Kara Danvers has imploded Lena’s brain.
For starters, Kara is a reporter. That alone tends to be enough for Lena to push someone away, but Kara isn’t like other reporters. She isn’t like anybody Lena has ever met. Kara is unique, with bright smiles, endless kindness, and gentle waves of blonde hair. She’s lovely. Not to mention the crisp shirts that fail to hide Kara’s well-developed musculature…
No, Kara Danvers isn’t like anybody Lena has ever met, because Lena wants to kiss her. She wants to hold Kara’s hand, and squeeze her broad shoulders, and run fingertips along Kara’s chiseled stomach. Lena wants to stroke Kara’s cheeks before tucking blonde curls behind her ear, and cuddle on a couch somewhere, sharing a blanket as they watch movies.
The desire to touch materializes at every one of their meetings, but Lena can’t be blamed. Kara is sweet and earnest, and her patience is endless. She’s unrestrained with her feelings and is open in a way Lena never allows herself to be. Kara is boundless and uninhibited, and Lena adores her.
It had been altogether jarring to realize, and though they’ve only been friends for a few short months, Lena has never wanted to get to know someone like this.
Since Lex was incarcerated, meeting new people has been taxing for Lena. Real assassination attempts aside, most people avoid her as if existing in the same space is a guaranteed poisoning for them. They act like her brother’s corruption radiates from her, too, which is… painful to consider. Most people wouldn’t touch a Luthor with a ten-foot pole and, rudeness aside, that’s how Lena prefers people in her space — at a distance.
She doesn’t have to shake their hands this way. It’s not the germs that bother her —Lena likes microorganisms. It’s just distracting, and Lena doesn’t have time for distractions. Especially avoidable ones. So she keeps herself at people’s preferred ten-foot distance; they don’t touch her, and Lena isn’t overcome by the thought that she is going to be attacked.
It’s illogical, but with a single touch, the thought wheedles into her mind, repeating itself over and over until it’s all Lena can focus on. It’s relentless, and it lingers for hours after the person who touched her has left—even if their conversation was polite. Even if it’s someone she knows. Even if it’s Kara Danvers, who Lena likes .
And so, Kara Danvers has imploded Lena’s brain, because Lena wants to touch her.
Overall, Lena has a strong, rational mind. She’s a scientist, a genius, and a successful businesswoman capable of running a multi-billion-dollar corporation. By anyone’s standards, Lena has prospered in a world built to keep people unprofitable. Despite her mind’s best efforts, Lena has succeeded in every goal she has set for herself.
All but one.
She glances at her rose gold watch as she finishes scribbling suggestions all over a lab assistant’s rudimentary design plans. It’s mindless work, so Lena smiles at the time. Kara is scheduled to stop by for lunch soon.
Lena’s stomach lurches as she recalls the first time Kara hugged her. It was near the beginning of their tentative friendship, and Lena flinched. Lena tried to hide her automatic fears, but she spent the rest of their lunch distracted and fidgety.
She kept glancing out of the balcony windows for attack drones, and her hand hovered over her alarm button when Jess called on the intercom. It took a week to feel like herself again, and Kara noticed—she’s so damn attentive. Since that single time, Kara has always asked before touching Lena. Ever respectful and patient, Kara keeps her distance.
Despite the inevitable and incessant alarm bells ringing in her head, Lena lets Kara hug her sometimes, or they’ll share fries and their fingers will brush together. It’s a small exposure to a source of stress with the safest person Lena knows. She likes hugging Kara, and how solid her arms feel, how gentle Kara is with them. But Lena still looks over her shoulder afterward, sure that someone is there.
Kara doesn’t mention it. She lets Lena keep the secret, so Lena lets Kara have a secret, too. They talk about everything except for Lena’s disorder, or the navy suit Kara has hidden beneath her colourful array of cardigans.
Lena should be grateful that Kara doesn’t ask about it, but she doesn’t want Kara to be another person on the other side of a ten-foot gap. Lena knows nothing bad will happen if their fingers brush together. Or their lips. The knowledge doesn’t stop the intrusive fear.
When Lena feels like herself, she can be reasonable. In moments like this, alone in her office, she understands that if someone touches her or if she goes home without refreshing her email eight times, the chances of something bad happening are low. Except then someone new from R&D will bump into her in the hall, and Lena will spend the next few days looking over her shoulder, smelling her coffees for the telltale, bitter-almond scent of cyanide, and getting up all night to make sure she set her security system, even if she knows she already checked it. Thirteen times.
So, Lena has devised careful boundaries to mitigate risk. Lena goes to her water tray when a new meeting is about to begin, pouring herself a drink instead of shaking her guest’s hand. People have learned to put things on her desk instead of handing them to her because Lena pretends she’s too busy to grab them. They’re genius tactics, and if her therapist calls them “safety behaviours,” well, Lena only has to acknowledge that on Wednesdays at six.
In her defense, Lena works hard to improve her symptoms. She tries to leave work without refreshing her email eight times—if only so she can tell her therapist that she’s doing the damned exposure and response prevention homework.
Most days, as long as nothing else goes wrong or triggers her, Lena can leave without refreshing her email more than twice. And Lena lets Kara Danvers in—with unrestricted office access. It’s proof that therapy helps, and proof that Lena needs it, but it’s frustrating to exist in a mind that attacks itself.
Especially when Sunshine Personified walks in with a beaming smile, a bulging bag of Big Belly Burger, and Lena wants to kiss an actual reporter.
Except Lena knows if she tries, she will spend the rest of the week tormented by her imaginary hitmen.
“I brought your favourite!” Kara says as she sets the bag on Lena’s coffee table. The plumerias Kara gave her at the beginning of the week still sit in their little white vase there, and Lena grins at how well Kara knows her. She shuffles her blueprints into a vague pile before she stands.
“You’re my favourite,” Lena flirts. She’s shameless. It might be embarrassing if Kara’s reactions weren’t so charming.
Kara dips her chin down to hide her blushing cheeks, adjusting her glasses over her scrunched-up nose. It’s the cutest thing Lena has ever seen in her life, she’s certain.
“Want a hug?” Kara offers. Lena goes rigid for a half-second before she shakes her head, but Kara doesn’t get angry. She smiles with a nod before sitting on her side of the couch, waiting for Lena to set out their food. Kara always does this. It’s sweet, considering how much Kara loves to eat, that she lets Lena set things out so there’s no risk of accidental contact.
Kara’s willingness to accommodate Lena should feel like a relief, but overall, Lena feels like a fool for needing these irrational compromises. Why can’t she just reach over? Why can’t she let Kara hug her when it’s so clear they both want the same thing?
After setting out three extra-large fries, six burgers, and two sides of onion rings, Kara begins to inhale her 90% portion. Kara talks about work at CatCo and how Snapper Carr is a nightmare human, and how he should not be anybody’s boss. Lena could listen all day. Kara Danvers is the best part of Lena’s schedule.
They exist together in the same space, in comfortable companionship that’s so rare for Lena, and they talk about everything—from old boy bands to quantum mechanics. They’re good together, and Lena, though she’s not one to open up, wants Kara to know her. Lena wants to know Kara too.
Lena bites her lip as she smoothes the wrinkles out of her red silk blouse. She twists the discreet, black fidget ring on her thumb, toying with the loose spinner embedded into the base. She’s been working up to telling Kara about her disorder. They’re friends. Lena wants to be more, and she’s often sure Kara does too, but she wants Kara to know all of her first. Even the parts that are messy.
“I-” Lena says, but she has no idea where to go from there. She’s a Luthor. Emotional conversations are not a practiced skill. Kara swallows the massive amount of fries in her mouth, looking up at Lena with wide, worried eyes. Lena takes a deep breath as she smoothes out more invisible wrinkles.
Kara tilts her head to the side, and Lena understands why Alex says she looks like a golden retriever. Kara is so earnest with everything, so eager to help. A hero, even when she isn’t flying around National City.
Kara puts the remainder of her fries down, looking just as nervous as Lena feels. In an instant, their calm companionship is devoured by anxiety—Lena fidgeting with her clothes and Kara worrying her bottom lip. Kara can always tell when Lena is nervous. It must be the superhearing. What other secrets does Kara know from her powers alone?
Lena clenches her jaw. She is a straightforward, merciless CEO. She can tell the most important person in her life that she has obsessive-compulsive disorder. She lifts her chin, knowing there’s no shame in who she is, and with a deep breath, she speaks.
Except Kara speaks at the exact moment.
“I have OCD.”
“Lena, I’m Supergirl.”
They blink at each other for a few silent moments before Lena’s lips twitch with the effort it takes not to grin.
“Kara, I know,” she murmurs. “Thank you for telling me, though.”
Kara’s confusion doubles. Her eyebrows pull together and she pouts before scoffing, “What? You don’t know. ”
Lena raises an eyebrow and Kara’s shoulders slump. Her apologetic smile makes Lena chuckle.
With a sigh, Kara asks, “Fine. How did you know?”
“Busses don’t fly, and there are exactly two people in National City who I allow to touch me. I’m looking at them both. You have-” Lena gulps before her eyes flit over Kara’s arms—strong and gentle in equal measure “-a very specific way of holding someone.”
“Oh,” Kara blushes before she scratches the back of her neck. Her bicep flexes under her grey sweater, and Kara adjusts the white dress-shirt collar that pokes from underneath it. She’s partnered the shirts with her olive tone chinos that Lena loves—the ones that curve to Kara’s muscular thighs, and Kara’s other hand picks at a loose thread on the outside of her knee. “Are you mad?”
“Of course not. You’re amazing. I might have been upset if you took too long to tell me, but you didn’t,” Lena reasons. She starts to twist the ring around her thumb again. Kara’s eyes zone in on the small movement for a moment before she offers Lena a gentle smile.
“I’m glad I told you. I’ve been wanting to for a while,” Kara murmurs. Her smile is kind in the way Lena adores—like it never occurred to Kara to try to hide her happiness. Kara adjusts her body toward Lena’s before she asks, “Do you want to talk about it?”
Lena bites her lip as her eyes flit to their abandoned lunch. She knows what Kara means, but Lena delays. “Talk about Supergirl?”
“No, about you,” Kara insists. Her face is relaxed and open, holding no confusion or judgment. Lena sighs at the perfect response, having no reason to impede this discussion any longer.
“I wanted to tell you, too,” Lena says, careful to keep her voice measured despite the tightness in her throat. “It’s a part of me, and I hope it doesn’t change anything-”
“Of course it doesn’t!” Kara cries as she straightens her back, putting all the strength of a Kryptonian behind that determined belief. It makes Lena smile, but Kara relaxes again, saying, “Sorry, keep going.”
“You’re the best person I know, and I want you to know me, but Kara, I can’t do anything,” Lena complains, twisting the spinner on her finger so hard her thumb moves too.
“That’s not true,” Kara murmurs. “You’re the hardest worker I know.”
“No, I mean I can’t touch anyone. Or you , without panicking that I’m going to be attacked, and I know you won’t hurt me and that my subordinates in R&D aren’t secret assassins, but any touch makes me sure that they are,” Lena rants. She’s only ever open like this with Kara, and as ever, Kara knows just what to do.
She pulls her grey sweater over her head, pausing when it gets stuck on her glasses before she holds the warm wool toward Lena. Kara offers another gentle smile and murmurs, “When I’m upset, it helps to hug a pillow.”
Lena takes the sweater with shaking hands, and Kara is careful to avoid them. Lena clings to the soft grey, inhaling the subtle scent of Kara—cinnamon and fresh air, an odd mix that shouldn’t work but does.
“Have you always been this way?” Kara prods, and her blue eyes are free of malice, free of judgment, just like Lena hoped they would be.
“In some ways,” Lena admits. “I’ve always been tidy. When things are where I think they should be, it’s easier to focus. There was no room for imperfection in Luthor Manor, so I never allowed myself to be anything less than ideal—though even that wasn’t enough.”
Lena shakes her head and Kara’s grip on the couch cushion tightens until the leather squeaks.
“You don’t have to be perfect to deserve respect,” Kara asserts, her brows furrowed in the way they become when she’s certain, and Lena smiles at her, though it’s a sad one.
“I know that now. I go to therapy and I work on this, but ever since Lex, it’s gotten out of control, and I can’t do the things I want to do because of it. It’s tormenting, Kara. I want you to hug me, but I just can’t.”
“Would it be better if I stopped hugging you?”
“No!” Lena cries, swallowing when the tips of her ears heat up. “No, I like your hugs. I want to touch you, it’s just- in therapy, I’m learning to take small steps. Little things that I know I’ll be successful in before I attempt anything profound. I know it sounds ridiculous. It’s just a hug, but-”
“It’s not ridiculous to me,” Kara implores.
“You know, when I came to this planet, I couldn’t be in enclosed spaces for… a long time. Sometimes they still get to me. I’ve had panic attacks in elevators, even when I can burst out of them. Sometimes brains aren’t rational, but that doesn’t mean they’re not good brains.” Kara smiles and Lena’s eyes flicker down to her lips.
“What if…” Lena starts but then shakes her head.
“You can tell me,” Kara murmurs. “I’ll be here for you no matter what, I promise.”
“I don’t want you to resent me,” Lena whispers through the emotion that clogs her throat. “I’m going to panic, at least in the beginning, and that may never change. You’re going to hug me, and I’ll flinch again, and I don’t want you to think it has anything to do with you, or Supergirl, because it doesn’t. I don’t want you to grow to hate me for having to work this hard just to sit this close.”
Kara’s eyes flit to the foot of distance that separates them on the couch, frowning at the space and then to Lena. “I could never hate you, Lena.”
“Even if I can never hug you? Or… hold your hand? Kiss you?” Lena gulps and Kara’s eyes grow wide.
“I mean-” Kara blushes, looking down to adjust her glasses “-I want to, you know, touch you and stuff. Like hold your hand, I mean! Not sex things. Well, sex things too, but that isn’t what I was talking about, I just meant-”
“Breathe, Kara,” Lena interrupts with a crooked smile and Kara takes a deep breath.
“I mean that I like hanging out with you, right now, as we are. I like sitting together and talking. You’re so smart, and funny, even though you think you’re not. I don’t ever want to make you uncomfortable, and I know you’re working on yourself, but I’m not here to pressure you into changing. If I never get to hold your hand, I’ll still be your friend,” Kara rambles, soft and sweet, and Lena’s heart races as Kara whispers, “I’ll still want to be more.”
“You like me anyway?” Lena whispers back.
“I like you because of who you are. This is just one part of you, and I know it’s there, but that’s not all I see. It doesn’t take away the rest. Everybody is always growing, Lena, and you work really hard at it. That’s what’s important for everyone, you know? Just… trying to be better, but loving ourselves anyway. Even the hard parts and the things you don’t think are good enough.”
“You have quite a way with words, Kara Danvers,” Lena teases, shaking her head at her stupid, boundless crush on a news-reporting Kryptonian.
Kara’s nose scrunches up as she chuckles, but her smile grows soft again, adoring as she says, “I will always be here.”
Kara tilts her head to the side with a crooked grin, her cheeks dusted pink as she raised a hand between them. “I can pinky promise. If you want. No pressure.”
There are no stakes—Kara won’t be upset if Lena declines. Kara will be there if Lena declines for the rest of her life, and perhaps that’s why Lena can raise her own hand despite the knowledge that she will suffer for it. She’ll grow from it, too. She eases her shaking finger into Kara’s steady one, and Kara has the decency not to mention Lena’s watering eyes.
This touch, though it does cause Lena’s heart to race with the fear that she’ll be attacked, is also a promise that Kara will be there while Lena tries to lessen these beliefs—regardless of if Lena succeeds.
Lena pulls away and Kara beams at her, bright like the summer sky, like hope, like she’s never broken a promise in her life.
Kara tilts her head to the side and her brows furrow in the way that assures National City’s need for a hero. She stares at Lena’s balcony door, and then says, “There’s a fire at the docks.”
Lena holds the grey sweater back toward Kara, but she shakes her head.
“Keep it,” Kara says before she disappears in a blur that leaves Lena’s mind reeling. She clutches the cinnamon-scented wool to her chest, eyes following the speck in the sky that flies toward the river.
And sure, Lena still smells her coffees for the rest of the day. Sure she has to refresh her email seven times before she goes home, lest all of National City get destroyed by an attack Lena knows won’t happen. And maybe Lena even has to reset her house alarm a dozen times before she finally succumbs to sleep. But Kara’s touch, this pinky promise made Lena able to sniff one less coffee, refresh her email and reset her house alarm one less time than she otherwise would have.
It’s a small exposure, an infinitesimal step in the grand scheme of things, and Lena still has so much more to accomplish, but she’s never failed at anything she set her mind to. She can look over her shoulders one less time. She can touch Kara Danvers and live. Perhaps one day, Lena can live the life she longs for.
Lena can be strong—she has been her whole life—but with Kara, perhaps they really can be stronger together.