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January, 2013

“They wanted me to—” The mic stops abruptly, jarringly, static crackling through the booth before vanishing. “Sorry, did you get that?”

“Yes, no worries. Keep going.”

Lena Luthor glances over her shoulder, where Sam Arias only has a shrug to offer. “They wanted me to sing a love song,” she finishes. “Obviously that wasn’t what I signed up for.”

“So you don’t sing love songs?”

“No, I do,” Lena says. “But I have no interest in love songs that are…well. I’m not sure how to put this lightly.”

“She’s averse to anything soulmate-related,” Jack Spheer interjects smoothly. “So Roulette’s lovey-dovey ballad was definitely not her thing.”

Cat Grant arches an eyebrow. “Is that so?” she says. “What about this song in particular is reminiscent of soulmates?”

Lena shakes her head. “You’ll have to wait for the track’s release—my lips are sealed,” she says. “But it’s an amazing song. Veronica got Diana Prince on it instead and she is just fantastic.”

Veronica,” Cat repeats. “Let’s talk about that. Do you have any comment on these rumors about you and Roulette’s own Veronica Sinclair?”

“Are there rumors?” Lena gives a coy half-smile in response. “That’s interesting.”

“Come on now, Lena,” Cat prompts. “Give me more than that. You’re young, you’re exciting…the people want to know about your love life.”

“People always want to know about my love life,” Lena laughs, though not warmly. It’s more amused than anything. “I’ve been in this business since I was seventeen, and that’s the one thing I always get asked about. My music is an afterthought nowadays. Isn’t that right?” Jack and Sam both hum in agreement. Jack even reaches over to pat Lena’s shoulder apologetically.

“Oh, you can’t blame us for being curious,” Cat says. “You are the most outspoken critic of soulmates in the industry right now! We have to wonder how that is working out for you.”

“It’s odd that you phrase it like that, Cat,” Lena says, placing a pensive hand on her chin. This move puts her elaborate—and infamous—silk-bound wrist on display. “But thank you for asking. My free will is working out just fine.”

“Ooh, nice one,” Sam whistles. “Can we get a loop of that, please?” She reaches over to press a messy kiss to Lena’s temple, which Lena laughingly tries to reject. Like the other band members, Sam’s wrists are naked and on display for the world to see: there is a small black number 4,139,838 on her right arm, a number she never cares to acknowledge.

“That’s fair, Ms. Luthor,” Cat says. “But I would not be doing my job if I didn’t ask. Let’s speak…hypothetically. What would happen if you found your soulmate tomorrow? What would you tell them?”

“Alright, well.” Lena pretends to take a moment to ponder the question. “If I met the person with the matching number on their wrist…” She pauses, then gestures to her right where Jess Chin-Salvo is sitting. “I would say hi, have you met Jess? She’s our new bassist and we are very thrilled to have her as part of the Cadmus family.”

Cat breaks out into a thin, knowing smile. “Well, I can take a hint,” she says. “Let’s move on from pleasure and head right into business. But don’t think I’ll let you off so easy next time, Lena.”

“Next time I will honor your invasive questions as long as you’re polite about it, Cat,” Lena promises—entirely deadpan—and the camera lingers on her impassive expression before it finally moves away.

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January, 2020

Kara feels terrible about it, but it has to be said—she had misconceptions about Lena Luthor before they met.

As a matter of fact, she knew about Lena Luthor’s reputation far before she knew her music. Even when she started listening to some of Cadmus’s stuff, she never stopped to really consider Lena’s character beyond the bad girl persona she’s known for.

So when she meets Lena for the first time, Kara expects a lot of attitude, probably some open disdain. There are rumors; there are always rumors. No one from the label has worked with Cadmus before, though, so Kara isn’t quick to believe them. Nevertheless…she starts this experience expecting something, and is promptly proven wrong.

The first thing Lena Luthor ever says to Kara is, “Hi, you must be the songwriter,” and that’s it. Even though Kara has been brought here against Lena’s will, Lena is cordial; she shakes Kara’s hand slowly with her own as they introduce each other. Her fingers are adorned with metal rings, and they are like ice against Kara’s skin.

Curiously, Lena appraisingly eyes Kara’s body from head-to-toe before she even lets her inside the studio. (Kara’s cheeks flush warmly the whole time, and she’s not sure why.)

The whole thing feels like an audition at first—like any second Lena will make her leave. Not because Lena handles the situation rudely in any way or anything, but because this is Lena Luthor. Kara is lucky to be breathing the same air as her.

They set up in different ways. Lena takes a seat on the studio couch, but in a peculiar way. She drapes herself over the side, resting her cheek against her arm, while Kara awkwardly gets out her guitar. After an agonizing moment trying to figure out where to sit, Kara reluctantly joins Lena on the couch.

Lena even looks different in person. Without all the leather and black lipstick, she seems…younger. Comfortable, too, in her jeans and T-shirt.

“I have to admit something,” Lena says suddenly. She’s watching Kara intensely, her mascara-heavy lashes low and her voice even lower. “I didn’t actually want to record your song.”

Kara swallows inadvertently, feels her mouth go the tiniest bit dry. “I know,” she says. “Your manager told me you, um, had some reservations about the lyrics.” Her gaze, unbidden, travels to the spot on Lena’s wrist where her soulmark would be. As faithfully as always, Lena’s wrist is bound strategically to cover the area. (Kara has worn long sleeves today in order to hide her own, just for solidarity’s sake.)

“Right,” Lena says. “Then you understand I’m…more or less against the idea of attaching myself to any song that mentions soulmates.” When Kara nods again, Lena presses on: “I’m all about free will, Ms. Danvers. Not this flawed system that society thinks we’re meant to follow blindly.”

“You can—you can just call me Kara,” Kara says. Which. Is not exactly what she’d intended to say.

Lena’s brow crinkles, just distinguishably so. Heavy mascara aside, she wears such light makeup that Kara can barely spot the faintest traces of glitter on her cheeks, as if Lena has just washed it off. “Alright,” she repeats, clearly thrown by Kara’s reply as well. “Can I ask you a personal question, Kara?”

Kara tries her hardest not to blush (again). “Yeah, of course.”

Even with the go-ahead, Lena visibly hesitates. “You don’t have to answer,” she says. “But I was reading your song, and…I suppose I’m curious. Have you met your ‘soulmate’?”

“No,” Kara replies. “I haven’t.” She isn’t ashamed about it, really, but she tugs on her sleeve to ensure her mark is covered anyway.

Lena absorbs this information with the smallest tilt of her head. She leans forward slightly, not close enough that Kara might panic about the proximity, but just enough to quietly say, “I don’t mean to pry. It’s just…you write about love. Almost exclusively, even. I’ve listened to a few of the songs you’ve written in the past week, and they’re all very romantic.”

Kara knows the question she’s really asking. “Yeah, I guess they are,” she says. She can’t meet Lena’s eyes, and so she nervously glances down at her own hands instead; she hadn’t noticed that they’ve been clasped tightly until now. “But I’ve always felt like I didn’t need to meet my soulmate to understand love.”

“What do you mean?” Lena’s brow has softened, her face much gentler, when Kara risks a glance up. “What about love is there to understand?”

“Well, it’s…all pretty subjective, isn’t it?” Kara wonders if this is all a dream—wonders if this is really her life, to be discussing such personal matters with Lena Luthor out of seemingly nowhere. “I won’t lie and say I think the love of soulmates isn’t worth wanting. But I also won’t say that I believe soulmates are always meant to be either.”

“That’s…kind of refreshing to hear, actually,” Lena says. Her expression is curious, as if Kara is so much more than she expected. “It’s rare to find someone like you who knows the nuances of love.”

“Someone like me?” Kara repeats questioningly.

“A romantic,” clarifies Lena decidedly. “Have you ever been in love?”

“No.” Kara almost echoes the question, but catches herself. She needn’t have worried; Lena answers anyway.

“I have,” Lena says, and this time she is the one unable to look at Kara. “Losing her—it devastated me. I think I’ve given up on love now.”

“Oh.” The idea of rejection weighs heavy on Kara’s shoulders then, dragging her spirits down with it. “Does that mean you’re not interested in the song?”

“It means,” says Lena carefully, “that you and I are probably going to suffer a lot throughout this process.”

Just like that, the rawest tendril of hope crawls into Kara’s heart. “So that’s a…yes to the song?”

“It’s a yes,” Lena agrees, and they seal the deal with another firm handshake.

Kara decides then and there that Lena Luthor is an enigma, and nothing more to it. She’s not a troubled rock star at all. She is just…misunderstood.

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February, 2013

“It is an honor to announce this week’s guest here at CatCo. You know him, you love him, and more importantly you miss him—that’s right, we managed to get Lex Luthor. Lex, it is a privilege.”

“Cat, you’re so flattering.” Lex grins, and it’s boyishly charming. “If I knew you would be singing my praises I would have agreed to this interview sooner.”

“Well you’re here now,” Cat says. “So allow me to indulge you now, before I start asking the hard hitting questions.”

“Oh, there’s no need to dance around it. You want to ask about my sister, right?” Lex‘s grin does not falter; it merely grows. “Everyone always does.”

“That’s where you’re wrong,” Cat retorts smugly. “I actually want to ask how retired life is treating you.”

“Well, it’s certainly quieter,” Lex says. “No less exciting, though.”

“Hm. Interesting that you mention excitement…could this in part involve a pretty blonde we all know and love?”

Lex chuckles. “Ah—I should’ve expected that,” he says, throwing his hands up in mock-exasperation. “Come out with it, then. What questions do you have about the lovely Ms. Tessmacher?”

“Don’t give me nothing now, Lex! Come on, tell us. What is it like to have found your soulmate?”

“It is as wonderful as the stories say. We’re lucky…very lucky.” Lex smiles again, but it is a politician’s smile, thin and barely genuine. He places his hands in his pockets, waits for Cat to press for more details, and then promptly changes the subject.

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February, 2020

When Sam Arias and Alex meet, the world does not stop spinning.

Kara recognizes the signs before Alex does. Alex is oblivious to the way Sam’s eyes linger on her, or the way Sam makes excuses to talk to her; in fact, she attributes the odd behavior to the lifestyle of the rich and famous, convinced that Sam is day drinking. Kara decides not to say anything in the long run—it’s up to Alex to decide what to do next.

And maybe that’s the lesson to learn from this: that this possibility of something more, even if not acted on, is rather inconsequential in the larger scheme of life. Alex had been happy, once. Who’s to say she can’t be again?

“You’re staring very hard at our guitarist there, Kara Danvers. Careful—one might think you’re interested.”

Kara starts just the slightest, sheepishly buries her hands in her pockets when she notices who has joined her. “I doubt she’d go for me,” she recovers swiftly enough to joke. “My sister is keeping her pretty busy.”

“Mm, so it seems.” Lena takes a sip from her tumbler of whiskey, leaving a red imprint of her lipstick on its edge. She is the only one drinking anything hard; everyone else has beers. “But you strike me as the kind of girl who could put up a fight, if you wanted.”

“I thought you said I was a romantic,” Kara says, unable to stop herself from angling her attention to Lena and Lena alone. One of the most thrilling parts of intimate gatherings with the band and immediate song collaborators means Lena is dressed down, casual—one of the rare moments Kara sees Lena Luthor relaxed and in her element.

“And you are. But I’d like to think you contain multitudes, actually.” Lena’s eyes sparkle with a challenge, and she takes another drink. “So can I ask you a personal question, Kara?”

“It seems that’s all you do,” replies Kara lightly. It gives her a thrill, chatting with Lena like this. They’ve worked together yes, but haven’t spent much time alone since the first time they met.

“Oh, this one is worse,” Lena says. “You really need to take a minute to decide if you want to answer.”

That in itself is such a weird thing to say. Lena’s already asked the deepest, darkest secret anyone holds dear in their heart, and Kara isn’t sure she wants to know what’s worse than asking about a soulmate.

“Ask away,” Kara allows, and Lena quirks an eyebrow, takes another graceful swallow from her glass.

“Your sister…she won’t hurt Sam?” Lena says. Any coyness of her character tonight completely vanishes, leaving behind a papery-thin protectiveness—a protectiveness so deeply intertwined with a transparent hope. “Because Sam really likes her, and…well, she’s been through enough heartache to last a lifetime.”

“I don’t think my sister even knows Sam is flirting with her right now,” Kara snorts. “Hell, I doubt she knows that she’s flirting right back.”

“But say she does,” Lena presses. “What then?”

“You don’t have to worry about Alex intentionally hurting her feelings,” Kara reluctantly admits. “The thing is, I’m not sure she’s open to the whole…”

“Dating before you meet your soulmate?” Lena guesses, face clouding over entirely. It doesn’t take a genius to understand why.

“Not at all,” Kara says, then fidgets, feeling her shoulders tense up. “It’s—not my place to say, but Alex has already met her soulmate. It didn’t work out, and she’s…still recovering.”

“Oh. I didn’t realize,” Lena says, quite struck, as her gaze wanders over to Alex curiously. “But she seems so…”

“Unbothered?” Kara finishes for her. “Nah. She’s really good at hiding it though.”

Lena sighs, mouth twisting in a resigned, tired frown. “Okay, I’m officially an asshole,” she says. “I was wrong to assume. I’m sorry.”

Kara shrugs. “It’s fine,” she says. “You’re a notorious cynic—I won’t hold it against you.”

“Is that how you see me?” Lena does not seem thrown by this characterization. If anything, she looks intrigued.

“Sort of?” Kara winces. “But not like in a bad way. Not every soulmate story has a happy ending, so, being cynical about it is probably the best way to go.”

“That sounds dangerously like you agree with me on the notion of soulmates, Kara.”

“You already know my stance on soulmates,” Kara reminds her, and she feels a smile form, unbidden. “I’d say I’m half on your side. I am still a romantic, aren’t I?”

Lena mirrors the smile, relieved. “Yes, you do have that,” she says, and it doesn’t sound like a bad thing coming from her mouth. Then, “What are you drinking? Can I get you a refill?”

“Nothing strong,” Kara says, removing one hand from her pocket to sheepishly rub the back of her neck. “I had a lemonade somewhere…” When she glances at the side table, she finds it missing. “Now that I think about it, Alex probably stole it.”

That makes Lena laugh. “We don’t have lemonade.”

“I brought my own. I am very passionate about lemonade,” Kara says. “Plus, beer is gross.”

“What about whiskey? I have an open bottle somewhere.”

For a second Kara considers the offer, if only because it will give her an excuse to keep talking to Lena. But as quickly as the urge comes, it passes. “I’m, uh, actually not much of a drinker,” she declines apologetically.

Before she can say anything else (or Lena can even respond), Jack Spheer interrupts the conversation when he unceremoniously whoops and throws an arm around Lena’s neck. “Lena, there you are,” he says brightly. “Jess is looking for you.” He’s halfway to being drunk already, and he squints at Kara for a beat as if trying to place who she is. “Hey, Danvers!” he exclaims once the recognition likely clicks. “How’re you liking the party?”

“It’s great,” Kara replies, but Jack doesn’t seem too invested in listening to her answer; he starts humming something, trying to make Lena sway with him in a makeshift dance.

Lena steps out of his reach, affectionately patting his cheek when he doesn’t put up a fight. “Come on, dumbass,” she says. “Take me to Jess.” She casts a halfhearted smile at Kara as an apology, and Kara only nods at her in understanding.

For the rest of the night Kara hangs out with the sound guys and tries not to think about Lena Luthor. She is, generally, unsuccessful.

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March, 2013

“Ladies, it is a pleasure as always to have you here. First of all, congratulations! How exciting to have two consecutive number one singles.”

Veronica Sinclair smiles at that, shares a look with Siobhan Smythe beside her. “Thank you,” she says. “We’re very excited.”

“Let’s talk about my favorite song. ‘Fated’ has stayed on the charts for the last two months—wow. Did you expect such an outpour of love for that track?” Cat asks. She has a notepad balanced on her knee and a pen in hand, but does not move to take notes even once.

“Oh, for sure,” Leslie Willis wisecracks. “Especially because it’s featuring Diana Prince. She’s a better singer than Veronica.”

“Yes, that’s the secret to our success,” Veronica plays along. “We get truly talented artists to make us shine. That’s why every time you hear drums in our songs, it’s not Leslie’s playing—it’s actually Jack Spheer’s work.”

All four members of Roulette burst out into laughter, Leslie included. She even reaches over to squeeze Veronica’s shoulder as if to say well played. Eve Tessmacher dramatically holds out her arms towards Leslie for an apologetic hug, and Leslie pretends to bury her face in Eve’s shirt in her despair.

“Interesting that you bring Jack Spheer up,” Cat says. “It’s common knowledge that the lead singer of his band Cadmus was actually your first choice for ‘Fated.’ Can you tell us a little bit about that choice?”

Veronica shakes her head, slow and amused. “Ah,” she says. “Well. Lena Luthor is a rock icon—having her on our song would’ve been amazing. But apparently Siobhan writes some shitty music, since she turned us down.”

Siobhan rolls her eyes. “Oh, come on,” she says. “We all know Lena just hated the idea of going pop.”

“And there’s the whole soulmate thing,” Eve interjects. “I mean, that’s pretty much her shtick, right? Hating soulmates?”

Cat nods along with them both, though her eyes do not stray from Veronica. “But clearly there’s no love lost here,” she observes.

“Of course not. We love Cadmus,” Veronica says. “Lena had her reasons—we understand.”

“And what about all these rumors floating around about you and Lena?” Cat asks. “Is it true that you wanted her specifically because of these new feelings between you two?”

“New feelings?” Veronica echoes, smirking knowingly. “Cat, Cat, Cat. You certainly don’t beat around the bush.”

“What am I here for if not to get the scoop on everything?” Cat says, mirroring Veronica’s ease. “Come on, Veronica. Tell us—what’s going on with you and Lena Luthor?”

“I’ll blow your mind for a minute here, Cat,” Veronica says, “but only because I adore our friends at CatCo. Lena and I…well, we have actually been seeing each other for a while. Of course we both know it’s not serious, but it has been great.”

“Now that is a surprise. A while? How long?”

“The past six months,” Veronica replies plainly. “But again, we don’t delude ourselves on what it means.”

“Can you explain what you mean by that?”

Veronica shrugs. “Exactly what I’ve said. I have a soulmate I have yet to meet, and she doesn’t believe in them. We know nothing will come of this, really, but we’re enjoying it. She is a wonderful person.”

“Well you have indeed blown my mind, Ms. Sinclair,” Cat marvels. “How did this happen?”

“Oh, let’s not discuss details. Lena will kill me when this interview airs,” Veronica laughs. “Let’s just say that we care very much for each other, and that will never change regardless of what the future has in store.”

“You’re about to become single again,” Eve jokes. “Lena’s going to deny everything.”

“And she’s going to get a restraining order,” Siobhan agrees.

“Fuck off,” says Veronica good-naturedly. She blows a kiss to the camera, red lipsticked mouth twisting into a mysterious smile. “Lena, baby, I’m sorry to come out with it like this. But I know you’ll forgive me.”

“Uh, lame,” Leslie snorts. She cups her hands around her mouth and heckles, “Hey, if you’re Veronica’s soulmate and you’re watching this, feel free to send your Lena Luthor hate mail to our P.O. box. Let’s be pen pals!”

Leslie, oh my God,” Eve giggles. “You know if Veronica's soulmate knew who she was, they’d definitely have tried to contact us before this.”

“People claim to be Veronica's soulmate every day,” Siobhan says. “We all know it’s really me. Veronica, when will you love me back?”

“When you write us another number one single, darling,” Veronica teases. “Now shut up about me and let’s talk music! No more mush.”

Leslie feigns outrage. “Look at her, calling soulmates mush,” she says. “Maybe you really are Lena Luthor’s soulmate. After all, it’s not like anyone knows what her number is.”

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March, 2020

The most surprising turn of events in Kara’s life has been, by far, befriending Lena Luthor.

It wasn’t supposed to happen. Kara let Cadmus take creative control of her love song’s melody—though she did send a recorded version of her own to let them know how she’d envisioned it—and even gave her blessing for any lyrical changes. She stepped out of the picture soon after sharing her work, content with letting their own team of songwriters handle it.

But Lena, in a wholly unexpected move, personally asks Kara to revamp the song together. Despite their differing takes on love and soulmates and pretty much everything else, they’re a decent team (because of course Kara agrees to help, she’s no idiot). Lena is still reluctant about the idea of a love song and Kara is reluctant to essentially rewrite the whole thing—it’s more or less a work in progress.

Their friendship on the other hand is not, which is nice. Lena has let her walls down enough to let Kara into her life, and Kara has done the same. It’s so easy, their ability to talk to each other. They discuss anything and never seem to run out of things to say; they understand each other better than either of them could have expected.

As much as Kara likes to joke that Lena asks her very personal questions, Kara gives as good as she gets. “Is there a song that makes you think about love?” she asks today. It is a slow day—neither of them are committed to writing (or working), so they’re just hanging out at the Cadmus studio together.

“Yes, this one,” Lena replies without missing a beat. She has been playing a version of The Cranberries’ “Linger” on piano, and when Kara strums a few notes along with her, Lena breaks out into a smile. Kara rather likes her smile; it is always sweet, soft, with the barest hint of a dimple on her right cheek.

“Does it really?” Kara humors the answer. She knows it’s more of a song about heartbreak, but maybe that’s what reminds Lena the most about love. She’s not one to judge either way.

Lena shakes her head. “No. Shh,” she says absentmindedly, completely lost in the melody. Her hands move effortlessly over the keys like it’s muscle memory and, eventually, her voice joins the mix. “You know I’m such a fool for you…

You got me wrapped around your finger,” Kara sings along, quiet, and Lena lets her complete the line before she finishes with,

Do you have to let it linger?” When Lena smiles wider, her dimple becomes more pronounced. Not for the first time, Kara’s heart involuntarily skips a beat.

Something about Lena draws Kara in like a magnet. She’s not sure what it is. It could be as simple as Lena’s smile being beautiful, or the fact that she’s comfortable enough to wear no makeup around Kara. It could even be that Lena is just that inviting; she makes Kara pull a chair as close as possible to the piano bench, close enough that Kara’s shoe brushes against Lena’s.

When Lena’s playing slowly evens out to nothing Kara says, “This is a nice song,” and means it. “I’m not sure everyone would agree that it’s a love song, though.”

“What? Is it not overt enough for you?” Lena determinedly picks up a new melody, one distinctly soulful and beautiful. “Girl I’m in love with you…but this ain’t the honeymoon…” The tip of her tongue pokes out of her lips as she concentrates, and Kara is caught off guard; her eyes are glued to Lena’s mouth for far too long before she snaps out of it.

“Lena Luthor, are you telling me you know this song? You, who barely listens to anything except rock music?”

Lena scrunches her nose in mock-indignation. “Oh, shut up,” she says. She is a wonderful multitasker—she keeps up with the song even as she makes faces at Kara. “Sing me the chorus, country girl. Come on.”

Already? Okay…here goes. We’re just ordinary people—”

“I meant on beat!” Lena bursts out into laughter, which makes her miss a few notes once she’s distracted. Kara laughs with her, bold enough to stretch her leg out so it’s half intertwined with Lena’s now.

Their eyes meet, and Kara wants to push the love question further. But she does not. Instead she says, “Why did you call me a country girl?”

“You write a lot of country music,” Lena says matter-of-factly. “Aren’t you a country girl?”

“Nope, sorry. National City born and raised.”

“Well, you could’ve fooled me.” Lena tucks a strand of hair behind her ear and smiles, shy but genuine, and Kara’s heart positively sings.

“I have a love song,” Kara declares, because she’s not sure what else to say. “That, you know, reminds me of love.”

“No kidding.”

“Don’t—don’t make fun of me, alright,” Kara says. She positions her guitar in place, nervously fingering the pick. “Keep an open mind about it.”

Lena closes her piano cover, crossing her arms over it as if to give Kara her full, undivided attention. “Is it one of your songs?” She charmingly rests her chin on her crossed arms, all but gazing up at Kara expectantly.

“No…that’s tacky,” Kara scoffs, and Lena hides a grin behind her forearm. “Besides, this is way better than anything I could write. Also, it’d be more fitting if it was on an electric, but…”

“Just play the song, Kara,” Lena urges, and Kara shuts up.

She abandons the pick—it would only hinder her anyway. It takes a few tries to begin, but she does: “If death comes for me tonight girl,” she sings quietly. “I want you to know that I love you…” It feels so much like she’s laying out her soul right now, and she can’t look Lena in the eye.

The first time Kara heard this song she thought it was the coolest thing ever. She’d sat down in the record shop while it played and frantically jotted down a few of the lyrics so she could look it up later; to this day she credits it as the key that pushed her towards writing her own music. It had made her feel like nothing else had, and as much as she hates to admit it, it’s tied into the idea of her soulmark.

When she gets to the chorus Kara barely manages to get the lyrics out. “Someone please call 911,” she stumbles, misses a chord, before she continues like nothing happened. “Tell them I just been shot down…

Lena shifts, inadvertently dragging her leg until her ankle hooks against Kara’s. She does not move away, only keeps her eyes trained on Kara’s face, silent but intense. Kara dares to catch her gaze and finds it smoldering—Lena is completely captivated, and it makes her even more nervous.

Kara stops halfway through, flushes from the tip of her ears downward. “Yeah, so, that’s it,” she says. “As you can tell, I am clearly not the singer here.”

“I think this is the part where I tell you that’s an odd choice for a love song,” Lena says. She scoots towards Kara even more, until they’re impossibly close. Her perfume, something light and floral and sweet, makes Kara’s head spin.

“But it’s still a love song,” Kara says faintly. “I think the best love songs are the ones that are…real, you know? Real like they’re not all about picture-perfect love. Real like—there’s nuances.”

“I like that, too,” says Lena softly. “Maybe that's what we need for our song. Something nuanced.”

Kara cracks a smile. “Finally something we can agree on.”

Lena bats her eyelashes coquettishly, says, “I don’t know what you mean,” and Kara’s shaky smile morphs into a secure grin.

For the rest of the afternoon they work. The whole time, they do not disentangle their legs beneath the piano.

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April, 2013

“Lena, everyone has been clamoring for an interview with you about your brother and Eve Tessmacher. Tell me, what made you decide to come to me?”

“I’m a masochist, Cat,” Lena says, smiling tightly towards the camera. She seems quite uncomfortable to be sitting here alone, and keeps crossing and uncrossing her legs. “Plus, my mother is a fan. I have to keep you in my good graces.”

“That’s what I admire about you, Lena. That brutal honesty.” Cat leans back, regards Lena questioningly. “So tell us. What was your reaction to your brother finding his one true love?”

“Well, I’m happy for Lex,” Lena replies simply. “Now that he has retired from Cadmus, he needs a distraction.”

“A distraction,” Cat echoes, dragging the word out on her tongue. “Is that how you view love?”

Lena raises a finger to stop her there. “I’m not here to discuss love,” she says. “I’m here for Lex.”

“I just find that as a strange choice of wording there, Lena. Meeting his soulmate is a distraction from his retirement?”

“Lex’s first love is, and always will be, music,” Lena says. “There’s no shame in using a relationship to distract him from missing it.”

“Again—the word distraction is sticking out to me here. Kind of a negative connotation, no?”

Lena shrugs. “You can interpret it however you’d like,” she says. Her hands are folded in her lap, and she does not fidget even once when she adds, “I don’t care about what you and everyone else speculate. That is your prerogative, not mine.”

Cat purses her lips, clearly itching to press the matter further, but ultimately she does not. “Well,” she says instead, “I hear congratulations are in order for you as well. You and Veronica Sinclair formally stepped out as a couple on the red carpet last week. How exciting!”

“Yes, it is.” But when Lena smiles, it comes out forced and plastic, and she begins to pick at her nails.

“The world was obviously shocked when Veronica came clean about your relationship a few weeks ago. How do you feel about being able to come out publicly with it? Were you relieved?”

“It has been…easier to see her,” Lena allows. “So, in the long run, it worked out. Veronica is—she’s amazing.” For the first time since she sat down, her voice is sincere, if quieter than usual.

“Well, you’re obviously National City’s favorite power couple,” Cat says. “But, knowing you two won’t last, how do you navigate that?”

“I’m sorry?” Lena is known for her ability to keep a stony poker face, but the question obviously throws her; her jaw tightens ever-so-slightly, barely enough to be noticeable.

“Veronica is all about finding her soulmate one day,” Cat clarifies. “So how do you deal with your relationship having an expiration date?”

Lena’s blank expression gradually shifts into a rather sharp amusement. “We’re handling the matter just fine,” she says curtly. “Thank you for asking.”

.

.

.

April, 2020

Kara realizes two things with this partnership with Lena Luthor.

One: Lena is a very good writer, despite her reluctance about love. Two: Kara is, by all accounts, crushing a tiny bit on Lena.

This revelation does not come as some grand, inevitable moment. It happens quietly, as Lena is sitting on the kitchen counter and watching Kara make grilled cheese sandwiches for lunch. Lena is humming a song Kara can’t pinpoint, occasionally poking at Kara’s shoulder with a spatula and offering absolutely no help. Kara knows it then—she’s a goner. There is no mistaking the butterflies every time Lena laughs, no mistaking the uptick of her hertbeat when Lena brushes away flyaway strands of hair from Kara’s forehead as she leans over the pan.

“You’re burning it,” Lena accuses, trying to knock Kara’s spatula away with hers. “Flip it over.”

“What? It’s been on for twenty seconds!”

“It looks burned,” Lena reiterates, and Kara relents; she flips the sandwich over.

Just as expected, it’s hardly browned at all. “You’re eating this one,” Kara says, wrinkling her nose for show. “This is not a proper grilled cheese.”

Lena rolls her eyes. “I think it looks fine, you snob,” she says.

“Lena, no offense, but you told me you usually make grilled cheese in a microwave. I don’t think you know what it’s supposed to look like.”

Snob,” Lena repeats in a sing-song tone. “You’re going to burn the other side now. Here, put it on a plate.”

Kara dutifully slides it over. “Don’t complain when mine comes out better,” she says, already preparing her pat of butter.

“I’ll restrain myself, your highness.” Lena takes a tentative bite of her sandwich, pauses to brush away the crumbs from the corner of her mouth. “Hey, this is pretty good.”

“Even though it’s not toasted at all?”

Dick,” Lena says, but without any bite. She hops off of the counter, either forgetting or choosing to leave her empty plate behind. She takes her sandwich in one hand, occasionally stopping to take a bite as she cleans up with the other.

If you were to tell Kara that this would be her life—making grilled cheese for Lena Luthor while they write together—she would have never entertained the thought. It’s a crazy sort of normal, and Kara isn’t sure she’s ever going to get used to it.

A bang of the kitchen door closing drags her out of her thoughts. “Hey, where are you going?” Kara calls over her shoulder. “We need to keep working after this.”

“Fuck that—my brain needs a break!” comes a faint shout from the living room. Two seconds later, the garbled static of the TV turns on.

Who is Kara to disagree? Once her sandwich is done she joins Lena on the couch. Lena has chosen a trashy gossip talk show (her guilty pleasure), and has it playing while she scribbles something out on a pad of paper.

“What happened to taking a break?”

“This isn’t our song, it’s something else,” Lena says. “And it’s a lot easier to write, for the record.”

Kara laughs. “Ouch, okay,” she says. But she isn’t offended; she understands how hard Lena has been trying with their song, and that’s all Kara could ask for.

It’s a nice, quiet evening. Kara watches Lena work, observes how the corner of her mouth twitches with a smile every time an idea sticks. Other times she’ll frown, then frantically erase whatever she’s written.

“Are you staring at me?” Lena asks without looking up.

“No,” Kara lies. She pretends to be engrossed in her phone, but not before she catches Lena’s amused grin.

“I can feel you staring at me,” Lena says. “You are such a—”

A what, Kara will never know. At that moment a name coming from the TV catches Lena’s attention, and she abandons everything to raise the volume.

—Luthor never seemed as interested as she was. We all saw this coming, right? Our insider says Eve is absolutely destroyed.

And how can you not be?” chimes in the second host. “This is your soulmate. The person you’re supposed to love for the rest of your life. What happens when they divorce you?

Lena shuts the TV off. “Well,” she says into the silence, “that’s one way to find out my brother is getting a divorce.” She does not appear particularly bothered, though; she goes right back to her paper, albeit more slowly.

“Do you…want to call him or anything? I can step out,” Kara offers weakly, but Lena resolutely shakes her head.

“No, I knew it was going to happen sooner or later. He didn’t particularly like Eve, to tell you the truth. Always went on and on about how annoying she was.” Lena twirls her pencil between her fingers, but does not move to use it. “I just—I don’t understand him. Why marry her at all?”

“Maybe he felt the pressure,” Kara says. “You know, of the whole soulmate thing. I know Alex—well. After Maggie told her she didn’t want kids, Alex tried so hard to stay with her anyway. It was bad for both of them in the end.”

“Goes to show that soulmarks are bullshit,” Lena mutters. She taps her pencil once, twice, against the page and then pushes the whole thing away.

Kara tugs a little harder on her shirtsleeve to ensure her soulmark is still hidden. Lena never told her she had to hide it—and Kara never did, up until now—but it would feel wrong to walk around with it exposed. Like she’s celebrating it, or something.

Lena smooths her hands over her jeans and says, “You can put something on. I think I’ll go get us drinks.”

“Yeah, sure,” Kara says, accepts the remote as Lena hands it over.

She pretends not to hear that Lena does, indeed, call Lex the second she leaves the room.

.

.

.

May, 2013

“We’re—sorry. I keep staring right into the camera.”

“That’s alright. It happens all the time.”

“Hi,” Jess starts over, “we’re Cadmus, and this is our band in thirty seconds.”

“We have me, the best drummer,” Jack chimes in. “And our resident bad girl—” He takes an inordinate pause for dramatics before he finishes, “Sam.”

“Me? No way. Clearly it’s Jess. She’s the only one of us with a tattoo,” Sam says, reaching over to trace the ink on her wrist. Jess’s soulmark has been inked beyond comprehension, numbers folded into a burst of intricate flowers, leaves, and branches.

“That’s visible,” Lena corrects, and three incredulous pairs of eyes land on her.

“Lena Luthor! Are you telling us you have a tattoo?”

Lena feigns deep thought. “Maybe,” she says. “But it’s a secret I’ll take to the grave.”

“It’s probably a tramp stamp,” Jack hoots. “Oh man, this is fucking—shit, can I swear in these things?”

“Our thirty seconds have passed, fuckers,” Jess reprimands. “I can’t take you anywhere.”

“Jess,” Jack says with wide, wounded eyes, “you can’t swear here.”

Jess looks about ready to throttle him; Cat laughingly jumps in at last.

“Now I’m interested in this tattoo of yours, Lena,” she says, raising both eyebrows in mock-surprise.

“I’m not talking about it,” Lena immediately states. “Let’s go back to the twenty second thing, please.”

“Thirty seconds,” Jess says, while Sam laughs and says,

“We are so going to ask Veronica what it is when we see her next time.”

Lena does not comment directly on her statement, but the camera is able to capture the subtle smile that forms at the mention of Veronica’s name.

.

.

.

May, 2020

“Can I ask you a personal question?”

Professionally speaking, there is no real reason why Kara is sitting on Lena’s apartment floor. Her work with Cadmus is officially finished; their collaboration goes live next week. But they’ve made excuses to see each other since they wrapped up their final edits—painting Lena’s spare room being one of them, which is why Kara is here presently pondering Lena’s words.

“Another?” Kara says. “I should start charging you.”

“You don’t have to answer,” Lena huffs. “I’m trying to be nice about it.”

“I’m kidding,” Kara says, dips her paintbrush into the atrocious color Lena has picked for these walls. “What’s up?”

Despite her confidence earlier, Lena hesitates. “Have you ever tried to find your soulmate? Like…in dating apps or anything?”

Kara glances down at her wrist. It’s a habit—every time someone mentions soulmates, she looks. Involuntarily, even. “No,” she replies awkwardly. “I guess I…always hoped it would happen naturally.” Saying it aloud, she’s surprised that her words ring true.

Sure, like everyone, she’s thought about it. Dating apps are full of two types of people: those who have found their soulmates but have since become single, or single people interested only in posting pictures of the numbers on their wrist in the hope they will find a match. (And a third, weird variety of couples looking for threesomes, but Kara could care less about them.)

“Spoken like a true romantic,” Lena hums, but she’s staring at Kara strangely—like she is trying to figure her out, but can’t. “I’m sorry I always ask about soulmate-related stuff. I promise I’m not obsessed.”

“It’s okay,” says Kara lightly. “I know it’s all part of your agenda to make me as anti-soulmate as you are.”

Lena rolls her eyes, but Kara can see the exact moment she relaxes; all the tension in her shoulders completely melts away. “Yes, you’ve figured out my nefarious plans,” she says. “Whatever will I do now?”

“Your sarcasm is very rude, Lena. That’s no way to talk to someone who gave up work to paint your guest room.”

“This is working,” Lena points out. And, “Did you really?”

“No, but I could’ve. I’m just saying, I’m very selfless right now,” Kara says. Lena raises her paintbrush like she’s threatening to flick neon pink on Kara’s hoodie, and Kara dances out of reach.

They’re blasting music while they paint, most of it Nirvana or AC/DC or Aerosmith, but Kara recognizes a few songs—like Chris Stapleton’s “Tennessee Whiskey” and Amy Winehouse’s “Back to Black”—that are clearly added for her benefit. It makes her beam every time, to know she has influenced Lena enough to change up her playlist.

“Does it bother you? That I ask you so many questions?” Lena asks once they’ve both calmed down enough, collapsed against one of the unpainted walls. The carpet is lined with plastic and it crinkles beneath their bodies; at one point Kara thinks Lena is laughing, but it turns out to be the rustle of the plastic.

“No,” Kara says. “Why would it?”

“I don’t know. It’s not very…” Lena trails off. “Sophisticated,” she ultimately finishes, head thumping back against the wall with a sigh.

“You’re not sophisticated,” says Kara unthinkingly. “Not! Not that that’s a bad thing. Shit. I didn’t mean—that was not supposed to be insulting.”

But Lena only twists around to face her, smiles that lovely half-smile of hers that never fails to make Kara’s heart jump. “I know,” she says. “But everyone expects me to be. They think because I’m a celebrity I can’t have feelings. Or maybe they don’t expect me to want friends.”

“I like that we’re friends.” Kara’s words get stuck, then unlodged, in her throat. Her voice also, embarrassingly enough, cracks.

Lena bites her lip. “I like that we’re friends, too,” she says, and there’s no mistaking the way her eyes seem to fall on Kara’s mouth.

No one moves for a second. The only reason the spell they’re both under breaks is because Kara’s phone starts ringing, and just like that, the moment vanishes.

.

.

.

June, 2013

“Love is certainly in the air tonight, folks. We just finished talking to Leslie Willis and her new wife, Gayle Marsh. What a story—an elopement in Vegas. My, my. We would not expect less from the firecracker that is Leslie. Isn’t that right?” Cat directs this question to her two newest guests, and receives one laugh and one halfhearted smile.

“None of us are shocked, that’s for sure,” Veronica agrees. “That’s our Leslie…always doing something crazy.”

“I’m sure as a new couple Leslie and Gayle have a lot to work out from here on out,” Cat says, “and working things out certainly seems to be a recurring issue. Tell me, with tours coming up, how do you two work through being apart?”

“We’re a modern couple, Cat,” Veronica says. “We can talk on the phone.”

“We have spent plenty of time apart before,” Lena volunteers, although not as enthusiastically as Veronica. “It will be no different than when we were just friends.”

“I hope it’ll be a little different,” Veronica counters. She reaches over to lightly take Lena’s hand, barely intertwining their fingers together. “I’ll miss you a lot more.”

Lena softens, just visibly so. “Well, of course I’ll miss you,” she says. “That’s a given.”

“You two,” Cat sighs, clasping her hands to her heart. “You make rom coms look like cheap spectacles. Now, I know I would like to know, but really, the whole world wants to know—what is it like, being the poster for a love story that is not between soulmates? You’re both public about your love lives…even if Lena won’t give me much to go off of,” and here, she winks, “so it’s only natural we’re curious.”

Veronica leans back, casual as can be, letting go of Lena’s hand in order to drape it over the back of her chair. “Oh, we try not to think about the soulmate aspect,” she says. “We’re focused on each other for the time being.”

“Interesting,” Cat responds. “The last few interviews I’ve had with the two of you, I brought up the fact that your relationship has always seemed to have unfortunate timing. I guess what I’m asking is, how would you navigate the issue if, Veronica, you were to meet your soulmate tomorrow? I’ve already asked Lena this question, even if she hid the fact that she was seeing you at the time.”

“You’ll have to forgive her secrecy. That was all me,” Veronica says apologetically. “I didn’t want us to be public for a while…it was all a matter of feeling like I would be judged for it, you know?”

“She also didn’t want to be lumped into my beliefs,” Lena interjects. It is as close to being playful as Lena Luthor has ever been, and the camera focuses on the way Cat’s eyes widen.

“That too!” Veronica chuckles. “To tell you the truth, Cat, I can’t answer your question. I love this woman so much right now, and I can’t even imagine seeing anyone else. That makes me quite the hypocrite, doesn’t it? I still have faith in the soulmate system, but being with Lena…well, it’s made me believe everything happens for a reason.”

“Way to undermine the romance, darling,” Lena says, but she smiles—wide, uninhibited, and quite clearly.

.

.

.

June, 2020

Sam holds a birthday party for her daughter’s sake.

Kara and Alex are invited via apologetic text; Sam informs them there will be no alcohol, but promises an abundance of cake and a piñata for their troubles. Alex texts back a confirmation that she will be there to “wack the shit out of that paper mache donkey,” and Sam sends back a laughing emoji. (Kara almost texts a reminder that she, too, is included in this group text, but figures that kicking Alex under the table and telling her that her flirting is weak works too).

Ruby, Sam’s daughter, is the most excited person the whole night. She helps Sam blow out the candles on the cake, and even excitedly blindfolds Alex when she insists on taking a crack at the piñata—which is not a donkey, but rather, a pineapple with sunglasses. Kara takes a turn too, because it makes Lena laugh. Later she’ll learn that Lena uploaded the footage to her Instagram story, but she won’t be mad then either.

And as the night winds down, Sam curls up on the couch with Ruby at her side, sharing Skittles. Alex sits on the floor across from them, talking; she is so obviously enamored with them both, and it makes Kara so happy.

Their parents were always the best example of the kind of family soulmarks could bring, and it had put so much weight on Alex’s shoulders when Maggie Sawyer showed up in her life. After Maggie—after the broken engagement, after the heartache—Kara witnessed Alex give up on life. The way Alex saw it, she’d lost her chance on love entirely, and it simply wasn’t in the cards. She was fine giving it up, once the pain and the hurt and the suffering finally eased.

But now they’re here, and Sam Arias is putting a smile back on Alex’s face like no one else has. Kara is ridiculously close to crying about it.

“You’re looking at Sam again,” says an amused voice to her right, and oh yes, there’s that. Lena is the only other person left at the party, and even though there is an abundance of places to sit, she has chosen to squeeze right next to Kara on the loveseat. Her hair ends up in Kara’s face half the time as a result, smelling of brandy and frosting and whatever shampoo she wears.

“I’m not,” Kara denies. “Well…I’m kind of looking, but at her and Alex.”

“They’re cute,” Lena says, and offers nothing else. Her attention is kept solely by her phone, which she has been frowning at all night. Kara hasn’t asked why that is, though. She figures it can’t be good, if Lena has gone through the lengths to sneak alcohol in (even if she’s barely had any).

Kara figures the conversation isn’t going elsewhere, so she says, “Do you want to go raid the kitchen while they’re distracted?”

Finally, it works; Lena shuts her phone off, even spares a smile. “Sure,” she says. “I could use an apple.”

“That’s the lamest snack to steal from a party,” Kara says, but she allows it, if only because Lena pinches her arm for the comment.

It’s only as they are sharing a bag of dried fruit that Lena lets on what’s been bothering her all night: “My ex just told me she’s planning on proposing.”

Everything about that sentence throws Kara for a loop. And, unfortunately, causes a dried banana chip to go down her throat without chewing; Lena watches this all go down with only mild concern. “Uh,” Kara gets out, “to—to you, or—”

“God, no! To her new girlfriend,” Lena says, glancing at Kara like she’s lost her mind. “I guess…I’m not sure how to feel. Happy for her, sure.”

“But conflicted?” Kara guesses.

“Yes,” Lena sighs. “It makes no sense. I don’t love Veronica like that anymore, but knowing that she’s getting married? I’m being so…sentimental for no reason.”

“I wouldn’t say it’s for no reason,” Kara objects. “Someone you loved is taking a big step in their life. It’s okay to miss loving her, I think.”

“A big step I’m nowhere near taking,” Lena agrees, getting a hint of a far-off look in her eyes.

“You and me both,” Kara says to cheer her up. It doesn’t work, because Lena merely smiles at her sadly.

“Every time I see you, it seems like I unload my emotional baggage,” Lena says. “I’m not sure if I should apologize or ghost you.”

“I’d prefer neither,” Kara assures her. “Besides, I unload my emotions on you too.”

How?” Lena says. “No, really, give me one example.”

“Well…all those personal questions of yours I answer.”

“But I ask you those things,” Lena argues. “It doesn’t count.”

“Okay, then I’ll unload my emotions right now.” Kara determinedly grabs the bag of dried fruit, pretends to wheel it down the counter. “Can you check my bags?”

Lena laughing is always a wondrous sight, but Lena throwing her head back in free, unbridled laughter? Kara is pretty sure the feeling that inspires is as close to drugs as she will ever get.

“Don’t laugh,” Kara persists. “We have to be serious here, okay? For real.”

“Serious, right.” Lena schools her laughter in, but her eyes are still smiling. Kara wouldn’t have it any other way.

And just like that it does feel serious. Serious to Kara at least.

“I’ve never told anyone this,” Kara says quietly. “But—I played you a song once, you probably don’t remember. It’s called ‘911.’”

“I do remember,” Lena says. Her eyes have grown curious, and surprisingly cautious. “It was your love song.”

“The reason that song had such a big impact on me was because my soulmark has the numbers 911 in it.” Kara’s hand clamps over her wrist to ground herself—she still can’t bring herself not to. “It made me so aware, you know? Of the ability of words, of numbers, to create meaning. And that’s all I’ve ever wanted to do with my life.”

Lena doesn’t say anything at first. But then she moves her hand to Kara’s hand—the one placed right above her soulmark, covered as it is by her long sleeves.

“Thank you, for telling me,” she says, but she has a peculiar expression on her face, like she wants to ask something but won’t. “You’re a rare kind of person, Kara.”

Kara is about to ask what that means, until Lena stands on her tip-toes and presses a feather-light kiss to Kara’s mouth. It happens in a second; Kara’s eyes are wide open the whole time.

Lena gently winds her arms around Kara’s neck in the aftermath. Kara feels the contact of her warm hands against her neck rush through her whole body, right from where Lena’s palms rest. It is a tickling sensation, hot and uneasy, and it nearly makes her knees buckle.

“Was that a…pity kiss?” Kara asks, once she regains the ability to breathe.

“No,” Lena says. Her right hand travels up Kara’s neck, comes to cradle her jaw affectionately. “You’re cute, that’s all.”

And she kisses her again. This time, Kara surrenders to the feeling, squeezes her eyes shut and wonders if this is all a dream. But it’s real, so real, and she feels it in the softness of Lena’s shirt beneath her hands, feels it in the way Lena sighs against her mouth.

Kara still can’t wrap her head around it, though, and reluctantly breaks away. “But—”

A finger against her lips is enough of a silencer. “Shh,” Lena says, and she cups Kara’s face in both her hands now. “Don’t overthink, okay? Just be here with me.”

Kara leans in just enough to rest their foreheads together. “Okay,” she croaks, with a somersaulting stomach and a jackhammering heart. “Yeah.”

This time, she is the one who leans in for a kiss.

.

.

.

July, 2013

“Leslie, first off, I think we would all love to know how married life is. How has your relationship affected your work, if at all?”

Veronica, Eve, and Siobhan all give varying ooh’s. Leslie flips each of them off, directly into their faces; of course, to the camera it’s all a blur.

“Married life’s no fucking different,” Leslie responds after, tugging at her collar unconfortably. “I don’t get the big deal of everyone asking.”

“You say it’s no different, but different to what?” Cat pushes. “How have you maintained your routine?”

“I just come home to someone living in my house,” Leslie snorts. “I still spend most of my time with these bitches.”

“Not just someone. That’s your soulmate,” Siobhan teases. “She tries to hide it, Cat, but she is smitten!”

“Aww,” Eve says. “I keep saying we should go on a double date sometime.”

“We don’t do that shit,” Leslie scoffs. “You should take Veronica and Lena Luthor instead.”

“That would just be awkward,” Eve protests. “No one wants to go on a double date with their sister.”

“It would give you time to bond with Lena,” Siobhan says. “She's going to be your sister-in-law someday, you know.”

“Or we can make it a triple date, put everyone out of their comfort zones,” Veronica laughs, flipping her hair over her shoulder. “Sorry Siobhan, you’ll be the odd one out.”

“Uh, as if!” Siobhan cries. “I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but I’m hot, Sinclair. I can get a date easy.” She snaps her fingers and points beyond the camera. “You, nerdy boy. You’d go out with me, right?”

The camera whirls around to pan to their sound guy, Winn, who grows pale at the attention. He stammers out an affirmative, and this prompts shrieks of laughter from everyone—Siobhan included.

“Alright, alright, if you’re done harassing my staff,” Cat interjects playfully, “let’s talk about your UK tour. How exciting! What are you all looking forward to?”

“Definitely the booze,” Leslie says.

“France,” adds Eve, along with an admonishing slap to Leslie’s shoulder. “Lex is going to fly out for our France show, and I’m so excited to spend time with him in the city of romance!”

“I’m not going to say anything as nauseating as that,” Siobhan says, “so let’s go with ‘Spanish girls.’”

“I’ll be the next to say something nauseating, then,” Veronica says. “I also say France, because Lena will be joining her brother in his travels.”

“Eww,” Siobhan says, whereas Eve aww’s again.

“Can you imagine how mushy she’ll be when she actually finds her soulmate?” Leslie says. “I tell you, Cat, we have nothing but romantic fools in this band. Siobhan and I are the only sane ones left.”

“Speak for yourself—I intend to be very romantic with some Spanish girls.”

“Oh my God, you cannot say that on camera. Can we cut that please?” Eve waves frantically, covering Siobhan’s mouth with her hand.

“Fuck no, keep that in!” Leslie slaps her knee, laughing so hard that she nearly knocks Veronica off her chair. “Oh man. Gayle is going to love this whole interview.”

“Now who’s being romantic?” Veronica teases. “Look at her—she’s blushing!”

Leslie leans in close, patting her red cheeks for show. “That’s actually because I’m drunk as hell right now,” she informs the camera. “See?”

“Don’t add that in either!” Eve shouts, as everyone descends into chaos, talking over each other and arguing over whether or not Leslie is a romantic at all.

Cat tries unsuccessfully to rein them back in; eventually, she has to relent to the madness. “Ladies, ladies!” she calls out when there is a lull in the back-and-forth. “One more question. What do you hope you will take from this upcoming tour? At least personally?”

“The booze,” Leslie repeats, and she gets various disagreements for that one.

I want to find some inspiration for our next album,” Siobhan says. “I’m sure it won’t be hard.”

Eve nods along with that, but ultimately says, “I just want to see all the fans. Their devotion, their messages to us—that’s the best part of being in this band. I can’t wait to keep their stories in my heart after all this.”

And Veronica? Veronica smiles wistfully, places a pensive fist beneath her chin. “I want to find peace,” she says at last. “Peace with my life choices. I think a new environment is exactly what I need to find it.”

.

.

.

July, 2020

The news of Veronica Sinclair’s engagement goes public, and the press is relentless about it.

Lena can’t go anywhere without being hounded by reporters drilling her with stupid questions—asking if she’s heartbroken, asking if it’s true Veronica is still in love with her. Even though Lena posts a congratulatory tweet to both Veronica and her fiancé, everyone still loses their minds.

Kara is no witness to any of it (besides the twitter notifs, because they light up Lena’s phone like crazy). But she still knows; Lena tells her all about it. It seems that is the one thing they can talk about.

Their kiss, on the other hand, is off limits. Lena does not mention it, and so Kara never does either. Nothing changes in their friendship, except maybe that Kara is about 100 times more nervous around Lena.

But she has made her peace with that kiss (and the subsequent ones) being a one time thing. Lena was feeling conflicted about her love life; Kara was just there. That’s all it was.

And yet…and yet. Here they are, Lena pressed against Kara’s side as they watch a movie, and all Kara can think about is kissing her again.

“This girl is insane,” Lena says, which reminds Kara that she’s meant to be paying attention to the movie and not Lena’s mouth. “What the fuck is she doing? I’m calling it, she dies first.”

“Have I told you that your love of horror movies stresses me out?” Kara says. “I don’t know if I’m more scared of the serial killers or your criticism.”

“Oh, whatever,” Lena scoffs. “No one told you to intrude on my movie night.”

“Uh, I’m pretty sure you did when you invited me,” Kara retorts. “You’re lucky I showed up, or else you would’ve been lonely.”

At that, Lena goes silent. When Kara casts a questioning look her way, she finds Lena has dropped her gaze to her lap, where she is picking at her nails and not saying anything in response.

But eventually, she does. “I sort of lied,” she confesses. “I didn’t actually invite everyone over. I just…invited you.”

“Oh.” And Kara sucks in a tight breath, then, feels like her chest might collapse with it. “Why?”

“Because I can’t—I can’t keep pretending I can stay away from you, Kara.” Lena twists to face her, expression open and hopeful; guarded as she usually is, Kara isn’t sure how to react. “I’m sorry I ran off when…” When we kissed.

“It’s okay. I know you—”

“You don’t know,” Lena cuts her off. “Just, hear me out, alright?” Kara acquiesces with a small nod, and Lena goes on: “I don’t do this. Ever. I have worked with so many songwriters, so many people, and never once have I let them into my life like I’ve let you. And I don’t even know why—I can’t explain it to myself. And I can’t explain it to you, either.”

“Maybe you just needed someone new to unload all the emotional baggage,” Kara tries to joke, but her voice falls flat.

Lena places a hand on Kara’s chest, just above her heart. “You’ve been nothing but trouble since I met you,” she says. Her own voice is soft, and her eyes are searching as they flicker over Kara’s face.

The proximity is intoxicating. Every time Lena breathes Kara can feel it across her lips, can feel the ghost of her mouth as it brushes against her jaw. Lena never leans in for a proper kiss, not once; she dances around the idea, leaves the promise of a kiss hanging in the air instead.

“Lena…” But Kara isn’t sure where she’s taking that, really.

Lena’s wandering hands slide down Kara’s shirt, and she slowly pops open the first button of her flannel. “Did you like kissing me?” she asks, and she sounds quieter, needy, like she needs reassurance.

“Of course I did,” Kara says. Swallows. Her hands tentatively land on Lena’s waist, and she guides her fingers over the bare skin Lena’s rucked-up shirt exposes.

Another button. Then one more. “What would you say if I asked you to kiss me again?” Lena can surely feel the way Kara’s heart thumps so hard, and she evidently must not mind.

“Lena.” Kara licks her dry lips; her head swims with the effort. “What are you saying?”

“I’m not saying we have to date each other, or anything,” Lena says. “I don’t—do that kind of thing anymore.”

“Then what are we doing?” It takes effort, but Kara refuses to show her disappointment.

“I’m saying let’s have sex,” Lena says plainly. “No pretenses, okay? I’m attracted to you and I know you’re attracted to me, so why not?”

Why not? Is that all Kara is destined to be—a convenient fuck buddy because she’s not the worst option? Some of her apprehension must show, because Lena backtracks ever-so-slightly.

“You don’t have to say yes, Kara. I like you, you know? You’re…you’re one of the best friends I’ve ever had. And if this will change that, then let’s pretend this never happened.”

Kara sighs, so heavily she knows Lena must feel it. “I—” she starts, then pauses. “I don’t want anything to change either.”

“Then we won’t let it.” Just like that, Lena backs off. Kara is left on her side of the couch with a half-unbuttoned shirt and a distinct coldness beneath her hands where Lena’s body once was.

In a split second Kara decides that, for better or worse, she can do this. Lena wants it, she wants it, and shouldn’t it be as simple as that?

So she places a hand on Lena’s knee, says, “Wait,” and leaves it at that. “If we do this…what happens?”

Lena considers this, regards Kara with inquisitive eyes. “I would have one condition,” she says. “If it’s alright with you.”

“What would it be?”

“That you use something to cover up your soulmark every time you’re around me,” Lena says. She almost can’t say it at all, the way she mumbles the words. “I just—I can’t know that you’re not—”

And Kara understands. She may not have known the specifics of Lena’s past relationship with her ex, but she gets the gist of it.

“Okay,” Kara says. “That’s a good idea.”

Nothing happens for a moment. And then they’re falling together again, Lena gripping Kara’s face tightly between her hands, Kara tangling her own hands in Lena’s hair.

They don’t get undressed, or even make it to Lena’s bedroom. Kara kisses Lena deeply against the couch cushions instead, revels in the way Lena gasps against her—basks in the ability to create such an effect on Lena Luthor.

Their first time is urgent and messy and so, so unlike anything Kara has ever done before. She watches Lena come undone beneath her, feels her own body shiver from the very act of pleasuring Lena. It gives her a rush, truth be told. Lena is barely able to regulate her breathing afterward; Kara kisses the corner of her mouth warmly, rests her cheek against hers and feels the sense of urgency melt away.

She isn’t sure what this means for them, exactly, in the long term. But she’s willing to find out.

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August, 2013

“You know our next guest as the former distinguished bassist and main songwriter of the band Cadmus, but what you don’t know is that he has some very exciting news. Ladies and gentlemen, please welcome none other than Lex Luthor!”

The camera pans away from Cat and on to Lex, who is seated on his stool with one leg crossed into his lap. He is relaxed, at ease, and grins when the off-camera live audience cheers.

“Always nice to be here, Cat,” Lex greets. “Thanks for having me.”

“Thank you,” Cat says. “We’ve seen so many people in your life cross through this studio—your sister and your girlfriend especially—and now we have the honor of having you. Tell me, what's brought you here today?”

“I’m happy to share that I will be coming out of retirement,” Lex announces, which brings disbelieving gasps and cheers aplenty from the spectators. Cat, too, appears positively shocked.

“Do you mean you are returning to Cadmus?”

“No, no,” Lex says. “I’ve merely entered the world of producers. And I will, of course, keep writing. Cadmus’s new bassist—what’s her name, Jane? She suits their image so much better than I could.”

“Their image?” Cat parrots. “What image would that be?”

Lex waves away the question impatiently. “You know,” he says flippantly. “They’re a bunch of anti-soulmate rejects. Their goal is spreading their own unhappiness, not good music.”

“Those are…very strong words to describe your former band,” Cat says slowly. Her expression has since grown neutral, never betraying what she’s feeling.

“You know it’s true,” Lex sighs. “Look at Sam Arias—she has a daughter with a deadbeat father. And we all know Beth Breen publicly stated she would never date Jack Spheer if she was paid to. Even that new one—Jane—she’s completely destroyed her own soulmark, so I bet she was rejected too. They’re nothing but a bunch of bitter sellouts, and they know it.”

“I notice you don’t mention your sister in this,” Cat says carefully.

“Lena…she’s not like them,” Lex says, shaking his head. “She’s been stuck in that rebellious teenage phase for years now. It’s a sad look, but that doesn’t mean she’s on their level. She will see reason eventually.”

“And by reason, you mean…?”

Lex looks surprised, as though the answer is quite clear. “She’ll find her soulmate,” he says. “Then she’ll change her tune. You’ll see.”

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August, 2020

“Hard at work?”

Early morning light is barely beginning to filter in the room, so the question comes as a surprise when it slips through a low note of the song playing. “Oh, hey,” Kara says, removing her left earbud sheepishly. “Did I wake you?”

Lena rests her head briefly against the doorframe, watching Kara with sleepy, makeup-smudged eyes in a way Kara has begun to recognize as fondly. “No, my manager did,” she says, and Kara’s not sure what the source of her exhaustion is—the time of day, or the mention of her agent. “She’s so annoying I’m considering blocking her number.”

“Isn’t she your mother?”

“Stepmother,” Lena corrects, but absentmindedly. She pushes off the doorway, nudges Kara’s knee once she is close enough to do so. Kara obliges the silent request and scoots over. “What are you listening to?”

Kara offers her the free earbud in lieu of a reply. “Nothing work-related,” she says, once Lena accepts it. “Just regular music.”

“Country?” Lena guesses. She takes a preliminary listen, then cocks her head appraisingly. “Not country. Surprising.”

“How’s that surprising?” Kara tries to sneak her earphone back, but Lena only sticks her tongue out and reaches over to steal the other. Kara doesn’t fight her on it; she’s always been a pushover for pretty girls, and this pretty girl in particular.

Lena seriously listens to at least thirty seconds of Vance Joy’s “Riptide” before she relinquishes Kara’s property. “It’s good,” she decides, as if she hadn’t expected it to be. Kara is not at all thrown by the fact that Lena has never heard this song before.

“I like it, yeah,” Kara says. She does not reinsert her earphones, and feels compelled to ask, “So what did your agent want?”

“Nothing—just my immortal soul,” Lena yawns. “Apparently I have another photo op tomorrow. The press never sleeps.”

Kara nods like she understands. She doesn’t really—half of the time she doesn’t know how to respond to Lena’s problems, much less relate. At the very least Lena doesn’t expect her to. Maybe doesn’t even want her to.

“Well, you’re welcome to crash here after,” Kara offers. “You know. If you want.”

Lena smiles at her then. It is a gentle smile, light enough that Kara doesn’t have to agonize over what it means. “Maybe I will,” she says, “since you’re offering.” She rests her head against Kara’s shoulder and just stays there, quiet, while Kara skips through two Sugarland songs on her playlist and settles on Brooks & Dunn’s “Neon Moon.”

But Kara still doesn’t put both earphones in, just the right one. Lena dozes off eventually, and Kara takes the opportunity to rest her cheek gently atop Lena’s head. Soon Lena will have to leave, and Kara will be left alone in her lonely apartment, but right now they don’t have to worry about that.

Their relationship hasn't changed much since they began sleeping together. They’re still friends—friends that have sex occasionally, but friends above all else.

The peace is disrupted when Kara’s phone rings ten minutes later. Lena startles at the sound, whispering a soft sorry as she lets Kara move away. She stands up entirely soon after, closing her robe tighter around her body, and Kara’s eyes immediately follow her as she exits the room.

“Hi, Alex,” Kara says, reluctantly turning to her phone. “What’s up?”

“Hey, sorry to get you on your day off. But I need your opinion on something.” It sounds like Alex is somewhere busy; background chatter nearly overpowers her voice. “You know that song you wrote? The newest one? I think I found you the singer you were looking for.”

“That one?” Kara’s gaze wanders over to the living room door, as if somehow Lena will know what she’s discussing. “I was sort of thinking…maybe to get Cadmus for it.”

“Really? You think they’d suit a ballad?”

“It doesn’t necessarily have to be a ballad,” Kara says. “And, I mean, I trust Lena’s voice with it. I’d have to ask her first though.”

“Okay, sure. It’s your call,” Alex says, nonplussed by Kara’s hesitance. “But if they turn it down, I’m telling you—I found your girl. Her name’s Nia Nal, and she’s got that folk sound you love. I’ll send you a video anyway, because we definitely need to get her something.”

“Yeah, of course,” Kara agrees. “I trust your judgement.”

“That’s it, then. Talk to Lena—let me know,” Alex says. “I can even bring it up with Sam if you want.”

Kara narrows her eyes, suspicious, even though Alex can’t see her right now. “You talk to Sam?”

“Uh…sometimes. Her daughter is really interested in learning how to play the drums, so, we exchanged numbers.”

“Right, because it’s not like Sam knows any drummers. You know, being in a band and all.”

“Oh, shut up,” Alex grumbles, quite obviously embarrassed. “Go do whatever boring stuff you do in your spare time. And call me later so I know you’re alive.”

“Okay, mom,” Kara quips, which immediately makes Alex hang up. Two seconds later Kara’s phone buzzes with a text that reads that’s what you get, and Kara grins and sends back a crying emoji for laughs.

A careful knock at the door drags her away from the conversation. It’s Lena, but this time she’s dressed to go out—a full face of makeup, ripped jeans, Black Sabbath T-shirt and all. “Sorry,” she says. “I wanted to say bye.”

“You’re leaving?” Kara quickly stands up, awkwardly brushing her hands off on her sweatpants.

“Yeah, Jack wants everyone to get together for brunch,” Lena says. “Want to come?” She asks this almost as an afterthought, sheepishly fiddling with the wrap around her wrist like she tends to do.

Kara has known Lena Luthor for months now, and it still amazes her that Lena hasn’t grown tired of her yet. But at the same time, saying yes to her invitation would mean a lot of things she’s not prepared to face. “Thanks, but I have to meet Alex,” she lies. “Maybe next time.”

Lena nods, bites her lip in a manner Kara can only categorize as relieved. “Okay. See you tonight, then,” she says. She crosses the room to kiss Kara goodbye, a kiss that’s a bit distracted and barely there. “For sure,” she adds, like it’s meant to be reassuring, but whether it’s supposed to reassure Kara or Lena is a mystery.

“Sounds great,” Kara says, squeezing Lena’s waist once before letting go. “Bye.”

Lena leaves and doesn’t once look back. It’s probably for the best; if she had, she would’ve caught the way Kara was watching her go. And Lena may not understand the power she has, but Kara does. She is helpless to Lena’s presence—always has been. She probably always will be.

And she definitely doesn’t like it.

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September, 2013

“Sam, it has come to light that your soulmate has petitioned the court for custody of your daughter—he claims you used your fame to pressure him to sign his parental rights away a few years ago. What do you have to say about these rumors?”

Sam glances sideways at her bandmates. Judging by the shocked looks on their faces, they were not expecting this question to be asked of her. In contrast, however, Sam appears considerably unfazed.

“That’s something between me and my lawyer,” Sam replies nonchalantly. “And seeing how you are not a woman of the law, Cat, I don’t see the relevance of this subject on your show.”

“We only report news,” Cat says, particularly unapologetically. “I’m not asking for specific details about the case. But if you had to make a statement about it to your fans, what would you want to tell them?”

“We didn’t agree to this,” Lena cuts in, clenched jaw and fuming eyes giving away her thoughts on the whole affair. “You can’t ask questions we didn’t approve of.”

“It’s okay, Lena.” Sam places a hand on Lena’s knee to stop her from going further. “Cat, I just have one thing to say, and that is that I don’t intend to ever let that man into my life again. As far as I am concerned he is not my soulmate, no matter what the numbers say.”

“Thank you, for humoring me,” Cat says. “I think I speak for everyone when I say that we wish you, and your daughter, nothing but the best.”

“Sure doesn’t feel like it,” Jack grumbles, and Jess nods sourly in agreement.

“If you’re done with intrusive questions, Cat,” Lena says coldly, “can we get on with the actual interview? Or should we expect more happy surprises from you today?”

“‘Cause if that’s the case, we would prefer to leave,” Jess chimes in, equally curt.

Cat raises her hands placatingly. “I don’t write the questions, I just ask them,” she absolves herself. “You have my word that it will be business from here on out.”

The camera takes a wide shot, focused on the way every single member of Cadmus has reached for Sam throughout this ordeal: Lena has one of her hands, Jess the other, and Jack rests his hands on both her shoulders.

It lingers there, on their united front, for longer that is necessary.

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September, 2020

Sometimes Kara has to come to terms with her soulmark.

It’s not that she hates it. It’s not even that she’s disillusioned with the idea of soulmates. It is a nice concept, admittedly—that one day she’s going to run into someone with the number 1,370,911 on their wrist and it will mean happily ever after. But it’s the uncertainty that makes her uneasy, the uncertainty over whether or not she will be able to feel an immediate connection with a complete stranger someday.

The irony of the situation is not lost, either. Kara writes love songs for a living, and yet she’s afraid of the destined “true love” of a soulmate. But writing about love and experiencing it are two very different things, and she’s not above admitting her unease on the subject.

(Especially when she’s pretty sure she’s halfway to the latter.)

Lena is already sitting with half of Cadmus, glass of whiskey in hand, as she laughs at something Jack has said. She’s so beautiful like this—occasionally brushing her hair away from her face, resting her index finger against her lips every time she’s deep in thought.

Kara doesn’t want to feel guilty about falling for Lena. But how can she not be? She has a soulmate. Lena has a soulmate, even if she doesn’t want to admit it. Anything they have should be, ideally, temporary.

But Kara doesn’t want that. She doesn’t want to live by those rules if it means giving up the happiness she has now. She doesn’t want to give up Lena, selfish as it may sound.

“Hey, you. What’re you thinking about?”

Kara almost startles before she realizes it’s just Alex standing there. “Nothing,” she says. For a second she panics, thinking she’s been figured out, but then she notices the dopey smile on Alex's face. “Why do you look so happy?”

Alex blinks. “What?”

“You’re all smiley,” Kara says slowly. In an instant it hits: “Oh my God, you asked Sam out?!”

“Can you shut up!” Alex yelps, slapping a hand over Kara’s mouth. “Ruby’s here.”

“So?” Kara says, muffled. “She won’t care.”

Alex is well-versed in muffled Kara speak (seeing how she has been a fan of this move the majority of her life), and she immediately shakes her head in response. “You don’t know that,” she says. “I keep thinking I should’ve—I don’t know, asked her permission or something.”

“What? Alex, you’re not getting married. This is just a date,” Kara laughs, prying Alex’s hand successfully off.

“Still! I have her to think about, too,” Alex says loyally, and Kara’s heart melts.

“She’s very lucky,” Kara says. “They both are. You’re pretty great.”

“They’re the great ones,” Alex sighs, longingly, as Sam re-enters the room to join Ruby on the couch. They share a small, secret smile, and Kara can’t help it—she reaches over to pull her sister into a tight hug.

“I love you, dummy,” Kara tells her, and Alex makes a protesting yelp that sounds like aacgh.

“Let me go!” Alex yells once she gains access to her windpipe once more. Kara, to be a dick, wrestles her to the ground instead.

This makes Ruby laugh and cheer Alex on. Kara casts a look at Lena as if to say wow, this kid’s brutal, and finds Lena smiling at the sight.

And really, how could Kara have ever not fallen for this woman? Everything about Lena Luthor is beautiful, kind, loving; she joins Ruby in her cheers because she knows it will make the little girl giggle harder. All of it—including the harsh elbow Alex delivers to her gut—is so worth it to see her smile.

“I’ll surrender!” Kara cries, dramatically collapsing to the floor.

“You better,” Alex mutters. If Ruby weren’t here, Kara knows that Alex would’ve added “asshole” at the end.

“Kids, kids,” Sam says. “Don’t fight or you won’t get ice cream.”

“We get ice cream?!” Ruby exclaims. “Hell yeah!”

Sam levels her with a withering glare. “I hope you enjoyed that hell, because that’s the last one you get,” she says.

Ruby pouts, but says, “Fair enough.”

While Sam corrals Ruby out into the kitchen and Jack, Jess, and Alex join her, Lena stops Kara from following with a gentle touch to her shoulder.

“Hey,” she says. “Alex said you wrote a love ballad for us?”

“Not—necessarily,” Kara stammers. “I mean, it doesn’t have to be a ballad, but it is a love song.”

“And you thought of us,” Lena reiterates. Her gaze is fond, but there’s an underlying worry to it anyway.

“I just…thought your voice would sound great on it,” Kara says weakly. And it’s true; it would. What she hasn’t mentioned, however, is the fact that it’s kind of—technically speaking—inspired by Lena. In a general sort of way. Half inspired, at best, if she had to put a number to it.

“Well.” Lena looks like she wants to press more, but doesn’t. “You should play it for me sometime.”

It’s not a big, substantial change of heart, but the fact that Lena is not immediately turning her nose at the idea of a love song? That's an absolute win.

It gives Kara hope, slim as it is.

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October, 2013

“Our office has just received intel that Veronica Sinclair has met her soulmate. Yes, folks, you heard that right—Roulette’s pop princess has found the one. But what does this mean for her and Lena Luthor? We have an insider with the scoop, one of Lena Luthor’s own assistants. Alana, tell us: how did this all go down?”

Alana folds her hands primly in her lap, but not before she pauses to adjust her glasses. “I flew with Ms. Luthor to France, for the tour,” she says. “What she didn’t expect was to find that Ms. Sinclair had met her soulmate—a married British woman.”

Married?” Cat echoes. “Married. My gosh. And what was Lena’s reaction?”

“She was mostly shocked, to be honest. Then she was angry. She congratulated Ms. Sinclair on finally having the love she always wanted with a total stranger.”

Ouch.” Cat winces. “And what happened next?”

“Well, Ms. Sinclair swore nothing happened between them. As far as I know, her soulmate wants to stay married to her husband. The rest is left up to the air,” Alana shrugs.

“Wow.” Cat shakes her head, marveling at the very idea. “And how did Lena take this information? Do you know the state of their relationship now?”

“Ms. Luthor immediately caught the first plane home,” Alana says. “I stayed behind with Mr. Luthor, and from what I gathered, Ms. Sinclair doesn’t seem to care about her soulmate. She just wanted to follow Ms. Luthor home.”

“You heard it here first, all,” Cat says. “This is a definite bump in the road for National City’s ‘it’ couple. We’ve reached out to both Veronica and Lena and hope to get their side of the story soon. In the meantime, Alana, would you share what you think? How do you see this playing out?”

“Honestly?” Alana sits up a little straighter, emboldened. “Ms. Luthor would be crazy not to take Ms. Sinclair back. Ms. Sinclair’s soulmate isn’t an obstacle at all, and it’s clear that Ms. Luthor loves Ms. Sinclair a lot.”

“Interesting. We will certainly have to ask Veronica what it’s like, to switch from a pro-soulmate view for love. I know I love Veronica and Lena together, don’t you all?”

The live audience roars, and Cat holds out her hands as if to say see?

“Well thank you Alana for your time. Ladies and gentlemen, let’s hear it for her!”

Alana waves good-naturedly at the crowd. Her soulmark, a distinctive 7,862,000, is exposed in its entirety to the camera.

 

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October, 2020

Moments where they both have no obligations are Kara’s favorite.

It’s Halloween and because they both have no plans, she gets to hold Lena in her arms. Gets to feel Lena breathing evenly against her neck, gets to undergo numbing in her arm that will eventually be a pain to deal with, but is certainly a problem for another time.

A sudden, quiet confession breaks her out of her head. “You know, I was prepared to hate you the instant I met you,” Lena says. Her fingers reach up to stroke Kara’s cheek, but rather clumsily, as if she’s reaching by feel alone.

It is not the strangest thing Lena’s ever said, and so it makes Kara smile. “Do you hate me now?”

“Considerably less,” Lena quips. Then, softer: “It’s funny. I never thought this would come from that first meeting.”

“Are you saying you weren’t madly attracted to me then?” Kara‘s smile becomes a full-on grin, and she nuzzles her lips against Lena’s forehead.

“Oh no, I did. I remember looking at you and thinking wow, she’s hot. But I never thought I’d have sex with you,” says Lena quite bluntly, and Kara laughs, feels it deep in her chest.

“Then what changed your mind?” she prompts, running her free hand up and down Lena’s bare spine.

“I don’t know…but I’m not complaining.” Lena disentangles herself from Kara’s arms with the intent to give her a proper kiss. It’s distracting—and meant to be distracting—because afterwards Lena moves to stand up entirely.

“No, don’t go,” Kara pleads. “Stay with me.”

“It’s late,” Lena says, dropping one more kiss before she sits up. “Soon trick-or-treaters will come knocking at your door.”

“So let them!” Kara reaches, fruitlessly, for Lena’s hand. When she doesn get it, she pouts. “They’ll think I’m not home and leave eventually.”

“Kara Danvers. Your sister bought you all this candy to pass out to children. Are you going to be a dick to children?”

“Actually, she bought the candy for me to eat. The kids would be getting the raisin boxes you keep hiding in my fridge,” Kara counters, and Lena throws a pillow at her head.

“Don’t even think about it,” Lena warns, “or I’m never having sex with you again.”

“What? The raisins rank higher than me?”

“Always,” Lena teases. Already she’s begun to get dressed, and Kara reluctantly follows suit.

“Well, if you’re not going to stay in bed with me all night, will you at least pass out candy with me?” Kara asks. “We can put on a horror movie for you to pick apart until it’s no fun anymore.”

“Tempting as that sounds, I have to go to Veronica’s Halloween party,” Lena groans. “My agent insists on it—she keeps talking about how my forgiving streak will make me sympathetic.”

“Your forgiving streak?”

“Yeah…you know. I have to look like I’m making nice with the supposed girlfriend-stealer. I don’t know how many times I’ve said my breakup with Veronica was mutual—but apparently the press has selective hearing,” Lena complains. As she’s ranting, she laces up her boots, then stands up and puts her hands on her hips. “Where’d you throw my bra?”

“Not sure,” Kara admits sheepishly, and Lena gives her a knowing look.

“You’re lucky you’re cute,” she says. “No bra, then.” She slips on a T-shirt—one Kara recognizes as her own—and then reaches for her phone on the bedside dresser. “Can I come by after the party?”

“Sure, if you want,” Kara says. She does not expect the question, and as a result is pleasantly surprised. “Won’t you be late?”

“Yes…but I’d rather sleep here than go home alone. If that’s alright?” Lena adds, as if Kara could (or would) ever say no.

“Of course it’s okay. I like it when you sleep over,” Kara says.

Lena lights up with a bright, cautious smile, and she dashes over to kiss Kara one more time before she says goodbye.

Something in Lena has definitely changed, since this whole thing started. She buys healthy food Kara won’t touch, just to have it on hand. She has her own toothbrush in Kara’s bathroom. She even knows where the spare key is hidden, and frequently uses it to water Kara’s plants without asking.

It’s like they’re dating, but without the formality of the title. They both have agreed not to have sex with other people (not that Kara would), and that if either of them wants an out, it’s as easy as asking for one.

Kara hates that she doesn’t really get the chance to show Lena how much she cares because of this ambiguous system. Hell, or that she loves her, because she does—and it is as simple, and as complicated, as that. If anyone knew they’d think her crazy. Crazy that after ten months of knowing this woman, she’s ready to think about forever.

That spurs Kara to turn on Gnarls Barkley’s “Crazy” as she prepares the bowl of Halloween candy, singing along as she does. She takes out the raisin boxes, but only to text Lena a picture of them with the words it’s like you’re right beside me and a heart emoji.

Lena sends back a middle finger emoji just as Kara is belting, “Maybe we’re crazy…” and it is certainly fitting.

Nothing about this eases her mind in the slightest, but it is a nice song.

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November, 2013

“Leslie, we have to ask. Veronica and Lena Luthor have all but vanished from the public eye—what do you have to say about that?”

Leslie shrugs one shoulder, twirls her drumstick between her fingers. “I don’t know,” she says. “Ask them about it.”

“We can’t get an interview with either of them,” Cat says. “So we thought—”

“Oh, is that what this is about?” Leslie scoffs. “My agent told me this was about Siobhan’s new acting gig.”

“It is,” Cat assures her. “But we’re curious about your other friends as well.”

“Yeah?” Leslie frowns, scratches at the area where a new eyebrow piercing rests. “I suppose you’re going to ask about Eve next. Hell, is that why Eve’s waiting backstage? To record some more bullshit? Well fuck this! Fuck you. Mind your fucking business, alright, and stay out of my friends’ lives!”

Leslie completely upsets her chair in her haste to leave; no one stops her from going.

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November, 2020

“I’ve been having sex with Lena. And before you freak out, I need you to know I am also about to freak out. So, we should keep the freak-out levels at a minimum, and you should let me go first.”

Alex lifts her head up from her pillow, cracks open one bleary eye, and then groans so loudly Kara has to take a step back. “Fuck, you’re real,” she grumbles, pulling the covers over her head. “Go away.”

“Alex! Did you hear what I said?”

“Yeah, I heard. Unfortunately,” Alex grouses. “Can’t you be normal and go talk to mom about this?”

“No!” Kara peels back Alex’s sheets, insistently prodding her shoulder until Alex rolls over and lets her in. “I need sister expertise.”

Alex, half-asleep as she is, is awake enough to whack at Kara’s arm. “Liar. You just don’t want to say the word ‘sex’ in front of her,” she says. “What the hell is this about, anyway? Since when are you and Lena a thing?”

“Well, we’re friends,” Kara says. “And at one point we slept together. And then we kept kind of sleeping together? And now I think I kind of love her. But Lena doesn’t do relationships, and she’s afraid to know what my soulmark is in case I’m not hers, and it’s a whole…it’s a whole thing.”

“You’re dumb. Advice given, now leave my room.”

But Kara does not do that, because she is very distraught. Pictures of Lena shaking hands with Imra Ardeen have been floating around the internet for days, and Kara still isn’t sure what to make of them. Lena had texted Kara about the Halloween party—had called it “as close to closure as [she was] going to get”—and that had been that. Kara is still agonizing over what that means.

Could this possibly be a turning point for Lena? Could she maybe entertain the idea of dating again? Of potentially falling in love again? These questions have been bouncing around Kara’s head nonstop.

“How’d you know you loved Maggie?” Kara asks before she can stop herself.

Alex is silent for so long Kara fears, at first, that she fell back asleep. But eventually she rolls over, and her eyes are filled with that unmistakable soft sadness that appears when the subject of Maggie comes up. “Why are you asking that?”

“I don’t know. I guess I just wonder what it’s like, to meet your soulmate.” Kara has never asked about meeting Maggie before; Alex has never offered the information either.

“Honestly?”

“Honestly.”

Alex smiles faintly. “Well,” she says. “I insulted her for spilling coffee on my client’s portfolio, and she accused me of stealing her almond milk latte.”

Really?” Kara says. “But that’s so…”

“Normal?” Alex finishes. “Love is normal, Kara. And I know our first meeting was unconventional, but it was memorable. And…it was like magic in the beginning. I really loved her, you know?”

“I know you did,” Kara sighs. “Do you ever wonder—I don’t know—what would’ve happened if you stayed? That maybe Maggie would’ve changed her mind about not wanting kids, or maybe you would’ve changed your mind about wanting them? Or if you were meant to…stick it out, because of your soulmarks?”

“I stayed longer than I should’ve because of the soulmark,” Alex says. “And we all know that’s why Maggie agreed to my proposal in the first place anyway.”

“But obviously you don’t regret it,” Kara says, just to be sure. “Right?”

“Of course not. I love her,” Alex says. “I’ll always love her. Just, not the way I used to.”

Kara absorbs this for a while, lets it ruminate. “I wish it would happen to me,” she says at last. “But sometimes I also wish it wouldn’t. Because I’m happy with Lena. But I also want more with Lena, and she’ll never want me the same way.”

“You want to know what I truly, really, think?” Alex does not wait for Kara’s assent before she continues: “I think she’s afraid of getting hurt. I know girls like Lena—the ones who went through hell and are afraid to ever be vulnerable again.”

“She’s vulnerable with me,” Kara says. “Or, um, sort of. Maybe not too much, now that I think of it.”

“Well, you’ve answered your own question, dummy,” Alex yawns. “You’ve got to show her you’re not afraid to be vulnerable. Or let her be vulnerable. I don’t fucking know.”

“Wow. And you were doing so well, Alex.”

“Shut up, it’s so weird you’re screwing Lena Luthor. Ugh. Gross. I can’t even be in this bed with you right now.”

Kara’s phone buzzes with a text. It’s from Lena, and it reads, just heard your song. you’re a songwriting genius, you know that? Kara taps out a bashful reply, and Lena sends back thrice as many heart emojis as Kara expected.

At that moment Kara knows what she has to do now. And it’ll take no small amount of courage to do it.

.

.

.

December, 2013

“This is unexpected. And we all know it’s unexpected, but answer this anyway—what made you all agree to this interview?”

“Money,” Jack Spheer hums. “What about the rest of you?”

“Contractual obligations,” Jess Chin-Salvo deadpans, staring right into the camera as she says so.

“Because I thought this was Ellen,” Sam Arias says, and she pouts at the empty rows where a live studio audience is only present for select CatCo interviews.

Lena Luthor smiles at her bandmates, looking every bit as normal as she has for every other CatCo interview. “All of the above,” she says, and Jack gives her a high-five for her answer.

Cat takes this all in stride. “Lena, obviously, let’s start with you. As I’m sure you’re aware, the media has been going crazy speculating about your relationship with Veronica Sinclair. And I want to ask, right here on record, what the truth is. Are you or are you not still an item?”

“Again, we’re jumping right into my love life. Do I not make music anymore?” Lena wonders, and Jess shakes her head.

“No, didn’t you hear? We’re just here to look pretty and date people.”

“Finally,” Jack says, “something I’ll be good at.”

“Guys, guys,” Sam interjects. “This is CatCo magazine, not some hard-hitting journalism. Right, Cat?”

Cat smiles, thinly, before gesturing for the camera to turn away when it lands on her.

“Oh, whatever,” Lena says. “I don’t care about hiding the fact, because it’s clear that it will come out sooner or later. Yes, Veronica and I are still together. Her soulmate, before you ask, does talk to Veronica regularly but is not cheating on her husband with my girlfriend. Does that satisfy your gossip mill?”

“Almost, but not quite,” says Cat, cheerfully enough. “Where would you say your relationship stands after all of this?”

Lena tilts her head, which reveals a poorly-painted rainbow on her cheek made out of lipstick. Against her all-black clothes, it absolutely stands out. “Well,” she says, “we communicate better. And we understand that we love each other, even if it’s temporary.”

“So does that mean you have agreed with Veronica’s way of thinking? That your relationship has an expiration date?”

“We’re not fortune tellers,” Lena negates. “She can’t say that our relationship has an expiration date more than I could. If she truly believes that, she’ll break up with me tomorrow and it won’t matter. But I do matter to her. And she matters very much to me. So if we end up breaking up someday, it will not be because of a mark on our wrists telling us that. It will be because we choose to take that path.”

“Then maybe it’s more accurate to say Veronica has changed her way of thinking to fit your anti-soulmate views,” Cat suggests.

“No, it would not be. Don’t put any words in my mouth about what Veronica thinks, or how she feels,” Lena says firmly. “If you want to ask her, ask her. But this is my side of things, and that’s what I want to share to the world. My life is not dictated by what this mark tells me, and I hope other people see that.”

Cat nods. “Interesting take,” she says. “Let me pose an open question, then, to all of you. Cadmus has more or less become the anthem for anti-soulmate rhetoric. What do you have to say about that?”

“I’d like to dispel the idea that we are anti-soulmate,” Sam cuts in smoothly. “We all saw Lex Luthor ranting about us being washed up rejects. Well, I want to propose a new idea. I think soulmates are meaningful in our lives, and that’s it. We can love them, and sometimes we don’t. But they bring about something, don’t they? Look at my sorry excuse for a ‘soulmate.’ He’s a gold digger and a garbage human being, but he gave me my daughter. So I can never regret meeting him.”

“And me,” Jack agrees. “Beth looked down on me for my profession and said she’d never give me the time of day. Well guess what? I decided to go back to school and prove that I could do her dumb biology work. And now I’m going to go on to do research on curing cancer with some of the best scientists in the world. I could’ve never reached that level of accomplishment in my life if I didn’t have her reject me.”

“My soulmate was the greatest gift,” even Jess chimes in. “She was my best friend. I loved her so much that when she died, I almost couldn’t go on living without her. But I did, and I’m fucking here.” Her eyes shine wet with proud, sad tears, and Lena reaches over to squeeze her hand.

“You can call what we feel anything you like, Cat,” Lena says. “You can even call it anti-soulmate rhetoric if you wish. But we’re not going to agree, and that’s alright too. These people are the bravest souls I’ve ever met, and if I ever get a chance to know the person with the matching soulmark on their wrist, then I hope…I hope I can impact their life, too.”

Cat opens her mouth to reply, but Jess stops her with a raised hand. “I think that’s all the time we have,” she says, not particularly apologetic, and the rest of the Cadmus members stand in agreement.

The camera catches them leaving. Jess and Lena walk hand-in-hand, Jack and Sam walk hand-in-hand, and somewhere beyond the open door it’s implied that a bright morning is waiting for them.

.

.

.

December, 2020

“You’re being weird today.”

Lena’s voice cuts through the silence, scratchy with an early-morning quality. It is, by far, Kara’s favorite thing in the world.

“Sorry,” Kara whispers. “I’m just thinking.” Thinking, while playing her guitar only once every twenty minutes. Then she’ll stop, reconsider a chord, and spend empty time pondering lyrics that never come until the cycle repeats.

“You look like you’re about to cry.” Lena props her head up on her hands, squinting over at Kara’s figure in the armchair. “What’s going on?”

“Nothing.” Kara has been trying and trying to get this melody perfect, but it keeps on transforming into Maren Morris’s “I Could Use a Love Song” instead. “That’s a lie. It’s writer’s block, mostly.” She gives in to the temptation to just play, so she strums the first few notes of “I Could Use a Love Song” to warm up.

“That’s pretty,” Lena remarks. “Is that yours?”

“No—I wish,” and that makes Kara grin to herself, because she still has so much music she wants to share with Lena and never enough time. “Am I bothering you?”

Lena shakes her head. “You could never,” she says, and there’s the beauty of her dreamy state. She is so open about her admiration of Kara at times that it feels like a normal relationship; Kara wishes she could bottle up that feeling and live in it forever.

For a few minutes there is nothing but the guitar and birds chirping outside and the sound of the sheets rustling as Lena shifts in bed.

Kara hears Maren Morris in the quiet. She hears I wish I didn't know so much; I peeked behind the curtain now that magic rush; feels like a trick that isn't working. And it reminds her of what she has been putting off so long.

Outside, the sky is gray and the snow is more slush than solid. Inside, Kara feels the same way: tumultuous, caught in the in-between of something dreary and something beautiful. Her soulmark is wrapped up tight with a checkered red bandana and it itches like crazy; Kara can hardly focus on the song, much less the prospect of asking Lena to be her actual girlfriend.

“Lena?” she blurts out eventually, once her fingers begin to shake so much she can’t pluck her guitar strings. “Can you promise me something?”

By now Lena has woken up more fully, and she runs her fingers through her mussed hair, peeking at Kara beneath the messy black tangles. “Depends,” she says as she gets to her feet, “on what I’m promising.”

“Can you…can you hear me out on something? Don’t say anything until I finish. I know you won’t like it.”

“How are you sure I won’t like it?” Lena disappears into the bathroom. Kara hears the water run, which Lena has a habit of doing: she turns on the faucet while she brushes her teeth, even though she does not use the water until afterwards.

“Because I know you,” Kara says. “And also, this is about—you and me.”

“What about you and me?” Lena pokes her head out of the doorway, toothbrush still in her mouth. She’s grabbed her hair up in a lazy ponytail, baby hairs sticking out every which way.

“It’s not bad. At least, I don’t think it is.”

Lena narrows her eyes slightly, challengingly, but something about Kara’s expression must give her nervousness away; Lena relents far too easily. “Okay,” she says slowly. “Just give me a second to finish up.”

Emboldened, Kara takes up her guitar again. She still isn’t able to play—her stomach is churning far too dangerously—but its weight is reassuring in her hands. When Lena reemerges, she takes a hesitant seat on the edge of the bed, leaving the quiet to fill up the room once more.

“I…I don’t know how to start, exactly,” Kara confesses. “I guess…I guess I’ll try to be upfront about it. I don’t think I can keep on just—being friends and having sex.”

“Is that it?” Lena’s voice is light, even if her brow furrows ever-so-slightly. “We agreed we could call this off anytime, Kara. I won’t be mad about that.”

As frazzled as her nerves are, the interruption—exactly what Lena has promised not to do—makes Kara smile. “Lena,” she says, “what happened to not saying anything until after?”

Lena ducks her head down, sheepish. “Sorry,” she says. “Bad habit.”

“It’s not,” Kara promises. She feels her arm keep on itching, and scratches absentmindedly. “What I’m trying to say is…I want us to be more than friends. I know I’m not a high profile celebrity like you are and it might be hard, but Lena—” She sets her guitar aside, then drops to her knees before Lena, taking both her hands in hers. “I love you. And I understand if it’s too soon for you to process this all, but—I had to tell you. I couldn’t pretend not to love you.”

Lena’s entire expression drops, torn between awe and distress. “Kara,” she murmurs, and that’s it, that’s all she can say.

Kara swallows her heart in her throat. “I know it’s hard for you to open up to me,” she says. “So I’ll open up to you too, okay?” She reaches for her bandana, and Lena realizes too late what’s happening.

Kara.” Lena’s hand immediately closes over Kara’s newly bared skin, panicked. “You don’t understand what that would mean.”

“Lena.” Kara covers her hand with her free one, grips it so tight she fears it hurts. “I don’t care if it doesn’t match your soulmark, okay? No matter what. I love you and no number is going to change that.”

“You say that now, but what if you change your mind?” Lena’s eyes shimmer wetly with unshed tears. “Kara…when Veronica and I broke up, it was without a doubt the right choice. But when she ended up reconnecting with her soulmate—even though I didn’t love her like that anymore—it gutted me. I couldn’t shake the idea that I kept her from making a real connection with Imra before. What if I do the same to you?”

“I already have a real connection,” Kara says quietly. “With you. And it’s the only connection I’m ever going to care about.”

A few of the tears fall, and with it, goes Lena’s resolve. She lets go of Kara’s hand; in turn, Kara lets go of hers. The number 1,370,911 staring up at them is nothing new to Kara, and Lena—Lena stares at it, seems to be transfixed by the blocky mark.

“You really do have the number 911 in your soulmark,” Lena whispers. With that she begins to sob, burying her face in her hands as her shoulders shake from the exertion. Kara says her name once, twice, in her worry, but the most Lena does is throw her arms around Kara’s shoulders and hold her tight.

They stay wrapped up in each other for ages. The only movement occurs when Lena pulls away, and it’s to frantically unwrap the silk bindings around her own wrist.

“Lena, what are you…” Her words die entirely on her lips, and Kara stares at the number 1,370,911 that rests so boldly against Lena’s skin. “Holy shit. Is this real? Are you real?”

Lena laughs, the kind of laugh that’s more sob than giggle, and she lets Kara kiss the tears from her cheeks and fall into each other all over again. “I didn’t think I’d ever like you when I found you,” she murmurs, running her fingers through Kara’s hair. “You are so…rude. You’re very rude.”

“Wait, wait,” Kara says, even as she can’t resist placing another kiss on the hollow of Lena’s throat. “This…this doesn’t have to mean anything, though. Because even if we had different soulmarks right now, I’d still love you. I-I just want you to know that.”

“I know,” Lena promises. “God, I wish I would’ve seen this sooner. I always thought I never had a chance to love you properly…but I was too afraid to see you’d love me anyway.”

“And just to be clear,” Kara adds, “we both know this soulmark isn’t, like, some guarantee, because that is old-fashioned and presumptuous—”

This gets her another laugh, clearer than before. “Kara,” Lena says, amused, “you realize you’re talking to the face of the supposed anti-soulmate movement, right? I’m not…I’m not happy because our soulmarks match. I’m happy because you love me, and this mark—well, the only thing it tells me is that you’re somehow important to me. I believe that much.”

“Yeah?” Kara has been fairly choked up all morning, but she nearly tears up herself at that. “You’re okay with me loving you?”

“Are you kidding? I love you, too,” Lena says, reaching out to trace Kara’s jaw with her hands until she’s tugging her in for a kiss. “God, I can’t believe I thought you were breaking up with me.”

“How would I be breaking up with you if we weren’t dating?”

“Shh,” Lena says, placing a finger against Kara’s mouth. “Don’t argue when you love me.”

Despite herself, Kara smiles. “Okay,” she says dumbly, and when Lena breaks out into that wide, dimpled grin she knows they’re going to be okay. No matter where life takes them, no matter what happens—Kara knows everything will turn out alright. “Who would’ve thought,” she marvels aloud, “a romantic and a cynic.”

Lena rolls her eyes. “Realist,” she corrects, and when Kara reaches over to gently stroke the inside of her wrist where her soulmark lies, she does not flinch away.

Kara already knows this is going to make for such a good love song. And she can’t wait to start writing it.