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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.

Chapter Text

Mateo’s temper always cools once he’s safely settled back in Lena’s house, without the rough acknowledgement that his parents are no longer together, and by Sunday afternoon he is curled into her side like he’s a little boy again. Lena’s best efforts to turn him into an indie art snob have failed miserably and his eyes are glued to a loud, flashy superhero movie playing on the TV. Lena doesn’t mind much though – it’s growing close to the time for Andrea to pick him up and she feels the familiar tension between wanting to enjoy him while he’s here and the sadness of him leaving. For now, she just soaks in the warmth of him at her side and the familiar smell of him, just the same ever since he was a baby.

Her heart sinks when the doorbell rings, but she refuses to show him anything but calm normality, else make the change back to Andrea more difficult than it already is for him. Instead, she just kisses the top of his head, “Mamá is here, I packed up your bag in your room. Do you want to go grab it?”

For a second, he doesn’t move, then the doorbell rings impatiently again and he sighs and rises, stamping out of the room.

“He’s getting his bag,” Lena says by way of greeting when she opens the door to Andrea, looking somewhere over her shoulder.

“Good, I want to talk to you,” Andrea’s voice is sharp, and Lena looks at her properly then, sees her ex-wife’s eyes are glittering and harsh. “When I was texting him he said there was a woman with flowers for you in your office. I thought we agreed we would discuss it with each other before we introduced him to anyone we’re dating.”

For a second, Lena considers denying it was anything romantic, particularly because she isn’t even sure she is dating Kara anymore – all her texts this weekend have gone unanswered. She finds she doesn’t have the energy to lie though. “You dropped him off early and she came by to surprise me. They weren’t supposed to meet and he doesn’t know we’re dating. I’ll tell him she’s a friend if he asks.”

“Why haven’t you mentioned this?” Andrea asks irritably, “Don’t you think I should be informed about someone who could be involved in our son’s life?”

“And you will be, when and if I decide it’s time to introduce them,” Lena snaps back. Andrea always knows which buttons to push, just how to make her temper flare. “My understanding, when you informed me that we were divorcing, was that I was permitted to be romantically involved with other people without your prior approval.”

“When I informed you that we were divorcing?” Andrea scoffs, “It’s been over a year, Lena, don’t you think it’s time you stopped pretending you were the innocent victim in all of this?”

Lena glances back to ensure Mateo isn’t behind them listening to this conversation, before replying in a low, angry whisper, “You took me to dinner and told me you didn’t want to be married anymore without any prior warning. How exactly is that my fault?”

“There’s no fucking talking to you, Lena,” Andrea’s voice is too loud, and Lena glances back again, “The only reason you even bothered to come home from work was for Teo and you pushed me away when I tried to talk to you about our relationship.”

Lena doesn’t speak, Andrea’s words a nasty echo of the argument she’d had with Kara, and eventually Andrea turns away. “Jesus, I can’t believe we’re having this fucking fight again,” she mutters.

Thankfully, Mateo appears, dragging his bag behind him, and Andrea is swift to take it from him to load it into her car. He doesn’t look up at Lena and she knows he heard them fighting, but he does throw his arms around her in a tight hug.

She feels the tears welling in her eyes and whispers into his hair that she’ll call him every night, then she watches from the front door as her ex-wife and her son drive away.

***

“Did you think any more on the community college thing?” Alex asks as casually as she can manage. It’s a little hard to take her seriously when she’s sitting on either side of two stuffed dinosaurs and wearing a plastic tiara, but, to be fair, Kara is also wearing a plastic tiara and she got lumped with sitting next to a crummy American Girl doll. Esme is wearing a pirate captain’s hat and currently serving them fairy dust at a tea party – Kara is pretty sure, at this point, that Alex shouldn’t have let a six year old watch Peter Pan and Alice in Wonderland back-to-back.

“Yeah, I started the online application thing but then I couldn’t find my high school diploma and the whole Lena thing happened…” These are excuses and Kara is well aware of that. She’s just scared and anxious and probably too dumb for college anyway.

“No, don’t do that, forget Lena,” Alex shakes her head so violently her tiara nearly comes off, righting it before accepting a plastic mug of invisible tea from Esme, “Thank you, honey, this is delicious.” She turns back to Kara with a fierce gaze, “Figuring out your future shouldn’t depend on who you’re dating.”

It’s Monday afternoon, only three days since the fight with Lena, but it seems to have stretched on forever. They haven’t gone this long without talking since their first dinner together, and Kara misses the closeness already. “It doesn’t,” she insists, “I’ve just had a lot on my mind this weekend. I mean… she was a jerk.”

“I get that,” Alex softens, holding a dinosaur upright as Esme also serves him tea. “And I get that it’ll take some time to get over. Don’t put college on hold for that though.”

Kara accepts an invisible biscuit on a small heart-shaped plate, bringing it to her mouth and taking an exaggerated bite. “Oh wow, this is delicious,” she tells Esme with a grin, adding to Alex, “I just don’t know if I want to get over it, not after one fight.”

“It was a pretty big fight though,” Alex says doubtfully, “I mean, she kept a huge secret from you for a long time.”

“Yeah but…” Kara is forced to stop as another invisible biscuit is forced on her.

“Aunt Kara,” Esme huffs, “You need to eat, you need your strength to walk the plank later.”

“Right, sorry,” Kara nods, “Wait – why am I walking the plank? Mommy’s the one who didn’t want glitter makeup.”

“You’ve only been dating her for a couple of months, she wasn’t honest with you… I don’t get why you wouldn’t just cut your losses now,” Alex advises, making a convincing show of thoughtfully sipping her invisible tea, “I know the soulmate thing is hard to get past, but a lot of people have really happy relationships that aren’t with their soulmate.”

And Kara knows that, she really does – if nothing else, Alex is finally putting herself back out there after her own soulmate, Kelly, passed a couple years back, and Kara really wants her to find someone. For both hers and Esme’s sake. She can’t help thinking that even if Lena wasn’t her soulmate that she’d still like her though, still like her intelligence, her resilience and her kindness, even like being made fun of by her.

“I want to talk to her about it before I do anything,” Kara bites her lip, knowing Alex won’t like this decision much, “I haven’t answered any of her messages but… I think I should at least do that.”

Esme wanders off to rummage in her toy box on the other side of the room, possibly locating more guests for the tea party.

“I’ll support you, whatever you do,” Alex tells her quietly, “Just please be careful, okay? You do go all in on people who aren’t ready to commit sometimes.” She glances around to make sure Esme is out of earshot before adding, “And if you want me to kill her, I can probably make it look like an accident.”

***

Lena stands for what feels like an eternity outside Kara’s front door, half considering leaving a dozen times before she finally gets the courage to knock. She can’t hear movement from inside over the noise of the bar pumping out bass from next door, and she knows Kara could have left for work already. But when she left the office after an unproductive day spent frantically checking her phone for any texts, all she could think to do was give Frank Kara’s address.

Kara is half-dressed for work when she finally opens the door, her pants open and unbelted, her white shirt unbuttoned and showing a hint of a black bra underneath. She also, inexplicably, has a smear of pink glitter underneath her eye. Lena wants to kiss her, feels the buzz of the soulmate bond through her veins. From the way Kara bites her lip, she thinks she feels it too.

For several long seconds, Kara just stares at her dumbly, until Lena finally manages to break the silence. “Hi,” she says, and then, stupidly, “You have – um – “ She gestures to her own eye to indicate the glitter, and Kara swipes at her face to see what it is.

“Oh, Esme gave me a glitter makeover this afternoon,” she says, none of her usual cheer in her voice, “I haven’t been hooking up with any of the dancers at Roulette if that’s what you think.”

“I deserved that,” Lena admits. “Can we talk?”

Kara frowns, and Lena can see she’s torn between wanting to say no and being too nice to actually do it. “I have to leave for work in twenty minutes. Veronica says I’m definitely fired if I’m late again.”

“I’ll be quick,” Lena promises, “You can finish getting dressed while I talk.”

Kara shrugs and opens the door a little wider to let her in, and once she’s inside Lena doesn’t quite know what to do, where to put herself. Kara’s place is a mess – more of a mess than usual – with empty pizza boxes on the counter and clothes abandoned on the back of the sofa. In the end, Lena perches herself on the arm of a chair, but she still can’t find the words. She doesn’t have a speech planned, doesn’t have anything planned, she just arrived here.

Kara doesn’t really even look at her, just begins trying to scrub the rest of the glitter off with a paper towel.

“I should have told you,” Lena says in the end, because that seems like the single, most pressing thought she can express.

“So why didn’t you?” Kara asks immediately, and Lena can tell just from her expression it’s not an angry question. It’s a genuine question, one she must have been toying with all weekend.

“I thought… I convinced myself I was doing the right thing,” Lena sighs, watching Kara still scrub frantically at her face, “When Andrea left me it was like a bolt of lightning hit me. I thought we’d grow old together and then she announced she wanted a divorce… I never saw it coming. Maybe I should have, I don’t know. But I was scared to let you get too close only for you to do the same.”

Kara sighs, “I wish you’d just told me this, though. It feels like I tried really hard and I got a whole lot of dishonesty back.”

“I know and that’s fair, and if you want this to end now then I’ll understand. I’m not good at communicating and that’s… if I’m really honest, probably part of the reason my marriage ended. But I’m here because I want to try with you, I want to do better.” Lena bites her lip, unable to stop herself from adding, “God, Kara, you’re going to hurt your face if you keep doing that.”

She digs through her purse for a pack of baby wipes and crosses the room to hand one to Kara. “I’m sorry,” she says, once their hands are close enough to touch, and then, gesturing at the baby wipe, “He’s thirteen and I still carry baby wipes everywhere with me, just in case. Can I start there, for honesty?”

To her relief, Kara gives a tiny smile, “That’s cute,” she says softly, taking the wipe and finally removing the glitter from her face. “I don’t think I’m ready to give up on this with you. Alex thinks I should but… if everybody gave up on me every time I screwed up, I’d probably be dead right now.” She says this as if it’s the most casual thing in the world, buttoning up her shirt as she does. “No more lying though, okay? That really, really sucked, Lena.”

“I promise,” Lena nods quickly, “And I want to… I mean, I asked Jess to clear my schedule for the next two days. There are a couple of calls I really have to take, but other than that I’m completely free. I was thinking, maybe, you could come to my place, I’ll cook dinner for you and you can stay the night?”

It doesn’t sound like much, Lena knows that, but there are so few people she allows into her home and she’s trying to make a gesture. She really hopes Kara can see it.

Kara’s smile is brilliant, “I’d really like that.” She nudges Lena teasingly, “I have pretty high expectations for how a billionaire lives though. I’m expecting a jacuzzi in every room, an elevator, and a life-sized portrait of you naked on a bearskin rug.”

Lena laughs, reaching up to adjust Kara’s collar for her, “You are going to be so disappointed.” She hesitates for a second and then tugs Kara down to kiss her, and Kara sighs against her lips.

“I missed you,” she says, “Please don’t lie to me again.”

“I won’t,” Lena promises, resting their foreheads together, “I want this too much.”

***

Lena’s house doesn’t look like a billionaire’s house, at least. It’s big and fancy and about a thousand times nicer than anywhere Kara’s ever lived, but it really just looks like a suburban house on a suburban street. The kind of place where people go to church on Sunday mornings, cut their grass on Sunday afternoons and throw rocks through minorities’ windows on Sunday nights.

Fine, so maybe Kara’s a little cynical. But she is excited to see where Lena lives, how she lives - it feels like a whole other side to her that Kara’s never experienced.

That theory is proven when Lena opens her front door with her hair left to curl naturally, barefoot and with only a little makeup. She looks nervous, and Kara suspects she’s trying very hard to show her something real, something that isn’t the made-up and manicured CEO Lena.

“You look beautiful,” Kara says, leaning down to kiss her and unable to resist letting it linger. When she pulls away Lena is blushing and flustered.

“Well, here it is. Try not to be too disappointed by the lack of an elevator,” she says, standing aside to let Kara step into an airy hallway.

“Going to give me the tour?” Kara asks, practically bouncing with the need to explore.

Lena nods and says, “Shoes,” and waits for Kara to kick off her sneakers before she leads her through the house.

There’s no elevator, no jacuzzies and, most disappointingly of all, no life-sized picture of Lena naked on a bearskin rug. There is a TV that’s bigger than Kara’s entire living room though, along with some mind-melting modern art on the walls. When Kara discovers a panel of unlabelled switches, she flips all of them and manages to dim the lights, elicit some soft jazz from speakers in the ceiling, and prompt a faint humming from somewhere in the house.

“What is it with rich people and buttons? You have so many buttons everywhere,” she says, looking around wonderingly.

“We like to press things, it makes us feel important,” Lena reaches over to turn off the switches and explains each in turn, “Low lighting, sound system, underfloor heating.”

“Is there another one around here somewhere for the trapdoor to your sex dungeon?” Kara asks, but before she’s even finished the question, she’s discovered something much more interesting: a shelf full of photographs.

All of the pictures are framed and tastefully arranged among plants and knick-knacks, but it essentially serves as a gallery of Mateo’s life. There’s him as a baby, naked in a bathtub, as a toddler taking his first steps, as a gap-toothed kid holding up a ‘first place’ ribbon, as an awkward scowling pre-teen. The picture Kara picks up is of him and Lena though, Lena in a sunhat smiling bright and wide with her arm around Mateo grinning next to her.

“Our last vacation as a family, Andrea and I separated shortly afterwards,” Lena explains quietly, “We were in Buenos Aires visiting her family.” She takes the photograph gently from Kara’s hands and places it back on the shelf, “I don’t think you want to hear about my failed relationship though.”

“I do,” Kara slides a hand over her back, “That’s the whole point though, Lena, I do.” She feels the tension in Lena’s muscles next to her though, and adds more lightly, “He’s a handsome kid. Bet he’s smart too, with you as a mom.”

“He is, straight As,” Lena can’t help the proud smile on her face, “Come on, let me give you the rest of the tour.”

Lena leads her through a gleaming kitchen and convinces Kara not to immediately jump in her pool before taking her upstairs. She shows her to her study and Kara spends several happy minutes browsing through the bookshelves, finding rare copies and antiques among new paperbacks. Lena watches her from the doorway with a tiny smile as Kara exclaims excitedly over a first edition of ‘The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe’.

“Should I be worried by your penchant for Christian allegory?” Lena comments with a raised eyebrow.

“It was the first book I ever really liked, I just really understood the feeling of accidentally stepping into this strange new place,” Kara shrugs one shoulder, “When my mom died it felt like I’d gone through the wardrobe into this world that didn’t make sense. I liked that they found a way to be happy,” she runs a finger over the cover, “And they got to go home at the end.”

“Keep it,” Lena touches her arm gently, “It obviously means a lot to you.”

Kara frowns, “Are you sure? I mean, I can buy my own copy.”

“I know you can,” Lena tells her, “But I want you to have that one.”

After that, Lena leads her to her bedroom, a room that is much smaller than Kara expected and decorated in cosy browns and greens, all soft fabrics and thick carpeting. It smells like fabric softener and Lena, and Kara can imagine her sinking into bed here after a long day in the office, burying herself in the blankets (or maybe Lena is a sprawled-out sleeper?) and forgetting her day.

“You can, um, leave your stuff in here, if you want,” Lena is already blushing, “For tonight, you know.”

Kara takes the invitation for what it is and leaves the backpack she stuffed with a few spare clothes and the book that Lena gave her neatly at the foot of Lena’s bed. She spends a happy minute or two inspecting Lena’s walk-in wardrobe after that (“Lena, this is more pairs of shoes than I have cumulatively owned in my entire life”) and expresses deep admiration for the ensuite bathroom (“This is a revolution in night-time peeing”).

But by the time they’ve returned downstairs and Kara is seated at Lena’s humongous kitchen island watching her begin to prep dinner, she can feel some of the questions from their fight beginning to twist and turn in her mind again. She had been able to put them aside, as excited as she was about finally getting to see where Lena lives, but with her stuff up in Lena’s bedroom and the intention there between them, she can’t help but wonder.

“Can I ask you a question?” she speaks up finally, tapping her toes nervously on the kitchen tiles.

“Of course,” Lena nods, although her gaze doesn’t move from the chicken she’s browning on the stovetop. Kara sort of thinks it makes it easier if she doesn’t look at her though.

“When you, uh, you made that comment about me hooking up with Tinder dates and stuff. Is that… I don’t know, where did that come from? Do you think I’ve been doing that this whole time?” And Kara knows that Lena likes her, knows Lena wouldn’t have spent this long with her if she didn’t, but it also sits uncomfortably with her that maybe Lena thinks she’s just – what? – out to get laid? Or not ready to commit to something?

Lena’s movements halt immediately, and she turns slowly towards Kara. Kara can see the guilt settle in her shoulders and the downturn of her mouth. “I shouldn’t have said that. It came from a place of… jealousy, I suppose.”

“Jealousy?” Kara frowns, confused, “Jealous of who? Girls I dated for a couple of weeks? I thought you knew this is more serious than that for me.”

“No - well, yes,” Lena admits, “I know you haven’t been sleeping with anyone since we became… whatever we are, you’re too decent for that. But it preys on my mind that once you realise I’m not, God, I don’t know – once you realise I’m not a twenty-three year old dancer, I don’t have their stamina or their looks, that you’ll want to go back to that.”

It takes Kara a moment to process this fully, that Lena, Lena Luthor, is insecure about being with her, a full-blown goofy blonde idiot. “That’s probably the stupidest thing you’ve ever said,” she says, possibly less tactful than she could have been.

She gets up and rounds the kitchen island to put her hands on Lena’s hips, “Lena, I think you’re beautiful and so, so freaking hot.”

“Right, I know you think that now,” Lena bites her bottom lip, “But I’m not sure if you realise that by the time you hit your forties there’s sagging tits and stretch marks to contend with.”

“What, you don’t think I have things I’m insecure about?” Kara scoffs.

Lena looks her up and down, visibly sceptical, “What? Are you too athletic or too chiselled or something?”

“My boobs are kind of tiny, I have weird bony feet, my elbow makes this worrying noise when I bend it a certain way, I have a scar on my eyebrow – “

Lena cuts her off with a kiss, half laughing against her lips. “Okay, okay, I take your point. Just don’t… please don’t be disappointed, okay?”

“I couldn’t be,” Kara says, and kisses her again, slipping her tongue past Lena’s lips and pressing her into the kitchen counter, the kiss deep and hot and ready. She tries to put months of longing and waiting and wanting into the kiss, to tell Lena with her lips and teeth how much she turns her on, how much she’s thought about finally being with her. Lena finally has to push her away, her fingers flexing on Kara’s biceps.

“The chicken is going to burn,” she whispers, her voice low.

“I don’t think I care,” Kara murmurs, but Lena just laughs, a blush on her cheeks, and shoos her away.

***

It becomes clear, later in the evening, that somewhere between making out in the kitchen and cleaning up after dinner, Kara decided to let Lena make the first move. She keeps their kisses short and sweet, her hands remain in exclusively respectful areas of Lena’s body, her eyes wander (Kara really can’t help herself) but never linger.

It has made Lena’s plan to let Kara take the evening where it will somewhat more difficult. She knows that at its heart though this is because Kara is essentially a good and decent person, a person who doesn’t want to push Lena past a point where she’s comfortable. But everything feels more intimate now, more closely connected, and Lena, for the first time in a long time, feels comfortable.

They lie together on Lena’s sofa, Lena’s back against Kara’s front, and Kara is flipping mindlessly through Netflix but Lena can only focus on the sparks blazing across her back where Kara is touching her, can only feel Kara’s breath like fire on her neck. She trails her thumb across Kara’s knuckles where her hand is placed sedately on Lena’s hip, feels the soft lines and indentations there. She has cut herself off from wanting this for so long that allowing it feels overwhelming, but she knows that having Kara means giving more of herself too. She decided before tonight that she was here, she was in this, she would let Kara in.

Gently, she pulls Kara’s arm so that it wraps more firmly around her stomach, and traces slow lines across it, feels the tiny blonde hairs, scrapes a fingernail over Kara’s palm. She lifts her hand and takes in the sight of Kara’s fingers, lean and strong, and presses a kiss to them, wishes they were inside her.

Then she turns slowly on the couch, careful to make sure she doesn’t embarrass herself by falling, until she and Kara are face to face, their mouths close, their chests moving in time. Kara is watching her, her expression calm and curious but not impatient. Lena is not quite ready to speak, only slides the palm of her hand under Kara’s t-shirt and feels the tension in those abs she has daydreamed about far too many times. She feels Kara’s ribs, the edge of her bra, the rise and fall of her breathing. She can’t resist returning to Kara’s stomach, tracing the defined lines, and still, Kara just watches her and waits.

Lena leans in and presses an open-mouthed kiss to Kara’s jaw, to her neck, hears Kara’s tiny intake of breath and feels the flex of muscles under her hand, so she does it again, and then again.

“Can I kiss you?” Kara’s voice is a low breathy whisper, the silence is barely broken, and Lena nods frantically.

And then it isn’t slow anymore. Kara pushes Lena onto her back and kisses her with all the pent up energy in her, it is deep and hot and filthy, her tongue licking into Lena’s mouth and her hips pressing down into Lena’s again and again until she is gasping. And Kara’s hands are no longer safe and sedate, Kara’s hands are everywhere they were not allowed before: under Lena’s shirt, on her stomach, over the rough lace of her bra and then her thighs. Kara grabs her ass and squeezes and Lena can do nothing but moan helplessly against her. Before her shirt is pulled off though, Kara pauses, waits for Lena’s permission, and Lena gasps out yes, because she is beyond delay, beyond waiting, she just wants, wants, wants.

Lena’s bra is pulled down after that, and there is no time to worry about what she looks like, what Kara thinks of her because Kara’s mouth is already on her. It makes her ache to feel Kara’s tongue on her nipple, one hand palming her other breast, but it makes her so much more wet to hear the whimpers of approval against her skin, the low curse words muttered every time Lena jolts and moans. Has she ever been wanted like this before?

“C’mon,” Kara says when Lena is halfway to asking her to take her then and there. She pulls away leaving Lena’s body cold, and Lena knows she looks debauched – that she’s shirtless with her bra rucked up, her hair everywhere, but Kara gazes at her with such hunger she can’t bring herself to care. “I’m taking you to bed,” Kara says, her grin wolfish and her hands strong.

Lena insists on stripping Kara when they reach her bedroom, and God, if she thought the clothed version was good then nothing compares to this. Kara is all lean muscle and soft eyes, and she undresses Lena like she wants to savour it, lifts her onto the bed with an ease that makes her squirm.

The feeling of them both at last naked and pressed against each is like nothing Lena has ever known, it feels as though every cell in her has woken up and come alive with longing. Is this a soulmate bond, or is this just Kara? She finds she doesn’t care when Kara’s mouth is moving with purpose down her body.

By the end, sex with Andrea had become rote and formulaic, a process initiated because one or both of them needed to get off. But Kara fucks her like she’s having fun: she laves her tongue over Lena’s collarbone like it’s something beautiful, laughs when she finds the ticklish spot on Lena’s stomach, kisses her there again for good measure, sucks a hickey into the stretch mark on Lena’s thigh, nuzzles into the crook of her hip and whispers “God, I could do this all night.” Then her tongue is hot and strong on Lena’s clit, and Lena is lost to all coherent thought, to knowing anything except Kara and the fire burning between her legs.

“Please,” she gasps out when Kara’s fingers tease her entrance, can’t remember the last time she wanted to be fucked until she forgets all reason and rationality. She can feel it building already, knows she is going to come, and her hips jerk off the bed uncontrollably when Kara finally slips inside.

Kara is steady against her, doesn’t let her go, doesn’t let her panic. Her tongue pauses in its movements for only a moment so she can say, “Tell me how you like it, baby, you feel so fucking good,” Lena can’t though, can’t speak, can only push herself harder into Kara and hope she knows, hope she feels what she wants.

She loses her breath when she comes, her spine a rigid arch, the world falling away around her. And Kara carries her through it all, warm and solid, presses a kiss to her thigh and seems ready to continue until Lena drags her up the bed to kiss her.

“God,” Lena says when she regains her senses, her voice hoarse, “Is all soulmate sex that good?”

“All sex with me is that good,” Kara grins, still on top of her and far too smug. So Lena slips her hand down between their bodies, finds Kara soaked and has the pleasure of watching her face twist and her hips twitch when Lena touches her.

She could do this all night, she thinks.

Maybe she will.

***

The sun is high and bright in the sky, streaming through the open window of Lena’s bedroom and illuminating dancing dust particles. There is a light breeze cooling Kara’s heated skin; the sheets have been kicked off somewhere around the foot of the bed. Lena is in her lap, her legs wrapped around Kara’s waist, Kara’s fingers buried inside her. It is peaceful and lazy, the gentle rhythm of Lena’s hips, the soft kisses they exchange, the sweet smell of sex and the shower they took together that morning. Eventually, perhaps, Lena will want to come, or they’ll decide to get out of bed to eat lunch or enjoy the weather outside. For now, though, they are content to stay wrapped in each other, Lena riding her fingers like she has no place to go.

“I can’t remember the last time I did this,” Lena says, one hand sliding through Kara’s hair.

Kara laughs and brushes away dark strands so she can kiss the tattoo on Lena’s bare shoulder, “You must be getting old if you’ve already forgotten - we did this last night. A lot.”

Lena uses her free hand to swat at her, “Shut up,” she says, then whimpers when Kara curls her fingers, her brows furrowed in adorable concentration. “I mean – fuck – I mean this. Having sex at midday on a weekday, just because.”

“I’ll volunteer to have sex with you any time, any place, just because.” Kara grins, peppers kisses along her jaw and lands back at her lips, sneaks her spare hand up to run a thumb against Lena’s nipple.

“I think my board of directors might frown on having sex in my office, unfortunately.” Lena’s fingernails scrape gently down the back of Kara’s neck and she steadies herself with her other hand, hanging on to Kara’s tensing bicep.

“That’s a shame, had a couple fantasies about you and that desk,” Kara lets her voice grow low and rough, scrapes her lips against Lena’s ear. “I’ve told you I like powerful women, haven’t I? Women who could buy up half the state if they wanted to, women who can end careers with a click of their fingers.” She grazes her teeth against Lena’s neck, soft and then hard, “And I like making powerful women come so hard they forget their own names.”

Lena whimpers, her hips moving with more intent now, “Never thought you’d be so good at dirty talk.”

Kara hides her smile against Lena’s skin – knows she doesn’t seem the type, but something about Lena brings it out in her. “Kind of want you bent over that desk with my strap inside you. Bet the board would never guess how loud their CEO can moan my name.”

Lena groans and Kara feels a new rush of wetness against her hand, and then Lena is gone, fucking herself on Kara’s fingers like she just can’t wait any longer. And Kara doesn’t want to make her wait, just wants to watch her fall apart, and then hold her until she comes back together again.

***

They make it out of bed by mid-afternoon when Lena has to join a conference call she couldn’t reschedule. She takes it on the living room sofa with her laptop balanced on her knee, attempting to sound like the serious and respected businesswoman she is as she watches Kara pad around eating grilled cheese, looking adorable and inexplicably sexy in sleep shorts and an oversized X-Files t-shirt. It occurs to her that it doesn’t feel like the first time Kara has been here, that she could have been living here for years, Lena feels so at ease.

(Then again, the orgasms probably helped with that.)

When Kara wanders out of sight Lena does manage to focus herself on discussing server stability and unexpected downtime and data backup policies. After the call is finished, she sends out a couple of urgent emails and then goes to find Kara in the kitchen, where the other woman is sitting at the counter frowning intensely at her phone.

“Everything okay?” Lena asks, smoothing a hand over her back as she passes her, going to pour herself a glass of water.

“I just have this stupid community college application,” Kara says. Lena tries not to react, doesn’t want to embarrass her by celebrating, but she delights in the fact that Kara is pushing through, doing something that scares her. “I mean I know it’s probably dumb and they’ll let me in anyway, like it’s not Harvard or whatever, but I just want to get it right. Don’t want there to be any spelling mistakes or anything.”

Lena sips her water, considering it before she says, “Darling, don’t talk about it like that. It’s a big step for you – and as someone who turned down Harvard, I get to say that this is more important. Would you like me to read through it? A fresh pair of eyes sometimes helps.”

Kara is red-faced but nods, handing her phone over to Lena without really looking at her, “It’s probably embarrassing that I’m twenty-three and I’m still not 100% totally sure on the difference between t-h-e-r-e and t-h-e-i-r.”

“I still spell-check every email I send,” Lena says calmly and settles in to read.

And really, Kara has done herself a disservice. There is hardly anything that needs to be changed, perhaps a few easily missed typos, and she looks genuinely surprised when Lena says as much.

It takes her several minutes of pacing and debating with herself, and she grips Lena’s hand hard when she finally gets up the courage to press submit.

“Shoot,” she says, wide-eyed when a confirmation appears on the screen, your application for National City Community College has been received. “What if I fail?”

Lena shrugs, trying very hard not to betray any emotion, “Then we’ll find something else you want to do. For what it’s worth, though, I don’t think you’ll fail.”

“Okay,” Kara says, looking excited and terrified all at once, “Thank you for… you know, holding my hand through this.”

Lena smiles softly, presses a kiss into her hair, “There’s nothing to thank me for. You did this, not me.”

***

Kara waits for her in the hallway outside of Alex’s apartment, bouncing on her toes in excitement. It has been four weeks since she spent her first night at Lena’s house and they have seen each other as often as Lena’s work allows since then, with the exception of weekends. Now that the school summer vacation has arrived though Lena is taking more time out of work to spend with Mateo, the custody arrangement with Andrea flexing to accommodate all of their schedules while he’s not in school, and that means Lena has less time available for Kara. It’s not that Kara minds it – she loves that Lena gets to spend more time with her son, has come to understand over the last month just how hard Lena finds it to be away from him all week, and it always brings a smile to her face to hear Lena excitedly telling her about their plans together. She still misses her though, and an entire evening together with Kara’s friends sounds too good to be true right now.

Lena is tense and fidgeting when she steps out of the elevator but her posture relaxes as soon as she sees Kara. They are drawn together like magnets, Kara wrapping her arms around her and leaning down to kiss her more deeply than is strictly appropriate in a public hallway. The sparks she felt when they first met have blazed into something bigger now, a flame that warms her through. She knows with certainty how she feels about Lena but she hasn’t quite said the words yet, both out of nerves for Lena’s reaction and a tiny voice in her head, one that sounds a lot like Alex, telling her you fall in love too easily.

“We’re outside your best friend’s apartment,” Lena tells her with a laugh, looking flushed as she pulls away from the kiss. “Do I look okay? Not too formal?”

“You look perfect,” Kara tells her honestly, and Lena does, in a light summer dress with a necklace that hangs tantalisingly between her cleavage.

Lena catches the direction of Kara’s gaze and rolls her eyes, “You can be a pervert later. I’m trying to look casual and not like I’m a thousand years old next to your friends.”

Kara laughs and drops a kiss to the top of her head, “Alex is thirty-five and I think J’onn will be there too – he’s one of Alex’s old cop buddies. He’s in his fifties. You won’t even be the oldest, and you’ll definitely be the hottest.”

“Okay,” Lena nods like she’s steeling herself, even though Kara doesn’t really get why – her friends are nice and she’s told Lena that a million times. “Let’s go,” Lena says in the end and allows Kara to pull her towards the door.

Kara lets them into the apartment and almost immediately Esme barrels into her legs like a tiny hug whirlwind. Kara swings the six year old easily up into her arms, kissing her forehead and squeezing her tight.

“Hi, I missed you, I love your dress,” she tells her with a grin, not missing the way Lena watches her thoughtfully.

“Mommy said you’re bringing your girlfriend and we have to be nice,” Esme informs her bluntly, and Kara winces. She’s called Lena her girlfriend when it’s just the two of them but they’ve never really been around other people enough for it to come up. She really should have debriefed the kid before she got here on acceptable things to say to Lena.

Thankfully, Lena takes it entirely in stride, “It’s nice to meet you, Esme, I’m Lena. Your Aunt Kara tells me you’re a big fan of pirates, maybe you could show me your captain’s hat?”

That’s about all it takes to win Esme over and she wriggles out of Kara’s arms to lead Lena by the hand to her toybox.

“That little traitor,” Alex says, probably mostly joking, appearing at Kara’s side to hand her a beer, “One mention of pirates and she’s a goner.”

“Play nice,” Kara nudges her, “Lena’s really nervous about tonight.”

Alex shrugs, “I’m just looking out for you, somebody has to.”

***

By the time everyone has arrived and they are chatting amiably in the living room, Lena wants to vomit very slightly less. Kara had told her again and again that her friends are nice, and they are nice, with the possible exception of Alex who still looks like she’d quite enjoy murdering her. Lena easily falls into an in-depth discussion of the logistics of the mass roll-out of vaccinations in developing countries that L-Corp is planning with Brainy though, Kara glancing up at her with a small smile from where she is sitting on the floor playing an animated game of ‘Hungry Hungry Hippos’ with Esme.

Brainy is just questioning her on the safe storage of vaccines in areas without reliable electricity supply when Alex appears from the kitchen holding a bottle of champagne.

“I think congratulations are in order,” she announces, and waits for conversation to die down and everyone to turn towards her expectantly, “Our very own Kara Zor-El has been accepted into college.”

Kara turns red-faced immediately, “Community college, and I told you not to make a big deal out of it,” she mutters.

Lena, however, is in full agreement with Alex. Kara had called her three days ago to let her know the acceptance letter had arrived, brimming with excitement, and Lena isn’t about to let her downplay its importance. “It is a big deal and I agree with Alex, we should toast your success,” she says, and for the first time, Alex shoots her a genuine smile.

Alex hands out champagne glasses and pours drinks for them all (apple juice for Esme), and Kara covers her face with her hands when they all raise a glass to her.

“Okay, okay,” Nia laughs, clearly taking pity on her friend, “Can we talk about the real achievement here though? Like, how the hell did Kara Zor-El manage to land the only hot MILF billionaire on the planet as a soulmate?”

“Are you allowed to just call people MILFs right to their face like that?” This is James, the one who has been filed in Lena’s mental catalogue of Kara’s friends as brother-in-law of Alex, uncle of Esme, ex-boyfriend of Kara before she realised she was definitely on the gay train and never jumping off (Kara’s words, not Lena’s, obviously).

Nia shrugs, “What’s the point in calling her a MILF behind her back?”

“Just a small point of contention, why am I being called a MILF at all?” Lena questions.

“You kind of are a MILF, babe,” Kara tells her casually, and it’s clearly a sign that Lena has been spending far too much time with her because she’s actually flattered by that. “Anyway, what’s so surprising about me being with Lena? I have stuff going for me.”

“Kara, you have a lot going for you, but let’s be real, you were the queen of the bad girlfriends,” Nia says, and there’s a general murmuring of agreement from the assembled group.

“Hey, I was not the queen of the bad girlfriends,” Kara protests, “I had some nice girlfriends.”

“You… really didn’t, honestly, Kara,” James chuckles.

“Remember that one girl who stole all your stuff twice before you dumped her?” Nia asks.

“Yeah, but she was a kleptomaniac. She needed help,” Kara defends grumpily, getting up to sit on the arm of the sofa next to Lena, as though she thinks she’ll find some sort of assistance there. She’s out of luck, Lena is very interested in hearing about this.

“What about that girl that told you she didn’t believe in reading?” Alex pipes up, “She didn’t believe in reading, Kara, like reading is a crime or something.”

“Everybody has the right to their own opinion,” Kara huffs, glancing at Lena like she’s worried this will bother her – it might have, if Lena weren’t so amused.

“How is it possible not to believe in reading, exactly?” she queries, “She didn’t think it was real or she didn’t think we should do it?”

Kara clears her throat awkwardly, “She didn’t think we should do it; she thought the interpretation of iconography went against the natural order of things. Which was fine and everything, but reading the whole menu to her at restaurants did get sort of annoying after a while.”

“I see,” Lena blinks, still attempting to wrap her brain around this concept.

“I didn’t like that lady you brought over at Thanksgiving,” Esme tells Kara, “She kept kissing you all the time so you couldn’t talk to anybody.”

Kara stares at her incredulously, “You’re getting in on this? You were three, how do you even remember that?”

“I mean, it was pretty memorable. And gross,” Alex shrugs.

“If I may contribute, I didn’t care much for Siobhan Smythe. She informed Nia that she was, to quote, ‘slumming it’ by dating me,” Brainy looks about his usual level of emotionless, but Nia is annoyed enough for both of them.

“That bitch, I freaking hated her,” she mutters darkly.

“Language,” Alex reprimands, nodding pointedly at Esme.

“I did break up with her after that,” Kara points out, “I thought she had a twisted sense of humour. Turned out she was just sort of twisted.”

“What about – “ Nia starts, but Kara interrupts before she can get out another ex-girlfriend story.

“Okay, can we please stop talking about all my disastrous dating attempts in front of the person I’m right now, this second, dating?” she asks, holding her hands up, “I want her to still think I’m kind of cool.”

Lena smirks, squeezing Kara’s thigh, “Darling, I think anyone who’s known you for more than five minutes knows that’s not true.”

Nia laughs out loud at that, “Okay, Kara, I think I like this one. You can bring her around again.”

It’s an hour later when Lena emerges from the bathroom to find Alex waiting on the other side for her, her arms folded across her chest. It’s immediately obvious she wasn’t just waiting for the bathroom to be free.

“I gather this is where you ask me about my intentions?” Lena arches an eyebrow, refusing to be intimidated.

“You’re the longest relationship she’s ever had, you know that right?” Alex asks. It wasn’t the opener Lena expected but she nods – Kara hasn’t exactly told her as much but she’s surmised it from the weekly texts she gets informing her how long they’ve been dating now.

“She didn’t have anybody growing up.” Alex continues, “She remembers her mom through rose-tinted glasses but honestly, she wasn’t an angel, and once she died Kara was by herself. That’s why she surrounds herself with friends, that’s why she talks to everybody she meets, that’s why she dated so many people.”

“Kara has told me about her past,” Lena says, irritated by the assumption that she doesn’t already know this.

“Right, but what she probably hasn’t told you, because I don’t think she even realises it herself, is that she needs people in her life who are stable.” The set of Alex’s jaw is hard but her voice is even, “She’s so desperate for a home and a family that she’ll let in anyone who’ll have her no matter how much they screw her around. If you’re serious about this then you need to be someone she can rely on.”

All at once, Lena’s irritation fades. She recognises the tone of Alex’s voice – it isn’t accusation but fear, the same fear she’s sure she would feel for Mateo entering a relationship with someone who had the capacity to be dishonest. This isn’t about Lena for Alex, it’s about Kara.

“I made a mistake,” she says quietly, “I let my own past cloud my judgement. But I won’t do that again, I’m doing everything in my power to be open and honest with her. Kara knows I’m not perfect but I am trying to be the best partner I can be.”

Alex sighs, softens, “I don’t think anybody expects you to be perfect,” she relents, “But she’s somebody who’s hurt easily and she doesn’t always know how to defend herself.”

“I understand that, or at least I’m beginning to,” Lena says honestly, “But I want to be someone who is there to defend her, not someone she needs to defend herself from.”

Alex gives her a small smile, one not unlike Kara’s, and Lena can see why Kara refers to them as sisters so often, the influence that Alex has had on her. “My wife would have been so excited to meet you, you know. She was a doctor and a huge fan of the medical advancements L-Corp is driving.”

“I’d have liked to meet her too, Kara speaks very highly of her,” Lena smiles, glancing back towards the living room, “I think Kara will send out a search party if we stay here much longer.”

“You’re probably right,” Alex grins, and they begin to move back to re-join the group in the living room. “So, uh, how’s your son enjoying his summer vacation? Esme is determined to spend hers forgetting as much math as possible.”

It’s an olive branch that Lena decides to take, “He doesn’t mind math so much, but I’ve somehow managed to raise a heathen who would rather watch a comic book movie than read an actual book.”

Alex snorts, “I’ll swap you comic books for pirates any time.”

And Lena finds herself smiling as she chats easily to Alex about their kids, and warmed through as she sits back down and Kara slides a fond arm around her shoulders.

“Everything okay? Alex didn’t try to scare you, did she?” she whispers into Lena’s ear.

Lena regards Alex thoughtfully across the room as the other woman debates the merits of going to bed with Esme and shakes her head. “You’re lucky to have her,” she tells Kara and is rewarded with her girlfriend’s bright and beautiful smile.

***

Kara likes Sam and Jack immediately.

They are sharp-witted and tease Lena to the point of irritation, then look at her with the fondness that betrays the decades-long friendship between them.

“So, how did you all meet?” Kara asks once they are settled in the bar either Sam or Jack chose. It’s an upscale one in a very nice part of town with cocktails that cost more than Kara’s hourly wage, and it has been carefully decorated to look like a working-class living room. It’s not unlike Kara’s living room, actually, with worn sofas and potted plants, and that makes Lena laugh when Kara whispers it to her.

“We – “ Sam gestures between herself and Lena, “ – met at boarding school, and Jack…”

“Jack,” Jack announces, pausing dramatically, “Is Lena’s ex-fiancé.”

Lena rolls her eyes, “Hardly. We had a brief beard situation before either of us came out to our parents – it was the early aughts; it was the kind of thing you did back then.”

Sam snorts, “It’s the kind of thing you two did back then. I was, you know, normal.”

“Is this the same Sam Arias who once handcuffed a woman to her bed, promptly lost the key and had to call Lena over with bolt cutters to set the poor naked woman free?” Jack queries, “Is that the definition of normal we’re operating under?”

To Kara’s disappointment, this argument is interrupted by the waitress bringing their cocktails, and table service seems sort of weird to her in a place that’s going to such a big effort to feel all natural and down to earth.

“We can move on after these drinks if you don’t like it here,” Lena tells her quietly, sliding her fingers over Kara’s knee, and Kara feels herself relax, “It’s a little pretentious, even for me.”

Jack’s keen eyes don’t miss the movement of Lena’s hand on Kara’s leg though, and he grins wickedly, “So,” he drawls out, “Sam and I have both been wondering…”

Kara laughs, poking at her inexplicably purple cocktail with the straw, “Is this the part where I get the shovel talk? What are my intentions with your friend, and everything? My sister already gave it to Lena so it only seems fair.”

Jack and Sam look at each other, clearly amused and clearly going to ask Lena about that later.

“Sort of,” Jack says, “We would like to know your intentions.”

“For example,” Sam adds, like some sort of comedy double act, “Are your intentions to finally make our friend chill the fuck out by giving her the orgasms she has desperately needed for the last eighteen months?”

Lena’s eyes widen, the expression on her face murderous, just as Jack helpfully adds, “The last two years, if we’re being honest. She wasn’t getting much pre-divorce either.”

“I’m going to kill you,” Lena says, her tone entirely serious, “I’m going to murder both of you.”

Kara can only laugh though, delighted by this, “I mean I sort of hope I’ve already helped her relax,” she shrugs, taking a sip of her gross cocktail, “Not necessarily strictly sexually.”

“Really? Because I remember being twenty-three, the word insatiable comes to mind,” Jack raises his eyebrows playfully.

And, honestly, Lena would probably use the word insatiable to describe Kara – although now she’s rediscovered sex, Lena is a little insatiable herself these days – but Kara also tries to be nice and respectful about it, she’s genuinely just as happy to cuddle with her or rub her feet after a long day.

“We’re really, really not talking about this,” Lena informs them, “I’m leaving now if you continue this line of questioning.”

Kara takes pity on her and elects to change the subject, “Anyway, I’m more interested in hearing about Lena when she was twenty-three. All I really know is that she was – what did you call it again, babe? A closeted, sexually-repressed virgin?”

She does not miss the way Jack and Sam glance at each other and mouth the word babe, but they seem more pleased than amused.

“She was the worst,” Sam agrees easily, “She took all her sexual frustration and closeted lesbian energy out in the lab. I think she was working fourteen-hour days, every day, for over a year.”

“We’re lucky she met Andrea when she did or she might have turned into a supervillain and destroyed the world,” Jack agrees, and then immediately frowns and rubs his leg when Sam kicks him under the table.

“It’s okay,” Kara reassures them quickly, “I know Lena was with Andrea, it’s not exactly a secret.”

Lena, for her part, looks as though she is very seriously regretting introducing them.

Eventually, they move on to a different bar, one that is a little more normal by Kara’s standards – it has stools and beer and she is allowed to get up and order from a bartender, not a surly waitress. By the time she has plied them all with a tray of shots, both Lena and Sam are looking flushed and tipsy, while for his part, Jack appears to be holding his alcohol just as well as Kara can.

“Lightweights,” he laughs as Lena leans heavily into Kara’s side, her fingers curling around Kara’s, “We might be the last two standing at this rate, Miss Zor-El.”

“We’re parents,” Sam protests mildly, relaxed and happy with her fourth or fifth cocktail of the night, “We don’t get to spend our nights partying.”

“Not like us young people,” Jack winks at Kara.

“You’re older than me, Spheer,” Lena rolls her eyes, before perking up noticeably as the music changes, “Oh, I love this song.”

“Let’s dance then,” Kara tells her, getting to her feet and tugging Lena up along with her, and Lena really must be drunk because she doesn’t even protest when Kara pulls her onto the dancefloor.

She’s still stiff at first, placing her arms sedately around Kara’s shoulders, but a mixture of the alcohol and Kara’s hands on her hips encourage her to relax, and by the end of the song she’s laughing as they watch Jack twirl Sam around, letting Kara move her in something that is vaguely in time to the beat. Then ‘The Time Of My Life’ starts up and Jack insists to Lena that this is the song they would have played at their wedding, so they have no choice but to dance together as Sam and Kara retreat back to their table.

“You’re good for her,” Sam says, nudging Kara’s side.

Kara shrugs with a small smile, “I think it’s just the shots, honestly.”

“Maybe tonight,” Sam laughs, watching as Jack attempts to convince Lena into a ‘Dirty Dancing’ style lift, “But just so you know, if anybody had called her babe twenty years ago, she’d have told them to go fuck themselves.”

“Maybe she’s mellowed with age?” Kara suggests lightly.

Sam shakes her head with a smile, “I think she’s just mellowed with you.”

***

Lena wakes to the smell of summer, the chattering of birds outside her window, and a solid warmth at her back that wasn’t there when she went to sleep. Kara is snoring softly behind her and Lena spends a minute just enjoying her presence: the smell of Lena’s soap from the shower she must have taken the night before, the tickle of her hair against Lena’s neck, the muscular thigh slotted between her own. She reaches back to trace down from Kara’s hip to the edge of the tattoo on her leg, the one that matches Lena’s own so closely, and looks up at the picture of her mother on her nightstand: the first woman she ever loved in a field of sunflowers.

I think you would like her she tells her mother silently.

Then she rolls gently onto her back, Kara mumbling a complaint in her sleep until Lena wraps an arm around her and tugs so that her head is on Lena’s chest. Kara sighs happily against Lena’s cleavage, as she always does, cuddling in close to her. She’s wearing a t-shirt that says “Check out my six-pack” with a picture of six donuts on it, and it makes Lena simultaneously smile and cringe to see it. She brushes blonde hair away from Kara’s face and traces the line of her jaw. I’m so in love with you, she thinks, and doesn’t feel scared or even surprised. Just feels it, as essentially as breathing.

“You’re tickling,” Kara murmurs sleepily, pressing a kiss to Lena’s chest, only really half-awake.

“Sorry,” Lena says, but doesn’t stop moving her fingers over Kara’s chin. “What time did you get here?”

“’ Bout four,” Kara isn’t quite willing to open her eyes and commit fully to this conversation just yet, “Came here straight from Roulette.”

It’s early August and the last dying days of the school summer vacation, five months since they began dating according to Kara’s weekly updates. She seems to spend more time here than she does at her own place and Lena had given her a key weeks ago - partly for ease of access when she’s working long hours at the office, and partly for Alex’s words that still ring around her mind. Kara needs someone she can rely on.

“I didn’t think you’d be coming over,” Lena tells her, sliding her hand down and under her ridiculous t-shirt to feel the warmth of her skin. This is a rare Saturday morning together; Andrea has taken Mateo to see her family in Argentina before he returns to school next week.

“I know you hate weekends when he’s not here, figured I’d keep you company. Wouldn’t have done it if I knew you’d wake me up.” It sounds like a complaint, but there’s a sleepy, teasing smile on Kara’s lips. “Hope you don’t mind I used your fancy shower stuff so I didn’t smell like puke,” she adds, yawning and stretching her legs out, beginning to wake more fully now.

“Someone puked on you?” Lena asks, suddenly wondering if she should be quite so close to Kara.

“Near me,” Kara explains, her eyes blinking open to look up at Lena, deep blue and still clouded with sleep. “Good morning.”

“Morning,” Lena smiles, cranes her neck to kiss her, soft and sweet, “Thank you for coming over. I’ll make you breakfast in a little bit.”

“Stay here for a while longer, I’m comfortable,” Kara wraps an arm firmly around Lena and settles herself back on her chest. “You feeling okay?”

“Better now,” Lena tells her honestly, drawing lazy patterns on Kara’s back, “I spoke to him last night and he was telling me all about what his cousins are up to. He’s so much more settled now, even than he was a few months ago.”

“Sounds like more time with you and Andrea over the summer has been good for him, showed him he’s not going to lose either of you,” Kara suggests. It’s one of those passing comments she sometimes makes that reminds Lena just how insightful she can be about other people, far more so than Lena herself often is.

It might have been easy for someone who wasn’t Kara to be selfish, to demand to be made a priority in Lena’s already hectic schedule, but she never has been, even when Lena couldn’t see her for over a week at a time while she was with Mateo through the summer. Even now, with the nerves clearly setting in as her first day of class swiftly approaches, she has tried to put Lena first at every turn.

“I want you to meet him,” Lena tells her, feels Kara tense in surprise. It’s a thought she’s been toying with for the past few weeks and feels ready, finally, to say it.

Kara props herself up on one elbow to look down at Lena, struggles to contain the excitement in her features, “Are you sure?” she asks after a moment’s pause.

“Absolutely sure,” Lena tells her honestly, “I think we both know now that we’re serious about this and… I want you to get to know him. It might just be as mom’s friend, at first though, until he’s comfortable.”

Kara nods quickly, “Whatever is best for you and him.”

Lena bites her lip, knowing the next part might be slightly harder to swallow, “Before you meet him though… well, Andrea will want to meet you first.”

Kara blows air out through her nose and flops down on the pillow next to Lena, “Your terrifying ex-wife. Think the classic Zor-El charm will win her over?”

“I don’t think so,” Lena admits, “Is that a yes?”

“It’s a yes,” Kara says without hesitation, “I want to meet the people who are important to you, Andrea included.”

Lena can’t help it then, she slides a leg over Kara’s hips and leans in to kiss her, her fingers splayed out on Kara’s chest. “How do you do that?” she asks against her lips, kisses her again greedily before she continues, “How do you just accept this messy situation?”

Kara is distracted by the way Lena’s thumb is running rings around her nipple, looks a little taken by surprise by the whole thing, “I just, uh,” she says, closes her eyes and opens them again, “I don’t know, I don’t think it’s all that messy, really? And I want to make you happy.”

Lena settles her weight more fully on top of Kara and presses their lips together in a kiss that is softer and lingers longer. She feels whole, when they’re like this, as though two halves of herself have come together. I love you is on the tip of her tongue but she doesn’t say it, not quite ready yet. She thinks Kara might know though, from the tiny lift at the corners of her lips.

Instead, Lena presses herself into Kara more urgently and Kara’s hands slide over Lena’s spine, and Lena decides to take that stupid donut shirt off.

***

The location for the Luthor-Rojas Summit (as Kara has been calling it in her head) is a carefully negotiated treatise. Kara had been aware of this, as Lena asked for her input, but not part of it. Andrea had put forth that the meeting should take place in her office, Lena had countered with the L-Corp offices, Andrea had demurred, Kara had meekly suggested that neutral ground might be sensible (but Lena had gently informed her that her offer of Roulette would not be well received) and eventually it was agreed that they would meet in a coffee shop.

By the time the day arrives, Kara is starting to feel like she’s in hostage negotiations, with her playing the part of the hostage.

Except even though she is, yes, incredibly nervous and very aware that her chances of meeting Lena’s son hang in the balance (and she has been dying to meet Mateo almost since she first learned of his existence), she’s also a little bit excited. Andrea played such a huge part in Lena’s life for such a long time and Kara wants to meet her, wants to understand the parts of her that Lena loved, even if Lena sort of despises her now.

If anything, Lena seems more nervous than Kara, gripping her hand tightly throughout the car ride over there, even as she attempts to reassure Kara that everything will be fine. “She might be a little, well, prickly,” she states, staring out of the window as though she is counting down the turns in the road until they arrive.

“Babe, she’s your ex-wife and I’m your new girlfriend. I realise it’s going to be awkward,” Kara squeezes Lena’s hand. “Honestly, I’m kind of looking forward to meeting somebody you spent seventeen years with.”

Lena looks at her properly then, her eyebrows furrowed in confusion, “You really don’t get jealous at all, do you?”

Kara only shrugs – she doesn’t really, and maybe that’s weird, but she trusts Lena and also, she just really wants everybody to get along with each other, like she’s that one kid in Mean Girls.

Lena nods, mostly to herself, “Just so you know, you cannot expect me to be this relaxed if I ever meet any of your exes.”

They arrive at the coffee shop before Andrea, and Lena takes great care in picking out a place to sit, carefully observing the artfully casual coffee shop with its low tables and mismatched chairs and finally choosing a spot in the corner with three high-backed armchairs of exactly equal height.

“We want to be on even ground for this,” she explains as though this makes complete sense.

But then Kara is completely distracted from whatever ‘Art of War’ games Lena and her ex-wife are playing because Andrea walks in and goddamn. Kara can see why Lena married her. If she wasn’t stupidly, desperately, head over heels for Lena she’s pretty sure she would be into her too – Andrea strides through the coffee shop like she’s readying herself to ring the bell at the New York Stock Exchange, her heels making her tower over even Kara. Kara half rises from her seat to greet her, realises Lena isn’t doing the same, and sits back down.

Then Andrea settles herself in the seat opposite Lena and Kara, crosses one leg over the other, looks Kara up and down and says, “Jesus Christ, Lena, you didn’t tell me you were dating a fucking infant.”

Kara turns her head very slowly to look at Lena, whose jaw is tensed in the way it normally only does when she has to meet with one of her subordinates who hasn’t been doing the job they’re paid for (or when she’s close to coming and Kara is teasing her, but that isn’t strictly relevant right now).

“Kara, this is Andrea,” she eventually announces with faux-politeness, “I hope I remembered to warn you that she shares a personality with Cruella Deville.”

Kara decides that this is probably about the time to turn on that classic Zor-El charm. “It’s nice to meet you,” she says with a friendly smile at Andrea, “I’m actually twenty-three. I realise there’s a little bit of an age difference but we’re making it work.”

Andrea stares at Kara for several seconds before looking back at Lena, incredulous, “She’s closer in age to our son than she is to you. This is the person you want to introduce him to?”

Lena puts a gentle hand on Kara’s arm, “Darling, could you go and order us some coffees? Andrea will have an Americano and you know my order.”

When she tells this story to Alex later, Kara will probably pretend that she didn’t run away quite as quickly as she actually does. She watches them both from the counter as they are engaged in a clearly heated discussion, and as much as it puts her on edge, it also warms her to know that Lena is over there defending her to her ex-wife.

“Let me guess,” the barista says as he hands Kara their drinks, “You’re a third for a couple but only one of them wants to go ahead with it? Been there, my friend.”

“Uh, not exactly,” Kara replies, adding a couple of dollars to the tip jar, “That situation would actually probably be preferable to what’s going on right now.”

Lena is mid-sentence when Kara returns, her voice low and her expression deadly, “- and I didn’t need to introduce you to her at all. I am doing this as a courtesy to you so you feel comfortable as we co-parent our child. If you came here just to insult her to her face then I think you’ll suddenly find our divorce becomes considerably less amicable.”

Gradually, Andrea sits back in her chair and turns her face away from Lena. It’s a concession, albeit a grudging one, that Lena accepts with a smug smirk as Kara sets their drinks down.

“So,” this comment is directed at Kara as Andrea takes a delicate sip of her coffee in a way that is not unlike Lena, “Your girlfriend has made it extremely clear both that she is, for some reason, serious about you and that I am to speak directly to you.”

“Uh,” Kara glances at Lena, not sure what to make of this, “Thanks?”

Andrea rolls her eyes, “However, Mateo has struggled with our divorce and it’s only with patience and a good therapist that his emotions have begun to settle. Personally, I’m not sure it’s the right time to disrupt him again.”

“I get that,” Kara says easily, feeling like she had just a little insight into Andrea, “I’m not here to make his life any harder, and if that means I don’t meet him then I don’t meet him. But I also kind of think it might be good for him to see that his mom is happy?” She looks again at Lena, hoping she isn’t speaking out of turn, and Lena gives her a small smile of encouragement, “I mean, I know my goddaughter sometimes worries her mom is lonely and she’s only six. Mateo seems like a caring kid, from what Lena has told me, I think he’d like knowing she has someone when he’s not there.”

Andrea regards Kara carefully for several seconds then turns to Lena, “You’ve done a background check on her?”

Lena rolls her eyes, as though this wasn’t the very first thing she did, “She has some minor misdemeanours in her past driven by personal circumstances she has explained to me in full. I’ve spent enough time with her to confirm that she doesn’t currently use recreational drugs, that she drinks alcohol but rarely to excess, and is, to summarise the rest, a good person. I wouldn’t be proposing she meet our son if I didn’t feel confident in that.”

This is starting to feel like the weirdest job interview Kara’s ever been to.

“I also like comic books and video games,” she offers, “And I know Mateo likes comic books and video games, so…”

“Great, we’ll set you up on a play date,” Andrea informs her bluntly, turning back to Lena.

“Stop,” Lena’s voice is sharp, interrupting before Andrea can continue, “I’ve already told you not to speak to her like that. I realise this is a difficult situation but I am not asking you to like Kara or even to spend any time with her after today. I’m just asking you to recognise that she is part of my life and that she could be a positive influence in our son’s life.”

Andrea places her coffee down on the table in between them, and there are several seconds of cold silence as she and Lena regard each other. It seems to Kara that there’s an unspoken conversation going on between them, one in a language that perhaps only develops after having a relationship with someone for the better part of your adult life.

“Kara,” Andrea says in the end, “I hope you understand that it is strange for me to see the woman I was married to for a very long time in a relationship with somebody new. Particularly someone who is, as I understand it, her soulmate.”

Kara blinks, surprised by this sudden vulnerability from Andrea, and she wonders what the other woman saw in Lena’s eyes to make her express it. Maybe she just found the little bit of herself that, Kara is sure, still loves Lena – this much anger doesn’t come from a place of pure hatred.

“I probably don’t understand it because I’ve never been married or in such a long relationship,” Kara answers her honestly, “But I also want you to know that I respect you as somebody who is really important to Lena and as the other parent of her kid. I’m not here to – I don’t know – come between anybody, I guess. I want whatever is best for Lena and Mateo.”

Andrea nods slowly, and for just a second Kara sees a hint of sadness in her eyes. It’s gone as quickly as it came though. “Fine,” she tells Lena, “You have my blessing for her to meet Teo if that’s what you’re looking for. I would very much like to never meet her again though.”

Lena lets out a long breath, “I think we’d all like that.”

***

Lena is not entirely sure why she chose the zoo as the point of Kara and Mateo finally meeting, only that she did. It seemed safe territory, at the time, things for them to do and see and look at and avoid any potentially awkward or stilted conversation. Mateo likes the zoo, Lena strongly suspects that Kara likes the zoo, and although Lena would never willingly place herself so close to animal faeces under normal circumstances, she was ready to endure it for the both of them. Now though, on the drive there with Teo glaring at her through his dark bangs, she is beginning to question herself.

“We’re meeting your friend at the zoo?” he asks, the doubt clear in his voice.

Lena remembers all too well the agony of being thirteen: that moment when you are poised at the peak of your childhood only for the hooks of adulthood to dig into you and tear you away from it. That conflict is clearly evident in Mateo in this moment; he is simultaneously excited to go to the zoo and deeply suspicious of his mother’s intentions.

“You don’t have friends,” he informs her.

“I have friends,” Lena protests, “What about Aunt Sam and Uncle Jack?”

Teo scoffs, “They don’t count, you’ve been friends with them since, like, before I was born. You don’t have new friends.”

“Well, this is a new friend,” Lena informs him as Frank puts the car into park, “And I’d like you to be on your best behaviour.”

Kara is managing to look relaxed and handsome as she waits for them at the entrance to the zoo, reading a brochure on the animals there, but Lena can see the nervous excitement in her bouncing feet. There is a double rush of serotonin whenever she sees Kara now, from the soulmate bond and from loving her, but both of them have to resist the urge to touch each other for Mateo’s sake.

He swats Lena’s hand away as she attempts to flatten his hair and she settles with resting it on his shoulder instead, “Teo, this is my friend Kara,” she introduces them.

“Hey, good to meet you, your mom’s told me a lot about you,” Kara says brightly.

Mateo looks up at Lena suspiciously, “You talk about me to your friends?” he asks, as though this is some sort of betrayal of privacy.

“Of course I do,” Lena laughs, “You’re my favourite topic of conversation, I have to brag to everyone about you.”

“That’s embarrassing,” Mateo mutters darkly, and Lena just shrugs at Kara.

Teenagers, she mouths, and Kara laughs, seems to relax at least marginally. “Well, I’ve never been to the zoo before, so I’m hoping you guys will tell me the best animals to see.” She holds up the brochure in her hands for them to see, “It says in here they have howler monkeys and they’re the loudest mammals in the world, and honestly, I kind of relate to that.”

Mateo laughs at the joke, a real laugh, not one of the sarcastic ones that Lena usually elicits, “I relate to the sloths more,” he tells her with a grin.

Kara beams at him, “Sounds like we already have two stops on the tour.”

When they make their way through the entrance of the zoo Mateo looks Kara up and down, as though she has now been deemed worthy of his proper attention, and takes in her Justice League t-shirt. Lena half wonders if Kara wore it on purpose because she knows Teo likes comic books or just because, well, she’s Kara and she wears that sort of thing all the time.

“Marvel is better than DC,” Mateo informs her.

Kara looks incredulously at Lena, “What kind of kid are you raising here? Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman. Dude, you are so wrong.”

Then the debate begins in earnest and continues until they reach the sloth enclosure, while Lena idly considers that she may have created a monster.

By the time they have trailed around several exhibits both Kara and Mateo are ravenous, and Lena buys them lunch in the café, watching them eat cheeseburgers while she picks at a damp salad.

“Te estás divirtiendo, sweetheart?” Lena asks Mateo when there is a brief pause in his chewing, are you having fun?

“Sí, Mom, deja de preocuparte,” Teo huffs, quit worrying.

Kara looks between them with interest, “I didn’t know you both spoke Spanish.”

“Mamá is from Argentina, they made me speak both from when I was a baby,” Teo tells her, “Mom is just speaking it now because she’s fussing about me.”

“I’m your mother, I’m permitted to fuss,” Lena states primly, “He’s also learning Mandarin and Ancient Greek at school.”

“Stop talking about me,” Teo scowls, embarrassed, “I’m going to the bathroom.”

“They’re just over there,” Lena points him towards them, “Do you want me to come with you or – “

“Mom,” Teo rolls his eyes, “I’m thirteen.”

He stomps off to the bathroom by himself and Lena shrugs one shoulder sheepishly at Kara, “He thinks I baby him.”

“All kids think their moms baby them, Esme started telling Alex she babied her when she was two – practically an actual baby,” Kara laughs, before adding more tentatively, “I feel like it’s going well?”

“He likes you,” Lena lets the relief that it is going well seep through her for the first time. “I think you may have even convinced him to watch a Wonder Woman movie.”

She glances around to make sure Teo is still out of view before reaching over to squeeze Kara’s hand and kiss her knuckles, “Thank you - this has gone better than I could have hoped.”

“Thank you,” Kara grins, so damn handsome, “I like this, I like getting to hang out with you both.”

Then Teo returns and flings himself back into his seat, and at Kara’s prompting he, grudgingly, agrees to honour Lena’s request to go and see the plant life exhibits.

(Lena thinks he enjoys it more than he’ll admit.)

***

Kara twists and turns in front of the floor-length mirror in Lena’s bedroom, observing the way the charcoal of the suit contrasts nicely with the blonde of her hair, how the pants hug her ass perfectly, how the jacket shows the lines of her figure without choking her. The fabric is thick but breathable, the measurements perfectly tapered to her body.

She doesn’t like it.

It’s too expensive, too showy – she feels like a kid playing dress-up, not somebody who belongs on the arm of Lena Luthor. And it feels wrong, somehow, to have spent all this money on a single item of clothing.

Lena is watching her silently from her dressing table, the door to the bedroom firmly closed against Sam or Jack’s curiosity as Kara tries on the suit Lena bought for her. Kara wants to like it, she does, she knows Lena paid a lot of money for it, brought Kara to a tailor and everything, but now it’s here…

“Darling, you don’t have to wear it,” Lena’s voice is soft as she catches the frown on Kara’s face.

But what else is she going to wear? They’re going to a big charity dinner, one L-Corp spent several thousand dollars on a table for, and a bunch of Lena’s employees will be there along with her competitors, and Sam and Jack are going and there’s probably going to be free champagne on the table and it’s a whole thing. The only other thing close to appropriate that Kara owns is the suit she got from a thrift store for a job interview, and she’s pretty sure that doesn’t fit right anymore.

It would probably be better if there weren’t going to be any cameras, but this is a very, very rare public appearance for Lena. She normally keeps her life on an insane lockdown - changes her car every six months to avoid it being recognised, never makes a reservation under her own name, gets aggressively litigious with any reporter who dares to even breathe near Mateo. But this is a charity aimed at developing clean energy solutions and sustainable food production, one that Lena is incredibly passionate about, and she’s actually giving a speech which is probably the coolest thing in the whole world and Kara just really, really wants to be a supportive girlfriend.

“No, of course I’ll wear it, thank you so much,” Kara forces a smile onto her face, tries not to fidget with the buttons on the jacket.

Lena looks entirely unconvinced, “Kara, you look amazing. But if you feel uncomfortable – “

“Babe, I’m fine,” Kara lies through her teeth, “Anyway, you need to finish getting ready. Pretty sure you can’t be late for a dinner where your name is on the programme, right? I’ll go make sure Sam and Jack haven’t drunk all your wine.”

Then she strides out of the bedroom before Lena can respond and tries desperately to feel hot when Jack wolf whistles as she walks down the stairs.

***

Almost as soon as they arrive, Lena knows that she should not have brought Kara.

Lena has been navigating the minefield of multi-millionaire social circles for so long that she forgets what it’s like when you’re not used to it. It’s such an incestuous little group, one that likes to flaunt its philanthropic credentials at every opportunity and pretend it is a paragon of intelligence, all the while tittering over imported alcohol that Max Lord fucked an Instagram model, could you even imagine? Lena has learned to hold her head high in the face of ridicule, both her brother and her divorce made that a necessity, but Kara… well, Kara is completely herself. She is eager to learn about everyone, keen to make friends, and it is a quality that Lena adores in her. But it is also blood for the circling sharks to sniff out.

It’s easy enough at first, for Lena to navigate it for both of them. When Morgan Edge gives Lena a lewd wink and congratulates her on trading in the vintage model for a brand new ride, Lena merely thanks him and suggests that his way with words might be better utilised by proof-reading Edge Global’s promotional materials for spelling mistakes.

“He was an old buddy of my brother’s – perhaps still is – and a major shareholder in L-Corp, so unfortunately I need to keep him relatively sweet,” Lena explains as they walk away, “Otherwise I might have been tempted to headbutt him.”

Kara does laugh – mostly at the thought of Lena headbutting anyone, probably – but it’s clear she doesn’t quite know how to take the comment, hasn’t built up the defence mechanisms necessary to dismiss Edge as an asshole and forget him.

Lena’s hopes that the dinner with Sam and Jack and some of L-Corp’s employees will ease the tension are dashed too, as a few of her senior executives insist on monopolising the conversation with talk of new boats and second homes. Sam and Jack are well used to this, Jack’s jabs at their expense going over most of their heads, but Kara seems increasingly uncomfortable, fidgeting in her chair.

The final nail in the coffin is an old friend of Lillian’s approaching with a smile that could wither flowers and asking Kara, “So, honey, what is it you do for a living?”

Kara seems flustered and mutters something about community college, and Lena wants to scream that yes, Kara is doing something amazing for herself, but before she can the woman’s eyes widen very slightly. “Oh, you’re a teacher,” she simpers, sickly sweet, “Well, someone has to be, don’t they?”

Kara goes red-faced and silent.

“Darling,” Lena murmurs in her ear when the woman has glided off to haunt another table, “We can leave if you would like to.”

Kara shakes her head resolutely though, “You need to give your speech.”

It seems to go well when Lena does finally get up to give the speech – the key talking points appear to land, the jokes elicit some laughter but not enough to undermine the serious topic, and she gets considerable applause at the end of it. Almost the moment she steps down from the stage though, Jack is at her side.

“You were wonderful, I was almost moved to give up red meat,” he informs her, “I think your girl is struggling though.”

“What?” Lena’s head snaps around to look for Kara, finds the table where they had been sitting empty, “What happened?”

“Morgan Edge cornered her,” Jack runs a hand through his hair, “I don’t know what he said but she seemed upset. She went outside to get some air – Sam is with her.”

Lena hurries out as fast as her heels will allow and steps into the crisp night air to see Kara sitting on a low wall some distance away, close to the valet parking. She has taken off her jacket and is holding it neatly on her knee, her shirt sleeves rolled up and her face streaked as though she has been crying. Sam is next to her with an arm around her shoulders saying something that elicits a watery smile from Kara. Not for the first time, Lena silently thanks herself from two decades ago for picking the right damn friends.

Kara’s shoulders sag with relief when Lena sits down next to her, and Sam smiles and gives Lena’s arm a tiny squeeze before she slips silently back towards the party.

“I missed your speech,” Kara says, her voice cracking as though she might start crying all over again.

“I really couldn’t care less about that,” Lena takes one of Kara’s hands in both of hers, desperate to help somehow, “Just how brutally do I need to murder Morgan Edge?”

Kara huffs out a humourless laugh, “You don’t, it was stupid.”

“If you’re upset then it isn’t stupid,” Lena frowns, “Talk to me, please?”

There is a pause and a sigh, and finally, Kara says, “He asked me how much you paid me for the night, and whether the after-party cost extra,” she bites her lip, looking down at their joined hands, “I know he’s just an idiot but I kept thinking all night about how everyone would know I don’t belong here, and he showed me I was right. And…” She glances worriedly at Lena, “Please don’t be mad.”

Lena’s brows furrow, “Mad? I’m sure I won’t be mad, whatever it is.”

“Just, you paid all this money for this suit and I keep thinking… I’m such a hypocrite, you know?” Kara screws her eyes shut, as though she’s angry with herself, “I have friends who would probably kill just to have a warm blanket tonight and I’m here wearing a suit that costs more than my rent.”

It takes Lena a moment to process all of this – she had known, of course, that Kara struggled with the disparity in their incomes, but like a pampered rich person she had assumed it was because Kara felt uncomfortable that she didn’t make more money, not that Kara was uncomfortable with the proximity to money at all.

“That’s something complicated that I’m not quite sure we can resolve tonight,” she says in the end, as forthright as she can be while still trying to understand it, “But – what about this, as a start? We can donate the suit to a charity that will give it to someone who needs it. And you know I already donate money, but maybe I should give more of my time too – the two of us and Mateo can volunteer at a food bank, perhaps? It would be good for him as well, I think.”

Kara gives a small, crooked smile, “I’d like that. I know this is… weird. We come from really different worlds. And I’m not sure I can do a night like this again any time soon.”

Lena nods slowly, “You remember what you said to me when I first came to Roulette? I told you that I wouldn’t go clubbing with you and you said that didn’t matter because you could go with your friends if you wanted to, and we could do other things together. Perhaps this is a bit like that – I can’t lie and say I don’t have to attend events like this occasionally, but there’s no reason you have to come with me. Jack is a much less handsome date but he will do in a pinch.”

Kara laughs then, a real laugh, and looks at Lena properly for the first time since she sat down, “I am sorry I missed your speech, I really wanted to see it.”

“We can watch it on YouTube, if you really want to,” Lena reaches a hand up to cup Kara’s chin, runs a thumb over her tear-stained cheek, “I love you and I don’t want to ever put you in a position where you feel as though you aren’t important. Particularly if you feel less important than Morgan Edge, when, frankly, I’ve met more intelligent cockroaches.”

Lena doesn’t quite realise why Kara is staring at her until she replays her own words in her head. “Oh,” she says stupidly, “I hope that wasn’t – “

“I love you too,” Kara interrupts, the words rushing out all at once as though they’ve been pent up and waiting to be released. “I mean, I kind of wish I didn’t look like a huge mess the first time we said that to each other, but I’ll take it.”

“Oh, you’ll take it,” Lena arches a teasing eyebrow, “I tell you that I’m in love with you and you’ll take it.”

“Shut up,” Kara laughs, and her smile is as wide as Lena has ever seen it, “You know what I mean.”

“I do,” Lena agrees, “Now, I think it’s time we went home.”

“Can we put on pyjamas and make out on the couch?” Kara asks hopefully.

Lena makes a show of feigning a long-suffering sigh, “Frankly, darling, after telling you that I love you, I’d be offended if we didn’t make out on the couch.”

***

College is going… sort of great, actually. Kara likes stretching her brain in ways that working at Roulette doesn’t really offer, likes going for coffee with her classmates, even likes working in the library on her assignments. It’s not like she doesn’t forget things anymore (she definitely does) but Lena bought her a fancy planner to celebrate her first day in class and now she writes everything down religiously, and then they synced their phone calendars so Kara knows if she doesn’t work on her homework Thursday then she has less time with Lena and Teo on Friday, and there’s also just… Lena. When Kara starts to panic or stress then Lena is calm and collected and they talk through it until Kara feels okay again.

All of this means that as September inches its way out, Kara is cheerfully spending her Friday afternoon typing out an assignment for her English class on her new-old laptop in the college library. She saved up her tips from Roulette for a month and bought the laptop from a sketchy guy on Facebook marketplace, but now that Lena cleared out all the viruses (Lena is significantly better with technology than Kara is) it works great.

Kara does spot Lena glancing sideways at the battered computer sometimes and knows her girlfriend is just itching to buy her something top of the line with a million Gigabytes and Rams or whatever, but Lena has never commented. That’s the way it goes now, most of the time, with the money thing – it’s unspoken between them that Lena will support Kara in whatever way she asks, but she doesn’t do anything Kara doesn’t ask for. Kara supposes that there are some things that can’t be resolved in just six months of dating, in the same way she still sees Lena frowning over her grey hairs in the mirror or covering herself from Kara’s view when she just got out of the shower or hasn’t shaved her legs or something. Kara is determined that she’ll eventually dissipate all those little insecurities until Lena knows she’s the most beautiful woman on the planet, but that doesn’t happen overnight.

That’s okay though, they have plenty of time.

So, Kara’s not really typing out her assignment for her English class so much as she’s looking at her laptop and thinking about Lena and how much she loves her and other sappy stuff like that when her phone rings.

Appropriately enough, it’s Lena.

“ – if don’t have a solution on my desk within the next thirty minutes then I will personally ensure that – “ Lena’s voice sounds harsh and far away when Kara answers the phone, as though she’s talking to someone else. In the background, there are clamouring voices and, possibly, someone sobbing.

“Everything okay?” Kara asks, alarmed.

“Darling, hi,” Lena’s voice changes instantly from the clipped tones of CEO Lena into the soft voice of Kara’s Lena, “I have a huge favour to ask. Fifty per cent of L-Corp’s servers have gone down in the last hour – “

Someone says something in the background and Lena mutters a curse under her breath.

“I’m sorry, make that sixty per cent of L-Corp’s servers, and we’re losing… oh, probably a few million dollars per minute.”

“Shoot,” Kara says, “That’s really bad.”

“It’s extremely bad,” Lena agrees, “Which brings me to my favour – I can’t leave the office right now and neither can any of the employees I don’t fire. Andrea is on a business trip, Ruby is sick so Sam is trapped in the house, Jack is in the Caribbean…”

“Should I be offended that I’m the last person you called?” Kara muses aloud, mostly teasing.

Lena takes a deep breath, “Could you pick Mateo up from school for me?”

Kara blinks – that is not the huge favour she was expecting. Mostly because it doesn’t really seem that huge at all. Sure, Teo still doesn’t know that she and Lena are dating, but they’ve hung out a few times now since that first day at the zoo. They’ve had a couple of Friday night dinners, spent time volunteering at the food bank and, on one memorable occasion, united in completely obliterating Lena at Mario Party. They’ve never actually been alone together but it’s comfortable enough that Kara thinks she can handle a school pick up.

“You’ll need to give him dinner and I probably won’t be back until late,” Lena continues, apparently taking the pause as reluctance, “I know it’s a huge ask Kara but I really – “

“Yeah, of course I will,” Kara says easily, closing her laptop, “Just text me the address of his school.”

“Thank you,” Lena says, just as more yelling begins in the background, “I’ll call you as soon as – shit, I need to go. Love you.” And then she’s gone.

It only takes Kara half an hour to get to Teo’s fancy private school, and maybe it’s the fact that she never really went to high school but it seems a lot bigger than she expected. It’s a huge building with climbing ivy and some serious ‘The Secret History’ vibes – Kara’s going to have to ask more about those Ancient Greek lessons – and the sweeping driveway in front is lined with Range Rovers and Jaguars and Porsches. There are a lot of parents already there, tapping on their phones or gossiping in small groups, all dressed expensively, as though they’re not just going to ferry their kids home. For a second, Kara feels embarrassed in her hoodie and jeans, but then Teo emerges from the school and grins as soon as he sees her and the feeling fades away.

“Hey, Kara,” he greets cheerfully, “Somebody checked the business news and said L-Corp was completely melting down so I figured Mom wouldn’t be here.”

“You check the business news when you’re at school?” Kara questions – sure, she didn’t exactly go to high school, but she’s still pretty certain that’s not normal.

“Christopher does and he tells the rest of us,” Mateo nods over at a lanky kid with slicked back blonde hair climbing into the passenger seat of a Ferrari, and for a second Kara feels weird that Teo is in class with these smart kids who are discussing business news aged fourteen while she’s clinging on to her high school diploma like a life raft.

Then Teo explains, “His mom doesn’t let him play video games, it’s really lame.” Everything falls back into place and Kara realises these kids probably aren’t all that different to her – except a whole lot richer.

“Cool,” she says, “Let’s go, we’ve got a bus to catch.”

Teo nods and shoulders his school bag more firmly, “Awesome, I’ve never ridden a bus before.”

Fine, maybe there are a few more ways he’s different to Kara.

Several hours later and Kara is feeling pretty satisfied with herself. She got Mateo home in one piece, fed them both (even ordered a pizza with vegetables on to make sure she covered healthy eating) and now it’s only forty-five minutes since Lena texted her to say it’s Teo’s bedtime and she’s just about to send him to bed. Parenting is so freaking easy; she doesn’t know what Alex is always worrying about.

Teo is playing video games on the couch while Kara sits cross-legged in the chair, finally finishing up her assignment for English. His eyes have been glued to the screen for the past couple of hours, so it’s a surprise when he actually speaks.

“Hey, Kara?” he asks, and Kara realises there’s a loading screen, which explains the sudden conversation.

“Yeah? You want another soda?” She saves the latest version of her assignment and readies herself to get up.

“No, I just wanted to ask – you and my mom are dating, right?”

Kara freezes but Teo’s eyes don’t even move from the television, and she’s really glad he isn’t looking at her failing attempt to keep the shock from her face. He’s asking a question that’s not really a question – she can tell from his voice that he already knows the answer.

“Um,” she says intelligently. This is absolutely not a conversation she can have without Lena here. Lena needs to be the one to tell him this, decide when the right time to break the news is, “You should probably speak to your mom if you have questions about that stuff.”

“She’ll just tell me not to worry about it,” he shrugs. His game starts up again and his thumbs begin moving on the controller, and Kara thinks the conversation is over until he adds, almost inaudible over the sound of simulated gunshots, “She used to cry in the bathroom when they first split up. She thought I couldn’t hear her but I could. But she doesn’t do that since you started coming around. I think it’s cool that you’re dating.”

Kara looks at him for a moment, his face half bathed in darkness and half-lit up by the flickering light from the screen. “You’re a really good kid, Teo,” she tells him.

“Yeah,” he grins, “I know.”

***

Kara is dozing on the couch by the time Lena stumbles home, well after midnight and almost dead on her feet. She kicks her heels off tiredly and smooths a hand over Kara’s hair, sitting down on the edge of the sofa where she’s lying.

“Hey,” Kara yawns, blinking tiredly up at her, “You get everything figured out?”

“Eventually,” Lena sighs, “There’s going to be a lot of clean up and hell to pay when I figure out what caused this, but we’re back online, at the very least. Is Teo okay?”

“He’s fine,” Kara smiles, “We ate pizza and played video games and he’s fast asleep upstairs now.”

“He probably had more fun than if I were here,” Lena gives a tired laugh, “Thank you for staying with him. I might have to set you up to sleep in the guest room, I’m not sure walking in on me in bed with you is the best way for him to find out about our relationship.”

Kara winces, “Uh, about that,” she begins slowly, “Seems like he already figured it out.”

“What?” It takes a moment for this news to filter through to Lena’s tired brain, “How? Did something happen?”

Kara shakes her head, “He didn’t really tell me, I think he’s just smart and we’re probably not as subtle as we think. He seemed happy though, he said he thinks it’s cool.”

“Cool?” Lena blinks, still unsure how to take this, “He wasn’t… upset or angry?”

“Not even a little bit,” Kara reassures her, putting a warm hand on Lena’s knee, “He told me… well, he said that you were really devastated after Andrea left. And I think he wants you to be happy.”

“Oh,” Lena breathes out, relief and exhaustion mingling in her chest, “You do make me happy, darling. I’ll talk to him in the morning about it.”

Kara smiles and pushes herself up to wrap her arms around Lena, “C’mon, let’s get you to bed.” And it’s so easy for Lena to sink into Kara and let herself be guided up the stairs.

***

Kara returns from her run, sweaty and energised, to find Lena in the kitchen squinting at the expiration date on a carton of orange juice she’s holding at arm’s length.

“March tenth,” Kara tells her, kissing the side of her head swiftly before going to refill her water bottle, “You need new glasses.”

Lena huffs, “I resent the insinuation that I’m not physically perfect.” She turns anyway though to slide her hands under Kara’s tank top, pressing herself in close and nipping Kara’s bottom lip with her teeth when she kisses her, “Happy birthday, darling, I had thought you might stay in bed with me this morning so I could say that properly.”

Kara grins, puts her water bottle on the kitchen counter and lets her hands land on Lena’s hips, “Hey, I’m twenty-four now. Got to make sure I stay at peak fitness to stop that slide into old age. And you like me better when I’m already sweaty anyway.”

Lena rolls her eyes, but given that her fingers are currently caressing Kara’s stomach she can’t really deny it, “You’re taking Teo out this morning?”

“Yeah, promised him we’d go to the comic book store since his mean mothers have never taken him to one,” she shifts as Lena’s fingernails graze over her hipbone, the sensation sending a shiver through her, “Then Sam’s picking him up so we can go to dinner tonight, right?”

“Yes,” Lena is far too smug about the effect she’s clearly having on Kara, “And now you’ll have to wait until then to find out just how much I want to wish you a happy birthday.”

She steps back with a finger still hooked in the waistband of Kara’s shorts, releases it and lets the elastic snap back into position. Kara groans, “Tease.”

“You better get showered and dressed,” Lena throws a smirk over her shoulder as she walks away, “You have a big day and a big night ahead of you.”

Teo is weird and shifty the entire time they’re in the comic book store, keeps checking his phone so often that Kara starts teasing him about having a crush, but they still have fun bickering and picking out new issues. Frank drives them home with armfuls of comic books (Marvel for Teo, DC for Kara – she still hasn’t converted him), and Kara realises something is up almost as soon as they pull onto Lena’s street. There’s a bunch of cars outside, one that she knows is definitely Alex’s, and somebody hastily darts away from the window when Kara steps out onto the street.

“What’s going on, Teo?” she asks, laughing as he immediately stiffens and stands up straighter.

“Nothing, what would be going on?” he mumbles, sounding like he is being held at gunpoint to lie to her.

In Lena’s hallway, there’s a lot of muttering and shuffling from somewhere in the house, and when Kara and Teo step into the living room almost everyone Kara knows turns to look at her, wide-eyed and awkward. Lena and Alex appear to have been midway through pouring glasses of champagne, Sam and Ruby are lounging on the couch with Esme while Jack and Nia chat nearby. There’s James and J’onn and even Eliza made it all the way from Midvale, a couple of Kara’s friends from shelters over the years, and Brainy is busy admiring Lena’s security system.

“Teo, you were supposed to text me when you were nearly here,” Lena stage whispers, as though Kara isn’t standing right next to him.

“Oh,” Teo says, dropping the comic books in a haphazard pile by the door, “I forgot.”

“Well… uh,” Alex steps forward holding out a glass of champagne for Kara, “Surprise?”

Kara feels a little dazed, drops the comic books she’s holding on top of the messy pile Teo made and looks around at the assembled faces, most looking less shocked and smiling at her now. “You threw me a surprise party?”

“Well, we did,” Alex gestures at herself and Lena, “I took care of the guest list, Lena did the rest.”

Kara throws her arm around Alex in a bear hug, pulls her off her feet for a second before turning to Lena and planting a kiss on her lips. Lena gives a yelp of surprise and there is assorted retching and booing from Ruby, Teo and Alex before Kara pulls away.

“Thank you,” Kara still doesn’t quite know what to say and Lena slides a grounding arm around her waist, “Is there cake?”

Lena laughs and kisses her cheek, “Of course there’s cake, but that’s for later. Go say hi to everyone first.”

And Kara does. She gets to spend the afternoon with her favourite people on the planet, gets a hand-drawn card from Esme and school supplies from Eliza and a pair of fluffy handcuffs from Nia (Jack and Sam are delighted, Lena rolls her eyes so hard Kara thinks she probably gave herself a headache). She talks and laughs and smiles until her cheeks hurt, and every so often she and Lena will brush past each other and link fingers or share a quick kiss. But even when they don’t, even when they’re on clear opposite sides of the room, Kara can still feel the soulmate bond that ties them together stretching out between them; it feels safe and warm and something like home.

By the time Alex and Sam have been sitting slightly too close talking together on the couch for over an hour, Kara sidles over to Lena and elbows her to distract her from her conversation about photography with James. “I think that’s a thing,” she whispers, nodding meaningfully at their best friends.

Lena rolls her eyes, “It is not a thing, they’re just talking.”

“You’re terrible at reading this stuff, you didn’t even think we were soulmates,” Kara reminds her with another nudge, “I bet you ten bucks it’s a thing.”

“Deal,” Lena says and shakes her hand firmly.

Later, when the sun is beginning to disappear behind the horizon, Sam and Alex are still talking across the room from where Ruby and Teo are showing Esme how to play Mario Kart, letting her feel like one of the Big Kids, and Nia and Jack are engaged in some sort of complicated drinking game while Eliza and Brainy talk science. The party has begun to wind down into something easy and tipsy and relaxed, and Lena pulls Kara into the kitchen where they can be alone.

“Hi,” she whispers, wrapping her arms around Kara’s neck and kissing her softly, “I feel like I’ve hardly had a chance to speak to you today.”

Kara hums contentedly against Lena’s lips, letting a soft tongue probe gently into her mouth, reaches one sneaky hand down to squeeze Lena’s ass.

“There are three children directly outside of this room,” Lena reminds her with a teasing arch of her eyebrow.

Kara grins, “Just getting a little sample of what’s coming later.”

“Oh, someone’s very confident,” Lena smirks, arching herself more firmly against Kara, “Think you’re on to a sure thing, huh?”

And Kara’s never sure of herself, not really, she thinks the most certain thing she ever did in her life was to walk into Lena’s office and tell her I’m your soulmate. With Lena here though, meters away from everybody she loves, she thinks she can see all the possibilities of her life spread out in front of her.

She can see Lena asking her to move in and Kara talking her into adopting a puppy; see Teo’s graduation, Kara and Andrea on either side of Lena; see a marriage proposal and tears when Lena walks down the aisle. She sees them fostering a kid like Kara once was; sees late nights with their friends and lazy mornings in bed and holding hands by the pier and lunches in Lena’s office. The possibilities seem to spring from the ground, stretching out in front of her as far as the eye can see, like a field of sunflowers.

“Yeah, I think I’m on to a sure thing,” Kara smiles, bright and wide, “You know, a couple of weeks from now it’ll be exactly a year since I broke into your office and told you that I’m your soulmate.”

“And, somehow, I still haven’t fired Gary,” Lena rolls her eyes good-naturedly but lets Kara pull her closer, presses her face into Kara’s neck and breathes her in.

“Bet you’re glad I broke into your office now,” Kara murmurs, resting her cheek against Lena’s head.

“Kara Zor-El,” Lena sighs, soft and warm in Kara’s arms, “I’m so glad you’re my soulmate.”