"I know you've gone quite to seed and have been living without civilization, but can we at least maintain a modicum of decorum?" Lillian carps at Lena, lobbing a towel towards her lap.
Lena makes no move to further cover herself, opting to glare at her step mother instead.
The pilot pays them no mind, starting the deafening engine of the plane and revving up for takeoff. In a moment of weakness, Lena shifts her attention back through the water splattered window and finds the frozen figure of Kara, still staring in their direction from the top of the ship.
She looks so small.
The plane lurches forward, jerking Lena's head away, and gains speed, slowly lifting into the air. The bottom that falls out of Lena's stomach suddenly reminds her how much she hates flying after months of not so much as even thinking of a vehicle, much less a plane. When she opens her mouth to say something to that effect, Lillian quickly shushes her with a hand. She hands her a pair of black headphones.
Lena sullenly slips them over her ears, muffling the roar of the engine to a distant hum.
"Johnathan," she hears the voice of Lillian through the speakers, not even the electricity offering a respite from that lilt of Connecticut snobbery. "Will you switch your frequency to channel four?"
The pilot nods, adjusting something on the control board, and Lillian gazes at Lena with that ever present air of unmet expectation.
"After your brother not even money can buy silence, I'm afraid."
Of course. The currency of information was never too far from a Luthor's mind.
Lena shifts uncomfortably. It's strange to be back around Lillian again. To be around people at all. She wants both to scream at her mother and never say another word to her again. She's certainly angry, but she's even more curious. How had she gotten here so quickly? Where had she been? What was happening with Lex? Inadvertently, she realizes she's been pumping out aggressive pheromones when she smells the overwhelming punch to the air, but Lillian doesn't look away. Or submit.
"Please," she replies instead. "You should know, I'm familiar with these theatrics from your father. Although this brand is certainly more," she waves a hand in the air, "wild."
She sniffs to punctuate the comment, and Lena almost growls. Instead, she closes her eyes and readjusts herself in the squeaky leather chair. She crosses her arms over her otherwise bare breasts.
"So, you knew."
Lillian tilts her head to the side, exposing her neck. Lena wonders if it's unconscious or intentional. Knowing her, it's likely the latter.
"You think I bore his bite and didn't know what he was?"
Lena clenches her jaw.
"You arrived awfully quickly after my call. Did you have business in the outer remote regions of French Polynesia?"
Lillian rolls her eyes.
"If you're asking if I knew where you were, the answer is yes."
Lena does actually growl this time, feeling around the edges of her sharpened fangs with the tip of her tongue. The pilot's shoulders tense. Lillian has the good form to lean away, retreating further into her seat.
"So, you knew and you left me alone on an island for four months?"
"Surprised?" Lillian counters with a lift of her eyebrow. Lena could kill her.
"Stop that," she adds, and the growl cuts off in Lena's throat. "It's uncouth."
"Why didn’t you tell me? Reach out to me?" Lena snaps. "Do you have any idea what I’ve gone through?"
"Not quite alone, from what I gather," Lillian corrects. "By the way, what was that whole display on deck? Was it all for her?"
Lena hates the imperious implication of her tone.
"Don't change the subject."
"You didn't claim her, did you?"
"Of course not."
Her stepmother actually looks relieved.
"Back to why you left me to die—"
Lillian groans, reaching inside a compartment for a bottle of champagne. She inspects it with some derision.
"That's why there were no planes. No boats," Lena continues. "You stopped them from searching this area."
"I called in a few favors."
"And you let Kara suffer, too."
Her bottle green eyes snap up at that.
"You were both in the safest place in the world. No one would find you, I saw to that. Plus, we didn't spend a small fortune giving you all that military training for nothing. I knew you’d be fine. You're a smart girl. Isn't that what you were always telling me?"
It was so like her mother to play down Lena's ability to survive for months on end with nothing but a sleeve of coffee cups and a hunk of metal. Lena glowers.
"I saw the raft, impeccably resourceful, and I tipped her so-called fiancé off. You almost ruined everything—"
"Me? I ruined everything?"
"But Lex was arrested this afternoon, so really this all fell right into my lap. Serendipity."
Lena would bite her head off, literally, if she hadn't said one thing of import.
"Lex has been arrested? What are you talking about?"
And why was Lena chronically three steps behind and off balance? It reminded her of the many chess matches she'd played and lost to Lillian as a child.
Lillian opens her mouth to make another derisive joke, a deflection, a half-truth, but Lena's temper flames and the hot surge of pheromones once again smothers the cabin of the plane.
"Be direct for once in your life."
Lillian's nostrils flare and she hesitates as if she almost can't resist the command.
"I knew it was Lex," she breathes out quickly. "When you went missing. And it's not like it was easy, Lena. I didn't know you were alive. He lied about where you crashed. I've spent half your inheritance trying to find you and compiling all the evidence to build a case against him."
Lena sharply cuts over the form of her stepmother. She does look thinner. Worn. Not so polished by a dozen or so facials, "spa treatments", and chemicals. Not the paragon of perfection Lena had always seen her to be.
"A case against Lex?" Lena repeats. There are many things in this world she thought she'd never see, and Lillian betraying her own son was one of them. "You chose me? Over him?"
"It wasn't exactly a choice," Lillian mutters, still looking dour at having caved to Lena's prior directive.
Lena laughs, mirthless and hollow.
"Not a choice? You've never loved me. You told me I wasn't even a Luthor."
"Obviously. You let me find out on that fucking island, and now you take my side. Why?"
Lillian doesn't answer, toying with the empty champagne flute in her hand, and Lena no longer cares about courtesy, about playing fair.
"Tell me why."
Lillian tenses again, closing her eyes and breathing the scent of Lena's command as shallowly as she is able.
"Lex killed your father."
The pheromones drop off immediately, and Lena's eyebrows furrow hard. Lillian breathes a sigh of relief.
"I didn't tell you because if Lex knew you both shared a bloodline, he would've killed you. He knew your—" Lillian motions at the overall state of Lena's naked body, "condition passed through the family. He thought it would come to him. He waited for years."
"And when he didn't inherit it—"
"He'd had big plans for that kind of power. He wanted to make it public. He wanted the world to know what he was. An alpha to rule alphas. And then nothing."
The blow must've been huge, Lena thinks, and she can't help but revel a little in imagining Lex's stinging disappointment.
"When Lex had presented when he was younger, he'd found out about your father. And your father, well. Lex was not the alpha he’d hoped for. He could’ve avoided the scandal of adopting you. The drama. But he insisted. He said we couldn't risk letting the trait pass to a blood descendant outside of our family. I, for one, didn't even know you existed."
Lena hears the harsh, bitter note of the words. Lillian pours herself a glass of champagne, and she waits for her to continue.
"And Lex, yes, he humored you," her lip curls up in memory. "At first. When he'd assumed you'd be an omega. But as time wore on, he became impatient. He became suspicious. Lionel told him it could skip lines, but Lex didn't believe it. I believe he thought your father was holding onto the power because he didn't trust him. So, Lex thought he'd speed up the process."
Lena can't help the fleeting look of horror that crosses her face. Her brother, he hadn't even been that old when their father died. How had he made it look like an accident?
"How could you let him get away with it?"
"I didn't," Lillian answers sharply. "I couldn't find any proof. Young as he was, your brother still knew how to clean up a mess. Nonetheless, I knew you were in danger when it still didn't manifest within Lex. I told him it had to be triggered. I was trying to buy you—us time. But when you went missing, I–I knew. I knew something must've happened."
Lena thinks back to the boardroom at L-Corp, to the conversation with Edge. The way he'd submitted, the veins of his neck bared and vulnerable for the ripping. The way she hadn't seen Lex. Had he too submitted?
"You let him control me. You encouraged me to stay on suppressants for fifteen years, mother."
"I was scared," Lillian admits. "And clearly I was right to worry."
"You gelded me."
"Hardly. I saved your life."
Glaring at each other, Lena still must concede… she may never know the full extent or reasoning behind her stepmother's actions, black or white, wrong or right. Maybe Lillian could never fully turn on her only son. Maybe the bitterness of an unknown child, an unknown affair, had tipped some of the scales out of Lena's favor, had bred the cruelty she had known from her for most of her life.
But she was here. And she said Lex was arrested.
"Now," Lillian clasps her hands as if they've moved on from that topic. "Onto business. Does Ms. Danvers know?"
Lena's teeth clench protectively at the mention of Kara, sharpening once more behind her lips. But she only nods curtly.
Lillian briefly closes her eyes in annoyance.
"Your father went to great lengths to keep that a secret, you know," she chides. "I suppose we can buy her off. Not that anyone would believe her, anyway."
She begins to pour the second glass of champagne for Lena, placing her own aside in a drink holder to her left.
"We're not paying her off," Lena warns. "We can trust her."
Lillian stops mid pour, the bubbles fizzing half-way up the glass, gazing at Lena with an expression of utmost incredulity.
"Do you even know who she is?"
"She's a personal assistant. Hardly anything to start a war over, mother."
Lillian smirks, just slightly, barely there, but after being handed her ass so many times in her life, Lena knows when Lillian is preparing to savor something. She makes that same expression before a five course meal. It can't be good.
"She's a personal assistant to Cat Grant, the owner of the biggest media conglomerate in the world. And thanks to you, she has the inside scoop on a story of a lifetime featuring not only you, but Lex, Metropolis' most famous and soon to be incarcerated Man of Tomorrow."
Lillian lets that sink in, and honestly Lena feels like she's going to be sick.
"And what do you think she’s going to do with that kind of story? Wallpaper her apartment? You really can be marvelously naïve sometimes, Lena."
Lillian shakes her head in displeasure but finishes pouring the glass. She offers it to Lena, but Lena doesn't so much as twitch a muscle to take it.
She can only sit there, face impenetrable, feeling cold. Of everything, this may be the worst news yet. She can hear her brother in her mind, telling her he was right all over again. Right about Eve. Right about her alpha nature leading to a scandal, an expose. She hunches over suddenly, head in her hands, overcome with emotion.
She has a very acute, very painful vision of a possible future. She's holding the fine, glossy print of a published CatCo article and reading every vulnerable thing she’d ever shared with Kara. Her heart threatens to stop at the fear of it.
"Look, dear, we'll make it right," Lillian seems to pity her. "No one will ever know. I'll buy that entire cargo liner, and everyone will sign nondisclosure agreements."
She rips her hands away from her face and resolutely looks out and over the ocean she hopes she never sees again.
She's not sure how much time passes before she hears her mother speak once more.
"You didn’t bite her? You're sure?"
"I think I'd remember that, thank you," she snaps back with a sharp look in Lillian's direction.
"You should know it’s not the same for you," she explains. "A bite… not only is it unbreakable, she'll share several aspects of your power."
Lena plays with the towel in her lap, pinching the edge of it between two fingers. It's not like it matters now. A reporter. There's no one to bite.
"What was it like? With him?" Lena asks instead, feeling tentative for the first time in the conversation. Memories of her father are painful, made more so by the newfound knowledge of her brother's treachery.
"Not easy," is all Lillian feels inclined to share. There's a silence where her mother gazes out of the window, too, before finishing and refilling her champagne flute. "Will you keep it?"
"What do you mean? You can get rid of this power?"
Lillian shakes her head. "No, you can't get rid of it. I meant, you don't have to use it. Although, I can't imagine why you wouldn't. It's how your father built his empire."
Lena squeezes the towel again before releasing it.
"I don't care about empires. If I used it, it would be for good."
Lillian scoffs, sipping her fresh champagne.
Kara's gaze is still fixed despondently in the direction of the plane she can no longer see, the white speck having disappeared into the blue sky some minutes ago. Mike clears his throat behind her, but Kara ignores it, opting instead to set the coffee intended for Lena aside. She bends down to pick up the faded, mottled button down shirt Lena had always worn, had discarded on the ship deck just before she'd jumped.
It's soft between her fingertips. She's half-way to lifting it to her face, burying herself in that scent when Mike interrupts, having followed her up to the edge of the ship. He picks up the second coffee for himself.
"Well, that was… something," he says. "I still can't believe you crashed on an island with Lena Luthor."
Kara doesn't reply, still palming the shirt in her hand. She hates the way Mike says Lena's last name, like an insult, a taboo curse word.
"Did you see her eyes?" he adds, dropping his tone to a conspiratorial hush. Kara thinks back to the piercing gold of Lena's irises, the last thing she'd seen before Lena had said goodbye.
"It must’ve been a trick of the sun."
As they walk back to collect her things, she thinks it's almost a relief that someone else has met Lena. Kara won't lie, she's been a little worried that she'd hit her head hard during the shipwreck. That she’d made the whole thing up in an island isolation induced lunacy. But it's Mike that's met her. Mike with that disastrous first encounter. Kara had felt Lena's growl at the base of her spine. In the bottom of her stomach, all the way down to her—well.
He was right. Lena was something.
Kara doesn't share any of these thoughts, though, electing to maintain her silence on the ride back to Papeete. Blessedly between the roar of the engine and the spray of the water with each loud and crashing bounce on the ocean, it's too loud to be conducive anyway. So, Kara just bundles herself up under a towel in the back seat and stares unblinking into the horizon.
It's only when vibrant green mountains come rolling into view, two volcanic cones interrupting the cloudless sky above Tahiti, does Kara notice they've arrived. They dock at a small pier where Kara can see luxury huts, likely part of some resort, extending out and over the cyan blue water further down the coast. There's other huge yachts parked beside them, too, more extravagant than anything Kara had ever sailed.
It feels so at odds with what she's been through. She knows she should feel relief at the sight of civilization, at the first steps on land that will bring her back to National City. She knows she should be happy, but she isn't. She thinks instead of the crudely-made hut she and Lena had called home. This isn't really where she wants to be. Everything stands before her, waiting, but it's wholly unwelcome.
She doesn't say anything still, not even when they arrive at the hotel room hastily reserved, and Mike perches himself on the edge of their suite bed. The only formative thought she can muster is that Mike better not think he's sharing that bed with her now or ever.
"This place costs almost a thousand a night," Mike attempts light-hearted conversation. "Can you believe that?"
Kara doesn't answer, walking over to the window. An afternoon breeze has picked up and sways the nearby palm trees.
"Your luck getting stranded in paradise," he adds, sounding more forced and overly cheerful by the moment.
"Paradise," Kara repeats, turning to look at him for the first time. Mike's charming smile cracks under the scrutiny, falling.
God, Lena had never done that. She'd never made light of how bad their situation was. She'd never made everything feel this unnatural, this difficult. Kara experiences a wayward desire to run a hand through her fur again, coarse yet full and responsive. A phantom part of her brain even has her hand twitching forward while imagining it.
"Where is Alex?" she asks instead, forcing her hand to drop slack back by her side.
"Her flight lands in a few hours."
Kara almost groans out loud. She's not sure why a few more hours with Mike feels like it'll become such a chore. He's right in front of her, mere feet apart, three and a half steps at most, but he's never felt farther away. A foot note of the past. Alex, at least, she’d thought of constantly. Eliza and her family, too, of course. Even Cat. But her thoughts of Mike had been sterile, septic since the very first day of her voyage. Not a single positive association remains.
"Why are you here?" she asks more harshly than she intends. Maybe a few of her finer social skills have fallen by the wayside, as limp and brown as the kelp that had washed up on the shore of their island daily.
"Why am I—" he scoffs, shocked and dropping the false cheeriness act. "Are you okay, Kara? You seem off. You've been weird ever since we found you."
"You didn't find me," Kara snaps for some reason. "The crew members on that liner did."
"I've—I've been looking for you this whole time."
"What? Three weeks?"
He seems to be at a loss for words.
"I’m here to save you," he says finally.
"I don’t need saving! I am not some damsel in distress!"
Wow, she rarely raises her voice, and she can still hear it echoing off the thin walls. She never shouts at anyone, but this… it's overwhelming. This anger. This grief. She hadn't wanted to be found. Not by him, not by anybody. She can hear his teeth snap shut, smell the burn of his annoyance in his pitching scent.
She had not missed the smell of his pheromones.
He opens his mouth, and she hopes he might shout back, say something harsh in return (she deserves it), but instead he shakes his head after a moment and runs a hand through his hair.
"Wow, this is not how I thought this would go."
Kara rolls her eyes and irritably looks back through the window. He never listens to her.
"Is this about Lena?" he asks, raising his hands higher when Kara glares back at him. "What happened on that island?"
She feels no compulsion at all to tell him. His irritability seems to grow.
"You have a mark on your neck, did you know that?" he points, brows furrowing in anger. "No, actually, you have two marks."
"So, what? What do you care?"
"You smell like her, too," he continues, indignant, as if she hadn't said anything at all. "She's scent marked you. It's just—it's not—"
"It's not what, Mike?"
"Proper!" He finally exclaims.
"You’re telling me what is and isn't proper?" she starts. "You? How proper is it to screw your colleague in your company's office supply closet?"
He, at least, has the good grace to look briefly embarrassed.
"That was a long time ago," he scrabbles weakly. "But I'm the one that's here. Now."
Kara refuses to hear his unspoken words.
She's not here. I am.
"I didn't ASK you to be here, Mike," Kara reiterates. "And you weren’t there. Not when I needed you the most. Not for months and months. You cheated on me."
"That's over," he tries to placate, and it almost seems practiced, something he'd stood in front of the mirror and performed like he did with his office pitches every night before bed. "I'm so sorry. It was the biggest mistake of my life. I just want you back. I want us back."
Kara can't help the traitorous tears in her eyes, tears she swore she wouldn't let Mike produce again. She'd wanted to hear this. Once. She'd wanted this version of Mike. But now?
"It's too late," she tells him.
"But we've been through so much together," he pleads, but Kara interrupts him with a humorless laugh. Mike's mouth falls open.
She puts her hand on the window sill to steady herself, squeezing tight.
"You're right. We have been through a lot. Like that time when you promised to be at my sister's rehearsal dinner, and instead you ran off and got wasted with your friends. I apologized for you all night, I apologized to you when you told me I was controlling for being upset, that you needed to have 'fun with the boys' every once and awhile. An omega wouldn't understand, you said."
"Kara, I'm sorry. I tried to contact you after you left—"
"I'm not done. Then, there was the time you got the reporter promotion at CatCo before me, even though you knew I wanted it. You knew Snapper hated me. You knew he'd choose you. You told me to stay Cat's assistant. That it wasn't the right time. You said you would convince him to hire me, but you never did. It's been a year. A year in which you stole my ideas and never gave me credit, had Eve do all of your work for you, and then you had sex with her. At work. You didn't ever apologize for that."
"Kara, I get it. I know I messed up. I'm trying to apologize now."
"No, I don't think you do. I don't think you are. I don't think you get that I gave my heart to a lying jackass who disrespected me at every turn, and now after I've left him and never looked back, he claims to be reformed. I can’t trust you to take care of me or provide. I can't trust you not to leave me for the first idiot blonde that crosses your path. And I don’t want you for a mate."
It feels good to say out loud. Finally. To his face. It feels true. But Mike is staring at her, speechless, with actual tears in his eyes. Why does he even care now? He never did before.
"I think you should leave. I need—" Kara waves her hand in front of herself. She just needs him out of her sight, "to call my sister. And Eliza. And, god, probably Cat. It's been a long day. It's been a long few weeks."
"Okay," he rises from the bed. He walks to the door, hand on the knob when he takes one last look at her, clearly waiting. Clearly hoping. But she has nothing else to say.
She turns her back on him and looks out the window with a stupid longing that maybe she'll see a plane on the horizon again.
The reunion with Alex involves a lot of crying, hugs, and indecipherable, high pitched babbling. She's not sure how long they stand there in the hotel room foyer, clutching each other tightly.
"Kara, god," Alex pulls back, smoothing both her hands over Kara's face. "I wasn't sure I'd ever see you again."
Kara can barely see her Alex now through her own bleary tears, but she smiles back.
"I'm so happy you're here."
Alex chokes back another sob, trying to regain control of her breathing, and she looks around the room for some kind of distraction.
"Wait, Mike left?"
Kara closes her eyes, takes a deep breath. She shrugs.
"I don't know. He might still be roaming around here somewhere, hoping I'll take him back."
Alex glances back at her, examining, her face pinched as if surprised.
"I'm sorry, I didn't know he'd be here," she says. "I was so happy you'd been found, I almost forgot it was Mike who was calling. I also didn't know—how you'd feel about him after what happened."
"You thought I'd suddenly forgive him?"
"Trauma does strange things to people."
"Not this trauma," Kara mutters, returning to the bed and sitting down.
"What happened to you, anyway?" Alex lingers in the doorway before sitting next to her, shoulder pressed up against Kara. "If you don't mind me asking. Are you okay?"
"I'm okay, but can we talk about it later? Can we just go home?"
Alex holds her hand the entire way back to National City, never letting Kara stray too far out of her sight. Not that she wants to. The lights inside the airport are so bright, the commotion and voices of the crowd so loud. The flight itself, even, is a bit grueling at fourteen hours of travel time. But Alex is with her the entire journey, drooling onto her shoulder as she finally surrenders to sleep.
Kara stares out of the plane window, wondering idly if Lena is already back. How she's doing. If she slept. Is she dreaming of their island? Or is she not dreaming at all?
Kara can't help but circle back to the same thought over and over. Will Lena try to find Kara back in National City? Will she try to reach out? Kara lost her cell phone in the wreck, but Lena knows her full name. A billionaire like her, she certainly has the resources to track her down. Kara wants that. She's eager to hear the comforting purr of Lena's voice. She's desperate to tell her that everything is fine. Mike is not in the picture.
But that will have to wait.
After what feels like three lifetimes, Alex is unlocking Kara's apartment door, a sound she hasn't heard in nearly four months. They shuffle inside, careful to be quiet since it's nearly five in the morning.
"Oh no," Kara whispers softly, padding into her kitchen. She touches the dead leaves of a fern Eliza had given her. "It's dead."
"Look, Kara," Alex sighs, putting their bags down at the threshold. "You know I don't have a green thumb."
Kara gazes around the rest of the apartment. It's been so long, it's almost unfamiliar. It's quiet, but nothing like the island. She can still hear the ambient noises of the city night drifting up from the street below.
"Come on. Let's go to sleep," Alex drags her by the elbow toward the bedroom.
After changing, they slip under the covers together. Her sister turns to look at Kara, lifting a hand to her cheek, pressing softly there, just looking and looking at her.
"I just want to make sure you aren't going anywhere," Alex retracts her hand back on the under the sheet, but that same anxious expression remains. "I feel at any moment you could just… disappear. That's what it felt like. One day you were there, one day you were gone."
"I'm right here," Kara comforts her, even if it doesn't altogether feel like it's true. "I'm not going anywhere."
When Alex's short breaths taper off into quiet snores, Kara turns over on her back, still unable to sleep. It feels like she left a part of herself on that island. She feels like one half of a whole.
So, she reaches for the new phone Alex had had shipped to her apartment earlier that day. She switches it on, monotonously going through the set-up process. She re-downloads her favorite apps, mourning briefly for her lost photos and game progress on Candy Crush. Then, she does what she's been thinking relentlessly about for hours. Kara succumbs to the inevitable, like an addict ritualizing after a hard day. It comes on like a secret, alone, and in the dead of night. She opens Google and types in, fingers hovering hesitantly above the keyboard,
The high is sweet. Kara stares at photos of Lena in glossy magazine write-ups, blurry paparazzi candids, and shallow who-wore-it-best CatCo pieces. Sometimes her hair is up in a bun, severe and regal with blushed cheeks and pale eyes. Other times, it's down in waxed ringlets, casual as she waits for a taxi. But none of the images are anything like the wild creature Kara had encountered on that island. It's almost hard to reconcile that both individuals had ever coexisted as one.
She falls asleep that way, who knows when, with her phone propped up on her chest. She wakes half-way into the next day with a note from Alex that says breakfast and coffee are on the counter. Her phone has been placed on the bedside table, and she wonders vaguely if Alex saw. If Alex knows about Lena. She picks up her phone to see if she had closed the damning search browser, but instead finds a text from Cat front and center on her message dashboard.
How had she gotten this number already?
Cat Grant: I know you've barely made landfall, but can we meet? That eclectic little place you like with the dirty glassware?
Noonan's, Kara remembers, and her mouth salivates at the thought. She'll definitely be eating twice today. Maybe even three times. She's on the hobbit schedule.
She wonders if Lena ever got her steak. She pushes the thought away.
It takes her entirely too long to get ready. She has so many clothes, has she always had this many clothes? The city is much like the airport, too. Bright. Loud. Crowded. Kara hugs the buildings, staying as far away as she can from the thick of it.
"Kiera," Cat greets when Kara arrives at Noonan's, but for some reason today she's feeling a little acidic. She does something she almost never does.
"It's Kara," she corrects.
Cat smiles, considering her. There are giant, black sunglasses poised on her slim face. She looks sharp as ever in a short-waisted blazer, black jeans, and a chunky gold necklace.
"Kara," she relents. "Come here."
She holds her arms open, and Kara hugs her. It goes on a little long, long enough that Kara's eyes are the wet in the corners again, the telltale difficulty of her breathing beginning to set in just as Cat pulls back. She squeezes Kara's shoulders, the pinch of her sharp nails through her blouse a comfort.
"You owe me a coffee, yes?" Cat says. "It's the least you can do after sinking my boat."
Kara laughs, wiping at her mouth, her eyes.
"Of course. Your usual?"
"With soy. I'm on a kick."
After Cat grills the waiters relentlessly about the quality of their ingredients and whether they're ethically resourced, they pick a comfy spot near the windows but still in the corner and out of view from the entrance. Kara holds her coffee close, relishing the smell, in everything she's missed in the last four weeks.
Everything but Lena.
"So." Kara starts, nervous despite knowing Cat as well as she does.
"Do I still have a job?"
"That depends," Cat plays coy, adding more sugar to her coffee with a sigh of discontent. She looks up at Kara after, face set in resolution. "Do you have a story for me?"
Kara had guessed what this meeting might be about. And she was right. She couldn't remember the last time Cat had actually gotten her own coffee, so she knew this must've been big, important.
Kara stares down at the cheerful blue cup they'd selected for her at the counter, into the foam of her own drink. The barista had poured it into the shape of several interwoven hearts.
You can trust me, she'd told Lena.
"No," she answers.
Cat leans back in her chair, skeptical, her mouth hidden for the moment behind her coffee as she lifts it to take a drink.
"You’re telling me," she begins slowly as she sets the mug down. "That Lena Luthor returns from the dead, stinking of power. And after being stranded on a desert island for months, some of which was with an employee of mine, that you won't tell me a word?"
"It's not personal," Kara smiles sadly. "I won't talk to anyone."
Cat's fingers flex white over the handle of the mug. "No one?"
Kara bites her lip, shaking her head.
"I won't lie," Cat admits in a huff. "I’m so mad I want to fire you. You should know that. I'm veritably itching with the desire."
"I'm sorry, Cat. I’m not saying never," Kara answers. "I’m just saying not now. And you’ll be the first one I call. I promise."
"I god damn well better be."
Cat considers Kara for a moment longer, and Kara escapes that scrutinizing gaze by drinking her coffee. She takes a bite of the indulgent éclair she'd also bought. God, it's so fucking good. Food is really the best thing.
"Did she make you sign an NDA on that island or what?" Cat asks after the fact, and Kara shakes her head, still chewing.
"Did something… happen?" Cat insinuates, and Kara almost blushes. "Although, I can't imagine it did. Everyone knows Lena Luthor is suppressed up to her ears."
Kara's jaw stops working. Was that public knowledge?
"But she wouldn't have had them on an island, would she? And she must've been there much longer than you," Cat works out aloud, eyes up toward the ceiling in thought. "So, you were trapped with her, an alpha unmated like that, and nothing happened?"
Kara doesn't answer.
"And you won't talk about it."
"I won't," Kara confirms. "And Lena won't either."
"How do you know that? We could get scooped."
"I just do."
"So, you're still in contact with her?"
Kara's heart stutters. It hasn't been long, but Cat's was the only message she'd gotten today.
"Um—no, we're not exactly… speaking. Yet."
Cat considers her.
"Did she know you were a reporter?"
"Well, I wasn't…" Kara thinks with a pang of sudden guilt, "at that time. I told her I was a personal assistant."
"Did she know you worked for me?"
Now that Kara thinks about it…
"Well, there's your answer. I can't imagine she'll be happy about that," Cat takes another drink of her coffee.
They sit there for a few more minutes, the éclair turning sour in Kara's stomach.
"I think I hate you, Kara Danvers," Cat sighs heavily. "But a promise is a promise. You report to Snapper as of tomorrow."
"And you better say yes before I change my mind," Cat snaps. "I won't forget. You not only owe me a boat, you owe me that story."
2 months later.
Lena had waited for the story to break. Every day since she's been back in National City, she's waited for Jess to send her the link, to show her the article, rolled tightly into her fist as she offered it to Lena first thing with the rising sun.
But Jess's hands have been empty. Her messages nothing to do with Kara Danvers. There's been no breaking news, no nothing.
Lena didn't try to find her. Outside of a cursory request of Jess to make sure Kara had arrived home safe and sound, Lena hadn't looked her up. At the same time, she can't bear the idea that she exists in a world without Lena, every day, going about her business. Lena thinks about her out in National City walking, on a train, a bus, in a car, the way their paths may have crossed before the island, the way they might still now. What would she say? What would she do?
She tries to quell the fruitless mental exercise yet somehow it's always the last thing she imagines in the quiet moments before bed, in the uncommon mid-afternoon lulls where she glances out of her window and into the blue-gray sky beyond. Blue like Kara's eyes. Blue like the rolling ocean that they had set sail on with only a hope and a dream of savior. It's inconceivable that there should be reminders everywhere, here in a city they'd never shared, but there are.
Lena misses her. She misses being a wolf, too, having room to run. She even misses being naked. Coming home to her high profile job, her empty luxury apartment, the stress and constant on the go nature of her life, is like slipping back into heels she hadn't worn in years, familiar and uncomfortable in all the same ways. Sometimes she wishes she'd been pronounced dead. Would that have been so bad? Starting over? Finding a new life of anonymity? It was never in the cards for her, a Luthor, but she can't help but fantasize about it, anyway.
Especially today when she's just finished a deposition in the ongoing legal battle against her brother. She made sure bail was denied. Not that he could post it. Most of their assets are frozen by the government, including hers and Lillian's, reducing them to their litany of offshore accounts.
"What's it like to be poor?" she teases her mother, but Lillian only lists out the next twenty four meetings she has for the day.
It's not quite the homecoming she'd hoped for. She's gone back onto her suppressants, too, but even they don't seem to be strong enough to tame some of her more savage urges.
When one publicist tells her that she needs to make more public appearances (to "humanize" herself, to curry favor with the mindless masses), she says no. He doesn't listen.
"Maybe even go on a date," he continues, and she growls loudly at that. He shuts his mouth.
"No," she repeats.
"You need a therapist," Lillian hisses angrily to her in the limo after. "You're a ticking time bomb. At this rate, everyone in National City will know what you are by fall."
She's not wrong. Even Lena knows she has enough baggage to fill a Boeing 737.
So, Lena has started seeing Kelly Olsen. Lillian had her sign an NDA a thousand pages long, but Lena felt grateful for the fact that she at least had never had any association with Lex or LuthorCorp. It offers her a shred of comfort when she's otherwise baring her soul to a complete stranger.
Kelly is warm, though. She listens. She tells Lena that she is deserving of love, whether she can believe it or not. That she is good enough. She tells her to work on her positive affirmations. It's stupid, but Lena does it, hating her reflection every morning when she tells herself,
I am not a monster.
She even eases off of the suppressants again, maintains a much lower dosage. Kelly assures her that she doesn't need it, that she can control herself. She does have less outbursts, despite feeling the desire to do so on a near constant basis. And omegas, god, they notice her in a way they never had before. It's overwhelming. The attention is constant. Begrudgingly, she does agree to go on that stupid arranged date with an up and coming actress, but it all feels false. Insincere.
She brings it up in therapy.
"What's the problem?" Kelly asks, always relaxed and conversational. "You're single. You mentioned being alone was one of your greater fears after your experience on the island."
"I don't feel—" Lena answers, jagged and awkward. "Open."
She clenches her jaw. She doesn't know how to explain it. She can't trust anyone. Anyone but…
"I hadn't been alone on the island, not the entire time. We…"
"You had something," Kelly finishes for her.
"And you haven't pursued it?"
"I just don't know if it was real. If it wasn't a product of our stress, our isolation there."
Kelly crosses her legs in her chair, leaning back and thinking. She taps her pen a few times on her notebook.
"What you had could be real even despite your circumstances there."
"I know that," Lena breathes hard through her nose. "It's just—this person has revealing information about me. It keeps me up at night wondering when they'll go public."
Kelly pauses again before answering.
"But they haven't."
"No," Lena admits.
"So, maybe they're not planning to?"
"Maybe they're waiting."
"Has it occurred to you that your trust was mutual? That maybe they won’t divulge your secrets? It's been two months. They could be waiting on you to affirm the relationship."
"What do you mean?"
"Have you spoken since you've been back?"
"Maybe they feel rejected."
Lena doesn't say anything to that. She thinks instead of the many times she had let Kara make the first move, had rejected Kara's advances.
"She doesn't want to be with me, anyway. Who would?"
"Lena," Kelly chides. "That's you erecting the barrier to intimacy, not her. Why do you do that?"
"My family—my brother… made it impossible. He told me not to trust anyone."
Kelly considers her, the pen tapping once, twice.
"We don't talk about him much, you know."
Lena gazes at her, not sure how to respond.
"Why?" Kelly continues.
"I don't want to talk about him."
Lena grumbles angrily, pushing a hand over her eyes.
"I feel like he's always there. I'm always thinking about him. Everything revolves around him. I just want one space that isn't his. That's solely mine."
"Your brother is a big obstacle to you," Kelly notes. To what, Lena wonders? Her growth? Her goals? Her life? "Have you confronted him since you've been back home?"
Home, Lena thinks bitterly.
She shakes her head.
"Do you think it's time?" Kelly asks.
She's not sure, but it's what sets the next few events in motion. It's why Lena privately arranges a trip to visit Lex in jail. She refuses the presence of her lawyer, to Lillian's discontent. The trip will be recorded by the FBI, no doubt by every governmental agency, but she doesn't care. They won't be able to smell the pheromones in the room. Let them enjoy her cutting the sharpest image Metropolis County Jail has ever seen. She's only been wearing suits since her return, and for this one, she selects the three piece navy blue pinstripe.
After a horde of screenings and nearly two hours of waiting, she's led to an empty cell block, all rooms empty save for one. When she passes in front of the metal bars, Lex glances up from a relaxed position on his cot. He's reading a book, and Lena expects Nietzsche or something similarly contrived, but it's actually a romance novel.
Her brother's gaze slides up and over her with the kind of practiced impartiality only a Luthor household could inspire. He drops the book to his chest. The cover appears to be Medieval themed.
"Don't tell me," Lena continues with a smirk. "Has Sir Martin already deflowered the fair maiden or are they holding that particular ravishment until the end?"
"You tell me, sis, I know this genre was a favorite of yours."
Lena clenches her jaw a little at the callback to her lonely youth. He clasps his hands together, smiling now and interminably arrogant.
"To what do I owe the pleasure?"
For a long moment, Lena forgets why she's here, the emotions roiling inside of her and overwhelming all her careful logic and reason. She forgets what she even wanted from this encounter. She'd tirelessly imagined conversations, comebacks, and putdowns. She'd had nightmares of simply screaming and crying. He’d try to touch her and she’d run away. She hates that her unconscious is still afraid of him. She hates that she can still be charmed by him, sympathize with him, a man that tried to kill her. Her own brother who had manipulated and gaslighted and controlled her. She knows that somewhere in Lex’s mind, he thinks this is love. He probably tells himself that he's protecting Lena. A favor. A tit for tat. She wants to believe it, too. She'd wondered if she'd see any remorse, any concern when they finally met face to face, but…
It's not promising.
Lena gazes around the cell in lieu of answering him. It's spartan, but certainly more equipped than a high profile, multi-count felony murderer deserves. There are more than a dozen books, a high end chess set, an actual vintage oil painting. Her brother always knew how to pull strings, exactly which palms to grease.
"This looks comfortable," she comments.
"When I'm through with this place," he smiles, all teeth, "it'll be a regular Four Seasons."
Lena flashes her golden eyes in annoyance, and Lex raises an intrigued eyebrow.
"Give me that book," she commands.
His eyebrows pinch as if he's undergoing some kind of internal struggle, but he rises nonetheless. He crosses the small cell and hands the book over. Lena takes it and, sure enough, it's not actually a romance novel. It's filled with code, markings, and maps. This should be entertaining to puzzle out later.
As she flips through it aimlessly, Lex seems to come back to himself.
"Now, that's a fun party trick."
"Fun, yes," Lena answers passively. "I suppose I should thank you.'
She looks up, and they're standing close. At this range, she can see the burning ember behind his cool, green eyes. The desire to destroy, dominate, throttle her from that seething place behind the bars. A part of her wishes he were that reckless, but he never has been. He plays the long con.
"And why is that?"
"Without you trapping me on that island and leaving me to die, I would've never accessed it. I might've gone on exactly as I had," Lena answers. "A pawn under your thumb. I might've never known my full potential."
The ember simmers, sparking.
"It should've been mine," he tells her.
She steps closer, practically nose to nose with him.
"You thought this belonged to you?" her eyes shine gold. She makes sure the camera cannot see. "You thought if I was out of the picture, you could just, what, take it?"
She wraps her fingers around the cold steel bars, close to where his neck is, imagining. Squeezing. She feels her pointed fangs elongate.
"Let me tell you something that mother and father always knew. Something I think you’ve always known, too," she takes a long pause, indulging in Lex's full attention.
"The truth is, Lex, you don’t deserve it. You’re unworthy."
He growls low in the back of his throat. He doesn't open his mouth, doesn't bare his teeth, but he doesn't have to for Lena to understand the intent.
"Little Lena," he chides after a moment, another wolf-like smile. "You were right on one count. You were a pawn under my thumb. But what you don't realize is that you still are."
"Am I?" Lena challenges with a tilt of her head. "I could make you crab walk out of here until the guards open fire. I could make you drink that candle wax. I could make you hold your hand in the fire until there was nothing left."
She holds his gaze, pausing a moment.
"There are a lot of things I could make you do. Confess to your many crimes, jump off a bridge. Many things that you deserve a dozen times over, and you'd have no voice to object, no choice."
Lex's pupils constrict into tight black circles.
"You're too soft for that. Too weak."
"Perhaps. But I think you'll find I have surprising depth of feeling reserved for the man who killed my father."
Lex actually smirks at this, self-satisfied. It makes Lena furious.
"I think you're confused, dear sister. Father died in a tragic accident."
"Maybe you will, too," Lena stands back from the bars, her teeth dulling back to flat points. "I suppose only time will tell."
"You can't walk away from me," he growls at her back as she does exactly that.
"I can, and I will."
"Face me," he challenges again, and she pauses, turning to look. He looks thin and desperate, grasping and weak. It's comforting.
"You hate me too much to leave me here. To let other people dole out the punishments you'd love to take for yourself."
"I do hate you," she admits. "I just love me more."
She takes three more steps towards the hall before remembering the book in her hands. She holds it up.
"This lacks tremendous subtlety, by the way. I expected more."
"That was never my strong suit," he says, eyes glittering. "You'll see soon enough."
"I'm sure," she bites back. She considers her next words. Lena looks at Lex one last time.
"If you ever so much as put a foot outside of this cell, I’ll rip you apart."
Lena breathes cleaner after the encounter, clearer. She feels optimistic enough that she makes good on a promise that's been fermenting and several months in the making. She buys Cat Grant a new boat and has it delivered to her slip at the marina in National City harbor.
I must confess, Cat text messages her later that day. I prefer the company of omegas if this is some kind of grand romantic overture.
It brings a smile to Lena's face. Rare.
I want nothing of the sort (no offence, of course.) Merely an exclusive interview with one of your reporters.
Any of my reporters? Not one specifically?
Lena doesn't reply immediately, not sure what all Cat Grant may or may not know, but Cat gives up the game quickly enough.
Kara Danvers will meet you on Thursday at 1 PM, xoxo
So, she does know. Something, at least. And it's so soon. Is Lena really ready?
Thursday morning, Lena flusters over what to wear after a night of barely sleeping. She even has a big enough lapse in judgment to text her secretary for advice. Jess replies in a heartbeat, lightning quick, despite it being six AM.
The maroon suit. With the lace up to the throat.
The maroon suit, yes. With the lace up to the throat. That'll work.
She tries not to scratch at the fine lace all morning, dithering in her office between conference calls and meetings. At a quarter til, she begins to sweat in places she hasn't remembered since the island. Why is she so nervous? It's not as if Lena had planned to never talk to Kara again. How could you after an experience like that? She'd just needed to understand the lay of the board with Lex. How contained he was in jail. Whether he might know who Kara is. She hadn't been ready to protect her yet, but now…
At least, she's in in an environment she controls. Although, Kara had never met her in this environment, had never known this side of Lena. What if she doesn't like it? What if Kelly was wrong, and Kara didn't want to see her? Kara hadn't reached out to her either within the last two months. Anything could happen. She could be angry.
Lena nearly throws the antique paper weight she'd been juggling in her hands when Jess' voice shrills through the speakerphone.
"Ms. Danvers is here to see you."
"Send her in," she sets it down firmly on her desk.
Then, Lena stands in the middle of her office, still as carved marble, back ramrod straight and fingers pulling at each other while she waits.
When Kara enters, it's with the ghost of a smile on her face, likely lingering from the interaction with Jess. Everyone likes Jess. But next Lena sees the smattering of freckles on her cheeks, evidence of their time together in too much sun. Her hair is bright blonde, too, still sun-kissed by highlights, half pulled up in a ponytail, half falling over her shoulder in gentle waves. She's wearing a blue sweater with a preppy white button down poking through at the top. Her lips are a coral pink. The tanned skin of her legs are just visible below a dark grey skirt, and Lena suddenly remembers those torturous jean cut-offs. Her reverie is jolted, however, when her eyes make it back up to Kara's face to find her staring right back at Lena through her black-rimmed glasses (they seamlessly dovetail her otherwise perfectly professional appearance.)
Kara stops in her tracks, hovering just barely inside the office, her mouth piqued in an 'oh' expression that Lena has never seen before. If Lena were the gushing, emotional type, she'd cry and embrace Kara, but… she can't.
"Kara, hello. Come in," Lena motions inward to the office instead.
Kara stutters forward and smiles a little awkwardly. She places her book bag by the couch, but waits for further instruction from Lena who, spiraling, jerks into action.
"Please," Lena indicates the couch, and Kara sits.
Lena sits near her, smoothing out one of the pant legs of her suit before crossing her legs. Kara's cheeks are pink, her mouth slightly parted. There's a visceral reaction in her scent as well: excitement, fear, a little bit of interest as Kara rakes over the suit.
It was the right choice.
"I have donuts here," Lena picks up a bag on the coffee table that Kara hadn't noticed yet. Glancing down to it, Kara's pupils completely dilate. She gasps and grabs at the bag.
"I figured you'd like them," Lena smiles as Kara rips into it.
"Oh, I do," Kara says. It's the first time Lena's heard her voice, and it's just as lovely and kind as it had been before. "Donuts are my favorite food group."
Lena resists the urge to correct her, and Kara offers her one of the pink sprinkled donuts. She takes it, humoring her with a small bite. She's still a kale kind of girl (despite the occasional craving for rare meat.)
After Kara is done, humming with contentment, she seems to remember herself, a more serious façade falling over her features. She reaches for a pen and notebook from her bag, balancing them on a leg and wiping her face with the back of her other hand.
"So, you wanted to discuss your new position as acting CEO of LuthorCorp?"
Lena furrows her eyebrows, putting the half eaten donut back on the coffee table.
"I know you changed some of the C level executive suite as well," Kara prompts. "And we can go over that, too."
"Well, we can if you want."
"Isn't that… why you requested the interview?" Kara asks tentatively.
"No, I—" Lena falters. She may as well be honest. "I just wanted to see you."
"Oh," Kara quietly mouths, staring back down at her blank notepad again.
They lapse into an awkward kind of quiet, and it makes Lena's skin nearly crawl. She'd known it wouldn't be easy, but she'd thought they'd gotten off to a good start. Outside her full story windows, the sky has gone a formless cotton white. A few droplets of rain begin to patter the glass.
Kara smiles finally, almost sadly, still looking down at her lap.
"It's been—a long time. I didn't think you wanted that."
"I’m sorry," Lena shakes her head, gesticulating with her hand as if she can wave away two months of absolute radio silence. "I'm sorry it’s taken me this long to reach out. I wasn't sure I was ready yet."
She wasn't sure if she could trust Kara. But she hasn't seen an article. No exclusives. Maybe she can.
"Are you ready now?" Kara looks up, the baby blue of her eyes hopeful and just that little bit of challenging.
Lena doesn't answer for a moment, fidgeting with her hands again. She calls on her confidence, and tries to remind herself what Kelly's told her. She wants this. She does deserve it. She places one elbow on the back of the couch and inclines her body towards Kara.
"I hope so."
Kara's eyes briefly drop downward, a flicker of a flame, before she's gazing back into Lena's eyes again.
"Did you think about me?"
"Every day," Lena answers without hesitation.
"I can’t sleep without you, you know. You were always—right there. I felt safe."
Lena buzzes with the desire to change forms, it's been so long. She can't remember the last time she'd rumbled the way she had with Kara, deep in her chest when she'd run a hand through her fur. The awkwardness from before has dissipated, too, replaced with a headier tension.
"You were right, though," Kara continues, taking a breath, the blue rim of her irises suddenly much thinner. "We didn’t know each other that well. And it wasn’t the right time. I was a mess— you were…"
"A mess, too, you can say it," Lena smiles.
"Yes," Kara mirrors the smile. "But I still want to know you."
"I want to know you, too," Lena echoes. "I want to, I don't know, at least be… acquaintances. Maybe even friends?"
"Friends," Kara repeats with a brief scrunch of her eyebrows. Regardless, she's moved closer at some point, her hand splayed out on the couch between them, pinky just touching Lena's pant leg.
"Are you…" Lena searches for the words as she gazes down at that exploratory pinky finger. "Are you back with—?"
"No." Kara cuts her off quickly, moving closer again. Now, their knees are touching.
"And that woman I saw you with? In that CatCo article?" she asks, fanning Lena's face with her words. Her breath smells sweet, like the donut from earlier. "That stupid actress?"
"She's won an Oscar," Lena scoffs, but she's hardly committed to defending a woman she can barely remember.
"I don't care. Are you dating her?"
A full half minute passes after Kara nods, barely noticeable, like she's made a mental note and reaffirmed a decision in her mind. It's not hard to guess what about. She's staring at Lena's mouth and licking her own lips wet once, twice. Lena doesn't move at first, registering that Kara is exuding a scent that she can only interpret as a call. A come hither. She doesn't have the tools to ignore it, and she doesn't want to. That's when, all at once, they meet in the middle. Kara crawls into Lena's lap, and Lena guides her in further by the elbow.
Lena pushes a river of blonde hair out of the way, and their mouths connect. Her hand brushes back from Kara's shoulder, up the tendon in her neck and behind her head. She smells so good, her scent now burning hot like a cinnamon apple pie in the oven. Kara's hands press down on Lena's shoulders, anchoring her there. Lena parts those bubblegum pink lips with her tongue and their bodies stitch together like elaborate embroidery.
Some things never change. They've barely talked. They haven't worked through a single issue, really. Lena is still riddled with problems, a child barely enrolled in a twelve year school of therapy. There's a long road ahead. But they want to be here. They want to try. It's the one promise they can make, the one thing that matters.
When Kara digs her nails into Lena's shoulders, when her kisses become nips, bites, Lena growls low. She picks Kara up, both hands on her full ass, and rearranges them on the couch. She situates herself on top, between Kara's legs, and grumbles out a loud sound of satisfaction. Kara gasps into her mouth at the noise, running her hands under Lena's maroon suit jacket, pushing it off of Lena's shoulders until she's forced to draw back and shrug her arms out of the sleeves. It drops to the floor.
While she's sat up, Kara's traces her fingers over the sheer lace, her index finger following the bust line all the way until it dips in the middle. Lena stares down at her with blown green eyes and ravenous hunger. Kara looks for a moment thoughtful.
"I want to go on a date," she says, and Lena laughs at the simplicity of the request. Of the fact that despite everything they've been through, they haven't actually sat across from each other at a restaurant. They've never shared a shred of normalcy. She salivates at the thought of it (at the thought of many things), but before she can reply, Jess' voice booms loudly across the office from the intercom on Lena's desk phone.
"Ms. Luthor," she says, and somehow Lena can detect an arch note of judgment in her voice. "Your 1:30 is here."
Lena rolls her eyes, her back curving and her head lolling onto Kara's shoulder.
"I don't want to," she complains. Kara strokes her hair.
"I know you're busy."
Lena rears back, kisses the tip of Kara's nose.
"Tonight. We'll do dinner."
"Steak?" Kara suggests coyly, her cheeks still blush pink.
Lena smiles with pointed teeth.