When I wake up in the morning
I'll make you some coffee
We'll lay about and let the day pass
I'll wipe your blood off the concrete
Take you to the party
We'll drink until our brains black out
And god, you're so pretty
Your smile's unforgiving
I'll place it where nobody can find
“I Think You’re Alright” - Jay Som
Lena finds herself running late to the party, even though she had painstakingly set alarms and obsessively checked the time to make sure that she left the apartment on time. But there was heavy traffic which resulted in her Uber sitting in the Midtown tunnel for twenty minutes. It does nothing to assuage her already on-edge nerves. It’s not a big deal, she keeps telling herself, to meet her friend’s other friends. Just a normal, casual social gathering. She’s done it dozens of times.
The car takes her to a part of Queens she’s never been to before - not that that’s a huge feat, given how little she leaves Manhattan. Here the buildings are reasonably-sized instead of skyscraper-sized. Alex lives on a street lined with squat row houses, with her apartment on the second floor of a beige, nondescript two-story house.
There’s an older, heavy-set man sitting on the steps leading up the front door, smoking a cigarette and barking into his cellphone in a mishmash of English and Greek. He eyes Lena as she approaches, sizes her up and categorizes her in three seconds.
He jerks his thumb over his shoulder. “Lesbians are up there.”
Lena makes her way through the unlocked front door and up the stairs to the second floor apartment, which door is slightly ajar. She finds herself walking into a crowded apartment packed with guests. Or rather, it just feels like that because there’s only twelve people but it feels cramped in a small apartment. It also doesn’t help that everyone’s looking at her as she walks in.
Lucky that she’s soon greeted by a familiar face. “Brainy!”
Swaying slightly, Brainy greets her by sweeping one arm to the side and doing a half-bow. “My boss! My liege!”
“Are you drunk? I’m not that late, am I?”
A slight woman appears at Brainy’s side, wrapping her arm around his torso to steady him. “You’re not. He’s just a lightweight.”
“Nia,” Lena guesses.
Nia grins happily. “And you’re Lena. It’s really nice to finally meet you. I’ve heard great things. From Brainy and Kara both.”
As always, this kind of compliment throws Lena.
Makes her feel exposed. Inadequate.
She’s forcing a smile and a thank you when she feels arms encircling her waist. When she looks over, she’s greeted by Kara kissing her cheek, and her heart floods with gratitude and gladness.
She returns cheek kisses of her own. Out of the corner of her eyes, she thinks she can see Nia smirk.
“I’m so glad you made it,” Kara gushes, as she always does when she sees Lena.
“Come on, let me introduce you to everyone.”
Besides Brainy and Nia, there’s James and Winn, who greet her with high-fives and half-hugs like they’re already friends. There’s Jonn and Magann, who work with Alex at the hospital, who are a little aloof but cordial. There’s Kelly, who immediately hands Lena a flute of champagne before dashing off to assemble her a cheese plate. There’s William, Mackenzie, and Franklin, who all work at CatCo and greet her politely.
And then there’s Alex Danvers.
Lena’s not a woman who’s easily cowed. She’s faced hateful girls from boarding schools, taken on hostile men in boardrooms, and she’s not known for backing off or backing down. But now, there’s Kara’s sister, leaning against the kitchen counter with a beer dangling from her fingers; her posture is relaxed and nonchalant, but there’s a steely, unnerving glint in her eyes as she studies Lena.
Maybe Lena feels just a mite intimidated.
“So you’re Lena.”
Before Lena can respond, there’s Kara interceding, a low warning in her tone. “Yes, Alex, this is my friend Lena.”
Lena had not known that two syllables could sound so sarcastic. Trying to find something neutral to talk about, she picks out some decor she can comment on as distraction.
“What are those?” She nods at the three jars on the counter behind Alex, each with a label and a collection of change and some bills in them.
Alex grins. “Oh, well, these are-”
“Alex’s change jars,” Kara breaks in. “She, um, she just really loves Twizzlers and ice cream. So uh, she collects change for them.”
“All right,” Lena says, slightly dubious as she eyes the third jar. “And… ‘bail’?”
The Danvers sisters exchange glances. Lena can tell that they have a whole conversation - argument, really - in five silent seconds. It’s clear who wins the argument.
Sighing, with slow reluctance, Alex says, “Uh, I get into trouble a lot.” She shrugs helplessly. “What can I say? I love meth.”
Kara barks out a wild, high-pitched laugh. “She’s joking. Definitely joking. There’s no meth. She just, um, she gets into a lot of bar fights.”
“Because of the meth,” Alex supplies.
“There’s no meth,” Kara grits out. “You’re a doctor, Alex. Lena knows that and she knows you’re not on meth.”
“Hey, you know what?” Lena intervenes, putting an end to this miserable, very unbelievable charade. “I really don’t need to know.”
Rescue comes then, in the form of Kelly and her cheese plate, which Lena gratefully accepts.
Trying to lighten the mood, she jokes, “So I see that you live in a doorman building.” As evidenced by three confused faces, it doesn’t land well, and Lena’s inwardly cringing at herself. “There was a man sitting on the steps outside.”
“Oh, that’s Christos, our landlord,” Kelly says. “He lives in the building next door. He spends most of his time just hanging around, so, yes, he’s kind of like a doorman. He’s a good guy.”
“I don’t love that he still calls us ‘the Lesbians’,” Alex grumbles.
Kelly lays a placating hand on Alex’s arm. “Yes, but he fixes things when we ask and he hasn’t raised our rent in four years. That makes him a unicorn that we treasure greatly.”
Nodding absentmindedly, Alex’s focus is still on Lena. “So, Lena, do you have a plan for how long you’re going to keep sleeping with my sister, or is this a on-a-whim, ‘let me see how long I feel like it’ kind of thing?”
“Alex!” Kara squeaks angrily.
Smoothly, Kelly places her arm around Alex’s shoulders, giving a small push.
“Honey, I need you to hand out the cupcakes.” With that, she whisks Alex away.
When they’re gone, Lena says softly, “Wow.”
Anxiously, Kara offers, “I’m sorry about that.”
“So… that’s Alex.”
“That’s my sister.” The look of dismay on Kara’s face plainly reveals her thoughts on that introduction. “She, um, she’s had a long week at the hospital. It’s made her loopy. She’s normally… kind of normal.”
Although entirely unconvincing, Lena doesn’t find that it’s her place to pry. Besides, she finds herself suddenly accosted, when a drunken Brainy stumbles forth and hooks his arm around her shoulders. He’s holding a mostly full bottle of beer, some of which splashes out and lands on her dress as he jostles her.
“Sire,” he says earnestly.
Lena passes her cheese plate to Kara to use both hands to steady Brainy. “Sire?”
“Madame,” he corrects, randomly adding a French accent. “Let us while away the evening with amusing diversions. Will you not join me for a game of charades? It is plebeian, but may be good fun.”
Lena pats Brainy’s back, kindly but awkwardly. “Are you a time traveler? Why do you sound Victorian when you’re drunk?”
Emerging from the bathroom, Nia spots Brainy’s embarrassing scene and quickly makes her way to his side.
“Brainy!” Nia admonishes, pulling him back and away from Lena. “I leave you alone for two minutes- oh, god, no, I’m sorry, Lena, did he spill on you?”
“It’s quite all right,” Lena assures. “I guess now I know why Brainy never comes to L-Corp’s holiday parties. He really doesn’t hold his liquor well, does he?”
Kara steps into the kitchen and returns with paper towels, which she uses to dab away at the spill on Lena’s dress. “Do you like charades?”
“It’s not normally my thing, but I’ll play if only to see what Brainy does next.”
And Brainy says, actually says, “Huzzah!”
The partygoers split up into teams and start playing. Despite her anti-charade declaration, Lena finds herself having a good time. It’s due in no small part to the fact that she’s actually winning for once. Kara, the excellent guesser that she is, just gets what she’s trying to do. Alex looks thoroughly unimpressed by it all. Or maybe, like Lena, she’s just not a big fan of losing.
Brainy lasts two rounds before he has to go lie down in the bedroom, which is the best thing for everyone since he’s taken to shouting out the answers for everyone when it’s his turn.
“Work is going to be very interesting on Monday,” Lena comments to Magann as she watches Nia help him stagger off. She’s seated on the couch next to Magann and Jonn, with Alex perched on the armrest next to Jonn.
James and Winn are sitting on the floor nearby, while the other three CatCo employees chat amongst themselves on the far side of the room. Kara’s in the kitchen with Kelly, fixing up a plate of nachos and despite the temporary absence of her personified security blanket, Lena feels at ease.
At least until Magann asks: “So how long have you and Kara been together?”
Lena is thrown, and Alex’s snickering isn’t helping. “Oh. Uh, we- we’re not- um, we’re just- we’re not together.”
“Oh! I’m sorry!” Magann looks embarrassed. “I just thought- I’m sorry, I shouldn’t have assumed.”
Lena feels bad for it. She thinks back to how she’s interacted with Kara all evening. Her hand on Kara’s knee. Kara’s caressing of her back. The lean-in whispers, the glances, the giggles. It’s hardly Magann’s fault for assuming otherwise.
“No, it’s okay. Kara and I are… close.”
“They’re doing it,” Winn blurts out drunkenly. James swiftly gives him a not cool, bro rabbit punch to the arm. “Ow.” Winn whimpers, rubbing at the spot.
Lena remembers that she and Kara had agreed that it’d be okay to tell people. She just didn’t think she would be discussing it with Kara’s sister’s coworkers.
Jonn frowns in confusion. “But I thought that you’re just friends. So how does that-” Magann pointedly clears her throat. “You know, actually, this is none of my business.”
“Kids today and their hookup culture,” Alex deadpans to Jonn and Magann.
“Lena,” James breaks in. “I saw an article in the Times the other day about the Dasgupta report. Have you been following it?”
And because this is a room full of nerds, they spend the next half an hour discussing the economics of biodiversity instead of Lena’s torrid love life.
The evening starts winding down and people start leaving. Nia takes Brainy home, who has at least sobered up enough to walk out on his own, but not too sober to say goodbye to Lena with a “madame” and a bow. The trio of other CatCo employees is the next group to go, and Kara walks them to the door. Lena grabs her coat and trails them to the alcove entranceway. Kara closes the door behind the departing trio.
“It’s getting late,” Lena says, sliding her coat on. “I should get going too.”
“Oh.” Surprise and disappointment cross Kara’s face. Adjusting, she smiles. “But I think you’re forgetting something?”
“Did I? What?”
“This.” With a single step, Kara erases the gap between them, fully invading Lena’s space. She lightly cups her hands about the back of Lena’s neck, gently drawing her in until their lips meet. Initially reserved, then slowly escalating, until their tongues touch. Kara parts Lena’s long coat at the waist, hands to her hips, fingers burrowing underneath clothing until they meet flesh. Her fingers dig in, firmly gripping and pulling, joining their hips together, then grinding hard against Lena.
Distantly, dimly, Lena can hear Winn, who really should have stopped drinking hours ago, giggling madly; James, shushing fiercely; and Alex, groaning and muttering oh my god.
Abashed, Lena places two hands on Kara’s shoulders and gently breaks them apart. Kara heeds her wishes, but doesn’t look the slightest bit embarrassed at being caught making out in the entranceway of her sister’s small one-bedroom apartment. Instead, she’s looking at Lena like she’s a Christmas morning present, wrapped up all fancy with a bow on top.
“Do you want to come home with me?” Kara whispers.
Lena, suddenly finding herself unable to speak, nods.
A few minutes later, Kara’s said her goodbyes (resolutely ignoring Alex’s stony “I thought you were going to help me clean up”), and leads Lena by the hand out into the streets and toward her apartment.
They walk along the street in comfortable silence.
“I don’t have a plan.”
Without breaking stride, Kara glances at Lena. “What’s that?”
“What Alex said asked me back there.” Lena gestures vaguely, as if that somehow helps. “She asked me if I had a plan for… how long this thing lasts. I don’t have a plan. It ends when Mike comes back, I know that. But other than that, I don’t have a plan.”
Unsure of how to respond, Kara says, “Okay. That’s fine.”
Lena pushes on to her main point. “It’s not exactly a whim either. You’re not a whim. It sounds, it just sounds so wrong. I wanted you to know that. You’re… more than that to me.” Nervously, heart-pounding, she ventures. “I think of you as my friend, Kara.”
“Right. Same here. I, I feel the same way.” Kara reaches out, snagging the crook of Lena’s elbow with her hand. “I like you, Lena. I like being your friend. I- well, honestly, I’m hoping that when this is all said and done, we’ll still be friends. Just without the benefits.”
At Kara’s ready embrace of her proffered friendship, Lena’s heart flips and somersaults. Maybe it shouldn’t have been a surprise, not with all the time they’ve spent together, with Kara’s steady reassurances, the eager way she engages in conversations with her. But some scars are permanent, and for Lena, finding out that someone wants to spend time with her is always a surprise.
So she quells her uncomfortable excitement by changing the topic.
“Alex is nothing like how I had imagined. It’s hard to picture her as a little girl in Krypton. She must have raised hell.”
Kara doesn’t say anything right away. She mulls over how to address this, if this is even the right time for it. But then, there never is a right time.
“Alex didn’t grow up in Krypton. She’s from Midvale. In California.” She doesn’t have to look at Lena to know that there’s confusion there.
“My mistake. I thought you had told me that you didn’t move to California until you were thirteen.”
“I did. But, um, Alex- well, she’s not actually my- well, I mean, she’s my sister, but we’re not related by blood. Um, our parents were old friends. And, uh.” Christ, there is no easy way to say this, even after all these years. Kara decides to just rip off the bandaid. “My parents died when I was thirteen. I didn’t have any family who could take me in, so the Danvers adopted me and I moved to Midvale.”
Lena nearly falters in her steps, but recovers quickly.
“Ah,” she says.
Then nothing more. Kara had half-expected more. Most people have follow up questions. But evidently Lena doesn’t. Through her continued silence, she shows that she doesn’t care to pursue the subject. And Kara can’t even begin to decipher how that makes her feel.
They make it back to Kara’s apartment, a pre-war building at the corner of a busy street which takes up the entire block. Kara’s on the top floor of a five-story walk-up and Lena suddenly regrets her choice of footwear, thin-stemmed high heels.
Reading the apprehension on her face, Kara flashes a cheeky grin. “Want me to carry you up?”
Lena laughs it off, but she kind of suspects that Kara could actually do it. The thought makes her run a little hot, fueling her motivation to hurriedly click-clack her way up the stairs.
It’s an old building with dim hallways, mosaic floor with chipped tiles, and wobbly bannisters. But the inside of Kara’s apartment is evidently well maintained, although clearly historic (read: old), and meticulously decorated with cozy furnishings. It’s small and the tour takes all of twenty seconds, since one can see just about every available room from the living room.
Kara leads Lena through the living room to access her room at the back of the apartment. It’s a long, narrow space, with just enough room for a full-sized bed and a small desk. There’s a window at the back of the room next to the bed, offering a stunning view of the neighboring building’s brick wall six feet away. It reminds Lena of a closet. In fact, it is just slightly smaller than the walk-in closet attached to her master bedroom.
“So… this is me.” Kara stands in the middle of the room, hands in her pockets, shoulders raised in a nervous half-shrug. “It’s not much, but…”
“It’s perfect,” Lena says, and meaning it. She sits down on the edge of the bed, running her hand over the comforter on top. “And this is your bed.”
“That’s my bed.”
“I was wondering when it would make an appearance.”
“Were you? I didn’t know. It was just easier for me to go to you, but I would’ve been happy to have you come over.”
“Looks like I’m going to have to start being more explicit with you.”
Feeling a touch offended, Kara tries to scowl. Tries to, because she has a dopey smile on her face that’s hard to break through. “Excuse you, I’m very perceptive. I am a journalist with keen investigative skills.”
Lena half-lies back on the bed, resting on her elbows. “Are you? Because I’ve been giving you ‘fuck me’ eyes all night, yet you’re still standing over there, not taking my clothes off.”
Goaded into action, Kara rushes forward. She scrambles on top, planting her knees against the bed to straddle Lena. She dips her head down, and, cupping the sides of the brunette’s face, draws her in for a kiss. Neither feeling the need for a build-up, they start with open mouths and dueling tongues, hands immediately prowling over each other’s bodies. Kara finds the edge of Lena’s dress at mid-thigh and starts pushing the material up. Lena goes to work on the buttons of Kara’s shirt.
Lena’s just managed the last button when she moves away slightly, just an inch, and says, “It’s really hot.”
Still palming Lena’s thigh, Kara nods and mutters, “Yeah, babe, you make me hot too.”
She leans back in, only for Lena to shift her head to the side with a small, sheepish chuckle. “No, I mean it’s hot in the room.”
“Oh!” Kara quickly slides off, getting to her feet. “Right. Hot, temperature-wise. It’s these radiators. You can’t adjust them.” She crosses to the window at the back of the room and cracks it open. “Better?”
The blast of cold air hits Lena’s skin, offering much needed reprieve. Although it does nothing for the fire she feels inside.
Judging by the lascivious look on Kara’s face, she understands exactly how Lena feels.
There’s no need to delay anymore after that. Kara starts undressing, and Lena follows suit. They get under the covers together, where the kissing and touching resumes. When they’re ready, they lie on their sides facing one another, slipping inside the other with their fingers. Then comes the push and pull, the building of ecstasy. Lena comes first, but Kara isn’t far behind.
In the aftermath, they’re lying tangled up in each other, all cooling skin and slowing heartbeats.
Lena can hear sirens in the distance through the open window. It fades soon, leaving the room silent saved for the faint hissing of the radiator.
“I’m adopted too.” Her voice, at a whisper, sounds too loud in the dark.
Kara answers in a stunned voice, “What?”
“My father was married and he had an affair with my birth mother. But I always thought that she didn’t know who he was. She died when I was very young. So my father and his wife adopted me, but they didn’t… they raised me to believe that I was adopted. I didn’t know that he was my birth father until after he passed.”
The ensuing silence from Kara is offset by a gust of wind whistling through the cracked window.
Finally, she asks, “Why didn’t they tell you?”
“I don’t know,” Lena answers simply. “Can you believe, I’ve never asked. It just seemed… I don’t know, somehow natural that they wouldn’t have told me. Fitting for the Luthors.” Lena shifts closer, nosing her way into the crook of Kara’s neck, where she finds comfort in the scent of her skin. “I should’ve said something earlier, when you told me about your adoption. I’m sorry. I didn’t… I didn’t know what to say.
“I thought I’d be, uh, I don’t know, maybe come off as minimizing if I told you right away, like I’d be one-upping you with my story. Then I wanted to ask you more about you, but I thought it felt… unbalanced, like I was probing when I hadn’t shared my experience with you. And then it just… it was too late to say anything because I’d let it go too long.”
Kara softly strokes the bare skin on the brunette’s back. She presses a kiss to her temple.
“Thank you for telling me.”
Lena hums softly in return. “Yeah.”
She lies in Kara’s arm, quiet and almost afraid to move, afraid that it’ll break the moment. She knows what has to happen next. She just doesn’t want to take that next step. Because, despite what Kara had initially set for ground rules, it’s been made abundantly clear to Lena that Kara does not want to do overnights. Kara’s never stayed at her place, and Lena expects that it’s only a matter of time before she wants Lena to go. And all Lena can do is leave before she wears out her welcome.
Lena stirs; Kara tightens her hold, and Lena stills.
Lena pulls back enough to look at Kara’s face, searching for uncertainty. “Are you sure?”
But there’s no reluctance to be found. Kara places her hand on Lena’s face, thumb slowly stroking her cheek.
Lena doesn’t have to be asked twice. She lies back down, folding herself up against her lover as close as she can get. She closes her eyes, and loses herself to sleep in the safety and security of Kara’s arms.
When Lena wakes, it’s morning and the bed is empty. She doesn’t have to look far to find the answer to her question. There’s a note on the pillow beside her which reads, “getting breakfast, back soon” followed by three hearts.
Thoughtfully, Kara’s laid out a towel, some clean clothes, and a new toothbrush on the small desk. Lena rises and finds her way to the bathroom, where she showers and puts on Kara’s yoga pants and an oversized gray hoodie which blissfully smells like her. Rubbing a towel through her wet hair, she patters into the living room, where she looks out the window and surveys the outside world. It’s snowing heavily, already an inch-thick pile accumulated on the window sill, the streets below quiet, desolate, covered in white.
She hears the front door opening behind her, she turns to find Kara stumbling through the door, still with snow and ice stuck to her hair and jacket, holding their breakfast in a greasy-looking brown paper bag.
In the entranceway, Kara stomps the snow off her boots. “Wow, getting windy out there.”
“Thanks for picking up breakfast. But don’t you have brunch with Alex?”
Removing her winter gear, Kara answers, “No, it’s Valentine’s Day, remember? She has plans with Kelly. My roommate’s out of town too. It’s just the two of us.”
There’s something uncomfortable to that thought. Lena doesn’t have much experience with these types of arrangements, but she’s pretty sure that you’re not supposed to spend Valentine’s Day alone with your friend with benefits.
But. Kara isn’t being weird about it. She’s handing off their breakfast to Lena and skipping off to the kitchen to make them coffee. And breakfast smells really, really good.
This doesn’t have to be a big deal. Friends can hang out. Even if they had sex the night before. Anyway, Lena doesn’t even think much of Valentine’s Day. It can be a day just like any other day. So. This doesn’t have to be a big deal.
They eat their breakfast (a bodega classic: bacon, egg, and cheese on a roll) on the coffee table. After breakfast, Kara produces a heart-shaped box of Kit Kat mini-chocolates.
“Happy Valentine’s Day.”
“Are we doing presents?” Lena feels a spike of panic at the thought.
Kara laughs, playfully swatting her knee. “No, I just wanted some chocolate.” She unwraps a chocolate bar and pops it in her mouth. “And so I can say this: Kit Kat in the street, wildcat between the sheets.”
“I feel as though it shouldn’t count when you specifically buy something just to make that joke.”
Kara huffs, unwrapping another Kit Kat already. “You’re so hard to please.”
“I think, darling,” Lena replies, lightly pulling at a strand of Kara’s hair. “Our time in bed has proved otherwise.”
Predictably, Kara blushes, which is why Lena said it in the first place.
Kara busies herself with cleaning up the chocolate wrappers she’s sprinkled on the table. “So you wanna watch something? Have you seen Russian Doll?”
As enticing as that sounds, Lena finds herself saying, “I should probably go.”
Kara gestures at the window. “Are you sure? It’s gross out. And I’m from Minnesota, I know winter.”
Indeed, the weather’s unpleasant. The wind’s picked up, whipping up the falling snow, dangerously veering close to a blizzard.
“Come on.” In encouragement, Kara nudges the brunette’s knee with her own. “We’ll hide inside, hang out, watch TV, watch the snow. I’ll make you a hot chocolate later. I make a really good hot chocolate.”
This is dangerous and stupid and blurs too many lines and Lena just doesn’t know how to say no.
Kara squeals, throws her arms around Lena, lurching them both back and forth in a jubilant embrace. Kara opens up the laptop she has sitting on the coffee table and starts setting up the show. Lena heads to the kitchen for water. She’s just turning off the tap when a heavy knock sounds at the door.
“Do you want me to get that?”
“Sure,” Kara responds, looking confused, as one does when somebody randomly knocks on your apartment door without notice.
It’s probably just the building super or maybe an industrious campaign worker who’s decided to brave the snow. Maybe a delivery person who has the wrong apartment. It could be anyone.
But if you had asked Lena what she was expecting to find on the other side of the door, her answer probably wouldn’t be ‘a grown man dressed up like a duck’. Scratch that, make that four grown men dressed up like ducks. Even stranger, the yellow duck costumes have been dyed to a grayish hue.
“Kara Danvers?” the lead duck asks.
From the living room, Kara calls out, “I’m here.” She steps to the entrance and spots her bizarrely costumed visitors. “Oh my.”
The lead duck says, “We’re the Grand Central Termi-Notes and we-”
The duck behind him interrupts, “No, we’re the Brooklyn Heights Serenades.”
The lead duck whips his head around and hisses, “Trevor, I’ve told you, that doesn’t make any sense! It’s pronounced prom--en--nod not prom--en--ade and it’s completely-” Cutting himself off, the lead duck clears his throat and turns back to Lena and Kara with a forced smile. “We’re working on our name. Lucky for you, this won’t affect our performance.”
Kara blinks slowly. “What is this?”
The lead duck sighs and grumbles (grouses), “Look, lady, this is one of the weirder gigs I’ve had. Your boyfriend paid us a lot of money to get these ridiculous costumes done for one song. When I tried to cancel this morning because of the stupid snowstorm, dude just wouldn’t take no for an answer. He was all, ‘no no no, it has to be today, it’s Valentine’s Day.’ So, can you please just let us do our song so this guy will stop calling me?”
Still deeply confused, Kara nevertheless steps to the side and lets the ducks in. The ducks spread themselves out in the living room. One of the ducks takes out his phone and a little stand and sets it up on the window sill. He aims the camera at the group and hits record. The lead duck gestures at the couch. Cautiously, bewilderedly, Lena and Kara take their seats.
Then, much to Lena’s horror, the ducks start singing.
“Am I more than you bargained for yet? I've been dying to tell you anything you want to hear, 'cause that's just who I am this week.”
Really, they’re not bad. They’re in harmony and on key; they sound good. But it’s still four grown men dressed up in ghoulishly dyed gray duck costumes doing an acapella version of a Fall Out Boy song, so Lena’s pretty much dying from vicarious embarrassment.
“Drop a heart, break a name. We're always sleeping in, and sleeping for the wrong team. We're goin' down, down in an earlier round, and sugar, we're goin' down swinging.”
The ducks are dancing. Or what qualifies as dancing in acapella, which amounts to rhythmic bouncing and enthusiastic swaying like willow trees in a stiff wind. Lena sits there, wide-eyed, stock-still, a frozen smile plastered on her face, unsure of how to react but not wanting to hurt the ducks’ feelings. She wonders if heart-on-her-sleeves Kara is as successful in masking her awkward feelings toward this performance. She looks over to check Kara’s reaction and --
Kara’s into it. Like super into it. She’s clapping her hands, bopping her head, mouthing along to the lyrics. Lena’s secondhand embarrassment compounds.
“I'll be your number one with a bullet, a loaded god complex, cock it and pull it.”
The song comes to a merciful end with the ducks striking a pose. Kara leaps to her feet, applauding enthusiastically, and Lena goes along with it out of politeness.
“That was so good! So, so good!” Kara looks over at Lena for affirmation.
Lena widens her smile and nods. “Mm-hmm!”
One of the ducks reclaims his phone from the window sill and asks Kara for her email address to send her the video. He asks Lena for hers too, and before Lena can figure out how to politely decline, Kara gives it to him. Their work complete, the ducks waddle out of the apartment.
In departure, the lead duck says to Kara, “That dude must really love you.”
Kara walks them out. She closes the door behind them and when she turns around, Lena is surprised - if not downright perturbed - to see tears in Kara’s eyes.
“So… you really liked that?”
Nodding, struggling to keep her voice steady, Kara says,“That was like the sweetest thing anyone’s ever done for me.”
Lena wonders if ‘sweet’ and ‘bizarre’ are synonyms for Kara. “Was it? That’s… that’s great? That’s great. Uh, so you’re into acapella?”
“Uh huh. Well, sort of.” Kara shrugs. “Mike got me into it. Back in Krypton, he was in the church choir, but he always used to skip choir practice to go hang out with me at the lake.”
“And… what was that? Fall Out Boy? That’s what you like?”
“Well, not so much these days, but it was- it was kind of like a thing for me and Mike when we were young.” A fond smile spreads across Kara’s face as she stares off into space, reminiscing. “God, we used to spend hours just sitting around in his basement, listening to music. We would burn CDs for each other and take turns being the DJ. I think his parents still have an entire box in their basement just full of the CDs we made.”
Lena is learning way too much about Kara and MIke’s relationship. It’s becoming too real too fast. The solution is obviously to change the topic as fast as possible and --
From the coffee table, Kara’s laptop trills. She crosses the living room, sits down next to Lena on the couch and peers at the screen. “Oh! It’s Mike!”
Before Lena can escape, Kara answers.
And Lena finds herself staring into the face of the man whose girlfriend she’s fucking.
He’s handsome. Predictably so. His beard is slightly patchy, but he has kind eyes and a nice smile which stretches from ear to ear when he sees Kara.
“Mike!” Kara squeals, more excited than Lena’s ever seen her. For reasons she doesn’t care to explore, it leaves her with a heavy feeling in the pit of her stomach. “The guys just left! I loved it so, so much. That was amazing!”
“I hate that we’re spending Valentine’s Day apart. I know how much you love it and I just really wanted to do something special for you.” With great confusion, Mike glances at Lena, who is trying to subtly lean her way out of frame.
Catching on, Kara grabs the brunette by the arm and pulls her close. “I’m sorry! I didn’t even introduce you! Mike, this is Lena. Lena, this is Mike.”
Whatever reaction Lena had been anticipating, it isn’t this. Mike’s expression clears, he’s beaming broadly, looking genuinely enthused.
“So this is Lena! Hey, Lena! It’s so nice to finally put a face to a name.”
“Hi,” Lena returns weakly.
“Happy Valentine’s Day! Any plans today?”
Lena thinks, besides railing your girlfriend? but says, “No, no plans. Just… around.”
“Did you like the show?”
“Yes, I did.” Because what else could she possibly say? “I must confess, I didn’t understand the costumes.”
Kara and Mike break into simultaneous laughter, and Lena’s acutely aware that this is a joke that she’s not in on.
“Um, Mike calls me gray duck sometimes,” Kara explains. “It’s his pet name for me. You know that children’s game, duck, duck, gray duck?”
Lena stares at her, feeling like this whole thing is getting more incomprehensible by the second. “Do you mean duck, duck, goose?”
Kara and Mike laugh again in unison, and Lena feels something unsettling and ugly bubbling up inside.
“Nope, definitely not,” Mike responds with his eyes adoringly fixed on Kara. “It’s duck, duck, gray duck. And pop, not soda, right, Kara?”
Kara, seeing Lena’s perplexion, touches her hand to Lena’s knee. “It’s just a thing where we’re from. It’s the same game, but we say gray duck instead of goose.”
“Obviously gray duck’s the superior version,” Mike says lightly. “We used to play when we were kids, and Kara was always my pick for gray duck. Even at six years old, I always picked Kara.”
As Kara aww’s and Lena wishes for the ground to swallow her whole, Lena manages a feeble, “That’s… sweet. That’s really sweet, Mike.”
Then Kara asks Mike a question about what he’s been up to today and he launches into a story about his adventures trying to find tater tots in Munich. For like the tenth time today, Kara’s enthralled for reasons that Lena does not understand. But she’s grateful for the distraction. She slips away to Kara’s bedroom, where she takes off the clothes that Kara has given her and puts on last night’s dress. She gathers her things and steps back out into the living room, where she finds Kara laughing uproariously at something that Mike’s just said.
Kara stops when she sees Lena standing there fully dressed. “Mike, I’ll be right back.” She jumps to her feet and quickly crosses the room. “Hey, where are you going?”
“I should be getting home.” Lena nods at the laptop. “And you should spend Valentine’s Day with your boyfriend.”
Kara holds Lena’s gaze, worrying at her bottom lip, the crinkle in her forehead suggesting that there’s something she would like to say.
But all she comes up with is, “Okay.”
Lena leans in, places a quick peck to Kara’s cheek and softly squeezes her arm in parting.
She lets herself out, click-clacks her way down five flights of stairs and out into the cold, tempestuous snow.