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a very common crisis

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Lena Luthor walks into her office at seven o’clock in the morning to find a twenty-something blue-eyed blonde with a face men would go to war for already there waiting for her. She’s wearing a crumpled white shirt with the sleeves rolled up to the elbows, and she is swinging around aimlessly in Lena’s office chair.

“Hello,” Lena says, followed closely by, “Who the hell are you?”

She swears to God this better not be another assassination attempt, that would really screw up her day.

The blonde smiles like an alley cat who has just found a new spot to piss in and says, “I’m Kara Zor-El. I’m your soulmate.”

Lena rolls her eyes, “Right,” she says, “Are you a journalist? Get out of my chair and my office before I call security.”

“I’m serious, I’ll prove it to you,” Kara insists, although, to be fair, she does get out of Lena’s chair. As Lena approaches to take back her rightful place at her desk in the building she owns, she notices that Kara Zor-El smells like fresh deodorant and stale alcohol. Great.

“You’re a drunk who somehow broke past this building’s impeccable security to harass Lena Luthor,” Lena rolls her eyes, tapping in her password to log in to her computer. Work never stops, not even for shoddy assassination attempts, after all.

Kara huffs, apparently genuinely offended by this accusation, “I got off my bartender shift three hours ago, then I bought your security guard a pack of cigarettes and he let me up here with a smile. Nice guy, you should give him a raise.”

Lena rolls her eyes and doesn’t respond, but she does type out a memo to herself: fire Gary in security, then she picks up her landline to actually call security

“Here,” Kara pulls her phone from her back pocket and taps on the screen, then thrusts it in front of Lena’s face. It shows a picture from the latest L-Corp press conference, Lena on stage at a podium in a sleeveless black blouse. Kara zooms in until the screen shows a close up of the tattoo on Lena’s shoulder: two sunflowers on a bed of lavender.

Lena is unable to fathom exactly what a tattoo she’s had since she was eighteen has to do with Kara Zor-El, but when she looks up Kara has taken her pants off.

“What the fuck?” Lena asks, and presses the speed dial button for security.

“Would you just look, please?” Kara says, frustrated, as though she is the one somehow being inconvenienced by this. She taps a toned thigh and Lena sees it. A tattoo, identical to Lena’s own in every detail – the shading, the linework, right down to the dropped yellow petal.

“Uh, hello?” Gary says on the other end of the phone, sounding as though he has just woken up, “Miss Luthor, I was just, um, guarding stuff and – “

Lena hangs up the phone.

Jess, her assistant, once told her that she knew she had found her soulmate when she visited her new next-door neighbour and found they had identically decorated living rooms, every tiny detail the same, down to the potted plants and the tacky Dunder Mifflin coffee mugs.

Winn, one of her research assistants, had once insisted on informing her that he knew he had found his soulmate when they realised their usernames in an online game were only different by one character while their passwords were identical, and that they had been accidentally logging in as each other for years.

Finding your soulmate means finding coincidences too big to be coincidences, the prevailing scientific theory holding that soulmates have matching neurological patterns in their brains that lead to similar decisions and emotional compatibility. But at forty-two and with one failed marriage already under her belt, Lena long ago convinced herself she would never find hers.

And this hasn’t changed her mind.

“Yes, attempt to scam National City’s most eligible billionaire by getting an identical tattoo,” Lena rolls her eyes, “Very clever.”

Thankfully, Kara pulls up her pants, “I thought you might say that, so I took the liberty of gathering some evidence.” She taps her phone a few more times and then shows it to Lena again, “This is my Tinder profile. See? Here’s me with the tattoo at Halloween,” Lena stares at a picture of Kara in a Wonder Woman costume, the tattoo very clearly visible. “And here’s me at the pool,” There is a picture of miles and miles of bronzed skin, and there on Kara’s thigh, the tattoo. “And here’s – oh, this is just me with one of those dog filters, that’s not relevant. Here’s one of me getting the tattoo.”

The final picture shows Kara when she can be no older than sixteen, her eyes bloodshot, in the middle of receiving a stick-and-poke tattoo from another teenager at a dirty house party. There is a bong in the foreground. It makes Lena shudder.

“You keep this photo on your Tinder profile?” she questions.

“Well, I uploaded that this morning, so I could show you,” Kara shrugs, “But I actually got six new matches since then, so I’ll probably keep it up.”

“Look,” Lena says carefully, pushing Kara’s phone gently back towards her. She hasn’t quite decided if Kara is insane, deluded, or both. “You are… what, twenty-five?”

“Twenty-three,” Kara says brightly, as though this helps her cause.

“You are barely out of college – “

“ – I dropped out of college, actually.”

“Please stop talking.” Lena pinches the bridge of her nose, feeling a headache beginning to form. “My point is that we are vastly different people. Even if these pictures aren’t photoshopped – which I’m still not convinced of, by the way – it’s just a coincidence. People have similar tattoos. There’s no possible way that we could be soulmates.”

Until now, Kara has been nothing but unrelentingly cheerful, persistent, and blonde, so it surprises Lena to see a flash of hurt in her eyes.

“Alright,” Kara says after a moment’s pause, deflated, “I’ll get out of your way then.”

Kara leaves with an only slightly cheerful ‘morning’ to Jess at her desk, and Jess stares after her before hurrying into Lena’s office a moment later. “Who was that? Did you hire and fire someone before I even arrived at work this morning?”

Lena snorts, “No, just a very peculiar fan. Can we go over my schedule for today, please?”

Jess nods with a smile, and Lena sinks into work. She will certainly not spend the rest of the morning thinking about Kara Zor-El, or the tattoo that was identical to her own.

***

It is warm and sunny outside of the L-Corp offices, and that only serves to make Kara more furious. She is a creature of the sun, loves to sit in it and soak it up like a happy little chlorophyll, and when she can’t properly enjoy it because she’s mad, that only makes her more mad. And then because she’s more mad, she enjoys the sun even less, which in turn makes her –

It's a whole thing, anyway.

The worst part about today though is that she’s only really angry with herself. Angry for getting so excited about this, angry for assuming someone like Lena Luthor would want anything to do with her, and angry that she’s too broke to afford the cab fare home when she remembers there’s a city-wide bus strike.

She sits tiredly at the bus stop anyway and leans her head against the glass of the shelter, with no ideas on how she can get home and exhaustion tugging at her eyelids after her all-nighter.

It’s not unheard of for soulmates to take a while to get together, she thinks numbly – Nia and Brainy had been friends for years before Nia realised the title of his PhD thesis matched word for word with the opening lines of some Steve Rogers/Bucky Barnes fanfiction she had written four years earlier. It still drags at her though, the disappointment after she had rushed to L-Corp that morning, certain she had finally found the person, finally found the one. She didn’t feel it though, even she has to admit that – the tingly, warm-and-fuzzy sensation that all the movies say is supposed to overtake your whole body. The soulmate bond.

With the sunlight warming her eyelids, she lets herself doze a little, and is only vaguely aware when a black Mercedes with tinted windows slows down next to her and then drives on. She isn’t even sure how long she’s been asleep when she’s shaken awake by Gary, the nice security guard from L-Corp, with his hair sticking up like he’s just been forced out of bed himself.

“Kara?” he says, stifling a yawn, “Miss Luthor called me after my shift this morning and told me I wouldn’t be fired as long as I drove you home.”

“Oh,” Kara says, squinting in the bright midday sunlight as she looks around groggily, trying to work out what the hell is happening, “Sorry I nearly got you fired, Gary.”

He shrugs, “Sorry Lena Luthor’s your soulmate.”

***

Lena Luthor has a very precise morning routine. She wakes at 5:30 AM and gets out of bed immediately, brushes her teeth, showers and dresses. She kisses her fingertips and presses them to the cold glass of the picture frame holding a photo of her mother, then sends one ‘good morning’ text over a cup of coffee. By 6:30 her driver is waiting outside to take her to L-Corp, and she reaches her desk ready to begin the day by 7:00 AM.

This morning, though, every part of her routine is disturbed. It is disturbed because she hits the snooze button on her alarm clock after a turbulent night’s sleep plagued with half-waking dreams of blonde hair and blue eyes.

It is disturbed because when she goes to press her fingertips to her mother’s picture, she is distracted by the photograph itself. She has had it by her bed for so many years that sometimes she overlooks the details, looks without really looking, and forgets that her mother is, of course, standing in a field of sunflowers, the same sunflowers that inspired the tattoo on her shoulder.

It is disturbed because when she walks into the lobby of L-Corp, Gary is there watching ‘The Office’ on his phone, and he nearly throws it in the air in his effort to hide it from her. He gives her a sheepish smile when she glares at him, and says, “Kara Zor-El delivered safely home, Miss Luthor. She’s really cool, you should give her a chance.”

All of this means that she doesn’t reach her desk until 7:30 AM, thirty minutes late to begin her day, and Jess is already waiting worriedly for her by the time she arrives.

“Miss Luthor, I was starting to think you were sick,” she says, but thankfully moves seamlessly onto business, “The reports you requested yesterday are on your desk, I’ve organised your itinerary for your Japan trip at the end of the month, and I hope you don’t mind but I took the liberty of rearranging the meeting with Morgan Edge until after lunch so you don’t have to deal with him on an empty stomach.”

Lena nods, grateful as always for ruthlessly efficient Jess, perhaps the only person in National City as dedicated to her work as Lena herself. “Thank you,” she tells her with a genuine smile.

Then she pauses, hesitant for a minute to broach a personal topic, but she doesn’t think Jess will mind. “You’ve told me before about meeting your soulmate. Did you ever consider that he might, perhaps, not be the person you were expecting to find?”

Jess’ eyebrows furrow, surprised by the change of subject, but she doesn’t question it, “Honestly, he was… more or less the complete opposite of what I was expecting to find. I’m glad I gave him a chance though, you only get one soulmate, you know?”

Lena nods, thoughtful for a second, then says, “Could you add one more thing to your to-do list for today, please? I need to run a background check on a Kara Zor-El.”

Jess smiles, a little too knowingly, and nods, “Of course, Miss Luthor.”

***

The Roulette Gentlemen’s Club has sticky floors and stain-proof furniture and occasional vomit to clean up, and Kara loves working here. Out of all the jobs she’s ever had (and she’s had a lot) bartending at Roulette has the best tips, best co-workers, and occasionally she gets to make out with a really hot dancer. What’s not to love?

And even if she didn’t love it, it would still be a relief to sink back into the easy routine of work after the disastrous Lena Luthor Incident. Four days have passed since then and she spent them drinking with Alex, swiping through Tinder matches and watching cheesy Hallmark movies about no-nonsense business bitches who meet their soulmates and learn to love again, so it feels good to finally get out of her own head. She bickers with Mike over whose turn it is to clean the bathrooms, she pours a shot for a nervous new dancer, she serves a million cocktails, and soon she finds herself lost in the familiar rhythm of it, her mind preoccupied with customer orders and the music blasting through the speakers, always another task to keep herself from thinking too hard.

And of course, that’s when Lena Luthor walks in.

It’s not that Kara has a thing for older women, exactly, it’s more that she has a thing for beautiful, influential older women. She has a thing for older women who look like they could fire you with one flick of an expensive pen, she has a thing for older women who can reduce the dull middle-aged men surrounding them to snivelling messes, she has a thing for powerful older women. So, when Lena walks in wearing a burgundy suit with the straight-backed posture of royalty and brandishing the grey hair at her temples like she earned it, it makes Kara a little weak at the knees.

Lena looks around the club with distaste until her eyes finally settle on Kara behind the bar, and she approaches slowly, as though she’s not quite sure what she’s doing here.

“Evening, soulmate,” Kara says as Lena reaches the bar. “Can I get you a drink?”

Lena shakes her head, “Can we talk?” she shouts, struggling to make herself heard over the music. Kara only nods, giving Mike a heads up that she’s taking her break, and leads Lena into one of the back rooms where the private lap dances are given. Lena wrinkles her nose at the gold leather sofa and perches herself gingerly on the arm of it, while Kara drops onto it without issue, pleased to be off her feet for a few minutes.

“I had a background check done on you,” Lena says, as though that explains exactly why she’s here.

“Oh,” Kara replies, attempting to judge how she feels about this. Is it flattering if someone goes to the effort of doing a background check on you? It feels sort of flattering. “Is that why a guy was digging through my trash?”

Lena nods, taking her phone from her pocket and beginning to scroll, “That would have been my private detective.”

“Terry’s a private detective?” Kara asks, impressed, “Cool, I thought he was just a pervert. Did you know he fought in Iraq?”

“Did you… talk to the man you thought was a pervert going through your trash?” Lena raises an eyebrow, as though this is somehow surprising.

“Sure, we had coffee,” Kara nods, “Perverts need friends too, Lena. So, what did he find in my trash?”

“Mostly just that you eat far too much take out. But the rest of the check did reveal a few interesting details,” Lena flashes Kara her phone to show an email with the subject line “Kara Zor-El” before she begins to read. “You were arrested once for trespassing – “

“It was an empty building,” Kara explains quickly, “I was homeless, it was freezing. They let me go with a fine for that one.”

“ – and once for possession of a controlled substance with an intent to sell,” Lena continues.

Kara pulls a face, “Well, yeah, I was selling some drugs for a while there. Only the chill drugs though, nothing really hardcore. And I was a minor, so I only did probation.”

“Right,” Lena eyes her carefully, “After that, you attended National City University for eighteen months before you dropped out, and you have been working an assortment of minimum wage jobs ever since. Those jobs include a hotel housekeeper, a door-to-door salesperson, a clown at children’s birthday parties, an Amazon warehouse operative, and finally,” Lena holds up a hand to gesture at the room around them, “Bartender at the Roulette Gentlemen’s Club.”

“Jeez,” Kara says, “How thorough was this background check?”

“Possibly not thorough enough since your records prior to your turning sixteen are sealed due to your age,” Lena says, tucking her phone back into her pocket, “However, the point I’m driving at is that despite some questionable life decisions, there is nothing in your past that suggests to me you’re a scam artist.” She considers Kara carefully for a moment and then sighs, “Can I see your tattoo again, please?”

“Oh, uh, yeah, sure,” Kara nods, beginning to unbutton her pants.

“I meant a picture, Kara, Jesus,” Lena covers her face with her fingers, but Kara can’t see what there is to be embarrassed about – it’s just her legs, after all, and what’s the point in running every morning if she can’t occasionally show them off?

Lena eventually pulls her head from her hands, her face still red, and her eyes trail over Kara’s thighs before landing on the tattoo. Almost unthinkingly she reaches out a hand to touch it, “Can I - ?” she asks, remembering herself at the last second. Kara nods, and feels the gentle press of Lena’s fingertips on the tattoo, silently tracing every line.

“I had an artist design mine,” Lena says in the end, “It was based on a particular photograph that’s very important to me. As soon as I was old enough to legally get a tattoo, I paid for it to be drawn so that even if the photograph were ever lost or destroyed, I would still have a memory of it.”

Kara nods slowly, wanting to ask more but sensing it isn’t quite the moment, “I drew mine myself,” she tells her, “Sunflowers were my mom’s favourite flowers and I wanted to keep that. The weird thing is that I remember drawing some of the lines again and again until I got them completely right, but yours is… identical. I keep looking at the pictures, and it’s exactly the same.”

“Your mom’s,” Lena says softly, finally taking her hand away. There is a silence, several seconds of nothing but staring. And then: “I suppose this means we’re soulmates.”

Kara feels happiness rush up inside her and break into a wide grin, “Told you,” she says, but her smile isn’t quite matched on Lena’s face.

“I mean, there’s such thing as platonic soulmates,” she adds quickly, wanting to stem whatever objection Lena has now, “If you’re asexual or not into women or something.”

“I’m not asexual and I am into women,” Lena says slowly, “It’s just… well, Kara. You have to see how this doesn’t work. I’m a recently divorced, forty-two year old CEO of a billion-dollar company, I work sixty hours a week, and you’re a twenty-three year old bartender who – “

“Who dropped out of college,” Kara finishes for her, before she has to hear the rest of that sentence. She crosses her arms across her chest, feeling the stab of hurt in her stomach. Not good enough, Lena might as well have said, you’re not good enough for me.

Lena looks taken aback though, genuinely surprised by the anger on Kara’s features, “That is not what I was going to say,” she frowns, “I’m sorry if I – Kara, I’m not trying to say I’m better than you, or that I don’t respect you because of your job or your college degree. A tiny twist of fate and I could have ended up in the same position you did, and I’m damn sure you bore it with more dignity than I would have.”

She leans over to touch her hand to Kara’s arm, and despite herself, Kara feels herself relax just a little, “I’m saying that we have nothing in common,” Lena clarifies, “I’m saying… what would we talk about? What would we do together? I’m not going to go clubbing until five in the morning with you and I doubt you’re going to want to visit antique book stores with me.”

“I was an English major, before I dropped out,” Kara informs her bluntly, “Did your background check tell you that? I’d love to go to an antique book store with you.”

“Oh,” Lena blinks, “But still – “

“And I don’t really go clubbing all that often, but I have friends who’ll happily go with me if I want to,” Kara continues, “My friend Nia is the same age as her soulmate and he hates loud music and crowds, so they just do other stuff together.”

“Right,” Lena says, biting down on her bottom lip, as though the wind has been taken out of her sails.

“I’m not going to force you, Lena,” Kara sighs, finally unfolding her arms and deciding she should probably, at this point, pull her pants back up, “I mean, I’m pretty sure I can’t force you, because you have enough money that you could just have me killed if you want to. I’m just saying… why the hell not? Why not let me take you to dinner and get to know each other? Why not find out? I know sometimes soulmates don’t wind up together, as friends or anything else, but it seems insane to me that you’re dismissing this without even trying.”

Lena is silent for a moment, running her thumb across the tattoo on her shoulder through her jacket. “Alright,” she agrees in the end, “But I think it’s only fair that I take you to dinner.”

Kara grins triumphantly, unable to stop herself from bouncing on her toes with excitement, “Tomorrow? I’m not working, or if you’re busy then – “

“Tomorrow,” Lena agrees, allowing herself a small smile.

***

“Come on, tell me everything.”

Sam is lounging across Lena’s four-poster bed, looking for all the world as though they’re teenagers at a sleepover and not women in their forties. She’s cradling a glass of expensive red wine, which does give the game away, along with the fact that Lena can hear Sam’s teenage daughter moving around downstairs helping herself to snacks.

“There isn’t much to tell,” Lena says honestly, looking at Sam through the mirror on her dressing table. She is in a silk robe as she applies her makeup, six different dresses strewn around as options for the evening.

“Lena, you’re going on a date,” Sam rolls her eyes, “You haven’t been on a date since…”

“Since Andrea took me to dinner and asked me for a divorce?” Lena suggests, “I’m well aware of that, but this isn’t a date. It’s a ‘getting to know each other’, an informational session.”

“With your soulmate,” Sam reminds her, “Or are you going to tell me that you both got line for line identical tattoos twenty years apart by accident?”

“What’s that saying about a thousand monkeys with a thousand typewriters eventually producing Shakespeare?” Lena asks, dabbing at her lipstick with a tissue, “Is my hair okay or should I wear it down?”

“Definitely up, shows off that swan neck,” Sam grins, “You know, I’ve never seen anyone care this much about how they look for an informational session before. Does this mean your soulmate is hot?”

Lena is very ready to deny holding any such thoughts about Kara, but the blush that spreads across her chest gives her away before she can, “Sam,” she sighs, “She looks like someone carved her out of stone and brought her to life, I don’t know how she gets anything done without being distracted by looking at herself in the mirror.”

“Wow, invoking two different ancient myths in one sentence, I think that’s nerd-talk for ‘yes, she’s really hot’.” Sam laughs into her wine glass.

“You recognised the allusions, so what does that make you?” Lena rolls her eyes and gets up to attempt to choose, for the third time, the correct dress she should wear.

“I’m teasing, Lena. Really, I think you should give her a chance,” Sam says, sounding more genuine than she has all night. “If she is your soulmate then… you’ll have a moment where you know it when you feel the soulmate bond, and you won’t want to give it up.”

Lena looks up with a frown, feeling guilty that of course, in her utter selfishness, she has failed to consider how this could be affecting Sam. Sam’s soulmate had already been married when she met him and had refused to leave his wife and children for her – although not before fathering Ruby. “I’m sorry, I realise this must be hard to listen to.”

Sam shakes her head, “It’s fine,” she says, and adds quickly, clearly eager to change the subject, “Have you told you-know-who?”

“No, definitely not, it’s far too early for that. He only needs to know if this turns into anything more than… informational,” Lena sighs, “Now, make yourself useful and help me pick a dress.”

***

Kara smooths down the third identical navy shirt she tried on, shifting from foot to foot outside the restaurant Lena has chosen. She feels strange and out of place listening to the orchestral music from inside and seeing the well-dressed and well-spoken couples moving in and out of the restaurant. It has an Italian name she doesn’t think she can pronounce, and she can’t help but think that everyone inside is going to wonder what she’s even doing there.

But then Lena steps out of the back of a black Mercedes looking like a goddamn movie star in a figure-hugging black dress, and all thought stops. Kara feels her gaze drift over the neckline and then snap upwards to Lena’s eyes, to find her smirking at her.

“Hi,” Lena says, her eyes flicking down and then back up again, and yeah, Kara is really glad she chose the third navy shirt.

“Hi,” Kara grins stupidly, “You look beautiful.”

She hesitates, steps forward awkwardly and then back and changes her mind again and kisses Lena’s cheek. Lena smells of expensive perfume and vanilla shampoo, and when Kara pulls away she finds a light blush on her cheeks.

“Shall we?” Kara asks, offering her arm, and with a tiny laugh, Lena takes it.

By the time they’re seated at their table Kara feels distinctly uncomfortable again, as though every eye in the room is on her and her scuffed shoes and her cheap watch.

“Are you okay?” Lena asks, spotting her obvious nerves over the menus and the candlelight.

“I think everyone knows, you know,” Kara whispers, sitting up straight and trying to act natural when a waiter walks past them.

“They know… what?” Lena asks, confused, looking around as well. It’s quite clear she can’t see beyond the mood lighting and the expensive tableware to what is bothering Kara.

“I’m, you know… broke,” Kara admits, feeling her cheeks turning red.

Lena shakes her head, still not quite understanding, “Kara, if anyone here is looking at you and thinking in terms of rich or poor, then I promise, the problem is with them and not you.”

“Yeah but…” Kara glances around at the nearby tables, certain a man with a prominent moustache is glaring at her, “You look like, you know,” she gestures up and down, attempting to find the words to describe Lena’s general aura, “You look like that, and I look like this.”

“Darling,” Lena says, and the pet name does something funny to Kara’s insides, “You look amazing. And if anyone dared say something to you then I would tell them to go fuck themselves.”

Kara can’t help but bark out a laugh at that, the cursing is so unexpected coming from Lena’s elegant mouth, and she sees the other woman’s eyes twinkling with amusement, the desired reaction clearly achieved. “Lena Luthor, I didn’t know you had a mouth like a sailor.”

Lena shrugs lightly, her eyes scanning over her menu, “I am Irish, after all.”

“Is that the accent?” Kara asks, for the first time in her life completely preoccupied with the woman in front of her and not the food, “I couldn’t place it.”

“I haven’t lived there since I was very young, but it still comes back,” Lena says without looking up, “Now, you don’t have any allergies, do you? If not, I think I’ll order for us, I already know the best dishes on the menu. Do you mind?”

Kara lets her order, and by the time their main courses are done, they are both three glasses of wine down, feeling flushed and giggling at each other.

“Come on then, we’re supposed to be getting to know each other,” Lena says, finishing the last sip of wine in her glass, “Tell me something about you.”

“Tell you?” Kara snorts, “You did a freaking background check on me, shouldn’t you be telling me something? I mean you know about the clown days, there’s nothing worse than that. Tell me… I don’t know, your favourite band.”

“Not exactly a band, but Johnny Cash.” Lena’s cheeks are pink and tiny hairs have escaped her updo at the back of her neck. Kara wants to brush her fingers over them. “Have you heard of him in Gen Z?”

“Yeah, of course, he’s the porn star, right?” Kara smirks at Lena’s horrified stare, “Kidding, Lena. I wasn’t born under a rock, I like Johnny Cash. Have you boomers heard of TikTok?”

“Gen X, please,” Lena corrects teasingly, “And I have, it’s where you kids make the… how do you say it, the ‘mee-mees’?”

“Oh God,” Kara covers her face with her hands even as she laughs, “I know you’re kidding, but please never say that again.”

Lena’s smile is wide and unfiltered, the wine making her lose the inhibition Kara has never seen her without, and it makes Kara brave enough to say, “Tell me something real about yourself, something I can’t find in a background check.”

But Lena does hesitate, visibly so, a wall of things she feels she can’t reveal clearly visible in the tension of her jaw. “I – hm. I’m glad I came out with you tonight,” she says in the end, and looks relieved when Kara accepts it, easily and without protest.

***

Kara frowns over the bill after dinner but Lena dismisses it with a wave of her hand, and they decide to walk down to the pier together. The cool night air sobers Lena just a little, not enough to make her regret relaxing but enough that she can look over at Kara walking beside her, humming happily to herself as they make their way through the streets arm in arm, and consider the things she has never thought to.

Kara is bothered by the difference in their incomes, that much is clear, in a way it has never occurred to Lena to care – she has more money than Kara, and she knows that without judgement or accusation. At the same time, Kara doesn’t seem to be concerned by the age difference in the way that Lena is, but that is something she can’t quite understand. It feels so vast, the canyon of years between them.

As they wander down towards the ocean front though, passing other smiling couples, she finds herself leaning on Kara’s arm as she navigates kerbs and uneven paving in her heels, and Kara supports her without thinking, without even glancing at her, as though it’s as natural as breathing. It’s been a long time, Lena thinks, since anyone did that.

When they reach the pier they lean together on the metal railings, looking out over the water, the lights of the city a twinkling reflection in the waves. Behind them, there are restaurants and arcades and bars, but in front of them only the deep darkness. There is the murmuring of other people around them and the soft crash of the ocean waves, but they are silent together, as though nothing needs to be said.

She looks up at Kara and sees her already looking back, yellow streetlights reflected in bright blue eyes, and that is when she feels it. It’s a pull, a rush as everything around her fades to a blur, and the only thing there is Kara, Kara, Kara. Every cell in her body has been waiting for its companion, and here they are, and they are intertwining, two hearts beating in her chest, two pulses pumping through her veins, two voices speaking in her mind. This is right, this is it. She opens her mouth to ask if Kara feels it too but finds she doesn’t need to because tears are welling in those blue eyes: the soulmate bond.

Then she winds her fingers into Kara’s hair and pulls her down to kiss her, deep and hungry. Lena has always been slow and controlled in kissing, she likes to take her time, likes to make the other person gasp, but Kara is eager and fumbling, her teeth scraping Lena’s lip. It doesn’t feel like a clash though, it feels as though they are meeting in the middle, like Lena is slowing Kara down as Kara is speeding her up, and their mouths are a perfect animal, melded together as the universe intended.

“God,” she says, when they pull apart breathlessly at last, “Did you feel it? Was that – “

Kara rests her forehead against Lena’s, one hand still firm on her hip, “I think so,” she says through an overwhelming smile. Then she kisses her again, as though she can’t get enough, her tongue slipping into Lena’s mouth.

“Fuck,” Lena says, and she has to take a step back, away from the solid warmth of Kara’s body against hers. She keeps a hand on Kara’s chest though, not quite ready to let her go altogether just yet. “We’re soulmates,” she says in wonder.

Kara laughs, loud and clear into the night air, “That’s what I keep telling you.”

They stand there for minutes more, trading sweet kisses, then it deepens and Lena finds herself with her fingers under the edge of Kara’s shirt, Kara’s hand inching up her thigh, and she has to push her away. She’s making out like a teenager in public, Jesus.

Kara has no such apprehensions though, just moves from Lena’s mouth to nip at her jaw, “You could come back to mine,” she says, her breath hot on Lena’s neck.

And Lena wants to, she does, can feel the ache between her legs already, but she knows it’s too soon. Knows she will panic when Kara’s skin touches hers, knows her mind will whirl with possibilities. “I’m twenty years older than you,” she says, voicing the fear churning in her stomach.

“I kind of like that,” Kara grins, and touches the grey hairs above Lena’s ear, trails across to the fine wrinkles by her eyes and then the laugh lines by her lips, “I kind of like you.”

And Lena knows, feels it in her skin and in her bones and in that bond, that Kara means it. But she still can’t. The thought still makes her guts twist with nerves. “I – I can’t come home with you, not tonight,” she bites her lip, hoping Kara will understand, “It’s been seventeen years since I had sex with anyone who isn’t my ex-wife.”

She looks up expecting to see irritation or judgement, but finds only Kara smiling at her instead, “Okay,” Kara says, wraps her arms around her and kisses the top of her head, “Let’s walk along the pier some more.”

***

It’s a week before they can see each other again thanks to Lena’s hectic schedule, and when Kara finally climbs into the back of her fancy car, she feels the frisson of sparks again at being so close to each other at last, as though a missing part of her body has been returned to her. She can’t help but lean in to kiss her, and Lena must feel it too because she smiles into the kiss, even though she glances, a little embarrassed, at the driver when they pull apart.

“Kara will let you know the address,” she tells him, as Kara is distracted by pressing buttons and smoothing her hands over the leather. She watches as two empty champagne glasses rise out of a hidden compartment, which, honestly, just seems excessive.

“Oh, right,” she nods, leaning forward to stick her hand through the gap between the driver and passenger seats, “I’m Kara, nice to meet you,”

“Frank,” he introduces himself with a hint of amusement, “Where to, Miss?”

“Please call me Kara, I feel weird being called Miss,” she tells him and gives him an address. Since Lena had taken her to a Lena place last week, Kara had insisted on going to a Kara place this week. Lena had agreed on the proviso that it was neither bowling or laser tag.

“I have to make a quick work call, is that alright?” Lena asks once they’re on the move, Kara marvelling that she can’t even feel the vibration of the engine. It’s like being in a spaceship.

“A work call? It’s after seven,” Kara frowns, more worried that Lena is working herself too hard than anything else.

“The Sydney office, it’s midday tomorrow there for them, and I need them to get something done before the weekend.” Lena tells her, stroking a finger along her arm, “It’ll only take a minute.”

“Okay,” Kara nods easily and leans forward to chat to Frank instead. By the time the car is parked she has learned about his career as a driver, whether or not Lena is a good boss (she is), and he’s in the middle of describing his granddaughter’s fourth grade science project when Lena touches her leg.

“Shoot, sorry,” Kara says with a laugh, “Hey, we’re here, c’mon, you’re going to love this.”

They’ve arrived at a permanent food festival, an open-air market lit with twinkling fairy lights and dozens of tiny pop-up stalls crammed together in narrow rows. Hundreds of smells are competing for attention from innumerable international cuisines, and there are places too to buy beer and wine. Kara loves it here, both for the atmosphere and because there are usually a lot of delicious free samples on offer for when she’s feeling really broke.

“I’m not sure what I was expecting but it wasn’t… this,” Lena admits, clearly impressed, “And I’m glad you told me to wear sensible shoes.”

They drift through the market, stopping at different stalls to try different foods. Kara eats a curry so spicy it makes her eyes water, washes it down with some Texan barbecue, shares a bento box with Lena and is impressed when Lena orders a Guinness to drink from a plastic cup.

“Sure you don’t want me to get you one of the champagne glasses from your car to drink that?” Kara teases.

“Shut up,” Lena says with a laugh and sips happily at her pint.

They drift away from each other at points to examine different stalls or try different samples, and there’s always a tiny thrill when they come back together, a feeling of completeness, like the last piece of a jigsaw being slotted into place. Kara has always been tactile but with Lena she just can’t resist, and it’s worth it when Lena gives her a shy smile or blushes when Kara runs her hand over the small of her back or presses a kiss to her forehead.

“How come it feels like this? The soulmate thing?” Kara asks as they stand watching a folk band play, Kara’s arm around Lena’s waist and Lena’s head on her shoulder.

“Humans have evolved to be excellent at pattern recognition, it’s theorised that we can recognise the pattern of our own neurological processes reflected in our soulmate which leads to the rush of endorphins both of us are currently experiencing,” Lena explains, without even lifting her head.

“That’s a very unromantic way of saying it’s destiny,” Kara jokes.

Lena looks up at her with a laugh, “I’m not sure I believe in destiny,” she says honestly.

Kara shrugs, “I do,” she tells her, and leans down to kiss her. They’re not in love – it’s far too soon for that – but Kara knows, she can feel it with everything in her, that she will fall in love with Lena.

She can tell too though that Lena is still holding part of herself back. At one point her phone rings and she moves away from Kara to answer it, but Kara hears her soft tone, nothing like the sharp voice of Work Lena she heard earlier.

By the time Lena returns Kara is talking to a stallholder selling German food, listening to the woman complain about her no-good son who has run off and married a woman she doesn’t approve of. “Maybe you should try and see the good points in her,” Kara is suggesting soothingly when Lena puts a hand on her back to let her know she’s there, “He obviously sees something in her and since you clearly raised him right, there must be some positives. And if not, at least he knows you’ll be there to pick up the pieces when she’s gone.”

“Do you know her?” Lena asks as they move away.

“No, we just got talking,” Kara says, before realising Lena is looking at her strangely. “What?”

“How do you do that?” Lena questions, “Everyone you meet you seem to make friends with. I mean, within five minutes you had Frank lit up like a Christmas tree talking about his grandkids.”

“I don’t know,” Kara shrugs, stopping to examine a stall selling bottles of gin, “I’m friendly, I guess. I like getting to know people.”

“You are possibly the most extroverted person I’ve ever met,” Lena teases, nudging her with her hip.

Kara laughs, “I mean, if you want the real, deep, armchair psychology reason for it, then I guess it’s probably because I was homeless as a kid. Me and my mom moved around a lot between shelters or crashing on couches or just on the streets. Then when she died, I ran away from every foster home they put me in. And people don’t really see you, when you’re homeless, you know? They won’t even look you in the eye, most of the time. It’s pretty isolating. So now I like to talk to people as much as I can.”

Lena looks up at her curiously, “You know, a lot of people might have gone the opposite way with that. Become bitter towards other people.”

“Maybe,” Kara says amiably, “I like to think most people would do the same as me though.”

Lena takes her hand, intertwining their fingers and squeezing gently, “Why did you run away from the foster homes?”

“I guess I didn’t know how to function in that environment. Normal houses where you have a set bedtime and you get up on a Saturday morning and watch cartoons… it was strange to me, scary.” Kara frowns, feeling the familiar anxiety twisting in her gut as she thinks back on that period of her life, “Is it okay if we don’t talk about this anymore?”

“Yes, of course, I’m sorry,” Lena says quickly, pressing a kiss to her shoulder, “I didn’t mean to make you uncomfortable.”

“I’ll tell you more another time, it’s just… a lot to talk about all at once,” Kara gives a half smile, “And I think there’s a candy stall over there.”

In the end, Kara buys as many bags of candy as she can carry and Lena buys three – one for Sam, one for Ruby, and a third that Kara assumes is for herself. Afterwards, they sit on a bench quietly together, Kara happily sucking on a lollipop as they people-watch, enjoying the soft pressure of Lena’s hand in hers.

“My mom died when I was four,” Lena says softly after a while, her voice so low Kara almost doesn’t catch it. “I was adopted by the Luthors. It emerged later that my adoptive father was, in fact, my biological father. My adoptive mother never liked me much as a result and my brother was my only real friend in that house until… well, you’ve heard of my brother.”

Kara nods slowly: everyone has heard of Lex Luthor, the man who knowingly allowed toxic and harmful products to be released to children in order to save his company’s bottom line and continued to do so even after kids died.

“That must have really sucked,” she says, unable to find better words to describe it than that.

Lena snorts, “It was a long time ago. And it hardly compares to what you went through. I just wanted to… share, I suppose.”

Kara shakes her head, “No, don’t do that. Me having a crappy childhood doesn’t make your crappy childhood any less crappy,” she drops a kiss to the top of Lena’s head, “Thank you for sharing.”

“You’re welcome,” Lena says quietly.

“Can I see you this Saturday?” Kara asks after a moment of silence. Even before she has finished the sentence though, she feels Lena tense next to her and she can almost hear the walls going back up.

“Weekends usually aren’t good for me,” Lena says, too quickly, “I do a lot of extra projects at L-Corp that need my attention.”

Kara pauses for a moment and then chooses to believe her, “Okay,” she agrees, “What about Tuesday?”

***

Hey, I might have to rain check on dinner tonight, I’m at the hospital!! I’ll call you to reschedule? :)

Lena stares at the text message from Kara on her phone for several long seconds. Has she just been informed that the person she’s sort-of dating is in hospital by a text message which includes two exclamation points and a smiley face?

She puts her phone down on her desk, types out a message to Jess that she may have to leave the office for the afternoon, and then calls Kara.

Kara actually has the nerve to sound surprised when she answers the phone, “Lena, hi,” she says brightly, “Aren’t you at work?”

“I am at work, but since you just texted me to say you were in the hospital I thought it might be important to speak to you,” Lena points out bluntly, “What happened? Are you alright?”

“Yeah, nothing major, I just got into a little bit of a fight,” Kara says nonchalantly, “No biggie.”

“No biggie, Kara – “ Lena is going to murder her, “Which hospital are you in?”

“Lena, really, it’s fine,” Kara insists, “It might need stitches, that’s it.”

Lena pinches the bridge of her nose, beginning to consider that her soulmate might be the most exasperating person on the planet, “Kara, tell me which hospital you’re in or I will have Frank drive around until he finds you.”

“Fine,” Kara relents, “But only because I don’t want to screw up Frank’s afternoon.”

The tap of Lena’s heels echoes satisfyingly loudly through the halls of National City General Hospital as she strides towards the outpatient ward. She is going to make sure that Kara is alright, and then she’s going to kill her for getting into a fight.

This momentum is sapped out of her in an instant though when she finally sees Kara sitting on a hospital bed with a vivid black eye and a nurse stitching up a deep cut in her eyebrow, Kara holding on tightly to the hand of a handsome, red-headed woman next to her.

Lena feels the jealousy rise up in her throat immediately. Surely, surely Kara would have told her if she was already in a relationship? It hasn’t been all that long though, they haven’t talked about commitment, and does it really make sense for someone who looks like Kara not to be dating someone already?

She pushes down her fear though, her first focus needing to be on Kara and ensuring she’s alright, and Kara’s face lights up when she approaches.

“Lena,” she says with a grin, even as the nurse tells her to hold still. “Hi, I didn’t expect you to come so quickly.”

“You’re getting stitches, Kara,” Lena says, appalled, “What happened?”

“Some asshole at Roulette was harassing one of the dancers, and I guess security was out on a smoke break or something,” Kara shrugs, as though she does this sort of thing every day. Maybe she does, Lena realises with horror. “I stepped in and he didn’t like it too much. Don’t look so worried, I’ve been in worse fights than this.”

“You shouldn’t have to be in any fights,” Lena says incredulously, “You’re a bartender, not a bouncer.”

“That’s what I told her,” the woman still holding Kara’s hand says, “She doesn’t listen though. And she still needs her handheld when she gets stitches.”

Lena turns to look at her properly then and realises that, yes, she is an objectively attractive woman. It makes her unreasonably irritated. “Lena Luthor,” she says, holding out a hand to shake and attempting to keep the jealousy out of her voice for Kara’s sake.

The woman stands up to her full height, clearly sizing Lena up, “Agent Alexandra Danvers, FBI.” Her grip is just a little too firm when she shakes Lena’s hand.

The nurse finishes Kara’s stitches at that moment, packing up her equipment and stage whispering good luck to Kara.

“Alex, don’t be a dick,” Kara says, nudging Alex with her foot, “And you promised you’d hold my hand the whole time.”

Alex rolls her eyes, “I’m going to find a doctor and see if there’s anything else you need, then I’ll drive you home.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Lena interjects quickly, unwilling to let this woman step in and do what she should be doing – she is the soulmate here, after all, “I can take her home. I have a driver outside.”

Alex crosses her arms over her chest, “Then you’ll have to make sure she knows what meds she needs to take and when, she never remembers.”

Lena arches an eyebrow, “I have faith in Kara’s intelligence, but I’m sure I’m quite capable of reading a set of instructions to her.”

“Alex,” Kara says quietly, “It’s fine, Lena can take me home, you’ll need to pick up Esme soon anyway. Go find the doctor.”

With a frown, Alex sets off down the corridor, and Lena takes a seat next to Kara on the bed, touching her chin gently to turn her head and look at her black eye.

“She’s right, I am bad at remembering that stuff,” Kara says sheepishly, “She’s just protective of me, she’s nice once you get to know her.”

Lena’s brain still hasn’t quite decided whether to be angry, worried or simply horrified, “You’ve never mentioned an Alex before.”

“She never came up in conversation,” Kara shrugs.

Apparently, she’s just going to have to come right out and ask it, Lena realises, Kara is definitely not going to latch on to any hints, “And you two are… dating? Sleeping together?”

“What? Ew, no,” Kara pulls a disgusted face, “She’s like my sister or something. She was a cop before she joined the FBI and she used to pick me up off the streets, buy me some food and find me a place in a shelter. We’ve been friends ever since. I’m her daughter’s godmother.”

“Oh,” Lena bites her lip, feeling silly, “She has a partner, then?”

“Her wife died a few years ago,” Kara explains, “But that still doesn’t mean anything is going on between us. Really, she’s pretty much family. Her mom buys me Christmas presents and everything.”

“Right,” Lena deflates, “Sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed.”

“It’s alright, but between that and you rushing down here I might start to think you like me,” Kara grins.

“I enjoy looking at your face and I prefer it undamaged, that’s all.” Lena teases, then leans in to press a kiss to Kara’s lips gently, making sure she doesn’t accidentally hurt her, “You need to be careful, darling.”

Alex clears her throat and Lena looks up to find her standing over them, entirely unimpressed, “The doctor says you’re good to go, over the counter pain meds will work just fine,” she eyes Lena carefully, “Make sure she rests.”

“I’m sure I can manage that,” Lena says, biting back the sarcastic comment she wants to make.

She still doesn’t like Alex.

***

It’s weird having Lena in her apartment. Lena looks so expensive all the time, Kara is pretty sure her shoes alone are worth more than everything she owns put together, and seeing her inspecting the contents of the fridge in Kara’s shabby kitchen or sitting on her faded sofa is just… embarrassing, honestly. To make it worse, the sound of the music from the bar next door is particularly loud today, and she can see Lena scowling at the adjoining wall every few minutes.

“You can take two of these every four hours,” Lena says over the drumming bass, reading out the box of pain meds to her, apparently having taken Alex’s instructions very seriously.

“I can probably manage to remember that,” Kara grins sheepishly.

“Make sure you do,” Lena tells her, “Do you need anything? Can I get you a blanket?”

The second they walked through the door Lena had directed her to the sofa and refused to allow her to move unless she needed to use the bathroom. Kara is already growing a little restless.

“I can get my own blanket,” she tries, but Lena just rolls her eyes.

“Tell me where you keep your spare blankets,” she instructs.

“Bedroom closet, top shelf,” Kara says, wincing when she realises that Lena is probably going to notice her overflowing laundry basket. If she does then she doesn’t comment though, and emerges from behind the curtain that serves as Kara’s bedroom door holding a blanket and a flyer.

“National City Community College?” Lena asks, and Kara bites her lip, realising she had left it on her nightstand. “Are you thinking about going back to school?”

“No, not really,” Kara shakes her head quickly, letting Lena put the blanket over her, “It’s stupid, some guy was giving them out the other day and I just…”

“Took one?” Lena asks, settling herself on the other end of the sofa and crossing one leg over the other, somehow managing to look like she just stepped off a runway even with Kara’s half-eaten bag of popcorn behind her. “Darling, I think it’s a great idea. To begin with, it would mean not working in a place where someone might do that to your face. What would you want to study?”

“Journalism,” Kara says, feeling her face turning hot. She’s never really said it out loud to anyone before, maybe Alex on some drunken evening, but that’s all. “I always wanted to – I don’t know, write something that makes a difference. Bring awareness to things. But really, Lena, I can’t.”

“Kara,” Lena frowns, “If it’s a money issue then I can – “

“No, I mean – yeah,” Kara rushes out, “It is but I can get loans and community college isn’t as expensive as regular college. I just mean… I suck at this stuff, Lena. The reason I dropped out in the first place is because I was a semester away from failing out. I can’t study properly, I forget which assignments I have due, then I get stressed and I skip class… The only reason I even got my high school diploma was because they put me through it as part of my probation.”

“Alright,” Lena says calmly, as if everything Kara has just said isn’t completely humiliating, “Those are all things we can solve together. We can get you a laptop to help you keep track of your assignments and classes more easily, and I can teach you the methods that helped me when I was studying.”

Kara can feel herself getting frustrated, throws the blanket off and stands up because Lena just doesn’t get it – how could she? Lena watches her carefully but doesn’t stop her. “I don’t want you to take pity on me like I’m a little kid or something, Lena, I’m an adult, but there’s just this stuff that… I can’t do. I just have to accept that.” She feels tears welling up in her eyes and feels ridiculous, like a child throwing a tantrum.

“Kara, there’s no shame in not having a certain skill set.” Lena’s voice is calm and low, almost soothing, “The environment you grew up in was chaotic, you didn’t learn how to do things like effectively study or organise your time because you had much more important things to focus on. It’s your decision, ultimately, but these are things I would like to help you with.” She glances with disdain at the wall that music is still thumping through, “Having a quiet place to study where you’re not forced to listen to Ed Sheeran would likely be a good start.”

Kara can’t help but laugh at that and sits slowly back down, closer to Lena than she was before. “It’s just… embarrassing,” she admits quietly, “You’re the CEO of a global company and I can’t even get through a stupid college class.”

Lena reaches out to cover one of Kara’s hands with her own, “I’ve also had twenty extra years to practice these things, darling. I promise you I didn’t have it all together when I was twenty-three either.”

Kara looks at her sceptically, “Didn’t you already have a PhD when you were twenty-three?”

“Well, yes,” Lena admits, “But I was also a closeted, sexually-repressed virgin who was convinced I could cure my desire to look at women’s breasts if I spent enough time in the lab. You certainly have a leg up on me there.”

Kara snorts with laughter, “Yeah, okay, you got me. I’ve never been stupid enough to not want to look at women’s boobs.”

“I’m well aware of that, you look at mine often enough,” Lena teases, stroking her thumb across the back of Kara’s hand, “I’ll leave it to you to decide, but my help is always there if you need it.”

***

“So,” Sam says, topping up Lena’s wine glass before filling her own, “How’s the sex?”

They’re out by Lena’s pool on a sunny Thursday evening, relaxing in the shade with the remains of a cheese platter in between them while Jack, recently returned from visiting his own soulmate in the Caribbean, suns himself out in the heat.

“We’re not… ah, we haven’t exactly…” Lena stammers. Sam blinks stupidly at her, and Jack’s attention is clearly all on them now too.

“I’m sorry, you’re dating a twenty-three year old who not only looks like she could be the cover model for Fitness Weekly but is also inexplicably really into your grumpy, workaholic ass… and you’re not having sex with her?” Sam spins in her chair to look at Jack, “Are you hearing this?”

Jack lowers his sunglasses to stare at Lena, “Did you miss the memo about being a cougar, Lena? The idea is to have sex with the younger model, not enter some sort of sexually frustrating lesbian bed death situation immediately. How long has it been?”

“Two months?” Lena cringes, hoping her own oversized sunglasses cover at least some of her blush. It has been two months, two months of Lena feeling like a schoolgirl with a crush, of having butterflies in her stomach when she sees Kara and of her heart leaping whenever the other woman texts her. Enough time for Kara’s black eye to fully disappear, to Lena’s relief, since trying to be careful when she kissed her quickly grew irritating.

And it’s not that she doesn’t want to have sex with Kara – she really does, and there have definitely been moments when she’s pulled away from kissing her yet again and Kara has looked so flushed and so turned on that she almost just threw caution to the wind…

But she hasn’t.

“I mean, it’s exactly the reason you said,” Lena tries to explain, “She looks like somebody 3D printed the perfect woman. I don’t look like a twenty-three year old model and I just don’t want her to be turned off by me.”

“Lena, I say this with love,” Sam says sympathetically, “You’re a fucking idiot. You’re hot as hell and not even in a ‘hot for an over forty’ way, just in a hot way, and I don’t think Kara would have spent two months trying to feel you up if she didn’t think so.”

“And if she doesn’t think so then screw it,” Jack calls from his sunbed, “Have your fun and then leave.”

“Easy for you to say,” Sam snorts, “You don’t even see your soulmate half the year.”

Lena can’t help but agree – she had thought she understood Jack’s arrangement with his soulmate, one where they spend three months together and three months apart in an open relationship, but now she’s met Kara she just can’t. It would be one thing not to be with her at all, like Sam, she imagines she could get used to that in time. But to have that bond some of the time and not all? It’s unthinkable.

“It helps him to miss me,” Jack explains, “And I always leave him very satisfied.”

Sam rolls her eyes, “Don’t listen to Jack, he’s a special case. You should go for it with Kara. You say she’s nice, right? She’s not going to be a dick about it.”

“It’s not just that,” Lena admits sheepishly, “I also still haven’t told her about - ”

“You still haven’t told her?” Sam interrupts incredulously, “Lena, it’s been two months. Isn’t she wondering why you never see her on a weekend?”

“I don’t know, she hasn’t asked,” Lena defends, “I just don’t want to rush into it.”

“It’s your decision,” Sam shakes her head, taking a sip from her wine glass, “But I think that’s going to come back to bite you in the ass.”

***

“Hey,” Kara says, and wraps her arms around Lena from behind. There’s something right about seeing Lena in her apartment, something nice and domestic and harmonious, like the different parts of her life are falling into place. “My friends are having game night next Thursday, do you want to come?” She adjusts to run her hands down Lena’s sides, feeling her warmth through the light dress she’s wearing, presses her gently into the kitchen counter.

“Mm, I’m going to be in meetings late until next Friday, we’re negotiating the buyout of a tech startup,” Lena says.

“Okay,” Kara says, trying not to be disappointed, distracts herself with lavishing tiny kisses over Lena’s jaw and neck. Lena hums in satisfaction, tilting her head to give Kara further access.

“Maybe I could come to yours one night then? I can make you dinner, wait for you to get home. I don’t mind if it’s late.” Even as she says it, Kara knows what the answer will be – Lena hasn’t let her visit her place yet.

Lena closes her eyes, gasping lightly when Kara’s teeth hit her pulse point, “I – um,” she’s clearly distracted now, pushing herself back against Kara, “I don’t think that’s a good idea.”

And Kara gets it, knows Lena wants to take things slow, tries to be understanding, but she just wants too, feels flush with it in that moment, with wanting to touch her, to be closer to her, to be part of her life. It’s not just that it’s been two months, although the lack of a regular sex life is starting to weigh on her, but also that the waiting is starting to feel a lot less like waiting and a lot more like rejection.

“Kara,” Lena says warningly when Kara’s hands skim closer to her breasts, and Kara sighs and pulls back.

“Sorry,” she says, but knows she didn’t quite manage to hide the disappointment in her voice.

Lena turns and presses a swift kiss to her lips before she moves away, “It’s alright,” she tells her, moving back towards the couch to restart their movie. Kara isn’t quite ready to let it go though.

“I’m not, um,” she rubs the back of her neck with one hand, “I know you’re not ready for a commitment, but I’m not sleeping with anyone else, I deleted Tinder. If that’s what’s worrying you. I don’t know what happened with Andrea, but…”

“Don’t.” Lena snaps, her jaw clenching, “Don’t make assumptions about what happened between me and Andrea. We were together for seventeen years, that is a very different situation to you and me.”

Kara looks down, sullen, and thinks she’s probably wrong here but isn’t quite ready to admit it through her frustration at hitting another wall in what Lena was willing to share. She just nods and they sit down again in front of the TV, but they don’t speak much for the rest of the night.

***

Lena steps out of the elevator feeling satisfied with an afternoon’s work. She likes negotiating, likes the back and forth of making a good deal, and she’s good at it too – she always gets the price she wants, it’s a particular point of pride. Today it also proves a good distraction from the sort-of fight she had with Kara the night before, and she knows she should call her this evening, apologise, probably, but she’s not sure she has any more answers for her than she did last night.

“Afternoon, Miss Luthor, did the negotiations go well?” Jess asks as she approaches her office.

“Very well, thank you,” Lena nods with a smile, “Is there anything I need to be updated on?”

“Nothing particularly, Tony down in customer service thinks he’s found another amazing solution to his recruitment issues – “ the two of them share a wry smile, well used to Tony’s hare-brained schemes, “ – and Ms Rojas dropped Mateo off a little early this week, I’ve got him set up in your office with snacks and he knows you’ve been in meetings.”

“Thank you, Jess, I know babysitting isn’t really in your job description,” Lena says, feeling a flash of irritation with her ex-wife.

“Not at all,” Jess smiles, “Oh, and Miss Zor-El is waiting for you too.”

Lena’s hand pauses on the door handle of her office. She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, wonders briefly if she can reopen negotiations for the rest of the evening just to escape this situation.

“Everything okay, Miss Luthor?” Jess asks, “You did say to let Miss Zor-El up when she visits.”

“I did,” Lena nods. No one to blame but herself then. She opens the door then at last and finds Kara standing in the dead centre of her office, staring stupidly down at Mateo. The thirteen year old has his hoodie over his ears, his feet on Lena’s coffee table and his eyes glued to the games console in his hands. He barely glances up when she enters.

“Mom,” he tells her helpfully, gesturing vaguely at Kara, “This lady’s here to see you.”

Crap.

***

Kara came to apologise. She couldn’t sleep last night with the guilt of it, knowing she had put too much pressure on Lena, tried to push things too quickly. She was just so ready to be in this, to be with Lena fully and completely without holding anything back. After her sleepless night, she struggled to settle all day, restless with the need to say she was sorry but unable to call with Lena in meetings all day. In the end, she spent the last of her week’s wages on a bouquet of flowers and decided to surprise Lena at the office – at the very least she could apologise before they went their separate ways for the weekend.

Instead, she came face to face with a surly teenager who said nothing more than, “My mom’s not here,” before going back to his game.

And that is how Lena finds her, standing frozen in the middle of her office, a lot of pieces suddenly dropping into place in her mind.

“Teo,” Lena says softly, “Could you wait outside with Jess for a few minutes, please? I need to talk to Kara privately.”

Mateo huffs, pushing his hood down to reveal a mop of dark hair, “Mom, I’ve been waiting forever.”

“Teo,” Lena repeats more sternly, “Outside, I’m not going to ask twice.”

Mateo goes but ensures he makes a show of it, stomping his feet and throwing a glare at Lena and Kara, for good measure. Kara is still stuck to the spot, clutching the flowers stupidly in her hand.

“Sorry about that,” Lena says politely, as though nothing in the world could be wrong, “He’s usually very well-mannered but he finds the transition between me and Andrea difficult.”

Very slowly, Kara turns and walks to Lena’s desk and puts the flowers down. “You have a child… that you’ve never mentioned.”

“It was too soon,” Lena crosses her arms across her chest defensively, “I’m not going to introduce you to my child barely eight weeks into the relationship.”

Kara shakes her head incredulously, “I’m not saying you should have introduced us, Lena, I’m saying you should have told me.”

“It’s only been two months,” Lena repeats, her stance is immoveable but her teeth work furiously at her lower lip. For the first time, Kara can’t read her at all. “I know that may seem like a long time when you’re twenty-three – “

“No,” all at once Kara’s shock fades into anger, all the frustrations of the last few weeks rushing up at once, “Don’t do that, don’t patronise me. I wanted a freaking heads up, Lena, a ‘hey by the way, if we keep going with this, there is this completely huge part of my life you need to know about’, instead you just pushed me away whenever I tried to get close to you.” She throws her hands in the air, unable to even fully grasp all the implications of this situation, “I mean… you lied to me. Every time I asked how your weekend was you told me you were working, and really you were… what? Taking him to baseball games?”

“Andrea has custody during the week and my time with him is at weekends,” Lena says robotically, “If you’re not ready for this, Kara, then that is up to you. Go back to hooking up with Tinder dates and the dancers at your club, that’s perfectly fine.”

Kara nods slowly, understanding gradually dawning on her, “That’s what you think of me. Okay, I get it.”

Then she walks past Lena and out of her office, past Mateo, past Jess, past every part of L-Corp, and she rides the elevator down to the ground floor.

“See you soon, Kara,” Gary says as she passes by the security booth.

“Probably not,” she murmurs to herself, and then she’s gone.