After it’s over, all of it, at last, Kara hugs her.
They haven’t spoken outside of their mission in weeks, haven’t touched in longer still. Lena can’t even remember the last time they’d hugged, the last time so much as glancing Kara’s way didn’t twist the dagger of betrayal deeper into her gut. But.
She’s filthy and spent, nursing a likely fractured wrist, blinking fresh blood out of her eyes. Blames her impaired vision for the fact that Kara scoops her up before she can back away. She’s crushed against the blonde’s chest with enough strength to call into question the solar flare she’d just witnessed with her own eyes, and Lena’s entire body goes rigid.
Kara is— Kara is trembling. Her breaths shudder out unevenly as Lena raises her palm to push against her chest, to break them apart. But Kara tightens her grip, traps Lena’s hand between their bodies. Her pulse races beneath Lena’s fingers.
“Please,” Kara grits, half-wild. “You can go back to hating me in a minute. Just— please.”
And Supergirl has just saved the world (again). And Lena has just killed her brother (again). And the remains of the Luthor mansion are in flames before them, and Alex and the others are securing her brother’s last stash of Kryptonite, and Lena is coughing up ash from her lungs and Kara is trembling.
And Lena thinks, sure. She can go back to hating her in a minute. So she stops struggling against the steel enclosure of Kara’s arms. Lets the blonde’s face tuck against her neck, lets Kara breathe her in.
A single tear splashes hot onto her clavicle. Lena pushes back until her toes can touch the ground again and this time, Kara lets her. She leaves without a backward glance.
In the week following their joint take-down of Lex and Leviathan, Kara texts her thirty-seven times. Lena deletes each message as it arrives, reads as little of them as she can.
Next, Kara calls her office. Lena instructs Jess to convey the message that she’s busy, indefinitely.
The following week, Kara’s texts drop to nineteen and the week after, only two. She never tries her L-Corp access pass. Lena wonders if she believes it’s been revoked, or if she's too afraid to find out.
The cut at her hairline heals, the bruises fade. Her fractured wrist is downgraded to a less bulky cast. A message comes through as she’s checking her schedule for the next morning, the first in days.
Kara [7.54pm]: for a minute there i really thought we were getting better
The memory of her brother’s last words before she killed him (the second time – how many people get to say that) slides like ice down her spine. Never thought you were a fool-me-twice kind of girl.
Lena clenches her jaw, thumbs flying over the keys.
Lena [7.57pm]: We were working together for a purpose. That purpose has been achieved.
Three dots bounce in the corner of her screen. Lena pre-empts them.
Lena [7.58pm]: Nothing is ‘better’. Nothing has changed between you and I, Kara. There is no you and I. I would appreciate it if you would start respecting that.
The dots disappear, appear, and disappear again. A full minute later, a single-word reply.
Kara [7.59pm]: understood
Lena hurls her phone at the wall hard enough that the casing shatters, and pours herself another whiskey.
Inevitably, L-Corp is attacked.
Lena’s work phone rings late one night, the shrill ringtone reserved for when shit has hit the fan hard. The attackers are nothing more than thieves looking to make a buck flogging her state-of-the-art equipment, but they’re armed with alien guns nasty enough to leave two of her guards hospitalised.
She stays late assessing the damage, cataloguing the losses. Personally coordinates the medical care of her injured employees, calls their families. She’s going over CCTV with her head of security when heeled boots touch down behind her.
“Ms Luthor. What can I do to help?”
Lena pulls her CEO expression over her face like a mask. Squares her shoulders, smooths invisible wrinkles from her blazer. Doesn’t turn. “Everything’s under control here. Thank you, Supergirl.”
She hears Kara's hurt in the full minute of silence that falls awkward and aching between them. Lena grits her teeth. She doesn't care, she doesn't care, she doesn't care.
At length, the hero works up the nerve to try again. “The report said the thieves had alien guns—”
“I said we’re fine,” Lena bites out. Forces herself to adjust her tone. “My team has it covered.”
Her head of security raises his eyebrows at the abrupt dismissal, but has the good sense not to comment. Lena’s not in the business of hiring backchatters.
Lena whirls on her. “Walk with me, Supergirl,” she smiles through clenched teeth. She can’t afford to be seen publicly making an enemy out of the city’s superpowered sweetheart. Once they’re out of earshot Lena turns, eyes flashing.
“Was our conversation in the Fortress of Solitude not clear enough for you? How many different ways do I have to find to tell you to leave me alone?”
Kara, irritatingly, looks genuinely surprised. “But— this is my job? I’m just here for work. It has nothing to do with, with you and me—”
A wave of nausea tinged with self-hatred sweeps over her as she stares as Kara’s impossibly earnest face. Every instinct in her body is screaming at her to just learn from her fucking mistakes.
She had stripped down her defences, had led Kara by the hand to the softest parts of herself, and Kara had soothed them. She’d laid her palms over Lena’s scars, pressed her lips against the open wounds and whispered promise after promise. She’d sworn to heal her, and then she’d dug her nails into the rawest parts of Lena’s soul and pulled her apart.
How can she ever open the door to her again?
“Any time I’m forced to look at the face that broke my heart, it has everything to do with you and me,” she snaps, throat tightening even as her lip curls.
Kara visibly recoils. Tears spring to her eyes, and Lena forces herself to harden in response.
All at once, she’s sure of the answer to her own question. She can’t.
No matter how much she might want to.
“The next time you set foot in L-Corp it had better be at my explicit invitation,” Lena hisses. Turns away so she won’t have to see the look on Kara’s face. “Until then, get the hell off my property.”
In August, Lena’s town car is t-boned on its way back from the airport by a semi-truck.
The car is a write-off, a mangled hunk of deformed metal. The drivers of both vehicles are loaded into ambulances. Lena stands, wrapped in a shock blanket and forcing herself not to tremble, explaining the situation to the police.
A heavy thud in the earth at her back and the cop in front of her falls silent, mouth agape. A breeze of super-speed whips at her blanket and she’s spun around to face a heaving chest, panicked eyes.
“You’re okay. You’re okay? You’re okay,” Kara rushes out, hands coming up to cup her jaw. Lena ducks out of her grip.
“Right, right. Sorry,” Kara says thickly, jerking her arms away. “You don’t— want me near you. I’m respecting that. Sorry.”
She takes in the bloody gash on Lena’s forehead, fingers knotting together. “I just had to make sure you were— when they said, I thought— God—”
And to Lena’s horror, fat, shining tears begin to streak their way down Supergirl’s cheeks.
Because perhaps seeing Kara’s face above Supergirl’s suit makes her want to light herself on fire, to drown out the blaze of deception still coursing through her veins. Perhaps there’s a hole in her ribcage where her heart should be, a hole in the shape of that damn crest on Kara’s chest.
But Lena is not a villain. She has never been, she is not cruel.
And Kara is crying. And maybe that’s something she’s never been able to handle.
So Lena can give her this. A pause, an amnesty. A temporary ceasefire. Before her weapons reload, Lena can give her this moment. She can give her, give them, just one minute.
So she steps forward, into the circle of Kara’s arms. Lets herself be wrapped up, lets gentle hands map her body, check for damage. “I’m so glad you’re okay, Lena,” the blonde gulps out, more a sob than a sentence. So she allows Kara’s face to press against her hair, allows her privacy from prying eyes.
When Kara’s body stops shuddering a minute later, Lena steps back.
“Alright?” she asks quietly. Kara nods weakly, sniffling.
Lena raises her chin. “Then I think you should go.”
Kara blinks at her, two more tears tracking twin courses down her cheeks. A moment later, she does.
She’s invited, hesitantly, to Alex’s birthday.
The redhead ambushes her outside her office on her way back from the labs. Jess is on holiday, and her replacement has obviously not been briefed on the building’s strict ‘no Danvers’ policy. But hell will freeze over before Lena shirks decades of propriety training – Lillian’s parting gift and lasting legacy – and allows herself to be called a bad host. Grudgingly, she invites her in.
She’s already shaking her head before the invitation has been fully articulated. “Kara will be there.”
“She will,” Alex allows. “And I know you guys are— I know she hurt you. But if you would just give her a minute to explain—”
A muscle in Lena's jaw ticks. “No.”
It shouldn't be this hard. She hates Kara, she does. It shouldn't be this hard to act on it.
Alex sighs. “You’re my friend too, Lena. I want you there.”
Something huge and irreparable cracks in Lena’s chest at the word friend. How can it still hurt this much, she wonders. Why can the Danvers sisters not seem to restrain themselves from digging up the grave of Lena’s agony any chance they get?
“Agent Danvers,” she says, calm voice belying the bile rising in her throat. “We are not friends, nor have we ever been. Perhaps lies and deceit are cornerstones of the friendships in your life, but let me be perfectly clear: they have no place in mine.”
Alex stands in the middle of her office, dumbstruck. Her mouth opens and closes like a fish.
Lena sinks into her office chair, shuffles a stack of papers, eyes down. “You can show yourself out.”
Only when the door has closed behind the redhead does Lena allow the breath she’s been holding to shudder out. She bites her lip, hard, choking on the smoke from all the bridges she’s burning.
She doesn’t hear from Alex again.
L-Corp’s stocks take off again after their Lex-induced tumble. Lena finally cracks the Fortune 100 list. A film crew want to do a documentary about her. Every one of her employees gets a 5% raise.
It’s an exciting, busy, achingly lonely time. Two weeks later, Kara crash-lands on her office roof.
She finds her laid out, one leg dangling off the edge of the building, caked in ash and blood from wounds already healed. A light rain mists down from a flat grey sky.
Blue eyes roll towards her. “Lena,” Kara says, a blissful half-whisper like she’s hopped up on happy gas at the dentist. Lena narrows her eyes. Takes in the looseness of Kara’s stance, her disoriented gaze, her awkward position. As if she had been dropped onto the concrete straight out of the sky.
“Are you hurt, Supergirl?” Detachment. Compartmentalisation. Little boxes. “Shall I call someone?”
Kara shrugs, wafting her hand dismissively. “M’sure Alex already has a tracker installed in my ass.”
A corner of Lena’s mouth quirks. She forces it back down. The blonde rolls her neck experimentally, stares up at her with dazed, fluttering eyes. “Do you still hate me?”
Lena’s little boxes crack wide open. Her mouth opens. No sound comes out.
Kara rolls her head away, lets her cheek rest against the rooftop with a sigh. “S’okay. This isn’t a dream. I know you do.” Blue eyes slide closed, then blink open again. “This isn’t a dream, right?”
“No,” Lena croaks in answer to one or possibly both questions, voice hoarse.
Kara hums, eyes shut once more. Overhead, a plane banks low through the clouds. Fine droplets of rain bead on the end of Lena’s eyelashes.
The blonde’s voice is half-asleep, mumbled. “Can I hold your hand? I probably won’t remember anyway so it doesn’t count, you still hate me. But, can I? Just for a minute?”
Kara’s brow furrows into the silence. Blood-streaked fingers reach across the concrete. “Can I?”
And despite her better judgment, Lena nods.
Her therapist tells her that she needs to enforce her own boundaries.
If forgiveness is not an option, then a clean break would be the kindest, most fair thing she could do. For both her and her ex, he tells her, eyebrow raised as if challenging her to disagree. He may have signed a veritable arsenal of watertight NDAs, but he still likes to push it every now and again.
Lena doesn’t correct him.
Twice a week, she sits in his midtown office and listens to him tell her to listen to her pain. To not be blinded by it but to think through it, to use it to inform the method of her healing.
And maybe that’s part of the problem. Lena has become an expert at handling her own pain. At living with it, withstanding it, at drowning it in whiskey and burying it under an avalanche of denial when necessary. And she’s wielding it now like a forcefield, a ring of fire to keep the world at bay.
But witnessing Kara’s pain? That lays her out with the efficiency of a bullet to the head. Every coping strategy, every good intention flies out the window the second Kara’s voice so much as wavers.
It’s just like the first time. Lena establishes a way of doing, a way of being, a way of navigating through her life that works on everyone and everything. And then Kara comes along and in a less than a minute everything goes to hell, and she can’t seem to do a damn thing about it.
And Lena hates it.
Kara starts to make good on her promise not to contact her. There are no more surprise visits, no more crash-landings. It’s been so long since they last spoke that when her name flashes in a message notification, Lena taps on it. More out of a need for distraction than anything.
Kara [4.30pm]: can i come to see you? please
She stares at the message until the letters blur. The sounds of her cleaning crew tidying up the fallout from her latest assassination attempt jolt her back to herself with a start. The shriek of broken glass being sucked through a hoover drowns out her thoughts as her phone buzzes twice more.
Kara [4.32pm]: i heard about the shooter. please, lena. only for a minute
Kara [4.32pm]: then i’ll leave you alone, i swear
Boundaries, her rational mind warns. Clean break. False hope.
She stares at the fresh bullet holes in the front of her desk, chewing on the inside of her cheek. Surely, it’s fine. Surely, it means nothing when weighted against the chasm of resentment in her chest. What’s one minute of weakness compared to the other 1439 minutes of her day where she stays strong?
Lena counts a full sixty seconds in her head before she texts back yes.
Her heels echo across the worn boards of the dock like gunshots. The late fall sunlight glitters off the ocean, blinding, the stench of fish overpowering in the air. At the end of the jetty, a mass of burly figures part at her coming like the Red Sea.
“She was under too long,” one huge man says. “We fished her out, but she’s pretty banged up.”
“We didn’t know who to call,” another adds. “But you two saved the world together, so.”
Yes, Lena thinks. So.
So that means she’s here, in the middle of National City’s port when she should be in a board meeting. Staring down at an unconscious Supergirl, half-drowned and dripping, when she should be dozing through quarterly reports.
Lena straightens her spine. “I’ll take it from here, gentlemen, thank you,” she says in a tone that conveys gratitude but also brokers no argument. The fishermen disperse, slowly. When the last one is out of earshot, Lena presses her fingertips to her temples.
“Jess,” she calls, never turning from the blonde at her feet. “Call Alex Danvers. Use my personal phone. Tell her where we are and— and why we’re here. You can wait in the car until she arrives.”
A quiet yes, Ms Luthor at her shoulder before Jess’ footsteps retreat. God, she needs to give that woman another raise, if for nothing more than never asking questions Lena would rather not answer.
Supergirl – Kara – is laid out on the boards like a limp rag doll. Soaked blonde hair drips quietly through the cracks to the ocean below. Lena sighs. Drops to her knees and lifts Kara’s head and shoulders into her lap, watches saltwater seep into the designer fabric of her suit. Another thing that will never be the same once Kara’s through with it.
The sun streams down on Lena’s bowed head, the scene peaceful despite the muted bustle of the port. She rests her palm over Kara’s heart, counts the beats for a full minute, then another. Allows herself to be reassured by the steady rhythm, still there, still going.
There’s no telling how long she kneels there. Eventually, the squealing of tyres signals the arrival of the DEO’s ever-conspicuous SUVs. Lena sighs again. Begins to ease herself slowly out from under the blonde. Kara stirs, eyes still closed, fingers grasping at empty air. Her head drops to the side, cold nose pushing up against the delicate skin of Lena’s inner wrist.
Kara inhales, heavy. “Mm, one more minute,” she mumbles, and something in Lena’s heart seizes.
She guides Kara back down onto the boards, pushes herself to standing. Thanks God that the one thing in the world that can hold Alex Danvers’ entire focus is currently lying unconscious at the end of a dock. Manages to slip away blessedly unnoticed, salt already crystallising beneath her fingernails.
Lena spends Thanksgiving alone. She spends every day alone, so it’s not like it matters. She wrestles down the twist in her gut that tries to suggest otherwise, secures it with an iron will.
After all, she’s spent far more of these holidays alone than not. In the scheme of her life, this is par for the course.
She’d wanted her security team to have a day off as well, so she can’t even go into work. Lena rattles around her too-big apartment, at far too much of a loose end for someone of her professional standing.
Nia tries to call her at some point during the morning. Alex sends a text before midday. Lena ignores them both, switches her phone off in favour of a Groundhog Day rerun on TV and a bottle (or three) of her best merlot. Doesn’t let herself think about what her former friends could have wanted. Doesn’t let herself think about anything beyond Bill Murray’s newfound ice-sculpting skills.
When the damn holiday finally ends, Lena steps back into her office with a sigh of relief. She drops her bag on the desk, is powering up her computer when something catches her eye. There, on her balcony railing, is a small Tupperware container.
Her fingers inch reflexively toward the silent alarm beneath her desk, but. A quick glance confirms that her balcony door is still locked. Nothing else has been touched. So. There’s no more question in Lena’s mind as to how it got there.
She cracks open the box to find one perfect piece of pumpkin pie. Of Eliza Danvers’ pumpkin pie. Lena doesn’t mean to inhale but she does, and suddenly it’s all right there. Cinnamon and whipped cream and red blankets and warm arms and bright blue, loving eyes. Lying eyes.
Lena stares down at the offending dessert for an unmoving, unblinking sixty seconds. Closes the box with delicate fingers. Checks the street below carefully for pedestrians, twice. Drops the pie, container and all, off the fortieth floor.
She counts herself lucky that it’s been almost two years since she was last accused of murdering innocent people. It would be luckier still to never be accused at all, but. With Lena’s family mantle and ever-growing list of corporate nemeses, that was never really an option.
She’d muted the TV hours ago but the defamatory headlines, the allegations and the hatred and the calls for her resignation, for her blood, are still running through her mind on loop.
Leaning against the railing of her office balcony, whiskey glass dangling precariously from her fingertips, she wonders, not for the first time, whether it wouldn’t just be easier to go over to the dark side once and for all.
When all of National City is so quick to believe her villainy, her inherent evil, while remaining staunchly unconvinced that the opposite could be true despite her most valiant efforts, well. She sometimes wonders if it’s even worth fighting. If maybe she shouldn’t just lean in.
Self-fulfilling prophecy, and all that.
It's not the first time she’s entertained thoughts like these, but it is the first in a while. Because there was a time when she had people – well, a person – who believed in her against every odd. Who flatly refused to let her give up. Who carried her even when she couldn’t do it herself.
Kara floats down into her line of sight like a waiting devil, a summoned angel. She hovers three feet from the railing, cape flapping over empty air. Positions herself at Lena’s eye level, unmoving.
Lena raises an eyebrow. “Is this you staying off my property?”
The faintest hint of a blush colours Kryptonian cheeks. “Well. You don’t own the airspace.” She pauses, squinting. “Do you?”
Lena just sighs. Takes another sip of whiskey.
“I know you didn’t do it,” the blonde says into the dead air between them. “I know L-Corp wasn’t responsible for the leak.” The bright thrust of Kara’s faith in her is blinding amidst the darkness Lena’s drowning in. The fervid sincerity of it, even after all this time and all the hurt between them, blights her every sense and leaves her reeling.
“And how would you know that.”
Her flat tone doesn’t sound like a question, but Kara’s answer is unhesitating. “Because I know you.”
She scoffs, but the sound is tired. “Maybe once upon a time.”
“I’ll always know you, Lena.” Kara’s eyes are so blue it hurts to look at them. “I see you.”
Lena clicks her tongue. “And look at that. You’ve just overstayed your welcome.” She tosses back the rest of her whiskey in one fluid motion, turns toward the door.
“I think you know me too,” Kara says to her back, voice quiet above the bustle of the city below. “You always have. I think you know that, even after— everything. Even though you don’t want to.”
Lena pauses with her fingers on the door handle. Rests her forehead against the cool of the frame. “You’re right,” she says, equally quiet. “I don’t want to.” Her hand tightens around the metal. “You have one minute to get out of my sight before I call security.”
By the time she opens her eyes again, Kara is gone.
Two days later, Lena is exonerated. An anonymous blog breaks the story, complete with incontrovertible proof that L-Corp was set up. It’s picked up by every major news station within the hour, each praising the devotion of the unknown ‘citizen journalist’ who uncovered the plot.
Lena cancels her session with her therapist, and pours herself another whiskey.
The December conference call with her Shanghai investors lasts until well past midnight. After, Lena collapses onto her office couch, tugs the tight bun out of her hair with a groan. Flicks on the news as she debates whether she should just fall asleep where she’s slumped.
A flash of royal blue pulls her attention. Lena watches in growing horror as Supergirl is body-slammed into a derelict building, trapped beneath it as it collapses. She watches it four times before realising the footage is looped. Lunges across the room for her phone before she can think.
“Lena?” Kara answers on the third ring, surprised. “Are you okay?”
A laugh, a strangled, anxious sound, forces its way from her throat. “Are you?”
“Oh.” A beat of silence. The sound of shifting cotton filters down the line, like bedsheets being pushed back. “I’m fine. An hour under the sun lamps. I’m home now.”
Lena releases the breath she’s been holding. Forces her hand to unclench from around her phone.
“Why did you, I mean, do you want—”
Kara’s voice is hesitant. Lena cuts her off before she can offer anything that might shatter her tenuous resolve, cross any of the unspoken lines she’s drawn for them lately.
“No, I just— wanted to check.”
The line falls silent. Lena stares at her phone screen in the dim of her office, listens to Kara’s steady breathing. Watches the call time tick steadily higher. Allows it to reach sixty seconds, then hangs up without another word.
Four days before Christmas, Alex Danvers is shot.
Lena watches it happen live on national television. Hears the gun fire, watches the redhead hit the ground like a dead weight. Doesn’t wait to watch the footage of Supergirl laser-visioning the shooter or scooping up the crumpled body, already texting her driver to pull the car around.
She forces down the panic bubbling up like acid in her throat, levels her coldest stare on the DEO agent who tries to block her entrance to the building. Doesn’t wait to watch him whither beneath it.
Kara is pacing the corridor outside the med bay, wound tight enough to snap. She stops short when she sees Lena, who doesn’t miss the way the blonde’s fingers twitch towards her instinctively.
But Kara forces them into fists at her sides. “What are you doing here?”
“I wanted—” And suddenly, she isn’t sure. Distance, boundaries, a clean break – isn’t that what she wanted? “I wanted to— how is she?”
“Too early to say.” Kara forces the words out like they’ve been dipped in Kryptonite. Her gaze is cold. “Why are you here?”
The shock of rejection leaves her stumbling. “I thought that maybe I could— you might need—” Lena’s arms half-raise of their own accord, suspended in mid-air.
Steel blue eyes narrow. “What, my sister got shot so I’ve qualified for one more hug? For one more minute with you?”
Lena can sense the terror, the pure panic underneath the bite to Kara’s tone. That doesn’t make it sting any less. Her arms drop back to her sides.
Kara exhales hard. Her shoulders slump. “I just can’t— I can’t, Lena. Not if you’re going to leave right after. Not— not if a minute is all I get.”
Lena swallows hard against the unexpected sting of tears. She nods once, sharply. “You’ll tell me if, if there’s anything I can do. For Alex.”
Kara nods, face impassive, resigned. Her gaze stays locked on Lena as if she’s waiting for something. Lena wonders if it’s something she’ll ever be capable of giving.
Heart hardened in her throat, blue eyes boring a hole into her back, she turns on her heel and leaves.
On Christmas morning, Lena wakes up alone.
Jess has threatened her with actual bodily harm if she attempts to go into the office. Lena believes her. And it’s not like there’s anywhere else she can go, no one else to spend the holiday with. She’d been slipping, she knows. Stealing a minute here and there.
Well, no more. No more weakness. No more surrender.
She curls up on the couch instead, no companions beyond a new book and her only Christmas gift. The most expensive bottle of scotch her black Amex could buy, to herself, from herself.
It's mostly empty by the time darkness falls. Lena’s phone vibrates once on the kitchen counter. It’s such an unusual occurrence now, to be contacted on her personal phone, that she jumps.
Kelly [8.23pm]: Alex came out of hospital this morning. We thought you’d want to know. Merry Christmas, Lena
She doesn’t ask who we is. She doesn’t reply at all.
She just lets the implications sink into her like sunshine, like a lethal dose of Kryptonite poisoning. Pictures them all there, together, Kelly and Nia and Brainy and J’onn and the fucking Danvers sisters. Healthy and happy and whole, no open wounds, no missing parts. A real family Christmas.
She downs what’s left of the scotch straight from the bottle, washes everything else away.
New Year’s Eve passes in much the same manner as Christmas. Midnight strikes to find Lena already unconscious, the neck of her third wine bottle stained lipstick-red.
Valentine’s Day comes and goes. Lena opens a bright pink, heart-adorned envelope to find a reminder for her biannual dental check-up.
St. Patrick’s Day is just a nuisance. Even her top-floor, soundproofed apartment can’t block out the cheer of National City’s party-goers. Supergirl and the police department are kept on their toes, rescuing drunken revellers from irrevocable mistakes. The news anchor – young, inexperienced, irritatingly pretty – ponders coyly whether the city’s resident superhero has anyone special she’d like to be celebrating with. Lena flicks the TV off so fast her neck cracks.
How can an absence sit in a room like a physical presence, she wonders. How can a void suffocate?
Kara, Supergirl, the secrets, the lies— the sum of it all dropping heedlessly from her brother’s dying lips had rent Lena’s world in two. That split second had opened the floodgates for the worst pain of her life to inundate her, overwhelm her, so she’d done the only rational thing. She’d blocked off the dam, amputated the compromised limb. Cut Kara, the source of her pain, clean out of her life.
The remaining discomfort is, must be, phantom; what’s left of Lena should be healthy and whole.
So why is the hatred that burns in her chest beginning to feel like it was never really hatred at all? Why is the lack of her beginning to ache more than just having her, agony and all?
The timer on the bomb is ticking fast, faster than seconds have any right to pass.
“Is the building clear?” Lena asks around the screwdriver caught between her teeth.
The Kryptonian nods, eyes glued to the mess of wires tangled in Lena’s hands. Lena can spare no more than a second to feel relief. “Good. Then get out of here.”
The blonde’s light tone does a poor job of masking the tension in her voice. “I haven’t seen you in six months, Lena. I wouldn’t mind sticking around a little longer.”
But this is no time for levity. “You should get out while you still can.”
Kara’s voice turns resolute. “I’m not leaving you.”
And God, Lena could have written this script. Could have anticipated this selflessness, this damned hero complex. Could have foreseen how it still lights up something in her chest, still reminds her why she’d first fallen for this pig-headed, beautiful woman even as it makes her want to tear out her hair.
“Kara, if L-Corp goes up so do its basements. Its storerooms. God only knows what kind of Kryptonite caches my brother left buried around the place. You have to leave.”
“Not without you.”
If Lena had the time, she might cry. She might scream until her lungs give out. She might throw her arms around Kara and kiss her.
Sixty. Fifty-nine. Fifty-eight.
She flicks open her pen knife, slices one wire, then another. She’s not going fast enough. “Kara.”
“Lena.” She can’t spare a moment to look, but she knows Kara’s obstinate voice when she hears it. She’d stake a considerable portion of her fortune on the bet that the blonde is probably pouting right now. “ If L-Corp goes up it’s taking you with it. Let me get you out of here.”
“I have to disable this fucking thing,” Lena mutters, cracking open the plastic casing with her fingernails. “I won’t hurt anyone else.”
“Lena, this isn’t your bomb! You're not its creator, for God's sake, you're its intended target!”
A hand enters Lena’s peripheral vision, en route to rest on her shoulder or back or wrist or somewhere else equally devastating. She elbows Kara away before the offending appendage can make contact, squinting down at the circuit board in her hands.
Kara is undeterred, beseeching. “You don’t hurt people, Lena. You save people, all the time. So just— let me save you.” Her voice cracks. “Please let me save you.”
Twenty-three. Twenty-two. Twenty-one.
“I hurt you,” Lena mutters, manoeuvring her blade through the tangle to cut another wire. She hears the intake of breath as Kara prepares to argue, but Lena doesn’t give her the chance. “And it’s gonna hurt a whole lot more when you’re at the epicentre of a Kryptonite bomb, so go. Go.”
It's quiet for so long that Lena almost wonders if the blonde has actually listened to her, for once in her life. Almost, but no; every iota of her concentration is focused on the device beneath her fingers, on the wires and connections she has to parse through to stop this whole city block going up in smoke.
Every one of her senses has narrowed down to this circuit board, to this steadily ticking clock. So much so that she doesn’t hear the sirens outside, doesn’t notice the jarring thud of her own racing heart. Barely even registers a new pressure against her stomach.
Eight. Seven. Six.
The timer drops to five seconds. Lena sinks her teeth into her bottom lip and slices through a red wire.
The pressure at her waist tightens enough to force the breath from her lungs.
And then the countdown stops.
It stops, frozen on five seconds. Five seconds pass in complete and utter stillness, five seconds of real time, and still the screen is frozen. There Lena still is, decidedly un-blown up.
A forehead drops heavy against her back, another warm arm snaking around her stomach to join its partner. “You did it,” Kara breathes against her shoulder blade, voice heady with relief. “Rao. You— you are amazing.”
Lena, coming back to herself slowly, blinks hard as adrenalin courses through her veins. “What the hell are you still doing here? Do you have a death wish?”
“I was gonna pull you out,” Kara mumbles. Her pounding heartbeat shudders into Lena’s frame. “At five seconds I was gonna pull you out. But you did it.”
Lena gapes, the weight of the past few minutes sinking into her at last. “Kara Zor-El, if you had pulled me out before I had defused this bomb I would have killed you myself.”
Kara chuckles against her, pressing her smile to the nape of Lena’s neck. “If you’d still been alive to do it, I would have let you.”
It’s that, out of everything, that cracks the veneer of shock enveloping her. The warmth of Kara, real and solid and wrapped around her like she belongs there, like her body was crafted specifically to slot against Lena’s own and hold; that’s the thing that breaks through.
She shoves out of Kara’s grasp, careful to avoid the still-frozen bomb as she forces herself to her feet. They face each other through the chaos of the room, chests heaving in tandem.
Lena watches wide-eyed as a sad smile, a knowing smile, tugs a corner of Kara’s mouth upwards. Blue eyes drop heavy to the watch on Lena’s wrist. “Our minute’s up, huh?”
Whatever else the blonde was going to say, whatever else Lena might have liked to say, is cast aside as the door slams open to reveal a hoard of agents in full tactical gear. Two lumbering figures in bulky bomb-disposal suits set to work on the device’s remains as Lena is manhandled out of the room, rushed through the building and deposited a safe distance away behind a police blockade.
By the time she gets a second to catch her breath, Kara is nowhere to be found.
She’s exhausted down to her very bones by the time she’s dropped back at her penthouse. Barely manages a cup of tea for her parched throat before she stumbles into the shower, sluicing the sweat and grime and terror from her body.
She pulls on leggings and a soft knit sweater, ignores the growing wet patches on her back and shoulders as water drips steadily from the ends of her curls. Drags a hand through the steam condensing on the mirror until she can meet her own eyes.
Lena stares at her reflection for one whole, silent minute, and she wonders what the hell she’s doing.
It takes Kara a long time to answer the door, considering her superhuman abilities and all.
That same hesitance, that guardedness makes itself known in her eyes once it finally swings open. Lena can see the walls Kara is building up around herself with every second that they’re in each other’s presence. She refuses to give the mortar a chance to dry.
She launches herself at Kara, flings both arms around her neck and holds. Kara catches her with ease and no small amount of surprise, Lena’s feet swinging a few inches above her apartment floor.
After a minute that’s far too short Kara chuckles, but the sound is dark. “Isn’t my time up now?”
Lena ignores her. Tightens her grip further, threads a hand through Kara’s hair.
“Lena.” The blonde’s voice is breathy against the shell of her ear. “What are you doing?”
“Not leaving,” Lena exhales, shaky but sure. She screws her eyes shut, muffles her words against Kara’s shoulder. “I’m not leaving.”
Kara’s fists are clenched against her even as she holds her steady. “Lena, please. This isn’t fair.” Her voice cracks. “You can’t just— you can’t keep asking me to let you go.”
“I’m not. I don’t want you to.”
Kara sucks in a breath that sounds like disbelief. “What are you saying? Why now?”
Lena sucks in a breath that feels like healing. “I was hurt, Kara. I was so hurt. But now, all I’m doing is hurting myself. And I’m hurting you. And I’m so—” Her voice chokes off as a gasp forces its way from her throat. “I’m so tired of hurting.”
The fists at Lena’s back unclench. “Me too,” Kara breathes, fingertips stroking lightly at Lena’s waist. “I’m so sorry, Lena. I swear I’ll never hurt you again.”
A sound rips from her throat that lands somewhere between a laugh and a sob. “Don’t you make any promises to me that you can’t keep.”
Kara shivers against her. Then she’s pulling back, guiding Lena’s feet to the ground. Keeping them pressed together as they stare at each other, breathing hard.
“Okay,” the blonde says, inhaling heavily. “I promise that I will spend every minute for as long as you’ll let me trying to make it up to you. Trying to show you how much I trust you, how much—”
“I love you.”
Kara gapes at her, mouth opening and closing like a stuck record. “You— what? Really?”
Warmth spreads through Lena’s chest as the ashes around her heart start to tremble, as something bright and beautiful and too-long caged bursts forth, blotting out the darkness.
“Yes, really. I love you, and I don't just want a minute with you here and there. I— I want you, Kara. I'm tired of pretending I don't.”
Kara tightens her grip on her waist and lifts her again, spinning them both until Lena’s dizzy and giggling, pressing her face to Kara’s neck. “Oh Rao. Oh Rao,” Kara breathes against her temple. “I love you. Rao, Lena, I love you so much. I couldn’t do it without you. I couldn’t be without you.”
“You don’t have to be,” Lena whispers, pressing her lips to the exposed skin of Kara’s throat. Revelling in the feeling of the blonde’s pulse jumping beneath her skin.
There’s still so much to say. There’s so much to talk about and cry over and apologise for. And there are so many things Lena wants to do. She wants to map every inch of Kara with her eyes, with her hands. With her lips. Wants to press into her until it’s atomic, their bond. Until she can feel Kara on a molecular level, until they are joined together in the most fundamental binding this universe can offer.
She wants to use the softest parts of herself to brush away the tears gathering in Kara’s blue eyes, soothe the scars she herself has inflicted, and let Kara soothe hers.
She wants, perhaps more than anything else in this moment, to run her thumb over the plush of Kara’s mouth. To let her eyes drop to where the blonde’s tongue darts out to lick her own lips, to stare unabashed, unrestrained. To catch Kara’s face in her hands, run her thumbs along her cheekbones, tease the fine baby curls at her temples before sliding her fingers back to tangle fully in her hair, scratch lightly over the nape of her neck. To pause with only a breath between them, to offer up to Kara everything her heart and soul possess. To press her lips to Kara’s at last, to finally come home.
Lena wants and wants and wants, and she’s just about ready to surrender to it entirely when Kara’s arms tighten, hands splayed against her ribs, thumbs sweeping back and forth through her shirt as she crowds their bodies even closer together.
“One more minute?” the blonde murmurs against her cheek, voice small and hesitant and hopeful.
And when had Lena ever been able to say no to that?