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Lex was dead and Lena was a ghost.

Kara didn’t know what she’d expected from Lena, but it wasn’t this. This fade from view that had made her all but invisible in the three weeks since Lex’s death. There were no brunches together, no midday spin classes—not even a brief glimpse of her boss on the busy CatCo editorial floor. Aside from that first game night, Lena had essentially pulled into herself and away from everyone in their social circle, and it had left everything feeling a little off-kilter as they all tried to return to normal.

The group had, of course, noticed the disappearance, had felt the absence in their gatherings and conversations, but each had seemed to tacitly agree that Lena just needed space to deal with everything that had happened with Lex. What she had gone through with her brother had been traumatizing, and if the way she needed to handle it was late nights at L-Corp digging out from yet another Lex-induced publicity nightmare, then that’s what they needed to give her. Space was their gift.

Kara tried not to worry, and most days she didn’t. Maybe it was because Lena had seemed so confident during the final days fighting Lex, so calm at their game night, that it didn’t seem possible that she was doing anything other than working too much. Or maybe, it was because Kara had been so wrapped up in guilt about keeping her secret identity from her best friend, that she was grateful for the space Lena had created so she could work up the nerve to admit her truth. Or maybe, it was because despite her physical absence at social events, Lena was still there, liking the dog pictures Kara would text, still there as a silhouette at her desk when Kara would fly her nightly rounds around the city. It wasn’t until Lena’s text replies dwindled to almost nothing, until the lights in Lena’s office were dark at a reasonable time, that Kara started to worry in earnest. And it wasn’t until Kara’s email pinged one afternoon with an impersonal calendar invite to meet at Lena’s office later that day, that she began to sense that something was wrong.

At 5pm Kara exited the elevator at L-Corp. She was coming straight from work, so her hair wasn’t as tidy as she’d like, her shirt a little more rumpled. She pushed her glasses higher on her nose and swallowed down her fear as she smiled at Lena’s new secretary. Kara took a quick, steadying breath to pump herself up before she walked into Lena’s office. She had done the right thing, giving Lena space. Not telling her right away about her identity was the right thing to do because Lena was so fragile, and things had been so fresh with Lex—there wasn’t time now to second guess giving Lena a little time to breathe again before she suffered another blow. What was done was done, and now it was time to move forward.

Kara took another quick breath before she entered Lena’s office, forcing a bright and cheerful smile to her lips before she popped her head around the door. “You wanted to see me?” she asked, her voice hopeful despite her stomach twisting about what state she’d find Lena in. She had expected to see Lena at her desk, peeking up over a stack of papers, but instead Lena was sitting primly on her white leather couch, a glass of water before her.

Lena seemed to deflate a little at the sound of Kara’s voice. “I did,” Lena said. “Thank you for coming.” She nodded for Kara to close the door, and Kara complied.

“Of course, anything for you,” Kara said as she turned and started toward the couch with her still hopeful smile. “You’ve been so busy lately; I’ve missed seeing you. Is everything all right?”

Lena’s voice sounded tired when she replied. “I’ve had a lot on my plate.”

Kara’s hands tightened on her purse straps. “All good things, I hope.”

“Not really,” Lena admitted. She stood and put her hands together in front of her. “I’ve actually purposefully been keeping my distance because I needed some time alone to figure some things out.”

“Oh?” Kara asked, her brow crinkling in concern.

Lena nodded. She steeled herself and then spoke. “You’ve been keeping something from me, and I know what it is.”

Kara’s stomach dropped, her eyes going wide. “Lena–”

“It took me a while to figure it out,” Lena interrupted, her voice calm. “I had suspicions, but it wasn’t until after everything with Lex that it finally clicked into place, this, secret you’ve been keeping from me.” She watched Kara closely.

“Lena, I can explain, I–”

“You’re in love with me.”

Kara felt Lena’s words as powerfully as if Superman had blindsided her and knocked the wind from her body. Of all of the things she had expected Lena to say about Kara keeping a secret from her, that was not it. “What?”

“It’s the only reasonable explanation,” Lena said, her voice still even and calm. “Why you stuck with me after everything with Edge, after my rift with Supergirl, with what I did for Lex…” she trailed off. “That you stayed, that you fought for me… You wouldn’t have done those things unless you loved me.”

Kara was floored. “Lena…” She shook her head, her mind tumbling. She smiled, tight and strained. “I, do, love you, I do, but I’m not…” She laughed, her smile going bright, her cheeks brighter. “You’re my best friend.”

Lena nodded. “Friends.”

“Yes,” Kara said, her voice emphatic. “Friends.” She huffed, her heart racing, wondering how the conversation had gone this way. “You’re…” She searched for a word, the word, to describe who Lena was to her, but no further words came out.

“I thought that, too,” Lena said. “Best friends stick up for each other, they stand by each other. But when I looked back on our time together… I’ve seen the way you look at me,” Lena said, her gaze locked onto Kara’s eyes. “And it’s more than friendly.”

Kara’s brows pulled down.

“The way your eyes linger on me. How your gaze drops.” Lena’s own eyes looked to her chest and up, Kara’s eyes darting to where Lena had looked before looking up. Kara swallowed hard, her cheeks scarlet as she met Lena’s eye. “I explained it away for a long time; admiration for my expensive clothes, bashfulness, but it’s hard to do when you hold me longer than the others after game night.”

“Lena…”

Lena cleared her throat. “And I think you’ve seen how I look at you.” Lena looked at Kara with open affection. “You have to know that I think you’re beautiful.” Kara’s breath left her again and her head slightly cocked, her face puzzled. “Turns out, I’m in love with you, too.”

Time stopped for Kara as she stared, gobsmacked at Lena. Lena, who was looking at her in a way Kara’d only ever hoped someone would look at her. “You.” Kara stammered, her eyes huge. “You.”

Lena nodded. She stepped forward, Kara’s breath hitching when Lena stopped inches away from her. “Which is why,” Lena said. “It’s so devastating that you chose to betray me, Supergirl.”

Kara felt the blood run from her face, her extremities suddenly very cold as the open, adoring look on Lena’s face hardened, her eyes turning to steel. “Lena,” Kara choked out.

Lena turned and took a couple of steps away, before turning and again meeting Kara’s eye. Lena’s face was as cold as Kara’d ever seen it. “I think we could have had something,” Lena said, her voice slighly wavering through tight lips. “And now…” she shrugged. “To be perfectly honest, I’m finding it difficult to be in the same room with you.”

Kara took a deep breath, her voice coming out in a broken whoosh. “I can explain–”

“I’m sure you can,” Lena said.

“I was trying to protect you.”

“By lying to me.”

“Yes,” Kara said. “No. I–” She huffed in a breath, frustrated with herself. She had practiced this, knew it was coming, but being here with Lena was so different– “I lied to protect you from the people who would use my identity to hurt you.”

“As opposed to all of the other people who try to hurt me for just me being me.” Lena shifted slightly, her gaze never wavering.

“It’s different.”

“I’d ask how, but I don’t think I care enough about the answer,” Lena said. “I think.” She stopped. “I think, if I had found out any other way than how I did, I might have been receptive to what you have to say.” She took a deep breath, her eyes starting to water. “But finding out from Lex.” She met Kara’s eye and stared. “Finding out from him after I shot him?” Kara sucked in a breath, horror crossing her face. “I don’t know if I can forgive that…”

“You… You shot, Lex?” Kara asked, her voice small.

“You thought you killed him,” Lena said. “Surprise.”

“I…” Kara opened and closed her mouth, her eyes training on Lena as a mountain of information crashed into Kara’s brain, as she had to rearrange what and how she thought about the last three weeks. “Are you OK?”

Lena smiled wide, her eyes red with unshed tears. ”Ever the noble hero…” Her smile faded. “How did I not see it sooner…”

“Lena, I wanted to tell you.”

“Of course you did,” Lena whispered.

“I talked myself out of it a million times, on the plane, I…” Kara tightened her hands into fists by her side. “I knew how much it would hurt you. That you would lump me in with everyone else–”

“Stop,” Lena said.

“I’m not like them, I care–”

“Stop,” Lena said sharply, holding up a hand. “Please.”

Kara nodded, her own eyes watering. They were silent for a long while before Kara tried again. “I was going to tell you. Soon, I was going to.”

Lena just nodded her head, the action both an acceptance of Kara’s words and an expression of her disbelief. They stood awkwardly across from each other for a long moment, neither moving.

“So now what?” Kara finally asked quietly, and Lena lifted an eyebrow in question. “What happens, now, with us?”

Lena nodded, processing the question. She stilled herself and met Kara’s eye. “First? You’re fired.”

“What?” Kara asked, her brow crumpling in confusion.

“I won’t have anyone working for me who lies to my face,” Lena said calmly. “Not after Eve.” Kara pressed her lips together, as if she were about to speak and Lena held up her hand. “I know James knew.”

Fear clouded Kara’s features. “You can’t fire him–”

“Oh, I can, but I won’t, because it wasn’t his secret to tell,” Lena said plainly. “You put him in a horrible position, but he’s obviously more forgiving than me.” She shook her head. “You asked him to break into my vault, you…” Lena swallowed to compose herself before continuing. “How he chooses to deal with the situation once he becomes aware of my thoughts on the subject is up to him.”

“And Alex?” Kara asked, desperation at the reality of the situation starting to leak into her voice. “Brainy?”

“They’re your friends,” Lena said carefully. “Your concern.”

Kara exhaled heavily and put her hand to her forehead, turning and pacing a few steps before dropping her hand noisily against her side and turning to face Lena. “So you’re just going to cut me off? All of us, everyone who cares about you, like everything we’ve been through together doesn’t matter? I– Lena…”

Lena stared, watched as Kara fidgeted, her hands balling into fists before relaxing, her lips pressing together to speak before falling open with unspoken words. When Kara finally stilled, finally met her eye with a sad look that spoke more than words ever could, Lena said, “You should go.”

Kara’s face twisted with desperation. “Lena.” Lena looked to the floor and nodded resolutely, her lips pursed. Kara took a step forward and Lena’s head snapped up, her eyes wide. She took a hurried step back and Kara froze at Lena’s defensive body language.

“Go.”

Kara’s face pinched and her eyes watered. This was worse than every worst case scenario she had envisioned, because the way Lena was looking at her… Kara’s lips thinned. Everything inside of her told her to stay and fight, but Lena looked like a bird with a broken wing, delicate and panicked, and Kara knew if she pushed she’d hurt her further. Kara swallowed hard, swallowed down her guilt and deciept and caught Lena’s eye for what could very well be the last time. “I want to be your friend,” Kara said softly. “And I will always, always, be there for you.”

Lena’s nostrils flared with distrust, but she didn’t move, and Kara knew there was nothing else she could say. She blinked once and left.

***************************

Alex walked into Kara’s apartment and threw her hands in the air as soon as the door was closed. “Hello? Dinner plans—with me—at a restaurant you picked?”

Kara didn’t reply, just looked over from her place on the couch and then back to the space of floor she’d been staring at.

“Hey, are you OK?” Alex asked, her brow furrowing as she got closer and took in Kara’s body language.

“Lena knows.”

Alex stopped and deflated. “You told her.”

“No,” Kara said, shaking her head. She looked at Alex, sadness etched into every line on her face. “Lex did.”

Alex’s face fell and she quickly sat on the couch next to Kara. “What? When?”

“Right after Lena shot him,” Kara said, her voice muted. “She killed Lex after we all thought…”

“Oh my god,” Alex said. “Is she OK?”

“No,” Kara said.

Alex nodded, her lips pressed tight together. “She confronted you.”

Kara nodded slowly. “In her office a few hours ago.”

“What did she say?” Alex asked, watching Kara’s profile.

Kara was quiet for a moment, obviously organizing her thoughts. “She told me she was in love with me.”

“Oh,” Alex said, her voice dropping in shock as she processed the words.

“And, she said that she thought I was in love with her,” Kara added quietly.

“Oh,” Alex said, her eyebrows shooting up in surprise. “That’s…” Alex shook her head, her eyes darting to look at Kara and then away. Silence stretched between them, each sitting abnormally still next to each other on the couch.

“Am I?”

“What?” Alex asked, confused.

Kara swallowed hard. “Would I have done, anything I've done for Lena for anyone else? I've always chosen her. Even after she made kryptonite, I…” Kara rubbed her forehead. “She fired me. And when I got home, I had a job offer from the Daily Planet waiting for me in my inbox.” She looked to Alex’s confused face. “Lena apparently sent my resume to them. They want me to take over Kal’s old beat in Metropolis.”

“You're not thinking about taking it. Kara you can't move all the way across the country–”

“No, of course not.” Kara exhaled, her nerves obviously shot. She shook her hands out, anxious. “God, I wish Kal was here.”

Alex tried to not look stung. Kara caught the look out of the corner of her eye and she quickly explained. “Lois didn’t know that Kal was Superman, when she and Clark first…” She shrugged.

Realization washed over Alex’s features. “Kara… Do you want to be with Lena?”

Kara smiled, embarrased, her hand turning into a fist on her lap. “I don't think that's an option.”

“But, if it were–”

Kara stood suddenly, the blanket that had been on her lap falling to the floor. She paced away from the couch, Alex watching patiently. “I think I need some fresh air.”

“Kara…”

Kara turned back to Alex and shrugged, unable to put what she was feeling into words. Alex just nodded, and in a flash Kara was out the open window, her comfy clothes pooled by the couch on the floor.

***************************

Kara took in a deep breath, the icy atmosphere inside the Fortress of Solitude slightly stinging her overworked lungs. She had no doubt broken the sound barrier flying there, but it had felt good to stretch her abilities, to tax the muscles that she usually kept deliberatly underused. She thought of Lena and the pained look on her face as they stood across from each other in her office earlier that night. Tears immediately sprung to Kara’s eyes, and it wasn’t long before she was sitting on the edge of one of the Fortress’s recovery tables crying.

“Kara?”

Kara jumped to her feet, her eyes wide as she spun in a circle.

“Kara, is that you?”

“Kal?!” Kara asked, surprised.

“What's wrong?” Kal-El asked, his voice heavy with urgent concern. “Are you injured?”

Kara again spun in a circle, her eyes looking for the man who spoke. “What?” Kara asked, confused until she remembered that she had seconds before been crying. She pressed her eyes closed before opening them again and looking around. “No. Where are you?”

“Argo.”

“Excuse me?” Kara asked, her eyebrows arched.

“I’m still on Argo,” Kal-El answered and Kara’s brow furrowed. “I programmed the Fortress’s computers to call me if you were there and it sensed you were in distress.”

“Oh my God,” Kara blushed, her voice slighly muffled as she covered her face, mortified.

“But you're OK?” he asked, seeking reassurance.

“Yes,” she answered, dropping her hands to her side. She cocked her head slightly. “I’m sorry to have worried you.”

“No, please don’t apologize,” Kal-El answered.

“He feels guilty he left you alone.”

Kara’s eyebrows again arched and she blushed. “Lois?”

“Hi, Kara,” Lois replied, and Kara rubbed a hand sheepishly across the back of her neck.

“I didn’t realize you had me on speaker,” Kara mumbled.

“Are you sure you’re all right?” Lois asked and Kara rolled her eyes.

“Yes,” she said, her cheeks flushing. “I just. I needed to get away from real life for a little while.”

“So you went to the big ice cube palace,” Lois joked and Kara couldn’t help but smile at the familial tease.

“It is a little piece of home away from home,” Kara reminded Lois, her voice also a gentle tease. “Speaking of home, how is Argo City?”

“Stable, thanks to Lena Luthor,” Kal-El said and Kara’s face fell. “Your mother is well, and the population seems to be responding well to the new Harun-El.”

“That’s good,” Kara said, slightly melancholy. “And you, Lois, how are you feeling?” she asked, quickly changing the subject before either on the other line could pick up on her sadness. “How is my future nephew treating you?”

“Well, if the constant kicking is any indication, he’ll be a handful once we’re back on Earth and he gets a taste of the Sun.”

Kara chuckled, the sound fading as Kal-El spoke again. “Jimmy told me what happened with Lex Luthor.”

“Yeah,” Kara said slowly, turning and picking up the bottom of her cape before she leaned heavily against the edge of the recovery bed.

“He told me you defeated him, once and for all.”

“I didn’t,” Kara said, her voice thin with sadness. “Lena did.” Kara felt like she could practically hear the look Kal-El and Lois were giving each other across the line.

“Lena…”

“Apparently, my fight with Lex in his Warsuit wasn’t the end like we all thought…” Kara trailed off. “He escaped, and Lena shot him.”

“She killed him,” Kal-El said.

“Good,” Lois said, and the three sat silent through the tension that followed. “Is that why you’re here?” Lois finally asked. “Why you needed to get away?”

The question cut awfully close to Kara’s truth and she shifted her shoulders slightly, as if she could wriggle away from the feeling of loss settling in her chest. “It’s just been a hard day,” she said quietly.

After a long moment of silence, Kal-El spoke. “When I need a break, I go to Smallville.” Kara looked up, her face open to his words. “Kara…” He took in a deep breath. “My home is your home. If you need a break, go to Smallville.”

“Kal, that’s…” Kara smiled, uncomfortable. “That’s, really, sweet, but I couldn’t–”

“Yes you could,” Lois said quickly. Kara’s mouth opened and closed, silently. “Besides, I don’t trust that kid Clark paid to cut the back lawn. It’s probably thigh high in weeds by now. You could go and make sure we don’t bring our son home to a dilapitated haunted house.”

Kara blushed as she smiled. “That’s, that’s very tempting…”

“But…?” Kal-El asked and Kara’s brow knit as everything finally hit her. She didn’t have a job, didn’t have any place she had to be, and the idea of going home to National City, to a place where Lena was that she– “OK,” Kara said, nodding gently. “I’ll go check it out.”

“Great,” Kal-El said, relief touching the edges of his words. “There’s a key under the rock by the porch steps.”

Kara smiled at Kal-El’s simple hospitality. He was so human. “Thank you.”

“Of course,” Kal-El said, and Kara could picture the boyish smile on his lips. There was a moment’s pause and he spoke, haltingly. “If you need me to come home, Kara, to switch places with me so you can spend time with your mother here–”

“No, no,” Kara said, waving her hand. “It’s. Thank you, but, you should be on Argo right now. Lois, should stay on Argo, at least until Superman Jr. is born.” Kara gripped the edge of the recovery table, forcing cheer into her voice. “I’m fine, and I’ll have time to visit again once you’re home and settled.”

“OK,” he said, not aruging or pushing. “You can call me, anytime you like–”

“OK,” she said, rolling her eyes. “Geez, can’t a girl go mope in a secret frozen fortress without everyone getting all weird about it?”

“Bye, Kara,” Lois said, the warmth in her voice telling Kara that Lois of all people understood.

“Bye, Lois,” Kara said with a soft smile. “Be well.”

“You too,” Lois said. “Say goodbye, Clark.”

“Goodbye, Kara.”

“Bye Kal.”

The line cut out and Kara was once again left in silence. She took in another deep, cold breath and then hopped to her feet. It seemed she was Kansas bound.

**************************

Kara flew to Smallville slowly, taking her time to fly by several of the country’s larger cities to help people in need. Metropolis. Center City. She told herself it was because people needed her with Kal off-world, but the truth was she was nervous about visiting Kal’s boyhood home. By the time she landed at the farm the sky was lit with a pre-dawn glow. Birds were singing, and when she took a deep breath she could smell the humid heat that was about to envelope the land after the sun rose. As mentioned, Kal left a key under the rock by the door, only the “rock” was a boulder the size of a Smart car. She turned the key in the lock and pushed the door open, the hinges squeaking slightly as she stepped inside.

It felt strange to be in someone else’s home, to be in the home where Kal grew up when he was supposed to be with her. The latter thought made her feel even more out of place and she was about to leave when her eye caught sight of a framed picture on the mantle. The picture was from a few years before, taken by James at CatCo. Kal and her stood shoulder-to-shoulder in the shot, smile lines creasing the corners of their glasses-covered eyes. It made her smile to see it, and her shoulders relaxed a shade as she was reminded that her family had offered this place as sanctuary. She ignored the slight flutter in her stomach, the sadness that momentarily squeezed her chest when she remembered that the photo was taken the day she met Lena.

Lois had been right to distrust the boy they’d paid to keep the Kent farm up, but then, of course she was. Lois—like Lena—was almost always right. Kara changed into a combination of Kal and Lois’s clothes that she discovered in the master bedroom, and then found there was no shortage of chores to do on the farm. By late day she was surprisingly tired, despite spending a full day in the sun. She took Kal’s old pick up truck into town after finding the keys in the visor, and fell in love as she sat on a bench on main street enjoying a post-burger ice cream cone. She understood the town’s charm, why Kal returned time after time after his adoptive parents deaths to recharge and reconnect. It felt safe and small in a way that probably made Kal feel centered. Human. She returned the truck to the farm and sat in the cab for a long time, the events of the last 24-hours catching up to her. The reality of a new version of her life with Lena not in it. The sky turned dark and studded with stars, and when she looked up at them she wondered if Lena was still at work.

Kara put her hand to her chest and rubbed slightly over her heart. It hurt, and she wondered if there would ever be a time moving forward when it didn’t. She exited the cab and went back into the house to change before leaving. She replaced the key under the rock and stood in her super suit, her boots slightly crunching the gravel drive as she shifted her weight. She looked at the house, a bittersweet smile on her lips, and then flew home.

She instantly regretted it.

National City was loud, sirens blaring, and as she stepped into her apartment she realized she didn’t want to be there. Everything in her place that she loved, that little sancuary that she had created was poisoned with memories of times she had lied to Lena. Of the game night she slipped out of to go catch a bad guy, leaving Lena partnerless for a round. Of the movie nights when they would sit close on the couch, thighs brushing and cheeks blushing, the lie a thickness on the back of her tongue. Kara pressed her eyes closed, sad, and she reminded herself that things were this way because of her choices. She opened her eyes and frowned, then picked up her phone and dialed.

Alex answered on the second ring. “Kara? Hi! Where are you?”

“I’m home,” Kara said. “Are you at the DEO?”

“No, J’onn’s.”

“Can I come over?” Kara asked. She sighed with relief at Alex’s affirmative answer.

Kara flew to J’onn’s, picking up dessert on the way. Alex and J’onn were kind and respectful as she explained her plan to spend more time in Smallville, and though Kara could tell they didn’t totally agree with it, they were ultimately supportive of Kara’s decision. She would live there for a while, take care of the farm and return to National City anytime the DEO needed her as Supergirl.

“But what about…?” Alex tentatively asked and Kara forced a smile to her lips.

“It’s like a five minute flight, Alex, of course I’ll be able to still make sister dinners and game nights.”

Alex’s face fell, and Kara could see the question she was going to ask. “That’s not–”

“Who wants cupcakes?” Kara asked, smiling tight and toothy, and both Alex and J’onn took the hint: Discussing Lena was off limits.

A week later, Lena put CatCo into a blind trust. Kara found out about it in a halting phone call with James. His voice was strange and full of forced optimism, and Kara hated how he seemed to struggle to speak to her. Being caught in between two people he loved was obviously hurting him. That same week, Lena showed up at the DEO and dumped a load of technology on them—all of it Supergirl related—and effectively severed their working partnership.

“She’s angry, but I think she just needs time,” Alex said gently, and Kara had nodded into the phone even though Alex couldn’t see her, too choked up to speak. Brainy emailed Kara to tell her that Lena had politely and firmly ended their ‘compadre’ time, and Nia…

“I don’t know what to say, Kara. Lena’s ghosted everyone pret-ty hard.”

Kara tried not to think about Lena as she settled into life in Smallville. Tried to put her out of her mind as she tended to the farm, because when she did think of her, Kara’s heart hurt in a way that she wasn’t sure she’d ever recover from. Because, while the first 48 hours after Lena confronted her was filled with thoughts about the wounded look in Lena’s eye after she called her out as Supergirl, the rest of the time was spent dwelling on the look of love Lena had given her as she’d named their feelings.

Their feelings.

Her feelings.

She was in love with Lena, and the fact that she hadn’t realized how deep, how studpidly romantic those feelings for Lena were until she was cut out of Lena’s life felt so cosmically unfair as to make her question her belief in the inherent goodness of the universe. How could she be good, preach hope, be hope to so many people and hurt someone she loved so deeply?

Kara flew home to National City twice a week to have dinner with Alex. They saw each other more often than that—she was still Supergirl and the DEO was still busy, after all—but this time was for them to connect as sisters, for Kara to hear about how things were going with Kelly, and learn how Alex was preparing for the child she was about to adopt. To tell Alex that she really was fine, though she knew Alex could see otherwise, as Kara gently shifted their conversation into how well she was doing as a temporary farmer.

It was in the fourth week after her falling out with Lena that they ran into each other. Kara was waiting by the maitre’d’s stand at a fancy restaurant that Alex had wanted to try in advance of bringing Kelly on a date. Alex had run to the bathroom as they waited to be seated, and Kara was killing time playing a game on her phone when the elevator doors opened and Lena stepped out, dressed to kill and on the arm of a very handsome man. Kara’s breath caught and Lena’s smile froze when her eyes inadvertantly connected with Kara’s. Lena’s… date?… leaned over and whispered something, white noise in Kara’s ear, as she continued to stare, and Lena faltered slightly before she fell back into the Lena the world knew. Confident and beautiful, and laughing on cue. It broke Kara’s heart. “Ready?” Alex said breathlessly as she stopped by Kara’s side, looking with confusion from Kara’s face to whatever was causing Kara to look so upset. “Lena,” Alex said with surprise and the sound seemed to restart time for Kara.

“Alex,” Lena acknowledged, her voice cool and impersonal, and it was that one word, followed by nothing else, that caused Kara to stand.

“I have to…” Kara brushed by the man on Lena’s arm and pressed the button to the elevator. She swallowed hard, her eyes burning with unshed tears, her face bright red. She pressed the button again, looking up as the numbers slowly—why were they so slow—illuminated in her direction. She reached forward to tap the button again, Alex’s hand intercepting hers and lacing their fingers together.

“It’s OK,” Alex murmured, and Kara nodded, taking strength from Alex’s steadiness. The elevator doors opened, mercifully, and they ducked inside. Alex pressed the button for the lobby and Kara took a deep breath before looking up, before she saw Lena being lead away by her… date?… and the maitre’d before the doors closed.

Kara slumped against the elevator wall and Alex put a hand on her shoulder. “Are you OK?” Kara nodded. “What did she say to you?”

“Nothing,” Kara said, standing and wiping her hands on her pants. “She uh, she didn’t say anything.”

“OK,” Alex said, obviously reassured that she wasn’t going to have go right back up and punch the woman her sister was clearly in love with in the face. “I’m sorry. Obviously I never would have booked a reservation here if I thought there was any chance–”

“It’s fine, Alex, it’s…” Kara trailed off. The elevator doors opened and they exited into the lobby.

“So… Noonan’s?” Alex offered and Kara pulled a face, pulling up short before they reached the double doors to the street.

“I think I just want to go home,” Kara said apologetically.

“OK,” Alex said, rolling with things. “We can get take out, watch a movie–”

“No, I mean, I meant, Smallville.”

“Kara,” Alex said as her head cocked, her voice both a warning and a reproach that made Kara’s head duck in response.

“I know,” Kara said, nodding her head. “I just. I don’t want to be here.”

“You’re going to run into each other,” Alex said gently, following Kara’s eyes when she looked away. “National City is a big city, but…”

“I know,” Kara said, looking back to Alex. “I know! And I’m not saying forever, I just. Right now?” She bit her lip before puffing out air, unable to articulate.

Alex nodded. “After things ended with Maggie…” Kara felt her stomach tighten. “You were there for me.”

“This is different.”

Alex’s brow quirked. “It’s OK to admit that you love her.” Kara’s features screwed up and she put her hands over her face. She felt Alex’s arms wrap around her, heard Alex shush her as she ran a hand over her hair. “I can take time off of work, go with you to Smallville like we did after–”

“No,” Kara said, her voice muffled in Alex’s shoulder. She gently extracted herself from Alex’s arms and smiled, forcing a lighteness to her watery eyes that she didn’t feel. She was embarrased that Alex was comparing her almost marriage to Maggie to… “I’m fine, Alex. Really.” She put her hands on Alex’s upper arms and squeezed briefly, smiling wider to try and sell her words. “You don’t need to worry.”

Alex was clearly still worried, but she let it go. “At least walk with me to the hot dog stand down the street before you go. I haven’t gone grocery shopping in like a week and I am not eating cereal for dinner again.”

“Deal,” Kara said, and they exited the building into the warm summer city night arm-in-arm.

**************************

It was almost evening and Kara was finishing up a few chores outside two days later when she heard it. Coming down the Kent’s long, private dirt drive was a sleek and powerful car; definitely nothing she had heard in Smallville before. She straightened up, her hearing stretchng. She tapped the comm link in her ear. “Alex, are you driving down the Kent's drive?”

“No, I'm at HQ in National City. Why?”
 
Kara pressed her lips into a concerned line and took to the sky. She spotted the black sports car quickly. “There’s a car coming down the Kent’s drive; it’s coated in lead, I can't see who is driving it."

“Kara,” Alex said, her voice taut with tension.

“I’m OK,” Kara reassured. She quickly flew behind a small grove of hickory trees, and watched as the car pulled to a stop near the house. The engine cut out and the car was silent for a moment. The driver side door opened and Kara's jaw dropped. "Lena?"

“What about Lena?” Alex asked.

“She's here,” Kara said, distracted as Lena strode to the front of her car and looked around. She was wearing sunglasses, and was dressed in black jeans, high heel boots and a black silk shirt beneath a dark red moto jacket. Kara watched, stunned as Lena removed her sunglasses and headed for the Kent's front door. “Alex I'll call you back.”

“OK.”

Lena was almost to the porch steps when Kara landed heavily behind her. Lena turned and cut Kara with a sharp look.

“How are you here?” Kara asked with surprise as she tucked the comm device into her pocket, and Lena's sharp look turned diamond-edged.

“You think my technology can't find you?”

Hearing the venom in Lena’s voice was like getting slapped in the face. “Well, that's not ominous,” Kara grumbled.

Lena looked away, smiling. “Right, I forgot for a second that you're Supergirl and admitting those sort of things is something someone from my family probably should do around you.”

“Lena,” Kara drew out as she briefly closed her eyes.

“What is this place?” Lena demanded.

“Your technology didn't tell you,” Kara snapped back piquishly, nervous and off-kilter by the aggressive interaction.

Lena raised an eyebrow. “It's Clark Kent's farm.”

“And, he's my cousin and he said I could use it,” Kara expanded defensively.

“Clark Kent is not related to the Danvers.”

“No,” Kara replied cautiously.

“So, he's Superman,” Lena said. Kara worked her jaw and Lena rolled her eyes. “It's not your secret so I won't ask you to confirm or deny.” Lena huffed. “Why are you here?”

“Why not be here?” Kara asked petulantly. “It's not like I have a job I need to go to.”

“So you just leave,” Lena sneered. “The champion of National City, staying in a place so unbelievably tiny and unimaginative in the middle of Kansas they named it Smallville.”

“Good people live here,” Kara defended.

“I have no doubt of that,” Lena replied. “But you're not one of them.” There was a long pause as the words and their possible meaning sat thick between them. “You see me at a restaurant and run to the middle of nowhere.”

“I’ve been here for a while,” Kara bit. “Not that you'd know that.” Lena flexed her jaw and Kara sighed. “You were on a date, did you expect me to stay? Maybe pull up a chair with Alex and make it a foursome?”

“I thought crashing my dates was sort of your thing. ‘What are friends for’, right?”

“You’ve made it very clear that we’re no longer friends,” Kara said tightly. Silence stretched between them again, and after a long moment, Kara couldn’t take it anymore. “I’m sorry.” Lena took in a deep breath. “I’m sorry I didn't tell you who I was. I thought it was because I was protecting you but it was me being selfish.”

“That makes no sense.”

“You were the only person I cared about who treated me like a normal person and, sometimes, with the way my life is, I needed that.” Lena was silent. “Sometimes, when all of your friends talk to you about the bad things going on all the time, sometimes it's nice to have someone I could just have burgers with and talk about trash TV.”

“You're right, that is selfish.”
 
“Lena–”

“Open the door,” Lena said, nodding to the farmhouse.

“Excuse me?” Kara asked, her eyebrows shooting to her hairline.

“You heard me.”

Kara steamed. “After–” She took in a deep, huffing breath. “You think you can just–” She took in another huffing breath. “You want me to let you in after– You’ve treated me like I meant nothing to you.”

“Likewise.” Lena said cooly. “Now open the door or I’m leaving.”

Kara stared. Lena huffed and started for her car, stopping only when a blur of motion blew past her. She stopped and Kara stood by the farmhouse’s open front door. Lena’s jaw set and she turned and entered the house.

Kara watched Lena as she walked into the old clapboard three story, her eyes apraising everything. “Not as fancy as you're used to.”

Lena scoffed. “I started boarding school when I was 7, you think I also didn't spend all summer at camp?” Her smirk faded. “This reminds me of the camp director’s home.”

“Is that a Luthor perk? Dinner with the camp director when your parents came for Family Day?”

“My parents never came for Family Day.”

Kara’s brow knit. “Then how would you–”

“The other girls in my cabins weren't always…” Lena trailed off. “They might have been daughters of senators and captains of industry, but none were related to America's Man of Tomorrow.” Lena picked at a lace doily on a nearby table. “They made me pay for the privaledge of being the Luthor family's lesser sibling. The camp director invited me to dinner when the other girls became too cruel so I wouldn’t tell Lionel.”

Kara’s brow quirked at Lena’s cynicism. “Maybe she did it because she was kind.”

Lena gave Kara a hard stare. “She tried to blackmail me when I was 14 after I was caught kissing the only girl at the camp who was ever actually kind to me.”

“That’s awful.”

“Life as a Luthor,” Lena shrugged.

Kara slowly exhaled. “You said the girls made you pay… What does that mean?” Kara asked, unsettled.

Lena took in a deep breath. “Do you remember Lex, before Superman?”

Kara shook her head. “They were already frenemies when I arrived, and because he wanted me to have a ‘normal’ life, my cousin kept me out of what came after that. Everything between them, the battle in Metropolis; I watched it on the news like everyone else.”

Lena nodded. “There was an article in Time magazine when I was 13 arguing which was more likely to happen: The Constitution being amended to allow Lex to run for president before his 35th birthday, or an amendment to repeal term limits for when he eventually won.” She smiled wryly. “Back then he was the kind of ambitious that people admired. Before an alien from Krypton drove him mad.”

“Superman didn't drive him mad.”

“No, I suppose he didn’t. He just put a spotlight on what was already there,” Lena said, tapping the table to her left twice.

There was a beat before Kara spoke again. “How did you get here?” Lena stiffened and Kara rushed to elaborate. “Did you drive all the way from National City? Fly?” When Lena didn’t answer Kara frowned. “I’m not–” She shrugged. “I’m just trying to figure out if you’re hungry. Are you hungry?” Lena warily shook her head. “Well, I am,” Kara said. She nodded toward the kitchen and took a tentative step that way. When Lena hesitantly followed, Kara strode confidently toward the fridge and pulled out a container. She popped the top off, picking the pieces of cubed BBQ chicken free with her fingers and popping them in her mouth. Once she chewed a few pieces, she said, “My metabolism is faster than humans; I need to eat more frequently to keep functional.” She said it casually, and the look on Lena’s face told Kara the other woman recognized it as the olive branch it was intended to be.

“I figured,” Lena said, standing awkwardly near the far counter. “Nobody eats as much as you and keeps that figure.” Kara’s reply of protest was muffled, her mouth full, and Lena continued. “Oh please, you never work out and your favorite sport is channel surfing.”

“Fighting bad guys is actually pretty strenuous exercise.”

“Right,” Lena breathed out, the reminder that she was standing across from Supergirl and not just Kara, pinned her hip to the counter.

Kara finished and put the empty dish in the sink, filling it with water to soak before washing her hands. Hands dry, she turned back to Lena. “Would you like anything to drink?”

“I don’t suppose the Boy Scout Clark Kent keeps scotch tucked away on the farm?”

“No, but there’s beer.” Lena raised an eyebrow. “He’s from the Midwest and he’s married to Lois Lane.”

“Right,” Lena said. Kara nodded to the fridge, offering, and Lena shook her head no.

“Do you want to go back into the living room?”

“Here’s fine,” Lena said and Kara shuffled slightly before leaning against the counter across the room from Lena.

When Lena didn’t speak, Kara frowned. “Did you come all the way here to just stare daggers at me?”

“And yell,” Lena said, deadpan. “I’m working my way up to that.”

“I see,” Kara said. “Well, I suppose I deserve it.”

“You do,” Lena said.

Kara smiled sadly. “You know, I told James once that you were almost always right and… I was not wrong.”

“Why me?” Lena finally asked.

“Why you… what?”

“Why did you befriend me?”

Kara’s brow knit. “Because I liked you.”

“Really,” Lena said, her voice dripping with doubt.

“Yes,” Kara said, offended.

“So you, a Super, didn’t befriend me, a Luthor, to keep tabs on me?”

“No,” Kara said strongly. When Lena looked away Kara stood tall. “That may have been why I interviewed you the first time–”

“And the second?”

“I, yes,” Kara admitted, flustered. “But, I started to spend time with you, socially, because I liked you.” Lena silently worked her jaw. “Why is that so hard for you to believe?”

“That someone would like me for me?” Lena asked. “You have to ask me that after what happened with Eve?”

“I’m not Eve.”

“I can name the number of people in my life who have liked me for me on one hand, and three of them are dead.”

“Lena…”

“Why did you really spend time with me,” Lena said, her gaze imperious.

“I told you,” Kara said, the quirk in her brow deepning.

“Oh come off it, Kara.”

Kara opened and closed her mouth, trying to figure out how to make Lena believe her. She finally sighed and caught Lena’s eye. “Because I was a nobody.”

Lena’s face twisted and she made a small noise of disregard. “Supergirl, a nobody.”

Kara stood up straighter in reply. “When we met I was a nobody,” Kara insisted. “You said you thought I was a reporter, so I became one. And while Snapper treated me like an intern or, some kid that accidentally wandered into CatCo, you took me seriously. You granted me interviews that no junior reporter should have had, you invited me to your gala… You saw me, when I was nobody.” Lena took in a deep breath. “And the person you saw was me. Not, superhero me or alien me, or struggling journalist or sister or best friend’s cousin or work crush or–” Kara sucked in a deep breath. “Just, me.” A long moment of silence stretched between them. “The only ulterior motive I had in spending time with you, Lena, was to have someone in my life that made me feel like the me I wanted to be.”

Lena considered the words. “The night I brought Ruby ice cream, we were alone in the elevator.” Kara looked to the floor, shame coloring her cheeks. “You let me confide in you about Supergirl.”

“I know,” Kara said, her eyes still downcast.

“Do you have any idea how humiliating that memory is for me? How much of a breech of trust that was?”

“I do,” Kara said.

“And you want to tell me that in that moment, you weren’t manipulating me?”

“I wasn’t.”

“You defended Supergirl as if you were unbiased, no, as if you could be on my side.”

“I was– I am, on your side,” Kara replied, flustered.

“In that moment, you were hoping I’d say something to you that I wouldn’t to Supergirl.”

“I wasn’t.” Lena again scoffed and Kara shook her head, trying to find words to describe her memory. “That conversation woke me up, Lena, to how, to how irrationally I was behaving, how I was hurting you. Before that conversation… You have no idea how scared I was then.”

“Of me.”

Kara pressed the heels of her palms to her eyes before dropping them. “I thought we were past this,” Kara said sadly. “Bygones, remember?”

“Those bygones were before I knew what was really going on,” Lena corrected.

“Lena,” Kara said, looking to the ceiling.

“You’ve never even said the words to me, ‘I’m Supergirl’,” Lena said and Kara looked at her, contrite. “Maybe that’s part of the problem I’m having,” Lena murmured. “I think a part of me doesn’t really believe it, even as I’m standing here looking at you.” Kara was silent, and fought the urge to adjust glasses that weren’t on her face. Lena’s voice was quiet as she spoke. “Lex showed me, he had footage of you doing amazing things, but it sometimes still doesn’t feel real.”

“Do you want me to fly?” Kara asked, her hands coming out from her side. “Bend a piece of metal with my bare hands, melt something with my eyes?”

“No,” Lena said with a soft shake of her head. “I don’t need you to do anything for me.”

Kara sighed and slumped back against the kitchen counter. “I was afraid of you then, when you made the Kryptonite because I was afraid of everything. Sam was Reign, a being from my home world who almost killed me when we fought; I found out that a piece of my home world survived, that my mother survived, but that the people left behind… were dying, and the place that should of felt like home didn’t anymore. Mon-El came back–” Lena looked away and Kara briefly looked to the ceiling. “I was overwhelmed, and, not thinking as clearly as I should have been.” She sighed and waited for Lena to meet her eye. “When I said bygones, I meant it for all of me.”

Lena looked away, her hand gripping the edge of the kitchen counter and squeezing. “What about when you were Supergirl at the prison after Lex–”

“I was there to help you and keep you safe.”

“And when you came to my office asking for me to be a source for your article about him?”

“I–” Kara faltered. “I wanted your input but I didn’t know how to talk to you about what I was uncovering in a way that kept my identities separate.”

“About things that made me appear guilty.”

“I knew you weren’t.”

“Did you?” Lena challenged.

“Yes.”

“Even before I confessed to my role in Lex’s escape?”

“Yes,” Kara said with another nod. “You.” She laughed, despite her frustration. “You do so many things that make me want to bash my head into a wall–”

“No doubt destroying the wall–”

“But like I said earlier, you are almost always right.” Lena’s jaw tensed. “Your actions, they have a purpose, and though I may not agree with how you do things, I do see that you do them because you’re trying to do something good.”

“Is that supposed to be a compliment?”

“After you confronted me in your office when I asked you to be a source, I tore myself apart for how badly I had treated you as a friend, how, how my being Supergirl meant that you didn’t have someone in your life—me, Kara—to be there for you when you needed it. That I had made a huge mistake in keeping my identity from you for so long, and that when I did tell you you would probably...” She trailed off, unable to say the words. “And I swore to myself that I would tell you once everything was over with Lex. I wanted to. I planned to, I just… I didn’t want to hurt you when everything you went through with your brother was so fresh.” The words sat between them unanswered. They both sunk into their heads for a while, until Kara huffed out a sigh and looked up, only to find Lena staring at her intently. Kara shook her head. “I wish you would stop looking at me like that.”

“Like what?”

“Like…”

“Like, you’re the most powerful being on this planet?” Lena led and Kara shifted uncomfortably. “Don’t tell me you’re too modest to acknowledge that truth.”

“No,” Kara said with a soft shake of her head. “I know what I am, and what I’m capable of. I just liked it better when you would look at me like you weren’t worried I might break the world in half on a whim.”

Lena hummed. “So you liked it better when you would play dumb around me about quantam entanglement.” Kara pressed her lips together. “Or when you would act like spin class was so strenuous it gave you a cramp.”

“You point those things out as examples of my deceipt, but I remember those moments differently.”

“Oh?”

“I remember you smiling at me. Relaxed. You wouldn’t have been that way if you had known.”

Lena smiled. “Well, we’ll never know if that’s true, now will we?”

“I can’t go back in time and change things.”

“No?” Lena asked. “Maybe if you ran really fast in the opposite direction of the Earth’s axial spin–”

“Why are you here?” Kara interrupted, perplexed. “Is it to make me feel worse? Or to make things better between us?”

“Us,” Lena spit, her eyebrow arching in disbelief.

“Yes, us, Lena.” Kara shook her head. She looked up and met Lena’s eye, and her posture softened. “You could have told me you were in love with me.”

Lena’s face flushed red. “As if it's that easy.”

“You could have just told me–”

You could have told me.”

“No, I couldnt,” Kara said with a laugh and soft shake of her head.

“So I should have, but you couldn’t?”

“Yes.”

“And why is that?” Lena challenged with a biting tone.

“Because I didnt know that I was in love you until you told me I was.” Lena’s face twisted in confusion and Kara sputtered as she spoke, her cheeks fire engine red. “I am, not always in touch with my emotions, and I didn't know until you told me that I– And now it's all I can think about.” She huffed, out of breath, and Lena’s look turned more critical. “I was happy for you and James when you were together, two people who I cared about made each other happy and now I look back at it and I'm jealous and it freaks me out, because I don't want to feel jealous of James, I don't want to think about you two together when I spend time with him, I don’t…” She shook her shoulders. “I don’t know how to handle it.” She looked at Lena with desperate openness. “Why didn’t you tell me you had feelings for me?” she asked again and Lena exhaled, her hand rubbing her forehead.

“It was never the right time,” Lena finally said as her hand dropped, and when Kara met Lena’s eye, she shrugged. “You were with Mike, then it was Mon-El, then,” Lena stumbled over the words. “You were heart broken because of what I did with the lead dispersal–”

“Lena–”

“And then Mon-El was back, and you didn’t tell me, your best friend—I found out at that gala, God, what I said to you that night about him being back…” Kara ducked her head in shame. “Life was hard, and James was kind and…” Lena trailed off.

“And I was oblivious,” Kara said. Kara scratched at the kitchen counter with her thumb. “Do you still love me?”

“No.” Kara looked up and Lena was staring at her evenly. “I can’t imagine loving someone I don’t trust.”

“You can't trust me again?”

“Never.”

Kara smiled wryly. “Right.”

“You doubt me?”

“Yes.”

“Then you don’t know me.”

“No, I doubt you because I do know you,” Kara said. “That day you brought Ruby ice cream you said you'd never trust Supergirl again–”

“It's not the same.”

“You said that and then you made the kryptosuit, you made the shield to protect me from Metallo–”

“It’s not the same.”

“I think your heart is far more forgiving than you give yourself credit for.”

“Not this time.”

“Why?” Kara demanded. “Why is this different?”

“Because it was Lex. Your lies and deception allowed Lex to hurt me in the deepest way possible.”

“But isn't that also a reason why you should forgive?” Lena swallowed hard. “Lena, you don't want to carry this around inside of you for the rest of your life. You’re too good to have this hurt inside of you.”

“Maybe you're right…” For a brief second, Kara felt hope. “But I'll never forget, and I'll never allow you to get close enough to hurt me like that again.”

Kara’s face twisted and she looked to the floor. Her head started to shake, absently, side to side. “I have done so much good and you’re just…”

Lena’s brow furrowed. “All I’ve done is create boundaries to protect myself from someone who hurt me.”

Kara looked up. “I didn’t mean to hurt you.”

“Your intentions don’t matter if the end result is that I’m hurt.”

Kara opened her mouth to argue and then exhaled. When she spoke, her voice was low. “Why are you here?”

“I’m here to negotiate.”

“What does that mean?”

“I’m not leaving National City,” Lena said. “And I assume you being in Smallville isn’t permanent.”

“It isn’t,” Kara said quietly.

“So I want to negotiate how we’ll coexist in a city where we’re prominent citizens whose paths will undoubtably cross.”

Kara laughed without mirth. “Great, we can make a shared Google calendar.”

“Be serious.”

“No,” Kara said, anger rising in her cheeks. “You came here in a lead-lined car–”

“I came in a lead-lined car so you wouldn't see me and bolt before I even got two words out.”

“You're the one who told me to leave your office after firing me from the job I love and then pretended I didn't exist at the restaurant.”

“I don't remember you saying hello.”

Kara scoffed. “Wow, the Luthor just creeps out, huh.”

“How dare you–”

“How dare you!” Kara said, her body coming off where she had been leaning against the counter. “You tell me that you’re in love with me and then just, banish me, give me the cold shoulder and then you show up here to make me rehash everything for what? Not to rebuild our trust, but for what?” Lena was silent. “You don't even know why you're here.”

“I told you–”

“Yeah, I heard,” Kara said dismissively. “But it’s not the truth. And I think until you decide what you really want from me, you need to leave.”

“No,” Lena said coolly.

“What do you mean, ‘no’?”

“I’m not leaving until you agree to work out how we’re going to co-exist in National City.”

“No.”

Lena smirked. “I’m offering you a face-saving gesture.”

“Well maybe I don’t want that. Maybe I don’t want to pretend when it comes to you.”

Lena arched an eyebrow at Kara’s choice of words. “Why not? You’re so good at it.”

Kara took a deep breath. “If you don’t leave, I will.” Lena just stared at Kara, challenging her, and Kara shook her head. “Suit yourself.” She turned heel, walked out the front door and flew away.

Chapter Text

Kara woke up in National City the next day to a car alarm blaring outside of her open window. She rose from bed bent out of shape, and went back to living her life in National City to spite Lena. Kara ate at Noonan’s for lunch, visited with friends, and filled her evening stopping petty crime around the city. On the second day back in town she flew past L-Corp and realized Lena’s office was dark in the middle of the day. She hovered outside the building, her brow knitting as she stretched her hearing. Lena wasn’t in the building, and Lena didn’t take days off. “She wouldn’t…” Kara muttered before she turned and flew as fast as she could back to Smallville.

Sure enough, Lena’s car was parked in the same place as when Kara last saw it. Kara landed heavily enough to shake the earth before she climbed the porch steps, opened the door, and strode angrily into the house. Before she could speak she spotted Lena sitting on the floor at the entrance to the kitchen surrounded by the Kent’s disassembled oven.

“What did you do?” Kara asked, wide eyed and definitely freaked out to see Lena calmly kneeling amidst ancient machine parts like she was conducting some sort of ritual.

“I’m fixing it.”

Kara’s eyebrows arched, flabberghasted. “You–”

“I went to make dinner yesterday while I was waiting for you to return from your little tantrum, and I realized after waiting an interminably long time for the oven to heat up that the whole thing was shot.”

“So you just took the oven apart?!”

“I called the town’s electrician to come out and repair it, but he doesn’t have the parts and said it would take at least a week for the order to arrive.”

Kara just looked at Lena even more incredulously. “You took it apart and you don’t have the parts to replace the broken pieces?”

“Not yet,” Lena said calmly. Her phone pinged and she turned her attention to the location of the front door at the same time Kara’s head snapped in that direction.

“Stay here,” Kara said, her hair standing on end at the sound of something mechanical in the air heading toward the farm.

“Kara–”

“I said stay here,” Kara barked again before running from the farmhouse and taking to the sky. She saw it, a mile out, small and black against the blue sky and streaking toward the farm. “What in the…” Kara squinted and saw the writing on the side of the small, fast-moving drone. “L-Corp?”

The drone slowed as it approached the farm, Kara’s eyes heating up in case she needed to destroy it. Tucked against its underbelly was a small cardboard box. The drone hovered above the ground near the front porch and carefully released the box before taking to the sky and shooting away toward National City. Kara watched it go, her head snapping back to take in Lena coming down the house’s front steps, the screen door snapping shut with a squeak and a clang behind her. Kara’s eyes went wide when she realized Lena was going to pick up the box. “Lena, no, I haven’t scanned the–”

Lena picked the box up and ripped the strip of tape off the top; the box popped open and Lena pulled a few small, metal pieces free. Lena smirked and held them up for Kara to see. “The parts I need to fix the oven.” Lena turned and reentered the house without another word, and Kara’s breath came out in a sharp, incredulous puff, as she floated to the ground.

Lena had a state-of-the-art L-Corp drone deliver nearly obsolete oven parts to the middle of nowhere. Oven parts for an oven she had no business using, much less taking apart and fixing. Kara steamed, her hands opening and closing into fists. What did Lena think she was doing, what could she possibly think she would accomplish by squatting at the Kent’s farmhouse? Kara stomped inside the house, ready to yell and scream at Lena but she pulled up short at the sight of Lena calmly screwing machine parts together and referencing a yellowed handbook for the oven. Kara huffed and took to the stairs, changed into the clothes she’d kept in the master bedroom, and then just as quickly as she entered, she exited the farmhouse and went to work on the chore list she’d devised weeks ago. If Lena Luthor thought she was going to wait her out her, she had another thing coming.

******************************

The day went by without another confrontation, Lena largly staying inside the house and puttering while Kara worked the land. As it neared sundown, Kara drove into town and got dinner alone at the burger shop on Main Street. She tried to let the town’s slow pace center her as it did on her first day, but the thought of Lena doing god-knew what at the farmhouse left her tense and anxious. When Kara returned to the house, she frowned. The house was dark, save for a single light in the upstairs guest room, and Lena’s infuriating lead-lined car was still parked where it had been since her arrival. It could only mean one thing. Kara slammed the truck door shut and after hemming and hawing for a full minute by its side, she used her x-ray vision to look inside the illuminated room.

Lena was wearing pajamas and was curled up beneath the coverelet in bed, a book on her lap, her chunky glasses on her nose. Kara looked away and took in another angry breath. Lena had not only invaded her space, but she was settling into to sleep as if this were a B&B she’d booked for the weekend to get away. Kara paced for a while by the truck, running through her options before she decided two could play this game. She went inside, changed into her own pajamas, and settled in to sleep in the master bedroom down the hall.

Only sleep for Kara was elusive. She was too angry to relax, and every single sound Lena made felt like it was amplified by a bullhorn in her ear. A little after midnight Kara stood from her bed, grabbed a pillow, and made her way outside.

She had just finally gotten comfortable in the supremely uncomfortable cab of Clark’s old pick up truck when the front screen door screeched open and Lena’s booted feet crunched across the gravel path, the screen door’s delayed aluminum slam making Kara cringe. Lena knocked on the window with her knuckles and Kara sighed, her jaw setting before she sat up and opened the truck door.

“What are you doing?” Lena demanded.

“Trying to sleep.”

“There’s a bed in the house.”

“Which I would use, if you weren’t here,” Kara snipped. Kara rolled her eyes at Lena’s confused look. “It’s too distracting, knowing you’re in the other room—I can’t sleep.”

“So you’re sleeping in the cab of a decrepit truck,” Lena said, looking with distaste past Kara at the frayed duct tape holding part of the tattered seat cushion together.

“Well I would sleep in the barn, but Kal has every single corner of it stuffed with, stuff,” Kara said petulantly, her hand waving toward the dark building to her left.

“Surely the bed of the truck is more comfortable than this?” Lena asked and Kara’s lips thinned. “Don’t tell me you’re worried about mosquito bites?”

“Let’s just say I can go the rest of my life without ever sleeping under the stars again,” Kara said, shifting to get more comfortable, a spring poking her thigh.

“Bad camping trip?” Lena deadpanned.

“Bad trip to Earth,” Kara muttered, and she could see out of the corner of her eye that Lena looked taken aback by the comment. “Why do you care where I sleep?”

Lena was silent for a beat. “You can end this by talking to me, you know.” Kara again rolled her eyes and Lena responded in kind. “God, you are so stubborn.”

“Says the woman squatting on a farm in Kansas,” Kara said with a sharp look.

“Work out a way to coexist with me in National City and I’ll leave.”

Kara shook her head. “There is no way to do what you want to do,” she said and Lena tightened her arms across her chest. “‘Coexist’?” Kara asked. “How do I ‘coexist’ with you when I feel like my heart is going to break open every single time I look at you?” She looked up and for a flash Kara could see how heartbroken Lena was as well. A flash before the look was gone, schooled behind the angry scowl Lena had chosen to wear since their intial confrontation in Lena’s office. Kara dipped her head and spoke softly. “I can’t do it.”

“You mean you won’t.” They were quiet for a long moment, Lena staring at Kara, Kara’s eyes averted. “You didn't really think I was innocent when you came to ask me about me being a source for your story about Lex.”

Kara’s brow deeply furrowed. Of all of the things for Lena to bring up in that moment… Kara opened and closed her mouth before saying, “I didn't think you were guilty.” Lena scoffed and Kara shook her head. “You seem to want me to say something different.” Kara shrugged and Lena looked up at that. “You changed my mind about you forever when you saved Sam... When you made Harun-El to save Argo City—”

“I kept some to expirement on.”

“Because you want to cure cancer.” Kara said sharply, clearly frustrated. “Because you are so dead set on balancing scales you didn't tip, of erasing a debt that doesn't even belong to you, you make stupid choices.” Kara leveled Lena with a look. “Because you don't have anyone in your life that you truly trust to confide in, so you carry it all alone, this burden to be more than just the good, kind, brilliant person you are—you don’t have to fix the world.”

Lena’s voice was low when she spoke. “I confided in Eve and look what that got me.”

“What she did was horrible–”

“What she did was what everyone does to me. It’s always promises of friendship and then lies and manipulation.” Kara looked ashamed. “The only question I’ll have for people moving forward is whether they’re doing it because I’m rich, a Luthor, or because I’m so naive and trusting I’ll fall for anything.”

“Lena–”

“I’m going to bed. Hopefully by morning you’ll realize that the only way to move forward is to work out with me how we’re going to manage living together in National City. Goodnight.”

Lena turned heel and stormed into the house, Kara watching her helplessly from the cab of the truck.

******************************

Kara woke up the next morning groggy, the night spent in the truck cab leaving her exhausted. She sat up and jumped when she accidentally honked the car horn, then frowned when she saw steam coating the edges of the kitchen window. Kara opened the door of the truck and shuffled inside, the smell of coffee hitting her in the face as the front door closed behind her.

“I made enough for you, too,” Lena said, not looking up from where she sat in an old leather armchair in the living room, a laptop in her lap.

“You get the Internet?” Kara asked, looking to the laptop and then Lena’s face.

Lena arched an eyebrow. “You act surprised that a Luthor would bring a satelite dish.” She nodded toward a small dish in an open briefcase pointing out a window to Kara’s right.

Kara smirked. “That’s not being a Luthor, Lena, that’s being extra.” Kara tossed her pillow on the couch and shuffled into the kitchen to make herself breakfast. She took her time as she cooked, careful not to space out and burn her food as she listened to Lena work in the other room. Once she’d eaten her fill, Kara stood next to the kitchen sink and sipped at her coffee, still piping hot from a quick blast of her heat vision.

She took a deep breath, bracing herself, as Lena entered the kitchen. “I plan on taking the toaster oven apart in an hour, so please try not to destroy my drone when it brings me the part I need.”

“Fine,” Kara said.

There was a beat. “Are you ready to talk?”

“Nope,” Kara replied stubbornly.

“Fine,” Lena said, her lips thinning. “You’ll need to go into the store, you’re out of bread.” Kara frowned. “I’m going to take a shower.” Kara’s frown deepened. She dumped her coffee down the drain and in a flash ran upstairs, changed, and then was out the door, Lena still standing in place in the kitchen.

******************************

“Do you want me to send in a Black Ops team to extricate her?”

Kara laughed, mirthlessly. “No.” She wiped her face with a well-worn hankerchief, then lifted a fallen tree and carried it to the pile of wood she was creating near the barn.

“I could do it,” Alex said into the ear piece, and Kara’s smile grew a little. “It’d be real sneaky. She’d never know what hit her.”

“No, Alex,” Kara said. She stood and looked at the work she was doing, stretched her hearing slightly to confirm that Lena was indeed taking the toaster oven apart in the kitchen. “She needs to make the decision to leave on her own.”

“And if she doesn’t?”

“I would like to see her try to stay once Lois gets home.”

“I bet Lena heads home before the end of the day,” Alex said confidently.

“Maybe,” Kara said quietly.

“How are you holding up?”

“Fine,” Kara said. “It’s…” She blew a stray bit of hair from her face. “It’s annoying, more than anything.” She felt the real truth twist in her gut and she was grateful Alex couldn’t see the lie on her face.

There was a long silence before Alex spoke again. “You know, Kelly said–”

“No, Alex,” Kara interrupted. “We agreed, you’re not allowed to try to psychoanalyze me because your girlfriend is a psychologist.”

“That’s not what I’m doing,” Alex said defensively. “I’m just sharing that Kelly thinks that Lena needs someone to show her trust. Stop telling her that you trust her and show her.”

“How can I do that if she won’t talk to me, really, talk to me?”

“Maybe that’s part of it.”

Kara was silent.

“Look, when Maggie and I broke up, there was some negotiating involved.”

“Lena and I didn’t break up–”

“Yes, you did, Kara, and the sooner you face that the faster you can move on.”

Kara’s voice was small when she replied. “I don’t want to move on.”

“Move forward, then,” Alex said and Kara was again silent. “Are you still there?”

“Yes.”

“If she wants to negotiate… give her what she needs from you so that she can trust that you’re listening to her, that you care about what she’s telling you she needs.”

“That makes no sense,” Kara said. “I’ve already given her space–”

“And she’s telling you she doesn’t need space, she’s telling you that she needs to trust that when she sees you in public in National City that she will know how the interaction will go, that she won’t be… blindsided by some emotional encounter.” Kara was quiet. “She’s a public figure. Everyone is waiting for her to make a mistake and if it comes during a routine run in with Supergirl–”

“OK,” Kara said.

“Show her trust and maybe…”

Kara could hear it in Alex’s voice. How weak the word ‘maybe’ was spoken.

“I gotta go,” Kara said. “You would not believe the amount of wood I need to chop right now.”

“Yes, a job that I’m sure wouldn’t take you 30 seconds if you wanted to get through it quickly.”

“Bye, Alex.”

“Love you.”

“Love you, too.”

******************************

Kara spent the rest of the day studiously avoiding Lena. She grabbed lunch in town before stopping at the store. She bought everything Lena had included on the neatly written grocery list left for her under the truck’s windshield wiper that morning. That she had to fly over to another city to pick up the kombucha on her list, or that she didn’t throw the list away once she was done shopping—folding it neatly and tucking into the back pocket of her jeans—was something Lena never need to know about.

Kara put the groceries away with super speed, barely registering the look of surprise on Lena’s face as she blurred back out the front door toward the fence she’d promised herself she’d fix on the far side of the farm. Kara stayed out of the house until sundown, the cicadas buzzing around her, the sun beating down on her making her skin practically glow. She cringed when she finally came into the house, the screen door slamming behind her, to find Lena cleaning up from dinner alone in the kitchen. Lena was wearing comfortable clothes, her hair in a loose bun, and the domesticity of it made Kara’s heart burn for a future she didn’t know she’d wanted, but now couldn’t have.

Kara walked into the kitchen after a stuttered step and opened the refridgerator, looking to see what she’d make herself for dinner.

“If you’d come in an hour earlier I would have made more,” Lena said, her chin tipped high as she finished drying her hands.

“I don’t want you to cook for me,” Kara said.

“I wouldn’t have done it for you,” Lena sneered. Kara’s brows fell and she turned to glower at Lena. “But maybe if you were sat across from me at the table you’d realize the best way forward is to see things my way and talk.”

“I want to talk–”

“Negotiate,” Lena corrected.

Kara’s face pinched, Alex’s words about trust from earlier in the day swirling in her head. She took a deep breath and met Lena’s eye. “How much did you confide in Eve?”

“Everything,” Lena said.

“Everything with Lex, what you were doing with the Harun-El?”

“Yes.”

“And your feelings for me?” Kara watched the color drain from Lena’s cheeks. “Did you tell her about those?” When Lena looked away, Kara’s jaw tightened. “I failed you. I should have been the person you confided everything in–”

“Stop it–”

“I should have been the person you could share your burdens with,” Kara said. “I should have been someone–”

“Stop it,” Lena snarled.

“Lena–”

“Are all heroes martyrs?” Lena snapped. “The worst part of all of this, of all of the betrayal and the humiliation is that you want me to feel sorry for you. That you think you deserve to have me feel sorry for you because of your goodness. I don’t feel sorry for you, Kara. You lied to me, you made the choice to lie every day and I don’t owe you anything, not even pity.”

“A martyr,” Kara sniffed. “That’s… That’s rich coming from you.” She met Lena’s eye and Lena didn’t look away.

“You keep asking me to give you my thoughts, my feelings, but you don’t get to have them just because you want them,” Lena said, her voice even and measured. “You want to feel better about this,” she said, pointing between them, “but I can’t give that to you. And honestly, even if I could, I wouldn’t because you don’t deserve that from me.”

It was the truth of their situation laid bare and Kara struggled under the weight of it. They stood silent across from each other in the kitchen, and Kara felt her throat growing more and more thick as the tears strung her eyes. She looked up at Lena and all she saw was hurt. Sure, Lena was angry, her jaw tense, her eyes blazing, but she mostly looked hurt. To her core hurt. Kara thought again of what Alex had told her about trust, and about Lena plainly telling her what she needed from her to move on. Kara wiped at her nose and sniffed. “OK,” she said quietly. She shook her head. “How do you want things to go once we’re home?”

When she met Lena’s eye, Lena looked startled. She swallowed it down and looked to the floor for a long beat. She nodded to herself and looked up. “I don’t ever want to be alone with you again.”

Kara’s face screwed up, the words stabbing through her heart. She pursed her lips and wiped the tears that fell on her cheeks away quickly. “OK,” she croaked out, her head bobbing once before she sniffed and lifted her chin.

“And I don’t want Alex, or J’onn, or Brainy coming to L-Corp asking for help from the DEO, ever,” Lena said, her own voice starting to waver with emotion.

“OK,” Kara said.

“Nia and James will no longer have access to me for any story, covering any topic, not even L-Corp, and I think it should go without saying that Kara Danvers’s access has been denied.”

Kara just nodded, no longer able to speak.

Lena was quiet for a long moment as she composed herself. Her voice was quiet as she continued. “We will run into each other—it’s inevitable given National City’s philanthropic calendar. I just want you to know, that when we do–”

“Lena.”

Lena’s tears spilled over and she hastily wiped at her face. “I’ll play my role. And if you ever cared about me, you’ll play yours.”

Kara looked out the window to the night sky for a long moment before she nodded. “I won’t do anything to make this harder than it has been for you.” Lena scoffed and Kara met her eye. They stared for a long moment, rooted to their spots. Kara pulled herself to her full height, her eyebrows raising as she forced herself to appear more composed than she felt. “Is there anything else?” Kara asked, and Lena evaluated her for a long moment.

“No.”

Kara nodded. The house around them felt huge and foreign, despite being their entire life for the last two days. Kara waited for Lena to speak, to change her mind and add on additional conditions, or even to turn and leave, her demands met, but nothing happened. In the quiet of their shared space, Kara spoke. “When Mon-El left after the Daxamite attack I thought my life was over.”

She could hear Lena inhale through her nose but Kara didn’t look at her, couldn’t look at her, too afraid to see whatever look clouded her face. Kara rested her hands on the counter behind her, her shoulders hunched. “I thought Mon-El was it for me. My match, my one true…” She inhaled sharply and dropped her hands to her side. “I talked myself into being with him because he was the only person other than me on Earth who knew what it was like, what it felt like to stand in Rao’s light. I, despised everything about Daxam, and he treated me so…” She swallowed hard. “But to have someone who knew Krypton’s customs, who I didn’t have to pretend with…”

She glanced up and Lena was staring at her intently.

Kara looked away. “And then we found Argo City, and it was such a miracle. Something I’d dreamt about since I left Krypton as a little girl. I was actually able to go home, and… It was so different than how I thought it would be if I ever did. My whole life on Earth I thought that if I could just go back, if I could be with Kryptonians, people like me, be with my mother, that I would feel whole, and instead I was so obviously out of place.” She exhaled. “I used to think that Mon-El was my match, and I used to think going home would make me feel whole, and I used to think that I didn’t tell you who I was because you allowed me to be normal and that I was protecting you and it turns out–” She pressed her lips together. “It turns out I spent time with you because you were my match. You were my home and I am so unbelievably sad that I’ve hurt you and I don’t get to show you who I really am. Not, Kara Danvers or Supergirl. I wish I could be just myself, my whole self, with you.”

Kara finally looked up and the tears in Lena’s eyes broke her heart. Lena nodded, and then she left.

Kara stood stock still as Lena exited the farmhouse, the screen door screeching and slamming against the aluminum frame. Kara could hear every sound, loud in her ears, as if she were inches away from where it was happening. Lena’s uneven steps on the gravel, her heart beating furiously, her blood rushing through her veins, and the horrible, strangled sound of her breath as she tried not to cry. The next sound was the heavy car door opening and closing, and then absolute silence as the lead shielded Lena from her senses. Kara could hear the engine roar to life and then with another, heavier crunch of gravel, Lena was gone.

Kara licked her lips, her eyes swollen with tears. She stopped listening for Lena once she heard the car pick up speed on the two-lane highway. Kara staightened and looked around the kitchen. The dishes Lena had neatly put away on the drying rack. Kara sighed as she realized she’d have to collect the things Lena’d left behind and deliver them to National City. She went around the space, collecting them all, and then deposited them gently on Lena’s apartment’s balcony before returning to her own apartment, and her life, in National City.

******************************

How do you return to your normal life after it had been blown apart? The answer for Kara was to pretend that it hadn’t been. She ate at Noonan’s for lunch, visited with friends, and filled her evenings stopping petty crime around the city, and it was just like before, except that it wasn’t. The actions were the same, the smiles, the locations, but every second of it felt hollow. A shade of emotion off from what it should be. She tried to pretend that she was fine with her new life. She averted her eyes when she flew past L-Corp, the glow from Lena’s office catching in her peripheral vision, and she altered her course when she thought she might place herself somewhere Lena might be. It was Kara’s normal life, slightly altered. Hugely diminished. Achingly awful.

It was several days post-Smallville when James visited Kara at her apartment. Kara found that she had a hard time meeting his eye when he entered the space; it was her first time alone with him since Lena and her had severed their relationship. He gave her an awkward hug before she ushered them to the couch. They sat still for a moment before he spoke. “I have some good news,” he said.

“Oh?”

“The executor of the blind trust has given me permission to re-hire you. You have your old job back at CatCo, if you want it.”

Kara’s eyebrows shot to her hairline. “Oh.” She floundered with a response. “That’s… that’s… great.”

“You would be doing different stories than in the past.”

“Of course.”

“Because, Lena…” He sighed. He looked to Kara briefly before looking away. “She came to see me last night.” Kara’s throat closed. She wasn’t sure she wanted to hear what he was about to say. “She wanted to talk, about when we…” James picked at his jeans before he met Kara’s eye. “She said she wanted me to hear it from her.”

“Hear what?”

“That she had been in love with you while we were together.”

Kara closed her eyes. “James.”

“She told me nothing happened between you.”

“Never,” Kara said as she met his eye, and the word made her feel so lost she almost cried.

James nodded. “I was going to ask if you had feelings for her too, but, I don’t think I have to.”

Kara worked her jaw, her eyes rimming with tears.

“Loving Lena…” James trailed off. “It isn’t easy.”

“No, it’s not,” Kara said softly. She wiped at her eyes and composed herself.

“I want you to know, I don’t hold any ill will,” James said, and Kara met his eye with a quirk in her brow. “And if things between you two were to–”

“No,” Kara said sharply, looking away as she shook her head. “No, Lena was very clear about her feelings for me. All past tense.”

James exhaled heavily, his brow deeply furrowing. Kara glanced at him, saw in the set of his jaw that he wanted to say something, but when he realized she was watching him his face smoothed, and a smile tugged at his lips. “So what do you say? Want to come back to work?”

Her reply was weak, but genuine. “Yeah.”

“Good.” They sat still until James softly clapped his hands against his thighs. “I’m gonna take off,” he said, standing and Kara stood too.

“Are you sure? We could hang out, get a pizza…”

“I appreciate the offer,” he said as he reached forward and squeezed her arm. “But I think I’m gonna hit the gym and then shoot for a reasonable bedtime. It’s been a day.”

“OK.” Kara twisted her fingers. “Thank you. For the job offer, and–”

He waved her off. “I’ve missed you and I’m happy you’re coming back,” he said and she nodded. She walked him to the door, and hugged him. After he left, she walked back to her couch, curled up in a ball, and tried to sort through the thought of Lena telling James about feelings she claimed to no longer have.

******************************

Her first run in with Lena after their time in Smallville was at a fundraiser for the Luthor Children’s Hosptial. It was an event Kara had agreed to months earlier, before her relationship with Lena had fallen apart. Kara showed up in her Supergirl costume, fists propped on her hips, and the children melted at her wide, joyous smile. Lena was kind as she walked Kara from room-to-room, a gaggle of press, PR and hospital administrators following them. Kara felt her insides roiling as she pretended, as she watched Lena slip through the entire encounter with a serene smile on her lips. An outsider would never know that the two women, talking amiably about a new mural on the hallway wall, had once been close. Kara only saw the toll it was taking on Lena once. When it was time to part, when the group gave them distance as Lena walked Kara to an open window.

“Thank you, Supergirl.”

“It was my pleasure, Ms. Luthor.” Kara looked down, expecting Lena to hold out her hand for a polite handshake but it didn’t come. Kara pressed her lips together as the realization hit, as she understood with startling clarity that touching was a bridge too far for Lena. When Kara looked up and met Lena’s eye, she saw her ruby red smile briefly crack. Kara quickly forced a bright smile to her lips to cover their sorrow.

“Until next time,” Lena said with a nod as she stepped back, and Kara nodded in reply, too overcome to speak. She flew from the building straight to the Fortress, careful to get her crying out before she arrived so as to not alarm Kal and Lois, because in that moment, she couldn’t bear the thought of going home to her apartment or to the house in Smallville.

******************************

Kara’s second encounter with Lena was at a ribbon cutting by the Waterfront, an occassion for the city’s elite to come together and congratulate themselves for investing in the area once devastated by the Daxamites. Lena stood next to Kara so rigidly on the dias that Kara didn’t bother to try to make eye contact before flying away to cheers.

Their third meeting was at a gala for the new mayor’s technology initiative, a fancy affair that once again placed Supergirl amidst the city’s elite. Kara and Lena worked the room like binary stars; pulling people into their orbit as they made their way around the room but never coming close to each other. Kara was careful to compliment Lena when her name was mentioned, and even more careful to never get caught staring, despite the black off-the-shoulder dress Lena wore. Kara left the event drained, and finished the evening with her head on Alex’s shoulder, an empty ice cream carton in hand.

Her fourth run-in with Lena was at a coffee shop. Kara didn’t expect to hear Lena’s heels enter the trendy spot near the embarcadro. She was mid-bite when Lena stepped into line and met her eye, Kara’s eyes going comically wide as her lips closed around the chocolate croissant. Lena offered her a polite nod before she directed her attention to the phone in her hand, and Kara nodded back a second too late, the gesture offered to Lena’s profile. Kara blushed fiercely and pushed her glasses higher on her nose. She faked a phone call from Snapper as she fumbled with her bag, her words mumbled as she quickly chewed and stood. She collected her half-eaten treat and slipped out of the shop before Lena had even made her way to the front of the line.

The fifth meeting was a month later at City Hall. Kara had been surprised by the mayor’s invitation, relayed to her through the DEO. It wasn’t often that she was included in decisions affecting the city, but she arrived at the time she was expected and cheerfully followed the mayor’s secretary into the conference room near his office. It wasn’t until she was inside, the door closed behind her, that she realized there was another person in the room.

“Lena,” Kara said, her jaw dropping. Lena looked up from where she sat at the conference table and her jaw tightened. “I. I.” Kara took a deep breath and panicked. She turned and took two steps for the door when Lena’s voice stopped her in her tracks.

“You don’t have to leave.” Kara turned and looked at Lena cautiously. Lena didn’t meet her eye. “He’ll be here in a minute.”

“OK,” Kara said. She shifted her weight and looked around the room, her fingers twisting before her. “I don’t mind leaving,” she offered. Lena looked to her briefly, eyebrows raised before looking away. “If it makes you uncomfortable to be alone with me.”

“You leaving will draw attention from the secretary,” Lena said coolly.

“I can say I have a call.”

“A call.” Lena smirked. “What a mundane act for the closest thing this world has to a god.”

“I’m not–” Kara cut her heated remark off and swallowed hard, looking to the ground. After a moment spent composing herself, she looked up to find Lena staring at her. Kara didn’t look away. It was only the door opening, the mayor offering spoken apologies for keeping them waiting before he was even two feet inside the room, that had the two women looking away, and schooling their features to be the superhero and the CEO.

“I’m sorry for keeping you both waiting.”

“No apologies necessary, you’re a busy man,” Lena said smoothly and he chuckled in return.

“No more busy than the CEO of National City’s largest conglomerate or National City’s hero.”

“What can we do for you, Mr. Wend?” Kara asked, trying to keep the tension out of her voice as she folded her arms across her chest.

He sighed and held out his hand, inviting Kara to sit opposite Lena; Kara held up her own hand, demuring, and he nodded. He put his hands on the back of a chair at the conference table and spoke. “Ms. Luthor, your application for the new research lab you wish to build has been held up in our planning division.”

“Yes, I know, I’ve called you several times about it,” Lena said, a tight smile on her lips.

He tilted his head to the side, acknowledging. “Well, it’s raised some red flags.”

“How so?” Lena asked, her face turning a little more severe. “We’ve followed the zoning regulations to the letter.”

“It’s not the building that’s the problem,” he said, speaking slowly. “There are a number of city council people and prominent citizens who have… concerns, about what the lab will mean for the city.”

Lena smirked. “What it will mean are jobs and a healthy tax revenue.”

He winced. “Your previous large scale plans haven’t always gone smoothly.” Lena’s face pulled into a tight frown. “The attack by the Daxamites is still fresh in our city’s memory.”

Kara ducked her head and Lena ground her jaw. “I have pledged millions of dollars to the rebuild and have personally overseen–”

He cut her off with an upheld hand. “Nobody doubts your committment to righting that situation.”

“Then what do they doubt?” she asked, eyebrow arching.

He exhaled. “The council will only move your lab’s approval forward on one condition.”

“What?” Kara asked, looking between the two and wondering why she was there.

The mayor looked from Kara to Lena. “The council will only approve the plan if Supergirl oversees the lab’s construction, implementation, and initial operation.”

Lena’s face flushed red. “That’s hardly necessary.”

“On the contrary, Ms. Luthor, many members of the city council feel that it’s not only necessary, but it’s a stipulation they won’t budge on.”

Lena took in a measured breath, her exhale shaky as she tried to manage her anger. “I have been one of this city’s biggest boosters, my philanthropy alone–”

“Nobody is doubting your generousity,” the mayor said, obviously stuck between the accusation and the attempt to placate. “But I think we can all agree that the city has undergone a level of damage that was not experienced prior to your moving here.” Lena looked away. “And many citizens would feel more comfortable with your, projects, if Supergirl were there–”

“To make sure the youngest Luthor doesn’t go down the same path as her demented, world-domineering brother?”

“Ms. Luthor–”

“I should get up and leave right now,” Lena said, shaking her head.

“Ms. Luthor, if you could please be reasonable.”

“Be reasonable?” Lena’s eyebrows arched. “You’re asking me to be reasonable while telling me my corporation needs to be babysat by the city’s superhero because you think its CEO is going to destroy the city.”

“That’s not what I said–”

“It’s what you implied.”

“If you could just see things from the council’s point of view–”

“Mr. Wend,” Kara interrupted, and Lena’s head spun to face Kara, suprised to hear her speak. “If I may?” Kara asked and she saw Lena take in a measured breath out of the corner of her eye. Kara waited a moment and then looked to the Mayor. “Do you know what I would have been if Krypton hadn’t been destroyed? If I had grown up there and never come to Earth?” The mayor shook his head, and Kara could see in his expression that he had never given her life outside of her blue and red suit a single thought. “I would have been a scientist, like Ms. Luthor.”

The mayor looked to Lena before darting his eyes back to Kara. “That’s… very interesting, Supergirl, but I’m not sure I understand–”

“Because of a quirk of biological science, Earth’s yellow sun gives me physical gifts that allow me to protect the citizens of this city from harm,” Kara continued, her eyes never leaving the mayor’s confused face. “I do good things with these gifts because it’s the right thing to do. But those gifts don’t endow me with the right to be judge or jury, and I am certainly not going to use them to be the city council’s enforcer.” She paused, her brow slightly quirking. “I think, sometimes, people think I’m a god because I can bend steel, but the reality of the situation is that I am just a person who is trying to make the world a better place. Like Ms. Luthor.” She glanced at Lena before looking back to the mayor. “Lena Luthor is one of the best people in National City. Her work is benevolent ,and she does what she does for the betterment of Earth. The last thing she needs is me standing over her shoulder while she works, and your assumtion that I would take on that role without asking me first is presumptuous at best.”

The Mayor looked shocked. He chuckled nervously, looking to Lena and then back to Kara. “I’m sorry, Supergirl. It’s just with everything that’s happened in the last few years–”

“You mean, how Ms. Luthor has worked tirelessly by my side to keep the people of Earth safe?” Kara asked. “Ms. Luthor has supported me since she moved to National City, she has helped make this city a better place to live for everyone, and I can honestly say there’s only one other person on this planet I trust as much as Lena Luthor.”

“Superman,” the Mayor said solemnly and Kara darted a quick look to Lena before looking back to the Mayor.

“…Yes, exactly. Superman.” Kara could see Lena’s face momentarily soften as she recognized Kara’s white lie reference to Alex. Kara took a step toward the mayor. “I trust Ms. Luthor. She is kind, and decent, and… And if you and your fellow councilpeople care about this city, you’ll trust her, too.”

“But…” the Mayor trailed off. Kara shrugged her shoulders, the physical act a warning that any agruement against her decision would fail, and the Mayor looked to his feet and then back up. “I’ll take your words to the council.”

“Thank you,” Kara said. “Now if you’ll both excuse me.” She smiled and exited the office without looking back to see the shocked look on the mayor’s face, or the mix of emotions ripping across Lena’s face. Kara ducked into the stairwell and sped to the roof. Once standing in the sunlight, she bent her knees slightly and shot into the sky.

******************************

It was her first time back to Smallville since Lena had left, and Kara landed so softly on the ground that the gravel barely crunched under foot. The flight had helped a little, the wind cooling her cheeks hot with rage and sadness, but her chest was still tight with emotions. She turned in a circle from her place on the drive, taking in the farm. It looked the same, if only slightly more golden as the summer had progressed into early fall. There was no sound except the chirps from birds, the buzz from insects, and her heart pounding wildly in her chest.

She was tired. Tired of being Supergirl, of the expectations everyone had for her, of people using her for their own ends. That Lena thought she was a god… Lena, her Lena, the Lena who she had–

Kara took a deep breath, her trembling fingers wiping at wet eyes. She licked her lips, swallowed hard, and went inside to change into clothes suitable for a day’s work on the farm. She was disappointed to find that today, the work gave her no joy. No peace. And when she flew home to National City, exhausted despite the day spent beneath the sun, she wondered if she would ever feel anything other than grief and heartbreak again.

******************************

“I saw Lena yesterday.” Kara’s head came up from the article she was reading, her eyebrows arched in James’s directon. They were sat side-by-side on the leather couch in his CatCo office, the remnants of their lunch on the coffee table before them. “She was grateful for your help with the mayor last week.”

Kara’s face clouded. “I didn’t help.”

“That’s not what she said.” Kara frowned and returned her eyes to the article. James paused for a long moment before speaking again. “Look, Kara–”

“James,” Kara said, interrupting him with an overly patient sigh. When she met his eye she shrugged, and James nodded, the words ‘stop talking about her with me’ unspoken but understood. Kara wiped at her nose and stuttered briefly as she spoke. “I think the third graf could lose the last sentence.”

James cleared his throat. “I agree.”

Kara nodded, placed the article on the coffee table, and left his office.

******************************

The invitation came to her home a few months later. It was on cream cardstock with curvy gold-accented lettering, and it was addressed to Kara Danvers. L-Corp cordially invites you to a first glimpse walkthrough of their Innovation Lab site, which will put advanced technology in the heart of National City’s rejuvenated Waterfront District. Kara stared at the invitation, her eyes dropping to the line handwritten in black ink along the bottom. I hope you attend, in whatever way makes you most comfortable.

Kara’s brow furrowed. What did that mean? She traced a fingertip along the cursive words. Lena’s handwriting was smooth, no stuttered slips where she might have rethought the words as she was writing them. The invitation was a puzzle. Was Lena expecting her to attend as a superhero? A journalist? Or was it a joke? The thought of Lena asking her to pick a persona, to present a piece of her after she’d offered herself to Lena in whole, burned beneath her skin.

Kara’s cheeks were hot when she placed the invitation in her desk drawer.

******************************

Kara skipped the opening, and it wasn’t even a difficult decision. She packed a small overnight bag and took off straight from breakfast with Alex to Smallville the morning of the event. Once at the farm she changed into a pair of jeans and a flannel, and got to work.

The awkwardness of her last visit was gone, some of the peace of her previous time in Smallville returning, and the thing she found she liked best about the Kent farm was the honesty of it all. It felt honest to decide for herself how she would use her time. How she would admit to herself that she was doing the chores on her list at a human speed because the time it took was time she didn’t have to fill with other things. Time that she could spend working either with or against nature, time that was spent puzzling out an archaic tractor engine or figuring out if her heat vision could remove rust from a combine blade. Time spent trying to avoid the feelings that were twisting her insides.

She took a nap in a hammock when she felt tired, and enjoyed a double scoop ice cream cone on Main Street in town when she craved something sweet. It was simple and safe and kept her from going insane over why Lena had sent a handwritten invitation for her to attend an L-Corp event to her home.

******************************

The rumble that came down the Kent’s drive three days later just before sunset didn’t surprise Kara. Annoyed her, yes, but surprise her, no. Kara stood where the grass met the gravel by the porch as the sleek black car pulled to a stop, as the minutes ticked by before Lena climbed out of the car in her nearly-all black outfit. Their eyes met and Lena exhaled.

“You didn’t get my invitation?”

“I did.”

“Hmm.” Lena nodded and looked around, her eyes squinting in the golden light, her sunglasses folded in her hand.

“How did you get that car here?” Kara finally said, and Lena looked to her with surprise. “I can’t imagine there are many body shops in Kansas who know how to lead-plate a high-performance sports car.”

Lena smirked. She paused for a moment before she pressed a small button on the keyfob in her hand and the car started to shimmer, the black paint splintering into thousands of small pieces that levetated off the car like a swarm of bees.

“Nanotechnology,” Kara said, understanding.

“It’s a rental,” Lena said before pressing the button again and pocketing the keys, the nanites settling back onto the surface of the car. “Even Kansas City has a rental car market for people in my price range.”

Kara rolled her eyes.

“You didn’t come to the Lab event,” Lena said and Kara’s face hardened.

“I had other plans.”

Lena’s eyebrows arched. “This?”

Kara flexed her jaw. “I didn’t like the invitation.”

“Which part?” Lena challenged. “The part where I personally invited you with a handwritten note, or that I said that you could come in whatever persona you wished.”

“That part,” Kara said peevishly and Lena’s jaw tightened. “If you wanted Supergirl there you could have–”

“Shone a giant symbol in the sky like Gotham does for the Bat?” Lena spit. She shifted her weight. “This wasn’t about asking Supergirl to hover over me as I spoke in some sort of respectability play.”

“Then what?” Kara asked, heated. “You tell me that you want me to treat you professionally when we meet in National City and then you send me a handwritten invitation to my home, you tell me you don’t want to ever be alone with me again, yet you’re here– Lena.” Kara exhaled, tears stinging her eyes. “Do you have any idea how confusing this is? How much it hurts?”

Lena didn’t reply.

“Or is that the point?” Kara asked and she saw the words land like a blow.

“I am not cruel,” Lena said slowly.

“Well this feels cruel.”

Lena ducked her head. She swallowed like she was trying to clear a bad taste from her mouth and then looked back up. “I’m seeing a therapist.”

Kara didn’t shift her defensive position. “Kelly–”

“No, not my ex-boyfriend's sister,” Lena said pointedly and it was silent a moment as both absorbed the barb. “A therapist,” Lena tried again, her voice full of forced calm, “who thinks I need to confront you.”

Kara let the words settle. “You were going to confront me at your L-Corp event.”

Lena shrugged her shoulder. “Not in public.”

“That is so–”

“She thinks I let you off too easy.”

“Easy,” Kara repeated. “Nothing about this has been easy.”

“She thinks that I have hidden my feelings from you to my own detriment.” Kara was quiet. “That I can’t move on because I can’t let go.”

“Of what?” Kara asked, ashamed by how much hope her voice carried.

Lena briefly paused. “Of the idea that this is a bad dream. And that when I wake up, I’ll still have my best friend.”

“I haven’t gone anywhere.” Lena just stared, her eyes starting to fill with tears and Kara took a tentative step forward. “I haven’t gone anywhere, Lena.”

Lena stared until she couldn’t take it anymore; she put her hands over her face and took in a deep breath, the exhale shakey and muffled against her skin, and she turned and paced away. Kara watched, helpless, as Lena stopped, her shoulders hunched. After a long moment Lena turned back to face Kara, her eyes red rimmed. “My therapist said I don’t need to forgive you.”

“You don’t,” Kara admitted, and Lena nodded. “Does your therapist know I’m Supergirl?”

“Of course not,” Lena said, her offense that Kara might think that she’d betray Kara’s secret genuine.

Kara took that in, then cocked her head. “Did your therapist tell you to yell at me?”

Lena’s eyebrow arched. “And stare daggers at you.”

The callback to Lena’s first visit to the Kent farm made Kara laugh ruefully. She clapped her hands on her sides and then squinted at Lena. “Do you want to go into town for some ice cream?” Lena’s face crumpled in confusion. “We can take your… whatever that is, or go in Clark’s truck.” Lena’s look didn’t change and Kara sighed. “The place in town doesn’t have honey lavendar but I think you’d like their vanilla.” When Lena kept quiet, Kara frowned. “Look, I broke something when I was moving a machine in the barn right before you got here that I’m pretty sure carried sentimental value for my cousin, and I could really use a pick me up before you start yelling at me.”

Lena licked her lips. “OK.”

“Yeah?” Kara asked and Lena nodded. “Great.” Kara rushed into the house and then returned with her glasses on. “Which car are we… and you’re getting in your rental.” She followed Lena into the car and they headed toward town.

******************************

They sat on the bench in town enjoying their ice cream without speaking. Kara smiled at the people walking by and Lena sat stiff by her side, her eyes mostly trained on the ice cream cone in her hand. When they were finished they drove back to the farm in silence, the nanotech temporarily removed after Kara complained that it was too quiet inside the car and that she was feeling clausterphobic. They parked in the drive next to the farmhouse and Lena was still silent, her hands falling from the leather steering wheel to rest on her lap. Kara waited, and waited, and after another 15 minutes of silence, she spoke. “I’m gonna go inside.” Lena’s jaw tightened. “When you’re ready…” Lena nodded sharply and Kara exited the car.

Kara entered the house, closing the screen door quietly behind her. She was sick of the sound the aluminum frame would make when the door snapped shut. She entered the kitchen and paced for a moment, not quiet sure what to do while she waited. She was heading into the living room to read when the front door open and Lena appeared. Kara stopped short and flinched when the screen door slammed shut behind her. Lena quietly shut the wood front door and met Kara’s eye.

“The thing you broke in the barn: Was it mechanical?”

“It was a lamp.”

Lena wrung her fingers together as she spoke, her eyebrows arched. “Maybe I could try to fix it, before I leave.”

Kara looked at Lena, dumbfounded. “I don’t think you– I shattered the stain glass shade, so…” She trailed off and Lena nodded. Silence sat between them until Kara cleared her throat. “You didn’t trust Supergirl.” Lena looked up, surprised. “In the beginning, when you were new to National City; there was something, false, in our early meetings. Transactional. But not with Kara Danvers. You were curious about me in a way that felt genuine. Almost accidental, like you were surprised you cared.”

“I did care,” Lena said softly. “More than I ever expected I would.”

Kara looked down and removed her glasses, placing them on the banquette to her left. “I’m so sorry I lied to you, Lena, that I hurt you. I told myself that I did it because I wanted to keep you safe, and I wanted to keep you happy, and in reality–”

“You wanted to keep me,” Lena finally said. Kara nodded somberly as she met Lena’s eye. “I thought when I told you that I’d helped Lex that I would lose you. I think I thought I deserved to lose you.”

“But I didn’t go anywhere.”

“No,” Lena said, shaking her head. “A version of you forgave me.”

Kara pressed her lips together tightly, the heels of her palms digging into her eyes before she dropped her hands to her sides. “I’m not two different people, Lena– I. I shouldn’t have kept my identities separate for so long, it was a mistake, it was a mistake that was so big, so, monumentally huge that I… I think I knew that I would lose you when you found out the truth. This,” she gestured between them. “I did this. I know that. But Lena, if you want to fix it, I want to try.”

“My therapist says I'm confused. Or.” Lena winced. “Confusing my feelings for you with my feelings about Lex. Because he told me about you, because I have… family trauma... It's bleeding into my true feelings about your reveal.”

“Which are…”

“Anger, and hurt.” Lena flexed her jaw. “Because I thought we were so much more…” Lena looked up and met Kara’s eye. “To finally see you—all of you—through Lex’s eyes? For him to be the one that was honest?” She swallowed hard. “You’re not a god. But you’re not a small town girl made big city reporter, either.”

“But I am,” Kara argued softly. “Kara Danvers is a part of me.”

Lena nodded. “Part.” They regarded each other. “And part of you is an alien who lost everything.”

“Like you,” Kara said and Lena’s brow quirked. “A girl who lost everything.”

Lena shook her head. “My mother just felt like my whole world. You… You lost your family, your culture–”

“And I have lived on Earth longer than I lived on Krypton,” Kara said. “I’ve been this longer than I was the girl who, played beneath a red sun and was destined for the Science Guild.” Kara exhaled. “My cousin is on Argo City right now, and, he offered to trade places with me so I could spend time with my mother and the thought of it…”

“What?”

“It makes me feel nervous because, I don’t fit in there.” Kara sighed. “When I went to Argo last year, I went out to dinner with my childhood best friend. And she was talking about a life that I… Supergirl, Earth, is too big a part of me now. Kara Danvers is too big a part of me now. You, Lena–”

“Which do you feel more comfortable being?” Lena interrupted and Kara looked chastened.

“It’s not an either or,” Kara said. “I am both. All the time.”

Lena nodded her head. “But surely you prefer one?” Kara shifted, uncomfortable. “The power of Supergirl, to be able to fly–”

“I love to fly,” Kara said. “And, it does feel good to feel powerful.” She watched as some sort of confirmation registered on Lena’s face. “But, power isn’t what I like about being Supergirl. I like being helpful. It’s why I like being a reporter, why I like being there for my friends.”

“Friends,” Lena murmured. “When we were trying to find a cure for Sam you wanted me to be friends with Supergirl.”

“That…” Kara winced. “I knew I had made a mistake and I wanted–”

“To make me trust you.”

“Not make,” Kara said. “Earn. I wanted to find out what I had to do to re-earn your trust.”

“While still lying to me.”

“I’m not perfect,” Kara snapped as she ducked her head. She exhaled forcefully through her nose, her hands going to her hips. “James said loving you isn’t easy, and Lena…” Kara looked up. “I didn’t know how important you’d be to me until you already were, and I didn’t know how to, undo the harm that I was causing by lying so I just, kept doing it because being without you was too terrifying to even think about and…” She squeezed at her waist. “I love you.” Kara shrugged. “I will stay away from you if that’s what you want, but if you want to know how I feel, I want to be with you, Lena, I want you, I want…” She took a big, shuddered breath. “I want to be the person who makes you feel safe, and happy, but if I am the one who brings you pain–”

“You do,” Lena croaked and the sound broke Kara. She nodded sadly, her eyes filling with tears. Lena took a deep breath. “It hurts to think about you. To be around you and…” Kara looked up. “And I sometimes can’t breath when I remember that I’ve cut you out of my life.”

The words shocked Kara. She didn’t know what to say, a million replies crashing inside of her brain. She finally just took a step forward, and then another until she was close enough to reach for Lena. Kara wanted to hold out her hand, wanted to scoop Lena into a hug but it felt like such a fragile moment that all she could do was stand in front of Lena and speak in a whisper. “What do you want from me?”

Lena was silent. She licked her lips, her eyes averted. “Some days I want to punch you in the face until you bleed.” Kara closed her eyes for a long moment and then opened them to find Lena staring at her intently. “And other days I want to take you to bed.” The words were spoken so quickly Lena was out of breath as she finished, and the words, they hit Kara low in the gut. “But maybe…” Lena said as she crossed her arms tight around her chest. “Maybe we’re like that broken stained glass shade and we can’t be fixed…”

They were quiet a beat. “Or maybe we’re like the oven and we just need some outside help,” Kara said. They met each other’s eye.

Lena regarded Kara for a long moment, the look on Lena’s face wavering between fear and hope. “Why did you say what you said about me to the Mayor?”

“Because it’s the truth.”

“The truth?”

“Yes.”

Lena looked away and cleared her throat.

“Lena–”

“The man you saw me with, at the restaurant in National City?” Lena said and Kara’s brow knit. “He’s an investor from China. I didn’t correct you when you said that he was my date to hurt you.” Kara swallowed her surprise. “I’m sick of hurting,” Lena said as she met Kara’s eye. “And I’m sick of hurting you because when I do I feel my heart breaking all over again.”

Kara nodded. “What do you want to do?”

Lena took a deep breath and looked around the room, her eyes darting until they finally settled on Kara again. Lena licked her lips and shrugged, then shrugged again, incapable of saying the truth Kara could see fighting to break free. “Can I see the broken lamp?”

Kara was surprised, but she nodded. She took Lena to the barn, the crisp early fall air sending their breaths out in little puffs before them as they walked. The overhead light flickered twice as electricity hummed through the ancient wires, and they stood shoulder-to-shoulder next to the broken lamp shade, half in shadow. Kara blushed as they looked down at the shards of multi-color glass on the dirt floor, her hand coming up to rub the back of her neck sheepishly. “I was going to clean it up, but I heard your car–” She didn’t get the rest of the sentence out because Lena’s lips were suddenly pressed against hers, swallowing the sound. Kara froze, and then relaxed, returning the kiss as Lena’s hand squeezed her bicep tightly. When they pulled apart, Lena swallowed hard.

“I haven’t forgiven you.”

“OK,” Kara whispered.

“Can I stay tonight?”

“Yes.”

******************************

When Kara woke up, Lena was in her bed, which was a surprise because they hadn't fallen asleep like that. Lena had taken the room she'd slept in on her previous trip to Smallville, the door slamming after their quiet conversation on the porch post-kiss had turned into a screaming match in the kitchen. When Kara had finally succumbed to sleep just hours before dawn, she could hear Lena still tossing and turning down the hall.

Kara stared at Lena. Her face was resting on her hands, folded neatly between her cheek and the pillow. Her black hair was loose and spilling around her head, a sharp contrast to the white pillowcase. Her face was bare, Lena having taken the time to remove her makeup after storming off to bed. Kara stared, and marveled at the sight of Lena’s soft breath moving past what she now knew were soft lips. Kara was so entranced that she missed signs of awakening, and when Lena’s eyes fluttered open, Kara looked away quickly, embarrased to have been caught staring.

"Good morning,” Lena murmured, her voice thick from sleep.

“Good morning,” Kara whispered back. She looked to see Lena staring at her. “Why…?”

"I couldn't sleep,” Lena said. “It was too distracting having you in the other room."

"Oh."

They were going to be tired. The room was just shifting from a dawn blue glow to yellow as the sun rose and neither had gotten enough sleep. “Are you going back to National City today?” Lena asked and Kara shook her head.

"I wasn't planning on it."

"Can I stay?”

The question was plain and carried no conditions. “Yes.”

They rose from bed and went about their day. A drone dropped off materials for a project Lena had started in the kitchen, and Kara only lightly protested when the drone took the carefully boxed up pieces of the stained glass lamp shade with it as it left. The nanite-covered car in the drive was no longer an ominous harbinger, or a thorny reminder, but a symbol of the effort Lena had gone through to be there.

They made dinner quietly together that night. It was companionable and easier than either expected given the distrust and distance they both still felt. They continued their time together on the couch as they read side-by-side, until Lena climbed into Kara’s lap with purpose, kissed Kara with purpose, and ground her hips down into Kara’s with intent. They were both breathless when they finally broke apart, Lena’s hands buried in Kara’s hair, Kara’s fingertips digging into Lena’s hips. "Take me to bed,” Lena said softly, and Kara nodded.

They made love. It was tentative and slow, and full of quiet whispers in the dark. Kara was gentle and Lena was patient, and it didn’t fix anything other than break open a path to a future they had each given up on. They returned to National City the next day. The next week, Lena’s therapist became their therapist, and a month after that, Kara gently flew the repaired stained glass shade back to Smallville. The stained glass shade wasn’t the same as before Kara broke it, but the new iteration was beautiful and solid.

Kara took Lena to Smallville when Kal-El and Lois returned home with their son. Lena held Kara’s hand as she cried, both with happiness that Kal had a family and at how much Kal and Lois’s son looked like the baby Kara had been sent to Earth to protect. Lois and Kal didn’t have to accept Lena on that trip—the younger sister of the man who tormented them—but they did, and it was a gesture that did more to solidify Kara and Lena’s growing relationship than any of them realized at the time.

It was a combination of time and work that allowed them to build trust back into their relationship. For Lena to accept and see Kara in whole, separate from the Supers of her family’s obsession, and for Kara to confide in Lena the fears she had about who she was and what she could become as she aged slower than the people she loved. They were married in a simple ceremony in Smallville, surrounded by the people they loved, and their daughter was born on Argo the following year. Their life as a family in National City wasn’t smooth, it was often dangerous, but they got through it together. And every time Kal, Lois and their son left world for Argo, the Danvers-Luthor family made Smallville their temporary home.