There’s a lot to learn about earth, Kara realizes when she first lives with the Danvers. There are many customs, things that humans do, that she’d been unaccustomed to--they just didn’t have an equivalent on Krypton. For instance, holidays: there are a lot of them. The Danvers are Jewish, Eliza explains to her one evening in early October, but there are many different ways to communicate your faith on this planet, all of them completely alien to Kara. There are large trees festooned with lights, menorahs, baskets full of eggs, and huge turkeys that you eat over politically charged conversations with your extended family. If you live in America, you let off fireworks on the 4th of July. If you live in Canada, it’s the 1st. When people say Merry Christmas to you, even if you don’t celebrate Christmas, you smile politely.
It's just what humans do.
And then there are the other things, the more complicated things, matters of decorum and body language. Humans on earth hug their friends, not just their close relatives, and they do it sometimes several times a day. In some cultures, they kiss on the cheek or the mouth, even if they aren’t each other’s partners. They speak in complicated, figurative language to describe simple things--Alex calls them idioms, like, “it’s raining cats and dogs” or, “you’re barking up the wrong tree”. When you love somebody sometimes you hold hands, or share meals or imbibe drinks together, often aided by candlelight. Courting a partner, Alex explains to her, involves texting many times a day, things like hey :) and u up?. Sometimes you give them gifts, or compliment them on their outfit, and you learn the things that they like and try to cultivate an interest in those things too. Alex tells her that sweaty palms and inability to speak is a natural part of this process.
Kara loves it, every weird second of it. She loves the holidays and she loves hugging and texting and calling pertinent political issues a hot potato. She loves kissing people she’s not married to and attending synagogue and finding out weird facts about earth plants like that succulents blush when you’re giving them just the right about of care and attention. Most importantly, she loves her friends. Alex told her, all those moons ago, that courting friends was similar to finding a partner but also different; there was no kissing involved, usually, or sex. But in order to get close to people you would do kind things for them, like buy them coffee, and then you’d share things about yourself and they’d share things about themselves, and hopefully you have compatable things.
At 26, Kara’s 13th year on earth, there is nobody who she would like to cultivate closeness with more than Lena Luthor. She’s finding it extremely difficult, not that Lena is resisting it, per say, but Kara has come to learn that her friend is the master of giving up not a single thing about herself while still maintaining the facade (is it a facade? Kara isn’t certain) of closeness. They’ve known each other for a year, participated in this earth ritual of intimacy for a full turn around the sun, shared late-night phone calls and lunch dates and bitch-sessions in Lena’s office, but Kara doesn’t even know where Lena lives, exactly, or her favorite band, or if she owns any pets. What does she do when she gets home at night? What music does she listen to, what books does she read? What are her embarrassing hobbies? Can she drive? She hadn’t even known Lena was gay until, after CatCo had run a spectating article about a lunch she’d had with Rachel Maddow, she’d made a flippant comment about how “two power lesbians can’t share a meal without the word losing it’s mind”.
It’s all very frustrating, of course, but when Lena asks her one day to house sit for her while she’s away in Tokyo on business she feels a flicker of hope. Maybe this is it, her friend is finally opening up to her, reciprocating in this process. She sits on her hands at the edge of her chair across from Lena’s desk, beaming brightly.
“Sure, Lena, I’d love to.” Kara agrees. “What is it that needs doing?”
“Oh,” She flaps her hand as if to wave the question away. “I just have some plants that need watering, nothing too crazy.”
‘Some plants’, Kara will come to find out, much later, means a veritable greenhouse within Lena’s actual home. When she tells Alex about this later that evening, lying on the couch with her legs propped up against the back, sighing like a schoolgirl, her sister seems to take it with a grain of salt.
“I know you like Lena Kar, but don’t get too carried away. And whatever you do,” Alex fixes her with an arched eyebrow and a hard stare. “ Don’t go snooping.”
“Of course not, Alex.” Kara scoffs. “As if I would ever do that.”
Kara manages two days without snooping.
That’s what you do when your very attractive, very aloof best best friend gives you the key to her house for a week to water her (somewhat out of control) plant collection while she’s on business in Tokyo. Without, you might add, providing any context to the fact that she even has a plant collection that would need looking-after. You don’t snoop. You show yourself in and politely leave your shoes by the front door. You don’t spend time lingering on the fact that this is the first time you’ve seen said best friend’s home, and that you’d always imagined she’d live in some skyscraper penthouse in downtown National City and not a medium-sized Spanish style home in Manzanita Heights with a great view of the hills. You don’t observe keenly that it looks like something that could be on the cover of Better Homes & Gardens tomorrow, not a chair or curtain out of place, but for the veritable jungle set up inside.
You don’t. You read the 20-page single spaced plant watering manual that she’s provided and tend to every cactus, succulent, orchid and fig tree in the place. Then you leave, slipping your shoes back on at the door and backing out of her steep driveway in the Ford Fiesta you’d borrowed from your sister.
And that’s what Kara does. For two days.
On the third day, she smears miracle grow on her nice new khakis on accident and decides to bypass the kitchen or the downstairs guest bathroom in favor of scrubbing it out in Lena’s personal en suite, just as a good friend and normal person would. She moves through the immaculate living room, with it’s expensive framed artwork, useless fireplace (they are in southern California, last time Kara checked) and a dreamy-looking sectional couch. She creeps up the staircase lined with a variety of framed classic movie posters and through the upstairs hallway, only peeking her head into the guest room door to check and see if it’s her bedroom. She putters down the hall until she reaches the door at the end, slightly ajar, and carefully pushes it open.
Much like the rest of the house, Lena’s bedroom looks nothing like what she expected, but once she sees it she can’t really imagine Lena sleeping anywhere else. Her bed is king-sized and resting on some hoity-toity West Elm frame. The sheets and pillow cases, however, are white and covered in a pattern wild roses and if Kara didn’t know any better she’d think they came from Ikea. She has two grand windows with long, gauzy curtains and a statement wall painted in a soft green. The hardwood floor is covered almost completely with a high-pile rug that feels good on Kara’s socked feet. Her dresser is nice and a little antique looking, and Kara finds some records resting on top of it along with other miscellaneous items. Two Tom Waits on top, burying The Yeah Yeah Yeah’s Fever to Tell at the bottom.
Interesting. So, so interesting.
Kara looks down at the brown stain on her paints as a reminder of why she’s there in the first place--to innocuously wash her pants in Lena’s personal bathroom, to the exception of the three others in her house.
Her en-suite is palatial, of course, and almost larger than Kara’s entire bedroom in her apartment. There’s a double vanity, a spa tub, and the kind of waterfall shower that she’s only ever seen rich people have in movies. She doesn’t have an excuse for cracking open the glass door and sticking her head inside, she’s genuinely just curious what kind of shampoo Lena uses.
And it’s...all Lush products. Even more inexplicably, she even has one of those suction on soap holders stuck to her shower wall—something Kara had always associated with pedestrian notions like plucking an errant nipple hair or brushing with that toothpaste they make for sensitive teeth. Where she had expected expensive salon-style hair care products, she finds silver tins of soap, shampoo, and vegan conditioner (okay, maybe that one she could have guessed).
Kara feels a little taken aback and totally charmed. She’s always imagined Lena’s home to be a kind of Scrooge McDuck genetic rich person castle and is pleasantly surprised to find that while certainly decadent, there’s a humble kind of modesty about it. Certainly Lena never mentioned to her a love for plants or old movies or Tom Waits and yet here was, standing in the thick of a carefully curated love letter to those things.
Remembering her ostensible reason for being there (not snooping, that’s for sure), she moves to part of the double vanity and runs some water into her hand, scrubbing gently at the stain on her pants. She glances around, taking in more of the nuance of her surroundings, and spots Lena’s laundry hamper out of the corner of her eye.
It’s overflowing, and a pair of Lena’s underwear is peaking out the top. It’s the cottony kind that you get at Target with Supergirl’s crest emblazoned over the crotch.
Kara turns bright red and scrubs harder.
As she leaves that night, she promises herself that that is that last time she’ll go snooping.
It’s not the last time.
“She has a signed Blink 182 T-Shirt from ‘98?” Alex snorts. “That’s on-brand.”
“It’s just so weird.” Kara sighs. They’re at the DEO, but it’s a slow day and she’s been mostly waiting on-call for the past few hours. Kara is spinning around idly in an office chair, deep in thought. “There’s so much I don’t know about her! She has like, 6 issues of Dog Fancy in her guest bathroom. What’s that about?”
“Maybe she’s a dog person.” Alex’s voice is a little thin. She’s been doing vague lab stuff for the last hour, which basically has amounted to pipetting things into other things and spinning them down. And then peeking through a microscope, sighing heavily, and peeking again. It’s giving Kara a headache.
“Well, she’s never mentioned it to me!”
“To be fair, Kara,” Alex spins on her stool to fix Kara with a look, tugging her goggles up to rest on the top of her head. Her face is less than amused. “You’re one of the last known survivors of an advanced alien civilization with super powers given to you by the light of the sun that you use to moonlight as a crime-fighting vigilante and you haven’t mentioned it to her. So.” She squints. “Maybe you should try not calling the kettle black.
“But,” Kara begins weakly. “ Dog Fancy.”
“You’re right, it’s weird.” Alex finally concedes. It’s cold comfort. “But it’s also not really any of your business. Who knows why she hasn’t mentioned any of that stuff to you. She’s a private person. Does it really matter?”
“Yeah it matters. She’s my best friend.” Kara is leaning forward now, fully earnest. Alex is giving her an indescribable expression that exists somewhere in the inbetween of confusion and knowing. “I want to know everything about her.”
“I’m not touching that with a 10-foot pole.” Alex mutters, snapping her goggles back over her eyes. She swivels back around to her microscope to begin her pattern of specimen examination anew. “Why don’t you go bother J’onn about your love life for a while. And while you’re there, will you ask him when the biohazard people are coming to pick up the used bat heads in the lab? They’re starting to get a smell.”
That night she returns home to an empty apartment after a long day of pretty much nothing. She has a few texts from Lena--the 16 hour time-difference has created a sort of communication vacuum, so generally the messages come once a day and in bulk--one that consists of a very detailed review of a ramen restaurant she’d been to, the view from her hotel room, and an inquiry about the plants. After changing into her pajamas and flopping into bed, she sends back a few pictures of the succulents she’d taken earlier that day.
She sighs and rests her phone on her chest, knowing she likely won’t receive a message from Lena but hoping all the same. Kara has learned from experience that she needs multiple people across her life to expend her bottomless social energy on, and Lena had come forward as somebody with a kind of endless, gentle patience for her. Just the thought of it makes her feel warm down to the soles of her feet.
Relaxing back into her bed with one hand thrown across her stomach, Kara grasps at her phone and holds it aloft over her face. Opening Spotify, she hits the search bar and after a moment’s thinking thumbs in the name of the band she wants. Twisting her body slightly, she snatches her headphones from her bedside table and plugs them in, placing one bud in each ear. Scrolling through the album list, she selects Fever to Tell, hits play on the first song and relaxes back into her pillow.
The beat of the music starts to filter in her ears and she begins to sink into her bed, closing her eyes. Is this the kind of music Lena likes? It’s not bad. Actually, it’s pretty good. If she closes her eyes she can imagine Lena with a glass of wine, the record on in the background, staring out at her ridiculous view of the twinkling lights and the hills. That’s how she falls asleep; music on, head tilted to the side and glasses pressed akimbo, thinking of Lena.
She wakes up 20 minutes late to work in a puddle of drool with a 2 percent charge on her phone. Jolting up frantically, she hits the home button on her phone to check the time and finds her worst nightmare plus two texts from Alex.
Alex [7:04] Kara your spotify feed says you listened to the yeah yeah yeahs entire
discography last night
Alex [7:04] You okay?
It takes her six tries to connect her cellphone to it’s charger before she all but pole vaults into the shower. Washed, dressed and fed in a tight five minutes, it’s not until she’s across the street from CatCo and feeling in her front pocket for her phone that she realizes that she’s...left it at home, on the charger, in her haste to leave and avoid any nasty texts from Snapper until the last possible minute. Of course.
Dragging her feet as she enters the main lobby, she reasons with herself that at least it can only go up from here. She climbs onto the elevator with a strange sense of optimism despite everything--and after all, Lena will be home tomorrow. The thought makes her stand up a little straighter and flush with a queer kind of contentment.
Her last day of plant-sitting goes about exactly as planned. She rolls up Lena’s driveway around five, putters in the side door, and tends to each plant one by one, giving it a special sort of attention. Lena’s handbook hadn’t specified, but she likes to talk gently to each plant as she waters it--she’s not sure if they can hear it or not, anything is possible she supposes. Things only go ary after a tussle with a passive aggressive ficus results in a long loose thread hanging off her cardigan.
Pilfering around in Lena’s kitchen junk drawers isn’t something that Kara really wants to do, even taking her love of snooping and light espionage into account. Although it had been yet another charming discovery that Lena even had a kitchen junk drawer, and one filled with actual junk to boot. She’s sifting through soy sauce packets, chopsticks and old receipts, but coming up with nothing so far.
Her curiosity is piqued as she touches something glossy and distinctly photo-like. She’ll reflect on this moment much later and recognize this as the exact second of her unravelling, a victim of her own hubris. Everything that happens later, the phone call, the conversation with Maggie, all of it hang on the axis of this decision.
She grasps the photo--a polaroid, she realizes belatedly--and digs it up to hold right in front of her face. What she sees without comprehension for a good 10 seconds is Lena Luthor, naked from the waist up, laughing and lounging on her bed. Kara’s eye traces over everything, her carefree smile, the high-waisted shorts she wears, the supple curve of her breast and soft blush-pink of her nipples, which are slightly hard in the photograph. She’s got one finger lightly touching the valley between her breasts and the other hand flipping her hair back, model-like.
Kara absorbs this, realizing a moment later that the hand that’s holding the photo is shaking slightly. It might be due to the weird, fluttery somersaults her stomach is doing, or it might not--she really doesn’t know. She sets the picture down quickly, burying it back under the pile of junk, then she leaves the house quickly and quietly the way she came.
“So that’s where Lena Luthor keeps her nudes...in the bottom of her kitchen junk drawer.”
“She really is a genius.”
“You guys, not the point! And it wasn’t nude s. It was a nude. Singular. And it was only from the waist up. ”
Alex and Maggie skeptically raise their eyebrows in tandem. Kara sinks impossibly deeper into Alex’s couch, covering her face with her hands in a shameful throwback to the previous three hours.
“You sure do remember a lot of details about this picture for a gal who says she put it back immediately after realizing what it was.” Maggie takes a pull of her beer and leans forward, elbows on knees, to stare Kara down. And okay, maybe Kara had embellished on the truth a little to obscure the details regarding how long she’d actually observed the photograph in question. Those were facts that her sister and her wizened girlfriend just didn’t need to know, necessarily. “How long did you really look at it?”
“A long time!” Kara nearly yells from behind her hands. “After I put it back and left the house I came back and looked at it again!”
There’s a stretch of eternal, disappointed silence. When she uncovers her face, Kara notes that Maggie looks smug and Alex looks a little ill.
“Geeze, Kara.” Alex mutters faintly. “Well, you have to tell her.”
“What!” Kara screeches, even as Maggie is nodding her head in agreement.
“She’s right, Kar. What kind of example would you be setting for the youth of National City if you weren’t honest with your best friend after you accidentally snooped your way into seeing a picture of her tatas?”
“I wasn’t even snooping this time.” Kara throws her hands up in a display of complete cosmic defeat. “Everybody gets one or two terrible secrets in their life, right? Why can’t this be mine?”
“I mean, I guess,” Maggie shrugs one shoulder. “But knowing you, this is going to be like your Telltale Heart. The Telltale Nude. The guilt and curiosity is going to consume you and then you’re going to have to tell her.”
“Don’t be stupid.” Kara scoffs, crossing her arms defiantly. The subject is effectively dropped and the night deepens into a spiral of pizza, movies, and general lounging. As she leaves Alex’s apartment that night, her girlfriend’s words echo a little in her head. She ultimately shakes them off. The whole idea is ridiculous.
Maggie turns out to be right, of course.
Lena comes back the next morning and arrives at Kara’s apartment bright and early (and unexpected) for brunch. Despite the inhumane distance she’d just traveled the first thing she does is envelop Kara into a warm, tight hug, the kind of hug that communicates things between bodies that words can never say, the kind of hug that has chests pressing together with no space in between--
“Okay!” Kara says a little too cheerily, voice cracking like a boy struggling with puberty. She scrambles away from Lena’s embrace in a way that’s firm but hopefully not impolite. Judging by Lena’s tired but sunny smile, she isn’t taking any offence. “How about brunch! I’m starving.”
“Yes please.” She breathes, moving past Kara and into her apartment. She’s carrying a small totebag that she sets at her feet in the kitchen, immediately throwing her arms above her head and twisting her body into an arch in a long, deep stretch that pulls her shirt up to expose her midsection.
Kara drops something on the floor she wasn’t even aware she’d been holding. She doesn’t realize it’s the newspaper until Lena says “Kara, why did you drop that newspaper?” and she has to provide some ham-handed excuse about seeing Mitch McConnell’s face and having a small stroke. It’s a total mess of course, but Lena either doesn’t notice or is polite enough not to mention anything.
“Would you like to go somewhere or cook here?” Lena inquiries. “I have some things I’ve brought you back from Tokyo, as well, in the tote.”
“Oh Lena, you didn’t have to get me anything.”
“Nonsense, it’s just a few small baubles.”
They end up cooking together at Kara’s and ‘a few small baubles’ turns out to be a pound of local Jasmine tea, a beautiful bamboo print for her wall, a corny scroll with Kara’s name written in Kanji (“You know I love this touristy stuff!” “I do.”), and enough Japanese sweets to last a normal person 6 months but that Kara will likely plow through in a week or so.
“Lena, this is…” Kara trails off, a little awestruck by the thoughtfulness of it all. She reaches across the kitchen island where her friend sits and takes her hand into her own, squeezing it. This whole time Lena has been resolutely looking down at her plate, picking at her eggs, seemingly afraid of what Kara’s reaction to her gifts might be. The touch of her hand causes to look up, almost shy, and smile. “It’s amazing, thank you so much.”
“I know I overdid it a little bit, but.” She bites her bottom lip. “I missed you terribly while I was gone, and every time I saw something I would think of you, and then I had to get it for you, of course.” It’s the kind of unassuming admission that makes Kara’s heart thunder in her chest. Lena is smiling at her with an almost blinding fondness that seems to stretch onward and outward forever. Kara feels it in her body like a warm embrace, river deep and all encompassing.
Then, Lena unassumingly uses her free hand to reach up and play with the pendant of the necklace dangling between her breasts and Kara unceremoniously knocks a glass of orange juice off the kitchen counter.
She has to actively cover her eyes when Lena shoos her off and bends over to mop up the juice and pick up the glass. In her most honest moments, Kara can admit to herself that her libido is possibly her most reckless part of herself. Even taking that into consideration, this is verging on ridiculous. The last thing she wants to do is admit that Maggie was right, but--
“Bye, Kara. Thanks for making time for me this morning.” Lena pulls her into another hug before she leaves the apartment, this one somehow even more intimate than the first they’d shared that morning. They’re pressed together, chest down to their hips, and one of Lena’s hands is settled firmly and warmly on Kara’s lower back. The other is encircling her shoulders, and her face is buried contentedly in the crook of Kara’s shoulder.
Kara’s soul is actively leaving her mortal body and her remaining blood supply has traveled between her legs. She trembles throughout the entire lengthy hug and wonders if Lena notices. When she shuts the door behind her friend, she turns around and presses her back to it, sliding down.
So maybe Maggie was right.
She comes to the conclusion over the next week that she has to come clean to Lena. The realization comes wearily, might she add, and under an extreme amount of duress.
First come the dreams. The weird, weird, sexy dreams. Kara has only had a total of three sex dreams in her life up to this point, two of them involving Mrs. Frizzle from the Magic School Bus, but they’ve been a dime a dozen lately. And all centering around one dark-haired woman in various compromising positions that Kara didn’t even know she’d been aware of, let alone fantasizing about.
Then, the actual in-person encounters with Lena. Nightly phone calls had become a ritual in their relationship soon after they’d grown close. Lena was a frequent victim of a hectic work schedule but not talking to each other until the next time they could meet often felt like an untenable situation. Most evenings Kara could expect a call between 9 and midnight, right as Lena was gathering her papers into her purse and moving to lock her office behind her. They’d chat on through her elevator ride, as her driver picked her up, and through their joint nocturnal routines.
“Hold on a sec Kara,” It wasn’t unusual for her to say. “I’m going to put you on speaker while I change into my comfy clothes.”
This, followed by a muffled shuffling and the sound of her clothes hitting the floor, piece by piece. It wasn’t any kind of problem previously--Kara had never had any reason to think about it very much, or at all. But now she can imagine, even generally, what she might look like as she unbuttons her blouse and shucks it off her shoulders, exposing the weight of her breasts and the curve of her hip disappearing coyly under the band of her underwear. It’s all underscored by a thought nagging in the back of her head--since when is Lena the kind of woman who has naked pictures of herself hanging around her house? Who took the photo, and when?
In short, this week has Kara shaken to her core and beleaguered with curiosity. And she’s not sure if she can keep up the charade.
When her cell lights up at 10:17 with Lena’s contact photo, she feels a calm sort of resignation. She’s going to get it off her chest, absolve herself of this weird feeling, and hope her friend understands. If not, they can work it out, as they’ve done for other, larger obstacles. After all, what’s an accidental nude between good friends?
“Darling, I’ve had the most hellish day.” Lena sounds absolutely exhausted. “You’ll never believe what Mike Zuckerberg tried to tell me on my conference call this afternoon--”
“Do you mean Mark?”
“Oh, it doesn’t matter.” Kara can almost see Lena’s peeved hand flapping as she exits her office into the hallway. She smiles affectionately. She spends 20 minutes lost in the sound of Lena moving about her evening, sighing and grousing, until finally she hears a front door opening on the other end of the line.
“I’m home, I’m just dropping off my things in the kitchen.” Lena narrates out of habit, although it’s unnecessary. Kara has grown accustomed to her different tides and notions enough to know the noise of her keys hitting the kitchen counter. “I’m going to go upstairs and put you on speaker while I get changed.”
At the now-familiar words, Kara’s heart speeds up and her mouth feels unusually dry. “It was cool,” She begins, trying to communicate a causal affect but failing miserably. “Seeing where you live while I was house sitting. I never would have thought...well, it’s not where I would have guessed you live.” She hears Lena hum noncommittally, of course, not marrying herself to the topic of conversation in any way.
“Yeah. I actually have to um,” How best to word this? “Get something off my chest. About that.”
Not like that.
“Well, fire away, darling. You can tell me anything.”
“Okay, here she blows.” Kara exhales all of the air from her lungs in one quick woosh. “I saw a naked picture of you.”
“I’m sorry, I think we must have a bad connection. What did you just say?”
“Well, technically it was from the waist up. But, um, I was looking through your junk drawer trying to find a pair of scissors and I kinda sorta found like, a racy polaroid at the bottom of the drawer. And looked at it.” She pauses. “Maybe a lot.” If it’s honesty hour, might as well go all out she figures.
“A naked picture of me in my kitchen junk drawer?” The way Lena is saying it Kara can tell it’s a question for herself more than it is for Kara. She can hear some general shuffling and the distinct noise of a drawer opening and papers moving around. Then, the sound of Lena murmuring “oh no.”
“Look, I know this is super weird.” Kara continues in a rush. “But it’s—I wanted to tell you, I guess. It felt more weird not to.”
“Kara, it’s okay.” Lena cuts her off, but her voice sounds less than sure. Kara closes her eyes and tries to picture what Lena is doing in that moment--she’d found the picture, surely, but was she holding it in front of her face? Had she set it back down? Was she leaning against the counter, hip cocked and arms crossed in that way she had, cradling her phone to her face? “It was stupid of me to leave it there. The picture is--” Lena clears her throat, but doesn’t finish her sentence.
“‘Where did it come from? The picture I mean, who took it?”
“I’m sorry, is that relevant?”
“I mean, it’s—” Kara is actually pulling at the collar of her T-shirt like a cartoon character, face heating up like a furnace. “You’ve just not struck me as the kind of person who has naked pictures taken of themselves. Or who keeps the around the house. I’m curious.”
“Yeah, okay.” She chokes out a brief, ironic laugh. “If you don’t want to tell me, you don’t have to.”
“Fine, I don’t.” Lena huffs, and it sounds a little petulant.
“It’s just,” Kara continues at once, undeterred. “Alex told me once that when two people really like each other, they tell each other things and it brings them together. I want so badly to be close to you. I wish that you felt the same.”
“Sometimes when you talk,” Lena starts, her voice fragile but hiding a kind of dry mirthfulness. “You sound like an alien.”
“Kara,” Lena’s voice is so tired that it’s become unrecognizable. “There are many things you don’t know about me, this is true, and many of them are things that you wouldn’t want to know. I want to be close to you too, but that’s the reason I try to stay...oblique.”
“Everything I’ve learned about you has only made me like you more,” Kara breathes.
There’s a good 10 seconds of silence on the other line. Kara is pressing the phone to her ear so close that her body has created a slick condensation on the screen.
“Forgive me,” She’s speaking slowly and picking her words very carefully. “But I struggle to accept that. And please understand that my discomfort with you having seen that photo is an...unrelated matter.”
“I’m sorry, I really am.” Kara says with complete sincerity.
“It’s nobody’s fault.” Lena responds, and she sounds like she believes what she’s saying. They hang up shortly after, Lena begging off with the sudden onset of a headache perhaps caused by Mike Zuckerberg’s stupidity. Kara lays in bed awake for a long time after, heart pounding so hard she believes for a fevered second that even her neighbors might be able to hear it.
“So you apologized, she said it was okay, everything’s back to normal, right?”
“You’d think so! But, you’d be wrong.” Kara takes a long, noisy sip out of her iced coffee and stops at a stall to snag an avocado, feeling for ripeness. Thwarted, she selects another, subjecting it to the squeeze test and not paying any attention to Alex’s exasperated eye-roll behind her. Deeming it ready, she ads it to her basket and moves down the open-air stall to inspect the apples.
“Can you please give me some guidance r.e. the hang-up on this? I mean, considering that you and Lena are both upsettingly hot for each other I would have thought this would be a thrilling moment for the two of you.”
Kara fixes Alex with a withering glare, dropping three apples into her basket and moving forward up to the cashier to pay. “Me and Lena aren’t hot for each other, pervert. We’re friends. We’re platonically hot for each other.”
“Kara, if I couldn’t personally verify that you graduated from high school and college I would think you were a complete idiot. There’s no such thing as being platonically hot for another person, dummy.”
Kara scoffs, handing the bewildered looking farmer’s market employee a 10 dollar bill and gesturing conspiratorially to Alex. “Can you believe she thinks I’m the dumb one?”
Alex rolls her eyes and grabs Kara by the elbow once she’s collected her change, dragging her away to peer at the other stalls. It’s a cool early autumn morning and the National City farmer’s market is bustling with energy. There are enough people milling around that Alex and Kara can’t move more than 5 steps without brushing into somebody else. They poke their heads into different stalls, sampling different spiced apple ciders and deliberating over which gourds best represent them as people.
“You still haven’t said why it’s still weird between you guys.” Alex comments as they snack on their third apple cider donut of the morning, beginning to meander back home.
“I guess I thought that I would feel better about the whole situation once Lena knew, but I can tell it makes her uncomfortable still. Which is totally fair, but.” Kara pauses to lick a little cinnamon sugar off her thumb, crinkling her face pensively. “I wish she would talk to me about it instead of being weird and reclusive.”
“Maybe she just needs time.” Alex suggests, ever her level-headed counterpart. “Or, me and Maggie watched the episode of Friends last night where chandler sees Rachel’s boobs and then the only way they can resolve it is by Chandler flashing Rachel.”
“So you’re saying this could all be resolved by me showing Lena my boobs?”
“Well, once you’ve tried everything else, you might consider it.”
Kara tips her head back and laughs, loud and hardy. It’s a pretty good joke.
Leaving a trail of clothes from her living room through her bedroom to her bathroom, Kara sighs as she prepares to shower after a long day of crime-stopping and lead chasing. She catches her own reflection out of the corner of her eye in the floor length mirror next to her bed and backs up to take a longer look at herself. She’s stark naked, smeared here and there with dirt and blood (not her own, of course). Her gaze drags from the sharp jutting of her collarbones, to the gentle weight of her breasts and downward, across the flat plane of her stomach and the curly thatch of hair between her legs.
She knows she’s beautiful, of course, she knows how her body speaks and what it does to other people. On Krypton, bodies had been Temples, working machines, solitary things not meant to be shared with other people. On earth she’d learned quickly that humans communicated their intimacy through hands, lips, thighs and other parts--and how wonderful she found that, been so keen on it, so interested in the nuances of it. If you put your mouth there, it meant I love you, your hands inside your partner meant something that people can’t say with words. It was beautiful, all the ways that humans could speak to each other--with mouths, flowers, bodies, text-messages laced with double meanings.
Kara washes herself down in the shower until the blood and the soot and the dirt is gone, then she steps out and begins to towel off. As she putters into her bedroom, dressed now in a big NCU t-shirt and joggers, she casts a sidelong glance at her phone resting on the night stand.
At that exact moment, as if she’d willed it herself, the phone begins to buzz and lights up with Lena’s photo.
Kara picks up on the first ring. “Lena, is something wrong?”
“No, no. I was just, um,” The voice she hears is startled and a little shy. It sounds like Lena hadn’t really been expecting her to pick up the phone. “Thinking about you. And I wanted to call.”
“I’ve been thinking about you too.” Kara responds quickly. “And I’ve been missing our late night phone calls.”
“Well, I’m here, at my apartment, by myself, and I have a bottle keep of Two Buck Chuck that’s gathering dust in the pantry without your company—”
“I could be over in a half hour,” Lena says rapidly, and then, as if remembering herself, adds, “If you wanted that.”
“Oh, uh, great!” Kara realizes belatedly that she hadn’t really been expecting Lena to agree, although she’s glad that she has. “Yes, I want that. I’ll see you in 30. Okay. Bye!” She hangs up the phone and sighs, flopping back on the bed. It’s going to be a long night.
Lena arrives, looking a little more haggard than usual, which means she’s still radiant overall. At some point on her journey over she’s traded her usual pair of cutting heels and black skirt for a pair of jeggings and sneakers. She’s still wearing some expensive, flowing wine-colored blouse. She has her purse in one hand and a fall jacket folded over the other arm.
“Already uncorked the wine, I see.” Kara smiles and Lena grins tiredly back.
“A sommelier I know once told me that you have to let it breathe before you drink it.” She replies smartly, stepping aside to allow her friend to enter her apartment and drop her things. Lena makes some offhanded remark about giving her tastes too much credit and gratefully accepts the water glass full of the red liquid.
“You know Kara, wine glasses are $1 at Ikea. I don’t know what they pay cub reporters these days but surely you’re not that destitute.”
“Well, I don’t drink it myself.” Kara sniffs, all play-offense. They’re standing in the narrow strip of kitchen between her island and back counter, Lena nursing thoughtfully from her glass and Kara leaning against the edge with her arms crossed. The tension in the air isn’t awkward yet, but it’s getting there.
“So,” Lena breaks the silence carefully. “I actually called—I wanted to apologize, for the other night.”
“You’ve got nothing to apologize for.” Kara replies honestly. “You’re allowed to create boundaries with people, even me.”
Lena winces into her glass and takes another deep swallow. When she moves it away from her mouth, Kara can see the insides of her lips are stained purple with the cheap wine. It’s precious in it’s overall uncouthness. She’s not sure what she expects Lena to say; a categorical denial of any weirdness, maybe. Instead, she looks up at Kara and darts her tongue out to get at the wine-stain on her bottom lip and says:
“That photo was taken by a friend of mine, in undergrad. He needed it for an inane art class, and I agreed to help him. He took a few, actually, and gave them back to me after the class was done for safe keeping and I—“ She takes a deep, steadying breath.“Well, he died, recently, and I dug them out from where I had them hidden. The one you saw—that’s my favorite. He was telling a terrible joke, and it caught me so off guard. I can’t remember the last time I laughed like that.”
“What was the joke?”
“Oh, um—,” Lena taps a finger against her lips, thinking. “Okay, I’ve got it. So a man and his wife get into a car accident. The man is okay but his wife is injured and gets rushed to the hospital. The man waits hours for news in the ER and when a doctor finally comes out, he rushes over saying ‘is my wife okay, is my wife okay?’ And the doctor says ‘sir, I’m sorry, your wife is going to be blind and deaf for life’ the man says ‘oh my God, are you serious!’ The doctor laughs and says ‘No, I’m just joking—she’s dead’.”
There’s a beat of silence and then Kara lets out a bark of laughter so undignified that she has to slap a hand over her mouth in surprise. Lena is smiling too.
“Thats awful,” Kara laughs. Lena nods in agreement.
“Now you can see why I looked so hysterical. I was shocked.”
She’s finished her wine by now, and Kara gestures with the bottle to indicate that she should come over for more. Lena drifts across the small space, holding out her glass, and Kara puts a hand over hers to steady it as she pours. They both resolutely look down, not making eye contact, but their foreheads brush slightly. When her glass is full, Lena doesn’t made any effort to really move out of her space, so when Kara speaks it more or less directly into the other woman’s mouth.
“Thank you for telling me.” The words are wafer-thin, resting somewhere in the air between them. “You didn’t have to.”
“No,” Lena agrees. “But I wanted to. You were right about what you said earlier. And I don’t want there to be any boundaries between us.”
“So are we okay again?”
“Yeah.” She nods her head and the movement causes her to knock into Kara slightly. “Although admittedly I still don’t know how I feel about you having seen my boobs, even if it was in a photo from seven years ago.”
“Oh!” Kara exclaims, as if just remembering to something important. “Would it make you feel less weird if you’d seen mine too?”
“I’m sorry, your what?”
“You know, like what if I took off my shirt right now and let you look. Then you’d know and I’d know and we’d, like...even the playing field.”
It’s Lena’s turn to let out an unexpected peel of laughter and slap her hand over her mouth, staring back at Kara wide-eyed. She takes a full step back. Kara realizes a moment later that it’s not out of distaste but that Lena is scrutinizing her, sizing her up, trying to see if she’s serious or not. This assessment is confirmed a moment later when Lena says: “Are you serious?”
“Yeah.” Kara responds easily. “I don’t mind. A body is a body, right? And I don’t want there to be anymore,” She licks her lips “Weirdness.”
“A body is a body.” Lena murmurs, more to herself than to the other woman in the room with her. Kara smiles at her reassuringly. Nothing she’s said so far has amounted to no, so she grasps at the hem of her t-shirt and lifts it up, just a little, exposing a pale strip of her midsection.
“Wait!” Lena exclaims. Kara pauses her movement and looks up, wide-eyed and expectant. “I don’t want you to do anything you’re not comfortable with doing.”
“I’m not.” Kara responds with complete certainty, then she lifts her shirt the rest of the way off and over her head. When it’s gone, when she’s holding it in her right hand and using her left to smooth her mussed hair, she feels goosebumps pop up on her skin and her nipples harden, a little, in response to the cold of the room. Lena is as red as Kara has ever seen her, and her stricken gaze is squarely fixed on Kara’s chest.
“Oh.” Is all she says at first, then she takes a long drink of wine and--yep, the purple stain is back. “Yours are smaller than mine.”
“Yup.” Kara responds, popping the ‘p’ at the end. She recognizes somewhere in the back of her mind that this should maybe, probably be a little weird but it’s just not. She feels curiously at ease, almost pleased with herself--she can recognize the barely disguised hunger in Lena’s gaze and it feeds directly into something primal and selfish in her. She can’t help herself from puffing her chest out just a little bit, preening, and relishing in the way Lena sucks on her lips in response.
Lena takes a step closer, testing the waters. Somewhere in the background somebody’s phone lights up, buzzes a few times, and settles down. Kara reaches out and takes Lena by the loop of her jeans, leading her in for the last couple of steps until they’re face to face and chest to chest, just like the multitude of hugs they’d shared in the past. Except, in this case, Kara can feel bare bare nipples scratching against the smooth material of Lena’s blouse.
“This isn’t where I expected this night to go.” Lena admits lowly. “But I guess life is full of surprises.” Kara smiles--mostly because she recognizes the idiom--and pulls her in for a kiss. She’s right, after all--definitely full of surprises.
There are many different ways that humans talk with their bodies.
Kara relishes in this, naked and stretched out over Lena, lips slanted against lips, body slack and open and receptive. Lena’s body feels frantic, feels like shouting, when she drives herself up into Kara, she bears down as hard as she can and gives Lena what she wants. She listens to her, every nuance, every metaphor, every poor analogy, she drowns in them happily.
These are the things that Kara learns, without snooping:
Lena Luthor is born on June 4, 1992. She has no middle name and no siblings. Her father is her father but her mother is a woman that she will never know, not really, except for a single brief memory of a dark haired woman calming her down during a tantrum in Nordstrom’s. Lena Luthor still can’t go into Nordstrom’s. She loves Stephen King books but thinks he got too cocky after The Green Mile. Her favorite kind of music is people with funny-sounding voices, like Tom Waits and Bob Dylan, but she also loves it when the singers talk a little instead of singing. During fall days she sleeps with the windows open and one foot sticking out of her Ikea comforter. She still won’t admit to Kara that her comforter is from Ikea.
She has exactly six nude photos of herself, taken by her friend Jack, who is now dead but she speaks of him like he could walk into the door any minute. One is in the junk drawer of her kitchen still, for sentimental reasons, the others buried under a pile of thongs in her underwear drawer. She shows them to Kara eventually, one by one, less frightening now than the first time now that Kara has seen all of her, and they laugh about how silly she looks.
Kara can’t claim to know how they got to this place, not really. But, as the saying goes, life is all about the lemonade and not the lemons or...whatever.