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Love is Garbage

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The primary justification for Lena’s move to the suburbs is for the quiet. The constant noise of the city had given Lena a perpetual migraine just behind the eyes, until one day she’d decided she had enough.

She instructed her realtor to find the calmest, quietest street in the National City area, and had promptly moved into a charming two-story home, on the corner of a charming little street in a charming little neighbourhood. It even has a white picket fence. It’s perfect, and most of all, it’s quiet.

The brain-rattling roar that wakes Lena before the sun on the first Wednesday in her new house, however, is decidedly not quiet.

It wrenches Lena from a wonderful dream of Lillian being repeatedly slugged in the face with boston cream pies. She sits up in a daze, disoriented as she tries to place the source of the all-encompassing noise. Eventually she staggers over to the window and peeks out from the gossamer curtains, only to groan at what she sees.

A giant, green behemoth lurches down the street, shuddering to life before groaning and sputtering its way to the next house, where it stops with an ear-splitting metallic hiss. It must be trash day.

Lena flops back into bed and jams a pillow over her head, resigning herself to waiting it out before she can snag a few more minutes of precious sleep.

The devil’s chariot gets louder and louder as it approaches her house. Lena clenches her jaw and presses the pillow harder over her ears. The sound reaches a crescendo as it stops right outside, and then there is a sound that is somehow even louder and even worse than the truck’s engine: whistling.

It’s clear and high-pitched and to the tune of a song Lena recognises but can’t quite place but for some reason wrenches her back to awkward middle school dances where no one would dance with the weird Luthor kid. It fills her with interminable rage.

She vaults herself back to the window, throwing it open and thrusting her head out with every intent of telling the whistler to STOP THAT INFERNAL WHISTLING but as soon as her head is outside she briefly forgets every word in the english language.

It’s something that happens to her, on occasion, when she sees an attractive woman (comes with the territory of being a useless lesbian). And the green figure that hops off the back of the truck is, indubitably, an attractive woman.

She is a vision in green and fluorescent orange: tall, broad shouldered, and Lena can tell she has an impressive physique under the baggy green jumpsuit she’s wearing. Long, blonde hair is tied back into a ponytail and tucked under a bright orange cap, and the rising sun glints off the rims of a smart-looking pair of glasses as she smiles brightly and whistles her way towards Lena’s rubbish bin.

The woman tosses back the lid of Lena’s bin, and a look of surprise flickers across her face as she stares into it. Lena realises, then, that her bin must be practically empty—she only moved in a few days ago, after all.

Still, this doesn’t seem to deter the woman, who gives the depths of the bin a determined stare before diving in headfirst, heavy boots kicking up into the air. After a few seconds of comical air-peddling, the woman emerges from the bin with a small trash bag in her hands and a triumphant look on her face.

“Oi!” a voice hollers out from the truck, and an auburn-haired woman wearing a matching orange cap, but backwards, pokes her head out from the driver’s side with a frown. “Quit messing around, Kara, we’ve got a schedule to stick to!”

“Coming!” Kara, who is looking curiously into the bag, calls back.

“Are you looking through people’s trash again?”

“I think someone just moved in; the for sale sign’s gone. You can learn a lot about someone from their trash, you know,” Kara counters sagely.

“Or you could just talk to people, like a normal human.”

“Ooh, there’s a potsticker container in here!” Kara says, ignoring the driver.

Lena grimaces at the thought of the chinese takeout she’d had the night before: the restaurant had given her a free serving of potstickers with her order of stir-fried greens as she was a new customer. She really hated potstickers, but she was too polite to refuse.

“Huh, they must not like postickers; they’re all here still.”

“KARA DANVERS DON’T YOU DARE EAT FROM THE TRASH!”

“I wasn’t going to!!”

Kara tosses the trash bag into the back of the truck and hops onto it, gripping a handle on the side with one hand and banging the metal of the truck with the other. “Punch it, Alex!” she shouts.

“You really don’t have to say that after every house,” Alex mutters as she garbage truck roars to life once again.

“Yeah, I really do,” Kara laughs, and it is what Lena imagines the sun would sound like.

Lena is so transfixed by this gorgeous goddess of garbage that it takes her a full second to realise she’s looking at her.

Kara’s lips have formed a small ‘o’ as her eyes catch onto Lena practically hanging out of her second-storey window. She seems to catch herself staring, and her face quickly rearranges itself into a brilliant grin, and she tosses Lena a playful two-fingered salute as the truck sweeps around the corner and disappears.

Lena is left blinking in a daze for a few moments before she snaps her dangling jaw shut and pulls herself back inside, deciding to start her day early. There’s no way she’s going to get back to sleep with these ridiculous butterflies fluttering around in her belly.

***

Lena doesn’t expect to see the garbage collector again so soon.

It’s Friday, and she’s out for a morning run (Jess told her exercise was key to a healthy body and a healthy mind—Lena is yet to be convinced, but she tries anyway).

As she approaches her house, her heart leaps into her throat when she sees a big, blue truck rolling down the street. It is noticeably quieter than the garbage behemoth, and at each house a robotic arm extends from the side, gripping onto yellow bins lining the street before tipping the contents in through the top. The truck grinds to a halt in front of her house, though, and the engine shuts off.

The blonde garbage woman vaults out of the passenger side door and looks around Lena’s front door, a slight frown on her face. She’s wearing a different uniform today—blue, instead of green, with a yellow high-vis vest over the top. Lena vaguely thinks the blue is really her colour. Kara doesn’t seem to find whatever she’s looking for, and after a moment of deliberation, jogs up to Lena’s front door, whistling that irritating tune again.

Witnessing all this from down the street, Lena puts on an extra burst of speed to run to her own house, where she finds Kara on her front door, bouncing on the balls of her feet as she rings the doorbell.

“I thought Wednesday was trash day,” Lena says, panting a little from her run.

“Whoa!” Kara exclaims and whirls around in shock. She grips a hand over her heart with one hand and points at Lena with the other. “Gee, you scared me! You—you live here, right?”

“I do,” Lena replies.

“Right! Of course you do. I just...I noticed your recycling bin wasn’t out. I thought, since you just moved in, you might not know Friday is recycling day,” Kara explains, grinning bashfully as she scrubs at the back of her neck. She then seems to have a thought that pulls her brows into a frown. “You do recycle, right?”

“Of course I do. I’m a Luthor, but that doesn’t mean I hate the planet,” Lena mutters, with a touch more indignance than she’d intended. She sighs apologetically, making sure to adjust her tone. “I couldn’t find my recycling bin and haven’t had time to look,” she admits.

“I can help you with that!” Kara says with a bright smile. “It should just be around the side of your house. How about I go get your bin, and you bring your recyclables out?”

Lena agrees, and Kara jogs around her house while Lena goes inside to collect the recyclables she’d separated temporarily into a box. When she returns, Kara is outside with a bright yellow bin, lining it up next to the truck’s awaiting claw. Lena approaches with her box, and Kara flips the lid back.

“Down the hatchet,” she chirps.

Lena tips the contents of the box into the bin: cereal boxes, cartons of almond milk, random papers, this month’s issue of CatCo magazine, and more bottles of wine a single person should consume in a week tumble out. If Kara has any thoughts about that, she doesn’t voice them as she gives Alex a thumbs up, and the truck’s crane lifts the bin into the air.

“The recycling truck is a lot fancier than our garbage truck; it kind of does my job for me,” Kara explains. She misses on her first attempt to lean casually against the side of the truck, but quickly readjusts herself and flashes a grin.

“Isn’t that a good thing?” Lena wonders.

Kara shrugs. “Yes and no. I like my job; I like getting right into the thick of things. The good, the bad, the nasty…all of it. Plus, It’s a great workout.”

“I bet,” Lena hums. Her eyes trace over Kara’s shoulders, wondering what kind of arms are hiding beneath that jumpsuit. What she wouldn’t do for x-ray vision...

“KARA!” The yell from the cab makes Kara wince as Alex sticks her head out of the window. “Quit flirting and get back in the truck. We’re—” the driver’s expression pinches as she checks her watch, “—four minutes behind schedule!”

Kara turns bright red and gives her glasses a nervous tweak. “D-don’t mind my sister; she’s real precious about the schedule. I, uh...I didn’t catch your name?” Kara says, hope making her voice tick upwards at the end.

“I didn’t tell you my name,” Lena says, a coy smile on her lips.

“Oh, um...could you? I like to put a name to the trash.”

“That’s...odd,” Lena says, eyebrow raised, but Kara doesn’t seem to think that’s weird at all. “It’s Lena,” she tells her.

Kara grins, wide and bright as she hops up onto the back of the truck. “Welcome to the neighbourhood, Lena. See you on trash day! Punch it, Alex!”

***

Wednesdays and Fridays quickly become Lena’s favourite day.

The roar of the garbage truck is now music to her ears, and she relishes in it as she sips her morning coffee from her porch waiting for it to approach her house.

“Morning, Lena!” Kara calls as she hops off the back of the truck and jogs up to her bin.

“Morning, Kara,” Lena replies, smiling to herself over the rim of her coffee cup as she watches Kara heft her garbage bags into the truck, the occasional grunt interrupting her consistent whistling. Lena still really doesn’t like that song. Kara jumps back onto the truck and thunks the metal side, then waves at Lena until she disappears around the corner.

It’s the best thirty seconds of Lena’s week.

And it gets even better when a heatwave strikes National City.

It’s scorching, and the sun beats down unforgivingly despite the early morning hour. A bead of sweat trickles down the back of Lena’s neck as she sits out on her porch on this particular morning, her coffee exchanged for a pitcher of ice cold orange juice. When the truck pulls up and Lena’s favourite garbage woman hops off the back of it, she is in no way prepared for what she sees.

Because what she sees, are Kara’s arms.

Kara’s trademark jumpsuit is unzipped to the waist and tied around her hips, leaving her in a white singlet that exposes her fantastic arms down to her workers’ gloves. A glistening layer of sweat causes her tanned skin to sparkle in the sunlight, and Lena can see the definition of each muscle working in beautiful synchronicity to wrench the lid off of Lena’s rubbish bin.

“Morning, Lena!” Kara calls out, noticeably more puffed than usual as she grabs the trash bags and grunts with the effort of tossing them in.

Lena’s usual response becomes trapped in her throat, and she chokes down some orange juice in attempts to dislodge it. Kara hauls the last garbage bag into the truck and takes a moment to lean against it and catch her breath. Kara takes her cap off, pushes her hair back and closes her eyes against the sun, her ribs expanding and contracting with each breath.

“Kara!” Lena finds herself calling out across the lawn. Kara’s eyebrows peak upwards as she rolls her head over to meet Lena’s gaze. Lena isn’t really sure what her plan was from here, but the orange juice glass in her hand sparks an idea. “OJ?” The ice clinks in the glass as she thrusts her arm out.

Kara perks up and jogs over to her porch, hops up on a step and uses the railing to balance herself on her forearms. “Hey,” she says, smiling up at Lena through blonde hair that falls into her face.

Lena swallows. “Hot out there?” she manages.

“Scorcher,” Kara puffs, giving her head a little shake.

“Here.” Lena’s hand trembles as she extends the glass to her.

“Thanks. You’re the best,” Kara pants, and takes her gloves off to accept it. She gulps the juice down gratefully, and wipes her mouth with the back of her forearm when she is done, smearing what is hopefully dirt or chocolate across her face.

Lena has never seen anything so beautiful.

***

“What’s that song you’re always whistling?”

“Walkin’ on sunshine! Best way to start the day!”

“Of course it is.”

***

She can’t find it anywhere.

Her head is throbbing from a self-imposed hangover. Lex sent a man to kill her the day before (again) and the only appropriate response to such a thing was to down the remaining half bottle of whiskey in her liquor cabinet (Lena hopes Kara doesn’t notice the bottle in Friday’s recycling pickup).

Now, she can’t find it anywhere, and she can’t remember what she did with it.

She rifles frantically through drawers, upturns the contents of her dresser, and even goes so far as to pull the seat cushions from the couch, but still she can’t find it. She groans and flops down onto her cushionless couch, digging the heels of her palms into her eyes.

A flash of memory cuts through the black. She sees herself, standing over her trash can, tossing the hateful item into it. At least, it was hateful to her in the heat of the moment, but now she completely regrets it and desperately needs it back.

Lena’s head snaps up to the sound of cheerful whistling the Katrina and the Waves classic, the rumble of the garbage truck, and all too soon the telltale double thunk on the truck’s side and then the beast rumbles away.

“No,” Lena whispers. Without thinking a moment longer, she sprints to the door and flings herself outside, her slippers slapping against the pavement as she chases the garbage truck around the corner.

Kara is facing forwards, doesn’t see Lena chasing after the truck, tears streaming down her face. She catches up to them when they stop at the next house, doubles over to catch her breath.

“Lena?” Kara says as she hops down from the truck, her concerned face suddenly in Lena’s view. “Lena what’s wrong?”

Lena straightens up, sniffing and wiping at her eyes and speaks with a shaky voice. “I—I threw something out last night. S-something important to me.” Lena stares up into the wall of identical black bags, and a pit of despair hollows out her stomach. “I’ll never find it; it’s gone now,” she says hopelessly.

“Hey.” Kara’s hand appears on her forearm, gentle and reassuring, and Lena looks up into the bluest eyes she’s ever seen. They’re sparkling, brimming with hope and confidence when she says firmly: “it’s garbage can, not garbage cannot.”

And that’s how Lena finds herself hungover, in her pyjamas, rifling through garbage with an enthusiastic Kara and a reluctant Alex. She grimaces as she rips open a bag and a week’s worth of baby diapers spills out around her.

“Don’t give up, Lena!” Kara shouts encouragingly from the opposite side of the truck, tearing her way through bag after bag at an alarming pace.

“The things I do for my sister’s gay ass,” Alex mutters under her breath, poking a bag with her foot.

Lena is just about to give up all hope as another bag yields no results when Kara lets out a triumphant whoop that reverberates the metal box.

“Lena! I think I found it!”

Lena clambers over the mountain of trash to get to Kara. She trips over a bag in her haste, only to fall into Kara’s awaiting arms with a surprised squeak.

“You alright?” Kara asks. Lena blinks up into Kara’s wide eyes, frozen for a moment before she remembers why she was in such a rush in the first place.

“Fine,” she insists, shaking her head as she finds her feet again. “You found it?”

“I think so, is this it?”

Lena’s entire chest floods with relief when Kara holds out the small, brown picture frame. She takes it, wipes a few crumbs away from the glass and lets out a deep sigh. Her younger self smiles back at her, in a red graduation gown and cap, arm in arm with an ecstatically grinning Lex.

“It’s the last picture I have of him,” Lena says quietly, and presses her thumbs into the frame. “Thank you,” she whispers, finally looking at Kara.

Kara simply shrugs and smiles kindly. “Glad I could help out.”

Lena is overcome with gratitude that she doesn’t really know what to do with, so she flings herself at Kara, wrapping her arms around her neck as she buries her head into the crook of it. There’s a brief hesitation on Kara’s part, but she seems to brush it off quickly and then her arms are wrapping around Lena’s waist and holding her securely against her.

“Hey Lena?” Kara asks after they’ve been standing there for a little while. “Please don’t take this the wrong way, but...you smell like garbage.”

Lena rolls her eyes and steps away from Kara, plucking a Snickers wrapper off her shoulder and tossing it into her face. “So do you, garbage girl.”

Kara simply grins proudly, and in that moment Lena knows this garbage girl has her heart.

***

Luthors always get what they want.

It doesn’t take Lena long to make herself okay with the fact that the thing she wants most in this world, is a garbage collector. A charming, beautiful, dorky, strong, and altogether wonderful garbage collector. Once she has identified the object of her desire, it doesn’t take long to set a plan in motion.

The Friday after the photo frame incident, Lena leaves a box of donuts on top of her recycling bin, along with a thank you note addressed to both Kara and Alex. She signs off with two x’s and a heart—subtle, yet significant.

Lena watches from the curtains of the bedroom as Kara halts Alex from using the crane on her bin and sprints out to retrieve the donuts. She stuffs one gleefully into her mouth before racing back into the truck, thrusting the note excitedly into her sister’s face.

The next week, Lena leaves a medieval romance novel featuring dashing knights and swooning princesses—not really the kind of thing she’d usually go for, but she thinks it fits the To my hero inscription she writes on the inside cover. Lena later sees Kara sitting in the back of the garbage truck, legs dangling over the edge, firmly transfixed in the book as they drive past.

The week after that, she leaves a neatly wrapped present on top of her bin: an ipod, pre-loaded with Katrina and the Waves’ entire discography (plus some other music Lena would much rather prefer to hear). The next time Lena sees Kara, she can hear her belting *NSYNC’s ‘bye bye bye’ from halfway down the street, headphones in as she half dances, half tosses garbage into the truck.

Lena next leaves a bouquet of roses at the top of her trash so it’s the first thing Kara sees when she lifts the lid. Lena giggles behind her hand with glee as she watches the bashful blush spread across Kara’s face when she discovers them. She removes them delicately, looking at them with such tenderness Lena bites down on her thumb.

Kara’s gaze flicks up to the house, and Lena quickly ducks behind the curtain, suppressing a giddy grin. She pokes her head back out a few moments later to see Kara gently wedging the bouquet into the handle at the back of the truck, and they frame her face as she clambers up and drives away.

The next week, comes the final part of Lena’s plan.

Lena’s entire body trembles with excitement and anticipation as she watches the green garbage truck draw closer and closer. Finally, it reaches her house, and Kara whistles her standard tune as she hops down from the truck and approaches the bin.

Kara peeks inside, then immediately drops the lid like it was on fire, her eyes blowing wide open.

Lena’s stomach does a flip, her grin turning ecstatic.

Kara reaches for the lid again with a trembling hand, slowly peering in and exhaling forcefully at what she sees. After a moment’s hesitation, she steels herself and grabs the gift, a flash of silk and lace appearing as she stuffs it into the pocket of her fluorescent vest. Then, she’s walking determinedly up to Lena’s front door, her boots thunking heavily on her porch steps.

Lena quickly rushes over, fixing her hair before she answers the door just as Kara finishes knocking. Kara blinks, taken aback by Lena’s swiftness and wide grin.

“Yes? Something wrong with my trash?” Lena asks innocently.

Kara clears her throat, but her voice still comes out a little broken and squeaky. “I, um, just, I, ah, I found these and I, ah, wanted to check that you didn’t throw them out by mistake?” Kara shucks a glove to tug the red and black lingerie from her pocket. Seeing her raciest set in Kara’s possession sends a thrill straight to Lena's core.

“Oh, you can keep those,” Lena says with a casual smirk, then leans forwards to husk in Kara’s ear, “there’s plenty more where those came from...garbage girl.”

When Lena eases back, but only just, Kara’s pupils are blown and her face is marked with what can only be described as pure, raw hunger. The charged air crackles between them, and before Lena knows it she’s pressed up against her doorway with firm hands on her hips and her own hands catching fistfuls of Kara’s uniform.

The kiss is messy, hurried, desperate and clawing—positively trashy, one might say. Kara’s hands are surprisingly soft as they make their way up to her face, fingers burying themselves into Lena’s hair and making her groan indecently against Kara’s mouth. Lena has half a mind to pull Kara inside and get her out of that god damned jumpsuit, but that plan is brought to a shuddering halt by the loud blaring of the garbage truck’s horn.

Kara pulls back, reluctant and breathless, and glances over her shoulder to where Alex is half hanging out of the cab.

“I’m all for you two finally gaying it up, but the neighbourhood’s garbage isn’t going to collect itself!” Alex shouts.

Kara breathes a laugh, lifting her cap to run a shaky hand through her hair. “I, uh, I’d better go.”

“Wait.” Lena curls her fingers into Kara’s vest. “I’ve, ah...I’ve never ridden in a garbage truck before.”

Kara grins and laces their fingers together before tugging Lena towards the truck. She climbs up onto the back and holds out her hand to pull Lena up with her. Lena laughs as she falls into a pile of comfy garbage, and wastes no time yanking Kara down on top of her, grinning into a kiss that leaves her dizzy.

“May I do the honours?” Lena eventually breaks apart to gasp.

“Please!” Kara grins before diving back in to kiss Lena’s neck.

“Punch it, Alex!” Lena shouts and thuds the side of the truck.

They make out furiously in the back of the garbage truck, surrounded by mountains of glorious trash. Alex rolls her eyes and blasts ‘Walkin’ on Sunshine’ from the cab of the truck, and for the first time ever, Lena doesn’t totally hate it.