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Bizarre Love Triangle

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The summer's touch
I loved so much I played again and again
And in the end I wasn't innocent
but we can still pretend
Stars are falling, are we falling too?
Dawn is coming, what's this coming to?
On a night like this

“Night Like This” - LP

 

 

Lena’s never been much of a fan of team sports. She’ll occasionally attend a basketball or baseball game when it suits her business interests to do so, but otherwise, she doesn’t see the point. The arbitrary rules, the blind fanatical devotion to an arbitrary team based upon the city the team names itself after, the idolization of men who can throw balls very far — she doesn’t understand any of it.

But what she does understand is that Kara Danvers looks smoking hot in a sleeveless jersey and tight black pants. So here is she, sitting on a picnic blanket beneath a large tree nearby Central Park Great Lawn Field #3, watching a softball game that she otherwise has zero interest in. Lena’s not too proud to admit that she can be shallow. But, in her defense, Kara’s ass looks phenomenal in that uniform.

“Eww,” Alex says with a look of pure disgust on her face. “That is my sister. My baby sister. Why would you say that to me?”

Alex should be sitting with her team instead of towering before Lena, staring down at her. She should be watching Kara on second base, ready to make a run for third. But she’s not, because Kara’s on second base and therefore there’s no one to stop her from harassing Lena.

Lena shrugs unabashedly. “Don’t ask questions you don’t want to know the answer to. You asked ‘why would anyone in their right mind go to their fuck buddy’s rec league softball game’ and that’s my honest answer. To stare at your sister’s phenomenal ass.”

Alex reflexively cringes at those words, before quickly shifting into a scowl. “You didn’t have to say it again.”

“I did not,” Lena answers breezily. “But I wanted to. Because extraordinary derrières should be acknowledged and appreciated.” Deliberately, she pauses, then adds as a feigned afterthought, “Outside the bedroom, that is. Kara already knows how admiring I am of her behind in the bedroom.”

That does the trick. Alex stomps off to rejoin her teammates behind the chain link fence as Lena tries to hide her victorious smirk. She turns her attention back to Kara just in time to see the blonde take off for third, then home as the ground ball rolls between the legs of the first base player. Lena applauds as Kara crosses over home plate, then watches with surprise as Kara keeps jogging, changing direction towards her.

Then Kara’s standing before her, hands on her hips, her head blocking the sun and giving the appearance of a glowing god. A glowing god with athletic, toned arms showcased by her sleeveless shirt and powerful calves wrapped in black stretchy fabric. And Lena thinks that she finally understands the appeal of team sports. Or at least their uniforms.

That glowing god now asks, “Having a good time?”

Making no attempt to hide her leering, Lena says, “Definitely.”

Kara shuffles her feet, shy but pleased by Lena’s indecent scrutiny. “I’m glad. And I’m also glad that you came.”

“Me too,” Lena replies, somehow managing to fit but I’ll be even gladder to peel your uniform off later into two words. Kara blushes, clearly absorbing the full meaning and entertaining similar thoughts herself. Actually, maybe they could sneak off—

“KARA!” Alex hollers from a distance as the rest of their team trots out onto the field.

“Oops. Okay, I’ll be back.” Kara takes off to take her place in the pitcher’s circle.

The stint doesn’t last long because the strikes come quickly and steadily. Even to Lena’s inexpert eye, it’s obvious that Kara is an unnaturally gifted athlete who probably shouldn’t be allowed to play in a recreational league. Soon the teams switch. While her teammates are up at bat, Kara jogs back and forth between the backstop and Lena, alternating between cheering on the batter and dropping lame jokes on Lena to keep her amused. (“Did you hear the joke about the pop fly? ...Forget it. It’s way over your head.”)

All the while, Alex throws annoyed glares at them with her jaw clenched tight and foot tapping rapidly. So it hardly surprises Lena that, when Kara’s called up to bat, Alex makes a beeline for her.

“You’re dating my sister.”

“Is that so?”

Yes,” Alex spits out. “This is dating behavior. You see each other just about every day now. You text all the time. You come to her softball game. She spends the night at your place. She has a fucking key to your apartment!”

Lena hums neutrally. “Kara mentioned that you were really fixated about that key thing.”

Alex throws up both hands in exhausted exasperation. “Because it’s crazy! Friends with benefits don’t do things like that. Maybe Kara’s a little too naive to see it, but you’re not, are you? You two are dating. You are girlfriends. And I can’t believe-”

“Okay, fine,” Lena interjects.

Taken aback, Alex stops in the middle of her sentence. “What’s that?”

“I said fine. As you say. Kara is my girlfriend. At least for the next few weeks.”

It takes a second for it to click; when it does, Alex narrows her eyes. “Okay, Luthor, I know what you’re doing and I don’t like it.”

“What am I doing?”

“You’re telling me what you think I want to hear to shut me up.”

“Not at all. I’m validating your viewpoint. If you’re more comfortable labeling Kara and me as girlfriends, then by all means. If it helps you, then why not? It doesn’t bother me.” Lena’s staring past Alex, watching Kara, who’s on first base now and casting concerned glances over her way. Lena smiles and waves, reassuring her that everything’s fine.

Alex, still with the disgruntled squinty-look, is momentarily thrown. Quickly, she pivots. “Okay, great, so we agree. She’s your girlfriend. And you’re in love with her.”

Unfazed, Lena throws back, “Well, I’m certainly besotted with her posterior. It’s just so firm and globular. It’s really nice to hold on to while I’m eating her out like a ripe, juicy Georgia peach.”

To Alex’s credit, her head does not explode. But she does gawk at Lena with abject horror like the witness to a bloody, senseless crime.

Alex opens her mouth to scream, yell, and otherwise loudly express displeasure, only to find that she can’t. The only thing that comes out is a high-pitched groan. What Lena said was so incomprehensibly awful, it broke her. So the only thing she can think of to do is make an about-face and walk away. Just walk away. Some disasters can’t be salvaged.

Alex does not approach Lena again for the rest of the game.

***

After the softball game (Kara’s team wins, of course; it wasn’t even close), Lena and Kara take a stroll through Central Park, hand-in-hand, making their way to Rumsey Playfield. In the summer, the city is inundated with music in a series of free outdoor concerts. Hundreds of concerts of different genres take place all over the city. Tonight’s concert featured a Spanish soul singer, an Israeli electro hip-hop group, and a Cameroonian blues singer.

A makeshift concert venue has been erected, although the music can be heard far and wide. They don’t go into the designated concert area, but opt for the surrounding grassy fields. The area is teeming with people, clusters of friends and families spread out on picnic blankets, dotting the field like scattered archipelagos. They find a spot far from the stage, where the crowd is thinner but the music still audible.

They unfold Lena’s picnic blanket. Kara scrounges up food from a nearby halal cart, bringing back containers of chicken and rice doused in mystery white sauce and eye-wateringly spicy red sauce. Lena makes a face and half-heartedly complains about the insane calorie count and overall healthiness of their meal, but eats it anyway because it’s delicious. After their meal, Kara lies down with her head in Lena’s lap and stares up at the night sky, listening to the music mixed in with the snippets of chatter from passersby.

“You can’t see the stars from the city,” Kara remarks idly. “Isn’t that sad?”

Lena tilts her head up, but of course she sees nothing but gray skies. Still, she says, “I’ve seen stars.”

“You think you’ve seen stars,” Kara rebuts. “Glimpses here and there from a rooftop. But it’s not like it is in the country. Not like in Krypton.”

Lena’s hand finds its way to Kara’s hair, gently combing her fingers through. “Tell me about it?”

Kara is momentarily silent as she thinks of how to start. From the distant stage, she can hear the Spanish soul singer, her sultry voice cutting through the night and the crowd, performing a jazzy flamenco song, singing words that sound beautiful but that Kara does not understand.

“My dad loved astronomy. Space was his thing. He used to let me stay up late and drive out with him to the edge of town to watch the stars. Sometimes he’d even get the Matthews to let Mike come with us. It’s incredible. I haven’t seen anything like that since I left Krypton. The sky out there is just covered with countless stars as far as you can see. It’s so beautiful, it’s almost… I don’t know, spiritual? Transcendental, maybe. And it’s… I don’t know, I don’t want to say quiet. Nature has its own sound, and it can feel loud because it’s everywhere, but it’s not noise, you know?”

And Lena doesn’t. Not really. But she knows that Kara is sharing something important, so she says encouragingly, “I can imagine. It sounds lovely.”

“Out there, with my dad, under that sky- it’s, well, it made me feel so connected to nature, the universe, everything around us. I’ve never felt peace like that since. But, well,” Kara tries for a light shrug. “That was before my parents passed. So. Different times.”

Lena is quiet as she contemplates whether to pose this next question. Finally, she makes up her mind. “Do you mind if I ask how they passed?”

“House fire.” Kara’s voice is soft and flat, volume so low that no pain is discernible. “I wasn’t home. I was sleeping over at a friend’s house. Apparently that was lucky. Or so everyone told me.”

Lena detangles her hand from blonde locks and moves it to Kara’s cheek, stroking gently. “I’m so sorry that happened to you.”

In a barely audible voice, Kara says, “Yeah.” Then, after a long silence: “I love this city, but sometimes I wish I lived somewhere where I could see the stars. Sometimes… well, when I miss my dad, it’s kind of comforting to… be able to look up and see something that reminds of him. It’s nice. It hurts, but it’s nice, if that makes sense.”

“It does,” Lena answers softly, understanding all too well.

“At the same time, it um, it can be intense. Mike and I go camping upstate sometimes and um, I just never know how I’m going to react when I can actually see the stars. Sometimes I just, I just start crying and I can’t even say why.” She trails off, suddenly feeling self-conscious in her sentimentality, which seems banal and saccharine when said out loud. Shaking her head, she sits up, pulling away. “It’s silly. They’re just stars. I know that. I’m sorry. Mike says that dwelling on the past like that isn’t good for me. He always says that I need to focus on the good stuff and not the things that make me sad. And he’s right- I, I know that I’m being ridiculous but I can’t seem to help it.”

As Lena watches Kara shrink back, a sense of familiarity settles over her. She’s seen this behavior before. She’s lost count of the number of times she had cut herself off or ended the conversation as quickly as possible when she thought that she had reached the maudlin quota in the Dead Parent Talk. She pulls her knees up to her chest, and rests her head on folded arms. She studies Kara’s profile, who’s staring off towards the direction of the stage even though nothing interesting can be seen.

“I don’t remember much of my birth mother,” she volunteers. “I was young when she passed. But I remember her singing.” She has Kara’s attention now and Lena finds that now she’s the one who has to stare off into the distance.

“She had an Irish accent. As a child, I listened obsessively to Irish female singers simply because it evoked a good memory. To this day, whenever I feel like I’m missing my mother, I’ll listen to that music and it’s… comforting. It makes me feel closer to her. I think when you’ve suffered a loss like we have, it’s normal to hold on to whatever small bit of connection we had. We keep the memory alive however we can. Even if it’s all a bit of an illusion. Even if it hurts. Or especially if it hurts because that makes it more real, doesn’t it?”

Lena glances over and sees Kara watching her keen focus. Kara offers a nod and an encouraging smile. Lena feels a sudden burst of kinship, coupled with an intense desire for confession.

“You know that band, the Cranberries? They have this one song called ‘Ode to My Family’ that I’ve never been able to listen to without getting teary, but I still do it. Especially when I’m feeling sad. When their lead singer died a few years ago, I took it really hard. I cried for three days. So if you want to talk about the silly things one does to hold on to the past, I’ve got plenty of stories. So you go on being ridiculous all you want, because I’m right there with you.”

When she looks back at Kara, she sees a look of deep concentration on her face, mixed in with… not sympathy, exactly. There’s no sorrow or pity. There’s only understanding.

Kara reaches out, loosely taking a hold of Lena’s hand in her own. “That must be hard, losing her so young. I can’t imagine. I was a teenager when it happened and I… I don’t know, sometimes it feels like I lose more and more of them as time goes on. I forget. There are things I know I used to know, like… the smell of our living room or the color of our fridge. And I just, I just don’t remember that stuff anymore.”

“I think it might actually be easier because I was so young.” Lena shrugs, shoulders heavy. “You can’t miss something you never knew.”

“Sure, you can,” Kara says quietly. “If you can imagine it, you can miss it. Or at least long for it. It’s perfectly understandable to want to know what was or could’ve been. Your time with your mom is a part of you, whether you remember it or not.”

Lena had never thought of it that way. In an instant, Kara had articulated and validated a feeling that Lena’s had her whole life. A part of her had always thought that it didn’t make any sense for her to be nostalgic for a time so long ago; some part of her judged herself for being sentimental for something she barely remembers. The kind of grace she extended to other people, she had difficulty applying it to herself. It didn’t feel okay until Kara told her that it was.

Overwhelmed and not knowing quite what to say, all she could do in that moment was squeeze Kara’s hand. Kara, understanding, just holds her hand quietly.

The two of them sit like that for a bit, listening to the music, enjoying being in each other’s presence.

After a long while, Kara says, “You know, Mike named a star after me?”

Which is absurd to Lena. For one, star-naming isn’t actually a thing. For two, she’s not particularly keen to talk about Mike at the moment. Or ever. But Kara seems to want to talk.

So, carefully feigning interest, she says, “Is that right?”

“Yeah. My freshman year of college, I was so lost. I was having a really hard time being away from Eliza and Alex… I, I don’t know, I think going away to college made me feel like I was losing my family again. And Mike and I- well, you know how we’ve been on and off our whole lives. This time we were definitely off. He was supposed to visit me at Thanksgiving in California, but then at the last minute, he decided to go home instead. The thing was, he couldn’t work up his nerve to tell me until I was on my way to the airport to pick him up. He was already back in Minnesota.

“So then we had a really bad fight and broke up. We weren’t even talking to each other. I thought we were finally done for good. But then during Christmas break, he showed up in Midvale at my house in the middle of the night. He said that he had named a star after me, gave me the certificate and everything. He told me that he was sorry and said that he loves me. He didn’t have the money for a plane ticket, so he drove something like thirty hours from Krypton just to do that.”

“That’s…” Lena tries to search for the right word she feels comfortable using. “That’s sweet of him.” Even though, on the inside, she’s thinking that it’s absurd for someone to pay money for a meaningless piece of paper.

“Hmm. Of course, then Alex came out and yelled at him for ringing our doorbell at two AM. Then she called him a complete moron because you can’t name a star like that and that he basically paid $50 for a piece of paper.”

Which was, of course, the exact thing that Lena had been thinking, but nonetheless, to be supportive, she says, “It was still a nice gesture.”

“That’s what I said.” Kara sighs, moving to tuck her feet underneath her. “Alex’s never really liked him. I don’t know why. Yeah, he makes mistakes, but he always apologizes for his mistakes and tries to make up for them. He’s a good guy, but I don’t think she sees that about him.”

Truth be told, Lena doesn’t see it either. But she knows that it’s a terrible idea to critique, even ever so slightly, the boyfriend of the woman you’re sleeping with.

With a nearly natural smile, she asks with almost no trace of reluctance, “You really miss him, don’t you?”

Kara’s delicately picking off a knotweed leaf that’s blown onto their picnic blanket. She pinches it with two fingers, and, extending her arm over the edge of the blanket, lets go of the leaf to deposit it back to the field where it came. A slight breeze stirs, just enough to sway the plant back onto the blanket.

Kara watches until the knotweed has fallen to the cloth-covered ground, before answering. “Of course.”

Lena inhales sharply, smiling wider now. “Well. It won’t be long now before you’re back together.”

Kara, still staring at the intruding weed, says, “Yeah.”

***

For some reason, Kara insists on going out to Brooklyn for Vietnamese food, even though there are dozens of viable options in Manhattan. But Lena assumes that the restaurant must be special. She’s grown accustomed to Kara’s fanatical devotion to food.

But when they get to the restaurant, it becomes abundantly clear why Kara chose this place.

Kara sweeps her arm at the storefront, which has a red awning bearing the name of the restaurant.

With unbridled joy, Kara begins, “Pho King in the street-”

“Did you seriously drag me all the way out here for that?”

Kara grins proudly. “Uh-huh!”

“Is this place even any good?”

“I don’t know.” Kara shrugs carelessly. “Although the reviewers on google seem to have a recurring problem with finding plastic in their food.”

They end up getting empanadas from a food truck instead.

***

When Lena wakes, her bedside clock tells her that it’s just a little bit past 3AM and her cold, empty bed tells her that something’s amiss. So she forces herself out from under her warm, cozy comforter and makes her way down the hallway, where she finds Kara sitting before her laptop at the dining room table, shoulders hunched, hands under her chin.

Lena runs her hand along Kara’s shoulder, who relaxes slightly under her touch.

“Everything okay?”

“Y- yeah, I just woke up and couldn’t sleep.” Kara sighs in relief as Lena starts massaging her shoulders, alleviating some of the tension there. “It’s this article about the governor. CatCo finally likes a story I’ve pitched and I’m getting some good sources and quotes. But I just, I don’t know, I’m not sure where to go from here. There are so many threads, I don’t know which one to follow.”

“Why don’t you come back to bed and figure it out in the morning?”

“In a bit. My brain won’t shut off. I’m just going to go over these notes again. You go on ahead.” Lena bends down and kisses Kara on her temple. She walks off, but not in the direction of her bedroom, but towards the kitchen. Curious, Kara asks, “Where are you going?”

Lena pauses at the entrance to the kitchen. “I’m putting on the kettle for some tea. You can show me your notes and talk me through it. Maybe I can help unravel the thread.”

“Lena, no. It’s late and you have work in the morning.”

“So do you. At least I’m my own boss and I get to start at whatever time I feel like.” Which frankly, they both know is a lie because Lena’s going to be in the office before everybody else anyway. “Now, the only thing you should be concerned about is what kind of tea you want.”

Inundated by gratitude and drowning in affection, Kara resists the urge to name the sentiment she feels in that moment.

Instead, she just says, “Green, please. Thank you.”

With one last soft smile, Lena nods and disappears into the kitchen. Kara still stares at the spot she just vacated, heart so full she hardly knows what to do.

***

On a Tuesday night, the two of them are getting ready for bed when Lena casually asks, “I’m meeting up with Sam and Andrea tomorrow. Sam doesn’t have a sitter for Ruby so we’re going to her place. Do you want to come?”

Kara’s standing in the doorway to the bathroom, toothbrush in hand. “Oh, um…” Realizing that she’s speaking with a mouthful of toothpaste, she holds up a finger. “One sec.” She dashes back into the bathroom, rinses out her mouth, taking the time to think of what to say. She decides to be straightforward. So she marches back out into the bedroom and says, “I can’t tomorrow. Alex and I are going to Bushwick to check out this bar.”

Sitting on the bed, rubbing lotion on her leg, Lena replies easily, “Okay. Let me know if your plans change.”

Kara feels compelled to clarify, “Mike has a lot of friends in Brooklyn, and he’ll be staying with a friend in Bushwick when he gets back, so, um, we’re having his welcome home party there.”

Slowing her movements, Lena looks up, her expression neutral. “Oh. So this bar you’re checking out…”

“Yeah, we’re… we’re trying to narrow down a venue for Mike’s homecoming party.” Kara’s still standing in the doorway, hands uselessly tugging at the corner of her shirt. “It’s in two weeks.”

“Ah.” Lena turns her attention back to her lotion. “Right. I haven’t forgotten. Two weeks.”

Kara takes a few steps closer and gingerly begins with. “Lena, listen-”

“Have fun with Alex tomorrow,” Lena cuts in abruptly. She snaps close the container to her lotion, the click louder than one would think possible from something so small. She scoots off the bed and marches towards the bathroom, eyes forward, shoulders back, back straight, body imbued with confidence. Or some facsimile of it.

As she nears, Kara takes a half-step, not quite blocking the path, but enough so that her intent to talk is clear. Lena, heeding, stops.

“Do we need to talk about this?”

Evenly, Lena replies, “I thought we just did.”

The moment doesn’t feel right, and Kara’s at a loss of what to say. She doesn’t know what solution she can offer because she doesn’t even know what the problem is. Or maybe she does. Or maybe it’s that she hopes she knows what the problem is, even if she couldn’t admit it, not even inside her own head.

“Is there a reason I shouldn’t be planning this party for Mike?”

Lena’s response is quick and sure. “I can’t think of a reason for you not to.”

As her mind goes blank, Kara hears herself say, “Oh.” She also hears herself say: “Okay. Um. I’m glad.”

Lena smiles. She touches her hand to Kara’s forearm and places a soft kiss on her lips. “Enjoy yourself tomorrow.”

***

“Something strange happened with Kara yesterday.” They’re seated on Sam’s couch, each nursing a glass of wine while the owner of said couch is putting her ten-year-old to bed.

Andrea takes a sip of her wine and repositions herself to face Lena. “Yeah? What are we talking about? Did she call you papi in bed? Been there.’”

“Uhh. No. No. This was more… emotional.”

“Oh my god,” Andrea says, rolling her eyes, exasperated but vindicated. “She’s in love with you.”

“Who, Kara?” Sam, newly emerged from her daughter’s bedroom, plops down on the couch in between her two friends. Lena reaches for the third glass of wine on the side table and hands it over. “Thank you. And no surprise there.”

Lena shakes her head. “No. It’s not that. When I invited her to come tonight, she said that she was going to check out a bar as a possible venue for Mike’s party. Then she asked me if there’s a reason she shouldn’t be planning this party. I find that odd. Why would she ask me that?”

“Like I said,” Andrea responds impatiently. “She’s in love with you.”

Lena says, “No. No.” And for good measure, just in case the third time makes it true: “No.”

“Well, why else would she ask you that?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t know what to make of it. The mood was… weird.”

Sam, with keen insight, questions, “Did the mood get weird or did you get weird?”

“I-” The answer is clear, even to Lena, so she stops there. “All right. Yes, it’s strange knowing that our arrangement has to end in two weeks. It’s been beneficial to me, so I can admit that I’m not excited about its conclusion. I don’t have feelings for Kara though. Not like that.”

“Are you sure?” Sam asks, with Andrea nodding along in agreement behind her. “You spend a lot of time with her. And you seem… happy?”

With a poorly suppressed look of exasperation, Lena retorts, “Not you two too. What Kara and I have isn’t love. I know that. She knows that. I wish that everybody else would understand that.” When Andrea and Sam glance at each other, Lena adds in irritation, “I saw that. That’s what I’m talking about. Stop looking at each other like I’m crazy. I know what I feel.”

“Okay,” Andrea offers in conciliation. “But you said yourself that last night was weird, so clearly something’s off. If you say you don’t have feelings, fine. But how are you so sure that Kara feels the same way?”

“Because.” Even Lena realizes that’s a poor excuse. “She would’ve told me. We have an agreement. The second she thinks she feels something, she would tell me.”

“Sometimes,” Sam puts delicately, “People don’t realize what they’re feeling right away. It takes, uh, time, maybe.”

“That’s very true,” Andrea says, nodding slowly, staring at Lena with laser focus. “And it might take some self-reflection. Or maybe a lot of self-reflection. Like, a lot.”

Lena hums in noncommittal contemplation as she stares off into the distance. Andrea and Sam exchange glances, sharing the same thought: at least she’s thinking it over.

But then Lena concludes: “No, I don’t think that’s what’s happening here. You know, she was probably just asking me for party-planning advice without realizing that I’m not good at that sort of thing.”

Sam sinks against the couch, like her entire body is suddenly sapped of energy. She just barely has the strength to bring her wine glass to her lips and take a long, hearty gulp.

Andrea emits a sound halfway between a grunt and a sigh, fully infused with frustration. “Well, anyway,” she says shortly. “You should be careful. The longer this goes on, the more likely it is that Kara’s going to get attached. Better safe than sorry. You should end this thing before anybody gets hurt.”

Shrugging carelessly, Lena sips at her wine. “Why? Mike’s back in less than two weeks and it’ll all be done then.”

“Well, clearly you know what you’re doing,” Andrea mutters.

Lena doesn’t miss the sarcasm. She narrows her eyes, tilts her head, and is about to confront Andrea on her attitude when Sam intervenes as peacemaker, redirecting the conversation by not-so-casually bringing up a controversial law that was just passed in a conservative state far away from them. And if there’s anything that’ll bring New Yorkers together, it’s the crazy laws being passed in a red state that has nothing to do with them.

***

It’s late on Friday night when Lena gets Kara’s text. It’s 9PM and she’s still at the office, the last person in the building aside from the security staff. Lena hadn’t expected to hear from Kara that night. But here’s her message, asking if she can come over.

Lena quickly types out an okay and finally leaves the office.

When Kara shows up at her apartment door, Lena can tell that something’s off. Kara looks excited but nervous, and she remains the same as she comes inside, making her way through the living room to take her usual spot on the sofa.

“Is everything all right?” Lena asks, knowing full well that something has happened.

“Yes,” Kara returns emphatically. “It is. It’s just, um, there’s been, there’s kind of a- a setback? Uh, I mean, with Mike’s return home.”

Lena can feel her heart thumping in her chest at a quickening pace. “What happened?”

“Um, so, he uh, he called me earlier. Apparently the company changed their mind again. Now they want him to stay until the end of the year, so…” Kara gives a faint, unsure smile, paired with a small shrug. “He’s staying.”

“He’s staying,” Lena repeats in a daze. “He’s staying?”

“Just until the end of the year,” Kara hastily adds. “Then he’ll definitely be back.”

“Did he ask you if he should stay or did he tell you that he’s staying?”

“Uh… kind of the latter,” Kara admits. “But it’s fine. He said he told his company that this is the absolute last extension. But, um, yeah, looks like, um, it’ll be another six months before I have to plan that party.”

“Oh.” Realizing that’s probably not the appropriate response here, Lena tries again. “I’m sorry, Kara. I know how much you were looking forward to having him back.”

“Oh, um, yeah,” Kara nods. “But, um, I was also, like, just, uh, wondering…” Kara’s more nervous than excited now, shifting about uncomfortably in her seat. “So, uh, I know that you were- I mean, I know that we agreed to stop when Mike came back, so you were probably expecting uh, this arrangement to end in a couple of weeks. But um, now that Mike’s not coming back just yet, I was, I was just- uh, I was wondering what you thought about…” She takes a deep breath. “Well, I don’t know, maybe keeping this going a little bit longer? I mean, it, it obviously doesn’t have to be for another six months, but um, if-”

“Yes,” Lena interrupts.

And that’s probably quite rude, but you’d never know it by the way Kara’s face lights up.

“Yeah?”

“Yeah.” With a single finger, Lena slowly traces the contours of Kara’s arm, roving slowly from the shoulder down. “I could stand to keep you in my bed a little while longer.”

Kara lets out a long, happy sigh, releasing all the tension that she’s been holding since she walked in the door.

She leans in, kissing Lena with her entire body pitched forth, sinking against the brunette, melting into her like ice cream on a hot summer day. And Lena’s only too happy to embrace it.

***

The next day, Saturday, is, as always, their day together. They have a late brunch at a French bistro, then spend the day at the Central Park Zoo, followed by a visit to the Metropolitan Museum of Art. In the evening, Lena follows Kara back to Queens for dinner with Alex and Kelly. Kara’s offered to cook, so they pick up a few things from the grocery store and head back to Kara’s apartment.

As soon as they walk in, it’s immediately apparent that something’s different about the apartment. For one, Kara’s elusive roommate is home for once. Then there’s the little matter of the hundreds of origami cranes cascading from the ceiling. It’s impressive, beautiful, and borderline claustrophobic.

“Indigo!” Kara exclaims happily as she beholds the sight. “What’s all this?”

“I didn’t do it,” Indigo answers sourly. “Your boyfriend hired some girl off TaskRabbit to do this. I mean, a little warning would’ve been nice? I was dying my hair when she showed up.”

Kara is quick with the apology for something she didn’t do. “I’m so sorry! I didn’t know he was going to do this. He probably wanted to surprise me.”

“Whatever.” Indigo picks up her purse and starts moving for the exit. “Can you take all this down soon? It’s like a fire hazard.”

Indigo leaves without saying goodbye or acknowledging Lena at all. From Kara’s nonchalance, Lena gathers that this is a typical interaction.

Kara’s now moving around the room, examining the little paper birds. “Look! There are little messages on them! That’s so sweet.”

The wings of each crane are inscribed with messages, mostly preprinted punny platitudes like ‘my heart soars with you’ and ‘fly away with me,’ but there are a few handwritten notes with personal references and little inside jokes, like ‘12/04/2002: Chamber of Secrets’ and ‘Bears! Beets! Battlestar Galactica!’’

Kara surveys her new decorations, her face filled with sentimentality and conflict. Lena knows why already.

“You should call him.”

With a mixture of surprise and relief, Kara asks, “Really?”

“Yes, of course. He did a nice thing. You should thank him.” Lena gestures to the groceries they’ve set on the floor. “I can get us started on the veggies.”

“Um, okay then. I… I’ll just be a minute.” Instead of starting the call right there, Kara retreats into her bedroom, out of Lena’s earshot.

Lena’s just started unbagging the groceries when Alex and Kelly arrive.

“Whoa,” Kelly says as she takes in the cranes.

And Alex’s reaction: “What the hell?”

“Mike,” Lena explains, feeling proud that she sounds so casual about it. “They look nice, don’t they?”

Instantly, Alex’s good mood evaporates. She stands there, glaring at the birds like they’ve personally insulted her haircut. “He’s not coming back, is he?”

“Not just yet. He’s staying for another six months. Did Kara tell you?”

“She doesn’t have to. This-” Alex motions at the room. “-really says it all. Classic Mike Matthews.” The way she says it, there’s no doubt that it’s not a compliment.

Against her better judgment, Lena’s curiosity drives her to delve. “What does that mean?”

Alex opens her mouth, on the verge of spilling all her thoughts and feelings. Her rant is over before it even begins when they all hear Kara’s voice growing louder as she emerges from her room, trying to quickly end her call.

“Okay, I gotta go… yup. Yes. Okay… I’m sorry, I have to go… yeah, we can talk later… okay, okay, bye.” Kara hangs up the phone, looking a little flustered in her haste to end the conversation. She brightens when she sees her new guests. “Alex! Kelly!” She waves her hand at her new decor. “This is cute, huh? Mike did this.”

“Yeah,” Alex echoes unenthusiastically. “Cute.”

Kelly surveys the room. At the apartment covered in paper birds dangling from strings, covering just about every inch of the room. At Alex’s peevish expression. Lena’s stiffly serene smile. Kara’s shuffling awkwardness.

“Hey, you know what? There’s that new Brazilan place that just opened up down the street. I hear that they do a really amazing moqueca. Why don't we go out for dinner tonight?”

Immediately, there is resounding, unified agreement. They waste no time grabbing their things and heading out the door. Kara’s the last one to leave. She turns off the lights and shuts the door behind her with a heavy thud, sparing no last looks and leaving behind those hundreds of painstakingly folded and inscribed origami cranes fluttering and flapping uselessly in the dark.