Lena tries not to think.
She utilizes the lifetime of focus she’s dedicated to controlling her emotions until her heart was made up of little boxes, and wills her body to reach that blissful, blank moment.
Her eyes squeeze shut and she closes her mind to the dangerous possibilities threatening to bloom in her imagination.
Instead she concentrates on the feel of Jack’s hands on her hips, on the taste of scotch on her tongue, on the rhythmic thumping of the headboard against the wall. She lets herself move, slow and languid, in a practiced motion that’s a little bit too familiar to get the job done.
Lena breathes in harshly, nostrils flaring, and she does not think.
When he’s finished, Jack rolls out of bed and goes to clean up, pressing a scratchy kiss to her temple before he leaves.
Lena lays in bed, sheet tangled around her torso, and stares up at the stark white ceiling. She watches the smooth blades of the fan turning overhead and ignores the lingering thrum in her veins that comes from an unfulfilled orgasm.
She tries to remember the last time she had one and can’t help but laugh when she finds that she can’t.
When Jack slides back between the sheets, still in his well worn Yale t-shirt that remained on the whole time, she bites back a sigh. A quick roll out of bed, a few minutes in the bathroom to clean between her thighs and brush her teeth, and then it’s over.
Jack is already asleep by the time she returns.
“— and I told her that it didn’t matter what the other kid said, she’s not allowed to drop the F bomb at school. Not, that I’m not a little bit proud—“
Lena loves Sam but she is absolutely not listening at all. She nods along absently to the latest Ruby story, and swirls her straw around in the glass of her gin and tonic.
Normally she wouldn’t have more than one mimosa at brunch, but she’s tightly wound with a headache threatening the corner of her left temple, so concessions must be made.
The cafe is busy for a Tuesday afternoon, with couples and families packed around each little table. Sam is wholly focused on her spinach egg white omelette and tale of teenage rebellion, but Lena’s attention has wandered elsewhere.
Two tables down a pale woman with cropped red hair is fiddling with a velvet box. She looks nervous, dark eyes darting around as if on the lookout for someone. A minute later ‘someone’ appears in the form of a beautiful woman with shiny dark hair and warm brown eyes.
The redhead fumbles to shove the little box back into the pocket of her leather jacket, before standing up to greet her with a quick kiss.
Lena looks away, back to Sam who has stopped talking and is watching her with raised eyebrows and a mouthful of egg.
“I’m sorry, what?” Lena asks before taking a long sip of her drink in an effort to cool the blush threatening to rise on her neck.
Sam remains unimpressed but curious.
“I asked if you guys are coming to the gala. That thing for the new LGBT youth center that we’re donors for? Jess said you never filled out the RSVP.”
“Oh. Right. The gala,” she says noncommittally, straw still tucked between her lips as she takes another lengthy sip. She can feel the gin starting to swirl in her veins, warming the tops of her thighs and the tips of her fingers against the cool glass.
Sam’s eyebrows raise impossibly higher.
“What’s up with you?”
“Nothing,” Lena says too quickly, sliding a placid work-perfected smile onto her face that she knows Sam can see right through. “Of course we’ll be there. I’ll make sure to let Jess know today.”
She doesn’t let Jess know. They miss the gala.
Instead they stay home.
Lena drinks half a bottle of red wine and pages through her well worn copy of Wuthering Heights, while Jack spends three hours on the phone with a business associate from Stockholm.
He’s still on the phone when she goes to bed, and two hours later, as he slides in next to her and presses a warm hand against her hip in a silent question, she pretends to be asleep.
“Miss Luthor?” Jess pokes her head in the office door, earpiece dangling over one shoulder and a pen tucked into her neat bun.
“Your two o’clock is here. Should I send her in?”
Lena sighs, and begins slipping her stocking clad feet back into her heels, already mentally preparing for whatever onslaught of invasive questions this reporter is planning to ask. She hates giving interviews, but L-Corp is lousy with bad press that’s lingered after Lex, and Andrea has promised her it will be an inoffensive puff piece.
“Sure, thanks. Will you order in from that new Greek place? I missed breakfast and Sam says it’s to die for. Just get what you think I’ll like, and whatever you want for yourself.”
Jess gives a curt nod and disappears back through the door. Before it can click closed a hand is pressing it open again, and a woman is stepping through.
She’s wearing forest green chinos that show the ankles above her leather loafers and a slightly wrinkled white button down shirt that makes her look like a spitting image of an eager young reporter. Blonde hair is pulled back into a french braid, but Lena can see the little flyaways starting to escape near the frames of her glasses as she reaches to push them up her nose.
“Hi, Miss Luthor! Thanks for agreeing to meet with me. I know you must be a very busy woman,” the reporter says with a bright smile that wrinkles the corners of her eyes. She closes the distance to Lena’s desk and extends a hand across it for a customary hand shake.
Lena stares at her hand.
“Um,” the reporter says once the staring has gone on for an uncomfortably long time, and it’s enough to snap Lena into action.
She dons a plastic smile and presses their palms together for a quick shake. Their hands are almost the same size and in a moment of clear insanity Lena wonders what it would be like to hold them together to see who’s fingers are the longest.
She snatches her hand back.
“I’m Kara Danvers,” the reporter presses on through the awkwardness but Lena can see a slight flush in the apples of her cheeks, and it makes her feel embarrassed by her own behavior.
“Lena Luthor,” she says automatically, which makes Kara chuckle and once again reach up to adjust her glasses.
She knows that, idiot. Your name is on the desk and the door and the building.
“Right,” Kara says mercifully. She takes a seat on one of the chairs across from Lena’s and pulls out a pen and paper from the battered messenger bag dangling at her hip.
“So, Miss Luthor. What can you tell me about L-Corp’s latest foray into smart car technology?”
The interview consists of fifteen minutes of Lena rattling off the well rehearsed company line while Kara takes detailed notes with a purple pen that has a pompom dangling from the top.
She watches the little fuzzy ball swing back and forth as Kara writes, and does not look at the way her fingers flex with each stroke of pen against paper.
“Great! I think I’ve got what I need,” Kara says and Lena’s eyes snap up from her hands to her face so quickly that it startles them both. She sucks a deep breath in through her nose, nostrils flaring, and reaffixes her most boring smile on her lips.
“Thanks for your time, Miss Luthor.”
“Please, call me Lena,” she doesn’t know why she says it. It’s not like they’re going to see each other again. It’s not like she’s spent the last thirteen of fifteen minutes wondering what it might sound like if Kara Danvers said her name.
Kara’s smile widens into another eye crinkling grin as she tucks her pen and notepad back into her bag.
“Lena,” she says simply and yeah, it sounds good.
Lena eats half of her spinach and feta salad, drinks two glasses of scotch, and goes home early. Jess asks her if she’s joking when she lets her know to clear the rest of her schedule for the day, but is silenced by a single stern eyebrow.
Jack comes home smelling of tequila and cigar smoke after a long meeting with some investors, and Lena wrinkles her nose when he leans down to kiss her.
She pushes him into the master bathroom and strips him of his tie, unbuttoning his shirt with slightly trembling fingers. Their kisses taste like smoke and a swirl of alcohol.
He comes twice in the shower before leaving her alone to clean up with a cheeky grin.
“What’s gotten into you?” he laughs, pressing a towel to his wet hair while trying not to let water pool on the expensive bathroom rug.
Lena steps under the spray of the showerhead and cranks the heat up until it’s steaming.
“I just love you,” she says around a mouthful of burning water. The shower door slides closed when he leaves to get dressed, still laughing.
Lena stands under the water until it runs cold.
One of the perks of having a boyfriend who cares about football is having every channel available in the satellite package. It’s the only perk really, other than the occasional quiet Sunday she gets when Jack goes to watch the games live with his friends.
Lena’s not one to watch much television, but she’s on her third cup of coffee and her eyes can’t focus enough to finish her book, so she drops onto the sofa and flips it on.
When she and Lex were kids Lillian made them watch their allotted hour of Saturday morning cartoons in French. She called it immersion and Lena has only been grateful for it once in her life, when she was drunk and lost on the streets of Lyon during spring break her sophomore year of college.
She flips past the many sports channels, the evening news, and more than a few telenovelas, before settling absently on the first movie channel she comes across.
When she realizes it’s a foreign film she can practically hear Lillian’s smug “immersion” speech echoing in her ears but it’s quickly silenced as the film draws her attention.
On the screen a woman is submerged in a porcelain tub, while a second woman sits beside her. Lena’s not paying enough attention to read the subtitles, because suddenly one woman’s finger is in the mouth of the other, and it’s unbearably intimate.
She stares at the screen and feels something hot stir in her chest and in her eyes. Blinking rapidly she smashes her thumb down on the return channel button until the screen flickers back to sports, and then turns off the tv.
Lena’s not one to watch much television, anyway.
When Jack comes home, face half painted in team colors and spirits high from the night’s victory, Lena claims she has work to do and locks herself away in her office until he goes to bed.
Lena is not an idiot, even if she feels like one sometimes, specifically when too focused on a stranger’s hands to form coherent sentences.
She’s a certified genius, with three degrees, a PhD, and a fortune 500 company to run. She’s smart, and she’s not ashamed to admit it.
There are things she is ashamed to admit though. Things she wishes she didn’t know, that threaten to disrupt the more or less comfortable life she has worked so hard to build for herself.
She has an amazing career, a beautiful home, a few good friends, and a loving boyfriend who has his own life and doesn’t bother her too much with things she could care less about.
Lena has everything a girl could ask for, but sometimes it feels like someone else’s life she’s living.
After one particularly gruesome meeting in which she has to fire an otherwise brilliant scientist for turning out to be a sexist pig, Jess makes her take a break.
Even a workaholic like Lena Luthor cannot object to the sound of a midday coffee break, especially after the morning she’s had, so she agrees. She trades her stilettos for the pair of white Adidas she keeps in the bottom drawer of her desk, making sure the bottoms of her slacks don’t drag, and she heads to the nearest Noonan’s.
The walk is brisk and the fresh air feels good on her face, helping to wash away some of the tension that’s taken up residence on her forehead in a way that would make her mother tsk about wrinkles.
Inside the coffee shop is warm, packed with people all clamoring for their mid afternoon caffeine fix. She queues up behind a tall man in a neat blue button up and tries not to be impatient as the line crawls slowly forward.
She’s third from the front when a familiar voice catches her attention from behind.
She knows who it is before she even turns around, having had that same voice saying her name echoing in her head on late nights when her insomnia takes hold and she’s too exhausted to fight it.
She briefly wonders what the social acceptability of sprinting from a busy coffee shop is, before turning around with a neutral expression.
“Hello, Miss Danvers.”
“Oh, pfft. Please,” Kara waves a hand. “Call me Kara.”
Her chinos and button down have been replaced with soft dark jeans and white t-shirt. Lena’s eyes widen slightly when she sees long, toned arms poking out from beneath short sleeves, one hand tucked into the strap of her messenger bag while the other folds itself into her pants pocket.
“It’s nice to see you again, Kara,” she drags her eyes away from the swell of Kara’s bicep with what feels like a Herculean effort and there, that sounded normal. Borderline friendly even, considering the stoic mask she’s fighting to keep in place.
Kara beams and it’s a little bit like staring directly into the sun at noon on the fourth of July.
Lena can’t help but smile back, a real smile, and that same sunlight spills into Kara’s eyes.
“Getting coffee?” Kara asks before freezing slightly, looking like she wants to admonish herself for asking a question with such an obvious answer. “I mean, of course you are. This is a coffee shop, where they sell coffee. For drinking.”
“For drinking,” Lena repeats and the coffee shop, where they sell coffee for drinking feels like it grows ten degrees hotter.
“Are you going to drink your coffee here?” Kara asks, turning almost shy as the fingers wrapped around the strap of her bag tighten slightly, knuckles flashing white against the dark leather, and Lena wishes she could do something to make herself stop staring at this woman’s hands at every available opportunity.
It’s the barista calling to her from behind the counter. She turns to see that the line has moved without her noticing, and she’s now holding up the queue in a way that she would absolutely despise if someone else had the audacity to try.
She glances back at Kara with an apologetic smile and moves up to the counter, ordering her usual red eye in the largest size available. As the barista begins to write her name on a paper cup, she turns back around to Kara and raises an eyebrow.
“What’re you having?”
Kara’s lips part and she looks like she might refuse, but Lena simply gestures toward the counter where the barista is now waiting on them once again. He’s a young kid with hair pulled back into a long ponytail and he looks wholly unimpressed by whatever is happening on their side of the counter.
“One large white chocolate mocha with extra whip, please. Oh, and a donut!”
Once Lena has paid and they’ve shuffled over to the designated waiting area Lena finds she has no idea what to say. Kara is standing beside her, close in the small space left by the crowd of people, and Lena can feel the heat of her bare arm against her sleeve.
“So, um. Did you maybe want to have coffee with me?” Kara asks, and she’s smiling nervously like maybe she spent the last five minutes working up the courage to ask.
Lena finds that she very much does want to, more than she has wanted anything in a long time.
“I’m sorry, I have to get back to work.”
Kara’s face falls and something in Lena wants to reach out and touch her face until it’s smiling again. She tucks her fingers into the sleeves of her blouse and puts on what she hopes passes for an apologetic smile.
Before Kara can respond the barista is calling their names and they’re moving to collect their drinks. They reach for their cups at the same time and when their knuckles brush Lena jerks back so suddenly that she almost spills her boiling hot coffee directly onto Kara’s jeans.
In an instant there are strong fingers on her forearm, holding her steady and Lena looks down at the point of contact. She can feel it through her sleeve like a burn.
“I have to go.”
She doesn’t wait for Kara to respond. Doesn’t look up at her confused face or back at the barista who seems a little more interested in their presence now or at any of the five people she bodily shoves past in an effort to make it to the door.
Lena leaves Noonan’s with Kara’s touch burning her arm and hot coffee burning her hand and she doesn’t look back at all.
“How did you know you were a lesbian?”
Sam’s glass of wine pauses halfway to her mouth before slowly lowering back to the coffee table. She leans back against the couch cushions and regards Lena carefully, brown eyes tracking every inch of her face in a way that makes her instantly regret asking.
It’s not a subtle question. They both know what it means.
“When I was seven and I saw Catherine O’Hara in Beetlejuice for the first time,” she replies slowly. In any other setting she would have cracked it like a joke, but there’s an air of seriousness settling over them, brought on by Lena’s fingers digging into the throw pillow on her lap and her inability to meet Sam’s eyes.
“That explains every woman you have ever dated.”
“Yes, it does,” Sam agrees, finally reaching over to pick up her wine. “I have excellent taste.”
Lena just hums, digging into the pillow like if she tries hard enough she might be able to crawl inside of it.
Sam watches her for a minute, sipping at her wine thoughtfully.
“You know you can tell me anything right,” she says after a time and the words bring an unwelcome flood of tears to Lena’s eyes that she tries and fails to blink away. She can only watch helplessly as drops fall onto the fabric of the pillow in her lap, staining the light blue material in dark splotches.
She sucks in a breath and then releases it, slow and shaky.
“I think I have been unhappy for a very long time.”
Sam lifts a hand as though to put it on Lena’s knee in some offering of comfort, but when she shakes her head no it returns to her lap. Lena reaches up to brush away her traitorous tears and when she looks back up at her best friend her eyes are rimmed in red.
“What would make you happy?”
It’s such a simple question with such a complicated answer that Lena has to laugh. It comes out low and barky, catching in her throat like a cold. She finally releases her deathgrip on the pillow and sets it on the couch between them, choosing instead to curl her arms over her chest.
“I’ve worked too hard for this life to throw it away over something as trivial as happiness.”
“Oh, Lena,” Sam says with heartbreak in her voice. She knows the Luthor way better than anyone not included in the family, and Lena can see the pity in her eyes.
“Just forget it. Forget I said anything, please.”
Lena never asks for anything which leaves Sam with no choice but to relent, nodding slowly. When Lena leaves Sam’s house five minutes later with a resigned expression and tear tracks drying on her cheeks, she has no choice but to watch her go.
“Babe? Have you seen my keys?” Jack’s voice rings out through the house. A moment later his knuckles tap against the bathroom door. “Lena? My keys?”
“They’re on the kitchen counter,” she calls, trying to keep her voice from shaking. There’s a small pause before he responds.
Lena stares down at her phone, the app she uses to track her period blinking ‘three days late’ up at her in bold pink letters.
“Sorry to keep you waiting, Miss Luthor. I’ve got your results.”
She’s wearing a paper thin hospital robe with her fingers digging into her thighs and a calm expression on her face. She gives a short nod and awaits the inevitable, feeling her life slip slowly away one heartbeat at a time.
The doctor sits on a rolling stool and flips through the papers attached to his clipboard before looking up at her with a controlled expression, perfectly practiced through years of delivering bad news. She’s almost a little jealous.
“You’re not pregnant. The urine and blood tests both came back negative.”
Lena stills, blinking back at him with blank green eyes.
“Delayed menstruation can be brought on by a variety of factors. Have you been under any extra stress lately?”
She laughs a little hysterically.
“Maybe a little. I have a lot of responsibilities.”
“Well, consider this one less for now.”
He gives her a polite smile and then slips from the room, giving her privacy to put her clothes back on. She blinks a few more times, staring after him at the closed door.
Another laugh crawls its way from her chest, long and louder than she’s laughed in years. Her chest is bursting with something, a swirl of relief and joy and what might be something like shock . In her chest her heart is pounding, blood rushing in her ears so fast that she almost feels dizzy.
Suddenly the perspective of her life shifts rapidly. All of the pieces she’s spent years trying to fit into place have moved, revealing the gaps that she’s worked so hard to ignore. She scrambles back into her skirt and blouse, nearly tripping as she struggles to pull on her heels.
Lena has everything — an amazing job, a beautiful home, a few good friends, and a loving boyfriend — but for the first time in a long time it feels like she has the one thing she’s been missing.
Jack is more understanding than she feared he would be. He cries and she cries, and they hug for a long time on the couch with her curled into his arms for the last time. They promise to still be friends, once the hurt has healed and Lena hopes they will be.
She rents a penthouse apartment downtown close to the office. For a moment she considers buying a place but quickly dismissing it in favor of leaving the possibilities open. Possibilities she hadn’t let herself imagine until now.
A few weeks after she’s settled in, with furniture she picked out in the living room and art she likes on the walls and not a television with a sports package in sight, Lena goes to CatCo.
She’s been here once before, visiting Andrea after she first moved to town, and though they’ve met for drinks a few times since, she hasn’t returned to visit her at work.
When Lena steps out onto the CatCo floor her heart is racing. She feels nervous enough that she might need to detour to the restroom to psych herself up in the mirror, but before she can look to find the right door, her eyes are connecting with Kara’s across the room.
Kara’s eyes grow wider and wider with each step Lena takes toward her, and a wiry man with dark hair is sitting at the desk Kara is leaning against, looking between them with interest.
“Get lost, Winn,” Kara says quickly to him when Lena finally gets within ear shot, and he mumbles something she can’t hear before pushing off the desk and sliding away in his rolling chair.
“Hi,” Lena says when she’s close enough to Kara to see the blue of her eyes and the pen ink drying on her hands. She has that same purple pen with the pompom on top clenched tightly in one fist.
With all the confidence she can muster Lena slowly reaches out and uncurls Kara’s fingers, taking the pen and setting it carefully on the desk. She doesn’t let go of her hand and Kara stares down at their touching fingers for a long moment before looking back up at her.
“Hi,” she says finally, looking at Lena like she’s watching a magic trick. Lena grins, bright and wide and completely uninhibited.
“Would you like to have coffee with me?” she asks, teeth digging into the flesh of her bottom lip while she waits for Kara’s brain to process exactly what’s happening. It only takes a second.
Strong fingers lace through her own, and then Kara is tugging her back across the bullpen in the direction of the elevator.
“Winn,” she calls over her shoulder, grinning goofily at Lena with her cheeks flushing pink. “I’m taking the rest of the day off.”
“Can you do that?” He calls back with a furrowed brow, but Lena’s pretty sure Kara doesn’t even register his existence on this planet as she pushes the button to summon the elevator.
While they wait for the doors to open Lena carefully extricates her hand from Kara’s, just enough to lift her wrist and press their palms flush against one another. Kara’s palm is warm and Lena’s fingertips are calloused and when their fingers line up neatly Lena grins.
They’re the same size.
“So,” she says when the doors open, taking her hand back from Kara’s and reaching for her sleeve to tug her into the elevator. Her heart is pounding, her cheeks already sore from smiling, and she can’t wait to learn every single thing there is to know about Kara Danvers.
“Coffee for drinking?”