The first time it happens, for Lena, it feels like replaying an infinite loop of scenes from a nightmare. Not exactly a nightmare, per se, but it's enough to get her heart rate up, to make beads of cold sweat slide down her back. It's unusual, and the last way she expects to spend her first Saturday off work in weeks.
They're still not on the best of terms, Kara and Lena, after Lena confronted her at the Fortress of Solitude. The flesh surrounding their figurative scratches continues to itch, bright red, making it impossible for them to bandage their wounds, cross borders and make a Peace treaty.
Advertising has been chasing her for weeks. Giant billboards on the way to L-Corp, or on the way home, when her eyes are particularly glazed over after emptying half a bottle of whiskey. Invading the pages of the morning newspaper where Lena solves crossword puzzles, the local news, even a charming sixty-second video in that app Nia showed her before things went downhill.
Her patience runs out when, one day on her way to brunch with Andrea, two excited kids approach her to hand her a flyer crumpled in the corners, misshapen red and yellow crayon letters forming words that still spook her.
CAR WASH SUPER-FUNDRAISER FOR NCHS.
After a fire engulfed the National City High School library, Supergirl was one of the first figures -and one of the few who insisted- to commit to helping in any way in the face of tragedy.
Not even a generous anonymous donation could stop her.
The following events are a bit cryptic for Lena, but now her Tesla is parked in an endless line of cars. The horns howl in desperation as both adults and children wait for their turn, the eager ardour of seeing the Girl of Steel in action pulsing in their veins.
There are capes everywhere, an explosion of yellow, blue and red ornamenting every corner of the parking lot they chose as location. Supergirl’s family crest is raised on flags that don't know the depth of its meaning, making Lena wonder how uncomfortable it could be for her to see her sacred roots become merchandise.
Lena's eyes swim through a sea of foreign faces, paddling through the congestion until they finally settle on the only reason she had headed south this sunny morning, when she could as well be in her apartment enjoying the extra hours of sleep.
She sees Supergirl's shoulders stiffen, then she’s enraptured watching her slowly setting back on the ground the two front wheels of a SUV with blue paint faded by the sun and hours in the road, the hose she had in her hands flapping like a reptile next to her feet.
The Tesla is next in line, and Lena is not ready for the moment she is approached after getting out of the car.
"Lena," she utters, her mouth forming a perfect circle, "wasn’t expecting to see you here.”
Supergirl is dripping, droplets of water traveling from her temples to fall with a silent thud into the hollow of her collarbones. She's wearing her old suit, spandex clinging to her body as if it were painted on her skin. Lena manages to make out the outline of six developed muscles on her abdomen before averting her eyes. The short skirt looks terribly uncomfortable for the activity, but Lena can almost picture the mayor asking her to do so in order to attract more people, and Kar-Supergirl agreeing with a naive smile. The hidden intentions make her see red for a moment, even if sapphic thirst is quenched.
"This is my grain of sand to the future minds of the city."
"Your donation was more than enough." The low drop of her voice prompts Lena to glance at her, arms crossed across her chest. Lena clenches her fists to avoid looking down.
"How did you know? Lena asks, a grimace painted on red lips.
Supergirl shrugs. "I know you.”
Her words feel like sandpaper in her mouth and Lena avoids causing a scene by making the smart decision to remain silent, until she sees Supergirl leaning over her car with her cheeks puffing out. "What are you doing?"
She tilts her head to the side, the blue ocean in her eyes shining under the sunlight. "Washing your car? Wait- isn't that why you’re here?" Supergirl asks.
"Obviously. Are you using your freeze breath on my Tesla?"
"That's the procedure for all cars?
"Stop answering my questions with more questions!" Lena whisper-shouts, "isn't it dangerous?"
"You seemed okay when I used to do this to you on summer days, I think this thousands of dollars worth tin box will manage," Supergirl retorts, squeezing a sponge into a bucket of soapy water. "Besides, it's only frost, it will melt in seconds."
Lena shifts her weight from one foot to the other, praying her dark glasses provide enough shade to hide the fire licking her cheeks. "There’s a hose."
"It's just a prop."
"If I find one scratch on my car..." she hisses.
"You won't," Supergirl says, the playful wink makes Lena choke on her iced matcha.
When a little girl with a camera hanging from her neck addresses Lena with a shy smile and asks if she can take a picture of them for the school’s newspaper, she almost says no, but Supergirl comes over with hands on her hips and chest puffing out, asking Lena if it's okay brace one arm around her waist. There’s no way to say no after that. She enjoys her decision as she rests her hand on the spandex that covers Supergirl’s stomach.
The second time is unexpected, well, as unexpected as Lena can imagine. In fact, she's pretty sure it was bound to happen one way or another from the moment it started, there was no other logical conclusion to the scenario.
They are in Lena's laboratory, music blasting from the speakers as they wait for Alex to come back with their lunches. Lena can hear Kara's bare feet grazing the tiles, but the dance routine she is for sure performing is completely up to her imagination. A smile threatens to rise as she builds up the spectacle in her mind, but Lena manages to keep her eyes fixed on the Nth plates she is manipulating for the anti-kryptonite suit.
Things are better. The outlook is favorable for both of them after so long. It was an unpaved road, rocky and high-risk, but somehow Kara and Lena always find their way to each other.
Lena has felt lighter since Lex was defeated, since she got her friends back and finally, after months immersed in the misery of the ravages caused by that hapless secret, her light is coming back. She suspects it is largely due to the girl dancing behind her.
"I have to take your measurements," Lena says, the sound muffled by the screwdriver she holds between her teeth.
Before she turns around, there's a bust of air that makes the lapels of her white lab coat flutter and Lena will never be ready for the kind of situation that greets her next. Kara, sweet Kara, is standing in the middle of the lab, wearing only a sports bra of the colour of the night and black boyshorts that inch inappropriately high over her toned thighs.
Kara extends her long arms to the sides, looking at Lena expectantly. The measuring tape in Lena's hand is shaking, so are the steps it takes to flounder to her. "All yours, but watch out because you know I'm a bit ticklish.” She shudders, as if recalling the events that proved the certainty of her words.
Lena begins with her arms and shoulders, taking a deep breath as the solid muscle flexes around her hands. Her fingers are unsteady as she picks up the pen from her coat pocket, the numbers she writes on the board looking like they came from the hand of an infant just starting to write.
When the drums of an old song begin, Lena has to take two steps back to avoid getting a fist that could destroy planets to her face. Kara thrashes her arms, her legs flailing to the beat. The issue is born from there. she is unable to stay still for more than ten seconds in a row, enervating Lena every time some part of her body makes her shift, disrupting the hard-earned measurements.
"I love this song."
The lower part of her body is easier, because now her dance moves are just the sway of golden curls with as much force as gravity allows.
By the time the tape reaches her thighs, Lena's breaths have become heavier, the golden skin of her legs is soft to the touch. When she kneels down in front of her, her heels almost forbidding her, Lena can feel her own pulse in her mouth. She knows Kara can feel it too, where her thumbs are perched to the skin of her hipbones. Her eyes are at the level of Kara's navel, her ripped abdomen the only thing on her periphery.
"You knock me off my feet," Kara suddenly sings, floating a few inches above the ground. Lena has to pull her down like a balloon, grabbing her by a sculpted calf. "My lonely days are gone." She has a closed fist in front of her mouth, the other hand pointing down, where Lena's small frame lies with desperate eyes.
"Kara, I swear, I will stab you with a needle."
There is an extraterrestrial force driving her to do it, hands landing again on the warmth of Kara's torso. "I’ve heard you are ticklish?"
She whines, "you wouldn't dare."
Next is her midriff.
Lena has faced a million worse things, how hard can it be to take her best friend's measurements for a totally professional purpose? Near impossible when she is the hottest being in the known universe, and you're kind of in love with her.
She decides to ignore the silent whimper coming from Kara's lips, summoning her full attention to chiseled abs, to the delicious line in the center that separates them into two columns. A path is formed from her obliques to the protruding V, following a place Lena has only had fantasies about. She would be so jealous if it weren't for the fact that she is utterly charmed by the physique, and the person attached to it.
Careful fingers finally touch the muscle, the murmur of the music in the background is a negligible hum compared to the sound of Kara swallowing, hard. Lena is almost hypnotized when short golden hairs rise on the unblemished skin, that’s why she doesn’t hear when someone else enters the lab.
"Jesus, Luthor. I leave you alone with my baby sister for five minutes and you're already trying to get in her pants," Alex says, arms bursting with grease-stained bags of food.
Just as fast, Kara runs to her sister's aid, forgetting she was Lena's muse. She prefers to leave it at that, knowing she'll figure out a way to make the suit perfect anyway.
Lena ignores Alex’s and Kara’s calls, biting the inside of her cheeks as she types in the data collected in the last few minutes. The design of the suit is projected in front of her, floating and spinning on its axis while she studies the prototype, taking notes on the imperfections she had not been able to perceive before.
She only stops when she feels someone behind her, the heat emanating from the half-naked figure immediately locking her in ecstasy. She tries to avoid movement so as not to feel Kara's weight against her back, but it is out of the question when the tide of her breathing crashes on the back of her neck.
Kara's hands rest on the table, on each of Lena's sides, effectively trapping her in. "How's my suit going?"
Lena is shivering, the proximity taking away all resistance in her knees, she is standing up in pure adrenaline and sheer will. "Let's hope your helmet doesn't fall off in the middle of a fight because it's not tight enough around your dumb head, since you can’t behave like an adult.”
“Sounds fake," Kara complains, pursing her lips. "Close your eyes, please?"
"Why would I do that when I’m surrounded by all kinds of dangerous substances?” Lena asks, although her eyes are closed before Kara says please.
"Because I'm asking you to. Trust me." Lena nods. She can hear Kara behind her, and the soft rustle of something being placed on the table. Her eyelids flutter with the anxious desire to open them, but she squeezes her eyes shut to prevent it, until Kara whispers in her ear, a new wave of goosebumps, "okay, look now.”
Lena obeys. She has to bite her tongue to keep captive the sobs trying to break free. Her vision is blurry with tears before she allows them to slide down her cheeks. Kara and Alex are quiet, waiting for Lena's reaction, but she can feel the sudden tension dampening the air.
"What is this?" Lena doesn't even attempt to conceal the tremor in her voice.
"I told you you were part of the Superfriends. We have shirts and everything." Her tight-lipped grin is as charming as any other of her smiles.
The piece of fabric is fragile, and extremely ridiculous, but the seams in Lena's heart begin to tighten with the threat of being torn apart by love. The crest of the House of El is emblazoned in the upper left corner, just above the chest. Her smile widens across her face as she thinks about how proud Kara must feel to see the people she loves join her roots.
Lena, she can only be grateful, after fighting alone for so long, she finally found her family. "Stronger together, huh?
Lena yelps when Kara picks her up and spins her around in the air. After noticing the knowing smile on Alex's face, she hides hers in the hollow of Kara's neck, trying to calm the roller coaster of feelings as its path rushes through her bones.
"What’s gotten into you today?" Lena laughs, dropping her hands to Kara's shoulders when she puts her back on the floor.
"I'm just happy to have you back.”
“Is it almost ready?"Alex asks, her head gesturing to the hologram of the suit.
Lena makes a sound of approval, "just a few small changes. Any mistakes will be your sister's responsibility. She’s being a diva today.”
"Back on Earth-38 you didn't have to feel her up to know the measurements for the first suit you designed."
Kara can only gasp when a flying popsticker lands on Alex's face.
Next time Lena wishes had never happened. Her temples throb hard against her skull, the heavy palpitations slowing her strides. Her heart rate is disproportionate, churning in her rib cage without any sense, but it feels as if her heart is close to jumping out of her chest and spill out on the floor in front of her.
It's not fair everyone can fly to the damn balcony, and she has to put up with stairs that only appear to get longer with every step she conquers. At least in the DEO there were elevators. This new thing, The Tower, looks like the ruins of an ancient palace, a perfect location for a Halloween party. Lena swears the dust around the corners is really the remains of arachnid homes.
Upon arrival, Lena sees Kara lying on a metal table, her eyes are closed but the sporadic movements of her feet warn she is still conscious. A dreadful bruise is beginning to form along her left side, the combination of green and purple causes Lena's stomach to turn. One of her ribs doesn't seem to be in the right place, and the grimace Kara makes every time she takes in a breath is confirmation enough.
Seeing her in these situations is always a bucket of ice water down her back, a reminder that, although the possibilities are greatly reduced, Kara can be as mortal as the person-next-door.
"Other than Kara being stubborn? Nothing new," Alex spits out, eyebrows falling over heavy eyes. She is angry, her fingers hammering on the tablet she's holding in her hands, but if Lena has learned anything, it's that anger will soon melt away and translate into frantic worry.
"Darling..." Lena turns to Kara.
"I already had it! It was just a matter of seconds to cuff that ugly thing, it's not my fault that my body betrayed me and I solarflared in the middle of the fight," she snorts, her right arm covering her eyes from the septic lights. "It's just a couple of scratches and bruises.”
"Stop saying that!” Alex shouts, voice cracking, “you always do this, you know the limits of your body and yet you always demand more. What if next time it's not just a couple of goddamn scratches and bruises? For a second, you're basically a human on the battlefield, what if that second is the one that changes everything?" The metallic noise of the device crashing into the examination table is the last thing they hear before Alex exits the room.
“Are you okay?" Kara asks a suspiciously quiet Lena, her muscles complaining as she tries to push herself to sit down. Lena offers her help by splaying her hand on Kara's back, stepping into the space between her dangling legs. "I'm sorry.”
"Are you?" she asks, the rigid tone of voice echoing from the top of the tower.
"I really am fine," Kara confirms, her eyes sincere as she cups Lena's jaw between hands that lack the usual strength.
Lena's chest contracts with every breath, her hands shaking on Kara's thighs. She has to blink back unwanted tears. "I just got you back, Kara. I can't fathom- I can't afford to lose you again."
“I’m not going anywhere.”
Lena rejoices in the comfortable warmth of Kara's embrace, her fingers tracing distracted paths on the skin of her abdomen, where some dark patches are barely showing.
"Wait, where are your abs?” she asks, feeling the flatness of her torso.
"Oh, that. They kinda melt when I solarflare.” The awkward smile on her lips is enough to calm her concern.
Five days later, Lena is pleasantly surprised when she hears someone call her name on the other side of the crowded L-Corp lobby. She looks up from the screen of her phone, her eyes bulging when she sees Kara standing in the far side of the floor, unbuckling her belt and untucking her shirt from her trousers to display her torso, the typical six-pack back in place.
The fourth time is... essentially Kara.
The door of her flat is ajar when Lena arrives, and the irony of someone breaking in Supergirl's home makes her laugh as she places the bento boxes on the wooden table.
"Kara, where are you?" she mumbles, knowing she will be heard anyway.
Lena can hear noise coming from the bathroom, the sound of the water jet hitting the ceramic tub guiding her steps through the matchbox-sized apartment. The shower curtain is hunched in one side, and the confusion this time is greater than anything else recoiling in her lower body.
Clothes are scattered everywhere, the laundry hamper tipped over next to the tub. Kara has a pink t-shirt in her hands, occasionally dragging it over her naked abdomen. Somehow, it is not the strangest situation she has encountered when dealing with her.
"Someone at work told me they could probably do laundry on my abs," she says, "guess what? it works!”
Foam bubbles cover her body from head to toe, small groups of foam form asymmetrical patterns on her face and there is some of it dangerously close to her eyes, but her childlike excitement spills like honey onto Lena. Her best friend may be a little dumb of ass, but Lena’s in love, even if her first gray hairs will be baptized after her.
When her words settle, Lena’s back straightens on the bathroom doorway, her arms folded across her chest as she narrows her eyes at Kara. "Wait, who told you that?" she lisps, the words tight as they slip through clenched teeth.
"The new girl, she's nice. She's always complimenting me, hey, help me up?" Kara reaches out for her hand.
Lena grunts before offering her help, thinking about what else this mysterious girl may have told Kara about her body. She is thinking of ways to get her fired for being inappropriate in the workplace when her feet leave the ground, her body colliding against a brick wall in Kara's shape. Water quickly filters between their bodies, soaking Lena as she spits soapy water and glares at Kara.
The fifth time is undoubtedly her favorite, but it is a secret she will take to the grave.
The first nights of winter are cold, the icy blizzard biting her cheeks until they become the color of the roses in Kara's hand. They are waiting for Lena's driver to pull over in front of the restaurant they just left, Kara looking cozy in her long coat and pants that cover the whole expanse of her long legs, while Lena begs for Frank to park in front of them as soon as possible, trying to fight the tingling of her legs.
She can see Kara looking at her out of the corner of her eyes, her hands burning with the desire to shove them in Kara's coat pockets. But Lena didn’t want to give her the satisfaction of winning their latest argument.
"It's a little chilly tonight," Kara says, both knowing that the weather is indifferent to her.
"It's perfect for me.” Lena shivers, the numbness spreading from her forearms through her elbows and hands.
"Heard it's one of the coldest nights this month."
"Doesn't seem like it," she retorts, her teeth chattering.
Lena hears Kara sigh, but her eyes stay on the cars parading down the road. "Can I at least hold your hand?”
She grunts, but still extends her hand towards her, searching for Kara's until she meets her halfway. Her shoulders lose a little tension, clinging to the warmth of the offered limb.
Kara jolts, turning around to face Lena, her eyes sobering for the first time during the whole evening. "Your stubbornness was a little adorable, but you're freezing. I don't want my date to turn into a popsicle.”
"I told you this dress doesn't-"
"Match your coats, yes, yes, I heard. You look gorgeous, and there's nothing I'd like more than to watch you and your delighting dress for the rest of the night," Kara says, gesturing with her arms. "But look at you! You're turning blue."
"Frank won't be long.”
"That’s not enough. Come here." Kara opens her coat, making space between her and the garment, looking at Lena with inviting eyes. Lena refuses at first, but Kara looks too handsome and her torso too warm to decline the pacific offer.
The atmosphere is immediately different, the tension vanishes as the embrace sends tendrils of warm love and security throughout her body, tangling in her limbs like a tattoo. When Kara joins the ends of her coat, Lena locked in the nest of her warmth, Lena slips her hands under her blouse, feeling her abs shift against the icy touch.
"I can feel the cold in your hands," Kara confesses, her torso contracting to accommodate the new sensation.
"It's okay. Am I hot enough for you?"
"The hottest," Lena admits, emphasizing her point with hands caressing Kara's skin.
She shakes her head. "You know what I mean.”
"You are. Thank you."
"It was a good first date, don't you think?" Her voice is timid, and Lena has to stretch her head back to look her in the eyes.
It was. It was the best first date Lena has ever had, and it wasn't because of the food or the expensive bottle of wine they had shared. It's because of Kara, who was hiding behind a bouquet of flowers when Lena opened the door of her apartment at seven o'clock. Kara, who had blushed and lost her speech for the most part of a minute after seeing Lena, before letting her know that she was mesmerizing. Kara, who never let go of her hand and pulled out her chair for her in the restaurant, made the same awkward jokes and kept the conversation going, but the new layer of doubt that remained in her eyes showed her that she was just as nervous as she was.
Lena is on cloud nine, all thanks to the woman with clear eyes and a crooked smile who looks at her as if she were the answer to all her unresolved questions.
"The best," Lena answers, her smile widening as Kara places a delicate kiss on her forehead, arms wrapping around her waist.
"It's a bonus to be able to say I told you so, though.”
"I hate you.”
"I love you.”
Lena leans on the tip of her toes to give her a short kiss, a sigh ricocheting when her lips connect with Kara's. When she rests her head upon her chest again, Lena is delighted to hear the loud bang of her heartbeats.
"I love you too."