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New Beginning

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The flight is delayed by three hours. Three! Which would be fine if Kara had brought anything to do, but she hasn’t. The sky is clear, the sun is bright, and Kara had checked her phone several times to make sure it wasn’t windy.

She’d been so confident that her flight home would be on time that she hadn't bothered to go to the store to pick up puzzle books, and her phone has long since died from her endless scrolling. She can’t even distract herself with puppy videos anymore. 

Every outlet is commandeered by business people in suits, and teenagers whose faces are too close to their devices, fingers tapping away at speeds that impress even Kara—and she made a career on fast fingers.

She stretches her hands again, eyeing the shiny grand piano in the middle of the lobby. She grumbles at the lid. It probably stays open like that all the time, gathering dust as a display piece instead of existing as a wondrous tool for sharing music, sharing emotion beyond words. Making people feel music is Kara’s favourite thing in the world, and she does it every chance she gets.

Nobody around is trying to sleep. Families munch on airport snacks, and people huddle together to chat in sporadic groupings across the white marble floor. A few business people stand talking on phones, but they’re louder than a piano would be.

And Kara is so bored.

The one saving grace is that she bothered to change out of her pale blue concert gown and into comfortable grey sweats, throwing her blonde curls into a ponytail to keep them out of her face. There’s a yellow mustard stain from one of the four hotdogs she had for lunch smeared across the knee. She would go back for more, but the vendor’s eyes had already widened in judgment at her appetite, which is rude, and Kara pouts at the sign offering fries at half price. It’s a real tragedy the vendor is such a meanie, and that Alex isn’t here to buy them for her.

Kara has been sitting there for an hour and a half already. She could have performed another concert in that time, geez.

And everyone else is bored, too.

Kara just came from performing a piano concerto—to much applause from the audience, so she’s sure she could liven up the place. Even if she doesn’t have an orchestra to accompany her.

Kara sighs, musing about the beautiful, dark-haired woman who had played solo violin after Kara’s performance. She always, always plays solo, and Kara dreams of dueting with her. Her movements are so precise, but her solitude and expression add such sorrow to everything she performs. She’s haunting, and Kara longs to accompany her.

Kara shakes the thought away.

Now is not the time to daydream about Lena Luthor.

Besides, she’s like, way out of Kara’s music league. Alex would smack Kara for thinking so, but it’s true. Lena Luthor is elusive, always out of reach, and beyond anybody’s league, even someone as renowned as Kara.

It’s okay, though. As long as Kara gets to share music with people, she’s happy. She pushes her sweater sleeves up her forearms as she ambles over to the piano, debating what to play. Something hopeful to lighten the mood—nothing sad, of course. She doesn’t want these people to be bored and crying, so she settles on Faulkner’s New Beginning, a newer piece, but one whose beauty is undeniable.

Kara hums in surprise at the pristine inner workings of the instrument. No dust has accumulated on the strings or soundboard. From the black laminate lid to the three golden pedals, the piano glistens. It must be well-tended, despite being a display, and Kara smiles at the care for it.

The bench scrapes against the floor as Kara moves it and she winces, looking around to see if any of the waiting people are annoyed with her. Nobody looks up, and she takes it as a sign that they won’t mind if she kills time playing.

She can’t keep track of time when she loses herself to music, and Kara hopes it might make the next couple of hours pass quicker.

She stretches her hands and arms, adjusting her back as she relaxes her bent fingers onto the keys. She takes a deep breath, caressing the ivory with feather-light touches.

The piece starts slow and soft, barely discernible over the din of people waiting, but Kara continues, plays for herself, and smiles down at the gentle notes she makes.

The piano alone sounds beautiful, but she feels the absence of the violin accompaniment like a looming presence. She presses the gentle notes, keeping her fingers fluid as they fly over the keys. It’s hopeful—like morning rain in the spring, and the promise of new life to come. It’s gentle and reaching, and Kara’s played it so many times she can hear the strings in her mind as her eyes flutter closed.

Except the stings grow louder, cutting through as the buzzing crowd quiets, and Kara opens her eyes. If she hadn’t dedicated her entire life to playing piano, she might falter in her movements, because there, at the right edge of the keyboard, stands Lena Luthor herself—changed out of her blood-red gown, but no less beautiful as she draws her bow across the strings, joining into Kara’s melody with effortless grace.

Kara beams at her.

She never expected her dream to play with Lena Luthor to be fulfilled, let alone in the middle of a half-empty airport with children screaming and feet scuffing against the floor as people shuffle about. But Kara only has ears for their music.

She loses herself to the flow of the song, dancing over the keys, slow then fast and slow again, like tides washing over sand. Lena’s brow furrows as she fingers the strings, though the soft smile doesn’t leave her face as she draws out tentative, pleading notes, steady in the midst of Kara’s unrelenting chaos; a guiding light in a storm—relentless sun, breaking through clouds between misty, lingering raindrops.

With Kara’s hopeful pressing of the keys, and the desperation emanating from Lena’s violin, the music sounds like two separate entities determined to exist together, both begging for the same thing with relentless opposition.

It enraptures Kara, takes over her entire being, expanding within her like light, and she laughs as she plays through the crescendo. Tears gather in her eyes like they always do because Kara feels it. Everywhere. Like the music is alive in her, part of her; like Lena is a part of her too now because they’re sharing this.

The overwhelming swell of emotions calms, leaving Kara in the tender air of hope the piece aims for, and she takes a deep breath as it comes to a gentle end. The final note echoes through the silent lobby as she bites her lip in an attempt to control her smile, gazing at the piano and then to Lena, who is as lovely as their music. Kara chuckles and wipes her eyes with her sleeve as applause breaks out around them.

Lena, though she’s performed hundreds of times, blushes and ducks her chin down at the praise, holding her violin in rest position. Kara ignores everyone else, staring at Lena’s soft smile with a singular focus.

“That was amazing,” Kara breathes out, and she knows she looks a little weird with wet eyes and a smile, but she can’t help it. She doesn’t care.

Lena’s smile grows coy as she turns to the chair her black violin case rests on, saying, “Yes, you’re quite talented. I couldn’t give up an opportunity to duet with Kara Danvers.”

Kara gapes as Lena closes the case, straightening up with a wink that Kara will never recover from.

“You know who I am?” Kara asks in a daze. Lena Luthor knows who she is. It shouldn’t be surprising. They run in the same circles, often perform at the same venues, and even on the same days sometimes, but they’ve never spoken.

Lena scoffs, breaking Kara from her awe. “You’re one of the most revered pianists in the country. Playing with you is a dream come true. I’m-”

“Lena Luthor! I know! I’ve always wanted to play with you!” Kara beams, shuffling to her feet and clenching her hands at her sides so she doesn’t reach out to make sure Lena is actually there.

Lena raises an eyebrow at her as if it isn’t common knowledge that the majority of pianists would chop off a finger for the chance to duet with Lena Luthor. Yet Lena is subdued as she asks, “Really?”

“Of course! I always hoped I might get to play with you, but I never thought it would happen!” Kara gushes, her face heating up because, gosh, she’s being a total dork, but she can’t stop herself. “You’re beautiful — your music, I mean. It’s beautiful. Not that you’re not, because you are, I just meant-”

Lena cuts her off with a quiet chuckle and Kara adjusts her glasses so she has an excuse to look away for a moment. She tries to catch her breath. She fails.

Lena is devastating from afar, and even more so up close. Her eyes crinkle at the sides as she grins up at Kara.

“You’re not so bad yourself,” Lena murmurs.

“Thanks, I practice a lot.” Kara rubs the back of her neck and Lena grins with a shake of the head.

“Your artistry is lovely, but that’s not what I meant.”

“What did you- oh. ” Kara blinks several times as Lena smirks at her, and though Kara has performed in front of full-houses across the country—sometimes even outside of it—she’s never felt so nervous.

Here’s Lena Luthor, dressed in a maroon three-piece suit, hair in a severe ponytail, looking sharp and gorgeous and flirting with Kara. Who looks down to check if that yellowish mustard stain is still smeared on the knee of her sweatpants.

It is.

Kara opens her mouth to say something— anything — but her brain is only capable of supplying a steady stream of disbelieving blankness as she continues to stare.

“Can I interest you in a cup of coffee?” Lena asks, tilting her head down and biting her lip in nerves. As if she’s fearful Kara might refuse.

Kara would be an idiot if she did.

“I love coffee!” Kara exclaims and then blushes again because that was way too loud. She looks around them, but the crowd has dissipated, and most people are distracted with their vices once more. Lena fidgets with her violin case’s handle before tilting her head in the direction of the airport’s coffee shop.

Kara scrambles to grab her frayed backpack, in which she’d stuffed her dress (Eliza is going to kill her when she sees the wrinkles), before gulping and gesturing for Lena to lead the way.

They make quite the pair, Lena in a crisp suit and Kara in the oldest clothes she owns, but hey, it’s an airport and Kara saw someone wearing actual bunny slippers, so in the grand scheme of things, mustard-stained sweats are basically a tuxedo.

The smell of coffee seems out of place against the monochrome steel and white tile. At least the queue is short. Kara scowls at it for a moment. Looks like only her plane was delayed if the lack of people is anything to go by. But! She got to play with the Lena Luthor, so she can’t stay too upset. The Lena Luthor, who moves around the building as if she owns it. She might, to be fair.

As they take their place in line, Kara clears her throat to ask, “So how come you always play solo?”

“I’m better alone,” Lena mutters as she raises her chin and looks forward.

“I don’t know,” Kara hums before she bumps Lena’s shoulder with her own. “I think we make a pretty good team.”

Kara’s stomach swoops at the delicate dusting of pink that spreads across Lena’s cheeks. From afar, in her dark gowns, as she fills theatres with the sustaining notes of her melancholy violin, Lena is gorgeous. Here, under the harsh white lights, with flakes of mascara decorating her pale cheeks, Lena is the most breathtaking thing Kara has ever seen. Kara’s seen photos, of course, but they pale in comparison. Lena’s eyes are so bright; almost luminescent under her thick eyelashes, and Kara is lost in the sea green.

They both jolt when the barista clears his throat.

Their orders don’t take long—Kara gets a salted caramel latte and she scrunches up her nose as Lena orders a plain black coffee. Kara slings her backpack off to search for her wallet, but Lena has paid before Kara can even touch the zipper. She blushes. It’s like a date, almost.

“I don’t know how you can drink that,” Kara says as they claim one of the several empty tables. Its fake marble surface is round, and the legs are rickety enough for Kara to decide to hold her latte, uneager to spill it in front of— or on —Lena.

Lena turns her cup so the lid’s black spout faces her. Her fingers are so graceful, with defined tendons decorated in sparse freckles. And big, Kara thinks as Lena raises her chocolate-coloured cup to take a sip. Lena licks her scarlet lips before she says, “It serves its purpose.”

“Maybe, but at what cost? I know it doesn’t taste good.”

“Coffee is supposed to be an acquired taste, but based on that cup of sugar and foam, I think you might’ve missed the memo,” Lena teases. One of her eyebrows lifts, daring and flirty, pulling a nervous chuckle from Kara.

“This tastes like a hug in a mug, and I regret nothing, ” Kara says, using her stir stick to scoop up a mouthful of foam for good measure. 

Lena shakes her head, leaving a smear of red against her paper cup as she takes another sip. Green eyes glance back up, a coy grin below them, and Kara’s face heats as Lena looks at her. Kara feels like she’s at her first performance again—nervous under hundreds of peoples’ laser focus, all there to judge her—except this is almost worse because there are no lights to blind Kara, and her audience has a jawline sharp enough for Kara to cut her hand.

Kara takes a sip, wincing as the too-big gulp burns down to her stomach. Gosh, she’s so sweaty, and Lena is content to sit together in silence, but Kara wants to talk. She wants to get to know Lena, maybe. They could be friends! Maybe more. Hopefully more. Kara should say something, but what?

“Why can’t skeletons play church music?” The words pour out of Kara, uncontrollable and ridiculous.

“Because they’re inanimate?” Lena asks with slitted eyes as her head tilts.

No."  Kara tilts her head back as she laughs. “It’s because they have no organs.”

The corner of Lena’s lip quirks up as she closes her eyes to shake her head, but gentle dimples peek out, and Kara doesn’t feel so ridiculous anymore.

Her shoulders relax at Lena’s quiet laugh, and Kara has to hear it again. Her cheeks hurt with how much she’s smiling as she prompts, “Why did the skeleton join band?”

Lena’s mouth twitches like she’s struggling to keep her lips in line, uniform, like the rest of her. She takes a slow sip of her disgusting coffee before asking, “Why?”

“Because he loved the trom-bone. Get it?” Kara’s nose scrunches up as she chuckles at her own joke, and Lena looks down to hide her smile—her lovely, shy smile. With the way Lena veils her amusement, Kara is sure Lena needs to do much more smiling. Much more laughing. She needs metaphorical sugar in her metaphorical coffee. And real sugar in her real coffee, too, but that’s beside the point.

“Why are all your music puns skeleton related?” Lena teases as she fidgets with the coffee lid.

Kara lifts her chin, failing to keep a straight face and she says, “I find them... humerus.”

Lena laughs like it’s a language she doesn’t know. Like the sound is unfamiliar and belongs to someone else, but gosh, even with the way she coughs it out, it’s a melody. Kara bites her lip, wondering how Lena might laugh if she got used to doing it.

Before Kara can think of any more puns, the musical composition they played together starts emanating from Lena. Her eyes grow wide and she blushes as she reaches into her maroon blazer, pulling her phone from a hidden breast pocket. Her dark eyebrows pull together and she clears her throat, her voice turning low and brusque as she answers. “Lena Luthor.”

Kara fidgets with her backpack strap to try to give Lena the illusion of privacy, but Lena doesn’t say anything. She listens to whoever is on the other end of the line for a few seconds before she holds the phone toward Kara with a raised eyebrow and an amused smirk.

“It’s for you.”

“What? How? ” Kara squeaks as she puts her delicious drink down, but Lena edges the phone closer, so Kara takes it. She tries not to blush when their fingers brush together. She looks at the screen, but it’s a private number and Kara frowns. “Hello?”

“Finally,” Cat Grant’s annoyed, clipped tone rings through and Kara winces, looking over at Lena with an apologetic smile. Lena is reclined in her chair with one arm resting on the back of it, her other hand around her hot mug. No big deal, then. At least not to Lena. Cat Grant is another story, and Kara is uneager to provoke her manager’s wrath.

“I’m so sorry Miss Grant. My phone died and-”

“And you decided to become a viral sensation, yes, I’m aware.” Cat cuts off before Kara’s rambling can begin in earnest, and she would be thankful if Cat’s words weren’t so confusing.

“A viral what? ” Kara scoffs.

Lena’s eyes snap to hers before she reaches for her violin case, unzipping the front pocket to pull out an iPad.

“Honestly, Keira. The one time I can’t make it to a performance, Lena Luthor decides to approach you? You better invite her to duet in a professional capacity. I’ve been trying to poach that woman for years.”

“I can’t- I mean, I’m not so good with poaching,” Kara grimaces and Lena’s eyebrows raise at whatever is on her screen. Kara bites her lip as she thinks of her endless skeleton puns. “Or with talking.”

“Your little date certainly says otherwise,” Cat drawls out.

“My what?

Lena’s cheeks are bright pink as slides the iPad across the table. An article has already been written about what Kara is doing right now. A video of her and Lena performing together is paused at the top of the screen, and below it, there’s a picture of them sitting at this very table, both with pink cheeks and looking at each other.

“Poach her, Kara Danvers.”

Kara stares as the phone goes silent.

‘Danvers and Luthor: New Beginning in Metropolis Airport,’ is in bold across the top of the page.

Kara gapes across the table, shaking her head. She didn’t mean for any of this to happen! She only wanted to play piano so she wouldn’t be bored.

“I’m sorry,” Kara says.

Lena purses her lips, her eyes flitting to the side as she gathers her thoughts, and Kara’s heart hammers so hard she can feel it in her toes. A slow, crooked smile grows across Lena’s face, and she glances at the iPad before looking at Kara again.

“I wouldn’t be opposed to dueting. On occasion. With you,” Lena says, careful and tentative, and altogether calm in comparison to Kara, who grabs the edge of their rickety table so hard that Lena has to jump forward to steady both of their drinks.

“Really?” Kara beams, unperturbed by her usual accidental destructive tendencies.

“What can I say?” Lena mutters, and her eyes crinkle around the edges and she breathes another delicate laugh. “We make a pretty good team.”

Kara adjusts her glasses before looking at Lena and offering a bright, hopeful smile. Lena offers a slow, tentative one in return, and like their instruments in the performance piece they played, they are two separate entities determined to exist together, both begging for the same thing with relentless opposition.

New Beginning indeed.