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if music be the food of love, play on

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Detective Dean Petrocelli opens the door to interrogation room E with his hip, hands busy arranging his papers in a specific order. “Ms. Danvers, thank you so much for coming in on such short notice.”

 

The young woman waiting for him smiles, twiddling her thumbs on top of the wobbly interrogation table. In her pale pink button up, slacks, and suspenders, she looks out of place in the flickering fluorescent lighting. “It was really no big,” she says. “I mostly work evenings.”

 

The detective places a closed file down between them and sits across from her. “Can I get you anything? A water?”

 

“No, thank you. Marissa got me one while I was waiting.”

 

“I—Marissa?”

 

Kara’s eyebrows furrow. “Marissa? At the front desk?”

 

“Ah.” Detective Petrocelli gently smacks himself in the forehead, shooting Kara a self-deprecating smile. “Of course, silly me. Are you all ready to get started then?”

 

“Sure. You sounded kind of serious on the phone.”

 

He nods solemnly. “It is serious, I’m afraid.”

 

She blinks at him, eyes wide. “I’m not in trouble, am I?”

 

“Of course not,” he rushes to say. “Not with us, that is.”

 

“Sorry?”

 

Petrocelli opens the file in front of him. At a second glance, Kara sees that it’s actually a few different files stacked on top of each other—the one on the bottom is three times as thick as any of the others. “So, Kara Danvers,” he says. “1022 Argo Street? Apartment 4A?”

 

“That’s me,” Kara confirms. “Is this about my landlord?”

 

“No, Ms. Danvers—”

 

“Oh, gosh, please call me Kara,” she interrupts. 

 

“Kara,” Petrocelli corrects himself with a smile. He closes the first file and moves the fattest one to the top, opening it at such an angle so that only he can see its contents. “I asked you to come in because you’ve come up more than a few times during a current NCPD investigation into organized crime.”

 

He stops flipping pages and turns the folder around so Kara can see it the right way up. She scans over the text quickly and then lingers on the photograph. It shows a woman in a pencil skirt and expensive-looking blouse, half blocked from view by an extensive security detail.

 

“She’s pretty,” Kara says.

 

“That’s Lena Luthor,” he says, “but you already knew that.”

 

Kara only smiles.

 

Petrocelli flips to the next page and reveals another photograph of her, walking through a door with the words The Tower elegantly engraved into it. “She’s a regular at your bar.”

 

“It’s more of a jazz club,” Kara gently corrects, lifting the photo slightly to peek at the writing beneath it, “and it’s not mine.” She lowers the photo again and nudges the file a centimeter back. “I’m just an employee.”

 

“You’ve seen her there before,” he says.

 

He doesn’t phrase it as a question, but Kara answers anyway. “Like you said, she’s a regular.”

 

“How much do you know about her, Kara?” He turns to a new photograph, this one depicting the dead body of an unfamiliar man.

 

Kara averts her gaze. “Oh—wow, that’s really not—would you mind changing that?”

 

“Sorry, of course,” Petrocelli says, his voice condescendingly considerate. He flips back to the previous photo. “See, this was my concern, Kara. That you really just don’t understand what you’ve found yourself caught up in.”

 

“Caught up in?”

 

“The Luthors are one of the oldest mob families in the United States,” Petrocelli says. “Lena Luthor has been the root of almost all organized crime in National City for years now. She’s a criminal, and a violent one.”

 

“Golly, I had no idea she had a record,” Kara says, propping her chin up on a palm. “She’s always been real respectful at the Tower.”

 

The detective’s jaw clenches. “She doesn’t,” he says.

 

"Doesn't what?"

 

"Doesn't have a record," Petrocelli says in a slightly clipped tone.

 

Kara’s eyes squint briefly. “So, a regular at my job’s alleged connections to organized crime are the reason you brought me in? I don’t have much time to chat with patrons while I’m singing, detective.”

 

“I think she’s a little more to you than a regular,” Petrocelli says. “All those late nights—early mornings, really.” He flips through to a few more photos, and Kara sees herself getting into and out of the backseat of a Rolls Royce. “The discreet pick ups. The gifts.” His eyes flick to her suspenders, then her watch.

 

When they make eye contact again, Kara smiles at him. Despite the slightly over-warm interrogation room and increasingly serious line of inquiry he’s begun, she looks perfectly at ease. The silence stretches between them.

 

“Do you have a question, detective?” Kara eventually asks.

 

Petrocelli sighs, slumping back in his seat. “Kara,” he says, rubbing a hand over his forehead. His sleeve inches up, giving her a glance at the bottom half of a tattoo. “You seem like a sweet girl. I really do want to help you out here, and Lena Luthor is dangerous.”

 

Kara doesn’t respond, still all wide blue eyes, the picture of innocence.

 

“What happens when she’s done with you, Kara?” Petrocelli asks quietly, leaning forward again. “When she moves on to her next flavor of the month? Please trust me when I say that Luthors don’t leave loose ends. I’m just trying to protect you.”

 

Kara stares at him evenly, her expression shifting minutely. The clock on the wall ticks five seconds, ten, twenty. Finally, she leans forward as well. “Detective,” she says, “I really don’t know where I gave you the impression that I can’t protect myself.”

 


 

Kara steps out of National City’s 23rd Precinct and into blazing sunlight. She squints and raises a hand to see better, and upon locating the loitering Rolls Royce a little down the street, walks calmly towards it. When she’s around ten feet away, a tall man in a black suit gets out of the passenger side and opens the door for her.

 

“Thank you, Julian,” she says, sliding into the back seat. The divider is already up; Kara assumes they’ll be on their way quickly.

 

Julian closes her door with a wink. 

 

“That didn’t take long,” the other occupant of the back says.

 

Kara slouches in her seat, giving her companion a slow once-over. She starts with the Louboutin heels, then drags her eyes up pale calves, eventually hitting the bottom hem of a familiar faux-fur coat.

 

“Baby,” she says, exasperated, trying to skip to the finale only to find upside-down newspaper print in her way. “It’s late April.”

 

Lena Luthor lowers the copy of the Tribune previously obscuring her face just enough to make eye contact. “The car is air-conditioned, darling.” She pulls the newspaper back up. “Late April, you say,” she muses quietly.

 

The car starts to move, the quiet rumble of its engine familiar to both of them. “Yes,” Kara says slowly, trying to recall the exact date.

 

Lena still doesn’t move the paper. “So it’s… gonna be May?”

 

Kara knocks the Tribune away and nearly mauls Lena with an enthusiastic kiss. She can feel the expensive lipstick smear itself across her mouth, down to her chin. “You’re the love of my fucking life,” she gasps out in the brief moment before her lips are claimed again.

 

One of Lena’s hands curls around the leg thrown over her lap, and the other holds Kara’s collar—and therefore her face—firmly in place. She’s held there as Lena grins against her cheek, both of them catching their breath. “Ever since I saw your face,” she whispers, “nothing in my life has been the same, I walk around just saying your name—”

 

Kara makes an incredibly embarrassing noise from somewhere deep in her throat. “That’s not fair,” she croaks out as fingers dig into her thigh.

 

Lena’s teeth graze along her jaw. “Oh, you’ve got the monopoly on song lyrics?”

 

“‘Girlfriend’ ft. Nelly is on my Lena playlist,” Kara pants, hips stuttering closer as Lena’s mouth works its way down her neck. “You're playing dirty." Her breaths are the only sound in the backseat for a long moment. "I thought you had a—um, a meeting. The shipyard manager.”

 

“Canceled. His daughter has strep.”

 

“Oh, no.”

 

Lena hums, her hand slipping up Kara’s leg to her hip, then curling around one strap of her suspenders. She tugs her impossibly closer. “I sent Charlie over with some soup from Bella Bella. She’ll be alright.” She leaves her mouth open when she’s done speaking, and her tongue flicks over Kara’s collarbone.

 

“I’m going to forget everything that detective told me,” Kara complains, her own hands fumbling for any inch of bare skin they can find, “because you’re trying to seduce me with *NSYNC lyrics.”

 

Lena laughs against her pulse, warm and lovely. “Trying?”

 

Kara pushes against Lena’s grip until she has enough slack to nip at Lena’s nose. “Vixen,” she accuses.

 

“Perfect recall,” Lena shoots back, the corners of her eyes creasing with her smile. “You’ll remember just fine.” 

 

“I got some juicy stuff,” Kara says. “He’s a member of the Children of Liberty, I think. Wasn’t very careful covering the tattoo.”

 

Lena lets her head fall back against the seat. Her gaze flicks over Kara’s face, lingering as she bites her lip. The hand making a wrinkled mess of Kara’s collar slides into the hair at the base of her neck. “Do you want to tell me the rest now?” 

 

“I—” Kara swallows. “No,” she admits, looking right at Lena’s mouth.

 

“We’ve got a bit of a drive ahead of us,” Lena says in a low tone.

 

Lena gives her girlfriend’s head the tiniest push. She hears the crinkle of newspaper as Kara rushes to kneel before her and pats herself on the back once again for picking a car with such generous leg room.

 

 

Chapter Text

 

Lena’s absolutely perfect Friday is ruined, like all good things in her life, by Lillian Luthor.

 

She should have seen it coming. Her coffee had been just right, the weather was warm without being hot, and most importantly, she had been able to do nearly all of her work for the day in glorious solitude. There’s a few emails dealing with her meetings for the next week, some scanning through even more CVs in search of the assistant she desperately needed to hire, but mostly she just gets to dive into the code she’s writing that will automate National City’s container terminal.

 

Chopin is playing from her speaker. Code is flying from her fingertips. Coffee is warm and rich on her tongue.

 

So, of course, her mother calls.

 

Lena hears it before she feels the vibration through the desk. The ominous, choral opening of “O Fortuna” is faint compared to the Chopin coming from across the room, but it might as well be a gunshot to the heart of Lena’s delightful afternoon.

 

She turns her speaker off, delaying picking the call up long enough to mouth along to statu variabilis. Changeable. 

 

With a deep breath, she answers the call. “Mother.”

 

“Lena.”

 

They sit in silence. 

 

“This is my personal cell,” Lena eventually says, “not my work phone.” They both know the implications of that.

 

“I know,” her mother says.

 

Lena mimes shooting herself in the temple with her free hand and grits out, “do you have a reason for calling?”

 

“I always have a reason for the things I do, dear. Has your ghoulish skin been irreparably damaged by your move yet?”

 

Lena looks up to a God she doesn’t believe in, prays for patience, and answers the question she knows is really being asked. “I’ve been wearing my sunscreen, Mother.”

 

“Will you even be able to fit in any of your clothes come the holiday gala? Driving constantly from place to place—”

 

“I get regular exercise and eat a balanced diet,” Lena lies. After a nanosecond of annoying guilt, she amends her statement with, “you will find me in the same health as always. Julian does most of the driving, and all of it after 9 PM and before 8 AM.”

 

“Mm.”

 

Lena drums her fingers against her desk, vaguely thinking about how she’s due for a manicure. “You haven’t replied to Lex’s letters,” she says.

 

There’s a beat of silence from the other side of the phone that tells Lena she’s scored a hit. “He never did well with time outs,” Lillian finally replies. 

 

“I’m not sure federal prison is quite the same.”

 

Her mother’s voice goes sharp. “It’s exactly the same and you know it.” 

 

Lena slouches back in her chair and swivels back and forth. He only tried to kill you a little bit, she thinks. She certainly had it worse. “Have you updated the manor’s security system? The program I developed—”

 

“I’m not an invalid. I can access software you’ve made publicly available like a… philanthropist,” Lillian says with clear disdain. 

 

“Yes, I’m the family disappointment, I’m well aware. If the manor is too—”

 

Lillian interrupts her again. “I’d rather be dead in Metropolis than alive in National City, Lena dear. At least we have walkable space.”

 

Lena knocks her head back with a roll of her eyes. “It’s a lovely city, Mother.”

 

“It’s a festering pit of liberalism and gauche social justice activism and you moved there just to spite me.”

 

Lillian Luthor, for all her faults, is rarely wrong. Lena has to give her that, even as she flips her off from across the country.

 

“You weren’t complaining at the time,” she says. “You threw me a going away party.”

 

“Well, I did that just to spite you. You’ll notice that it worked.”

 

Lena wants to scream, or tear her hair out, or both. “It did,” she finally agrees, already exhausted by the mental chess. “The three of us have done nothing but spite each other since Father died, and I’m tired of it. I don’t care that Lex isn’t around for you to enable anymore with your misguided puppetmaster routine; I’m out.”

 

“You made that very clear when you handed your own flesh and blood over to the government,” Lillian hisses.

 

“All 35 of the potential offenses in the RICO Act were used to put Lex and his lummoxes away,” Lena says, thinking of the FBI agent that was surely listening in. “I won’t read out some of the more chilling ones.” After a pause, she adds, “plus, he never paid his taxes.”

 

“Be careful, Lena, lest you suffer vertigo from the dizzying heights of the moral high ground. Just because your brother is laying in the grave he dug doesn’t mean you have to throw the dirt in over him.”

 

Lena actually thinks that’s exactly what it means, but she recognizes an impasse when she sees one. “Lex is in prison, not a grave. Respond to his letters so he’ll leave me alone.”

 

“I’ll respond if and when I want to, and not before.”

 

“We’re running out of things to say to each other,” Lena warns.

 

“Pay your taxes.”

 

“Talk to Lex.”

 

“And for God’s sake, stop slouching.”

 

Lena pulls the phone away from her ear to confirm that she’s been hung up on. “Stop slouching,” she mimics in a whiny voice. Her phone goes into her inside jacket pocket. She turns her attention back to the tablet on her desk, correcting her posture with one last roll of her eyes.

 


 

Lena goes for a walk after she finishes her work, feeling like a giant hypocrite. It’s not spite, she thinks. I just like walking. Fuck you, Mom. National City has parks, and Lena likes parks. She likes people-watching and buskers and the faint shriek of laughter coming from a playground. 

 

There are plenty of things she likes, and she is going to start fucking doing them, God help her.

 

She’s completely well adjusted. So well adjusted that she pulls out her phone and calls a friend.

 

“What are you doing tonight?”

 

“Something with you, love,” Jack responds. “Obviously.”

 

“We could get drunk and build robots again,” Lena suggests, taking a hard turn at the sight of a dog park. 

 

“Or we could go out,” Jack counters, his tone of voice making it clear that he knows just how unreceptive Lena will be.

 

“Jack—”

 

“No, before you say anything,” he interrupts, “I’ve actually found somewhere I think you’ll like.”

 

“Actually like?” Lena asks, parking herself on a bench with a view of frolicking golden retrievers. “Because you also thought I’d like that Irish pub.”

 

“Wishful thinking, Lena-love. Learned my lesson there.” His voice goes a little gentle, all cajoling in exactly the way Lena knows she’s the tiniest bit weak for. “It’s quiet and discreet. Very posh. There’s even a lad who takes your coat.”

 

Lena makes a face, weighing her need to not be alone tonight against trusting yet another of Jack’s sure to be faulty guesses at her taste in bars. Out of the corner of her eye, she sees a man sit on a bench around thirty feet away, diagonally across the park path. He opens up a paperback book, crossing his feet at the ankles. His clunky, black tactical shoes aren’t only an egregious fashion faux-pas—they also take up an obnoxious amount of the sidewalk.

 

Christ, isn’t she even worth the good undercover FBI agents these days? How the mighty Luthors have fallen. 

 

“There’s a view,” Jack says in her ear, still trying to add positives to the establishment Lena has just decided to grace with her presence that evening. “You love a good view.”

 

“I do,” she admits, making eye contact with one of her security detail who’s ordering an overpriced water bottle from the nearby hotdog vendor. “What time should we get there?”

 

“You’re a gem,” Jack tells her. “Music starts at nine, so maybe nine-thirty? Oh, you know I wouldn’t hate a burger beforehand.”

 

Lena watches her bodyguard go over and offer the FBI agent some water in silence until Jack’s words actually filter through. “What do you mean, music starts?”

 


 

Lena Luthor is a lot of things.

 

Overworked, for one. Due to her own workaholic tendencies, maybe. 

 

She’s also a cusp scorpio and picky about her whiskey, so there’s layers there. She’s a lot of things.

 

One of those many, complex things she is happens to be, well—completely and utterly tone deaf. Despite the eight years of very expensive, private piano lessons, her grasp of music theory is rudimentary at best. On her absolute best day of the year she might be able to tell you half of the notes on a treble clef staff. Her sense of rhythm is somehow worse, inevitably driving each and every music tutor to something akin to madness. Even the occasionally spirited attempts to point out the parallels between music and math fell on her very, very tone deaf ears.

 

That doesn’t mean she can’t recognize a good song when she hears it, or learn to appreciate the differences between classical and baroque music. As long as someone else sits at the piano, she and music get along just fine.

 

But make no mistake: someone else must be sitting at the piano.

 

It’s that reason exactly that has her suspiciously narrowing her eyes at Jack over their burgers, wondering why on Earth he thinks she’s going to like a bar because of its live music. She pesters him through the last of their french fries, carefully ignoring the way Jack’s gaze lingers on her turning off both her personal and work phones. 

 

“It’s just got your aesthetic, Lena,” he says, ushering her into the backseat of her Rolls. “Do I need reason more?”

 

“You’re up to something,” Lena says, gesturing for his phone. He opens the front camera and holds it up so that Lena can reapply her lipstick, hand shaking slightly. “Is your tremor back?”

 

“No, it’s just the car moving,” Jack reassures her. “I’m right as rain, love. Ready to drink you under the table.”

 

“With what, rosé?”

 

Jack locks his phone and pulls it away. “Phone privileges revoked.”

 

They giggle their way through Lena doing Jack’s mascara over downtown’s many potholes until the car comes to a slow stop. Jack is still absorbed in his own appearance, carefully trying to get his hair to flow upwards the way he likes, so he misses the significant glance that Julian sends Lena’s way as he opens her door.

 

Lena takes his offered hand; before she can ask what’s wrong, the problem makes itself known.

 

“Can I help you, officers?”

 

Jack’s out of the back in a flash when he hears, not touching her but standing carefully just behind her. It’s sweet, but unnecessary. 

 

The taller of the two cops jerks his chin towards Lena’s car. “This is a no park zone, ma’am.”

 

“Yes, my driver is just dropping me off.”

 

The shorter one has big, droopy eyes that drag along Lena’s body, along the distinct shape of her very expensive car. “I’m afraid there’s no stopping at all.”

 

“Where is that marked?” Lena asks. “I don’t see any signage.”

 

“National City local law,” the taller one says. “We’re within the boundaries of the CBD.”

 

Lena gives them her most sickly sweet smile. “Well, my apologies on behalf of my driver. Will that be all?”

 

The short cop straightens his back, puffing his chest out. Lena resists the urge to physically recoil. “We’re going to have to see a license and registration.”

 

Julian is holding it out almost before the cop finishes asking, stoic and more than a little intimidating at a full head taller than either of the officers before them. Lena hands over her license as the owner of the vehicle and leans back against the door as the cops take a few steps away and mutter between themselves.

 

Jack leans in to whisper in her ear. “They’re waiting for you to pay them off, Lena.”

 

“I’m well aware, thank you,” Lena says stonily. She remains expressionless and curt throughout the rest of the process, assuring Julian that he won’t be paying a cent of whatever ticket is levied their way. The cops drag out every sentence, leaving pregnant pauses filled with heavy looks towards her necklace and Jack’s watch. 

 

Lena takes the ticket, fully prepared to fight it in traffic court just for the principle of the thing. The indignation settles as she bids Julian farewell for the evening and nods for Charlie to join them from where he’s been waiting fifteen feet away, faking a phone call.

 

“That was even more brazen than Metropolis,” Lena says, letting Jack lead their way into a generic looking high rise.

 

“Oh, National City’s just as bad,” Jack says. He points out a roped off elevator and steps aside to let Lena go first. “But instead of everyone being in your brother’s pocket, everyone is in everyone’s pocket. It’s almost egalitarian.” 

 

Lena snorts, not getting the chance to reply before they reach the elevator and the bouncer standing beside it. “Good evening,” she says, “I called ahead earlier today, about my bodyguard joining me?”

 

“Ms. Luthor,” he realizes, calling for the elevator. “Thank you for letting us know.” The doors ding open, and after the three of them file in he steps in just long enough to hit the button for floor 57. “Have a good evening.”

 

“Thank you,” Jack says cheerily right before the doors slide shut. The elevator zooms upwards fast enough to make Lena’s ears pop. Jack nudges her with his elbow. “Let it go, love.”

 

“Mm.” That feeling of indignation is still there, kneading at her insides like a disgruntled cat. It’s always there, of course—the inescapable pull in her gut, the siren song that cuts through the wax she’s carefully stuffed in her ears. The very reason that she hightailed it out of Metropolis and kept going until she hit the ocean, the dark corners of her mind that whisper to her:

 

You could do it better than he did. You could fix it. You could fix everything.

 

Lena shakes her head, hard. She isn’t Odysseus calling his name back to a roaring Polyphemus, she’s Lena Luthor standing in a damn elevator. There’s pride and there’s hubris and she’ll be damned if she dooms herself to ten more years at sea.

 

The elevator slows to a stop, the muffled cacophony of music and a chattering crowd growing steadily lowder. Anticipation builds strangely in her chest; the doors open and Lena has her first look at the Tower.

 

The name makes sense. Though there’s tables and booths spread out at various levels before her, it’s hard to notice anything but the dazzling view of National City, visible through the floor to ceiling windows that wrap around the corner of the space. 

 

“So,” Jack says, leaning in closer to be heard over a droning saxophone solo, “did I…what’s that off-brand cricket phrase? ‘Knock it out of the park?’”

 

Lena sighs, shrugging her coat off of her shoulders and handing it to Charlie, careful to slip her work phone out of the pocket and hold it in her hand. “I want to see their scotch selection first.”

 

Jack smirks like he’s already won. 

 


 

Lena’s a glass of scotch in and designing a circuit board on a cocktail napkin under Jack’s curious gaze when the band hits a triumphant final note. She taps her free hand along the table in a gesture of applause, but is too absorbed in her explanation to look up.

 

“Thank you,” a deep voice says in the vague direction of the stage, “thank you so much, but we know you’re all just waiting for someone’s break to be over.” There’s a few scattered whoops from the crowd and some laughter. “Well, folks, without further ado, here she is: Kara Danvers.”

 

The room erupts into cheers. Lena looks up right as a woman walks onto the stage, laughing at something the drummer says to her as she passes her. Her pen hesitates over a section on the napkin and the ink bleeds into a blob almost immediately. 

 

The woman—Kara Danvers, if Lena had to guess—has golden hair tumbling down her shoulders in perfect ringlets and a pair of crisp blue eyes that seem to leap across the room with the help of her cobalt dress. 

 

“That’s why you have to design the potentiometers to…” Lena trails off. “Um, you have to have…”

 

Jack waves a hand in front of her face “Lena?”

 

Lena blinks, looking down at her partially ruined diagram. “Shit.”

 

“You’ve only had one drink,” Jack laughs, sliding his own napkin over. “Start over, and this time don’t breeze past replacing the silicon in SCRs. That’s what the S stands for, love.”

 

“Actually, that’s a General Electric trademark,” Lena says, distracted by her quest to catch enough eye contact with a roving waiter to gesture for another two drinks. “The S is for semiconductor, officially.” 

 

Jack tilts his head onto his fist, smushing up one side of his face. “What don’t you have stored up in that brain of yours?”

 

Lena taps a few fingers along the rim of her empty glass as she thinks. The band has launched into song, the pianist providing additional vocal accompaniment to the smooth soprano of the woman in the blue dress. “This song?” Lena finally offers.

 

“Lena,” Jack gasps. “You don’t know ‘Cheek to Cheek?’”

 

Lena just shrugs, accepting the new drinks that are put in front of her with a smile. “You know I’m not musical, darling.”

 

“It’s not music, it’s culture,” he stresses. “Top Hat? Fred Astaire and Ginger Roberts?”

 

“Is that a movie?”

 

“Is that a— yes, Lena.”

 

Lena takes an indulgent sip of her scotch with a roll of her eyes. “I like it,” she says, “I just don’t know it. You aren’t supposed to mock people for their admitted ignorance, Jackie.”

 

He makes a face at her. Lena doesn’t bother trying to hide her smile behind her glass. “You can mock me about my subpar circuit boards at lunch next week then,” he decides, snatching his napkin back. “I want to play a game.”

 

“A game?”

 

“My favorite game.” Jack is nearly bouncing in his seat.

 

Lena groans. “No, Jackie, come on—”

 

“Please, Lena, it’s been ages since I last tried. I think I’ve really got it tonight.”

 

She waves a hand towards the room and then crosses her arms, fingers tapping at her bracelet. “Go for it.”

 

“Alright.” He claps and then rubs his hands together. “Well, Charlie came up with us, so that’s an easy one.” 

 

Lena glances over to Charlie, sitting with his back to the stunning night time view of National City and regularly scanning over the crowd. “Of course.”

 

“There’s a man at the bar who’s either ordered a lot of gin and tonics or a lot of seltzer, and while he’s chatted up the lovely bartender I don’t think he’s meeting anyone.”

 

“Is that an official guess?”

 

“Locking in.”

 

“That’s Liam,” Lena says with a smile. “Congratulations. I’ll tell him to mix it up with a mocktail next time.”

 

Jack fist pumps. “Yes. Oh, this is a rush.”

 

Lena smirks into her scotch. “Not a perfect score.”

 

“No, what?” Jack’s jaw drops. “What did I miss? Who did I miss?”

 

“Charlotte and Hannah,” Lena says, flicking her eyes over to the two women sitting at a table by the stage. “They’re new; I have to say that I’ve been impressed so far.”

 

Jack takes a slow sip of his wine. “Four might be a bit excessive, love.”

 

“It’s definitely excessive,” Lena readily admits, dropping her chin into her palm, “but it’s a new city and my world is different than it was eighteen months ago.”

 

Jack’s brow is furrowed, his eyes big and earnest. “In a good way?”

 

She puts a hand on his forearm. “Of course, Jackie. Apologies, I’m very…morose, this evening.”

 

“Have you talked to him?”

 

“Mm. No, though I might’ve convinced Mother to earlier today.”

 

Understanding floods across Jack’s face. “Ah. How was that?”

 

“Same as always. Vague questions about my well-being disguised as insults and admonishments.”

 

“The evergreen parenting of Lillian Luthor.”

 

“Exactly.” Lena shakes her head, frustration building. “If she would just let me—”

 

“You can’t fix everything, Lena.”

 

“Says the man curing cancer.”

 

Jack makes a noise of complaint through his mouthful of wine. “Attempting to cure cancer,” he corrects after swallowing. “There’s a difference, much as I’m loath to admit it.”

 

“You’re attempting something, at least,” Lena says, smiling weakly. 

 

“You know the offer to join me always stands.” His face is so sincere Lena could cry. 

 

She leans into his side. “I know, Jackie. I just…need to find my own rhythm, I think. Fresh start, and all that.”

 

He wraps an arm around her. “You’re getting it,” he says. It sounds like a promise, coming from him.

 

“I’m not so sure I am,” Lena admits. She turns her head to speak more directly in his ear. “You missed someone else, earlier. Three down from Liam at the bar.” Relaxing back into his side, she looks at the band perform.

 

Jack knocks back the last of his wine and uses gesturing towards the bar for another to get glance in. “She’s one of yours?” He sounds confused.

 

“No,” Lena says, “but she’s FBI. I think.”

 

“Am I choosing my words carefully?”

 

“Oh, no.” Lena holds up her wrist to show off her bracelet. “I should be scrambling any kind of audio recording.”

 

“I didn’t know the FBI was still tailing you.” 

 

“If I’m right, she’s the second today.”

 

“Christ.”

 

“She’s much better than the one this afternoon, though, so I’m not really sure. She’s very comfortable at the bar—chatty with the bartender, you know—has had a beer at most, and was already there when we walked in.”

 

“So, maybe an unlucky coincidence.”

 

“If you believe in that sort of thing. We made plans on my personal phone, not my work one.”

 

“Oh, Lena-love,” Jack sighs. “We’ll get you to believe. I know what I said earlier, but things are better out here.”

 

“It’s the same,” Lena says sullenly. “Just sunnier.”

 

“Exactly. Better.” He presses a kiss to her head. “Will your four big, scary bodyguards protect you if I go off to the little boy’s room?”

 

“I should hope so.”

 

“Be right back.”

 

Jack saunters off, leaving Lena to her own devices. She’s still trying to subtly stare at the woman at the bar, hoping to get a proper look at her face around the asymmetrical haircut she’s sporting, when the band finishes yet another song that Lena should probably know.

 

Lena claps along with the crowd, distracted from her intel gathering by the pink flush that has overtaken the singer’s face. Her train of thought is further derailed when a wolf whistle from the crowd has the woman leaning away from her microphone to laugh.

 

“Thank you,” the singer—Kara Danvers, Lena remembers— says, grinning. “Winn here bet me I couldn’t come up with even more verses for ‘Comes Love’ last week, and I’m really glad to tell you all that I will be collecting twenty dollars in a few minutes.”

 

Lena laughs along with the room, feeling the chemistry of the band bleed out into the crowd. The pianist starts up and before long Kara is coming in with the drums. 

 

“Comes a rainstorm, put your rubbers on your feet,” she sings. “Comes a snowstorm you can get a little heat; Comes love…nothing can be done.” 

 

It is another song Lena doesn’t know, but she catches on quickly: the general composition stays the same as different couplets are slotted in, all ending with the same final phrase. Kara gets sillier as the song goes along, her couplets becoming more and more nonsensical as she plays with the melody and rhythm. Lena’s foot taps along under the table, the easy charm of the singer and the song wrapping her up in the music.

 

The bassist riffs over the cheers when one section has Kara miming sweeping mice off the stage, and when her voice comes back in, it’s for a new melodic section. “Don’t try hidin’, ‘cause there isn’t any use,” she belts, “you’ll start slidin’ when your heart turns on the juice!”

 

Lena blinks, goosebumps popping up all over her arms. She’s hastily drinking the last of her third scotch when Jack plops down beside her again. 

 

“You would not believe the view in that toilet,” he tells her. “You can see the whole harbor. Half the people in there were just taking pictures.”

 

“It is a nice spot,” Lena admits begrudgingly. 

 

Jack grins. “I knew it. You do love a good view, Lena.”

 

Lena hums, looking back to the stage in time to catch Kara take a deep breath and launch into a complicated vocal run. “You know, Jackie,” Lena says. “I really do.”

 


 

Jack stumbles out of her Rolls and into the lobby of his apartment building with a sloppy wave towards her as she’s driven away. Lena powers her phones back on just to give her hands something to do, surprised when her work phone vibrates a few times. She frowns down at it and blinks hard. Even after she rubs at her eyes, it still shows that she has not one, but two voicemails from the contact Lillian Luthor. After an indulgent moment of trepidation, she listens to the first. 

 

“Lena, dear,” her mother’s voice says, airy and clipped as always. “I’m afraid you and I have arrived at an awkward moment in our relationship. It seems as though there are nude photographs of me on the internet, and I need you to search for them and take them down.”

 

Lena gags and deletes the message as fast as she possibly can. With nausea rolling across her stomach and a deep desire for more boundaries in her life, she taps on the next voicemail.

 

“Oh, and I forgot to mention—it’s probably nothing, but I think I’ve just killed a man.”

 

Gritting her teeth, Lena navigates to her text messages and pulls up her mother’s contact.

 

Deal with your problems yourself, Lena texts her. If you wanted my help so badly you should’ve hugged me more when I was a child. Talk to you at Christmas.

 

There. Boundaries. 

 

 

Chapter Text

Summer comes early to National City and Kara Danvers helps her sister move into a new apartment in 92 degree heat. 

 

“I really don’t know that I love you this much,” Kara huffs, dropping another box of—books? Literal rocks? “I swear you picked a day that James was busy on purpose.” She leans over, hands braced on her knees, and after a moment the call of the cool floor becomes too great. With a gentle shift of balance, she rolls down and onto her back.

 

Alex walks over to her and drops a water bottle on her stomach. “I knew those biceps were just decorative.”

 

Kara nearly chokes on the deep pull of water she’s taking. “You’re so rude. I’m going into cardiac arrest over here.”

 

Her sister leans over far enough to kiss her forehead. “You’ll live. Trust me, I’m a doctor.”

 

“Barely,” Kara mutters, scooching out of the way to avoid the kick Alex sends her way. “It’s your turn to go get boxes while I unpack. Winn probably thinks I’ve died.”

 

“You’re not being very sensitive.”

 

“Sensitive?” Kara scoffs, sitting up and leaning heavily against one of Alex’s dense boxes. It doesn't even shift under her weight. “About what?” She catches the roll of paper towels that get chucked at her. “Stop throwing things at me!”

 

“Stop being a butt!”

 

“Alex.” Kara gets to her feet with a groan and shuffles over to her sister, wrapping her up in a sweaty hug. “I’m sorry you’re so grumpy about this great apartment. Ow.” 

 

“You deserved that,” Alex mutters, snuggling into the hug anyway. “I didn’t want to move out,” she admits.

 

Kara catches the Ohhhhh that tries to leave her throat at the last moment. The apartment that Alex just left behind—the one she’d originally moved into with Maggie. “No?” she asks, careful to keep her tone light.

 

“Is that dumb? We’ve been done for over a year. I’ve dated a bunch. I could barely afford it by myself before, and now—” 

 

“It’s not dumb at all,” Kara interrupts, leaning back to stare her sister in the eye. “You’re letting go of something huge. Multiple somethings huge, really. Sorry I’ve been whiny.”

 

Alex rolls her eyes, one corner of her mouth pulling up. “The Whiny Sisters, single dropping next week.”

 

Kara gasps, gripping Alex by the shoulders, easing off when she gets an ow, too tight, Kara. “You know what would cheer you up?”

 

“Unless you say ice cream—”

 

“Karaoke!”

 

“Absolutely not.”

 

“Come on, please?” Kara whips out her best pout. “We can do that song you played too much, the…” She puffs her cheeks out as she thinks. “You know, the whining for what I want, ‘cause trying is just too hard.” 

 

“Leave the Planet Smashers in the early 2000’s with my comp het.”

 

Kara doesn’t make a comment about Alex’s comp het lasting much longer than the early 2000’s, which just goes to show the depth of a sister’s love. It’s hard, but she manages. Her phone ringing in her pocket distracts her from any other potentially relationship-damaging comments.

 

“Did you die?” Winn asks when she picks up. “I’ve circled the block, like, twice now.”

 

“Sorry! Be right down.” She hangs up on him and gives Alex a smack of a kiss on the cheek. “I’ll pick up ice cream once we get the last boxes up. Unpacking sister night?”

 

“You’re my favorite sister,” Alex calls out after her. 

 

“And your least favorite,” Kara hollers back.

 


 

“So,” Kelly says with a casual air, “is your sister coming again tonight?”

 

Kara takes both the steaming ginger tea and the bear shaped honey bottle put onto the bar and begins mixing her pre-show concoction. “Maybe. She finally finished unpacking, so she might just crash.”

 

“You know, if I didn’t have to listen because I work here, I’m not sure I would go to James’s shows that often,” Kelly admits. “You’ve got a good one.”

 

“The very best,” Kara confirms, taking a cautious sip of her tea. Strong, sweet, perfect. She pushes the honey back over to Kelly. 

 

“Did she just move to the city?”

 

Kara leans against the bar. “No, but she used to travel for work a lot. I think she feels like she’s gotta make up for lost time, or something.” At Kelly’s look, she reiterates, “I know, she’s a softie under all those scowls.”

 

The bartender smiles a little, averting her gaze and cleaning a glass that looks spotless to Kara’s eye. “She does frown a lot, doesn’t she?” It doesn’t sound like a complaint.

 

“If she’s bothering you while you work I can always tell her to sit at a table by the stage,” Kara offers.

 

“No,” Kelly says, just a hair too quickly. “It’s fine. She doesn’t bother me.”

 

Kara hides her smile behind her tea. “Mhm.”

 

Kelly huffs, giving up on the pretense of cleaning a pristine bar. “Kara.”

 

“My lips are sealed,” Kara says, “but in case you were curious, she’s very single. Also, probably won’t hit on you first, since you’re working and she’d feel guilty.”

 

“Are you serious?” Kelly looks close to swooning.

 

“Serious as American Idol Season 1,” Kara swears. “She also always sits at the bar, even though I reserve her a table, like, every time.” Her phone dings part of the way through her sentence, and she reads her sister’s text.

 

Which bartender works Fridays, it reads. Not Mike, right?

 

Kara snorts. For a former Federal Agent, Alex can really lack subtlety sometimes. “You never know until you shoot your shot,” she tells Kelly. “I’m going to go change.”

 

“Sing something romantic tonight,” Kelly suggests, maybe pleads. 

 

“I always do,” Kara grins.

 


 

“We’re getting the romance pumping tonight,” Kara tells her band. “I want ambiance. Tunnel of Love at the county fair. ‘Can I Have This Dance? (Reprise)’ from High School Musical 3: Senior Year. A fatal sacrifice that lets your beloved continue on in a world that’s forever changed by your absence. Why are you all looking at me like that?”

 

“Kara,” Nia says, her eyes wide, “are those the first examples of love you can think of?”

 

Kara puts her hands on her hips. “What’s more romantic than High School Musical 3? Troy goes to Berkeley instead of the University of Albuquerque to be able to focus on two passions and be closer to Gabriella.” 

 

“I’m kind of more partial to ‘Right Here, Right Now,’” Winn admits.

 

“That’s really not what we should be focusing on, buddy,” James says, giving Winn a pat on the shoulder. 

 

“We need the romance for us, James,” Kara plows on, deciding to try and stay focused on what really matters.

 

James gives his best impression of a deer in headlights, a reed sticking out of his mouth.

 

“Did I pass out and wake up two years in the past?” Vasquez mumbles, leaning towards Nia without taking her eyes off of their singer.

 

Kara ignores her. “James. Tonight’s the night we become siblings.”

 

“See, that doesn’t seem congruent,” Nia says, leaning back towards Vasquez. “We’re missing a step.”

 

“Oh, is Alex finally going to ask Kelly out?” Winn interrupts. 

 

Nia snaps. “There it is.”

 

“My Kelly?” James sounds scandalized, his words a little muffled by the reed he’s still got under his tongue.

 

“No, Kelli O’Hara, Broadway star,” Winn says, every syllable dripping in sarcasm. “Yes, your Kelly.”

 

“I thought Kelley O’Hara was a soccer player,” Vasquez says. 

 

“Do I look like I watch—”

 

Kara claps her hands together. “Focus. Our setlist needs some last minute adjustment—can we bump ‘Learnin’ the Blues?’ Swap it with ‘Tenderly?’ Maybe ‘Our Love is Here to Stay?’”

 

“What about ‘Moonlight in Vermont,’” Winn suggests. “It’ll work better after ‘They All Laughed.’”

 

“Perfect,” Kara says, holding her hand out for a high five. “Thank you, Setlist King. After my break I was thinking—”

 

“Hold up.” James finally takes the reed out of his mouth, fitting it to the mouthpiece of his sax without a glance. “Why do we want our sisters to date?”

 

Kara’s chin dips; her expression goes stoney. “Why wouldn’t you want your sister to date Alex?”

 

Nia shoots up. “Gotta go tune,” she says. “Bye.” She’s gone in the next second, Vasquez hot on her heels without even bothering with an excuse.

 

James tightens his ligature with one hand and holds the other up defensively. “Alex is great. Obviously I love Alex.”

 

“Yeah, she’s the best,” Kara insists. “Obviously Kelly wants to ask her out.”

 

“Of course,” Winn soothes, his eyes bouncing between the two of them. “No one said she wasn’t.”

 

“Oh, Kelly is doing the asking?” James asks. “Nevermind then.”

 

“What?”

 

“I’ve gotten between Kelly and a girl she wanted to ask out exactly once,” James says with a shudder, “and it’s never going to happen again. Let’s go groove to the music of love.”

 


 

The last notes of ‘Moonlight in Vermont’ get swallowed up by the bar’s crowd applause. Kara winks down at the two women at one of the closer tables that have quickly become regulars when one of them gives a sharp whistle. “Thank you,” she says. “Let’s hear it for Winn Schott Jr. on the piano please!” Applause swells again; Kara leans closer to the microphone to continue, “Jimmy Olsen, our woodwind extraordinaire!” Another pause, then, “Nia Nal our bassist, and last but not least, first-name-redacted Vasquez keeping our rhythm steady.”

 

Vasquez blows her a kiss. Kara grabs it out of the air and, given the lack of pockets in her dress for the evening, tucks it into her cleavage. She can see Alex, in her usual spot at the bar, facepalm. “Alright, let’s get moving, folks. Here’s ‘Under a Blanket of Blue.’”

 

Kara steps back from her mic and lets Winn and Vasquez start them off, her lips curling up when Winn adds an extra flourish to his opening measure. Nia’s fingers find their spot on her frets and Kara moves forward again. “Under a blanket of blue,” she sings, careful to keep the melody simple and clean on her first run through, “just you and I beneath the stars, wrapped in the arms of sweet romance, the night is ours.” 

 

James comes in for the second stanza; his syncopated style is as natural to sing over as it is to breathe at this point. It’s hard to see the details of the tables and booths spread between her and the windows with the lights pointed at the stage mostly blinding her, but she dares look over at the bar again.

 

“Covered with heaven above—”

 

Alex laughs, nearly folded over the top of the bar she’s leaning so far over it.

 

“Let’s dream a dream of love for two, wrapped in the arms of sweet romance—”

 

Kelly reaches out and puts a hand over Alex’s. With a grin, Kara looks back towards the indigo of the sky just visible through the buildings.

 

“Under a blanket of blue!”

 


 

Kara’s break arrives four songs later with thunderous applause, the kind that makes her want to forgo the tea waiting for her and the bathroom trip she desperately needs. There’s energy in the crowd tonight, a kind of reactive buzz that has her launching into vocal runs that her band only manages to sync up to because of the years they’ve played the music that walks in step with her voice.

 

It’s electric. Kara hums all the way through her trip to the bathroom, until she’s wiggling her eyebrows at herself in the mirror and asking her reflection to fly her to the moon. She makes a quick stop by the break room to grab the tea that’s waiting for her, and after glancing into the club and seeing Kelly leaning over the bar and way into Alex’s space, decides that she really doesn’t need to see what she’s been hoping for up close.

 

Instead, she goes past the patron bathrooms and goes through the door to the right, out onto the balcony that J’onn has just opened up again. It’s only big enough for a few bar height tables, and since it’s long past sunset there isn’t much of a crowd. Kara finds that it’s exactly what she wanted—quiet, cool, and with a few stars stubbornly shining through National City’s light pollution.

 

The breeze blows her hair back, chills the sweat she can feel by her temples. She should probably redo her makeup before she has to get back on stage, but she’s missed spending her breaks on the little balcony. Her fall and winter had been more valleys than peaks, and the major chord of summer is tantalizingly close. She can almost hear it if she listens hard enough, something like a progression from a D major chord to an E major chord, and her head is so caught up in the music that she almost runs into someone.

 

He’s tall. Well dressed, clean shaven. “Apologies.” His voice is a quiet, warm tenor.

 

Kara, who jerked the hand holding her tea to the side and splashed a good amount of it onto her hand, winces her way into a smile. “My bad, actually. Head in the stars. I didn’t spill on you, did I?”

 

“No, ma’am.” His smile is small, but sincere. Kara likes him almost instantly, wants to ask him about his hometown and whether he prefers pancakes or waffles, but her stomach rolls at the thought of being a ma’am. 

 

“Kara, please.”

 

He tilts his head. “Charlie.” His handshake is perfectly neutral. Kara has her breakfast food question on the tip of her tongue, but he steps away and somehow relaxes into perfect posture. He clasps his hands over his belt buckle and—oh. Bodyguard. She gives him a tiny salute and leaves him to his job.

 

As subtly as she can, well aware that Alex has told more times than she can count that she doesn’t have a subtle cell in her body, she looks around the balcony. She has the genius idea to take a sip of tea as she does, which totally would’ve worked great if she hadn’t missed her mouth by an inch and a half. Kara isn’t going to drink any of this darn tea at this rate. 

 

A little square of white appears in her field of vision, held aloft by a pale hand with immaculately manicured but unpainted fingernails. “Napkin?” A clunky, button-riddled watch stands out on a slim wrist.

 

“Thank you.” Kara nearly snatches it in her haste to keep from staining her dress, slowing her hand at the last moment so as to not completely alienate every single guest she runs into. Patron —J’onn likes it when they call customers patrons, Kara reminds herself . “I seem to have a bit of a drinking problem.”

 

It’s a dumb joke from a movie that Eliza loves, but it gets her a laugh, one that’s low in a throat, as though someone was surprised to make such a noise. Kara wants to hear it again, wants to find its exact note and start singing every song from that point. Her gaze goes from the neckline of her dress to the table, littered with screens, and then lands on the person.

 

She is, quite plainly, the hottest woman Kara has ever seen. And sure, maybe Kara has an itty-bitty, maybe kind of thing for powerful, sharply dressed women. Maybe. She’s really more about people than their genders, but it’s a little too much of a pattern to be ignored. The woman is wearing a burgundy, three piece suit—God—and her dark hair is tied up, leaving her neck and jawline unobscured. Kara has thoughts about that particular neck and jawline, most of them along the lines of hnnng and great googly moogly, but thankfully none of those thoughts travel from her brain and out of her mouth.

 

Instead, in all of her suave and debonair brilliance, she asks, “are you running a heist?”

 

The table the woman is standing by houses two large smartphones and a tablet instead of any drinks or appetizers. Kara can admit that she’s a little problematically nosy, but the periodic flashing and shifting text on each screen is hard to ignore. She looks to be alone, at least, which Kara counts as a potential win, even though she seriously doubts how anyone who looks like that could be single.

 

“A heist?” The woman asks, raising one eyebrow. Frankly, it’s devastating.

 

“They always have a tech guy, you know,” Kara says. “Running the show. Messing with the security cameras.”

 

“I think I’d prefer a heist,” the woman drawls, still sounding amused. She raises her watch-less hand to reveal a tumbler of dark, amber liquid and takes a large sip. “In reality, I’m just checking on the software I’m running to scrub my mother’s nudes from the internet.”

 

A laugh bursts from Kara’s throat, though she quickly smothers it. The expression on the woman’s face is serious, despite the wry tone she’d spoken in. 

 

“You can laugh,” she says. “It’s funny. Life is a circus and I’m currently the clown. I’m surprised my heels aren’t squeaking with every step.”

 

Kara does laugh at that, leaning against the concrete railing of the balcony. It leaves the table between them, which is a conscious choice. “I’m…not sure I’d recover from that, myself.”

 

“Oh, believe me, that’s why I wrote a program to do it for me. There are some things I have no desire to see.”

 

“That’s why I’m out here.” Kara leans in a little and says in a stage whisper, “my coworker is trying to pick up my sister inside right now.”

 

The woman leans in too, bringing a wave of something expensive and floral-adjacent with her. Kara does her best to keep from drooling. “Is this coworker someone in the band? I couldn’t help but notice that the songs tonight are a bit more…saccharine than usual.”

 

Kara hopes that isn’t an insult, but there’s something else her brain focuses on. “You’ve been here before?” She doesn’t want to believe it. Kara doesn’t even want to entertain the possibility that someone who looks like that could ever spend an evening at the Tower without Kara noticing them. 

 

“Oh, just a few times,” the woman says vaguely. One of her phones dings. She glances at it and then her face shifts into the most graceful grimace Kara has ever seen. “That’s my cue,” she says. “Thank you. This was…nice. It’s been a while since I’ve enjoyed talking to a stranger.”

 

“Well, it won’t happen again,” Kara says, like an actual idiot. “I mean,” she rushes to clarify, “we won’t be strangers next time. Not that—I hope lots of people are nice to you, obviously. And that we'll talk again.” She clears her throat. “Not as strangers.”

 

There’s some kind of positive force out there in the universe, because the woman only smiles at her. “Well, if we’re all saying what we think,” she begins, “then I’ll share that I very much enjoyed your song earlier. Under a Blanket of Blue, I think you called it.” She gestures to the view before them, or maybe to the night sky. “I don’t know, I’ve just spent the whole night thinking about it. I’m afraid I’m not musically gifted enough to tell you why, it just…gripped me, I guess.” She shrugs, the tiniest flush gracing her cheeks. 

 

Kara thinks she’s breathing normally, but every inhale and exhale rattles strangely in her head like some kind of awful ASMR. She knows exactly what the woman is saying, because she’s felt it before. She can close her eyes and slip back to thirteen so easily, and find herself listening to Jeremiah’s record player scratch along on a Sunday afternoon. 

 

Why the gods above me, who must be in the know, think so little of me they allow you to go, Ella Fitzgerald had sung once, her voice caught and transported to Kara’s ears at just the right point in her life. She hadn’t known how to explain it, then, when her whole world was in turmoil, but now:

 

Sometimes a song can reach in and grip something in your chest that you didn’t even know existed. Sometimes it’s not even a song, but a voice or a baseline or a particular harmony. It can hold on tight and leave you just a little bit changed, the tiniest bit off-beat when the next measure rushes in. It’s why Kara hasn’t ever been able to find a job that didn’t have something to do with music. She heard Ella sing Cole Porter on a busted old record player and the lyrics and melody and rhythm all worked together to trip her up good. She thinks sometimes that she’s still stumbling, all these years later.

 

Kara just never thought anyone would think anything close to that about her music, or her voice, or the songs she chose to sing. It’s even better, somehow. It transcends every feeling. She wonders when a stumble turns into a free fall.

 

“Thank you,” Kara manages to say. It’s a laughably poor two words to convey the depth of her emotion. “That song’s one of my favorites, actually.” If Kara had said that ten minutes ago, it would have been a lie, but now it’s a painfully earnest truth.

 

The woman is still smiling, her lips a perfect red curl. Kara wants to do something inappropriate, like reach out and smear that lipstick with her thumb, or nuzzle into her neck and inhale that expensive scent right from the source. By luck or a curse, she doesn’t get the chance. 

 

Her phone dings again, and she holds it up apologetically in one hand, collecting the other two screens between the fingers and abandoning her now empty tumbler on the now empty table. “I’ll see you out there, Ms. Danvers,” she says. By Kara’s next inhale, she’s gone, but her perfume lingers in the air, in Kara’s lungs. 

 

Kara takes another breath in, feeling like a royal creep. “It’s normal to be unreasonably thirsty for women who look like that,” she mutters to herself. The balcony feels just a little colder now that she’s by herself. She can see the imprint of the woman’s lipstick on the rim of the glass she left behind. 

 

In the back of her head, she hears Ella finish the song with the final, haunting line:

 

There’s no love song finer, but how strange the change from major to minor, ev’ry time we say goodbye. 

 

Far off in the distance, somewhere over a far out suburb of the city, a lone firework pops in an explosion of brilliant gold. Kara stands alone, outside of a club she’s just been singing in.

 

“Whoa.” She blinks hard. “This is just like the beginning of High School Musical.” 

 


 

Kara chugs the rest of her tea in the last thirty seconds of her break, stumble-rushing in her heels to make it back to the stage before Winn starts to try and tell jokes again. She manages, just barely, skidding to a stop right as they finish up “April in Paris.” 

 

There’s a smattering of applause, a little subdued for the performance they got in Kara’s opinion, and the moment James takes his lips away from the mouthpiece of his saxophone, Kara is gesturing for him to lean towards her. “I need to find out a patron’s name,” she hisses. “How do I do th—why is your clarinet out?”

 

“Don’t disrespect my clarinet,” James whispers, even though the conversation in the room has picked up enough that no one can hear what they’re saying. “Winn said you wanted to close with ‘All of Me’ tonight.”

 

“You can do ‘All of Me’ with your sax.”

 

“You watched too much Spongebob as a child and hate the clarinet for no reason.” 

 

“I don’t hate it.”

 

James stares at her.

 

“It’s just lame,” Kara whines. “I don’t want to sing ‘All of Me’ with Squidward Tentacles.”

 

“You’ll sing it with James Olsen on the clarinet or you’ll sing it a capella,” he threatens. “Why do you want to know about a patron? We’re filled up with some real assholes tonight.”

 

“What?”

 

“Jake Gaurettz is here.” James takes a deep drink from his water bottle. “Sat down while you were on break.”

 

“The city councilman?” Kara asks. 

 

James grunts. 

 

“Can we kick him out?”

 

“I wish.”

 

“Gosh, that guy really—” Kara shakes her head. “He really makes me angry.”

 

“Any songs in your repertoire about corrupt, racist politicians getting thrown in jail?”

 

“None in my repertoire,” Kara says. “I can extend my break if you want to play ‘Alabama’ or something.”

 

James sighs. “No, you’re right. I’d be pissed if some white girl started singing ‘Strange Fruit.’ It’s fine, I’m just—ugh. Let’s just play.”

 

Kara kisses his cheek. “Kelly’s probably gonna spit in his drink, if that makes you feel better.”

 

He barks out a laugh. “That’s why she’s my favorite sister.”

 

“You know, Alex said that to me the other day,” Kara muses. “It’s really not the compliment you guys think it is.” She scoots around him to her microphone, throwing three finger guns, one after another, to Vasquez, then Nia, and finally Winn. “‘O Amor em Paz,’” she whispers to her band. With a deep breath, she turns and faces the crowd with a smile.

 


 

Kara wakes up gloriously late the next morning and basks in the sunlight streaming across her bed. She flops a hand towards her dresser and slaps around until she finds her phone, distracted from her usual morning Twitter scroll by 30+ messages to the SuperFriends group chat. 

 

Kara scrolls all the way back up to get some context for the all caps, exclamation heavy texts. She finally sees James’s first message, which is a link to a National City Tribune article. 

 

“City Councilman Jake Gaurettz resigns, effective immediately,” it reads. “The shock resignation comes out of the blue for three time…” 

 

Kara blinks at her phone, stunned. James sent the article with the message when Winn’s improv solo is so bad it drives councilman gaurettz to resign. 

 

Kara snorts and HaHa reacts to the text. She skims the article, but it doesn’t have much to say—it’s breaking news, and the only source is the PR department for former Councilman Gaurettz. It’s unsatisfying not just for its content, but the way it plods along like a middle schooler’s outline for a book report. 

 

Her fingers itch, then twitch, and she finds herself longing to stitch together word after word, sentence after sentence, until paragraphs make up something greater. After a moment of hesitation, she reaches towards her bedside table and grabs her laptop. When the click-clack of her keyboard starts to fill her bedroom, Kara can’t help but think that it sounds a little like music. 

 

Chapter Text

Five days after Lena blackmails city councilman Jacob “Jake” Gaurettz into an early resignation, she walks into a deserted warehouse and finds a bloody man tied to a chair. 

 

She tilts her head to the side until she gets the satisfying crack she’s after. It’s been a long week.

 

“Nathan Hammond,” Jess says, tapping away at the tablet in her hands. “He’s Edge’s.” 

 

Lena’s new assistant isn’t particularly chatty, but she’s quick and doesn’t take even an ounce of bullshit, which is exactly what the job requires. The extensive background checks and psychological evaluations put Lena at ease as far as the potential…issues that could come from her current line of work, but there’s some things that really only time can figure out. Lena’s trying to learn how to not sweat the small stuff.

 

“Did Liam remember to keep him hydrated?” The man—Mr. Hammond—has been in her custody for at least thirteen hours.

 

“Yes. Got him a mango Baja Blast when he went to Taco Bell for lunch.”

 

Lena wrinkles her nose. “That’s inhumane. I’ll have to talk to him about that later. Set a reminder?”

 

“Already did.”

 

Oh, Lena likes her new assistant. “Thank you. How do I look?”

 

Jess finally glances up from the tablet to give Lena a once-over. “Monochromatic.”

 

“Perfect.” Lena adjusts her purse on her shoulder, straightens her posture, and walks across the cavernous space. The rhythmic click of her heels settle her into the persona she needs to pull off more than the meditation exercises she’d practiced during the drive over.

 

She stops right in front of Nathan Hammond. His head lolls to the side, then upwards. Blood streaks down the lower half of his face and across his chest from a very broken nose. “Hello, Mr. Hammond,” Lena says. “My name’s Lena.”

 

He blinks slowly at her, like a trusting cat. Lena doubts that he trusts her at all.

 

“I’d say it’s a pleasure to meet you, but I don’t think you’d return the sentiment. I don’t fault you for that, Mr. Hammond. I think you’ll find me very reasonable. Fair, even.”

 

Silence.

 

“You know,” Lena muses, “my brother loves to monologue, but I’ve never really understood the appeal.” The man’s pupils dilate slightly. “You know my brother, don’t you?” She leans in close, keeps her voice low. “Lex Luthor. ‘The Butcher of Metropolis.’” She gives an exaggerated shiver, satisfied when she sees him swallow. “Mm. That’s what I thought.

 

“I’m going to assume that you’ve seen The Godfather, Mr. Hammond, because frankly you just look the type. No, just nod or—perfect. It was based on the Italian mafia in Gotham. I don’t know how they do it; all those different families squabbling for power. Metropolis has only ever had one family. My family.” Lena smiles like the words she’s forcing out don’t taste like bile, tangy and repulsive. “Keeping a monopoly like that is simple, really. We only ever used three ingredients: loyalty, ruthlessness, and a lot of fucking money.”

 

“It didn’t last,” Nathan Hammond croaks. “The Luthors are done. People weren’t loyal, in the end.”

 

Lena sighs. “You can thank my brother for that. Paranoid idiot. Absolutely fucked the whole thing up.” She bites her tongue before the truth behind that flows out too— fucked up the only thing our father ever loved because of the way our father fucked him up. She changes the subject. “Do you know the rule no Luthor ever broke before my brother went off the rails?”

 

“I think you’re gonna tell me, lady.”

 

“Oh, you’re funny! That’s unexpected. You’re also right, Mr. Hammond. Wives and daughters.”

 

“Wives and daughters?” 

 

“You don’t fuck with wives and daughters. I know, a bit archaic for my taste, but my childhood was relatively…undisturbed by the family business, so I can’t say I didn’t reap some benefits from it. Messing with a made member of the Luthor empire’s wife or daughter was a one-way ticket to the city morgue. No exceptions. It became the only clean way to oust someone, after a while. Factions develop, you know how it goes. It was the only motive that never got questioned. My brother knew that long before he took over. For all his faults, he is quite good at reading people.” 

 

Nathan Hammond is sweating now, really and truly sweating, his eyes wide and face pale. There’s no reason for Lena to say explicitly that she knows exactly who his family is and where they currently are. 

 

“My brother needed ways to get rid of people inside the business he didn’t like, but it wasn’t easy. He inherited his empire; he didn’t make it. Any guesses to what he did next?”

 

Nathan Hammond gives the tiniest shake of his head. 

 

“Hm. I was hoping you’d get there by yourself—no matter. My brother was blessed with a younger sister, Mr. Hammond. When he needed someone out, all he had to do was frame someone for kidnapping and assault.” Lena’s breaths stay even as she speaks, despite the way her pulse races. She works more steel into her voice. “And Lex isn’t sloppy. They had to be real threats to his sister’s life—who else would believe them, otherwise? He had to really hire men to drag me into vans and hold guns to my head and rough me up a little.” She pauses. “Or a lot, if the mood struck them. They just misunderstood who exactly had hired them. You’d be surprised how many made members of the Luthor business empire suddenly viewed me as a bargaining chip. I wish I could count them on my fingers and toes. Do you understand?”

 

Terrified, sunken eyes stare up at her. A new line of blood drips down the side of his neck. What’s black and blue and red all over? she thinks. Nathan fucking Hammond.

 

“Not yet? I’m the one that made it out, Nathan. Civil asset forfeiture was barely a speed bump. I got the fortune. I got the houses, though I sold all but one, which I then gave away. I got the tech, and the cars, and the priceless art. No surviving, unimprisoned, former members of the Luthor business have any interest in me at all. I moved to National City without a whiff of complaint from anyone, save my mother. I even got great-aunt Lutessa’s silver teapot.

 

“How did I do it? Here’s the big secret, Nathan.” Lena leans in close enough to smell the foul mix of sweat and blood. “I’m the one who burned it all to the fucking ground.”

 

He wheezes a frantic kind of sound, leaning as far away from her as he can with how he’s tied up. 

 

Lena makes a soft tsk sound. “So, you do know what that means. I like you, Nathan, so I’m going to share another secret: my brother monologues because he’s a narcissist. I’d guess that I’m one of the few people who’ve heard his dry little lectures and lived to tell the tale, and I have to say—never understood the point! All that clever wordplay, and not an ounce of reputation for it. Oh, relax, I’m not going to kill you; that’s exactly my point. I’m monologuing at you so that you’ll learn something.” Lena tilts her head. “What have you learned, Nate?”

 

A bead of sweat cuts a line through the red mess of his temple. “You—you’re not someone’s daughter.”

 

“Oh, fascinating. But no. Not quite full marks.” Lena’s a bit disappointed. “I’m afraid I’ll always be someone’s daughter—I digress. I need you to send a message.”

 

“I’ll send it,” he promises. “I will, please.”

 

“I have no doubt about that. You’re going to tell Mr. Edge that if he gets out of National City yesterday and takes all of his foul underlings with him, I’ll think about going easy on him. Got it?”

 

He nods so furiously that the slow drippings of blood still coming out of his nose scatter outwards. Lena takes a step back in open disgust, looking down at herself. 

 

“Look at this,” she groans, shaking her purse at him. “A bloodstain. On my Valentino white bag.” 

 

“Soak in cold water,” Jess says from behind her. 

 

Lena nearly jumps. “Christ. I forgot you were there.”

 

“You were too busy monologuing.”

 

Well. Lena did hire her for her honesty, so she really can’t be indignant about it. “Well,” she says haltingly. “I’m done now. So.”

 

“Would you like me to call Liam, Ms. Luthor?”

 

“Please. He’ll take it from here.” 

 

Jess steps away to make the call. Lena looks back to unlucky Nathan Hammond, and after a moment of incertitude, steps back into his personal space. 

 

“Your son,” she whispers. 

 

Somehow, Nathan Hammond goes even paler. “Please,” he begs, his voice the weakest she’s heard. “Please, I’ll do anything—”

 

“No, you imbecile,” Lena snaps. “He’s being bullied. Quite badly.”

 

He blinks up at her. “What?”

 

“My guess is that he feels misplaced guilt over your recent separation from his mother and doesn’t want to cause more issues by bringing it up.” That’s what the psychologist Lena consulted with had said, anyway. She raises an eyebrow. “Correct his thinking and the situation, or there will be lasting psychological damage.”

 

She walks away before he can respond, wrinkling her nose down at her purse. Getting her hands dirty is more fun in a lab. 

 

Jess falls into step beside her as she walks down the water stained hallway of the carefully scouted warehouse. “Liam’s on his way.”

 

Lena digs a tissue out of her bag. She wipes at the bloodstain to keep it from spreading onto the sleeves of her similarly white blazer. 

 

“I can take care of that stain, Ms. Luthor,” Jess offers. 

 

“This bag was only $2,000, if memory serves correct,” Lena says flippantly. “I’ll just buy another. I’ve never been able to get blood stains out of white leather like this.”

 

“I’ll add one to your shopping list.”

 

Lena takes out her aviators and slides them on right before they walk out into the dazzling afternoon sunlight. “It’s yours if you want to go through the trouble,” she offers. “How do you think I did?”

 

“With Mr. Hammond?” At Lena’s nod, Jess continues, “I think you terrified him.”

 

“Well, yes, but—let me think of a better question. What adjectives do you think he’ll use to describe me to Morgan Edge?”

 

Jess ponders that for the rest of the time it takes them to walk to the loitering SUV with blacked out windows. Lena waves Julian away when he makes to get out of the driver’s seat, opening the door herself and gesturing her assistant in. 

 

“You’re going to put me out of a job, Ms. Luthor,” Julian jokes, waiting until he sees that they’ve both put their seatbelts on before he starts the car.

 

“I’m not an invalid,” Lena replies. Then, “oh, God, I sound like my mother.”

 

He shrugs. “You said it, not me.”

 

Lena groans, relaxing back into her seat and closing her eyes. “Do you have those adjectives, Jess?”

 

“Unhinged. Dangerous.” After a beat, she adds with a hesitant voice, “prissy. Feminine. Spoiled. Very, um, girlboss-y.”

 

“Perfect,” Lena says, satisfied. 

 

“Ms. Luthor?” Jess sounds confused.

 

“You haven’t met Morgan Edge yet,” Lena explains, “which is a blessing, believe me. He’s foul. A misogynist in the most boring, unoriginal, and absolute sense. He’s going to make a royal fool of himself underestimating some heiress little sister who was never involved in the bloody family business and I’m going to revel in it.” She pauses. “But I was serious about the bag, if you want it. I can’t fucking stand laundry.”

 


 

Lena’s personal cell rings right as she’s finally managed to get Ripley—the AI program she designed at MIT—to stop trying to bulk order Red Bull cola flavor from Austria on the first day of every month. If the pesky little shit wasn’t so damn sentient then she wouldn’t have to be constantly fixing problems like that, but Lena can’t bear to get rid of her. She has such a soft spot for obnoxious pieces of technology. The rush of endorphins she gets from fixing a finicky problem is probably why she picks up a call from an unknown number in the first place.

 

“This is a prepaid call from—” The automated voice cuts off and is replaced by Lex’s bored tone. “Alexander Luthor.” The automated voice starts up again with, “—an inmate at ADX Florence. To accept charges, press 1. To refuse charges, press 2.”

 

Lena chews at her thumbnail. After a long moment of confliction, frustration, and grudging acceptance, she pulls the phone away from her ear to press 1. The static changes with a faint click, and then Lena is listening to her brother breathe.

 

She doesn’t want to speak first, so she doesn’t. She just breathes back at him.

 

“Pawn to d4,” Lex finally says. 

 

Lena knocks her head back and closes her eyes. “D5,” she counters.

 

“C4.”

 

“C6.”

 

“Knight to c3.”

 

“Knight to f6.”

 

“E3.”

 

“E6.”

 

“Knight to f3.”

 

“Knight to d7.”

 

“Queen to c2.”

 

“Bishop to d6.”

 

“G4.”

 

Lena clenches her jaw. She hates the fucking Shabalov-Shirov gambit. “Pawn to c4,” she grits out.

 

“Bishop takes pawn.”

 

“Pawn to e5.”

 

“Bishop to d2.”

 

“Castle kingside.”

 

“Castle queenside.”

 

Lena can almost see it, through the low lighting of the library at Luthor Manor outside of Metropolis. Black and white marble checkered between them, knights and bishops of rosewood and granite. Haze from their father’s cigars. “D4,” Lena says. “Pawn takes pawn.”

 

“D4. Knight takes pawn.”

 

“You have one minute remaining,” the automated voice interrupts. 

 

It’s Lena’s turn; she doesn’t speak. They aren’t in Metropolis anymore. She could say guess whose nudes leaked online or make any new friends in cell block D but no sounds come out of her throat.

 

I think I’m more like you than anyone ever guessed, she doesn’t say.

 

Mummy tore down the treehouse. 

 

I found your hidden sex room in the house on Saint Kitts, so you’re the cause of even more of my therapy.

 

You know, the smell of blood doesn’t even phase me anymore.

 

The Thumb Thumbs from ‘Spy Kids’ showed up in my dream last week. I used to count on you to hold my hand through the second half of that movie. How did we get here?

 

I hate you. I loathe you. You are my betê noire. I detest you to the point of revulsion. If I saw you on my deathbed seventy years from now, it would be too soon.

 

“Don’t go moving the pieces around,” Lex says. His voice is rough.

 

The call ends in the next second, chilling silence in the place of staticy white noise.

 

“Love you,” Lena whispers.

 


 

For once, Lena walks into the Tower entirely alone. If the host is surprised, he doesn’t show it, just leads her quietly away when she tells him who she’s there to meet.

 

Charlie is already there, of course, dressed down and wearing glasses, as though that’s enough to make him unrecognizable. Lena doesn’t think she needs to admit that she barely noticed him when she walked past his table.

 

The man she’s there to meet is wearing a purple tie with a pitch-black suit. Lena would’ve gone with a charcoal, but the entirety of the very thick folder on Adrian Veidt that she went over in the car made it clear that he’s not a man who deals in shades of gray. 

 

“Mr. Veidt,” Lena says, careful to keep her voice neutral, pleasant. “I hope I haven’t kept you waiting.”

 

“You’re just on time,” Veidt says, standing to greet her. He has a corner booth, secluded from the low hum of chatter around them. A glance at her watch tells Lena that Kara and her band are due to start their set any minute. “Can I order you a drink?” He gestures towards the bar.

 

“They have a Highland Park 18 year that I’m partial to,” Lena says, “if you wouldn’t mind.”

 

“Of course, Ms. Luthor.” He strides to the bar right away. Lena’s glad she was right about him not being the type to stall.

 

Another peek at her watch tells her that it’s 9:02; Lena looking down is why she misses the band walking out. The applause makes her jerk her head up, and there she is.

 

There the band is. Which features Kara Danvers, who Lena really doesn’t know at all. 

 

Oh, who is she even kidding? Lena tucks her hair behind her ears and takes a deep breath. She needs to get all of her lesbian hysteria over with before Veidt gets back with her scotch. Why had she suggested the Tower for this? In the moment, she can’t remember.

 

It would be easier if Kara Danvers were dressed in what Lena’s become somewhat used to seeing her dressed in, but no—that would be too easy, and Lena’s life is never easy. Kara—and her whole band—are wearing the same outfit, instead of the amalgamation of dressy clothes Lena’s become accustomed to. They’re all in white button ups, navy slacks, and pastel colored ties. 

 

It’s an absolutely average outfit, except on Kara Danvers it’s absolutely devastating. She has her sleeves rolled up, displaying unreasonably toned forearms, and the bunches of fabric over her elbows smooth out where her biceps strain against the shirt. She looks handsome. Lena could eat glass.

 

“Hi there,” Kara says into her mic, grinning with her annoying, perfect teeth. “Happy Pride, everyone.”

 

The crowd cheers, Lena joining in on the applause a moment late, feeling as though she’s been slapped awake. 

 

“We’ve got a heck of a set for you all tonight, but before we begin we’d like to ask: in lieu of tips this evening, everyone here at the Tower would love it if you could make a donation to the Transgender Legal Defense & Education Fund. They’re committed to ending gender identity discrimination, and are trying to achieve equality for trans folks through public education, test-case litigation, direct legal services, and public policy effort.” 

 

Lena raises a hand to her mouth to let loose her crowd whistle. It raises over the applause just like she’d intended, and onstage Kara’s eyes move in her direction, squinting against the light. Lena takes a second look at her tie and sees that it’s pastel blues and pinks, interspersed with white. 

 

“Alright, alright, I’ll get singing,” Kara says, still squinting in Lena’s direction. “Five, six, seven—”

 

“You aren’t a cheap date,” Veidt says, placing her scotch down before her.

 

Lena snaps her gaze back to him and he slides into the booth across from her. “Luthors rarely are,” she drawls.

 

“So I’ve heard. Haven’t had the pleasure before now.”

 

“I’d say that’s a point in your favor, Mr. Veidt.”

 

“Well, once upon a time it was rare to see a Luthor outside of Metropolis. And the west coast?” He took a sip of his martini. “Unheard of.”

 

Lena raises a sarcastic eyebrow. “Well, I am adopted.”

 

Veidt laughs, looking surprised. It would be more accurate to say that she’s a claimed bastard, but what Veidt doesn’t know won’t kill him. If Lena’s learned anything from being a Luthor, it’s what you do know that will kill you.

 

“So, Lena Luthor,” he says, “the last Luthor. We have a lot in common, don’t you think?”

 

“I know that we both believe in the power of unification,” Lena replies. She takes a leisurely sip of her scotch, hoping to push him into doing most of the speaking. It does its job.

 

“I was thinking more along the lines of mechanical engineering.”

 

Lena holds the scotch in her mouth for a long moment, hoping to cover up her shock with what looks like her savoring the taste. “I’m sorry?”

 

“You’re familiar with my spark hydrants?”

 

Lena nods. They had catapulted Veidt Enterprises to the top of the tech world. Lena had just been finishing up her first masters and toying with the idea of electric vehicles herself, and Adrian Veidt had come along with his revolutionary charging stations. 

 

“Synthesizing of lithium,” she says. “It’s brilliant.”

 

He raises his martini glass towards her. “Thank you. I was looking to expand a year or two ago, actually, trying to find a way to keep the heat down, and you know what I found?”

 

Lena’s stomach sinks. “Enlighten me.”

 

“A patent for exactly what was going to fix my problems. It was my spark hydrant, only undone to its foundation and remade. Remade much better,” he admits. “It was like my hydrant was an Andrea del Verrocchico, and this patent was a proper da Vinci. My hydrant was a crayon drawing, and this patent was a woodblock print. Night and day.”

 

“That’s high praise, coming from you.” Lena’s ego is laying somewhere on a beach, being hand fed grapes and getting a foot massage.

 

“Mm. I know when I’m beat, Ms. Luthor.” He tilts his head. “Or should I say Dr. Kieran?”

 

Lena’s pulse races. She raises her scotch with slow, purposeful movements and takes another sip. “Whatever you prefer,” she says. There’s no point in denying it now.

 

“You have an impressive catalog of inventions. Would I be a fool to offer you a position at VE?”

 

“Yes.”

 

Veidt is easygoing enough to smile. “I figured. I have to ask: all of the inventions, but no company? No infrastructure to distribute?”

 

“People like you distribute for me just fine. I’ve never really been interested in the world of business. Too many men with big egos.” She smiles. “No offense.”

 

“Oh, I’m far too relieved that I won’t have you to compete with to be offended. VE’s bottom line might never recover.” 

 

The song that’s been happening as they spoke, one that’s fast-paced and enthusiastic, comes to a roaring final note. Veidt applauds loudly, his palms smacking together with almost aggressive cracks. A few people sitting at nearby tables glance over.

 

Lena risks a look towards the stage. Kara is flushed, looking over at her pianist and grinning. She nods at him, and the next song starts right away.

 

“They’re good,” Veidt says. “Even without a brass line.”

 

Lena looks away, back to Veidt. “I’ll admit it’s more about the scotch for me,” she says. It doesn’t taste all too truthful in her mouth. 

 

Veidt leans forward, propping his chin up on his palm. It’s a stark transition from his perfect posture, and makes him seem just a little more human. “I have to ask,” he says again, “no interest in business? Your IP isn’t cheap, and you don’t let just anyone use it. WGBS hasn’t won sweeps in years because of their subpar satellite usage. ”

 

Edge’s company. “Well, as you stated,” Lena says, nudging at her glass. “I have expensive tastes. There’s no power without money. I just don’t have the patience for boards or conference calls. Easier to get my funding directly.”

 

“And if there’s no power without money, what is there without power?”

 

Lena stares at him, mind moving a kilometer a second, thinking over the thick folder on Adrian Veidt. “Anarchy,” she finally says.

 

“Is that why you’ve made your way to the west coast?”

 

“National City is a dumpster fire,” Lena says. 

 

“And you’re going to fix that?”

 

“If you have the power to do something and choose to do nothing…” Lena shrugs.

 

"Gaurettz. Your work?"

 

Lena stares him down.

 

Veidt grins at her, wolfish. “‘I’m not afraid of an army of lions led by a sheep,’” he quotes. “‘I’m afraid of an army of sheep led by a lion.’”

 

“‘Glory crowds the deeds of those who expose themselves to toils and dangers.’”

 

“You know your Alexander the Great.” Veidt sounds impressed.

 

“I flirted with the idea of a minor in Classics,” Lena lies. She’d googled Alexander the Great quotes on the drive over.

 

“Well, Ms. Luthor,” Veidt says, pausing to drain the rest of his martini. “I think we’ve both learned a great deal this evening. For instance, I no longer see the point of splitting my attention between two places.”

 

“No?”

 

“No, I think National City will be fine without me. New York, on the other hand, could use a little more Adrian Veidt than it’s been getting.”

 

Lena manages to resist rolling her eyes, but it’s a close thing. “I’ll give you a call if I’m ever in town.” Lena is sure that they both know she won’t, but Adrian Veidt stands and walks away with a friendly nod. 

 

She waits until she sees him disappear from view before relaxing back into her seat, feeling like she’s just run a marathon. Adrian Veidt, the biggest potential roadblock in her unfolding plans for National City, has rolled over with barely a whine. She orders another scotch, this time a Bowmore Mizunara Cask Finish, 25 years. It’s a splurge, but she’s celebrating.

 

She doesn’t have as good a view of the stage as she usually does from this booth, but Kara Danvers looks just as good in three-quarter profile as she does from the front. Better, maybe, with the way her slacks hug her ass and thighs. 

 

Lena thinks she did a very good job at pretending to be unaffected by Kara’s close proximity the previous week. Uta Hagen could write a third book on Lena’s performance on The Tower’s little balcony. She’s glad there’s an entire room between them now, and for how crowded that room is. It’s activating all of the dormant instincts her mother worked so hard to make sure she had, the ones that ensure she’s a stoic husk of a human in front of any group of people that might conceivably photograph her.

 

She’s sure it’s very sexy. Kara Danvers is probably drooling from the stage.

 

The Mizunara gets put in front of her. The first sip is all vanilla and cedar. Lena nearly moans, her eyelids fluttering. Eyes closed, the lyrics of the current song filter into her consciousness. 

 

“The very thought of you, and I forget to do the little ordinary things that everyone ought to do,” Kara’s gentle soprano sings. “The mere idea of you, the longing here for you.”

 

Lena opens her eyes to see the saxophone player giving an impassioned solo. Admittedly, she doesn’t focus on him, because Kara’s moved aside and leaned against the piano to give him space and thus given Lena the perfect view of her ass.

 

It’s a gift she cherishes. She’s so—absorbed—that it takes her a few measures to see that Kara is looking directly at her. The scotch tries to go down her windpipe, and to Lena’s mortification, Kara Danvers grins at her before moving back to her microphone.

 

“You’ll never know how slow the moments go till I’m near to you.” She spreads her arms wide, face turned upward. “I see your face in every flower, your eyes in stars above. It’s just the thought of you.” Kara glances her way again and Lena stops breathing. “The very thought of you, my love.”

 

Lena feels too warm despite the cool, air conditioned air of the club. Kara finally looks away and Lena exhales harshly. The sounds of the room come back to her. When everyone begins to applaud, Lena joins in, dazed.

 

What, she thinks, the fuck.

 


 

Lena stays for the rest of the goddamn set. She sends Charlie home when Kara takes her break, half because he deserves a night off and half to keep herself from public indecency charges should she run into the singer on the Tower’s little balcony again. 

 

She’s the last Luthor without a record and she really would like to keep it that way, no matter how great the temptation. 

 

Lena sits alone in her corner booth, nursing her expensive glass of scotch. Kara comes back from her break and jumps into a song with hardly any hesitation, something smooth and hazy. Each note slurs into the next, saxophone and bass and vocals all racing after each other in a lazy round. Lena could sit and listen to it all night. 

 

So she does. 

 

Kara glances her way more than once throughout the evening, little peeks between vocal runs and piano solos. Lena meets her gaze half the time, avoids it when she thinks she might do something ridiculous like pull her neckline down even farther to see what reaction it’ll get. She feels like she’s underwater, like time has stretched out and been frozen in amber. 

 

Kara sings. Lena listens, watches, and drinks expensive alcohol. She switches to water when the lights get a little fuzzy, and right when the world centers itself again the band is playing their last song. Lena pays as they’re still going, looking to escape while she’s still thinking rationally. 

 

She’s alone in the elevator ride down to the lobby, humming off tune to herself as she texts Julian. The last song is a real earworm, its melody sticking in Lena’s head like a nasty virus. It’s still repeating itself in circles around her brain as she lingers down the block from the entrance to the nondescript highrise that houses The Tower. She scrolls through Twitter on her personal phone, though her eyes aren’t focused on the screen.

 

Julian is late. 

 

Lena is alone.

 

She can’t exactly remember the last time she was well and truly alone. It’s unsettling, and then she’s unsettled that she’s unsettled by being alone at all. Lena used to love being alone. She thinks she still does, really, once you cut away all the bullshit.

 

Checking her phone again shows no new messages. She’s half tipsy and in heels. I don’t want to be alone right now, she thinks. Please. Please.

 

The matte gray service door not far from where she’s standing bangs open, and Kara Danvers tumbles out in all of her blonde, buff glory. There are flyaways curling around Kara’s temples, the previously immaculate updo Lena saw upstairs a little more haphazard in the latest hours of the evening. Her shoulders look wider up close, where Lena can see how they strain just a little against the cut of the button up she’s wearing. One hand is loosening her tie, unbuttoning that top button, when she sees Lena and freezes.

 

“Ms. Danvers,” Lena says, relieved and dismayed all at once. She shifts her weight the tiniest bit—the cool evening air she suddenly can feel on her leg tells her that the slit of her dress is doing its best work. 

 

Kara’s eyes flicker down and then quickly back up again. Even in the relative darkness of the city at night, the flush of her cheeks is obvious. “Kara,” she says. “Please call me Kara.”

 

“Kara.” She holds a hand out. “Call me Lena, then.”

 

“Lena,” Kara repeats, just like Lena had. She steps forward to take the offered hand. Her grip is sure, but not too harsh. “I’ve been hoping I was going to see you all week.”

 

Lena raises an eyebrow. “Really?”

 

“I’ve been driving the band crazy,” she admits a little sheepishly.  Even though Lena’s wearing heels, her eyes are only just even with Kara’s. She hadn’t seemed so tall last week, when there was a table between them. “I thought I maybe scared you away.”

 

“The scotch list is too good to keep me away, I’m afraid,” Lena says.

 

“Yeah?” Kara’s grinning. “Anything else?”

 

“Drummer’s pretty hot.”

 

Kara laughs, a sound almost as musical as her singing voice. Lena hasn’t flirted like this since—God, post-grad? She blames it on the exposed hollow of Kara’s throat.

 

“I’ll let her know,” Kara says. “Want me to put in a good word?”

 

“I think I’ve got it,” Lena replies, dripping confidence. “You all done for the night?”

 

“Yep.”

 

Their hands are still clasped together between them, though they’ve long since stopped shaking them up and down. Lena wonders if she can get Kara to bend over and pick something up if she drops something. Would the fall break her phone? Does she care?

 

“Kara,” Lena says.

 

“Yeah?”

 

“You’re still holding my hand.”

 

Kara’s eyes go wide— God, they’re blue—and she drops Lena’s hand. “Right.” She lets loose an awkward little chuckle. “Hey, how’d your mom’s nudes turn out?” The moment Kara finishes speaking, she claps a hand over her mouth. “Oh my gosh,” she says through her fingers. “I didn’t mean to say that.”

 

Lena is too busy laughing to properly appreciate the flush that’s come back over Kara’s cheeks. 

 

“No, really,” Kara insists, taking her hand away from her mouth only to run it through her hair, further ruining the remnants of her hairdo. “I had, like—there was stuff I did want to say, and it wasn’t that. Oh, man, this is really—you know, my sister always says I put my foot in my mouth, and it’s not that I didn’t believe her, it’s just that I’ve never really—oh, gosh. You’re really pretty, you know that? It’s not like it’s easy to stay focused while I’m talking to you.”

 

Lena’s laugh peters out. The rambling made way for an earnest declaration so quickly it nearly gave her whiplash. Lena finds that it’s the easiest thing in the world to lean in and kiss her.

 

Kara’s lips are warm and a little chapped. Lena’s hands are grazing over Kara’s shoulders without even consulting her brain about it, digging her fingertips into the most ridiculous trapezius muscles she’s ever had the pleasure of touching.

 

It’s like Kara is frozen against her and then suddenly reanimated, surging forward into Lena’s kiss. One of Kara’s hands slides across her lower back, just barely high enough to be polite. Lena wonders what magic word she has to say to get Kara to be thoroughly rude.

 

Kara nudges her face the tiniest bit closer, her lips sliding over Lena’s with the slightest pucker.

 

Oh. Oh, Lena’s in trouble.

 

Kara breaks their kiss just enough to get some words in. “You’ve been drinking,” she mumbles, phrasing it half like a question.

 

“Water for the last half hour,” Lena soothes, reattaching their lips.

 

That’s the magic word, apparently, because one of Kara’s hands digs into the skin of her hips and the other slides along her arm, raising goosebumps wherever it goes. Lena’s mouth drops open and—

 

Someone clears their throat. Lena tears her lips from Kara’s with a slick little pop and turns her head to the side. 

 

Julian stands in front of the backseat door of Lena’s Rolls with a carefully neutral expression. Kara’s, who’s breathing heavily right against Lena’s jaw, doesn’t step away. Her arm stays curled around Lena’s waist, holding them tight together. 

 

“Julian,” Lena says, her voice a sad little croak. She clears her throat. “Circle the block, please.”

 

She turns her face back to Kara’s before he can respond, their noses grazing. 

 

“You have a Rolls Royce,” Kara whispers. Her breath smells like cinnamon. “And a driver.”

 

Lena bites at Kara’s bottom lip, grins at the whimper she gets in return. “And a penthouse,” she whispers back. 

 

The hand slung around her lower back slips downwards just a touch. Kara kisses Lena’s gasp away, then mouths down the length of her jaw and to her neck. Her breath is hot, and she uses just the tiniest hint of teeth. Lena wants her to use more, wants to grab her head and direct her to do exactly what she likes, but she opens her eyes and finds the twinkling lights of National City’s CBD still around her.

 

“That penthouse has a bed,” she says, her voice breathy. “If you’re interested.”

 

That makes Kara pull back. Her lips are bright pink and a little shiny, stained on one side by Lena’s lipstick. “I’m interested,” she says intently. There’s no hesitation in her expression. “Very interested.” She says it like it's a promise.

 

Lena can’t doubt it, not when a pretty woman with a gorgeous voice stares her down like that. It banishes even the most self conscious corner of her mind, lights her up from the inside with something akin to magma. She kisses Kara slowly, one of her hands sliding into that silky blonde hair, and tries to return the message in the most eloquent way she can.