Supergirl stands in the doorway to a secret bunker she should definitely not know the coordinates of, smiling crookedly and steadying herself with one hand against the doorframe. She’s soaking wet, water dripping from her hair, cape and fingertips as the storm rages behind her. It frames her in white and blue, just the right allusion to otherworldliness to return Lena’s ability to speak.
“Supergirl,” she replies haughtily. “What are you doing here?”
Supergirl ignores her question. “Can I come in?” She’s already pushing past Lena, who is too baffled to do anything more than avoid their shoulders touching as Supergirl passes.
They haven’t touched since - no. Lena closes her eyes. Lightning strikes somewhere on the island, a distant sound. Behind her, Supergirl is stumbling through the corridor, crashing into the walls every so often.
Lena opens her eyes. This is surreal. Maybe she’s dreaming, or hallucinating. She looks at the spot where Supergirl had appeared, the small puddle spreading and painting the concrete dark. Doormats aren’t really customary in evil lairs.
“Lena?” Supergirl calls out. “Is there a light switch here somewhere?”
Lena sighs. She doesn’t have any important information stored in this particular bunker, she might as well let Supergirl give one of her ridiculous hope speeches before she leaves. She briefly wonders if the Super is just hiding out from the weather as she is, maybe still trying to come up with an excuse as she stumbles through the dark ahead. The thought is as amusing as it is comforting. Lena turns, claps her hands, and the lights go on.
Supergirl looks back and beams at her. “Thank you!”
No, something is definitely off. They don’t smile at each other anymore. At least not like this, teeth bared and Supergirl’s eyes little half moons. Nowadays, Lena is - well, lucky isn’t the word she’d use, maybe - unfortunate enough to get a sad, heart wrenchingly hopeful smile at most. She hates that Supergirl still has that kind of hold on her.
“You didn’t answer before,” she calls after her.
Supergirl tilts her head. “Don’t you want to come closer to talk?”
And no, Lena really doesn’t. Villain-hero show downs don’t go like that. They shout at each other for a bit from a distance, Supergirl tries to talk her out of her plans, and then Lena does whatever she came to do anyways.
Not that her plans are nefarious, usually. Her methods, she admits, have veered off the path of good and into morally questionable, if they haven’t always been, but she’s tired of trying for anything else. It got her nowhere.
This way at least yields results.
She raises an eyebrow in answer, knowing that Supergirl will be able to make out her minute expressions even from a great distance.
But instead of going with Lena’s strictly set parameters like she usually does, Supergirl turns around and honest to god speeds back to Lena’s side as if not being close to her is an urgent matter to be solved. “There,” she says with a proud grin. “Much better.”
“What’s going on?” Lena asks sharply. “What are you doing here?”
“Umm,” Supergirl starts unhelpfully. “I don’t know?”
“What do you mean you don’t know?!” It occurs to Lena that she could just throw the superhero out into the storm, likely without causing her any physical harm. She doesn’t need her dripping all along her nice, plain, concrete corridor. She doesn’t need her in the nice, malevolent, solitary life she’s carved out for herself.
“I umm...” The stuttering reminds Lena so acutely of her former best friend that she makes a probably disastrous decision and starts walking Kara further inside, just so she can’t stare at her from up close, can’t think about the warmth she radiates or how much she misses her. She doesn’t. She doesn’t miss her.
“I woke up without memories, this morning. But I remembered this place, I was here a few days ago?” It sounds more like a question, with the way Supergirl’s voice goes up at the end. “In the sky, at least, like above it. And I remember your name!” Supergirl grins, proud again. “I just have the best feeling about you, you’ve been so kind letting me in.”
Lena might currently be having an aneurysm. She’s almost positive. “What?!” she spits out.
Supergirl is bouncing along next to her. “It’s just so nice to have found someone I feel like I can trust, you know? All the others,” she grimaces, “were asking all these questions. Freaking out. I didn’t like that.”
Lena wonders if letting Supergirl know that she very much is also freaking out would send her running. “I see,” she says instead. “Hit your stupid big head, did you? Something had to take you down a peg I guess.”
Supergirl honest to god laughs. Lena wants to cry. She hasn’t heard her laugh in years, and now it’s at a comment she very much did not mean in jest, but in the outright hostility she’s become accustomed to harnessing in order to face Supergirl.
Maybe letting her in had been a worse mistake than she could’ve forseen.
“See? You’re not so overbearingly worried about me.” She pulls a face. “There was this woman, Alex, who said she was my sister, but she was sooo…” Supergirl trails off.
Lena wonders idly how it would’ve felt to find out this way, once upon a time. A careless comment. She doesn’t know if it would’ve been worse than Lex. Most likely not. “She cares about you,” she says simply.
“She sounded like it,” Supergirl says. “I feel really bad, but I didn’t know if I could believe her? And it’s so annoying.” She bites her lip. “Am I a terrible person for thinking that?”
Now it’s Lena’s turn to laugh, although in a much more wry and self deprecating manner. More of a bark, really. Lucky that Lena doesn’t care about how she comes across to Supergirl anymore. “No,” she says. “Right now you don't know her. And anyways, you’re not the bad person out of the two of us.”
“What’s that supposed to mean?” Supergirl asks, but in that moment they reach the main room, saving Lena from having to answer.
The corridor opens up into an impressive dome-like space, lit up by strings of fluorescent lights running up the sides and joining at the highest point. Beneath each row of lights is the opening to another corridor, some leading deeper into the mountain the bunker is built into, some nowhere at all.
“Wow,” Supergirl says. “Your home is beautiful.”
“I’d ask if you’ve hit your head,” Lena says, “But since we’ve already cleared that up…”
She could throw her out. She will, she reasons with herself, once she’s had time to think. “Do you want something to drink or eat?” she hears herself ask instead, and Supergirl nods enthusiastically from where she’s wandered off to.
She looks so young, staring up at the lights and slowly turning on the spot, arms outstretched. So full of wonder.
It reminds Lena of their visit to a museum, once upon a time, when Kara had run off to the dinosaur exhibit and turned on her own axis in awe, as if she could drink it all in. And then she’d stopped, staring at Lena, dopey grin still in place.
She’d loved this woman, once upon a time. At least the version she’d let Lena know.
“I’ll get you a sandwich,” Lena says, and comes back with three because five years aren’t enough to unlearn a person.
With Kara, five lifetimes might still be too little.
“Rao, you’re the best,” Supergirl says around a mouthful of her third sandwich. “I knew I did right by coming here. I just had a feeling.”
Lena wants to tell her that her feelings are evidently shit, then, but instead she presses her lips together. She’s not angry enough to wish Supergirl harm anymore, much less to want to inflict it herself. Nowadays, she’s just sad, in that unsolvable, world shaking way. When you know time only moves forwards and some things are irrevocably lost.
“Maybe when the storm is over you can show me the island,” Supergirl suggests. “Have I been here a lot? To visit you, I mean?”
“You haven’t visited me in a long time, Supergirl. Usually only show up when I’m about to blow something up.” It's not said with cruel intent. Lena has long made letting her hurt seep into her words her greatest weapon, but with time it had lost its edges and become a simple crutch to lean on.
Supergirl’s face falls nonetheless, her fingers pressing the last bit of her sandwich paper thin. “Oh Rao, am I that bad of a friend?”
“Horrible,” Lena says deadpan, and watches Supergirl scramble for words.
“Jerk,” is what she finally lands on, throwing a piece of crust at Lena.
When Lena ducks but doesn’t smile, her expression becomes serious again.
“Really?” she asks quietly. “Why didn’t you - or did you tell me and I don’t remember? Rao, are we fighting?”
“We’re not friends anymore,” Lena says, studying Supergirl’s face. She looks just the same as all those years ago. “We were, once upon a lifetime, but you lied to me, and then you gave up on ever fixing us.”
She doesn’t know why it comes so easy, now, the summary of her side of things. She’s never been quite able to put into words how the giving up had been the worst part, after all the promises to stay by her side, always. It sounds like mockery, the word, after Lena had made a fool out of herself trusting it.
Hell, maybe she’s more angry at herself, for the naivete, for ever believing someone could be as wonderful as Kara Danvers had seemed.
“Oh,” Supergirl says. Her expression, having crumbled with every new word leaving Lena’s mouth, returns to a simple frown. “Why would I do that?”
Lena reminds herself that she’s sitting across from a blank slate, memory wise. “You said once that you were selfish. That you were telling yourself you needed to protect me, but that in the end you wanted to keep me. And I guess that involved lying to my face.”
“That’s horrible,” Supergirl says, scrunching her nose. “What did you do?”
Lena sighs. It's not pleasant, recounting the past. It's what she steels herself for, before every battle and the inevitable rehashing of their shared history that Supergirl’s speeches entail. “I lied to you in turn. I pretended I didn’t know about the lies until I could use that knowledge to my advantage. I wanted to hurt you as you did me.”
“That’s cruel,” Supergirl says, then softens. “But understandable.”
Lena laughs drily. “You didn’t see it that way back then.”
“How - how long, since I gave up?”
Lena doesn’t need to think. “Five years, three months, sixteen days,” she says calmly, though her nails dig into her palms to keep her voice and expression level.
“Lena,” Supergirl breathes. “And you still let me in today? You still gave me food and water and…” she trails off, tears filling her eyes. “Oh god, I’m really horrible aren’t I? I thought this costume was weird, am I some kind of villain?”
“No, darling,” Lena says gently. Kara seeing herself as the villain? That might be the biggest tragedy of all. “I am.”
Supergirl looks up at her. “I don’t believe that. I just - I just know you’re good.”
“I’m not the kind of villain my brother was, trying to strip aliens of their rights and making Supers my sworn enemy. But I am a villain.” She pauses, considering Supergirl. She decides to twist the knife that still sits embedded in her back, a dull throb on the best day and agonizing on the worst. “You’re the one who first bestowed the title upon me, Supergirl.”
“I’m sorry,” Supergirl says immediately. “I’m so sorry.”
“Don’t be,” Lena says, waving her off with feigned nonchalance. “Water under the bridge.”
“No,” Supergirl asserts, “everyone deserves a second chance. I should’ve given you one.”
“You did,” Lena says, suddenly worried she’d told the story too one sided. Why should she care? “A second, and a third, maybe. I was waiting for the next but you’d already made up your mind.”
“No,” Supergirl whispers, seemingly horrified. “No.”
“Yes,” Lena laughs, no joy in the sound. “And to think you used to be the person most convinced of my virtue. It’s quite funny, actually.”
“I don’t think so,” Supergirl says resolutely. “Lena…”
Lena stands abruptly, not willing to entertain the direction the conversation is going any further. She hasn't spent years building emotional walls just for Supergirl to tear them all down in one evening. “I’ll show you where you can sleep,” she says instead.
“Okay,” Supergirl agrees, blessedly. Nods to herself. “And tomorrow we’ll explore the island.” She clasps her hands together.
“Fine,” Lena says. “Tomorrow we’ll explore the island.”
By tomorrow, Supergirl will most likely have her memories back. By tomorrow, she’ll be repelled by tonight’s words. Lena had omitted the worst truth, after all - Kara hadn’t cared about her. Not in the same way, anyways. It’s why Lena’s attempt to hurt her backfired so badly, even though she knows it wasn’t healthy to expect someone to cling to the person trashing and swinging their fists. It’s still a nice thought - that a true friend would’ve held on through it all.
She leads Supergirl through another corridor, deeper into the mountain the bunker is built into. “Here,” she says when they reach one of the safe rooms. “Don’t call if you need anything.”
Supergirl walks into the room, then turns to Lena, who is still lingering in the doorframe for reasons she can’t put into words. “Goodnight, Lena,” Supergirl says softly.
“Night, Supergirl,” Lena says.
“Won’t you call me Kara?” Supergirl asks. “I know that’s my real name. They told me.”
She looks angelic, standing there with her hair half dried into damp curls, her light blue eyes open and trusting. They face each other on the battlefield with alarming regularity, but this might just be what does Lena in, after all those years keeping her distance. She wonders if Kara, in possession of her memories, knows the power she holds so unwittingly now.
“No,” Lena answers, and leaves without another glance.
Once in the control room, she takes a deep breath. Then she turns on the security feeds and watches Kara sleep. Concussions aren’t a joking matter.
Having Supergirl at the bunker with her is unnerving at best. The storm is still raging outside, so sending her to explore the island isn't an option. Lena tries to convince her to read books in the main room while she goes down to her labs, but Supergirl insists on following her, which forces Lena to abandon her plans lest she finds out about any of her projects.
It’s how they end up in one of the safe rooms together, a mirror image of Supergirl’s own, reading and sipping tea that Lena made in the bunker’s small kitchen. Supergirl had thanked her profusely, grinned up at her wide and so trusting it almost broke Lena’s heart. It’s in the nature of villainy to be alone, and a former best friend just doesn’t fit into the picture. Especially one who seems so convinced of Lena's virtues.
But the storm rages on outside, and she can’t bring herself to throw her out either.
So, they sit and read. Lena reads a lot, when she’s not tinkering with one thing or another, or having her half-yearly standoff with Supergirl. It had seemed too mundane, when she’d first left civilian life and committed to villainy, but there’s only so many hours one can spend productively in the labs, and not much else to do in a bunker.
So, reading. She’s a good hundred pages into her third re-read of War And Peace when she looks around for where she’d placed her cup and instead finds Supergirl watching her above the rim of her own book.
“Is Mrs Dalloway boring you?” she asks with an eyebrow raise.
“No, no, not at all!” Supergirl rushes to say, a faint blush spreading over her cheeks and making her look detrimentally close to Kara Danvers. But it’s the next sentence that marks Lena’s downfall. “You’re just very pretty and it’s distracting.”
At least Supergirl has the decency to hide behind her book after that. If Lena finds herself lowering her own read every so often during the following hours to look over at her, then that’s perfectly understandable. It’s not every day that the hero constantly foiling your plans compliments how you look, much less while you’re both sitting on opposite sides of a concrete safe room and reading as if in a month’s time she won’t be firing searing laserbeams out of her eyes and not sending furtive glances over the pages of a book.
Because Kara will be okay, Lena will make sure of it. She won’t be blamed for leaving an amnesiac and probably concussed Supergirl to her own devices.
Just that, she thinks as she prepares their lunch after having finally convinced Supergirl to stay behind (she doesn’t need to know the whole layout of this place, thank you very much), she’s a difficult one to keep at arm’s length.
The worst thing is that Lena can’t bring herself to care, even as she feels her defenses lower, even as she feels the painful twinges of fondness in her heart return when she looks at her.
“Gooood mooorning,” Kara calls out through the corridor on the fourth day, loud and disgustingly chipper.
Lena rubs sleep from her eyes. The outside camera feed shows that the ground outside is barely damp anymore, after the rain had abated a few hours earlier.
“No,” she says in answer to Kara’s exclamation when she bursts into the room, having evidently located Lena by superhearing. She guesses she can’t blame her for the intrusion, what with having watched her from here herself to make sure she didn’t cark it during the night.
“I would’ve brought coffee but I don’t know where anything is,” Kara says apologetically.
“You found me,” Lena complains. “Much to my dismay, if I may add.”
Kara giggles. “Are you always so grumpy?”
“It comes with the job description,” Lena quips.
Kara cocks her head in question.
“Villain,” Lena elaborates. “Grumpy, has a bunker or a few, hates people and animals.” She pauses. “Don’t tell anyone I have a soft spot for turtles.”
“Aww,” Kara coos. “You’re a secret softie.”
“Did you forget our conversation the other night?” Lena inquires cautiously, growing suspicious of the overly friendly demeanor. It hasn’t gotten any less unnerving, though she guesses it is to be expected, with the amnesia and Kara’s sunny disposition.
“Nope,” Kara says, popping the p, “but I’ve decided to be your friend again.” She grows more serious. “If you’ll have me.”
Lena’s first instinct is to activate her kryptonite gloves and throw her out. It’s not storming anymore, she’d probably be okay. But the longer she looks at Kara’s sleepy smile, at the way her hair is tousled and her hands come up to fidget with glasses that aren’t there, the less she can bring herself to do it.
Would there be any harm, in stealing just a few more days? In having her best friend back for a while, having anyone at all, really, except for an AI?
“Okay,” she says. She’ll regret it and she knows it, but right now? Right now Kara is flying into her arms and almost bowls her chair over with the force behind her hug.
Lena’s breath stops completely for a moment as warm, strong arms envelop her. When has she last been touched? She slept with some nameless woman in Paris, she remembers. When was that? Maybe two years ago? Three?
It doesn’t hold a candle to this, anyways. Because she loves Kara, and now Kara is holding her again, like Lena is precious, like she never wants to let her go. Her nose is buried in Lena’s hair, her fingers into her blouse at her back.
Lena takes a breath. Kara smells the same. Well, maybe a little like she flew through a storm, a little like the metal of the blood sullying her suit, still, but - so undeniably Kara, underneath it all.
No, five years definitely weren’t enough to unlearn her.
“Look, look, a bird!” Kara says excitedly, dragging Lena by her hand towards the chirping sounds.
“We’re in the jungle, of course there’s birds,” she says exhaustedly. She’s already tired of walking, her skin sticky with sweat and littered with mosquito bites. Of course, Kara doesn’t feel any of these things.
Instead, she swings their joined hands between them and drags Lena off the path so often that they might as well not follow it in the first place. And that’s quite disconcerting as well, the hand holding. It’s as if Kara had sensed how pitifully touch starved villainy can make a person, and had made it her personal mission to remedy that. It reminds Lena painfully of the beginnings of their friendship. Of Kara deciding, for whatever godforsaken reason - her name, she reminds herself. Her name and the risk it brought - that she was worth befriending, and flooding her life with light.
Maybe if she tries to forget hard enough she’ll suffer the same fate as Kara and they can start all over again. Maybe believing in the hoax is better than whatever she is doing these days.
As it is, Kara drags her and all of their baggage up the mountain, the only one blissfully unaware of the depth of the canyon between them.
“It’s beautiful,” Kara sighs when they’re finally at the top, having perched with their legs swinging over a cliff side.
Lena pulls her hat further into her eyes. The customary black of her clothes makes it feel like the sun is burning down on her specifically.
“I wish Alex could - oh.” Kara’s head whips around to her, as if looking for guidance.
Lena’s blood freezes. That was that, then. It’d been too good to be true. “Do you -”
“Yeah,” Kara breathes. “I think i remember her. God, how could I forget! I love her so much.” A shadow falls over her features. “But she - she tried to fire Claymore at you. Why would my sister do that?”
“Well, I was about to mind control the world, for starters,” Lena drawls. “But I think what really tipped the odds against me was locking you in a kryptonite bubble at the fortress.”
“You did that?”
“So not all your memories are back,” Lena determines. “I see. I was wondering why you didn’t just give me a little…” She mimes pushing someone towards the abyss.
“Lena!” Kara jumps to her feet. “I would never -”
“Oh? You’ve fought me plenty of times, Supergirl.”
That seems to make her waver. “But never - I surely never tried to kill you?”
Lena shrugs. “I don’t know. Sure felt like it on this end. Not that you didn’t try to talk me out of my plans beforehand. Did your due diligence.”
“Rao, I’m a horrible friend.”
Lena laughs at that, but her heart twinges. “Supergirl, again, we haven’t been friends in years.”
Kara stays frozen. Lena sighs.
“Come on, let’s get back down. The rest of your memories are bound to come back and we’ll be able to return to normal.”
They walk down the mountain in silence. They don’t hold hands, don’t exchange as much as a word.
But before Lena can push the hidden back entrance to the bunker open, Kara speaks up.
“What if I don’t want to?”
“I’m sorry?” Lena is getting annoyed. In a few hours, days at most, this conversation will not matter.
“What if I don’t want to go back to normal,” Kara says, with more conviction this time.
“Trust me, you will once you remember everything,” Lena tells her.
“Well then I don’t want to remember,” Kara says stubbornly.
“Don’t be stupid,” Lena hisses. “You have a family to return to.” She won’t be blamed for taking Kara from Alex and Kelly, from Nia and J’onn, from Brainy and her mother and - she’s so loved. She needs to be home.
“And you?” Kara asks.
“I don’t need saving, Supergirl,” Lena says sharply, in the hopes that it will create the distance she needs until Kara creates it willingly. But it seems to have the opposite effect.
Kara takes a step forward, her shoulders trembling. “For Rao’s sake, will you just say Kara?!” she demands loudly, and Lena shrinks back against the door instinctively. Kara is by her side in seconds. “Sorry,” she mumbles, “sorry. I shouldn’t have yelled.”
“You shouldn’t have,” Lena brings out. Her breaths are coming fast, and she detests that Kara must be able to pick up on her accelerated heartbeat.
“Lex?” Kara asks, and Lena crumbles into her arms at the unexpected recall of the name. She hides her face in the crook of her neck to cover the tears that spring to her eyes. “He used to scream, didn’t he? I remember you telling me, but I never - oh Rao. I’m so sorry.”
“It’s okay,” Lena says, even though it isn’t at all. “It’s gotten worse. You couldn’t have known.” No one knows, after all, how jumpy she’s gotten. How looking for betrayal behind every corner, how absolute isolation can mess with a person. And she’s so completely lonely that even the past days have her exhausted, would have even without the person intruding on her space being her long lost best friend.
Kara’s hand strokes up and down her back soothingly. “You lost weight,” she says after a while.
“A little,” Lena admits against Kara’s skin. “I forget to eat.”
“You could’ve had one of my sandwiches that first day.”
Lena half sobs half chuckles, softened entirely by the vulnerability of her current predicament. “No, those were for you.”
“You need to take care of yourself,” Kara chides. It’s just a little too reminiscent of all the times she’d stormed Lena’s office with a bag of takeout in her hands.
“What for?” Lena whispers, years removed. It’s a dangerous question to ask. She’s never particularly been one for self destruction, even with all the disdain for herself she carries around, but letting herself run on empty, emotionally and physically? That’s a different story.
“For yourself?” Kara suggests.
Lena almost laughs. Instead she buries her face further in the crook of Kara’s neck, lets her hair block her vision.
“You’re lonely,” Kara says in lieu of an answer.
Lena is glad she didn’t try something stupid and sentimental like ‘For me,’ but the simple truth hits home. Lena can’t keep her. It’s a terrifying thought, though not quite as terrifying as the fact that it has occured to her in the first place.
It sparks a wish in Lena, something she needs to ask for even if Kara decides it’s too much once she has her memories back. She tightens her hold. “Promise me,” she says, and wonders distantly if she’s ever sounded this pathetic, “That you’ll try to think of our past with fondness, when you’re gone.”
Kara doesn’t respond, but her hand on Lena’s back stills.
“You’re right, I don’t have anyone.” It’s not said with self pity, just a statement of fact. “I want to be remembered by just one person not as the villain I am, but as the person I tried to be before that.”
“Lena,” Kara says, quiet, pleading. It sounds like more than a name.
“No, Kara,” Lena whispers back. Kara gasps at the name, hearing it from Lena for the first time in years. And that’s the crux of it all, isn’t it? “Don’t try to promise more right now. It’ll just hurt later.”
“Okay,” Kara relents, squeezes one last time and finally lets her go.
They call Alex that night.
Lena should’ve done so sooner, but she’d assumed Kara had told her where she was going. Of course that hadn’t taken into account that Kara had had very little idea of DEO protocols or her attachment to her sister.
Lena listens as Alex lets loose a string of curses once the relief at finding out Kara’s alive has set in. Kara helplessly looks to Lena, the phone held away from her ear.
Lena shrugs. Mouths, “Told you she cared.”
And that’s that.
Kara doesn’t leave.
Over the following two days, Kara stops in her tracks every so often, then shakes her head. Her almost forcefully bubbly demeanor has been exchanged for a contemplative but bashful one.
Lena feels like she’s counting down breaths until she leaves again.
She should hate this woman, by all rules of logic. But it’s hard to, when she smiles slightly crooked and gets excited when Lena produces ice cream from her food stash. It’s hardest when she looks at Lena like she hung the moon, like she’s something wonderful.
Lena gives up on reminding her that they’re enemies eventually. Kara isn’t listening, and as long as she sets certain physical and emotional boundaries for future Kara’s benefit, she’s allowed to be a little selfish, to enjoy the looks and the occasional compliment and the questions about their long gone friendship (“So I can think of you with fondness, Lena.” It’s not said with the intent to mock.)
Eventually, it will all come to an end anyways. Lena is steeling herself. Any minute now.
They eat dinner in silence. Lena distantly registers that her original plan to leave once the storm had passed has been thoroughly derailed. She doesn’t care. She hasn’t cared for much in a long time, and this is nice.
She watches Kara opposite from her, poking around in her stew. Probably a few too many vegetables, although it is from a can, nature of most of the food she keeps stashed at her hideouts.
Lena wants to remember Kara too, every little detail. She hadn’t taken the time to, before, had thought they’d reconcile until it was too late. This feels like a second chance.
“I loved you,” Kara says suddenly into the silence. Lena stops breathing. “I said I had a good feeling about you but that’s not the whole truth I think, now that I remember more. I loved you.”
Lena swallows hard. “Stop talking,” she says sharply. Kara will regret this once she remembers it all, she tells herself. She needs to save her from herself, from regurgitating these lies.
“Why?” Kara asks, her spoon falling into her half empty bowl with a loud clang.
“Because it’s not true and you’ll know it when you remember.”
“It’s not a lie. It’s what I feel,” Supergirl says. “And I remember more than you think, now.” She touches her chest, right above her crest. “I trusted you immediately. You’re breathtaking. I love touching you. Your pain breaks my heart as if it were me hurting. I must’ve loved you.”
“Well, you didn’t,” Lena says. She’s already laid herself bare in more ways than she wanted, she doesn’t need her last well guarded secret to be brought to light as well, least of all by the cruelty that Kara calls hope.
“That’s not for you to decide,” she persists.
“I know more about you than you do, at the moment,” Lena says. “Don’t forget that.”
“Then tell me,” Supergirl challenges. “Tell me why I couldn’t have loved you. Because you’ve been nothing but kind to me these past few days, when you could’ve shut the door right into my face the first night.”
Maybe she should have. Lena stands, her chair scraping against the concrete. God, she hates this blank space, hates all of it and most of all how much lighter it seems with Kara in it.
She thinks of Supergirl, shouting at her when she brought kryptonite to the DEO. Thinks of her on the battlefield, not believing that Lena was there to help anymore. She thinks of her arrogant little hope speeches, of how she always, always uses her love as an argument, as if it’d sway Lena to her side, make her keel over like a lovesick puppy.
“Because, Supergirl,” she spits out, “you didn’t just lie about your identity. You approached me as both of your personas, and you antagonized me as one while sweet talking me as the other. I can’t even express the extent of that betrayal, and god knows I’ve been betrayed enough to last several lifetimes.” She scoffs. “You’re a liar,” she says, and her heart twinges at Supergirl’s expression. “And I wish we’d never been friends. I wish I’d never fallen for your act and become weak.”
“You don’t mean that,” Supergirl says meekly.
Lena laughs, so cold it almost blinds her to the heat of her own tears. “But oh, I do. I hate you, Supergirl. We’ve been enemies for longer than we ever were friends. Or anything more, for that matter.” She sits back down, composes herself. Avoids Supergirl’s dismayed expression, wipes her tears, takes a spoonful of stew and begins blowing on it.
It’s silent after her outburst, the only noise the soft ticking of the clock and the scraping of Lena’s spoon in her bowl.
“Then why take me in?” Supergirl asks after several minutes. “Pity?”
“No,” Lena says. She looks up and finds Kara’s eyes wide, open to her in a way that they haven’t been in years. Her cheeks are tear stained, mirror to Lena’s own.
Lena is tired. Exhausted. She takes a deep breath. “Because the thing I hate most about you is that you made me love you. And that doesn’t just go away.” It's one last ugly truth, deposited primly between them for Kara to take or leave. It doesn't matter. Lena wipes her mouth on her napkin. “Excuse me.”
She stands and walks, leaving Kara to clean up.
There’s a knock on her door much later, when Lena has already changed into her black nightdress - no one could ever accuse her of not dressing the part.
“Just - leave it, Kara,” she says, defeated. She doesn’t need to hear her false promises again, not when it's five years too late to convince herself of them.
“No,” Kara says through the door.
Lena’s eyes fall to the keys on her nightstand. She’d locked up, definitely, not that that could keep Kara out if she really tried. “Then say your piece,” she calls out. “And then let me sleep.” For about a thousand years, please and thank you.
There’s a dull thud and then a sliding sound, and Lena realizes that Kara is sitting down with her back to her door. She walks over and settles against one of the adjacent walls inside, resting her cheek against her pulled up knees as she waits for Kara to speak.
“You make it sound like violence,” Kara says finally. “Loving. Is that what it feels like to you?”
“Yes,” Lena says simply, surprised at how true it is.
“Why?” Kara inquires.
Lena sighs, but gives herself a moment to ponder the question. “Because my love has always been a burden to others,” she answers finally. “And because loving has always steered me wrong, head first into agony.”
“Being hurt is part of love,” Kara says softly, voice dampened by the door between them. “And so is hurting.”
“What happened isn’t just an insensitive breakup text, Kara,” Lena says. “Our friendship is in ruins. We haven’t done anything but fight for years.” The observation stings more than Lena cares to admit. Not for the first time today she curses herself for falling victim to Kara’s charm, so long after it should’ve stopped working on her.
“We can build something out of those ruins,” Kara says. “Stone by stone.”
“Kara…” She knows she sounds exasperated. She feels a little sorry. Kara doesn’t know better.
“Do you know why I never stopped you, in the end? Because no matter what Alex said over comms, or what Nia was screaming next to me, I couldn’t put my all into fighting you.” Kara takes a deep breath. “I remember,” she admits then. “Not everything, but more and more. I’m sure you’ve noticed.”
“Yes,” Lena offers readily. “I’ve been waiting for you to leave since the mountain.”
“I still love you, you know?” Kara says instead of humoring her. “This version of me. I remember that I loved you a year ago, and a month, and a week. And I loved you yesterday, before that dragon slammed me headfirst into concrete.”
“A dragon?” Lena says weakly, ignoring the unsteady beat of her heart right along with the rest of the confession.
“Yeah,” Kara says. “Do you want me to tell you about it?” She sounds so soft, and so patient, and Lena loves her right back, just like she always has.
“Please,” Lena whispers.
Kara starts to talk.
Lena wakes the next morning with a neck so painful she takes a good fifteen seconds to even lift her head. She brings her hand up to massage it when she hears movement on the other side of the door.
“Did I wake you?” Kara asks.
“No. Good morning.” It’s the first time Lena’s said the words since Kara arrived on her doorstep. She wonders if she’s smiling, on the other side, if this feels as novel and overwhelming to her as it does to Lena.
“Good morning to you too,” comes the soft answer. “I’m going to wait for you in the reading room, yeah? I - I think we should talk, face to face. Whenever you’re ready.”
Lena swallows hard. “Okay,” she hears herself say, though she’s not sure she will ever be.
She hears some shuffling outside, then Kara is gone.
Lena takes her sweet time to get ready, mostly because she doesn’t know how to face Kara, but probably owes it to her after all she’d thrown at her. She feels exceptionally weak and vulnerable this morning, but is pleased to find that her favorite deep red suit paired with the matching lipstick boosts her confidence immensely. A good outfit really is like armor.
She drags her feet making tea and a bowl of muesli for Kara, but then finally can’t come up with any more reasons to stall.
“Here,” she says, holding out Kara’s breakfast to her. Kara’s sitting on the ground, Mrs Dalloway open on her lap.
“Thank you,” she says, then starts eating in silence while Lena sits down on the bed opposite and sips on her tea, watching her.
“You know that book is pretty short, right?” Lena comments after a while.
Kara hums around a mouthful of muesli, then swallows. “Yeah. I was mostly thinking, not reading. And - and watching you, I guess. You look beautiful once again, by the way.”
Lena busies herself with taking a big gulp of tea, which turns out to be a mistake, seeing as it is still fairly hot. She runs her sensitive tongue over the roof of her mouth to soothe it. “What were you thinking about?”
Kara sets down the half empty bowl. “Trying to remember, mostly. And trying to figure out why you felt so familiar, when you kept telling me that we’d fallen out so long ago.”
“It takes longer than five years to unlearn a person,” Lena echoes her own thoughts from a few days ago.
“Yeah,” Kara agrees. “Especially when you never really stopped thinking about them at all.”
“No, I’m sorry if it’s uncomfortable Lena, but I really do need to say it. I held it back for far too long, when I was conscious of a friendship I could jeopardize, and then of how impossible it all was with you hating me. These few days? I could just be with you. It was like a gift, in a weird way.”
“Yes,” Lena admits. “It felt like that to me too. And like a very cruel joke at the same time.”
“I’m sorry,” Kara says, nudging Lena’s foot with her own. “But I really do love you.”
“Even after everything?” Lena asks. She needs to hear the answer.
Kara looks up at her, eyes open, blue and unwavering. “Even after everything,” she confirms. “I’m sorry it took me losing my memory to be brave enough to tell you. I’m sorry if it felt like I was giving up on you. I needed to protect myself.”
“I know,” Lena admits. “And I’m sorry I expected you to carry all the blame. I’m sorry I expected you to be so trusting and perfect in the first place. It wasn’t fair.”
“I can take the first one,” Kara says with a sad smile, getting up and sitting down next to Lena on the bed. “But trust? You deserved that. More than I was able to give. I’m sorry.”
“God, the apologies are already getting old,” Lena says with a wet laugh.
Kara’s hand lands on hers. “Yeah,” she says. “So please don’t apologize for what I’m about to tell you next.”
Lena nods, confused, and a tear dislodges and drops down on their hands in her lap.
“I’m really angry at you, too. Remembering I’m in love with you doesn’t just fix that, just like the knowledge didn’t make me come flying all these years. You shut me out. Not just me, but everyone. And I saw a few days ago how much you’re hurting. It wasn’t fair to yourself.” Her throat bobs as she averts her eyes. Fear rises through Lena, but Kara’s hand in hers anchors her enough to keep her seated. “It wasn’t fair to me, either. I wanted to fight for you, but you just piled all the blame on me and I -”
Her voice shakes with the force of the emotion, and Lena raises her free hand to cup her cheek and make her look at her. “I got to be angry. You get to, too.”
Kara nods. “I just had to carry it. And I know my betrayal was the cause, but you lied, too. You hurt me too. That was much, much worse than having you openly oppose me.”
Lena’s heart aches for her. “I’m so sorry,” she says, brushing a strand of hair behind Kara’s ear.
Kara laughs wetly. “I told you not to apologize.”
Lena shrugs, though the situation doesn’t feel lighthearted. “Might be the default setting for a while.”
“You’re not kicking me out, then?”
“Well, I think you should return to your family,” Lena says carefully. “But if you ever want to come visit, you’re welcome.”
Kara rears her head back. “I’m not leaving you!”
The fear in her eyes is so apparent that Lena thinks about inventing a time turner for the first time in years, if only to never be another person Kara loses. “I’ll be here. I can stay for a bit.”
“You usually move around so no one can catch you,” Kara points out.
“Please.” Lena scoffs. “As if you couldn’t have caught me countless of times.”
It’s been an unspoken truth between them since the beginning of this pretense of black and white, when really they’re both so screaming grey. Kara doesn’t catch her, Lena never harms anyone who doesn’t get in her way.
“True,” Kara acknowledges. “But you’re not as much of a villain as you claim to be.”
“The road to hell is paved with good intentions, darling.”
“Yeah.” Kara huffs. “Maybe.” She pauses, her thumb idly stroking the back of Lena’s hand. Lena hopes she doesn’t notice the goosebumps the simple motion paints all up her arm. “Is it bad that I’d forgive you for all that in a heartbeat, though? You were so hurt. I hurt you so bad.”
“Now you’re just putting the blame on your own shoulders,” Lena points out. “I make my own decisions.”
“So how do we - how does this work?” Kara’s eyes are pleading when she fixes Lena’s gaze this time, their faces distractingly close.
“Together,” Lena breathes, the word warm air between their lips.
“El Mayarah,” Kara says.
“El Mayarah,” Lena echoes.
And then Kara is kissing her.
They might be in a supervillain bunker, and Lena might be a wanted criminal and Kara technically law enforcement, but right now, they’re just Kara and Lena, Lena and Kara.
With every press of Kara’s lips, Lena is back in her office, cursing internally when her heart speeds up at the sight of the cute not-reporter who introduces herself as Kara Danvers; and not much later, willing the butterflies that erupt low in her stomach to disappear when her new friend thanks her for the flowers; and years into their friendship, curled into Kara on the couch on game night like they’re two magnets and even getting up for pictionary would be too momentous of an ask.
“I love you,” she whispers when they next pull back, and Kara’s kisses grow that bit more enthusiastic.
It’s much later, when they’re lying on the bed, Lena’s head resting on Kara’s shoulder and Kara’s fingertips drawing idle patterns on her arm, that Kara says, “I forgive you, you know?”
She’s said it before, a plea when Lena was about to pull a lever that would dispers - she doesn’t even remember. She just remembers how the words had branded themselves into her thoughts like the cruelest mockery of all.
Right now, they feel like salvation.
Kara strains her neck to look at her. “Can you forgive me too? It’s okay if it’s too big of an ask. I can live with you -”
Lena places a finger on her lips to shut her up. For the first time it occurs to her that Kara may have said the words back then because they were what she needed to hear herself. And, to her own surprise, she finds that they aren’t a lie anymore, with years of distance and silent longing between them. There’s more to be forgiven, from those years, more to be examined and puzzled apart, but for now, “Yes, Kara. I forgive you too.”
Kara smiles contentedly, closing her eyes.
“Kara?” Lena asks after a few minutes.
Kara hums in response, the only other sign she’s even awake her fingertips on Lena’s arm.
“You can stay. Just for a little while.”