The National City Lakehawks have never been something Lena’s paid much mind to throughout her life. The team had always been Lex’s little pet project and Lena’s never had much interest in sports. Her brother had always adored the Lakehawks, had preferred them over the other teams they owned, including the men’s National City Harriers. And sure, Lena attended a couple parties, when Lex had asked, but nothing too involved.
Her thoughts of the Lakehawks never wandered much past an absent enjoyment at the idea of a number of strong, tall women parading around Luthor Corp Arena with the sleek silver ‘L’ logo on their jerseys. It’s only when she’s essentially forced to that she spares them a thought deeper than that.
“It’s good for our image right now, Miss Luthor,” a member of her PR team is telling her. “In light of your brother’s recent scandal –”
“I’d think anything associated with him at this juncture would be unwise to promote,” Lena interrupts with a challenging arch of her brow.
“While that may be so,” another man says to Lena’s left. “The Lakehawks are beloved by much of the community. They’ve won back to back championships and are favored to win a third. They’re popular. And the Harriers...well, they’re a part of the package.”
Lena considers that for a moment, glances at the revenue spreadsheet in the file in front of her. “I’d like to consider potential buyers,” she decides, closing the folder and standing. “Have something for me by Thursday.”
The meetings go relatively well. The team net worth is fairly high and Lena’s already considering where she’ll allocate any profit. The Lakehawks and Harriers are as good as sold in her mind.
Until Maxwell Lord steps into her office with a swarmy smile. His attitude radiates patriarchal superiority as does the way he casually adds, after talking up the Harriers for twenty minutes, “And I’m sure you have something better to do than care about some silly women’s basketball team.”
It’s at the feigned smile he gives that she decides not to sell at all.
“Thank you for your time, Max.”
“You don’t know the first thing about basketball,” Jack says, laughing as he drops into one of her oversized leather arm chairs.
She walks towards him and hands him a glass of scotch with a reproachful look before falling into her own chair with her own drink. “I’m aware of that, thank you.”
“I’m merely pointing out the flaws in this plan,” Jack adds, sitting forward and giving her an amused smile. “The sports stuff was always more Lex’s thing anyway, right?”
“Yes, well, Lex is off doing Lord knows what in the Caribbean right now so –”
“So here we are,” Jack finishes, raising his glass in salute before taking a sip.
Lena laughs. “Here we are,” she parrots.
“And what are you going to do?” Jack asks, leaning back into the seat and crossing his legs. The amber liquid in his glass sloshes against the sides and Lena observes it for a moment before answering.
“Study the in-season team,” she answers simply with a shrug of her shoulder. She reaches towards the bag she has leaned up against the chair and pulls out the thick spiral bound packet her assistant put together earlier and throws it at him.
It hits Jack in the chest and he makes a disgruntled noise, barely saving his drink from spilling as he pulls the item into view. “The National City Lakehawks,” he reads, flipping the cover over. “Who is this?”
The inside jacket holds the latest promotional poster for the team, freshly shot, according to the PR person who had sent it over. On it is the Lakehawks’ star player, basketball held at her hip as she smiles widely at the camera. The Lakehawks jerseys are a pale blue that works well with her eyes; she looks the picture of an All-American girl.
“Kara Danvers,” Lena answers. It’s the only player she can name off the team at this point and that’s only because any sort of research into the Lakehawks seems to start and end with the same girl.
“Seems like an interesting read,” Jack mumbles with an arch of his brow towards Lena.
“Good,” she says, amused smile hidden behind the rim of her glass. “Because you’re going to help me study.”
“Starting lineup,” Jack quizzes over glass of port a week later. They’re sitting in the Signature Room bar in downtown National City and Lena can see Luthor Corp Arena from where they’re sitting next to the glass windows.
“Lucy Lane, M’gann M’orzz, Maggie Sawyer, Alex Danvers, Kara Danvers,” Lena recites, watching the cars blur by below them.
Jack nods as he flips through a flashcard on his phone. “Head coach?”
“Cat Grant,” she answers, turning away from the window to see Jack’s affirmative nod again. “Assistant coach. J’onn J’onzz.”
“President of operations?”
“James Olsen,” Lena says. “I meet with him tomorrow.”
“Try not to treat him like a dumb jock,” Jack tells her, setting his phone back on the table. “He’s made you a lot of money.”
“Throwing a ball through a hoop,” Lena deadpans with an unimpressed sip of her drink.
Jack laughs. “He doesn’t actually do any of the throwing anymore. You should probably know that detail before you meet with him.”
She rolls her eyes.
“Hey, he’s from your hometown,” Jack adds and at Lena’s blank stares finishes with a dry, “Metropolis.”
“Metropolis isn’t my hometown,” she denies, leaning back in her seat. “There’s a reason I got out of there as quickly as possible.”
“Do try to be nice to him tomorrow. He’s somewhat of a hero back there.”
“For throwing a ball through a hoop,” Lena repeats and Jack sighs but it’s punctuated by a soft laugh.
“Has anyone ever told you you’re a bit of a snob?”
“You have,” Lena answers with a teasing grin. “Many times.”
James Olsen is tall. That’s the first thing Lena manages to think when she meets him. He towers over her and she regrets for a moment not wearing bigger heels.
“Miss Luthor,” he greets with his hand extended forward and a wide charming smile that pulls an answering one across her face unbidden. “Pleasure.”
“Likewise,” she says shaking his hand.
His hands retreat to the pockets of his dress pants and he straightens to an impressive size. If Lena were one easily intimidated she might be cowing a bit, but instead she merely mimics his posture and puts on her best CEO smile.
“A tour?” He offers, extending his hand towards the massive arena behind him. “I’ve been told you haven’t spent much time here.”
“None at all, really,” she replies and she’s impressed to find his expression doesn’t react to that at all. Part of her expected the meeting to hold a tone of the same kind of patriarchal assumptions Maxwell Lord had made about her, but there’s none of that in James Olsen.
“Well then,” he says, stepping towards a nearby door and opening it for her. “Let’s get you acquainted.”
Luthor Corp Arena is impressive.
And full of reminders of her brother, from his favorite brand of beer sticking out from the line of taps at concessions to his picture still hanging outside the front offices next to a wall size mural of the starting lineup doing various things with basketballs.
“I don’t pretend to know much about basketball,” Lena admits to James as they reach his office.
He grins a little, leans as if admitting a deep secret. “Your brother never knew all that much either,” he tells her and she startles a bit in surprise.
“But he -”
“All due respect, Miss Luthor,” James says. “Lex was good with money. But when it came to the basketball side of things.” He shrugs. “Well there’s a reason he hired me.”
She observes him for a moment. “Thank you for the tour, Mr. Olsen.”
“James is fine,” he tells her and she smiles.
“If I’m calling you James,” she starts and he laughs.
“It was nice to meet you, Lena,” he replies, extending his hand again. “I look forward to working with you.”
After a firm handshake he offers to lead her towards the exit, but she waves him off. “I can find my way out,” she tells him. “I’m sure you have more important things to do.”
They part ways there and Lena has full intentions of making her way towards the exit doors when she hears the distant sound of a ball dribbling against hardwood. The arena is closed for the day and James had run her through the list of events for the month so she knows no one is scheduled to be on the court. Curiosity pulls her feet that direction and she comes out through a tunnel on the lower level to see a lone figure running drills under the basket.
It takes her a second to realize who it is, but it becomes obvious quickly. Kara Danvers. Superstar.
Leaned up against the cement wall of the tunnel, Lena watches as Kara dribbles around invisible defenders, the ball moving quickly between her hands, through her legs, around her back before she’s posting up and chucking the ball towards the basket. A satisfying swooshing sound fills the arena and Kara smiles, jogging to grab the ball and start again.
It’s a tad mesmerizing for Lena to watch, though she doesn’t want to admit it. It’s clear why Kara is considered the top of her league even without any real working knowledge of basketball. There’s a certain grace to her movements, a certainty in her body and hands as she moves through whatever drills it is she’s working through. The ball seems to be an extension of her body, and there are moments of pure athleticism that seem physically impossible as Kara twists into shots in strange positions.
Lena finds herself watching the other girl. She goes unnoticed for a few uninterrupted moments before a door slams somewhere in the stadium and Kara’s gaze suddenly somehow zeros straight in on where Lena is standing.
Everything seems to pause then and the ball Kara had just thrown towards the basket comes rebounding off the rim and straight for Kara’s head, hitting there seconds after Kara and Lena’s eyes lock.
Lena’s caught between laughter and concern, but settles for swallowing a smile and quickly pacing forward to where Kara is rubbing at her temple with a disoriented look in her eye.
“Are you alright?” Lena asks as she approaches and Kara looks up, squinting in a sign of pain.
“Yeah, totally. You’d be surprised how often I get hit in the head,” Kara jokes with a crooked grin Lena finds her stomach reacting to. She was more than aware of how gorgeous Kara Danvers was - Jack had been jokingly sending her Kara’s Calvin Klein ads for the past few days. But in person, it was....different. “Just super embarrassed.”
“Don’t be,” Lena tells her, her heels clicking on the hardwood floor. “I’m the only one who saw.”
Kara looks at her for a moment, hand leaving her temple and eyes clearing as they roam up and down Lena’s person. “Kara Danvers,” she greets, extending her hand. Her other finger points upward towards a massive banner hanging from the rafters. “I’m that one.”
Lena’s lips thin, struggling against a laugh again and she takes Kara’s hand, their palms sliding warmly against each other. “Lena Luthor,” she says, pointing towards the massive display of screens hanging over center court. LUTHOR CORP ARENA is in large red lettering around the top of it. “I’m that one,” she mimics and Kara’s eyes go a bit wide in reaction.
“My new owner,” Kara replies and then must realize how that sounds because she hastily attempts to reverse course. “The team's new owner, I mean. Not my new owner, obviously, because you can’t own people, right, that’s like entirely immoral and super illegal because hello, slavery and -”
“I knew what you meant,” Lena interrupts, saving Kara from the sudden flow of words.
Kara smiles on a deep exhale and Lena finds herself focusing on the errant strands of blond hair curling at Kara’s temples and the slight sheen of exertion visible across the defined muscles of Kara’s bare shoulders and collarbone. “Nice to finally meet you, Miss Luthor,” Kara says.
“And you, Kara,” Lena says trying to fight the sudden inconvenient pull of attraction she can feel happening low in her gut. There’s a reason, Lena realizes, that Kara Danvers is the face the Lakehawks use for nearly all their promotional material. It’s not hard to get caught in her spell.
Before anything else can be said a voice is calling out from the other end of the court. “Superstar! Team meeting!”
Kara turns to look at the source of the voice. “Coming,” she shouts back before turning back towards Lena. “I’ll see you around?”
Lena smiles, hums an affirmative sound. “Certainly.”
And with that, Kara is jogging to pick up the earlier abandoned basketball and down a tunnel.
They hold an organization-wide dinner - players and staff - so Lena can be introduced as the new owner. It’s a more comfortable setting for Lena, held in one of the arena’s many banquet halls. Lex had designed the place as a multipurpose building capable of handling a multitude of functions at once.
It’s there that she meets J’onn J’onzz. He seems unassuming at first, but Lena can sense the quiet strength in his handshake and it’s not hard to tell the aura of respect the players and staff have for him. When she inquires as to Cat Grant’s whereabouts he smiles.
“Cat keeps her own schedule,” he tells her and she’s not sure exactly what that means, but it’s the only explanation she gets.
He takes her through a quick rundown of the Lakehawks players.
“Alex Danvers, captain,” he tells her, indicating to the woman with a gesture of his head. “All-star defensive player three years running.”
Lena watches as Alex takes a long sip of a champagne flute with a bored expression, her head half-tilted to one side and eyes directed at a dark-haired woman standing close by.
“Next to her is Lucy Lane,” J’onn continues. “Point guard, pure shooter. Great ball distribution.”
Lucy laughs at something Alex is whispering, her elbow poking out against Alex’s ribs in a friendly gesture that Lena tries to decipher while J’onn carries on.
“Maggie Sawyer is the woman in the leather jacket over there,” J’onn points out. “She’s the type of player you’d never want to play against, but when she’s on your team…”
Lena nods and takes a sip of her own drink. “I’ve read she leads the team in personal fouls,” she adds, remembering a particular video she had seen of Maggie being hauled off the court by Alex after getting ejected. There had been a good deal of cursing.
J’onn’s only reaction is a glance her direction. “You’ve done your homework.”
“Just a brief overview,” Lena tells him and he looks back towards the woman approaching Maggie.
“That’s M’gann. Her shooting percentage outside the three is nearly unmatched.”
Lena has only a slight idea what any of this means, but she puts on a smile and does her best at pretending.
“And I’m sure you know Kara,” J’onn finishes just as Kara Danvers comes into view, throwing finger guns at one of the Harriers players present and laughing. It’s a different sight than when they had first met, but Lena feels the same pull towards the other woman as before. Internally she rolls her eyes at herself.
Kara’s dressed in a nice pair of pressed slacks this time, a button down tucked into the waistband, but her sleeves are rolled up to reveal her forearms and Lena’s eyes linger over the long line of muscle there.
“We’ve met, yes,” she manages to reply, tearing her eyes away from Kara. It’s certainly not the first time she’s been suddenly attracted to a woman she’s just met, but this particular woman is not only inconvenient, but entirely inaccessible.
J’onn raises an eyebrow at her, but says nothing more than a simple, “Good.”
She observes the Lakehawks for a moment as they mingle about between staff and some of the other bench players Lena can’t quite remember all the names of. “They’re a bit short for basketball players aren’t they?” Lena asks for lack of anything else to comment on.
It J’onn is offended by the comment it doesn’t show. “We’re more of a finesse team,” he responds and she has no idea what that means, but faking it until she makes it seems to be the due course for her lately. Across the room, Lena’s eyes stick again to Kara’s forearms as she leans down on the table to say something to her sister.
For half a second, Kara’s eyes flick up to meet hers, and she directs a bright smile Lena’s way that Lena can’t help but return.
Cat Grant extends an invitation for drinks the day after the team dinner and they meet at a downtown bar Lena’s been to a few times with Jack.
It’s nothing like she expects. If only because Cat is already at the bar when she gets there, primly sipping at a martini and looking nothing like the head coach of a professional basketball team.
Not that Lena has a vast knowledge set of what that is supposed to look like.
“I’m in the business of building a dynasty,” Cat tells her after their second round of drinks. “I hope you like winning, Miss Luthor.”
Lena smiles, feels strangely comfortable around Cat, and puts her glass in the air to clink against the one in Cat’s hand. “That’s something we certainly have in common,” she says. “And call me Lena.”
Cat observes her for a moment, takes a sip of her drink and nods. “Welcome to the Lakehawks, Lena.”
“Thank you, Cat.”
Cat arches an eyebrow. “You can call me Coach Grant.”
Lena’s eyes widen just the slightest before a hint of a smirk appears across Cat’s face.
“It’s customary that the owner attends,” she’s being told one morning after discovering two courtside seats have been reserved for her at the home opener for the Lakehawks.
It hadn’t really occurred to her that a part of owning a team meant actually attending their games. It should have, had she given it any thought. Lex had almost never missed a game when he had still been around.
“Perhaps that’s a custom that needs changing,” she replies, signing off on a contract her assistant, Jess, is holding in front of her.
“The entire purpose of this team is to boost the company’s image, Miss Luthor. Part of that requires some measure of visibility.”
She sighs and resigns herself to a night of boredom. “Very well. Send me the pertinent information.”
The man leaves with a conciliatory nod and Lena falls back against her desk chair with a wry smile for Jess who is looking at her sympathetically. “Could you please get Jack on the phone?” Lena asks.
Jess smiles. “Right away, Miss Luthor.”
“Do try to remember that a basket is worth two points,” Jack is telling her as they walk into the packed arena. “Sometimes three.”
Lena rolls her eyes. “I think I’ve at the very least mastered that bit.”
He looks at her so skeptically that she has to resist the urge to shove him. She saves it for when they’re more hidden from any cameras. Instead she just links her arm through his and walks them towards their seats.
“You know this will do nothing to quell the rumors that we’re secretly dating,” Jack tells her as they make their way onto the court and drop into two seats positioned across a gap near the home bench. His arm drapes across the back of her chair and she instinctively leans a bit towards him.
“As if you don’t benefit from being publicly linked with me.”
He feigns indignation with a slight gasp, his free hand moving to his chest and she laughs. “You’ve found me out. I’m just using you for that free coffee at Noonan’s.”
Her head whips to him. “You get free coffee at Noonan’s?”
“Sure,” he says with a teasing grin. “I need only drop your name there.”
A roar of cheers suddenly fills the air and Lena turns to see the players jogging onto the court to warm up. Her eyes instantly track to where Kara Danvers is trailing in at the back of the line, grabbing a ball when it’s tossed to her and immediately throwing it up towards the basket.
It hadn’t occurred to her just how close she’d be to the team at these games and Lena crosses her legs a bit and straightens as the team begins its warm ups.
In all her research, the National City Skippers had been mentioned over and over again as the nemesis of the Lakehawks. It’s easy to see why. From tipoff, the game is rowdy and the crowd is loud. There’s plenty of jostling for position and loose balls. But even Lena is capable of seeing how truly talented the Lakehawks are, and can see that all five of their starters are having a good return to the court.
Under those circumstances, the game is, for the most part, boring in Lena’s estimation. The only amusing bit is Jack’s running commentary about the players - equal parts hilarious and informative.
“And - of course, Smythe is complaining about the call,” Jack whispers at some point. “Meanwhile, I think Sawyer just dabbed. Respect.”
At the very least, Lena gets a first hand view of just why the Lakehawks are so popular. They’re winning quite handily by halftime and the cheers of the full arena reflects just how pleased the crowd is with that. The Lakehawks are practically gallivanting up and down the court, working in harmony. In particular, Kara and her sister work around each other without hardly any communication - there’s a spectacular behind-the-back pass play that has the Skippers coach raging at his players. Lena can’t help but like it. Coach Grant was right - winning is quite enjoyable.
Cat Grant, however, seems to be one of those coaches that is rarely pleased despite heavy handed wins. Surprisingly tall heels stomp against the hardwood floor as Cat paces up and down the sideline screaming with a scowl. Occasionally she’ll yell out instruction, but mostly she just reacts uproariously to anything that goes negatively for the Lakehawks and argues with the refs in a manner Lena’s sure will get her kicked out of the game at any moment.
The players, however, seem unfazed. More than once, Kara comes over to the sideline to huddle close to Cat and hear something she has to say - strategy from the few words Lena can make out. At some point while listening to her coach, Kara uses her jersey to wipe away sweat from her forehead. She’s wearing a compression shirt of some kind underneath, but Lena can still see up close and personal the abs that play prominently in the Calvin Klein ads Jack is so fond of showing her. Lena takes a heavy swallow of her vodka soda.
“Cat’s won coach of the year twice in a row,” Jack informs her as they watch her push her star player back onto the court where Lucy Lane is shooting free throws.
“She’s very…” Lena thinks of the word she wants to use as she watches Cat stalk back towards the bench and rip a clipboard out of an assistant’s hands. “Passionate.”
Jack laughs. “That’s certainly one word for it.”
It’s in the third quarter, just as Jack is handing Lena another vodka soda and retaking his seat, that it happens.
Had Lena’s eyes been on the game she might have been able to prevent it, but she was too busy squeezing a lime into her drink and stirring the small straw there to notice the body come barreling towards her, chasing after an errant pass.
By the time she notices it’s too late.
Vodka and soda and ice go everywhere as Lena gets slammed into hard. Something knocks right into her face and a burst of pain floods across her cheekbone as her chair tips backward. Distantly she hears a collective gasp sound out, but she’s too busy trying to figure out what the hell crashed into her to really register that.
“Oh my God,” a voice is saying and as soon as Lena feels like she can open her eyes she realizes the voice belongs to none other than Kara Danvers. A Kara Danvers who is currently still pressed on top of her quite awkwardly from her spill out of her seat.
“I am so so so so so sorry,” Kara is saying, trying to maneuver back to standing. She reaches down to pull Lena up and had she not been focused on the pain still radiating from her face, her back and her hip, she might have taken the time to enjoy the strong way Kara easily picks her up from the floor and sets her back on her feet. “Are you okay?”
The game has halted behind Kara. The players are all observing the interaction as well as the crowd. Out of the corner of her eye Lena can see that the cameras have honed in on the scene as well and that knowledge gets her to composure quickly. A few arena security guards attempt to come closer but she waves them off.
“I’m fine,” Lena says, clearing her throat and swiping a hand down her now stained pencil skirt. A glance downward tells her that her drink landed mostly onto her lap and arms somehow.
Jack is to her right with his jaw dropped a bit in shock and Lena takes a breath, leaning to pick up her discarded chair. “Please. Carry on,” she tells Kara and she’s aware of a phone pointed in her direction, presumably taking their picture. It makes her straighten her clothing again self-consciously and try for a casual smile – pain punctuates the motion, but she manages to get through it anyway.
Security has all but surrounded her and she glances to Jack. “I’m going to go freshen up,” she tells him with a last look at Kara - still staring at her with concern.
The Lakehawks win, but Lena never returns to her seats. Instead she spends the rest of it in the owner’s suite hidden from cameras and with an ice pack pressed to her face. The team trainer comes to meet her with a nervous look of worry in his eyes.
“Hi, Miss Luthor,” he greets, holding a penlight up to her eyes. “How is your head?”
He takes her through a concussion protocol and leaves her with another ice pack, two aspirin and an apology on behalf of Kara - she doesn’t have control of her body sometimes. Just lays out for a ball like it’s life or death or something.
Jack joins her at the start of the fourth quarter.
“Quite a start to the season,” he jokes, eyeing the ginger way she presses her fingers against her cheekbone. “Are all the games going to be this exciting?”
“I certainly hope not,” Lena says eyeing the drink in his hand.
“I got you a double this time,” he tells her, handing the plastic cup towards her.
She tries to laugh, but it spikes pain up towards her eye so she just winces and takes a long grateful sip of the drink. The Skippers sulk their way off the court after being thoroughly trounced and Lena stays long enough to witness a post-game ritual involving Lucy and M’gann barrelling full speed at each other from across the court and jumping, and then Jack ushers her to her towncar.
The result is a massive black eye and a sore hip in the morning. It takes an extra thirty minutes in front of the mirror to try and cover up the bruising, but it’s still visible when she walks into work. Jess nearly gasps when she catches sight of her, but Lena ignores it and just asks her for a triple shot latte as quickly as possible.
A headache remains persistent throughout the day, but Lena’s worked through worse. Jack spends his morning texting her the clip of her collision that ran on Sportscenter all night.
Around lunchtime Jess steps into her office and approaches the desk. “A Kara Danvers is here to see you,” she informs Lena and the knowledge makes her straighten, eyes glancing towards the slightly ajar door to her office.
“Send her in,” Lena says curious as to what it could be about. The pain in her cheek seems to radiate an answer.
When Kara paces into the office in light wash jeans and a soft looking Lakehawks zip-up, she looks nervous and fidgety, her eyes widening at the first look at Lena’s face. “I am so sorry,” Kara says in greeting and Lena waves her off.
“It’s an occupational hazard, Kara,” Lena tells her, regretting the smile that tries to pull across her lips at the first bite of pain. “I’m certain you didn’t intend to tackle me.”
“Not at all,” Kara tells her. “I was just - trying to get the loose ball, and then Smythe tripped me, and then I totally elbowed you in the face and fell on top of you, and I’m so sorry.”
“You didn’t need to come all the way over here to apologize.”
“I just feel awful,” Kara says and she falls into one of Lena’s office chairs uninvited, sitting on the edge of it.
“Don’t feel awful,” Lena says, with as small a smile as she can offer without wincing.
“I couldn’t sleep all night. You have to let me make it up to you.”
There’s suggestion in that sentence that Lena is sure Kara didn’t intend, but her body reacts to it just slightly, warming up from bottom to top. “As I said,” Lena starts slowly. “That isn’t necessary.”
“Dinner,” Kara offers with an open expression. “Please.”
Lena goes to protest yet again, but Kara leans forward, insistent. “Think of it as a chance to get to know your star player,” Kara adds and Lena sighs, already feeling herself agreeing.
“Kara,” Lena starts softly.
“Miss Luthor,” Kara entreats. “If you don’t let me take you out to an apology dinner then I’m still not going to be able to sleep tonight or the next night and I’ll be tired and exhausted and it will probably affect my shooting percentage and the Lakehawks will start losing and then -”
“Okay, okay,” Lena says with her palm extended to interrupt Kara’s babbling. She laughs even as it hurts. “In the interest of the Lakehawks and a winning season we can have dinner.”
They agree to meet at some undiscovered restaurant Kara swears by and Lena has never heard of in her entire time in National City. Lena arrives first and can’t help but admire the Range Rover Kara pulls up in, its rims a matte black.
“I come here all the time when I want to avoid press,” Kara tells her as they walk in and Lena hadn’t considered that aspect of Kara’s life.
“I have some experience with evasion tactics myself,” Lena replies.
Kara laughs and the sound of it pools warmth in Lena’s gut. It also spikes instant regret for agreeing to this dinner. Here she is now sliding into a small wooden booth in the corner of a dimly lit bar with an attractive girl who is basically her employee.
It wouldn’t be the first time she’s had to actively avoid mixing business and pleasure, but something about Kara feels more dangerous than usual. It doesn’t help that the other girl is dressed like this is a date - dark wash jeans, blazer with the sleeves cuffed up and her hair tumbling in waves down her shoulders.
Lena runs a hand down her work appropriate dress and trains her eyes on the menu.
“Everything is good here,” Kara tells her. “Literally everything. The baked mac and cheese is my favorite, but also the nachos are great too. It’s like a mountain of cheese and you can get it with this seasoned beef on it.”
Lena arches a brow at the description and winces a bit at the sore tug it creates in her cheek. “Aren’t you an athlete?”
Kara’s brow furrows. “Yeah, why?”
“You eat nachos?”
Kara laughs, her eyes mischievous in a way that makes Lena want to get lost in them. “I burn a ridiculous amount of calories in a day playing basketball.”
“A mountain full of nachos amount of calories?” Lena teases and Kara shrugs it off.
“Easily. Especially if Cat has us on two-a-days or during a game.”
“Why do you play basketball?” Lena asks, suddenly curious.
Kara looks confused by the question for a moment before answering. “I’m good at it.”
Lena’s head tilts a bit. “Being skilled at something isn’t necessarily a reason for doing it. Certainly not for making a career out of it.”
“Why not? I’m good at it and it makes a lot of money,” Kara tells her.
Before she can inquire further the waiter steps up to the table to take their order.
“So. Give me your elevator speech,” Lena instructs, watching as Kara navigates her way through a pile of melted cheese with a gleeful smile.
“My what speech?” Kara asks before popping a chip in her mouth and taking a sip of a ridiculously neon pink drink with a little umbrella poking out near the straw.
“If I’m going to get to know my star player then we have to start somewhere. So, give me your elevator speech,” Lena repeats. At Kara’s blank expression she continues. “It’s the what do you need to know about me speech you would give someone in the time it takes to ride an elevator.”
Kara chews on her food a moment and swallows. “That’s a thing?”
Lena laughs, charmed by the innocent look of confusion and ignores the way the motion tugs at the bruising on her cheek. “In my world, it’s quite common.”
“I don’t need to talk to sell myself in my world,” Kara says, going back in for another nacho. “My game speaks for me.”
“It’s a figure of speech,” Lena explains with an amused quirk of her lips. “Indulge me.”
Kara’s eyes look up at that, sharply connecting with Lena’s. Her attention gets drawn to how close Kara’s knee is from her own under the table.
“Okay,” Kara says, lips pursed for a moment. “I’m Kara Danvers. I’m a shooting guard for the National City Lakehawks. My favorite food is a tie between pizza and potstickers and I’m missing a knuckle on my left hand.”
Lena’s eyes go immediately to the limb in question. “You’re what?”
Grinning, Kara picks her fist up and flexes it in Lena’s line of sight. “I’m missing a knuckle,” she repeats, pointing to the way the line of her knuckles dips in the absence of a ridge near her pinky finger.
“How unique,” Lena says, looking around Kara’s fist as if it’s a puzzle she can solve. She reaches out a hand to stroke her finger against the area before she can even think about it.
“Thanks,” Kara says, but her voice is low and makes Lena realize that they’re touching. Abruptly she pulls her hand back and clears her throat. “I broke my hand in a game my junior year. Hasn’t been the same since.”
“That must have hurt,” Lena comments ignoring the way Kara seems to lean forward, her foot brushing against Lena’s.
Kara shrugs. “We won the game,” she says, as if that alleviated any pain.
Lena turns back to the glass of whiskey at her elbow and takes a sip of it while Kara returns to the plate of nachos between them.
“Now you go,” Kara says as she pulls another chip out from the pile and goes about stacking more cheese on top.
“Give me your elevator speech,” Kara explains and Lena laughs a bit.
“I think my name does that for me.”
Kara scoffs, eyes still on the food in front of her. “People are more than just their names.”
“My name is a pretty big one,” Lena replies and Kara finally looks up, shoving the nacho in her mouth and raising a skeptical eyebrow.
“Bigger than you?” Kara asks simply as she swallows and Lena has to contemplate that.
Since she was younger her name had always seemed a larger than life entity. Being a Luthor was like wearing a heavy mantle her entire life, but now, as the only one truly left - father dead, brother in hiding, mother all but the same in light of her son’s scandal - Luthor holds different meaning now that she is the only keeper of its legacy.
“I suppose not,” she answers before letting her shoulders relax and taking another sip of her drink.
“To be completely honest, I don’t much care for basketball. Or for many athletic competitions in general,” Lena admits as Kara continues to peruse the dessert menu.
At the confession her head snaps up. “You don’t like basketball?!” The question drips with incredulity that makes Lena laugh.
“It’s just never been my thing.”
Kara looks completely befuddled by the idea as if it’s incomprehensible that someone wouldn’t like the sport she’s made a career out of. “That’s it, friendship over,” Kara states definitively.
“We were friends?” Lena asks with a laugh and another sip of her drink.
“Well not anymore,” Kara grumbles, but her face is smiling when she peeks a glance back up at Lena.
“So when is your next game?” Lena asks casually and then realizes she should probably know that answer to that so ventures a guess, “Sunday?”
Kara pulls a face, stirs the straw around in her drink. “Yeah. The Skippers again,” she says with a tone that conveys quite clearly how Kara feels about the team.
“The local rivalry?”
“We’re not big fans of each other,” Kara says, smiling at Lena. “You should probably know that.”
“I do know that,” Lena replies and just barely stops herself from kicking Kara’s shin under the table like she would do if it were Jack telling her this. “I’m trying to make conversation. It’s polite.”
“Right, totally,” Kara says with a teasing nod of her head. “I’m sorry, I didn’t look at the script. ”
“Indeed,” Lena says with a prim arch of her brow that makes Kara chuckle.
“I’m sure they’ll be angry we killed them on opening night,” Kara says, fingers toying with the stem of her margarita glass. “It doesn’t help that Leslie Willis used to play for the Lakehawks with us until we traded her.”
“For Maggie, right?” Lena asks, trying to scrounge up the information she’d read about the Lakehawks draft and trade history.
“Yeah kind of,” Kara says with a shrug of her shoulder that would look indifferent if Kara wasn’t making a pinched kind of expression as she does it.
“Leslie wasn’t happy with the trade?”
Kara looks away a second. “Leslie and I also might have a bit of...personal...history.”
That catches Lena’s attention and she shifts in her seat, searching Kara’s face. It’s not a big secret that Kara’s dated women, but the confirmation of it does nothing to quell the pull of attraction low in Lena’s gut. “Really?”
Laughing softly, Kara nods. “Yeah, it’s made the games we play each other kind of tense.”
“I’d imagine,” Lena says. “Dating someone you work with always breeds complications.”
“We didn’t date,” Kara clarifies with a slight eyeroll and a frown.
Lena laughs. “Well in that case, I’d think it’d be even worse.”
“That makes me sound so sleezy,” Kara says with a scrunch of her nose that makes Lena laugh again.
“Not at all,” Lena tells her with a dismissive shake of her head. “I’m well practiced in the art of casual flings.”
That seems to interest Kara who raises her eyebrows and leans forward just the slightest. “You are?”
Laughing, Lena picks her drink up and pushes her lips together in a smug looking smile. “Of course. Relationships aren’t exactly something easy to manage when you’re in my position.”
“Mine either,” Kara says and Lena acknowledges that with a quick quirk of her brow.
“Now, dipping into the company ink, however…” Lena starts with a soft chuckle. “I’m not sure I’d ever want to approach a woman I have to see in the workplace every day. Even for something casual. Not that I haven’t been tempted.”
Something about whatever she’s said makes Kara’s face still as she looks over and she’s not sure if it’s because of their current professional relationship or something else. “Well, I learned my lesson after Leslie,” Kara says softly with a slight upturn of her lips.
The rest of dinner passes easily. Lena finds Kara to be a relatively interesting companion if not entirely distracting. It’s a struggle to remember this is nothing more than a business dinner and not a date. Especially when they’re leaving the restaurant and Kara’s hand drifts to the small of Lena’s back as they pass through the door towards a waiting valet.
Apart from a career path that Lena’s never understood the appeal of, Kara is funny, smart and attractive in a combination that Lena usually goes for quite easily. In any other circumstance, Lena would already be asking Kara over for an after dinner drink at her penthouse.
“Thank you for dinner,” Lena murmurs as the valet scurries off to fetch Kara’s car. Her own driver is pulling up to the curb. “Though entirely unnecessary, it was enjoyable.”
“I’m glad, Miss Luthor,” Kara says, rocking a bit on her feet as she looks over at Lena.
“I think sharing a plate of nachos qualifies you for first name status,” Lena jokes, emboldened slightly by that third whiskey she had consumed over dessert.
Kara’s eyes darken a bit, her gaze hot on Lena’s face. “I’m glad, Lena,” Kara corrects and Lena can’t help the reaction her body has to the sound of her name out of Kara’s lips.
This attraction she feels for Kara is clearly not ebbing away and Lena can feel how risky it is. It doesn’t stop her, however, from pushing up onto her toes to press a friendly kiss at the corner of Kara’s mouth before slipping into the back of her car.
As she drives away she spots Kara’s eyes following her, smirk on her lips.
There’s an e-mail in her inbox the next morning from a firstname.lastname@example.org that reads only: Last night was fun. Sorry about your face. Followed by a sequence of digits Lena realizes is Kara’s number.
It takes a moment of indecision before she logs the number in her phone, but she resists the urge to send a text message and focuses on her work for the day.
The next Lakehawks game comes far too quickly for Lena’s taste.
“How many games are there in a season?” Lena asks Jack as they share a pre-game meal at a nearby steakhouse.
“Something like eighty I believe,” Jack answers, stabbing a green bean with his fork.
“Eighty?!” Her voice rises against her control and a couple at a nearby table shoot her matching looks of disdain that she glares back at.
“It’s a long season,” Jack agrees, “but at least you only have to go to some of the away games.”
Lena chokes on a sip of her martini. “I have to go to away games?”
“Some of them,” Jack says. “Lex did, from what I remember. The local ones or the big rivalries. Or when they make the playoffs.”
Lena lets out a dignified groan and drops her forehead against her palm, elbow propped against the table. “Remind me why I decided to keep this team,” she grumbles and Jack laughs.
“Because you love getting into the old boy’s club and ruffling feathers,” he answers dutifully and it makes her laugh as well, this time the fading bruise covered by makeup under her eye doesn’t even twinge.
Kara approaches her nearly as soon as she and Jack find their seats and Lena hears the sound of flashes go off as they greet each other on the court.
“I’ll try not to crash into you this time,” Kara jokes with a flirty kind of smile that makes Lena take a deep breath.
“At least try to avoid it when I have a drink in my hands,” Lena teases back and Kara laughs. It’s easy, warm and Lena finds herself reconsidering her previous misgivings about basketball.
“Will do, boss,” she says with a wink before turning back to her team.
“That was familiar,” Jack observes when Lena takes her seat next to him.
“We had dinner,” she answers, her eyes on the flash of players performing shooting drills on the court in front of her. “It was pleasant.”
“You what?” Jack exclaims loudly, suddenly straightening in his chair.
“Hush,” she admonishes, slapping his thigh. “She took me out to apologize for falling on me the other night.”
“You went on a date with Kara Danvers?” Jack asks in a conspiratorial whisper as he leans close to her ear.
The loud booming sound of the team’s warm-up playlist thankfully covers most of the conversation and Lena cuts him a glare. “It wasn’t a date.”
He turns to look at Kara who is standing on the far side of the basket taking shots from the baseline. When Lena follows his gaze Kara glances at her and a hint of a smile forms. “Never thought you’d go for a jock,” Jack says with a contemplative look.
“I wouldn’t,” Lena says with a tone that tries to convey how affronted she is at the suggestion. “It was just dinner.”
Jack looks unconvinced, but leans back in his chair and crosses his legs. “Be careful with that one, Lena. Company ink and all that.”
She rolls her eyes, but doesn’t reply. The same thought had been repeating itself the longer the feel of Kara’s skin under her lips lingered in her memories.
The picture of their conversation is apparently posted onto both the Lakehawks and the Luthor Corp social media accounts.
Jack texts her screenshots of it and Lena rolls her eyes.
Do you have a google alert for my name or something? Lena texts him and she can practically hear his laughter when he texts back.
You photograph well. And so does Kara.
Lena finds she can’t disagree with that sentiment as she spends an extra few seconds looking at the picture of her and Kara standing next to each other.
They make an attractive pair. Kara in her Lakehawks warm-ups, smiling widely and Lena in heels that bring her at eye-level with Kara and always make her legs look great. Kara’s body is angled towards her, her hands behind her back, and Lena finds herself endeared to the posture displayed there.
She exits out of the conversation with Jack, but not before she makes a point to follow the Lakehawks Instagram and Twitter accounts.
Kara seems to be a frequent target of local news and Lena can’t decide if she just didn’t notice before or if it’s a recent development brought on by the Lakehawks winning streak of late. Ten games into the season and they’ve yet to lose.
The picture shows up on her Twitter timeline no less than ten times and Lena only clicks on it because she has a business interest in keeping tabs on the players of a team she owns. Or so she tells herself.
It’s Kara. That much is clear not just from the bold caption under the photo, but because Lena’s come to find Kara’s laughing face a familiar sight. There’s an unfamiliar girl tucked under her arm smiling up at her and they’re pressed in close together. Intimately close.
The article goes on to speculate the obvious and includes a long list of people Kara’s been rumored to have romantic ties to. The list is so long that Lena finds her eyebrows raising as she reads through it. Kara had mentioned that she wasn’t in a position for serious relationships, but certainly hadn’t indicated she’d indulged in this many flings. Quite the opposite really.
“So the player is a player,” Lena murmurs with a laugh at her own joke before choking it back. She clicks out of the article and closes her Twitter feed to re-open her e-mail.
Lena can’t decide how she feels about the information. Relieved that it gives her a firm reason to avoid entanglement with Kara or irrationally discontent at the idea of Kara having a significant romantic history that doesn’t include her.
“This isn’t high school, Lena,” she chastises herself.
“Did you say something, Miss Luthor?” Comes a voice from her door and her head snaps up to see Jess wavering there with a confused look and a stack of papers in her hands.
“No, sorry, Jess. What can I do for you?”
They’re sitting at a local rooftop bar when Lena hears a woman lean over the counter to her right and ask the bartender, “Could you put the Lakehawks on that TV please? I think they’re on ESPN tonight.”
Jack’s in the middle of discussing some new project he’s started at work, but Lena’s attention gets pulled to where the bartender is changing the channel on the television hanging behind the bar. Kara’s face suddenly comes up on the large screen as she gives a pregame interview.
“Sudden interest in basketball?” Jack muses with a knowing grin on his face.
Lena shrugs a shoulder and reaches out for her wine glass. “I own the team, Jack.”
“Ah yes,” he says, looking up to where Kara is grinning down at a reporter holding a microphone between them. “The team.”
“She’s our most valuable player,” Lena says. “And a huge source of profit for the company.”
It sounds thin even as she says it, but Jack doesn’t reply, just cuts into his steak and smiles at her. “You know, I heard she’s dating Alex Andrews.”
Lena had heard the same. Kara’s dating exploits had become somewhat of a frequent resident on Lena’s news feed each morning. “Reading the gossip column again?”
He laughs. “I have to,” he says. “If only to keep up on our relationship. Did you know I’m cheating on you with Veronica Sinclair?”
Lena makes a face and looks away from the television that’s now displaying the starting lineups of each team. “If you’re going to cheat on me, please have better taste in mistresses,” she jokes.
“I’ll keep that in mind,” he says with another laugh.
They eat dinner together in companionable silence and Lena can’t help the way her attention seems to linger on the basketball game playing on the television. The Lakehawks take a commanding lead early on and Lena watches as Kara hits back to back three-pointers. Celebrating with a flourish and some kind of intricate hand shake with her sister, Alex, on the sideline.
“She really is very good,” Jack observes as they watch together.
“She is,” Lena agrees without further comment.
Later that night when she’s returned home and her phone has notified her that the Lakehawks did indeed manage to win the game despite a shaky fourth quarter, Lena sits awake in bed and considers.
Kara’s phone number is pulled up on her contact list glaring at her and she wonders what the other girl is doing all the way in Midway City right now. Is she celebrating a victory with her team? With another woman perhaps? Maybe she was already asleep.
Lena contemplates a text message for long moments before closing the messaging app and pulling out her e-mail instead.
The message is brief.
You played well tonight. Congratulations on the victory.
She signs her full name on the bottom and sends the e-mail before dropping her phone back on her bedside table and killing the lights.
The reply comes midmorning the next day just as Lena’s placing her lunch order with Jess.
Didn’t I give you my number? is all it says.
Lena deletes the e-mail, but smiles.
They see each other again in passing as Lena’s walking in for a meeting with James Olsen at the arena and Kara is walking out clearly just from practice if the sweaty way her hair is falling out of her ponytail is anything to go by.
“Lena!” Kara greets with a bright smile as they step towards each other.
“Kara, fancy seeing you here,” Lena replies with a polite level of tease, mindful of James’s secretary watching their interaction with interest.
“Are you here to see James?”
“I am, yes,” Lena says and Kara smiles.
“Well it’s good to see you,” Kara answers and Lena fights the urge to take a step back. The heat Kara’s giving off and the way the muscles of her biceps flex as she reaches up to tighten her ponytail are making Lena’s thinking go a bit fuzzy.
“You too,” Lena replies genuinely. “Practice all done?”
“Almost,” Kara says with a crooked smile. “Cat’s got this philosophy that if practice is insanely hard it makes the games a cakewalk in comparison.”
It’s a logical idea, Lena thinks, though she knows squat about sports. “Sounds intense.”
“Totally,” Kara says and god can she just stop smiling so Lena’s stomach would stop doing somersaults? It gets worse when Kara decides to use the hem of her practice jersey to wipe a drip of sweat off her head and Lena’s greeted with a close up view of Kara’s unfairly toned abdomen. “Well, I should get back before Cat decides I need to do more suicides.”
Even if Lena understood exactly what that meant, she wouldn’t be able to reply anyway because her mouth has gone so dry she’s not sure she’ll be able to speak to James in the next few minutes.
“Of course,” she manages to get out. “Wouldn’t want that.”
“No,” Kara agrees and thankfully drops her jersey back into place covering up the skin of her stomach. Lena’s fingers twitch involuntarily. “Like I said, good to see you.”
“You too,” Lena says, hoping the heat in her cheeks isn’t visible.
Kara, for her part, doesn’t seem to notice Lena’s inner turmoil and just graces her with another bright smile before walking away.
Lena blinks at the empty space in front of her and then seems to remember herself. She turns to look at James’s secretary, recalling with sudden worry that she has an audience, but the woman is staring at Kara’s retreating form with a dreamy look on her face.
Seems Lena’s not the only one completely affected by Kara Danvers. That knowledge does some good in restoring Lena’s composure and she manages to clear her throat pointedly and arch a brow when it startles the assistant out of her staring. “Could you let Mr. Olsen know I’m here for our meeting?”
“Oh, yes, of course Miss Luthor,” the girl says, scrambling to pick up her desk phone.
“I’m merely concerned for you,” Jack is saying. “As your friend.”
There’s this casual smile on his face that comes across teasing and smug at the same time as he leans against the bar, knot of his tie loose around his neck, top button of his shirt undone and his hair with that end of the day tousle in it.
Lena rolls her eyes at him. “You’re not my mother, Jack,” she says – annoyed as usual with his constant badgering regarding her love life.
“Your mother is terrible,” Jack says, pointing at her with the hand holding his glass of whisky.
“Something we agree upon.”
“And you’ve been tense lately. All this business with Lex -”
“I’m not tense,” she snaps at him, but he just laughs and she concedes the point with a quirk of her lips.
“I could set you up,” he offers for the fifth time that night. “Something casual. It could be good for you.”
“When’s the last time you’ve been on a date, Jack?” Lena says with a pointed look as she runs her fingers through her hair.
“We’re talking about you right now, not me.”
“You spend too much time with me,” she says. “And caring about my love life instead of worrying about your own.”
“Love life,” he scoffs, taking a long drink of his whisky. “We’re not talking about love lives.”
“You know how I feel about that word,” he says as if talking about love is something sour in his mouth.
“The last time you gave me dating advice it went terribly,” Lena says, watching a dark look cross Jack’s face. “Or do you not remember?”
“Of course I remember,” he says. “This isn’t Sam.”
“You’re right,” she says, trying not to get angry with him, but irritated with this constant focus on what she is or isn’t doing romantically. “It’s some random stranger you’d like me to take to dinner only to be bored to death and out the price of a nice meal and a taxi.”
“It wouldn’t hurt to share a meal and conversation with someone that isn’t me or someone that works for you,” he points out and she can admit he has a point.
“I don’t have the time for that,” she sighs and he looks at her with soft affection.
“You can make time for this,” he says. “It’ll be good for you to get away from your life for a few hours.”
Lena hesitates, considers and Jack reaches over to touch her hand.
“Just go on one date and I promise I’ll leave you alone about this for a week.”
“A month,” she bargains and he laughs.
“A week and three days.”
Jack narrows his eyes for a few seconds before extending his hand towards her. “Two weeks.”
The woman Jack sets her up with works at a local investment firm downtown and she makes sure Jack triple checks her work history to confirm that she has no ties to Luthor Corp. The last thing Lena needs is a casual date turning into an impromptu business dinner.
Or for anything in her off-hours to bleed suddenly into her work.
They meet at a popular steakhouse called Seven in the heart of downtown and Lena reserves a table on the rooftop floor of their seven-floored restaurant.
The rooftop layout is nice, and intimate. A square bar in the center and the edges of the roof lined with small two-seater tables. There’s a glass firepit on one side of the roof surrounded by comfortable looking chairs and strings of lights cover the entire space like a canopy.
For a date, it’s perfect.
Except Lena has such little interest in her companion that even the sight of the National City skyline and the eighty-dollar steak in front of her can’t make her enjoy herself. It’s somewhere between awkward and dreadfully boring and Lena half considers faking an emergency to have an excuse to leave.
It’s after her date excuses herself to use the restroom that Lena notices a familiar form standing near the bar and looking her direction.
In form fitting dark wash jeans and a casual flannel button down, Kara’s leaned up against the bar with a drink. There’s a woman talking to her – someone Lena doesn’t recognize – but Kara’s not paying her much attention apart from nodding every few seconds. Her eyes, however, are looking straight at Lena.
“Is that Kara Danvers?” It seems her date has returned to the table and has followed Lena’s gaze over to the bar.
It rips her stare away from where Kara is still watching them and back to the woman across from her. With a short clearing of her throat she reaches to pick up her glass. “Yes, I believe it is.”
“Do you know her? She’s staring right over here.”
Lena smiles. “I own the Lakehawks,” she says with a quick sip of her wine.
“Oh, of course. That’s right,” her date says before leaning forward over the table. “Do you think you could introduce me?”
Laughing abruptly, Lena tilts her head quizzically at the excited glint in the woman’s eyes. “Excuse me?”
“Do you think you could introduce me? My little sister is a huge fan and it’d be such a big deal if I could get her autograph.”
Lena glances back to where Kara is still standing at the bar, now paying far more attention to the woman talking to her, but still stealing looks Lena’s direction. “Sure.”
They make their way over to the bar and when Kara notices Lena’s headed her direction she straightens abruptly enough that the woman she’s with looks over.
“Lena,” Kara greets with a bright smile that falters only slightly when she looks at the woman trailing behind Lena.
“Hello, Kara,” she says and when she looks to the woman Kara is with expectantly, Kara chokes a bit on her drink for a second.
“Right, yeah, this is -”
“Sara Lance!” Lena’s date exclaims in an excited burst of sound that makes Lena jump a bit.
Kara’s friend – Sara Lance, apparently – laughs charmingly and extends her hand. “Guilty as charged,” she says with a look that can only be described as flirtatious.
Her date – whose name is escaping her at the moment – giggles as she takes Sara’s hand and Lena can’t help the bit of her that’s relieved at the idea of this Sara Lance taking her date out of her hands.
“Lena Luthor, right?” Sara says, this time extending her hand towards Lena.
“That’s right,” she says with a polite smile as she shakes Sara’s hand.
“I saw that video of this one here,” Sara nudges at Kara’s bicep in a friendly gesture, “running into you during the game. I know what that feels like and I can empathize.”
Lena’s brow pulls down at the statement until Kara clarifies, “Sara plays for the Evergreens.”
“Star City’s supertstar,” her date swoons much to Sara’s clear delight. “Wow, imagine my luck running into the two of you together.”
“Not like that,” Kara says hastily, looking at Lena. “We’re not together together. We’re just - I mean…” Sara gives Kara an indulgent smile, laughing softly.
“Would you like a picture?” Sara offers, diverting everyone’s attention from a now blushing Kara Danvers. Which is how Lena ends up holding her date’s phone and snapping a picture of her with her arms around both Kara and Sara.
In the end, Sara manages to charm Lena’s date out from under nose – not that Lena puts up much of a fight. By the time they order a round of drinks, Sara’s already convinced Lena’s date to join her at the small firepit across the way. “If you don’t mind, Lena,” Sara does say with a cocked eyebrow for Lena and a short amused quirk for Kara.
“Of course not,” Lena says softly with a silent laugh as Sara leads her date away.
It leaves her with Kara at the bar and both of them exchanging a chuckle.
“Well it looks like we’re both out a date,” Lena comments as she takes her place at the bar next to Kara and picks up her drink.
“Sara and I weren’t on a date,” Kara says.
With a playful smile for the serious way Kara says it, Lena quirks a brow. “No?”
“I know Sara has a bit of a reputation,” Kara says slowly and Lena narrows her eyes.
“She does?” Apart from a brief memory of hearing about the Lance sisters of Star City’s basketball team, Lena’s not well versed in the gossip circle of professional basketball.
Kara points over to where Sara is now leading Lena’s date towards the elevators. “I’m pretty sure Sara’s taking your date home now.”
Lena laughs. “I’ll send her a thank you note later.”
Kara glances over with an interested arch of her brow. “Wasn’t going well?”
“You could say that,” Lena says with a little sigh as she finishes the last of her drink.
“Another one?” Kara offers with an inviting smile. When Lena hesitates, Kara gestures around them towards the setting sun and the skyline beginning to light up around them. “It’d be a shame to waste this view.”
Her lips stretch into a warm smile and she laughs softly. “Kara Danvers, smooth talker,” she says, let out only by the amount of alcohol finally settling into her system. It’s the wine, she thinks, that makes it come out as flirtatious as it does.
A flush blooms into Kara’s cheeks and her eyes skit away sheepishly. “I wasn’t trying to sound weird,” she says which just makes Lena laugh more, charmed by the way Kara turns from confident superstar to shy, pretty girl in seconds.
Taking pity on her, Lena reaches across to touch Kara’s forearm. “Buy me a drink,” she says softly and Kara grins so immediately that Lena finds her own lips moving to mirror the expression.
They end up on the comfortable two-seater couch near the firepit with a glass of wine and Lena feels drawn in by a strong irresistible tug of attraction towards the way Kara’s face looks under the soft brush of light from the fire.
“I can’t believe Sara took your date home,” Kara laughs, elbow propping up on the back of the small couch and holding her head.
“I thought you said she had a reputation,” Lena says with a answering laugh and a sip of her wine.
“Well sure, but I mean if I had the choice between you and Sara…” Kara starts, leaving the end of the thought dangling, but Lena picks it up easily enough. It blooms warmth across her cheeks suddenly at the implication.
“Because Sara’s your friend,” Lena points out, trying to ignore the very unsubtle way Kara’s staring at her now.
“Right,” Kara says, nodding slowly, eyes still intent on Lena’s face.
A change of subject seems entirely necessary so Lena looks away and into the fire next to them for a moment, taking a careful sip of her drink. “So Sara plays for the Evergreens?”
Kara’s silent a moment before sitting up and shifting straighter on the couch. “Yeah, with her sister Laurel, actually.”
Lena looks back at Kara, tries to ignore the pretty way the Kara’s hair falls over her shoulders. “Is that some kind of rule in basketball?”
Kara’s brow knits. “What?”
“That you have to play with your sister?” Lena points out and Kara laughs.
“Oh, that. Yeah, weird right?”
Lena shrugs a shoulder. “I guess?”
“Actually, Alex and I were first,” Kara says, swirling the wine in her glass around a bit. “I think we kind of paved the way for Sara and Laurel to play together. Before us Laurel played for Century City and then she put in for a trade and the Evergreens picked her up.”
“I don’t know that I’d want to play with my sibling,” Lena says, remembering how just working for the same company as Lex can get on her nerves.
Kara hums, half in agreement. “Sometimes it’s a lot,” she admits. “But Alex and I have been playing basketball together since we were kids, before the Danvers adopted me. Sometimes I feel like I wouldn’t be able to play without her on my team.”
“From the way your contract is structured that doesn’t seem like something you’ll have to worry about,” Lena says pointedly. The team contracts were one of the few things from the massive file on the Lakehawks that Lena felt familiar with immediately. Money, numbers, legalese, these kinds of things weren’t that different between sports franchises and corporate conglomerates.
Kara’s in particular had a very clear clause regarding her sister Alex and if Kara hadn’t already proved her value to the Lakehawks in tenfold Lena would have balked at it.
It pulls an almost sheepish smile across Kara’s face. “True.”
“You were adopted?” Lena asks, after a moment of simple silence. Kara’s smile softens a little and she plucks at the stem of her wine glass.
“Yeah,” Kara says, shrugging. “I’m pretty sure you could YouTube the whole story from some ESPN special, if you wanted to learn all about it.”
“No, I - sorry,” Lena says, her hand reaching halfway between them before she thinks better of it and withdraws. “I was adopted as well. But I know what that’s like, to have everyone know about something you would rather hide.”
Kara hums, her eyes glistening under the firelight before her smile brightens again and she leans close.
“Okay then, Lena Luthor,” Kara says. “Tell me something no one else knows about you.”
Lena can’t help but laugh at the enthusiasm on Kara’s face, can’t help but be charmed by her.
“I don’t know,” Lena says. “I - accidentally set the chemistry lab on fire at boarding school and blamed it on this girl who lived down the hall.”
“Wow, that’s dark,” Kara says, reaching out to nudge at Lena’s shoulder and laughing. “What’s next? Where are the bodies buried?”
“Shush,” Lena says, laughing as Kara rolls her head along the back of the couch. “You go now. Tell me something no one else knows about you.”
Kara makes a noise of thought, rubbing at her chin and smiling when Lena laughs again.
“I had a panic attack before my first Lakehawks game,” Kara says, finally. “Threw up all over the locker room. I told everyone I didn’t know what had happened, later. Coach almost killed security because she thought some drunk fan had got in to ruin our game.”
Lena lets a moment pass in silence, taking in the information.
“That’s disgusting,” Lena says, and Kara laughs loudly, her face scrunching up in such an endearing way that Lena has to look away.
Time passes easily between them. The rooftop area becomes more and more deserted without either of them realizing it until a waiter is stopping by with an apologetic expression and the check.
Kara sits up at that, reaching for it, and Lena glances around with a start to realize the restaurant is very clearly closing up.
A look at her watch tells her it’s just past two in the morning and her jaw drops a bit. Which is how she misses Kara slipping a credit card to the waiter with a smile.
“Wait,” Lena says uselessly as the server has already moved away to process the payment. “You don’t need to do that. I said you could buy me one drink, not four.”
Kara waves her off, sits back against the cushions and Lena resists the urge to press forward and lean against her. That fourth glass of wine was probably a mistake.
“My friend stole your date,” Kara says. “It’s the least I can do.”
“Sara taking my date home was probably the best end to that dinner I can think of,” Lena jokes with grin on her face that she realizes is probably too flirty to be appropriate but can’t stop.
Kara’s eyes flicker down to her mouth and then back up and good lord Lena really wouldn’t mind if she could kiss Kara right now.
It’s the waiter returning that saves the moment and Lena can’t decide if she’s grateful or irritated. Which is how she knows it’s well past time for her to go home.
“Thank you for the drinks, Kara,” she says, licking dryness off her lips and clearing her throat from the thick feeling that’s taken hold of it.
“Anytime, Lena,” Kara says with a gorgeous smile and warmth in her eyes that Lena has to look away from lest she throw propriety to the wind and kiss Kara back into the couch.
Jack finds her the next day for a mid-afternoon coffee break and makes a ridiculously exaggerated lecherous face. “So how did your date go? Did you two hit it off? Give me the details.”
The memory of Kara’s face under the dim lighting of the rooftop comes to mind then – the way she laughed at Lena’s stupid stories from college and how she casually paid their bill like she was the one taking Lena on a date all along. When they parted ways, Kara had pressed a warm kiss to Lena’s cheek as if they’d known each for years instead of a month and a half and looked into Lena’s eyes just a second too long to be appropriate.
“It was fine, Jack,” Lena says, clearing her throat at the sudden, sense memory of the way Kara’s hair smelled as it pulled away from Lena’s face. “But it didn’t go anywhere past the entrees.”
“How disappointing,” he sighs and Lena shrugs.
“The meal was good,” Lena says, thinking of the way Kara smiled at her when they moved to sit at the small chairs near the firepit. “And the view was gorgeous.”
Jack smiles. “Well at least you got something out of it.”
Declining further comment, Lena just hums into the rim of her coffee cup and takes a warm sip.
It makes her laugh when Jack sends her a picture later – grainy and out of focus from someone’s Twitter. The caption explains the contents, but Lena already knows it’s Sara Lance and her date from the other night striding out of the restaurant and getting into a waiting car.
I’m just happy she got something out of the night Lena replies and Jack sends back a series of laughing emojis.
Another picture surfaces the following day, a photo of Sara again, but this time back with Kara. The body language in the picture is clear – Sara’s got a hand on Kara’s hip, too low to be friendly and she’s close enough that they almost could be touching. Kara’s looking down, eyes serious and the picture is clear enough Lena can see a familiarity there she hadn’t picked up on the previous night.
“Sara Lance sure moves fast,” Jack comments when they see it together. “Makes sense they’d be together from what I’ve heard of Kara.”
“What about Kara?” Lena says, swiping the picture away and trying to ignore the irrational way it makes her feel.
“The girl in every port bit,” Jack explains. “Typical superstar athlete rumors. Seems Sara is the same way.”
“They’re friends,” Lena replies, and it comes out far more defensive than she means it to. “I ran into them the other night at Seven, actually.”
“So that’s how your date ended up going home with the wrong woman,” Jack says, his attention now wholly focused on Lena in interest.
“Kara and Sara were having a drink,” she explains. “And Kara made it very clear they were just friends.”
Jack’s brow furrows just the slightest, his head tilting. “Why would she feel the need to make that clear to you?”
There’s no easy answer to that and Lena can feel herself getting back into a corner. “Perhaps to avoid the kind of reputation you’re accusing her of having.”
Jack laughs. “I’m not accusing her of anything, I’m merely pointing out what I hear from other people.”
“They’re friends, Jack. Leave it alone,” Lena says even though she doesn’t find herself believing it fully.
“I never said they weren’t,” Jack defends, a surprised look of amusement on his face. “Just because they’re friends doesn’t mean they don’t-”
Lena holds up a hand to halt his words. “I honestly don’t want to waste my time speculating on the love lives of the rich and famous.”
“Again, Lena,” Jack tsks with a laughing smile. “With this love thing.”
Lena swats at him, rolls her eyes, but chuckles. “Shut up, Jack,” she orders with fondness.
If pressed, Lena would not admit it to a single soul, but whoever runs the Lakehawks Instagram deserves a raise. They post photo after photo of various Lakehawks in practice, in team meetings, at charity events, and working out - and Kara is a particular favorite. One video that gets posted is of Kara doing a rope drill, sweating profusely, her arms exposed and muscles visible as she moves through the exercise.
Lena watches it a full four times before she manages to make it past the visuals and glance at the comments, which are full of fans putting in various suggestive emojis. There’s even one from Lucy Lane, and all it says is where’s your permit for those guns, kd?
She likes the Instagram before she can think better of it.
The next time she sees Kara it’s because the basketball player is loitering outside Lena’s office one afternoon chatting with Jess. Lena stops, unnoticed, as the elevator doors close behind her and Jess laughs at whatever Kara is saying.
“Good afternoon,” she says with a short clearing of her throat, stepping forward towards both women.
“Miss Luthor,” Jess exclaims, standing up abruptly.
Kara turns casually and grins at Lena. Without the excuse of too much wine, Lena knows she needs to nip this attraction in the bud – or at the very least stop giving Kara the idea that she’s as interested in breaking a series of personal and professional rules as Kara appears to be.
“I wasn’t aware we had a meeting,” Lena says, sending a quizzical look at her assistant.
“We don’t,” Kara answers. “I was just in the building and thought I’d stop by. Do you have a second?’
Lena’s nearly done with her day anyway so she escorts Kara into her office and closes the door behind her with a final sounding thud.
“What had you at Luthor Tower today?” Lena asks as she paces across the room towards her desk, depositing her bag on a nearby counter and pouring herself a glass of water.
“I had a meeting with marketing,” Kara explains fiddling with a small globe Lena keeps on her desk. “Workshopping what I’m going to promote this season.”
Lena takes a long gulp of water before walking over to her desk and sitting down. “You certainly do a lot here.”
Kara shrugs, ignores the statement. “What are you doing tonight?”
The invitation is clear and Lena takes a deep breath to steady her resolve. “Did you come all the way over here to check on my schedule?”
Kara’s answering smile is unmistakably flirtatious. “Actually, I was hoping you’d be free for dinner,” she says.
The invitation is clear. Lena has always been good at navigating social situations like this and there’s unmasked interest in Kara’s eyes. “I’m afraid not,” Lena answers slowly.
“Not tonight?” Kara asks.
Lena’s not sure how to answer that without making a major assumption. “Surely you have better options than me for a dinner companion,” Lena settles on and Kara’s brow pulls together.
“While I disagree,” Kara starts with a confused laugh. “I’d like to have dinner with you if you’re available.”
Lena sighs, goes for blunt. Better to get out in front of something than to deal with it when it’s too late. “Are you asking me on a date, Kara?”
Kara seems taken aback by the questioning, her fingers twisting together in front of her for a moment before she untangles them and leans her hands up against Lena’s expansive office desk. “If I was?”
“I would ask why.”
“Because I feel like there might be something here. Don’t you?”
Laughing is an instinctive defensive measure and Lena doesn’t stop it even when a flash of hurt shadows Kara’s face. “Kara,” Lena starts slowly, rising up from her chair. “I own the team that you play for. I’m your boss, if not directly, than certainly indirectly.”
“I know that,” Kara says, back straightening in a show of insistence. “But I thought we had a good time at dinner last month and then having drinks the other night and I feel like you might be attracted to me and I certainly am to -”
“Attraction is one thing,” Lena says, halting Kara with a show of her palm. “It’s biological. It can’t be helped. Consciously breaking a series of professional and ethical rules is a completely different story.”
“There’s not a rule against -”
“Kara, it’s not going to happen,” Lena interrupts with a note of finality that Kara finally seems to hear. “Thank you for the drinks and the company the other night, but that was…that was an anomaly. I’m not available for anything else.”
A tense silence stretches between them. Kara’s pretty blue eyes search Lena’s face and it makes her uncharacteristically uncomfortable enough that she has to look away for a moment.
“Okay,” Kara says simply her smile only dropping slightly from the brightness of earlier. “We could still have dinner as friends. Or even colleagues if you’d like.”
“Sure,” Lena allows without really believing in it. “I’ll let you know if my schedule frees up.”
Kara takes the hint and retreats from the office with a last look at Lena before the door closes behind her.
“She really asked you out?” Jack asks a few days later as they’re idling at the open bar of a charity dinner Lena had been invited to. “At your own office.”
Lena hums an affirmative and takes a sip of the cocktail the bartender is handing over to her.
Jack grabs for the lowball of scotch he’s being offered and walks with Lena to a nearby hightop. “And you said no?”
Lena shoots him a look. “Of course I said no.”
“But you’re attracted to the girl,” he says. “That much is obvious to anyone with eyes in a ten foot radius of you two.”
“You’ve seen us together one time,” Lena replies rolling her eyes.
“That was enough,” Jack tells her. “It’s not like attraction is something that moves on a schedule.”
“She’s my employee,” Lena says, having thought Jack would be more agreeable to this line of reasoning.
"Hardly," he scoffs, clearly unimpressed.
"Jack," she sighs, but he barrels forward.
“It’s a crush, Lena. I didn’t say marry her, I said go out to dinner with her,” he takes a sip of his drink while Lena smiles at a passing acquaintance and they wait until he’s out of earshot before continuing. “Get it out of your system.”
Lena scoffs a bit. “Just what exactly are you suggesting, Jack?”
“Oh gosh,” he says with a chortle into his glass. “I hope it hasn’t been so long that you don’t know.”
“Be serious,” she admonishes him, but before they can continue one of Jack’s old colleagues is stepping up to their table to say hello.
Get it out of your system lingers in Lena’s head the next few days. The Lakehawks are on the road and Lena turns the game on while she’s stuck in the office for a late night. It plays on mute on the television screen across the room and she watches it idly while slogging through a stack of reports she’s behind on.
The Lakehawks are losing, an uncharacteristic turn of events and the screen is showing a series of statistics on the screen that Lena only half understands. The way the camera keeps cutting to where Kara is sitting on the bench with a clear look of frustration on her face is very telling.
Glancing at her phone, Lena considers sending a message for a moment but thinks better of it.
A monthly meeting is scheduled to discuss basketball operations with James and they spend the time going over some preliminary things - scheduling, event planning, team spending.
“There’s a benefit we do every year coming up. Taste of the Lakehawks,” he tells her. “I’m hoping it’s something you’d like to continue.”
Lena flips to the page in her briefing detailing the event. “What is it exactly?”
“We invite a lot of local restaurants and other business to cater the event. They usually agree just for the free publicity alone and then later the players do a bit of entertainment for the guests. There’s usually a silent auction, some raffles. The ticket, auction and raffle proceeds go towards the foundation.”
Lena scans the page. “The Luthor FastBreak Foundation?”
“Yes,” James answers and Lena remembers only absently what Lex had created the foundation for, but enough not to be suspicious of it.
“Keep the event on the schedule. We can go over details as we move forward,” she decides and James smiles.
Jack can’t attend the next home game and he sends his apology with a picture of his work desk - piled with all kinds of papers and what looks like a robotic arm in disarray.
Lena loathes the idea of attending without some kind of company, especially Jack’s comforting presence, but she does anyway. It’s not in her nature to shirk responsibility and she can’t deny that’s she’s found a more-than-passing interest in the fate of the Lakehawks now that she owns the team.
When Kara jogs out with the rest of her team for warm-ups she spares Lena a glance and a smile, but doesn’t let her gaze linger and Lena’s a tad grateful.
The game ends up holding Lena’s attention for longer than normal, which might be because of how poorly the Lakehawks are playing. They’re down by double digits going into the half and when Lucy Lane comes towards the bench when the whistle blows she nearly kicks a chair into the stands. Lena can see Alex slinging an arm over Kara’s shoulders as they walk towards the locker room, whispering something in her ear and scruffing the top of her head encouragingly. Kara doesn’t look soothed, a tight line in her jaw radiating anger.
Just as they’re about to disappear into the tunnel Kara catches Lena’s eye and Lena gives as an encouraging smile as she can manage. It seems to have some kind of effect because Kara’s face softens just enough before she rounds the corner with the rest of the team.
“In sports news this evening the National City Lakehawks managed to overcome a fifteen point deficit going into the third quarter to beat the Coast City Chaos. The victory breaks the two game losing streak the Lakehawks have been on and comes on the heels of star forward Kara Danvers’s twenty second half points.”
The television shows a sequence of clips of Kara scoring, a series of Lucy Lane enthusiastically jumping on Kara when they take the lead on a deep three-pointer and then Alex Danvers giving a post game interview about her team’s success.
Lena flips it off, returns to the bottle of wine she’d opened when she got home and tries not to smile.
After a moment’s debate she opens up her e-mail and sends a quick message.
Exciting game. Go Lakehawks!
The response comes in the morning when she’s scrolling through her inbox over a cup of coffee.
Thanks! It’s always exciting to come from behind.
She chokes a bit on her coffee but manages to stop herself from spraying it onto the tablet she’s holding.
The message is signed off with a simple KD and a question: Do you have something against phones?
Lena just deletes the e-mail thread and pours the rest of her coffee down the drain.
The next time she spots Kara Danvers on television late night over drinks with a potential investor she has to fight a blush.
The number blinking up from her phone is unlisted as far as she can tell and she squints at it in the darkness of her bedroom for a long moment before deciding to answer.
It takes a second through the fogginess of her still sleep laden brain, but she manages to register the voice on the other end of the line giving her an amused, “Hey, little sister.”
“The one and only,” he responds and Lena can hear the cocky grin in his voice.
She sighs and rubs sleep out of her eyes as she sits up and bed. “Lex it’s,” Lena glances at the digital clock on her bedside table. “Three in the morning.”
“Ah sorry,” he says with a soft laugh. “No concept of time where I’m at.”
“And where is that exactly?” Lena asks, reaching over to switch a light on.
Lex tsks into a chuckle. “That’s not of consequence.”
“Not to you maybe,” Lena says dryly with a roll of her eyes. Her brother continues to laugh on the other end. “Is there a point to this middle of the night phone call?”
“I saw you kept the basketball teams and have been attending the Lakehawks games,” Lex comments.
Lena’s brow furrows. “You get sporting news in your hideout?”
Lex laughs again, an unaffected casual sound for someone who is basically a fugitive. “I just called to say I was happy you kept the teams. Especially the Lakehawks. If you had sold off the Harriers, I would have been disappointed, but not quite so sad. And I’m happy to see they’re doing well. If you need any help…”
“James Olsen already warned me that you know nothing about basketball.”
Lex scoffs. “I’m a basketball mastermind. Jimmy lies.”
“Sure,” Lena drawls and can’t stop the smile. It feels good to talk to her brother again.
“Hey, I’m the one that drafted Kara Danvers, okay? That was me and without her what are the Lakehawks anyway?”
Lena thinks of Kara for a moment and clears her throat. “I’ll give you that,” she murmurs.
She’s in London over the next stretch of games at a tech conference to showcase Luthor Corp’s new Model L electric car. The task of getting everything ready and delivering the keynote speech pushes thoughts of basketball far from her mind.
It isn’t until she’s sitting at her hotel bar having a late night martini that she catches wind of the Lakehawks again.
The television there is playing the news and she hadn’t thought that American women’s basketball would be something she’d hear about in London of all places, but the league logo is flashing on the screen.
It’s because of the upcoming Summer Olympics, she realizes quickly, as the news seems to go over the players from the Lakehawks that will likely represent the United States at the games.
The promotional pictures of Kara and Alex that hang in the entrance of Luthor Corp Arena are suddenly on the screen and Lena reads the closed captioning while the announcer discusses the potential roster.
The next sequence of videos, however, gives Lena pause and she watches as Kara takes a nasty spill during the game that night against local rival the National City Skippers.
The cameras stayed zoned in on the way Kara gingerly picks her up from the floor, Alex’s grip on her bicep helping her back to her feet. Kara walks slower than normal towards the bench after being subbed out and the last bit of footage shows the team trainer kneeling in front of her chair.
It cuts back to talk of the roster after that and Lena gives it a frustrated glare for a moment before reaching for her phone.
A quick mental calculation tells her it’s not at all unreasonable to send a text to someone in America, but she pauses for a moment at the realization this would be the first time she’s used the number Kara gave her all those weeks ago when they first met.
She should just e-mail her. It’s professional and in line with the way they’ve been communicating before, but it also risks a delay in response and she knows the quickest way to get an answer to her question is to use the number Kara gave her weeks before.
Curiosity wins out over better senses and after another sip of her martini she writes a quick friendly text and sends it out.
Leslie Willis certainly does hold a grudge - LL
It doesn’t take long for a reply to come and her phone blinks at her just as she’s ordered another drink and a small appetizer off the late night menu.
I was beginning to think you didn’t know how to use a phone. It’s followed by a few emojis that Lena’s phone doesn’t recognize for some reason.
Lena quirks a brow at that, lips pursed, but before she can respond Kara texts again.
Leslie is the worst, but she can’t keep a good girl down.
This text is accompanied by a picture of Kara grinning at the camera, her arm flexed in the shot and chin lifted. It reminds Lena why she didn’t want to open this line of communication in the first place.
Regardless, her curiosity is sufficiently satisfied. Kara doesn’t look at all injured in the photo and if she thought about any kind of game-altering injury would have made the news she was watching earlier.
They haven’t exchanged many words since Lena rejected Kara’s proposal for dinner in her office days ago and she can’t deny she’s happy Kara doesn’t seem to be sulking about it. Perhaps her offer of friendship was just as sincere as her offer for dinner.
That’s good. I have a lot of money invested in your well-being, Lena texts.
A video comes through this time and it’s clearly taken from Kara’s POV as she throws what looks to be like an empty Gatorade bottle towards a trash can and makes a triumphant sound when it lands inside. The text that accompanies it is: your investment is well protected.
Lena laughs, but declines saying anything back other than Good. Sleep well.
When she falls asleep that night in her empty hotel room and Kara Danvers’s face lingering in her mind’s eye it’s with a smile and a light heart.