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my heart beats so that i can hardly speak (i'm in heaven)

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Lena first meets Kara at the park a few blocks away from home when she’s eight and Kara is nine. It’s 1927, and it’s sunny in National City.

 

She’s sitting on the ground crying, and she really wishes she wasn’t. She’s used to getting pushed around—she has been since it got out that her father is Lionel Luthor, but she doesn’t really understand why at all. She doesn’t get why her dad doesn’t love her or her mom, and she doesn’t get why everyone bullies her for it. She just wants it to stop.

 

Some girl Lena has never met, probably a year or two older than her, saw her in the park and shoved her. She laughs and laughs while Lena sits in the mud and cries until she can barely breathe. This was her only clean dress, and she had promised her mom that she wouldn’t get it dirty.

 

“Leave her alone!” someone shouts from behind the girl.

 

Another girl comes into view, around Lena’s age, arms crossed and face pinched. The sun glitters off her blond hair like a halo.

 

The girl standing over Lena looks over the new girl and snorts. Lena can see why. She’s dressed in tattered clothes and has the characteristic unkempt dirty look of the children from the local orphanage. She doesn’t exactly look threatening.

 

Lena’s bully opens her mouth to speak, probably some sort of insult, but the new girl clocks her right in the jaw. Her bully stumbles back in shock, then immediately bursts into tears and runs away, screaming for her mother.

 

The new girl, Lena’s hero, looks down at Lena, shuffles forward, and offers her a hand. She pulls Lena back to her feet easily, then stuffs her hands in her pockets and rocks back onto her heels.

 

“Have to know how to fight at the orphanage,” she explains, then grins toothily. “I’m Kara.”

 

Lena doesn’t say anything. She just stares at Kara in wonder. No one had ever stood up for her before.

 

Kara’s eyes slide over Lena’s head to something behind her. Her eyes widen in alarm, and she bites down harshly on her lip.

 

“Her mom’s coming,” Kara tells Lena, eyes glued to the angry mother approaching over Lena’s shoulder. “We should go.”

 

And Kara grabs Lena’s hand in hers, their fingers intertwining, and runs, pulling Lena along with her until they’re out of the park and in an alley between a bakery and a barbershop two blocks away.

 

Once they’re hidden, Kara breaks into giggles, leaning against the brick wall of the bakery to keep herself standing. Lena just watches her, face still wet with tears and dress still covered in mud.

 

“That wasn’t nearly as hard as running from the cops!” Kara laughs, giving Lena the biggest grin she’s ever seen on someone.

 

Lena tries to smile back, she really does, but she can feel the way the mud is caking to her dress in a way she worries will never come out. She doesn’t want to upset her mom. Her eyes begin to well up again.

 

Kara seems to notice, and she bites her lip, looking Lena over in an attempt to figure out what’s wrong. She lands on Lena’s dress, which is a filthy mess.

 

“Hey, we can clean you up,” Kara promises, chewing her lip even harder as she thinks. “We just need some soap.”

 

Kara grabs Lena’s hand again, taking a quick peek out of the alley to make sure the coast is clear, and leads her back in the direction they came from.

 

“If the nuns are still busy with the babies, I might be able to get some soap,” Kara explains. “That’s how I got out.”

 

Lena doesn’t know a lot about the orphanage, just what she’s heard from her neighbor, Mrs. Williams, and her friends when they complain about it. She does know that it’s really strict and that the kids are only allowed out to go to school and to play on the grounds at specific hours. But it wasn’t all too rare to see some of the orphans out on the streets, especially the older ones, since there weren’t enough nuns to keep track of them all.

 

Mrs. Williams calls all the orphans rotten thieves who should be kept off the streets, but Lena can’t imagine Kara being a rotten anything. Kara’s been nicer to her than most of the other people she’s met on the streets.

 

When they make it to the orphanage, Kara leaves Lena on a bench outside. She tells her that if she isn’t back in twenty minutes, she’s probably gotten taken for a beating and Lena should leave. Then she gives Lena a little wink and her flashy grin and goes in, her shoulders weighed down a little further than they were before.

 

Lena eyes the building warily. She’s glad she doesn’t have to live there. Some of the orphans are outside, but they all look varying levels of miserable.

 

Lena looks down at her dress and does her best to scrape off some of the mud.

 

Kara comes back out not long later (though Lena notices that she comes out a window, rather than the front door) holding the soap high above her head in clear victory, a triumphant smile covering her face. This time, Lena can’t even resist the smile that forms on her own.

 

“I got a rag, too,” Kara announces, pulling the rag out of her pocket once she reaches Lena. “Now we need water.” She plops down on the bench next to Lena, deep in thought.

 

Kara’s springing up not even a minute later, declaring that she has a plan. They end up back in the park, which has a lake in the center of it. Kara had nabbed a bucket from a worker as they were walking and uses it to scoop out water.

 

Lena’s starting to think that Mrs. Williams wasn’t wrong when she called the orphans thieves. She doesn’t think she minds.

 

Kara soaks the rag in the water and begins to attempt to clean Lena’s dress. The water is cold, and even though it’s the middle of July, Lena finds herself shivering. She ignores it, focused on her dress. The water gets some of the mud to slide off, but not enough to clean the dress.

 

Kara scowls at Lena’s dress, covers her the rag in soap, and violently scrubs at the stain. Lena grabs the bar of soap and helps to lather even more soap over the stain, until Kara is satisfied that the dress is covered in it. Kara squeezes the soap out of the rag, dips it back into the water, and wipes away the suds. Once it’s all gone, Kara and Lena both stare at the dress.

 

Kara lets out a low whistle between her teeth.

 

“So...mud is hard to clean,” Kara declares eventually.

 

All of the mud is gone, but left behind is a huge, dull stain, covering most of Lena’s dress.

 

Lena sniffles. She’s wet and cold and her dress isn’t even clean. Her mom is going to be even madder at her, especially if she gets sick.

 

“Okay, okay,” Kara says, chewing on her lip. She shucks off her threadbare jacket—Lena doesn’t know why she was wearing one in July, but it’s so thin it must not do much anyway—and swings it over Lena’s shoulders.

 

She looks down at Lena’s dress for a long moment, then back up to Lena’s face.

 

“I don’t know what to do,” Kara finally admits. She sounds a little bit too upset, for having been the first person to save Lena from a bully and to steal something for her. She’s already done so much.

 

“It’s okay,” Lena tells her. “I can wear it like this.”

 

Her mom won’t exactly be happy with the stain, but it’s better than bringing it home covered in mud and her mom having to clean it instead.

 

Kara is still frowning, but nods her head. After a second, her face brightens a little, and she nudges Lena with her elbow.

 

“So, you never told me your name,” Kara points out, rocking back on her heels.

 

“Lena,” Lena says. She doesn’t tell Kara her last name because she hates it and so does everyone else and she doesn’t want Kara to hate her, too.

 

“That’s a lot better than what I was calling you in my head,” Kara laughs, taking Lena’s hand in hers and pulling her in the direction of the shops.

 

Lena frowns.

 

“What were you calling me?” she asks, eyes narrowed.

 

Kara just laughs again, but doesn’t seem like she wants to tell her.

 

“I dunno,” she answers, clearly a lie. “Just thought you’d have some fancy name to go with your fancy dress.” She grins at Lena in a way that makes her eyes crinkle and Lena’s stomach flip weirdly.

 

It’s hardly a fancy dress, so she knows that Kara must be making fun of her. Her mom bought it down at one of the cheap clothing shops with some of the extra money she always got around Christmas time. Lena had pointed the dress out in the window once, had begged her mom for it, and she had bought it for Lena for Christmas. Lena had never wanted to get it dirty, and part of her wishes she had stayed at home while she was wearing it. The other part is really glad she met Kara.

 

“Don’t look at me like that!” Kara whines a moment later. “It wasn’t anything bad, promise!”

 

“Then what was it?” Lena prods, stopping in the middle of the sidewalk to pull her hand out of Kara’s and fold her arms across her chest. It’s what her mom always does when she knows Lena’s done something bad and she wants her to fess up to it.

 

“Okay, okay,” Kara groans. “I was calling you Lutessa.”

 

Lena can’t resist snorting at that.

 

“That’s a stupid name,” she complains. “Do you think I look stupid?”

 

Kara smiles, all teeth.

 

“Maybe a little,” she teases, and Lena can’t resist shoving her with a huff.

 

Kara takes her down to the candy shop and buys both of them a sucker with one of the nickels she has in her pocket to make up for the joke. (“I got it sweeping for the nuns,” Kara explains, around her own cherry sucker. “I got the second nickel from one of the boys. He tried to steal my flat cap so I took his change.” Her lips curl up slightly, and she eyes Lena. “Guess it’s fair ‘cause I stole the cap from his brother a few months ago. But I’m a better thief so now I got the cap and the change!”)

 

The sun is getting low in the sky now, and Lena needs to be home before her mother returns from the hospital where she works as a nurse.

 

“I’ll take you home,” Kara promises, taking Lena’s hand in her own. Lena’s starting to get so used to the feeling of Kara’s hand in her own that she thinks she might miss it once Kara is gone.

 

Lena tells her where she lives, and they walk hand in hand the few streets until they reach Lena’s building. Kara stares at the run down building with something akin to wonder.

 

“I’ve never been in an apartment before,” Kara tells her, eyes bright when she looks at Lena. “What’s it like?”

 

Lena thinks for a moment. She’s never been asked that before.

 

“Loud,” she finally decides. “And my mom doesn’t let me play on the fire escape. I think if she did, I’d like it here more.”

 

Kara nods sagely.

 

“It’s very fun to play on a fire escape,” Kara informs her, eying the one on the side of Lena’s building. “We’re not allowed to at the orphanage either, but I do anyway when the nuns are busy.” Her mouth ticks up in a wistful smile. “When I sit on it, I like to look down at the ground and pretend I’m flying.” Then, a pause. “What floor do you live on?”

 

Instead of taking the stairs—the elevator has been broken for several weeks—the two take the fire escape and climb up to Lena’s floor. They sit on the edge and look down at the grass and pretend that they’re flying a million feet above the ground instead of just twenty.

 

Lena’s mother finds them ten minutes later, and she’s so happy that Lena’s finally made a friend that she doesn’t yell at her for the stain, even if she does still scold Lena for playing on the fire escape.

 

She asks if Kara would like to stay for dinner. Kara replies, “I’d love to.” with her big toothy grin, and Lena hopes that Kara will always want to stay.

 


 

 

And Kara doesn’t leave, not really.

 

Lena’s mom gets so used to having Kara over that more often than not she sets the table for three rather than two. Kara and Lena go to the park and walk through the city, hands clasped together, almost every day while Lena’s mom is at work, and, once school begins, on the weekends and after school when they don’t have much homework. When they do, they sit together at Lena’s kitchen table and whine, even as they both zip through their math homework.

 

On a Saturday in October of 1928, past Lena’s ninth birthday and Kara’s tenth, the sun is finally shining and the weather cool. Kara decides it’s the perfect day for an adventure.

 

They wave goodbye to Lena’s mom—who looks grateful that she’s going to have some peace after a long week at work—and head to the park.

 

“I’ve never really gone into the woods,” Kara admits to Lena as they walk. “Doesn’t feel right to go into the woods alone. There’s all types of creepy things in there.”

 

Lena turns to her, curious.

 

“Like what?” she asks. She’s only ever seen squirrels in the woods that surround the park, but she’s never actually gone into them, either.

 

“I dunno,” Kara answers, shrugging. “But the boys at the orphanage said they saw werewolves one night. And one of the girls said she saw a snake.” Kara shudders. “I hate snakes. Werewolves are okay ‘cause they’re kinda cool, and I wouldn’t mind getting turned into a werewolf, you know? But snakes? Ugh.”

 

Lena doesn’t like the sound of that at all. Maybe Kara wouldn’t mind it, but she definitely wouldn’t like to become a werewolf, and she wouldn’t much like to meet a snake either.

 

Kara must see the fear starting to show on Lena’s face because she gives Lena a reassuring smile and bumps their shoulders together.

 

“Don’t worry,” Kara says. “If any werewolves jump out at us, I’ll protect you.” She reaches up and straightens her flat cap (Lena guesses that that one boy at the orphanage never quite managed to get it back), her expression determined. “I’m a great fighter. I’ll scare them away real quick.”

 

Something about the way Kara says it makes Lena believe her. She is Lena’s hero, after all. Ever since she and Kara had become friends, she wasn’t getting pushed around as much. And even when she did at school, when Kara wasn’t there, she wasn’t so afraid to stand up for herself like she used to be. Just knowing Kara makes her feel safe and brave and like she isn’t so alone anymore.

 

Lena nods, and they finish their journey to the park. When they’re right on the edge of the woods, Kara gives Lena her her up-to-no-good grin and pulls her inside.

 

They walk for a few minutes. The leaves crunch beneath their boots, and bugs keep flying in their faces.

 

A squirrel climbs up a tree.

 

“This is boring,” Lena announces eventually. “It’s just a bunch of trees.”

 

Kara chews on her lip for a second, and then dips down to pull a stick out of the leaves. She tosses it to Lena—who misses it, she was never very sporty—and then picks up another for herself. She hops onto an old log, her hand-me-down rain boots squeaking.

 

“These aren’t real trees,” Kara exclaims, brandishing her stick. “They’re hiding secrets.”

 

“Secrets?” Lena asks, looking at Kara in awe. “Like what?”

 

Kara shrugs.

 

“I dunno,” she replies. “That’s why they’re secrets. We’ve gotta find out what they are!”

 

She whacks her stick against the nearest tree, and a bird lets out an indignant squawk and flies out of it.

 

“A monster!” Kara yells, jumping down from the log, and grabbing Lena. “We have to run!”

 

Kara fists Lena’s jacket, and tugs her along until they begin to run, giggling like mad, through the forest. They reach a particularly large tree after a few minutes, and Kara dives behind the trunk, taking Lena with her. They both fall against it, attempt to catch their breath.

 

“Do you think we lost it?” Lena asks, looking up at Kara whose face is red and serious.

 

“I think we did,” Kara pants, then whips around, hands on her hips, and scans her eyes over the tree. “But we should get as high up as we can. Monsters can’t get us when we’re up high.”

 

“What if they can fly?” Lena points out. “Like the one from before?”

 

Kara pauses, eyes squinting as she thinks.

 

“Then we’ll be able to reach them better with our swords.” Kara waves her stick. “Here, you climb first.”

 

Lena looks up at the tree. She’s never climbed one before, doesn’t even know how.

 

“What if I fall?” she worries.

 

“Then I’ll catch you!” Kara promises. “I told you I’d protect you, didn’t I?”

 

Lena trusts Kara, so she lets Kara boost her up until she can grab hold of the lowest branch. Her boots scrape against the bark, gaining some purchase on it. She pulls herself up onto the first branch, and grins down at Kara, who smiles and gives her a thumbs up.

 

“You can do it, Lena!” Kara calls up to her. “You’re the world’s second best monster hunter!”

 

Lena stops in the middle of her attempt to get up on the second branch to frown at Kara.

 

“Who’s the best, then?” Lena asks, and Kara laughs.

 

“Me, obviously!” she answers, grinning proudly.

 

Lena snorts.

 

“I bet I’m a way better monster hunter than you,” she grumbles, making her way slowly up the tree. She can feel her legs getting scraped up as she does, but she doesn’t even mind.

 

She sits down on a branch that feels sturdy enough for the both of them and swings her legs. Kara squints up at her, then laughs again.

 

“Maybe when you can climb a tree as fast as me you will be,” Kara quips, lifting herself easily up onto the first branch. She scales the tree in half the time it took Lena and settles down next to her.

 

“You see any monsters?” Kara asks, scanning the area, her eyes squinted so much that they’re barely slits.

 

“Over there!” Lena exclaims, pointing to where a bush is rustling a few feet away. Kara head whips over so quickly her cap almost falls off.

 

She pulls a rock out of her pocket and tosses it towards the bush. It lands far off to the left, and Kara shrugs sheepishly.

 

Lena reaches into Kara’s pocket and takes a rock for herself, gauges the distance, and throws it right at the bush. A squirrel runs out of it and in the opposite direction.

 

“You did it!” Kara says, throwing her arms around Lena. Lena feels her face heating up, but she doesn’t know why. “I knew you could!”

 

Lena would’ve melted into the hug, if it hadn’t been for the second, much more daunting rustle that comes from another bush.

 

Kara lets go and points her stick menacingly towards the bush. A loud, harsh bark sounds from inside it.

 

“A werewolf!” Lena squeaks, and she unthinkingly moves to get away from it. She lurches dangerously, and her heart swoops into her stomach as she realizes she’s going to fall out of the tree and right in front of the werewolf.

 

She’s going to die twice!

 

Or, she would have, if Kara hadn’t grabbed her around the waist and hauled her back until she was firmly back on the branch and pressed into Kara’s side. Lena turns her head towards her, eyes wide, and their faces are so close that their noses are touching.

 

“Told you I’d catch you,” Kara says, and all Lena can think is my hero. “And I’ll protect you from the werewolf, too!”

 

And Kara, the hero she is, climbs down the tree fast, hopping down in front of the bush and gesturing wildly with her stick as she commands, “Show yourself werewolf!”

 

A growl follows, then a snout emerges, then a whole dog behind it.

 

It looks like a beagle. It has a collar around its neck.

 

Kara pokes it with her stick.

 

“Begone, monster!” Kara yells, and she pokes it again, a little harder.

 

The dog runs away, back in the direction of the park.

 

As Kara smiles proudly, Lena climbs down the tree as quickly as she can without falling. The second she hits the ground, she launches herself at Kara, arms wrapping around her neck in a tight hug.

 

“You saved me!” Lena says, giggling. She pulls back enough to meet Kara’s eyes, placing her hands on her shoulders and looking at her seriously. “Kara, you are my hero.”

 

And, before she even thinks about it, she presses a kiss to Kara’s cheek.

 

Kara’s cheeks flame, and she ducks her head, biting her lip.

 

“Told you I was the best monster hunter,” Kara boasts after a moment. She lifts her head and her cheeks are still red. She throws an arm around Lena’s shoulder. “But maybe we can both be. You have way better aim than me, anyways.”

 

“You’re the best monster hunter with a sword, and I’m the best with a gun,” Lena decides, and Kara chuckles and nods in agreement.

 

They head through the forest, in the opposite direction that the dog went, seeking out more monsters to fight. They fight a few (another squirrel, two birds, and some flying bug) until Kara clutches her throat and drops to the ground.

 

“Kara!” Lena gasps, dropping to her knees next to her. “What’s wrong?”

 

“I’m being possessed!” Kara fake gags, but Lena still sighs in relief. “I forgot to wear my anti monster charm.”

 

Lena jumps back to her feet and prods Kara in the sternum with her stick.

 

“Leave her alone, demon!” she demands, and Kara goes slack on the ground.

 

A second later, Kara’s eyes burst open and she grabs her own stick and gets on her feet. She points her stick towards Lena.

 

“You’ll have to fight me first!” she yells, swinging her stick—sword—at Lena.

 

They fight for a few moments, their swords clashing and the leaves crunching beneath their boots until Lena makes a well timed jab at Kara’s chest. Kara gasps and tumbles to the ground with a dramatic, “You got me!”

 

Lena flops down onto the leaves next to her, laughing.

 

“You saved me, Lena!” Kara proclaims, beaming. She plants a loud kiss on Lena’s cheek. “Now you’re my hero!”

 

They collapse into giggles until they’re both completely out of breath and smiling so hard their faces hurt.

 

A bush to their left moves. Lena picks up her stick.

 

A snake slithers out.

 

“Snake!” Lena yelps, grabbing Kara and pulling her up.

 

Kara is still laughing, but looks towards where Lena is looking. When she sees the snake, she abruptly stops laughing and lets out a shrill scream that Lena has never heard from her before.

 

Kara clamps her hand on Lena’s arm so hard Lena winces, but she doesn’t have time to scold her before Kara is darting through the woods and tugging Lena along with her until they’re back in the park. Kara tosses her stick to the side and backs even further away from the line of trees.

 

“I’m never going back in there,” Kara swears, shaking her head. “I hate snakes!”

 

Maybe it’s the rush of adrenaline or the mix of horror and terror on Kara’s face or the way Kara’s flat cap is sitting so crooked on Kara’s head that Lena is surprised is hasn’t fallen off, but Lena bursts into laughter, nearly falling over from the force of it. She can hear Kara protesting somewhere to her left, but she’s too busy chortling to hear what she’s saying.

 

Lena doesn’t think she’s ever had so much fun in her life. She doesn’t think she’ll ever have as much fun with anyone else as she does with Kara.

 

They eventually make it home to Lena’s apartment, and while Lena’s mother bandages up their scrapes, she asks, “What did you two girls get up to to get so many scratches?”

 

They grin at each other over her head.

 

“We fought a werewolf,” Kara answers her very seriously. Lena nods in assent.

 

Lena’s mom rolls her eyes, but she smiles.

 


 

 

One day, in June of 1929, Kara comes to Lena’s apartment for the first time in a week, her clothes clean and new, and that’s when everything changes.

 

Over the past two years, Lena had asked her mom countless times why they couldn’t just adopt Kara, since, after all, she was at their apartment most of the time anyway. Lena knew why, she did, but she couldn’t help hoping her mom would eventually agree.

 

“You know we can’t afford another person,” Lena’s mom would always answer sadly. “I can feed an extra mouth, but I can’t do much more than that. I wish I could.”

 

And Lena knew that her mom wished she could do more. She’d see the way her mother’s lips would purse and her eyes would soften when Kara would wince after she sat down, obviously having gotten a beating from the nuns, and the way she’d give Kara an extra helping of potatoes at dinner. Her mom would clean Kara’s scrapes and bruises from playing with Lena or getting into fights, usually, but not always, at the orphanage. She’d kiss Kara on the forehead when she fell asleep on their couch sometimes after a long week of not visiting.

 

A part of Lena had always hoped that her mom would finally make ends meet enough to be able to take Kara in.

 

And then Kara gets adopted.

 

When Kara shows up to their door dressed differently, Lena is immediately confused. She’s never seen Kara in anything but dull, tattered, ill-fitting clothes.

 

“Can I come in?” Kara asks, almost shyly, rocking back on her heels.

 

Lena just blinks at her, then realizes she’d been standing in the doorway staring. She moves aside so that Kara can come in.

 

There’s silence for a long moment, then Kara slowly begins to grin until it’s so wide it seems to engulf her whole face.

 

“I got adopted!” Kara announces, practically giddy.

 

Lena’s eyes widen.

 

It’s almost unheard of for someone to get adopted when they’re older than five, let alone eleven, so to say Lena is surprised would be an understatement. She forces a smile on her face, and throws her arms around Kara’s neck, pulling her into a tight hug.

 

“I’m so happy for you!” Lena says, and she means it, she does, but a part of her thinks she may be lying. Just a little bit.

 

They sit down on Lena’s couch, and Kara tells her the whole story: her cousin, Clark, had been adopted by a family, the Kents, 8 years ago when he was still a baby. He’d been at a different orphanage than Kara, so they hadn’t even known that Clark had a cousin that was also orphaned. A few months ago, they’d done some looking into Clark’s family and found a newspaper article about their deaths that mentioned both Clark and Kara surviving the fire that the rest of their family had died in. While they couldn’t afford to take in another child, their friends, the Danvers, had jumped at the opportunity to adopt Kara when the Kents told them what had happened, having always wanted to have a second child.

 

“And now I live in a house, Lena!” Kara exclaims. “A house with a kitchen and a bathroom and a living room and my own bedroom!” She pauses, scrunching her nose. “Almost. I have to share with my sister.”

 

And that’s when Lena’s stomach drops.

 

“Sister?” she asks, heart racing.

 

If Kara has a sister, she won’t need Lena to play with anymore. She’ll have someone, a real sister, right there, in her house, to play with all the time. Why would she need Lena?

 

“Yeah, her name’s Alex,” Kara says, shrugging. “She’s kinda annoying.” Then, she smiles. “I think you’d like her. She likes science, like you do. She’s also bossy like you. ‘Cept with her it’s more annoying.”

 

Lena laughs, and shoves Kara a little, suddenly feeling lighter.

 

But, “I have to go,” Kara says immediately after. “I told them I was going to the store around the corner to get some socks and I came here instead. I only live a few streets away.” She hops off the couch. “You should come visit me!”

 

Lena wants to jump at the offer, but—

 

“I have to finish my homework,” Lena laments, looking down at her textbook. “Mama will be mad if I don’t.”

 

“Tomorrow?” Kara suggests. “I’ll come get you!”

 

Lena nods, following Kara to the door. Right when Kara turns to leave, Lena pulls her into another hug tucking her face into Kara’s neck. She hasn’t seen her in a while, and she knows that everything is going to be different now; she won’t see Kara as much now that she has a real family, not just Lena and her mom. She wishes that she could just hold Kara and keep her with her forever.

 

But she has to let go, and she has to pretend to smile as she waves Kara away.

 

“You should watch out for that one,” Mrs. Williams warns, nodding towards Kara, her laundry on her hip. It’s not the first time she’s said it, either. “Those orphans are thieves, you know.”

 

Lena swallows.

 

“Good thing she’s not an orphan, then,” she mutters, shutting the door a little too hard behind her.

 

Lena’s mother is overjoyed at the news when she gets home, but quickly notices the way Lena is quiet and not eating her dinner.

 

“What’s bothering you?” she asks Lena, setting down her silverware and moving to kneel next to Lena’s seat.

 

“What if...” Lena trails off, sniffling. She can feel tears begin to drip down her face.

 

Her mom reaches up to wipe away her tears.

 

“‘What if’ what?” she coaxes. She runs her thumbs along Lena’s cheeks.

 

“What if Kara doesn’t come around anymore, now that she has a real family?” Lena cries, her small shoulders beginning to shake.

 

Lena’s mother hugs her and kisses the top of her head.

 

“Oh, Lena,” she sighs as Lena sobs into her shoulder. “Just because Kara was adopted doesn’t mean you aren’t still her family.” She runs a soothing hand along the length of her hair. “I don’t think you could get Kara to stop coming to see you if you tried.”

 

“You think?” Lena asks softly. She sniffles again, loudly.

 

“I do,” she affirms. “Kara loves you. She isn’t going to stop just because she has more people to love now. You wouldn’t stop loving her if you made a new friend, would you?”

 

Lena twists out of her mother’s arms to glare at her.

 

“No!” she protests, affronted. “Kara is my best friend!”

 

“I’m sure Kara feels the same way, love,” her mother says, and Lena’s lips turn up slightly at the thought.

 

She hopes that Kara loves her as much as she loves Kara. She couldn’t imagine what her life would be like without her. Probably a lot more dull. Everything seems a little less bright when Kara isn’t around.

 

“Feel better?” her mom asks, offering her a soft smile.

 

Lena nods, and her mother pulls her into another hug and kisses her hair again before they go back to eating dinner. The knots in Lena’s stomach are finally loose, and she eats her dinner fast.

 

The next day, Kara is so excited about showing Lena her new home that she’s nearly skipping as they walk. They hold hands the whole way there, Kara swinging their hands and talking so enthusiastically that Lena can hardly keep up.

 

Kara actually lives in a house, which is something Lena has never done before. It isn’t too big, but it looks like a home and it has a small yard in the back. There’s a rug by the front door that says “home sweet home” on it.

 

Kara’s adopted parents are nice. They tell her to call them Eliza and Jeremiah, like Kara does, but Lena notices the uncomfortable look they exchange when Kara tells them her full name. It’s something she’s learned to get used to over the years, even if she doesn’t quite understand it.

 

“You have to see my room!” Kara exclaims, grabbing Lena and tugging her upstairs as soon as she can.

 

There are two beds in the room, one of which another girl is sitting on reading a book. She has red hair a little past her shoulders, and she’s wearing a cute yellow dress. Her face scrunches up when Kara bangs the door open. Lena figures she must be Kara’s new sister, Alex.

 

Alex slams her book shut and gives Lena an unimpressed once over. It makes Lena feel self conscious about her cheap clothing.

 

“You must be the Lena Kara never shuts up about,” Alex says in lieu of greeting, getting off the bed. “I’m Alex.”

 

Lena has to hold back a smile knowing that Kara has spoken so much about her that Alex already knows who she is. It makes her feel warm in a way she’s only ever feels around Kara.

 

Kara gives Alex an annoyed look and Alex shoots one back at her.

 

Before Lena can say anything, Kara is already shoving Alex towards the door.

 

“Go away,” Kara whines. Alex rolls her eyes, but still lets herself be pushed.

 

“It’s my room, too!” Alex points out, but Kara’s only response is to close the door in her face.

 

Kara turns back around with her hands on her hips and a satisfied smile.

 

“So, this is my room,” Kara announces. “Or, half of it is.”

 

It’s a small room, with a bed shoved in each corner. Alex’s side is better decorated, and she has an entire bookcase full of books and small trinkets. Kara’s side is clean, cleaner than Lena would’ve expected Kara’s space to be, and there isn’t much except for a dresser and the bed, which is made.

 

Kara plops down on her bed. When Lena doesn’t move to follow her, she grabs Lena’s wrist and yanks her down until she’s sprawled out next to her.

 

“I never thought I’d have my own room,” Kara admits, her voice full of wonder. “I thought I’d be at the orphanage until I was kicked out.”

 

Lena looks over at her. Kara’s eyes are trained on the ceiling. Her golden hair is fanning around her head.

 

“Kicked out?” she asks.

 

Kara laughs, and it’s a breathy sound. She doesn’t sound amused.

 

“I got into lots of fights, Lena,” Kara tells her. She holds her hands, palm up, over her face so that she can see her knuckles. “I almost forgot what my knuckles look like without scabs.” She drops them back down to her sides with a sigh. “They were gonna make me leave soon, I know it. And they knew I was sneaking out, too. Got so many beatings for that. And the fights. I was more trouble than I was worth.”

 

Lena frowns. She can’t imagine looking at Kara and not seeing someone with the biggest heart, not seeing a hero. That’s all Lena’s ever seen, since the moment she met her.

 

“You’re worth a lot, Kara,” Lena protests, chin jutting. “The nuns are stupid if they couldn’t see that.”

 

Kara huffs out a laugh.

 

“Don’t think you can call a nun stupid, Lena,” Kara grins. “‘Sides, they were probably right. I couldn’t stop myself from getting into trouble.”

 

“It’s not trouble if you’re doing the right thing,” Lena argues. “That’s why you helped me.”

 

Kara’s still smiling, but her eyes are sad. She shrugs.

 

“Doesn’t matter, anyway,” Kara decides, sitting up. “I’m here now, and I have a better bed than all those jerks at the orphanage do.” Something seems to occur to her, and her face brightens. “Oh, and!” She opens her dresser, and pulls something out. “I’ve still got this!”

 

She shows Lena the flat cap she stole from one of the boys at the orphanage, then plants it on top of her head.

 

“I’ve got a comfy bed and I’ve still got the flat cap!” She tumbles back down onto her bed, and the cap flies off with her descent. “Lukas from the orphanage can kiss off!”

 

Lena snorts a laugh at that, and finds herself curling into Kara’s side and giggling into her neck.

 

“Oh!” Kara exclaims again, jumping off the bed and to her dresser again. Lena immediately misses her, but just rolls back onto her back. “Look what Jeremiah got me!”

 

When Lena turns to her, Kara’s wearing a pair of glasses with brown frames and thick lenses.

 

“Found out the reason I was always so bad at monster hunting was ‘cause I can only see a foot ahead,” Kara explains. “Now I’m gonna be way better at it than you!”

 

Lena feels a little tug on her chest when she looks at Kara with her glasses and her big, toothy grin, and she can’t help but let her own lips turn up.

 

“Doubt it,” Lena snarks, sitting up and leaning back on her elbows. “You’d need a whole new brain to do that.” She gives Kara a look. “Glasses can’t cure stupid.”

 

Kara gasps, and puts her hands on her hips, as if Lena has said the most offensive thing she’s ever heard.

 

“You take that back!” Kara demands, but Lena can see the smile playing at the edge of her lips.

 

“I would, but my mama told me not to lie,” Lena taunts, and Kara gasps again, just as dramatically.

 

A second later, Kara is lunging at her, and they’re rolling on the bed, shoving at each other and laughing behind their play insults.

 

Everything changes, but Kara and Lena don’t.

 


 

 

Kara and Lena grow even closer after her adoption, despite what Lena had worried.

 

Lena’s mom becomes fast friends with Eliza, and Lena finds herself spending more time at the Danvers house than she thought she would. Some days she even sleeps over, when her mother has the night shift, and her and Kara share Kara’s bed, even though it’s barely big enough for the both of them. Sometimes they pull all the cushions out of the couch and grab all the spare pillows they can find and lie in their makeshift bed and whisper scary stories until they’re both too afraid to sleep.

 

She and her mother spend Thanksgiving with the Danvers, and Lena meets the Kents and Kara’s younger cousin, Clark. He’s eight and sweet, and Kara clearly adores him. In return, he looks up to her as much as Lena does. Kara tries to teach him how to fight, which ends in an apple pie on the floor and a lot of angry shouting. It’s the best Thanksgiving Lena’s ever had.

 

Kara’s family is Jewish, as are the Kents; they don’t celebrate Christmas, but Kara still visits Lena’s apartment on Christmas Day, brings over a gift for both Lena and her mother wrapped neatly in newspaper. She stays for dinner and tells Lena all about celebrating Hanukkah, tells her she thinks she likes it more than she ever did her Christmases at the orphanage.

 

Even as Lena’s relationship with Kara grows stronger, things become worse at home. Once the Depression hits, her mom has to pick up more hours than ever before, and her pay still remains the same. Lena watches her mother come home, sometimes at night, sometimes in the morning, tired and aching, and wishes there was something she could do to help. She watches as tenants are kicked out of their building, as the streets are flooded with the newly homeless and unemployed and spends her nights praying that her mom won’t lose her job.

 

She reads in a newspaper, at one point, that her father, Lionel Luthor, has just become one of the richest men alive. She feels sick with how much she hates him. How much she hates her last name.

 

Lena’s life is always changing, she realizes, but her and Kara always stay the same. It’s a night in July of 1930 when they begin to change, too.

 

Her and Kara are in the Danvers’s small yard, lying side by side in the grass. Kara wanted to see the stars she had spent the week studying at school, so they had snuck out after Eliza and Jeremiah had went to bed.

 

“Orion is right there, Lena!” Kara says, pointing up towards the sky. “Can’t you see his bow?”

 

Lena could, in fact, see his bow, but Kara was aiming towards the completely wrong place.

 

“He’s not there, he’s there,” Lena corrects, lifting her arm to point in the right direction. “You’re looking at something else.”

 

“Am not!” Kara argues, giving Lena a shove. Then, out of nowhere, “Alex won’t stop talking to me about boys.” She wrinkles her nose. “It’s gross.”

 

Lena gives her a curious look. She doesn’t know why Kara would bring this up.

 

“What’s she saying?” Lena asks.

 

“Just keeps telling me how she kissed some guy,” Kara grumbles. “Why should I care?”

 

Lena studies Kara’s face, trying to understand why Kara wants to talk about this. Kara’s eyes are trained on where she thinks Orion’s belt is. Her face is carefully blank.

 

“Did she say what it was like?” Lena wonders. She’d always wanted to know, but any time she asked her mom, she’d just tell her she was too young to be kissing boys.

 

If Lena was being honest, she’d admit that there had never even been a boy she’d wanted to kiss.

 

“She said it was wet and kinda gross,” Kara answers. She tilts her head just enough to meet Lena’s eyes. “Don’t think she really liked it, ‘just wants to sound all grown up ‘cause she kissed a boy.” Kara shrugs. “I think he was prolly just a bad kisser. Kissing can’t be that bad.”

 

Lena’s eyebrows furrow. She’d never heard Kara talk about kissing or romance before at all, didn’t know that Kara had even thought about it. “Why d’you say that?”

 

Kara shrugs again. “Grownups do it all the time. They all do. All of ‘em wouldn’t be doing it that much if it was gross.”

 

“Sometimes I wonder what it’s like,” Lena admits to the cool night air shifting her eyes towards the sky. “It does look kinda gross, though.”

 

After a moment, she peaks over at Kara, but Kara isn’t looking at her anymore. Her eyes are trained somewhere above the trees, and she has a strange set to her jaw, like she’s steeling herself for something.

 

“We should practice,” Kara suggests, and her voice sounds a little strange. “To see what it’s like.”

 

Lena blinks. “With each other?”

 

Kara nods, gaze resolutely straight ahead. “If we both wanna know what it’s like we shouldn’t have to wait until some boy wants to kiss us. It’s not like it means anything. S’just practice.”

 

Lena can feel her heart picking up speed, can practically hear it echoing in her ears.

 

Finally, Kara turns to her, meets her eyes, expression unreadable. “So, d’you wanna?”

 

Part of Lena wants to get up and run the five blocks back to her apartment even though it’s dark and her mom isn’t even home.

 

But, still, she nods. She doesn’t think she could speak without her voice breaking and giving away just how much she’s panicking.

 

Kara leans up on her elbows and looks down at Lena. Her face is still expressionless, but she licks her lips even as she keeps her eyes trained on Lena’s shoulder. Lena sits up, copying Kara’s pose.

 

Kara leans forward, and Lena can hear her own breath hitch when she can feel Kara’s on her cheek. Kara finally meets her eyes as their lips just barely ghost against each other, and she almost looks startled. Lena lets her eyes flutter closed, and pushes forward so that their lips touch.

 

It’s barely more than a press of lips, completely chaste, but Kara’s lips are warm and soft against hers and her glasses bump against Lena’s nose and Lena’s heart is hammering so hard she can feel every thump in her head.

 

Kara pulls away after a few seconds, but Lena doesn’t open her eyes, not for a long, silent moment. When she does, Kara has her fingertips pressed to her own parted lips, her eyes a little wider than normal and her glasses slightly askew.

 

Lena realizes, then, that she would like to kiss Kara again. She realizes that she doesn’t want to kiss any of the boys at school, and it’s because she wants to kiss Kara, and, maybe, she has for a while. She realizes that every time she had thought about kissing someone, in a vague sort of way, that that someone had always, inevitably, had Kara’s face.

 

She’s only twelve, but she wonders if this is what love feels like.

 

Horror settles in the pit of her stomach like rocks.

 

Finally, completely oblivious to Lena’s crisis, Kara says, “That was okay. Not nearly as bad as Alex said it would be.”

 

Lena just hums in response, eyes trained on the grass and trying to convince herself that she hadn’t liked that at all because that would be wrong and bad and—

 

“Maybe he used tongue,” Kara muses, looking off somewhere to her right, away from Lena. “I’ve heard that adults do that. That sounds pretty gross.”

 

“I’m not doing that,” Lena croaks, the words coming out a little harsher than she means them to.

 

Kara shrugs and bites her lip, still looking away.

 

“Wouldn’t want to, anyway,” Kara mutters. “Wouldn’t want your gross tongue anywhere near my mouth.”

 

Lena knows what she’s supposed to do here, so she does. She reaches out an arm and shoves Kara, mutters, “Shut up.” under her breath. Kara doesn’t laugh like she usually does, just smiles to herself.

 

Lena watches Kara for a long moment, the way her lips are curved, her eyes just slightly crinkled at the corners. The curve of her jaw. The blue of her eyes behind her glasses. The scar just above her eyebrow.

 

There’s a feeling in Lena’s chest, something that she can only describe as heavy and loud and a little bit bright. Maybe there’s a better word for it, one she hasn’t discovered yet. Whatever it is, it doesn’t feel like it’s wrong.

 

“We should go inside,” Kara murmurs eventually. She stands, and heads back towards the house. She doesn’t offer a hand to Lena, and Lena tries not to read too much into it.

 

They go back into Kara and Alex’s room. They try to be quiet because Alex is asleep, but Kara has never been one to do anything silently.

 

Lena is always surprised to see how different Kara’s room looks now. She can barely see anything in the dark, but she knows that Kara’s walls are covered in doodles and sketches and a few completed drawings she’s made on the back of old letters and posters and, now, pages of the sketchpad she had gotten for her birthday. She knows that Kara has a drawing she drew of Lena on her dresser, right next to her bed.

 

 


(Lena had asked Kara, once, why she never drew before she was adopted.

 

“I did,” Kara admitted, shifting uncomfortably.

 

Lena raised an eyebrow at her.

 

“Why didn’t you show me?” she asked, a little hurt. She had shared almost everything with Kara over the years, after all.

 

“I would have, but...” Kara drifted off, lost in some sort of memory. After a beat, “The nuns used to take my sketches and rip them up. Told me if I wasn’t going to use my talents for God I shouldn’t use them at all. Said what I was drawing was sinful and I should be punished. So I was.”

 

Lena blinked.

 

“What were you drawing?” Lena asked, and, to Lena’s surprise, Kara blushed, her entire face turning bright red.

 

“Nothing special,” Kara insisted, gaze focused on her hands, which were twisting in her lap. Lena knew she was lying, but she didn’t press further. When Kara wanted to tell her, she would.)

 

 

They both fumble as quietly as they can while getting dressed in their sleep clothes, then get in the bed, Lena slipping in first so that she’s near the wall, and Kara in after her.

 

In the winter, when it’s really cold, Kara will pull her close, wrapping an arm around her waist and tucking Lena’s head under her chin to stay warm. It’s not winter, and, right now, Lena is glad for that.

 

Lena is as close to the wall as she can get, curled onto her side. Kara is on her back, she can tell, and she can see Kara in her mind’s eye, staring up at the ceiling like she does when something is bothering her. Lena will usually turn over and ask her what’s wrong.

 

Tonight she doesn’t.

 

In the morning, Lena finds herself no longer facing towards the wall. Her eyes flicker open, and light is flooding in from the window by Alex’s empty bed, shining across Kara’s face. Kara is sitting up next to her, her sketchbook balanced on her bent legs. Her face is twisted in concentration, her tongue just peaking out between her lips as she draws.

 

Lena’s eyes drift to Kara’s sketchpad. Lena can immediately tell that Kara is drawing her, which she isn’t surprised by. What does surprise her is how almost all of her face is little more than a rough sketch, aside from her lips, which are drawn in full detail, shaded in a way that makes them look real.

 

She must take in a sharp breath, or make some sort of sound, because a second later, Kara is slamming her sketchbook closed and shoving it back onto her dresser.

 

“Was just gonna wake you,” Kara tells her, her voice dripping in fake enthusiasm. “Eliza is already making lunch. You slept in.”

 

Lena gives her a halfhearted apology, and sits up, eyes drifting back to Kara’s sketchbook.

 

They don’t talk about the kiss again, but Lena never seems to go a day without remembering it.

 


 

 

Kara gets her first boyfriend when she’s fourteen.

 

His name is Adam, and he brings Kara flowers on their first date. Kara holds his hand and blushes when he smiles at her. When she introduces him to Lena, he’s very nice to her.

 

Lena hates him.

 

“I just think it’s strange,” Lena tells her mother, when she asks what’s bothering her.

 

(Her mother had met him when Lena did; Kara had brought him to Lena’s apartment when she had come to get Lena to spend the day with them.

 

He’d greeted both Lena and her mother politely, had told Lena’s mother how wonderful her home looked. Her mother had smiled happily. Lena had rolled her eyes.)

 

“He’s a year older.” Lena gripes. “Why would he be sweet on Kara?” She stabs a potato with more force than necessary.

 

She knows why. Kara is like the sun. She’s bright and warm and you want her to be around all the time. When you’re with her, you can’t help the feeling of awe that bubbles in your chest, can’t help but fall in her orbit and never want to leave it.

 

“He seems like a nice boy,” her mother says, but she’s looking at Lena with some sort of sad look.

 

Lena tries not to read into it. She can’t imagine what her mother saw in her face that made her look at her like that.

 

They go out again the next day, Kara, Lena, and Adam, and Adam’s friend Andrew. Lena doesn’t ask, but she has a feeling that they intended for this to be a double date. They just go on a walk through the park, head towards the ice cream shop across town. It isn’t much of a date, but Lena is glad to be around Kara at all.

 

Andrew tries to make conversation with her, but Lena spends the whole time alternatively staring at Kara and glaring at Adam. He gives up around ten minutes in.

 

Kara is wearing a pretty blue dress, and her hair is done in curls and face made up. She looks beautiful, but Lena misses how Kara used to dress. Lena hadn’t even seen her in a dress or skirt until a few months ago, after Alex had taken Kara to get some new clothes.

 

Adam has his hand curled around Kara’s waist the entire walk to the ice cream shop. Inside, Adam insists he pay for Kara’s. Kara giggles and thanks him, but Lena can see that her eyes are a little hard as she watches him pay.

 

For some reason, Lena remembers Kara buying her a sucker the first day they met. The proud grin when she handed over her well earned nickel and when she bragged about how she stole the other still in her pocket.

 

Andrew tries to pay for Lena’s. She elbows him out of the way to get to the counter first. She orders her ice cream and pays herself. She thinks she sees Kara stifling a laugh behind her hand, but she isn’t sure.

 

When they walk through the park with their ice cream, Kara wobbles so badly in her heels that she almost falls over. She tells Adam that she tripped on a rock. Lena knows that it’s because until two weeks ago, Kara had never even put on a shoe with heels before. She hadn’t worn a dress either, hadn’t made up her face.

 

 

 

(“Alex said that boys will never like me if I don’t put in the effort,” Kara informed Lena as she modeled her new dresses and shoes for her only a month ago. “I want boys to like me, Lena.”

 

Lena didn’t know when Kara had decided that. On the night they had k—only around a year ago, Kara had thought kissing boys would be gross.

 

She didn’t see why Kara would have to put in the extra effort to make boys like her, anyway. If they couldn’t see how beautiful Kara was in her baggy trousers and button downs and t-shirts and collared shirts, then they didn’t deserve Kara at all.

 

“You look beautiful, Kara,” Lena told her honestly, but it felt like a lie. “You’ll have a fella on your arm in no time.”

 

She was right. Adam had asked Kara if she wanted to go dancing only a few days later.)

 

 

 

The sun beats down on them as they walk, the temperature growing hotter, Kara and Adam flirting, Andrew with his hands in his pockets and a grimace on his face, and Lena glaring at the back of Adam’s head.

 

Within a few minutes, Kara almost falls again, and this time, Lena steps forward, placing a hand on the small of Kara’s back to steady her. Kara sends her a grateful look, leans back into Lena’s touch. Kara’s skin is warm through her dress, probably from the overbearing heat, and Lena doesn’t want to move her hand. She runs her thumb along Kara’s spine.

 

“Are you all right?” Adam asks from somewhere to the left.

 

“Hm?” Kara hums, eyes still focused on Lena’s. She looks a little dazed. Lena removes her hand; she’s been touching her for too long.

 

Adam repeats himself, and Kara seems to come back to herself.

 

She plasters on a grin.

 

“I’m fine!” she claims. “Just feeling a little lightheaded from the heat.”

 

Lena knows that Kara has always loved when the weather grew hot, could go for a run in ninety degree heat and be in the same state she would be at twenty degrees cooler.

 

Lena’s hand grows cold.

 

They finish their ice creams and decide to head home, the weather too hot to stay out without any ice cream. When they reach Andrew’s house, he doesn’t even say goodnight to Lena, just offers Adam and Kara a wave and Lena a nod and a fake smile.

 

Adam tries to insist that he walk Kara home, but they’re much closer to Adam’s apartment building than Kara’s house, and Kara promises him that she doesn’t need him to. When he agrees, she kisses him on the cheek. Lena clenches her jaw and stares at the ground for the rest of the walk, leaving a considerable distance between her and the other two.

 

When they arrive at Adam’s home, Kara says, “Do you need me to walk you to the door?” Her eyes crinkle at the edges.

 

Adam laughs and says no, wraps a big arm around Kara’s waist and pulls her close. He leans down and kisses her, and it looks like Kara is smiling.

 

Jealously rises in Lena’s throat like bile. She watches the way Adam’s hand palms at Kara’s waist, and she wishes it was her. She remembers what it felt like to kiss Kara, the way her lips are warm and sweet and taste like home. She feels sick knowing that she’ll never have that again. That there’s no way Kara would want to do that with Lena when she has Adam, when she could have any boy.

 

If it were only a few months ago, Lena maybe would’ve tried to convince herself that she’s jealous of Kara, that she wants a boyfriend like Adam who will kiss her at the entrance to his apartment building and make her laugh and buy her ice cream and be nice to her best friend. But—

 

(A few months ago, Kara had come over to Lena’s apartment, rushed inside and sat down on her fire escape. She had her sketchpad in hand and a pencil, so worn down it was barely the size of her pinky, in the other.

 

“What are you doing?” Lena asked, sitting down next to her and swinging her legs. She feels eight again, out here with Kara.

 

“You have the perfect view of the sun setting over the city,” Kara explained, furiously drawing.

 

Lena furrowed her brows. She didn’t know how Kara could draw a sunset without any colors, but she doesn’t ask. Kara would just tell her not to question an artist.

 

They stayed outside for an hour, until the sun was firmly set and it had grown too dark for Kara to draw any more outside. When they go in, Kara stole Lena’s mother’s compact mirror and drew for two hours longer before she declared herself finished.

 

She turned her sketchpad around for Lena to see. It was the two of them on Lena’s fire escape, facing towards one another. Kara had her sketchbook balanced on her knees, just like before, her pencil poised over the paper. She’s looking up at Lena and she’s smiling. Lena has her legs drawn up, her elbow resting on her knees and her face resting on her hand. She’s looking at Kara, with a small, private smile on her face, one that Lena didn’t even know Kara noticed she did around her, one she didn’t really even notice she did herself. The National City skyline is behind them, and the sun is setting. The light seems to all fall towards Lena, the lines of the picture somehow move towards her.

 

“I wanted to draw you with a sunset,” Kara clarified, looking down at her drawing, a proud glint in her eyes. “I was thinking of all the ways I’ve drawn you, and I’ve never done that.” She pulled a crumbled piece of paper out of her pocket, smoothed it out, and set it on the table. “I made a list of what I haven’t done yet that I wanna do. Wanna make sure I draw them all. You’re my favorite subject, after all.” She met Lena’s eyes, her own eyes shining, her grin toothy and sweet.

 

It’s like everything in the universe shifted into place at once. Like Lena has been given the answer to every question she’s ever asked.

 

Lena is in love with Kara. She thinks she always has been. She knows she always will be.)

 

Kara pulls away from Adam after only a few seconds, pats him on the shoulder, and steps away. She smiles, but it’s strange, one Lena has never seen before.

 

She bids him goodnight and turns to Lena, the same smile still etched across her face.

 

She takes Lena’s arm and links hers with her own. Lena is surprised by the gesture; it makes her think of how they used to hold hands whenever they walked through the city as kids.

 

“So,” Kara begins, “do you like Adam?”

 

Lena wants to answer honestly, tell her that she hates him more than she should, that she will probably hate any boy she decides to make time with.

 

“He’s all right,” Lena manages, because she knows she can lie, but she’s never been good at it with Kara.

 

Kara’s face falls.

 

“You don’t like him,” Kara says. “You didn’t like Andrew either.”

 

“We weren’t a match,” Lena shrugs, ignoring Kara’s first statement.

 

She also ignores the nagging voice in her head that says that she’ll never find a boy that she’s a match with.

 

“And Adam?” Kara asks. She doesn’t sound mad. “Why don’t you like him?”

 

Lena doesn’t know what to say. She can’t tell her the truth, could never tell Kara the truth. She can’t imagine what Kara would say if she knew that not only is Lena a lesbian, she’s also sweet on her. Even the idea of Kara finding out makes her stomach curdle.

 

“I do like him,” she swears, since she has no real reason to dislike him other than her own jealously. “I just don’t know him very well.”

 

Kara nods, but it’s absentminded, and she’s chewing on her lip.

 

They walk in silence the rest of the way back, but Kara’s arm remains comfortably curled around her own. Their skin is pressed together, and Lena spends the time relishing in how perfect they fit, how warm and right Kara feels against her, but she wishes her shoulders weren’t strung so tight, that her heart would slow down her her chest.

 

Kara escorts Lena back to her apartment building even though her house is closer. She heads inside with her, climbs the stairs until they reach Lena’s door. She waves hello to Lena’s mom, who’s inside reading on the couch.

 

Kara breaks up with Adam three days later. She never tells Lena why.

 


 

 

But Kara doesn’t stop dating. She loves to go dancing, and will find a new boy to dance with every week when she drags Lena to the dance halls.

 

When Kara is sixteen, she meets Mike Matthews. Lena has lost count of how many boyfriends Kara has had by then, how many boys she’s watched Kara kiss with her jaw set and her chest aching, but she knows that she hates Mike the most.

 

 

(Admittedly, Lena had only liked one of Kara’s boyfriends. His name was Jimmy Olsen, and he worked with his father by the docks. He wanted to be a photographer—a good match for Kara, if Lena was being honest—and was always carrying around the clunky camera his father gave him.

 

He was kind and he clearly cared for Kara, more than any of Kara’s other boyfriends had. Kara was always happy with him, she’d laugh harder at his jokes than she should, she’d blush when he told her she was beautiful, and she’d tell Lena all about him when he wasn’t around. She’d sketch Jimmy almost as often as she did Lena, and she’d hung up the photographs he had gifted her, usually pictures of herself, on her wall.

 

Lena thinks Kara probably loved him. Lena couldn’t hate anything that Kara loved, anything that made her as happy as Jimmy did.

 

They’re together for six months, the longest relationship Kara has ever had.

 

They break up two months before Kara meets Mike. Kara doesn’t talk to Lena for a week after she does, and, like with Adam, she never tells Lena why she did it.)

 

 

 

(She tells herself that the reason why she’s hated all of Kara’s boyfriends, aside from James, is because none of them were good enough for her, none of them could ever love Kara as much as Lena does, could ever cherish her like Lena would.

 

But, the truth is, Lena is terrified that Kara will leave her. That Kara will find a boy that she’ll want to spend all her time with, who she’ll spend hours drawing in her sketchbook in every way she can think of, who she’ll stay up late with and tell her dreams to, who she’ll vow to that every dream she has of the future includes him and not Lena, not anymore.

 

Even if she had liked James, had thought that of any of the boys Kara had dated, that he was the only one who treated her right, like she was special and perfect and everything anyone could want, there was still a part of her that resented him. Because even if he was perfect for Kara, he wasn’t Lena, and Lena doesn’t think there’s anyone she could find who she’d rather be with Kara instead of her.

 

She’s selfish like that.)

 

 

 

Kara and Lena go to the same high school, even though they had gone to different elementary and middle schools. Lena had loved it at first, getting to see Kara every day and sit with her at lunch. No one sneered things at her in the halls when Kara was there, didn’t shove her around at lunch either.

 

So, Lena had loved all of it, even just walking through the halls with Kara and visiting her locker, until Kara started seeing Mike. Because if Kara was around, so was Mike.

 

Mike is obnoxious. He’s crude. He calls Kara his girl like he has any right to do that, like Kara belongs to him.

 

When he greets Kara at her locker, he’ll cut Lena off mid sentence and say, “Hey, doll.” He presses a kiss to Kara’s cheek and looks Lena in the eye.

 

At lunch, he pulls Kara in his lap. He puts his hand up her skirt and she doesn’t stop him. Alex glares down at her sandwich. Mike’s friend, Winn, keeps his eyes firmly on his history textbook. Lena wishes she could look away like they do, but she can’t. She’s so jealous she thinks she might catch fire.

 

Mike has to leave early to get to his next class, and, of course, he drags Kara along with him. Kara follows, laughing and waving to Alex and Lena as Mike leads her away.

 

“I hate him,” Lena growls, watching them walk away. Mike has his arm around Kara’s waist. She wishes she could rip it off.

 

“I know,” Alex groans. “I’ve tried to tell her, too. She doesn’t want to listen.”

 

Winn shifts uncomfortably.

 

“He’s not all bad,” Winn defends, but he doesn’t look too happy with their relationship, either.

 

Of course Winn would think that, Lena thinks bitterly, and she pushes away from the table and heads to her own class.

 

It gets worse. Kara insists that Lena go on a double date with her and Mike and they set her up with Winn. Kara gives her that look, wide, pleading eyes, and Lena can’t say no, as much as she may want to.

 

They get ready for the date together in Kara’s shared room. Kara twirls around in her dress and asks Lena how she looks, eyes bright and happy.

 

Lena’s eyes drag over Kara’s body. She licks her lips, swallows.

 

“You look beautiful,” Lena tells her, voice soft and honest. She feels some sort of sadness pulling at her chest. “Mike’s gonna love it.”

 

Kara grins, just one corner of her mouth curling upwards. She moves towards Lena, says, “I’m sure I don’t look as beautiful as you.”

 

Lena feels her face burn. Kara reaches out, smoothes her hand along Lena’s collar, straightening it out, Lena guesses. Kara’s fingertips brush along her neck. It feels like being set on fire.

 

Kara doesn’t move her hand away. She keeps it there, three of her fingers burning into Lena’s skin. Their eyes meet, and Kara’s eyes have something stirring behind them, something deep and smoldering and Lena thinks her eyes might be reflecting the same thing. Her eyes flicker down to Kara’s lips. They’re a subtle pink from Kara’s lipstick, and they look so soft that Lena wants nothing more than to let herself lean forward and kiss them, to find out if they’re still as soft as they were when they kissed in Kara’s backyard.

 

Kara jerks away, offers a shaky, “Your collar was crooked.”

 

Lena nods, fakes a smile, watches Kara collect herself. She wonders if she affects Kara the same way Kara does her, if Kara’s fingertips burned like Lena’s skin had.

 

It’s November of 1935, and Kara drags Lena to a dance hall.

 

Lena is sat at a tiny table across from Winn on the edge of the dance floor, near where the band is playing. She has her chin held in her hand. She’s watching Kara dancing with Mike, the way she smiles so wide that it brightens her whole face, how the lights above the dance floor shine across her features, making her eyes glint even from a distance.

 

When Lena’s eyes flit over to Winn, he’s staring at Mike. Lena raises a brow at him.

 

He looks at the ground sheepishly, but he doesn’t seem defensive. He must have seen the way Lena was looking at Kara.

 

Kara and Mike dance for two hours, Kara occasionally making her way over to try and coax Lena and Winn to come dance, but they don’t. They talk over new science, something they’re both way too interested in, and Lena almost enjoys herself a little bit.

 

The entire time she watches Kara, even as her and Winn talk. A part of her wishes that she could dance with her, press in close and put her hands on Kara’s hips, lean in and kiss the bolt of her jaw as Kara puts her hands on her shoulders. Another part of her just wants to go home.

 

Mike insists they all go out for drinks after dancing. Lena has never gotten drunk before, never even had any alcohol, but she thinks getting drunk might be enough to help her tolerate Mike for the rest of the night.

 

She knew Mike was rich, but that doesn’t stop her from being surprised when he sets an entire bottle of expensive looking alcohol down on the table. She doesn’t even want to imagine the cost. Or how much he must have bribed the bartender to give it to him.

 

When he sits down, he puts a hand on Kara’s knee. Lena takes a sip of her drink. It burns on the way down. He puts his arm around Kara’s shoulder. Lena takes a sip. He plants a kiss on her cheek. Lena takes a sip. Kara smiles. Lena tips her glass back, drinks a little more than she should.

 

The more Lena drinks, the bigger the pit in her stomach watching Mike and Kara grows. She can feel her shoulders tensing, can feel herself closing off.

 

In the weirdest feeling, Lena wishes Kara were here. Kara is sitting across the table from her, laughing at something dimwitted Mike just said, but Lena misses her so it makes her entire body ache.

 

 

 

(Last year, after Kara had broken up with Jimmy but before she met Mike, they had been sitting in Kara’s room, propped up on her bed. Kara was drawing Lena, behind what she believed the Grand Canyon to look like.

 

“Why are you drawing me in front of the Grand Canyon?” Lena asked, looking over Kara’s shoulder.

 

“It’s on my list,” Kara explained, erasing something, her brows furrowing together as she looked at the page. “I dunno if I’ll ever see you in front of it for real.”

 

Lena pondered that, imagined, for a moment, the two of them making the trip across the country, just the two of them. No boys, no moms, no sisters. Just the two of them, going west, seeing the country together. She smiled.

 

“I think we will,” Lena decided, and Kara turned to her, eyes shining.

 

“You think?” Kara asked, looking back down to her drawing. “I’d like that.”

 

“Me, too,” Lena said. She played with her fingers. “When, do you think?”

 

Kara paused her pencil, tapped the top of it against her sketchbook a few times.

 

“Not for a while,” Kara answered, a faraway look in her eye. “But we’ll get there.”

 

“Even if it’s not until we’re fifty?” Lena prodded.

 

Kara seemed to know what Lena was really asking. She meets her eyes.

 

“I’m gonna be here for you, always,” Kara stated firmly. “There’s no way you’re gonna get rid of me before we make it out West.”

 

Lena ducked her head, pulled on the bottom of her shirt.

 

“And after?” She asked it too casually. Kara set her pad to the side, cupped a hand over Lena’s cheek. Lena watched her, breathing harder than normal.

 

“All the guys I go dancing with,” Kara began, her voice more serious than Lena would’ve expected, “they’re temporary. You and me, Lena? We’re forever.”

 

Lena believed her.)

 

 

 

But it doesn’t feel like they’re temporary, when Kara is giggling and Mike is flirting and they’re holding hands under the table.

 

Three drinks in, Kara starts batting Mike’s hands off of her. She leans forward, elbows on the table, and asks Lena her opinion on President Roosevelt’s New Deal policies. Lena snorts a laugh at that, but answers anyway. Kara nods seriously as she speaks, like Lena is the President herself. Mike glares at Lena. A smug smirk tugs on her lips.

 

Kara all but ignores Mike for the rest of the night, and not even a half an hour passes before he insists that they all go home. Winn jumps at the chance, but Lena thinks she would quite like to stay in this bar and watch the way the low lighting glints off Kara’s golden hair, casts beautiful shadows on her face.

 

Kara doesn’t kiss Mike goodbye when they reach Lena’s apartment building. She pats him on the back, then waves as she pulls Lena towards the front door. When Lena looks back, she sees the stunned expression covering his face. Kara doesn’t look back.

 

They practically fall into Lena’s apartment, giggling and clutching each other. Lena’s mother isn’t home; she has the night shift. Mrs. Williams bangs on the wall from next door. She never could stand any loud noises past nine pm.

 

They fall onto the couch in a pile, Kara landing on top of Lena, face in her neck.

 

Kara mumbles that Lena can’t hear, but she feels Kara’s lips moving against her skin. It tickles. She tries to repress the shiver that moves down her spine.

 

“Hm?” Lena hums because she doesn’t think she can get out anything else without her voice cracking.

 

“Why didn’t you come dance?” There’s a weird tone to her voice. “I mean with Winn.”

 

Lena shrugs, but it doesn’t feel right. She might be drunker than she thought she was.

 

“I don’t know how,” Lena admits. It’s true, it’s not something she’s ever felt inclined to learn, and no one had ever bothered to teach her.

 

Kara lifts her head, raises her eyebrows. She stumbles off of the couch, righting herself by grabbing the wall.

 

“I’m gonna have to teach you, then!” Kara exclaims, a little too loud. Her words slur, just barely.

 

She rushes into Lena’s mother’s room (she trips on the carpet) and comes out a second later with the radio her mom had bought when times were good in ‘25 and she had just gotten her bonus. It was old and clunky, but it worked just as well as any newer radio.

 

Kara flicks the radio on, and Fred Astaire begins to croon Cheek to Cheek. Kara grins, and she offers Lena her hand. Her glasses are crooked on her nose.

 

Lena reluctantly lets Kara take her hand and pull her up off the couch. Even when Lena is on her feet, Kara keeps tugging her until they’re flush against each other.

 

She curls an arm around Lena’s waist. Her fingers brush against Lena’s back, her thumb pressing against the dip of Lena’s lower back, hard enough to make Lena’s breath hitch. She looks up at Kara through her lashes.

 

Kara’s eyes are hooded and her face is flush, and Lena assumes it’s from the alcohol. Kara leans forward until their cheeks are almost touching, murmurs, “Put your hand on my shoulder.”

 

Lena does, and Kara lifts their intertwined hands up into the proper position.

 

And they dance. It isn’t great, they’re both drunk and Lena keeps stepping on Kara’s feet. But it’s fun, the most fun Lena has had with Kara in a while. Kara hums the song in Lena’s ear, spins her around the living room, laughs when Lena messes up one step after the other, a soft look in her eyes.

 

As the song comes to an end, Kara swings her out and pulls her back in, Lena tripping her way back towards Kara until her back is pressed against her chest, Kara’s arms wrapped around her waist. Lena closes her eyes as Kara sways them, as Kara brushes her nose along the shell of Lena’s ear, breathes, “I’m in heaven.” along with Fred Astaire. She twirls Lena around until they’re facing each other again.

 

Their eyes lock. Kara has a certain look in her eye, one Lena doesn’t think she’s seen before. It’s almost adoring.

 

Fred Astaire’s voice fades out as their lips meet, and it’s something fierce and intense and so so different from when they kissed four years ago. Lena’s hands curl into Kara’s hair, mess it up like it always used to be. Kara’s arms are at her waist, pulling her close, a hand splays along her lower back, the other presses hard against her hip. Kara’s glasses knock against Lena’s nose. Lena bites Kara’s lip, a little bit harder than she means to.

 

It’s wet and messy, but when one of Kara’s hands comes up to cup Lena’s chin, tilt her head just the right way, smooth her thumb along Lena’s jaw, it’s better than Lena ever thought kissing could be. It’s perfect.

 

And then Kara pulls away, breath heavy, bites her lip. Lena instantly knows what’s coming.

 

“Lena...” Kara begins, she licks her kiss swollen lips, doesn’t even bother trying to make eye contact.

 

“Don’t,” Lena snaps, but it comes out more like a plea. “Kara, please.” She doesn’t know what she’s asking for, but she knows that all she wants is Kara.

 

“Lena, you’re drunk,” Kara says steadily. “I’m drunk. This...can’t happen. It isn’t even real.”

 

Lena jerks back like Kara just punched her, and from the pain in Lena’s chest, she thinks Kara may as well have.

 

“This isn’t because I’m drunk,” Lena insists. She can feel tears welling in her eyes. “Kara, I’ve always felt like this. Since we were kids.”

 

Kara closes her eyes, like hearing that is physically painful. She sucks in a hard breath.

 

“Lena, we can’t. You know we can’t. It’s—It’s not...” Kara swallows her words, shakes her head.

 

But Lena knows what she was going say. She remembers the words ringing in her ears when they kissed the first time. Feels the shame that’s curled in the pit of her stomach whenever she’s looked at Kara, or any other girl, that way. She’s heard what people say, she’s heard the type of words people spit at her in the halls at school.

 

But that doesn’t mean they’re right.

 

“Kara,” Lena starts because she has to tell her, needs Kara to know that the way she feels about her isn’t wrong, can’t be wrong, because nothing has ever felt more right in her life.

 

But Kara stops her.

 

“Lena,” Kara interrupts, voice firm. “We’re going on a double date tomorrow with Mike and Winn. We’re seeing a movie.”

 

Lena sets Kara with a hard look, tenses her jaw. She wants to fight her, wants to so badly. She wants to tell Kara that they can be together, that it isn’t so hard to hide, that they can be careful, but Kara was always a better fighter than Lena, anyways.

 


(Lena had always known that Kara got into a lot of fights at the orphanage, Kara bragged about it too much not to, but she didn’t know how much Kara liked to fight until she saw her do it.

 

Kara’s ten, and two boys, probably a few years older than her, were pushing around a boy much younger than them in the park. Lena saw Kara tense in the corner of her eye, turned quick enough to see her jaw set before she’s halfway across the park and slugging one of the boys in the chin, the highest she can reach. He stumbled back, clutching his face, and the other turned just in time for Kara to punch him in the gut. He keeled over, and the young boy ran away while Kara taunted, “What? Don’t like getting pushed around?”

 

When they were younger, it was usually like that. Kara would see something she didn’t like and would throw herself into a fight faster than Lena could ever stop her. She didn’t usually get hit back, she was a girl after all, and boys were told they should never hit a lady.

 

But as boys got older, they didn’t care about that so much. And Kara didn’t care about getting hit back either.

 

“Used to happen all the time at the orphanage,” Kara told Lena, every time Lena took her back to her apartment so she could press something cold to Kara’s newly forming black eye, or her split lip, or the bruise forming across her ribs. “Actually like it better when they fight back. I hate when they lay off me ‘cause I’m a girl. I just kicked their asses, they should be trying to punch me back.”

 

And they did punch back. But Lena had never seen Kara pick a fight she didn’t win.

 

Lena asked her one day, while cleaning a cut on Kara’s face, why she gets into so many fights, why she could never let herself walk away when she saw something she thought was wrong.

 

Kara said, “I’m just trying to do the right thing. That’s all I’m ever trying to do. How can I stand there and do nothing when I can do something?” Kara had looked down at her hands, then, a faraway look in her eye. “But, maybe, I just have something I’m trying to make up for. What better way to do that than with your fists? Gets the anger out, too.” Kara smiled at her, wryly.

 

Lena will wonder, much later, if maybe this, the way she feels for Lena, is what Kara is trying to make up for.)

 

 

Lena looks at Kara for a long time, sees the blank look in her eyes turn harder, her shoulders tense further.

 

Lena storms past her, clipping Kara’s shoulder in her haste. She opens the door to the bedroom and slams it behind her. She locks the door behind her, throws herself down on her mattress in the corner.

 

She’s facedown with her head in the pillow when Kara says softly, “Lena.”

 

A beat. “Lena, I’m sorry.”

 

Another beat. “Lena, you know that I...that I would rather—but we...” There’s a thump against the door, and Lena imagines Kara dropping her head against it.

 

A third beat. “Fuck.”

 

Lena hears her apartment door close. She feels her heart break in her chest.

 

But the next day, things are different.

 

Kara acts different around Mike, she flinches when he puts an arm around her waist, her smile is clearly forced.

 

When Winn arrives, a few minutes late, which Lena doesn’t appreciate, Lena decides she could do with a little revenge. She grabs his hand, considers kissing his cheek, but decides against it.

 

Winn gives her a confused look, but Lena doesn’t care. She watches the way Kara’s eyes slide between the two of them, settling on their intertwined hands, the way Kara bites her lip, the way when she greets Winn her smile looks more like bared teeth. It’s enough to make Lena feel a little better.

 

They head into the movie, Kara insisting that they sit together as a group. Mike looks disappointed, and Lena suspects that he just wanted to go to a movie so that he and Kara could neck in the back of the theater. Lena holds back the smug satisfaction of knowing that Kara would rather sit next to Lena than neck with Mike.

 

The movie is okay, Lena decides around thirty minutes in. She’s more distracted by the main actress than the plot, but still jolts when she feels something brush against her hand.

 

Kara’s hand is sitting next to hers on the arm rest, their pinkies just barely touching each other. Lena sneaks a glance at her, but her gaze is firmly on the screen. Next to her, Mike is slumped over with his head in his hand, clearly bored.

 

Lena looks back down at their hands, and can feel her heart rate begin to pick up. The place where they touch feels like it’s on fire, like Kara’s skin is burning her alive. She takes a breath.

 

She lifts her pinky, just a little, and brushes it along Kara’s. The pad of her fingertip skates along Kara’s nail, until her pinky is crossed over Kara’s.

 

There’s a long pause, and it feels like years. Lena can heat the thump of her heartbeat in her ears, her lungs burn from holding her breath.

 

Kara curls her pinky around Lena’s. She squeezes, and Lena squeezes back. They don’t look at each other, but it feels like a promise, like an apology.

 

It says: I may have to be with him, but I’ll always want you.

 

Lena understands. She forgives her.

 

Later, when Mike kisses Kara goodbye on Kara’s doorstep, he puts his hand on her waist and drags her close, and, this time, Kara goes with him willingly.

 

When he kisses her, she doesn’t close her eyes. She watches Lena watch them kiss, and their eyes meet over Mike’s shoulder. She doesn’t look away, even when Mike pulls back, even when she says goodbye to him, even when he walks away.

 

“You’re lucky he’s so oblivious, you know,” Lena comments lightly, like her heart isn’t in her throat.

 

“You’re lucky everyone is, with the way you look at me,” Kara replies. “Drives me crazy.”

 

Lena swallows hard.

 

“Goodnight, Lena,” Kara says, brushes her hand along Lena’s arm. She tangles their fingers for a split second, then turns towards her house.

 

They don’t talk about the kiss last night, just like they never talked about the one when they were kids. But a day doesn’t go by where they don’t meet each other’s eyes and, for just a second, they both remember.

 


 

 

Kara doesn’t think she’s ever been so scared in her life.

 

She thinks back, briefly, to when she was three years old and sat inside the orphanage for the first time. There were three nuns talking by the door, and Kara was sitting, alone, for the first time in her short life, on a bed with a small bag of belongings next to her. She didn’t know where Clark had gone. She didn’t know what happened to her family, except that they were all gone. She remembers clutching her small, beaten up stuffed bear to her chest, remembers the feelings of loneliness and terror creeping up on her like they never had before.

 

Kara remembers thinking, after that, that nothing could really scare her if it didn’t make her feel like that. It’s what made her brave enough to climb any tree, to stand up to any bully, to say no to Lena if it meant protecting them both.

 

When Kara gets to Lena’s apartment and her mother answers the door, tears in her eyes, and tells Kara that she’s just called the priest, Kara feels that same terror, that same creeping loneliness, rise in the pit of her stomach, so strong she has to stop herself from keeling over and throwing up.

 

Kara finds herself pushing past Lena’s mom and into the apartment. She ignores Lena’s mother calling, “You really shouldn’t go in there—" and opens the door to the bedroom.

 

Lena is curled on the bed, and she looks horrible. Kara has never seen Lena be anything but well put together, and the hear surges up into her chest until she can hardly breathe. And from the looks of it, Lena barely can, too.

 

Lena had gotten pneumonia a month ago, and it had only gotten steadily worse. Her mother had picked up more shifts to pay for Lena’s medicine, and Kara had spent any extra time she had at Lena’s side, making sure she didn’t die because if she did, Kara thinks she would, too.

 

Now, Lena looks barely lucid on the bed, and Kara can hear her lungs rattle with every weak breath she takes in. She sounds like she’s going to stop breathing all together any second, which must be why her mother called on the priest to deliver last rites.

 

Kara takes Lena’s hand into hers, and it’s cold.

 

“Lena,” Kara whispers, throat thick. “Lena, you can’t die on me.”

 

Lena doesn’t say anything, which Kara expected.

 

“What would I do without you?” Kara asks. Tears run down her cheeks, drip down onto her slacks. (If this is the last time Lena sees her, she doesn’t want to look like a lie.) “Who’s gonna pull me out of fights if you’re gone? Who’s gonna be my best model? Who’s gonna fight monsters with me?”

 

“Do it yourself,” Lena slurs, just barely, so quiet that Kara just hears it. “‘M tired.”

 

Kara huffs a laugh at that. It sounds wet. She brings Lena’s hand up and presses a kiss to her knuckles.

 

“I can’t, remember?” She smiles against Lena’s hand. “You’re the one with the gun, and I can’t fight them all with my sword.”

 

Lena tries to laugh, but it turns into a cough that sends a spike of horror down Kara’s spine.

 

After Lena’s settles, she wheezes, “You still try.”

 

“Because I know that I have you watching out for me,” Kara insists, squeezing Lena’s hand tight. “Lena, I’d die without you.”

 

Lena shakes her head, and it’s hardly anything more than her head wobbling to the side.

 

“‘Never needed me, Kara,” Lena rasps, then coughs once. “I always needed you. Just wanted you to be mine.” Lena blinks hard, like she’s surprised she said that.

 

“That’s not true,” Kara argues, leaning forward. She doesn’t even want to consider the idea of Lena dying without knowing how much Kara loves her. “I’ll always need you. Have from the day we met. Do you remember the day we met?”

 

Lena nods, just her head tipping forward slightly.

 

“Saving you from that bully? That was the best thing I’ve ever done,” Kara tells her. “When I went back to the orphanage that night, I was so happy that I met you that I didn’t even care when I got caught by the nuns and got the shit beaten out of me.” She wipes away the trail of tears on her cheeks, sniffles hard. “Lena, I didn’t even care. I already loved you the day I met you, and I’ve only grown to love you more every day after. Of course I need you, Lena. Of course I do!”

 

“Never said you loved me before,” Lena breathes, head lolling back against the pillow.

 

Kara can feel her heart breaking in her chest. She reaches forward, brushes the hair out of Lena’s face.

 

“I should have,” Kara says softly. “I do.”

 

Lena’s eyelids droop, and she doesn’t say anything else. Kara stays silent, listens to Lena breathe, desperately praying that each one won’t be her last.

 

“I am, by the way,” Kara says after a few moments.

 

Lena’s eyes peak open, just enough that Kara can see the blue green of them.

 

“What?” Lena murmurs, her eyes a little more focused than they were before.

 

“Yours,” Kara clarifies, running her thumb along Lena’s hand.

 

Lena looks at her, really looks at her, for the first time since Kara walked in, and it’s the best thing.

 

“All you’d have to do is ask,” Kara continues, and she thinks it may be the truest thing she’s ever said. “Tell me you want me and I’m yours.”

 

Lena licks her lips. Coughs hard, so hard the bed shakes with it.

 

“Tried,” she says eventually. “You said no.”

 

“I was being stupid,” Kara says, honestly. “I never should have said no.”

 

And she was being stupid. She had been for years.

 

 

(In 1929, Kara moved into the Danvers house, and everything changed.

 

She had a new life, a new home, a new family. It was something she had never even dreamed of, had decided she would never get to have. It was everything she had always wanted. It was different, but good.

 

Two years after Kara moved in, Alex opened her dresser and took a peak at the few items of clothing Kara owned while Kara sat on her bed and watched.

 

“You don’t have any dresses?” Alex asked, giving Kara a strange look.

 

Kara shrugged. “I don’t like ‘em, so I don’t wear ‘em.”

 

Alex blinked at her. “Let’s go shopping, then.”

 

Alex tugged Kara to a clothing store in the city, money from Eliza stuffed in her pocket. Kara wandered towards the section with shirts and pants, but Alex grabbed her shoulder and tugged her towards the dresses.

 

Kara scrunched up her nose. “I don’t wanna wear dresses. What’s wrong with pants? You know how long women fought for the right to wear pants, don’t ya?”

 

Alex let out an exasperated sigh, fingering through a display of dresses.

 

“There’s nothing wrong with pants,” she responded, pulling a dress off the rack and holding it up to Kara. She sounded annoyed. “But you also have to wear dresses.”

 

“I don’t gotta do anything,” Kara scoffed, crossing her arms.

 

Alex set her jaw and gave Kara a hard look, something desperate hiding in her eyes.

 

“Listen, Kara, you may get away with this now because you’re a kid, but you need to grow up and realize that you don’t have a choice,” Alex hissed. “You’re going to put yourself and your friend in danger.”

 

Kara’s stomach dropped.

 

“What does this have to do with Lena?” Kara asked, suddenly on edge.

 

“I saw you two together. Kissing out in the yard,” Alex said, low. “It’s not right. You can’t do that, Kara. You’re gonna get yourself killed!”

 

Kara clenched her jaw, fought the urge to fight Alex on this.

 

She couldn’t. She knew it was wrong, knew she shouldn’t have suggested it to Lena. She couldn’t help it, she never could. She’d look at Lena and see everything, could feel a certain happiness bubble in her chest like a boiling pot of water about to overflow. She’d looked at Lena that night, saw how the light of the stars shone on her face, made her eyes twinkle, and thought, “I would give anything to kiss her.” So she had. She shouldn’t have.

 

She remembered, after the kiss, to her own horror, the way Sister Catherine had looked at her when she’d come across Kara’s sketches back at the orphanage. They hadn’t been anything bad, but Kara had pages upon pages sketched of the straight edge of Lena’s jaw, the curve of her nose, the lift of her cheeks, the fullness of her lips. It had been enough for Sister Catherine to see what Kara was going to become, for her to tear the sketches apart and try to beat the queer out of her, and then promise that she’d pray for her to be fixed.

 

It hadn’t worked.

 

“Kara, I’m just trying to look out for you,” Alex insisted, folding a few dresses over her arm. “If you want to keep you and Lena safe, you have to pretend it’s not like that. Wear a dress. Date a few boys.” Alex shakes her head. “Just stop being so damn obvious.”

 

Kara took the advice to heart. When they were kids, Kara had promised Lena she would protect her. She wasn’t going to get Lena into any trouble because of her.

 

So she wore the dresses. She got a date with a nice boy named Adam. She kissed him and felt nothing except for the guilt that settled in her stomach from knowing that she was using him, from knowing that she wished she was kissing Lena.

 

She could only go so long pretending with him—Kara’s never been a great actress—so she broke up with him and got a new boyfriend. She did this until she lost count, had kissed and dated so many boys that no one could ever accuse her of being a...lesbian.

 

But, when she went home after her dates, she’d open her sketchpad, and draw Lena until her hand ached. She’d keep drawing until it was perfect, made sure that Lena’s face was the last she saw before she went to bed.

 

She couldn’t have Lena for real, but she could have sketches. She’d usually just sketch Lena’s face—smiling, laughing, smirking, with a knowing eyebrow raised—but sometimes she drew more. Sometimes she’d draw out the lines and shadows of her neck, move even further down and add the curve of her breasts under her favorite dress. Sometimes she’d draw herself in the picture, laughing next to Lena, eyes focused on her, soft and honest. If she was feeling daring, she’d draw herself kissing the curve of Lena’s jaw, her hand resting on Lena’s waist.

 

She met Jimmy Olsen when she was sixteen, and Kara loved him. Maybe not the way either of them would have liked, but he was the closest thing Kara had ever had to a best friend after Lena. He was easy to talk to, and he loved her art, loved to talk to her about it as well as his own photographs. He’d show her pictures from sights he’d been to, and she’d sketch them out, and they’d argue over which was better. He’d model for her, allowed her to practice drawing men with his own body, would only laugh when it didn’t come out so well and offer some advice about the angle or the lighting.

 

She loved him enough that kissing him wasn’t completely unbearable. She tried to avoid it as much as she could, and he never tried to push for more like her other boyfriends usually did, but when they did kiss, it was the easiest it ever had been to pretend that she didn’t hate it.

 

Kara had decided, one day, that if she was going to have to marry a man, she would like it to be Jimmy Olsen.

 

Kara had said so to Lena one day. Casually mentioned, in a conversation about him, “I think I could marry him someday.”

 

From the corner of her eye, Kara could see Lena’s face fall. Could see the way her shoulders dropped, the way she licked her lips and forced a smile.

 

She’d broken up with Jimmy the next day. She didn’t explain why, but she could see in his eyes that he understood, and maybe that’s why he had pulled her into a hug and let her cry into his shoulder for a long moment.

 

She hadn’t talked to Lena for a week after, not because she was angry with her, but because she couldn’t bring herself to face her.

 

The guilt of breaking up with Jimmy, of hurting Lena by loving someone else, is probably why she chose to date Mike next. Mike might have thought he was fooling her, but she knew he was an arrogant asshole, didn’t even need Alex to confront her and tell her.

 

“I told you to date boys,” Alex had sniped one day. “I didn’t mean one like him.”

 

Kara had bit back a petty, “Maybe you shouldn’t have told me to date boys at all.” It wasn’t fair. Alex had been right, after all, she knew that. She was just looking out for her.

 

It took only a week of dating Mike for him to become her least favorite of all of her boyfriends, but she didn’t break up with him. She decided that feeling something for him, even negative, was better than feeling nothing at all.

 

But she didn’t want to spend time alone with Mike, so she tried to set up Lena with his friend Winn.

 

It was the first time in a while that Kara had tried to set Lena up on a date. She knew Lena didn’t like it, but she could stop herself this time.

 

“Why do you keep trying to get me a date?” Lena had snapped one day, after Kara had tried to convince her how nice a boy from Kara’s English class was.

 

Kara just looked at her.

 

“I just want to see my best girl happy,” Kara had said honestly, so honestly. She feels like everything she’s ever done has been so she could see Lena happy.

 

“If you want me to be happy,” Lena had replied, through gritted teeth, “you’d stop trying to get me to go dancing with men.”

 

Kara hadn’t tried to set her up again after that, not until Winn.

 

Seeing them together made Kara’s stomach curdle with jealously. They didn’t even dance; they sat in the corner and talked, but Kara was so jealous, so scared of the idea of Lena finding a guy that she’d want to be with, that she felt sick until she’d downed enough alcohol after to forget why.

 

When she danced with Lena, later, in Lena’s apartment, it felt like she was dreaming. When she kissed Lena it felt like she was dying.

 

She wanted Lena like she was starving for it, couldn’t resist kissing her when she had the chance again. But she knew—knows—that they can’t be like that, even if that were what Lena wanted. Kara promised to protect Lena, and she would do that even if it meant protecting Lena from herself, even if it meant saying no to what she’s wanted since she was nine years old.

 

But—she broke up with Mike a month later. She never dates another man again.)

 


Now, Kara realizes how stupid it all was. She’d rather have Lena the way she wants—the way they both want—for just five minutes than spend her entire life pretending to be someone she isn’t, even to herself. Maybe they could never be together openly, maybe they’ll still have to spend their lives pretending, but they’ll do that together. Kara has found that anything is bearable as long as she’s with Lena.

 

“I was trying to protect you,” Kara explains, eventually, tightening her grip on Lena’s cold hand. “But I should let you make your own choices. I can’t decide what’s best for the both of us, even if I thought I was doing the right thing. I want to be with you, Lena, I always have.” Kara pauses, takes a breath. “So just tell me you want me, and I’m yours.”

 

Lena just smiles, a small thing, barely more than the corners of her lips twitching.

 

“Want you,” Lena murmurs, eyes closed and lips curled. “Course I do.”

 

Kara grins so wide her face hurts. Tears sting at her eyes, but she ignores it. Instead, she leans forward, kisses Lena on her burning forehead.

 

“Then don’t die,” Kara practically begs. “Please don’t die, Lena.”

 

Lena just hums, head lolling to the side on her pillow. Kara feels her heart drop, feels sick from fear, but Lena’s chest keeps rising and falling.

 

Kara finds a piece of spare paper, curls up in the chair next to Lena’s bed and begins to sketch.

 

The priest arrives an hour later to give final rites, but Lena lives through the night, and the next night, too.

 

Lena stays in bed, but Kara keeps her occupied with her sketches. She starts a comic strip about a superhero after a week, and Lena even manages a real laugh at the title.

 

“Supergirl?” Lena laughs, breathy and short. “Original.” She peaks at the drawing as best she can. “Looks like you.”

 

Kara resists the urge to blush, tugging her sketchbook close to her chest.

 

“Her name is Linda Lee,” Kara tells her pointedly. “She’s an alien. I haven’t decided what planet she’s from yet, but it’s gone now. But she still fights on Earth for hope, help, and compassion for all.” She smiles. “With the help of her scientist best friend.”

 

Lena raises an eyebrow, and it’s the knowing look that’s always made Kara want to kiss her.

 

“Her name is Lutessa,” Kara says, and Lena’s smile drops instantly, forming into a scowl.

 

“Shut up,” Lena mutters, turning her face into the pillow. “I don’t look like a Lutessa.”

 

Kara’s smile grows larger; she can feel the way her nose scrunches with it.

 

“Who said she was based off you?” Kara teases. “Maybe Supergirl doesn’t want to be friends with a brat.”

 

Lena tries to shove Kara off the bed, but it’s so weak that Kara doesn’t even sway with it. Kara feels her throat close at the reminder of how sick Lena was, still is, really, but she forces a laugh around it.

 

 

(Kara doesn’t think there was a definitive moment where she fell in love with Lena. It was something that just was. She never really thought about it too hard until Sister Catherine found her drawings.

 

If she had to pick a moment when she realized it for the first time, when she felt it so strongly that she couldn’t help but acknowledge it was there, it was on a Wednesday in November of 1929.

 

It was after school had ended, and Kara and Lena had met in the park. Snow was just starting to fall, and Kara found herself enthralled in the way the flakes would sparkle in Lena’s dark hair.

 

They were walking through the forest, both intent on winning a bet of who could kill more monsters, when they heard yelling coming from somewhere nearby. Kara gave Lena a sideways glance. Lena was looking at her, eyes a little wide, and Kara immediately stalked towards the sounds, Lena trailing along behind her, hand clamped around Kara’s arm.

 

There were three boys, maybe two years older than Kara, when they broke past the trees. Two of them were closing in on the third, who looked more than a little rough, cuts littering his face and both of his eyes black. He was clutching his right arm to his chest, and Kara had to guess it was sprained. The two bigger boys spat slurs at him as they moved forward.

 

Kara clenched her jaw. Hatred swirled in her gut. She never could back down from a fight, not when there was something she could do.

 

Kara found herself barreling forward before she even really thought it through. She punched the closest of the boys in the jaw, hard enough to send him reeling backwards.

 

Kara squared her shoulders as the other boy turned to her incredulously.

 

“Leave him alone,” Kara commanded, her voice dripping with malice.

 

The boy laughed, a sharp, cruel sound.

 

“What are you gonna—” he began, but before he finished, Kara had clocked him in the nose, harder than the first. His eyes widened, and blood started to gush from his nose.

 

“That’s what I’m gonna do,” Kara snarked, shaking out her hand. It was throbbing, and she knew her knuckles were probably bleeding, but she didn’t care.

 

Out of the corner of her eye, she sees the battered boy running away, eyes round.

 

The first boy seemed to shake off his shock, and made a grab for her hair. She elbowed him in the gut, and he backed off, arms wrapped around his stomach, but the second boy was able to grab her, curling his hand in her hair and pulling hard enough that Kara involuntarily gasped. She managed to shove an elbow in his side, but he just twisted his fist harder.

 

“Should’ve stayed out of it, bitch,” he hissed into her ear as Kara tried to twist out of his grip. This was one reason why Kara preferred her hair up or under a hat—it had always been better in fights. He curled a hand around her throat, his fingers digging in hard. Kara’s eyes widened.

 

Before he could do anything else, he suddenly let go of Kara, drawing back with a groan. Kara fell to her knees, palms hitting the snowy ground. She looked up.

 

The boy who had grabbed her was cradling the side of his head.

 

Lena was standing above Kara, fist clenched and skin on her knuckles a little broken. Her jaw was set, glaring daggers towards the boy that had just been choking Kara.

 

Kara’s heart was in her throat. She didn’t think she had loved anyone more in her life. She couldn’t possibly have—no one else made her feel this way, this bright and loud and impossible feeling building in her chest.

 

“What?” Lena asked, seeing Kara’s awed look, probably mistaking it for confusion. “I’m a Luthor.”

 

Kara heard a slightly hysterical giggle leave her throat, and in the next second, Lena was grabbing her arm and tugging her up and into a run. They ran and ran until they were out of the woods and into the main park, collapsing onto the ground a few feet away from a family of four playing in the newly fallen snow.

 

“I didn’t know you knew how to punch,” Kara said breathlessly.

 

Lena laughed, a light blush covering her features, probably from the cold.

 

“My mama taught me,” Lena explained, eyes sparkling. “Told me no one should ever mess with a Luthor, and, even if I wasn’t raised a Luthor, I still have Luthor blood. So I should know how to defend myself.”

 

“You’re my hero,” Kara said, blunt and honest, eyes soft, lips curled into a small grin.

 

Lena laughed like she didn’t know how much Kara meant it, and Kara guessed she didn’t. She couldn’t possibly know how much Kara loved her, how much Kara admired her, how strong Kara thought she was.

 

Kara rolled onto her side, wrapped an arm around Lena and pulled her into a hug. Kara thought they must have looked strange, two almost teenage girls curled around each other on the ground in the park, but she didn’t care. She didn’t think there was anything on Earth that could bring her to care in that moment.

 

“I mean it,” Kara mumbled into Lena’s neck, tightening her grip. “Don’t know what I’d do without you.”

 

“Probably die,” Lena conceded, and Kara could feel Lena’s smile against the top of her head.

 

Kara laughed, chest tight with a feeling Kara couldn’t even begin to describe.

 

Later, when they went back to Lena’s apartment, Lena wrapped Kara’s knuckles like she always did, sweet and careful, while Kara looked at her, couldn’t believe she really existed.

 

Kara bandaged Lena’s knuckles in exchange. When she was finished, she pressed a kiss to the bandage. Lena’s eyes were bright. Kara loved her.)

 

 

Lena manages to reach over and snatch one of Kara’s finished comic strips from the growing pile next to her bed. She reads it over, then turns to Kara, a light smirk playing on her lips.

 

“Looks like Lutessa has a mean right hook,” Lena says, gesturing to a panel wherein Lutessa is punching Supergirl’s enemy of the comic, and the next panel where he’s on the ground, knocked unconscious.

 

(There was another part to this panel that Kara had drawn while Lena was asleep. It was Supergirl, standing over the unconscious alien, awed.

 

“You did it, Lutessa!” Supergirl had exclaimed. “You’re my hero!”

 

Kara had looked over at Lena, sleeping peacefully next to her, lungs still rattling with every breath.

 

She erased it.)

 

“So she is based on you,” Kara relents, grinning over at Lena. “Couldn’t think of anyone else someone based off me would want to fight crime with.”

 

A week later, Kara brings up their conversation from when she thought Lena was going to die. Lena’s brows furrow.

 

“I don’t remember anything before you started drawing me those comics,” Lena admits, throat still raspy. “I didn’t even know my ma called a priest until she told me about it yesterday.”

 

Kara thinks her heart’s stopped. Lena doesn’t remember what Kara said to her, what it had taken Kara years for Kara to build up the courage to say.

 

“Was there something we talked about?” Lena asks, eyes curious.

 

Kara swallows hard. Her mind races. She takes a shaky breath.

 

“No,” she says, forcing a smile. “Just a lot of me begging you not to die.”

 

Lena laughs at that, but it turns into a cough. It’s nowhere near as bad as it had been, but it’s still enough to make Kara feel a little sick.

 

“Wish I remembered that,” Lena says, grinning. “I’d have held it over you forever.”

 

Kara barks a laugh. “Then I’m really glad you don’t.”

 

Kara promises herself, then, that she’s going to tell Lena. Once Lena gets better, she’ll tell her.

 


 

 

Lena gets better, but Lena’s mother gets sick.

 

Lena is still recovering when Lena’s mother develops a cough that she can’t seem to shake. It’s wet and rough, and Lena feels fear grip her entire body when a week passes and it only gets worse.

 

Her mother gets diagnosed with tuberculosis a few days later. She gets taken into the ward in the hospital she’d been working in for the past twenty five years of her life. She dies there the next month.

 

 

(Lena isn’t allowed to visit her. Kara comes by every night, holds Lena while she cries and cries and prays her mother will get better.

 

Before her mother had been taken to the ward, she’d told Lena to be strong, to know that no matter what happened, she’d always be with her. (Lena doesn’t think she knows how to be strong on her own.)

 

Her mother had asked to talk to Kara alone, then. Kara had come out of the bedroom, eyes filled with tears. She hadn’t told Lena what her mother had said to her, had just curled up on the couch, buried her face in her arms, cried silently.

 

Years later, Kara tells her: She told me to look out for you. That she was so glad that you had me, that she was so grateful you’d found me when we first met. That she loved me like a daughter, and she loved both of us no matter what. That she just wanted us to be happy, that she wanted me to make sure you would be. I promised her I would.

 

Lena tells her: I wish she were here to see how happy I am now.)

 

 

Her funeral is a small affair that Lena barely even registers. There’s a weight in her chest, pressing down so hard she can barely breathe. She doesn’t cry, just stares blankly at the coffin being lowered into the ground, doesn’t even feel Kara’s hand gripping hers.

 

Kara follows her back to her apartment—really just her apartment now—but doesn’t say anything. Lena is grateful. She doesn’t think she would’ve been able to handle it.

 

It’s 1937. Lena graduated high school only a month ago. Kara just finished her first year of art school. Her mother is dead.

 

Lena fumbles with her key when she tries to unlock her door, and she can finally feel tears dripping down her face.

 

A hand grips hers, and Lena realizes only then how hard her hands were shaking.

 

“I’ve got it,” Kara says softly. She picks up the key and opens the door, guides Lena inside and onto the couch.

 

“Is this how you felt?” Lena asks after a long moment, trying desperately to rub the tears off her face.

 

“What?” Kara asks. She isn’t wearing her glasses and her eyes are rimmed red. They look wet, still. Lena thinks she’s holding back tears for her sake.

 

“When your family died,” Lena elaborates, looking down at her hands. “Did you feel this alone?”

 

Kara’s face changes. She purses her lips, her eyebrows furrow, her eyes turn even sadder.

 

“You aren’t alone, Lena,” Kara promises. “You have me. You’re always gonna have me.” She takes a breath. “I only felt alone until I had you.”

 

Kara pulls her in close, curls an arm around Lena until she’s tucked into her side. Lena sucks in a sharp breath, feels tears drip down her cheeks and a sob catch in her throat.

 

“When I lost my family, I was only three,” Kara continues, softly, running a hand down Lena’s side, up and down, while Lena sobs into her neck. “I remember sitting in the orphanage, realizing I was never going to see them again, not really getting why. I felt so alone, like I had nobody, and I really was alone.” Kara pauses, her voice catching, but Lena hardly notices. “When I met you, and your ma, I finally didn’t feel so alone anymore. You treated me like I was family.” She laughs, a sharp thing. “I always wished your ma could be mine, too.”

 

“She wanted to adopt you,” Lena admits, looking down at her hands. “I used to beg her, actually. I could always tell how badly she wanted to give in, thought if I pushed hard enough she would. But we couldn’t afford it.”

 

“Your mother was a great woman,” Kara says, and even though Lena can’t see her, she can tell she’s started crying again.

 

Lena feels something tighten in her chest, and abruptly pulls out of Kara’s arms, getting to her feet. She grits her teeth, her hands curl into fists.

 

“This is my father’s fault,” Lena growls, her nails digging so hard into her palms that it stings. She doesn’t care. “My mother had to work insane hours in the tuberculosis ward every day of the week just to keep us alive! If that bastard actually cared about me, or her, at all he wouldn’t have left us to die while he sat up in his mansion and became the richest man on Earth!”

 

Kara blinks up at her.

 

“He probably doesn’t even remember her!” Lena shouts at nothing, so angry she thinks she might explode. “She’s dead, and he couldn’t even send a fucking card? Some fucking flowers? It’s his fault she died!”

 

Lena doesn’t even think about it, she grabs the nearest thing to her—a glass of water—and throws it across the room. It shatters, and the glass scatters across the floor.

 

“Jesus Christ, Lena!” Kara yelps, jumping off the couch.

 

“What a piece of shit!” Lena screams, feeling herself sinking to the floor. “What a piece of shit.”

 

The next thing Lena registers, she’s on the floor, her face tucked into Kara’s neck, and sobs wracking her body. She’s whimpering, “It’s not fair, it’s not fair.” over and over, and Kara is petting her hair, whispering soothing words into her ear, her own tears dripping into Lena’s hair.

 

“There’s nothing you can do,” Kara says eventually, once Lena can breathe again. “You just have to keep going. It’s hard now, but you’re gonna get through this, I know you will. You’re the strongest woman I know.” Kara’s mouth brushes against the top of Lena’s head, barely even a real kiss. “And you’re gonna have me the whole time, always. I’m always gonna be here for you.”

 

But Lena knows there is something she can do.

 

Kara stays over that night, curling around Lena in bed even though it isn’t winter. In the morning, Lena carefully moves out from under Kara’s arm, gets dressed, and heads out.

 

It’s a long walk to Luthor mansion, almost an hour because it’s on the outskirts of the city, but Lena makes it there by eight in the morning. She walks right up to the door, knocks.

 

A young blond woman answers, and Lena immediately guesses she’s a maid. She gives Lena an appraising look.

 

“Can I help you?” she asks, voice dull and unenthusiastic.

 

“Yes,” Lena answers, politely. “I’m here to see Lionel Luthor.”

 

The maid raises an eyebrow.

 

“Tell him his daughter, Lena, is here to see him,” Lena says, a little bit forced.

 

Both eyebrows shoot up at that, but the maid just nods, closing the door and promising to be back in a moment.

 

She does come back, and Lena is almost surprised. She opens the door and gestures mutely for Lena to enter.

 

The inside is impressive. Everything looks old and beautiful and expensive, and Lena briefly entertains the thought of what it would have been like to grow up here. She pushes it away, glad for her small apartment with her mom and the fire escape and Kara Danvers rushing in whenever she wanted.

 

The maid leads Lena down a long hallway and to a door, which she carefully pushes open. Inside is a study with a desk and a man sitting behind it.

 

Lena’s never seen her father in real life, only in newspapers. When she looks at him, she feels nothing but dull rage.

 

“Lena,” Lionel Luthor greets, looking her over. “I have to say, I’m surprised to see you.” He gestures for her to take a seat.

 

She ignores it.

 

“I’m sure,” Lena intones. “You haven’t seen me since...never?”

 

Lionel laughs, like Lena is making a joke. He opens his mouth to respond, but Lena cuts him off.

 

“My mother died,” Lena tells him bluntly. “The funeral was yesterday.”

 

Lionel’s eyebrows raise, and he seems genuinely surprised, like he hadn’t known. Lena doesn’t believe him.

 

“Did she?” Lionel asks, sympathy coloring his tone. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

 

“I’m sure you are,” Lena says, voice flat. “But I didn’t come here for your condolences.”

 

She unfolds a letter from her pocket, places it down on his desk.

 

Lionel raises an eyebrow at her, but still picks up the letter. He reads over it slowly. When he finishes, Lena can see an impressed glint in his eye.

 

“MIT, Lena?” Lionel asks, and he even sounds impressed. “You truly are a Luthor.”

 

Lena bites back a reply that she’s only a Luthor in name, that anything she’s ever done has been despite her being a Luthor, not because of it. That anything good about her, anything to be proud of, came from her mother.

 

“I guess I am,” Lena says instead. “I need you to pay for it.”

 

Lionel smiles, shakes his head. “I suppose that I shouldn’t be surprised that the first time we talk you ask for money.”

 

Lena smiles back, baring her teeth.

 

“Maybe you should’ve gotten in contact sooner,” Lena says. “We could’ve bonded first.”

 

Lionel laughs. “You know, you’re a real spitfire. Just like your mother.”

 

Lena has to click her teeth together to stop herself from screaming that he doesn’t have the right to talk about her mother like he ever really knew her.

 

“I’ll pay for you to go,” Lionel finally agrees. “I’ll even give you access to your trust fund.” Lena raises her eyebrows at that. “I just hope you’ll remember where you come from.”

 

“Oh, I will,” Lena promises. She picks the letter up off his desk, and promptly turns to leave.

 

“You look just like her, your mother,” Lionel ponders, as soon as Lena reaches the door. She pauses. “You even sound like her, I can hear her accent in your voice.” Lena turns back to look at him, and their eyes meet. Lionel’s eyes are cold, and Lena wonders if they ever turn warm. “But you’re still a Luthor. You don’t look like one, but you’re sharp. You think like a Luthor.”

 

“You don’t know me,” Lena snaps before she can stop herself. “I’m a Luthor by blood and nothing else.”

 

Lionel nods, but it’s condescending, like Lena is a child he’s trying to appease.

 

“You’ll enjoy MIT,” Lionel says, as if he knows anything about what she likes. And, like before, “Just don’t forget what got you there.”

 

Lena thinks she should regret asking him for the money at that, a thinly veiled suggestion that he will want something in return in the future, but she doesn’t. She knows exactly what got her here, and it certainly wasn’t being a Luthor. Lionel Luthor has no sway over her.

 

“I’ve spent my whole life hating you for abandoning me and my mom,” Lena tells him. “I think this is the least you could do, especially now that she’s dead.” She doesn’t blame him for it, like she wants to. She doesn’t even think he would care.

 

To her surprise, Lionel smiles. “You’ll understand one day.”

 

Lena doubts that. She doesn’t say goodbye, just leaves his office and closes the door behind her.

 

“He’s a real bastard, isn’t he?” a voice says from down the hallway.

 

Lena whips around, and a strikingly bald man a few years older than Lena is walking towards her, hands stuffed in his pockets.

 

“I’m Lex,” he says, holding out a hand. Lena shakes it, reluctantly. “I suppose I’m your brother.”

 

“Don’t worry,” Lena says. “I’m not looking to join in on any family get-togethers.”

 

Lex laughs and nods. “I get it. Just here for the money. I wish it were that easy for me.”

 

Something about him sets Lena on edge. She gives him a forced smile. “Well, I have to be going.”

 

Lex nods. “Take this. Trust me when I say I’m a lot easier to work with than our father.” He presses something into her hand.

 

She looks down at it. A phone number.

 

“Right,” Lena says. She stuffs it in her pocket. “It was nice meeting you.”

 

Lex hums. “I look forward to seeing you again.”

 

Lena nods absently, moves past him and through the hallway.

 

She thinks she trusts him less than she does her father.

 

Lena arrives back at her apartment by nine-thirty, and when she opens the door, Kara looks frantic.

 

“Jesus, Lena!” Kara exclaims when she sees her, pulling her into a swift hug. “Where the hell did you go?”

 

“Visited my father,” Lena tells her, casual. Kara pulls back, her eyes bug. “I’m moving to Massachusetts.”

 


 

 

It doesn’t surprise Lena that Kara wants to go with her, that she finds a nice arts school nearby where she plans to switch her major to journalism.

 

(“I was planning to transfer, anyway,” Kara told her, once Lena gave her a knowing look. “I love art, but I want to make a difference. I want to help people. With everything that’s going on, I can’t just do nothing.

 

Lena knows. It’s something Kara’s always said. Lena wouldn’t expect anything less from her.)

 


So, they move. Kara says a tearful goodbye to the Danvers (not Alex, who had already moved away for college two years ago), and they take the long train ride to Massachusetts. They find a small apartment right between their respective schools. Lionel kept his word, and Lena uses some money from her unexpectedly hefty trust fund for the down payment on it.

 

Part of Lena doesn’t want to use the money at all, knowing where it came from. It feels dirty. But another part of her, a much bigger part, knows what it was like to go days without eating, to spend the winter in ratty clothes that were barely warm enough in the fall, let alone when it was snowing. She can’t resist the chance to finally be able to afford to live.

 

Kara still insists on getting a job, despite Lena being able to afford to pay for the both of them for now. She gets one as a waitress at a nearby diner, and Lena often finds herself going there to study, sitting in the booth in the back and ordering coffee, Kara coming by and sitting across from her during her breaks.

 

Lena always leaves a big tip, and leaves before Kara can stop her. When Kara finishes her shift and comes home, she always says, “I don’t need you to leave me money.” Lena always responds, “The service was just so good. I couldn’t help it.”

 

Lena excels at MIT. Despite the odds being against her, she’s the head of her class. She spends almost all of her free time studying, but she loves it.

 

It’s September of 1938, and they’ve finally settled in their new home. Kara recently applied for a more permanent job, as secretary to Cat Grant, a very well known journalist with her own newspaper, and something about it makes Lena so happy she thinks she may start glowing. She’s proud of Kara, of course, but knowing that Kara wanted to stay, was trying to get a job that might eventually start a career for her where Lena lives, makes Lena want to beam.

 

They’re sitting on the couch one night, listening to the radio, Kara’s head in Lena’s lap. It’s too early in the year for either of them to have any studying or school related work, and Kara finished her shift at the diner an hour ago.

 

The program is rather boring, and Lena finds herself running her fingers through Kara’s hair, paying more attention to how soft it is, how it feels running between her fingers. Kara’s eyes are closed, and Lena lets herself shamelessly scan her eyes over her face, memorizing her for what feels like the thousandth time.

 

“We’ve been friends for eleven years, you know,” Kara says, eyes still closed. There’s a light smile on her lips.

 

Lena hums in response. She keeps petting Kara’s hair.

 

“You’re always gonna be my best girl,” Kara tells her, voice soft. “My best person.”

 

“Yeah?” Lena asks, smiling down at Kara, eyes fond. She loves Kara so much she feels it with every breath.

 

Kara turns her head, nuzzles her nose along Lena’s stomach as she nods. “My sweetheart.”

 

Lena’s fingers freeze. Kara sits up.

 

Lena’s heart beats hard in her chest. It’s the first time since they kissed three years ago that Kara’s hinted towards feeling the same for Lena as Lena does for her.

 

After that kiss and the movie date afterwards, after Kara had never mentioned it again or said anything else, Lena gave up on the idea that Kara would ever want to be with her that way, and, even if Kara did, that she would be willing to take the risk.

 

Lena hadn’t even tried to move on. She knew she would never love anyone like she loves Kara. She didn’t think it would be worth it to try.

 

 

(Well, she had tried, once.

 

When she was seventeen, before she came down with pneumonia, Lena had met a girl in her physics class.

 

Her name was Karen. Her hair was blond and cropped short and she had the type of grin that said she loved a good adventure. She was a year older than Lena (she’d dropped out of school for a year, had to go to work during the height of the Depression to help support her family, had come back the first chance she got, only a year behind), smart and mature and fun. She reminded Lena of Kara so much that looking at her almost hurt.

 

They worked together on a project for class, and had become quite close. When they went to Karen’s apartment to work, he would look at Lena, trace the line of her jaw and the curve of her lips in a way that told Lena that she was like her. That she wanted Lena in the way that Kara didn’t.

 

When they’d finished their project, Karen had still asked if she wanted to come to her apartment next week, like they had been, and Lena had been thrilled, had been thrumming in anticipation so much that Kara had noticed, frowned and asked, “What’s got you all worked up?”

 

Lena had told her it was nothing, but Kara had seemed tense for the rest of the week.

 

When she went to Karen’s place, they’d sat on Karen’s old beat up couch, and Karen had brushed Lena’s hair out of her face, ran her thumb along her cheekbone.

 

Lena surged forward and kissed her, clumsy and unpracticed, and Karen had laughed against her lips. She cupped her face (like Kara had), tilted her head at just the right angle (like Kara had), nipped at her lower lip (like Kara had).

 

Lena breathed, “Kara.”

 

Karen jerked away, eyes wide and hurt. Lena’s mouth fell open, and she spluttered an apology as quickly as she could, unsure what to say aside from, “I know your name, I promise!” A beat. “I might be in love with my best friend named Kara.”

 

Karen blinked at her, then bust out laughing. She patted Lena’s leg, told her she clearly had a lot to work through, to let her know when she got over her friend, that she’d love to see her again when she had.

 

Lena never saw her again, once they no longer had class together. She didn’t think it would be worth it to try to be with someone again, not when she was still in love with Kara. She didn’t think she ever wouldn’t be.)

 

 

“I meant to bring it up again,” Kara begins, and Lena has no idea what she’s talking about. “I did, I swear. I wanted to wait ‘til you were better, and then your ma got sick, and then we moved and it just never felt like the right time, and I was still scared, even though you said you wanted me. You were delirious at the time, and I thought maybe that’s why, couldn’t think of why else. And I just didn’t know how to bring it up, so I—”

 

“Kara,” Lena breaks in, completely overwhelmed. “What the hell are you talking about?”

 

Kara takes a breath, steadies herself.

 

“When you had pneumonia, when it got really bad, I went to see you,” Kara explains, pointedly not meeting Lena’s eyes. “And I told you that I was y—”

 

The phone rings, a sharp, shrill sound that stops Kara instantly. Her head shoots up, and she rushes to pick it up.

 

Lena had bought the phone for Kara’s birthday so that she could talk to Alex and the rest of her family. In this moment, Lena regrets it.

 

“Hello?” Kara says. “Yes, it is.” A pause. “Really?” Another pause. “As soon as next Monday.” Kara smiles so wide her nose scrunches. “Thank you so much! I’ll see you then!”

 

Kara hangs up the phone, grins up at the ceiling, and flops down on the couch. She looks over at Lena, eyes bright.

 

“I got the job!” Kara practically squeals, and Lena doesn’t think she’s heard Kara be this excited in a long time. It’s infectious.

 

Lena throws herself across the couch, pulling Kara into a tight hug. Kara’s glasses knock into her cheek.

 

“I’m so proud of you!” Lena exclaims, and she is, she really is. She’s so proud of her, so happy for her, she thinks she might burst.

 

“I’m gonna have to quit my job at the diner,” Kara muses, then, “And what do I wear? Dammit, I only own three dresses that still fit. Ms. Grant would probably find pants too casual, wouldn’t she? I’m gonna have to go shopping.” She groans. “Jesus, I hate dresses.”

 

Lena pulls back enough to see Kara’s face—she looks panicked, unsurprisingly—and says, “Kara, calm down. You just got this job! You should be celebrating!”

 

“Right, you’re right,” Kara agrees, and visibly brightens. “I’m never gonna work a six hour shift at a crowded diner ever again in a few days!”

 

Lena laughs and heads to the kitchen to grab the bottle of champagne that Alex had bought them when she came to visit earlier in the year, a celebration for finishing a year of college. They hadn’t drank it all at the time, Alex having to take the train back the next morning and not wanting to be hungover on the long ride, and Kara and Lena not wanting to get drunk while Alex wasn’t.

 

She pours them each a glass, which quickly turns to two, and then three.

 

They forget about their conversation from before under the haze of excitement and alcohol. It won’t be brought up again until months later.

 


 

 

Kara excels at her new job. She’s great at it, and she gushes about how amazing Ms. Grant is, how much she is learning from her.

 

(After a few glasses of wine, one night, Kara tearfully admits that Cat Grant calls her Kiera and talks down to her like almost everyone did when she was an orphan. Kara says she doesn’t mind, that she thinks that Cat really likes her and will offer her a job once she’s finished her schooling, but Lena can’t help but hate the woman for making Kara cry.)

 

Lena’s morning biochemistry course gets cancelled six months after Kara gets her new job. She wishes she were glad, but it’s cold outside and there’s nothing she has to do when she gets back to their apartment. She sits down on the couch, and wonders if a long nap is what she needs.

 

Kara’s sketchpad is sitting on the table, and Lena doesn’t even think about it when she picks it up and opens it. It’s something she’s always done; Kara had never told her she couldn’t look in one of her drawing pads.

 

The first sketch is one of Lena curled up on the couch and reading a biology textbook. Lena smiles, running her finger along the delicate lines Kara used to draw her.

 

She flips to the next page, and it’s another sketch of Lena. This time she’s looking out the window, her chin resting on her palm.

 

She keeps looking through the book, eyebrows furrowing further with each page. She closes the book and sets it back down on the table. The book was about halfway full, and every single sketch was of her.

 

She rises from the couch and heads into their shared bedroom. She opens Kara’s drawer where she keeps her sketchbooks, and pulls out the top one.

 

She skims through this one, too, and, while not all of them are of Lena, most of them are. Something about it makes Lena’s heart beat hard in her chest, her palms sweat.

 

Her next sketchbook is filled with comic panels. They’re comic strips of Supergirl, the character Kara had invented while Lena was sick. Lena hadn’t even known Kara still drew her.

 

She turns to the last page. There’s eight panels, all of Supergirl and Lutessa, her scientist sidekick Kara had based on Lena, standing in front of the Grand Canyon.

 

“Now that we’ve defeated Reign, I thought we could use a vacation,” Supergirl says in the first panel.

 

“You always did promise to take me to the Grand Canyon, one day,” Lutessa says in the next. Underneath, Supergirl replies, “I did.”

 

The third panel is the two looking out over the view of the canyon, just silhouettes.

 

“It’s beautiful,” Lutessa marvels in panel four. “It’s all right,” Supergirl responds.

 

“You don’t like it?” Lutessa asks in panel five. They’re looking at each other now, Lutessa confused, Supergirl mouth turned up in a small grin, eyes soft.

 

“It’s nothing compared to you,” Supergirl admits in panel six. Lutessa is smiling now, too, the same soft look in her eye.

 

In panel seven, Lutessa is holding Supergirl’s face in her hands. “You’re a sap,” she teases.

 

In the last panel, they kiss. Lena drops the book.

 

It hits the floor with a loud clatter, but it doesn’t even register to Lena. Her head is swimming, her heart is beating so hard it feels like it’s in her throat.

 

It’s the first time in her life, since she was eight years old and fell in love with the brave and kind and fun orphan who saved her from a bully and made her happier than anyone else in the world, that she’s ever truly considered that Kara could love her back like that.

 

She wishes that Kara were here, that Kara didn’t have classes until ten and work until six. She doesn’t even know what she would do if she were. She thinks she might kiss her.

 

She tries to busy herself, after that. She puts Kara’s sketchbooks back in their drawer, tries to push away the guilt for having looked at them in the first place. She knows she shouldn’t have, but she was so used to being able to look through Kara’s stuff her whole life, she hadn’t even imagined that Kara would draw something like that.

 

She cleans the entire apartment in an attempt to distract herself. It doesn’t work. She thinks of Kara the whole time, the way Kara leans against the kitchen counter in the morning, a coffee mug tucked between her hands, the way she lies across the couch, spreads herself across it, the way she hung a picture of the two of them and Alex on the wall, turned and smiled wide at Lena after she did, the way she had built the shelf on the other wall, had put a nail between her lips while she pounded in another with the hammer, the way Lena couldn’t stop staring at her while she did it. Lena’s entire life has Kara written all over it; it’s impossible to go even ten minutes without thinking of her.

 

Kara is back by six thirty. Lena jumps off the couch when hears the lock in the door, smoothing out her skirt nervously.

 

“Hey, Lena,” Kara greets when she enters, dropping her back by the door. Lena’s eyes drag over her. She loves the way Kara looks in her work clothes, today nice pants and a blue button up shirt.

 

When Lena doesn’t respond, Kara gives her a funny look.

 

“You okay?” Kara asks, and suddenly Lena’s heart is in her throat, her mouth has gone dry. She swallows hard, nods.

 

But Kara looks worried. She comes closer, looking Lena over as if trying to find what’s wrong with her.

 

Part of Lena just wants to kiss her, but she figures that that isn’t the right way to go about this.

 

Instead, “I love you.”

 

Kara looks confused, but smiles.

 

“I love you, too,” Kara replies easily. “What’s this about?”

 

Lena lets out a frustrated breath. “No, I mean—” She shakes her head. “I found your comic.”

 

Kara’s brows crease.

 

“The one at the Grand Canyon,” Lena clarifies, and she can see panic flood Kara’s eyes as they widen. “I didn’t mean to pry, but—”

 

“No, uh, it’s fine,” Kara says, swallows once. “I was going to share it with you someday, anyway.”

 

“I still shouldn’t have looked. I’m sorry,” Lena says anyway, and Kara waves it off. Then, “Why do you draw me so much?”

 

Kara ducks her head, looks down at her shoes.

 

“I told you, you’re my favorite model,” Kara says, and, Lena does know that, but she doesn’t know why.

 

So, “Why?” she asks, ducking her own head so that she can meet Kara’s eyes.

 

Kara licks her lips.

 

“I’ve always liked to draw things I find beautiful,” Kara says. She sounds nervous. “You’ve always been the most beautiful thing I could think to draw.” Lena feels her breath quicken, her chest aches, and she wants to kiss Kara, she wants to so badly, but— “That’s why I made that list, all those years ago, of things I wanted to draw you with. I wanted to see if there was anywhere or anything I could find that was more beautiful than you. But nothing ever compared.”

 

This time, Lena does kiss her. She curls her hand around Kara’s neck, pulls her down just right so that their lips meet. It’s soft and sweet and everything that Lena has wanted for what feels like her whole life.

 

Kara pulls away after only a moment, murmurs, “I’m sorry.”

 

Lena’s heart stops. “Kara, please don’t.” She can’t do this again; she can’t let Kara break her heart again.

 

Kara shakes her head. “I didn’t mean it like that.” Lena lets out a breath she didn’t even realize she was holding. “I meant...I’m sorry that I said no the last time. I just...I wasn’t ready before. I am now. Promise.”

 

Lena thinks she knows what she means, even if she had been willing to risk everything for this since she met Kara. She knows things were different for Kara, can now vaguely imagine what that nun had punished her for when she found her drawings.

 

“It’s okay,” Lena promises, sliding her hand up from Kara’s neck to cup her cheek. Kara leans into the touch, and it makes Lena’s heart skip a beat. “I would’ve been willing to wait my whole life if I had to, just for a moment like this.”

 

Kara laughs, and it almost sounds a little teary.

 

“When you were sick,” Kara begins, voice soft, “I told you that if you wanted me, I was yours. You said you did.” Kara takes a breath. “That day, when I thought I was gonna lose you, it was what made me realize that I’d be willing to take the risk to be with you. That no matter how dangerous it might be, I’d rather be with you than be safe and spend my whole life miserable, wondering what it would’ve been like if I had just taken the chance.”

 

Lena’s heart feels like it’s bursting in her chest. It aches so much it’s almost painful, and she can feel her breath catch and tears well in her eyes. She never could’ve even imagined that Kara could love her like that, like this. It’s like something out of a dream that she would never want to wake up from.

 

But, “I don’t remember that,” Lena says, confused, because she’s sure she would’ve remembered that, wouldn’t have waited another almost three years to be with Kara if she had.

 

“I know,” Kara replies, a little sheepish. “You were delirious when it happened, I think. I told myself that I would tell you once you got better, but with everything that happened...”

 

It’s like a light bulb goes off. “Is that what you were going to tell me right before you got the call about your job?” Lena asks.

 

Kara nods, and, just, something about the whole situation, makes Lena laugh hard enough that tears bud in her eyes and she can hardly breathe.

 

To know that they had been pining for each other for years, for some reason both unwilling to tell the other, is just frustrating enough to be hilarious.

 

“What is it?” Kara asks, clearly lost.

 

Lena just shakes her head, murmurs a sweet, “I love you.” then wraps her arms around Kara’s neck and kisses her, soundly. Kara smiles against her lips, curls her arms around Lena’s waist.

 

And then, Kara sucks Lena’s bottom lip between her teeth, bites down hard enough that Lena can’t stop the throaty moan that she makes. Lena’s lips part and the kiss becomes something different, passionate and intense and nothing like any of the other kisses they’ve shared. Warmth pools in the pit of her stomach, and she knows she wants more more more until Kara has nothing left to give her, until Lena has nothing left to give in return.

 

She parts their lips so she can catch her breath, dips her head forward until their foreheads touch, eyes still closed.

 

“Take me to bed?” Lena rasps, practically panting around the words.

 

“It’s only seven,” Kara says, but Lena can hear the teasing lilt to her voice. It doesn’t stop Lena from giving her a light smack on the arm, rolling her eyes.

 

“For that, I’ve changed my mind,” Lena states, turning around and moving out of Kara’s grip.

 

Kara doesn’t let her, wrapping her arms tighter around Lena’s waist. She pulls her back against her, so that Lena’s back is pressed firmly against Kara’s front.

 

Kara presses a kiss against Lena’s neck, and it sends a shiver down her spine. She closes her eyes.

 

“‘M sorry, sweetheart,” Kara whispers, her lips moving Lena’s skin. Lena isn’t sure if it’s that or the pet name that makes her breath hitch. “You have no idea how badly I want to take you to bed. Want to get my mouth all over you, every part of you.”

 

An involuntary whimper leaves Lena’s lips, and she can feel Kara’s lips curl in response. She kisses Lena’s neck again, scrapes her teeth against her throat.

 

“Well,” Lena manages to get out, despite barely having breathed in the last two minutes. “What are you waiting for?”

 

Kara laughs, her breath tickling Lena’s skin, then pulls Lena towards their bedroom, hearts beating in sync, loud and hard and happy.

 

Later, much later, when they’re both in bed, skin touching everywhere, Lena’s face tucked under Kara’s chin and Kara’s fingers carding through Lena’s hair, she finally discovers a word for that feeling in her chest, the one she’s felt whenever she’s looked at Kara since she was only twelve years old.

 

It’s just ineffable.

 


 

 

Being together isn’t easy, but it’s still the best thing in Lena’s life.

 

They’re good at hiding, have been their whole lives. They never get much more than the sweet old woman, Mildred, in the apartment across from them telling them how lovely they are, wondering, “When will you two find some nice boys to settle down with?”

 

Kara had grinned once, feeling bold. “I don’t think either of us have any plans for that anytime soon.”

 

Lena had frozen, but Mildred had laughed like she understood.

 

“I get it,” she winked, giving them both a wry smile. “Men are such a handful. It’s a lot easier on your own.”

 

Kara finishes school and gets a job at Catco. She’s graduated one day before Cat is offering her a job as a junior journalist, and Kara kisses Lena in her excitement, exclaims, “I knew Cat liked me!”

 

Lena keeps with her schooling, plans to go all the way for her doctorate. She wants to be taken seriously in her field, one that Lena isn’t even sure has even seen a woman before.

 

It’s hard, but when Lena gets stressed, when she begins to wonder if it’s worth it, Kara will press kisses to her skin, tell her how proud she is of her, and Lena will find it in herself to keep going.

 

It’s July of 1947, and Lena notices that Kara is in a particularly good mood from the moment they wake up that morning curled together. A smile seems to be permanently fixed on her face, her eyes are shining, and every time she looks at Lena she leans over to kiss her, usually on the mouth, a few times on the cheek or the top of her head, and one time on the nose. Lena bats her away when she does that, and they both giggle like they’re little kids again.

 

That night, Kara pulls out the record player and asks Lena to dance. Lena raises a brow, but takes her hand anyway.

 

The music begins to play, and Lena immediately recognizes it as Fred Astaire’s Cheek to Cheek.

 

“Trying to relive old memories?” Lena asks with a laugh, but she still lets Kara spin her and sing softly into her ear.

 

“We met twenty years ago, today, you know,” Kara tells her, voice soft and happy.

 

Lena feels her own face soften.

 

“Twenty years, huh?” Lena ponders. It feels like she met Kara yesterday, like they had only been playing on her fire escape back in National City a few hours ago, and Lena was still lying in her bed, butterflies in her stomach, and missing Kara even though she barely knew her.

 

“Yeah,” Kara says, twirling Lena again. “I’m so glad I met you.”

 

Lena rocks up onto her tiptoes, kisses Kara with as much love as she can muster.

 

“You have no idea how glad I am,” Lena says, but she thinks Kara probably has at least an inkling, feels it herself. “I love you so much.”

 

Kara lips curl, and it makes her eyes crinkle and Lena’s chest ache like she’s a teenager again. She pulls Lena close, until they’re cheek to cheek, still swaying.

 

“Marry me,” Kara breathes, nudging her nose along Lena’s cheekbone. “Please.”

 

Lena’s eyes widen and she pulls back enough to look at Kara. She lets out an almost hysterical laugh when she sees how serious she looks.

 

“You know we can’t get married,” Lena points out, as much as she wishes it weren’t true, as much as she is desperate to say yes and let themselves live that fantasy for just a few minutes.

 

“Legally we can’t, but...” Kara trails off, licks her lips. “That doesn’t matter. It’s you and me here right now, and I want to call you my wife.” She tugs Lena close again, buries her face in Lena’s hair. “Please, Lena. Please say you’ll marry me.”

 

 

(It was 1928, and Kara and Lena were sitting in Lena’s bedroom, reading a book.

 

“I dunno if I wanna get married,” Kara mused, crinkling her nose at the book, where a woman was about to be wed.

 

“Why not?” Lena asked, surprised. She had never even considered not getting married. She’d always dreamed of getting to wear a big, beautiful, poof-y wedding dress and walking down the aisle.

 

Kara shrugged. “Doesn’t seem like fun. Just seems like a lot of work.”

 

Lena slammed the book shut, gave Kara a serious look.

 

“That’s why it’s so romantic!” Lena insisted. “It’s hard, but you love the other person so much that it doesn’t matter! That’s why my mama says that you’re supposed to marry your best friend.”

 

Kara pondered that for a moment.

 

“I guess that means that we’re gonna have to get married,” Kara decided. Lena smiled.

 

“Okay,” Lena agreed easily. “But you’re gonna have to ask better than that or I’m gonna say no.”

 

Kara frowned. “What d’you mean?”

 

Lena sighed, exasperated, and gestures towards the book.

 

“Like in the book!” Lena said. “He got down on one knee before he asked and everything. If you wanna marry me, you’re gonna have to do that at least.”

 

Kara rolled her eyes, but grinned.

 

“I don’t think I wanna marry you anymore,” Kara teased, and Lena shoved at her, snapping, “Shut up, I’m gonna be a great wife!” as she giggled.

 

Later, at dinner, Lena said to her mother, “Me and Kara are gonna get married one day.”

 

Lena’s mother paused, said slowly, “You can’t marry Kara, love.”

 

Lena crossed her arms, angry. “Why not?” she snapped. “You told me you’re supposed to marry your best friend!”

 

“You’re both girls,” her mother pointed out, delicately. “Two girls can’t marry each other.”

 

“Why not?” Lena asked indignantly. She wanted to marry Kara, couldn’t see why them both bring girls would make a difference. “I love her.”

 

Her mother looked at her for a long moment, then smiled, sad.

 

“Well, if you love her,” her mother relented, reaching over to brush a hand down Lena’s dark hair. “I guess you can. No one seems to be able to stop you two from doing what you want when you’re together. Just keep it a secret, okay?”

 

Lena hadn’t understood why at the time, but she still agreed. She smiled at her food for the rest of dinner, imagining what it would be like to marry Kara. Her mom had watched her, the same sad smile on her face the whole time.)

 

 

“Okay,” Lena agrees, shakily, swallowing against the thickness in her throat. “I’ll marry you.”

 

She can feel Kara smile into her hair, feels her own face spreading into the biggest smile she thinks she’s ever smiled.

 

Kara lets go a second later, says, “Be right back!” and hurries into their room, Lena can hear her frantically opening drawers.

 

Lena stares at the wall, smiling like an idiot. She thinks she might be crying.

 

Kara is back a second later and stops in front of Lena. She drops down onto one knee.

 

“Kara, you don’t have to do that, I already said yes,” Lena protests, her face heating up.

 

“You told me I had to get on one knee when I asked, don’t you remember?” Kara says, and Lena does remember. She remembers thinking years later how much she wished her childhood fantasy of marrying Kara would come true. She remembers thinking she was stupid for ever thinking it could.

 

“Well, I changed my mind. You being the one asking is enough,” Lena insists, tugging Kara up off the floor.

 

Kara relents, but when she stands, she opens her palm to reveal two rings. They’re silver, and one is bigger than the other. The smaller one has a square diamond in the center. They’re a little worn, but obviously well taken care of.

 

“When my parents died,” Kara begins, sounding a little choked up. “A few of their things survived the fire. I kept them with me at the orphanage under the loose floorboards by my bed for years, made sure no one could steal them.” Kara takes a breath, her smile wobbly. “They might not fit, but we’ll probably have to wear them as necklaces anyway. It would just—it would mean a lot to me.”

 

Lena is freely crying now. She wipes her cheek with the back of her hand, grins wide at Kara.

 

“Of course,” she agrees, staring at Kara’s mother’s ring, which she assumes will be hers. It really is beautiful, and Lena couldn’t imagine a better ring. “Of course, Kara.”

 

Kara motions for Lena to take her father’s ring, and Lena does.

 

“Now we just exchange them,” Kara directs, rocking back on her heels. It makes Lena think of when Kara was a kid with her ragged clothes and her toothy grin and her determined attitude. Lena loves her so much she thinks she could die from it.

 

Kara holds out a hand, her smile nervous and excited and a little awed.

 

“I marry you, Lena Luthor,” Kara declares, voice soft and teary.

 

Lena slides the ring over Kara’s ring finger. It’s too big, and it hangs loose, but Kara doesn’t seem to care in the slightest. She looks down at it, eyes bright.

 

Lena holds out her own hand, and Kara takes it, thumb brushing along the back of it as their eyes meet.

 

“I marry you, Kara Danvers,” Lena says, and she can hear her voice crack but she doesn’t care.

 

Kara slides the ring on her finger. It’s a little snug, but the diamond glitters under the artificial lights of their apartment, and it’s the last thing on her mind.

 

They stand there for a long moment, gaze held, Kara still running her thumb along the back of Lena’s hand.

 

“So, we’re married?” Lena murmurs, glancing down at her ring.

 

“With God as our only witness,” Kara says, and something about it makes Lena snort with laughter, sway forward so that Kara wraps an arm around her waist.

 

“Sounds official to me, Mrs. Luthor,” Lena teases, and Kara scoffs.

 

“No way,” Kara argues, a smile in her voice. “You’re definitely Mrs. Danvers.”

 

“We’ll just trade last names,” Lena offers, beaming so wide her face hurts.

 

“Very modern,” Kara agrees, and the way Kara looks down at her, the soft look in her eye, the way her lips are stretched so much her eyes are crinkling around the edges, makes Lena so happy she thinks her entire body is humming with it.

 

She throws her arms around Kara’s neck, reels her close until their foreheads touch.

 

“I love you,” Lena says, nudging in so that their noses brush. She closes her eyes.

 

“I love you, too,” Kara responds. “More than you could even know.”

 

But Lena does. She knows.

 

Kara kisses her, then, and it tastes like salt and Lena doesn’t know which one of them is crying or if they both are, but she doesn’t care. She just runs her fingers through Kara’s hair, tugs her closer, kisses her harder.

 

And Lena thinks, overwhelmed and radiant and in love, that she doesn’t have to hope that Kara will stay anymore. She knows that she will.

 


 

 

It’s July of 1927, and Lena had only met Kara a few hours ago, but she never wants her to leave.

 

They’ve just finished dinner, and Kara looks at the clock and frowns.

 

“I have to get back to the orphanage,” Kara announces, clearly disappointed. “The nuns will notice I’m gone soon.”

 

Lena’s heart sinks.

 

“I don’t want you to go,” she whines, and for some reason, it makes Kara smile.

 

“Don’t worry,” Kara placates, tugging Lena into a hug. “I’ll see you again soon.”

 

“Tomorrow?” Lena asks hopefully.

 

“Probably not,” Kara admits, pulling back and biting her lip. “Don’t like to leave two days in a row. But after that, promise.”

 

Lena nods, but a part of her worries that Kara will never come back.

 

Kara must see the look on her face, because she holds out her pinky and says, “I’ll be at the park in two days, same time. Pinky swear.”

 

Lena looks at her pinky a moment, then grins. She curls her own pinky around Kara’s.

 

“Pinky swear,” she agrees.

 

She leads Kara to the door, waves at her as Kara walks away.

 

She thinks, maybe, that she might have just found herself a best friend.