In the weeks after everything— after Kara finds out that things are not okay, that Lena knew about all of the lies long before Kara worked up the nerve to tell her, after she says she never wants to see Kara again, after Lena sells Catco and resigns from her advisory position at the DEO and doesn’t respond to Kara’s texts or voicemails— Kara finds herself watching movies by herself again.
(Rao, she was so naïve. So desperate for things to work out that she’d willfully ignored what was right in front of her. She’d really thought that things were going to turn out okay. Really believed that she’d somehow managed to not break Lena’s heart, hadn’t torn apart what they had irreparably. Lena had acted fine. Normal. Until she didn’t, and Kara realized that those smiles that didn’t quite reach her eyes hid the worst kind of hurt imaginable. And what really killed was that she was the one who had caused it, to the one person she’d sworn to never hurt.)
At first she tries not to. Curling up on the couch with a blanket and some popcorn had become something intrinsically linked with her best friend these past few years. Not having that familiar weight beside her on the couch cushions (or the press of Lena’s shoulder against her own, or the quiet, private laughs that she huffed right into the shell of Kara’s ear, or all the other tiny details that Kara didn’t know she needed until they were gone) was unbearable at first.
So, she does other things instead. Supergirl becomes more active than she’s ever been before, and impossibly, Kara Danvers does too. She wears the cape and she puts out fires, and drops off gang leaders right into the laps of the police, and triple-checks every tree for cats. Catco reporter Kara Danvers graciously accepts her Pulitzer Prize, continues her weekly column on the Aliens of National City, and still reads over Nia’s articles, giving the younger girl a nudge in the right direction when needed. She lets her coworkers interview LCorp’s CEO about new projects and follow up on press releases and avoids James afterwards, knowing that he will have a far too gentle look in his eye for her to stomach. Somehow, it feels like Kara creates more hours in a day for herself, even though it’s really just a way to never stop moving, to keep herself from going home and sitting still long enough to feel the weight of what happened press terribly into her ribs. It’s better to write articles so fast that her keyboard breaks, and fight rogues until she stumbles home with shaking knees about to give out.
Anything is better than being alone with her thoughts.
(And yes, she pays a visit once or twice to the alien dive bar, just to see what it’s like, drowning your guilt in rum smuggled in from three galaxies over. Kara stops before it gets too far every time. She’s seen what this behavior can lead to, can see it in Alex, and Lena, and knows that Supergirl can’t afford to cope like this. Kara hates not being in control, doesn’t want to think about Red Kryptonite ever again. She doesn’t drink away into the night because she doesn’t know how she’ll act without inhibitions, not with Lena and their estrangement on the playing field.)
But there are nights where Kara has no other choice but to go home. Alex tells her to. She figures out how little sleep Kara’s gotten by the way she wraps her cape around herself as she walks, or how her eyes have been drifting shut during debriefings more often than not, and tells Kara to take the rest of the day off. Kara listens. She goes home and showers, and orders delivery, and is asleep before she gets halfway through her pizza. She knows it’s dangerous for her to live this way, knows that she’s putting her safety and the city’s security at risk, but she doesn’t mind. Kara prefers those nights—the kind where she’s worked herself into such exhaustion that she doesn’t dream, doesn’t have nightmares, doesn’t lay awake and think of everything she’s done wrong.
And even on those other nights— the ones where energy still thrums through her body, when the police scanner is quiet and all of the friends she has left are busy, when Kara is all alone— she finds new things to distract herself with. Baking is… disastrous. Kara is almost forced to quarantine her kitchen after a particularly horrific batch of brownies comes out of her oven, looking so toxic that even she couldn’t survive eating them. Then comes puzzles, Sudoku, and weekend crosswords. Kara tries to learn yo-yo tricks for a few hours, until she winds it up too hard and the string breaks, wedging the toy in a nearby wall. The look on Alex’s face when she walks in and sees the yo-yo sticking out of the plaster is almost enough to wipe any thought of her ex- best friend from rising to the surface.
Kara turns to reading, next. She puts the hobbies away, trades them for the books she had wanted to read when she first arrived on Earth but never did because she was too busy learning to exist in an alien world, too consumed with finding a way to not break Alex’s ribs when she hugged her.
Books are supposed to be an escape from the real world, and for a while, they are. There are no pirates or cowboys in National City, no matter how badly Kara secretly wants there to be, and it’s familiar, making herself at home in more worlds completely foreign to her. But Lena sneaks into these fantasies as if she were there all along, and Kara doesn’t find she’s all that surprised, because Lena’s always had a knack for making herself known in her thoughts..
She thinks of Lena when she reads about lonely Jay Gatsby in his lavish, ghostly mansion, and Patroclus and his steady devotion to Achilles, and quiet, small Matilda with all of her genius and kindness in a house where her family resented her for it, where they wanted her to be as cruel and as despicable as the rest of them. Gatsby dies all alone, his grand illusions of love overcoming all else washed away in that wretched pool. Achilles doesn’t make it in time; Patroclus dies in his hero’s arms, and Kara just barely stops herself from flying to the one person she’d promised she would always protect.
It’s the first time she’s cried since the night Lena told her exactly what she thought of her, and the sadness presses soothingly against the places of her heart Kara had been trying to ignore.
Listening to music is more of the same, except now Kara knows what she’s been looking for. She finds herself seeking out the songs that bring her to tears, craving those feelings instead of the monotony she’s forced herself into. Music is maddeningly close to getting Kara to the kind of emotional place that she’s only just now realizing she needs.
(She can listen to haunting strains of violins or a distant strum of the guitar and relax into the depths of her memory, can hear the sadness in some person’s lonely melody, and think of Lena. Thinks of Lena’s face that night when the floor was swept out from underneath them, how it was pitched against the bluest of shadows. She listens and sees the tremble in Lena’s hands and lips, and remembers the way Lena sobbed and screamed and turned resolutely away. She remembers how she couldn’t make any of it better.)
When Kara decides to watch movies again, it’s a conscious decision. It’s because she can’t stand the gaping hole in her life where Lena used to be, can’t handle the lack of something that she’d relied on for years and had taken for granted until it was long gone.
It’s because of the fact that even as she remains miserable and heartbroken, she’s also getting better. Slowly but surely, she’s surviving losing the person who against all odds became the most important person in her life. Despite there being a gaping tear in what she thought her life was supposed to contain, Kara feels herself moving on.
(The secret is that Kara doesn’t want to.)
She doesn’t want to move on because once she does that, she’ll start to forget, to paint over what she once had. Eventually, if things stay the way they are, Kara will take down Lena’s pictures on her fridge, and won’t have her coffee order memorized for the dozen different cafes they used to frequent. Her name will slide further and further down Kara’s list of text conversations until one of them ends up with a new number, or Kara gets her phone destroyed in a fight and loses all of her contacts. The palpable pieces will start chipping away and it’ll get that much easier to stop thinking of the way she lied and used and betrayed— the person she promised she’d never hurt.
It seems impossible, but someday Kara might not carry the guilt that she does now—or at least, learn to breathe through the piercing pain of it.
So Kara refuses to get on with her life, or to forget. Not when there’s so much she still owes Lena, when she still wants desperately to prove herself worthy of Lena’s friendship. She believes in forgiveness, and redemption, and for the first time, she’s hoping someone will believe that she can be forgiven. She will prove herself worthy of a second chance, even if Lena doesn’t grant it to her.
Besides, in a strange way, Kara is thankful for this forced misery. It keeps Lena with her no matter what, even if it is just memories now. She’ll live like this for the rest of time if it means Lena Luthor is even circumstantially involved in her life.
Having a ghost of Lena is better than having nothing at all.
Kara starts with the things her and Lena hardly ever watched unless forced to — namely, horror movies. It’s funny now that she could be afraid of slasher villains and poorly funded special effects when she had fought such evil and survived so many awful things. But, Lena used to snatch her legs up off the floor at some of the better-executed jump scares, warming her cold feet up against Kara’s legs, and she remembers how easy it was to be scared if that meant that Lena would lean into her a little more fully.
She tries watching stuffy period pieces and falls asleep during most of them, not seeing the appeal in watching men with wigs and colonialist accents argue for two and a half hours. She knows Lena has a soft spot for Victorian romances however, and Kara does enjoy it when the music softens and the two candlelit leads share something unspoken, but still tangible. Lena had called them sappy, but she always smiled at the end no matter what. Kara supposes that happy endings are hard not to find joy in. Those are the kinds of endings Kara wishes she could lose herself in now, as if somehow, they could ease the pain of their own.
Kara filters through the other genres without much thought, never having trouble finding some old memory, some connection to Lena. She watches adventure movies and epics, noirs and thrillers, comedies and science fiction (those were Lena’s favorite, even though she pretended to grumble about physics and the plausibility of time travel or lightsabers). Not for the first time, Kara wonders if Lena is thinking about her as much as she is. Kara seems to constantly have Lena in her mind. She wonders if Lena watches Star Wars now and thinks of her, thinks of Alderaan and Princess Leia and realizes that’s why Kara tears up during that scene.
It would be better, Kara thinks, to have your planet, your people, your loved ones be destroyed by some great evil, something uncomplicated and easy to hate. To have an Empire to rebel against, and to gain some solace in its downfall. It is not so simple to be a survivor of a world whose loss could have been prevented by the people you had grown up admiring, respecting, trusting. To have the people you loved be that evil which causes their own downfall.
(She wants to confide that to someone. Kara wants very badly for that someone to be Lena.)
And when Kara can bear it no longer, she watches musicals again. It’s a vulnerable place to exist in; these were the films she watched constantly when she first came to Earth, when above all she searched for something simple and easy to latch on to. So of course she gravitated towards the big Hollywood musicals, where everything was perfect, or if wasn’t, could be resolved with a song or two. And yes, Kara cried every time Dorothy sang “Over the Rainbow” because she could understand what it was like to long for an escape, for the ability to return to a faraway land that only exists in dreams.
(She’d been so nervous to watch musicals with Lena for some reason. Kara had always been careful about revealing truths about herself, and watching the movies that left her so open and exposed with the person she was hiding so much from seemed intimidating. But then she saw Lena tear up too when Dorothy leaned against the haystack and looked up into the blue and Kara suddenly didn’t want to watch any other musical without the other girl next to her.)
That movie has such a special meaning to Kara that it’s hard to believe that a goofy movie about a farm girl and a cowboy does the job of breaking Kara’s heart all the way, not Toto and a pair of ruby slippers.
It isn’t The Wizard of Oz that pierces through whatever walls Kara has placed around her heart, nor is it Singing In The Rain, or even West Side Story. No, it’s Oklahoma! that blindsides her, leaves her sobbing into her throw pillow until her voice disappears and she’s too exhausted to move to her bed.
She can’t figure out why a story set in the time of farmhands and Westward Expansion could make her think of Lena in any way until she rewatches it.
And oh. Oh, she finally gets it now.
Kara hears the words being sung and is reminded of the fact that after everything, Lena still doesn’t have the full story.
Lena had accused her of having ulterior motives, of wanting to be close to her out of selfishness, of being too cowardly to ever take a real leap of faith. She isn’t all that wrong. Kara’s alter ego may be out in the open now for Lena to see, but that doesn’t mean Kara isn’t still hiding behind some lies.
The fact that she’s fallen in love with Lena Luthor accidentally along the way is the only secret she’s got left.
And while she is at a loss for how exactly it happened, the way she cries when the two leads sing to each other makes everything fall into place. It’s remarkable how hindsight works. The ache in her chest, the fragile way her friends are treating her, how she avoids flying by the LCorp building and feels her stomach twist when she sees Lena on the news— Kara knows that she’s showing all the signs of a broken heart.
Kara refused to acknowledge the truth for the longest time, but now it’s all she can think about, with the songs stuck in her head mixing in with her memories and reminding her exactly how everything went so wrong.
Lena believes that there hadn’t been a single honest, genuine moment in their friendship, believed that Kara didn’t see her as anything more than a tool, a pawn she’d been playing and was willing to discard at a moment’s notice. Lena believes that Kara never loved her, not in any way. Now Kara is left wondering how Lena could possibly think that was true, not when everything is laid out so bare in front of her now.
Why do they think up stories that link my name with yours?
Why do the neighbors gossip all day, behind their doors?
I know a way to prove what they say is quite untrue.
Here is the gist, a practical list of don’ts for you…
Lena had been the one to point out the attention being paid to their connection first, and she did it twice, to each of Kara’s identities separately and with very different approaches.
She asked to meet with Kara in her office months into their knowing each other. It was a few days after their friendship had actually become tangible, expanding past friendly interviews and impromptu follow up visits and growing into something genuine. It was easier to call Lena a friend once they started going out to lunch and spending time together that didn’t revolve around Kara scribbling down notes about LCorp’s latest project.
(Not that Kara minded when it was about that; she was perfectly content listening to excitement bleed through Lena’s professional persona as she talked about the new developments in renewable energy, and Kara was okay with pretending that she didn’t learn about photovoltaics when she was eleven on Krypton.)
Whatever the case, Kara finally felt like their friendship was going somewhere, and it was hard not to be thrilled about even the small things.
Kara had a new friend, a remarkable friend, and it was normal to be giddy when your new friend gave you her personal number, right?
That morning however, Lena didn’t seem as excited as she was, and Kara felt the smile slip off her face. She retraced her steps, trying to make sure she hadn’t overstepped, hadn’t ever gone ahead with something the other woman wasn’t ready for. Anyone who knew anything about the Luthors knew that they were enigmatic and famously difficult to read. Kara hoped she hadn’t believed in something that was never really offered.
When the CEO slid four different National City tabloids towards her and her expression molded into something apologetic, Kara was back to being confused. She flipped them over, and stared at pictures of… herself.
It was strange, seeing blurred photos of Kara Danvers, not Supergirl, in action. Not that Kara was doing anything out of the ordinary. Alex would kill her if she was ever caught doing something “super” without the suit on. It was just her leaving her apartment with Lena, and getting into a town car with Lena, throwing an arm around Lena as they walked in a park, and smiling over at Lena at an upscale restaurant, and… oh.
Kara felt her cheeks get red as she read the title. “Luthor pursuing New Mystery Woman?” it asked, and she could finally understand Lena’s odd behavior. There was no way Kara was even remotely in Lena’s league. The insinuation that Lena had stooped down so low, settled for someone who had only just been promoted from being an assistant must have been embarrassing for the other woman.
(Lena could have anyone she wanted in the world, human or otherwise. Kara was sure about that. No way could a mousy, cardigan clad woman who ate an ungodly amount of pizza ever be Lena Luthor’s vision of a perfect woman. She wasn’t even sure Supergirl could live up to what Lena deserved.)
“I’m sorry,” they both blurted out at the same time, and now Kara was lost again.
“Why are you apologizing?” she asked, having a hard time tearing her eyes away from the images of herself on the paper. It was strangely appealing to think about. The life the tabloids were painting was fake, obviously, but still. Kara liked how happy Lena looked. How they both looked.
“You’re my only friend here, Kara. Really, one of my only friends anywhere .” For her part, Lena seemed less humiliated by that admission and more focused on making sure Kara wasn’t upset. “I value your friendship, and your opinion. I don’t want you to think- I’m not the salacious heiress they like to make me out to be. My life just invites hyperbole. I’ve made my peace with it, but I never intended for you to get caught up in any of this.”
Lena looked really, truly, regretful, and Kara saw the way she caved inwards, knowing that Lena was blaming herself again, even for something as silly as this. Lena did it far too often, immediately shouldering the responsibility for things she wasn’t even at fault for. Kara knew because she did the same thing, so much that it was impulsive. Maybe that was why she had such a knack for being Supergirl— her back wouldn’t buckle under the weight of anything on this earth, not when she already carried her past with her. Why not give the people who had given her a second chance at having a home and a family peace of mind, even if it was at her expense?
Kara had come to this planet as a protector— a provider. It was the reason she’d survived. Her, out of millions of other Kryptonians, so many of whom were more intelligent or stronger or more capable than a little girl who had only escaped death because her family wanted her to look after her baby cousin. The Phantom Zone had denied her that chance, and even when she did reach her destination, Clark— he didn’t need her protection. Didn’t want it. But the Earth and the people there, they did, so Kara gave it to them.
She could accept gratitude in the victories just as well as she could take the resentment whenever she lost. It was what she had been sent here to do. Kara didn’t see why Lena thought she had to do the same. Lena wasn’t Supergirl; she wasn’t even a Luthor, even though she got all the baggage that came with them. She hadn’t asked for any of this, and here she was, fighting everyday to do enough good to outweigh the bad and refusing to succumb to doubt or to the Luthor legacy.
They hadn’t known each other for very long, but Kara trusted her gut enough to know how admirable of a person Lena Luthor was, no matter what the rest of the world thought of her.
Kara wanted to take care of this one small thing for Lena, no matter how insignificant it was. “We’re friends,” she said carefully, and she couldn’t deny the relief that flooded through her body when Lena nodded firmly. It was reassuring, knowing that someone as powerful, and brilliant, and busy, as Lena Luthor valued her time with her. “And I knew your reputation before we met. It didn’t scare me away then, and it isn’t something you need to apologize for now.”
“Thank you,” Lena said, and for a moment, it sounded genuine. Her shoulders hunched again and she glanced down at the paparazzi photos. “But this… this is different. The implications they’re making, I-”
“It doesn’t bother me,” Kara said, punctuating her point by throwing the magazines over towards Lena’s office couch. She straightened up, squaring her shoulders and injecting just enough of her Supergirl persona to put some weight behind her words. Once Lena seemed like she actually believed her, Kara laughed a little, pushing up her glasses and slipping back into the harmless dorkiness of Kara Danvers. “We’re friends, and that’s what matters. I’m usually too clueless to even be aware of this stuff anyways. To think, all of National City thinks I’m dating a billionaire and I still buy groceries in my pajamas.”
Lena’s mouth turned upwards at that, but she still looked cautious. Doubtful, like it was hard for her to believe that Kara could brush something like this off without a second thought.
(She didn’t know that Kara’s alter ego was involved in paparazzi stories that were too bizarre to top. Frankly, something as tame as false relationship rumors was nothing compared to the insane tales of doppelgangers and evil twins that the media was convinced Supergirl had.)
“I just don’t want you in any sort of trouble because of me,” Lena said, sighing and releasing the rest of her misgivings along with it. She walked from around her desk, and stood next to Kara, staring out the window towards the clouds outside. Their shoulders brushed, and Kara didn’t understand why she focused so suddenly on the contact. “Tabloid gossip is one thing, but Kara, I don’t live a life of security. We met because my brother was trying to kill me, remember?”
“Kinda hard to forget,” Kara teased, and was glad that Lena responded to it in kind, rolling her eyes and smacking Kara’s bicep. She moved away subtly; out of all the ways Lena could discover she was Supergirl, Kara really didn’t want it to be because they had to go to the ER for a couple of broken knuckles. “I’m not afraid of your brother,” she said, a kind of firmness in her voice that she hoped would put Lena at ease. “I’ve got Supergirl on speed dial, after all.”
Lena grimaced just slightly at that, her shoulders stiffening before she disguised the newfound tension in her body with a raised brow. “Right. I forgot about that,” she said, a certain standoffishness to her words. “You certainly have a knack for getting close to people with targets on their backs.”
“I’ll be okay,” Kara said, choosing to ignore whatever the newfound reservations were that Lena held for Supergirl for now. Her voice turned teasing again, but sincere. “Really, I will. I just want to keep being your friend. Even if you are the enigmatic black sheep of the Luthor family. Actually, that’s sorta cool. And if being your friend means people will take photos of me stuffing my face at brunch, then so be it.”
Lena looked surprised by Kara’s assertion; maybe it was the casual, affectionate way Kara used her reputation, or maybe she really didn’t think Kara would want to continue spending time with someone as high profile as her. Either way, she could tell that Lena appreciated it by the way she gave out a breathless smile, shaking her head as she crossed her desk and leaned over it.
“Well then, Miss Danvers, I suppose it’s settled, then. You drive a hard bargain, but friends it is.”
Kara felt her own lips twist up into a cheerful grin, taking in the way Lena’s eyes sparkled, sated by Kara’s reassurance and maybe even a little grateful for it. “Friends,” she repeated, and Lena laughed again.
She dismissed herself after that; she had an article due in an hour for editing and she wanted to swing by her favorite food truck before submitting it and subjecting herself to whatever biting comments Snapper would make about her punctuation this time. Lena had a meeting starting shortly as well, but she walked Kara towards the doors of her office, reaching out and grabbing Kara’s wrist right as they finished making their goodbyes.
“Friends do each other favors, right?” Lena asked, drumming her fingers against her thighs. It was a nervous tick, and Kara turned back towards her fully.
“I believe it’s somewhere in the contract,” she said. “What do you need?”
“Your help,” Lena started, before swallowing and meeting her eyes. “I’d like to get in touch with Supergirl.”
Kara returned seven hours later, a cape around her shoulders instead of her press pass. She smoothed out her skirt unthinkingly; she wanted to make a good impression, even if technically Lena had already met her as Supergirl. There had been a handful of rescues, as well as a few tentative, exhilarating team ups that left them both a little breathless and all too aware of how unusual it was for a Luthor and a Super to be on the same side. Their relationship was in the earliest stages, but Kara trusted Lena.
She’d assumed that Lena thought highly of her as well, but based on her behavior from earlier, maybe Supergirl stood on rocky ground.
Apparently since Kara had done something as Supergirl that had rubbed Lena the wrong way, she really wanted to come off as the polished, confident, put-together superhero that Supergirl— that she — was.
(Hopefully, the ketchup stain that she’d spilled on her sleeve after needing to fly away in a hurry while visiting a hot dog stand came out in the wash like Winn had promised her it would.)
Going in through the balcony seemed much more enticing than waiting for Jess, Lena’s secretary, to buzz her in, so Kara landed softly on the marble floor. She checked her watch; she was five minutes early. Lena had requested to meet right at nine, when the building would be free of lingering workers— and made off limits for the curious members of the paparazzi who liked to loiter in the hallways or elevators, hoping to catch Lena on the move.
She told Kara earlier that day that she tolerated their presence simply because she was too busy during the day to think much of them at all, and because a Luthor throwing a citizen out of the building, private property or not, would be terrible press for LCorp. It was a begrudging sort of defeat, one that made Kara want to march up to these so called members of the press and lecture them about the integrity of reporting, but she knew that would only make things worse.
Maybe if Supergirl told these creeps where exactly they could stick their cameras, the message would be received. But she’d be in trouble with Alex then, and Kara didn’t want anyone else upset with Supergirl until she could figure out what she’d done to antagonize Lena.
She thought about knocking; Lena was sitting at her desk, still filling out a massive stack of forms despite most people ending their workdays four hours earlier. The office chair turned, and Lena saw her just as she was raising her hand to tap the glass.
Lena jumped a little, automatically reaching for the taser Kara knew she kept under her desk before her brain recognized that it was Supergirl, not some henchmen out for her head. The defensive glare on her face softened into something less panicked, but Kara could see the way that her body was still coiled up; Lena had not appreciated her surprise entrance to her balcony, and Kara may have just worsened her mood.
So much for starting this meeting off on the right foot.
By the time Lena had risen from her chair and slid open the glass door, her body language had smoothed out to its usual impassiveness. The neutrality did nothing to stop Kara from fidgeting her hands behind her back, where they couldn’t be seen. Why she felt nervous she wasn’t sure. Supergirl was usually the part of her persona that helped Kara be absolutely fearless, and yet one slight frown from Lena Luthor and Kara was worried she’d shrink, hands on her hips or not.
The excited smile that grew on her face wasn’t forced, however, as she inclined her head in greeting when she walked into the office. She found herself unable to fake things around the other woman. If there was one way that Lena could actually figure out her true identity, it was because Kara knew she looked at Lena the same way, no matter which part she was playing.
“Supergirl,” Lena said, and she couldn’t be completely upset because her voice still held a certain amount of awe. “You’re early. Thank you for agreeing to this.”
“Of course, Miss Luthor,” Kara said in return, turning back towards Lena’s desk once she heard the balcony door close. “Kara Danvers said you wanted to speak with me?”
Lena didn’t answer at first, her head tilting as Kara brought her other self into the conversation. She looked as if she was trying to decide how to say whatever was obviously on her mind. Lena decided that bluntness would be the best way to operate, apparently.
“Yes. Actually, she’s exactly the person that you and I need to have a conversation about.”
Supergirl faltered; she knew that Lena saw it in the way her mouth opened, then closed. In truth, Lena had caught her off guard again. All this time, Kara had assumed that she’d messed up as Supergirl, but now she wasn’t sure which persona Lena was displeased with.
“What about her? Is something wrong?” If anything, Lena’s expression grew graver, and Kara was starting to grasp at straws. “She’s not in danger, is she?”
“No. Not at the moment,” Lena said, and she reached again for the stack of tabloids that she had shown Kara Danvers earlier. But this time, when Lena handed her the papers, there were other articles. They didn’t look fresh off the print— in fact, Kara was pretty sure that she’d written some of these herself— but they all centered around Catco. Or rather, as Kara was starting to catch onto Lena’s motivation, all the times Catco and its workers were targeted by a myriad of villains. “But she certainly seems to be quite frequently, wouldn’t you agree?”
Kara blinked, staring at the paper as she tried to work out what she was going to say. “Yes,” she settled on, and Lena seemed to calm slightly at her candor. Until, that is, Kara dismissed what she was sure Lena believed to be real, important concerns. “But that’s just part of her job, Miss Luthor.”
“Kara Danvers is a reporter, is she not?” Lena asked, her eyes narrowing and some frost gathering in her tone. ‘Not a job with a high mortality rate, especially if you work for Catco Worldwide Media. She just wrote an amazing article… about an animal shelter.”
It was, admittedly, a feeble excuse, and Lena saw right through it. That very article was sitting on Lena’s desk, and there was no denying it. Kara knew that she wasn’t exactly a high profile journalist at the moment, not when she could barely get her fluff pieces approved by Snapper. But what else was she supposed to say? She hadn’t known Lena very long, certainly not long enough to justify the sudden need she felt to just blurt out the truth.
“Kara just believes in finding out the truth, and she has a nose for it. Sometimes, that comes with a… certain degree of danger, but that’s what I’m here for,” she said, sticking to the story and hoping that Lena would just drop it.
“What about the times you haven’t been around?” she asked, shuffling through the articles until she settled on one that Kara recognized. Lena slid it over into Supergirl’s view, crossing her arms and frowning.
National City had gone through an uncharacteristically quiet stretch of crime, leaving Supergirl with a limited to-do list, other than wandering the DEO and pranking Winn. And seeing as she was still Cat’s assistant at the time, and had been trying to use up the mountain of sick days that had accumulated, for the first time in a long time, Kara had absolutely nothing to do. Not wanting to waste another day, she ran errands— did laundry, finished up a few interviews, and stopped by a bank that she and the DEO suspected was funneling money to a high-up, powerful crime boss. She thought it was the perfect undercover role, just being regular, ordinary Kara Danvers who wanted to open up a banking account.
That is, until a group of very unhappy criminals had shown up, heavily armed, and had taken everyone in the bank hostage for three hours.
It had been an unpleasant, frustrating, waste of an afternoon. But while Kara was embarrassed enough having to be rescued by J’onn and then dealing with the debrief by Alex about how close she had been to accidentally revealing her secret identity, she had at least been proud that she’d gotten a good story out of it for Cat Grant, who had dragged her into an interview as soon as she’d shown her face at the office.
She remembered suddenly, as Lena was tapping her foot, talking in detail about how a gun had been held to her head for at least half of the hostage negotiation. Cat had salivated over the details, telling her that it was just the type of harrowing survivor story that flew off the shelves. It was what National City needed at the time, someone to prove that being afraid of the crime gang wasn’t the answer, and Kara felt useful in that, at the time. But for someone like Lena who was steadily realizing how often Kara found herself in tight spots? She imagined that reading those moments wasn’t exactly comforting to someone who didn’t know that getting shot wasn’t high up on Kara’s list of anxieties.
It was strange, having someone who was so intensely focused on Kara Danvers’ safety rather than Supergirl’s. Was she supposed to feel this flattered by the fact that Lena had done such a deep dive into her history? That Lena had read something like this, and even though she hadn’t even been in National City at the time, and felt angry enough that she wanted to challenge Supergirl herself on how she’d messed up?
(Probably not. But Kara was enamored all the same.)
“That was an anomaly,” she said. “A freak accident. I’ll always be there for Kara when she needs me. And besides, she’s proven that she can take care of herself.”
“Kara doesn’t have invulnerable skin,” Lena replied. Kara heard the way her teeth ground together, and saw the muscle that jumped out against her jaw. “I don’t care how smart or tough or capable she is. She can’t dodge bullets, especially if she’s being held hostage.”
Lena was veering almost comically close to discovering just how wrong she was about Kara’s chances against a fired gun. Kara fought to keep her posture straight, to act like Supergirl instead of Kara Danvers, who would immediately go to Lena’s side and reassure her. Kara Danvers would take Lena’s hands in her own and make sure she wasn’t squeezing too tightly, but hold on just the same until Lena softened somewhat, would smile and make a joke and promise Lena that she would be fine. But Supergirl didn’t do those things, especially not with a Luthor, so Kara stayed where she was.
“What is this really about, Miss Luthor?”
Lena’s mouth opened slightly, as if she was taken aback by Kara flipping the interrogation on its head. Kara had a pretty good inkling as to what Lena was really worried about, but she wanted to hear it for herself.
She was silent for half a beat before letting out a long exhale, steady through her nose. Sinking back into her chair, she turned away, towards the wall of windows and the gorgeous view below. Kara couldn’t look away from the view she had; Lena’s profile stood out strikingly against the shine and haze of the lights below. A queen in her tower, she couldn’t help but think, just like the stories Eliza had read her long ago. Renouncing her family, but still being hated by the people below for being a part of what they did. Lena didn’t have many allies, much less friends, and it was purposeful. Her isolation may be self-enforced, but it didn’t make it any less sad.
For the first time, Kara understood that Lena Luthor may be just as lonely as she was.
“I’m sure that you’re aware of the headlines that have been swirling around our meeting,” Lena said. “A Luthor and a Super in the same city again… I can understand the scrutiny. Our families are going to be inseparable for the rest of history, it seems.”
Lena’s voice held no hint of vanity when she acknowledged how notorious, how recognizable her family had become. Her brother, on the other hand, reveled in it. Lex Luthor forged his single-minded rampage against aliens just as much to please his own narcissistic view of the world as he did it to see Superman dead. Her cousin, and herself were the ultimate threat to someone like Lex— a reminder that no matter how much money or power or time that man could invest in their own selves, they couldn’t fly. They couldn’t lift buildings just because of a yellow sun. Lex Luthor couldn’t shape the world with his bare hands, and he hated Kal because he could, if he wanted to.
She saw none of that anger in Lena now. If anything, the woman just looked tired, exhausted at being in the center of a hurricane but resigned to it all the same. Determined to establish some good in the Luthor legacy all the same, even if she would never be beloved for it.
“I’m not my cousin,” Kara said. “And you aren’t your brother. I don’t see why we can’t create our own narrative.”
“I appreciate the sentiment. And I agree,” Lena said, still sounding pained, preoccupied with whatever had been bothering her all day. “Luckily for me, we aren’t our families. But we’re just as famous, and just as likely to put our social circles in the limelight. We’re dangerous people to associate with, Supergirl.”
“So Kara...” she realized, and it seemed so obvious now, that Lena didn’t have a problem with Kara or with Supergirl. What Lena hated was that to the best of her knowledge, some sweet, innocent, inexperienced reporter had somehow managed to befriend the two most powerful people in National City, and was going to get hurt because of it. “You’re worried about her. About her getting wrapped up in all this.”
Lena nodded. “She’s a good person. A great person, and I suspect an even better friend. She doesn’t deserve the consequences that could come with being in our lives, wouldn’t you agree?” she asked, raising her hand even as Supergirl opened her mouth to say something back. “Count yourself lucky that she hasn’t been photographed with you. I’d imagine most of the world doesn’t realize that you two are friends yet. But as soon as they do, just think of the type of people who’ll go after her to get to you.”
“I think you’ll have a hard time convincing Kara Danvers not to be anyone’s friend, bad guys or not,” Supergirl said, fighting to keep familiar exasperation out of her voice, because there was no way Lena would mistake Kara’s voice coming out of Supergirl’s mouth, not when they were talking about her. Still, it was frustrating, knowing that her visit earlier hadn’t done much to soothe Lena. It seemed like this guilt, however misguided, wasn’t going to go away easily.
“There could be criminals that have her name underlined on some blacklist, and you’re more concerned about the strength of her character?”
“I just think that Kara is going to find a way to be in our lives whether we like it or not.”
Lena closed her eyes, and she rolled her shoulders back just slightly, as if she was trying to rid herself of the tenseness in her body. Her professional facade slipped, just for a moment, as her hand jerked as if to rub at her eyes. Kara knew she’d been at LCorp since before six— knew that this type of extreme work schedule was normal for Lena. If she was Kara Danvers right now, she’d make sure Lena was at home and out of her stilettos before this type of conversation happened. But being Supergirl, she stayed still, trying not to think about how many hours of sleep Lena runs on in a week.
“And what if we’re not deserving of that?” Lena asked, and the tiredness was evident even in her voice now. “You may be National City’s darling, Supergirl, but I can assure you that I will bring nothing but bad news to a girl like Kara Danvers.”
“She’s told me about you before, you know.” Lena’s head tilted again. Kara had caught her attention. “She believes in you. In your goodness. She thinks that more than anything else, you deserve someone who cares about you. She wants to be that, if you’ll let her. And I know you’re worried about her, trust me, I know. But Kara thinks you need a friend, and when she really, truly believes in someone, nothing is capable of stopping her from being there.”
The room grew quiet, and Kara started to worry that she’d overstepped. It was a lot to throw at the other woman all at once, but she wanted to say it. Even if she and Lena weren’t at a place in their friendship where Lena would trust that Kara’s words were genuine, she hoped that speaking as Supergirl, at least, would prove something to her.
Kara could hear a hitch in Lena’s breathing, heard her swallow harshly and bite the side of her mouth as if to ward off an extreme reaction. They were imperceptible to any human, but Kara knew what she’d done.
(Her guilt grew— she’d come here to make things right, but instead she’d made Lena Luthor nearly cry in her own office.)
“I’m sorry,” she said, after Lena’s silence went on too long. When there was still no reply, she started rambling, unable to stop her nervousness from spilling out. “I shouldn’t have said all that. That was told to me in confidence, and here I go telling you. Kara’s going to be so embarrassed-”
“No! No. It’s fine,” Lena said, turning to face Supergirl fully now. Kara chose not to comment on the tight way she held her jaw. “I sometimes forget how ceaselessly kind Kara Danvers is. Towards a Luthor, no less.”
Supergirl nods, smoothing back into marble. “You seem deserving of it, Miss Luthor.”
“I hope so.”
They regarded each other in silence. Kara knew it was going to be impossible now to maintain a formal relationship with Lena while she was Supergirl, not after this. Alex had told her to keep her distance, but Lena was more than just a Luthor now, in the eyes of Supergirl and Kara both. How could Supergirl continue to stand there with her arms crossed and a passive look on her face after she learned how much Lena cared?
“I know that I don’t have any right to make demands, especially not with my last name,” Lena spoke up again. “But I want you to promise me that Kara Danvers won’t get hurt because of her conviction in me.”
“I told you, Miss Luthor,” Kara said. “She won’t be, not while I’m around.”
“Let me make myself clearer, then. Promise me that you’ll make her life the priority. Over mine if the situation arises.”
Lena was looking over at her as if she’d just laid out the terms and conditions of a simple transaction, a strategic business deal instead of what it really was: Lena tipping the scales, asking Kara not to save her, and to save… herself instead.
(It was incredibly noble. Ridiculous and concerning, and dangerously flippant of the value of her own life, but noble all the same.)
There were glaring flaws in the logic of Lena’s request, though she couldn’t be blamed for it. Kara couldn’t explain to her how impossible that scenario actually was. It seemed especially unwise to reveal her identity to Lena now, not after an entire day of agonizingly pivoting between her two disguises. It wouldn’t be funny; it would be cruel.
She’d allow Lena this— let her have this small victory, even if they both knew that Supergirl never put more value on one person’s life over others. But Lena didn’t need proof of Kara being the champion of the everyman, she needed peace of mind. She needed the weight of Kara’s life off of her shoulders.
“I promise,” Kara finally said, and she looked at Lena gravely enough that the CEO seemed to understand the hesitance over her request. “But make no mistake, Miss Luthor. I’ll be there to protect you, too. I don’t care about the bad blood between our families. You’re looking for a fresh start, and I don’t intend on letting your past get in the way.”
“Thank you,” she said, and after another beat passed, reached over and turned off her desk lamp. Lena stood up, gathering her things and sliding carefully into her bag. She stooped down under the table, resurfacing with her heels dangling from her fingers. “It’s getting late, and unfortunately I have a business trip to Metropolis early tomorrow morning. Anything in the skies that I should be worried about?”
It was remarkable how quickly Lena could pivot from threatening Supergirl about the well-being of Kara’s life to approaching her own with a sly smile and a roguish sense of humor. That type of humor was born from years of pain and betrayal, Kara knew, but she thought that Lena carried it beautifully.
(She shouldn’t have to. It seemed that Lena was an Atlas of her own design, much like herself. Kara couldn’t have imagined that such a stunning person would be holding up the horizon next to her.)
Supergirl walked over to Lena’s side of the desk towards the balcony, stopping and picking Lena’s coat up carefully by its shoulder seams. She raised an eyebrow in silent question, and didn’t miss the faint blush that colored Lena’s face when she nodded, and Kara helped her put her arms through the sleek fabric of the blazer.
“The weather looks perfect Miss Luthor,” she said, and praying that she didn’t scare Lena off, brushed off a piece of lint from Lena’s back. She wasn’t sure if it was her hand that was shaking or if it was a shiver that moved through Lena’s body. “You couldn’t ask for a better day to travel.”
“Let’s hope we don’t have a repeat of the last time I climbed into a helicopter,” Lena said, regaining her composure and grabbing her bag from the floor. She stood cast in the moonlight from the balcony windows, solitary and magnetically beautiful, as if from an Edward Hopper canvas, and Kara forced herself to not just freeze and stare. “As much as I enjoy your company, I’d prefer it under different circumstances.”
Kara began to excuse herself, walking steadily over to the open door and turning once she reached the edge of the terrace. “I’ll make sure your flight goes smoothly,” she said, and she couldn’t contain the playful little smile that grew on her face as she started to float herself, the tips of her boots just barely grazing the surface of the brick. Lena was taken by the casual display, Kara knew— a tiny gasp puffed from her mouth and she matched Kara’s grin. “Besides, you have nothing to worry about. Statistically, flying is still the safest way to travel.”
She flew off into the night with a wink and a wave, and if her heart was beating too fast to be considered normal, Kara chalked it off to the fact that her turns were a little too fast over downtown on the way home.
(Half a dozen hydrangeas were in Kara’s office the next morning. Eliza had taught her the meanings of flowers once. These were meant as a thank you. Gratitude for understanding. She sent Lena a simple heart emoji along with a mountain of suggestions for the best ice cream in town, and when Lena sent back a smiley face in response, her heart skipped again.)
Don't throw bouquets at me,
Don't please my folks too much,
Don't laugh at my jokes too much,
People will say we're in love!
Lena loved to do things like an office full of flowers: big, over the top gestures to show Kara her gratitude or her affection. Kara’s office was filled with flowers after she defended Lena during Lillian’s escape from prison, and the gifts didn’t stop there. For the next week, new bouquets were placed on every available surface until James started asking if she worked at a botanical garden on the side. She let him tease her with an easy smile; they had only just cleared the air over the Guardian news, and Kara had missed having a friend like him around.
When what seemed to be Holland’s entire supply of tulips showed up at the doorstep of her apartment, Kara had called Lena, laughing, and thanked her profusely but requested that Lena could just join her for game night if she wanted to thank her. That Friday night, Lena knocked at the door, holding a more modest arrangement of sunflowers, and Kara welcomed her inside. Alex’s mouth was still pinched and James kept his distance, but Kara deemed the night a success. In the span of a few hours, Lena won two games of Monopoly in a row and had managed to impress Winn, not that that was difficult to do. In Kara’s eyes it seemed like she belonged here, and could have all this time. It was seamless, and by the time she had slid into her town car at the end of the night, Lena was part of the group. At least, Kara thought so.
(Lena may have been raised learning that giving gifts was the best way to please, but really, she showed she cared most by just being there when Kara needed her.)
“Hey,” Kara said one night, where it had just been the two of them, eating a late dinner in the LCorp office. “Do you have any plans for the holidays?”
“A time-honored Luthor tradition, actually,” she replied, breaking open a fortune cookie with a concentration that Kara found impossibly endearing. The cookie split evenly, and Lena smirked, taking out the fortune and casting it aside without a glance. Of course Lena Luthor would ignore any part of the future that had been written out for her.
“Really? I didn’t know your family… was the holiday type.” Kara grimaced at the words, but Lena let out a chuckle, and it was a nice change from the usual caution she held when talking about the Luthors.
“Oh they’re not,” Lena said, and this time her laugh came out as more of a scoff. “No, the Luthor way is to open up a good bottle of wine and work through the night. Call me a Scrooge, but honestly, I get my best work done when I’m doing it out of spite.”
Kara had stopped mid-bite of her potsticker, her eyes widening as Lena talked so casually. It was like she didn’t realize how miserable her holidays sounded. “Wait. You really don’t do anything to celebrate?”
“I’ve no one to celebrate with,” Lena said, her smile too tight to be considered genuine. “My family’s either dead, in jail, or wants me in a grave. Not sure they’re worth sharing ham and potatoes with.”
“That’s not true,” Kara argued back automatically, before backtracking. “I mean, that last part’s true, about your family kinda being jerks, but it isn’t true that you don’t have anyone to share the holidays with.”
Lena was still laughing softly, but there was more pain behind it now. Her holiday routine obviously wasn’t something she enjoyed talking about. Maybe it was because she hated pity, hated feeling pathetic, had told Kara that much herself. “I didn’t mean to upset you with my less than exciting plans, Kara. I know how excited you are about these types of things.”
“No, Lena, I mean-”
“It’s okay, Kara. It’s better this-”
“Come to dinner with me!” Kara finally manages to yell, feeling her face burn red as Lena stops in the middle of her sentence, her mouth hanging open, halfway through a word that dropped unheard between them. “I mean,” she backtracks, realizing what she’s blurted out. “I host a holiday get-together at my apartment every year. A home cooked meal, gifts, eggnog, the whole thing. My adoptive mom, Eliza, usually brings way too much food, and Alex tells me it isn’t healthy to eat all the leftovers by myself. So you could swing by and bring an extra plate? Not that I don’t have enough plates! There will be cutlery provided. I… I’d love it if you came.”
Lena had remained still, her eyes widening and then glazing over sometime after Kara started talking about the food. She didn’t seem like she even knew Kara had stopped talking, she was thinking so hard, which Kara tried to be grateful for. If she had bored Lena that badly, then at least she hadn’t heard the bit about Kara asking her to bring her own utensils to the party.
“Sorry,” she felt compelled to say after the beat of silence dragged on. “You know what? This was a bad idea. Just- just forget I said anything. I know you’re a busy woman— gosh, you’re the CEO of the biggest company in the world! I’m sure you’d enjoy getting work done more than my silly little party.”
“You want me to come to your holiday dinner?” Lena asked, ignoring whatever rambling that had been spilling uncontrollably from Kara’s mouth. “With your entire family? Your mother?”
“Well, sure! I mean, it’s a pretty ragtag group. Most of the people coming don’t have places to go for the holidays either. There’s Alex and Eliza and me, obviously, but Jeremiah… hasn’t been around for a long time, so our holidays are different now. J’onn is Alex’s friend from work, and he and James and Winn don’t have family around.” Kara was counting on her fingers now, too busy thinking about who all RSVP'd to actually pay attention to Lena. “Maggie will be there, of course. Clark and Lois have their own thing in Metropolis, but Lucy said she might be in town, and Mon- Mike is supposed to be there too, but I haven’t seen him in a few days so who knows.”
“Sounds like a full apartment,” Lena pointed out, shrinking away. Her body seemed stiff and suspended in the air, her takeout forgotten. She’d broken one of the cheap chopsticks Kara had supplied her with, and fiddled with the splintered edge. “I can’t imagine you’d want another person hanging around.”
(It was reluctance, clear as day, and for Kara, who so exuberantly expressed herself, it was hard not to see it as a rejection. Was this what it was like to have someone turn you down? Not that she was asking Lena out! This was a friend’s dinner date, nothing more. Then again, it didn’t seem to matter at this point.)
“Lena,” she said gently, trying not to sound dejected. The other woman obviously was trying to figure out a way out of going, not that Kara could blame her. It had been a impulsive, stupid plan. Kara had just seen the way Lena was deflecting, refusing to appear lonely, and wanted to do something to show her friend she cared. “It’s okay if you don’t want to go. I understand that you have better things to do.”
If anything, Lena’s face only grew more panicked, and Kara wanted to slap herself. Everything that she was saying only made her seem worse, even if that wasn’t her intention. At best, she sounded pitiful, and at worst, passive aggressive and manipulative. Knowing Lena and her reluctance around their entire friendship, she’d assume the latter. After all, dozens of people were vying for the time and attention of someone like Lena, probably doing or saying whatever they had to in the process. Kara had never wanted to be seen by Lena as one of them.
But then Lena jerked out of whatever stupor she’d been stuck in, her hand darting out and forcibly grabbing Kara’s wrist. “No!” she gasped, her eyes still wide. The lunging movement caused a carton of fried rice to topple over onto the glass coffee table. While Kara leaned forwards to clean it up, Lena collected herself. “I’ve messed this all up, haven’t I? I’m not good at these types of things.”
“What do you mean?”
“I want to go, Kara. I’d love to. But doing this? Meeting the rest of your friends? Meeting your adoptive mom? I’ll only screw it up.” Lena sighed, walking a fine line between evasiveness and vulnerability. Though, it seemed like a losing battle, as Lena grew more honest by the second. “You’ve found a family for yourself all on your own, and that’s wonderful. Don’t feel like you need to include me in something you’ve worked so hard to build just because you feel sorry for me.”
“I don’t feel sorry for you,” Kara denied, even though Lena deserved more sympathy than most of National City combined. Of course learning about Lena’s life and everything that she’s been through was heartbreaking. Kara had always been an extremely empathetic person. But this wasn’t an act of mercy. “At least, not in the way you think I do. I want you to come because you’re my best friend. And I need backup now that Alex and Maggie have both decided to gang up on me.”
Lena had started to smile, thinking of the bullying that Kara would have to endure at the hands of the others. But once she remembered her full, messy history with Kara’s sister and her girlfriend, Lena’s face darkened.“I’m guessing you haven’t told anyone else about my invitation,” she guessed, and Kara’s guilty shrug proved it.
“What’s that got to do with it?”
“Because I know how much they love you and want what’s best for you, which is why I doubt they’ll be thrilled about a Luthor showing up to help hang up the tinsel or frost the cookies.”
“They’re just… protective,” Kara conceded, grimacing. She remembered how much pouting she had to do last time with Alex just to convince her to at least say a handful of sentences to Lena during the course of game night. “And I’ll admit, it took some of them a long time to come around about you. But I promise that they have. Besides, Eliza has only ever thought highly of you and your work. She’s amazing, even if Alex calls her overly affectionate, and I promise that she’s very excited to meet you.”
“Why on earth would your mother be excited to meet me? I didn’t realize she even knew I existed.” Lena’s voice had grown a little shrill again at the mention of Eliza.
It was Kara’s turn to stiffen now, the tips of her ears turning red as she hurriedly stuffed a potsticker in her mouth. “She says that I kinda… talk about you a lot, so. Probably that.” She swallows, missing the surprised, bashful smile that had grown on Lena’s face. “But see? We want you there, celebrating with us! No one’s gonna bite, and if they do, they’ll be the ones spending the holidays alone, not you.”
Lena was still smiling, likely at Kara’s sudden tough attitude about something as light hearted as a holiday party, but she still didn’t seem convinced. “I don’t know, Kara,” she said. “Seems like all I’ll be doing is creating tension. It’s the holidays, and I know how much you love this time of year. I want you to enjoy them.”
“Lena, that’s why I’m inviting you!” Kara said, as if it was the most obvious thing in the world. “You’re so fun to be around, and honestly, now that I know you, I can’t imagine the holidays without you.”
“That’s- that means a lot to me, Kara-“
“I’ve been trying to find the guts to invite you for the past two weeks, you know,” Kara admitted. It was true that Kara had been thinking about asking Lena about her holiday plans for a long time— really, since the time they became real friends. But the actual act of walking up to the woman that she knew for a fact was affluent and almost guaranteed to have prior commitments during this time of year, and having the gall to invite her to come to Kara’s cramped, exuberantly decorated apartment instead of some black tie affair? It was harder than it seemed, even if she had faced worse odds before.
“Really?” Lena asked, and while her smirk played her off as coy, Kara knew the truth in the way she sounded just a little bit breathless. Lena was surprised, and maybe even touched.
“Yeah, I was psyching myself up earlier in the lobby. Jess probably hates me even more than she did, with the way I was pacing and muttering.”
“Jess doesn’t hate you,” Lena dismissed, lying through her teeth. “She simply has trouble getting behind your abundance of energy, sometimes. Particularly in the morning.”
“It doesn’t matter anyways,” Kara said. “It’s just that… I just think you’re fantastic, Lena, and I wanted to let you know that you’re welcome with me, even if I assumed you’d be busy sipping cocktails at a gala somewhere. You being a ‘salacious heiress’ and all.” Kara was teasing, now, but she didn’t want to make her intentions unclear. “No pressure, okay? Just know that the offer will always stand.”
Lena just nodded. Normally, her silence would be interpreted by Kara as polite dismissal, Lena’s way of telling her that she wasn’t quite ready for something. It was how they’d set boundaries so far in their relationship, a sign that maybe Lena wasn’t quite ready for the affection that Kara was so used to giving to her friends. But this time, the quiet seemed more promising, helped along with the soft, easy smile that had grown on Lena’s face; her lack of response was only a delay, not a denial.
“Think about it, alright? I’ll keep my door open in case you decide to stop by.” Kara heard a telltale buzz from her phone, and knew that Alex needed something from her at the DEO. She stood and walked over to Lena abruptly, giving her a short but unexpected hug. Lena had barely gotten out of her chair in time, but she responded just the same, squeezing Kara’s shoulder like she always did. They had only just reached the spontaneous hugging phase, and maybe Kara was pushing the boundaries a little, but at the very least, she thought that Lena deserved to know that she was cared for, especially during the holidays.
Murmured goodbyes were exchanged, and soon Kara was out the door, whistling a cheery tune that she hoped would get Jess in a better mood. She should probably start buying that woman coffee, unless she wanted to endure her downright wintery glare well into the summer.
By the time the holidays and her party had actually rolled around, Kara was too busy hanging up glittering decorations and frosting cookies to fret over the state of her guest list. She didn’t even know if her own sister could make it— the DEO had been hectic over the past few days, and Alex was personally embroiled in a grueling case that, even once it was solved, required hours of paperwork. They hadn’t had much of a conversation other than Supergirl flying by, dropping off coffee and a kiss on the forehead to her older sister, who was stuck in her cramped office rather than out in the field.
A knock came on the door, when Kara was halfway between putting the ham into the oven and taking the last batch of cookies out, debating if she should just use her hands instead of trying to find the oven mitts that Alex had bought her as a gag. Joke or not, the embroidered puppies dancing up and down the fabric were adorable, and Kara used them just because she could.
“Just a second!” she called out in the direction of the door, knowing that the combination of her beeping oven and the loud Christmas music she had playing from a speaker would make anything she said hard to hear. It was friendly however— a courtesy, and it reminded her of afternoons in Midvale, being welcoming of whoever wandered to their back porch. It was a small town, after all. Eliza and Jeremiah knew the entire town, and were friends with what seemed like the whole county.
(Good practice, for a girl learning to appear All-American when she couldn’t be further from.)
She ended up jogging towards the door, opening it without glancing at who was standing on the welcome mat. Her glasses were dusted with flour, as was her hair and the topmost layer of her clothes. Kara was too preoccupied with trying to use a dish towel to clean her glasses to notice anything. Still, when she finally looked up and jumped what felt like five feet back, it felt like nothing could have prepared her for the sight in front of her.
Needless to say, Kara didn’t expect Lena to be the first one to show up.
She was an hour early in fact, there before even Eliza arrived, who usually was the first person anywhere, always willing to accept a cup of tea, roll up her sleeves, and help with whatever needed helping. Peeking over Lena’s shoulder, Eliza was nowhere in sight.
Lena was, however, very much there, standing in front of her with a giant bouquet of flowers, a very expensive looking handbag, and an outwardly frightened look on her face. Kara assumed that it was because she looked like the Abominable Snowman, and had just screamed a little at Lena’s surprise entrance.
“You came! And you’re here! Early!” Kara exclaimed, taking the bouquet with sugar coated fingers and watching as Lena jumped a little.
“Normal people don’t usually show up this early to social events, do they? I’m so sorry. Maybe this was a mistake.” Lena gulped and was halfway through the motion of turning around and catching the elevator when Kara reached out a hand and grabbed her elbow. A cloud of flour erupted from the point of contact, and Kara hoped that the sweater she had just ruined wasn’t ridiculously expensive.
“No no no! Lena, you’re fine, don’t leave!” Once Lena stopped shuffling her feet away from Kara’s open door, she let go of Lena’s sweater. “I can pay for your dry cleaning, by the way.”
“Kara,” she replied with a raised eyebrow, and that’s all she really needs to say. It was starting to become comical how many times Kara spaced out on the fact that Lena didn’t consider a dry cleaning bill to be even remotely important. “It’s just a sweater.” She looked back up and took a closer look at her surroundings, including the pitiful state of Kara’s appearance. “Is that… icing in your hair, or blood?”
Lena was only half joking, and Kara brought a hand up to her hairline, feeling something dried and sticky. She brought her fingers back to her mouth, and was relieved to taste something sweet. “I was frosting Santa cookies,” she explained, and Lena only nodded, eyes fixated on Kara’s fingers. Her cheeks were turning pink, and Kara cursed herself for forgetting her manners. Lena had probably never licked frosting off her hand ever in her life, and here Kara was doing it without even thinking.
“Anyway,” she continued forward when Lena offered no response. “I’m happy you’re here, really! My apartment is just a mess right now, and you’ve obviously already become a victim of me being covered in baking ingredients, and I just want things to be perfect. I’m sorry if I came off as not wanting you here, because I really, really do. Thank you for coming, by the way.”
That same slow smile that always showed up on Lena’s face when Kara was in the midst of a babble of words was beaming on her face in full force, and it did wonders to relax Kara. Lena may be wealthy and affluent, but she wasn’t snooty. She wouldn’t turn up her nose at the tacky decorations taped to the walls— she would want to help put them up, and probably make the entire setup more structurally sound. That was why her and Kara fit so well together.
“Don’t thank me for coming, Kara, not when it was you who so kindly invited me. I’m glad I’m here. Now,” she said, rolling up her sleeves and looking at Kara a little nervously for encouragement. “What can I do to help?”
“Well,” Kara said, looking around and trailing off long enough that Lena had to fight off a giggle. She wasn’t exaggerating when she said her apartment was a disaster— Supergirl had had fights with five aliens that caused less structural damage than this. “Only because you asked, let’s give you something to do. I would be a bad host if I bored you to death. How are your gift wrapping skills?”
(There was already a gift for Lena hidden away under Kara’s bed. Something about it made Kara want to wrap that one herself. It was special and Kara had agonized over what to get for weeks, and now that Lena had shown up, Kara would get the satisfaction of delivering it in person.)
“It’s just math, right? I can handle some simple geometry,” Lena said, a teasing lilt to her voice that assured Kara that she was becoming less anxious by the second. If she could make sure Lena felt even a sliver of the love and pride that Kara had for her, then hopefully the holidays wouldn’t be so bad for Lena.
(Hopefully, if all went well, Kara would get to spend many, many more holidays with her.)
“Alright, Pythagoras. Let’s see what you got.” Kara whacked a smirking Lena on the head with a tube of wrapping paper, and then crossed over to the radio. She turned up the holiday music, already singing along, and got back to her cookie situation.
Somehow, with Lena here, the hours passed quickly, without Kara checking the clock or fighting off the illogical fear that no one would want to spend the holidays with her. Lena was here, and that was all Kara needed. They worked in easy, companionable silence, and Kara nearly forgot that there were other people invited.
That is, until Eliza came bustling through the unlocked door and Kara could hear Lena gasp even through the overwhelming sound of the mixer.
“Kara, honey? Come help me with these bags, will you?” Eliza was making her way towards the kitchen half blind, huffing and puffing and barely holding onto a towering pile of grocery bags that blocked her vision. She didn’t see Lena at all in the living room corner— though the fact that the younger woman had practically shrunk into the carpet helped. “Lord knows that you should be the one carrying all the bags, seeing as I’ve seen you lift an entire-”
“Eliza!” Kara cried out, cutting her off just in time with a quick peck on the cheek and whisking her away before she could accidentally spoil Kara’s biggest secret. “Let me make you some coffee. Oh!” she calls out over the steaming pot, feigning surprise even if there was no way she could ever forget about Lena, getting shakily to her feet. “There’s someone I’d like you to meet. Believe it or not, you aren’t the first person to arrive for the holidays this year.”
“That’s nice dear,” Eliza says distractedly, wrangling her way out of the very long and very thick scarf that Kara had knit for her two winters ago. “I’m glad you’ve had some company. I know how lonely you tend to get during-”
She stopped once she realized that said company was very much there in the room and that the person Kara wanted her to meet was Lena Luthor, who was wringing her hands behind her back but mustering up the most polite smile she could manage.
The room stilled, and Kara honestly couldn’t imagine who had a more embarrassing face— her, with her ears flaming red at Eliza’s casual hinting at of something extremely private and sensitive, Eliza, who was staring open mouthed at this new woman, or Lena, who was hovering between raw terror and the professionalism that had been hammered into her from a young age. The result was a nervous grimace of a smile, and her eyes kept flitting between Eliza and Kara, lingering on the way Kara was clearly not handling this interaction well either.
“Mom, this is Lena. Lena, this is my adoptive mom, Eliza Danvers.” Kara gestured between the two of them weakly and held her breath. Eliza wasn’t suspicious or outwardly hostile towards people like Alex was, but she was fiercely protective. Kara knew without a doubt that Eliza raised her as one of her own, which meant that she would dole out judgements as she saw fit. Though there was no reason to dislike Lena for anything other than her last name, Kara was aware of just how good the name of Luthor was at bringing out people’s base instincts.
She knew Eliza was kind down to every bone in her body, and she really needed that goodness to shine if the night was to go smoothly.
“Lena Luthor?” Eliza asked. She didn’t say Lena’s name the way most people did. There was still weight behind it, an acknowledgement of sorts of how significant of a name it was, but there was no malice. In fact, there was nothing other than thinly masked enthusiasm, and if Kara didn’t know any better she’d wonder if Eliza and Lena had already met before.
“Hello, Dr. Danvers. Kara has told me so much about you,” Lena said, stilted but not insincere.
“Kara, don’t you realize who this is?” Eliza asked, spinning towards her daughter, and the room froze once again, until it was broken by Eliza practically squealing with excitement. Kara blinked, taking in the scene in disbelief. Her mother did not get this visibly passionate about anything, ever, except for…
“This is the woman who’s going to cure cancer!” Eliza finished with a proud, beaming smile, as if Lena had just gotten her spelling test pinned up on the refrigerator. She strode forward and extended a hand to Lena, who took it gratefully. She looked somewhere past shock and further towards shyness, but she had a tiny smile on her face as well. Eliza shook her hand with both of her own, and held on as she looked Lena in the eye. “Please, call me Eliza. I’ve read at least a dozen of your papers, and I’d read them all if I had any hope of understanding them. Maybe Kara has told you, but my specialty in bio-engineering, and I was amazed when I heard about your work on regenerative healthy tissue. It could change chemotherapy and radiation recovery forever.”
“Thank you, Dr. Danvers. I’m flattered by the compliment, but I’m afraid that I’m not that impressive. Most of my work resides in the theoretical side of things, not practical.” Lena snuck a glance at Kara, who was grinning at the both of them. She’d always had to pretend not to understand much whenever Lena talked about science, but now that Eliza was here, Lena could really bounce her ideas off of someone.
“Nonsense!” Eliza argued back. “Your ideas are what matter, and take it from a woman who’s been in the field for a long time— they truly are remarkable. You are a bright young mind, and I have a feeling you’re going to change the world.”
“For the better, I hope.”
“I have no doubt about that,” Eliza mused, giving Lena one last kind smile before turning to Kara. “She’s wonderful. You’ve really lucked out this time, I think,” she said with a wink, and because it was loud enough that Lena heard and had to fight off another blush, Kara had no doubt that it was intentional. Eliza had always had a way of making sure everyone felt welcome for who they were, and if she could raise an alien, Lena Luthor would be a part of the family by the time the ball dropped on New Years.
“Enough talk!” Eliza said, clapping her hands and jerking Kara out of her strange haze of humility and affection towards her adoptive mother. “I’ll have to save my questions for later, Lena dear.” Lena was in a trance of her own, made worse by Eliza’s term of endearment, but she managed a dazzling smile anyway. “First, I need to make sure someone doesn’t have to call the fire department when they cook the turkey.”
“One time!” Kara grumbled, trailing after her and doing her best to look offended even if that comment brought an easy laugh slipping out of Lena’s mouth. “That was one time. And now you have to bring it up every year?”
“All part of a mother’s duty, I’m afraid.” Eliza batted her hand away from the dwindling pile of unfrosted cookies, and sent her across the kitchen. “Now start cutting up the potatoes before I show your new friend some of my favorite photos of you and your sister growing up.”
“That’s blackmail, Eliza!” Kara gasped, pretending to be shocked. She dutifully stood next to the cutting board anyway, but looked over at Lena, who was still idling over by the front door. “Lena, back me up here!”
“Don’t be a baby, Kara.” Lena’s shoulders seemed to finally lose their rigidity, and at Kara’s silent invitation, she joined her by the potatoes. “Besides,” she said, just loud enough for Kara to hear. “If we’re comparing felony offenses, I think that my mother has yours beat.”
(Normally, Kara wouldn’t laugh at that. But this was Lena Luthor whispering in her ear. Lena Luthor, who always laughed freely at the worst of Kara’s puns, was never in too bad of a mood to at least smile at Kara’s crazy, endearing antics, and who had the most wicked sense of humor. The more she got to know her, and the more times that Lena lowered her inhibitions around her, the more Kara realized that Lena Luthor could make any joke in the world, and Kara would laugh, simply because it was her.)
Lena’s eyes were twinkling, and she had a proud, satisfied little smirk on her face like she knew she had just beat Kara to a punchline, and Kara couldn’t help it. She laughed suddenly, snorted really, in such an unexpected and genuine way that Eliza turned around with a raised brow.
“Kara Danvers,” she teased, as Kara tried to contain the rest of her giggles. “I haven’t heard you laugh like that since you were little.” She studied the two of them now, watched the way Lena jostled Kara with her hip, how Kara threatened to smear more frosting on Lena’s sweater. There was a glint in her eye suddenly, like she knew something they didn’t.
“I’m so happy you’re joining us for the holidays, Lena,” she finished, putting the turkey in the oven with that same quirk of her lips. “I hope that this will be the first of many.”
(Eliza liked her. Kara knew that, and more importantly, she thought that Lena understood that too. Kara had also been nervous for Lena and Eliza to meet, for some reason. Lena was a friend. But she was her best friend, and best friends need to get along with extended family, right? That must have been it.)
The others joined the festive atmosphere one by one, but any negativity or open antagonism towards Lena led by Alex or James was warded off by the sheer intensity of Eliza’s warmth, so much so that Kara doubted whether or not Lena even picked up on the hint of tension in the air. Her and Eliza sat across from each other during dinner and stayed there long after, heads bowed and discussing the gritty, technical details of both of their work. Kara observed, still a little nervously, from her perch on the couch, her eyes straining to catch Lena’s face light up enough times that Alex smacked her with a pillow.
“Chill out, Kara,” Alex said, her voice tumbling and loose like she was half ways towards being drunk. Maggie was by her side, and for two members of law enforcement who Kara had argued with over the Luthor family, they seemed unbothered by Lena’s presence. Kara wasn’t sure if she should thank the alcohol or make sure that it wasn’t drugged, because Alex never welcomed newcomers with open arms. “If you crane your neck much further, there won’t be a chiropractor on the planet that will be able to fix it.”
“I don’t know what you’re talking about,” Kara evaded, bringing her attention back to her handful of Uno cards as if her sister hadn’t just caught her red-handed. She nodded towards Alex’s stack of cards, which made up at least half of the deck. “You’re the one that should be keeping your eyes on the prize.”
Her sister rolled her eyes as Maggie snorted on the other side, entirely unhelpful. “You know I prefer poker. Besides, at least I’m not trying to eavesdrop from across the apartment.”
“I am not eavesdropping!” Kara protested. Across the table, she saw Winn try to sneak some of his cards under the table, as if that would hide the fact that just like Alex, he was dismal at Uno. She sent a raised eyebrow his way, and Winn blushed scarlet, mumbling a curse and taking more cards from the pile as penance. “I’m just… being a good host, is all. I want to make sure that everyone enjoys the night.”
“If you’re worried about Luthor not having a good time, I wouldn’t be,” Maggie piped up. “I heard from a buddy that works security that she isn’t much of a partier, despite what the tabloids think. He said that she even leaves her own events early.”
“Yeah,” Alex agreed. “I can’t believe that I’m the one trying to reassure you about Lena Luthor, but what really matters is that she showed up, and she’s still here. And,” she added, looking over at Eliza, who had brought out a piece of scratch paper and was watching Lena sketch something out, completely enraptured. “Somehow, mom is as obsessed as you are-”
“-not obsessed! We’re friends!”
“Whatever you say. But you know mom. If we let her, she’ll talk about science until she runs out of oxygen. Not that I can blame her actually. Like it or not, Lena Luthor is a genius, and I would love to pick her brain.”
Kara couldn’t decide if that was a veiled threat or a begrudging compliment, but she cautiously chose to assume the latter. “Admit it: you don’t hate her. She’s smart, and cool, and funny, and not to mention badass, and she is so determined-”
“Jesus, Kara, I’m not going to give her the Medal of Honor,” Alex interrupted, as Maggie leaned forwards and gave Kara a strange, hard to define look, like Kara had just perked her interest. “You’re right. I don’t hate her—” she held up her hand and silenced Kara before she could begin to celebrate— “But that doesn’t mean I like her, either. I still don’t trust her…”
“Alex,” Kara warned, not wanting to get into this fight on a night that was supposed to be free of conflict.
“I’m your big sister. I’m supposed to watch your back. Sorry, but it’s gonna take more than one turkey dinner and your optimism to convince me that Lena is nothing like her family. But… you care about her, and she’s going to be around whether I like it or not, so I’m learning to deal.”
She crossed her arms as she finished, and Kara was just impressed that she cut herself off before it spun into a full-blown lecture. It wasn’t the answer that she wanted, but she knew that it was the best that Alex could give right now. It was enough, at least, for the holidays.
It was enough to know that the family she’d found when she first came to Earth was open to Kara finding another person to add to it.
(Later, when everybody else had left and Eliza elected to use Alex’s spare room instead of Kara’s couch, Kara gave Lena her gift. It was just a photo album, leather bound and not yet broken in. It was mostly empty, too, though Kara had managed to sneak in a few photos that she’d been collecting over the past few months. The intention wasn’t to prove that they had such a special relationship already— it was Kara’s way of telling Lena that she’d like to. Kara would fill up that entire album with memories, as long as Lena wanted her to.
Something about the way that Lena carefully paged through it and cradled it against her chest with a small, hopeful smile made Kara think that Lena would like nothing more.
She told Kara years later that it was the best gift that she’d ever received, that the jewelry and the riches and the other tokens handed to her by the elites wanting to gain her favor meant nothing to that album.
They’d only filled it up about halfway before everything came crashing down around them.)
Meeting Lillian was a different matter altogether.
Kara had met Lena’s mother before, of course; being Supergirl meant that she and the leader of CADMUS, reformed or not, crossed paths often. Lillian… was one of the scariest threats Kara had ever faced— she had robbed Kara of her powers and stolen her blood, was responsible for Jeremiah’s disappearance and for the creation of Metallo, and had captured the people that Kara loved on more than one occasion, her own daughter included.
Perhaps most terrifying of all was the fact that Lillian Luthor knew who she was. Lillian knew that Kara Danvers— meek, unassuming reporter and her daughter’s best friend, was an alien, was Supergirl.
What was worse was the fact that Lillian knew, yet she didn’t tell Lena. Instead she bore witness to the worst lie that Kara had ever told, and waited for it to blow up in Kara’s face.
(“Eventually… she’ll find out that you’ve been lying to her all this time,” Lillian had told her in the Fortress of Solitude, the look in her eyes cold even to Kara, eyes that calculated and schemed and knew the best ways to hurt someone. “And when she does? She’ll hate you for it.”)
Lena not knowing Kara’s secret while her mother did complicated every interaction Kara had with the two of them together, which is why Kara Danvers had never met Lillian in any way. She preferred it that way— every second that Supergirl spent with Lillian was already unbearable, and it would be no different as Kara Danvers, especially with Lillian sending her cruel, knowing gazes and making innocent comments that Lena brushed off but cut Kara deep.
Besides, it wasn’t like Lena wanted Lillian and Kara in the same room together; her mother was a homicidal maniac who had hurt people for lesser reasons than to get under the skin of her daughter, and as always, Lena felt a need to protect Kara from that part of her life. Lillian wasn’t the Thanksgiving dinner type. Kara knew that, and both she was perfectly fine with it.
Kara had assumed that she would never personally meet Lillian Luthor, but then… Morgan Edge happened. Edge showed up and spat on Lena’s name, tried to sabotage her reputation, and nearly succeeded in getting her killed. He was a despicable, pitiful excuse for a human being, and worst of all in her eyes, he was obsessed with causing pain. Kara would’ve flung him into the ocean herself if she didn’t have a moral code to uphold.
Which was why, in a strange way, Kara understood why Lillian Luthor came out of hiding to try and get revenge on the man who was harming her daughter.
Lena and Lillian’s relationship was a complicated one, and Kara knew that even that was an incredible understatement. It was a constant battle between the two of them, and one of contrast. Lena hated Lillian, had been cast aside by her, had spent years knowing that she would never be the favorite, and yet she still craved her approval. And Lillian was the same way. She was a monster, and had never been a good mother to Lena, but in her own way, she did care for her. At least enough to protect her from someone like Morgan Edge.
Fortunately for Edge, her idea of protection was his murder, something that Kara felt obligated to prevent no matter how much she hated him.
Lena helped Kara like always. They went to Edge’s party together, Lena wearing a gorgeous dress that Kara found herself unable to look away from. And then Lillian showed up in an old Lexosuit prototype and Kara leapt into action, slipping away from Lena amidst the chaos and putting a stop to the attack as Supergirl. By the time she had flown back to the ground and hurriedly changed back into her dress and heels, Lillian had been handcuffed by Lena and was being collected by the NCPD.
Later, as Lillian was hauled away, she paused by Kara’s side, who was still trying to tame her hair and wrestle her glasses on without breaking them. Kara looked around with a sinking feeling for Lena, and breathed a sigh of relief when she found her in the corner, giving a statement to the police and not noticing the fact that her mother was face to face with her best friend.
“I finally know one good thing that will come from my daughter being so close to you,” Lillian said, and Kara drew in a breath, knowing that whatever was coming was meant to sting. “Lena thinks she is better than the rest of us because she loves people. Because she believes in people’s ability to be good and kind and honorable. She believes in liars like you. ”
“Lena is better than the rest of you,” Kara replied quietly, refusing to draw attention to herself but also refusing to back down. “And it isn’t because of what she believes, or who she loves. It’s because of who she is— she is the best of everything that she hopes people to be.”
Lillian narrowed her eyes and scoffed, and Kara knew that her words held very little weight when the nature of her secret lay between them. “You two deserve each other,” she concluded at last, giving Kara one last once over. “We both know that this can’t last forever, and when it comes crashing down… well. You’re going to break each other’s hearts.”
She was escorted away by two officers after that, being guided into the back of a squad car still with that cold, haughty smirk on her face, like she knew what those parting words meant and what they did to Kara. A terrible, confident theory; it wouldn’t be Lillian who dealt the worst blow to Lena, or Morgan Edge, or even Lex, but Kara.
(It was the thought that someday and sometime soon, Lena would put Kara’s name next to theirs that killed.)
“Hey,” Lena said, reaching her side and sounding a little breathless. The hem of her dress had a scorch mark in it, and her hair had lost its polished look, but Lena still looked beautiful. They watched the police pull away together, and Lena took a deep breath and let the tension bleed out of her shoulders. When she turned back towards Kara, she looked so young and trusting that Kara wanted to cry. No one could ever deserve someone like Lena, and Kara was starting to realize that she didn’t either. “Are you alright? I got so caught up in trying to stop my mother that I lost you in the confusion.”
“Everything’s great,” Kara answered from beneath a lump in her throat, because everything that Lillian said was true. Lena smiled across at her like she was everything decent in this world, and Kara didn’t even have the courage to tell her that she was hedging her bets on the wrong person. She wasn’t even from this world, but Lena took her arm and got them each a flute of champagne and Kara knew she had to keep on pretending. This was her best friend in the world, and Kara would play the part for as long as she could.
(She should have realized then that it was a tragedy being written for the two of them.)