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Lena Luthor does not dance.

For the sake of specificity, it’s not that she’s never danced; in fact she’s been enrolled in no less than 5 different types of dance classes in her life, from tap to jazz to ballet. Her mother had tried in vain to make Lena a dancer like herself from age 5, never accepting no for an answer, and had only yielded when Lena’s poor harried ballet teacher had requested a special meeting to assure Lillian that her daughter had ‘not a single stitch of rhythm in her body’.

So when Lena says that she doesn’t dance, she truly means that she can’t dance. Not for the life of her. A fact which nobody seems to be understanding as they try to coerce her into what has the potential to be the most humiliating mistake of her life.

“It would majorly boost public opinion, you can’t deny that,” Jess argues, following Lena even as she spins her desk chair towards the windows. “What’s stopping you?”

There are about 30 things stopping Lena, and she truly hopes she doesn’t have to unravel each of them individually today. Therapy was last week, and she’s still tired.

“All you’d need to do is be visible and likeable,” Jess finishes with a flair of her arms. Lena glares at her assistant, folding her arms and finally coming to a stop in front of her desk again; Jess stops too, her tablet in the crook of her arm and an annoyingly earnest look on her face.

“I really don’t think you understand how difficult that is for me,” Lena says drily.

Jess frowns, as she always does when Lena self-deprecates. “You’re perfectly likeable, Miss Luthor. You just need to show it to the world!”

“I’m not a star, Jess,” Lena says, gesturing vaguely at the office around her. “I’m just a CEO. Sort of undermines the whole purpose of Dancing with the Stars.”

“But you are!” Jess insists, tapping on her tablet with a stylus until several magazine covers come up. Two of three have Lena on the cover, all desperate attempts by her long-suffering PR department to conjure up some goodwill for the newly renamed L-Corp. “You’re the most powerful businesswoman in National City. There have been three articles about you just this month.”

“There are articles about me because of my brother,” Lena scoffs, waving Jess off. “Having a family member infamous due to a very public act of violence is quite different than being a celebrity.”

Jess, apparently, is not to be deterred. Even when Lena’s office door opens and Sam strides in for their 3pm meeting, third-quarter expenditures in hand, Jess remains in place.

“You’re a household name in your own right,” Jess says, and Sam takes a seat with an intrigued expression. “I’m sure Miss Arias would agree. If Tamar Braxton can be considered a star, so can you.”

“I have no idea who that is,” Lena deadpans.

Exactly!”

“What’s this about Tamar Braxton?” Sam asks, settling comfortably into her seat and tossing the paperwork, unopened, onto Lena’s desk. Jess seems relieved to have a possible ally, and turns to Sam excitedly.

“The new season of Dancing with the Stars is casting, and I think Miss Luthor would be perfect.”

Looking to Sam in her desperation, Lena grasps at her last remaining point. “She’s dead wrong, and she’s forgetting the biggest obstacle – I can’t dance. Right, Sam?”

“That’s ridiculous,” Sam says, in the single most egregious act of betrayal she’s ever enacted in their years-long friendship. “I’ve seen you fence. You’re one of the most graceful people I’ve ever seen. Total control of your body.”

“Dancing is completely different!” Lena protests loudly. The walls are closing in around her, now - she’s outnumbered, and Sam looks quite interested in the whole idea in a way that makes Lena nauseous. “It requires rhythm, not reflexes. And performance.”

It’s Jess’ turn to wave Lena off, now. “That’s what the professional is for! They teach you.”

“I don’t really feel like having to fake chemistry with some random male dancer,” Lena says, looking to Sam with an expression that clearly says help me. “You both know how uncomfortable that would be for me.” Her voice rises in slight panic as she lays down her trump card. Her final bid at getting out of this ridiculous fool’s errand.

Sam, thank god, finally chimes in in her defense. “You know what, that’s a fair point. Who was the professional who won last year?”

“Mike Elis,” Jess says distractedly, tapping on her tablet again. “He was paired with that city councilwoman, something Rankin - hold on, let me look up the performance.”

If this entire conversation hadn’t already convinced Lena this was a bad idea, the video cements it. The dance is some ballroom type performance, and the male dancer – Mike, apparently – seems absolutely insufferable. He guides his partner well, and even with her limited interest in dance Lena can tell he’s talented, but he’s too touchy. Too forceful. Exactly the last type of person she’s ever want to spend weeks on a reality TV show with.

“He seems perfectly nice, but he’s so…straight. Hypermasculine,” Lena says with distaste. “Smarmy. I dated enough men like him before I came out, I’d rather not spend time with one again.”

On screen Mike takes a bow, kissing his partner soundly on the cheek, and Lena wrinkles her nose. His vibe is so horribly similar to the men her mother used to pressure her into dates with that Lena has to look away, looking instead to Sam who is watching the screen with more rapt attention.

“You can request a female partner!” Jess says, and Sam perks up with interest at exactly the same time as Lena’s stomach sinks to her toes. “And if you were the only female duo, you’d make an even bigger splash. Imagine the press!”

“Why are you so stuck on this?” Lena finally asks, her patience wearing thin with the stress of being tag-teamed. She adores and respects Jess, she really does, but it doesn’t make any sense how quickly she’s latched onto this harebrained scheme.

Jess’ response is frank. “Robert Herjavek’s stocks went up 7 percent after he was on the show, and he only came in 6th.”

Lena pauses.

It’s no secret that L-Corp could use the positive publicity. It’s still mired in her brother’s reputation, bogged down by a board who doesn’t want to listen to the changes she’s trying to implement. Half the reporting outlets are still calling it LuthorCorp, and almost every article comes with an addendum about exactly why the company is rebranding. It’s getting better in tiny increments, but it’s nowhere near where it needs to be to improve their standing. Not fast enough for the shareholders.

But, god. The idea of being in front of all those cameras, dancing, with a stranger, all while being judged by a tally of national votes – it’s too stressful. And besides, she’d have to move to National City for however long she’s on the show, and poor Sam would have to take over and run the company in her place. It just isn’t a good fit.

About a week later, when her audition tape is being sent off to the production company, she’s seriously regretting the day she decided to hire Jess.

 


 

It all happens so fast.

Lena had hoped that bombing her audition tape would save her. But Sam had the audacity to both work hard at making her look good and graciously accept the possibility of picking up Lena’s slack while she films, and it’s only when her PR department informs her that she’s been accepted into the cast – and that her request for a female partner has been approved - that Lena starts to accept reality.

It’s a whirlwind after that. Contracts are signed, press announcements go out, and it all feels like she’s just offered a juicy steak to a pack of wolves. The headlines range from wondering if she’s doing it to cover some dirty L-Corp secret to predicting that she’ll be the most controversial contestant in history, and it doesn’t help that Lena refuses almost every interview opportunity she’s offered post-announcement. While the rest of the cast takes to social media and various outlets to talk about how excited they are, Lena remains stubbornly silent. She barely even looks at the list of names she’s given for her castmates – which means, unfortunately, that when the first wave of articles comes out and she sees Andrea Rojas’ headshot next to her own, it comes like a slap in the face.

She calls Sam up to her office the minute she hangs up the phone.

“Was anyone going to tell me that this godforsaken show also cast my ex-girlfriend?” Lena demands the second Sam crosses the threshold. “My very estranged ex-girlfriend?”

Jess, hearing Lena’s raised voice through the open door, hurries in as well.

“I assumed you would actually read the brief before the media got their claws in it,” Sam drawls, hands on her hips. “I thought Andrea would have been the first thing you noticed.”

“Andrea Rojas is your ex-girlfriend?” Jess says curiously, not at all rattled by Lena’s tone. “Is that why you won’t let me put her news channel on the TVs in the lobby? I always liked her as an anchor. She’s very no-nonsense.”

“She and Lena got up to plenty of nonsense,” Sam chuckles, throwing her hands up when Lena glares at her. “What? So you had a messy college breakup, who didn’t? It’s nothing to be ashamed of.”

“We haven’t spoken in years, and now this,” Lena says, pointing accusingly at Jess. “This show is a plague on my life already.”

“Does it help to know your partner is the hottest dancer on the cast?” Sam says, waving a sheet of paper enticingly in front of Lena’s face. Lena pauses, her frustration hitting a roadblock.

“What are you talking about?”

Sam straightens the paper, tapping at the name in question with a knowing grin.

“Kara Danvers?” Lena says, reading the unfamiliar name with a frown. Sam nods.

“Jess, if you could?”

Jess is already at it, bringing up a YouTube video almost as soon as Sam finishes the question and putting the tablet in front of Lena’s face. Lena rolls her eyes, watching the first few minutes of the video with intentional disinterest, but when the first performance wraps up with her future dance partner sweaty and panting during a backstage interview it doesn’t take long for her to take the tablet from Jess’ hands and click next video.

Sam was right, as much as it pains Lena to admit it. Kara Danvers is very pretty. It’s in a TV-appropriate, put-together sort of way, all blonde hair and heels and sequined dresses, but there’s something appealing about her energy. Onstage she’s mesmerising in the same way that most art is – but offstage, her charisma is more personal. Her smile makes Lena want to smile right back at the tablet screen. Bright and sunny, oozing enthusiasm.

She’s one of the lower-billed professionals on the show, according to the research Sam apparently did as soon as Lena was cast, but not for lack of talent. She’s a clear powerhouse with a flair for expressing emotion in her movement, but Lena can see the problem in each of the videos she continues to watch even when Jess and Sam leave her alone in the office. Her partners are terrible. A hulking sports player with two left feet one year, a wiry male figure skater almost a foot shorter than her the next, and last year the worst of them all; her partner had been a social media influencer who was prone to improv, and they had been eliminated in the very first week when he ignored part of the choreography.

Lena is pretty sure she can’t be worse than that, at least.

“Who else was cast?” Lena asks, half her attention still on the screen.

“There’s you and Andrea,” Jess lists, ticking each one off on a finger, “and Siobhan Smythe.”

“The singer?” Sam says, looking impressed. “She’s more famous than most people they manage to cast.”

“I’ve never heard of her,” Lena says. Jess shrugs.

“You don’t listen to anything recorded after 1998. I’ve seen your vinyl collection. There’s also Leslie Willis, that radio DJ, and Morgan Edge.”

“The real estate guy?” Sam scoffs, shaking her head. “Clearly a PR stunt.”

“You say that as if this isn’t a PR stunt,” Lena points out. Sam blows a raspberry at her, but doesn’t try to argue.

“Oliver Queen and Barry Allen,” Jess continues, rolling her eyes, “the yearly sports players. And Max Lord.”

“I hate that guy,” Sam says with a shudder. “I know he does environmentally friendly tech and everything, but he gives me the creeps.”

“I met him at a tech conference a few years ago,” Lena agrees, clicking mindlessly on the next video of Kara Danvers. “Your instincts are correct.”

The partnerships being announced triggers a tidal wave of media attention that even Lena can’t ignore. There was a both-male pair on the show a few years ago, but they were eliminated almost immediately; yet somehow, Lena being paired with a woman for the first time in the show’s history is making waves that supersede L-Corp’s bad press. The articles stop talking about how likely Lena is to fail but instead about how the show is apparently stopping homophobia one dance pairing at a time, and Lena knows that if she doesn’t at least provide a few vague quotes, the bad PR will make this whole stupid venture futile.

It's almost a relief when the time comes for Lena to fly across the country. At least once the season starts, the media is tightly controlled by the production company and Lena doesn’t have to worry about reporters camping outside her condo building anymore.

She doubts it’ll last for long, since she’s probably going to be sent packing the moment she steps foot on stage. But it’s a nice reprieve, however brief.

Lena’s mood takes a turn for the worse when she steps out of the airport to find that the cool September air of Metropolis does not translate to the West Coast. It’s hot, she’s overdressed, and there’s no air conditioning in the cab; by the time she gets to the hotel, she’s sweating and miserable.

If Lena had thought her schedule was hectic at L-Corp, she knows better after being sent the daily itinerary for the next few weeks.

“Rehearsal every day?” Lena rants to Sam once she’s settled in her room, spread out on the bed in her underwear. She’s going to have to get some new clothes, or she’ll probably melt on the way to the studio tomorrow. “And only a week to learn the routines? Why didn’t anyone tell me that?”

“I think most people assume everyone has seen the show at least once rather than just watching every Kara Danvers performance that exists on the internet,” Sam quips, and Lena can hear the shuffle of papers in the background. “Besides, you work every single day when you’re here. How is this different?”

“Because I can handle it at L-Corp. This is 7 days a week of dancing and interviews,” Lena groans, rolling over and burying her face in the too-soft hotel pillow. “Why did I agree to this?”

“To make America fall in love with you.”

Lena snorts, rolling back over. “No, that’s Jess’ pipe dream. I’m a realist.”

“Well then, realistically, you agreed because the positive press is already helping us. Stick it out for a little while, and then you can come home. No harm, no foul.”

“It’s done plenty of harm already,” Lena snipes, but she hangs up the phone feeling at least a little bit better. Sam is right – she likely won’t be here for long. She just has to wear the mask of an enthusiastic participant for a week or two, and then the ordeal will be over. She might even thank Jess, if their stock prices actually do go up.

 


 

Kara Danvers turns out to be a much bigger problem than expected.

For once, Lena means it in both a literal and metaphorical sense. Not only is Kara’s demeanour wildly different than she seems on stage, but she’s genuinely just big. She’s taller than Lena thought she would be, her shoulders wider, her hands bigger. She meets Lena at the door to their studio room not in designer activewear such as what Lena bought just for this occasion, but in joggers and high-top sneakers. Lena can see a brightly-coloured sports bra through the arm holes of her low-slung tank top.

“Lena! It’s so great to meet you!” Kara says the moment Lena walks into the studio, radiating genuine warmth as she shakes Lena’s suddenly sweaty hand. Her blonde hair is piled in a messy bun at the base of her neck, and her face is devoid enough of makeup that Lena can see the dusting of light freckles that covers her nose and cheeks. “I’m really excited to work together. We’re doing a Tango this week - before we start, do you need anything? Water, bathroom, a snack?”

Kara Danvers is not just the airy, bubbly woman she’s portrayed as on all the episodes Lena has seen. She’s a tall, slightly masculine, charismatic and very well-built bubbly woman, and Lena’s brain can’t quite seem to re-calibrate.

“Yes,” Lena says, blinking up into Kara’s friendly, excited face and trying to find her bearings among the three separate conversation starters she was thrown. It’s hard enough to concentrate when Kara plants her hands on her hips, showing off her arms like they shouldn’t be classified as deadly weapons. “I mean, no. I don’t – I don’t need anything. And it’s nice to meet you, as well. Tango?”

Kara grins, leading Lena to the wall-length mirror to introduce her to a short, delicate brown-skinned woman named Imra. Imra’s job is apparently to run through the choreography with Kara to show what the dance will look like until Lena feels like she has it down, and she nods at Lena, her smile nice enough but a little fixed. Her energy is what Lena was assuming Kara would be like, only to have her expectations turned upside down.

“Tango! It’s Argentinian,” Kara says, bouncing on the balls of her feet while Imra does some stretches. “Have you ever danced it before?”

“I haven’t danced since I was 9,” Lena says honestly. Kara’s eyebrows raise.

“Like…at all? Not even alone in your own house?”

Lena shrugs self-consciously, setting down her purse. “I’ve never been very good at it.”

That doesn’t seem to bother Kara, which is somewhat alarming considering the circumstances. Having your dance partner on a competitive dance show tell you they are not good at dancing should be a cause for worry for a normal person. But Kara just shrugs, giving Lena a charming lopsided grin and rubbing her hands together with something close to excitement. Like she’s accepted a challenge.

“Lucky for you, I love to teach!”

It's then that Lena notices she’s wearing a rainbow thumb ring, and her mind kicks into overdrive.

Lena has never seen a tango before. She knew it was some kind of South American ballroom dance, but not much else – and as soon as Kara and Imra start up the music, Lena regrets not doing more research. She’s not sure whether it’s the nature of the style or just Kara’s choreography, but the dance is sensual. It’s slower and more intimate in places than Lena expected, all hips and intertwined legs and dips that end in being pressed together from thigh to forehead, and it turns out that Kara is even better at leading than she is at following. She was always talented, in all the performances Lena watched; now, it’s infused with a casual confidence and powerful stage presence that she must have been repressing before so as not to overshadow her male partners.

As good as Imra is, Lena hardly spares a glance at her despite the fact that it’s Imra’s steps she’s supposed to be learning. Kara draws her eye. She’s so fluid and yet controlled, every hand placement and extension of her body perfectly executed, and she seems to understand exactly where Imra will be at any given moment so that she’s there to catch her. They look amazing together. Lena loses herself in just watching their first run-through, watching Kara’s muscles flex and the way they move together through the choreography and feeling almost like a voyeur.

It’s so engaging that she almost forgets, for three whole minutes, that she’s expected to replicate it in a week. Almost.

The music ends with a flourish that perfectly fits the final dip, and Kara pulls Imra back up to standing effortlessly as soon as it’s over. She turns to Lena, her breathing heavy and her face flush and alight with enthusiasm, and brandishes her arms in a ta-da! motion.

Lena is so screwed.

“What do you think?” Kara asks, while Imra leans against the mirror and checks her phone like she hasn’t just done a three-minute sprint. Lena, if she’s being honest, is torn between clapping for the performance and running outside to throw up at the expectation that she could ever be capable of doing what she just saw.

“You two looked amazing,” Lena says, going for the truth even if it isn’t the whole truth.

“You will too!” Kara says, with absolutely no proof. “Trust me. Here, take a seat and we’ll run through it again from the top so you can get used to the flow.”

Lena sits on the offered stool, tightly crosses her legs, and recites the periodic table in her head while Kara throws her tank top across the studio to dance in just her sports bra, her skin glistening in the florescent light. When Kara whirls Imra through the air in a series of low lifts Lena shifts slightly, pressing her thighs together.

Kara makes it look so easy.

“I know the lifts look intimidating, but I promise they’re easier than they seem,” Kara says when the music stops for the second time, jogging over to the speaker to queue up another run. “They’re about trust more than anything else.”

“Trust is easy when your partner is a waif,” Lena mutters, mostly to herself. Imra is a few inches shorter than Lena, more compact, less solid. Lena has always been pretty confident with her overall appearance, but physics are physics. Imra is just lighter, and as strong as Kara seems Lena isn’t entirely sure the lifts will execute the same way when the partners switch.

“Did you say something?” Kara says, frowning. Lena sighs.

“Imra is…petite,” Lena says haltingly. “I’m a little sturdier. We might need to scale the lifts back a bit.”

Kara seems to take that as a challenge. Her frown turns into a grin so confident that it’s almost convincing, and she leans against the table the speaker is on to level Lena with it.

“I can lift you, you know.”

“I don’t want anyone to get hurt,” Lena maintains. Kara’s eyes narrow – but instead of fighting any further, she holds up a single finger.

“One second.”

Striding over to the door, Kara opens it and disappears down the hallway.

“Where is she going?” Lena asks Imra. Imra just chuckles, taking a long drink of water and shaking her head as she swallows.

Mike!” Kara’s disembodied voice shouts down the hall, carrying back into the studio, and Lena jumps a little at the volume. “Get in here, I need to borrow you!”

Kara appears in the door again a few moments later with a shirtless man in tow. He’s taller than Kara by a few inches, well-built, and Lena recognizes him from the press images as Mike Elis, last year’s winner. He looks confused, but gives a friendly wave to Imra and Lena.

“What’s up, Danvers?” he asks, giving her a boyish smile. It disappears as soon as Kara answers.

“Dirty Dancing lift.”

Mike groans, his shoulders sinking immediately.

“Aw, man,” he whines, throwing his hands up. “Come on, Kara, please don’t make me do this again. Not in front of my girlfriend.”

He looks to Imra for support, but Imra seems fully entertained by the whole business. She nods her head towards Kara who just gestures silently at him, opening up her stance, and Mike gives a long-suffering sigh before taking a few steps backwards.

Fine.”

“What the hell is she doing?” Lena whispers to Imra. Imra just holds a finger to her lips, and then points at the show being put on.

“Just watch.”

After a few seconds of hyping himself up, Mike runs straight at Kara and jumps into her arms. And Kara, against all reason, catches him smoothly and lifts him fully above her head.

“See?” Kara says, only a hint of strain in her voice as she turns a little so she can meet Lena’s eyes. Mike wobbles a bit, his face screwed up in concentration, but he stays aloft. “You don’t need to worry. I’ve got you.”

Lena is pretty sure there’s no force in the universe that could keep the image of Kara holding over 200 pounds above her head from embedding itself in her brain for the rest of time.

By some miracle, Lena manages to get through the first day without actually dancing. Instead she just watches Kara and Imra, asking Kara to break down each move for her slowly so she can memorize them. And to be fair, by the end of it she does have the dance memorized – she just knows she won’t be able to make her body do it. It’s going to be an absolute fiasco.

Imra packs up and leaves with a polite wave as soon as the rehearsal time ends. But Kara takes her time, humming to herself as she sweeps the space with a little broom and munches on a chocolate chip protein bar, and Lena hovers in the doorway for a few uncertain seconds before she steps back in.

“Is cleaning part of your job description?”

Kara jumps a little, whirling around and hurriedly swallowing her mouthful of protein so she can smile.

“Hey! I thought you’d left.”

“I’m not in a hurry,” Lena says, trying for nonchalance. “Does the show not provide cleaning staff?”

Kara nods, folding up the remains of the protein bar in its own wrapper and shoving it in her pocket, apparently uncaring of the danger of having melted chocolate in her pants. “They do, yeah. But Samson’s daughter has a recital tonight, and I thought I could make his job a little easier so he doesn’t risk being late.”

“Samson?” Lena asks, leaning against the doorjamb. Kara nods, emptying the dustbin into the trash and tying off the bag. She crosses the room in a few quick steps to set it near the door, and her sudden closeness makes Lena’s stomach do a strange sort of nervous pirouette.

“The janitor. We eat lunch together during the off-season, when everyone is here doing prep choreography.”

“Do you work year-round?” Lena asks. The image of Kara making friends with the janitor when her job is to rub elbows – literally and figuratively – with celebrities is disarmingly endearing. Kara nods.

“Most of it. We get a couple months off after the show airs, usually, and then come back in the summer to get ready for the season. So we aren’t all scrambling to choreograph 15 routines at once. Can you grab the lights?”

Lena switches them off, caught up in Kara’s routine, and follows Kara down the stairs. Their footsteps echo loudly in the stairwell, but Kara keeps talking over the noise.

“What did you think of the routine?”

“You and Imra look beautiful doing it,” Lena says honestly, averting her eyes from the back of Kara’s neck. There are wisps there that have escaped from her bun, and Lena can’t look at them without wanting to smooth her hand over them. “You’re a talented choreographer.”

“Creating the dance is the best part. And I’m really excited to lead, for once,” Kara says, taking the last three stairs in a jump and landing on both feet. Lena follows at a more moderate pace. “Getting thrown around gets old – I’m finding that I like doing the heavy lifting better.”

Once in the lobby, Kara opens a small door just to the left of the empty reception desk – a janitor’s closet, it looks like – and wheels out a brightly-coloured bicycle.

“You bike to work?” Lena asks, surprised yet again. Kara is so far the opposite of what Lena expected that she’s having trouble adapting herself to it, and it’s wavering Lena’s resolve to be the first person eliminated. Horrifyingly, she finds that the idea of spending more time with Kara is actually preferable to going home. She's like a puzzle Lena wants to solve. An experiment she hasn't quite mastered yet.

“When I can!” Kara says cheerfully. She walks the bike through the front doors, keeping pace with Lena all the way. “Traffic in this city sucks so much, it’s usually faster than driving.” Once they’ve both hit the sidewalk outside Kara slips on a pair of blue Ray-bans from her pocket, and points at the waiting town car.

“This you?”

Lena nods. Kara gives her a two-finger salute, putting a foot on the pedal.

“Then I’ll see you tomorrow, bright and early. Imra will be here in the morning to help you out, but in the afternoon I want us to be running through it together, okay?”

Kara’s gentle yet undeniably sure tone makes Lena’s knees a little weak. She watches Kara bike away until she turns a corner a few blocks away, and the moment she gets the partition up in the town car she’s dialing Sam’s number.

“How could you not tell me Kara Danvers is like that?” Lena says in lieu of a hello. Sam takes it in stride. Lena can hear keys clacking in the background, and as always she’s impressed with Sam’s multitasking skills.

“Like what?”

Lena sighs, pressing her forehead to the cool glass of the car window. “Like that, Sam. Attractive.”

“I did tell you,” Sam retorts. “That is literally the first thing I told you about her.”

“I mean, that type of hot,” Lena clarifies.  

Sam snorts loudly. “What the hell does that mean?”

“You know exactly what I mean,” Lena says, a little more calmly. As stupid as it seems, Kara being both attractive and charming feels like a trap. Like her mother is somehow reaching out from prison to tempt her into humiliating herself on national television, and Kara is the handsome bait. “You know. She’s – she – I mean, she danced in sweats and a sports bra all day. She lifted a man above her head. She wears a rainbow thumb ring.”

“I thought big lifts weren’t allowed on the show?” Sam says distractedly. The tapping continues.

“It was to prove to me she could support my – Sam, that’s not the point!” Lena says, her voice raising until she can see the driver turn his head a little even through the partition. “The point is –”

“You’re finally seeing her gay vibes,” Sam finishes, as if she’s been waiting all along for Lena to come to that conclusion.

Lena deflates, falling back against the seat with a weary sigh. “Does everyone see it but me?”

“Sometimes you need to actually meet a person,” Sam says fairly. “I clocked her from her first episode, though.”

As Sam has always had a spectacular knack for this kind of thing – she had known Lena was gay long before Lena had let herself accept it – Lena isn’t surprised that she picked it out from a few appearances on television.

“This is a recipe for disaster,” Lena groans. “I can’t work with someone I could potentially be attracted to.”

“Potentially? You’re talking as if you haven’t already picked out the colour of your shared strap-on.”

“Absolutely not, Sam,” Lena says firmly, sitting up straight as if better posture can somehow reinforce how serious she is. “She’s not my type.”

Sam, as always, blasts through Lena’s defenses with ease. “I don’t even know what your type is, besides ‘emotionally distant’.”

“That’s not – it’s more complicated – she’s just not!” Lena sputters, the car suddenly feeling very cramped. “She’s gorgeous, fine, but not for me. I’m not going there.”

“And it’s not at all because emotional investment in another human being terrifies you?”

Lena knows, now, that she’s getting Sam’s full attention. The typing has stopped, and Sam has thrown a metaphorical gauntlet on the floor between them – for years Sam has gently questioned Lena’s aversion to making so much as a new friendship, and lately it’s gotten less and less gentle.

“That’s a low blow,” Lena mutters. Sam sighs, and her tone afterward is much less accusatory.

“I’m not saying you have to get married, Lena,” Sam says, more mildly. “You don’t even have to sleep with her. You get to spend a couple weeks getting felt up by a hot girl. Consider it a reward for your pain and suffering. I know you tie yourself up in knots like a repressed Catholic over every passing attraction, but maybe this is your sign to just let yourself feel it, for once. Ignore expectations and pressures – just have fun with it.”

As brutal as it is, Lena can’t deny that it’s a completely truthful summation of her pattern. While Sam has always been comfortable with herself in that way, turning friends into friends with benefits and back again with hardly a second of guilt, Lena has always had trouble turning off the part of her brain with her mother’s voice in it. And ever since the unmitigated train wreck that was her relationship with Andrea, dating has been firmly off her list of priorities.

“I suppose it won’t be so bad to just look,” Lena reasons, and Sam sighs loudly on the other line. “We can be colleagues. Friendly colleagues. I just have a harmless work crush. Not even a crush, an…appreciation. A respectful appreciation.”

“Who are you trying to convince, exactly?” Sam drawls. “You’re talking to the queen of respectful appreciation.”

“You’re never respectful!” Lena points out, intensely grateful for the conversation turning away from her trust issues. She waves a thank-you to the driver when he pulls up at her hotel, stepping through the revolving doors much more confidently. “A week ago you told me my ass looked slappable.”

“It did look slappable, and that was completely respectful by the standards of our friendship. I stand by it.”

Lena hangs up feeling much better than she did before. But even a good best friend pep-talk can’t shake off the terror of knowing that tomorrow, Kara is going to see just how terrible a dancer she really is.

She tries not to think about why that thought seems so much worse than it did before they met.

 


 

The first few hours of their second rehearsal are, just as Lena knew they would be, an unmitigated disaster.

True to her word Kara has Lena doing the choreography right away, and even with Imra’s help Lena struggles from minute one. Despite having the choreography memorized objectively, having seen it so many times yesterday, she can’t seem to make her body move the way Kara is asking her to. No matter how many times Imra tries to direct her hips and get her to hit the beats, Lena is stiff. Lifeless. It’s like she turns to wood every time the music turns on, and no amount of reassurance from Kara is helping.

“One more time,” Kara says encouragingly after about six lackluster attempts at a combination of steps. She’s perched cross-legged on top of the table next to the speakers, barefoot but thankfully wearing a shirt today, and she re-starts the music with a flourish. “You’ll get it.”

“You have too much faith in me,” Lena says tightly. Imra huffs a little behind her in quiet frustration as Lena moves off-beat again, and Lena stops in her tracks to press her palms over her eyes before she blows a fuse.

The music stops.

“You’re not nearly as bad as you think, Lena,” Kara says into the sudden quiet, and her voice is so gentle that even in her distress Lena finds it comforting. Kara slides off the table, her basketball shorts bunching momentarily around her thighs, and Imra moves away to let the blonde take her place. Kara’s larger frame is visible around the edges of Lena’s, her face peeking around Lena’s shoulder.

“Are we looking in the same mirror?” Lena asks, trying to keep the edge out of her voice. Somehow Kara, perpetually sunny, just chuckles.

“Yes, we are. You’ve got the choreography down already, which is amazing,” Kara says, apparently determined to maintain eye contact in the mirror. “You know what to do and when, you have rhythm –”

“Debatable,” Lena interrupts.

“You do,” Kara insists, her hands landing on Lena’s hips. She squeezes gently, and Lena’s entire body seems to seize involuntarily. “You’re just so tense! You can’t dance when you’re tense, especially not the tango.”

Lena’s tenseness only gets worse with the unexpected physical touch, and Kara seems to sense it. Her hands move away, and paradoxically as soon as they do Lena wishes they hadn’t. She’d been surprised by it, but Kara’s strong grip felt nice, as brief as it was. Reassuring.

“I don’t think I’ve ever not been tense,” Lena admits. Kara smiles.

“That doesn’t surprise me. Let’s try again, okay? I’m right here.”

Lena doesn’t have the heart to tell her that having her near is actually worse.

Instead Lena tries. And she tries again. Each time Kara watches intently and gently redirects her, but without fail on the next run Lena finds somewhere else to screw up. Finally, when she rolls her ankle after catching a glimpse of herself in the mirror trying to move in unison with Imra and sees just how awkward she looks in comparison, she snaps.

“Son of a bitch,” Lena hisses, pushing Kara away when the blonde tries to catch her. Her chest is starting to tighten with the telltale pressure of an anxiety attack; it’s hard to breathe, and she’s shaking too much to keep herself fully upright. Instead she leans back against the mirrored wall, pressing her hands to the cool glass and slides down until she’s on the floor.

“Imra, can you take off for the day?” Kara says quietly, switching off the music. Lena closes her eyes, taking deep breaths through her nose, and by the time she opens them again Imra is gone and Kara is beside her in an awkward half-squat that would be hell on the legs of anyone besides her thighs-of-steel partner. She looks deeply concerned, but unsure what to do.

“I can’t do this,” Lena chokes, pressing her now-cooled hands to her face. “I can’t. I’m – god, I’m awful, and my failure is going to be televised nationally. I look ridiculous.”

Her voice cracks on the last word, and it takes serious effort not to let a sob escape. She’s has never broken down like this before in front of someone she knows so little - Jess briefly saw her cry a time or two after she took over L-Corp, and Sam once or twice in college, but losing control like this in front of Kara is a special brand of humiliating.

Kara, though, doesn’t look at her with pity. She doesn’t look disappointed, or even worried. She just looks understanding, and with an easy nod, she calms half of Lena’s anxiety.

“Okay,” Kara says easily, pressing her back to the mirror and sliding down in the same way that Lena did until they’re on the floor together, shoulder to shoulder. “Then we don’t do it.”

Lena frowns, finally moving her hands away to look at Kara directly after furiously wiping at her eyes.

“What, just like that?”

“I’m not going to force you, Lena,” Kara says, as if that was somehow a given. “If you don’t feel comfortable, we’ll just forfeit. People drop out all the time with scheduling conflicts. It’s okay.”

“And you’d just be okay with that?” Lena says, surprised when Kara shrugs.

“To be clear, I think you can absolutely do this,” Kara says, her increasingly familiar confidence unwavering. “But I’m on a contract with the show. They pay me no matter what – we just get a bonus if we make top 3, and a raise if we win. And I’ve never done either, so it’s not like I’d be out money or anything. They might even have time to find a replacement, although I’m sure they wouldn’t be nearly as fun.”

Kara ends with a wink. She thankfully breaks off the slightly-too-intense eye contact after, letting Lena reel in peace – marvelling, for probably the first time in her life, at being given a genuine choice. She can’t remember the last time she made a decision where she didn’t felt like she was being held at gunpoint. Kara is just…accepting her no.

She feels inspired, suddenly.

“I want to try again.”

Kara turns back to her, brow furrowed. “Lena, I was telling the truth. You don’t have to.”

But Lena stands, her legs feeling s little stronger now. She holds out a hand, and Kara uses it to pull herself up – she almost stumbles, surprised with how heavy Kara is, but she manages to stay upright. “No, I – I want to. I really do.”

Kara regards her with narrowed eyes. She folds her arms, tapping her fingers on her forearm a few times, until she seems satisfied that Lena is telling the truth.

“We try for today. Okay?” Kara finally says, her voice so firm that it makes Lena feel more sure in her decision. “And if you still hate it, we stop.”

Lena nods silently.

With that, Kara’s firm demeanour evaporates. She claps her hands together, rubbing them and looking around with a thoughtful expression. Rather than call Imra back she steps to the windows on the opposite wall, closing the blinds, and dims the lights.

“Are you comfortable taking your sweater off?” Kara asks as she fiddles with the switches, trying to find the perfect light level. Lena plucks at the baggy fabric, thinking of the tank top she’s wearing underneath.

“Why do you ask?”

“Maneuverability,” Kara says vaguely. She seems to find the level she’s looking for, the lights dim and intimate but just enough to see their movements in the mirror, and turns back to Lena. “Again, only if you’re comfortable. But it’s a lot easier for me to keep my grip on you when I can actually feel your body.”

The phrase feel your body said in Kara’s voice rattles around in Lena’s head like a pinball machine, but she manages to shrug the sweater off and throw it somewhere behind them before she can second-guess herself. Kara herself is in a loose white t-shirt, and when she takes Lena by the waist and puts Lena’s hand on her shoulder the texture of it is light and soft.

“Let’s start from square one,” Kara says, so kindly that her next words take a few seconds to register in Lena’s brain. She tightens her grip on Lena’s waist, and says with full confidence:

“Dancing is a lot like sex.”

Lena, unsure for a moment if she’s heard correctly, blinks up at Kara’s smiling face. She’s pretty sure she just hallucinated Kara talking about sex, and the blush that fires up across Lena’s face is completely involuntary.

“I’m…sorry?”

“Okay, I know that’s a weird statement,” Kara says, laughing, “but it’s true! It’s a two-person thing. A give and take. It doesn’t work if one person spends the whole time thinking they’re doing it wrong.”

She says it pointedly, her eyebrows raising, and heat creeps further across Lena’s cheeks. With her sweater off, she’s sure Kara can see how it covers not only her face but most of her neck, hot and embarrassing.

“I am doing it wrong,” Lena retorts, averting her eyes down to their joined hands. Kara seems to have moved closer since they’ve been talking, and every place where they’re touching feels more alive somehow. Warm and tingly.

“You just haven’t been taught properly. Some people need a gentler introduction,” Kara says, low and close. A tingle climbs from the base of Lena’s spine all the way up her back, ending in an unconscious shiver. “A slow climb.”

Good lord.

“I don’t really care how long I last on this show,” Lena says, cursing how breathy her voice sounds. It’s just an unconscious reaction to physical closeness with another person, she’s sure. She hasn’t had this level of intimacy, platonic or not, in a long time. “All I want is to not make a fool of myself.”

“That’s fine,” Kara replies, and someone up above must be looking kindly down on Lena right now because she takes a half-step back, letting Lena breathe a little. “But I care about you not feeling awful about yourself while you’re on stage. Can I try something?”

Lena nods, and lets herself be pulled tight against Kara’s front again after Kara hits the music. But instead of starting the complicated steps of their dance Kara just moves her hands down to Lena’s hips, pushing gently side to side until Lena starts to move them.

“Step one is finding the rhythm,” Kara explains, guiding Lena to the beat. “You have it in you, I know you do, you just need to let it take over you.”

“I’m not good at letting anything take over me,” Lena says stiffly. Kara laughs to herself, clearly feeling that exact phenomenon in the heavy resistance Lena is putting up to her guidance. She moves behind Lena instead, pressing fully against Lena’s back and getting a firmer grip on her hips – she guides Lena not just with her hands now but with her own body, and it has the unfortunate consequence of leading to Kara murmuring her next piece of advice directly in Lena’s ear.

“This is a good time to learn how to surrender.”

If there’s one thing Lena has always prided herself on, it’s her composure. She remained composed and controlled on the witness stand at her own brother’s trial; she kept the mask up when she deposed half of L-Corp’s board, and at every press conference and speech full of protestors and threats of violence since. She’s been called an uptight bitch, an ice queen, a control freak; and no matter how much Sam and Jess suggest it, she has staunchly refused to see anyone to help with the resulting muscle tension.

Ten murmured words from Kara Danvers, and all of that disappears.

“I think part of what you’re struggling with is that you’re seeing the steps and the music as too separate,” Kara continues, as if she hasn’t just shifted Lena’s entire perspective on movement. Lena’s hips seem to have taken on a mind of their own and stopped their struggle, perfectly content to be guided in figure-eights, and Kara’s hands spread wide like she’s trying to fit as much of Lena’s body underneath them as she can.

Lena has to clear her throat before she can answer.

“Aren’t they?”

“They depend on each other, actually,” Kara explains, kindly not mentioning how raspy Lena’s voice suddenly is. “If you really feel the music, understand how it persuades the body to move, everything gets a lot easier. You’re doing great, by the way.”

Lena can’t help it. It’s not often that she gets any kind of validation, and Kara’s easy praise seems to settle something in her. She leans fully back, her head tipping back onto Kara’s shoulder, and she can feel Kara’s breath on her skin – it’s heavier than it has been at any point so far, hot against the side of Lena’s neck, and it’s almost jarring when Kara suddenly steps back. Lena’s back feels cold without her there; she turns to see Kara fiddling with her ponytail, her face red with what must be exertion.

“How do you propose I feel the music?” Lena asks, pressing a hand to her chest.

“Um,” Kara says, sounding surprisingly flustered. She walks in a quick circle, looking lost, before she strides over to restart the music. “Right. Yes, okay, we’ll…uh, come over here and step on my feet.”

“Step on your feet?” Lena says, letting out an unintentional scoff. “Like a child?”

Kara nods absently, pulling the neckline of her shirt to wipe her face. It leaves a sliver of her stomach showing at the bottom, the hint of a boxer-brief peeking over the waistband of her shorts, and Lena almost closes her eyes.

“Like, get into the starting position, and then put your feet on top of mine so yours don’t touch the floor,” Kara explains, mercifully dropping the shirt to lace herself into a pair of sneakers. Once affixed she comes back over to where Lena is standing and opens her arms up in invitation, but Lena stays put.

“Won’t that just mean you can’t move?” Lena asks, but Kara laughs a little, her confident grin coming back like the sun peeking through clouds.

“Don’t worry about that. Just take your shoes off.”

Tentatively Lena steps forward, toeing out of her flats and placing her socked feet on top of Kara’s shoes. Kara wraps an arm around her waist to stabilize her, somehow holding all of her weight even with her other hand occupied holding Lena’s aloft, and once she’s secured Kara does a little wiggle that moves Lena’s body too.

“Now, relax.”

Rather than relax her, the movement only makes Lena more tense. She clings even tighter, her grip on Kara’s hand turning death-like, and breathes slowly through her nose. “I don’t really know how to do that.”

“Start with your shoulders,” Kara says, her firm hand on Lena’s lower back never wavering. “Feel the tension there, the tightness, and take a deep breath. As you’re letting it out, let your muscles out with it. Feel them release. Trust that I’m here to keep you upright.”

“Trust isn’t my strong suit,” Lena quips. Kara smiles, her thumb rubbing a comforting little pattern on Lena’s back over her shirt.

“Just try it.”

Against her better judgement, Lena does. She breathes, and she trusts Kara, and little by little the tension seeps out of her body until she’s feeling more boneless and calm than she has in recent memory. She’s almost limp in Kara’s arms, and when the song loops and starts again Kara starts to move.

At first Kara doesn’t move her feet much, just swaying and shuffling to the beat with Lena held against her in a loose and basic interpretation of their choreography. It’s soothing, strangely, with Lena’s cheek pressed to Kara’s chest listening to her even heartbeat in one ear and the music in the other, and it only takes a few steps for Lena to understand what Kara is trying to show her.

“Feel how I experience this song,” Kara murmurs, doing a basic twirl and four steps holding Lena’s weight without losing her rhythm. “Listen to the music, and pay attention to my movements.”

“You’re moving on different parts of the beat than I thought,” Lena answers, closing her eyes. She can feel the shifting of Kara’s muscles this way, can detect how much hidden work goes into each step, and Kara hums in agreement.

“Every movement starts long before anyone sees it with their eyes. Do you feel it?”

“I think I’m getting there.”

It feels good to be held like this, Lena can’t lie to herself. She’s never really known anyone with this kind of physical strength who she would ever allow to touch her. It’s almost like a meditation, hearing the undertones in the music that she hadn’t paid attention to before and memorizing how Kara interprets them in her body. Kara is warm and solid and smells like an unfamiliar but fascinating mixture of fruity shampoo and men’s deodorant, and after a while she’s so attuned to Kara that she can hear the uptick in her heartbeat just before she speaks again.

“I looked you up, you know. When I got you as my partner.”

Lena’s stomach drops. She stumbles, her feet slipping off of Kara’s, and Kara manages to catch her just before she falls on her ass.

“Woah! Careful. You good?”

“I’m fine,” Lena says, waving off Kara’s concern. She shakes out her hands, shifting from foot to foot and feeling suddenly self-conscious about the last few minutes. “I just wasn’t expecting to be Googled.”

“What, you didn’t Google me as soon as the pairings were announced?” Kara says, setting her hands on her hips with a cocky, knowing expression. Lena glares at her.

“What did you find about me, exactly?” Lena says, artfully shifting the subject. They’re not dancing close anymore, and somehow not being pressed against Kara makes her feel more vulnerable than she did before. Having the details of her life available for anyone to peruse through news articles is one of the worst parts of taking over L-Corp, and having Kara privy to that information is even worse than the general public.

What did she find? My psychopathic brother? The news articles calling me a heartless shrew?

“I found videos of your fencing championships.”

If Lena had been asked to make a list of the most likely things for Kara to say, that would have been dead last.

“I didn’t mean to be creepy,” Kara says immediately, holding her hands up in surrender. “We’re encouraged to learn about our partners so we can gauge what they can do. And I’ve seen the way you move. You’re insanely graceful.”

“Fencing is completely different,” Lena argues, crossing her arms. Kara mirrors her posture.

“It really isn’t. It’s all about being aware of your body, having control of your movements down to the minute details,” Kara says, entirely too reasonably. “Reflexes and instincts. You have all of that! All you need is to direct it to something different. You need to find the emotion in your body, and let it out.”

“I don’t have emotions in my body,” Lena grumbles, already feeling herself relent to Kara’s logic. “Or rhythm.”

“You move like water, Lena,” Kara says, with such soft, genuine admiration that it takes a sledgehammer to Lena’s resolve. She can feel it crumbling with every moment spent here, with every compliment paid with no ulterior motive. “It’s beautiful. Truly. I think you can do this. All you need is a little guidance and some confidence.”

Kara holds out a hand.  

It’s a gentle invitation. A request for Lena to make a choice – commit fully, or walk away. Kara’s face betrays nothing, and Lena drums her fingers on her arms, gnawing at her lip before she remembers what Sam always tells her about skin damage. Her crossed arms are a wall, a defensive barrier against Kara’s relentless optimism, and when she finally unfolds them and reaches out a hesitant hand that optimism shines through again in Kara’s smile.

As soon as their hands touch Kara spins her confidently one, two, three times and ends it in their starting position, right hand raised and joined with Lena’s and her left on Lena’s waist.

“Tango is all in the hips and legs,” Kara says without skipping a beat, her breath warm on Lena’s face. It smells like cinnamon gum, spicy and sweet. “It’s partly about precision, getting your footwork right, but it’s also about being fluid. Sexy. We need to show everyone how hot we are, through movement.”

“Speak for yourself,” Lena scoffs, adjusting her feet to the position Kara showed her earlier. When she manages to sort it out without help, Kara beams.

“Hey! You’re like, the hottest person I’ve ever met. You just need to tap into that on stage.”

Lena has never been more grateful to jump back into the routine right away, purely so that her second vicious blush of the day can more easily be blamed on exertion.

Kara never ends up bringing Imra back. She spends the rest of the morning working on Lena’s hip movement until Lena can manage it without guidance. Every time Kara spins or dips her without breaking a sweat, Lena feels it in her whole body; they manage to get a solid third of the routine without major stumbles, at least, but in that time Lena also gets to experience the uncomfortable and unrelenting force of Kara’s vocal approval of her progress.

Lena is still reeling from it when they leave for the day; and almost as soon as they lock up the studio room the simmering heat of the afternoon turns to ice in Lena’s veins.

“Lena?”

Lena had hoped, perhaps naïvely, that she might be able to get through this experience without actually having to speak to Andrea. They parted on the worst possible terms almost 10 years ago, and it was shortly afterwards that Lena made a promise to herself not to let people close enough to hurt her that badly. It’s bad enough accidentally flipping past her news channel sometimes – seeing her here, 10 years older but in the flesh and looking elegant in spotlessly clean and sweat-free workout clothes, is much worse.

“Andrea,” Lena says, her voice far more confident than she feels as she turns slowly towards the stairwell where Andrea is descending. “I heard you were cast, as well. Congratulations.”

Andrea smiles, taking the last few stairs and coming close enough that Lena thinks for a moment that she might actually try to hug her. She stops before she gets in arm’s reach, thankfully, but the threat remains. “What are the chances, right?”

“Right,” Lena says stiffly.

A terrible silence descends on the hallway, and Andrea’s partner – James Olsen, Lena remembers from the media release – seems hesitant on whether he should leave without her. He hovers near the stairs going down, sharing a confused look with Kara.

“It’s really good to see you,” Andrea says, her hands twisting together in a familiar way. “You look great.”

Lena knows that she in fact looks like she’s been working out all day, and she quirks a brow. Andrea always was a good liar. It’s the reason they broke up, after all.

“Thanks.”

Andrea takes a step forward. “You know, I’d love to catch up. Maybe we could grab coffee after rehearsal?”

Involuntarily, Lena tenses. Andrea seems to notice – she stops in her tracks, rather than coming any closer – but so does Kara, coming in close behind Lena and putting a gentle hand on her lower back. Rather than make her feel claustrophobic it actually makes Lena feel better to have Kara near, backing her up even though she has no idea what the situation is, and with a renewed strength Lena shrugs.

“Things are a little chaotic right now, with the show and everything. Maybe another time?”

Andrea looks disappointed, but she nods and takes her leave – but not without a long, appraising look at Kara. Once she’s out of earshot Kara lets out a long, low whistle, stepping back and giving Lena space again.

“Old friend?” Kara asks quietly, once Andrea’s footsteps have disappeared. Lena sighs, pinching the bridge of her nose.

“Ex.”

“Ah,” Kara says, nodding. She looks in the direction Andrea disappeared in, her brow furrowing. “That’s…intimidating.”

“Intimidating?”

“Oh, I just imagine she…I mean, she seemed a little territorial,” Kara stammers, her voice suddenly erratic. She seems uncharacteristically thrown off by the question, and Lena can’t imagine why. “It would probably be intimidating to be your – you know what, nothing. I don’t know why I said that. I take it things didn’t end well?”

Kara heads for the stairs, rubbing at the back of her flushed neck. Lena follows.

“That’s an understatement,” Lena admits. “Things ended…explosively.”

“Oof,” Kara winces. She takes the stairs two at a time again but waits for Lena at each landing, leaning against the railing while Lena takes them at her usual pace. “It must be hard to see her, then. At least I’m friends with all my exes. Work would really suck if I wasn’t.”

“Work?” Lena says, pausing on the last stair. “Have you dated people on the show?”

“A few.”

Who?”

“James and I dated long before we were ever hired together,” Kara says, ticking off one finger. “But we didn’t end up having much chemistry, so it ended pretty amicably. And then there was Mike,” she continues, holding up a second, “right at the beginning. That was a huge mistake. He’s much better as a friend.”

Kara pauses to dig her bike out of the janitor’s closet, and Lena descends the last stair with a sinking heart. She doesn’t want to assume anything, of course, but Kara has listed only men. It’s not like Lena has any intention – let alone any chance – of ever dating Kara, but somehow the idea of her not being interested in women at all is a devastating one.

“And more recently I dated Lucy,” Kara continues once she’s emerged from the closet with her bike over her shoulder, to Lena’s great and confusing relief. “But she ended up being really into James. We tried the poly thing for a while, but it wasn’t really for me. They’re super happy together now, though, so it worked out.”

Professional relationship, Lena tells herself as Kara buckles her adorable tie-dye bike helmet. Strictly professional.

“Does the whole cast inter-date like that?” Lena asks, trying to keep the obvious interest out of her voice. Kara chuckles.

“Pretty much. Except Kelly, she’s married to my sister Alex.”

Kara pushes the front door open with the wheel of her bike, holding it for Lena and walking her to her waiting town car just like yesterday.

“Is Alex a dancer?” Lena asks, wanting childishly to extend the conversation even when it’s at its natural end. Even when she’s going to spend all day every day with Kara for an unspecific amount of time. Kara, at least, seems willing to humor her – she shakes her head, swinging a leg over her bike.

“She’s the stage manager. You’ll meet her once we start dress rehearsals. See you tomorrow?”

“Bright and early,” Lena chimes, before Kara can get to it. Kara laughs. It’s infectious, that laugh, full-bodied and loud, and Lena feels almost as accomplished for bringing it out as she did when she took over L-Corp.

“Bright and early. Try to wear something with a little more texture tomorrow, if you can – spandex is hard to keep a grip on during the lifts.”

With an enthusiastic wave Kara takes off into the sunset, leaving Lena standing next to her town car wrestling with the word lifts. Tomorrow, Kara will be lifting her bodily into the air.

The second Lena crosses the threshold of her room, she leaves her sticky clothes on the floor and steps directly into an ice-cold shower.