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i can't decide if it's a choice (getting swept away)

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It wasn’t like Kara hadn't seen it coming.

After all, Lena had been single for a few months now. After the initial sadness and the obligatory wait time, both of which Kara had tried her hardest to help her best friend through, there was a natural conclusion.

She just hadn’t expected the conclusion to be so… abrupt.

“It’s with a woman from R&D,” Lena had explained to Kara when she’d told her. It had happened over lunch, with Lena’s cheeks dusted pink and her eyes a bit brighter than usual. “We’re going to get sushi, I think, and maybe a drink if it goes well.”

And Kara’s just protective. She cares about Lena, so much (so much). So she’s understandably worried, reasonably concerned, and it’s all perfectly logical. What isn’t logical, though, is the jealousy, the total disappointment that Lena could be looking that bright and excited over someone else, someone who is not Kara.

“And you like her? Is she nice, will she look out for you?” Kara finally brings herself to ask slowly, channeling her energy into something productive— making sure this… R&D mystery woman, whoever she is, will treat Lena right. It’s what she deserves.

“Yeah, I suppose I do,” Lena says, smiling faintly, mind elsewhere. “And yes, Kara, she’s good. Very respectful, very kind. Smart.”

“Is she... attractive?” Kara’s almost afraid to know the answer. It’s a tricky line to walk. Lena’s happiness comes above all else, she realizes. She’s known for a while that, ideally, it’d be her making Lena smile every day, her making Lena laugh with stupid puns she knows will land perfectly, her being the reason Lena has just a little bit more pleasure behind her grin.

Lena laughs, now. She ducks her head, fidgeting with her napkin. “Yes,” she answers, a hint of laughter still present in her breath, “very attractive. Why, are you planning to steal her away from me?”

Lena’s teasing her, she knows, but there’s a thread of something woven through it. Lena’s doubtful, looking for approval. She wants Kara’s enthusiasm.

So Kara softens. She realized a long time ago that she’d do anything for Lena.

“I just want to make sure she’s good enough for you,” Kara replies, fixing Lena with a fondly serious gaze, “and she sounds lovely. I’m really happy for you, Lena.”

Lena turns red. She gives Kara a grateful smile, a little Lena smile that curves down just a bit at the corners. Kara’s glad to see it, especially considering how Lena looked right after her breakup, the vision still seared into Kara’s mind. Eyes red and hooded, gaze bleary, hands fidgety and cheeks pinkened in the sad way, not the adorable way. It’s good, she reminds herself, this is good for Lena. This is what is best for her.

Lena turns back to her food after a moment, and Kara follows her lead. This is Big Belly Burger, after all. No fry left behind.

When she’d told Alex that she was in love with Lena, Lena had still been in a relationship. Alex had been a little surprised by the intensity of the confession, by Kara saying she had something to explain and segueing rapidly into gasping sobs. She just cared about Lena, cared about her so much that it got hard to bear sometimes.

People tended to be surprised by their intensity, people beyond just Alex. There were always a few raised eyebrows at Game Night when Lena laid her head resolutely in the crook of Kara’s neck. Kara knew Lena’s employees gossiped about how often they had lunch up in Lena’s office, and social media was constantly alight with speculation after paparazzi photos of the two of them leaving a gala together would surface.

Kara was aware that she and Lena were fiercer maybe, more passionate definitely than the average pair of best friends. It was probably the reason she’d been confused about her feelings for Lena for so long. But that was just the way they were: Kara and Lena, Lena and Kara. Kara’s feelings couldn’t get in the way of their closeness, she didn’t let it happen.

That sort of intensity, that overflow of feelings Kara really only ever got when it came to Lena was being magnified now. Because Kara knew that Lena’s happiness came first, it was her own rule. And she abided by it at all times. She was happy for Lena, she was content just as long as Lena was.

(But you wish it was you, her brain whispers traitorously. You wish she would glow like that because of you.)

“I just,” Lena starts, and looks a little surprised to hear her own voice break the silence, “I’m just happy to have a date in the first place, you know? I mean, the breakup made sense, it was time. But it’s hard to find someone who can look past my name. And I understand, of course,” she shrugged, face a little sad despite herself, “but… well, I’m glad somebody asked. I’m glad she asked.”

The way Lena looked down on herself always baffled Kara, the way other people treated Lena because of her family only made it worse.

“They’re all cowards,” Kara says, through a fry. “Anyone would be lucky to have you. Like, so incredibly lucky, Lena. You know that, right?”

Lena just does that fond little half smile, the one that’s almost always directed at Kara. “I know, Kara. And you know how much I appreciate you, right?”

Kara smiles.

--

Lena’s date is on Saturday, so Kara spends three days anxious.

She may be in love with Lena, may be completely gone on this woman, but Lena is her best friend too. There’s a big part of her, a majority of her, probably, that wants the date to go well. For Lena’s sake, for the sake of her happiness, for the sake of how joyful Kara gets from Lena’s joy.

She doesn't know the woman’s name, but Lena’s probably smart not to give it to her. If she had, Kara would probably contact her, warn her against hurting Lena or hurting Lena’s feelings or even daring to make Lena do anything but smile. Kara wonders if the mystery woman has any idea how thin the ice she’s treading on really is.

Kara and Lena call every night before they go to bed. It’s something they’ve done for the better part of a year, and something they agree to keep secret because of the sheer idea of Alex and Nia’s faces if they ever found out.

It’s not clingy, Kara knows it. It’s just that when she and Lena are apart she misses her, and hearing Lena’s voice as she slips beneath the covers and dims her lamplight is comforting. It helps her relax, helps her feel right. Nights can be hard, with shadows of chairs and shelves looking like ghosts of her past. The darkness doesn’t warm her and the loft feels smaller, feels almost like her pod and the twenty four years in desolate silence.

Lena is light, Lena is a grounding hand. She can’t be there all night every night, but when Lena’s voice is the last thing Kara hears she sleeps better. It’s a fact. And on one bedside table there is a photo of her and Lena on Alex and Kelly’s roof, and on the other is an oddly shaped ceramic turtle that Lena had gifted her from the crafts class they took together last year. Her room, her whole house, her whole life, at this point, is a bit of a shrine to Lena Luthor. Kara loves it when she gets the chance to walk through the museum she’s built. She will gaze at the portraits of Lena’s soft but stony profile on the beach late at night and the curve of Lena’s shoulders while she works. She will let her hands flit over the snowglobe Lena had shaken with joy at the NC Aquarium, and the books Lena takes down from her shelves just to hold, and the candle Lena keeps in Kara’s living room because she likes the wintery scent. She will nuzzle into the sweater of Lena’s she always borrows, spin in the gala dresses and high high heels.

Lena’s voice is just another charm, another feature for the growing list of treasures Kara counts herself lucky to witness.

On Friday night Lena calls around eleven.

“Jesus fucking Christ, Kara, you’ll never believe it. I left the office not even half an hour ago,” Lena says the second Kara answers the call. There is a shuffling noise in the background, Kara’s pretty sure Lena is taking off her jacket and tight jeans as she speaks, maybe putting on water for tea. She smiles, burrows a little deeper into her blanket.

“When I tell you that they would not give me a break… I’m catching up on ten reports, and two of the board members will not stop hounding Jess over a scheduling conflict so I had to deal with them on top of it all… I never even got to make the two calls that were my priority today, these unbelievably helpless people can’t put two and two together without me guiding their hand. God, you should see them.”

“I wish I could,” Kara says, gazing down at her toes tracing patterns on the underside of her comforter. “I wish I could see their faces when you tell them all that.”

“What, you want to see me make grown men cry?” Lena asks, voice dropping a little lower and Kara just knows she’s raising her eyebrow, even all the way across the city. “Darling, you should’ve told me. I could’ve invited Supergirl to help me out.”

“Darn it,” Kara says, smile only widening when Lena lets out a breathy little laugh. She hears a whistling in the background, some clinking and a little hiss. Lena’s tea is ready, she thinks vaguely.

“Anyway,” Lena says, after the noise has subsided, “I get home to see that Nikola tore up a big file I left on the coffee table. I still can’t believe you talked me into getting that cat, Kara.”

“Lena! How dare you say that about him!” Kara says indignantly, rolling over with a huff. “He is a perfect angel and he obviously was just trying to send you a message. He wants his mom to stop working so much.”

Really, Lena and Kara had adopted Nikola together. Kara had been the one to take Lena to the animal shelter, pointing enthusiastically at every cat in sight after Lena had finally agreed that it might be nice to have some company in an apartment as large as hers. Nikola had gray fur, deep blue eyes, and a name taken straight out of one of Lena’s extensive invention books. (“Tesla was one of the greatest inventors of all time, Kara,” Lena had been sure to inform her when she’d raised an eyebrow.)

“Yeah,” Lena sighs, then. “I think I need to cut back, just a bit. The hours are really getting to me. My back has been on fire for the past week.”

No,” Kara says dramatically, and hears Lena sigh in the background, knowing what’s coming. “Lena Luthor? Cutting back? Call the presses!”

“You are the presses, honey,” Lena says.

Kara has the time to process two things in the time before she answers, the first being how tired Lena does sound. Her tone is as sweet as ever, always glad to be on the phone with Kara. Kara knows her better than that, though, and exhaustion drips from every syllable of Lena’s words.

The second, of course, is the way her heart reacts to being called ‘honey’. It’s doing a strange sort of backflip, an extensive gymnastic routine that had been choreographed without her knowledge. Honey. It’s a new one. She likes it, likes it a lot.

But despite the strange jumps and spins inside her chest Kara can reply. “Leeena,” she groans. Lena chuckles, and Kara’s tone shifts. “Seriously, though, you sound exhausted. I’m not going to keep you on for long, I’m making you go to sleep.”

“Pretty sure you can’t make me,” Lena says, and Kara hears her take a sip of tea. She can almost picture Lena’s face, scrunched up and mock contemplative in her teasing, all falling when she brings the mug up to her lips.

“Um, pretty sure I can,” Kara says, making the same scrunched face she imagines even though Lena can’t see it and it’s almost stupid to pull, “I mean, you are talking to Supergirl, after all.”

“Oh, you’re right,” Lena says, “I guess if Supergirl really wanted me in bed she could have me there in a second.”

Kara chokes on her own spit, recovers gasping for breath through her nose. Lena just laughs softly.

“In all seriousness, though,” Lena says, and her voice is soft and honest, so Kara quiets her heaving breathing, “before I go to sleep, I just wanted to ask you something. Or, like tell you. Or tell you and ask you, I suppose, but—,”

“Lena, you sound like me,” Kara says quietly, smiling a bit when Lena lets out a nervous little breath of a laugh. “Slow down, what do you need?”

“It’s kind of silly,” Lena says, and Kara furrows her brow.

“It is not silly, I promise you. Whatever you need, Lena.”

It’s quiet for a second. Kara twists her fingers together, turns her hand so that her index finger slots under her ring finger. She breaks them apart in the next moment.

“Well,” Lena says, then, “I’m just… I realized I’m a little nervous. For my date.”

“Oh,” Kara answers, because that’s about all she can say. Lena’s date. “Um, well. That’s totally understandable, of course. It’s your first date since a big breakup, first first date in a while… but it’s going to be great, Lena, I know it. She’s going to fall in love with you in a minute.”

(This is true. Kara would know.)

“Yeah,” Lena says, still quietly, “I know you think that, and that’s why I’m so grateful you’re… well, I was wondering if maybe tomorrow you’d be able to help me? Get ready, I mean, for my date. It’s at seven and I just know I’ll be spiraling and panicking and you… you calm me down, Kara. And I totally understand if you can’t, and that’s fine, I just thought I’d… ask, I suppose,” Lena trails off, voice a little higher than usual.

Kara cannot say no to her.

“Of course,” is what she says, and Lena breathes out a sigh of relief in the background. Kara’s heart swells. “Me and Nikola are gonna team up, pick out the best outfit and everything. That girl won’t even know what hit her. I know this for a fact, of course.”

“Of course,” Lena says, and it’s small. Kara softens even more, if that’s possible, and shuts her eyes to focus on Lena’s breathing on the other end of the call.

“You can be nervous, Lena, that’s allowed. But I’m going to help you and she’s going to love you and right now,” Kara says, rolling over to stare at the ceramic turtle on her bedside table, “my first step in helping you is making you go to sleep early. So it’s time for that now.”

“Okay,” Lena mumbles, and Kara hears the rustling of bedsheets and the tiny, tiny sigh Lena gives as she crawls under her covers. Kara’s heart swells again, hands and stomach aching with her desperate love for the woman who unwittingly owns so much of her life, so many of her thoughts. “Thank you, Kara. Really, so much.”

“Always,” Kara replies. “And goodnight, Lena.”

“Goodnight,” Lena answers quietly, “Um, I love you.”

This is something they’ve worked up to, something Lena used to not be able to convey. Kara always knew, though, knew in Lena’s tight squeezes in the middle of hugs and in the glint of her eyes when she smiled at Kara and in the presents and meals and CatCo exclusives she’d doled out little by little.

“I love you, Lena. See you tomorrow, I’ll text you.”

“Okay. Love you, bye.”

“Love you, bye.”

Kara hears one last little breath over the phone before the line clicks, and she rolls over in the dark to shut her eyes tight and tune into Lena’s heartbeat. It’s steady and soft, drifting into sleep itself.

---

Lena’s date is at seven, so Kara gets to her house at six.

They need adequate time, after all. Lena needs time to be nervous and Kara needs time to reassure her and it’s necessary, obviously. Alex’s knowing looks and little sideways smiles to Kelly can leave her alone.

“Oh, thank god,” Lena says as Kara unlocks the door to her fancy penthouse apartment. “Kara, I’m in crisis already.”

It certainly appears to be true. There is a beeping sound from Lena’s kitchen, out of which a puff of gray black smoke wafts. The television is on, loudly playing reruns of a show Kara knows for a fact Lena’s already watched three times through. There are clothes littered on the couch and the floor, leading in an odd sort of path towards the door of Lena’s bedroom, still open a crack. The countertop is covered in various earrings, bracelets, and tubes of mascara. Nikola is sitting amongst the mess, pushing a royal blue dress with his paw, looking thoroughly unamused.

Kara flocks to him first, lifting him up into her arms. He purrs, nestling his head on her shoulder— by some strange occurrence Nikola, who bites at most of Lena’s guests and delights in shredding paper and breaking bowls, absolutely adores Kara. She counts herself lucky.

“Hey, buddy,” she coos, petting down his back, “what’s happened here? Your mom’s taken a little trip off the deep end, hasn’t she?”

“Oh, shut up,” Lena says good naturedly, poking her head out of the kitchen with two large oven mitts on her hands.

“What are you cooking, anyway?” Kara calls over to her, hushing Nikola as he starts to squirm.

“Chocolate muffins,” Lena replies, and Kara lets out an audible gasp. “I was stressed, you know I make impulsive decisions like that. Kara, how could you leave me in this state?”

“But if I hadn’t I wouldn’t be getting muffins,” Kara replies, smirking.

“Who said you’re getting any?” Lena answers, kicking the oven door shut as she carries a full tray towards the marble countertop.

“Lena! You wouldn’t dare.”

“Try me,” Lena smirks.

So Kara does what needs to be done. She pulls out her most pathetic pout, turns Nikola’s head so that his large round eyes can gaze helplessly at Lena’s as well.

“You’d really deny us muffins?” Kara says, and she can see Lena’s reserve cracking. Perfect.

Lena hesitates for another second. “You are insufferable,” she finally says, and Kara knows it’s an invitation. She crows in victory, speeds over to the counter to pull a muffin from its wrapper and take a large bite in triumph.

“Mmmm,” she is sure to emphasize, nodding her head in Lena’s direction with wide eyes.

Lena looks on fondly, as though Kara were a little bit dumb and a little bit ridiculous but still endearing. Which is exactly what she’d been going for, of course, and Lena looked a little less anxious now. Which is Kara’s job.

“So, now that we’re all well fed,” Kara says through a mouthful of crumbs, taking a seat on one of Lena’s barstools, “wanna explain what’s going on… here?” She gestures around the room, from the TV playing to the earrings to the scattered outfits.

Lena turns pink.

“I don’t know what to wear,” she grumbles, “I needed your help.”

“This reminds me of a great business idea I had,” Kara says, smiling widely at Lena. “Supergirl style Queer Eye. I could be all the experts! It would be amazing, Lena.”

“Do you know how to redecorate a house?” Lena says, brow furrowed but lips upturned.

“Well, not technically. But how can you know if you don’t try, right?” Kara says, bouncing up from her seat. “I can see it now! Lena Luthor, twenty-seven year old businesswoman and CEO, who needs to learn how to take time off work. Submitted by her best friend Kara Danvers… oh, and I could cut you bangs! Or a mohawk. Or maybe a perm, you could rock a disco look.”

“Oh my god,” Lena laughs, “you are actually ridiculous. I can’t believe this is the person I’m choosing to help me get ready.”

“Yup! The best choice, obviously,” Kara beams at her, and it’s like sunlight when, despite her eye roll, Lena beams back.

“Fine,” she says, “I’ll admit it, the attitude helps. But I need you to narrow down my outfit choices, right now.”

“Between which ones?”

Lena groans loudly. “My whole closet.”

Kara gets to work, superspeeds through Lena’s clothes and marvels at the sheer number of them, at the price of some of the blouses and heels strewn haphazardly on Lena’s hardwood floor. Lena’s wardrobe is extensive, and Kara reminds herself to get Lena to show it to Nia sometime. She’s sure Nia would practically explode.

After it all, choosing two outfits as finalists is easy. Well, it’s difficult, but it’s easy too somehow.

Because Kara can understand Lena better than anyone can, and Kara can understand Lena better than she understands anyone. Kara can tell that Lena cares about this date, knows how much this night is going to mean to her, knows what the potential of a something can do. Lena gets so few opportunities to be young, to be twenty seven and a little silly. Lena is so attractive, so goddamn gorgeous but she’d always had dates manufactured for the public eye, not a single random hookup since high school.

And now there’s a real person asking Lena out and it hurts Kara, it hurts her so much. But Lena doesn’t like her like that, it’s clear by now, and Kara is not going to be the person who messes one of Lena’s new chances up. Just because she’s a little bit jealous, just because Lena is excited for her date with another woman… it doesn’t mean Kara isn’t going to do her absolute best to make sure the date is perfect.

That’s what best friends are for, after all.

So she picks two outfits that make her eyes linger on Lena the longest. Anyone would be lucky to be in Lena’s presence, but in the green dress Kara picks out they should be on their knees. Anyone would fall in love with Lena at first sight, Kara’s sure, but in the black striped blazer Kara retrieves second it might happen even faster, even stronger.

She allows herself a moment to dream of a world where she’s at Lena’s door with flowers (plumerias, of course) and Lena’s opening the door in a green dress and her hair wavy and a big smile and a kiss for Kara. Or another world where they walk down the street arm in arm, Lena’s black blazer bringing out the color of her hair and her matching pants and bright white shirt making her face glow in the moonlight.

But then she shakes herself back to reality, carries the two options out of the closet for Lena, takes a steeling breath. She can do this. It’s what Lena deserves.

“Okay,” she says, putting on a bright smile, “here’s your two choices. Green dress, matches the eyes, looks gorgeous on you. Or, black blazer. Matches the hair, you’d look stunning. What do you think?”

Lena bites her lip, wrinkles her nose, squints her eyes. She’s adorable, Kara thinks fleetingly, hand on the hanger fidgeting in an attempt to push her glasses up her nose.

“I think I’ll go with the dress,” Lena says after a moment, reaching out towards Kara to grab the hanger. “I love this one. Sam says it’s hot.”

“It is,” Kara says faintly. It’s true. The first time she’d seen Lena in the green dress she’d been at risk of spilling hot udon soup across her lap and the carpet of an upscale restaurant in downtown National City.

Lena takes the dress from her outstretched hand and gestures toward the bathroom, stepping inside to change. Kara lets out a shuddering breath she couldn’t remember drawing.

It’s just so hard, sometimes. Lena is bright and happy and wonderful, and Kara is content to sit and watch like she is observing a meteor shower or an eclipse or any other instant of otherworldly beauty. And she is content with it.

But then Lena scrunches her nose when she smiles. Lena’s face will brighten when she sees Kara at her office door. Lena will whisper a trivia answer in her ear at game night, giving their team the final boost to cross the finish line.

And it’s hard. She wants to be a good friend, it’s her only goal. But when Lena opens the door to the bathroom with a flourish, an excited grin threatening to burst across her face as she looks down at the deep green of the dress, Kara’s mind wanders and she can’t help it. She can picture it as a different situation, one where she is Lena’s and Lena is hers.

In her dress with her hair lightly curled, Lena reaches down to pick up Nikola and bounces him slightly in her arms, murmuring something into his fluffy ear. It would make an excellent photograph, Kara thinks absently. If she could take one, she would.

Instead she roots through the jewelry box Lena had deposited next to her on the marble countertop.

Lena has an extensive earring collection, but Kara has a specific pair in mind. They are diamonds, with a few pale green beads so that the shimmer has a vague tint. They’re stunning on Lena, and the rocks themselves are the perfect amount of class for a date. Well, for a date for someone as rich as Lena.

Lena puts down the cat and makes her way over. “Are we doing earrings?”

“We are,” Kara says, shuffling around the pile before pulling one out successfully. “These ones. They’re perfect, look!”

“That they are,” Lena says.

Kara expects her to reach out her hand, or for her to take the earrings out of the box herself. What she doesn’t expect is for Lena to lean down, for her ear to be right near Kara’s jaw and hand.

(Lena’s neck is pale and sleek, prominent freckles striking. Kara swallows.)

“Put them on for me?”

Kara’s hand actually trembles, Alex would have raised an eyebrow through a smirk. The diamond wavers, clinks against her fingernail.

“It’s six fifty,” Lena points out softly, brushing down her hair once again.

“Just a second,” Kara murmurs back. She reaches for Lena’s earlobe.

It’s strangely intimate, because Lena’s breath hitches just the slightest bit and Kara’s own breathing comes to a halt. She loops the earring through Lena’s lobe, snaps the clasp shut delicately when it’s in. Lena turns her head, then, to give Kara access to her other ear and their faces are right in front of each other then. Kara could just lean forward, just a few inches…

She doesn’t, though. She dutifully reaches for Lena’s other ear, holding out the diamond.

“I’m nervous,” Lena confesses quietly, unnecessarily. Kara already knows.

Kara just hums, nods, clips the earring.

“You know,” she says, letting her fingers linger on Lena’s ear, “you are so beautiful. You are amazing and brilliant and kind, Lena. She’s so lucky to have you for the evening.”

Being up close she can see the pink spread across Lena’s cheeks, it’s like a sunset.

“Thanks,” Lena mumbles, “I hope… I don’t know. I hope it’s what I hoped it’d be, you know?”

“It will be. And if it’s not? Me and Nikola just happen to be hanging out at my place, so you can come stay with us. I mean, I’d have to ask him, but I’m sure he’d be fine with it.”

Lena lets out a little huff of a laugh at that. She turns to face Kara so Kara lets her hand drop from the slight curls at the edge of Lena’s hairline. She leans back for good measure, looking Lena right in the eye.

“Lena. I’m proud of you.”

Lena ducks her head, blushes harder. “What for, I didn’t do anything,” she says, but Kara can tell she’s pleased.

“You did too! You’re going on a date, that’s something. And I know it can be hard, so that’s another.”

“I suppose so,” Lena says, and Kara nods encouragingly.

“That’s right. Wear comfortable shoes, please, none of those five inch heels. Text me if you need anything, and text me when you want me to return your abducted cat. Or if you want to tell me how it goes. Don’t do anything crazy. Oh, and let me know when you get home, even if it’s… tomorrow.”

Lena raises both eyebrows at that, a little smirk on her face at Kara’s hesitance.

“Thank you, Kara,” she says finally. Her mouth opens after a heartbeat, hesitating like she’s about to say something more, but then she pauses, looks away.

Lena’s phone buzzes suddenly, faceup on the marble. She glances down at it, and Kara watches as her face brightens.

“She’s in the lobby,” Lena says, smiling as her fingers move across her phone’s keyboard.

“Oh,” Kara says quietly, following as Lena gets to her feet and slips on shoes (wedge heels, not stilettos, so maybe Lena listens to Kara a little more than she lets on).

At the door, Lena turns back and gives Kara a wild little beam, excitement and nerves evident in her gleaming eyes.

“Wish me luck,” she says, hands fidgeting.

“Good luck,” Kara says, and it’s earnest and true even as her stomach feels like it’s plummeting.

The lock turns and the door opens and Lena is gone suddenly, Kara’s last glance of her a flash of a grin and a tint of green.

She lets out a sigh, sends out a little prayer that Lena will be happy, and leans against the back of the door.

Please she finds herself thinking, unsure of what she’s pleading for exactly, please.

Her eyes fall shut. She thinks of Lena’s tentative grin, her black wavy hair, the gorgeous green of her dress and the luck of the woman in the lobby who doesn’t even understand the half of it.

Please.

And then she’s pushing herself off the door, scooping up Nikola and a few toy mice, and shooting off Lena’s balcony towards her loft.

She will throw mice for the cat and eat leftover shrimp tacos and plead some more.

Maybe it’ll be enough.

---

Home now, return the hostage or else Lena’s text reads. It flashes across Kara’s phone at nine thirty seven (not that she’s been checking), right as the contestants on the episode of The Great British Bake Off line up before their creations. Kara grips the remote and presses pause, squinting around her apartment to locate Nikola.

The pit in her stomach is full of butterflies all of a sudden, and she can’t remember exactly when the nerves took over. Lena’s coming home, the date is over, Kara’s near future will be mapped by its results.

She locates the cat and gathers him up in her arms. After a moment, Kara doubles back and grabs a box of rich French chocolates from atop her fridge, just in case.

Lena is sitting on her couch dressed in her date outfit when Kara lands, and she looks up from the television with a grin.

“I’m channel surfing. Did you know there’s a show where people send puppies down waterslides? I feel like it might qualify as animal abuse.”

“We should call PETA,” Kara says, tossing herself down next to Lena. “Hi.”

“Hi, Kara.”

“How, um… how was your date?” She asks, trying to quell the uprising of butterflies as the words leave her mouth.

Lena makes a face, a wrinkle forming in her brow as she leans over Kara’s lap to grab the remote from the coffee table. “Eh. She loved the outfit, I think, but she was pretty boring. We didn’t really hit it off.”

“So you... do you think you’ll see her again?” Kara asks, trying to slow her rapidly beating heart.

Lena pauses, crinkles her nose adorably. “Nah, I don’t think so,” she says.

It’s hard. Because Kara just wants Lena to be happy, it’s all she could’ve hoped for. But then again, Lena isn’t dating anyone. She isn’t even interested in anyone. A little surge of a strange, confident emotion moves through Kara’s chest.

“That’s perfectly fine. Great, even,” Lena smirks at her, “I get to spend the rest of my night with you. Are you opposed to watching the second half of Legally Blonde?”

Kara blinks, looks up at the screen where a muted scene is playing itself out, Reese Witherspoon cocking her head questioningly.

“Uh, no. That sounds great,” she says after a moment, shaking her head after Lena turns away to unmute the television and pull the cat onto her lap.

It’s confusing, and strange, and hard.

After a minute, though, Lena’s head drops to rest on Kara’s shoulder. She moves her arm so it locks itself over Kara’s stomach, and she nuzzles in just slightly deeper.

“You’re okay?” Kara says, very quietly. Just low enough so that it travels through the still air, small enough not to disrupt the peace that’s quickly settling over the dimly lit room, the soft leathery couch, the TV screen lit with a reflection of Lena’s kitchen light.

“I’m okay,” Lena affirms, mumbling into Kara’s collarbone.

“I bet she was wishing she was more interesting, just to keep up with you,” Kara says softly still, and Lena lets out a little breath of a laugh before curling still close.

“You’re an idiot. Watch the movie, Kara.”

And Kara knows it’s selfish, knows she can’t want Lena all to herself. She’s completely aware. Still, Kara will take what she can get, will take the friendship and the arm touches and the gala invites. She would be perfectly happy existing next to Lena forever, she thinks, even if Lena found someone else. Just so long as she’s happy.

-

When the movie ends, credit music blaring loudly through the living room, Lena gives a long stretch and sits herself up, rubbing at her eyes.

“I should go, probably,” Kara says, watching as Lena’s eyes flutter shut and her head leans back against the pillows.

“No, don’t,” Lena mumbles, eyes still closed, “‘M just resting my eyes. I’ll be back in a second.”

Kara hums in response, letting her eyes fix onto Lena’s curled figure.

It’s hard to believe how far they’ve come. It feels like not even a minute ago it was Lena looking her way, telling Kara she couldn’t possibly finish all those appetizers alone, like Kara is still beaming tentatively and shuffling nervously forward. But now they’re here, on Lena’s couch after a night of vulnerability that Kara knows exhausts Lena to her core.

And Kara does know, knows that Lena needs an extra push to trust and that Lena flirts like it’s what she was born to do but shies away from intimacy in all forms, except for Kara’s now. She knows Lena, inside and out, whether it be the simple things like Lena’s coffee order or the complicated ones like how to approach Lena when she feels like the safest existence is one amongst burnt bridges.

The love had hit her suddenly, forcefully, painfully, nothing like the way Lena helped her through living. It had been a true shock, but over time it had progressed into simply living. Kara struggled to imagine feeling without feeling for Lena, found it impossible to picture ecstasy that didn’t stem from a little more affection from Lena’s direction. It was sewn into the very seams of Kara’s being, a shimmering web of existence that couldn’t break even while dusted aside.

Lena opens one eye, then the other. “Okay. I’m awake.”

“Okay. Perfect.”

“Are you really going? You can stay, you know.”

And Kara wants to, wishes she could, but tomorrow morning involves two early interviews and patrol for a local parade and she really can’t stay up half the night with Lena beforehand, as much as she might want to. Which, of course, is a lot.

“I can’t,” she grumbles, frowning down at the shag carpet. “I have to go home.”

“That’s stupid,” Lena says, dropping her head back to watch the ceiling.

“Yeah, it is,” Kara answers, watching her profile move as she breathes.

“Kara?”

“Yeah?”

Lena is sitting up again, moving closer and closer to Kara until they’re face to face. Kara takes a breath.

“Thank you for helping me tonight. I was stressed, and crazy, it was— well, thank you.”

“Lena,” Kara says, leaning forward just a bit (it’s like Lena’s a magnet, really), “You don’t have to thank me. You know I’ll always help you.”

“Yeah, I know. I just… I don’t know. And I’m glad I went, even if it wasn’t great, you know? In a way it’s better.”

“How’s it better?”

“I wasn’t totally expecting to meet the love of my life tonight. I wanted something, which I didn’t get, but… I had to get it out of the way, the first first date after a long relationship, right? And I couldn’t have done that with someone I really, really liked. So it worked out.”

“Someone you really—,” Kara swallows, and Lena is closer than she can remember her being, “Um, is there someone you… I mean, do you…”

Suddenly, Kara doesn’t feel like she can speak. Lena is close and the room is dim and quiet, even as her heartbeat is thundering in her ears.

“Well,” Lena says in that deep, raspy voice of hers that comes out every once in a while (Kara’s mind goes instantly to that plane ride to Kasnia, to all the cold showers she’s taken in the dead of night when she’s reminded of it). Her pupils are dark, but there is a little fear in her eyes too. Kara can smell the white wine on Lena’s breath.

She needs to breathe.

Kara leans back, just an inch, looks up at Lena’s dangling ceiling light for a beat. “I guess you’re right. Better to get back into the swing of things before you look for something serious, right?” She chuckles awkwardly.

She hates herself for a moment. But in her defense, Lena’s had a few drinks and she wants someone right now. It’s not about Kara, it’s not, it’s not.

She could never forgive herself if she ruined everything with Lena just because the lighting was just right, and Lena’s hair was so soft at that moment, and, and, and.

She feels Lena’s gaze on her, and she’s worried it’ll be laced with disappointment.

She should’ve known better, though. When she makes eye contact with Lena it’s to a face full of fondness, of affection. Of gratefulness. Lena leans back as well, but keeps her hand right next to Kara’s.

“Exactly,” Lena says.

Kara should know by now, should know that Lena will not judge her and will not resent her. Should know that whatever this is matters.

Lena is getting closer again, but this time it’s big, it’s fiery. Lena is leaning in so that she can press a kiss to the fabric covering Kara’s shoulder, and she can feel Lena nuzzling her upper arm and it’s all so much.

“Okay!” She says loudly, jumping up abruptly, watching as Lena’s face turns upwards questioningly. “Um, it’s really late and I should probably get home. Gotta get my beauty sleep, you know?”

“Of course you do,” Lena says, smiling a secret sort of smile. It itches at Kara’s brain. Lena’s secret smiles are always shared with her alone, always for the two of them to giggle at whatever misguided investor thinks he has a shred of a chance with Lena. This smile, though, is private, a secret with herself.

It’s beautiful.

Kara feels far too hot, all of a sudden. The room feels hard and edgy and she needs to get home.

“I’ll, um… I’ll see you soon,” she says to Lena hurridley, and darts out the window.

-

In the morning she wakes up to two texts from Lena.

Thank you again for helping me out last night and for staying with me, really means the world, the first one reads, and Kara fidgets with her fingers, remembering how she’d sped out of Lena’s window last night.

The second text says, simply: Are you okay? You left so suddenly

Kara groans audibly, shooting out of bed to brew a cup of coffee for herself. As the machine whirrs she bites at her thumbnail, reliving her exit over and over again in her mind.

She’d just left.

The machine beeps and Kara jumps, lost in her head. She’s pushing Lena’s favorited contact before she can fully grasp what she’s doing.

Lena answers on the second ring.

“Kara?” She says, and Kara hates that she sounds tentative.

“Hi,” she says firmly, “hi, Lena. How are you feeling?”

“Good,” Lena says a little more openly, “Um, how are you?”

“Listen, I’m so sorry,” she says quickly in a sort of burst of words, “I know I left things so weird last night, I was overwhelmed and I guess really tired and all the stress kind of got to me, you know, and it was getting really hot? Except you always keep your house freezing so I don’t really know what that was, but—,”

“Kara?” Lena says softly.

“... Yeah?”

“You didn’t do anything wrong. I was just worried about you.”

“Oh,” Kara breathes, “Okay.”

“So, is it safe to say you’d be up for a little Great British Bake Off on this lovely Sunday morning?”

“Can I make us some French toast?”

“When have I ever said no?”

---

Sam’s birthday party is the tipping point, of sorts.

The night starts out loud and raucous. It reminds Kara vaguely of the few college parties she’d managed to find her way into, before she’d left in a hurry. Well, if those parties were populated with a batch of her closest friends, of course.

It’s hardly even ten o’clock when Nia and J’onn curl up together on Sam’s shag carpet, a bottle of alien liquor between them as they warble loudly through a selection Kara recognizes from Nia’s playlists. Everyone is drunk, everyone is flushed and happy and Kara sits back to admire it.

It’s nice, seeing her friends this way. To see Alex with mussed hair and an unfocused smile while she gazes adoringly over at Kelly, to see Brainy triumphant as he beats Sam in a half finished game of Monopoly, performing an odd disjointed victory dance. These are the people who save the city day after day, the people who are lined through with anxiety and paranoia and fear, at all times.

And yet here they are.

And Lena’s here too.

She’s tipsy, not even close to as drunk as Sam or Alex but buzzy, warm and pink cheeked and a little more giggly than usual. Lena’s here, leaned over one of Sam’s barstool chairs talking to Kelly. Kara gazes over at her, hears the conversation flow her way. Lena’s accent is stronger than usual too, slipping out with all the bottled up secrets Lena keeps inside.

With the faint yellowed lighting and the black night outside Lena looks golden. She is highlighted, bathed in a sort of glow and Kara is incapable of looking away.

Nia and J’onn hit a high note on an odd cracking sound right as Lena turns, glances down towards the carpet. Down to Kara.

Her eyes stop roaming, fixed on Kara’s face. She smiles.

And that’s enough, really. Kara stops breathing, just for a second, and it’s amazing how Lena’s eyes reflect like that, how her hair kind of shimmers, how…

Lena tilts her head down, making eye contact still as she gives Kara a private little smile, beckons with her hand.

And how can Kara refuse?

“Noo, come back!” Sam groans as she gets to her feet, but she gently pries the clutching hands from her leg to wander, dazed towards Lena, who has still not looked away. Rao.

When she reaches Lena Kelly squeezes her arm, then turns away to join Alex on the couch (quite enthusiastically).

Lena looks up at her and oh, the light is even better over here, the gold is woven through the baby hairs on the edges of Lena’s face and into the sparkly threads in her gauzy top.

“Hi,” Kara murmurs, looking slowly at Lena’s wine colored lips, which curve up into a smirk, for some reason.

“Hi Kara,” Lena replies, and it’s long, drawn out in a deep and raspy voice that makes Kara gulp.

“Um,” she says stupidly, and Lena laughs softly. She gazes at Kara for another moment, and her look is odd, almost… hungry? But in an instant it’s gone and Lena’s soft face that is reserved for Kara is back and Lena herself is looking slightly concerned.

“Are you all right, darling?”

And no, she’s barely holding onto her sanity at this point. Lena had been looking at her like that, and talking in a very specific voice Kara recognizes from some conversations that had left her feeling sweaty and one or two moments between Lena and a pretty girl at the bar.

“Uh, yeah, fine,” Kara says, but Lena’s eyebrows furrow and her gaze flicks down to the counter, where Kara’s fingers are fidgeting and picking at the smooth marble surface.

“You know,” says Lena then, “it’s a little hot in here. Do you want to go outside? Up on the roof, maybe?”

Kara feels air rush out of her that she hadn’t realized she’d been tense with. Lena just knew her so well, understood even when she often didn’t.

“Yes,” she breathes, “yes, please.”

She finds Lena glance at her, fondly, secretly, laden with something Kara can’t quite pinpoint.

And then. Then, Lena reaches out and takes Kara’s hand smoothly. Kara feels warm all the way through, and Lena’s hand is soft and creased and she’s lived, and Kara finds that profoundly beautiful for a brief, searing moment.

Lena’s guiding her towards the door by her hand and Alex and Nia are shouting something silly after them and Kelly is shushing them, telling them to ‘leave them alone, you idiots’ while trying to refrain from her own laughter. Sam’s building has shitty hallway lighting and a shitty set of rickety stairs to the roof at the end and Kara stays behind Lena all along, ready to catch her in a second. Just in case.

When they come through the door Lena gasps quietly, and Kara understands.

National City is beautiful, sure, but it’s a city. Kara has seen stars maybe a grand total of twice in the years she’s lived here.

But tonight.

Tonight, the sky is littered with them. It feels excessive, gluttonous, like somehow they were being hoarded just for this moment.

And maybe they were, Kara thinks, as Lena lies down right there on the slab of concrete and looks up at Kara.

They lie in silence for a moment before Lena turns on her side, watching Kara’s profile in the faint glow of the other buildings forty stories up in the air.

“Can you show me where Krypton was?”

And Kara is turning, gazing at Lena wide eyed, joyful, breathless. Lena just looks curious, just looks honest.

So Kara takes her hand, brings it up between their faces and points with Lena’s own finger. “Right there,” she says, “there, next to the reddish glow.”

Lena gazes up at it for a moment before smiling into the darkness. “I’m sure it’s beautiful.”

It’s quiet for a moment and Kara takes the time to soak it up— Krypton’s shadow, Lena’s hand warm and an inch away from her own, the soft breathing she can hear just to the side of her.

“And that,” she says quietly, gesturing up to the stars again, “that was our neighboring galaxy. My father took me once, when I was ten. I felt so important, and I got to meet all the members of their planetary councils… that was how he was, you know. My dad. He always made me feel special.”

And Lena doesn’t say anything, but she reaches out and takes Kara’s hand, and then she squeezes three times fast and sweet, and Kara thinks she’s tearing up.

In that moment, she knows, more than she has at any other. Knows that this is it for her. Knows that she’s going to take Lena to the stars some day, that nothing can stop her. Knows that Lena holds her heart tight in her hand, that she always will, no matter which dates come and which go and which will inevitably stay.

They lie for a while, under the blanket of stars. Kara can hear so much from here but with Lena’s hand in hers it isn’t overwhelming like it used to be, isn’t pressuring like it can become. She hears the nice moments; a father reading a bedtime story, a cat purring on the lap of a humming woman, two teenagers laughing at a movie playing in the background. It’s a symphony.

“What’re you thinking about?” asks Lena, right next to her, and Kara turns her head to see Lena already gazing at her. She flashes a little joking but charming smile.

“Just… the city. All the people, all their lives. There’s so much love here, you know? It’s so beautiful to think about, sometimes.”

Lena nods slowly, smile widening.

“What’re you thinking about?” Kara questions back, and Lena hums, turns to look back up at the sky.

“I was thinking about how lucky I am to have all of this,” Lena says vaguely, gesturing to the sky but Kara knows she means downstairs, knows she’s talking about Nia and J’onn singing off-key and Sam trying to coax Kelly into opening another bottle of wine and Alex and Brainy’s drunken arm wrestling on the shag carpet. Kara knows she means them, means this moment, means it all.

“I know,” Kara says, and Lena nods.

“And I’m happy to be here with you, like this,” Lena says softly. “And I’m grateful that you’re always there for me. And I’m glad my date didn’t work out, because I have you. And I’m so lucky that we get this, still.”

Kara feels a little breathless, and she holds tighter to Lena’s hand, stroking slowly with her thumb over Lena’s knuckles. Lena shivers, moves in a little closer.

“I’m grateful for all of that too,” Kara says unnecessarily, and Lena laughs quietly.

“Yeah, darling. I know.”

“You, um… you know I love you, right?”

Lena beams. “Yeah. I know.”

And Kara feels completely and totally content.

 

A few minutes of quiet later, after Kara has heard two loud noises that sound suspiciously like glass smashing downstairs and Lena has started to look colder and the night is getting deeper, they finally stand.

Kara doesn’t let go of Lena’s hand though, doesn’t as she walks Lena through the door and onto the rickety staircase. The yellowed orange lighting overhead is terrible, and Kara can see flies buzzing around the fluorescent bulb. Lena’s sleeve is rubbing against her wrist and it is slightly scratchy, slightly soft. Lena’s footsteps come to a halt suddenly. Kara can hear and see and feel so much and she pauses too, looks back up at Lena.

She’s almost knocked over by what she sees. Lena is looking back down at her with so much emotion in her gaze that Kara is struck by it. She is looking at Kara with love.

“Um… Lena?” Kara says quietly, because they’re standing on chipped paint and shaky metal and Lena is gazing at her like she is a star, like she is the sun, like she is the entire night sky painted into one.

“Remember what I said after my date? About how I needed to get it out of the way? And you asked if there was somebody I really liked,” Lena says. Kara just nods silently.

“Well,” Lena says again, and she tilts her head, and she smiles a little smile at Kara. Knowing. Loving.

Kara barely dares to hope. But that feeling is back, the feeling that suddenly the universe has narrowed down supremely and time has stopped, a spotlight on the two of them. Once again Kara doesn’t feel like she can speak, and Lena is close and she can hear two heartbeats, and Lena’s shaky breath, and if she focuses she can hear a rustling tree branch, and some people in a pub, and their friends shouting with muffled laughter.

“Lena,” Kara says, and she can’t remember when she leaned in but she absolutely has, because their faces are much closer than they had been, “Lena, can I tell you something?”

Lena smiles, smiles like she already knows (because she always does) and says, “You can tell me anything, always. You know that.”

“Um,” Kara says, and it feels like her heart is in her throat. But Lena hums encouragingly, and smooths over Kara’s hand in her own, and Kara feels so supremely safe in that moment that she just smiles. “Lena?”

“Yes, honey?”

And, well.

“I’m in love with you,” she says, and once it’s out it hardly seems like something she’d been hiding. Once it’s out it feels like the air changes, molds into what it had been beneath the surface all along.

And Lena… well.

Kara’s seen Lena cry and seen her explode with joy. She’s seen Lena on the couch watching Great British Bake Off in her glasses and she’s seen her close business deals with a single eyebrow raise. She’s seen her face crumple and she’s seen her smile at Kara like she’s the only thing in the world, in all the worlds.

But Kara’s never seen Lena like this.

It’s the brightest she’s ever seen her, almost like a glow. She is beaming, positively beaming, and she is closer and she smells like Lena and sunshine and cinnamon and she is leaning in even closer.

Then Kara is kissing Lena and it feels like sunlight. Bright, warm, open, joyful. Under the shitty rickety lights and atop the creaking staircase, Lena wraps her arms around Kara’s shoulders from one low step above and Kara’s hands find Lena’s waist. Just under the star-studded sky Lena lets out a soft little noise in the back of her throat and presses closer, and Kara’s there to hold her. In this strange tower above National City Kara’s mouth falls open and Lena moves into it, in this space Kara pulls Lena as close as she can manage, and feels whole again.

When they finally break away it feels like a book has closed while a new one has been opened, a pen tracing the top of the page and hesitating before starting to write, write flowing paragraphs of love and future and hope, always.

“Wow,” Kara says, slightly dazed, and Lena’s laugh is musical, magical, open and loud and she leans forward, letting her head slip right next to Kara’s.

“Wow is right,” says Lena, and she leans back again to look Kara in the eyes, face smiley and happy and so very Lena. “For the record, I love you too, you know.”

“I know,” Kara says, and she can barely fight down an enormous grin. “I love you.”

“I love you too, dork,” Lena laughs, and then she takes Kara’s hand again, gestures with her head downstairs, a question in her eyes.

“Um…” Kara says, fidgeting, “do you maybe wanna go somewhere else instead?”

“What, and avoid drunken Alex Danvers? With pleasure,” Lena says, and Kara is almost blinded again by her light. She must look like an idiot, gaping and checked out at Lena laughing into her shoulder. But who can blame her?

When they make it back to Kara’s apartment and turn on the TV only to collapse in front of it onto the couch, kissing desperately, Kara knows there’s nothing better in the world.

“‘M sorry I went on that… stupid… date,” Lena says, punctuating the words with rough strokes through Kara’s hair, pulling out the braid that had been in all night. “I didn’t want her. Jus’ didn’t wanna fuck it up with you.”

“Yeah,” Kara gasps into Lena’s mouth, “‘S okay. I know.”

“‘Cause you mean so much to me,” Lena says, “And if I went on our first date… and I was all weird and… and out of practice…”

Kara giggles a little bit, kisses Lena’s jaw. “I wouldn’t care,” she says.

“I know you wouldn’t. I’m sorry,” Lena says, but she’s smiling and Kara knows she doesn’t feel guilty.

“It’s fine, made me do this,” Kara says, muffled as she traces Lena's neck.

“You’re better than her,” Lena says, “prettier and funnier and…”

“Mm, thank you,” Kara hums, and Lena laughs quietly.

“I love you, Kara,” she says, and Kara pokes her head back up to kiss Lena firmly on the mouth once again. She can’t quite respond in this position, but it’s okay.

She thinks Lena knows.