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Shake, Strain, Repeat

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Kara slipped the last little black button through its hole at the hollow of her throat, fighting down the burning bile of nerves. She eyed herself in the mirror, smoothing the nonexistent wrinkles out of her new silky work shirt and brushing invisible lent off of her black jeans. There wasn’t much else to fix, her hair tied up in a sleek ponytail and her glasses on straight. She sighed and decided that her appearance would have to suffice.

 

This was not how she had planned to live her life.

 

But bills had to be paid, and she had to eat. After one last once over in the mirror, Kara slipped her coat on and shouldered her purse. With a burst of carefully controlled super speed she checked the locks on the windows one last time and left for her first day of work in National City.

 


 

It wasn’t hard to navigate National City. Kara had taken a couple days to learn the bus routes and time how long it took her to get somewhere. Of course if she were really late, she could stick to the back alleys and zip along before security cameras could see her. She was faster than her cousin, and maybe she had tested it with Alex. But knowing the city came with the cover. So Kara learned it like the back of her hand.

 

She made it to M’gann’s promptly at 11:55, right before she was supposed to arrive, and let herself in through the back entrance with her shiny new key. Kara wound her way into the bar’s office and hung her coat and purse in her new little locker that gave her awkward flashbacks to noisy middle school hallways and slamming metal doors. Once secured, she pocketed her keys and slid her phone into her back pocket just as another woman slipped into the room.

 

“Hey, are you Kara?”

 

She had heard her in the hall, but Kara spun and put on a surprised air. “Oh! Hi, yes. I’m Kara, uh, Kara Danvers.”

 

The other woman was easily her height. Tall and willowy with a heart shaped face, dark hair and eyes, and eyeliner sharper than a knife. She was young and Kara briefly wondered if she could legally serve alcohol.

 

“I’m Nia. Ready to get started?” She grinned politely and offered a hand.

 

Kara forced herself to relax and shook her hand. “I’m ready.”

 

“Awesome. Let’s go finish prepping. I know M’gann told you to be here an hour early, but if you’re dying for hours and ask nicely I bet she’d let you help with the deliveries. She actually almost never comes in, but she’s always around the city.”

 

Kara quickly followed after her, pulling the office door shut. “Oh, uh, thank you. That’s kind of you to mention.”

 

Nia turned back to her with an apologetic half grimace, her heeled boots thumping on the hardwood. “Don’t thank me just yet. My class schedule is going to be awful next semester. Think of it as preemptive training instead of being thrown into the fire.”

 

Kara grimaced in sympathy. “Got it.”

 

Nia led them out into the main space, flipping the rest of the overhead lights on even though the blinds were wide open to let in the sun. Everything was dark polished hardwood and wrought iron and glass. A masculine take on rustic-chic that was a little more high brow than usual. It wasn’t an exclusive penthouse bar by any means, but it was still one of the nicer establishments that she had stepped foot in.

 

In fact, Kara wasn’t quite sure how she had landed the job. Yes, she was a good student and aced all of her exams. Well, within reason. She was still trying to fly under the radar. And she had made sure to tell Alex that she didn’t want any favors from the DEO. She wasn’t trying to look a gift horse in the mouth, but the circumstances sure were tempting. She must have shown some kind of promise for M’gann to take a risk on a newbie, and desperately hoped that she lived up to the woman’s expectations.

 

“So what brings you to National City?” Nia asked, leading her behind the bar and pointing her to a couple bowls of citrus and a paring knife. “Cut those like the ones already in the metal containers please.”

 

Kara picked the knife up and started working. “I needed a new job-not that my last one was bad. But I was home to help my adopted mom for a little while after college, and my adopted dad passed… I was just ready to move forward. My sister is an officer here too, so I at least have her to bother while I look for journalism jobs.” Kara half shrugged with a grin, perfectly reciting her story.

 

“I totally get that! I’m sorry to hear about your dad though, I lost my mom a couple years ago too.”

 

Kara murmured her own condolences but Nia shrugged with a crooked grin, already setting that conversation aside for a later date. Kara was fine with that.

 

“I also moved here for journalism, I’d love to get hired at CatCo after I graduate.” Nia gushed, and then continued rambling about CatCo and what they stood for and how they pushed the envelope on trends and social commentary.

 

Kara easily joined in, glad to immediately have a common thread with her new coworker. She even offered to give her tips she had picked up from her couple years working at the Midvale Advisor. A local paper was still journalism, after all. Even if it didn’t cover celebrities and the hottest trends. She learned that Nia had been pressed to cut her hours back if she wanted to graduate within her timeline, hence Kara’s new position. There was also a third bartender that usually worked nights and Nia told her she would meet Lena eventually.

 

Her first shift went well enough. Those first-job jitters eased with an easy afternoon with jovial customers and adequate tips. It wasn’t the most glamorous work, but it was challenging in a different way. Had Kara been human she would have been annoyingly sore and worn out afterwards. She was also decent with the small talk thing, which got their tip jar a couple extra bucks.

 

From there her days quickly morphed into an opening shift nearly every day at M’gann’s followed by an evening of contracted ghostwriting for popular food and pop culture websites. It was difficult and thankless, it didn’t pay too much, but the stipend from the DEO through their Residential Extra Terrestrial program (R.E.T. as Alex called it) helped cover the extra groceries she needed to deal with her obnoxious yellow-sun affected metabolism. And as thankless as it was dealing with customers and having some other group’s name on her writing, it was still a good exercise for her social and writing skills-both that she would need once she felt confident enough to start applying to positions at CatCo Worldwide Media.

 

The hardest part through it all was slowing herself down just enough to be human. She was often too fast, too smart, and too good at her job. It rankled her nerves to make an error on purpose, to rattle a glass too loudly or sneak a K into a word in a draft where it didn’t belong under the guise of bilingual struggles. Really it was more of a polyglot struggle, and being from a super-advanced-but-now-extinct-civilization struggle… however that wasn’t something she usually shared over a lunch break. But still, she plodded on, putting in her time and honing her craft with her nose to the grind stone. This was her new routine for her first couple weeks in National City as Human Kara memorized all of M’gann’s house drinks and off-menu specials.

 

Of course nothing ever goes to plan, and Kara graciously switched shifts with Nia who needed an extra night to cram for an exam.

 

And the other bartender, Lena, sent her reeling.

 

Kara had arrived a little early at quarter til five, tonguing at a piece of broccoli from her early dinner in her molars she had missed while flossing. She wasn’t suppose to start until six-thirty but Nia had texted her with a stressed message of I think there’s a convention in town, can you come help us? You’ll get overtime. In her scant time working at M’gann’s Nia had never asked her for anything out of turn, so Kara wasn’t too miffed to rush through a shower and time herself to arrive in at a human speed. She tucked her phone in her back pocket, neatly tied her black half apron about her waist, straightened out her pressed button up, secured her belongings in her locker, and slipped out into the bar.

 

A wall of sound hit her and Kara was immediately grateful for the dampening lead in her glasses frames. The small bar was unusually packed with people yelling, laughing, drinking, and all around filling the space with so much sound Kara barely contained her flinch. Nia appeared at her elbow with two drinks in her hand and leaned in as Kara scanned the bar of people in ruffled business attire.

 

“We’re running out of ice and lemon everything , then take the right side. Thank you -”

 

Nia hustled on and handed off the drinks in exchange for a bank card. Kara clearly didn’t have any time to dawdle, but did notice the second woman behind the bar. A glance at her back was all she could afford, her long inky hair tied up into a sleek tail and black jeans so tight they looked painted on. These were her only clues that this woman was the illusive Lena before she hurried into the back for ice and lemon.

 

For a solid twenty minutes after a trip to the ice bin and huge fridge for their usual stash of lemon everything usually kept for the night rush, Kara was churning out drinks with a bright smile. She was a touch nervous that she would slip up with the wrong drink or maybe move at a speed that wasn’t particularly human, but she managed. Having an extra body behind the bar top made foot space a little tighter than she was used to and threw off her rhythm when a bottle she needed was in someone else’s hands. She had just turned and plucked the orange bitters from its space and tilted it into her jigger when pale slender fingers with a perfect black manicure held out another right next to hers. The sleeves of the silky work shirt were rolled up and the slender pale forearm was decorated in a lattice of fine tattoos.

 

“Half ounce.”

 

Lena’s voice was a warm alto, sharp with stress and demanding. Kara paused her own pour and quickly measured a half ounce into Lena’s jigger, her heart leaping into her throat as subtly expensive perfume curled around her nose. No sooner had she pulled the pour spout away the other woman was gone with a rushed Thanks . Kara had to take a two-second pause to try to reel her startled heart back into place, carefully pouring the rest of her ounce and a half from the bottle.

 

Kara kept working, kept dancing around both Nia and Lena-who was sporting some trendy large rimmed glasses and dark eye makeup, but again Kara couldn’t get a moment just pause and actually look at her. She could tell by the defined angle of her jaw and perfect brows that she was quite attractive, if brusque. Lena was distant, work oriented, and didn’t really click with her own sunny deposition.

 

As the afternoon wore on, Kara actually found that the other woman was kind of getting on her nerves. It wasn’t that she was mean, but yeesh . Any attempt at small talk when they got a breather was met with a clipped vague answer as she turned away to do something else, even if there wasn’t someone actively waiting to place an order. Now, Kara understood that not everyone was as open as she was to conversation, but she could only take so many blatant snubs. After the fourth time Lena turned away Kara didn’t bother trying to strike up conversation again, even as Nia reluctantly clocked out to go study.

 

“You’re sure you’ll be okay?” She asked, poking her head out of the swinging door to the back as she adjusted her jacket.

 

We’ll be fine .” Lena called with her back to her.

 

Kara tried not to make a face, a little rankled that she clearly cared enough about Nia to be polite. It was a petty to even be jealous of even getting a neutral reaction from her third coworker.

 

“Go study.” Kara murmured, ushering her into the back.

 

Need more ice -”

 

Kara grit her teeth at Lena’s terse call and shouldered her way past Nia. She must have let something slip in her expression because the younger woman followed her.

 

“Okay-what was that?”

 

“What was what?” Kara deflected, opening the large chest drawer as she pulled a plastic container towards the edge of the counter.

 

“Nuhnuhnuhno. I saw that little-” She mimicked a subtle squint of her eyes. “-look.”

 

Kara started scooping ice into the container and sighed through her nose. “It’s fine. I just.” She paused and puffed a stray lock of hair out of her eyes, plastic scoop half dug into the ice.

 

“I wasn’t expecting Lena to. Um. I’m not used to being brushed off like that. I haven’t even properly introduced myself.” Kara trailed off and started scooping with a vengeance.

 

Ah . Well. It’s not the best night to meet a new coworker, but I wouldn’t take it to heart. She’s got a lot on her plate right now too. Not-that I’m excusing anyone’s behavior here.” Nia backtracked when Kara shot her a displeased glance. “I’m sure it’s fine, Kara. It’s just wild tonight.”

 

“Yeah, well. I’ll take your word for it.” She tossed the scoop back into the ice bin and straightened up. “Now scooch, don’t you have an exam in the morning?”

 

Fine , fine. You have my number if things get out of hand.”

 

Kara heaved the container into her arms and backed towards the swinging door. “Wouldn’t dream of it!”

 

Nia’s healthy roll of her eyes followed her back out into the chaos.

 


 

By the time Kara got home at nearly three, she was actually exhausted.

 

Her feet were a little sore, an ache was forming under her left shoulder blade, draggy sluggishness pulled at her body, and she felt gross and sweaty. They had been forced to ask their two security men to escort one group from the premises, and some asshole had even knocked their full beer over the back of the bar top. She could still smell the stale alcohol dried on her shoes. Thankfully both she and her new coworker, Lena, had dodged the worst of it as the glass shattered. All she wanted to do was strip out of her clothes and collapse into bed, but her mind just wouldn’t slow down.

 

Lena.

 

Lena who exactly?

 

She had seen the protective look one of their security personnel had given the other slender woman after a brief check-in around ten. Kara wasn’t one to be nosy, but the curt nod the other bartender had given him was one of authority. She knew they were there to keep them and their patrons safe, so it made sense for them to make rounds. But when she wasn’t afforded her own personal check-in past a you good, ladies? Kara grew a little more suspicious. A nosey glance at old delivery slips in the manager’s office as they wrapped up provided her with Lena Keiran , but nothing more.

 

There was one individual that came to mind when she thought of the name Lena , but surely the illegitimate daughter of a xenophobic billionaire wasn’t pouring drinks. It was absurd and unbelievably ridiculous.

 

Kara frustratingly found herself laying on her side in bed, freshly showered and nearly half asleep pulling her phone close. She typed in Lena into the search as is and right at the top of the results of pop stars and companies and products, was Lena Luthor . A slender, fair skinned woman with sharp green eyes and black hair stared back at her. Most photos were from court case appearances and paparazzi harassment, but Kara knew that flinty stare well.

 

Lena Luthor. Daughter of Lionel Luthor, younger half sister to terrorist Lex Luthor, the maniac who tried to kill her cousin. But most notably the black sheep scion of one of the world’s most notorious families.

 

But that couldn’t be right.

 

Now, unfortunately wide awake, Kara started clicking links. From NBC to National City News to BBC to CatCo to even the most low down tabloids, Kara looked for any recent information about Lena Luthor. She couldn’t find much past what she currently already knew, having already familiarized herself with her at a distance when Lex Luthor had gone off the deep end over five years ago. Kara had tried not to dwell on the woman, recognizing that her anger was looking to target her despite the overwhelming evidence that Lena Luthor herself had turned over gobs of incriminating evidence to the authorities. With her anger long dulled, Kara found it replaced with a morbid curiosity.

 

As the clock crept up on four and sleep drew her eyelids closed, Kara forced herself to put her phone down. She hadn’t been able to find much recent news on Lena Luthor, but rumors spoke of her staying as far out of the spotlight as possible. Rumors also spoke of her living holed up in National City with a man named Jack Sphere chasing a lofty goal of finding a cure for cancers, time zones away from the reproachful and icy Lillian Luthor and Lex Luthor’s jail cell. Even with all of the money in the world and without going into witness protection, the woman was trying to lay low and still couldn’t completely. She was too ambitious, too cunning, too dedicated to proving she was more than just another Luthor.

 

Kara stumbled upon a single paparazzi photo that betrayed the woman’s cover. The hint of a latticed tattoo peeking out from under her right sleeve encircling her wrist.

 

In a mind boggling turn of events that made no sense, Kara was, somehow , working in a white collar bar with the Lena Luthor.

 


 

Kara didn’t close again for another two weeks, this time asking Nia to switch when work piled up a little too high on some deadlines. It wasn’t that she couldn’t handle the work load, but clients neglecting to respond in a timely manner led to a pile up of clients demanding for single day turn-arounds all on the same day.

 

She realized too late on her way to M’gann’s that she would be stuck in a bar with Lena Luthor for the next eight hours at a minimum.

 

Now, Kara knew she wasn’t a coward, but Rao help her she did not want to be cooped up with that unwelcoming woman. The one night she had come in was so thoroughly embedded in her mind as unpleasant she didn’t care for a repeat. Unfortunately she didn’t have a choice, and griped to herself all the way to the back door of the bar. But-because she was an adult and by golly she was a mature adult, Kara smoothed her expression into a neutral one right before she keyed in.

 

The back was cool and smelled of cardboard boxes and the cloying sweetness of hard liquor. There were still a few minutes to spare before her shift started, so Kara didn’t rush to put her things away and took a quick trip to the small one seater bathroom. She allowed herself a moment to fuss with her hair and then drew up her armor, took a deep breath, and clocked in.

 

And suffered several mortifying hours of her hands just not cooperating with her.

 

When Kara had covered Nia’s previous shift, she had at least had her as a buffer for a little while. As soon as she had stepped out behind the bar her younger coworker wrapped up and left with a Lena’s in the office taking care of some stock orders, she’ll be out soon. Thankfully it was fairly slow and she was able to smoothly ease into work. The customers were fairly quiet and mostly polite, leaving her the space to focus on their drinks and straighten up after the lunch rush.

 

About forty five minutes later the door behind her swung open and Lena Keiran entered behind the bar top. Kara didn’t pay her any mind, still focusing on fulfilling her current drink orders. If she was going to play Lena’s game, pleasantries would be passed over for the sake of work.

 

It was a little petty.

 

Of course, she greeted her anyways with a soft hey as she passed by her to the register. Eliza had taught her better than her current prickly feelings, so she swallowed her pride. Sort of. The other woman at least echoed her hey and they got to work.

 

Without her Nia Buffer, Kara had to privately admit she was nervous and a little bit intimidated. Her previous evening had been too busy for her to think after a certain point, her focus consumed with drinks and tabs and moving as quickly as humanly possible. But now she had too much time to think even as the evening shift picked up. It wasn’t nearly as hectic and it didn’t go great … but it wasn’t terrible . The customers were fine, but she and Lena were so out of sync it was causing noticeable trouble. They kept getting in each other’s way, Kara shattered a glass, Lena dropped a bowl of bar nuts. Her saving grace was she didn’t mess up a drink, was timely, and even caught a bottle of vodka that slid on some condensation before it hit the ground. That had gotten her a somewhat begrudging nice catch from Lena, but other than that she was completely unreadable.

 

Kara decided it was almost worse that Lena didn’t have any comments, positive or negative, and her mind started telling her that she screwed up somehow. She sent Nia a text the next day, still feeling weird and overthinking every little interaction.

 

I feel like I screwed up last night but I’m not sure how?

 

Kara watched the little dots next to Nia’s name appear in their text thread after barely a moment.

 

did u break something

 

Kara sighed. No. I mean with Lena .

 

did she say something?

 

No. She didn’t say anything .

 

There was a longer pause, and then-

 

girl, she’s a grumpy workaholic that doesnt like change. you changed a lot behind the bar.

 

Kara frowned, not sure how to respond, but Nia beat her to the punch again.

 

i know you want to at least be on even footing with lena, but you’ve only worked with her twice. give it some time!

 

Kara sighed and tapped out another message. She was right, and she felt only a little silly for it.

 

I’ll work on that, sorry for dumping this on you again. I’ll make sure not to complain without asking first.

 

no worries babe, but now i get two free complaints <3

 

Kara cracked a smile and typed out It’s a deal .

 

Annoyingly, Nia’s reassurance didn’t bolster her for very long. She appreciated her new friend’s level head and understanding, but that was the issue. Nia was a new friend and Kara was trying not to unbalance it so quickly. And yes, Nia did cash in on one of those free complaints bemoaning her school workload, which Kara graciously listened to.

 

What she needed was a pizza and movie night with Alex, her rock and often guiding light when she got a little too tied up in her own feelings.

 

Thankfully her sister was free that following night and she arrived with an uncomfortable amount of pizza and alcohol balanced in her arms. Her sister was peering over the top box, her chin pressed into the cardboard to keep it from sliding.

 

“Okay, I’m here. With, uh,” she tilted her head to the side, chin still jutting out into the box, “-a kryptonian-sized food coma for one big kryptonian baby.”

 

Kara felt her eyes nearly roll out of her skull as she stepped aside.

 

Alex .”

 

“Hey, if anything, I know that food- oh thank you -food soothes you. And your metabolism aggravates me .”

 

Kara relieved her sister of their supper mid-sentence with pursed lips, knowing that despite her sisterly dig at her, she was right. Food was the easiest comfort in both flavor and texture.

 

“Thank you.”

 

“No problem.” Alex grinned and bopped her fist to her shoulder. “So. Food first? Or complain first.”

 

The pizza did smell good . Kara shuffled towards the tall kitchen table and slid the ridiculous stack of pies onto it.

 

“Um, food.”

 

“Okay. Pepperoni’s in those two.” Alex tapped the top two and then started counting down. “There’s two cheeses, a meat lover’s, and a supreme with extra veggies.”

 

Kara listened as she retrieved them both plates and napkins, biting back what was bothering her and wishing she could just let things be for a couple moments. Try as she might, she couldn’t.

 

“Actually, you know what-“

 

Alex listened and munched her way through two pieces of pizza and a beer before Kara finally took a breath. She had given her the full rundown of only hearing about Lena, to working with Lena, to that discovery about Lena Luthor , to working with Lena Luthor , and her tangled up thoughts and emotions about potentially closing another shift with her-and her weird hang up on whether or not she wanted to be friends with her or if she was still processing what had happened with Lex Luthor and her cousin.

 

But really she couldn’t get over how icy she was on that first night and it really rankled her nerves.

 

Kara collapsed on her stool and finally pulled a box of pizza towards herself. “I know I’m whining, I’m sorry.” She grouched, stuffing a slice of cheese into her mouth.

 

Alex laughed softly as she selected one more slice from the supreme. “Complaining is good for you if you’re aware it’s actually complaining and not emotional dumping.”

 

Kara slid her glasses up onto her head and eyed her sister with her mouth half-full.  “That doesn’t sound like you. Who are you and what have you done with my sister?”

 

Alex blushed. “I’m seeing someone. She’s a psychiatrist. But like, as a date.”

 

Really ?”

 

Her sister shrugged bashfully. “Her name’s Kelly. But-just so I don’t forget to say it before I start gushing-“

 

Kara leaned back as Alex waggled her pizza at her.

 

“Sometimes people close off to protect themselves. I did that when mom and dad adopted you, you did that when you started living with us. Sometimes that protection never drops and that’s okay and not something you should take to heart. If Lena Luthor says back off, you back off. If she decides to talk to you, just be your wonderful sunny self and blind her with the goodness of your heart.”

 

“Okay now you’re just making fun of me.”

 

Alex grinned and bit into her pizza, bumping her shoulder playfully into Kara’s.

 

“Yup.”

 


 

Kara eventually got over herself. For the most part.

 

Her hours changed as Nia needed to adjust her schedule and she started working more nights. Which was fine with her, Kara was ready to start looking for a full time journalism job and needed the regular work day hours to send out applications and attend interviews. She took on more work as a ghostwriter for food and lifestyle editorials, took an even weirder job with the DEO as a translator for refugees on the weekends for some of the alien languages she remembered from her education on Krypton (with the boon of practicing her conversational skills needed for interviews), and focused on building up a cushion.

 

Of course, more night shifts meant more work with Lena.

 

Which wasn’t the worst, but it wasn’t ideal either.

 

Kara had kept her distance but remained pleasant, just in case the other woman decided to stop being such an ice cube. And it worked, she started speaking to her more. Well, more about their actual job, but it was a step in the right direction. It wasn’t til a few weeks later that Kara was sweeping up after closing that maybe she wished Lena was still keeping her distance.

 

“What drew you to National City?”

 

Her question in the silent bar almost startled Kara. She looked up from where she was half-hunched, trying to get a stubborn peanut out from under a table base. Her coworker was mixing a drink for herself.

 

“What is your purpose, Kara Danvers?” She asked next, green eyes piercing and curious from behind her large glasses.

 

“What are you drinking?” Kara deflected, sweeping vigorously and finally getting that stubborn peanut… only for it to go under a different table. “Oh for the love of…” She sighed and went after it again.

 

“Peach daiquiri. Answer my question and I’ll make you one.” Was accompanied by the clatter of ice in a shaker.

 

Kara gave her an annoyed glance and tried not to flush as Lena stared her down with a smirk of all things. She started shaking and Kara looked away before her eyes drifted to where she had unbuttoned her work shirt from the motion. Her sleeves had been rolled to the elbows, showing off an impressive collection of some of the more beautiful tattoos Kara had ever seen. It was a strangely attractive display on one of the last people on earth she expected to have tattoos. Kara may not be on the best terms with Lena, but she would be stupid to deny that she was annoyingly attractive to look at.

 

“My sister’s here and I wanted a fresh start. I’m a writer and have worked on small publications and local papers but I’d like to do more.” She recited smoothly, sweeping part of her detritus into the dust pan.

 

The shaking continued. “Anywhere in particular?”

 

“I was thinking of applying to CatCo for an editorial position once one opens up. I have applications ready for the National City Observer and a few other magazines-which is decent but not the best pay, but I thought CatCo could be a good choice too.” Kara shrugged.

 

Lena stopped shaking and looked at her like she had grown a second head, her mouth cutting into a rudely scornful half-smile. “Why, so you can report on which jeans are the most in ?”

 

Kara straightened up and pinned Lena with a scowl, the acrid burn of embarrassment thick in the base of her throat. How dare she.

 

“You’re mocking me.” Kara bit out.

 

Lena held her hands up in a pantomimed surrender, her long fingers splayed wide and her sneer wider. “I just want to know why you work so hard only to apply to a job to write tabloids?”

 

Kara couldn’t explain why she felt the need to defend herself. Maybe it was Lena’s snotty attitude. She jabbed an accusing finger at her as Lena started shaking her cocktail again.

 

“It’s not a tabloid . Cat Grant runs a highly decorated publication. Nia would like to work there too .”

 

Kara bit back the waspish But YOU would know about tabloids, wouldn’t you, Lena Luthor . Lena didn’t need to know that Kara knew who she was. Yet.

 

Her coworker rolled her eyes and reached under the register. A recent issue of CatCo Magazine landed on the counter with a fwap and Lena read loudly with perfect pronunciation-

 

Six Sundresses That Will Put Your Mother-In-Law to Shame .”

 

Kara’s face burned and she choked back a scream as heated frustration formed a hard ball in her chest. Too frustrated to form a coherent retort, Kara blustered a heated huff and turned away with her shoulders to her ears and started digging for the rogue peanut again.

 

There was the quiet sound of the shaker being opened and strained into a glass, and then-

 

“Hey, do you still want that drink?”

 

Anger rose up hot in Kara's mouth and the plastic handle of the broom creaked ominously in her steely grip.

 

No, thank you .”

 

The bristles of the broom finally caught the peanut-and flicked it across the entire floor of the establishment.

 

GRAH-

 


 

The next night absolutely went worse in a shower of glass shards.

 

Kara hadn’t meant to be in Lena’s way, a patron she was trying to serve kept asking her questions and she hadn’t realized she had stalled smack in the middle behind the bar. The sharp and waspish Get out of my way or go home- with the almost-body check sent Kara’s anger rocketing from nonexistent to almost nuclear.

 

And then the martini glass in her hand exploded.

 

Kara had been so good about her strength recently, and the lurch of self disappointment and panic overwhelmed her anger.

 

A small mercy was that Lena didn’t make another comment towards her that night. Kara guessed it had something to do with the heat in her eyes that reflected red hot in the glass bottles behind the bar.

 


 

Kara was overly cautious of her grip from then on.

 

Against her better judgment (and Alex’s explicit reprimand), she started leaning on her powers. Just a little.

 

It wasn’t something you could spot with the untrained eye. A minute scooch of speed here, a half inch of floating there. And all when Lena had her back to her or was too distracted to notice. The best part of it, besides getting to use her powers, was that she managed to stay out of Lena’s way.

 

Of course, that small grain of freedom only lasted a few shifts until Nia was covering one of Lena’s shifts and she found herself holding the back door into the alley open.

 

“Cool powers but there are security cameras behind the bar.”

 

Nia’s nonchalant compliment was punctuated with a grunt and noisy clattery thump as she heaved her bag of trash into the dumpster. Kara froze, feeling as if Nia had dropped her heart in the dumpster with the garbage bag.

 

Um .”

 

Panic clumped uncomfortably in Kara’s throat as heat raced through her frame, her work button up suddenly too restricting. She swallowed painfully against it and stood aside to let Nia back inside.

 

“I don’t have powers , that’s silly .”

 

The younger woman paused and leaned on a stack of boxes. For a moment she looked years older, tired and worn, but she held a hand up and frowned in concentration. A coil of blue electric looking energy blossomed from the center of her palm and swirled into an orb about the size of a softball. She maintained it for a moment, each second rapidly easing Kara’s panic to be replaced with curiosity, and then waved her hand to dispel it. The energy crackled from existence in a dim flicker and Nia let her hand slap down to her thigh.

 

“You do, but don’t worry. You’re safe here.”

 

Kara sagged against the back door, winded. Her heart was racing so fast in her chest it almost hurt. She wasn’t one to panic, but the barely noticeable tremble in her hands as she slid her glasses off and rubbed at the bridge of her nose spoke volumes.

 

“I thought I was being discreet.”

 

“Oh you were, M’gann and I just know what to look for.” Nia grinned. “She has a deal with the DEO to protect higher-profile individuals.”

 

Kara slid down into a crouch, her back curved and her rear pressed into the door and her glasses dangling from her fingers. She almost didn’t recognize how tired she sounded.

 

“I’m just… trying to stay out of her way. I’m not trying to cause trouble.”

 

Nia’s grin softened. “I know. And I understand looking for friends, we can have pretty lonely lives.”

 

Kara scrubbed at her face, no longer caring about the light makeup on her eyes. She was too thrown, but now felt protective for Nia for a whole other slew of reasons and it was just a lot . She blinked tiredly up at her coworker, her alien friend. Heavy concern regarding both of their non-human statuses sat heavy in her chest as the topic of the other woman came up.

 

“Does Lena know about you?”

 

Nia nodded carefully. “Vaguely. But out of concern for my safety she didn’t push.”

 

“You know who she is?”

 

Nia shrugged, pressing her lips into a line with a shrug. “No one would think to look for her in an establishment that serves species other than human.”

 

“I feel like her being here would mean more danger.” Kara’s for us went unsaid.

 

Nia paused and eyed her curiously. “You said you had a cousin? By blood?”

 

Again, Kara felt herself pushed back on her heels with her elbows on her knees. But this was Nia, who had clearly demonstrated she had no issue keeping secrets and was very good at it. Kara swallowed thickly and pinned the other woman with a warning look.

 

“He… yes.”

 

Nia’s eyes narrowed in suspicion and she joined Kara in a crouch. “Do I know him?”

 

Everyone knows him. He’s famous. Lives in Metropolis.”

 

Nia stared at her, confused for a moment. Kara pantomimed tearing open her button up.

 

“Oh. OH -”

 

Kara watched her explode to her feet, her eyes nearly popping out of her head. 

 

“Nia-“

 

Are you for real right now?

 

Kara flinched from her high-pitched yell and felt more tired.

 

“I-yes. But don’t tell anyone, I just broke a stack of NDAs a mile high.”

 

Superman ?!” Nia hissed, jumping from serious to overly-excited-hyped fan in two-point-three seconds.

 

Shhhh -“

 

“Oh my god this is so cool -“

 

“Nia, please -“

 

“Wait, do you have a superhero name?” Nia pointed at her, gleeful with this new secret.

 

Kara shook her head. “I’m not trying to be one. Well. Maybe one day, if I need to. I’d rather write. Hope, help, compassion and all that. The pen is… mightier than the sword.”

 

She trailed off weakly with a shrug. Her answer cooled Nia down, thankfully .

 

“Did you know Lena worked here when you applied?”

 

Kara frowned and slid her glasses back on, still a little prickly about the other woman. “No.”

 

Nia watched her, her eyes boring through her. Kara let her, let her see the truth in her expression and the tired droop of her shoulders. She didn’t want to hide anything from her, having finally found some steadier footing in National City. Nia must have seen it, and extended her hand down to her with a smile.

 

“Good enough for me. Come on, let’s finish up and then go find some french fries.”

 

Kara let herself be pulled to her feet with a groan. “It’s almost three am.”

 

“And what about it?” Nia flipped her hair over her shoulder. “French fries don’t know the passage of time, only that they’re delicious little bitches.”

 

Kara grinned. “…okay, yeah, french fries would be good.”

 


 

Kara stopped using her powers at M’gann’s and instead, started leaning into the problem solving that had been second nature to her on Krypton. She hadn’t really needed that particular set of skills for a long time, the conscious calculations of measuring pounds per pressure and g-force becoming a habit as she learned how to live with her new powers in her teens.

 

But now she studied Lena.

 

How she moved, how far her reach was, the circumference of the space her body occupied, the length of her steps depending on where she was going and which way she was going. It was all a little silly and over-calculated, but science was a comforting subject she had purposefully forced herself away from to protect the technological advancements of earth. This new dance felt like science equations and the forums she attended as a young child.

 

This new dance also saved her from dropping more glasses and stepping into Lena’s way. She got good at it too, sliding away and around in a comfortable berth that started with a stutter and smoothed into a noticeable attempt.

 

Of course, she couldn’t be too smooth about it yet. Even if Kara Zor-El’s body could move that gracefully, human Kara Danvers’s body would take more time and practice. It was endlessly amusing to Nia whenever she witnessed a faked stumble or lurch, but she never compromised Kara’s cover. It paid off after a few weeks in a begrudgingly reluctant comment of praise from Lena, if Kara could even call it praise.

 

“You’re doing better.”

 

“Yeah?” She asked, bewildered.

 

Lena answered with an impatient purse of her lips and went off to fulfill another order. Kara tried not to dwell on how much she liked that grain of approval.

 


 

Kara bit back a grimace as the sound level rose further inside M’gann’s.

 

They were already near capacity and their entire security force was on the premises. In theory Kara enjoyed music festivals, but not like this.

 

A hand landed on her hip and Nia leaned in close-

 

You okay?

 

Of course Kara could hear her just fine over the din, and did flinch as Nia’s raised voice slammed into her eardrum.

 

Oh shit, my bad-

 

Kara waved her off. “I’m fine.”

 

Nia mouthed a sorry and got back to work, weaving around Lena. Kara waved more vigorously with a forgiving smile and went back to managing a group’s tabs. They were all stressed, tired, and trying not to tread on each other’s toes. Everything was going as well as it could, until Kara heard jeering. She glanced towards Lena’s section and took quick stock, immediately noting that her coworker’s hackles were raised. Kara opened her mouth to say something, anything, but impatient comments from her own group made it to her ears.

 

Biting the bullet, Kara worked on wrapping up her task and starting the next round, cocking an ear in Lena’s direction-and nearly saw red. The group of men already clearly somewhat inebriated, goading and harassing her coworker but thankfully not knowing she was Lena Luthor , were spouting leering suggestions and uncomfortable narrations. 

 

The tipping point was watching one of the patrons lean over the bar and try to pull on the end of Lena’s high ponytail when she had turned away.

 

Unable to stand it, Kara veered over towards Lena and put her body between her and the harassers leaning on the bar top. She didn’t say anything, but stared them down with the steeliest expression she could muster. They laughed, then grew uncomfortable when she kept staring and propped her fists on her hips. Their comments died off in cowardly comments towards her being a killjoy bitch as Lena rapidly set their orders on the bar top.

 

Kara kept staring, barely holding her anger in check, until they realized she wasn’t going to leave and tucked their tails. Nia found her as they slunk into the crowd.

 

“Leave it, we’ll have the boys keep an eye on them.”

 

“Nia-“

 

Leave it, your eyes are starting to glow .” She hissed this time, her own dark eyes wide and worried.

 

The warning snapped Kara out of her stare-down with the backs of the asshole’s heads and she squeezed her eyes shut for a minute. “Sorry.”

 

Kara took a deep breath through her nose and opened her eyes, determined to behave and moving back to her section-until she heard a slew of troubling comments from the main instigator mentioning waiting until the bar closed that evening. A chilled fear ran down her spine but her anger was hotter. Too hot for her to maintain composure.

 

The bowl of peanuts rattled on the bar top as she clumsily grabbed one, and then in the blink of an eye flicked it.

 

Across the bar there was an explosion of glass as Kara’s aim struck true, shattering the drink of the main harasser as he went to take a sip.

 

There were yells of surprise and jeers, and Kara checked around her quickly, triumphant when no one was looking at her. Her petty glee was quashed when a hand closed over the wrist of the hand that had sent the nutty projectile flying. Lena’s perfume invaded her senses as she pulled her roughly into the back room with a growled-

 

Outside. NOW.

 

Kara’s anger turned sickeningly defensive in her chest and she followed to avoid a public scene, leaving Nia cursing a colorful string behind them. Lena’s grip was iron as she pulled her through the back with tense shoulders, only letting go when they spilled out into the alleyway. Kara stumbled to a stop as Lena flung her hand away from her and spun, immediately jabbing her finger into her face as the door slammed behind them.

 

“I don’t care what people say to me in there, I didn’t ask for your help .”

 

“They were trying to pull your hair!” Kara squawked, heat rising to her cheeks as Lena’s finger dropped away from her nose. “They were saying things that would get them a visit from the police-“

 

“We have security, Kara . That’s their job to keep us safe, I don’t need you white-knighting for me flicking fucking peanuts.”

 

Panic curdled cold and painful in her chest.

 

Kara forced a disbelieving scoff. “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

 

Lena encroached into her space, her eyes hard behind her glasses and her mouth turned down and threatening a snarl. Kara didn’t like the pleasant scent of her perfume.

 

“Don’t you dare play me for a fool. I’ve seen you do things. I know you aren’t normal . Not human .”

 

Kara froze, her poor cover sliding off her face like water. She pressed her lips together in a thin line and curled her hands into fists, stony and angry and feeling backed into a corner.

 

Who are you and why are you here.” Lena snapped.

 

“I’m here to work, and you’re screwing me out of tips dragging me out here!” Kara snapped back, gesturing stiffly to the door.

 

Bullshit . Who are you-“

 

I don’t owe you that . Not with how you treat me. You can’t demand my story when you barely talk to me.”

 

Lena didn’t back away from her waspish response and Kara could feel anger building her in chest, her limbs. She was angry .

 

“I deserve to know if my coworker could put people in danger. Temper tantrums with abnormal abilities spell lawsuits.”

 

Kara exhaled a cool frost through her nose and leaned in close with a stiff jaw.

 

“Should we be worrying about you? Miss Luthor? What are you doing down here with us, when I should be asking you if your presence will put us in danger? Why spend time here when you could be with your buddy doing whatever it is you do instead of being a-a mean person all the time?”

 

Lena’s expression tightened.

 

“Why are you hiding, Miss Danvers? Not many people on earth can flick a peanut faster than a speeding bullet .”

 

A chilly silence fell over them standing toe-to-toe in the dim, stinking alley. Kara vaguely realized that they had both just stepped over a line lashing out at each other, but she was too focused on not screaming in the other woman’s face. She could feel the burn of her fury in her throat, choking out any sharp words that would have done more damage. Lena was in the same predicament. The muscles in her jaw jumped with the clench of her teeth, and she sucked in a breath to go on another tirade when the back door burst open.

 

An extremely flustered Nia held it wide, bathing them in fluorescent light and bellowed-

 

“I don’t care what’s going on out here but you can finish it later. Now get back inside before I fire the both of you.

 

Lena’s teeth clicked as she shut her mouth and turned sharply, her shoulder bumping into Kara’s chest and her high pony hitting her in the face as she stormed back into the bar. Anger flared hot and Kara bared her teeth, her body jittery and taught as she held herself back from punching something inanimate. She could feel herself vibrating from the effort as her vision went spotty. Never had she felt so intimately consumed by such an acute emotion and it frightened her.

 

“Kara?”

 

Nia’s soft call of her voice came from her left and slightly below.

 

She blinked and realized she was hovering a couple feet off the ground. In her haste, she dropped out of the air and landed roughly with a grunt. The heavy landing shook her locked up body and she unclenched her fists with trouble.

 

“You good?”

 

Kara shook her head and slipped inside with wooden steps without looking at Nia.

 


 

It wasn’t until the end of her rocky shift of refusing to speak to Lena for the rest of the night did Kara realize her body was mixing up anger and attraction.

 

Unwilling to unpack the twist of emotions, ashamed and confused, Kara methodically punched junker cars to scrap pieces at the DEO until the sun broke over the horizon.

 


 

Kara returned to work the following evening after a phone conversation from M’gann herself. She hadn’t reprimanded her at first, but simply asked for her side of the story. Kara had explained mechanically, running on a two-hour nap and the stress of applying for jobs.

 

I understand my behavior was rude and endangered a patron, I’ll understand if you terminate my position .”

 

Her tired comment hung on the line for a long moment, a sigh traveling back to her.

 

It was. However you’re a reliable worker and Alex’s sister AND Superman’s cousin… so this is your only warning. I won’t yell at you because I’m sure you’ve done a good enough job of that for me by yelling at yourself-and I’m sure once Alex hears what happened she’ll have some things to say too. But. Any other slip up that may harm a customer is immediate termination and legal action. Do you understand, Kara?

 

I understand, thank you.

 

From a chilly conversation to an even chillier shift with Lena, exhaustion propelled her into bed as soon as she got home that night.

 

Things continued to be icy for the rest of the week and Kara almost mourned the hint of compatibility they had worked out. Now it was as if they couldn't stay far enough away from each other.

 

So she worked hard, kept her head down, and was painfully pleasant to the patrons while giving Lena a four-foot radius of space if she could manage it. Kara wasn’t inclined to try to be polite to her anymore past civility needed for work. It was a rather unusual position for her to be in. Usually she was able to maintain even polite acquaintances with the newest of strangers.

 

But Lena was an outlier.

 

An outlier that was currently cutting off her route to escape for the night.

 

Kara slowed to a stop and pressed her lips together, sighing in frustration through her nose as Lena put herself directly in front of the front door. Her apron was still tied around her waist, her slender arms crossed in front of her chest and her chin raised. Kara waited without saying anything, too tired to start an argument and wanting a shower, feeling gross and sticky from a spilled cocktail.

 

“Why are you really here, Kara?”

 

The sharp accusatory edge in Lena’s voice set her teeth on edge, but Kara just felt more tired. Fighting and arguing took energy she wasn’t willing to expend. Energy she couldn’t afford to lose if she were to get a journalism job. Kara pinned her with a cold expression but kept her hands loose by her sides. She wouldn’t give the other woman anymore ammunition to jeopardize her already precarious employment.

 

“I’m here to work. Just like you. I’m here to work so I can get on my feet and make a name for myself outside of my family. I’m sure you can understand that .”

 

Lena reared back, surprised from her snapped comment, but too taken aback to say anything. Kara continued.

 

“I don’t care anymore if you like me, you made it abundantly clear I’m not worth your time. But the money I earn here is more important than your attitude so I’m only going to tell you once.”

 

Kara waited until she was sure Lena was listening, and took a deep breath.

 

“If you don’t like me, leave me alone . Calling attention to me puts you in danger. I’m one of the safest people on this planet to be around, but not if you keep yelling at me.”

 

Her voice was low, but strained. Kara wanted to yell. Wanted to scream. But it finally looked like she was getting through to Lena. When no follow up comment happened Kara slipped around her and headed towards the door.

 

Hey .”

 

Kara’s hand hovered over the door knob. Frustration burbled up hot in the base of her throat. She wanted to go home , dammit. Kara didn’t know what compelled her to stop again with a clenched fist and turn around, but she did.

 

“What.” She sighed, turning back to Lena.

 

Lena’s chin was still firm, but her eyes were downcast, embarrassed.

 

“I’m trying to find a cure for cancer. With my friend, Jack. I work here because it keeps me out of the spotlight and gluing myself to a microscope is exhausting, though those aren't the only reasons. All of my money that I do have is going towards that research and security until I can win my inheritance case and unfreeze my assets. I can’t cure cancer if I’m dead, and I refuse to accept money from people who would attempt to manipulate me and jeopardize my freedom and my work. There were other jobs, but M’gann is safe, as is this bar.”

 

The words rushed out of her like water, strained and almost bitten off as if she didn’t want to tell her but was unable to stem the flow. As if she was too driven to prove herself despite wanting to stay private. It was the closest Kara had heard Lena ramble . In fact it might have been the longest string of words she had spoken to her yet. And certainly the most bizarre. But she was truthful. Kara could hear it in her heartbeat and the timbre of her voice. And Rao help her, she was tired .

 

Stumped on how to react, Kara gave her a half shrug. “Good luck. With, um. All of that.”

 

Lena’s shoulders visibly slumped and she looked down. Her arms loosened and she twisted her long fingers together in front of her stomach. Kara watched her open her mouth a few times, her brow pulled low as she struggled to find her next words. When she did, Kara almost couldn’t believe her ears.

 

“I… I apologize for my behavior.”

 

It was absolutely the last thing Kara had been expecting, and frankly she just didn’t have the bandwidth to deal with any more revelations that evening. She rubbed at the grit in her eye and made herself look at her coworker.

 

“Lena, please don’t take this the wrong way but I’m exhausted.” Was all she could come up with. She needed time to rest and process.

 

Lena sighed through her nose, expression drawn into solemn acceptance. “I know.” And then- “I hope my brother’s actions won’t color your view of me too harshly.”

 

That definitely wasn’t on Kara’s bingo card for the evening either and she was about ready to just walk right out the door. And she would have, if she hadn’t seen the fear glimmering in Lena’s eyes. Kara couldn’t pinpoint why she was fearful. Was it fear of rejection? Anger? Abandonment? Or perhaps just that she was afraid Kara would only see her as a Luthor ?

 

Well. Hell .

 

Kara slid her glasses off, subtly bracing against the clarity that came from removing the lead frames. She stared right into her coworker’s face.

 

“I hope my cousin won’t make you think differently of me.”

 

Lena blinked owlishly.

 

“Cousin?”

 

“He’s not on good terms with your brother.” Kara grimaced and slid her glasses back on, blinking against the comforting muffled feeling in her eyes and ears. “And I’d rather not drag you to see my sister to sign some non-disclosure forms tonight so please just… don’t say anything or I’ll have to quit and move.”

 

Lena’s mouth fell open a little further as her hands hung limply linked in front of her hips.

 

“You’re really here just to work?”

 

Kara laughed, tired. “I have a couple thousand dollars in savings I don’t dare touch in case of emergencies and barely enough to make rent. Would I really be here struggling like every other working class person if I wasn’t?”

 

“But the DEO?”

 

“I get a stipend for groceries. Monster metabolism, which is more inconvenient than you think it is.”

 

Lena nodded and licked her lips as her eyes wandered to the floor, still looking a little shocked. “I’ve heard Superman eats diners out of house and home after big fights.”

 

“A side effect of heavy power use. From what he’s said in an interview.” Kara gave her a half shrug and yawned. Rao, she was tired .

 

Lena noticed her yawn and gave her a real apologetic look. She started backing towards the bar, her hands fidgeting again.

 

“This has been a very… enlightening conversation. But I, erhm, better wrap up.”

 

“Yeah, uh.” Kara nodded, an awkward calm blanketing the both of them. “So, um. Good night.”

 

“Good night.” Lena gave her an uncoordinated half-wave and quickly retreated into the backroom.

 

Kara watched her go, so emotionally strung out she immediately backed out of the bar when she heard Lena start to berate herself in a harsh, rasping whisper. This was something the other woman needed to figure out for herself and Kara bit against the deep seated urge to comfort. Alex had told her that her compassion would get her into trouble one day.

 

But not tonight. Kara had a date with her pillow that she was eager not to miss.

 


 

It was still a bit tense at M’gann’s , but the open animosity had morphed into a strange kind of understanding between her and Lena.

 

She also noticed a new email on their next payday detailing a raise of a couple dollars-which was curious but Kara had an idea of who the culprit was after Nia texted her a slew of excited emojis. She made sure to be a little extra helpful the next time she was on shift with Lena. Not that she wasn’t, but she put the extra effort in to make up for the pay raise. Or at least that’s how it made sense in her head.

 

However there was more. It was strange little things that changed. Almost imperceptible to others, but Lena had started opening up to her. She still never spoke more than was really necessary and Kara could tell that real small talk was not a skill she had put much time into developing past a customer service voice (and she would assume a front around those of the upper crust of society). But she angled her shoulders towards her a little more and didn’t give her so wide of a bubble. Sometimes she would help with whatever task Kara was doing if she was passing by like wiping down the counter or passing her ingredients. The biggest change was that Lena actually looked at her now.

 

Small, strange little things. 

 


 

For as many busy evenings as M’gann’s has, there’s always bound to be a slow night in the middle of the week.

 

Kara’s mind was running a mile a minute on potential writing samples to craft for job applications, on top of the content she already had in progress for her ghostwriting and the new content mill she picked up a job… she was not wanting for something to do.

 

In fact, she was pretty sure that she had maybe put a little too much on her plate to keep up with her human cover. Kara Zor El had no issue with the workload, it was easy compared to what she had grown up with on Krypton. Human Kara Danvers definitely had smaller limits.

 

Being stuck behind the bar with Lena on a slow night, unable to even write on her phone, was torturous .

 

The bar top was clean under her forearms as she leaned on it, idly straightening up glasses ready to be used. Lena was at the other end, fixing a couple their cocktails while the other smattering of patrons had already been served.

 

“Hi! Can I have a water, please?”

 

Kara blinked and straightened up, drawn out of her lull as a woman she had already served came up to the bar.

 

“Sure!”

 

It was painfully mundane. Plastic cup, fill with ice, use the pop gun to fill to the brim, offer a slice of lemon or lime.

 

As Kara brought it back, she realized she had accidentally picked up two cups. “Oh, whoops. Here you go.”

 

The woman smiled as she slid her drink out of the extra cup and handed it to her. She thanked Kara and went back to her group, leaving her all alone again. Except now she had an extra plastic cup in her hands. She turned it over, knowing she should probably just put it back, but she was bored .

 

Kara looked over and watched Lena lean back against the back counter, looking just as bored as she felt. Her coworker glanced over at her and gave her a small shrug before pushing back upright to straighten up her space.

 

Well.

 

Kara flipped and caught the cup before sliding it back onto the stack.

 


 

She flipped more cups that night. All plastic, of course, but that first flip reminded her that there are some bartenders out there that make their drinks with a show.

 

Now, Kara didn’t think she wanted to be throwing whole bottles of expensive liquor around, but a cup flip here and there with a little extra flourish sounded fun. Plus it was good practice for her powers in conjunction with hand-eye coordination. She also noticed that if she was slick about it, a few simple tricks would get her an extra dollar or two in the tip jar. Lena also noticed this and let her keep going, content to keep her own hands steady.

 

Kara did more cup flips.

 


 

Work trudged on and M’gann let Kara graduate to pint glasses and shakers for her idle cup flipping with the threat of If you drop a glass it’s coming out of your paycheck . Which Kara thought was more than fair, so she practiced and broke a few of her cheaper glasses at home.

 


 

The small, strange little changes between her and Lena became a weird and awkward noticeable truce.

 

Bit by bit they started opening up to each other with superficial topics, like wary cats in the alley out back. Basic interests were shared, which food truck had superior taquitos, if a customer was looking exceptionally interesting they’d speculate in passing comments. Languages became a common topic when Kara slipped up and spoke quietly to an alien patron and got a front row seat to Lena’s intelligence. They talked about new ways to concoct or present drinks and Kara had a surprising amount of fun listening to Lena chatter away about the molecular weight of the ethanol compound and how she liked to play with varying mole weights of different ingredients to create fun color separations. There wasn’t a lot of new information for her to play with, but in different combinations. Sometimes she used UV lighting or heat. The silliest thing of all, was that Lena never tried her odd sciency drinks, she always offered them to a few of their regulars on the house. The only drink Kara ever saw her fix for herself was a small peach daiquiri.

 

When Kara asked about the odd drink choice, Lena teased her Kara Danvers, Ace Reporter . She didn’t bother to tell her she liked how that sounded, but she didn’t need to. It was as if Lena knew with a raise of her brow, but pressed past it with I prefer scotch, but M’gann would rather I leave the top shelf alone .

 

They weren’t friends , and they still got on each other’s nerves, but there was an understanding that provided a weird form of respect. Alex, good and faithful, let her complain to her as long as she got her fair turn to complain about her own coworkers. Kara made sure not to dump any more on Nia, her friend had enough on her plate as it was and she tried to give her some breaks with pizza and movie nights around papers and classwork. Kara also tried very hard not to be jealous of Nia and Lena’s seemingly fun and slightly flirty friendship. But it was nothing more than that, she heard them often talking about Nia’s boyfriend, Querl Dox. It wasn’t until weeks later that she caught Lena watching her more and more blatantly, always with a curious expression when she and Nia would get into these flirty banters. She felt scrutinized, observed, as if her coworker was trying to suss her out through her reactions alone and it made her feel even more squirmy.

 

Kara couldn’t shake that niggling little feeling that she wanted Lena to talk to her like that too.

 


 

The bar was slow again with barely any patrons as the NO AIR CONDITIONING signed taped to the front door kept customers away. Still, it wasn’t unbearable with the entrance propped open and Kara’s hands were a little chilly as she thoroughly shook up a rum punch. Even the drinks that night were boring, the regulars who dared to venture in to the stuffy warm bar ordering their regulars leaving neither her nor Lena with anything to really break the monotony.

 

“Shake that anymore and they’ll be getting a rum foam .”

 

Kara blinked slowly and cut a deadpan look to Lena, and then gave it three more vigorous shakes without breaking eye contact just to be difficult before popping the lid off with a deft wiggle. Her coworker was leaning lazily on the bar top not a couple feet away having filled her most recent order and cleaned her space. Her eyes rolled delicately as Kara poured the drink into her prepared glass. She watched Lena pluck at her shirt out of the corner of her eye and nearly dropped her garnish as the thought of offering her freeze breath barreled into her mind. It wasn’t just the thought of offering to help her keep cool, it was the visceral image of Lena tilting her head back in relief that her imagination cruelly supplied her with. She wasn’t quite sure where that had come from.

 

Kara finished the drink and passed it to the patron patiently waiting before she knocked the entire thing over. She could still feel Lena’s eyes on her and chanced a glance as she grabbed her rag to wipe the counter down.

 

Lena was a little flushed, obviously warm from the lack of proper cooling. Her sleek high ponytail was feathering around her temples and her damp shirt was rolled to her tattoo’d elbows and clinging to her frame. She had already undone one of her buttons and Kara could see the faint shimmer of sweat in the hollow of her throat. She hadn’t seen her coworker this unbuttoned before and softly cleared her throat, busying herself with cleaning her station and attempting to distract herself with a few practice embellishments with her cup flipping.

 

I wonder …”

 

The soft murmur of French caught Kara’s ear as she straightened up the rest of her things and picked up an unused pint glass with a deft flick. Kara glanced over as the glass landed in her palm with a satisfying smack just as Lena tugged another button loose on her shirt, exposing the flushed skin of her chest and the top of her cleavage. Slender fingers plucked at the loose fabric to fan herself as her eyes blatantly dropped down Kara’s body and zeroed in on her hand flipping the pint glass again.

 

Are your fingers that nimble with the people you bring home?

 

There was a funny dull crunch as Kara fumbled the glass and broke it in her grip, a few large shards thumping to the rubber mat. The sound was almost drowned out by the error noise her brain made and the strangled sound of surprise caught in her throat as confusing heat rocketed through her body. A frustrating tug in her belly turned her face fire truck red as she ducked down and carefully collected her broken glass.

 

Lena .”

 

Her coworker simply tugged her folded rag out of her apron pocket and started fanning herself. “A little French makes you lose your concentration?”

 

Her tone was more amusement than condescending, which made the embarrassing tug in her belly get worse.

 

“Um-” Kara straightened up and her eyes locked on Lena’s mouth curled into a crooked grin, to her chin, the freckle dotting the center of her throat and the new soft skin she hadn’t seen before.

 

A weird panic thrummed through her ribs and jittered into her limbs as she watched the fabric of Lena’s shirt gently gape open with each wave of her rag. It took a surprisingly monumental effort to drag her eyes away from the other woman’s chest. Kara took a few uneasy steps to the trash bin and tossed in the broken glass.

 

“It’s less about the French and more about the context .” She warbled softly, hot under the collar and flustered by the different heat resulting from the tugs in her hips. Kara wasn’t used to being flirted with and was now regretting her jealousy.

 

A slow toothy grin broadened across Lena’s face, dimpling her right cheek. “But you liked it.” She let her eyes drop down Kara’s frame again, and then slowly slid back up to lock in on her face. “Didn’t you.”

 

“You were distracting me .”

 

Kara wanted so badly for her response to come out of her mouth a firm reprimand, but she was betrayed by her own body again as a raspy whine blatantly hinting at how Lena had affected her was the result. She buried her face in her hands in further embarrassment, muttering a soft fuck .

 

Lena laughed softly, pleased, without a single hint of meanness. Kara heard her approach and held still as she leaned in close, smelling of her perfume and the faint musk of her body. For a moment Kara thought she had been played for a fool, but then her ears picked up how fast Lena’s heart was racing. She peeked out from between her fingers and caught the faintest tremble of nervous bravado in Lena’s hands and the slight hesitation in her lips.

 

She was nervous .

 

“You’re too easy to tease, Danvers.” Lena murmured, and backed out of her space with a flap of her rag.

 

In that pregnant moment, Kara realized that the feeling of wanting Lena to like her had never really gone away. And now it had morphed into something far more frustrating.

 


 

Kara is in fact charged 50 cents for dropping the glass.

 


 

Lena continued her banter, though she pulled way back from her first instance when she realized Kara would simply flounder- though she did try to reciprocate. She was just loathe to admit that she was sorely out of practice. It was one scenario to think of smooth things to say or write when she had the time, it was horrible to try to do it in the moment. But Rao help her, she did try despite her tongue tied compliments and stammering. Kara didn’t have the confident bravado her cousin did and it frustrated her to no end. What was the most frustrating, was Lena could tell and was kind enough to try to match her. Kara didn’t understand why and it twisted her up so badly she didn’t even know how to complain about it.

 

To be embarrassed or flattered? She was both and she hated it. She loved it. Why couldn’t feelings ever be an easy thing? Why did these new feelings get in her way? Kara hadn’t struggled through thoughts and emotions of this caliber in years and it was driving her batty.

 

To be specific, it was Lena’s fault.

 

Or at least that’s what Kara could come up with. Try as she might, she found herself getting more and more distracted by Lena and really noticed her. Not that she hadn’t noticed her before when she had to learn to work with her behind the bar, but this was different .

 

Lena had three different perfumes. One for regular wear that was clean and crisp, one for the weekends that was warm and dark, and one that Kara couldn’t figure out why she was wearing it but she liked that one the best. It was almost more masculine and definitely smelled expensive. Kara wouldn’t say she was attracted to expensive things, but she could tell the difference in quality.

 

Kara noticed the different degrees of the way Lena’s brow arched when she was skeptical, bored, annoyed, or frustrated. She noticed that her right cheek dimpled when she really smiled, which made that first instance of flirting all the more infuriating. Since that particular night her eyes were drawn to the freckle dotting the center of her throat, a siren call to confusing emotions and particular physical feelings. That glimpse of fair skin had her trying not to wonder about how many more freckles there were hidden. How many more tattoos there were.

 

She tried not to stare at how her mouth looked pursed around the lip of a glass, and how the darker her lipstick was, the harder it was to look away. The hourglass of her hips in her black jeans were a magnet. Kara had to stop watching Lena’s hands while she worked, her long slender fingers and the delicate muscles in her decorated forearms a cruel tease of an attractive composition of movement.

 

But it didn’t stop there.

 

From physical observations her mind moved to more clues about her personality. The biggest betraying factor was she realized Lena’s distantly chilly and abrasive exterior was a result of her trying to protect herself. She wouldn’t tell Alex that she had been right, her head would get too big. Kara was certain that in another life Lena would have been a formidable business woman. She was sharp and intuitive, but underneath those layers she could see the soft edges of a hurt woman peeking out who just wanted to do good. A woman who had been hurt by the world and those she was supposed to be able to trust, and her heart ached for her.

 

And Kara realized one evening as she watched that softness flicker across her coworker’s face, that she had a painfully heavy crush on Lena Luthor.

 


 

This realization, of course, resulted in a pity party of a late night ice cream run and a warbly complaint to Alex after her shift. Which is where she found herself slouched on her couch at three in the morning, still in her work shirt but her pants kicked off, and a mostly eaten gallon of chocolate peanut butter cup swirl ice cream on the cushion next to her.

 

Kara, I mean this with as much love as possible. But as your sister I am required by federal law to inform you that you are being completely insufferable.

 

Kara slid further, her knees bumping into the edge of the coffee table. “I know, but-”

 

This is Lena LUTHOR we’re talking about here. ” Alex continued, her voice tinny through the speaker. “ I don’t have to warn you about the Luthors. Please don’t be stupid .”

 

“I’m not.” She grouched, moving the sad carton of melting ice cream to the coffee table and wallowing onto her side.

 

Uh huh. Sure.

 

“Well what am I supposed to do, Alex? Cut myself off from my own feelings?” Kara flailed an arm towards the dim ceiling.

 

No, I’d rather you didn’t do that .” Her sister relented gently. “ Been there, done that. Do not recommend .”

 

Kara sighed and rubbed at her eye. “Yeah, well. What really sucks, like sucks , is that she’s living with that Jack dude. Whoever he is. I’m screwed , Alex. Screwed .”

 

How do you know they’re together?

 

“Have you seen Lena? Of course they’re together.” Kara whined. “There’s no way they aren’t.”

 

You don’t know that. Besides, didn’t you tell me that she said they weren’t a thing?

 

Kara balked, stumped. “I-well. Yeah, she did say that.”

 

And you don’t know her well enough to believe her.

 

“But… what if they’re, like, bed buddies or something.” Kara muttered, a sick lurch of jealousy making the ice cream sit funny on her stomach.

 

Bed buddies? Kara just say fuck buddies, it’s more dignified .”

 

“Oh shut up.”

 

Even if they are, who’s to say she wouldn’t give you a chance? But Kara, if she says they aren’t together, I would believe her. Lena Luthor isn’t a liar by proof of court records. Don’t make drama for yourself just because you’re a wimp .”

 

“That actually stung a little bit.” Kara admitted after a moment, her sister’s stern reprimand needling under her already fragile confidence.

 

Did it help you any?

 

Kara gave herself a second to think, but still found herself tied up. “I don’t know. I guess I should, um, say something? To her?”

 

At some point. Talk to her, do a stupid dance like that tropical bird gif you send me or whatever it is you do to catch her attention.

 

Kara sighed, knowing her sister was right.

 

Hey. I’m sorry if that was a little harsh. Sometimes you tend to need an extra push. I’ll buy you some pizza tomorrow, okay? Then you can tell me how stupid I’m being with my dating life.

 

Kara grinned crookedly at her phone on the cushion. “It’s okay, I know you’re trying to help.”

 

I just don’t want to see you flake out like I did with Sam. But it’s late, you should get some rest… and I guess I should get back to work.

 

“Duty calls.” Kara pushed herself up into a sitting position with a tired groan and scooped her phone up. “I’ll text you tomorrow?”

 

I’ll text you tomorrow.

 

Kara wished her sister goodnight and hung up. For a long quiet breath she considered just slumping back down and closing her eyes. To just lay there and wallow in her swirling thoughts until sleep claimed her and she woke with a sore back. Kara grumbled an annoyed curse and heaved herself to her feet. She gathered the remains of her ice cream and trudged tiredly to the kitchen, her tangle of emotions trailing behind her like Lena’s lingering perfume.

 


 

Kara’s feelings didn’t go away. She couldn’t help but keep crushing on Lena and it was infuriating.

 

Every time she had a shift she looked forward to going to M’gann’s just because she knew Lena would be there. She wanted to be around her, to listen to her speak, to learn a little bit more about her every day. And she flirted with Lena in a way that she knew how-by doing things for her. It was how she found herself stuck after closing helping her take back stock inventory. Usually this wasn’t a job Kara was around for but they were playing catch up for Nia during her midterms.

 

The back room was an organized mess of boxes and crates that spilled into the large utility kitchen. Lena was standing over one of the last boxes with a messy clipboard, leaving Kara to start shuffling boxes back into place. It had been a decent night with decent tips, and even their conversation had been easier than usual. It had Kara feeling a little tied up again under Lena’s teasing looks, but her confidence had been pinned to the floor with a single unimportant comment from her coworker.

 

Jack and I .

 

It wasn’t even anything within the context of a romantic relationship, it was a bitching comment about how traffic was worse through downtown National City when Kara complained of her bus route getting detoured due to  construction. It had been eating at her for almost two hours and she wanted to ram her head into the crates she was pushing back into place.

 

She had to say something. She had to say something. Anything to either get herself away from her thoughts or for clarification. Anything-

 

“So when am I going to meet your boyfriend?”

 

Kara immediately flinched.

 

That wasn’t what she meant to ask.

 

There was a pause of pen on paper as Lena looked up from her hunch. Her dark hair was spilling over her shoulder and her neck a long elegant line as she craned her head. Kara’s face warmed at the confused low pull of her immaculate brows.

 

“My… what?”

 

For one painful moment Kara wondered if perhaps it was too late to run out of the bar and join the circus before Lena answered.

 

“Your boyfriend…?” Kara prompted again, a sinking feeling of mortification dropping into her stomach.

 

Lena straightened up and looked at her with a deeper frown, her lips pursing as if to ask what are you talking about?

 

“Jack?” Kara asked in a squeak.

 

The change in her co-worker's demeanor was immediate, from confused and guarded, to concerned amusement.

 

“I-uh. Jack’s not. My boyfriend” Lena clarified, speaking a million words with the slight shift in her brows and the crooked grin tugging at the corner of her lips. ”In fact he has a boyfriend.”

 

“Y-you’re not dating Jack…?” Kara felt like she had dunked herself in stupid juice and set herself on fire.

 

Lena shook her head once and propped a hand on her cocked hip. “No, I told you we were just friends, Kara. I love him, but he’s my best friend .”

 

Kara could hear the confusion in her voice and wanted to drop through the floor. She should have just kept her mouth shut and believed Lena in the first place.

 

She had severely miscalculated.

 

“I-oh. Oh , I’m so sorry. I really misunderstood.”

 

Her face was on fire and she was too hot, burning with embarrassment and kicking herself. Lena just shook her head again with a half shrug, still a little confused but not taking any offense to Kara’s blunder.

 

“It’s not a big deal. I used to date Jack but that was years ago. Years ago. We’re much better suited for friendship.” She concluded, bringing her clipboard up again. 

 

“Wow, I’m. That was super uncool of me.” It was as if Kara couldn’t stop the words from spilling out of her mouth. “Y’know, just-just forget I said anything?”

 

Real concern flitted across Lena’s face now.

 

“Kara, it’s-“

 

“No no no-it’s fine . It’s my bad, I’m just gonna-“ Kara interrupted her and held her hands up in surrender, looking around frantically for an out.

 

Her eyes landed on the bags of trash by the back door.

 

“- trash . Gonna take the trash out.”

 

Trash out with the trash , she thought scathingly.

 

“Yeah-um. Sorry.”

 

Lena was looking at her like she had grown a second head. Again.

 

Kara noisily gathered up all the bags and wrenched the door open, glancing back awkwardly as she squeezed through the opening like a too-fat cat in a small pet door.

 

“Sorry-“



Kara had waited in the alley by the stinking dumpster for three minutes and twelve seconds until she heard Lena retreat into the office. She had rushed back in, used her super speed to put everything back into place, and escaped out the back door with her purse and a goodnight called over her shoulder.

 

Once she got home she spent a solid hour smashing her face repetitively into her pillow with a chant of stupid, stupid, stupid.

 


 

On Kara’s very next shift with Lena she got as far as I’m sor- before she was cut off with an impressive eye roll and groan of impatience. Kara didn’t bring it up again, but Lena did murmur another It’s fine, don’t worry about it in passing later that night. She was still embarrassed but she forced herself to start to let go-if only while she was at work. It was a struggle but Kara got herself in order after a couple shifts.

 

Unfortunately her heavy crush on Lena didn’t improve, and did exactly the opposite thanks to a random Tuesday afternoon.

 

Nia was back in the saddle and taking a couple of Lena’s shifts after successfully navigating her way through midterms, and had asked Kara to come in a little early before their evening shift to help get the bar stock checked. The bar was fairly dead due to the odd day and time and they made decent progress. Normally these tasks would have been done after hours but scheduling conflicts had forced them to make do. Kara was fine with it. It gave her more time to chat and catch up with Nia and keep her hands busy all at the same time.

 

Kara was in the middle of refilling some of their fruit mise for the potential evening rush when the door swung open and Lena strode in. The first thing Kara noticed was that she was carrying a file folder in the crook of her arm. But when that folder moved what she noticed next was a trendy leather jacket.

 

And tight jeans with heeled boots that made her legs look even longer.

 

And a blousy top that was a little too thin.

 

Kara’s crush walloped the greeting right out of her mouth as Lena thumped around the bar with a curtain of sleek shiny black hair, her big glasses perched perfectly on her nose. She had also filled all of the piercings in her ears, many that Kara hadn’t seen before.

 

“Hey.” She greeted with a crooked grin and flapped the file folder. “Just dropping this off.”

 

Kara’s eyes were glued to the darker eye makeup then fell down to her dark red lips, over the curve of her chin to the ghosted shape of her black bra through the meshy lacy blouse. She always looked good if she had to admit it, but this was unfair. Her eyes dropped lower and her black belt had an understated buckle etched with a skull pattern.

 

“Uh. Hi.”

 

Kara’s eyes locked on what looked like thin lines high on her stomach peeking out from under the band of her bra. It wasn’t that she was using her powers to look through her clothing, it really was that see-through. She knew Lena had tattoos on her forearms, but she hadn’t seen any new ones. Until now.

 

The file folder broke her line of sight and gently tapped at the underside of her chin, forcing her eyes to snap up and refocus on Lena’s knowing smirk.

 

“It’s not polite to stare without permission.”

 

Kara’s face flushed even redder and she swallowed thickly and squeaked, “ Sorry .”

 

Lena gave her a curious once-over and strode through to the back, her darker and more masculine perfume lingering cruelly in Kara’s space. She could hear Nia trying her best to muffle her laughter behind her and failing miserably without remorse. Lena returned not even a moment later, giving Kara no time to recover from being absolutely devastated-

 

“See you later, Miss Danvers.” Lena murmured richly as she strode past her, a glimpse of metal flashing in her tongue. “I’ll text you later, Nia.”

 

Kara croaked a pathetic bye after Nia’s catch ya later and watched her leave, her eyes immediately falling to the sway of her hourglass hips encased in too-tight black jeans. She had never been so taken with the urge to touch before and orange juice dribbled over her knuckles as she slowly pulverized the slice she had been holding. She didn’t even care any more and licked her dry lips as Lena shifted to tug the door open. She was a parched woman watching a cool sip of water walk away. Had she been truly paying attention she would have noticed Lena chancing a glance over her shoulder and blushing at Kara’s blatant appreciation.

 

Even as the door swished shut Kara stared until Nia sidled up next to her.

 

“Do you like sharp and pointy girls? Because she’s the pointiest if you aren’t careful.” She giggled and walked away.

 

Kara cleared her throat weakly and dropped her handful of orange pulp into the garbage, resigned to the fact that she was now open season for Nia’s teasing for the rest of the night. Subtlety be damned for her crush, she didn’t have the energy to stifle it any longer.

 

“Yeah, I know.” Kara warbled and retreated to the bar sink, her heartbeat thundering in her ears and in lower less appropriate places.

 


 

Kara started noticing a different kind of tension between them but did her best not to hope too much.

 

She could feel Lena watching her even more closely now, something that would have set Kara’s teeth on edge months ago, but now it just made her want to kiss her. That realization hadn’t even surprised her in the slightest, it was just acceptance.

 

Yes, Kara wanted to kiss Lena.

 

She wanted to do a lot more than kiss Lena, too. She wanted to get to know her, to learn every little thing about her. What made her tick, what brought her joy and excitement and pleasure. She wanted to know what her favorite color was, what she liked to do for fun, what her comfort meal was, what her favorite mixed drink was. She wanted to be with her socially and privately. Kara wanted to show Lena her cards and hope that they were a match.

 

The only reason Kara did allow herself to hope a little, was that she could see that Lena was trying to feel her out. They had tentatively circled each other and even started teasing each other, but this was different. She would ask her innocuous questions about her personal life while actually volunteering her own in return. Clearly a genuine effort to get to know her better at more than just surface-level-coworker. It was a strange sort of small talk that registered as genuine interest and it made Kara’s heart flutter in her ribs.

 

One night after closing it got a little heavier than the both of them intended, the topic of familial trauma sending Kara to the bar when the pull of Lena’s dark brows became a little too heavy for her liking. She loaded two low balls with a sphere of purified ice and poured over a jigger and a half of a smoky bourbon in one and the alien equivalent in the other. Her hand automatically reached for an earthier herbal bitters and added a dash of each along with a small dab of a demerara simple syrup. Then for presentation she tucked a sprig of rosemary between the sphere and glass. Kara gave them a quick swirl instead of a shake, and placed one for Lena neatly on a napkin. Her fingers were a little chilly from the ice as she held her own drink up to her nose and let the smokey herbal drink fill her senses before taking a small sip with a sigh. Lena set her rag down and delicately picked her glass up, her eyes trained on Kara as she inspected it.

 

“This reminds me of something my father used to drink when he didn’t think my mother would notice.” Kara shot her a small smile, the drink heavy on her tongue and nostalgia tugging heavily at her heart. “Alcohol was seen as a temptation back… home. As were many things, but that’s a history lesson behind red tape. But alcohol was… branded as something that led to sin and indulgence when I was a child. It was banned before I was… born.” Kara trailed off awkwardly.

 

Lena took a small sip and rolled her mouthful around on her tongue. Some of the tension in her shoulders eased as she relished it, and focused back on Kara with a polite lick of her lips. “Sounds like our blue laws and the prohibition. Did that ever change?”

 

“No… No, everything. Ended . Before any legislature could be looked at again. If you thought the puritanical weirdos were bad here .” Kara grinned wryly, the old hurt dulled after years of turning it over and accepting things had been out of her control. She shrugged and took another sip, leaning heavily on the bar as the drink warmed her chest. “Sometimes when I’m homesick and want to remember my parents, I’ll have one of these. Or something similar. You can’t really find, um, red planet alcohol anymore.”

 

“So you chose to work in a bar, a place of sin and indulgence?” Lena asked after a pause, her brow arching impressively as she took another appreciative sip. “I like this.”

 

“I’m glad, I know it isn’t your usual daiquiri or scotch.” Kara shrugged and started putting things away with her free hand. “But uh, home used to be like earth before it became the society I grew up in. Like the rise of any civilization, there’s always a golden age of innovation and art and indulgence.”

 

“Another history lesson behind red tape?”

 

“I’m legally not allowed to talk about it.” Kara grimaced. “I’ve actually already said too much and would really appreciate you not repeating anything.”

 

Yeesh .”

 

A comfortable lull settled over them as the heaviness of their conversation passed with each sip, only broken by Lena’s next question.

 

“So… why did you make me one?”

 

A nervousness wormed into Kara’s body as her face warmed, caught on her heels. “W-well. I, um.”

 

Lena pinned her with a steady look and the ingrained knee-jerk reaction to lie crumbled under it. Kara fiddled with the soggy napkin plastered to the bottom of her glass and took a more blatant step towards Lena, just so she would understand that she wasn’t going to hide from her. Kara didn’t want to hide or lie to Lena anymore.

 

“Call it ironic, but I guess I feel safe around you.”

 

Lena blinked, her eyes wide with pleased surprise. A pretty blush colored her cheekbones and a real smile dimpled her cheek.

 

“Really?”

 

Kara ducked her head and nodded, murmuring her smile into her drink. “Yeah.”

 

Lena pressed her lips together, trying to keep her own smile from getting too toothy. Her long fingers played with the glass in her hands and she gave Kara another shy grin.

 

“Me too.”

 


 

The tension didn’t dissipate, it only grew until Kara felt like her attraction to Lena had her in a choke hold. It was a delicious struggle that invaded her dreams, toyed with her emotions, and had her drifting closer to Lena every time she saw her. Was it appropriate to try to start dating a coworker? It probably wasn’t the best decision. But Kara hadn’t felt like this about many people, and the gravitational pull that drew her to Lena wasn’t one she knew she could fight. It wasn’t one she wanted to fight.

 

Kara liked her. Liked liked her.

 

Liked her enough that some of her dreams had woken her flustered and tingly.

 

Normal circumstances would have dictated she talk herself into compliance and play things a little safer. Normal circumstances being she was interested in someone who wasn’t the black sheep of an extremely anti-alien family. But Kara never did really play by the rules if it wasn’t a requirement.

 

The best part was, she could tell Lena was paying attention to her too.

 


 

M’gann’s was quiet as Kara shut off the house lights and closed the cloth blinds on the broad windows. The spotlights over the bar top were still on, dimmed, the warm ambient neons from the liquor wall outlining Lena in an amber light as she meticulously cut into a wedge of a ripe asian peach. Everything else had been cleaned save for the glasses they had been sipping peach daiquiris from, and Kara had left Lena to her own devices to square away the register to take care of the floor and tables. Everything was in it’s place and Kara was buzzing with energy, though tired from a long shift. She was just happy to spend a few quiet moments in Lena’s proximity after an evening of stolen glances and close brushes of hands and shoulders.

 

Kara put up the broom and tugged off her apron, tossing it next her purse that she had pulled out earlier. Lena’s large bag sat next to hers, her own apron folded neatly and their share of tips divided in stacks on the desk. Kara thumbed through her bills and tucked them into her wallet, glad that they had gotten a little extra tonight. She stuffed her apron into her purse and wandered back out into the bar. Lena was wiping down the counter now, the paring knife cleaned and their nearly finished daiquiris embellished with a new garnish of peach, safely set aside on the back counter.

 

“Trying a different shape?” Kara asked, quickly washing her hands after handling her money and the cleaning supplies. She didn’t really want her hands to smell like watered down clorox.

 

“In a sense.” Lena murmured, switching places with her. “It’s too bold for the menu.”

 

Kara shuffled to the side and turned her glass to get a better look at Lena’s creation-and she nearly stopped breathing.

 

Too bold was a wedge of peach meticulously cut into the shape of a vagina. It was actually really well done, if Kara was judging Lena’s knife skills. But that wasn’t at all what the message was. Kara could feel her face hot with a blush as Lena’s presentation chipped away at the last of her resolve.

 

Oh . Um.”

 

The sink shut off next to her and cloth rustled as Lena dried her hands. Kara watched slender fingers pluck the wedge from the second glass and she tracked it all the way to Lena’s lips. Her breath sobbed from her lungs in a pathetic expression of arousal as a pink tongue dotted by a metal stud languidly licked over the decoratively cut wedge. Her tongue stuck to the roof of her mouth as dark lips sealed over the fruit and sucked the alcohol off, a pleased hum shaking her to her core. Lena released the wedge with a suck and licked her lips, and then deposited the garnish back into her glass. Her green eyes were dark behind her glasses, a shy blush coloring her cheeks. The dark masculine perfume befuddled her senses.

 

“You’re a writer, Miss Danvers. What’s the symbolism here?”

 

Lena’s husky question was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Kara set her glass down clumsily and surged forward into Lena’s space, her mouth pressing to her lips in an enthusiastically clumsy kiss. She felt Lena gasp against her mouth and her mind screeched a wail of warning when she realized what she was doing, causing Kara to jerk back with her nerves beyond frayed. Panic scorched bitter down her throat and for one terrifying moment Kara thought she had screwed everything up-

 

Sorry -”

 

It’s fine -”

 

Lena was pressing back in before she could get her apology out, her hands fisting in the front of Kara’s black button up to tug her close. Her panic crashed into relief and Kara kissed her properly, if still a little uncoordinated. The floodgates opened in her chest and she sank into her attraction and followed Lena’s lead, leaning into her kisses and sliding her hands around her waist to press into the small of her back. Kara’s breath caught in her chest as she felt the warm metal of her tongue piercing drag over her lip. She let Lena push her backwards blindly until the high bar top connected with the middle of her back. A lithe thigh brazenly pressed in between her own and heat roiled through her body to settle teasingly between her legs, the pressure of her tight against her drawing a soft breathy sound of approval from her chest.

 

“The security cameras-” Kara tried again, letting her hands drift down to finally finally splay over Lena’s ass like she had wanted to when she had stopped by a few weeks ago. She squeezed and Lena’s hips jogged into hers in response.

 

Lena parted from her for just a moment with a suck to Kara’s lip, her eyes heavy with want. “I’ll wipe them.”

 

It was good enough for Kara and she let go of her restraints. Lena was solid and warm against her as she fell back into her, their glasses clicking annoyingly as Kara licked into her mouth. She could taste the peach on her tongue and the alcohol in her sighs, and let her attraction pull her under. Hands grabbed and squeezed, greedy as they touched each other over their clothes. All Kara knew is that she wanted Lena, and she wanted Lena to want her too. She tested the waters with a deft spin and hooked her hands under Lena’s legs. Kara grinned against her mouth as she lifted her up onto the bar top with ease, a shiver racing down her spine as Lena squeaked with surprise and dug her fingers into the tops of Kara’s shoulders to steady herself.

 

Her original plan was to just press in close and figure out things from there, but Lena’s grip changed and she was pulling up on her shirt in a wordless ask to join her. Kara obliged and came up after her with a little floating push from the floor. Kara’s knee knocked clumsily into one of the empty mise pans with a clatter as she settled and Lena chuckled lowly, her hands curling around her ribs to pull her down on top of her. Kara’s breath sobbed from her lungs a second time that evening as Lena’s thigh pressed boldly up into her again in a heady tease. Her hips naturally followed down to her in a tentative grind and Lena sighed as she returned the pressure with her own thigh.

 

It was an awkward position but Kara was too taken by Lena to really care. She steadied herself on her elbow as Lena wrapped one hand about her wrist and tugged it between their bodies. Her mind went fuzzy as Lena pressed her hand against the fasten of her pants, panting a whiny Please? into her mouth. Her hair, still up in it’s high pony from work, was fanned out under her head across the glossy marble. Kara flushed hotter as Lena pressed her hips up into her with another soft mewl of frustration, her chest pressing solidly up into hers with a delicious drag.

 

Kara leaned back in for another kiss and tugged the button fasten of Lena’s pants free with her heartbeat thundering in her ears. Lena moaned her approval and went for the button of Kara’s pants, her free hand messily tugging her button up out of the back of her waistband. The warm slide of her knuckles against her bare stomach almost distracted Kara, but she powered through and hastily drew down the zipper.

 

Really, they should stop. It wasn’t the appropriate time or place but Lena’s sighs and sounds of approval were liquid gold in her veins. She was a moth to flame and boldly slid her hand flat into Lena’s underwear, muffling her first real moan as she cupped her firmly.

 

Lena was sinfully soft and so warm. There was already a slickness between her velvety folds and Kara pressed her fingers in, gasping a curse as she found how excited Lena was. There was also another simple piercing in the hood of her clit and Kara’s brain melted. She gasped as sharp teeth sank into her lip and gently rubbed her fingers through her, feeling Lena out in a brand new way. Kara drew the pads of her fingers up to her clit and gently pressed a tentative circle onto her, careful of the metal piercing. Lena whined and pressed her hips up into her hand as Kara toyed with the ball bearing, her head fuzzy cotton as she sucked greedily on Lena’s tongue. Then as Lena jerked down the zipper to her jeans Kara slid her hand lower and smoothly pressed two fingers into her.

 

God-fuck -” tore from Lena’s chest as her head rolled back onto the bar top, her kiss-swollen lips parted in a gasp as she stretched warmly around Kara’s fingers.

 

Kara panted a low laugh against her chin and massaged her fingers into her, pressing the flat of her palm into her clit in a motion she personally enjoyed. Her mind flashed back to Lena’s first coy teasing behind the bar and she pressed a messy kiss to the corner of her mouth.

 

Let me show you how nimble my fingers are .” She breathed boldly with another curling stroke of her fingers, the hot metal of her clit piercing sliding against her palm.

 

Lena uttered a strangled sound of pleasure and pressed her hips up into Kara’s hand, quickly unraveling into a beautiful mess of flushed skin and hungry touches. Kara made a little room for Lena to push her hand down the front of her jeans, her heart leaping into her throat as the warm pads of her fingers found her clit. That first touch was a staticky relief, pleasure twanging heavily in her hips as her fingers started a hasty pattern. Kara doubled her efforts, ignoring the burn in her forearm and hissing as Lena’s free hand slid up under her shirt and blunt nails drew heavily down her back.

 

The marble bar top was cool against her knees and forearm, but Lena was hot . Kara wanted to sink into her warmth and never leave. Their coupling grew impatient with stuttering hips and clumsy open-mouthed kisses, their bodies tensing as touches became sloppy under slackening control. Kara breathed against the looping pull of her orgasm, starting to sweat in her clothing as she fought for control. She changed the close press of her palm and bent her wrist to replace that touch with heavy swipes of her thumb. Lena moaned high and feminine in her chest and her hips jogged up off-rhythm into Kara’s hand, the pitches of each exhale rising as her body drew taught under her.

 

Lena’s head tilted back and her lips parted in a silent oh as she fell apart in strong squeezes around Kara’s fingers. Kara watched her cum, her lungs filled with a greedy satisfaction as she pressed her fingers in up to the knuckle and rubbed firmly over her engorged clit. The thigh splayed wide and hanging out over the edge of the bar top shook with exertion and Kara didn’t even care that Lena’s fingers had stopped moving on her. She kept her thumb moving, watching Lena’s eyes roll back behind her glasses as she succumbed a second time on the tail end of her first orgasm. She was so soft around Kara’s fingers and the next pressing need on her list was to replace her hand with her tongue-

 

Lena sucked in a deep gasp and her hips jolted up into Kara’s hand, nails raking down her back again as her fingers suddenly set a punishing pace on her clit. Pleasure crackled out from her hips and it was Kara’s turn to sag, finally releasing herself from her self-imposed restraint. She didn’t fight the crush of her orgasm and trusted Lena to let go, her mind wiping blank as pleasure bloomed in her hips. Lena pressed kisses to her face as she gasped breathlessly through her release, still conscious of her control even through her high.

 

Kara felt jittery and jello-y now as she settled back into her body, hot and riled up and wanting to touch Lena again and again-

 

“‘M sorry about your back.” Lena murmured, kissing her unhurriedly as she smoothed her hand flat across her skin. Her fingers smoothed soothingly over Kara’s clit and dipped lower, rubbing teasingly at her entrance.

 

Kara grinned against her mouth and her breath hitched at the extra stimulation. It was sweet of her, and Kara didn’t have the heart to tell her that she hadn’t hurt her in the slightest. She had felt the bite and sting, but her powers had dulled it into a tingling ache that had only lasted a moment. It had felt nice, and she wondered if she could figure something out to dampen her powers so she could feel more .

 

“It’s ok, I liked it.” She admitted, mouthing over the curve of her chin and pressing tongue-heavy kisses to the underside of her jaw and the column of her throat. She finally placed a sucking kiss to the freckle dotting the center of her throat.

 

Lena reached between them and gently refastened Kara’s jeans. “Let me wipe the cameras. Come back to my place?”

 

Kara could feel her voice hum against her lips in a tickling vibration. Giddy anticipation tumbled through her ribs and she pushed up onto her hands and knees, feeling rumpled and ruffled in the best way. Lena watched her with pink cheeks and dark eyes from her back, a satisfied grin playing around the corners of her mouth. Her lipstick was a mess and Kara knew it was all over her own face.

 

“I could fly us?” She offered, gently pulling her fingers out of slick heat and watching Lena’s chest hitch at the last stroke.

 

“I hate flying, but okay.” Lena agreed as Kara quickly zipped her jeans back up, trying to not get too much of her sticky arousal on the fly.

 

There wasn’t much left to say as Kara got them down from the desecrated bar top. They almost lost track of their plan as they shared another messy kiss over the sink after Kara snuck one of her fingers into her mouth to taste her. Lena course-corrected them with much effort and slunk off to wipe the security cameras and lock up the office. Kara thoroughly disinfected the bar top as she did so and spritzed some of the bathroom air freshener just to kill any lingering scent of sex. It would have been gone by morning, but it didn’t hurt to be safe.

 

Her heartbeat throbbed heavily between her legs and her clit ached for more stimulation as she shrugged on her jacket and helped Lena into hers. She watched her fire off a text to her security team that she was catching a ride home with Kara, and tugged Kara out the back door into the dirty ally with a hungry look.

 


 

Good morning, darling !”

 

Kara jumped out of her skin and hid her face in Lena’s neck, her burning face pressing into the skin she was just attempting to suck a mark into. She hadn’t realized Jack was there, feeling absolutely mortified as it dawned on her that he probably heard them through the night. They hadn’t been subtle nor quiet.

 

Lena curled her arms protectively around her shoulders and drew the sheet up tight around them. She groaned pathetically and hid her own face in the crook of her arm, trying not to move as Kara’s thigh pressed tightly between her legs. Kara could hear her heart thundering with her own embarrassment and squeezed her arm a little more securely around her ribs in comfort.

 

“Next time you decide to bring someone home please be a little more aware of your noise level, I had to leave for Tom’s half an hour after you got home at bloody three o’clock. Half an hour . He’s not even in town.

 

Kara could at least tell he had only cracked the door, his voice partially muffled. He sounded sleepy and grumpy, but not as angry as she had first thought.

 

“M’sorry, I didn’t know you were home.” Lena apologized meekly.

 

Jack snorted through his nose. “Well. Good morning, and good morning Lena’s Date.”

 

“Kara.” Lena murmured, sounding like she wanted the floor to swallow her up. “This is Kara.”

 

Oh . It’s The Kara. Well, my apologies, and congratulations. There’s coffee and pastries from Noonan’s in the kitchen, I’m going to work.”

 

“I’m sorry, Jacky.” Lena warbled, her voice nothing but remorse for disturbing him and being That Roommate . “It won’t happen again.”

 

He sighed again. “You know I can’t be mad at you. We’ll do drinks soon, yeah Kara?”

 

Kara meeped a sure thing and he closed Lena’s door with a Don’t lie in too long .

 

They laid there for a moment, listening to him walk through the house and out a door somewhere. There was a car door opening and closing, and the sound of a car motor turning over. Tires ground slowly down a drive after a moment of idling. They laid there until they couldn’t hear the engine any longer, and then for another few moments just to be safe. The nice house was silent now except for the birds chirping in the early morning light.

 

“I feel that could have gone… a little better.” Kara mumbled, finally easing herself up onto her elbows.

 

Lena relaxed her arms and smoothed her hands soothingly over her shoulders. Her cheeks were pink and her inky black hair was wild around her head and shoulders and Kara thought she looked breathtaking.

 

“Sorry. You okay?” Lena asked, concern lacing her words and coloring her eyes.

 

Kara nodded, ducking her head down to brush her nose against Lena’s. “Yeah. Are you?”

 

Lena grinned and kissed her, her hands walking up around her shoulders and coaxing her back into her embrace. “Yeah.”

 

Kara followed easily and kissed back down to where she had been nibbling moments earlier. Lena rolled her hips into her thigh with a sigh as she closed her teeth gently over the junction between her neck and shoulder.

 

“Well, that was one way to meet Jack.” She grumbled, leaving the beginnings of slick arousal on Kara’s thigh.

 

Kara laughed helplessly into the crook of her neck.

 


 

Kara shuffled back to her couch with two simple daiquiris, her arms a little chilly as Lena had stolen her National City University pullover as soon as she had walked in the door. They had slowed down a little after the dam had broken, taking the next few months to really get to know each other and build a friendship underneath the attraction. They still went on dates and outings and spent private time with each other, but they were friends now, best friends, and the both of them wouldn’t have it any other way. They had even talked a little about the Big L Word, but they were both content to leave that alone for a little while longer. There was plenty of time and Kara really enjoyed dating her best friend.

 

But now here they were, having had a nice dinner at her loft and about to both make a big potential step in their careers. Their laptops were side by side on Kara’s coffee table in front of her denim blue couch, where Lena was perched on the edge of the cushion. Her hair was braided loosely over her shoulder and the sleeves of Kara’s too-big pullover were loose over her knuckles. Kara thought she looked absolutely adorable and told her so with a kiss as she handed over her cocktail. Lena blushed prettily and gave her a dimpled smile as Kara settled onto the cushion next to her.

 

On Kara’s screen was a filled out application to an editorial position under Cat Grant, the Editor in Chief of CatCo Worldwide Media. On Lena’s, a journal submission detailing her and Jack’s work on nanotechnology to the Proceedings of the National Academy of Science. He would have been present, but a family emergency had pulled him away from the actual submission of the paper.

 

Kara set her glass down and offered her hand to Lena, who gladly took it. She laced their fingers together and waited until Lena safely placed her drink on the coffee table. Her free hand hovered over the trackpad of her laptop, the cursor already centered over submit .

 

“Ready?” Kara asked, extending her own hand.

 

Lena squeezed her fingers tightly and gave her a steady trusting look.

 

“Ready. Here’s to no more bartending.”

 

And then with Kara ginning and softly counting down three, two, one -

 

Click click.