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Love language

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It takes a while for Lena to really learn Kara's love language, even after they admitted to their feelings for each other.  

She has no simple dictionary on hand, there are no detailed instructions. Kara doesn’t follow codified Kryptonian customs – Lena could consult a database on those.

And suppose a Rosetta stone existed, it wouldn’t be enough to unravel the intricacies of her syntax of affection: Lena lacks the tools for understanding and she’s too proud to simply ask

Her own lexicon is barebones. Stunted by years of neglect and a fairly troubled youth. Poisoned by Lex’s own distorted love, which years of therapy have taught Lena had been no love at all, but just abuse. 

But she tries, she does her best and, eventually, Kara’s patterns of behavior begin to make some sense. 

She won’t deny things are tough sometimes. That she fears her heart’s soil is too barren, too desertic for substantial progress to take root. Maybe she’s defective, and it’s not that she needs time to learn what Kara’s inadvertently been trying to teach her. 

She can’t.

The moment Lena begins to grasp the structure of this new and puzzling language comes shortly after they’ve become officially engaged. The gala is like a thousand others she’s attended, but the first since Kara shared her secret with the world. The butterflies inside her stomach could be traced to that then, but Lena knows it’s also the idea of people seeing them wearing matching rings.

So, when upon exiting the car she notes that Kara’s hand is bare, Lena’s already fragile heart  bleeds sand. She says nothing of it the entire night, smiles brightly for the cameras. Acts as though nothing odd has happened. but inside she’s weathered down by doubt. Perhaps Kara doesn’t like the ring’s style, she maybe just forgot to slip it on. Or Lena acted too soon, impulsive in her efforts to learn love’s basic grammar. 

It’s after they’ve come home, while she’s scraping the bottom of her heart for the courage to speak up that the nature of the matter is revealed.  

Kara stands in front of the mirror in their bedroom tie undone, the buttons of her dress shirt open halfway to her navel. She bends down to untie her shoes and that’s how Lena sees it. A narrow chain dangling from her neck, and strung on it, the ring she gave her. 

“You wore the ring.” The salt of inexplicable tears prickles at her eyes. “I didn’t see it and I thought—”

“Of course I wore it.” Quick to react as always, Kara wraps her up in a tight hug. “I prefer it if it sits next to my heart.” They pull apart and she ducks her head shyly, pink shading her cheeks. “I hope you don’t mind.”

“Oh.” Lena had completely failed to think of that. “I don’t,” she resumes, fingers drawn to the simple band of white gold by a pull more irresistible than gravity. Because of the unobstructed contact with Kara’s bare skin, the metal is hot. “I love it, actually.”

She loves the gentle brush of metal even better later. Kara is on top of her three fingers deep, and she’s absorbing her first lesson.

Learning a language properly doesn’t stop at the books — you need to listen to it closely, and then you need to practice it a lot .

***

Lena gets home late one night to find Kara in the kitchen, expression forlorn.

“Kara?” She asks gently, when her girlfriend doesn’t stir. “Is everything okay?”

“I’m hungry.” Kara says eventually, picking at her fingers. “I’m just… starving, you know?”

Then eat something would be the obvious answer. But there’s nothing logical about the way Kara’s staring at the fridge, mired in indecision. It happens sometimes, if she’s too tired, or her day has been particularly hard. Even the simplest of tasks becomes difficult, insurmountable. Kara knows what she wants, but is incapable of getting it.

Lena has no idea whether it’s Kara’s senses being overstimulated, or simply how her brain is wired. It doesn’t matter.

“Why don’t you pick something from the list?” She suggests, pointing her in the direction of the whiteboard where the morning I love you she left there before heading to work is still scribbled in red. “I don’t mind cooking for you.”

“Are you sure?’ The only source of light is the flickering blue glow of the TV coming from the next room, but Lena knows that Kara’s blushing. She hears it in her voice. “It’s late.”

“I’m sure. Besides, something came up with the foundation today, and I didn’t get a chance to eat.” That’s a bit of a lie. Lena did munch on a salad before she headed home. But if it’ll help Kara not feel guilty about making food this late, then she’s more than happy to bend the truth a little.

“Okay.” Even though she knows it by heart, Kara spends a few moments scanning the list, lips shaping silently around each item. “If you’re sure it isn’t too much trouble.”

“I’m sure, I promise.”

Lena pecks her cheek, leaving her to sort out the food while she changes into more comfortable clothes. The list is her idea, one she’s pretty proud of to be honest. Coming up with it felt like finally understanding a key part of Kara’s inner vocabulary. It’s simple foods that require basic ingredients and little to no prep, but Kara told her they feel safe whenever the simple act of deciding what to eat stresses her out.

Lena has always been of the mindset that mac’n cheese sounds good only if it’s made from scratch, that the sole acceptable version of a grilled cheese is the one found inside gastropubs, but in her effort to learn all the ways Kara expresses love – for herself too – she has adapted.

“I think I’ll go with grilled cheese and tomato soup tonight.” Kara announces the moment Lena returns to the kitchen. “Oh, and popcorn, for the movie.”

“Alright.” Rolling her sleeves up, Lena opens one of the overhead cabinets, pulling out some of the ingredients. Kara joins her at the sink to wash her hands, and for a beat all is quiet. The kind of silence that doesn’t want for words.

“You know it’s okay if you don’t have the spoons to help, don’t you?” Lena offers, as Kara grabs a pan and sets it on the stove. “I’ve got this.”

“I know I don’t have to.” A wide smile makes Kara’s eyes crinkle up and almost disappear. “But I want to.”

Unbidden, Lena smiles back. Maybe she’s getting a hang of this new language after all.

***

Lena doesn’t complain as Kara bridal-carries her into the shower. She’s not hurt beyond an insistent ringing in her ears, but she is exhausted. Her head feels too heavy, her body carved from lead. 

By now Lena should be used to people trying to kill her, but it’s been almost a year since the last attempt. She’d almost forgotten how it is. To survive. Pick herself up, brush it off, draw a first shaky breath and confirm that, yes, she’s indeed still alive. 

It’s her head breaking water after she’s been stuck too long under the surface. It’s light and sound and concerned voices assaulting her senses, and Lena desperately trying to make sense of what happened and where she is. And then, as always, Kara scoops her up without a word — an island of silence in the midst of all that chaos — to take her home.

“I’m going to undress you, okay?” 

Lena’s eyes slide closed, and she makes a noise of agreement against Kara’s chest. They both smell of smoke, and beyond the darkness of her eyelids she feels the pressure of the flames. The heat. 

Kara puts her down, pinning her to the cool tile with her own bodyweight. Lena is grateful. She doesn’t think she would be able to stand on her own. It’s the waning phase left by adrenaline —  right after the explosion everything was sharp, her senses prodded into overdrive by the spike of chemicals flooding her bloodstream. With that gone, the world is gray. Drab. And she is listless. 

The bathroom is warm, but as her clothes are removed she can’t suppress a shiver. There’s the chill of the shower tiles at her back, and a cold that reaches down into her bones. Numbling, it makes Lena has the impression that she’s stepped outside the confines of her body. She’s floating, directionless, blackness closing in on all sides.

“I’m going to turn the water on.” 

Kara’s gentle murmur in her ear is followed by the sound of the jetstream pattering over them both. Refusing to open her eyes, Lena tilts her head in the direction of the water, letting it rush down her cheeks, her chin. Swell like the tide in her mouth. She doesn’t wince, not even when it burns a bit too hot for comfort.

She welcomes the sting. The slight pain tugs her back into herself, and as her skin reddens in the warm rain, Lena is ready to open her eyes again. Let the world back in. Let Kara.

“Hey.”

Kara doesn’t say anything else. She waits. For Lena to be able to talk, to move, do more than blink water from her eyes. Her face is worried, Lena can tell from the lines of tension around her eyes that she's so badly trying to hide, but it softens as soon as their eyes meet. 

She’s the most solid thing Lena’s seen all evening, so sinking into her arms is natural and obvious. The best thing she can do. 

“Hey.” She croaks, throat scratchy from the smoke she accidentally inhaled. “You’re still clothed.”

“Yeah.” Kara grins, a little flustered, a little cheeky, and the lines around her eyes deepen with mirth. “Figured it was more important to get you out of yours.” 

Ash left grayish smears across her brow, and Lena reaches out, rubbing a thumb at the spot until it’s clean. More ash flecks Kara’s hair, and Lena’s own discarded clothes, a crumpled pile at their feet, bleed detritus into the shower drain.

“Can I clean you up, please?” 

It dawns on Lena then that Kara’s not stopped taking her in. It isn’t sexual, her gaze roaming the length of Lena’s exposed body. She’s searching for an injury, a scratch, and the need etched on her feature is of reassurance.

“Please.” All of a sudden, it’s not simply water Lena’s blinking from her eyes. “I don’t think I can manage alone.” 

She’s come so close to dying, this time. So damn close. The memory the water had diluted returns to her in flashes. The explosion. Parts of her car flying. The sprinklers inside the parking lot pouring a mix of water and fire retardant foam onto the fire. Her lungs struggle, and she chokes on a spine-wrecking sob, attempting without success to control her breathing. She can’t stop crying, can’t stop trying to gulp down air. But her lungs won’t fill, and her breaths come out too quick — she can’t slow down their rhythm.

“It’s okay.” She’s vaguely aware that Kara’s shut the water off and is lathering her up with soap. A floral scent colors the space between them — the mellow sweetness of chamomile — and Lena’s heart decelerates. “I’ve got you, alright? I’m going to wash your hair too.”

All Lena can do is nod.

Kara’s hands on her are slow and grounding. If she needs Lena to shift — lift her arms over her head, turn around so that she can spread soap onto her back — Kara is sure to let her know what’s happening. Lena feels so fucking fragile being the center of somebody’s world this way, yet it doesn’t trigger her defences. She could tell Kara there’s no cuts, no scrapes she needs to tend to, but Lena’s rather enjoying the careful walk of Kara’s fingers along her ribs, how she prods ever so lightly, seeking out damage. 

Kara finally discovers a bruise on Lena’s thigh she herself hadn’t even noticed and her eyebrows knot into a frown. 

“Does it hurt?” She asks, bending down to get a better look. Her fingers skim the surface of the bruise, tracing the skin’s discoloration. 

Lena flinches. 

“No.” She lies. 

“Really?” Kara touches it again, a bit harder. It’s a big bruise all along her inner thigh. She has no clue how it got there, but is certain she will feel it everytime she moves for the next couple of weeks.

“A little.” Kara pulls back, and she releases a shuddering breath. “More than a little, I guess.”

“Okay.” Reaching for the water valve, Kara switches the water back on. It’s freezing to begin with, but then the boiler kicks in and it heats up as warm as before. “Let's rinse you off. We can put some ointment on it after you’re dry.”

“Thank you.” Dutifully, Lena steps under the shower head, watching soap and grime run in a slow melt down the soft planes of her body. 

It’s nice to be taken care of this way. Lena’s so unused to it that Kara’s unprompted kindness still takes her wholly by surprise. And part of her can’t help but fear she doesn’t deserve it. That she’s a burden, a waste of Kara’s time. A danger. Next time someone tries to kill her, Kara can end up hurt too.

“I can finish off by myself.” She says, substantiating all of her insecurities. “And the ointment too, while you shower. You don’t have to—”

“Hush.” Kara whispers, fingers closing around her chin to prevent her from looking away. “None of that, now.” She lets her go, but rests their foreheads together, noses brushing. “I want to take care of you. It’s not a chore.”

“But—”

“No buts.” Kara interrupts. “Let me? Please?” 

Lena doesn't have it in her to refuse, not when a pleading note enters her voice.

"Alright." Kara smiles, brilliant, and the oppressive weight of guilt partly lifts from Lena's chest. 

It doesn't take long for the soapy water to gurgle into a vortex at the bottom of the shower. Kara uses a soft rag to collect stray suds, then sets it aside to weave shampoo through Lena's waterlogged hair. The soot from the fire matted it in places, but Kara uses her fingers to comb through it, approaching every knot her hands get snagged on with quiet determination.

It's focused work that Lena would find daunting, if she had to tend to it herself. But Kara doesn't seem intimidated by the task: her fingers tug methodically at the tangle of Lena's hair, mindful not to hurt her scalp, carding every inch until she can run her hands through it without meeting resistance. 

For nearly an hour Kara works on her, erasing every mark the attack left behind from her hair and from her skin. The doubts that have been residing inside her chest since forever, planted there first by Lillian and later on nurtured by Lex, are rinsed from her heart too, and although Lena knows it’s going to take more than a few dollops of soap, she comes out the other side of it less burdened. Cleansed, not only physically, and tipsy on relief. She’s alive, she made it out mostly unscathed. 

She’s allowed to find some pride in her resilience.

Even after all the soap has been washed away, Kara keeps touching her. Her hands map Lena’s soft curves as if Kara’s intent is to memorize her, and there’s an urgency behind it, a hunger in her eyes. 

“Lena…” She breathes, blue eyes darting to her lips. She doesn’t need to add anything else. 

The elation of survival is double-faced. With it comes the realization of how close Lena has come to lose all that she holds dear. People tried to have her killed since before Kara entered her life, but back then her heart had been work-absorbed and joyless. She had been scared, of course, but mostly her fear was tied to leaving things unfinished. Now, the terror runs deeper — it’s not about her projects or her goals, but about her people.

Lena raises a hand — trembling, dripping with water — to the side of Kara’s face. It curls easy around the line of her jaw, as it’s done a hundred thousand times before, but it feels different, somehow. There’s a hum of energy between them, a tension that remains unspoken . Lena reads it in the way Kara’s breath stutters, in how she fights her eyes fluttering shut. Not wanting to lose a second of what’s about to happen.

“Kara.” A visceral kind of need squeezes around her heart, making it beat faster, and hearing her call out must be what Kara has been waiting for, because she lunges forward for a demanding kiss. It hurts, but maybe that’s the only way to exorcize the horror in their hearts — using their tongues and the sharpness of teeth to reassure the other they’re still here, still standing. To tell death; not this time, not ever.

Lena’s hand hasn’t lifted from her cheek, and Kara covers it with her own, lacing their fingers together. She cradles it, and bringing it to her lips, scatters gentle kisses first across the knuckles then feather-light in the dip of her wrist. Her tongue draws deliberate patterns along the creases of Lena’s skin, tickling the most sensitive spots, and she can’t stop a snort of brittle, surprised laughter spilling from her lips. 

“Rao, I was so afraid.” Kara’s voice is a whisper so low the words are spelled out against the back of Lena’s hand rather than said out loud. “When I heard the first explosion, I thought— I should have been there. I should do more to protect you.”

“You do enough.” Their mouths meet again, not so rough. “You always do.”

Kara doesn’t reply. She threads shaking fingers through her hair, their mouths slotted perfectly together. Pulls Lena closer, closer, closer , like she wants to sink beneath her skin , licking at the seam of her lips to be allowed entry, then sucking on Lena’s tongue till every last molecule of oxygen is wicked out of her lungs. Lena’s own teeth catch desperate on Kara’s bottom lip, biting, tugging, begging for a little bit of air to be let in.

And then it’s done. Lena can breathe again, except her head is spinning so fast the world around them is a carousel. Except that she can’t breathe, not when Kara isn’t pressing her into the wall. Not if their sole point of contact is Kara’s fingers twined with hers, and she’s left wanting so much more.  

“Kara.” The back of her head thuds against the tile, so hard that all she sees is flashing white. “I need—” Her free hand scrambles for something to hold on to. Kara’s bicep, the front of her suit. Everything is too wet though, and Lena’s fingers can’t find purchase. 

“I’ve got you.” Kara’s hands roam to her hips, steadying her. “I have you, Lena.” She says it in the hollow of her neck, repeats it against her collarbone. Then lower.

It takes a moment for Lena to realize that Kara’s dropping to her knees, and she does so with a soft gasp of disbelief.

She stares, mouth hanging open, as Kara’s hands progress down her thighs. A shudder shakes her spine in response to Kara’s touch, but it’s nothing compared to the sensation that shoots directly to her core the instant Kara’s lips brush a path across her inner thigh. It should hurt, to have Kara insistently tracing the bruising with her tongue, but every open-mouthed kiss drips molten gold on Lena’s skin. She’s burning up, and the slight discomfort of Kara’s teeth grazing over the injury only accelerates the throb that started up between her legs.

She understands now why Kara fought so hard not to close her eyes. She too wants to commit all this to memory, drink in the sight of Kara — pupils blown, hair cascading down her shoulder in a heavy wave of honey-gold — as her avid mouth strays ever closer to the place where a dusk of curls gives into her cunt. 

When Kara’s lips ghost a slow drag over her folds, Lena’s nerve endings come alive, and she forgets herself enough to whimper. Not even a proper touch yet; just Kara’s breath painting lines of heat over her center, but it’s too much.

Too much water, too much heat, the tiles at her back not cool enough to temper it. 

“Please.” She whines, low in her throat, and her hips buck, chasing the silk of Kara’s mouth. “Please, won’t you just—”

The remainder of the sentence dies in a strangled groan. Kara leans in, the tip of her tongue pressed firmly to Lena’s swollen clit, and despite all of her efforts, for a few agonized moments her eyes shut.

“Oh, God!” Clamping a hand over her mouth, Lena swallows back a moan, feeling Kara grin as it vibrates down her body anyway. Her tongue doesn’t stop moving; broad strokes and tighter, focussed swirls that have Lena see in monochromes or not at all. Kara traces lazy circles around the tip of Lena’s clit, and when her hips start rolling, seeking even more contact, Kara slips lower. Teasing at her opening.

“Fuck!” One of her feet slips and she has to slam a hand into the wall at her back to keep her balance. Her voice, lower than she's ever heard it, bounces oddly around the enclosed space of the shower. “Fuck, Kara!” 

It’s a different kind of stimulation from that of Kara’s fingers. Softer, but no less intense. Perhaps more intimate. Kara licks inside her, shifts to meet every frantic roll of her hips, and doesn’t seem to care about the ropes of slick running down her chin to stain the emblem on her suit.

Lena can’t take it any more. Unrelenting pressure builds at the base of her spine, and it will surely shatter if not given an out. A million ivory shards, exploding outward in the same manner of a tree split apart by lightning.

Hand falling to the top of Kara’s head, Lena winds her fingers in her hair, gripping hard, pulling her closer just as the initial shock of release breaks over her. It’s messy and loud; she loses control and Kara’s face ends up all but buried in her cunt. And Kara’s other hand is— it’s— it rubs furious strokes between her own thighs, through the fabric of her suit, and oh shit , Lena can hear how soaked she is.

It throws her into a second peak, right on the tail of the first. 

Things blur after that. Lena’s universe narrows to a collage of  over-exposed snapshots. There's the symphony of their ragged breathing, steam and other liquid sounds. The weight of Kara’s arm, possessive around her hip, and Kara’s whimpered Lena at the crux of her thighs, when she, too, comes undone.

“We might need another shower.” Lena jokes, once her legs have stopped seizing and she finds that she can talk. “Don’t you think?” 

“Yeah.” Kara doesn’t need her help to stand, but accepts it nonetheless, and it is obvious from how their fingers are still entwined, that she's loath to let her go. “Let me—” She means to make the water hotter, but accidentally turns the knob the other way. 

Icy jets hit Lena squarely in the face, and she shrieks, sputtering and breathless.

“Oh, Rao , I’m so sorry!” Kara flips them around, so that she’s the one standing directly under the downpour. “Are you okay? Lena?”

She coughs, wheezing as the water goes from freezing to lukewarm, and nods her head. The surprise dunk sucker-punched her right into the solar plexus, and it’s several moments before she can pull in a breath. Too soon for words.

“Hey, did you know that a sperm whale can hold its breath underwater for close to 90 minutes? Beavers for 15.” 

The question is so anticlimactic, the random bit of trivia so removed from what has just transpired that Lena’s brain trips over itself to make sense of it. 

“Wha— What?”

“Humans, however, generally last only 2 minutes.” Kara goes on. “But I’m saying, my stamina is better. Y’know, in case you want me to go down on you inside the bathtub next time.” She tilts her head to the Jacuzzi in the opposite corner. 

“So what you’re saying,” Lena pauses to wring excess water from her hair. “What you’re saying is you have more stamina than a sperm whale?”

“Can you come without taking a break for an hour and a half?” Kara smiles broadly, eyebrows quirked, and Lena feels herself grow flush.

Fair enough. 

(Sometimes, the grammar of Kara’s love language is so difficult Lena struggles with its present tense, but at least she learns a couple extra things about sperm whales in the process.)

***

It’s harder to translate Kara’s love language for others.

“I don’t get it,” Alex says, the first Game Night after Valentine’s day. It’s late, and they are all too tipsy and tired to play any more board games. Around the kitchen table only Lena, Alex and Kelly still remain. The others have drifted off to different corners of Lena’s penthouse, aside from J’onn and Kara who headed out for a midnight slice of pizza.  

“When Kara told me you were taking a few days off I imagined she’d planned a romantic getaway.” Alex picks up a dice they forgot to put away and idly rolls it between thumb and forefinger. She squints down at the dots painted on each face as though she’s seeing double the amount. “Maybe a weekend in Paris since you still have a private jet. But you’re telling me you didn’t do anything? Nothing at all?” Her expression is one of disbelief.

“We spent the whole weekend together.” Lena pours herself another glass of wine, sighing as warmth pervades her with the first sip. She shifts in her seat, leaning against the backrest. It’ll be a draining conversation, she can already tell. “You know we rarely get to do that.” 

A non-profit organization is surprisingly hard to run, and between that, the consulting she occasionally does for Sam and Kara’s own commitments, they rarely get a full weekend to themselves. There’s no better gift, in her opinion, than spending time with Kara.

“Yes.” Alex gestures, knocking over her own glass. It’s empty, but Kelly reaches out and moves it a safe distance away from her flailing arms. “But you stayed home. Valentine’s Day is supposed to be about restaurant dates, and candlelight and-“

“I think that depends on the people involved, love.” Kelly interrupts. “For some Valentine’s Day isn’t that important.”

“Capitalistic considerations aside, it’s not that we didn’t do anything.” Lena throws in. "I finished the book that's been on my nightstand for months, and Kara finally captured Arceus."

“Hold on.” Alex leans both of her elbows on the table, looking like a cop out of a low-budget crime show. “You’re telling me, you stayed home, and you did nothing? Didn’t even-“ She wiggles her fingers suggestively, and Lena blushes, thankful that Kara’s sister is still sober enough not to complete the sentence. “That’s— it’s—“

“It’s called parallel play.” Brainy cuts in, appropriating an empty chair. “It’s when two people engage in different activities while sharing a space. Most commonly recorded in children, but—“

“Please no lectures.” Alex groans, resting her head on the pillow of her arms. “So you sit there and ignore each other? I really don't understand it.”

“You don’t have to.”

As long as it works out for her and Kara, nobody else does.

***

“So? Do you like it?”

Kara’s weight shifts to the balls of her feet, and she’s practically vibrating with anticipation.

Lena smiles.

“It’s beautiful, darling.” The rock shimmers in the golden light of late-ish afternoon, now blue-green, now swirling gold. The shift of color is hypnotic, and it’s hard to look away. “I can’t believe the Adai don’t sell or trade it, though. It must have some value.” It’s gorgeous, that’s for sure.

“Well, their rules don’t allow it.” Kara is in constant motion as she explains. Tugging at her fingers, flapping her hands. Hopping from foot to foot. It happens every time she’s feeling particularly strongly about something, even though it took a lot of observation on Lena’s part to connect the dots. “They believe that the colors in the rock are a physical representation of a soul. That’s why it was clear before you touched it.”

Lena places the chunk of rock on the table and the whirlpool of color in its depths slows, but doesn’t fade. “So, would it change if you picked it up?”

“Oh, no.” Kara give an adamant shake of the head. “It sort of…err… bonds? With the first person it comes in contact with. That’s why I had you open the box. I didn’t want to touch it, by accident.”

Lena runs a single finger over the stone’s smooth surface, and the green intensifies beating in time with her heart. “It’s…” She stops, not sure she should say what’s on her mind, and of course Kara takes it the wrong way.

“You don’t like it.” She grabs the chain around her neck and twirls it between nervous fingers. “I should have listened to Alex’s suggestion about anniversary gifts. I’m so sorry, Lena. I’ll do better. I-“

“Darling, slow down.” There’s but one surefire way to yank Kara out of her rambling, which is to take a hold of her face, and plant a kiss on the tip of her nose. “You said anniversary? It’s not our anniversary today…”

“It's been two years since you rescued me from the Phantom Zone.” Kara explains, sounding small. “I don’t think I ever properly thanked you, so I thought-“

“Kara.” Lena draws her into a heartfelt hug. “You thank me every day just by being you.”

“Yeah?” As the thought strikes true, Kara’s eyes widen. “Then what did you wanna say? You can tell me.”

“It’s silly.” Lena turns back to the table, because it will be too difficult to say what she’s about to with Kara peering into her face. “But when you mentioned souls… I guess I’ve always thought that if mine had a color it’d be black.” She shrugs resigned, waiting for Kara to agree.

“Well, that is silly.” Lena’s breath catches in her throat, but she’s not allowed the space for a reply. Arms bronzed by sunlight circle her waist, and she leans back into solid warmth, eyes squeezed shut against a sudden wave of tears. Kara hooks her chin to Lena’s shoulder, smiling into the shell of her ear. “You have the most colorful soul I know.” Taking both of Lena’s hands, she guides them to carefully cup around the rock. The colors within grow to a near unbearable brightness. “I hope my gift will help you see it.”

***

It is the start of a very strange collection.

Kara brings her other rocks, empty seashells from the shore. Pressed flowers from the desert, and a hunk of vitrified sand from when she volunteered to help clear the debris after a volcanic eruption.

Each of them, Lena suspects, is tied to a different anniversary, but she doesn’t ask. Sometimes, she likes to guess though, and she is often right. It’s little things: their first trip to Italy, or Lena finally learning to swim, but some of the occurrences date back in time, to the halcyon days of their friendship.

Kara’s been holding on to these odds and ends for years, waiting for the right moment to give them to Lena.  

Three days into their honeymoon, while they’re wandering among the enclosures in the Seattle Zoo, Lena pauses by a birdcage, something on the ground drawing her eye.

“Hey Kara!” She has to jog to catch up to her wife, who has wandered ahead to gawk at the penguins. “Here.”

“For me?” Kara plucks the peacock feather from her fingers reverently, as though she’s handling something sacred. “You found this for me?”

“It’s as blue as your eyes.” Lena squirms, and the tips of her ears burn red. “ I figured we could maybe start your own collection.”

Kara beams then, so bright that it is painful, and Lena knows she’s not just trying to speak her language anymore.

She’s getting good .