xii. the sun bursts, clouds break (this is life in colour)
The call is unexpected.
Kara is sitting at her desk, fingers tapping at a human pace on her keyboard, and the sight of her phone vibrating is a welcome but unexpected distraction. She glances over her shoulder to make sure she hasn't disturbed anyone, and then moves to answer.
One good thing about the work they do is that any and every call could be a potential lead or even a source, so daytime calls are accepted as normal, and it's definitely one perk to her current job.
Though, it's even more unexpected that she doesn't quite recognise the number calling her. Her actual number isn't really known to many, given the fact Alex would have a conniption if someone figured out they could track her and actually find Supergirl.
Still, Kara answers with a careful, "Hello, Kara speaking."
"Hey, Kara," a voice says, easy and friendly. Kara knows this voice; she's sure of it. "It's Quinn."
Kara instantly relaxes. "Hey," she says, smiling despite her confusion. "How are you doing?"
"I'm good," she says. "You?"
"A little surprised to hear from you this way, but I'm surviving the daily grind," she says, and hopes it doesn't sound as if she's trying too hard.
"Oh, yeah, sorry," Quinn says, "I got your number from Lena; I hope it's okay that I've called."
"It's perfectly fine, Quinn," she says. "Is everything okay?"
The fact Quinn hesitates has Kara on alert immediately. She's already saving her documents and getting ready to log out of her work account. But then Quinn says, "Nothing's actually wrong," with a steady voice. "I just - I guess I need some advice."
Kara's rising panic dissipates. "From me?"
Kara doesn't know what she could probably help Quinn with, but she's definitely willing to try. "Is it urgent?" she asks.
"I can come to New Haven tonight," Kara informs her. "We can have a face-to-face conversation, if you want. It might be easier."
"Really?" she says, and Kara gets it now whenever Lena is surprised when Quinn actually sounds as young as she is.
"If you want."
"What? Yeah, that'd be great," she says. "Um. This is my number, so just let me know when you're around, okay? We can get something to eat. There are some great places not too far from campus."
"Now you're speaking my language," Kara says, which gets a laugh out of Quinn, and the unexpected sound reminds her of Lena in a way she's still getting used to.
Once their plans are finalised, Kara is left to wonder what Quinn could possibly need advice about. Kara doesn't quite feel qualified enough to dole out words of wisdom, and she can't help but bring it up to Lena when she takes lunch to her office just an hour later.
Lena, thankfully, doesn't look surprised by the revelation. "She mentioned she might call you, yes."
"Do you know what it's about?" Kara presses, wanting to be prepared for any and all eventualities. The last thing she wants is to mess things up with her girlfriend's little sister.
Lena shakes her head. "Not really," she says, "though I suspect it must have something to do with Rachel."
Kara blinks. "Rachel?"
Lena shrugs, gently piercing a piece of lettuce in her salad with her fork. "I think Quinn doesn't know how to talk to me about her relationship, because I still haven't quite decided if Rachel is good for her or not."
Kara nods as if she understands, but they must both know there's more to it. "Are you going to make a decision?" she asks, because she knows what it's like to date someone Alex hasn't approved of.
In fact, if she and Lena started dating as soon as they met, Kara would have had a bigger fight on her hands to get Alex to see Lena as a person and not just her surname.
Maybe that's what Quinn wants to talk about.
Lena sighs. "I know Rachel can make Quinn happy, but I also know she can make her miserable," she says. "I'm not likely to forget that."
Kara stops eating, her gaze meeting Lena's. "I can make you happy," she says, "but I've also made you miserable."
"I'm not likely to forget that, either," Lena says. "Even if I could, I doubt I would want to. I think everything we've already been through makes what we're trying to build right now as important as it is."
"But why would you hold it over her, and not over me?" Kara asks, and she's convinced she already knows the answer. She's a sister, too.
"Hurting me, and hurting Quinn are two very different things," Lena says, anyway. "Alex will never forget what I've done to you, even if you will."
Kara can't even dispute that statement, because Alex said that exact thing when the two of them were finally able to have a Sister Night and actually talk about Kara's new relationship. It was a heavy conversation, despite the episodes of Brooklyn Nine-Nine playing on Kara's television.
The last thing Alex wants is for Kara to get hurt again. Alex's relationship with Lena is separate to Kara's, in the fact that she can still be the woman's friend while not forgetting that there were recent months of misery, heartbreak and visible turmoil for all of them - some more than others.
Kara more than others.
Alex said, "I can't just forget that she said words to you that made you want to leave behind parts of your identity."
She and Lena definitely still need to talk about that. Kara is used to the separation, the differences between Supergirl and Kara Danvers making it difficult to suspect she's one of them when she's dressed as the other. But there was just something about having Lena look at her as if -
As if Kara Danvers was erased from existence the moment she learned about Supergirl. As if every interaction she had with Kara Danvers suddenly disappeared from the timeline, no longer a part of their history.
As if she were nothing and nobody.
The sound of Lena's voice snaps her out of her thoughts, and she focuses on Lena's face. "Sorry," she says, "just thinking."
"Did I say something wrong?" Lena asks. "I just - I don't think we can have a good, solid future if we completely disregard our past. Do you not agree with me?"
Lena studies her for a moment. "Darling, what are you thinking about right now?"
"Do you still hate Supergirl?"
The question is just as unexpected for Lena as it is for Kara, just based on the expression on her face, but she does take a moment to think before she responds.
The one thing Kara appreciates is that Lena doesn't deny she's felt the emotion for her counterpart. That would just be a bald-faced lie, and Kara knows they're trying not to do that anymore.
"No, I don't," Lena finally says. "I think, if I ever did, they were in bursts wrapped up in my feelings, all as a response to my interactions with her." To think about it now, some of their encounters were heated, even if Kara has always believed in Lena's inherent goodness.
"We haven't interacted as a Super and a Luthor since we've started dating," Kara points out, and she is terrified of what that first meeting will be like. Will Lena take one look at her in the suit and change her mind? Will she see her and realise this isn't actually what she wants?
Lena gives her a look. "Would you like to get changed, and then the two of us can resume our lunch?" she offers, and her tone isn't a challenge. It's a kindness.
"Would that be weird?"
"Darling, no," Lena says. "It might me a good idea, having that moment in private, rather than in front of goodness knows how many people. It might take off the pressure, and ease our minds."
"You mean mine," she grumbles.
Lena's smile is indulgent. "Kara?"
"Go and get changed," she says. "I'd like to have lunch with National City's superhero now, thank you."
Kara does as she's told.
Kurt finds out in perhaps the worst way.
Well, the worst way that doesn't involve either of them being naked, but he still finds out, and the kicker really is that Rachel isn't the one to tell him.
It's not really her fault. Rachel and Quinn didn't make it clear to her just how close to their chests they've been keeping their relationship, and it all comes to a head barely two weeks after the end of their Spring Break. She just hasn't known how to bring it up when they can barely get through a single civil conversation - and that's before he knew whom she's been dating.
It's just that Rachel has tried to keep the peace in the loft, but it's been difficult when Santana is newly abrasive, Kurt is cutting, and Quinn isn't even in New York City.
She talks to Brody, instead, who sits across from her at Callbacks and listens to her ramble about Quinn and Quinn's eyes and Quinn's mouth and Quinn's brain and Quinn's general person.
His smile is slightly amused, but Rachel can tell he meant it when he told her he just wanted her to reach for her own happiness, and now she has.
But then Kurt finds out, and he storms into her bedroom and says every nasty thing she's sure he's always wanted to say. It's ugly and hurtful, and he uses Finn against her in the worst ways; calls her ungrateful and selfish and ruthless and a bitch and a diva. She doesn't even know where the anger is coming from - or this is just him still in mourning - but she suddenly knows there is no way they can come back from this.
Especially when he starts talking about Quinn.
It's one thing to spew his vitriol about her - she's actually standing here and she can take it - but Quinn is off limits, and Rachel really should have been firmer about this a long time ago. Quinn might have been an awful teenager at times, but she doesn't deserve all this misplaced hate when Rachel can't recall Quinn ever actually interacting with Kurt on any kind of deeper level.
"Leave her out of this," Rachel snaps at him, and his expression shifts. Angers further. He opens his mouth, but Rachel isn't going to hear a second more. "Say what you want about me, but don't you dare drag her into whatever problem you seem to have with my being happy with someone who isn't Finn."
Kurt's jaw clenches. "She's just going to hurt you," he says, as if everything he's saying is just for her own good. Some way to protect her from an inevitable hurt, which is just -
Maybe she will get hurt. Maybe she won't. Rachel doesn't even care. It feels too good just being with her, and Rachel is probably just selfish enough that nothing else matters in this moment. Nobody else. Dead or alive.
And then it all comes back to this: "What would Finn think?"
Before his death, she knows he would have been livid. Angered beyond comprehension. Even before he made her promise never to be with Quinn, she knows this development would have hurt him. It would have been ugly. Well, uglier than it is right now, and that's saying something.
"All I know is he would want me to be happy," Rachel decides, and she believes that much.
"Not if it's with her."
"Well, he's not here, is he?" Rachel says, and she won't let Kurt derail all the progress she's made since Carole said the words she needed to hear. "He doesn't get a say anymore and, frankly, neither do you."
Kurt glares at her, but Rachel needs to know. She has to hear him say whatever she knows he needs to say, so they can finally get to the crux of all this animosity. If Quinn won't tell her, then maybe Kurt finally will.
"What do you have against her, anyway?" Rachel asks. "Why do you hate her so much?"
"I don't hate her," he deflects, which is a lie. "I just hate that she's so okay with playing the victim card when we all know she's just selfish and heartless. She thinks going through the wringer is having a baby at sixteen and having a bad dye job." He scoffs. "Talk to me when she goes through something that makes the world stop loving her."
It is -
It's worse than Rachel thought.
"Let me get this straight," Rachel says, and she really doesn't think too much about the play of her own words because she's just so horrified right now. "You hate her because, according to you, she hasn't suffered enough?"
Kurt looks thrown, as if having it put that way makes it -
Honestly, it's as horrible as it sounds.
Kurt looks down.
"You hate her because she doesn't broadcast all she's been through, you mean," she says. "Do you even realise what you sound like?"
Kurt opens his mouth, but she's had enough.
"No," she snaps. "Whatever she has and hasn't been through shouldn't matter, and it isn't even any of your business anyway. I'm sorry if you think your life has been so hard, Kurt, but you don't get to take it out on her just because you feel like it. You don't know half the things she's been through and, frankly, I don't think you'd care, even if you did." She shakes her head. "She owes you nothing, and I don't want to hear another ill word spoken about the person I love, do you hear me?"
That gives him pause. "You actually love her?"
"Yes." She's so in love with her that she can barely see past her. "Yes, I do," she declares. "But you've known that for a while, haven't you?"
"And, every day, I'm relieved Finn never did," Kurt says, and Rachel hates him. It's this sudden, heavy, burst of a feeling, and she just knows they're never going to be okay again.
She doesn't want to be around anyone who could say all these horrible things about her girlfriend, anyway. When she first moved to New York, he was really all she had. Moving in with him was an easy decision, but she's in a place now where she knows she's outgrown him. She's outgrown herself.
She has people, now. Sure, she hasn't been the best person to be around for some time, lost in her own never-ending misery, but she's finally figured it out. She has Brody, and she has her other classmates. Her cast mates, who are slowly becoming her friends.
She has Quinn.
She's going to be just fine.
Rachel lifts her chin, expression calm and defiant. "Me too," she concludes, her words more true than anything else. She is relieved, and she gets the feeling Carole, Quinn and Santana all are, too.
And then she tells him to get out of her room. Her voice is firm, offering no space for further argument, and then he's gone.
Rachel is gone just a minute later, grabbing her coat and bag, and already knowing exactly where she's going. She already has her renewed Metro Pass, a gift Quinn gave her for the second time to much protest, but Quinn is convinced it'll save them both money in the long run.
Really, Quinn was more baffled by how she afforded it before, seeing as she made the trip so often. Let it just be known that every tip she ever made at the Diner went to funding those tickets.
Now, she gets to see Quinn whenever she wants, without having to worry about how much it costs. Now, all they really have to worry about is time. It's a Thursday, and Rachel already knows Quinn's schedule, so she won't be in class. That doesn't mean she won't be busy, but Rachel doesn't actually need Quinn to drop everything for her.
She's proven to herself that merely the act of going to New Haven can have the right kind of effect on her.
Still, she calls Quinn from the train, and the blonde is there to meet her at the station with a proud smile and her arms ready to wrap around her. Rachel can't stay very long, because she has rehearsals in the evening, but Quinn takes hold of her hand and leads her to a quaint coffee shop within the station.
Rachel doesn't mention it's the same one she visited when she was still in crisis.
"So, they both know," Quinn says some minutes later, fiddling with the handle of her coffee cup.
"Carole called earlier," she says. "Before you. Said she might have asked him how he was handling the news about us, given his thoughts over Spring Break, and then - well - "
Quinn manages a smile. "Are you okay?"
Rachel slides her foot along the floor until it's pressed against Quinn's. "Brody suggested I see one of NYADA's therapists the other day," she says. "As if I haven't spent the last seven years in therapy, already." She shrugs. "Though, perhaps it hasn't worked."
"Look at it this way," Quinn says, "how much more of a mess would we be if we weren't in therapy?"
"You've started again?" Rachel asks, surprised, because Quinn hasn't mentioned it.
"First session was yesterday," Quinn says. "I don't know why I ever really stopped. I guess you kind of find it unnecessary when you're not considered as being in crisis, but then I was in crisis, and I rather hung onto Lena than, you know, seeking professional help."
"You feel safe with her."
"Yeah." She sips some of her coffee. "I feel safe with you, too."
Rachel reaches for her hand, entangling their fingers. "I think I'm going to move out," she says, and Quinn tightens her grip. "One of my cast mates is looking for another roommate, and I think it'll work out better in the long run. It's about the same price, closer to campus, and - " she pauses. Meets Quinn's gaze. "And it's somewhere you'll be able to visit and not be uncomfortable."
"Rachel, please don't do something like this for me," Quinn says, and Rachel hates how much she's convinced she doesn't deserve these things.
"If anything, I'm doing it for me," Rachel informs her, which isn't exactly untrue. "I want you to be able to visit me, and I also don't want to remain living with someone who - "
Quinn leans forward. "Who what?"
Rachel shakes her head. She's not quite ready to divulge every part of her fight with Kurt, but she will. "I'll tell you another time," she assures, and Quinn accepts it. "I just don't want to keep living with them."
"And these potential new roommates are good people?"
Rachel smiles at her, opting not to take her hand back and rather using her free one to stir her tea and take her first sip. "They're theatre people," she says. "They seem to get me, which is difficult to find."
"And this Sean guy?"
Rachel chuckles, finding Quinn's pout rather adorable. They've had a few conversations about her musical rehearsals, and most of them consist of Rachel complaining about her costar, Sean Champion. "You know you have nothing to worry about," she says. "I don't actually think he's interested in me beyond the idea of me."
"I still don't like it."
"As long as you know."
"This is going to be my job, you know," Rachel points out. "Acting beside male leads, probably for the foreseeable future."
"I'm aware," Quinn says, and she sounds very calm about it. "And I both understand and accept that, but is it so odd that I'm uncomfortable with a costar who doesn't seem to respect the fact you're actually taken?"
"I love you."
"As long as you know."
Quinn rolls her eyes. "Whatever you need from me, just say, okay?" she says, voice more serious. "I'm not as much of a mind reader as people like to think I am."
Rachel squeezes her hand again. "When you next come to New York, we should get a meal with Brody, okay? I think - he's been a good friend to me, and I'd like you to know him."
She's apologised to him, too. Not for ending things, but for other things. He's apologised as well, because she deserved to know that the person she was sleeping with was sleeping with other people who weren't just Cassandra July.
"That easy, hmm?"
Quinn winks at her. "If you want me, all you have to do is say so."
"Definitely one of the reasons I want to move out," Rachel tells her, "I want to be able to sleep with you in my own bed."
Quinn's expression softens considerably, and she leans forward as she brings Rachel's hand up to her mouth, placing the gentlest kiss to the back of it. "I don't want things to be any more difficult for you."
Rachel knew this would happen. It is a wonder how anyone could think this strange creature could be selfish and heartless. She might pretend to be, but anyone paying attention can tell it's all just an act. "Quinn?"
"You make things easier," she says, and there's this expression on Quinn's face that Rachel hasn't ever seen before.
When she figures it out, her breath catches because, dear God, Quinn actually believes her.
"I never told you this," Lena starts, and Kara tries not to feel self-conscious of the way Lena is looking at her; "but the suit really does make you look majestic."
Kara looks down at herself, crinkle in her brow. "Because of the pants?" she asks.
Lena smiles. "Not just the pants," she says. "Just - there's this air about you when you're in the suit. Something not of this world. Something almost regal."
Kara keeps her eyes on Lena's face. "The same thing happens when you put on your armour," she says.
Lena looks confused for a moment, and then she nods. "My clothes are there to maintain some kind of distance," she says. "Makes me appear unapproachable and untouchable."
"And unfairly gorgeous."
Lena chuckles. "You have fantasies about my pantsuits, don't you?"
If Lena expected a serious answer, she doesn't show it. Lena in a suit is - well -
Kara is perhaps more human than anyone thinks.
Lena glances at the watch on her wrist before she seems to make a decision, and Kara has little time to question her before Lena Luthor is climbing into her lap and straddling her thighs.
Lena's fingers slide into her hair, skirt already hiked up, and Kara loses her breath. "You have fifteen minutes," she murmurs against her lips, and Kara has even less time to prepare before Lena is kissing her.
Fifteen minutes isn't nearly enough time, but Lena has a meeting she can't miss, and Kara is an overachiever. It takes twelve minutes in the end, Lena breathlessly saying her name right into her ear as she comes, and Kara feeling particularly chuffed with herself because her hand is still -
There's a knock at the door, and they both freeze. Jess' voice comes through the door, informing Lena of her upcoming meeting, and Lena practically sags against her as she calls out an okay to Jess.
"I should also get back to work," Kara tells her when Lena doesn't move. "I can drop by tonight."
Kara chuckles, tucking some hair behind Lena's ear and softly kissing her cheek. "Lena?"
"I love you."
Lena lifts her head, eyes just slightly unfocused. "Tell me something I don't know," she says, voice serious.
Kara blinks, listens to the outside world and says, "The people you're meeting with are already here."
Lena groans, presses a last kiss to her lips, and then reluctantly gets to her feet. She's unstable for a moment, hands on Kara's shoulders, but it's remarkable how efficiently she manages to compose herself.
Kara speeds through changing into her reporter getup, and then they're parting ways with a gentle kiss and a promise to see each other later. After Kara has talked to Quinn and hopefully managed to help with whatever seems to be bothering the younger blonde.
Now, Kara wouldn't necessarily call herself nervous, but there is added pressure to give solid advice that wouldn't be there if Quinn weren't Lena's sister. It's a truth Kara won't hide from, even if it's easier to think of her as just another person in Lena's life.
Well. That alone would make her important.
As soon as she's clocked out of work, she texts Quinn she's about to leave, and then takes to the sky. She does a quick patrol of National City, just making sure nothing too untoward has occurred, and then she's shooting across the country. At this point, she can just follow the sound of Quinn's heartbeat, finding her easily among a group of students in what appears to be a library.
She texts again once she's landed, feeling slightly out of place among students milling about. She knows she could fit in, aesthetically, but the idea of appearing like a student is odd.
She graduated five years ago, thank you very much.
Quinn eventually emerges from a building, her eyes casting around until they land on Kara. She smiles, skips down some stairs and says, "I totally timed you, and you went a lot slower than I thought."
Kara just shakes her head, visibly amused. "Hello to you, too," she sing-songs.
Quinn's smile merely widens. "Hi, Kara."
"You look well."
"Do I?" Her eyebrows rise in question, almost a challenge. "Because I haven't actually slept. Like, at all."
"I had a paper due, and Rachel stopped by yesterday in a bit of a crisis." Her expression shifts, grows sombre. "So, have you had dinner yet?"
Kara doesn't point out that it's barely past five o'clock in National City. Instead, she says, "I could eat," which is how she finds herself sitting across from Quinn at a diner-type restaurant, milkshakes in front of them both and waiting on their cheeseburgers.
Quinn doesn't appear inclined to bring up the reason they're actually here, but Kara decides it's best to let her get to it when she's ready. That's usually how it goes with Lena, and the two of them are rather similar that way.
Quinn waits until Kara has finished her first milkshake and ordered a second to lean forward and say, "I don't know if Lena told you, but I actually wrote this piece one of my lecturers suggested I submit to this writing competition, and I - um, I kind of won."
Definitely not what Kara was expecting to hear from her.
Kara clears her throat. "That's amazing, Quinn," she says. "Congratulations."
Quinn ducks her head for a moment, mumbling a thank you. When she looks up again, she's a bit more composed. "I didn't actually read about what I would win if I did," she says. "I just - it wasn't meant to be a big deal, but the piece I wrote, it's - well, it's a piece about my daughter."
Kara blinks. "Your daughter?"
Quinn nods, small smile on her face. "I gave birth to her when I was sixteen," she explains. "She was adopted by Rachel's biological mother."
That's just -
Quinn seems amused by her reaction, and they momentarily pause when their server brings them their food and Kara's second milkshake. She's quiet as she cuts her burger in half and makes sure her sweet potato fries aren't touching her small salad.
It's an odd quirk, but Kara is interested in learning things about her.
Quinn has already taken a bite of her burger when she says, "I just thought I would get some kind of monetary award and some mentoring, but they - well, they actually want to publish the piece in their next magazine, and I also managed to secure a summer internship with them, which was unexpected, and there's this writer who thinks I could get a job with them if I actually wanted it."
When it clicks, Kara feels a little silly. Quinn doesn't want relationship advice, at all; she wants career advice.
Kara nods, because she's been listening. "I'm unsure what's actually bothering you," she says. "This sounds like a wonderful opportunity."
Quinn looks away, her expression troubled, and Kara realises there's a lot more to it.
"Do you actually want it?"
Quinn takes a breath. "I didn't give it much thought, you know? My major, my actual career beyond college. I just wanted to get out of Ohio, and I managed to do that, but now - "
Kara gets it, in a way. She's struggled with what she wants to do, as well. Even before Cat Grant left. That career displacement is the reason she even ended up as the woman's personal assistant. Sometimes, still, she's not sure she's found her place, but she's not desperate for it anymore.
"I don't know if I want to be a writer," Quinn says. "Or, I mean, I didn't know that could be an option for me until it was put in front of me."
"But do you actually want it?"
"I'm doing a Minor in Drama, did you know that?" Quinn says. "At some point, I thought I also wanted to perform, but now I'm just - "
"I'm just so tired of pretending." Her expression flashes with pain for a moment, but then it's gone. "It's exhausting, and I don't think I want to make a career out of it."
"So you do want to be a writer?"
"The reason I really wanted to talk to you is because the internship is actually with CatCo," she says. "In National City."
Too many truths are being dropped into her lap right now. "And Lena doesn't know?"
Quinn shakes her head. "Neither does Rachel," she says, and winces. "National City is far from New York, and about as far from Ohio, as well. We're already in this long-distance thing, and I don't know - " she stops, eyes uncertain. "Would Lena even want me around for the entire summer?"
Kara almost bursts out laughing, but Quinn still looks a little lost. It's amazing that she could even think Lena wouldn't jump at the opportunity to have her sister close, but Kara reasons that has little to do with Lena and more to do with Quinn herself.
"Wait," Quinn says, "would you even want me around?"
Kara's amusement fades to nothing. "Quinn, you're one of the only people in this world who makes Lena feel as if she's more than just her surname," she says. "More than just her past. Why wouldn't either of us want you around?"
"Probably because I intend to interrupt intimate moments as much as possible," Quinn says, clearly deflecting, and Kara allows it for a moment.
"To be honest, Quinn, I think it would make her very happy to have you near, but this is something you have to decide for yourself," Kara says. "I think, if your piece was chosen, then it was chosen for a reason, and I'm convinced that you could make a real go at it, if you wanted."
"You want to read it, don't you?"
Quinn laughs. "All you had to do is ask," she says. "I can send you a copy. You might even have to check it over, for all I know."
"Wait, does this mean we could end up working together?" Kara asks, and she shouldn't be as excited by the prospect as she is.
"I don't know. Maybe. I guess it'll depend on what the internship really entails."
"I'm going to make sure we work together," Kara declares. "We'll be unstoppable."
Quinn raises her eyebrows. "You do realise I'm not actually a superhero, right?"
"I'm just a reporter, Quinn."
Kara rolls her eyes behind her glasses, and then the two of them settle into comfortable silence as they eat. Usually, Kara would want to fill the silence with her own voice, but Quinn is -
She's very still. Calm in a way that's a lot like Lena, but not like herself or Alex. It makes Kara wonder, because there must be reasons for her stillness.
The same way there are reasons for Lena's.
Kara can't handle silence. She can't stand not moving. It's probably a byproduct of her time in the Phantom Zone, but it's not something she would choose. Alex is - well, she's had an eye watching everything and everyone for a long time. She's also twitchy at times, a past of uncontrolled alcohol consumption under her belt, and she and Kara wouldn't choose to sit in the quiet together.
"I know I already met her, but can you tell me what Rachel is like," Kara says, and the smile that blooms on Quinn's face is almost too overwhelming to witness.
"What would you like to know?"
Kara's burning question at the moment is, "Is she content to sit still?"
Quinn looks momentarily confused, but then she smiles and shakes her head. "Not usually," she says. "She's definitely a busy body, always has to be doing something - usually related to music. She's never quite been able to be static."
"And that doesn't bother you?"
Quinn gives her a look, as if she knows this isn't really about her and Rachel, and more about Lena and Kara. "No," she says. "I think, what makes us work is the fact we're not alike that way. She respects my need for calm, and I kind of - I find that side of her endearing. In small doses." She laughs. "No, I'm kidding. I just - when you're with the right person, you learn to make it work. I love the parts of her that are so different to me. It's what attracts me to her."
"And you don't worry all that will cause conflict?" Kara asks, because her and Lena's previous conflict was rather exclusively related to Kara's big secret. Now, well, there are all these other things they might end up nitpicking at as they keep learning about each other.
"Maybe," Quinn allows. "But the people we're with are as perfect for us as they can be, Kara. Relationships are hard work sometimes, but one of the things I've learned in my many, many years on Earth is that if she's interested in all my weird little quirks enough to give me the attention I deserve, then she's the one for me."
Kara blinks. "What do you mean?"
"I used to watch my parents, sometimes," she says. "They weren't all that great when I was younger, you know, more worried that we appeared to be a perfect family without actually trying to be a family. But, yeah, I would watch them, and I would always see that my mother would try to talk to him about the new show she was watching or the garden she was cultivating in the backyard, and he just - he was just never interested in anything she was.
"Which is fine, you know, because you don't actually have to have the same interests, but I just - I told myself I was going to end up with someone who would at least listen to me. Someone who wouldn't dismiss my interests just because they weren't their own. Someone who would try to share that moment with me; who would love me enough that whatever I was going on about wouldn't annoy or bother them." She breathes out. "And I seem to have found that. So have you."
Kara thinks Quantum Entanglement, and she realises that Quinn is right. She does have that in Lena. Even before they imploded, she's had that in Lena, and Lena has that in her. It's not just going to go away.
"I thought I was supposed to be helping you," Kara says, a little embarrassed at how transparent she's been.
"You are," Quinn insists. "Thank you, you know? Not just for coming, but for being someone I could call."
"You're welcome, Quinn," she says. "You're Lena's people, which makes you my people."
Quinn shakes her head. "We're lucky to have you."
Kara shakes her own head, ready to counter that she's the lucky one, but it's unnecessary. Quinn must be able to see it all over her face already.
When the call comes, Quinn is already passed out beside her and snoring softly. She claims she doesn't, but Rachel knows better. She's choosing to find it cute, because it is.
But the call arrives, and Rachel has to roll to the edge of her bed and dig through her discarded jeans to find the ringing device. Preferably before Quinn wakes from the offensive sound.
It's not a number she recognises, but it's unlikely someone would randomly be calling her at this time of night, so she answers with a garbled, "Hello."
She's immediately alert, blinking away her own drowsiness. "Lena?"
"Hi," she says. "Sorry to call so late. It's just that I've been trying to get a hold of Quinn, but she doesn't seem to be answering, and I - " she stops quite suddenly, her voice sounding a little strangled.
Rachel sits up, shifting her body until her legs are hanging off the edge of her bed. "She's here," she says. "Would you like me to get her?"
"She's asleep, isn't she?"
"I'm sure she won't mind if I wake her," Rachel says, and they both know it's true. She would probably be more angry if they didn't.
"No, that won't be necessary," Lena says, but she's obviously reluctant.
Rachel takes a breath. "Is - um, is everything okay?"
Lena is quiet for a long moment, and Rachel wonders if she's actually hung up. But then she says, "I don't think I really thought about what it would mean to date an actual superhero."
Something must have happened to Kara.
"Is she okay?" Rachel asks.
Lena sighs. "Physically, she's fine," she says, "but there's a lot that comes with being in battles day in and day out where people and aliens alike are actively trying to kill you."
Rachel doesn't even want to imagine it.
"She is very good," Lena says. "Kind and hopeful and just so good, and the world is constantly trying to hurt her, and I just - it is not something I think I could get used to."
"Watching her get hurt." She puffs out a breath. "I don't know how Alex does it."
Rachel doesn't know, either, and she also doesn't know what to say to make this better. To have it make sense. "You're - I mean, you're a tech genius, right?"
"Um. I guess?"
"Well, Alex gets to handle it by being in battle with Kara, right, so why can't you handle it by inventing things that would make sure she doesn't get hurt?"
Lena is quiet again. It takes nearly thirty seconds to get a response, which is unexpected when it does come. "Quinn mentioned you've recently moved into a new apartment."
Rachel is caught off guard by the topic change, but she'll allow Lena this moment. Because she's the one who is currently with Quinn. "I have," she says. "Just this past weekend, actually."
"Is it going well?"
"So far, yes," she says. "It wasn't easy dropping the news on my old roommates, but Quinn's comfort is the most important thing. She's already made friends with our neighbours, a set of twins who are almost as obsessed with Harry Potter as she is."
"That's a feat."
"You're telling me."
Lena hums. "I suppose all this means that you really are done fucking around with my sister, hmm?"
Rachel almost smiles. "She had to explain that to me properly," she says, because Rachel really did think it was just some kind of figure of speech Lena chose to use. "I can barely believe it."
"Neither can I," Lena admits. "Sometimes, I have to pinch myself, because I've had such horrid luck in my life that it still amazes me that the stars managed to align enough that we would meet at all, let alone learn whom we are to each other."
She does smile now, because she knows a thing or two about stars. "I'm grateful for it every day," she says. "Quinn deserves good things, even if all of this came out of a bad thing."
"You're adopted too, correct?"
"In a sense," Rachel says. "I have two fathers, and I have a biological mother. I didn't even question whether she existed until she showed up in my life at sixteen and decided to upend my carefully cultivated existence." She doesn't say it halfheartedly. No. Shelby did enter her life and ruffle it quite severely.
At that age, to be wanted was everything to her, and Shelby sold her dreams of actually getting to know her, and then decided Rachel wasn't actually what she wanted. She met her, and then decided she didn't actually want Rachel.
Didn't want to know her the way Rachel decided she wanted to know her in return.
Decided they would be best watching each other from afar.
Essentially told her that she wanted a child, and then realised Rachel didn't actually need a mother and just -
She left Rachel in the dark, and then immediately adopted a newborn baby. It still stings just thinking about it; more so that the baby she adopted is Quinn's biological daughter.
"My mother lives here in New York," Rachel says, "but I haven't seen her since I moved here."
"Would you even want to?" Lena asks.
"I think it's got a lot more complicated now that Quinn and I are dating," she says, and visibly winces at the idea of getting to know Shelby again, when Beth is this person that links Quinn to the woman. "But I don't know if I do want that, anyway."
"What if Quinn wants to know Beth?"
Rachel closes her eyes. "I don't know how receptacle Shelby would actually be to that," she says, and there's an irrational anger than lingers at how Shelby came back into their lives their senior year. She essentially dangled Beth in front of Quinn and actually acted surprised when the teenager devolved into a full-blown breakdown.
And Kurt claims she hasn't gone through enough.
Lena hums. "She's just another person who hurt you both."
"There are many."
"We should start a club," Lena says. "Adopted Kids with Mommy Issues."
Rachel chuckles. "Weirdly enough, I think we'd be inundated with members."
"Isn't that just the saddest thing?" Lena muses. "Though, I suppose that would give us an excuse to see each other."
Rachel frowns. "Why would we need an excuse?" she questions.
"It just - Quinn and I usually see each other when one of us is in crisis, or if there's a holiday of some sort," Lena says, "but neither of us has had a situation that calls for that in more than a month." There is a longing in her voice that Rachel recognises.
Rachel constantly wants Quinn near, as well, and this is one way she and Lena can actually bond. Because Rachel isn't under any illusion that Lena is actually accepting of her quite yet. She's not sure Lena will ever be and, frankly, that's okay.
The same way it's okay that her fathers will forever remain wary of Quinn, despite how much the two of them love each other.
Doesn't mean Rachel is going to stop trying to get Lena on her side. She knows they can get along quite well if Lena just lets them.
"I'm sure Quinn would love to see you, regardless," Rachel tells her, and she's certain of it. "She talks about you all the time." And it isn't even a lie. When Quinn isn't talking about school or her friends or her family in Sacramento, she's talking about Lena. It's almost as if she still doesn't believe they're related.
Or that someone who's related to her could know her and want to keep her. Sometimes, it's as if she's waiting for the other shoe to drop, because every other family she's had has thrown her away at some point, and that's something Rachel definitely understands.
"I do have some plans," Lena admits, "but Quinn seems to balk at any mention of the word plan."
Rachel smiles to herself, because that's partly her fault. They've thrown all plans to the wayside at this point. "Well," she says, "maybe I can help."
Kara probably wouldn't admit it to anyone, but her relationship with Lena starts to feel the most real the first time Lena rejoins them for Games Night. It takes a while, given all the work everyone has to do to get to a place where the hurt and betrayal aren't at the forefront of everyone's minds whenever they're in the same room.
Kara's been wary of bringing it up, too worried about rocking the boat, but Lena surprises her by mentioning it herself.
"Would that be okay with you?" Lena asks, and she's purposefully not looking at Kara. "I don't know if it's too soon."
Kara has to force herself to remain in her seat, because she could really start floating if she's not careful, and they're currently sitting in public. Maybe that's why Lena is bringing it up at all.
"Does it feel like it's too soon?" Kara asks, keeping her voice steady. She can't appear too giddy, because the last thing she wants is to scare off Lena. Telling her she's wanted her at Games Night since before they even started dating probably isn't the way to go right now.
Everything is not fixed.
Sometimes, Kara will mention something or allude to a time from before the secret was out, and Lena will get quiet, thoughtful. Kara knows she's remembering their previous interactions in a new light, now that she's aware of all the instances Kara must have lied to her.
They still have so many things to talk about, including but not limited to Jack, Mon-El and James. Lillian, Sam and the Kryptonite. Lex.
Oh, Rao, maybe it is too soon.
"Hey," Lena says, hand reaching out to cover Kara's. "You're far away."
"If it's too soon for you, you can tell me," Lena says. "Your comfort is my comfort."
Kara suddenly hates that they're currently having lunch is such a crowded restaurant. All she wants to do is wrap her arms around Lena and just hold on. "And your comfort is mine," she ends up saying. "I want you there on Friday. Of course, I do. I just don't want you to feel as if you have to - "
"Have you even spoken to anyone else?" Kara asks.
Lena looks away for a moment. "With all the work we've been doing trying to track down this weapons dealer, I've spent time with Alex, J'onn and Brainy," she reveals. "Otherwise, no, not really."
There's really only Nia, Kelly and M'gann left, and Kara can't foresee there being any further problems. It's just - it could end up being a lot.
Lena looks thoughtful. "Maybe we should wait for when Quinn's next here," she offers. "She can be a useful ice-breaker."
Kara doesn't mean to be awkward at the mention of Quinn's name, but she can't help it. Quinn hasn't yet told Lena about the summer internship with CatCo, and the fact Kara knows is eating away at her. She doesn't like keeping things from Lena - not when they've just recovered from the big thing - and Quinn is just taking her time.
Lena gives her a curious look. "You know, you never did say what she wanted to talk to you about."
"No, I didn't."
"Did she swear you to secrecy?"
"Not exactly," Kara says. "Just, she has news she'd like to tell you herself, and I can't handle that I know something I'm technically not allowed to tell you yet."
"It's eating away at you, isn't it?"
"I think I'm getting an ulcer."
Lena laughs. "Darling, you don't get ulcers."
"Then why do I feel so sick to my stomach?"
"Because you've told yourself never to lie to me again, and it's affecting you physically that this is something you're actively forcing yourself not to tell me."
Kara sighs. "How do people live like this?"
Lena shakes her head, amused. "I think this Friday isn't too soon," she says, switching back to discussing Games Night. "I'd like to get back a semblance of what we had before, but better, and there's no use waiting."
Kara leans forward. "Are you saying what I think you're saying?"
"What am I saying?"
"That I get my perfect partner back?"
Lena's entire body softens, not just her facial expression, and Kara can only wonder what she looks like in return. "Yes, Kara," she says, voice soft and confidential. "You get your perfect partner back," she adds, and her eyes are saying that she never really left at all.
To say the rest of Kara's week drags on is a bit of an understatement. She hasn't been this excited about a Games Night since -
Probably since the first one Lena ever attended.
She's nervous, though. Like the first go-around, she wants the evening to be perfect, which really equates to a lot of snacks. She wants Lena to feel welcome and feel as if she belongs, because she does. In life and on Games Night, Lena truly is Kara's perfect partner, and Kara wants the entire world to know it.
They'll start with their closest friends and family.
Kara is hosting, which makes her more nervous but also not. She has the power to make it a great night, sure, but she also has the power to overdo it in a way that will be obvious to everyone in attendance.
It ends up being a good thing Lena arrives earlier than everyone else, several bottles of wine in tow and packets of kale chips she brings just to get a reaction out of Kara.
Kara barely even notices, because Lena is here, in her apartment, for Games Night. She barely knows what to do with herself when she opens the door to reveal Lena's nervous smile.
Kara's breath leaves her body in a long whoosh, her heartbeat rising at merely the sight of her. "Wow," she says.
Lena's brow furrows. "What?"
"I just - " she starts, and stops. Smiles. "I just really love you."
Lena's expression is still tinged with nerves, but she returns Kara's smile. "I brought wine."
"I don't even care." Kara reaches for her and tugs her into the apartment, closing the door with her foot and wrapping Lena in a hug.
Lena breathes into her neck for a moment, before placing a kiss there. "Hi," she murmurs.
Kara's grip tightens for a beat, and then she forces herself to release her. "Hi," she says in response. "I'm so glad you're here."
Lena takes a look around the room. "Darling, did your fridge explode?"
"How many people are you planning to feed?"
Kara follows her gaze, taking in the various snacks she's laid out for the evening. "Is it too much?"
Lena gently touches her cheek. "You're very cute."
"I'm also a little nervous."
"You wouldn't even be able to tell," Lena tells her, winking, and Kara can now see what Lena meant when she said Quinn can lie to her and make sure Lena knows it.
Kara leans down to kiss Lena's lips. "I can eat all the potstickers before anyone else even arrives," she declares, and Lena's eyes sparkle.
She hands Kara a bottle of wine and says, "Let me get comfortable, and I'll time you."
And, Rao, Kara didn't think a love like this could exist. She feels smitten and lovesick, almost nauseous with how much of everything good she's feeling. She's convinced she must reek of it, and she half-expects that she and Lena will be teased endlessly once the night gets underway.
The opposite happens.
Nobody even mentions the obvious change in their relationship status, the two of them huddled together from the very start. In fact, all Lena gets are many, many hugs, a few welcome backs and a lot of we missed yous. There isn't a lot of awkwardness, Lena sliding back in seamlessly and all their inside jokes resuming.
Kara almost pinches herself, because it feels as if she's dreaming.
It's the moment she catches Alex looking at them, a soft look on her face, that Kara knows for sure this isn't some kind of dream. Alex's eyes are a little sad, warm with relief, and Kara suspects she knows what her sister is thinking.
Alex has been worried, almost as much as Kara has been. It wasn't anything set in stone that Kara would ever find something like this. Someone like this.
Someone like Lena, who knows every part of her now, sunshine and darkness, and still has chosen her. Lena, who has reached into Kara and dug around, scratched and clawed until she's raw, and is still here. Lena, who has met every part of Kara and decided she's worth it. Lena, who looks at Kara in a way she never allowed herself to dream.
It isn't even just the alienness that has had them worried. It plays a factor, sure, but Kara is more than just her heritage, and she's harboured a loneliness in her heart for so long that it was impossible to imagine a time in her life that it wouldn't remain.
That time is now, with Lena tucked into her side and debating with Brainy about something to do with radiation. That time is now, Kara surrounded by the most important people in her life - except Eliza - and not feeling as if she's missing something.
She's not missing anything. For the first time since Krypton exploded, she feels whole.
There is no darkness here, in this moment, because her heart is full and overflowing, her life and love complete to an extent previously unimagined. In this moment, the world is beautiful and bright and shiny, everything in blinding, vibrant colour.