Once Alex finishes screaming, Kara stands there, stock still, staring at her sister.
“I mean, knew you’d be mad, but—”
“You don’t know the half of it, Kara!” Alex preemptively shouts over her. She begins pacing the same ten foot strip of peeled varnish on Kara’s floor.
How had that happened, anyway?
“Look, she’s different than her family,” Kara returns to the conversation, hands raised. “I promise—”
“Do you know how many times I’ve heard you say that?” Alex interrupts. She’s doing that thing with her where she’s puts her hand on her hip, reflexively looking for her gun. She only does that when she’s really mad.
“Dozens! And you’re telling me—you’re telling me she doesn’t remember you either?”
Kara shrugs. “We just met.”
“You two are the stupidest, I swear to god!” Alex barks at the ceiling.
At this point, Kara is extraordinarily confused. Alex pushes both hands over her face, attempting to shut out the world, shut out Kara, but also slightly muffling another hot string of profanity.
“—the fuck, Kara?” Kara hears as Alex pulls her hands away. “Why didn’t you think this through? Your articles about Lena are all over the internet. We all have photos of you two. Did you expect us to be complicit?”
Kara’s brow crinkles. Articles about Lena? Photos of them? She opens her mouth to speak, but before she can, the machine Alex had placed onto the coffee table whirs to life and prints out a tiny little business card.
Alex stares down at it, dumbfounded. She picks it up.
“Dear Ms. Alexandra Danvers,” she reads aloud, looking phenomenally more pissed to be addressed so formally by an unassuming black piece of hardware. “Kara Zor-El Danvers has elected to forget Lena Luthor. Please never mention their relationship to her again—WHAT THE HELL IS THIS?”
Incensed and furious, she rips the business card in half and picks the machine up like she’s going to hulk smash it onto the already damaged floor. Kara watches her, mouth hung open, but Alex seems to reconsider. She throws it back onto the coffee table with a clatter, muttering,
“Lena would sue me for like, a billion dollars.”
“Wait, you know Lena?” Kara brightens, and Alex shoots her sharpest, most serrated glare yet.
“It’s amazing, it really is, that you still have that same doe-eyed expression when you hear her name,” she condemns with exasperation. “You two deserve each other.”
Kara heaves out an impatient sigh, places her hands on her hips.
“What are you talking about, Alex?”
“This,” Alex points a rigid finger at the device. “This thing could’ve fallen into the wrong hands when you so carelessly placed it under your bed. This thing is so dangerous, Lena could be arrested for inventing it, but at least she had the good sense to lock it up behind more than ninety different security protocols until YOU STOLE IT.”
“I didn’t steal anything!”
“Yes, you did—”
“No, I didn’t!”
“You just don’t remember it!”
“How could I not remember doing it?” Kara asks, fairly certain she’s won the argument with this ironclad point.
But Alex only heaves a great sigh and takes several calming breaths. It’s a strategy her sister would say she learned from the Navy SEALs, but Kara distinctly remembers from their counselor’s junior high school workshop on ‘Anger Management.’
“On Tuesday, February 14th at around 0300 hours,” Alex breathes. It’s her debrief voice. “There was a break in at L-Corp, likely alien, and damage was consistent around the entire block.”
Alex spares Kara a significant glance.
“Laser scorch marks, super strength, potential x-ray vision. The perp dug a god damn subway tunnel into the basement of L-Corp.”
Kara shrugs, exasperated.
“What does this have to do with me?”
“L-Corp is refusing to cooperate, but the current theory is that tech of significant value was stolen from their vault, and then J’onn sensed two separate instances of psychic attack. So, it’s tech that might mimic his abilities, tech Lena wouldn’t want us to know about, say like a device that was built to pinpoint and erase memories? Ring any bells?”
“No,” Kara growls. “I didn’t break into L-Corp. I didn’t even know L-Corp had a headquarters in National City until tonight.”
“Don’t you find that strange, Kara?” Alex questions in a tone very much running thin on patience. “That you wouldn’t know about L-Corp given your cousin’s history with Lex? That you wouldn’t know Lena Luthor lived in the same city as you?”
“That seems more like the DEO’s fault than mine,” Kara counters. “Why wasn’t I warned?”
“You were—you!” Alex closes her eyes, breathes hard through her nose. “You stole this device, and you used it to erase your memory of Lena Luthor. That’s why you can’t remember.”
Kara shakes her head.
“Yes, you did, Kar. You’ve known her for almost three years.”
“That’s just—that doesn’t make any sense. Why would I do that?”
“Hell if I know,” Alex replies smartly. “If you don’t believe me, just take a look around, this apartment is practically filled with Lena’s shit.”
Alex sweeps her gaze over the room before her eyebrows furrow. With what appears to be increasing paranoia, she marches to Kara’s fridge, flipping through the photos, knocking several magnets to the floor. She crosses back to her mantle, which is empty, like always.
“Where are they?” she mutters, turning. “Where is all of it, Kara? Did you throw it away?”
“There’s nothing of Lena’s in my apartment!” Kara explodes angrily, reaching her limit. “I just met her. I think this time you’ve had a little too much to drink, Alex—”
Alex is back in Kara’s face, quick as a flash.
“Don’t you dare,” she holds a finger to Kara’s nose. “I am a highly decorated officer. I am the assistant director at a covert military base. I am not drunk, and I am not wrong.”
“Okay, okay,” Kara mumbles, deflating, and Alex’s finger lowers. “Sorry.”
“Just do me a favor and go check your damn dumpster,” Alex waves her hand dismissively. She absently snatches up one of Kara’s decorative pillows, clutching it in some kind of self-soothing gesture.
“If there’s nothing there, we’ll discuss the very, very negligible possibility that it’s me whose memories have been altered.”
“Fine,” Kara snaps, drifting to the open window.
“I can’t believe you’d throw out the yellow one, you loved that pillow,” Alex checks the couch, mumbling. “And your fleece throw? Come on, I used that too.”
Kara grimaces. Alex honestly sounds crazy. Was she poisoned? Brainwashed? Hell, even cursed by magic? But her mind blanks when she gazes down into the dumpster below.
There is a bag on top, and she has a knee-jerk response to tell her sister that she’s wrong, to tell Alex that there’s nothing there. In fact, her mouth is already open to claim as much, to demand an apology…
Kara drops her glasses down her nose, employing her x-ray vision. Inside the bag, she finds a photo of herself hidden near the top. It’s ripped slightly, crushed like it had been balled up, but she can just make out the cut of Lena’s jaw, the curl of her smile, a strand of jet black hair.
It makes her stomach go sour.
Quickly, she flies down and retrieves it, dropping the bag just inside the window. She rips it open as Alex abandons the pillow and crosses over to inspect.
“Ah ha,” she declares victoriously, plucking out a bright yellow pillow with a rope font that reads ‘Sunshine.’ “She gave this to you for Christmas.”
Alex dives back in and produces a mug with a vibrant Milky Way painted over the ceramic.
“And this is the mug she always used every time she came over here. Nerd.”
“We’re all nerds,” Kara says quietly, staring at the mug in a state of stubborn disbelief.
“Yeah,” Alex scoffs. “You’ve said that about fifty times.”
Kara takes a shaky breath, needing a break and walking into the kitchen. For some reason, the bag of sentimental possessions disturbs her. Is Alex really trying to say she altered her own memory? Is she supposed to believe she lived an entirely different life?
Her sister keeps digging, looking for what, Kara isn’t sure. There’s no magical answer to that question at the bottom of that bag. There’s nothing that could explain how this could possibly have happened. How did she—why would she? It just doesn’t make sense.
“Just think about it, Kar,” Alex placates more softly, rifling through paper. “Do you remember game nights?”
“Of course,” Kara nods, though she still can’t look at that trash bag, faced towards the corner of her kitchen.
“How many people were there?”
“Five,” she answers begrudgingly.
“Five is an odd number, it’s—”
“Terrible for game night,” Kara finishes. She presses a hand to her forehand.
“There were six, Lena was there,” Alex emphasizes. “You gave her a weekly and open invitation to crush your poor and only sister at Uno, trust me, I can’t forget it.”
Kara groans from behind her hand, but when she turns back to Alex, she’s rearranging a small card, torn to shreds, matching the puzzle pieces together on Kara’s coffee table. It’s the same type of stock the machine sitting benignly next to it had just printed.
Without looking, Kara can already guess what it says.
“This says Lena elected to forget you,” Alex tells her somberly. “You must’ve found out what she did. The date’s printed here, and that’s when the break in occurred.”
“How is that possible though?” Kara asks, uncomprehending. “I went to Midvale yesterday on a lark. Nothing about it was planned. And that’s where I met her, she was there.”
“I don’t know.”
“We didn’t coordinate it,” Kara continues. “What are the odds that we were both there on that beach?”
“I can’t explain that,” Alex concedes. “But Lena found out you were Supergirl, Kara, and you didn’t tell her. She was upset. You didn’t tell me exactly what happened, but it must’ve hurt her so much that she—erased you.”
Kara can’t help but try to imagine the Lena she knows, the Lena she just met. She can see her simmering anger just beneath the surface. She remembers the quickness with which Lena was willing to accept that Kara would never want to be close to a Luthor. The guarded walls she carefully tended. The way her profile could go dangerous, diamond cut. But then she also thinks of Lena biting the edge of her lip, the evergreen of her eyes. The soft way she kisses.
“I lied to her you said?” Kara asks. “For how long?”
“Basically the whole time,” Alex exhales.
“Three years?” Kara questions, incredulous. “But—how? Weren’t we together? Wouldn’t she have seen me—you know get dressed and stuff?”
“What?” Alex asks, eyebrows raised, and then quickly follows with, “get dressed? In the morning—what do you mean ‘together?’”
“Like we were dating, right?”
Alex’s eyebrows fall, but her body goes a careful kind of still. She shakes her head slowly.
“But—you mean, we never—?” Kara stammers.
“No, not that I know of.”
“But we have now.”
“The lipstick,” Alex answers in sudden realization. “On your face the other night.”
She shifts awkwardly, shoots a covetous look at the cabinet where Kara keeps her hard liquor. Kara can see her fingers practically itching for a glass.
“Why are you acting so weird?” Kara badgers, feeling strangely insulted, quick to defend Lena and her newfound feelings.
Alex sighs, crossing her arms.
“I don’t know. I guess—you’ve never expressed interest in women. Not even Lena.”
“So?” Kara questions, even though she knows Alex isn’t wrong. She hasn’t, really, ever felt that way about a woman. “Did I not like her, you know, before?”
She can’t help but wonder what they’re relationship had been like if they weren’t kissing. Had it been like James? Did it not work out, right in the beginning? Or had it been like Mon-El? Were she and Lena all wrong for each other?
“No, you did,” Alex is quick to assure. “And I don’t know, sometimes I thought—” she shakes her head, looks back at the trash bag. “I mean, you have like, a hundred drawings of her in there. I wouldn’t call that level of obsession strictly heterosexual.”
Kara moves to inspect the drawings for herself, thinking of the missing pages from her notebook. She picks one up at random, and her eyes glaze over the familiar penciled contours of Lena’s neck. It’s definitely her work, her lines. She looks inside the bag, and Alex is right, there are a lot of them. Kara grabs another more detailed sketch featuring Lena wearing a skeleton costume. The specific detail Kara had spared to Lena’s hips, her breasts, is… thorough.
“I mean, other than that, you two were close,” Alex continues. “You were best friends. Lena loved you, but, to my knowledge, it wasn’t romantic.”
Something about the statement makes Kara’s heart froth and churn. It feels weirdly like rejection.
Not romantic? But how?
“Would I lie about it?” Kara wonders aloud.
“What do you mean?”
“About having feelings for her? About having a relationship with her?”
“I don’t know, maybe. She is Lex’s sister,” Alex reasons. “But you had your defenses up, too. The first time you met her, you were investigating her with Clark.”
“She doesn’t like reporters,” Kara states quietly. “She probably didn’t like me.”
“She liked you, Kara.”
But it’s not encouraging. Kara doesn’t like any of this. She had a best friend she might’ve had (unrequited) feelings for who she then proceeded to lie to for several years. A best friend she hurt so much she hated Kara, she erased Kara.
It makes her chest clench. The whole thing is making Kara feel like she wants to cry.
“Did I at least seem—” Kara gestures fruitlessly. She drops the drawings back into the bag. “Happy? You know, with her?”
Alex opens her arms in response, sitting down on the couch. Kara shuffles in next to her before bonelessly leaning onto her shoulder. Alex fishes her phone from out of her back pocket.
“Here, it may be easier to show you.”
Together, they go through dozens of photos. Alex doesn’t speak much except to provide context about where they were or what they were doing. There’s brunches, game nights, happy hours, girl’s nights, birthdays, holidays, and even charity events. Apparently, Kara’s even written and published a veritable collection of articles on Lena. She can see the way she felt about her clear as day in her words, and the photos are no different. In every one Kara’s smiling brightly with Lena pulled close, head to head, cheek to cheek. They both look elated. They look close.
So, why had they done this?
“Will my memories come back?” she asks timidly.
“I don’t know,” Alex answers. “It’s like when J’onn erased my memories of you being Supergirl. They came back, but there’s a very real chance yours won’t.”
“What do we do?”
Alex leans back on the couch, pinching the bridge of her nose with her free hand. She squeezes her other hand at Kara’s shoulder.
“I’m not sure, but first of all, we have to cover up the first degree burglary you committed.”
Alex’s plan is simple.
“Don’t say a god damn word.”
So, that’s what Kara does. The case is at a standstill, anyway, without the cooperation of L-Corp. It’s also easy to lie at the DEO the next day when Kara doesn’t technically know anything. Despite that, Alex still takes her by the elbow at the end of their debriefing meeting and whispers furtively,
“Give it a few days before you talk to her, will you? Please don’t go straight there.”
And Kara is proud to say that she doesn’t.
She waits about five whole minutes.
It’s on her way to the break room to perform her daily raid of the snack machine that she stops dead. It hits her all again, like it has almost every thirty minutes since Alex left last night.
Kara erased Lena. Lena erased Kara. They’d never kissed. Kara had lied to her.
It’s overwhelming. Crushing. A building had fallen on Kara once, a whole building with a gym and a cafeteria and a lobby, and that had hurt less than this. Less than the implication of all of this.
And she can’t help but think, over and over and over again, if lying had gotten them into this mess in the first place, why would Kara make the same mistake twice? Shouldn’t she tell Lena everything before it hurt them both again?
She snaps. She just can’t bear the burden any longer, and before she has a full handle of herself, Kara’s in the air and flying with a friendly flock of mourning doves. She has the box in her hands, the device Alex had explicitly asked Kara to destroy, and she lands on Lena Luthor’s balcony without so much as a second thought.
For a moment, she doesn’t think Lena’s home. She glances around surreptitiously and realizes she doesn’t exactly know where Lena works, where L-Corp is. What floor would Lena even be on? Would Kara have to make an appointment?
But Lena surprises her. She enters her living room, looking sharp in a blue dress that hugs every part of her body. Her heels are a glossy black, and her phone is pressed to her face, her eyebrows furrowed and taut.
Kara enjoys the benefit of seeing Lena before she sees Kara, and Kara can’t help but smile widely, bright as the sun. But when Lena looks up, her eyes gloss over the red cape, the El insignia, Kara’s flowing blonde hair, until they ultimately fall to the device in her hands. Lena’s already pencil thin lips turn down into an even deeper frown, and Kara hears her distinctly say, ‘I need to call you back.’
She drops the phone from her face and crosses in front of the couch she had so expertly seduced Kara on just days ago, but this time she looks as angry as a hurricane and twice as formidable. Kara’s smile wavers.
“YOU,” Lena accuses with viper venom, throwing open her glass balcony door hard enough to shatter (it doesn’t, Kara’s guessing, because it’s bullet proof.)
“You broke into my lab. That is my property,” she points down to the box, standing toe to toe with Kara.
If Kara’s heart wasn’t currently lodged in her throat, she’d think Lena was, well, kinda hot.
“I—didn’t! I mean, I wouldn’t, I mean,” Kara stammers. “I don’t remember doing that!”
“So you admit it?” Lena needles, and Kara attempts another light-hearted shrug and smile (that both fail spectacularly.)
“How dare you,” Lena practically hisses. “You think because I’m a Luthor and you’re a Super that you can just waltz in and take whatever you want? You think the laws don’t apply to you just because gravity doesn’t?”
Kara flinches. For a second there, she’d been so caught up in Lena (she smells fantastic, was that tiger sweat perfume or something? Why was it so powerful?) that she’d forgotten she was in the suit.
“Oh, that reminds me,” she offloads the device into Lena’s hands, and Lena’s shock registers in the form of her mouth falling open. Kara gets the sense that she’s just derailed the beginnings of a world class tirade.
Well, good, she flicks her wrist, glasses materializing. She places them onto her face, and the Super suit melts away, stitch by stitch, yielding to a polka dotted blouse tucked into fitted jeans.
“I’m Supergirl,” she says a bit breathlessly, throwing her hair into a ponytail. “I meant to open with that, but you were all, well, furious.”
She motions her hand in a circle in front of Lena, but the other woman still seems too speechless to reply. Her body speaks another story, however. All of it, her jaw, her shoulders, her stance, all of Lena goes slack.
“Kara?” she finally says. “You’re—”
Kara nods, smiling encouragingly, but somehow it’s precisely the wrong thing to do. Lena turns, shell shocked, and stalks back into her penthouse without another word.
“Lena?” Kara asks, ducking through the door and following after her into the living space.
But Lena ignores her. She throws the device onto her kitchen counter and reaches to pour another glass from the amber bottle of 30-year old something-or-other.
“You looked familiar because—” Lena stops suddenly, back still as she pulls out the glass stopper. “You’d come to my office the day before. As—as Supergirl.”
Lena appears to have difficulty even saying the hero’s name and she shakes her head, self-condemning. She turns to peer at Kara over the rim of her glass.
Kara shrugs. “I don’t remember that.”
“Was it reconnaissance?” Lena taunts, tone biting. “Were you looking for the vault? Was this whole thing a set-up? Revenge for what my brother did?”
“What? No, oh my God—”
“You don’t believe in God,” Lena snaps, and Kara’s even more taken aback.
Maybe hoping for a friendly reception of ‘Supergirl’ had been too much to ask, but this kind of acidity is still unexpected. Kara can physically see the warmth from Lena evaporating. She doesn’t move to touch Kara, she doesn’t even appear to want to stand near to Kara. And she knows why. The symbol on her chest had never felt more like a brand.
If Lena was this way after three days, what had she been like after three years?
“It’s—habit,” Kara falters. “Look, I can explain.”
“You don’t need to explain anything,” Lena cuts her off quickly, looking suddenly and terribly resigned. “Just tell me what you want.”
The way she says it is practiced, like it’s happened countless times before, like Lena’s become accustomed to buying people off, to viewing relationships as an exchange of goods and services. And something about it all seems familiar to Kara, too, like she’s been here already begging and losing Lena’s affections. But before she can roll into a haphazard explanation, dig herself any deeper, Kara spots a bag of unground coffee beans on Lena’s counter. They’re French vanilla.
“Vanilla latte!” Kara points excitedly. “That’s you! It’s what you drink, isn’t it? Venti?”
“Uh, yeah,” Lena confirms, taking a wary sip of liquor.
“I knew it, I was at the coffee shop the other day, and they gave me two coffees and one was that and I—I just thought I was going crazy.”
“You—what?” Lena answers, flustered, then she holds up a hand as if to say, no, don’t answer that, and regains focus.
“What is all this about, Supergirl? Why are you here? Why did you break into my lab?”
“Okay,” Kara gestures to the machine. “Do you know what that is?”
“Yes,” Lena answers, austere and superior. “It’s a highly experimental, very valuable piece of equipment my company developed, not that it’s any of your business.”
“And what does it do?”
“Like I said, none of your business.”
“It erases memories.”
Lena scoffs, rolls her eyes upward, and places her glass down on the counter with an audible clink.
“Did you know I moved to National City because I wanted to be like you, like Supergirl?” she asks, taking a step closer.
Rao, she really smells good.
“No,” Kara answers, feeling hot at the collar.
“And here she is,” Lena’s voice pitches, rolling and raspy. “Making unfounded accusations, stealing my property, and employing every amateur act of deception three days after I meet her. I thought you’d be different.”
“Hey, I am different,” Kara defends. “There’s no—deception! Or stealing! We knew each other for years. We erased our own memories using that device.”
Lena’s lip curls again. “That monitors brain waves. It’s for generic medical use—”
“No, it doesn’t!” Kara groans. Gosh, if Alex thought she’d been difficult.
“I think I know my products better than you do, Ms. Danvers.”
“Oh yeah?” Kara asks, digging a photo out of her back pocket.
She holds it up for Lena to see. It’s a photo of them from Christmas, the one she’d unballed and smoothed out from the top of the trash pile. It had clearly been a favorite. In it, Lena’s black hair fell over Kara’s shoulders as she leaned close, her eyes crinkled in a natural laugh. Her hand was on Kara’s shoulder, their skin tones perfectly juxtaposed. Casually intimate. Kara had left most of the trash bag abandoned like an ill omen in the corner of her living room, but this, she kept. This felt like… something.
Lena stares at it for a beat.
“That’s—easy to fake.”
“Wow, you are—tough, okay,” Kara pivots, pointing back at the black box. “Just boot that thing up and ask it. It printed this out last night.”
She hands Lena the two halves of the card, and this, somehow, makes an actual impression.
“Alexandra Danvers?” she asks, green eyes lifting smoothly from reading the card. “At the DEO?”
“She’s my sister.”
Something shifts in Lena’s expression. She places the card pieces on the counter, turning back to the device.
“I’ve worked with her a dozen times,” she tells Kara. “She’s a friend. And I’ve never seen you.”
“I’m there all the time, why wouldn’t I be? It’s practically my second job. You think I wasn’t at game night? Who do you think was your partner? You just don’t remember me, Lena. Think about it.”
Lena’s brow furrows further as she powers on the box. A stable blue light emits from the top. She places a headset over her ears and speaks directly into the mouthpiece,
“Lena Luthor,” Kara hears in a robotic reply. “You are not authorized.”
“Excuse me?” Lena balks.
“Your access is in violation of a set primary directive. Override required.”
Lena looks as if she’s never heard those words uttered to her in her entire life, especially not from a product she herself designed. She stares down at the device, unseeing, before turning back to Kara.
“This is going to take some time,” she tells her. “I have to find a way around this coding.”
“Okay,” Kara answers cheerfully and ready to wait.
Lena shifts, eyes bouncing around her penthouse.
“I’d prefer it,” she states slowly, “if you weren’t here, Supergirl. And that you respect my privacy while I’m looking into this.”
“Oh, right. I’m all about privacy—and consent,” she squeezes her eyes shut in embarrassment. She forces herself back to the balcony door. “I’ll be back later?”
Lena looks away, stony-faced and ignoring Kara by way of re-inspecting the device and toying with the headset. So, Kara takes her leave, shooting off from the ground and into the air, only to hear Lena mutter,
“Still not an entrance.”
Kara can’t bring herself to stray very far. She heads back to CatCo on the weak pretense of putting in an honest day’s work as a reporter, but it’s just that. A pretense. Even Nia calls her out on pretending to type while she’s actually listening intently to the fluctuating tempo of Lena’s heartbeat.
“Honestly, I haven’t seen you this unproductive since you saw Lena in riding boots.”
Kara jolts, head snapping to her friend.
“You know Lena?” she says before she can catch herself.
Nia looks at her like she’s grown two heads.
“Lena Luthor? Lena the Butcher of Battleship? Lena the Sultan of Stratego? That Lena?”
“I’m just—” Kara waves her off, standing abruptly. She bangs her knee into the underside of her desk, and it cracks ominously. “I need more coffee.”
Nia eyes Kara’s perfectly full and warm cup of coffee, but Kara’s already bolted away. She hides in the bathroom for a little longer than strictly necessary. She only makes it through another few hours of work through pure and painful determination. Meaning, she finds herself doodling Lena’s jaw absently on a note pad about several dozen times, and she writes a total of fifteen words (most of which are ‘the’) for an article due tomorrow.
But when she hears Lena’s heart race, a muffled cry, she jumps up again (into her desk, it’s definitely broken now, that’s fine) and flies quickly back to Lena’s penthouse.
For protection. Just in case.
She uses her x-ray vision to check the building and perimeter, but Lena’s alone, no intruders. There are no visible threats either. So, Kara doesn’t land. She circles, floats a mile above the roof. She wants to respect Lena’s privacy like she asked, so she doesn’t listen or look too closely. Only enough to spot her inside an elegantly designed lab, hunched over a desk and listening to something with both hands covering her face. She doesn’t seem or sound happy. Her heartbeat is wild and erratic. In fact, Lena shudders and presses a button, playing something again, Kara guesses?
She doesn’t listen, just watches Lena sit at her desk, unmoving. For a long time.
Kara figures she’s not in life threatening danger, but she waits anyway. She waits until she hears Lena whisper,
“Kar—” she catches herself, “Supergirl, can you hear me?”
A single millisecond later, Kara lands directly on her balcony. Lena stands slowly from the other room and pads barefoot across the open floor plan to meet her.
“Oh, sorry,” Kara quickly apologizes as Lena opens the door. “I was worried, so I—but I can go down and come up to your front door? Yeah, I’ll do that,” she points and is half way turned before Lena reaches out to catch her by the arm.
It’s the first time she’s touched her since—
“No, just come inside please,” she says, and Kara lets herself be pulled into the room like a wayward balloon. Lena’s fingers feel nice.
“But also, yes, hopefully someday you’ll use the front door.”
“Some day?” Kara asks eagerly, but Lena only falls back onto her couch with a loud sigh.
It’s not reassuring.
“I read your articles,” she says, pressing the heel of her hand into her eye and rubbing.
It gives Kara a moment to take in the state of her. Lena’s dressed more casually now in jeans and a loose enough shirt that Kara can see ample collarbone. When she pulls her hand away from her face, however, her eyes look strained and red.
“I don’t remember writing them,” Kara admits, taking a slightly stiff seat a few cushions away. The last time they were on this couch, Lena was in her lap. It was only two days ago, but it feels like an eon with the way Lena is treating her now.
“Well, of course,” Kara replies with a shy smile. “They were about you.”
“I don’t mean to be rude,” Lena responds, and Kara’s stomach turns, her shoulders tense. “But can you… take that off—the suit, I mean?”
Kara looks down at the Super suit. It both does and doesn’t strike her as an odd request. After all, it’s always difficult for people to reconcile her two personas. And Lena met Kara first, not Supergirl, so she nods, heart warmed a little bit, at least, by the idea that Lena seems to prefer Kara Danvers. Most people don’t.
She flicks her wrist, and a new outfit materializes over her body; a pastel purple sweater over a white collared shirt with a dark grey skirt.
“I want to know how that works,” Lena murmurs, staring. “Is it always a different outfit?”
“Yeah,” Kara answers, smoothing a hand over the skirt and crossing her legs. “Brainy chose a lot of them, and they’re scarily accurate. I didn’t realize I had such predictable clothing taste.”
“Brainiac IV? I know him.”
“I’d be surprised if we didn’t know a lot of the same people,” Kara smiles wanly, but Lena looks away again.
Kara patiently waits for her to say more.
“I knew something was wrong these last few days,” she admits quietly, scratching the material of the couch with her nails. “I didn’t want to say anything. I didn’t tell you that I visited Midvale every day, three times in a row. My assistant thought I was losing my mind. Finally submitting to the family curse.”
Lena laughs then with self-pity, gazing up at the ceiling.
“There was just—this absence. A hole. Little things were off. I couldn’t remember certain holidays, or if I did, things just didn’t make sense. Being inside an apartment, but the owner wasn’t there. Missing photos I remembered taking. Details, everywhere, were wrong or incomplete. I felt like I was older, too, but couldn’t remember how I spent days or months.”
She scratches the couch harder, bites at a lip still painted red with lipstick.
“I can’t explain it, I just knew that something—something was wrong. I knew I was waiting for someone in Midvale, and they kept not being there.”
She looks at Kara, leaning her cheek against the couch. She looks so beautiful, even if she looks so sad.
“And then I met you,” she tells her, voice vulnerable. “And it all went away. I felt better. I felt like I’d always known you. You were—everything I’d been looking for.”
“That’s how I felt, too,” Kara whispers, reaching for Lena’s fidgeting hand over the cushions, but Lena pulls away, stands to her feet, paces with a manic kind of energy.
“I—I should play something for you,” she says, picking up her phone. She presses a few buttons before Kara can refuse, and the speakers overhead buzz with the grainy background of a recording.
“Tell me about her,” a feminine voice asks. It sounds vaguely robotic, familiar, and Kara’s brow creases.
“That won’t be necessary,” Lena answers. There’s shuffling noises in the background, papers being crunched, items being moved.
“It will assist with mapping for the procedure,” the voice encourages, and Lena sighs into the microphone, breaths long and heavy.
“I…,” the recording Lena pauses, the ambient noises fading to silence, she’s stopped moving. Whereas the Lena now turns her back to Kara, her knuckles white as she clutches her kitchen island. She can’t look at Kara, and it fills Kara with foreboding.
“I was in love with her,” she finally says. “I didn’t tell her. I didn’t tell anyone.”
Kara’s breath hitches as she listens. She’s never heard—she never thought—
“She made me believe… that someone could love me in return. That someone could want me and nothing else, no quid pro quo. No reciprocal use. And if someone like her could love me, then… well, but she didn’t, did she?”
There’s the sound of more cabinets being opened, doors being closed. A trash bag crinkling. Kara realizes with sudden clarity what Lena is doing; she’s bagging items that remind her of Kara.
“I never want talk to her again,” Lena forces out, her tone bitter. “I just wish—we’d never met. I thought she was this kind, fragile soul that I could protect. I thought she needed me when really she was just playing me. She used me just like everyone else. There wasn’t a single honest moment in our friendship. And I—And I—”
Lena wavers, her voice tenuous and unsure. Kara can hear the unshed tears, the heaviness of her tongue, her thickly swallowing throat.
“I killed my brother for her, I didn’t want to, but I would’ve—I would’ve done anything for her.”
Kara can’t help but stand up, fists clenched. No, she killed Lex. Didn’t she? Lena still doesn’t look at her, though, head bowed.
“It’s not healthy. It just—it hurts so much,” the recording continues, and Kara wants to turn it off. “I’m afraid of what I’ll do, of who I’ll become. I just want it to disappear. To go away.”
Lena taps her phone, and the recording stops.
“Lena,” is all Kara can say, beg, but Lena taps her phone again.
“Tell me about her,” the voice asks again, and Kara is about to say that she doesn’t want to hear it twice when,
“Lena?” Kara hears herself answer instead.
She stops breathing, clenches her fists again, hard enough to crush coal into diamond.
“Well, I guess… she’s stubborn. And passive aggressive,” Kara tells the voice in a deathly monotone. It sounds nothing like her. “She only wants to do things her way. A lifetime of wealth and privilege means she absolutely doesn’t know how to share.”
“That’s not true,” Lena tells her in real time, still not looking at Kara, but her jaw is angled in profile.
“And she thinks she’s so cold and logical, you know? She really thinks she’s like the rest of her family, but she’s not. She’s soft. She cares, but she pushes that part down. She tries to smother the best part of herself.”
It didn’t seem that far off base. Though it's still weird for Kara to hear herself recorded like this. It’s weird that her voice sounds so lifeless. She’s never heard a person exude less joy.
Had she really been that unhappy?
“I’d call her generous, but was it just an act? She’s a great actress. I mean, I really thought she loved me. I thought—I thought she’d give us more time.”
The recording clicks off, and Lena’s looking at Kara again, eyes shiny and arms crossed.
“That’s rich, you know,” she says hoarsely, breaking the painfully thick silence. “You calling me a great actress when you didn’t tell me you were Supergirl for three years.”
Kara shakes her head, passing a hand over her face.
“I honestly don’t know why I said that. I don’t think that about you.”
“But you did lie to me,” Lena continues. “You didn’t trust me. It sounds like we were—we were best friends, Kara. Why?”
Kara registers it’s the first time Lena’s deigned to use her real name. She sighs, looking back at her.
“I don’t know, Lena, I don’t know,” she repeats, pulling at her neck, her hair. “I’ve lost everyone I’ve ever loved. I tried so hard to fit in when I came here. I’m sure I didn’t want to lose you, too.”
“Are you sure it wasn’t because of my name?” Lena asks bitterly.
“I don’t know, maybe! You don’t exactly like mine either,” Kara says, unconsciously pointing at the emblem no longer on her chest.
Lena stares down at it, unblinking.
“I’ve had a lot of people disappoint me,” she looks back up. “I’m no stranger to betrayal. My family, they’re some of the most deceptive people in the world, and you—I’ve never heard myself sound like that. You broke my heart.”
“I’m sorry,” is all Kara can offer. “I don’t—I wouldn’t have wanted to. I don’t know what else to say.”
Lena leans back against her kitchen island. It feels like a stalemate.
“I’m going to ask again,” she says slowly. “What do you want from me?”
Honestly, Kara doesn’t have an answer. She just knows that her life had never felt emptier than it had the morning before. Wholly blank. And this was why. She had Lena-shaped brain damage.
She takes a step closer to Lena, who immediately tenses, tracking the movement.
“I just—want to be honest this time around. I like you so much, Lena,” Kara tells her earnestly, taking another step forward and wringing her hands together.
She just wants to be close. She doesn’t want Lena to have that hurt, scared expression on her face.
“I want this, whatever it is, I want it to work.”
“Why? Why would we do this again?” Lena answers sharply. “We’re doomed to repeat whatever this is,” she gestures at her phone. “It’s futile.”
Kara sighs, looks down. Lena steps aside, motioning to her front door.
“You should leave—”
But Kara moves into her space, tugs one of her hands out of its crossed posture over her chest.
“Wait. Just wait—?” she begs, and Lena’s hard façade crumbles. Her lips twist as if she might cry, and Kara rubs consolingly at her blissfully soft (and large) hand.
“Why?” she asks again, wavering.
“Alex says I’m bad at analogies,” Kara answers quietly. “And that I should never make them, but… you know that moment when you hear a song for the first time? And you know without really knowing why that it’s your favorite? It takes five beats, one lyric, and you know you’re never going to be the same?”
Lena shrugs, sniffing while Kara pulls her hand closer, positions it over her heart.
“That’s you, Lena. I can’t—I don’t want to go back to not knowing you. I had one morning of it, and it was the worst. I want you in my life.”
“Even if we’re bad for each other?” Lena protests, but still she leaves her hand where it is.
“You don’t know if we were. It sounds like we loved each other. We both ended up on that beach in Midvale. How else do you explain that?”
“Hope said,” Lena falters, “that we both resisted treatment.”
“See? We both must’ve regretted it. And also, you should’ve led with that,” Kara chides lightly. “Seems pretty significant.”
Lena doesn’t laugh, but her lips do curl slightly up, albeit in a somewhat melancholy smile.
“I knew you’d only see the positive.”
“And you’re only focusing on the negative,” Kara counters hopefully. “I think we made some mistakes, but it’s not too late. Can’t we just—try again?”
Kara squeezes Lena’s hand and steps closer. Lena’s fingers tense briefly, catching at the front of Kara’s sweater, until finally she says,
“Okay,” Kara repeats after her.
Things progress slowly at first. Glacial, in fact, but Kara’s fine with that. She stays committed and patient. She understands the importance of rebuilding trust (even if neither of them can remember what broke it.) So, she learns to use Lena’s front door, and she worms her way into Lena’s office through several surprise visits with Big Belly Burger. They text almost every day, they partner together at game night, but they still don’t touch much. Lena will graze Kara’s elbow, rub the small of her back, even hug her, but she’s still reserved and a little distant.
That’s okay, Kara thinks. It’s okay if that’s not the kind of relationship she wants.
That is, until one night when Kara has a particularly vicious run in with a Hellgrammite. It’s all over the news, and she nearly solar flares herself trying to take him down. Lena texts her several times, there are a lot of exclamation points and question marks, but Kara doesn’t have time to answer, still stuck at the DEO getting debriefed.
“We need to make sure this kind of think doesn’t happen in a city center again,” J’onn is saying, but Kara’s ears perk, her head turns.
“Supergirl,” Lena calls timidly into the night.
Kara whooshes out of the DEO while J’onn is still mid-sentence and lands not a moment later on Lena’s balcony, still reeking of insect excretion and covered in ghastly white webs.
“Are you okay?” Kara asks with concern, running her fingers through her hair hoping there’s not too much webbing in it.
Lena stands there, still. She’s dressed fully, purse on her arm, as if she’d just arrived home from work and walked right out to her balcony.
“I was worried,” she says.
“No need to worry, Lena,” Kara smiles. “I’m fine.”
But Lena drops her purse. She takes two steps and pulls Kara close by the shoulders, running her thumb over her lips once before leaning up and kissing her. Hard. And Kara kisses back.
She’d almost forgotten the addicting, honeyed quality of it. The way Lena could surround her, submerge her completely. It takes her mind off of the attack. It sets her body at ease. Lena's lips are soft and sticky with lip gloss as they push and pull.
“I know we don’t really talk about it,” Kara huffs between breaths, pressing her hands into the opening of Lena's tailored coat at the waist. “But can you believe we never did this before?”
“I think that was part of the problem,” Lena rasps back, shrugging her coat right off. It puddles by her feet on the concrete, a few feet from her discarded purse.
“Alex was right, we are so stupid,” Kara presses her forehead to Lena’s.
“My assistant said something to similar effect,” Lena leans back in, ghosting her lips across Kara’s.
Kara’s stomach emits an obscene growl.
“Shut up,” she tells it.
“Do you want potstickers?” Lena offers, smiling. “I just ordered. I’ve had such a craving lately.”
Kara’s torn suddenly between potstickers and wanting to kiss Lena. She squeezes her, releasing a slight whine at the conflict.
“Rao,” Kara whispers over her mouth. “I am going to marry you.”
“Not to be insulting, darling,” Lena pushes slightly at her shoulders, eyes twinkling. “But not before you bathe. You smell absolutely revolting.”
Years pass, but eventually, they do remember.
Kara remembers first. It’s like a sucker punch. The wind is knocked out of her, and she’s gloomy for days. It lingers like a sickness. The sun doesn’t charge her quite right. She feels heavy in every sense: spiritually, physically, and emotionally. It’s worse than kryptonite.
It helps to map the freckles on Lena’s back while she sleeps, to bury her face in her shiny black hair and inhale. She squeezes her tight in their bed at night.
“What’s wrong?” Lena stirs, voice muffled with sleep.
“I remembered,” Kara tells her, and Lena turns in her arms, the green of her eyes glowing surreal in the moonlight.
“Was it bad?”
She’d lost her, Kara thinks. As real as a death. As certainly as fact. Beyond the shadow of a doubt.
I’d lost you.
And she’s scared about Lena remembering, too, about losing her again. Kara can see her back when it was just Lena’s penthouse, the white of her teeth, the tears in her eyes, the gravelly nail scratching of her voice.
“You made me believe—”
It aches. It burns.
And it’s different for Lena. She remembers when they’re picking out flowers and she happily quotes a poem to Kara,
“Remorse is memory awake.”
“Emily Dickinson,” Kara parrots in return, before she realizes they’ve already had this conversation. But it’s too late. Lena’s face contorts. Tears run hot to her eyes.
“Lena—” Kara steps forward.
“Don’t touch me,” Lena flinches, and Kara pulls back her hand, standing still as Lena’s breathing comes quickly, panicked and severe. She follows her when Lena rushes from the shop. She sweeps her into her arms when Lena turns, sobbing,
“How could you do that to me?”
“I’m sorry, I’m sorry,” Kara repeats and holds her tighter. Lena clings back just as strong. She kisses Kara’s face over and over, then looks like she wants to slap her.
It takes days, weeks for her to recover. Kara’s willing to carry any country of her choice to their door step by the end of it. But they are stronger for it.