“Kara, you’re making that up.”
“Lena, I swear it’s a real thing. Google it! Ugly sweater parties are really popular, and it’s gonna be so much fun. We’re having a contest to see whose sweater is the ugliest, and I’m giving prizes, and there’s gonna be hot chocolate, and donuts, and popcorn, and cider, and pizza—”
Lena feels herself smiling helplessly at Kara’s enthusiasm, wondering how many more junk foods she’ll name before she runs out of ideas. Knowing Kara, it could be a while. The only problem is that Kara’s hands are gesturing more and more wildly, and Lena decides she should interrupt before Kara knocks over (another) expensive office decoration or one-of-a-kind prototype.
“I’d love to come,” she says, finally.
“—Rocky road, butter pecan of course, fudge ripple...oh. Oh! You’ll come?!” And then Kara’s face lights up even more (how is that possible?) and she actually hovers a little before she remembers to put her feet back on the ground.
“I wouldn’t miss it.”
Lena has no idea where she will find an appropriately ugly sweater, but if it will get Kara to beam at her like this, she’ll make it happen.
Six days later, Lena has done her research and reluctantly decided that she can’t risk buying a custom Etsy sweater that might not arrive in time, no matter how amazing it is. (She did consider chartering a plane to Fort Lauderdale to pick it up from the seller’s house, but she didn’t want to freak the woman out.) With that decision made, she selects the top five local thrift and vintage shops for ugly sweater shopping and blocks off four hours to find the perfect ugly sweater.
Lena’s been texting Kara pictures of sweaters all week, trying to calibrate her ugly-sweater-ometer (as Winn insists on calling it). She thinks she finally has a handle on it and is actually kind of excited to go on a shopping expedition, and then disaster strikes.
First it’s a manufacturing problem that’s going to set back delivery of a new product, then bad press because they can’t honor their preorder ship date, then a competitor announcing a product that costs less and will ship sooner, then a stock price drop because of the bad press and the competing product. None of it is anything she hasn’t dealt with before. None of it is even that bad, compared to what she and L-Corp have weathered in the past. There have been no attempted murders or threats of alien genocide, for example. However, it all requires immediate attention and a ton of inconveniently timed meetings with their manufacturing partners in Asia, and her shopping trip keeps getting pushed back. Pretty soon it’s been pushed as far as it will go—to the day of Kara’s party—and Lena is working 16-hour days to keep shopping and the party from getting pushed off her calendar altogether.
She gets to work even earlier than usual on the day of Kara’s party and feels a little thrill of excitement in spite of her exhaustion. Not so much excitement about the party itself, but the chance to see Kara in a place that’s not L-Corp, to watch her relax among friends and not worry about keeping her identity secret, bask in her over-the-top enjoyment of the holidays.
Lena allows herself a brief grin as she powers on her computer and starts dealing with the 400 emails that have stacked up since she left work six hours earlier. None of them are urgent, and many require no action on her part, but it’s almost 7:00 by the time she’s dealt with them all.
Just when things are looking up, the true disaster happens. At 9:00 am, Lena receives word that an L-Corp product malfunction has caused both personal injury and property damage, and the legal team has decided that they need to recall the product. L-Corp stock prices are in freefall, and the board is freaking out. Lena has back-to-back meetings with Legal, PR, R&D, Logistics, Marketing, Support, and PR again. Her shopping time has disappeared, but she thinks she can sneak in a quick trip on the way to the party if she’s okay with arriving a little late.
Then Jess comes into her office looking half nervous and half sympathetic, and Lena’s stomach drops. Apparently, the board is demanding an emergency meeting to weigh in on the product recall response. With a regretful shake of her head, she asks Jess to get her a sweater for Kara’s party and starts throwing slides together for the emergency board meeting. If they’re going to make her miss ugly sweater shopping, then she’s damn well going to make them sit through enough slides that they’ll agree to her recall strategy just to make the presentation stop.
Unfortunately, Lena doesn’t hear Jess making a frantic call to Lena’s personal shopper in between the frantic calls to board members and PR representatives. If she’d heard, she would have reminded Jess to make it clear that Lena needs an ugly sweater. But Jess just tells the personal shopper to pick something appropriate for an evening holiday party with a potential date. The personal shopper does the rest.
Lena shows up on Kara’s doorstep almost two hours late and incredibly nervous. She’s already talked herself out of going and then talked herself back into it three times. Her poor driver is probably cursing her name in a nearby parking lot after the amount of flip-flopping she’s done.
Maybe she can just keep her coat on the whole time? She knows Kara will never allow it, but picturing the possibility is the only thing that gives her the courage to finally knock on Kara’s door.
The door opens suspiciously fast—or at least, it would be suspicious if it wasn’t Supergirl doing the opening.
“Lena! You made it!” Kara pulls Lena into a tight hug, and Lena feels like even more of a jerk in the face of Kara’s joy.
When Kara backs up to let Lena into the apartment, Lena finally has a chance to appreciate Kara’s sweater. “Wow, Kara. Your sweater is...really something,” she says with a teasing grin that she hopes covers her nerves.
It really is “something.” There are full-sized candy canes, real tinsel, dozens of flashing LEDs, a 2D wooden sleigh, and several stuffed reindeer heads (most with antlers and one with a lit up red nose). Lena can only imagine the quantity of adhesive that must be holding all of it together.
Kara laughs delightedly and pulls Lena inside. Lena follows, because she would follow Kara anywhere, but her heart is pounding and she feels a little queasy. She can feel the moment of truth coming, and she barely resists the urge to chew her fingernails—a terrible habit that Lillian had always scolded her for.
Lena hovers uncertainly in the doorway, eying the other guests in their properly ugly sweaters and trying not to look at the coat rack. She’s about to bluster her way toward the hot chocolate when Kara looks at Lena, looks at the coat rack, and narrows her eyes suspiciously. “You didn’t wear an ugly sweater,” she accuses.
Lena bites her lip and looks away. She slowly shakes her head.
Kara’s pout is utterly disarming, and Lena pauses halfway through untying her Burberry trench coat to explain the situation.
Several eons later, she’s still babbling her way through the saga of online research, complicated schedules, and the terrible series of L-Corp emergencies. Kara’s pout disappeared several minutes ago, and she’s now watching Lena with a mixture of fondness and amusement that is making Lena even more nervous.
Finally, Lena manages to wrap up her tale of woe and close the traitorous mouth that always tells Kara her most unflattering and unvarnished truths just to make her smile.
When Lena feels that she can’t reasonably stall any longer, she reluctantly undoes the belt of her coat with slightly shaky fingers. As she lets the coat fall open, she looks up, hoping that Kara isn’t too disappointed.
Instead, Kara’s expression is uncharacteristically intense and her eyes aren’t quite looking at Lena’s sweater. In fact, they seem to be stuck on the impressive cleavage displayed by the V-necked burgundy sweater Lena’s personal shopper had picked out. A spark of hope flares to life, and suddenly Lena’s heart is beating hard for an entirely different reason.
Kara jerks out of her cleavage-induced haze several seconds later and seems to realize what just happened. Her cheeks flush bright pink and she covers her mouth, looking horrified, but Lena just laughs.
“Oh my god, Lena, I’m so sorry, oh my god, I can’t believe I did that, oh my gosh, I’m the worst, I hope I didn’t make you too uncomfortable, I’m so sorry, I can’t believe myself—”
“Kara—” Lena tries to interject, but Kara’s verbal panic is still going.
Lena recognizes that it’s time for desperate measures, but she doesn’t care to have this conversation with all of Kara’s friends and family in the room. She quickly draws Kara away to the bedroom, and Kara goes willingly, still apologizing the whole way.
Once the door is shut behind them, Lena takes off her coat and drapes it on the bed. Kara stutters to a stop and gives Lena a quizzical look, shifting uncertainly from one foot to the other.
Lena gently pulls her into a hug and begins to stroke her back. Kara’s whole body goes limp in her arms.
“Kara, it’s okay,” she says. “I don’t mind if you look at me.”
Kara stiffens. “Lena, I totally objectified you! I feel terrible! I don’t know how you can even look at me, let alone hug me.”
Kara lets out a little squeak that is so adorable Lena gets distracted for a moment, but she pulls herself together before Kara can start apologizing again.
“Kara, I liked watching you look at me. It made me happy to know that you find me attractive.”
“Yes. Do you know why?”
Kara is trembling a bit now, but she hasn’t moved away.
Lena gathers her courage. Weeks of sleep deprivation and months of longing from afar and years of loneliness are making her want to tremble too, but she can’t falter now—not when she’s unexpectedly stumbled onto the finish line.
“Because I admire your heart and your courage and your passion for helping people. Because you’re the best thing in my life, my only true friend, the person who has always believed in me, the person that lights up my days.” Lena licks her lips nervously. “Because I’m attracted to you too,” she admits.
Kara’s head shoots up. “You are?! But you’re—you’re gorgeous. Amazing! Confident, powerful, sophisticated, perfect...what could you possibly see in me? I’m just—”
Lena cuts her off with a finger pressed to Kara’s lips. “Kara, I’m far from perfect. I’m moody, guarded, a control freak, a workaholic perfectionist with mommy issues.” Lena purses her lips a little at that bit of excessive honesty, but she carries on. “I also care about you. A lot. I don’t think you’re ‘just’ anything. And if you’re willing to see where it goes...I’d really like to take you out on a date.”
Kara stares at her in disbelief.
One beat of silence.
Lena’s stomach starts to churn. Has she said too much? Is Kara not interested in dating her? Physical attraction doesn’t have to equal romantic attraction, obviously. Was she too honest? Did she come on too strong? She did. She did...oh god.
Lena lets her arms drop and backs away, fumbling on the bed for her coat as the tears start to sting her eyes.
She has to get out of here. She refuses to cry in front of Kara’s friends, refuses to ruin the entire party, even if she’s almost certainly ruined Kara’s night. Her hand is on the doorknob when she hears movement behind her and then suddenly Kara is hugging her so tightly she can’t move.
“Don’t go,” Kara mumbles into her hair. “Please don’t go. You didn’t give me a chance to say anything.”
Lena swallows and blinks hard, franticly willing the tears away. Kara is pressed up against every inch of her back, and it feels wonderful and terrifying at the same time. “What would you like to say?” Her voice comes out a little rough, but steady. She supposes that’s...something, at least.
“I would like to say yes, but I want to see your face when I say it. Lena, please look at me.”
Kara loosens her arms just enough that Lena can turn around.
As soon as she does, Kara presses their foreheads together and lets out a shaky breath. “Yes,” she says, “yes yes yes yes yes,” and Lena feels the first tear slide down her cheek.
Kara’s breath hitches too, and then they’re both crying, and Lena’s not even sure why, because she’s so happy, but the joy feels like it’s spilling out of her. A lifetime of crumbs from the Luthors’ table was not enough to prepare her for this emotional feast, and she feels almost unhinged as she laugh-sobs into Kara’s neck.
They both veer from tears to laughter and back again several times before they manage to speak in more than quick, hiccuping fragments. When the tears have finally stopped, they are staring into each other’s eyes, and Lena is really trying to keep things tender and soulful, but she can’t stop glancing at Kara’s lips.
Kara catches her looking and starts to smile. “Now who’s staring?” she asks, and she looks so insufferably, adorably smug that Lena’s only option is to kiss that smirk right off of her gorgeous lips.
So she does.