Kara is steadfastly not looking at Lena as she greets her family, but that doesn’t mean she isn’t aware of Lena in the room, her heartbeat loud and fast, filling Kara’s ears.
She knows, once she sees Lena, there will be nothing to stop her crossing the room and sweeping her up in her embrace, holding her tight and vowing to never let her go again.
But her friends deserve a hello, and she wants it too.
J’onn’s arms are strong, making her feel safe and protected as he hugs her.
She’s surprised by the amount of emotion there is in Brainy’s voice when he speaks, and she hugs him close as their bodies collide.
Nia holds her so close, fingers curling into her suit to hold her as tight as possible as Kara holds her back, smiling into the hug, so happy to see her, to see them all.
And then there’s Lena.
The way Lena’s lip quivers, the way tears shine bright in Lena’s eyes, nearly breaks Kara’s heart when she finally turns to her.
She did that, she hurt Lena once again.
Lena steps forward, arms opening at the same time as Kara’s do and then their bodies are crashing together, Kara’s arms holding her as tight as she can without hurting her.
Kara breathes in, smells Lena’s perfume and shampoo mixed with something sweet that Kara’s never been able to identify, but it’s what one of Lena’s shirts had smelled like that she’d left at Kara’s apartment, one Kara had worn until it didn’t smell like her anymore.
She has to choke back a sob as emotions swell in her chest, a confusing tangle of fear and hope and love that has Kara pressing her face into Lena’s neck for a moment as she tries to center herself, get her emotions back in check.
“It’s only because you’re on the team that I’m here,” Kara manages to get out, something Alex had told her, something Alex had confessed after, tears in her eyes and a shake in Alex’s body when her sister had told her they could’ve gotten Kara back sooner, how Alex had chosen to save thousands of people but Lena fought to save her instead.
Fear and hope had collided in Kara’s chest then, too, because she’d made that choice with Mon-El, sent him away, to save Earth. Kara’s not sure she could’ve made that same decision if it had been Lena in his place, and that scares her.
Lena gasps at the words, and all Kara can do is hold her as she feels Lena’s arms tighten around her.
And then all too soon, Lena is pulling away but Kara can’t let go, not yet. Her hands slip over Lena’s biceps, down her forearms to grip her hands. She squeezes Lena’s hands, Lena smiling at the gesture, and something clicks in Kara’s chest.
Kara swallows, tilting forward before she even realises it, drawn to Lena, eyes caught on her smile.
Lena freezes, and it’s that motion, or lack of motion, that stops Kara, makes her realise what she’s doing, what she was about to do.
Her eyes flash up to Lena’s, confusion now swimming in wide green eyes as she remains frozen on the spot.
She was about to kiss her best friend, her very platonic best friend, and even if her feelings for said best friends certainly aren’t platonic, she still knows you’re not meant to kiss your best friend.
(You’re not meant to fall in love with them either but that’s another issue).
Kara glances to the right when movement draws her attention and now Kara feels frozen too as she spots Alex, glancing between them, an all to knowing look on her face.
That’s not good, because if Alex knows, knows what she’s thinking, knows what she was about to do, that means Lena might too, and that’s altogether another scary thought.
Her father stepping into the room breaks the moment, saves Kara from having to say or do anything and Kara feels relief course through her body, both because it means she doesn’t have to deal with this right now and because he’s actually here, alive, it wasn’t a dream. The relief loosens her limbs, lets her move once again as she crosses the room to hug him, avoiding eye contact with everyone else as she does.
She can feel two particular sets of eyes burning a hole in her back, like they’re the ones with heat vision, but Kara ignores them, hardly even pays attention to what is being said as she points to the balcony.
“I’m just going to…” she doesn’t even finish her sentence as she walks off. It’s dark out, so she doesn’t have the excuse of wanting to get some sun as she steps on to the balcony, but it gives her a moment to breathe.
She focuses on the sounds around her, the street below, cars honking, people laughing, the noise of the city filling her mind, leaving little room for anything else.
Kara knew someone would follow her, but she jumps at the intrusion, so focused on the rest of National City the noise from the tower had gotten lost in it.
Alex steps in close, arm going through Kara’s as she leans into her sister’s side, head falling to rest on Kara’s shoulder.
Kara sighs, leans into Alex’s touch, knows her sister needs this contact just as much as she does.
They’re silent for a while, and Kara’s starting to wonder if Alex will actually say something when she finally speaks.
“Do you want to talk about it?”
Kara swallows. She knows exactly what Alex is talking about. “Talk about what?” she asks anyway.
“About how you nearly kissed Lena.”
Alex’s words are quiet, soft, like she knows how Kara will react, but that doesn’t stop Kara’s intake of breath and the sudden desire to just leap from the balcony.
Alex’s arm tightens around hers, like she knows exactly what Kara is thinking.
“Alex-“ Kara starts, the name half choked out, but Alex interrupts.
“I know,” Alex soothes, lifting her head so she can look at Kara. “I know.”
“Do you...do you think she noticed?” Kara asks. She’s not sure why she’s so scared when she wants nothing more than to pull Lena back into her arms and hold on forever. Maybe it’s because she’s hurt her so much already, or maybe it’s because she’s already lost her so many times and if she truly opens her heart to Lena and she loses her again, it will destroy her.
“She did,” Alex nods.
Kara presses her lips together and wills herself not to cry as she looks back over the city.
“Hey,” Alex says, hand against Kara’s cheek, bringing them face to face again. “She wants that too, okay? I was with her while you were gone, I saw how much she cares about you, I saw that she’d do anything to get you back. Trust me. You two have been through so much and you deserve to be happy. You don’t have to talk to her now, but you should when you’re ready. She’ll understand.”
“I promise,” Alex says, her voice strong. Kara believes her. “She’ll wait as long as you need her to.”
Kara lets the words settle over her. The air is cold but she fights away the chill, focuses on the warmth of Alex’s body instead, focuses on her heartbeat to keep her grounded.
“I love her,” Kara whispers after a long moment. She glances back inside as she says it, heart getting caught in her throat when she sees Lena watching them. Lena quickly turns, feigns doing something on the computer, but the jump in her heart says she knows she’s been caught.
Alex doesn’t seem surprised by the admission. Kara wonders how long she’s known.
“And she loves you too,” Alex says with a smile and a kiss to Kara’s temple.
Kara lets the words wash over her, something warm settling in her chest as her sister gives her arm one last squeeze and leaves.
Kara turns and watches her go, hears the anxious, “Is she okay?” Lena quietly asks Alex as she walks by.
“I think so,” Alex says and Kara’s not sure if that’s true as she shivers, the cold air filling her lungs and reminding her too much of the Phantom Zone that she breathes out, trying to focus on the sounds of the city again to push it all away.
She’s about to go back inside, see if she can’t get another platonic hug from Lena because that’s the warmest she’s felt since she returned, when a voice behind her startles her again.
“Mind if I join you?”
It’s hesitant, unsure, Lena twisting her fingers together as she says it.
“Please,” Kara says, sounding a touch too desperate as she nods to the space beside her.
Lena steps in close, but not quiet touching as they stand side by side, her hands falling to rest on the rail beside Kara’s.
“I missed you,” Lena says into the silence, quiet and honest.
“I missed you, too,” Kara replies, eyes darting sideways. Lena’s face is half shadowed in the dark, but achingly beautiful in the dim lights of the city.
She glances back out over the city, wonders if Lena will bring up what happened. Or what almost happened.
But she remains silent, and Kara realises that Lena is just going to let it go, let Kara do things in her own time, when she’s ready.
Kara shifts her hand closer to Lena’s on the railing, fingers brushing slightly. She almost stops there, almost pretends it’s an accident but the little sigh Lena lets out at the contact has Kara giving up any pretence as she threads her fingers through Lena’s.
“I’m so glad you’re home.” Lena swallows. “I don’t know what I would’ve done if-” She cuts herself off, the words getting caught in her throat, sounding close to tears again. Kara gives her hand a squeeze, and then realises that’s not enough so she turns, pulling Lena into a hug once more.
Lena sags against her, feels the shake of Lena’s body as Kara holds her.
“I’m here,” Kara promises, pressing a kiss to Lena’s hair. “I’m not going anywhere.”
“You promise?” Lena asks, pulling away. She’s not crying but tears are shimmering in her eyes and she hates once again that she’s hurt Lena.
They stay like that for a long moment, in each others space. Kara uses a great deal of self control not to glance down at red lips again.
It’s Lena that steps away first, again. Kara almost chases the contact but she stops herself this time.
“You didn’t get any of the cake before, and I heard a rumour that it’s your favourite.”
Kara’s eyes light up. “Is there any left?”
Lena laughs, eyes lighter than they have been all evening and something in Kara’s chest settles, feels almost normal, like it hasn’t in a long time.
“Duh, no one gets between Kara Danvers and food.”
Kara pokes out her tongue, which Lena responds to with a poke in her side and everything just feels right.
“Hey,” Kara says, catching Lena’s hand as she’s about to walk inside. Kara’s not sure if it’s because Lena looks so beautiful or if it’s because she wants no more secrets between them or she just doesn’t want to wait anymore but the words tumble from her lips with none of her previous fear. “I love you.”
Lena’s sharp intake of breath says she got Kara’s intended meaning.
“It doesn’t have to mean anything,” Kara continues. “Not yet, or ever, but I want you to know.”
This time it’s Lena who’s leaning forward, crowding into Kara’s space. Kara doesn’t miss the way Lena’s eyes fall to her mouth, in a complete role reversal from before.
Kara is the one that crosses the final distance, tilts her head to capture Lena’s lips in her own.
Despite knowing it’s about to happen, Kara still gasps when their mouths meet, heat flooding through Kara as Lena’s fingers tangle in her hair, hold her close as their lips move together.
“I love you, too,” Lena says into the kiss, but the shock of the words are enough to make Kara pull away.
“You do?” Kara breathes, voice filled with awe.
Lena looks slightly dazed, her lip stick smudged and it makes it very hard not to kiss her again.
“I do. I have for a long time. Even when...” Lena trails off, Kara knowing exactly when Lena was referring to, something they still need to talk about.
“Me too,” Kara says, swallowing down the emotion building in her chest. She hadn’t realised, all this time, Lena had felt the same way.
She’s about to lean in, to kiss Lena again, because Lena’s lips are so soft and she wants to show Lena exactly how she feels about, but voices inside pull her attention away.
“Are you thinking about cake?” Lena asks, misinterpreting her distraction.
“No,” Kara smiles. “Nia is excitedly telling Alex that we just kissed.”
“Oh,” Lena says, cheeks going red. Kara’s not sure if it’s the word ‘kiss’ or the fact that they’ve been caught that causes it though. Lena swallows. “Do you want to go and get some cake?” Lena asks as she glances inside, sees they’re being watched, but she makes no move to pull away this time.
Kara shakes her head. “No.”
“Are you okay?” Lena asks, jokingly bringing a hand to her forehead as her attention returns to Kara. “I’ve never heard of Supergirl passing up cake before.”
Kara rolls her eyes with a shrug. “Some things are better than cake.”
“Oh really?” Lena asks, a smile playing on her lips.
Kara winds her arms around Lena’s neck, tilts forward, her lips brushing Lena’s when she speaks. “Really.”
A call from Alex pulls them apart not long later and Kara turns to see her sister’s nose scrunched up in disgust as she looks at them, but she can also tell Alex is trying not to smile.
“Are we allowed to eat this cake yet? I’m starving.”
Kara smiles as she reaches down to thread her fingers through Lena’s hand, tugs her towards the door.
There are knowing, and very amused, looks when they return inside, but they all look happy.
Kara’s happy too, something she wasn’t sure she’d ever feel again.
It’s her father’s comment that makes her laugh again as they’re all eating cake, Kara managing with just one hand because she’s not ready to let Lena go yet.
“Is Lena not your wife?”
Kara presses her face into Lena’s shoulder, cheeks red when Alex’s response is, “not yet.”