consciously tear her eyes away from Kara. They may have progressed a great deal in the last six weeks but Kara’s complex Kryptonian relationship with touch, her inexperience with being intimate with humans and women in particular has meant that their physical relationship has moved at a slow pace. Their physical intimacy has not gone further than passionate kisses and Kara’s hesitant tactile exploration of Lena’s upper body over her clothes. Lena has reciprocated the actions with enthusiasm, careful to never go further than Kara herself does.
For that reason, Lena exercises all of her self-control to close the mental door on the image of herself tasting Kara skin and kissing that tantalising dimple. She tears her eyes from the exposed strip of skin and ruthlessly tampers down her sudden flare of libido. Lena can be patient, but it is best not to let her mind wander where Kara isn’t yet ready to go.
Kara draws back, sets napkins on her knee and begins digging into her chicken as she explains, “I’m in my pyjamas exactly because of that fire on 76th street. I got everyone out, and while my suit and I are invulnerable to fire, we are not invulnerable to the stink of smoke. I spent 20 minutes scrubbing myself and washed my hair four times before it stopped smelling of soot and smoke. Sometimes, enhanced senses are a pain. When I was done I just couldn’t be bothered getting dressed again since we are having a Netflix night anyway.”
Lena sips her glass of wine thoughtfully. “I suppose that I never considered the fact that smoky odours would cling to you. People forget things like that because you walk through fire like it is nothing. What about your suit? Is it in the wash?”
Kara hums around a mouth full of chicken, “It’s at the DEO. Alex developed a sonic cleaning process for it because using the industrial cleaners that would be necessary to get the smoke smell out tend to make me sneeze. I can get by with my civilian clothes by using unscented laundry detergent. I have a spare suit in the wardrobe here if I need it and Alex promises me that the upgrades to the nano-suit you made me should be finished by next week.”
Lena hums disapprovingly. She would have been more than capable of doing the system updates on Kara’s nano swarm suit, after all - she made it. Alex, however, seems to think that the DEO needs to have experience of maintaining all of Supergirl’s equipment.
“I’ll take a look at it when she is done and make sure she hasn’t broken it or programmed it to turn your suit pink at random times,” Lena teases.
Kara’s eyes go wide and she bumps Lena’s shoulder, “Stop. Don’t even joke about that. Miss Grant would reappear on my doorstep if that happened. I don’t need a lecture about neon pink Supersuits. She was mean enough about the overabundance of primary colours in the original suit.”
Lena snorts a laugh and spears a piece of broccoli, “So, what are we watching tonight?”
Kara’s cheeks are swollen with food and with a single super powered swallow she gasps a breath, “uh, maybe just another episode of Tales of the City while we eat?”
Lena leans back on the couch with her plate of food, her feet curling beneath her, “Fine, but I am seeing a trend here Kara. Tales of the City, Hard Candy, X-men, Juno, Whip it, The Umbrella Academy? How I thought you were straight when you are obviously obsessed with Ellen Paige I will never know.”
Kara coughs and chokes on a mouthful of BBQ ribs, her eyes huge and surprised, “What?! No, I…She is just a very good actress!”
Lena smirks and gestures to the television with her fork, “Sure, sure. Turn it on and eat your dinner.”
Kara huffs again but her shoulders sag in defeat before Lena’s raised brow and cocky look. She turns on Netflix and resumes devouring her dinner.
While they absently watch the show, Kara enquires about Lena’s day and how her board meeting went. Lena claims she isn’t dramatic, but as she describes her board meeting with the usual witty descriptions of her detested old white male board, Kara can’t help but giggle. Lena’s face becomes animated in a way it never is in public, her forest green eyes roll and dart, she waves her arms around and rather aggressively points her fork with a piece of beef dangling from the end.
Kara smiles indulgently at her girlfriend. Her heart feeling like it is too small for all the feelings she has for this gorgeous, enchanting woman.
Lena finally winds up her story as Kara gobbles up her last potsticker, “so I told the human embodiment of Humpty Dumpty that Lcorp wasn’t his personal piggy bank and no inter-company loans would be authorised between my company and his, just to bail him out of his own idiocy. I don’t care what Lex did. Like, really? Mr. Bates actually thought that argument would convince me to release company funds to him? I swear. His company only does minor technical work for Lcorp and if it wasn’t for his huge glut of shares in Lcorp I would have booted him long ago. This could be my opportunity though. I am going to pull our contracts to his company, leverage some contacts and make sure his little operation goes under. That will let me pick clean his best people and recruit them to Lcorp, buy up his shares in Lcorp when he gets desperate enough to sell them for the liquid capital and boot him from the board. It should only take another couple of weeks and I won’t have to look at him again.”
Kara smiles happily, “That’s my corporate shark of a girlfriend. Eating WASPS for breakfast and plotting market dominance.”
Lena rolls her eyes but her smug smile and slight blush reveals the contentment she is feeling.
“Right, lets clean up, and while you get the ice cream out, I am going to shower and change into sleepwear. I will indulge you and let you pick the film again tonight, something Disney no doubt.”
Kara smiles happily, “Sure.” As they tidy up, Lena can’t help but wonder at the hesitancy she notices in that smile and the slight nervousness that Lena began to detect in her girlfriend.
Lena showers quickly and returns to the living room in a silk pyjama pants set. Lena would personally prefer something with less material, but she doesn’t want Kara to even get a hint that Lena might be trying to pressure for more physical contact than she is ready for.
As Lena returns to the sitting room she is surprised to see that the television is turned off. A quick glance shows the bay window is closed so Kara hasn’t been called out on a Supergirl emergency and there is a pint tub of rocky road ice cream and a quarter pint tub of Watermelon sorbet on the kitchen bar. Lena feels her lips tilt in appreciation at Kara’s modified dessert option for her before she resumes her survey of the room.
As she comes fully into the room Lena finally spots Kara. She is sitting cross-legged on the fluffy matt between the sofa and the coffee table. Kara’s fingers pull and fiddle with the fuzz of the matt idly, a light tension and nervousness in her frame.
Lena quickly rounds the sofa and plops cross legged before Kara. It reminds Lena of a meditation retreat she attended when she was doing her PhD.
“Hey, what are we doing down here?” Lena whispers to Kara softly, her hands reaching out to take Kara’s and saving the poor rug.
Kara squeezes Lena’s hands and her thumbs immediately begin running soothing patterns across the backs of Lena’s hands.
Kara’s shoulders are slightly curved and her head is a little ducked. A clear signs of anxiety.
Lena attempts to make her face as open and soothing as possible, a small gentle smile on her now lipstick free lips.
Kara takes a breath; her whole frame seeming to rise and fall with the inhalation and exhalation. Lena remains quiet, letting Kara ground herself in Lena’s touch and the quiet of their apartment.
“The ice cream is softening, but I actually sort of wanted to show you something this evening, instead of watching a film. If you don’t mind? We can totally watch a film if you prefer. I know I said that was what we would do this evening…and maybe this can wait for another time, I-“ Kara rambles.
Lena tilts forward to plant a soft kiss on Kara’s mouth and effectively cuts off her rambling. Lena frees her right hand and gently brushes some of Kara’s still damp hair behind her ear, trailing her fingers tenderly across Kara’s cheek, down her neck and across her clavicle in a soothing gesture that has her blue eyes drifting shut.
Lena regrasps Kara’s hand, “Shh Kara, it’s Ok. We can do whatever you want this evening. So long as I am with you, we can watch paint dry if you want to. What is it you want to show me?”
Lena’s mind is wild with conjecture and wonder as she tries to hypothesise what it is Kara wants her to see and what it is that has her so flustered.
Kara’s eyes slowly open and she gives Lena a thankful, almost wondering smile.
“How is it that you always know exactly the right thing to do and to say?” Kara ponders aloud.
Lena shrugs bashfully and offers a small reassuring smile.
“Right,” Kara declares decisively.
“I have been working on this for the last six weeks. Back on Krypton, when you gave me your personal profile for me to consider binding my House to yours through you, I would have reciprocated immediately and as Heads of Houses we would have sat and debated the worth of our members against each other. I know it’s a little redundant now since we have both signed the courtship proposal and entered the courtship process, but I want you to know me Lena. I want you to know all of me. I sort of want the chance to show you that I am someone worthy of you, worthy of House Luthor offering me, you.”
Lena’s heart almost bursts as she listens to Kara’s earnest words, “Kara, you are more than worthy of me, you’re everything to me-“ Lena tries to explain but Kara cuts her off.
“I know you think that I am worthy, but…this would have been tradition on Krypton and there is a bit more to me than I show most people here on earth. I would have proven myself to you if we were back on Krypton. I want you to see it,” Kara states firmly as she reaches beneath the coffee table and pulls out a black folder much like the one Lena had used.
Burned into the surface, from what Lena can only assume is heat vision, is the crest of the House of El.
Kara reverently skims her hand over the crest and lifts the folder to chest height before extending it to Lena.
Lena suddenly feels the formality in this action. Despite their setting of Kara’s apartment, their silly pyjamas and the fuzzy rug they sit on, this moment feels significant- formal.
Kara’s actions feel rehearsed, as though she is performing some ancient tradition. It is in this moment that Lena realises how important this is for Kara. Kara isn’t just offering her a CV like Lena did, she is offering a piece of herself, a piece of her lost people in this tradition.
Lena suddenly feels so privileged to be sitting here on this fluffy rug with Kara. With the reverence it deserves Lena reaches out and takes the folder.
“Thank you,” Lena whispers. She desperately wishes there were more Kryptonians she could have asked about this tradition because Lena feels like there should be ceremonial words here.
Alas, she is an alien to Kara and so it seems allowances will have to be made.
Lena opens the folder to reveal the title page: “A report considering the suitability and advantage of House Luthor binding with House El through Kara Danvers Zor-El.”
Lena huffs a small laugh, “Nice title.”
Kara’s eyes are alight with humour now, “Yes, I saw something similar somewhere recently and went against all my journalistic instincts to plagiarise it.”
Lena flicks to the next page which appears to be a form of index, something her own report was missing but is apparently traditional to these kinds of documents. Lena’s eyes skim the headings and she makes a mental note to reorganise her own report and present it again to Kara in a better folder, with the Luthor Crest on the front.
The index seems rather logical: Family History, Figures of Note, Family trees, House genetic evaluation, Codex evaluation of societal worth, Education of Kara Danvers Zor-El, Career, achievements of note, Awards.
Lena begins flicking through the document, her own speed-reading capability nothing on Kara’s.
The detail and depth of Kara’s proposal puts her own to shame. Lena comes across the House Genetic Evaluation section and her mind boggles at what seems to be a complete genetic map for Kara and the last three generations of her family. Absently Lena’s mind notes how securely she will have to store this. The last thing the world needs is some mad scientist getting the full genetic map of how to make a Kryptonian.
“Where did these come from?” Lena asks hesitantly as she points at the Genetic maps.
Kara peers forward and then sits back before answering nonchalantly, “Oh those were on some of the data crystals on my pod and a second copy is likely at the Fortress, but I didn’t want to explain to Kal-El why I wanted them. With the codex, a genetic map of every individual on Krypton was always kept. Actually, the maps were usually created before the offspring…genetically engineered pod children and all.”
Lena nods absently, her mind trying valiantly to wrap around the enormity of what she is seeing.
“Um, is there a reason you wouldn’t want to explain to Kal-El? Not that you are under any obligation to or anything.”
Kara sighs dejectedly and an ancient sadness films her eyes, “Kal is surprisingly ignorant about Kryptonian culture. He may have read about the codex creating shortlists for life partners, the Houses negotiating and creating proposals, but he doesn’t really understand it. He was raised human, so a lot of Krypton’s traditions seem odd to him and I didn’t want to see the lack of comprehension in his eyes if I explained it to him, why I need it, why I want it. He would likely fly off the handle and make baseless accusations about you trying to barter for me like a business contract or he would make another insensitive comment about eugenics. I know humans are sensitive about even the most basic forms of eugenics, the way it was used in your second world war was horrifying to me, but on Krypton our entire species was about engineering the best, most well adapted individuals to better Krypton. To humans, and to Clark, that can sound a bit creepy and I didn’t want us to argue over the genetic maps.”
Lena nods hesitantly before venturing forth, “Have you thought anymore about telling anyone else about our courtship? Your friends and family know we are dating I know, but have you considered trying to explain the fact we are taking a more Kryptonian approach to it?”
Kara’s nose scrunches and she bobs her head from side to side, “Not really. On Krypton, House negotiations and proposals for courtship were private. It was illegal to show them to anyone else, and besides, I don’t think it is worth the hassle or emotional pain it would cause me having to explain my species customs, traditions and courtship. Inevitably, I think I would have to end up defending it to people like James who won’t be able to see past their human norms. It’s one of the reasons I want a relationship with you Lena, why I care so much about you. You don’t force me to be something I’m not. You are willing to meet me half way and accept the fact I am different. I might show the proposal to Alex one day if I fully explain the process to her but we would need a version without Section 8:Physical intimacy in it. I think my sister could do without seeing that.”
Kara blushes deep red and coughs awkwardly.
Lena is by now a similar colour. “Quite. I think something can be arranged so Agent Danvers doesn’t see Section 8 and comes after me with a shotgun.”
Kara snorts a giggle.
Reaching back across the space between them and squeezing Kara’s knee reassuringly Lena reaffirms, “And Kara, I am always willingly to meet you halfway. You meet me more than halfway on a daily basis. You are constantly trying to blend in as a human. I want you to always know that you can share your culture, your heritage and yourself with me.”
Kara sniffles as she tries to hold back tears. She nods franticly instead of speaking, lest she try to find the words and ends up blubbering on Lena’s shoulder.
Sensing that Kara needs a moment, Lena returns to perusing the document in her hand.
“Youngest prospective member of the science guild in history, 13 years old and considered a savant?” Lena asks in amazement as a line catches her attention.
Kara blushes and ducks her head again.
Lena probes further as she tries to understand, “Were the science guilds like Universities? Were you going to study science Kara? That seems so, out of character?” Lena’s brows have scrunched together as she tries to rebuild and reconstruct this new image of Kara.
Kara sits up straighter, her jaw jutting out proudly and her whole posture takes on a regale edge that Lena has never seen before, “Being a member of the science guild might be analogous to a university if it was MIT and by attending, you mean working as a top level academic.”
Lena’s jaw drops open in shock, “What?!”
Kara if possible, becomes even more smug, “It’s all in the document, skim down to education and then cross reference with Achievements.”
Lena frantically flips through pages and reads as fast as she can. The words blurring together and silence growing thick between the women.
Eventually the folder goes limp in Lena’s hands and she sits up to face Kara, her face one of dawning awe as she re-evaluates her girlfriend, “Kara, this says you were performing advanced theoretical maths and bioengineering at a level consummate with your uncle Jor-El, one of the Science Guilds greatest minds. I know a thing or two about accelerated education…how did you even manage this?”
Kara smiles a little sadly, “Education was different on Krypton. The codex designed me to be a scientist like my father and uncle, so my education was almost exclusively science based once the basics were done. The codex calculated that Krypton would need a scientist to help the guild reverse the environmental issues our world was facing so I was made. Kryptonian education isn’t like here on earth. It is done in pods by computers. Each individual student has a curriculum designed to them and it moves at a pace which suits their ability. I was a fast learner. I spent ten years, seven hours a day being taught about science, maths and bioengineering. I had one hour of assigned fitness class per day and one hour of minor studies to help make us more…rounded. I did art, much to the codex and my mothers dismay. She wanted me to do law like her or political science like Aunt Astra. Dad and Uncle Jor loved that I did art. They said it helped my scientific mind conceptualise and think in the abstract. I still paint a bit here on earth.”
Lena’s jaw feels unhinged. She had never really considered how education was done on Krypton.
“You understand theoretical maths and bioengineering?” Lena husks, her voice suddenly deeper. By all the gods, Lena thought that Kara was sexy before, but now!
Kara fidgets under Lena’s heated gaze, her hooded eyes making heat spread through Kara, “Um, yeah? I never got to take my entrance exam obviously but my project for proof of ability was solving something earth science calls the Kissing Numbers Problem. My solution solved the problem to the fifth dimension for the first time. I exceeded the earlier work of the great Kryptonian mathematician Pir-On.”
Kara smiles like its nothing, while Lena’s mind stalls out, “That…how, you, but humanity has only solved the Kissing Numbers Problem to two dimensions, three is…the maths community has been working on it for a century. You solved it at 13 to five dimensions!”
Kara grins smugly, “Superior, genetically bread alien! Some of us just have it.”
Lena goggles at her girlfriend, “Kara you have to show me! This, this could revolutionise spatial math!”
Kara suddenly becomes more hesitant, “Um, you would have to help me work out translations. I haven’t done any Kryptonian maths in over a decade. I struggled when I came to earth. I was traumatised and learning a whole new language, a new system of representing numbers and math symbology…it was hard. People say math is universal and it is to an extent, conceptually, but actual representations of numbers, brackets, the Greek letters that earth math love. Kryptonian maths does not use those representations and symbols. We would have to work through it together, it would be tedious…” Kara demures.
Lena’s eyes soften as she pictures a little genius 13 year old Kara: cut off from her one subject of expertise, having to relearn basic concepts and symbols. High school must have been torture for her. “I would love to work on it with you Kara.”
Kara smiles suddenly, a bouncy sense of joy overtaking her, “Ok, but no publishing more than one dimensional solution per twenty years. We can’t turn the earth maths community on their head. We have to leave something for them to do, and I can’t ever take credit for any publications. My high school maths scores in Midvale were abysmal.”
Lena nods frantically at the terms and scoffs, “Of course they were! By the sounds of things you were a Van Gough of mathematics and they were asking you to do the maths equivalent of sketching a comic strip.”
Kara sighs and her grip on Lena’s hands turns stronger, “If only I had met you in high school.”
Lena blushes, “We’re together now, and to be honest, I don’t think I would have been very good for you then. I was going through my own self destructive teen angst at the time.”
Kara laughs, “I can see it, a goth Lena, smoking behind a bike shed, drinking alcohol and everything.”
A wicked glint takes over Lena’s eyes, “And getting illegal underage tattoos…”
Kara’s eyes narrow, “What tattoos?”
Lena wiggles her eyebrows dramatically, “Wouldn’t you like to know? That is a surprise that you may, or may not, at some later point in our relationship!”
Kara is beet red, but her hand seems to rise subconsciously to her glasses to pull them down for an X-ray peak of Lena before she realises what she is doing and immediately slaps her hand back into Lena’s own.
Lena laughs again, “Come on genius, what else did you come up with?”
Kara tilts her head, “You know it is all in the folder if you would just read it as you are meant to.”
Lean flutters her hand and blows a raspberry in a moment of immature levity, “I will read it cover to cover later, but right now I am loving hearing it from you!”
“Hmm,” Kara thinks before her eyes widen and she begins explaining in a reminiscent tone, “I had intended to create an artificial atmosphere as part of my first project after admittance into the Science guild. It would likely have taken decades to finish but hypothetically I thought that by using a form of bioengineered crystalline microbe it would have been possible to create a thicker secondary atmosphere on krypton. That would have trapped more heat from Rao’s cooling rays and ultimately tempered the weather so the ecology could begin recovering.”
Lena whistles, “That was a big dream. Then again, my first project out of university was to cure cancer. So it seems we are more alike than I knew.”
Kara smiles, pleased by the thought. Her gaze and mind become lost in hazy childhood memories.
Hesitantly, Lena asks the only logical follow up question, “So, why did you become a journalist Kara? Your scientific and mathematical knowledge is so far beyond earth. I don’t understand why you didn’t pursue it. For that matter, why do you let me, Alex and Brainy ramble on about science stuff that you are obviously smart enough to contribute to?”
Kara’s face drops mournfully, and Lena can’t help but immediately feel bad for breaking the happy atmosphere. Lena scoots to the side, or rather bum shuffles inelegantly across the floor to engulf Kara in an awkward sideway hug.
“I’m sorry honey, that was insensitive. You don’ have to answer,” Lena rushes to make amends
Kara sniffles and Lena is heartbroken to see a tear trickling down Kara’s tan cheek.
Lena tightens her embrace as though she can hug this hurt away.
Kara’s voice is muffled as she replies, “It’s not insensitive. It is logical, and so few people bother to ask.”
Kara sucks in a shuddering breath, “ When I came to earth, I had a whole new language to learn. People misunderstand that speaking a language and being fluent enough to specialise in something like maths or engineering is not the same thing. The divergence between technical symbology and theory between Kryptonians and Humans is vast. I was a grieving teenager when I was 13. Earth maths was stupid, I was struggling to pass as human, to understand your culture, language and social norms. Maths and Science reminded me of my lost home and a way of life that was lost to me. Besides which, I specialised in bioengineering. The literal manipulation of organic crystals, artificial lifeforms and structures for everything from construction, to environmental control and biochemical engineering. The discipline and technology simply doesn’t exist here on earth.”
Lena begins to gently rock Kara. “Oh baby, I am so sorry. This world must feel so…primitive.”
Lena mournfully looks around at her home and casts her mind back to Lcorp. The sciences of earth, the way humans live must feel so pathetically childish and backward to Kara. Lena can’t help a sudden flare of self-consciousness. All the supposedly wonderous technology she has created in her life feeling somehow worthless now.
Kara can almost see the spiral that Lena is on, “Hey no. Don’t do that. Don’t degrade humanity. Sure, when I got here I was so confused and upset. You all build houses, you don’t grow them, and the maths…well the maths sucks.”
Lena snorts a laugh, “You are really selling it.”
Kara glares through tear stained eyes, “-Buuuut, earth is also amazing. On Krypton, our art and fashion was very regimented and uniform. Here, there is so much colour, so many different styles. The food is amazing too. When I first got here, I thought of food as ‘earth food’ and then Alex informed my that every culture and nation has a different tradition of foods and flavours. The amount of variety was just staggering. Krypton had been unified for so long and our ecology so damaged that we artificially produced all food using hydroponics and lab grown proteins. Eating was a function, not a social experience, a joy, an exploration as it is here on earth. Art here is diverse and journalism a revelation!”
Lena pulls back slightly and frowns, “Journalism was a revelation?”
Kara smiles, her face still shadowed by sadness, “Everyone assumes I became a journalist to follow Kal-El. Nothing could be further from the truth. When I first arrived on earth I was disgusted that an heir to the Noble House of El was a gossip monger and not a scientist. I was overwhelmed by how much information is available to earthlings. The Fifth Estate didn’t exist on Krypton. The council or a guild released briefings to the data net periodically and that was it. The idea that people would question their wise rulers, those engineered to lead, that people were paid to ferret out secrets and investigate events of public importance was absolutely foreign. Then I had the a revelation one day. I was 14 and watching a tv news exposé about a local politician who had been taking kick-backs to look the other way about illegal dumping. It was like a light went on in my head. If someone had exposed the fact the core of Krypton was destabilising, had questioned the councils reassurances, dug out evidence of the coming cataclysm and publicly announced it to everyone on Krypton, independent of the Council! Then maybe, just maybe my world could have been saved. Maybe the council would have been forced to act. Maybe more people would have escaped Krypton’s destruction. That was the day I decided I would be a journalist.”
Lena is in awe of Kara. It makes so much more sense now. “You did it you know,” Lena whispers.
Kara twists to face Lena as she continues, “You saved more people than you will ever know. The exposé of Myriad, of Cadmus, Humanity First and Lex. You saved people. You exposed the truth.”
Kara’s face lights up and she whispers in wonder, “Yeah, I sort of did.”
The two women remain snuggled together enjoying the warm embrace for what feels like hours.
Their soft breathing matching each other and Lena’s tender hands soothingly caress Kara’s back.
When Kara feels her equilibrium return, she pokes the folder, which Lena discarded to comfort her, with her bare foot, “So, any more questions?”
Lena hums and reaches out with her left hand to pick up the folder.
Lena stretches her legs out and Kara follows suit. They tangle their legs out across the fluffy rug and beneath the coffee table.
Lena sets the folder on top of their tangled legs as they half embrace and begins flicking through pages again, “I will read the whole thing later but I wanted to ask you about something, where was it…Ah ha! Here. It says you speak twenty eight languages conversationally?”
Kara laughs softly, “Don’t sound so surprised. I remember reading in your report that you speak eight: English, Irish, Mandarin, Japanese, Russian, French, Spanish and German.”
Lena huffs, “A misspent youth. Lillian and Lionel would drag me on ‘foreign holidays’ which were really business trips in disguise. They always wanted to show off their perfect family, their altruistically adopted genius daughter and flaunting me and Lex at parties helped them network with businesspeople or politicians who were family men. Lex would distract me by helping me learn the local languages. He always said knowledge was power and it has certainly come in handy when doing business internationally.”
Kara wants to thrash Lionel and Lillian for all the damage they have done to someone so wonderful as Lena. She knows that she is the only person Lena will discuss Lex with. A sore spot with most people and a particularly complicated one for Lena herself, yet here she is reminiscing about one of her few cherished memories of her beloved brother, before it all went terribly wrong.
Kara snuggles deeper into Lena’s side, “I was fascinated by the diverse languages of earth when I arrived and determined not to be stuck unable to communicate again as I was when I first arrived so I began teaching myself other languages as a hobby once I learned English well enough to get by. The Romance languages have enough in common that learning one helped me get a better grasp on the others, and my English improved too. When I became Supergirl I took it more seriously because being able to speak multiple languages to help across the world is important. I can speak 16 earth languages so far. As for the others, well, my father said something similar to Lex about knowledge being power. By the time I was 13 I had visited 12 other planets. I found other cultures fascinating and the House of El had a history of reaching out to alien races. That was unusual for our people following the return to the home world and Kryptonian isolationism. My dad was abit of a rebel and he encouraged me to learn the languages of the worlds he took me to visit: Tamarin, Daxian, Larntec, Bolovaxian, Ancient Coluan, Trivian, Roshis, G-emach, Koldorsan, Thanagarian and our local sector Green Lantern taught me his people’s language of Dalrishan.”
Lena listens to the foreign names and her mind hums at the knowledge that each language represents a race, a whole world and species that exists in the universe. Then Lena latches onto Kara’s last piece of information.
“What do you mean local Sector Green Lantern?” Lena asks curiously.
Kara tilts her head in surprise, “You know, the Green lantern assigned to Krypton’s region of space.”
“There is more than one Green Lantern?” Lena asks incredulously.
Kara splutters, “Of course. They are part of a Corps. An intergalactic peace keeping and disaster relief force, all empowered by their rings and ruled by the Maltusian Guardians of Oa.”
Lena looks blankly at Kara, the new information slotting into place.
“What did you think Earth’s Green Lantern meant when he said he was the Green Lantern for Sector 2814? There are over 7000 Green Lanterns scattered across space, each guarding numerous planets and species.”
Lena gasps, “So many?!”
Kara nods indulgently.
“Our Green Lantern isn’t exactly the talkative type. I had no idea he was part of something so large,” Lena remarks in awe.
Kara nods happily, “It is actually a great honour to have a Green Lantern chosen from your species. It implies the potential and worth of your people to produce one.”
Lena is amazed, she feels as though Kara is opening a whole new world to her.
Kara huffs slightly as she reminisces, “It is funny. The Green Lantern of earth sort of started one of the few arguments me and Kal have ever really had.”
Lena’s brows rise swiftly. She had sort of been under the impression that Kara was a bit of a push over where Kal-El was concerned. Some form of residual guilt from her pod being knocked off course and not being there to raise him Lena figures. The idea that Kara and Kal-El had ever argued was something of a revelation to Lena. Kara seems to always let Kal away with everything. His dumping her on the Danvers, his spotty track record of visiting her as she grew up, and then his disappearing acts into deep space to leave Earth’s safety solely on Kara’s shoulders for months at a time with little or no notice. All this, Kara seemed to accept with hardly a word.
“What about the Green lantern caused you to quarrel?” Lena asked.
Kara blows out a deep breath, “When I was younger, Kal-El brought me to the Fortress and in one of the deep levels, there are the recovered bottle cities that Kal liberated from Brainiac. I was horrified. They just hung there in the Fortress. Thousands, millions of shrunken people, living out their whole lives in bottled. I couldn’t fathom why he hadn’t released them. The Fortress has the technology to find compatible worlds for them and has technology stolen from Brainiac that could maybe unshrink them if we studied it. Kal had to point out that he had no right to claim worlds and just pop cities and people into existence on them. There are hundreds of species, some advanced and some primitive in those bottles. If they were restored on the wrong planet, they could upset the balance of power in a region of space or may become prey for another stronger race. I let it go then, but when the Green Lantern appeared I demanded that Kal ask the him to take the bottle cities back to Oa. The Guardians would be able to identify the species in the bottles needs and they have the most detailed maps of the universe so would be able to pick safe planets to restore the cities on. They could choose places protected by Lanterns. Kal the idiot, was suspicious of the New Green Lantern and was refusing to talk to him about handing over the bottle cities. He wanted to keep them like some sick ornament collection. I was enraged. It was our worst argument ever, until he finally spoke with the Lantern and accompanied him to meet the Guardians.”
Lena nods mournfully. Every human alive has heard of Brainiac and how Superman saved earth from the Cyber Tyrant. Lena had never actually considered what had happened to all the worlds and people that had encountered Brainiac before he was stopped.
“The Guardians helped?” Lena whispers.
Kara nods happily, “Yes. They have restored and resettled a lot of the bottle cities. They decided not to seed any of the bottle cities on the border worlds near the Vega system. Just in case. That has resulted in a delay in finding appropriate worlds for some of the bottle city’s people.”
Lena’s brow furrows again, “Vega system?”
“Ah well, my Dad used to tell me ghost stories about the Vega system. Apparently, the Green Lanterns are barred from entering space there, a lot like the space controlled by Apokalypse. Green Lanterns can only go to sectors of space where the worlds are pre-FLT or where worlds have signed up to the very basic species rights accords of the Lanterns. No-one knows why the whole system of Vega is off limits, but my dad used to tell me that some of the Guardians had a falling out aeons ago and fled to Vega. To keep their brethren and their Green Lanterns away Vega Guardians created a monster and put it on one of the planets of Vega, so now, no civilised race, and no Green Lantern will go to Vega.”
Lena assimilates every detail that Kara tells her. The idea of the vast Universe beyond earth is something Lena’s mind can barely comprehend. The idea of vast numbers of species and races working together and sharing at least some basic values in common that the Lantern Corp can travel between them all is oddly inspiring. The vast beauty of it astounds Lena and yet, Kara sits snuggled into her side describing it in vivid detail. Lena cannot help but think of how incredibly lucky she is. There are so many worlds out there that Kara could have ended up on. Lena could so easily have never met her.
“So, ghost stories are universal then?” Lena jokes to lift the heavy atmosphere.
Kara huffs a laugh before turning more serious, her hands spreading across the report lying across their tangled legs.
“So, do I meet the preliminary approval of House Luthor?” Kara asks softly.
The hesitancy in Kara’s voice grounds Lena and she raises their entangled hands, pressing a soft kiss to the back of Kara’s hand. She leans down and plants a soft kiss onto the crown of Kara’s head before she whispers seriously, “The House of Luthor would be honoured to bind itself with House El. House El have a produced a singularly spectacular daughter of brilliant intellect and pure heart.”
Kara seems to relax back into Lena, an invisible weight lifting from her shoulders.
The two women sit in silence for a few moments before Lena cocks her head to the side and with restrained amusement asks, “Kara, do you have straws?”
Kara frowns slightly, almost on the verge of drowsing off in the comfortable cocoon of Lena’s arms.
“Um, I think so, why?”
Lena can’t help it any longer and she snorts a laugh, “Well, I think you will need a straw to drink your ice cream by now. It is past thawed and straight to drinkable by now.”
Kara topples Lena to the side as she shoots straight up in the air, “Oh shoot!”
Thank you all for reading. Please let me know your thoughts in the comments and drop some Kudos.