Despite what she’s sure were her family’s very best efforts, Lena Luthor is a good person.
She is. She’s invested billions in sustainable energy. She buys local, free-range, fair-trade produce. The minimum wage paid to every single L-Corp employee is more than double the national average. She does meat-free Mondays, takes soy milk in her coffee, and tips every server at least 50%.
She doesn’t cheat. She doesn’t steal or scam or commit murder, directly or otherwise, which already gives her a leg up on 90% of her relatives. She isn’t cruel. Never intentionally causes pain to others. She doesn’t lust or covet, much.
And she doesn’t lie. Except about this.
This being her current position: curled up in her best friend’s lap, head tucked against Kara’s neck while the woman in question cards her fingers through Lena’s loose hair, rocking them gently back and forth.
“You’re still a little warm,” Kara murmurs, her cool hand pressing gently to Lena’s forehead before sliding down to cup her cheek, thumb stroking out along her jaw. “How are you feeling? Headache still bad?”
“Mmm, yeah,” Lena hums, like the liar she’s become. Because the other thing Lena Luthor definitely and unequivocally is, aside from good, is fully and completely healthy.
But she’s not about to admit that she’d fabricated today’s ‘headache’ out of nothing, that the feeble voicemail she’d left Kara explaining her ‘symptoms’ was nothing more than an Oscar-worthy performance by a seasoned actress.
Not when Kara had dropped everything and shown up at her balcony door not three minutes later, painkillers in hand and concerned frown firmly in place. Not when Kara is wrapping her in blankets and calling her baby and kissing her forehead and flatly refusing to let go of Lena for longer than the duration of a bathroom break.
She’s not going to admit to her own falsehoods, to the liberties she’s taken with the truth. Not when the result of such a confession would certainly involve Kara leaving in a huff, with Lena left behind un-cuddled and un-kissed and decidedly unhappy.
Lena Luthor may have spent her entire life trying her level best to become and remain a good person, but she’s no saint. Even she has her limits.
In her defence, it wasn’t like she’d set out to lie.
The first time, she really had been ill. She’d spent years successfully evading the colds and workplace bugs that so frequently felled her employees, had soldiered on through plenty of sniffles, muscled right past many a migraine.
Lena had taken a quiet kind of pride in her perfect attendance record, had regarded it as another well-placed piece of her successful CEO puzzle. It was proof, however circumstantial, that she could handle herself, could do what needed to be done. That she wasn’t as weak as her mother and brother had led her to believe. That she could, in fact, do this.
So it was, if anything, quite a momentous occasion the day she’d finally encountered a germ with, as Jess had so eloquently put it when Lena had called in sick that morning, enough balls to take her on and win.
In her half-delirious state Lena had had just enough presence of mind after hanging up on Jess to send a text to Kara asking for a rain-check on their lunch plans on account of her mild cold. Her mild cold, which in all actuality was more of a particularly vicious bout of flu that had knocked Lena’s usually stoic immune system on its ass and left her huddled feverishly under a mass of blankets in her darkened bedroom, sweating even as she shivered so hard her teeth rattled.
She’d barely hit send when Kara was shouldering her way through her bedroom door, brow furrowed and pouting in earnest. “You never get sick,” she’d said, almost an accusation, crossing the room to lay the back of her hand against Lena’s clammy forehead. “Oh, Lena.”
And that had been it. That had been the start of Kara Danvers moving into her apartment for the next thirty-six hours until Lena’s fever broke and she was mostly back to normal. That had been the start of homemade and enthusiastically named Recovery Soup being spoon-fed to her every six hours, to Kara buying up half the pharmaceutical stock in National City in order to have on hand anything and everything Lena could possibly need. That had been the start of cuddles and pet names and Kara climbing right into bed beside her because Kryptonian, remember? I’m immune to your germs.
Lena supposes she shouldn’t really be surprised. Kara in regular, everyday-mode is tactile and dedicated and loving as her default setting. Kara in nurse-mode had showered Lena with more care and affection in two short days than Lena had received in the first twenty years of her life.
She can’t be blamed for having enjoyed it, surely. For having come to crave it, depend on it, even in such a short time frame. She’s always had an addictive personality, has staunchly avoided drugs and gambling and all manner of other vices her entire adult life, secure in the knowledge that once she’d had a taste, she wouldn’t ever be able to stop.
But here she is, an addict all the same. Hooked on the love and attention so freely given whenever she’s the slightest bit under the weather. Jonesing for tenderness and intimacy unencumbered by the embarrassing ordeal of having – she shudders at the mere idea – to ask for it. The thought of explicitly admitting such vulnerability, of opening herself up to the possibility of rejection, of Kara saying no— it doesn’t bear thinking about.
So. All in all, she feels she’s come to a fairly reasonable compromise. If, from time to time, Lena embellishes a headache here and fakes a cough there, it’s not like she’s doing anyone any harm. She gets what she so desperately covets, and Kara gets a vessel into which to pour the boundless devotion that seems to be overflowing within her at all times.
If these little white lies and exaggerations mean she’s destined for hell, Lena decides she’ll walk the road gladly, warmed by the brand of Kara’s hands on her body and lips on her skin the whole way.
The lies start out small.
Very small, in fact. The first time after flu-gate, it’s barely a lie at all. Lena comes down with food poisoning, a bad batch of shrimp in her lo mein, and sends a message to the group chat apologising and begging out of game night.
Not five minutes later she hears the beep of her biometric front door lock and suddenly there’s a pair of strong arms lifting her gently from her inelegant position draped face-down over the toilet bowl, smoothing her matted hair back from her forehead as she’s propped gently against the wall.
“Oh, sweetheart,” Kara coos, flitting about the bathroom to retrieve hair ties, wash cloths, a glass of water. She deftly French braids Lena’s hair back from her face, smoothing a damp cloth over her flushed forehead and handing Lena mouthwash to gargle between each fresh round of shrimp vs stomach acid that Lena’s convulsing body is forced to endure.
She won’t leave, no matter how many times Lena tries to ineffectually push her away. She ignores Lena’s reservations, her embarrassment, contenting herself with functioning as a one-woman back-rubbing miracle each time Lena’s hunched over the toilet bowl, and as a warm and remarkably comfortable pillow in all the spaces in between.
When Lena complains that Kara’s superhearing should not have to endure the soundtrack of Lena’s stomach divesting itself of its contents every twenty minutes, Kara simply smiles. Starts singing, old pop standards at first that morph gradually into slower, hauntingly beautiful Kryptonian melodies that sound suspiciously like lullabies. Whatever they are, they’re effective; as the night wears on and the toxins work their way out of her body Lena finds herself more than content to curl up on the hard bathroom floor, head in Kara’s lap with long fingers stroking over her hair, lulled by the arias of a world long annihilated.
The lie comes the next morning, when dawn is just beginning to break and Lena finally feels that leaving the bathroom floor may not pose a real and imminent threat to all her carpets and soft furnishings. Kara scoops her up and carries her carefully to bed, covering her so attentively with blankets and quilts that Lena’s already delicate stomach does a triple backflip.
After positioning a glass of water and an emergency sick bowl within easy grabbing distance Kara straightens, running a hand over Lena’s blanket-covered shoulder. “You seem a little better,” she murmurs, checking Lena’s temperature again. “I suppose now I can listen to your many demands that I must leave immediately.”
She’s smiling, and there are dark smudges under her eyes from the sleepless night she’d spent at Lena’s side, and Lena really should let her go. But she can’t help but lament the outpouring of care Kara had shown her that she’d simply been too sick to appreciate. Remembering the heady pull of the blonde’s affection when she’d had the flu, Lena thinks, well. Surely it can’t hurt to draw this out a little longer. Just to make sure her craving’s really sated.
“I don’t feel much better,” she manages feebly and there it is, the lie. The first of many. “You could stay, if you want. Get some rest.”
Maybe it’s Lena’s trembling bottom lip, maybe it’s the extra ounce of fragility she pushes into her tone, but Kara caves almost immediately. Doesn’t even bother arguing, just rounds the bed to slide in behind Lena and press their bodies close. She avoids Lena’s still-tender stomach in favour of lacing their hands together and tucking them against Lena’s chest and Lena knows, she’s acutely, painfully aware of how dangerous a line she’s walking here. Of how slippery a slope she’s currently summiting.
With a sigh she tightens her fingers around Kara’s, closes her eyes, and lets herself slide.
That’s how it goes, for a while.
She never lies outright. More like embellishes the truth a little, drawing out whatever ailment is currently plaguing her in order to maximise the attention Kara showers her with.
A burn on her knuckles from a misjudged attempt to pull a baking tray out of the oven ends up immobilising her entire arm for the whole afternoon. Lena sits, elated despite the angry throbbing of her skin, with her legs draped over Kara’s lap and her injured appendage cradled in both of Kara’s hands. They watch three Disney movies and Kara blows periodic gusts of gentle freeze breath over the puckered red skin, kisses her temple and calls her sweetie and Lena forgets about the burn entirely.
A migraine that she’d usually try to power through until she almost passed out, and would then try to power-nap away on her office couch between conference calls, morphs into the perfect excuse to have Kara pick her up early from work and take her home.
The blonde turns off all the lights and draws the blinds, shielding Lena’s sensitive eyes and wrapping her aching body in a blanket until Lena resembles a mussed and wincing fluffy burrito. Said burrito is then picked up and deposited unceremoniously into Kara’s lap, by which point the headache is becoming too all-consuming for Lena to have room to think about much else.
But she certainly does manage to think about it when Kara stays the whole rest of the day and the night as well, fielding Lena’s barrage of work calls and emails, coaxing soup and hot tea into her, keeping the apartment dark and quiet until the nails being hammered relentlessly into the inside of Lena’s skull at last cease their incessant pounding.
And if Lena keeps her eyes squeezed tight shut for longer than her migraine-induced photosensitivity really lasts, just so she can keep Kara laying there with her, quiet and calm and soothing as she traces words in a language formed of stardust over the planes of Lena’s back— well. Who can really blame her?
The worst (best) time by far, yet another failed attempt on her life sees the stage Lena had been giving a speech on explode beneath her feet, sending her plummeting through to the ground below. Kara, as Supergirl, had neutralised the threat almost immediately and thankfully no one else had been hurt, but she hadn’t been quick enough to prevent Lena’s skull hitting a wooden beam with a sickening crack on her way to the floor.
Kara fusses incessantly, checking Lena’s pupils and monitoring her heart rate. Even after having Alex check her over at the DEO, thoroughly, twice, she still frets the entire way back to her apartment. Ignores her sister’s diagnosis that aside from a headache and a nasty bruise, Lena is fine, in favour of announcing that they need to go to a hospital to check Lena over the second she’s finally sunk down on the couch.
“Kara,” Lena hums, pressing a hand gingerly to the lump on her temple. “I’m fine. Alex said I was fine. Stop worrying.”
The blonde huffs out a noise that sounds suspiciously like as if, taking a seat next to her on the cushions and tugging Lena’s hand away from her face.
“Why are you pressing at it? Does it hurt? Are you dizzy? Nauseous?” she gabbles, tilting Lena’s face to try and catch the light. “Let me check your pupils. Ugh, I can’t—”
And with a disgruntled huff she lifts Lena as if she weighs no more than a bar of soap and positions her so she’s straddling Kara’s lap, the two of them face to face. Kara’s hands slide up to cup her jaw, tugging their faces closer together and Lena stops breathing for reasons entirely unrelated to her current medical predicament.
“Your pupils aren’t dilated,” Kara murmurs, and their faces are so close together that the blonde’s breath whispers across her lips. “Thank Rao.”
And before Lena can get her bearings in this sudden proximity and perhaps remember how to breathe again Kara’s hands are leaving her face, trailing over her neck and shoulders to wrap around Lena’s waist and crush their bodies together.
“I was so scared,” she mumbles against Lena’s collarbone, nosing into her sweater and inhaling heavily. “When the explosion went off, and you just fell—”
Lena winces at the pain in the blonde’s tone, circling her own arms around Kara’s shoulders to squeeze reassuringly. “I’m okay,” she murmurs, breath sighing out of her as Kara’s cold nose nudges at the hollow of her throat. “I’m fine. You saved me, again. I’m okay.”
“Thank God,” Kara breathes, face tilting higher until her lips flutter against the exposed skin of Lena’s clavicle. “Thank God. I don’t know what I’d—”
She cuts herself off with a little shake of her head, her eyelashes tickling Lena’s neck. And then her lips press, warm and deliberate, to the base of Lena’s throat and Lena forgets how to breathe all over again.
“I don’t know—” Another kiss, millimetres above the last one, “—what I’d do—” and another warm press of lips, open-mouthed, below Lena’s jaw, “—if anything—” another, hot and damp in the hollow beneath Lena’s ear, “—ever happened to you.”
Kara finishes her declaration with one last, devastating kiss directly over Lena’s thundering pulse, and maybe she is a little loopy from the head trauma because Lena could swear she’d felt just the briefest hint of tongue.
Lena swallows hard against her suddenly bone-dry mouth, intimately aware of the way her throat bobs against Kara’s cheek where the blonde has buried her face back against Lena’s neck. Kara doesn’t say anything else, and Lena isn’t sure she’s retained the capacity for human speech after that brain-scrambling performance, and so nothing ever gets said.
They just stay there, wrapped up together, until Lena gets stiff and Kara gets tired and they lay down more comfortably on the couch to fall asleep properly. But if Lena had to pinpoint the moment her addiction to Kara’s affection became all-consuming; the event that prompted the shade of her lies to slide from bright white to dubious grey— that would be it.
That would definitely be it.
After that, after the acquisition of the frankly devastating knowledge of exactly how Kara’s lips feel pressed against her skin, Lena finds she cares more and more about having Kara take care of her, and less and less about how it comes about.
For the first time in her life she begins to curse her stalwart immune system. Begins, in a manner even she can admit seems a little unhinged, to hope for illness or injury, if only so that it might grant her a repeat performance of what she’s come to refer to in her mind as the neck incident.
And when illness or injury do not arrive according to her envisioned schedule, Lena is left with no choice but to invent. Which is how she comes to claim a head cold while she’s healthy as a horse, if only to have Kara come over and cuddle with her while she fakes sneezes left and right. That’s how she comes to complain of an ankle twisted while fencing, despite not having set foot in a studio in almost a year, if only so that Kara insists on carrying Lena everywhere for two weeks so as to not put any weight on her ‘injured’ joint. And that’s how she comes to suffer from dreadful period cramps, for which there is apparently no cure other than allowing herself to be tucked up against the blonde’s chest, one of Kara’s hands massaging her hips while the other sneaks beneath her shirt to rub tender circles over her stomach.
And sure, a part of Lena feels inordinately guilty for tricking her best friend. An even bigger part feels nothing but shameful despair over the complete and utter loss of her reputation as a trooper, as the owner of a brave face and a robust countenance. As someone who rarely falls ill, and rarer still will ever show it.
But the loss of said reputation feels like an admittedly small price to pay when she’s got Kara’s fingers running through her hair, Kara’s cheek pressed to her own, Kara’s body moulded pliant and warm around her in bed.
Her only hope is that she manages to get a handle on her own insatiable need to be close to Kara this way before she runs out of fake ailments and is forced to do something drastic, like ‘accidentally’ breaking a limb the next time she feels like a cuddle.
Lena can admit that she’s scraping the bottom of the ideas barrel when she mentions during one of their nightly phone conversations that her ‘allergies’ are playing up.
Lena doesn’t have allergies. Unless she’s counting being allergic to her family’s bullshit, meals that have 0% vegetable content, and the full spectrum of human vulnerability, which she isn’t.
But right on cue, Kara shows up at her door, antihistamines in hand and arms already open for Lena to fall into.
Everything’s going according to plan. She and Kara are tucked up in her king sized bed, marathoning Planet Earth on Lena’s laptop, and the way Kara’s sweatpant-clad legs have intertwined snugly with her own has pushed all thoughts of her supposed allergies clean from Lena’s mind.
At least until Kara hums, the sound reverberating up where Lena’s head is laying on her chest, the blonde’s nails scratching lightly at the nape of Lena’s neck. Lena hums in response, a sound that comes out as almost a purr as she rubs her cheek against the soft material of Kara’s sleep t shirt, and she’s so comfy and content that Kara’s whispered question almost makes her jump out of her skin.
“What are you allergic to?”
Lena blinks. “What?”
“Like, what specifically?” Kara asks, cheek shifting against the crown of Lena’s head as she speaks. “So I can make sure I never have it in my apartment.”
“Oh,” Lena says, wracking her brain. Shit. Shit, shit, shit. “Um. Plants.”
A beat of silence. “Plants,” Kara repeats carefully.
“Uh, grasses, I meant,” Lena clarifies, hoping Kara can’t see her blush in the darkness. “You know. Pollen.”
“Ah, I see,” Kara murmurs, and it sounds suspiciously like she’s biting back laughter. “Grasses. Pollen. Well, then. I’ll make sure not to plant a lawn in my living room any time soon.”
“Much appreciated,” Lena manages, cursing her own foolishness and praying to God that that’s the end of the conversation.
Unfortunately for her, Kara has other plans.
“Lena,” she says quietly a moment later, arm tightening around Lena’s ribcage. “I know you don’t have allergies.”
Lena freezes. “What?” she laughs, high and forced. “Of course, of course I do, why would you—”
“Well, for one thing, you might have just told the most unconvincing lie in the history of this planet. And that’s coming from the woman who once told you she flew to your office on a bus.” Kara ignores Lena’s indignant gasp to lift her other arm, laptop forgotten amongst the sheets as she wraps Lena fully in her embrace.
“But mainly,” she continues, nosing into Lena’s hair, “because I’ve been your emergency contact for three years now. And when you asked me, I took it upon myself to study your medical history. Just in case I ever had to answer any questions about you. So,” she finishes as Lena cringes, biting her lip. “I know you don’t have any allergies. What I don’t know is why you’re pretending that you do.”
Lena stays silent, face screwed up and eyes clenched shut. The hour of reckoning is here at last, and she’s thoroughly unprepared to pay the price for all her little fibs.
“Lena,” Kara says gently. “Have you been making up illnesses to get me to come over and spend time with you?”
Still, Lena says nothing. But clearly, her silence is just as incriminating as if she’d admitted her deception outright. Kara sighs. “Baby, why?”
Well. Any chance Lena might have had of formulating a rational, coherent defence for her actions evaporates into thin air the second Kara calls her that. Billionaire CEO, certified genius and tech mogul Lena Luthor finds herself, much to her mortification, rendered flushed and speechless by one single pet name from her best friend. She’d always thought Lillian was being a little harsh every time she called Lena an embarrassment to the Luthor name, but perhaps she hadn’t really been too far off the mark.
Her fingers tighten of their own accord, fisting into the worn fabric of Kara’s t shirt and beneath her, the blonde tenses. “Is it because you like it when I’m here?” she asks quietly, and Lena has to fight down a shiver as Kara’s breath ghosts over her ear.
She nods a little shakily, and Kara’s arms tighten even further around her. “Is it because you like it when I hold you?” Kara whispers, voice dropping lower all of a sudden, flowing smoother.
Swallowing around the boulder suddenly lodged in her throat and realising she doesn’t have a whole lot left to lose, dignity-wise, Lena nods again.
Kara tilts her face down until her jaw nudges against Lena’s brow. “Is it because you like it when I kiss you?” she breathes, barely audible, and an honest to God whimper tears itself free from Lena’s throat quite without her consent.
As utterly humiliating as the reaction is, it seems to be what Kara has been waiting for. A moment later Lena’s burning cheeks are rewarded with a light press of lips against them, Kara’s mouth nudging a trail of kisses across the bridge of her nose and down her jaw.
“Baby, you don’t have to make up excuses to get me to spend time with you,” she murmurs against the corner of Lena’s mouth and Lena thinks she might legitimately have a heart attack right here, right now. It would serve her right, she supposes, to suffer a real medical emergency after all the ones she’s fabricated. Kara’s lips part against her skin and Lena feels herself melt. “There’s nowhere I’d rather be than right here.”
Lena dares to blink her eyes open at last only to find Kara staring at her, gaze half-lidded and hungry. “Besides,” she whispers, nose nudging Lena’s own. “I’ve had to be careful with you, on account of your delicate health. But if you’re telling me you’re actually perfectly fine, I suppose there’s no reason for me not to do this.”
And that’s all the warning Lena gets before Kara’s closing the last whisper of distance between them and crushing their mouths together.
Kara kisses her like she was born to do it. She kisses like she wants to consume Lena, body and soul. Lena thinks she might let her. Kara kisses her until her knees are weak and her lungs are protesting, and then she kisses her some more. She kisses her so deeply, so filthily, that Lena wonders absently whether every single ailment she’d ever faked has come crashing down upon her all at once, so breathless and lightheaded and giddy does she feel.
When they at last break apart, gasping, Lena can feel the way Kara’s smile curves against her skin.
“There,” Kara sighs, pupils blown, hair mussed and lips kiss-swollen as she fits a reverent hand to the curve of Lena’s cheek. “You look better already. I’d say that was just what the doctor ordered.”
“Oh, I don’t know,” Lena manages, breathless and beaming as she leans back in. “I think we’d better repeat the procedure, just to make sure.”
Kara seems more than happy to comply.