Kara leans back. It's the perfect kind of Tuesday morning for a ride the long way to work. Still summer, warm enough for shirtsleeves and her lightest trousers but cool enough that the early morning air has the beginnings of autumn bite to it. She shifts her weight to her toes and her longboard curves just the right amount, carving a gentle diagonal slope across the path. She shifts again, back to her heels, and it curves back around. It's not quite surfing but it's close, the back-and-forth that makes her feel like she's riding the asphalt like a wave.
She tucks her hands into the sleeves of her coat; it's chillier than she expected this morning and her jacket is supremely necessary. A gust of wind whips across the seaside path, cold enough to make her shoulders rise against it and forceful enough to slow her board. Kara grins into it. She needed this. Her office job, the desk and the computer and the slow, demanding process of editing articles, collating sources and distilling everything into one cohesive story, it's - she likes it. She does. She's doing important work and she's good at it, great at it even. But there's something about sitting still for that long, focusing and being put together and business casual that makes her feel like she's going to crawl out of her own skin if she does it for too long.
Out here, with the wind in her hair and her board underneath her, she feels free.
Kara's hands find her trouser pockets. She's feeling confident, and she needs to warm her fingertips anyway. The ocean is beautiful, this early in the morning. The gentle murmur of the waves against the shore is a constant undertone, blended with the sounds of the sea birds waking up, screaming at each other over breakfast. She watches as a pelican soars overhead and starts its dive into the water. It's beautiful.
Suddenly, the world is tilting. Her board isn't underneath her anymore, her chest is scalding hot and there's a woman in front of her and wrapped around her and they're both on the ground, the woman flat on her back and Kara on top of her.
The heat on her chest is, she realizes, the contents of a freshly-brewed vanilla latte. Extra vanilla, judging from the smell of it, smeared all across her front and dripping down towards her trousers. "Shoot," Kara says. "Oh my goodness. Oh gosh, oh, I'm so sorry I'm - are you okay?"
Kara's brain is doing too many things at once. She looks up, spots her board where it's come to a controlled stop underneath a shrub. Her shirt is - toast, but her jacket is foam-free for the moment and it was expensive; she shrugs out of it and holds it at arms-length while she reaches out to help the woman that she's definitely just mowed down. "Fuck," the woman hisses. "Fuck fuck fuck me, I liked this skirt."
She takes Kara's arm as she swears, grips at Kara's elbow and allows herself to be pulled upright. "Oh," Kara says. "Oh, wow, I'm so sorry."
The other woman's outfit is - probably nothing some very aggressive dry cleaning can't fix, but definitely not wearable today. There's latte foam smeared into her silk blouse and down her skirt, spread out in a sort of coffee art ink blot that happens to be the exact size and shape of Kara's front. It makes Kara's cheeks flare red-hot with embarrassment and at the same time, reminds her of the vanilla-milk stain spreading across her own shirt. She releases the other woman's arm and starts unbuttoning her dress shirt, holding it out in front of herself to keep the mess from seeping through to the tank top underneath.
The other woman takes a deep, sharp breath. "What were you even thinking? If you can't ride that thing properly you shouldn't be out here at all, you idiots and your skateboards are a menace."
"I'm sorry," Kara says. She wants to fill in the blanks, wants to say there was a pelican, did you know they used to be endangered but this woman doesn't seem like she'll care and this doesn't seem like the moment.
(They were endangered though, and their nesting grounds are an important California habitat that requires deliberate conservation and her water bottle has a sticker on it from a fundraising campaign she donated to a few years back. Seeing one on her ride to work always feels lucky, somehow.)
"I'm so sorry, I was just - I didn't see you. Are you alright?"
The woman rolls her eyes, brushes a her hair out of her eyes. There's road rash on her palms; the beautiful softness of them now pink and raw and oh god, Kara's such an asshole. She's going to jail. She's going to dumb idiot skateboarder jail and she's going to deserve it. "I'm fine," she says. She rolls her shoulders back and it somehow gives her the air of being someone very, very important and extremely put together. "But now I don't have a coffee to drink, and I'm going to be late for a meeting at my new job, since I'll obviously have to change to deal with -" here she gestures, a sweeping hand indicating her whole front and Kara notices how beautifully long her fingers are. "- this."
"Let me make it up to you?" Kara says. "I'd love to get you a new coffee, since I ruined the first one. And I can cover your drycleaning."
The other woman looks Kara up and down. It's then that it really occurs to Kara that she's wearing her work pants - wool, gentle tweed, sensible - and a white tank top and her brightest, most highlighter-pink bra with a cooling wet patch across the stomach and basically nothing else. Kara's palms feel warm; she looks down and notices the pink bloom of matching road rash. "Fine," the woman says. She reaches into her coat pocket and produces a business card, delicate black type on creamy, plush-feeling cardstock. Lena Luthor, that's who Kara's just mashed into the pavement.
"Kara," Kara says, tucking the business card into her back pocket. "Is me. I'm, um. Kara Danvers."
Lena's eyebrow lifts, critical. "I'd say nice to meet you, but - " Another gesture. "- I'm not sure that applies."
Kara feels herself blush. "Just a second," she says. She walks over to the shrub, shrugs her coat on over her tank top and picks up her board. Lena's other eyebrow lifts to join the judgemental one. "I'll carry it, I promise."
"Acceptable," Lena says. She holds her hand out, indicates the wet button-down in Kara's free hand. "Give me that, I can get it cleaned with my clothes."
"Oh," Kara says. She finds herself obeying, handing over her favourite navy blue work shirt to a stranger who definitely, definitely doesn't like her and will probably put it in the dryer, on purpose. "Thanks."
Lena shrugs. "I'm a Luthor, not a monster," she says.
Kara nods, as if she knows what that means. "Of course."
It turns out, what Lena means is that she works with Kara now.
Kara slinks into work ten minutes late with her t-shirt still damp and gently coffee-stained. If the AC is cranked high enough there's a chance that she can get away with just wearing her coat all day, hopefully-probably-maybe. Today is mostly copy-editing, no interviews and only one meeting that gets cancelled before Kara even gets in to work: the perfect excuse to hide in her cubicle like a little word-goblin and hope that nobody notices the coffee-stains.
(Also: the scuff on the toe of her shoe; the way she keeps touching her right knee because the landing left her clothes intact but it left her with a massive bruise that she can almost feel blooming bright purple as she works.)
Someone comes by, halfway through her morning. Kara's in the middle of working, hitting deep focus as she pores through her most recent article. It's a surgical strike; her editor has started giving her a daily comma quota and she needs to find at least three to remove before her deadline or she'll get another earful.
"Kara," someone says, their voice warm and deep and it pulls Kara out of her work; that can only belong to James. "I want to introduce you to our new CEO; today's her first day. Kara, this is Lena Luthor. Ms. Luthor, this is Kara Danvers, one of our best reporters."
She looks up. James is there, and so is the woman she absolutely destroyed on her skateboard this morning and when their eyes meet Lena shifts from pleasant and businesslike to open-mouthed surprise. She doesn't seem like she's the kind of person who ever has trouble knowing what to say, but for a moment she's speechless. "You," Kara says.
"You," Lena manages, her tone inflicting judgement in a way that Kara's did not.
"Did I miss something?" James asks.
"We, um," Kara manages. "We met. This morning."
The extra beat gives Lena some time to collect herself. When she speaks again it's controlled, absolutely professional. "Kara is the reason I was running a bit late this morning," she says. "Nice to properly meet you, Ms. Danvers."
She extends her hand. Her manicure is chipped and her palm is still pink; it looks like it hurts. Kara suppresses the urge to wince in sympathy as she reaches out to complete the handshake. "Nice to meet you as well, Ms. Luthor."