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The Gift

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Lena isn’t sure how long she slept for, only having a vague memory of being helped into bed by Eliza. It’s dark outside, she notices, and Lena sighs as she realizes she’s slept the whole day. She blinks heavily, blindly reaching out to the lamp and wincing when it brightly lights up her bedroom. Miss Pizzly remains tucked up to her side, and Lena is torn between feeling comforted and mortified at the same time.

She’s a grown woman for God’s sake, she shouldn’t need a stuffed animal. Yet, Lena can’t quite bring herself to shove it off the bed. She stares at it, the memory of buying it so vivid in her mind. Lena can remember how it felt in her little hands, how she gripped it so tightly out of fear that someone may take it away from her. She remembers the fear dissipating around the people who were strangers at the time, replaced by the warmth of acceptance.

They wanted her to be happy. They’d bought the bear purely because Lena had wanted it, there was no bargaining, no arguments, just a happy moment that’s now embedded in the muddled memories of her childhood.

Lena strokes the soft fur, staring down at the gift with watery eyes. She’d been so easy to please, a little love and attention was all that was required, and Lena can’t understand why she needed a re-do to receive that. She’d been right there in front of Lillian, so eager to please, so desperate to be loved. A simple hug every now and then would have changed her whole childhood, and yet even that had been too much to ask for.

She tucks Miss Pizzly into her arms as she slides her legs over the edge of the bed, still groggy as she makes her way out to the living room. Lena smiles softly when she finds Eliza on the couch, quietly reading in the lamplight and seemingly waiting for her. The smile is returned, warm and tender, gentle blue eyes almost relieved to see the dishevelled young woman.

“You must have been exhausted,” Eliza murmurs, setting the book aside as she stands from the couch. There’s no judgement, no sarcastic comments about sleeping the whole day away. “There’s some takeout in the microwave if you’re hungry,” she adds. Lena glances towards the kitchen, but doesn’t move, her throat jerking with a nervous swallow.

“Maybe once I’m more awake,” Lena states, her voice wavering. Eliza smiles at her, gentle and sad, and she stands to take Lena into her arms, Miss Pizzly squashed between them. Lena doesn’t even realize she’s crying until the hiccups take over, mortified by the way her body jolts with each one. Eliza holds her until the hiccups stop, her thumbs wiping away each stray tear that leaks from Lena’s eyes.

“I think, perhaps, we should find you someone to talk to,” Eliza murmurs. “A professional,” she clarifies. “You’ve been holding on to so much pain, honey. I think it still eats away at you.” Eliza pulls back, attempting to smooth Lena’s bed head. “If it’s something you’d like to try, Kelly can recommend someone, but there’s no pressure. The decision is yours, and yours alone and I’ll fully support whatever you decide.

Eliza holds her at arms length, gently rubbing her shoulders. Lena sucks her lips inwards, squeezing her eyes closed as she wills away fresh tears. She nods, reluctantly agreeing to seek the help she’s needed for so long.

“I think — I think that’s a good idea,” Lena whispers. “It’s just… a lot. This last week feels like years ago, and it feels like it doesn’t belong there, but I want it to. I want that to be my past because the alternative makes it hard to breathe. It always has.” Lena drops her head, brows deeply furrowed. “Thank you for everything you did for me. I won’t ever forget that.”

“Honey,” Eliza gently tips Lena’s chin upwards with one finger, “that’s what families do. I’ve got your back, Lena. We all do.”

“You’re gonna make me cry again,” Lena grumbles, swiping at her cheeks. Eliza chuckles, drawing Lena inwards for another hug. The arms around her are fierce, tight, yet so gentle, as though Lena is made of glass and may shatter at any moment. But Lena is strong, though, the bulletproof kind of glass. Lena may splinter, she may falter, but she will never break.

“When you’re ready, we will get in touch with Kelly,” Eliza murmurs. “You just let me know when that is.” The we is not lost on Lena, and it wraps around her heart with the warmth of several suns. The thought of never being alone again, of having people around who want to be there, is overwhelming. She’s exhausted, the feelings, new and old, far too much for her to deal with right now, but going back to sleep makes Lena feel like she’d be missing out on something.

“Why don’t you get comfortable on the couch whilst I run to the store,” Eliza suggests. “Then we’ll have some of that chinese food when I get back.”

“You don’t have to —”

“I know,” Eliza cuts her off, smiling kindly. “You’re more than capable of restocking your fridge all by yourself, but you need to rest, and it’s driving me crazy to see the utter lack of food in this apartment.” Lena blushes, the light scold barely even noticeable, but hitting its mark all the same. “I’ll be back soon, I promise.”

Eliza leans forward to tenderly kiss Lena’s forehead, chuckling softly as she notices her blush spreading to the very tips of her ears. Kara was very much the same when she first joined their family. Lena watches her leave, her chest tightening with a familiar fear, wondering if Eliza will truly come back. She sighs, attempting to ignore the deeply ingrained habit of thinking the worst.

Eliza already did come back for her, and she stayed when she didn’t have to. It’s not the same as when she was a five year old in her care, there’s no requirement, no necessity , to take care of her. Eliza chose to come here, to help her, to ensure Lena knew she was loved. That Lena can believe, at the very least.

She grabs the nearest blanket and cocoons herself inside it, soft fleece tickling her chin as she sits on the couch and snuggles into the cushions. The TV is still on, replaying a minor emergency that Supergirl dealt with whilst Lena slept. Lena’s eyes burn with more unshed tears, her bottom lip trembling as she watches Kara joke around with the news reporter, not missing the fact that Kara’s smile doesn’t quite reach her eyes.

The only thing capable of dragging Lena’s eyes from the screen is the knock at the apartment door. Lena frowns, wondering why Eliza would be back so soon and debating whether or not she should just give the older woman a key. She still has the one she made Kara give back to her all those months ago, after all. 

One look through the peephole is enough to send Lena’s heart hurtling into her throat. It’s Andrea, and she’s staring straight into the hole with a knowing look. Out of everyone Lena knows, her childhood friend is the most stubborn of them all, and any attempt to send her away would be pointless. Lena winces and swings the door open, leaning against the frame in a weak attempt to block Andrea from entering.

Andrea either doesn’t notice Lena’s reluctance to invite her inside, or she simply chooses to ignore it as she pushes past her in the doorway. It’s most likely the latter, Lena realizes, and she rolls her eyes. Andrea makes herself at home, settling in the space on the couch that Lena had been sitting and crossing one leg over the other. She eyes Lena critically, her lips pushed into a thin line.

“One day you’re giving someone a bath, and the next they won’t even answer your calls,” Andrea remarks, dry and unimpressed. Lena blushes, her cheeks warmer than a dragon's breath as she refuses to even meet Andrea’s gaze. She perches on the opposite end of the couch, keeping as much space between them as she possibly can whilst staring down at her fidgeting fingers.

“Kara told me Eliza came over here, so I at least know you’ve been eating and resting,” Andrea states. “Which is good to know, but I’d rather have heard it from you.” Andrea sighs, and Lena can feel her eyes boring into the side of her head. 

There’s a part of her that’s relieved she wasn’t left alone with her own thoughts for too long, but there’s another part, much larger, which has no idea of how to act or what to say. She remembers very clearly how involved Andrea was, how she even fought Kara in the beginning, convinced that she should be the one to take care of her.

“Have you at least talked to Sam?” Andrea tries.

“Yeah,” Lena murmurs. “I emailed her to let her know I’m going back to L-Corp tomorrow.” Andrea’s brows spring upwards and she clenches her jaw, her eyes narrowing as she studies Lena carefully.

“Do you think you’re ready for that?” Andrea asks, bluntly. “It’s been 24 hours since you put your shoes on the wrong feet and needed my help to tie them, don’t you think you need a little more time?” Lena’s cheeks redden further and emerald eyes dart around the apartment, a response trapped behind the lump in her throat that she just can’t swallow down.

Andrea sighs and scoots closer, Lena surprising even herself when she allows Andrea’s arm to wrap around her shoulders. She leans heavily against her, Lena’s head tucked beneath Andrea’s chin.

"That imp isn't around here is he?" Andrea asks, warily checking the darkened corners of Lena's apartment, as though expecting Mxy to jump out on them. Lena lets out a puff of amusement, a small smile tugging at one corner of her mouth.

"I made it clear that he wasn't welcome," Lena murmurs. "He had a lot to say."

"I think we all do," Andrea notes. She sighs, "I wish I hadn't made you feel like you couldn't come to me. It's my own fault, I know, but I would have been there every Christmas. I will be here from now on."

"Wish isn't the best word to use right now. I don't think I have the energy to relive another part of my life,” Lena jokes, weakly. Andrea chuckles, humming in agreement.

“Yeah, you’re right.” She tolds Lena a little tighter, swallowing thickly. “I — I hope,” Andrea hesitates, frowning, “out of everything that happened, I hope you felt how loved you are. You deserve that, Lena. You deserve to feel that, and be treated with kindness. I hate the thought of you ever being alone, and I promise you that’s never gonna happen again.”

“I know. I just — I do know that in my heart, but it’s gonna take my mind a while to catch up, I think.” Lena blows out a shaky breath, “the doubts are always there. They kinda pounce when I least expect it.” Her eyes drift upwards just in time to catch Kara on TV again, the hero shooting into the sky to roaring applause. “I don’t know what to do about… that.”

“The big question is, do you want to do anything? There’s no rush, Lena. Kara just wants what’s best for you like we all do, she’s not going to pressure you. Hell, she’s too scared to even come over here,” Andrea states, pulling back so she can look Lena in the eye.

“She is?” Lena sounds timid, small, unsure of what she should even say — what she should even do.

“She’s flown by here a million times, of course. If it were anyone else, I’d find it pretty creepy that they were checking out your heartbeat so much.” Andrea sighs heavily, the exhaustion of the last week showing on her pretty features. “You just do whatever you want, whenever you choose.”

“It’s not that easy,” Lena murmurs.

“The important stuff never is.” Andrea stands with a groan, “I can smell food and Eliza keeps telling me to eat, so I hope you don’t mind.” Lena shakes her head, eyes shining with amusement as she gestures for Andrea to help herself. 

She watches Andrea move around her kitchen in silence, her mind working overtime as Lena attempts to work out a problem that’s been lingering since she first met Kara. If her feelings are truly reciprocated, then it should be easy for her to just go to Kara and tell her everything, confess that she’s been in love with her for years, no matter how much Lena has tried to tell herself that isn’t true.

Whether she wants to be or not, though, Lena can no longer lie to herself. She’s completely, and utterly, in love with her best friend. The one who lied to her for years, who had her back whilst pressing a knife into it at the same time, even if Kara truly didn’t mean for that to happen. All Lena knows is she can’t go on like this. 

“I have pictures, just so you know.” Lena’s head whips upwards, a scowl darkening her features when she spots Andrea’s shit-eating grin. “Once you get over your embarrassment, which is unnecessary by the way, we should pick a couple out to frame.” Lena waits for more teasing, but nothing comes. “What’s the point in having better memories if you’re not going to enjoy them?”

Lena wants to flip her off, to curse at her, or something , but the earnestness in Andrea’s eyes gives her pause.

“Look, as terrifying as I’m sure it was, you were given a second chance, Lena,” Andrea shrugs. “You should embrace that. The imp still deserves a swift kick to the crotch, but he accidentally gave you something you never really have. You should hold onto it.”

Lena drops her gaze with a sigh, leaning forward with her elbows resting on her knees. Annoyingly, Andrea’s right and they’re both well aware of it. It was a gift she didn’t ask for and despite the fallout that followed, Lena doesn’t want to return it. Not in a million years.

---- ---- ---- 

Her office, with it’s high ceilings and wide windows, somehow feels stifling and Lena immediately feels caged in. She’d been dying to return to work, to force things into returning to normal, but it’s suddenly the last place Lena wants to be. Sam had ensured she didn’t have a mountain of work to return to, had run the company too well from Metropolis, leaving Lena with very little work to bury herself in.

Everyone else will be pleased, Lena knows, that she can’t overwork herself until she’s ready to drop, but she needs a distraction. She needs to not think about Kara, to not focus on the overwhelming feelings that will no longer stay tightly packed away in their boxes. The shadow that is suddenly cast across her desk dissolves any ideas that Lena may have had about that, though.

She meets Kara’s gaze through the window, a lump forming in her throat and a tremor in her hands forcing Lena to put her briefcase down. Lena stands there, almost frozen, as her heart screams at her to let Kara in. To listen to her, to at least try to understand why Kara didn’t tell her.

Kara looks hesitant, nervous, a strange look for someone wearing a cape and hovering over twenty floors from the ground below. Lena feels her heart squeeze inside her chest, skipping a beat as she stares at the woman who seems so unwilling to land on her balcony without permission. Lena sucks in a deep breath and takes a hesitant step forward, her hand braced on the doorframe as she shoots Kara an almost imperceptible nod.

It’s odd, unnerving, Lena thinks, to catch the way Kara seems to almost deflate with her relief. Kara has saved the world more times than Lena can count, has fought in many battles that one person has no right to succeed in, and yet Lena has never seen her look so worried. It’s as though the fear of rejection was the only thing keeping Kara in the air.

She lands heavily, wincing against the echoing thump. Her hands grab at each other, fingers twining and untwining as the superhero awkwardly shifts on her feet. Lena would find it adorable if she weren’t so damn uncomfortable.

“Thank you,” Kara murmurs, blue eyes shyly trained on her own boots. “I’ve been meaning to visit, but I didn’t think you’d want to see me,” she admits. Nervous eyes finally track upwards, meeting intense green as she seems to silently plead with Lena.

“I didn’t,” Lena whispers, hating the agony that flashes across Kara’s features. “Not at first,” she quickly amends, cursing herself. “Why did you take care of me?” Lena has to ask — she has to know. “You took me to your home . You could have dumped me with anyone else and still given me the chance of a happy Christmas.” 

“Lena…” Kara frowns, hurt and surprised at the same time. “I would never just pawn you off on someone. We wanted to take care of you. You’re our family, and that’s what family does. Besides, it was hilarious when you kept kicking Alex.” Kara opts for an attempt at humour, desperately hoping to ease the awkward tension between them.

Lena blushes furiously, suddenly unable to hold eye contact, embarrassed by the memory. She’s unaware of Kara moving forward until she’s suddenly in front of her, Kara’s hand momentarily hovering between them before it’s snatched back.

“Lillian,” Kara murmurs, bringing a confused scowl to Lena’s face. “She’s what made it impossible to tell you I was Supergirl,” Kara clarifies. “I wanted to tell you so many times, and I came close to it more than once, but all I could hear was Lillian.” Kara’s voice cracks painfully, and she drops her head to hide the tears glistening in her eyes. “She was at the back of my mind,” she whispers. “I just heard her voice telling me again, and again, that you’d hate me for it. I couldn’t lose you, Lena. It’s selfish, I know, but I just couldn’t.”

Kara blows out a shaky breath, lifting her gaze to meet surprisingly soft green.

“After Kaznia, I was gonna tell you. We were on your plane and I was ready to do it, and then you kept talking about how I was the only person you could trust.” Kara sniffles, swiping at the stray tear that tickles her nose. “It took me so long to work up the courage again, and by that time you already knew. I’m so sorry that I didn’t tell you, and I’m sorry that I treated you differently as Supergirl.”

She gazes into Lena’s eyes, encouraged by the way Lena stands stock still and allows her to say her piece. It’s more progress than Lena has allowed in a long time, and Kara’s chest swells with hope.

“I get scared, too,” Kara murmurs. “It doesn’t make sense. I get scared when I fight against the attacks, but I still do it. I can still force myself to step into battle and get it done, but when it comes to you , it was too much.” Tears flow freely now, salty tracks of regret dripping from her chin. “Losing you scared me more than any of that. I —”

“I know,” Lena whispers, her voice thick as she forces it around the lump in her throat. “I get it, I do,” she nods. She sucks her lips inwards, tears shining in her eyes as they dart around the balcony. “It hurt. It hurt so much, but I get it.” Lena swallows, “I know better than anyone how easy it is to be sucked in by Lillian. She’s used my mind as a summer home since I was four years old,” she jokes, weakly.

Lena hesitates, her chin trembling as her emotions threaten to consume her.

“You did more for me in a week than Lillian has in over twenty years,” she whispers. “Lillian provided food and clothes, a place to live, but she never did… that. She never treated me like I belonged, like she loved me or wanted me, and you all did.” Her features crumple, Lena’s arms wrapping around herself.

“That’s because we do love you, Lena. I love you. So, so much.” Kara takes a deep breath, her chest heaving. “I think — I think I love you more than I should.”

Lena freezes, her heart suddenly hammering erratically. A tear slips from her eyes, tracking down her cheek until Kara reaches out to catch it with her thumb. Blue meets green, electrifying, blanketed in fear, but the hope still peeks through. Lena swallows, her throat bobbing, and she takes a step forward to close the already minute gap between them.

“What — what do you mean by that?” Lena already knows, she’s already convinced that Kara is meaning what she so badly wants her to mean, but she has to be sure. She has to hear it, has to hear those words from those lips. Kara cups Lena’s face in her hands, her touch achingly gentle as her thumbs stroke the soft skin.

“I love you, Lena. I’m in love with you.”