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Meet Me in The Afterglow

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“I will do everything in my power to stop you… just like I would any other villain.”

 

As she watches Supergirl take off into the air, something inside Lena snaps. It seems to happen in slow motion but also all at once as the world, her world, crumbles. Lena continues to stare as the red cape become blurry, from her eyes filling with tears or from the distance and the darkness that consumes it, Lena is unsure.

 

Kara is up and away, flying for five full seconds, as Lena stands there, stoic and silent… until Lena suddenly comes to. She storms up to the siding of the balcony in the direction Kara had flown off to, gripping tightly as she leans over and screams with all her might, “HEY! COME BACK HERE!”

 

She is already practically back at her apartment, eager to rejoin Alex and J’onn, to decompress from her confrontation with Lena and discuss her day visiting the alternative realities with Mxy, when she clearly hears Lena demand her return. She freezes mid-air and hangs there, still facing forward, torn between two courses of action.

 

“KARA DANVERS, I KNOW YOU CAN HEAR ME!”

 

It is the first time she has used her name, her real name since before the horrendous confrontation in the Fortress of Solitude. She slowly turns in midair, practically feeling the anger and the rage from Lena’s penthouse from where she is, already so many blocks away. She grits her teeth and takes off back in the direction of Lena’s place, coming into view a few seconds later to see Lena standing there, gripping the railing so tightly her knuckles are whiter than the rest of her pale hands.

 

Kara comes to a stop, hovering slightly higher than where Lena stands, her eyes steeled over. “What?” She asks emphatically.

 

Lena lets out the breath she had apparently been holding before she finally releases the railing of her balcony and points at Kara. “YOU do not get to do that!” Lena says in a huff.

 

Kara’s eyes narrow as she continues to float, arms crossing. “Do what, exactly?”

 

“You do not get to come here and call me a villain to make yourself feel better. Just because you’ve always treated me like one, doesn’t mean it’s true.”

 

Kara’s jaw shifts, practically snapping off as she opened her mouth to speak. “That’s not… Lena, that’s not what I was saying, at all. I never thought you were bad, Lena, and you know it.”

 

“Do I?” Lena snaps back quickly.

 

There’s a soft sigh that Kara lets out as she says her name. “Lena…” Kara talks a bit softer this time, her arms uncrossing themselves as she starts to lower herself closer to the balcony floor. She hadn’t expected Lena to actually respond to her remarks earlier, but apparently, she was wrong… very wrong. “Look, I know you’re still angry-”

 

“No!” Lena jumps in, interrupting Kara as she starts to pace around the balcony, “Stop telling me how I’m feeling. If you truly knew me at all, you would understand that my anger is covering up my pain. I am in pain, Kara! Because YOU, the one person I thought I could fucking trust, the one person I thought would never betray me, did, Kara. You betrayed me. I’m not angry Kara, I’m heartbroken. YOU BROKE ME. YOU are the reason I am here right now.”

 

Lena realizes she is crying when she finishes her outburst and finally registers the warm tears coming down her cheeks. It’s in that moment she also really feels the weight of her own emotions, her own truth, as it radiates from her. And she is just so exhausted from carrying it around alone for so long. So relieved to finally get it off her chest. She quickly wipes away the tears as she turns to face away from the Kryptonian that has wrecked her world in so many ways she has lost count. In the silence that follows, she hears the soft sound of Kara’s boots when they finally touch down on the balcony floor. She knows Kara landed only a few steps from her and it causes her to inhale in surprise. She had assumed her outburst would have made Kara flee.

 

Kara doesn’t step forward though, she simply lets out a small sigh of her own. It’s clear that she too, is spent from carrying around her own burden from what has happened between them. Lena hears Kara take in another breath and let it out slowly before she finally speaks. This time, Kara is soft spoken, all her earlier defensiveness and anger completely gone.

 

“I love being Kara. I said before to someone else a few years ago, that Kara is who I am and Supergirl is what I can do. It took me a long time to realize though that I particularly love being Kara when I get to spend time with you, Lena. But… but I’m not perfect, Lena, I… I am just as lost and damaged as anyone else. I make mistakes… And… and sometimes I let fear drive my decisions… and because of that… because I did that for so long… I ruined the best relationship in my life.”

 

A heavy silence falls between them as the seconds tick by. There is a slight wind as Lena stares out over the side of her balcony, letting Kara’s words sink in. She forgoes fighting back her own tears, letting them silently glide down her cheeks. She eventually blinks slowly and lets her eyes stay closed as she inhales a slow, deep, deliberate breath, before letting it out slowly. She knows she needs to turn around and face Kara. She knows it has been entirely too long that they have been there, standing in silence. Lena isn’t even sure when she turns around that Kara will still be there.

 

As she finally forces herself to turn around, she is stunned to see Kara still there, standing silently, only one small step away from her. She is close. Far closer than Lena anticipated. Lena can see now that Kara too has been shedding her own tears. She takes in Kara’s appearance, really takes it in for the first time in many weeks, months even. She can see the slight bags under Kara’s eyes and the way Kara’s shoulders have a little sag to them. Kara is standing there, her own hands at her sides, twisting and turning nervously as she waits for Lena to make the next move. She knows how hard this is for Kara. Kara isn’t one to sit, or in this instance, stand, and wait. She is a woman of action. That’s what made everything after the fortress so hard. Kara kept pushing and pushing to talk to her when what she needed was space and time to process. But then, she woke up in this new world and Lex was back and everything was just, insane.

 

“You know,” Lena finally says with a small sigh, “All I wanted to do, when I woke up after the world ended, to find out my homicidal brother was alive again, was to call my best friend. I wanted to process the fact that the person I killed to protect you and everyone else, was somehow alive again. But I couldn’t. Because my best friend was also Supergirl. And I was still angry for finding out that my best friend was also Supergirl. But I also now had to process that Supergirl wasn’t best friends with Lena Luthor. And there was no way that Supergirl could be best friends with Lena Luthor in a world where her brother, Lex Luthor, was alive and could try to kill her best friend at any one of his given maniacal whims.”

 

Kara stares hard, blue eyes meeting green, her mind clearly churning as she processes Lena’s words, understanding the meaning of them. “Lena… that… that is a lot to process… and then I show up…”.

 

Lena hums as her head tilts and bobs to the side a little. “And then you showed up… as Supergirl… and not as Kara…”

 

Kara’s eyes widen, realizing the implications. “Offering to work with you… not as your friend,” she says as the reality of that day sets in.

 

All the anger and the anguish seemingly gone for both women now as they talk softly.

 

“I had… a lot more time to process Lex being back,” Kara says after a few more moments of silence. “During um… well… it’s hard to explain but…” Kara’s mind starts flashing back to when she nearly killed Lex upon seeing him again… when the Paragons were at the end of the universe, where time ceased to exist… and when Lex ultimately betrayed everyone and she fought him again, yelling at him about how he hurt Lena.

 

“You could try, I’m very smart, you know,” Lena says, pulling Kara from her memories.

 

Kara can’t help but smile at Lena’s relaxed, conversational tone. It’s… almost like they used to be. The joking, the playfulness… she knows Lena is trying. She knows too, just how much they have hurt each other over these past few months. And how maybe, finally, they can talk about it. Maybe now, they can listen and understand each other’s perspective. Maybe finally, they can attend to and heal the giant gaping bullet hole wounds they inflicted in each other, instead of trying to cover them with band aids.

 

“Can we… go inside?” Kara asks, realizing that she does want to tell Lena. That she wants to tell her everything, finally. “And maybe I can… change?” She wants to tell her everything, as herself, as Kara – her true Kara self - in comfortable clothes, curled up on a couch, without her glasses.

 

Lena hesitates as her body stiffens. This is a big ask and Kara knows it. Going into Lena’s penthouse is a metaphor, of course. It’s a symbol for letting Kara back into her life on a deeper level, letting them reconnect and be honest and open, but also agree to listen and be understanding on the receiving end. And both women know it. Kara holds her breath as she waits. She won’t push Lena for this. She will only ask once. And if Lena says no, she will respect her wishes. She will continue to talk out here, for as long as Lena likes. But maybe, either way, they can start to repair what has been broken.

 

“Ok…” Lena finally says, a small tentative smile on her face, “I’ll make us some tea while you change.”

 

Kara smiles wide. She knows that this isn’t just an olive branch. It is a massive bridge built over an entire chasm that has been the past few months of their lives.

 

--------------------------

 

Lena ends up ordering food because Kara’s stomach continually (and very loudly) interrupts her story of what happened during Crisis. When she returns from the kitchen where her phone had been, she smiles at Kara waving her phone, “Food will be here in twenty.”

 

Kara smiles widely. “My stomach thanks you.”

 

Lena laughs, like, really laughs, at Kara’s joke. And Kara can’t remember the last time she heard Lena’s genuine laugh.

 

As Lena settles back down on the couch, she still keeps herself at the other end, a healthy distance from Kara. “So, unsurprising, my power-hungry brother attempted to betray everyone. And then you all faced off with an entity entirely too powerful that even I am having trouble fathoming it.”

 

Kara gives her a shy grin. “Yeah… Oliver… he… it’s because of him that we won, really. That we were able to rebirth the new universe.”

 

“I’m sorry about your friend Oliver,” Lena says solemnly.

 

Kara gives her a gracious but sad smile.

 

After a few seconds of silence pass, Lena breaks it by asking in a neutral tone, “So, technically… I… died?”

 

Kara swallows the lump in her throat as she nods. “The entire multiverse technically ceased to exist for weeks. It was just the Paragons until we were able to bring it back.”

 

“And Lex… made a deal to make sure I kept my memories from our Earth… why?” Lena asks, the wheels in her head turning.

 

Kara shrugs. “I honestly have no idea. I was hoping you might be able to tell me. Like I said, he did have the book of destiny for a while… maybe he didn’t like the Lena that would have been on this Earth?”

 

Lena hums as her eyes stare down at the chess board on her coffee table. She knows she is going to have to let this one simmer for a while as she digs up all that she can about the Lena Luthor that actually lived on this Earth.

 

“Anyway… yeah… I think that catches you up to speed with the events until you woke up here,” Kara says. “Though… I guess I should tell you about today…”

 

Lena’s eyebrows perk up as she looks back at Kara. “While I do want to hear about today, there is something I need to say first.”

 

“Oh?” Kara asks in a surprised tone.

 

Lena sets her mug of tea down on the coffee table, what’s left of it has long been cold. She turns to face Kara more directly, tucking her leg under herself. “I owe you… well either one major apology or several different apologies… not sure which way you prefer it.”

 

“Lena… you don’t-”

 

“I do,” Lena says, cutting Kara off. “I hear you now… I need you to know that… I know you weren’t keeping your identity from me because I was a Luthor… or to spy on me or anything like that… You… You were trying to keep me safe… and you liked having someone you could feel human with… I get that… And I’m sorry I couldn’t understand that through my own pain and my own heartbreak.” Lena’s lips shake slightly as she struggles to finish the sentence and find her words to continue. Kara is patient as she waits for Lena to continue.

 

Lena takes a few breaths as she looks down at her own hands, fidgeting in her lap. She lets out her breath slowly as she finds her next words. “I know what I was intending to do, was driven by the pain in my own life… so that no one else would ever feel what I was feeling… but that doesn’t excuse what that would cost people… or… or what I did to you in particular… all the things I did to you… from lying to you… to using you to steal… and especially using kryptonite on you… which I said I would never do… and so yes, I do need to apologize for that, for all of it, but especially that. And… and I just hope I can find a way to make amends.”

 

Lena lets out a shaky breath when she finishes and glances up to see Kara wearing a small smile and teary eyes. “Lena… I spent all day with a fifth dimensional being visiting alternative realities where I told you the truth before Lex could in order to try to fix us…” Kara slides down the couch closer to Lena. “I’m not sure but I think that this, us talking, is what is going to make things better between us.”

 

Lena does the one thing she hasn’t let herself do in several months. The one thing she has forced herself not to do when her body tried to do it.

 

She lets her hand reach out and grab Kara’s. Now that Kara was right there, after all, it was oh so easy. Lena didn’t even think about it. She just did it.

 

Kara looks down at Lena’s hand on top of hers and smiles widely. She turns her hand over so they can intertwine their fingers together before she looks back at Lena. She pauses, her head dropping slightly before she says softly, “So… Are we done fighting now?”

 

Lena chuckles softly and nods. “Yes… I think so.”

 

“Good,” Kara says, the smile suddenly shifting to a more serious expression, “Because I don’t think I could have gone another day without you in my life.”

 

“Kara,” Lena says as her face suddenly blushes. “That’s a bit… dramatic.”

 

Kara slides closer, lifting their joined hands so they are now on her lap. “Maybe, but not by much, Lena. You can ask Alex or Nia or anyone really. I was miserable without you in my life. A real pity party, deby downer.”

 

Lena’s head falls to the side as her eyebrow raises. “Oh really? Supergirl didn’t seem too upset when I saw her out and about punching bad guys.”

 

It’s said in jest, and Kara knows it by Lena’s playful smile. Kara shrugs casually. “What can I say, when I’m sad, I like to hit things.”

 

Lena’s head falls back in a full laugh. “What a pair we make, a bullet proof alien stronger than 100 men who likes to hit things when she is sad, and a billionaire genius who tries to take away human suffering through mind control when she is mad.”

 

Kara’s staring intently at Lena with a wide smirk, her heart so full seeing that Lena can joke about her identity. And even do so in the same breath that she jokes about herself and her own actions. She might have been so caught up in that part of it, that she let her other thought slip out of her mouth.

 

“What a pair we make, indeed.”

 

If Kara had said it in her playful, joking tone, she might have been able to play it off. But when Lena makes eye contact again with her, it’s clear that Lena has picked up on the underlying meaning behind Kara’s tone.

 

In all fairness, Kara had been struggling with her feelings for her best friend for a little while now. It’s what made telling Lena the truth about being Supergirl so hard those last few months… It started to dawn on her that her feelings might be more than just that of friends whenever she was captured by the Children of Liberty… and her thoughts kept turning to one person in particular… and then a short while later she was able to tell Nia her identity no problem at all… it wasn’t as if she trusted Nia more than Lena… but she felt like she was risking less… that Nia could have rejected her and she would have been ok by that… which was the start of Kara thinking about her own feelings for Lena… though she never said anything at the time because Lena and James were still kind of fizzling out… but then… well… so much happened and then they were hunting Lex together. And Kara knew that she wanted Lena to know that she was Supergirl first. Then… if that went well… she would tell her the truth about her other maybe not so platonic feelings for her best friend.

 

However, once the cat was out of the bag about Supergirl, Kara thought it went so well, that she didn’t want to risk losing Lena again. And so, then she kept backing out about that… until she realized that things hadn’t actually gone that well with Lena… and then… well… the end of the universe happened… and well… here they are now… finally putting the pieces of their tenuous friendship back together… and Kara went and said a thing like that.

 

As Kara is realizing her mess up, some of Lena’s words and their meaning are also catching up to her. Words like heartbroken. And suddenly, Kara is thinking and realizing that maybe, just maybe her feelings haven’t been so one sided.

 

The laugher dies down immediately as Lena meets her eyes. The silence is electric.

 

And then the buzzer to Lena’s penthouse rings.

 

Neither of them moves. “Food is here,” Lena says softly, still staring intently at Kara.

 

“Right,” Kara says, “One of us should probably get that.”

 

Lena bites her bottom lip as she clears her throat and finally starts to stand up. “I’ll get it.”

 

At first, Lena’s hand starts to come free of Kara’s as she stands, but then, very suddenly, Kara pulls it tight again. Lena looks back down at her, confused.

 

“Kara?”

 

“Are we?” Kara asks, barely a whisper.

 

“Are we what?” Lena’s eyebrow is raised, concern written on her face.

 

“Are we… a pair?” Kara finishes it, using the same words from before, unsure of whether she should use the other words racing through her mind right now. A couple.

 

Lena stands still, immobilized by the question. “Um…”

 

At least Kara knows the implication of the phrasing isn’t lost on Lena either.

 

The buzzer rings again.

 

“Um… I should…” Lena says, finding some words this time as she nods her head towards the door.

 

Kara nods. “Right,” and relinquishes Lena’s had for real this time.

 

Kara’s heart is pounding out of her chest as she waits the three minutes it takes Lena to walk to the front door to retrieve the pizzas. She somehow manages to stay seated on the couch as she watches Lena set the (5) pizzas down on the kitchen counter.

 

Lena’s back is towards her, and she watches as Lena takes a few breaths before turning to face her. She walks back towards Kara and has a curious but unreadable expression on her face. Kara doesn’t miss how Lena leaves the pizza in the kitchen. Kara also doesn’t care. She knows this is more important right now, her stomach is just going to have to wait.

 

“Um…” Lena says as she sits back down. “I know we never explicitly discussed this topic… but… I didn’t know you were interested in… women… in that way.”

 

Kara can hear her own heart and Lena’s heart, both beating rapidly. “Right… um… I know we never talked about Krypton before… we didn’t really have labels with sexuality like on Earth… and because we had the birthing matrix…” Kara goes on a tangent about Kryptonian mating and match rituals, telling Lena about how it was customary for many Kryptonians to marry regardless of sex, because the birthing matrix allowed for children together. So, the match system was based on many other genetic considerations. Lena finds it all very fascinating.

 

“Did you have a match? Or would that have happened when you were older?” Lena asks eventually.

 

“Oh, it happens when you are older, when you think you have found your partner. You submit to the system.”

 

Lena hums. “I see… it’s just… well I suppose I’ve only ever seen you date men on Earth. Not to say that your dating behavior dictates your orientation. I’m just… trying to understand.”

 

It’s a complicated answer, one that Kara herself has only recently begun to unpack herself. “I was taught to blend in, be undetected when I came to Earth. Don’t use your powers, don’t stand out in school, be ‘normal’…” Kara says using air quotes as she trails off.

 

“Ah,” Lena says as if the proverbial lightbulb has gone off in her mind, “the heteronormativity of it all. So, you got to Earth and had to learn earth customs and norms and were told to fit in as much as possible. And so, when it came time to start dating, you saw that the norm was to date men. And you were attracted to men, so that was easy enough.”

 

Kara nods with a close-lipped smile. “So… when did you figure out you also liked women?” Lena asks curiously.

 

Kara’s eyes instinctively closed. Because that was the part in which she was still very much unpacking and hadn’t actually told anyone… not even her sister… her very much gay sister who would probably understand more than anyone considering it took her until her late 20’s to also figure this out. Kara let out a ragged breath as she started to talk, “Um… well… you see… I met this… badass CEO and… I kind of wouldn’t let her be until she became my friend… and I kept defending her to all my friends even when all the evidence said she was guilty… and I almost poisoned the entire water supply of the city instead of sacrificing her life… and then I was entirely too afraid to tell her my secret identity as Supergirl because I was afraid of losing her…”

 

“Oh Kara…”

 

“I know…”

 

Kara opens her eyes again when she feels Lena’s had on her own. Her eyes drift from their hands up to Lena’s face. “Hey,” Lena says softly. “I’m not going anywhere.”

 

The reassurance makes Kara’s eyes well up with tears as she nods.

 

“This is why you didn’t want to tell me you were Supergirl, isn’t it?” Lena asks with a sad smile. “The risk of losing me, it was too great.”

 

The tears that had filled Kara’s eyes were now overflowing and freefalling down her cheeks. Lena reaches over with her free hand and uses her thumb to gently wipe them away. Kara is silent after that, her emotions from carrying around this even bigger secret, and having it finally come out, forcing her to go mute while her body communicates for her through her seemingly never-ending supply of tears and the now slight tremor in her body.

 

“I know we… never talked much about previous partners,” Lena says after some moments of silence that fill the penthouse. “You know about Jimmy, of course… and Jack,” Lena says as she thinks back with a sad smile. Kara nods in response but remains silent otherwise. “But we never talked about my relationship with someone else I’m pretty sure you have met.”

 

Kara’s eyebrows scrunch as she thinks and her head tilts, questioningly at Lena. “Veronica Sinclair ring a bell?”

 

Kara’s face goes blank as she stares at Lena. “I’m sorry… did you say…”

 

“I told you I knew her in boarding school, didn’t I?” Lena says with a sly smirk.

 

“Yeah but… I thought you said you didn’t get along,” Kara says, her face turning red now that she is imaging just how Lena and Veronica knew each other.

 

“Let’s just say, maybe there was a reason we didn’t get along,” Lena says with a shrug. “Anyway, that was less of actual dating and more of my introduction to the fact that I might like women.”

 

Kara can only nod, taking in the information, not sure what else to say.

 

“But, if you wanted to know Kara, my dating history does include both women and men. Just… not much dating at all since I took over Lcorp… or since Lex returned from the dead… which, we should talk about too,” Lena says with concern.

 

Silence again falls over them as Kara’s head swarms with all the new information. But she keeps coming back to one particularly thought. Why… why would Lena tell her she has dated both men and women… unless… unless…

 

“Lena?” She asks suddenly, while also realizing Lena’s hand is still on top of hers. She realizes in that moment that Lena has helped to keep her grounded this entire time. This helps give her a spike of confidence.

 

“Yes darling?” Lena asks with a half-smile, like she had been waiting for Kara to get to this exact moment.

 

“You and me, we’ve been through a lot, as friends,” Kara says this looking intently at Lena.

 

“We have,” Lena acquiesces.

 

Kara nods in return but looks down as she starts to ramble a bit, hearing Lena call her darling was throwing her off just a little bit. “I’ve come to realize that I might… no, I do, I know that I do, have feelings for you that are not friendly… wait, no, I mean, not plutonic. I have non-plutonic feelings for you.” Kara finishes and looks back up at Lena, feeling more confident again.

 

Lena is wearing a soft smile now, one that Kara knows Lena reserves for her and only her. One she hasn’t actually seen Lena give her for a very long time. Kara reaches out and lightly touches Lena’s cheeks, caressing with the back of her fingers, before tucking her hair gently behind her ear. Lena’s eyes close automatically at the touch. A hum so light escapes Lena, only Kara’s superhearing picks it up.

 

“Lena?” Kara says softly. Lena’s eyes flutter open. Kara gives her a gently smile as she continues to talk in a whisper, “I broke your heart when I broke your trust by not being honest with you about who I am. Now that you know… everything. Can we fix it? Can you still care for me? Can you trust me again?”

 

Despite the soft tone, they both know the questions are serious. That in order for them to move forward, to truly put the past behind them, they have to be able to rebuild the trust that was lost.

 

Lena’s hand comes up and cover’s the hand on her own face. She hasn’t stopped smiling since Kara started touching her in such an intimate manner. “No matter how much I tried, I never stopped, Kara.”

 

Kara’s forehead crinkles as it does when she is confused or worried. “Never stopped what?”

 

“I never stopped loving you. Despite having my heart broken by you, despite having our trust broken, despite being so lost in that sea of pain that I was… there was still a part of me that wanted you to see what was going on… to see just how much pain I was truly in… there was still a part of me that didn’t want to do it… that wanted to keep the charade up for as long as possible… because I knew once I enacted my plan… I would lose you for good.”

 

Kara nods in understanding.

 

“I know now that… that I want to know all of you, Kara Danvers… the good, the bad, the ugly. Not just the sunshine Catco Reporter. While I do love that part of you, I want to know the part of you that has had a bad day as Supergirl. Or why you and your sister are fighting. Or what your favorite place to eat is on this planet and how often you actually go there just because you can. I want to know you. You have seen me at my worst and have loved me anyway, you loved me through it, or tried to love me through it, if I pushed you away. And I would love nothing more than to do the same for you, if you’ll let me.”

 

Lena’s heart isn’t just on her sleeve, it is on a silver platter, being served up for Kara to take and hold and cherish, if she wants it. And by Rao, she isn’t going to mess this up. This is her moment, the moment she has been wanting with Lena for so long now. This is it, the big moment. And she knows it. She hopes Lena does too.

 

Kara smiles, a blush creeping up her neck. She swallowed as she bit her lip before saying, “Lena, I’d like to kiss you now.”

 

Lena smiles widely, absolutely loving how kindhearted and aware Kara is being about wanting to get Lena’s approval before moving forward with anything. Of course, she is going to be witty about it in her reply, her smile turning into a bit of a smirk as she responds, “Good. I thought you were never going to-”

 

She is cut off by Kara’s soft, warm Kryptonian lips. Lena can’t help but smile into the kiss because of Kara’s surprising boldness, considering how bashful and awkward she can be other times. But soon enough Lena finds her focus and actually gets into the kiss herself. Kara’s hand wraps around, entangles in her hair while the other has found its way to her hip. Lena’s hands are gripping Kara’s hips, guiding, and pulling her closer as the kiss deepens. Lena finds herself sinking backwards as she lays back on the couch, pulling Kara with her.

 

The pizza on Lena’s kitchen counter, long forgotten now.