There’s a giant leading me to God knows where
I’ve got news, I’m going my way
Fighting, and I feel I’m getting somewhere
All is right, all is right.
From high atop the water tower on the very edge of town, a shadow sat, pushing up her glasses as they fell slightly down the bridge of her nose. Just below, an entire city stretched out toward the sea, the lights bleeding into it, which then bled into the horizon, into the very sky itself. Down by the boardwalk, someone was throwing away old bread and cotton candy while the gulls gulped them down with contented caws that got lodged in their noses. The smell of the freshly cut, end-of-summer lawns wafted through the night, perfuming the last night of summer break perfectly.
Long legs kicked in the night as she leaned back on her elbows and listened to the house down on Juniper Street with the old couple who put on records and let Mr. Johnny Cooltrane wail through the open windows as the screens exhaled with each note so that the porch filled with the sound of summer and mingled with the creak of the ceiling fan that did nothing but push around the warm water. They drank mint juleps and complained about the state of the world before the rocking chair sang along.
At her own home, she could hear the way her adoptive mother hummed to herself as she washed the dishes while her sister typed another email to their father. Up in the hill, in the gated world, a family fought, down on Main Street someone got angry and argued with a parking attendant. Just a few blocks away, a tiny voice prayed for good things and a new bike.
From her spot, her tiny throne, unbeknownst to all the living souls beneath, Kara looked up at the stars and breathed in her last few breaths of summer before the inevitable prison of school came to trap her once again, one final time.
She lasted as long as she could, listening and watching, until she heard the telltale noise of her mother finishing up and letting the dog out, the final steps of her routine. With a sigh, she stood and dusted off the dirt from her thighs before taking off with almost a crack in the air. She flew so high, she could see four towns over, see the mountains, see the lakes beyond them before breaking off and lazily gliding backwards toward her home.
The thing with growing, with really coming into her powers over the past few months, since the last round of holidays, was that Kara had never experienced power like this. Gifted as she’d always been, when her cousin warned her of what was to come, she almost didn’t believe him. And then she threw a tennis ball so far, it was never seen again one evening when taking Boomer to the dog park. And then she ripped the steering wheel off in a fit of road rage. And then she ran to Alaska in under an hour.
Unpredictable surges would happen, flare up, even, and then sometimes they would dissipate to nothing at all. Which was never that big of a deal, unless she was flying, as she was on her way home.
It wasn’t like a prop plane, running out of gas like on Indiana Jones, she realized as soon as it happened. There was no sputtering and no warning light flashing on the dashboard. Instead, there was just falling, graceless and messy, limbs flailing as she bit back swearing and tried to will it back.
And then there was a wall, a thick, hearty, brick and ivy kind of wall that she landed into back first and upside down, though she didn’t do the math until she realized she was laying in the rubble and lifted her head to survey the damage.
With a cough, dust and dirt tried to leave her lungs and dry throat as she took stock of her limbs and senses as best she could.
“Mom’s going to be so mad,” she sighed, letting her head drop so that she looked upside down at the hole.
In the distance she could hear the sound of a golf cart approaching, a radio signal that referenced an alarm being tripped at the Luthor residence. With a groan, Kara winced and tried to pick herself up, stumbling slightly in the rubble.
The hole was almost ten feet wide, decimating an entire section of the tall wall outside of the newly purchased home in the most illustrious and wealthy part of the city. Rubbing her hand along the back of her head, Kara tried to adjust her eyes, grateful that her glasses were only cockeyed and not lost. Through the gap, she looked up at the mansion in the distance and coughed a bit more as footsteps approached.
“I’m in so much trouble,” she realized again before taking off once more and skating by at a much lower altitude.
She hovered just above the treeline as the flashlights and security guards arrived, scratching their heads. Blue lights arrived just a few minutes later, and quickly Kara raced home with a fresh burst of energy.
Boomer woofed outside as she slid into her window and collapsed on the bed, breaking the frame once again.
“Another one!” Alex called over the gentle music Kara left on while she snuck out for just a bit.
“When do you go back to college?” Kara groaned, rolling over and stretching out the soreness of her crash.
She made a mental note to call her cousin and see if he had any solutions for these outages and surges while she adjusted to her new found powers. Balance. She just wanted balance. Normal, honest, simple balance. And a bed that didn’t break.
“You’re going to miss me when I’m gone.”
“Distance makes the heart grow fonder,” Kara reminded her before standing up and lifting the bed and box spring. “I think this one’s a goner.”
“Fifth frame this summer,” Alex nodded, crossing her arms, furrowing her brow, pursing her lips. “What happened to you?”
“Looks like it.”
“I hit a wall.” With a grunt, Kara tugged the mangled wood from her bed and stacked it in a pile before putting her bed back down as if it were nothing. “Don’t tell Mom.”
“You’re not supposed to be out there… flying,” Alex whispered, her eyes growing intense and angry and heavy. “What if someone saw you?”
“I know, I know,” Kara sighed and tugged her dirty shirt off before throwing it in the bin. “I just…” she paused and held her hands out. It was impossible to articulate, and her family loved her too much for her to make them think she did anything but love them as much, despite the ache that possessed her to do something… anything. “I feel like an animal at the zoo sometimes. I need just a few minutes to stretch my legs.”
“Kara.” It was soft and a warning at the same time. “I–”
“I’m sorry,” she interrupted. “I know I shouldn’t. I won’t.”
“I was going to say that I can’t imagine how that feels,” Alex confessed, sitting on the edge of the bed as her sister dug for a fresh shirt. “I want you to be happy, and safe. I just don’t know how to do both for you. If I did, I would, kid.”
“Hey, girls, I heard a noise,” their mother knocked softly and pressed open the door to her youngest’s room. “Another one, sweetie?”
“I didn’t mean to,” Kara offers quickly. “I just… flopped down.”
“Maybe we’ll just leave your bed like this for a while,” she smiled at her daughters.
Alex gave Kara a look, and she knew what she had to do, even without it.
“I also went out flying and hit a wall.”
It was the same voice that her sister had, and Kara felt the entire weight of it on her shoulders, which felt anything but capable of bearing the burden at the moment. She could lift a bus, toss a cement mixer the length of a football field, uproot an elm like a tornado, but those familial sighs were too much.
“I don’t know what happened,” Kara explained, her hands moving quickly as she slumped into her desk chair. “I thought puberty was done and that was miserable enough, but this super power puberty is literally the worst. I can feel this new kind of power, and then… nothing. It’s like growing pains.”
“You didn’t get hurt did you?” her mother fret.
The dog came in, oblivious to the moods, wagging his tail and nudging his favorite human’s hand in search of a treat or toy. Kara smiled to herself and ran her hand along his snout before he sat beside her and used her knee as a chin rest.
“No, but you should see the wall.”
“No one saw?”
“No one saw,” she promised.
“What kind of wall?”
“Mom,” Kara groaned and let her head tilt back in defeat before her sister laughed and threw a pillow at her. “It’s not funny.”
“Was it a building? A guard rail? Metal? Flimsy? I want an image,” her mother teased.
“It was a brick fence over at the Deerbrooke.”
“Ooohh, you broke an expensive wall,” Alex teased. “Probably super old, too.”
“I crashed from very high up into the Earth, and this is what you decide to latch onto?” Kara asked, relieved and slightly happier that she wasn’t in official trouble, just the personal kind that she held herself to constantly.
“Seems to be a habit you have,” her sister laughed, tossing another pillow at her.
“It’s okay, honey,” her mother cooed and kissed her forehead. “You’ll figure it out eventually.”
“Or tear down every wall between here and the ocean,” Alex tried to help, earning the same pillow thrown back at her.
“Leave your sister alone,” Eliza pushed her oldest from the room. “She has to think of a way to pay back the damage she caused.”
“Mom! It was on the Luthor’s property! They won’t even notice what it costs to rebuild!”
“What’s the rule?” her mother paused at the door.
“I break it, I buy it,” Kara repeated the familiar motto.
“Get some sleep. Tomorrow is your last first day of school, and you can’t be late.”
“I love you, too, honey.”
For a moment, Kara sat in the chair and looked at the pile of broken bed frame before turning her chair towards her laptop. Another night, another email to her father serving somewhere overseas, another veiled response about her ‘asthma’ acting up again. To be fair, Kara felt herself chuckle to herself as she told him that she hit a wall pretty hard with it.
She hit send and sat on her window ledge listening to the last night of summer. In the hall, Boomer spread out in the hall between the bedrooms, unsure of who needed him in the moment, and too tired to fight it. Alex kept packing to go back to school for her second year of med school, and that still made Kara sadder than she could admit. From downstairs, a gentle song emerged, faint and barely there, of her father’s favorites, that her mother played with a glass of wine as she read some research too late into the night.
But Kara could have guessed all of that without the gift of incredible ears. Now, she focused on the specific noise of a spot she became quite intimate with not twenty minutes prior. The cops and security guards were all puzzled and confused, at first assuming it to be a meteor or something, though nothing could be found. A man yelled and swore and said he paid too much money for these kind of shenanigans to be happening in a neighborhood like that, while a softer, gentler voice told him to calm down because of his heart. Still, fainter than that, another voice interrupted and asked if perhaps it was a crime directed at them, though they tried to assuage her fears with promises that no one could hurt them.
It hurt the worst that someone could think she was capable of pain. Never before had she so badly wanted to rush over there and tell them that, trust her, she was just incredibly clumsy, not incredibly powerful. The truth was, she was clumsy with her powers, with herself. She just wanted to not be the cause of fear for someone. That broke her heart.
With a heavy sigh, the window froze, her breath chilling it as she stood and rolled her eyes. Kara grabbed a towel from her bathroom and placed it on the ledge to catch the inevitable dripping before crawling into bed and thinking about her final year, and how she still had no idea who she was, and if anything, was somehow farther from who she thought she was supposed to be.
School and senior year brought about its own, intense kind of distraction, which was almost a nice reprieve from the summer and her own personal fight to master her body. The questions became about the future, giving her time to dwell on anything other than her own nagging thoughts. What came was the tests and college questions, the trying out for teams and the assembling a new kind of normal routine that included homework and a part time job and flying to see her sister on weekends when she could. If she made herself busy enough, Kara didn’t have to think too hard about home and how her mother would have had answers.
There were still moments. Still nights spent sneaking out and burning off the energy, of letting herself out of the tiny cage she put herself in to protect her family. Kara felt herself getting stronger, felt it all evening out, whereas before it didn’t seem to be part of her. Now it was as if she began to grow used to it, or at least, she was trying. She took to flying over the ocean, so when she crashed it just made one heck of a splash, and that was all.
And just as she thought she was fine, she crushed a lock in her hand, mangling it completely. A pair of green eyes met hers in the hall and Kara found herself yanking it completely from her locker. Just as soon, the moment was gone, and she bumbled slightly to herself, shoving the mangled metal in her pocket.
With a sigh, Kara leaned her head against the cool metal of her locker in the hall. She shook her head and blushed, mentally kicking herself. Her nerves were her enemy.
“Did you finish that paper yet?” Janey asked as Kara took her seat beside her friend.
Short and sturdy, she was primly dressed and more polished than anyone had a right to be at seventeen. Headstrong and passionate, pulled in every direction imaginable, she was a true friend, loyal and kind, protective and sassy, despite her small demeanor. To Kara, she was closest to a Jack Russell, perhaps. Tiny, but with a terrific bark, and better bite. High strung and possibly manic, if given the chance.
“I, um, I… almost,” Kara admitted, adjusting her glasses.
“I haven’t even started. It’s only October, and I’m already behind,” she complained, surveying her very precise agenda. “I’m never going to sleep again. I’m just going to work. Debate practice, volunteering, babysitting, softball practice, art project, that article on soccer–”
“Why do you do all of that stuff?”
“Because if I’m going to be the next Cat Grant, I have to start now.”
“What can I do to help?” Kara offered genuinely, eagerly, as she was always known to do for just about anyone.
Their math teacher finally stood after surveying the attendance log and making sure his class was there. Kara sat up a bit straighter.
“You could do the soccer story,” Janey whispered, handing over an article outline. “You can have the byline.”
“I don’t want your byline,” Kara sighed. “I have an article already.”
“I will love you forever.”
“I already know this.”
“Seriously. You’re my hero.”
“Anything to keep you from a nervous breakdown before Thanksgiving,” Kara chuckled and flipped through her notebook.
“Lunch is on me. Anything you want.”
“I’m going to regret this,” Janey shook her head and looked back toward the blackboard.
Kara played with her pencil and forgot about the broken lock, instead electing to dream of what her price for helping her friend would entail. She was thinking pizza. Six of them.
From high atop the water tower on the very edge of town, a shadow sat, pushing up her glasses as they fell slightly down the bridge of her nose. There was a breeze that lazily looped through the world as autumn fell and tucked itself atop the world. For just a moment, Kara allowed herself a bit of escape. Brain, fried from school at sitting placement exams, heart, lonely and missing her adoptive father and sister, she just needed a moment to see how vast things were, and how tiny she was comparatively.
Languid, she rested there, letting her eyes drift to the stars and her legs hang from the side of the water tower.
Not until a scream ripped out in the night, did Kara hop up and search for it, closing her eyes and listening before finding some hint of it. Without a thought, she bolted to a side street just a few seconds away where a woman laid on the ground bleeding. A man in a dark jacket and hat stood above her, yanking at her arms and legs, until Kara arrived and punched him so hard, he hit the dumpster opposite the alley with a tremendous clang. The gun went off as she came in contact with his jaw.
Slumped over, he could barely breathe as a figure stood over him, fumbling with her hood.
“Try to do anything like this again, and I won’t pull my punch,” Kara growled. “I’ll find you,” she promised, grabbing the collar of his shirt so her words aren’t missed.
The assailant could barely think straight, let alone make out her face, and instead, his head lulled to the side as he passed out.
“You’re going to be okay,” she finally offered, approaching the woman who couldn’t have been any older than Alex. The woman cowered slightly, pushing dirty hair from her face.
Kara kept her hood up, ducked, stayed under it, grateful to have some kind of protection from being recognized. The woman sputtered slightly as the stranger helped her stand.
“He… he… shot you,” she pointed at the hole in the sweatshirt.
“I’ll be fine. Are you okay?” she earns a nod. “Call the police,” Kara murmured, looking at the hole and covering it with her hand. “I have to go.”
The woman clung to her slightly, thanking her, sobbing, but Kara peeled herself away and ran toward the corner before taking off once more.
Barely able to breath after her little outburst, she didn’t move her hand until she was standing in her own bedroom. Afraid at what she would see, she held her hand on the hole and pulled off her hood. No blood followed, no pain came. Instead, all that she found was a bullet, smushed as if it had hit a steel beam. Held up, close to her eyes, Kara peered at it and lifted her shirt, running her hand over her stomach where nothing but a small, purple bruise formed, already paling. She ran her hand over it a few times, as if trying to remove a stain, and then looked at the bullet again in her palm.
“Golly,” Kara whispered.
Two days after her daring rescue, Kara saw the article in the city paper. Just a small little blurb about a foiled robbery and assault. The assailant kept saying a human tornado hit him, while the woman said it was an act of fate in a red hoodie, a gift from God, her guardian angel. Kara smiled at the description and took a deep breath as she folded the paper and looked out at the soccer field where the teams practiced in the October evening.
Two pizzas, six burgers, and the promise of a milkshake had her waiting around for a sports puff piece, by far, the least favorite of the beats to cover for the paper. But she truly was worried about Janey having a breakdown before Thanksgiving at the rate she was going, and even though her mom was still there, home felt empty and different with Alex and her father, not as fun to go home to being the last one left. Any distraction was a welcomed distraction.
“Danvers, here to cover the best looking athletes at Oceanside?” Jack asked, leaning against the railing of the bleachers. His grin was the devil, and Kara knew it.
The tormenter of her until she grew boobs and about six inches, Jack Thomas had pioneered pulling pigtails and making Kara’s life pure hell since seventh grade. He coined the nickname Manvers, as well as deciding that she shed that moniker Junior year and should marry him to complete the transformation into model. It was an abrupt switch, one that Kara dreamt of as a freshman, and now that she had the attention of the quarterback, she missed being invisible.
“I actually am,” Kara smiled. “The girls’ soccer team. They might actually win a championship this year. What are you guys? Two and three?”
“Listen, whenever you want to finish up that exclusive,” he stood straighter, unbothered by her remarks. A wink came and she gagged before standing and making her way down the bleachers.
Something about stopping a bullet made her a new person, and she had an interview to finish so her friend could put off having an aneurism.
“You look really good, Kara,” Jack offered, gentler as his friends backed off slightly toward their practice. “Do you have a date to the dance next week?”
“Thank you, and no,” she blushed despite herself. “I’m probably going to visit my sister anyway.”
“Well, if not,” he offered politely. “I’ll be there.”
“Thank you, I… um… I should go.”
Kara shouldered her bag and tossed the newspaper in the trash before adjusting her glasses slightly. He ran his hand through his hair, tugging at its ends so that it defied gravity and gave her a smile that tested her resolve.
“See ya, Kara.”
It took a lot of effort to be exceptionally average. Kara had just enough friends to never be alone, her grades were just well enough to be considered smart, but not too smart. Her looks, she tried to balance out with glasses and conservatively dressing. She did a few activities, involved herself just slightly enough. It was a full time job being herself.
Being exceptionally average took a turn when she approached the sideline at the end of practice and introduced herself to the coach, who then called over a few players.
The pencil snapped in Kara’s hand when she saw those green eyes again, this time attached to an entire face and smile and sweaty, short shorts wearing soccer player. She was anything but average.
“I, uh, must have… it… I have another,” Kara supplied quickly.
“If you’re uncomfortable because I’m a…Luthor…” she pulled her shirt up and wiped her face. Kara gulped and felt her heartbeat through her chest. She looked down just to make sure it was still there and not visibly palpitating at the sign of such pale and perfect skin attached to hips and those…
“I’m sorry, that’s… no. Can I start over?” the reporter shook her head, furrowing and decidedly looking nowhere at all but her hands and the notebook they contained after tugging a pen from her pocket. “I’m Kara Danvers.”
“Lena Luthor,” she shook the hand that was held out to her. Kara’s mouth was dry and her brain was in overdrive. Too many smells distracted her, too many noises, she was stuck in overload.
“I’m just…” It lasted too long, the handshake, but Lena was good-natured enough not to notice, or at least pretend she didn’t as Kara snatched her hand away quickly and tapped her pen against the notebook. “I just have a few questions, for an upcoming article about the rest of the season, if that’s alright?”
“Okay. Here it goes,” Kara willed herself to say words that made sense.
The soccer player smiled politely and took a seat on the bench as the bustle of players leaving for the day swelled around them. She tugged her socks down and tried not to stare too much at the awkward and slightly adorable reporter who pushed up her glasses as they slipped slightly with the movements of explaining.
“I’m sorry, I didn’t catch the question,” Lena asked, shoving things into her bag.
“I just… I was wondering. Just. Where you came from? You lead the team in…” Lena didn’t mean to be, but she was endeared by the furrowed brow and the flipping of pages which denoted research. “Assists and penalty shots. We were fourth last year, and now we’re sitting in first, going into an easy second half. You’ve, you’ve, you’ve made an impact.”
“I came into a very good team,” the striker disagreed politely. “It’s the team. We’ve been clicking well, and working hard.”
“But you arrived this year?”
“We moved here from Smallville.”
“Senior year? That must stink.”
“Less of a commute for my dad. He wants to set up his west coast office, and it doesn’t really matter. A place is a place.”
“How are you enjoying it?” Kara pressed, wanting to hear more of her.
“It’s not so bad. I have just a few classes here in the afternoon. In the morning I take classes at the University downtown.”
“Golly, you must be smart.” The reporter earned a nod and smile.
“You haven’t written anything down,” Lena nudged her chin at the notebook with a good-natured smile
“Right,” Kara realized, looking down at her non-existent notes. “Sorry. I just. I got distracted. I guess.”
The soccer player grabbed her bag and slung it over her shoulder before waving a goodbye to a few of the remaining players.
“You’re cute,” she smirked. “Anyway we can finish this on the way to my car? I have some homework to finish at home.”
“I’m cu-… no, I’m… what? No,” Kara stammered and shook her head quite seriously. “I’m sorry. I have just a few more. I’ll stay on track.”
“I like the tangent. I just… I didn’t allot time for it. I would have,” Lena offered quickly, amending her words, “If I had known it were you.”
The reporter tried to ignore the words, distracted with the implications and the small idea that perhaps this soccer player was flirting with her, and so very well, and so very soon after meeting her. Instead, as they made their way to the parking lot, Kara carefully went through her pre-arranged questions, taking notes as they slowly walked. It wasn’t many, but she wished she’d had more prepared.
“Thanks a lot. I don’t usually write sports stuff. I tried to cover it all,” Kara murmured as she shoved her notebook in her bag.
“I think it went alright.”
“Yeah?” she practically glowed. “Good.”
Hanging against the car to her door, Lena leaned her chin on it and stared at the blue-eyed stranger that brightened her day quite unexpectedly.
“We have a game on Tuesday. If you want to come for more notes or another article,” she offered, unsure why, knowing only that she very much wanted to see her again.
“I don’t usually cover sports, just helping out a friend.”
“Oh,” the soccer player nodded, oddly disappointed. “Right.”
“But I’ve never been to a game, so maybe I’ll come.”
“I’m sure I’ll see you around, even if you don’t make it.”
“Definitely,” Kara smiled brightly.
Lena was certain she was the sun.
Perched in her normal spot, well after Eliza fell asleep, Kara surveyed the city and ate her second burger of the night, waiting for something to happen. She could stop a bullet. That was something. She could put out a fire, she learned that a few nights ago. She could punch people very hard and not kill them. Everything was a test, and since she began to flex her newly minted powers, she found that they were easier to control, less haywire, less bulky, more refined.
Happily, Kara surveyed her city, eating her snack, and waiting to be a hero like her cousin. Clark made her promise to never use her powers unless it was absolutely necessary. The common good seemed necessary, or so she told herself. If Clark could save a school bus and keep a plane from crashing, surely Kara could stop a fire and armed robbery. They weren’t that big of a deal.
Her pocket buzzed, and Kara nearly dropped her phone from that height getting it out so quickly. There was only one person who would text her so late, the only other night owl in her world.
Hey, you up? Lena texted.
Just barely, Kara lied.
Is it alright if we work on your science project over here on Thursday? I have to be here when the caterers arrive, or the world will end, according to my mother.
Kara chuckled to herself and rolled her eyes at the question.
Sure. No biggie. You’re the one helping me, remember?
Oh, yeah. Right! Meeting at my house then, chump.
After the article, Kara somehow found herself tagging along with Janey to the game. And when it was over, she didn’t think a certain green-eyed girl would wave happily and invite them both to a tiny party thrown by one of the captains. And she definitely didn’t think that she would have fun, talking and playing games with Lena. It was a new kind of friendship, and it felt good and honest. Kara had acquaintances, not friend-friends.
You’re so good to me, Luthor. Get some sleep!
The sound of screeching tires reached her ears, and shoving her phone in her pocket, Kara tugged down the ski mask and put up her hood before taking off toward the sound on the highway behind her.
By the time she made it home, tugging off the mask and sweatshirt, her shoulders aching with the strain they’d just been under, Kara added another thing to the list of things she can do: stop an out of control, speeding tractor trailer.
The Luthor estate was probably the biggest house she’d ever seen in her life. Kara grew up comfortable, well enough off, never wanting anything. Back home, she was noble, she lived a life of fancy and void of strife. But the Luthor estate was more akin to the castles Kara remembered being enchanted with when the Danvers travelled through Europe sophomore summer. Nestled above the flat expanse of the city, tucked against the gentle rolling hills, beneath tall, waving Spruce trees, the house was quiet and terrifying.
The front yard and driveway was full of people in white coats, carrying in equipment and food, setting up tents and lights. It was a lot of activity to try to figure out.
It took Kara a minute to ring the bell. Standing on the steps to the large house, she felt very unsure how a girl like Lena could want to be friends with her. Lena was already taking mostly college classes. Lena, who scored a lot of soccer goals. Lena, the one who worked in the mailroom of the giant conglomerate her family owned. Lena, who didn’t bat an eye when Kara ate every single snack when they hung out. Lena, who had eyes that were–
“Kara! I thought I heard you,” that voice greeted her. “Did you find it okay?”
“Yeah, not a problem,” she offered quickly, adjusting her bag.
“Sorry all of this is happening,” she mentioned, gesturing to the staff. “My mom is hosting her first fundraiser, and she’s a little scatterbrained. Must make a good impression, save the world, and so on. Come on in.”
“It’s really not a big deal. If anything, I feel like I’m interrupting you helping. I really… we can do this… like… we don’t have to do it today.”
“You’re actually saving me,” Lena stopped her, interrupting a familiar start of a ramble, which she usually let go on a little longer, enjoying the way Kara grew nervous. “I’d have to help a lot more with all this junk.”
“You don’t like it?”
Kara followed Lena through the hall, past a lot of rooms with expensive looking furniture and flowers in every room. Tables with dark blue cloths were littering the landscape of each, but Kara could see the lived in parts before Lena had her follow up a large set of stairs.
“I’ve been a Luthor since I was five, I’ve done my share of dressing up and listening to the same stuffy stories and having to behave.”
“Since you were…” Kara furrowed and followed up the steps, her feet slowing as she thought.
“You might be the only person in Midvale to not google me,” Lena chuckled. “I’m adopted.”
“Oh! Oh, okay. Oh.”
“Come on. Are you hungry? I can call down to have some snacks brought up.”
“I’m always hungry,” Kara grinned before following Lena into a room that led into what felt like another living room.
“Just give me a second. Make yourself comfortable.”
For a moment, Lena smiled and disappeared into another room. Kara heard her pick up a phone and went about making herself comfortable in the form of surveying all she could. Opposite the door, giant windows covered the entire wall, looking out onto the back yard, all tall trees and shadows and pool. The door was closed that led out onto a balcony. The view was spectacular, but didn’t tell her enough.
Kara moved to the bookshelves, noting the heavy lean toward science and textbooks, though a few poetry books were thrown in for good measure, to really throw her off. Pictures in frames ranged from formal events with the entire Luthor clan, to silly candids and pictures with what Kara were sure were friends. Her favorite was on the small desk behind a couch, one of a young, knobby-kneed Lena with a baseball hat on, perched atop her father’s shoulders while a preteen boy waved a foam finger, and a beautiful woman hung on her husband’s arm.
“That was my first birthday with Luthor as my last name,” Lena murmured, leaning against the door, making Kara drop the frame back on the desk. “Dad just bought the National City Hawks. Me and Lex would go to every game in the summer.”
“Sorry. I didn’t– I wasn’t trying to. I didn’t,” Kara stammered and fumbled with putting it back where she found it.
“It’s fine,” her friend promised, leaning on the back of the chair there. “I think I look quite adorable in that.”
“Yeah, definitely,” she breathed, looking at it again before blushing. “Is it weird, having a new last name?”
“I don’t think I ever had a different one,” Lena shrugged and grabbed a few books before taking a seat on the couch. “It’s kind of an honor. I remember when it was official, my mom hugged me so tight, she always wanted a daughter. And Lionel, he was harder to crack. He tucked me in one night, and told me I was a Luthor now, and that meant family above all else. I had responsibilities and I was going to change the world. Mind you, I was six when it became official,” Lena chuckled and leaned back as Kara joined her. “He said the name gave me power, only when I gave power to the name. Ever since then, he’s been my daddy. A push over. Don’t tell him I told you though.”
“Wow,” Kara sighed, leaning closer as she listened to the story.
“It’s a good name. I have a good life. A good family.”
“I feel the same, I just… never was able to put it in words.”
“What do you mean?”
“I’m adopted too.”
“It’s interesting, isn’t it? Being chosen?”
“Do you remember your real family?”
“This is the only family I’ve ever known. They are my real family.”
“I’m sorry, I didn’t mean–”
“I understand, it’s fine.”
“I guess it’s a little different. I was eight when it happened. I still remember my family, my entire life before I became Danvers.”
“I can’t imagine.”
Something about Lena’s intense eyes, the way she tucked herself up on the couch and listened to Kara’s words, truly digested them. In just twenty minutes of being in her home, Kara confessed things she’d never said to anyone, and it was so easy, it was disarming. She looked away, unable to hold a look like that and cleared her throat before opening her bag and digging out a notebook and book.
“Sorry, we should get started. I always seem to be on a tangent with you.”
“Kara, that’s called being friends,” Lena laughed, a genuine, relieved kind of laugh that was infectious.
“I mean, I don’t have many I consider close, but yeah, I think this is how it goes.”
“Right, yeah. Of course.”
Outside, the sun began to set and the little string lights created an entire universe full of new constellations throughout the backyard. Lena was smart, too smart, Kara realized quickly, as she helped her with physics calculations. It seemed as if she could do them in her head, but was patient enough to be humble about it. Never patronizing, always ready to make Kara laugh, it was the best way to learn earth physics, which seemed like Greek compared to her home planet’s.
Snacks came in waves, which Kara was grateful. Her mother would be surprised that she only ate three platefuls for dinner. Various plates mingled with open books and notes on the coffee table.
“Lena, honey,” a voice called before entering the room. “I can’t decide.”
Lillian Luthor was beautiful. Dark, chestnut hair flowed to bare shoulders. Her jaw was slender, her features slender, though not as sharp as kara was certain they could have been, as if she worked hard to avoid the natural pitfalls of anger. She walked into the room staring at different earrings in her palms. A set of pearls sat against the long stretch of neck.
“Oh, hello,” she finally looked up and saw that her daughter was not alone, or anywhere close to ready. “I’m sorry, I forgot you were having a friend over. It’s so rare. We tend to embarrass our daughter.”
“Mom, this is Kara,” Lena shook her head and groaned slightly.
“Kara Danvers, ma’am,” she popped up and held out her hand quickly. “It’s a pleasure to meet you.”
“Any relation to Eliza Danvers?” the mother took her hand and shook it warmy, sizing her up, critical without being, making Kara push up her glasses and look back at Lena for assurance.
“She’s my mother.”
“How is she? I used to be on the board of the Children’s Hospital with her back in National City, way, way, way back, well before either of you were born.”
“She’s doing well. She works at Tora doing medical research.”
“Wow, Eliza Danvers,” she hummed, smiling warmly. “It’s been ages. You’ll tell her I said hello, won’t you?”
“I’ll have to call on her one of these days.”
“I’m sure she would love that.”
“Mom, didn’t you have to finish helping the band find the right place to set up or something?” Lena suggested.
“Which one?” she asked, holding up both earrings, alternating until her daughter picked. “Thank you.”
“We were just finishing up.”
“Lily! Lil, I can’t figure out which tie won’t clash with you!” Another voice echoed down the hall, deep and baritone. Kara heard Lena sigh and shake her head.
“I’m sorry. My parents can usually dress themselves without so much uproar,” she promised.
“I know you like the red, but I think this green one, Lena got me–”
“Lionel, please, Lena has a friend over.”
“Right,” he looked up slowly, slightly disinterested. “But which tie. You’ll end up looking at the pictures and complaining if I choose the wrong one, and I’ll hear about it for the next month.”
“Lionel Luthor,” he stuck his hand out, which Kara took eagerly, shaking it too hard. “Pleasure to meet you.”
“This is Eliza’s little girl,” his wife offered.
“Danvers,” Kara interjected. “I’m Kara.”
“I’m sorry, we’re just not accustomed to Lena bringing friends over very often. It’s a little new to us,” he smiled.
“I bring people over,” his daughter argued.
“She’s embarrassed of us,” he informed Kara as his wife picked his tie and threw it around his neck, beginning to tie it for him. “I suppose we’re doing something right then.” He grinned and winked at his daughter.
“We were just finishing up,” she promised. “I’ll be ready quick.”
“Lena was tutoring me. She’s a lifesaver.”
“I would hope so, she’s been doing those equations since she was ten,” the father bragged. “Don’t be a stranger, Kara. You’re always welcome.”
“Come on, let’s let them finish up,” Lillian smoothed her husband’s shirt and jacket. “Kara, we mean it. Don’t be a stranger, and be sure to tell your mother I’ll be stopping by.”
“You look beautiful,” Lionel whispered as he was tugged from the room.
“Sorry about them,” Lena smiled and shook her head. “They mean well.”
“Danvers, you’re the one that wrote that article in the school paper about Lena,” Lionel remembered, stopping at the door.
“I liked it. Have a copy hanging at the office.”
“Dad,” Lena groaned, drawing it out until he relented and smiled. “I’ll be down in a bit.”
“They’re nice,” Kara supplied.
“I’ll keep them.”
With a smile, they went about cleaning up, Kara apologizing profusely for eating all of the snacks, with Lena dismissing it. Most of all, Kara could only think about how she felt like a friend who got to know Lena Luthor.
Walking down the steps, the crowds in fancy dressed already started to arrive. Grossly underdressed, Kara tried not to gape too much. Instead, at the door, she caught herself a glimpse of Mr. and Mrs. Luthor, laughing and standing very close. The look he gave her was nothing short of utter devotion, and the smile she reserved for him, even just in that instant, was all of her joy.
“You’ll get home okay?” Lena worried, observing the dark that settled. “I can have Calvin drive you if you’d like. No trouble.”
“I’ll be alright,” she said, adjusting her bag. “Thanks for the help.”
With a smile, Kara took a step and paused, turning back on her heel.
“Do you want to hang out tomorrow? My mom is going to be leaving for a conference.”
“Maybe you’d want to come over and help us eat some of these post-party leftovers?”
“Yeah, I can probably help you out with that,” Kara chuckled, squinting against the light. She watched Lena put her hands in her back pockets.
“Movies and leftovers. I’ll tell my parents.”
“See you tomorrow, Kara. Text me when you get home, okay?”
“Yes ma’am,” she rolled her eyes and she loped down the steps and into the driveway.
From atop the steps, Lena leaned against the door and watched her friend with a smile on her lips. She’d been warned often to make sure she chose good people to surround herself, because her name came with people having ulterior motives. For the first time in a long time, the youngest Luthor felt as if she’d picked well.
Never before had Lena been able to say, with such confidence and happiness, that her life was perfect. It was the best year of her life, and it was only just starting. Fresh from her holiday abroad with her family, as soon as they landed on their private airfield, Lena pulled out her phone and texted her friend to let her know she’d arrived.
Come over now! I have great news and cookies!! Kara practically squealed through text.
With a small smile, Lena relaxed in her chair as they taxied to the gate. New school, state soccer champ, best friend, great family, perfect holiday skiing the Alps, internship at her father’s company, accepted to her dream school… the list was one that she never thought she’d ever have.
Not that her life wasn’t already perfect by other’s standards. Perfect didn’t lead to happiness, she’d learned slowly. In fact, it was usually messy and free and unexpected that led to that permanent smile. That was what Kara was teaching her.
“We should have dinner to celebrate the news,” Lionel beamed as he scrolled through his own phone. “Early admissions to your family’s alma mater is something worth celebrating. Where would you like to go, princess?”
Every Luthor since the beginning of time had gone to Kingsmont. When she got the email, Lena felt the weight lifted off her shoulders. Not a disappointment, flashed in front of her eyes as she read the words congratulating her on admission.
“Can we go tomorrow?” she ventured.
“She’s been gone from her friends for three weeks, and forced to spend time with her family,” Lillian interpreted for her husband, giving her daughter a nod. “Let the girl go have fun.”
“But it’s Kingsmont. She’s a Scottie now. I’ve already ordered new colors and shirts and scarves and pennants for the family. I got one of those ugly stickers for the car that says Proud Kingsmont Dad.”
“And she’ll still be going there tomorrow.”
“Please, Daddy?” Lena subtly pouted, knowing between her and her mother, he was outgunned.
A look of frustrated defeat, followed by amused acceptance played across Lionel’s face as he looked between the two women of his life. He shook his head and chuckled before relenting.
“Fine. I’ll have Lynn set up something for the three of us tomorrow night. Maybe Franco’s?”
“Perfect. Thank you, Daddy,” Lena hopped up as the plane stopped and the door opened. She kissed his cheek and hugged her mother.
“Don’t stay out too late,” Lillian suggested as she earned a hug as well. “It’s been a long day.”
“Tell Kara we said hello.”
In a second, Lena was down the steps and taking the car while her parents elected to wait for another. She was practically giddy by the time she pulled up to the now familiar Danver’s residence.
“Thanks, Cal. I’ll call you later.”
“Tell Ms. Danvers I said hello,” he smiled, tipping his hat as she closed the door.
Before she made it a step inside the yard, just as the gate was shutting, arms were wrapped around her neck, and it felt as if a boulder had knocked into her side. It was a familiar feeling of a big, floppy puppy that was her friend.
“It’s been too long,” Kara squealed, hugging her tightly. “I missed you. No more whisking off to Europe.”
“I’ll do my best,” Lena laughed.
It wasn’t that she was unaccustomed to hugs and such, but the degree to which Kara latched onto her was new and not entirely unwelcome.
“You have to tell me everything, and I have so much to tell you,” she began to rattle as she tugged Lena toward the house.
“Let her breathe, Kara,” her mother chided as she finished pulling something from the oven. “Hello, Lena.”
“Mrs. Danvers,” she nodded. “Happy belated Holidays.”
“Will you be joining us for dinner? I’ve made plenty.”
“Yes,” Kara answered for her.
“I don’t want to impose…”
“You’re not. We’ll be down in a bit, Mom,” her friend offered quickly, practically sprinting up the stairs. “I can’t believe you’re back. It felt like years.”
“Did you get the chocolate I sent?” Lena asked as she flopped down on Kara’s bed.
The room was not new to her. Lena grew to know it well, felt comfortable in it, just as Kara felt in her own home, grabbing snacks at will from the fridge, driving the chef’s crazy.
“Yeah, I think my mom and sister actually got more than me.”
“What!? How?” she pretended to gasp at the news.
“I may be quick, but when it comes to chocolate, they rival even me.”
“Tell me everything I missed.”
It was all the prompting Kara needed. She went through the holiday, spending time with her sister, the string of vigilante incidents happening in the city, how she got a new laptop for her birthday. It all came out so fast, Lena didn’t have time to ask questions, but she loved watching Kara talk like that. Someone so good and kind and happy, they were just… just… they were the sun, she thought again, soaking it in as best she could.
Exhausted, she watched Kara lay down on her bed and stare at the ceiling, practically vibrating with excitement. Lena propped herself up on her elbow and laid beside her friend. She felt the soft smile on her own lips, the jittery feeling of her own stomach, that felt as if it was lined with sparklers, all going off at one time.
And when blue eyes turned to her own, she couldn’t help but smile.
The sparklers and butterflies soon turned painful, agitated and ornery as Kara told her about how Jack kissed her on New Year’s Eve, and how they’d been hanging out. Like a Luthor, Lena knew how to have a proper poker face, and pretended to smile for her friend.
“And, I just got the email today,” Kara sat up quickly. “I got into National University!”
“I got into Kingsmont!” Lena yelped in return. “Congratulations!”
A second later, Kara was hugging her tightly again, her hot breath against Lena’s neck. She felt the weight of her friend settle atop her and Lena closed her eyes, memorizing it all.
“We’re going to be in the same city, just a subway ride across it! This is great,” Kara beamed as she pulled away. “I mean, if you want.”
“Of course I want,” her friend argued. “I think you’re one of my truest friends I’ve ever had. You’re very important, Kara.”
“I’m… I’m, impor– I mean. You, too,” she nodded, serious and forceful with her words. Lena tucked a stray bit of hair behind her ear and Kara felt herself blush. She chanced a look at her lips and it was a mistake. Friends. “I bet your dad was over the moon,” Kara offered, sitting up and pulling away.
“He bought the whole campus store, I think,” Lena laughed, closing her eyes and remaining on the bed, shaking her head slightly.
“You’ll have to get me something, so I can rep it a little, too.”
“Kara, honey! Dinner!” Eliza’s voice wafted up the stairs.
“I almost forgot the best news,” Kara smiled again as she pulled Lena quite easily from the bed. “Speaking of dads, mine called on Christmas.”
“Yeah,” she sighed. “He thinks he’ll be home by June.”
“Seems we’re both ready to have an amazing year.”
“Let’s… can we just…” Kara paused at the door and turned to face her friend before she reached out and hugged Lena again.
Arms slowly wrapping around Kara’s broad shoulders, she felt her inhale and hold it for a moment. Strong biceps held her tightly. Lena all but melted right there on that spot. She would have given her entire inheritance to keep that moment forever.
“Everything is perfect right at this moment,” the blonde explained. She hovered a few inches higher, taller than Lena. It was easy to hug her neck, to hide in her hair. “I don’t want to forget it.”
“It’s only going to get better,” Lena promised.
The butterflies came back, and Lena cursed them, buried them, deep, deep, deep down. It was a selfish thing.