Much to her adopted mother’s chagrin, Kara Danvers has always hated museums.
She just wasn’t built to slowly walk around a building and stare at pictures that didn’t move.
And now she has to go and cover a new exhibit at the Guggenheim for Cat Grant. She should be thankful that Cat’s throwing good bylines her way ever since she relocated to New York for a Supergirl sabbatical. But the photographer isn’t going to make it and the weather’s positively dreadful and so Kara gives in to her birthright as a Jewish woman and decides she can complain as much as she wants.
She puts an extra camera battery into her already bulky bag, and as she’s heading out the door she stops to take a breath and ready herself for the nightmare that is New York’s bus system.
“Damn the Guggenheim.”
By the time she makes it to the museum’s front doors, her blazer’s soaked all the way through and her brogues squeak with every step. But somehow, miraculously, she’s managed to keep her camera bag dry.
The lady at the front desk gives her a press pass to join the other journalists and starts explaining how to get there, but Kara gets distracted. A woman catches her eye, entering the museum looking impossibly good. Her black hair is pulled back and her posture is impeccable and she pushes a sleek, expensive looking pram. By the time Kara focuses back, the front desk lady is staring at her expectantly.
“Uhh… thanks, I’ll find it.”
She watches as the impressive, beautiful woman makes a left. She looks at her map, hoping she can follow.
Kara’s tour is to the right.
“Damn the Guggenheim.”
Once the tour is done, Kara decides to hang around a little longer; she doesn’t want to look uncultured in front of the other journalists who look excited at the prospect of spending more time in the museum.
What was the exhibit Alex had told her about once? The Ten-Houser? She wanders around a little and finds a sign that says ‘Thannhauser’ and decides that probably makes more sense.
She hears the woman before she sees her again, a perk of her super-hearing.
“Picasso had the world fooled. He stole his whole schtick from African artists and he was a predator to boot. If you ask me, his blue period is nothing more --”
The tiniest, softest yawn Kara has ever heard cuts the woman off.
“Exactly,” the woman continues. “The man’s an absolute hack.”
Kara follows the voice, and she’s not sure what compels her to do so, but she whips her camera back out as she walks towards the conversation.
The moment she sees her, her heart stops and her breath gets stuck in her throat. The woman from earlier - the perfectly put together, formidable woman - holds the baby up in front of a painting as she talks about it.
The baby is small, barely able to hold up their own head, but the woman has a hand under their butt, and another on their chest, right at the base of their neck, and she holds them up right in front of the painting.
“Okay, one last look at Picasso, and then we move onto something you’ll like much better.”
Kara follows them from a distance, snapping a couple of shots, absolutely enraptured by the woman’s monologue.
“Okay. Adolph Gottlieb we like a lot, but he’s still not as good as Chagall, which you’ve always got to keep in mind. Your first thought is always ‘But is it better than Marc?’”
For the first time in her life, Kara loves the museum. She’s happy to walk at this snail’s pace, she’s happy to take in each artwork for just slightly-too-long, she’s happy to not say a word. Just as long as she gets to follow this woman around for as long as she can, just as long as she gets to listen to her voice.
“Now personally I think Bechtle is a genius and photorealism is fantastic. And what makes me love it even more is the fact that Grandmother Lillian despises it. She says that art needs expression, not just talent. And to that we say that Grandmother Lillian is a S-H-I-T head.”
“A lot of people would call Mondrian a one trick pony, but I think he just knew what he liked and what he was good at and that is very much okay.”
“This one is maybe the most important of all, your Nanna loved Monet a lot. I don’t have much more to say about it other than that, so maybe this one we can just stare at for a while.”
Kara wonders how to approach the stranger, introduce herself, and offer her the photos. Maybe if she were braver, she’d ask her out for a drink. But before she can practice an opening line in her head, the woman approaches her, the baby back in its pram.
“If you’re following me around for some sort of inside scoop, I’ll report you to security.” The woman’s voice has a bite to it it didn’t have before. Kara doesn’t blame her.
“I’m not… I’m not looking for a scoop or anything. I just, I heard you talking about the art and I had to keep listening. I think I’ve learned more this morning than I ever have in any art class.”
The woman ignores the compliment. “You’ve been ten feet away from us this entire time, how on earth could you hear me?”
“Sound travels in here,” Kara lies, only mildly panicked. “And I have good hearing? Look. I don’t want to sound too lame or anything, but I’ve really never found this stuff interesting before. But I think I could listen to you talk about it for hours, days even.”
It’s not lost on her, that the woman had noticed her the whole time.
She knows if Alex were present, she’d say it’s because the woman perceived her as a threat.
She noticed Kara.
That’s gotta count for something.
“I majored in art history, but that was a lifetime ago now,” the woman says, less bite in her voice this time.
“Before this little one came along?”
The woman is caught off-guard by the comment, as though she hadn’t expected Kara to be so observant, or perhaps because there was a lack of judgement in Kara’s tone that she isn’t used to.
“Yeah,” she says. “Before she came along.”
“I’m Kara,” Kara introduces, holding out a hand for the woman to shake.
She takes it, only slightly unwilling.
“This is going to sound weird, and maybe a little creepy, but I took some photos of you--”
“So you are after a story. Gonna sell those photos to the highest bidder, huh?”
“I am so sorry, but am I supposed to know you? Inside scoop… paparazzi… am I offending you for having no idea who you are?”
Lena deflates, but only a little. Kara can tell her defences are still up, and she doesn’t blame her.
Instead of waiting for an answer, she pulls up the photos she’s taken and shows her camera to Lena. They feel intimate, in the purest way. Lena holding her daughter up to look at the paintings, both of them with very serious looks on their faces. Dozens of them, in front of as many paintings as Kara could manage. A whole series in front of the Monet.
“You spoke to your daughter with such love and passion… I couldn’t help myself.”
Lena doesn’t even look at Kara, her eyes still transfixed on the photos in front of her. Kara wonders if this is the first time Lena has seen herself as others should see her: utterly spectacular and a really good mom.
“These are… these are very nice photos.”
“I can email them to you,” Kara says quickly. “I’ll email them and then delete them right away.”
“That’s very kind of you,” Lena says. “My email is firstname.lastname@example.org. ”
Kara laughs. Lena doesn’t.
“Oh. You’re not joking??” She wonders how much Lena would’ve paid for that email.
“I don’t often make jokes, Kara.”
And then Kara does something she’s not usually brave enough to do.
“Would you… Would you like to get coffee with me, Lena?”
“I don’t drink coffee.” It’s immediate and rehearsed, as though she turns down desperate fools like Kara all the time.
“I’m not such a tea person.”
“Orange juice. Soda. You can get a free glass of water and watch me drink a hot chocolate. Literally any beverage in the entire world is on offer right now.”
Lena deliberates for what might be the longest minute of Kara’s life.
“Hot chocolate. You’re paying.”
Kara grins so hard she feels like her face might split in two.
Lena leads her to a small cafe less than a block away. It’s in an old church, with one other customer reading a book.
The servers greet Lena with a smile, and lean down to peek into the pram, commenting on how big the now-sleeping child has gotten.
“You come here often?” Kara asks as they sit down to wait for their drinks.
“I bring Orla here every day, it’s the quietest place on Museum Mile.”
“You take her to a museum every day??”
“We love museums.” Lena says simply. She pauses. Then she adds. “My adopted mother didn’t really bother to try and parent me, and I don’t remember my real mother. I suppose I’m just trying to be good at this parenting thing.”
“I think you’re fantastic at it,” Kara says, “and I’ve only followed you around a museum for an hour.”
“You some kind of expert?”
“I know what love and dedication look like. You’ve got that foundational shit down pat.”
Lena smiles, and Kara wonders if this - the butterflies going wild and feeling lightheaded because Lena is so goddamn beautiful - is what it feels like to swoon.
“You’re much too kind to me,” Lena says. “Why did you even want to get coffee with me in the first place?”
“Aren’t you ever just drawn to people?” Kara asks. “People who, like, you look at them and just feel as though they might play a role in your life? Maybe it’s fate or maybe it’s wishful thinking… you just sort of go with it.”
Lena hesitates for just a second. “I’ve never allowed myself… to be drawn… to the people I want to be drawn to.”
It’s vague, vague as all hell. But between that and the way Lena looks at her when she talks —
Kara’s picking up the gay shit Lena’s putting down.
“I have a good feeling about you, Lena,” she says. “A great feeling, even. I’m very excited to force my way into your life and make you hang out with me.”
Lena laughs, she laughs in a way that makes Kara’s breath catch in her throat. She laughs in a way that sounds like music Kara wants to listen to for the rest of her life.
“Well if you’d like, Orla and I are going to the Museum of Natural History tomorrow and you’re more than welcome to join us.”
Choices, as Kara knows, have the ability to change the course of your entire life. When she was twelve, her mother made a choice that led to Kara’s life on earth. When she was in her twenties, Kara made a choice that led to her becoming Supergirl.
And though she may not know it yet, the choice Kara made to take those photos of Lena, to ask her out for coffee, those choices are going to change Kara’s life in ways she can’t even imagine, in the best damn way possible.
Years down the line, when Kara’s telling Orla the story of how they met for the first time, she’ll use the word fate. But deep down, she knows it’s more than that. It’s much more human than fate.
The offer hangs in the air between them, and Lena stares expectantly, nervously.
Kara smiles broadly, and she says,
“It’s a date.”