Lena doesn’t know why she chose Midvale. It was a podunk town miles away from Metropolis, shrouded in trees with long stretches of highway. But it was quiet. And no one knew who she was. Which was good, considering she was using this place as a vacation spot and not a permanent residence.
Quaint with rows upon rows of suburbs, it reminded Lena of the life she had always wanted, a life of coming home to a mother making dinner, to a home full of pictures and memories and smells.
Instead she grew up in a house that was full of people but somehow always felt empty. There were no pictures, not of her at least, and the memories and smells that she could remember, she’d rather not.
She supposes she’s inherited her family’s habit of living in big empty houses, because the place she buys is a spacious two story, with huge living room windows and enough room for a family with four kids. Four bedrooms, an enormous dining room, more kitchen space than she’ll ever need—she’s a take out kind of girl thanks to her late nights in the office—and a study, which was what sold her on the house. She’d probably never use it, considering it reminded her too much of her father, but the odd comfort of having such a familiar room somehow put her at ease.
One thing that doesn’t exactly put her at ease though is the idea of neighbours—she’s never had any. The Luthors are a very private family, and their main mansion has always been closed off by tall iron gates and thick hedges. Vacations were always to private places too, so sharing a space with someone was...odd for Lena.
Even so, it thrilled her a bit, considering a neighbour was quite possibly the easiest way to make a friend. She’s skittish around new people though, and keeping in mind the things her family has been tied to, her caution is more than warranted. The Luthor name isn’t exactly a good name to be associated with right now. It’s part of the reason why she had made the spur of the moment decision to take a long vacation.
But she couldn’t avoid people forever, and when she finally does meet her neighbour, it’s through the baking dish left on her front doorstep that she finds one day after a long shower. She realizes she must’ve spent more time in there than she thought. The baking dish is still warm, but the hands that were probably carrying it are long gone, just a hastily scrawled note that said ‘Welcome to the neighbourhood!’ with a lopsided smiley face that Lena couldn’t fathom being possibly drawn by an adult. Still, the gesture is cute though, and once she decides that once she’s dressed, she’s going to go over and say thank you.
Lena places the dish on the counter and peels back the foil, revealing a steaming slab of brownies. Lena isn’t exactly one for brownies, but the gesture had been so nice, she can’t sit there and not take a bite out of just one .
So she pulls one of those fancy expensive stainless steel knives from the silverware drawer and sets down on a stool—still in her towel—the objective of getting dressed long forgotten the moment the ooey gooey chocolatey goodness hits her tongue. If this is what comes with having neighbours, Lena could get used to this.
The next morning sees her standing awkwardly in front of her neighbour’s door, her nervous grip on the baking dish making her hands sweaty. She raps on the door once, waits a millisecond, then raps again, stopping abruptly when the door swings open.
Lena looks up when wood is replaced with a broad chest. She hadn’t expected the being now occupying the space in front of her to be so tall. “Oh, em, hi.” she awkwardly greets.
“This was left at my place yesterday?” she holds out the baking dish and swallows when hands bigger than hers take it from her. She takes a moment to really drink in the sight in front of her, and nearly faints doing so.
Tall, athletic, handsome, bespectacled and blonde; the Adonis before her scratches one of the toned abs of her six pack, and nods, looking at the now empty—and dishwasher cleaned—bakeware. She beams. “They were good, huh?”
Lena nods. “Yeah em, did you make them yourself?”
The goddess in front of her blushes. “Uh, no, Eliza did. She’s my adoptive mom. I can't cook for shit,” she grins when Lena laughs at that. “I did help though. I’m Kara by the way,” she holds out her hand and Lena shakes it. “Did you get my little note?”
“Your little note?” Lena blinks, realizing. “You wrote that?”
The woman in front of her half shrugs. “Yeah, I’m not much of a baker so...I still wanted to contribute.” She yawns. “Hey, uh, would you like to come inside for some coffee?”
Lena realizes that she had probably woken up the other woman with her incessant knocking. “Em, did I wake you?” a sheepish grin spreads across the other woman’s face and Lena feels a ball of guilt roll around in her stomach. “God, I had no idea it was so early,” she babbles, running a hand through her hair. “I just—I just wanted to say thank you and—”
“Hey it’s no problem,” the blonde says, an easy grin on her face. God her teeth are white and pearly Lena half suspects they’re fake. “I was going to get up eventually.” she eyes Lena again. “....Which brings me back to my question. Coffee?” the glimmer of friendly hope in her bright blue eyes hooks Lena in, and next thing she knows she’s sitting at the island of her neighbour’s kitchen with a steaming hot cup of liquid gold in her hands.
“So when’d you move to town?” Kara says, picking out a donut from the plate between them. She bites into it, powder spreading all over her lips. Lena fights the urge to wipe it off.
“Em,” she starts, sort of distracted by it. “Yesterday, actually,” she tries to look everywhere else but at the woman in front of her, who wipes the remaining powder from her donut on her sleep shirt. “It’s more of a vacation residence than a permanent one.”
“Huh,” she doesn’t ruminate on it too long, just ponders for a moment and shrugs. She seems to shrug a lot, Lena notices. “Is it just you in that big house? The family that used to live there had like, seven kids. I think they were Mormon or somethin’.” she pulls another donut from the bunch and again begins her messy process of eating it.
Lena doesn’t quite know how to answer that, so she nods and takes a sip of her coffee, sighing as the hot liquid runs down her throat. “I’m used to big houses.”
The other woman nods, understanding. “Rich family?”
Lena gives her a wry smile. “You could say that.”
“Makes sense,” Kara concedes, then blinks. “Oh. Here I am asking you about your family and you barely know me. I’m sorry.”
Lena shakes her head. “Trust me, it’s the least invasive question I’ve been asked the first time I’ve met someone,” she smiles softly, thumbing at the rim of her mug. “Since you asked me though, I think it's only fair. Is it just you and Eliza?”
Kara shakes her head. “No, just Eliza. Well, mostly,” she seems to want to say more but doesn't, so Lena doesn’t pry. "Any siblings?"
Lena swallows, debating on answering the question. “Just one,” she answers carefully. “Older,” she adds and then clears her throat after a beat of silence. “And you?”
“Same,” she says, wiping even more powder on her sleep shirt. "Sister."
Lena nods. “Brother,” she winces behind her cup. “We didn’t...exactly get along.
Kara shrugs. “Isn’t that how it always is with siblings?”
Lena almost laughs at her naivete. “Yes, I suppose so.” she gives Kara a faint smile that she hopes signals a change in subject. She isn’t exactly keen on revealing who her brother was or what he had done to her and countless other people to someone she just met, let alone got along pretty well with.
“We don’t have to talk about families,” Kara says, picking up on her cue, matching her smile. “Don’t worry, I get it. So you said you’re in town for a vacation? Why’d you choose Midvale? It isn’t exactly Miami.”
Lena sips at her coffee thoughtfully. She hadn’t really thought about it other than the fact that it was far away from the madness of her family and the noise of the press. She just picked the first place she was shown by the sharky real estate agent who kept putting emphasis on how the town was “a perfect place to start a family.”
Lena had no intentions of such a thing, at least not now at this point in her life, but she could see why someone would pick Midvale for such an endeavor. “I guess...” she starts. “I guess...that kind of vacation isn’t for me. I’ve never been one to flaunt my money anyway...”
The blonde nods. “You don’t exactly seem like the flashy type.”
“Well, that depends on what your definition of ‘flashy is,” Lena quips with a small smile. “Everyone has a hobby they like to invest in. Some have boats, some have stocks, I have wine.”
Kara raises her eyebrows. “Wine? How could wine ever cost so much money?”
“Well—” Lena starts, and then she hears it. She doesn’t know where from; perhaps a TV left on in another room, but she hears it nonetheless.
“Police suspect that there are more victims than Lex Luthor admits. More bodies have been found at the scene of his torture chamber, where investigators say the Fortune 500 mogul mutilated dozens.”
Suddenly Lena’s palms are sweaty, and her vision begins to swim. “Em, actually, I just remembered I have to go,”
Kara looks perplexed. “Oh, really?” she stands up as Lena does, leading her to the door. “Are you sure? You okay? You look a little sick.”
Lena inhales and exhales through her nose, crossing the threshold to put some much needed distance between them. “Yeah. Yeah. I’m fine. I just, I forgot that I had something to do. I’ll see you around, yeah?”
Kara blinks. “Yeah sure.”
Lena parts without another word.
A few days later Lena’s sitting on her porch swing reading a book—a turn of the century romance novel she has stolen from her father’s study at home—when a sleek black motorcycle pulls up into the Danvers’ driveway. A woman not much taller than Kara slips off of it, and replaces her cherry red helmet with aviators. Kara bounds out of the house and runs to her, screaming like a banshee.
This must be the older sister Kara had been talking about, because the smile on the red headed woman’s face never leaves even when Kara pulls her into a crushing bear hug.
She lets her go when the older woman grunts, “Okay Kara, that’s enough.” though the smirk says the love was well appreciated.
Sheepishly Kara obliges. “Sorry,” she says, bouncing on her feet like a little kid. “It’s been a while. You’re staying for the weekend?”
“Yeah,” the other woman responds. “Mom asked me to. I mean, I would have either way, but you know how she is.”
Kara nods. “Totally. Um, one sec,” She turns from her sister to peer over the hedges separating their yard from Lena's; her bright blue child-like eyes scaring Lena half to death.
“Hey!” she calls.
Lena pretends to be engrossed in her book, hoping Kara didn’t notice her eavesdropping. Though she pays attention to Kara out the corner of her eye, smirking a bit when the other woman pouts.
“Hey! Pay attention to me!” Kara shouts, shaking the hedges. She grins when Lena snorts, finally putting her book down. “My sister’s home tonight so Eliza’s making kugel,” the excitement in her eyes is infectious.
“Kugel?” Lena blinks. “You’re Jewish?” she asks walking towards the hedge, her book long forgotten.
Kara’s smile wanes as if the question physically pains her. “Converted,” she says softly. “It’s Alex’s favorite. I hope you don’t mind kosher.”
Lena folds her arms with a knowing smirk. “That depends. Are you inviting me to dinner?”
Kara shrugs, a slight blush washing over her features. “That depends,” she answers back. “Are you good at charades?”
It turns out Lena is indeed good at charades. She’s also good at drinking wine—and apparently so is Kara’s sister—because between her and Alex, two bottles of white are gone within a few hours.
Lena learns that Alex is an FBI agent, so the times that she gets to come back to Midvale are few and far between.
She finally meets Eliza, who she graciously thanks for the brownies. They had seen each other in passing, but had never talked due to Lena always staying inside. The woman has a kind and soft face. One with laugh lines and sparkling eyes. Complete opposite of her own mother's harsh and stoic features.
She reminds Lena of Kara in a way, how she truly cares for the people around her. She’d never met a group of people so close, so happy with each other. Even dinner itself had been such a cultural shock for her.
A family, laughing and talking, just being each other and listening to each other. It felt strange. Absolutely foreign. But she loved it.
“So, better than staying in that big empty house by yourself, right?” Kara nudges her as she sits back down on the couch with a beer—Kara wasn’t exactly a wine person.
Lena smiles softly at her, having given up her drink of choice for some hot tea. “It’s not empty. I have things in it.”
Kara raises a brow. “Things? Like what?”
“Books,” Lena insists. She doesn’t realize how silly it sounds until the sentence leaves her mouth. She rolls with it though. “They’re better than any romantic companion. Silent, strong, and there when I need them.”
“If that’s what you want,” Alex chimes in, tipping her wine glass at her. “What you need is a dog.”
“Dogs cause messes,” Lena responds rolling her eyes. “Besides, I like being by myself."
She'd always been anyway. If it didn't have to do with her brother or being seen for the upkeep of appearances, Lena was rarely spoken to, and the only person that would check up on her, that she had thought was the only one who truly cared about her, was on trial right now for murder.
Lena suddenly felt sick to her stomach. "This was lovely, but em, I have to go," she gets up, placing her half empty cup on the glass coffee table.
Kara stands with her, and Lena is starting to feel like every time they meet is going to be some case of deja vu. "Hey, is everything okay?"
Lena flexes her hands, pulling the sleeves of her sweater over them- a nervous habit she developed as a child. "Yes, em, I just remembered I have some paperwork to do. Job and all that," she can feel the bile rising in her throat; the wine, the kugel, the homemade apple pie Eliza served after dinner—all threatening to come right back up.
Kara seems to understand her panic, clearing her throat to get her mother and sister’s attention. “Lena’s gotta go.”
“Aw, really? So soon?” Alex whines. “We haven’t even gotten to charades yet.”
“I’m sorry,” Lena apologizes, tucking hair behind her ear. “Maybe next time, yeah?”
“Sure,” Alex points at her, grinning. “I’m holding you to it,”
Lena returns her smile, before following Kara to the door. “I’m sorry I keep leaving so abruptly like this it’s just—”
Kara holds up a hand. “You don’t have to explain it to me. Trust me, I know. Just take care of yourself, okay?” she lightly pats Lena on the shoulder, her firm, strong hand instantly soothing the storm rolling in her stomach.
Lena quickly says goodnight, stepping out into the mild darkness. She speed walks to her house and shuts the door behind her, feeling everything rise back up in her chest again. The hurt, the anger, the frustration, confusion, shame—all fighting for a place in her mind.
Tears begin streaming down her cheeks. She tries to wipe them away with the sleeve of her cardigan, but they just keep coming. Soon she’s transported back to Metropolis, to the courtroom, to Lex’s sentencing. To the moment he looked at her with every ounce of disdain and disgust he had in his body as he was being led away to prison.
She’s brought back to the moment she returned to an empty house, to her mother sitting in the living room sipping on scotch, drunkenly blaming her for Lex’s demise. As if she was the one who held the knife to his throat, made him murder all those innocent people.
She’s brought back to the moment she decided that she couldn’t live in Metropolis anymore, under the Luthor name, the watchful eye of the public. She couldn’t do it anymore. The air in that house, in that city was oppressive, a consistent reminder of her brother.
Lena manages to calm her breathing. Manages to climb the stairs to her bedroom, and curl up under the covers, only managing to kick off her shoes. She lies there in the darkness, soaking it all in for hours on end it seems. She falls into fits of micro sleeps, blinking awake before her mind can fully rest.
And then, at three thirty on the dot, she’s awakened by a loud alarm. Not only is it loud, it’s incessant. Lena flings the covers off of herself and stalks over to her window to see that her room is apparently directly across from Kara’s, because Kara’s in the window, just staring.
But she’s not staring at Lena. She’s staring past her.
It’s so bizarre, considering she’d never seen Kara’s face so blank before. It makes Lena uneasy, though she just chalks it up to sleepwalking. But then Kara’s moving. Out of the window across the room and outside the door.
Lena doesn’t see her again until she appears on the front door step in a hoodie and a pair of running shorts. Who the hell runs at three am? And in such a peculiar mind set?
Kara disappears down the road. Lena tries to stay up to see if she’ll come back, but the sleep weighing on her body is too powerful now, and before she knows it, she’s curled back up in her bed, her thoughts of Kara and the window behind her.