Actions

Work Header

'Cause Baby You're a Haunted House

Chapter Text

Get in, snap a photo, get the heck out. Simple, really. In, out, in, out, in — Kara wheezed, tripping over her own breath. Then her feet next, clutching the baggy of salt protectively to her chest as she stumbled. After all, it was her only lifeline — her childhood home was otherwise bereft of crosses, holy water and anything else of the ghost-warding variety.

She fixed her gaze down at the tarmac beneath her feet, deftly avoiding the fissures and the occasional bumps lest she emptied its contents into the gaping cracks below. That'd be a veritable disaster; there simply wasn't enough time to go back for more. The sun's rays were already waning and she didn't trust the ageing street lamps to light the way. (And not to mention the supernatural element of her endeavour.)

It was all Alex's fault. With just three simple words — "I dare you.", she'd drunkenly cast an age-old curse on her. Kara had laughed it off at first like Alex did when she brought it up the next day. Ghosts just didn't exist. It's what all the adults said; what the population of Midvale High insisted on, their teenage bravado masking tiny pinpricks of doubt. But they never had a reason to believe there was something more to it. Not like Kara had.

From that day, a countdown began. The one rule that governed this was simple — if you didn't go to her, she'd come to you. Kara had heard whisperings of it all her Earth-life and perhaps that primed her to notice any slight oddity in her midst. Mysterious rustlings, misplaced belongings — Kara hand-waved all of them away. Until one day, while at her desk and hunched over her sketchbook, the hairs on the back of her neck stood on end.

There were moments like this throughout her life that slid its icy edge down her spine, sliced through marrow and nerves and radiating out in some semblance of frostbite. Moments reserved for the seconds before disaster, the brief clarity afforded before a cataclysmic storm. This time, it was the knowledge that she wasn't alone.

She was being watched.

Paranoia coloured her home life from then on. Hiding behind Alex as she checked the closet and underneath her bed, knocking on Eliza's door in the middle of the night — Kara knew they were probably being tormented along with her and she was endlessly grateful that they'd indulged her each time. But the guilt had already seeped in, intermingling with the sheer terror that had taken up residency there. Against the desperate voice in her head begging her to reconsider, Kara stopped, resolving to fend for herself.

It didn't last. Every moment filed away at her psyche until she'd caved. Escaping back to her college dorm two weeks early, Kara declined any future opportunity to visit, armed with a new excuse each time.

Before she knew it, it was summer again. Upon Alex's urging, Kara had packed up and flown home (commercial, not solo which explained her subsequent full-day headache).

No more overactive imagination, no more jumping at her own shadow. The extra year under her belt should've taken care of that.

At least, that's what she hoped for.

But it began again on the third day with a vengeance. One moment she was working on an article of utmost importance and the next, her skin had erupted in goosebumps — something she'd never thought possible.

That was the last straw.

Camel's back broken, Kara emptied their container of salt into a Ziploc bag and hastily refilled it. Rushing out the door, she stomped up the hill like a suburban mom on a warpath and stumbled like someone who'd hoped to extract some level of confidence from replicating their self-righteous fury. Though, Kara supposed she had every right to be. This creature had terrorised her within her own home, ruined her previous summer vacation and was dead set on wrecking this one too.

She continued her upward march, only stopping once she was greeted by what remained of the gates to the Luthor House. In its sorry state, one side was laid out on the ground while the other hung ajar. Deep breaths, Kara reminded herself. Just get in, photo, get out.

She hopped across the threshold and the change was instantaneous.

It was in the air. The stiffness of a long-forgotten attic with (thankfully) none of the offensive odours manifesting into her own personal cage. Every movement felt like swimming through a lake of jello — something Kara normally would've been way more enthusiastic about. But not with the ripples travelling inwards and into the three-storey mansion.

She jerked away from a suspiciously red patch underfoot. Yep, Kara definitely didn't feel welcome here.

The overgrown hedge in the center of the driveway had long since spread its tendrils across the paved road, making itself at home with the thick layers of moss lining the paving stones. Today was clearly the wrong day for her high-top Converse — the first in a long line of mistakes.

Keeping her shoes dry was a whole ordeal and trying not to fall over was a herculean task, but somehow, she did it. Her sneakers touched down on the other side, soles dangerously slick. One hurdle crossed, just another mountain to go. Kara turned her attention to her prize — a set of white double doors with half-drawn graffiti. Eyes tracing the sharp lines and haphazard loops, her gaze screeched to an abrupt halt at a shaky smear of black.

Something was guarding this place and she wasn’t about to stick around long enough to find out.

The brass door knob was discoloured but still smooth to the touch, much to Kara's surprise. It turned with only slight resistance. A potentially deadly one too — Kara winced as its squeak echoed through the cavernous foyer and beyond. With her entrance announced so unceremoniously, she knew she needed to hurry.

Phone in hand, she angled it so that more of the musty furnishings were in view rather than her strained smile and shifting eyes. That's what always happened in horror movies, right? Ghosts appearing in the mirror, in the camera, always right behind you. She jabbed the shutter button, watched as the screen flashed and her deer in the headlights expression appeared in her camera roll. It was done. Now she just needed to get out of dodge, print the darn thing and burn it. Whoever came up with these arbitrary rules should… should step on a Lego!

She was ready to leave, hand twisting the door knob once again when the door slammed shut. And in the wake of it all, Kara was left to gape at the detached door knob in hand. Oh, but it was only just the beginning. A chill swept through the open space and she shivered. She doesn't shiver; hadn’t shivered since she left Krypton.

Along came a sense of foreboding she just couldn't shake and when Kara forcefully cranked her head back up, the door knob clattered to the floor.

A head materialised through the painted mahogany first, revealing striking green eyes the exact shade of kryptonite. Smooth, pale skin framed by her raven locks drew her gaze next, only interrupted by a dark crater on her forehead. Kara felt her behind connect with the cool marble floor. Big mistake. The scene was so much more frightening to witness from below — she loomed over her, hands reaching out. There was so much blood. All over her stark white nightgown and she was getting closer. Close enough for the glint of a sharp letter-opener to catch her eye. It looked… solid, corporeal.

Kara screamed and ran.

Her foot caught an unassuming corner and she tumbled, tripping over the chunk of concrete freshly torn from the wall. She righted herself quickly. No time to worry about structural integrity. Should she just blast a hole through the walls? Barrelling through the hallways, she spotted the weak glimmer of sunlight and took a sharp right. Bad idea. The sitting room greeted her in all its mildewy, inescapable glory.

Frantically, Kara cast her gaze back into the hallway. It was empty. Somehow, she must've lost her pursuer in her own abode. This wasn't the time to question, she needed to get out of here. And the windows were a good place to start.

She swivelled back. Oh no. A familiar figure floated before her. Clutching the bag closer to her chest like a shield, she trembled.

And at that moment, the solid weight of the bag reminded her of its presence. Of its contents. Oh Rao, salt, salt, salt!

------------

Blissfully unaware of her sister's predicament, Alex was triumphantly basking in the warm fragrance of freshly-baked cookies. With Kara around, she never stood a chance. But now that she was out at the most inopportune time, Alex finally got first dibs on them.

She swiped one off the tray, ignoring Eliza's warnings and sunk her teeth into the soft, gooey insides.

She choked.

"Mom, they taste like the sea!"

A look of confusion formed on Eliza's face, deepening as she took her own sample.

The kitchen was a flurry of motion while both Danvers women searched for an answer. Together, they arrived at the jar labelled 'sugar'. Alex lifted the lid and Eliza dipped her finger in for a taste.

"Oh dear."

-------------

"Is that sugar?" The ghost looked almost offended. She crossed the hasty line Kara had drawn between them with ease. All Kara could do was cower, Kryptonian invulnerability all but forgotten. Oh Rao, oh Rao, oh

Her eyes burned and her vision was lost in a sudden blinding red. A wave of blistering heat gushed towards her, a mere tickle over her impervious skin. Almost like nothing. But it should’ve hurt. Like what she tended, however inadvertently, to subject everyone to. Jeremiah's chastisement flashed past, leaving behind a trail of guilt. Breadcrumbs she knew better than to follow.

She blinked, taking in the broken glass at her feet and the blackened smear on the last surviving window pane. Her hands found her face. Her glasses! She must've lost them during the chase. Although, that was the least of her worries now.

The ghost gaped at her, evidently just as relieved that she hadn't blasted a(nother) hole into her as Kara was.

"I-I'm so sorry," Hands raised, Kara slowly backed away before that expression could morph into anger.

"Good," the ghost inclined her head, inspecting the damage. "Because you're fixing it."

Kara gulped. "Yes ma'am."

-------------

Kara kept to their agreement, tottering up to her doorstep bright and early the next morning. One arm occupied with the various cans she'd picked up from the hardware store and the other precariously balancing a large square of glass — she had super strength, not super balance.

This time, she knocked. With her shoulder at first, eliciting a muffled thud. Then, she waited. Shifting from foot to foot and banishing all thoughts of the chance encounter she just escaped. Though 'escape' itself was subjective. Much like swerving away from a semi-truck and into a bottomless ravine. The jury was still out on which fate was worse.

The wait soon grew excruciating. Maybe this was a sign! To run far away and never come back… or maybe the ghost didn't hear her. A stray thought of an irate spectre hovering over her at night kept Kara rooted to the spot. The latter then.

"H-hello?" She called out. Silence — as if she were the only one there. "Miss um Ghost? Miss… Luthor?" Hyper-aware of each passing second, Kara valiantly repelled every instinct begging her to bolt. Her jitters on the other hand were a lost cause, wearing down the concrete with only the soles of her shoes.

And then, as if to put her out of her misery, the door swung open. The ghost hovered on the other end, beckoning her in.

That was the first good sign — she was cordial, albeit a bit stiff. But definitely not murderous. The ravine was looking great.

She spoke little aside from the perfunctory pleasantries. ("Good morning.", "Did you sleep well?" And an ill-thought-out offer of tea, quickly withdrawn like the ghost did herself, sinking back into the shadowy corner of the sitting room.) Compared to yesterday's happenings, it was like night and day. Almost as if it was all an elaborate dream. The twisted arm of her glasses dug into her skin. Yep, she wasn't imagining things. Unfortunately.

But all good things didn't last. The silence between them lent to the growing sense of unease. It was all an act after all, an elaborate ploy to project productivity and the lukewarm reception from her audience was beginning to feel like she was catching on.

Deep breaths. She stood back, hands finding her hips. Step one: observe.

Cutting the glass into the right shape was the easy part, theoretically. Kara’s gaze fell upon the gaps in the steel lattice where her heat vision had swept through. Everything she'd read online hadn't accounted for this. For good reason too — only two beings on Earth were capable of such damage and Superman wasn't known to clean up after himself. Perhaps she could replace the frames entirely… and in the process put her bank balance in the negatives.

Kara felt it first, skin crawling at the proximity. Her eyes played catch-up next — a swathe of white had appeared in her periphery. And white equals…

She jumped away like a startled house cat, glanced downwards and took another step back. The letter opener was blinding under the mid-morning sun. Almost like the bared fangs of a predator.

"So, what's the prognosis?" An innocent enough question. At least when not paired with a lethal weapon in hand. It sounded more like an 'or else'.

"Great! Fine! Should look good as new!" Her cheeks strained at the intensity of her smile. Kara once read that showing one's teeth was a sign of submission in primates. She hoped it still applied to dead ones.

"You've spent an inordinate amount of time staring into space." The ghost stated, still brandishing the gilded letter opener. Kara swallowed nervously.

"I-I was just thinking. Yep, doing lots of thinking." Which she was! Minus the tiny little fact that her thoughts were going nowhere.

The ghost sighed in response. "It's perfectly fine if you can't. All I ask is for you to cover it up for me. This room is musty enough."

Kara's gaze was drawn down to the sharp, pointy tip again, lingering as she considered her options. Well, she did assure her it's fine but people didn't always say what they meant.

She must've caught it. Traced Kara's line of sight from her bulging eyeballs back to her blade. "Is something the matter?" The ghost's brows drew downwards into a severe look. She squinted, scrutinising every twitch and every quiver Kara failed to tamp down.

Kara retreated. As if her current threat could be hindered by physical space, as if ghosts adhered to the concrete laws of physics and couldn't phase through them at will.

"A-are you going to stab me? Because I'm invulnerable and it wouldn't pierce my skin. Your letter opener would just crumple, I swear! And then you'd get even angrier and turn to other methods and-and possess me? You should know that's a very bad idea, by the way. I'm full of trauma and I'm always hungry! It won't feel good —" An inscrutable expression took hold on her semi-captor, prompting her to hit the brakes on her current line of reasoning. And with a deep breath she didn't exactly need, she re-routed her ramble, settling on a succinct plea. "Please don't stab me!"

The ghost blinked at her. Kara blinked back, anxiously waiting to see if her winding speech had paid off.

"I wasn't going to."

Did that mean… Kara's eyes darted to the door. "But you're going to now?"

"No, why would I?"

"I don't know! You just keep waving that thing in my face!" Her hands flew over her mouth with a resounding smack. Oh, she'd done it now.

The ghost stared down at the gleaming implement in hand. A soft oh floated in the air between them. It quickly disappeared behind her back; she shot Kara an expectant look.

"Wouldn't it be easier to just put it down?"

"I can't." Before Kara could react with incredulity, she released the letter opener from her grasp. Kara braced herself for the loud clatter but it never came. She gasped — it was back in her hand as if she'd never dropped it.

"That's so cool." Kara breathed, feeling her apprehension slip away. She hadn't seen anything like that on Krypton, much less here on Earth. Quantum teleportation without any specialised equipment but one's bare hands — the concept itself held so much potential. Her next words barrelled past her lips like a runaway train, with Kara helpless but to just let it pass. "Can you do that again?"

The ghost obliged with little fuss. Kara observed more closely this time, her glasses pulled down to the tip of her nose. Yep, a clean transition. It was teleported. And thirteen years of training dictated that she needed to know how.

"Is this item significant somehow?"

"I suppose I died with it?" That's it! The change of state from living to dead — an object so closely linked to such an event would effectively exist in both. Quantum entanglement where she least expected it. Simply brilliant. She turned, eager to report her findings.

In an unexpected turn of events, the ghost was now the one avoiding her gaze. Kara got the distinct feeling that she'd prodded at a raw nerve.

"I'm sorry," she reached out on instinct alone, only to close around nothing. A pleasant buzz meandered up her arm as their hands grazed, soft hairs standing on end in its wake.

To be in the same space yet different planes of existence — Kara's heart clenched when she realised their hands could never meet. That no hand could ever meet hers. The ghost winced at the almost-contact. "Sorry about that too."

"It's alright, I've just never spoken about it before." That was the closest to a break of composure she'd witnessed yet. It was humanising — the allusion to a past, the display of emotion far removed from the realm of 'murderous'. Something in Kara clicked right at that moment. She wasn’t an undead entity or just a figment of her imagination. She was real, even whilst non-corporeal. She was just —

It dawned upon Kara that she'd never asked for her name.

"I'm Kara, by the way." She extended her hand into the space between them, slicing its way through the stale air.

She eyed her hand for a beat and for a brief moment, Kara anticipated rejection. But then, she flipped the letter-opener over to offer her the handle. "Lena."

Kara understood the gesture, wrapped her hand around it and shook lightly. "Well, hi there Lena." It wasn’t magical like monumental occasions were often described to be. The dreary atmosphere hadn't lightened one bit and the niggling sensation that she didn't belong remained. It still felt different nonetheless. Perhaps in the face of everything, only the act of it mattered.

-----------

Of all materials in abundance within the Danvers household, she settled on cardboard. Her glasses were deposited on her desk and a set of stretches later, she was ready.

The first exercise was easy — laser the vaguely rectangular piece in half. She ran her eyes over the faint line pencilled there, took a deep breath and fired. In hindsight, maybe she should’ve started with something less flammable.

“Dang it!” Kara dropped the piece and stomped on it. The flames licked defiantly at her feet, leaning further and further away. Her bed! She dropped down to her knees and breathed freezing cold air onto the fire instead.

It worked… for the most part. There was no fire for starters. Quite the opposite, in fact. Her own reflection stared back at her through the icy sheen and given the ruckus she’d made, she had about ten seconds before someone caught her standing over her own personal tundra. That feeling returned; Kara felt it against her back, watching and… chuckling?

“Are you okay?” The door clicked open, revealing Alex’s concerned expression. Right on time too. Watching as she took in the state of their shared bedroom, Kara attempted a sputtering explanation only to be cut off. “Why's there ice on the floor?”

There was no point in hiding it. “I was just practising using my powers.”

“Kara,” Alex stepped inside, voice dropping. “You know you can’t just use your powers. You could expose yourself.” The unspoken ‘again’ hung between them.

“I know, but what if I need them? Or if I accidentally set them off? People will get hurt, Alex.” Although the window business with Lena added to that too. No one told her Mike was working full-time at the hardware store now. No, she had to work that out on her own, pitching the gears in her mind into overdrive as she entered his sights. He had positively brightened, flashing his expensive veneers in that wide grin of his — one Kara couldn’t describe as anything but a child on a particularly bountiful Christmas day. A timely conclusion arrived: run.

She barely made it out in time before he asked her out on a second date, glass still uncut.

Alex sighed and Kara knew she'd gotten through to her. "Fine. Just try not to burn anything down."

A quick nod and salute was enough to satisfy her sister. And so, alone and undisturbed, Kara painstakingly perfected her technique. Even melting the ice off the floor with a startling lack of residual scorch marks. Just in time too; Kara felt Lena reappear.

"Your windows are safe with me," Kara said aloud for Lena to hear, wherever she was. Alex only flashed her a weird look as she returned to lounge on her bed, iPod in hand.

---------

"You're early." Lena commented, floating alongside her. The sun had just begun to peek over the horizon when they arrived in the sitting room and whilst bathed in the blinding hues of gold, Kara quickly understood this house's appeal.

That was the perfect spot — the right angle and the right elevation to fully take it all in. Memories of the heated ocean simulations of her childhood came flooding back. Of allowing its warmth to seep through, of feeling safe and protected in its watery embrace. But what drew her out of her reminiscence was a discovery. That Lena in her dubious state of matter was translucent beneath the sun's rays. Resplendent even, and more curiously? She sparkled. Like vampire sparkled. The snickers crept out her throat without her notice. Lena's brows furrowing promptly put a stop to that.

"I had a dream last night about popsicles. Specifically, making them and I realised I could theoretically do the same with steel!" Kara blabbered on and Lena, to her credit, only reacted with a raised eyebrow. Nodding, she signalled for Kara to begin before drifting back into her preferred corner. Kara felt eyes follow her every movement, ears picking up a sharp intake of breath every time her powers came into play.

First step, ice breath the edges. (Kara learned from yesterday's fiasco that her ice had a much higher melting point than its Earthly counterpart.)

Second step, melting down the hardened residue. Her eyes lit up, aimed at the solidified puddle.

"Hold on, are you sure you can control that?" Lena appeared in front of her.

"Of course I can! I practised." Kara huffed indignantly. The red glow re-intensified, coalescing into one concentrated beam. Simple enough, but easing molten steel into the mould? It was as difficult as she'd expected and the vapours erupting upon contact didn't help.

The third step required a deep breath. Letting it gather in the back of her throat, she felt the temperature against her tongue plummet. And then, exhale. The end result was a steel piece, a stark metallic grey compared to the midnight black of the frame.

The final step was welding it in place. Once complete, Kara stepped back to admire her handiwork. Casting a glance over to the darkened corner, she found that even Lena seemed impressed. On to the next one then. Piece by piece, she continued with attempts of conversation peppered in between. The fleeting echo of her voice helped claim her place in the house — a welcome respite from the constant jitters she had from simply existing there.

"Are you the only one here?"

"Yes."

"Really? No ghost animals?"

"Unfortunately."

"Ever had a pet?"

"Mother didn't like them."

This was how their time together went. With Kara exhausting her list of questions and Lena maintaining her vow to brevity. But at least her ghostly acquaintance was humouring her — it wouldn't take much to just phase away into the next room if she truly desired an escape. Regardless, Kara soldiered on, leaving gaps of silence just in case Lena felt inclined to share more.

"So, what do you do all day?"

"Nothing, really." Lena shrugged. Busying herself with her work, Kara waited once more. She swore she heard Lena exhale. And then, at last a breakthrough. "Sometimes I watch the colony of rats in the cellar. They're adorable when they can't nibble at your feet."

Her eyes widened as Kara bounded over in a burst of super speed, begging to meet them too.

"When you're done," she'd promised. Letter opener to pinky swore too.

-------------

Kara quickly developed a new routine. Breakfast with Eliza and sometimes a grumpy Alex, mornings with Lena, and the rest of the day frowning at her empty word document. And when Kara felt Lena's presence in the corner, she'd throw in a quip or two for her benefit. Lena hardly reacted despite Kara's best efforts. Maybe she was shy about being caught. Still, she drew closer as time went on. And when her appearances became more frequent, Kara found that she didn't mind the near-constant company much.

Eventually, the frame was completed, now an odd mismatch of colour like an urban camo. Kara moved on to the broken glass panes next and slowly, Lena became more comfortable with her presence. Inching closer until one day, Kara found her peering over her shoulder.

The close proximity helped Kara notice the little things — how she leaned forward, lips parted when Kara geared up to use her laser vision and how she'd catch herself and school her features. Assuming Kara didn't read her cues wrongly, it seemed like Lena returned the burning curiosity Kara held for her as well.

"You can ask, you know." Kara said, attention never deviating from the task at hand. Lena startled, having the decency to look sheepish at being caught.

"Oh well, how do I put this?" She grimaced, taking a slight nibble on her bottom lip. "You're not human, are you?" Kara watched as Lena's gaze darted away, settling on the freshly cut glass in her hands.

"No, I'm an… alien." The word, while unfamiliar on her tongue, was far from that to her ears. She hadn't once broached the topic with anyone else but that didn't stop the other children from taunting her. Or her family uttering it in hushed whispers, perennially on guard against curious eyes and even more curious ears.

Being with Lena was different. It was easy to just let her guard down. In their own little snow globe — its insides obscured by a persistent ominous fog. In an abandoned house over a century old, they stood together, alone. Away from prying eyes where they could just be.

"Forgive me, but why choose Earth?" Lena's voice was strained as if fighting off the urge to probe further. Another time, then.

"My mother never mentioned — there wasn't time. But I assume it's because of the yellow sun. It… imbues me with incredible powers. And you know, we look alike." Kara sensed the drop in mood and reacted swiftly. "Luckily for you. It helps me fix your windows.

Lena snorted a short, two-note laugh. "So, how exactly did a family of extraterrestrials settle into small-town Midvale?"

"Oh…" Kara trailed off, unsure. She hadn't had much practice in breaking the news. "They didn't. It's just me and my cousin." The heavy mood returned as did the itch to just do something.

She extricated her iPhone from its perch in her shallow pocket. One swipe and a few taps later, a picture of Superman posing with his hands on his hips filled the screen. "He's a superhero, you see. And he insists his suit looks great, but it's not! I mean, it looks like he wore his underwear on the outside but he just wouldn't listen!" Kara’s exasperation quickly morphed into hysterical giggles, almost overshadowing the faint lilts of Lena's accompanying hers. At least, if not for the absence of her lead-lined glasses.

"It really does," Lena hummed, bemused. But it wouldn't last. The small smile that had graced her features thinned. Kara stilled.

"Perhaps… would it be alright if I shared something too?" Her voice was quiet, papery thin.

"Of course."

"I know it's not the same but my mother… didn't quite make it as well. She," Lena swallowed but it did nothing to quell the lump in her throat. "Passed when I was four. That's when the Luthors adopted me."

"You're adopted too?"

"Yes." All was quiet for a moment. Within the intermission, they turned their gazes skywards. Watching as the clouds drifted across a panorama of the softest pastel blue, blissfully unaware of the struggles and strife below. It was truly sanguine, enough to bridge the barrier between life and death. And for once, it felt like they were on the same plane of existence.

"To think two families decades apart, with hearts big enough to accept a strange child brought us here."

"Yes, what are the odds indeed?" The cadence of her voice quivered. Sensing something was off, Kara scooted closer ever so slightly. Her skin tingled at the proximity and she was sure Lena could feel it too.

In time, she'd learn about how painfully wrong she was. Lillian Luthor was a tyrant and Lionel Luthor was only fleetingly present. There was a brother too. And a story to accompany it. Kara wasn't privy to the details; Lena never seemed inclined to reveal more.

---------

Over a week had passed since Kara's home improvement project commenced. And with only one mini-fire extinguished in the process too. (In her defense, holding both a conversation and twin laser beams still wasn't exactly a walk in the park.)

And on the tenth day, it was done. Kara stepped back to take in the restored windows, brimming with a sense of accomplishment.

"What do you think?" Kara asked, taking a step closer to where Lena hovered. "I think I did a pretty good job."

"It's better than I expected." Lena nodded her approval.

Kara froze at that. The realisation came swiftly like an intergalactic cruiser. "What did you expect?" She huffed, just as cross as her arms were.

"Oh, more tape definitely. And tarp."

"You set me up for failure?" The faux indignance emerged a little too close to a whine for her liking.

"Not exactly. It's more 'I took a gamble but had the foresight to draw up a contingency plan'. " Lena shrugged, a mischievous twinkle in her eyes.

Thoroughly stumped, Kara could only scowl back and snipe from a distance. "I liked you better when you were quiet." She really didn't. It was nice to have another friend around. Someone who wasn't her sister, at least. And Kara, ever the horrible liar, spelled it out across her face. Probably with bright neon signs to boot.

"And here you are, having accomplished the impossible task I gave you." The tentative quirk in Lena's lips was an odd one. Reminiscent of that one time Alex offered her a liqueur truffle — rich, indulgent sweetness on the outside and surprise — a river of biting bitterness within.

Another fact she'd gleaned about Lena — she too was a horrible liar.

"And here I am, having surmounted your impossible task." Kara repeated, hopeful for more because really, she wasn't one for the lingering acridity of alcohol. They shuffled out into the hallway and then onwards until the door was in sight. Oh right.

"But your door knob's not fixed yet." Their gazes fell upon the fallen brass knob at their feet, looking sad and limp and terribly forgotten.

"Indeed, my door knob hasn't been fixed yet." Lena must've been the most gleeful victim of vandalism to ever live. And died. Although with how Lena took to chattering with her, flitting around her and matching her at times superhuman pace, Kara couldn't see the latter. The subtle void in her forehead and the bloom of blood at her stomach did nothing to dissuade her — Lena looked positively alive.

----------

Scritch scratch scritch scratch. Kara found that she worked better in pencil than any other medium. Her laptop was banished under a pile of blank copy paper.

The Midvale Surf Scene

She squinted at it, then groaned. The squeaking of rubber against paper filled the room. Eraser dropped unceremoniously onto the tabletop, Kara braced her head against her hands. It was lame, uninspired and definitely not impressive enough to clinch the editor position on the NCU paper. They should've spared a thought for people with boring hometowns. Or people who couldn't return to their hometowns in the first place! What were they thinking? Kara released the pencil from her grip too, letting it clatter in frustration on her behalf.

A presence made herself known behind her.

"Hey, anything cool about Midvale I could write about?" Deferring to a century-old being was currently Kara's best shot.

"Ghosts," Lena's voice croaked back. That was odd. Do ghosts get sore throats?

"Are you okay? You don't sound okay." Kara craned her neck but Lena must've decided to stay hidden because she was nowhere to be seen.

"Yes." And she was gone.

----------

"What’s that?" Lena eyed the sizable thermos in her hands, disregarding the brand new door knob that put a bigger dent in her wallet than Kara ever did to her property. Her eyes chanced upon a conspicuous chunk of concrete from their first meeting. Nevermind.

"You didn't sound too good yesterday," Kara set Jeremiah's old toolbox down. "So I brought some leftovers. It's Eliza's chicken noodle soup." She beamed, proud of herself for sneaking her extra portions away from the prying, albeit bleary, eyes of her sister. (Alex hadn't so much as acknowledged her presence as she stumbled through her morning routine.) So proud that Kara had a slight suspicion that she'd missed something glaringly obvious. Like tying her shoelaces or the dietary habits of the non-living. Oh.

"Did I?" Kara could almost see the question marks bubbling up above Lena; she seemed to pop them on her own quickly enough. "Well, thank you anyway. You're very thoughtful."

Usually, she would've basked in the praise. Just let them sink in and lodge themselves into the waiting arms of her dopamine receptors. Then, she'd reap the rewards — waves of euphoria amplified from the most seemingly inane words. But this wasn't one of those times.

"Um, can you eat it? Do you need me to feed you or something?" Kara observed Lena carefully, ready to swoop in if she looked remotely upset by her actions.

"Oh, I definitely can. If you could just unscrew the lid for me."

Kara did and her senses were assaulted by the potent fumes of nostalgia, like one's childhood memories packed into a single aromatic punch. She was sure Lena felt the same too — she had all but positioned herself over the opening and audibly inhaled.

A smooth hum emanated from Lena's throat, one of more than just plain satisfaction. No, it was more of a chorus — the collective sigh of relief the lands heaved after a long and painful drought. Finally, Lena spoke again. "It's really good. Send my compliments to Eliza."

Kara sputtered. "Did you… How did you…"

"Well, I inhaled it of course." But she didn't. When Kara's head tilted further, Lena's amusement grew, plastered all over her face. Taking pity on her befuddled companion, she explained further. "It's the scent. I can… taste it, if that makes sense."

Turns out, Lena was a greater scientific enigma than she thought. Followed closely was the realisation that her extra portions were still there, its glistening surface beckoning her forward like a mirage. She definitely lucked out today.

Kara slurped eagerly and her face fell. A mirage indeed. It was all a lie. The soup tasted like water, the noodles like rubber. Alarmed, she shoved a piece of chicken into her mouth — tender nothingness. Still chewing, Kara made her displeasure loudly known, as if personally affronted by the gift of flavour being robbed so unceremoniously from her.

"Is something the matter?" Lena joined in the confusion.

Kara swallowed quickly. "It tastes like nothing!"

She finished her meal still, begrudgingly so. Though, the positive attention Lena showered her with every time definitely encouraged her dramatics.

"Do you eat everything you smell?" She asked suddenly, failing to curb her growing curiosity.

"Unfortunately." Interesting — she perked up at that.

"What does that taste like?" Kara pointed at the stained settee in the middle of the room.

"Nausea with no reprieve." Judging by Lena's wrinkled nose, it was truly awful. Kara hopped to her feet, leading them on a tour around the expansive room with her incessant queries.

And when they found themselves back where they started, an errant thought emerged, catching her unawares. There was only one thing left in this room.

Thus came the most mortifying question of them all — "Does that mean you've tasted…" Her cheeks reddened as she shrunk into herself. Too late; Lena's interest was piqued. She prompted Kara to continue.

"Me?" She squeaked, internally begging for the rats below to just carry her away. Her torment didn't last long.

"Charming, but you'd have to try harder than that." Despite the amused smirk, Lena had given her an out — something she wasn't often offered. Kara slurped up the rest of its contents in a hurry, itching for a change in scenery.

And that change panned out to be Lena's front door.

Kara had tried her best to match the tone and shape from memory while pointedly weaving out of any conversation Mike roped her into. Suffice to say that post-installation, she realised she wasn't very successful. The window frame already resembled an abstract artist's wet dream and now Lena was about to have mismatched door knobs too. Maybe she should have stuck around longer. Just pushed past Mike to get a glimpse of the other aisle. But she didn't and now, what's done is done.

"I'm sorry, they were the best I could do." Her mind scurried for a solution but like fresh-faced lab rats in a fluorescent-lit labyrinth of man's creation, the result leaned overwhelmingly towards failure. And she didn't like that.

Lena hushed her before her thoughts could slide further into the abyss. "I like it."

Breath gathered in her chest in the beginning of a scoff. Again, Lena cut her off. "It's unique."

"It's mismatched. Horribly so." She countered.

"Kara, you took time out of your own life to help me despite my lack of one. Nothing could match that."

Kara turned away but she was attuned enough to Lena's movements to realise that she'd drifted closer. "If it helps, Mother would have a conniption at the mere sight of it."

"Is that a good thing?"

"Oh, believe me. It would make my day."

With that, Kara walked through the double doors with a promise. Regarding something she wanted to show her, Lena had said. To thank her for her assistance. She gave them — both old and new — one last glance over.

The fresh replacement caught a direct sunbeam, its cheap gold finish blinking out its own goodbye. Bringing herself closer, Kara inspected it once more.

A sideways glance revealed the original in all its luxurious glory. Just like the rest of the house even in its decrepit state. Her gaze migrated back to her new addition.

Kara turned away before her thoughts could threaten to drown her.

------------

The Beauty of Asymmetry

Only a black smudge remained once Kara was done with it. There wasn't anything asymmetric about Midvale except what she just inflicted upon Lena's home. Midvale was a circle, an ouroboros. It began with birth and ended in death, one leading to the other in an endless cycle; the in-betweens coloured in with the stereotypical happenings of all-American small-town life. But Kara had crash-landed her way into their tight-knit community, sliced right through the belly of the snake. She slithered straight ahead, in direct opposition to the self-cannibalising dance the rest partook in. Kara was the odd snake out, the cheap door knob in an otherwise expensive house.

Her shadow returned.

"Lena, I need some time alone." Kara slumped into her seat.

Still, she was persistent.

"I'll be there tomorrow, okay?" Kara tried again, growing more irritable by the moment.

"Lena, please!" Kara instantly regretted her raised voice as it left her lips. Too late — Lena disappeared.

Burying her face into her arms, Kara groaned. Great. Just great.

The questioning and wiggling eyebrows from Alex that night about what she overheard was just the cherry on top.

----------

Lena was the first to break the silence.

"I'm still not eating you."

The buds bounced along with her gesticulations. "No! They're apology flowers!" Her face was quickly blending in with the potted red roses in hand.

"Whatever for?" Lena seemed more bewildered than anything.

"For being a butt yesterday. I was in a mood — not that that's an excuse!"

There was no shift in Lena's expression. "Kara, I promise you weren't."

Her protests died in her throat with a faint rumble when Lena hovered her hand over hers.

"Really, thank you for the flowers." Lena floated backwards, deeper into the house. "Follow along, I have something to show you. And bring the plant."

Kara trailed closely behind like her personal bodyguard. They took an unfamiliar turn away from their usual haunt, down a long corridor where a family portrait hung. Desperately clinging onto the wall in the centre of the hallway and swaying slightly on its last hook as she passed; Kara couldn’t help but linger to observe. Husband, wife and two kids — a teenage boy and a young girl, Kara noted. The boy's face was scratched out with thin lacerations across the canvas. Anger radiated from the faint scars left behind — the only trace of hostility Kara had gleaned in all the time she'd spent here. If Lena noticed that Kara tapped into her superspeed to catch up, she made no mention of it.

"Just behind this door." Lena raised her hand with a flourish and the door swung open.

A garden. Or what remained of one. She couldn't help but reach out to touch it.

Kara imagined the space was once meticulously manicured, shaped to painful perfection, but what lay before her was more akin to a jungle. The decades of neglect made sure of that. Nature took its course, as it always would. Civilisation could manipulate it however they pleased; claim to hold dominion over the system that birthed them. Arrogance, really. Because one day, when they were long gone, it would return and flourish once more. Or there would be a cataclysmic explosion and everyone dies.

The leaf crumpled in her grasp. "Shoot, I'm so sorry! I got distracted." Her palm shot open but the leaf did not unravel. Lena hushed her kindly, guiding her to deposit the leaf onto the soil bed instead.

"It'll help the plants grow better." With that, she was led away and towards the centre, demarcated by the ring of milky white tiles dotted with regular intervals of triangular royal blues.

"I wasn't sure what exactly I could offer you so I thought I could show you this. I spend a lot of time here just observing. It's an utter mess and yet somehow mystical all the same." Kara was inclined to agree. The carefully selected rose bushes among the wildflowers, weeds intermingling with the exotic plants and various vines and climbers crisscrossed the wooden trellises, dangling off the sides like a band of mischievous monkeys. It was still, but not desolate. In truth, the whole place was thrumming with life.

"Do you want my help with it? Maybe tidy it up?" Kara offered, accustomed to being Lena's Super-Handywoman. And perhaps she could find a reason to return another day.

"No," Lena shook her head, eyes trained straight ahead. "I tried my best to reign them in at first. But they always grow back, again and again, quicker than I could cut them down or dig them out."

She chewed her bottom lip before catching herself. "Sometimes, it's better to just let nature take its course. There's no point in resisting."

They spent the rest of their time together in comfortable silence, marvelling at the scene before them. And when it was time to go, Lena walked Kara all the way to the front door. Her hand was on the door knob — the original one — when she felt the urge to speak.

"You know, my offer still stands. Not for the garden but for those rancid settees and other stuff too. If you'd like." She turned just in time to catch the slight curve of Lena's lips.

"Thank you, that'll be much appreciated."

"Alright, see you tomorrow?"

"Yes, see you tomorrow." She confirmed.

-----------

Kara was at it again. The sun had set hours ago and Alex had collapsed onto her bed. And then there was Lena, whom Kara sensed in the corner, pressing close to the wall.

"Heard from Vicky today. You bought roses?" Alex's nonchalance was well-rehearsed. Genuine enough to fool the rest but not her own sister. Kara knew that Alex was on to something and she had a hunch what.

"Yep," she dragged out the single syllable, popping the 'p'. An exaggerated display of reluctance meant to call out Alex's not-so-secret ploy.

"Oh, where did they go?" All pretence abandoned now, Kara heard the rustle of Alex pushing herself upright.

"I… dropped it."

Her hesitation was the cue for Alex to pounce. "Kara, you can literally lift a car and you dropped a measly potted plant?"

"I was distracted. By a cute squirrel." Kara spoke in a measured tone this time. It was on brand; Alex couldn’t argue against that. Offensive blocked, she levelled her gaze once again at the empty sheet of paper.

Lena's amusement carried through the air.

-----------

"Alex is being such a…urgh" Kara tore the armrest away in lieu of an actual insult.

"You sure Lena's just a character? Where's she from?" Kara repeated, complete with her exact obnoxious intonation. Even echoing it was grating to her ears.

"I must say —" the backrest was next. "I'm flattered."

"You better be because now my sister thinks I fantasise about fictional characters." The shredded remains were given a brief reprieve while Kara leaned in to whisper, cheeks burning so hot that it felt like a breath of hot flame escaping her lips. "Sexually." Her eyes darted around the room. Nope, nothing on fire. That would've been an awkward moment to discover a new superpower.

Their conversation screeched to a halt.

"A-and she's completely fine with that?" There was something raw and vulnerable about her voice, like prey captured but still desperately clinging onto life. Blood flowing, eyes glazing over at the mercy of the rows of gnashing teeth above.

"Yeah, completely fine." That was when Kara put two and two together. After all this time they've spent together, it'd slipped her mind that Lena was born in another time. One much more hostile to that very idea. "Many people are these days. And I think it'll only be up from here on out." It was the best she could do for Lena.

"That's… nice." Lena's gaze grew distant. Kara continued with her demolition wordlessly, giving Lena the space she desired.

------------

"There's a reason why I live here in this house." Lena began. Dropping the newly-freed piece of timber to the ground, Kara stopped to give Lena her fullest attention.

"After Mother found out, she was positively incensed. She demanded I marry but I refused." Lena paused to collect her thoughts.

"She sounds like a meanie. Maybe I should redecorate the entire house." Kara interjected in the brief silence, earning a chuckle in response.

"Well let's just say one thing led to another and I absconded with my inheritance. Then, I acquired a quaint little beachside property right here in Midvale." Lena made no move to continue. That was the end of the story and Kara didn't press her for more.

------------

Catharsis The Therapeutic Power of Destruction

This one was spared the eraser. In the days she'd spent tearing apart Lena's mold-ridden furnishings, Kara had felt more at ease. Like some unnamed tension had been released. Which was probably why Junkyard Ed charged for people to go at old cars with a baseball bat. If she could just finagle an interview and maybe some pictures, she'd be all set.

Lena hummed her agreement over her shoulder where she had decided to take up residency for the day. It was cute, Kara thought, how Lena had grown so attached to her like a puppy. Most of the time, at least. Either way, Kara didn't mind too much. So many years alone in the Luthor house with only rats and greenery for company must've been so… lonely.

With that in mind, it was with great reluctance that she called out to Lena to inform her of the change of plans. "Gonna have to take tomorrow off. I'll be back on Wednesday, I promise!"

Kara took the slight whoosh of her curtains as an affirmative.

"Are you talking to Lena again?" Alex grabbed onto her chair and popped her head over her shoulder.

Kara startled out of her seat and up into the air. "No! Shut up!"

-----------

She showed up at 8 AM sharp on Wednesday, a return to her usual morning routine — breakfast, pretend to jog, wave goodbye to Eliza and then, Lena.

Except, it wasn't that regular after all — Kara was still sizzling from her botched interview and instead of inviting her in, Lena had tripped through the doors, doubled over and almost breathless. Distraught. The tumult within smoothed over at the sight, replaced by a quiet constriction in her throat. Kara supposed it's true then, that it's the anticipation that kills you. A question hung upon her lips but Lena beat her to it.

"Kara, you came!" She straightened, struggling to regain her composure. Her eyes quickly dulled. A far-away look took hold — Kara sensed Lena slipping away.

"I promised you, didn't I?" Kara reached out, vaguely wrapping herself around her. Lena leaned in too, after a moment's hesitation. As close as she could. It was a ghost of a hug, the only kind possible between the living and the dead.

"You did?" Lena's brows scrunched together in an admittedly adorable fashion. Her frown deepened.

"Yeah, back on Monday." Kara prompted but Lena only shook her head.

"I don't… remember." Kara could hear the grinding of teeth against teeth. "No, it doesn't matter. I'm sorry about that. You can come and go as you please."

"Yeah well, you remember that I won't abandon you too." Lena easily accepted Kara's soft reassurance, leaned just a little closer until a pleasant buzz frothed within her chest.

Hiss. If Kara didn't know any better, she would've chalked it up to the whistling of a kettle. As if this were any ordinary house visit with the promise of tea. Lena withdrew from her grasp, settling a good arm's length away from her.

A chorus of apologies from both sides followed closely behind.

-----------

Kara spared the eraser and went straight for crumpling her notes up. It was just an interview, he could've declined. Her phone buzzed angrily in its spot, concurring with her sentiment. The screen lit up, illuminating the spiderweb cracks and a splotch of black painting the top half of the display. He didn't need to stomp on her phone.

The sender revealed itself — Alex. Kara breezed through the next few steps. Swipe to unlock, tap on messages and then came the hard part. Jabbing the screen repeatedly to access her topmost chat, Kara lamented her inability to defend herself without exposing her true Kryptonian identity in the meantime. A shame that LCD screen repairs were way out of her budget too.

Alex [22.29] : hey so snot-nosed joe is actually CSF joe

Alex [22.29] : kid skateboarded down his roof but got too scared to tell the 'rents

Alex [22:31] : is your phone dead

Alex [22:31] : you're awfully quiet

Alex [22.32] : wait are you talking to Lena

Her fingers were poised over the keyboard, ready to throw hands when she felt it again. Lena, hovering behind and peeking over her shoulder. Goosebumps were coaxed out on her neck as the waves of unearthly energy brushed past.

"Lena! Are you reading my texts?" Kara spun in her seat but Lena was faster.

Gone with the wind.

Alex [22:34] : oh you totally are

Alex [22:34] : say hi to her for me

Kara pushed her thoughts on Lena to the back of her mind, focusing single-mindedly on a very insufferable sister.

-----------

Kara floated in the liminal space between wakefulness and slumber. Drifting downwards, she felt herself breach the surface. There were no ripples; not even the slightest bit of resistance. Just sinking deeper…

A vague awareness of a dark figure above pricked her mind. Opening her eyes just a crack, Kara took a moment to realise what she was seeing.

"Lena? A-are you —"

Gone with the wind again. They needed to talk.

-----------

It was the first thing she brought up the next morning. Simply blurting out "I think we need some space from each other."

Lena froze mid-step. Blinked. And slowly, she turned, a mess of hurt and confusion. "Of course. If that's what you want."

Kara winced. Confrontations were never her thing for this very reason. Still, she powered through, convinced that it'd do them both some good. "Great, thanks." Oh Rao, this was so painfully awkward.

Speaking of pain, Lena's only seemed to compound over time. She looked small and not only relative to Kara's long frame. Vulnerable even, her usual vibrance tempered. The words were drawn out of her, sliding off her tongue in broad brushes and precise strokes alike. Because it'd be a travesty for her only burst of colour to be her lifeblood — drained out into her front.

"It's just," Kara rubbed the back of her neck. "We spend every waking moment together. First here in the morning then in my room and I just thought that…"

The comical widening of Lena's eyes derailed her train of thought. A realisation had struck and with how Lena struggled to articulate it, a sense of unease sparked through her sternum just beneath her skin.

"Your room?" She repeated.

"Yeah, you're just floating over my shoulder all the time and watching me and I didn't mind at first but I just think we really should set up some boundaries." Kara rambled in one single breath. Lena would usually find this act endearing, reacting with mild amusement. Yet she remained solemn, leaving Kara to laugh uncomfortably on her own.

Her subsequent words struck swiftly, like tearing off a band-aid from a fresh wound.

"Kara, I can't leave this house."

She couldn't… leave. Too bad the air in her lungs didn't pay her the same courtesy.

Chapter Text

"...that's a good pass right there into the penalty area. She shoots! And she scores!" Alex jumped up in celebration so abruptly that Kara had to help steady her beer in hand.

It was dark, the way Alex liked it, and the volume was turned down to a whimpering 3 the way Kara preferred. The artificial glow of the fluorescent-lit screen shone like a spotlight in the otherwise pitch-black living room, offering Kara a much-needed safe haven. Although it admittedly wasn't that flattering against Alex — deepening the lines in her face and bleaching out her skin. It only made her look unnatural and dare she say, supernatural. Kara sidled closer anyway, deeper into the 'big sister aura' she exuded. To keep her insulated from one particular entity that went bump in the night.

"Kara, what's up?" Alex's attention was fully turned to her. Distantly, the sound of the kickoff whistle played.

When Kara made no move to speak, Alex needled her further. "I know you hate sports so why are you here with me watching soccer?"

"Bonding time?" Kara had a good half-second to sound hopeful before Alex's raised brow sent it crashing down. "Fine! I'm scared!"

Oh Rao, that was loud. Kara cast furtive glances across the room in case she'd alerted something.

Alex set the bottle down on the coffee table. "Well, I'm listening."

It was like unplugging a full bathtub, letting the tepid bathwater spiral free. Kara launched into her story, the steady escalation of encounters leading up to Not-Lena leaning over her while she slept. Minus the parts with actual Lena, of course. Their unlikely friendship was enough of a story for another day. Alex merely nodded, a much tamer response than Kara had expected.

Kara watched as Alex stood suddenly, not quite comprehending her sister's intentions.

"Come on, let's go tell them to fuck off."

Kara gladly took her proffered hand and trotted along behind her. Across the living room and up the stairs. Through a narrow hallway and then a quick left.

"Hey, ghost!" Alex yelled into space. Kara could only hope the ruckus wouldn't rouse Eliza from her slumber. "Quit creeping on my sister or I'll make you wish you never died!"

"Ghosts are non-corporeal," Kara whispered into her ear.

"Oh, right." Came her reply. Alex paused, mouth hanging open as she surveyed her options.

"I'll find a way, you hear me? I'll dedicate my entire life to it if I have to." They blinked at the otherwise unoccupied room. Silence.

"I think they got the message." Alex declared but still, she wasn't too sure about that. Nonetheless, Kara nodded her thanks, retreated into her mountain of pillows and hid.

Stars collapsed into themselves from exhaustion but Kara Danvers did from the thrumming deep within. From the fear innervating every muscle, spurring her to curl into a protective ball. More like a black hole for all things supernatural. She shuddered, disappearing under her blanket.

"Goodnight," she whisper-yelled across the room. Lights out; Alex was gone. The door shut behind her, leaving Kara alone in the dark.

All rationality went out the window once faced with uncertainty. When there were too many factors in play, too many possibilities at hand, the human (and alien) mind would falter, free-falling into paranoia. After all, it's much easier to paint everything with the same brush, to guard against the dancing shadows and the mockery of the pallid moonlight just in case something was lurking within.

Eventually, Alex returned and Kara's eyes followed. Collapsing onto her mattress with a bounce as she always did and drifting off instantly — something Kara was always endlessly envious of.

Then came a shuffling noise from the hallway. Kara tensed.

Once more. Her pencil rolled off the table despite the lack of ventilation. Kara didn't wait for the third time.

"Holy shit!" Alex sprang awake. It was a miscalculation on her part — her foot slipped and she landed over her sister instead. On the bright side, at least it wasn't on her.

"Sorry, I thought I heard something." Kara pressed herself down beside her when she swore she heard yet another suspicious noise.

"Whatever," she grunted, throwing a protective arm over her.

-----------

Lena was far more amused.

"You leapt onto your sister's bed?" Her voice trembled with effort and yet the sibilant snickers still snuck through. Kara had long turned her back to Lena, pointedly refusing to meet her gaze.

"It was terrifying!"

"You're terrifying. You shoot lasers out of your eyes." She countered, sounding much too smug.

"B-but it's a ghost!"

"I'm a ghost."

"You're not scary."

An offended noise carried over through the space between them; a space much smaller than she remembered. "I can be if I want to. Why do you think this place is still abandoned after all this time?"

Kara knew a lost cause when she saw one. No further argument was made. She merely slumped into herself, exhaling loudly like a deflating balloon.

Lena sank down beside her. "I'd think that if they had ill intentions, they would've acted upon them long ago. Not that they could hurt you." A gilded handle slid its way towards her and Kara wrapped her fingers around it one by one. "So, I think you should have a chat with them."

"Maybe I will. Eventually." Kara nodded along. She didn't want to, dreaded any further interaction with the entity camping out in her room. Nonetheless, it was sound advice and the only danger of it toppling stemmed from her own cowardice.

"Why are you so afraid, anyway?" Kara eyed her instinctively, searching for harsh lines within her expression where only softness dwelled.

She took a steadying breath and began."I guess I've been told the same story too many times on Krypton." Lena visibly perked up at the mention of her home planet. "There were shadow creatures, each bearing your name. They're always watching, drawn to the darkness within us. Stalking their prey, feeding on their fear and eventually consuming their flesh as well."

She laughed. "Our parents used to warn they would come for us if we were bad. Like a boogeyman, I guess."

The letter opener swayed between them. "Well, I assure you Kara that you've been a very good girl."

"Oh." Unexplained uptick in heart rate, throat going dry — could Kryptonians have heart attacks? "Well, I…" she fumbled.

She felt Lena's grip tighten on the other end.

"Um you know you can ask me stuff right? About Krypton. Or anything really." A skilful redirection; Alex would be proud.

"Can I?" There was an unfamiliar spark in Lena's eyes. A reawakening, of sorts. The way it shimmered like the clearest of lakes. Kara peered down into the bed — a reflection of Lena stared back. One from another life locked away behind the aquamarine depths. If she reached out, could she pull her back to life?

"Alright then," Lena thought, humming like the bulky CPUs of Earth's computers. Kara jolted back to reality, her errant hand dropping to her side.

"I don't know where to begin. Tell me what life was like?"

She began tentatively at first but the floodgates quickly opened when she mentioned the firefalls, spurred on by Lena's sharp intake of breath.

Architecture, biology, family, intergalactic space travel — somehow Kara managed to string them all together into one coherent piece of exposition. And when it all got too much for her to continue, Lena led her down the rotting steps into the cellar to a chorus of questioning squeaks. They observed as the grey balls of fur scurried about, their stringy tails trailing just behind.

"This one’s Stefan." Lena pointed at the one with a chipped ear and Kara cooed at him. He averted his gaze and she felt her heart break.

"He cheated on Genevieve with Delores and is now leading a double life with his two families." Oh. Well in that case, Kara felt much better about not receiving his attention now. But more importantly…

"You have your own rat soap opera?"

It earned her an eye roll. "Well, forgive me for not having other sources of entertainment."

Kara couldn’t help but prod at the hornet's nest further. Just to see that crease between her brows deepen. "You're such a grandma, Lena."

Next step — the wait. Kara felt ten again when she had a penchant for mixing the right chemicals to generate the most explosive of reactions. Standing back out of harm's way, she'd take in the bubbles and the odd sizzling noises until her instructor realised what she'd done.

This time, it was instantaneous — a scowl and a scandalised gasp. "You take that back!"

-------------

Bleary-eyed, Alex stumbled out of bed with minimal resistance as Kara led her by her hand to the middle of their shared living space.

"Hey, ghost! Quit being a chicken and face me!" No reaction. It was quiet, everything was in order, not even a single disturbance in the air surrounding them.

Unintelligible mumblings from behind drew her attention to Alex instead.

"Late," she groaned, voice gravelly as it would be in certain undeath. "Gonna be late."

For a brief moment, Kara entertained the notion that Alex was the real ghost here. They waited, or rather Kara did; Alex's only other contribution was swaying on the spot. Still nothing.

Kara put her crusade on hold for now.

The next day boasted an unsuccessful second attempt. This time, Alex was fully awake.

"How do you sleep so much?" It struck her too late that she probably shouldn't aggravate her human shield.

"Because I'm not a plant." She fired back The prior insinuation thunked uselessly against Alex's Kara-hardened skin. "Why are we staring into space again?"

"I invited the ghost for peace talks and I don't want to do it alone."

"Why didn't you call Lena?" An innocent question on the surface. Enough for it to slip past Kara's defences undetected.

"Lena can't come." Oh crud. One eyeful of gleaming teeth later, she realised her mistake.

"So Lena does exist!" Ghost all but forgotten, Alex found herself on the other side of their door instead.

Third time was not the charm either. Alex reclined with her phone held precariously over her face while Kara glared holes into the walls. Literal holes, if she weren't careful. She took herself through another breathing exercise.

"If I were a ghost, I wouldn't come to you now." Her sister piped up from her all-too-comfortable position. "I'd wait till the scaredy-cat is alone —"

"I'm not a scaredy cat!"

Her protest was barely acknowledged. Alex chugged on with her hypothesis. "— and I'd wait till the sun is down. And when you're least expecting it, I'll reveal myself."

The gears in her head began to turn — Alex had a night shift, Eliza was going out of town that evening and sundown was in four hours.

"Can I sit in the wards with you?" Obviously not.

Armed with this knowledge, that night was drastically different. Alone and afraid, she locked her door in an irrational attempt at bolstering security and stole Alex's blanket to cower under for good measure. Not that blankets offered any protection; watching The Grudge made that clear enough. What if something pulled her out from underneath? Better question: why on earth did she put that thought into her own head?

Rustle. Kara froze. Rustle. Outside! Gathering her covers, she shuffled over and peeked out the window beside her bed.

Nothing. The tree in their backyard seemed to loom over her despite its top branches barely reaching the window sill. Maybe it's just the leaves? She gulped before slithering back down onto her bed.

Again. Rustling, unlike the graze of supple leaves against concrete. It sounded more like footsteps, feet dragging against the leaf litter and neatly trimmed grass.

Still nothing. Even with her glasses pulled off. She withdrew, eyes refocusing away from the outside world. And stopped.

There, in the glass. It took a full second for her to remember the laws of reflections — whatever you see was always behind you…

And another to reorient herself. Lying in a crater, staring up at the faint twinkling of the night sky. This wasn't her room, not even close. It was all a blur. One moment she had locked eyes with… something and the next she was here. Kara didn't even have the chance to scream.

She coughed, keeling over the paving stones below. Glass. Fingers clawing between her teeth and under her tongue, she scraped out an alarming number of fragments.

On the bright side, if she couldn't remember how she got here, no one would've seen her. At least, she hoped no one did.

"Kara?" Luminous robes swept into view, disappearing underground as the figure knelt beside her. "What happened? Are you alright?"

"Lena?" Kara groaned, rubbing at her eyes. "Can I stay here tonight?"

------------

Sequestered in Lena's cozy study on the second floor, Kara felt her heart rate slow to heavy, reassuring thumps. Lena insisted on lighting the dusty fireplace although she didn't exactly need the warmth. She appreciated it anyway, curling up onto her cracked leather armchair with Lena just across her.

"I saw the ghost in my window. Right behind me. And then I was here, lying in a crater in your driveway." Kara shrugged.

"You flew here?"

"Yeah, I can do that too. Fly, I mean."

Lena made an inscrutable expression. "I meant here. To me."

Under the constant flickering of the hungry flames, Lena seemed like a mere wisp. And with that look, Kara feared she might just dissipate. What would she do then? Kara cringed at her internal monologue, hands tightening around her thighs at the realisation of what she'd said. How the notion of running from one ghost to another was downright ridiculous. And there lay the implication that Lena made her feel safe. Just resting there between them, pulsing with life that could so easily be snuffed out.

Kara acted quickly, pushing herself off the sturdy armrests. Striding across the room, she spoke in a burst of words. "I'm sorry, is this too much? I can go somewhere else —"

Seeming to have her own lightbulb moment, Lena almost sprang forth from her seat. "No! Absolutely not."

When Kara loosened her stance, so did she. Letting her hands fall along with her gaze, as if gathering her words off the hardwood floor. "That wasn’t what I meant. I'm… glad actually. That you came here."

"So, is this okay?"

"More than okay."

------------

"Kara." Clearing the broken glass hadn't been enough. She allowed herself a quick glance — no reflection. The weak summer breeze meandering through didn't exactly help her case.

"Alex!" Kara scooted over, obscuring the empty frame from view. "How was your shift? You look tired. Maybe you should take a nap! A very long nap in a very different part of the house —"

"Kara, where is our window pane?" Arms crossed, scowl, twitchy eyebrow — Kara gulped as Alex levelled the most severe of looks at her.

"It's gone on a temporary vacation and will be back once you wake up!" Kara tried to herd Alex out of their room. Tried in vain — Alex seemed to have developed a superpower on her own. An unyielding object impervious even to her Kryptonian force.

Alex rubbed at her temples and sighed. "The more you try to dodge it, the more worried I'll get."

Lower lip captured between her teeth, Kara gnawed as she considered her options. How exactly does one confess to launching themselves skywards from a ghost sighting without sounding crazy? Because even recalling the day's events made her question her own sanity.

Softer this time. "You can tell me anything. We'll figure it out together."

That was all it took — a vapour-thin thread of reassurance whispered into the air for the avalanche to begin. Not that they could be triggered by sound, but still the imagery was apt. Alex stood in the aftermath taking it all in, looking like she'd just been pummelled by inches upon inches of snow with Kara soon to be buried with her.

"Are you okay? Did you crack your skull or something? Let me see." Alex's fingers pressed against her forehead and Kara let her with little protest.

"Are you absolutely sure no one saw you?" Alex pushed tenderly against her crown, scrutinising her expressions for the slightest bit of pain.

"Yeah, I didn't even realise I was gone until…"

"You appeared in the driveway of the Luthor House." Her temples next; Kara leaned into the warmth of the firm brush of fingers there. Up close, Kara could see the slight twitches of her eyelids as Alex struggled to cling to the vestiges of consciousness.

"Yep." Kara cleared her throat. "Look, I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't be flying around Midvale. Or at all, really."

"No, you didn’t mean to." Alex pursed her lips. "But this ghost thing. I think it's getting out of hand. I mean, you shot right through the window like some superpowered cat!"

"I-I swear I saw it, Alex!"

Two hands grasped at her arms, squeezing pleadingly. "Just repeat after me, okay?"

Kara nodded. "Okay."

"Okay first, ghosts aren't real." Alex tightened her grip to emphasise her point and Kara jerked along with it.

"Ghosts aren't real."

"They can't touch you," said Alex.

"They can't touch…" What was that? Kara did a double-take at the now empty hallway behind Alex. Her gaze flitted back. "...me."

"They can't hurt you."

"They can't —" There — a heavy quilt hovering just above the ground. She couldn't tear her gaze off of it; could barely complete Alex's simple task as it was. "Hurt me." She managed. Though it sounded more like a challenge at this point, one the entity gladly took. Drifting closer to where they stood, rising until it towered over her too. Kara kept her eyes affixed to it throughout.

"Nothing can hurt you."

"Nothingcanhurtme." She spat over Alex's shoulder. A last-ditch attempt at halting its advance. It reached out.

"Hey are you even listening to me?" Alex captured her cheeks between her hands, dragging her gaze down until their eyes met. Nonononono — she fought against the desire to wrest herself away, glancing back instead. Gone. Like she was losing her mind.

Kara nodded mutely and felt herself being released. She glanced over again. It was peering at them from the door.

"Is something behind me?" Alex asked so suddenly, Kara couldn't muster up any reaction other than a strangled cry. It was all for nothing.

She was staring right at it! Alex was staring right at the ghost and it was like she wasn't. She gave the open hallway — ghost and all — a once over. Satisfied that she found nothing out of the ordinary, Alex turned back to her and Kara wanted nothing more than to scream.

"Nope, nothing behind you." She gritted out. The sides of the quilt lifted in a… shrug? Before Kara could dwell on it, the ghost was gone.

"Great, we'll call someone to fix up the window before mom gets back." Alex reached for her cell phone.

"Actually, I can fix it."

One eyebrow canted upwards as if to say, "Since when?"

Right, Alex didn't know about her window-fixing adventures.

"Trust me." They blinked at each other. "And the Internet." She tried again.

A full-body yawn overtook her sister. Too tired to protest, she merely stalked off with a shrug. She was asleep before her back hit the bed.

-----------

Fixing her own window meant the hardware store. Mike again, running away, nothing new really. What's new was her pit stop at the corner store in town. Marshmallows, off-brand cookies, a handful of chocolate bars that smelled like pure, concentrated sugar — all the building blocks of a great sleepover. (Or so she'd been told.) She didn't have any experience to speak of and Alex wasn't exactly the most forthcoming about the happenings at hers.

One bewildered Alex later ("Woah, where'd you learn to do that?" Kara merely shrugged, content to let Alex believe that she was some sort of DIY genius.), Kara was jogging up the hill, off to bewilder Lena too.

"Kara?"

"Hey, um so the ghost's still haunting me and I really enjoyed yesterday so surprise sleepover!" Jazz hands weren't compatible with a veritable mountain of snacks. She learnt that the hard way, struggling to right herself and her haul instead of seeming impressive. One eyebrow shifted skywards, head subtly tilted to the side — a look Kara identified as confusion with practised ease.

"Sleepover?" Her lips formed each syllable almost hesitantly, the word evidently foreign on her tongue.

"Yeah, like staying the night." Kara dangled the sleeping bag into view. "With snacks and pillow forts and gossip." She spouted off the mental list she'd meticulously developed when she first arrived. Just in case.

"Not to burst your bubble but I don't exactly have pillows." Lena shifted aside, beckoning Kara in anyway. They walked with Kara in the lead.

"And I'm afraid I'm short on the latest gossip." Lena grimaced. Up the stairs and into the newly-discovered study. As Kara held the door open for Lena, she replied upbeat as always, "The snacks were always the best part anyway."

Heat-visioning the fireplace to life, the two of them found themselves gravitating towards it — Kara for sustenance and Lena out of curiosity, then horror as Kara stuck her marshmallow hand right into the belly of the flames.

"Can't get burnt," she shot her a quick reassurance, waving her arm through the fire for show. In the meantime…

"Hey, I was wondering… Why can I see ghosts? I mean my sister sure can't." The question had been at the forefront of her mind ever since Alex looked right through it.

"I'm not sure." Lena hummed in thought. "I suppose you can only perceive what you believe in."

"What do you mean?" Kara asked as she leaned closer to check on its progress.

"Not everyone sees me. Some just calmly walk right by. But those that enter afraid? They leave utterly terrified." Lena took far too much pride in her craft. An indignant noise crawled its way up her throat as she recalled their first meeting. She shook her head. Back to the marshmallows.

Letting the flames lick at them one final time, she pulled the gooey mess away. Slathering it onto a graham cracker, Kara topped the open sandwich off with a piece of chocolate and another cracker.

"A s'more!" She declared to an apprehensive audience of one. "Try one."

Her dish landed with great fanfare but she didn't truly appreciate the extent until Lena swooped over like a thieving seagull. Target: the s'more in hand.

She shrieked, tumbling backwards and swatting at the air. A loud scuffle broke out on the mahogany floor and by the time Kara realised she could put her superspeed to good use, it tasted like a ghost of its former glorious self. Though with Lena now hovering over her, huffing as Kara chewed slowly, she was inclined to think that ghosts weren't really that bad. Except the one walking the halls of her home. That one was the worst.

"I keep forgetting you can do that." Lena pulled away to settle on the floor beside her.

"Me too." Lena angled her a questioning look. "I don't use my powers much. Might draw the wrong kind of attention again."

There she went, putting a damper on the mood once more. Peeling herself off the floor, Kara moved to make some more. Good thing she exclusively bought jumbo packs. Spreading the melted marshmallows liberally onto their cracker beds, Kara engrossed herself in the full surround experience of her cooking. The mouth-watering sight, the heavenly smell, the slickness of her fingers as she extricated them from the sticky mess.

She didn't realise Lena had gravitated towards her until she spoke, her voice soft like the fire-lit atmosphere saturating the room. "What happened?"

"A long time ago, Alex and I went flying." Kara surprised herself at her admission. Sure, she'd lived through it but she’d never recounted it to anyone. "Someone spotted us and the next thing we knew, the government came knocking on our door."

It felt so much more real now that the vacuum seal had been released. Putting the events into words was like reliving it all over again in full agonising detail. But every story needed an ending and so she soldiered on. "Then they took Jeremiah. My adoptive father; Alex's father. He offered himself up in exchange for me." And that was when she began to wonder if she had some sort of curse because misfortune followed her wherever she went.

"Oh well, you may not have gossip but I do! Wanna hear about my ex?" Kara pulled the handbrakes on that conversation, attempting to drift over to a sunnier lane. But Lena was having none of that, veering them back into the shade. Really, she should’ve known that ghosts could possess vehicles — Hollywood warned her as much.

"You don't have to blame yourself."

Surging through her veins was something unfamiliar. Sometimes ferocious and every bit terrifying — anger, she thought. She wasn’t sure at what exactly but she felt it coursing through her, taking over and infecting her words. "But I caused it. I arrived at their home, messed up their lives and took someone dear away from them."

Lena flinched but refused to back down. "We all make mistakes and sometimes, the consequences are unfairly disproportionate."

Actively forcing her emotions back down was a tremendous feat. She succeeded this time but what about the next?

"Yeah?" She replied lamely, unable to scrounge up any other response.

Kara watched the heavy rise and fall of Lena's chest in anticipation. "But as time passes, it gets easier to live with yourself. Starting with realising that you're allowed to be stupid and make stupid decisions."

"So just don't cry over spilt milk?" And there lay the fact that this was much more than spilt milk. It's more on the scale of driving all the cows to extinction. Just imagine a milk extinction — a staple in many a breakfast just gone.

"No," Lena sounded resolute; she perked up at that, intrigued. "It's crying over spilt milk, then cleaning up the mess. And if there's a stain in the upholstery, so be it."

"Oh." Silence crept over them after that. The kind where one gradually sank beneath the surface, ears waterlogged and eyes transfixed on the receding sunlight. Where the mind screamed but it was so, so cold — a prison where nothing coherent could form. Like frozen bloodworm cubes, Kara thought. The ones Alex used to feed Tyler the fighting fish — their bodies interwoven in the randomest of fashions, trapped together by sub-zero temperatures.

Eventually, Kara broke the surface, rattled and slightly battered but still in one piece. She regarded Lena with an apologetic look. "I don't know… but I'm sorry. About just now."

Lena reached forward to reassure, or maybe to apologise — Kara wasn't too sure — when she spoke again. "Can I still tell you about my ex?"

She laughed. "Sure."

-----------

"It was our first date and it went… fine, I guess, but the real horror was what happened afterwards." Kara bit off half her s'more, swallowing quickly so she could continue. "So, I zonked out, accidentally slept in and got shaken awake by Alex at noon. Not because of lunch, but because Mike announced on Facebook that we're getting married."

The other half was offered to Lena. She took a full second to realise, stunned by the absurdity of it all.

"By then, the congratulations had poured in and I was so mortified I deleted my account. Turns out, he'd been telling his friends that we were dating throughout senior year." She began work on another s'more.

"Kara, that's awful! Tell me he's no longer in your life." Lena looked genuinely concerned despite Kara's general invulnerability.

"Yeah, we don't talk anymore." Kara got impatient and stuffed the softened marshmallows where they belonged (in her mouth), quickly replacing them with another.

"S'more?" She offered once it was done.

"No, thank you. That's enough for today." She said, motioning for Kara to consume it instead. Kara gleefully acquiesced and dipped herself into heaven once again. "Forgive me, but what's a Facebook?"

Kara gasped. How could she have forgotten? "It's where people put up stuff for their friends to see. Like pictures, quizzes or text posts… and relationship statuses too." She wrinkled her nose at the last one.

"Like a real-time autobiography?" Lena ventured, voice still tinged with uncertainty.

"Yeah, basically."

"But, why?"

Kara hadn't really given that much thought. It was the new 'in' thing. Everyone had one and so she had to as well. In the name of blending in (and feeling like she was a part of something for once).

"Honestly, I have no clue. I'm doing fine without it."

They broke out the cookies next. Chocolate chip — Kara's favourite but an oddity to Lena. ("Where are the oatmeal raisin ones?" She'd asked. Blasphemous.) Regardless, she warmed up to them soon enough. And when Kara, in her most genius creation to date, used them as a base for her new-and-improved s'mores, they learnt that ghosts too had the capacity to feel fully satiated.

As they conversed deep into the night, there came another discovery — Lena had her own collection of tales too. From the way she got under her mother's skin to boarding school and back in time to when she was seven and walked in on one of her father's numerous affairs. Kara stayed the perfect audience throughout, laughing along and committing them all to memory, shelving them away into a special corner that she'd earmarked for Lena.

And when she recounted how he awkwardly sat her on his lap and read to her afterwards, Kara couldn't help but bring up the fact that Lena had books like wallpaper, lining every available space.

Kara pulled one off the shelf at random. "Theoretical physics?" Pushing it back into place, she inspected the rest of the shelf, and then the next almost feverishly. "Mathematics, Philosophy, Astrophysics. Why didn't you tell me you were a nerd?"

"A what?"

Kara fumbled at that, just like Alex did once upon a time. It was one of those words everyone took for granted, something you wouldn't expect to explain.

("Someone… studious, but not in a nice way." Her sister had said.

"So, they do not like me?" In hindsight, her intonations were all off. It was a miracle anyone even understood her.

Alex nodded gravely.

"Why?"

"They sense that you're different."

"So what?"

Alex never found a satisfactory answer to that.)

Kara blinked once, twice and on thrice, she realised those same words had been spoken into existence.

"But I meant it in a good way. Really, really good. Like 'wow, you're so cool' kind of good." She hastily added.

"I'll take your word for it then. But it was a long time ago." Lena chuckled along. She bent over, running her gaze over the titles and Kara followed suit. And then she saw it. A clothbound hardcover in faded mustard yellow and pea green.

"This one’s my favourite," her smile was wistful this time.

"The Wonderful Wizard of Oz?"

"Yes, it's what Father would sometimes read to me. Have you read it?"

"No, I just watched the movie." Kara said nonchalantly, or she hoped it was convincingly so. It was like laying bait, setting up for a candid shot and the result was nothing short of stunning. Utterly breathtaking.

By the looks of it, Christmas just came early for Lena. Not in the grabby-hands way Mike preferred. 'Magical' was the right word for it, reminding Kara of the first time she witnessed the town square light up. Bathed in a vibrant yellow and speckled reds, greens and blues. The landscape was transformed from just the simple addition of incandescent lights. Kara would find herself there every first of December, eyes glimmering like glitter-dusted baubles at the impending spectacle. Or 'living up to her full tree potential' as Alex had described it. The same feeling swelled up with Lena — she wanted to make her smile. Over and over again, with the regularity human idiosyncrasies afforded their traditions and festivities.

"There's a movie?" Lena treaded carefully, as if speaking it would erase its tenuous existence.

"Yeah, I'll let you watch it tomorrow if…" Kara trailed off. The request she had in mind was silly — she was never quite able to verbalise it. Not even to the people closest to her and until now, it felt like it was much too late.

"If?" Lena prompted her to continue.

"If you read it to me." She crossed her arms over her chest in a facetious display of confidence, however playful. In all honesty, she would've brought it over regardless but Lena didn’t even pause to think.

"Pull it off the shelf and consider it done."

Lena waited, hovering on her belly close by until Kara was tucked snugly into her sleeping bag. Then, she began to read. Far more animatedly than anyone would to someone her age. Flipping through every page with the blade of her letter opener, Lena allowed herself to linger, undertaking a journey parallel to Dorothy's own. And when the heavy thump of the book closing announced the story's end, Kara couldn't help but say, "That was the best bedtime story I've ever been told."

"You mean your only one." At this rate, Kara suspected that it was the pallor of undeath that gave the illusion of frequent full-body flushes. Lena had turned beet red yet again. Glowing like embers of a once-sweeping flame. It was poetic really, that she should be an offshoot of such life. Extinguished only in technicality but still burning on.

"True, but it'd still be the best even if I've had like a hundred of them."

"Go to sleep. You're getting sappy." Lena rolled her eyes. Cold air gathered in her throat once again, aimed at the waning flames. Abruptly, Kara stilled, with one last request slipping through her lips.

"Will you stay?"

"Of course."

The fire was extinguished in an icy crackle. "Goodnight, Lena."

"Goodnight, Kara." Distantly, Kara heard the rustle of pages as her exhaustion brought her down, down, down. Into a security blanket of darkness.

------------

Movie night was a rousing success in Kara's eyes. Despite being two grown women cramped over a 16-inch screen and the 'low battery' warning terrorising them just minutes from the ending. Mostly, it was the sharp intake of breath when Dorothy emerged into a world of technicolour; the traces of wetness Lena missed with the back of her hand which prompted Kara to shift even closer. Oddly enough, even while she was grounded beside Lena, it still felt like she was flying, like she was on top of the world. She'd slept and she'd awoke; that sense of invincibility had yet to fade.

It showed in the way she marched back home, the way she poured her milk into her breakfast cereal in one smooth motion without a moment's hesitation. The way she had all but forgotten about the Ghost in the Sheet as she showered. Alex sensed it too, frown finally easing, looking peaceful as she slumped over her bed. Kara didn't give it much thought, lifting her limp frame and tucking her in.

The only disturbance to her day was her empty papers, taunting her from her desk. Why are we still empty? She almost heard them whine. To the back of her mind it went; Kara trampled down the stairs for brunch instead.

She came face to face with the fridge. The gleaming, silvery surface that doubled as an adequate mirror. Open it. Locate the peanut butter. Close it. Quilt.

And perhaps it was that sense of bravado that saved their kitchen from certain destruction — Kara only jumped three feet. Sprang to the side in a jumble of limbs.

It all happened in quick succession. Like dominos — not the pizza, but the inedible ones deceptively resembling pieces of white chocolate. One moment she was falling and the next, she had a leg-ful of quilt in… feet? Wait, that meant…

She had to see. The face of the being that had tormented her for so long. If there even was a face at all.

Her gaze shot up and was met with nothing. She lowered it. Slowly, afraid of the sight she'd be greeted by. Trembling now — no adult should be that height. What if it was just a torso?

She persevered. Down the last inch.

Oh.

Chapter Text

A child. All this time, a child had been causing her to cower in fear. It was both underwhelming and mortifying and if Alex ever caught wind of this, she'd never hear the end of it. Not that she'd be inclined to believe her.

"You." Kara tightened her grip on the aggressively-patched quilt. That was the last of her coherency. All she could do was point an accusing finger at the boy and sputter.

"Yeah, me." He jutted his chin out defiantly. "Can you let go now?"

"Only if you promise to stay put." Kara mustered up the most severe voice she could.

"Fine."

She released her grip.

The fabric slipped out of her hands and the boy sped through the adjacent wall. Only the lingering echoes of his laughter remained — an awful hacking noise one would expect from a cartoon villain and not the living.

Kara mentally added 'outsmarted by a child' to her list of embarrassing moments.

-----------

The boy in the quilt appeared the next morning, waving from the other end of the hallway. Once more hovering just outside her bedroom and across the dining table too. Time and time again, flitting past her field of vision. Sometimes even doing a little jig. When her eyes fluttered shut that night, she was already expecting company. Her body tensed in anticipation, rigid like a snake preparing to strike. Three, two…

On one, she lashed out blindly. Hands scrabbling in the air until one grazed a stretch of heavy fabric. Kara snapped her hand shut, yielding a fistful of patchwork-style cloth and one accompanying spirit.

"Got you!" She yelled. From the other side, Alex stirred, feeding unintelligible murmurings into the soft recesses of her pillow. Their attention snapped to her, eyeing her warily as she scratched at her nape and froze in place for the longest of moments. She swore the ghost was holding his breath too. Alex groaned, shifted in place and wrinkled her nose. Then, with her hand stuffed back under the covers, she pushed her face deeper into the ample cushioning below.

Her breathing evened out. Crisis averted.

"Alright, can you stop haunting me now? You're kinda being a creep." She said, in a hushed whisper this time.

He didn't even have the decency to look sheepish. Just stared unblinkingly into space beside her. An unwanted thought struck her — what if there were more than one?

"Promise me not to freak out like last time?" He asked and Kara nodded mutely.

"Cockroach!"

This time, she launched herself straight up into the air. So high that an irate Alex swore she was a hair’s breadth from causing a cave in. Good thing they had the foresight to build her bed frame out of steel. Kara grumbled as she gathered her covers from the floor.

And of course that little… pipsqueak took the opportunity to escape.

"Stupid quilt monster," she muttered under her breath. Kara resigned herself to her current predicament and shuffled back to bed. A quick glance at her stark white sheets confirmed her suspicions — there was no roach.

------------

The next morning was uncharacteristically peaceful. From one aggravating ghost, at least.

It began with a return to her usual routine. First, breakfast with Eliza who'd returned the night before. Then there was Lena, whom she suspected would be replacing her long-running Desperate Houserats with Kara's Paranormal Misfortunes, if she hadn't already done so.

"Then he tricked me again and skedaddled. And I had to deal with sleep-deprived Alex!" Her rant was far from over; Kara could go on for hours if she had the time. Her fingers were wrapped around the letter opener as they often were nowadays, their very own way of closing the distance between them. As in, huddling close. Not a… kiss. She really needed to pick her words better.

"Oh, Kara," Lena couldn't quite commit to a sigh or an affectionate chuckle — the end result was somehow even more endearing. Especially with her cheeks dusted with a subtle shade of red. Just like her own, she realised.

"Remind me not to have kids," Kara muttered. The corners of Lena's lips dipped, the serene backdrop to her sea-green eyes turning cloudy. A storm was brewing internally; Kara knew that look, could almost hear the unintelligible jumble of thoughts triggered by her off-handed comment.

"Hey, I’m sorry about that. No more kids talk, got it." Lena looked away, muttering a quick apology. "But remember what you said to me? About not blaming myself?" Kara gave the handle a gentle squeeze.

She turned back to her and nodded. With her attention redirected, the skies cleared slightly.

"I'd think the same principle applies here with whatever's going on in that big brain of yours." Kara supplemented it with a vague tapping motion against her head, and a soft smile to plead her case. "You deserve kindness too. Especially from yourself."

"That's the difficult part, isn't it? I know I shouldn't, but I just…" Lena pursed her lips. "No, I understand. I'll try."

"Good." Kara beamed fully now, wiggling their hands up and down in a modified handshake.

"But, did you want them?" Lena leaned forward and now she could see with great clarity. Beyond her expectant look, that darkness in her eyes had yet to subside. Did Lena want them? Or was her wanting them upsetting? Kara didn’t want to pry. Instead, she refocused her attention on the subject at hand.

The answer was complicated, to say the least. Before, her whole life had been laid out for her according to Kryptonian customs — formal introductions to her mathematically determined match at 15, a union at 20 and child-bearing from 25 at the behest of the matrix. But now that Krypton was gone, so was the well-tread framework she could've so easily followed. Life on Earth was messy and confusing like she was free-falling despite her gift of flight.

"On Krypton, it was expected of me but here, I don't have to anymore. I'm not quite sure what I'm doing now, really. Much less something so far off in the future." She hadn't even thought of what she'd do after college. "Did you?"

It wasn’t her usual laugh. Mirthless and bitter, Kara was witnessing a side of Lena not often seen. "As a rule, I try not to give too much thought to things I can't have."

"Oh c'mon, it'll be fun!" Kara insisted. "What about pets? What do you want? How many?"

Lena grimaced, hesitating before she finally spoke. "I apologise, I think I'd rather not."

"Oh Rao, no I'm sorry! I shouldn't have pushed." Her hands shot up, gaze combing through even the slightest of Lena's micro-expressions for the first sign of rejection. Great, she'd just trampled all over Lena's boundaries. And they'd be getting along so well too. Unconsciously, Kara shrunk back into herself. Was it… over? Should she go?

"What would you have?" Lena crossed the sudden chasm between them — one that now seemed to be fully of Kara's own conjuring. "You seem experienced."

"Oh well I used to have this cat. His name was Streaky…" she began, letting Lena coax her back to her side.

And the rest of the morning was spent hunched over her cracked iPhone screen, cooing at cat videos. Kara watched from the corner of her eye as Lena transitioned from apprehension to wide-eyed wonder, her hand unconsciously stroking at an invisible, fluffy cat.

A decent morning indeed.

The ghost greeted her from the stairway as soon as she walked through her front door. She sighed, resigned to the childish taunting.

-----------

Resolved to deny the ghost the reaction he desired, Kara kept her gaze trained on the paper before her. She should write about ghosts. Channel that inner annoyance into a scathing piece. Or that specific warmth occupying a neighbouring chamber in her heart. The left ventricle, Kara thought, the largest one. One dedicated to another ghost.

No, that wouldn't do. She'd be laughed at, mocked relentlessly for believing in something so juvenile.

"Wooooooooo," the ghost moaned from the door. His performance was particularly lacklustre now, to say the least. Kara pointedly swivelled her chair away.

A rustle followed his every step, closer, closer, closer. Until Kara was thwapped over the head by the swinging blanket.

She didn't mean to do it. Wasn't even planning on it but she felt the ghost prepare to retreat into the walls once more and her arm shot out.

Both pairs of eyes widened in alarm, pointed at where Kara's hand was fisted in his ratty quilt, holding him in place.

Her mind finally caught up to her body. "Alright, can you stop now?"

His eyes roved the length of her desk.

Sensing his plan, Kara quickly added, "I'm not letting go even if a swarm of cockroaches surrounds me." Though she might just 'borrow' his blanket if he did summon one.

He glanced over her shoulder; Kara was tempted to follow his gaze but he quickly threw his hands up in surrender. "Fine, fine you caught me. And finally too! For someone with such speed, you're kind of slow. An E minus for you."

"Excuse me? I caught you twice!"

"And you let go! It was all a test and you failed miserably." The boy had the audacity to look imperious. "How're you going to help me if you can't even catch me?"

"Help you with what?" Kara felt her stance softening at that. Though he could've just asked from the start.

He guided them towards the newly-repaired window, all the while avoiding Kara's questioning gaze. "When I was a young boy, I… woke up one morning to my mom telling me that Ruffles, my dog, ran away." The boy took a deep breath, his gaze growing distant. "He was sickly, he couldn't have gone far."

"Wait, like the chips?" Kara mentally slapped herself. He was in the middle of an emotional childhood story, for Rao's sake. She needed to stop running her mouth.

"Yeah, my sister wanted to name him Waffles and that's stupid." The boy stared into the square of manicured green and exhaled loudly once more. "Anyway, I just want to find him."

"But…" he's definitely dead, Kara wanted to say. However, she found herself unable to articulate those words and shatter the boy's heart. "It's been so long. I don't know if that's still possible." Her hand landed on his covered shoulder. It was solid, the way she sometimes selfishly wished Lena was even with an extra degree of separation between them.

"Whatever's left of him is fine too. Will you help me, Kara?"

"Fine," Kara huffed. "But you've gotta stop haunting me."

"I'll try," the mischievous twinkle returned to his eyes. "I'm Will, by the way. You can stop calling me the Quilt Monster. It's lame." That was one time

Kara sputtered but recovered quickly, offering him her outstretched hand. "Well, nice to meet —"

Will wrinkled his nose. "What are you? Thirty?" Before Kara could retaliate, he was gone.

-----------

Kara took a stroll around the neighbourhood, her glasses perched on the tip of her nose. Just looking for old dog bones on your property, don't mind me.

She directed her vision down into the remaining front yard. No luck there either. Another round yielded similar results (if getting chased by yapping pomeranian counted as that). By mid-morning, she'd thrown in the towel and circled around to Lena's.

"Sorry, I got held up. I went looking for dog bones." Kara said as soon as she stepped through her front door.

"You have a dog?"

"No, like dead dog bones." Lena visibly deflated at her clarification. The sudden coolness against her fingers shocked her gaze downwards where they were toying absentmindedly with the blunted edge of her blade. Huh, she didn't even remember reaching out for her. Regardless, Kara pushed herself to continue.

"The ghost wanted me to find his sickly runaway dog but here's the kicker — it happened decades ago!" She groaned, huffing out plumes of frustration with every exhale. "I went around looking and I didn't find a single bone!"

"You searched everywhere?" Lena sounded like she was onto something.

"Yeah, twice."

"Even your own property?" No, she hadn't.

Oh Lena and her big genius brain; she was right. Six feet under lay a collection of bones — Kara managed to identify the skull and the ribs, along with a leg or two.

Will stepped beside her.

"I found him." It was a solemn moment, one she thought more appropriate to observe with brevity rather than her usual ramblings.

Will clearly didn't share that sentiment, bouncing animatedly on the balls of his feet. He was positively bursting with something. The threads holding him together were straining, weakening, until finally it burst.

"I know." His cheeks strained from how high they were lifted.

And Kara, Rao bless her soul, was sent reeling. The flurry of cockroaches had indeed been summoned. Just invisible and thirteen hours late.

Sensing her confusion, his grin intensified. "You did much better this time! A-plus!"

"Wh-what do you mean you knew?" She asked, mind still straggling behind.

"He used to be here," he tapped his quilt-lined feet on the concrete below. "The previous family found him when they dug this up and they buried him there."

"Oh." It was all she could manage before the indignance set in, arms folding at the mere thought of it. "What's the point of all these… tests?"

"To see if you could do it." He shrugged. Complete nonchalance — as if he didn't just try to send her on a wild goose chase… Kara had half a mind to toss him right out the front door. Oh right, she couldn’t.

Arms straining against their self-imposed restraints, she bit out. "Do what?"

"Actually help me. Which you'd have no hope of doing if you couldn't even find a pile of bones in your own backyard."

"I'm not doing a third test, Will." She knew where this was going — absolutely nowhere — and if she didn't put a stop to it right now, she'd get a front-row seat to watch it all spiral.

Kara had expected outright defiance, a simple offhand comment about how this was no big deal or even that disappearing act he seemed so fond of. Wrong, wrong and… kinda wrong. Defying all expectations, Will retreated into his blanket. "Look, my family moved away a few years after I… you know." Watery eyes met hers and Kara softened, arms slackening against each other. "And I just want to know how they're doing."

Hands stuffed into her pockets instead, she searched his eyes for any of its previous hints of mischief.

"C'mon Kara. I'll even shake your hand!" He pleaded, features rearranging themselves into a devastating pout. And just like that, she caved. Much like a sinkhole, leaving her lying in the devastation of her resolve. She should’ve known this would happen.

"Fine," she shook his hand in agreement. "Just tell me their names."

It was as if a switch had been flicked — Will bounced in unrestrained exuberance once more. Grabbing onto her arms, he babbled, "My sister's Laura Willis and —"

The words fought their way out against her better judgement as they always seemed to do. "Wait, your name's Will Willis?"

"Yeah, what about it?" Will demanded. It was his turn to display his displeasure — arms crossed with a side of a deep scowl. A perfect mirror of Kara's previous stance. Wow, she must've looked scary.

But despite her best efforts, her snickers bubbled up from within. "Nothing, it's just really cute—"

"Ow!" The quilt connected with her head a second time that week.

-----------

"You know, you didn’t need to put me through all those tests." Swiping absentmindedly through the list of Laura Willises on Facebook, Kara tapped on another profile. Nope, Will shook his head. Her finger returned to the screen. "There's no sleuthing involved. Just lots of scrolling."

"Well, I'm sorry you never explained social media to me." His chagrined voice sounded more like a squeak but this time, Kara had the self-preservation to not call him out on it.

Black hair, brown eyes, pushing fifty and living in San Diego — the first two were aplenty but the rest were a nightmare to match. Will grew more uneasy beside her as time dragged on; every profile they scrolled past a tiny building block in the giant 'FAILURE' monument they were inadvertently constructing.

It felt sooner than expected, but not the least unanticipated when they reached the end of the list. Kara swiped again but it refused to budge.

"Now what?" Will asked, looking to her for guidance. She froze — no one had asked her that before. But now as the designated adult in this situation, Kara couldn’t help but see herself in him. With those lost eyes like that of a sailor, set adrift on a dingy life raft at sea.

"I-uh… don't worry, we'll figure it out!" Kara tried, failing to even convince herself. Will hushed her in response. She probably deserved that. He'd be better off approaching someone else for help like Eliza or —

"She's coming. Alex!"

Oh Rao. Kara scrambled away from the edge of her bed. The door clicked open just as she held up her phone.

"Lena?" Alex asked, flopping onto her bed with that terrible, terrible grin. She'd take a washcloth to it if she could. Just… wipe it off her sister's face.

"No!” She switched tabs. ‘10 hours of Pussy Cats to Make You Go Awwww’ — the very video she'd watched with Lena a few days ago. “Just pussy — I mean cats." She blurted. Though, it really felt more like getting a faceful of her own boomerang.

"Isn't that a little too soon? I mean, how long have you been dating?"

"Wh-what?" Kara squeaked. Not helping "I-I know what I'm doing, Alex. Don't worry. I mean, we’re not dating!"

"You know, you should at least show us a picture." Alex choked on her own words. "Not that one. Another one. But I'm sure mom would like to meet her —"

"Nope!" In her best mole impression, Kara burrowed under the covers away from Alex's scrutiny.

How could she have forgotten? She wasn't safe there either.

"What’s pussy?"

It took everything within Kara not to scream.

-----------

Breakfast the next morning was a painfully awkward affair. All thanks to a certain tattling sister who thought she had the full picture. Granted, them assuming Lena was living made things easier to explain away.

"Will you tell me about Lena when you're ready?" Eliza asked over the morning paper.

She sucked in a deep breath. Uh oh, too deep. The stray newspaper pages shot across the table, pelting her across the face.

Prying it off, she quickly realised what she'd done. All over the floor — a whirlwind of black and white. "I'm so sorry!" Hastily, Kara dropped to her knees to gather the remaining sheets.

"And um Lena and I aren't a thing. We're just friends. Close friends." She explained, still hunched over. It’s the truth — they were friends and nothing more. Unless they meant great friends, best friends?

Kara shrunk into herself further, paranoid that the remaining puzzle piece would find itself written across her face.

"Psst, you missed one here."

Kara turned, and almost exploded before she realised Eliza couldn't see him. Traversing the kitchen and up the stairs where the last sheet was snagged, she lifted it off the handrail gingerly. Her eyes raked across the page, internal narration engaging — Mrs Osborne is survived by her son, Robert A. Osborne, his wife Mary and their two children.

An idea sprang forth. But first, Eliza was waiting and so was her cereal.

"I'm sorry dear," Eliza said as she received the last sheet. "You never liked the obituary."

"No, I sucked it out of your hands in the first place." Kara chuckled along, hand rubbing that familiar spot on her nape.

In truth, she still wasn’t. Not even with Lena's tacit support by her side while trawling through the online archives of The San Diego Union-Tribune. She hated the ones with pictures the most — it put a face to the death, allowing her to easily conjure up the way they talked, smiled, laughed… In essence, the way they lived. Then she'd remember how it was all taken away, how quickly it could be taken away and she'd be transported back to a place where the sun was burning red and everyone was screaming and she was screaming and everyone was screaming while she was leaving —

"Sometimes I find myself wondering what mine was like."

Kara shook the thoughts out of her head. "Nice, I hope?" She was already sure it wasn't.

"I'd expect so, on the surface. Mother always had a gift with words.” They shared a laugh, a brief moment of levity before things took a dark turn. “But underneath it all, I bet it said 'A no-good deviant, taking far too much interest in her studies and neglecting her womanly duties. That's why her brother shot —'" Lena faltered. Clearly, she hadn't meant to reveal that last tidbit.

Kara waited patiently for her cue — if they were to discuss it or if it were to be ignored. She watched as Lena grimaced, gnawing on her bottom lip once before catching herself.

Then, she licked her lips. The former then.

"How much do you know about what happened in this house?" She asked tentatively.

"Just that gunmen stormed the place and killed everyone inside. They called it a massacre." It was one of the more horrifying tales she was told when she first arrived, compounded by the recent loss of her home planet. So much so that teen 'I have no feelings' Alex spent the night with Kara in her arms, awkwardly patting her on the back. (She didn't think she caught the whispered reassurances too but she did.)

"Yes, but the imbeciles missed me and Lex came to finish the job." Lena laughed ruefully. "And I ran to him like a fool."

Suddenly, she understood the defacement of his image in their family portrait. Imagining Alex turning on her like that was awful. Unthinkable, but still the idea itself was awful. "Why would he do that?"

"Insurance money, public sympathy and because he could? I suppose it's a mixture of all three." Lena pulled closer, apologetic this time. "I'm sorry if I've burdened you with this knowledge."

"No," Kara clasped both her hands over the gilded surface. "Don't be. I-I want to learn everything about you — good or bad."

Lena's eyes went wide, the familiar hue of red returning to her cheeks with a vengeance. "Oh, I… " she tried, her mouth clamping shut over the remainder of that sentence, throat bobbing as she swallowed it down whole.

"You know what? Your family doesn't deserve to write one for you." Kara pulled up her notes app with a flourish. "We'll write one ourselves!"

Fingers dancing across the screen, she gleefully read aloud, "Lena Luthor was — is a faithful friend and appropriately wise for her eighty years of age."

Lena scowled. "I'd take the veiled insults instead, thank you very much."

"No, wait! I'm not done yet." An exaggerated clearing of throat first, then a loud cracking of knuckles second; Kara threw herself into her masterpiece once more. "She's keenly intelligent and unimaginably thoughtful. And gorgeous — I mean, have you seen her?"

The compliments flowed easily off her tongue; her unrealised article seething with jealousy a dozen houses over. She spared Lena a glance, only to be met with nothing where her form once hovered. A sliver of panic slipped through; Kara's gaze darted around to find that Lena was already halfway through the floor with her face in her hands. Something was glowing in the confines of her flowing hair. Something red… oh. Her ear.

"You didn't like it?" Kara shuffled over to where Lena floated, conscious of the last time she'd pushed her too far.

"No, I liked it." She mumbled into her palms. Gingerly, Kara tugged on the letter opener, peeling her makeshift shield away. And Lena let her with little protest, their hands dropping limply down into the space between them.

"Perhaps a little too much." Their eyes met and suddenly, she was made acutely aware of her own shallow breathing and unblinking eyes.

Indeed, Kara was inclined to agree.

------------

Match day sometimes meant going downstairs to collect Alex from the couch. She never quite understood her insistence on catching them live when half the time she’d doze off before the final whistle blew. Sure enough, she was sprawled out like a skydiver mid-jump. Plunging into good dreams, she hoped. And then there was the little thief, leaning over her unguarded beer bottle.

Kara snatched it off the table, wincing at the loud yelp as Will fell backwards. She held her breath, eyed her slumbering sister until she remembered — she's the only one who could hear him. Turning back, she was assaulted with his stink eye.

"You're like ten. You can't drink!" Alex groaned from behind, ready to be reanimated by the rousing ruckus close by.

"Eleven but I'm technically fifty-five!" He argued. The noise wasn't at all a concern to him and at the back of her mind, she couldn't help but wonder how long it took for him to unlearn the expectations of existence. Being seen, being heard, being spoken to. How it would fade until eventually, you weren't even remembered.

Kara softened. "Fine, just a little."

He scrambled up to his feet, began reaching for his prize…

The bottle tipped away.

"Hey! What're you — Stop it!"

It burned all the way down, bitter and unrelenting. Kara had to take a moment to recover when only a shallow pool remained.

"Just a little!" Kara repeated, admittedly a little too proud of herself.

Will levelled a withering look at the offering between them, one she imagined matched her heat vision face. He took his time weighing his options, eyes never straying from the mouth of the bottle and Kara couldn’t help but give it a little wiggle. Payback for haunting her all this time.

Finally, with a smattering of grumbles, he accepted, leaning over to take a long whiff. Big mistake — he doubled over, hacking away.

"Oh, that's bad! Really bad." He coughed once more while Kara patted his back sympathetically.

"You've never stolen some before?" She couldn’t quite mask the disbelief in her voice. There wouldn't be any food left if Kara were undetectable. Except the greens — Alex could have those.

"No, Alex has this energy. It's scary." Together, they peered over to the person in question. Alex was none-the-wiser.

"Yeah, even when she's asleep right?" Alex shifted in her sleep and they went silent.

"Yes! Sometimes she starts scowling out of the blue and it's just…" He stopped, never to find the words to complete that thought. Shivers radiated through the house and the epicentre? Two individuals much too familiar with that expression; its effects so far-reaching that both the living and the dead trembled under its hold.

Only after it subsided did Kara move to speak. Leaning over and whispering, "Why'd you try today then?"

"Oh, because I have my trusty sidekick now. I mean she shoots lasers out of her eyes!"

"Hey, watch who you're calling your sidekick —" Will was gone. The leather couch behind her groaned.

"Who're you talking to?" Alex mumbled, arm shielding her eyes from the glare of the television. The words were directed at Kara, the deer in the fluorescent lights. Alone.

It dawned upon Kara that she wasn't even a sidekick. They weren't this disposable. No, she was just a…

"Minion."

Lena startled.

"Lena, do you think I'm a minion?" Kara huffed. Not that there's anything wrong with Minions. They're cute. Though it quickly morphed into confusion as Lena drifted away.

"I thought we had an agreement? You promised we wouldn't speak of those infernal yellow creatures again." She was halfway to the ceiling now. Like a helium balloon desperate to see the world, or in this case, get away from it.

"Wait, no! I wasn't talking about them. But I still think they're really cute." Kara coaxed her back down. "Will just called me his sidekick." She said, as if that explained everything.

"And what's wrong with that?" Lena lowered herself until they were eye to eye. It… just did. She’d never thought to put it into words. All she knew was that it irked her to no end. The insinuation that she was somehow less, helpless even; that she was… unworthy? Kara didn’t know.

She didn't know and yet, she found herself speaking and oh no —

"He's a child and I'm like twenty. Plus, sidekicks are lame. They don't do anything, just sit there twiddling their thumbs, getting captured while the hero saves the day. And then, everyone cheers and adores them —" Kara was distantly aware that she was rambling. Vaguely cognizant of Lena's concerned look deepening with every stumbling word. She should probably stop talking; she's sounding more egotistical by the minute.

"—ra. Kara, look at me." They'd migrated across the room — Kara collided with the back of an armchair, bouncing off it and almost phasing through Lena's face.

Unfazed, Lena continued. "You want to be a hero — is that what you're saying?" Bullseye. Hit the nail right on the (Kara's) head. Dazed, she watched her world bob up and down like driftwood out in the open sea.

"I-I know it's selfish. I'm lucky enough as it is and I shouldn't be thinking of such things but I…" Kara trailed off, unsure of how she could possibly sugarcoat it. She was what most Kryptonians weren't — alive. With powers beyond their wildest imaginations. And the fact that she blended in perfectly with humans too. If she had tentacles or cat ears, she'd be stuffed into a cage upon arrival. But here she was, whining that she couldn't put on a cape and zip around in her underwear to the rescue. Kal was already doing a fantastic job at it anyway.

"It's fine to want things, Kara. I definitely had my fair share of desires, but for what it's worth, you're already a hero." Lena spoke in such a warm, luxurious tone that Kara couldn’t help but hang off her every word, to just sink into its velvety embrace.

"How?" Her last words before she was fully engulfed.

"Well, I suppose you're… mine — Kara! Are you okay?"

Not very. Not with her legs giving out underneath her. A nasty crater formed where her thick skull careened into the backrest and boy, did she not know how to fix that.

-------------

Another day, another 2 years worth of the dead flashing by. Their black and white portraits were burned into her retinas at this point. It made closing her eyes a nightmare — a dozen faces, solemnly staring down at her, judging her for her waffle taco pajamas or something equally inconsequential. Kara squirmed under the scrutiny all the same. Oh, it wasn't all in her head.

Peering into the darkness, she locked eyes with her very persistent shadow.

"I thought we agreed? No haunting." She hissed.

"That's before I saw you lugging ice cream through the front door."

Kara shot up, fully awake at that. "What do you want with my ice cream?" Her eyes narrowed.

"Just one scoop?" Hands clasped together, Will pleaded. The way he glowed like a nightlight definitely helped his case. And the fact that she could have midnight ice cream. Yep, definitely the midnight ice cream. That's what drove her to agree.

"Fine," she grumbled, schooling her expression. It'd be a disaster if Will realised he had some sort of hold over her. "Just one. And I'm scooping."

Their feet — or rather, her feet — tip-tapped against the floor. It's funny really, how quickly she went from hiding from the ghost to sneaking down the hallway with him. Down the steps next. Will in front and Kara following closely behind. Three, two…

Her foot slipped. She'd really like a word with the Elder who thought perfectly smooth feet were fashionable.

Screaming into the confines of her sealed lips, her descent halted abruptly before continuing once more.

"Ow, why are you so heavy?" Will's muffled groan came from underneath — a shapeless pile swallowed whole by his own heavy quilt.

A retort readied itself, like the fully filled squirt gun she'd point at Alex when she was least suspecting it. But the noise died in her throat when she remembered that between them, she's the only one who needed to be quiet. Unfair.

"My bones are just denser." She muttered instead. They dusted themselves off, casting furtive glances up the stairs for any sign of movement. Nothing. Wordlessly, their journey to the fridge resumed. Round the kitchen island and flinching at the muffled squeak of the rubber seal as the door was pulled open, Kara and Will arrived upon their prize.

"Why do you get two scoops?" He complained.

"Because it's my ice cream." Kara's hand paused on the lid. A third scoop plopped into her bowl — Will tracked its motion with a hawk-like intensity. The metal scoop hung in the air. Neither party moved from their position, initiating a silent stalemate.

Her eyes darted from the tub to the boy. Her ice cream. But technically she'll be the one eating it. On the other hand, flavourless ice cream… was just sad cream. Making a child sad though…

A frown appeared on his face and as if on command, Kara caved. Two more scoops were deposited into his bowl and a mental note to restock her ice cream stash was made.

Will wiggled in excitement, almost pouncing on his unexpected windfall. Kara wouldn't be surprised if he'd picked it up from Ruffles. That's how it was, she supposed — taking a piece of those you love, carrying it within your heart. Until your flesh weaved around it, wrapped it close and sealed both fragment and host into a single unified whole.

The still-full bowl slid over to her, skidding with little resistance against the granite countertop. Kara picked it up and spooned a generous portion into her waiting mouth. Just as bad as she expected.

"My dad used to sneak me out for ice cream. Just the two of us, one vanilla cone each." He flattened himself against the counter, eyeing the closed tub.

Against every lesson on Earth etiquette, Kara didn't wait till she swallowed to shoot him down. "Nice try. No more for you."

If Alex realised Kara's sudden taste for vanilla ice cream, she never brought it up.

-----------

Alex [11:43] : hey

Alex [11:43] : guess what

Alex [11:43] : no one cracked their skull today

Alex [11:43] : or lost anything up their ass

Alex [11:44] : so i'm on break early

Alex [11:44] : what does the bottomless stomach recommend for lunch

Kara [11:45] : whatever has the biggest portions

Kara [11:45] : and the least vegetables!

Alex [11:46] : what did i expect

Kara could almost feel the eye roll through her screen.

Alex is typing…

Kara shifted in her seat to accommodate Lena so she could slide into it too. Their discussion of the differences between Kryptonian and Earth's astronomy was unceremoniously disrupted by one bored sister. (Who, in Alex's defence, didn't know she was making social calls to the Luthor House.) Lena had protested against the topic, insisting that she was 'rusty'. In that case, Kara reckoned she was more stainless steel than exposed iron.

Sensing Lena's attention shift to the device in hand, Kara angled it towards her, granting her permission to look as well. They waited for Alex's reply.

Alex is online

"Actually, I've been meaning to ask. What exactly is this thing? You've made calls on it, sent your sister instant mail, showed me pictures of your cousin… Where does it end?"

"Oh, it's a mobile phone," Kara pushed the home button, finger hovering over the screen like a drunken honeybee. "I could call someone or send messages, but you already know that. Um, search up whatever I want on the Internet." She didn't miss Lena's impressed look as she pulled up the Safari app. Back to the home screen. Next page.

"And I could do this!" Kara tilted her phone over. It would've been much more impressive without the spider web of cracks layered over the simulation but Lena seemed amused all the same. The only person to ever be amused by it, actually — Alex had downed her actual beer, maintaining eye contact with Kara the entire time and Eliza had offered her a simple that's nice, dear.

But that was all until her hand slipped.

First stop: her nose. Kara's hands shot out, clawing at thin air; a concentrated warmth glanced off her cheek instead. She could feel it. In gravity's clutches, being pulled closer and closer into its final destination.

Desperation propelled her to the floor, a humanoid shield, landing on her shoulder, (thankfully) with her phone in hand. Oh Rao, is it dead? Inspecting the damage with her hands first, she found a bump on its edge. Way to go, nose of steel. She sucked in a deep breath. Then, she looked.

Alive and well (enough). Her exhale picked up a trail of dust along the way.

"I would ask if you're alright but I think the floor needs my concern more." Lena quipped, but still she knelt beside her. Reaching as if to help her up and freezing in place when she realised she couldn't. Like a still image, a picture, a photograph…

"Do you think you'll appear on camera?"

Lena merely blinked at her, confusion clear as day. Or a ghost in daylight — Kara took note of her translucency once more — that'd be more apt.

Her camera was still functioning; Kara found herself stunned by how resilient the little thing was. And now, for the moment of truth. The view flipped. Two people. It worked!

Lena lifted a hand to her cheek and Kara couldn't help but see the resemblance. An unflattering one, but still. It reminded her of an animal passing the mirror test. The initial apprehension, the subsequent wonderment and exploration all fit to a T. At least, that was before the significance of the moment dawned upon her.

"Can you… see your own reflection?" Kara ventured forth with her own hypothesis.

"No, I… Do I look like that?" Inching closer to take a better look, Lena released a stuttered breath. "I've... mostly forgotten."

There wasn't much Kara wouldn't give to just wrap her arms around her in that very moment. To forget the world around you — that Kara could understand. She harboured that fear every day, fended it off every night when it threatened to overwhelm her. But to forget yourself? That was beyond the realm of terrifying.

Kara tugged on the letter opener. "Do you want to take one?"

"Oh, I… just one moment." Lena combed her fingers through her hair tentatively at first. And all the while, her eyes never left her image. Smoothing out the back and sweeping whatever strands she could find over her forehead; she realised what she was doing.

"Lena," Kara tried. Her hands were focused on creating a fringe now, or at least the illusion of one; a curtain to close upon her past. But no matter how she clawed at it, the crater on the otherwise smooth expanse of her skin remained.

"Lena, you don't have to." Her movements slowing, Lena turned to her.

"You look fine. Great — no, fantastic! You don't need to hide it." Kara took the opportunity to guide her hand away, pressing it onto the floor with the letter opener between them.

"Just look at the camera and smile, okay?" She pushed against the handle and hoped it felt like a reassuring squeeze.

Click.

Their first try was an awkward clash of tone. A goofy grin from Kara beside an expression she recognised from the portrait in the hall. The one perfectly posed, presumably by Lena's overbearing mother, for their perfect little family photo.

Kara stole a glance at Lena — just as tense before. "Hey, just relax okay?"

Nod. But her back still held rigid, and her smile remained slight.

"How many tickles does it take to make an octopus laugh?" She asked suddenly.

“What?” Lena blinked at her, unsuspecting.

"Ten-tickles!" Kara squealed, somehow louder than her own victim. The gilded handle found Lena's ribs.

Click.

"Why didn't the lobster share with his friends?" Kara leaned over further.

"They're selfish! They're selfish! Please stop!" With tears appearing in her eyes, Lena tried in vain to squirm away.

The last one was taken with Lena sprawled out on the floor. It was undoubtedly her favourite. Kara couldn’t quite take her eyes off how her body loosened with her hysterics, her laughter unbridled and still ringing in her ears.

By the time her feet brought her back home, she'd created a new album — 'Lena' with a heart beside her name. Just for the two of them.

Kara swiped through the pictures throughout the day, lingering on each one and replaying the scene in her head. The intimacy of sharing the moment together. Just the two of them.

"I think I need to shut up. A couple of kids came in bleeding and screaming about some ghost at Hackwood Bend. Totalled their car against the road barrier. They’re lucky it wasn’t a tree."

The two of them and now Alex. Her phone clattered away at the intrusion.

"Wasn't that where Old Fred's son died?" Kara flipped her phone onto its screen with her pinky, shuffling it away from the edge. Closer, closer, closer. She should probably shove it under her butt.

"Yeah, a long time ago. Back when I was a kid." Alex narrowed her eyes. "What're you hiding?"

"Nothing!" She jumped. Just in time for Alex to swipe the iPhone away. "Hey! Give it back!"

Oh Rao, Alex was going to see it conclusive evidence that Lena was dead. A ghost. And it wasn't even Halloween yet! How was she going to explain it away—

A hand met her face, keeping Kara at bay while she clawed helplessly at the air.

"Oh it's just you," Alex wrinkled her nose. The first wave of confusion came like a sucker punch; Kara blinked at her sister, waiting for the admonishment to come. "Wait, is that the Luthor House? You actually did the dare?" Better question — why was that her main concern?

"Um, yeah I did." Kara poked her head over Alex's shoulder. There, the same picture of her and Lena, staring right back at her. But not at Alex. Not with how calm she seemed. What was going on?

"Kara, I'm so proud of you!" It was her only warning before Alex pulled her into a bear hug, her befuddled noise only made known to the cotton blend of her T-shirt.

"Come on, let's print this and we'll burn it." With a few quick taps and an exasperated jab, Alex sent the image off to Kara's email address. And all she could do was loosen her stance as her sister sat her down in front of her laptop.

Print. Confirm.

The mouse felt solid in her grasp; it couldn't be a dream. And the trampling too. Like an elephant let loose in the Danvers household. Everything felt too vivid, too real.

Alex returned moments later, a hurricane up the stairs holding the photo and a lighter.

"Will you do the honours?" The items were offered up to her. She hesitated — the symbolism of it all weighed heavy on her mind. Could she do it? Lena's scrunched up face stared back.

Giving the lighter a few experimental clicks, a wispy flame emerged, flickering in the air. Towards Lena, away from Lena, towards Lena —

Kara shook her head. "I think I'd like to keep it." She could only hope she hadn't written the truth all over her face.

To her surprise, Alex was quick to agree. "That'll work too. Oh, we could put it up! I'll get you a frame tomorrow on my way home."

Will took this moment to make his presence known. "She's pretty."

Shifting the paper in hand to obscure Lena from view, Kara smiled up in thanks at her sister.

"And you're pretty jealous!" Her smile stiffened. Pupils sliding to the side, Kara shot Will a withering look. She wasn’t jealous. What's there to be jealous about? Lena was pretty. So what? Kara felt nothing but positive emotions around her. He wasn't making any sense.

Taking his chance to escape, the boy disappeared through the wall with that awful cackle left as a souvenir.

-----------

Will shook her awake.

"We've had midnight ice cream every day for the past week." She turned away, refusing to open her eyes. Pulling consecutive all-nighters wasn't sustainable, even for a solar-powered alien. Not to mention inefficient — inspiration had yet to strike. Her stack of copy paper found their forever homes in the bin and her document (helpfully named ‘article’) was still woefully empty. The obituaries were starting to feel like a dead-end too. Staring at dead people all day was unexpectedly draining and she'd really like to go to sleep —

"It's not about ice cream. There's something cool going on outside." He insisted, rocking her arm back and forth.

Grumbling, Kara stumbled out of bed and let Will lead her by the hand.

Hallway. Stairs. Kitchen? They made a turn — not the kitchen. A few more paces, another right turn. And then, Kara received a faceful of glass.

"Sorry," Will looked sheepish as he waited for her to push the sliding door open. Well, at least she's fully awake now. Enough to give her backyard a good once over. Nothing out of the ordinary.

"Look, it's a red star!" He pointed into the distance, up at the infinite expanse of the night sky.

"It's a red moon." Kara corrected, rubbing at her eyes.

"Oh, so not a star?" Will shrunk into his heavy blanket and the guilt seeped in.

"No, but it's pretty too." She smiled down at him. It wasn’t helping — he still resembled a field mouse poking out of its burrow. "Come on, let's watch."

Kara took the lead this time, guiding Will to hover over the concrete. Sprawling herself out, she waited for him to get comfortable before turning her gaze to the moon above.

"I wonder what it looks like up close." The quilt was closed around his body now. An instinct perhaps, a remnant from when he felt the cold.

"It's grey and rocky from what I've seen."

"Is this Earth knowledge or alien knowledge?" It was as if that word alone was a trip mine. Kara almost fell over, a series of redirections heavy on her tongue until she remembered — he’d been here for it all.

Clearing her throat, she finally replied. "Earth knowledge. Humans landed there in 1969." Will made no move to point out the long pause from before.

"I think I would've wanted to be there too if I'd seen it."

“An astronaut?”

“Yes, an… astronaut,” he made a funny face at that.

"You're not missing out. It's just floaty like you are now." She ruffled his hair under his blanket, gleefully making a mess of it. Will sank lower into the ground, unamused.

"Go back to watching," he scowled and Kara acquiesced. But only because he was already chest-deep in concrete; she didn't want him to disappear completely.

From afar, the blood moon did look like the red sun she once knew. Enough for her to feel the familiar pangs of homesickness, floating in a cocktail of mystery ingredients. And worse still, not all of them agreed with her. Kara closed her eyes, inhaling deeply as if breathing them in. Floating in the questionable concoction was the key ingredient of death. It was everywhere — Krypton, Will, Jeremiah probably. And… Lena.

"You know, I've heard a lot of things in this house." Will began, suddenly sounding much older than his age. "Seen a lot of things too and I realised something."

"Yeah?"

"You're one of the best people I know."

Time was a metronome. Kara could almost hear it ticking away in the background. A haunting reminder of how the seconds slipped away. First a bar, then two and soon a whole piece lost to silence. Kara couldn’t help it, only hoping that the full recital would swiftly pass her by.

He pushed further, as if privy to her disbelief. "You weren't the first I asked for help but you were the first to say yes. That's ‘good’ to me."

“Probably 'cause of all your tests,” Kara pointed out.

“No, you're just a lot of fun to mess with.” She knew she’d been spending too much time around him when she didn’t so much as bristle at his admission. “But you helped anyway. That says a lot, doesn’t it?”

With Will turning his attention to the deep watercolour reds above and Kara turning his words over like barbecue sticks over a fire, there was no room for anything other than the soft cricket chirps in the distance.

"Will?"

"Hm?"

"Are you up for ice cream?"

She needn't have asked.

-----------

As the old adage goes, 'lunch is the mother of all success'. At least that’s how she’s sure it went. Anyway, it's fitting that she'd find her first lead with a belly full of pepperoni pizza.

Robert E. Willis

1930 - 1998

There wasn't a picture but the description fit well enough. Joining his baby boy William in heaven, survived by his wife and daughter, her husband and their three children. That last bit snagged her attention.

An unusual last name too. Just three David Feyrers on Facebook and only one based in the West Coast. Jackpot, albeit an anticlimactic one.

She handed her phone over to Will, letting him scroll through his timeline while she watched by his side. The boy was uncharacteristically silent, though Kara supposed she would've been too. It was the family he would've known, or perhaps wouldn't have if it weren't for his passing. Maybe Laura would've stayed in Midvale, met someone else, been more successful, been happier. 'What if's were funny like that — she knew it all too well.

"A teacher huh," Will breathed, his voice uneven. "Who would've thought?"

"A good one too," Kara supplied. The post boasting the stack of cards Laura received told her as much.

They were back at his profile, timeline whizzing past until they arrived back at the present. To look into his friends list, she assumed, or their children. Another glimpse into their lives from afar.

The next thing Kara heard was her dial tone.

"What the heck are you doing?" She swiped it out of his hands. Oh Rao, don't pick up don't pick up don't

"Hello?" The speaker crackled. Her palm pressed over the strip, muffling any further questions from Will's ears.

"Quick! Before he hangs up!" Will lunged for her phone.

Pivoting away, Kara grimaced and raised the phone to her ear. "Hi, sorry about that. I'm Kara Danvers from Midvale. I was hoping I could speak to your wife, Laura?"

"How'd you get this number?" His finger was no doubt poised over the 'end call' button now.

"I um," she fumbled and Will made a strangled noise. "Your Facebook. It's on your profile."

"Oh." Somehow, the call remained connected.

"Um, I was just trying to track down the previous occupants of my house." And now she sounded like a stalker.

"Why?" A brilliant question for a not-so-brilliant liar. Telling them about the ghost hovering beside her would only add 'crazed' to her title.

"I just… had some questions for them. Well, for your wife."

She could hear his heavy exhale from the other side of the line.

"It'll be quick I promise."

"Fine," his footsteps thundered across the room. She heard him whisper a quick Laura, picked up the squeak of an office chair and of the device changing hands.

Kara put the phone on speaker.

"Hello?" A different voice this time — one excruciatingly familiar to her companion.

"Hi!" Will couldn't quite help himself. Not that she could hear him, or see his frantic waving of arms.

Kara took over from there, feigning uncertainty and pretending that she hadn't gleaned tidbits from her childhood from her dead brother. She was easy-going, sunshiny despite the complete stranger on the other end. It's easy to see her appeal now, why the children loved her.

"I miss him, really. All the time." The tinny quality of her speaker did nothing to strip away the raw emotionality of her words.

"That wasn’t what you said," he laughed, dabbing discreetly at his eyes.

"I guess we all have our regrets," she continued, chuckling in that same rhythm. Kara recognised it for what it was. That was her piece, the part of Will she'd held onto all these years.

"I never blamed you."

Light. There was a burst of light beside her. Glowing, almost ethereal. Staring hard at his palms, then flipping them over — Will repeated the motion with increasing distress.

His form grew fainter; a thousand tiny golden specks shimmering off into the distance, then nonexistence.

Phone forgotten, she rushed over just in time to catch the quilt falling through his shoulders. "What's happening?"

"I-I don't know, I —" he breathed in awe. "I see… Oh, I think it's going to be alright."

"What? What are you seeing? Where are you going?" Grasping at the final lingering specks, Kara's hands came out empty. Will was gone. Faded away just like that. But he left his quilt.

A sudden weakness gripped her entire being. Kara just wanted to sit down for a bit. Maybe stare up at the ceiling too. However, the crackle from her speaker threw a spanner in her plans.

With both hands, she hefted her phone back up to her ear. "I'm… sorry about that. That was my um sister."

Laura reassured her it was fine, chattering on for a little while longer before excusing herself to get back to work.

"Papers to grade."

It stared up at her from the floor, whispering its silent plea.

"Actually, I think I found something that belonged to your brother."

-----------

"Is something the matter? You look despondent." Lena tapped lightly at her chin.

Kara leaned back against the tiles. They were in the garden today. She'd requested it herself, thinking a change in scenery would help. But the soft abrasion against her forearms and the stifled vibrance of her surroundings did nothing to take her mind off it.

"Will… he disappeared. Turned into sparkly dust." She leaned into Lena. Marginally better.

"Oh… what happened?" Past all attempts at modulation, Kara could hear the quiver of fear underneath, could see Lena tracing the infinite possibilities in her mind. Each more terrifying than the next.

"I don't know. We were on the phone with his sister and he just started fading away." Kara snapped to attention at the shriek below, like nails on a chalkboard, or more accurately, nails against the tiles. Four tracks ground into the ceramic; Kara balled her hand up into a fist before she could cause any more damage.

"Oh," Lena's eyes darted upwards in thought. "Do you think he moved on? Out of limbo and into the afterlife or whatever's awaiting us." She lay her palm open beside her, letter opener balanced above. Kara saw it for what it was — an invitation.

"Maybe. Most likely? He saw something. I know that much." Accepting the offer, Kara let her own hand complete the peculiar sandwich. And when Lena wiggled her's, she took the cue to rest her weight against it, pushing them closer together. "But he looked at peace so it's probably a good thing."

"Probably," Lena concurred.

"Is it weird that I sort of miss him? I mean he was a little monster at times but I think we were on the cusp of something." Kara released her breathy laughter skywards as if the breeze would carry her message along.

"No, not at all." She felt a faint tingle where Lena's fingers brushed through, having forgotten their place in the universe. It made her wish she could take on her pain, or that they could just touch. Instead, she flipped their positions, using her corporeal state as leverage for Lena to press against. It was the best she could do. And from the slight smile Lena gave her, she knew she appreciated it too.

Time passed, along with the tenderness of that fine morning. Soon, the winds whistled and the leaves danced to their tune. The world darkened around them, where the sun's glare was a mere suggestion between the cottony wisps above. Kara's gaze could meet them head-on and wonder. "Do you think there's something up there? In a little pocket dimension where everything's bright and sunny and everyone's happy."

"I'm not sure what to believe in anymore and I don't give it a lot of thought either. It's a slippery slope when in a position like mine." Lena quickly busied herself with appraising her thriving garden from afar, finding much interest in the bark of a gangly tree.

"Hey, if there is, I'm sure it’s because of something small and negligible… like flicking your booger on the floor —" her words were swallowed up in a whirlpool of laughter at Lena's scandalised gasp.

"God, you're disgusting." She muttered under her breath.

"What? You've never picked yours?" Reaching over, Kara feigned a nose boop only for Lena to roll her eyes and look away. She rolled the letter opener between their palms, whining for the return of her attention.

Lena crossed her arms the best she could with the other occupied by a very insistent Kryptonian.

"Please?" Lena stole a glance at her just in time to catch her pout. Critical hit. With an exasperated sigh, she repositioned herself, keeping Kara in her sights.

"Hi."

"Hello." Lena grumbled back.

"I missed you." Kara paired the sentiment with a full-faced grin. There's no doubt to its effectiveness — Lena's face ducked away just to obscure her matching one.

"I never left, Kara. And I can never leave."

"You could," Kara began and selfishly, she instantly wished she could stuff it all back in.

"I could?"

"I could find out what happened to your family. And maybe you'd… you know, go 'poof' too."

Lena swallowed — Kara knew from the tell-tale bob of her throat. Her lips parted, words forming between them only to be crushed under the weight of her uncertainty. Lena pressed them closed then tried again and again. And again. Each time, her pupils came closer and closer to matching their sullen backdrop, the gleam disappearing underneath and clouded by emotion.

That's what Kara would like to think, anyway. That given the option of salvation, Lena would find herself torn, unwilling to leave Kara behind. But it's probably the lighting, or lack thereof from skies so overcast and grey.

"You could." She said.

"I could."

And in the next moment, Kara was pelted with a heavy lashing of rain.

-----------

It was easy. Alexander — dead. Lillian — presumably dead. The Luthor estate? Nonexistent. Funnily enough, the old Luthor House was the only thing left bearing their name.

All that information from just over an hour of snooping. She could've had closure for Lena the very next day. With 'could've' being the operative word here.

She couldn’t do it. Putting one foot through the door made her hop away on the other.

"It does look like it's about to rain," Alex appeared out of nowhere, haversack over one shoulder. Kara didn't jump; doesn't jump anymore. Associating with Will tended to have that effect.

"Yeah, it's a sign to stay in today huh?" Kara kicked off her shoes and retreated to bed.

She shouldn't be doing this. Lena had done nothing to deserve this. And yet she was being (for lack of a better word) ghosted by her only friend.

The day quickly segued into night and night to day again. Skies gloomy, her limbs weak and her heart heavy — she felt sick, bedridden by her own unscrupulous behaviour. Their framed selves watched her from her desk, only withholding judgement by virtue of their non-living existence. She just didn't want to lose her, was it that wrong?

On the third day, the skies cleared. And Lena would no doubt be wondering where she was. Loneliness was gnawing — she knew from experience — and yet she'd so easily abandoned Lena to be its chew toy.

That sentiment brought her out the door, putting one foot in front of another and ignoring the curious looks of her next-door neighbours. Shame — so much shame. Kara didn't think she could continue this trek much further.

"Kara, was it? " A voice called out to her. Her pace slowed. No, Kara! No stopping! She waved back at Old Fred, who was seated comfortably in the shade of his porch. "Usually you'd be whizzing right by. Are you feeling alright?"

"Yeah, I'm fine!" She hoped the summer glare was enough to curl the edges of her plastic grin from afar.

"Good to hear! Drop by anytime if you need a pick-me-up. Debbie makes the best lemonade."

Kara hastily waved him goodbye and trudged on before she fully lost her resolve.

The house was visible in the distance now, bright and unassuming. She came to a halt. It was like a mysterious force repelled her, steered her away to take the other turn. Following the sidewalk until there was only asphalt left, Kara forged onwards, eventually finding herself at the infamous Hackwood Bend.

A young man was leaning over the road barrier, his cap obscuring his features. Nonetheless, Kara was sure his gaze was affixed on the scarred bark of an old tree. She had an inkling who he was.

They locked eyes for a brief moment before he looked away.

"Hey," Kara shuffled closer. "You're Nick right?"

The man almost fell backwards in surprise. "Holy shit, you can see me?"

Kara nodded.

Jumping the barrier, he approached her almost meekly. "You're not gonna scream, are you?"

“No?”

"Fuck, you gotta help me, man. I can't leave this place. Look!" One moment he was reaching past her and the next, he was on the ground under the metal barrier. He scrambled to his feet. "I'm not crazy! You saw that right?"

"Yeah, about that…" Breaking the news of death was hard, requiring the utmost care and finesse. Gently drop them onto an air cushion, not concrete — as Alex had put it.

Telling someone they've been dead for the last two decades, on the other hand, more closely resembled dropping a megaton bomb. Kara was woefully unprepared and could only hope she didn't fudge it too badly. Oh nope, never mind his legs gave out.

"I-is that why they've been placing flowers by the tree?"

"Yeah." She retracted her hand before she could drop it on his shoulder.

"And why they can't hear me or see me?" He gestured weakly at said tree. A weak breeze roamed the treetops and a smattering of browned leaves flitted down.

"I'm sorry," Kara whispered, unsure of what more she could say. Kneeling beside him, she hoped that her presence would be enough.

"Nah, it's not your fault." His face was fully in his hands now, burrowing deep and refusing to reemerge. Kara offered him her silence — she had all day, after all. Something deep inside throbbed at that, a reminder of abandonment, betrayal. Could she even look Lena in the eyes now? Tell her everything she needed to hear and send her on her way, parting with the newfound knowledge that Kara was a selfish little monster. It quickly dawned upon her that the silence was very much for herself too.

And so, she broke it. "You okay there?"

"Yeah, just wondering I guess. About what I missed because I was so stupid." The cap slapped against the road, revealing a crop of unruly hair, poking out at the oddest of angles. From the cap, Kara assumed. Or maybe he had a natural ducktail behind. Running a hand through the mess did nothing to tame it, simply bouncing back to its original angle. Seemingly unfazed, he sighed. "Thought I was being held captive or something. A coma dream maybe, but no. It's just 'game over' I guess."

Another deep exhale. Turning to Kara, he drummed his fingers against his jeans before he could gather up the courage to ask. "I haven't seen the 'rents in a while. Are they…"

"No! They're doing good. I mean, your dad had a fall last summer but he's recovering and your mom still makes great lemonade. He swears by it."

"That's good to hear." Laughter seeped into his words. The tension was released in one swift move. It slid off his shoulders, cascaded onto the ground, a waterfall of pent-up emotions emptying itself before her.

Kara knew it was coming. Nick faded slowly and from the stuttered breathing, she could tell he knew too.

"It's… beautiful," he muttered, his head upturned to the sky in reverence.

She couldn’t help herself. "What is?"

"The next level. Oh wow, I —" And then, he was gone. To whatever that 'next level' was. A level that she consciously denied Lena. Shame, so much shame. She trailed it all the way back like a leaky oil tank.

Kara decided to mail Will's quilt to his sister on the fourth day. Coward. It was heavy and much too large for a boy his size. And any reasonably sized box. Kara had to construct her own out of cardboard — a very time-consuming endeavour. Excuses. The post office was in town, in the exact opposite direction from Lena’s. Was it just her or were the postal service workers giving her weird looks? Oh, and a surprise fair too! She found herself held captive in an endless sea of delicacies. Corn Dogs and caramels and multicoloured cotton candy — she just couldn't help herself. Lies.

"Okay, what's up with you?" Alex nudged the door closed. Back against it, no escape. Oh shoot.

"Nothing!" Smile, feign innocence… stop shaking!

Alex advanced. "Fine, then what's got you down?"

"Nothing?" The uptick in her inflection raised an eyebrow.

"So you've been moping around like a sad puppy just because?" Bed dipping beside her, Alex was now in good range to reach over and pull her in. Kara let her, leaning against her shoulder and tickling her neck with short puffs of breath.

"Nice try, but I see right through you." Alex laughed, smoothing out her forehead crinkle with one finger. It returned with a vengeance soon after.

"You know you can tell me anything, right?" Alex retaliated with her own breaths glancing across her cheekbone. By then, Kara was in too deep, finding herself unable to wriggle away. Defeated, she nodded.

The wait was excruciating. It boiled down to a battle of wills and Kara, who'd been burdened for far longer, was sorely disadvantaged.

"I just… need to do something for someone — it'd be good for them, I think. But it'd take them away from me and I don't want to lose them." Her confession lingered in the space between them. It's Alex's turn with the crinkle now, humming whilst deep in thought.

"Are you sure it'd be good for them?"

"Fairly certain. Ninety-percent?"

"Alright, then what do you think you should do?"

"I should just do it, but I —"

"There you go," Alex leaned over to grab Kara's phone, pushing it into her hands. "Just do it. I'll be right here and we can deal with the aftermath together." Her fingers felt noodly clasped around the device.

"You're right." Kara said, to herself at first.

"You're right!" To Alex now. Wrestling her way out of her sister's hold, she burst out of her room, rushed past a bewildered Eliza and out the front door. She only realised she was barefoot at the gates of the Luthor House.

"Lena!" She cried. "Lena, I'm so sorry!" Slumping against the door, she waited to be let in.

"Kara?" Her voice sounded small, distant, as if she couldn't bear her presence.

"Can I come in?" She pleaded.

"Of course, my door's always open to you." Kara stumbled through with little grace, single-mindedly focused on propelling herself towards Lena.

"I'm sorry, I was being selfish. I found out days ago and I hid from you because I didn't want to lose you." Both hands clasped over her letter opener — a promise. "I'll tell you right now, I swear, Lena. Whatever lies out there, it's something good and beautiful and Rao, you deserve that and so much more."

"No."

"Oh." As she feared, the bridge had long been burnt in her absence.

"No, don't tell me." Lena's voice trembled in time with her hands. She made no move to hide it. On the contrary, she stepped closer and let their eyes meet. Bringing her hands to her chest, she continued. "I don't want to know. I don't want to leave you."

Kara's breath hitched.

"And if you think I deserve better than literal heaven, this is it. So please, don't tell me."

"Okay." She nodded furiously. It felt like she was floating over it all, where everything was small and idyllic, picturesque like a painting. Where Kara was just mere strokes in a piece, an inconsequential part of a larger picture. She hadn't quite touched down yet but she was close enough to recognise it. The rapid thumping of her heart in indecipherable morse code, telling her something. Something important… thumpthump thumpthumpthumpthump thumpthumpthunp thumpthumpthumpthump thump… wait for it. She was getting there.

Her gaze grazed Lena's lips and the thought was gone.

Chapter Text

Kara was grounded. At twenty. No leaving the house for a week, no cookies, veggie-free day privileges temporarily revoked… She'd barely convinced Eliza to spare her 'morning jog'.

Crisis mostly averted, she trudged up the stairs, intent on collapsing into a deep, deep slumber. All that lying and half-truths sure was exhausting.

"So," Alex began, occupying precious space on her single-sized bed. Of course Alex would take it upon herself to be some secret final boss.

"Can you chew me out tomorrow? I'm tired." Kara threw her weight onto the mattress; her gambit paid off. Alex scrambled out of the way as if her life depended on it, definitely displeased but Kara could easily tune her out once she's settled in comfortably enough.

"I'm not about to. I think mom did a good enough job with that." Embellished with delicate sympathy, her words were enough to convince Kara to open one eye just a crack. Like she used to with Will.

"I just want to know what happened." Alex said, resting her chin against the mattress.

"Nothing," she lied. Nope, Alex saw through that. Burying her face into her pillow, she grumbled, "Fine, something happened but everything's fine now."

The first truth she'd told all day. It felt liberating as if one simple act could absolve her of all guilt. But a hypothetical it remained; Alex pushed further, sighting a breakthrough where Kara once saw light at the end of the tunnel. Now, it's just a simple cave-in. All around Kara, trapping her within. The more vigorously Alex mined for answers, the greater the assault. Until finally, she let the rocks take her with them.

"It's Lena, isn't it? The one you ran to." Alex gave her a knowing look. Closeness lay in intuition, in just knowing. Joy, deception, anguish, and the like laid bare before the other. Kara just never anticipated it biting her in the butt.

"Yes," she muttered, out of resignation more than anything.

"She's here in Midvale?" Alex hummed. Alarm bells rang: suspicion detected. She believed she was onto something and Kara just needed to figure out her angle.

"For a bit." An answer just dismissive enough that Alex couldn’t glean much from it.

"Why?" Why indeed. She quickly realised what she'd done. How most regrettably, Kara had set foot on the beginnings of a slippery slope and now, it's just a long way down.

"Because we had some stuff to hash out. Better to do it in person." Kara shifted, burying her face straight into her pillow in a position that would've asphyxiated the average human. Convenient too for not having to look Alex in the eye.

"All the way here?" There was a rough edge to it, a slip of annoyance Alex failed to curb.

"It was important, okay? Please stop asking." Kara snapped.

And that was that. Wordlessly, Alex slipped over to her half of the room and prepared for bed. Kara watched as she uncapped some foul-smelling cream and smeared it over her face — a recent addition to her nighttime routine and resisted the urge to call her out on it.

"I'm sorry." She whispered into the darkness. Silence.

Kara bagged up some extra cookies and left them on the kitchen counter early the next morning before she scurried out the front door. A peace offering driven more by guilt than its rational counterpart, she could only hope Alex was receptive.

She knocked — once against solid wood and a second against thin air. The door had swung open and there Lena floated, brimming with ill-contained elation.

"I almost thought you weren't coming." Was what Lena blurted in lieu of a greeting. Kara couldn't blame her. Everything happened so quickly; she was still suffering from whiplash if she's honest.

Mainly, it was the shift in the atmosphere. Not literally — among the overpowering dread and desolation, Kara could almost taste the stale notes of death if she focused.

Just… Lena. Lena felt different. They felt different together. An added dimension to their relationship that Kara was still undecided about. What with all the new variables it encompassed.

Like right now. The heaviness in her chest was a swirling tempest, demanding like a whirlwind of yowling cats. But felines lacked the gift of speech and so Kara was left to steep in her confusion. All while they swatted and clawed for their mystery request.

"Of course I'd come," she rested against the nearest piece of furniture — an ornate wooden chair that survived the purge. With one arm supporting her weight on its latticed back, Kara continued. "Just need to, you know, leave a little earlier before anyone gets suspicious or I'll be locked in completely. That'll be really bad." Her arm wiggled in place but she didn't pay it much mind.

"Yes, horrible indeed. You wouldn't be here to witness the birth of the new litter — Stefan's third."

"The wha —" A creak, then a loud snap. Kara screamed all the way down, landing in a cloud of dust.

"Consider me floored," she groaned, rubbing at the new crater she'd left on Lena's property.

Lena snorted from above. Not high up, just an inch or two. Claws grazed the inner walls of her chest, scrabbling for more. The cats were pleased and oddly, Kara was too.

"For the record, that was awful." Lena quickly gathered the tattered remains of her respectability. But she remained close enough that Kara's skin tingled from the proximity. Not that it changed anything. Kara still regarded her with disbelief.

"You laughed, snorted like a little piglet." Kara cooed her rebuttal, earning a scowl in return.

"My amusement was directed at you, not with you."

Wiggling in place, she beamed. "Well, I'm happy to be your clown."

"My clown?"

"Yeah, yours." Something swelled in the cavity of her chest. Ribs expanding to accommodate it, there was no room for another breath.

"Mine?" Lena repeated, gaze bouncing from her eyes to the tip of her nose and back. Occasionally, they veered lower. Lingered before she caught herself and returned to her routine. Was something on her lips?

"Yeah," she croaked, wiping at her mouth and sitting up abruptly. And like an unwilling pair trapped in an impromptu waltz, Lena ducked back, maintaining the paltry distance between them.

She heard it again — the insistent thumping of her heart, almost unintelligible. Yet, it made its displeasure known clearly enough, clenching in protest as Lena shifted away from her.

"Well, you do look the part." The effect was instantaneous. An infectious strain of vertigo — from Lena to Kara, like they'd peered over the precipice and stumbled back to safety. But the precipice of what exactly? The answer evaded her no matter how hard she tried to grasp at it. Regardless, the nameless void still called to her, beckoned her closer and as if in a trance, she stepped forward. Continued until her foot met nothing but air.

Fall.

Her eyes stared back. In an infinite loop, Kara stared and Lena stared and they both stared and Kara feared she'd collapse. That she'd hit the bottom of this metaphorical pit.

The eyes turned on their axis. A head tilt. Kara jerked back to reality with enough awareness to react with mock offence. "Wait, hold up! What do you mean I look like one?"

"Why, you do have an interesting face, Kara," Lena put on an innocent front. "It sparks… immense joy."

"Y-you're the clown!" She protested weakly. "You're pale like clown makeup."

"Of course I am," she rolled her eyes. "I'm dead." Matter-of-factly, as if Kara had just asked her what the colour of the sky was.

It didn't feel quite so flippant to her. Not with the way her world screeched to a halt. "No, you're not." In a blur, she sprang forward, hand flattening the blade against the leather cushion beneath. "You're not." She asserted once more, though she was no longer certain of its intended audience. For Lena? Or for herself?

"I am. I have been for the past eighty years."

"You're here with me," Kara insisted, pressing down further.

"Oh." The words came in a breathy exhale. Lena reciprocated, putting a matching crease in the material on her side. "I'm here with you."

"Always?" Always was a tall order. Maybe she shouldn't have…

To her surprise, Lena simply nodded, binding herself to her childish demand. "Pinky promise."

And when she returned, whistling a cheery tune, the counter was empty. The bag was gone.

It was out of her hands. All she could do was cross her fingers as the door clicked open, her sister loudly announcing her return to Eliza and her both.

Oh, it actually worked. In quick succession, Alex was sprawled over her lap, the remote was snatched out of her grasp and her eyes were treated to the vexatious view of her tongue stuck out at her.

"You know, doggy bags don't need to have doggies on them." Alex said over her shoulder, no doubt referencing the corgi squiggled in black sharpie.

"Then why call it doggy bags?"

"The food's supposedly meant for the dogs. Or at least that’s what they say." Alex took her time switching through the channels. There was a TV guide for a reason.

Turning away, she huffed out her displeasure loud and clear.

"I mean, shouldn't you know better? You use them more often." She poked her in the ribs. It took a full second for it to click.

"Are you calling me a —"

"Nope!" The light pats she received on the head weren't the least bit convincing.

-----------

Kara was sneaky when she wanted to be. Very sneaky. So sneaky that she could duck back in and smuggle a whole Tupperware the size of War and Peace out. Which brought her to her second point — she could be incredibly clever at times with her occasionally genius plans. Okay, that's the last time she'd be self-congratulatory in a while.

Knocking on Lena's door, she announced her presence in an unprecedented fashion. "Delivery for one Lena Luthor!"

A head emerged from the door. "Chocolate cake? I'm touched you remembered it's my favourite —"

The Tupperware was opened in the three seconds she spoke. And another five before her lips flattened into a thin line and she ducked back inside.

Kara didn't score an invite.

"Wait, come back!" She yelled. "Help me with my vegetables!"

No answer.

"Please?"

With a grumble, Lena let her in, leading her into the dining room this time and gesturing for her to sit.

"Why do you have a veritable garden of boiled broccoli here?" Hovering over the container, she sucked in a long whiff and all the odd tasting bits with it.

"Punishment for running around at night," she said before dipping her fingers into the container and taste-testing one.

"What kind of mother assigns vegetables as punishment?" Another breath, more reminiscent of a sigh this time.

"An opportunistic one of an alien who —" Kara gagged and pointed at the offending spot. "— doesn't like them."

"They don't taste that bad." It didn't surprise Kara one bit. Lena had long outed herself as a vegetable apologist. Although it seemed no one could defend boiled greens.

"Kryptonian taste buds make them taste like soap" she explained, crossing her arms like a petulant child. "Unfortunately, I still need them. Fibres and all."

"How do you know what soap tastes like?" Kara should've known. Of course Lena would latch onto her description, drifting ever so slightly out of her seat and over to hers. And of course she'd end up telling the riveting tale of Alex's novelty soaps and how she bit into the doughnut-that-wasn't. How she scrubbed at her tongue for hours afterwards trying to wash the taste out. Thankfully, that was the last of Alex's practical jokes.

She told it all without much fuss. Animatedly too, as if she hadn't suffered through it.

It was the least she could do for putting Lena through this. And maybe, she just enjoyed the way Lena laughed too.

The next day, she appeared on her doorstep with another container. A smaller one this time, for a small surprise.

"Delivery for Miss Luthor?" She called.

Warily, Lena peeked out at her, scrutinising the contents as best she could from the outside. "Is that —"

Peeling off the cover with a loud pop, Kara presented her gift to her. "They only had chocolate banana."

"Well, I'm definitely not complaining," Lena swooped in and caught a whiff. And with an appreciative hum, the door swung open. "Come in."

-----------

Waiting out her ringtone was a chilling affair. 'Eliza' stared an accusation at her. Kara couldn’t bear to watch any longer, burying her face into the floor but there was no escape. It had the unintended consequence of subjecting her to its angry buzzing instead. Quit Playing Games never sounded quite as threatening before.

The ringing stopped. They exchanged quick glances, peering over to confirm that the danger had passed.

Alex [10.55] : I just told mom you fell asleep on the couch

Alex [10.55] : where are you???

Saved by the suspicious sister. Kara didn't know how to feel about that.

"Convenient, isn't it? That you could reach someone no matter where they are?" Good timing too — she was still working out how she should pacify Alex.

"Yeah, until you want to disappear from them." She hovered her thumbs over the keyboard, drawing tiny circles in the air.

"Does that… apply to everyone?" The halting nature of Lena's question captured her attention. She didn't sound hurt, Kara thought. Just… probing?

Nonetheless, Kara dropped her phone into her lap. "No, definitely not! Not you at least. I'd disappear over to you anytime if I could."

"Oh, I was just wondering…" Lena trailed off, making a valiant effort to keep her gaze in the general vicinity of her face.

"Yeah?"

"Do you think we could do that too?" Lena gestured at her battered phone, voice wobbly like jello. Probably prepared to slip through the floorboards like a gelatinous blob too at the first sign of rejection. Inching her fingers over, she gripped the letter opener tight — both serving as a reassurance and an anchor for her… friend. Best friend? No, still not right. She needed to find a better word for what they had.

"Text?" She asked. Nod.

"Yeah, sure! I think I have an old phone lying around. You could have it and I'll give you my number..."

And just like that, the physical distance in their relationship was closed so easily. Kara was ashamed she didn't think of it earlier. Now if only she had some genius plan on how Kara could finally crush her in one of her infamous bear hugs…

Lena tightened her grip on her end and Kara did too; gave it an involuntary squeeze and drew her attention up to where she wanted it. A smile could be so simple yet devastating; Kara couldn’t believe she never noticed. Dimples, for instance, burrowed their way to the surface with the quiet urging from the corners of her lips. Her eyes —

Another buzz tugged her back to the present. Swiping the unlock button, her lock screen gave way to a barrage of texts.

Alex [10.58] : just got a call from mom

Alex [10.58] : she wants a picture of you

Alex [10.58] : asleep

Alex [10.58] : please come back and play sleeping beauty

Alex [10.58] : can't afford to get grounded with you

Alex [10.59] : i have plans

"Oh Rao, I have to go. I'm sorry!" She scrambled to her feet, stumbling as her device vibrated anew.

"Bye!" She waved, trotting backwards and tipping over the banister.

"Kara!"

"I'm fine! Your floor isn't. Sorry, bye!"

Sorry, indeed. Kara found herself repeating that word plenty of times that morning.

"I'm sorry!" She burst through the door to a waiting Alex, arms crossed and feet tapping out an ominous tune.

"I'm sorry!" She cried even after Alex snapped at her to 'shut up or you'll ruin the shot!'

"I'm sorry, Alex! I'm so sorry. Don't be mad!"

"I'm very sorry!"

"Sorry! I'm sorry!"

Kara poked her head out from her hiding spot. "Are you mad?"

"Getting there," Alex glowered, though Kara heard a slight slur between each syllable.

"I'm sor—"

"Closer." The warning in her voice was clear even while rubbing her eyes. Kara sunk back down into the cushions with a squeak.

"Yrros?" She tried again.

"What?" Alex shot her a look. Back into the cushion she went.

"Sorry backwards." She explained with a faceful of polyester. "Is it working?"

"How'd you even —" Throwing her hands up, she sputtered. An assortment of confused angry noises emerged in lieu of words. And then, "Nevermind. Where were you?"

"Oh, um we —" Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no —

"We?" Alex snapped to attention, latching onto her slip-up immediately like a hungry vulture. Correction: a hungry, cranky vulture intent on ripping the truth out from her cranium and would hopefully be amenable to bedtime soon. "Who were you sneaking around with?"

"I um… no one?" Beating a hasty retreat, her back soon hit the armrest. She grinned weakly, a misshapen rictus smile held up by trembling cheeks.

Even through her long-suffering sigh, Kara could spot the sharp hints of aggravation. "Please just tell me it's not Mike."

"Ew no, definitely not."

"Is it Le —"

"I-I just went to the beach!" Oh Rao. A second bad decision in the span of ten minutes; Kara was on a roll. Down a steep incline, no doubt.

Eyelids drooping, Alex gave her an expectant look.

"Because I… like the sun!" She continued, shrinking internally with the utterance of every word — each feeling like nails in a coffin of her own design.

"Okay?" She sounded unsure, reminiscent of the first time Kara offered to drive Alex around town in her Honda Civic. (There was no second.)

"And I um —" she did a quick scan of her surroundings. Alex, cushions, house plant, that potato she forgot about in the fruit bowl… "I baked like a potato and fell asleep!"

"And you didn’t get trampled over by a horde of kids?"

Kara nodded eagerly. "Yeah, lucky me I guess."

"Right, good to know I only told half a lie." There it was — the yawn she was waiting for. "But if you've been sneaking around —"

"You know Alex, you look like you could use a nap! In fact, you should do it right now!" Lifting her sister off the couch, she set her down only to drag her along like a reluctant dog on a leash. Down a well-tread path and depositing her onto her bed with a soft oomph.

A hand crept over to the nightstand, reaching. Then, scrabbling at the air a bare hair’s breadth away from the intended target. Kara swatted it away. "No, bedtime now. Your patients will appreciate it tonight."

"But it's important. Gimme!" Kara held it up just out of reach. Perks of being the taller one.

"What is? You asked someone out?" And maybe, just maybe, Kara finally understood why Alex was so obnoxious about Lena.

"No!" Alex planted both feet on her mattress and jumped at it. "Fine, maybe! So I need my phone."

The phone switched hands. Snatching it away before Kara could yank it back — which fair enough, she had a history of doing that — Alex retreated into her corner and filled the room with the furious tapping of fingernails against the screen. Then, she stopped, a grin spreading across her cheeks and soon over her own too.

"What? What is it?" Her voice oscillated in time with the laughter rumbling up from her gut.

"I'm not gonna be home on Sunday."

Somehow, Kara squealed louder, launching herself over and toppling them both onto the bed. (Eliza would later question them about the 'screaming foxes' their neighbours heard that afternoon and they'd both steer their gazes away. It ended with Alex escaping to work through the front door and Kara declaring an early bedtime, animal control still on hold.)

"So when are you asking Lena out?"

Her heart clenched and in an odd instance of reciprocity, Kara felt it in her entire being. She found herself paralysed on Alex's bed, her legs stilling, her smile fading.

"W-what?" It sounded more like a gurgle if she's being honest.

"On a date."

On a date. Where they'd hang out, hold hands, refuse to go home lest their time together would end. Empty streets, just the two of them — in her mind at least. Blazing down the sidewalk with their raucous laughter and the quiet understanding that out of the quintessential 5Ws, only the 'who' mattered. To the dismay of her high school English teacher. Slowly, the night would wind down and Kara would walk her home and Lena would blush, look away and beckon her forward. A hug? Or maybe even a kis—

While her hands had arrived empty and wanting, they came away full. A glance informed her that they were occupied with spongy foam and splintered wood; it's a wonder how the bed still stood.

Flustered, she began with those Rao-forsaken words again. "I'm sorr —"

"Nope, don't say it," Alex hopped off her bed to stake her claim on Kara's, completely insouciant of the pile of rubble she'd left behind. "Good night."

It's only fair that Kara was the one to explain to Eliza why they needed to go furniture shopping the next morning, awkwardly evading the 'why's she was inundated with.

-----------

Lena texted with the warm formality of a loved one's letter — like receiving a birthday card from Grandma (as she'd been told). It was a novel experience, being showered with various terms of endearment with each new message. She wasn’t blushing — not one bit. And certainly not hiding under the covers, wary of one nosy sister who didn't understand the concept of knocking.

Her phone buzzed for the nth time that afternoon.

1 new message from Lena <3

(But she did squeal. No one needed to know that.)

Lena <3 [15:43] : Dearest Kara, I hope this letter finds you well though you’ve assured me of that an hour ago. I'm writing regarding an update, of sorts. I'm sorry to inform you that in your absence, Sally has delivered her litter of five. They are positively adorable and if this device were more receptive to my touch, I would have sent you a picture. Alas, you just have to take my word for it until tomorrow but know that I will be eagerly awaiting your presence until then.

Sincerely,

Lena Luthor

Cute, her mind supplied. Cute little rat babies and definitely not cute Lena. Although, typing all that on an old flip phone was highly commendable and thus decidedly cute.

Kara was just going to pointedly ignore the slideshow of images her subconscious prepared, ripped straight from her dreams. Windswept hair Lena in a leather jacket was her favourite. Not that she had many about her. Just two in the past two days.

Kara [15:45] : omr so cute!!!

Kara [15:45] : can't wait

Kara [15:45] : I miss you too :)

Kara [15:45] : always

It was the closest she was willing to veer towards those new emotions. The conspicuous landmine of guilt lay adjacent to them. First stemming from her wishful thinking. Fantasies of how they could be on the outside, together, when she knew well enough that Lena couldn't leave. And then from wanting Lena at all. It'd push her into a corner. Her only friend angling for something more, the pressure of being on the receiving end — Kara couldn’t think of many greater betrayals than that.

Another buzz. How did Lena type so fast?

Lena <3 [15:50] : Kara my love,

I —

Another crack spawned on her screen. At this rate, she'd better start saving up for a new one soon.

------------

The babies were cute, she supposed. With how they curled up like squirmy pink jelly beans when she gave them a gentle rub. Sally the rat didn’t seem to mind too much; Kara couldn’t help but wonder what they could see. A floating letter opener perhaps? Or a floating, almost translucent human who walked through walls with ease. Who claimed mice were timid anyway?

Lena was leaning over now, smoothing down the silky furs on Stefan’s back with the flat edge of her blade and carefully stroking him between his ears. Her lips parted, mouthing words unknown even to Kara’s heightened senses.

Again, but something different this time. She saw it in the shapes they formed — how they stretched in emphasis and puckered as if cooing at the rodent. Lena lowered herself further, making herself comfortable a half-inch above the ground and Kara's hands stilled. The warm orange glow of the lantern flowed eagerly across the newly-exposed planes of her face, like river water gushing over a dry creek. And Kara the helpless rower could only relinquish her oars, surrendering to the whims of the running currents.

“Is something the matter?”

Kara fell backwards, to the displeased squeaks of Sally and the litter. “N-nothing!”

“You’ve been staring all day,” Lena glided over as did Kara’s gaze, glued to her every move. “Are they not enough to hold your attention?” They blinked at each other; let the insinuation that Lena, on the other hand, was enough clatter at their feet. Neither dropped their gaze to acknowledge it. And Kara sure as heck wasn't going to dispute it.

“I was just…” the words — unfortunate spelunkers in their ill-timed ascent — found themselves trapped between the walls of her windpipe. And as it constricted, they perished; their remains never to see the light of day.

"Oh," Lena stumbled, treating them both to a brief pause before she tripped over her words once more. "A-are you jealous?"

"What? No, why would I be —"

"Don't worry, you're handsome too." They whisked by, a passable imitation of the cold drafts they often experienced in that gloomy cellar. And Kara's cheeks heated up, warding off the imaginary chill shaking her entire being. There was no doubt she enjoyed it — the feeling occupying the cavity of her chest reminiscent of that one time she truly soared, only bogged down by a growing realisation. The fear of discovery trailing closely behind.

Lena turned away, eyes sweeping through the curls of dust in the distance and Kara watched. Watched as her lips parted with every shaky breath, watched teeth closed around delicate skin ever so slightly before disappearing from view.

Something cold tapped at her palm, insistent. Raised ridges of metal swirling in elegant loops — Kara wrapped her fingers around it in an almost Pavlovian response.

"Kara! Look, it's getting away!" Lena tugged her along to where the little one wiggled along at an alarming pace.

Kara gave chase. And with Lena giggling on the sidelines, she couldn't help but wonder whose side she was on. With an odd feeling that it wasn't hers. She was ready to bury herself in a deep, dark hole on her fifth failed attempt that left her clutching at cottony dust. One sneeze later, it rained down upon them like soot-stained snow. Kara scowled with renewed conviction and bent over once more, trampling after the escapee. Once she got her hands on it, she'd —

All was forgiven when it grew tired, opting instead to curl up against her palm.

"Awww you're so cute!" Finger ghosting circles on its belly, the baby rodent squirmed and squealed. And Kara might just have squealed back.

Lena approached, her attention focused on the four-legged jellybean in her grasp. But Kara sensed it wandering. Up, up, up until the skin of her own cheeks tingled as well.

"Don't worry, you're cute too." Kara echoed Lena's words from before. She ducked away and the ruckus in her mind grew. Did Lena also… Kara couldn’t bear to continue humouring her wishful thinking.

"I-I was just about to say that you're its hero too."

Oh, Lena remembered. Kara dutifully took her turn to hide her reddening face. The game of Duck, Duck, Goose persisted the whole morning; just missing the exhilarating chase.

--------------

"That's a really big smile you've got there."

Kara froze. And then she jumped, launching herself away from Alex and curling herself protectively around the incriminating evidence. Even scuttling under her sheets for good measure. Alex had a funny way of getting her hands on things Kara didn't want her to.

"Is it who I think it is?" Alex perched herself on the edge of her bed, blocking her only means of escape.

"Who do you think it is?" Cataloguing the subtleties littered across her expression summoned a churning deep within her gut. Something was off with Alex — a product of an unknown affliction Kara had the urge to laser vision away.

"Starts with an 'L'. Ring any bells?" Her smile never quite reached her eyes. The ruse stretched weakly over her cheeks and subsided as quickly as it came.

"Well, yeah." She admitted, deciding to throw Alex a tiny breadcrumb.

Pretense finally dropped, Alex whispered her next words into the air. "You really like her."

"What’s not to like?" It wasn’t exactly an answer but she believed her sister got the idea. Kara didn't think she'd be able to stop herself if she elaborated anyway.

"You know, I just want you to be happy." Patting her on the arm, the weak smile returned, clinging onto life by a single worn thread. Okay, this was getting weird.

"Not at the expense of others."

"Who said it had to be?" Alex nodded sagely at her vague rebuttal. And if it weren't for the general unease in the air, Kara would've surely torn it to shreds.

"I think it is."

With little resistance, her assertion was allowed to slide by. Simply fading into the background and smothered by Alex's hum.

"Is something wrong?" It felt like her attempt bounced right off a brick wall; Alex made a noncommittal noise and slinked away.

The list of odd behaviours only grew. And when night bled into day, Kara nearly startled at the unexpected presence in Alex's own bed.

"Get up!" Hauling her off her new mattress completely, Kara shook her in mid-air and only managed to rouse a string of murmurs rather than its host. She knew they shouldn't have gone with memory foam.

She tried again. "Alex, you're late!" Much more effective. Her sister jerked awake and toppled them both onto the hard floor.

"I'm not, I took the day off." She grumbled, rubbing at the beginnings of a bruise at her temple. "Do you think I have a concussion?"

"You what?"

Kara ran a highlighter through that event before stuffing the piece of paper into her drawer.

Then came the general disinterest in all things right up her alley. Kara found herself sorely missing her competition for the newest batch of brownies and she was sure their women's soccer team shared that sentiment. The couch was woefully empty that match night. So much so that Kara felt compelled to squeeze herself into a corner, notebook in hand, to scribble down a running commentary of the game. Just in case Alex changed her mind.

She didn't. Didn't exude much excitement besides a weak 'yay' when Kara informed her that their team had won. Another number on the list then.

And on the third day, Alex was waiting to ambush her by the front door.

"Mind if I join you today?" She asked, shoes tied and towel draped over her shoulder — Kara didn't see a reason to reject her. Except for Lena. She'd been planning to pick her mind about this conundrum but now that she'd been presented with a golden ticket into Alex's instead…

Pushing aside the yawning disappointment within, Kara motioned for Alex to follow along. "Since when were you into running?"

"I'm not but with all the running around I've been doing, I thought I'd give it a shot." Alex was surprisingly in shape for someone with little life outside the hospital, easily keeping pace with her. "Besides, you seem to enjoy it."

"Y-yeah I love it. Exercise yay!" Kara picked up the pace before Alex could examine the unconvincing grin she wore. The rapid thudding of footsteps behind informed her of her success.

"Hey, slow down!" It's the exasperation — she knew what Alex meant but years of conditioning dictated that she did the exact opposite. Almost like a challenge to her. Kara clapped her hands over her ears and sped down the sidewalk.

"Kara!" Ten paces away.

"Get back here!" Fifteen.

"Kara Danvers!" A good twenty-four away. She was breezing past a familiar house now and when Old Frank called out to her in greeting, a sense of déjà vu overtook her.

"Are you sure you don't want some lemonade? We're expecting guests so Debbie made extra today."

She cast a glance at the charging bull behind her. Seventeen steps and counting.

"It's fine, thank you!" She yelled back, inching forward with every word. Twelve steps.

"Oh, there they are. It's not often we have new neighbours here in Midvale." Old Frank pointed at a couple across the street, locking up behind themselves and waving back at them.

Under the sweltering summer heat, the human (and alien) mind denatures. One could know for a fact that the world around them was as dry as the dustiest of deserts and yet, the eyes would disagree. Glistening with smooth waves of distortion — it's almost as if they were underwater, cloaked in a molten embrace. Kara squinted.

"Hey, gape at someone your age!" Alex's hand came down swiftly against her arm and Kara nearly forgot her performative yelp. A niggling sense of familiarity held her gaze in place. There was something about his hair; the palpable tension weaved within all its slicked-back glory, dying to return to its natural state. Kara slid her glasses down this time. Oh Rao.

The odds of meeting one's doppelganger was one in a trillion. Unfortunately, no one had calculated that of meeting the spitting image of the ghost they'd just sent to the afterlife. Kara assumed it'd be much more unlikely than that.

But he was right there. Standing right before her, hand in hand with his wife and giving her a concerned look. Fortunately — the one thing in her favour thus far — Alex hauled her away (and she had enough sense left to let her).

"What was that?" She hissed once out of earshot. They turned, watching Debbie usher the couple inside before helping Old Frank through the door.

"I-I think I saw him before," Kara stumbled through her explanation but from Alex's cocked head, she evidently wasn't satisfied. Eyes darting from side to side, she pointedly avoided Alex's scrutinous gaze. And then, she saw it. In the kitchen, Not-Nick's hair rebelled against the gel, bouncing as he nodded at the older couple. She wasn’t imagining things.

"And his hair looks weird." She added, nudging her glasses back in place before she caught a glimpse of something she'd rather not see.

Looking only slightly contrite, Alex leaned in and whispered. "It really does."

Their jog devolved into a fit of stumbling giggles, with Kara helping Alex along when she tipped over as if she had a little too much to drink. The arrangement was far from sustainable; they'd both acknowledged that much. But while Kara's solution was to slow down, Alex's was a piggyback. There was little argument to be had. Kara simply relented.

Eagerly making herself comfortable on her back, she thrust a finger forward, pointing at the endless horizon. "Take me to the beach!"

"Why?" Kara craned her neck at her sister the way she hated, her back bore the brunt of the involuntary shivers it elicited. ("No one should be able to turn their head that far back!" Alex had screeched. What else could Kara do but give her an encore?)

The flat plane of Alex's palm shoved at her cheek, forcing her head back into a less uncanny angle. Her voice, on the other hand, lacked the intensity she'd directed at Kara mere moments ago. "Well, you went there, didn't you?"

"Uh wha —" Her previous lie almost slipped her mind. "I mean, I love the beach." The house on the hill by the beach to be accurate, but Alex didn't need to know that. Speak of the devil — Kara marched them past a familiar trail, leading up an intimately familiar hill she was loath to leave behind.

"Ow! What?"

Finger still hovering over her forehead, Alex said, "Keep your eyes ahead of you."

Kara couldn’t listen. Or wouldn't. She wasn’t sure if it was an act of wilful defiance or if deep down, Lena had already crawled her way into the bedrock of her hierarchy of needs. Kara redoubled her pace just in case. Let Alex slide off her back at their destination and watched as she got knocked over by a small army of children like a flimsy bowling pin. The next thing she knew, her phone had slithered out of her pocket and her fingers were typing and oh Rao, she sent them.

Kara [9:32] : Look outside

Kara [9:32] : At the beach

Kara [9:32] : You might see something you like ;)

There was a certain thrill in that — laying out bait in the form of subtle flirtations for the slightest bit of reciprocation. It's all the mind needed to fuel the imagination, to keep the torch burning. Kara shouldn't be doing that; should be doing the exact opposite and be the best friend she could be with no veiled intentions whatsoever. Dang it, why wasn't there an option to delete her own texts?

No buzz, no answer. Kara peered over at the window overlooking Midvale's only wonder. Empty. Had she been figured out? Scared Lena off maybe?

She didn't have time to stew in her distressed disappointment. Sprawling onto the sand beside her, Alex announced her return with a loud groan. "The kids from just now are fine. One's just a little bruised from headbutting my elbow."

"But you fell over," Kara pointed out, counting the grains of sand that had already lodged themselves into her sister's hair. One thousand two hundred and fifty-seven. And she hadn't even gotten to her clothes yet.

"Yeah, but I know I'm fine." It was the sort of argument that only made sense in time. When the mental gymnastics was done and the mind had twisted itself in so many knots that the easiest solution would be to simply agree. Kara bobbed her head, like an inflatable beach ball floating in the shallow waters she overlooked (a terrifying prospect — why did she think that? Now, she had more than sharks to look out for.)

Her phone buzzed in the confines of her pocket and she almost ripped it out in her haste.

Lena <3 [9:57] : Dearest Kara,

If I may be so bold, perhaps you should turn around. You might just see something you like.

With Love,

Lena

Head whipping around, Kara paid no mind to Alex's yelp as she searched for the right window. There, on the second floor where the study was. Lena stood huddling in one corner with only half her visage visible to the naked eye — a face growing redder by the second. Kara beamed up at her, sending a vigorous wave along with it.

"Careful with that!" Beside her, Alex reminded her of her scowling presence, swatting at her ponytail. "Feels like I got hit in the face by a jump rope."

"Oh, Alex I am so —" Kara forced the grin off her face. "Sorry."

"Not that word again," she buried her head in her hands. The exasperated sigh came naturally at this point.

But Kara had other priorities — an opening was what she saw in place of any sympathy for her sister. Kara really should pay more attention to what Alex was saying but regrettably, she'd recently come under the strict control of a one-track mind. The same mind that possessed her to twist around for just another glimpse.

"What are you doing?" Oh Rao. Lena ducked behind an adjacent wall as if Alex had the ability to spot her.

"I'm… stretching?" Twisting her torso in the opposite direction, arching her arms and grunting — all just to sell the (poorly put together) act.

Alex merely rolled her eyes, electing to stare out at the horizon over witnessing Kara's antics. Yet another opportunity — Kara swivelled back to Lena only to find her gone.

Kara [10:02] : where'd you go :(

Kara [10:02] : come back i miss you

Kara [10:02] : a lot

They'd uttered it to each other over a hundred times, but this time it snagged a tripwire, triggering a cascade of alarms that she was being exceedingly weird. (Fueled by her guilty conscience, no doubt.) Not friend-weird either, but I-have-a-secret-crush-on-you weird. Her fingers battled against the crack-ridden keyboard to fix it.

Kara [10:03] : i mean, you miss me

Yep, that's what friends said to each other. Just a pinch of self-aggrandising to smooth things over. That's when Kara made her first mistake. Reading it the first time raised a few red flags and the second, even more. Her gaze slipped over that one simple assertion over and over, the tension compounded each time like a wound-up rubber band. Then came her second mistake.

Kara [10:03] : i mean, if you do

Kara [10:04] : it's fine if you don't

Kara [10:04] : though i hope you do

Kara [10:04] : i mean, it'd be great if you did

Kara [10:05] : though you just saw me like a day ago

A third was avoided when Kara shoved her phone back into her pocket where it couldn't hurt her or her relationships. Though she did spare a fleeting glance at the open window — empty, as it had been since Alex caught her.

"I got dumped."

Kara snapped to attention, threatening to summon a mini-sandstorm with the celerity of her motions. Her arms found their target and with one insistent tug, Alex sprawled into her lap.

"What happened? Is that why you've been… you know, acting funny?"

Alex merely shrugged in response, shoulders rolling the days-old burden off — she'd never seemed lighter.

"But I'm ready to get back up on my feet." Alex patted her arm and… snickered? Kara soon understood why. "And I'm very ready to read that list you've been sneakily working on."

What else could Kara do but to acquiesce? And bear the familiar burden of her lighthearted teasing, her eyes rolling along with them. But the revelation did raise new questions — or rather, one in particular.

"Do you regret it?" Kara ventured, not knowing which outcome to hope for.

"No," Alex paused to collect her thoughts. "It was a good one week. And we're still friends."

"Oh." Kara latched onto those words with frightening immediacy. Could they? She couldn’t help but wonder. Once lines were crossed, they couldn't be uncrossed; their perceptions of each other were bound to be irreversibly changed.

What they had was good. Great, even. There's no need to reinvent the wheel, as they said. And to take this away from Lena too…

Kara was endlessly thankful that Alex was in her arms and didn't have eyes at the back of her head; her expressions would've surely betrayed her inner turmoil by now.

Something compelled her to take one more glance and like a spineless jellyfish, she did. Twisting ever so subtly away from Alex so she wouldn't take notice, her gaze made its slow ascent.

There, in that same window, Lena waved back almost bashfully.

"It is a nice house."

And in that very moment, it felt like the ocean was transfused directly into her bloodstream. "Y-yeah, a shame it's mostly uninhabited."

"Mostly?"

Kara gnawed on her bottom lip. "Must have a lot of rats."

"Must have." Alex echoed, squinting into the distance.

---------------

The reckoning came when they returned home. Door clicking shut, Alex lowered herself onto her bed and motioned for Kara to do the same. It was done — the stage was set for whatever epic confrontation they were helplessly hurtling towards.

She wasted no time, cutting straight to the chase. "Who were you waving at?" With her knees half-bent and her back hunched over, Kara froze at the most inopportune time, looking like an unsuspecting cryptid ambushed by the bright video lights of a sensationalist documentary.

"I-I told you, I was just stretching." A commendable parry but Alex only continued her offensive.

"Right, stretching your wrists." The biting sarcasm splattered past her defences. Kara winced, making no move to continue her claim. A quick glance revealed that Alex felt the same, muttering an apology and undertaking the deepest sigh Kara had ever witnessed.

"Look, I know you don't want to discuss Lena and I've been trying to respect that but I have so many questions and they're all highly concerning." Alex's feet shifted, making an awful scraping noise before she stilled them, planting them flat against the floor. (Though Kara could still catch her toes wiggling towards her.) It was clear Alex hated the distance between them and so did she. But she was inclined to agree that for this particular… discussion, physical separation was for the best.

"I'm worried about you, Kara."

It must've been her eyes. The open vulnerability glistening in plain sight. Kara found herself hesitantly willing to let Alex take a peek into the double life she'd been leading all summer long. But just a peek and only a peek. She was sure the whole truth wouldn't be appreciated.

"You can ask." She said, her voice surprisingly steady.

Grimly, Alex nodded. "Okay so firstly, why was she in the Luthor House?"

"She's just…" Meeting Alex's piercing gaze proved to be a huge mistake. Kara was jolted out of whatever lie she had in store. "We meet there."

"Okay." Running her hands through her hair, Alex readied her next question. "Why the Luthor House specifically?"

"We need to." Kara said simply. Which it wasn't. Not even close. It was just so easy to forget how little Alex knew until she was witnessing her furrowed brows of confusion. Her sister looked away.

"It's fine if you're…" the next few words visibly pained Alex to cough out. "Boning. But maybe an old, dusty house isn't the best place to… do it."

"W-what?" Oh Rao, Alex thought they were… That was an image she didn't need in her head today and yet it had supplanted all rational thought like an entitled parasite.

"I mean, who knows what's on those floors and those furnishings. Even if you're fine, I don't think Lena's —"

"We're not… boning. Not even close! I mean, we don't even touch." Burning. Everything was burning feverishly hot. In her cheeks and a blazing trail down her front.

"That doesn't sound… Why not?"

"Be-because we can't." A familiar raised eyebrow; Kara rushed to add, "She's… sensitive to touch." And non-corporeal.

"Oh, that's… thoughtful of you." Alex drummed her fingers against her thighs. "But my point remains. You don't need to sequester yourselves in there. Take her around town or something."

She wanted to. So badly. It'd be her third wish if she ever chanced upon a genie lamp. First Krypton, then Jeremiah and finally, Lena's freedom from that place. The freedom to go wherever she pleased. And if she were willing, perhaps they could experience the world together. As friends, or if she dared to dream, something more — Kara promised she wouldn't be picky.

"I could." She concurred, a mere hypothetical untethered from reality itself. And filling the space in between was her anguish at the impossibility of it all. To even have something more.

Kara really shouldn't. Shouldn't desire more than she had — and she had plenty already. A loving family, Lena, a future ahead of her. Life had shown her kindness twice, once on each planet and that's much more than most would ever receive.

"Kara?" Alex knelt before her, prying her hands away and putting the clandestine shame on full display.

"I can't." Came her one-sided confession, hoping for some relief. On the contrary, the confusion it elicited piled onto her like a megaton block instead.

"Why not?" A storm was brewing in plain sight; Alex's face darkened. "Is she ashamed of you? Is that it?"

Kara shook her head vigorously before her sister could reach for her metaphorical pitchfork.

"Then, why not?"

"I-I…"

"Are you… ashamed of her?"

That hit a nerve. Like a marionette on a string brought to life, Kara sprang upright. "No! Absolutely not."

"What then? Is she some kind of celebrity? A wanted criminal? A —"

The guesses grew wilder by the second. She almost lost it when Alex insinuated that she was a tree-hugger, but mostly? She wanted to scream, to just grow herself a new spine and —

"Oh no, is she a rat? Is that why you were talking about rats? Kara —"

"Lena's a ghost!"

She'd done it. Stunned Alex right into silence, her slackened jaw caught in weak spasms as it struggled under its own weight. Kara nudged it back into place lest any errant flies got any ideas.

"But you've been texting someone." She pointed out after a long bout of silence.

And deep down, Kara knew they'd passed the point of no return. The churning in her gut agreed as she pressed on. "Yeah, Lena."

Alex blinked owlishly at her, eyes wide even when Kara whipped open their chat for her perusal.

The blank canvas of her face was splashed with concern, confusion, staring hard at Kara as if she'd had a concussion. "Have you been texting yourself?"

"What? No! I don't even talk like that. I just gave Lena my old flip phone. We've been texting." Kara pushed her screen closer, desperate now. As if that would somehow bring her point across. What more did Alex need?

"Wait." Deep breaths, slow counting — Kara followed along with Alex's calming technique. "So you're telling me that…"

Kara nodded.

Slow and steady somehow conveyed her vexation far more effectively than any high decibel of screaming could. "You left a phone with your number on it in an abandoned house. Where anyone could get their hands on it."

Oh. With the knowledge that Lena was its only occupant, Kara hadn't quite thought of it that way.

Another deep breath, almost how Kara imagined a fire-breathing dragon would. "And you had a one-sided conversation with said phone all about your day where — I repeat — anyone could see it."

"Only Lena had her hands on it!" Kara protested upon deaf ears.

"Ghosts don't have their hands on anything, Kara! They don't even exist!" Knuckles turning white around her knees, Alex pleaded for her to listen.

Both never quite reached their intended addressee. Like inhabiting parallel dimensions, the fabric of reality would hold resolute; would prove impregnable no matter how hard they struggled.

"They do! Look! Who do you think I was talking to?"

"You're not talking to anyone!" Alex reached out and snatched her phone over. Their chat log whizzed past in one multicoloured swirl. What was she supposed to see? "It's just you, Kara. No replies, whatsoever."

"What?" Wresting the flimsy slab of metal towards her, Kara scrolled for herself. It was all there, up until the part Kara made a fool of herself digitally. Irreversibly. "No… it's all there? I… I don't know why…"

Mercifully, her sister swooped in, cutting short her bumbling mess of words.

"I-I'm sorry I don't know how to make this sound nice but are you sure she's… not just…" Trailing off, Alex opted to tap against her skull instead.

"Of course not!" Kara's hands balled into fists. "Lena's real! This must be some weird ghost rule. Like how you couldn't see Will 'cause you don't believe in them."

"Will?"

"Yeah, he… lived here." She said, her face contorting in kind with the quiet implication behind her words.

"I see," Alex pinched at her nose bridge, her features squeezing together as if she'd just bitten into a fresh lemon; Kara didn't like that look. "Look, I can… introduce you to some of my friends if you'd like —"

Kara recoiled. "Excuse me?"

"You need to spend less time with Lena."

"And what's wrong with spending time with her?" Abruptly, she stood, sending Alex sprawling out of her way. All that pent up energy needed to be expended somehow and she'd rather not blast a hole in her sister.

"You just need to spend more time connected to the real world." Alex scrambled to her feet, unsteady like a roly-poly doll. Nearly teetering past the point of no return where only Kara could save her.

"I'm plenty connected!"

"You're not! You spend all day talking to… to this construct in your head. And visiting her in her supposed home." Alex yelled from her side of the room. And at that moment, it was as if something broke. With a resounding snap, Kara felt every grievance big or small being dredged up from her swirling whirlpool of emotions.

"So what?" She hissed, a hint of challenge sizzled between them.

Through gritted teeth, Alex met it head-on, refusing to be cowed. "It's all in your head, Kara! It's not healthy." As if she were some voice of reason, as if Kara were some child who couldn't differentiate the real world from fantasy.

"I'm the happiest I've ever been, Alex. Even if you think Lena isn't real, can't you just leave it?"

"I'm worried, Kara! That eventually, you'd spend more time there than in real life; even prefer it to real life. That you won't be able to tell the difference between the two and —" Kara had heard enough.

"That I'm isolated and unstable? Is that it? That my life is so miserable I can't even bear to live it." She needed to get out of here. She needed to get out of here. The door was just across the room. One step, then two and soon three. A few more…

And then, an unexpected snag in her plan — Alex pressed herself flush against the door, blocking her escape. "I don't know what's going on in your life! You just packed up and left early. And you wouldn't even come back to visit for a whole year. Just excuse after excuse after excuse."

Kara snagged the doorknob and twisted.

The door slammed back against the frame — Alex fancied herself as its guardian now, standing sentinel over the only exit.

"Don't try to run from this." Quieter this time. She gave her a peculiar look; Kara couldn’t help but feel fragile under its scrutiny.

"Would you believe me if I said I was being haunted? That that's the reason why I ran away and wouldn't come back?"

Alex sputtered at her admission, eyes bulging so dramatically that if she didn't know better, she would've assumed she'd choked. "Kara…" she began. From her very inflection, how she uttered her name, Kara already knew how it would end.

"I think we're at an impasse." Matching her muted tone, she took a step back.

"No, we're not."

Wordlessly, Kara turned and unlatched the window. Sliding it open, she dropped down into the backyard and made quick work of the wooden fence.

Freedom, dizzying freedom. At last, she could finally breathe.

What came after felt like aimless wandering. Every street looked identical when one didn't have the mind to sift out the tiny details. Ten houses down each row, two storeys with a small lawn. Soon, she stood before a pair of rusted gates, snapping her out of her reverie. She should’ve known better because she found herself at Lena's door the second time that day.

"Kara?" She didn't need to wait long; Lena swept through the double doors as soon as her feet touched the concrete of her porch. From the concern in her eyes, Kara knew the wetness on her cheeks wasn't a mere illusion. Like she knew Lena wasn't.

In one stuttered motion, she wiped the incriminating streaks off her cheeks. "I'm sorry, I keep having my breakdowns at your door."

"No, Kara. Just… come in." The softness was enticing, and perhaps entrancing; Kara leaned forward to bury herself in it. Or at least close enough that the familiar tingle made itself known. Solid gold stroked her hair, the decorative loops affording just enough friction that Kara squeezed her eyes shut at the sensation. It pressed against her crown, bestowing a gentle guidance Kara needed so desperately. She was tired of justifying herself, tired of even the mere unassuming act of thinking.

Lena ushered her forward and Kara followed.

----------------

"And she just implied that I have a screw loose or something." The more Kara relayed of their catastrophic confrontation, the further she sunk into herself. This was a nightmare. Why did things have to come to this?

"Kara, you're not and I'm sure your sister doesn't believe that either." The pressure of the letter opener held steady on her back; Kara sagged forward just a little more.

They'd been at this for an hour by her most conservative estimate. Another thought — just how far did Lena's patience run?

"How'd you know that?" She mumbled, bordering on unintelligible.

Close by, her ears picked up an airy exhale. "From how you talk about her. It sounds like you care deeply about each other."

"Not enough to believe me." Kara had just enough self-awareness left to register how petty she sounded.

An actual sigh this time. Kara timed her breaths to align with Lena's perfectly, taking her cues from the subtle huffing and puffing against the baby hairs of her sideburns. It had the surprising effect of subduing the raging tempest within and for the first time in the past hour, the throbbing in her chest subsided.

"My very existence bends the laws of reason. It's not your fault, Kara and I don't blame her either." The comforting pressure against her upper back intensified.

"She wouldn't even listen to me. I-I thought she would." But as Lena had pointed out, her situation was rather… unique, requiring a large dose of blind faith to wash it all down. Would she have done the same? If Alex revealed she'd been jilted and immediately followed up with 'by a mermaid', would she have accepted it with no qualms whatsoever? As much as she'd like to think that she'd wade into the ocean and give that… that slimy fish-woman a piece of her mind, it wasn't exactly rooted in reality.

A hypocrite — that's what she felt like. Kara embraced the derision like she embraced hermithood, burrowing into the bony ridges of her knees and refusing to surface.

"Kara, it's okay." Rubbing circles over where her muscles seized.

Kara gave in and let herself slump into a boneless heap under Lena's ministrations. Gold letter openers had no business feeling so good. And Lena… Lena was so good; too good. It'd never be enough — Kara could never hope to fully reciprocate.

Even in the safe sanctuary Lena afforded, the world still craved balance and this was its counter. An unobtrusive thought in plain sight for her to encounter — she didn't deserve her. Not with her selfish wants and desires, not with how the thought of dropping it all in Lena's lap seemed less unthinkable day by day. Her determination was wavering and she didn't like keeping secrets. This entire endeavour was destined for failure the very moment it began. And then what? Lena would know, would have to shoulder the burden of knowing when it was really hers and hers alone. And in an admittedly egocentric fashion, Kara feared she'd lose Lena because of it.

A sob tore itself out of her throat and though she rushed to muffle it, the damage was already done.

"Kara? What's wrong?" Lena plastered herself to her side, stroking her back and hushing her so gently. She's wrong. Little did Lena know that she's the real problem here.

"You're too good to me. I don't deserve you." She croaked out while she was still capable of speech.

"What do you mean, Kara?" And then, the floodgates opened. No point in delaying the inevitable.

"I-I… I've been thinking. About us. I want more — not that you aren't enough! You're… you're everything." Kara's gaze locked onto hers, her hands blindly searching for the smooth blade of the letter opener.

"Oh, I…" she trailed off, drifting closer in lieu of actual words.

"And I keep thinking about us. With our lives intertwined in the city or something when I know you can’t leave and I'm so sorry —"

Lena stilled, eyes fluttering open. One half-hearted gnaw on her lip, two breaths and three false starts — Kara sat through it all, feeling like a living ice block in the second-longest wait of her unnaturally long life. Her legs grew uncharacteristically numb beneath her until finally, Lena spoke. "Me too."

What? Kara toppled over, sprawling unceremoniously onto the floor. "I thought you didn’t like it? Thinking about what you can't have, that is."

Lena ducked her head away and Kara had to crush a runaway thought about how she had no bad angles. "I suppose you've been a bad influence on me."

"I'm so sorry —"

"In a good way." Lena cut her off before she could complete her apology — one admittedly based on assumptions coloured by her own self-loathing. "I'm happier when I do."

"Oh, I'm glad." It was her turn to be at a loss for words.

"I… imagined us living together."

"Oh?" Kara shuffled forward.

"In a cozy apartment with just enough room for the two of us." Lena mirrored her actions until they were knee-to-knee.

The thrumming in her ears drowned out all other thoughts; Kara could focus single-mindedly on the details of Lena's inner world. A guest room, a study, a fully-stocked kitchen. And most importantly (according to Lena), a comfortable master bedroom. But something just didn't add up with that configuration.

"Don't tell me I got the couch." Kara gasped in mock offence. Really, the couch was good too. Nice and sunny.

"No, of course not!"

Counting with the aid of her fingers again, Kara only came up with a host of question marks and no answers.

"You'd be with me." Her cheeks pinkened at that, in stark contrast with her natural ivory pallor. "We'll share."

"Oh, like daily sleepovers?" That'd be fun. Except for one particular fact that Lena was missing. Kara looked away. "But I float sometimes." Cool metal found its place in her hand once more and Kara warmed at the touch.

"I'll manage." Lena let out a small endearing laugh, a playful glint in her eye hinting that she knew more than she let on. It was silly — attempting to make fantasy adhere to reality when the point of it was to achieve detachment. But Kara couldn’t deny the effect it had. As if they were just two best friends planning on moving in together. As if life were that simple when it had long ceased to be the moment Krypton rumbled.

Then, her smile faded. Snapping her attention to the door, she whispered. "Someone's here."

The front door creaked open. Footsteps next in quick succession. Light-footed ones, as if they were accustomed to making as little noise as possible.

"Kara? Are you here?" The voice called out. There's no question about who it was downstairs now.

"I'm up here." She called back in a quivering voice. Was she ready for this? She hadn't thought of what to say yet. Sensing her inner turmoil, Lena gave her end an encouraging squeeze.

"I thought I'd find you here." Alex hovered just outside the door. Her gaze dipped, resting on where her hand gripped the blade for a long moment. "I assume that's Lena beside you?"

"Yeah," Kara nodded. Relief eagerly flooded her systems — it seemed Alex came in peace.

Scruffing her shoes against the floorboards, Alex mustered up a weak smile. "Well… hi Lena."

Lena offered her a small wave in return, glancing over at Kara to relay her message.

"Um she says hi too." Lena pointed at the armchair by the fireplace. "And to take a seat."

And so, Alex did; the springs squeaking under her weight where there usually was none. She cleared her throat. "So, I… owe you an apology. I shouldn't have said any of that… regardless."

"I'm sorry I yelled at you," Kara muttered, averting her gaze.

"Right." Clasping her hands together, Alex began. "I have a proposal but you have to promise not to freak out. Just… let me finish, okay?"

"Yeah, okay."

"Okay, I had a quick chat with mom and I gave her the abridged version…” Alex laid it out with methodical precision. First, an offer to visit a discrete therapist. For everything she'd gone through and not specifically 'the ghost thing' as Alex had clarified when Kara looked visibly upset. Her sister still wasn’t fully convinced but it was a start, a compromise.

Next, her one condition — the flip phone had to go.

"Someone could get to it," Alex insisted and when Kara moved to protest, she continued. "Summer break ends in three weeks and I'm not charging that thing for you."

She turned to Lena. "It's fine," she said and those words were echoed back at her sister however begrudgingly.

They shook on it and that was that. Alex collected the open flip phone laying on the table, snapping it shut and slipping it into the confines of her pocket. Neither spoke save for Kara's short goodbye to Lena (or thin air in Alex's eyes). Not until they were released out into the rolling waves of the summer heat.

And it was as if her sister's strong front had melted away under the overbearing sun. "Kara, I really want to believe you. It's just that…"

Through the blinding frustration of it all, Kara simply nodded. "Yeah, I get it. It's hard, but I kinda wish you could." The admission was a leap of faith. She felt fragile, irrationally so; even her Kryptonian constitution couldn't persuade her that she wouldn't land in a broken tangle of limbs.

A faint smile liberated her from her free fall.

Alex threw an arm over her shoulder. On tiptoes, she noted, leaning heavily against her sturdy frame for support. "There's something else I wanted to ask actually."

"Yeah?"

"I'm meeting some friends for drinks next week. Do you wanna come too?" Her steps halted and Kara stumbled back to accommodate it. "You know, to eat everyone's sides —"

Well, Alex had her at free sides; Kara nodded eagerly.

Things were starting to look up for her. No more secrets, no more lies — just free and easy like the amorphous clouds floating high above. All except one.

Kara cast a furtive glance over at her sister — one she easily caught. Their footsteps petered out once more.

"Kara?"

"Well, what if I told you… I'mactuallyinlovewithLena."

Crash. At long last, the remaining gate joined its partner on the driveway. All it took was the whistled urging from an unexpected gust of wind, severing its last tenuous ties to the post.

"Oh," Alex muttered half-heartedly, attention focused on the aftermath before them. Her face was the picture of stoic neutrality when she could finally scrounge a coherent response. "Good for you then."

"But I don't think she reciprocates."

"Oh." They'd need an 'oh' jar at this rate, right beside Alex's swear jars on the mantle above the fireplace. A wild gale whisked by, sending a shower of leaves down upon them before the air went deathly still again.

First a hand on her back, steady with unspoken urgency. Then the noticeable uptick pounding away in Alex's chest. It took the sudden brisk pace for Kara to finally realise — this place was getting to her.

----------------

Sometimes Lena confused her. With that look on her face that Kara could only describe as having a fishbone stuck down her throat.

It's just… she had the habit of not finishing what she started. Words, specifically — at times she'd trail off and others, she'd silence herself before she even began.

These occurrences only grew in frequency in the days that followed. It was difficult to wrap her head around — the seamless interaction modern technology afforded had been taken away and these moments they had together became all the more precious. And now, the looming deadline Alex had reminded her of. She'd been so caught up with Will and Lena that it'd slipped her mind. A little over two weeks and she'd be gone; she'd leave Lena here as alone as she had been before everything. Before Kara stumbled through her doors and into her life.

She ducked away again. What Lena had on her mind must've been important and it killed her inside not knowing what it was — yet another worry on her list, though their Venn diagrams didn't diverge much.

Kara was still hiding from Lena, putting on that beguiling smile and hiding that glaringly obvious torch behind her back. The weight had partially lifted from her shoulders when she confessed these… feelings to her sister but the other half clung to her consciousness, determined to remind her of her duplicity every step of the way. Exhaustion took hold, working its way down to her bones. She was so tired — of lying, of maintaining this front. But she had to. And so, she continued with the charade, as if she wasn't in love with —

"Pardon me?" Lena stared up at her with those inscrutable wide eyes.

"Love," she repeated, afraid for a split second that she wouldn't be able to fly herself out of this sinkhole. "H-have you ever been in love?"

It was meant as a mindless question, a meaningless redirection. Instead, Kara found herself leaning forward eagerly, as if ready to propose her candidature. The armrests squeaked for mercy with how hard she gripped them.

"I…" Lena hesitated. Clearly she hadn't anticipated such a question. Please don't think too hard, please don't connect the dots, Kara's internal monologue chanted feverishly. "I'm here, aren't I?" She said in jest, but it sounded more like a sobering reminder that wounds don't heal completely. They scab over and occasionally, they bled.

"Something happened between the two of you," Kara stated the obvious and consequently, withered a little inside. She just needed the harsh clarity of her own voice to ground her before her thoughts could spill over like a sudden overgrowth of weeds; the embarrassment was a necessary evil.

"When between a rock and a hard place, one might just end up prioritising themselves." Lena exhaled deeply, lips curving in a wry smile. "Understandable given our circumstances but the accusations weren't necessary."

Kara had an awful knack for dredging up memories best forgotten from within but now, she realised it extended to others too. "I'm sorry you had to go through that. And for bringing it up."

"It's fine. It's been so long — a literal lifetime ago. It doesn't bother me much anymore." Lena shrugged and Kara… wasn't fully inclined to believe her. At least, that's the official explanation for her next question — tumbling right out in what couldn’t even be disguised as platonic concern.

"But could you… love again?" As the seconds ticked by, it dawned on her that she was being selfish, that she should’ve dropped it when she could.

Lena did it again. The look reappeared with a vengeance. Her lips fell open but all Kara could pick up was a strangled noise. She moved to apologise once more.

"Yes." Her gaze hunted down her own, paradoxically wavering yet resolute. "I think I could."

"Oh," Kara muttered, staring blankly back. "That's good."

Lena took a deep breath — a signal of her intention to continue. And then, nothing. Two steps forward, one step back. Settling back down into the awkward silence, Kara finally broke.

"So, I watched this nature documentary yesterday and they were talking about giraffes. And the entire time I was just so freaked out! I mean, are they even real?" It's a marvel how quickly they could bounce back, almost as if they were on the same wavelength, connected on some deeper level, part of a unified whole.

Almost.

To actually possess such a connection was… unthinkable.

--------------

The next day, Lena pointed out the presence of wine beneath their feet, tucked away under dust and cobwebs littering the cellar.

"Oh, I don't really like wine. Or alcohol, really. They taste funny."

"Could you help me retrieve one?"

And she did, but not before giving every little baby she chanced upon a good belly rub. Picking up a bottle with a tongue twister on its label at Lena's behest and scouring the musty cabinets for the rusty corkscrew, Kara twisted it open with a loud pop. It wasn't like Lena could contract tetanus anyway.

In hindsight, she should’ve rationed it out somehow. Or simply taken it away earlier because now Lena had the equivalent of a whole bottle sloshing around in her belly and she was definitely somewhere between tipsy and full-out drunk.

Kara shivered as icy metal kissed her skin, eyes narrowing in a familiar feline manner — she'd seen it enough times through her screen. What did the slow blink mean again in cat language? Right, affection.

"You know…" Kara's eyes snapped to hers in rapt attention. "Ever since I first laid eyes on you, I've always found it terribly difficult to look away."

Lena paused, let her words sink in with the letter opener anchoring her in place. Satisfied, she continued with such reverence that Kara wasn't entirely certain she hadn't ascended the mortal realm. "You're just so stunning. Almost god-like."

"Oh… thank you." Kara swallowed but the lump in her throat refused to subside.

"And I didn't want to at first but you just wormed your way into my heart." Closer — Lena was all she could see in her field of vision.

"Well, I can be very convincing." A nervous laugh tore its way out of her throat. It was all highly puzzling — Lena was building up to something. Was it what she'd been struggling to get out all this time?

"You have such a big heart, you're funny in your own awful way —" the jibe was barely a blip on her radar. Kara understood Lena's mortification when she wrote her obituary painfully well now. "— and you're so strong. You inspire me, Kara and you taught me that this life is still worth living."

"You deserve to be happy." The assurance flowed freely, almost on instinct. Kara placed a hand against the blade, sandwiching it between her palm and her cheek.

"Kara, I…" she swore she could feel it — the ghost of Lena's breath breaking against the tip of her nose. Again and again, heavier each time. "I…" Her head lolled to the side, a careless motion enough to shatter all the momentum they'd built up. Squeezing her eyes shut, Lena drew away in an unsteady fashion and Kara missed the proximity already. But above it all, she needed to know.

"I can't — not now, not like this." What? Why not? It was Kara's turn to reach out for Lena. For an explanation of some sort or just… something. Anything she could possibly hold onto.

"Not like what?" She asked in the barest of whispers.

"Like this," Lena gestured vaguely at herself. Kara took in the flushed cheeks, the slight wobble where she hovered in mid-air. Like what? Call her blind but she wasn't seeing it.

"It would be better if I do it sober." Lena supplied, cued by her blank look no doubt. She was still coherent; no problem there.

Kara just had to ask. "But it's a good thing right?"

"I… hope so." There was that look of helpless vulnerability that Kara couldn’t wrap her head around. As if Lena had extricated her still-beating heart from her chest and offered it up to her to do as she pleased. The imagery felt apt; Kara couldn’t find any other way to describe it much less put a name to it.

Until fifteen hours and sixteen minutes later. Tossing and turning until her limbs and her covers formed an intricate tangle, she replayed their conversation from start to finish again and again. It almost seemed like a futile endeavour but in a single watershed moment, everything fell into place.

Kara shot out of her bed to the squeaky protests of her bed frame, landing heavily on both feet. Oh. Oh Rao.

"Kara?" A voice grumbled from the other side. She heard the scratch of fabric against skin but only barely. She needed to get to Lena. Oh Rao, she was trying to —

Her fingers could only graze the doorknob before a hand shot out, capturing her wrist in its firm grasp. "Where are you going?"

"I-I need to see Lena. I finally get it now. What she was getting at and I can't believe I didn't! I just l —" With no regard for coherency (or Alex's groggy brain cells), Kara rambled on. Her own internal monologue ran parallel to the veritable storm she was conjuring with the rapid flapping of her lips. Why didn't she realise it sooner? It was so glaringly obvious. Oh Rao was that what she meant by sharing a bed —

"Kara!" Alex snapped her out of it. Quite literally — the sharp echoes still lingered in the space between them. "What did you get?"

"I think Lena likes me too." And just like that, the adrenaline wore off, deserted her when she needed it most. The weight of the situation bore down on her — all the possible ways it could go wrong.

"Oh," her grip loosened but Kara made no move towards her original target. Instead, her back collided with the door and with a deep sigh, she puddled onto the floor.

Being stuck in her own mind had its downsides. In this case, it was her dampened senses; Alex poked at her forehead unimpeded. "You have that catastrophic thinking face on."

"Don't get me wrong, I'm happy she does. Ecstatic, thrilled and all the big words I really can't remember right now." Like an armadillo when threatened, Kara curled into herself.

"But?" Alex prompted, tugging the humanoid egg-shape into her arms.

"What if it… breaks our relationship." The tight space within the Kara-ball only served to amplify the quiver in her voice. "I mean, summer's ending and I've read about long-distance relationships and wow are the odds against them."

Humming, Alex patted her back. It grew absentminded, slowing as she withdrew into her mind, deep in thought.

"How'd you… know?"

"She um got herself drunk and started telling me how great I am… I guess that's an almost-confession?" Kara resurfaced from her hiding spot — if one could consider it that. Eyes peeking past her knees, she caught Alex's disbelieving look.

"Yeah, that's definitely one."

"Yeah," Kara concurred. "So what should I do?"

"You know I can't tell you that." Alex chided and Kara shrunk into herself once more. There was just so much to consider; everything was just so overwhelming and she just wished that someone would point her in the right direction. To tell her to throw caution into the wind and be happy.

"But you want to?"

"I…" The dissidents dwelling in her head kicked up a fuss at that but deep down, she knew the answer. "Yes. So much."

"Then I think you should stop projecting your fears onto others."

"What?" Unravelling herself from her mess of limbs, she regarded Alex.

"I would… think that Lena knows what she's getting herself into. Whatever it could mean for your relationship." She explained, an inexplicable glint flashing across her eyes. A warning signal as she soon learnt; the measured tone Alex had adopted cracked under her amusement.

"Though, I don't think she expected it to sail right over your head."

"Not funny." She muttered under her breath. "But… thanks for that. Even though you don't believe in her."

A pat on her back prompted the end of that conversation.

"Go to sleep, Kara." And with that, Alex strode back over to her bed, collapsing onto it, dead to the world. Kara tuned in to her heartbeat just in case.

Things didn't quite work out for her like they did with Alex — she lay sleepless on her own. Thinking, planning; she had a big day tomorrow.

-------------

"Lena," she smiled, fiddling with her hands behind her back.

"Kara, come in." How she ducked away was routine at this point. At least the frequent full-body flushes made sense now.

They found themselves in the sitting room, by the windows where it all began. And would hopefully begin all over again.

"About yesterday," she began, ending just as abruptly.

Kara ran her fingers down the smooth metal, over the sharp tip and returned to cradle it against her palm. Nodding, she urged Lena to continue.

"I… I overheard what you said that day. To Alex."

"Oh," Kara introduced a hint of apology to the corner of her lips. Oops.

"And I had to correct some… misconceptions." A ragged breath ended its arduous journey then, expelled from her lungs in forceful tremors.

"I don't know why I'm so anxious, honestly." Nervous laughter echoed through the bare room, courtesy of Kara's demolition efforts. "Kara I…"

One final deep breath. "I love you."

Childlike glee spilled forth — in her chest and past her lips. Words had forsaken her. The speech that she'd planned, her own declaration of love dissipated unceremoniously in a cloud of smoke.

There was only one thing left on her mind and it didn't quite involve words.

"Kara?" Lena gave her a questioning look as she pressed the flat of the blade against her lips.

"Can I show you?"

She nodded; watched wide-eyed as Kara drew in closer until Lena's breath intermingled with hers.

A pause; a slight pit-stop just to inform Lena, "I heard it's better with your eyes closed."

She listened without a word of protest.

It shouldn't feel this good. Not with how her lips were working against cold, hard metal. Not with how Lena's lips were only a vague suggestion — soft behind the unyielding material. Kara leaned in just a little more, pushing harder against Lena…

And then, they were falling, landing in a heap of giggles where the rays of dazzling sunlight ended.

"Oops sorry," she swooped in for a peck. "Love you too."

She was so beautiful like this. Curtained by her own golden locks, Lena was all she had eyes for, all she could see. When her gaze fell upon the crinkle in her eye, the lively reds of her cheeks, her upturned lips, a thought sprung forth — I did this. She made Lena happy and Kara was happy and Lena was glowing and —

Lena was glowing.

Like random constellations of distant stars, the specks blinked at her before descending into nothingness. Lena's form grew weak, almost transparent, yielding easily to the forceful summer glare.

"Lena…"

She realised what was happening too. Frantic glances down at her disappearing parts and back up at Kara; Lena settled on the latter, mouthing desperate pleas against her front.

"Lena, no!" She cried. As if she had a choice; as if Lena could hope to defy the unbending will of the universe.

"I-I don't want to. Please don't…" Her gaze affixed over her shoulder; Kara couldn’t bring herself to tear her own off Lena. But committing it all to memory wasn't enough — not when Lena wouldn't be here. As with all things, it was bound to corrupt. One day she'd forget the exact shade of green held in those eyes, misconstrue the alluring arrangement of freckles down her neck and her front. And as time weathered those features down into blurry nothingness, eventually Kara would forget entirely. Plagued by the barest suggestion of memories and the frustration of grasping at thin air. The very same thin air Lena was about to become.

She set this off. She caused it. If only she didn't…

"I'm sorry," her voice cracked under the weight of everything. It felt like she'd already gone under. Lungs burning — she was drowning. "I'm so sorry, Lena. I shouldn't have… I shouldn't have…" Kara couldn’t continue down that train of thought; the last of her energy reserves spent on mustering up those words and choking them out one by one.

Her arms gave out, her head dropped onto Lena's shoulder. She didn't hiss at the contact.

It was gone.

"I don't regret it… I-I wanted it too" Lena's laboured breathing huffed and puffed by her ear. "But I'm sorry… I can't stay. I want to but —"

"Not your fault. It's not your fault, Lena." It was all she could manage before descending into mindless babbling before Lena hushed her with her penultimate breath.

"Just know that you've made me so happy in a myriad of ways." With her letter opener, she guided Kara off the floor. She hovered above her so their eyes or whatever's left of Lena's could meet. "Kara, I —"

And then, she was gone. The letter opener clattered beneath her, catching the glare of the sun's rays and twinkling the same way Lena's eyes would. When she harboured her mischievous schemes, when she was seconds away from unleashing her playful quips —

Kara jerked away.

Dustlight fluttered past the windows, shimmering in the earnest backdrop of bright daylight. It was almost ethereal… like how Lena sparkled under the —

"Damn it!" The floorboards splintered beneath her clenched fists.

"Shit!" She tried again. Nothing changed. The world still turned; the tides still ebbed and flowed. In the distance, the birds sang their happy little tunes, children raced and tumbled in their yards. Life around her went on as if nothing had happened.

But something did happen — a terrible, terrible thing. And Kara couldn't wash away the bitter aftertaste of injustice left in her mouth.

"Fuck, fuck, fuck!" Her strength left her as soon as those words passed her lips. Falling now — her forehead took the brunt of it, her glasses contributing an ominous clack.

Alex lied; it wasn't cathartic in the slightest.

And finally, at last, Kara let herself sob.

-------------

Kara doesn't remember how she got home that day, but she found herself in her bed, staring up at the ceiling, almost catatonic. Because of everything or maybe in spite of everything — it's all too confusing.

She shifted to the side, reaching under her pillow for the comforting presence of that letter opener. It put her in the perfect position to witness the outside world too. For the first time in a long, long while.

With the sun on its last rays and the sky a purplish bruise, Kara acknowledged the passing of day and the inevitable transit to night. She didn't like it; it was too dark and gloomy and… empty. Whatever sense of profound loss she harboured in her chest would only be amplified by it.

Distantly, she heard the telltale snapping of locks and the jingle of keys. Eliza was putting her shoes away, her bag finding its usual place on the counter. Calling out to Kara then tutting at the lack of response, tottering around the kitchen in a flurry of clanging pots and a glass casserole pan — it was all brimming with life. And consequently, a reminder of its corollary. A word beginning with 'D' and rhyming with… well, breath.

"Dinner's ready," she'd called the first time. By the third, Eliza had poked her head into her room. Her expectant gaze fell upon her empty desk, face screwing together in confusion when she found Kara reposed in the corner instead.

"Is everything okay?" Eliza hovered over the edge of her mattress.

"Yeah, just… tired." It wasn’t convincing in the slightest.

She stared hard at her before sighing and in the gentlest of voices, said once again. "Well, dinner's ready." A hand carded through her hair. One simple motion and yet it was enough for her mind to threaten to come undone.

"Just give me a minute." Kara pushed herself up on her elbows and Eliza nodded in return. Retreating from the room to give Kara the space she desired.

She might have taken two, or ten. She wasn't sure anymore. Her mind had grown numb to the quiet passage of time. But eventually, Kara ventured out. Ate quickly, smiled slightly, conversed softly — Kara put up her best facade. All so she could collapse back onto her bed, face down this time.

The ticking of her wall clock in the background grew excruciating — the batteries cascaded onto her table. Sounds of celebration drifted in from next door — her pillow was pulled over her head. Quit Playing Games blared from the bedside table and —

Kara stopped herself from tossing her phone out just in time. And when the titular chorus came around, she chanced a look at the number displayed. Well, it wasn't in her contacts. A quick jab at the 'reject call' button granted her the silence she craved.

Until it rang again, buzzing angrily against the wooden laminate. She caved and answered. This better be important.

"You're sick." The tinny quality of the voice did little to soften the blow.

"W-what?" She recognised it — Laura Willis whom she'd sent Will's blanket back to. The same genial, easy-going woman who had entertained a stranger in the middle of a busy grading session now sounded like she'd cough up her entire life savings just for a chance to throttle her.

"The empty box?" She prompted.

"The what?" It wasn’t empty. On the contrary, it was stuffed to the brim and she had to tape it down and all around with duct tape.

For a brief moment, there was nothing but heavy breathing from the other end. "You promised me an old quilt of my brother's and you sent me an empty box. And don't even start with any of your excuses. The packaging was intact." She bit out so viciously that Kara had to wince away from the speaker.

"I… didn't."

"Sure, you didn’t." Kara's cheeks burned from the caustic retort.

"I swear I didn't. I-I —" There was no other explanation other than the truth — it was giving her a serious sense of déjà vu and not a pleasant one at that. Time was ticking, as the incessant taps of fingernails against solid wood reminded her. Kara swallowed and continued. "I met Will's ghost. He had it out for me at first, trying to scare me at every corner but —"

"I'm sorry, I'm going to have to stop you —"

"No! Just… listen. Please." The line grew silent. "Eventually we started talking and he told me about you, his family… " Kara didn't quite know where she was going with this. Just improvise. "Oh, like how your dad used to sneak him out for ice cream at night. Vanilla ice cream."

"I've heard that story plenty of times." She sounded chagrined now. Right, okay, something else then. She glanced out into her backyard.

"And your dog! The one you wanted to name Waffles but he thought it was stupid."

"No, he didn't."

"Well, he was named Ruffles in the end." Kara pointed out but her skeptical interlocutor refused to budge. "And your mom said he ran away but actually he's buried in the backyard."

"Excuse me?" She demanded. Clearly, Kara had struck a nerve.

"Yeah, um I —" saw his remains with my X-ray vision. "Dug up dog bones while doing yard work."

"I see." Laura paused and when she continued, the edges of her voice were blunted. Resignation perhaps? The end result was much less injurious and more… weary. "A few lucky guesses isn't enough."

"I know." Ghosts weren't real, she was seeing things — she'd heard it all from Alex already and even her profuse apologies refused to fully accept Kara's account as the truth. But that's because Alex was worried about her; wanted the best for her. Meanwhile, she and Laura were complete strangers… "Actually, why not?"

Kara could almost feel her blinking from the vibrations creeping through.

"It's outside the realm of reason." Her confusion was baked into the very fabric of her explanation. Rao bless her patience. Anyone else would've treated her to the end call tone by now.

"But wouldn't it be easier if you did?" She was on the precipice of something. Every line was building up to it. She could feel the anticipation down to the marrow of her bones.

"In most cases, the easy way out isn't the right way out." Was this what elementary school lessons were like? She'd always wondered.

"Easier on yourself, I mean." Giving the nape of her neck a good scratch, Kara stalled until the right words would grace her with their presence. "I-I mean, it wouldn't hurt if you did believe he was still here." Oh Rao, there was definitely a raised eyebrow on the other end. "To believe that he'd been thinking about you all this time. Which, okay, in hindsight might be more painful instead. Oh Ra— god but personally I'd like that… with the people I've lost. To think they're somewhere out there, you know."

Past the convoluted, rambling mess, it all came together. Finally, "And if given the choice, I'd choose to be happy."

Her triumphant conclusion was met with silence and Kara deflated in the interlude.

"What do you mean 'was'?" Oh, right.

"He kind of… moved on when we were on the phone. Just disappeared in a shower of magic glitter and left his quilt behind. But before that, he said he never blamed you for all the things you said." The conversation grew heavy and in the uncomfortable space in between, Kara gave in to her urge to fill the silence. "I… think they move on when they get what they truly want. And he wanted to know how you were doing."

A state of quietude befell them regardless. Kara had nothing else to add and so she sat on the edge of her bed, waiting.

"I see." She said again, her sheer loss for words apparent. Kara would never know if her words got through to her but she supposed it didn't matter.

"Goodbye, Kara." She returned the farewell and the dreaded tone played like a flatline.

Three beats — that's how long it took in the silence for her own words to truly sink in. Kara would love to choose, would give up plenty for a choice to be happy in this moment but it just felt so impossible now.

A wave of exhaustion washed over her and she yielded, letting it sweep her back onto her sheets. Then, her leaden eyelids were sealed shut. Everything was dark, peaceful; she could rest now, simply drift off at the whims and fancies of the tides. And when she was pulled under, she beheld — a conjuring of her mind's eye, just a brief escape but yet it felt so right.

It should’ve been right.

------------

Blankets were remarkably useful, as Kara learnt in the days that followed. Between Eliza laying out freshly baked goods in hopes of luring her out of her reclusion and Alex's casual (yet obvious) attempts to 'talk', Kara just needed to burrow under her covers to remain undisturbed.

Lena was gone — she'd accepted that after spending an embarrassingly long time in the abandoned Luthor House. Just calling for her, waiting for her, watching the (now fuzzy) baby rats for her. Flipping through the yellowed pages of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz, reading aloud as if Lena could hear her before she felt silly and stopped. And when she left, she hefted the heavy green book along, sequestering it in the bottommost drawer in her desk — the only one with a working lock. Kara found herself back on her bed soon enough.

Day seeped into night and night back into day; her remaining days of summer vacation were slowly slipping away. She'd graduated from the anger and resentment quickly enough but it still hurt. Vaguely. A slight throbbing in her heart and right behind her temples and Kara would… rather not.

It started small on Saturday. "Come to Costco with me?" Eliza asked. Shrugging, she'd slumped into the backseat while Eliza drove and pushed their two carts along dutifully as she shopped. The outside world was much brighter than she remembered. Even with the shades she'd swapped her usual glasses for. Or maybe, she thought, it was just the naked fluorescent tubes. How long had she been cooped up in her room? Kara counted on her fingers. One, two, three, four… wait no, five.

"Kara?" The worried look graced her features again halfway across the aisle.

"Yeah, sorry. Coming." With practiced difficulty, she wheeled both full carts to the checkout. She wasn't okay. Not in the slightest. But she'll live.

Then, Sunday night rolled around. Drinks with Alex and co. How could she forget?

"You don't have to go if you're not feeling up to it."

"I'll be fine. I promised, right?"

Midvale's most popular bar was bustling. Kara could see why — the onion rings were divine. The booze was too according to her company but she wasn't exactly the best judge of that.

They were nice enough; didn't bat an eyelid at Kara's awkward fumbling and absolute inability to interact in groups. And when she was dragged up on stage from their corner booth to close off Karaoke Night, they cheered so boisterously that it spread throughout the entire room.

"I'm not that good," she muttered as she slid past Alex back into her corner.

"Uh, yeah you are!" A chorus of agreements followed, only serving to fan the flames roaring in her cheeks.

Alex leaned in close. "Yeah, you really are."

The night wound down as the staff packed away the heavy speakers and microphones. It was good, carefree fun. With no expectations, Kara could just let loose, speak her mind with no hesitation. A small fraction of what she had with Lena…

Alex excused the both of them first, citing 'sisterly ice cream time' that definitely didn't exist. But fresh air did feel good; as refreshing as it could be with the tang of salt it carried.

Her sister moved to speak but Kara beat her to it. "Can we actually get ice cream?"

And that's how they found themselves on a bench at a corner of the town square, licking at their respective cones.

"No more vanilla?" Alex nudged her with her free arm and her triple scoop wobbled in place. (Cookie dough, strawberry, chocolate — no vanilla in sight.)

"Oh, no. Not anymore. Wasn't my favourite."

"Oh, that's great," Alex cracked a smile at her. "More space for the flavours that matter."

"Yeah, like chocolate fudge brownie." She sighed, lacking her usual exuberance.

"But cookie dough." Gesturing at her single scoop, Alex wore an expectant look. Until… until most unfortunately, Kara got it.

"That was awful!" she swatted at her. Too late — her traitorous body was doubling over and laughter shot past her lips.

"You laughed!"

"At you, not with you." She quipped, completely unprepared for the wave familiarity it brought in tow. Lena had been in her position once a few weeks back and yet it felt so long ago.

"Well, I'm sorry I can't make puns like you do." Alex rolled her eyes. There were a few residual laughs before they segued into silence.

Kara knew it was coming from the moment they sat down, but watching her sister gear up for it filled her with immense dread. The question came anyway.

"Kara, I'm just gonna ask, okay?"

She nodded.

"Did something happen?" And when Kara barely flinched, Alex gained the reassurance she needed to continue. "Between you and Lena?"

"I…" Kara shifted in her seat. She wasn’t ready. The skies were just so empty today — not even a sliver of moonlight in sight. Almost like a void staring back. She'd filled the emptiness in her heart with all things Lena and now it was just gone. But she'd grown accustomed to it and —

A hand gripped her shoulder.

"Yeah, something happened." It ended at that.

--------------

The Luthor house seemed brighter from afar, now that she'd thought about it. Relieved, even. It gave her hope that Lena truly was in a better place.

All around her, children were enjoying their last week of summer. The seagulls were having a bountiful day too from the alarmed yelps two beach chairs away. Then, there was the figure approaching her.

"You know, people usually stare out at the open sea, not away from it."

Alex always had a knack for tracking her down.

"Aren't you supposed to be —"

"Took the day off. But, less about me, more about you." She sat herself down behind her, scooting closer until they were back to back. "What are you doing anyway?"

"Crying over spilt milk before I clean up the mess." Kara rubbed at her eyes again, receiving a host of odd looks from the family nearby. They stopped abruptly. Turning ever so slightly, Kara realised why. Alex's glower was useful after all.

"You can tell me when you're ready." She knocked their heads together playfully. An attempt to lighten the mood and perhaps to loosen her lips in the process.

Kara grimaced and looked away.

"Okay, I'll start." Alex sucked in a deep breath. "It was Vicky. Vicky dumped me."

She spun around. "What, why?"

"We wanted different things in life." She shrugged, her nonchalant facade held resolutely in place. "She wanted to stay here in Midvale and I… have my eyes set somewhere else."

Reassuming their previous positions at Alex's behest, Kara sagged against her. It was nice having someone like that — someone who both literally and figuratively had your back. Every inhale, exhale felt acutely against her back, building her a new sense of security brick by brick.

She was tired of running.

"Lena's gone."

"Oh." Reaching over, Alex clasped their hands together.

"I kissed her and then… she just disappeared." She took a moment to appreciate the squeeze Alex gave her before she continued. "And I… it's just so unfair."

"Yeah, it is."

They lapsed into silence. Understandably so — how else could someone react when suddenly faced with such news? Alex leaned against Kara, letting the comforting pressure do the talking. It was enough.

"On Krypton —" she felt her sister shift at that. Oh Rao, they were in public. She shouldn't be talking about this.

"No, tell me." Alex breathed. Sometimes, it was terrifying how well she could read her. Even now with their backs turned to each other, with nothing but the cadence of her voice to go off on.

Kara took a deep breath and dropped her voice. "We believe when one passes, their essence becomes one with Rao. If you walked out into the sun, they'd be there with you, you know. Their warmth."

"Is that why you love the sun so much?"

She shrugged. "Kinda. But you know, it recharges me too."

In a flurry of sand, Alex appeared before her and her skin erupted in tiny pinpricks as if sorely missing the sun's rays. "Kara, I'm so sorry. I didn't know and I've been… poking fun at you all this time."

Kara rushed to reassure her. "It's not your fault. I didn't tell you."

"Yeah, but I didn't ask." They grimaced in unison.

Then, an invitation. "Will you tell me now?"

And she did. Much more coherently this time. Another thing to thank Lena for. Alex listened in rapt attention, gasping at her childhood antics and falling silent when Kara recounted the day her aunt and uncle were taken away. The family beside them had long been replaced by a gaggle of teens but still, Kara continued. There was just so much to say; a whole other lifetime of memories crammed into a single morning.

When they returned — Alex with infinitely more ammunition to use against her and Kara a thousand tonnes lighter, there was only one thing left taunting her.

She hadn't given it much thought since she'd realised her feelings but some things didn't just disappear.

Perhaps her mind was playing tricks on her but the paper seemed droopy in disuse. Just dangling between her fingers. Crumpling it in her hands, Kara put it out of its misery. The remaining stack found itself stuffed back into their drawer, replaced by the bulky form of Kara's laptop. She opened it and took a deep breath.

Then, she wrote.

Chapter Text

Five years.

Time passed in a blur when one's least expecting it.

Kara's life was unrecognisable now in the most unthinkable of ways. Purpose, for one — an internship at Catco Worldwide Media landed her a small paranormal column in their magazine. (And if she had to occasionally reprise her role as Cat Grant's assistant… well it's a price worth paying.) Haunted mansions, abandoned amusement parks, and even grimy bathrooms — she'd done it all. That bright transcendent glow had long faded from her dreams. It didn't hurt anymore. Not with all the relief, the joy, the hope she'd witnessed.

It had scabbed over, flat and if Kara were inclined to pick at it, she knew with great certainty it would bleed. But she wouldn't; she didn't do that anymore. (Something she'd picked up from a past therapist, who unfortunately didn't take her affinity for the supernatural too well.)

She remembered though, in well-preserved detail, and she likely would for the rest of her days.

Then came the other purpose. The one that came knocking at her door, or rather her TV screen. It began with a downed plane and ended on her shoulders — a whole Boeing 737, that is. Past the screaming and crying and copious tubs of ice cream, they'd come to the conclusion that the world had room for more than one Super.

"Supergirl!" She halted mid-flight.

"Supergirl, help!" There, in the park!

Kara followed the cries — a young boy by the sound of it. Landing swiftly on the grass with her cape aflutter, she assumed her Supergirl pose.

She began. "What's…" And it ceased as if she never had. The boy was young, no more than nine years old by all estimates. But the resemblance was unmistakable. He and Will shared the same face.

It was far from the first time she'd encountered a doppelganger and it'd be far from the last considering the reputation she'd developed for talking to the air.

Just not him. Not until now.

"Supergirl!" He waved his arms above his small frame. "Waffles' stuck!"

Kara's gaze followed his finger. Up through the sparse branches and landing on a small yellow lab huddled up against the bark.

Yet another moment she was grateful for her gift of flight. It rendered traversing that ten feet to the topmost branch child's play.

"Well, how did you get up there?" She cooed at the dog in her arms. Waffles remained none-the-wiser, wiggling in her grasp. And when he failed to escape, the canine resorted to clambering up against her chest, lapping at her face instead.

Her boots yielded a soft crunch against the grass below. "Here you go. He's much of a climber." She laughed, watching as the pup swiftly switched targets and rendered the boy's face a canvas of dog slobber.

"Thank you Supergirl!" With that, they waved goodbye, their lives finally disentangling. Kara took off into the distance once more, her shoulders suddenly lighter. Will had been right that fateful day. Everything was fine now; he looked happy. Was Lena happy too? Kara couldn’t help but wonder every now and then — never for too long. Just a passing thought like the faceless lunch crowd on a busy Monday afternoon.

Anyway, her lunch break was almost over. And with Cat a little short on assistants at the moment, that meant returning with a coffee from the cart situated right outside the gleaming metal facade of Spheerical Industries. Black with exactly 3.5 grams of sugar at a blistering 180 degrees. She didn't know how Cat could tell if someone fudged the measurements but she could. Every time. And there would undoubtedly be hell to pay.

The cart owner greeted her with a sympathetic look when she reached the front of the queue.

Right, coffee done. Now she just needed to find a discrete alley and —

Something — no, someone — bounced off her side and Kara blindly lunged after them. With an arm secured around their waist, she plucked the airborne cup into her grasp.

"I'm so sorry…" Their eyes met, locked in place and stretching the definition of a 'moment' so hard it might just snap. She vaguely registered the tutting to her left, the narrowed eyes against her back — it all rushed to her in hindsight. But now, her focus was affixed on one, singular thing. One person. The words left her in a rush of hope. "Lena?"

The woman blinked at her. Forget the fact that they never remembered her, she could just be a stranger. Someone who shared no history with her and probably thought she was being exceedingly creepy.

"Kara?" She asked. Her eyes darted down and then back up again.

"Y-you remember?" That was when disaster struck. Kara's grip tightened in anticipation; the takeaway cup exploded.

Seemingly nonplussed, the woman righted herself in her arms. "Your nametag," she explained. Between her fingers sat her plastic holder. Formerly laying against her belly and now held up before her eyes, swiftly crushing her irrational hopes in one single look.

Kara Danvers

CatCo Worldwide Media

Junior Reporter

"I-I'm sorry. About… that," she gestured vaguely in the small space between them, hoping the woman would comprehend. Drops of scalding hot liquid splattered over her loafers. A reminder of sorts. "And about your coffee."

"Oh, it's fine." And it was at that moment when Kara realised — the woman's hand was still planted resolutely on her bicep. Their eyes met once more and for years to come, Kara would swear that that was the trigger. How awkward bumbling Kara Danvers managed to extricate those six words from her throat.

"Can I get you another coffee?" Six life-changing words.

The woman smiled. "As long as it doesn't end up on your shirt this time."

-------------

Her name was Lena, she learned. Lena Kieran and not Luthor. Formerly from Ireland and arriving in America at the tender age of six with her mother. Complete with an odd accent that the other children didn't find too endearing. (But Kara did. It slipped through whenever she got excited, whenever she laughed a little too hard.)

"For some reason, I was convinced it'd be wise to put up my Britney poster on the ceiling right above my bed." Lena paused for a sip, frowned, and set the coffee cup aside. "And that same night, I had the most mortifying dream."

"What was it?" Kara slid further towards the edge of her seat, her arms now jostling for space with the empty plate before her — its subtle sheen the only indication of the cinnamon rolls it once held.

"Well, I…" Lena reddened in that familiar manner, chewing on her bottom lip and Kara wanted nothing more than for her to remember.

"You?" She prompted. Her hand reached across the table in encouragement — a long-dormant muscle memory easily resurfacing. But this time, her fingers grazed something warm and so delicately solid.

Lena curled her own over Kara's, a sense of wonderment visibly overtaking her. She sputtered, almost forgetting to speak. "I had a dream that she floated down and kissed me."

Oh, she wasn't expecting that.

"I tore it down the next morning, screaming and my mom —"

It wasn’t meant to be. Kara's phone screamed from the edge of the table, an untimely interruption bursting the intimate bubble they'd crafted.

Incoming call from Cat Grant…

"Oh shoot." Kara scrambled to pick up.

"Keira, I don't recall sanctioning a three-hour long break. Could you help me check?" Glancing at her watch, she blanched. Three hours? Has it been that long already?

"Right away Miss Grant!" The end-call tone beeped — an omen foretelling her impending flatline. Oh Rao, oh Rao. There she stood, her hands fluttering in mid-air whilst she remained acutely aware of the unrelenting passage of time.

It clicked perhaps fifteen seconds too late. Grabbing the forgotten cup of coffee and her bag, she threw Lena a hasty wave. "I'm sorry! I have to go!"

She burst back into the bullpen to a heavy silence and a quick glance into the central glass-walled office was all the convincing she needed to assimilate. Inside, a bald man raved at an impassive Cat Grant — face growing redder by the second from his exertions.

Wincing as the sleek table shook under his clenched fist, Kara turned to find another surprise.

"Where were you?" Winn hissed.

"I-I spilled someone's coffee and I got them a new one." She whispered back. All eyes fell upon them. The prickling in her spine told her as much and from the uncomfortable look on his face, she wasn't the only one.

They shrunk into the privacy of Kara's flimsy cubicle walls. "For two extra hours?"

"I brought her to Noonan's and I got a little… distracted?"

Winn blinked. Slowly. As if relearning the very act itself. Fingers finding the bridge of his nose, he huddled back in. "You're gonna need a better excuse than that."

James strided past wearing a grim look. His lips moved wordlessly; Kara squinted. Good luck.

And just like that, her reckoning came.

"—My lawyers will hear about this! Unhand me!" Like a crack of lightning in a still clearing, the manic grunts and curses jolted everyone upright in their seats. Past the scruffling of his shoes and the heavy march of security, Kara could hear a noticeable uptick of noisy typing in the background.

"Stat!" Winn added unhelpfully before rushing back over to his desk.

The elevator announced its arrival but that's the least of her concerns now. Kara made the mistake of locking eyes with Cat Grant from across the bullpen and she had an unshakeable feeling that the forceful ejection was just foreshadowing. This was not going to end well.

"Keira, I see you're back." She approached, her voice steady, not betraying even an ounce of emotion despite the confrontation she'd just emerged from. And the one she was about to have.

"Your coffee," Kara smiled, hoping it to be some sort of peace offering.

She watched as she accepted the cup, pulled open the tab and took a small sip. "Perfect as usual." Kara sagged in relief. "Although, I was expecting it over two hours ago. Care to explain yourself?"

Oh no.

"Oh um I… took someone out for coffee." Winn made a strangled noise in his seat. The whole office tensed.

"I-I mean, because I spilled her coffee so naturally I'd have to make it up to her and I…" Kara trailed off, feeling the proverbial corner against her back. She knew a lost cause when she saw one and now she just needed to craft the perfect apology before she was handed a box and told to pack up.

In the ensuing silence, Kara's senses were held hostage. A pen clattered loudly against a table, someone cleared their throat uncomfortably, the elevator dinged. The sun was much too bright and Cat had that imperious brow raised and —

"Kara!" A double-take wasn't enough to convince her that it wasn't a mere hallucination. Kara rubbed furiously at her eyes to no avail.

There Lena stood, exchanging pleasantries with Cat while she gawked like she'd never seen a human before, let alone two.

"I've heard some rumblings about a certain nanotechnology launch from Spheerical Industries." Cat smiled that sly smile of hers while Lena laughed along good-naturedly. Spheerical Industries? What in the world?

"I suppose that's why Kara here was so captivated. She simply had to know more and forgot the time." Captivated she was, but not with whatever technology they were coyly referencing. Was that what Lena thought? That she was just there to wheedle her next big scoop out of her?

"I see you've been hard at work, Keira." And one appreciative nod later, Kara was sent away to conduct the most important interview of her life. She was just going to pointedly ignore the stares against her back as she fled.

In the safe confines of the elevator, Kara finally let herself collapse against the railings, savouring the comforting warmth against her —

Her gaze swung downwards to where their hands lay interlinked. Lena's quickly followed; neither moved to disentangle their quiet union.

"I'm sorry if I overstepped," Lena finally spoke. "You just looked like you could use some help."

"Lena, you saved my job! I'm sorry you needed to do that."

"It's fine, Kara. Nothing like a CatCo exclusive to reach the masses."

A stretch of silence befell them. Twenty-one, twenty, nineteen, eighteen —

"You know that wasn't my intention, right?" Kara resisted every urge to look away. They said eyes were the windows to the soul and well, Kara was banking on it to telegraph every ounce of sincerity she could.

"To?" Lena faltered in the brief interlude.

"To get a story out of you. I-I didn't even know I could."

Kara didn't miss the subtle sigh of relief; couldn't miss it if she tried.

"I know, Kara. I never doubted it." Lena expressed the sentiment in the most tactile of ways. Her fingers shifted, relieving the interlocking pressure and in its place, gentle presses and a warm suggestion. A thumb glided over the valleys of her knuckles and Kara felt an intimacy she hadn't experienced in so long. Enough to entertain the notion that Lena Kieran and Lena Luthor were one and the same. It was paradoxically comforting and alarming; Kara shelved it to the back of her mind for a later date.

Ding. The doors slid open and Kara trotted along Lena's side, content to follow her lead.

"So, um this is kinda awkward but what kind of hotshot are you exactly?"

"I'm just in R&D." Somehow, Kara had an odd suspicion that that was a massive understatement. "Did you have somewhere in mind?"

She shrugged, mind otherwise preoccupied with the enigma that was Lena Kieran. In more ways than one. There was still so much she was unsure about but one thing's for certain — Kara wanted to be around her.

"Well, I know a place."

They stepped out into the weak sunlight and Lena's hand slipped out of her grasp. Most regrettably.

And one text message later, a town car pulled up to the sidewalk. Was that a personal driver? In an expensive suit too!

This must be some kind of mistake. A coincidence. There's no way…

The window winded down.

"Miss Kieran," the driver nodded his greeting.

"Hello George, I hope I didn't keep you waiting for too long."

Lena glanced at her expectantly and when she made no move to follow, she pulled her along by her forearm. Kara was helpless but to stumble along.

"Just in R&D?" She questioned.

"Mhmm," Lena nodded, the beginnings of a mischievous smirk formed at the corner of her lips. And her eyes… Though ensconced in shadows, Kara could see. Sparkling with wild abandon — a spotlight, a star, a lighthouse perhaps? It didn't matter. What did was that she was unwittingly drawn to it. The ghost of her love and the ghost of her past — coagulating in the backseat into flesh and blood. Kara recognised it for what it was. Projection at best and delusional at worst.

She pulled her gaze away, electing to watch as the streets outside whizzed by.

-------------

It began with the interview over appetisers and a filet mignon each, Lena swirling her wine to the flicker of the candlelight while Kara quickly adapted to the demands of putting together a scientific article.

"Its application to medicine alone would be revolutionary! Emergency first aid, gene therapy, automated surgical procedures — the possibilities are endless!" Lena raved from her end of the table.

Kara could tell Lena was not accustomed to giving interviews. (As a reclusive Head of R&D would be, she supposed.) It showed in the lack of restraint, the absence of practiced finesse in the delivery but that was her charm. She loved her work and that passion was infectious. And even Kara, whose Kryptonian roots ensured that she'd never be impressed with anything modern humans could invent, was not spared.

She'd seen it all — how nanotechnology served as the perfect vector for lab-designed pathogens, how colossal weaponry with the most devastating effects could be assembled with them. All with a push of a button. But listening to Lena inspired hope. Hope that humanity wouldn't fall into the same trappings the other advanced civilisations did.

"But what of its more… destructive uses? What plans do you have for that?" Kara couldn’t help but grill her.

An eager grin emerged. "Off the record?" They leaned in over the table like school children sharing a secret. "There's a central AI monitoring the use of the chips."

Kara muttered under her breath, "Oh, clever."

It caught Lena off guard. She swayed, their noses bumped and both of them jerked back into their seats. Where they should be — a respectable distance away. Lena hid behind her wine glass, appropriately camouflaged, until dessert was served.

Then, rebirth. The conversation began anew with Kara clicking the recorder off as Lena going off on a tangent about her fancy rats.

"I know you're not supposed to play favourites but I just can't help it!"

His name was Stefan — the youngest among the three and also the most intelligent. Kara listened attentively as Lena listed out all the tricks he could do. And when she moved on to the stunts she'd pull with her best friend, Jack of Spheerical Industries fame, Kara's spoon scraped the bottom of her bowl.

Just like that, everything screeched to a halt.

"Oh." No more creme brulee. And it was a good one too. Her stomach concurred out loud. "Sorry."

"Don't be," Lena chuckled and that was the end of it. At least, that's what Kara expected. But really, she should’ve known better — Lena was extraordinary in every possible iteration.

She motioned to the waiter, drawing a large circle in the air and nodding at his incredulous look — what Kara later learnt was code for 'give me a whole cake'. A whole very delicious cake she chipped away at slowly in favour of sliding in bits and pieces of conversation between every bite. Her self-control was waning by the halfway mark and crumbled at two-thirds. Still, they stayed; neither willing to put an end to the night even in the wake of their empty glasses and empty plates.

Candle wax pooled in its glass holder. It was only when Kara glimpsed the glistening surface that she thought to survey their surroundings.

They were the only ones left.

Despite Lena slapping her hand away when she reached for the bill, Kara still slipped their waiter a huge apology tip. And in return, she received what he'd definitely meant as a compliment.

"You two look really cute together."

Kara's ears had yet to stop burning even when exposed to the cool night breeze. Well, they weren't… together. She sputtered internally and it manifested in her gait. Stumbling and nearly taking Lena down with her, she endured the light teasing whilst they awaited their ride.

Now, they were at Kara's doorstep.

"Hey, so I really enjoyed today." Kara leaned against her doorway.

"Me too," she smiled softly.

"Just one question?" She asked.

Lena seemed to lean in closer at that.

"Why'd you come back after me?"

It clearly wasn't what she'd expected. Lena blinked owlishly at her and Kara could only blink back.

"I didn't get your number."

Oh Rao, how could she have forgotten? Everything had felt so intimately familiar the entire night as if they'd known each other for years. But the fact was, they didn't. Not exactly and well, she could use her number.

A slip of paper found its way into her breast pocket, sitting snugly against the cotton blend. Oh, Lena planned this. And with its weight came a promise. One of something more worded in uncertainty, hopeful vulnerability. "Well, now you have mine. If you want to, of course."

"Yeah, definitely." She muttered, as if in a trance. And with one parting squeeze to her forearm, Lena turned and disappeared into the rickety elevator.

--------------

"Hey, so um remember Lena?" Kara settled against the backrest of her couch, her phone against her ear.

"Yeah, your almost girlfriend. Did you see her around?" Alex grunted back. In the midst of her daily workout, no doubt. She focused through the subtle layer of static. Pushups with Kelly in the background. A page flip. Correction: Kelly in the background reading. And the doorbell. Pizza delivery! Kara inhaled deeply.

"You're doing that creepy listening thing again." Came Alex's deadpan accusation.

"What? No!" Her nervous laughter was anything but convincing. "Anyway, I bumped into her on the street and now I have her number."

The huffing stopped. "I'm sorry, what?"

"I interviewed her over dinner and she slipped me her number."

"Interviewed? Who is she exactly?" She could hear the couch groan as Alex flopped onto it despite Kelly's protests.

"Lena Kieran. Spheerical Industries?"

"Oh," Alex breathed. "Oh wow, how'd you convince her?"

"Um, she volunteered? To save me from Cat." She scratched uncomfortably at her nape. The gears in Alex's head were undoubtedly turning at this point. Was it a bad idea? She couldn’t shake the feeling that it's a bad idea.

"She's whipped for you already huh." Kelly cooed in agreement beside her. "So, you two are dating now?"

"We…" Kara trailed off — that's when it finally hit her. "Oh Rao, I don't know! I never asked!"

"I'm pretty sure she's —"

"Should I even ask her out?"

"I mean, do you like her?" Alex asked.

The answer was clear-cut, simple like looking out her window. But in this case, perhaps it's closer to looking out of said window in the midst of a torrential downpour. Her reservations, her fears all converged, fogging up the glass.

"Yeah, but somehow it feels wrong."

On Alex's urging, Kara continued. "Like I'm conflating the two of them. But she's different, right? She's lived a different life."

"Yeah, that makes sense." From the other end, Kara could almost hear her sister's brain twisting into knots. She could empathise — hers was as well.

"So, what if this is just the remnants of what I feel for Past Lena?" Silence.

There was a rustle, an indication that the phone had changed hands. Kelly's voice came on the line. "I think you should give it time. Get to know her again and see how you feel then."

"Yeah okay," Kara nodded vigorously at her audience of none. It was far from a satisfactory answer, but it was still one nonetheless. She had time. It's fine.

Soon, the conversation drifted, eventually settling on the couple's upcoming move.

"Did you guys settle on a place yet?"

"Yeah, actually." Alex chirped uncharacteristically; Kara quickly found out why. "Good neighbourhood, plenty of sun and going for nearly half the market rate. Almost too good to be true!"

"You sure the ceiling won't cave in or something?" Low prices usually meant one of two things…

"Yeah, everything's great. Can you believe it?"

… that or ghosts. Not that it'd be a concern for Alex, she sighed. All things considered, her sister had been great. As understanding as she could be of her unique… predicament. They'd come a long way since that summer.

"Hey, you still there?" Her sister's voice rang out from the speaker.

"Yeah," Kara shook her head. "Yeah, I am."

And when she finally set her phone down, it buzzed petulantly to be picked up again.

Lena Kieran [18:09] : waiting for lab reports

Lena Kieran [18:09] : (that's scientist speak for 'I'm very bored')

Against her better judgement, Kara accepted. In spite of her inner turmoil, in spite of the non-negligible odds that this would blow up in their faces and she won't be the only one who's burnt.

Kara Danvers [18:09] : well, i am hankering for some potstickers

Lena Kieran [18:09] : Great, I'll pick you up at 7?

The next hour was spent in a flurry of preparation and when she recognised the sound of Lena's town car on her street, Kara rushed downstairs to meet her.

"I was under the impression that you're a busy woman." Kara jested as she slid into the back seat.

"Oh, today was a slow day." And as if on cue, her phone chimed. Screen flickering to life, her unread messages told another story.

Jack [18:35] : I have our stack of reports and a coffee with your name on it

Jack [18:37] : Where are you?

Jack [18:48] : I swear if you're hiding in the lab closet again, it's not funny

Jack [18:55] : Lena???

Jack [19:00] : Oh I found your note

Jack [19:01] : You ditched me

Jack [19:01] : For Kara With The Nice Arms

Lena flipped her phone face-down, flashed Kara the most innocent smile known to man and that was all she needed to wipe everything she'd just read clean from her mind.

Past Lena would never. That single motion exuded such lightness — all removing the single variable of the Luthors. Lena deserved that much.

Kara spent the car ride cataloguing every difference in her mind, however minute. The way she played with her hair — that's new. And how her expression naturally settled into a content smile, even at something as mundane as the view of the sidewalk flashing by. Then, there was the way she leaned in closer, inched across the leather until Kara matched it in kind. Their arms grazed. Close enough that a slight bump in the road delivered a solid weight against her shoulder and stray hairs against her neck.

Lena liked her — that much was obvious. (She wasn't dense… or that dense.) And Kara liked her too. Why couldn't it be that simple?

That question plagued her mind as they slid into a corner booth, as Kara babbled out their order in well-practised Chinese and even as the waitress returned with the wobbling 'KD Special'.

Chopsticks tapping mindlessly against her plate, Kara watched as their potsticker tower dwindled, finding their forever homes in Lena's belly.

"You're distracted," Lena stated, setting her chopsticks down.

"I'm sorry," Kara picked up the slack in her stead. Three potstickers were shoved right into her waiting trap.

Reaching across the table to where her idle hand lay, Lena frowned. "Is something wrong?"

"No," Kara said reflexively. Liar, her mind supplied. And from the way that immaculate eyebrow was raised, Lena wasn't all that convinced either. Kara slumped into her seat. "Okay, a little." Came her first admission, paving the way for a second — a succinct yes.

"I think I need to come clean."

"About?" Lena asked.

"You remind me of someone… you look exactly like her too." Kara hazarded a glance and found that Lena's smile had yet to wane.

"I do?" There was the head tilt, the subtle lean; Kara had an inkling that Lena had misconstrued her words.

"Yes, and I'm not entirely sure how I feel about that." She felt Lena's grip slacken. Lunging out of her seat, Kara captured her retreating hand with her own. The table shook, tableware clattering against its surface and Kara could feel the glares sent their way burning into her side. "Wait, no! Don't get me wrong, I really like spending time with you. It's just… I don't want to hurt you."

"Oh?" A sliver of hope slipped through.

"So I just want to be sure."

Lena laughed. Of all possible reactions, Lena laughed. Cutting through the soft chatter in the background and drawing another round of stares.

"That's the point of dating, isn't it?" She finally managed.

Kara couldn't help herself; fervently wished she possessed the ability to do so but here she was in the aftermath. "We are?"

Lena froze for the second time that evening. "Are we not?"

"I wasn't sure if we were," she admitted, hand gravitating to that familiar spot on her nape.

"But you want to?"

"Yeah, definitely."

"Okay, good." Lena nodded, the tension visibly flowing off her shoulders.

"Good," Kara repeated. And for a brief moment, there was silence — the calm before the storm in hindsight. Because then came the laughter, crashing over them in an inescapable wave. The whole premise was just so ridiculous. Something in the realm of cheesy rom-coms and not real life. But here they were, basking in the warmth of a series of improbabilities, each eager to outdo its predecessors like a movie franchise way past its prime.

"I swear, Kara. One day you're going to give me a heart attack."

One day. A bold assumption to make of a newly-formed connection. Relationships were transient, she'd learnt. Most times, people came and went and that's fine. But sometimes, they stayed. An odd mix of the right time and the right place and that's what made it all the more special.

"When that day comes, I hope it's because of my nice arms." She smirked.

"Please just let it go." The hand snaking its way up to her bicep told another story, especially that appreciative squeeze. Kara didn't call her out on it; she understood well enough. Don't let go.

Later at her doorstep, those three words flitted back into her conscious mind.

"Do you want to come in?"

"I'd love to but Jack left me my share of work," Lena's phone went off again. "And he drank my coffee! I can't believe him!"

"Just one moment!" Kara didn't even pause to think. Simply rushing into her kitchen, tossing coffee mix into a thermos and heat-visioning water to a boil.

"Coffee for you," she grinned when she returned. Lena blinked, accepting her offering without question. Why would she — oh no. Combing through her expressions only yielded more confusion. Was this… normal? Or even in the realm of the average human's capabilities? Kara fiddled with her glasses. A textbook Freudian slip if they ever felt inclined to expand its definition to the non-verbal.

Unless Lena believed she'd been plotting this the whole night. Lure her up to her apartment to send her away with her fix of instant coffee.

She smiled and Kara braced herself for the impending questions. Oh Rao, Alex was going to kill —

"Thank you," Lena gave her forearm a light squeeze. "I'll see you?"

"Y-yeah, you better!" Kara called out, waving stiffly after her retreating form until the elevator doors slid shut. (And maybe, just maybe, she might've trailed her with her x-ray vision all the way down.)

---------------

They saw little of each other in the next three weeks but it was to be expected. Launching a game-changing piece of technology tended to be busy work. Plus, Kara had an extra article to write and much more stringent standards to meet.

(Cat raised an eyebrow at her first draft. Sliding it purposefully back across the tabletop, she made painful eye contact with Kara before laying it on her, "Less gushing about Lena and more gushing about the product. Unless this is a veiled attempt at announcing your engagement — to which I'd suggest you don't.)

But in the brief moments their schedules aligned, Lena couldn't help but gush in excitement about all the progress they were making. Down to the smallest of details — even the little vegan canapés for the afterparty got a special mention. Kara cherished every moment of it, even if she had to take an extra-large bite into her burrito to erase the thought of kale chips from her mind.

And in the run-up to their planned spectacle, Kara found herself summoned to Lena's office on the fifteenth floor. 1PM sharp; she wasn't late. Still, there was no Lena in sight.

Drumming her fingers against her thighs, she surveyed the organised mess around her. Towers of files neatly stacked up to hip-level, a veritable collection of to-go coffee cups huddled in one corner of Lena's table. And most perplexingly, there was another door to the side. Was that squeaking she heard behind it?

"Hey, sorry to keep you waiting." Lena burst through the door before she could confirm her suspicions, making a beeline for Kara instead of her seat. All confusion dissipated when she threw herself into Kara's arms and at that moment, her mind blanked. It felt… good. Right even. She'd spent an entire summer wondering how it'd feel and now she had an answer. Or some semblance of one. She pushed the thought to the back of her mind.

Eventually, and most regrettably, they parted. With a soft exhale against her cheek and Lena's hands lingering against her back, Kara almost drew her back in. Almost. Her last modicum of self-control was spent shoving her hands into her pockets where they couldn't reach for her.

Lena leaned over her desk, rifling through her drawer until she triumphantly produced a lanyard with an accompanying plastic tag.

She beckoned her forward. Then on her tiptoes, she slipped it over her neck.

"Your press pass," she explained. "I wanted to give it to you in person."

"Oh, thank you." She muttered lamely and before she knew it, Lena had her head in yet another drawer.

She re-emerged, holding out an identical pass. Another one? Lena slipped it over her neck and her confusion intensified.

"This one's mine." She beamed.

And that's how the two of them ended up with a front-row seat to the big reveal.

"Shouldn't you be up there with him?" Kara leaned in to whisper, nearly falling out of her seat when a rush of nanites wooshed over their heads.

She shrugged. "He does the business and I do the science — it's how we've always done it." Jack shot them a discrete wink from the stage and Lena rolled her eyes before continuing. "Besides, he thrives in the spotlight."

They watched as he did another twirl and the wave of nanites, eliciting another chorus of oohs and ahs from his audience. Admittedly, it was indeed captivating; he would've had her full attention were it not for the distraction seated to her left.

"And you don't?" The Lena she knew wouldn't but that was all in the past. If she wanted a clear answer to her conundrum, she was going to need to draw lines.

"No, not really." A haunted expression breached the surface however briefly — the first she'd seen on Lena Kieran. "Having your face, your whole life splashed all over the papers is frankly terrifying. A terrifying prospect, that is."

Kara reached across her seat, sliding their palms together and interlacing their fingers. "Yeah, I get it. Being seen, being known is alluring but having your every move scrutinised…" She trailed off. Right, Lena doesn't know she's Supergirl. Add that to her list of troubles.

The lights came back on.

"Thank you! Thank you all for coming!" Jack gave an exaggerated bow and as if on cue, thunderous applause erupted from all around.

Kara turned her attention to Lena. "Sounds like a roaring success to me."

She blushed and Kara couldn't help but see double.

-------------

Meeting Jack Spheer up close and personal was… well…

"Ah, Kara Nice-arms! Great to make your acquaintance!" One hand clasped around hers in a firm handshake while the other quickly pulled her in for a hug. All Kara could do was stare back wide-eyed and loosen her stance before he broke something. Beside her, Lena scowled.

"You can't just hold that over my head forever!" She protested, visibly exasperated and underneath, quite defeated.

"Oh we all can, darling." He laughed, reaching over her head for a high-five and Kara indulged him. If only to watch the comical lines in her forehead deepen.

The next thing she knew, Lena was grasping onto her arm and attempting to haul her away. "Okay, we're leaving."

"No, what about the champagne we spent five hours choosing?" He pleaded.

"And those kale chips you were so excited about?" Kara finally piped up.

Muttering something about betrayal, Lena caved and let them lead her by the hand into the after-party.

The night could be charted with the flow of champagne.

First flute — inconsequential. Lena lapsed into a series of eye rolls whilst Jack regaled them with embarrassing tales from their shared past. (And an occasional huff directed at Kara too for having the gall to laugh.)

Then came the second like a revitalising elixir — Lena countered with her own stories, leaning further into Kara and mustering her implicit support. It was all the convincing she needed to jump ship. And when the third arrived, Lena — in limbo between inebriation and sobriety — redirected the conversation in glowing praise of Kara. Much to her mortification. ("She survived as Cat Grant's assistant for three years! Imagine that!") Although, having Lena's arms wrapped around her frame in the process definitely didn't hurt.

Halfway through the fourth, past reddened cheeks and a sudden fit of giggles, she declared, "Wait, you haven't had the potstickers yet!"

"What? Where?" Kara craned her neck on high alert.

"I'll be right back!" Shoving her glass into Jack's bewildered hands, she disappeared into the crowd in a flutter of her navy blue suit jacket.

"I… should go after her."

"Just a moment." He grabbed onto her arm, stumbling after her in the brief moment it took to register their positions. Kara motioned for him to continue. "I prepared an entire speech for this, actually. You see, I'm a little inexperienced in this regard."

"Yeah?" Hesitance and Jack Spheer? That wasn't a combination she expected to witness today. Regardless, Kara gave him the most reassuring smile she could.

"When it comes to relationships, Lena's always looking for 'the one'. Something about not feeling right." Jack paused, scratching at his chin while he collected his thoughts.

Well, she certainly wasn't expecting her first shovel talk either.

"But with you, she looks content. I suppose what I meant to say — which I sure hope isn't news to you — is to cherish her."

"Yeah. Yeah, of course I will. More than anything else." Little did Jack know of its true extent. How they'd been so unceremoniously separated, then so abruptly reunited. And now, Kara didn't fully grasp how to reconcile the two; taking things day by day was the best she could do.

"Good, good. Off you go. She looks like she could use a little help." He chuckled.

Kara definitely didn't win any points with the other guests considering how she pushed and shoved past them. But for the first time in her life, she couldn’t bring herself to care. Not with how Lena brightened immediately when she entered her sights.

"Kara! Here you go!" Just like that, Kara found herself in possession of a hefty tray of potstickers. "It was meant to be a little surprise for you at the buffet tables but then I thought: why not just save them all for you?"

"All for me?" She repeated. Eyes bulging out of their sockets, her gaze roved through the artfully stacked dumplings. Eighty-two. There were eighty-two of them. All for her consumption. In retrospect, an enthusiastic 'thank you' would have sufficed and yet what left her lips unsanctioned was so radically different…

"Lena, I could just kiss you right now!" Yep, that was her voice alright.

Cue the metaphorical record scratch.

"You could?" She inched forward with single-minded focus.

"Well, yeah. I could." Though it was beginning to sound more like a question the longer it hung between them. This was not a conversation she anticipated having over a mountain of potstickers.

"Now?" Lena's eyes widened further. It was an absolute wonder. How a woman whose hands could so skillfully sustain life could be capable of a look so deadly.

"Maybe later. You're a little drunk." Kara explained as gently as she could but to no avail. No, she had to find out first-hand that Lena was a pouty drunk. And to her abject horror, a very effective one.

"Potsticker?" Offer accepted whole. Lena's cheeks puffed out to accommodate it and now everything was so much… better? Worse? Both?

That expression persisted even as Kara devoured her share. (She had no business seeming so endeared with her. Not with how she'd crammed five of them into her waiting mouth.) And when they stumbled their way back to Jack, Lena charmed her way to the contents of his glass too.

"Alright, we should probably go." Prying the champagne flute out of her hands should've been child's play. But Lena had to swivel around and shoot her that pitiful look; her grip weakened, her resolve shrivelled and Jack had to swoop in to cut her off.

"Come on," she tried again. Gaze firmly planted on the tip of her nose far away from those treacherous depths, Kara refused to be caught off-guard this time. "Let's get you home."

Lena froze. "Are you coming?" The quiver in her lips had bled into her voice as if her agreement was entirely contingent on the promise of Kara's presence.

"Yeah, I am." She said, with a squeeze to her hands for an extra touch of reassurance.

It was the epitome of an anticlimax. Lena exhaled, her stance loosened and her head glided over to her shoulder.

"Oh, okay." Looping an arm into hers, she regarded her with an expectant look. "Let's go home."

Later, they arrived in Lena's darkened apartment. It was smaller than she'd expected for someone of her status — two bedrooms with a small study tucked away in the corner. The files from her office had taken over space here too. The coffee table, the countertop — nothing was spared from the carnage. But to her surprise, it lacked the sterility one would expect from such a space.

Warmth — that's the feeling she'd ascribe to it. In between the mess sat little hints of Lena's life beyond her work. From the throw blanket haphazardly strewn over the couch to the numerous photos hung up on her walls, it was as cozy as it was messy. (For now, Kara was just going to pretend she hadn't seen the framed Supergirl poster right in the centre of it all.)

She laid her down gently on her bed. At least she splurged on that. It was humongous — enough for a whole family if they were so inclined and very, very bouncy.

"I'm gonna go, okay? I'll text you tomorrow." Kara reached for the covers.

"No!" That was all it took to rouse Lena from her drunken stupor. In one swift motion that put her own super speed to shame, she lunged after her. Tangling their arms together and anchoring her chin onto her shoulder, Kara was helpless but to return the gesture.

There they sat, sinking deeper and deeper into each other. And as time passed, Kara's awareness dwindled, settling much too willingly into a contented haze. How did they get here? Was that her arm? Where did she end and where did Lena begin? The thoughts flashed by and dissipated like smoke. Then, they were falling, coming to a sudden halt in time with Lena's groan.

"I don't like it when you leave." She admitted, the rumbling of her voice leaving a ripple against her neck. "And I hate it when I have to leave you."

"But I always come back, don't I? And likewise for you."

She felt the hum as much as she heard it. Deep in thought and otherwise silent, Lena exhaled deeply.

Neither moved to extricate themselves. Not until Lena shifted, pulling an arm's length away so their eyes could meet.

"Stay? At least for tonight?" Breathtaking. Kara remembered now, couldn’t help but slide deep into it. It's astonishing how even a lifetime apart, they both could share the same look.

Almost as if deep down, right in their core, they were the exact same person. That past her new quirks and other superficialities, it was just Lena. It always was.

"Okay," she finally breathed and that was Lena's cue to nuzzle in deep, to tickle at the expanse of exposed flesh with every exhale.

A spurt of giggles erupted then. "Yay," she muttered, the words hot on its tail.

And maybe, even after all this time, Kara still loved her essentials.

------------

Noon was heralded most unceremoniously by a palm to the face.

"— get up. Kara, I need to get up!" Self-preservation kicked in while her mental faculties stirred; Kara flopped over with a bounce. And if she forgot a limb or two strewn over Lena's front, well… Kara wasn't awake enough to draw a sensible conclusion to that. Warm sun, warm bed, warm Lena — everything she could ever ask for. Her inner morning person never stood a chance.

But somehow, Lena was up and ready to go, looking like she'd just emerged from some flawless hair commercial. Kara had to run her mind past that again just so it didn't sound like pure gibberish. Was Lena even real? Were hangovers just a myth? Alex definitely doesn't look half as good when she stumbled out of bed with her head in her hands.

"Kara, I really appreciate the staring but I…" She blinked. Once, blankly and come the second, her eyes widened in alarm. "I… I said something weird last night, didn't I?"

"You did?" Kara withdrew from Lena completely, leaving a profound sense of loss in its wake. The newfound space between them felt so wrong. It made her yearn for the comforts of her touch, for the languid ease of just clicking back in place. For time to be lost in a distant spiral, swirling faintly in the background whilst they were conjoined.

"I'm sorry if I sounded —" she grimaced. "— clingy."

"What? No! I like having you around too." Kara shuffled over, leaning in close and dropping her voice to whisper into Lena's ear. "And just a little secret between the two of us?"

Stiffening, Lena could only manage a soft yeah?

"I hate it when you leave too." The sharp intake of breath was telling — Kara was doing a mighty good job at being convincing. Nosing at her ear for good measure, she showed her hand, "So back to bed?"

Lena sighed, sounding just as unwilling as Kara was. "I really do need to get out of bed."

"Oh," she said, though it sounded more like a deflating balloon. Her shoulders slumped in time with it and like a wilting plant, the corners of her lips curved downwards.

"Although…" Revived just like that. Kara perked up, hanging off the potential her next words could have. "You could always come with me."

Proposal received, processed and accepted all in one go. Without question either. And by the time they were out on the streets — freshly showered and with Kara stretching out Lena's clothes — it was a little too late to ask.

Unknowns were cool. She could totally do surprises. Maybe Lena booked them a table at an all-you-can-eat in advance? Her arm wiggled at the prospect and Lena shot her a questioning look.

They passed a familiar coffee cart. Kara was just about to point it out when Lena pulled her in another direction. One with automated sliding doors, air-conditioning and a large 'Spheerical Industries' plaque. Wait a minute…

"Are you going to work?" Her voice echoed uncomfortably in the confines of the elevator.

"Well, being a fur-parent is a full-time job."

The elevator dinged and Kara followed, slack-jawed. Past various cubicles and into her office, then further in until they reached that mysterious door. That squeaking again…

Turns out, she wasn't imagining things — the fuzzy warmth in her hands felt plenty real to her. It squeaked, launched off and scrabbled at her front for purchase all in the span of one split second.

Lena glanced up from the grey rodent lazing in her lap. "Oh, that's Dolly. Isn't she adorable?"

Another wandered over — a fuzzy package of mottled fur and a stringy tail. It sniffed at her feet.

"And that one's Stefan!"

Kara eyed the rat, her gaze catching on a particular chipped ear. Before, she hadn't quite considered the possibility of ghost animals. But now?

"What's wrong?" Lena arrived by her side with the sleepy furball in tow. "You're glaring at him like he's some kind of serial cheater."

"What?"

"Or a prolific swindler." Lena quickly added.

It must've been a coincidence. No one likes cheaters. Perfectly reasonable. Instead, she reached out to confirm another hypothesis.

Stefan ducked just out of reach. Huh, ghost animals indeed.

--------------

The launch was a success, CatCo's exclusive was a success — it was to be expected with one bolstering the other and sending the public into a frenzy. Stocks soared, CatCo was offered another exclusive for lab-grown seafood and Cat Grant was, for once, in a fantastic mood.

Perhaps that's what saved her hide that fateful day. Between Twitter's playful insinuation that Kara was very much in love with Lena Kieran (which she thought she hid well enough under technical mumbo jumbo) and the host of delivery men carting flowers into the bullpen, she'd expected much more of a reaction than a tight smile.

Something along the lines of Kara, I will not tolerate you moonlighting in my office space! or Kara, do you intend to kill us all with that pollen?

Not that Kara was complaining. She accepted the last bouquet with a sheepish thank you.

Flipping open the dangling card, she couldn’t keep the grin off her face if she tried.

No words. Just an explosion of hand-drawn hearts. She flitted between the rest — a thank you, more hearts, a little rat holding up a 'thank you' sign with a giant heart. Oh, what's in that one?

A loud sneeze stopped her in her tracks.

"What's all this?" Another sneeze. Winn clutched at his nose protectively. It wasn’t very effective. Kara could pick out the early signs of sniffling already.

"I-I um…" Kara faltered, finding no reasonable explanation for the sudden redecoration. She'd been stuck in her own head all this time, after all. Where the world around her wasn't even the slightest of an afterthought. The gesture was cute; it made perfect sense in that over-the-top rom-com fashion their circumstances seemed to favour and Kara definitely wasn't complaining. But the anguished look on his face said otherwise.

"Tell Lena —" Another sneeze. Kara winced. "— that maybe she should think twice before she inconveniences everyone else with her grand declarations of love." She knew he was serious. Dead serious. But his voice was just so squeaky from the exertion and his nose was so red. Like Rudolph, her brain supplied unhelpfully.

"Oh, right." She nodded along blankly. Just swallow down the laughter, pretend it was never there. Offering him a tissue seemed to smooth things over well enough. He huffed, sunk back down into his seat and resigned himself to his fate.

Then, her phone buzzed.

1 message from Lena Kieran

A simple invitation. Come over?

Winn's gripes all but forgotten, her fingers had never moved faster. In a frenzy for those three letters and a few exclamation marks too for good measure. Because what's restraint when the other just filled her office with flowers?

Kara Danvers [16:21] : Yes!!!

"Nice flowers." Kara swivelled around. Oh Rao. There Cat Grant stood, observing the cluster of plumerias on her desk. "I take it these will be gone by the end of the day?"

Gulping, she nodded wordlessly in response.

--------------

"So, my office was filled with flowers." Were her first words upon crossing the threshold into Lena's apartment. The clutter from her previous visit had mostly vanished — she could actually see the tabletops this time. Her gaze was drawn to that spot on Lena's wall. Just to check. Huh, the Supergirl poster was gone.

Lena turned abruptly and there was no time to follow that train of thought. Only Lena in an oversized MIT sweatshirt, the edges of her sleep shorts peeking out from underneath — nothing else could hope to grab her attention. It was all just so soft, inviting even.

One step forward. Lena's fingers emerged from under the grey fabric and Kara tracked their every motion. Hooking into her belt loops and pulling, Kara stumbled along to the silent tune of her Pied Piper.

"Oh, was it?" Lena laughed, her voice silky and coy. A long beat passed mired in confusion. Kara stared blankly, only to let out a soft oh when she remembered. Right, about the flowers.

Lena whisked her around until both their visages bore the brunt of the distant skyline. City lights glittering like an oasis, stars too against all odds, casting enchanting shadows across her features. It served as a reminder of civilisation. Or rather, how far removed they were from it ensconced in Lena's apartment. They were well and truly alone and the realisation only made the moment so much more intimate.

"Yeah, I liked it. Thank you. Though um, Winn didn't appreciate it as much. He had a sneezing fit." She said, never taking her eyes off her.

"Oh, I didn't consider that." Lena looked away, a ruddy red already forming on her cheeks. If she were to reach out, would it be warm to the touch? It was, indeed. Kara had to brush her thumb over the smooth expanse of skin just to be sure. Lena swallowed. "I suppose you make me a little… crazy. Impulsive. I am sorry about your friend though."

"He'll be fine." Kara said quickly. They had more important things on their agenda now.

"Yes." Lena chewed hesitantly on her bottom lip as if considering her next move. "Actually, I called you here for a reason."

"Oh?"

Her hands shifted from their perch and glided up her biceps. "Yeah, I just really wanted to… do this."

Lena drew closer on her tiptoes as Kara watched wide-eyed even when all she could see were her cheekbone and tufts of baby hairs. Her other senses took over from there — she heard Lena's soft breathing, felt each exhale glance across her cheek.

Then, the sensation was replaced by plush lips against her skin and oh, Kara could just melt from that alone.

Dazedly, she muttered. "I think I need another."

"You do?" Lena chuckled, sounding rather pleased with herself.

"Yeah," Kara pointed at her other cheek. "It feels neglected."

Her wish was granted with immediate effect and perhaps that emboldened her to just push a little further.

"And maybe my nose too."

Lena rolled her eyes but still, she indulged her, ducking forward and planting a quick kiss on the tip.

"And you too!" Lena barely had time to squeal when Kara tackled her onto the couch to return the favour tenfold.

When the giggling finally subsided after an indeterminate amount of time had passed, Lena fit herself into the crook of her neck. She seemed to have developed a penchant for that.

"I don't want to get up."

"Me neither." That was all the encouragement Lena needed. Pulling the throw blanket over them and making herself comfortable in her arms, Kara soon heard her breathing even out. And following closely behind, she found herself drifting, lulled into a fitful slumber by the rhythmic huffs and puffs.

-------------

She'd heard a lot about settling in all her years on Earth. From her peers, books, TV — all preaching wildly different views. Kara listened until her head spun and eventually, she tuned it out entirely.

But now, seated on the kerb with her boot tapping out a steady rhythm against the asphalt, she'd come to her own conclusion.

Unbeknownst to her (at least up till this point), that night on the couch was a turning point. A step forward together.

In the two weeks that followed, they lapsed into a new sort of domesticity. Lena's clothes snuck their way into a corner of her wardrobe and Kara was sure she was missing a hoodie or two. Whatever, all was forgiven. They stayed over at each other's so regularly now that there was simply no point in drawing lines.

It was the newfound comfort — the realisation dawned upon her one lazy afternoon. When Lena had her nose buried in a riveting novel and Kara was scratching her head over her next piece.

They'd settled in with each other nicely and Kara rather enjoyed the serenity. Not to mention the bursts of excitement too — learning the little things about Lena that made her all the more endearing. Like when Kara put Up on and Lena was already a sniffling mess midway through the opening scene. Or how her hands would wander over to smooth out the crinkles between Kara's brows whenever she was too deep in thought. Oh, speak of the devil.

"Lena!" Rising to her feet, she called out to her. "Hey, what're you doing here?"

Lena blinked in surprise. Huh, was something wrong? Something on her face maybe or —

"Supergirl?"

Oh right. That. Kara took a discrete step back, desperately backpedalling at the same time. "Oh, I-I just wanted to tell you that I'm a big fan of your work. I mean nanites? Revolutionary!"

"Oh, thank you." Her gaze wavered before turning away. A crowd had begun to gather and from within, she could easily pick out the hushed whispers.

"What's going on?"

"Who is she?"

"Wow Supergirl's face is looking a little red huh." No, it wasn't!

"Um, I believe your perp is getting away." Lena pointed vaguely behind her.

"Oh," she turned. Zipping over and hauling him back by the arm, Kara regarded Lena once more. "Well, um enjoy the rest of your day!"

She waved with her free arm and Lena waved back and oh Rao that was awkward. And inconvenient for the DEO, as she soon learnt.

"Kara, why am I hearing about Supergirl's crush on a certain Lena Kieran?" Alex's voice was terse but she could still pick out the slight tremors present. The source: well-suppressed laughter. Underneath it all, Alex thought it was hilarious. Of course she did.

Lena… not so much. The second the couch dipped under Kara's weight, she was already scrambling into her lap like a frightened animal. And the news currently broadcasting footage of their encounter was just the icing on the cake.

'Supergirl has a Super-girl crush' it read. Kara couldn't help but scoff as her eyes parsed through that drivel.

"I'm so sorry." She whispered into Lena's crown and when her words faded, she pressed a delicate kiss to make up for its absence.

A beat. Two. Then, Lena pulled away just enough to meet her gaze. "Whatever for?"

It caught her off guard. Though, she should’ve expected it. Lena didn't know.

"I'm sorry you had to go through all that."

Lena hummed, nuzzling into her favourite spot on her neck. "I'm sure Supergirl didn't mean to."

"Yeah, definitely not." Kara concurred. It'd blow over soon enough. Maybe if she performed a little jig over the city's busiest intersection, it'd come even quicker. She owed Lena that much. And the truth, her mind supplied.

She'd told her about the doppelganger. Everything went fine; Lena was perfectly understanding so why would her secret identity be different? How hard could it be?

"But I suppose it's not all bad." Lena murmured against her collarbone, fingers busy picking at the hem of her shirt. "Science woman and Supergirl — think of all the kids who'd need to see this. I know I would've wanted to."

She yawned — small, almost like a kitten. "I'm beginning to think that everything has a silver lining."

Kara paused. Her life thus far flashed before her eyes. She'd lost Krypton but gained a new family, friends, a new world she could protect. She'd lost Lena once and now…

"Lena, I'm —" she began. Soft snores filled her the paltry space between them. And soon, notes of laughter joined them.

Gently lifting her limp form into a bridal carry, Kara sighed. Another day then.

--------------

"Do you believe in ghosts?" Kara bit into her sandwich. The moon was crystal clear tonight; she could even make out a few stars from the minute gaps between the city smog if she squinted.

"Isn't that something you should ask before you drag me out to a graveyard?" Lena calmly pointed out.

"I forgot." The words came out mangled from the mixing drum of peanut butter and jelly. Swallow. Kara was poised for another bite but Lena's side-eye convinced her otherwise. "I was a little too excited to spend the night with you."

"We could be in bed." She grumbled, dropping her head against Kara's shoulder as if it were an adequate substitute.

"We could," she nodded along. Just like how she could just tell her already. I'm Supergirl — two simple words. And yet every time, she ended up choking on them with a redirection ready on her tongue.

It wasn’t that she didn't trust Lena; Kara was confident that she'd take the news well. It's just that… it'd be such a sudden, fundamental change to the Kara she knew and that's when the what ifs slipped in. She'd seen the poster — what if Kara's identity inadvertently erected a wall between them? What would she do then?

"But to answer your question, I wouldn't rule out their existence entirely." Her hand crept over to her lunch box. Kara pretended she didn't notice her swipe her ham and cheese from right under her nose. "I take it that you believe in them?"

"Well, yeah I write about them. Almost dated one too."

Lena paused mid-bite. "You did?"

"Yeah." For a moment, Kara busied herself with sweeping the breadcrumbs off her shirt and all the while, Lena regarded her expectantly. Right, she thought, in the spirit of truthfulness, this would be a good start. "Remember that girl we talked about? Your… doppelganger."

Lena caught on quickly enough. "She's a ghost." Her eyes widened but that was it; she wasn't quite as taken aback as Kara had expected.

"Yeah, a ghost."

Taking a bite out of the pilfered sandwich, Lena nodded. A guise — with each bounce her gaze descended. Lower and lower until it landed on the bench beneath them. Was that too much?

Kara reached out, hesitated and finally, emboldened by a new wave of resolve, she wrapped her free hand around Lena's.

She watched as Lena took another bite.

Swallow. Deep breath. Lena ventured a glance up at her. "Kara, I have something to tell you."

"Sure, what's up?" The squeeze she delivered was meant for Lena — there was no doubt about that. But it offered some unintended reassurance for herself too. What was it? Something big, definitely. Grave? Damning? A misunderstanding?

"I-I…" her voice wavered and Kara trembled along. She tried again. "Kara, I —"

From the corner of her eye, a glow flashed in and out of existence. Tiny, faint like the distant stars breaking the surface from under waves of clouds and light pollution. Frowning, Kara turned.

A lone firefly meandered between them, landing on Lena's lap and launching right off with sudden urgency.

"I might have ordered you an ice cream cake." Lena admitted. "Extra-large. The size of a small table."

The lunchbox clattered to the ground.

"Lena, you're perfect!" And that was when their fronts collided. Together, nose to nose with only an arm anchoring them both to the bench, Lena glanced at her lips.

"You're not so bad yourself." She said, leaning forward.

Kara accepted a kiss to the nose, accepted the weird looks the caretaker cast at them, accepted that this outing was a bust — no ghost in sight.

"We should go back to yours." Lena suggested, offering her arm.

Kara accepted that as well.

Arranged in a meticulous tangle and pulling the sheets right up to her chin, everything was peaceful until she stirred. Awakening to the realisation that Lena wasn't there.

Kara groaned, sitting up and letting the first rays of daybreak caress her form. Feet padding against the floorboards, she emerged from her room. And then, she froze.

Arms against the window sill and taking it all in, Lena was glowing. Breathtaking in the most literal sense, like a Kryptonite clamp over her chest. Her subsequent thoughts were an unintelligible mess; how she rushed over to Lena's side was much more telling. Fear. Even as she ran her hands over her shoulders, down her arms and clasped them into Lena's. It was solid but not enough to dispel the dread coiling in her gut.

"Kara?" She gathered her into her arms, stroking her back and smoothing out the rapid drumming of her heart. "It's okay, I'm here. I'm not going anywhere." As if she'd read her mind.

Kara was the first to pull away. "I'm sorry, I just… got so scared for a moment."

"Nothing to apologise for." Thumb swiping across her cheek, Kara was now privy to the layer of wetness against her skin.

But her ministrations didn't stop there. Kara leaned into it with every pass and coupled with the warm orange hues awash on Lena's skin, it was a glorious sight. Akin to drowning in sweet, sweet honey with one single exception — she didn't think she could get tired of this. That if Zeus were to reverse his decree and humankind's separation undone, her greatest (and only) anguish would be the impossibility of seeing Lena like this, of holding her like this.

She was ready.

"I'm Supergirl."

Lena never faltered, not even for a second. Slipping her glasses off, she tried again. "I'm Supegirl — oh, you know."

Finally, her motions ceased. Thumb hovering a hair's breadth over her cheek, she asked, "Are you disappointed?"

"No, I didn't really know what to expect… but how?"

"You're a little floaty at night," Lena let out a small laugh. "It gets cold when you hover away with the blanket."

And because Kara was feeling just a little bit difficult, she had to prod. "Right, so nothing to do with that Supergirl poster?"

"Maybe just a little."

She didn't notice at first. Not when her mind felt like it'd been loaded into a spinning teacup operating at terminal velocity. Kara staggered, their foreheads bumped and suddenly all was still.

She wanted to. She knew she wanted to. Arms thrown around her neck, Kara had a feeling Lena wanted it too.

A deep breath — one shared on both sides. Then, Lena nudged their noses together, a silent invitation Kara took and oh Rao.

The first was a chaste meeting of lips. They tensed for the briefest of moments, frozen in place. And it was only after an insistent tug that Kara pressed forward once more.

She had the vaguest sense they were stumbling backwards, the tiniest of awareness that her back had hit the mattress.

It was all a blur. One moment Lena was leaning over her and the next, she'd been toppled in a fit of giggles down onto the crumpled sheets.

Everything was golden like the world was encased in amber. And in its centre, Lena lay. Pupils blown, she reached out, her palm finding solace in the expanse over her heart.

"You're so solid," she might've heard. Her ears felt waterlogged; the anticipation in the air too thick and viscous, seeping in through all her senses. All coherent thought was eradicated.

Nothing else. Only Lena.

Kara pulled away to take it all in. First with her sight and then, her touch — a goddess meant for worship and revelry. Her hands crested the soft rise of her belly. Lower now and her hunger only grew.

"Lena," she breathed. Subtle encouragement was all she needed; a slight pressure against her thighs and they fell apart.

Bathed in the otherworldly brilliance of this golden hour, Lena gasped. Kara dove in.

They resurfaced at midday to the alarm of Kara's growling stomach. Today's agenda: stretch, groan, flop over onto Lena.

"Are your fingers okay?"

"A little sore if I'm honest." Lena chuckled.

Kara hummed and pulled them to her lips. "I'll kiss them better!" she declared with sluggish gusto. Thumb, pointer, middle, ring, pinky… She did a double-take. No, not imagining things. It was half a segment shorter than it should've been.

"What happened here?"

She felt Lena stiffen under her. "Just… a lab accident. A long time ago."

Nodding, Kara pressed an extra kiss to the tip. "If I tell you the secret to tissue regeneration, will you give me a treat?"

Another laugh — melodious like the light tinkle of windchimes on a peaceful afternoon. "That's cheating, darling."

Darling. She liked the sound of that, nuzzling into her sticky sweat-covered skin to make her appreciation known.

"So, does this mean you'll take off your glasses before bed?"

And now she just felt foolish for believing that Lena didn't know.

--------------

"This is Alex the sister!" She announced and on cue, Lena extended an arm for a handshake.

Kara was bouncing on the balls of her feet. She's gonna do it, she's gonna do it… Alex's eyebrow twitched in warning as if she'd telepathically picked up on Kara's plans. Too late — things had already been set in motion and now, it was time to bask in the aftermath.

"And this is Kelly, my ex!" From the corner of her eye, she could see Alex's eyebrows knitting together.

Lena blinked, reaching for Kelly's outstretched hand. "Oh, well hi there."

"She means ex-therapist." Kelly explained good-naturedly.

"Oh?"

At Lena's visible confusion, Kara swooped in to the rescue. "Alex stole her from me."

"We met at Al's," Alex huffed, motioning for them to follow her. "Kara didn't exactly give me the deets on her new therapist."

"And for the whole session, I thought the Alex Kara was describing sounded awfully familiar."

"Yeah and when Kelly walked me out, you should've seen their faces — oh, is that meatballs?" Kara was the first to hop into her seat, fork already plunging into a meatball and then two before the noisy sounds of her snacking were drowned out by the pulling of chairs. (Retrospectively, Kara realised it was all a ploy. Stuff Kara's trap before she could say any more as Alex had so eloquently put it after two glasses of wine.)

All things considered, their first meeting went rather smoothly. (And by that, Kara meant the last time Alex met Lena all those years ago.) As the night progressed, Lena gradually found her place in the group; the initial discomfort of someone new fading with every piece of her past she revealed. And when Alex, inebriated and uninhibited, leaned out of her seat bright-eyed to discuss Spheerical Industries' past innovations, Kara could see it glimmering right there — acceptance.

Twelve years on Earth and she'd built this. Kara knew but it hadn't struck her quite so profoundly.

Suddenly, all eyes were on her.

"Kara?" Her name in three distinct voices. Lena was the first to pull her into her arms. Then came the scrape of two chairs, footsteps approaching and they were surrounding her, cocooning her in their concern.

"I'm fine! I promise!" She laughed. The concept wasn't foreign to her but in action… It was the first time Kara remembered crying happy tears.

And she would do anything in her power to protect its source.

Later that night, huddled under Kara's blanket, Lena would turn to ask. "Hey, so are you seeing a new therapist now?"

Kara shifted as well, resting on her side and taking in the gleam of Lena's eyes through the darkness. "No, I'm… still in the market for one. The DEO's vetted list isn't exactly… ghost-friendly. Although," she pulled Lena in. "I have been very distracted recently."

Kara leaned in for a quick peck but Lena pulled away just out of reach. "Wait, I just wanted to say… I know I'm not the most qualified. Or qualified at all, really. But you can talk to me. About anything."

And with her piece said, Lena pressed their lips together on her own accord.

"If you promise to talk to me too." Pinky already readied between them, Kara frowned when Lena faltered.

For a moment, she averted her gaze, fixating on the sliver of pitch darkness visible beneath the sheets instead. And along with it, a sinking feeling in her gut that followed its trajectory down, down, down.

It didn't last; Lena caught her with a single pinky. Her eyes glinted in steely resolve. "I will, I promise." Then, she leaned in and commenced her journey. Beginning at her forehead and closing at her lips, Kara heard her apology loud and clear.

"Will you tell me about Krypton?" She asked.

"Mmm what do you wanna hear?" She asked in the brief interlude before initiating another.

"I don't know, the Firefalls maybe?"

Kara paused. "The Firefalls?"

"Yeah, you mentioned it once." Lena hummed as she settled back onto her pillow. "In an interview." She added in what perhaps was an attempt to jog her memory.

It didn't work but Kara told her anyway. About the Firefalls, about Krypton — it all came rushing back. Whatever vestigial memories she had played vividly in her mind; whatever she'd forgotten sent her curling deeper into Lena's embrace. And when the sun peeked over the horizon, startling Kara out of her reminiscence, she had to fistfight Lena into sleeping in.

"Jack's been lamenting my drop in productivity since you came into the picture."

"Well Jack's about to get a talk with Supergirl if he doesn't let you sleep."

A quick text message revealed he was perfectly fine with it. More than fine if she caught his drift.

Jack [06:49] : Is Kara with you?

Jack [06:49] : Maybe you should take the whole day off ;)

--------------

"Do you have a highlighter?"

"Yeah, it's in the drawer over there." Kara pointed vaguely in the direction of her study. With that, she returned to chewing on her pen cap. The underpass sounded promising. She could try that first. A '#1' was scribbled in the margin to the right.

Now, just the diner, the playground and… the club? Kara must've jotted it down in a sleep-deprived fugue. That'd be the only version of her desperate enough to be jostled against under strobe lights and obscenely loud music. Not to mention the smell…

She pressed her pen tip against the paper and drowned the idea in a sea of black.

Right, so underpass, diner, playground. She could probably fit the first after work; all she needed to do was to spring the idea on an unsuspecting car owner in her circles. The diner — oh wait, time for dinner.

"Lena, do you want Chinese?" She yelled. No response. Strange. Kara hopped off the couch in search of her.

At a glance, the kitchen was empty and the bathroom too. Kara turned into the study.

"Lena?" The letter opener plummeted from her grasp.

"Kara, you scared me!" Lena barked out a laugh, a steadying hand darted over her heart.

"I'm sorry," Kara rounded the table, her footsteps in tune with the thundering of her heart. Was she seeing things? Resting her chin on Lena's shoulder, she muttered. "Just wanted to get your order. I'm hungry."

"You always are," Lena reached out, running an affectionate stroke down her cheek.

"Yeah." Her gaze settled on the elephant in the room, traced the familiar swirls she'd spent countless mournful afternoons mapping with her thumb. Soon after, Lena's followed suit.

"It's pretty." Underneath, she could feel Lena stiffen even as her words had long faded.

It must've been a reflex at this point. A kiss to the sharp bend of her jaw and hands sliding over her middle, Kara's words came out smooth and gentle like a soothing wave.

"Yeah, it means a lot to me."

"Then it means a lot to me too." Lena smiled — she heard it in her voice. Delicately threaded between every pause, every syllable; Kara understood that much. There was just something else within, a code for which she had no cipher. Lena could see; Lena believed. And yet, she'd positioned herself as a fence-sitter that night. The memory of Lena's vow resurfaced at that moment. Could it be?

Kara pressed a kiss to her forehead, eliciting an appreciative hum from her counterpart. "You up for Chinese? Because I'm definitely up for Chinese."

Past the shared giggles and one loud snort, Kara thought — Lena would come to her in time.

The next night, Lena appeared at the foot of her bed with a book bound in a familiar pea-green hardcover, freshly pulled from her bookshelves. And that same night, Kara came the closest she had to choking on air.

"I haven't had a bedtime story in ages." She explained, gingerly flipping it open. "Can I?"

She nodded dumbly and huddled in close.

There were other peculiar instances in the same vein — the spontaneous weekend camping trip definitely took the cake. (Technically, the raccoons did but semantics.) And each time, Kara recognised the increasing exasperation on her face.

"You know, you could just tell me."

"Kara, it's not that simple."

That was that afternoon. They hadn't moved from their positions since; the odd tension in the air kept them rooted in place.

Shrouded in darkness and in Lena's case, Kara's summer blanket, a black and white scene played on the flatscreen.

"— Lex Luthor was a close associate of Edge and at one point, almost brothers in law. They were seen —"

Clack. Kara turned at the sudden noise to witness Lena's jaw tense.

"I don't like him." She whispered.

"Lex?" Kara asked. The faux leather squeaked under her weight as she scooted over.

"Yes."

Reaching over, she snagged the remote from the coffee table and jabbed at a numbered button. Instantly, the dull palette vanished and in its place, warm tones and bright pastels captivated the eyes.

"Well, no more Lex." Kara declared.

She felt it in the air — a premonition of an imminent revelation and Kara had an inkling what. Lena spoke; the prophecy was quickly fulfilled.

"Kara, I don't like lying to you." She began. Their hands met for the first time in hours.

"You're just not talking to me." She wanted to hear it from Lena's lips, wanted honesty. And maybe, vindication too that she'd come to the right conclusion. That all this time, Lena had remembered. Even if it felt nothing but petty.

"It's about me." Lena swallowed — she'd caught on. "How I actually —"

It all happened so quickly. One moment Lena was speaking, on the cusp of her confession and the next, she bit out a curse. If it weren't for her enhanced vision, she would've missed it. Just like that night, a bright glow flashed into existence, almost in warning, and then… it was gone. But this time, there was no firefly for cover and it definitely didn't leave alone. Where there was once flesh and blood…

With shaky hands, Kara inspected the aftermath. A clean, rounded stump stared back as if it'd always been there. But Kara knew better — Lena had half a nail left on that pinky and now she had none.

Finally, she understood.

Kara didn't remember when Lena had crawled into her lap. Nor did she remember when they'd moulded their fronts together, their heartbeats practically pounding in the same chest. But in every moment, every second, the steady pressure of Lena's weight granted her solace from the crawling sensation rising in her gut. She's still here, she's still here, she's still here. It drowned out the growing disquiet in her mind — the suspicion that Lena would slowly fade away. Again.

They were safe here like this. She had to believe. And if an eternity in this silence was what it took for Lena to stay, Kara would gladly remain.

"I'm sorry," Lena's breath tickled at the raised tendons on her neck.

"Why?" Kara choked out. Why risk it all?

Lena's hands moved then. Drawing soothing circles into her back, gravitating up to her shoulders next. Her fingers made a convincing argument; Kara felt her muscles loosen.

"Because you deserve so much more." You deserve the truth.

Kara nodded weakly. She understood the toll of hiding herself well, spent years grappling with secrecy and then her secret identity. Some days, she'd feel the urge to just scream it from the rooftops, to lighten the weight on her chest just a smidge. But the people she loved shared in it too. An exchange of trust and more — they'd shouldered the burden right by her side.

And Lena, on the other hand, had been all alone.

At that, Kara burrowed deeper into Lena's hold. She didn't want that. Not anymore. Not if she could help it.

"I'll be there for you. Always." She declared, seemingly without preemptive. Lena took the non-sequitur in stride, just like how she made no fuss about the growing wet stain on her shirt.

"Are you proposing?" Kara knew it was an attempt to breathe levity into the moment but cooperation was beyond her in her current state.

Forever (at least in relative terms). The idea didn't terrify her. Quite the opposite, in fact. There was just the inexplicable certainty it conferred — she liked that. She wanted that.

Lena pulled away gently and cocked her head in question.

"Would you say yes?"

It was then that Kara registered the pale moonlight peeking in — betrayed by a mere reflection glimmering in Lena's depths.

"I… I don't think this is the best time for that." A hand traversed the newly-formed canyon between them and urged their edges back together until what remained was the slightest of fissures. It was Lena's way of holding her hand up; a nonverbal 'but' to reassure before she continued. "Ask me another time?"

"Okay," her smile crept high onto her cheeks. "Okay, another time."

Lena leaned over, her eyes fluttering shut. A kiss to seal the deal and then a slip.

"I love you." The words lingered between them. She didn't mean to; she'd been waiting for the right moment with the right ambience. The right state of mind. But she knew Lena heard her and she wasn't about to take it back.

In the darkness, it was illuminating. Her eyes shimmered. Kara stood corrected. No, it wasn't the moon. It was all Lena. She let her mouth hang agape at the sight, so awestruck that she almost missed it.

The reciprocation. "I love you too."

---------------

Love (with the big, capital 'L') was a loaded word with far too much meaning cramped into a measly four letters. It wasn’t to be taken lightly between romantically involved parties.

It was a declaration. One that said 'my life's so entwined with yours that I cannot possibly extricate myself whole'.

In the days that followed, a new sort of peace descended upon them. For starters, they were both at ease; Lena's smile had grown impossibly exuberant and Kara was helpless but to respond in kind.

But mostly, it was the nascent awareness in the background, always growing; always out of reach.

She'd heard so much about this feeling — the passion and its manifestation — that for a while, Kara worried. That her own feelings didn't run deep enough, that she was inadvertently letting Lena down.

A prompt sit-down put an end to that thought and Kara came to the realisation that sometimes, happiness could also be a quiet affair. One could just know.

Until she found it tucked away in Lena's wardrobe. That was… loud.

The heavy rustle of leather filled the air.

"I still can't believe you have this." Kara raved as her hands roamed over the sea of studs from the shoulders down to the lapel. And sometimes, she still couldn't believe that Lena was here. With her. While the initial paranoia had faded, Kara would occasionally find herself pressing closer than necessary and that was that, but it made her reevaluate too. A close brush with death — it could've been anyone in Lena's place. Alex, Eliza, Kelly, Winn, James… hers—

"Well, if I'd known you'd be this appreciative, I would've taken it out earlier." A finger pressed against her collarbone and it took every ounce of self-control not to delay their outing a second time. "You missed a spot, darling."

"Oh." She zipped off to the sink just as quickly as she'd returned; the only evidence of her absence lay in the fleeting flutter of fabric and the conspicuous absence of wine red against her skin.

Lena's eyes twinkled in amusement. "How do your clothes survive such velocities?"

"Don't ask Winn. You'll only over-inflate his ego."

And with that, they took to the streets, fading into the weekend bustle of National City hand in hand. Through crowded sidewalks, busy crossings and rushing for shelter at the nearest café when a sudden bout of precipitation.

They sagged in their seats — Kara just as dry as the day she emerged from the matrix and Lena glowering like a drowned rat, muttering something about the injustices of life. Well, it wasn't her fault that the sun waterproofed her. But more importantly…

"You know, this reminds me of our first meeting." She toyed with Lena's fingers before lifting her shortened pinky to her lips. A soft sigh escaped Lena's own; her foul mood abated. "Can I get you a coffee?"

"Don't we have some ghost hunting to —" Kara's face fell. "You know what? Coffee sounds good."

Smelled good too. Kara relished the deep, fragrant aroma over her cinnamon buns. As long as she wasn't deceived by its welcoming facade again — how could something so inviting taste so bad? She took a gulp of her hot chocolate instead, powering through the wall of steam erupting from the surface.

"So, let me in on the surprise?"

"What —" Kara swallowed quickly at Lena's pointed look. "—surprise?"

"Where we're going?" She prompted.

"Oh!" She paused to lick the icing off her lips. Lena shifted in her seat, absorbed in an outcome for which she'd get little payoff. Her grin grew wider. Reaching for a napkin, she dabbed at her lips instead and watched as Lena's expression stitched into a scowl. Kara never was a theatre kid but the art of suspense? That she could do.

She downed the rest of her hot chocolate. And finally, she spoke. "It's a surprise to me too!"

Words were beyond Lena now — she could deduce that much from the sharp intake of breath, from the fingers massaging at her temple. Yep, exasperation definitely.

"It's like how ants locate food for the colony. Walk in random directions and then jackpot!" An innocuous glance at Lena stilled her heart. Watching as her features quickly morphed into bewilderment was a relief and yet, it wasn't. Kara was filled with the sudden urge to clamber over the table and sweep her into a bear hug.

Her chair screeched abruptly against the tiles.

"But that's a colony of ants. We're just… two people — what are you doing?"

"Well, we have a flying ant," she pulled Lena out of her seat. "And a… queen ant! I'd say we have pretty good odds." Pressing a quick kiss to her cheek, she let her smile flourish and eventually take root on Lena too.

"Well, I suppose you do make a good point."

"Great, let's —" Her phone chimed loudly in her pocket. Dang it. Grumbling at the ill-timed interruption, she frowned at the caller ID.

"Alex?"

"Kara!" She yelled, with a side of laboured breathing. Right, today was the big move. It all added up easily.

"Ha! I told you you'd need help with that co—"

"Kara, come quick! There's a floating mug and — no, don't come any closer!"

---------------

"Um hi, I'm Kara." She offered the ghost her hand — the best sign of goodwill she could scrape up given their circumstances. It was three against one (if they were so inclined to see it that way) with backup peering in from the door. She didn't think it necessary but with Alex brandishing a spatula, she wasn't quite sure her sister would agree.

The ghost fumbled, reaching out with his free hand before jerking away; he pressed the stained white mug into her grasp instead. Unconsciously, Kara's nose wrinkled from the smell of stale coffee. And a teaspoon of sugar, the well-trained personal assistant part of her mind supplied.

"Gerald." Was his curt reply. No look of offense took hold.

From the corner of her eye, Alex flinched.

"Okay, maybe we could have a chat… in private?"

Hauling Alex out of the kitchen was a tense affair. Her sharp eyes never left the mug even as Kara nudged her away and well, that look didn't need any introductions. She couldn't blame Alex. Not when she couldn’t see for herself. With his tweed suit, glasses and neatly cropped grey hair, he resembled a kindly college professor much more than anyone with any outwardly malicious intent.

It was a role reversal she never expected. Though the 'floating mug' part was in itself confounding. Maybe she'd rubbed off on her over the years. Just a little and apparently not enough?

The door clicked shut. Deep breaths. Kara turned. "So, how much do you know?"

As it turns out, a lot. Or at least more than the average ghost she met.

"I'm dead, my cup is oddly corporeal, I can't leave and my landlord is desperate for anyone to sign the lease." He quipped, the lines in his face rearranging themselves into a wry smile. "Did I miss anything?"

"You can. Leave, that is," Kara said. "I can help you."

"At what cost?"

"You'd just… disappear and start a new life."

When Kara finally re-emerged from the kitchen, the hushed chatter of discussion ceased instantly and three pairs of eyes swung to her. Suspense hung in the air like a heavy fog and they waited. Right, how was she gonna break the news…

Alex was the first to speak, sighing, "Out with the bad news first."

"He prefers to stay… indefinitely but the good news is — he's really friendly?" Kara knew it wouldn't help. They'd been looking forward to this move for months and now, they had nothing but disappointment and a logistical nightmare on their hands.

"You guys could move in with me while you sort it out. It might get a little cramped but —"

"Kara can stay with me." Lena blurted. Realising what she'd said, she turned quickly and mouthed, "If that's alright with you?"

"Yeah, you can stay as long as you need to!"

And that was the last she'd expected to speak of that apartment. Or see it. But there lay the problem with deadlines — they're immovable, unrelenting and time, like a conveyor belt, only rushed her closer and closer to collision.

Kara (with an uncharacteristically fearful Alex in tow) had rushed from spot to spot for the smallest trace of paranormal activity. Even resorting to sending her sister into that grimy nightclub by the command of her pout.

"No ghosts but the beer is ghastly — I think I'm gonna throw up." Alex grumbled as soon as she returned. Dry heaving by the sidewalk, Kara patted her back sympathetically.

"Well, the ghost part wasn't that bad right?"

"I don't… know." With a grunt, Alex righted herself. "Will it ever be? Definitively 'not that bad'?"

"It did for me. You helped. Lena too, and Will. With the right people by your side, it's hard for things not to."

She nodded, the beginnings of a chuckle rumbling in her throat. "Alright wise girl, where to next?"

Still, success remained light-years out of reach. And so, with the keys procured from Alex jingling in her grasp, Kara knocked with purpose — that of simple desperation. (Because really, she didn't want to be the first test subject of the unstoppable force paradox.)

"Kara?" A familiar face poked through before disappearing from sight. His voice echoed. Teleported back into the living room was her guess. "Well, come in I suppose."

"I brought coffee," she began. His gaze flickered downwards to where she clutched her notebook and her pen.

"And an agenda, it seems."

"You caught me." With her hands full, Kara's nervous energy shot down to her feet. She shifted, straightened herself up and continued. "Are you up for an interview?"

---------------

It was 4 AM by her estimates when she took to the skies once more, mulling over her notes in the meantime.

Profile: Gerald, Mid-50s, Clinical Psychologist

Location: Apartment along Cottage Road

(Anonymous tip from former tenant)

• Loves coffee

• Possesses a calming disposition

• Always up for a chat

• Harbours a deep sadness in his eyes

• Stares wistfully out the window at four o'clock sharp

Soon after she'd scribbled that down, she'd learn about the separation. 'Too caught up in other people's business and not in his own' as he'd described it with the swift accompaniment of a mirthless chuckle. Her fingers tightened around her pen at that. It was a reminder of how easily things could be taken for granted; how quickly they could be taken away. The pen burst in a shower of ink with her yelp following closely behind.

Despite her profuse apologies, Gerald only reacted with a raised eyebrow before continuing his story to its bittersweet end. One day, after his passing, he'd peeked out his window to a familiar face in the fancy playground below.

"And that's how I discovered I'm technically a grandfather now."

"How do you deal with that? Losing the ones you love."

"Not well, frankly. I wouldn't expect anyone to. I suppose the best we can do is to hold on." He cleared his throat and looked her in the eyes. This part was meant for her. "And talk to them. Let them in."

Her face — Supergirl's face — collided with a window. That was embarrassing. A quick survey of her surroundings revealed no cameras in sight.

"Romeo, I'd prefer if you'd stick to throwing rocks at my window." Kara jumped (or whatever the equivalent in midair was). Last she checked, Lena was fast asleep but here she was, her elbows resting against the window sill. With the dazzling twinkle of her eyes and the mesmerising sway of her raven-black hair, the what? sputtering up her throat was quickly swallowed whole.

"Why settle for rocks when you can have me?" Kara climbed through the window, the heel of her boots tapping lightly against the floor.

"You think you're so charming," Lena chided, only to be betrayed with that enamoured look she wore.

"I do."

"And you'd be right." Her hands disappeared from Kara's field of vision; she felt fingers skim the back of her suit. Ah, found them. They halted at the hidden zipper. "Can I help you with that?"

"Yeah," she nodded, gasping as the cold air methodically swept down her spine. Inch by inch, heralded by a faint metallic whisper sliding down, down, down. "You should go back to bed."

"Not without you."

The cheerleader skirt fell. Kara kicked off her boots next and attempted the stockings last — it still hung off one leg when Lena pulled her in with a whine.

"I smell like smoke." She protested.

In rebuttal, Lena nuzzled in close. Until the flimsy oversized shirt Lena didn't own felt negligible between them; they were skin to skin. "Smoking hot."

"Smoking bad."

Legs locked over her middle without warning; Kara was trapped. "You're good. No more arguing."

Well, if she put it that way… There went all ability to protest.

Lena's vice grip eventually slackened — a gentle touch on her shoulder blade and a light caress on her lower back, her legs slipped off onto the welcoming bed below. Was she afraid too?

"I'm scared I'll lose you."

Lena shifted and greeted her with a sight she'd never tire of.

"Not always but at times, I'll go 'what if?' and then I am. Scared." Because I almost did that day.

Shimmying up her form, Lena slowly moulded her big spoon smaller — Kara curled around her, forehead fitting perfectly into the crook of her neck.

"Sometimes I'm scared too." There was an uptick in her voice. Evidently, Lena had thought of something. "Let's cut a deal, I'll hold you through yours and you'll hold me through mine."

Kara wiggled her pinky before her eyes. "Come here."

And Lena did, giggling with childlike glee.

---------------

It began as an innocent suggestion. She'd returned for Gerald's approval on her first draft and left with newfound conviction.

"Emotions can be processed effectively through artistic expression if you're still looking for advice." He set his mug on the tabletop, clasping his hands together only for it to forcibly return a split second later. Gerald shrugged his surprise off with ease. Ineffable as always, it seemed. "A hobby perhaps?"

"I write for a living."

He scoffed. "Work doesn't count."

And so, Kara gripped a paintbrush for the first time in a decade, surrounded by shades of red and grey. Geometric shapes posed no challenge to her — she'd been trained in blueprinting and drafting from the age of ten. It lent well to the sharp, angled landscape of Krypton with its craggy mountains and the city's towering skyscrapers.

"It's beautiful," Lena breathed, wrapping her arms around her middle.

"It's Argo City. Where I grew up."

"Beautiful." Kara felt her lean in and met her halfway.

Natural shapes, on the other hand, hadn't come to young Kara naturally, her hand correcting its trajectory on instinct even if it's the last thing she wanted. She supposed Alex's suspicions were warranted when Kara appeared at her doorstep, canvas in hand.

"Is my face square again?" She questioned through narrowed eyes.

"No, why would it be?" Kara snickered. From Kelly's appreciative nod and Alex reddening at the reveal, she concluded she had done quite a good job.

Another week, another portrait. Wall-ex (as they called her) now had a new companion.

And then, there was Lena. Accosting her at the door, wearing nothing but a silk robe — something was clearly up that voluminous sleeve.

"Draw me like one of your french girls?" Oh. Oh Rao. Kara straightened, a hand shooting out to adjust her glasses and just so conveniently obscure the growing splotches of red on her cheeks.

"The Titanic sank." She said quickly. What was she doing? Lena bit down on her lip, less so for the purpose of seduction and more towards stifling the amusement threatening to spill past them.

"Well, maybe you can sink your titanic into —" her resolve buckled under the strain and with it, raucous laughter burst forth as if they'd been shut away within Pandora's box. Because that's what this was, wasn't it? They'd endured the suffering, both together and apart and now, creeping over the ornate ledge after all this time — hope. For the future. Together.

Lena's words from that night echoed in her mind; she knew what to do now.

"I'm sorry. I ruined the mood, didn't I?" Lena huffed, still clutching tightly onto her sides. "But you like the robe?"

"Yes," Kara swallowed, her throat bobbing in plain sight. "Very much."

"Good, it's comfy." Standing on her tiptoes, she pressed a quick kiss to her cheek and after a moment's deliberation, another to her lips.

"Good, get comfy then." Kara herded Lena over to the cluttered couch. "Because we're starting today."

They'd settled on having Lena reclined, nose-deep in her favourite book whilst the late afternoon sun splayed across her countenance. It wasn’t the first time she'd thought this and it certainly wouldn't be the last — the sun and her were undoubtedly in cahoots. There was no other explanation how a mere mortal could look so divine.

Kara's hands, imbued with newfound purpose, shook with every stroke. Sure, Wall-ex was meant to prove a point but this… was to make a point. A very important, life-changing point.

Excitement mixed with trepidation was an endless powder keg. An incline too sharp, a curve too wide, losing herself in counting the thick lashes on each eye; she's lucky this was only the pencilled outline. But she needed to get her act together. Stat.

"You look like you could use a break," Lena commented. Her robes were already sliding along the white leather as she spoke, making the most decadent of rustles. Hands slid onto her shoulders, slowly kneading on the flesh below. "Looking good."

"It's a little rough," she grimaced. But nothing she couldn’t fix. The silk passed over the bare skin of her neck and she shivered, eyes fluttering shut. "You know, the silk does feel nice."

"I could get you one if you'd like." Lena hummed, her breath now against her ear.

"Yes, please."

"Okay, darling." A kiss to her jaw. "Snacks?"

Kara shot upright at that. "Oh Rao, yes!"

It became a routine over the next few days. They'd return from work, Lena calling in takeout while Kara prepared her palette. Then, she'd wrap her arms around her middle, plant her chin on her shoulder, watching as Kara breathed life into the unpolished sketch before the food arrived.

Scoffing down her food, she'd rush back over to the canvas lest the paints dried and they'd lapse into a trance — light conversation or simply listening to whatever Lena put on on the television.

Steeped in their routines, time passed in an idyllic fashion. Until one day, Kara turned and said, "Hey um, do you mind not looking from here on out?"

Lena stretched lazily behind her. "Oh?" She asked. Or yawned. It wasn’t entirely clear which.

"It's a surprise!" A surprise detail which would ruin the other surprise if it were to grace Lena's sight.

"Oh, okay then." She padded out the living room, presumably to lounge on their ginormous bed. At least, that's what Kara thought. But Lena never failed to amaze, reappearing with a sleeping mask.

Slipping it on, she resumed her previous position against Kara's back. "I'm not looking." She grinned triumphantly. Fair enough. Kara wasn't about to complain.

Come Friday, another deviation occurred. The easel remained folded in the corner and Kara stood wooden at the door, a bag of takeout in hand. Lena blinked at her; she gulped. Please don't question, please don't question, please don't question

"How'd you know I was craving for Big Belly Burger?"

"I-I did?" Kara stuttered. Oh Rao, not helping. "I did! Gotta go! Shower first!"

Her escape was hindered by long fingers gripping her sleeve. "With the burgers?" Lena held out her free hand, shooting her an expectant look.

"To protect my fries!" She shifted and the small box buried deep in her pocket reminded her of its presence. Its very conspicuous presence. What an attention-seeking pipsqueak. It'd probably call out to Lena if it could.

Rolling her eyes, Lena released her grip. "Please keep it dry."

And with a quick salute, Kara scurried away.

(The bag did indeed remain dry. Mostly.)

Saturday was spent lazing about, sneaking about. It wasn’t easy. Lena had some sort of sixth sense for when Kara had wiggled out of her grasp.

"Bathroom," she'd said each time.

Hindsight was 20/20 but unfortunately, did not enable time travelling as much as Kara wished it would. It would've saved a lot of grief. Because on Sunday, she was stuck at the kitchen counter discussing her supposed overactive bladder.

"I-I swear I don't!" Oh Rao, this was all such a mess. Granted, she hadn't quite planned out how she'd segue into it yet. But not like this. Oh Rao, definitely not like this.

"It's fine if you do, Kara —"

"Iwasworkingonsomething."

Lena, by some miracle, understood her jumble of words. Cocking her head, she motioned for her to continue.

"I was working on the painting… I have something to ask you actually." Kara scratched at her nape.

"Oh, me too actually." Her chest rose and fell dramatically. Something important. "I was wondering if you wanted to meet my mother. She's coming to National City for Christmas."

"Of course I'd love to! Well, I think I might need to… be right back!" With that, Kara jogged off out of sight, returning with the finished painting and a conspicuous hand behind her back.

"It's beautiful," Lena breathed, lips curling into a soft smile. "If it isn't narcissistic to say so."

"I call it ugem chao uldif. It means 'now and forever' in Kryptonese."

"Now," her fingers ghosted over her reflection, her voice thick with the undertones of reverence. "And forever?"

Gasp. Kara registered the sharp intake of breath. From this angle, it wasn't quite clear what had captured her attention but Kara had a hunch. She put it there, after all.

That was her cue. Kara showed her hand. Inside the box — just peeking out from the ample cushioning — was a thin, silver band.

"That night, you asked me to ask you some other time." She could barely hear herself past the booming bongo drums of her pulse; Kara powered through regardless. She was so close. "So, I'm asking you now."

Patience, patience, patience — her mind pleaded. But there was just something so magnetic about Lena that she gravitated to her. That she needed to.

Their foreheads bumped; her sense of urgency renewed. Before she lost herself entirely.

"Marry me?" They drifted closer, eyes fluttering shut.

"Yes." It was more a hum than a coherent word. The vibrations rippled through her lips and echoed in the cavern of her mouth.

Again. Lena was speaking again. And again. Chanting her answer over and over until it faded into incomprehensibility. It's no matter. She already knew, interred its meaning deep inside her bones. A fundamental, irreversible change written into her very DNA — you're mine and I'm yours.

The tang of salt bloomed on her tongue. Alarmed, Kara pulled away. "Lena?"

"Sorry." She dabbed at her eyes and offered Kara her hand. "Put it on?"

"Yeah, of course," Kara nodded, ducking forward and kissing away the beginning of a tear streak. Then, she cupped Lena's hand gently in hers.

The ring slid so smoothly, so easily in place. They'd earned that much.

Thirteen years ago, any semblance of a happy ending exploded in flames through reinforced silica windows. Five years ago, it disappeared in a shower of golden specks. One minute ago…

They were here. In spite of everything.

"So, wifey…" Kara made sure to linger on that one particular word and Lena giggled along. "What do you wanna do now?" Well, she had a couple of good ideas. And one their neighbours wouldn't like.

"I don't know —" She was cut off by the obnoxious blaring of her ringtone. Dang it, Alex. Phones really do ring at the most inopportune time.

The call connected and Kara greeted her sister with a (rightfully) grumpy hello.

"Hey, just wanted to say Kelly and I found a new apartment. You can move back in about… two weeks?"

"Oh um, about that…"

Poor unsuspecting Alex didn't know what hit her.

---------------

Slow and steady, they'd initially decided. Pick Lena's mother up from the airport, leave a good impression and then spring the news onto her. What could go wrong?

The last thing they'd expected was to be betrayed by the afternoon glare. Polished silver gleamed brilliantly on her finger. Kara saw it, Lena saw it, her mother saw it. There was no escaping the fast-inflating elephant in the room.

"We're… engaged?" Lena grinned sheepishly as her jaw dropped. "Surprise?"

It all blurred together. Squealing, jumping about and a string of congratulations; some time in the middle, Kara herself was pulled into the mix with Lena in the centre of a crushing hug.

So yes, Kara would still consider it a success. And an important learning experience — change of plans. When she flew Lena over to Midvale, it was the first thing they mentioned.

"Oh." Eliza blinked, her hand still on her front door. "Oh! Oh, I'm so happy for you two!"

Another hug, another round of warm, fuzzy feelings and a whole casserole to take back home with her. She could definitely get used to this.

"Maybe we should get married every year," Kara laughed, flopping over lazily with a bounce. She didn't think she'd ever say this but Rao, was she stuffed.

"I'm not sure our finances could take that." Lena shuffled into bed with much more restraint, pulling the covers along with her.

"Right, Miss Head-of-R&D." And when Lena scowled, Kara stuck out her tongue — oh, she missed a spot. Inching it over, she swept the remaining icing off her chin and into where it belonged. (Which was her mouth, of course.) "I'll just ask Jack for a U-Haul cake every year."

"I still can't believe he did that. We've been together for a respectable eight months!" Lena sank deeper under the covers, her cheeks puffed up in indignance. Really, it wasn’t fair that anyone could look so adorable but Kara had long forgone her attempts to resist.

"Yeah, why would we need a U-haul anyway? He's seen my nice arms." Said arms welcomed Lena eagerly, the contact drawing soft exhales from them both. And for a brief moment, all was silent.

"Can we visit Ireland?" A sudden request. And unexpected too. Kara was lucky she couldn't get whiplash. "I… have something I need to do."

The general ambiguity clued her in to the nature of her errand; she didn't question, merely nodding and whispering back, "Yeah, sure."

They picked a date in the week following New Year's Day and right off the bat, they were confronted with their first mistake. It was cold — bitingly so from how Lena shivered. Kara wrapped her own coat around her, brushing off the questioning looks they received.

Then came their second blunder. According to Lena, at least. They'd rented a car for the trip, Kara — the only one with a driver's licence — got behind the wheel and an hour later, Lena was screaming to be let out.

Pulling over, Kara regarded a ghastly pale Lena in the passenger seat. "Are you okay?"

"P-please just fly us there." Her voice quivered to the whirr of the heater. First Alex, then Lena. She couldn't be that bad… She got her licence for a reason!

But Lena was still shivering, curled up so tiny that Kara's heart ached. Fine, she grumbled. Taking pity on her, she scooped Lena up and did just that.

They touched down on the outskirts of the small Irish town of Ardclough and with their hands linked, Lena took the lead through the sparse streets. It was a far cry from National City and even Midvale. There was no worry of being jostled, not much of a crowd to plan around either — on the roads or off it. Just… peace and quiet.

Eventually, they reached a seemingly endless stretch of canal.

Lena paused, peering at both sides as if in search of something. Her eyes lit up. To the right it was then.

"Here," Lena said, approaching the bank. Grey skies hung above like a gloomy backdrop. Lena waited patiently and so, Kara did too; let the winds lull her into a hazy stupor. It was secluded, and consequently tranquil. The kind of spot where one would intuitively know they were truly alone.

Ripples in the water — Kara snapped to attention. There, at the far end. Something was breaking the surface… Her hand tightened against Lena's; she took a stuttering breath, never once averting her gaze.

Heavy linen dredged against the water surface; it was clear she was from another time. Splash, splash, splash. Closer and closer. Kara wanted to look away.

"Hello." Lena breathed. The ghost halted a mere few inches from them.

"It's… been a while." Beside her, she tensed. Silence. Nothing. Still, Kara urged her closer into her side. And with a shaky exhale, Lena continued. "I just… I-I'm okay now."

Slowly, the ghost lowered her gaze, landing between them where their hands hung clasped and finally, on the hint of silver around Lena's finger.

She drew closer, her head tilting ever so slightly as if examining Lena's features.

It began as quickly as it ended. The ghost was gone.

Her gaze grew distant, unmoving even as the last traces of gold shimmered out of existence.

"Lena?" She ventured, unsure if she'd prefer the silence. For a brief moment, her lip quivered and Kara was prepared to pull her in.

But its corners lifted, her eyes refocused, chuckling softly into the wind. "I-Is that what you do for work?"

"Somewhat." Kara took her other hand. It wasn’t the same — try as she might, they were mere acquaintances. The emotional connection was bound to be lacking. "I don't think I could be as strong as you."

"Is it?" Lena looked away.

"I was an emotional wreck, you know." Kara squeezed — a plea for Lena's attention. "I can't imagine knowing and still… choosing to let go like that."

"You would've done it if she wanted." You almost did.

"I didn't exactly get a choice in the end." She laughed, if only to conceal the growing wetness in her eyes.

"Then choose now." Extricating a hand from her grip, Lena rifled through her deep pocket until finally, triumphantly, she produced a thin silver bracelet reminiscent of the ring she wore. "I know on Krypton you exchanged bracelets instead…"

Kara gasped. "You planned this?"

"Not exactly… I didn't really know how..." Cheeks reddening, Lena held it up to her. "I take it that it's a yes?"

"I-I gave you a ring! Of course it is!"

And so, they matched throughout the trip and they matched all the way home.

---------------

Seven years from that fateful summer, two years from that chance re-encounter. Much had happened since then. A new salad bar opened around the corner — one Lena made a point to frequent much to Kara's distaste. She saw the resemblance, recognised it for what it was.

She did try a bowl once with extra blue cheese dressing. Still not her thing.

Cat Grant sold CatCo, her paranormal column was cancelled and now she was in charge of a full-page 'Ask Supergirl' segment instead. Which made sense, she supposed. Supergirl just sold like hotcakes; there was no competition there but that didn't stop her from going around National City in her free time. Sometimes with Alex in tow, sometimes with Lena hand-in-hand. (Her sister finally saw her first full ghost a few months back too.)

And then, there was the wedding a good ten months in the making. Dressed in a replica of Kryptonian ceremonial garb, surrounded by the people who mattered. Watching Lena walk down the aisle, sweeping Lena into a premature kiss… The I dos, the first dance she floated through (until she bumped her head on the ceiling but no one's allowed to mention that), the personal buffet Lena arranged for her, complete with an assortment of potstickers. Oh Rao, could she marry her again right now?

And when the wedding bouquet entered the air, Alex shedded her calm facade and hoisted Kelly up in the air for the perfect catch.

(For the record, it worked. Another wedding was in planning a few weeks after.)

"I fell asleep," Lena grumbled. An avalanche of pens, papers and curses followed closely behind. Eyeing the wet stain on her sleeve, her tone grew apologetic. "And I drooled all over your shirt."

"I'll just get changed later. No big." Kara stretched her newly-freed arm up in the air and Lena, ever the opportunist, burrowed her way in, nuzzling against her chest like a demanding housecat. No one could deny them anything and likewise, Lena had her wrapped around her thumb (or rather, ring finger) and Kara had her too. Maybe they should just wrap themselves around each other.

Setting her laptop down beside her, she urged her fully into her lap to the musical clattering of her implements. A requiem of nonchalance — goodbye, you won't be missed.

It's a spousal benefit after all, to be bumped up the day's to-do list.

"Maybe the shirt should come off now?" It sounded innocent up till a flash of teeth scraped against Lena's bottom lip. Oh, yeah definitely.

Kara nodded. Fingers scrabbling at the hem, her vision disappeared in a swoosh of white. And when it returned, Lena's attention had strayed.

"Dear Supergirl, what's the afterlife like?" she read off the screen, its glare bestowing an almost luminous quality to her visage. Hauntingly beautiful and terrifyingly apt for the subject at hand.

In truth, a small part of Kara always wondered. What happened when she was gone? Not that she'd ever know. Ignorance was one of the smallest prices one could pay for happiness, for the sense of contentment that filled their days.

"Well, I'd think —"

"Lena!" She grabbed her hands and with wide eyes, implored her to be silent.

Lena brought the tangle up to her lips, kissing each knuckle as if to say trust me.

Hands dropping into her lap, she motioned for her to continue.

"If we all return here after we pass, doesn't that make this heaven?" Lena smiled like the phases of day. Kara couldn't fathom how she hadn't realised before. Bright and glorious like midday, warm and gentle like sunrise and this time, wistful like the muted late afternoon glare.

"Yeah, I-I guess?"

"Well, lucky me then." She swept a stray lock of hair aside, hooking it over her ear. "That mine's being right here. In your arms."

Kara cupped her cheek, guided her in close. "No, lucky me." For everything she had. That every time she fell, she'd been lovingly rebuilt piece by piece; that against past Kara's better judgement, she'd stumbled into the Luthor Manor.

That after all this time, Lena was right here. In her arms.