Like it always happened –what with her superspeed and all– she saw everything happen in slow motion. Except, she wasn’t up to the full extent of her capabilities, mostly due to the kryptonite bullet currently lodged on her shoulder. Still, Kara could see in detail the way Lena’s facial features constricted as the sound of gunshot reverberated through the closed-in space they found themselves in. For a fraction of a second she thought it was the kryptonite itself that made Lena’s eyes shine a bright green. Then, contrary to the last slowed down second, nearly too fast, and that was saying something, the cry of pain that accompanied those facial features made Kara’s heart almost jump out of her chest, bullet almost forgotten.
“Lena!” She screamed in alarm, like the woman hadn’t just shot her with the only thing that could penetrate her skin and make her feel like her blood was boiling and her entire body was on fire.
“Kara!” Lena moaned in pain, gun falling as her hands came up to press both sides of her head, knees bending and hitting the ground. “No!” She shrieked, a pained sound following, then a scream.
In the span of a second Kara could feel all sorts of emotions coursing through her: worry, realization, joy, confusion, panic.
For the last few months she had tried to convince herself on all sorts of things: that she felt certain things and didn’t feel certain others, that she was doing the right thing, that her choices were for the best, that some people deserved another chance… All in all, the only certainty she had always had was that Lena was good. Ever since she had flown to her apartment after trying to fix the past, all Kara had been waiting for was for Lena to walk into a room, any room at any time, and tell her she was right. Right in telling her all those things –hurtful things– and making her see reason. Of course, she felt a little full of herself just for that thought alone, that expectation. She knew she had gone about things the wrong way, but she wasn’t perfect, and pride was one of her many faults. She supposed that didn’t make her that much different to any human, and she supposed, it was one of the things she and her best friend had in common. Well… or former best friend, she couldn’t be sure. So imagine her surprise when, the next time she saw her, her probably-not-best-friend-at-the-moment was aiming a gun at her, accompanied with the familiar excruciating burn of kryptonite. She had felt dread forming on her chest like lead weight and falling down all through her stomach, too shocked to feel anything else, too shocked to react.
“Finally we meet again, supergirl.” Lena had said. “Surprised to see me like this? Thought I would come crying to your arms begging for forgiveness?” The smile that adorned her face was the most vicious Kara had yet seen on her, hateful, vengeful, disgusted. It reminded her of another Lena from a parallel universe.
“L-Lena?” Was all she had managed to get out, too stunned for anything else.
“I knew you’d come, always hoping for the best. You’re so full of yourself! Thought I’d see things your way? Lie down at your feet and do anything to get back to your good graces! Let you manipulate me all over again! Let you pretend to be my friend just to keep a close eye on me!” There were actual tears in her eyes, threatening to roll down her cheeks. “Well, guess what? I am actually here to end this farce once and for all!” Her hand had risen, then, allowing her to feel that burn.
“Lena, please!” She had raised her hands, reaching out. “What is going on? This isn’t you!” She could feel tears forming in her eyes as well, clouding her vision a little.
“Isn’t me? You don’t know the first thing about me! I’m a villain, right?” A scornful laugh had felt like a dagger to her heart. “Surely not the girl you thought you’d befriended. Although, I got to give it to you, you are an exceptionally good actress. You are a kind, beautiful soul.” She mocked. “I really fell for it for a hot second.”
“Lena…” Kara felt her voice trembling, her hands, her legs.
“I’m done playing these games.” Lena lifted her chin up, raising her gun. “After I take care of this, the world will be a better place. No one will want to hurt another being, humanity will be at peace, and there will be no need for heroes.” A frown had formed between her eyes, then, and the hand holding the gun hesitated for a second, a short second that Kara thought she had imagined.
She saw the finger press the trigger, saw as the bullet sped towards her, thought about that time, in a parallel universe, where something exactly like this happened, when she let herself be hurt by another version of Lena, the only person she knew she wouldn’t be able to fight, to hurt back. She never thought it would actually come to this…
Kara rushed towards her, the pain in her body slowing her down. Lena was lying on the floor, her body contorted in pain, the scream coming out of her piercing through the heroine almost as strongly as the kryptonite coursing through her veins.
“Lena! Lena, please!” She felt helpless. She knew, something was making Lena do this, and now torturing her, something she didn’t know how to fight.
“Stay away from her.” A familiar voice warned. Kara turned around to see Lex Luthor smiling.
She stood up as fast as she could, clenching her fists and powering through her pain.
“Stop this! Whatever this is! Right now!”
“Oh, this is just minor inconvenience; my little sister will finish her task.” He sounded amused.
Behind her, Lena had stopped screaming and stood up, gun aiming at Kara once again, eyes shining bright green. Except, her face was still contorted in pain, all mockery and malice from before gone.
“What are you doing to her?” Kara whispered, afraid.
“Me?” He gasped, bringing a hand to his chest. “My sister’s a genius, this is all her doing!” He laughed. “Her emotional intelligence, on the other hand… Well, let’s just say she’s very easy to steer once you learn to push the right buttons.”
Kara reached for his neck, the anger coursing through her taking control, but she was weakened, and with a quick punch to her face, Lex sent her flying a few feet, landing her on the ground, right at Lena’s feet. She pointed the gun down, right at her face, and Kara could see her hand shaking, tears rolling down her face and spilling down her jaw.
“This is harder than I thought.” Lex said almost to himself. “What are you waiting for, Lena? She lied to you for years! Pretending to be your friend, waiting for you to make a wrong move to prove that you’re a villain! She’s hurt you so much!”
Kara felt her own lips trembling. She felt so guilty, and though she had tried to reason that Lena was responsible for her own actions, she had still not been able to forgive herself for hurting her friend, for fooling herself into believing she was protecting her when all she was actually doing was hurting her and deceiving her, just like every other person in her life.
“Don’t you want people to stop hurting each other?” He went on. “She is the only thing in the way of that! Of all of this coming true!”
Lena’s hand kept shaking, and the tears kept on flowing down. Kara reached up, her hand holding Lena’s on the gun. The brunette screamed once again, falling to the ground and holding onto her head.
“No!” She whimpered. “Stop! Stop, please!”
“Lena!” Kara cried, crawling towards her and holding onto her arms. She kept crying out in agony, now twisting on the floor, begging incoherently from the pain.
“Get up!” Lex screamed. “Hurt her!”
“Stop this! You’re hurting her!” Kara cried, desperate. She had never in her life felt more helpless and scared. Her friend was crying out in pain right in front of her and there was nothing she could do.
“You must do as I command! Kill her!”
As he said this, Lena’s eyes rolled to the back of her head, which flew back against the ground with a harsh blow.
“No!” Kara screamed, hurting her throat. She got up, fire in her veins forgotten, and grabbed Lex by the neck, lifting him from the ground. “Stop this right now! Or I swear to God!” She couldn’t tell the difference between the burning kryptonite and the blinding rage coursing through her veins.
His eyes veered towards his sister on the ground, something akin to fear in them.
“This –is not –possible.” He gritted out.
Kara couldn’t stand the pain, and her friend’s agony made her legs shake. She couldn’t control her tears, her anger, the fear taking over everything.
Glass from a window next to the roof broke, J’onn flying through it.
“Supergirl!” He screamed.
Kara pushed Lex back, right at the martian, who caught him deftly by the arms and immobilized him. She was by Lena’s side in a second, but her friend kept twisting and screaming in agony.
“Make it stop!” Kara wailed, shaking and crying. She gathered her friend in her arms, but she didn’t react, her mind elsewhere.
“What are you doing to her?” J’onn cried in shock. Lex actually cackled.
“My stupid little sister can’t even hurt her! So much for supergirl breaking her heart!”
Kara was sobbing by now, the physical pain and the hurt from those words making her feel like she was about to pass out.
“W-wake up, Lena…” Sound started to feel farther and farther away, but she held on tightly to the shaking body in her arms. She could faintly hear other people rushing in, screaming her name and then Lena’s, who suddenly stopped moving, body going slack. In alarm, she made an extraordinary effort into channeling what little force she had left to search for the sound of Lena’s heart, and once she found it, in relief, she felt her own body go slack as well, everything around her going black.
Kara woke up with a jolt, sitting up in what seemed like a hospital bed. Straining her ears, she searched for it once again, Lena’s heartbeat, and felt her own heart come down from her throat to its rightful place once she found it. She was there in a second, finding her unconscious friend in a gurney, looking pale but alive, a slight frown between her eyes.
“Lena…” She whispered, hand coming up to briefly ghost over her hair. She used her x-ray vision to check on her head, remembering the sound it made as it repeatedly hit the ground. There was nothing visibly hurt.
“Kara!” She heard her sister’s surprised words from behind her.
“Alex! Is she –how is she? And where’s Lex? What happened?” She rushed out.
“You should be in bed.” Her sister rested her hands on Kara’s arms, trying and failing to move her even an inch. She sighed. “Lena’s fine. We ran a few scans and there seems to be no brain damage, although we can’t be certain until she wakes up, which she hasn’t yet.”
Kara closed her eyes and took a deep breath. Brain damage… that couldn’t happen. Not to a mind as bright as Lena’s, that would be a crime. She felt her gut twist.
“Where’s Lex? And what did he do to her?” She gritted through her teeth.
“Well, it seems as though he used Lena’s creation against her or something of the sort.” She frowned. “We’re still not sure, but… from what we’ve gathered…” She grimaced.
“What? Just say it!” She whisper-shouted.
“He tried to mind-control Lena into killing you.”
“So I’ve heard.” Kara nodded impatiently, motioning for her sister to continue.
“Well, it seems she fought against it and it nearly destroyed her mind.” Alex glanced at the unconscious body on the bed, a look between pity and guilt.
“That… that… motherfucker!” Kara let out, surprising even herself. Alex’s eyes were bulging out of their sockets. “Where is he?”
“He’s in custody at the FBI. Apparently, before trying to make Lena do this, he tested it out on civilians and aliens at a secret lab right below where we found you.”
Kara pinched the bridge of her nose, taking a deep breath and turning away from her sister and towards Lena.
“Can you… I want… would you mind leaving me alone?” She whispered.
“Let me just check her vitals and then I’ll…” she made a hand gesture. Kara nodded, going to stand in the corner of the room. “You should also rest, Kara… The sun lamp –“
“Maybe later.” Kara interrupted.
“Alex. Not now.” She grunted.
Her sister pursed her lips and frowned, clearly hesitant.
“You know, this isn’t your fault…”
“I left her alone to deal with that monster after I hurt her so much…”
“I went out on that stupid date while my friend was being manipulated by a psychopathic abuser!” She felt tears threatening to spill and turned around, back hunched as her hands rested at the foot of Lena’s bed. “Please Alex, just leave me here alone. I need this.” She whimpered.
She heard footsteps retreating and allowed the tears to flow; back trembling with sobs she tried to keep quiet. It was true, she regretted it all. She regretted thinking someone as vulnerable and hurt as Lena could take some tough love and learn from it, when in actuality all she should have done was sit down with her and explain how much she cared, even if Lena was being unreasonable. For all the times she had lied, right to her face, made James spy on her, say hurtful things to her as supergirl and then act like nothing was wrong as Kara Danvers… she realized how fucked up that actually was. She was selfish, not daring to own up to her actions, to come clean, until it was too late, until the damage was too big to pass it up as just one mistake. The truth was, lies had snowballed, and even though she knew now that there was never a right time to speak, she wondered why she could never just do right by Lena. Maybe if she had hugged her, told her how much she meant to her…
“I should have been there for you.” Kara whispered, daring to hold onto Lena’s right hand. “I’m sorry…”
She grabbed a nearby chair and sat down next to the gurney, watching Lena in what seemed like a troubled dream, her brow furrowing deeper and eyes moving side to side behind her eyelids. She looked so small… Kara thought it was the first time she had ever seen her without any make up, she was pale and there were deep dark circles under her eyes. Still, her skin was perfect, marble-like, unblemished. She couldn’t believe how things had gone down… a few months ago they were so happy and whenever Kara thought about telling her the truth, she knew things would never be the same. The underlying fear of losing her friend forever sometimes kept her up at night, but she had never thought she could actually lose her. At worst, she imagined keeping up with Lena on the news, through common friends or even spying on her just to check that she was ok, but actual physical harm, life threatening harm… She would do everything in her power to see Lex brought to justice. She remembered her hands around his neck while Lena was in pain and thought about how close she had been to just squeezing too tight. The desperation she felt then was so alike to what she had felt when Alex was trapped inside that tank, water going up, slowly bringing her closer and closer to death. She could almost feel Lena’s lifeless body falling onto her arms; hear the silence as her heart stopped beating. She didn’t realize tears were once again falling down her cheeks, wetting her chest and arm. She tried to focus on the sound of Lena’s actual beating heart right next to her, but instead felt her chest constricting, heaving, air not reaching her lungs. She got up from her chair on wobbly legs that threatened to give out, and suddenly there were hands holding her up.
“Supergirl! Kara!” Nia was struggling with Kara’s weight, but helped her down onto the chair once more with J’onn’s sudden help.
He pressed a hand to her chest.
“Just breathe, in and out, slowly; in through your nose, out through your mouth.” He instructed.
She tried to follow, slowly feeling the air reach her lungs. Nia’s left hand was on her shoulder while her right one delicately wiped tears from her face and chin. Kara couldn’t meet their eyes. She felt embarrassed, guilty, angry, all sorts of things.
“She’s going to be okay…” Nia whispered, her voice laced with concern.
Except, they couldn’t possibly know that. Alex had said they couldn’t discard brain damage until Lena woke up. And then there was her emotional state; after everything she had been through, to be used by her brother with apparently her own invention to turn her into a murderer… who knew how long it would take for Lena to recover from that.
“Are you ok?”
“Yeah… thanks.” She answered automatically, turning her face to look away from them.
“I think you should rest under the sun lamps for a while –“J’onn started.
“I’m not leaving.” She interrupted.
He sighed and nodded, knowing there was no use in arguing with her right now.
“I think you should know Lex Luthor is under FBI custody. Before all of this, it seems he experimented on humans, making them hurt aliens and do terrible things to test the extent of his mind controlling device.” When she didn’t say anything, he concluded. “We still don’t understand how Lena was able to fight it, but he tried to have her kill you and failed.”
“She shot me.” Kara finally looked up and met his eye. “But as soon as she did, it seems like she was trying to take control of her actions. Then… she s-started screaming…” She took a deep breath. “And when Lex ordered her to kill me it just got worse, her eyes rolled back…” She couldn’t continue speaking without breaking down again.
“I see…” He seemed to be lost in thought for a moment. Kara raised her hand to rest atop Nia’s on her shoulder and squeezed it in gratitude.
“Well… it seems like her mind was somehow rejecting her brother’s commands.” J’onn reasoned.
“How did you stop him?”
“I didn’t. Perhaps she stopped it all by herself.” He frowned.
Kara turned her head to look at Lena still lying on the gurney. She was a genius after all, if there was a mind powerful enough to fight off mind control, maybe it was hers.
“Can I at least bring you water and something to eat? You look like you need it.” Nia interrupted.
“Okay.” Kara tried to smile, but it came out like a grimace. She didn’t know if she could eat at all right now, but her throat did felt dry and hoarse.
“I thought about scanning her mind.” J’onn spoke once Nia was out of the room. “But I think her brain has gone through enough already.”
“I just hope… there are no sequels.” She looked up at him, unsure of what his answer may be, and also scared to hear it.
“We can’t be sure, the brain’s a delicate thing… and I can’t imagine the effort she must have put into fighting Lex’s commands.”
Kara rubbed her face with both palms.
“Can you… may I be left alone?”
He seemed to hesitate saying something for a moment, but thought better of it and nodded.
“You should get some rest.” He said as parting.
After drinking the water bottle Nia brought and asking her to leave, Kara once again placed her chair by Lena’s bed, this time closer, and rested her right cheek next to Lena’s right hand. It felt a little warmer, Lena’s breathing was calmer and it gave her just the tiniest bit of comfort that she felt herself drifting off. A while later she woke up when Alex came to check Lena’s vitals once more, failing to make Kara leave but at least succeeding in making her eat a BLT sandwich. It had been hours, but she was having a hard time letting her friend out of her sight. She didn’t know if Lena would want her there once she woke up, and if she didn’t, she didn’t know if she ever would. A feeling of loss was overpowering her even as she tried to stop it, Lena was right there, and even if she didn’t want to see her anymore, she was going to be okay, because she had to, because Kara couldn’t conceive anything else.
She first saw Lena’s fingers twitch, then heard a small sound coming from her throat. Her heart started beating a tad faster and she winced in pain. Kara stood up, holding her breath. Lena squeezed her eyes before opening them, blinking slowly. The blonde hadn’t realized how dark the room had gotten, didn’t realize at least eight hours had passed since she first stood guard by her friend’s bedside.
“Kara?” Lena whispered, her voice hoarse. Kara had never been happier hearing the sound of her own name. She realized her hand was still holding Lena’s and she let go hesitantly, the movement slow and deliberate.
“Lena, are you okay?” Her voice trembled.
“Aren’t you the one that got shot?” She answered back. So she remembered. “I… I didn’t mean to, I know you probably won’t believe me but –“
“What?” Kara took her hand once more, not really thinking. “I know it wasn’t you! It was Lex, he –“
“He used my own invention against me.” Not a minute had passed since she had woken up and already she sounded so self-depreciating. “He fooled me and I –“
“Lena, please, he’s evil, and you –“
“I just wanted to do good, to stop people from harming each other.” She sobbed, then grimaced, her left hand coming up to press against her forehead.
“Are you okay?” Kara asked in alarm.
“My head hurts.” She whined, and the blonde could hear her own heart breaking a little.
“Please, don’t think about this now, you’re hurt!” She pleaded. “Let me call Alex and –“ She started moving, but Lena turned her right hand over and grabbed onto her own, trying to stop her from leaving. Of course she didn’t have the strength, but Kara felt her intention and immediately turned around.
“Don’t leave me, please…” She whispered. “I… I didn’t know he had kryptonite, I…”
“That doesn’t matter.” She cut her off. “Listen, I know he was manipulating your brain, I know he wanted you to kill me and you fought back. Actually no one knows how you did it, but you did.” Kara dared to use her right hand to brush the back of it against Lena’s temple, who closed her eyes and breathed out. “I just wanna call Alex, have her check that you’re okay.”
“Alex…” Lena frowned, confused.
“It’ll be three seconds, you can count them.” Kara gently released her hand from her friend’s hold and used her superspeed to find her sister. “She’s awake.” She informed her.
Alex jumped out of her seat in fright.
“Kara! Oh my god!” Her hand reached for her chest, but Kara was already gone. Alex walked quickly to the medical room and found her sister by Lena’s side; the brunette was looking at her with confusion.
“Alex…” She trailed off, her brow furrowed. Then her expression finally changed, something akin to recognition, and her jaw set as she looked away.
Kara watched in silence as her sister checked on her friend, shining a light in her eyes, making her focus her sight and asking her a few questions. As the tests progressed, Lena seemed to start coming back to herself, but at the same time her body became tenser, her eyes harder, her jaw clenched. Alex walked away to fetch a water bottle and Kara hesitated. She didn’t know how to proceed.
Lena turned her head to look at her, her expression indefinable.
“Do you hate me?”
“I could never hate you.” Kara answered without a second to think.
“Do you think… I’m a villain?” Her chin trembled for a moment before she clenched her jaw.
“You almost died to stop yourself from killing me, so how could I think that?” Kara rushed to be near Lena. “You also could have killed me with those kryptonite cannons, but you stopped them. You saved my sister’s life, you stopped aliens from invading Earth… I could go on…”
“Then why –“
“I’m sorry. I’m sorry I said that to you and I’m sorry for being so harsh. And I’m sorry for lying and being a terrible friend. Hurting you was the biggest mistake –“She stopped herself as tears rolled down Lena’s face, wetting the pillow.
“Yes, you hurt me.” Lena whispered. “You broke my heart.”
“I know.” Kara breathed out, feeling her own tears spilling. She’d lost count on how many times she cried in the span of eight hours. She probably looked terrible.
“Here’s…” Alex trailed off, hand holding the water bottle suspended mid-air.
Lena turned her face once more and Kara rushed to wipe her own tears away.
“I’ll just leave this here.” Alex said awkwardly, setting the bottle next to Lena on the mattress and walking away in long strides.
Lena tried to sit up but her arms gave out.
“Lena!” Kara stretched her arms, hesitating. “May I…?”
“Please.” Lena whispered, holding on to Kara’s biceps and tightening her stomach muscles in order to sit up on the bed. Kara reached behind her, arranging her pillow as Lena grabbed the water bottle and stared down at it awkwardly.
“Do you want me to…?” The blonde gestured to the bottle and took it as her friend nodded, effortlessly turning the cap and giving it back.
Lena took a delicate sip and swallowed, then another. She sniffed, looking up at her friend through her eyelashes. Kara was looking at her with a mix of fear and pain.
“Do you hate me?”
“I tried to.” Lena’s lips pressed into a tight line. “But I…” She looked up to see Kara staring down at her feet. “I’m sorry.” Kara snapped her head up at that, clearly not expecting it. “You hurt me, that’s true. You lied to my face so many times, but I… I can’t say I haven’t lied to you or kept things from you; from supergirl, at least. And the way I reacted… people in my past hurting me are no excuse for what I did to you, and even if I tried to make myself believe it was for a noble reason, the truth was I wanted to hurt you. And I’m not proud at that. I’m trying to say we’re not perfect, and I regret not having this conversation sooner.”
“So no, I don’t hate you.”
Kara pursed her lips, trying to contain a smile, but her eyes gave her away.
“So maybe there’s a chance for us to still be friends?”
“You still want to be my friend?” Lena shook her head incredulously, turning away. “You know, all the effort I put into steering away from my family name and look at me now.”
“You are not like them!” Kara said earnestly.
“Except, look at what my invention can do to people. Look at what I created working alongside my brother Lex Luthor.” Lena’s voice broke, tears spilling from the corners of her eyes. “All I ever wanted was to do good and I was so blinded by my own feelings, just like him.”
Kara moved forward, wrapping her arms around Lena’s back and hugging her tightly while she cried.
“I’m sorry I’m one of the people who’ve hurt you so much.” She whispered. “You… I think there could still be a chance for us to…” Kara was finding it hard to continue at hearing her friend’s sobs; they were making a hole inside her chest. “Us… w-working together, imagine what we could do…”
“Kara…” Lena sniffed, pulling her face away from her friend’s shoulder, looking down at the wet spot her tears had left there. Kara pulled away to look at her. “I… I need time.” She took a deep breath. “And I think… I need help.” She frowned.
To her surprise, Kara smiled. “You know there’s nothing wrong with that. I think you’re brave for wanting to take that step, it’s not an easy decision to make.” Lena still wasn’t meeting her eyes. “I thought about it as well…” That did the trick. “I’m actually not as brave as you are.”
“I…” Lena took a deep breath. “I feel… broken.” She whispered, looking away once more. “I don’t feel like myself at all… all my aspirations, my hopes for the future… I feel like they were there and suddenly there’s this... void.”
“Lena, I believe in you.” Kara took one of her hands in her own. “Maybe that’s of no use to you, but I need you to know that. And I hope you can forgive me and we can move past this at some point but… I –I think be both need time and it will actually be good… for us.”
Lena looked up at Kara, turning her hand over to squeeze hers. Some tears were still spilling down her cheeks and she noticed her friend’s eyes were red and puffy. Maybe she was hurting just the same. She couldn’t believe they had come to this, to hurt each other so much. There was a time when Kara was her support, when thinking about her only made her smile and feel hope. And she was tired of running away from the people in her life, especially when she knew how good they could be for each other when they were in a good place. She looked down at their joined hands. Things could never go back to the way they used to, but that wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Maybe from the ashes, something new could rise; an honest friendship. But it was true, she needed time. They both needed time to figure out their feelings, to learn to trust each other again, to heal. She didn’t feel like she was in a good place at all, she felt adrift, confused, like she was following a path and somewhere she took a wrong turn and now, she was lost in the middle of the night.
“You’re right.” She nodded. “With time, maybe we could… try being friends again; with no lies, this time.”
Kara gave her a watery smile, her eyes a deep, hopeful blue. Her lower lip trembled and she rushed forward, hugging her again. “I’m so glad I haven’t lost you.” She whispered into her hair. Lena hugged her back tightly at last.