Kara wakes up in a funk. That’s how she’d describe it to Alex, at least. Her face is pressed into a crease in her sheet, and her head is angled away from the white morning light spilling in from the window. She doesn’t try to look at it or soak the sun in.
She stays still, knowing full well she’s getting one of those weird sheet marks on her face. The kind Alex tries to rub with her thumb before Kara knocks her hand away while pestering her, “did you fall asleep on the couch again? Why did you spend all that money on your bed frame, Kara? We could’ve gotten a Playstation 4 for game night.”
But Kara doesn’t care. Her bed frame is cute. She doesn’t move, arm cast apathetically over the side of it, continuing to ignore the window. She just feels… funky. And she has an absolute headache. Since when she did get headaches?
Eventually, she pulls herself from her dead body prone position and massages a temple. She brushes her teeth, staring at the crease on her face in the mirror. It looks like a tire skid mark. She spits, and when she looks into the bowl, she discovers a deep crack, a veritable fissure that runs the full length of her standalone porcelain sink. Water drips from it and pools in a precise and sheening circle on the tiled floor.
When did that happen? She doesn’t remember doing that.
Even her pajamas, she looks down to see, she doesn’t recognize. When did she buy them? When did she put them on, even? There’s little pink elephants patterned over the material and a cute little font that reads, “elephants never forget!”
Numbly and with a mild concern for her mental health, Kara moves to her closet and sheds the shorts. She toes them under a pile of clothes where she can’t see them and pulls on one of her pastel cuffed shirts. Nothing goes wrong in these shirts. They’re safe. They’re reliable. Optimistically, she thinks even a menial task like buttoning up will help her combat this cold sweat kind of unease, that is, until she realizes halfway through she’s skipped a button hole and has to start all over.
She pulls on a pair of corduroy pants with a groan, each and every little inconvenience feeling like an Everest, and thinks about how Nia had once said these pants reminded her of the texture of Birkenstocks.
“They don’t make corduroy Birkenstocks, do they?” Kara had balked.
“You tell me.”
What did that mean?
Kara grabs her keys, her bag, and heads for the door. Outside, the white overcast light has dissolved into a perfect, periwinkle blue sky dotted with faultless, kindergartener drawn puffy clouds. Kara knows how it would feel to fly through them: cool and refreshing. They’d smell like the sun, like a planet at the peak of its climatic prime. It’s the beginning of a beautiful day, and it’s annoying.
Because something is wrong with today, but she doesn’t know what yet.
She threads through the morning crowd on the streets, everyone giving her space, everyone being polite, and she grits her teeth. She stands in a short line for her daily coffee at Noonan’s, and she clenches her fingers. The coffee smells amazing, not burnt like it sometimes is, and it makes Kara mad.
There is no reason for her to feel this way. There is no excuse for this funk to keep growing, tall and strong like an Iowa stalk of corn.
Kara casts a baleful gaze around the shop, determined to spot an unseen source, to place the blame, but there’s nothing but drowsy work commuters and an over caffeinated staff. She checks the street, too, and her breath hitches as she spots a giant, gorgeous golden retriever prancing down the street, owner in tow. A gust of wind catches its fur just right, and it’s beauty and it’s grace. It’s Miss United States. It’s beyond Instagram friendly, and Kara nearly growls.
“Miss?” the barista prompts.
Kara snaps to attention, apparently too distracted to realize she was next in line. Normally, this line is twenty people deep, no amount of distraction could make it bearable. But not today… not on this stupid perfect, short line day.
“Oh, sorry,” Kara apologizes, irritated further by the sound of her own fake cheeriness. “Can I get a double caramel macchiato?”
“And a large vanilla latte?”
“Yeah, sure,” Kara answers absently, glancing back at the door like a guard dog when the overhead bell rings.
She doesn’t recognize the man who enters. He’s probably not a criminal. Or a wanted alien. His biggest crime is he’s holding a copy of The Daily Planet, CatCo’s rival, and what is he doing with that? Metropolis is on the other side of the country. Why does he need to know the news there? But she can’t bring him in for wasting his own time, and a part of her is strangely anxious and a lot disappointed.
If only he had horns. Or spikes that shot out of his face. Or something.
Kara pays the cashier and waits abysmally by the drink bar. It's uncharacteristic for her to wish for an 'incident.' And further, this type of terrible mood is usually precipitated by a break up or some other horrible thing, but nothing like that has happened.
She forces herself not to check the entrance to the shop every five seconds and drums her fingers irritably on the counter top. She registers an ill-boding, spidery crack in the surface and quickly pulls her fingers into a fist, hoping that no one’s seen (or heard.)
I’m alone, she thinks, over and over. Why do I keep expecting someone else to be here? Who am I looking for? What's wrong?
It’s torturous and made more so when the barista delivers Kara her ‘two coffees.’
“For Kara!” she beams pure and brilliant joy. “Have a good day!”
But Kara stares down at the second coffee in bewildered fury. Did she order two coffees? Why? And for who? Did her mind really blank that far and go all the way back to the time when she’d ordered coffees for Mrs. Grant? But… this wasn’t even her order?
Kara considers the second coffee like an advanced Mensa puzzle. Was it for James? No, he ordered Americanos. Was it for Winn? No, his was cappuccinos. And Alex was white mochas (the dork.) So, no one she knew drank vanilla lattes. No one.
For some reason, this is the breaking point. This second coffee sitting innocently on the counter, not needing to be there, never needing to have been made, no explanation for its existence, this is what breaks Kara.
This is how she turns on her heel and tears out of Noonan’s. This is how she finds herself suddenly thinking, I need to go to Midvale. Alone. And she needs to go there now.
Outside the shop, she reaches behind her ear and crushes the comms device hidden there. She holds the electronic dust in her hand and watches it blow away into the wind. She can already hear Alex telling her how much she just cost the American people in tax dollars.
She starts walking.
She doesn’t do things like this. She’s not impulsive. She doesn’t skip work, but she keeps going and after purchasing a train ticket, she spares a quick moment to text Alex, lest her sister lose her ever loving mind when she discovers Kara’s deviated from routine.
Kara: I need to bail today. I’m getting out of the city.
She reads the text again, already sent. She imagines how Alex might still freak out, automatically assume Kara’s been body snatched by some sort of alien virus or how she’s being forced to text against her will. Alex would send a small militia of agents to recapture her.
More American tax dollars wasted on Kara’s sudden bout of instability.
Kara: I’m fine, she adds. Just need some air. Emergency only contact.
Alex replies so fast, too fast for Kara to exit her text messages, and she catches a snippet,
Alex: What? Why? Is air hard to come by FLYING AROUND THE CITY—
But Kara locks her phone. She has a fleeting desire to chuck it into space, too, but not all impulses are good ones today. She may want to play some games on the train or google how to make short ribs for Valentine’s later tonight.
Alone. Alone on Valentine’s in 2019. And it’s on a Tuesday, not even a weekend. Normal, coupled people will have a hard time even enjoying it. What a stupid day.
Kara watches her phone light up with more messages from Alex, but she mutes them and sighs, waiting on the train. It’s not long before it arrives and she boards, throwing herself into a vacant seat.
She digs for her sketch book in her bag after she gets settled. Nia calls it ‘old school’ that she doesn’t use an iPad and a stylist to draw, and maybe it is. Maybe that’s why her notebook is so depressingly barren. She flips through the pages and notices she’s hardly drawn anything in the last three years, but also… several pages have been torn out.
Weird that she doesn’t remember doing that. Maybe those sketches were garbage.
Kara flicks back to a blank page and moves her pencil in fine gray lines. She maps out the passing scenery; the buildings, the countryside, and eventually the ocean. She turns a page and begins to draw Midvale from memory, from a bird’s eye view she’s seen when flying high above as Supergirl. She embellishes it with tiny seabirds and foamy white waves.
She could’ve flown to Midvale today, sure. She didn’t need to take the train, but the normality is soothing on a day like this (in a word, shitty.) Also, it’s nice not to have to worry if media outlets or underground crime organizations are tracking her flight patterns. The last thing she’d need would be to lead curious minds to her own home town. It wouldn’t take much for a dogged reporter to find unusual links between ‘weird Kara Danvers from high school’ and Supergirl.
Or so Alex has told her about a thousand times when she’s begged to fly home when a desperate craving has struck for a dozen (or so) of Eliza’s handmade cookies.
But she doesn’t spare her town or even Eliza much thought as she debarks. Rather, Kara heads straight to the ocean, straight to the sea salt air and whipping wind. It’s not warm in February, especially being farther north, but Kara wouldn’t feel it either way.
She toes off her shoes and socks. She rolls up her ‘Birkenstocks’ pants. She stands in the wet sand and what should be a bitingly cold surf and stares out into the boundless horizon.
What am I doing here? she wonders. Who am I waiting for?
Kara feels so suddenly bereft, so lost, so bone chillingly lonely that inexplicable tears spring to her eyes. Luckily a movement in her periphery stops her from sobbing, full out Edna from the Awakening style into the open and uncaring ocean. Instead, she turns her face and surreptitiously wipes her eyes. She schools her mouth before glancing back.
There’s another stranger on the beach with her. It’s a woman dressed several layers thick. Her hair is inkwell black and pulled into a severe ponytail, and not even a wisp escapes into the bitter wind. She cuts an expensive figure on the sand.
Kara doesn’t think she’s from around here, not if that’s a fur collar around her neck, blowing this way and that. It’s attached to a silky coat that’s more befitting of a Russian oligarch, and the woman looks so uncomfortable, not at all like someone enjoying a cold beach stroll. Plus, she’s otherworldly pretty, skin pale like the froth on the waves, lips the red of an apple, perfect for bitin—
Kara quickly looks away when the woman turns to watch her. She looks down at her feet, feigning interest in the mottled sand, feeling all at once self-conscious without her shoes on. She must look weird standing in the water like this in February. But before Kara can step away, compose herself, look a bit more confident and not like a person crying randomly on the beach, the woman is stiffly walking back to the parking lot.
Kara’s presence must’ve been enough to put her off the whole beach entirely.
Kara watches her try to manage the breaking dune, wobbling in her heels, every other step sinking deeper into the sand. It’s almost comedic, especially when she hears a loud curse carried by the wind as the woman slips and nearly pile drives into the concrete. Then, she’s gone.
Kara forces her eyes to return the ocean, and the loneliness comes crashing back like a rising tide. She has an instinct to chase after the woman, ask her to come back, but that’s crazy right? And why had she been thinking about biting a strange women’s lips? She didn’t bite lips, at least not women’s. It must really have been too long, something Alex would definitely say.
“I’m starting to think something is wrong, Kara. Just go on one date, it won’t kill you.”
What happened to Mon El? James, even? She prods her memories of the two men, but it’s like pushing ash around in a grate. She strikes a match, but nothing lights. Rao, she really needs to meet someone new.
If only she weren’t incapable of flirting.
Kara abandons the beach shortly thereafter, mainly in favor of locating food, her stomach grumbling. She walks to an old haunt, a relaxed and eclectic diner that sits just by the beach. One of the owners lights up at the sight of Kara as she enters and quickly cups her hand to her mouth, yelling to the kitchen,
“Herb, the Kara Special, please!”
She pats Kara on the shoulder in a grandmotherly sort of fashion.
“It’s been so long, little miss!” she tells her warmly. “I just saw your mother at the farmer’s market. We’ll have you fixed right up.”
“Thanks, Kathy,” Kara smiles weakly.
Sadly (according to Alex, happily according to her), several of Kara’s favorite eating establishments have a habit of greeting her this way. All of them know her name. All of them know her orders, plural. Shop owners in Midvale usually know Eliza, too, and they give her pitying looks and ask how much her monthly grocery bill was when Kara was growing up.
“Enough,” Eliza would always smile.
Kara watches Kathy bustle away, checking on another customer at the bar, before she goes quietly still.
It’s the same woman again, sitting awkwardly posture perfect on a backless swivel stool, fur collared coat still on, a single cup of coffee looking cold and destitute in front of her. Kathy offers to refresh the cup, but the woman waves her away before folding her hands in her lap like she’s at church. Kathy relents with a “suit yourself,” and the woman goes back to staring at the egg white walls as if they hold all the answers. She looks so singularly inconsonant with the world around her, Kara removes her sketchbook from her bag without really thinking and begins to outline her.
There’s a red sheen glinting off her hair from the light. The veins in her hand look delicate as she lifts her coffee to her mouth. Her lipstick leaves a red stain on the edge, a kiss.
Kara’s so focused, she doesn’t notice when her food is delivered. She polishes her sketch instead, blotting the edges of the woman’s coat. She wants to capture how it looks panther sleek, the kind of softness you want to run your hand over.
Even the approach of clacking heels, she doesn’t hear, not until they’re directly in her line of sight. Not until Kara looks straight up into seawashed glass green eyes.
Her mouth falls open. The woman speaks.
“This may sound odd,” she says in a practiced, clipped tenor that is distinctly not Californian. “But do I know you?”
Kara processes the question slowly, distracted by a hundred other thoughts and observations that happen concurrently.
The woman’s coat opens to reveal a tailored white blouse tucked into a pencil skirt.
The buttons, pearly white.
Her nails, unpainted but neatly trimmed.
Her voice deep and smooth like river stones.
Kara belatedly thinks to close her mouth lest it ‘catch flies.’ (What a terrible Earth expression.)
“No?” she replies, sounding all too flustered, Kara would have remembered someone like this. “Are you—are you from here?”
“Afraid not,” the woman answers, a touch snobbish. Her eyes glance down to the table, to Kara’s open sketchbook.
Kara glances down, too. She stares directly at the sketch she’d just refined.
She frantically snaps it shut. The woman surely saw, but Kara shoves it under herself, anyway, sitting on it. She looks up again to find thinly veiled amusement, a slight smirk to the upward curl of the stranger’s lips. Kara’s pencil is still in her hand, as damning as a murder weapon.
“Would you mind?” the woman indicates the open seat across from Kara. “Unless…”
She stares at the six plates of food.
“…you’re expecting someone else to join you?”
“Nope, no,” Kara answers quickly, pulling a few of the plates closer to her. She stows the pencil under her butt, too. “This is all for me.”
The woman looks appropriately disbelieving but appears to reserve comment. She takes the seat, placing her coffee cup in front of her. Prim. Proper.
“Are you from here?” she asks conversationally, eyes following with a morbid interest as Kara scoops several pancakes into her mouth at once, a knee jerk reaction to the flutter happening in her stomach.
She nods, trying to swallow without choking.
“I grew up here, but I live in National City now. I’m just visiting today.”
The woman leans back in the booth and crosses her arms, a piqued interest to her impeccably sculpted eyebrows. Kara tries to commit their shape to memory. For future sketches. For art reference, of course.
“Me too, it seems like we’re going back to the same place.”
Not quite the same place, Kara muses. She thinks of a woman like this existing in National City. She thinks of how very different their lives must be. Did she ever look up and see Kara, a dot in the sky? Did they ever pass each other on the street, Kara bathed ever so impermanently in her sweet smelling perfume?
“Something tells me you didn’t take the train,” she mumbles through a mouthful of food.
“What makes you say that?”
The woman’s voice, a current, has changed subtly like a rip tide. There’s a note of aggression to it.
“Nothing,” Kara shrugs, duly intimidated.
The woman lifts her eyebrow further, and Kara represses a shiver.
“You’re trying to be nice,” she observes like it’s a negative quality. “You can be honest.”
Kara swallows again, makes a show of looking under the blue frosted, kitschy table between them. Lena’s heels are red bottomed, shiny and day old looking despite the recent errant grains of sand.
“Those heels don’t exactly look suitable for walking the city, that’s all. I doubt they’ve ever seen the top of a train platform.”
The woman purses her lips, mirrors Kara’s sweeping up and down gaze under the table.
“I’m not sure a person who wears no shoes at all has room to judge.”
Kara smiles, shy and called out.
“I put them back on,” she defends feebly.
“To get service, I’m sure.”
Kara laughs more genuinely and takes another giant bite of food. Given that it’s partially true, she did only think to put her shoes on when she got to the diner, she doesn’t really have a retort.
“I’m sorry,” Lena chuckles after a moment, briefly placing her hand over her mouth. Her sleeve pulls back to reveal a gold watch sitting large on her wrist. A men’s watch. “I don’t usually do this.”
“You don’t usually do what?”
“I don’t usually bully a stranger whose table I’ve just invited myself to.”
If this is bullying, Kara’s not sure she hates it.
“I am,” she shakes her head. “I’m a bit petty and sensitive, truth be told.”
“I wouldn’t think that about you,” Kara comments.
“Why?” she challenges, and again Kara is slightly taken aback by the tone. Is it off putting, her quick fire dominance? Or does she like it?
Yikes, Kara thinks. Her body is definitely sending a signal in favor of the latter.
“You seem nice.”
“I am not nice,” the woman scoffs, eyes to the ceiling.
“Is there something wrong with nice?”
“Nobody likes nice.”
Kara feels a flare of offense at that statement. People call her ‘nice’ all the time. They smile when they say it. They mean it positively, but she also knows people on Earth equate niceness with naiveté or stupidity. There can be so much strength in kindness, she thinks.
She eats her food quietly though. The woman is staring through the neighboring window with that same far off look again. Kara would normally share her opinion, object to her statement, but she seems to be going through something already.
“I should go,” she abruptly stands from the booth.
“No—” Kara drops her fork, reaches out.
“Yes,” she cuts Kara off. “I’m sorry. Again. I’m just—out of sorts today.”
“Me too,” Kara assures. “But please, you can stay. We don’t have to talk if you want.”
The woman holds up her hand, the watch glints.
“No, I can’t continue to intrude. Enjoy your meal.”
She turns, and with several severe clacks of her heels the doorbell rings and she’s gone.
Kara didn’t even get her name. She mopes a bit, as much as one can after ordering and devouring a double fudge sundae for dessert. She needs the extra energy to get herself back to National City, she rationalizes.
At least she thinks she does before she finds the woman waiting leaned against a Rolls Royce in the parking lot. At the sight of her lean, cut from glass form, fingers drumming on the hood, Kara suddenly feels very awake.
“How are you getting back home?” she asks with a smile, soft and genuine.
From her embarrassment just inside the shop to this display of confidence, Kara tries to reorient herself.
“The train,” she answers simply.
“I could give you a ride,” the woman offers, indicating the glitzy black car. “It’s cold. It would be faster. The next train won’t come for another hour.”
Kara weighs her options; should she wait in total boredom at the station or be distracted, however briefly, by a moody yet beautiful woman?
Kara leans over, eyes glazing over the luxurious vehicle, and jokingly asks,
“I don’t know. Are you going to kill me?”
The woman laughs suddenly, loud and bright.
“No! Why would you say that?”
“I don’t know,” Kara continues to rib her. “You’re awfully knowledgeable about train schedules for someone who definitely didn’t take one here.”
The woman rolls her eyes playfully.
“I looked it up after I came out here. I promise I’m not going to kill you. It will be a very safe ride.”
“Okay,” Kara concedes. “But I’d feel safer knowing your name.”
The woman levels Kara with those mossy green and captivating eyes. She smiles again, small and at the corner.
“Lena,” she holds out her hand, and Kara bounds forward to accept it.
They shake, and Lena’s touch is soft but cool. Her grip is firm.
Inside, Lena informs her driver that they’re ready. She presses a button, lifting the privacy glass.
(There’s privacy glass. And a driver.)
She sheds her giant, expensive coat, looking relieved, and turns to deposit it on the opposite passenger bench.
(There’s two seating areas. In one car. They are leather.)
“It’s faux fur,” Lena says, misinterpreting the reason for Kara’s staring. She hadn’t been wondering if the coat was authentic, she’d been wondering how much it had cost. How much Lena’s whole outfit cost. The watch is definitely a Rolex.
“You’re not one of those aggressive vegetarians, are you?” she hears Lena joke, and Kara laughs, surprised at the directness.
“We’ve just met, and you’re bringing up politics?”
“I don’t like to waste time,” Lena winks.
Kara nearly gags on her own spit and marvels at the fact that she now knows a person who can successfully (sexily) wink, who has a (faux) fur coat, and a limo (with a driver and privacy glass.)
“You saw me eat like fifty pieces of bacon.”
“Don’t remind me.”
Kara laughs again.
“Which reminds me,” she continues. “You acted all insulted in the diner, but can we discuss something, Lena?”
The name rolls off her tongue like it belongs there, like its home.
“This,” she gestures around the car, “is crazy. You have a Rolls Royce. You have a driver. I bet he has a name like George.”
It’s Lena’s turn to laugh, and it’s even more beautiful than when it had happened in the parking lot.
“I knew it,” Kara answers clapping her hands together. “I’d just like to point out that I was right. I was right.”
“Right about what?”
“That you didn’t take the train.”
“You’re gloating, and it’s unbecoming, Kara,” Lena smiles.
Kara snorts while laughing (very unbecoming), and Lena mercifully looks endeared by it.
“I bet there’s Veuve in here,” she says, popping open a console at random and reaching into it. Anything to distract Lena from whatever that snort was.
“I’m sorry, I stand corrected,” Kara continues even more smug and gloat-y as she showcases a large bottle of champagne. “It’s Dom Perignon.”
Lena rolls her eyes good-naturedly and takes the bottle from Kara, their fingers brushing. Without preamble, she tears the capsule and pops the cork free. The open bottle smokes in wisps under Lena’s nose, and Kara makes a high, theatrical gasp.
“You just opened a bottle worth more than my rent money.”
“Would you like a drink?” Lena ignores her, her voice rolling deeper, that same confidence back as she produces two sparkling crystal champagne flutes.
Kara has the sense that Lena’s fully in her element now. She involuntarily tunes into her heart rate, looking for signs of nerves that match her own, but it’s heavy and steady.
Kara fidgets with the door lock. She forces herself to focus on the question. Normally, she’d say no, but since Lena has just opened the bottle… it would be a shame to waste, would it not? Plus, she’s already skipped work today, why not pretend to be drunk, too?
She nods and watches Lena pour the glasses with experienced hands.
“You said you weren’t going to kill me,” Kara remarks, briefly taking a sip of the most expensive drink of her life. “But this whole getup is very American Psycho.”
Lena’s smile wanes a bit.
“Are you calling me a psycho?” she jests, but there’s a tinge to it, like maybe Kara’s struck a nerve.
“No, you know,” Kara backtracks. “Like the book.”
“Well, statistically speaking,” Lena plays along, professorially waving her champagne around, and Kara breathes with relief. “That’s less likely given I’m a woman.”
“But serial killers typically hunt within their own ethnic pools, right?”
“Honestly, Kara,” Lena cants her head closer, resting her cheek on the shiny black leather. Her whole body is angled towards her, and her jaw is so sharp. Her knees are up on the seat like she doesn’t know how to sit properly. Or doesn’t need to, now hidden in the privacy of the limo.
Kara holds her breath.
“That’s not the type of hunting I enjoy.”
They stare at one another, and Kara can see blue, green, yellow, gray, every color in Lena’s irises. They're prismatic. She tries to take a breather from the moment by drinking her champagne, but it’s empty and she chokes on air.
Lena laughs lightly and reaches to refill her glass, her touch lingering over Kara’s fingers.
“Do you work in National City?” she asks. She sounds calm, but her heartbeat has ticked upwards, betraying her.
“What do you do—?” Lena starts, handing the glass back, but Kara hears a determined buzzing, and Lena glances down at her phone.
“I’m terribly sorry, just a moment.”
Kara worries that it’s a family or friend emergency (or a spouse, she thinks with a frown), but the call is decidedly business. Lena speaks in short, hushed tones, murmuring words like ‘report’ and ‘quarterly’ and ‘prototype.’
“Get it to me in the morning,” she ends the call.
When she looks to Kara again, the boardroom expression she’d worn melts away and she’s smiling as if a load has been lifted, as if it’s a relief to see Kara sitting there next to her.
“I’m sorry again.”
“So, you’re a corporate overlord, huh,” Kara smiles back.
Lena shifts, still angled towards Kara with every point in her body; her knees, her elbows, her wrists, that jaw.
“I feel like this ride has become a roast.”
“Do you own any t-shirts?” Kara doesn’t ease up. “Are all your pajamas silk? I bet you don’t know how much a banana costs.”
“Fifty-nine cents,” Lena answers without missing a beat.
“Uh oh,” Kara mocks. “You’re in the banana business.”
Lena laughs again, and Kara wants to commit her life to making it happen over and over.
“No, I am not, but I am in business.”
Lena looks charmed by Kara, maybe even a bit despite herself, and Kara imagines Lena as the woman in charge. The fur coat, the pencil skirt, the watch, it all makes sense. She wonders if that’s why her anger rests just under the surface, too, concealed and ready to fire.
“Do a lot of peons report to you?”
“My mother would love you,” Lena deflects, looking wistful. Her free hand twitches on the seat between them, projecting a need to touch perhaps.
“Blonde and so clearly liberal. Please tell me you have an arts degree from a state college. That would be the cherry on top.”
Kara laughs, definitely not wanting to tell Lena she’s right, but Lena can sense she’s close. There’s blood in the water.
“Am I right?” she persists, her smirk obnoxious. “Did you study communications? Philosophy?”
“Oh my god, stop.”
“Art?” she says, glancing pointedly at Kara’s bag. She lifts that same eyebrow, and Kara nearly perishes.
“I feel like you’re going to ask my star sign next,” Kara attempts to sidetrack. “Or what the worst date I’ve ever been on is.”
“Well?” Lena goes for the bait.
Lena turns her head away, pretending to think. She bites her lip, and Kara watches how her teeth indent the skin there. Biting, biting is good.
“I suppose mine are interrelated. On a terrible date, a woman once told me,” (a woman!) “that based on my astrological star sign I had a,” Lena gestures in a distinctly southern region and steels herself to say, “smelly vagina.”
Kara actually snorts her entire champagne. Actually snorts it. Vinegar burns out of one nostril as she wipes at it and tries not to die.
“What?!” she manages despite the amount of liquid that just pressure washed her sinuses. “And, oh my God, which star sign?!”
“Scorpio, and it’s not true,” Lena is quick to assure. “I mean, I haven’t gotten any complaints.”
Kara can’t stop laughing either way.
“What about you?” Lena pokes one of her knees, a silent cue to shut the fuck up about it.
“Oh wow, I’m not sure I can beat that, but,” Kara considers, wiping a tear from her eye. “The first date I ever went on in 7th grade, the boy tried to kiss me, and I broke his nose. There was blood everywhere.”
Lena puts a hand over her mouth in surprise.
“How… did that happen?”
Kara mimes quickly leaning forward.
“I have a hard head, I guess.”
“So, I should be careful,” Lena comments, dropping her hand. She slides subtly closer.
Kara’s inner voice is high pitched and hurriedly debating: careful around her or careful to kiss her? And, under Rao’s gladsome rays, was Lena flirting with her? And was Kara successfully receiving it? Were they flirting?
She bites her lip at the thought, mostly thinking, don’t fuck this up, and Lena tracks the movement, following it like a cat with a string. She wets her lips, and Lena wets her lips. Kara’s body knows what’s about to happen before her brain does, and her mouth parts, her lashes flutter.
There’s a knock at the window, and it jars them. Kara’s eyes snap open.
“Yes, Martin?” Lena directs to the driver, a tinge of annoyance in her voice.
“We’ve arrived at your penthouse, did you want to give me the address for your guest, Ms. Lu—”
“Just a moment,” Lena cuts him off. She turns to Kara. “Do you want to come up?”
All at once, she looks so hopeful and vulnerable, and Kara does want to, she really does… but.
“I’m sorry,” Lena waves away. “That’s embarrassing, forget I asked. Martin, Kara will give you her add—”
But Kara catches her wrist, and Lena pauses.
“I’ll come up.”
“Did you want another drink?” Lena asks from her absolutely immaculate kitchen. Kara knows she really shouldn’t be all that surprised at this point, but Lena’s home is really next freaking level.
“Oh, I’m fine,” Kara answers distractedly, listening to the sounds of clinking glass. She’s standing in the living room, gazing at the giant balcony attached to it. She can’t help but think how perfect that would be for a landing as Supergirl.
Weird. Oddly serendipitous and weird.
“Are you sure?” Lena calls, her voice closer. “It’ll make the whole seduction part less repugnant.”
Kara’s head swivels, seduction?! Her mouth drops open as Lena rounds the edge of the wall, holding two glasses of whiskey, neat.
“Joking, Kara,” she flashes her white teeth. “It won’t be repugnant.”
Kara takes her glass and tries not to laugh too loud or awkward. Her success is middling. Regardless, Lena crowds her space as she takes a sip of her drink, and Kara watches her throat bob. Lena’s eyes never leave hers.
“You’re welcome to sit,” Lena suggests, and Kara robotically turns, selecting a spot in the middle of Lena’s plush couch.
As soon as she’s down, Lena sits next to her, literally right next to her, and bends her arm at the elbow on the back edge of the couch. If she straightened it, her arm would be around Kara. She looks calmly ponderous and somewhat predatory.
“Is it strange to say it feels like I know you?” Lena suggests again.
Not at all, Kara thinks. This whole thing, honestly, it should be weird. It should feel forced and foreign, but it doesn’t. It feels worn and fitted like an oiled leather glove.
“Maybe we’ve worked together?”
“You never said what you do,” Lena replies, taking a timely sip. Kara watches the pink of her tongue dip and taste the liquor. She can practically hear it.
“I’m a reporter,” Kara croaks, taking a drink of whiskey herself. She tries not to cringe at the flavor but doesn’t quite manage at the burn in her throat. She tries to appreciate it, anyway, since it's probably one of those expensive whiskeys Alex always likes to point out at the store. You know, the kind that comes in a box with a high number advertised on the cover.
“A reporter?” Lena repeats, a bit shrill. She takes a bigger drink than Kara, no cringe.
“Is that bad?” Kara asks. “Are you someone important?”
“God, I’m not sure if I’d known—” Lena takes a breath, “I don’t think I would’ve invited a reporter up to my penthouse.”
“Well, I’m sorry to disappoint,” Kara smiles sadly, placing her drink on the coffee table and making a move as if to stand. “I can go.”
“No, no,” Lena places her hand on Kara’s forearm. She squeezes, eyebrows pinching briefly in confusion at the solid muscle she encounters there. “This is just—it’s off the record.”
Kara pretends to lock her mouth and throw away the key. Lena seems to relax and her gaze softens. Her hand stays on Kara’s arm, and she pulls her knees up onto the couch, just like in the limo. They touch at Kara’s thigh. She’s discarded her heels, too, and her feet are perfect and so very human. Useless in combat, sure, but cute.
“What do you do?” Kara asks.
“I—” Lena begins, casting her eyes skyward. She strokes over Kara’s skin absently. “I just try to be better.”
Kara likes that answer, but Lena laughs at herself after a moment, deprecating and self-loathing.
“My brother—he used to say the same thing. All the time. I only wonder, does the sentiment even mean anything anymore?”
“It does,” Kara tells her earnestly.
Lena reaches with her other hand, the bent elbow one, and plucks Kara’s glasses from her face. She sets them on the back of the couch, and their eyes meet again, unobstructed. There’s a naked vulnerability to Lena and her knees press bare against Kara’s thighs, skin warm even through Kara’s pants. Her arm drops behind Kara’s shoulder, and her fingers play with the soft blonde hair they find at the nape of her neck.
“You know, I did just sell a media empire,” Lena tells her, somehow still cognizant to the fact that they’re holding a conversation. That’s more than Kara can say, especially not when Lena’s voice has dropped into a range that’s catastrophically seductive. It’s making Kara question her sexuality.
“We practically work in the same business,” Lena adds, and she’s too good at this.
“Really?” Kara asks with a dry swallow, distracted as a teenage boy when Lena applies pressure to the back of her neck with intent. Kara leans forward, a fly in her web, and Lena’s breath strikes her mouth, only a hair away.
Lena catches Kara’s lips in the middle of the question. This kiss is chaste, exploratory, and consent seeking. The second kiss is not.
The second kiss turns into a third and a fourth and a fifth kiss. It has Kara slotting their tongues together like puzzle pieces. It has Kara pulling Lena closer by the elbow, the other hand working independently to free Lena’s hair from it’s ponytail prison. Once it’s loose, Kara rakes her nails across Lena’s scalp, and Lena groans, rocking into her. She drops her empty whiskey glass, and it hits the floor behind the couch with a thump. Somehow it doesn’t break and rolls away.
They ignore it.
Kara’s clouded by the expensive way she smells. She’s overcome by the way Lena’s angling herself into her lap. She can taste her, and she’s soft and whiskey and mint. Lena’s heart races, and when she moans into Kara’s mouth, she’s sure it’s uniquely designed to break her.
This has never happened before. This kissing of a woman. This woman kissing.
But instead of the swirl of awkwardness and unfamiliarity, it feels like a homecoming. It doesn’t feel like her day was derailed by Lena of Unknown Last Name, a woman who used smooth lines and suggestive eyebrows to pick her up at a Midvale diner, a woman who plied her with alcohol and is fully in her lap now and currently untucking her shirt. It feels right.
It feels a little like Déjà vu.
This time it’s Kara’s phone who interrupts them.
“I have to go,” she mumbles, detaching her face from Lena’s and pulling her phone from her pocket. She glances down to see the red and flashing Supergirl emergency notification and reconsiders chucking her phone into space.
“You should stay,” Lena purrs against her neck, mouth open and tongue dragging up behind that spot, Rao, that spot behind ear. Kara’s pretty sure every single hair on her body just stood up, raised and ready for action.
“I—I have to—” fuck, what are things? What are lies? Lena’s hand works itself under Kara’s shirt, and she maps her abs like a blind person reading braille.
“Jesus Christ,” Lena whispers, that same confused pinch to her eyebrows as she swipes her hands over Kara’s stomach muscles. “You’re sculpted like a Greek God.”
Kara blushes, fire truck red, which reminds her, a child could be burning to death right now. So many children. A bus full.
“Fuck, I really have to go,” Kara stands from the couch, lifting Lena with her. Since when had she planted both hands firmly on her ass? They don’t want to move.
Lena doesn’t seem to mind.
“Strong,” is all she says, biting her lip hard and sliding out of Kara’s arms and back down to her feet.
“I’m so sorry, it’s an emergency.”
“Call me,” Lena replies. “Would you do that? I’d like it.”
Kara is already nodding, handing Lena her phone. Lena hands it back, contact saved.
“Please call,” she repeats as Kara rushes to the front door. “Wish me a happy valentine’s day when you call!”
When Kara gets home, it’s one in the morning and she’s covered in ash and slime. Technically, it was an “interplanetary viscous object,” but all Kara heard was space booger. She really can’t believe a flipping space booger redirected her from kissing a woman.
Kara calls Lena.
“Did you miss me?” Lena hums by way of answer. Kara is in the middle of removing her suit and getting into the shower, but she full on stops, arm bent at an odd angle.
“Yes,” Kara states to a static-y silence.
“Is everything okay?”
Kara grumbles, removing the rest of the super suit.
“It was basically a false alarm, but…” Kara pauses, working herself up to it. “Happy Valentine’s Day.”
She swears she can hear Lena smile half way across the city.
“I lied earlier,” Lena tells her, sounding sleepy and cuddly. Sleepy cuddle sexy. “In the diner. I like nice. You’re nice, Kara.”
There’s a longer pause, and Kara listens to every tiny detail: fabric rustling against fabric, Lena taking an inward breath. She imagines Lena’s lungs expanding, her ribs, her chest rising.
“Will you meet me at a fundraiser tomorrow night?” she asks, hopeful. “It’s at Griffith Observatory. It’ll be special, and…” Kara imagines that sinful lip bite. “I want to see you again.”
“Of course,” Kara answers too quickly to sound suave.
The next day, Lena texts Kara the address. She calls it a ‘boring mandatory thing for work,’ but she does mention it’s for a children’s hospital, and she does say she’ll be there early to talk with some of the kids before the event. She described that as ‘the best part of her job’ and added a winky emoji.
Lena sends emojis, cute!
The whole thing is heart-warming, really, and even though it’s been less than 24 hours, Kara feels her entire body attuning to Lena the way those giant satellites she’s never seen in real life shift to locate targets in James Bond movies. Or something less pop culture related and something more romantically inclined (flower following the sun, ocean gravitating to the moon), you get it. That’s her right now.
So, Kara will be there early. Griffith observatory at 7 PM.
Alex is still actively trying to talk to her, albeit in a very indirect and miffed way. Meaning only through all capitalized texts that Kara ignores. When they were getting debriefed about the space booger last night, Alex was acting very arms crossed and dagger eyes, and she didn’t offer Kara any of her gummy bears.
“What were you doing last night?” she’d asked suspiciously instead.
“You have lipstick all over your face, Kara,” she left the room before Kara could reply.
What would she even tell Alex about meeting Lena? And what was Lena’s last name? Alex was sure to look her up in every conceivable database on earth.
She’d have to find out. It's probably not a critical detail.
When Kara arrives, she’s met with a breathtaking panoramic view of National City. It’s a thankfully cloudless night, and she can easily spot the CatCo tower in the distance. She makes a delighted sound at the sight, something Alex refers to as her “Disney princess chirp.”
Inside, she walks past the giant replicas of Saturn and Jupiter, the interactive displays of constellations, and makes her way to the observatory deck.
She finds Lena there conducting a tour, dressed impeccably in another silky, tucked blouse and pencil skirt combo. She looks amazing in green. This time, her hair is plaited and styled to the side, and Kara’s not sure how Rao created a creature so perfect, jet black and pale.
“Remember to look up at the stars and not down at your feet,” she tells the children. “Be curious. And however difficult life may seem, there is always something you can do and succeed at.”
She gestures around the planetarium.
“That’s a quote from Stephen Hawking, one of the greatest physicists and cosmologists of our time. It’s a fancy way of saying, never give up. Now who wants to use the biggest telescope in North America?”
All of the kids raise their hands and excitably form a line, some in assisted wheel chairs, others with casts and shaved hair. Kara smiles and begins to make her way to the group.
“Ms. Luthor, Ms. Luthor,” a kid pulls on the lower part of Lena’s skirt.
Kara stops dead. Lena looks up at the movement and sees her there, her smile wavering.
“You haven’t moved in our game yet,” the boy tells her, and Lena shakes herself back to attention.
“You know where it’s going to be, Grayson.”
“Knight to C4?”
Kara’s mind is still reeling, stuck like a broken record. She glances frantically around the room. The hung banners read L-Corp. The directional signs read L-Corp. The check in desk at the front (that Kara had blitzed past) it, too, had read L-Corp.
Kara snaps back to watch Lena LUTHOR slide open her phone and click around.
“Knight to C4.”
It’s probably his sister, right? She’s in business. She’s crazy rich. It’s not a common name, and FUCK, they look alike.
“I will beat you,” the kid grumbles, taking his place in line. “As soon as I get back to the hospital!”
“I believe it,” Lena says indulgently, taking a few steps in Kara’s direction.
Kara feels the curtain rising. It’s time to act like a normal person, but her mind won’t stop chanting,
“Ruthless,” she manages to say breathlessly to Lena. She’s relieved it wasn’t ‘Luthor.’
Lena’s eyes look pained, the smile at once unsure.
“So, my last name,” she says, taking a direct approach. “Was it wishful thinking to think that a reporter in National City would have already known who I was?”
“It’s, it’s,” Kara stammers, smiling with borderline hysterics. It’s the same reaction she’d had when Alex had asked ‘how bad it was’ when a Harpi had punched her right in the face (it had broken her nose.)
Lena laughs bitterly.
“No, no,” Kara tries to encourage. It’s not convincing. “It’s not bad.”
Mainly, she’s wondering why no one had told her that Lex friggin Luthor’s sister lived in National City. Lex Luthor, who had just staged a hostile takeover of America. Lex Luthor, who Kara had just stopped a few weeks ago. No one could be bothered to brief Supergirl about a blood relative of his living in her proximity? And, all seeing Rao!, she had kissed her! Lena had been in her lap! Whatthefuck!
Alex was going to murder her when she found out.
“No, it’s fine, I get it,” Lena says watching the terrible conflict play out over Kara’s face. There’s a significant measure of resignation to her tone. “I don’t blame you for not wanting to associate with the sister of a xenophobic murderer.”
Lena checks back on the group of children. Her feet tap antsy as if she’d just talked herself out of walking away completely.
“I just,” she sighs. She starts over. “I want to make the world a better place, you know? I want my company to be a force for good.”
Kara still can’t find the words to reply, mouth open like a fish on dry land. Lena just seems so—sincere. Kara had seen a lot so far: vulnerability, kindness, confidence, intelligence, sexiness. Lena didn't seem like an evil mastermind who would manipulate and trick her.
“I just want to make a name for myself outside of my family, but I understand if you don’t want to be involved. Please stay and enjoy yourself,” Lena tells her graciously, holding up a hand as if to touch Kara’s elbow but then thinking better of it at the last moment. “I’ll leave you alone.”
The hand goes to rub at the back of her neck instead. A kind of armor falls over her face, the boardroom look from yesterday, and Lena walks away. Lena walks away, and Kara lets her.
But she doesn’t leave. It just doesn’t sit right. Every fiber in her being tells her that she can trust Lena. Plus, being without Lena is yesterday all over. It’s everything that’s wrong.
Instead, Kara waits (after discreetly inhaling several serving trays of appetizers.) She waits just outside of the observatory until everyone is filing out and the fundraiser is over. Lena is nearly the last to leave, and Kara jumps up when she sees her, up from the steps just below where Lena pauses, smiling with surprise, small and to the side in that way she does.
“I thought you left,” she tells Kara, closing the gap between them, standing on the step just above. She seems to be enjoying her (brief) height advantage.
“I stole this from one of your table arrangements,” Kara tells her, handing her a rose she had, in fact, taken from a vase at one of the special reserved seats in the lobby.
“You’re gifting me my own flower,” Lena smirks. “How kind.”
“Isn’t it the thought that counts?”
“I suppose,” Lena smiles, tucking the rose under her arm. “What made you stay?”
“I don’t care about your name,” Kara tells her with finality. “You seem nice.”
Lena takes a second to process the callback to their previous conversation. Then, she laughs.
“No one likes nice.”
“You do, and I do too.”
Kara reaches for Lena’s hand, presses palm to palm. She indicates the observatory.
“Is that still open?”
Somehow, Lena gets them on the roof (Kara assumes it’s a benefit to being a billionaire.) Somehow, Kara finds a blanket (it’s a benefit to Kara being resourceful because it’s actually two folded up tablecloths.)
They end up laid out on the roof with Lena shivering until Kara pulls her closer. She squeezes, and Lena squeaks like a kitten.
“You’re so warm,” she says after she relaxes a little, draping a hand over Kara’s chest. “Tell me about the constellations, Casanova.”
Kara looks down at Lena, her fluttering eyelashes, her just fading maroon lipstick. Lena is definitely the Casanova between them, no doubt about it.
“Well, that’s the dog star,” Kara looks up, pointing to it with a finger. Lena pivots her head to see. “And that’s, well, the Elephant constellation.”
Lena scoffs into Kara’s collar bone.
“No, it is not.”
“Yes, it is,” Kara persists. “I’m pretty sure its academic name is the Elephantits—squadrant.”
“Did you just say the squadrant?” Lena asks in disbelief, but she’s also laughing, so Kara considers it a win. She knows she could go into some dissertation level explanation of the Earth's astronomy, but this is absolutely more fun.
She waves at the air.
“Can’t you see it? The full—pride of elephants?”
“I’m pretty sure it’s a herd.”
Kara makes arcing motions with her pointer fingers. “It’s a parade, I’m the expert here. Don’t you see, those are the tusks, and the big, flappy ears.”
Lena is still laughing, and she hits Kara lightly in the ribs.
“No, you are making all of this up.”
Kara giggles and hugs her tighter, holding her captive and limiting her ability to hit her again.
“Do you want to hear an astronomy joke?”
“Oh god, I’m not sure if I can withstand it.”
“I’ll take that as a yes. How does the man on the moon cut his hair?”
“How?” Lena humors her.
Lena laughs again, and she breaks free. She tickles Kara’s ribs, forcing Kara to feign a reaction to it, and they tussle, Kara writhing this way and that. When they’ve tired themselves, Lena angles her face up. Her lips ghost across Kara’s.
“I’m going to marry you,” she says, and Kara feels it right then and there.
She’s happy. Everything is fixed.
Lena drops Kara off later that night at her apartment. They make out in the back of her fancy car. It’s glorious and shocking and Kara would’ve never believed it. She doesn’t know how or when she became Julia Roberts in Pretty Woman. At least, she and Lena get to kiss on the mouth. Maybe someday even on a piano.
Kara smiles all the way up to her apartment, keys jingling. She smiles all the way until she turns her lights on in the living room and finds a shadow sitting on her couch.
“Oh my god, Alex!” Kara flies back, crashing into her wall, cracking several bricks with her body. “Why are you waiting in the dark like that?”
“Kara,” Alex replies, stone cold calm like the time she’d discovered her secret stash of double stuffed Oreos missing.
“Give me some warning, why don’t you?” Kara breathes, throwing her things onto the island.
“I’ve been calling you all night,” Alex snaps. “What more warning do you need? A bat signal?”
“Where have you been all day?” she dives right in. “And what the hell happened to your floor?"
Kara looks down at a long strip of floor where the varnish has been worked off. She didn't remember doing that?
"Also, I got this weird report from J'onn about stolen tech, and now I find this,” Alex indicates a black box Kara’s never seen in her lap. It has a small logo Kara can't quite make out. It's sleek and fastidiously designed.
"Is that the new Playstation?"
“NO, it was under your bed, and I’m worried, Kar. I think I know what it is, and I’m worried you might’ve—”
“I met someone, Alex,” Kara feels the sudden impulse to interrupt her, smiling brightly. Whatever Alex was about to say sounded like a downer, and she wants to stay upper. She brushes some brick dust off of her shoulder.
Alex sets her jaw in a steel-bending clench.
“You met someone.”
“Yeah, a woman! Can you believe it?”
“I—” Alex looks completely taken aback. “A woman.”
She shoots Kara another plant withering stare.
“What’s her name?”
Alex closes her eyes and gives every indication that she doesn't want to hear this.
“Lena…?” she gestures for the last name.
Alex stands from the couch, politely places the black box on the table, and turns to scream at the brick wall Kara had just cracked with her body. It reverberates out of the open window and down into the city, and Kara glances back down to see that the black box reads, "L-corp."
Chapter 2: Chapter 2
The beginning of the end.
(See the end of the chapter for notes.)
A few days before.
Kara is flying and crying. Crying and flying. She’s been doing that a lot lately.
She wonders what she looks like at her high flight speed. Water slicking off a just washed car? A hair dryer pushing droplets around a mirror? Does it fall like rain on unsuspecting National City citizens below? Do they think it’s bird poop?
She feels like bird poop. It should probably be illegal for her to fly like this. It’s reckless when you can’t even see through your own tears. Alex keeps telling her to keep it down on the comms device, but Kara just sniffles and says it’s allergies. Or that she got a cloud in her eye. Or nose? Both. It’s very cloudy where she is.
But that’s a lie and they both know it. It’s because of what’s happened. It’s because of the conversation she had with Lena.
Lena knows, and Kara didn’t tell her first.
Kara zips through the city before coming to a stop, hovering just above Lena’s balcony at L-Corp. She shoves both hands over her face as if she might be able remold herself back into a Supergirl shape like red and blue play-doh. Her hands come back wet, but she forces a smile, bright and impossibly sunny, something Eliza had once told her would help her stop crying.
“Sometimes just feeling yourself smile helps.”
She just does it out of habit now, but Kara isn’t sure if it’s working. She doesn’t remember what it’s like to have Lena not know, to have her best friend answering her calls and texts. She can’t remember happiness.
She can’t forget that she caused this, either. It’s her fault. This pain between them, this unbearable silence, the genesis was Kara’s cowardice and indecision. It ends with whatever Lena wants to do about it.
Regardless, this matter is separate, and it bears breaking the stalemate. Is it a flimsy excuse to confront Lena, to see Lena again? Maybe. But also Lena should’ve told her.
Kara’s feet touch down, and she sweeps towards the balcony door, steeling herself and priming her resolve. But when she looks inside, she doesn’t need x-ray vision to see Lena already seated at her desk, leaned at a slant, cheek resting on a fisted bent elbow while the other hand signs a document, looping and flourishing over paper with a fancy fountain pen. She has one leg drawn up into her seat and a naked, pale foot taps in the air, shrugged out of its heel. She looks comfortable and, damn it, Lena can never sit right.
Why does that fact make Kara nearly burst into tears again?
She knocks crisply on the balcony glass door before she loses herself completely to another bout of histrionics. Lena’s posture goes rigid, and she quickly tucks the errant foot back into its heel. When she finds Kara standing there and waiting, her whole face lights up.
“Supergirl!” Lena exclaims brightly, opening the door.
Kara nearly trips over the threshold. It’s just—why is Lena looking at her like that, all glowing and doe-eyed? Her neck looks particularly aristocratic today, too, her hair pulled up and into an off center bun—
Kara! she chides herself internally. It sounds suspiciously like Alex’s voice. This is not the time!
“Miss Luthor,” she says a bit warily, voice an octave deeper.
“You know, that door’s not really an entrance,” Lena comments with a somewhat flustered motion of her hands as Kara walks inside, and Kara completely loses her train of thought.
That sounded (and looked) familiar. Hadn’t Lena said that before, exactly the same, years ago? Was this some sort of weird business tactic designed to throw Kara off her game?
It almost works. She shakes her head and endeavors to continue the purpose for her visit.
“Why didn’t you tell me you were going to sell CatCo?” she asks with her teeth gritted, involuntarily adopting the super-hero posture and placing both hands on her hips. She doesn’t usually do that with Lena, it’s just—something feels incredibly off right now. She feels strangely threatened.
Lena observes the pose, and her face pinches in something like offended confusion. She leans against her desk, crossing her arms.
“Forgive me, but I don’t see how my business transactions would concern the Girl of Steel.”
Kara nearly falters again, her mouth falling open. How would this not concern her?!
“A heads up would’ve been nice, though, considering,” she motions helplessly at the CatCo tower easily spotted from Lena’s downtown view.
Lena raises both eyebrows.
“Isn’t that what Google alerts are for?”
“Lena—” Kara starts with exasperation, but just then, the door bursts open, and they both turn to the interruption.
Jess stands there, gripping the door handle like a lifeline as she doubles over, out of breath. She looks a touch sweaty too, if Kara’s being honest, as if she’d run at top speed across the entire 63rd floor.
“Miss Da—Miss…girl,” she stutters in a state, smoothing her skirt down. She catches her breath. “Supergirl. I need to speak with you.”
Kara stares at her, and so does Lena with slow smile that doesn’t quite reach her eyes. It’s a politely incensed kind of smile that Kara’s sure she learned from Lillian.
“I’m afraid it’s urgent,” Jess reiterates, and Lena lifts an unimpressed eyebrow.
“Alright then,” she turns, her sharp eyes moving back over Kara, still standing there elbows bent on her hips. She feels like an idiot with Lena looking at her like that.
“I guess we’ll have to table the immediate suspicion and blame,” she says airily. “Maybe we can schedule a more formal introduction later?”
Kara gawks at her, dropping her hands. Introduction?
“Supergirl, I must insist,” Jess barks at her from the doorway. She waves Kara down like a particularly enthusiastic airport landing crew member.
Kara relents, uncomfortably making her way across Lena’s clean and modern office, to where Jess stands in the doorway, now composed and board straight.
Kara can’t help it, she looks back. There’s something wrong with the way Lena’s expression has shifted from annoyance to curiosity and interest. Also, Lena’s green eyes jump up to meet hers, her cheeks pink. She looks unmistakably guilty, caught red-handed. Had she been checking out Kara’s ass?
Jess grabs Kara by the wrist and attempts to tug her from the room, but she remains motionless. Jess might as well be trying to move a mountain.
“You’re going to pull my arm out of its socket,” Jess whisper-yells. “Please move.”
Once Kara allows it, they’re through the door, and Jess closes it with a slam.
“I apologize, I would normally never, ever do this,” Jess breathes, looking more frenetic than Kara has ever seen her. “I was supposed to intercept you, and I didn’t see that you were here. I was—I was in the bathroom, you know, across the building. The one no one ever uses and, you know, it has music—”
“Yes, yes, I’m sorry,” she shakes her head, still speaking in a rush. “I—I just have to tell you something.”
“What is it?” Kara frowns. Her cape flutters restlessly behind her, an unhappy cat tail.
“Ms. Luthor did something,” Jess strains, uncharacteristically pulling at her fingers. It reminds Kara of Dobby the House Elf trying not to speak ill of his master. “She did something entirely inadvisable.”
“What?” Kara repeats, frown deepening to a level two as Alex would call it. Her superhero pose also makes a reappearance.
Jess squeezes her eyes shut, her voice strained.
“She mimicked the tech, well, not the tech but—the process that allowed your—Agent Danvers to alter her memories.”
Kara’s frown goes level three, and her posture intensifies to a level four imposing.
“Oh God, that definitely violated the terms of my NDA, but she doesn’t even remember me signing it!” Jess’ eyes are shining like she’s close to tears.
“What do you mean she doesn’t remember?”
“She doesn’t remember the contract, and she doesn’t remember… well, you.”
With a skittish motion, Jess produces a card printed on stiff L-corp paper stock and hands it to Kara. It reads,
“Dear Ms. Kara Zor-El - Lena Luthor has elected to forget you. Please never mention your relationship to her again.”
Kara doesn’t take it well.
“What does this mean?” she’d badgered Jess somewhat hysterically. “What does this mean she doesn’t remember me?”
“Please,” Jess had begged. “I’m contractually obligated to say no more. She just asked me to give you this card. She told me not to accept any meetings, to wipe everything about you from our databases. I’m sorry.”
And, for a few days, Kara pretends to never have seen that blighted card. If Lena can elect to forget Kara, Kara can elect to forget Lena forgetting her. She doesn’t tell anyone else about it. She pretends the whole thing didn’t even happen. She’s sure Kelly would say something about the five stages of grief, something about how Kara’s in denial. But nothing happened, and Kara’s not in denial.
Regardless, she does some weird things. She finds her missing glasses in the fridge. She stands outside of Noonan’s for fifteen minutes after forgetting to go inside. She watches The Land of Before Time, and Alex comes over to find her crying on the couch,
“How could she just leave him?!”
She’s not in denial, no. At least not until she catapults fully into anger late one night.
How could she not when she thinks of Lena nine hundred times a day, finds herself phrasing apology speeches, crafting promises and declarations of dedication, only to remember that Lena doesn’t think of her at all? Lena doesn’t know her at all.
It’s visceral, her anger. It has her pacing her living room long past midnight, chewing on a nail, wearing actual marks through the veneer of her hardwood floors. She doesn’t care, she lost her security deposit about three broken windows, two destroyed refrigerators, and more than thirty-six ruined sheets of drywall ago, but she has to know—
How could Lena do this to her? How could she erase Kara completely from her mind, from her life?
She hadn’t even given Kara a chance to explain, not really. She didn’t even know how much she meant to Kara—what she would do for her. She would’ve done anything, everything, but Lena hadn’t involved her in the decision at all. She’d cut Kara out like a deceased abscess and discarded her into one of those gross biohazard buckets.
She’d chopped their friendship tree down to the base and then ripped out all of the roots. How would it ever grow back? How would they ever recover?
Kara’s eyes burn at the pain of it. It feels like she’s having a heart attack, like arteries are clogging and vital organs are shutting down. She just—she literally can’t believe it. She won’t. Lena can’t have just forgotten her. And the weirdest, worst part is that Kara only wants to talk to Lena about it. She’s sure Lena would have a solution. She can hear her in her mind, voice deep, words smooth,
“We’ll figure this out, Kara.”
But Lena doesn’t even know her name. She left Kara. She left her all alone.
The wear in the floor becomes more pronounced. Kara doesn’t understand, she doesn’t understand, she doesn’t understand.
How had Lena even done it? What kind of technology had she developed? How did it explain away the dozen or so articles that Kara had written about her that were still posted online? Did Jess block those? What about the hundreds of photos they’d taken together, the ones Kara stared at every day? Would she just forget the library of evidence that there had been a something there instead of a nothing?
It hurts worse than their last conversation.
“You are not my friend, Kara. You have never been my friend.”
Because even with Lena hating her, at least Kara still had her. She had still meant something to Lena. But this… this was replete absence. A brimming, black hole. An agony Kara can feel in her blood and bones.
She can’t make it better. She can’t make amends to a blank canvas, an empty slate, a stranger.
She removes her comms device, turning it off and placing it on her bedside table. She flies out of her living room window. She’s not in her super uniform but has donned something more akin to what she’d worn when she’d been infected with red kryptonite. It’s a black track suit designed for stealth, and she lands not far from L-Corp. She cuts the power fuse to the building. At a distance, she destroys every camera she can find with her laser vision (Lena can afford it.) And then she goes about the laborious process of disabling all of Lena’s back up security systems.
All in all, it takes about three minutes. Kara knows Lena’s personal security team has likely been alerted. She knows they’ll check the building first. That’ll give them a diversion while she goes down a manhole in the street, while she starts digging through concrete and earth like a vole.
It actually takes some concerted effort, using her body like a one woman boring drill. She can see one of the many levels of Lena’s lab with her x-ray vision. They’re all below level. She’ll encounter an exterior wall it soon. She’s never tried to Wreck It Ralph in order to penetrate a private, secret facility, but she’s finding she really doesn’t much like it. It’s very claustrophobic.
Her phone rings, vibrating in her boot. She jumps and nearly inhales an earthworm.
“Oh hi,” she answers as her tunnel partially collapses, a metric ton of rock and dirt weighing her down.
“What’re you doing, Kara?” Alex asks suspiciously. “The DEO just informed me you went dark on comms. Did you destroy your ear piece? Do you know how much those cost in tax dollars?”
“I don’t work for the DEO,” Kara grits, phone barely shielded by her face and elbow. “And I just took it out. Maybe I wanted to go to the club unsupervised. Maybe I’m on the beach in Miami. They don’t need to know what I’m doing all the time, they can mind their own business.”
“What’s happened?” Alex zeroes in. “It’s late, and you sound weird and out of breadth.”
What’s happened is that Kara is clawing through the earth like a vastly oversized carpenter ant. What’s happened is she’s about to illegally burst through a wall and into Lena’s second underground level. What’s happened is Lena doesn’t know who she is.
Kara feels the bite of more tears. She punches the remaining rock wall and smashes into a pitch black lab. White lights automatically flicker on, motion sensing. Lena must have a back-up generator somewhere down here. She’ll have to zap that, too.
“What was that?” her sister asks with a raised voice.
“It was—” Kara falters.
It’s a massive violation of Lena’s trust is what it is. It’s not something she’d ever thought she’d be doing. She wants to tell Alex so much, but that would involve describing Lena in her office, how she looked fine without Kara, maybe even happy. Much happier than… well, than the last time Kara had seen her.
“I clipped the Edge Global building flying,” Kara lies.
That’s the truth, though, isn’t it? That Kara didn’t make her happy? That’s why Lena wanted to forget her. That’s why she left.
Three years. Gone.
“Are you sure you’re okay?” Alex asks again. “You’ve been listening to ‘Somewhere Only We Know’ a lot on Spotify.”
Kara sets herself to the task of destroying more security cameras. She pulls several important looking electrical lines in the back-up generator. The lights flicker off.
“How did you remember me?” she ignores Alex’s question, super speeding through the dark. “You know, when J’onn erased your memories?”
There’s a long silence on the other line while Kara scans the entire lab for lead-lined hiding places, for anything suspect. She spots something big on the floor beneath her. She thinks to mute her phone this time before pounding through the tiles and crashing onto the concrete below.
“Why do you ask?” Alex replies. Kara wonders if it’s part of her government training to answer questions with questions.
“I don’t know, we just—we never talked about it.”
She hears Alex sigh. Kara crosses the room and stands before an industrial vault, a full on wall of thick steel and lead.
“I don’t know, Kara, you’re such a big part of my life, my whole life,” Alex answers softly. “How could I forget something like that?”
“J’onn said he’d closed neural pathways,” Kara replies in a deadened voice. She tests the integrity of the steel and it groans as she pushes.
“Well, I think I wanted to remember you.”
Kara’s eyes sting again, and her throat bobs heavily. She wipes her face and goes on mute. She begins to methodically rip the safe-wall-door off its hinges.
“I know that things with Lena have been tense, Kara,” Alex tells the room, Kara has her on speakerphone. She casts the thousand pound twisted steel aside and punches a hole in the lead. “But it’ll get better.”
“No, it won’t,” Kara unmutes.
“You’re just—you’re not thinking straight.”
“But what if it doesn’t, Alex?” she cries, allowing her voice to pitch higher, betray some of the thinly controlled hysterics below. “What if it’s never the same? What if—what if Lena doesn’t want to come back?”
There’s another long pause, and Kara waits for her in the dark.
“Maybe you can’t see it now, but have you ever thought that maybe—”
“Don’t say it,” Kara cuts her off, ripping more electrical lines directly out of the wall, crushing them hard enough to turn into diamonds.
“Have you ever thought that all of this might be for the best?”
Kara doesn’t answer. The vault is filled with lock boxes and unidentifiable tech, but Kara sees something square and black sitting right at the front. It’s on the floor, not filed or organized into its own space, like it might’ve been placed there in a hurry.
“Lena needs time,” Alex continues. “She needs to work through this. You can’t control that.”
“It’s like she died,” Kara tells her in a watery exhale, picking up the box. On the top, “clear your mind” is stamped into the cover.
“Or I died.”
“That’s,” Alex breathes, pausing.
Alex probably thinks she’s being dramatic, but she doesn’t understand. Kara gropes at the edge of the thing she’s never allowed herself to admit. Not to herself, not to anyone. She’d thought—maybe—some day she could talk to Lena about it, tell her that she considered their friendship to be something… else. Something more.
But it’s too late now. She tucks the box under her arm and returns to the hole she’d drilled through the earth.
“She’ll come back, Kara, I promise,” Alex reiterates. “When you guys get through this, you’ll be stronger. El Mayarah, right?”
El Mayarah, Kara thinks, but they’re not together. Lena’s gone.
At home, Kara sits for a long time staring at the box on her coffee table, fingers clasped together. She’s not sure if she wants to open it, if she wants to know. It looks innocuous enough, like the Playstation 4 Alex had campaigned so adamantly for, but when Kara does finally open it, she finds a small CPU and a wireless headset. Automatically, she places it over her head, and the device boots up, a blue light flickering on. It speaks to her.
“My name is Hope,” it tells her in a pleasantly feminine voice. Kara wonders how many tones and cadences Lena had tested. “I will be your technician tonight. Who or what would you like to forget?”
The question is stated innocently, but Kara almost hurls the unassuming piece of technology out of her window.
“Lena Luthor,” she finds herself answering instead. She wants to know exactly what Lena did. She wants to know how she did it.
“Understood,” Hope answers kindly. “I’d like you to collect everything you own that has some association with Lena Luthor. This includes photos, clothing, gifts, books, and mixed media. Even journal entries. Empty your home and life. Please leave your headset on during this process, and I will collect data that’s required for mapping and erasing memories. Let me know when you finish.”
Kara dutifully follows Hope’s instructions and tries not to think too much about how a headset is reading her brain waves as she rips pages out of her journal. There are so many drawings and sketches of Lena. She deletes images in her phone. Text messages. Emails. Pressed flowers she’d secretly kept hidden in books, she trash bags them.
“Tell me about her,” Hope asks her at some point, when it’s nearly five a.m.
“Lena?” Kara answers distractedly. The trash bag is very full by now, threatening to tear at the seams. There are so many things that remind her of Lena. Her life is so full of Lena.
“Well, I guess… she’s stubborn. And passive aggressive. She only wants to do things her way. A lifetime of wealth and privilege means she absolutely doesn’t know how to share.”
Kara grinds her teeth, throwing a book Lena had given her once into the bag.
“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. She pushes anyone who thinks otherwise away.”
Kara moves into the bathroom, plucking up a bottle of perfume.
“She's generous, but she’s a great actress, too. Who knows what's real with her, I mean, I really thought she loved me.”
Her other hand clenches the edge of the sink, she hears the porcelain crack.
“I thought—I thought she’d give us more time.”
She moves back to the kitchen and throws the perfume in the bag. She sweeps her apartment for anything else, bleary eyed and exhausted.
“We have enough data for memory alteration to begin,” the prototype informs her. “Please discard the materials you collected.”
Kara chucks the bag into the dumpster below her apartment. She sighs and returns to her bed, staring up at the off white ceiling.
She wonders how she got here. She thinks of Astra, of how special she was, how she’d been completely unique to herself. How there would never be anything like her again in the universe. Lena’s like that, too.
Kara thinks about the ten thousand details she knows about her. How Lena eats her food, careful and precise. She likes to stab meat. How Lena loves her head scratched with nails, how she tenses her shoulders and curls up like a cat when it’s especially good (it’s the cutest thing she does.) (Kara read intellectuals store their stress in their scalps, and Lena must really be a genius by the way she takes such joy in it.) She thinks of the way Lena hugs when she’s late. When she’s grateful. When she’s sad (clutching Kara all the harder by the biceps, all her hugs are different.) She thinks of how Lena looks in spandex, her jaw from every possible angle.
It’s outdated information, irrelevant now in the same way Kara’s memory of Astra is. It only exists to her. It only means something to her. Kara should’ve learned when she’d lost her planet and her aunt that happiness would never last.
“Dress yourself for sleep,” Hope soothes. “Then, place the headset and device under your bed.”
Kara does so automatically, settling under her sheets.
“Good night, Kara Zor-El,” Hope whispers, feather soft. “When you wake tomorrow, you won’t remember anything about Lena Luthor, and all will feel right in the world.”
Come say hello or scream at me @hrwinter on Tumblr. New chapter poster! #wyfm tag
Chapter 3: Chapter 3
Kara forgets Lena.
Hello friends - as a heads up for those of you who haven't seen the movie, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, this chapter is going to go in REVERSE chronological order. Each segment is a memory of Lena, and as it gets erased, it will move to the next memory of Lena until Kara is all the way back to when they first met. Lena and Kara slowly become aware that this is happening. It's a cerebral concept, it's artistic, and maybe it was too ambitious of me to attempt. But oh well! This also won't include every scene from canon, it's too much, so I was selective. I took a number of creative liberties with memories we never saw in the show as well. Please ask me questions if you're confused!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kara doesn’t realize immediately it’s a mistake. Not at first. In fact, it feels good, even righteous. She’s erasing Lena, it’s what she deserves!
But it still doesn’t feel like she’d thought it would. She thought it’d feel like a drunken blackout. Like closing her eyes and opening them up to a blank slate of a morning. She thought it’d be like starting over with fresh air in her lungs.
But it’s not.
It feels like dreaming. Kara’s dreaming in misshapen and out of proportion objects. Rooms are too big. People’s faces aren’t quite right. The light filters down on her in red hues. Is she back on Krypton? She knows that can’t be true.
And that’s not what’s happening, anyway.
Instead, she’s breaking into L-Corp, ripping out electrical cables with her bare hands, destroying walls and doors and earth. She’s talking to Alex, but her voice is a murmur. The lights blink out, covering her in darkness.
It shifts like a head rush, like the blackness found in the space between sitting and standing up too quickly, and Kara’s in front of Jess, who hands her a card. It reads,
“Dear Ms. Kara Zor-El - Lena Luthor has elected to forget you. Please never mention your relationship to her again.”
But then the text is gone. The card is blank.
Kara’s landing on Lena’s balcony, she’s seeing her through her office window. Her foot is out, tapping the air. Kara’s crying, but she’s not crying any more. Then, Lena’s executive leather chair spins, and it’s empty.
Her mind is racing backwards, wiping Lena away like a mess flushed down a sink. Soon, there will be no evidence that anything was there at all. It’s more intentional, more aware than Kara would’ve liked. It gives her the first taste of regret.
A number of memories involving unanswered text messages and calls and Kara staring at photos of Lena are quickly expunged. They blip away, and Kara’s at Lena’s apartment. She’s standing on her balcony dressed as Supergirl.
This is the last time I saw you, she thinks despite herself. It’s a waking sort of thought that seems out of place here. What do they call that? Lucid dreaming? But Kara doesn’t fully wake up.
Kara sees Lena through her penthouse balcony glass, and she looks up from her spot on the couch. Her socked feet are tucked under her backside, and her eyes are red. Her hair is down, and it’s unkempt in a way that implies it’s borne the brunt of Lena’s hand being pushed through it several times that day. There’s also an amber glass of liquid balanced in her hand, and it splashes dangerously close to the edge as she stands up.
Kara knows Lena is drunk before she opens her mouth.
“Miss Luthor, I just wanted to say—” Kara starts, but Lena interrupts her.
“I’ve always wondered, is there a reason your cousin stands for truth and you stand for hope?”
It catches Kara off guard, forces her to reassess the slight sway to Lena’s stance, the less than perfect pronunciation. Lena is, in fact, very drunk.
“Why the different mottos? Do you not put as much stock in truth?”
Kara can hear it in her tone, then, the teasing anger. It’s a baited line, and she’s terrified suddenly, choking back fear. Not a lot scares Kara, she was once eaten by an alien sea creature, but Lena looks—she sounds as if…
“Hope is the symbol of our house,” Kara answers carefully, lightly indicating the ‘S’ on her chest (she doesn’t mention her suspicions that Kal-El may have flubbed his motto.)
“So, not truth,” Lena gestures with the glass again. This time it does spill, splotchy onto her pajama bottoms. She doesn’t take notice. “That makes sense.”
Kara experiences a tightening sensation in her stomach, the kind that typically precedes vomiting. Lena, however, sloshes back down to the couch, eyes rolling up to the ceiling. There’s a book, pages crumpled, face down and open to her left. It’s a book of poetry.
“Lena,” Kara asks tentatively. “What makes sense? What’re you talking about?”
“You made me believe,” Lena starts in a slur, but she doesn’t finish. She motions with her hand. Kara sees tears in her eyes, and she takes a careful step forward.
Lena anticipates her, though, sitting up quickly and plucking a ring of keys from the coffee table in front of her.
“Here,” she tosses them in Kara’s general direction. Kara has to speed to catch them. She opens her fist, staring down. “I don’t need these anymore.”
They’re her apartment keys. Kara Danvers’ apartment keys.
“Lena,” she begins, shocked, heart pounding, face flushed. She can’t trust her voice. “I’m so—I’m so sor—”
“You have no idea what you’ve done to me,” Lena dismisses with a wave of her drink. It nearly spills again before she empties it in a huge gulp.
“I was trying to protect you—” Kara starts weakly, hoping that if she plows forward with enough conviction she’ll gather the momentum required to convince Lena this isn’t the end.
Something about this whole thing feels rehearsed, though, like the end is inevitable. Kara inexplicably knows it’s not going to work.
Like it’s happened before.
“You didn’t,” Lena glances over, eyes like knives. “You didn’t protect me.”
She stands and heads to her kitchen island to pour herself another glass.
Kara gawks after her, she still can’t find the words, not the right ones at least.
“Lena, wait—” she starts, but still she flounders. How would she come back from this?
She could say it was easier to hide the most problematic part of herself. The least relatable and human. People always treated her differently when they knew she was an alien, and even more so when they knew she was Supergirl. She was always set apart, assigned a box and label all her own.
But that wasn’t a good enough reason. That wasn’t why she lied.
She could say she didn’t want anything to change, but that’s not entirely it either. She didn’t want anything to change with Lena, and how can she touch on what that means without opening a Pandora’s box? Everything she felt, things she’d thought but never admitted, it was like a body buried in her backyard. She couldn’t just dig it up and show it to Lena.
“How did you—who told you?” she says instead, a smoke screen.
Lena shifts her attention away from her kitchen light fixture, as if remembering Kara’s still there in her apartment. She takes three long steps until they’re nose to nose.
“Lex,” the ‘L’ rolls off her tongue. Kara can smell her breath, still sweet under the smoky peat of scotch.
She stiffens while Lena moves past, opting to stare out of her balcony window as if she can’t bear the sight of Kara for one more second.
But all Kara can think is, Rao, that was weeks ago. Lena has known since—
“It’s a cold day in hell when my psychopathic brother is more honest with me than my best friend. He told me what a fool I was, and god he was right,” Lena elaborates. “I’ve never seen you bleed. You’ve never been sick. You ‘knew’ Supergirl, and you pretended to be so innocent, so ignorant. You know all about quantum entanglement, don’t you?”
Lena turns to glower at her. She clearly doesn’t consider Kara’s answering tears as a worthy response.
“I always wondered why someone—someone like you wanted to be friends with me, and now I know,” she looks away and back out over the city scape. “You were just using me like everyone else.”
“That is not why I’m friends with you.”
“You are not my friend, Kara,” Lena delivers with perfect clarity, no slur at all. “You have never been my friend.”
She stands back straight, regal as ever. Her face is muted in profile. If not for the visible bottle on the counter, Kara might have no idea she’d imbibed half a fifth of liquor. But her voice gives her away. It comes out unsteady and ruinous.
“Why did you lie to me?”
“I didn’t want to Lena, I promise,” Kara tries, but even that, she knows, isn’t totally true. She lied, intentionally, and for a very long time.
“What if I’d never told you who I was?” Lena fires back. “What if I’d always been a Luthor, and I hid that from you. For years. Say I went to great lengths to maintain this deception. I became close to you. I became your friend, best friend, your—” Lena cuts off, clenching her teeth hard. Kara sees the tendon in her jaw go taut.
“I didn’t have to be honest with you, but I was,” she soldiers on. “I took the chance, and you didn’t. You’re a coward.”
“You’re right,” Kara breathes, tears slipping down her cheeks. It feels cathartic to admit it, but it’s also excruciating, a blood letting.
“I was. And selfish. I didn’t want things to change. You love—you loved Kara. You didn’t even like Supergirl. How could I—”
Kara wipes her face, buttoning up that particular thought lest she slip and spill everything. Lena listens carefully, her eyes narrowed but vulnerable.
“I don’t tell just anyone,” she attempts to deflect. “Even my sister didn’t know.”
“And how long did that last?” Lena questions in a tone of practiced derision. “Days? Weeks? Months? Three years?”
Kara sighs, defeated.
“Three years, Kara, that’s how long you kept this from me. And you want to tell me that James, Winn, Nia, Brainy, and J’onn don’t all know, too? You really want to argue to my face that I’m not the only one you singled out this way?”
Kara glances down at her fisted hand to find her keys crushed amorphous into a metal ball. She knows that Lena’s right. She knows she deserves a better answer, the truth, but she doesn’t know how to phrase it.
It’s not the same. You’re different. You’re special. I didn’t care what they really thought of me. Your opinion, you loving me, it’s—
“I didn’t want to lose you, Lena,” she voices in lieu of letting that thought complete. “I didn’t want to hurt you like everyone else.”
Lena shakes her head, emitting a noise, laughing or crying Kara can’t tell. She takes a huge breath, staring back up at the light fixture.
“Well, you have, Kara. And it’s worse. I used to think, because of you, there was still good in the world. I used to hope that truth and justice were real, and you’ve taken that from me.”
Hope, Kara jars. That word, that name seems suddenly familiar. She can distantly hear the sound of a computerized voice, “My name is Hope,” but it doesn’t fit in the script here to ask Lena.
“I’m sorry,” Kara says her part instead.
She’s confused, glancing around the room. It seems fuzzy in places, misremembered. There are no bar stools. Hadn’t there been bar stools when this happened? It’s like they’ve just disappeared.
She turns back to Lena who is already opening her mouth to speak.
“Please leave, Kara.”
“No, Lena,” Kara begs. “I’ll do—”
“There’s nothing left for you to do. You’ve undone me, isn’t that enough?”
The thing is, Kara remembers her saying that. She’d replayed it over and over and over in her mind. It had been a bone spur, jagged and growing, cutting into soft flesh. She’d hurt Lena. But how could she remember something that’s currently happening?
She tries to ask, but her feet have already lead her out onto the balcony.
No, she thinks stubbornly. I’m not leaving this time.
“Hey, I’m not done,” she says pounding the glass as the door slides closed. Weirdly, it doesn’t break. She flies to the bottom of the building but ends up back on the balcony like some sort of fun house trick.
What the hell?
She flies to the top, only to end up back again. She can’t get off this balcony. She can’t re-do this memory.
“I didn’t know we wouldn’t get to talk again!” Kara yells to Lena inside. “Please let me in!”
Rao, why had she ever left? she thinks as she bangs against the glass again. She should’ve stayed, she should’ve tried harder, but through the glass Lena doesn’t even look at her. The lights shut off in her apartment.
“Lena, I’m erasing you! By the morning it’ll be done,” Kara shouts to no one. “If you don’t let me in, we won’t get another chance!”
The memory vanishes.
Kara is mingling at her awards ceremony. Lena stands on a higher balcony looking majestic and royal, and Kara watches her from below. She stuffs six or seven crab rolls into her mouth at once, but she doesn’t take her eyes away from Lena.
You already knew, Kara thinks angrily. You knew, and you wouldn’t even look at me. A room full of people and yours was the only attention I wanted.
Look at me.
Earlier in the night, though, Lena had looked at Kara. She’d held her hands, had run a palm up from her elbow to her shoulder. It felt so warm and silky on Kara’s bare skin.
“I’m proud of you,” Lena tells her. “In my life, you’ve always reminded me to be honest, genuine, a pillar of truth. I’ve known so many liars.”
At first, Kara buys it. She feels a twinge of a deep-seated guilt, the inadequacy of being a total impostor, and she smiles, too tight and forced.
At the time, she’d said nothing. But now…
“You knew, you’re—” Kara starts hot and accusatorily. “I didn’t pick up on it then, but you were being passive aggressive, weren’t you? You knew.”
Lena strokes her hand over Kara’s arm again. The blonde, almost invisible hairs there stand up, eager for touch.
Traitors, Kara thinks.
“I feel like it’s only fair when I do all the work,” Lena answers calmly in that impossibly sculpted diction. “And you take all the credit.”
“Take all the credit? You—that’s not—,” Kara sputters.
She’s so frustrated and angry and sad, she feels like she could cry and scream and never speak again all at once. After a moment, though, the intensity of it fades, and Lena’s still holding her arms, palming her bicep for good measure.
“You were already working on the prototype, weren’t you?” Kara breathes, exhausted.
“If I’d told you here, now, would it have changed anything? Would you still have erased me?”
“I don’t know, darling. You still haven’t told me the truth. Nothing’s changed.”
“It’s complicated,” Kara gruffs.
“Was I not worth making it simple?”
They’re shopping together. Flower shopping. Lena loves flowers, and Kara shares her love of flowers through her love of Lena.
“Remorse is memory awake,” Lena says to herself, picking through several vibrantly orange roses. She runs her finger pad over the yellow and red veins of the petals.
“Emily Dickinson,” Kara drifts closer to her, smiling slightly. “You like poetry?”
Lena shrugs, shy, and moves away towards the lilies.
“How happy is the blameless vestal's lot,” she speaks again. “The world forgetting, by the world forgot.”
“Pope Alexander!” Kara states excitably. “This is a fun game.”
“Alexander Pope, darling.”
“Oh,” Kara blushes slightly.
“Wait, I’ve gone one,” she adds. “‘Blessed are the forgetful, for they get the better even of their blunders.’”
Lena turns to look at her, her eyes curious, a phosphorescent green.
“Who said that?”
Lena hums. “Not quite a poet.”
“More of a philosopher.”
Kara frowns, feeling corrected on a technicality. Plus, Lena’s been like this lately. Distant and difficult to engage in conversation. She moves away every time Kara moves closer, an unpleasant dance. She’s economical with her eye contact. Currently, she looks cool and collected in a long beige jacket, cinched at the waist with a belt. Even her hair is serious and aloof, not styled in one of her casually approachable braids. It’s pulled high and tight.
Why won’t you look at me? Kara thinks before remembering exactly why.
“This conversation is ironic,” she tells her with a deepening frown. “About memory. Were you working on Hope?”
Lena doesn’t reply, slowly assembling a beautiful arrangement with gracefully precise fingers.
“I really am sorry,” Kara concedes, moving closer again and catching one of Lena’s hands. She holds it between both of hers, so that Lena is forced to look at her.
“It’s a little late for that, don’t you think?” Lena answers, her fingers slipping away and back to the arrangement.
“I just wish—” Lena sighs, running a hand up a stem. “Even now, you’re not saying what you mean.”
Kara feels her next breath come shaky and wavering. Lena gestures around the room.
“This is a memory of us before the awards ceremony. How many times have we come to this store? How many times have I asked you about your favorite flowers, and you’ve lied because it’s always been the Dar’Essa from Krypton?”
Lena’s posture sags.
“Just one example of how every interaction, every false truth you allowed me to believe,” Lena inhales deeply into an open rose, “set me up to believe your feelings for me were real.”
“They are real,” Kara grits.
“Oh?” Lena challenges, levelling her with a weary look. “Then, what are they? What is it that you feel for me?”
Kara clutches at her own hands, speechless, unable to answer. Lena shakes her head, disappointed.
“You lied to me about so much more than just being Supergirl, and I wish you would admit that.”
“I didn’t lie about… it,” Kara weakly defends. “I just didn’t know what to say.”
“What’s the difference?”
“I just—,” Kara flusters. “I didn’t want to hurt you anymore. I don’t want anyone to hurt you.”
“But you did, Kara,” Lena answers. “You hurt me.”
Lena shifts back to the memory, back to what actually happened.
“There, what do you think of that for your award ceremony? It can sit at our table?”
The memory fades.
Kara watches Lena enter the apartment. She’s wearing jeans! She looks effortless and casual, her skin pale yet glowing. She holds her guest offerings up; a bottle of red and white wine.
“I didn’t know what to bring, so I brought both.”
“YES!” Kara growl shouts.
She wants Lena to sit by her, wants it so desperately she feels it like a pull behind her chest, a magnet. She seriously regrets choosing a solo chair, why did she do that? She wants Lena to share in her relief, like something that passes tangibly between them. She’s so happy that everything with Lex is over, and she wants to transfer that feeling to Lena like a fire licking warmly at her hands on a cold night. She wants to pull Lena close, wrap her up, and keep her safe.
“But you’re with me, right?” she asks, casually pointing her index finger.
“Always,” Lena answers, blanket soft.
But Kara’s brow quirks, she frowns. The conversation around them plays out, but Kara thinks… Lena’s not with her.
Lena’s not ‘always.’ Lena erased her.
Alex is talking to Kara, but Kara’s not listening. She watches as Lena pays close attention to J’onn. Later in the night, Lena asks to scan him with a new “medical device.” He complies. Because he trusts her.
“What’re you doing?” she asks her best friend, but Lena doesn’t hear.
Lena hugs Kara before she goes to the White House. She’s so protective and fierce, Kara can feel her fingers digging between the bones of her ribs, intent on bringing Kara closer. She can feel her body heat.
That suit is… killer.
Kara loves her, she loves her strength. She loves how much time they’ve been able to spend together, both as Kara and Supergirl. Lena’s moved fully into a space that Kara hadn’t realized was empty, and Kara is fully attuned to her. They make a great team. Lena believes in her.
And Kara’s been such a liar.
She cries in front of Kara, so guilty, holding her own face as hard as Kara has always wanted to hold it.
“Because I'm the one that's keeping secrets,” Lena confesses, her eyes a glossy lime green. “Eve wasn't the only one working with Lex. I... I was working with him, too. He contacted me four months ago. He knew I had the Harun-El.”
Kara can barely stand to see her in this much pain.
“He's my brother. And in my heart, I knew he was manipulating me, but I believed him, and I helped him and he betrayed me. And I was weak, and I will never forgive myself for that. I can only imagine what you think of me, Kara. I don't blame you.”
Kara tries to tell her then, she tries and tries, but nothing comes out. She clutches at Lena’s elbows and thinks to kiss her, but she doesn’t. She hugs her close.
“You are not weak. You are a brilliant, kind-hearted, beautiful soul.”
She buries her nose near Lena’s hairline, close to Lena’s neck. Kara can smell the sweet, expensive scent of her. She imagines how it must rise from Lena like fumes from hot skin in cold weather. She wants. She desperately wants to kiss her.
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you, I should’ve told you,” she says, but the memory is gone.
She’s in Kasnian Kara’s bunk cell. Kara sweeps her head from left to right, burning the photos with her laser vision. There are so many of Lena, they’re everywhere. All over the walls, taped meticulously. What does that mean? Why does a black kryptonite replica of herself have such a preoccupation with Lena Luthor, anyway? Had they even met?
Rao, what if they had met? Kara feels inflamed suddenly with more than just the heat vision. In fact, it’s a violent kind of jealousy. It’s as confusing as it is unwelcome. It’s embarrassing and weird.
It’s part of the reason she’s a bit overzealous in destroying the evidence. She feels exposed, as if something she’s kept hidden under lock and key is hanging right there on the wall for anyone to walk by and see.
Like some sort of pornographic, naked poster of a woman. Or something.
Kara’s eyes burn hotter. Had Lex seen these pictures? Surely. What had he thought? What did he know?
It’s not just about being unmasked as Supergirl. Kasnian Kara having all those photos... it reminds Kara of the uncomfortable way she’d felt when she and Lena would discuss James. Of how they’d cuddled on the couch after they broke up.
Kara’s suddenly in that memory, and Lena’s leaned against her in borrowed sweats and a simple pastel tank top. It’s too small, it’s Kara’s after all, and it provides a generous view of her cleavage. Kara’s eyes keep dropping to it, a moth to flame, and everything about Lena is soft and pale and milky. She maps the sparse freckles that run from her shoulders to her clavicle to her neck.
She’s not sure how long she does that. Long enough for Lena to look up and ensnare Kara in a gaze as green and dangerous as the edges of a Venus flytrap.
“What is it?” she asks, voice raspy (sexy) with disuse. “Do you want to watch something else?”
But the memory is gone, replaced by Kara pretending to bicycle. (Cycling, technically, on a stationary bike. Humans are so weird.)
“I’ll beat him up for you,” she shrugs, even though she 100% means it. There’s something vicious in the way she feels about protecting Lena. She’ll fight James, they can even make it fair in a kryptonite room. She’ll pin him down, she’ll choke him out, anything to defend her best friend.
But Lena merely smiles back at her, looking down bashfully. Kara can’t help but track the movement, eyes glossing over her body, over the black hoodie.
Why was Lena wearing a jacket? Was she insecure about her arms? She’s gorgeous. Was she afraid to be burned from the ambient sunlight from the windows? She wore the deepest necklines Kara had ever seen at galas and charity events. Why was she dressed for the polar north in an exercise class?
Kara wants to see her skin.
Kara gets coffee, visits for lunch, texts and calls Lena. They work together at the DEO, rubbing elbows. There’s dozens of game nights and happy hours. The memories flip and shuffle like cards in a deck. It’s too fast, there’s so much, and it’s hard for Kara to cling to anything, to dig herself in enough to make it stop and slow down.
She’s losing something here, something vital. There’s an answer to the question Lena had asked.
“What is it that you feel for me?”
She wants to pause and ponder that, but she can’t. Her memories of Lena are being systematically chiseled away, a statue losing small things at first: ears, fingers, teeth, the tip of the nose. Until it’s no longer small, and it’s full hands, calves, and identifying facial features.
Kara tries to hold on. She looks around, seated on Lena’s couch. It’s late at the L-Corp office. She looks down to find that they’re holding hands.
Holding hands with Lena has always reminded Kara of the soft underside of fierce creatures. Tigers, porcupines, and polar bear bellies. It feels rare and disbelieved, like witnessing a natural anomaly. The Aurora Borealis.
On Krypton, Rao’s ‘northern lights’ had been constant, but on Earth, she has never seen them. Holding hands with Lena, however, makes her think she might know what that wonder feels like.
“—and then I found Nia falling asleep on the photo copier,” Kara finishes, and Lena laughs.
Lena’s laugh is melodic and essential.
Kara squeezes her hand, and it feels intuitive to be tethered to her this way. Kara’s bound to her like a boat back in harbor for the night. It’s a natural conclusion to the end of their day. But Kara doesn’t remember touching her other female friends this much. She doesn’t remember being so aware of it, hyperaware as she traces the curve between Lena’s thumb and pinky finger, a bowl turned upside down.
All good things come to an end, though, and Lena’s laugh fades into a companionable silence.
“You asked me why I singled you out,” Kara begins, a whisper, a deviation from the memory. “But watching… all of this, I’m worried.”
Lena cants her head to the side, ever the patient listener. She reaches up to stroke Kara’s cheek, from the round of her chin to the slant of her jaw. She hadn’t done that before.
“You’re worried about what?”
Kara can’t bring herself to finish.
I’m worried I was in love with you.
“Are you even real?” Kara deflects again, feeling a strange burn behind her eyes. “Are you just the memory I have of you? Are you only in my mind?”
“Darling,” Lena begins kindly. She strokes her cheek again. “Of course this is only in your mind.”
“Then, why should it matter if I say it out loud? Why does it matter?”
“It doesn’t. You’re erasing me.”
Kara’s drunk. There’s a presence near her, a presence that may in fact have a very secure hold around her waist. It’s nice, and she giggles into the nape of its neck. She runs her hands into its coat, open at the waist and up it’s—no, it’s not an it. A her. A Lena. She runs her hand up Lena’s back and over the soft cashmere texture of her stomach.
“Stop doing that, darling, it’s very distracting,” Lena lightly scolds, fumbling with Kara’s keys in the wake of the very active and heavy petting.
But Kara only giggles more.
“Lennnnaaaa,” she elongates the name. “How did you get here? Did I call you? You’re so pretty.”
Lena chuckles. “No, you did not call me. Your sister did, she said you were ‘beyond using your phone.’ So, I picked you up outside of a very questionable bar, and then you fell asleep face down in my town car.”
“Hm, that rhymed,” Kara answers, no longer concerned with the wheres and whys of how Lena got here. She’s here, and that’s all that matters.
Kara becomes even touchier, deeply inhaling into the skin at Lena’s neck and tensing her fingers around her waist. She smells so good.
“Thank you, Kara,” Lena answers, somehow negotiating them both through Kara’s doorway. It’s impressive given the weight of the alien body she’s currently burdened by.
“How did you get,” Lena grunts, shifting Kara upright and onto her own two feet, “this way?”
“Karaoke,” Kara answers simply as Lena removes her arms from her jacket and folds it with Kara’s other things on the counter. It’s dark in the apartment, and they still haven’t turned on a light.
“What do you wear?” she asks, interrupting Lena’s next sentence.
“Wear? Like my perfume?”
Kara nods. “Is it something overpriced and ritzy? Is it like tiger’s sweat?”
Lena laughs, spreading her hand flat against the granite island top.
“Would you like that, Kara? Tiger’s sweat?”
Yes, Kara would like that. Kara would like a lot of things. She stares at Lena before taking a step forward, right back into her personal space.
“Is it just you?” she wonders aloud, her hands somehow back on both of Lena’s arms. It feels comforting, an anchor to staying conscious. “Can I smell you again?”
“Uh—” Lena appears to hesitate, but Kara has already dipped her head, bodily pulled Lena closer.
“Sorry, is this okay?” she asks belatedly. She’s all about consent.
“I’m all about consent.”
Fortunately, Lena startles with a laugh and nods (jerkily.)
Kara doesn’t notice the tense nature of her stance. Consent achieved, she’s single minded. She presses her nose against the skin of Lena’s jaw, where she likes to imagine the scent of Lena originates. She draws it in and detects a perfume there, yes, but there’s something else, too, phenomenally more delicious. She struggles not to let her lips drag over it, thinking maybe if she could taste it, she could smell it better. Was that scientifically possible? Was it weird?
“Yes, uh, probably yes, Kara,” Lena answers again, her voice strained but amused.
Kara’s head jolts up. Had she said that out loud? She pulls away feeling the world tilt a bit on its axis, but her grin is back and wide as ever.
“Want to hear what song I killed at karaoke tonight?”
Ever the good sport, Lena humors her, and Kara takes both of her hands. She begins to lead her around the living room in an impromptu dance, singing the trumpets and trombones to the best of her ability. Then, she belts out the chorus,
“I love you baby! And if it’s quite alright, I need you baby, to warm the lonely nights. I love you baby, trust in me when I saaaaaaaaaaayyyy—”
The singing dissolves into laughter after Kara almost brings the both of them down when her shoe catches on the edge of the living room rug. She lets Lena go and goes rolling onto the couch like a fallen bowling pin, completely disheveled and staring up at her best friend.
“I bet that was a real hit,” Lena beams, holding her hand out for Kara to take.
“You’re pretty like a Disney princess, Lena.”
Lena goes a little pink at that while Kara glances around the apartment, blinking.
“This is so weird,” she says. “I don’t remember any of this. Am I in a blackout memory?”
“It appears so,” Lena answers, pulling Kara up and guiding her to bed. Kara collapses onto it.
“God, did I really do that? I full on smelled you,” Kara giggles into the sheets. “I sang that song to you.”
“You really did, darling,” Lena tells her, unlacing her shoes.
“How embarrassing,” Kara kicks the shoes free.
“It was sweet.”
Kara sits up on her elbows, stares at the form of Lena in the obscured dark.
“If this is an erased memory inside of a memory currently being erased,” she starts slowly. “Woah, is it like Inception? We’re inceptioning! You incepted me!”
Lena smiles softly, rifling through Kara’s dresser and offering Kara a white t-shirt and a pair of pajama shorts.
They’re boxers Lena had gifted Kara for her birthday. They’re dotted with little pink elephants. Lena knows Kara loves elephants, but what she doesn’t know is that it’s because they remind her of an animal on Krypton.
“Rondors!” Kara exclaims excitably in her inebriated state, and Lena looks at her funny.
But Kara begins quickly pulling off her jeans, and Lena turns fast to stare at the corner of the room.
“These are my favorite because you got them for me,” she tells Lena’s back, throwing on the white t-shirt, too, and discarding her bra from underneath.
Kara thinks she can see the pink on Lena’s cheeks again when she returns her gaze, a grayscale on her otherwise white skin. She’s still fully dressed in her expensive jacket, and she makes a move as if to leave, so Kara takes hold of the edge of her coat and pulls gently.
“Don’t leave, Lena. Will you stay with me?”
Lena’s expression shifts to polite conflict.
“Kara, I—you’re drunk. I mean, I’m sure you don’t want—” she stammers uncharacteristically.
“Please?” Kara pouts, and Lena relents with a heavy sigh.
She turns in a circle a few too many times before settling on hanging her luxurious coat on the back of Kara’s closet door. Then, she digs around in Kara’s dresser for another t-shirt and shorts. She chooses the pink and purple striped ones. Kara loves those.
“Do you mind?” she says to Kara who is just staring at Lena, hand cradled in her palm.
“Oh,” she turns to give Lena a modicum of privacy to change.
But when she hears she’s done and dressed for sleep, Kara turns back, eagerly accepting her into bed while making a repeated hand gesture she’s pretty sure means “want” in baby ASL.
“Yesssss,” she whispers, wrapping Lena up like a koala.
Her friends feels warm, her cheeks blazing, and Kara’s skin buzzes with Lena in her arms. She enjoys the hard edges of Lena softened into this sleepy, pliant state. It’s the opposite of the Phantom Zone, and Kara loves every bit of being this close to someone.
“Even me?” Lena asks.
“Especially you,” Kara mumbles into her neck. She pushes a hand over the soft texture of her sleep shirt.
“Is this too much touching?” she thinks belatedly to ask.
Lena snorts. “I think we passed ‘too much touching’ when you were fondling me in the hallway.”
Kara moves to pull away, she definitely doesn’t want to make Lena uncomfortable, but Lena grabs her arm, holds her still.
“No, it’s fine, Kara.”
“Okay,” she answers mollified, moving instinctively closer and breathing in that special Lena smell.
In her zest, however, she inhales too hard and almost sucks in some of her black hair. She coughs, and more of Lena’s hair falls over her face. Kara is struck with a brilliant idea.
“Lena, what if this was my hair?” she asks, slightly slurred. She drapes the black hair over her face and head.
“Look, I’m Lena Luthor,” she giggles, and Lena laughs, turning to look at her.
“I’m Lena, and I’m so pretty, and I’m so sexy and board room mean,” she mimics Lena in a terrible high pitched voice. She flicks a black strand of hair off her cheek. “I’m good at science.”
Lena pulls away and digs Kara’s blonde hair out of the pillow. She frames it around her face, touching it gingerly.
“I’m Kara Danvers, and I’m all blushing and flustered—”
“And I write stories and eat seven pizzas.”
Kara’s outrage turns into laughter.
“I won’t eat kale because I’m somehow discriminatory against super foods.”
“Super foods,” Kara snorts again. “Nothing green is good, Lena.”
She says it, but it doesn’t ring totally true as she stares into the shadowed green of Lena’s eyes. Kara runs her hand over her hair that is currently Lena’s hair.
“You look good as a blonde.”
She continues to pet Lena’s hair until hers shifts off, and then Kara’s just massaging Lena’s head.
“Kara,” she hums.
Is it a warning? Is it a plea? Kara’s not sure, she’s not really paying attention. There’s a spot just inside Lena’s lip, wet with lipstick rubbed free. Kara can’t stop staring at it. Lena’s eyes flutter open.
“Are you alright?” she asks.
“I’m happy,” Kara nods.
She settles back down, hugging Lena close. She lifts a leg, hugging Lena with that, too.
“Your heart is beating really fast,” she tells her sleepily as Kara’s eyelids become heavy, her breath evening out.
“You can feel that?”
“I just want us to be like this forever. Just like this. I just—don’t want anything to change.”
“I know,” Lena responds softly.
“Don’t ever leave me, Lena. I’ll miss you too much,” Kara squeezes her arms tighter.
“I’m not going anywhere. I’m right here.”
I don’t want this anymore, Kara thinks desperately, savagely.
She knows what she hadn’t wanted to tell Lena. She knows what she’s really losing.
“I don’t want this anymore!” she yells at the sky. “Can you hear me, Hope? Can you hear me!”
But Hope doesn’t answer.
The memories march on. Lena shows off a new haircut. They watch Ruby perform a shadow puppet show at Sam’s house. Kara’s in the back of Lena’s town car singing “You Oughtta Know” into Lena’s fist like a microphone. She grips her hand around the wrist, moving it to her face, pressed tight against her lips. She throws her arms open for the imaginary crowd, and Lena laughs.
Lena’s (even more) beautiful when she laughs, nose scrunched, eyes squinted, almost always appearing to be caught by surprise. It’s like she’s not used to laughing. She can’t cover her mouth like she usually does, Kara makes sure. She’s still singing into her hand,
“AND I’M NOT GOING TO FADE AS SOON AS YOU CLOSE YOUR EYES! AND YOU KNOW IT!”
But Lena does fade, she disappears from the limo, and Kara nearly falls face first into the leather.
“Lena?” she asks the darkness.
Then, she’s drawing Lena in her sketchbook. She doesn’t show anyone, not these sketches of Lena, she doesn’t know why. Usually, she’s proud of her work, she’ll at least force her sister into giving her an obligatory compliment.
But not these.
At CatCo, sometimes she’ll absently draw ambiguous lines in her notebook. Sometimes she’ll be researching for an article, and she’ll fill an entire page with thoughtless penned marks and strokes. Other times, she’s tuning James out of a meeting and will fill the margins of her notebook with squiggles. But lately, it’s been the same line; a right angle of sorts, curved at the end.
It takes Kara months to realize what it is; Lena’s face, the gradual slope of her jaw, the benevolent round of her chin.
Kara draws all the lines of Lena after that. The dip and pitch of her hair line. The horizontal double dash of her collarbones. The determined set of her shoulders. The corded tendons of her neck. Lena is composed of angles, both hard and forgiving, and Kara acquaints herself with each of them, one after the other in an intensive character study.
She never thinks to show her, would never show her, that is, until Lena asks to see when she catches Kara drawing one morning at Noonan’s.
“It’s nothing,” Kara tries to hide, but Lena smiles in that ever generous way, and Kara can’t help but give in and move her elbow.
It’s a less serious sketch, one of Lena dressed in a skeleton costume from last Halloween.
“This is good, Kara. You made me look skinny,” Lena comments with amusement, and Kara laughs.
Samantha Arias lives in Suburbia, this much Kara knows. And in suburbia, there are yards and trees and leaves and gardens. They’re surrounded by beautiful autumn colors, but that’s not the best part. The best part is that Lena has finally walked into the backyard, in search of Kara, and right into her patient and well-laid trap.
Kara jack-in-the-box jumps out of a pile of leaves, and Lena shrieks and trips over a garden hedge, falling backwards towards the pavement. Kara may employ a bit of super speed to catch her by the waist, but she’s hysterical with laughter nonetheless.
“I got you so good!” she brags through heaving laughs. “Oh, god, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe.”
She literally can’t breathe, she’s laughing too hard—almost to the point she doesn’t see Lena regain her footing (Kara doesn’t know how she does in heels like that, heels she’d probably call her ‘comfortable pair’), and then she moves to elbow Kara in the ribs. Kara jumps back imperceptibly, cushioning the blow right before impact, so that her best friend doesn’t break her whole arm.
Unsatisfied with the effect it has on Kara, she’s still laughing, Lena tackles Kara down to the well-manicured St. Augustine lawn, and Kara lets her. She lets Lena cover her head in leaves and attempt to tickle her. It doesn’t tickle, but Kara likes the act of writhing and wriggling, of pretend torture.
“Uncle, uncle!” she begs, but Lena is merciless.
“You. Are. The worst!”
Kara stares up into her drizzle green eyes, greener than spring leaves, and she smiles wide and unrepentant.
“I’m not sorry,” she says, and a heavier sort of tension falls over them.
The air is cold enough that Kara can see their exhales intermingling in white, smoky wisps. She detects the bitter sweet coffee smell of Lena’s breath (she uses one cream, two sugars), and Kara relaxes her body. She stops struggling and Lena stops trying to shovel leaves into her mouth like chili fries. They’re all wrapped up in each other, with Lena situated slightly above, and Kara squeezes her hands at her friend’s waist.
“You erased me, Lena,” she states, the smile fading, the pain of reminder back in her chest. “Why did you do that? That’s the only reason I’m here. I—I really like you. I don’t want to forget you.”
“I’m sorry,” Lena answers sincerely. She pulls an errant broken leaf out of Kara’s hair.
“You did it to spite me,” Kara pouts. “You wanted me to know.”
“I’m spiteful,” Lena answers, looking up at the sky. It’s one of those days where the clouds are shapeless, only presenting in a uniformly cotton white. They backlight Lena like a halo.
“You know that. I’m petty and vindictive.”
“No, you’re not, don’t say that about herself,” Kara pulls Lena closer, into a position where she’s straddling her hips. “You just—you care. So much. That’s what I love about you.”
“You love me?” Lena’s eyes sparkle. “I wish you’d told me.”
“Me too,” Kara glances at her mouth, something (to her horror) she’d done even back then. She knows she did because she distinctly remembers the bubble gum pink quality of Lena’s lips, upturned in the corner.
“I don’t want to forget you,” she confesses quietly, running her hand up Lena’s neck before cupping her cheek.
“Maybe you should try waking up.”
Lena shrugs, smiling again.
“Yeah, just open your eyes.”
“Just open my eyes?” Kara questions again in mocking disbelief.
“Okay,” she shrugs, pretending to go along. She peels her eyelids back, holding them open in the most awkward way imaginable, and Lena snickers.
“Doesn’t look like I’m waking up, Lena, looks like I’m still stuck here—”
But then, suddenly, Kara can see the darkly lit shadows of her apartment. She can see the moon shining in from her bedroom window.
But she can’t move.
“Go back to sleep, Kara,” the disembodied voice of Hope tells her. “We’re almost done.”
“Lena, I think that worked!” Kara comes running out of her closet.
She stops dead. Lena’s standing there in a form fitting skeleton costume. She looks, she looks good. So good.
“The eye opening thing worked?” Lena asks Kara’s slack mouthed jaw.
She’s still stuck on how Lena looks. Which is good, great, no fantastic in tight black spandex. Why doesn’t she wear that more often? Is it work appropriate? Probably not, but it contrasts perfectly against the lily white skin of her neck, and Kara doesn’t see any lines, and the material is tight, so that means no underwear—
“Speaking of, I have an idea for this problem,” Lena interrupts Kara’s less than discrete thirsting. “This is a memory of when you wanted to have sex with me because you realized I didn’t have on any underwear.”
“What?” Kara balks, meeting Lena’s eyes for the first time. “I did—I DO NOT.”
Lena raises an eyebrow, and Kara’s stuttering ceases.
With that eyebrow and those legs and that costume… maybe, she thinks. Is there such a thing as only wanting to have a little sex with someone? Just a bit? That’s not a crime, is it?
“What if you took me somewhere where I don’t belong?” Lean continues, argument won. “This robot is using memory markers from the items you collected about me, right? What if you concentrate on a memory that I wasn’t in? It might throw it off.”
Kara considers the idea.
“I can’t remember anything without you,” she answers pitifully.
“Oh, don’t be so dramatic,” Lena replies, stepping closer. She takes Kara’s hands. “What about from when you were young?”
Kara sighs heavily, but she yields. It can’t hurt to give it a shot. She closes her eyes, focusing and concentrating hard on a memory, any memory from a time before her pod crash landed on Earth.
When she opens them again, she’s on her bed. The light filters red across her room, and she glances up to gaze through her floor to ceiling windows, through the curved plastiglass, to find Rao sitting low in the sky. The dying sunlight glints off of several serrated black towers, rounded curving spirals, and flashing city patrol ships.
Kara glances back down at her hand. She holds a metallic orb, unlocked and open so that it casts an array of brilliant blue lights all around her room. It’s a hologram of their star system surrounding Rao, and Kara marvels at it.
“So beautiful,” she whispers to herself.
But before she can get too lost in the three dimensional map, a figure interrupts her focus, silhouetted in the low-lit doorway.
“Unbelievable,” Lena observes, slowly looking around the room, gazing at the holo-projected stars. “It’s worked, Kara, we did it.”
“Is this Krypton?” she asks while thumbing at her black tunic, kicking out her military style boots. A cluster of her hair is white, and Lena holds it up to her eyes, letting it fall through her fingers.
“Who am I supposed to be? An assistant?”
But Kara merely stares at her, wordless for the moment while she’s taking Lena’s appearance in. The house crest on her chest is divergent from Kara’s own, and Kara touches the ‘El’ symbol stitched into her white dress. She looks back up, and the memory flickers.
Her aunt standing in the doorway, that same soft smile she always had for Kara. The pinned shoulders, the dominant stance.
“You’re Astra,” Kara answers clearly before looking away.
“Who is that?” Lena further implores, stepping down the stairs to come sit at Kara’s bed side.
“You imagined me as your Aunt?”
“I—” Kara pulls at the coarse thread of her bed sheets. Kryptonians didn’t believe so much in comfort, not like the people of Earth. “Sometimes you remind me of her. This technology you made,” she pauses, grits her teeth. “It reminds me of something she would invent, and I… lost her, too.”
Lena’s eyebrows pinch as Kara looks up, back to the stars.
“You never told me you lost your aunt.”
“She used to help me study,” Kara avoids the subject, smiling wanly. “I would’ve been the youngest member of the Science Guild, but it was mainly thanks to her.”
“The Science Guild?”
“The ruling body of Krypton.”
“Maybe we weren’t so different growing up after all?” Lena comments with a shy smile. She pokes Kara in the thigh. “We’re both science nerds.”
This garners Kara’s attention, and Kara almost can’t breathe for how beautiful she looks under Rao’s light.
“You would’ve beaten me to it,” she stands, suddenly needing the space from Lena.
She traces her eyes around the room, breathing in the memory of Krypton like the scent of summer. She moves, her bare feet brushing across the octagonal shape of the tile on the floor, interlocking and continuous. She drifts past the winding wooden frame of her bed, empty save for a few glowing knowledge crystals. She’d almost forgotten how minimalistic and intentionally designed Krypton had been. The rock formation on the back wall juxtaposes perfectly with the sharp, rectangular lights above her bed. The room beautifully marries modern and natural, hard edges and soft curves.
She looks back at Lena and can’t help but think the same things she loves about this room, she loves about Lena. She reminds her of home.
“On Krypton, we had a birthing matrix,” Kara divulges carefully. “Parents rarely met. They definitely never touched.”
Lena listens, sitting rigid. She folds her hands in her lap.
“The concept of love, it didn’t exist,” Kara shrugs. “Maybe that’s why I didn’t—tell you. Or realize. I know it’s human to love, romance is integral to your culture, but it wasn’t in ours. We were supposed to quell that kind of thing, to only focus on the logical.”
Lena nods, but doesn’t quite meet Kara’s eye, picking at a nail.
“But you did date,” she says. “You did love Mon-El. Didn’t you?”
Kara turns to look out of her window.
“He was—he was royalty on Daxam, our sister planet. He understood our customs, he wasn’t human. By Krypton’s standards, he might’ve been an ideal match, but… beyond that, I’d assimilated to some extent by that point. I’m not just Kryptonian, I’m Kara Danvers and Kara Zor-El, and by Earth’s definitions of love, I tried, but it wasn’t…”
Kara doesn’t finish. Instead, she looks back into Lena’s clear green eyes, accented in the crimson color of the sun.
“It wasn’t easy,” she breathes. “I wish I’d known you on Krypton, Lena.”
“I wish I’d known you at all,” Lena replies, looking down, her tone laced with bitterness.
“No one knows me,” Kara offers her hands, stepping closer to Lena.
“Still,” Lena plucks at her black robe, refusing the gesture. “You didn’t have to be alone, you could’ve been with me.”
“And lose you?”
“You lost me, anyway.”
Kara opens her mouth to speak, but suddenly the world jars, swallowed in blackness.
“There you are,” Kara hears Hope’s saccharine sweet voice.
Hope thoroughly recommits to erasing Kara’s memory after that, after their failed resistance attempt. Memories of Lena sail by at warp speed. Kara’s drowning, and she can’t catch her breath enough to break free.
Lena’s in a track suit, looking great again in black. Kara shakes her hand, and Lena’s hair is sculpted in an elegant, flawless braid.
“What’s your real name, then?” she prods at Kara’s identity in the forest.
“I wanted to tell you—” Kara tries.
But then they’re already flying. Kara has Lena cradled in her arms. Her cheeks are hollow. Her eye lids are dark. Lena’s been poisoned, and Kara can’t lose her. Who cares if bystanders see her dressed as Kara Danvers? Lena’s going to die, and it’s all her fault. She did this.
She’s doing this.
It’s Christmas. Lena’s keeping her close, arm linked in Kara’s. She knows Kara’s been hurting about Mon-El’s return, and it’s sweet the way Lena never lets her get too internal, the way she reels her back into the fun and conversation. Kara pushes her at James, anyway, for some terrible, self-mutilating purpose. Lena says they have no chemistry, but—
“Just let me go!” Lena screams from the bottom of the plane, but Kara won’t.
“No!” she screams right back.
She’s going to save her life. She’s not letting her go, not ever.
But Lena shakes her head, rolling her eyes good-naturedly. She’s drunk and sleepy. And flirty.
“That’s one of the things I love about you,” she says to Kara, seated at Sam’s kitchen island, fingering the stem of a glass of red wine.
“I love you, too,” Kara tells her, off book, but Lena’s already standing at Kara’s desk, arms crossed. She’s expectant, patient, and painfully communicative. She’s every bit the boss Kara’s heard about.
“This is unacceptable behavior for an employee. You ran out this morning when I gave you an assignment. You missed a staff meeting, and now when asked to do a job by your boss you act like it’s an inconvenience. I did not spent 750 million dollars as a favor to a friend—”
“Yes, you did,” Kara interrupts her with an eye roll.
Lena stops mid-sentence, shocked at the petulance.
“I mattered to you, too, Lena,” Kara continues testily. “You weren’t exactly honest with me either.”
“You were—,” Lena stops, starts. “What was I supposed to do? You’d just banished Mon-El.”
“You mean, you’d just banished Mon-El.”
“I’m sorry for the part I played in that,” Lena snaps, turning her body to the side, feigning interest in a report on Kara’s desk. It’s so perfectly characteristic of Lena, Kara laughs and Lena glares at her.
“We both made that decision, and you have the gall to put that solely on me?”
“You never liked him,” Kara fights back. “I know you didn’t.”
“What was there to like?” Lena faces her head on again. “You had to wait until I was nearly married to him to tell me Mike was really Mon-El, and even then you didn’t tell me, Rhea did. You always lie to me.”
“I—,” Kara tries to defend, but she’s back in Lena’s office. Then, Lena’s pulling Kara by their joined hands through the crowded audience of Ruby’s recital.
“Oh my goodness, look at her outfit!” Lena points at another child while simultaneously squeezing Kara’s hand.
Kara can’t even draw a breath before it’s game night. They’re playing chess, and Lena’s telling her,
“You’ve got to make sacrifices.”
“I don’t want to, no one should ever have to die,” Kara laments.
“They’re just chess pieces.”
“So?” Kara rebels. “I think I’m going to name mine.”
She selects one of her faux wooden pieces. It’s a creamy beige, and it reminds Kara of a vanilla wafer.
“This is Charles, and he’s my first line of defense…” Kara trails off, remembering herself. She glances up sharp at Lena, the telltale burn to her eyes.
“You love me, too,” she states with conviction. “I know it.”
“I didn’t even know you,” Lena counters absently, surveying the board. “How could I?”
Kara doesn’t get the chance to answer before she finds herself seated on Lena’s couch, watching Lena with an almost painful and reflexive empathy.
“Loss does strange things to my family,” Lena tells her. “And I have lost a lot of people.”
Kara can’t help herself any more now than she could then. She scoots forward across the white leather and cradles Lena’s head against hers, rubs her shoulder, holds her hand.
“You don’t have to be afraid, I’m right here,” Kara echoes the words, but they feel hollow this time around. She can’t bring herself to say the next line (“I’m not going anywhere.”)
“Promise?” Lena replies anyway.
Kara leans in to kiss her forehead. Lena’s skin is smooth, soft, and Kara knows she’s imagining it. She’s never done this, after all. She’d never gotten the opportunity, never took the leap.
“I will always be your friend.”
Kara jars near a white-linened table. She’s at a fine dining restaurant, piano music filters in from behind her, and she’s staring Lena in the face, who has reached over to stop her from sitting.
Jack Spheer, Kara still thinks with annoyance.
She hates this memory. It had been mortifying at the time, and Kara’s less than thrilled to be re-living it again. She glances at Jack, who is politely encouraging Mike, calling him handsome. She doesn’t want to like Jack, but that feels petty and misplaced. She should never have interrupted, but she just—
“I appreciate the rescue,” Lena hisses, “but it’s not necessary.”
“That’s what friends are for,” Kara replies manically, taking her unwanted seat.
She glances between the two of them, taking a huge and largely unnecessary drink of water. She jabs a finger hard at Jack.
“Is this who you wanted instead?”
Lena takes a fractious sip of wine.
“I’m sorry, did you not just ham-fistedly introduce Mike as your boyfriend?”
“You’re mad, I get it,” Kara throws her hands up. “I crashed your dinner.”
“You weren’t available. You came here with Mike,” Lena reemphasizes in a clip.
The memory jumps.
“This is Kara, the best reporter in National City,” Lena introduces Kara to Jack, touching the back of her elbow.
Jack reaches a confident hand out.
Fuck, he’s British, Kara thinks. And he smells good. Kara wants to reject his hand, but she doesn’t.
“The way you looked at him,” Kara grimaces, forced to endure what feels like a fart in an elevator as she shakes Jack’s hand. “The way he looked at you. I didn’t like it.”
“That’s what friends are for,” Lena mimics back at her with an immature lilt to her voice.
“I’m starting to hate that sentence,” Kara glowers.
“Trust me, not as much as I do.”
“What does that even mean?” Kara asks, whirling on the spot, but it’s too late.
Lena’s blushing slightly, adjusting herself on her spotless white couch.
“It’s a good article,” she confesses. “You flatter me.”
“I only wrote the truth,” Kara moans loudly, her hands pressed against her face. This is torture.
“Hope, can you not give me a fucking second here?!” she beseeches the ceiling.
Nothing happens, and Kara growls, returning her attention to Lena, back to whatever Lena is trying to tell her. Despite the fact that though none of this is real.
Kara takes a grounding breath.
“I’m learning to keep digging,” she continues their conversation. “Even when all the evidence points one way.”
Even when all the evidence points to the fact that Lena didn’t love her. Kara would have never erased Lena if Lena hadn’t erased her first.
“There’s always another side,” she sighs.
“Even when it’s hard to find,” Lena expands.
“Especially when it’s hard to find,” Kara grumbles. “I remember this so well, do we really have to do this again?”
Lena sits patiently, the same as she had before. She doesn’t answer Kara’s question. Instead, she prompts,
“So, is your office overflowing with flowers?”
Kara shakes her head, beyond tired of this. She focuses skyward and then back on Lena, but it’s impossible to say no to her smile, to that unfair leather outfit, to the gold and circular jewelry accenting her neck.
“You didn’t have to do that,” Kara resigns herself.
“I really did. I don’t know how to thank you.”
“That’s what friends are for,” Kara slaps her own thigh, and it almost hurts.
“I’ve never had friends like you before,” Lena reveals, a tinge of vulnerability in her voice. She’s watching Kara so closely.
“What are you trying to tell me, Lena?” Kara murmurs, more to herself.
“I’ve never had family like you,” she continues. “No one’s ever stood up for me like that.”
“You have—you had someone who would stand up for you always,” Kara replies with frustration. “Why did you throw that away?”
But Lena doesn’t mark her words. She’s smiling at Kara with that same love struck expression, that sultry eyebrow lift. She narrows her eyes slightly, and Kara’s entire body clenches, just like it had before.
“Supergirl may have saved me, but Kara Danvers. You are my hero.”
Kara doesn’t laugh this time but stands quickly to hug Lena. It’s their first, after all. The first time she’d experienced how close Lena clings, how she slides her arms both up and down in the shape of an ‘x.’ Hugs aren’t always easy and seamless, but this one is. They fit together.
“It was the other way around,” Kara speaks into her ear, not letting go. “You were my hero, Lena.”
“I didn’t throw you away,” Lena answers quietly.
“You were everything to me,” she holds Kara impossibly tighter. “You must’ve known that.”
Kara shifts back, faces close, still clutching Lena by the elbows.
“Why didn’t you say anything?”
“I did. I tried,” Lena flushes. “I filled your office with flowers. I asked you to the gala.”
“The potstickers,” Kara realizes sadly.
“The potstickers,” Lena confirms with a self-deprecating laugh. “You were oblivious. I thought you were letting me down easy. And then, of course, there was Mike. I had you pegged straight, didn’t I?”
“I didn’t help,” Kara shakes her head, taking Lena’s hands, but Lena disappears. Kara’s fingers fist in the air.
This is the day we met.
Kara follows her cousin into a large, white office. Something about the room strikes a chord within Kara. She glances around at the arcs and straight lines, the circles and squares, the constant and flowing light from the floor-to-ceiling windows. It reminds her of Krypton, although it feels more cool and impersonal. That could just be the white-yellow light lancing through the windows, though. Kara notes the balcony, convenient in case of an emergency.
But mostly she’s distracted. And thinking… surely her feelings for Lena hadn’t gone this far back, right to the beginning.
Because the woman they’re following is Lena, and she’s not the woman she expected to bear the name “Luthor.” She’s polite if a little frayed around the edges from an over packed schedule. The tension is high in her shoulders as she bustles to hang her jacket and purse, her energy frenetic. Her hair almost hides it, falling in thick straight curtains over her back. It’s a gorgeous kind of black, running like rivulets, shifting like a current as she gracefully arches her neck. Her lipstick and her blouse are an invitation red.
“And Supergirl was there, too,” Kara is quick to jump in.
Her heart rate ticks upward, and she almost stammers the words. She hopes Kal doesn’t pick up on it. She doesn’t feel like trying to explain the root and the source.
Lena turns, and it’s the first time she entertains the woman’s full attention. Dragging over Kara, her expression shifts from the chagrined offense of being corrected, and she blinks, no, she flutters her eye lashes, smiling coy.
“And who are you exactly?” she crosses the office to pour herself a glass of water.
(Later, Kara will realize this was a common stone walling attempt of Lena’s. She doesn’t like to show strangers her face.)
“I’m Kara Danvers,” she’s quick to answer, and Rao, the stutter is back. She sees Kal side eye her. “I’m not with the Daily Planet, I’m with CatCo magazine… sort of.”
“That’s a publication not known for it’s hard hitting journalism,” Lena lightly insults, but it honestly sounds like a tease. Especially paired with the coquettish lift of her eyebrows.
“More like high-waisted jeans, yes or no?”
“You’re such a flirt, Lena,” Kara can’t help but condemn. Looking back on this memory, she can tell Lena knows exactly what she’s doing. Nothing about her regard is ever accidental.
“I couldn’t help myself,” she shrugs, seated at her desk. “You’re so cute in those little, pink cardigans. And so flustered.”
Kara sighs at her best friend—her something more.
“This is it,” she looks around the office, back at Lena. “You’re going to be gone soon.”
Lena’s lips thin, she glances at her desk, at a stack of paperwork.
“Right, can we just speed this interview along?” she goes back to script, but Kara doesn’t comply this time. Instead, she turns to Clark.
“Could we have the room?” she asks, and rather than leave, he just sort of fades, his face mottled and unclear. It’s disturbing, but Kara doesn’t have time to overthink it. She can already see the office is fading, too, dissolving into a black murkiness.
Kara swiftly rounds Lena’s desk, and Lena swivels in her seat to look at her.
“I’m so pissed at you,” Kara tells her with no bite. “Technology like this shouldn’t exist. Why are you such a stupid genius?”
“I’m sorry,” Lena laughs. “But I think you love that about me.”
“I do love you, Lena,” Kara admits. She can feel the tears in her eyes, the constriction of her chest. “I mean, I went into reporting because of you. I won a Pulitzer because of you.”
Lena stands, holds one of Kara’s hands, runs another under her eye to catch a falling tear.
“Do you think—” Kara hesitates. “Did you regret it when you erased me?”
Lena pulls her into a hug, cheek pressed to cheek.
“I can’t imagine that I didn’t,” she whispers. “You are so special to me.”
“Is this just me telling myself what I want to hear?”
“Does it matter?”
“It would be different, you know,” Kara pulls back, nose nuzzling Lena’s. “If we gave it another try. If we hadn’t met like this,” she gestures around the room, “if we hadn’t known who we were, a Luthor and a Super, it would be different.”
“But I never knew who you were, darling. Why would it be different for me?”
“I wouldn’t mess that up again,” Kara promises. “If we could do it over, I’d tell you the truth about everything.”
Kara sees the light begin to fade behind Lena, submerging them almost completely. She pulls Lena desperately close.
“You’ll remember me in the morning,” Lena tells her. “You’ll come to me. And we’ll start over.”
As everything simply slips away, Kara hears one last thing.
“Meet me in Midvale.”
Tell me what you think! And find me on Tumblr @hrwinter
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.
Thank you for reading! Follow on tumblr/twitter @hrwinter. Let me know what you thought!