Jet lag or not, Kara wakes with the sun as it peeks around the edges of the drawn curtains. She lays in bed for a moment longer, looking over at Lena, who is still sound asleep. Lena has one arm tucked under her pillow, the other pressed into her cheek.
Kara lets herself watch for a moment. She has the sudden urge to reach over and push Lena’s hair off of her forehead, tuck it behind her ear.
Instead, she gets out of bed and calls room service to have breakfast delivered.
Kara checks her phone while she waits. Alex has sent a few messages asking how she’s doing and if she’s met anyone famous. Kara responds with a frowny face emoji and a reminder that her job is confidential, thank you very much.
She hopes the text wakes Alex up.
At the knock on the door, Kara declines the offer to have the table set and takes the tray of coffee and food herself. She resists drawing back the drapes for now, just drinks a cup of coffee and eats breakfast quietly as she reads through the news before deciding that, since it’s half six, she might as well let more light into the room—no sense in delaying the day anymore.
Lena turns over in bed as the sun falls across her face, but she doesn’t open her eyes. Kara smiles and hums to herself, steps back to the table and pours a cup of coffee for Lena. Lena is clearly not a morning person, but if she doesn’t get up now, Kara’s worried they won’t make it down to the lobby by eight.
Walking over to the bed, Kara calls her name softly once, then again. Lena grunts something unintelligible.
“It’s a gorgeous day out, Lena. Time to get up,” she tries again, a little louder.
“You’re just naturally like this in the morning, aren’t you?” Lena mumbles.
“All energized and perfect—” Lena is speaking mostly into the pillow, but Kara can see her cheeks pinken anyway. Lena opens one eye to glance sideways at Kara and barrels on in the direction of the distraction that Kara is providing. ”And you’ve got coffee, oh thank god.” She sits up in bed and sweeps hair out of her eyes as Kara hands her the cup.
“You were nearly nonverbal yesterday until you’d had some after we landed,” Kara says, laughing lightly. “I know better now.”
The coffee seems like it goes a long way toward waking Lena up. Enough so that, as Kara starts pulling clothing out of her suitcase, laying out possible combinations, Lena sets her cup aside and smooths out the duvet in her lap.
Kara can’t help watching as Lena stretches and swings her legs out over the side of the bed.
“You wanna get ready first or should I?” she asks Lena.
“There’s two sinks, no reason we can’t do it at the same time,” Lena shrugs as she slides off the other side of the bed and pads across the room to where Kara had lain out their suitcases last night. She looks soft and relaxed now, strappy navy tank and matching sleep shorts rumpled from sleeping in them, and Kara feels a swell of warmth towards her.
Lena gives her a bemused expression, looking at the pairs of slacks and three shirts Kara has draped over one of the chairs. “How many outfits are you planning on needing today?”
“Just one, but I thought you might want to make sure we aren’t too matchy-matchy this time,” Kara says with a laugh, but she’s being sincere. Today is going to be stressful enough for Lena, if there’s something she can do to help, it feels right to do it.
As she collects her toiletries and walks into the bathroom to start while Lena picks out her own outfit in the bedroom, Kara smiles to herself thinking about how much Lena has relaxed with her since they arrived. Sure, yesterday was a little rocky at times, but the evening felt like a success and, all things considered, Kara thinks they’re doing well.
Kara doesn’t quite know what to make of all the people who seem to have let Lena down in such colossal ways. She’s baffled by the way Lillian treats Lena, by Andrea’s behavior, even by Lex.
Humming to herself as she washes her face, Kara thinks about it. Maybe she doesn’t know Lena well, certainly hasn’t known her for longer than thirty-six hours, but Kara gets the sense that what you see is what you get: Lena is a brilliant, driven woman who wants to do good and wants to be loved. Nothing about her feels manipulative. Wounded maybe, hurting and wanting to hurt back, but Kara’s not sure if Lena is really capable of following through the way she’d like to.
There are parts of Lena that remind her of herself—Kara’s no stranger to loss, she spent a long time at the Danvers feeling alien and alone. But where Kara has always known that her family members, biological and adoptive, loved and love her, she now knows that Lena doesn’t think she can say the same.
It’s funny. Last night, sitting on the bed with Lena and answering questions, Kara had the thought that she’s never felt so comfortable with anyone so quickly. Only two of the questions had thrown her— What is your most treasured memory? and What is your most terrible memory?
For the former, she’d started to tell Lena about holidays with her parents before they’d died, but, as soon as she did, she realized that wasn’t right. Her most treasured memory was, in some ways, connected with her most terrible: it was the first time Alex let her sneak out onto the roof with her at night to look at the stars, about four months after she’d moved in.
Alex had brought a blanket and snacks, and told her jokes and stories until they got too cold and had to go back inside. Kara can still remember how, for the first time in months, she’d felt like a normal teenager—at that moment she’d known she and Alex were going to be best friends and not just sisters.
But then, afterwards, she was horrified to realize she hadn’t thought about her parents for the entire night. Realizing that she could be ok without them felt like the worst thing in the world. It felt like a betrayal that nearly eclipsed the pain of losing them in the first place.
And somehow, Lena had understood. She told Kara that her own most terrible memory was realizing that she couldn’t remember what her birth mother looked like.
Kara shakes her head as she lays out her floss and uncaps the toothpaste. It normally takes years for her to open up so deeply, but the further down the list she and Lena get, the easier it seems to be.
Lena had seemed happiest all evening when they’d gone through the questions that referenced friendships. It’s clear to Kara that Lena keeps her distance even from close friends, but that she feels so strongly about them anyway—Lena lit up talking about a few folks in National City. Still, Kara couldn’t help noticing that they were all people Lena works with.
In fact, beyond Jack and someone named Sam, Lena’s only close relationships seem to be with people she also employs.
Kara finds herself wondering if she and Lena will end up as friends after this weekend. It’s an absurd thought, one that’s never entered her mind about a client before.
But she feels a sudden intense ache in her chest at the thought of never speaking to Lena again.
Kara sighs to herself as she puts toothpaste onto the brush. She feels a little off balance. The vulnerability the questions require goes both ways, and sharing the memory of her parents’ death is never easy—regardless of the context.
Still, she doesn’t regret asking Lena to do this with her. Even the first third of the list had made the afternoon easier. Kara imagines today will be even smoother.
Well, other than the helicopter ride.
Kara’s nearly done brushing when Lena makes it into the bathroom. She sets her cosmetics case down on the counter next to Kara’s dopp kit and starts getting out what she’ll need. Kara grins at her in the mirror and then spits a mouthful of toothpaste into the sink.
It should be disgusting, but Lena’s expression is, for lack of a better word, fond.
“Do you ever stop smiling?” Lena asks her, still looking at Kara in the mirror as she rinses her toothbrush.
“What?” Kara wipes her mouth on a towel.
“Smiling. Since you got on the plane, I don’t think I’ve seen a single unhappy expression on your face. Surely you can’t smile all the time.”
“Lena, who says I’m being me all the time?” Kara responds. “My job is to take care of you, make people feel good about themselves. It isn’t about me.” She doesn’t stop smiling at Lena while she says this, but Lena looks down and then away, something in her expression falling.
“Are you being you when you answer the questions?” There’s a vulnerability to Lena’s voice and it makes Kara’s chest tighten.
“Lena, of course I’m being me when I answer the questions.” Lena looks back to Kara’s face in the mirror. “They wouldn’t work otherwise.”
“Right,” Lena says. But it doesn’t feel quite right.
She’s about to try again when Lena speaks.
“You’ve got a spot.” Lena says, points to the side of her own mouth to demonstrate. The abrupt change of subject feels like cover to Kara, but she won’t push Lena. If Lena wants to bring it up again, Kara knows she will.
“Thanks.” Kara reaches for the towel again, wipes her mouth. “You know, I’ll happily grimace my way through today if that makes you feel better.”
Lena laughs. “No, that won’t be necessary.” Her smile looks genuine this time.
Kara rinses her mouth under the sink and then stands back up and leans against the counter to face Lena. “So why Scotland? If your family and Eve’s are both in Metropolis, why not do all of this there. I think Jack is the only one I’ve met who’s from here who’s actually invited to the wedding.”
Lena applies eyeliner while she answers Kara. “The Luthors are Scottish. My father was obsessed with his heritage, among other things. He kept family lands and a distillery or two—the Hotel Machrie, where we’re spending the rest of the wedding, is part of the Luthor Corp Hospitality holdings. In fact, the house that Lex and I grew up in was actually a Scottish Castle that Lionel had brought over, stone by stone.” Lena grabs a fresh wipe. “I suppose this is Lex’s way of having Lionel present.”
“That sounds more thoughtful than your brother seems capable of, based on the way you’ve described him.”
“I don’t know, maybe it is now. But Lex wasn’t always so self-centered. When we were younger, this is exactly the kind of thing he would have thought about.”
Kara is just slipping on her shoes when Lena finishes blow drying her hair and comes out of the bathroom. She’s dressed in a coral scoop-neck dress and her hair is twisted into a high knot. She looks incredible.
“Are you wearing that golfing?” Kara blurts out.
Lena’s just finishing putting in an earring and she stops, hands up near her right ear. “No?”
“That sounded like a question.”
“Kara, who goes golfing in a sheath dress?” Lena laughs. “I wasn’t sure why you would ask. Lex has some ridiculous plan to make everyone wear traditional clothing. We’ll get outfitted on arrival, I think. I’m glad it turns out you can play.”
Kara finishes knotting her shoes and stands up, brushes the wrinkles out of her slacks. “Lena, even if I couldn’t play, you don’t seriously think I’d abandon you to Andrea and Max, do you?”
“No, I suppose I don’t.” Lena smiles at her. “Still, I’m glad. It’ll make the day easier, for sure. I have to warn you: Andrea played in college, and she’s competitive. She’s a little insufferable on the course, actually.”
“She’s a little insufferable off it.” Lena shoots her a look. Kara puts up her hands. “What, I’m allowed to be snarky about people who’ve hurt you. Jack likes that about me, remember?”
Lena rolls her eyes. “Do you get this into role playing with all your clients?”
“If they ask nicely,” Kara grins and waggles her eyebrows. Lena goes red. “Actually, this exact scenario has never come up.”
Lena bends over to zip up one of her suitcases. “How does it normally go?” She’s not looking at Kara when she asks.
“My work?” Lena nods but still doesn’t look at her. “Well, normally I’m just there to be a date. It’s like I said in the bathroom—it isn’t about me.”
Lena stands up and looks around the room for something, but doesn’t respond. She also doesn’t look at Kara.
“Look, I love that you’re asking questions, but do you really want to get into all this?” Kara glances at her watch, walks over toward the door. They don’t have much time left before they need to be down in the lobby.
“This is awkward for me,” Lena finally says. “Talking about it makes me feel better.” She glances at Kara and then sits down on the bed and starts rifling through her purse.
“Hey,” Kara says gently. Lena stops and looks up at her. “Don’t stop asking questions.” She gives Lena an encouraging smile.
“Ok.” Lena smiles softly back. “Do you pay taxes?”
Kara lets out a burst of laughter. “Not what I thought you were going to ask. Yes. I pay taxes.”
“Are you ever attracted to your clients?” Lena looks back down at her purse.
Kara bites the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. She can’t believe Lena’s fishing so obviously. “Sometimes. Are you wondering if I’m attracted to you?”
“No!” Lena looks up, then has the grace to look a tiny bit chagrined. “Maybe.”
“I told you last night that I think I stopped breathing the first time I saw you.” Kara snorts. “Think that answers your question.”
Lena flushes, but she can’t quite hide a pleased smile.
“What’s your signature move?”
“My signature what?”
“You know, to initiate.” Lena gestures into the air with her right hand, glances quickly at Kara and then gets up and takes a pair of heels out of a different suitcase.
Kara hums. “First, I don’t initiate, per se. That’s up to the client.” She’s never spoken with someone about this—at least not so explicitly, and certainly not with a client themselves.
It strikes Kara that this should feel weird, but instead it doesn’t. She supposes it’s a natural extension of their getting to know each other. Still, she can’t resist teasing Lena a little. “Why, are you reconsidering my services?”
Lena goes a shade of pink not unlike her dress. “No. I don’t think I could pay for sex. I mean, I have nothing against it, of course—I’m not judging.” She closes her eyes, looks like she’s trying to collect herself. “I just. Like I said. I’m curious.”
“You’re so easy to fluster,” Kara can’t help but laugh. Lena glares at her but it just makes Kara grin harder. “To answer your question, no, I don’t have a signature move.”
When Lena looks back at her and raises an eyebrow, Kara puts up her hands again. “I swear!”
“Oh come on, you’re, like, the Yoda of escorts. Getting you on the phone was harder than finishing my second dissertation.” Lena swaps the heels she’s picked for a different pair and zips the final suitcase shut. She stands up and walks over to where Kara is waiting in the short hallway near the door, sets her purse down on the console table and puts a hand out on the wall opposite Kara for balance as she slips on a heel.
“No,” Kara says, shakes her head. “I don’t play games, no gimmicks. It’s much more—” She snaps her the fingers on her left hand, searches for the right word.
“Subtle?” Lena offers, taking her hand off the wall as she pulls on the second heel. She straightens up and smooths her dress.
Kara looks at her, purses her lips as she thinks. “I disappear. It’s not about me. It’s about you.” They’re standing close in the narrow space. “It’s hard to explain.”
“Show me.” Lena’s looking at her with something like a challenge written all over her face.
“I thought you weren’t buying?” It’s Kara’s turn to raise an eyebrow. Lena rolls her eyes.
“I’m not. I’m just asking to see how it works.” Lena’s laugh is at odds with the way she’s started fidgeting, rubbing her left palm with her right thumb and twisting her fingers together. “Show me.”
Kara hesitates. But Lena’s face smooths out and she drops her hands. She’s looking at Kara expectantly.
Making a decision, Kara puts her hands on Lena’s hips and pushes her gently, but firmly, against the wall. She steps in until their bodies are almost touching.
Lena’s eyes go wide, but she makes no move to resist.
“Close your eyes.”
Lena’s eyes dart all over her face and she makes no move to close them.
Kara flexes her fingers, tightens her grip on Lena’s waist. “Close your eyes,” she says again, a little more gently.
Lena closes her eyes this time, but her body remains tense.
“I’m not going to kiss you, Lena,” she says softly. “You can relax. You’re safe.”
Kara brings her right hand up to Lena’s neck, runs her thumb along the underside of Lena’s jaw and cups the back of her neck. She leans in and ghosts her nose and lips across Lena’s cheeks, hovers a breath from Lena’s mouth. They’re so close that Kara can feel when Lena parts her lips and lets out a puff of air.
“Just listen to my voice.” She can feel Lena relax into the wall. “That’s it.”
She touches Lena’s nose softly with her own, strokes softly just behind Lena’s ear.
“She’s going to be so sorry she let you go,” Kara whispers.
Kara brings her left hand gently up Lena’s side brushing halfway up her ribs, before running it back down to her hip.
“I want you to let go of the hurt, the insecurity; let go of the past.” She exhales softly, can feel Lena match her breathing.
“When you do that, Lena?” She tightens her grip gently on the back of Lena’s neck. “She’ll see you the way I see you.”
Kara brings her lips to Lena’s ear.
“And in that moment? She and everyone else will finally understand what they’ve lost.”
Kara eases her grip on Lena’s nape and withdraws, lets Lena’s head rest gently against the wall. She steps away from Lena and back to the other side of the hallway.
Lena’s eyes are still closed. She’s nearly slumped against the wall with Kara no longer holding her up, hands splayed against it on either side. She looks absolutely wrecked.
“Holy shit.” Lena opens her eyes and looks at Kara. “You’re worth every penny.”
“I’m glad to hear it.” Kara smiles at her. “Normally, I’d give you some time to recover, but I’m afraid it’s five to eight and the porters will be here any second for our luggage.”
Lena blinks heavily but makes no move to stand independently. “Right,” she breathes out.
Kara can’t help her grin. “Are you going to be ok making it to the elevator, or should I carry you?”
“Nope! No. I’m fine.” Lena holds a hand up to stop Kara. She shivers and then straightens up and takes an uneven step. “Don’t you dare say a word.”
This time, Kara can’t help laughing. She mimes zipping her lips. “I’m not saying a word.”
Lena glares at her but steps toward the door. “Now who’s holding us up?”
“You’re absolutely right,” Kara says. “I can’t believe I’m single handedly responsible for making us late.”
Lena rolls her eyes, but she can’t stop her smile. Kara feels a swell of affection for her. She matches the smile and follows Lena out the door.
Kara has just pressed the button for the elevator when she turns and looks at Lena. “Wait, don’t you need your purse?”
“I’ll grab it.” Kara turns around to run back to the room. “Hold the doors for me!”
When she returns, Lena is standing in the elevator, a hand stuck out preventing it from closing as she gives an apologetic smile to the older couple next to her. Kara slips in and Lena lets the door go.
As Kara hands her the bag, Lena bites her lip. “Wonder how I forgot that.” She offers Kara a shy half-smile, it dimples her left cheek. “Where was my head?”
Lillian ushers Lena and Kara out to the waiting car as soon as they reach the lobby. Lena has absolutely not recovered from what Kara did to her in the room, and she considers the possibility that she’s never been more attracted to anyone in her entire life. For a brief moment, Lena wonders what it would be like if she’d met Kara under more normal circumstances, but she dismisses the speculation. That horse is already well out of the gate.
As they walk through the passenger lobby at the Edmiston London Heliport and out onto the apron, Lena shivers. She pops the collar of the black woolen coat she’s wearing, tightens the belt. There’s a slight chill in the air, augmented by a light breeze that’s coming off the Thames from the west. A line of boats bob gently on their moorings near the opposite bank and she can hear a train trundle over the Battersea railway bridge just down river.
Lena absently reaches for Kara’s hand and steps in close.
“Are you cold?” Kara asks, frowning down at Lena’s uncovered knees.
“A little,” Lena admits. “I probably should have worn pants.”
Kara squeezes her hand and turns into Lena so that she can rub Lena’s other arm over the coat.
Lillian is speaking to the Tessmachers, no doubt something about the wedding, but Lena doesn’t bother tuning in. If she stays calm, she might make it through the flight to Port Ellen without having a panic attack.
All of the endorphins that Lena has been coasting on since Kara’s little display in the hotel room are gone as soon as they climb aboard the silver Luthor Corp Sikorsky 76-D.
Lena takes the middle seat on the forward facing bench, in between Kara and Mrs. Tessmacher, while Lillian and Mr. Tessmacher take the chairs opposite them. The co-pilot goes through the safety checklist with them and ensures that everyone is belted in, before shutting the outside door and going around to the front, but Lena barely pays attention.
Lena knows that her fear of planes might be irrational, but her fear of helicopters is most certainly not. Helicopters crash all the time and their ability to stay aloft is affected by everything—temperature, humidity, atmospheric pressure, altitude. And once you do manage to get one aloft, a sudden drop in visibility can render it entirely helpless.
Even in the nearly sound proof cabin, Lena can hear the whine of the rotors as the engine starts up. The seats pick up a gentle vibration. She squeezes her hands together, twists at her fingers, and tries to will her heart back into a recognizable rhythm.
The helicopter taxis out to the pad over the water. Lena closes her eyes, takes a deep breath.
She opens her eyes and stares, unseeing, at the console between her mother and Mr. Tessmacher. She can feel the swoop of altitude and velocity in her stomach as the heliport falls away. You can do this, it’s fine. It’s not that long of a flight.
Lena is vaguely aware as they cross the north bank of the river and begin to leave the city behind, and she curses herself internally for ignoring her mother’s calls all week. Any warning before yesterday that she’d be flying today would probably have helped her manage this better.
She puts her hands on her knees and closes her eyes, tries to practice the grounding exercises that she’s worked on with her therapist, but Lena can tell she’s getting too activated to bring herself back down. She’s about to despair completely when Kara shifts in her seat and leans over.
“Hey, hey,” Kara whispers, ducking down to catch her eyes, concern all over her face. “Breathe with me.”
Kara’s prompting makes Lena realize that she isn’t breathing at all right now.
“Follow my breaths. We’re going to count to four, ok?” Kara continues, keeping her eyes locked on Lena’s. ”Four in, four out. Do it with me. In through your nose on one, two, three, four. Now out through your mouth. One, two, three, four.”
Kara twists even more in her seat so that she’s almost entirely facing Lena. She takes Lena’s hands out of the death grip she has on her knees and holds them in her own, rests their joined hands on Lena’s thigh. Kara starts running her thumbs in slow circles over Lena’s knuckles like she had in the cab the day before.
“That’s it Lena, in—” Kara breathes in through her own nose. “And out. Two, three, four.”
Lena’s heart is still racing, but she starts to focus on Kara, instead. How clear the blue of her eyes is, the scar right above her left eyebrow. The smooth, tan skin of her face; the round of her chin.
The whole time Kara just keeps counting in a soft rhythm and running her fingers with gentle pressure over the bones and tendons in the back of Lena’s hands.
Lena loses track of time, but eventually she feels Kara squeeze her hands and sees Kara’s brow unfurrow. “There you are,” Kara says, a relieved smile on her lips, the skin at the edges of her eyes just crinkling.
Here I am, thinks Lena.
She’s much too anxious to do anything beyond hold Kara’s hands for the remainder of the flight.
But it helps.
Lena is so grateful to be off the helicopter that she doesn’t even notice the way that Lillian is watching the two of them quietly, a thoughtful expression on her face. Kara hasn’t let go of her, is letting Lena lean into her chest and while she rubs circles on her back as they stand on the tarmac and wait for their bags to be loaded into the back of two black Defender 110s.
“You did great,” Kara says.
Lena scoffs. “This is so embarrassing. God.” She takes a deep breath and inhales the cool air—a hint of salt, the faint residue of a peat fire, and the fresh scent of something (fabric softener?) from Kara’s shirt filling her lungs. It’s comforting.
Kara laughs, her chest shaking Lena gently. “You have nothing to be embarrassed about. Trust me.”
“No, I’m pretty sure I do. I made you count to four, over and over, for two hours.”
“Well, at least now you know I can,” Kara offers.
“And I’m clinging to you like a koala.” That might actually be the most embarrassing part of this, but Lena can’t bring herself to care enough to stop. If Kara lets go of her right now, she thinks she might still throw up.
“Lena?” Kara breaks in. “You’ve got to let this go. It’s fine. You’re fine. I don’t mind. Honest.”
Lena makes a grumpy noise into the lapel of Kara’s blazer. “Of course it’s fine for you. You get to look all heroic, calming me down.”
“Ah, yes,” Kara says, sagely. “Heroic. Always the look I’m going for.” She pauses. “What’s it going to take to help you get over this?”
Lena thinks for a moment. “Tell me something embarrassing that happened to you.”
She feels Kara snort into her hair. “Really? That’s what will work?”
“It’s on the list. This whole morning is my embarrassing thing. What’s yours?”
“You know we’re doing this all out of order,” Kara says, then hums. “Ok, I’ve got one. I went through a phase of being obsessed with the movie Center Stage.”
Lena smiles. “That’s not embarrassing.”
“No, but the fact that I broke three different lamps trying to learn the red shoe dance sure is.”
Lena can’t help herself, the laugh just bubbles up.
“Is that sufficiently embarrassing?” Kara asks, a smile in her voice. “Are we back on an even playing field?”
“I’m not sure,” Lena says. “I’ll let you know.”
When the tweed clad driver tells them the hotel is just down the road, Kara doesn’t take him all that seriously—the only thing visible from the front of the airport is a wide expanse of flat green fields, dotted with the occasional whitewashed farmhouse. She reconsiders as they pass a small white sign that reads “The Machrie Hotel & Golf Links” less than three minutes later.
The Rover in front, carrying Lillian and the Tessmachers, makes a right turn off the main road and their car follows. The smooth asphalt gives way to a long, loose-stone drive, flanked by more flat green fields and a smattering of purple flowers. Kara can see what must be the main building of the hotel, still nearly a mile away, and several smaller squat cottages off to its left side.
Lena is in the seat next to her, staring out the window to where they can make out the rolling dunes and the bay beyond. She seems to have recovered from the flight. Kara’s about to check in with her, when Lena speaks without turning away from the window.
“On a clear day from the south side of the island, you can see the Irish coastline. It’s only about 24 miles away.” Lena pauses, but she doesn’t seem done, so Kara waits. “My birth mother was from Ireland. Whenever I’m here, I think about her.”
Lena sighs, still looking out across the landscape. Gravel crunches under the wheels as they make their way closer to the hotel.
“It was a shock, finding out that Lionel really was my father. I used to daydream that he loved coming here for the same reason—that maybe something about the sea and the coast and the weather made him think of her, too.”
They sit in silence for a minute as the car slows and then stops. Lena is still facing away from her, gaze somewhere on the bay. Kara can see her take a breath and hold it, like she’s thinking about whether or not she should add something.
“I’m sorry if that was too much,” she says to Kara, posture stiffening slightly as she gives an uncomfortable laugh. “I don’t really know why I told you.”
Kara reaches for Lena’s hand on the seat between them. She twines their fingers together and squeezes lightly.
“It wasn’t, Lena. I want to hear whatever you want to share.”
Lena finally turns to look at her, a small, rueful smile on her face. “I’m glad you’re here.”
“Me, too,” Kara says, and finds that she means it.
Walking across the grey slate pavers connecting the gravel to the front entrance, they cross through an archway in the whitewashed stone front. Kara can’t help laughing at a sheep statue just inside, yellow wellingtons on each cloven hoof. She points it out to Lena as they pass. Lena rolls her eyes, but gives Kara a sideways smile that crinkles at the corner of her eyes.
As they enter the hotel proper, the whitewash gives way to red wallpaper and warm woods, plush armchairs draped with tartan blankets, and fireplaces. Kara counts at least three roaring fires behind ornate metal grates by the time they find themselves in the middle of what has to be every guest at the wedding.
The lobby is in chaos when they step in. Lex is standing on a chair, ordering people about. Kara can hear Jack complaining loudly about being exiled to Siberia, apparently upset about being put in one of the cottages. Lillian breezes by them and heads straight for a couple of overwhelmed looking staff people.
“Everybody pay attention to me” Lex yells, trying to settle the group down a bit. It doesn’t exactly work, but he’s undeterred. “Starting in half an hour, there will be lawn games out front and cards in the Stag Lounge for anyone who’s interested, the cinema is available, and the restaurant’s open all afternoon. Golfers! Meet us at the pro shop at noon to get kitted out!”
He hops off the chair and disappears through the french doors to the left of check in, heading outside to the courtyard.
A hand on Kara’s arm stops her as she and Lena make their way to the front desk. It’s Eve.
“Boy, am I happy to see the two of you!”
“Hi, Eve.” Lena gives her a warm smile.
“Kara, I need to know. Do you golf?” Eve asks her, looking hopeful for some reason.
“I can golf,” Kara replies. “I’m not about to join the Tour or anything, but I won’t embarrass myself, if that’s what you’re asking.” She can’t help flashing Lena a smile as she says it.
“Oh good!” Eve claps her hands together enthusiastically. “Then you’re on my team. Lena, too. Lex has some cockamamie idea that it’ll be more fun if we play bride versus groom, so we’ve split the players.”
Kara can’t help noticing that it’s Eve who’s picked Lena, and not Lex.
“I’ll let you get settled, but then come down to the pro shop as quick as you can or all the good costumes will be gone! I wanted to let everyone golf in their own clothing, but Lex said it wouldn’t be authentic.” Eve rolls her eyes, makes air quotes at authentic. Then she leans towards the two of them conspiratorially. “Don’t worry though, we’ve got modern clubs. Trying to get 28 sets of vintage woods and irons proved beyond even him.”
“Thank goodness for small miracles,” Lena laughs. “Thanks, Eve. We’ll meet you down there as soon as we’ve gotten our key.”
“What does she mean ‘costumes’?” Kara asks Lena as Eve walks away.
Lena shakes her head, but she’s smiling. “That’s what I was trying to explain to you this morning. Lex wants everyone to dress up in traditional Scottish golf wear. Think Bobby Jones or Walter Hagen.”
Kara looks at her blankly.
“Oh, you know, those ridiculous baggy knickers that cut off just below the knee, argyle socks, sweaters.” Lena tries, but Kara still can’t quite picture it and that must show on her face. “Whatever, you’ll see what I mean.”
The front desk informs them that they’ll be staying in the Islay room on the first floor of the main building and that their luggage has already been delivered.
“So that’s just, like, a thing?” Kara can’t help asking Lena as they make their way through the hallways. “Your luggage is taken care of, poof.”
Lena laughs. “I imagine it helps that we own the properties. I’m not sure the experience is universal.”
“Still,” says Kara. “I’m getting spoiled. I might refuse to carry my own bags ever again.”
Lena laughs and tugs on Kara’s arm to hurry them along.
Their room is smaller than the one they’d occupied at the Rosewood, a product of the building’s age and setting, Kara supposes. There is a faux-antler light fixture done in white plaster above an enormous four poster bed on the right that dominates the space, a pair of comfortable looking armchairs along the left wall, and a delicate looking wooden writing desk with a matching chair set beneath a wide window on the far side.
They’re on the south end of the original part of the building, instead of the modern extension off the golf course, and there are two additional windows—one on each wall—flanking the desk, floor-length moss green curtains parted to show off 180 degree views of the countryside beyond the hotel.
Kara hops on the mattress.
“I always wanted one of these as a kid,” she tells Lena, bouncing lightly on the white linen.
“I had one,” Lena offers.
Kara barks out a laugh. “Of course you did.”
“I always thought it was kind of ridiculous.” Lena smiles at her from where she’s standing by one of the armchairs. “Sometimes Lex would help me turn it into a fort by pinning sheets over the top of the posts.”
“Consider me officially jealous.”
“Duly noted.” She grins at Kara, mischief in her eyes. “Now, I want to see what you look like in plus fours and a sweater vest.”
“Plus whats?” Kara asks.
But Lena just laughs and grabs Kara’s hand to pull her off the bed.
The pro shop looks like a rummage sale. There are racks of sweaters and cardigans in a variety of tweeds and woolen fabrics, a bin of knee high socks, and stacks of the baggy knickers Lena had described on a nearby table. Kara grabs a pair of cream and brown saddle shoes and takes the clothing that Lena picks out for her.
When she steps out of the dressing room, Lena has on a cardigan underneath a loose tweed blazer in herringbone twill. She looks adorable, although she’s frowning at her expression in the full length mirror. Kara can’t help herself.
“How do you look so cute in that?” She asks. Lena goes pink. “Meanwhile, I look ridiculous.” Kara glances down at her creme sweater vest and blue button up.
“No, you don’t,” Lena says, chewing on the inside of her cheek, and seems to weigh her words. “You really don’t.”
Kara can’t help preening slightly. Maybe she doesn’t feel that ridiculous.
Lena walks over and tugs on the bottom of the vest, adjusts it slightly. She purses her lips and looks around, grabbing a blue silk tie off the table next to them, pops Kara’s collar, and loops it around her neck.
“This, um, this color looks good on you,” Lena says, eyes focused on where she’s finishing the knot. Kara feels a little like she can’t breathe every time Lena’s fingers brush against her collarbone. Lena tucks the tie into the v-neck of Kara’s sweater, smooths it out. “There, perfect.”
They’re startled apart as Lex clambers onto a bench near the shoe display and starts yelling again for everyone’s attention. He glares at the Graves siblings, who are squabbling over a tam o’shanter hat.
“My wife-to-be said it would be sexist to play men versus women and I agreed, but mostly because she’s a better golfer than me and I was worried I’d lose.” The crowd laughs. “Eve and I have drafted you into teams. Lowest total group score wins!” He points to a sheet of paper tacked up by the door of the shop. “See that for your assignments. First foursome tees off at 12:15 and we’ll stagger out in 11 minute intervals, so the final group will start at 1:21. Should give plenty of time for those of you joining the distillery tour, since we won’t leave for that until 6:30.”
“What are the stakes?” A woman in the back calls out. Kara can’t quite remember her name, although she knows Jack pointed her out yesterday as someone to avoid. Vivian? Valerie? No; Veronica!
“Bragging rights,” Eve pipes in. “It’s all in good fun.”
Kara hangs back as Lena goes to check out the timesheet. When Lena walks back over, she tells Kara that they’re in the final grouping.
“Does this mean we have time for lunch?” Kara asks hopefully.
“It does,” replies Lena. “Come on, let’s go upstairs.”
Max Lord is just as insufferable as Lena remembers. She didn’t like him even before Lord Industries stole her intellectual property, but now his being assigned to her foursome just feels like some sort of cruel joke. She wonders if Lillian did this on purpose or if it didn’t even occur to her to take Lena’s feelings about it into consideration. She’s grateful that Kara insisted on eating before they went out, a low-blood sugar headache would have made tolerating Max even more impossible.
He starts off by suggesting a little wager amongst the four of them—hard cash to the lowest score. Lena thinks that Max has clearly never played with Andrea before, must not know that she plays with a handicap of zero; if anyone agrees to this, it’ll be Andrea going home with the money.
Lena herself is far more average and knows she’ll just be paying whoever wins, so she doesn’t say anything. Kara and Andrea don’t seem interested and just sort of ignore him as they make their way to the first tee. Once he sees Andrea’s drive, he stops bringing it up.
The course is stunning—creatively nestled within fescue covered dunes between the back of the hotel to the east and Laggan Bay to the west. The fairways are wide and forgiving, and so, where she would normally find herself frustrated at not excelling, Lena simply starts to relax into the game. Kara, to Lena’s great surprise, can actually golf. Perhaps not as well as Andrea, but certainly better than Max.
By the time they make it to the third green, Lena can’t help noticing that she’s actually enjoying herself.
The round is made even more tolerable by the fact that some of the non-golfers (no doubt organized by Jack) have commandeered a few of the carts in order to harass the players.
“Get a move on you daft git,” Jack yells through Max’s backswing at the tee for the fifth hole, causing him to lose concentration and whiff, hard. He throws his driver, but Jack has already disappeared.
Jack returns for the second time, shouting fresh insults about their speed of play, as they make their way down the fairway of the twelfth. It’s a par 5 and Andrea and Max are debating whether it makes sense to lay-up given the sloping green, but they keep having to pause as Jack drives in circles around a heather mound splitting the fairway in an effort to distract them.
“I’m fairly certain that golf is supposed to be quiet,” Kara whispers to Lena.
Lena smiles and shakes her head as she responds to Kara. “Maybe it is, but I think I prefer this.”
Kara laughs at that and steps behind Lena, wraps her arms snugly around Lena’s front. She can’t help relaxing back into Kara, who presses a kiss to her shoulder in response, and thinking about how the setting, Kara’s attentiveness, and Jack’s distractions seem to have combined to make the afternoon fly by.
Suddenly, Andrea curses as she hooks the ball firmly into the rough, short of the green.
The unexpected exclamation startles Lena, even more so when she realizes that she’s barely been paying attention to Andrea since they began. It’s odd, last night she had been sure that it would be just as difficult to avoid paying attention to Andrea as it had been during the cocktail party. Instead, Lena has been so wrapped up in Kara—quite literally at the moment—that she hasn’t spared much thought about anything else.
“I think we’re doing rather well, don’t you?” Kara asks quietly, resting her chin on Lena’s shoulder.
Lena watches Andrea stalk down the outside of the fairway looking for her ball. She hums in assent. “I suppose.”
Lena knows Jack is bored and is therefore mostly haranguing the foursomes for his own entertainment, but the frequency with which he circles their group feels almost protective. It’s almost like he doesn’t want to leave her alone with Andrea or Max, and doesn’t quite trust that Kara is established enough to be up for the task herself.
His sudden reappearance over a hillock causes Max to slice the ball wickedly only a third of the way down the fourteenth.
“Come on tossers! You’re still going to be out here after dark at this rate!” He chortles as he pushes the cart clearly to the edge of its performance envelope, disappearing over the other side with a small whine.
“Well, that doesn’t look recoverable,” Kara chirps, looking in the direction that Max’s ball disappeared. “Max, I think you’ll have to take a drop—that’s another penalty. I’ll write it down for you.”
Max looks vaguely like he might have an aneurism in response, but he simply stomps back to the cart for another ball. Kara whistles while she adjusts the scorecard. Lena looks over to Andrea and watches her trying to hide a laugh.
Andrea’s smile shifts to something softer when she sees that Lena’s looking at her.
It’s the kind of smile that she used to give Lena when they were stuck across the room from each other in class, or at dinner parties. Lena’s been dreading how she would feel if she saw it again, but, faced with it now, the smile doesn’t seem to hold the same power over her that it used to.
Lena looks away and steps towards Kara.
“Your club, madam,” Kara says in an exaggerated English accent, bowing slightly and holding out a 5-wood. It reminds Lena of what Kara had done the day before, as they headed into the bar after the first encounter with Lillian. She tries to roll her eyes at Kara, but knows that the smile on her face right now is too big to play off as genuine annoyance.
“Careful, Kara, or I might start to think that’s your signature move.”
Kara goes slightly pink and Lena can’t help feeling pleased with herself.
“You know, I don’t even understand half of what Jack’s yelling,” Kara says after Lena takes her shot, sounding pleasantly bewildered.
Lena stows the club in the cart and walks over to Kara, leans into her side. Kara looks down, puts her arm affectionately around Lena, and pulls her closer. “What on earth is a ‘manky plonker’ anyway?” she asks Lena.
“I’m not sure, but do you think he means all four of us, or just Max?” Lena asks.
“I certainly don’t think he means you.” Kara kisses her temple as Andrea misses a chip shot onto the green, ball rolling into the high fescue grasses behind.
Lena frowns. Now that she’s paying attention, she can tell that Andrea hasn’t been on her game the entire afternoon.
By the time they reach the eighteenth hole, Max is in a foul mood and Jack has given up circling them citing engine difficulties. He’s retired to the open deck of the restaurant overlooking the last green along with the other hecklers, and all the golfers who’ve already finished. The crowd on the deck yells to make it clear that the battle between Eve’s team and Lex’s team is now down to their group.
Lena finishes comfortably in third place in their grouping, her total six full strokes under Max, and, though it isn’t the best round she’s ever played, Lena’s not bothered by it in the slightest. Golf has never been her sport, and it’s satisfying to watch Max walk angrily away after she sinks her final putt.
Andrea and Kara, on the other hand, are neck and neck. Over the last three holes Andrea’s mood has gotten worse and worse as Kara has matched her shot for shot. And now that they’ve reached the end, Jack shouts that the final group scores are even.
Kara is playing with the buttons on the front of Lena’s blazer when Andrea uncharacteristically three-putts the final hole. If Kara can make her next shot, they’ll win.
Lena begins to wonder whether there’s a connection between Kara touching her and Andrea’s poor play. She watches as Andrea walks over to the cart, chucking the putter dejectedly into her bag.
Andrea looks upset enough that part of Lena wants to console her somehow, even if it’s over something as dumb as a game of golf.
But she can’t do that, not without it being awkward. So, instead, Lena grabs Kara’s hand as she moves away to set up her own shot.
“Miss the putt, Kara,” Lena whispers. She presses a kiss to Kara’s cheek for cover and steps away.
Kara looks at her for a second and Lena can’t read her expression at all.
As Kara turns around and kneels down to check the green, Lena feels unaccountably nervous. She glances over to Andrea, who’s watching Kara with a somewhat sour expression. Max has already given up and taken his clubs back to the hotel. The crowd on the terrace has gone silent.
And then Kara stands up, takes a visible breath, and taps the ball—gently and perfectly—into the cup.
Lena can hear Eve and Jack leading shouts of ‘Kara!’ from the restaurant terrace. She knows it will look strange if she doesn’t join in, so she lets out a cheer of her own and walks over to Kara, who has her arms open and an enormous grin on her face.
Kara sweeps her up in a hug and swings her around.
As Kara spins her, Lena whispers testily, through a wide smile, “I thought you were supposed to be helping.”
“Oh, Lena, trust me,” Kara replies, setting her back down. Before Lena can disengage, Kara leans down to kiss the skin below her ear, at the corner of her jaw. “I am helping.”
It’s distracting, insidiously so, how quickly Lena’s body reacts to the electricity of Kara’s lips. She sinks further into Kara’s hold, before she remembers that she’s a little pissed off. She’d asked Kara to do something very simple, and Kara hadn’t.
But the sting has gone out of it.
As Kara lets her go, Lena looks over to see Andrea staring at them. She looks more upset than Lena thinks is reasonable for a round of golf. Andrea turns around and heads for the hotel, leaving Kara and Lena to take the cart back to the pro shop by themselves.
Sitting in the cart as Kara drives them back, Lena finds herself puzzling over it. Andrea’s competitive, sure, but she’s not one to blame someone else for her own failures. Not that Lena is sure she knows her anymore.
Still, the expression on her face is stuck in Lena’s brain. If Lena had to pick a word to describe it, well, there’s only really one word that comes to mind.
But, Lena thinks. That’s not really my problem anymore, is it?
She reaches for Kara’s hand, and looks out over the bay.
As they navigate the hotel after dinner, Lena tries to hold on to her upset at Kara for pushing back on her at golf, but she finds that she can’t. At this point, she’s more put out at herself for letting it go so easily, than she was at Kara in the first place.
It helps that Kara is probably right.
They grab a very quick bite at the restaurant and drop by the room to change; Lena sliding into a t-shirt and jeans, and pulling a warm woolen sweater over top to ward against the chill in the air. Kara grabs her own pair of jeans and a polo and slips a blazer on.
As the group heads out to the front of the hotel where three Sprinter vans are waiting to take them to the Luthor Distillery, people keep coming up to congratulate Kara. Glancing around the front drive, Lena catches sight of Veronica Sinclair taking a wad of what looks like ten thousand pounds from Max. She can’t help smiling, serves Max right.
“What’re you so happy about?” Kara asks. “Aren’t you trying to be mad at me?”
“I tried.” Lena says, shrugging and turning her attention back to Kara. “I failed. Don’t be smug about it.”
“Wouldn’t dream of it,” says Kara, reaching out for her hand. “So, how exactly is this going to go?”
“Honestly? I have no idea.” Lena looks around. She takes Kara’s hand and squints in the sunlight. It may be close to seven, but the latitude means sunset isn’t for another three and a half hours. Lex is out talking to one of the drivers, and Eve is back by the entrance with a few women Lena doesn’t know.
Gravel crunches behind Lena and that’s the only warning she gets before Jack drapes himself across her and Kara, his arms thrown over each of their shoulders.
“Scale of one to ten, ladies. How pissed are we getting tonight?” He steps back to allow them to turn around and face him, rubs his hands together with glee, and doesn’t wait for an answer. “I’m headed for an even eleven.”
“Jack, absolutely none of what you say makes any sense.” Kara lets out a burst of laughter. “Me, too, I guess.”
He claps her on the shoulder in approval, and turns to Lena. “So, repeat of graduation?”
“Which one?” Lena smiles as Jack guffaws.
“Point well taken. All of them, I suppose,” he says.
Lena feels a swell of affection for Jack. No matter what’s happened in her life, he’s been there for all of it, and he’s always on her side.
They clamber into the vans and depart, slowly up the long driveway at first and picking up speed once they reach the main road. Lena is sitting against a window, Kara’s arm slung over her shoulder, Jack on Kara’s other side. They’re talking animatedly to each other about the end of the golf game and a number of the bets that had been placed on Kara’s final putt.
Lena watches the countryside roll by. The landscape is a mix of gold and green in the mid-evening light. She can see dark clouds off on the horizon, but they’re far away, no doubt a harbinger of the weather system that caused Lillian to shuffle the events.
The Luthor Distillery is on the edge of a small bay, just north of Port Ellen. The vans let them out across from the main complex, its whitewashed walls keeping with the island’s aesthetic and slate roof gleaming in the light. Lex leads the group over a slender bridge to the central building, where they’re met by a few of the distillers and the manager.
The tour is interesting, but it serves only as an appetizer for the main event, which is setting the group loose in one of the dunnage houses with glasses and the tools to tap as many barrels as they want.
They disperse throughout the stone space, laughter and shouts dampened by the earthen floor and the stacks of barrels along the walls and throughout the room, creating aisles of privacy for those so inclined.
Lena and Kara join Jack and a few of the others as he tries to copy what the site manager had shown them in order to pull whiskey from the barrels for a taste. While he struggles and the rest of them shout bad advice, Lena excuses herself to use the facilities, squeezing Kara’s hand and pressing a kiss to her cheek, before winding her way through a fluorescent lit low-ceilinged corridor back towards the main offices.
When she makes her way back, Lena finds herself unsurprised to see Kara surrounded by yet another group of women and at least two men. They’re toasting her, hanging off her almost, and Lena feels a slight twisting in her stomach at the sight. She’s about to walk over when Jack sidles up and hands her a fresh glass. Apparently, he’s been successful with the barrel in her absence.
“I cannot believe you get to shag that woman.” Lena nearly spits out the mouthful of scotch she’s just taken, but Jack ignores her expression and continues. “No, really, you should send God a bottle of wine or a quiche or something. I mean, honestly, look at those buns. Fresh from the bakery.”
“Exactly how much have you had to drink?” Lena deflects.
He ignores her, claps her on the arm, still staring at Kara. “You should go over there. Lana looks like she’s about to make a move.”
Lena can’t help startling. “What?”
“Oh, come off it, I know you want to anyway. Get a move on.” He shoves her lightly in Kara’s direction.
Lana Lang does, in fact, look as though she’s about to make a move on Kara, but the moment Kara sees Lena walk up, her face lights up enough that Lana smiles wistfully and steps away, and Lena can’t bring herself to feel any resentment. Not when she has Kara’s undivided attention.
“I’d been wondering where you’d disappeared to,” Kara says, pulling Lena in sideways and pressing a kiss to her cheek.
Lena sinks into her hold as the crowd around Kara disperses. “Must be nice,” she says.
“What’s nice?” Kara asks, taking a sip from the glass she’s holding.
“Getting paid for just being you.”
Kara looks down at Lena with an amused smile. “And who says I’m being me right now?”
It must be the scotch, but the reminder of their conversation in the hotel that morning makes Lena want to take a risk.
“What if I want you to be you right now?” She holds her breath, heart hammering.
“Ok?” Lena can’t help parroting, suddenly unsure. Kara’s still smiling down at her, but it’s no longer amused. It’s achingly earnest.
Lena’s chest feels funny.
The moment is interrupted by a loud cheer from halfway across the room.
“Do you want a taste of whatever they’ve just opened?” Kara asks, looking over. “They seem pretty excited about it.”
“Sure,” Lena says, holding her glass out. Kara takes it.
“I’ll be right back.” Kara doesn’t move, just looks at Lena like she’s waiting for something.
“Ok,” Lena says.
“Ok?” Kara asks, grinning now. She's making fun of me, isn't she?
“Ok!” Lena laughs, pushes her away. Kara walks backwards for a moment, her cheeks flushed attractively from the alcohol. She only turns around when she bumps into one of the racks, blushing when Lena laughs at her.
Lena hops up onto a barrel to wait for Kara.
“There you are,” her brother’s voice booms as he comes up beside her.
He’s holding a mallet, a terrifying looking metal tool that looks like a cross between a corkscrew and a pick ax, and a thin metal tube. Lena recognizes the tools from earlier when the master distiller had to help Jack open a couple of the barrels for them to taste.
“Help me,” he demands, pointing at the barrel she’s sitting on.
Lena can’t help laughing. “Help you with what, Lex?”
He’s clearly drunk. He holds the mallet out unsteadily. “The barrel?” he says, but there’s an uptick in his voice, like it’s a question and he’s confused that Lena isn’t on the same page.
Lena shakes her head, smiles. “Fine. What do you need.” She slips down.
“Line it up for me?”
Lena takes the metal tool and centers the corkscrew point onto the wooden bung, stuck in the barrel like a cork.
When he doesn’t move, she looks back at him. “Lex?”
“I shouldn’t be doing this.” He’s looking at her. If Lena didn’t know better, she’d say he looked scared.
“What, opening a barrel from 1966?”
“No.” He pauses, looks away. “Running Luthor Corp. I shouldn’t be allowed.”
He looks back to the barrel, taps the end of the metal with the mallet. He gestures for her to let go.
Lena steps back. “What do you mean?”
He’s silent as he twists it into the wood.
“It should have been you.” He pulls hard on the tool and the bung pops out. He swings it around unsteadily and looks at Lena.
It’s been years since they’ve been in the same room, but Lena can’t remember Lex ever looking so vulnerable. She furrows her brow and gets ready to ask him what on earth he’s talking about when Otis Graves stumbles over.
“Otis!” Lex yells, even though Otis is two feet from him, his features shifting suddenly into a giant grin. “Help me get this scotch out!”
Lena stares at Lex for a moment longer, but his attention is firmly back on the barrel as he tries to work the whiskey thief with Otis’s clumsy assistance. She feels suddenly off-balance, and turns to look for Kara.
Kara is still halfway across the room, having been waylaid by Jack, who is spilling scotch all over the floor as he gestures wildly with his arms. As soon as Lena sees her, the residual anxiety of talking to Lex dissipates.
Lena walks over, takes the glass Kara offers her and leans into Kara’s side (it feels like a habit now), letting Jack pull her into a terrible retelling of the time they blew off Luthor family Thanksgiving to go skiing in Vail. Kara looks between him and Lena, like she can’t quite believe Lena had it in her. Somehow, Jack gets every single major detail wrong, except for the name of the resort they stayed at, but, by the end, they’re all laughing so hard that Lena doesn’t even try to correct him.
They head out not too long after, the manager blanching at how many barrels have been opened.
The sun has set when they make it back to the vans. Lena looks out over the fields as they slip past, the greenery and farmhouses transformed into indistinct black shapes by the nautical twilight, even as the darkened sky clings to a last thin line of soft orangey pink near the horizon. The brightest stars are just visible in the dark above them.
Kara must sense that Lena’s not feeling quite right, because she wraps her up as they rumble along the asphalt. She holds one of Lena’s hands, her other arm around Lena’s shoulders again, fingers playing absently with the ends of Lena’s hair.
No one is quite tired or drunk enough to end the night there, though.
“To the bar!” Shouts Lex as everyone stumbles out of the vans. They have to separate to step down, but Kara finds Lena’s hand again quickly and pulls her in closely while they wait for Jack. Lena shivers and Kara brings her other hand up to rub Lena’s arm over her sweater.
“How is your brother still upright?” Kara whispers in genuine surprise, breaking the silence and pulling Lena out of her thoughts. “He’s going to be drunk during the dance lesson tomorrow!”
“I still can’t believe you offered for us to join them,” Lena smiles up at her. She shivers again and Kara shrugs out of her blazer, drapes it over Lena’s shoulders.
She stands in front of Lena, takes both her hands, and swings them lightly back and forth.
“Maybe I really don’t know how to dance. Ever think of that?” Kara’s grinning softly in such a way that Lena doesn’t believe her, even for a second. “Maybe I don’t want to embarrass you in front of your family and former business associates.”
“Or maybe,” Kara’s voice drops down and she steps closer, stops swinging their joined hands. “Maybe, I just want to dance with you.”
Lena feels frozen, the moment heavy with intention, but it breaks when Jack clears his throat conspicuously, gravel crunching underfoot as he shifts his weight.
“As bloody adorable as you two lovebirds are, I’d really like a seat near the fire so do you think we could get a move on?”
“Cold?” Lena laughs.
“Yes!” He whines. “This weather is unseasonable. And unlike some people, I don’t have anyone to cuddle up to.”
Lena blushes, but Kara drops one of her hands. “I have two arms, Jack,” she says, reaching out toward him. “You only have to say the word.”
“Oh no.” He shakes his finger at Kara. “I know better than to ask Lena to share you. Besides, you’re too besotted with each other. You’d just ignore me.” He puts a hand dramatically over his heart. “I’ll just have to go drown my sorrows in more scotch.”
“Well, how about this,” Kara offers as they turn towards the entrance. “I’ll grab us some seats by the fire and you can go get your drink?”
Jack looks positively delighted.
“See, Lena?” Jack asks. “How attentive Kara is to my needs? You could learn something.” He practically skips across the gravel to the pavers, and into the hotel.
The three of them make their way past reception and then up the stairs to the lounge where there is, indeed, a roaring fire. The lights are turned low and the massive windows reflect the room back on itself, the dark outside turning them into mirrors.
Even though Lena knows the greens and sea are still out there, the world appears to begin and end in the hotel right now.
Everyone seems to be making themselves comfortable, already spilling into the restaurant and ordering at the bar. There are two armchairs still unclaimed, directly in front of the hearth in the main lounge and Jack directs Kara to them, before grabbing Lena’s arm and trying to separate her from Kara.
“Oh no, Lena, you’re coming with me. I can’t carry three drinks at once.” He glares at her, but there’s no bite to it. “Don’t make that face, I’ve been immune to it since we were seventeen. It won’t kill you to be parted for two minutes.”
Lena rolls her eyes at him, but Kara squeezes her hand once before she lets go. Lena pauses before giving in to Jack, slips the blazer off and returns it to Kara.
“I wasn’t making a face,” Lena says as Kara walks toward the roaring fire, while Jack steers her across the room, past the threshold of the restaurant, and into the bar.
“You absolutely were. You’re worse than newlyweds. For the love of god, try not to mount her in public, alright?” He flags the bartender over as they walk up. “What’s her poison?”
“Oh, ah, just order us whatever you’re having.” Lena looks around the room.
Her brother is taking shots of something dark at the other end of the bar, laughing with the Graves siblings and two other people whose faces are turned away. Eve is in the corner talking with two of her friends, looking fondly back at him. Lex turns and sees Eve, stumbles over to her, laughing and smiling so wide that Lena is reminded of how he used to be before taking over Luthor Corp.
Lena may not know Eve well, but it’s clear her brother is a softer, kinder version of himself when he’s around her.
Lena’s just contemplating whether Lex will ever again be the brother she grew up with, when one of the people he’d been talking to turns around and makes eye contact with her.
She can see the deep breath that Andrea takes all the way from where she’s standing. Lena feels a knot of anxiety take shape in her stomach as Andrea holds her eye contact and starts weaving her way through the bodies surrounding the bar.
Andrea is clearly walking over to her and Lena realizes that she doesn’t want to talk to Andrea at all.
It’s been such a good day—improbably, impossibly so—and Lena doesn’t want to let that go. There’s nothing Andrea has to say to her with that expression on her face that Lena wants to hear.
The last time Andrea looked like this, she broke Lena’s heart inside three minutes.
So, Lena flees. She can hear Jack complain that she’s abandoning him to carry their drinks, but she doesn’t stop, just walks back out into the lounge, and over to where Kara is sitting in front of the fire.
Kara is in one of the armchairs and has dragged the other across from it. She’s got her feet propped up on it so no one can sit down, but when she sees Lena walking towards her, she drops her feet onto the ground and sits up straight, confusion on her face at seeing Lena return without either Jack or drinks.
There’s a mirror above the fireplace and Lena glances at it, can see Andrea at the threshold of the room, still moving toward her. She doesn’t know what to do, only that she’d give anything to avoid whatever it is that’s about to happen.
She’s hit suddenly with the memory of Andrea’s face at the end of the round of golf, how she’d looked watching Kara kiss Lena’s neck.
The decision Lena makes isn’t fully conscious. It’s driven by the alcohol, by the desire to avoid dealing with whatever is about to happen with Andrea, by the fact that Kara’s proximity is the only thing that’s made her feel good all weekend.
But maybe that’s not entirely fair, because Lena hasn’t stopped thinking about what it might be like to kiss Kara—really kiss her—since the possibility first occurred to her in the cab ride from Heathrow. The kiss she’d initiated at the cocktail party only made things ineffably worse. It had been for show, some sort of terrible insecurity-induced attempt to prove to Andrea that she’s well and truly over her. Right now, although Andrea is certainly a catalyst for what’s happening, she’s no longer the sole factor driving Lena.
Lena isn’t quite sober enough to parse through all of that. So, she doesn’t—she just stops resisting it, instead.
The transition doesn’t make sense. One moment, she’s walking up to where Kara is sitting, and the next, she’s in Kara’s lap, threading her hands into Kara’s stupid perfect hair and bringing their mouths together with something much closer to desperation than sober-Lena would be happy about.
It’s a little like that stupid cocktail party kiss, at first. Kara takes the barest of seconds to respond, before wrapping her arms around Lena’s waist and matching Lena’s intensity—which is exactly what she’d done the first time.
That is the only similarity.
Where that first kiss had been close-mouthed, gentle—even innocent—this kiss is not. Lena has only a second to realize that she’s miscalculated before she feels herself pulled in; it’s as if Kara’s mouth is a rip tide.
Something in her chest flutters, radiating out through her ribs.
Kara’s hands shift on her back—one sliding up her spine, the other down to grasp the soft swell of her hip. Kara adjusts slightly, slants her face, parts her lips.
It makes Lena feel as if her entire body is on fire.
When Kara pulls her closer and deepens the kiss, Lena has the hysterical thought that this is the most right that anything has ever felt. She feels as though she might not be able to breathe if Kara stops kissing her.
“Jesus fucking Christ, Lena, I thought I told you not to mount her in public!” Jack pulls Lena out of the maelstrom and she breaks herself apart from Kara.
Kara is still holding her, chest heaving, lips slick, and all of Lena’s insecurity and doubt comes crashing back in on her like a tide.
This isn't real. Kissing Kara isn’t a solution to any of her problems right now, no matter how right it feels, or how much she wants it.
“Honestly,” Jack keeps talking, oblivious to the icy fear and regret cascading down Lena’s back, as he takes the seat that Kara had saved him and sets the three glencairn glasses down on the low table between them and the fire. “Not that I didn’t expect to come back to this when you took off, but I think it’s a little rude to flaunt your love life. Makes the rest of us feel like we don’t measure up, that’s what it does.”
He’s teasing, of course, but Lena feels frantic, feels like she can’t be this close to Kara and not keep kissing her right now. So she does the only thing she can think of—she eases herself out of Kara’s hold and stands up.
Kara is still staring at her, expression inscrutable, when Lena extends her hand. She lets Lena pull up her until they’re chest to chest again, but she still doesn’t say a word.
Lena turns to Jack. She tries to speak and finds her throat dry. Swallowing, she tries again and manages. “I think we’re going to go to sleep, Jack.”
At the eyebrow he raises, she casts about for an excuse. “We promised Eve and Lex we’d join them for a dance lesson in the morning.”
“Dance lesson? Is that what they’re calling it these days?” Jack laughs, but he waves them away. “Don’t mind me. I’ll drink these myself.”
Normally, Lena would protest, but right now she feels like she can barely stand upright.
If she stops moving, all she’s going to think about is how Kara’s tongue feels in her mouth, the flex of her fingers against Lena’s ribs, the heat of her below Lena’s body. She drops Kara’s hand and heads for the room.
They walk through the rest of the hotel, quiet and empty, in silence.
When they reach the room, Kara pulls the key out of her pocket and opens the door. She steps through it and Lena follows.
Lena lets it close softly behind her, but doesn’t step any further into the room. She feels a little too drunk for this conversation, even if she also knows that she can’t face sleeping in the same bed with Kara until she clears the air.
Kara has already draped her blazer over the back of one of the armchairs and she’s walking over to the wide window to close the drapes, but she turns around as soon as Lena begins to speak.
“I’m sorry if that was too much.” Lena says as she looks down at her hands. “Andrea was walking over and I didn’t—it’s been such a good day.” She twists her fingers together, feeling awkward and not exactly sure of what she’s trying to say.
Kara has walked back to her and she’s standing so close that, when Lena looks up, she can see how flushed Kara’s cheeks are, the cherry red of her lips in the dim light from the desk lamp. Their proximity makes it impossible for Lena to keep track of what she should and should not say.
“I had such a good day with you. I didn’t want her to ruin it and maybe we could have just left, but also—” Lena bites her lip, tries to stop herself, but the alcohol and the kissing seem to have combined to completely unbalance her. She tries focusing on Kara’s eyes instead of her lips, but somehow that’s worse. “But also I just wanted to kiss you.”
Lena looks away and laughs a little miserably, before adding, “I mean, I’ve told you everything else about myself this weekend, it seems silly not to tell you that I want to kiss you.”
“So kiss me.”
Lena whips her head back.
“What?” She barely breathes it out. Kara is looking at her so intensely that she suddenly feels as if there’s no air at all in her lungs.
“If you want to kiss me, then kiss me,” Kara says, like it’s that simple.
And, oh god, how does Lena tell Kara that she doesn’t just want to kiss her right now? She wants Kara to strip her down and lay her out on that absurd bed and take her completely apart. And then she wants Kara to let her return the favor.
Lena is hit with the realization that she’ll buy anything Kara wants to sell her in this moment. She wants Kara so badly that she’s willing to overlook how one-sided this surely is.
If the nature of their arrangement this weekend precludes her from having Kara authentically—a thought she pushes away immediately because it causes a horrible vice-like tightening in her chest and, really, she’s not drunk enough to want to investigate that—then Lena will take the next closest thing.
Before she can think more rationally about the potential consequences, Lena grabs the collar of Kara’s shirt and pulls her into a kiss that picks up right where they’d left off.
Kara responds immediately, as if she’s been waiting for Lena to ask, and pushes her back into the door. Her hands are all over Lena, running up and down her sides, over the curve of her breasts and down to her ass. The combination of Kara’s tongue in her mouth and their bodies pressed together makes Lena feel absolutely unmoored.
When Kara slots her thigh between Lena’s legs, Lena feels it spiral out along her entire body. She can’t help arching into Kara and Kara seems to pick up on her desperation. She slides one hand back up to cup Lena’s right breast, teasing her, and starts sucking lightly at the junction of her jaw and neck.
“How do you like it?” Kara asks, mouth still on Lena’s neck as her hand drifts back down to play with the hem of Lena’s sweater.
If Lena thought she was on fire before, it’s nothing compared to hearing Kara’s voice as her fingers flex and clench on Lena’s body.
Lena lets out a small, desperate sound in response as she tries to think about what she wants Kara to do to her. Kara’s hand is under her shirt now, running along her ribs, skirting the underwire of her bra.
“I want,” Lena struggles to speak. “I want you to touch me. Please.”
Kara slips the button of Lena’s jeans free, slides the zipper down. It’s so slow that Lena feels like she might come out of her skin with how badly she wants this. She feels Kara’s fingers pressing against her clit through her underwear and whatever else Lena had been considering asking for is gone entirely as her entire body lights up.
“God,” Kara breathes out into her mouth. “You’re so wet. Lena, can I—“
“Yes.” Lena interrupts her, and she can hear how desperate she is in the whine of her own voice. “Yes, please, Kara.”
She pulls Kara back into a frantic kiss as Kara slips her fingers into Lena’s underwear. As soon as Kara spreads Lena open and touches her clit directly, Lena gasps and her legs threaten to buckle. It’s only the weight of Kara pressing her into the solid oak behind her that keeps her upright.
Kara kisses her, wet and open mouthed and messy, while her fingers draw tight circles over Lena's clit—until Lena has to turn her head for air.
She lets her head fall back onto the door as Kara starts murmuring into her ear, telling her how good she feels, how wet she is, how pretty she looks letting Kara fuck her like this. Kara reduces Lena to incoherence, until Lena can only make choked, breathy sounds; no longer capable of even partial sentences.
The second Kara tells her how much she wants Lena to come all over her hand, Lena’s sure she couldn’t stop herself if she tried.
Lena doesn’t know how long it lasts, only that when she comes down, her heart still feels as if it might beat out of her chest and her hearing has gone slightly fuzzy. Kara seems to be supporting all of her weight and Lena doesn’t even try to stand up on her own.
Kara slips out of her and slides her still wet fingers into Lena’s hair, pulling her forward into a kiss so intense Lena feels like she might cry. They stand there for a moment, wrapped up in each other, breathing hard.
Lena keeps her eyes closed, not wanting it to end. She wants to prolong her fantasy that this isn’t transactional for as long as possible, even as she starts to steel herself for the conversation she knows has to happen now that they’re done.
She feels Kara lean back finally and opens her eyes to find Kara already looking at her with the same unreadable expression from the lounge.
“Bed?” Kara asks and Lena nods, not trusting herself to speak. If there’s more, if Kara isn’t done yet, she’ll take the reprieve. They’re still completely clothed, her shirt sticking to her back from the exertion. All she can think about is how badly she wants Kara inside her.
She takes the hand Kara offers and follows her.
Lena starts to unravel as Kara undresses her. As fast and hard as Kara had fucked her against the door, she pulls Lena apart in the bed piece by piece with something that feels like a close facsimile of reverence.
It’s slow, almost tender, like Kara understands that what Lena wants now, more than anything, is to be taken care of by a lover. The whole time she whispers to Lena how good she feels, how beautiful she is—until Lena is coming out of her skin again.
When Kara makes her way back up Lena’s body to kiss her, Lena can’t help herself anymore. She slides her hands down Kara’s sides and pulls Kara down onto her.
“Can I?” Lena doesn’t really know what she’s asking, except that she doesn’t want to do anything Kara doesn’t want. She’s not even sure what she’s allowed to do, but Kara erases any doubts she has with an immediate response.
“Fuck. Lena. Yes. I want you to.“ Kara grinds down desperately onto Lena’s thigh, so messy wet there’s almost no friction. “Whatever you want, I want.”
“I want to touch you. I want to make you feel good.”
“Ok, ok,” Kara pants out, arms shaking a little as she holds herself up above Lena. “I want that. I want that so much Lena.” She seems as affected as Lena is.
When she comes around Lena’s fingers, it’s all Lena can do to kiss her, instead of starting to cry.
Lena’s last coherent thought, before she falls asleep, is that Kara is the only thing about this weekend that she wants to keep.