“I didn’t know I was helping them, but I did, and now I want to help stop them so please. I want to help stop Lex and Leviathan.”
Lena breathes out a shaky sigh, tremulous with relief, and slowly, delicately lowers herself into the chair Kara’s pulled out for her.
It should be different, Lena thinks, being back in Kara’s apartment after almost a year. The furniture should be rearranged, or there should be new curtains or a dog Lena doesn’t know about, some sort of physical manifestation of the time they’ve spent apart. But Kara’s apartment is the same as it’s always been. It has the same pleasant Kara smell and the same throw pillows on the couch, the same homey lived-in feel.
It’s Lena that’s different.
She used to think she’d never be back in Kara’s apartment. When she found out Kara was Supergirl, she swore she’d never come back. She wouldn’t ever again sit on the couch where she’d watched countless movies, played games and fallen asleep with her head on Kara’s shoulder, where she’d woken up the next morning with two blankets tucked in around her and a coffee waiting for her on the kitchen counter. Not anymore.
Later on, she thought she’d never be back because Kara would never let her back in. Because how could Kara trust someone who had tried to mind-control the whole world? Who’d almost succeeded, was about to succeed? How could Kara let someone who pulled out the pin of the grenade containing the end of the world into her home?
But here she is, all the same. Lena sits, placing her hands in her lap and looking down at them as she laces her fingers together. Half a minute goes by, and Lena looks over her shoulder, waiting for Kara to join her at the table, but the room is quiet; Kara never comes. Lena sits there another moment, her breath getting a little shallower as she realizes that Kara isn’t going to sit down at the table with her, is going to continue to just stand behind her and wait for her to talk.
So she takes a deep breath, a shaking, shuddering thing, as she turns back toward the table, ducks her head down to watch her fingers pull at each other, and talks.
It feels like it takes hours, talking Kara through all the details—her experiments with Q-waves, teaming up with Lex, his plans to use her work to mind control the world— and maybe it does. The room is deafeningly silent except for Lena’s voice as she tries to explain. The longer she speaks, the more she wonders if Kara is still behind her at all, or if she’d given up on Lena and left, and Lena just didn’t notice over the pounding of her own pulse in her ears and the worry, lingering and incessant, that the mistake she’s made isn’t justified by the hurt and the betrayal that caused it, and is instead proof she’s been as evil as her brother all along. She slumps down in her chair, pulling her coat a little tighter around her frame, running her finger in circles around one of the buttons to try to keep her voice from wavering.
Kara watches from her perch behind Lena, leaned back against the kitchen island with her jaw clenched. She stares at Lena’s back while she listens to Lena lay bare all her sins and the hurt that caused them, watches the shadows creep across her floor as Lena’s head lowers and her shoulders raise up to her ears, her elbows flexing the way they always do when she’s anxiously wringing her hands.
“I was— it felt like I’d been sliced open, it hurt so much,” Lena whispers, her voice trembling. Kara winces and crosses her arms over her chest as Lena finishes. “I didn’t want anyone to ever feel that way again. I just thought… how could I allow people to hurt that much when I could keep them all safe? I really, truly thought I was doing a good thing, but I was just blinded and numbed by how upset I was and— you were right to be so angry. I became a villain.”
By the time Lena’s done, each of her breaths is ragged. Her voice is strained, frail and wet-sounding. Behind her, Kara grits her teeth and looks away, squeezing her eyes shut.
Lena raises her eyes from her lap to the surface of the table as she tries to catch her breath, wondering what she’d find if she chanced a look at Kara for the first time since she walked in. She waits, giving Kara the time to respond, the time to say something, anything, but the words never come; the room is quiet. Her fingers are shaking in her lap, and it feels like her heartbeat is louder than the clock on the wall.
It’s when Lena thinks she can’t take the silence anymore, that the room is suffocating her, that she’s ruined the best friendship she’s ever had, even though it ruined her first, that she finally hears Kara take in a sharp breath behind her.
Lena braces herself then turns around in her chair to catch Kara wiping at her eyes. Kara whips her head to the side to hide her face, but Lena’s already out of her chair.
“Kara…” Lena says before she can even think about it, crossing the three steps to where Kara is standing and reaching out for Kara’s arm.
“No! No, don’t touch me,” Kara snaps, holding her hands in front of her and staggering backwards.
Lena freezes, whipping her hand back to her chest like it’s been burned and trying to ignore the piercing feeling in her chest. She nods shakily, crossing her arms over her stomach and watching as Kara rubs her eye once more before crossing her own arms. Each second that ticks by feels like a blow to Lena’s ribs, and she watches as Kara clenches her jaw so tight the muscle bulges in her cheek.
Kara stares at a spot over Lena’s shoulder, determinedly not meeting her eyes, and after a few moments Lena finds herself wiping at a tear of her own.
“I’ll text Alex,” Kara finally says, her words short and clipped. “She’ll get everyone over here and then we can talk about how to handle this.”
Before Lena can get a word in, Kara’s pulled her phone out of her pocket, thumbs darting over the screen for way longer than it should take to send one text. She’s stalling, Lena realizes, and it sits uncomfortably in Lena’s stomach. In all the time they’ve known each other, Kara’s answered her phone many times while they’ve been together, babbling off one excuse or another before leaving in a hurry. She’s never done this, though— never pulled her phone out on her own accord in Lena’s presence. Lena had always loved that about Kara, how present she was whenever they’d see each other, how focused she was on Lena, how she never took out her phone to scroll absently through it.
But now, when Kara seems to finally run out of distractions and slips her phone back into her pocket, Lena doesn’t know what to say.
“I’m sorry,” she starts, knowing how hollow it must sound. How do you begin to repent for potentially ending all of human free will? “I really—- I know you’re angry, but I swear I was trying to help, I just—”
“I get it, Lena.”
Lena freezes. “You do?”
Kara rolls her eyes, scoffing, and Lena winces, willing her eyes to stop prickling.
“I can’t believe how stupid it was,” Kara continues, and Lena hangs her head, nodding slowly. “But it’s done, and there must be a way we can fix it, especially if you actually mean it when you say you want to help us now—”
“I do!” Lena pleads, taking a step forward to assure Kara, but Kara’s face hardens as she steps back, and Lena lets her arms fall to her sides.
“All this,” Kara starts, then trails off, cheeks pulled into a wince. “Obsidian, Lex, Non Nocere. Do you really think that’s why I’m mad at you?”
Lena stops, looking back up at Kara in confusion. Her heart is pounding in her chest again, watching helplessly as Kara’s face tightens in unmistakable disappointment.
“I—” Lena trails off wordlessly, and Kara just shakes her head, turning in place and leaving Lena in the kitchen as she walks to the living room. Lena follows behind her, replaying everything with Lex and Leviathan over in her head, mentally scrambling for something to grasp onto and coming up empty.
“Kara, I’m not sure I—”
“You know, you’re unbelievable!” Kara rounds on her once she’s made her way to the far end of the room. “God, you know what? Never mind. I can’t talk about this right now.”
Lena gasps, the first tears spilling out of her eyes even as she ducks her head down and to the side to hide them. That’s when she sees it— laying askew on the coffee table is the book she’d given Kara after Jeremiah’s death. There’s a bookmark in the middle; the back part of the dust jacket is tucked into a page close to the end, and there are a dozen tiny spaces in the corners where pages have been dogeared and folded down. Lena’s lips fall open, heart almost daring to restart in her chest as she meets Kara’s eyes again.
“You kept it?”
The anger drops from Kara’s face as her eyebrows scrunch together in confusion. She looks down to the table to where Lena’s gaze had been and looks back up in surprise.
“I— of course I did. Did you think I’d give it away after I read it?”
The genuine confusion on Kara’s face gives Lena pause, but she responds truthfully.
“I didn’t think you’d read it at all, actually,” she admits. “Honestly, I thought you’d just throw it out after I left your office.”
Kara straightens, her eyebrows raising, and even though Lena can nearly see the fight leaving Kara’s body, something about her still leaves Lena on edge.
“Why would I do that?” Kara asks, her voice quiet.
“You thought I was evil,” Lena shrugs, rolling her eyes at herself as more tears fall and swiping at them with her hand. Kara’s mouth parts in surprise, but Lena cuts her off to keep talking. “I was working with my megalomaniacal brother even though we both know what kind of person he is. I picked him instead of you after you tried to get me on your side. I know what you think of Lex, and you’ve always been right.” Lena pauses, letting her head fall just a little to look down at her hands. “I’ve spent so many years trying to detach myself from my brother, to convince everyone that I was different, mostly to convince you that I was different. And then I ruined all that; I proved that I’m just another Luthor, just like him. Ideas of world domination and control and power. Evil.”
Lena trails off, turning her head to the side to press her sleeves to her cheeks. It’s silly, she knows, trying to hide her face when Kara’s been watching her tears stream down, but if it affords her one last moment of dignity before Kara yells at her, she’ll take it.
“Lena,” Kara whispers, shaking her head wordlessly.
A year ago, Lena knows Kara would have had more to say, would have contradicted her or hugged her or whispered reassurances. But here, now, there’s none of that. Now, Kara only sinks down on the couch and looks up at her, mouth opening and closing but with nothing to say. It eats at her, the silence, and she turns her head to the side as more tears spill onto her cheeks.
“So,” Lena presses on, as much to stop her tears as to save herself from Kara’s deafening silence, “why would you want to keep anything I gave you, much less anything I touched at all?”
“Lena,” Kara whispers again. “I—”
The door to Kara’s apartment rockets open, slamming loudly into the wall as Alex and the team burst in, guns raised and eyes angry, and really, Lena thinks to herself, she should have expected it. Even as Kara jumps in front of her, Lena wonders, briefly, if even after they defeat Lex she’ll be staring down the barrel of Alex’s gun once more.
The triumph over Leviathan is nothing, Lena knows. A knight, a rook, a bishop to Lex’s queen, and the celebration of victory over them and Obsidian should be short-lived. If the others were together celebrating, that is. Lena had opted to go home before anyone in the group could start awkwardly trying to avoid inviting her out. It was an easy choice to make after watching Kara decide to only maybe think about accepting her apology and then wrap everyone else on the team in a warm hug.
When her doorbell rings at 11:14pm, Lena’s on the dregs of her second whiskey and a half hour into a staring match with the speckled marble of her kitchen counter. Her eyes track slowly up to her door, watching it for a moment, half-expecting Lex to teleport through it and point a gun at her head.
He doesn’t. Everything is quiet once more, and Lena slides off of her stool, throwing self-preservation to the wind and flinging the door open without looking through the peephole first.
Kara’s wearing a pair of dark blue jeans and a sweatshirt Lena vaguely remembers borrowing in what feels like another lifetime. Her hands are in her pockets and her head is dipped forward, but her eyes are looking up at Lena, and there’s an air of uncertainty to her that Lena hasn’t seen in nearly a year. It steals the breath from her lungs and the words from her mouth, and her lips part wordlessly as they watch each other across the threshold.
“Hi,” Kara says softly.
Her weight shifts to rest unevenly on one leg as she looks at Lena, and Lena remembers how easy it was to talk to her, once.
“Can I— “ Kara shakes her head at herself and seems to change her mind. “I’m so mad at you,” she says instead. Lena expects it to hurt, expects to feel something twist in her stomach, but the words are said simply, without malice, and the pain comes as an ache instead of a knife. “And I know you’re still mad at me too, but I can’t stop thinking about what you said about the book before, and I just—”
Kara cuts herself off and turns her head to the side, and Lena’s grip on her door is so tight she wonders, briefly, if this is what Kara feels like just before she crushes something in her hands. Her heart beats a drumline against the inside of her ribs, and it feels like she can’t breathe, won’t breathe until Kara’s done.
When Kara speaks again, it sounds like the words are fighting against her throat, soft and strangled but there, and Lena ducks in closer to hear her.
“Could we not be mad at each other tonight? Could we have a truce? Just for an hour, a couple minutes—”
Lena’s breath comes back to her all at once. She hasn’t even finished nodding before she’s lifted onto her toes, Kara’s arms a vice grip around her back and her own pinned against her chest between them. She wiggles them out and around Kara’s shoulders, and her breath coughs out of her when Kara’s arms squeeze her tighter. Lena barely registers the twinge in her ribs, doesn’t hear Kara whisper ‘Gentle’ to herself as the pressure eases just slightly, she just pulls Kara’s sweatshirt tight in her fists and slumps forward, tucking her head into Kara’s shoulder and hiding her tears in the fabric.
“You are not your brother,” Kara breathes into her hair, and even though Kara isn’t almost crushing her anymore, her chest tightens all the same.
“You are not evil, you never were,” Kara continues, splaying a hand between Lena’s shoulder blades.
Kara gathers Lena close for one more second before releasing her, and Lena exhales as she slips out of Kara’s arms, feeling both immeasurably better and somehow worse at the same time. Kara clenches her jaw, glancing away and into the depths of Lena’s apartment before looking back at Lena.
“I’d never throw out something you gave me, you know,” Kara says, pausing for a moment before she presses on. “I know things are not… good… between us right now, but you giving me that book meant a lot to me at a time when I really needed it, so thank you. I’d never disregard that.”
“Of course,” Lena nods.
They look at each other for a moment before they both drop their gazes, and Lena shifts her weight on her feet, wondering if she should invite Kara in past the entranceway, wondering if Kara would even accept.
“I know you got mad at me the next day, for trespassing in the Fortress,” Lena says, and Kara’s eyes zip back up to her, regarding her carefully. “And I got mad at you too, for using Myriad.”
Lena thinks for a moment that Kara is going to interrupt her, to fight or yell, but a truce is a truce apparently, and even though Kara’s shoulders have visibly tightened, she lets Lena talk.
“You know I found out later that Lex made Brainy think that Myriad was the only option? Just so that you’d use it and I’d catch you, just to make us fight?”
Kara’s eyes widen rapidly before they narrow again as she crosses her arms.
“No,” Kara says, her voice low.
Lena cuts her off.
“Yeah. Have you noticed Brainy acting a little weird lately, maybe?” Lena asks, and she sees the moment it clicks in Kara’s head, watches the obstinance, that hint of arrogance, turn into disbelief. “He’s been trapped under Lex’s thumb. And Lex didn’t like that I gave you that book. He doesn’t like you and I getting along at all, actually, so he architected a way to make us fight. Worked pretty well, honestly.”
Kara winces, lips twisting as she puts her hands on her hips and looks up at the ceiling.
“How can you be sure?”
“Because I know my brother. And because I read it in his journal after.”
Kara chuckles darkly, nodding to herself. “Okay. Great. That’s great. Noted.”
“Kara,” Lena murmurs, something in her stomach flipping over when Kara looks back at her. “Giving you that book? That was me. Us fighting in the Fortress? That was Lex.”
Kara regards her carefully for a moment before nodding. “Okay,” Kara says, firm. “I believe you.”
The nervous thing in Lena’s stomach settles just a little, and she pushes out a heavy breath of air. They stand together, just inside Lena’s apartment, and Lena folds her arms around her stomach, willing them to stop itching to reach out for Kara again.
“So,” Lena offers, “if that had anything to do with you being angry at-”
Kara takes a swift step back, and just like that something’s shifted between them that puts Lena on her toes. Kara’s whole demeanor changes instantly. Her posture is more stiff and defensive, her arms crossing over her chest and her shoulders drawing back. The air between them is more tense and uncomfortable, and Lena stumbles back herself, caught off-guard by Kara’s sudden movement. She clicks her mouth shut.
“Okay. That’s— okay. I’m—”
“I have to go,” Kara says briskly, turning in place and reaching for the door.
“Kara,” Lena implores, taking a step after her but purposefully not reaching her hand out to her.
Kara turns the knob and opens the door before looking back at Lena over her shoulder.
“Un… truce, I guess.”
Lena sighs, letting out a disappointed breath as she traces her eyes over Kara’s face, the nerves in her stomach kicking up again. She lets her go.
“Untruce,” Lena agrees.
She stares at the door a long time after Kara’s gone.
It’s at J’onn’s new headquarters two days later that it finally boils over.
They’ve been running tactics all day trying to formulate a plan to defeat Lex now that Leviathan is gone. The conference table is a mess of papers, tablets, and chargers, and the team is scattered across the room, slumped in their chairs or flicking idly through maps of Lex’s hideouts. Alex is leaned back against the investigation board with her head in her hands taking a breather. Kara’s been sitting a couple seats away from everyone else all day, irritable and frustrated at the lack of progress. She’s leaned back in her chair with her arms crossed, her gaze empty as she stares at the papers in front of her. Nia’s fallen asleep at the table, and J’onn claps his hands together once, pulling all the attention in the room.
“Alright, enough for now. I’m ordering us some food. Everyone take a break.”
A collective sigh fills the room as everyone stands from their chairs and stretches. M’gann and J’onn leave with their heads bowed together, and the rest file out behind them. Kara pulls her glasses off, dropping them to the table and pressing her fingers into the bridge of her nose before closing her eyes and massaging her temples.
There’s something about it that nags at Lena, and she watches, frozen in place, until her brain catches up. Kara’s wearing a pair of jeans and a black sweater, hair down and loose and a little messy from when she’d pulled it out of her bun earlier. Lena stares a little longer while Kara’s distracted, breathing a little deeper, a little more purposefully as she tries to control her heartbeat. Then she glances down to the glasses resting on the table and feels her stomach flip over when she realizes that she’s never seen Kara like this before. Lena’s breath stutters and her heart twists a little in her chest, tightening painfully at the sight of Supergirl in Kara’s clothing.
It’s hard to categorize, the way seeing Kara like this makes her feel. The two distinct people she’d known, had tried to keep separate in her mind for so long, are suddenly one and the same. Two people she knows so well are one she doesn’t know at all. Her ears burn and her stomach rages, and by the time Lena blinks herself out of her daze and looks back up to Kara’s eyes, Kara’s looking back at her, stone-faced and jaw set.
“What,” Kara says agitatedly. It’s terse and aggressive, and Lena feels the hair on the back of her neck stand up.
“Sorry,” Lena says softly, blinking and clearing her throat. “Just getting used to it. I’ve never seen you like this, that’s all.”
“Well, this is who I am, so,” Kara says dismissively. She leans back in her chair, grabbing a few pieces of paper scattered in front of her and neatening them into a pile.
“I know it is,” Lena says quickly, reaching her hand out and flattening it on the table between them.
“I’m just... wrapping my head around it,” Lena whispers.
“You’ve had a year to wrap your head around it,” Kara bites back.
“You want to know why I’m mad at you?” Kara snaps, rising out of her chair and leaning over the table between them. “You lied to me for weeks— pretended to be my friend just so you could use me and manipulate me. You convinced me to commit a federal offense for you. A federal offense, Lena. You stole from me, from the Fortress.”
Kara pauses for a moment, breathing heavily as she glares Lena down. Lena sits pressed against the back of her chair, eyes watery and cheeks tear-stained as she lets Kara’s anger strike her like a tidal wave.
“You used kryptonite on me,” Kara finishes, her voice quiet but devoid of warmth. “You trapped me in it and left me there. You knew who I was.”
“You didn’t just do that to Supergirl, you did that to me. Do I have to put the glasses back on for that to make sense to you?”
The door flings open, startling Kara and Lena out of their staring match, both women jumping and whipping their heads over to the entrance of the room.
“What’s going on in here?” J’onn demands, taking in the scene and watching Lena hurriedly wipe her cheeks before shifting his eyes to Kara in disbelief. “We’re a team, Supergirl. I suggest you address your personal strife elsewhere.”
Kara crosses her arms, gritting her teeth as she nods. “Yes, sir.”
Not all of the bite has left Kara’s voice, and J’onn raises his eyebrow at Kara until she ducks her head and murmurs an apology under her breath. He sighs, the stiffness leaving his posture as he turns to leave the room again, pointedly leaving the door wide open.
“Now come on, dinner’s here. You should both eat something.”
He leaves them alone, and even though the tension is broken, Lena still feels trapped in her chair.
“I’m sorry,” Lena whispers.
“Yeah,” Kara replies. Her arms are still crossed and she looks down, rubbing her shoe over something on the floor.
“Things were always so different,” Lena says. She’s still whispering, her voice water-logged and shaky, but she knows, now more than ever, that Kara can hear it. “With you— with Kara and with Supergirl. You’d be so mad at me as Supergirl, or I’d be so mad at you even, and then Kara would come into my office with donuts and hug me and cheer me up. You treated me differently on purpose.”
Kara winces and looks away again, and Lena pulls a deep breath of air into her lungs.
“You’ve known for a year, Lena.”
Lena sniffs, blowing her breath back out and looking up at the ceiling before wiping her eyes again.
”Yeah, but I didn’t know for three years of the best— I just haven’t seen this until now, that’s all” she says, gesturing her hand up and down at Kara. After a beat of silence with no response, Lena stands, brushing off her pants and clearing her throat. “It may have been a year, you’re right, but it’s not like I saw a whole lot of Kara Danvers during that time.” She pauses once more before turning halfway toward the door. “Dinner?”
Kara clears her throat as well, nodding but avoiding Lena’s eyes, her hands flexing on her arms. “Dinner.”
Lena stands in front of the door with her arm raised; her hand is ready to knock but her brain is not, and she pauses for a moment, biting her lip anxiously. It’s weird being here, so nervous and unsure in a place that was once more home to her than her own apartment. Part of her— most of her, all of her— aches for that now, for the comfort she once found here. She used to knock on this door and be wrapped in a warm hug before she’d even realized it had opened. Kara would rattle off a slew of appetizers she’d already decided on from the restaurant they’d picked for that night. They’d have a glass of wine and curl up on the couch for a movie...
Lena huffs out a breath, shaking the ache out of her raised arm. What would she find on the other side of this door now? Would it even open for her? Lena steels herself, lifts her hand again, and finally knocks.
When Kara opens the door, her glasses are on again, and despite her biting remark earlier, seeing the frames on Kara’s face does have an effect on Lena. The rumbling pit of anxiety in her stomach that she’s managed to hide this time softens around the edges. The sight of Kara, easy and comfortable in her own space, threatens to pull a smile onto Lena’s face, and she schools herself, watching Kara watch her from across the threshold.
“Hi,” Lena murmurs.
Kara blinks a few times before stepping to the side and making space for Lena to walk by. Lena settles by the kitchen island, the feeling in her stomach telling her that moving into the living room might be overstepping. Kara closes the door behind her and meets her in the kitchen, standing on the opposite side and leaning back against the counter next to the fridge.
Lena busies herself with the countertop, smoothing the pad of her finger back and forth over it before clearing her throat and looking back up at Kara.
“I’m sorry,” she says quietly. Kara’s eyes widen for a second before her face goes neutral again, but she watches curiously as Lena continues. “You’re right, I am still mad at you, but I’m also sorry— for a lot of things, but I wanted to start with the kryptonite.”
Kara inhales sharply, crossing her arms over her chest and shifting her weight against the edge of the counter.
“Of all the things I did, the experiments, Non Nocere, helping Lex… that was the only one I did with bad intentions,” Lena admits. Kara clenches her jaw and turns her head to the side, but Lena presses on. “You once told me what kryptonite feels like to you, how much it hurts you, and I— it was unconscionably cruel of me to do what I did, and I’m so sorry.”
It’s quiet for a moment, and Lena waits, fingertips resting on the kitchen island while she lets Kara process. A minute or two goes by, the pulsing of the muscle in Kara’s jaw as she keeps clenching it reverberating through Lena like the ticking of a clock. Lena shifts, growing edgy when Kara doesn’t respond, and she clenches her fist around her own fingers to give herself something to do.
“It’s worse because I can’t help but think that you’d have let me walk out of there with Myriad without any of that,” Lena says when she can’t take the silence anymore.
Kara’s eyes snap back up to her shrewdly. “I don’t think so.”
“Kara,” Lena says, looking at her earnestly. “What would you have done? Would you really have forced it off of me?”
“If I say no, are you going to do it again?”
Lena winces, pulling her hands off the island between them, and Kara bites down hard on her lip as she raises a placating hand.
“No,” Kara pushes the words out. “Of course I wouldn’t have forced it from you. I would never hurt you,” Kara cuts herself off, realizing what she’s said and correcting it. “Physically. I wouldn’t attack you. Ever.”
Not like you attacked me. Lena hears it, even if Kara doesn’t say it out loud.
“I know,” Lena nods. “I’m sorry.”
“I know you are,” Kara nods back, dropping her gaze again and focusing on a mug resting on the island by her wrist, pinching the handle delicately between her thumb and her index finger, “but I couldn’t breathe.”
There are tears on Lena’s cheeks before she can even try to blink them back, her abdomen clenching instinctively against the knife that feels like it’s twisting there, against the bile that’s threatening to climb up her throat. Kara keeps avoiding her eyes, not looking up from where her fingers are tightening on the mug, and Lena absently wonders if it will crumble to dust in her hands.
“Then you left me there, in that little kryptonite prison,” Kara continues, her tone quiet and even, “and I didn’t know how I was going to get out, and I had to sit there, thinking about how you plotted against me and betrayed me.” Kara straightens her shoulders then, biting down hard on her lip and looking around the room before pinning Lena with her gaze. “You did all of that because you wanted me to feel what you felt? Well, congratulations, you did it.”
“Kara,” Lena whispers, squeezing her eyes shut against another onslaught of tears and doing her best to hold them back even as they slip through. Her ears burn and her lungs tighten painfully, pushing her breath out of her in a stuttering gasp. She clenches her fists around the edge of the countertop, fingers scrabbling against the wood, and she wishes she had her own mug to crush in her hands. Her next inhale is ragged and broken as it gasps into her lungs. “I’m sorry, I’m so sorry.”
Kara focuses sharply on Lena, her eyebrows knitting together, as the sounds of Lena’s choked, labored breathing fill the apartment. She reaches across the island, hesitating for a moment and wincing before lightly covering Lena’s fingers with her own.
“I know,” Kara murmurs, sighing before she pats Lena’s hand a couple times. “I know you are.”
Lena grasps onto Kara’s hand, locking it in her grip and turning her head into her own shoulder as she tries to control her breathing.
Kara watches, stubbornly struggling to remain unaffected, but her resolve turns slowly into concern with each teardrop that falls off the tip of Lena’s nose. She bites down on her lip and works her hand in Lena’s until their palms press fully together before deflecting her eyes to the floor.
It’s a couple minutes later when Lena daintily presses the side of her nose into her shoulder to dry her tears and finally takes a deep breath. Her hand twitches under Kara’s, and she casts her eyes wildly around the room as she tries to compose herself before they land back on the island between them.
“Is, um, is that a new mug?”
Kara closes her eyes, nodding to herself as she blows out a breath. “Okay,” she whispers. “Okay. Come here.”
Kara rounds the barrier between them and tugs gently on Lena’s hand until she can pull Lena into her arms. She squeezes her eyes closed, lips twisted in a wince. Her feelings war against each other in her chest, hands clenched into fists as they wrap stiffly around Lena. Lena burrows in close, arms winding around Kara’s back and hands clutching over her shoulder blades as she settles in against Kara’s chest.
“Truce?” Lena whispers, words muffled against Kara’s shoulder. “For now?”
“Yeah,” Kara whispers back, letting the tension fall from her muscles and splaying her hands over Lena’s back, gathering her closer. She tucks her head in over Lena’s and takes a deep breath, getting a hint of eucalyptus she hasn’t smelled in a year. She closes her eyes. “Truce.”
For all of the buildup, all of the endless planning and the drills they ran, all of the prep work and the fanfare, once they find him, Lex goes down surprisingly quickly.
It’s Alex this time. She, Kara, and Lena track him to an underground lair beneath an old childhood summer house in Calgary, and Kara, having made her own personal entrance through the ceiling, pins him beneath her foot.
It’s been a few long minutes of Kara and Lex bickering, sneering and snapping at each other and looking a little too much like a Renaissance painting when Lena starts feeling the bile rise up her throat. She takes a breath, forcing down her emotions and the contents of her stomach, before leaning over to Alex and pressing a pistol into her palm.
Alex looks over, wide-eyed and breathless, but Lena can’t meet her gaze.
“Once was enough for me.”
Lena turns and walks out of the room, her steps rigid and purposeful, and Alex stares after her, bewildered.
Alex watches the scene in front of her, torn, but when Lex spits at Kara and moves to reach for something in his pocket he’s dead in an instant.
It’s days later, when Kara’s doing laps around National City, and maybe, just maybe, some smaller passes around Lena’s neighborhood, that she hears it. The heartbeat is too fast, the inhales too rapid and water-logged and the exhales too sharp, and before Kara even realizes she’s veered off course, she’s touching down on Lena’s balcony, her cape rippling in the wind.
Lena’s perched on a stool inside, slumped over her kitchen island with her head in her hands. Kara freezes, watching Lena’s back through the glass balcony doors. It seems like a moment far too private to intrude upon, and Kara leans back, ready to fly away and let Lena linger in her own grief when her eye catches on the half empty bottle of scotch next to Lena on the counter. She decides against it then, raising her hand instead and tapping her knuckles against the wall next to the doors as softly as she can.
Lena startles anyway and whips around to gape at Kara. Her posture doesn’t ease, her shoulders don’t relax, her face, blotchy and tear-stained as it is, doesn’t soften the way she usually does, and Kara shifts uncomfortably, clearing her throat and dipping her head just a little.
The stool makes a scraping noise against the tiled floor of the kitchen when Lena stands, and seconds later Lena is standing directly in front of Kara, staring up at her through the glass door. Lena holds Kara’s gaze, tense and steady as the door slides open between them. She’s shorter than usual in her bare feet, and she smells like the glass of scotch she holds in her hand. It’s not a smell Kara has ever liked on Lena, and Kara presses her fingertips into the mottled sidewall of Lena’s building as hard as she can without denting it.
“Why are you here?” Lena asks, voice rough and gravelly. “You got what you wanted.”
She’s standing squarely in the doorway, using her body to fill the small opening, and it dawns on Kara that she’s not going to be invited in. The fine, practiced enunciation Lena’s words usually have is gone, her consonants softened by the liquor she’s consumed, and Kara knits her eyebrows together as she scans Lena’s face.
“What did I want exactly?” she asks.
“Lex is gone,” Lena drawls, sweeping her arm around. The scotch swirls dangerously in the glass, and Kara tracks it with her eyes. “Leviathan’s gone. The world is saved. Lex is dead.”
“All I wanted was the world saved.”
“Ah,” Lena says dryly, taking a sip of her scotch. “You got some bonuses then.”
“Lena,” Kara sighs. Her hand is itching with the desire to pry the alcohol out of Lena’s grasp, and she digs her nails into her palm instead.
“You must think I’m horrible, don’t you?” Lena accuses her. “Upset over a psychopath’s death when we should be enacting a national holiday to mark the day?”
“No,” Kara says fiercely. “I’ve never thought that. You’re not horrible; you’re good. You’re such a good person, Lena. You always have been.”
They stare at each other for a moment before Kara’s expression softens. She reaches out and plucks Lena’s free wrist out of the air, holding it gently in her grasp. Lena’s breath catches and she stumbles forward, her eyes clouding just a little when Kara’s thumb strokes the soft skin of her forearm.
“Why are you here?” Lena whispers, asking her question again.
“Your brother just died,” Kara murmurs, tilting her head and softening her gaze. Lena looks up at her, eyes surprisingly clear and focused once more, watching Kara curiously, and when Lena doesn’t pull away, Kara strokes her thumb over Lena’s skin once more. “I heard you crying. Why wouldn’t I be here? I want to be here.”
“I don’t want to talk about Lex,” Lena states dryly. Her gaze is even and expressionless as she regards Kara, and something about it makes the nape of Kara’s neck prickle.
“He was your brother, Lena,” Kara urges, keeping her voice soft. “You’re allowed to grieve.”
It doesn’t strike Kara how good Lena’s poker face is until she sees it slip. How many lessons has Lena had in remaining stoic and unshaken? How many times has Lillian baited her, how many times has an old male board member tried to best her in a meeting, how many times had Lex cheated her out of something she’d deserved? Lena always beats them at their mental games with her quick mind and that unaffected smirk. So now, when Lena’s eyebrow raises and one corner of her mouth sneers to the side, Kara’s lips part in surprise and her soft hold on Lena’s wrist springs open.
“Oh, I’ve been grieving,” Lena jeers at her, taking a step forward into Kara’s space. “I’ve been grieving for a year. How many times have I destroyed my own family to save the world and where have you been? Are villains and fake friends suddenly worth checking in on now, or have you finally decided that I’ve ‘come through’ enough for you?”
Lena makes air quotes with her fingers, wobbling unsteadily on her feet but skewering Kara with her gaze. Kara’s eyes water, her own words flying back at her and hitting her square in the chest, and she worries at her lower lip with her teeth.
“Lena, I have checked—” she cuts herself off, thinking better of it, and sucks in a shaky breath. She holds her palms out to Lena. “I’m here now. I want to be here for you. Let’s… truce? We can talk about it?”
“No. No. Not this time,” Lena chokes out, and Kara jolts back and out of Lena’s space, watching wide-eyed as Lena’s expression grows pained and dark. “You think I made you feel how I felt when I found out who you are? Did you feel devastated? Lost? Like your whole world lurched sideways and the ground disappeared from beneath your feet? Like a million needles were trying to force their way out from beneath your skin?”
The first tears spring from Kara’s eyes and her exhale trembles as it leaves her, but Kara knits her brows together as she crosses her arms stubbornly and looks back at Lena. “Yeah, Lena. That’s exactly what it felt like.”
“It felt like all of my organs were collapsing,” Lena’s utters quietly, her eyes fiery. “Like I was completely unmoored, freefalling through space. It was cold and dark and empty and I had no one. What did you do after that day in the Fortress?” Lena continues, her voice rising and growing shaky. “Did you go home and talk to Alex about it? J’onn? Nia? I was alone. For a year. I lost you and every friend I had because you all lied to me. Every last one of you. And I had to deal with that by myself for a year. I have no one. How many people do you have to lean on, Supergirl?”
“Lena,” Kara whimpers. She turns her head to the side to wipe her eyes. Her heart pounds against her ribcage, the back of her neck grows burning hot, and she squeezes her voice around the lump in her throat, “you have me. You could have talked to me. I would have—”
“Would have what?” Lena tilts her head, looking up at Kara, unimpressed. Her tone is even once more, her eyes completely devoid of emotion, and it makes something lurch painfully in Kara’s stomach. “Told me you understood how I felt? Lied to me and said you only did it to protect me?”
“I did do it to protect you,” Kara whispers, not bothering to hide the tear tracks on her face.
“Maybe,” Lena agrees. “Maybe that was a fraction of it. Five percent? Ten?”
“It’s—” Kara starts, but Lena cuts her off.
“You know, when you first told me at the Pulitzer party, you said you did it because you were selfish and afraid. Now you say you did it to protect me. There’s an obvious shift of blame there, so whose fault is it, Supergirl? Yours or mine? Were you lying to me then, or are you lying to me now?”
“Of course it’s not your fault that I didn’t tell you,” Kara says, imploring Lena to understand, “but it was to protect you. You’re— I have to protect you. Please understand that.”
“Which of your friends needs more protection just because they know your name? Is James in danger? Is Nia? Was Winn? Do you foil plans to kidnap Alex regularly, or is she just fine? I field three assassination attempts a year that have nothing to do with you. What is it exactly that you thought you were protecting me from? A fourth?”
Kara hangs her head. “Lena…”
“If you wanted to protect me, you wouldn’t have called me into the DEO for help every week. So don’t act like you’re so high and mighty, like you were lying to me for my own good when really you just wanted my technology without having to trust me.”
“Lena, no! I wanted to keep you safe,” Kara stresses, her voice taking on a panicked edge. Kara casts her gaze to the side, eyes flicking over the plants Lena has on her balcony while she takes a breath to try to calm herself down. There was a time when the two of them would sit out here with a bottle of wine talking about all of the flowers and succulents Lena was growing, how she’d just had an herb garden planted so she could start incorporating it into her cooking. There’s a hint of basil in the air now, and it makes Kara’s heart ache. “I do trust you.”
“Were you keeping me safe when Mercy Graves came?” Lena asks. Her voice is dripping with disbelief, her eyes boring into Kara’s and holding none of the warmth that they used to. Kara’s stomach twists, remembering that day. It makes her cheeks warm and her ears burn hot, and she grits her teeth and drops Lena’s stare when Lena continues. “She was pointing a gun at us and you let me push you behind me so I could protect you. I stood in front of a gun for you, for someone who was bulletproof. Did not knowing who you were protect me then?”
Kara takes a shaky breath, the fight draining out of her as Lena advances on her.
“And you think you trust me? What about when you asked James to sneak into my vault?” Lena laughs darkly to herself and lifts her glass of scotch. A protest rises and dies in Kara’s throat as Lena drains the glass before returning her attention to Kara. “Now I know that wasn’t just Supergirl, right? That was Kara Danvers pulling a trick my mother would have been jealous of.”
“I’m sorry,” Kara whimpers. The tears leave icy hot trails down her cheeks, and Kara wracks her brain for something else to say, knows that deep down there are other words she possesses, other things she wants to say, intentions and meanings and feelings to share with the woman in front of her, but all she can think of is I’m sorry I’m sorry I’m sorry.
“You always seemed so genuine,” Lena continues, her words leaving a bitter taste in her mouth. “I didn’t even want to be friends with you at the start; I’d decided to stop letting anybody in so I wouldn’t be betrayed again, but you just snuck your way in closer and closer. There was nothing, no one in my life I’d ever valued more than you.”
Despite the tenor of their conversation, despite the ache growing cavernous in her chest, Kara looks up again and meets Lena’s eyes. A twinge of hope rises in her chest like maybe, somehow, there’s a chance she could fix this, that not everything is lost. Lena’s eyes are watery and her knuckles are white and locked around her glass, as if she’s trying to keep the anguish out of her face and concentrate it somewhere else Kara wouldn’t notice. Kara thinks, absentmindedly, that Lena might be just as capable of crushing the glass as she is, but the thought dissipates when Lena continues.
“You know I’ve been betrayed by a lot of people before. People I thought were friends in high school, nannies, drivers, Andrea, Eve, Supergirl and James. Lex and my mother countless times; they used me, hurt me, manipulated me, hired people to kill me more times than could be considered friendly— it just became something else to live with. But you… that hurt more than any of the others, than all of the others combined.”
“Me?” Kara croaks. Her vision blurs, lips wobbling and eyes shimmering with more unshed tears; it feels like she’s choking around the way her heart has lodged itself in her throat. She can’t believe it, won’t believe it, doesn’t want to. “Me not telling you I was Supergirl was more hurtful than your mother and your brother trying to kill you?”
“I expect it from them.”
Kara forces out a breath, crossing her arms and shifting her gaze to the floor as more tears spill over.
“No,” Kara says, shaking her head, watching a teardrop fly off the end of her nose. “No. That can’t— it can’t be worse than them. I—”
“You were the only safe thing I had.”
And now, Kara thinks, now she understands how Lena felt, not before. Now she feels like the earth has fallen from beneath her feet, like a tidal wave has crashed into her, woven through her ribs and pulled her under, like she’d be gasping for air the same way she is now.
“You’d do all those things as Supergirl and then you’d show up to my office as Kara and be my best friend like nothing was wrong, knowing how mad I was at you and not caring, just pretending to be someone else.”
“You can yell at me all you want for not being able to instantly reconcile the two parts of you into one, but you spent years doing everything you could to convince me they were two completely different people. So tell me. Tell me why you did it, or get off my balcony.”
Kara watches her sadly, forcing her breaths in and out even as her lungs shake with the effort. Lena waits patiently for her answer, her head tilted and eyes full of fiery defiance as she cradles her empty scotch glass against her collarbone. Kara’s breaths come hard, and she shakes her head at herself and scrubs tears off her cheeks and rubs once at her ear, which feels like it’s gone numb. There are a million things she wants to say, words and pictures and poetry to shower Lena with, but none of it is sufficient. When Kara meets her eyes again, Lena just nods, and before Kara can even open her mouth, Lena’s turned back around.
The balcony door slides open and then closed behind Lena, and the sound the lock makes when it clicks into place hits like a gong in Kara’s chest. She watches through the glass as Lena disappears unsteadily into the depths of her apartment, and then it’s quiet once more.
Kara stands there, staring into Lena’s dark empty living room for longer than she can keep track of, the thundering of her own pulse in her ears hitting into her like waves on a beach until she sways to the side with a breeze that blows by. It ruffles her hair and tickles her nose with the scent of basil, and Kara lifts off of the balcony. She floats to the other side of the building in a daze, right above where she knows Lena’s bedroom is. She doesn’t look and she doesn’t listen in, but she lays on her back on the roof and stares unseeing up at the stars. They swirl overhead with the hours that pass, and eventually her vision unblurs and her ears stop ringing. Her pulse settles in her veins, but the ache in her chest persists even as the sky begins to lighten and Kara finally, dazedly, falls asleep.
Kara goes to the funeral.
It’s more well-attended than it would have been on their original Earth, Kara thinks. On this Earth, where Lex had somehow made himself a hero, there are a fair amount of people present. There are flowers and people paying their respects. Lillian holds court in the front by the casket and says a few words; Lena does not.
Kara doesn’t stay for the whole thing. She hovers in the back until Lena spots her, then lowers her head in a solemn nod, watching Lena cautiously. She isn’t entirely sure Lena acknowledges her at all. Lena’s chin dips a millimeter and her eyes flick down so subtly Kara knows that if she didn’t have superpowered vision she would have missed it, but it’s something, maybe, and Kara holds onto it as Lena turns and starts talking to someone else.
The next day Kara wakes up early and flies out through her bedroom window. When she arrives back in National City an hour later, she gets to Lena’s balcony just as the sky is starting to turn pink. She leaves a bag with some Irish tea and the scones Lena likes from Dublin in a shady spot on the balcony. When she flies by again later, the bag is gone, but the balcony door is locked.
It’s another week later when Kara rings her doorbell, and her posture instantly reminds Lena of the last time Kara came to her apartment. Kara looks impossibly small in her doorway. Her shoulders are rounded, one hand clutched around the opposite elbow, her head hanging forward. When the door opens fully, Kara’s eyes flick up; she worries at her lower lip and shifts her weight on her feet.
“Hi,” Kara murmurs, voice barely above a whisper.
Lena just presses her lips together and raises her eyebrows in response, shifting her own weight to her other leg. She regards Kara for a moment, concentrating on the soft blue of her sweater and the curl of her hair in her ponytail to try to calm the way her heart has started a sprint in her chest.
Kara waits, then blows out a breath, casting her eyes around before landing on Lena again.
“Could I come in?” she asks. Her expression is soft and open, like she’s expecting to be denied. Lena’s about to send her away, to say she needs more time, when one corner of Kara’s mouth pulls into a small, hopeful-looking thing, and Lena finds herself stepping to the side to let Kara in.
The tension bleeds out of Kara’s shoulders as she steps into the apartment, and she crosses over to stand by Lena’s kitchen island, resting her hands on the countertop and tapping her fingertips against the marble. She reaches up to adjust her glasses and then looks up at Lena once more. Lena crosses her arms, flexing her fingers on her biceps as she waits, and Kara nods.
“Thanks,” Kara starts, “for letting me in. I wanted to give you some space, or some time after Lex, and if it hasn’t been enough that’s okay, but I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what you said— it’s all I’ve been able to think about, actually.” Kara huffs out a breath and fixes her glasses again. “I’m not here to give you any excuses, but I’d like to give you an apology and the truth, for whatever it’s worth, so… if you’re ready, I’d like to tell you. Really tell you.”
She looks up at Lena, open, hopeful, and nervous, and it makes Lena acutely aware of each pulse of her heart in her chest.
“If the truth is just more of this ‘I did it to protect you’ bullshit, Kara, I don’t—”
“It’s not,” Kara interjects, shaking her head. “That was a part of it, Lena, but you were right. It was foolish, and it wasn’t nearly as big of a part of it as I convinced myself it was.”
It’s quiet in Lena’s kitchen, the city noise doesn’t penetrate into the apartment, although Lena knows that Kara could hear it if she tried. It still digs at her that it’s Kara, that it’s been her best friend all along who could bend steel and lift mountains, who’s saved her life so many times, whose life Lena has saved just as often. Lena sighs and nods her head.
Kara lets out a breath and nods, flexing her fingertips against the counter before looking up to meet Lena’s eyes.
“I was right the first time, when I told you I was Supergirl at the Pulitzer party. I was being selfish because I was afraid of losing you, but not in the way you think, and… not in the way I actually wound up losing you.” Kara winces, and Lena feels her ears grow hot, but before she can react, Kara continues.
“Growing up was… hard. When I was thirteen, my parents put me and my baby cousin in these tiny pods to send us to Earth while Krypton was exploding. The second I took off Krypton just… blew up. I remember watching it out the back window of my pod. Everything just disappeared: my home, my planet, my parents; everything died in a second and my cousin and I were all that was left. Then something happened to my pod, and when I finally got here I was still thirteen, but Kal-El was this… man. He’d been here for decades already and he’d grown up and wanted nothing to do with me. He dropped me off at the Danvers’ and just left me there. I had all these powers I didn’t know what to do with and couldn’t control and new human parents who tried so hard but were so out of their element and a new sister who just wanted to be an only child again because I was too weird.
“It was… bad. I was a handful. I had nightmares every night— PTSD, probably, now that I’m thinking about it. I heat-visioned a hole in the roof once while I was having a nightmare. I only woke up because Jeremiah was shaking me, and I somehow managed to not heat-vision him too. I ran too fast. I broke every single thing I touched. I broke Alex’s arm once. I thought I was getting better at learning my powers and controlling them. We were playing in the yard and I grabbed her and I didn’t even think but I just… squeezed too hard. I squeezed too hard and one of the bones in her arm just… snapped in half. It was the worst—“ Kara’s voice chokes in her throat as she holds back a sob, and she sucks in a breath that shudders through her teeth before she’s calm enough to keep talking.
Lena listens with rapt attention. She wasn’t entirely sure what Kara was going to say when she answered her door, but she wasn’t expecting this. Kara’s avoiding her gaze now, eyes focused down on the kitchen counter. She’s pinching her thumb between two fingers as she bites the inside of her cheek, and Lena’s entranced.
“I just stopped then, you know? No more powers; I hated that about myself. All I did was learn how to tamp them down to control them and not develop them anymore. I couldn’t look at Alex for months. I don’t like to think about that time much. I vowed to never use my powers ever and just be human and live a normal human life.
“But then… do you remember when Supergirl first appeared? There was that plane that was crashing? I caught it and landed it in the river?” She looks up at Lena, and all Lena can do is nod. “Alex was on that plane; she would have died if I didn’t do anything about it, and that was it, you know? I realized I had this ability to help people and I couldn’t not do that anymore. I had to use this gift that I have on this planet, but it’s so complicated. I can’t just tell the world who I am. I’d be kidnapped, or experimented on, or killed. But I also couldn’t not tell anybody.
“Winn and James were the first people I told, right after the plane, and it was… great at first. It was amazing to be discovering all these things I could do and to have people to talk to about it, but it was different with them than it was with Alex. Alex had always known, you know? I was always just her superpowered little sister, but with Winn and James, things changed. I wasn’t just Kara to them anymore. They wanted to find the heaviest thing I could lift and see how far I could throw a ball; they wanted to test suit materials, and they wanted me to catch bank robbers. Every single time we hung out it became about bad guys or trying a new cape, and it was exciting, but it also felt like I lost my friends in a way, at least the way it had been when I was just Kara to them.”
Kara looks at Lena with watery eyes and shrugs; then she looks down and moves her hand toward Lena’s. Heat flares up in Lena’s neck and behind her ears to match the ache she feels for Kara in her chest, but before she can figure out how to react, Kara seems to think better of it and pulls her hand back, tapping her loose fist on the countertop.
“Every time someone new finds out it’s the same. James eventually wanted to be Guardian. Maggie was mostly cool, but she wanted me to run raids with her and got excited shooting bullets and having me catch them. Nia wanted superhero training. They all calm down eventually and it gets almost back to normal again, but it’s still always there beneath the surface somewhere; it’s never the same as it was. There’s always this edge to it, this added pressure of being Supergirl to them when I really just want to be me. The only people I ever felt like just me with are Alex, because she’s always been there… and you.”
Lena’s pulse roars in her ears, her heart tripping over itself in her chest as her lips part in a silent gasp. Kara looks up at her again, a tight, resigned smile on her face, and she shrugs. Kara pulls her lower lip into her mouth and worries it between her teeth, and Lena takes a deep breath, but it doesn’t feel quite like her chest is expanding. Kara’s looking at her sadly, her lips twitching to the side the way they always do when she’s deep in thought, and then she continues, her voice more wistful than Lena’s ever heard it.
“Everyone else gets excited about Supergirl, but you… you knew Supergirl and Kara both so well and you liked Kara better. That was so… I can’t tell you how special that was to me. I didn’t have to be super with you. I didn’t have to be some symbol of strength and hope and responsibility with you. I got to be human with you. I could be vulnerable or upset or wrong about something and it didn’t matter. You wouldn’t blink at it and you just loved me anyway. I got to just be me, really really me with you, and it was always the best part of my day.”
There are tears in Kara’s eyes now as she watches Lena plaintively, and Lena feels her own eyes well up in response. She understands, despite herself, what Kara’s trying to tell her, and the sheer enormity of the meaning behind her words makes Lena a little lightheaded. The idea that she could be that for someone— so important and so safe and so fundamental to their wellbeing— is overwhelming. The idea that she could be that for Kara…
“You and Alex and Supergirl could open portals to other dimensions, which is just so cool,” Kara continues, “but at the end of the day, even though you can do all that, you just wanted to sit around and eat greasy burgers with Kara Danvers, and I just… I loved that. It was this thing I had that I always wanted, to just be normal and human and flawed, and… how lucky was I that I got to have that with you?” Kara looks up at her then. She’s awestruck and hopeful, and she’s looking at Lena with a soft, important sort of reverence that makes the pressure that’s been building in Lena’s chest start melting into something more molten in her stomach.
“I always thought my relationship with you— “ Kara pauses for a beat and then shakes her head. “—it’s the most important one I have, and I was so afraid of how you’d react and so afraid that our dynamic would change if you found out that I let it get worse and worse.
“It’s not an excuse; I don’t mean for it to sound that way. It’s the most selfish thing I’ve ever done and the worst mistake I’ve ever made. You are worth so much more than being lied to and left out by me and a whole group of people who all really, really like you. The humanity and the safety I had with you wasn’t worth the hurt it caused you, Lena, and I should have realized that so much sooner. I’d rather you know and have things be slightly different with you than not have you at all.” She trails off, tapping her fingers against the countertop again. “I’ll never be able to make up for lying to you for so long,” Kara says, finally, “or for how it must have felt for you to find out from your brother instead of from me, and I'm so, so sorry Lena. I’m never going to lie to you again. I’m going to be fully open and honest with you from now on. Anything you want to know, I’ll tell you— if you decide you want that,” Kara adds on.
They’re quiet for a moment. Kara’s expression is tender, wistful as she regards Lena. Lena measures her breaths, her mind reeling with everything Kara’s just told her. She tries to come up with words to say, but nothing comes out, and after a few minutes, Kara smiles at her sadly and nods.
“I know it’s a lot,” Kara acknowledges, looking a little uncomfortable. She straightens up, sliding her hands to the edge of the counter. “I can just let you, um, digest that a little.” She takes another soft look at Lena and then makes her way around Lena to head for the door.
“Wait,” Lena calls after her. She can see Kara’s sigh of relief as clearly as she can hear it, and she takes a couple steps until she’s standing in front of Kara.
“Thank you,” Lena says, “for telling me all of that.”
“Of course,” Kara breathes. She watches Lena, waiting, and she looks so eager Lena’s not entirely sure what to do with her.
“You know I feel like you know everything about me, and I don’t know anything about you.”
Kara closes her eyes briefly and then turns her head to the side, looking over the familiar planes of Lena’s apartment before responding.
“I can understand that,” she says quietly. “There might be a lot about my past that you don’t know, but you still know me, Lena. Everything you know about me is still me, and I want you to know everything, if you want to.”
Lena leans back, a nervous flutter kicking up in her chest. She crosses her arms to tamp it down, but it spreads through her body and puts her on edge, and she squeezes her arms tighter around herself.
“I don’t know,” Lena says honestly.
She sees Kara’s eyes well up again, but Kara turns her head away quickly to gather herself and wipe at her eyes beneath her glasses, and when she looks back at Lena they’re mostly dry again. She nods quickly to herself, putting her hands on her hips and shifting her weight around.
“Okay,” she breathes out. “That’s fair.”
Her glasses have slipped down her nose a little, and without thinking, Lena reaches her hand out to fix them. Kara freezes, looking wide-eyed at Lena as Lena gently pushes the glasses back into place. Lena lingers, her mind catching up to her. She can feel the heat from Kara’s cheek warm the air beneath her fingers, and as she holds Kara’s gaze, she feels something heady in her shift.
Lena changes her mind, not breaking her gaze with Kara as she slowly pulls the glasses from Kara’s face and lets them rest heavy in her hand. They stare at each other, taking the other in as Lena’s heart beats a steady drum in her chest. When she opens her mouth to speak, she finds her throat dry, and she clears it delicately, watching as Kara’s eyelids droop in a slow blink.
“They’re really heavy,” Lena whispers finally, and Kara blinks a few times before glancing down to where Lena’s cradling the frames in her hand.
“They’re made of lead,” Kara murmurs back just as quietly. “Jeremiah made them for me.”
“Oh,” Lena says quickly, rushing to hand them back to Kara.
Kara puts her hand up and shakes her head. “No, it’s okay,” she soothes, and Lena pulls the glasses back in toward herself. “I had a lot of issues when I was a kid, when I first got here. I had sensory overload all the time. I could barely open my eyes because I could see through everything— everything was so bright. I could hear everything for miles, and I couldn’t sleep because everything was so loud. When I did manage to sleep, I’d have those nightmares.”
Tears prick at Lena’s eyes and spill unbidden onto her cheeks. There’s an ache for Kara in her chest, for what she’d gone through at such a young age, for how quietly she carries it with her now.
“One day, Jeremiah came home with this pair of glasses,” she gestures down to where Lena’s holding them and smiles. “He said the frames were made of lead and that they’d block my x-ray vision and let me see things how he did.” Kara looks up at Lena, and offers her a small smile. “I put them on and I could see normally. I couldn’t see through everything anymore; the world wasn’t so bright and overexposed. He said I could wear them until I got used to my powers, and it helped me learn how to block out the x-ray vision on my own. He made me a couple pairs over the years; every time I’d get too big for one he’d have another ready.”
Lena looks up at Kara, awed and unsure at the same time. One side of Kara’s mouth quirks up, and Lena tries to smile back, but she can’t quite make her muscles work the way she wants them to.
“I didn’t know any of that,” Lena says softly, looking down at the glasses in her hand.
“I know,” Kara whispers, nodding. “I know. I’m sorry. One day I hope we’ll be us again,” Lena quickly meets her eyes, a quiet breath escaping her. “I want to tell you everything. Whenever you’re ready to hear it.”
Lena blows out a breath and wipes at her eyes with her free hand. She’s still hyper-aware of how her heart is pounding away in her chest, but it’s only saying one thing. “I’d like that,” she admits.
Kara’s smile is brilliant, blinding, but she schools it quickly and nods vigorously instead, sniffling quietly.
Lena nods to herself, reaching out and offering the glasses back to Kara. Kara takes them from her gingerly and slides them back on, and for the millionth time Lena wonders how she ever missed it.
“Thanks,” Kara says quietly. She pauses, then, “I miss you.”
A flush ripples through Lena, and she inhales sharply, the words hitting her with such a force that she nearly sways on her feet. It makes her lightheaded, aflame with the way her heart wars against her brain as she tries to resist it, the way those words and this look she’d always dreamed of seeing on Kara’s face would have unraveled her a year ago. It doesn’t work as well as she hopes, and the unadulterated fondness in Kara’s expression pulls at something in her that she’s not sure she’s ready to let go.
“Kara...” she whispers.
Kara steps back, holding her hands up in front of her, wide-eyed once more. “No, you’re right. I’m sorry. I’m sorry. I’ll just—” she hooks a hand over her shoulder and points her thumb at the door, but she lingers, her open, hopeful eyes never leaving Lena’s, and something squeezes in Lena’s chest.
“Wait,” she says again, and Kara’s fingers unclench, thumb curling back in. “I miss you, too.”
It’s like watching the sun come out after a rainy day, the way that Kara’s eyes soften and her eyebrows raise. Her lips pull into a surprised smile, and her whole face is a question that Lena finds she’s always known the answer to. It’s almost subtle, the way Kara’s wrists rotate out and her arms open, palms offered up, but the intention is clear as day, and Lena holds back, raising a trembling finger and pointing it at Kara’s chest.
“Don’t you ever—”
“—do that to me again.”
Kara whips her head back and forth so fast it’s almost a blur. The taut ropes of tension wound around Lena’s ribcage loosen just enough for her posture to ease, and she slumps forward, letting herself sink into Kara’s embrace. Kara’s arms are warm and comforting as always when they wrap so carefully around her, but Lena doesn’t return Kara’s hug. She keeps her arms folded between their bodies even as Kara’s cradle her. She rests her forehead against Kara’s collarbone and immediately feels Kara’s cheek press into the side of her head. The warmth that floods through her is so palpable she wonders absently if she’s been cold all day, and she sighs, relaxing her spine and letting Kara support her weight.
“I’m not ready to be back to normal,” she whispers.
“I know,” Kara murmurs to her.
Her voice is right next to Lena’s ear, and the warm air wafting over her skin makes Lena shiver. Kara gathers her even closer then, a palm pressed to the small of her back, and Lena presses her cheek into Kara’s neck. It takes her a beat, but Lena pulls her arms out from between them and wraps them snugly around Kara’s waist. She feels Kara’s chest tremble as Kara lets out a shaky breath, fingers flexing against Lena’s back, and Lena closes her eyes. She thinks she feels Kara’s lips brush against her hair, but she’s not sure if she’s just imagined it.
“But this is okay for now,” Lena says.
It’s just past noon when Lena sees movement in the reflection on her computer screen. It's been a long time since the sight of Supergirl landing on her balcony hasn’t filled Lena with a sense of dread. She feels lighter now that she doesn't have to brace herself for an argument and takes a moment instead to appreciate the way Kara's hair and her cape settle down after a flight. The weather has been warm and breezy, and Lena’s left the balcony door open all day, but Kara still pauses in the doorway and knocks. She’s still wearing that hopeful almost-smile on her face, and Lena gestures her in.
Something strikes Lena, watching Kara walk into her office. Something familiar and unfamiliar all at once, and it isn’t until Kara raises the paper bag in her hand that Lena figures it out.
“I brought lunch,” Kara says. Her voice lacks its usual confidence. She looks a little unsure and out of place, but the smile on her face is warm as ever. “Are you hungry?”
Lena tilts her head, taking in the once-familiar gesture. “You know, Supergirl’s never brought me lunch before.”
Kara pauses, straightening up and clearing her throat. “Oh. Is this okay? Is it too much? I could change—”
“Kara,” Lena says softly. Not for the first time, she looks at Supergirl standing in front of her and assigns the name Kara in her head. Lena gives her a small smile and practically sees the tension drain from her shoulders. “I could eat.”
Kara grins at her, a wild, happy thing that creases her cheeks around her eyes before she walks over to the couch on the other side of the office. The cape flows gracefully behind her and drapes over the couch as she sits, and Lena finds that the image of Supergirl relaxed on her couch for lunch isn’t as unsettling as it might have been a week ago.
“Is that… a salad?” Lena asks, incredulous, as Kara unloads her paper bag. Kara just offers it to her wordlessly, watching as Lena settles onto the couch next to her and takes the bowl from her hand.
“I just wanted to make sure you’d like it,” Kara mumbles, turning a little pink as she looks down and pulls a sandwich for herself out of the bag. Lena stops unwrapping her lunch to look at Kara for a moment, a fondness she hasn’t felt in nearly a year blooming in her chest. Kara looks back up and meets Lena’s gaze again, glancing between her eyes, and Lena lets her, watching Kara in return until Kara shrugs. “And maybe I’ll go have a few cheeseburgers later.”
Lena laughs. It spills out of her unbidden but familiar, like riding a bike, and she catches another grin on Kara’s face before Kara turns her head to hide it from view.
They don’t talk about anything important; the conversation is almost painfully ordinary. Kara tells Lena about a staff meeting at CatCo and how she’d baked three batches of brownies the week before. Lena tells Kara about a documentary on owls that she’d seen, and really, she doesn’t have much other news. It’s a little stilted, the rhythm their lunches used to have is interrupted, awkward now, but it doesn’t seem like Kara minds.
Kara sits quietly for most of lunch, speaking here and there but mostly prompting Lena to talk or just eating her sandwich in peace, but each time she looks over at Lena there’s a softness in the way her eyes linger just a hair too long, and it pulls at a feeling that’s been bubbling in Lena’s stomach.
A little later, when they’ve finished their meals and Kara’s winding down a story about an interview she did recently, she trails off, setting the wrapper from her sandwich on the coffee table and clearing her throat. “Do you have any time tonight? There’s one more thing I’d like to tell you.”
The warmth that had so wonderfully ensconced Lena in the last hour shatters as a wave of dread rips through her. She feels her chest locking back up, closing in around her ribcage as she stands up to get away from Kara on the couch. Kara blanches, immediately jolting up off the couch after Lena.
“No no,” Kara rushes out, holding her hands out in front of her in an attempt to soothe Lena, wide-eyed. “It’s not bad! Nothing like that. No more secrets, I promise. It’s just— there’s something that happened to me this past year, while we were— I just want to tell you about it, that’s all.”
Lena breathes out, and the air in the room feels less constricting the longer Kara holds her gaze. There’s a niggling voice in the back of her brain that wonders if part of her is ruined, if she’ll always react to Kara this way, always be afraid, always able to see trust but unable to reach out and grasp it. Kara waits for her, open and earnest and a little sad, and Lena can hear the words, even if Kara won’t say them. Can you trust me?
“Okay,” Lena nods. “Okay.”
“Can I come over later?”
Kara offers her a small smile, and Lena lets the corners of her mouth tug up in response. Kara gathers the remains of their meal and tosses it out before walking back over to Lena. She takes another step closer then, studying Lena’s eyes carefully. Lena feels herself tense, the unexpected proximity to Kara kickstarting the drumbeat in her chest and making her stomach flip over. Time seems to slow down as Kara leans in slowly. She holds Lena’s gaze as she leans to one side, giving Lena the time to pull away, but all Lena can do is stay frozen as warm lips brush over her cheek. Her eyes flutter closed as a warm puff of air ghosts across the side of her face, and then Kara is pulling away, offering her a small smile and a ‘See you later,’ and disappearing out the window.
When her doorbell rings this time, Lena knows exactly what she’ll find on the other side. Kara’s there, looking pretty and fresh-faced and hopeful as ever. Her hair is back in a ponytail, but she takes it down when Lena lets her in. It falls in perfect blonde waves around her shoulders, and Lena finds herself admiring it instead of getting stuck on what it used to mean to her.
Lena’s nervous, she knows, about whatever it is Kara’s going to tell her. Kara looks nervous too, but not in the twitchy, agitated way she had at the Pulitzer party, when she’d had a secret so big it shook the ground beneath Lena’s feet, and Lena finds that that observation calms her somewhat. Above all, she’s found it less and less worth it to be suspicious and guarded with Kara, that it causes more mental anguish than it’s worth with Kara being so genuine.
Kara stumbles a bit and stops short in front of Lena before shaking her head at herself and moving past Lena into the living room. It makes Lena draw in a short breath, recognizing the move from years of ‘hello’ hugs from Kara, and while she appreciates Kara trying to respect her boundaries, she finds herself wishing Kara hadn’t stopped herself from hugging her this time.
When she and Kara are settled on the couch, Kara clears her throat and fiddles with her glasses.
“I came to your balcony one night a few months ago,” she begins, nodding over at the balcony on the other side of the room, “and I said some really terrible things to you. I called you a villain.”
“Believe it or not, I remember that,” Lena quips, but Kara looks so regretful she chooses not to dwell on it.
Kara winces. “Right. Well. Almost every single thing I said to you that night was wrong. The only thing I said that was right is that I can’t change the past. But, what I didn’t tell you that night is that I tried.”
Kara takes in a deep breath and looks at Lena with such purpose, Lena feels like there’s something she’s missing, like she should be able to glean Kara’s meaning from this one sentence that doesn’t make any sense.
“Kara, what do you mean?”
“I guess there’s really no easy way to say this,” Kara chuckles self-consciously. “Okay. Sometimes an imp from the fifth dimension visits me and completely turns my life upside down. It’s happened twice now; he pops up out of nowhere and appears at my door or walks out of my fridge. He can create alternate realities, or show you realities that could exist—”
“Wait wait wait,” Lena stops her. “The fifth-dimension— are the realities real? Are they part of the multiverse or are they hypothetical? Can you get him back? Can I talk to him?”
“No! No. No,” Kara quiets her urgently, looking around the apartment nervously. “That’s… not a good idea. Maybe, could we get into the scientifics of it a little later? This is important.”
Lena looks like she wants to protest, but she rests back into the couch and lets Kara continue.
“I was thinking that night about how maybe if I’d done things differently with you, if I’d told you who I was sooner, I could have avoided hurting you so much, and he came to my apartment and offered me exactly that.”
All of Lena’s attention narrows to Kara. She still has that earnest look on her face despite the outlandish-sounding things she’s saying, and Lena fights the nervous rumbling that starts up in her stomach.
“I’m not sure I’m following, Kara. What are you trying to say?”
Kara nods and blows out a breath. “I hate that I hurt you so badly, and that night, before I came to your balcony, he showed up at my apartment and offered me a do-over. He let me pick different points in time to go back to so I could tell you earlier, and he said that if one worked out, he could make it our new reality.”
Lena can’t help but just blink at Kara, her mind spinning. “Could you… keep explaining?”
“The first time I picked was right before Mercy Graves attacked.” She pauses to glance at Lena guiltily, and Lena remembers how gutted Kara had looked on her balcony that night when she’d ripped into her about Mercy Graves. “I went back and told you I was Supergirl in your office that day. You didn’t look happy at all, but the alarm went off before you could say anything, and when I got back, you were gone; you’d left to go to Metropolis to talk to Sam.”
And oh, Lena thinks, Sam. If Sam could see her now, what would she think? How differently would her year have gone if she’d done what that reality’s Lena had done and taken her Kara problems to Sam instead of Lex? The thought makes her gut clench and twist and she pushes it away for now to keep listening to Kara.
“It was right around the night Agent Liberty poisoned the air with kryptonite, do you remember? In our timeline, you saved my life that night, but in this new timeline you were on the other side of the country, and I died.”
Lena takes in a breath, her eyes going wide as she absorbs what Kara’s telling her. She remembers, suddenly, getting a desperate, frantic call from Alex that Supergirl was dying, how scared Alex had sounded and how much sense that makes now. “You saw all this? Like it was… real?”
Kara nods. “Experienced some of it first-hand, watched the rest of it play out on a tv, kind of. I saw Alex visiting my grave. It was real. Or, it could have been, if I’d wanted it to be, but…”
She trails off and shakes her head rapidly, and Lena nods, understanding as much as she can.
“So I tried again and went back earlier instead. I told you when we were fighting about you making kryptonite to defeat Reign—”
Lena makes a noise in the back of her throat and Kara grimaces sympathetically.
“Yeah… it didn’t go well. You were furious, but you decided to help us fight Reign anyway. It looked like it was going well, but… Sam killed you.” Kara trails off, looking guilty for a moment, and Lena’s heart pounds in her ears. “Reign killed you, and then Mon-El and Reign killed each other, and everyone died except me.”
Kara’s fingers shake as much as her voice does as she recounts the story. It muddles its way through everything else in Lena’s brain and she’s stuck staring for a moment, considering easing the trembling of Kara’s hand with her own. She doesn’t.
“So then I thought if I went all the way back to the beginning and told you right as we were first becoming friends, maybe it would be okay. Maybe it wouldn’t hurt you because you’d have known from the start, so I tried that too.”
“What happened?” Lena asks, interested, her mind reeling as it tries to process all the information Kara is throwing at her.
Kara smiles at her, small and resigned and with only one side of her mouth. “You weren’t angry at all, Lena. All you did was make a joke about how your alien detection device didn’t work—”
“Wait a minute,” Lena cuts in, flabbergasted. She sits up straight on the couch. “My alien detection device didn’t work on you. Why didn—”
“I zapped it.”
“You—” Lena cuts herself short and just glares at Kara, exasperated. Kara has the grace to look guilty.
Lena huffs and rolls her eyes good-naturedly, fighting a smile as she gestures for Kara to continue.
“You were happy I told you, and we became partners and did all these amazing things together for years. But then one day you refused to give Ben Lockwood my identity,” Kara pauses to take a deep breath, her fingers clenching into fists. “He kidnapped you and locked you in a case with no oxygen to try to make me reveal myself, and—”
Kara stops again when her voice goes weak and turns her head away from Lena. This time Lena does reach over to take Kara’s hand, her mind spinning half in rage at Ben Lockwood and half in amazement that her being in danger in a universe that doesn’t exist can still affect Kara like this. She soothes her thumb over the soft skin on the back of Kara’s hand, and Kara clutches onto her, turning her head back to stare at their hands. She takes a breath, swiping her thumb over Lena’s hand in return before continuing.
“It’s exactly that part of why I didn’t tell you in the first place, you know?” Kara looks up at her then, and Lena’s pinned in place by how sad her eyes are. “Someone using the people I love like that? Hurting them or killing them in order to get to me? It keeps me up at night; it keeps me from getting out of bed sometimes, and for it to be you,” Kara whimpers, pressing her lips together as her eyes track over Lena’s face. She squeezes Lena’s hand tighter as her eyes well with tears, and Lena’s heart aches for her.
“What happened?” Lena whispers.
“I did it,” Kara murmurs back, shrugging. Lena gasps. “I told the whole world who I was so I could save you. And I did save you. I almost picked that one, you know, made that the new reality because we were happy and alive, but it turned out that after that Lockwood went on a spree. He killed all of my friends and family, one by one, until no one was left.”
A tear spills over onto Lena’s cheek, and she pushes it away quickly before moving her free hand to bracket Kara’s hand in hers.
Kara just shrugs again, eyes glistening with unshed tears. She breaks Lena’s gaze when she sniffles and glances down to pull in a shaky breath. Her hair falls forward, and Lena reaches up to tuck it behind her ear. She rests her hand on Kara’s shoulder then, rubbing slowly with her thumb.
“Um, I tried one more time after that. I figured that since you got hurt no matter what I did that maybe you’d be better off without me at all.”
“Kara, no.” Lena’s heart clenches, and her hand tightens around Kara’s reflexively. Despite everything, the thought is… unimaginable, to be without this, to be without her. Kara picks her head back up then, searching Lena’s eyes before her shoulders sag.
“Turns out that if I didn’t catch your helicopter that first day, your mom would have kidnapped you and she, um, you wouldn’t like it,” Kara trails off evasively, never stopping the movement of her thumb over Lena’s hand. “But, um, you killed me.”
Lena thinks her hearing goes out for a moment, and if Kara’s still talking, she isn’t processing it. Her blood runs cold, her body stiff. The only thing she’s aware of is the faint feeling of her heart pulsing in her chest until Kara’s face is ducking into her line of sight, her free hand gripping Lena’s upper arm. Lena breathes then, searching Kara’s face before flinging her arms around Kara’s shoulders. Kara catches her, sighing out a relieved breath as she pulls Lena in tight and closes her eyes. It settles her racing heart, the pressure of Kara’s arms around her and the sweet, familiar scent of Kara’s shampoo. She scratches her nails lightly over Kara’s shoulder blades to ground herself, feels one of Kara’s hands pass over her back in response, and she sighs, luxuriating in the calming feeling a little longer until she pulls away.
Kara stays close, taking one of Lena’s hands between hers and gently playing with her fingers as she starts talking again, her voice quiet and timid.
“I had the worst reaction to it, to be honest,” she admits, concentrating her gaze on Lena’s fingers. “I thought that there not being a reality that worked out perfectly meant that I didn’t do anything wrong in the first place, because you got hurt no matter what I did. And then I came to your balcony, and I was so arrogant, and I called you a villain. I—”
She cuts herself off, shaking her head, and seems to start her thought over.
“What it should have taught me instead is that there’s no magic fix; there was no perfect way to do this. I can’t just wave a wand and alter reality to make everything fine, because there will always be consequences.” Kara adjusts her grip on Lena’s hand, squeezing softly. “Hurting you like this was the worst mistake of my life, Lena, but seeing all the other options? I couldn’t change it. I hate what I did to you, but we’re both here, and we’re both alive, and that’s so much better than any other timeline I warped myself into.”
She stops and looks up at Lena again; she looks sad yet determined, but there’s something else in her eyes, something deeper and more important that jumpstarts Lena’s heart in her chest again. It’s the same look Kara gave her at lunch earlier today, the same one from when Kara was last in this apartment, when she laid herself bare for Lena’s inspection and expected nothing in return, and Lena finds she couldn’t look away if she tried.
“You did all of that for me?” Lena whispers, as awed by the story as she is by the way Kara’s looking at her. Kara just gives her a small smile.
“I’d do anything for you.”
Lena feels her breath leave her in a gasp. She looks between Kara’s eyes for a moment. Her whole body feels like it’s vibrating, shaking from the inside out, and she doesn’t think; she doesn’t breathe. She just brings a hand up to cradle the hinge of Kara’s jaw and presses forward into the soft give of Kara’s lips.
She feels frozen in time for a moment, caught in the way Kara’s hands tighten around hers, the way Kara’s breath hitches against her lips. It feels reckless, bold, like something she’d always known within herself but never thought she’d actually do. Every time she’d thought of this moment, every time she’d buried it, every time over the last year when she’d convinced herself she’d never felt this way at all vanishes at the feeling of Kara’s mouth trembling against hers. And now, with Kara’s lips sticking just the tiniest bit to hers and silky blonde hair tickling her fingertips, Lena sighs against Kara’s mouth and kisses her again.
Kara whimpers against her, dislodging their lips but pressing her forehead to Lena’s and nudging their noses together as her breath stutters out of her in a shaky puff of air that drifts over Lena’s mouth. Two hands find their way to either side of Lena’s ribcage, fingers splayed wide and greedy, and Lena squeezes her eyes shut, letting herself be gathered in and gripping Kara’s arm as her heart pumps to the beat of Kara’s breath.
A year full of hurt, anxiety, and stress dims in Kara’s arms. It doesn’t disappear, but the pulsing, buzzing, throbbing presence of it fades as Kara’s thumbs stroke over her sides. They stay for a moment, pressed against each other just breathing, not daring to say a word, until Kara makes the softest noise in the back of her throat and nudges her nose against Lena’s again. Lena slides her hand to the back of Kara’s neck, letting her fingers sift into Kara’s hair and scratching delicately at her scalp, and Kara presses forward into Lena’s lips again.
Lena’s never been more aware of the nerve endings on her skin. Kara’s hands skim around her ribs to rest on her back and leave a blazing trail in their wake. Kara’s lips are insistent, delicate but devastatingly deliberate against her own, and Lena presses closer, closer, closer until she’s flush against Kara and tilting Kara’s head to meet her own.
When they part, foreheads pressed together again as they catch their breath, Lena’s nearly in Kara’s lap. There’s a pleasant buzzing thrumming through her, warm beneath Kara’s touch, and she sags into Kara, carding both hands through the hair on either side of Kara’s head. Something within Lena shifts and settles, and she hums in acknowledgement.
“Kara,” she murmurs.
Kara tenses against her for a moment, but then Lena feels her take in a breath and relax.
“Is— this is okay?” Kara’s voice is small, tentative, like she somehow thinks she’ll get a rejection, and Lena pulls back just far enough to meet her gaze. Kara’s eyes blink open, and she looks at Lena with questioning eyes. Lena smiles.
“This is the timeline I want.”
Kara’s lips part, jaw dropping just a little, and she looks up at Lena with a soft look of wonder on her face.
Lena smiles and kisses her again.
It’s warm outside. There’s a soft breeze wafting by that plays delicately with Kara’s hair, and Lena admires it from her place beside her. It’s immeasurably different now, being out on her balcony with Kara, than it ever has been. Before they started fighting, she and Kara used to come out to the balcony quite often. They’d sit at the table with some takeout and a bottle of wine, looking out over the city as they recounted their days. Kara would ramble endlessly about work or the article she was writing or the plot of a movie she was appalled that Lena hadn’t seen. It was easy. Natural. It was Lena’s favorite thing in the world.
This time is different. They’re laying on two of Lena’s deck chairs that Kara had nudged together, and Kara hasn’t said a word. Kara’s eyes are unfocused, as if she’s deep in thought, but there’s a serene smile on her face that puts Lena at ease and settles warm and easy in her stomach.
Kara’s gazing at where her hand rests between them, her fingers wrapped loosely around Lena’s hand, her thumb stroking absently back and forth over Lena’s skin. The touch soothes Lena, tension she didn’t know she was still carrying draining from her muscles and leaving her feeling more content than she thought she could be.
Lena notices, absently, that Kara’s glasses are missing. She wonders when Kara had taken them off or if she hadn’t worn them to begin with, and it occurs to her abruptly that at some point seeing Kara without them had stopped bothering her.
“You know, I like you like this,” Lena murmurs to Kara quietly, not wanting to startle her out of her trance.
Kara tips her head back, letting it fall against the headrest and to the side to face Lena. She smiles softly and strokes her thumb over the back of Lena’s hand with more purpose.
“In your Kara clothes without the glasses,” Lena responds.
Kara’s eyes widen just a little as she draws in a deep breath, her free hand automatically reaching up to her face before stalling awkwardly when she doesn’t find her glasses there. Her mouth opens and closes a couple times before she replies, “You do?”
“It seems very… you,” Lena says, surprised at how easy the words come, how honest they are.
The smile Kara gives her is brilliant, a bright, beaming thing, and Lena feels it wash over her like the morning sun.
“It is me,” Kara tells Lena, gazing at her like she’d invented chocolate, like she’d cured cancer, like she’s the only thing in Kara’s world. It makes Lena’s heart gallop in her chest. “It’s the most me I ever feel. I— it makes me really happy to be like this with you.”
Lena feels herself flush and ducks her head down, but she’s unable to keep the smile off her face. She squeezes Kara’s hands in hers and feels Kara tug her in closer.
“I inherited the company again, Luthorcorp, when Lex died” Lena says, and Kara nods knowingly. Kara’s watching her steadily, but this time it’s Lena who's transfixed on their hands, on the way their fingers are twined together. “On this new version of Earth it was still his, and it’s still corrupt and shady, and I have to fix it all over again. I’m going to fix it all over again.”
The breeze floats by again, and Lena smiles when she catches a hint of basil in the air. Basil has always been Kara’s favorite.
“I’m going to have a ceremony soon to announce the rebranding to L-Corp. Again. Will you come with me?”
She looks back up and meets Kara’s eyes in time to catch them water, but Kara just smiles at her and ducks her head in to press a kiss to Lena’s lips.
“Yeah,” Kara whispers, kissing Lena again. “I will.”
Lena feels a smile pull its way across her face until her cheeks hurt, and her heart trips again seeing it reflected on Kara’s.
“It’s pretty rare to get a fresh start at something that matters so much,” Lena says purposefully, and Kara’s eyes go wide, her lips parting in surprise, “so I’m going to make the most of it.”
Kara nods eagerly, her grip re-fastening around Lena’s hand.
“I’ll be there with you.”
Lena just smiles back at her. “Good.”