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don't go slow 'cause you're gonna be someone

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The sound of heavy, pounding rain is the first thing Kara registers. She blinks and swallows, her tongue feeling slightly too big for her mouth, teeth fuzzy as a result of failing to brush the night before. She shifts in bed, squints towards the windows where the lush green landscape outside has transformed into a dark grey mess, water streaming down the windows—visible, since she never did get around to closing the curtains last night.

Lena has moved away from her while they slept, but her hand is still resting on Kara’s bare hip. It’s warm, so warm, and Kara can’t help the full smile that takes over her face and the flush that races through her body as she thinks back to how they ended up like this.

She rolls over on her side, careful not to crush Lena’s hand, and props herself up on an elbow.

Lena looks the same as she did the morning before, one arm crushed below her pillow, hair a wild mess and draped across her cheek and mouth. It flutters lightly when Lena breathes out.

This morning, though, Kara doesn’t stop herself from reaching out and brushing the hair off of Lena’s face. She lets her fingers linger on the slope Lena’s cheek, the curve of her ear. Lena’s nose twitches, but she doesn’t stir.

Unbidden, a fragment of poetry flashes across Kara’s mind: for when I look at you, even a moment, no speaking/ is left in me.

It’s followed, very quickly, by a tiny twinge of panic.

Holy crap, have her feelings for Lena really hulked out so quickly? Kara rolls back and stares up at the ceiling. The past couple of days have been intense—she’s shared more of herself with Lena than many of her close friends know about her. Lena has done the same, and Kara hasn’t been completely blind to the fact that the more Lena opens up, the more Kara wants to know about her.

She really needs to talk to Alex.

Kara flips on her other side and reaches to grab her phone off the bedside table where it’s charging. The display reads just after seven, which makes it eleven the night before in National City right now. Shoot. Alex is probably asleep. Kara sends her a text anyway— sister night when I get back? urgent need advice!

Immediately after sending it, Kara realizes that Alex is going to panic when she reads it, so she sends a follow up. AM FINE!!! love you ❤️❤️❤️❤️❤️. There, now Alex isn’t likely to send an extraction team.

Setting the phone back down, Kara realizes that she’s not going to be able to go back to sleep. Lena is still clearly passed out, and, since they don’t have to be down for the dance lesson until ten, Kara figures she should let Lena rest.

Kara gets up and heads to the bathroom, brushes her teeth while she lets the water heat up, and then spends ages washing her hair, looking out through the glass shower door and the bathroom window, over the rain and the sopping green peat bogs surrounding the hotel.

When she’s done, Kara is dismayed to see that it’s only seven thirty.

She slips into a light green broadcloth button down and tan chinos. Rolls up her sleeves, then decides it’s too chilly, and rolls them back down. She putters around the room for a minute, closes the curtains to dampen the sound of the rain.

Hands on her hips and wishing she’d thought to bring a book, Kara decides she might as well see about breakfast. Maybe she can bring food back to the room for Lena—they were both fairly drunk last night and, while Kara doesn’t have a hangover, she has no idea how Lena is going to feel when she wakes up.

The anxiety twinges briefly again.

Kara has no idea how Lena will feel about any of this, actually.

There were moments last night where it seemed as if Lena was asking for something more, something beyond their arrangement. But, she never actually said it. And Kara didn’t exactly ask.

Lena’s request in the distillery comes back to Kara. What if I want you to be you right now?

Kara puffs out her cheeks and blows out a breath. Maybe they’re actually on the same page. At the very least, Lena has to know by now that Kara doesn’t sleep with clients outside of the working aspect of the relationship—surely that has to have given Lena some inkling that Kara is feeling something more than professional obligation. But it still doesn’t tell Kara if Lena is feeling the same way.

Kara bites the inside of her lip and scrunches up her nose. Why couldn’t any of this have occurred to her before they slept together?

Well, thinks Kara, that ship has sunk, or sailed, or whatever. She’ll just have to talk to Lena when she wakes up. Make it clear that nothing has to change if Lena doesn’t want it to. And, if all Lena is feeling toward her is physical attraction, well, it’ll hurt, but Kara knows she’ll be able to deal with it. She can still be what Lena needs this weekend.

Kara checks her watch: seven forty-five.

Breakfast. Right. She can do that.

Kara wanders through the hotel, leaving the old wing, back past the sheep with the yellow wellies, then into the modern addition and up the giant staircase to the restaurant. None of the other guests are up yet, so she makes small talk with one of the servers while she eats at the bar, the golf course visible in the rain through large windows at her back. When she mentions wanting to bring something back to the room that might work as a hangover cure, the guy says that he has just the ticket.

Kara makes her way back to the room with an enormous silver tray. The server even helpfully included a travel packet of ibuprofen on the side, just in case.

Kara has to put the tray down to unlock the door. She wedges her foot inside to stop the latch from engaging while she turns around to pick up the food, before backing through the threshold to avoid spilling everything. She walks over to the writing desk and sets the tray on it as quietly as she can manage. Glancing at her watch, Kara sees that it’s now about quarter to nine. She pulls the curtains back and turns around to wake Lena up.

When Kara turns, Lena’s already looking at her from the bed, still laying down, but very clearly awake and twisting the top edge of the duvet in her hands. She’s got her sleep shirt back on, so she must have gotten up when Kara was out.

“Good morning.” Kara smiles at Lena and looks back to the tray. “I, uh, I don’t know what works for you, so I asked for a few different things. We’ve got coffee, orange juice, water, something called Irn-Bru that the guy at the restaurant swears will fix anything that ails you, and a dippy egg and soldiers—which I’m fairly certain is just a soft boiled egg and toast strips.” Kara looks back to Lena. “Oh, and porridge. There’s porridge, too.”

“That’s—that’s very sweet of you.” Lena’s tone is a little off. There’s nothing overtly negative about it, but Kara feels a little anxious all the same. Lena sits up in bed, but doesn’t say anything else. Lena won’t make eye contact now, her gaze darting around the room.

To be perfectly honest, in all of Kara’s thinking about how the morning might go, not once did it occur to her that she’d be met with the awkward, unsure Lena from their first meeting on the plane.

“Is everything alright?” Kara can’t help asking.

“Yes, of course.” Lena has dropped the duvet, is worrying her fingers together, pressing her right thumb hard into her left palm. Her eyes are locked on the mussed sheets in her lap. “It’s just - Oh my god, I don’t really know how this works.” She finally looks up at Kara, eyes wide and unsure.

Despite the sinking feeling in her stomach, Kara aims for playful. “Well, generally, when someone brings you breakfast in bed, you say thanks and tell them which beverage you’d like,” she says, raising both eyebrows and mustering a smile. She’ll do anything to knock Lena back into the easy rapport they’d found over the last two days—and it seems like maybe it works, at least she draws a small smile out of Lena.

“Coffee would be lovely.”

Kara shifts, turning to the tray to pour a cup from a delicate silver coffee service. She picks up one of the porcelain cups and sets to filling it for Lena.

She’s midway through when Lena speaks again, and Kara feels her heart plummet to the floor.

“Just let me know how much I owe you for last night,” she hears Lena say. “I’m afraid I don’t have cash on me, but I’ll make sure to settle with you before we return to National City. Or, I suppose I can just transfer it.”

Kara stops pouring. Her eyes burn and there’s a horrible, heavy feeling that takes root in the middle of her chest. She feels dizzy. This is so far from what she thought was happening—she hadn’t even considered that Lena had intended on buying sex from her.

Kara realizes that she hasn’t responded. She clears her throat, but doesn’t turn around. “Don’t be ridiculous. If I was going to charge you, I said I’d tell you first.” She sets the half-full cup down on the tray and finds herself blinking back tears. She can hear Lena fidgeting with the duvet behind her.

“I know!” Lena sounds mildly panicked and Kara is torn between wanting to reassure her and wanting to leave the room entirely. “I know you said that. I just. Um. Didn’t want you to think that I was expecting anything for free—or that I was expecting anything at all!”

How could Lena think—how could they be on such different pages? The heaviness spreads through Kara’s body, into her arms and legs. She has to remind herself to breathe.

There’s not a chance in the world now that Kara is going to bring up how she was feeling this morning.

“It’s fine.” Even Kara can hear that nothing about her voice makes it sound like this is fine. She still can’t bring herself to look back at Lena, just stares unseeing out over the sopping, darkened landscape. If none of this means anything to Lena, then it won’t mean anything to her, either. Kara clears her throat and tries again. “It’s fine.”

Lena remains quiet on the bed.

Kara suddenly feels acutely claustrophobic, as if the walls are closing in and the air is too thick. She needs to get out of the room, right now, until she has her emotions back under control.

“If it’s all the same to you,” she starts, still looking outside. “I’m going to go for a walk. I’ll give you a chance to get dressed without me being in the way.”

She turns and flashes Lena a smile that she knows doesn’t meet her eyes, and adds, “I’ll meet you in the lobby at ten for the dance lesson.”

It doesn’t occur to her until after she’s out in the hallway that, with the weather like this, there’s nowhere for her to walk.

Kara decides to find somewhere to hide, instead. She needs to sit with the unexpected ache in her chest and acknowledge it for what it is, if she’s to have any hope of tamping this down for Lena’s sake.

In an hour, she can pretend that she’s fine with how things turned out. But right now?

She isn’t.

_____________________



Lena knows she’s fucked up as soon as Kara stops pouring the coffee.

In every single scenario she considered last night, none of them involved Kara sleeping with her because the desire was mutual. No matter how convinced she was (is?) that Kara was just indulging Lena in a professional capacity, there’s no denying that Kara had shuttered completely when Lena brought up the money.

One minute, she’s bringing Lena breakfast in bed, clearly having gone to the trouble of trying to anticipate anything Lena might want or need. And the next, Kara won’t even look at her.

And then she ran.

Sure, Lena had asked Kara the distillery to just be you. And Kara had said ok! But had she said ok in the sense that it was part of the role play, or had she said ok because she felt like maybe she and Lena were authentically connecting? The whiskey headache making itself known between her temples isn’t helping.

Lena turns over into the pillow and gives in to her impulse to scream.

For a moment, Lena desperately wishes that she could talk to Jack about this. But, how exactly would that conversation go? She imagines it, how she might bring it up. Oh, hey Jack, Kara and I aren’t actually dating, I hired her to play pretend! Isn’t that wonderful? And I might have developed feelings for her, and we slept together, and I thought she was just doing her job, but she got upset when I asked her about payment, and now I'm not so sure, what do you think?

Lena feels nauseous and it’s only partially because of the hangover.

As soon as she’s done throwing her tantrum, Lena gets out of bed. There’s no sense in delaying the inevitable, and, given that it’s now after nine, she’s got less than an hour to make herself presentable, try and get a handle on what’s happening, and meet Kara downstairs. 

For a dance lesson.

Fuck.

This day hasn’t even begun and Lena already hates every single thing about it.

 

_____________________



Kara wanders through the hotel in a daze. Other guests have started to get up—she thinks she might hear Jack somewhere—and she knows she’s just not up for pretending right now.

Kara cuts through the Stag Lounge, tries not to look at the armchair by the fireplace where Lena kissed her last night. She ducks into the restaurant, thinks maybe she can sit out on the terrace under the overhang—surely no one would bother her out in the cold—but it’s raining so hard that none of the tables are set up.

She must look lost, because the server who’d helped her put together the tray walks over. “Can I help you, ma’am?”

No, Kara thinks, but instead she says, “I was just looking for somewhere quiet to sit.”

“I’ve got just the ticket,” he says, nodding to the other end of the room. There’s a doorway at the far end of the restaurant, down past the bar and the seating area that’s just starting to fill up. “No one’s using The Tower right now, you’re free to sit in it. Can I bring you some coffee?”

“Do you have hot chocolate?”

He smiles and nods, before heading back to the kitchen.

He’s right, The Tower is perfect. It’s clearly meant to be used as a private dining room, a long table running down the middle of the room with places and seating for about twenty. There are stunning views, provided by a set of floor-to-ceiling windows nearly two stories tall that meet in the corner. It gives the room the illusion that one could walk right out of it and onto the golf course below. The clouds are packed in so heavily that even the bay just beyond the course is obscured.

The weather is fitting, Kara supposes, watching water run down the glass in rivulets. There is a smaller table without place settings set up right in the corner where the windows meet, and Kara drags a seat over to it.

The room feels like it exists somewhere outside of the hotel, the door blocking out the ambient noise from the restaurant, and the ability to pretend she’s anywhere else is exactly what Kara needs—she’s interrupted only by the delivery of hot chocolate.

Despite the sugar and the quiet, Kara is still feeling off-balance when she glances down at her watch and realizes that it’s nearly ten. A part of her feels ridiculous. Sometimes you like someone, and they don’t like you back, she thinks. It shouldn’t feel like the end of the world.

A different part of her says that there’s something special about Lena. Kara tries to shake it off as she gets up.

She’s only known Lena for three days. They still have another two to get through, and, even though Kara wishes she could just sit here and wallow, she can’t avoid Lena any longer.

Not to mention they’re supposed to be madly in love.

Kara sighs. That part of this is becoming uncomfortably easy to play.

Kara steels herself to head back to the lobby. Lillian is sitting at one of the tables in the restaurant when Kara passes through, newspaper and coffee beside her, and she gives Kara a nod, but the rest of the guests are too absorbed in their own hangovers to look up. Kara is grateful.

Lena, Lex, and Eve, are already standing by the lounge next to reception when Kara makes it down.

“There you are.” Lex smiles. “I was worried you were leaving me to the wolves,” he says, gesturing to Lena and Eve.

“I wouldn’t dream of it,” Kara replies. She glances at Lena, who is already staring at her, and can’t help admiring the sapphire blue dress Lena’s wearing. She looks good in jewel tones, Kara thinks. Lena smiles as she catches Kara’s eyes and Kara does her best to mirror it.

“Come on,” says Eve brightly. “They have us set up in one of the exercise rooms.”

They walk down to the wellness center as a group, Lex and Eve leading and chatting about the golf game and the distillery tour. Lena and Kara walk a couple feet behind them.

Lena keeps trying to catch Kara’s eye again as they walk, but Kara isn’t quite ready for that. She’s frustrated with herself, unhappy with the fact that she can’t seem to bounce back, and with how she knows Lena can tell that something is wrong.

The gym is on the ground floor, just past the pro shop, beyond the bottom of the stairs that lead up to the Stag Lounge and the restaurant. Eve leads them into a large yoga studio, complete with gleaming pine floors and a wall-length mirror on one side. The lights are bright and warm, and it’s still gloomy enough outside that Kara can make out their reflections in the enormous windows opposite the mirror.

They’re met by an energetic woman in loose, flowing black pants and a red tank top, who directs them into a circle.

“The wedding dance is the most important dance moment in a person's life,” the woman begins, looking solemnly around at them. Lex is clearly trying not to laugh. Eve elbows him. “A room full of friends and family, watching, smiling, betting on how long the marriage will last.” The woman glares at Lex as he lets out a snort. “All you'll have is each other and whatever skills you acquire today. Pair off!”

Eve and Lex have chosen Just The Way You Look Tonight for their first dance, and the instructor walks all four of them through a basic foxtrot, before pressing play on her phone, the music coming through a pair of wireless speakers in the far corner.

Kara takes Lena’s right hand in her left and directs her into a loose starting position. She knows she’s holding herself funny, a little too far from Lena to be truly correct, but she can’t help it. They start moving, a little awkwardly, since Kara doesn’t want to make eye contact with Lena, but they’re miles ahead of Lex, who’s struggling to figure out how to move without watching his feet the entire time.

The instructor soon determines that Kara and Lena don’t need much direction. With a word to Kara about trying to be less robotic, she leaves them to their own devices to focus on Lex, who has already stepped on Eve’s toes three times and nearly dropped her out of an improvised dip.

“The dance requires a normal closed position,” the instructor barks, clearly frustrated with Lex’s inability to hold the slow-slow-fast-fast rhythm without bumping into Eve. “Leaders, hold your partners close, but not so close you’re stepping on them!”

Kara tries to focus on the steps and not on the way she feels being this close to Lena. They’ve made their way down the length of the room, far enough away from where the instructor has started dancing with Eve to try and show Lex what to do, that Kara can’t even hear what Lex is saying in response.

She’s about to turn them to head back across the space when Lena drops her hand, pulls the other one off of her shoulder, and steps back out of Kara’s hold. “Just, stop.”

“Stop what?” Kara asks. She doesn’t usually play dumb, but she’s not feeling her best right now.

“This!” Lena says, waving her hand up and down, frustration evident in her features. “Whatever this is. Cutting me out. You haven’t said two words to me since you left this morning.”

“I’m not cutting you out,” Kara says. But she can feel the untruth of it in her mouth.

“You are, actually,” Lena says. “I’m trying to figure out what’s going on with you and I can’t because you won’t even look at me right now. Is this—is this because of last night?”

Kara tries a different tack, anything to get Lena to drop it. “We had sex, it doesn’t have to be a big deal.” She steps back toward Lena to start the dance again, but Lena steps back again, avoiding Kara’s hands.

“It feels like a big deal. Or at least...” Lena seems to stumble over her words, perhaps conscious that they’re in a room with Lex and Eve and the instructor, even if no one is paying them any attention. The instructor has turned Eve back over to Lex. “It seemed like a big deal this morning when I asked about what I owed you.”

Kara can’t help the bitter feeling that bubbles up inside her again and she lets out a strained laugh. If they’re going to talk about this, fine—Lena can deal with it. “That’s because I thought we were on the same page. And then you made it clear that we weren’t.”

“What page?” Lena asks, face shifting into something more unsure. And it makes Kara want to cry, because how on earth is a woman this smart, also this dense?

“I wanted it,” Kara says, frustration bleeding through her tone. “I’m attracted to you. What happened last night was as much about me, as it was about you.”

“I didn’t think—” Lena seems somehow flummoxed, as if this is new information. “I mean. I—you were only doing it because you could see how badly I wanted you.”

“Lena, I could see it.” Kara is breathing a little unevenly now, feeling more exposed the longer it takes to explain this, but, in for a penny, in for a pound, she thinks. “And I liked it. I like you. I told you, if I was going to charge you—if it was going to be part of the job, we would have talked about it first.”

Lena is looking at her as if Kara has just revealed that she’s an alien with superpowers, like she can’t believe what she’s hearing.

“So,” Lena starts slowly, seeming to sound it out. “You wanted it to happen. It was mutual?”

“Yes.” Kara lets out a slightly manic laugh, braces herself. “Did you not want it to be?”

“Of course I did!” Lena bursts out.“ Of course I want it to be mutual. I just—god, I didn’t think, ok? I should have asked.”

“It sounds like we both could have used our words a little better,” Kara says. Lena lets out a watery laugh.

“And is it,” Lena bites her lip. “Is it too late to tell you that I like you, too?”

Only hearing Lena sound as nervous as Kara had felt a minute ago gives Kara the confidence to step back into Lena’s space. “Of course not,” she says. She wants to tell Lena that it could never be too late, that this all feels real to her, but something about how skittish Lena is being right now stops her. The impulse to protect herself wins out.

Kara steps forward again, and, this time, Lena takes Kara’s left hand, brings her own up to Kara’s right shoulder. Kara places their arms back in the hold, but without any of the rigidity from before. They’re much closer than they had been, bodies nearly touching, and the steps replaced with something much simpler, more of a slow revolution than anything ballroom.

It seems like maybe they’ve both had an emotional morning. Maybe taking it slow today, seeing if they can find their rhythm again, is a better idea than jumping into what all of this might mean. It’s only Friday.

Still, Kara can’t quite resist. “So, you like me, huh?” She expects Lena to roll her eyes, laugh, maybe shove her shoulder lightly.

But Lena does none of those things.

“Yes,” Lena says, looking up at Kara as they move. “I do.” Her eyes go wide, as if she realizes what she’s just said, and she rushes to continue. “I’m not. I’m not saying anything needs to change—if you don’t mean it like I mean it. That’s ok, that’s fine. It’s fine. I’m fine. I just feel like maybe I should say it.”

Kara can’t help the smile on her face, her cheeks hurt with the size of it. “Lena,” she interrupts. Lena snaps her mouth shut. “I’m glad you said it.”

They relax into the music.

If you don’t mean it like I mean it. Lena’s words are just bouncing around the inside of Kara’s head like some sort of screensaver. The idea, the possibility that Lena is feeling even a tiny bit of what Kara is—it fills her with the same hope she’d had when she woke up. Maybe, this weekend doesn’t have to be the end. She’s going to drive herself insane if she doesn’t ask. If Lena says no, then at least she’ll be able to adjust her expectations. They can still take this slow, either way.

Kara clears her throat, her stomach full of nerves again. “Lena?”

“Yeah?”

“We don’t have to figure this out today, or even this weekend.” Kara can feel her heart beating so quickly now, wonders if Lena can feel it, too, pressed close against her like this while they dance. “But maybe, um, maybe once we’re back in National City, maybe we could talk about doing this non-professionally?”

Kara wants to smack herself. She’s a writer, for gosh sakes; could she be any less articulate right now? Three maybes in a single sentence. An editor would fire her. This is not the first time she’s asked a pretty woman out, heck—she’s not even asking Lena out! She’s asking Lena about potentially asking her out, sometime in the future. Maybe.

“I’d like that,” Lena says, breaking Kara out of her spiral. “I think, honestly, I’d like that a lot.”

“Me, too.” Kara can’t help wincing as soon as the words leave her mouth. “Obviously. That’s, uh, that’s why I thought I’d ask. Because I’d like that, too.”

This time Lena does laugh. “I have to say, it’s nice to know that even you get a little flustered sometimes.” Lena’s voice is teasing.

“Oh gosh, Lena.” Kara’s laughing now, too. “Just ask my sister. It isn’t just sometimes. If I’d met you in real life, I probably wouldn’t have been able to speak.”

“Is that right?” Lena’s voice has dropped down.

Kara pulls Lena in a tiny bit closer, squeezes the hand she’s using to lead Lena. She can feel Lena’s other hand slip across her shoulder, skate up her neck. She feels Lena’s fingers start to play with her hair. Kara can’t help shivering slightly. “Absolutely.”

The rest of the lesson passes so quickly that Kara has a hard time believing it’s been an hour and a half when the instructor finally dismisses them, throwing up her hands at Lex and saying that she’s done all she can.

They have another thirty minutes until they need to be up at the restaurant for a casual all-guest lunch, so Lena decides to go back to the room to put on jeans and a sweater. Kara walks her back as far as reception, then wanders over to the lounge and sits down in a blue and red plaid armchair next to the roaring fire to wait.

She starts leafing through a magazine, but it’s about hunting and fly fishing. The receptionist notices when Kara puts it back almost as quickly as she’d picked it up.

“Ma’am?” She catches Kara’s attention. “There’s a small library, just around the corner, if you’d like different reading material.”

Kara smiles gratefully and thanks her, then gets up and walks over toward the open doorway the woman had indicated. As she approaches, she can hear voices—voices she recognizes.

“I owe her the truth, Lex. She deserves to know,” Andrea is saying.

“For all you know, Jack’s already told her and she just doesn’t want to talk about it. Max couldn’t keep his fucking mouth shut,” Lex bites back. “He hasn’t even been able to develop the tech since he got it.

“Jack wouldn’t. He didn’t tell her when he found out. He can’t stand seeing her hurt. You know as well as I do she still thinks she was hacked by LI. It’s been two years, I can’t keep this from her any more.”

Neither of them have noticed that Kara is standing in the doorway.

Kara clears her throat.

Andrea blanches, then glances at Lex, before pushing past Kara out of the room.

Lex looks at Kara and purses his lips. “How much of that did you overhear?”

“Enough to guess that Lena losing her patent two years ago wasn’t the act of corporate espionage she thinks it was.” Kara’s jaw tightens. “And that everyone important to her knows.”

“Right then.” Lex looks at the floor, scuffs his foot against the carpet.

“How could you do that to her?” Kara can’t help asking. She’s at a loss, staggered by the betrayal of the two, possibly three people Lena has loved the most. She wants to shake Lex, scream at Andrea, yell at Jack. Take Lena as far away as she can. She’s clenching her fists and has to consciously relax them.

“Please don’t tell her,” Lex says, not even trying to answer her question. “I mean, I can’t stop you, obviously. And I know I should tell her myself. I nearly told her last night.” He sighs, looks defeated, tired. “But not today. Not this weekend. Just give her that, ok?”

Kara knows that this will devastate Lena. There’s no question about that. There’s also no question, in Kara’s mind, that Lena deserves to know.

But would she want to know today, when there are another thirty-six hours until she can leave? Would it be better, Kara wonders, to tell her as soon as possible and help her navigate whatever fall out there is—or will Lena wish that she’d had just one more day of believing she hadn’t been betrayed by the people she cares about?

Lena’s wish from one of the voicemails comes back to her: I just need someone to get me through the weekend in one piece.

Kara is loath to give Lex anything right now, and it isn’t like she’s made up her mind not to tell Lena. But no matter what Kara does, Lex doesn’t deserve any assurances right now.

“I won’t make that promise,” she finally says.

Lex nods, he seems resigned, like he knew that would be her answer. He looks like he might be about to say something else, but Kara hears Lena’s voice from the front hall.

She turns away from him without another word.

 

___________________



When Lena makes her way back, past the ridiculous booted sheep statue that Kara likes so much, and returns to the lobby, she’s surprised to find that Kara isn’t there. Lillian, however, is sitting on a blue couch in front of the central fireplace.

Lillian sees Lena immediately and gets up, setting down the Fieldsports Journal she’s been leafing through. Lena braces herself for some barbed comment about her behavior or appearance, but it doesn’t come.

Instead, Lillian looks a little unsure of herself as she walks over the slate flooring to where Lena is standing.

“Kara seems nice,” Lillian offers, stopping about three feet away.

Lena’s waiting for the but, and is thrown when it doesn’t come. “She is,” Lena says, trying not to pull her hands inside the sleeves of the sweater she’s wearing—Lillian hates when she does that.

There’s an awkward pause, and Lillian actually fidgets, twisting one of the bangles on her wrist. Lena squints at her step mother, struggling to remember how to diagnose a stroke. Lillian’s face is still perfectly symmetrical and she isn’t slurring her words.

So, probably not a stroke.

“It’s—it’s nice to see you looking so happy.” Lillian tries again, tentatively.

“Thank you. I, ah, I am happy.” Is head trauma a possibility, Lena wonders? “Kara makes me happy.”

“Lena—” Lillian starts, but she stops when she sees Andrea standing next to them.

“Sorry to interrupt, Lillian,” Andrea says, and she does look contrite. She reaches out and touches her fingers gently to Lena’s elbow. “Lena, could I have a word? It’ll only take a moment.”

“Let me think,” Lillian says, looking directly at Andrea. Gone is the timidity from a moment before, there’s practically acid dripping from her every word. “You stole seven years of her life with your bullshit and your charm, and now you’d like just a moment? Sure. Go right ahead.”

“Thanks for the solidarity, mother,” Lena whispers. “But next time, a little less information?”

“Fine,” Lillian huffs. “I’ll leave you to her.” She stalks away, the ends of her Hermès scarf fluttering behind her, leaving Lena just as bewildered as when she’d walked over in the first place.

Lena turns her attention back to Andrea, who is practically wringing her hands now.

Unlike last night, however, Lena doesn’t feel like running away. Maybe it’s Kara, maybe it’s seeing Andrea while sober, but Lena finds that even if Andrea wants to talk about what happened between them, there’s nothing she can say to hurt Lena worse than she already did two years ago.

Andrea casts a furtive glance around the lobby, but, except for the receptionist who is talking on the phone in a low tone, they’re alone.

“No matter how certain one is of one's position,” Andrea begins, in what has to be the most bizarre syntax Lena has ever heard her use, “or of what one should or shouldn't do, one sometimes discovers that one is not as one would have hoped one would have been.”

It’s like Andrea’s speaking in code and she hasn’t told Lena what the cipher is. Is she suddenly aphasic? She’s looking at Lena beseechingly, as if she hopes that Lena will be able to divine whatever it is she’s trying to say.

Lena just wants to speed this along. “What exactly are you trying to say?”

“I’m sorry!” Andrea blurts. “Look. I feel that I need to tell you something—but you’re not even listening.”

Andrea’s right, Lena isn’t listening anymore. Kara has just come round the corner and she’s looking directly at Lena. She looks shell shocked, more upset than Lena has seen her so far, including their horrific conversation this morning and, suddenly, it’s like gravity—the only thing that Lena wants to do right now is soothe her, fix whatever it is that’s caused this.

“Excuse me,” she says to Andrea, too distracted by Kara’s distress to continue this conversation. “I’ll be back in a minute.”

Kara doesn’t move as Lena walks towards her.

“Hey,” Lena says gently, as soon as she’s near. “What’s wrong?”

Kara stares at her for a moment, looks as if she might be biting the inside of her cheek. “It’s nothing,” Kara finally says, releasing a breath and smoothing out her features.

“It doesn’t look like nothing,” Lena says.

Lena reaches out her hand and Kara takes it, cups it in both of hers, brings it up to her mouth. She kisses Lena’s palm softly, looking Lena in the eyes the entire time, like she’s checking to see if Lena is ok, instead of the other way around.

“It’s better now,” she says to Lena.

That doesn’t completely convince Lena, but if Kara doesn’t want to talk about whatever it is right now, Lena’s not about to force her. After all, they’re about to have to endure a lunch with all hundred and twenty wedding guests. That’s a nightmare Lena’s not been looking forward to.

“Ok.” She smiles at Kara and starts to walk toward the stairs to head up to the restaurant where the banquet is being set up, but Kara uses the hand she’s holding to pull her back. Lena looks at her quizzically.

“I was wondering if you wanted to blow off lunch?” Kara asks.

Lena laughs. “What?”

“I don’t know. What if we just,” Kara purses her lips, lets a breath out through her nose. “Borrow a car, go somewhere else? Just the two of us.”

“Kara, we can’t just blow off lunch.” Lena gives her an amused look. What is happening? First Lillian, then Andrea, and now Kara. Is everyone suffering from a concussion but me?

“Sure we can,” Kara says. “You blew off Thanksgiving. There’s going to be a hundred people; we can tell everyone I wasn’t feeling well. Please?”

There’s something pleading in Kara’s eyes, and that, coupled with how she’d looked only moments before, seals it for Lena. She relents, rolling her eyes. “Fine, we can play hooky.”

Kara looks immediately delighted, whatever stress she’s holding beginning to dissipate in front of Lena’s eyes. “Great!” Kara turns them to reception. Andrea has disappeared.

The receptionist is tremendously helpful, recommending that they try out the restaurant at the Port Charlotte Hotel, set on the shore of Loch Indaal at the north end of Laggan Bay a half hour drive away. She kits them out with dark green waxed-cotton jackets and an enormous golf umbrella to protect them from the weather, before handing Kara the keys to one of the hotel’s Defenders.

Kara doesn’t say much as they drive away from The Machrie, just keeps looking at Lena with an expression that Lena can’t quite place, but, the further away they get, the more relaxed she seems to be—even waving happily at a shepherd trying to wrangle a flock of sheep as they pass.

Truth be told, Lena is a little relieved that Kara suggested they skip the lunch. She still has a tiny bit of a hangover and the prospect of being able to spend time, alone, with Kara—without the looming shadow of Andrea or Lillian or even Lex—is welcome. Whatever is bothering Kara, it’ll come out when Kara wants it to.

Port Charlotte is a small village, consisting mostly of a collection of whitewashed buildings with slate roofs, the omnipresent protective lime paint bright even against the pale grey of the sky as the rain lessens to something more like a steady drizzle. The horizon over the sea loch has shortened thanks to the weather, and the opposite shore, only a mile away, is no more than a hazy shadow in the mist.

Kara parks the rover on the blacktop, right in front of the hotel. It’s smaller than the Machrie, just two stories tall and nine windows long, yet somehow there are four chimney stacks evenly spaced along the roof.

Kara tells her to wait a second and gets out, then grabs the umbrella from where it’s tucked in the footwell behind the driver’s seat. Lena watches as Kara flips the brown corduroy collar on her jacket up to ward against the chill and eases the umbrella open. She smiles at Lena when they make eye contact through the driver’s window.

Kara walks around the front to Lena’s side and opens the door for her.

“M’lady,” she gives Lena a slight bow.

“I can’t believe it,” Lena says and she can’t help the laugh that escapes. “That actually is your move.”

Kara straightens up. “It is not!” She tries to protest, cheeks going pink. “This is chivalry.” When Lena doesn’t stop laughing, Kara tries affecting a pout. “I can’t help it! You bring it out in me!”

“I didn’t say it wasn’t working for me,” Lena says, smiling and trying to restrain herself from teasing more. Kara stops spluttering, a pleased grin taking shape on her face. She switches the umbrella from her left to right hand, extends her left elbow to Lena. 

“Well, in that case, may I offer you my arm?” Lena purses her lips in an effort to keep her smile reasonable, but she takes the proffered arm. Kara’s grin is now firmly on the side of smug.

The whole thing is silly and sweet and goofy, and stupidly charming, and Lena finds she rather enjoys not having to pretend otherwise.

At Lena’s request, the hostess walks them back through the pub, all warm wood and low ceilings, with the obligatory peat fire roaring away, and out into the restaurant proper. They’re seated next to a line of windows overlooking the green-gray waves behind the building, rain puddling on the empty concrete terrace outside. The ceiling has a giant skylight, smoked glass and blurry trails of water making shadows above them.

The room is about half full, a family with two young kids on the opposite side and a few couples scattered throughout at small tables like the one Kara and Lena are sitting at. The manager hands them menus, tells them a server will be over shortly, and then disappears back to the front of the house.

Kara breaks the comfortable silence between them. “Are you going to make fun of me if I order fish and chips again?”

“Yes,” Lena says, smiling down at her menu. “That’ll make three days in a row. But don’t let me deter you.”

“Oh, I won’t,” Kara says playfully, glancing up. “I just want to be prepared for the judgement.”

Lena bites the inside of her cheek to keep from laughing. “You’re a child.”

“Maybe,” Kara answers. “But you like it.”

Lena looks up at her, catches Kara’s eyes. “I do,” she says, quietly.

It comes out far more earnestly than she planned, doesn’t match the joking tone of their conversation at all. Kara’s grin softens, overtaken by something with more weight.

“Good.” She holds Lena’s gaze for a moment, then looks back down at her own menu. “I don’t know what I’d do if you didn’t.”

They order, Kara asking for the posh fish and chips (“Stop laughing at me, that’s what the menu says,” Kara whines when Lena can’t prevent a giggle from escaping), while Lena requests a fish dish with a more grown-up preparation. Deciding that more whiskey is perhaps too much, Lena takes the server’s wine recommendation. It’s not the best Sancerre she’s ever had, but it’s young and fresh—Kara declines a glass, saying she’s driving (and “really, Lena, don’t the lambs deserve sober drivers?”).

They settle in to wait for their food, and Lena can’t remember the last time she was allowed to just sit like this—at ease, nowhere to be, nothing requiring her urgent attention. She wonders briefly how Brainy’s week is going, surprised to realize it’s the first time she’s thought about L Tech in days.

“You know,” Kara says, interrupting Lena’s thoughts. “I was going through my phone earlier and I realized we’ve managed to get through almost every single item on the list. There’s only three left.”

“Three left,” Lena says, raises an eyebrow, takes a sip of her wine. “Can’t have that, can we?”

“That’s what I was thinking.” Kara smiles so wide her eyes crinkle. She pulls out her phone and finds the list, scrolls down the page. “Ok, I’ll go first. ‘Your house, containing everything you own, catches fire. After saving your loved ones and pets, you have time to safely make a final dash to save any one item. What would it be? Why?’” Kara swallows. “That one’s easy. My mother’s necklace.

“Do you—I mean, are you wearing it?” Lena asks, glancing at the unbuttoned neckline of Kara’s light green shirt. “I don’t think I’ve seen you wear any jewelry except for earrings all week.”

“I almost always wear it when I’m home. It’s a turquoise stone pendant on a silver chain—it’s the only thing of hers that I still have.” Kara’s face twists, and she gives Lena a pained smile. “What about you?”

“The chess set Lex gave me when I was adopted.” Lena looks down at the table, fidgets with the stem of her wine glass. “We used to play all the time. He stopped being interested when I was in college; it was like he didn’t have time for me anymore. He was finally stepping into the role of CEO, taking over officially for Lillian. She helmed it for a few years after Lionel died, waiting for Lex to be ready. It couldn’t have been easy, but I missed him so much.”

“He seems like he was a really great brother to you.”

“He was.”

They’re silent for a moment.

“Gosh,” says Kara, breaking into a small smile. “I feel like that was supposed to be a light one.” Kara reaches her hand out, sets it down midway across the table, palm up.

Lena places her own on top and squeezes. “Maybe for some people, it is.”

Kara hums in assent, but doesn’t let go of Lena’s hand, just picks up her phone again with her other and reads the next question. “If you were going to become a close friend with your partner, please share what would be important to know.” Kara pauses. “Do you want to go first this time?”

“I can.” Lena clears her throat. “Trust is the most important thing to me, and it has to be mutual. Lying, going behind my back—that’s where I draw the line. Once someone crosses it, I’m done.”

“Right. Yeah.” Kara bites her lower lip and then releases it. She’s not smiling anymore. “Trust. I get that.”

When she doesn’t continue, Lena prompts her. “What about you?”

Kara’s silent for a moment, just looking at Lena. She seems to be making up her mind about how to answer.

“I have a really hard time letting negative emotions show,” she finally says. “People think I’m happy all the time, and I am, mostly.” She offers Lena a lopsided half-smile. “But, I still have so much grief and anger about what happened to my parents, about having to grow up without them, how it impacted my entire life. So, I need it to be ok, if I’m upset—I need people who can just sit with me in it.”

The server picks that moment to return with their food, but he’s gone just as quickly. Lena can’t help noticing that Kara doesn’t seem very excited about her food. In fact, it’s the first time she’s seen a plate in front of Kara stay untouched for more than ten seconds.

“Are you going to eat or just look at your plate?” Lena asks, taking a bite of her own dish.

Kara rolls her eyes at her. “Just trying to figure out what makes this posh.”

“Good luck. What’s the last question?”

Kara uses her elbow to slide the phone toward Lena as she picks up a piece of her fish, her fingers now greasy.

Lena tries to click it open. “It’s locked, you have to unlock it.”

“Can’t,” says Kara, swallowing a mouthful of fried fish. “My passcode is 0 8 9 0. How’s that for trust?”

“I’ll take it.” Lena smiles at her and looks down at the phone. “‘If you were to die this evening with no opportunity to communicate with anyone, what would you most regret not having told someone? Why haven’t you told them yet?’ It’s your turn to go first.”

Lena sets the phone down and starts to pick up her cutlery again when Kara’s voice stops her.

“I think I’d miss you, even if we never met.”

Lena looks up, her heart suddenly beating irregularly in her chest. Kara breaks eye contact after a second, looks down at her plate.

“It’s not a line,” Kara rushes out. “In case you’re wondering, I mean. I feel as if I’ve known you far longer than three days. I feel a little as if I’ve never not known you.” Kara clears her throat, shakes her head. “And I haven’t told you that yet because it feels like a crazy thing to say, but, the questions....” She trails off for a moment, looks back up and offers Lena a shrug. “I promised you that I’d answer them as me.”

As soon as Kara explains, Lena understands what she means. Something in her stomach twists uncomfortably as she thinks about never having met Kara. Perhaps it doesn’t make any sense, but that doesn’t make it any less true.

The memory of their arrival at The Machrie yesterday flashes through Lena’s mind, telling Kara that visiting Islay always makes her think of her mother. It only takes a moment, but Lena knows what she’ll regret not saying right now.

“I don’t think I’ll ever visit here again and not think of you.” As soon as the words leave her mouth, Lena can feel in her bones that they’re true. “I didn’t know it until right now.”

The look that Kara gives her feels like a physical thing. Lena’s chest feels fluttery, expansive.

She has to break eye contact to catch her breath.

Near the end of their meal, Kara can’t decide which dessert to get, so they end up ordering three. When she finally finishes scraping up the last of the toffee pudding, having already polished off the cinnamon custard and the shortcake, she sets her spoon down and makes a satisfied sound, leaning back in her chair. Lena just shakes her head and laughs.

“Do you remember when I told you I’d never done a wedding before?” Kara asks. Lena nods. “It wasn’t that no one ever asked. I’d just never said yes.”

“What made you say yes to me?”

“It was something about the first voicemail you left me. Something in your voice.”

“What was that, exactly? Desperation?” Lena has to look away, gives a self-deprecating laugh at the reminder of how many messages she’d left for Kara.

Kara is still looking at her, she can tell out of the corner of her eye.

“No. Not that.” Lena catches the smile as it forms on Kara’s face, can hear it in her voice. “That came in the next six voicemails.” Kara shifts until she, too, is looking out at the green-grey waves again. “I think it was hope.”

Leaving the warmth and quiet of the restaurant afterwards and making their way back out into the rain feels like moving between worlds. Kara opens the umbrella and walks Lena around to the passenger side of the car. Lena can hear the light patter of rain on the nylon taffeta.

Kara steps forward to open the door, but Lena stops her, takes the collar of her jacket gently in one hand, and pulls her down, presses their lips together.

It’s their softest kiss yet. Lena slips her other hand around the back of Kara’s neck, into her hair, feels Kara wrap one arm around her and pull her solidly in. Kara’s mouth is warm and gentle, her lips slightly sticky from the pudding.

When Lena pulls back, Kara keeps her eyes closed for a moment.

“Just to be clear,” Kara says quietly, “because I think we’re trying to be clear now, was that you kissing job-me or me-me?”

“To be clear,” Lena says, equally quietly. “That was me kissing you-you, Kara Danvers.”

Kara opens her eyes. “Oh. Good.” Her grin is blinding, it warms Lena up from the inside out.

Lena laughs, presses another soft kiss to Kara’s cheek, then opens her own door when it becomes clear that Kara is just going to stand there, smiling like an idiot. “Get in the car, Kara. We have to make it back to the hotel eventually.”

“Right. The hotel,” Kara says, still smiling, standing on the passenger side of the vehicle. "For the rehearsal dinner, that we actually have to go to." Lena shakes her head, but she can’t help the smile on her own face.

They make it back to the hotel and return the car without incident, Jack catching them as they walk into the lobby.

He looks at them, cocks his head, and turns to Lena. “You know, love, Kara’s not looking all that poorly.” Lena laughs and Jack wiggles his eyebrows. “A few of us are going to play board games upstairs until dinner, you should join unless you have more dance lessons to get to.”

Kara chokes lightly next to Lena, tries to cover it by clearing her throat and agreeing. “Board games sound good!”

“Board games it is.” Lena smiles at both of them. “We can change for dinner later.”

Lena takes Kara’s outstretched hand and they follow Jack upstairs to where Eve has wrangled the wedding party and their dates into playing Cards Against Humanity. It’s fun, and ridiculous, and Lena is terrible at it, but Kara is surprisingly good. Trivial Pursuit goes slightly better for Lena.

Once again, Kara seems to get along with everyone. The Graves siblings, Lex’s college buddies Donovan and Adam - even John Corben seems to like her. Lena just sits back, relaxing into Kara’s side. It’s easy in a way she never dreamed anything about this weekend could be.

They have so much fun playing that no one looks at the time, until Jack suddenly squeals and says that, if everyone isn’t back upstairs and changed in twenty minutes, Lillian might make good on her threat to kill him.

Without any time to properly take advantage, Lena refrains from distracting Kara, just watches while Kara puts on a starched white button up and sharp navy blue suit, but she can’t resist asking Kara to zip up her dress.

It’s Lena who ends up in a way, however, when Kara presses lingering kisses up Lena’s spine as she zips, before spinning her around and pulling her to the door, saying they don’t want to be late. Lena starts to protest that being late sounds fine, but Kara just laughs and then asks her if she really wants to have to reapply all that makeup.

Kara is right, but Lena doesn’t have to be happy about it.

They’re still the last to make it up to the restaurant, though, and a server waves them through a doorway at the far end, into a high-ceilinged private room. Mercy Graves is standing in the middle, framed by an enormous window looking out onto the wet dunes and the worsening storm over the bay. Mercy is clearly a drink or two in, raising a toast to the happy couple and the rest of the wedding party. She brightens when she sees Lena and Kara walk in. “Lena! I was just saying how good it is to have the excuse to get everyone together. It’s been far too long. You know, we were all heartbroken when you left Metropolis!”

Lena takes the wine glass that Kara’s pulled out of nowhere and raises it in salute, but Mercy isn’t done.

“We all know your brother isn’t the easiest man to work for, but Luthor Corp hasn’t been the same without you. We lost the best R&D Director we ever had when you left, and I’m including your brother in that!”

Lena tries to demure, but Lex puts up a hand to stop her, “No, it’s true,” he says, tipping his glass in her direction.

“You know,” Mercy breaks in, swiveling between the two of them. “I blame that stupid science competition for why the two of you couldn’t stand working together.”

“Oh, god, no,” Lena and Lex say at the same time.

“No, no,” says Mercy, shushing them. “Kara’s new here, it’s important that she knows what she’s getting into. Don’t deny it, you barely tolerate each other! This wedding is the first time you’ve been in the same place in nearly two years, and it isn’t as if the six before that were smooth sailing.”

“Come on,” says Jack, looking back and forth between Lena and her brother. “It’s true! The only thing you two have in common is you’re both attracted to me!”

Lex punches Jack’s arm.

“It was, what, ten years ago?” Mercy looks around as if for confirmation, but proceeds before anyone can do so much as nod their head. “Lex was making the transition from R&D to CEO, and Lena was still at MIT. As one of his last projects, Lex put together a team working on an international science competition.” Mercy waves her wine glass vaguely, the liquid threatening to go over the side. “One of those foundation sponsored things to advance research—that’s not the point. They had some plan to move synthetic tissue work from hypothetical to functional—Lex, what was the tagline of the project?”

Lex shakes his head, like he can’t believe Mercy is really going to tell the story, but he responds anyway. “Print one.” 

“Right, right,” Mercy says. “Print one. As in, need an organ to transplant? Print one! They had a massive falling out after Lena tried to help, and they’ve never made up since.”

“Before that,” Otis offers to Kara, “Lena and Lex were pretty much inseparable.”

“If Lex blew something up in the lab, Lena put it back together,” Mercy says.

“If Lena put something back together, Lex blew it up,” Jack yells. Everyone laughs.

“The problem, as I recall it,” Mercy says, “was that Lex’s team worked for two months straight, but they couldn’t crack it—oh, they got close,” she cuts off Lex’s protest, “but at the end of the day, no dice. So Lex takes the work home and decides to sleep for an entire day to recover before having another go.”

Mercy takes a sip of wine and continues. “And in the middle of his nap, Lena comes home from summer nationals and sees Lex’s work spread out all over the study. She goes in, our intrepid little scientist, and starts reading and mucking about. Lex finds her in the study, writing on the margins of all his notes, absolutely loses it. Here’s his kid sister, this twenty year old senior at MIT already working on her masters, and she’s messing up his stuff, right?”

“But then,” Mercy takes a dramatic pause. “Then he checked her work. She’d fucking solved it. The next day they were able to modify a 3D printer to join cells together.”

“Lucky for everyone, I’m not a terrible CEO,” Lex breaks in. “Even if she can beat me in the lab. Although, who knows. Maybe she’d beat me at that, too?”

“Of course not,” Lena says.

“I don’t know, ace. L Tech is pretty impressive these days.” He smiles at her, but it doesn’t reach his eyes.

“So,” Kara says, breaking the silence that drifts over the group. “Did you ever ‘Print One’? Like, an actual organ?”

“Actually, no!” Mercy laughs. “The tissue has to be functional first, we’re still trying to nail that bit. But the work Lena did is still the building block for every lab trying to solve this, including ours.”

“And Luthor Corp is still going to do it first,” Lex says, raising his glass. “To dad, for starting the company that brought us all together.”

A cheer of To Lionel! echoes through the space.

Lena squeezes Kara’s hand in gratitude as they take their seats.

The actual dinner is less awkward. Lillian doesn’t once bring up Lena’s absence from lunch, and seems to be making an actual effort to talk to Kara. Lena watches them warily, ready to break in if it looks like it’s going south, but Kara’s holding her own.

Near the end of dessert, they run out of wine and there’s no server to be seen, so Lena volunteers to go track down a few bottles from the bartender in the next room.

She’s standing by the pass-through at the end of the bar, waiting for him to return with four bottles, when Andrea walks up behind her and puts a soft hand on the back of Lena’s arm, startling her.

“Andrea,” Lena laughs. “You scared me!”

“I’m sorry.”

There’s something in Andrea’s voice that makes Lena think the apology has nothing to do with scaring her.

“It’s fine.” Lena offers her a smile. “I just didn’t hear you.”

If this were a year ago, or six months, or even Tuesday earlier this week, Lena might want to follow the thread—might want to push Andrea, ask what she’s really sorry about. But watching Andrea start to fidget with her necklace, Lena realizes she doesn’t need to hear what Andrea has to say.

“Actually, Andrea, since you’re here, would you mind grabbing one of the bottles they’re bringing out? I’m not sure if I can make it back without dropping them.”

Andrea doesn’t respond immediately. Lena sees her face twist with something. Guilt? Fear?

Lena’s about to try another tack, maybe ask if Andrea will go find Kara for her, but Andrea finally seems to gather her resolve. “I used to wonder what it would take to get you to forgive me, Lena. But, I’m not sure what I did to you is forgivable.”

“Hey,” Lena interrupts her. Maybe direct is best. “We don’t have to talk about this.”

“We do, though.” Andrea looks like she might start crying if Lena makes any sudden movements. “I miss you. I’ve missed you for two years. And if, after I tell you this, you still want nothing to do with me, and you tell me that there’s no way I can ever make it up to you, then I can live with that—I’ll have to live with that. But, if you’re going to hate me, I need you to hate me for the right reasons.”

“Andrea, it’s ok,” Lena says, surprising herself with how genuinely she means it. “I don’t hate you. I forgive you. Maybe even a week ago I’d want to hear this, but you know what? It’s ok. You didn’t want to marry me. I know I was devastated, but I think, now…I think it was for the best. I don’t hate you. It just took me two years to figure that out.”

Where the hell is the bartender? Lena looks back over the bar, willing him to appear with the alcohol. She’s just about to call out for him when Andrea starts talking again and Lena’s blood runs cold.

“I helped steal your tech,” Andrea blurts out, and there’s no stopping her this time. “Two years ago. That’s why I broke it off with you.”

Lena looks back at her, all color having drained from her face. Andrea just barrels on.

“Obsidian North was about to go bankrupt, my father was so unstable, and I was willing to do anything to save him, and Lex—Lex said he needed a favor. He came to me and said he needed something off your work tablet. I didn’t know he was going to do it, not immediately. But then, he said he could arrange for Lord to buy out one of our smaller subsidiaries at an inflated price, if I’d help him with this one thing.”

This isn’t possible, Lena thinks. She no longer feels entirely present in her body, it’s as if she’s watching Andrea confess this to someone else.

And Andrea just keeps letting it all spill out. “He was so worried that you were going to devote all your time to developing your own work and not on his main accounts, and he thought—he thought if your project got stolen, that you’d go back to doing what he wanted you to do. And I - ” Andrea sucks in a breath, clearly close to tears. Lena wants to slap her across the face. “I was so worried about what my father was going to do if the company went under. Except that after I did it, I couldn’t look at you. I couldn’t talk to you, couldn’t think about you without feeling this crushing guilt. And I realized I couldn’t marry you like that.”

Lena doesn’t realize that Andrea has finished until she says, brokenly, “Lena, say something, please.”

“I thought...” Lena starts. “I thought maybe you’d fallen out of love with me, or just realized we weren’t right for each other.” She looks away, before her eyes find Andrea again, a hot flash of anger ripping through her. “How could you?”

“Lena, it broke my heart. But you have to see, don’t you?” Andrea’s pleading now. “Everything I did, I did for love.” 

“That’s what hurts the most!” Lena cries out. “I cared about you more than anyone else in the world and I never would’ve betrayed you.”

She stumbles backwards, away from Andrea and the bar. Lena is reeling. She feels trapped, like she can’t breathe. She turns around and practically runs back into the dining room. All she can think is that she needs Kara right now.

Jack takes one look at Lena’s face when she enters the room and steps forward to intercept her. “Oh god, she’s finally told you.”

“You knew?” Lena blanches. She feels dizzy, like her legs might collapse out from under her.

“Lena, I’m so sorry,” Jack begins, but Lena pushes past him, walks straight over to Kara.

Kara just envelops her in a hug, doesn’t say anything. She’s grateful that Kara doesn’t ask why Lena must look like she’s about to cry, or why she can’t bring herself to look at anyone else in the room. Do they all know? Is she the only one who has been in the dark?

“Lena?” Lex asks. He looks panicked, then his face fills with anger. “I can’t believe you told her!”

Lena’s confused for a second, who is he talking to?

But then she looks up at Kara.

Everything she needs to know is written in the look that Kara is giving Lex, as though Kara knows exactly why he would think that she was the one who had told Lena.

The fact that Kara is somehow in on this hits Lena in the chest like a brick. She pushes herself off Kara, nearly falls back trying to get out of her arms.

“Wait, Lena,” Kara starts, but Lena is already turning around.

She can’t be here. She can’t be in this room with these people who were willing to steal, and lie, and manipulate her, and break her heart to further their own agendas.

It doesn’t matter what part they played. The point is that they all knew, they’ve all been in on it, conspiring behind her back. Lex, and Andrea, and Jack—every single person she’s trusted with the deepest parts of herself.

And Kara.

Lena doesn’t realize that she’s outside until her heels sink into the peat. It’s pouring and nearly pitch black, the sky only lit up by the occasional lighting strike to the north. She stops, heaving in enormous lungfuls of cold air, letting the water soak her hair and dress.

The door she must have run through slams open, and Lena can hear Kara calling her name. She’s still struggling to breathe, can’t run anymore, so Kara catches up behind her, tries to put a hand on her shoulder.

“Don’t you dare!” She yells, flinching away from where Kara’s fingers touch her skin. Kara drops her arm as quickly as if Lena had hit her.

“What did you want me to do, Lena?”

“I want you to have told me.”

“How was I supposed to tell you?!” 

“Not knowing how doesn’t change the fact that you should have,” Lena spits back at her. “You kept it from me! I told you how important trust is to me!”

“I knew it would devastate you!” Kara looks like she might cry. “You asked me to get you through this weekend in one piece.”

“Oh, that’s it, perfect. Hide behind your job. It’s all just business with you.” Lena looks away, out over the dunes to the black water.

“What did you want me to say?” Kara asks brokenly. “That I was pretty sure Lex and Andrea had conspired to screw you over? That there was a good chance everyone knew?”

“Would you ever have told me?” Lena’s raising her voice again, but she can’t help it.

“Yes.” Kara sounds sure.

“When?!”

Kara throws up her hands. “I don’t know!” she yells back. “I couldn’t even figure out if you were going to want to see me after this weekend.”

Lena interrupts her with a painful laugh. “Then you’re just like the rest of them.”

“That’s not fair,” Kara says. “That’s not fair, and you know it.”

“What,” Lena hisses, “is unfair about that? You were supposed to be on my side.”

“I wanted to protect you. I just wanted to get you through this weekend. I would have—I would have told you what I knew eventually, but I still don’t know the whole story! I only overheard Lex and Andrea this morning!”

Lena ignores Kara. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. Everyone lies to me. Everyone breaks my heart. I thought—” This time Lena’s laugh sounds more like a sob. “It doesn’t matter what I thought. You’re a liar. That’s what you do. That’s what you are.”

“Really, Lena? I’m the liar?” Kara sounds devastated now, but she starts ticking off fingers on her hand with something close to anger. “You’re lying to me, you’re lying to your family, you’re lying to yourself. You want to put this all on me, the woman that you paid to be your girlfriend? I was put in an impossible situation. I didn’t know what to do. I did what I thought was best.”

“No, no, Kara, you’re right. I was so desperate to make everyone believe I was happy that I paid ten thousand dollars for a lie.” Lena’s crying for real now, all the fight leaking out of her. “And the only one that ended up falling for it was me.”

“Lena,” Kara begins, her eyes red. Water is streaming down Kara’s forehead, dripping into her eyes. “Lena, don’t do this.” She steps towards Lena and reaches out again, like she’s going to try to pull her in.

“Don’t.” Lena puts up her hands to stop Kara. “I can’t.” Her voice breaks. “I need you to leave.”

“Lena!” Kara’s crying, too.

She knows exactly what to say to get Kara to leave, no matter how much Kara wants to stay, but Lena has to turn away first; she can’t look at Kara while she says it.

“You’re fired. Send me the receipt for your flight back.”

And then Lena walks away, stepping out of her heels, heading out over the dunes, into the middle of the storm.

By the time she makes it back to the room an hour later, soaked and numb from the cold, exhausted from crying, Kara’s suitcase is gone.

It’s for the best, Lena thinks. But that doesn’t stop a fresh wave of sobs from rising in her throat like bile.

 

_______________________



Kara walks back into the hotel in a daze. She can’t tell if her face is still wet from rain or from tears, or both, as she stands in the hotel room and stares uncomprehendingly at her suitcase.

She sits down on the bed and pulls out her cell phone. It doesn’t matter what’s wrong, whenever Kara is upset, Alex is always her first call.

The moment Alex answers the phone, Kara bursts into great, heaving sobs.

“Kara?”

She’s crying so hard, snot running down her face, she can’t answer.

“Breathe, Kara, breathe. Tell me what’s wrong. Are you ok? Did something happen?”

“Alex,” Kara gasps out. “Alex, I hurt her. And I didn’t mean to, but I did. And I don’t know if I can fix it, or even if I should. And I feel like my chest might crack open and I know that sounds crazy, but I can’t explain it. It hurts, Alex. It hurts so badly right now.”

Kara can still barely breathe, has to think about each inhale she makes. She’s crying even harder now.

Alex is silent for a moment. “Kara? I’m going to grab Kelly, ok?”

“Ok.” Kara closes her eyes as tightly as she can, tries to stop crying, but finds that she can’t. She’s never felt like this before.

Over the open line, she can hear Alex’s muffled voice and Kelly saying something, but she can’t make it out. There’s some shuffling and then Alex’s voice comes through clear again.

“Kara? I’ve got you on speaker.”

“Hi, Kara,” Kelly says. “What’s going on?”

“I think,” Kara hiccups out. “I think I messed up really badly, even though I thought I was doing the right thing, and I won’t be able to live with myself if she doesn’t forgive me.”

“Oh, honey,” Kelly breathes out. “Start at the beginning.”

So Kara does.

She walks Alex and Kelly through the last four days. She tells them about seeing Lena for the first time, talking her through takeoff. She tells them about the cocktail party, about getting to know Lena, about sleeping with her.

Kara tells them about Lex and Andrea, and finding out how Lena had been betrayed, and about her decision not to tell Lena.

And then she tells them about how Lena found out anyway.

“I just,” she finally says. “I just wanted to give her one more day before her entire world crashed in on itself again.”

Alex and Kelly are quiet as they absorb everything Kara has said. 

“Holy fucking shit,” Alex finally says. “I can’t believe it. You fucking fell in love with her.”

Kara feels hysterical. “That’s not funny, Alex.”

“I mean when Kelly told me it was possible, I thought she was just making fun of you. But holy shit, Kara.”

“What?” Kara can’t help her confusion, it overwhelms the rest of her emotions for a second. “I haven’t talked to you guys since I left.”

Kelly breaks in. “Alex is being facetious. I didn’t say I thought it would happen, but after you asked me for the study, I told Alex about it.”

“The study? You mean the questions? What does that have to do with this?”

“Oh, Kara.” There’s something very gentle in Kelly’s voice. “I didn’t realize.”

“Realize what?” Kara can feel herself getting slightly frantic. “Realize what, Kelly? What do the questions have to do with this?”

“In the original study, one of the participant pairs fell in love. They got married six months later. I was joking about it with Alex, after you left.”

“So, I’m feeling this way because of the questions?” Kara wipes at her eyes.

“No, Kara, that’s not what I’m saying. Or, not exactly. The questions may have helped accelerate how you’re feeling, but they’re not enough on their own. There’s something about Lena herself that you connected with—intensely, from the sound of it.”

Kara tries to understand, but every time she thinks about Lena it feels like her heart is breaking wide open.

“Let me put it a different way,” Kelly tries. “You could do these questions with fifty different people on the street and you’d probably walk away with some new friends and maybe a potential partner or two, but what you’re talking about is something much deeper.”

“It doesn’t matter,” Kara finally says, defeat heavy in her voice. “It doesn’t matter how I feel about her.”

“Of course it matters!” Alex sounds indignant.

“You didn’t see her, Alex!” Kara’s throat feels raw and her eyes are burning again. “She looked at me the same way she looked at Andrea, at Lex. I’m just another person who didn’t protect her. I was so scared of losing her and now it doesn’t matter.”

“So, you tell her.”

“Tell her what?!” Kara can’t help yelling. “What exactly do you suggest? Hi Lena, I know you hired me to escort you to your brother’s wedding, but I think I’m falling in love with you, and I didn’t want to see you hurt, so I made a mistake, here’s your ten thousand dollars back!”

She can hear the edge in her own voice, the way it breaks over the word love. There’s silence on the phone when she finishes.

“Well,” begins Kelly. “I’m not sure I’d suggest using that tone of voice, but the overall message isn’t bad.”

“Yeah,” Alex adds. “Honesty kinda seems like your best play right here.”

Kara laughs wetly.

“Kara, sweetie,” Kelly says. “You don’t have to do anything tonight. I know it feels like the end of the world right now, but it doesn’t have to be. You need to sleep, and so does Lena, before you have a chance to see if this is something you can fix with her, ok?”

Kelly is right. Kara’s exhausted and there’s no way either she or Lena can handle another emotional confrontation right now. Alex promises that she’ll pick her up from the airport on Sunday, no matter what. Kara says good night to her sister and Kelly soon after, saying she’ll call them tomorrow and let them know what she decides.

Packing is excruciating.

Every time Kara puts something in her suitcase, it’s like she’s erasing a tiny part of herself from Lena’s life—like maybe they’ll never be in the same place together again. She makes her way slowly to the front desk, feeling like she’s living someone else’s life right now.

Kara nearly turns around when she sees Lillian and Eve talking by the fireplace, but Lillian looks over and makes eye contact with her. Lillian says something to Eve that Kara can’t hear, and turns around with a nod in Kara’s direction.

Eve walks over to where Kara is standing.

“You’re leaving?”

“Lena needs space right now.” Kara tries to summon a smile for cover, but it feels more like a grimace and she knows her eyes are puffy and red. “I’m just going to check into a hotel somewhere else, I’ll leave on the ferry tomorrow morning.”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Eve says. “I think Lillian thought you might try that. Here. She gave me the keys to the distillery, there’s a furnished apartment above the main office, you can stay there.” She hands Kara the keys.

“If you really do want to leave,” Eve continues, seeming to weigh her words, “it’s walking distance to the ferry.” She looks thoughtful for a moment, offers Kara a hopeful smile. “Look. I don’t know what’s going on with you two, but I’m sure it’ll work out. You couldn’t be more perfect for her if she picked you out of a catalogue.”

Kara lets out a wet laugh, wipes at her nose. “Thanks, Eve.”

Eve doesn’t seem to want to walk away while Kara looks so fragile. “Here, let me ask the front desk if someone can drive you. I don’t even know if Islay has Lyft.”

Eve arranges everything with the receptionist, then gives Kara a hug before seeing her off in front of the hotel. Kara doesn’t say anything to the driver, just does her best to muster a genuine thanks and hand him a tenner when he drops her off in front of the distillery.

The building is dark, the only light coming from lamps above a few of the doorways, casting lonely spots of yellow down the whitewashed sides. She follows Eve’s instructions, finds the right entrance, and heads upstairs to the small apartment. It’s not much more than a camp cot, a desk, and a hearth.

Kara shivers as she gets into bed, but doesn’t light a fire; she doesn’t want to feel comfortable right now, anyway. Trying to fall asleep, the last four days keep looping through her mind. She tries to imagine what happens next. It all comes down to one of three possibilities: Option A, she gets on the ferry, heads back to London, never sees Lena again. Option B, she goes back to the hotel, tells Lena how she’s feeling and asks if what they have is worth fighting for, gets told no, heads back to London, never sees Lena again. Option C, she goes back to the hotel and Option B works out better.

Kara hopes that, when she wakes up, she’ll know what to do.

 

_______________________

 

Lena lays prone where she’s collapsed on the bed in the hotel room, still crying and shivering, her wet dress sticking to her body, feet muddy, hair sopping. She’s probably leaving makeup stains on the white linen, but she can’t bring herself to care right now.

She pulls in deep shuddering breaths and tries to get a handle on herself, but finds that she just can’t. She feels sick, like she might throw up. Her chest feels like it’s trapped in a vice, the pressure increasing, until she fears her ribs might crack.

Nothing has ever hurt like this.

It’s insane. This whole thing is insane. She’s just learned that everyone in her life has betrayed her, and the only thing she can focus on is that she’s probably just sent Kara away for good. She can’t be feeling like this. It’s a proximity crush, it’s the product of spending four days wrapped up in nothing but Kara, sharing parts of her life that absolutely no one else knows. It’s those stupid fucking questions that she never should have agreed to answer.

The afternoon feels like another universe—their lunch, how buoyant she’d felt, how safe, how seen. Lena should have known that there was a catch. There’s always a catch.

If she could stop crying for one second, Lena feels like she might laugh. What, honestly, did she think was going to happen? That Kara was going to fall in love with her? That they were going to return to National City, and date, and move in together, and live happily ever after, and that the way they met would be some funny story they’d share with close friends?

There’s a knock on Lena’s door.

Lena ignores it, continues to lay face down on the bed. There isn’t anyone on this godforsaken island she wants to see right now. The only thing she plans on doing is crying herself to sleep.

Whoever it is doesn’t take the hint. They knock a second time, slightly louder

“What?!” Lena tries to snarl out—aiming for anger, but hitting somewhere closer to grief. She gets up and stalks to the door, furiously wiping at her face. She’s done. Done being polite, done trying to be good. She’ll pull it back together tomorrow for the wedding. But, right now? She thinks she’s allowed.

She wrenches the door open. “What could any of you possibly want from me right now?”

“I didn’t know,” says Lillian.

It’s said so gently that Lena thinks for a second that she might be hallucinating. Is it possible to cry yourself into psychosis? Lena’s not sure, but that seems more likely than Lillian showing up at her door like this.

“Right,” Lena laughs brokenly. “This might as well happen.”

“I didn’t know, but I should have.” Lillian fidgets, twists her hands together. She looks more unsure than Lena has ever seen her, as if she fully expects Lena to slam the door in her face and, somehow, that would be ok with her. “May I come in?”

Lena stares at her for a moment. She’s trying to make sense of the Lillian standing in front of her—has been trying to make sense of Lillian all day, actually—but she’s exhausted enough as it is. She steps to the side and waves her arm in some approximation of permission.

Lillian walks past her, heads into the bathroom. Lena’s so confused that she doesn’t bother asking what Lillian thinks she’s doing, just walks back to the bed and lays down again. She can hear Lillian running the tap.

Lillian steps out into the bedroom and holds out a towel and a glass of water. “Here, drink this.”

Lena stares at her, doesn’t understand what’s happening, but she sits up and takes the glass. Lillian drapes the towel around Lena’s shoulders and steps back.

Maybe it’s just further proof of how upsidedown the world is right now, but Lillian’s right about the water. Drinking it helps. Her ribs no longer feel as if they're going to break, and breathing becomes the tiniest bit easier.

“I never really knew how to be a mother,” Lillian starts. “With Lex it was simple because he never seemed to need me very much. I’m not maternal. When I met you, you were already this little person and I—.” Lillian cuts herself off, takes a deep breath. “It took me a long time to look past the affair. And by the time I had, it felt like it was too late. As a teenager you didn’t want anything to do with me—“

She holds up a hand to stop Lena from interrupting. “And why would you? It wasn’t until after Lionel died that I realized how unconscionably selfish I had been. You lost your mother, then you lost him. And you never had me. You’d already grown up to be this incredible person and I hadn’t been a part of it.”

Lena can’t believe what she’s hearing. 

“It took a lot of therapy for me to realize just how badly I’d messed up. You were already at MIT, actually.”

Lena remembers being sixteen and so surprised when Lillian had shown up, unannounced, for her first Parent’s Weekend. It had been stilted and awkward and all Lillian had done was ask about her courses. Lena had been sullen and upset because Lex had blown off their weekend together and, in larger part, because she was so lonely in Cambridge. 

Lillian keeps talking. “Afterwards, I thought that, if I had already failed you in all the ways that probably mattered, then the least I could do was make sure that you grew up to be the person I knew you were capable of: brilliant, a leader in whatever field you went into. Lex has always been smart and driven, but he’s content with making money and running Luthor Corp. I knew you could change the world with the right push.”

“Then why,” Lena starts, can feel herself start to cry again; she didn’t even realize she’d stopped. “Why did you ice me out? I left Luthor Corp and you never called. You’ve never even been to see me in National City.”

“I thought you left because you were done,” Lillian replies, somehow calm in the face of Lena’s near hysteria. “Done with us, with being a Luthor. Lionel’s wish that you work at Luthor Corp had been so important to you even when you and Lex didn’t get along—when you left, I thought it was your way of telling us that you didn’t want to be in the family anymore.”

Lillian steps forward and takes the now empty glass from her, goes to refill it. She returns and hands it back to Lena.

“If you had called, I would have heard you out.” Lillian looks down at her own hands. “Of course, that’s my fault, too. I’d never given you a reason to believe that. I took Lex at his word that you’d had a setback on a project and that he thought you’d come around eventually, and then, when Andrea broke things off and you left—I should have asked you. I should have talked to you. I’m so sorry I didn’t.”

Lena doesn’t know what to say. She just sits on the edge of the bed and watches as Lillian unravels.

“I cannot imagine what you thought when I paired you with Max and Andrea for golf,” Lillian says, drawing in a sharp breath. “She asked for you. I think I hoped that maybe I was doing you a favor. It wasn’t until I saw how happy you are with Kara that I realized I’d botched that, too. I am not graceful when I am wrong. I’m—I’m working on that. But Lena, please believe me: I didn’t know. And I am so, so sorry for that.”

Lena wants to scream. Lillian wants to apologize now? But she stops herself from lashing out. Maybe it’s the sincerity in Lillian’s voice—something Lena hasn’t heard before—or maybe it’s the knowledge of how completely alone she’ll be if she sends Lillian away. Whatever it is, exhaustion or loneliness or fear, all Lena can offer up is a broken, “Why are you telling me all of this?”

“I don’t expect—I know that hearing this doesn’t make it any better. Any of it. But Lena, don’t make the same mistake that I did and give up on someone, especially when they aren’t the reason you’re hurting.”

Lena looks at her. “Is this your way of telling me to forgive you because you aren’t responsible for this?”

“No, Lena, no. You don’t owe me anything.” Lillian’s smile is sad and Lena tries to steel herself against it, but finds her heart isn’t quite in it. “I’m telling you not to give up on Kara.”

“What?” Somehow it’s this that causes Lena to stop crying. She pulls up the edge of the towel and wipes her face.

“You don’t have to talk to me about it tonight, or ever,” Lillian says. “I haven’t earned that. But I’m speaking as someone who’s made mistakes with people I care deeply for, and I can’t let you do the same without saying anything.”

“It doesn’t,” Lena hiccups out. “It doesn’t matter. I told her to leave. She’s not coming back.”

“Well, there’s no way off of the island tonight, so that sounds like a problem that can be solved in the morning,” Lillian offers. “If you want to, that is. Now, though, if it's alright, I’m going to run a hot shower for you and let you go to sleep.”

Lena stands under the hot spray long after she hears the door close. She tries to scrub the day off of her, but finds that she can’t, and the effort only leaves her feeling raw, her skin a deep irritated red. When she gets out, she finds that Lillian has tidied up the bed and lain her clothing out to dry over one of the armchairs. Lena lays under the sheets and thinks about everything that’s happened since she left National City, about what Lillian said, about what it might be like if she goes after Kara.

A terrifying new thought occurs to Lena. Maybe whether or not she can forgive Kara isn’t the problem—what if Kara can’t forgive her?

It takes Lena a very long time to fall asleep.