Chapter 1: The Station
Hi there. It’s been roughly…. half an eon since I’ve written fanfic but with everything that’s happened the past year the writing bug bit me. And boy, did it latch on. This story has been keeping me entertained for long enough that, and with the return of Supergirl, I figured-- Hey, what better time than now to introduce another escape. Heh.
Total honesty, all cards on the table; I haven’t watched anything past season 3. So what you’re about to read is pretty much some vague non-canon following (though canon-esque enough I think?) version of whatever the fuck is happening on Supergirl... that I have in my head. Thank you Supercorpers for keeping us all up to date with gif-sets and all manner of wonderful fanart and memes over the years. Y’all have my utmost thanks and gratitude.
And to all the fanfic authors out there making something beautiful and heartfelt from the trash CW-ness of it all; this story is for you.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
It all starts with a portal, a gun, and a madman.
That said madman is her brother and said gun is held in her bruising grip and aimed at his head is irrelevant. Well, for now.
The critical, most important set piece in her brother's elaborate scheme is the portal. And it’s not even a new one. This isn’t even a new ploy.
The audacity is as remarkable as it is exasperating.
The super-friends came rushing regardless.
Her life is a comedy.
But this is still his stage.
She came here with a gun and a plan and now stands between her brother and a super with that ever-critical portal blazing at her back. At its center is a well of gravity that whips her hair and promises to yank her from her feet and swallow her whole. It would, of course, if it weren’t for a single hand on her back. It’s firm and grounding, and warm where the palm presses on her spine.
Lex’s eyes flash over Lena’s shoulder to Supergirl. When he looks back at her it’s with a tilt of his head and an unspoken; for fucks sake, really?
She may be embellishing. Okay, simplifying. He’s clearly unhinged, cornered, and utterly betrayed.
All his own fault. She wouldn’t be standing here pointing a gun at him if he had any shred of humanity left in his vindictive little heart.
His patience thins further when Lena forgoes a response. What could she even say?
Sorry, Lex, you’d have been long dead by now and this whole mess could have been avoided if Kara Danvers had just listened and trusted me.
But she hadn’t and so here they are. One not-dead brother seething in quiet rage holding their lives in his treacherous hand.
“One last chance,” he says, offering his phone forward. Absolution.
She refuses to cater to his whims anymore. Lena’s jaw clenches tighter.
“Okay then.” Lex taps a corner of his phone.
The portal groans, intensifying.
Cracks form on the floor against the force of Kara’s boots digging for traction behind her.
Lena’s watch alerts her that she's late for a meeting.
She breathes in sharply. Behind the containment glass stands the super-calvary. Alex is the only one pressed up close. Lena ignores the way the glares from their audience jumps from her to Lex and back with equal hostility. “Shut it down,” Lena tells him.
“Or what, Lena?” He says with a laugh, because again; a comedy. “You’ll shoot me?”
It would be so easy, she thinks, to just press her finger that tiny fraction of a space and end his life forever. End all his lies, his madness… this stupid, stupid game.
Instead, he swipes his thumb a tiny fraction of a space and takes hers.
Theirs, actually. Because it’s Supergirl who’s taken first.
Green light engulfs the blue and the portal buckles under the pressure of a kryptonite infusion.
So he had done something new. Fuck.
She can still remember his smile. The glint of… of vicious arrogance in his eyes.
He’d won. Ages ago, if she’s honest. The minute Kara flew into this hellhole bunker in Latvia on some misguided justice crusade and instead unearthed a mountain of fresh guilt and one not-new portal positioned just so.
One giant undertow of assured annihilation.
Lex’s words, not hers. God, he was such a dramatic asshole.
She should be in spinning class. Furiously pumping her legs to Lizzo while thinking of seventeen different ways to reject Kara’s latest attempt at atonement.
But she's here. The steadying hand on her back is gone. She doesn’t remember when her feet leave the ground, but she does recall the feel of the gun recoiling in her grasp.
Her other snatches a blue glad wrist.
All of it happens in less than a second.
It’s telling, really, she’ll think back months and months later. There’s a chorus of screams for Kara as they’re pulled into the green vortex, yet all she hears is one awed whisper of “Lena?”
They’re dumped on their backs exactly three feet from where they’d been standing mere seconds before. Kara takes longer to get up and once she does it’s with a loud groan and an even nastier crack of her neck. The vortex is gone. With it all the light in the bunker.
All the heat too.
What little adrenaline had been coursing through Lena fades fast. The cold bites her ears first, followed by her arms. She folds them close, hugging them to her chest and pulling tight on her suit sleeves as she turns toward Kara.
They speak at the same time.
“Are you okay?”
“Little light, please?”
“Oh… sure, yeah,” Kara breathes out, still winded and standing somewhere to Lena’s left. Lena shuffles toward her voice as Kara sends a blast of heat vision into the ceiling above. It’s low enough in power not to crumble the entire facility on top of their heads but worrisome when fractures appear on the metal plates regardless.
They’re in exactly the same room.
Same containment glass; though now frosted and starting to melt some with the added warmth pouring from Kara’s eyes.
Same light fixtures, the same pattern of rivets on the walls.
Missing one egomaniac though, so vast improvement there.
But the dust. There’s so much of it that clouds drift into the air at her slightest step. The particles swirl up, drawn to the pressure of Kara’s beam.
“Lena,” Kara calls for her, sounding pained but keeping her gaze rooted skyward. “You didn’t answer me. Are you okay?”
“Hold on,” Lena squints, drawing closer to Kara as another dust trail floats up from where she’s rubbed her arms. It singes to nothing on contact with the blaze. She curls her fingers through some, smudging tiny dark flakes across her fingertips. Soot.
Had there been some kind of fire? A leak from the furnace exhaust?
She sneezes as some hits her nose.
“I don’t know how long I can keep this up.” Kara’s neck muscles are straining. There’s a noticeable flicker in her beam. “I’m not feeling so great after taking that kryptonite bath.”
Lena nods, humming an acknowledgment as she grabs Kara’s arm. “I’m not feeling so great about this residue. Think you have enough juice to get us topside?”
“Hang on,” is the only warning she gets before she’s scooped into Kara’s arms and flown from the room.
They are standing outside under a grey sky in what could only have been a war zone and yet all Lena can manage to think is how alarmingly fast they’ve fallen back together in a crisis.
Kara’s expression is drawn, calculating their surroundings as she drapes her cape over Lena’s shoulders for warmth.
Lena mutters a quick thanks, stepping away from her touch before the cape has fully settled. She doesn’t know what kind of threats could be lurking or even possible with everything in sight burnt to an absolute crisp. Even the old Soviet jeep flipped on its side looks extra well done.
Her mind whirls as she turns back to the bunker entrance. Just there, another USSR emblem beside the… Well, that’s not a biometric scanner anymore. She hasn’t seen a keypad like that since college.
“So Lex, there’s no way he—” Kara begins to say, brushing snow from another overturned Soviet relic of a car. She turns to Lena with wide eyes. “That wasn’t a time warp, was it?”
Lena shakes her head. “No, no way. This has to be now just… some other Earth.”
“Lena I don’t hear anything; or anyone.”
That is… definitely not great news.
They are also in very, very remote Latvia.
Before Lena can even ask Kara supplies a stomach dropper. “Anywhere.”
The soot. The destruction. The silence.
Her throat dries. Kara stares at her with such concerned intensity she’s sure her heart has stopped too. They rush toward one another, Lena’s left foot barely makes contact before she’s engulfed in Kara’s arms again and they shoot straight up above the grey clouds.
They were absolutely not spending another second touching ground she’s now afraid could rival Chernobyl in toxicity.
The sky above is blue and clear and so, so cold. Lena curls impossibly closer to Kara, still wrapped in her cape. They hover, uncomfortable and silent. Kara squirms as imperceptibly as a train roaring through downtown.
Not at all, Lena thinks, feeling arm muscles quiver at her back.
She sighs, shivering. “There should be somewhere a few miles away we can hold up at.” Somewhere they can start a fire, stay safe, and, most importantly, not be pressed together anymore.
“We shouldn’t have to wait too long, I’m sure Alex and Brainy are working on getting us back.”
“I’d rather not be waiting a mile above a possible n-nuclear hellhole.” Damn, now her teeth were starting to chatter.
“They’ll get Lex to talk.”
Lena resists rolling her eyes. “Because Lex Luthor is nothing if not forthcoming with info that would help a Super.”
“You’re the one who shot him!”
Had she? How wonderful.
“Lena, that is not something to smile about.”
If he’s not already lying dead back on their Earth, she will murder him twice over for this once she’s back.
Kara sets them down at the edge of a dense forest close to the sea. There’s no hint of destruction for miles and miles before they settle on the spot. Just crashing waves against tall dark cliffs and grey skies stretched to the horizon.
It’d be beautiful if there also wasn’t the risk of it being contaminated.
Lena gets right to work.
“First, we’re going to need a Geiger counter.”
“Good call. I can get one.” Kara nods, watching Lena pace expertly in heels over a thick layer of pine needles and soft soil.
“Second, we need to try and establish contact with someone who can help us.”
Kara nods again. “I’m sure I can find somebody who will.”
Lena can’t ignore the lack of ‘we’ in Kara’s statements anymore.
“Lastly, I haven’t survived this long just to die of exposure at the edge of a cliff in fucking Latvia so please start a fire before you leave.”
A grin splits across Kara’s face before she’s a blur of color and a torrent of air rushing through the trees. In a snap, there’s a neat cluster of dry firewood erupting in flames a few feet away.
Kara’s even cleared a patch of the ground and dropped a circle of assorted rocks in a ring around the fire.
“Safety first!” She says before lifting back into the air. “I’ll be back in five to ten minutes tops. Just um, shout really loud if you need me.”
Old Lena would have wished her luck, would have asked her to stay safe.
The version of her standing in a forest, cold and aggravated only bothers with a dismissive wave of her hand.
They may still work well together but she’ll be damned if she gives Kara any hope of reconciliation.
It’s the first time Kara has been alone with her thoughts in ages. She never thought she’d be relieved to be flying away from Lena.
Lena, of all people. Her best friend, biggest ally, greatest confidant.
Once upon a time, that is.
She’s tried everything under the sun and stars to express her remorse and seek forgiveness. Nothing was ever enough, if anything most attempts just made Lena angrier. This is the most they’ve spoken to each other in months. Granted it’s all been very situational and mostly Lena barking instructions. Except when she brought up Lex which is something they desperately need to talk about once she’s back.
Something has to give soon and it makes her stomach churn dreading just what that will entail.
They’ll be found before then at any rate.
She hopes Alex isn’t too worried for her back home. This isn’t the first time she’s been stranded in a strange place. Certainly won’t be the last either, she thinks.
It would be nice if she could catch a break from any more parallel universes for the rest of the year.
Maybe even take a vacation.
Ugh, yes, a nice long vacation where they serve you drinks with fruit speared on umbrellas and no one judges you, reclined on your poolside lounger, when you snort and laugh at the latest quantum physics book you picked up because this dummy has string theory all wrong.
Clark has stopped her from writing more than a few correction letters to publishers and PhDs alike.
“They’ll get there,” he always says. “Just give them time.”
She wants so much to share this part of herself with Lena.
Sometimes she thinks she’s the only one who’d understand.
Geiger counter, she reminds herself before getting too lost in thoughts of her ex-best friend.
She flies over what should be the Kremlin and Red Square beside the Moskva River. There’s nothing but a gaping crater and she hovers, confused, wondering if she’s flown too far. With a burst, she skims the underside of the low-hanging clouds, following what little remains of the city. She can’t even make out the grid of streets. The river has flooded most of the capital.
Buildings lie in collapsed heaps reclaimed by weeds.
She hears nothing but the steady stream of water pouring through the ruins.
That and her heart pounding with disbelief in her ears.
Paris proves no better. Worse even.
Because at least in Moscow bodies weren’t thrown over streets, or what was left of bodies after years of sustained exposure and decay.
She sprints for London (decimation), Amsterdam (underwater), Munich (ashes) and in absolute desperation breaks several of her own speed records before coming to a deafening halt above National City.
A sob catches in her throat.
There’s nothing left to even mourn.
She finds a shred of hope in a still-standing military base far outside Saint Petersburg.
Signs point the way across an airfield littered with abandoned jetliners to fallout tunnels.
A dispirited kick crumbles the hanger doors from their hinges. No one is going to miss them. No one exists anymore. Kara blows a gentle blast of air to clear the dust and debris as she enters. She halts mid-flight above a sight that will be burned forevermore to the memory of this terrible place. Bodies everywhere. Skeletal remains covering every square inch of the mile-long structure. People that once laughed and loved and lived reduced to a huddled mass grave.
Mothers with arms still wrapped around their babies. Fathers pressed like shields overtop their children. Couples everywhere, hands still twined, faces clutched in desperation.
Geiger counter, Kara repeats the mantra like a salve. Geiger counter, Geiger counter, Geiger counter.
So Lena can be safe.
So Lena does not become another body on a floor like this.
Tears cloud her vision as she darts to the nearest hall and collects herself. How could this world set down a path of so much death and destruction? So much utter devastation with so little regard for life. Worse yet, how many more are like it? Wiping her eyes she sets back on task, hoping to find some hint of storage rooms. She blinks her eyes to clear her tears and adjust to the darkness. With a burst, she’s checked through twelve rooms. Nothing.
Another sprint of twenty and only more heartache. The hospital bay was empty.
There hadn’t been time to even treat the most mundane of injuries.
She breaches a fortified sector with a punch through several feet of concrete and iron. She steps through the rubble with a grin.
Counters, finally. Hundreds of them in untouched, lead-lined crates and duffle bags. She hurries to test a few, wanting to make sure Lena has plenty in working order. As she loads up a duffel bag and then a second, just to be sure, she spots the name stamped across a shipping container nearby.
Behind it, countless more.
An inkling of dread fills her chest, cold and sharp. Please no, she thinks as she pries off the lock and the whole door in one yank. The container is stacked high and wide with wooden boxes. Boxes Kara knows are filled, yet desperately hopes otherwise, with munitions.
Her heart sinks as she opens the nearest box and finds it neatly packed with rocket artillery. She doesn’t bother to open any others.
The shipping manifest is in Russian and, try as she might, she can only pick out obvious things like names and dates.
And boy, is the date off.
Like, decades off.
Nov, 12th 1989.
Kara rips open another shipping container and tears the manifest from the wall.
All the same.
She doesn’t know how she’s going to tell Lena that her father may be partially responsible for the annihilation of all living beings on this Earth… but to not tell her would somehow be worse.
She promised herself no more secrets.
So with a whispered krypton prayer for the souls who perished in this compound, Kara takes to the sky, barreling headlong back to the only other living soul left to save.
Lena greets her with a scowl that rivals even Alex’s most contemptuous. “You were gone an hour and a half.”
“Sorry,” Kara mutters, slumping down to the ground. “I know I said five, ten minutes tops, but I got to Moscow and it’s gone. You can’t even tell there was a city there. Paris, Munich, all of them look the same. And National City…it’s…”
She never does get to tell Lena what happened to their home.
“I did find a military base and it was—” The mounds of entwined bodies flash into sharp focus in her mind. She has to shut her eyes and take a steady, long inhale before continuing. “It was a mass grave, Lena. Thousands of lives were destroyed instantly and they knew; they knew they were all about to die.”
Kara’s voice is raw and far more broken than Lena’s ever heard. She feels herself shrink a bit beneath the weight of Kara’s cape.
“I got the counters though,” Kara says quietly after a minute. She unzips one of the bags over her shoulders and pulls the last working counter she tested from inside. Lena’s shoulders raise, tense once more as Kara turns the device on and waits for a solid pattern of clicks to develop.
Inside the military base, the clicks were erratic and loud, echoing from every surface.
The relief she feels when the clicks steady into safe harmony is nearly blinding. Even Lena lets out a shaky laugh.
“Ready?” She asks, holding the wand out. “I didn’t know if you wanted to, or maybe I should? As someone—“
“Lucky enough to be a sponge for most radioactive forces?”
It’s a joke. A really poor, half-true, fully hurtful one. Lena sighs; the new way she apologizes, Kara has learned.
So Kara gives her a brave smile and steps closer, “I hear some sponges are pretty cool you know. They even live in whole pineapples and wear pants and everything.”
Lena is trying so hard not to crack a smile, and her eyes even harder to mask such terror that Kara’s heart breaks just that little bit more.
“Breathe with me, Lena.” Kara places a hand on her shoulder, the other keeping the wand pointed down at her side. The clicks are still steady, occasionally broken by a flare-up in the campfire. Lena does her best to match Kara’s long, even breaths.
Kara can still hear Lena’s heart, thumping fast, two breaths more and it’s barely slowed down.
Lena’s eyes meet her own, all pretense gone. Kara doesn’t think she’s ever seen the green so pinprick sharp. Lena is scared and pissed and justifiably so. Kara wants to pull her into her arms and tell her everything will be okay but that would be a huge fat lie cherry on top of the huge secret shake she’s still apologizing for.
“No matter what happens, we’re going to figure this out together okay?”
It’s all she can promise and yet it still doesn’t feel like enough.
Her hand shakes as she brings the wand up over Lena’s thigh.
There’s no mistaking the sound from the counter. The frequency of clicks has increased.
Further up Lena’s arms, the needle in the meter shifts higher.
“Lena,” Kara has so much she wants to say and only manages to choke out her name.
Lena grabs the device from Kara's hand, shaking her head, muttering curses as she moves the wand across her body, eyes glued to the meter. The clicking is more agitated near her feet, hands, and back, all the places once, and in parts still, coated in black soot. Lena strips from her suit jacket in a frantic shuffle of her arms. She tosses it to the ground and points the wand over her shoulder to her back.
There is a clear drop in the urgency of the clicks.
It’s not great, but it’s also notably —scream to the sky levels of wonderful— not a death sentence.
“Okay,” Lena breathes out. “I’m not dying anytime soon so that’s good news.”
Kara is near tears again. “Super awesome, best, greatest news ever.”
“But these clothes have to go.”
Was that the bad news?
Lena is staring at her, expectant.
Kara blushes. “I don’t have extra pants on Lena!”
“What are you talking about? You’ve always got something on under that thing,” she gestures vaguely at Kara’s body while stepping out of her heels. Her hands move to undo the fly of her slacks.
“Lena!” Kara whirls around on her feet, face heating. A soft plop heralds Lena’s contaminated pants hitting the ground. Kara runs a hand through her hair, chancing a peek over her shoulder to find Lena standing there, defiant, hands firmly planted on her hips.
“I’m serious, Kara. You don’t even need the suit right now.”
A very true, very scary statement. She turns back around. Lena is already starting to shiver again.
Now she feels terrible.
“So Supergirl, just going to let a girl freeze her ass off then?”
“No, of course not. I just—“ To finish that sentence would dredge up feelings and thoughts and things she’s been avoiding. Of course she doesn’t want Lena to freeze. She doesn’t want that the same way she doesn’t want her to be poisoned, hurt, upset, or alone. She cares about her so much it’s hard to face most days knowing she’s not there anymore. That she won’t be greeted with a smile of absolute relief and joy when she enters Lena’s office after she knows Lena’s had a terrible day. That they don’t spend hours bouncing ideas off one another in the D.E.O in hopes of thwarting a villain du jours plan and then celebrating when it’s foiled by their work in mere seconds. That the Lena-shaped hole in her sofa is as big as the one in her heart and nothing has been able to fill it. Not even a little bit. Because at the end of the day Lena Luthor despises Kara Danvers and that fact alone utterly devastates her.
The hole feels like it swallows her entirely when all she's able to say is, “It was the middle of the night back home before I had to rush out and save you from making a huge mistake.”
The absolute dumbest and worst of all things she could have uttered.
Lena is fuming.
“For fucks sake Kara, I really don’t care what’s under there. And for the record, I didn’t ask to be saved. I was doing fine before you showed up.”
“You were going to kill Lex!”
“Yes, yes I was.” Lena’s tone leaves no room for doubt. Her gaze pierces Kara’s, daring. “You’re welcome.”
Everything bubbling in Kara deflates at those words. “I just…Rao, really? You’re welcome? Geez, Lena— do I even know you anymore?”
“Oh my god, you’ve got to be kidding me. That’s fresh coming from you. Truly,” Lena snaps, hands furiously working on the buttons of her blouse. “I cannot wait to never revisit this conversation and I still need your suit.”
“We are one hundred and ten percent revisiting this conversation.”
“Kara, my pants are literally radioactive.”
“Yeah, I should probably destroy them.”
“I’m sure you’d like that.”
They stare at one another over the fire, bristling and hurt.
“That was a pretty terrible burn,” Kara says.
“Like Hallmark movie-of-the-week bad.”
“Here.” The suit unfurls around Kara, leaving her in an old baggy *NSYNC nightshirt and pair of small boy shorts. She’s not embarrassed anymore, she’s proud and angry and frustrated beyond belief.
Lena smirks. “Cute.”
Kara glares over at her as she plops down to the ground and draws her knees up to her chest.
Lena’s watch alerts her she’s late for another meeting.
They’ve only been stuck here for two hours.
Kara checks back at the Soviet bunker every fifteen minutes. It takes her roughly ten seconds every time leaving them the better part of fourteen minutes and too much change to continue ignoring each other in hostile silence.
Lena can sit here seething comfortably for ages. She has decades of practice.
Kara looks as though she wishes they'd found a spot further away even if it only meant she could be gone a second longer.
She’s clearly torn between being at the bunker when her super-posse arrives and how exactly to spit out the words she’s been meaning to say to Lena for hours now.
Supergirl is always, or at least most of the time, a mask of poise. But Kara Danvers, she is an open book and right now, a damn wreck of one with pages spilling out the cover.
She also hasn’t bothered to look at Lena since the suit activated around her. Almost as if she can’t, as if she refuses to see that part of her wrapped around someone who continuously disappoints her.
Kara pokes at the fire with part of a satellite antenna she brought back on her 12th trip.
When Lena raises an eyebrow in question she can only shrug and prod some life back to the fire in response.
It’s not lost on either of them the absolute worthlessness of the prop. Kara could just as easily poke the fire with her bare hand and foot and suffer no consequences.
Lena thinks Kara needs something to keep her hands busy but she doesn’t care enough to ask why.
On her 22nd trip, Lena mentally notes that she’s starting to get a bit thirsty. The smoke and sea air are not playing nice with her sinuses and throat.
“You okay?” Kara asks when she touches down. “You don’t feel a headache coming on or nausea do you?”
Lena shakes her head, willing the warmth in Kara’s voice from settling too deep under her skin. It does anyway. She hates herself for being so affected.
“Will you tell me if you do?” She asks gently, sitting cross-legged beside her. Right beside her.
She’s a warmer balm than the fire.
“Sure,” Lena says with closed eyes.
“I um, found this at that base.” Kara places a slip of paper on the ground. The top corner is stamped with a Luthor Industries logo she’s never seen before. “All the artillery was… it was from your family.”
“Congratulations,” Lena mutters. “You’ve just succeeded in making this situation worse.”
“No, that’s not what this is about.”
“Then why bother bringing this to me?”
“I kept a secret from you before Lena and it ruined us,” Kara tells her softly. “I’m never letting that happen again.”
Lena’s watch chimes the quarter hour alarm.
The longest ten seconds of her life drag out between hurried sobs and the burning of a piece of meaningless paper.
It’s nearly dark by the time Kara takes off for the 40th time.
She returns an hour later, soot smeared on her knees and eyes red.
Lena lifts a corner of the cape in one arm.
Wordlessly, Kara settles against her.
She’s too numb to let Kara’s silence mean anything other than what it is.
No one is coming for them, not anytime soon.
They wake to rain and a dying fire.
Kara holds the cape over their heads as Lena ensures no radioactive particles fall on them from the sky.
The needle holds steady and safe.
This Earth is healing, slowly, gradually, but not near enough that Lena would trust a drop on her tongue.
“We can’t stay here,” she says, securing the counter back into one of the bags around Kara’s shoulders. A twig is caught beneath the strap and she pulls it free. Kara has bits of forest stuck to her bare legs and pine needles sprinkled in her hair. She smells like summer camp.
“I think I have an idea of where we can go,” Kara tells her.
Clark had given her instructions once. A safe place if there was nowhere else for her to turn.
Lena takes hold of the cape for her. “Let me guess, five to ten minutes tops?”
Kara gives her a shy smile. “Two and that’s a promise.”
When she’s back in less than thirty seconds Lena is hopeful. Until she sees the crushed look in Kara’s blue eyes.
“There’s a giant whirlpool where Themyscira used to be.”
Lena gasps. “There has to be somewhere.”
Her suit is keeping Lena from freezing but even it’s not enough to stop the way her nose has reddened and lips have begun to blister.
It must be so cold without the fire.
Kara turns her gaze out to the sea. To ice shelves beyond.
“Lena,” she says slowly. “Can I ask you to trust me, just this once?”
Green eyes narrow up at her. “Where exactly are you thinking of taking us?”
Lena balks. “Where it’s even colder?”
“Please, Lena,” Kara implores as she takes the cape and wraps it over Lena’s head and arms like a protective shawl. The rain beats down on her though, soaking through her blonde hair and muddling what’s left of the faces of the boyband on her shirt. “Just this once.”
Lena feels she has no choice. “Let’s go then, Supergirl.”
Kara will eventually tell Lena she’s been trusted with taking them to a place that was briefly mentioned during a polar bear documentary she watched once.
Watched as in settled on after skimming Disney+ for what felt like forever at two in the morning with four pints of ice cream to commemorate the four weeks since Lena had kicked her to the proverbial curb.
She’ll leave those other parts out. Claim journalistic integrity.
The Arctic research station is remote, peeking out from dunes of snow and looking like a beacon of promise beneath stormy skies.
Kara melts them a path to the only visible entrance they’re able to immediately spot from above. One shove of her shoulder buckles the door inward.
They each keep a Geiger counter running as they step further inside.
Lena’s held in a shaking, cape-bundled grip. Kara’s in a bare, steady grasp.
Both counters register the same, safe, normal level of radiation.
Kara turns to Lena in the dim light spilling in from the broken door, grinning beautifully and swelling with pride.
Lena manages a wobbly smile. “Way to g-go, S-Supergirl.”
Kara drops her counter to a snowdrift along the wall. Lena freezes as heated hands rub up and down her arms. “Let’s find you ten layers of sweaters and a hot glass of scotch.”
Her life is a divine comedy.
Hope everyone is still on board for the ride. ;)
1 down, 9 chapters to go. Most of it is outlined and half-written. I have the terrible habit of writing out of order so while chapter 2 is still in the works, I can happily say 4 and 5 are in polish. I don’t know why I do this to myself. Send good vibes.
Chapter 2: The Art of Repairs
I am overwhelmed by the response to chapter 1! So many subs, kudos and wonderful comments. :) Thank you all so much. Hope this chapter lives up to the last.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
They find Lena something better than ten sweaters. Two like-new polar jackets and insulated coveralls had been left hanging on hooks in the staging room beside the entry.
Lena sighs in warm, downy-filled bliss after putting them all on over Kara’s suit.
“They don’t even look used,” Kara notes aloud, rubbing some of the synthetic fiber of the fur-lined hood between her fingers.
“No complaints here,” Lena says. She digs her hand into fleece pockets, barely repressing a throaty moan.
“That nice, huh?” Kara, of course, more than noticed.
“Shh,” she purrs, eyes closing. “Let me have this.”
“As you wish, Dr. P. Ennis.”
Green eyes snap right open at that. “Excuse me?”
Kara nods down to her chest, lips pulled between her teeth to keep from laughing.
Lena pulls the chest pocket of her jacket into view. The stitching is immaculate and bold black against the red fabric.
“Lena,” Kara gasps in feigned shock. “Don’t disrespect the dearly departed, Dr. Ennis.”
“It’s Irish and pronounced Eh-nuhs actually, but at least we know why they were barely used, lucky me. Oh—!” Lena’s fingers brush against something cold and plastic deep in her pocket.
She pulls out a pair of Ray-Bans.
“Well,” she grins at Kara, slipping them on. “Can’t deny he had taste.”
“Warm, toasty, and stylin’ enough now?” Kara asks, amused. She moves to offer her elbow, then remembers this moment is fleeting and Lena still very much despises her. Her arm stays frozen in a half-raised, half-retracted, fully awkward position.
Lena brushes right by her. “Let’s go see how much cleanup we’re looking at here.”
The exact answer to Lena’s question is a lot. The station is in desperate need of many, many repairs.
Even a cursory glance over the rim of the wayfarers is unsettling. And this is just one module of —she looks to the map hung on the wall— five modules and three other entirely separate buildings.
There is snow built up below every hole in the ceiling. Where there isn’t snow there is ice coating every surface. And where there isn’t ice there is darkness. Inky blue and stretching far down the door-lined hall into a cavernous space their voices echo back from.
Kara claps then rubs her hands in keen eagerness. “A little patch job, some light shoveling and she’ll be good as new.”
Kara’s definition of little and light differs vastly from Lena’s.
They venture further into the module, opening doors to inspect further damage. Windows are shuttered, rooms empty but relatively untouched. Judging by the desks, rusted file cabinets, and overflowing bookshelves in a few, they’re clearly in what was once the office space used by the researchers.
Muddled sunlight light drips from holes in the insulated metal roof. One massive hole ahead caused long ago by a fallen satellite.
What were even the odds of that?
Kara collects up the crushed, melted mass from the crater in the wooden floor and tosses it back through the roof.
“I think I’m going to head up and see if I can find anything to fix these.” She’s in the air before turning back to Lena. “Then take care of the snow blocking us in.”
“Just the windows and doors,” Lena tells her. “The rest of the buildup is a great insulator.”
Kara smiles at her, the only spot of goodness and light in the space. “Roger that, Dr. P. Ennis.”
She’s gone before Lena can even manage to throw an ice-crusted notebook at her.
Fully protected from the harsh winter conditions, Lena wanders outside. She has a vague idea of the building she needs to head to if they are at all to make this station liveable again. Kara, meanwhile, is making an absolute racket zipping around the main structure, clearing snow, and tossing bolted shutters off windows like clothes from a drawer.
“You okay there?” Kara shouts down from where she’s hoisting a sheet of steel over the edge of the roof. “You’re kinda waddling a bit.”
Lena huffs, extracting a hand from her pocket and extending her middle finger skyward.
Kara glares down at her. “Cool, great, glad we’re still getting along then.”
Lena can’t imagine a sight less threatening than Kara Danvers standing in her pajamas on top of a pile of snow frowning down at her.
Kara lifts the thick sheet of metal with more aggression than necessary and slaps it down over the satellite damage. It’s welded in place with a few blasts from her eyes.
Lena shivers, grumbling about jerky supers, and heads further into the snowdrifts.
“I heard that you know!” Kara shouts at Lena’s retreating form. “We’re going to be talking about this later! Kelly says without mutual respect there is no foundation for— Lena! Stop flipping me off!”
Lena ignores Kara’s loud objections and carries on with her task. The building she’s searching for thankfully has a half-collapsed radar tower on top, making it easy to spot despite the pile of snow it’s buried in. The doors rest on the leeward side, making access that much easier. Lena only has to kick a few feet of snow from one door instead of ten tons.
It’s, naturally, frozen solidly shut.
A search of Dr. P. Ennis’s jacket proves fruitless for tools. He’d only been carrying his sunglasses and a now rock solid pack of chewing gum.
After struggling for a good few minutes with the door Lena let's go with a frustrated groan and takes a step back.
“Would you like a little help with that?”
Kara stands leaned against the wall a few paces away having watched it all in satisfied silence.
Absolute jerky super indeed.
“Yes please,” Lena grits out, stepping aside to give her space.
Thankfully, Kara treats the door with a bit more finesse than the tossed shutters. Shattering ice falls as Kara easily pulls the door free and then gestures for Lena to head in first.
“What is this building anyway?” Kara asks following Lena inside.
Lena motions to the massive generators filling the first floor. “Power station.”
“Oh, nice!” Kara exclaims, taking flight again. She hovers above the machinery giving Lena a thumbs up. “I’m not seeing any damage either! If anyone could get this place working again it’s you.”
Sometimes, Kara’s absolute belief in Lena’s abilities paralyzes her.
“I’ll certainly try.” It’s a quiet response, uttered with a surprising lack of cynicism.
Kara beams at her. “That’s the spirit!”
Lena feels more in her element as she ascends the metal stairs. Kara has proven immensely indispensable since they’ve arrived —not that Lena will ever tell her so— meanwhile, she’s been nothing aside from a vulnerable, cold meat sack. This is something she can do. “The one good thing about a system designed for Arctic conditions is that it’s a system that works in Arctic conditions.”
“We could probably even get the reactor back online.”
Kara just loves throwing her for a loop.
“Or how about we not turn on a nuclear reactor in the middle of a nuclear winter caused by global nuclear destruction,” Lena tells her hotly. “That thing was decommissioned for a reason.”
Kara is still hovering at eye level as she motions to the far wall. “Well, those diesel barrels are corroded.”
“Good thing I’m stuck here with Supergirl then.”
The fire in Kara’s eyes extinguishes with a blink. Her brow relaxes, gaze wounded. “There’s nothing left out there Lena.”
“You haven’t looked everywhere,” Lena counters.
“I don’t think I even could,” Kara growls back. She demurs just as fast, crossing her arms. “Not yet…”
Lena sympathizes with her, she truly does. She can only imagine the horrors Kara faced yesterday. Even the few bits she was able to share were gut-wrenching. Her fingers twitch, itching to reach across the railing and touch a broad shoulder, reassure, but she holds back, digging her hands further into her pockets. “Then we’re powerless.”
“I’m sorry, Lena.”
It’s the first time Lena has actually believed her.
They work apart in silence for the remainder of the day.
With the windows clear of snow a breath of renewed life flows into the station. Fresh, crisp air rushes in through open doors, replacing the stale, metallic taste lingering on Lena’s tongue. She stands under a tall steel-reinforced glass dome at the heart, watching above as Kara carefully retracts the shutters and inspects the glass panels for damage. Their eyes meet through a snow-dusted pane.
Lena looks away first, throat tight, and quickly busies herself with collecting trays and discarded coffee mugs from the tables of the commissary.
The station had clearly been well boarded up before the researchers all fled home. Fled being the only word Lena can attribute to the reason behind the mess on the tables.
The kitchen is small but efficient. Several dishwashers and industrial-sized fridges fill the space. The site must have been home to several dozen crews at any given time. A bulletin board over the large sink reminds users to wash their hands and not leave their dishes in the sink.
Someone has crossed out dishes with a black marker and doodled a polar bear crapping on the word instead.
Lena can’t help but smile at the poor drawing. She’d find similar stupid art on signs all over the labs at school.
By the end of the day, the sun is still shining behind grey skies and Kara has managed to patch all the ceiling holes and cleared the snow and ice from inside the modules. In contrast, Lena has salvaged enough wood from the broken satellite crater to start a fire in a pot on the stove and found a bottle of Jack Daniels under a researcher’s desk to nurse. She takes a big swig from it, face scrunching in disgust from where she’s sat hunched on the floor against one of the kitchen counters. It was definitely no double cask Macallan.
It’s also hard not feeling useless while a super clears five rooms in the time it’s taken Lena to check her watch. She really needed to disable her reminders already.
Kara takes a seat beside her with a tired huff making Lena feel all that more miserable.
She’s made more progress on the bottle of Jack than searching the kitchen cabinets for food.
There is something she’s able to offer though.
“Here,” Lena says, thrusting a bundle of clothes across the floor to Kara. “So your poor NSYNC shirt makes it out of here in one piece.”
Kara gives her a small smile and even smaller thanks as she picks up the bundle. She unfurls an oversized MIT sweater from a pair of track pants. Her grin grows a little wider as she shoves it on over her boyband shirt.
“Don’t read too much into it,” Lena tells her, taking a long pull and this time trying harder not to wince.
“Hand me the bottle,” Kara says, holding out her palm.
Lena raises a skeptical brow. “This is essentially smoke-flavored water to you.”
The please and promise of peace in blue eyes has Lena reluctantly parting with her salvation.
Kara’s eyes glow softly as she sends a beam of heat against the glass. She hands it back to Lena after only a second or two, grinning. “One hot scotch, as promised.”
It’s warm in Lena’s hands and even warmer as it burns down her throat.
“Thanks,” she mumbles, grateful.
Kara slips on the track pants and draws her knees back up to her chest. Her cheek rests on top as she stares intently over at her morose companion. “When’s the last time you had something to eat or legitimately drink?”
“Does the vodka soda I had on the plane before meeting Lex count?”
She neglects to mention there were multiple. The liquid courage was necessary.
Kara makes a face.
“That's all they had on board,” Lena mutters, shamed.
“Lena, we need to get you something to properly eat and drink.”
The concern in Kara’s voice is as irritating as it is desperately welcome.
Lena still gives her head a shake. “I could say the same for you, Supergirl.”
“I can hold out,” Kara says, picking at a wayward piece of string on her pants. “Alex will come.”
Lena sighs against the bottle once more tipped to her lips. “They don’t know where we are.”
“They’ll get Lex to talk.”
“Again, you underestimate him.” She also neglects to mention there’s a very high chance he’s dead.
“He can’t just leave you here. You’re his—” Kara’s words die on a piercing green stare.
Kara looks apologetic. Lena wants the liquor to kick in already.
“There has to be something here for you to eat,” Kara declares, picking herself up off the floor and floating up towards the unopened cabinets. She riffles through a few, brow knotted with distress as each turns up empty.
Lena slumps further against the floor, letting her head thump back against a cabinet door.
“It’s pointless, even with the cold everything is more than 30-years-old.” Victory, she thinks. The liquor was kicking in. It had definitely been a bit harder to wrap her tongue around that sentence.
“Better than starving though,” Kara replies, returning with a can of tomato soup. “Would you like this as a popsicle or ala stove pot fire?”
Lena can’t help but let out a laugh as she struggles up to wobbly legs. “No heat vision on the menu?”
“Sometimes it’s nice to take the time to cook for the people you care about.”
Lena is not nearly sober enough to stop the surge of affection from taking root in her chest.
Her stomach protests the meal not long after and she spends the next hour emptying it all back up into the sink beneath the dreadful polar bear drawing. Kara, the very reason for her rotten state, smartly holds her hair for the duration.
The warmth in her chest doesn’t budge, not in the slightest.
Lena takes a room in the sleeping module with a single bed pushed against a cramped wall under a window fit for a plane, not a home.
Kara, not wanting to be far, takes the room next door.
She can hear Lena rustling in her ten different layers of jackets and blankets and finds comfort when she finally hears Lena settle down. Kara is wide awake. For one, the sun simply will not set this far North and, two, she is still buzzing with energy from all the day’s trials.
Okay, a half-truth. The buzzing may mostly have to do with Lena.
And by mostly, all of it.
And specifically the old MIT sweater she’d found for her.
Alex may try to pull it from her body, claiming massive universe contamination, but Kara could care less. It’s essentially the most glorious of olive branches and she’ll fight anyone who tries to take it from her or reduce it to ash.
So it’s with a happy sigh that she takes to investigating —okay, snooping— the small sleeping quarters she finds herself in. Whoever occupied the space had left in a hurry. Clothes were still hanging from half-opened drawers and bits of photographs were still pinned to the corkboard from where their larger halves were ripped off. A few remain though.
A man sitting at a dining table with a toddler blowing out candles. A researcher perhaps? Another of the same two plus a third, a woman with long dark hair and kind eyes. She’s wearing a white coat, looks tired but so happy surrounded by her family at a party.
There’s a child’s drawing pinned up. A simple hand turkey.
Kara lets her fingers brush against the artwork. The room belonged to a mother. A scientist who loved her family and likely perished back in their home together.
Kara lets herself fall back down to the bed against the wall opposite the small desk and personal collection. There were so many more stories just like theirs. Each of these rooms had someone who was now gone. She’s seen the carnage firsthand.
She’s not ready to face it again.
Her mind still takes her back to St. Petersburg and she has to curl away from the photos and shut her eyes to fill her thoughts with memories of home instead. Alex must be in a near panic by now with Kelly trying her best to reassure and calm her down. Brainy and Nia must be working round the clock with J’onn, she hopes they’re all taking time to sleep. To take care of one another. She hasn’t given up hope in them.
She just needs to be patient.
For now, she has a sweater and Lena’s steady heartbeat drifting in from next door.
Another sound overwhelms her. The soft taps of chattering teeth.
Kara looks up to the window to find frost has once again collected on the glass.
She grabs her cape from the end of the bed on her way out the door.
And then stands with her hand raised just over Lena’s, hesitant.
The trembling has only gotten louder.
She knocks. “Lena… I ...I can hear how cold you are.”
“I’ll be fine.” Lena bites back, hugging the layers around her tighter. She will survive off pure rage if needed. She’s managed before.
“Go away K-Kara.”
“I’m coming in.” Kara opens the door, peeking inside.
Lena flinches as a pair of worried blue eyes land on her buried form.
When there’s no protest, Kara steps inside.
“We’re n-not cuddling,” Lena tells her, voice an angry muffle through all the blankets.
Kara gives her a nod, closes the door, and sits down, legs crossed beneath her. Lena has drawn the blackout shades, allowing just a sliver of light to spill to the floor between them.
“This okay?” Kara asks, quiet.
“It was your idea t-to come here.”
Kara sets the folded cape in her lap and leans her back against the door. “I know. I can try and find us somewhere else tomorrow if you want me to.”
Lena is so tired and so furious and so goddamn cold. Her response is a grumble and shiver.
Even in the dim, spotty light, she can see a pair of apologetic blue eyes have found hers. “I’m sorry. You have to know I—”
“Just s-shut up.”
Kara sucks in a sharp breath. Nods.
Lena does not trust her. Cannot. Wordlessly she maneuvers beneath the heavy weight of nearly every blanket from the station. She can still feel Kara’s eyes on her, still feel the worry pouring off her as thickly as the warmth of her now filling the room. Lena settles finally with her back to Kara.
She doesn’t remember when sleep finally, blessedly, takes her away.
When she wakes it’s to five or ten fewer layers of blankets, replaced instead with a warm red cape.
They don’t speak the next morning aside from the brief moment when Kara declares she’s heading back to the bunker.
It’s still exactly the same as she left it. No new footprints. No hint of contact.
Kara turns burning eyes to the largest wall in the room. She lets out a stream of molten heat and leaves a message for her friends.
MON WED FRI
She leaves the same across the roof outside.
Hovering above the bunker she thinks back to the night before. How long Lena’s shivers persisted even after she raised the temperature with a trick she picked up from Barry. Hours. Lena was freezing for hours.
She’ll keep freezing. She’ll starve soon if they don’t find food.
Kara screams up into the sky, tearing a hole through the endless grey clouds.
She makes a promise to herself.
Lena’s well-being above all else.
Lena manages to find a stash of tasteless, freeze-dried apricots while Kara is gone. She crunches on them while giving herself a tour of the remaining three modules. The first is another sleeping quarter. She only opens one room, sees the personal items strewn over the bed inside, and quickly closes the door. She doesn’t want to be reminded of people that no longer exist.
The second module is a science wing and her interest perks immensely as she enters one of the labs. It’s a smaller one, but cozy, the walls lined with photos of massive polar bears. Massive, well-fed polar bears.
Lena’s forgotten the last time she’s seen one looking so healthy. She makes a mental note to donate more to polar bear causes as she enters the next lab.
Meteorology. Hard pass.
The third and largest lab has her grinning. Climate Science. Ice tube racks line the entry wall while maps and notebooks lay scattered across the conference table. Someone left their Walkman on a book, the headphone pads long shriveled to crumbs on the table.
She’ll come back to dig through their research. God knows it will likely make her simultaneously enthralled and furious.
The last module is a mix of storage, HVAC, a rec room, and a gym so pathetic Lena wonders if she’s the first person to have ever stepped foot inside.
Kara’s returned. Lena’s heartbeat skips for no discernible reason.
“We need to talk!”
With a groan, Lena heads out of the room. She is so not looking forward to the conversation Kara is about to force upon her.
Kara doesn’t even wait for her to fully enter the commissary before getting right to it.
“Lex, he has to have been here before, right?”
Lena shrugs, taking a seat at a bench and reclining back with her elbows on the table. “It’s likely. I can see him finding it a useful place to test his more destructive urges.”
“Exactly! So he has to have another portal somewhere. Like a backup?”
Lena blinks at her. “Do you really think he’s that stupid?”
“There has to be something he left!”
“There’s nothing here because even he can’t survive here.”
His grin crosses her mind. He knew where he was sending them. That asshole knew.
Kara grows quiet.
“I tried finding us someplace else but it’s all…even Fiji is a mess. Who even hates Fiji?” Kara asks desperately. She stares at Lena, sorrowful and apologetic. “There’s nowhere Lena. Everywhere is just as bad.”
“So we’re stuck here then. In the fucking cold.”
“No.” Kara’s adamancy is brazen. “There’s a reactor. I can get it working again today.”
Lena barks out a laugh. “Please regale me with how you’re going to create nuclear fission without nuclear material in the middle of a polar ice cap.”
Kara’s mouth thins to a line as her jaw clenches. “I’m trying to help us.”
“The same way you helped me with Lex?”
“You should have told me you were planning something, we could have helped you!”
“I was taking care of it.”
“You were going to kill him!”
Lena groans and pinches the bridge of her nose. “Not this stupid argument again.”
“It’s not stupid if it’s true!”
“Know what else is true? We’re only stuck here because of you!”
“Only one of us is supposed to be here, and you know it,” Kara’s voice is low, barbed and bruised. “But then you’re the one who. Grabbed. Me.”
She has no answer.
Her body slumps further against the bench, exhausted. So done. “Blow us up then,” Lena mutters, letting her head fall back on the table. “Might as well put us out of our misery.”
Kara lets out a raw, hoarse, and thundering cry to the glass ceiling. The panes above shake in their metal frames. Lena winces briefly and just as quickly slips back on her mask of indifference.
Blue eyes flash red and all pretense drops from Lena’s face. A bolt of panic shoots up her spine.
She can only sit, stunned and tense as Kara grabs a handful of blonde hair and slices a path with her heat vision across the waves.
The smell of burnt hair hits Lena’s nose hard as Kara stalks off.
She’s still sitting there moments later, fingers digging into the bench edge, slack-jawed as the hum of power rumbles the foundations of the station.
Bulbs blink to life overhead.
Heat pours up from a floor vent at her side.
Across the commissary, the old jukebox crackles to life, pink neon blazing as Paula Abdul’s voice fills the dome.
Kara charges back in, smeared with grease and cheeks flushed with triumph, arms just itching to pump into the sky.
Instead, her smug grin grows wider, more animated, more Kara.
She’s practically floating off the ground, arms definitely pumping when she exclaims, “Oh! I haven’t heard this song in forever!”
Lena is relieved not to be wearing seven layers of sweaters and Dr. P. Ennis’s jacket anymore. She does not share this with Kara. Absolutely refuses to give her an ounce of cred.
It doesn’t stop her from wanting to sneak into the power station to see just what Kara has done.
She won’t give her the satisfaction though.
Their second week is devoted to taking inventory.
With Starship blasting from the jukebox Kara takes to the task with determined frenzy. She’s a blur of striped flannel and occasional excited exclamations. Four piles quickly accumulate across the tables in the dome. One full of clothes, another food (it’s more a sad box), the third is overflowing with gadgets, wiring, and tools. The fourth is reserved for personal items. Photos, journals, and keepsakes accumulate from the researcher’s rooms.
Lena can’t bring herself to look too long at that table. The fact that there are so many, that the souls who once worked here left without them…
Why is Kara even collecting them?
“I think that about covers it,” Kara says, hovering above the tech table with a small laundry basket tucked under her arm. Her smile is radiant as she floats over to Lena. “And look at these!”
Kara holds the basket out for Lena to peer down into.
Walkmans, dozens and dozens of various, weathered walkmans.
“Good luck finding batteries,” Lena says with the scantest hint of amusement… and a very heavy dash of that dreaded rooted affection still buried in her chest.
“No, not those,” Kara chuckles as her feet finally touch back to the ground. She pulls out four cardboard boxes, fanning them out in her hands. “These babies.” Her grin is almost infectious, almost.
Lena is looking at four faded VHS boxes. She squints, reading the peeling covers. “Aliens, Real Genius, Back to the Future and Top Gun?”
Kara throws the last one back into the basket, blushing furiously. “Ack, forgot to toss that one. It’s definitely not Top Gun.”
Lena snorts. “Lonely scientists stuck in the freezing North pole for months on end, I’m shocked you didn’t find more porn.”
Somehow, amazingly, Kara’s face reddens further.
“Oh my gosh, so much!” Kara laughs. “So maybe avoid the men's showers because I threw all the mags in there.”
Lena smirks. “You totally browsed a few, didn’t you.”
Kara shudders. “Ew, no way.”
“Ew? Let’s not sex shame the poor lonely scien—“
“Oh no, not that. Some were still stuck together, Lena. Stuck.”
They both grimace.
“Okay gross, you made the right call then,” Lena says as she moves to the table full of tech and tools in desperate need of sorting. There are water pipes they need to fix if they’re ever to get the bathrooms working, entire circuit breakers in need of rewiring, hell it’d be nice to even get the coffee maker working again. Folgers may suck but she’s found a tub of it and like hell will she go another week with no coffee if she can restore this one simple thing.
Kara slides onto the bench, tapes clutched reverently to her chest. She’s directly in Lena’s way.
And has blue puppy eyes maxed out.
“Maybe... we could watch one later?” She asks, tapping the edge of a peeling box. “It’s been a while since we’ve had a movie night.”
Lena is very aware they haven’t. As Kara should be very aware of the reason why.
“After we sort through this stuff, obviously.” And now Kara is rambling. “Or tomorrow is fine. Or you know, Friday? Or next week!”
Lena has to take a measured breath to keep from rolling her eyes and shoving Kara aside. “We shouldn’t be wasting time.”
“But that’s all we have until our friends find us.” Kara’s eyes follow her around the table, imploring and impossible to ignore.
Lena meets her gaze with rivaling intensity. “Your friends, you mean.”
“Please,” Lena whispers, hating how fragile the word sounds spilling from her lips but she cannot handle this discussion and especially not with Kara looking at her with such gentle concern. “Please do not try having this conversation with me right now.”
The fact that Kara does wilt and lean away at Lena’s request says enough.
She quietly busies herself with clothes while Lena inspects a rusted wrench set.
Kara knows she’s misspoken, again, and more than deserved to be shut down again too. It took her years to finally broach Lena’s towering emotional walls and earn her trust only to have those same walls built right back up twice as high. The sniper constantly patrolling with sights trained on her at all times does not help matters in a metaphorical sense either.
Oh, who is she kidding, in a literal sense too. Lena’s eyes burning into her do more damage than any weapon she’s ever faced.
Kara feels stuck.
She wants to give her time, but it’s been months.
Wants to give her space, but there are only so many square feet they need to coexist inside of until they’re found.
She dares a glance back to Lena to find her fully engrossed in a soldering iron. If she doesn’t think about the dome above their heads, or the grey skies outside, or the dead world beyond she can almost imagine them back in Lena’s lab.
But only just.
So Kara turns back to the clothes and remembers the promise she made to herself.
Lena’s well-being above all else.
Clothes prove a wonderful distraction from a fracturing heart.
Kara, naturally, finds a litany of perfectly suited attire for her wardrobe. Even back home her brightly colored button-ups tucked into fitted slacks could pass for everyday wear in the late ’80s. Lena is both envious and charmed by Kara’s neat little stack of soon-to-be laundered ready wear.
Well, once she fixes the water situation and they manage to salvage some soap anyway. Dear god how she misses soap. On a scale of one to ten, with one being how she feels stepping out of a hot oil-infused bath, and ten being dumped into a tank at the National City sewage center, she feels about a twelve.
A very ripe and sad twelve.
Kara, somehow —likely due to being a jerky super— hardly smells above a two.
As if to prove Lena’s thoughts further she even elects to go shoeless. Whether it’s because she’s unable to find a pair in her size or to her liking or simply because a woman who walks away from a cruise ship being dropped on her head sans a scratch likely doesn’t need to worry about stubbing her toes on door jambs, Lena never finds out. Kara instead delights in a slew of argyle patterned wool socks.
Lena stares uneasily down to the multicolored mess of clothing she’s yet to touch. These belonged to someone. Dozens of someones. All dead.
Kara hums along to an old Chicago ballad as Lena pulls out a pair of well-loved burgundy overalls. One strap has broken. How prophetic.
Kara gasps. “Those are fantastic! You always look so good in red.”
Lena’s cheeks warm despite her best efforts. She tosses the overalls to Kara. “They’re more your size.”
“You sure? ‘Cause I mean, the pocket space is insane.”
Kara is practically glowing with thanks.
Lena catches her wearing them the next day. She’s brushing her teeth with boiled snow in front of the only clean mirror over the only still standing sink. At her throat she’s tied an old checkered bandana, burnt bits of hair neatly tucked into a braid at her shoulder. A cream fraying sweater is bunched up to her elbows.
“Morning!” Kara gives a small wave, toothbrush dangling from her mouth when she notices Lena frozen in the doorway.
Unfair, Lena thinks turning, heading straight for the men’s room before halting her steps, recalling what lies in piles, and returning to Kara.
Kara lifts one brow, looking all at once dorky and endearing and causing Lena’s stomach to knot so uncomfortably she buries her face in the tech pile for the rest of the day.
By week three Lena has fixed the running water but their food is running low.
Kara leaves bigger messages in more cities. The devastation still stings her eyes and dries her throat but her mantra helps.
Lena’s well-being above all else.
It’s on loop in her head when she manages to find a few more polar and Antarctic research stations buried in snow, taking what she can from their meager food stores so Lena has a few more weeks worth of rations.
But how much more would they need?
How much longer till they’re found?
Was there anyone left on this Earth who could help them?
She tries to listen for life on her travels. Tries to find a scrap of humanity tucked deep into the Earth, hiding, waiting for the sun. There’s nothing. Not a blip. Not anywhere.
She hates the silence most of all.
If Lena notices the jukebox has been playing nonstop for hours once Kara returns she says nothing.
Though she definitely pries open the record case to yank Rick Astley out.
They may be stuck in a tortuous hellscape but even she has limits.
By the end of their first month, Kara has burned days and times overtop all the world's capitals.
One, in particular, over National City she addresses to Alex.
When she goes to check on it a couple of days later as scheduled a storm has ravaged her work.
She wonders how she can keep from falling apart in a place so utterly hopeless.
Her feet drag as she enters back into the station and finds Lena setting up shop for herself in the Climate lab.
“Um, do you need any help in here?” Kara asks, watching as Lena scribbles notes intently on a chalkboard.
“Actually yes,” Lena turns to her, the confident smile Kara has missed spreads across her lips. “I’m going to need you to run some errands for me.”
“Okay....” Kara plays along. “Where to?”
“The list is on the table,” Lena waves down to a mess of electronics and drawings on the table but Kara sees Lena’s neat writing calling to her from a sheet of lined paper. Kara looks back up to Lena after reading down the first few items.
“Lena, even if I can find these things, and I am not doubting you one bit so please don’t take this the wrong way, it’s just…” Kara runs a hand through her unkempt hair —she will never take shampoo for granted again— as she looks from the list back to Lena and then to the ancient Macintosh in the corner. “We’re kind of not in the right century to build a portal.”
“I know,” Lena grins, tapping her watch. “So retrofitting this to create one is going to be fun.”
Lena’s watch; play these two idiots ‘I Think We’re Alone Now’.
No one is coming for them, so they need to save themselves.
Lena must have dropped the phrase at least ten times while detailing her plans to Kara.
It’s a hard statement to hear and even harder to believe.
But this is the longest Kara’s been stranded since being ensnared in the Phantom Zone as a child and it’s not a stretch of time she’d ever wish on anyone let alone ever thought she’d have to endure again. Worse, consciously this time.
Yet here they are, one month in…
Lena’s steady voice drowns out the wisps of fear that try whispering in Kara’s ear.
The feeling still itches under her skin, teasing her with a pricking discomfort.
Their fate rests on the computing power of a smartwatch. Granted, one of Lena’s design and creation, but thus far has only served to remind Lena she’s missed all her meetings for the past month and then asked if she was okay or if she needed an ambulance called.
Which would have been funny if not for the fact that they really, really needed it to do just that.
The watch sits in the center of the table atop half-sketched blueprints drawn on the backs of climate maps. Lena’s scattered thoughts on full display, her attention to detail as evident as her reconsiderations. They’re jotted on dozens of post-it notes no longer equipped to adhere to the ideas they’re meant to amend.
Kara presses down a little firmer on one anyway. Her finger tracing the drawing of an intricate circuit path.
The plans are ambitious. Much like the woman herself, Kara thinks with a fond little smile, watching Lena pace, chalk held like a weapon, her ideas on the board appearing as quick and dangerous as any blade swipe. But there was also a spectrum to ambition; on one end, the genuine and thrilling kind that leads to turning a volatile company into a force for good… and also the other, separated by a fine, microscopic line, that tips it beyond the realm of possibility.
Lena has sailed straight over that mark and crashed headfirst into the impossible.
Like, whole portals in wardrobes levels of impossible.
Had Lex stranded them on an Earth turned to ruin even ten years earlier maybe, maybe they could pull this off.
The only good to come from this year was Taylor Swift.
Okay that was a lie, likely a bunch of other wonderful things but now Blank Space is stuck in Kara’s head and she can’t even pop it on to get it out and dammit, Lena has stopped speaking and is staring at her, irritated.
“Kara.” She leans forward on the table, bracing herself on rigid arms. “Are my plans to save us from this dystopia boring you?”
“No!” Kara exclaims, shaking her head as she sits bolt upright. Overcompensating. Visibly, embarrassingly so. “No, no, no! I am listening, I swear. Just went on a mental tangent.”
“Well, I mean, this is...” she gestures to the drafts and mess of yellow notes on the table, mind screaming at her to be honest. Tell her the truth. Just say it. No more lies. “Ambitious.”
The irritation in Lena’s gaze wavers. “You don’t think it’s possible.”
Kara is up on her feet in an instant. “I didn’t say that!”
“No worse,” Lena tells her sharply. “You’re thinking it.”
The table separating them may as well be an ocean. Kara is torn between closing the distance in one leap and giving Lena the space her body language so clearly demands. She settles on keeping put, keeping her posture as open and placating as possible. Her next words are carefully thought out and even more gently spoken. “I meant what I said Lena, I have no doubt in you. It’s just some of the things we need haven’t even been invented yet and I’m not seeing a plan here for those.”
“So I’ll re-invent them.”
It’s stated with such certainty and vehemence that Kara finds herself shrinking back in her seat and wishing she’d never said anything at all.
Which is wrong.
And goes against the very principles of discovery; Integrity, honesty, objectivity.
If no one is coming for them and they need to save themselves then they will do it together.
Kara stands back up. “I know you will. If you were anyone else I’d be hanging out in the exosphere all day screaming for someone, anyone out there to help us. Which, I did try, and big nope. But you’re you. You don’t let things like can’t and impossible stop you because those are just words waiting to be conquered by you.”
Lena’s arms uncross a smidge and Kara feels a surge of hope when Lena asks, “Then what are you saying?”
“That I want to help you do this,” Kara smiles, full of promise. “But can we please sit down and really rethink what you’re asking for?”
Lena looks like she wants to bristle with barely subdued resentment and launch into all the reasons why Kara is quote-unquote sabotaging their only fucking hope of getting home.
But she acquiesces, even if begrudgingly, and sits opposite Kara at the table.
“Thanks, Lena,” Kara tells her earnestly. “I promise no more mental tangents on Taylor Swift.”
Lena raises a brow at that, the hint of a smirk teasing at the corner of her mouth. She gives a big huff instead, seeming to breathe out all her remaining irritations. “You make a good point about our tool problem. I think I have some ideas on how to address that on uh, that map over there.”
“These are all really brilliant by the way,” Kara gushes, wishing she’d started with that line.
Lena tucks some wayward strands of her ponytail behind an ear. “They’re just a rough, I want to try and—”
“Lena,” Kara interrupts with a laugh. “Please take a compliment. I’m literally the only person who can give them to you.”
This time Lena’s lips do pull into a smile, one that even crinkles the corners of her eyes and has Kara’s heart filling with such unchecked joy it almost makes her dizzy.
“Fine, thank you oh bestower of the only compliments left on Earth,” Lena quips.
Kara preens and returns to skimming the errand list, listening intently as Lena relaunches back into plans. Her eyes pass over one line, brow creasing. She hates to interrupt her but, “Uh, Lena? See here; prime example. This just says MIT building twenty-three?”
Lena gives an apologetic shake of her head. “Right, right. Parallel Universe.” She takes the paper from Karas’s hands and jots a quick note before handing it back.
building 23 Quantum Computing Lab
That was… marginally more specific?
“So…” Kara carries on, hoping Lena will elaborate further but when it’s clear she won’t, asks, “The whole lab?”
“Yes,” Lena tells her then considers her response with a squint before adding, “If it’s still standing and not a radioactive hellhole.”
“And if it’s a bust?” Kara checks, fully slipping back into interview mode. Gosh, she misses reporting. “Is there anything from a DEO storage site you’d want me to bring in?”
Lena sneers. “Everything they would have been using in ten years is currently sitting as a prototype on a grad student’s desk at MIT.”
The contempt on that tongue, she swears, is absolutely as toxic as the planet.
“How about DESY, INFN, CERN, or even CAS?” Kara asks, making notes in the margin of Lena’s list. “I mean maybe not them… I’m pretty sure they were still building their electron-positron collider around now.”
Lena stares at her, a mix of impressed surprise and worse, resentful disappointment.
Sometimes, Kara thinks Lena forgets that she’s an alien from an advanced science-positive culture.
…. Which is very much a product of her own doing and so she doesn’t say anything aloud.
Lena, naturally, has no qualms about driving that nugget of a truth like a knife further into Kara’s chest. “Kara Danvers would have never said something like that to me months ago.”
Her eyes are a burning green and dare Kara to say anything to the contrary.
And what could she answer with? She tried appealing to Lena’s reason long ago, tried explaining how she kept this part of her separate for her. All to protect Lena from the very real dangers she still ended up embroiled in anyways. She can’t tell her that again. Lena had stopped talking to her afterward. Cut her out entirely.
They’ve made progress here.
Baby steps the size of one of Lena’s node drawings but a step forward nonetheless!
All she's able to muster is a very quiet and remorseful, “I’m sorry.” Anything more would end what little civility is clinging to their conversation and Kara is not willing to press on that issue further, no matter how much her heart aches to rip out the proverbial knife Lena drove in.
“I thought Supergirl never yields.”
Now she's just twisting it in even further out of spite. Kara’s fists are clenched in her lap where Lena can’t see, knuckles stark white. She wills the flash of anger down, knowing Lena is speaking from a dark, hateful place they really, really needed to talk about... just not like this. She looks up, meeting the challenge in Lena’s narrowed eyes with the same, steady promise she always has. “I do when I've hurt someone I care about.”
She will not give up on them being friends again, no matter how hard Lena tries pushing her away.
Across the table Lena’s shoulders are still too tense, her neck muscles way too taut. A hint of something soft eases her brows but her eyes stay hyper focused and pinned on Kara, as if waiting for her to say more.
Kara lets out a sigh. “You know I want to talk more about this Lena but you've made it plenty clear it's a conversation you don't want to have, not yet. Please let me respect that.”
Kara almost breathes out in relief when Lena’s posture finally, thankfully, relaxes.
“You’re being awfully pragmatic today,” Lena tells her with enough apprehension in her tone that Kara feels the knife will be stuck in her heart for a long while.
She gives Lena a heart warming smile instead. “I’m just a kryptonian girl, sitting here, telling the smartest girl in the world that I trust and believe in her plan to get us home.”
Lena’s cheeks pink a bit at that comment and Kara internally rejoices.
“Right,” Lena rolls her eyes, only making Kara grin more. “Any other secret-genius-Kara questions I can field then?”
Kara desperately wants to make a joke but wisely keeps it from hitting her tongue. Back to planning mode. “How about the Luthor estate?” She asks instead.
Lena’s arms cross over her chest, her answer evident before she’s able to snarl out, “Absolutely not.”
“Lex must have things stored there. Shiny, modern, helpful portaly things.”
“Even if he did, they'd be behind a slew of deadly security measures we are not equipped for.”
“I could take a peek.”
“I’d rather you not.”
“Just a teeny, little peek from four miles up.”
“Kara, if something happens to you I am as good as dead. Do you understand?”
Lena’s well-being above all else.
“Yes.” Kara’s voice leaves no room for doubt. “I won’t put myself at risk.” The for you goes unspoken but Lena feels it in the steadfast gaze that doesn’t stray from her own.
Kara turns back down to the list. “And an exercise bike?” She muses at the last item.
“What?” Lena asks, turning to gather up her watch with a little more urgency than is at all necessary. “I get dozens of great ideas in spin class. If you can find one that won’t irradiate my ass any further I’d be grateful.”
Kara grins. “I’ll get us two.”
They fall into a routine.
Mornings are spent in the lab until Kara heads out for her scheduled check-ins. If Lena gives her more errands she hits them after, always stopping to search a buried bunker or remote, uncontaminated building for food. She returns in the afternoon, either empty-handed or sometimes carrying shipping crates worth of portal building materials.
Sometimes she finds another record for the jukebox or movie for their sad little stack of three.
They work quietly till evening.
Nights are reserved for personal time. Kara takes to reading anything and everything she can find in the modules; novels, journals, mostly science-related books. The movies go unwatched, sitting on top of the lone TV in the rec room, waiting for someone to have the courage to break the unspoken rule of solitary hours.
No one will for weeks.
All the while, Lena works. The bicycles Kara has rigged for spin workouts go untouched. When Lena isn’t working she’s sleeping and when she isn’t sleeping she is constantly thinking and always perpetually tired. She’s not eating enough, her energy is low and she’s depleted the disgusting Folgers coffee tub weeks ago.
She runs on fumes and wonders why Kara never eats but never questions it.
Everything Lena asks for, Kara obliges. Never faltering, always with a smile.
It’s starting to drive Lena absolutely crazy.
As if she’s humoring her for a reason.
Hiding something. Again.
But anytime she tries to ask, Kara just laughs her suspicions aside. “I’m not going to say no, Lena. You say you need something then of course I’m going to try and get it for you.”
She’s nearly crossed everything off the list.
And then Lena starts adding more things. Reasonable things. Heartbreakingly simple things.
Lena never writes food or sustenance or even snacks. Never mentions it. Not once.
They’ve been stranded a little under two months and Kara has not failed to notice how much weight Lena’s lost in that time. Worryingly so. The small box of freeze-dried emergency rations is almost depleted and Kara has searched and searched all over the globe while running Lena’s errands and can’t find anything not poisonously radioactive or even remotely edible.
It doesn’t stop her from criss-crossing over remote swaths of the planet, eyes focused underground in hopes of finding another bunker. An untouched military installation. Anything.
The doomsday preppers had really let her down.
Her heart aches watching Lena parse out another packet of dried fruit. She doubles her search efforts. Pours through books on foraging, farming, and gardens. She brings back what little she is able to gather, lamenting those too contaminated, those not in season, and especially those long dead.
The food shortage is as pressing as the radioactive items.
Equipment they’ll likely need if Kara can’t find uncontaminated versions.
Lena has Kara place those items in shipping containers inside the old vehicle garage out by the power station.
In case of emergency, Lena had explained when Kara asked why they were even bothering with something that could kill her.
Kara doesn’t like it.
It goes against her very core to know the deadly material is even so near. Not with Lena already exposed to at least a few year's worth of radiation from just their arrival in the bunker alone.
Not with her current calorie intake so abysmal.
Kara closes the doors to the garage as she racks her mind for memories of home, places she’s not yet thought of to check but could also exist here and support life. She looks back over to the dome, just dozens of yards away. Lena’s heart beats too slow from inside. The trusted Geiger counter at her hip clicks too fast.
Her mind is made up.
She pushes the entire building, shipping containers and all, another mile away from the station site. Better safe than sorry.
And to double make sure Lena wasn’t tempted to make the trek herself, she walks back to ensure the trip is as harrowing as she imagines it to be.
Which is much harder to pretend to do when you’re invulnerable. She waddles along in the same fashion she remembers Lena did when they first arrived, all gangling arms through the knee-high snow. Something catches on her boot and she has to remind herself not to float up. She is Lena right now. So she lets herself trip over the fallen satellite she’d tossed out on day one, landing face-first into a pile of hard snow and tangled in her cape.
She is thrilled. It is perfectly treacherous.
She also doesn’t need Lena twisting an ankle out here.
She should really hurl the thing straight up into space and—
Kara sits up, spitting snow from her mouth and looking up into grey skies.
Lena barely registers the renewed pile of freeze-dried goods in the food box as she sticks her hand inside. Her other is busy rotating through a slew of new commands she’s added to her watch.
She pulls out a packet of mashed potatoes, whistling along to the Heart song playing from the jukebox. She’s three steps into her trek back to the lab when it finally hits her.
Kara is nowhere in sight but she’s left a post-it note beside the food box.
Courtesy of a visit up to Mir. It’s no ISS but still pretty cool! ♡K
She’s still upset with Kara, but it’s becoming increasingly more difficult to pretend she doesn’t care.
Lena’s burning curiosity on the power station finally breaks during her breakfast of warm, filling space oats.
“The reactor, what did you do?”
Kara grins while folding some stiff laundry a table away. “It’s a good ole pressurized water reactor, what do you think I did?”
“Kara… is your super heated hair currently sitting in the core?”
“Yep!” Kara beams, proud and excited. “I need to give it a nice recharge every couple days but it’s been working pretty well I think. Wanna come see it?”
Yes. Yes, she absolutely does.
For the first time since they’ve arrived at the station, the sun skims the grey cloud layer. Just a sliver but enough to leave a chill in Kara’s gut. Days were soon to turn dark.
They’d lose their abundance of light. Have to rely on the old fluorescent bulbs in the modules.
Lena’s hatred for them is palpable and they’re not even currently in use.
She listens for her, easily finding the only heartbeat in the world a mile below. Currently mingled with the mellow tones of The Beach Boys.
She’ll tease Lena about it later, how she sings aloud when she thinks Kara can’t hear her half a world away.
As if Kara isn’t always listening for her when apart.
It’s her well-being above all else, after all.
Kara floats high above the station, done with her check-ins and soaking in as much sun as she can, thinking back to their argument in the lab. Had it really been over a month ago already?
Lena would kill her if she knew what she was seriously considering.
She wants to visit the Luthor estate.
There was no way Lex, in all his egotistical, self-preservation, would ever come here to test weapons and leave himself without an exit strategy.
And what would it hurt to look? She’s already taken a bath in kryptonite to get here which hurt a million times over and super sucked. There’s no power here for him to trigger remotely. No trap he could have planned for that she won’t see coming.
She stares down through the clouds, watching Lena work diligently in her lab.
“I’m sorry,” she whispers more to herself than the woman below.
She’s breaking her promise, but not the one to herself.
If Lena’s well-being means playing into Lex’s game one last time, there is no choice.
The risk is worth it.
She takes off without looking back.
And finds herself hovering a few hundred yards outside a relatively untouched Luthor Mansion not moments later. The sea is still dark, somehow more so beneath skies so grey they are almost ash. Fitting, Kara thinks, since the lawn has been reduced to dirt. It coats the windows, stirring with the slightest ocean breeze.
Kara scans the building. Nothing screams at her, nothing sets her on alert.
She thinks of Lena running across this lawn once as she approaches and of how much she will never be telling her she was here as her feet set down in front of the entrance.
She sends a blast of air at the front doors, throwing them open and sending a torrent of dust into the air.
She waits for it all to settle, and yet still, not a thing follows.
She doesn’t have to walk too far. Lex has left a small case, card, and portable tape player on a table in the center of the entry for her. Kara’s name is the only shimmer of color in the room, bright red and glossy, adorned on the card.
She burns it with a quick blast of her eyes and jabs down on the recorder with enough force it nearly dents the table.
Lex’s voice pours out from the speaker.
Supergirl, Kara Danvers, Last daughter of the great house of El.
In our world, I get to see you today.
And you’ve, predictably, found me in mine. I think that deserves a prize. Whoa, you can relax those eyes, I’m honestly not being facetious. The prize is more of a choice.
One only for you.
I chose this world specifically for you because it’s the very antithesis of that symbol on your chest. But don’t worry, I don’t want to leave you here forever.
Why do that when I can offer you the ultimate liberation?
There’s a case here; not booby-trapped in case you’re wondering. Scouts honor. Or rather, something a bit more meaningful to you... Lena’s honor. I swear to you on her still-beating heart. She sends her regards, by the way. Or will be. She’s the reason I get, and now got, to send you on this journey.
The choice is yours, ultimately.
But it’s here for you nonetheless.
My last gift to you, Supergirl.
Last Daughter of Krypton.
The case holds one glowing green pill.
Kara crushes the recorder in her hand, letting the dust remains drift down to the dirty floor.
The case she keeps.
Lex, that absolute idiot, may have just inadvertently given them a golden ticket to powering their portal.
Lena puts on her daily uniform of warm wool tights and an oversized sweater. Today was courtesy of an Oxford grad. It likely smells god awful the way two months of bathing in nothing but filtered snowmelt only could. But then she’s acclimated to it, whatever the smell is and that’s somehow worse than not knowing.
Kara is already sitting on her side of the conference table, engrossed with soldering the chips Lena had assigned her yesterday. She barely looks up as she throws her usual, “Morning Lena!”
Because she looks one hundred and ten percent guilty of something.
Lena looks around as she takes her own seat, trying to find what might be out of place, amiss, or accidentally fried. The soldering iron was necessary after one too many failed attempts to do similar with her eyes.
As if laser vision that slices with abandon through solid metal could just as easily be controlled to connect pinprick circuitry to boards.
Kara looks that level of guilty. Maybe even more? Blue eyes shift fast and she’s smiling way, way too much.
“Good morning,” Lena says back after a few seconds of scrutiny, slipping her magnifying safety glasses on top of her head. “Doing okay there?”
“Yep! Totally fine! So great,” Kara chirps back.
Oh yeah, super, super guilty.
Lena pulls the glasses down on her nose and goes back to her own soldering work from the day before, stealing occasional glances up to Kara through the top of the lenses. Kara who unconsciously keeps resoldering the same section as if nothing at all is wrong when something most certainly is.
She hasn’t even turned on the jukebox.
That was usually her second stop in the morning right after the bathroom.
“So I never did thank you,” Lena says, watching Kara carefully.
“Hmm?” Kara hums, moving onto the next chip. Lena makes note to fix that one later.
“For getting us more food.”
“Yeah, no, it was super easy. You’re welcome.”
“And picking up all the equipment.”
“And moving the radioactive stuff a safe distance away.”
And Kara does look up at that, grimacing, the guilty look in her eyes now shifted. That imploring and impossible to ignore one back full force and—
Fuck, Lena thinks. The conversation she’s been avoiding for months is happening.
And it starts with a shaky, uncertain, “Are we… are we okay?”
“We’re stuck in a nuclear apocalypse, likely a result of my father’s gross negligence, and now used as a playground for an egomaniac’s deranged, power fantasies.”
“Lena.” Her name is a slow sigh. A patient, painstakingly fragile one at that.
Lena closes her eyes, inhaling against the torrent of emotions fighting towards a surface she’s not ready to break.
“Us being stuck here together doesn’t change anything.”
She can hear the squeak of Kara’s chair as she resettles. Good, Lena thinks, uncomfortable is exactly what she’s hoping Kara feels. Along with a slew of other very negative, hurtful, terrible things she’s too tired to spit out.
God, she’s so tired of feeling like this.
“Okay...” Kara says, turning back to her work.
For a long time, Lena stares at her. Kara is chewing on her bottom lip, always the open book. Always.
Lena slams her iron down.
“No, it’s not okay!” She’s shouting, way too much for sitting just across a table from Kara. But Kara is staring back at her, wide-eyed and repentant. “And stop looking at me like that!”
“God,” Lena throws her glasses to the table. “Stop saying that too!”
“But I am! I’ve been trying to talk to you for months now. You don’t know how much I—”
“EXACTLY,” Lena erupts, eyes burning green with fury. “I, I, I! It’s always about you!”
Kara recoils, a hint of shine collecting at the corner of her eyes. It fuels Lena’s anger, fills the ache in her heart with such venom and spite and ruin she can’t hold back any longer.
“Did you ever once—even once, think how absolutely humiliated I felt? How devastated I was to know my friend— actually, no, not good enough. My best friend. The person I trusted most. The person I loved most. How agonizing it was to know she trusted this secret with everyone. But. Me. Lied to me for years. Years. How could any of what she ever said to me be real?”
Kara can’t meet her gaze. Or won’t. Lena growls.
“Can’t even look at me as I tell her I don’t know how I could ever trust her again.”
Kara’s head snaps up at that.
Lena snarls. “I don’t trust you.”
Just like that, the fire abates. A simmer coats her raw throat. “...What?”
Now or ever, Kara thinks, bracing herself.
“I went to the estate.”
“What?” The single word is laced with so much anger and grief and disillusion that Kara does not know how to say what she needs to without losing Lena forever.
She has to try.
No more lies.
“And you were right,” Kara proclaims, keeping her gaze on the fiercely narrowed green. “He was expecting me. All he left was a message basically telling me to kill myself and a kryptonite pill to do it with.”
A bit of concern pierces the angry fog of Lena’s expression. “Why did you even go there? After I specifically asked you to not go there.”
“For you,” Kara answers simply. “Because it’s going to take us months, maybe even years to get a portal working, and if there was even the slightest chance of me finding something to help you before you starve Lena then the risk to me is worth it because you are worth it.”
She has to stop to swallow, voice caught, and wipe the stupid tears that now cloud her eyes.
Lena doesn’t know quite how to react. A part of her wants nothing more than to sit and listen and hear Kara out while the other wants to ask for that pill and have her truly feel a bit of the pain she’s still struggling to overcome.
That other part would have won two months ago. It’s so much quieter now. The pain she feels in her chest is more for Kara having had to listen to her brother’s voice, telling her such a terrible, sickening thing.
“So yeah, you’re right not to trust me,” Kara tells her. “You shouldn’t trust me. What you feel now is real and valid.”
Lena can only blink back at her.
“No apology is going to change that I hurt you. That I broke your trust.”
Somewhere in the room, a piece of equipment sputters.
Lena thinks her brain is in a similar, faltering state.
“You have the most tremendous capacity for love and goodness and I failed you.” Kara’s eyes are clear despite her tears, promising and hopeful. “You deserve better. You’re brilliant and strong and compassionate and deserving of so much more than any of us could ever hope to... to—” her breath catches and Lena watches her, riveted. “There’s a reason I’m a mess and can hardly say this right; because losing you— losing your trust, Rao, Lena, I would rather rot here for eternity alone than ever break your trust again.”
“I know we’re not okay and that’s not what I expect. I just don’t want us to start over because this, here, what you feel, it’s just as important as all the good there was too.” Kara slides her hand across the table, a wobbly, beautiful smile on her face as she says, “So however long it takes for us to find something real again or even if we never do, whatever you need, I’m here for you... if you’ll have me?”
Kara’s hand stays outstretched until a shaky one meets hers, that smile radiating ever brighter as palms press tight. Warm. Solid. Promising.
Lena is lost.
She’s so fucked.
Chapter 4: Rules of Arctic Cohabitation
Hello, lovelies. This is the longest chapter thus far but there’s lots of juicy stuff to dig into. Wanted to give a huge thanks to everyone for sticking with me! Looks like I’m also sticking to Sunday updates so let’s say that’s a thing I’ll try to keep to as well.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lena has two recurring dreams in heavy rotation. Each leaves her unable to sleep after. She wakes in a cold sweat, shivering in the middle of perpetual Arctic twilight peeking in through her bedroom blackout shades. She tries to calm her heart after, hoping super ears haven't heard the frantic beats next door.
Mainly because both dreams involve Kara.
One starts pleasant enough, their usual day in the station playing out like a rehearsed dance. The jukebox rotates through Kara’s typical daily moods; mornings full of pop beats fading to afternoons of power ballads and rock anthems. Sometimes Lena doesn’t even realize she’s dreaming. The mundaneness of it all feels just like her waking days, even down to the pencil tips she sharpens with an old grade school crank grinder on the lab wall.
She'd continue believing it was real if it weren't for the glaring fact that this Kara touches her more.
Way, way more. An innocent enough press of a hand at her back as they enter the lab makes her think of shared elevator rides at CatCo. Soft, distracting fingers on her wrist when she's too stressed over a blueprint has her thrown back to late nights huddled close at the DEO. Casual hugs as she solves a puzzle they've been struggling over on the chalkboard and she’s right back on her office sofa, Kara a welcome, warm presence at her side.
She thinks her touch-starved mind is overcompensating but she also can't help but miss those moments and more so the feelings of home they stir up when she's awake. She can tell Kara does as well, has caught her on more than one occasion itching to reach out but quelling the urge with a clench of her fists and a tight smile.
The dreams have two things in common.
Kara touches her more and Kara also dies.
She doesn't see it happen in the mundane dream. Kara leaves for a run of errands and simply never returns. Lena is furious at first, then terrified. The grey skies turn as dark as her thoughts, the power in the station following soon after. The panic that seizes her is crushing. She's left alone and cold and broken, sinking onto Kara's empty bed, an utterly hopeless and destroyed shell of a person.
In the other dream, Kara dies a few days after falling through the portal. They never make it out of the bunker. Kara's last words are a whisper of hope against Lena’s neck and unlike the other nightmare, Lena holds her body close, overwhelmed with grief and defeat.
Lena wakes in the mornings, already emotionally exhausted, cursing her asshole brother and fearing for a future that may very well be just ahead. But then she enters the commissary to heat up some space coffee and Kara smiles over at her, warm, alive, and here.
Her heart lurches, the nightmares tucked far away in favor of resilience. She has to believe they will make it home. That Kara won’t be dying anytime soon.
Sometimes it’s all she can believe in.
She doesn’t know that Kara hears her at night. That she too stays up long after, waiting for Lena’s heart to calm and sleep to pull her back into better dreams.
She makes sure to greet Lena on those mornings with more thoughtful consideration, more smiles, more care, a sprinkling of enthusiasm but not enough to irritate her. It was a fine line to balance on, but Kara thinks she’s found a happy middle ground after months stranded together.
Lena never talks to her about the dreams, but Kara knows they upset her. They each think about Kara’s promise as they sit together for breakfast. Or at least as one of them sits, slowly chewing on freeze-dried goods while the other sits, ever watchful, ever patient.
Kara is here for her.
Neither, foolishly, allows the thought to progress any further.
And so nothing changes at first.
Kara is her usual effervescent, helpful self.
Lena, her usual, dubious, stubborn self.
Their routine gives them a semblance of structure. Something to follow as they awkwardly attempt to make terrible small talk and reconcile months of heartache.
It’s very hard and trying work.
Lena, after one particularly clumsy conversation on the clouds, deeply laments the lack of alcohol left in the station.
Clouds. Like there was anything new about the grey, endless haze enshrouding their lives at all times.
Kara takes the first, actual, step forward a week later. It comes in the form of a sheet of old poster board clipped to the chalkboard in the lab. An exercise, she calls it. Something Eliza once had her and Alex create after an exceptionally terrible fight.
Lena is immediately on edge at the idea, ready to spit out her opposition. They aren’t teenagers. They don’t need house rules.
What in the actual fu—
But Kara is serious. She wants them to set expectations. Wants them to support and understand each other. She stares at Lena in front of the empty board with such an earnest plea in blue eyes that Lena concedes. She ends up contributing the most.
It’s weirdly cathartic.
She does not share this feeling aloud with Kara... but does almost thank her.
Was that progress?
Together, they pin the rules over the coffee maker in the commissary. Lena thinks it’s a bit of a callout seeing as Kara never drinks any —“Lattes or bust, Lena”— so never really has to look at them. But then having them there also makes Lena feel a bit more in control. The designated peacekeeper.
A reluctant captain holding an uncharted map with disjointed coordinates meant to help them navigate the choppy waters of their broken friendship.
Jesus, Lena cringes inwardly.
What’s wrong with her?
That metaphor needed to be put at the bottom of the Mariana Trench and drowned.
The prolonged confinement was getting to her, clearly. The dreams were sign one and this, for sure, was sign two. How soon until full-on delirium sets in? She misses literature; good literature. She’ll need to ask Kara to bring her some better books to stave off any more embarrassing, half-baked thoughts. Anything to wash out the swill in her mind put there by the trash Sci-Fi haunting the rec room shelves.
Rules of Arctic Cohabitation
- Be honest with each other.
- Listen to each other.
- Respect alone time.
- Check-in every hour when offsite.
- Don’t Panic ^_^
- Be realistic & objective within reason.
- Take breaks. -I mean it, Lena!!
- Don’t ever give up hope.
Kara insists they leave eight and nine blank.
“We should always strive to do better, Lena.”
Lena rolls her eyes extra hard at that.
The next morning Kara sits across from her at a table in the commissary and does not, as predicted, touch the plate of breakfast beans Lena prepared for her.
It’s a test.
Okay, a trap.
One that definitely defies rule numero uno... but she needs to know.
Lena motions to the plate with her spoon. “Your breakfast is getting cold.”
“Hmm?” Kara asks, attention very much elsewhere. Her eyes focus on Lena’s, then on her spoon, and finally down to the plate of beans. “Oh, sorry,” Kara warms it back up with a short burst from her eyes.
The smell of beans refills the room.
Kara doesn’t touch her food.
“Kara,” Lena presses.
“I'm actually not too hungry, you should have it.”
“That's your ration.”
“I’ll be fine.”
Lena employs a board room tactic that never fails to bring her answers. Calmly, with her expression relaxed into a disarming, easy-going grin, she sets her elbows to the table and threads her fingers together beneath her chin. “Rule One,” she challenges.
Kara swallows and gives a small nod in understanding. Her hands are restless, toying with a button on her flannel sleeve. “Um, I don’t really need to eat?”
Lena can only blink in response.
“Don’t get me wrong, I love food. Like super love it.”
Lena scoffs. “Yes, we know. It’s essentially half your personality.”
“In my defense, there’s a lot of tasty stuff on Earth.” Kara gives her a small, self-deprecating smile. “I just don’t need it the way you do.”
Lena keeps her arms raised on her elbows, but her fingers press a little deeper into the backs of her hands. “Were you ever going to tell me?”
Kara folds a little more into herself at the sharp edge in Lena’s tone. “I was trying to figure out how without, you know, freaking you out.”
“Why would I be freaked out?”
Kara motions to Lena’s tense posture. “Well, that and because you’d look back at all the lunches and dinners we shared and wonder if I was just pandering.”
Okay, fair consideration.
“I wasn’t, by the way,” Kara says before Lena can try and argue otherwise. “I loved getting to eat with you. That’s when I really got to know you and you actually got a chance to relax.”
Oh. She hadn’t at all been expecting that sincere of a response.
Lena sighs, relaxing the fold of her fingers. She isn’t quite able to lower them just yet. “I’m not freaked out.”
“Yeah, you’re kinda awesome that way,” Kara muses with a shy smile.
Lena smothers her grin by clearing her throat. “So you don’t need to eat.”
“Well, I did back on Krypton,” Kara tells her, still smiling easily, shoulders now more relaxed, hands no longer fidgeting. “On Earth I just... the sun kind of takes care of that for me?”
“Must be nice.”
“It’s complicated but right now, here, it’s such a relief.” The way she breathes the words out, as though they mean so much more than a simple convenience. Kara’s eyes are a dark blue balm.
Lena tries not to squirm under their gravity.
“Since we’re cohabitating so well; full honesty here.” Kara leans forward, a bit of playfulness curling the corner of her lips. “It’s the one thing that really makes me feel like an alien.”
Lena chuckles through her nose, setting her chin down on the tops of her threaded hands. “Not the flying, heat vision, super strength?”
Kara laughs. “No, those make me useful.”
“You’re more than just useful,” Lena admits and then blushes fiercely, having not expected the thought to tumble out.
Kara’s smile is full of fond warmth. “Thanks, Lena.”
Goddamn her traitorous heart. Her chest burns as that tiny little root of affection weaves its way into her equally mutinous gut.
“So I guess I’ll be eating the beans then,” Lena says hastily, breaking the moment by pulling the plate towards her.
“Everything is for you to eat,” Kara giggles. Legit giggles, and stands from the bench, heading to the jukebox to carry out her morning routine.
“Not everything. You’d be doing me a favor by eating that pile,” Lena points over to the small collection of items she’s tried to eat and… regretted.
“Are they bad-bad or just like, taste bad?”
“They taste like shit.”
Kara is in stitches as Genesis starts up. “Okay let me get this straight. There’s edible food here and you’re choosing to give some to the girl who doesn’t need any because it tastes funny.”
“I do not throw around the phrase ‘like shit’ lightly, Kara.”
“Well, have you tried not eating them as instructed? You know, dry?”
Needless advice, Lena thinks. As if she’s not entirely aware of the disgusting starchy astronaut fruit loops she tried to eat two days ago. They’re still coating her tongue.
“Hard pass,” Lena says, then sighs at Kara’s pout. “Fine. I will consider them if I am absolutely desperate.”
“I’ll call that a win.”
Kara heads off to the lab leaving Lena to wonder how she lost control of that situation so cataclysmically.
And then if that was even a bad thing at all.
The second step comes from Lena.
She’s in shock enough that she’s even going to suggest it but she still feels a tiny, wee bit terrible about trapping Kara into revealing her eating habits earlier in the week.
And quasi-friends totally watch movies together right?
That was worth breaking the alone time rule for, yes?
If nothing else she’s sure sign three of her delirium is talking to herself.
She finds Kara reclined on the rec room sofa, engrossed in another plant tome. Today’s appeared to be the medicinal qualities of the tundra biome.
A book that could only be of interest to her because it was of interest to Lena’s health.
Lena feels the opposite of a tiny, wee bit of heat pool in her stomach as she knocks on the open door. “You know, if you pick enough seeds out there maybe we could put all those gardening books you’ve been reading to good use.”
It’s a joke. She knows there’s hardly anything out there to eat. Kara’s told her about it countless times.
She’s expecting a blond head to turn over the armrest and for blue eyes to stare at her in bored exasperation. The way Kara always brushes off her more pessimistic statements.
The book drops to Kara’s lap as she lets out a gasp. “Oh my gosh, I’m such an idiot.”
Lena certainly had not been expecting that admission.
“Don’t beat yourself up too much, I’m still hoping we might—”
Kara doesn’t let her finish. She’s shooting up from the sofa, exclaiming, “No Lena. Seeds! I’ve been wasting my time trying to scavenge from what’s out there when I should have been looking for the vault!”
Lena’s brow scrunches. “The vault?”
“The Seed Vault! C’mon!” Kara breezes by, giving Lena’s arm a tug on her way out the door.
“That’s a real thing?” Lena asks as Kara leads them into the lab.
“Yes! I totally saw it once in—“
“Let me guess, another documentary?”
Kara blushes, “A zombie movie, actually.”
Lena quirks an eyebrow.
Kara’s cheeks pink further.
Then Lena is laughing, truly, truly laughing for the first time in what feels like ages to Kara. She stares at Lena, captivated.
“Okay, sorry, I’m focused now.” Lena is still chuckling but she takes one of her blueprints and flips the map side back over. “Where’s your zombie seed vault?”
Kara shakes the excited charge in her muscles off and spreads the map out in front of them, her hand brushing over the Arctic. “It was somewhere here in the North.”
“Kara, I was joking. We may be on another Earth but that was a movie.”
“No, it’s real! I looked it up after watching,” she explains as she takes a pencil and circles the Nordic region. “It’s around here.”
“Ah yes, the entire Arctic Circle, very specific.” Kara gives her an entirely unamused, flat stare. Ah, there’s the exasperation, right on schedule. “Sorry, I’m helping now. Tell me something you remember about it.”
“It’s the same place that the polar bear in His Dark Materials is from.”
Lena’s attempt to appear as though she knows what that means backfires as Kara stares at her in shock.
“Okay, when we get back you have homework.”
Lena ignores the remark and begins ticking questions off on her hand. “Can you remember anything else? Topography? Landmarks? Accents?”
“Oh! Oh, yes! Definitely Scandinavian. Sounds like Skarsgard.”
Lena scoffs. “Even I know those are actors.”
“Ah-ha! Svalbard! Yes!” Kara exclaims stabbing her pencil at the island on the map and then pulling Lena into a quick hug. “Thank you, thank you, thank you!”
She’s taken off out the door in a blur before Lena can even register that her arms are still outstretched. That she was absolutely about to hug Kara back.
She’d never even gotten the chance to ask her if she wanted to watch a movie later before she was gone.
She’s also vaguely positive this must be a dream.
Kara isn’t sure what she expects when she lands but what she finds is far more unsettling.
The vault exists. Its entrance is an imposing, massive concrete monolith that sticks a few hundred feet into the sky. The structure presses up against the lower ridge of a mountain, its spine sloping down into tunnels and warehouse-sized spaces Kara can only decipher by their shape inside the earth. Everything behind the doors had been lined with lead.
A stark, towering message had been carved atop the stone.
These are the relics of a lost world, a token of our sounds, our science, our art, our music, our thoughts, and our failures. We have not survived our time and so leave these here to live on in yours. We hope to be remembered for that enclosed and not the ruin beyond. This tribute represents our spirit and our humanity, and the goodwill of the vast and many over the power of a few.
Kara stares up at the words, one shaky hand tracing over a corner of the symbol on her chest that proves Lex’s message wrong.
This world wasn’t an antithesis to her name.
Here was hope, against all odds.
She doesn’t want to disturb the tribute, but her mantra for Lena has her lifting back into the air, searching for a less destructive entrance than ripping off the massive front doors. A quick scan with her eyes reveals another a few dozen feet beneath the snow. She clears a path for herself in seconds and with a gentle shove against the metal, finds herself standing in the dark, cavernous rotunda of humanity's last achievement.
Giant murals on the walls depict in simple pictographs how to power on the lights in the monument. A mix of generators and solar panels that Kara doesn't feel she has the time to mess around with. Lena is expecting her back in forty minutes for a check-in. She sees just fine in the dark anyway.
Another wall is dedicated to a map of the vault. It reminds Kara of a museum.
A museum of humanity, she thinks somberly.
She's quick to reconsider though. This was not a somber space. This was a triumph. The people of this Earth prevailed, even in death. Kryptonians could not say the same.
Kara doesn't even know where to begin. She came here in search of seeds and feels overwhelmed with the choices before her. One room, in particular, is labeled The Cellar. It’s illustrated by a bottle of wine, grapes, and a highball glass. Her heart warms, wondering if she’ll be able to bring Lena back some scotch.
There was so much to explore.
One vault title stands out among all the others; For Our Survivors.
She decides to start there.
Kara failed to check in.
Was in direct violation of rule four.
At least four times over.
What’s the point of the rules if she’s the only one kind of following them?
She is not panicking.
This is just a dream.
It's the middle of the night and she worries a hole the size of the office module satellite crater in the commissary floor. Or at least it feels like she has anyway. Her sock-clad feet had done nothing more than polish the checkered tile as her mind spun horrific thoughts and her stomach tied itself into sharp knots. She stares up through darkening glass to twilight clouded skies. Nothing darts across them, no smear of dark blue and red in sight.
This is her nightmare.
Lena deeply, deeply laments the lack of alcohol left in the station.
There’s a reason she prefers not to be sober when she’s not in control.
She’s not panicking.
She will wake up.
Lex must have done something, known Kara would try and find a way to survive.
And she is absolutely powerless to help.
She’s not waking up.
The familiar, stomach-churning feeling of utter helplessness has her sinking to the nearest bench. Her body clamors for sleep, to just curl up here on the floor and hope this nightmare has faded by morning. The way it always does because Kara would never break her own rule.
Why won’t she wake up??
Her feet take her on instinct to Kara’s room instead. She’s never stepped foot inside, not in reality anyway. This has to be a dream. The light switch is in the same place as hers, just to the right of the door. And like hers, it turns on the same built-in desk lamp. Only Kara’s desk is full of mementos, small little tributes to the researchers, and others she’s found on her errands and searches.
Those were not in her dreams.
The bed is neatly made, her *NSYNC shirt the current pajama rotation folded on top.
This is real.
Kara is gone.
Lena’s throat burns as she crawls into the bed.
The panic that seizes her is crushing.
She stays up as late as her still malnourished body will allow before she finally passes out, stressed into exhaustion, curled into a tight ball on Kara’s empty bed. Her last thoughts echo long into her dreams.
Kara is gone.
She is alone.
Utterly, hopelessly alone.
She wakes late the next morning to the sound of loud synthetic organs and drums.
Sign four, hearing things that could not be true.
Lena groans into a pillow as Mike & The Mechanics blasts through the station. She wants to scream her frustrations into the pillow but her muscles are drained and it smells like Kara and she’s so, so tired.
If this wasn’t a nightmare and Kara was back Lena will be having words with her this morning.
Tossing her hair up into a messy bun she heads out of the room. Kara had better be ready to—
Her thoughts vanish as her eyes are assaulted with color.
Huge swaths of blue and green line the walls and doors on enormous canvases.
Giant paintings of water lilies.
Famous paintings of water lilies.
She is for sure delirious.
Lena’s heart races as she rushes into the commissary. The room is a mess of crates, boxes, tubs, and sacks upon sacks of soil.
“Morning Lena!” Kara calls from where she floats, busy stringing up extension cords from the rafters. “I know I broke rule four and I’m so, so sorry. It will not happen again I swear! But, look at all this!”
“Um,” Lena tries to articulate any semblance of English but merely points, dumbfounded back to the sleeping module.
“Oh, the Monet’s, yeah, so cool right?” Kara says, touching back down in front of the coffee maker. “I think you’ll like this even better.”
She hands Lena a mug of steaming coffee. Real coffee. The smell, no incredible aroma of fresh roasted caramelly goodness fills her nose. “Oh my god,” Lena all but moans.
Dream or no she is in heaven right now.
“It was like a time capsule mixed with a huge underground museum!” Kara exclaims, jumping back into the air to continue her work as Lena simply breathes in euphoric caffeinated bliss. “This perfectly preserved ode to humanity. It was so meticulously organized —you’d love it— everything that mattered to them, to these people it was there, undisturbed and waiting to be discovered by whoever came next.”
Lena smirks up at her over the rim of her mug. “You’re already writing the article in your head, aren’t you?”
“I wish I could take you to see it.”
Lena’s heart swells, equally touched but rife with pain still from the night before. She wants to talk to Kara about it but the coffee is muting her grief and Kara has never looked happier. “Thanks for bringing some of it back for me then,” Lena manages to mutter, putting the fears to the back of her mind.
They’ll revisit them. When the time is right. Heatedly. Approximately one month, a week and a few days from today.
Right now she has Kara back and coffee.
“Okay, I know the Monets and coffee are pretty great but,” Kara zips over to a box on a nearby table, pulling out a vacuum-sealed bag. “Check these babies out.”
Gloriously, fragrant, usable soap.
Lena wants to thank her, hug her, declare things unfit for innocent super ears.
Her smile is the brightest thing Kara has seen in a long time.
“Kara Danvers, you are my absolute favorite person right now.”
“That’s not saying much given, you know.” Kara laughs, motioning vaguely everywhere.
Lena throws Kara’s words back at her. “Just take the compliment.”
A week later there’s a garden taking shape under the dome.
Lena walks down one of the isles of delicately potted soil under carefully hung grow lights and, when she peeks under, an even more intricately assembled drainage system of medical tubing beneath. There are countless containers lined on the tables and benches; old plastic storage tubs, filing cabinet drawers from the office module, halves of steel drums so newly split the melted edges still give off heat. Neon index cards fastened to straws poke out from each bed. She skims Kara’s neat handwriting as she passes a few; Stacy’s Chrysanthemums, Ivan’s Lilies, Eunice’s Geraniums, Priya’s Poinsettias...
She pauses and turns to Kara with an amused raise of her brow. “Have plans to open a florist shop for one soon?”
“Well,” Kara begins with a slow smile and pink cheeks. “You did once carpet my office in flowers so I figured it was high time I returned the gesture.”
A flush crosses over Lena’s face to match Kara’s.
“And the names?” Lena asks, quickly pivoting away from anything else that could tighten her throat and hike her heartbeat. It’s loud enough in her own ears.
She knows she’s failed when Kara’s eyes dart to her chest before settling on the purple card to her right.
“Just something small, you know, to remember the people who used to live and work here.” She touches the soil bed, rolling a bit of the dirt between her fingers. “I buried a keepsake on the bottom of the pots for each of them.”
She looks to Lena as if asking for validation. Seeking confirmation that she’s made the right choice in honoring them this way. Lena can only think back to the touching display on Kara’s desk. To the care she still shows the books and clothes and memories buried in the walls of this station as though it’s a grave.
She wonders if Kara realizes she’s even doing so.
Mourning for people she’s never met the same way she mourns for a planet she has nothing left to pay homage to.
“Lena?” Kara’s voice draws her back from a well of anguished thoughts.
Lena gives her an unsteady smile. “I’m not seeing a card here for our favorite researcher.”
Kara chuckles despite the flash of concern in her eyes. “You get one guess.”
Lena finds his name a few minutes later. Kara has dedicated the eggplant tub in his honor.
“I planted some mint too, mainly to help make that NASAdent toothpaste from Mir not taste like it was floating in space for decades anymore.”
Lena’s smile softens at that news. “My tongue thanks you.”
“There should be plenty of vitamin-rich veggies sprouting up for you in the next couple of months,” Kara continues, walking one side of the row as Lena takes her time discovering on the other. “I’ve got spinach just here, carrots in the coolers, then there’s B-Bunch; broccoli, bean sprouts, and beets. Oh! Plus loads of garlic and ginger, since I know you love that dressing from Noonan’s and even though all the olive oil on the planet has gone rancid you’ll def want some flavor and over there is—”
“Kara, whoa, hey,” Lena stops her with a laugh and wave of her hands. “This is all super wonderful, and thank you, but I hope you planted something you might want to snack on?”
Kara tucks some wayward strands of hair behind her ear, smearing a streak of dirt across her temple. “I didn’t want to waste any space on myself.”
So everything being grown…
Kara motions around as she comes to meet Lena at the end of the row. “I guess this makes it your garden really.”
Lena is staring at her with a look she can’t place but swears she’s seen before. Her bottom lip quivers just the slightest bit, green eyes have turned shade darker. The only warning she gets is a stuttering intake of breath.
And then the distance separating them vanishes. Kara instinctually relaxes her posture as arms are thrown over her shoulders and a dark head presses into her neck. Lena hugs her tightly, the same way she did all those months ago, before broken promises and secrets and long nights alone and portals and Kara finally breathes her in, all greasy hair and coffee stains and wet eyes and she doesn’t care because it’s all she’s wanted and it’s Lena. Finally.
Finally, finally, finally, finally, finally.
Within a month they’ve gone from fifteen hours of daylight to a scant two. It also marks their third month in the Arctic.
There’s no fanfare and hardly any admission. Kara wakes in the dark, flips on her desk lamp, and strikes through the date on her makeshift calendar with a heavy heart and even heavier sigh. In all this time there hasn’t been a single sign of contact from home. Even Mxy wasn't answering her calls. Her unwavering faith in Alex and her friends never falters, but it’s mornings like these, when she’s ticking off a month instead of just a day, that it wavers, ebbing the slightest amount.
For Kara, it might as well be a mountainous betrayal.
Ted Lasso would never.
She feels terrible about the thought. Lena’s portal truly was their only hope.
As she puts down the pencil a little heart over the 24th reminds her it’s Lena’s birthday tomorrow.
She wonders if they’ve reached a point where it’s safe for her to acknowledge let alone give her a gift.
She worries about Lena’s imagined reaction as she dresses and heads to the restroom.
Would it make her uneasy? Accidentally cause offense? Be a breach of some unwritten protocol on newly mended friendships? Are they friends again?
She worries about it more, brow pulled into a deep crease as she brushes her teeth and then more yet when she sits with Lena as she eats some dry space cereal with a look of grumpy concession. A fluorescent bulb buzzes overhead, irritating her further until Kara drowns it out by starting up the jukebox.
She puts on the Beach Boys in hopes it lifts her mood.
There’s a brief respite in the worries as Lena throws her a smile in gratitude. But then it’s back full force as she dives into her routine plant care.
If they were friends wouldn’t Lena have said something? Is she supposed to say something? Was the hug just a total fluke and not you know, the precise moment when everything tipped over a precipice and now things would be better? Is this better?
Do all friends have this much anxiety over saying happy birthday?
The dirt pots don’t provide her with any words of wisdom, but she checks their drip lines anyway.
Kara has been a staple in the lab come the afternoon hours. Between mornings in the garden and her regular city check-ins, she’s more than happy to tackle any assignments Lena has prepped by the time she returns. For the past couple of weeks, it’s been a slew of progressively more advanced math equations.
It’s quicker for Lena to write them out and have Kara solve them on the chalkboard than bother with typing them into the tiny keyboard she’s programmed into her watch face. They really needed to get an interface built that was operable by human-sized fingers as opposed to a small rodent’s paw. She makes a mental note to tackle that situation next week.
Kara has been especially chatty this day. Playing a veritable one-sided game of twenty-one questions with Lena. One-sided because most of Lena’s answers have been one word if she deigns to answer at all.
That doesn’t stop Kara from practically bouncing in front of the chalkboard as Lena hands her another equation. “Someplace you’ve always wanted to visit and never got the chance to see, go!” She calls out, finger guns pointed at Lena.
Lena doesn’t even look up from where she is quickly jotting down another as she answers, “Florence.”
“Oh, Florence is beautiful,” Kara gushes as she glances down to the page, pleased to see it’s an easy enough entropy change. “This one’s eight bar, by the way.”
Lena jots that number down, her mind lost in more math while her mouth unintentionally spills out, “My Mom kept postcards, I don’t even know if they were hers. She shared that one with me the most.”
“I’m glad you have that memory of her,” Kara tells her warmly. “When we get back you should go and take a real vacation for once.”
“I take vacations.”
“You haven’t taken one since I’ve known you.”
“Supergirl takes more vacations than you.”
Lena laughs and throws her pencil at Kara’s head. Kara, graciously, allows it to thunk her forehead before plucking it from its descent to the floor. “Seriously, please consider a nice long vacation. If there’s anything us being here is proving it’s that hopefully, the world can live without us for a while.”
“Supergirl,” Lena gasps, clutching her chest. “Are you saying you don’t live to assist others at all times?”
Kara tosses Lena’s pencil back with a roll of her eyes. “I’m just saying, what would a couple more weeks hurt once we’re back?”
Lena sighs. “I’ll think about it.”
“That’s not an invitation,” she adds with a pointed stare.
Kara won’t stop smiling. “Wasn’t expecting one.”
“You were. You want to go to Florence with me,” Lena teases, wiggling the end of the pencil up at Kara.
“I do, but I also respect Rule Three,” Kara smirks. “Your lab buddy is a consummate professional.”
“Sure, Jan,” Lena laughs, returning to her work with a slight weight lifted from her shoulders. She peeks up at Kara, finding blue eyes still staring down at her, a bit adrift, not quite focused, a sliver of her bottom lip pulled between teeth. “Kara?”
Kara startles, quickly affixing another merry grin on her face. “Sorry!” She chirps. “Did you have another problem for me to solve?”
Lena has infinite. Starting with where Kara’s mind just wandered to. The game of twenty-one questions feels like safer, less sensitive territory. Kara is still staring down at her, anxiously waiting for a reply and masking it with a tight smile. Lena writes a few more numbers down before they leave her mind entirely as she asks, “Aside from eating, what else don’t Kryptonians need to do?”
Kara’s answer is immediate, and Lena can’t help but smirk as it’s also very brief. “Menstruate.”
“Huh,” she hums, scribbling some more notes. “That must be nice.”
“Oh gosh, Lena, I’m so sorry. If you need me to go get you anything or—”
“I think I can make do and not tempt fate trying to use 30-year-old tampons,” she muses and finishes up the equation to hand up to Kara. “Can you hit this one for me?”
Kara beams, taking the paper and quickly copying it up to the chalkboard. Lena watches as she takes a step back, head tilted, twirling the chalk between her fingers. With a sharp inhale she’s off scrawling possible solutions, pauses to erase a few, and writes more.
The next day she shuffles into the commissary with a steaming, gloriously not-Folger’s mug of coffee under her nose, and right into the shadow of a colossal naked man.
She has to blink a few times to register the sight before her.
Kara was hardly bothered when asked to return David to whatever warehouse in the vault she unearthed him from.
Though Lena couldn’t help feeling all sorts of bothered when her request was met with the same considerate smile Kara always gave her asks.
As if moving tons of priceless Italian antiquities across the Arctic lived in the same sphere of equivalence as keeping dirt from tracking into the lab.
As if she didn’t grab him specifically so Lena could have a little piece of her mother back on her birthday.
Lena knows two things.
She is definitely not delirious.
And that little root of affection was not so little anymore.
If the tribute on the vault sounds familiar it’s because I repurposed the message sent with Voyager 1 for this Earth. Only in this case, it’s a bookend, a big ole “Sorry we fucked up aliens, I swear we made that cool shit we promised you though. Please have at. -Humans”
With some more eloquence hopefully haha
Also, fun fact, the Svalbard Seed Vault is real! I did see it in a movie… just cannot for the life of me remember which one it was.
November looms over the station, exactly four months to the day of their arrival.
Each is enjoying their respective alone time by sitting a respectable distance apart on opposite sides of the lumpy rec room sofa. Kara has shifted positions at least four times in the last ten minutes, unable to find the perfect amount of snug alignment that will let her truly focus on her reading while Lena sits, legs tucked beneath her, perfectly content in Kara’s usual spot of choice.
Kara will endure, as always, for Lena’s well-being.
She gives up after another few minutes, letting her back fall to the sofa, legs crossed against the armrest as she stuffs a pillow beneath her head.
“This okay?” she asks up to Lena.
Lena barely glances down, giving a nod and gentle, “Sure.”
They continue enjoying their respective alone time, scant inches apart, hyper-aware on a still lumpy sofa.
Off in the commissary, Lena can vaguely hear When in Rome playing faintly from the jukebox.
Kara plays music for the plants at night. She’d read it encouraged growth. Lena isn’t so sure plant facts from a thirty-plus-year-old book could hold that true, but then she also hasn’t successfully cultivated an entire garden of sproutlings in the Arctic during fall. The promise of fresh food is another month or so away. Lena’s already started creating menus in her sleep.
One meal, in particular, involves a spinach salad with ripe tomatoes sprinkled with scallions and ginger shavings. Though Kara did mention the ginger would take longer. Eight months, she pulls from her memory with a sigh. There were things growing in the garden that wouldn’t be ready for ages.
Mainly because the portal wouldn’t be ready for ages.
What little exists of it was mostly designs on paper and a scant couple of key components waiting on shelves for assembly.
There wasn’t even the hint of a frame taking shape.
The ginger was likely to be ready before they had even reached a halfway mark in construction.
Lena tries focusing on her notebook, tries making sense of how they’ll pull this off before they’ve been here a year. She’s set goals for them, deadlines, each more ambitious than the next. They keep blowing past them all. Wrought by setback after setback.
Kara had been right.
Tools were the issue. Lena’s lost count of the number of times they’ve had to stop working just to create something to help them be more efficient elsewhere. And it was only last week that she was finally able to get a keyboard and mouse configured to interface with her watch.
At this rate, they’d be lucky to be powering the portal up in two years.
Lena bites at her lip, feeling the weight of their situation suffocating her as she scratches out a few dates in her notebook.
Beside her, Kara turns a page in her survivalist book, rereads the same sentence twice, and wonders if she made the right decision to lay down. She peeks up at Lena to find her poorly trying to hide her obvious anxiety over portal progress behind a thoughtful expression. The look is something Kara has slowly grown attuned to.
The difference between true focused curiosity and debilitating self-contempt.
Kara grabs Lena’s pencil, waits for green eyes to uncloud and center upon her own. “Hi, you’re taking a break now, okay?”
“Kara,” Lena grumbles, fruitlessly attempting to snatch back her pencil from hands far quicker than her own.
“Break. Time.” Kara tells her, tucking the pencil into the front pocket of her overalls. “Deep breath, Lena. Everything’s fine right now.”
“It’s not fine, we’re behind.”
“Points for the rhyme,” Kara chuckles. Lena does not laugh with her. The distress is still there, painted in the thin line of her mouth and even tighter clench of her jaw. Kara feels the anguish in green eyes hit her like a punch. She quickly pulls herself up. “Look, I know you’re worried it’s taking longer than you’d planned and that’s okay.”
“How can you say that?” Lena’s voice is a hushed ache.
A double punch. “Because I believe in you,” Kara answers with a degree of seriousness in her tone that surprises even Lena. “Whatever it takes, however long it takes, I know you’ll get us home.”
The suffocating feeling ebbs ever so slightly at Kara’s words. “And if it’s years?”
Kara’s smile is soft and sincere. “Then I guess I better learn how to cut your hair.”
Lena’s laugh releases the rest of the unease pressing around her throat. A bit of it remains, as always, the inkling of worrisome pressure she always puts on herself. But Kara’s words help make it feel manageable.
She feels in control again.
Even if only for a little while.
Kara pulls the pencil from her pocket and holds it out for her. “Please try and remember to set this down when that feeling creeps back in.”
Lena wants to hug her.
“I’ll try,” She says instead, accepting back her pencil. “I did want to do some revisions.”
“Then afterward maybe read some light, non-portal related fiction?” Kara asks as she lays herself back down.
“I could say the same about your choice, you know,” Lena tells her with an amused shake of her head.
“This is my hobby, there's a difference.”
“A hobby all about how terribly unequipped human bodies are for surviving the end of the world,” Lena teases, enjoying how Kara’s ears turn a shade redder. “Bit on the nose, don’t you think?”
“How dare you, what if I’m just really into extreme camping?” Kara counters.
Counters so poorly she’s snickering even to herself. She peeks over at Lena after a bout of silence falls over them. Lena is staring down at her, a curiously fascinated look on her face.
Kara feels scrutinized. Her breath stills.
“I really don’t know how I ever let myself believe you weren’t Supergirl,” Lena admits finally.
“W-what do you mean?” Kara stammers, turning to her side, suddenly very nervous with the direction this conversation has turned.
Lena leans a bit closer, the corners of her mouth curling devilishly. “You are quite possibly the worst liar on the planet.”
The book in Kara’s hands has the very evident impression of her fingers now forever pressed into the front and back cover. She rolls her eyes, relieved, and flops back over. “Would that make you second best then?”
Lena gives the pillow under Kara’s head a good shove. “Go back to your camping obsession.”
The bout of silence that encompasses them afterward is cozy. Or at least Kara thinks so as she sinks more comfortably on the sofa and allows herself to be lost in the wild world of 30-plus-year-old human survival tips. A bit of the heat from Lena’s legs brushes the top of her head, making her feel all the more at home and content on the lumpy rec room sofa. Lena’s heart rate above her is still a smidge too elevated for someone that should just be proofreading, but she trusts Lena to not let herself get too ensnared by her own perfectionist ambitions.
They have time.
All they have is time.
It’s not a sentiment Lena shares so much as tolerates. Kara may have resigned herself to existing here for the foreseeable future but Lena has not. She has a company to run, projects to ensure complete with no less than her strict standards met, business relationships she cannot allow to flounder without her there to lead them forward.
She very much expects to return to an empire in ruin either because her absence has glaringly allowed a vacuum of power to run amok of her board or her brother has somehow survived and done it out of spite. The latter scenario being, disappointingly, preferred. It was the more financially and politically recoverable.
Ugh, she groans internally. Lex hasn’t crossed her mind in ages. To think his grand scheme revolved around him being so sure she would join him is laughably absurd. She wishes she could have seen the look on his face as she disappeared through the portal with Kara. Bet the asshole hadn’t planned for that level of solidarity.
She is now one less pawn on his chessboard.
He was also the last thing on her mind at the moment.
Kara had sounded so surprised at Lena’s sudden grip of her blue wrist. Lena doesn’t even know why she’d reached back. Okay, another lie, she very much does and simply refuses to cater to the whims of her heart. Like a beat, it had been an impulse. This instinctual, human need to keep the one thing that had been grounding her in that moment with her.
Kara may have only been there out of some misguided attempt to seek forgiveness while also keeping to her promise from years ago —to always, always protect Lena— but it hardly mattered. She was there and she was about to be gone and Lena would not allow that.
She does not regret her choice.
Her brother is hopefully rotting in a cell, or better yet, rotting on the dirty floor of the bunker and—
“Lena,” Kara’s voice is a quiet warning.
Lena sighs, thoughts evaporating as her expression untwists from the strain of a pinched brow and pursed mouth.
She wishes she could be as accepting, as relaxed, as patient as Kara.
None of their predicament seems to haunt her the way Lena feels it ensnares her every waking moment.
“All good,” she murmurs back.
Kara seems pleased, if not a bit skeptical with her response. Lena tries to give her mollifying smile but thinks it ends up a bit more of a grimace.
She's touched by Kara’s concern regardless.
They return to their reading. One still finds herself revisiting the same paragraph twice, now worried for the thoughts running through her best friend’s head. The other equally concerned with exactly what they might mean.
Lena pours through her notebook instead, jotting corrections, making comments to herself in the margins... underlining things unnecessarily. Anything to keep her hands busy and quell the new, problematic temptation to run fingers through nearby blonde hair. It’s a level of indulgence she’s only ever let enter her mind once or twice before, when she and Kara were still close friends and when two or three glasses of wine were sitting in her stomach.
She hasn’t had a drink in months now.
Kara has been either purposely, or unintentionally, forgetting to pay that section of the vault a visit.
Lena thinks it’s intentional and secretly all the more thankful for Kara’s consideration.
As much as there have been nights where she wants nothing more than to drown her newfound thoughts in alcohol and forget they ever unsettled her, there have been others, like this, where she’s glad her self-control is intact.
Said blonde head lets out a long sigh that Lena feels vibrating the cushion beneath her legs. “Human teeth require way too much maintenance.”
Lena lays her notebook in her lap, attention relinquished to blue eyes. “How long have you been reading about dental hygiene?”
“It’s been three chapters so far!” Kara grumbles, looking up at Lena with an inquisitive squint. “Do your gums feel tender or appear redder?”
“No,” Lena muses.
“Kryptonians don’t have these issues.”
Lena laughs as she picks her notebook back up. “How wonderful for you.”
Kara rests the open book on her chest. “We have— had lots of other issues if that makes you feel any better.”
“I know,” Lena admits, the notebook once again abandoned to her lap. “Lex may have been a giant ass but his obsession with you and your cousin was if nothing else… informative.”
“I’d rather you hear about me from me than from whatever Lex once said,” Kara tells her softly.
Lena thinks she’s absolutely right. She props her head upon her hand along the back of the sofa cushion. “Then tell me something about you.”
Kara’s expression remains absorbed in thought, brow creased as she stares up at the stained drop ceiling to no spot in particular. Lena notices Kara tries to adjust glasses that haven’t been there for months. She wonders if Kara misses them, the mask and comfort they provide, a reminder of the humanity she blends herself amongst. “I’m glad my parents sent me here.”
“Your planet was dying, it didn’t sound like they had much of a choice.”
“No, I mean… even if Krypton had never—” Kara stops herself to take a breath, then tilts her head back some to find Lena gazing down at her, features softened, attentive. Kara's heart swells under the look. “If everything had been fine and Clark and I never had to leave, I don’t think I would have been happy there.”
Lena briefly wonders if Kara has ever shared this thought aloud with anyone aside from Alex. And even then she’s not quite sure. Not with the way Kara seems to struggle to form the right words. Lena nudges her gently along with a quiet, “Why not?”
Kara lets out another long sigh. “If I were there now I’d be working in the Science Guild. Which yeah, sounds awesome, except that their main purpose was to keep us isolated and self-sufficient.
“Doesn’t sound like you.”
“Exactly!” Kara exclaims, throwing her hands into the air. “And that was my choice, Lena! I wanted that once.”
“Tell me something good then.”
“What?” Kara asks, turning back to Lena’s still attentive and impossibly warm gaze. She smiles up at her. “That was the good thing, I’m so grateful to be here and who I am now.”
“Something good about your time there,” Lena corrects with a small laugh.
“Oh gosh, Alex could probably recite them verbatim,” Kara says with an equally similar laugh. “Apparently, I was a huge pain in the butt when I first got here. I would not stop telling her how backwards and dumb Earth was.”
Lena smirks. “I’d say a good deal of us feel the same most of the time.”
“People are so complex here! There are billions of stories and they’re all different and all important.”
“Some dumb and backwards.”
“You, Kara Danvers, are still way too nice,” Lena says, poking the top of Kara’s head with the end of her pencil. “Now answer my question.”
Kara blushes. “The food?”
Lena rolls her eyes. “What a shocking revelation.”
“Well then, your turn,” Kara tells her, poking her own finger up at Lena. “Tell me more about your life with your Mom.”
It’s such a loaded statement for Lena.
She doesn’t even know if she has an answer for it.
“I don't remember most of it,” she admits softly after a long stretch of silence and blue eyes go from boastful to repentant.
“You remembered Florence,” Kara says, her tone filled with warm hope.
“You have more things.” Kara’s tone of assurance does little to placate Lena’s very real feelings of doubt. “They're just buried under the Lex of it all.”
“How would you know?” She pries, curious and strangely divided. Part of her wants to end the discussion right there, she's had enough of Lex in her mind for one evening. For a lifetime. The other part, the one that has allowed a shaky, albeit relatively sturdy, bridge of trust to span between them keeps her tongue held. Listen, it tells her. Just listen.
“He's been a shadow over your whole life, Lena,” Kara says, reaching out to touch Lena’s wrist with gentle reassurance. Lena feels the touch burn the same way scotch does. It makes her ache for a soothing, lingering glass. “It wouldn't surprise me if he did the same with memories of your Mom.”
Lena pulls away, tucking her hands deep into her lap. “Kelly share this insight with you?”
“I’m astute,” Kara points out, a definite hint of pride and octave change present in her voice.
Lena snorts. “Care to try that again and not sound like a big fat liar?”
“Fine, yes, mainly Kelly,” Kara confesses. “You always call them my friends Lena but they care just as much about you too, you know.”
Lena wants to scoff. Clearly Kara hadn't seen the daggers her so called friends were glaring into her from behind that glass in the bunker. But then Kara is touching her wrist again, firmer this time. Lena relaxes back against the sofa. “Something good about my Mom then.”
Kara’s smile is a gentle encouragement. “Only if you want to share.”
“She sang a lot,” Lena remembers aloud. Her memories are a fog and very much entrenched with shadows of Lex, but she does remember this. She has this of her and not a touch of him. “We didn’t have much so she’d drive us around the countryside sometimes, I don't remember where we were ever going. She’d sing the whole drive.”
All Kara can think about is how Lena still sings when she’s alone. “Sounds like you were really happy.”
“Yeah,” Lena coughs, her throat suddenly a bit too tight. She taps the spine of Kara's book. “You can go back to reading about my fragile, human teeth now.”
“You have great teeth Lena, I don’t know what you're talking about,” Kara says as she picks the book back off her chest.
They lapse back into a comfortable silence, only broken by the turning of pages, scratch of a pencil, and skip of the jukebox as another record queues up.
Kara lets out a thoughtful hum. “Did you know pine needles are an excellent source of Vitamin C?”
“I’m not eating pine needles, Kara.”
“No, but this book says I could grind and boil some into a nice mouthwash,” Kara says, flipping the section in question up for Lena to see. “You don’t want scurvy, Lena.”
Lena laughs and turns the book back down into Kara’s face. “What are my other options?”
“You start brushing your teeth with charcoal.”
Lena grimaces. “How soon can the pine needle wash be ready?”
“I’ll make us some this week.”
Lena raises an eyebrow down at Kara. “Us?”
“Well, yeah,” Kara murmurs, poorly hiding flushed cheeks behind her book. “I don’t want scurvy either.”
“Scurvy, sure,” Lena teases. “How could I forget that huge Kryptonian weakness.”
Kara pokes her thigh with the book spine. “Hey, you’re breaking rule two.”
“Oh, I’m listening all right,” Lena chuckles. “It’s you who’s breaking rule one.”
“They’re more guidelines?”
“Okay, Davy Jones–“
“Captain Barbossa is the one who says it.”
“You. Are. Deflecting.”
“Fine, fine!” Kara sits up. “I would like to not have garbage breath anymore. And also prevent scurvy.”
“What do you know,” Lena smirks. “I feel the same way.”
Kara is trying hard not to smile as she smacks Lena lightly with the pillow. “Stop being mean. You’re supposed to be my friend again.”
“This is us being friends,” Lena says and in a moment of utter, unabashed honesty adds, “I’ve missed this.”
Kara leans against the cushions, gazing over at Lena with a look that squeezes her heart in the most unexpected way.
“Me too,” she whispers.
Two days later that moment in the rec room is far from Lena’s mind. She stands under the dark glass of the dome, staring up into dark skies, wondering how her nightmare is once again coming true.
Kara is two hours late for her check-in.
She is late and all those awful, gut-wrenching emotions bubble up inside Lena like a hot lick of fire, burning through her as though they’d never left.
When Kara does swoop in, windswept, drenched from a storm, and stumbling over apologies, Lena simply shakes her head, fighting back a sob.
“You c-can’t keep doing this,” her voice is a tremor that stills Kara’s heart.
Kara reaches toward her. “I know, I’m sorry, it’s just—“
“No, Kara!” Lena pulls sharply away, motioning frantically between them. “There is no just whatever with this! If something happens to you out there I cannot help you!”
“I know,” It’s a pathetic admission, but Kara is drowning in Lena’s fears.
“I am stuck here!” Lena cries out, overwrought as tears finally cloud green eyes.
Kara forgets to breathe. “I know…”
“You die, I die.”
The words land with a force that crumbles what little is left of Kara’s resolve. “Lena…”
Lena hugs her arms beneath her chest, eyes brimmed with tears set in a glower that bores straight through wounded blue. “I told you once I am as good as dead if that happens and you still went off for hours anyway.”
Kara wisely says nothing as Lena glares her resentments, her hurt, and all her hostile thoughts in one dark look. She’d meant to be on time, was more than well on her way before a storm tossed her from the sky and buried her in a maelstrom. Kara knows it hardly matters now. Lena doesn’t want to hear what happened to her this time. Not when she’s still struggling to overcome the harrowing feelings resurrected from Kara’s last late arrival.
Kara wants nothing more than to pull Lena close and chase those dreadful emotions away, send them scattering to the wind in the same fashion the storm calmed when she finally tore through its center.
There’s a puddle of its remains collecting on the floor beneath her feet.
She's afraid Lena’s fears aren’t so easily conquered.
Green eyes fall closed as Lena lets out an unsteady breath. “I don’t know how else to tell you that I cannot do this without you.”
Kara swallows thickly and takes a tentative step closer. “I know.”
Lena’s next words are a murmured plea. “So please stop breaking your own fucking rule.”
“I won’t, I—” Kara isn’t quite sure what to say, but a memory comes quickly to her mind. The last time she failed to return in time. “That night, after the vault,” she begins, bridging another foot of space between them. “I wanted to apologize so bad for not checking in but you were already asleep.”
The way her face pinks and not at all from the effort of escaping a maelstrom says everything.
Lena sneers. “Yeah well, guess I’m a huge sentimental idiot.”
“No, Lena, no,” Kara tells her, adamant, now finally standing within reach. Her hands find a home on Lena’s shoulder, unwavering in their grounding touch. “I’m the idiot. I caused that hurt.”
“Then stop doing it,” Lena growls. She drops her chin. “I don’t want to have to make a sad little memorial to you in my room.”
“You won’t, I promise.” Kara lets her hands slide down Lena’s arms, her grip firm and gentle all at once. Lena’s fingers brush against her elbows. Kara feels the light touch like an anchor. “Every hour when offsite, I'll be right here.”
“God,” Lena mutters, wiping her cheeks. “I hate feeling like this. I’m not this person.”
“Your feelings are more than valid,” Kara assures, rubbing her thumbs against Lena’s upper arms. “No one wants to be left alone.”
Lena sniffles, blinking tears away. “I’m a fucking mess.”
Kara smiles. “A super pretty mess at least.”
Lena chokes out a laugh. “That’s not helping.”
“I’ll tell you what, when we get back home I’m never taking comms for granted again,” Kara says, hoping to lighten the mood even further. Lena’s tears don’t stop though, she stares at Kara, tormented and drained. “Come here.” Kara engulfs her in a secure hug.
Her suit is dripping wet and cold where it soaks through Lena’s sweater but she doesn’t care. She stays pressed against Kara for a long while, arms clenched in her cape, breathing her in.
Kara whispers apologies and promises Lena dearly hopes hold true.
Lena wonders, a few weeks later, if Kara's words could truly be as powerful as her strength.
She hasn’t had either nightmare plague her sleep since their talk.
The only remnants of them catch her off guard on occasion.
A press of a hand on her back as they enter the lab.
Touches to her wrist when she’s stressed over portal designs.
Side hugs, too many to count, when they solve a problem on the chalkboard.
Because like Dream-Kara, the one she shares the station with has a penchant for touching her more. A lot more.
Lena doesn't know what to do with that fact.
They sit at the same table in the commissary for dinner. Kara has turned off the lights and blown a hole in the clouds the size of National City Park.
It’s enough to give them an unfiltered, clear view of the brilliant green aurora flowing high overhead.
They really needed to do this more often, Lena thinks, taking a bite of her potato and spinach dinner.
From Kara’s garden.
The garden she’s been selflessly cultivating for her for weeks now.
Lena is glad for the green light washing over them both, it hides the way her face heats with such fondness for the woman across from her she’s sure it’s visible from space.
“What do you miss from home?” Kara asks absentmindedly, her gaze rooted heavenward.
“So much,” Lena chuckles. “Shampoo and conditioner might be number one.”
“Hm,” Kara responds, smiling softly, head still tilted skyward.
“And you?” Lena asks.
A litany of responses plays through Lena’s mind. Kara is nothing if not extremely predictable. Likely potstickers, or dogs, or most obvious of all, her family.
Occasionally, Kara still floors her.
“I’m getting too existential, aren’t I?” Kara asks, sheepish.
Lena can only manage a small shake of her head.
“I guess then, more specifically, sounds from my life, you know, like Alex’s laugh,” Kara says and once again reaches for glasses that no longer exist. Her brow dips as memories swim to the front of her mind. “All laughs really. Nia’s jokes. Kelly’s advice. So many sounds. People in a restuarant, traffic, gosh even stupid sirens, park sprinklers; you know the way they go tchk tchk tchk. Oh, potstickers sizzling after a splash of water is added to the pan... is this too much? This is too much.”
“You are a journalist,” Lena offers lamely. She wants to smack herself for the stupidity of that remark.
“Heh,” Kara breathes with a laugh that’s more a sigh. “I don’t know if that’s so true anymore.”
“Guess we’ll see,” Lena tells her, reaching out to touch the top of Kara’s hand.
“Yeah,” Kara whispers, turning her palm over to squeeze Lena’s hand. “Guess we will.”
Lena lays in her bed later that night, thinking of all the things Kara mentioned and those she neglected to list. She didn’t miss CatCo, writing, or hero work. Though Lena feels taking care of one very morose CEO must now encompass that last mantle exclusively. Kara misses the people she loves, shared experiences, her city, her life.
There isn’t much in Lena’s life she feels she misses to that extent. Maybe Sam and Ruby… yet, they hardly ever called each other anymore.
Never once do her thoughts turn to her company, her projects, or her business relationships.
Those weren’t things to miss so much as things to revive.
Her heart doesn’t ache for them the way Kara’s ache’s for sounds of home.
The one thing Lena is failing to deliver.
The portal frustrates her.
Their progress is too slow.
There was so much yet to be done.
Lena stresses herself into a stupor in front of the chalkboard one afternoon. Kara finds her standing there, immobile, weeping silently at yet another colossal mental block she's unable to overcome.
The chalk is gently pried from her vice-like grip, a warm arm wraps over her rigid shoulders. Kara pulls her close, resting the side of her head against Lena’s throbbing temple.
She keeps holding her, even as Lena finally breaks down, all the weight of their dire situation spilling from her in rivers of hot tears against the only shoulder that’s able to bear her burdens.
Kara doesn't let her step foot in the lab for a week after.
They watch movies and read, huddled together on the lumpy rec room sofa, until Lena feels the anxious fog in her mind dissipate and she's finally able to breathe again.
When she enters back into the lab there’s a new addition in the center of the conference room table. A bouquet of freshly cut sunflowers placed in a shorn ice core tube.
She has a new reason keeping her from focusing on her work after that.
Lena wakes one morning to Bing Crosby instead of the usual rotation.
Kara has strung up garlands of pine, decked the tables with worn runners of striped red and white. The whole commissary is awash with the smell and sounds of Christmas.
The holiday is still weeks away but Lena accepts her mug of minted coffee and allows the Santa hat Kara has unearthed from some godforsaken mall and plopped on her slightly less greasy head to remain.
“You’re so lucky we’re the only two people here right now,” Lena tells her. She tries not to laugh as Kara slides Dr. Ennis’ sunglasses onto her face.
“I don’t know, you’re kind of a jolly sight.”
She fails miserably.
They decide to give each other one gift. Mainly as Lena only has what's available to her in the station whereas Kara has an entire vault of art, literature and humanity to pick from.
“No more statues please,” Lena implores.
“No promises,” Kara winks with a cheeky grin.
They open their gifts the morning of.
Kara has brought Lena more scotch. Double cask Macallan.
Lena has cheated. She’s gotten Kara two.
The first is also a drink. She’s tried to recreate a latte for Kara from milked space oats and ground coffee.
Kara has never received a gift half as thoughtful or half as terrible. She drinks it all with a flush on her cheeks and smile she hopes isn’t half as dopey as it feels.
She loves that Lena tried for her.
That's when Lena hands her the second. Kara is confused by the paper tied with a bow of shoelace in her palms. They'd agreed on one.
“Just a little something I think you've been missing,” Lena feels the need to explain, inexplicably nervous.
Kara unwraps a box containing an old pair of glasses.
They aren’t exactly like her pair from home, but close enough Lena had thought when she unearthed them from a drawer in the lab. A little polish, some replacement glass for the prescription lenses she painstakingly hid working on during Kara’s offsite hours, and they were good as new.
It was the closest thing to home Lena could think to give her.
Kara stares at them in her hand, expression unreadable.
Lena's chest clenches. “Sometimes you do this thing where you,” she motions at her temple, cheeks dusted pink.
Kara’s heart soars as she slips them on. They jostle on her face as she pulls Lena into a tight hug. It's the closest feeling she’s had to home in months.
She loves that Lena made these for her.
Lena doesn’t want her to let go.
The year turns over on the only two living souls stuck in an Arctic station on a dead but slowly healing Earth.
Lena is drunk.
Her emotions are not under her control and so she turns to her Christmas gift and before she knows it half the bottle is gone and she’s so, so wasted.
She has feelings for Kara and her answer to that revelation is to apparently drown said thoughts and feelings in liquor.
She hates that it doesn’t work.
If anything she’s only made the attraction worse and her inhibitions low and fuck, fuck, fuck this was such a bad idea. She should not be standing outside Kara’s closed door like this. Her body is swaying, her heart racing. If Kara was inside she’s sure to have heard.
What’s she even going to say to her?
Hi, yes, I have a problem. It’s you. Can we fix this in your bed?
She should really go throw herself into a snowdrift.
Lena shivers at her own ruinous thoughts. They do nothing to stop her hand from pressing against Kara’s door. The tiny, infinitesimal sober part of her mind keeps it held there, still. It doesn't let her knock.
Coffee, it screams. Get your sorry, pining ass some coffee!
Lena wanders into the dome intent on fixing herself a cup of coffee as dark as the sky. She needs to sober up, needs to—
“Can’t sleep either?” Said voice she’s trying to avoid asks quietly from above.
Lena looks up. Green muted light pours through the glass dome and casts soft waves over the reclined floating form of a blanket-clad Kara Danvers. She’s gazing down at Lena with a faint smile, a book dangling from her loose grip.
Lena thinks she looks beautiful.
“I wasss,” she slurs at first, taking a long breath to clear the fog in her head. Tries again. “I was going to try and work for a while.” Lies.
“That’s a direct violation of rule seven, Miss Luthor,” Kara teases, adjusting her glasses.
Lena laughs, trying to keep her hands still and not twisting themselves into nervous knots at her waist. Sentences. She has them. Why are they so hard? “Sending me back to bed without coffee then, Miss Danvers?”
Oh my god, she thinks. Flirting is not what she needs to be doing right now. She needs to turn around, plant her face in her pillow and let sleep take her away before she's forced to reckon with the consequences of drinking half a bottle of double cask Macallan and interacting with said object of her rekindled affections.
She’s been on this path before, what feels like a lifetime ago, before secrets, and identity confessions and her stupid, hopefully dead, brother’s interference. When she entertained the possibility of maybe being something more than just Kara Danvers best friend. She’d never even gotten the chance to have the thought fully take hold before all her emotions and connections to Kara were severed in five destructive minutes.
She hated her for so long after that.
She’s almost forgotten what it feels like to love her instead.
Her feet don’t budge.
She’s riveted, watching Kara high above.
“Well, it’s either that orr,” Kara shifts the blanket over her shoulders as she drifts down. A smile crosses her lips, shy and hopeful. Lena is lost. “Wanna watch Aliens with me?”
Lena sighs, pleasantly resigned, plans for avoiding Kara easily forgotten.
The VHS has other plans.
Lena has to bite her lip to keep from laughing at the absolute devastation on Kara’s face when she pulls the tape out from the box and dark, unmistakable powder pours out from its plastic shell.
“It’s an obsolete tech for a reason,” Lena tells her, skin buzzing right along with her thoughts. “You're lucky the others still worked.”
“Well, maybe the vault has a working copy.”
Of course, there’s always a silver lining with Kara. She’s shooting out the rec room before Lena can even tell her it’s fine.
She returns seconds later, a pristine VHS in hand. “Success!”
The vault doth provide, she muses, reclining back into the lumpy sofa cushions. The alcohol rushes back to her head once she’s sitting, vision blurring along with her nerves.
Kara takes a seat at the other end of the sofa after starting up the film.
Lena has seen it. Boarding school was full of late-night movies, huddled close under blankets, nervous hands making daring choices.
Never this inebriated.
Fuck this was such a terrible idea.
Lena’s head sways, heavy. She glances over at Kara to find blue eyes already pinned on her, worried.
“How much did you drink?” Kara asks.
Jerky supers and their jerky super senses.
“Lena, you literally just mumbled that out loud.”
Lena sits up a bit straighter, immediately regretful as spots dot her vision. “Too much,” she groans truthfully, pinching her eyes shut.
“Is this about… are you,” Kara is fighting for the right words as Lena fights to keep from crawling into her lap. “Are you still upset with me?”
It’s asked with such guilt and concern and fear that Lena’s heart fractures as she quickly shakes her head.
An absolutely terrible move that has her tipping over the edge of the sofa and swept into Kara’s arms before her face is able to meet the floor. Her mind is a blur of color, sounds and feeling. Kara’s voice she knows but the words aren’t landing, she feels a touch on her cheek, blonde hair across her neck.
Her body sinks into sofa cushions as Kara lies her down.
She keeps sinking, sinking further.
Everything goes dark after that.
She sleeps fitfully on the lumpy sofa in the rec room, hoping she doesn’t remember any of this embarrassing nightmare come morning.
Narrator: She will.
Hope you all have enjoyed this latest installment in Lena Luthor's No Good, Terrible Time Holding Repressed Feelings™ for My Best Friend in an Arctic Station.
Until next week! Thanks for reading. 🥰
“Soooo, last night.”
Lena’s response to Kara is one long, shamed groan. Her head is buried in the crook of her elbow, the cup of coffee at her side as frigid as the air beyond the dome glass. She rolled off the sofa this morning sore, tired, and her head pounding with regrets.
Lena’s hangover is as monumental as the snow covering the station.
She feels more than sees Kara take a seat to her side. Hears the quick blast of her eyes against the mug. A warm hand presses into the space between her shoulders, thumb rubbing a soft dent into her skin through an old Penn State sweater.
“I’m sorry there’s no aspirin left in the world.”
Lena’s shoulders rise and fall with silent, strained laughter. She picks her head up, resting her cheek on her wrist. “No medicinal tundra plants that could help?”
Kara scratches Lena’s back as she smiles apologetically and shakes her head. “Sorry, afraid it’s just coffee.”
“Figures,” Lena mutters, sitting up slowly. Kara’s hand leaves her shoulders and she misses the heat of it against her back. She’s handed her cup of steaming coffee in exchange. “Thanks.”
“You owe me one movie night.”
“Later?” Lena asks, only one of her eyes able to fully open.
Kara touches her wrist. “Promise not to drink yourself into a coma again?”
Lena winces. That was all on her. “I’m sorry.”
“Something upset you.”
Another sigh. Longer. More wrought. She doesn’t know how to answer without breaking so many of their rules. “I’m not upset with you,” she settles on finally.
Kara’s brow visibly relaxes. “Then what happened?” The absolute concern laced in her voice pinches green eyes shut again.
Lena remembers everything and says nothing.
“Okay, well,” Kara hesitates, giving a sigh. “If you ever want to talk, I'm here.”
Lena can’t find the will to loosen her jaw enough to speak.
They’ve finally found something good again. She can’t risk that.
“Cool,” Kara says, resigned. “Great chat.”
It's not until she's sure Kara has flown miles off that Lena lets her head fall back into the crook of her elbow with a loud, self-loathing groan.
She doesn’t even think she deserves the coffee.
Sometimes, after mornings like today, Kara wishes she was able to read minds as easily as J’onn.
She has been nothing short of attentive, sympathetic, honest, and open with Lena since their last fight well over a month ago. Things had been going so well. Lena trusted her again. Her best friend was back, finally.
So what happened? And, most importantly, why had it so suddenly?
It wasn't just the liquor, that much she knows. Lena hasn't had her terrible dreams in weeks. She's been making real, tangible progress with the portal finally. There was nothing that Kara could see that would cause her to drink nearly all her Christmas gift in one evening and leave her a feverish mess on the sofa afterward.
Out of an abundance of concern, Kara had gone back in to check on her throughout the night. Aside from the occasional arm dropped over the seat edge to tuck back in, Lena was out cold.
What was making her feel so lost?
There’s one thought that does cross her mind.
A dangerous one they’ve only ever broached once, months ago. When Kara was filled with anger and Lena so much pain and hate.
They hadn’t resolved the truth buried in all the hurtful, accusatory words.
Lena had grabbed her in the bunker. Had nothing to say when Kara harshly called her out on it.
Lena shouldn’t be here.
It’s all Kara can think about as she flies over the Soviet base. The old Casio watch Lena was able to revive for her with a backup battery from her smartwatch tells her she’s an hour ahead of schedule. Without Lena, she’d never know.
Without her, she’d have gone crazy by now.
Did Lena regret grabbing her?
Is that why she drank so much?
Kara kind of doesn't want to go back to the station to find out.
Not to just be pointedly ignored some more.
She pushes worrisome thoughts aside.
The room is the same as always, not a speck of radioactive dust undisturbed. The sight stings a little less every time.
She floats back outside and high above the clouds to wait out the time instead. These are the only moments she gets to see the endless blue of the sky.
She also can't help but think Lena hasn't seen the color since they arrived.
Her thoughts were always doing a lot of that these days. Turning right back around to her best friend. Wondering what Lena would think if she were beside her in an old IBM factory. What Lena would say if she could see the mess her precious MIT has become. Was the spinach a good enough substitute for her beloved kale? Did she like the sunflowers Kara had grown?
Did she regret falling through a portal with her?
Kara chases the thought away, speeding higher toward the sun.
Even her dreams were consumed by her. The survivalist books had not helped make them mundane in the least. She always seemed to be rushing back to the station to find a catastrophe unfolding within. Radioactive equipment somehow pouring up through the floor. Storms flooding the halls. Mxy wreaking havoc on Lena’s grasp of reality. Lex wreaking havoc on Lena’s already fragile trust. Zombies once.
Lena was always hurt in some way. Some new, awful way Kara was unequipped to help her deal with. Broken bones, cuts, and mental anguish she could handle. Internal bleeding, head trauma, and organ failure she could not. The books were good until a point. Until they recommended seeking immediate medical care.
Kara is the only medical care.
She calls her study a hobby because to call it what it is will somehow bring her dreams to life.
Lena’s well-being above all else is only true if she can protect her.
Just like she'd promised to. Years ago.
Regardless of regrets made in a bunker.
Kara also thinks rushing out like a puppy with its tail between its legs was not exactly a move in service to her motto.
But occasionally she's allowed an off day.
She lists a bit in the sky, feeling terrible all the same.
Damn, she thinks. Lena’s right.
She really could be a jerky super.
Lena is clearly still nursing her headache when Kara returns for her hourly check-in. She's at least moved from a slumped wreck in the commissary to a sunglass adorned wreck in the lab.
Kara forgoes knocking on the door in favor of keeping any more spikes of pain from injuring an already bruised brain. Lena gives her a grateful, if pained, smile as she waves instead.
“Hey um, before you take off,” Lena calls out as Kara lifts back off her feet. Kara drifts further into the lab in response. Lena motions over to the far wall. “I'm thinking we need more space to fit all the drives we’ve been making to control this thing.”
Kara nods, following. She wants the wall torn down. Easy enough task.
“You want me to do that now or maybe later when your head isn’t also splitting open?”
Lena dips her sunglasses enough to give Kara a contemptuous glare.
Kara sighs, “Sorry, I just–”
Bloodshot eyes only narrow with more irritation.
Kara sets her feet back down to Earth. She is here to help. “I’m not judging you, okay? This isn’t why I’m here. You're hungover and that's your business but it is my business to not cause you further harm.”
Not to make you regret being here, is what she wishes to say.
Green eyes soften over the rim of dark shades.
“So please tell me when you're feeling better so I can knock this wall down for you.”
Lena takes the sunglasses off and rubs her forehead. The open vulnerability feels like a truce to Kara. She bridges the space separating them and places her hand right back between tense shoulder blades. Her heart warms as she feels Lena press into her touch. “You, Kara Danvers, are still way too nice.”
“I don't know,” Kara ventures slowly. “I hear I can also be a pretty jerky super too.”
Lena grins over at her. “Not today, Supergirl.”
Kara can't stop smiling. Lena shoos her away to finish out her scheduled stops and tend to her garden.
When she does return to the lab, five check-ins and hours later, Lena looks more like her usual, poised self. She’s even french braided her hair and managed to move their collection of patchwork equipment off the shelves of their soon-to-be-demolished wall.
Kara cracks her knuckles and tosses Lena her soldering glasses. “Safety first,” she grins.
Lena rolls her eyes with a little less ridicule than usual as she slips them on.
“We all-clear next door?”
Lena scowls. “I honestly could care less what happens to the weather lab.”
Such spite, Kara chuckles to herself. “You have a very unhealthy hatred for poor meteorologists. Did one break up with you once or something?”
Lena's scowl tightens.
“Oh man,” Kara is full of rapt, fascinated attention. “Why is this the first I'm hearing about it?? It was totally the channel seven weather guy, wasn't it?”
Wait, Four? She knows Four.
Kara’s face falls. “Nooo, not Sandra Winters!” She'd been so nice to Kara once in line at a coffee stand. Alex had been immensely jealous.
“And for the record, it wasn't a break up. She stood me up.”
Kara blinks at her. “You’ve been holding a grudge over an entire branch of science, all because a weatherwoman stood you up?”
Ouch, Kara thinks with a grimace. “I will never tune in to channel Four again.”
“Okay, so one bad, super dumb egg. What if I told you, our beloved Dr. Ennis was one.”
Lena’s mouth drops open the tiniest amount. “You’re joking.”
“Nope. He was a total Karen Smith.”
“I feel so betrayed.”
Kara can’t help but laugh at the disappointment on Lena’s face. “Local meteorologists beware. Lena Luthor is out for blood.”
Lena gives Kara’s shoulder a check, grumbling, “Shut up and smash already.”
“The eloquence today. Also truly inspiring.”
“My headache from earlier. Also returning.”
“Okay, okay,” Kara relents with a laugh and hands raised. She steps over to the wall and gives it a once-over with her x-ray vision. No need to cause an electrical catastrophe that was easily avoided. Beyond the wall, she can see the radar equipment still relatively untouched. “Have you even stepped foot in that room?”
“I already took their screens and keyboard. The rest is trash.”
Such, massive spite, Kara muses. “Sandra Winters aside, I still think meteorologists are pretty cool.”
“You also watch shows with talking polar bears.”
Kara winces, clutches her chest with far too much embellishment. “Ugh, Lena, right in the heart.”
Lena remains unmoved. “Please smash this wall down now.”
“Fine, fine! Kara smash. Just let me go move the stuff outta the way first.”
When she asks what to do with the equipment Lena shrugs; she honestly does not care.
Kara convinces her to move it all into the Polar Bear lab in case they have a need for any more spare, non-radioactive parts.
The wall comes down with little fanfare and even less debris.
Kara pesters her about further romantic mishaps for the rest of the afternoon. Aside from James, she hasn't too many to contribute. Kara, she learns, is endearingly full of them.
Within a week there’s an honest-to-god portal taking shape in the expanded Climate lab.
They celebrate with a few glasses of scotch.
Kara cringes at every sip.
Lena buzzes with accomplishment, adoration, and something that desperately aches for more.
God, how she wants to kiss the taste of scotch right off her.
Purposely, Lena limits herself to just two glasses.
To borrow a phrase from Kara; safety first.
The buzz keeps her half-awake.
The exact opposite of what she was aiming for.
It prolongs sleep, lingering, allowing thoughts to fill her head instead of dreams.
Lena has a quandary.
More specifically, numerous vivid quandaries.
Dreams that once left her cold, distraught and alone have taken a turn in the absolute, opposite direction. It’s not an unwelcome development in the least. Distracting? Yes. Revelatory? Hardly.
Needed? God, yes.
If this was her mind's way of dealing with her staunch decision not to act on her feelings for Kara, then she would savor them for the satisfying illusions they were.
And absolutely nothing more.
She lays in her bed, drifting to sleep at an agonizing pace, so sure she’ll be greeted with a wonderful array of Dream-Kara’s soon. Substitute-Kara’s, she corrects herself. There is no denying what they are even if she refuses to fully acknowledge them. Her favorite one seemed to always be in the MIT sweater she’d given her early on. Lena doesn’t quite know what kind of message her head is sending her with that but she swoons every time nonetheless. Like a fool. The sweater is what Kara usually wears when tending to the garden. The elbows are starting to rip, dirt and leaf stains smear the sleeves and chest.
Fuck, Lena sighs, rolling onto her back. She’s totally touch-starved and absolutely hopeless.
A knock sounds at her door, startling every thought and nerve right out of her body. Lena quickly sits up, blankets clutched like a vice to her chest. As if some pitiful threads of fabric could keep her myriad of emotions from spilling out into the room. “Yeah?” She calls out, voice a rasp and very much still entrenched in dreamland fantasies. Heat burns at her chest at the tone and she hugs the blanket tighter as Kara peeks around the door.
“Hey, sorry to bug you,” Kara steps in, blocking light from the hall with her broad frame to keep Lena from needing to adjust her eyes too much. Lena sighs more at the flutter of warmth the gestures spurs in her stomach. “Have you seen my glasses?”
“Um,” Lena finds words difficult again and coughs to clear her throat. Where had Kara found shorts?
“I swear I haven’t lost them,” Kara rushes to say, shifting her weight against the door, nervous and adorably fraught. “But if you’ve seen them… ?”
“No,” Lena shakes her head, willing flashes of dreams from her mind and pretending she is having a perfectly normal conversation with a woman she was not just imagining in her bed. “I haven’t sorry.”
She praises herself. That had almost not sounded desperate.
“They’re probably in the tomatoes again,” Kara says, more to herself than to Lena. She gives a sigh, withdrawn as she looks back up to find Lena still sitting tensely on her bed. “Are you… okay?”
Lena nods, very tense indeed. “Fine.”
She curses herself. That time she failed.
“It’s okay if you aren’t, you know,” Kara tells her gently and devastates Lena’s thinly held composure by walking further into the room and taking a seat beside her on the bed.
“I know,” Lena mumbles, folding in on herself.
“Are we…” Kara begins to ask, gaze rooted to Lena’s firm, strained grip on her blanket. A hand reaches out, tentative and warm. Lena’s fist uncurls with the slip of a palm against her own. The blanket pools in her lap, twined hands nestled on top. Lena finds it hard to breathe let alone concentrate. She feels Kara squeeze her hand, a silent plea for her eyes to find blue. “Are we okay?”
Lena is lost.
She loves that Kara never gives up on her.
Her heart aches with apprehension regardless. “W-what do you mean?”
“Nothings wrong!” Kara’s quick to assure, both hands now clasped around Lena’s in the little nest of her lap. She scoots closer, eyes searching for green even in the dim light spilling in from the hall. “It’s just things have been really nice and our track record is pretty terrible,” she confesses with a small, dry laugh. Lena can’t help but smile a bit in agreement. Her heart races as one of Kara’s hands slides to her wrist, toying with the edge of her smartwatch band. “I’m not asking if you’ve forgiven me, that’s not fair to put on you. Just… maybe we’re in a place where things are better now?”
Lena, despite the fear, elation and want gripping her, can’t help but let out a bitter laugh. “Aren’t you the one who once told me we should always strive to be better?”
A palm cradles her cheek.
Lena forgets to breathe at that touch.
“I want to be better with you,” Kara tells her, every bit of her voice coated in candid, quiet hope.
Oh god. Lena’s voice comes out as barely a whisper, “...with me?”
“If you’ll have me?” Kara asks, smile soft, gaze absolutely destroying the little shred of composure Lena has been so desperately clinging to.
Her life isn’t a divine comedy.
It’s somehow a divine romantic comedy.
“Yeah,” Lena breathes out, eyes closing as Kara’s hand slides past her ear and tugs her near.
“Yeah?” Kara chuckles and Lena can feel the warmth of it against her lips. She melts into the press of Kara’s lips against the corner of her mouth. The touch sets her ablaze. Lena grabs Kara by the face and finally, finally lets her fears go.
Only to wake to the crash of glass in the dome and the fading feel of a searing, imagined kiss.
The consequences of her hubris rip her from her dream, stealing her from a haze of fantasy with powerful winds slamming against their snow-covered home.
A storm the likes of the one that tore Kara from the sky and buried her in its wrath barrels down on the station.
Kara shoots from her bed and into a dark hall. The power is struggling to stay on, a flickering glow from garden lights spill into the hall like a cry for help. This is bad, she thinks. The paintings rattle against walls and doors around her, wind howling over the roof above.
More glass shatters off in the commissary and the lights die entirely.
For a brief moment, all Kara’s fears are on her plants.
But then a gasp from behind the door to her right has that fear shredding away with the same speed as a chunk of the roof down the hall.
Kara stumbles in through Lena’s door at the same time Lena lunges toward it. She catches her in strong arms, activates her suit around Lena without a second thought, and flies them back through the hall to the safety of the other sleeping module, the one buried in far more protective snow than the rest of the station. The only place Kara feels she can leave Lena alone while she stops their home from turning to the same ruin as the world beyond.
“Are you okay?” Kara asks as Lena feels her unsteady feet touch back to the ground. It's dark in the station, far too dark and cold and loud and she can't see Kara. She feels hands gripping her arms, knows Kara is right there, mere inches in front of her and yet nothing.
The storm roars overhead, steel modules groaning under the onslaught. There’s a crash of metal and sparks, so many sparks behind Kara.
They’re blown out with a blast from the lungs in front of her.
“I need to get outside!” Kara yells to be heard over the chaos. Lena doesn't want the hands on her to let go, they are the only thing anchoring her in a sea of frigid chaotic nothingness.
Her hands shoot forward blindly, grasping for anything warm and solid. So contrary to the dream she’s been immersed in mere seconds before.
Kara feels them close behind her neck. She can see Lena clearly. There’s an unmistakable panic in dark eyes she cannot chase away. Lena can’t control her breathing, her chest rises and falls erratically under Kara’s family crest. She’s not hurt though. Lena is okay. Terrified but okay.
It’s all that's keeping Kara from breaking apart too.
Lena tugs desperately on her neck and Kara complies, lets her forehead press into the worried creases of the one in front of her. Lena’s heart rate pounds louder than the storm in Kara’s ears.
“I can stop this!” Kara tells her. Please let me go, she thinks.
More glass crashes in the dome. Something huge ruptures through the metal frame. Lena flinches, her hold tightens.
“We’re okay!” Kara pulls her into a hug. Lena presses in closer. “Can you stay here? Stay low?”
“Kara.” Her name is a hushed, anguished cry.
Kara can feel her trembling, wraps her arms even tighter around Lena as she guides them down to the shuddering floor. The temperature is plummeting in the station. Soon the suit wouldn’t be enough. Soon the station wouldn’t be either. She has to go. “I promise I’ll be right back. I promise.”
“Our work!” Lena shouts against her neck. She pulls back to try and find Kara’s eyes but the darkness is all-consuming. Hands cradle her face, stilling her concerns and frantic heart. She hadn’t even noticed her cheeks were wet until palms press against the tears.
For one, flicker of a moment, all that exists is Kara.
“Not important right now; you are,” Kara proclaims.
Lena forgets to breathe.
Something smashes through the snow overhead, and they pull close together as it dents deep into the roof. “I need to get the shutters up!” Kara shouts.
She feels Lena nod against her neck.
Kara breathes in deep, sends a prayer to Rao for the plants. Lena needs those plants.
She squeezes her once, puts all her faith and hopes, and wants into the embrace. Then takes off.
The inside of the commissary is a war zone. Her heart lurches at the sight but she hasn’t the time to spare. She shoots up through one hole of many in the glass, intent on getting the shutters secured on what remains of the dome. Wind and ice slice through the air and tear at her sleepwear.
She manages to get the shutters slammed into place, her pajama pants hang in tatters from her hips for the effort.
Above, the storm continues to swirl relentlessly overhead.
Kara can’t even find where it begins let alone how far it spreads. She’s soaked through, starting to shiver, and still needs to end this before the station suffers anymore damage.
A dark blur of heavy wreckage slams her out of the air, sending her hurtling straight through the roof of the power station and into one of their generators. Dense metal buckles beneath the force of her impact. The machine sputters; dies in a blaze of fire and sparks as Kara launches into the air and smothers it before the other generators catch too.
They need power. Lena needs plants.
Her rage burns hotter than a nuclear core.
The storm ends now.
She’s back outside and screaming through the miles of churning clouds before breaking through, high above and into a calm aurora blazing overhead.
The torrent of dark wreckage stretches as far as she can see.
Swaths of debris skim through the layers of clouds, illuminated by green light and flashes of lightning.
The station seems so insignificant against such vast power.
Kara can’t punch through this. Not a storm stretching the length of the Arctic that cuts her from the sky like she’s a bug.
Lena is still trapped down below.
She only has to protect a hundred yards of Arctic ice shelf.
Just their home.
Kara rips back down through the storm, hovering in pelting ice and flying rubble a few hundred feet above the station.
She can barely hear the only heartbeat on the planet over the chaos. But it’s there, faint and strong and alive.
Lena’s well being above all else.
She’s a blur of speed and sound, carving a hole through the storm large enough to leave the worst of it from touching the home they’ve made below.
She holds it for hours.
Even when her muscles scream. When she wants nothing more than to shoot up higher and charge under unfiltered sun miles and miles away.
She can’t even hear Lena anymore. Not over the blood pounding in her ears.
The storm moves south after what feels like a lifetime. Kara slows as the edge of dark clouds dissipate. She loses her concentration, lists downward.
Her body's a missile pointed to the ground and impacts with the same finesse of the satellite through the office module.
Kara moans, rolling onto her side in a bed of splintered wood, mangled steel, and ice.
She is sore, cold, tired, and her head pounds with defeat.
Kara’s guilt is as monumental as the devastation throughout the station.
She should have known this would happen.
Has seen the storms firsthand.
Lena could have been hurt.
She doesn’t even know if the plants survived.
Her body collapses back to the floor as hurried footsteps rush into the module.
Lena’s okay, she thinks, so grateful as cold hands grab hold of her face.
Her eyes won’t open though.
The cold ebbs a bit as she feels her suit curl around her bare body.
“You’re okay,” she hears whispered, wondering if it’s snow or tears dropping to her face.
They feel warm though.
Kara is so tired.
So she sleeps.
Kara doesn’t dream.
Her mind leaves her blissfully catatonic.
So when she does finally wake, what feels like seconds later, on a mattress on the floor of the office module, a slew of UV lamps rigged up on an old coat rack above her body; she tries to sit up.
Only to feel everything slam into her at once.
Pain is the first to register. Everywhere. What little strength the UV lamps provide isn’t enough to counter the beating she sustained. She groans, headache splitting at her temples, feels her hair matted with grime and generator oil as she clutches her aching head.
“H-hey, don’t move too much,” Lena is there, kneeling down beside her in ten layers too many and a familiar red coat. She touches Kara’s arm gently, stares at her with red-rimmed yet relieved eyes. “Let the lights do their job.”
“We’ve lost so much,” Kara mutters as she lets Lena guide her back to the makeshift bed.
“We would have lost more if it weren’t for you.”
Kara’s eyes are closed but she feels cool fingers brush along her left temple. It soothes a bit of the ache pounding in her skull. She squints up at Lena. Finds her worrying her bottom lip between her teeth, cheeks far too pale. Kara doesn't like the way the air clouds around Lena’s exhales. Doesn’t like that Lena is freezing and she hasn't the power to help. “You ‘kay?”
“Yeah,” Lena breathes out tremulously. “But I’m not the one who held back a Snowpocalypse hellstorm.”
Kara snorts. “Accurate.”
There’s a massive Kara-sized hole in the ceiling just over Lena’s shoulder. The sky is dark but clear beyond, bits of moonlight brushing against twisted metal.
It’s the first time Kara has seen stars from inside the station.
She turns back to Lena, shakily takes the hand from her temple, and rests it with hers over the blanket on her chest. “We have to start over, don’t we?”
Lena squeezes her hand. “Not completely.”
Lena dips her chin.
“I’m so sorry, Kara.”
They’ve lost the dome. Most of the plants. All of Kara’s classic late 80s music.
Kara’s outside doing inspections when she finds the jukebox dozens of yards away from the station, half-buried in snow.
It was the first of many casualties.
The storm has left the station intact if not worse for wear. The dome is their greatest loss. There is no replacement for one-of-a-kind glass panels designed for an Arctic station. The shutters will remain closed indefinitely, leaving them shrouded in darkness akin to the clear night skies overhead.
Kara’s garden has been rendered to shambles of dirt and corpses of vegetables and shriveled, frozen leaves. She scurries to upright the containers that were too heavy for Lena to handle while she was knocked out and especially the ones full of root veggies she's hoping to save. Together they reset UV lamps and drip lines, hurrying to preserve as many of the plants that keep Lena fed and alive. They’re only able to save a dozen.
The flowers have all perished, petals scattered across the tiled floor.
Kara despairs in a silence and fury so stilling Lena’s afraid she won't see hope cross blue eyes for days.
The lab has withstood, but the power surge from the generator failure has fried the progress they’ve made in construction.
Lena despairs in a slew of curses, hunched over the blackened shell of its base.
Months of work, gone.
All my fault, she grieves, thinking of Kara equally consumed in laments in the commissary. She focuses instead on what she can do, and starts to collect components that had fallen from shelves.
Ultimately, she’s the one who makes the call.
Kara’s in tears, slowly picking up glass from soil beds when Lena asks, “Think you might be able to get the radar tower back onto the power station for us?”
They decide to halt further portal work until the meteorology equipment is back in shape.
They add Rule 8 to the list as a reminder.
Always check the radar.
When Lena returns to her room it’s to a foot of ice coating and melting over everything in sight. Her window is gone.
She, oddly, does not despair one bit at the loss.
Kara says nothing when Lena knocks and then steps into her room.
“There’s um, snow,” Lena offers, heat burning at her neck and down her chest. There are also ten other rooms, another twelve just down the next module behind the remaining paintings of lilies.
She does not want to be alone tonight.
She doesn't want Kara to be alone even more.
Kara scoots a little further back against the wall, her eyes wide and searching as she holds up the blanket pile for Lena.
When Lena does settle down beside her, sticking as closely to the edge as possible, breath held and anxious, Kara lowers the blankets warmly around her and tucks a section gently under her chin.
Finally, Lena breathes out. Kara’s blankets smell like the magnolia soap she brought back from the vault. Like sunflowers once alive and well on a conference table. Like Kara. She doesn’t even notice when tears begin to sting her eyes. The bed shifts and then an arm is slid over her shoulders and down to the center of her back.
Kara touches her with a hope not yet able to settle in blue eyes.
They don’t sleep apart after that night.
They work diligently throughout the days, hauling debris, patching holes, clearing ice, and repowering the rest of the station.
The grey clouds return, ever dark against winter skies.
Kara is still exhausted. She spends some time under the UV lights with what’s left of her once vibrant and fruitful garden. Now full of broken stems and splints and looking like a hospital wing for plants and not what’s meant to feed Lena for the foreseeable future.
Kara has salvaged the plants she could but has yet to fetch more seeds for those she mourns.
Lena watches her from afar, wishing to wrap her arms around the sullen shadow of hope incarnate and press her forehead into the space at the back of her neck. Give her even an ounce of solace back.
She keeps her distance, waits till the day turns late and Kara shuffles off to bed. She joins her hours later, slips in beside her, and gently tucks spilled blonde hair behind an ear. Kara doesn't wake, but some of the stress in her brow loosens. Lena wants to pull her close, do more than brush her fingers through her hair and watch her sleep. She doesn’t dare.
Lena learns Kara hovers when she's at peace.
Kara always wakes before Lena, equally surprised and yet not at all to find herself floating inches off the mattress. She sleeps better with Lena near. The thought doesn’t startle her. It hardly even registers as anything more than a simple truth. A warm one that welcomes her every morning and stays with her throughout the day.
The bed sheets though, are a cluttered mess between them both.
Kara learns to bring two blankets to bed every night.
She wants to be sure Lena stays just as warm as she makes her feel.
Late one morning, they sit under the shuttered dome, nestled close at a commissary table.
Lena eats a meager meal of newly reduced rations.
Kara tries not to let the sight reduce her to tears.
They have their first, true conversation since the storm.
Kara starts it with a despondent whisper after a long stretch of time. “I’m sorry, Lena.”
“You’re not the one who wanted to smash the radar equipment,” Lena sighs, equally feeling the burden of blame.
“I’ve seen these storms, I should have known—“
“Known what?” Lena stops her. “That this very specific one was going to very specifically hit us that night?”
Kara clenches her fists. “I should have kept watch.”
“You can’t stay awake forever.”
Blue eyes cloud with that same stilling fury. “I could have done more sooner.”
“Hey,” Lena folds her hand over one of Kara’s fists starting to dent the table. “This isn’t on you.”
The fury abates, clouded eyes quick to fill with tears. “We’ve lost so much.”
Lena squeezes her hand. “We have time.”
“Lena,” Kara chokes out.
Lena wraps a solid, grounding arm over broad, trembling shoulders. “All we have is time.”
Kara leans into her, for once her heavy thoughts, her doubts, her very real fears resting on Lena’s shoulder. The top of her head nestles into the crook of Lena’s neck, tears on her cheeks sure to soak through a worn sweater. She feels as though she hangs her heart and hopes right alongside her head. Those were her words Lena had whispered. The ones meant to solace her anxious and headstrong best friend and now feel like the rays of the sun against her soul. “I said that to you once,” Kara whispers, a shaky smile pulling at the corners of her mouth.
“You did,” Lena replies likewise, resting her temple against a blonde head. “Guess sometimes I listen after all.”
Lena’s chuckle fills a bit of the dark, empty feeling in Kara’s chest.
She loves that Lena hasn’t given up.
Kara picks her head off Lena’s shoulder, fruitlessly attempts to brush the wet spot from her sweater with a few swipes of her fingers. Her hand stills in place as she picks up on the telltale thump of an elevated pulse. The muscle beneath her fingers tense. “Are you okay?”
Lena closes her eyes, head bent low. “For now.”
The splinter of sadness in her tone is hard to ignore. No matter how much she layered it with warmth.
“Are we…” Kara’s voice catches, tight with an emotion Lena can’t pin down. “Are we okay?”
Lena feels as though she’s slipped back into her dream. A bit of the dizziness returns, not at all helped by the way Kara stares at her, dangerously urgent, nervous, and adorably fraught.
Her arm is still wrapped around broad shoulders. Lena squeezes her, hoping a bit of the movement calms blue eyes. “There’s nothing to forgive,” she says softly. “We’re better than okay.”
“Our better is still a huge, gross mess,” Kara tells her, still fraught but less urgent, less nervous. The inkling of self-deprecation sinks into Kara’s small smile. “And I really don’t want our life to turn into The Day After Tomorrow.”
Lena laughs and squeezes Kara again. “For someone so positive, your movie references are grim as hell.”
“We’re in a literal apocalypse, Lena! What other ones are there to make?”
“I don’t know,” Lena says wryly. “This all feels way more The Martian to me.”
Kara frowns. “‘Cause of my sad, dead plants.”
“Well that, yes,” Lena agrees and at Kara’s sullen pout, can’t help it as she pulls her into a soft hug. “But mainly your unwavering optimism.”
Kara sags against her, muttering into Lena’s neck, “I don’t feel at all like Mark Watney right now.”
Lena’s voice is a hum against Kara’s temple. “You’re also not alone.”
Kara holds Lena, reveling in the feel of her heart, steady and grounding and real, thumping against her ribs. She holds her tight, breathing deep, dizzy with relief and something more.
It’s not till much later as she lays staring at the ceiling above their shared bed, listening to that same heart as Lena sleeps soundly beside her, that she realizes this is not at all what she’d be doing if any of her other friends were here.
Or even Mon-El.
She wouldn’t have made them pine needle wash, grown them flowers, surprised them with paintings of lilies, Florence…
All in hopes of a smile.
All in hopes to fill the heart next to hers with joy.
In hopes that it beats, even if for a moment, with her in mind.
Because hers only ever beats with Lena in mind.
Kara is floating above a mattress in a dark room in a remote Arctic station when she realizes she’s in love with her best friend.
It’s as wonderful and awesome and breathtaking a feeling as it is terrifying and scary and impossible.
She has no idea what she will do about this.
These two are definitely chugging that ahem, pine wash. Apologies for the terrible pun. I stayed up too late revising and revising some more. Four chapters to go and just one more I need to finish writing. Until next Sunday, thank you for reading!
Chapter 7: One, Last Rule
Whoa. You all. I am overwhelmed with all the love for chapter 6! *blush* My inbox exploded overnight in the best way. Thank you all so much! Hope this chapter lives up to the last. It’s been finished for weeks (but revisited half a million times haha). Happy reading.
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Kara does nothing.
Well, half true, Kara does her usual things. She sticks to her schedules, tends to her twelve sad plants, and runs any errands Lena needs for her. There's so much still to scour for that they lost in the storm. Items Lena needs for the portal repairs that Kara will not even let her think of replacing with spares from the vehicle garage.
She loves her too much to turn to the last resort.
She’ll do anything to keep those items forever a mile away.
So the half-truth holds.
There’s loads of something to do at all times which helps her to do nothing about the other thing consuming her thoughts at all times.
She plants more seeds, even kale. Probably because she's in love with her best friend. She brings in a record player from the vault, it's not the same as the jukebox but she's collected more albums that Lena likes. You know, because she's in love with her. She also makes sure to keep sleeping above the bed because, obviously, sleeping beside the woman you're in love with is dangerous.
Possibly even more so than facing the storm.
She still wakes in the middle of the night to a mattress againgst her back and Lena curled into her side. Parting from her is agonizing and slow and makes Kara wish she was facing a storm instead.
Their shared time in the lab is the hardest. Kara simultaneously endures and relishes every minute. It's a very tiring dichotomy that Lena has sure to have noticed but aside from the occasional concerned raise of an eyebrow, has thankfully not said a thing about.
It just makes Kara love her all the more.
Every conversation is an exercise in restraint. She’s lost count of the times she’s been intently listening to Lena speak only for her eyes to drift down to Lena’s mouth and then those thoughts invade and her throat gets dry and she has to focus back up on green eyes, pretending like she hadn’t been thinking about pink lips instead.
They probably taste like pine and mint.
Kara hides in the polar bear turned radar lab when she can. Frustrated with herself, her thoughts, and especially her absolute inability to decide on a course of action. Lena only ever bothers to enter the room in the mornings and evenings, leaving the entire chunk of time she’s immersed in the portal lab free, free, free.
Kara sits in the dark, the only spot of light the green blip of the radar flashing on a screen. She checks it obsessively. Partly out of fear for a repeat storm and partly because it gives her something else to focus on, even for a little while. The screen remains clear, like always. The storms she encounters further South haven’t dared tip far enough North again.
There’s a scuffle of sound through the wall of the room next door. Her thoughts tip right back to their occupant.
It was so easy with Mon-El, she thinks. A rocky, terrible start, but otherwise so easy. He was quick to voice his feelings and hers just seemed to spill out soon after. She does wonder if he’s also been brought in to help bring them home.
The pain that usually fills her heart with thoughts of him never surfaces.
Mainly as it’s full of antsy, longing thoughts about another.
Kara slumps further into her seat, letting her head fall onto the backrest. Hopeless mess, she thinks to herself. That’s exactly what she’s become. A hopeless, smitten, disastrous mess. One minute she’s happily ready to doze off on a mattress beside her best friend and within minutes her entire world has tilted onto a new, exciting, scary and unfamiliar axis.
For the hundredth time, she wishes Alex were here. The voice in her head has been doing her sister perhaps too much justice lately. It offers hardly a lick of comfort but has been producing nonstop criticism in spades.
Just tell her, stop being an idiot.
Is it fair to keep this from her? Lena Luthor? The very embodiment of Trust Issues?
It really took sleeping next to her for it to finally click? Oh, Kara, hun. Wow.
She’s just going to break your heart again… is that what you want?
She misses her sister. Even the blunt, brutally honest one in her head. The truth of the statements don’t help settle Kara’s thoughts. Chiefly because they are, after all, still her thoughts. Some part of her has felt this way, even subconsciously, for some time.
What did that make her then?
She doesn’t feel any of those things. She just feels… feels…
Ughh... Kara stares up at a faded construction paper sun one of the scientists pinned on the ceiling. The color has long faded but the swirling cut-out rays emitting from the round center give away its once cheerful presence. Like her plants it offers no words of wisdom, but then Kara hadn’t been expecting it to either. It certainly hasn’t shed a light on her thoughts in the dark radar room.
She just feels like she’s in love with her best friend and hasn’t a clue in the world on how to proceed without risking losing her forever.
Her worries and forced alone time —okay, cowardly exile— are interrupted by Lena pushing through the door, arms laden with equipment. Their eyes lock over the pile, Kara nearly crushes the trackball console under her hand.
“Oh, I uh, didn’t realize you were in here, sorry,” Lena says, shifting the weight, looking very strained, and trying to find a spot to quickly unburden the pile in the meager light spilling in from the hall. “Radar look good though?”
“Uh, yeah, super good. Here let me help.” Kara is up in an instant, relieving her of the items and flicking the overhead fluorescents back on. “Is there somewhere you want these to go?”
They avoid further eye contact, moving around each other, keeping just out of reach.
“Wherever is fine,” Lena tells her, scooting around Kara’s vacant chair.
“I can set them under Stevie, Mick, Lindsey, or John?”
Lena does stare over finally at that comment. “Excuse me, who?”
Kara shifts all the equipment to one arm and motions to the photos around the room with her freed hand. “The polar bears. The scientists gave each one a name and wall, see?”
Lena shrugs, her eyes on arms and not on walls. “I guess Stevie?”
“Excellent choice,” Kara confirms with an exaggerated, slow nod of her head. She places the equipment on the table beneath the photos. “Definitely the preferred member of Polar Fleetwood Mac.”
Lena lets out a long, unimpressed sigh.
Kara grins wider. “You know, I bet they were super chill.”
“Oh my god,” Lena groans and then laughs, cheeks flushed a lovely shade of pink to match her lips. Kara can’t look away. “How did anyone ever let you have a Pulitzer?”
Kara smothers a rush of energy up her spine with a tilt of her head and bright smile. “I don’t know, guess you could say they liked that I go my own way.”
Lena presses her mouth into a fine, patient line. “I’m leaving now.”
Kara gives her a cheery wave. She knows Lena’s at least a little amused, especially because that thin line of her very pretty mouth wobbles ever so subtly and green eyes crinkle with the effort of keeping a stoic face.
She rides the high of the encounter for days.
Hopeless, hopeless, hopeless.
Lena has more than noticed a change in Kara.
Two, to be exact.
Kara smiles at her in a way she hasn’t seen her smile at others. Soft and delicate, a hint of something sad curling at the corners.
It unsettles Lena daily.
And the second, the most craved; Kara has stopped touching her.
In lieu, she’s gained a new, bothersome skill. The innate ability to duck into halls, empty rooms, and in true melodramatic fashion, dark rafters whenever Lena occasionally wanders into the commissary for a coffee refill.
Lena stands leaned with her back against the counters, waiting for the drip to complete, knowing shrouded blue eyes are pinned on her from above. Likely with that same, wistful smile crossing her lips.
It’s driving her absolutely crazy. The polar bear conversation is their longest interaction in ages.
Something has to give but she stubbornly will not be the first to budge. Whatever is unnerving Kara is, as she once so aptly put it; her business. No matter how many rules she’s flagrantly breaking in the process.
Quite literally all of them aside from checking in and checking for storms.
It worries Lena. A small part of her wants nothing more than to sit Kara down and force her to open up and please, tell me what’s going on.
Another absolutely refuses, afraid of what the inevitable, disappointing response will be. Her life is a series of them, after all. So she’ll put this one off as long as she can.
For now it is Kara’s fight to tackle. Her business.
Lena’s is to get them home.
It’s safer to focus on her work than on how her heart fractures day by day.
Or how those days drag to weeks.
They tiptoe around a growing chasm that only seems to deepen every day, waiting for the other to point to it and treat it like the obvious issue it is instead of something to be ignored and skirted around as though it will swallow them whole.
Nights are when Kara hovers at the edge, daring a glimpse into what could be and what is. She stays awake for hours, all thoughts consumed by the soul sleeping soundly less than a foot away.
She still can’t shake the notion that Lena shouldn't even be next to her right now. She should be back in her own bed, safe and sound in National City and not trapped beside her in a steel house that could very easily have been her grave.
All because Kara swooped into a bunker in Latvia and failed, colossally, to protect her.
Moreso failed to listen.
She can’t make sense of it. Cannot rectify why Lena, who hated her with such vitriol for so long, would elect to follow her here.
Choose her over everything.
There is no undoing Lena’s decision. It’s woven into their every waking moment and neglected like a pulse, always there, steady, until it’s quiet enough and the beat is all Kara can hear.
It’s so loud.
She can’t sleep.
She has to know.
There’s a knot in Karas’s stomach the size of the storm and twice as unruly. Her body curls in on itself as she calls out softly, “...Lena?”
Lena stirs, turning from her stomach onto her side. Kara’s breath stills as green eyes blink open in the dark, groggy and immediately concerned for the grieved way Kara lays beside her, knees drawn high on the mattress, blue eyes wide and clouded.
There’s one question that’s been on Kara’s mind for months. Approximately since the moment they fell through the portal and landed on this barren Earth.
She whispers it with restless hands tucked under her pillow. “Why did you grab me?”
Lena doesn’t need her to elaborate. Her heart rate spikes as she closes her eyes and lets out a faint sigh. “I don’t know…”
“Lena,” Kara inches closer, slides one hand free from beneath her pillow, and braves a touch of her fingertips to the tight grip of pale knuckles atop the blanket. Lena’s hold tightens more at the gentle contact. Kara doesn’t budge. She doesn’t know how she could have survived here alone, how she ever would have managed without Lena by her side throughout. Why had she followed? “Please.”
“You let go and I… I couldn’t,” Lena’s voice breaks and that’s all it takes for Kara to uncoil, and pull her close. A warm forehead presses into her neck, the grasp against sheets now twisted into the faces of the boyband on her nightshirt.
Kara hugs her, wants to thank her. Express so much more than she feels she can with words alone. They’re all she’s capable of. That and the silent promise of a steadfast hold. “I know it’s selfish of me but I’m so glad you’re here.”
The confession melts over Lena in a way that has her tucking closer, savoring in a touch she hasn’t felt in weeks. She wonders how long Kara must have been awake, worrying over the question and then agonizing some more on whether to wake Lena or not. She’s not upset in the slightest. Maybe a bit with herself for giving such a… such a non-answer. For holding back, yet again. Especially compared with the way Kara holds her, conveying precisely the amount of gratitude, relief, and comfort Lena’s presence, her choice that day, provides her.
She’s simultaneously furious and disappointed with herself.
Lena feels Kara deserves more than what she's said thus far. So much more. “It’s not selfish,” she mutters finally after a long struggle with herself. “I guess some part of me, even then...”
…couldn’t imagine a world without you.
… needed you.
There are dozens more.
Lena breathes out against Kara’s collarbone, resigned. “... still cared.”
Kara holds her, mollified by the half-truth. Some part of Lena did care, that much was very true. That much she knows. Can feel. The omission shadows them, much like the pulse Kara can’t unhear. Something deep and unspoken, surfacing slowly, waiting just out of reach.
Lena stays nuzzled against her as she drifts back to sleep, her grip loosens, finds a new home just over Kara’s waist. Right beneath the rucked-up bit of her nightshirt.
Kara still feels like she’s hovering at the edge of a rift but that Lena is, somehow, already halfway across.
The garden flourishes under Kara’s watchful dedication. She spends hours cultivating twice as many plants as the original, having repurposed all the flower beds for fast-growing leafy greens, beans, and radishes. Things abundant with antioxidants that, despite not being full of calories, she can quickly fill Lena’s deplorably empty plate to help mitigate total malnutrition.
Human bodies, she's learned, require tons of nourishment and care. They are exactly as fragile as she always imagined and yet somehow also more resilient. Stronger. Softer. Incredibly warm. Gorgeous…
Probably taste like pine and mint.
Just tell her, stop being such an idiot.
And Alex was back with more wise, totally helpful condemnations. Kara sighs into her radish sprouts, fogging up her glasses unintentionally. She feels she deserves the mild annoyance.
It's not as though she's done much to clear the rift between her and Lena either.
A throat clears to her side and her cheeks flush, caught, as she stands upright. She hadn't even heard Lena approach over the Thompson Twins record playing and her own very loud and embarrassing thoughts.
Lena stands mere feet away, two mugs of coffee in hand, a surprisingly soft and disarming smile just starting to pull at her lips. “Spare a minute to have a coffee with me?”
Kara’s heart leaps as she pulls off her gloves to take a cup, uncertain why Lena has sought her but so thrilled with the offer. She nearly spills it to the floor in her nervous haste to follow Lena down to a nearby table. They sit atop together, a decent —cavernous— foot of space between them.
Having exhausted exactly all, and none, of her abilities to bridge a conversation, Kara takes a tentative sip of the coffee and chokes back a cough at the utter bitter assault of her tongue.
“I wasn't expecting you to drink it,” Lena chuckles, apologetic. Kara sets it down into that giant well of space separating them.
“I don’t know why I thought it’d taste any better here,” she says, trying to dislodge the taste from her mouth.
“It’s infinitely better than the Folgers though, so huge thanks from me.”
“You're welcome but just so you know; your taste buds still have issues.”
“Is that a legit medical diagnosis, Miss Danvers?” Lena teases, a brow raised and lips pulled into a smile that dries Kara’s mouth, bitter taste instantly forgotten.
She can't answer that.
Her tongue is very dry and very tied.
Kara can't help but think being in love with your best friend is a series of trials. Ones she continuously flounders through day after day.
She needs safer territory with zero chances of flirting.
Blushing far too much she regains a bit of her motor function, finally. “So um, how’s the reconstruction going?” She asks, picking some stubborn bits of soil from under her nails. Gardening gloves are useless, she thinks. Lena could surely design better. Ugh, focus. “Did you need me for something?”
Errands. So smart. Super safe topic.
She almost applauds herself.
“It's going and no, not right now,” Lena replies, watching her with careful eyes. Kara tries not to let the gaze unsettle her more than it already has. “Just wanted to see how you are, actually.”
Somehow they’ve landed in worse territory.
Could they go back to the flirting?
Would it be weird to ask?
Lena stares at her, ever patient, ever open, with all the calm concern Kara feels she used to easily muster for her and now finds she can’t. Not when she's so consumed with schooling her posture, expression, and emotions from giving away the very thing she should be filling the space between them with.
This was so much easier when Lena was further away.
Last night shredded that buffer.
Kara’s face heats, her toes curling around the edge of the bench. “I’m sorry for waking you up last night.”
Lena slides closer. “Please don’t apologize.”
“Kind of already did,” Kara smiles wryly. Flushes more as Lena’s body heat washes over her side. “Thanks for humoring me though, you didn't have to.”
“I wanted to,” Lena tells her, voice low and so, so honest.
Kara can feel the bench splinter under the pressure of her escaping emotions. She wills her posture to loosen, for her body to please relax.
Lena can’t know.
Not like this.
Kara steels herself with a long drag of air into her lungs.
Last night meant the world to her.
“I uh, I meant what I said,” Kara says after a long beat of watching Lena’s hands fiddle with the edge of the mug in her lap. She wants to reach out and reassure her. Tell her something. Her gaze drifts up, connects with warm and ever so worried green. The look breaks Kara’s resolve in the same gut-wrenching way as the night before. She reaches over, stills Lena’s troubles with a touch to her wrist. “I’m really, really glad you're here.”
She smiles with that same soft, fragile wistfulness that makes Lena’s heart ache.
So Lena swallows, touches the back of Kara’s hand, and whispers just as easily, “Me too.”
Something deep mends, but the chasm remains, distance shrinking inch by inch.
They fall into their routines with the same, slow inelegance they fall further into each other.
The grey clouds remain a constant, though now tinged pink with the return of sunrise. Much like the change months ago, within weeks they’ve gone from a scant few hours of daylight to endless dawn. It also marks their seventh month in the Arctic.
Specifically, it’s a Tuesday in early March and it starts as normally as any other morning until it’s not.
Lena sleeps sprawled on her stomach, one hand occupying the empty space beside her while Kara watches, floating on her side atop that empty space below.
Her arm hangs across her chest, fingers just brushing the space where Lena’s thumb meets her palm. She hasn’t dared to touch her further. Mainly out of a glaring respect for consent and also... it’s all she’s brave enough to attempt. Her worst fear is Lena waking up to find her hovering and touching her like this. There is absolutely no best friend excuse in the world to explain her actions.
She loves what they’ve found together. Why can’t it be enough?
Kara suppresses a long-suffering sigh as she drifts higher and lands silently by the desk. She gathers up her change of clothes for the day and heads to the bathroom, intent on enduring yet another day of being in love with her best friend and not doing a thing about it.
Lena’s well-being above all else now applied to her feelings.
She slips into her usual gardening attire, the MIT sweater now sporting a slew of dirt and beet stains. No matter how hard she washes them, they refuse to budge. She feels a bit bad, wondering if Lena judges the care she’s clearly neglected to pay the gift. It’s by and far still her favorite station wear.
They’re running low on space toothpaste so she makes a mental note to stop by the vault later and see if there’s anything stored that might help her to create more. One of the books had a recipe, she’s sure of it. Something easy to mix up and add dashes of mint into.
Lena likes the mint.
Kara thinks, and not for the first, second, or even hundredth time, that Lena must taste like pine and mint.
Alex’s voice fills her head; Oh, Kara, hun. Wow.
She finally lets out her long-suffering sigh, toothbrush dangling from her mouth. The image of her in the mirror looks pathetic, she thinks, the very picture of defeat.
Something prickles in her chest.
This isn't you, she tells herself.
“Morning to you too,” Lena hums. No, purrs as Kara can’t imagine how else her throat could have ever made such a wonderfully deep sound.
A fire lights in her.
So say something.
The sigh is the last breath Kara takes as Lena joins her at the sink. Lena’s routine is stamped in Kara’s mind. She’ll wash her face, lament over patches of dry skin on her cheeks, brush her teeth, and thank Kara again for the scurvy-reducing mouthwash.
Though Kara usually isn’t a frozen, slack-jawed body at her side once she puts her toothbrush down.
Their eyes meet in the mirror. Only a hint of blue borders Kara’s gaze. Lena squints, curious, cheeks growing warm.
“Kara...?” Lena ventures.
The eyes in the mirror drop from hers and to her mouth at the name. Lena’s chest tightens as the frozen body at her side unthaws and turns toward her. She looks away from the mirror, just to her left, where Kara Danvers is staring at her with such uninhibited longing Lena finds herself the one now suddenly frozen and slack-jawed in front of the sink.
A hand raises, fingertips brush along her neck.
“Hi,” Kara breathes out finally. “This okay?”
Everything shifts with a trembling nod.
Kara’s palm presses firmer beneath Lena’s jaw, green eyes close at the touch. She’s barely able to draw in a breath before Kara is kissing her so softly and so slowly that if it weren’t for the heat in her gut and a graze of a nose against her own that she swears lips weren’t touching hers at all.
Until they aren’t and she’s chasing after them but a whip of her braid and rush of air tells her Kara is gone.
Lena blinks, dazed, staring at tiles instead of blue eyes.
Her heart races.
Kara hovers miles above the station, the sun gleaming across her solar-starved skin. The bright rays and steady stream of power coursing through her muscles do little to quell the torrent of other feelings and emotions wreaking havoc under her skin. She can’t slow her heart down, nor shake the adrenaline and what’s clearly way too much dopamine running rampant in her veins.
She is floating, inside and out.
And terrified of it.
Lena tastes exactly like pine and mint.
For ten glorious seconds, Kara’s mind was a haze and every nerve in her body was yearning to pull Lena in more. Touch her more. Kiss her more.
And then for one half a second, she remembers she’s failed herself.
Say something did not mean do something reckless.
It did not mean kiss your best friend. And definitely not so thoroughly. As if it’s all she’s thought about for weeks and weeks because it was.
So, selfishly, she sped up and time slowed for her. Seconds expanded. She lived in the moment she created. The one she wanted. The one that barreled down on her with all the force of a hellstorm and stole all her restraints.
Lena had nodded.
But Kara had surrendered.
She stepped back. Eyes wide. Shocked. Angry with herself.
Time was still hers.
Her hand was on Lena’s jaw, the other halfway toward her hip. She felt the moment Lena registered her lips were gone, the way a warm cheek pressed further into her palm. Seeking her.
Kara’s heart slammed in her chest as she turned nanoseconds longer, peeled her hand away, careful not to move too fast or else risk hurting Lena more.
She shouldn’t have given in. She was stronger than chemical urges.
She will not ruin the good they’ve created because she’s stupidly in love with her best friend.
She tore out the room and into the sky the moment she could no longer hold time hostage.
She wonders how she’ll ever be able to show her face at the check-in she knows Lena will be waiting for.
Way to go, she berates herself.
Her sister offers no further comments.
Something has irrevocably shifted in the station. There’s a charge in the air and Lena is pissed with a capital P.
Kara had kissed her and then bailed.
Continues bailing, hour after hour.
She zips in and out for check-ins. Barely standing still long enough for Lena to get a word in let alone express one single desire in a look. A look which, if Kara even deigned to meet her eye, would maybe make her want to stay.
She’s clearly avoiding Lena which only serves to exasperate her all the more. This is who she’s fallen for? A total jerky super too busy dreading her reaction to something she obviously agreed to in the first place?
And for fucks sake, really?
After the third drive-by, Lena groans to the commissary rafters and retreats to the lab with a cup of coffee to try and get some work done while waiting for Kara to come to her damn senses.
More hours pass and it’s very apparent Kara will not.
On one swoop-in Lena notices she’s suddenly missing a sock.
It makes her wonder if she tried something similar with her sweater might that finally get Kara to stop long enough to hear her out.
She thinks about it, but waits, staring at the open lab door. Kara breezes in right on time, three minutes later, throws her usual “Hi, bye!” and is right back out the door in the same second she graced its entrance.
Lena, frustrated by the absolute stupidity of it all, finally takes her words to the chalkboard.
She goes back to work on readying circuitry for placement in her ion trap. Time passes in a blink while she’s engrossed. She hardly registers the breeze across her face signaling Kara’s return. It’s her voice, measured and astonished that has Lena looking up.
Kara stands in the doorway, windswept, nervous, one sock still very missing. Her eyes are wide, darting from the words on the chalkboard down to Lena and back.
Lena picks the safety glasses from her nose with a chuckle. “I was wondering if I was going to need to get drastic if that didn’t work.”
Kara takes a few brave steps into the room. “Lena, I...” Her path halts right along with her words.
Because Lena is standing on the other side of the table, right in front of the other words that can’t be unseen. And she looks pissed with a capital P. “You kissed me.”
Kara’s throat dries entirely, her next words a croak. “I know.”
“And then you took off.”
“Yeah…” Kara exhales, rubbing at her collarbone, unsettled under the heat of Lena’s gaze as much as the heat burning under her skin. “Uh, not my best move?”
“No,” Lena tells her sharply. The displeasure in green eyes stays locked on her for a moment and it takes so much of Kara’s willpower to keep her own from looking away. Lena deserves to express her anger just as Kara feels she deserves to stomach it. Her own ties in uncomfortable knots under the scrutiny. Until the ire in green eyes is blinked away with a tired sigh. Lena moves to the end of the table and takes a seat along the edge. Kara can’t help but feel as though she’s in Lena’s office again as a soft voice tells her, “So please talk to me.”
Kara doesn’t even know where to begin.
Seeming to sense the unease pouring from her in waves, Lena gives her a small, promising smile. “How long have you felt this way?”
Kara shrugs, breathing deep. Laden with all her missteps of the day. Of the past weeks. “I don’t know, it was just… so obvious one day.” Her eyes dart to the board again. “You?”
Kara’s heart sinks. “Years?! Lena! Why didn’t you ever say anything?!”
Lena’s arms cross over her chest, sharp edge back in her tone. “You weren’t exactly you then, were you.”
“Yeah okay, fair point, I deserve that,” Kara replies, face flushed. She takes a step closer, hopeful. “I still wish you would have said something.”
“You don’t think I wanted to?” Lena asks. “But then…”
“Everything,” Kara fills in for her.
Lena meets her gaze, smiling with the same telltale wistfulness that's been on Kara’s lips for weeks. “Yeah, everything.”
They stand feet apart in front of a chalkboard that speaks for them both.
“We’re really bad at this,” Kara says after a beat.
Lena grunts in agreement. “I can’t believe you ran off. Like we’re in middle school.”
“It’s not. We’re not,” Kara tells her, quick to try and put that embarrassing lapse aside. There is a reason for her behavior, regardless of how foolish Lena thinks it to be. “I just don’t want to ruin what we have. It's taken so long for us to even get here, you know… I really like here.”
“I like here too,” Lena tells her with such earnest gravity that Kara finds herself drawing nearer. “But then you kissed me and we both clearly want something more.”
Kara’s feet root to the ground. Her eyes can’t help but shoot to the words on the chalkboard again. She can't stop looking at them. “I know…”
“Then what’s stopping you?”
So, so many things. Kara’s mind is a flood of jumbled thoughts, reasons, excuses. She must take too long to answer because Lena’s brow starts to dip with the damage of her silence. “Because you, you’re…” Kara rushes out, unable to articulate a single one of those many things. “You’re my-- we’re best friends! We shouldn’t… we just need to…”
Lena saves her with a very curt and amused, “Would you care to sprinkle that sentence with some words?”
“Gahh!” Kara cries out, blushing fiercely. “I’m just trying to tell you this is a bad idea!”
Lena leans back against the table, absolutely delighted with Kara’s discomfort. “Because it could be great?”
“No, because it’ll be amazing,” Kara breathes out, ardent. “And I’d be devastated if I lost you again.”
“Oh my god,” Lena groans and rolls up to her feet. “I cannot believe we’re arguing about the end of a relationship that hasn’t even started.”
“I’m trying to protect you!”
“And I’m trying to tell you how insanely attracted I am to you! Is that notion really so terrifying?”
Lena is standing next to a chalkboard that implicitly, without a doubt, tells Kara what she wants.
“Y-yes…” Kara whispers, absolutely terrified. “So much more.”
Lena finally looks at her, truly looks at her. This whole conversation has been the most frustrating and enlightening one she feels they’ve had in years. Its very existence is reducing Kara to a nervous, proud, and still clearly eager wreck.
Lena doesn’t think she’s helping what with, well… being her usual aggressively ambitious self.
She closes the space still separating them and offers out her hands. Her very human, not terrifying, open hands.
Kara’s fingers curl and uncurl at her sides. Torn.
All we have is time, Lena thinks. She’s waited years, she can wait however long Kara needs.
She can be just as patient.
Just as open.
Just as honest, finally.
Her heart is on a board and in her hands.
“This scares me too,” She begins slowly, wanting Kara to feel just how much she understands. How much this moment terrifies her, makes her nauseous, exhilarates her. Everything she sees before her in wide blue eyes she feels tenfold. Wants infinitely more. Her next words come out shaky but true, “I… I think we deserve to try.”
Kara’s chin dips and her eyes fall close at that admission. “Or we could stay best friends. Still be happy,” Kara murmurs.
Lena feels a chunk of her resolve crumble. A flash of hurt leaks into her reply. “The way you would have been if Krypton had survived, you mean.”
Lena knows she’s gone too far. Tries again. “Do you remember New Years, when we decided to watch Aliens?”
“You were dru—ohh,” Kara cheeks pink again. “Oh.”
“Yeah, not my finest move either,” Lena says with a smile. Somewhere in what feels like her damaged, gloomy heart the little fire that burns for Kara keeps lit. She offers her hands out again, one last time. “Kara… am I worth a chance?”
She hadn't meant to sound so small and uncertain. But the words were free. Her doubts and hopes packed into one fragile question.
Kara can hear the way Lena’s heart thumps loud in her chest. See the way her hands imperceptibly shake with quiet trepidation. The way she expertly masks all her fears behind a wall of bravado and clear eyes. She watches Lena swallow, feels the flash of resignation in green eyes like a green pill down her own throat.
The courage returns to blue eyes with a force. “Yes, of course,” Kara tells her, taking Lena’s hands without a second thought. Fingers twine and she feels warm everywhere. Her neck burns as Lena inhales sharply and squeezes back, her thumbs rubbing over the top of Kara’s hands. The knots in Kara’s stomach unfurl into delightful flutters. “You really um… you think I’m—” she closes her eyes to take a deep, grounding breath. It does little to stop excited emotions swirling in her gut but everything to pull her lips into a pleased grin. “Insanely, huh?”
Lena’s laugh is watery with unshed tears but Kara’s heart soars at the sound regardless. “Don’t look so smug, as if you’re not thinking exactly the same about me.”
She is, always, but manages to utter, “I am a consummate professional.”
“You are a terrible liar,” Lena laughs more, pulling her close. Kara doesn’t know how she’s ever not noticed Lena has two different shades of eye color. When it occurs to her why and how close they now stand the warmth returns, multiplied by thousands. “Would you care to try that again?”
More so, at that suggestive tone.
Her hand raises and fingertips brush the same path along Lena’s neck. The pulse under her touch flutters. She feels like she’s floating all over again.
Kara is nothing but one hundred and ten percent honest as her palm presses firmer beneath Lena’s jaw. “You’re all I think about.”
“What do you know,” Lena purrs for the second time that day, reducing Kara to another frozen, slack-jawed puddle. “I feel the same.”
The words are barely out of her mouth before Kara draws her in and kisses her again. Lena wastes no time, surging forward.
Their second kiss is a fevered, clumsy grasp of jaws and necks, fingers pressed firmly at the base of a skull and others against pink ears and cheeks. Lena kisses her with all the intensity and intention she's wanted to all day, all month, for years. Kara can feel a tremble against her mouth, the way Lena can't stop smiling the same way she struggles to stop grinning too.
Finally, finally, finally, finally.
She loves the way they begin something new.
The grinning more than stops when someone, both of them, deepens the kiss; introduces a tongue and teeth against a bottom lip. Someone moans; Lena. Another pulls closer; Kara. They stumble back against the table, unable to part and not at all wanting to for a long, long while.
Lena feels the table edge meet the back of her thighs. There is one fleeting thought for her device somewhere further down the table but then Kara has her by the hips and the thought is gone as she's placed so gently down she hardly registers her feet have even left the ground. They do make a comfortable home hooked behind Kara’s knees which only drives them both closer together at the edge of the table.
Lena's hands are still clutched around a blonde head, unwilling to break their kiss, so afraid Kara may run off again. It's such a silly thought, especially with the way Kara’s hands have taken a hold of the bottom of her sweater and quickly work to pull it over her head. Kara isn't going anywhere, Kara wants her in the same desperate way she wants her too.
They do part when the sweater reaches Lena’s chin and is pulled off, the warmed air in the lab meeting her bare skin with the same gentle caress that Kara’s hands find her hips again.
Her blue eyes are dark with something other than the yearning Lena had been hoping for.
With concern, with anguish, with the shine of newly formed tears.
“Hey,” Lena tries to draw her back by tucking Kara’s hair behind her ears. Blue eyes won’t meet hers. They are riveted to her belly.
Kara is lost.
Her hands brush down ribs slighty too present under her fingers, a dip of a waist far too hollow. She swallows back a sob. “Lena.”
There’s a low sigh from the lips against her jaw. “I’d be so much worse without you.”
“Why haven’t you said anything?” Kara implores, pained. “I could search more, plant more, there mus—mhmm!”
She’s cut off by lips pressing firmly back upon her own. Her mind swims, a torrent of affection fighting for purchase against a tide of stark reality. Lena pulls back just enough so that blue eyes are on hers and not her thin frame. “Because that’s all you’d do, Kara,” she whispers, letting her forehead rest against the distraught one before her. “I’m okay.”
“You’re hungry,” Kara murmurs.
“Objective,” Kara retorts, her hands right back on Lena’s waist. Fingers press into heated skin and Lena pulls her lips between her teeth at the rush in her belly. “I can feel how hungry you are.”
Lena can't help herself. “Can you?”
Kara’s pain vanishes behind flushed cheeks and darkened eyes. “Rao, okay, the flirting is uh, really working but I am still concerned about you starving.”
Lena grins. Nips at Kara’s neck. “I’m not going to starve.”
She's rewarded with a whimper, “Lena.”
Lena pulls her into a searing kiss only to let go long enough to tell her fiercely, “I’m going to get us home.”
Kara absolutely erupts forward at that declaration. She trusts Lena, implicitly. Wants her, implicitly. Her lips are back on Lena’s and trying to convey in feel what she cannot so much in words. She will not let her starve. She will not leave her again. She will be here, with her, for however long Lena will have her.
She dearly hopes it’s a long time.
Please, please, please let it be a long time.
One of her hands moves up to a breast to really make sure Lena knows. And really because wow, why hasn’t she ever thought about them this way before? Lena absolutely melts under the attention and it takes all Kara's willpower not to replace her fingers with her tongue. Lena was currently busy with it in her own mouth.
Would be rude to interrupt her.
Kara drags her hands down to wool tights instead. Lena absolutely does something with her tongue then that short circuits Kara’s brain. The tights rip right down to Lena’s thigh. Kara pulls away, “I’m so sorry, I didn’t mean—“
Lena grabs her face. “Kara, I don’t care.”
“But these are– were your fav pair.”
“Please take them off.”
Kara happily obliges.
“Oh you,” Kara’s eyes are dark and hungry fixed between naked thighs and yet her cheeks burn pink. “You uh —don’t wear— um, anything huh?”
Lena tugs up on Kara’s MIT sweater. “I already have to wear someone else’s tights. I am absolutely not about to wear their underwear.”
Kara has gone still above her, sweater caught under her arms. The pink in her cheeks spreads further.
“Kara... please tell me you are not wearing some poor woman’s 30-year-old panties.”
“No! I’m wearing mine!” Kara insists. “My suit gets kinda chaffey there.”
Lena blinks up at her. “So you’ve been wearing the same underwear… everyday… for over half a year.”
“Obviously I wash them,” Kara mutters.
Lena smirks as she runs her nails up Kara’s bare sides. “Uh-huh, and how often is this occurring?”
“Can we get back to the sex now?” Kara asks, voice tinged with embarrassment, arousal, and a level of impatient frustration that Lena has never heard before and cannot wait to bring out in her again. “Because I was really into the part where we were about to have sex. Not this discussion on my underwear.”
Lena chuckles, pulling her back down. “Absolutely.”
Kara wastes no time burying her face and lips back into Lena’s neck, one hand pressed firmly into the small of her back while the other picks its trail back up a thigh. Lena shudders, falling back to her elbows as that palm presses between her legs. Her voice is trapped, caught in a pulse at her throat, and dip of fingers against heat. Kara presses in firmer, catches her knee on the table as she pulls Lena further atop and further in.
Papers shift under them, something at Lena’s back topples and impacts the ground.
“Kara,” Lena is breathless but cognizant and knows, just knows they have made a colossal mistake. Her hands are on Kara’s face, willing blue eyes to focus. “Kara. Was that my painstakingly modified ion trap that just shattered on the floor?”
“Um,” Kara’s pupils are still blown wide as she grimaces “…maybe?”
“Fuck,” Lena groans, eyes squeezing shut. She’s frustrated to a whole new unimaginable level. “Okay, we’re going to continue this in bed.”
“But you were so close and I’m still here,” she curls the fingers still buried inside her for emphasis, like Lena’s forgotten. Kara kisses a path up her neck again, muttering against her warm skin, “Wouldn’t you like to finish?”
“Yes,” she hisses out, fighting back a moan. “But in bed and then we are discussing rule nine.”
Kara picks her head up at that. “What rule nine?”
Lena adds it to the board much, much later that evening. Kara can’t help to tack on her disappointment.
Rules of Arctic Cohabitation
- Be honest with each other.
- Listen to each other.
- Respect alone time.
- Check-in every hour when offsite.
- Don’t Panic ^_^
- Be realistic & objective within reason.
- Take breaks. -I mean it, Lena!!
- Always check the radar.
- The lab is for lab activities ONLY. >_<
- Don’t ever give up hope.
I promised 10 chapters and did not want to leave you all thinking they only get together by the end. 😏 I want to see them together too!
Also, things got slightly —I’m a liar— explicit. I’d like to think tasteful, HBO levels of explicit. This would definitely not live in the men’s shower with the other porn haha. Some of you are probably thrilled with this turn but those who signed up for mature only, uh… hopefully, it wasn’t too much?
Thank you for reading!
Chapter 8: Matters of Science
❤️❤️❤️ Hi lovelies. I see my hit count cranked up on that last chapter. I see you. 😏
Here's chapter 8 right on schedule. Clocking in at nearly 10k words so lots to dig into.
Also, I kind of love when fics touch on Kara being an alien so I wanted to add a dash of that here. 🥰 But not too much. We’re still keeping to that fine edge haha
Hope you all enjoy it!
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Things disappear quickly between them. The tangible to the floor, hours and hours ago. The easiest.
The intangible, longer. Still not quite gone but shifted, made into something new. Lena’s emotional walls? More scalable, equipped with handy Kara-sized footholds. Kara’s worrisome river of guilt? Less turbulent, waters far more accessible for Lena to wade through.
Lena’s metaphor game? Still awful, work in progress, will be hastily reexamined upon return home.
There's less fear, less unease, less hurt. More faith, more honesty, more good.
“Better good,” Kara had said at one point in a stupor.
Deeper laughs soon after.
There are new looks, new sounds, new tastes, new ways hope finds to delight touched-starved skin.
So much new, so much the same, so much relief finally being on the same page.
They leave their bedroom for few occasions. Restroom breaks, long ones where Kara revisits her morning blunder and this time doesn’t let go. Meals, three fully prepped, unrationed ones that Lena eats with slow uncertainty, but Kara assures her will be replaced with more. And the handful of scheduled check-ins Kara was loath to take off for but Lena convinces her to anyway.
Lena knows she would otherwise have been devastated if they had, for once, proved fruitful.
They hadn’t, per usual. And the sting hardly pierced Kara’s heart at all.
She rushes back to the station, giddy, nearly tearing the outer door off in her eagerness to be back in Lena’s embrace. The suit deactivates around her as she crosses into their room, tripping over their discarded clothes on the floor, Lena already laughing as she tugs Kara back down to their messy bed. Hands find a familiar, and still so new, path through blonde hair and to the back of her head, bottom lip captured fully between Lena’s own as she pulls her close. Kara will never, ever tire of the way Lena kisses her. Unhurried and persistent, like she is something to be slowly discovered and Lena has no intention of wanting to part from her studies anytime soon.
She loves Lena sharing herself like this.
Wishes they could have started this so much sooner.
Lena stops kissing her.
Oh. She’d said that aloud, hadn’t she?
“We’ve both made mistakes,” Lena tells her softly, hands still very tangled in her hair, eyes still very dark but sharp and full of an awareness Kara wishes they'd shared sooner too. “We’re both to blame for being here. We both fucked up.”
Kara sighs, nudging Lena’s forehead with her own. “We’re both really terrible at being best friends.”
Lena’s smile crinkles her nose. Kara can’t help but drop a kiss on it. “I think we’re doing pretty great now, don’t you?” She asks, loving the way Kara gives her a light nod and turns it into a heavy, drawn-out kiss. That feeling, the one burning her up and wanting Kara all the more, that one has her admitting right again Kara’s lips, “And I’ve been really enjoying all the fu—“
“Lena!” Kara wails, blushing fiercely and somehow making those green eyes she loves only grow darker. “Please stop trying to kill me.”
Lena’s smile curls onto her lips just as darkly. “If only your enemies knew just how easy it was to bring you down.”
The flirting. Relentless.
Lena pushes her down to the bed.
Sandra Winters is such an idiot.
For once Kara has her back pressed against the mattress. Lena’s delicious, and still concerning, weight pressed atop her. Lena does not want them to move from this bed for a long time. Kara is pliant in ways she hadn’t even dreamed possible and impossibly sensitive everywhere she touches. Even the places she's yet to truly explore. Nothing could be better save for one, glaring hindrance.
A thin barrier.
Boy short cut.
Kara Danvers has not allowed Lena Luthor to touch her under that damn pair of underwear.
They've remained staunchly on, untouched, all this time.
That it’s only been a single day —okay, yes, less than twenty-four hours– since their moment in the lab is irrelevant to Lena.
She has, after all, been waiting years.
Only one of them shares in the frustration. Namely, Lena. Kara is perfectly content redirecting her advances like some sort of Lena-savant and making her forget she ever let fingertips slip beneath a well-worn elastic band.
That doesn't stop Lena from trying.
She is nothing if not extensive in her advances.
Kara is a wonderful, breathtaking new equation she simply hasn’t run the right sequences on.
She heartily tries again.
Her hand drifts down a toned belly, fingertips barely brushing skin. Kara bites back a whimper, and Lena feels rewarded with a hip curving up toward her hand. So close, she commends herself. Extra thrilled when the once careful press of lips against hers grows bolder, hungrier for more. She forgets herself in the feel of Kara’s mouth until a hand threads with her own, expertly diverting Lena’s fingers the moment they slip too far. Again.
Lena pulls back from Kara’s lips with a hiss. “You keep doing that,” she mutters, untangling her hand and pushing it back down on Kara’s stomach. The muscles beneath shudder and Lena would consider the way Kara arcs into her palm such a turn-on if she didn’t consequently, also feel rebuffed. Warm lips press along Lena’s jaw in apology. “Kara.”
Kara lets her head fall back to the pillow, face hot and red and uncomfortable. Lena feels a pang of remorse stab through her chest. She hadn’t meant to make Kara feel at all apprehensive. Not about this. Never about touching her. The mattress shifts as she lies down beside Kara, hand now on a warm cheek, hoping blue eyes turn toward her. They do, with a surprising amount of regret and disappointment.
Lena's heart sinks. “God, Kara, I’m so sorry, I—”
“No, no, it’s not that,” Kara says quickly, pressing her own hand firmly over Lena’s, keeping it held there against her jaw. “Please trust me when I say I really want the same. I just don’t, uh…what I mean is your fingers might…um,” Kara hesitates, brow pinched as she searches Lena’s expression for any sign of recognition. Lena’s gaze is wide and muddled with anxious concern. “I don’t want to crush you.”
The understanding slams into green eyes.
“Super strength,” Lena sighs.
“Yeah…” Kara exhales, combing her fingers through dark hair. She gives Lena a sad, despondent smile. “Not so useful in bed, turns out. I’m sorry.”
Lena surges forward, kissing her until the regret disappears from Kara’s tongue. “Please don’t apologize for who you are,” Lena whispers against warm lips. Her heart hums as Kara relaxes beneath her. This is solvable. A quirk to be aware of. Something fascinating about sleeping with a super.
The thought should not be arousing.
That could be a problem, Lena muses.
She leans over, pecks Kara’s cheek. “Don’t think you can hold back?”
“With you?” Kara rasps out.
Oh yeah, big problem.
“Such flattery,” Lena chuckles, hoping to sound far less aroused than she is and failing miserably.
Kara rolls her eyes. “Lena, I’m serious.”
“Me too,” Lena assures, nuzzling into Kara’s neck once more. “When we get home —after I take the world’s longest hot shower and use entire bottles of shampoo and conditioner— I’m installing red sun lamps in our apartments.”
One problem solved.
“But we’re not there, we’re still here,” Kara stresses, adorably frustrated. Lena kisses her again, positively vibrating with love and affection and yes, still very turned on and trying so very hard not to test Kara’s resolve by dipping fingers beneath her beloved boy shorts.
Super strength and alien body aside, Lena just really wants her.
“Kara, please trust me when I tell you innovation isn’t a concern.”
“Then what is?”
A valid question, Lena thinks, pulling away to prop her head upon her hand. “You’ve been doing nothing but reading up on my fragile human body for months now.” Kara’s blush indicates exactly how thorough said research runs. Her blue eyes are also roaming over Lena’s exposed breasts. Lena laughs and pulls Kara closer. “Please tell me about yours.”
“Um… it’s the same-ish?”
Lena snorts. “Very objective.”
“Ugh,” Kara buries her face in her hands. “Can we please not talk about my body?”
“Let us recall how insanely attracted I am to your body,” Lena answers, pulling Kara’s hands from her face, kissing her knuckles, and tucking them beneath her chin. She smiles over at a still embarrassed but entirely enamored Kryptonian. “So please tell me more about it. For science.”
“For science,” Kara scoffs. At Lena’s open, patient gaze Kara gasps. “Oh wait, you’re like, really serious.”
“I want to hear about you, from you.” Lena kisses the back of her hand again. “How same-ish are we talking?”
Kara bites her lip. “Um… kind of?”
“Can you draw a diagram for me?”
“What?” Kara exclaims, red flooding right back to her cheeks and down her neck. “Lena! I’m not drawing you a diagram of my… my—”
Lena kisses her, melting tensions and dread away with a firm press of her lips and slow slip of a tongue. Kara eases into the mattress, worries stripping away. She really wants to learn how Lena does this to her. It’s stupid effective.
She loves it.
“I swear I’m not trying to embarrass you,” Lena whispers between kisses along her throat. She presses her thigh against the center of Kara’s underwear. “I am genuinely, thoroughly interested in what’s under here.”
Kara squirms, choking back a moan as the thigh presses harder. That was stupid effective too. “Right now?”
Lena pushes herself up, chuckling as she folds her arms over the top of Kara’s chest. “Do you have some other, urgent matter to attend to?”
Kara shakes her head slowly. “... No.”
“Please?” Lena’s smile squeezes her heart.
Blushing fiercely, Kara acquiesces. She grabs a nearby notebook from their nightstand. One that Lena usually scribbles half-formed ideas into in the middle of the night. Finding an empty page she quickly draws a very crude, very shaky rendition of Kryptonian female sexual anatomy. The heat in her cheeks hardly subsides, even as Lena sits tucked against her, chin atop Kara’s shoulder, dropping occasional kisses and encouragement against her bare skin.
“Okay, there you have it,” Kara says in a flustered rush. “Same-ish.”
Lena squints down to the rendering in Kara’s lap. Same-ish was vaguely accurate. They are absolutely revisiting the hastily scribbled lines of tendrils and ridges within her walls. Crushing ones at that. But more pressing is what's been omitted. Everything was roughly the same aside from the bits Kara neglected to fill in above her cervix.
Lena touches the empty spot on the page. “That’s what you meant when you said you didn’t menstruate.”
“Yeah, it uh– I’m sure you already know that Kryptonians used a birthing matrix so, um, pregnancy was kind of super rare,” Kara explains, voice tinged with embarrassment yes, but also warmth. The press of Lena at her side calms her nerves, calms the torrent of otherness she’s never had to explain to a single soul until now. Lena’s arms are wrapped around her stomach, the heat of her such a reassurance. Lena asked because she wants to know. Wants her. An inkling of courage finds her voice. “For those who wanted to, they had to have their womb and bits um, I guess the best word is reactivated? They’re dormant otherwise. I didn't know how to draw it. It's all like… a deflated balloon?”
Lena kisses her shoulder again. “I can tell you're hating every second of explaining this.”
Kara lets out a choked laugh. “Gee, so astute of you.”
Another kiss to her ear. “I want to revisit this conversation with you when you’re more comfortable with me.”
Kara feels a rush of heat pool low in her belly. “Cool, can’t wait to chat more in a thousand years then.”
Lena touches her chin, silently asking for a bowed head to turn. Kara follows the pull, hopes Lena can see the gratitude even past all her awkward discomforts. Lena is nothing if not entirely appreciative. “This is a part of you,” She whispers, words heavy but heartful. Kara sighs, letting their foreheads meet. She can hear the smile in Lena’s voice. “One you clearly don’t like talking about a lot so I’ll shut up now, sorry.”
“No, no,” Kara shakes her head, kisses her once, twice, for a very slow, long time on the third. She loves the way Lena’s eyes darken every time. “I want to... with you, someday.”
“Just not five minutes after we’ve finally figured out we feel the same way,” Lena smirks.
“Yeah,” Kara smiles back. She squeezes Lena against her. “I really like where we are now. I just really, really want you.”
“Me too,” Lena whispers, squeezing her back. Her dark eyes turn a bit mischievous and Kara can’t help but gulp. “Now, one more question?”
Blue eyes narrow with suspicion. “I’m not trashing my underwear.”
“Yes, suit chafing, I heard,” Lena laughs. “Remind me to help fix that for you when we get home.”
“Duly noted,” Kara grins.
“For now though, to keep me from being crushed,” Lena says, opening the notebook back to Kara’s drawing. “Could you indicate where I can safely touch to make you fall apart?”
Head to toe.
So very hot, everywhere.
“Please?” Lena asks, dropping a wet kiss to Kara’s shoulder. Another to her neck. A longer one beneath an endearingly red-tipped ear. Kara quickly marks her drawing before she loses herself entirely.
“That many?” Lena hums. She plucks the book from Kara’s lap, replacing herself in its place. “Oh Kara, you’re making my job too easy.”
“Uh-umm,” Kara stammers, swallowing thickly. This was a new feeling. A great feeling. Dizzying. “What do you uh, have in mind then?”
“I have a few ideas.”
Lena presses her back down on the mattress with a lick of her lips. The underwear comes off finally and Kara quickly learns how very effective a flat tongue can be against her Kryptonian anatomy.
They do manage to leave the room eventually, Kara has plants in need of her attention, Lena a portal craving completion. And, more crucially, an ion trap necessitating meticulous repairs.
They spring into new routines with the same enthusiasm they continue to fall further together.
Mornings are still spent in the lab, interruptions welcome... to a point. Until Lena either folds under the attention Kara places along her neck and pulls them from the room or her dedication to her work is pushing Kara out the door with a heated promise of later.
She takes rule nine seriously. Kara tries very hard to respect it.
The words on the chalkboard are eventually erased but not without protest from Kara. Monets are sitting in the hall but she feels they pale in comparison to the art of Lena’s heavy, assured, strokes of chalk.
It’s the one time she’s lamented the absence of her phone.
And maybe a few other occasions lately... but she’s also sure Alex has her phone bugged and those photos would have needed to stay private.
The memory of the board suffices. Along with the memories of Lena tangled in sheets sprawled beside her.
She has new memories to mint. Like the one of Lena in her garden, and the sections of it they work carefully to restore.
Kara sticks to her scheduled check-ins. Adds more stops in-between, places she scours and triple examines for traces of hidden vaults, dry goods buried in desperately hidden caches, sunken subs and ships on toxic ocean floors, any food she can bring home. She returns empty-handed most days, hugs Lena extra tight and promises she won’t stop searching.
Lena’s still not getting enough calories, her energy is low —Kara tries not to think of all the reasons why but Lena never fails to remind her with a knowing grin— and she refuses to up her rations no matter how much Kara begs it of her.
She runs on fumes, fueled with a drive to keep her promise. To get them home before they’ve been stuck here a year. To have blue eyes not shine with tears every time they look at her exposed torso and fingers brush the sharper cut of cheekbones. To have Kara love her without the worry, fears and guilt Lena feels like an ache in her every touch.
She can’t wait to take her home. Can’t wait to feel like herself again.
They work huddled together in the lab till evening. Progress on the portal remains steadfast and true to Lena’s projections. They have a frame in place. Components finally coming together. Power cores soon to undergo testing. They are still months away from activation but draw ever closer day by day. The elation that fills her on their accomplishments overwhelms Lena on occasion. She even almost breaks her own rule.
Kara, with a cheeky grin, definitely doesn’t let her forget those lapses.
Everything Lena asks for, Kara obliges. Never faltering, always sealed with a kiss and promise of a swift return.
She loves her more every day.
Nights are reserved for time together and time apart. Kara learns Lena needs hours to herself, time for her mind to unpack the day, and empty enough of her frustrations and exciting breakthroughs to allow Kara room to fill vacant spots with much-desired attention and support.
She’s always happy when Lena finds her, usually reading on the lumpy rec room sofa. Sometimes Lena needs her with a feverish desperation that Kara can barely keep up aside. Other times, she simply crawls on top, rests her head against Kara’s chest with a long, tired sigh, and asks if it’s okay for them to stay there quietly a while.
Kara hasn’t figured out how to anticipate which Lena will greet her some nights. But she loves knowing there’s loads of time for her to learn how.
A month after their first kiss Kara wraps up some gardening work, intent on diving back into her latest nightly survivalist book —The Practical Doomsdayer, A Guide to Hiding in Plain Sight— only to find Lena standing leaned against the open rec room door.
She has her bottom lip caught between her teeth as she hands Kara the book. “So, Florence…” Lena ventures slowly.
Kara tries to smother a grin, tries to play it cool, but a smile radiates across her face uninhibited. “Is this you inviting me on your vacation?”
“Lena, why is that yes a question?”
“I’ve never… invited someone on a vacation before.”
“Because you never take vacations.”
A scoff. “Is that a yes or a no, Kara?”
Kara engulfs her in a hug, sweeping Lena from the door and off her feet. “Yes, yes, yes.”
What began as a tentative olive branch months ago has flourished into something more. Something better. Something great.
By their eighth month in the Arctic Kara has planted even more swaths of vegetable seeds, tons that will grow fast like those in the old flower beds, and despite tasting terrible —like seven varieties of kale— will provide much-needed sustenance to her… her…
Hands pause, buried deep in a beet plot. Her brow scrunches.
What did she call Lena now?
As if manifesting her, arms snake around her torso, and a warm forehead presses into the space at the back of her neck. Kara is caught completely off guard, again, and entirely enamored by Lena’s ability to capture her unaware like this.
She thrills in the shivers and jolt of surprise in her chest.
“Hi,” Lena whispers against her shoulder blade. “Stop worrying about your plants and come to bed.”
“You mean your plants.”
“I’ve signed no such custody agreement,” Lena laughs, planting a kiss to the bit of skin peeking out under Kara’s MIT sweater. More shivers prickle Kara’s spine. “But appreciate all your dedication in raising them well.”
“Plant mom of the year. Thanks for saving all the keepsakes too. I just reburied the last one,” Kara tells her, pulling her gloves off and slowly turning around in a loose hold. Lena sways a bit where she stands, eyes heavy. Kara settles her hands on drowsy hips. “You look tired.”
Lena gives a great groan as she slumps forward onto Kara. “Hence bed.”
Kara presses a long kiss to the side of a dark head. “Were you able to work out the dimensional plane coordinate that was bothering you?”
Lena nods against her shoulder. “Hence tired.”
Adorably sleepy and accomplished Lena is quickly becoming one of her favorites. She melts into Kara’s chest, arms hanging loosely around her waist. Her weight is negligible, even all of it, leaned against Kara like this. She should weigh more though. Her usual healthy amount that Kara can still remember vividly from all the times she’s had Lena fully in her arms.
Lena sighs out, tired and happy against her neck. Kara presses another kiss to her temple, sneaks her hands beneath Lena’s thermal shirt to stroke warmed skin. The dip against her hip bone is still there, still makes her heart ache. Lena doesn't like her worrying like this but Kara can hardly help herself.
“I’m going to buy your stomach so many donuts when we get back,” she murmurs against Lena’s head.
“Or, I stick with my plan of hiring a renowned nutritionist,” Lena says as she pulls back to watch Kara’s face. A pout appears, extra prominent, on the lips above her. Lena rolls her eyes with a chuckle. “And also eat donuts with you, sure why not.”
Kara removes her hands and smooths Lena’s nightshirt back down. Lena misses the contact immediately. “I know you don’t like talking about this but I still worry.”
“You always worry,” Lena points out wryly.
Kara’s hands settle against her jaw. “Can we please talk?”
“Will talking help you to stop looking at me like that?”
Kara sighs at the bite in Lena’s tone. She drops her hands to her shoulders. “I get it, Lena. Trust me. I know how uncomfortable and painful it is to lose that kind of control over your own body. Your feelings of frustration are so justified,” Kara whispers wholeheartedly and for once unafraid. She needs Lena to hear this as much as she needs to reckon with the guilt still buried deep in her chest. “But this isn’t on you, it’s on me for not doing enough.”
“Kara—” Lena tries to interject but Kara shakes her head.
“Please let me say this,” she asks, implores. Blue eyes stare widely, pleadingly, into green. Lena manages a small nod of acceptance. She’s listening. Kara begins. “I’m afraid you’re malnourished, because of me. Anemic, because of me. That I’ll come back one afternoon to find you collapsed in the lab, because of me. All because I shouldn't have been in that bunker.”
“Kara,” Lena breathes her name out like the slow pour of scotch she wishes she could swallow right now. There was nothing left to forgive. Her hold around Kara’s waist tightens. “Lex wanted you there. Do you really think he wouldn't have lured you some other way?”
“I was there to stop you though…” Kara murmurs, picking at one of the shoulder seams of Lena’s thermal.
Lena lets out a soft, tired laugh. “Yes, old news. That doesn't make what I said any less true.”
Doubt fills Kara’s gaze. “But you were still there to kill him.”
“Yes, also old news,” Lena says with less mirth and far more unflinching grit. This can't be what Kara needed to say to her. Not this same argument, yet again. Weren't they past this?
“Lena,” Kara’s voice is a strained, desperate whisper. “You shot him.”
Lena wants to groan. She's so tired and just wants to go to bed. Wants to end this discussion but it's clear Kara needs some sort of resolution. Lena doesn't know if she'll be able to give her the one she wants. The one that tells Kara she was wrong to have wanted to kill her brother. That it wasn’t like her at all to take a gun in her hands with that intent.
The one that is still a fucking lie.
She hopes he’s a corpse rotting in a godforsaken bunker in Latvia.
Instead, she says, “Good. That was, quite literally, my aim.”
“Lena,” Kara implores again, some of that doubt now glinting with restless adamance. Kara, always the believer. Lena’s temple throbs with the onset of a soon-to-be realized migraine. “You’re not a murderer.”
She very well could be.
Will not apologize for, or regret her actions.
Is this how she loses Kara? Over Lex?
Perhaps her life was a comedy after all.
She clings to hope where she can. In the way Kara still caresses her shoulder, still stares at her with a mix of heartache but more so devotion. Lena smiles shakily, forlorn, head aching. “And if I am? If I did it to spare others from dying at his hands? To stop him from someday killing you, all of us? Does that make me less?”
Kara’s eyes are brimmed with tears, but her hold stays firm. “No… no, of course not.”
“Then what is it you need to hear?” Lena asks, braves a touch of her fingers and thumb to Kara’s chin.
Kara's eyes close wearily. “I don’t know.”
“Maybe,” Lena starts to say, smiling softly when watery but reconciled eyes meet her own. “Maybe that’s okay too?”
Kara still feels the itch of discomfort settle into her bones. She’d spoken true. She doesn't know what Lena could say to curb the shaken feeling within her. That she loves, is in love with, even with all best intentions, a murderer.
Lena cups Kara’s face in her hands. “Please tell me we’re okay.”
Kara gives a small, barely-there nod and deflects. “You’re still hungry…”
She can’t endure any more thoughts on Lex and bunkers and actions therein.
Lena, for once, does not groan or roll her eyes. “This absolutely isn’t on you,” she says calmly, hands still on Kara’s jaw. “I told you, without you, I’d be so much worse.”
Kara rests her forehead on a far more faithful one. “Better-than-worse isn’t a bar I want us to aim for.”
“I’m not going to starve because of you,” Lena tells her, adamant and heated.
“But the books—”
“Fuck the books.”
“Lena!” Kara pulls back, half shocked, half disbelieving, a tinge distressed.
“I’m serious, Kara,” Lena tells her. Her eyes are dark but pin Kara with a determination that jolts her chest with the same surprise and thrill as her arrival. “We’re kind of in uncharted territory here. Your research has been absolutely a godsend, thank you, but please stop worrying about what neither of us can control right now. I’ll be okay, please trust me on this.”
“I do trust you.” Kara pulls her into an impossibly warm hug. “I’ll try not to worry but can’t make any promises.”
“I can accept that.”
“I’m also buying you so many kale salads when we get home.”
“And donuts? Now I’m craving one. Good job.”
Kara laughs, kisses her. Arguments on bunkers far, far from her mind. Lena sighs happily against her mouth.
They part so Kara can, as she put it, “Get the night jams on.”
Which entails exactly that, turning on the classic music for the plants. Tonight appeared to be Vivaldi.
Above them, the dome shutters creak in a mild wind. Kara had cleaned out the broken glass panels after the storm but her eyes dart above nevertheless. It was hard getting used to this new normal. She misses the light.
Misses the grey. Forgets how significant a view it can be.
Maybe that was okay too…
She's still shaken, but what she feels for Lena hasn’t ebbed in the slightest. These are the difficult things she wants to tackle with her, beside her, all varieties of near and against. Lena challenges her. Never fails to make Kara pause and reflect on her own stubbornly fixed views.
Makes her want to ask more. Feel more.
Understand more most of all.
But Lena is exhausted and right now, all Kara wants to do is help her to bed.
The sheets also need a change, she reminds herself. Station chores also liked to sneak up on her unaware.
“I can’t wait till we’re back home and can worry about mundane things again,” She confesses, tossing her gloves to her cluttered work table.
“Like stopping maniacs from destroying our city, maintaining an entire secret civilian life, thwarting whatever new asinine plot my family deploys to hurt you? Those things?” Lena asks playfully.
Kara smirks. “Or running a Fortune 500 company, thwarting hostile plots against your life, and continuously having a brutal takedown ready to deliver to Morgan Edge’s face?”
Lena’s laughter fills the garden, rewarming Kara’s heart. “Yes, especially, to that last one,” she says between fading chuckles. “Oh, this reminds me, our bedsheets are due for a changeout.”
Kara really, really loves her.
“Yeah, I’ve got time blocked tomorrow for it, no biggie,” She assures, dimming the UVs for the night.
Lena lets out a huff. “Kara, you can’t do everything for us.”
“Why not? You’re doing everything to get us home. Let me worry about the mundane,” she grins coyly, hands back on Lena’s hips. “Bed now?”
They walk back in comfortable silence. Lena falls into their bed and barely nestles into her pillow and pile of blankets before sleep starts to weigh down on her. Kara floats over and settles in her usual place against the wall, arm quick to slip beneath Lena’s thermal shirt and rest along the warm skin of her back. A small, content sound escapes from a sleep-laden throat. Kara snuggles close, soaking in these last few minutes pressed close beside the woman she loves before sleep eventually steals her too.
She still doesn’t have a word to assign to this.
Doesn’t even think it’s that important.
Lena is, very simply, her absolute favorite person she gets to hold like this.
They’ll figure the rest out in time.
A few weeks later, the loss of a generator is blinding Lena with its impediment. Her frustrations resurface, hot and unfettered. She is working with three-quarters the power they’d originally calculated for. All those weeks of equations, late nights pouring over her notebook checking the math again and again, Kara’s never faltering belief in her plans… Lena’s throat constricts more at the imminent disappointment.
The tide of setbacks feels like a never-ending battle she’s always fighting against.
It can be so tiresome.
Kara sits calmly across the table from her, working diligently on her afternoon task of circuit grading. Her glasses slip a bit down her nose, brow creased in concentration. She pushes them back up out of habit, not a smidge undeterred, and continues on.
Lena is overwhelmed with a flurry of unbridled affection.
Kara fought off a hellstorm for them to have something worth saving. Her impassioned words surface fast in Lena’s mind. Not important right now; you are.
She wonders if that’s the one day Kara’s feelings for her became obvious.
Wonders more what that sort of sudden realization must feel like. She’s only ever fallen in love slowly, sometimes so gradually she’s never able to pinpoint a moment in time, more moments, scattered across a relationship from the start.
With Kara, it started with an article. With trust. Evolved over lunches on a sofa, to promises, flowers in an office, invites into a life she’d not ever imagined being a part of. And now cannot imagine being apart from.
There’s no one moment the same way there’s no one emotion. It’s all of them.
Yet how very on par for the super, she muses, to rush and stumble into her feelings with all the grace and accuracy she punches through a wall. Likewise Kara Danvers.
Only, you know, maybe not a physical wall so much as Lena’s emotional ones.
God, she’s gotten so good at knowing just what to say. Just how to touch her and send troubled thoughts scattering to the wind. Well, touch her in other, more satisfying ways too.
Kara peeks up at her then, gives a soft, delicate smile filled with warmth.
Lena’s frustrations have long ebbed, so she smiles back, delights in a blush spreading across Kara’s face as she turns the grin a bit more flirtatious with a slow bite of her bottom lip.
She can hear Kara muttering under her breath about rule nine being her idea as she hurriedly returns to work.
The generator loss is an impediment. But not so blinding anymore.
One storm will not uproot her.
“Kara?” Lena calls out, waits for blue eyes to shift from electrical wiring to her own. “The generators you mentioned in the vault; how possible would it be to bring one in?”
Kara’s smile is bright as she drifts over. “I can have one here in an hour.”
“Are you sure?”
“Lena,” Kara cups her face, draws her in for a tender kiss. “For you, anything.”
Within an hour, as promised, a large pristine generator sits outside the wide rolling door of the power station.
Lena stands in the snow, shivering despite being bundled in layers, coveralls, and Dr. Ennis’ red coat. Somehow it feels colder out than the night of the storm, even with the sun behind calm grey skies. She hugs her arms close as she stares up at the towering piece of machinery. It’s larger than the ones originally installed for the station, maybe twice the size. A few cables that span the width of Kara’s shoulders slipped loose during flight. She pulls them from snowdrifts and loops them neatly on top.
“I can probably clear out the busted one tomorrow and squeeze this one in,” Kara calls out from her position hovering above, expression pulled in thought. “I think the walkway will need to go though, if that’s cool?”
Lena nods and gives a mumbled, stuttered thanks through three scarves.
Kara’s thoughtful expression turns concerned at the sound. She drifts down, wraps her arms and cape around her favorite, now freezing, person.
“Okay, it’s definitely time for some hot coffee and sofa cuddles now,” Kara murmurs, rubbing some warmth back into Lena’s shoulders and spine. Lena nods again, huddling close, the earlier flurry of affection now mixed with gratitude and love.
She really doesn’t know what she’d do without Kara.
They’re finally able to boot up the vault generator by the time Kara’s makeshift calendar turns to May.
Thick cables snake throughout the station, siphoning power from upgraded fuse boxes in an array of timed releases. A precaution. One they both agreed on after Kara spent hours copying the pictographs from the vault for Lena to examine and Lena spent days reconfiguring for their Arctic home. The generator is meant to power several warehouses and the last thing they want is to overwhelm the circuits they’ve spent months rebuilding.
They cannot stomach another setback.
Lena’s hope, however strong, wavers, uncoiling as they near the test date.
She wakes first that day, yanking Kara down atop her from where she sleeps hovering.
“If this doesn’t work, I swear,” Lena hisses out, hurrying to push blankets off her body and feel the press of a grounding soul against her own.
Kara scoops her up, recognizes the pain, the fear, the need in blue-green eyes for what it is.
If Lena wants to chase that away for a while, she’ll happily oblique.
At precisely noon, they stand shoulder to shoulder at the controls in the power station. They turn on the generator together.
In the lab, their math holds against surge tests.
Lena breathes out weeks, months of tension, stress, and god, such soul-crushing weight.
“Better good?” There’s a smile on Kara’s face reserved just for her.
Lena folds into the offered arms, tears finally shedding, all those setbacks washing from her in the same stuttered and relieved way she weeps against a solid chest.
Kara doesn’t let go.
Later, nearing evening, Lena lies atop Kara, chin tucked overtop her arms folded across a broad and bare chest. She’d set aside some time to unwind alone after further successful power tests but then Kara had wandered in and wandering eyes led to wandering hands and now they lay naked, tangled together on the lumpy rec room sofa.
The room lights are dimmed, or at least, the fluorescents have been purposely shut off. A couple of old lamps had suited Lena just fine when she first entered and tucked herself into a corner of the sofa with a book. The quiet and solitude were much needed. Her emotions had been a bevy of disorder for ages now.
She needed to stop thinking for a little while.
Delve head-first into a true break.
Kara was, and still is, a wonderful, welcome distraction.
“I thought this was supposed to be my alone time,” Lena teases her anyway, running a hand through long golden waves of hair.
“Sorry, not sorry,” Kara hums in reply, eyes closed, glasses askew, smirking softly. Looking just as assuredly content as Lena feels.
Lena presses a kiss over her heart. “I think you just gave me an idea for the kryptonite chamber.”
Lena taps the edge of Kara’s frames. “Fiber lenses.”
Kara peers down at her. “Like a focus pull, for energy?”
“Dumb or crazy?”
“Brilliant,” Kara’s grin is crooked and bright. And turns ever so cocky. “Glad I could inspire you.”
Kara’s glasses sometimes fog when they kiss. She’s delighted every time, laughing as she slips them off and dives back in, kissing Lena with even more vigor. But usually, Lena’s lips don’t leave hers to trace the path of a hand burning down Kara’s neck, over collarbone, a rapidly beating heart, and oh…
That was all tongue down her chest.
Kara sinks back into the sofa as her knees draw up, hands tangling in dark hair, simultaneously giving Lena more space and not wanting her to stop current, much-desired efforts.
Lena’s voice drags her back from a slack-jawed stupor. “Help me with another question.”
“Ye-yeah?” She stammers out, biting back a moan as that tongue finds a home over one breast.
Lena pulls away with a slow scrape of her teeth over a budding nipple. “How many people do you think had sex on this sofa before us?”
Kara cracks an eye open at that topic, breathless. “This is what you want to talk about right now?”
“The thought was in my head before you sauntered in here.”
Lena has a newfound tendency to turn any average word into something sensual, heating Kara’s skin. “Judging by all the porn in the men’s room, maybe two, max,” Kara answers, quickly.
“You are such a sex shamer,” Lena chuckles, poking at Kara’s sides.
“I’ve read all their journals, and trust me, only Dr. P. Ennis was getting any action up here.”
Lena’s laughter warms Kara far more than any sunlight. So does the path she restarts with her mouth down Kara’s stomach. Her next words start at a navel and end against a thigh. “Well, if your journalism career is as shot as my company when we get back, at least you have loads of material to give stand up a try.”
“Never ever in a million years,” Kara tells her, voice thick and tinged with that impatient frustration Lena’s been waiting to hear. Kara arches right up into her mouth at first contact. Fingers tighten against her head, quivering, fighting against a strength and the need to hold back.
Lena is counting down the days till those hands are freed.
Till her tongue can dive a bit further.
Maybe even elicit an actual curse from Kara’s lips.
A scientist could dream.
“Lena.” Her name sounds like one, uttered between clenched teeth and hissed on a single breath.
Not much longer.
“Hands, Kara,” Lena grins between legs.
“S-sorry!” Kara pulls hands free, digging them into sofa edges instead.
Two reminders then.
Lena chuckles against her. “Sofa, Kara.”
There were already half a dozen rips.
“Ah!” Kara squeezes her eyes shut, folding arms across her face tight.
It doesn't take long at all, another few quick turns of a tongue, a slow pressure atop two sensitive nerves lined beneath wet heat, and Kara comes undone.
Her arms clench, chest heaves with stabilizing breaths. The muscles beneath thighs relax, falling away along with the arms crossed over her face. Lena watches Kara sink, weightless, into the sofa.
She presses a wet kiss inside a thigh, delighting as it twitches under her lips. “Need a minute?”
Red paints already flushed cheeks. “More like ten.”
She loves being the one to make her fall apart.
Loves that, even for a few moments, she can make worries slip away.
Blue eyes stay dark but muddle with that exact concern as they blink open minutes later. “Hey, um, do you… do you really think things are that bad for us back home?”
Lena sits up, plans for engaging again swept aside in favor of conversation she feels they’ve both the need of more. She pulls Kara up, grateful powerful legs stay loosely wrapped around her, equally powerful arms hooked under her shoulders. “Kara, we’ve been gone almost a year. I can’t imagine whatever excuse your sister and the DEO have been using is still flying.”
Kara’s stare is unfocused. “You're probably in a coma. I’m probably handling a crisis off-world.”
Lena tucks blonde hair over one shoulder, seeking blue eyes. “And Kara Danvers?”
An unfocused gaze grows despondent, her hold loosens. Lena’s heart clenches as blue eyes close and Kara flops back down against the sofa. “I don’t know if she’ll even exist when we get back.”
The clench turns to a tear at the sorrow in Kara’s tone. Lena doesn’t quite know what to say to chase that pain away. There’s truth in Kara’s fear.
Lena leans down, taking her time to readjust glasses back onto Kara’s nose. There’s also a more compelling truth, one she doesn't hesitate to share. “Kara Danvers is still my favorite person. I don’t know what I’d do without this part of you.”
“Full disclosure?” Kara takes the glasses off, folds them gently closed in her hands. “These make me feel at home and I love them, thank you.”
Lena kisses her through a smile and Kara tries not to whimper, tasting hints of herself through pine and mint. “You’re so very welcome.”
Her face is still flushed, and her heart races from the kiss. She hadn’t finished speaking yet. Kara lays her glasses on the coffee table, brings steady hands back to cup a face she still can’t quite believe she’s able to touch like this. Doesn’t ever think she’ll stop feeling this lucky, this grateful, this wanted, this loved, and yep, stomach flutters right on cue to remind her of other more heated feelings too.
She wants to curl into a lumpy sofa with her and just breathe.
Just be them.
Everything and even all the grey it entails.
“That wasn’t the whole confession, was it?” Lena asks, brushing fingers to the back of Kara’s hands.
Kara loves that she just knows.
“No,” Kara smiles, can’t stop smiling. “The glasses feel like home but you…Lena, you make me feel at peace. Like I’m not alone anymore. Like I can just finally be all of me.”
It means everything to her.
She hopes Lena understands just how much.
Lena’s eyes shine with tears, the kind that usually means Kara’s about to be kissed senseless but instead remain locked on her full of promise. “I can’t wait to be home with all of you,” she whispers.
“Me either,” Kara admits softly.
Lena pulls their foreheads in close. “Whatever we’re facing back there, we’ll figure it out.”
“Together,” Kara adds pointedly.
Lena rolls her eyes with a laugh. “Yes, together obviously. That really goes without saying.”
“Your jerky super traits are getting more endearing.”
“Are they?” Kara smirks. “Should I safety first next time I go down on you?”
Lena groans. “Please don’t.”
“I mean you say that but your eyes totally just got darker.”
“It’s dark in here,” Lena counters despite hands taking hold of her hips and a leg pressing up between her thighs.
“Lena, I can literally feel how turned on you are.”
“Kara,” It’s a warning but more a breathy plea.
Occasionally —okay, yes, whenever she can— she loves being the one to break all of Lena’s finely held composure. Kara drags her lips between her teeth and grins. “Safety first, Lena.”
Lena feels her body pulled up from the sofa as a blonde head disappears beneath. Alone time is blissfully forgotten for the remainder of the evening.
The blissful feeling carries into her week.
It coats her every thought as she enters the lab, notebook in hand, elation coursing through her at the sight of their progress.
One half of their portal gate stands in the cleared space at the back of the lab. The other half is partially under renovation on Kara’s side of the table. There were a few trickier —heavier— components Lena assigned her to integrate for them this afternoon.
An array of modified fuse boxes and controls line the wall on Lena’s side of the room. She steps gingerly over the assortment of cables and wiring crisscrossing the floor. Kara had wrapped them all in dual layers of rubber and insulation.
Safety first indeed, Lena muses, coming up beside the standing culmination of eight long months of stress, heartache, worries, frustration, and hope.
They were so close.
They could be home in a few months.
Lena slips on her safety glasses, hums along to the old Springsteen album drifting in from the commissary. She has fiber lenses to measure for, a core power test to complete and a kryptonite chamber to envision into her schematics.
Her work starts easy enough, the measurements are done before the upbeat song even ends. She plugs in the same startup sequence into her watch console, grinning with that same elated, blissful triumph as the day before when the low, steady hum of power surges through the room and into the working ports of the portal.
There’s a flicker on one control light.
Two on another.
A spark at the edge of the space she’d been measuring mere moments before.
Lena barely gets her hand around their emergency shut-off before a blast erupts in the room and everything goes dark.
Kara returns to a sight that stops her heart.
Dark smoke pours out from the roof of the lab module, mixing slowly above into low grey clouds.
Something burns at the back of her throat. Hot and dark and not at all the smoke but very much feels like it. A fear coiling about her in thick, serrated ribbons that chokes her lungs and stings her eyes.
Please no, she begs. No, no, no, no, no.
Kara bursts forward, slamming down onto the roof and tearing through a welded patch in her haste to get to Lena.
Smoke engulfs the lab, power down, a crackling fire engulfing a few fuse boxes, Lena nowhere in sight.
A heartbeat, faint and low from a corner of the dark room hits her ears.
Kara throws the emergency lever down and hurries over, nearly barrels through the half of the portal still sparking, blasts it and the fire with a breath of ice as she skids to a halt where Lena lays.
She’s splayed against a shelf beneath the other half of the portal, her ankle pinned and bent at an angle that rips through Kara’s heart faster than she did the ceiling.
No, no, no, no, no.
Kara picks the portal frame up as cautiously as possible, setting it aside with the same care.
“Lena?” Kara calls, trembling hands finding home along a weak pulse under Lena’s neck. “Lena??”
Months of studies spring to the forefront of a panicked mind. Pulse, breath, don’t move her, where else is she hurt, what else can’t be seen, don’t move her, she’s hurt, badly hurt, need to move her.
No! Don’t move her!
Alex’s calm voice fills her head.
You know what you’re doing.
You know how to help her.
Kara brushes hair from Lena’s face, forces back a sob at the deep gash, and matted blood along her temple.
Lena lets out a hiss and long, “Fuck…” at the touch.
Kara almost caves and engulfs her in a hug at that moaned curse. Don’t move her plays like a new, desperate motto in her mind.
Lena’s awake. Hurt but awake. Alive.
You know how to help her, she repeats herself.
“Lena,” Kara asks gently, scooting closer, so careful not to disturb her and cause any more injury. “Can you open your eyes for me?”
Lena’s eyes squeeze shut further. “Isdark,” she slurs out, tries to move, curses more.
Her patient is responsive and… surly.
Which was infinitely better than unresponsive and near death.
“Kara…” Lena mumbles, trying to move her hand and grimacing, face contouring with pain and a sharp cry. Kara helps to free her arm from where it’s restrained under components she was meant to work on. Ones that had been on the desk when she’d left an hour ago. Lena coughs, way too wet a sound for so much smoke still venting from the room.
“Don’t move, okay?” Kara tells her, pressing a kiss over the pain twisting Lena’s brow. She pulls back, quickly scans her eyes over the rest of Lena’s slumped form. Aside from the ankle, she doesn't spot other broken bones.
That didn’t mean other, more critical injuries weren't present beneath her skin.
“Hold on, okay? Let me get a medkit.” Kara, in a hysterical —not panicked— rush, surges from Lena’s side and out the room, returning in seconds, arms laden with every piece of medical gear she’s salvaged and kept stored for today. The pile is dumped unceremoniously to the floor as she yanks out the most extensive trunk, one from an army outpost and full of life-saving equipment.
She places a dented crank flashlight against the floor, the old thing sputters light out the same way Lena breathes. Wavering, not quite able to keep steady.
There’s a high whine in Lena’s ears, her head pounds in time with her pulse. Her ankle screaming along in time with the beat too.
Kara’s warm hands are on her face, so still compared to the way she swims in Lena’s sight.
Warm hands are joined by warmer lips, pressing everywhere, soft and urgent.
“I’ve got you, you’re okay,” repeats across the same path.
Lena tries to focus, tries to push the pain and hurt aside, it's everywhere but nowhere near as stabbing as the dread in her heart. “Is… is the portal…?”
“We’ll worry about it later,” Kara answers, working quickly to wipe blood from dripping into green eyes. “I'm more concerned about you.”
“Kara...Kara, look at me…please,” Lena has to grab her face in her only pain-free hand to get petrified blue eyes to finally meet her own. “Rule five.”
“I’m not panicking. This isn’t panicking,” Kara insists, panicked.
Lena may be delirious with trauma but she knows what that blurry-looking box is by Kara’s thigh. “You brought in... a defibrillator.”
“Your heart could be failing and the books explained to…to...”
Lena tries pulling Kara down but her body is unyielding, frozen with horror. Lena’s shoulder cracks at the effort.
Fuck, fuck, fuck.
She sucks in a sharp breath between clenched teeth.
“Lena!” Kara cries out, hurrying to reset a clearly dislocated shoulder. It pops back into place with another moan and even more expletives.
Lena wastes no time tugging her back down. “I’m right here,” she whispers.
“You almost weren’t,” Kara declares, pressing their foreheads gently together. “I don’t want to add you to my sad little memorial either.”
“You won’t,” Lena says with a soft, pained laugh. Her ribs scream but she keeps her hold, waits till blue eyes lose their sharp edge, till warmed-eyed Kara is staring at her and not just her fear. “Okay...?” She feels more than sees Kara nod her head.
“I was panicking,” Kara admits quietly.
“I’m sorry,” Kara murmurs and kisses her for good, grounding measure. She knows what she has to do, knows how to help the woman she loves despite all the stomach-churning nausea wanting to empty her senses to the floor. “Tell me what you need.”
“Aspirin,” Lena groans out. “Please don't tell me... all we have… is coffee.”
Kara tries to muster an apologetic smile as she picks up the flashlight. “Can you look at this light for me?”
Lena swats it down, wincing. “I know I have a… a concussion.”
“And a broken ankle, crazy bruised shoulder, burnt arm, that needs stitches. I can’t… I can’t even tell what else…” Kara’s voice quakes, overwhelmed.
“I was wearing... my safety glasses at least,” Lena says, trying to soothe some of the dismay in dark blue eyes.
The smoke is gone, muted grey light filling the room from a hole above the table. Lena stares at it, confused, the metal contorts inward, almost looks like…
She doesn't even need to ask.
Kara stares at her with open heartbreak. “You know how you worry I won’t make it back and you’ll be here alone?”
Lena gives her a tired smile. “What a wonderful reminder... thank you, Kara.”
“No, it’s just,” Kara begins to say, pausing to apply some butterfly bandages to the wound on Lena’s head. She smoothes it over with a slow, gentle drag of her thumb. Lena’s headache melts some at the tender touch. “With the portal coming together and you getting hurt I get it.”
“It’s not a great feeling, is it?” She murmurs.
Kara kisses her again, ever so careful not to press too tight. “Please don’t test it without me,” she begs softly.
Lena answers her with a silent nod and firmer press of her mouth.
“You were so lucky this time,” Kara proclaims, pulling away to finally meet her eyes. “If it had blown the core or god forbid you had the kryptonite chamber in place, I don’t know what I’d do if you were hurt like that.”
Lena knows. God, does she ever know what that devastation feels like. “Come here,” she mutters, pleased when Kara leans back over her. “I promise to keep it powered down unless you’re around.”
Kara’s tears flood back into blue eyes. This never should have happened. Lena shouldn't be hurt, shouldn't be comforting her when she's the one half broken on the floor. “You shouldn’t be here, you shouldn’t—”
Lena stops her fears with another far more exhaustive, far deeper kiss.
“I am here though,” Lena tells her, ardent. “I’d choose this, you, every time.”
Kara can’t help but smile down at her, even half sobbing as she is. “You're way too coherent for someone with a concussion.”
Lena rolls her eyes, charmed regardless. “This isn’t my first one, Kara.”
“That’s also really worrisome,” she admits, brow knitting.
Lena adores her.
Every crinkle, every smile, every whispered word dripping with care.
“I love you,” Lena says.
Kara’s brow creases more. “Okay, now I can’t tell if that’s the concussion or just you.”
“All me,” she smiles.
“Your timing is like, Hallmark movie-levels of awful.”
“Very on-brand for me then.”
Kara squints at her, trying not to let a grin split across her face the way her heart keeps wanting one to. “Can you say it again? For science?”
“For science,” Lena laughs, wincing at the spike of pain against her temple, but still manages to grab Kara’s face and pull their lips sloppily together. “I love you.”
“Good,” Kara says, grinning in the untamed way she's been aching to for so long. “Because I really, really love you too.”
“Can we please leave the lab now?” Lena asks, desperate to get off the floor and help Kara with her injuries. She is not looking forward to the bone resetting session in her very near future. Or the stitches, or all the new, worrisome glances from ever more guilt-ridden blue eyes.
“Yeah, just a sec,” Kara answers, pulling a roll of plastic from her medical pile.
Lena blinks at her.
“Is that… are you seriously bubble wrapping my leg?”
“Yes. I need to move you and this way is safest.”
“I’m not a lamp.”
“Too late, it's not coming off.”
“God, you're lucky I love you.”
Kara has never, ever felt luckier in her life.
Originally I wanted to split this whole thing in half but it all felt more cohesive as one unit. One extra long, jam-packed unit. Hope not too long for you all!
See you all same time next week! Thanks for reading. ❤️
The bone resetting goes exactly as fun as Lena predicted, and exactly as nerve-wracking for Kara. Or, more aptly, not at all and all-consuming. They settle Lena as comfortably as possible on top of a table in the commissary, the rest of her double cask Macallan a welcome companion as Kara scours through a medical field guide by her side.
Lena’s head still throbs with the same, steady tempo of the imagined hot metal skewers she feels are being stabbed through her leg. Sweat dots her brow, rafters above drifting in and out of focus. She wants to sleep but knows Kara needs her awake.
As the only person with a biology background or any medical experience —and really, as the sole human— she understands it's in her best interest to offer Kara all the support she can.
Even when all she wants is to curl into a ball and scream.
Kara has a few of her fingers against Lena’s wrist as she reads, so feels the rapid change in pulse before the elevated heartbeat registers in her ears. She’s quick to find bleary blue-green eyes. Her own gaze holds a beseeching assurance that she hopes Lena can sense despite everything.
Please hold on, Kara thinks. A pile of apologies layering onto her drawn expression.
“Hey,” She whispers, stroking the back of her fingers over an overheated cheek. Lena’s eyes flutter close as she exhales hard, and Kara’s chest burns at the raw sound. She's taking too long. Lena needs her to act. “We’ll get you fixed up soon, I promise.”
“I know,” Lena murmurs, trying to muster strength to her voice. She turns what little she has to press lips into a palm. “You’ve got this.”
Kara pales. “You feel warm. That’s a sign of tetanus. When’s the last–”
Lena can't help but laugh, and then grunt as bruised ribs decide to summon their wrath. “It’s not tetanus… just a low-grade stress fever. It’ll break.”
Kara’s eyes scan with worry over another page. “No abdominal swelling, sudden nausea?”
Why were human bodies so ridiculously complex and prone to life-threatening injuries??
Even breathing seems to be hurting Lena.
Is there fluid in her lungs?? Some blunt trauma?? Acute respiratory distr—
“Kara.” Lena slides her hand over the book, stealing attention away from further spiraling —debilitating— tangents. This was already the fifth. Lena’s appreciative of the extra caution but also growing impatient and borderline irritated. “One thing at a time, remember?”
Kara takes a long, needed breath. It was so hard to focus on one issue when they all felt critical. Lena’s gaze stays on hers, fighting the pull of sleep, fighting to stay with her.
Lena believes in her.
Kara refuses to let her down.
She takes steady hold of the hand on her book. “Ankle first,” Kara assures.
Kara’s never had to treat broken bones. The few noses she's cracked quickly ran off before she could even offer to help. The closest was Alex breaking an arm when they were teens but even then she’d screamed such bloody murder into Kara’s face that Kara had ended up being the one consoled most in the end.
She wishes Alex were here.
Her sister would have already acted.
“Find it yet?” Lena asks quietly, her head heavy where it rests on a slew of pillows.
Kara’s attention snaps back down to her book. “Well, I’m pretty sure you have displaced fractures,” She says, sounding just as wounded, anxious and tired as Lena feels.
“Yes,” Lena agrees through a hiss. “I can feel that. Which bones though?”
“Okay, so this one is more like this,” Kara explains, scribbling an arrow on the ankle diagram for Lena to see. “And this one is sort of over here a bit?”
Lena takes a long, heavy swig from the scotch bottle.
“Lena, hey, not so much. Drunk you is super unhelpful.”
“Drunk me is the only way I'm going to suffer through the next hour.”
Kara’s hands are back on overheated cheeks. “I know this hurts, but please, I can't do this without you.”
The alcohol muddles the edge of Lena’s thoughts. She knows what Kara has said but somehow three crucial letters are left out of the version repeating in her head. I can’t do this with you. Lena tries to chase the idea away.
Kara loves her.
Proves it day after day.
What the hell is wrong with her head?
Lena puts the bottle down.
Kara kisses her with the same, thorough slowness she always does, leaving Lena her usual level of breathlessly soothed. Her mind gloriously settled in ways scotch can never reproduce.
“You can have all you want once we’re done. Okay?” Kara promises.
Lena nods and tosses the unwanted shadow of a thought to the far reaches of her pain-addled mind.
The reset takes two hours. Two long, agonizing hours of hissed instructions, careful but painful touches, breakdowns, restarts, sweat-soaked sweaters, and way too many choked-out tears.
From both of them.
Kara hands her the scotch when she’s done, presses nervous but relieved kisses across a sweaty face.
Lena feels a light numbness take hold soon enough as she lays back with her wrapped ankle now supported atop a few pillows. Kara had made extra sure it would rest well above her heart. Bags of ice packed in close to help with swelling.
“Ready for stitches now?” Kara's voice drifts through her mind untethered.
Lena blinks, tired and drunk, and nods consent.
She hardly feels the needle pierce her skin. Feels more the slight tremble of fingers against her opposite cheek.
“You’re doin’ s’good,” she mumbles, eyes falling closed.
She wakes hours later tucked into their bed, ankle resting high, pain still present everywhere but reduced to a dull, constant ache. Blonde hair skirts her peripheral. An emotionally overwrought Kara sits hugging knees drawn up to her chest on the floor against the desk.
The ache in Lena’s bones doesn’t compare to the one reignited in her heart.
“Hey,” She breathes out, inching her hand out from under neatly tucked blankets.
Kara’s eyes snap to hers. “Hey, hi, how are you feeling?” In one fluid motion, she springs up and sits at Lena’s side, one hand quick to twine with the offered, the other coming to brush along a bandaged forehead. And there, exactly what Lena predicted, blue eyes wide and worried once more.
Lena breathes out heavily. “Like shit.”
“That's probably a pretty accurate answer,” Kara agrees, the smile on her face not quite able to quell how unsteady her gaze grows. “I’m so sorry, Lena.”
Lena squeezes her hand. “You did great.”
Kara shakes her head, sad smile still rooted to her lips as her head turns down. “I’m also pretty sure you’re going to need to visit an ankle surgeon along with that nutritionist once we’re back.”
Lena hates how small and grieved she sounds. “You did great,” She tells her again, pulling that unsure hand to her lips and pressing a kiss against cold knuckles. “Thank you.”
A bit of hope leaks into Kara’s discouraged grin. “You’re kind of amazing, have I told you that? I don't know how I could have… How I ever would have… I just really love you.”
Lena’s heart warms, even as a terrible barb of pain rips into her head, whispering hotly; Only because you’re fucking stuck here.
Green eyes squeeze shut, blocking anymore lies.
God, now was not the time.
Kara needs her. She also must think Lena’s in pain again because those same warm lips are now back on hers, silencing any further doubts.
That doesn’t stop other, more pressing thoughts from surfacing.
Kara lets out a sigh at the familiar, inquiring look in Lena’s eyes. “I know you want to ask, so just ask,” she murmurs.
Lena bites her lip. “How bad is it?”
“Not too terrible?” Kara answers, distracted by soaked bandages on Lena’s arm. “Hold on a sec.” She carefully peels away the layer to check on raw burns. They were still angry and red, but the salve she’d made from tundra roots was helping. The swelling was down. Lena would scar but heal. She quickly works to replace bandages with dry, fresh wraps. Lena stares at her, steady and grateful throughout.
“You’re still doing great,” She says as Kara turns attention back to calm eyes.
Kara blushes under the praise. “Maybe all my hobby books aren’t so bad then?”
“Yes, fine,” Lena laughs, light, mindful of bruised ribs and a tender skull. “Thank you Kara, keeper of all the extreme camping wisdom.”
Kara lets out a groan. “We are never, ever going camping.”
Lena grins. “I don't think I've ever loved a sentence more.”
Kara kisses her temple and checks on stitches. “The portal is okay, even the half that fell on you. Rao, Lena. Are you sure you feel okay?”
“Yeah, just really sore and a bit scrambled,” Lena tells her with plain, apparent honesty. There’s still a flash of guilt in blue eyes regardless. “Kara, I’ll be okay, I promise.”
“You’re half-starved and now half broken. That's not okay.”
“You said it yourself, it could have been so much worse. God, you’ve seen me walk away from crazier,” Lena asserts, knowing how true her words actually are. She's survived countless blasts at this point. Way, way too many to count. Maybe she had a superpower too? An inherent ability to survive despite all odds and all reason. Kara doesn't seem convinced despite also being present for most of those events. “Please trust me.”
“I know you, Lena. I know how you push yourself.” Kara’s voice is low and thick with desperation. “You can’t do that anymore.”
Lena pulls her back down, keeps her heated forehead pressed against the cooler, soothing one above. “We’re so close though.”
“Give me two weeks,” Kara pleads. “Two solid, ration-free, lab-free weeks.”
“Please. Please, Lena,” Kara murmurs, kissing her once, and twice again. “Just think of all the massages I'm about to give you.”
Lena doesn’t have to think. Her body practically screams its agreement. She closes her eyes, surrenders to a plea and pause she desperately knows she needs too. “Okay.”
Kara pulls back, eyebrows raised. That had been far, far too easy. She squints down at Lena. “Okay?”
“Yes, Kara. Because as much as I want to believe otherwise you’re right,” Lena says, smiling at the tinge of disbelief and then relief flooding the expression above. “And I also expect massages daily.”
Kara kisses her through a smile. “However many you want.”
“Can you be naked too?”
Kara snorts and rolls her eyes. “I figured that was implied.”
Lena laughs. “I love you.”
“I love you too,” Kara whispers, nuzzling Lena’s nose before pressing a line of kisses across her cheek and jaw. “So, so much.”
She does, Lena affirms to herself. Holding the words and their warmth close at heart. Kara’s deliberately prolonged attention beneath her ear helps, a particularly lengthy drag of her mouth at the curve of her neck has her aching for the lips to sweep further down.
Stitches at her temple tug, harsh and taut with the quicker pump of blood through her veins and the excruciating return of a buried voice.
You can't even get her home.
Lena sinks into the bed.
The voice stays.
She can’t argue against the truth.
Kara feels the pulse under her lips subside, simultaneously pleased to be the cause of the relaxation while also slightly concerned. She’d been aiming for a happy middle ground, a sweet spot of elevated enough to satisfactorily forget pains and relax Lena but also not arouse her too much.
The line was thin with Lena.
She thinks she’s gotten pretty good at finding it these past few months.
This feels different though.
Lena’s hand hasn't even left the bed to tangle in her hair.
Kara breathes in deep against her neck. She knows what thoughts must be consuming the brilliant mind beside her. “Lena, please stop fretting about the portal.”
“I know I promised no lab but, do questions about the lab count?” Lena asks.
Kara plants a firmer kiss right over the dip of her throat. “I’m trying to make you feel better right now, not worse.”
“You definitely are,” Lena purrs, threading an unbandaged hand in blonde hair. “So we’re looking at fuse replacements then?”
The lips against her throat let out another, far shakier breath. “... And part of the core control.”
The spare was in the vehicle garage.
Lena glances down at Kara.
Expansive pupils in blue eyes sharpen to points. “No. Lena, no way.”
“It’s our only option.”
“It’s a death sentence!” Kara exclaims.
Lena groans. “It's not a death sentence, it's just slightly more irradiated than is recommended.”
“Yeah, the same amount of not recommended as a pill of kryptonite and we keep that in the garage for a reason too.”
A low, reverberating sound rumbles in Kara’s throat. She cannot believe, after everything they’ve just endured, that Lena is even considering such a disastrous —deadly— notion. Her heart is flaring with all the fire and all the burning, choked pain of finding her collapsed against a shelf in the lab.
She can’t be responsible for that.
Lena’s well-being above all else.
“No, Lena. I love you too much to let you poison yourself like that,” Kara’s adamancy is as hot and stalwart as the touch of her palm to Lena’s jaw. “We'll find another way.”
“And if there isn't?” Lena asks, quieted beneath piercing blue eyes.
“Please look at yourself,” Kara says, stroking a thumb over warmed skin. “This is what's important right now. Letting you heal. No one is visiting the lab anytime soon and no one is going to the garage either.”
Two weeks, Lena thinks.
She promised Kara two weeks.
Her head throbs again, blistering and sharp. You don’t deserve her.
Kara watches as Lena sucks a breath between clenched teeth and her expression contorts against a pain she cannot ease. Her hands keep steady on feverish cheeks and she blows a gentle, cool lungful of air over Lena’s face and neck. Tense muscles relax along with a deeply furrowed brow. Lena blinks her eyes open, an emotion swims in blue-green that Kara has only ever seen once or twice.
It stills her heart.
Lena only ever looked at her with such profound uncertainty when she was afraid, alone and furious with herself.
When they skirted on the edge of reconciliation. When they weren't speaking.
Really sore and a bit scrambled now sounds like such a lie.
“Hey,” Kara whispers, brushing her fingers over temples and into dark hair. “Talking can be healing too, you know.”
Lena seems mollified by her words, or at least pretends to be as she nods softly. “I know.”
Kara wonders how it seems to be that they’ve somehow taken five steps backward with that response. How, despite Lena’s claims otherwise, this one, terrible accident could cause her to not answer Kara honestly when it came to her feelings. They were past this. Lena is, for someone who stood so bravely in front of a chalkboard displaying her emotions and pulled Kara away from her own maelstrom of doubts, being rather guarded. A word Kara doesn’t want in her vocabulary of Lena anymore. The same way she doesn’t want hurt, alone, broken, and poisoned in it either.
She doesn't know what else to say though.
Lena, with all her resilience and fortitude, appears so torn and tired.
Kara leans down and kisses a bandaged yet creased forehead. “I’m right here.”
Lena’s gaze softens. “Will you at least lay with me?”
All that fire in Kara settles into its usual warm simmer, radiant smile returning with a force. “Always.”
She doesn't lay so much as float inches beside Lena.
Lena tries to tug her down. “You’re hovering.”
“I don’t want to mess up your ankle,” Kara murmurs.
“You put three layers of bubble wrap around it,” Lena says, tugging down again. Kara is giving her a look. A look she knows. “If you say safety first right now Kara, I swear.”
“I love you.” Kara lowers down, not quite against her, but near enough that the heat of her floods across every point of Lena’s skin. Her hands brush back through dark hair, nose finds its favorite spot against a wild, strong pulse. “I love you, I love you, I love you.”
The earlier doubts in Lena get buried deep, pushed away with whispered words and imprints of soft, warm lips over broken and bruised skin.
The first week is the hardest. Lena limps around in a homemade splint entrenched in way too much bubble wrap, assisted by a pair of old wooden crutches. She steers clear of the lab but carries her trusted notebook around like an extension of her arm. They watch Back to the Future for what feels like the hundredth time while Kara massages her foot and head. Dotes on her, really, Lena thinks.
Kara is never too far from her side.
Every morning she wakes to a tray of breakfast and hot coffee in bed.
There’s a bathtub in place of broken sinks in the restroom. The water always perfectly heated by the time Lena hobbles in for her morning routine.
A surplus of films, books, and relics unearthed from the vault arrive to keep her well entertained.
Bandages are checked and changed regularly, accompanied by even more careful kisses against healing skin.
No sex though, the activity as banned throughout the station as it was the lab.
“The books advise no strenuous activities, Lena.”
Kara takes the guidance very seriously. Lena tries very hard to respect it.
She carries Lena back to their bedroom every night. Settles her down into clean sheets, carefully arranged pillows, and even more gentle checks of damaged and healing skin.
Kara floats beside her as long as she can, until sleep starts to weigh upon her and all the troubles and fears drag her down to the bed. Lena keeps awake for hours, nestled against Kara as she works through pages of revised core plans, the function controller in the garage as present in her mind as it is just outside of her reach.
They will need it, Lena knows.
It’s as inevitable a certainty as the unwanted voice in her head these days.
She hasn’t taken Kara up on her offer to talk. They’ve hardly broached her thoughts at all. Not during silent soaks in a tub, quiet evenings cuddled on the sofa, or the few occasions Kara allowed her to help in the garden.
Pruning leaves could hardly qualify as strenuous.
The restraint with which she keeps thoughts held back though certainly would.
Kara never fails to ask when she notices Lena pinching her fingers between her brows. Never fails to offer the chance to talk again.
Lena’s learned to hug her instead. The feel of arms around her back and a sigh against her head fulfills enough.
She's still so tired and sore.
Especially once night hours fall in the station and her body aches for rest the way it aches for a cleared mind.
On their ninth night of this new routine, Kara can’t ignore the way Lena is smirking at her as she carries her back to their bedroom. “You’re enjoying this way too much,” Lena says in response to the eyebrow raised curiously over at her.
“Confession?” Kara whispers, tucking her closer against her chest. Lena can feel the smile on the lips brushing her ear. “I kind of always love when I get to carry you.”
Her sore and tired body wants so much more than the kiss against her cheek as she’s placed on their bed. Kara gives her usual apologetic look as she gathers nightclothes and pillows.
Dressed, bandages refreshed, and ankle set up on its usual pillow mound, Kara turns off the lights, leaving a sliver of the blackout curtains undone. Summer was creeping on them fast, and Lena preferred a bit of light. Kara doesn't like to think of the reason why, but it seemed to haunt her thoughts every time her gaze darted to the glow spilling in beneath the shade.
She left Lena alone in the dark for hours during the storm.
Even so, of course she doesn't want to be in that sort of darkness ever again.
Kara feels responsible nonetheless.
She's been leaving lights dimmed all over the station since that night.
Wonders how Lena will feel once they’re back in a city full of them. Will she sleep better? Kara’s apartment never seemed to ever darken, would she prefer her bed over the penthouse?
Her face warms, picturing Lena sprawled beside her back in her loft.
The first thing she wants to do is make her dinner and take her to bed.
Kara drifts over to her now, smiling wistfully as she reclines against the wall. “What are you going to do first once we get home?”
“I thought my hot shower and reintroduction to shampoo and conditioner answer was pretty clear,” Lena chuckles and fixes Kara with a tempting, no, too tempting stare. “You’re welcome to join of course.”
“Yes, okay, after that,” Kara laughs with a roll of her eyes and light blush on her cheeks.
Lena’s devilish smirk is back in force. “Install red sun lamps.”
“Other than sex with me,” Kara says, groaning despite the smile on her face. She pokes Lena’s stomach. “Geez, one-track mind much Miss Luthor?”
“Oh, Kara,” Lena hums, gaze rooted on amused blue eyes and ever so pleased by the way the blue slowly gives into black. “All tracks of my mind are equally devoted to thoughts of fucking you.”
The black nearly swallows what's left in a blink.
Kara almost whimpers. Almost. She does choke and sputter, “Lena! No strenuous activity for another week, remember?”
“I haven’t moved an inch,” Lena whispers, still so very brash and so very close. “Those are your hands under my shirt, Miss Danvers.”
Kara rips her hands away, blushing fiercely. “Ahh! Okay! Floating now.”
“We both know you’ll end up right back here the minute you fall asleep.”
Ugh. The arrogance.
She wishes it didn't destabilize her so thoroughly.
Her body, thoroughly, disagrees.
She’s pretty much still pressed to Lena’s side despite best —futile— efforts. Her only solace is an ankle resting safely down the bed. Lena can’t turn to her side the way Kara can see her wanting to.
There's another want in dark green eyes. One that pinches a brow and has Lena pulling lips between her teeth.
Kara reaches over, brushing hair back behind Lena’s ear. She can share first. Be the open one. “I've been worried about you.”
“I know,” Lena sighs, turning her head more comfortably against the pillow. “That’s the first thing I want to do when we’re home; give you peace again.”
Kara settles down beside her. “You already do.”
“Please don’t lie to me.”
“You do, Lena,” Kara assures her, voice low and filled with all the hopes for thoughts finally, finally being shared. “This, how I feel right now, this doesn’t change the root of my feelings for you. I wake up every day so grateful you’re here and still want to be with me even when all I do is annoy you with worries.”
Lena’s eyes shine as she gives Kara half a smile. “You don’t annoy me.”
“I annoy you a little, let’s be real,” Kara chuckles softly. “And that’s an objective truth.”
A bandaged hand slides over Kara’s neck. “I adore you,” Lena whispers fiercely. “And yes, even when you objectively annoy me a tiny bit.”
Kara closes her eyes and rests her forehead with Lena’s. “I want to bring you peace too.”
“You do. God, Kara. Every day,” Lena tells her, pulling back so blue eyes open for her. Kara’s gaze is muddled with her usual worry but also brimming with all the devotion that prickles the hair on Lena’s neck and stirs a voice in her head. A louder one. An honest yet scared and thoroughly committed one. “Confession? I’m so afraid we’ll get home and this won’t be enough for you.”
“Enough what?” Kara asks, eyes wide with confusion and hurt. Lena lets out a breath, her own eyes closing only for Kara’s hand against her cheek urging them back open again. “No, Lena… do you think I’m only with you because there’s no one else here?”
“I’m never anyone’s first choice,” Lena admits quietly. Heart heavy. “And it took being stuck here with me for months before you ev—”
Lips are on hers, stealing any more destructive words away. Kara draws her in, draws her head and shoulders up from the bed and into her arms. Lena can feel her hovering above, a knee sometimes brushing against her thigh. Kara kisses her with the same intense impulse Lena had all those weeks ago in the lab. With all the apologies she's not spoken but carried in every look. With every breathless bit of her.
“I love you. You’re my first choice. My always choice,” Kara tells her, ardent and unyielding. “You are more than enough, Lena. You’re everything.”
Lena breathes hard, but manages through a shaky smile, “Okay, maybe you do deserve that Pulitzer.”
“No, no deflecting,” Kara says, still hovering above and still ever so impassioned. “I want to know why you think you don't deserve to be loved by me.”
Lena sinks back into the pillow. “Kara…”
“I'll make it easier.” Kara’s voice grows softer. “Yes or no. Do you believe you deserve to be with me?”
Lena gazes up at her for a long beat. Kara’s chest rises and falls the same way Lena’s does, charged, itching to pull a body close but craving answers instead. Lena lets out a long, steadying breath against the pulse running wild in her veins. “I've been in love with you for so long I don't even know anymore.”
“Then how about this,” Kara whispers, lowering down until every inch of her feels like a weightless, electrified blanket across Lena’s heated skin. “Am I worth the chance?”
Lena moans, cornered. “That is so unfair.”
Kara grins, assured. “Too bad, please answer.”
Both of Lena’s hands find a home on the jaw above. “Of course you’re worth it.”
Kara’s grin splits broad and bright. “I can't wait to be home with you.”
Lena laughs, dragging her hands down shoulders and across a strong back. “The plagiarism today. Prolific.”
“And those are definitely your hands under my shirt this time.”
“This is a gentle, reciprocal massage.”
“Uh-huh, nice try,” Kara smirks, plucking the hands from her skin, nestling them instead, twined with her own, in the small space between their chests.“I promise to be right here when we get home. For however long you want me.”
Lena’s heart thumps hard at the admission. “I’ve loved you for years, Kara. I’m pretty sure that's not changing anytime soon.”
“Good. Because I want to love you for years too,” Kara whispers and settles back to the bed at Lena’s side. “Now come here, I’m going to cuddle you so thoroughly you’re going to be drowning in love all night.”
Lena rolls her eyes as Kara scoots close and folds Lena into her arms. “And you think my Hallmark movie lapses are bad?”
“Oh, they are prolifically bad. But mine totally just worked on you. You’re all relaxed.”
“That’s all you.”
Kara breathes into her ear. “Christmas in July. Lonely big city girl inherits a farm. There’s only one bed in this whole inn.”
“Oh my god, please stop,” Lena groans, squirming. Entirely bothered in all manner of delicious, wonderful ways.
“You love this,” Kara whispers, squeezing her tight. “I’m taking that squeak as a huge yes by the way.”
Lena snuggles close.
She adores her.
Kara is a welcome, needed fixture at Lena’s side for the rest of her recovery.
The two weeks quickly lapse into three. Lena’s recuperation is slow but helped by the extra portions of food Kara ensures she eats. The weight doesn't quite stick to her, all calories seeming to disappear into fading bruises, mending bones and the energy to keep her mind constantly churning.
They sit on the sofa together late one day at the start of June. Lena lays reclined against an armrest as Kara massages a healing foot, helping Lena through some simple rotation and pressure exercises.
An old Disney film rolls on the screen, and despite the low volume Kara hums along to the song regardless.
Lena feels Kara shift fingers to her calf and a palm to the sole of her foot. “Heel presses, ten reps, five seconds each.”
“Ugh, five?” Lena grumbles. Yesterday it had only been three seconds and that had left her a sweaty gross mess.
Kara gives her a confident, encouraging grin. “You did awesome yesterday.” She pats Lena’s toes. “You got this.”
She ends up another even sweatier, grosser mess.
Kara drifts over to give her a kiss that Lens feels does not equate to her suffering in the slightest.
But Kara stares at her, touched and ever so proud. Lena’s heart warms beneath the gaze.
“Let me grab your band for thigh work.”
Lena nods, she doesn't mind the thigh exercises in the slightest. Especially as Kara leaves them for the end meaning Lena’s ankle is soon to be rewrapped in its splint and treated to a delightful ice bath courtesy of her girlfriends’ lungs.
There was the added benefit of a head massage after as well.
Which is precisely where Lena finds herself some minutes later, ankle blissfully numb on a pillow, head in Kara’s warm lap as fingers gently run along her scalp.
“Let me know if it’s too much pressure,” Kara murmurs.
It’s perfect, as always.
The not-perfect portion lies beneath her skull.
Lena doesn't know how to convince Kara the parts she needs are in the vehicle garage.
The one Kara conveniently moved a mile away from the station to stop Lena from doing what she is absolutely considering.
“We need the function controller from CERN,” Lena says after a long stretch of internal arguments. The hands in her hair still, blue eyes narrowed beneath a pair of slipping glasses. “I know what you're going to say Kara, but please, hear me out.”
Kara lets out a tired breath, pushing her glasses back onto her nose. “I’m listening.”
Lena takes one of her hands. “Yes, it's not within the contamination range we agreed to.”
“It's ten times more,” Kara says, squeezing back.
“Sorry,” Kara sighs despite eyes flooded with protest. “No more interruptions, I swear.”
“It's not ideal, but without it, we’re not getting home. I can hold off on install for a few weeks but I can’t build into our next phase without it in place,” Lena explains, hoping blue eyes begin to bend but resigned as they remain staunchly dark and opposed. “I know what I’m asking you to do goes against literally every promise and bone in your body but I wouldn't be asking if there was any other way… Please let me accept this risk.”
“Lena,” Kara’s voice cracks.
Lena reaches a hand up to Kara’s cheek. “If this works we could be home by August.”
Less than three months, Kara thinks, heart soaring and crumbling all at once.
“A-and if not?” She asks, already dreading Lena’s response.
“Two, maybe three years…”
Kara’s heart freezes entirely. All of her stills.
Kara’s eyes close at the soft touch on her face. “Guess I really better learn to cut your hair then.”
Old Lena would have rolled her eyes, would have dismissed her claims with a wave of her hand.
The version of her lying on a sofa with her head in the lap of the woman she loves, a terrified and aggrieved woman, begs her to reconsider.
“No, Kara, we cannot stay here another three years. We’ve barely survived one.”
“Can I have three days?” Kara asks, desperate. “If I can’t find you another one then … then I’ll install it myself.”
“And if not you’re going to take every precaution.”
“Safety first, yes, I know.”
“I’m bubble wrapping you in lead.”
“Three months, that’s all. Then we’re home and I can have a grand time enduring DEO sanctioned radiation poisoning therapy.”
Kara swears to herself she will find Lena another one. It was simply not a choice.
She fails in her mission.
After three days, as promised, Kara brings the CERN controller inside the lab and installs it with a heavy dose of humility and an even heavier heart.
Lena hugs her from behind after, pouring what's left of her strength into a hold Kara feels as though she's just set an expiration on.
Kara watches Lena sleep a week later. Unlike before she has no qualms with the way her fingers easily reach out and brush along a sharp cheek. Trace over the ridged edge of a fresh and still very pink scar at her temple from stitches she only just removed weeks prior.
Kara touches Lena with all the care, concern, and hope for her to stay just like this. She can manage this level of broken. She cannot stomach anymore.
Home, she thinks to herself. In months they’ll be home and Lena will get true, real care and finally be herself.
They’ve made it this far together. Soon they’ll be home together. They’ll have coffee dates, dinner dates, all sorts of dates, ones that spark her desires and fill her with joy and end with Lena in a warm bed against her.
Just a few months.
Two pages, if that on her calendar.
Lena has not stopped working since they’ve re-entered the lab.
The Geiger counter has also not stopped clicking when Kara checks.
Lena turns it off every time. Hugs her. Promises everything will be okay.
Kara can't help but worry.
She's never been more terrified of going home.
She doesn't know how much of Lena will even be left when they make it.
Lena knows Kara worries after her. It's as much a part of her as the blue of her eyes and strength in her arms. Things Lena loves about her and so accepts this within the fold of that love too.
She sees the way Kara struggles to mark her calendar every morning, how she’s abandoned check-ins in favor of helping in the lab.
How she desperately wants them home so Lena doesn't have to hide the extra hair that falls in the shower or the way her skin bruises sometimes under Kara’s touch.
Lena fights against time and sleep, drinking coffee to revive tired muscles under paling skin.
“We’re almost there,” she whispers to Kara every night.
Lena holds her, tries not to let the tears that spill from blue eyes pain her more than they already do.
She adds them to the things she loves about her instead.
The list was getting disproportionately long.
Kara watches the woman she loves deteriorate before her eyes. There’s nothing to be done aside from work harder, build faster, do anything and everything to cross less days off her calendar instead of more.
It never feels like she's done enough.
She just wants —needs— Lena home.
The portal is completed approximately one year, three days, and ten hours after their arrival in the bunker. Twenty days ahead of schedule.
Lena has lost thirty pounds, most of her strength, and all of her heart.
Kara has gained everything, cherishes a soul, and given more.
Lena loads the Kryptonite pill into the chamber, securing the containment lid tight. Kara stands at the controls, a bright, full smile plastered on her face at the readings. Lena joins her, slips an arm around her lower back, and leans into the one person who's kept her going all this time. The one she loves. The one she can’t wait to pull through a portal with her.
They’re going home.
“Ready?” Kara asks, holding her close.
Lena manages a nod into her neck.
Together, they power on a year’s worth of work.
And watch a year's worth of pain resurface at the readout on the screen.
“No,” Lena chokes.
She’d promised both of them would make it home. Both.
“Lena,” Kara’s voice is even, calm. Far too calm for someone who also knows what those numbers mean.
There’s a delicate, soft wistfulness filling blue eyes and curling at Kara’s lips.
“No. No!” Lena shakes her head, turning quickly back to controls, desperate to rectify something she must have overlooked. They can fix this together. She’ll be damned if only one of them makes it back. “We just need—”
Kara stills frantic hands, drawing Lena back into her arms.
“There’s one rule missing from our list that I’ve been following since day one,” She tells her, pulling away just enough to cup Lena’s face against firm palms. “Your well-being above all else.”
Lena shakes her head, the sting of tears burning at her eyes.
Kara kisses her while unclipping her cape from over her broad, relaxed shoulders. She wraps it warmly around Lena’s neck. “There’s a tracker in the cape. The second you’re back they’ll know where to find you. Tell Alex I love her and I’ll see her soon.”
“I love you too. More than anything. I know you’ll bring me home soon. I know it because I believe in you.” Kara kisses her again, harder, not a goodbye. She throws open the bridge, blue-green light flooding the room. “National City. Ten AM. Every day.”
Lena reaches for her, but Kara —smiling, strong, honest, and selfless— has already pushed her through.
One more to go, folks. See ya in the home stretch next Sunday! 🥰
Chapter 10: Promises of Home
We’ve made it to the end my friends. All 13.8k plus words of it. Roughly an hour of reading! This has been an absolute joy to write, as was interacting with you all in the comments! Thank you so much for sticking with me for the past 2 months. Hope this counts as a gift in honor of Miss Luthor's birthday. ❤️
As a warning, well, let’s say we revisit a certain drawing. Wink wink. I’ve also spoiled everything with that, haven’t I? Also, not sorry. Surprise, happy ending ahead.
Heh. Hope you all enjoy. 🥰
(See the end of the chapter for more notes.)
Lena stumbles back into a warm room, arms still stretched toward a swirling, blue-green light that vanishes with a sharp crack of air.
Unlike before, her hand isn't clutched around a blue-clad wrist.
Unlike a year ago, Kara is gone.
All the sounds, sights, feel of her, left behind in a blink.
Remnants remain. The echo of her kiss on parted lips, the warmth of her touch fading fast on Lena’s cheeks. Her promises and hopes reverberate in Lena's ears... the words sink into her heart and her chest rips with a devastation so fierce it steals her breath and has her reaching for the nearby desk. Stability. For something to hold her up when the strong arms that had been let go.
And Lena had let her…
Because Kara was right.
Staying wasn’t an option. Not when Lena knows how to bring her home.
The cape is a welcome weight over her shoulders, reminding her help will arrive soon.
For now, she’s alone in the meteorology lab of their Earth’s Arctic Station.
The one both of them should be standing in.
God. She still feels the piercing stab of failure deep in her chest. Months and months of work… all so Kara would end up alone.
“Uhh,” A throat clears, astonished, at Lena’s back.
It seems she wasn't alone.
Lena’s finally able to hear more than just the pounding of her heart in her ears. An old Cutting Crew song plays from the Bluetooth speaker on the cluttered, modern, radar console.
She turns to find a grey-haired, bearded man in the room with her. Coffee adorns the front of his shirt rather than the empty mug in his hand. His eyes are squinted at her, confused and curious and cautious.
“Is that… is that my coat?” He asks, eyes round, large, and fixed to the name etched on Lena’s trusted red arctic jacket.
She almost laughs at the absurdity.
Her life is, without a doubt, a tragic comedy.
Her heart races, a sob catching in her throat. She can’t help herself. A grin breaks across her face as she pulls the stunned man into a hug. “Dr. Ennis, hi.”
“You…” He stammers as Lena pulls back, eyes sweeping over her, recognition hitting with a gasp. The blood drains from his face with the same speed his mug drops to the floor. “You're that Luthor woman.”
Lena feels a chill prickle down her spine.
The way he’s looking at her… that quiver in his voice…
Lena turns, concerns washing away on a flood of warm relief that brings a smile back to her lips and fresh tears to her eyes. “Alex, thank god, I–”
Her words die with a jolt.
Alex’s welcome is a deep scowl paired with a shot from an equally powerful taser.
Lena wakes nursing a raw burn on her chest, in a bright room of what she can only assume is one of the DEOs med suites. She has never seen this one before. It’s stark. Hardly a blip of machinery or screens in sight.
She squints, temple throbbing as she inspects an IV drip running from her arm and into the wall. A clear, shimmering fluid slowly fills her veins.
Her arm feels heavy. Specifically her wrist.
Someone has shackled her.
And done so determinedly. Both her wrists are bound and tethered with hardly a foot of cable slack to the bed.
And yep, that clinking sound near her feet assures there are two more on her ankles.
Lena groans, staring up into headache-inducing lights.
Voices carry in, angry and muffled from just outside the glass door. Alex stands, arms crossed, talking to someone just out of Lena’s limited sight. Lena’s frustration mutes some as she takes Alex in. Her hair has gotten longer, though lost most of its shine and volume. She looks haggard, Lena thinks. Makeup not quite able to hide the dark patches under tired eyes.
Lena can vaguely hear the other voice address Alex before heavy steps wander off.
So Alex had gotten a nice promotion while they were stranded on a dead, unreachable Earth.
She’d be happy for her. If Alex hadn’t also shot her and then strapped her to this bed.
Alex pulls a tablet from just outside the door and enters the room. Her eyes stay fastened to the screen with the same meticulous scrutiny that Lena feels she likely fastened her as well.
God, her back hurts. Everything hurts.
Alex never once looks up.
The tablet, of course, is handled with all the gentle care Lena lacks.
Lena clears her dry throat, tries to muster as much confidence and composure to her voice. “Are the restraints really necessary?” The stress of the situation leaks in regardless.
Alex lets out an impatient huff as she taps away on the screen. “You’re a wanted criminal, so yes, they really are.”
Well… this return was off to a terrific start.
Lena’s jaw clenches. “Criminal?”
“You killed your brother,” Alex replies, tone still tight and cold. Eyes still glued to a tablet and refusing to meet the wide, surprised ones on the bed.
Had she then?
Lex was gone…
Where she had expected elation and relief she only finds a numb, empty cavity. She’d done it. Killed him. The very thing she’d been hoping for all this time…
It still hurts.
Alex does finally glance up to her at the prolonged bout of silence. “Very Luthor of you to be unfazed about that.”
Her reaction is hers to own alone. Privately. Not under an audience of Director Danvers' vindictive indifference and poorly misdirected loss.
Lex.... he… he’d been a wonderful brother. Until he wasn’t.
Alex, meanwhile, Lena knows is not making Kara at all proud right now.
Lena scoffs. She’s done with Alex’s callousness. The burn on her chest flares as a reminder. “Don’t act like his death didn't do you a service, Director Danvers, is it?”
Dark eyes narrow at her from the foot of the bed. Lena doesn’t dare look away. She may be a beaten, broken, grieving version of herself bound on a bed but she is still very much herself where it counts. She glares right back at Alex Danvers, challenging her to assert otherwise.
Alex bristles beneath the glare; Lena can see she’s clearly hurting, turning all that pain into spiteful words and even more spiteful treatment.
Lean knows why the screens are missing from the room.
The distrust is as plain as the scowl working its way back onto Alex’s face.
Alex turns her provoked attention back to the tablet. “You need surgery for that ankle.”
“Nice of you to strap it so tightly for me then,” Lena quips. “Very compassionate standards at the DEO these days.”
A truly terrible thing to have said.
Alex snaps. She marches right around the bed and has Lena’s throat in her bruising grip before Lena can so much as breathe a word in protest. The distrust in her gaze is still there, magnified tenfold as she leans closer, now consumed by rage and god, such utter disdain. “I know what you’re truly capable of and unlike my sister; I don’t fuck around with second chances.”
Only one thought springs to Lena’s oxygen-starved mind.
Kara above all else.
Lena tries to twist away and pull space between the hand and her throat but Alex’s grasp is unyielding so she chokes out, “She wanted me... to tell you she—”
“NO!” Alex rips her hand away and Lena coughs, gulping air back into empty lungs. “You don’t get to tell me anything about her. Not after what you've done.”
“She’s alive, Alex,” Lena says, trying to sit up. Her muscles ache at the effort, sending her back to the bed. Her head swims, thoughts turning to shimmering liquid but more so forcing coherent words to her suddenly heavy tongue. “Please listen to me.”
She wants to shout at Alex to stop pumping her full of drugs.
To talk to her.
Lena takes in long breaths, grudgingly relaxing under the strength of the sedative pouring into her blood.
“Like I said,” Alex continues, voice measured once more. She shakes her hair back behind her, tucking it firmly over one ear. “Your ankle needs surgery. We have you sche—”
“Kara first,” Lena grits out.
Alex’s eyes flash up at her. Furious. “It's scheduled for tomorrow morning. You’ll then continue acute radiation exposure therapy.”
Lena fights the pull of sleep. “Kara. First.”
Alex lowers the tablet to the bed, stopping the flow of sedative, one hand finding a firm, defiant home on her hip. “Funny you keep saying that when she's gone because of you.”
“Yes…” Lena breathes out hard, for once agreeing with her. Hoping, even as groggy as she feels, that she might be able to appeal to Alex’s sense. She’s smarter than her resentment. So much smarter. “So help me... bring her back.”
Alex squeezes her eyes shut, shoulders raised and ever so tense beneath her jacket.
Lena’s heart nearly bursts at the hesitation.
“She… she loves you,” Lena tells her, breathless but unwavering. “She wanted you to know that and—”
“No, no. This is exactly the manipulative shit you always do,” Alex hisses out, hands clenched around the bar at the foot of the bed with the same furious intent Lena knows she wants them back around her throat. “I’m done. You disappeared with her for a fucking year and came back alone wrapped in her cape.”
Brown eyes blink back tears. And the way her voice hardened, fortified from a year's worth of pain…
Lena’s heart stills. “You think I planned this.”
Dark eyes narrow, vicious and broken. “No, I think you killed her too.”
The admission should be laughable, but Alex’s resolve is unflinching.
She believes it.
“Kara’s alive and waiting for us to bring her back,” Lena implores, trying to muster every ounce of her love for Kara to manifest in her tone and gaze, anything to have her sister’s eyes turn from steel to understanding and unstrap her from this fucking bed already. “Every day at ten AM, she flies to this city and waits. You’re the one keeping her trapped there, by keeping me here. Is that what you want? Is that fair to her?”
“I want to believe you, I really do. But the one person who gave me the strength to isn't here because of you,” Alex growls, voice finally cracking with the effort of holding back how hotly her anger and loss burns. “And you expect me to believe the word of a Luthor who murdered her own brother?”
Lena sighs, the taser mark over her heart burning hot. “No, but I expect you will because for the past year nothing else has worked and you have nothing else to lose,” She says quietly, quelling Alex’s rage with calm truth. “I'm right, and you know it.”
Lena feels an intoxicating rush of triumph surge through her at the way Alex stands, staring at her with unguarded unease. The words have sunk in. Lena can see the thoughts, the concern, the briefest spark of hope fill untrusting eyes.
Then Alex turns her head down. There’s a twitch and tightening of the muscle along her jaw. “At seven AM they’ll take you in for prep,” She says, picking her tablet back up as she heads for the glass door.
“Alex,” Lena calls for her, apologetic. Her next is a desperate shout. “Alex!”
She gets nothing but a raised, retreating middle finger in response.
The first day alone in the station feels... weird.
Quieter, colder, lifeless.
There’s no heartbeat to follow anymore.
Weird might be a vast understatement.
Kara debates marking the day off on her calendar. It’s as though they’ve reached an entirely new era. A weird and quiet and necessary one. Well, just she, Kara corrects herself. The other half of they is back home. Her heart warms at the thought. She settles on a circle instead.
Today, she thinks. Today Lena brings her home.
Or, you know, anytime in the next couple of weeks. A day seems a bit too presumptuous. Lena needs sleep and food and medical care. Those should come first. Then she can focus on building a portal in a fully stocked lab alongside her friends and pull her through.
Kara almost smiles, knowing Lena has likely forgone sleep and food and medical care in favor of getting to work.
She hopes Alex convinces her otherwise.
So Kara spends her first day alone feeling weird but optimistic. She wakes up in the same small bed that now feels massive without Lena beside her. She touches the empty dent of space, thrilled for her absence but missing it too. In the bathroom, she makes jokes at the sink to only a mirror for an audience. She gives herself a thumbs up, reminds herself this was the only choice, and carries on with her strange, lonely day.
She debates on what album to start her morning with. The new soundtrack to her new, temporary life.
She never once steps foot in the lab.
A half-hour before ten AM she floats high above National City, early but ever so excited for the first day since Lena’s return home. She’s hardly bothered in the slightest when ten AM comes and goes with not so much as a flash of light down below.
She takes her time returning to the station, making bets with herself on how fast her friends must be working with Lena to bring her home.
They’ve ordered five pizzas, at least. Nia insisted on an order of potstickers in solidarity.
Alex is likely a whole gallon of coffee in by now.
Lena, likely two.
Brainy has probably told Lena at least eight times how delighted he is that she’s back.
J’onn reminds them to please sleep.
She can picture it. The bustle in the lab, Lena’s because she’s home and missed it. How quickly every darts around, how Lena stands with one of her trusted tablets in hand orchestrating them all.
Kara can’t wait to see them again.
Knows she’ll be home soon.
Patience, she thinks. She just needs to hold out.
In the meantime, she throws on an old Beach Boys album, forgoes gardening gloves because they suck and there’s no more dirt to worry about tracking into the lab. She tends to her garden, wondering if she should bring some plants home with her….
Immediately reconsiders. You weren’t even allowed to bring fruit on a plane from another country, she doesn’t want to imagine the lecture she’d get from Alex for trying to do the same with plants from another, more contaminated Earth.
The plants shall stay, and she'll continue to care for them as long as she can.
Gardening has become a sort of therapy for her. It provided sustenance and life for Lena and brings Kara a calm sense of peace and joy.
On a bored whim, she tries a leaf of kale.
And spends ten minutes after eating carrots just to rid the bitter nastiness out. She feels like she’s traded one problem for another.
The carrots were just slightly less terrible.
The rest of the week plays out the same. Her new, weird solo routine. Kara watches movies, reads, and moves the Monets back to the vault so some other Alien life can benefit from their discovery and presence someday.
She thinks of Lena every minute of every day.
By the end of her second week alone, Kara is still hopeful. There’s a slight inking of concern taking root in her heart but her trust in Lena keeps it from taking hold.
She knows she won’t be alone for long.
“I just have to wait,” She tells the broccoli patch.
Per usual, the greens offer no solace.
Plus they taste just as bad as the kale.
They keep Lena confined —imprisoned— to a bed for two weeks after the surgery. Her only visitors are the shadow of a nurse she’s never awake to greet but knows must tend to her at night, changing gowns, washing her, giving her some shred of the dignity and humanity her other visitor is lacking in spades.
The other, of course, being the sister of the woman she loves. The first week Alex’s stoic; checks drips, ankle dressings, and charts on her tablet in stony silence. Meals are quickly dropped onto the bed tray with little regard. Not once does she meet Lena’s eyes or frustrated attempts to talk and appeal.
Lena speaks to a wall, hoping some of her words chip away at Alex’s deep animosity.
The second she’s a seething, passive-aggressive wreck.
Lena might have preferred the previous version. This one has no qualms in checking Lena’s ankle with all the care and finesse she treats a punching bag.
Or, you know, the woman she believes murdered her sister.
Lena bites back a cry as Alex gives her ankle another, unnecessary prod along still too fresh stitches before lying —tossing— her foot to rest back in an elevated sling. “Thank you, nurse Ratchet,” Lena says through a wide, exaggerated grimace.
Alex throws her such a look of contempt that Lena almost laughs.
The IV line is checked next. The same shimmering material still feeding through.
“What’s in this cocktail?” Lena asks.
She hardly expects a response.
More a grunt and scowl to be honest.
Alex surprises her today.
“Classified,” Alex growls, jostling the drip bandage with a little too much satisfaction. “Let’s just say you shaved a few years off your life but this is restoring what radiation damage had been done.”
Lena makes a note to thank Brainy when she can.
At least someone was looking out for her… even if he has yet to visit.
Lena wonders if he’s even allowed. Director Danvers has likely secluded her in a far-off basement level where few can find her let alone are given the privilege to access.
She doesn’t even know what time of day it is. Or how long she’d been down here before waking up.
Kara is waiting for her.
She has to try. Alex is at least answering her today.
Lena wets dry lips, “How... how long has it been since you found me?”
The response is clip. “A little over two weeks.”
Lena’s heart rate spikes with relief. Not too long then. They still have time.
She needs Alex though. God, she just needs her to listen. Kara would know how to get through to her sister. Lena hasn't a clue on how to broach Alex’s mountainous distrust and resentment toward her.
She also can't help but think this must have been how Kara felt a year ago. Painstakingly, effortlessly, unraveling all of Lena’s contempt and doubt over months.
Lena doesn't have months to wait.
Kara is waiting. Alone. The very thing she told Lena she fears most.
“Alex,” Lena tries again, her purpose reignited with a heartfelt plea. “Kara’s alive.”
Alex’s scowl is back. Deeper and sharper than ever. “Then why are you here without her?”
Lena represses a long-held groan, knowing it will just irritate Alex more. She tries a calm, measured approach. “I told you the portal could only sustain one biological signature. We didn’t have enough stable power to support another.”
Do not react, Lena tells herself.
Do not waste this moment.
She schools her irritation and stares, unaffected, up at Alex. "You can hate me all you want but that doesn't change the fact that I can bring her home," Lena implores. Her fists now clenched into sheets at her sides. "And if not me, then get me a notebook to write instructions so someone else can."
Alex sneers. "We don't need you."
Oh, fuck this.
“If you’d like to create an interdimensional portal out of nothing but the discarded carcass of a radioactive DEO circa 1989, please, by all means, show me how it’s truly done,” Lena tells her, weeks of finely held composure finally unrestrained. Enough, she thinks. If she can’t appeal to Alex’s reasonable side then she will tear it to pieces. “You have no idea what we went through, how tortured Kara was to be thrown onto an Earth that was so utterly destroyed like that, by my family’s doing no less, so double torture there; enduring yet another Luthor caused tragedy while also having to keep me alive and fed with enough hope to even try to build the damn portal to get us home from that hell in the first place.
“Only, guess what? As if my life isn’t one massive disappointment after another, being stranded in a wasteland isn’t conducive to finding power sources stable enough to sustain two lives so instead only one can come home. And your sister, without hesitation, decides that has to be me. Because I am her only hope of getting home. Even if it means she has to suffer there, alone, while you keep me here on accusations so thin I’m surprised Kara hasn't found her way back just to criticize you for abusing your authority so flagrantly. So yes. Truly convenient of me to strand her there. As if I ever had a choice in the matter or regret it.”
Alex, predictably, has nothing to say.
So Lena says it for her. “I will bring her home, Alex. It's up to you how fast that happens.”
Alex remains silent.
But Lena’s confined to a cell after that.
By the end of her first month alone, Kara suspects something may be amiss at home.
She's not worried.
Okay, she's a little worried.
During their first couple weeks of portal planning, when frustrations were high and their friendship as fragile as Lena’s moods, Lena —on particularly bad days— would always grumble about how easy a portal would have been for her to build back home.
“A week tops,” She’d mutter while ferociously attacking the chalkboard with a dozen different ideas all at once.
Kara was careful to keep her distance, and also her mouth shut.
Sometimes Lena needed to vent her grievances and the best thing Kara learned in those early days was to just listen and give her the space to do so.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the difficulties were aired to her. Given time, they were shared.
She misses being able to hold Lena and whisper that things would be all right. To be patient. To trust in herself.
Kara hopes Lena knows just how much she believes in her.
These days, it feels that’s all that's keeping Kara going at all.
Her days in the station feel longer. She's forgotten to recharge her hair in the nuclear core twice. Her panic as the lights and heat cut out was always short-lived. There wasn't a human here anymore...
Just plants and a dark lab she has still yet to step foot inside of.
To do so would be to admit something she is not ready to face.
So she keeps her distance and sticks to her weird, lonely, and now extra arduous routine. Lena’s things are still everywhere, her presence as felt as it is missed and desperately sought. Her notebook still rests on their nightstand. A pile of her laundry untouched near the window of their room. Their pillows and sheets have lost her scent entirely. If Kara brings one of Lena’s sweaters to bed with her it's merely for comfort.
Her dreams are the only time she's able to see her face and hear her voice.
She sleeps a lot more.
Lena is home and everything is fine.
It's hardly a mantra that gives her any sense of reassurance. But she’s also gotten very good at avoiding things that might upset her.
The power dips out again in the middle of the night. Kara rolls out from bed, hand brushing the empty space as always, heart as heavy as her feet. She walks out to the power station under the bright light of perpetual day above ever-greyer skies.
Somewhere in National City, she tells herself, Lena is warm and fed and working to bring her home.
She is home and everything’s fine.
Kara recharges her hair with a lazy blast from heated eyes.
At the very least, she hopes they’re treating Lena well.
Lena’s left alone for another week. The only things she gains are another five pounds and a thousand times as much frustration with the eldest Danvers.
The radiation therapy continues, now attached to a bag on an IV pole she has to drag around with her in the cell.
An extra fun complication when all she's able to accomplish in terms of movement is a pained shuffle of feet against the one crutch she's been provided.
At least she has range now, she supposes.
There are still marks healing on her wrists from the cuffs.
She finally meets her nurse. A quiet, subdued J’onn who sneaks her newspapers and journals from the past year. He too has trouble meeting her eyes, never once answers her questions or even acknowledges her hello’s. It pains her so much more than Alex’s treatment because his is rooted in disappointment and such gut-wrenching sadness.
Lena doesn't ever stop trying.
Eventually, J’onn stops showing up.
Lena has a feeling Alex is responsible. At this point, she can hardly even blame her.
Because Alex is right.
The papers confirm it.
She is a criminal. A wanted, hated felon responsible for Supergirl's disappearance, the dire coma state of Kara Danvers, and the murder of her brother. Not to mention the now-deposed CEO of a company turned over to a divisive board and the possessor of a reputation as ruined as her finances.
If she could just get someone to listen and let her bring Kara home.
Not one of the superfriends comes to see her.
She lays on a stiff mattress pad, running Kara’s physical therapy exercises on her ankle. The tears in her eyes a mix of suffering. Part effort, part sorrow.
All for the one person she wants and laments not being able to do more for.
So she does this. She works through the pain, knowing Kara would worry for her recovery otherwise. She eats all her meals, takes all the medication and drip therapies provided. Even greets a surly Alex every day with a smile.
She can't keep her here forever.
They are two stubbornly fixed forces that desperately want the same thing. Lena’s more than willing to bend to see it come true.
Kara first, she reminds herself daily.
After two weeks of this Alex finally cracks.
Lena tries not to look too smug.
Alex drops her lunch off, eyes darting over Lena’s face. “You’re finally looking more yourself.”
Lena has a litany of amenable responses at the ready.
Thanks to you.
Couldn't have done it without your help.
And I’m especially grateful to you, Director.
Yet despite those and dozens more she somehow only manages a stilted, affected, “So now you’re talking to me?”
Her social skills have languished.
Maybe Alex could shock some sense back into her. As an added benefit, she might actually smile for once.
Alex crosses her arms instead, and predictably, scowls more. “I could just go.”
Lena feels her one chance slipping fast, her stomach twists to jagged knots at the immediate, impending failure. She presses a hand to the glass wall separating them. “No please, I… Please stay.”
Alex’s eyes narrow, uncertainties revived. “The Lena Luthor I know doesn't beg.”
“I’m not above begging if it means Kara gets help,” Lena tells her softly. “Every day you keep me in this cell is one day more she suffers there. Is that what you want?”
The sigh Alex lets out isn’t caught by the mic, but Lena sees and feels it in the lower set of her shoulders. “You know I don't.”
“Then, please Alex, I’m begging you,” Lena pleads with every ounce of faith and hope she has left to give. “Please let me bring her home.”
“So you can end her life the same way you ended your brothers?” Alex asks, her voice for once filled with all that pain and longing for her missing sister she’s been too stubborn to let show.
Lena waits until brown eyes find hers and gives Alex a look of utmost understanding, her own smile as shaky as her whisper, “So we can both have the person we love back.”
“You loved him too,” Alex says, brow lowering. “But guess that didn't matter in the end.”
Lena breathes deep. “I killed him so he wouldn’t kill her.”
“Sure,” Alex mutters, arms tightening over her chest once more.
Lena feels the gesture cements it.
Alex will never hear her.
“Nothing I say will convince you, will it?” She asks quietly, staring at Alex carefully.
Alex stares with a barely contained temper right back. “You came back alone, wrapped in her fucking cape. You’ve done enough damage.”
“I thought so,” Lena nods as she takes a seat on her bed. “I give consent.”
Alex’s expression pinches, confused. “For what?”
“For J’onn or whoever to go in my memories. See for yourselves.”
Brown eyes widen and dart quickly between Lena’s own. Lena merely sits, waiting. Patient.
“You're serious?” Alex spits out.
Another nod. “Though he might want to censor some parts,” Lena says, smiling up at a still shocked and skeptical Alex. “I wasn't lying about loving her.”
That confession has Alex taking a step forward. “You are serious.”
Lena stands, barely feeling the pain in her leg as she moves across the small space of her cell and presses her hand in promise back on the glass. “Please, go through whatever you have to but afterward, please give me the space to build what I need to bring her back to us.”
Alex’s eyes fall close. “If you… I’m trusting that you—”
Finally, finally, finally.
“I’ll bring her home,” Lena tells her. “Alex, I swear I will.”
Lena can see tears starting to spill from the corners of Alex’s eyes. Even as she shakes her head and leaves the room.
The weird feeling is long gone, replaced by a despondency that keeps Kara in their —her— bed more hours of the day than not.
She languishes in silence, the bright grey light a constant reminder of what’s lost.
Lena’s sweaters don’t smell like Lena anymore. Kara can hardly stomach thoughts of what might have happened to her back home.
She feels such overwhelming guilt for pushing her through the portal.
She never should have let her go.
This is my fault, she thinks.
She deserves to be alone.
National City awaits like always when she checks in, right on time. A storm even tries to pluck her from the sky. She holds fast, unmoving, eyes never once straying from the ruined city below.
Nothing flashes. Not once.
She enters the dark commissary after days away to find the garden lights are off.
It's her birthday.
And her plants have all died.
The door opens exactly one month and two weeks after Lena was first thrown inside. One hour after her memories were streamed live to an audience of two. Alex stands there stiffly, J’onn to her side. He’s the only one that can meet her eyes and offers her a small apologetic smile.
“Whatever you need to bring her home,” Alex says finally, holding out one of Lena’s trusted tablets. “The DEO is at your disposal.”
If Kara were here she'd hug her sister. So Lena surprises even herself by doing exactly that.
Alex clings to her, trembling. “Please.”
“Two weeks,” Lena promises, squeezing her tight.
J’onn helps her to an empty lab on an upper floor afterward. Assures everything she needs will be in place within a few days. They’d been using Brainy’s lab for the most part.
“He thought you might want a clean start,” J’onn says.
Lena smiles. Two things she owes him thanks for then.
“Where is he?” She asks.
“Neutralizing a threat downtown with the rest of the team.”
“But you stayed.”
J’onn gives her another small, knowing grin. “Kara first.”
She hugs him too.
“Lena, I’m…” He hesitates at the door, scratching a spot on his chest. There's a grieved knot in his brow as he looks up at her. “I’m sorry, for not doing more sooner.”
As if he could, Lena thinks.
Alex’s absence is as pronounced as the echo of their hushed voices in the hollow space they stand in.
Lena touches J’onn’s arm. “Let’s bring her home then.”
He escorts her out and into the dark-tinted car that takes her to a safe house for the night.
She sleeps just as terribly in a bed far more comfortable than any she's slept in over the past year.
Two weeks, she reminds herself. In two weeks she’ll have Kara back and sleep soundly again.
Or as soundly as she can with her life still in shambles. Despite J’onn’s promise to clear her name, Lena knows it will be months before she's allowed to step foot in her office again, let alone regain control of her finances and be able to show her face outside without half the world throwing insults and hating her guts.
And her brother... How do you even begin to mourn for something you wanted?
The thoughts and questions hardly unnerve her.
Getting Kara back is her only concern.
She's surprised when Kelly shows up the next morning, offering to help her with the trivial.
Together they clear out her dusty apartment. The busy work gives her something to focus on while the DEO collects her equipment.
It also dredges up memories just as easily. The watch Kara gave her is still on her kitchen counter. The one she’d swapped for the smartwatch after their falling out. It hasn't touched her wrist in almost a year and a half.
God, has it really been so long?
That one choice changed everything.
“Painful or helpful?” Kelly asks, folding up the dust cover that had been thrown over Lena’s sofa.
Lena clears her head and stares up at Kelly with a mix of apologetic confusion. “Sorry, what?”
“Your thoughts,” Kelly explains, tossing the sheet to the growing pile by the kitchen counter. “Are they painful or helpful?”
“If they’re both?” Lena asks slowly, not at all looking forward to Kelly’s response.
Kara was always quoting her.
And as much as Lena rolled her eyes at the time, she knows how much those discerning words actually affected her.
Kelly joins her at the counter, pouring them both another glass of water. She hands one to Lena with a kind smile. “Take a breath, and direct those feelings into the work you’re doing to bring her home.”
Lena lets out a tired sigh as she leans onto an elbow. “Where were you when Alex locked me up?”
“Trying to convince her what she already knew,” Kelly tells her honestly. “That there’s no way you’d ever hurt Kara like that. Not when you both love her and want her home.”
“Is she always such a stubborn ass then?” Lena asks, smiling wryly.
“Over Kara? Oh, Lena, always,” Kelly chuckles, wrapping a warm arm over Lena's shoulders. “Welcome to loving a Danvers. They are a joy and also a fucking bit too much sometimes.”
It’s Lena’s first laugh since returning home.
It also quickly turns to sobs, wishing Kara was here to share it with her.
The watch is cluthed in Lena’s hand as Kelly hugs her, promising to help her in any way she can.
They ready her apartment after a while, and Kelly leaves so Lena can sleep. It's restless, per usual, missing a hovering warm body and occasional brushes of escaped blonde hair against her neck and cheek.
Kara almost doesn’t drag herself from their —her, only her— bed.
Time feels so irrelevant when every day feels like the same, slow torture.
Today she does something different.
She steps foot in the lab.
Outside a light wind brushes over the roof, the sound pierces Kara’s ears as sharply as the pain of expanding fears in her chest. The power core remains haven't been touched, yet she's not surprised the melted mass of metal and tubes looks even worse.
The portal had imploded once Lena was through.
Any hopes Kara had of repowering it to follow her were destroyed in an instant.
At the time she hardly minded. Simply extinguished the toxic flames, showered off all the soot, and vowed to never step foot in the room again. There was no telling what sort of radiation had been unleashed.
She didn't want any of it sticking to her when she was finally able to hug Lena again.
The when burns in her heart.
If now commands.
If she sees Lena again...
The rest of her forlorn heart breaks. Kara sinks to her knees.
A cry works its way out of her throat. Tears finally fill blue eyes. She's not cried all this time and now finds she cannot stop.
Something has happened to Lena. Either at home, somewhere else or…
She chokes, shaking the one, anguishing thought that’s been haunting her from her head.
Not in the implosion. She couldn't have…
The evidence gleams at her from across the room.
Kara tears out through the roof, speeding through clouds and miles and miles of sky to the edge of space where her lungs cry for air and she screams.
The morning after the clean up there's a knock on Lena’s door. Kelly stands on the other side, offers Lena a gentle smile with two coffees in hand.
The gesture sparks a new routine.
Lena rekindles the love of her friends over coffee.
Rebuilds muscle and strength of mind alongside slow walks with J’onn.
Reconnects pieces of her heart on long, needed calls with Sam and Ruby.
Rediscovers what she missed —a new Taylor album? Kara will be ecstatic— and shares new learnings —“Each multiverse has a unique numerical signature, here’s the equation to solve for,”— in her newly stocked lab with Nia and Brainy.
Alex surprises her the most.
Late in the lab one night, a tall, full glass of wine is slid in front of her. Lena looks up from her workstation. Alex Danvers stands, bottle in hand, the same shy, promising smile on her face that Lena’s seen so often on Kara’s.
“I’m sorry for not trusting you sooner,” Alex says, heartfelt, her brow wrinkling with remorse. “I’m just… really sorry about everything.”
Lena kicks out a stool for her. “Your bedside manner could use some serious work.”
Alex sits stiffly, ever so uncomfortable. “I know, I was a total pain in the ass.”
Lena smirks. “I believe Kelly’s exact words to me were that you could sometimes be ‘a fucking bit too much’.”
Alex shakes her head with a laugh. “Yeah, guess that tracks too.”
“I’d have probably acted the same,” Lena admits as Alex finally relaxes and pours herself a glass.
“To being massive, protective assholes when it comes to Kara then?”
Lena chuckles. “Cheers to that and congrats, by the way,” Lena says, eyes darting down to the ring on Alex’s hand.
“Oh, uh, thanks. Yeah.” Alex smiles softly, rolling the ring fondly between her fingers. “Kelly proposed a few months back.”
“Kara is going to be so happy for you.”
“I hope so,” Alex tells her, a bit of pink starting to rise on her cheeks. “You um, I’ve never seen her like that. You really… you make her happy too.”
“Alex,” Lena says with a knowing grin, pouring her some more wine. “We do not have to talk about the things you saw.”
“Oh, thank god cause, wow,” Alex says, draining half her glass in one go. “It was… a lot.”
“Too much, you mean.”
“So much!” She chuckles and turns in her seat to face Lena a bit more. Long gone are resentful brown eyes paired with a dreaded scowl. Warm brown eyes and a mouth not quite able to settle on any one smile. A litany of them. Hesitant, hopeful, serious. “But uh, I did want to talk to you.”
“Is Alex Danvers about to give me the talk?” Lena teases.
“No, this is me finally thanking you,” Alex says, tears collecting back into warm brown eyes. “God Lena, without you I don’t know if we ever… just thank you. Thank you for going with her, for building the impossible alongside her, for bringing her home.”
Alex surprises her the most. She revives Lena. Brings her solace in the form of memories of Kara shared over wine.
“Is there anything else you need?” Alex asks her after their fifth midnight wine session.
Lena knows she means the portal. But a thought fills her mind. A smile springs to her lips soon after. “Remind me, you have a key to Kara’s place right?”
A shell of Kara Danvers hovers above National City.
She's been alone for two months and two weeks.
At 9:57 AM a flash of blue proceeds the loud crack of space and time as a portal appears above the rubble of the DEO.
For a brief moment, she thinks she's finally gone mad.
But there are voices, familiar, missed voices spilling out from within the promise of home.
She drifts down, peeking over the top edge into an unfamiliar room filled with everyone she loves.
The second time tears fill her eyes in the past few weeks is as she floats through an overdue, but promised bridge back home.
Lena is behind the controls and Kara only sees her even as Alex is rushing forward and hugging her tight.
Kara’s feet touch back to the ground. To her home.
“Kara,” Alex cries into her shoulder, shaking, heart-pounding and so real in her arms. Kara hugs her close. Breathes in deep. The leather jacket is new but so much the same. All her sister. Alex lets out a squeal as Kara lifts her from her feet. “Kara!”
And that laugh. Rao, she missed her sister's laugh!
“You have no idea how happy I am to see you,” Kara's voice is hoarse, sticking to her throat as she speaks to someone finally. She sets Alex back down, an ear-splitting grin on her face as Alex hugs her again.
“I’ve missed you so much,” Alex whispers.
“Me too,” Kara whispers back.
Nia, Brainy, and Kelly all crowd her, each hugging her with the same excited relief she feels to also be hugging them again too. Even J’onn tucks her close, and Kara can't help but share a look of astonishment with Alex from over his shoulder.
She’s missed them all.
One of them, the last she’s to greet, an unbelievable amount.
Lena looks different. A good different. More herself. Healthier. Comfortable. Nervous. If it weren’t for everyone's excited murmurs Kara could swear they’re standing back in the station, Lena with a soft smile all for her, hair pulled into a quick braid, slightly too big sweater paired now with jeans and one sneaker.
Ah, so they had gotten her the surgery.
Kara has never been so happy to see a soft cast in all her life.
And oh, Lena still looks at her the same. Like Kara’s the very thing she's been desperately waiting for and Kara realizes it's because she is.
Kara hasn't moved an inch. Not as Lena walks over, not as hands come to rest over the missing clasps of her cape high on her chest.
“Hi,” Lena breathes out, yearning to move hands behind her neck and have wide, dark blue eyes register that she's here.
There’s a frantic disbelief in Kara’s eyes, darting between each of her own. Her hands find purchase on Lena’s arms. Her hold shaky, smile wobbly and radiant. “You smell incredible.”
Lena chokes out a watery laugh. “That's what you're going with?”
Kara engulfs her in a hug so thorough her feet leave the ground. Unlike with Alex, she doesn't hesitate to bury her face against the one pulse she's missed most. Lena feels warm lips at the curve of her throat and a heavy exhale bordering on a moan. “Like so unbelievably good.”
Lena laughs as she crosses her arms behind Kara’s neck, keeping her held close.
“Okay folks!” Alex says, loudly, pointedly, into the room with a clap. “Cleary, Kara needs a moment here.”
Everyone begins to clear out.
“You smell good too Alex,” Kara laughs as she settles Lena back to her feet but doesn’t at all let go. “Just not, you know, rediscovered shampoo after a year in the Arctic good.”
“Yeah, you could use a shower or five,” Nia says crinkling her nose as she passes. “And obviously so happy you’re back, Kara! We’ll catch up later after, uh… later.” Her wink is not subtle in the slightest.
“Definitely five,” Brainy agrees. He gives Kara’s free shoulder a squeeze, pauses, sniffs, and reconsiders. “Five long showers.”
“Yes, I smell. Thank you all,” Kara says, exasperated.
She's missed this too.
Kara still doesn’t let go so Lena melts against her side as J’onn gives them both a proud nod. Kelly whispers something to Alex that has her sister smiling. Kelly waves goodbye to Lena, who waves back.
So much has happened while she was alone.
A pang of hurt hits her harder than she expected.
She wanted this. For all of them to be happy. To have Lena against her, fully like this.
Why had it taken so long?
Alex steps forward with a large, happy smile and hands loosely resting on her hips. “Consensus is the showers for you.”
Kara sighs, pushing darker thoughts aside. She's home. She wants to savor time with her two favorite people.
“A shower after you run a slew of tests and clear me you mean?” Kara asks, holding fast to Lena’s shoulder. She almost closes her eyes at the feel of a hand stroking up her back.
She's missed her touch so much.
“No, shower first,” Alex says, then motions to Kara’s body. “That suit probably needs replacing too.”
“Please ask her about her underwear,” Lena volunteers.
Kara clutches her chest, pouting. “Et tu Lena?”
“Be happy they didn't throw you in a cell,” Lena tells her with a smile that should not at all accompany such a statement.
Kara whirls on Alex. “You threw Lena in a cell?!”
Alex brushes the comment aside. “Your girlfriend is fine, obviously.”
That was the word.
She likes that word.
Kara blushes the same shade of red as her crest. “She um… she,” Kara stammers, elation filling all the dark, empty voids in her heart. She smiles down at Lena even as Lena rolls her eyes and laughs. “Yeah.”
“God, I’ve missed you,” Lena murmurs, kissing her cheek. “Welcome home, Kara.”
Her hold on Lena tightens, heart racing. She wants so much more than lips against her cheek.
“Let’s go you two,” Alex says, ushering them from the room and down to a med suite prepped just for today. “I can’t believe it took you both being stranded on another Earth for a year for it to finally click.”
Kara is still red-faced as she groans, following her sister, Lena’s hand held tightly in her own. “Can we do this reunion over? Maybe throw in some welcome back balloons, a cake would have been nice, a couple more ‘Oh my god, Kara, I’ve missed you so much and don't know how we coped without you’s.’
Alex stops in the doorway, eyes shining with glee despite the deadpan set of her mouth. “Oh my god, Kara, I’ve missed you so much and don't know how I’ve coped without you,” She mimics, hand gesture and all.
Kara pouts more. “Well, now it's just disingenuous.”
Alex laughs, tugging her toward the med bay. “Come here and let me poke you.”
“That's how she says I love you,” Kara tells Lena, smiling even as Alex gives her a look and disappears into the room. Earnest blue eyes find Lena’s. “Wait for me?”
Lena answers with a tug of Kara's neck and a searing press of her lips against Kara's own.
The pine and mint are gone.
Lipstick, peppermint, and hints of coffee in their place.
This was a good change. Great change. This is what Lena tastes like at home.
There’s so much to rediscover.
She loves getting the chance to explore it together.
And Lena… God, she cannot wait to take Kara home.
“Always. I’ll be right here,” Lena whispers against her lips. Her lipstick is smeared in the most sublime of ways, making Kara's cheeks flush and stomach flip with anticipation for the promise in Lena's words. Kara kisses her again for good measure, hands itching to sneak beneath a cozy sweater and find a home on hips she's dreamed of touching again. Lena pulls away with a chuckle as she feels those very hands toy with the edge of her sweater. “Go get poked.”
Kara almost stumbles into a medical cart with all the loaded looks she keeps taking back over her shoulder. She quickly darts around it, gaze focusing on her sister. “Hey Alex, how long do you think this wi—“
There are fresh tears in Alex’s eyes as she brushes hands down an already immaculate red sunbed. That’s all it takes for Kara to hurry over and wrap her arms back around her sister.
“Hey,” Kara whispers and Alex collapses into her. “I’m right here.”
“You were gone so long,” Alex mutters, clinging to Kara as though she’ll disappear. As if she ever would again, Kara thinks, squeezing her sister tight. Tears absorb into her suit, but Kara feels them regardless. A stain of Alex’s hurt spills so deeply into her heart Kara thinks she’ll feel it long after they leave this room. She wishes she could bring Alex peace the same way Lena’s touch spurs it in her. Alex sniffles against her shoulder, hold solid and strong. “I couldn’t find you. No one could.”
“And I’m back now,” Kara tells her softly. Alex steps back, hands still on Kara’s shoulders, thumbs rubbing dents as felt as her tears. She’s here. She’s back. Brown eyes blink away another wave of long-held loss. “No more portals to unreachable places for a long time, okay?”
“Please,” Alex breathes out and wipes quickly at her eyes. “Like, for at least a hundred years.”
“Deal,” Kara grins, pulling Alex into another, softer hug. “I’m sorry that I smell.”
“I don’t care.”
“I recall you cared five minutes ago.” Alex pinches her side. Kara actually feels it. She pulls out of the hug, rubbing at the spot, staring in surprise. “Since when do the lamps work way out here?”
“Lena,” Alex answers simply, ushering Kara over to the bed.
Kara tries not to blush as Alex pulls the med cart over.
“Um, so,” Kara begins to say, not at all thinking about the things she very much wants to do with Lena once Alex has given her the all-clear. Not thinking about them just makes her think about them more.
“Ditch the suit, Kara,” Alex reminds her as she slips on some medical gloves.
That should come off.
“MIT, really?” Alex asks, giving Kara such a shit-eating grin that Kara blushes more.
“Shut up,” Kara grumbles, touching her sleeves fondly. “Lena gave it to me.”
“I need to burn it.”
Kara hugs her arms to her chest. This is the one thing she’d brought back. “You can’t like, super dry clean it or something?”
Alex sighs. “Kara, you know procedures.”
“Please, Alex. Please.”
Alex sighs again. “I’ll see what I can do.”
Kara hurries from the sweater, setting it aside before Alex changes her mind.
Her sister is just as tickled seeing what Kara has on beneath. “I can't believe you still have that NSYNC shirt,” Alex teases as Kara holds out her arm extra stiffly. “Aw, c’mon. I can try to save this too. I know how much you love them. But how much does Lena?”
“Tons, I’ll have you know.”
“Uh-huh,” Alex hums, drawing blood and smirking even more. “Bet she likes them off tons more.”
This. This treatment she has not missed.
Okay… she has tons too.
“Again, this reunion could use way less teasing and way more cake,” She mutters.
“Sorry,” Alex chuckles, giving Kara’s shoulder a squeeze. “I swear I am so happy you’re back.”
“Me too,” Kara smiles. “Aside from… everything with me, how have things been here?”
“Not too bad,” Alex replies, diving back to work. “Thanks to no more Lex.”
Kara stills. “He… he’s gone?”
“He died in that room. The asshole even took the portal out with him,” Alex tells her, running an instrument over Kara’s chest she’s not seen before and now hardly cares to ask about. “It’s why we couldn’t get to you. Whatever he did caused the whole place to just meltdown once his heart stopped.”
Kara pushes the gear gently aside, waiting for Alex’s gaze to meet her own. “Lena, she… does she know?”
“Of course she knows. Have you seen her smile? That’s not just all for you, Kara,” Alex laughs. It cuts out just as quickly as she registers the drawn, discouraged look on Kara’s face. The instrument is set down, a hand coming to rest and comfort a rigid shoulder. “Hey, it’s done. He’s gone.”
Kara shakes her head.
Lena’s voice fills her head. A memory.
Maybe that’s okay too?
Kara’s eyes burn with tears. With all that could have been if a shot had never been released. If Lena hadn’t… if… “You could have gotten us back if she hadn’t killed him,” Kara says finally, voice tight and small.
Alex’s hold on her shoulder tightens. “Yeah, maybe,” She says softly. “But you could also have come home to so much worse had she not.”
Kara closes her eyes, not wanting to imagine all that Alex’s thought entails.
She opens them, staring across the room beyond frosted glass where Lena’s shadow sits, patiently waiting for her.
“Plus,” Alex continues, rolling the gloves off her hands. “I have you back and there’s no more Lex Luthor so honestly, Lena’s getting a huge ass Christmas gift from me this year.”
“Alex!” Kara exclaims, trying not to smile even as Alex gives her another hug. “You both are way too happy about this.”
“We both love you,” Alex tells her earnestly. “So screw whoever tries to take you from us again.”
“Maybe I’m not the one who needs a psych eval.”
“Twice?” Kara protests. “I’m not that traumatized.”
Her heart clenches despite best efforts, reminding her otherwise.
Cool air prickles her skin, the suffocating loneliness tunneling her vision.
I’m home, she reminds herself. Home, home, home.
“Would you like me to schedule you?” Alex asks gently, hand hovering over her tablet.
“Yes,” Kara sighs, flopping back onto the bed. She just really wants to go be with Lena.
Dark thoughts disappear to the background around her.
“I can get you in tomorrow, if you like?”
“Can it wait a week?” Kara asks, rubbing her face. “I’m just tired and want to go home.”
“Of course,” Alex says quietly, touching her arm gently. “I’m almost done here, I promise.”
“Seriously, this whole welcome back is buckets of fun.”
“Well your radiation levels are nice and normal so I’m sure Lena will be happy to cater to all the missing fun with you later.”
Now she’s all hot and blushing again.
Alex helps her to sit up as she stammers out, “That's not… we, uh, what I mean…”
“Oh, Kara, hun. Wow,” Alex laughs, threading a couple of monitors onto Kara’s fingers. “You have it really bad for her.”
Rao, so bad.
Something glittery catches Kara’s eye by her hand. Specifically a shiny something on Alex’s hand. Kara snatches said hand, bringing the ring closer to her face. “Alex! You’re engaged!”
“I am,” Alex says, proud.
Kara glares at her. “You got engaged without me.”
“Kara, why would you have…” Alex begins to say, brow furrowed in confusion for just a second. Then it levels and brown eyes turn to the ceiling with an amused sigh. “Nevermind, ignore me. Of course, you would have been there. Snooping.”
“It’s not snooping if I just so happened to be flying by at the same time because you would have told me you were going to propose and I wanted to be around for, you know, moral sisterly support and stuff.”
Alex smirks down at her ruffled sister. “Kelly did, actually.”
“And you proposed back right?” Kara demands.
“Come here,” Alex chuckles, pulling Kara into a warm hug. “God, I’ve missed you.”
“I missed you too. So much. You really have no idea.”
“Even with Lena all over you all day every day?”
“I love her Alex, but love you just as much,” Kara says, smile wide and bright and so much herself once more. “You're both my favorite people.
“You're dying to get out of here, aren’t you?” Alex asks with a telling grin.
Kara definitely blushes but her smile remains as she gazes back over to Lena through the glass. “We haven’t been apart this long all year,” She admits, feeling the threads of that loneliness she suffered for so long creeping back. She buries it with fonder memories instead. “Do you know we made rules and everything? Like the ones Eliza had us make.”
“You made Lena Luthor, that Lena Luthor, the one who bought a company for you, make house rules with you?”
“She wrote most of them, I’ll have you know.”
“Unbelievable,” Alex huffs, then raises a brow, leveling Kara with a prying stare. “What were some of them? Now I’m curious.”
“Simple things like listen to each other, be honest, Don’t Panic.”
“That one was for sure you.”
“Shut up,” Kara laughs, smacking Alex’s arm before she’s poked again. “We added more as we needed.”
“Full ten,” Kara nods, smiling proudly. “I think they really helped us.”
“What’s the weirdest one? And please don’t tell me it was our number seven.”
“Okay, first off, my hair doesn’t even fall out so that was all yours in the shower drain. Rule seven is stupid because it only applied to you.”
“Whatever, there were totally blonde ones in there, you can’t convince me otherwise,” Alex declares, waving her hand. “Weirdest rule, go.”
“You’re blushing,” Alex says, squinting at her. Her mouth falls open, eyebrows raising, expression absorbed with deep interest. “Oh my god, Kara, is nine a sex thing?”
“It’s not, not a sex thing?”
Alex’s eyebrows raise higher. Fishing.
Kara mutters, barely audible, “The lab is for lab activities only.”
Alex’s lips disappear, eyes crinkling. She snorts.
“Just laugh already,” Kara groans, hiding her pink face in palms. “We’re never talking about this again.”
“Is that why Lena’s outside?” Alex asks through loud, obnoxious chuckles. Kara regrets ever telling her. Will never tell her a single thing again. “Is rule nine that impossible for you two to follow?”
“Ugh, Alex! Can I have my psych eval now? That sounds like a way better time.”
“I love you,” Alex is still laughing as she hugs her again. “Please never disappear without me again.”
Kara cannot imagine ever doing so. She squeezes her sister tight, promising, “Never, never, never.”
Hours later, showers later; They’ve ordered too much takeout. Not one inch of Lena’s coffee table is visible beneath overflowing containers and bags from all their favorite, and thoroughly missed restaurants.
Kara digs in immediately whilst Lena sits, legs tucked beneath her on the sofa, savoring a glass of red wine and watching Kara with the same, profound satisfaction.
A potsticker is halfway to Kara’s mouth when Lena finally speaks.
“I think you should move in.”
Kara takes a bite, chewing slowly as she looks over to Lena, now reclined with her arm laid across the backrest. Her fingers drum on a cushion, gaze relaxed, looking and acting as if she’s asked Kara what movie they should pop in and not whether she’d like to officially merge their lives.
“Yes, you just got back and yes, it doesn’t even have to be here,” Lena adds, gesturing vaguely to her living room. “I know this really isn’t your vibe. Probably not even mine anymore, to be honest.”
“You’re my vibe,” Kara insists hurriedly. She also rushes to drop her chopsticks and takes Lena’s outstretched hand between her own. “So yeah, of course I want to move in with you.”
Lena smiles, squeezes her hand, and slides closer. “Great. That’s settled then.”
“Awesome,” Kara agrees, tucking some of Lena’s loose, now unbraided hair behind her ear as she nears. The strands glide through her fingers, far softer than she ever remembers.
Thanks to being home, she thinks, running her fingers through the same path again simply because she can.
Lena closes her eyes and turns her cheek into Kara’s warm palm. “You can bring whatever you want.”
“Even my new plants?” Kara asks, pressing their foreheads together. “My girlfriend filled my apartment with too many and I love them all.”
Lena laughs. “Sure. Can’t wait.”
They stare at one another. Fingertips touch pink, raised skin along a temple. Arms wrap behind a blonde head. New ways love finds to chase the lonely darkness from blue eyes.
They have nothing but time. Truly.
A smirk curls at the corners of Lena’s lips. “You should finish your potstickers.”
“Really?” Kara breathes out, pulling Lena into a kiss. “That’s what you want me to do with my mouth right now?”
“Yes,” Lena chuckles, putting a sliver of distance between them. She still stays tucked against Kara as she picks up the discarded chopsticks and snags a potsticker to feed her. “This was expensive and your girlfriend has a whole twenty-three dollars left to her name.”
The potsticker is held up for her and somewhere deep in Kara’s belly, the same, earnestly missed little nest of heat starts to rebuild. “How will you ever take me to Florence on that?”
“Soo about our vacation,” Lena says slowly, raking her teeth over her bottom lip as Kara takes the offered bite. “It might be a couple of months before we go anywhere actually.”
“I know, I'm sorry,” Kara sighs, mouth full, but presses a greasy kiss to Lena’s temple anyway. She rubs the smudge off gently with her thumb. “Oops, for that too.”
“None of this is your fault,” Lena tells her, nuzzling into Kara’s neck and making that little nest of heat spread further. Kara takes her chopsticks back so arms can wrap around her stomach. “Though if you could look extra happy flying around town for the next couple days I’d be super grateful.”
Kara smiles. “I think I can manage that.”
“Good, because I also managed to get the red sun lamps in place for us.”
Usually, a word uttered in that low octave has Kara melting back into a kiss.
She swallows her last bite of potsticker, fights the bristling pang of abandonment she knows Lena absolutely isn’t responsible for… yet can’t help but let erode through her anyway.
They left her alone.
For so long.
Her posture stiffens against Lena. “Well, glad there was loads of time to install those while you were working tirelessly to bring me home.”
She wishes the words never left her mouth.
Lena pulls away, green eyes muddled with anguish. “Kara, no, that's not—”
Kara makes amends by capturing Lena’s lips with her own. That last thing she wants is to push her away, not after just getting her back. She pours as much of herself and her wants as she can into the kiss, tense muscles relax against her as she feels Lena deliberately deepen the connection, sliding her hands back into Kara’s hair as her tongue slips past open lips. Kara breaks away before she loses her train of thought entirely. She needs Lena to hear the words as much as feel them. As always.
She loves her.
Even when she says stupid, hurtful things from a place she knows she needs to confront... just not now.
Lena is here.
“I know, Lena, it's okay,” Kara murmurs, so angry with herself for ever making Lena feel at fault. “Alex told me how awful she was. I’m sorry she treated you like that.”
It's a start.
Lena’s gaze is ever so understanding.
Kara loves her more.
Lena’s hands stay in her hair, twirling through slowly to ends. “Can’t say I blame her. I honestly wasn’t any better.” She keeps a soft focus on pained blue eyes, hoping they spark with desire but more so peace again. Kara had been full of contentment mere moments before. Lena knows Kara wants that back as much as she does. Trauma likes quiet. It thrives in moments of doubt and anxious apologies. Time Lena knows they need to talk about. Whenever Kara is ready.
“Hey, we’re okay” Lena whispers, giving her an equally dizzying kiss that settles a bit of hope back into a shade of blue she adores. “I’m so sorry you had to go through that alone.”
“I’m just so glad you’re okay,” Kara tells her, warm and yes, slightly reeling. There’s the very apparent taste of red wine now lingering on her tongue.
“And you’re here now,” Lena’s smile is soft but ever so full.
Kara can feel her trembling at her side. Hear the way her heart skips and beats ever faster. She’s missed that sound. Lena lets out a yelp as arms quickly wrap around her middle and she’s pulled atop Kara on the sofa. This is all Kara’s wanted for hours now. “I am. Thanks to you,” She whispers into Lena’s neck, those same sought-after flutters igniting all over her skin as Lena sinks into her.
They have time for thoughts on dark places later.
Lena is ever so good at making them fall away.
And ever so good at making other things too, Kara thinks.
“So, how do we turn these babies on?” She asks, voice hitching as lips find a sensative spot beneath her ear.
“They’re voice-activated,” Lena mutters between slow kisses down a long neck.
“Super smart, our hands will likely be busy,” Kara says, sneaking her own beneath Lena’s sweater. She’s rewarded with a deep, throaty noise against her neck. “So… Going to say something?”
Lena’s lips pull away with a slow drag. “I only programmed them to turn on for one voice.”
Kara’s body ignites. “Lena…”
Warm hands frame Kara’s face. “It’s your body Kara, you should be the only one to decide what’s best.”
Kara kisses her, loves her all the more even as she smirks against her mouth. “I think you mean what’s safest.”
“Oh my god,” Lena groans, shoving her shoulder as she sits up in Kara’s lap, hands now on shirt buttons. “That word is being retired, just so you know.”
“Nope, not happening, you can’t take it from me,” Kara chuckles as she pushes herself up as well and slips her hands back under Lena's sweater. They settle low on Lena’s back, pulling her close. “I love it as much as I love you.”
“J’onn and Alex know you do too,” Lena says with an arched brow.
“Know what? That I love you?” Kara asks, touching higher on Lena’s back. Her skin feels hotter than usual. Kara frowns. “Are you sure you’re feeling okay?”
Lena kisses her with a laugh. “No more worrying please.”
“I haven’t seen you in over two months,” Kara murmurs, burying her face back against Lena’s neck. “Being alone was… it was…”
She never wants to experience anything so cold, lifeless, and singular ever again. Kara thrives in numbers. In humanity, her friends, family, the people she's saved, and even those she's taken down. Her eyes are squeezed shut against the one soul who carried her through. Kara tries to temper her heart. Tries to match the steady, calming breaths of the woman she loves and can't wait to make another home with.
One full of light, plants, music, and yeah, loads of love and game nights and so much more.
Maybe even a puppy.
Fingers stroke through blonde hair, soothing the torrent of hurt from months alone attempting to resurface. Kara has more than silenced them even as Lena continues holding her close and whispers, “Hey, you're here now. If you want to talk, I’m listening.”
Kara relaxes against her. “It was so hard after a while. All I wanted to do was sleep so I could see you again.”
God, that… hearing that absolutely shatters Lena’s heart.
“I’m sorry,” Lena whispers, pressing a long kiss to the side of Kara’s head. She doesn’t even know what else to say, what to offer her to bring her that promised peace they’d talked so ardently about. Lena leans into her more, pleased when Kara pulls her closer and lets out a reassured sigh. “I’m so sorry, Kara.”
“I want to retire apologies, at least for one night,” Kara says quietly. They have time for long talks later. There’s so much Kara wants to share with her and so much she’s so afraid to even dig up. That icy prickle doesn’t ever seem to disappear from her heart, but Lena here, with her like this, melts most of it down. She picks her head up, watery yet hopeful eyes connecting with open blue-green. “Tell me something good please.”
Lena smiles and brushes a hand over her cheek.
“I met Dr. Ennis. Well, briefly. Your sister sort of forcibly apprehended me before I could say more,” Lena muses. “Plus he’s terrified of me, so there’s that too.”
“Wait, wait, so much to unpack there!” Kara exclaims. “You met Dr. Ennis?? Were any of the other researchers there?”
“Maybe? Honestly, I was there maybe a minute before Alex showed up.”
“Do you think… would it be weird to find them?” Kara asks, curious.
Lena grins. “You want to interview them, don’t you?”
“No, I just… maybe? I’m not sure. I feel like I got to know them but these people here aren’t really them either,” Kara says, thoughts spinning quicker than she can voice them aloud. “It’s not fair to compare… they didn’t have the same experiences.”
“They didn’t have my family ruin their lives.”
“That’s not on you, Lena.”
“I know,” Lena says, hooking her arms behind Kara’s neck. “And I heard Alex tell you about Lex.”
Kara’s eyes stay with her, open and ever so attentive. “Do you… do you want to talk about it?”
“You know how I feel,” Lena murmurs, twisting the back collar of Kara’s shirt beneath her fingers.
“Yeah,” Kara whispers, tugging Lena against her, feeling the warm breath of Lena’s sigh at the side of her head as much as the heavy rise and fall of her chest at her collarbone. They both carry burdens. Kara doesn’t want Lena to feel alone. “I’m sorry you lost your brother.”
“I know why you did it Lena, and I get it,” Kara tells her, hands sweeping long caresses up Lena’s back. “He wasn’t your brother anymore.”
“No… no, he wasn’t,” Lena agrees softly.
“Whatever you need,” Kara says, kissing her jaw.
“Just you,” Lena whispers. “This. Us. Our friends. Our life. I want to go on a date with you and not think about someone trying to kill me for being that Luthor woman.”
Kara snorts. “So a normal Tuesday then?”
“Ugh, can we please talk more later?”
“Yes. I just really want to be here with you right now too,” Kara says, finally working Lena’s sweater over her head. She presses in close once it's off, hands sliding over fuller hips. “I finally have you back. All of you.”
“Most of me,” Lena laughs. “Thanks to your sister and Brainy.”
“I’m going to thank them extra tons tomorrow,” Kara says between kisses she places over Lena’s shoulder, hands now working to undo a bra she loves. Did Lena have more of these? Lacier ones? This one is already making her face flush with heat and she can barely see more than the straps and tops of lacey cups.
Lena's voice cuts through a thick fog forming in her head. “She knows about safety first.”
“Well duh, she’s a doctor, Lena,” Kara mumbles against warming skin, bra unclasped and freed, finally. “Are you sure you feel okay?”
Lena’s hands are on her jaw, urging dark blue eyes up at her. “They saw Kara.”
“They saw? What do you mean they… oh,” Kara pales. Her hands drop from breasts. “No, no, no. How much??”
Lena wants to laugh but manages to control the rising panic in Kara’s eyes with a long kiss and answer of, “Just bits but enough.”
Blue eyes expand further. “I can never look Alex in the eye again. She’s going to tease me about this till the day I die.”
Lena rolls her eyes as she returns to unbuttoning Kara’s blouse. “Okay, let’s tone the melodrama to reasonable levels.”
“Till. I. Die.”
“Guess not, drastic measures then,” Lena declares, shoving a hand beneath Kara’s slacks and pressing her palm flat and hard against her underwear.
“Ah, Lena!” Kara chokes out, squirming as Lena keeps her hand firmly against her. Her gaze locks onto assured blue-green.
“Hi,” Lena purrs.
“What’s the uh,” She stammers, eyes darkening fast. “The uh, magic word then to turn on the lights?”
“Red lamps, then a percentage or decimal value. You can add or subtract as well. I thought you might like the nuance.”
Of course that’s how, she muses, somehow more turned on.
Math and sex.
She loves all of this.
“Red lamps, fifty percent,” Kara says louder than at all necessary. She feels the change immediately. Lena’s hand sinks further. “Whoa, okay, I was not expecting them to work so fast.”
“Too much?” Lena asks, her breath growing quicker as Kara shrugs free from her shirt. She also put on her best bra and hopes Lena likes what… Oh.
Lena’s already thrown it to the floor.
“No, no, this is great,” Kara says, overwhelmed and overheated and wanting so very much for a hand to slip back into her pants. Lena looks like she wants nothing more than to do exactly that. So Kara slides her own up ribs to cup breasts, her thumbs roll over touch-starved nipples. Lena’s breath catches on a choked rasp. A dopey smile curls on Kara’s face. “Lena Luthor made lamps so finely tuned to me because she loves me and my insanely attractive alien bod.”
“I do love you.” Lena kisses her hard. Teeth rake over Kara’s bottom lip, all the heat of a tongue chasing after. “And I also want to fuck you, Kara.”
Kara definitely whimpers at that admission. “That is not Hallmark approved material.”
“Well then, how's this? I want to make you forget being alone,” Lena amends, smile full of all the seductive promises that rush a pool of heat low in Kara’s stomach. “Please let me.”
“I, uh— yeah, Lena,” Kara murmurs, nodding. “Rao, okay... red lamps, plus thirty percent.”
Lena presses her down to the sofa, hands back at her slacks, this time undoing the button and zipper with speed. Kara surges up before they can be pulled off, capturing Lena’s lips and yanking her back into her lap.
“And is there a fail-safe or like an emergency release?” She asks, laughing as Lena gives her an exasperated and impatient huff.
How she loves hearing that sound from her for once.
Lena kisses her soundly. “In case I break Supergirl?”
“In case she has to save some other poor screaming soul.”
Lena laughs extra loud at that. “There is, the only voice command I can activate,” She whispers, pressing her forehead to Kara’s. “Red lamps, safety first.”
Kara’s strength returns in a flash. She almost flies them off the sofa but catches herself, hands clasped firmly to Lena’s thighs. “That’s the opposite of retirement,” She says with a chuckle.
“For fucks sake,” Lena mutters, kissing her with every ounce of that impatient frustration. She’s a fire against Kara’s lips. “Can we please take this to the bedroom now?”
There’s a drawing she’s been longing to make a reality.
Kara obliges with another laugh, pulling her up, smile never faltering between kisses as she floats them over.
It drives Lena absolutely crazy in the best possible ways.
Consequently, they don’t make it far into the room.
The threshold still counts though.
Lena pulls her against the door and Kara is extra mindful of her ankle brace even if Lena is extra not, shoving her own jeans and underwear down as Kara carefully pulls them free of a healing foot.
So impatient, Kara thinks, not hesitating to bring thighs back around her hips and fill the need in blue-green eyes by filling Lena against the door.
“How are you already so… I really make you that happy huh?” Kara grins, loving the roll of hips against her hand as much as the heavy breaths against her ear. “I want you too. I want this. I want Florence. I want to make a home with you.”
Yes, Lena thinks, dragging lips to hers, savoring the feel of a hidden smile and the moan of her name repeated down her neck.
All of it, everything, yes.
Kara lifts her higher, Lena feels the move with cooler wood along her back and Kara’s very eager mouth at her breast. “Kara.” Lena’s hold tightens. Her inhale sharper.
She doesn't last very long. Kara is extra pleased with herself about it.
”Bedroom now?” She asks, settling Lena back against her hips. She loves how Lena’s eyes are closed and the back of her head still rests on the door. How she’s still catching her breath and wetting her lips when she finally does lock darkened eyes with Kara.
Kara extra loves it.
She laughs and pulls Lena away from the door and into a kiss. “Bed, yeah? We kinda detoured here. No complaints though.”
“Same,” Lena tells her.
They fall to the bed in a tangle. Lena quickest to recover and finally, finally pulls slacks from slim hips.
There's a familiar barrier. Faded black. Boy short cut.
Lena pushes up, astonished. “Kara, you’ve got to be kidding me.”
“I wore them just for you,” Kara coos, smiling coyly, all one hundred and ten percent jerky super of her. “Surprise.”
“How did Alex let you leave with these on?”
Kara’s expression drips with brazen mischief. “She didn’t.”
“Such a rule-breaker,” Lena laughs, sliding the soon-to-be-destroyed boy shorts off. “Mind turning the lamps to—”
Kara pulls her down into a heated kiss. “Red lamps, one point oh.”
Kara, somehow, is even more pliant and sensitive under the recessed lamps.
Her skin pinks under Lena’s touch, especially so beneath her mouth and teeth. Lena leaves marks. Lots of them.
Kara doesn’t want them to fade.
Nor the searing feel of fingers finally slipping inside.
Her back arches, sheets seized under hands. For once nothing rips or shatters —okay, yes, maybe all her restraints.
“This okay?” Lena whispers in her ear and Kara barely hears it over the rush of blood in her head.
She nods, dizzy, palms coming up to frame full cheeks on a face she loves. “Yeah, super okay.”
For once Kara’s hands are clenched freely around a dark head, hips meeting the slow, careful pace of fingers buried deep between strong thighs.
A flutter rolls over Lena’s fingers, urging her further. Her eyes darken at the feel, mind thinking of crudely drawn pictures in a notebook Earths away.
So much better realized.
Kara helps her set a pace. Demands one really, Lena muses as her head is yanked down into a deep kiss and hips move hard into her hand.
“Lena,” Kara breathes sharp, arms wrapping tight behind shoulders, a leg draws up and Lena adds more. Spots of white explode behind Kara’s closed eyes as she moans into Lena’s neck, pulls her down to her side, and hooks that leg tightly over her thigh.
There’s a pulse rolling against Lena’s fingers, molten and wonderful and just as quick as the heart she can feel beating fast at her breast.
Heat traps her, then a leg, and Kara’s voice releasing, muffled against a pillow.
Lena can’t move her hand.
Not one fraction of a centimeter.
A few of her fingers are wrapped tight and… very stuck.
This is new, she thinks, elated, placing light, encouraging kisses against the side of a head still buried at her neck in a pillow.
Kara mutters something that sounds very much like an apology into the pillow.
God, so new and not at all embarrassing.
Lena feels her try and shift her leg away and absolutely not. Her free hand takes firm hold of that thigh, keeping it locked right where it belongs.
“I adore you,” Lena tells her softly, thumb slipping over nerves that make Kara’s leg quiver and walls ripple. “God, especially that.”
“Lena,” Kara mutters, red-cheeked and breathless. “Give me a minute, please.”
Super sensitive, Lena grins.
She kisses that very red cheek. “Take all the time you need.”
Lena’s low, still aroused voice makes her ache more. Kara groans and buries her face back against the pillow. She feels a hand leave her thigh and fingers thread through her hair, pushing strands off her heated face and neck. She peeks up at Lena through one eye, apologetic, ever so grateful.
Lena tugs on the space behind her head, drawing her into a kiss and making Kara forget all her embarrassment.
Kara still feels slightly terrible as she pulls away. She’s sure Lena had other plans in mind.
“Sorry,” She breathes out against Lena’s mouth. “Maybe a minute more?”
Lena pulls her into a softer kiss. “Please never apologize for what is honestly one of my new favorite things about you.”
“You’re stuck in me. How is this your favorite?”
“Stuck but not crushed,” Lena grins. She kisses her again, moaning. “You feel incredible.”
“I love you. All of you,” Lena tells her in that voice that makes Kara shiver and want her all the more. “I really want to try this with my tongue. Is that safety approved, Miss Danvers?”
Kara nods, heart racing again.
She might even finally utter a curse.
Lena wakes before dawn to a hovering warm body and brush of escaped blonde hair against her neck.
All she’s wanted.
Kara sleeps soundly on her side, one arm tucked beneath her head while the other dangles across her stomach, fingers also tucked, but this time beneath Lena’s hand on the bed.
Lena threads them a bit more, warm, content, still sleepy but ever so relieved they’ve finally made it here.
Blue eyes squint open at the touch in the dark yet pale glow of lights from streets far below.
For a moment Kara thinks she’s back in a bed on a station Earth’s away. Sounds leak into their bubble; cars idling in traffic just beginning, dog claws on tile stories below.... People, thousands, hushed voices just waking, shouts from a bakery kitchen, cries of infants for groggy, grumbling parents, snores, laughter, so much of it, everywhere.
Lena’s steady heart.
She lowers down, smile tired but soft, and snuggles into arms that wrap over her bare shoulders.
Neither says anything. There’s no need for words.
I’m here’s linger in gazes.
I’ve missed you’s travel on hands against heating skin.
I love you’s on lips to scars and tears.
Everything unspoken and ever so loud, drowning out the Earth beyond and even the darkness of another now forever far away.
Their new routine, new life, starts later that morning with a marker, a sheet of paper, and a giant latte.
Kara sips it in bliss at Lena’s kitchen counter in another, softer, wonderfully Lena scented, MIT sweater.
Lena slides the other items in front of her with a bright smile.
They make new rules, promises, and pin them above Lena’s espresso maker.
Promises for a Home Together
- Be honest with each other.
- Listen to each other.
- Respect alone time.
- No solo multiverse excursions. Ever.
- The lab is still for lab activities ONLY.
- Be realistic & supportive.
- Take breaks. -with me, please.♡
- Don’t ever give up on each other.
Lena makes them leave promises eight and nine blank.
“I believe my very smart and beautiful Kryptonian girlfriend once told me we should strive to be better together, yeah?”
Kara’s heart soars.
Thank you all for going on what I hope was a charming, sometimes bleak, and fun journey with me. Huge thanks and all the hugs to everyone who’s left a comment, kudos, fav’d, reached out, and otherwise sent love my way. I know I’ve said it once but I am just going to say it again; I am still so overwhelmed and so grateful for all the support.
Thank you, thank you, thank you.
Wishing you all the Supercorp best,
Roll them credits smartwatch!
Characters brought to you by NOT the CW. Someone send them to HBO, please.
Catering brought to you by a garden in the Arctic.
Songs brought to you by a jukebox and a vault:
Arctic Station Playlist
And hey, you made it to the end of the credits. Much love to you all. 😘