“Brainy, get us out of here.”
The air is sucked out of Lena’s lungs as she stares from the doorway.
J’onn, Nia, Kelly, even Brainy, rush to Kara once the ship has been set to return home through the portal.
But not Lena. Lena stands in the doorway from the other room where she launched the sun bomb. She stands, unable to make her legs move forward anymore upon seeing Kara and Alex hugging. She registers the visibly relief setting in through Kara’s entire body as she hugs her sister, her eyes closed as she sinks into the embrace.
Lena barely register’s J’onn telling Brainy to get them out of the Phantom Zone, to get them back to Earth, to home. Like J’onn knew Lena would be useless to guide the ship, even though it was her who opened the portal to the Phantom Zone. She just continues to stare at Kara, her mouth open like maybe this part of her body might work, so she can at least speak, if she can’t move.
But only silence comes out, drowned out by the voices of her friends… her family, who all swoop in to get their own hugs from Kara. Kara smiles at each of them, giving them all one of her big, signature hugs. And still, Lena doesn’t move. She wants to. God, she wants to. She had wanted one of these hugs before… before the fight with Lex. But she knew then that they weren’t friends again… that they were just allies working together to take down her maniacal, narcissistic brother.
And here, now? This was her cleaning up his mess. He sent Kara here. So, Lena had to save her. Just like she had to save her in the Fortress when she fought Lex. Lena would do whatever she needed to do to save Supergirl… to save Kara. Because, if there is one thing Lena has come to accept over these past few months. It is that at some point since meeting Kara, she had somehow fallen in love with her. Too bad she didn’t realize it before they completely ruined each other with their secrets and lies, or before her own brother sent Kara to the Phantom Zone. But it is what it is now. Lena will do what she can to make amends. She will do what she can to correct the mistakes of her past and of her family. For Kara. Because loving her, even from a distance, is enough for her.
So, Lena stays rooted at the doorway, letting Kara reunite with her true family. She catches Kara’s eyes a few times whenever the group moves at just the right angle, though no words are exchanged.
“Everyone… this… this is my father.” Lena’s eyes go wide, hearing Kara introduce the man she brought with her to the ship. He had been standing back, away, by the entrance they had come in from. Somehow, Kara managed to find her father, of all people, in the Phantom Zone. Lena’s face forms a half-smile, happy for Kara, as she internally thanks the universe for finally giving someone back to Kara.
When they reconnect to the Tower, Alex insists they do a full workup of Kara and her father, loudly pestering, practically dragging her sister to the med bay. Lena slowly makes her way, last, still unsure of her role now that Kara has returned. She is surprised when she finds Nia waiting for her.
“You know I meant what I said earlier… about this being your family too.” Nia gives her a smile and then turns to walk towards the med bay, waiting for Lena. Lena takes in a deep breath, unsure on how to proceed, but knowing that she will have to face Kara eventually.
As they make their way into the room, Alex is fussing over Kara, who is now fully whining and insisting that Alex instead check on her dad.
“See, Lena is here, she can make sure I’m fine while you check over him instead.” Lena feels Nia’s hand on her own, giving her a supportive squeeze as she makes her way over to Kara’s bedside. Alex hands her the tablet as she rolls her eyes.
“Fine. Here Lena. You deal with the difficult patient.” Kara sticks her tongue out at Alex as Alex makes her way over to Zor El, guiding him across the room to the other bed to start checking all his vitals.
“You… raised my daughter?” he asks in a soft, hushed tone as the others talk and mingle around Kara.
“Oh… no… we are sisters. My family, my parents, adopted her when she got to Earth,” Alex explains as she sets up the monitoring devices.
“And that woman? What is she to my daughter?” Alex follows Zor El’s head nod to see that he is asking about Lena. “She did not run up and embrace Kara like the rest of you when we arrived on the ship.”
Alex hums as she tries to think of a way to explain that to this man. And wonders what Kara would want her to even say. Alex decides to go with the lightest, most vague version of the truth. “Her name is Lena. She and Kara are friends. But they were going through a bit of a rough patch when Kara got sent to the phantom zone.”
Zor El hums in response but doesn’t ask any more questions, which Alex is grateful for.
Meanwhile, Kara is watching Lena who is staring intently at the tablet, typing away. Kara is oblivious to the others in the room, who are conversing with her. Though as the conversation goes on, Nia is mostly rambling about all the things that Kara has missed being in the Phantom Zone.
“Oh, Andrea has been on my case so much! And William has been a bit weird about not having heard from you… but he did help me with covering the Lex case. You should have seen Lena in court Kara!”
“Yes. And you should see Nia’s article on Lena leaving the company. It is quite spectacular,” Brainy says, a proud smile beaming on his face.
The words of everyone around her finally register. Kara whips her head around. “Wait wait wait. Why was Lena in court? And did you just say that Lena left Luthorcorp?”
Her head turns back to Lena who is now looking at the others, a blush creeping over her face. “Lena? Is this true?” Kara asks as Nia mouths the word “sorry” to Lena.
“Like they said Kara, a lot has happened.” It isn’t lost on Lena that Kara focused only on the parts that Nia said which involved her specifically.
“You know what, we should probably let Kara and her father get some rest while Lena and Alex finish up. We will come back later to check in on you,” J’onn jumps in, reading the room. He helps shuffle Nia and the rest of the Superfriends out of the med bay.
An awkward silence fills the room as Lena continues to type away on the tablet.
Alex puts a sunlamp over Zor El to help him finish recovering. “This will help you heal faster,” she says. “In the meantime, try to rest and I’ll be back in a little bit to check on you.” He nods before leaning back and closing his eyes. Alex eyes Lena and Kara, giving her sister a nod and smile before exiting the room.
“Lena,” Kara says once Alex is gone.
Green eyes look up slowly from the tablet.
“You should rest too, like your… father,” Lena finishes the statement, though the uptick in her voice makes it sound like a question.
Kara smiles. “I know… I can’t believe it either… There was so much going on there… and yet somehow I found him…”
Lena turns the sunlamp on. “I’m so happy for you, you deserve it after my… after what Lex did… Now… Get some rest.”
Kara nods and mimics her father, laying back and closing her eyes. She feels more than hears Lena stay by her bed for several minutes after that. In fact, when Kara does wake again, she is certain that Lena had stayed until she was fast asleep.
When she does wake up, Alex is in the room, checking on her father.
“Alex, hey,” she greets her with a smile. “How is he doing?”
Alex saunters over. “Good, he should be all clear within the hour. Speaking of…” Alex says as she picks up the tablet by Kara’s bed, “It looks like you are all set.” Alex turns off the sunlamp over Kara.
Kara smiles as she hops off the bed, ready to rejoin her friends and finally ask Lena about what happened with her while she was gone. And maybe, finally, have a conversation. She feels all the tension between them still and remembers all the unspoken words between them from before her fight with Lex… from before she was sent off to the Phantom Zone.
Kara is disappointed to find out that Lena left while she slept. She tries to enjoy her time that evening, eating her fill of pizza and pot stickers and playing games with her family. But she can’t shake the feeling that she is missing someone. She is missing the one person she wants there.
“How come Lena didn’t come back for this?” She finally asks Nia when they have a moment alone on the balcony of the Tower towards the end of the evening.
Nia’s smile fades as she looks out over the city. “I think she still struggles with a lot of guilt about what happened to you… She was hell bent on getting you back all these weeks… and now that you’re here… maybe she isn’t sure what that means for her… for the two of you… maybe just give her some time?” Nia shrugs as she says it though, clearly unsure exactly what the best course of action really is.
Kara nods. She understands. She remembers the last interaction she had with Lena, the weight she felt in her chest, all the words left unsaid, all the feelings and emotions that neither of them had the time to talk about because instead, they had to deal with Lena’s brother trying to take over the world… again.
And so, Kara does what Nia suggests, she gives Lena time. She sees Lena at the Tower after that but doesn’t try to bring up anything beyond whatever bad guy they are facing that day. They work together as Kara slowly integrates back into being Supergirl. She also goes back to work at Catco as Kara Danvers. Her father becomes a daily presence as well as he learns about her life as Kara and as Supergirl. He has never been to Earth. It reminds her of Mon El and of having to teach about Earth customs all over again. Luckily, this time, she has help. Brainy in particular, seemed excited to teach Zor El, much like Winn did for him several years ago.
At Catco, Nia helps Kara get caught up with what has been happening. Kara can’t believe what Nia told Andrea to cover for her absence. She gets it, she does, but it makes her angry because now she must try to come up with some exclusive story.
Kara is surprised Cat even answers the phone when she calls.
“Kara Danvers, as I live and breathe.”
“Ms. Grant, I am so glad you answered.”
“What can I do for you, Kara?”
Kara takes a breath and dives right in. She has suspected for years now that Cat has known who she was, despite using J’onn to convince her otherwise.
She was right.
“Well, that does explain a lot actually.”
“Wh… what do you mean?”
“Kara, I might have sold the company, but I still read the headlines. And you, my dear, haven’t been in any of the bylines. Not to mention, Supergirl hasn’t been seen in weeks. I had started to wonder if you might have met an untimely demise. I am glad to see I was wrong.”
Kara knew she was going to have to unpack all the emotions she was having in response to that explanation another time. Right now, she needed to problem solve her currently conundrum.
“So… you’ll help me?”
She hears Cat chuckle on the other end of the phone. “Oh, Kara dear, check your email. I’ve already sent you the exclusive that is sure to be your next Pulitzer.”
Andrea is so thrilled with what she calls “the scoop of the decade” that she offers Kara a new office with an actual view of the city.
It’s a few days after the exclusive hits the shelves that William returns from a vacation he took back home. He hadn’t heard of Kara’s return until he saw her article in the magazine.
“You really are back,” he says as he stands in the doorway of her new office.
Kara turns around to face the doorway and gives him a small smile. She had been staring out at the city through her new giant windows, letting the rays from the sun sink into her skin. She hadn’t told anyone but since she has been back, she has been struggling anytime she couldn’t feel the sun. It made her feel like she was back there, in the Phantom Zone. It made the nighttime particularly difficult for her.
“Hi William. Yes, I am back.”
He comes into her office. “Nice new office. I was hoping Andrea would give it to me after covering the court case for Lex.”
“Oh right, I heard you covered that with Nia.”
William eyes her confused. “You heard? So, you were in touch with people but just not me?”
Kara squeezed her fists. She did not want to deal with this today, or any day. “No, William. I heard when I got back, from Nia. She updated me on everything that happened at Catco while I was gone.”
“Oh. Well, I was just surprised when you couldn’t find time to let me know about your little adventure.”
Kara could feel every muscle in her body tighten at his condescending tone. “Look, William, I don’t have time for this. I have to go.”
Kara didn’t give him time to respond, leaving him standing in her office as she rushed past him towards the elevator. Once she was headed in that direction though, she rushed to the stairwell, knowing it would be empty and she could superspeed to the roof and use her powers.
She lands a few minutes later on the balcony at the Tower and makes her way inside, hoping there is some person somewhere up to no good so she could go punch them. When she doesn’t see anyone working at the main control computer, she wanders down towards the other areas, listening with her superhearing. She can only hear one heartbeat in the Tower.
It is Lena’s.
Kara pauses, wondering if she should turn around and leave. She knows Alex and Kelly are away today, taking a road trip up the coast. Nia is somewhere in the city chasing a story. She has no idea where Brainy is, though he is probably taking her dad to more places in the city. Brainy has taken it upon himself to give Zor El a proper “Earth-ucation” as he calls it. J’onn and M’gann are probably working one of J’onn’s PI cases, which he has started doing again now that Kara is back home.
As Kara stands there debating what to do, her mind lost in thought, she isn’t focusing on the location of the heartbeat. She fails to realize it is coming closer. It isn’t until Lena speaks, that Kara realizes she is just down the hallway from her.
“Oh, Kara, I didn’t know you were coming to the Tower today. I thought you would be at Catco today unless there was an emergency.”
Kara tries to hide her surprise as she jumps slightly. “Oh… well… It’s just that… William was at Catco… and he was being… himself… and I just… So… I came here…”
Lena looks at Kara, eyebrow raised as she comes forward until she is only a few steps away. “I thought you and he were… dating?”
Kara makes a disgusted face. “Oh god no… I mean we went on a date, emphasis on one date, a singular date, but… um… no. Not dating him currently… or anyone… for the record.”
Lena’s head tilts as Kara blushes, embarrassed by her own ramblings. “Ok… well… the city is pretty quiet today and it’s just me here today…”
“So, what do you do on days like today? When the city is quiet?” Kara asks, curiously.
“Oh… well I work on some side projects.” Lena is surprised by Kara’s question. She noticed how Kara has steered clear of her since she came back. She figured that Kara had made up her mind about her, that she is trustworthy as an ally, as part of the Superfriends, but not as a friend. And Lena has accepted that. She understands it, even. Keeping someone at arm’s length was a way to keep yourself protected.
“What are you working on today? Maybe I could help you?”
“… Sure… if… if you want to.” Lena turns and tries to hide the surprise she has by Kara’s behavior.
Kara smiles brightly as Lena leads her back to the lab and begins to talk about what she has been working on. Today, Lena has been working on some upgrades to Kara’s suit, to protect it from kryptonite. In addition, she is working on something special for Kelly, though she didn’t tell Kara about that, as it is still top secret until Kelly decides to tell everyone herself.
“I was just about to start the first round of testing,” Lena says once she explained everything to Kara, signaling for them to step back so the miniscule amount of kryptonite in the chamber wouldn’t affect Kara in any way.
When the initial findings came back, Lena scowls at the computer.
“What is it?” Kara asks.
“It isn’t working, at least, not enough, barely at all really. You would still feel the effects a lot. I want to find a way for your suit to absorb the effects completely, that way you can still fight like you normally do without risk of harm… I wonder…” Lena continues to type away on the computer before going back into the chamber and working on the nanobot suit.
Kara watches silently, in awe of Lena’s brilliance. When Lena comes back out, she gives Kara a tentative smile. “Alright, lets try it again.”
Kara spends the rest of her day with Lena in the lab, mostly just standing around watching Lena work, and listening to Lena sometimes explain what she is doing. Kara is happy to listen and is also happy to watch in reverent silence. It takes several more hours of trials and tinkering but eventually, Lena is able to get it to where the suit is absorbing 85% of the kryptonite exposure.
Of course, Lena isn’t satisfied with that.
She huffs as she stares down at the computer screen, grinding her teeth together trying to think of any alternative solutions to the problem at hand.
“Lena, this is amazing work. I bet I would barely feel it now,” Kara offers.
Lena turns around, eyes wide. “No, Kara, I can do better.” She whips back around and starts typing away, trying to run through some other simulations until she feels a hand on her shoulder.
She stops typing as her eyes close. She feels the warmth from Kara’s hand penetrating down her shoulder and through her body. She feels Kara’s hand tighten just enough as Kara gently tugs, asking her silently to turn around. Lena takes in a deep breath, letting it out slowly and opening her eyes as she turns back around to face Kara.
“Hey, you know you can’t protect me from everything, right?” Kara’s tone is soft and gentle. Her sapphire eyes locked onto Lena’s emerald ones.
It’s the first time they’ve addressed the giant Lex shaped elephant in the room.
Lena looks down and away, guilt overflowing from her. “That doesn’t mean I shouldn’t try, Kara. He nearly killed you and then he sent you to the Phantom Zone, all in the same day. We have to be prepared for when he returns.”
Kara reaches over, putting a hand under Lena’s chin, and gently guides her back so she can look into her eyes again. She drops her hand away as she speaks more firmly this time. “Your brother’s actions are not your fault.”
“But if I hadn’t-”
“No, Lena. Listen to me. Do you forgive me for not telling you that I am Supergirl? Do you forgive me for being selfish and treating you different depending on whether I wore a cape or a cardigan?”
Lena nods. She knows she does, that she has, forgiven Kara. She did so months ago, but she just didn’t know how to get back to her at the time.
“And do you believe that I’ve forgiven you, for lying to me, for manipulating me to get to myriad, for using kryptonite on me in the Fortress of Solitude? For all of it?”
Lena hesitates. They never explicitly discussed this. Not openly. Yes, Kara told her that she has always known what’s in her heart and that she is the only person in the galaxy that she trusts with myriad. But no, Kara never told her she forgave her for what she did.
Kara lets out a shaky breath. “Right… because we never talked about it… there was no time.” She takes a step, closing the distance again between them. She reaches out slowly, giving Lena enough time to back away or stop her. When Lena does nothing, Kara takes Lena’s hands in her own. “Lena, I forgive you for all of it, ok? I do, I did, weeks ago, before I went into the Phantom Zone. I’m sorry I couldn’t find the words to tell you that then.”
Kara doesn’t let go when she finishes. She holds on like Lena is a lifeline. Lena still doesn’t move. Her eyes shimmer with tears. “I… I thought you didn’t want… this.” She nods her head to gesture between them.
“What do you mean?” Kara asks, confusion evident by her crinkled forehead.
Lena chews on her lip as she finds the words. “I thought… I thought you didn’t want to be friends anymore, that we were just… colleagues who worked together. That you trust me in that capacity, but not as a friend.”
Kara’s hand reaches out and wipes away the stray tear from Lena’s cheek. She takes a deep breath, as she realizes that it’s time. It’s now or never. “What if I said I wanted more?”
Lena’s eyes go wide as she looks back up at Kara. “Wh… what do you mean?”
She smiles gently at Lena. “I’m saying, what if I wanted more than to just be friends. What if I wanted something… romantically?”
Lena stares, unsure that her brain is working anymore.
“Lena?” Kara asks softly.
“Kara… I… are you sure? I mean, you-”
“Yes, Lena. I’m absolutely positively sure. The one thing I had in the Phantom Zone was unlimited time. Time for all sorts of hellish visions and to experience my worst nightmares over and over again. And while that most definitely was awful and terrible, and I never want to experience that again… it was also reinforcing what I was feeling from before I got sent there. There was so much I wanted to say to you before… and I didn’t get to.”
“But… you’ve been avoiding me since you’ve gotten back,” Lena says, trying to convince herself, maybe more so than Kara, that this can’t be real.
Kara half-smiles and lets out a light huff of air. “Nia said you were still feeling guilty and suggested I give you space. I’m sorry that it seemed like I was avoiding you. I guess I also wasn’t sure exactly what to say or how to say it.”
Lena is silent as she regards Kara and takes in everything she is saying. After a moment, she says, “Can… can I ask… what did you see? In the Phantom Zone?”
Kara lets out a giant breath slowly as the memories flash through her mind. She mentioned a little bit of her visions to Alex, but she hasn’t told anyone else. She realizes that maybe that is because, she was waiting for the time she could tell Lena, specifically. She takes a breath to steady herself before speaking, knowing that this next part will not be easy.
“I saw myself failing to save the people I love, over and over again. You and Alex were the main show of those visions.”
“Oh,” is all Lena can say as silence falls between them. Lena notices that her hands are still being held by Kara, who is running a thumb gingerly over her knuckles. Kara is staring down at their hands, clearly in contemplation.
Kara lets out a small sigh. “Do you remember the time those two men pushed you over the balcony?”
Lena hums in response. She remembers it well. It was one of the regular assassination attempts from her family.
Kara smiles sadly. “I had a vision sometimes that I was… too late. I got there to find you on the pavement.”
Lena’s eyes go wide but before she can respond, Kara continues talking.
“I also had visions that I failed to save you when Mercy Graves showed up at Lcorp. She snapped your neck because I was afraid to use my powers and show you who I really was.”
“And I saw you die, when I failed to save you from the airplane with the chemicals. You climbed, like I asked, just like before… but when you jumped… I… I missed your hand… and all I could do was watch you fall to your death as I held the other half of the plane with the chemicals… yelling your name…tears streaming down my face.”
Lena goes silent after that, unsure of what to say, unsure of how anyone can come back from such a devastating experience. She waits as Kara pushes back the tears that come from having to relive those memories, feeling just as real, just as vivid as her memories of the actual events and how they really occurred.
She finally looks up at Lena, seeming to find her words again. “Never, in any of these visions, were you hurting me or trying to harm or kill me, Lena. The phantoms tap into our deepest fears. So, you see, what I fear most, is losing you. Not being hurt by you.”
Lena feels another tear cascade down her cheek, her heart and body so full of emotion in that moment. She wasn’t prepared for this conversation. She wasn’t prepared for Kara to pour her own heart out, for her to be so open and vulnerable with her. But here she was, being just that. She was showing every side of herself to Lena. And for the first time in their entire relationship, she was being fully honest with her. Lena realizes that she owes it to Kara and herself to do the same.
“Lena?” Kara asks tentatively as she again reaches up and gently wipes the tear away with her thumb.
“Yes.” She says it firmly.
Kara’s forehead crinkles. “Yes?”
As she begins to speak, her voice falters slightly, but she quickly steadies it. “Kara, I… I’ve been in love with you… for a while now.”
Kara’s eyes brighten as she smiles widely. “So… yes?”
“Yes,” Lena says again, this time nodding along with her verbal response.
The look of pure reverence on Kara’s face is almost too much for Lena.
“Can… Can I kiss you now?” Kara asks, a bit shyly.
Lena chuckles. “I’d love nothing more, darling.”
Kara takes her time, placing her hand back on Lena’s cheek, a smile on her face. Lena’s eyes close automatically from the soft, gentle touch. Her breath hitches in anticipation as she feels Kara’s forehead against hers.
“I’m so very glad we found our way back to each other,” Kara says in a whisper.
Lena’s lips turn up in a half-smile for a second, before she is overwhelmed with the sensation that is kissing Kara Danvers. A shiver runs through her entire body as she wraps her arms around Kara, pulling her in, closing the few inches that was left between them. She feels Kara’s other hand resting on her hip. And it sends a thrill through her that she never quite felt with previous lovers.
Maybe it’s because she is a Kryptonian. Maybe it is because it’s their first kiss. Maybe it was the four years of unconscious pinning. As Kara pulls away, Lena decides further data collection and testing will be required.
And so, she smiles at Kara, before pulling her back in again for more.
Lena will notice that over the years, Kara never stops having an effect on her. And while they never talk about it explicitly, Kara would never deny that Lena has a similar effect on her, year after year.