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Bizarre Love Triangle

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This is going to take a long time
And I wonder what's mine
Can't take no more
Wonder if you'll understand
It's just the touch of your hand
Behind a closed door
All I needed was the love you gave
All I needed for another day
And all I ever knew
Only you

“Only You” - Yazoo

 

 

They rebuild slowly.

They’ll grab coffee, sometimes lunch, maybe the occasional dinner. Usually somebody else is there, Alex or Andrea or Nia. Always in public. They don’t discuss it - don’t really need to - but they both know that they’re not ready to spend time together alone in private. But bit by bit, Lena and Kara restore their friendship, letting last year’s heartaches fade and heal.

Kara moves out of Scooter’s basement and onto Alex’s couch. She’s there for a month until Alex’s gruff landlord comes through for them and finds Kara a studio apartment in the neighborhood owned by an equally gruff friend of his. Kara gets a good deal on it and finally finds herself living alone for the first time in a long time, but Alex is just around the corner.

Alex helps her move into her new place. In the midst of taking out dishware from a cardboard box and stacking them in kitchen cabinets, she asks with feigned casualness, “So… how are things with Lena going?”

Kara’s unpacking her clothes, which go on an open freestanding closet in lieu of a real closet in this tiny space.

“Good!” Kara answers cheerily. “We just had lunch the other day. You know, I don’t care what anybody else says, Katz’s still has the best pastrami. Hey, pickles count as a serving of vegetables, right? Lena says they don’t but I think that’s crazy. Of course they’re vegetables.”

Alec scrunches her nose as she contemplates the question. “I think cucumbers are technically fruits? But your diet’s probably already in trouble if you’re trying to classify pickles as a vegetable serving, so you should listen to Lena.” Remembering that this isn’t the point of the conversation, Alex shakes her head. Fix Kara’s love life first, then her diet. “No, wait, we’re talking about Lena right now. What’s going on with you two?”

Kara shrugs. “Nothing. Things are going well though. We’re both happy with where we are. We talk, we hang out, it’s all good.”

“Yeah, but don’t you want to…” Alex clears her throat, searching for a euphemism she would be comfortable with. “...do extra-friendly things with her?”

“Well, of course I do,” Kara answers in exasperation, as if it’s perfectly obvious, as if she hasn’t spent the past month being platonic buddies with Lena. “But she said she wanted to hit pause on the romance and I have to respect that. Anyway, there’s nothing wrong with taking things slow.”

“So you are planning on asking her out at some point?”

Busy shaking loose a sweater from her suitcase, Kara answers nonchalantly, “Sure, when we’re both ready.”

“You mean when Lena’s ready.”

Kara deposits her sweater back in her suitcase, stopping her unpacking to give Alex her full attention.

“Alex, I hurt her. I hurt her a lot. Giving her some time is the least that I could do.”

But because this is her baby sister, Alex’s going to take Kara’s side, whether she wants it or not. “But you didn’t mean to hurt her.”

“I don’t think that matters. Damage is damage. I’m just happy that she still wants me in her life after all that. So, yeah, I’m going to let her set the pace here.”

Alex huffs. It’s not that she disagrees. She’s just impatient waiting for her sister’s happy ending. “Your endless mutual respect for each other is going to be the death of your relationship. No, sorry, the death of your non-relationship.”

“It won’t get that far. I promise. This is nothing at all like last year. Besides…” Kara picks up her sweater again, lowly muttering this next part that she knows Alex won’t like. “I, um, I just want to make sure my last relationship is really dead and buried before anything happens with Lena. She deserves a new start with me that doesn’t come with all this baggage.”

Alex heavily sets a mug down on the shelves with a thud as she scoffs incredulously. “That’s still going on?”

As it turns out, breaking up with your childhood sweetheart takes more than just a single fight at the airport. Even if that fight included a punch to the face and a broken nose.

First, there were the late night phone calls, which Kara took out of residual guilt. Mike had asked for a second chance, which Kara swiftly and firmly shot down. Next came the texts and emails, ostensibly about division of assets. “I think you still have my favorite hoodie, can I have it back?” and “Remember the really nice bike you bought me last Christmas? I feel terrible keeping something so expensive, do you want to use it some time?” Finally, Kara told him to make a list of everything he wanted back and to keep or throw away anything of hers he thinks he still has. And now he’s asking to meet one last time. For ‘closure,’ whatever that means.

“This is the last thing,” Kara says. “He knows that.”

“And if it’s not, you’re going to file for a restraining order, right?”

“No, but I did tell him that if he tries to contact me again after this, I was going to leave him locked in a tiny windowless room with you.”

Alex hums in approval. “Good enough.”

***

She’s five minutes early to meeting Mike at a generic, unremarkable, coffee shop in Lower Manhattan, a neutral territory that holds no meaning for either of them. Mike’s already there, a half-empty cup of coffee before him. She waves hello, buys a cup of tea, and brings it to the table. They exchange pleasantries, hello, how are you, how’s work, all the polite things people start with in an awkward meeting.

Then Mike asks, “How’s Lena?” It’s clear that he means for it to be small talk, but it’s the wrong small talk. When Kara visibly stiffens, he quickly retracts. “No, nevermind. I shouldn’t have. Uh, look, I’m leaving on Saturday. I’m moving back to Krypton. I just wanted to say goodbye… and I wanted to… here.” He leans over, rummages through his bookbag that’s sitting on the floor, and comes up with a shoebox which he sets down on the table and pushes towards her. “When I was home over Christmas, I, uh, I went in the basement and dug up all the pictures we have with your family. I thought you should have them. There’s some other stuff too, postcards and Christmas cards your folks sent over the years. And my mom found some recipes that your mom shared with her ages ago. They’re in there too.”

Kara pulls the box in front of her and gingerly takes off the lid. It’s filled almost to the top, with photographs and writings that look achingly familiar. Just seeing her mother’s carefree, loopy Y’s fill her with happy melancholy.

As she sifts through the box, Mike continues, “When I was home, my dad had good days and bad days. I’m watching him struggling to hold on to bits and pieces of his life and I… it just struck me that’s what you were trying to do for so long and how important it is to hold on to your memories. So I… I think you should have this. I hope it helps.”

Feeling overwhelmed, feeling grateful, Kara musters a feeble, emotional, “Thank you.”

“And I’m sorry.” He chuckles then, self-deprecatingly. “I feel a bit like the boy who cried wolf because I’ve apologized to you so many times for so many things, I don’t know how to tell you how deeply sorry I am this time. But I am. I- I’ve been doing a lot of thinking. I know I haven’t always been a good boyfriend, but the last few months we were together, that was something else. I lost my mind, Kara. I was so scared of losing you, and the things I did… I mean, you punched me. You broke my nose. I never thought that you would do that. I never thought that you could.”

Despite what Alex’s told her over and over again, Kara just doesn’t think she’ll ever stop feeling bad about that. Not for the first time, she says contritely, “Y- yeah, I’m really sorry about that. I- I shouldn’t have done that.”

Mike just looks aghast at the apology. “Kara, no. I didn’t mean it like that. I just mean that for you to do something like that, that means that I pushed you way past your limit. And I didn’t even know. Or I guess I didn’t want to accept it. All those times that you told me that it wasn’t working, I just didn’t believe you, because I was so sure about us. I was so convinced that I could make you happy in the long run that I didn’t see how much pain I was causing you. I’ve spent my whole life loving you and you’re everything to me. I am still so crazy for you because you-”

“Mike,” Kara breaks in gently. “Stuff like that is how we got here in the first place.”

He bows his head, chastened. “Yeah. I guess I thought I was being expressive and honest with my feelings. I thought I was being romantic about what you mean to me. And maybe it would be if you felt the same way, but… uh, well, you don’t. It never occurred to me how hearing stuff like that would make you feel. Anyway… I’m sorry.”

And Kara just nods. They both have enough regrets from this relationship to last a lifetime. Sometimes it’s best just to move on.

She says, “Mike, we can’t be in contact again. No calls, no texts, no emails, no social media. You get that, right?”

He manages a small, sad nod. “Yeah. I get that.” He slouches back in his chair and sighs, trying for levity but missing the mark entirely. “But, hey, maybe someday, like ten years from now, we can be friends again?”

He smiles at her, and for a moment, he looks like the boy she had fallen in love with so many years ago. Then it’s easy for Kara to picture this future: in ten, fifteen years, she visits Krypton with her wife and children and meets up with Mike, his wife, and their kids. They go out to dinner, reminiscing about old times. Mike drives them around in his pick-up, they talk about all the people they used to know and how different Krypton’s become and how it stays the same. It’s tempting. It would be wonderful to think that one day they could be friends with no pain or regret. To have someone who remembers her parents. To keep that connection to Krypton alive.

But Kara knows very well how poisonous hope can be, how a tantalizing, unfulfilled promise can hang about like a cursed specter and cast a pall over the future. She also knows that the woman who has her heart still harbors, may always harbor, deep-seated insecurities over her relationship with Mike. And she would give Lena zero reason to be doubtful, not even for a second. Their relationship might not have technically started just yet - in fact, Kara doesn’t even have any guarantees that there would ever be a relationship - but regardless, she’s ready to protect it at any cost.

She makes her choice. It’s not a hard one.

With a slight smile, she tells him, in a kind but firm tone, “Not a chance.”

***

It was bound to happen sooner or later. When it finally does, they’re three months into their newfound friendship.

It’s Thursday night, and Kara’s out with Lena and her friends out at a small jazz bar in the West Village. Everyone’s having fun, enjoying the music, joking and chatting.

Until Andrea, with a pointed glance at Kara, asks: “What's going on over there?”

They look over. Lena’s at the bar, ordering drinks for everyone. She’s waiting for the bartender to make their orders and it looks like she’s struck up a conversation with a fellow patron, a striking woman with short, dirty-blonde hair and a sly, confident smirk.

Kara downs the rest of her half-full beer with one long drink. She coughs a little when she comes up for air.

“You okay?” Sam asks with genuine concern.

“Yes!” Kara exclaims, a little too loud.

“Oh, good, denial,” Andrea remarks sarcastically. “That’s a color we haven’t seen on you.”

“No, I mean…” Kara gestures uselessly as she struggles to explain this. “Look, Lena and I… we’re friends right now. I’m not saying that’s all we’ll ever be but that is what we are right now.”

“So that-” Andrea nods at the bar, where the short-haired woman is inching closer into Lena’s personal space. “-doesn’t bother you?”

Kara looks over, quickly discovers that’s a mistake, and turns her attention back. “Well, I’m not going to lie and say that I love it. But… we’re friends. We have no claims to one another. She’s not doing anything wrong.”

“Isn’t this hard?” Sam questions. “Being just friends when you have feelings for her?”

“I don’t know. I guess it should, but it isn’t?” Kara pauses, trying to find a way to describe it. “It’s like… I just really love spending time with her, no matter what we do or what we are. I liked the, um, well, the physical stuff, but it’s not the be-all and end-all. Lena and I, we have a wonderful, unique connection, with or without romance or benefits. Our relationship is always going to be special no matter what state it’s in.”

“Aww!” Sam coos.

Andrea winces. “Eww.”

In admonishment, Sam delivers a playful slap to her knee.

Andrea accepts the judgment stoically and offers Kara a quasi-apology. “Hey, for what it’s worth, I’m completely supportive. Mostly because I don’t need you and your ‘special connection’ coming in here and encroaching on my territory. I already have to share the ‘best friend’ job with this one.” She jerks a thumb at Sam. “Girlfriend? Fine. But Lena can’t have three best friends. I won’t stand for it.”

“I’ll make sure to plan my love life around your friendship hierarchy,” Kara responds drily.

“I’m glad we understand each other,” Andrea returns with a satisfied nod.

“Well, that sounds like trouble.” Lena interjects as she arrives with the drinks. Eying Andrea with great suspicion, she sets the tray of drinks down on the table. “Should I be concerned?”

“Not as concerned as I am about you and that blondie with the K-pop mop over there.” Andrea gestures at the blonde at the bar, who’s looking over her shoulder in their direction. “What’s her deal?”

Lena shrugs carelessly, more preoccupied with handing out the drinks than the beautiful woman at the bar smirking in her direction. “I wouldn’t know. We just chatted about whiskey briefly.”

“Did I see her give you her number?” Sam asks.

Deliberately, Lena doesn’t look in Kara’s direction. She’s nevertheless very aware of her, aware of the stiffening in her posture.

“I didn’t take it,” Lena replies, ostensibly to Sam. “By the way, how did Ruby do on her volcano project?”

It’s not a subtle segue, but it’s an effective one. The conversation steers itself to Ruby, and from there takes on a life of its own.

At the end of the evening, Lena walks Kara to her subway stop. They walk side by side, a polite distance between them. It’s then that Kara finds the courage to broach the topic. Because, as unpleasant as this is, as Kara’s learned the hard way, it’s better to talk things out rather than let it fester.

“Hey, about- um, back there, with the woman at the bar?” She starts hesitantly, ignoring her nervous, pounding heart. “I just… I just wanted to let you know that you don’t have to do anything- or, um not do anything for my benefit.”

Without breaking stride, Lena casts an amused glance at Kara. With mischievous mirth, she teases in a lilting tone, “So I should’ve taken her number?”

Kara’s reply is completely sincere and devoid of any hesitation. “Yes. If you wanted to.” When Lena glances at her in surprise and a touch of skepticism, Kara relents with a sheepish shrug. “Yeah, okay, I mean I’m still going to hope that she has really terrible breath and kisses like a piranha. But, um, I just want to make sure you’re like… not holding back from doing anything you want to do because you feel like… you can’t or you shouldn’t or anything like that. You don’t owe me anything, Lena. And more importantly, I can handle it. I’m not going to be upset with you living your life. I’m still going to be your friend no matter what.”

Lena doesn’t say anything right away. They continue toward their destination, the sound of their synchronized footsteps drowned out by the relentless buzz of the city, the background traffic, the shouts and chatter of crowds never too far away.

At last, she answers, “I appreciate that, Kara. And I promise you that I’m going to do exactly what I want to do.” Genially, she nudges Kara with her shoulder. “Which, at the moment, is spending time with you.”

“Right,” Kara says quietly, trying to tamp down the giddiness in her heart. “I suppose I should’ve known better. You’re stubborn and immune to influence.”

Lena chuckles faintly in amusement. “I can’t believe you remember that.”

Kara, keeping the same pace and staring down at the sidewalk, says very softly, in a voice so low that it’s almost a whisper, “I remember every moment with you.”

Taken aback, Lena falters, falling behind slightly as Kara continues on. It only takes a second and she recovers quickly. She resumes her steps, quickening to catch up to Kara, until the two of them fall into sync once more.

***

Alex Danvers would like to think that she’s not a stupid person.

She would like to think of herself as a sensible person who makes logical, rational decisions. She would like to think such things, and yet the evidence to the contrary is right there, fucking up her proposal plans.

Because Kelly Olsen, love of her life, is going to walk through their apartment door soon and the set up is still nowhere near ready. It’s not ready because Alex has made the terrible, awful, no good decision to ask Kara and Lena for help decorating the apartment. And with their mighty powers combined… nothing is accomplished. Kara isn’t really paying attention to the flowers she’s supposed to be scattering and Lena isn’t in a hurry to hang up the strings of lights around the apartment. Instead, they’re busy chatting, cracking jokes, and making eyes at one another.

To be fair, Lena was Alex’s fourth choice to enlist for help, after Nia, Winn, and James all said they were unavailable (excuses were, respectively: work, date, out of town). It’s not that she doesn’t like Lena, it’s just that it never occurred to Alex that she could ask Lena for help. She wouldn’t even have thought of it if it weren’t for Kara’s suggestion. After all, surely a woman like Lena has something better to do on a Friday night than trek out to Queens to help decorate an apartment for a woman she barely knows?

But no. Obviously Lena Luthor, the very busy, very important genius billionaire CEO, has nothing better to do with her time than randomly hang out with her platonic buddy and said buddy’s sister for no particular reason.

“Clearly just best friend vibes here,” Alex mumbles to herself.

Kara, clear across the room, looks up. “What’s that?”

Alex clears her throat. “Uh, I just realized that I forgot Kelly’s favorite champagne.”

“I’ll go out and get it,” Kara is quick to volunteer.

“It’s so hard to find.” Alex flops down on the couch in resignation. “Forget it. We’re not going to finish this in time.”

“No, come on, just let me try,” Kara pleads in earnest. “You two keep working. We have like five liquor stores within a ten block radius, one of them is bound to have it. I’ll be right back!”

Then Kara’s jumping to her feet, speeding out the door, on a mission to rescue her sister’s big proposal.

“You’re lucky to have a sister like that.” Lena’s sitting at the dining table, untangling the string lights a little faster now that she isn’t giggling incessantly at Kara’s lame puns. “Lex wouldn’t even have shown up to help.”

“That I am. I feel very lucky to have Kara.” Alex is now sprawled out on her couch, studying Lena intently. “Do you?” Lena doesn’t slow down in what she’s doing, but her lips press into a thin line. So before she can deny it, Alex grumbles, “Please, spare me the ‘I don’t know what you’re talking about’ charade, okay?”

Lena busies herself with the string lights before her, studiously avoiding Alex’s gaze. “Well, I don’t. Kara and I are doing very well.”

“Yeah, as so-called ‘friends’.” Alex air-quotes mockingly. “Just a couple of fabulously single, platonic gal pals who gaze longingly into each other’s eyes and endlessly talk about how much they mean to each other. What am I supposed to do with that? Nobody’s buying that as strictly platonic.”

“All right, yes, there’s an attraction,” Lena admits grudgingly.

“You literally exchanged ‘I love you’s.”

Lena clears her throat awkwardly. “And yes, there are… feelings involved.”

“So then why is nothing happening?” Alex sits up, draping her upper body against the back of the couch to peer at Lena. “Are you still mad at her for what happened with Mike?”

That finally elicits a reaction. Lena drops the lights and turns to face Alex, looking peeved and serious. “Absolutely not.”

Alex rises from the couch, circles around, and crosses the space in between to the dining table and takes a seat next to Lena. “Look, I’m really not trying to meddle. But one of you has to make the first move here and Kara, she’s waiting for you now because you’re the one who asked for friendship. So at this point, I think Kara’s going to need some kind of encouragement from you if anything’s going to happen.”

Feeling cornered, Lena does what she does best. She pivots. “Well, first you want me to stop sleeping with your sister and now you want me to make a move,” she says lightly. “Make up your mind.”

“I have, and it’s ‘make my sister happy.’ It’s been five months since she broke up with that turd nugget and nothing’s happened. If you just need more time, I understand that and I’ll butt out. But right now, I’m a little worried that maybe nothing’s happened because you’re not interested anymore and Kara doesn’t know that. And if that’s the case-”

“No,” Lena breaks in sharply. “That’s not it.”

Alex looks so confused and helpless. “So… what is it then?”

Staring down at the table, Lena rubs at the back of her neck, feeling overwhelmed and discomfited, yet oddly compelled to continue the conversation. Like maybe she needs to talk about it and is half-glad that someone is dragging it out of her.

“Kara’s going to be the last woman I ever kiss,” Lena says now. “At least that’s the intention and if I’m lucky. Once we get started, we’re going to be embarking on something that lasts. I know that, Kara knows that, we all know that. And that feels so… daunting.”

Alex’s not quite sure what that means, but she tries. “Okay, so you’re scared of the commitment?”

Lena shakes her head. “No. Not at all. I’m afraid that I’m going to screw it up. This is it. Kara is it for me. And a part of me is so excited for our future to start, but then another part of me is just terrified that I’m going to mess it all up. I can be a good friend, but a good partner- that, I don’t know.”

“Yeah,” Alex replies with a soft exhale. “I get that.”

“You do?” Lena had honestly expected a slap to the face. Or at least mockery.

Alex scoffs derisively. “Uh, I’m about to ask Kelly to marry me. You think I’m not terrified? The woman is a goddess. Of course I’m afraid of messing it up. But that’s not going to stop me, because I’d be crazy not to lock that down.”

Nodding along in understanding, Lena tries to steady her nerves by breathing in deeply. “Yes. No, of course, you’re right. It’s irrational to let my fears get in the way of something good.”

“Of course I am,” Alex replies with confidence that borders on smugness. “It’s about time you people start acknowledging how right I always am.” She lays a hand on Lena’s shoulder, more friendly than threatening. Mostly. “And also because if you don’t make a move soon, I’m going to start bringing my single work friends around. You’re really not going to like that. My hospital has an improbably high concentration of ridiculously beautiful people and they’re all horndogs.”

“Beautiful horndogs,” Lena repeats in a clipped tone, inwardly shuddering at the thought of Kara being wooed by one of Alex’s impossibly good-looking coworkers. Anyway, Alex’s just joking. She thinks. “Got it.”

Ridiculously beautiful horndogs,” Alex corrects. “Now hurry up with those lights! Kelly’s going to be here any minute!”

With redirected focus, Lena gets to work.

Alex’s luck starts to turn then. First, Kara returns triumphantly, elusive champagne in hand. Then Nia turns up, with Winn in tow. They all work together to decorate the apartment as Winn regales them all with stories of his terrible date.

Together, they just manage to put the finishing touches on the decor just as Kelly’s coming down up the stairs.

Out of time, everyone except Alex piles into the bedroom to hide. This leaves Alex standing in her living room illuminated only by lights hanging from the ceiling, rose petals strewn throughout the apartment, creating a path that leads to a rose petal heart with Alex standing in its center, waiting for her love and tightly clutching a ring box behind her back.

In the bedroom, Kara paces back and forth anxiously. “Nia, can you hear what’s going on out there?”

Nia, seated on the bed and five feet away from the door, gives her a strange look. “How would I hear anything?”

“I don’t know! You have hearing like a dog!”

Lena’s seated on the bed next to Nia, and when Kara passes by, she reaches out to take her wrist. “Darling, relax.” She pulls Kara down to sit beside her. “We’ll find out soon enough. Not that I think we’ll be surprised by the answer.”

Fretfully, Kara nods. So, seeking to soothe, Lena lays her palm against her back and rubs in firm, broad strokes.

“It’s all right,” she whispers reassuringly.

Kara makes a noise halfway between a contented sigh and a pleasurable groan. And Nia suddenly feels the urge to join Winn on the far side of the room next to the windows.

Winn’s fully facing the window, elbows braced against the sill. He’s gazing longingly outside at the ground below, as if calculating whether he would seriously injure himself if he jumped out. When Nia joins him, she adopts his position, directing her body and attention completely away from the non-couple on the bed.

“Hey,” Nia greets flatly.

Keeping his eyes squarely focused out the window, Winn replies in a sotto voice, “If I hear a moan back there, I’m diving head first out the window.”

“They’re not even dating,” Nia whispers back.

“Oh, god, it’s going to be so much worse when they do start.”

Fortunately, their misery comes to an end when the bedroom door slams open with Alex standing in the doorway.

Unable to restrain her excitement, Kara instantly jumps to her feet and demands, “Well? What’d she say?”

With an inscrutable expression, Alex responds calmly, “She said no.”

Kara emits an impossibly high, indignant squeal. “WHAT?!”

Kelly appears in the doorway behind Alex, wrapping an arm around her waist. “Sweetheart, don’t tease my future sister-in-law like that.” To Kara then, she says, “Of course I said yes.”

With Kara still grumbling about her sister’s trickery, they all go back into the living room to uncork the champagne.

While Kelly and Alex call Eliza and then James to spread the good news, the speculation begins.

“Do you think it’ll be a long engagement?” Nia poses to Kara.

“I doubt it. They’ve been together for so long. They’ve pretty much already worked out all the details. There’s this nonprofit bookstore cafe in Manhattan that doubles as a wedding venue and gives its proceeds to the homeless living with HIV. They’ve had their eye on that space forever, so they’ll probably just grab the next available date.”

“What a lovely thought,” Lena remarks. “Put your wedding costs towards a worthy cause. The main branch of the New York Public Library does the same thing.”

“Yeah, but that costs like twenty times more than the bookstore,” Kara says.

“Well, perhaps if money isn’t a factor. It’s a beautiful space. Funding the public library is certainly a worthwhile endeavor anyway. So I don’t think it’s an outrageous venue if that’s what’s desired.”

“Yeah, but that seems more fitting for a huge high society event. I do find the idea of a nonprofit venue appealing, but personally, I like small, intimate weddings,” Kara returns. After a brief pause, she quickly adds, “But I mean, I would understand if someone needed to have a big wedding because of social obligations.”

“No, I love small weddings. I have a small circle of family and friends myself. Larger affairs never appealed. There’s the Botanical Gardens. Still a worthy organization and not quite as extravagant.”

“Oh, yeah, the Brooklyn one is amazing,” Kara says contemplatively. “Oh! A lot of the museums serve as venues too. Have you been to the City of New York museum?”

Winn turns to Nia, and, in the faintest voice he can muster, questions, “What’s happening now?”

Turning her face towards him so as to further quiet her voice - not that Lena or Kara are really paying them any attention - she answers, “I… think they might be planning their wedding?”

Winn’s absolutely befuddled. “Are we sure that they’re not dating?”

Nia sighs helplessly. “Who the hell knows?”

***

Kara throws Alex and Kelly an engagement party at a trendy, vaguely Korean, celebrity-chef-owned restaurant in the East Village. The party’s in full swing; Kara’s flitting from one end of the restaurant to the other, chatting up the guests, hugging her friends, and squealing uncontrollably every time she passes by Alex and Kelly. Despite this exuberance, she perks up even more when Lena walks through the door.

“Oops. Sorry, sorry,” she apologetically throws out at Winn, who is mid-sentence telling a story to her and Brainy. “I just have to-”

The guys don’t hear the end of that sentence because Kara’s already taken off, tearing her way through the crowd straight for Lena. She comes to a skidding halt a few feet before she reaches her, as she realizes that Lena’s wearing Kara’s favorite dress. That form-fitting, off-shoulder slinky black dress which accentuates Lena’s cleavage and arrests all of Kara’s higher functions.

“Uhhhh.”

“Hello to you too,” Lena returns, voice oozing with indecency.

“Hi!” Kara squeaks back, her mind repeatedly stuttering look her in the eyes look her in the eyes look her in the eyes.

And Lena, of course, knows exactly what’s going on inside Kara’s head. With great flourish, she gestures at her dress, pulling Kara’s gaze downwards over her body.

“You like?”

“You know I do.” Kara’s openly ogling now. It takes her a moment to right herself. And her brain. And her body. But eventually she comes to her senses. “Are you hungry? Can I get you something to eat? Here, you have to try the lettuce wraps.”

Kara flags down one of the servers walking around with a tray of food. The restaurant’s star dish is bo ssam: juicy, tender bits of a slow-roasted pork shoulder, a briny raw oyster, and spicy kimchi, all wrapped up in lettuce leaf, giving a crisp, satisfying crunch that sets off the richness of the other ingredients. Kara takes a small plate from the serving tray and hands it to Lena. Lena accepts gratefully. She’s taking her first bite when Kara’s struck with inspiration.

“Lettuce wrap in the street,” Kara says. “Let us strap between the sheets.”

That, predictably, leads to a choking, coughing fit from Lena. Kara quickly hands over her own drink, which is quickly downed.

Lena clears her throat. “Excuse me. That kimchi was… spicy.”

Nervously, Kara fidgets with her fingers. “Um… too spicy?”

Lena holds Kara’s gaze for a beat, a look loaded with latent meaning. “No,” she answers, the single syllable coming out slow, low, and bawdy.

Kara doesn’t understand, will never understand, how Lena can reduce her to a simpering puddle with one look and a simple word. But here they are. Clearly picking up on how Kara’s feeling, Lena arches an eyebrow, haughty and flirtatious, which only further encourages the primal portion of Kara’s brain busy mentally undressing her good friend.

But before she has the chance to react, James appears. “Hey, Lena. Kara, the manager’s looking for you.”

Kara resists the urge to throw a tantrum.

“I’ll be right back,” she says apologetically to Lena.

“I’ll be counting the seconds,” Lena murmurs, bringing Kara’s drink to her lips again and taking a long sip.

Kara turns away, stomping a little as she walks away in petulance, muttering under her breath, “Oh, for the love of…”

But that “be right back” turns out to be not quite true, because one event after another keeps Kara from returning to Lena’s side. First, there’s a hiccup with the menu, and Kara spends some time with the restaurant manager working out replacement dishes on the fly. Then, one of Kelly’s aunts stops her to thank her effusively for arranging the party, which then devolves into a series of probing questions about her personal life as she tries to suss out whether she can set Kara up with her son. When Kara escapes that, she walks right into a petty squabble that’s somehow erupted between her cousin Clark and Jonn, Alex’s friend from work. She spends another fifteen minutes playing referee, which is eventually resolved when she basically orders the two men to shake hands and play nice.

When she finally has time to go back to Lena, she finds her standing alone in a corner of the room, nursing a nearly-empty wine glass.

“I’m so, so sorry,” Kara says immediately. “It’s been chaotic. I hope you haven’t felt abandoned?”

“Not at all, I’m completely fine. You don’t have to look after me. I was talking to Brainy and Nia just before you came over.”

“Well, then, I guess my services aren’t needed here,” Kara quips lightly, mockingly making a show of turning around to walk away.

Laughing, Lena takes her wrist and tugs. “Come on now, you know that I prefer your company.”

Kara lets herself be dragged back easily. Lena pulls until Kara’s right next to her, standing much closer than is strictly friendly. When Kara stills, Lena still doesn’t let go of her wrist.

Coyly, breathlessly, Kara whispers back, “Do you?”

Their eyes lock. Kara feels her chest squeeze pleasantly in delight. She finds herself drawing slowly towards the other woman, drifting ever closer like a boat pulled by the currents back to shore.

As the gap between them narrows, Lena’s eyes drift to Kara’s lips as she softly exhales, “Above all others.”

Kara’s so close now she can feel Lena’s breath on her face. Her eyes are fluttering closed when Lena clears her throat, backing away and breaking the spell. She lets the blonde’s wrist slip from her hand, leaving Kara’s skin tingling and missing the warmth and contact.

“Oops,” Lena says breezily, waving around the nearly-empty wine glass in her hand. “Looks like I need a refill. I’ll just be a moment.”

Lena rushes off for the bar, leaving Kara feeling lost, confused, and more than a little turned on.

Maybe she’s wrong. Maybe she’s misread the signs. Because she had thought that Lena was ready for their relationship to move forward. But obviously not.

Which is… fine. She can be patient. She will be patient because Lena’s worth it.

So Kara brushes off the rejection and prepares herself for friendly interactions for the rest of the evening.

Except that Lena’s now making that difficult because every time Kara gets close to her, she seems to need another drink or finds something else to do on the other side of the bar. Kara’s at a complete loss. Lena’s behaving very strangely. It’s all very odd and unsettling, because this whole thing feels a lot like her birthday party last year, when she was still with Mike and completely oblivious as to how Lena felt. She would not risk having her suffer in silence again. So when she sees Lena heading towards the bathroom, she follows, then hangs back and waits until the brunette steps back out into the hallway. As soon as Lena emerges, Kara’s right there, questions at the ready.

“What’s going on?” Kara’s choosing to dispense with any preambles. “You’ve been avoiding me all night. Did I do something?”

Startled by this ambush, Lena instinctively takes a step back, bumping up against the bathroom door. She steps to the side, leaning against the wall there.

“You haven’t done anything,” Lena assures her, sounding so genuine that it’s almost enough to dispel Kara’s anxieties.

“A- are you sure? Because you’ve been really off and I- I just want us to keep being upfront with each other and… um, well, I kind of thought that you wanted me to kiss you earlier, but then you…” Realizing that it might sound accusatory if she continued, Kara dismisses the rest of her thought with a wave. “I mean, it doesn’t matter. It’s totally, totally fine if you didn’t want to. Really. I just, I just didn’t want to… I mean, if I misread the situation, I’m sorry, I didn’t- I really didn’t mean to offend.”

“You didn’t. And you didn’t misread the situation at all, I just…” Lena inhales, feeling vulnerable and a little scared, as she tends to when forced to be emotionally honest. “I didn’t mean to be so standoffish. Truthfully, I was nervous. I was… well, I’ve been trying to work up the nerve to ask you to dance.”

Out of all the things that Kara thought could be wrong, she certainly didn’t anticipate dancing to be the root problem. “What? Why?”

“You’ve been so kind and patient these last few months with me, waiting for me to be ready. And so, now that I am, I feel as though… well, maybe it sounds foolish, but I feel as though I should do something to start us off right. Some kind of nice gesture to show you how I feel about you. You love to dance and I thought that it’d be nice if I could manage this one thing for you. But I’m so self-conscious and awkward about it…” She shakes her head, feeling embarrassed. Lena Luthor, bested by the thought of dancing in public.

“Lena,” Kara says softly. “Lena. I don’t need you to dance with me. I don’t need nice gestures or bold gestures or romantic gestures or any other kind of gestures. I just need you to kiss me.”

Accompanied by a gentle exhale of realization, Lena says, “Oh.” Then: “Well, all right.”

Then she acts. She whips her arms around Kara’s waist, tugging forcefully, dragging the blonde in for a hot, open-mouthed kiss infused with all the pent-up energy of months and months of repression and temperance. Now unleashed, it manifests itself in hungry, fervent kisses and eager, impatient hands. Kara reacts in full measure; without really meaning to, with the force of her need propelling the act, she shoves Lena up hard against the wall as she presses her body against the brunette.

Lena feels her body instantly engulfed with flaming desire, her sex throbbing with painful want. A soft, strangled keen escapes her throat, but the sound is almost immediately extinguished by Kara, her mouth, her lips, her tongue. But then Kara shifts her attention to Lena’s neck, suckling hard, and the next sound escaping Lena’s throat makes it out, resulting in an indecent, guttural moan. The moan pulls Kara slightly out of her lust-filled trance. Suddenly remembering that they’re in the hallway of a small restaurant filled with people, she eases off. She pulls her lips and body away, but leaves her hands planted on Lena’s hips, an inch of space left between them.

Lena looks at her. A little confused, a little impatient, a lot needy. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing, but we’re, um, we’re in public.”

With a flirtatious smirk that threatens to melt Kara on the spot, Lena replies with a playful tug at the collar of Kara’s shirt, “Never stopped us before.”

Although already heated from their make out session, Kara feels her cheeks grow even warmer. “B- but this is, um, different. Everybody I know is here.”

“I’ll kick them out.” Lena sounds very serious about it. “I will buy this restaurant. I will buy this entire building and kick every single person out right now.”

It’s hard for Kara not to feel flattered. Logical, rational Lena Luthor, resorting to wildly impractical ideas just so she can have her now. “You know, I really think it would be faster for us to get a cab to your place.”

And although Lena really, really wants Kara right this very second, she’s still sensible enough to know that’s true. “All right. Let’s get out of here. I’ll meet you outside.”

Lena gently maneuvers Kara away. She kisses her one last time, a slow, lingering kiss, then departs, sashaying away without looking back, but knowing full well that Kara’s eyes are glued to her ass.

Kara stands there, captivated, heart ricocheting wildly in her chest, staring until Lena’s out of view. She finally shakes herself out of her stupor. Then she’s moving and moving fast. Down the hallway, out into the main dining room, weaving through throngs of guests, ignoring those who call out to her. Except one person. But mostly because that person steps squarely in Kara’s path, deliberately blocking passage.

Alex gently takes a hold of Kara’s arm. “Hey, there you are. For some reason, Kelly’s aunt is looking everywhere for you.” Piecing together Kara’s hurried movements and flushed cheeks, she narrows her eyes in suspicion. “Wait, what’s going on? Are you going somewhere?”

“Oh. Um.” Now Kara remembers where she is. At her sister’s engagement party. Which she threw. Embarrassed now, she lets out a high-pitched, self-conscious laugh. “Nooooo. I, uh, I’m not going anywhere. No no no. It’s your engagement party! I would never leave halfway through. What kind of terrible, terrible sister would I be if I did that?”

Maybe not leave, Kara thinks then. Just a break. A quick break. Forty, forty-five minutes. Oh, but it’s probably a twenty minute ride to Lena’s place. That leaves me five minutes at Lena’s. I can do this. Yeah. I only need five minutes!

“You have lipstick on your face,” Alex observes. She glances over her shoulder, sees Lena hovering by the exit. Then it all makes sense. She turns back to Kara, grinning. In the most obnoxious, smug way possible, she says, “Ohhhhhhh. I see what’s happening here. You’re just ditching me on one of the most important occasions of my life for a hot girl.”

Kara barks out a loud, sheepish laugh. “No. Nope. I would, I would never think of such a thing.” Still, her eyes wander to the other side of the room, gazing at Lena with pathetic longing.

Folding her arms across her chest, Alex sighs, regarding her idiot sister with an affectionate but exasperated smile. “Whatever, just go.”

“No!” Kara protests indignantly, so fierce that it’s almost believable. “It’s your engagement party! I wouldn’t do that to you.”

Alex sighs, rolling her eyes, feeling impatient but also touched by Kara’s need to pretend like she’s not dying to leave. “It’s fine. Really. You already put this amazing party together for me. I don’t care if you leave now. In fact, I think I’d prefer it. Because you have this… look on your face right now and it’s just not appropriate. This is supposed to be a family-friendly event.”

Although Kara desperately wants to tear off for the exit right now, she still asks hesitantly, “Really? Are you sure?”

“Yeah, yeah,” Alex answers casually, waving a hand about. “You two dumb-dumbs have waited long enough. Go. Go and do what you have to do before something else absurd happens to keep you apart, like a dead fiancée shows up or one of you gets drafted and shipped off to war.”

“But, Alex-”

“Kara, I swear to god, if you don’t start listening to me, I’m going to do something bad to you. Like, that cave-aged cheddar you’ve been saving for a special occasion? I’m going to eat it all. Every last bite. And I’m not going to savor it with a bit of wine and some fancy crackers. I’ll throw it into a pot with Velveeta and cottage cheese and make an unholy mac and cheese with it. With ramen noodles. Now will you please get out of here? Your whole… uh, ‘excited’ vibe is really uncomfortable for me.”

Kara nearly recoils in revulsion at the threat. But she knows that Alex would never do anything so cruel. “Thanks, Alex,” she says quietly. “I love you.”

“I love you too,” Alex replies. “But I’m not going to hug you right now.”

***

For the first time in months, Kara finds herself in Lena’s bedroom.

With an adoring, adulatory gaze, she sighs in contentment at the stunning sight before her.

Hello, beautiful.”

As Kara continues standing in front of Lena’s floor-to-ceiling windows, admiring the view of the Empire State Building, Lena watches from the bed, thoroughly unimpressed.

“This isn’t really what I had in mind when I said I have something for you in the bedroom.”

“It’s not my fault that your room has such a nice view.”

“Maybe I could find you a better view.”

“Oh? Like from the roof deck?” When Kara turns around, she sees Lena shrugging off her unbuttoned blouse, unveiling bare shoulders and a lacy black bra. ”Oh.” And just like that, the Empire State Building becomes a useless, meaningless garbage heap of metal and glass to her.

Kara scampers onto the bed, hurrying to Lena on her knees. She nearly flings herself on top, eagerly finding Lena’s lips with her own. They kiss passionately, lips and tongues dancing and dueling, leaving only enough space between them for sharp gasps and low moans. Frantically, their hands rove against each other’s bodies. Kara presses her palm against Lena’s bare stomach, relishing the emanating heat.

With a tense grunt, Lena grips the bottom of Kara’s shirt and roughly tugs it up and over her head. She rolls them both over so that she’s on top, then goes to work on Kara’s pants, stripping them off. As she’s throwing the pants to the side, Kara’s fingers fly to the zipper of Lena’s skirt, unzipping and tugging them off. Unable to wait another second, Lena pushes Kara back down on the bed, kissing with desperate, urgent need. Her desire blinds her, makes her illogical and contradictory: even as she grinds her hips hard against Kara’s, her fingers are tugging at the edge of Kara’s underwear. Finally realizing that these two actions in tandem may be counterproductive, she grudgingly lifts her hips off the blonde to aid in the de-clothing effort.

But then Kara stops her with a hand to the wrist.

“Hey, wait a sec.”

Lena instantly stills. She tries to give Kara some space, but Kara stops that too, circling an arm around Lena’s waist and firmly keeping her on top.

“Everything okay?”

“Um, yeah, yeah. I just, I just wanted to ask- that is, I just want to clarify- um, I definitely want to do this either way, but I, I’d just like to know… uh, what this means to you? Like, are we doing the benefits thing again o- or is this going to be a one-off for now or maybe you’re ready, um, to date… uh, I mean, it would be nice to know what this is, just so I…” Finally realizing that she’s rambling on with no meaningful goal, Kara tapers off lamely, “uh, know.”

Lena frowns, confused by where this is coming from. “Darling. Surely by now you know how I feel?”

“Well, I mean…” Embarrassed, Kara distracts herself by rubbing her thumb against the pulse point on Lena’s wrist. “I think so? But um, it’s been a while since we last talked about it and… I don’t know, after everything that’s happened, I just want to make sure that we’re being transparent and honest. Just so there are no more misunderstandings or things left unsaid.”

“I see.” Lena breaks her wrist free from Kara’s loose grasp and, with both hands, brushes the hair away from Kara’s face. “So you want to know what this means.” One hand lingers against Kara’s cheek, thumb grazing along her bottom lip. “All right. How’s this. In the interest of transparency, I’d like to make love to my girlfriend in a monogamous, exclusive relationship, which I fully intend to be long-term, to the point where I may have occasional idle daydreams of moving in with her, getting engaged, getting married, and starting a family, but I know I need to wait a socially acceptable amount of time before bringing any of that up so I don’t come off as overbearing and crazy. So that’s what I’ll do, but honestly, I’m so very excited for all the possibilities of our future together.”

Stupefied and affected, Kara meekly ekes out a stunned, “Oh.”

“Does that clarify things for you?”

“Well. I don’t know,” Kara quips. “You could just be saying that to get into my pants.”

“Somehow I get the feeling that I don’t have to say much of anything for that to happen.”

“Oh, yeah,” Kara mutters absently, her response lackluster because she’s preoccupied in that moment with staring at Lena’s lips. She pulls the brunette down, kissing her again.

They finish undressing each other slowly, their intensity tempered now. After that exchange, this feels less like a carnal need to be fulfilled savagely and immediately, but a precious occasion to be savored. After all, they’ve had plenty of the former. So when Kara slips Lena’s bra strap off her shoulder, she follows with a string of soft kisses along her shoulder blade. And after Lena tugs Kara’s underwear off, she unhurriedly strokes her hand against her thigh. She kisses Kara languidly, starting from her lips to her neck to her breasts to her hips, lazily making her way down, taking the appropriate pit stops on her journey. She comes to a rest between Kara’s thighs; she gently parts them.

When Kara feels her tongue, she hisses, sharply arching her hips. She digs her fingers into the bedsheet, gripping so hard she can almost feel her fingernails dig through the fabric and into her palm. She’s utterly at Lena’s mercy; all she can do is hold on tight. At least Lena’s in a charitable mood. She doesn’t dally, doesn’t delay, and gives Kara everything she wants.

But when Kara feels herself getting close, she stops Lena with a touch to the top of her head.

“Wait,” she rasps. “Come up here. I want to see you.” Lena obligingly crawls up, lying down on her side next to Kara. “Let’s try to come together.” Kara’s hand dips in between Lena’s thighs. “I’ll catch you up.”

Not that that takes long. Three quick rubs and Lena’s already canting her hips, ready for her first orgasm of the night. Kara eases off, just a little, so it doesn’t go too quick. Lena whimpers. She then slides her own hand down, fingers slipping through the wetness between Kara’s legs and finding their way to where Kara’s most sensitive. When they do, Kara gasps at the sensation but doesn’t slow her own movements.

As they touch, they keep their eyes trained on one another. Lena sees the look in Kara’s eyes, the pure, immeasurable adoration, so devoted and reverential. It fills her with unspeakable joy, a sublime, euphoric feeling that she is sure she had never experienced like this before: what it feels like to be, all at once, truly loved, cherished, desired. And by the wide-eyes, awe-inspired way Kara’s looking back at her, she can tell that Kara feels the same way.

It’s not like it needs to be said, but Kara does anyway. “I love you.”

“I love you too.”

They kiss again, leisurely and lazy at first, then quickening as their hands do the same. As their pleasure builds, their kisses grow frantic, their hands unrhythmed.

It doesn’t quite happen at the same time, but it’s close enough. Kara comes first, with a desperate wail, but Lena follows as soon as she feels Kara’s walls clench around her fingers. They kiss each other through the high, slowing as the crescendo fades. They withdraw their hands but don’t separate. They snuggle closer. Lena tucks her head beneath Kara’s chin, feeling the rise and fall of Kara’s chest as her breath evens out, the stickiness of her skin as it cools.

Naked and nestled, bodies intertwined, they stare out the window, enjoying the silence and just soaking up the blissful intimacy of this perfect moment. The evening cityscape is stretched out before them, endless towers dotted by hundreds of square-rectangle windows, illuminating the whole city.

And it’s not quite a star-covered Kryptonian night sky, but it’s the most peaceful Kara has felt in a long, long time.

***

When Alex arrives at Sunday brunch, she’s surprised to see that their usual booth is already occupied. But as she approaches and sees the woman’s profile, the surprise quickly dissipates.

“Lena,” she greets. “I didn’t know you were joining us.”

Lena smiles, almost bashfully. “I hope that’s all right.”

Alex grins. “I take it things went well last night?”

“Things went very well,” Kara replies as she slides in her side of the booth. The booth is wide enough for three people on each side, but Kara chooses to slide in all the way, until she’s right up against Lena. She faces Lena with a dopey grin. “Hey, you,” she says, like she didn’t just see Lena five minutes ago before she went into the bathroom.

“Hey,” Lena flirts back. It’s simple but enough to prompt Kara to lean in and give her a kiss, which quickly turns into two then three then four.

Alex clears her throat loudly.

Reluctantly, Kara backs off.

“Sorry,” she says without an ounce of sincerity.

Normally, Alex would be grossed out and scandalized by this PDA. But she has more important things on her mind. Like gloating.

“Well. Look. At. That. You listened to me for once and look what happened.” She folds her arm across her chest, looking very pleased with herself. “Now, remember what I said when this whole thing started?”

Kara rolls her eyes, knowing what’s coming. “Just say it.”

Gleefully, Alex slams both hands down on the table, a maniacal grin on her face. “I told you so! I told you so, I told you so, I told you so.”

“I know, I know,” Kara acknowledges with good humor. “You were right about everything.” As an afterthought, she adds, “Well, not the part about how our endless mutual respect would be the death of our relationship. We worked it out in the end. Respectfully.”

“Yeah, thanks to me,” Alex reminds her. “You two didn’t just need a push. I practically had to hogtie you and drag you to each other to make this happen!”

“We would’ve gotten there eventually,” Kara protests.

Would you though?”

Kara glances at Lena. They exchange sheepish shrugs, each acknowledging that it might have taken a little longer without intervention.

“Thank you, Alex,” Kara then says, a little over-the-top but with an undercurrent of earnestness. “You were right. About everything.”

“It’s about time my hard work is recognized,” Alex retorts smugly.

“Yes, thank you,” Lena says. “And you’re right, we need to listen to you more. But I finally took your advice. You said that I need to make Kara happy. So I did. Thoroughly.”

Alex groans miserably, sinking into her side of the booth.

“Thanks to you,” Lena continues, grinning unabashedly. “I respected the hell out of Kara last night.”

Alex groans louder still, sliding down her seat, as if inviting the earth to open up and swallow her whole.

“Six times,” Kara adds. “She respected me six times last night.”

“Why are you helping?!” Alex screeches at Kara, who just giggles along with her girlfriend in torturing her older sister. “Oh, god. I’ve created a monster.”

“Oh, no, we got the Monster from Babeland,” Lena replies without missing a beat. “Great toy. Curved at just the right angle.”

“Stop stop stop stop stop,” Alex cries frantically, covering her ears with her hands. “You’re ruining my victory lap.”

Attempting to stifle her giggling, Kara says with feigned solemnity, “That’s the price you pay for being totally, completely right about everything.”

She looks at her little sister, leaning against Lena with her cheeks flushed, a dopey, delighted grin stretched from ear to ear.

Then Alex surrenders with a glad, resigned sigh.

“Yeah, okay.”

***

They spend the rest of the day traveling around the city. They visit an outdoor sculpture park in Queens, then take the ferry down to an outdoor food market in Williamsburg. They eat elote, sweet grilled corn dusted with chili powder and slathered in a creamy, tangy Cotija cheese and lime juice sauce. At Kara’s insistence, they split a spaghetti donut followed by a pizza cupcake even though Lena does not understand why anyone would try to combine these things. After that, they head north, taking the train up to the Cloisters, spending their afternoon with medieval art and sweeping views of the Hudson River from Fort Tryon Park.

When the sun starts to set, they hop on the subway to make their way downtown to Lena’s apartment. It’s not discussed, but it’s a foregone conclusion that Kara’s spending the night.

Their subway car is sparsely populated. They take a two-seater at the end of the car. Lena against the wall, an arm around Kara, Kara’s head perched against her shoulder. They ride quietly, basking in happy fatigue from the busy day.

“I had a good day today,” Kara says.

“Me too, darling.” Lena turns slightly, kisses Kara on the forehead. “And we’ll have many more like it.”

There they sit and ride, lulled by the gentle swaying of the train as they listen to the deep, low rumbling of the train. It’s a small thing, finding a moment’s peace in this chaotic city. But it’s the small things that count. So they enjoy it. In companionable silence, they relish and revel in this tranquil, gratifying moment, capturing it as a treasured memory as the train rolls on, carrying them home.