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my youth is yours

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The first thing Lena notices about National City after she moves there is that it’s almost perpetually sunny.

It’s appropriate, she thinks, considering a certain person she knows lives there. A certain person she’s been trying to avoid thinking about. It’s been four years since she’s seen said person and yet after moving to National City, Lena can’t stop thinking about the possibility of randomly running into her - at a coffee shop, at the bank, at dinner, on the street corner.

She spends the first few weeks after moving looking over her shoulder in a near constant paranoia. It’d be unlikely, she tries to remind herself, to run into one specific person in a city as big as National City. The thought calms her and she manages to stop obsessing over the idea.

Of course that’s about the time she walks into the lobby of Luthor Corp and she sees the exact person she’s been trying to avoid standing next to a laughing Clark Kent.

Kara Danvers. Ex-girlfriend.

Someone she’s entirely unprepared to run into despite the weeks she’s spent imagining the event.

She’s especially unprepared for the sight of Kara in her dress and pink sweater. It immediately transports Lena back to a different time, in the lobby of a different building and she feels a wash of memories hit her in the chest so hard she has trouble catching her breath for a second.

Neither Clark nor Kara has noticed her yet, but the man at the security desk is looking at her expectantly and she realizes then that she’s halted just inside the doors of her own office building, jaw dropped slightly as she stares.

It doesn’t help that Kara looks exactly the same as Lena remembers her and she’s just frozen as she takes in the image of her. Kara is gorgeous, as always, and Lena can’t help but drink it all in. The way Kara laughs at whatever Clark is saying, the way she reaches up to adjust her glasses, the sight of her strong jawline and blonde hair pulled up off her neck. Lena’s brain catalogs it all, files it far back into her heart where she keeps the rest of her memories of Kara.

The security guard’s voice breaks through her thoughts, “You okay, Miss Luthor?”

Recovering, she shoots the man a tight smile and strides forward, pumping forced confidence into her posture. She reminds herself that she’s Lena Luthor. Youngest CEO in Luthor Corp history, voted most powerful under 30 in National City and made of strong enough stuff to withstand a random meeting with the former love of her life.

Her heels click loudly against the tiles and she only gets a few feet before both Kara and Clark turn.

It’s a wonder Lena doesn’t trip and fall the minute Kara blinks her pretty blue eyes Lena’s direction.

Clark smiles politely, an expression Lena returns, but Kara just stares at her - wide eyed as if she were surprised. It’s a ridiculous reaction, Lena thinks. Her last name is on the side of the damn building. Surely Kara expected to see her.

“Mr. Kent,” she greets, ignoring Kara for the moment. “To what do I owe this visit?”

“I was hoping I could borrow a few minutes of your time, Miss Luthor,” Clark says, polite as ever.

Lena gives him a practiced smile, feels Kara’s stare on her like they were touching. “Of course.” She gestures in front of her. “Follow me to my office?”

“Certainly,” Clark says and Lena moves past them to the elevator bank.

They manage to make it into an elevator and towards her office without anyone combusting, but Lena feels like it takes hours. Hours where she has to keep her gaze on the numbers climbing slowly upward, listen to Clark Kent explain to her what prompted the current meeting and pointedly not notice the way that Kara still smells exactly the same as she did four years ago when they still meant something to each other.

“There’s a perfectly reasonable explanation for why I wasn’t aboard the Venture yesterday,” she hears herself saying, but she feels robotic in her motions. She strides across her office mechanically and hangs her jacket up, her purse next to it, trying to keep up conversation.

When she turns back towards the two people in her office, Kara is staring at her like she’s seeing a mirage and Lena knows the feeling acutely. Their gazes snap together and Lena has a hard time remembering what role she’s supposed to be playing in the moment, but she thinks she’s still talking so that’s good.

She hears Kara remind her that, “Supergirl was there too,” and Lena almost laughs. She remembers the day the news broke about some mysterious girl saving a crashing plane, how not long after it was announced that National City was host to another Super. Lena knew right there and then that it was Kara even without seeing the grainy images of her ex-girlfriend standing on the wing of a plane.

They look at each other for a bit longer than appropriate and Lena’s sure her expression is giving her away.

For the sake of Clark Kent, who is looking between them like there’s something there to piece together, Lena makes a quick decision and calls on all her considerable acting skills. She tosses an amused look towards Kara and a casual, “And who are you exactly?”

Kara answers her in that stuttering way she has and Lena knows it’s partly Kara’s natural cadence and partly the same turmoil Lena’s currently feeling twisted around her heart.

They manage to get through the conversation easily enough - Clark subtly accuses her of blowing up the Venture in that midwestern righteous way he has while Lena tries her best not to just outright stare at her ex-girlfriend. Kara’s doing a much less admirable job of it because Lena feels like there’s heat vision coursing over her face with the way Kara is watching her.

“I’m just a woman trying to make a name for herself outside her family,” she tells them, trying to ignore the sympathetic twist to Kara’s eyes and mouth - the memory of whispered conversations and confessions over late night coffee and ice cream swirls up into her brain. She hates that her voice breaks a little when she asks, “Can you understand that?”

“Yeah,” Kara says, her voice equally shaky and Lena has to stand up and do something just so she doesn’t have to confront everything that’s happening in her present day.

She paces across her office to grab the flash drive she knows has the information Clark Kent is here for and hands it to him, hoping it will at least make her current nightmare end. The nightmare where she has to look at a girl that was once her entire world and act like she’s nothing more than a stranger.

Kara smiles at her before they leave, that soft shy smile that Lena remembers in her worst dreams. Lena can’t quite return the expression, just settles for watching Kara walk away and trying to settle the pounding erratic rhythm of her heart.

--

Lena can’t concentrate on anything the rest of the day. It’s like her entire brain has reverted back to four years ago and can’t stop playing images of Kara Danvers on repeat. By mid afternoon she realizes she’s going to get exactly zero work done and concedes the battle.

Of course that’s about the same time there’s a drone attack on the helicopter meant to take her to her afternoon meeting. Flying is honestly the worst. She makes a mental note to speed up research on some sort of teleportation system that could eliminate the more archaic ways of travel but before she can think more of it, two figures in red and blue pop up in front of her helicopter and Lena sighs.

She had wondered how long it would take for her to meet National City’s resident alien crimefighter. It should have occurred to her that it wouldn’t take that long, especially after seeing Kara again, but she didn’t really imagine it would happen as she’s hurtling through the air in a crashing helicopter.

Yet, there was Supergirl. Pulling the helicopter back down to the helipad and ripping the door violently off its hinges.

Their gazes connect.

“Lena! Lena! Lena!” Kara’s voice is pulling Lena’s brain out of whatever heavy fog it’s in and she’s suddenly aware of the strong smell of gas and fire in her nose. When she blinks awake it’s pure chaos around her - she has trouble focusing on just one thing. The last thing she remembers is driving, crossing through the intersection at Angela and Freemont.

Now her eyes dart between the cracked windshield in front of her, the blown out airbag sagging from her steering wheel, another car flipped over and barely visible across the road. She blinks at everything and tries to put it all together, but her brain feels like it’s running through molasses and she can’t get her body to do anything.

That is until the door of her car is suddenly ripped off with a loud shredding sound and familiar hands are on her arms, a body shoving into the car to rip her seatbelt in half and pull her out of the vehicle.

“Lena,” Kara is saying and Lena clutches at Kara’s strong biceps, the feel of her girlfriend cradling her brings Lena just a little bit back to the present and she lets Kara lift her up and walk them away from the fiery crash scene. “Lena stay with me, are you okay?”

“I’m fine,” Lena murmurs, her voice feeling scratchy and pained. “I’m fine.” She tries to run a soothing palm up Kara’s bicep, but when she does she sees the blood and dirt across the back of her hand and becomes acutely aware of the sharp pain in her forehead and the one in her lower back.

“You’re going to be okay,” Kara is saying, over and over again, still walking with Lena in her arms. “I’ve got you and you’re going to be okay. You’re safe.”

And Lena does feel safe. Secure in the solid embrace of Kara’s arms, the steady heartbeat under her ear and Kara’s whispered reassurances.

“Love you,” she croaks, her palm fitting itself against Kara’s chest.

Lena must black out again after that because the next thing she knows she’s waking up in a hospital bed with Kara curled up in the window seat to her right.

“You’re safe now.” It’s spoken so intimate and personal and Lena believes her, doesn’t think to doubt Kara, torn back into the present day crash by Kara’s knowing stare.

Irritation bubbles up inside her. “What the hell was that?”

“Someone’s trying to kill you,” Kara says with this tone of accusation Lena bristles at.

“That much I gathered,” Lena deadpans, narrowing her gaze at Kara.

“Let’s get you out of here and we can talk later.” Kara is running her hands over the helicopter pilot, checking his vitals Lena presumes.

Her hands shake where they try to take her seatbelt off and she fails about three times before Kara is suddenly steadying them with her own warm ones. Lena’s nerves settle in that way they always did at Kara’s comforting touch. Kara rips the seatbelt off the seat under Lena and helps Lena out of the helicopter.

It’s the first time Kara’s touched her in years and Lena starts shaking for an entirely different reason than before. Kara looks about how Lena feels and they both break away from each other as soon as Lena’s feet touch the ground.

“I have to-” Kara gestures at the helicopter pilot and Lena understands. “Don’t move,” Kara tells her. “I’ll be right back.”

With a quick blur Kara is gone and so is the pilot and Lena’s left standing on the helipad trying to steady the shake in her hands.

In just over a minute Kara is back, landing in front of Lena and shooting her a tentative smile. Her arms open a little and Lena looks at them with trepidation. “Can I give you a ride down?”

Instinct pushes Lena forward as if to walk straight into Kara’s arms, but she pulls back a little, hesitating.

“Lena, it’s a long way down,” Kara says softly, walking forward and all Lena can manage is a little nod - she’s not sure she could walk competently at this point anyway.

Kara scoops her up like it’s something natural, something she’s done a million times. It is, Lena supposes. It’s not the first nor the hundredth time she’s been lifted up into Kara’s arms like she weighs nothing.

She has no idea what to do with her hands so she just winds one over Kara’s shoulders and clenches the other in a fist in her lap.

It’s strange to be flying with Kara again after so many years. She thinks of her earlier comments as the helicopter was just taking off - I hate flying. It’s true and she does, but there was something about being midair with Kara that always felt safer, more secure. She hates that nothing has changed.

Kara smiles at Lena reassuringly and takes a step off the tall building. Her stomach swoops, but she’s not sure if it’s because of the way Kara’s hands feel cradling her legs and back or if it’s from the sudden feeling of falling.

“You okay?” Kara asks when they touch down.

Lena runs a shaky hand through her hair and steps away, desperate to put distance between them. “Yeah, thanks,” she manages to say through the dry feeling in her throat.

Kara looks at her like she doesn’t believe Lena, but nods anyway. “Well, I’ve got to-”

“Duty calls,” Lena says with a small smile.

With one last nod, Kara turns and speeds off in the direction Lena knows Superman is, presumably fighting the other drones.

It feels like it always does, when Kara flies away from her, and Lena presses a little to her sternum to try and push out the hollowness there.

She calls her assistant as she’s walking down the block towards her new apartment. There’s no point in going back to her office or trying to get to her meeting on time. She thinks major near death experiences qualifies as a worthy excuse to take the afternoon off (she tries not to acknowledge that the real reason is: I had a painful run in with the former love of my life).

“Jess, cancel my appointments for the rest of today,” she tells her assistant when the call clicks through. “I’m going to work from home.”

“Of course, Miss Luthor! I heard the crash and they evacuated us. Are you okay? I’m back in the office now, but I can-”

“I’m fine, Jess. Just please take care of my appointments.”

“Right away.”

--

It was one of the longer weeks of Lena’s life and she had spent the majority of it in the engineering lab across campus trying to fix a prototype for her final project. By Friday she’s running entirely on shitty coffee from the basement kitchen and the few snacks she’d remember to snag from her dorm when she finally stopped by there to change clothes.

Kara had texted her, of course, to make sure she was eating and sleeping and had even stopped by a few times. But Lena had shooed her away with firm warnings not to distract her and that she’d be done soon.

She’s the only one in the lab and her eyes feel dry and tired as she tries to keep them open. She’s so close to being finished - in some respects she is, but she’s a perfectionist at heart and she’s just not happy with her work yet.

There’s a cup of coffee at her elbow and she takes a sip of it only to gag on the cold bitter taste. She’s sticking her tongue out, disgusted as she shoves the coffee cup away from here when she hears laughter behind her and turns.

“Kara,” she says with warning.

“I’m here to rescue you!” Kara announces with overly exaggerated bravado, hands on her hips and a wide grin. It makes Lena laugh, amused at her girlfriend’s antics.

“I told you not to distract me or I’ll never finish this project,” Lena says, fighting against her smile. She turns back around and tries to run her eyes down the list of calculations she has in her notebook.

“You’ll never finish this project if you fall over in the middle of working on it,” Kara retorts, now up against Lena’s back and running strong fingers over the tense muscles in Lena’s shoulders. She fights an indecent moan that she wants to let out.

“Stop that,” Lena protests, but Kara doesn’t, just runs her thumbs up Lena’s neck towards her hairline and Lena’s head sags forward with the feeling, her whole body going limp.

“Come on,” Kara entreats. “Let’s go take a quick nap, eat real food and recharge and then you can come back here and give it your all.”

It’s a tempting offer, but the desire to do so wars with an inner, deeper need Lena has to keep working, keep making everything perfect. Kara must sense it because she twirls Lena’s chair around so they’re facing each other, Kara’s hands on the arms of the chair as she leans down.

“I’m super about consent and everything and you are your own woman and I don’t control your life, but I’m also seriously invested in your well being and if I have to pick you up and fly you out of here so you don’t collapse, I will.”

The truth of the statement is right there in Kara’s face and Lena sighs, slumping back into her chair. “I’m not going to collapse.”

“You’ve been in here for over a day straight.”

Lena’s brows come together at that. Had she lost track of time that terribly? A glance at the clock on her computer tells her she had. “I didn’t realize,” she murmurs.

“Exactly,” Kara says firmly, standing and scooping Lena out of the chair. “So let’s go.”

Lena lets out a surprised exhale when Kara just plucks her up into her arms before laughing, her arms slinging around Kara’s neck automatically. “Kara put me down. I can walk.”

“I can fly,” Kara counters walking towards the exit to the lab and Lena looks around quickly at the admission, double checking no one else is there.

“Kara,” she hisses in warning.

“Oh, please,” Kara replies rolling her eyes. “No one else is crazy enough to be in here. It’s four in the morning on a Saturday.”

“Put me down,” Lena orders and this time Kara obeys, setting Lena back on her feet and looking chagrined. Lena puts her palm on Kara’s cheek to reassure her that she’s not actually mad.

“Can I at least get my stuff?”

Kara looks sheepish at that and laughs. “Yeah, sorry. Of course.”

Lena kisses Kara on the cheek before turning back to grab her things, stuffing it all into her brown messenger bag and slinging it over her shoulder. When she turns back, Kara is waiting, hand extended forward and Lena takes it, sagging tiredly into Kara’s side and letting her girlfriend lead them back towards Lena’s dorm.

She doesn’t remember much after that - the exhaustion in her body takes over and by the time she’s back in her room she’s collapsing on the bed.

When she wakes up it’s to the smell of delicious coffee - the flavored kind that Kara favors - and a warm body pressed up against her side. Lena inhales deeply, feeling recharged and sated. She cards her fingers through the blonde hair near her shoulder and smiles when Kara blinks up at her sleepily.

“I made coffee,” Kara murmurs, snuggling up more firmly against Lena’s body.

“I smell that.”

“I’ll make breakfast too and then you can go back to work.”

“Okay, boss,” Lena jokes and Kara looks up concerned.

“I’m not trying to boss you around.”

Lena laughs, kisses the pout away from Kara’s face. “I know, sweetheart.”

“I just worry about you.”

It feels a lot like I love you to Lena and even though neither of them have said such a thing, she feels it in every little action Kara does. Sometimes it feels like Kara is screaming it at her. “I know,” she says quietly, tracing one of Kara’s eyebrows with her finger. “Thanks.”

--

There’s a knock on her door that night and Lena doesn’t need to check her security cameras to know who it is. Even if the knock wasn’t so familiar, she doesn’t get many visitors. None, in fact. There’s only one person it reasonably could be.

When she swings the door open, Kara is there as expected. Glasses back in place on her face and supersuit traded for a pair of soft navy pants and a white shirt.

“Hi,” Kara says, softly with her hands held in front of her.

“Hi.”

“Can we talk?”

“Of course.” Lena ushers her inside, moves them into the kitchen because it feels like the safest territory, most impersonal.

“Drink?” Lena asks already reaching for a beer inside her fridge. The same brand Kara used to drink in college - the brand she keeps stocking in her kitchen despite rarely drinking it.

“Wow, I haven’t had this in forever,” Kara says, smiling at the label and twisting the cap off.

Lena pours herself a glass of scotch because she’s entirely sure she’s going to need it and the first peaty hit of it on her lips makes her feel just a little bit better.

“So…” Kara starts, picking at the label on her beer bottle and failing to meet Lena’s eyes for a long moment.

Lena doesn’t answer, takes another sip of her drink instead and watches Kara over the rim of her glass.

“You look -” Kara’s mouth moves a little, but silent, searching for the words and Lena wants to laugh at it. She’s sure she looks nothing like the college student Kara remembers - faded jeans and sweatshirts now traded for power suits and heels - maybe she should have changed out of her work clothes before Kara got here. “You look different.”

It’s such a massive understatement that Lena almost laughs. Lena is entirely different than the last time she saw Kara - she left that version of herself behind with Kara, exchanged it for the costumes and the lines of the role she was born to play. For a brief, terrible moment Lena wonders what Kara will think of the new version of her, wonders if she’ll like her.

Here with Kara now, however, Lena feels a bit of her old self start to seep back into her. It’s a vulnerable and terrifying feeling.

“Good different, I hope,” Lena says, eyebrow arching as she glances down to observe herself. “I usually change after work, but my mind has been elsewhere today.”

“Of course it’s a good different. I think it’d be impossible for you to look bad,” Kara answers easily and it scratches rawly against Lena’s emotions. Kara’s casual honesty was always so hard to fight against and Lena finds herself falling back under its spell.

“You look good yourself,” she replies, attempting a smile and trying to stop her brain from memorizing the way Kara’s face looks, the way her eyes are still the prettiest shade of blue Lena’s ever seen. Kara doesn’t look different. She looks exactly as Lena remembers her and it’s completely unnerving. The only time Kara had looked remotely different was - “I especially like the new edition to your wardrobe.”

Kara looks at her like she’s confused for a second so Lena adds, “The blue and red one. With the cape.”

A grin adorns Kara’s face, her back straightening a little. “You do?”

“Supergirl, huh?” Lena teases and Kara blushes.

“Ms. Grant named me,” Kara explains, biting at her bottom lip. Lena gets distracted by the motion for a short second. “It wasn’t my first choice.”

“Cat Grant knows?”

“No, of course not. She just -” Kara waves her hand around vaguely. “Branded me, I guess. That’s what she’d call it.”

“Well, you’ve been all over the news,” Lena tells her. “Even in Metropolis.”

“Really?” Kara seems to brighten at the idea and Lena finds herself smiling genuinely for the first time all day.

“Yeah,” she laughs. “I’m happy you get to help people like you always wanted to.”

“Feels like a dream sometimes,” Kara says, soft.

“I’d imagine.”

“How did you know it was me?”

Lena arches an eyebrow. “You really have to ask?”

Kara shrugs, takes a swig of her beer and just waits for Lena to answer.

With a laugh, Lena leans over the countertop of her kitchen island and taps a finger against Kara’s glasses watching her ex go cross eyed at the motion. “Cute, but still useless. Your brilliant disguise doesn’t really work on someone that’s seen you the way I have,” she tells her in a soft voice and Kara’s eyes snap up to hers.

Lena swallows, pulls away quickly and feels her heartbeat start to stutter into a quicker pace. She tries to slow it, knowing Kara could hear it if she wanted and walks away a little to put some distance between them.

“So you’re CEO now,” Kara comments and Lena feels herself calm a little at the nervous way Kara twists her beer bottle around in her hands. At least she’s not the only one having a complete mental breakdown.

“Well,” Lena says, shrugging a shoulder. “There was a vacancy.”

“Yeah, I heard about-” Kara cuts off, and Lena’s jaw goes tight. “I’m sorry about Lex.”

It’s sincere - from someone that knew how Lena felt about Lex long before anything went dark, who had been there when he was the only one calling her during college or sending the occasional care package. It’s the first time she’s gotten sympathy for her brother’s madness that doesn’t make her want to punch something.

“Thanks,” she says quietly, smiling against the heat in her eyes.

“Do you want to-”

“I don’t want to talk about it,” Lena cuts her off, somewhat sharply, but it’s a topic incredibly low on a long list of things she’s not emotionally prepared to discuss with Kara Danvers at this juncture.

“I understand,” Kara says gently and Lena takes another long sip of her scotch, lets the burn down her chest sooth her.

“So you’re a reporter for CatCo?”

“What? Oh, No.”

Lena’s brows come together. “Were you not interviewing me for the magazine with Clark?”

Kara shakes her head, laughs a little. “Oh, I was just tagging along, I’m not - I don’t - You know, I’m still figuring out what I want to do.”

Lena laughs a little at Kara’s stuttering. “You could have fooled me,” she says with a shrug and Kara just sort of gapes at her.

When it’s clear Kara doesn’t know what else to say, Lena goes for a subject change. “Did you find anything out about the attack today?”

It’s not exactly something Lena’s looking forward to debriefing because she has a pretty good idea of who was trying to kill her, or at least who had hired someone to kill her. It’s painful to think her relationship with her once beloved brother has turned into this.

Rao,” Kara sighs eyes going wide as if she’s just remembering that’s the reason she’s here - not to have some emotionally charged catch up with her ex. “I totally forgot. We need to talk about your rebranding ceremony thing tomorrow.”

Lena’s gaze narrows, confused at the connection. “It’s an announcement, not a ceremony thing. More like a press conference.”

Kara rolls her eyes, looks at Lena pointedly. “Well whatever it is, we need to talk about it.”

“What’s there to talk about?”

“Not having it.”

The idea makes Lena set her drink down and cross her arms defensively. She shoots Kara an incredulous look. “I am not cancelling,” she says. “Absolutely not.”

“Lena you have to cancel,” Kara argues, standing up to striding around the counter with an angry flush in her cheeks. It’s undeniably attractive and Lena swallows thickly, the distance between them suddenly lessened. If she reached out now she could touch Kara and she has to dig her nails into her bicep to restrain herself from doing so. “Someone tried to kill you today.”

“I’m not cancelling, Kara. This company is sinking and without someone to turn the ship around-”

“Just reschedule it, Lena,” Kara interrupts. “Until we can subdue the threat.”

“In case you’ve forgotten,” Lena says lowly, fire in her eyes. “My last name is Luthor. There will always be a threat.”

“Not one so immediate or deadly.”

“Renaming the company and getting it on a new track is my number one priority right now. You need to respect that.” It mimics a conversation from years ago that Lena tries not to think about it. Based on Kara’s expression, Lena’d guess Kara is trying not to think about it as well.

“I am well aware of where your priorities lie.”

It’s feels like a low blow, so unexpected that it almost makes Lena snap back, but she stays composed. “Then, like I said, respect it.”

“Your life should be a priority.”

“That’s not your concern anymore.”

Hurt flashes all over Kara’s face and Lena hates it.

--

“Lena,” Kara warns, but she’s laughing, pulling Lena back down into the narrow little bed in Lena’s dorm room.

“Kara I have to get to class,” Lena says. Or at least she tries to, but she coughs about halfway through the sentence and the rest of the words get lost between the hacking and the sniffling.

“You have the flu. You need to sleep and drink plenty of fluids.”

“I can still go to class. Don’t be ridiculous.”

“You’ll never get anything done,” Kara argues, her grip firm on Lena’s wrist. She tugs gently, tipping Lena back over into the bed. “You need to take care of yourself.”

“I take care of myself just fine.”

“You are the worst at taking care of yourself,” Kara says knowingly. “Or was I hallucinating the week you pulled a double all-nighter and still went to class hopped up on Red Bull and adrenaline? And then you tried to convince me you could totally drive to Midvale that night.”

“I had a huge project and I didn’t want to miss Thanksgiving with your family.”

“Get in here,” is all Kara counters with, turning Lena over in the bed so they’re spooning. “Let someone take care of you for once.”

Lena coughs a little but can’t deny the desire to just stay in bed and fight the fever she can feel creeping into her body. She turns a little to look at Kara over her shoulder. “Don’t you have class?”

Kara shrugs, pulls Lena tighter against her body and the warmth seeps through Lena’s shirt comfortably, warding against the chills threatening to wrack her body. “I e-mailed my professors.”

“Kara you can’t skip class just because I’m sick,” Lena protests, but her eyes are fluttering shut and the soft feeling of Kara’s fingers stroking over her abdomen, lips against her shoulder.

“I’m skipping class to take care of my girlfriend and it’s a totally reasonable excuse.”

“You’ll get sick too.”

Kara laughs. “Superior alien biology,” she tells Lena in a whisper. “I’m immune to your earthling diseases.”

Lena rolls her eyes, but sinks further into Kara’s embrace and allows herself the simple pleasure of being taken care of.

--

“This city is my concern,” Kara says and her voice is shaky enough that Lena wants to take back her earlier words. She wants to wrap Kara up in a tight hug and tell her that she missed her and that feeling cared for again is like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert.

She doesn’t do any of that, though, and just let’s Kara keep talking, pleading. “And as a new prominent figure in this city,” Kara continues. “Your safety does concern me.”

“This argument is futile. Short of a court order, nothing is going to make me cancel the ceremony.”

“Lena, your life is in danger. Showing up to that press conference is like just asking someone to take a shot at you.”

“I have security, Kara. Don’t be dramatic.”

“Not enough security,” Kara all but growls at her.

“Are you going to be there?”

“What?”

“Is CatCo sending someone to cover the event?”

Kara adjusts her glasses, brow crinkled. “Well probably-”

“Then you’ll be there,” Lena say definitely. “So it’s fine.”

“It’s not fine, Lena. They’ll definitely try again-”

“And then you can catch them.”

Kara’s face clears then, jaw dropping a little. “I am not going to let you use yourself as bait.”

“That’s not what I’m suggesting-”

“That’s exactly what you’re suggesting.”

“It’s merely a consequence of the fact that this press conference is happening whether you want it to or not.”

Kara’s lips are pressed together angrily, her cheeks flushed, but it looks more adorable than menacing and Lena can’t help but feel warm at the obvious concern Kara has for her well-being. She tries to remind herself that Kara cares about everyone, that it’s not personal and doesn’t mean anything, but it wraps around her heart nonetheless. It reminds her of the many arguments between them in years past - of the stubborn way Kara always stood her ground even against Lena’s relentless logic.

The look on Kara’s face is still just as attractive as when they were in college and Lena tries to fight the urge to remember just how they used to resolve their arguments when they were together.

“Fine,” Kara sighs eventually and Lena lifts her chin a little in triumph.

“Good.”

Fine,” Kara emphasizes.

It’s clear neither of them know what to say to each other anymore and Lena clenches her fist at the urge to reach out and stroke an errant blonde hair behind Kara’s ear. They’re silent for long moments, standing a few feet apart in Lena’s kitchen before Kara’s shoulders sag a little.

“This is so awkward,” Kara breathes out.

“Is it?” Lena asks, with a teasing tilt to her head - an effort to alleviate some of the tension.

Sure, it’s a little awkward to be standing in her kitchen with a girl she once loved so desperately she thought nothing would tear them apart. It’s a little awkward to be talking to each other like nothing has changed when so much has. It’s a little awkward, but Lena finds herself not wanting to be anywhere else, with anyone else.

It’s easy to fall back into old patterns with Kara. Too easy, really. Arguing with Kara, talking to her, caring about each other - it’s all way to comfortable, too instinctual for Lena to do anything about it. It’s awkward when she lets herself think about it for too long, but as always with Kara, Lena can’t seem to think that clearly for much long at all.

Kara rolls her eyes and huffs, breaking Lena from her thoughts. “I hope we can be friends,” she says and Lena’s throat feels thick at the sound of it. “I care about you, you know.”

Heat spikes in the back of Lena’s eyes. “Friends,” she repeats. “Of course. Why couldn’t we be?”

The answer is obvious. They were never really friends, even when they technically were. Lena has zero idea how Kara plans to manage it now with all their history between them. Even now, with Kara looking at her with open blue eyes, Lena can’t help but have very un-friendly thoughts about the other girl.

Kara looks like she’s going to step forward into Lena’s space for a quick moment and Lena’s body just reacts. Her skin starts to tingle and her mouth goes dry and every single cell in her body wants to press forward, push into Kara’s body and put their lips together.

From the way Kara keeps looking at her, Lena thinks maybe the action wouldn’t be rebuffed.

Except they broke up for good reasons. Reasons that still exist and are now only more solidified with everything that has happened in the world since they last saw each other. Lena has a company to rebuild and a family in shambles and Kara is tasked with protecting National City, building a career of her own. Rekindling their romance because Lena can’t get a hold on her own nostalgia would be idiotic at best.

It doesn’t mean Lena stops thinking about kissing her. It doesn’t mean the curiosity isn’t there - the voice in her brain that wants to know if Kara still kisses the same way, if her fingers still feel just as soft, if she still makes the same noises when Lena runs lips up her jawline.

For a brief moment the desire to answer all those questions is almost irresistible and they’re close enough that Lena wouldn’t have to move far to do it.

But then Kara is letting out a little wet sounding laugh and stepping backwards. “I should get going.”

“Of course,” Lena says, shaking the thoughts out of her head, clearing her throat and running a clammy palm across the fabric at her hip.

They walk to the door together and Lena is careful to keep enough distance between them to avoid the temptation to touch.

“Be careful, Lena,” is all Kara says to her before she leaves.

--

“What do you think you’ll do when you graduate?” Kara asks from her perch on Lena’s bed. She idly plays with a model rocket, zooming it through the air above her head.

“Work for Luthor Corp,” Lena says automatically because that question has only ever had one answer.

“Really?”

Lena looks over from her desk, brow furrowed. “Of course, really.”

“Doing what?”

Lena shrugs. “Head of R&D to start. Lex says I’m fit to take over as CIO eventually.”

“CIO?”

“Chief Information Officer,” Lena explains, twisting in her chair and abandoning her work. “Why, what do you want to do?”

Kara keeps her eyes on the model rocket, letting it fly around a little before answering. “I dunno.”

“At all?” It’s a foreign concept to Lena who has known exactly what she’s going to be doing with her adult life since she was five.

“I mean I want to do something . I just don’t know what that is yet,” Kara says and Lena watches the subtle clenching of Kara’s jaw with interest. “I was sent to Earth with a purpose, you know?”

Lena nods, remembering Kara’s story of how she got here.

“And now that I don’t have to worry about-” Kara shakes her head, as if to herself before looking at Lena. “I just want to help people. Do some good.”

“Well you’ve got plenty of time to figure out how to do that.”

“I haven’t even picked a major,” Kara says softly, abandoning the model rocket and looking at Lena. “What if I’m not good enough for anything?”

“Don’t be ridiculous,” Lena says, moving to the bed.

“And I have all these-” Kara puts her hands up in the air, observing them, turning them over. “Strengths that I can’t really use.”

“I know, sweetheart,” Lena soothes, gripping a hand and holding it. “But you’re more than just super strength.”

“Am I?” Kara asks. “I could help so many people and instead I have to-”

“Kara, you have other strengths.”

“Like what?” Kara asks in a grumble, bottom lip pouting out just slightly.

Lena cups Kara’s cheeks in her hands, smiles down at her before pressing a swift kiss to her lips, laughing when Kara’s head comes up to chase the pressure. “You can do whatever you want to do,” Lena tells her. “I believe in you.”

Kara’s face lights up with a smile that Lena hopes never fades. “You think so?”

“I know so,” Lena says firmly, smiling down at her.  

“Well you are a genius so you must be right,” Kara jokes, the somber expression from earlier now gone.

“I am indeed a genius,” Lena teases back and Kara laughs. “As I’ve been telling you for a year now.”

“So that’s where I heard it.”

Lena shoves her, but Kara grabs easily at her hands and pulls her down onto the bed where they tumble together in a mess of laughter and happiness.

--

Alex Danvers is the first person Lena notices when she heads outside to do final preparations for the press conference. Kara’s older sister is leaned up against a tree on the other side of the park, jeans, leather jacket and very obvious don’t fuck with me vibes.

Lena catches her eye and Alex just stares at her, expressionless. It’s almost as bad as seeing Kara and Lena can’t decide if she should go over and say hello or ignore Alex completely and try to focus on work.

They’re close enough to each other that Lena notices the challenging arch of Alex’s eyebrow and she sighs before handing her tablet to a nearby assistant and walking over.

“Alex,” she greets.

Alex is all thin lips and narrowed eyes. “Lena,” she says dryly. “Long time.”

“Are you here for the-”

“You seem to have warranted full FBI protection,” Alex answers and Lena gives her a look, well aware that Alex doesn’t work for the FBI. Rumors have circulated for years about a secret branch of government tasked with extraterrestrial happenings and Lena would bet her bank account that’s exactly what Alex does - ever the watchful big sister.

“Well,” Lena says with a tight smile. “I feel very protected.”

Alex hums. “Kara says she tried to talk you out of today.”

“She did.”

“Stubborn as ever, I see.”

“Kara and I are friends now,” Lena tells her without really meaning to. Alex is acting like she had when she first met Lena as the girlfriend over five years ago and it’s grating. Maybe she and Alex were never best friends, but they were on good terms and Lena knows Kara wouldn’t want them to be at odds.

“Friends,” Alex repeats in the same doubtful tone Lena had just the night before.

“Yes.”

“She’s my little sister.”

“I’m well aware.”

“You know she was a mess when you guys split,” Alex tells her and Lena cannot be doing this on the same day she has to stand up in front of the news media and announce the renaming of her family’s corporate enterprise. She went four years without having to deal with all of this and now she’s getting the tonnage of it in the span of two days.

“So was I,” Lena says evenly, gaze steady. “Is there a point to this standoff?”

Alex shakes her head, unreadable as always and shrugs. “No.”

“Then if you’ll excuse me, I have things to get done.”

Lena turns to leave, but Alex’s voice stops her for a moment. “Be careful, Lena.”

As she paces away, Lena can’t decide if Alex means it the same way Kara did the night before or if the older Danvers sister is talking about something different entirely.

--

Kara shows up minutes before Lena’s supposed to walk up to the podium and deliver her remarks. Her bright smile is both encouraging and terrifying as she joins Lena on the sidewalk.

“Nervous?”

“Not at all,” Lena replies, but she shoots Kara a teasing smile.

“This is quite a risk, Lena. There’s still time to reconsider.”

“Kara,” Lena says, stopping abruptly on the sidewalk. She glances at a reporter setting up a  camera a few feet away. “This company is all that I have right now,” she says, in a voice so quiet she’s sure only Kara can hear. “You know what it means to me and why I can’t just walk away from it.”

“I’m not asking you to walk away from Luthor Corp, Lena,” Kara says stepping towards her. “I’m asking you to postpone the ceremony.”

“I can’t,” Lena says for what feels like the hundredth time, eyes pleading with Kara to understand.

It seems to work because Kara purses her lips and nods. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Lena repeats. She takes a steadying breath and turns to walk back towards the waiting podium.

“I’ll be here,” Kara tells her and it gives Lena just the extra ounce of calm she needs to step confidently up to the microphone.

“I want to thank you all for coming,” she starts, looking around the small crowd.

--

Lena hates having to go these kinds of events, but when you’re the youngest Luthor child and your family has buildings in their name all around campus you kind of have to attend. Her mother had called earlier that week all but ordering her attendance and Lena knows it’s all part of the grooming process - she’d seen Lex go through something similar when he was in school.

“You look great,” Kara says to her from where she’s lounging on Lena’s bed, flipping through channels on the television across the room. “Stop fussing.”

“I’m not fussing,” Lena grumbles, swiping a fingernail at the corner of her lips to insure her lipstick is perfect.

“You’re nervous,” Kara says knowingly and Lena rolls her eyes, picks up another bobby pin from the sink and fixes her hair.

“Not at all,” she argues. “I’m just annoyed that I have to go to this stupid thing.”

“You don’t have to.”

“Yes I do,” Lena laughs.

“What’s the worst that could happen?”

Lena shoots her a look. “My mother could call me.”

Sighing, Kara stands up from the bed, throwing the remote on the pillow and walks up to Lena. “Do you want me to come with you?”

“No,” Lena answers, probably too quickly and too sharp. Kara’s eyes flash a little with hurt and Lena reaches out to soothe it. A press of her hand to Kara’s forearm and a gentle squeeze does the trick and Kara smiles a little. “You’ll be dreadfully bored and annoyed and I probably wouldn’t get to hang out with you much the whole night.”

Kara shrugs seemingly undeterred. “Is there food?”

Lena laughs. Food would be the selling point for Kara. “Sure, but do you want to spend your night eating small portions of caviar and canapé?”

“Cah-what?”

“Little crackers with cucumbers on it,” Lena explains - it’s not an exact description but she’d bet that’s what’s being served tonight.

Kara’s nose scrunches up in distaste, but she still smiles a little. “I’d suffer through for you.”

It charms Lena, like it always does and she can’t stop that warm feeling exploding in her chest. “Well, I’m not going to put you through that,” she tells her, placing a hand on Kara’s chest and leaning forward to kiss her quickly. “Enjoy your Friday night.”

“I’m not going to enjoy it without you,” Kara pouts.

Lena laughs. “You have other friends,” she points out - knowing that some of Kara’s friends from the astronomy club are throwing a party tonight. “Why don’t you go over to Blue Shutters and see what Josie and those guys are doing? Aren’t they throwing a moon landing party?”

“Lena,” Kara whines.

It’s not that often that Kara gets this clingy and Lena searches her face to find the source. Usually Kara jumps at the idea of a party or a game night or any chance to socialize. “What’s wrong?”

“Nothing,” Kara says, the sound of it genuine enough that Lena believes her. “I just know you hate these things and I want to be with you. I hate the idea of you being all by yourself.”

Lena swallows against the sudden thick feeling in her throat. “Kara,” she says softly.

“I know, I know, you have to go and I have to... not ,” Kara says and Lena’s so ready to take it all back and just drag her girlfriend along with her.

“It’s not that I don’t want you there,” Lena tries to explain, but Kara shushes her with a finger against her lips.

“If it’s okay with you I’m going to stay here and mooch off your Netflix account until you’re done and then we can order takeout and watch that stupid medical documentary you wanted to last week.”

Lena’s brow furrows and she laughs if only to stop herself from crying at the soft way Kara loves her. “How to Survive a Plague?”

“Sure,” Kara shrugs.

“Okay, that documentary is not stupid - you haven’t even seen it!”

“Well it sounded boring when you explained it to me.”

“It’s a fascinating study of the AIDS epidemic and incredibly informative and heartbreaking and-” Lena cuts off at the smirk on Kara’s face and she shoves lightly at Kara’s shoulder even though it barely moves. “You’re teasing me.”

“Maybe.”

Pursing her lips, Lena wraps her arms around Kara’s neck and studies her. “You’re trying to make me feel better.”

“Is it working?”

It undeniably is. The dread and nerves Lena’s felt all day with the knowledge that she’d have to spend the night schmoozing in a fancy dress and impeccable makeup has ebbed away almost entirely. Just the knowledge that Kara will be here waiting for her at the end of the night is chipping away at the irritation and resentment she’s had for the event. “Yes,” she admits, feeling Kara’s hands at her hips, pulling them closer.

“Can I kiss you or will it mess up your lipstick?”

Lena sighs, sags a little in Kara’s arms. “I can fix it after,” she whispers before moving forward to press their lips together.

--

The first explosions rattle her forward so violently that her ribs press painfully into the rigid podium in front of her.

Then, everything descends quickly into chaos and Lena jumps immediately off the platform for safety, just as she feels the heat of a second explosion behind her.

She’s barely up the steps, eyes darting around looking for help - looking for Kara - when she sees a police officer she vaguely recognizes raising a gun towards her.

There is no time to react, but she doesn’t need to because the next thing she knows Alex is twisting his arm back and disarming him. Gasping she stumbles back a bit, watching as Alex fights with the man, trading blows with quick precision.

Lena feels incredibly vulnerable just standing there in her skirt and heels while Kara’s sister saves her life. She darts around for anything she can use as a weapon, something she could bash over his head or something to throw at the melee when she spots a fallen security guard not ten feet away.

She darts over, dodging a few people still fleeing the scene before dropping to his side and checking for a pulse. Knocked out, but his heart still beating.

“Just need to borrow this,” she says as she unholsters his gun. “Sorry.”

By the time she gets back to the fight, Kara has joined them and the police officer has Alex by the throat, gun to her head. She hears the conversation Kara is having, something about Lex or her family, but the bitter taste of adrenaline in her mouth is making it hard to focus. All she sees is Kara’s sister in danger. In danger because Lena went ahead with a press conference she knew was dangerous.

The minute the officer gives her an opening she doesn’t hesitate, she raises the gun at the level of his chest and fires. His body flops forward as Alex twists away, grabbing at him as he falls to the ground.

Lena feels absolutely frozen. She’s shot guns before. More than a few times, but never at someone like this. Never at a living breathing body that’s now pouring blood onto the pavement.

She can tell Kara is staring straight at her even as she talks to Alex about the wound and how they need a paramedic. Lena can’t take her eyes off the blood, her muscles feel locked and she’s breathing hard, her spine rigid. That’ll teach, Lex, she thinks.

“Lena,” she hears, soft and soothing. “Lena, put the gun down.”

A warm hand covers hers where it’s tightly gripped around the weapon and Lena sags a little at the familiar touch. “Lena,” she hears again and she finally rips her gaze away from the blood to look at Kara’s careful face.

“He’s going to be fine,” Kara tells her. “But we need to get you out of here and to safety.”

Lena just stares at Kara and tries to get air into her lungs, takes big deep inhales before she feels like she can loosen the grip she has on the gun. “I shot him,” she says quietly.

“You saved Alex’s life,” Kara says.

The paramedics arrive after that, loading up the officer - John Corben, Lena learns - onto a stretcher.

--

Even as a freshman, Lena gets her own dorm room. Luthor money goes a long way after all and Lena doesn’t need the distraction of a roommate when she’s at college to study and study only.

By sophomore year her dorm is in the farthest corner of the building on the top floor. It’s isolated and quiet and Lena loves the privacy of it. Especially on nights like tonight when her otherworldly girlfriend tries to climb in through the window.

The knocking startles her so hard that she throws her highlighter across the room in surprise, her hand flinging to her chest to stop the sudden racing of her heart. The laughter that follows immediately after makes her calm down and she turns to glare at Kara. Her girlfriend is perched outside her window with a wide grin and a pizza box.

“You could use the door like a normal person,” Lena grumbles, opening her window to let her inside. “What if someone saw you?”

“No one saw me,” Kara insists, jumping through the window deftly and setting the pizza box on the bed along with her backpack. “I’m stealthy,” she continues, turning to kiss Lena hello. “Like a cat.”

“Sure,” Lena laughs, wrapping her arms around Kara’s neck and kissing her more soundly than before.

Kara laughs into the kiss, and scoops Lena up around the waist, pulling her off her feet and pressing their bodies together.

“I missed you,” Kara says when they break apart and she sets Lena back down.

Lena laughs. “You saw me this morning.”

Kara just shrugs, plops down on the bed and opens the pizza box. “Still.”  

Lena grabs a piece and scoots over on the bed too so they’re both leaned up against the wall. “Thanks for bringing pizza,” Lena says before taking a bite.

“Well as your girlfriend I have to make sure you’re getting all your major food groups.”

“Which food group is pizza?”

“The pizza group,” Kara says, looking over at Lena with an expression that so clearly conveys duh that Lena laughs again.

They sit there on Lena’s bed quietly for a little while, eating pizza and just being together. After a bit, Kara sighs, presses a little closer to Lena’s side to tuck her head on Lena’s shoulder, still munching on a piece of pizza.

“You okay?” Lena asks, throwing her crust towards the pizza box with the knowledge that Kara will finish it later.

“Just happy,” Kara replies.

The response makes Lena smile. “Yeah?”

“Totally,” Kara says around a mouthful of food. “You and pizza. What more could I need?”

“Potstickers,” Lena answers sagely, but Kara pops her head back up from Lena’s shoulder with a grin.

“Oh, those are in my backpack for later.”

Lena rolls her eyes, but doesn’t stop Kara when she leans in to press a warm kiss against her cheek.

--

It’s suddenly like absolutely nothing in her life has changed since college because when she gets home that night, changes into her comfiest sweatpants and sweatshirt and pours herself a glass of wine, a familiar knock comes on the glass door to her balcony.

“Kara?” Lena asks, knowing Kara will hear her even through the doors.

Kara just gestures towards the door and Lena paces over, opens it to let her ex-girlfriend inside. “What are you doing here?”

“I came to see if you’re okay,” Kara says, stepping inside, still in her Supergirl suit, but holding a small bag. “Can I change?”

“By all means,” Lena says, making a gesturing motion towards the bathroom.

With a swift whoosh of air, Kara is gone and back, now in jeans and a t-shirt and looking at Lena with a strange expression, her gaze dropping towards Lena’s chest and then back up. The scrutiny makes Lena cross her arms tightly and curl a little into herself. At the motion, Kara’s face shifts to worry and she paces towards her.

“Are you okay?”

Lena’s chest tightens. Is this how it’s going to be now? Kara’s just back in her life, strolling into her apartment at night to check up on her, smiling at her, worrying about her, being around. Lena’s not sure she can handle it and stay sane. At the very least there’s no way Lena can manage some sort of renewed friendship with Kara if she has to jump into the deep end head first.

“Of course,” Lena says dismissively, trying to calm her heart rate and find the words to get Kara out of the apartment as quickly as possible without being rude. She walks back over to the couch and settles on it, plucking her glass of wine off the table nearby. “You needn’t have come all this way just to check on me.”

“Well I-”

“I can give you my cell phone number and you can check up on me that way.”

Kara looks a little lost at that, mouth floundering to find words and Lena sighs.

“Kara we can’t do this.” Biting the bullet and just talking about it seems to be the soundest strategy.

“Do what?”

“This,” Lena says, gesturing between them. She takes a long sip of her wine and watches Kara’s expressive face.

“I thought you said we could be friends,” Kara says, coming to stand in front of Lena, the coffee table between them.

“We can,” Lena says and she laughs a little, the sound coming out hollow even to her own ears. “But there have to be some…” She waves the hand holding her wine glass, trying to come up with the words. “There has to be some boundaries.”

“Boundaries?”

“Kara,” Lena sighs, setting her glass down and looking at her ex-girlfriend softly. “We were together for a while as friends and as girlfriends and it was…” Words escape her when she tries to think of how to possibly categorize the most formative relationship of her life.

“Intense?” Kara offers with a look on her face like she might cry at any moment. Lena feels that emotion so sharply in her gut that heat spikes in her own eyes.

“Sure. Yeah,” she gulps air into her lungs. “Intense.”

“And now you need boundaries?”

Lena stands, tries to find the strength somewhere inside her to have this conversation when all she wants to do is run from it. Either that or run straight into Kara’s arms and forget their separation ever happened. It’s easy to remember what it felt like to be in love with Kara when they’re standing together like this, staring at each other with matching pain.

“I can’t just jump back into our friendship like this. With you just stopping by to check on me or showing up all the time.”

“Okay,” Kara says slowly, nodding.

“It’s too confusing,” Lena says with a subtle shrug to her shoulders.

“Confusing?”

Lena bites at her lip, her stomach churning. “I think we just need to relearn how to be friends again.”

Kara stares at her with an open expression Lena doesn’t know what to do with.

When Kara keeps silent, Lena continues. “You do still want to be friends right?”

It takes a second for Kara to respond and when she does her voice sounds hoarse suddenly, like she’s struggling against something. “Yeah,” she says. “I want to be friends. And friends come and check on their friends when they go through something like you did today.”

Lena nods. “I know and I think we can get there. I’m just not ready for that yet.”

Kara’s jaw is tight, her eyes still watery and Lena tugs her arms around herself again, wrapping herself in the softness of her faded sweatshirt. Kara’s eyes watch the motion for a moment. “So you want me to stop coming over?”

“Just for a little while,” Lena says. “Just until we can figure out how to do this. I mean, we haven’t seen each other in years. We’re different people.”

“Not that different.”

Lena takes a deep breath. “We just got thrown back together by crazy circumstances. My family’s company is on its last legs, there’s someone out there trying to kill me, you’re Supergirl,” Lena explains. “Our lives are collectively insane right now.”

She doesn’t add the other part - that of all the things that are insane about her life, Kara was always the one thing that wasn’t. The constant force in her world that always made sense. Even now, with tears threatening to fall in both of their eyes, Lena feels centered, tethered to something. Her mind feels clear even as it gets muddled up by all that’s going on.

“I was so in love with you,” Lena confesses and it’s both a relief and immensely painful to let the words out, but she needs to put this out there between them if they have any hope of repairing their friendship. “Crazy, crazy in love with you.”

At this, Lena catches a tear falling from Kara’s eye. The other girl swipes at it quickly and lets out a watery laugh. “Me too.”

It spikes into Lena’s chest so painfully she almost gasps. “I think part of me will always be that crazy in love with you,” she says with a smile and a shrug. It’s the truth, one Lena is struggling to accept. “And seeing you again now, it’s…”

“Bringing it all back up,” Kara says.

“Yeah,” Lena says softly. “I have to learn how to put that part of our past away so we can start on a new chapter.”

Kara visibly swallows, her chin lifting a little and a look in her eyes like she’s bracing for something. “I understand,” she says.

“I just need some boundaries until we can figure all this out.”

“Okay.”

“So for now,” Lena says, glancing away from Kara’s expression. “Maybe you should just leave and we can start over, something small.”

“Your life is still in danger and-”

“I know,” Lena says firmly, cutting Kara off. “And if we have to see each other for reasons like that, that’s fine. But you can’t just come over here to check up on me. We need to start over.”

“Okay.”

Lena hates the forlorn expression Kara’s face, wants to wipe away her tears and soothe away the pain with soft kisses and this is exactly why Kara can’t be here right now. “Just give me space,” Lena says softly. “Space and time.”

Kara laughs humorlessly. “Space and time.”

Unable to resist it anymore, Lena moves around the table and puts a soft hand on Kara’s forearm where the muscles is tense and Lena strokes her fingers against the feeling. “We’ll get there,” she says with conviction. “I promise.”

Kara looks down at her for a long moment, their gazes locked. Lena’s heart thuds steadily against her rib cage.

“Okay,” Kara says again, but this time some tension flows out of her and when she smiles at Lena it almost looks normal.

“Okay,” Lena repeats.

“I should go then.”

Contrary to their entire conversation, Lena finds herself unwilling to let Kara leave. But she knows it’s what she needs in order to find some kind of steady footing in their relationship. She fights the desire bubbling up inside her and steps away, breaking their contact and shooting Kara a small, encouraging smile.

--

Despite having told Kara about thirty times that Lena had firm plans to stay home that Friday and finish a physics project, Lena gets about sixteen texts by ten that night pleading with her to come out.

They vary in reasoning from I miss you come out! to they have your favorite rum. When she gets the this isn’t the same without you , Lena shuts her laptop down with an aggrieved sigh. After throwing on a clean pair of jeans and a nice black sleeveless shirt, Lena heads out of her building towards the address Kara had texted her earlier.

The party is in full swing when she arrives and she pushes through the crowd of people in the front of the house, stepping around discarded plastic cups and bottles as she searches for her friend.

Kara ends up finding her first, bursting through a group of people to suddenly appear in front of Lena with a bright smile. Her friend is dressed casually for a party, jeans and a faded crew neck sweatshirt with the picture of a puppy on it. Pugs not drugs is emblazoned on the front and Lena wants to laugh at it. Blonde hair hangs loosely around her shoulders and Lena fights the wave of attraction she always has when she first sees Kara.

“You came!” Kara practically shouts, wrapping Lena in a tight hug.

Lena rolls her eyes and lets her best friend manhandle her towards the kitchen. “I’m so glad you’re here,” Kara is saying as she fixes Lena a drink. “Jake hasn’t left me alone all night. He’s so annoying.”

Lena’s spine stiffens a little at the mention of Kara’s newest suitor Jacob Barber, junior quarterback. The ass keeps asking Kara out despite her many rejections and it makes Lena want to hack into all his bank accounts and bankrupt the bastard. “He’s an asshole that doesn’t understand what no means.”

Kara hands her the plastic cup she’s been pouring rum and juice into. “He’s not an asshole, he’s just annoying.”

Lena takes a long sip of her drink and shoots Kara pointed look. “He’s an asshole.”

Pursing her lips, Kara just looks at Lena for a moment. “Well, I’m glad you’re here now.”

“We can leave if you want,” Lena offers. It’s probably the best option if Kara’s actually feeling smothered by Jake’s advances. The idea of it is appealing - they could pick up hot dogs at that place around the block and go back to Lena’s dorm, spend the night binge watching whatever TV show Kara is obsessed with this week and being together.

“No.” Kara laughs as if the idea is ridiculous and picks up her own drink before looping an arm through Lena’s as they move away from the drink table - a gaggle of freshman girls descend upon the vodka the minute they step away. “But just stay next to me, okay?”

Lena glances over at Kara. “Always,” she says softly and probably too sincere for the context of their conversation. But she’s helpless next to the look in Kara’s eyes and Kara’s body warm where it presses against hers, even tighter as they move through the crowd.

“Thanks,” Kara says and she presses a quick friendly kiss to Lena’s cheeks. “You wanna dance?”

Lena thinks to answer, but Kara doesn’t wait. Strong fingers tangle with her own and Kara tugs her through the throngs of people and down into the basement where a makeshift dance floor is already crowded with bodies.

Kara presses in close, their bodies shaping together easily and Lena struggles to keep her drink from spilling as Kara twirls them around.

When they walk home that night, Lena has to fight the chill of the late summer night by rubbing her hands up and down her bare biceps, cursing the fact that she didn’t wear something warmer. There’s still a little layer of sweat from dancing all night and the soft breeze makes goosebumps spread across her skin.

Kara must notice her shiver, because she swings around in front of Lena and adds her own hands to the ones Lena has rubbing up her arms. “Cold?”

“A little,” Lena admits and Kara smiles at her before stepping away.

Kara grips the edges of her own sweatshirt and pulls it up over her head, blonde hair tumbling back down and the t-shirt Kara’s wearing riding up a little to uncover defined abs that Lena can’t help but look at. Suddenly, she’s not that cold anymore.

For the millionth time since Kara decided to befriend her, Lena curses whatever power-that-be who decided to play this joke on her. The attraction she feels towards her best friend gets harder and harder to ignore the more time they spend together.

“Here,” Kara says, offering the sweatshirt over.

“I’m fine, Kara,” Lena replies, pushing back at the offering.

Kara’s hand remains stubbornly outstretched with a look of challenge. “You’re cold. Take it.”

“Won’t you be cold?” Lena asks, but she’s already grabbing Kara’s sweatshirt and pulling it over her head.

“I run hot,” Kara explains with a shrug and a smile, turning back to twist their arms together and continue their walk down the path.

Lena feels instantly better once she has the sweatshirt on and she tries not to think that it’s less about being warm and more about something else.

They stop at Lena’s dorm first and Kara hugs her goodbye, thanking her again for rescuing her at the party. Lena shakes her head, tells her that’s what friends are for and moves to give Kara back her sweatshirt.

“No,” Kara says, stilling Lena’s hands with her own. “Keep it.”

“Kara-” Lena protests, but Kara is already skipping away in the direction of her own dorm yelling a night! over her shoulder.

Lena just shakes her head at her and turns to walk up to her dorm.

When she gets into bed that night, she puts the sweatshirt back on and allows herself the simple pleasure of tucking her nose in its collar, inhaling against the scent of her best friend.

She knows this intense attraction she feels is eventually going to come to a head one day and the consequences threaten to be disastrous. Falling for your best friend often is. But for the moment Lena lets herself fantasize, lets herself think everything will be okay and Kara will want her back and they’ll be together forever. There will be no Jacob Barber sniffing around or no overbearing mother constantly reminding her that having a college fling is a complete departure from her priorities.

Lena lets herself believe that she’s just one of a thousand college students, ordinary and simple. She lets herself think about Kara’s bright smile, about the way it would feel if Lena leaned forward and kissed it and she imagines for a second what it’d be like if Kara kissed her back.

She falls asleep easily that night, tucked tightly into the warmth of Kara’s sweatshirt and with a smile on her face.

--

Kara looks thoughtful as she walks back towards the balcony. When she turns to look at Lena, her hands come to her hips and she looks just a little bit less sad than before, her smile just a little less morose. “Boundaries,” Kara says firmly, nodding like she’s deciding something. “I can do that.”

“I want this to work,” Lena says softly, trying to let Kara know that she doesn’t want to push her away. Quite the opposite. But if Kara wants to be friends then this is what Lena needs.

“Me too,” Kara says with a half smile. She opens the door to the balcony and steps out.

Lena follows, watches her with a hand on the door and Kara turns to give her another smile.

“You look cute in that,” Kara says with a smirk, instead of goodbye. With a gesture towards Lena’s shirt she looks up at the sky and jumps into it with a soft whoosh of air, flying speedily away.

As she fades from view, Lena looks down at her sweatshirt and only then realizes what Kara meant. An image of a small dog stares back at her with the now faded letters pugs not drugs. The sight of the old sweatshirt and the memories she associates with it cuts across her chest.

The tears are impossible to stop at this point. She barely restrains herself from full on sobbing.

Swiping at her eyes and trying to get air into her lungs at a steady rate, Lena slams the balcony door shut and heads straight back for her glass of wine.