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The Brightest Porcelain Smile

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 I barely stopped the lamp; I just lashed from falling, scared out of my mind by the loud slam downstairs. "Lena!" I hear a frantic voice scream out. "Sam?" I call back at the approaching figure. She flings my office dorm open and strides in on a mission. She approaches my desk, basically slamming her hands on my papers. 

 

"You spent the whole day with Kara yesterday?" She asks, glancing behind her, "I could've sworn I told you this already." I ask, glancing in her direction. I've known Sam for years, and I'm fairly used to her weird antics, but this is just unsettling.

 

"Well, Lillian's on her way here no-" And with that, there's another loud slam downstairs. "Lena Kieran Luthor!" My mother screams out in rage. Huh. I swear I'm getting deja vu. Oh yeah! This literally just happened. "Is today some time of holiday? If so, I don't feel as if I'll be participating this year." I mutter as the loud steps storm closer.

 

Sam backs away and drops down onto the chair to the side of the room, sending me a pitying look. "What were you thinking!?" My mother yells in lieu of an actual greeting, Lex hot on her track, not fairing much better.

 

"Yes, salutations and good morning to you too, mother. How may I help you on this fine Sunday?" I remarked, leaning back in my chair, accepting my already intended fate. My mother never calls me by my full name unless I've actually committed a severely punishable act. 

 

She also hasn't looked at me with this much rage since I was in college, and she caught me making out with her old-time friend's daughter Tiffany Johnson in my bedroom, only to ghost her a week later. The conversation that was rudely cut short a few seconds ago replays in my mind, and I start to form an idea of what this brief and sudden family reunion's about.

 

My mother slammed the large orange envelope that she clutched down in front of me. "You've lost it. Absolutely lost it!" My mother repeats, pacing back and forth, leaving traces on the wine-colored carpet. I turn to Lex, who has an unreadable expression on his face, and he looks away. I sigh, defeated, and tear open the envelope only to uncover a collage of pictures.

 

The scene in front of me blurs, and I suddenly feel as if I'm submerged underwater. I can feel the steady beats of my heart speed up with every picture I take out. Photos showing proof of my relationship with Kara. Images with clear shots of our faces. Pictures unfairly exposing the existence of Ellinae and Kori.

 

Pictures consisting of me feeding Kori my noodles, with Kara and Ellinae cheering. Kori's curls thankfully covered the majority of his face. Ellinae's hair is down, looking ever so much like her mother. Then there's well her mother with her cap down right before running her hand through it. Although her eyes are brown, there's still that same adorable crinkle around her eyes and long dashing blonde hair.

 

I continue scanning through them, stopping at one. A clear shot of Kara and me kissing in the car, and one beside it, one where she's taking the lollipop from me with her mouth and me smiling like an idiot. I scrutinize it closely, and there's Kori asleep in his car seat and Ellinae leaning her head on his.

 

"Where did get these?" I ask, my voice cracking against my will, glancing up. My mother stops pacing, and Sam looks at me with sympathy painted all over her face. "Where did I get them?" My mother repeats, chuckling in disbelief, "I had to stop them from being printed!" She answers bitterly. 

 

"Come on, Lena, what were you think? And whose kids are those!?" Lex yells, finally acknowledging me. "I was thinking that I'm a grown woman who doesn't need to report back to her family about her love life! These!" I yell back, pointing at the two children in the photo, "Are Kara's children! And these photos shouldn't have been taken!" 

 

"I think I'll step out.." Sam speaks up quietly; I send her my deepest glare, "Don't. I need a witness in case I'm murdered." My mother scoffs deeply, "Oh please." I resist the urge to roll my eyes and decide on sighing instead. 

 

Lex scoffs, crossing his arms, and my mother yanks her arms from Sam's hold and takes a seat in front of me. "Do you know how bad this looks? A Luthor dating a Zor-El Lena, really!?" Lex asks, turning a shade of pink. I slam my desk on my way to stand up, "We are not children! She had nothing to do with what her parents did, and neither did I!"

 

I chuckle to myself erratically, as if this is all one big joke. "You're all just prejudiced! That's why I couldn't no didn't tell you!" I announce, glancing between my silent seething mother and expressionless brother. "Yes, I am dating Kara! The Zor-El heir! She's kind and selfless an- and-" My mother raises a steady hand, putting a stop to my rambling. 

 

It's something she's always done. It's something that would've had me tearing my eyebrows off in middle school, but growing older, it became our thing. And right now, I seriously hope it's good. She eyes me carefully, and I cross my arms, refusing to waver. "You like her.." She says thoughtfully, "You haven't fancied anyone since that Sinclair girl." She makes a face and waves a hand demolishing the thought.

 

"Yes," I respond firmly. My mother eyes me from top to bottom, "And those are her children." She says, but it sounds more like a question than anything else. I glance at the envelope on my desk, "Yes. Amazing ones at that." She sighs heavily and leans back in the tall chair, "And she shares these affections?" I skim through all my memories with her and her children, "I really hope so."

 

Then, my phone gets a notification at the worst possible moment ever, and I look at the clock with a sigh. Because, of course, it's Kara. She texts me at the same time every day without fail. And if it isn't her, then I'd be worried. I can feel the moment when everyone looks at my phone screen facing up on the table.

 

Ms. Roberts❤️: "Did you know Montpelier, Vermont, is the only U.S. capital without a McDonald's? Like what do they even eat when they crave fast food? Anyway, I know you liked the noodles from yesterday (A very rare occurrence btw), So I ordered take-out. I'll swing by with it by lunch since you always forget to eat when working! ❤️(who works on Sundays anyway?)." 

 

My first thought is to update my settings as Sam snickers and Lex scoffs, crossing his arms. I turn toward my mother, who's eyeing the message thoughtfully, "Since when do you eat noodles?" She asks flatly, picking up my phone for a better view. I furrow my eyebrows at the sudden change of tone and glance at Sam, who just shrugs just as thrown off as me. 

 

"Since yesterday.." They all make an unamused face, and I let out an involuntarily sigh, "What? They were good!" I say, trying to defend myself. My mother goes through at least four various emotions before staring at me, "This isn't good." She says gravely, earning an eye roll from me. 

 

"I know because she's a Zor-El well mother, I frankly don't care-" She stands up, cutting me off, "No."  She punctuates with an eye roll herself. "I meant that I don't think that's all of the pictures." She says, gesturing at the photos clutched in my hands. "What do you mean?" I ask slowly, waiting for my brain to comprehend. 

 

"I mean that I only stopped the pictures from being printed at the Daily planet. I wouldn't know if someone else were to have them printed elsewhere." It's my turn to scoff, "Really? Lillian Luthor couldn't catch a no-good reporter?" Any emotion from her face immediately drops, "I would never."

 

"I most certainly despise the Zor-Els, but purposely sabotaging them is not something I'd ever do. Kara is young, kind, and intelligent, but so were her parents Lena. You nor your friends might remember, but I do. I remember how sweet and selfless they were. Who would've thought they were raging sociopaths?" She runs a hand through her combed-down hair.

 

"I was going to bring you and Lex, Lena! I could've lost my family! All on some twisted whim." She confesses without looking away. My stance slowly falters. She's right. I've probably met Kara's parents once or twice. I can't recall what we talked about, but they were definitely two of the kindest people I've met. 

 

I certainly wouldn't believe you if you told me they were planning on annihilating everyone they thought were threats to their daughter's future. 

 

"She wouldn't," I say quietly, wincing at how small I sound. "How would you, Lena? You've known her what? A few months. How do you know she isn't capable of following in her parent's footsteps?" My mother remarks warily. I bring myself to full height, "Because I know what a manipulative person is. Who would have more experience than me?" I retorted, crossing my arms. 

 

Her face falls, and she looks away, jaw clenched. "Kara's parents treated her like shit. After they reported the maid's uncovered journal, everyone knew. Hell, they even locked her in a goddamn room when she messed up a note on the piano! So why on earth would she follow in their footsteps?" 

 

I can see the exact moment my mother admits defeat. Her eyes glance down at my hands, and she sighs, "What are their names?" She asks, exasperated. I chew my lip, scanning her face for anything peculiar. I sigh, dropping my head, "Kori and Ellinae." She nods thoughtfully, "How old are they?" 

 

"Why?" She doesn't answer, and I roll my eyes, "Ellinae's nine.. Kori just turned three." She stares at the picture only to lean back in her chair. "A young mother then?" Having not even thought about it, I make a face, "Yes, is that a problem?" She raises a hand and shakes her head, "Of course not." I eye her warily, "I'm sensing a but somewhere in there." 

 

"We can't let those pictures get out. Not because you're both dating, but because those are children. Children whose lives will be immensely changed if they do."

 

"You might be a little too late." Everyone turns to Lex, who's leaning on the wall, holding his phone up. Then right there on a trashy gossip site is a picture of us crossing the street, hand in hand. The reactions are immediate. My mother quickly stands dialing a number, Sam's eyes go wide, and her hands fly over her mouth.

 

Despite how Lex feels about them, I can see the pity in his eyes. I fall back into my chair. Then like clockwork, my phone starts buzzing, notifications from every social media app I'm signed up for popping up at once. I shift my head to look at Sam, and she gets the same idea. We both nod, and Sam grabs her phone, most likely dialing Alex.

 

I reach for mine, avoid clicking on bothersome pop-ups, and dial Kara's number. 

 

"Hey! Are you done with wor-"  I cut her off mid-sentence.

 

"Kara, I need you to get Ellinae and Kori somewhere safe."

 

"Lena? What's going on?" She asked frantically.

 

"Someone was following us around yesterday. The pictures are already printed; I'm so sorry." I grab ahold of the edge of my desk to keep myself steady. I hear shuffling before she responds.

 

"Alex isn't answering!" She says out of breath.

 

"Kara, take a deep breath, please." I plead, standing up from my chair to peek out the window behind me.

 

"How fast can you get them here? Journalists can't be within a hundred feet of the premises." There's no response but a loud thump in the background.

 

"Kara?" I glance at Lex, who made his way over toward me during the phone call. He glances between the phone and me, just as worried. 

 

"Thirty minutes max. I don't trust my neighbors not to rat me out." She says after a beat.

 

I breathe out a sigh of relief, "Alright, I'll let downstairs know to send you guys up immediately."

 

"Lena, I'm not staying." She says, and there's a zip somewhere in there.

 

"What do you mean you aren't staying?" I ask, holding my phone closer to my ear, blocking out my mother's yells. 

 

"They can get to me, but they are not getting anywhere close to my children." she declares with every bit of conviction. 

 

"Then where will you stay?" I ask, chewing my nails nervously, awaiting an answer.

 

"I'll be at home. I'll be fine."  My mouth doesn't form a word before she continues.

 

"I swear I'll be okay."

 

I turn to Lex, who shrugs, unsure, "Okay." I say, though. I'm sure she knows I don't mean it.

 

"We'll be there soon. Thank you, Lena."  The line goes dead, and I can only stare at it, stunned. "Is this really happening?" I mutter to myself softly. "I'm sorry." I turn to Lex, who looks genuinely upset, a far cry from how he came in twenty minutes ago. 

 

Sam rushed back in, "Alex wasn't receiving Kara's calls. She's already getting bombarded by press. I'm about to rush over. Stay safe! Please!" I sigh, removing the pin from my hair and letting it fall over my shoulders as the door closes behind Sam. "I'm sorry." It's so quiet I barely pick it up.

 

"I'm sorry you couldn't come to me." I nudge him slightly, "You were an ass." He nods, "Yeah, I was." I eye him discretely. "You can go call Eve and Lexe. I'll go phone the lobby." He nods and sends me a small smile; he steps away but not before kissing my cheek. 

 

"We're calling it in." My mother announces, striding back into the room. I ignore her, making my way toward the stairs, but she follows nevertheless. I try to keep up with her rambling, but it's hard for me to focus on anything she says. I tap the door buzzer and wait for a response. 

 

"Ms. Luthor?" A familiar voice answers. Considering how I never phone him, the edge in his voice is justified. 

 

"Kara Zor-El is coming with two children. Can you please just ring them up when they arrive?" 

 

"Of course," Darren says, no questions asked.

 

"Thank you, Darren." I remove my finger from the button. "Do you even know how to babysit children?" Is the one thing my mother says that brings me back to reality. I cross my arms, "pftt, of course, I know how to babysit. I have a goddaughter remember?" I reply, waving her off. 

 

"Jack was always there, though." She points out, following me to the living room. I pause from picking up the glass decorations before continuing. "Kori and Ellinae are good kids," I remark, carrying the armful of hazardous decorations toward the closet. "Not to sound coarse, but aren't you leaving?"

 

She shakes her head, "Who me? Why would I?" She replies, leaving me in the hallway and stepping into the kitchen. I follow after her, "Are you staying to help or be nosy?" She shrugs, grabbing a teabag and turning on the kettle. "Not sure yet." She decides, reaching for a mug. I roll my eyes turning back around into the hallway. 

 

There's a knock on the door. I slam the closet door, running to the door before my mother can get there. I throw it open, and there they are. 

 

Ellinae's standing with a panic look, clutching the bag in her arms. Then there's Kara with a cap on, holding a sleeping toddler, and bags in her free hand. "Come in." I invite, holding the door wider and glancing down the corridor after them.

 

"What's going on?" Ellinae blurts the second the door closes behind them. She waits until her mother places the bags down carefully to not to wake Kori. "What's wrong?" Ellinae repeats dropping her bag on top of the others and grabbing her mother's hand, forcing her to look at her. "Why do you think something's wrong?" 

 

"Because!" Ellinae exasperates, "You'd never wake us up so early on the weekend, much less drag us out of the house without telling us we're going first!" Her mother sighs, whether it is exhaustion or from her daughter's perception, I'm not quite sure which. "Nothing I can't handle, okay?" She jokes, poking at her daughter's side. It pulls a laugh out of her, and her eyes land on me.

 

Her worries from just a few seconds ago seem to fade because she's stepping over the pile of bags and wrapping her arms around my waist. "Hi." She says with a cheeky smile, looking up at me. "Why, Good morning. I reply, caressing her head. She smiles, her eyes closed. "I like your shirt." I frown, looking down, the three child-like figures staring back.

 

"I'm afraid it's a gift." She makes a face," You don't know who they are?" She asks as if it's absolutely absurd. I shake my head, laughing fondly, "Is that a problem?" She nods, pulling back. "Are we staying?" She asks her mother, glancing at their bags. "If that's what you want." She replies, shifting her arms. Ellinae turns back to me, "Then we have to watch it!" She all but squeals.

 

I laugh along with her, though I'm not sure what's so amusing. I glance up at her mother, who's staring at us with a fond smile. "I can bring them to the living room if you two would like to talk." I turn my head around, aware of the child holding my waist. I see Kara's hold on Kori tighten ever so slightly, and Ellinae lets me go. 

 

"Are you Lena's mother?" She asks with a head tilt; my mother doesn't seem bothered as she nods with a soft smile. "Yes, I am. Would you like to wait in the living room while your mother talks to Lena?" She asks politely. Ellinae goes quiet, chewing her lip in thought, "Okay." She agrees with a shrug turning around for her brother. 

 

Her mother hesitates, glancing at me. I send her a reassuring smile, hoping it's as effective as I think it is. Then, finally, she sighs, reluctantly letting go of her youngest child. Ellinae takes him slowly, wincing when he makes a face. "I'll come get you to say bye, alright?" Ellinae nods, eyeing her mother weirdly, turning around and following my mother toward the living room. 

 

"You're amazing. Do you know that?" She breaks the silence stepping closer to me. "So I've heard," I reply, my hands clasping behind her neck, her hands settled on my waist. "What are you going to do?" I ask faintly, playing with her ponytail. "Go back home, and avoid press?" She says, tilting her head. 

 

"And if you can't?" I inquire, dreading her answer from the faint smile on her lips. She shrugs carelessly, "Take the interviews and attempt at sorting this all out." She uses a hand to wave around wildly. "Not much of a plan." I point out, fully aware of how sensible she is. "The best plans are made in a state of panic." She remarks, surely.

 

"Yet, I find it hard to believe you." I tease, removing her cap twirling it in my hand. "Have I steered you wrong yet?" She asks, pouting. I can't help but wonder how anyone could possibly think she'd be capable of destruction like her parents. Her blue eyes shine ever so brightly as if she hasn't a worry in the world. 

 

"Thank you." She says solemnly; I shake my head, cupping her head. "No, don't do that. Apologize, I mean." She makes a face, her eyebrows furrowed. "When I agreed on being your girlfriend, I agreed to Kori and Ellinae as well. I care for them as much as I do you, and I'll be damned before I let something happen to them." I declare, my eyes never leaving hers. 

 

She takes my hand in hers, placing a light kiss on it. "How'd I get so lucky?" The blonde says softly, holding my hand to her cheek. I smile up at her, my thumb caressing her cheek. "If I remember correctly, it's because Ellinae blackmailed James into letting her meet me." She rolls her eyes fondly.

 

"You're right." She groans; I laugh, throwing my head back. "When am I ever wrong, darling?" She perks up at the slipped term of endearment and nuzzles her head into my throat. I take a deep breath at the feeling of something wet. She lifts her head, and I frown at her puffy eyes.

 

"Hey, look, you'll be okay. We'll be okay. We'll get through this together." I say, using my thumbs to wipe her tears away. She nods into the touch, "I believe you. Just.. thank you." I open my mouth, but she's quick to add, "Thank you for being you." She says before kissing me affectionately. I lean back into her arms, her lips following mine.

 

"Lena, are you coming?" A voice calls out.

 

We break apart, smiling for what feels like the millionth time. My arms tighten around her neck, laughing into her chest. "She has the worst timing. I'm sure of it." Kara groans, hugging me closer. We pull apart, and she grabs the bags on the floor with ease. I tell myself it's because they're filled with children's clothes to calm my thoughts.

 

We fall into step beside each other, walking to the living room. Kara places the bags down at the doorway, kneeling and opening her arms for the wobbling toddler. "You're leaving?" He asks, although he most likely already knows the answer. Kara waves over her daughter, and I give her a faint smile walking over to mother to give them privacy. 

 

I sink down in the seat beside her, toying with the bottom of my shirt. "She's clever." My mother speaks up after a beat. I let out a laugh, "Clever? She's damn near brilliant." I praise, glancing at the small family. Kara bends down to place a tender kiss on both of her children's heads. 

 

"Do you really think she has it in her to follow after her parents?" I ask softly, not bothering to turn to her. She sighs, "No. I never did. I just think I wasn't ready to accept that." She confesses. I turn this time, "Really?" She nods, "Kara was always such a lovely soul. I just always hoped her parents didn't affect her too much when she went off-grid with the Danvers and her aunt." 

 

I nod slowly at the new information. "So you being so on edge about them was.." I trail off, waiting for her to finish. "It was me being scared to trust them." She admits watching Kara pinch her son's nose, throwing him into a fit of laughter, abolishing the sleep from his face. She stands straight, eyes landing on me with a smile, and then on my mother. 

 

"Mrs. Luthor." She greets respectfully. My mother sighs, standing from her spot. "Please call me Lillian." She replies, holding out her hand. Kara hesitates, eyeing it as if it's a bomb. She takes it nevertheless, "Lillian it is." She says, letting go of my mother's hand. "Are we going to watch the show now?" Kori speaks up, pulling a toy car from one of the many bags.

 

Ellinae rolls her eyes, "Oh, Lena, before I forget!" Kara rushes down the hall, and her kids continue what they're doing unperturbed by their mother's antics. My mother glances at me, a brow raised, and I just shrug. Kara comes back into view a second later, holding a yellow bag. "Food." She says, slapping her head as if it should've been obvious. 

 

I laugh, because of course she brought me food. "You didn't have to," I say softly as my mother leads Kori and Ellinae over to the couch. "I know." She says, shrugging, "I have to go." She sighs out. I nod, smiling half-heartedly, "Don't worry, I got them." I say, and she nods, knowing what I'm referring to. "I don't doubt that. Cute slippers, by the way." She teases, kissing my cheek for the final time and quickly slipping her hat out of my grasp. 

 

I look down at my feet, frowning, cringing at the fluffy white slippers with pandas on them. "Come on, Lena! Ms. Luthor set it up!" I turned around to find them seated beside my mother; the tv paused, staring at me expectantly. "Let me go put this up. I'll be right back." I hold up the bag, and they nod. 

 

I walk back into the hallway, bumping into Lex. "Did I just bump into Kara Zor-El?" I laugh, walking around him into the kitchen. "No, seriously? That was her, right?" I place the food into the fridge, grabbing two bottled orange juices. "Who are those for? You don't even drink orange juice?" I roll my eyes, making it back to the living room.

 

I walk around the couch, taking a seat beside Kori. His sister beside him and my mother beside her. "Juice!" I hand them to Kori, and he passes one to his sister. "Thank you!" Kori gives his back to me, and Ellinae gives hers to my mother. "Can you please open this, aunt Lillian?" I nod in understanding, taking it from Kori and popping it open. 

 

I hand it back to him, staring at my mother, "Aunt Lillian?" Lex says, walking in confused. He stops in his tracks at the scene before him. My mother handing a young blonde opened orange juice, and Kori staring at him over the bottle in his hands. "Hi!" Ellinae looks between him and our mother, "Are you Lena's brother?" She asks, tilting her head. 

 

He lets out a high-pitched laugh, "Uh yeah. I'm guessing you didn't figure it out based on our hair." He jokes, us staring at his bald head. "I didn't." She deadpans, sipping her juice. "Would you like to watch.." I glance at the tv, "The Powerpuff Girls? With us?" He sighs, sinking down beside me. "Sure." He says uncertainly. 

 

"Great!" Ellinae claps as my mother unpauses the show. I watch as Lex stares at them as if they're the biggest enigma known to existence. I shove him, "Cut it out." He leans back, "Come on! This is so weird; who knew she had kids?" I sigh, "Everyone but you and mother, now shut up and watch the show." I whisper back. 

 

"You don't even like cartoons.. you're so freaking whipped." He laughs much to the confusion of those not present in the conversation. Kori laughs as well, but I think it's just because my brother is bald and has an ugly laugh.

 

 



 

 

"See, I told you were they good." I sing songs to my mother and Lex, watching the siblings in the room from the doorway. Kori sliding his toy cars on the table, and his sister sitting at the other end with a coloring book, undisturbed by the tv and the toddler. "They seem.. robotic even; what's her secret?" I shake my head at him, "Whose?"

 

He rolls his eyes, "Your girlfriends. Lexe's entering his biting everything within reach phase." I cover up my laugh with a shoddy cough. "No idea, you'll have to ask her yourself. If!" I turn, pointing at him, "If you don't act like a bigoted asshole." I say lowly, glancing at the two blondes in my living room.

 

He holds his arms up in defeat, "I promise. I shouldn't have assumed from the start." He says guiltily, rubbing his neck. I nod contently, turning to my mother. "You as well.. Aunt Lillian." I tease. She rolls her eyes, walking into the room. "Who wants to play the clapping game?" My mother asks with the enthusiasm she only has for children.

 

Ellinae puts down her crayon, looking up confused. "What's that?" My mother quickly takes place on the couch, fully prepared with an answer, "This was Lena's favorite game as a kid." I groan, holding my face. "One person wears a blindfold and waits thirty seconds for the other players to hide. When times up, they'll say clap and have to figure out where you are by the sound."

 

Ellinae nods, slowly processing the rules. Then, she jumps up excitedly, "I saw this in a movie! Can I be a hider?" She asks, eyes full of wonder. My mother nods, standing as well. "Why, of course! I'll be the seeker. How does that sound, Kori?" He shrugs, abandoning his toys and taking his sister's hand. "Come on, Lena!" My mother encourages with a lively smile.

 

If only the world could see her now. It's not unusual for people close to us to see my mother so lively when around children. She's always been that way, with Ruby, Lexe, and now Kori and Ellinae. Who would've thought Lillian Luthor, the notorious founder of L-Corp, with the biggest resting bitch face ever, had such a big soft spot for children? 

 

I sigh in defeat, "Alright. But not to brag, I'm the best at this game." I joke, crossing my arms. Ellinae's brows furrow as she puffs out her chest. "Oh yeah? I bet I'm better." My eyebrows raise in surprise at the child's confidence, the same one who's never even played the game before. I copy her stance, "Alright, I bet you both pizza if you win." I challenge, despite the fact I was already planning on buying them pizza for dinner. 

 

The two blondes turn to each other questioningly and turn back to me, nodding, "You're on." My mother glances between us, "Alright, it's a challenge then." She announces. "I might have one in that drawer right there," I tell her. She walks over to it, pulling out a blindfold. "Would I like to know why you have a blindfold in here?" 

 

I shrug, not breaking eye contact, "Depends. Are you asking?" She shakes her head, turning her back on me. "You all have exactly thirty seconds to hide. If I find you, you can help find the others." She rattles out the rules, wrapping the cloth around her eyes. The remaining two and I stare at each other challengingly. 

 

"Alright, now. One!" I spin on my heels, quickly closing the door behind me, slowing them down. I race upstairs, catching a last glance at the two blondes rushing out of the room. I continue down the hall to my room, heading straight for the walk-in closet. I leave the lights off, hiding between a rack of clothing. I stay hidden for a few more seconds until my mother shouts from downstairs.

 

"Clap!" I hear a faint clap and a few beats later another. I chuckle to myself at their cleverness. One child claps, and then the other distracts my mother from the first one. I sigh, clapping. It goes silent again, "Clap!" Kori and Ellinae follow the routine they somehow made up during the little time they had to hide. I clap and hear light footsteps coming upstairs. 

 

I mutter under my breath as she opens a door down the hall, "Clap!" I roll my eyes, clapping. Then, I hear her abandon the previous room and walk into mine. I breathe in softly, "Clap!" I clap and slowly but surely change positions behind another rack. I watch her reach out to the spot I was previously in and touch nothing. I stand straight, bracing myself for making a run for it behind her. 

 

I wait until she turns around, waiting for time to pass so she can repeat clap. Then, I run around the rack, heading for the door. I nearly make it until my mother's pinching me. I yelp, jerking back. "How'd you know?" I ask, rubbing my backside. She crosses her arms, and I don't need to see her eyes to know there's that annoying knowing glint in them. 

 

"Because you're a cheat." And that's all she says before slipping past me heading back downstairs. "Me? If anything, Kori and Ellinae are the cheaters." I say dejectedly, following her, my ego bruised. "Well, those cheaters won, and if they're anything like their mother, you've better get your wallet ready from now." I let out a laugh, though it's mostly out of disbelief.

 

"And you'd know about Kara's eating habits, how exactly?" I ask, my hands sliding along the railing. My mother doesn't spare me a glance as she looks at the row of doors. "I was ignorant, not deaf, Lena. She also brought quite the meal at our gatherings." She says distractedly. I roll my eyes. "Because they lasted forever." I shrug, defending the older blonde despite it being one of her most endearing qualities. 

 

"Clap!" My mother yells. The first one comes from the kitchen and the one following it the living room. My mother and I share a look before taking off in different directions. I fling the living room door open, racing behind the couch to the young girl with wide eyes, holding a hand over her mouth. She spins around in a poor attempt at escaping, but I'm quicker; I grab her arm leading her into my arms.

 

She shrieks at the sudden motion and screams in half horror and half delight when I attack her with tickles. "No fair!" She yelps, falling back into the couch. I laugh, running a hand through my hair, pushing it out of my face. We both turn when my mother enters, holding the other young child upside down. "We won?" He asks with a wide smile. 

 

"Yeah, but it turns out Lena's actually a sore loser!" She shouts, getting up to remove herself from my reach. "You both cheated!" My mother rolls her eyes at me and places Kori on the couch, letting him jump up by himself. "No, we didn't." Ellinae remarks, hands on her hips.

 

"I clapped, and then Kori clapped after because he's a copycat. How were we supposed to come up with a plan when we were with you both the whole time." I huff, a hand on my head, "My mother's old! Of course, that'd confuse her!" A course of laughter spreads through the room when I'm hit in the head by a pillow. 

 

"Who's old, you wrinkling brat?" I scoff, glaring at her, "I do not have wrinkles." She tilts her head knowingly and mouths something to Ellinae, "I'm literally standing right here." I point out my arms, flapping uselessly. "She said that you're just upset that you lost so quickly." Kori blurts before taking a sip of his now lukewarm orange juice. 

 

I walk over to him, picking him up and swaying him in my arms. "You're my best friend, you know that?" I tease, tickling him. I hear Ellinae scoff a few feet away, "Pftt, because he snitched? It's fine. I don't need you guys, I have aunt Lillian." She says proudly, wrapping herself around my mom. The change was so quick, and she stared at the young girl, shocked, mouth agape, and I couldn't contain my laughter. 

 

Ellinae just tilts her head up, smiling at my mother, who seems to regain awareness because she smiles back, brushing the girl's hair back. "Another round?" Kori speaks up, hanging from under my arm, seemingly unbothered. We all share a look before nodding. 

 

"Seeker!" We all shout simultaneously. 

 

Kori stares at us, baffled, "Can I still hide?"

 

 



 

 

"Pizza's here!" Ellinae grabs off the blindfold; she's colored in rainbow. She rushes over, sliding along the floor. "Where are you going without money!" I call out, running after her. I reach for the doorknob, and Ellinae gets pushed behind it. "Hey!" Once she's out of view, I turn to the delivery man or well woman.

 

"Hi." I greet, digging through my purse for change. "Oh, Uhm, hi!" The young girl's voice is high pitched and strained, at I raise an eyebrow, "You're- Uhm, you're Lena Luthor? Right?" I nod, pulling out cash. "The one and only," I reply, finally looking at her dumbfounded expression. 

 

I frown, looking down, and remembering myself. The ridiculous slippers I'm wearing, the now wrinkled shirt with who I now know as The Powerpuff Girls, and my hair out of the suffocating bun it's well known for. "Just one of those days," I say quickly, hoping it was loud enough to cover up Kori's shriek. If she hears anything, she doesn't voice it as she removes the boxes from the bag in her hand. 

 

"One cheese and one chicken.. right?" She asks hesitantly, relief rushing through her when I nod. "eighteen ninety-four." She says, frowning at the fifty-dollar bill, "Oh no, Ma'am, this is too much-" I wave her off, "Please, it's fine. And call me Lena, ma'am makes me sound old." Her face turns red, and she nods stiffy, "Of course- Yeah, sure.. Mhm, got it. Um, bye, thank you!" She stutters, leaving with an awkward attempt at finger guns. 

 

I close the door, only to be met with an unamused look from Ellinae. "Were you flirting with her?" She asks simply, eyes glued to the door. My eyebrows furrow in confusion, "Absolutely not. Did it sound like that?" She shrugs, falling into step beside me. "Not really, she just seemed really flustered. Are you a celebrity like Justin Bieber?" I skillfully avoid the question by handing her the pizza boxes once we reach inside the kitchen.

 

"What do children even drink?" I mumble to myself, skimming the fridge. "Any non-alcoholic beverage Lena." I roll my eyes, closing the door to glare at my mother. It's now seven-thirty, and we're way off schedule. The kids should be in bed by nine, but the delivery app was down, and they spent at least twenty minutes arguing over toppings before I decided just to buy both. 

 

Kori already decided he doesn't need a bath, and Ellinae claims she can't shower unless she's eaten. "Don't fret so much; I added juice to the order." My mother says, taking a sip of her coffee. "Since when did Dominoes h juice?" I mutter to myself, a hand in my hair. I shake myself out of it, grabbing plates from the cupboards placing them in front of Ellinae on the island. "I'll get Kori," I say when she opens the first box and nods in response. 

 

I step into the hallway, "Kori? The pizza's here!" I walk faster at the lack of response and spin into the living room to find him standing in the middle, watching the ceiling fan spin motionlessly, toy in hand. "Kori? Dear?" He doesn't react, his head drooping every other second and his eyes daring to close. I chuckle to myself, walking over to him and taking his free hand. 

 

"How about you go eat, and we'll get ready for bed." He knows it contains a bath somewhere in there, but he seems too tired to retaliate and nods, dropping the toy on the floor and rubbing his eyes, letting me lead him to the kitchen. "Chicken or cheese, Lena?" Ellinae asks empty plate in hand. I shake my head, "It's alright, I don't eat pizza." She makes a face before sighing deeply. "Yeah, I'm remembering that terrible conversation about you not eating sugar or greasy food since college." She shudders at the thought. 

 

I roll my eyes, nudging her shoulder, "Does your mom let you eat all this junk food at home?" Ellinae nods too quickly for my liking, but Kori beats her to it. "No." He blurts, reaching for a slice of cheese pizza when I sit him on the island. Ellinae groans, shoving her brother, causing him to screech. "Your mouth is so big!" She complains, sighing. I laugh, winking at her, "I won't tell if you don't." I hold up a finger to my lips, and she giggles, doing the same. 

 

"Unless this one beats you both to it." My mother jokes, and Kori stares at her wide-eyed, mouth full of pizza. I take a seat beside Ellinae, with Kori sitting on the counter in between us. The siblings argue over some trivial topic I lost track of, their energy seemingly restored, any sign of fatigue gone. "Here." I turn away from the adorable scene in front of me to answer my mother.

 

"I heated up the noodles, Ms. Zo-" She clears her throat glancing at the distracted blondes, "The noodles that Kara brought for you earlier. I know you're going to forget to eat." She says, correcting herself. I smile at her attempt to change her ways and slide the dish toward me. "Thank you," I say, leaning into her touch when she plants a kiss on my head. "Anytime."

 

Then Ellinae says something, and Kori's roping us into their quarrel. We eat our respective meals, laughing and joking. At some point, Ellinae scolds her brother for being untidy but wipes his face nevertheless. He squirms away, but his sister keeps a steady hold on him, seemingly used to his behavior. I can't help but think, not for the first time, how natural this all feels. Kori glances at me from the corner of his eye, his wide eyes signaling for help.

 

I throw my head back, laughing, adding to the noise my kitchen's full of. I turn in my seat, ready to relay the joke, and pause. I stare at the empty seat beside me with a frown. Oh right. She isn't here. I slowly turn back, my heart not as into the conversation as it was before the sudden realization. 

 

I imagine what I'd be like if she were here. Would the kids be in bed by now? Would my brother like her, or would she become a nervous and rambling mess around my mother? Or would she keep to herself stubbornly? I chuckle at the thought.

 

God, I wish she were here. 

 

 



 

 

"Come on, big guy." I pick a freshly bathed Kori up, setting him on the black marble countertop. It took a good while of convincing him why he should take a bath, the large grease spot on his shirt from dropping his pizza being a big help to my argument. I would say I successfully convinced him to change his mind, but he sighed loudly and agreed reluctantly, and everyone decided he was just too tired to differ anymore. 

 

I take his toothbrush, squirting a good amount of his toothpaste on it, as he rubs his eyes, his adrenaline rush from earlier gone. He spins around, turning to the mirror on his knees. "Here," I hand him the brush, and he shoves it into his mouth, trying to keep his head up.

 

"Lena?" I glance at the doorway to Ellinae standing in a nightgown, holding a hairbrush, her blonde hair flowing over her shoulders. "Can you braid my hair? It's fine if you can't. It's just my mom normally does it, and well, she isn't here right now, so I was just wondering-" I laugh, cutting her off. "Of course, come here." I wave her over, and she skips over, hopping up onto the counter handing me the brush. 

 

"Alright, turn?" She crosses her legs, turning to face the mirror, giving me easier access to her back. In a quick movement, I use the hair tie on my wrist to wrap my hair in a bun. "Any specific braid?" I ask, beginning to brush. She hums thoughtfully, rocking side to side, "No, not really." I nod, separating her hair into two parts. "Aren't you tired? What time do you normally go to bed?" Ellinae asks, staring at me through the mirror. 

 

I shrug, "Pretty late. I usually stay up, answering emails." She nods, "I'm sorry, did we take up all your time?" She asks softly, scanning my face for a genuine answer. I finish a braid, resting my hands on the counter, staring at the young girl through the mirror. "To be honest, it was nice having something more important to do than reply to grumpy old witless men. Isn't that right, Kori?" He makes a noise, something between a grunt and agreement. 

 

I hum contently, taking it as a victory anyway. Then, I stand back up, continuing my task. Ellinae closes her eyes, relaxing, and Kori finishes up his task in comfortable silence. "All done!" I lean back, looking over my creations for faults. Her eyes open, "Thank you." She says softly, spinning around and dropping off the counter. I turn to Kori, picking up an abandoned hair tie, and collect his hair into one. I fix it into a quick short ponytail, removing it from his face.

 

"Alright, alright. We can go to bed now." He grabs hold of my neck the second he's within my grasp, finding the energy to kick his feet out at his sister when I pass her on the way to the extra room. I walk into the unused room, Ellinae pulling down the covers of the bed and climbing in. I place Kori down beside her, chuckling to myself when she unreluctantly wraps the blankets around him as well. 

 

"Should we call now?" Both children nod, sitting up in preparation. I reach into my pockets, pulling out my phone, grimacing at the number of notifications. I clear them, searching until I get to Kara's number. She had called an hour earlier, but by then, I was struggling to successfully give Kori a bath without leaving completely soaked. The clothes I wore earlier that are now damp in my hamper speak for itself.

 

Before I can press call, my phone rings, and her contact name lights up. The familiar green and red circles hover below it. Without much of a thought, I click the answer button, turning the phone to the wide-eyed blondes. "Mom!" Kori and Ellinae cry out, beaming at the woman on the phone. "Hi, my angels!" and I can hear the solace in her voice. "We missed you." Kori continues. 

 

"Really? How much?" He laughs, opening his arms wide and fast, hitting his sister in the nose. "Jeez! I thought you were tired." She points out, pushing him away. He ignores her, "We got to play hide and seek with a blindfold! And we watched cartoons all day!" He exclaims, eyes never leaving the screen, despite having to squint at the brightness.

 

"I'm glad you had fun, my love. Can I assume you had just as much fun, El?" She turns her attention from her fingers to my phone, shoving Kori and taking the device. "Yes, I did. And you should thank me for teaching your girlfriend about the art of cartoons. She was a lost cause before me." Kara laughs. Like actually laughs, her laugh sending warm vibrations through my body, enough to make me forget Ellina's taunt.

 

I smile at the feeling, tucking in Kori while his sister continues to ramble on. "I would love to continue our conversation, but I'm afraid it's past my bedtime." Ellinae glances at the clock on the side table that reads nine forty-three. "You are absolutely right. How could I forget?" She says jokingly to her oldest daughter. "I don't know. You're the one that gave us one." Ellinae deadpans, "Here, Kori, let's say goodnight to mom." 

 

She falls back into the bed, shuffling closer to her brother, holding the phone above them both. "Night, ma!" Kori says, smiling tiredly, looking exactly how his mom did the night of his birthday. "I love you," Ellinae says softly, her energy finally fading. "Me too!" Kori blurts, making his sister roll her eyes. "I love you both too. So much." Kori tilts his head, "To the moon and back?" I hear Kara make an indignant, "No way."

 

My eyes widen, but the two children chuckle to themselves, "To Pluto and back." Kara says, correcting them. I roll my eyes at the woman's corny remark, despite the laughter coming from the supposed to be asleep blondes. "Oh! Before I forget. Here Lena." Ellinae shoots back up, holding out the phone. She covers the speaker with a hand and whispers, "She wants to talk to you."

 

My eyebrows raise without much thought, "She told you that?" I ask, walking over. "No, but she's fidgeting, so she's obviously waiting to ask." The young blonde jokes, the phone still held away from her mouth. "I can still hear you." Kara's voice sounds through the microphone. Ellinae's eyes go wide, and she mouths an oops, though her eyes sparkle, not looking the least bit sorry. 

 

I wait patiently for them to say goodnight to their mother, promising to call tomorrow, and when Ellinae hands me the phone, Kori's about three seconds from passing out. I walk over to Ellinae, bringing the covers up to her chin, making her giggle despite being drained. "Night, El." She beams at the nickname and relaxes into the pillow when I plant a kiss on her head. 

 

I tiptoe over to the door, turning off the lights and looking back once. I watch the faint, steady figures shift until they're comfortable before chuckling and closing the door quietly. "Aren't you sweet," I roll my eyes, chastising myself for forgetting I wasn't muted. "The sweetest." I remark unamused, turn off the lights, and make my way toward my room. 

 

"So?" I ask, climbing into my bed. "So what?" Kara hums, feigning ignorance. I resist the urge to roll my eyes, aware of my face showing on the screen, "Was it terrible?" I tease, and the blonde chuckles, shaking her head, "The worst." She looks around thoughtfully, "But I just got to talk with these really cool kids and a stunning girl, so everything's fine." 

 

I raise an eyebrow, willing myself not to fall for her cheesy comments yet, "A girl? Have I been replaced so quickly? It's only been a day, Ms. Zor-El." She laughs, and warmth spreads through my chest at being the one to provoke such a reaction from her. "We're back to last name basics Ms. Luthor?" I shrugged noncommittally, "Depends who was this girl?" 

 

I watch as she rocks from side to side, debating, "I think her name was Lana, Laina? No, definitely Lana." I let out an involuntary laugh, watching as she smiles, "She was gorgeous, and it turns out she babysat those kids I told you about. Huh, I guess cool people do keep great company. Plus, she wore these ridiculously cute slippers, and I still haven't gotten over it." 

 

My laugh gets caught in my throat, and a blush replaces it instead as I remember what she's talking about. "Why'd you stop? I'm having an awful amount of fun listening to you." Kara huffs, "No way. I just remembered how huge your ego is." I raise an eyebrow, turning over on my stomach. "I'm sorry, was it me you were talking about?" 

 

She blinks once and shakes her head, "No. I was talking about my girlfriend. Speaking of which, her ego is just as big as yours. You two would get along nicely." She hums, contently, happy with her hunch. She continues rattling on praises, but I can't seem to focus. 

 

Girlfriend.

 

I'm Kara's girlfriend. I mean, I have been for a while now, but hearing it is different. Not a bad different, just different. For most people, they'd say it is a neutral connotation, and I wonder if it makes me weird if I believe it's a positive one. Well, how could I not? This adorable blonde is rambling on about how amazing I, her girlfriend, am—my brain flashes from earlier. 

 

 Her eyes crinkle, and I wonder if she's smiling because she's genuinely happy or it's to keep herself from crying.

 

"When we moved here, I saw her crying in front of her mirror... The worst part was that she just wiped her tears and started smiling before coming to tuck Kori and me in. It's like she doesn't know it's okay to be upset.. 

 

As a past child prodigy and renowned scientist, I decide it's the latter. 

 

"Hey.. Kara?" She pauses, glancing at the screen as if not knowing I zoned out. "Hm?" I scan her face, taking her in before asking my question, "Are you okay?" Her stance falters, and the world-famous Kara crinkle makes an appearance. "What do you mean?" She tilts her head adorably, and I clear my throat before I get distracted.

 

"How do you feel.. about everything. The pictures, El, Kori.. us?" I ask hesitantly, awaiting a response of some sort. She becomes so still I wonder for a brief second if she lost connection. Finally, she sits back up, her smile now gone. "Well, it sucks, obviously-" I cut her off, "No, Kara. How do you really feel? I know this shouldn't be an over-the-phone conversation, but I don't know the next time I'm going to see you." 

 

She stares at me as if deciding something. Finally, she sighs, running a hand through her curls, and my eyes never stray from the dark circles under her eyes. "I'm.. upset. I know I'm not exactly a regular person, but my children are, and those photos should have never been brought to light. For Ellinae and Kori, I'm okay because I know they're in good hands and are safe, and that's all the consolation I need right now." 

 

 I glance at my opened door, staring at the door Ellinae and Kori are behind, and I wonder for a quick second if they've fallen into deep slumber yet. Kara continues, catching my attention once more, "I hate when things aren't planned. I get anxious because I can't predict a reasonable outcome. But when it comes to us, Lena, you're a constant."

 

I don't need a mirror to see the blush sprouting on my face, "Sure, I don't always know what you're thinking, but it's not confusing with you. It feels like a journey rather than bothersome—a journey of learning what goes on in your head." She emphasizes her point by knocking her head. I chuckle to myself, ducking my head from view. 

 

"Really? It feels as if you're reading my mind all the time already." I remark, laughing at her widened eyes, "So I've made it what? half-way?" She asks, glancing around for no other reason than to seem in thought. "What happens when you make it.. all the way?" I ask softly, playing with the cuff of my long sleeve. 

 

"That's for me to know and for you to find out, Ms. Luthor." She teases, pointing a finger at me. I roll my eyes, "I forgave you. You can drop the honorifics." I comment, much to her feigned shock. "Don't you think that's kind of our thing by now?" She asks, tossing a mini marshmallow into her mouth. Again, I roll my eyes, not the least surprised she has something edible within reach.

 

"I haven't been on social media all day; what are they saying?" She hums, swallowing her marshmallow, "Someone said that they've been expecting us to be dating since my coming out party when everyone took pictures of you fixing my collar." I snort, remembering the reason it even happened. "I guess we can blame Cat for that then." She jerks up, shaking her head, "Wait, no way!" 

 

I furrow my browns, frowning at the screen, "What?" She throws her head back, laughing, "Did you just snort?" My face immediately gets hot, and I bury my head in my hands, groaning, "Wait, no! That was literally the cutest thing I've ever heard, excluding El and Kori's first words, because 'fuck' and 'dammit' are not cute coming from a baby's mouth. 

 

A laugh bubbles out of my chest, "What? No way, how did they even learn those words? We've been dating for months, and you have yet to say a grown-up swear." She rubs her neck, wincing, "Alex and my aunt didn't exactly have the cleanest mouth back then." I gasp, "Astra?" She nods, dropping her head, "I think she used them so much, she eventually got sick of hearing them." 

 

My first reaction is to laugh and continue asking questions, but those thoughts are quickly interrupted, "How is it every time we talk, we get way off topic?" Kara shrugs, "Beats me. What were we talking about again?" Her voice gets high, and I raise an eyebrow unamused. "What are you planning on doing? I know for a fact that you're getting harassed way more than me, without even having to check."

 

She slumps back into her chair, pouting, "Cat scheduled me for an interview." I grimace at the thought, "Yikes." The words fall from my mouth before I can catch them. She nods, defeated, "Hey, cheer up. We'll be watching from right here. Supporting you from afar." I hold up two thumbs, and it pulls a laugh out of her. My head falls into my mattress. 

 

"God, I love your laugh," My words are muffled, but the graceful laugh stops. I lift my head back up, blinking away the sleep. I glance at the screen and nearly screech at the scene before me. Kara's face is all but red, and she stares back at me wide-eyed. "Oh. Well- Uhm, thank you. I love yours too- as well." She stutters out, clearing her throat, and I can't help but laugh. 

 

"And she blushes!" I cheer, fist-pumping, much to her annoyance. "I am not blushing." She remarks, crossing her arms, "My sweet angel baby Kara, your ears are pink." She turns an even darker shade of pink, either from the loose terms of endearments that flew out of my lips from lack of sleep or because it's true. "You! You're tired. Get off my phone." I laugh unrestrained, covering my mouth.

 

"A tired man's word is just as true as a drunk man's," I state, attempting to catch my breath. "And who told you that? Where's the end call button?" I sit up, "Wait, wait, I'm teasing! But not really because I was telling the truth." She rolls her eyes, mumbling to herself. "You have to get rest. You're going to have to get up soon anyway." My laughter stops, "What do you mean?"

 

She seemingly ignores the question, popping a handful of marshmallows into her mouth. "Kara?" She shakes her head, "I need rest as well; I have an interview remember?" My eyes twitch, itching to be rolled. "What do you mean I have to get up soon? It's only ten-thirty?" I watch, bewildered as she picks up the phone. "Huh? Oh, look at the time, I really have to go."

 

"Kara," I interject sternly. Her sparkling blue eyes roam the room she's in, "Goodnight, Lena!" 

 

"Kara!" 

 

"Oh, look, Alex's calling gotta go, goodnight, Iloveyoubye!" 

 

The call ends. 

 

I love you bye

 

I love you bye

 

I love you bye

 

I love you bye

 

She loves me? No, she does love me. She literally just said that. I stare at my phone in disbelief. Did she really say she loves me for the first time over the phone? Right now? Unimportant. I flip over on my back, gripping my phone on my stomach, staring at the white ceiling. Do I love her too? We haven't been dating long compared to how long you should wait before dropping the L-bomb. 

 

Did she say love you bye? No, she most definitely said, I love you. I sigh, grabbing a pillow beside me and hugging it close. I think back to our first date,

 

Her eyes flicker to my lips, and she stares at me as if she's contemplating something. "Would it be bold of me to ask if I can kiss you?" 

 

I roll over on my side, biting my lip at the memory, carelessly lifting my hands to touch my lips, eyebrows furrowed. 

 

"Come on." Kara encourages, holding her hand out, chuckling to herself. I uncross my arms and walk over, taking her hand. I can find my way to the kitchen, and Kara knows this, but she swings our arms leading me there nevertheless. 

 

I lay like that for the next thirteen minutes, which gradually turns into hours. Finally, it's only some time at two that I fall asleep. Only to be woken up two hours later. My eyes flicker open to a small figure standing beside my bed in the dark, and frankly, the only reason I haven't jumped up in horror is because I'm paralyzed in terror. "Lena? Are you up?" Kori asks, poking me. 

 

I sit up slowly, recoiling when he turns on the side lamp. "kori?" He strolls over to me, leaning on the bed and holding up a book. "Can you read this to me?" I glance at the clock and back to him, sighing. Kara's words replay in my head like a record.  "Oh, please. Wait until you're woken up in the middle of the night to read Kori a story."

 

That's what she meant. I nod, and I help him climb into the bed. He crawls until he's situated beside me and hands me the book. "This one, please." He rubs his eyes. The ponytail I did earlier, resembling the hair of those cartoon characters, shocked by lightning. I clear my throat, open the book, and forget about my earlier worries. We make it two pages in when the doors open wider.

 

Ellinae stands in the doorway, eyes squinted. I blink at her before waving her over, "Come on, story time." I try and joke, lifting the book. She shrugs, walks over to us, climbs in the bed, and sits between Kori and me. I wait until she's comfortable before continuing. Throughout the story, I mess up six times, choosing to replace the phrases with another from my vocabulary. When I finish, I close the book turning to the siblings.

 

Kori's snuggled into his sister's side, and his sister lays beside me on her back. I smile, place the book on the side table, and turn off the lamp. I fall back into my pillow, embracing the softness. "Hey, Ellinae?" I don't feel her move or react, so I sigh, assuming she's asleep. "Hm?" She mumbles softly. I turn on my side, leaning my head up with my arm. "How do you feel.. about me?" She turns her head to face me, and although I can't exactly see her properly, I know she's studying me.

 

"You.. You're cool. Cooler than Alex even.. don't tell her I said that." She warns, giggling at herself. I chuckle as well, but I think it's the lack of sleep that's making me so giddy, and certainly not her reply, I remind myself. "Alright, now it's actually time for bed." I push a strand of hair behind her hair, and she hums in agreement, "Night, Lena." She uses her hand to drag mine away from her hair, conjoining them. 

 

I turn on my back a few minutes later, sure that the kids are asleep. I throw my free arm over my head, laughing to myself quietly, turning to my right to be met with an empty space. A space that my girlfriend could've easily occupied if life weren't so cruel. Yeah, life.

 

If she weren't a Zor-El, and I wasn't a Luthor, this wouldn't be so hard. She wouldn't be halfway across town staying in an empty house meant for appearances, all alone. She would be lying beside me, and it'd probably be ten pm; she's always been more organized than me. Kori and Ellinae wouldn't have to say goodnight to their mother over a screen. She'd be here tucking them in. 

 

Our first I love you wouldn't have been over a fucking phone call. 

 

Yes, our. After hours of replaying her words in my head, I came to a reasonable conclusion. 

 

It physically hurts to be here without her, and with much thought, even though I was on the verge of just passing out four times from exhaustion, I've decided that I feel guilty for lying to my mother earlier. I don't like Kara.

 

I love her.