Clark soared over National City with one ear open for any hint of Kara. Lois had warned him to tell Kara of his intentions, but Clark knew Kara-- she wouldn’t agree to anything he had to say. As he neared the five-story apartment building in the suburbs, he heard the faint sound of humming, the tune low and smooth. He scanned the interior of the top floor and saw only a single figure sat at a small table in the kitchen. The slightly out-of-tune humming told him it couldn’t be Kara. The sling bracing the figure’s right arm confirmed it to be Lena Luthor.
Slowing carefully, Clark dropped soundlessly onto the immaculately groomed terrace. One half of the stone veranda was home to more than a dozen large leafy potted plants, dotted with the bright colors of spring flowers. Their scent drifted to him on the breeze that fluttered his cape.
The french doors leading inside stood open, allowing the fresh spring air to circulate inside the spacious apartment. Clark neared the threshold just enough to be in plain view-- he didn’t cross it. The apartment’s occupant didn’t notice his arrival until he cleared his throat.
Lena startled at the sudden interruption. Her eyes darted up from her paperwork, and her heart rate spiked sharply at the sight of him. But her expression quickly shifted to one of exasperation, and she sighed sharply. “I need to move,” she muttered under her breath. She pushed to her feet, removing her glasses and setting them aside as she crossed into her living room.
“If you came here to shake me down again, I wish you’d done it a week ago,” she delivered coldly, hand fisted at her side. “It would have been nice to only need the one surgery.”
“I came to apologize,” he confessed. A dark eyebrow crept upwards. Her skepticism was well-deserved, and Clark swallowed. “May I come in?”
For a long moment, Lena didn’t respond. Then, with a silent tilt of her head, she gave him leave to step into her living room. He entered carefully, closing the distance between them until he sensed Lena starting to draw back. There he stopped, and when Lena still didn’t speak, Clark realized she expected him to continue.
“I hear the DEO has agreed to your proposal,” he started. He glanced around the room, taking in the heavy wooden furniture and soft fabrics. It surprised him, how little it looked like Lex’s apartment when they’d been in school together. Lex’s arrangements had been the bare minimum, sparse and pale. It didn’t need to be anything more, as he spent most of his waking hours at LuthorCorp or in the labs. “I suppose it’s not surprising,” Clark continued, “given that you had Supergirl’s support from the start.”
“That’s a strange apology,” Lena answered with a roll of her eyes. Still, she indulged his non-sequitur. “It could be they recognize that it’s not the policing measure you believe it is, but rather a worst-case contingency.”
Clark turned aside, scanning the pictures lining the mantle over the fireplace. His eyes caught on one in particular. A young Lena lying on a checkered blanket, long hair spread in a dark halo around her head, beaming as she tilted her chin to look at the young man lying next her. Clark recognized Lex immediately, despite the full head of floppy curls immortalized by the image.
“Someone reminded me recently of what it was like when I first met Lex,” Clark began.
Lois had been waiting for him when he’d returned to Metropolis following Kara’s delivered message on the CatCo rooftop. She started in on him the second he landed, and didn’t stop until hours later. The fight had been the worst in their history, in large part because Lois had no qualms resurrecting the taboo Luthor name. To her, Lex was just a man-- incredibly dangerous and full of hate, but human. Sometimes villains aren’t born, Clark, Lois’ voice rang in his ears. Sometimes they’re made.
Lex’s sister gazed at him now, withholding her words and her judgement in complete silence.
“I counted him as a good friend,” Clark continued, turning away from the childhood photograph. “We were close, once. I regret we became enemies. I count it as my greatest mistake.” He met Lena’s gaze squarely. “I don’t want to make the same mistake with you.”
Though he hoped his words would soften the glare in her eyes, Lena merely lifted a haughty eyebrow. “Is that why you assaulted me?”
Clark’s gaze flickered to the brace on her arm, and hated what he saw. One glance with his x-ray vision revealed the pins in her shoulder blade and the nerves painstakingly stitched together. He hadn’t meant to hurt. He hadn’t even meant to touch her. But the moment Kara’s name passed her lips, Clark had reacted. One impulsive act in the space of a heartbeat had damaged Lena for months to come.
“I never meant for that to happen,” he started, only to fall quiet when Lena’s gaze lifted away, as though bored.
“And yet I still haven’t heard an apology.” Clark took a breath to follow-through, but Lena cut him off with a lift of her hand. “Save your breath. It’s worthless to me anyway.”
“And you can save your sob story about how difficult it was for you to throw my brother in prison. I’m not interested.”
Clark ground his teeth together. “I tried to get through to him--”
“Don’t you mean you lied to him?” Lena’s voice remained level, but suddenly it sounded like it could cut sharper than any knife. Green eyes skewered Clark in place. “Clark Kent came into my brother’s life, accepted his friendship, and all the while you kept putting on that suit and fought him, time after time… You’re a liar, and a coward.”
Every muscle in Clark’s body locked tight in alarm. His hands curled into fists, but he disguised it by propping them on his hips. A haughty stance, but not a violent one. Lena didn’t waver, certain in her knowledge. She’d guessed the truth of his identity, and knew she was right. “How did you know?”
“Once Kara revealed she was Supergirl, her disguise struck me as familiar. And then I realized where I’d seen it before.” She smirked. “You were on Lex’s list of possibilities for a long time.”
Clark watched her carefully. “So he included you on those conversations, did he?” He searched her features for any hint of sympathy for her brother, any suggestion that she thought Lex was in the right.
“At first, briefly. Before he got tired of hearing my lectures.” Her lips curled into a mirthless smirk as her chin tilted. “And then I heard barely anything at all until my mother called me to tell me my brother had been arrested. Until I had to sit in that courtroom and watch my life be torn apart. Until every night I saw Superman on the television assuring the world how much safer it will be now that there’s one less Luthor on the streets. Until Clark Kent eviscerated my family in the papers, opening the door for every reporter in Metropolis to do the same.” She shifted her stance, rolling her eyes in derision. “But by all means, tell me how hard all of that was for you.”
Clark didn’t take her up on it. “What do you intend to do with this information?”
Lena scoffed. “Will you believe me if I say nothing? I may hate you for what you did to my family, Mr. Kent, but I have no quarrel with you. All I want to is be left alone.”
“I won’t stand by silently and watch what happened to me and Lex happen to Kara.”
Green eyes flashed dangerously. “You are the only one here who has posed any kind of threat to anyone,” she fired back, gesticulating sharply with her good hand. “You entered my home uninvited. You made unsubstantiated claims against me. You put me in the hospital. As for Kara, she can handle herself.”
“Kara is young. She’s reckless.”
“Kara has compassion. She may be an alien, but she has more humanity than most humans I know.” Lena blinked, her features softening into true understanding for the first time since Clark arrived. “And you can’t fathom that, can you? No matter how hard you try, no matter how much you pretend to be human, you will never measure up to her standard.”
Clark bristled, hating the way his temper rose to the bait. “Kara trusts too easily...”
“You save people because you think humans need to be saved,” Lena continued, as though he hadn’t spoken at all. “From themselves, from a galaxy you believe they’re not ready for. Kara saves people because she believes humans are worth saving.”
“I fail to see the difference.”
Lena drew back, a smirk curling her lips. “And that,” she said slowly, “is exactly my point.”
Clark had nothing to say to that. To escape the intense focus of Lena’s gaze-- so like Lex-- Clark counted the cars passing on the street outside. He pinpointed the models, the fuel type, and by the time he turned his senses back to the room around him, he knew that whatever in road he’d thought he’d had with Lena was no good. He sighed.
“Will we ever have trust, Miss Luthor?”
An angry flush colored her cheeks. “That’s a question you need to ask yourself, Mr. Kent,” came the terse reply. “I’ve already shown you more trust than you’ve earned-- you’re standing here in my apartment, despite having assaulted me the last time you were here, and accusing me of attempted murder the last time we spoke.”
Tense silence fell between them, until Lena cleared her throat. “As pleasant as this has been,” she drawled, the roll her eyes clearly communicating just how pleasant it was, “Kara is due back any moment. She’s mentioned she doesn’t want to see you, and I’d prefer if the next Super showdown doesn’t occur in my living room.”
Clark nodded, glad for the out. “Thank you for your time Miss Luthor.” He turned to leave.
“One more thing, Mr. Kent,” Lena called after him. Clark paused, and turned back to face her. Sharp eyes pinned him in place. “As of this moment, the slates are clean. But if you hurt Kara, or if you so much as think about touching me again, I promise you that will change.”
The air between them seemed to crackle with tension, and Clark’s senses buzzed with apprehension. Lena’s face smoothed into a mask of dark determination, her eyes never once breaking from his.
“And if you think making an enemy of Lex was a mistake…” Lena’s chin lifted, taking advantage of every inch in her 5’6’’ frame. She didn’t need it. “I promise that making one of me will be the last mistake you ever make.”
Clark held her gaze. Part of him burned to answer the threat with one of his own, to face this specter of Lex Luthor with as much force as he had her brother. But Lois’ voice echoed louder. Everyone is expected to protect their own, Clark. What do you think Lex was trying to do?
Clark merely nodded. “Have a good day Miss Luthor.”
He stepped backwards onto the veranda, and lifted off, with Lois’ words still in his ears.
Sometimes they’re made.
Clark left without so much as a whisper of sound. The fist around Lena’s heart unclenched, and she sank onto the sofa on shaking legs. She let the breeze off the terrace wash over her like a balm. Her hand trembled, and she flexed to chase away the leftover adrenaline. But it wasn’t just adrenaline, this time. Anger burned deep inside of her, and threatened to burrow its way out of her chest. And-- she pressed her hand against her mouth. She’d just threatened Superman. In the space of minutes she’d claimed to not be her brother and then proceeded to fulfill every expectation Superman had for a Luthor.
For several minutes, she simply focused on breathing, reclaiming the breath that Superman seemed to have sucked out of the room in his wake. She focused on the scent of the flowers growing on her terrace, on the rustle of the wind in the leaves, and struggled to find her center. But as her breath returned, Lena’s gaze slid to the photograph that had captured Clark’s attention. She’d almost put the photograph away when Kara had started spending time in Lena’s apartment. Even before she knew Kara was Supergirl, Lena knew it was a risk leaving any trace of her affection for Lex in plain view. Now she wished she had taken it down after all.
Lena shoved to her feet and crossed to the fireplace mantel, snapping the photograph face down. Rage and shame and hurt and hate churned deep in her gut. Clark Kent had no right invoking Lex’s name… claiming him as a friend as though Clark hadn’t lied to Lex for years. She’d met Clark herself in the rare moments she and Lex had been at the manor at the same time. After Lex took over Luthor Corp and she started grad school those times had been few and far between, and at the time she’d resented the reporter for infringing on what could have been private moments with her brother. But that resentment had turned to hate the moment she read Kent’s first article about the danger Lex posed. That hate had festered into utter loathing as the public gutting expanded to include her entire family.
And now she knew the truth. The whole truth, and she wanted to hate Clark even more. If he had even a shred of Kara’s courage-- if he had told Lex the truth, if Lex had gotten the chance to learn of Superman’s humanity, would the outcome have been the same? Would knowing-- being friends with-- an alien made Lex more understanding? If his good friend Clark Kent was the one wearing that symbol and flying around Metropolis, would Lex have doubted his intentions? Or would he have understood, or at least wanted to understand, that Superman only wanted to help?
Lena would never know. She scrubbed a hand over her face, swallowing her bitterness. Clark had cheated her of that by continuing to lie every time he stepped back into Lex’s life and home. But even though Clark had never told Lex the truth, now Lena wondered if Lex didn’t know regardless. Lena knew Lex; he would have planned that final battle in Metropolis for months. Superman had brought nothing new to that fight, nothing Lex couldn’t have anticipated and engineered defenses against. And yet Lex was in prison, and now… now Lena wondered if maybe, just maybe, Lex had pulled back. There was one moment, the moment the news outlets had replayed over and over for months, where the tide of the battle had turned, when Clark had been at Lex’s mercy, before gaining the upperhand. Had Lex hesitated, suspecting that the face under his gauntlet belonged to that of his friend?
Wishful thinking, Lena thought bitterly, snorting softly to an empty room. She turned away from the downed picture frame and a resumed her seat on the couch, leaning her elbow heavily on her knee. She came to terms with the fact her brother was gone a long time ago. No amount of what-ifs would change the fact that the man who grew from the boy in the photograph now wanted Lena dead.
Lena sat in silence until the latch on her front door rattled and turned, pushing open to reveal a beaming Kara. With food bags and boxes piled high in her arms, Kara craned her head around it to see where she was going, apparently forgetting she had x-ray vision that could scan right through.
“I’m back!” Kara announced happily.
Lena struggled to reclaim her barriers, to put the turbulent emotions about her brother out of her mind. “So you are,” she greeted, forcing a smile.
The food plopped down on the coffee table, and Lena saw her shove a small box into her coat pocket before peeling the jacket off and draping it over the armrest. Then Kara filled Lena’s vision completely, fists propped on her hips as she fixed Lena with a stern glare. The sight of her eased some of the uneasiness in Lena’s chest, but the hurt lingered, even as she leaned back and pulled her expression into a self-satisfied smirk. “Yes?”
“Funny thing happened on my way up,” Kara said. “Mr. Young refused to take my ID.”
Kara’s head tilted. “Uh-huh. And then the elevator accepted my fingerprint.”
“No…” Lena said in mock disbelief.
“Oh, yes.” Kara inched closer, until their knees bumped. “You wouldn’t happen to know anything about that, would you?”
Lena tried to keep a straight face, but utterly failed when Kara put one knee on the couch, and then the other, straddling Lena’s lap. “Maybe I do,” Lena murmured. “Maybe I don’t--”
Kara captured her lips in a kiss. Pleasure shot through Lena from sternum to groin, chasing away the last of her apprehension. She reached to pull Kara’s hips closer, but Kara didn’t budge.
“Your sling,” Kara reminded softly. Lena bit back a groan. She let her head fall back against the couch, and Kara followed, touching her forehead to Lena’s. “Thank you,” she murmured as she stroked the side of Lena’s neck.
“My home is yours, Kara.”
Kara beamed at her with damp eyes. With her walls still fragile after Superman’s visit, Lena felt new emotions bubbling up, this time warm and soft and enough to bring the sting of tears to her eyes. She covered quickly by shifting her gaze to the mountain of food on her table. “What’d you bring?” she deflected.
“From Barcelona?” Since learning that Kara apparently had the tendency to make trips overseas for food runs, Lena couldn’t take anything for granted.
“That--” Kara cocked her head thoughtfully. “...is good to know for next time. Tonight, however, is your favorite from National City.” She paused. “Well, favorites , because I didn’t know which you would want more. So I got your favorite lo mein, and your favorite alfredo, and your favorite brick oven pizza from that artisan pizzeria you like, and… there’s a little of everything.” She winced. “I may have gone a little overboard.”
“Looks like it.” Lena rubbed her palm against Kara’s thigh. She was no longer surprised by the hard muscle she found there, especially now that she knew that they had nothing to do with somehow sneaking in gym time around a reporter’s schedule. “We could just skip to dessert.”
“We are not letting this food get cold,” Kara countered, levering herself off Lena to start dishing out food. Lena immediately missed the warmth, but didn’t pull her back. Instead she sat back and listened as Kara rattled off the names of dishes, and accepts the loaded plate handed to her. When Kara settled next to her with a loaded plate of her own, Lena leaned into her, letting Kara’s voice wash over her with the story of how the Thai place gave her not one extra pork bun, but two.
“...I told them I didn’t need it, but apparently their mother’s third cousin’s daughter was one of the people Roulette abducted and tried to sell on Slaver’s Moon. Small world, huh?”
“Definitely,” Lena concurred, twisting a noodle around the tines of her fork. As their conversation fell aside in favor of eating, Lena’s thoughts wandered. No, they scattered, to half a dozen memories at once… of Lex introducing her to bombas in Barcelona before heading in for a long night of lab work; of sneaking Chinese food into the manor when Lillian was away and eating from the cartons on the floor of his bedroom; of sitting shoulder to shoulder with him when they both slipped away from the family holiday party, sick of schmoozing and inane questions from family friends who were little more than strangers. Of Lex’s eyes boring into her during his trial, burning with rage and hate that had suddenly turned on her.
“Is everything okay?”
Kara’s voice startled her out of her dive, and Lena realized that while Kara had eaten the entirety of what had been loaded onto her plate, she herself had only managed a bite or two. She set her fork aside, suddenly aware of the bitter taste in her throat.
“Yeah,” she said, shaking her head to clear it. “I guess I’m just not very hungry.”
“Oh.” Lena knew she didn’t fool Kara for a second, but Kara didn’t press her. They sat in silence for a few minutes before Kara tried again. “Would you… do you want to go for a walk later?”
Lena set her plate aside, surrendering to her lack of appetite. The smile she offered Kara was thin, but honest smile. “That would be great.”
They didn’t go far, just down the block to the community gardens. In the days following her second surgery, Kara had discovered that Lena’s affinity for flowers went beyond the mere filling of offices. Their doctor-mandated daily exercise walks usually took them here, to where long paths wound between beds of flowers and green, leafy plants, and in their strolls, Lena revealed little by little that she knew the names of every single one.
They had the paths all to themselves tonight, the usual families and children turned in for the evening. As they walked, the small box in Kara's jacket pocket thumped against her thigh, reminding her with every step of the conversation she’d planned to have with Lena tonight. Kara hoped the familiar paths and the bright colors of the blooming flowers would help alleviate the gloom that had settled over Lena during dinner, and pave the way for an opening into the subject she needed to breach.
The setting sun caught on the flowers’ petals, lining their path with a glow that reminded Kara of Krypton. One in particular caught Kara’s eye. “Oooh,” she hummed, breaking away from Lena to sniff a white, tubular flower with swirling petals. “These are gardenias, right?”
Lena nodded, reaching out to stroke one of its leaves. “Did you know that gardenias are actually evergreens?”
Kara looked at her, reveling in the tentative grin that spread across Lena’s lips. “Really?”
“Yeah. They’re also part of the same family as the coffee plant.”
“They’re pretty. And they smell good.” She nudged Lena gently. “You know, I never figured you to be one for plant trivia.”
Lena chewed on one lip, cupping a bloom with long fingers. Kara ran her fingers over glossy leaves, watching Lena from the corner of her eye. She gave her time, sensing that Lena was on the verge of sharing something.
“There was this book,” Lena said finally, her voice soft and hesitant, rasping in her throat. Her eyes remained glued to the flower whose petals she continued to gently stroke. “In my father’s study. It had these beautiful full page photographs on one side, and facts about each plant on the other.”
Lena flashed a deflective smile, as though sensing Kara’s concern. It was brief, though, and didn’t banish the melancholic shadows gathering in her eyes. “Those first few months with the Luthors were… overwhelming. Photographs and interviews and parties to introduce me to their friends. Apparently I used to slip away, and Lionel said he would always check his study first and there I’d be, with that book in my lap. I remember one night he picked me up and put me on his lap, and he flipped through the entire book with me, picking out our favorites…”
Damp eyes tore away from the gardenias, darting everywhere but at Kara. She took a shuddering breath. “And at first it was the bright colors, and the intricate details of the petals,” she continued, gesturing vaguely towards an image she saw in her head, “but soon I was memorizing the names, and then the facts… I knew that book by heart.”
Kara smiled. Though she didn’t like the sound of how the Luthors seemed to have treated Lena more like a centerpiece than a four year old girl, this memory in particular didn’t seem as sharp as the others Lena had shared already. Her eyes glowed with tenderness-- it was a good memory.
“Is that where you learned about plumerias?” Kara asked softly.
“No, not that book. On our first trip overseas, I got separated from my parents at the hotel. I found the garden, and they had plumerias everywhere. Just… everywhere I looked, flowers. I’d never seen so many before. That’s where Lionel found me, surrounded by plumerias and talking the ear off the gardener, who didn’t speak a lick of English,” Lena laughed, cheeks flushing as she tucked her long hair behind her ear.
“I can hardly imagine it,” Kara remarked, nudging her playfully. “Little baby Lena, enticed out of her shell by a pretty flower.”
Lena flushed more deeply. “After that, any time Lionel came home from a trip he brought local flowers back for me, right up until I went to boarding school. But for my birthday, no matter where I was or what he was doing… he always sent plumerias. Even after he died-- I still keep getting them, every year on my birthday, like clockwork.”
“That’s so sweet,” Kara said.
Slowly, Lena’s smile faded. Her eyes filled again, and her lips twitched tremulously. When her eyebrows creased, and her features started to crumple, Kara finally let herself reach out, taking Lena’s hand in hers. Their eyes met.
“My family was never perfect, Kara,” Lena uttered softly, almost a whisper, “but we weren’t always what everyone makes us out to be.”
Kara squeezed her hand, edging closer until their shoulders brushed. Lena dipped her chin, hiding the bitter edges creeping back into her features. Kara reached up and cupped her cheek. “You’re allowed to miss them, Lena.” Lena shook her head. “Yes, Lena, you are--”
“You mean a brother who killed over thirty people and wants me dead too?” Lena muttered bitterly. “Or a father who, who lied -- who--” Lena pressed her eyes shut, dislodging the tears that had hung there so precariously. “He didn’t want me, Kara.”
Kara shook her head. “No, no, that’s not true.” Kara pressed her forehead against Lena’s. “Hey, he came for you, Lena. When your birth mother died, he came for you, brought you home. He wouldn’t have done that if he didn’t want you, if he didn’t love you.”
But Lena pulled away, tugging her hand free to wipe at her face. “But he knew, and he still let me believe--” She shook her head. “I can’t count the number of times he came to comfort me after Lillian reminded me how I should be grateful they took me in at all, or told me that I could never be a real Luthor. So many times he could have told me the truth, and he never did. He never corrected her, not once. He just let her--”
Lena stopped stiffly, propping her hand on her hip. Her head bowed as she struggled to get herself under control. She did. Only a few heartbeats later, Lena sighed, wiped her cheeks, and when she lifted her chin her eyes were tired but free of anguish, and tears.
“I’m okay,” she said softly. Lena wiped her cheeks again, nodding sharply. “I’m sorry.”
“Don’t be, please.” Kara reached out hesitantly, then pulled her hand back sharply when she sensed Lena bristling. But a moment later, Lena took her hand, giving it a reassuring squeeze-- as though Kara was the one needing comfort. “I’m sorry, too,” Kara murmured. “You deserved better.”
Lena gave her a thin smile, which this time reached her eyes. “Now I have better,” she said. “I have you.”
Kara took the invitation for what it was, and threaded their fingers together as she closed the distance to walk next to Lena. She tilted her head to rest against Lena’s shoulder, albeit awkwardly to accommodate their height difference, and just soaked in all the physical contact she could get. And slowly, as the sun slowly disappeared behind the buildings and they wound their way out of the park, Lena’s muscles slowly relaxed.
As they neared the apartment building, Kara paused, pulling Lena to a stop with her. “Wait.” She turned and faced Lena. “Does that mean-- That day my first article was published: was that your birthday?”
Lena’s brows lifted, lips parting soundlessly in surprise. Her silence persisted, even when her shoulder lifted in a wordless shrug, unable to deny it. “Lena!”
“Okay, in my defense, we barely knew each other at that point.” Lena’s features split into a sheepish grin. “And given your reaction to my detection device, I wasn’t sure you’d even want to see me after that, so…”
“But I wouldn’t have left so quickly if I’d known!”
Lena shifted, lifted her shoulder in a shrug. “It really isn’t a big deal, Kara. The past few years, spending the day alone has actually been… nice. Getting the flowers can bring up memories, so it’s turned into way for me to reflect, you know?”
Lips pursing unhappily, Kara studied her, but couldn’t find a trace of subterfuge. “Fine,” she accepted after another long moment. She made a mental note to check the publish date of her article for next time. “But next year anything goes. Deal?”
Receiving Kara’s peck on the cheek, Lena chuckled. “Deal.” She squeezed Kara’s hand. “Thank you, Kara.”
Kara’s heart swelled in her chest as Lena leaned into her as they finished the last few meters to the lobby. Kara managed to nod at Mr. Young as they passed, pretending as though the box in her pocket didn’t grow heavier with every step. Lena didn’t move to pull her fingers from Kara’s until the apartment door clicked shut behind them, and when she did, Kara gripped them tighter.
Lena turned back to look at her in worry. “What’s wrong?”
Cheeks flushing, Kara swallowed against the sudden tightness in her throat. “Can we talk for a second?”
Lena’s brow furrowed in concern. “Okay.” Kara pulled her over to the couch, and they sat stiffly for a few minutes as Kara tried to gather her words. “Kara, I’m sorry if I ruined our walk by mentioning my family. I shouldn’t-- I shouldn’t have said anything…”
“No,” Kara said quickly. “No! No, you didn’t I swear. This isn’t about that. Well, I mean, I guess it kind of is…” Lena’s features smoothed into a mask of wary expectation, and Kara released a nervous breath. “Let me start over...
“Lena, these past few months have been some of the best, and, hah--” Kara pushed her glasses up further on her nose, “honestly, some of the most harrowing, of my life. Between your family, and mine, it’s been a complete roller coaster, but it’s also shown me how much I care about you, and I just--” Kara felt herself becoming tongue tied, and the way her fingers shook. “Ahhh, this would be easier if I just showed you…”
She reached into her pocket and pulled out the small box that had been burning a hole there since she got home. The smile on her lips froze when she heard Lena’s heart skip and stutter, before long fingers curled over Kara’s, stilling her fully.
“Kara,” she said, her voice shaking. “I, uh-- I’m… God--” She licked her lips, struggling to find the right words. “I don’t want to mess this up, but… Look, I’m so honored, and I really love you, so I’m not saying-- There’s been a lot of change, lately, so whatever you’re going to say next… could we just-- put it on pause?”
Kara blinked. “Oh. Okay.” She tugged the box and her hands free of Lena’s fingers, pulling them back into her lap.
“I’m sorry,” Lena said quickly, color staining her chest and neck and cheeks. “I don’t want to hurt your feelings, or imply I don’t-- I just… I’m not saying no not ever, but-- I’m sorry, I just can’t, right now. I’m not ready. I’m so, so sorry.”
Kara’s eyebrows lifted, and she plastered a smile on her face. “No! No, it’s fine, you’re right. Tonight wasn’t the best night to do it. It can absolutely wait. I’m sorry if I put you on the spot.” She tucked the box back into her pocket, confusion roiling in her mind. She was surprised Lena had figured out what she was trying to say, but Lena had a genius level IQ, so she really shouldn’t be. What puzzled Kara more was why she would turn it down. Lena took her hands in hers, squeezing them gently.
“I do love you, Kara,” Lena said softly. “I promise you that. And I hope one day we revisit this, but after everything that’s happened lately, it just doesn’t feel like the right time.” Kara nodded, even though she couldn’t fathom when the right time would be, if not now. Lena looked at her from beneath her eyelashes. “Are we okay?”
“Yeah!” Kara chirped. “Of course.” She leaned in and pecked Lena on the cheek before popping to her feet. “I’m a little tired. What do you say to an early bedtime?”
“...Sure,” Lena replied, her tone sounding defeated and sad. Unsure what else she could say, Kara ignored it in favor of disappearing into the bathroom. As she brushed her teeth and scrubbed her face, Kara ran through the past few weeks, wondering what had made it feel like the wrong time. If Lena didn’t want it, then Kara wouldn’t force the issue, but after everything that happened-- why wouldn’t she?
She puzzled it over in her brain as she crawled into bed, and while Lena readied herself and climbed in next to her. She pondered it more after they turned the lights out, and Lena’s breathing evened out into slumber. Then, in the pitch dark, it clicked.
“Oh my god!” Kara bolted upright, startling Lena awake. She flicked on the light and turned to Lena, who winced and rubbed her eyes.
“What?” Lena asked, scanning the room for danger. “What’s wrong?”
“You thought it was an engagement ring!”
Lena blinked, waiting for her thoughts to catch up. “It… It wasn’t?”
Kara flung the covers off her legs and scrambled to fetch the ring box. When she returned with the box in hand, Lena had sat up on the edge of the bed. Kara settled next to her on her good side and opened the box, with no speech, no fanfare. Inside, a black ring with a rounded, oblong face nestled on a cushion inside.
“Oh,” Lena said. “It isn’t.” Her brow furrowed in confusion. “But your speech… I thought…”
“I can now see how it must have seemed like a, a proposal,” Kara acknowledged, stumbling over the word, kicking herself for the oversight. “I’m sorry, I didn’t even realize.” She’d seen enough proposals in movies and on TV that she should have noticed what it would have looked like. “I was trying to explain how important you were, and how I didn’t want you to be helpless if someone tried to target you. This is an emergency beacon.”
Kara removed the ring from the box and carefully slid it onto Lena’s left index finger. It fit perfectly, and looked like nothing more than a normal piece of statement jewelry. “If you put your thumb on it like this...”
Kara pulled Lena’s thumb up to press against the smooth black facing, and held it there for three seconds. It then vibrated silently against Lena’s skin, and then an instant later Kara’s phone illuminated with a new alert.
“It pings me with your GPS coordinates instantly. It also serves as communications device. I can listen in on my comms, and you can talk to me if it’s safe to do so.”
Lena blinked up at her with wide eyes.
“I thought wearing the same watch everyday would be too obtrusive, and a necklace wouldn’t be helpful if your hands were bound, so a ring seemed like the perfect compromise. And it actually reads your fingerprint, so you don’t have to worry about accidentally bumping it or something. As of tomorrow it’ll be keyed into the DEO systems as well, so they’ll get a ping too.”
Lena studied the ring with a critical eye, and tested the facing again. Kara’s phone vibrated again. “Neat,” she said, a slow grin curling her lips. “Does it recognize only my thumbprint?”
“Any finger,” Kara said with a shake of her head. “And from any orientation. We tried to think of any contingency where you might need to contact us in a hurry, or if there’s a struggle.”
Nodding, Lena slipped off the ring and held it up to the light, twisting it to try a get a look at the inside band. “It’s all internal… I’m surprised you were able to maintain such a minimal design with so many components. There aren’t even any seams. This is beautiful.” She paused then, looking at Kara with eyes that were suddenly solemn. “But why were you so nervous to give it to me?”
Kara gulped, feeling the disquieted feeling creeping back into her stomach. “Because it means accepting that your life is going to be in constant danger,” she admitted. “And I hate that. I hate the idea of you being in a situation where you have to use it. We really did try to think of everything, and it really brought home the risk you’re taking, to let me stay in your life. It… there’s a heart rate sensor inside it too. So we can tell you’re--”
The words caught in Kara’s throat. Rao , she hated this. She didn’t want to think about it, but she didn’t have the luxury of ignoring it. The ring could mean the difference between life and death for Lena. “We’ll be able to monitor your status while we get to you.”
“Kara…” Lena reached out to take Kara’s hand. “Please look at me.” Kara obeyed, and found warmth smiling back at her. “I was already in danger. My brother and mother have both tried to kill me, and there’s plenty of people out there with old scores to settle with my family that will inevitably find their way to me. Whatever risk being with you brings, it is far outweighed by how much safer I am now that I have Supergirl watching my back.”
In spite of herself, Kara felt the knots in her stomach untie themselves, and her shoulders slumped. It was true. “That’s how we met.”
“Your brother tried to kill you on the Venture,” Kara reminded her. “That’s how we first met.”
Lena blinked, then started to laugh. Kara smiled and rested her forehead against Lena’s bouncing shoulder. Lena’s hand cupped Kara's cheek even as mirth continued to pour from her. “God, we are a mess, aren’t we?” Lena wiped moisture from her eyes, catching her breath.
Kara straightened, looking her in the eye. “Yeah. But I like our mess.”
Lena leaned forward, giving her a quick kiss. “Me too.” Long fingers stroked Kara’s cheek. “Thank you, Kara.”
“I love you, Lena Luthor.” Kara gripped Lena’s hand tightly, running her finger over the ring. “Giving you this scares the crap out of me, but I’m more scared of losing you.”
“You won’t lose me any time soon,” Lena promised. “I hope we never have to use it, but if we do… I have faith in you.”
Their lips met, and Kara’s senses filled with Lena. The scent of her body wash, the mint of her toothpaste, the pulse of her heart, which picked up as their kiss deepened. Kara only pulled away when she heard Lena’s breath tighten in pain as her shoulder protested.
“No,” Lena moaned plaintively when Kara pulled away, making her giggle.
“One more week,” she promised. “Give it one more week.”
“The week from hell,” Lena muttered. But when Kara settled back against the pillows, Lena joined her, fidgeting to find a comfortable position that maximized physical contact. When she find it, she sighed in contentment. For long moments they lay there, tangled in each other’s arms, before Lena broke the silence. “Your cousin came to see me today.”
Kara stiffened. “What.”
“He knocked and everything,” Lena joked.
“Did he touch you?”
Lena shook her head, her cheek pressing against Kara’s shoulder. “No, I’m fine. I think we may have even come to an understanding.”
Kara ground her teeth, feeling the familiar anger spark deep in her gut. He’d come knowing she wasn’t there. He’d deliberately avoided Kara, to get Lena alone. Again. She exhaled slowly. “He had no business coming here, when you were here alone. If he tries to make contact again, use the beacon. Okay?”
Now Kara understood where Lena’s earlier gloom had come from. Whatever Clark had come to talk about, it had chipped away at the walls Lena usually kept around her childhood memories, and thrown her emotions into turmoil. She wanted to fly out right now and find Clark to put a fist in his face… but the form growing heavy heavy with sleep against her kept her in place.
Lena’s lips pressed a sleepy kiss against Kara’s collarbone, and the fight bled from Kara in an instant. With Lena’s soft breaths tickling her skin, her warmth enveloping Kara in the most secure blanket of comfort she’d ever known, Kara found she pitied Clark. She snuggled closer into Lena, burying her nose in Lena’s hair, eliciting a gentle hum. Clark could have a hundred Loises, and never know a love like this.