Lena had seen some weird things in her time as a doctor. Besides the obvious fact that she spent a good portion of her time cutting bodies open, the hospital was a place crawling with weird people who did weird things. She didn’t even want to talk about some of the x-rays she had seen - the ones where people seemingly decided to use things that definitely weren’t pockets as pockets.
Curiosity killed a lot of things.
The point being she’d seen really odd things, especially around Halloween when people thought putting on a costume meant they were more than they usually were, and thus could take the opportunity to do incredibly stupid things. Incredibly stupid. Like jump-out-a-window-because-they-were-wearing-a-cape stupid.
So Lena had seen some odd things, but somehow nothing struck her more than the sight of a person sprinting down the corridor of the paediatric ward with a bright red nose, a full face of makeup and a child sitting on their shoulders, shaking with unrestrained laughter. Struck enough that she puts her charts aside to throw a confused look Winn’s way in the hope that he would prove what she had seen wasn’t simply a hallucination built off the back of a severe lack of sleep.
“Was that a clown?” She asks incredulously.
“Huge shoes, kinda clumsy?” Winn inquires, looking up from his own work at the nurses’ station to give Lena his attention. It’s at that exact moment Lena registers the perfectly timed crash that sounds down the hall and the called out ‘sorry’ that follows, the one that holds too much laughter to sound properly sincere but still threatens to make a smile spread across Lena’s lips.
(She had a feeling that particular laugh was the reason not one person had decided to mention the many safety regulations the clown had clearly violated even in the short time Lena had been here).
“Sounds like an apt description.”
“That would be Kara,” he offers with a chuckle and Lena almost finds herself asking another question before her thought process is interrupted by a loud cheer and yet another crash - something was definitely going to get broken today and Lena for one was itching to get away from the carnage.
“Paeds is ridiculous,” she mentions offhandedly, gathering her stuff together in an attempt to escape before she did something stupid like ask Winn more questions about the clown with the musical laughter and find herself the new hottest gossip around the hospital. She will never make the same mistake the newest doctor in paeds had when she congratulated Sam on ‘her face’ on her first day right in front of a gaggle of nurses; the woman still hadn’t managed to shake that one off (Lena personally still mocked Sam about it to this day).
“You’re ridiculous,” Winn quips back indignantly like Lena personally slighted him with the comment and she can’t help but chuckle at the heat hidden behind the ludicrous insult.
“Good one, Winn.”
“I’m stuck with kids all day, Lena; I don’t exactly have astute sparring partners.” Somehow Lena can fully imagine Winn getting into heated arguments with children over stupid things like what flavour jello was the best and which superhero would win in a fight over another superhero (and yes, she could easily picture that because she herself had been in that position, and yes, she would continue to argue for orange jello until her dying breath).
“Maybe you should get out more.”
“Says the woman whose only friends work in this hospital and, before you say it, no, Ben and Jerry don’t count.” Well that was just unfair. Lena didn’t have time for other friends besides ice cream and Sam who had loved forcing her into friendship and monopolising her time since the day they met.
Not that she was complaining. Sam was the best. They both worked their asses off to get where they were today and didn’t let themselves take any crap from entitled patients or co-workers alike. They had an easy friendship built on shared hardships and a love of medicine (and Celine Dion but no one else was allowed to know that).
“But it’s vegan now and Ruby’s my friend.”
“Your best friend’s child doesn’t count.” How on earth was she supposed to win with all these new rules? “Hey, speaking of getting out more, I’m-“ Winn begins and Lena almost cheers when her pager beeps and she realises she’s off the hook for whatever he was trying to rope her into - she still hadn’t forgiven him for the blind date he tried to set up, the one that had her having to loudly tell him she was a lesbian in front of a whole room of people.
“Saved by the bell. See you later, Winslow.”
“Wait, who told you that name?!”
Lena’s only response is a peal of laughter.
Lena forgets all about the clown in the following week. She’s far too busy to be letting her mind wander towards whatever it was that happened in paediatrics when no one was around to see. She doesn’t spend any more time thinking about bright red noses and comically sized shoes than anyone else in their right mind would.
She’s actually somewhat forgotten the ordeal of the past week entirely when she once again finds herself roaming brightly painted corridors in search of her latest patient, which is why she’s rightfully taken aback when she enters the right room and finds her patient clapping wildly at a bowing clown and her array of balloon animals.
“Hello, Amanda. How’re you feeling today?”
“Good, Miss Kara’s been making me friends.” Miss Kara. Miss Kara the Clown, who Lena still couldn’t believe was just sitting here in a hospital. Miss Kara who now that Lena was looking at her in all her glory was actually incredibly pretty, clown makeup and all. Bright eyes. A sharp jaw. An almost stupidly pretty smile. Even the ridiculous outfit didn’t look so bad when it was paired with that face.
“She has, has she?” Lena comments distractedly, busying herself with the young girls file in the interest of distracting herself from the brightly coloured woman in the room. Honestly Lena had never been one for clowns. They weren’t terribly funny, the makeup was slightly creepy, and most of them were middle-aged men with weird laughs and questionable life choices. But this clown happened to be a young, attractive woman and god Lena really didn’t get out much.
“You should let her make you one. Winn says you need more friends.” She really wished Winn would stop going round telling people that, telling patients that, even if they were children. You know what, especially when they were children. Kids loved gossip before they even knew what gossip was.
“You should never listen to Winn. He’s an idiot.” Amanda nods along seriously like she would believe anything Lena had to say to her as long as she was wearing her lab coat and holding a chart. Lena smirks as she thinks of all the ways she could possibly use that against Winn until she realises the actual repercussions of telling kids to not listen to a nurse. A little less fun. “But I suppose I could handle a new friend if Miss Kara here is up for it.”
Kara jumps as she’s pulled into the conversation, catching Lena’s pointed gaze with a start and an immediate spew of words, “oh definitely! I can make anything you want.”
“Totally. Well, anything except a turtle. I had a kid ask for one at a party once, he cried when I gave him a poodle instead.” The clown, Kara, Lena mentally corrects smiles sheepishly as she recounts the tale and Lena takes the moment to look at the animals surrounding Amanda in the bed, the many animals that all looked suspiciously like dogs. Kara must note her realisation because a blush spreads across her cheek at the cocked brow she receives and Lena can’t help but chuckle lowly.
“Should I just ask for a poodle?” She whispers conspiratorially.
“I would be eternally grateful,” Kara replies in the same low tone and Lena struggles to stifle her smile at the almost pleading pout on her face, the one that says she’s a little afraid Lena might just go and ask for a turtle to see her squirm. She might’ve. Probably would’ve. If it had been someone else. As it stood, Lena may have an MD to her name but she was still a useless lesbian when it came to pretty girls (she had a feeling it might be a little worse with this particular pretty girl).
“Poodle it is.” Her words are met with a slight nod and quick hands that pump and twist, smiling eyes that flicker between the balloon and the girl on the bed with each new delighted clap. So maybe Lena can understand why there’s a clown wandering around paeds if this is the reaction she always gets from such a small act.
“...and voila!” Kara exclaims, presenting Lena with her ‘new friend’.
“Are poodles usually green?” Lena jokes, winking at the blushing clown and feigning ignorance, chuckling when the little girl in the bed is quick to interject with an, “of course not, Dr. Lena!” and a little look Kara’s way that seems to say she’s usually smarter than this I swear.
“You’re right, how silly of me.”
“The balloon matched your eyes,” Kara offers out of the blue when Lena has taken to examine the animal. Honestly she couldn’t help but be a little impressed. She surely couldn’t do such a thing. But that wasn’t really saying much since she apparently could barely breathe after registering the words Kara had spoken.
It matched your eyes.
“Oh, um, I-“ Lena’s pager buzzes loudly in the sudden tension and she grabs it quickly for an excuse to ignore her ever reddening cheeks because was she actually getting flustered by a children’s entertainer?! “I have to go, but I’ll be back to check on you later. Look after my poodle for me?” Lena asks, offering the balloon to the girl in bed who nods solemnly, taking it carefully and resting it beside her own collection of multicoloured animals.
“I’ll guard him with my life,” she promises, crossing her heart.
“Much appreciated,” she says to Amanda before turning her eyes onto Kara. “It was nice meeting you.” She’s not really sure why she takes the time to say it, not really sure why she takes a moment to smile, what could only be described as, girlishly instead of making a quick exit (she knows Sam will notice she doesn’t arrive as quickly as she usually does). But she makes time. Time that she really doesn’t regret wasting at all when Kara offers her a painted smile back.
(So maybe she could see herself developing a crush on a clown...
Don’t judge her).
She’s not in a good mood.
In fact, Lena would probably go as far as to say she was in a terrible mood. The worst of moods. That horrible kind of mood she always found herself in when she finally found the time, or rather finally built up the courage, to return her mother’s calls.
And, as if that wasn’t enough of a reason to be in a funk, she’d barely been able to sleep all night because of the constantly arguing couple living next door (honestly she had never been more in favour of divorce) and then when she finally got some sleep, she woke up to a broken coffee machine and a pager that wouldn’t stop beeping for a second.
So she’d dragged herself into work with little sleep and more than a little pent up frustration only to be called from consult to consult without a breather for a good few hours and yes, she loved her job, and yes, it was fulfilling, but sometimes she just really needed a break. A two week long break on some ridiculously picturesque beach where everyone was drinking those cocktails made inside pineapples through novelty straws.
In the end she doesn’t get two weeks, but she does have a miraculous moment where she realises her pager isn’t beeping and no one is calling her name and she can practically smell the coffee from the cafe just down the hall.
Now, if anyone asked, she didn’t run there. She didn’t. She just walked at an above average rate and ignored all the remarks about ‘Hurricane Lena’ because she was finally, finally getting her coffee fix. At least she was. She almost had it. Almost. Only the moment she went to drink it someone smashed into her back and she found herself watching in horror as it crashed to the floor.
Lena wasn’t usually too quick to anger. Annoyance sure, that was a second away, and she was no stranger to frustration. But anger. Anger she could usually avoid could usually push down below the surface and get over pretty quickly but apparently not today.
Today she feels it rise in her chest, a culmination of all the frustrations of the day, even if it was only lunchtime, and she goes to shout. She opens her mouth to chastise whichever idiot wasn’t looking where they were going in a busy hospital.
And she almost does.
Only when she turns round to face the culprit she finds every angry word that coiled its way into her mouth slipping away with some odd sense of calm at the sight of an apologetic smile framed in vibrant red paint and eyes that look somewhat fearful, flickering with recognition for a split second before they slip towards the coffee on the floor and look fearful once again.
“Oh my gosh, I am so sorry. I totally wasn’t looking where I was going and I was probably walking a little too fast, and I just smashed into you, and your drink is all over the floor and you look like you really needed that and I’m such an idiot.”
“Look like I really needed it?” Lena jokes in a place where she knows she usually would have offered a simple glare. “Do I really look that terrible?” She continues with a playful smile where she, at any other time, with any other person, would have made that glare a little bit more purposeful before walking off without saying a single word.
Kara, on her behalf, despite the light shining in Lena’s eyes, still panics at the words, immediately scrambling to correct her word vomit before she could do any more damage than that which was obvious from the floor in front of them (the one currently being cleaned by a very tired looking coffee cart employee who didn’t quite look like they’d immediately forgiven Kara after catching sight of her face for one second like Lena had).
“Oh, no, that’s not what I meant! You look great. Of course you look great; you have a face like that, with the jaw, and the eyes, and all that. I mean, you could wear a trash bag and look good but you’re not, you’re wearing a lab coat which is totally hot – and I’m gonna stop talking before I put my foot any further into my mouth.”
“Totally hot, huh?” Lena finds herself saying, and casually nonetheless. She doesn’t really feel casual. She feels a little like she’s on cloud nine. High enough up in the clouds that she’s happy to ignore the way the coffee seeping through her trousers was starting to burn a little bit - she was a fully fledged doctor, she could deal with the repercussions of that at a later date. A later date when there wasn’t a pretty girl smiling nervously at her.
“You know what else is totally hot? Coffee. And I’m going to buy you another one because I turned yours into a Jackson Pollock on the floor.”
“Oh you don’t have to.”
“I really do,” Kara says, dropping her eyes to a watch strapped round her wrist before she seems to debate something for a second, biting her lip indecisively before she braves speaking again. “Maybe I could buy you lunch? As an apology of course. Unless you’re busy obviously.”
“Well I haven’t been called away yet.”
“Great! Lead the way, Dr Luthor,” Kara says, rolling Lena’s name off her tongue in a way that makes a tingle run down her spine. She was such a useless mess. But, in her defence, there was something foreign in the way Kara said her name, something about that way it fell from her lips that was unlike anything Lena had heard before. In a good way. The best of ways. The gayest of ways.
The cafeteria wasn’t somewhere that Lena generally enjoyed spending her time. It was actually the kind of place she tended to actively avoid. Full of teary eyes that she couldn’t handle and watchful colleagues who were searching for the next piece of gossip to physically force through the mill; it was as sterile as the rest of the hospital, coated in white and filled with the kind of food you probably wouldn’t want to pay for were you literally anywhere else.
And yet, Lena didn’t hesitate to steer Kara in that direction, shoving thoughts of the leftover pasta she’d packed for lunch in her rush that morning to the back of her mind, just so that she could manage to squeeze, what was likely to be around ten minutes knowing her luck (or lack thereof), with Kara the clown into her schedule.
She doesn’t regret her choice for a single second though as she munches on her salad and watches Kara come alive telling a story about one of the kids on the ward, never faulting in her quest to seemingly eat a burger faster than anyone that came before. Essentially Lena didn’t have much time for regret, or anything else for that matter, when all her focus was being consumed by Kara’s excited smile, and frantic hands, and the stream of thoughts that had suddenly started flooding through her head like a waterfall of intrigue.
Thoughts of what Kara was like when she wasn’t a clown, when she was just being her own, unpainted, self. What did she wear? Did she like to wear makeup when it wasn’t some elaborate uniform? Did she have glasses because sometimes when Lena was activating real stalker mode she thought she caught sight of a lens? Did she like bright colours usually or did she prefer to fade into the background? Did she always smell like candyfloss or was that especially for the kids?
Honestly she had far too many thoughts for someone who was still trying to convince themselves they didn’t really care all that much about the answers.
“What? Do I have something on my face?” Too many thoughts to go unnoticed either evidently.
“Besides an entire face of clown makeup, no,” Lena attempts to deflect, but the way Kara finally puts her burger down tells her she wasn’t going to get away with it so easily.
“But you’re staring.” It was more like studying, but maybe that clarification didn’t actually make anything better. In the end, she was still falling into a laser-focused daze.
“Sorry, I guess I was trying to imagine you without... all of that.”
“How’s that going for you?”
“I suppose I won’t know until I see it.” It’s an invitation of sorts. An invitation for Kara to make this into something else, something more. An invitation for Kara to shut it all down before it moved any further. It’s a risky move that Lena pairs with an arched brow and a daring smile like she’s waiting to see how Kara will react to the idea before she fully commits to asking the question.
For a moment she doesn’t think Kara will pick up on it, doesn’t think she’ll see it as anything more than a thoughtless comment flippantly thrown into the conversation. But then Kara’s head tilts just so and she mimics Lena’s easy smile in spite of the way her fingers nervously play with her already half destroyed plastic fork.
“Well maybe we could-“ Kara cuts off abruptly at the sharp beeping sound at Lena’s side and Lena almost ignores it, truthfully debates lobbing it across the room for beeping at the worst of times, but her eyes catch sight of the emergency code and instead jumps to her feet in an instant.
“Shit, sorry,” Lena blurts, her pager still beeping urgently, mind still reeling from what almost happened. Her feet start carrying her away before she can even really tell them to move and it’s over her shoulder that she thinks to throw her final goodbye, “I have to go. Thank you for lunch!”
(She doesn’t watch the way Kara’s shoulders deflate at the swift exit even as her eyes steadfastly follow the getaway with keen interest).
Lena Luthor thrived in the ER. She enjoyed the fast paced turnover, the constant tingle in the air that said anything could happen at any time, the knowledge that every new curtain she opened was going to have something different behind it - albeit a lot of it was stitches, but she was stitching different places. It reminded her of her residency and all the blood, sweat and sutures she put in to get where she was. All the reasons she tried so hard to get where she was.
It was like a crazy nose dive into medicine.
It was exhilarating.
It was a place where Lena didn’t have time to dwell on things she had put on the backburner because she didn’t have time to do much else but fix the problems right in front of her at that given moment. Unfortunately the universe seemed to think it was funny to play around with her because the next curtain she opened that evening was one that brought her backburner fantasies straight out of her mind and right into her reality.
She doesn’t actually notice anything out of the (not so) ordinary at first, a little too busy eying a nervous intern from across the room that was running around like a headless chicken, and a little too concerned with the chart she was trying to read whilst telling herself to stop watching said headless intern, but her gaze flicks towards a polite cough and suddenly she doesn’t care so much about the IV that was undoubtedly now being done by a exasperated nurse rather than the deer in blue scrubs and headlights that had begun the task.
“Guess you don’t have to wonder anymore,” Kara says in lieu of greeting and as Lena takes it all in she realises it’s both completely, and nothing like, what she expected. Kara’s lenses are still firmly in place, though there’s a pair of well worn glasses poking out from the messenger bag beside her.
Her hair’s a mismatch of a few intricate braids tucked into a messy bun that still looks seamless. A pastel button up shirt lays crumpled and discarded to her side where it once would have been slotted over her white tee and tucked into the grey fitted slacks she was wearing but now accompanied a black leather jacket that perfectly matched the oxfords on her feet.
“Kara,” Lena utters pointlessly, a little too distracted by the muscles that were on display in front of her, the very ones that were completely dwarfed in Kara’s usual attire in the hospital (which was a complete and utter travesty if you asked Lena because holy shit).
“At your service.” Kara adds a joking bow to her words, throws in a flourish of her hand for good measure before she winces sharply and Lena slips straight into hospital mode, lifting up Kara’s shirt and offering her own sympathetic wince at the sight of her bruised torso.“At least buy me dinner first,” Kara jokes the moment cold hands dare to touch warm skin and Lena rolls her eyes despite the blush that threatens to claw its way into visible sight.
“You bought me lunch, that’ll have to be enough. How exactly did you end up here? Here being the ER with what feels to me like a couple of broken ribs and more than a couple scrapes and bruises. Did one of your balloon animals finally fight back?” Kara almost looks like she’s going to contest that before she remembers how she actually ended up in the ER and thinks the better of making a joke, which immediately tells Lena she’d done something stupid. Pretty much everyone in the ER had.
“I may or may not have climbed a rather sketchy looking fire escape for a money shot?”
“A money shot?”
“You know, the classic man in bed with a woman, except the woman isn’t his wife, dun dun duuun!” Of course Kara was the kind of person to add in her own dramatic sound effects that only really served to make the whole thing sound less elicit. And of course Lena was the kind of easily bewitched (in this case at least) idiot who found that incredibly charming.
“And why exactly were you doing such a thing?”
“It’s my job. My actual job. The one that doesn’t require me to wear a fake nose and a boutonniere.” Her actual job? But if she was getting paid to take pictures of cheating spouses than wouldn’t that presumably make her-
“Wait, I’m sorry, you’re a PI? Aren’t you all supposed to be surly and hard-drinking amidst a constant cloud of lung destroying smoke?” To say that Lena was shocked would be an understatement. She’d almost imagined Kara was always in her clown suit, doing magic tricks at parties and becoming every kid’s new favourite person. But a PI? Kara just didn’t seem the type.
Too nice. Too bright. Too optimistic to spend her time photographing people cheating on their spouses and far too empathetic to make them pay out for those pictures after the fact. Lena did admittedly have less of a hard time picturing Kara in a fitted suit, like some kind of detective from a noir-film, but that was nothing to do with her overall job suitability and everything to do with Lena’s over active imagination.
“I can be surly if I want to be.”
“I doubt that.”
“You might be right to,” Kara acquiesces quickly with an easy smile as she tilts her head to regard the shock still evident on Lena’s features. “You under the impression I was always Kara the Clown?”
“Maybe a little bit.” Maybe a lot. But, then again, maybe Lena’s mind was exaggerating how much Kara was at the hospital because whenever it got quiet she found her mind taking a nice scenic trip down circus lane.
“I actually just did the whole clown act as a favour one time and it kinda became a thing, you know? All the kids seemed so happy when I came in and I kept getting sent these little thank you notes with the cutest drawings begging me to come back. So I did. And then I just kind of... kept coming back? It’s not like my actual job holds regular hours.”
“So by night you’re a PI who outs cheating rats and by day you’re a colourful clown who can’t make balloon animal turtles?”
“Hey, I’m working on those!” Kara protests, a little too energetically. Enough so that her face pinches in pain at the jolt and Lena is quickly reminded why they were sitting there in the first place, where they were sitting in the first place.
“We should send you to get an x-ray,” she offers quickly, trying to think about all the other patients she needed to see that evening. She signals out of the curtain for a nurse as Kara collects her belongings and Lena begins to collect her scattered thoughts.
“Are you gonna do it?” Kara asks when Lena slips back into the closed off area and offers a smile. Not the polite one she gave to her patients. Or the one that slipped onto her face when Winn said something too ridiculous to not slightly laugh at. Not even the one she saved for Sam and Ruby when they got matching ice cream smears on their face in the park.
This was a new one.
The one that she was beginning to associate with the flutter Kara caused in her stomach, the one that made her feel a little brave.
“As much as I’d love to take your top off, we have a technician for that. Her name’s Leslie, her bedside manner is appalling. You’ll love her.” Honestly Kara probably would. She seemed like the kind of person who would befriend the very bee that stung her.
“Maybe I can win her over.”
“If anyone could, it’s probably you.”
“Challenge accepted.” Kara beams, edging towards the awaiting nurse as Lena prepared herself for a new patient who was bound to have the same old complaints about the wait time and maybe a question or two about if she was the kind of Luthor whose name was plastered on the side of the huge skyscraper in the middle of town (unfortunately for Lillian Luthor, she was).
“Good luck, Kara the Clown. And be careful with those ribs. This doctor recommends you don’t climb any more structures that look any less than a hundred percent sturdy.”
“You got it, Lena the Doctor.”
Kara disappears with a well-worn smile and a jovial greeting to a nurse that cracks the first smile Lena had personally ever seen on the woman’s face. Lena, on her part, lets herself get pulled back into the crashing waves of the emergency room. She still thrives, though she thinks she might have enjoyed the makeshift peace she found with Kara a little more than the crazy nose dive into medicine.
Just a little.
“Rumour has it you had a romantic lunch with a certain clown the other day and then got to second base.” A normal person wouldn’t open a conversation like that in the middle of a busy hospital. A normal person wouldn’t start a conversation out of the blue like that, period. But, then again, Winslow Schott was not really known for being a normal person.
“Okay, firstly, she bought me lunch to apologise for spilling my coffee, and secondly, I was checking for broken ribs, not feeling her up, we’re not all pervs.” Winn scoffs at the offhanded accusation and Lena ignores his affronted look in favour on continuing on with the chart in front of her. She learned a long time ago that the best way to make Winn go away was to ignore him (and then sacrifice a virgin to the gods when he inevitably stayed and got more annoying).
“But you did get her out of her clothes didn’t you, Dr Luthor?”
“She took her button up off on her own accord, and she had a t-shirt. Stop making it weird.” It wasn’t weird. So maybe her hands lingered slightly longer on Kara’s abs than necessary considering she definitely wasn’t hiding ribs in her stomach. And maybe there was a moment or two when neither of them said anything for a few seconds as they just took each other in (read: as Lena lost herself a little bit in Kara the Not Clown). But it wasn’t weird.
“I bet you wanna make it weird with her sometime when there are some more solid walls.”
“I’m walking away,” Lena says succinctly, pushing the finished chart towards an awaiting nurse and pushing her feet to take her anywhere that Winn was not.
“I can follow.”
“I will hide in the woman’s bathroom.”
“I’m not afraid to go in there, Lena, don’t play me.” He’s right. He’s not. Lena had found that out the hard way once when she came out of a stall to wash her hands and found Winn sitting on the sinks with his feet dangling off the side. But this time when Lena opens the door she knows she’s in for a win over Winn, so much so that she can’t help the grin that plasters itself on her face.
“Oh, hi, Leslie!” She greets, uncharacteristically jovial, and she can practically hear the sound of Winn’s feet skidding across the floor as he sprints off, leaving a cartoon puff of smoke in his wake. A reaction which was definitely worth the glare she received from Leslie Willis. Undoubtedly.
Lena loves Sam.
Back when she was young, and impressionable, and a complete and total loner, Lena had heard the term ‘platonic soulmates’. She’d thought it was stupid at the time. A ridiculous notion built off the back of childhood dreams. Friendships in her line of life were built exclusively on mutual gain (and definitely not the gain of emotional support and validation, more status and money and more power than a twelve year old girl had any real business having).
So Lena threw the term to the back of her mind and carried on with her life.
Then she got to med school. A good few years younger than everyone else around her, Lena had stuck out like a sore thumb. But then, as luck would have it, so had Sam - baby strapped to her chest and a look on her face that dared even a single person to comment on it. Lena hadn’t. Not even when Sam chose to sit directly beside her on that first day. In hindsight, perhaps that’s why Sam had continued to sit with her. Or maybe it was simply because Sam Arias had the best heart of anyone Lena had ever met and she could tell that Lena was just as much of a lost soul as she was.
Two weeks of gentle questions towards Lena, and even gentler hands from Lena to the small child she would later come to know as Ruby, and they were inseparable. They fit. Slipped together like two dysfunctional pieces that just wanted to have a place in some kind of puzzle.
Two months of spilled secrets and the warmest hugs Lena had even been on the receiving end of and Lena finally dug up the words she’d labelled so long ago as too useless to exist in her lexicon. Platonic soulmates. A few years different in age but so similar in the ways the world had mistreated them, they made sense together, made each other better.
Ten years later and she still stuck with the word, and Sam, no matter how annoying she could be when she pushed relentlessly for Lena’s happiness or how perceptive Ruby got with each new year. They were family through and through. The kind of family that Lena made the effort to take the day off from work and attend the eleventh birthday of (no matter how far screaming kids and bouncy houses were from her picture of a perfect day off).
Not that she regrets attending for a single second. The smiles Ruby and Sam had given her when she showed up early to help decorate had been worth every new high pitched scream that rang through her ears. The cake wasn’t half bad either. Though Lena had to admit that the real icing on the day appeared about halfway through the festivities when she saw a familiar flash of face paint drift through the back gate and get swept up by a wave of kids.
She hadn’t gone over at first, rather she continued her half-hearted conversation with some mother or another about her child’s allergies and held back her comments that a tiny bout of hay fever wasn’t really the level of medicine she spent her days involved in. Instead choosing to go over when it would look less suspicious to anyone who paid attention to her comings and goings (namely Sam ‘I can smell a Lena crush from a mile away’ Arias).
“Are you sure you have an actual job, you seem to spend a lot of time clowning around?” Lena jokes to Kara’s back, allowing herself a grin when Kara swirls round with her own award-winning smile.
“Lena, hi! And yes, I do things. I’m the queen of doing things. Today, however, the thing I’m doing is being the best sister in the world.”
“The best sister in the world, huh?”
“Yep, I got roped into this party because my lovely, lovely sister has had a huge crush on the birthday girl’s mom since her first day at the hospital.” Sam? Someone had a crush on Sam? Not that that was unrealistic. Sam was hot, and nice, and smart, and Lena follows Kara’s pointed finger towards what she supposes must be the aforementioned sister and oh my god.
“Your sister is Alex nice face Danvers?”
“People are still calling her that? Amazing,” Kara chuckles, eyeing Alex like she couldn’t wait to mock her for the name later before she shifts her attention back to Lena and her question. “But yeah, I am the other Danvers as they say.” How could Lena have missed that? It seemed so obvious now it was out in the open. The facial resemblance wasn’t there but the rest of it was. The same smile. The same underpinning warmth. The effortless ability to make any child within their immediate vicinity laugh like they’d heard the best joke of their life.
“Maybe I should have paid closer attention to your chart,” Lena jokes.
“I was quite happy with where your attention was focused that day,” Kara replies without pause, smiling proudly when an obvious blush blooms on Lena’s cheeks. Lena who outright ignores said blush and quickly switches back to the previous line of conversation like that would make it invisible.
“So Alex fancies Sam? That actually makes a lot of sense, explains her not at all surreptitious nervous exits and where Sam keeps getting all those lollipops from.” Lena had personally lost count of all the times she’d seen Alex Danvers in places she really didn’t need to be, pretending to be filling out some chart or another just so she could apparently catch a glimpse of a wild Sam Arias.
It was actually kind of cute if you thought about it. Obviously Lena was still going to have a hell of a time making fun of Sam about it all though. She wasn’t one to waste a perfectly good opportunity.
“Are you and Sam close?” Close was somewhat of an understatement to describe a relationship with a woman who you’d held sobbing on a bathroom floor when someone called her an unfit mother, a woman who had held your hand at your father’s funeral and been the sole reason you even ate the week following his death. Close felt insufficient. But Lena supposed this was what close was.
“We went to med school together actually. I also happen to be Ruby’s godmother, which explains why I’ve actually dared to brave this party filled with hyperactive children.”
“Please, you’re forgetting I’ve seen you in paeds, you’re great with kids.”
“I get by.”
“That’s-” Kara starts but gets cut off before the words have even had a chance to fully form in her brain, let alone make it into the world.
“Kara! Kara! Billy wants a turtle!”
“What is it with kids and turtles?” Kara bemoans, her words aimed at Lena but her eyes staring up towards the sky like she was mentally cursing any god up there for actually daring to create turtles and making this whole mess possible in the first place. It was completely adorable, completely Kara.
“You said you were working on it,” Lena points out, chuckling lightly when Kara levels her with what she suspects is supposed to be a glare but ultimately ends up looking like a defeated pout. A stupidly attractive defeated pout that Lena would be completely willing to kiss, even considering the risk of the outrageous makeup spreading onto her face. She had a feeling it would be worth it.
“Working being the optimal word.”
“Well you better get to it. I’d hate to be the reason you were slacking off,” Lena says, laughing when she’s on the receiving end of the pout once again. “Come find me later, I’ll save you some cake, might even go all out and make it a corner piece.”
“You’re a beautiful human being.”
Lena doesn’t end up seeing Kara beyond handing her a party bag filled with cake as she’s swept out the door by her sister, and maybe she pouts a little bit as she begins the clean up, berating herself for still not having asked the clown slash private investigator for her number. Lena does, however, get caught up in a conversation she had been attempting to avoid (quite successfully she might add) having for quite some time.
“So Winn told me you like Kara.” Sam was good at a lot of things. She took to medical school like a fish to water. Put patients at ease within seconds like they were old friends. Oddly enough she could knit like it was nobody’s business and don’t even get Lena started on her bolognaise. But, ultimately, if there was one thing that Sam was utterly horrible at, it was pulling punches.
“Winn also claims he’s one hundred percent straight but I think we all know he’d throw his hat in the ring in an instant if James ever decided to experiment.”
“You make a fair point,” Sam concedes with a thoughtful nod of her head, “but in this case I’m inclined to agree with him. Even Ruby said so.” Ruby? The traitor.
“Well Ruby can kiss secret ice cream Thursday’s goodbye.” Secret being a completely redundant word in this case since Sam had discovered the secret about a month into the tradition when Lena failed to completely clean Ruby of any evidence of their lie. Not that either of them had confessed such a fact to the girl who still happily devoured her chocolate cone and returned home looking the picture of innocence.
“You wouldn’t dare.”
“No I wouldn’t. But she’ll believe me for a couple of minutes and that momentary fear is enough for me.” Lena would take whatever revenge she could get. Even if she only got to enjoy it for a moment before her original Achilles heel - Ruby’s puppy dog eyes - took it all away from her.
“Gotta say, I didn’t know you had a clown kink,” Sam says offhandedly, nonchalantly picking up a few stray cups as if that wasn’t a sentence she just spoke out loud.
“I do not have a clown kink, and can you please not shout that out, we both know Betty next-doors ability to spread a rumour is only rivalled by her ability to overhear things through the fence. I don’t need a repeat of the old lady speed walking group congratulating me on ‘being brave enough to be myself’.” She never thought Sam mentioning she was a lesbian to her elderly neighbour would result in such an event but that was the suburbs for you.
Honestly, it had been one of the most uncomfortable situations of her life; especially considering she happened to be walking the route they were taking and no matter how hard she tried to escape, they actually seemed to take speed walking very seriously.
“Just a Kara kink then?” Sam pushes.
“Liking someone is not a kink.” Lena argues back without thought. (She should’ve thought).
“A-ha! So you do like her!”
“I didn’t say-- okay, fine. Yes. She’s nice and oddly complex and her smile makes my legs feel like jelly.” God, she sounded like such a child. She sounded like Ruby the time she sat her and Sam down to inform them of her first crush on the boy who sat at the front of her math class. Apparently he made her tummy feel wobbly. For all of a week that was, until she discovered he stuck his bogies on the underside of the table and swore off boys for the next few years. She was still going strong on that promise much to their delight.
“Oh you got it bad.”
“Says the woman who invited a ‘random co-worker’ to her daughter’s birthday party.” Lena doesn’t comment on the fact that the random co-worker she chose was the pretty doctor who told Sam she had a nice face on her first day at the hospital and not Edge from plastics who seemed to go in the operating theatre exclusively to do boob jobs.
“Hey, don’t put yourself down; you’re not just a random co-worker.”
“Ha ha,” Lena mocks, rolling her eyes at her proud Sam looks at herself for that joke. “Now who’s deflecting? Maybe you should go admit you like Alex before you insist on bugging me.”
“Who says I haven’t already told her?”
“Literally anyone who’s seen the two of you interact for more than five minutes.” They acted like a mix between two nervous teenagers and a couple of skittish gazelles ready to be spooked at even the slightest notion that someone might realise they were flirting with each other. “For what it’s worth, she obviously likes you back and Ruby seems to be a fan.”
“You think so? I couldn’t get a read on her,” Sam asks quickly, looking inside to where Ruby was pretending to help clean but was evidently just sneaking another slice of cake. Lena couldn’t remember the last romantic prospect Sam had deemed good enough to actually meet her daughter, probably because there had never actually been one.
“Yeah, she said Alex is her second favourite doctor,” Lena admits, watching Sam’s lips lift into a soft smile. “After me of course.” And there the smile goes.
“She demoted me again?”
“That’s life, Sam,” Lena says with fake sincerity, laughing when Sam attempts to push her over. “You really should tell her though. Just text her if you’re too nervous. I, on the other hand, am going to go home and make the most of my uninterrupted sleep time whilst I have it.”
“I have Kara’s number you know, if you wanted to take a page out of your own book.”
“She probably wouldn’t even be interested.” Sure there had been flirting. And maybe that lunch could have meant something more than it did. But it was one thing to have a joke with someone when you always had the safety net of an excuse to exit at any given time and a whole other thing to go out somewhere with romantic intent. Maybe she was just being nice.
“Lena, I love you, but that is the stupidest thing you’ve ever said. She couldn’t make her attraction anymore obvious unless she made a giant balloon sign literally spelling the words I have a crush on Lena Luthor. Or wrote it on the window of one of those tiny clown cars and drove it into your house. Oh! Or if she-“
“I’m leaving,” Lena says abruptly, dropping the bag of trash she was holding with just as much haste and smirking as she throws a look around the plate laden yard and the words, “enjoy cleaning up.”
“Do something about your clown kink!” Sam all but shouts despite the few feet between them just as Lena thinks she might’ve actually managed to win this particular battle, and as Lena catches sight of nosy eyes just poking their way over the fence she makes a note to herself to actually kill Sam Arias one day.
Lena sees Kara a lot more after that. Not that she has any real reason to. She has exactly zero crossover patients with paeds as of late, and yet, she finds an excuse to make her way down there most days, exiting just as quickly if she doesn’t catch sight of the woman she’s looking for, lingering arguably a little too long if she does just to watch her pull bouquets of flowers from her sleeve and squirt Winn in the face with a fake pen.
People have noticed.
She knows people have noticed.
She goes anyway.
Honestly she doesn’t actually expect to be called out on it. Not outright, and definitely not by Kara. But as she stands at the nurses’ station with an extra coffee that has way too much sugar for her to ever dare put it past her lips and the usual nervously excited energy buzzing below the surface, that’s exactly what happens.
“You know, for a woman who doesn’t work in paeds you’re sure around here an awful lot,” Kara subtly interrogates with a smirk and thankful eyes as she accepts the cup Lena tilts towards her. It had become somewhat of a tradition when she found Kara here to bring her a coffee (as much as a tradition as Kara repaying the favour when she hung up her nose for the day and knew Lena was preparing to power through the final hours of her shift).
“Would you believe I’m hiding from a particularly handsy patient?”
“Would I believe patients hit on you? Absolutely. But you seem like the kind of person who would have shut them down by now. I’ve seen the glare you send people; it’s effective.”
“Well then maybe I just like the company,” Lena braves.
“Meh, Winn’s alright, I guess,” Kara quips, mirth shining in her eyes at Lena’s resulting laugh. The laugh that is cut abruptly short by the shrill beep of the pager strapped securely to her scrubs.
Always the stupid pager.
“Well you know where to find me if anyone else gets handsy or whatever,” Kara offers with a small wave and a smile. Lena knows she’ll be back later. Heartbeat just as rapid. Excuses just as flimsy. Rumours just as rampant. And honestly? She couldn’t care less.
It’s just a regular old Thursday evening when Lena feels a little bit brave. She chalks the random surge up to the restlessness born from not seeing Kara all day and the perils of sleep depravity. Something about not sleeping always made her feel a little reckless, a little impulsive, a little brave.
Brave enough that, as her shift finally draws to a close in the early hours of the morning when any normal, sane person would be safely tucked into their bed, dreaming about some ridiculous thing or another, Lena makes her way down to paeds in search of a different Danvers.
The Danvers with short red hair and a penchant for threatening Winn with bodily harm (a fact that had endeared her to Lena very early on in their acquaintanceship). The Danvers that she didn’t really talk to outside of work related necessity, a fact that is written clearly across both of their faces as Lena saddles up beside her and prepares herself to do something that was frankly the new most awkward experience of her life (very easily beating out the attack of the speed walkers... and also that one time Ruby asked her where babies came from and instead of answering she just stood up and walked straight out of the room in complete silence).
“So... Kara...” Real eloquent, Luthor. That was neither smooth nor subtle. So maybe she should have planned ahead a little bit further rather than letting her tired feet carry her here on a whim, only for her tired brain to clock out the moment she really needed its help.
Maybe she should have carried on turning a blind eye to the obvious feelings that were bubbling away under the surface just in the hopes of holding onto that last shred of dignity she had left after Sam’s notoriously nosy neighbour told her she had a niece who went to circus camp once that she could set her up with when she picked the other woman up for work in the morning. That might’ve been a nice idea. Instead here she was, just saying a word and hoping she would get the response she was looking for instead of a confused side eye.
“Is my sister?” Alex offers.
“Yep,” Lena pops simply, already mentally planning her escape route from this disaster of a conversation when Alex sighs and turns towards her with an exasperated smile that hides a drop of amusement and Lena knows she’s about to take pity on her. And, whilst she usually hated pity, today she was willing to be its best friend.
“She likes to take pictures of the park over the road in the morning before breakfast, says it cleanses her camera of filth.” Alex smiles as she says it, a clear indicator that despite the fact that she thinks Kara’s cleansing ritual is ridiculous, she can’t help but find her lovable. An opinion that Lena shares wholeheartedly. Something which she’s pretty sure Alex already knows, hence the aforementioned pity that Lena was fully on the bandwagon of on this occasion.
“Mmhmm,” Alex hums noncommittally, turning back to her paperwork before offering an almost bored sounding, “hurt her and I’ll kill you and all that.”
“Same goes for you,” Lena responds, thinking of the way Sam had all but skipped into work that morning and her quiet confession in the car that she had finally built up the courage to ask Alex out and that the other woman had (not surprisingly) said yes. Alex stills a little at the words like she got her hand caught in the cookie jar before her pen continues on its path and a small, content smile finds pride of place on her lips. “Good talk.”
Step one: complete.
Step two: ... well that was going to require a lot more bravery.
If anyone were to ever ask her Lena would lie through the skin of her teeth, but the truth of the matter is, she does in fact waste a good few of her precious sleep hours watching YouTube tutorials on how to shape balloons into assorted animals, only to promptly give up and decide that paper was a far safer and easier medium.
Which is how she ends up in a park in the early hours of the morning, wrapped tightly in a jacket and scarf, clutching a tiny piece of paper and praying to whoever was listening that this wouldn’t end up blowing up in her face (at least there was barely anyone around to witness).
She spots Kara easily. A sight for sore eyes parked onto an otherwise empty park bench, hands deftly handling a camera she was working to clean the filth from, and lips drawn into a smile when she finds herself happy with the results she finds on the tiny screen. Lena watches from a distance for a moment. Tells herself it’ll make her feel more courageous.
She pushes herself forward anyway.
Makes herself start talking before Kara can turn around and stop her words sharply in her throat.
“So it turns out balloon animals are fucking hard but I’m apparently quite adept at origami,” is how Lena opens, dropping herself onto the bench and pushing her creation towards a startled Kara. Kara, whose surprise quickly morphs into a serene look when she realises it’s Lena. Kara, whose serene smile switches into clear amusement when she makes note of what exactly it is Lena is offering to her. A little, slightly crumpled by fear, origami turtle.
Kara takes it gently, turns it over in her hands for a second, mulls something over in her head a few seconds longer before her gaze finds Lena’s once more and she says, “I could show you how sometime? Plenty of balloons in my apartment.”
“I’d like that,” Lena admits in the low light of the rising sun.
“Maybe breakfast first though?” Kara questions, quickly packing her things into her bag before reaching down and offering Lena a hand up. If Lena holds onto said hand for a little longer than necessary, well no one could really blame her, and the reddening of Kara’s cheeks suggests that she wouldn’t be taking the time to complain about it either.
“I could go for pancakes.”
“Well now you’re just my dream woman,” Kara jokes, leading the way.
“Dream about me a lot do you?” Lena enjoys the way Kara stiffens for a second. Enjoys it tremendously, that is, until Kara turns to her with a look that can only truly be described as two can play at that game.
“Oh you have no idea, Dr Luthor,” Kara says, voice low and dripping with honey. The kind of tone that people didn’t tend to reserve for early morning walks in the park with only elderly folk and birds in attendance. The kind of tone that has Lena literally stopping in her tracks to drag her thoughts back into order before she can even convince her feet to make up the distance Kara had created between them because holy shit she was not even remotely prepared for that.
Just like she isn’t prepared for the way Kara walks her home after their date, with a cautious hand holding Lena’s own and a quietly self-satisfied smile. Nor is she prepared for the peck Kara leaves her with on her doorstep. She’s especially unprepared for the way Kara doubles back after a few indecisive steps and returns to kiss Lena ‘properly’ on the stoop of her building.
And honestly, the thing she was most unprepared for, the thing she thought she’d never say was:
Good God she loved clowns.
(It still wasn’t a kink!)