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“Did I hurt you? I mean, I couldn’t have hurt you… Kara?”

They were in Kara’s loft for movie night. A newly reinstated tradition she had missed desperately over the last year and a half. They’d been curled beneath a soft blanket, insides warmed with good food and red wine, relaxed into the cocoon of their shared body heat and calm, matching breaths. Lena was smiling at something on the TV, while Kara was distracted by how grateful she felt just to have made it back to this. To have Lena back on her couch, soft against her side. To have Lena back at all.

She hadn’t meant to react. Her body had betrayed her, plain and simple. She was merely enjoying her best friend’s gentle, platonic, caresses. To a completely reasonable, strictly friendly, and totally human degree. She hadn’t mean to react. But she most definitely, undeniably, did.

Lena stopped the movement of her fingers and sat back to search Kara’s face. Her hands hovered awkwardly over Kara’s skin, not touching anymore, but not quite pulled away either.

“Kara, what’s going on?”

“Um…” Kara was too busy trying to catch up with her own actions to answer. Her brain was flipping through every moment with Lena since their first tentative step toward forgiveness, as though something in the chronology might explain how she ended up exactly here.

She remembered the first few steps of their reconciliation seeming quick, almost easy; a sprint to being on the same side again. They’d been desperate to make sure neither doubted the finality of moving away from Lex, away from lying, away from conflict. Toward each other. It felt like that cheesy image of two lovers running across opposite ends of a field into a long-awaited embrace.

Except, after those early (albeit essential) running steps, they both suddenly realized the analogy didn’t fit. They hadn’t been separated by circumstance, two lovers against the world. They’d separated themselves. With lies, betrayals, ultimatums, and the kind of cruelty only possible when you know someone’s deepest, rawest, vulnerabilities.

And they weren’t lovers.

They weren’t meant to cross the rest of the chasm and throw themselves into each other’s arms. So they faltered. Both feeling that magnetic pull to devour the space between them, crash into each other, and never let go. But, neither able to voice it, they faltered. And spent months standing those first few strides in, happy to at least be in the same field again, but paralyzed by the distance remaining with no clear path across.

Eventually, painstakingly, they inched forward. They used the crutch of familiar things, the restarting of old habits and traditions. CatCo lunches, exclusive interviews that lasted a little too long, the occasional gala fundraiser, eventually game nights again. And now, blissfully, finally, the reintroduction of movie nights. The most comforting and intimate of the old traditions. The one that saw Lena with her hair down and makeup hastily scrubbed away. With her heels kicked off by the door and her lips red wine stained.

Yes, they were finally getting back to Them. But the thing was, it hadn’t really felt like moving back toward what they had, what they were. It felt new, different, and all the more exciting and desperately fragile as a result.

All of these thoughts swarmed Kara’s brain as she stared at Lena, eyes wide, mouth opening and closing but no sounds coming out. Was there still a way to maybe not talk about this?

Lena started to back toward the other side of the couch, and that was the last thing Kara wanted. She was going to have to answer.

“I’m just, um, a little sensitive there?”

“What, on your wrist?” Lena had stopped moving away, but her eyebrows were furrowed and the easy calm of the evening was slipping between Kara’s fingers. “Why would your— Kara I don’t see why—“

Kara watched as her best friend tried to reconcile what she thought were two dissonant facts: that Kara’s impervious skin was essentially numb to the world; and that Kara was never never going to lie to her again. She couldn’t have known only one of those “facts” was true.

“Kara, you barely feel anything, what with— I mean, Supergirl wouldn’t— Kara, why on Earth would your wrist be sensitive when the rest of you hardly feels a thing?”

Kara folded in on herself a bit and looked down at her fingers as she twisted them together. She didn’t like explaining this to people; she tended to just let them ride out their misconceptions. But this was Lena. And maintaining the truth of that second “fact” was just about the most important thing in her life.

“Yeah, everyone always figures that, but it’s kind of the opposite I guess?”

Lena frowned. “What is? I don’t— What’s the opposite?” A series of emotions flickered across Lena’s expressive face — confusion, irritation, disbelief — settling into a tentative curiosity.

Kara shifted and perked up ever so slightly. “It makes sense, really, if you think about it.” This might work. If she could engage Scientist Lena, focus on a quick lesson about Kryptonian physiology under a yellow sun, she might avoid the more volatile, intimate aspects of this conversation. “I mean, all of my other senses are heightened.”

“Sure, but—“

“People just figure, since I can’t really get injured, that I don’t feel much. And I mean, I do heal really really fast, so, like, pain doesn’t usually last very long. But yeah, people assume my sense of touch is dulled. But, um, it’s not.” If she’d stopped there, it might have worked. “Like, really not.” But she didn’t.

“Oh!” Lena’s eyes went wide and Kara could almost hear her brain assimilating this new information. “I— I’m so sorry—“

“No! No, don’t be sorry.”

“Why didn’t— You’ve never mentioned it before. Has it— Have I been bothering you?”

Lena’s features were twisted in so much concern and self-doubt, and Kara didn’t know how to fix this. She was so hesitant to test how weight-bearing their new intimacy was.

The playful shoulder nudges, the cold toes tucked under her warm thighs, the fingers carding through her hair when she’d give in to sleepiness and lay her head just next to Lena’s lap halfway through a movie.

And tonight, the gentle fingertips sweeping across the soft underside of her wrist, mindlessly playing with her bracelet while Lena chuckled at whatever Netflix show they’d chosen. Kara hadn’t meant to react, but she definitely, undeniably, did. And, with her knees tucked against Kara’s thighs and her head resting on the superhero’s shoulder, Lena heard the sharp intake of breath and felt the full-body shiver when her fingers flexed during one absent-minded pass, causing her nails to lightly scrape the skin over Kara’s pulse.

“Kara, you should have said something. I didn’t— I’m so— Why didn’t you tell me it was uncomfortable?”

… How weight-bearing?…

“I didn’t say it was uncomfortable.”

Kara couldn’t meet her eyes, or speak above a whisper. And Lena didn’t make her. She just waited one long, slow, cautious minute, searching every inch of Kara’s face. Then she moved deliberately but oh-so-gently to exactly where she’d been before this whole thing started. Her fingertips snuck back under Kara’s bracelet and her eyes shifted again to the TV.

“Okay.”

That’s all she said.

Kara didn’t say anything. She wasn’t breathing, so how could she? She just swallowed down a whimper and allowed herself to relax back into the blissful comfort of her friend. Her best friend. And the soothing static radiating from her wrist to her scalp, by way of dangerously constricting circles around her heart.

And so, Kara found the timbre of their friendship changed that little bit more. Lingering hugs now included the gentle play of fingertips along the back of her neck. Casual kisses hello ended with the slide of Lena’s cheek across her own. What Kara had always assumed were (admittedly frequent) accidental brushes of the backs of their hands while they walked became constant, brazen. Sometimes Lena would escalate them to linked fingers, brushing across the back of Kara’s knuckles without acknowledgement, seamlessly moving away to attend to whatever matter was at hand when needed, clueless that her absent-minded actions brought Kara’s entire world to a full stop. Every. Single. Time.

It was agony.

Kara loved it.

_______________

 

Five weeks later, on another movie night, Lena stayed for the first time. They’d finished the movie ages ago and switched to a new season of a show they both enjoyed. Which meant they’d snuggled down into the ever-tempting cycle of “just one more.”

“You could stay, you know. I promise I’ll behave.” Kara offered, waggling her eyebrows. She was proud of how casual and playful (she thought) she’d managed to sound. And grateful that Lena didn’t have superhearing to notice the absolute riot inside her chest.

“Really? I’ve been here far later than this plenty of times, but you’ve never— I just figured the idea made you uncomfortable.”

“Oh, well…” Kara tried not to grimace. “I couldn’t really offer before, um, before… you know. Can’t really sleep in a ponytail and glasses.” Lena couldn’t stop the cloud that passed over her face before she schooled her features.

Kara’s chest constricted painfully. She whispered, “I’m so sorry.”

Lena sat up straight and shook her head. “No no, none of that.”

“I’ve made you uncomfortable, I shouldn’t have said anything.” Kara shifted their shared blanket off her lap and was reaching for their wine glasses as she started to stand. Lena’s feather-light touch on her forearm stopped her.

“Kara, stop. I’d love to stay, if you’re sure. I’m exhausted, truly. And I already sent Luke home for the weekend, and I would really rather not sit in the back of an Uber right now.” She smiled. So soft, so quiet in her understanding that Kara wanted the company, but was far more likely to accept it in the guise of a favor to her.

“Yeah?”

“Please. If it’s okay.”

“Always, any time! All the time!” [Wait. No no no, rein it in, Kara, you useless, useless—] “I mean, yeah, any time it gets too late or something, you’re always welcome here, Lena. Always. I… I like it when you’re here. Way better than when you’re not.” [How exactly was that reining it in?]

“Well good. Because I like it when I’m here, too.”

Kara was blushing, but Lena’s face was all smile, and double-dimples, and sparkling multi-colored eyes, and Kara couldn’t help but smile back. She told herself it was perfectly natural to stop breathing when your best friend looked at you. Completely normal for goosebumps to erupt under the slightest casual touch. Absolutely reasonable for your heart to clench and pound and threaten to either race itself right out of your chest or give up entirely just because she smiles at you like she thinks you deserve it. (Which you don’t, clearly. Couldn’t possibly. But you know better than to argue with Lena Kieran Luthor. So you’ll let her be wrong about this.)

“Okay.”

“Okay.”

_______________

 

And so, their relationship changed that little bit more again. Sleepovers became common, eventually more the norm than the exception. They were tactile from the beginning, having started from a reluctance to end a night of couch cuddling in the first place.

As the weeks passed, Lena learned that nothing soothed Kara more than gently scratching her scalp and her back. On nights she couldn’t fall asleep, or mornings she woke sweating and agitated from her dreams, nothing helped her focus and calm better than Lena’s nails gently digging under her curls, trailing over her shirt down her spine, circling wide up one shoulder blade, down the other, then back up her spine and into her hair to start again. It became a well-worn path, a predictable tide of sensation for Kara to fall into. So common and frequent that one night, when Kara startled awake, she watched Lena find the path through muscle memory, still deep asleep. It made her heart clench so tightly it pushed a whine past her lips.

“Kara?” Her sleep-rough voice was so gentle and concerned, Kara felt tears burn behind her eyes.

“Shhh. I’m fine. Just a nightmare. I’m fine now, go back to sleep.”

Lena rolled from her stomach onto her side, facing Kara, eyes still shut, and grumbled as she pulled and tugged at the immovable pajama-clad superhero beside her. Kara relented with an endeared chuckle. She eased onto her side and let Lena tangle their fingers together as she pulled Kara’s back flush against her front. Lena rested her forehead against the nape of Kara’s neck and sighed against her skin. Kara’s heart was thudding so hard she wondered if Lena could feel it against their entwined fingers where they rested at her breastbone. But before she had the chance to form any concrete worries, Lena’s breaths evened out and she resumed her usual whisper-light snoring. Kara exhaled and allowed the words to escape the tightness of her chest: “I love you. I love you. I love you.” They dissolved into the weight of the shared air around her bed and Kara finally drifted back into sleep, remembering none of it the next morning.

So things went: easy, comfortable, predictable, safe. Until they weren’t.

They were on the couch for a Chinese takeout-fueled TV marathon.

(‘Supertaste, Lena! Potstickers are a flavor explosion, beautiful salty greasy fireworks in my mouth!’

‘Mmhmm. And kale?’

‘Bitter dirt leaf of despair.’)

Kara had fallen asleep with a potsticker, secure between two chopsticks, abandoned halfway to her mouth. She struggled into half-wakefulness at the sound of laughing.

“Wha? M-noh’sleep.”

“Kara, there’s a potsticker cradled on your chest.”

“What?! That’s not where you belong, little buddy. Don’t worry, I gotcha.” Kara hadn’t opened her eyes, but she managed to get the potsticker the rest of the way into her mouth. She started snoring before she even finished chewing.

Again she was dragged into wakefulness by soft laughter. “I don’t even know if you could choke to death, but frankly that’s just gross. Come on, up you go.”

“Leeennnnaaaa. ‘M-sleating here. Eaping. No, wait, I know this word. Ugh, why are you making me find words, Lena? So mean… Luthor genes… no escape…”

“Oh my god. Up. Come on. I can’t possibly carry you, Kara, you’re going to have to get up.”

“Hmmmaybe not, but I-n’carry you.”

“Kara!”

Kara still didn’t fully wake up, even as she scooped Lena into her arms and floated them straight to her bed, opening one eye just long enough to grumpily throw back the covers before she eased them in.

“You’re ridiculous.” This time it was a whisper. Kara had placed them facing each other with barely an inch between their faces and Lena couldn’t help but feel anything louder was sacrilege.

“Hi Ridiculous, I’m Kara.” She mumbled.

Lena snorted despite herself. “That’s not even how that joke works.”

“Shhh, m’sleep.”

“Oh? Nice to meet you Sleep, I’m Lena.”

Kara chuckled and nuzzled closer, their noses practically touching, but still didn’t open her eyes. “Back scratchies?”

Lena sighed affectionately at the absurd alien stretched out in front of her, still in her t-shirt and jeans, exhausted from a long bout of superheroing earlier that night.

“Of course.” She tangled the fingers of her right hand into the small hairs at the base of Kara’s neck and started the rhythmic journey down her back. Kara cooed and melted into the touch. She was asleep again within moments.

***

Kara wasn’t sure how many hours later she screamed awake out of a nightmare. She was still in her clothes, but she’d rolled onto her stomach at some point in the night and was facing away from Lena. She flinched violently as residual waves of nightmare visions pressed into her from all directions. Her eyes were squeezed shut, hands fisted into the sheets on either side of her head, breath escaping in harsh pants.

“Shhh, darling, just a dream, it was just a dream. You’re okay. Kara, you’re okay.”

Kara could feel the warmth radiating off of Lena’s hand as it hovered just above the small of her back. Lena always waited until the worst of the panic had eased before she actually touched Kara after her nightmares. But, Kara could feel her muscles start to loosen just knowing what came next. Knowing that Lena was here, warm, safe, right beside her, waiting to stroke her back endlessly if that’s what she needed. A few tears squeezed their way out of her eyes and tickled down her cheeks.

“You’re okay, Kara. Just a dream.”

Lena seemed to know the moment Kara had calmed enough, and her fingers got to work erasing every nightmarish vision with their touch.

It wasn’t long before the tears stopped. But this had been a particularly bad one, and even several minutes later, Kara’s hands were still tightly fisting the sheets and staticky trails of tension unrepentantly followed in the wake of Lena’s calming hand. Lena was determined in her comfort-giving, as with anything else, and she brought her body closer and closer to Kara’s with each unsuccessful lap across her back.

Uncharacteristically, Kara felt herself sinking back into the cold terror of her dream despite Lena’s comforting. Her jaw clenched painfully. Lena huffed into the tail-end of her next pass and suddenly ducked her fingers under the hem of Kara’s shirt. Kara couldn’t help her surprised moan in response. That was all the permission Lena needed to begin dragging her nails lightly, for the first time directly across the skin of Kara’s back.

The difference was immeasurable and the result instantaneous. Kara’s tension flushed from her body in a single crashing wave and she let out a full-throated sigh as she relaxed back into the mattress. Lena released her own short satisfied breath and devoted full attention to her new, more successful ministrations. Kara was lost in the quiet bliss of the sensations, cooing audibly on each luxurious exhale.

As the minutes passed in repetition, Kara discovered she had circled right through subdued and landed back into tension. A warm crackling tension now, that she was struggling to ignore. Each lap of Lena’s hand seemed to ruck Kara’s shirt a little higher until it was all the way to her shoulders, her breasts pressed bare against the mattress, and all the calm that usually came with these nightly caresses turned into a jittery, consuming, heat.

“Lena, wait, wait, Lena—“

“I can stop. Kara, do you want me stop?”

Lena sounded breathless and her words were warm and wet against Kara’s neck. Her fingers had slowed with the question, but they hadn’t pulled away. At this point, her entire body was pressed against Kara’s side and their ankles had tangled together.

“Wanting… oh… Uh, wanting you to stop isn’t exactly the problem.” Kara still had her head turned the other way and her eyes screwed shut. Her breath was fighting her on every exhale and her cheeks were burning with embarrassment and, there was no point denying it, want. Desperate want for anything but stopping.

The thick, swirling, anticipatory atmosphere of the room hovered for a few beats, until Lena whispered: “Then there is no problem, Kara.” It was more confession than reassurance. And that, finally, made Kara turn.

“Lena?”

Their eyes met. Soft, searching, questioning, hoping. Wanting.

Lena’s fingers started moving again, for the first time venturing past the unspoken boundary of her jaw, tracing the shell of her ear, the soft swoop of her eyebrow, the gentle line of her nose, and finally, excruciatingly, the trembling bow of her lips. “Kara, I want this.” Kara sucked in a breath and her eyes stared wide and unblinking into Lena’s as her best friend continued. “I don’t have a single doubt left in me. But only if you want it, too. If you don’t, we’re fine. We move back to the couch, we watch some more Parks & Rec, you curl into my side while I play with your hair, and we’re fine. You won’t lose anything by stopping us now. I promise. But there’s more here if you want it.” Her hand stilled behind Kara’s ear, thumb resting by her cheekbone, breath dropped to barely a whisper. “There’s everything, Kara, if you want it, too.”

Kara willed her heart to slow down just long enough to speak around its new home in her throat.

Too…”

“What?”

“You said if I want everything, too. You—”

“Yes.”

Something snapped. Kara surged forward and Lena whimpered into the heat of her mouth. There was nothing gentle, no searching, no slowly building. Kara’s lips were already open when they found Lena’s and their tongues were sliding against each other before Lena even had the chance to react. It’s not that Kara didn’t want slow, it’s not that she wasn’t dreadfully hesitant. It was because of that. For a split second Kara had the self-awareness to realize that if she wanted to kiss Lena (and god, she wanted), it couldn’t be cautious — no leaning halfway, no savored anticipation — or she’d back out. So she dove.

And dove. And dove.

“Kara.”

Lena.”

They breathed each other’s names into the space around their tongues, teeth clashing then tugging on lips, noses bumping, faces angling to kiss deeper, and deeper again. It escalated, breathless and clawing, until Kara coaxed Lena onto her back, lowered herself down with her legs on either side of Lena’s right thigh, and rolled her hips.

F-f-f-u-ckkk.” They stuttered at the same time. The kiss broke and they stared into each other’s eyes in the moonlit room, panting into the shared space between them. Everything stilled. This was it. This was when Kara might get in her head, might apologize, pull away, laugh like ‘what a silly miscommunication this all was,’ and they both knew it. As Kara hesitated, Lena’s chest clenched in anticipation. But before she could spiral or move away, Kara held her gaze, unblinking, unfaltering, unambiguous, and rolled her hips again.

Oh my g—“

She rolled again, and this time Lena brought her hips up at the same time. Then again, harder.

Lena.”

Kara had finally broken eye contact, dropping her head beside Lena’s, panting hot and wet with her lips fallen open against Lena’s neck. Lena had one hand tangled in blonde waves and the other scrambling for purchase against the superhero’s back as they thrust against each other again, and again, and again.

“Kara.”

“Lena— oh Rao— Lena, you’re— You’re going to have to tell me when to stop. I’m not— fuck— I’m not going— I’m not going to know when to stop.”

Lena dug both hands into Kara’s hair and tugged until their eyes met again. She let everything but the grind of her hips slow for a moment until she could see Kara’s eyes blink through the heat and focus.

Then don’t.”

A whimper, and this time she was ready for the surge and caught Kara’s lips halfway. There would be time for slow. But right now, she thought she might die without Kara’s breath in her mouth, hair falling around her face, hands digging into her waist and hips, pulling at her like she’d crawl all the way inside if she could.

“Lena, I need— I need—“

“Here, darling, here. Hold on.”

Their lips stayed connected every possible moment as Lena pushed Kara up onto her knees and rose to tear her own shirt over her head, tossing it to the floor. Kara moved to do the same as Lena’s fingers trembled along the buttons of Kara’s pants. Shirt finally off, Kara brushed her hands away.

“I got it, I got these. Do yours.”

The pace was frantic as they peeled off every last barrier and Kara rushed to bring their bodies back together before Lena even had the chance to really look. They both moaned at the soft heat of so much skin touching skin.

Things slowed for less than a minute before they started rocking into each other again. Lena dragged the nails of both hands from Kara’s scalp down the familiar trail of her back. But then she circled her hips low, and strayed up her sides to where she could tease the slightest pressure of her palms against Kara’s breasts. She shifted her hips just as Kara was thrusting forward again and suddenly both of their thighs met slick overheated centers. Lena gasped and Kara let out a strangled sound somewhere between a growl and a sob.

Everything grew somehow even more desperate. Kara alternated between invading Lena’s mouth, nipping at her earlobe, and sucking deep red marks into her long, straining neck. One hand had snaked around Lena’s waist and splayed across her lower back, holding her impossibly closer with every drive into the mattress. Lena’s left hand stayed kneading into Kara’s breast, thumbing across a painfully stiff nipple, while the other continued its journey down Kara’s back and scratched hard across the curve of her ass. Heat was coiling shockingly fast low in her stomach and she moaned into Kara’s mouth.

Lena. Lena. Lena.” She painted the name with wet breath across the flat of Lena’s tongue, the hollow of her neck, the sharp jut of collarbone as she arched into the contact.

“Kara…” Lena rolled Kara’s nipple firmly between her thumb and finger and bowed her body away from the trembling Kryptonian just enough to scratch five disappearing marks down the path between her breasts, over her belly button, and through damp, coarse curls. She watched her own hand in reverent disbelief, sneaking into a moment of space between the still-frantic dance of their hips, and sliding into wet, hot folds like they were home. “Oh my god.”

Lena…

She kept a firm, even pressure as she circled the pads of two fingers around Kara’s aching entrance. Once, twice, slow and deliberate, gathering thick wetness as she dragged her fingers back up, one on either side of Kara’s straining clit. She pressed back downward briefly, even more firmly, before switching to a fast, light, flick across the tip of the exposed bundle of nerves.

“Lena!” Kara started trembling, head shaking slightly, eyes slammed shut.

Lena’s fingers squeezed gently through another firm stroke down… up… down… then that light circling flick across the hardened nub, her other hand tugging at Kara’s nipple.

I can’t

“Kara?”

I can’t— Lena— I can’t—”

She grabbed both of Lena’s wrists and pinned them over her head with one hand while the other reached down and plunged two fingers into Lena without warning.

“Kara!!”

Kara angled her hip to press behind her hand and added a third finger before Lena even had a chance to recalibrate. Her left knee drifted up the bed, opening herself up more over Lena’s thigh, pressing hard as she rocked forward faster and faster. Lena was so wet, Kara felt it running into her palm, the slick sounds deliciously obscene, the smells so thick and heavy she could taste them on the back of her tongue. She leaned down to close her mouth around a pebbled nipple, circling her tongue once, twice, then biting slightly and sucking hard, flicking her tongue back and forth in rhythm with her fingers. The fingers pumping relentlessly into a tight, secret heat, circling and dragging across the spongey spot deep inside on every thrust, and Lena couldn’t breathe.

“Kara— Oh my god— Please— Kara— Please don’t stop.”

Kara rocked even harder and deeper a few times before her mouth suddenly pulled away from Lena’s breast and she held her breath, clamping her legs around Lena’s thigh, squeezing her eyes shut as her whole body tensed. Lena stared at her in awe as she shuddered twice, and then crumpled, dropping her head to hide against Lena’s neck.

Everything was still for several pounding beats of her heart and Lena was just about to drag her up, or say something to bring her out, when Kara suddenly released Lena’s wrists and moved her left hand between their bodies straight to her clit as she rocked forward again, her right hand still three fingers in knuckles-deep.

Lena gasped: “Fuck!!”

Kara timed tight slick circles with deep, hard thrusts and Lena was screaming her name less than a minute later.

“Kara! Oh god. Kara! Kara!!

Lena’s back arched off the bed and Kara’s left hand slowed to a stop, but her right stayed buried as deep as she could reach, fingers gently massaging that spongey spot as Lena’s entire body shook through the longest orgasm of her life.

When she eventually came down, Kara’s hand stilled inside her but she didn’t pull away, and her head remained buried against her neck.

“Kara—“

“You’re so beautiful. Rao, you’re so beautiful, Lena.” Kara still wouldn’t look at her, and had resumed laving open-mouthed kisses along her neck.

“Kara, are you ok-uhhh— Wait wait!” Kara had started to slowly thrust her hand again and Lena nearly doubled up at the stimulation. “Hold on, darling. Too much! Too much for a minute. Just, just give me a second.” Lena reached down to gently encircle her fingers around Kara’s wrist and coax her out. “Oh my— fffffuckkk.” She closed her eyes and focused on breathing as she clenched around Kara’s slowing withdrawing fingers. Kara moaned at the sensation and smiled into her neck.

But as everything between them finally slowed and the thick haze of heat lifted, Kara’s world spun back into motion double-time. She was suddenly completely overwhelmed in every sense and willing to fly away naked if it would get her out of there faster.

Her sight was assaulted with the red marks blooming up and down Lena’s neck and to the side of her dark nipple. She could smell the salty musk of Lena on her hands, her thigh; her own scent mixed inextricably in. Their hearts pounded in their chests at different speeds, beating relentlessly and discordantly inside her skull. She could taste the red wine and remnants of lipstick from their kissing and the salt from Lena’s neck.

And feel? She could feel everything. Every single peach-fuzz hair pressed between their bodies. The slight raise of every mark peppered across Lena’s perfect skin. The tickle of her breath against the side of Kara’s neck. The heat, everywhere heat. Every instinct Kara had was telling her to run, run and hide.

“Kara.” It was barely a whisper, but Kara still flinched. A whimper snuck up from the back of her throat and she was helpless to stop it. “Kara, I’m going to put my hands back above my head, so you might get jostled, but only for a second. I’ll lay still. Just hold me as tight as you need to. Okay? You don’t— You don’t have to say anything. Just…“ She paused and her voice got so small even Kara could barely hear her “Just, don’t leave. Okay? You’re all right. Don’t leave.”

Kara didn’t even have the emotional energy to process exactly what she’d been offered. But the words pierced through the buzzing chaos suffocating her and sluiced over her body like a cool, cleansing, stream. She sobbed into Lena’s neck and wrapped every limb around her as tightly as she dared. She stayed like that for minutes that felt like hours until her world finally stopped spinning and her sobs eased into silent tears. She needed more, but she couldn’t risk holding Lena any tighter.

“Touch me, please? Just— Just, not gently. Please.”

Lena’s body moved like she’d been waiting for those exact words. Her hands shot down, one arm around Kara’s shoulder, the other across her waist. She swung her leg up and over Kara’s hips and rested her chin against the crown of her head as heavy as she could. She squeezed Kara with every bit of human strength she had. And finally, the tears and the trembling stopped.

“I’m sorry. I’m so sorry. I—”

“Don’t even start, Kara. I’m not about to let you apologize for giving me the best orgasm of my life. Or for asking for what you needed after.”

Kara released a last broken sob.

“I love you. Rao, I love you so much, Lena. So much.”

“I love you, too, darling. I’ve got you.” Lena somehow managed to squeeze her even tighter. “I’ve got you, Kara. I love you, too.”

They stayed like that for a long time. Kara wasn’t sure how many minutes had passed when she finally found her words again.

“Are we— Are we okay?”

Lena chuckled affectionately. “Darling, I know you’re still a little overwhelmed. But, wouldn’t you say we’re a bit more than okay right now?”

Kara gave a weak laugh and finally looked into Lena’s face. The sight that met her stole all the breath from her lungs again. Lena’s lips were kiss-bruised, her hair tangled and unruly, her cheeks still flushed and her eyes slightly wet and half-closed with exhaustion. She was absolutely stunning. And looking at Kara like she was the sun, moon, and stars all in one.

Kara had no control over the words that rushed out with her next breath. “You’re everything. Rao, Lena, you’re everything.”

Lena beamed at her and gently placed her hand on Kara’s cheek. “I don’t know that I’m everything. But I’m yours. As long as you’ll have me, Kara, I’m yours.”

And finally finally Kara leaned in for their first gentle kiss. Her lips barely brushed against Lena’s. Then pulled back only to ease in slightly firmer, bracketing Lena’s top lip first, then her bottom, then pressing them both flush and letting her tongue flit briefly out to tease the seam. Lena shivered and drew back to stare into her eyes.

“Big or little, darling?”

“Oh. I think I need to be big tonight? I’m still kind of, um… Big spoon.”

Lena just hummed in response and turned over, pulling Kara’s arm across her middle and scootching backwards until Kara’s entire front was pressed against her back. Kara felt sleep tugging at her within seconds.

“You okay?”

Kara sighed out her answer before slipping into a deep, dreamless sleep.

“No… so much more than okay.”

Chapter Text

Sunday Morning

Kara felt her mind slowly becoming aware as she emerged from the deepest sleep she remembered having in… actually she couldn’t remember the last time she slept that well. Her eyes were still shut and her body felt unusually, but pleasantly heavy. Heavy like it used to feel on Krypton, when she didn’t have to remind her cells to abide by gravity. When turning every thought and feeling off didn’t amount to a terrifying concession to the whims of her unrestrained powers.

But, this wasn’t Krypton. She could sense the yellow sun dancing on her bare shoulders. She was flat on her stomach, pillow discarded at some point in the night, unruly curls draped all to one side of her head where it lay heavy on her folded arms. She could feel the soft cotton of her bedsheet clinging to her waist, covering only her left leg, the right one having kicked free and bent at the knee to allow her hips to press flat against the bed.

She loved mornings on Earth. She loved waking up to the prickling sensation of the baby hairs on her cheeks and arms preening toward the rejuvenating energy of the sun, tickling like there was a palpable static crackling between them. She knew it was ridiculous, but it always made her think of when kids rub balloons in their hair. Like every Kryptonian cell was straining toward her own giant yellow-sun balloon. She was lost in a cartoonish image of grabbing a blindingly bright fuzzy yellow sun ball and rubbing it against her cheeks when a new, even warmer tendril started creeping up her spine.

But this wasn’t some distant star, or inadvertent advantage of alien biology. This was infinitely better. Because this was deliberate. Chosen.

Lena.

Kara had spent months now waking up, more mornings than not, to the gentle movement of Lena’s hands. Despite the ostensible purpose of calmly urging her up out of her dreams, the physical response was inevitably an even fuller relaxation; sharpening her thoughts at the same time it smoothed the edges of her senses.

But something was different. And in her still half-asleep state, Kara couldn’t put her finger on it yet. She knew the flow of sensation from Lena’s familiar path across her back, so why was her body tensing instead of relaxing? Did her heart always beat this fast when she first woke up? Why were her lungs burning?

As Lena’s hand started another journey up her spine she replaced the pads of her fingers with a deliberate drag of her short nails and Kara actually squeaked.

Oh, breathing. Her lungs burned because she wasn’t breathing.

And she wasn’t breathing because under the sheets, along her covered hip and extended leg, she could feel every inch of Lena’s bare skin where it pressed seamlessly against her.

Lena’s left leg was nestled against every curve of Kara’s. Her right was slung across the top, bent just slightly, toes hooked in the dip where Kara’s calf met her heel. Kara could feel the light scratch of coarse hair pressing into her hip and the warm, rhythmic kisses of a soft belly as it pushed against her side, retreated, and pushed again in time with Lena’s breaths. Breaths that were leaving warm dew on the soft hairs at the nape of Kara’s neck, cooling against the breeze of each inhale, only to warm again with each exhale. Chilled, then rekindled. Iced, then ablaze.

The repetitive and consuming torture of it was abruptly halted by the press of warm, slightly chapped lips, and Kara gasped, digging her nails into her own palms hidden beneath her head as her entire body tensed.

“Kara?”

It was innocuously, soothingly, whispered. But behind Kara’s closed eyes, she was assaulted with the full sensory memory of hearing it in a very different context. Of the way her name sounded dancing off of Lena’s tongue on breathless moans, in a cloud of musk and wine, against the wet slide of hot skin, and the faint floral sting of Lena’s perfume where Kara sucked at her neck. She squeezed her closed eyes so tightly the images exploded into bursts of color as a bolt of arousal shot low in Kara’s stomach. It hit with such unexpected intensity that Kara couldn’t help releasing a strangled whimper.

Soft lips pressed against the round of her shoulder. “Kara?” She felt a slight shift as the lips landed on her shoulder blade next. “Darling?” Another warm press, lingering this time, at the base of her neck. “You okay?”

Kara reached blindly above her head, mercifully finding a pillow and grasping it with both hands as she buried her face as fully as she could manage. She tried for one deep, centering breath, then shook her head into the pillow, shame, shyness, and arousal battling for dominance in the red of her cheeks.

Lena didn’t pull away, but she did hold completely still for a long moment. Kara waited, every muscle tensed. A full minute passed in stasis before she heard Lena hum. She knew that hum: that was Lena’s ‘decision made, let’s test the consequences’ hum.

A moment later, she understood why, as she felt Lena sink back into their points of contact. Her lips opened just slightly as they pressed again at her shoulder, fingers trailing down her spine but not even hesitating as they slid under the sheets, climbed the curve of Kara’s ass and landed tickling the downy hairs on the back of her thigh.

“Mmmm. Maybe freaking out a little?” Lena asked between gentle kisses.

Kara felt a wave of goosebumps crash across her skin as Lena’s nails traveled back up her side along her ribs. She nodded quickly into her pillow.

“Okay. That’s okay.” Another warm kiss against her shoulder and tickle against her ribs, but then Lena held completely still. “Unless— Kara, do you want me to stop?”

Just the idea of Lena’s warmth pulling away made Kara whine out loud again, but she couldn’t seem to convince her voice to answer. Couldn’t even shake her head. Her shoulders tensed even more and she heard her pillow threaten to burst from the vice grip of her fingers.

“Tell me what you need, darling. Should I go? It’s okay if you need a little time alone with this. I can call you later and we’ll grab a late lunch at Noonan’s?”

She felt Lena’s hand pull away and flinched toward stopping her. She wasn’t sure if she’d have been able to fully convey what she needed. She highly doubted it. But thankfully, this was Lena. That little flinch was a treatise once filtered through her expertly crafted Kara-translator.

Lena hummed softly, then moved only her arms and head, brushing her hair away from her own face before resting against her hands where she tucked them beneath her temple. Everything above Kara’s waist felt suddenly cool and light, but from her hips down, she felt Lena press her legs against Kara’s body, resting as heavy and still as she could, squeezing only where her feet now bracketed Kara’s left ankle.

The buzzing currents in Kara’s head swarmed toward that concentrated point of contact. They gravitated across the empty coolness of her back, through the subtle warmth against her leg, and into the constricting heat of that one point of pressure, like blood rushing to form a bruise. Eventually, Kara’s head cleared for the first time all morning, and she finally, slowly, turned toward Lena and opened her eyes.

She watched the moment the haze of concern filling Lena’s eyes lifted, leaving space for light to return in dancing sparkles of green and blue.

There was no hesitance or wavering in her voice when Kara finally spoke. “Hi.”

How was one syllable deserving of the double dimples it somehow earned?

“Hi.”

“Stay?”

“I’d love to.”

Finally in control of her body again, Kara eased her left hand from under her nearly-ruined pillow and reached the few inches to Lena’s face, brushing across her cheekbone and tucking an unruly wisp of dark hair behind her ear.

“Hmmm. I love you, too.”

Lena laughed. “Not what I said, Supergirl.”

Kara smirked, letting her eyes roam over Lena’s face, the pink creases still etched on her cheek from sleeping, the slight flutter of her lashes as Kara’s fingers played in her hair, the echo of lipstick smudged beside her lips where they stretched in an impossibly wide smile. Kara scootched forward a bit and watched as Lena raised that signature eyebrow. “Isn’t it though?”

“Hmmmm…”

Kara moved closer again, eyes locked with Lena’s, mouth lifting into a crooked smile. “I think it kind of was.”

Lena was the one who broke eye contact, letting her gaze drop to Kara’s lips as she raised her head off her hands and tilted slightly to nose along Kara’s jaw. “Do you now?” She tilted her chin and brought their lips together in a brief, chaste kiss.

“Mmhmm. Pretty sure.” They both pulled away just enough to brush their noses as Kara angled her head under Lena’s, gripping the back of her neck gently to pull her into another kiss.

“Well, who am I to argue with the hero of National City.” Another kiss and Lena’s whole body shivered as Kara flit her tongue briefly against her top lip. She could actually feel the smug smile on Kara’s face as they brought their lips together again. “Oh, shut up.”

Lena watched Kara open her eyes just long enough to peak at Lena’s mouth and chuckle before closing the distance again. This time they both opened their lips and sank into the warm, teasing play of tongues as Kara shifted again and pulled Lena fully on top of her. After a light nip against Kara’s bottom lip, Lena released all of her weight, pressing Kara as fully as she could into the soft mattress as they lost themselves in an immediately deepening kiss. Kara tangled both hands in Lena’s hair, angling into the rapidly increasing heat of their mouths, licking the entire length of the inside of Lena’s top lip before nosing under her chin and sucking hard where her jaw met her neck.

“Fuck, Kara.”

Kara just hummed as she contentedly licked the new red mark below Lena’s ear and dragged her tongue down to circle that agonizingly taunting freckle in the middle of Lena’s neck. She grazed her teeth along the path and then latched around it and sucked hard again.

“Are you seriously marking me right now?”

“Are you telling me to stop?” Kara dragged the tip of her nose the rest of the way down Lena’s throat and bit lightly when she reached the juncture of neck and shoulder.

“Fuck!”

“Lena… that’s not an answer…” Kara nipped slightly harder then closed her lips around the bite and hesitated.

“God dammit Kara. Fuck, no don’t stop.” The seal broke for a moment as Kara smiled, then she latched on again and circled her tongue across the skin as she sucked hard. Lena felt a stab of heat between her thighs. “Jesus Christ, Kara, how are you doing that?”

Kara just hummed again and in one slick motion, Lena found herself pinned on her back. Her right hand was gently pressed above her head, fingers tangled with Kara’s left hand in a light, intimate squeeze. It wasn’t a restraint this time, it was a request for a joint tether. And Lena recognized the deliberateness of leaving her left hand free. She reached with it to brush Kara’s hair away from her face, tucking it gently behind her ear and marveling at the contradicting sharpness and softness of Kara’s features. The strong cut of her jaw and full roundness of her cheeks; the high edge of her cheekbones and soft down of her brows.

She lowered her hand and watched as Kara’s eyes followed the trail of her own fingers across Lena’s jaw and downward, dipping into the hollow of her neck, tracing across her chest, easing her knuckles under the impossibly soft weight of her breast before turning her hand over and cupping it toward her mouth. Lena was suddenly so turned on it hurt, anticipating the hot torture of Kara’s tongue somewhere much more sensitive than her neck. Just as she felt warm breath closing around her nipple…

“Kara? Hey you still asleep?!”

“Alex?!”

Kara bolted out of bed so fast the sheets went flying and Lena’s hair whipped across her face. She shifted to sit up in bed and brush the tangles away from her eyes.

Her focus settled on Kara: frozen, completely naked, in a standing position beside the bed but several glaring inches above the floor. It was undeniably comical, but Lena didn’t have time to process let alone comment. The sound of keys hitting the kitchen counter snapped Kara out of her stupor. There was another gust of air and the very disconcerting experience of her limbs being adjusted with almost imperceptible speed.

“Kara?” She registered that Kara had gotten dressed and pulled Lena’s sleep shirt onto her body (backwards) during that one gust of wind. She watched her grab Lena’s pants from the floor and turn back to the bed. “Uh-uh, no way. Give me those.”

“It’s just faster if I—“

“Absolutely not.”

“Right, sorry. Sorry. I just—“ Kara’s head snapped toward the sound of Alex’s voice.

“Kara, you in there?”

“One sec!” Kara hollered toward the flimsy partition between her bed and the living room as they mercifully heard Alex’s footsteps pause then start to retreat.

“Sure, okay. Were you up all night or something? You never sleep this late.”

“What? Sorry, hang on, can’t hear you—“

Lena rolled her eyes as she heard Alex laugh from the kitchen. Kara just slapped her own forehead then bolted to the counter.

“What do you mean you can’t hear—“

“Hey Alex!”

“me…? Um… hey?” Alex narrowed her eyes at her sister, clearly trying to put together a puzzle that was missing multiple key pieces.

“What— hah— I mean good morning…” (a painfully transparent smile) “…Alex. Um. What are you doing here?”

“I bring Sunday morning doughnuts and this is my thanks?”

Kara laughed way too loud and then winced, ducking her head and propping her hands on her hips.

“What the hell is going on with you?” Alex slowly lifted a coffee from it’s slot in a cardboard to-go tray and handed it to her sister.

“What? Nothing! All good here. Psh. Why? I mean, oooh, doughnuts! Thanks Alex! You’re the best.”

Alex was still eyeing Kara warily. But honestly, she was weird and flustered so often… “Right. Anyway, you weren’t answering your phone or your comms and I needed to update you on some Tower stuff.”

“Good morning, Alex.” Lena had just emerged from Kara’s bedroom, her shirt twisted frontwards again, soft black jeans hugging all the way down to her bare feet as she padded toward the counter.

“Lena, hey. Brought you a coffee, too.”

Kara didn’t have time to examine the warm fluttering response she had upon realizing Alex had brought three cups of coffee, not two. Instead, she watched in slow motion as Alex twisted Lena’s cup from the holder then started handing it to her as she picked up her own, taking a sip just as she finally lifted her eyes to meet Lena’s.

A very large sip that sprayed immediately from her lips all over Lena’s face and shirt.

Lena, understandably, froze; arms raised in surprise at her sides, eyes thankfully shut just before the coffee hit, nose and chin now dripping steadily. Kara watched in horror as Alex’s wide eyes traveled up and down Lena’s neck and it’s many bright, telltale red marks.

“Lena, who the fuck—“ Her eyes got somehow even wider. “Oh nonononononono. Kara, seriously?!”

Lena finally snapped back into motion, swiping her hands across her closed eyes to flick away drops of warm, black coffee. “At least you don’t use cream and 10 sugars like this one. That would be so sticky.”

“Lena, oh my god, I’m so sorry! I just— here.” Alex reached to grab a dish towel and threw it at Lena before jumping back again like a nine year-old afraid to get cooties.

The towel bounced off Lena’s face and dropped to the floor. Not a single eye followed it. Lena’s were frozen on Alex, whose were frozen on Kara, whose were frozen on Lena.

It was Lena who broke the silence. “You know? I think a shower might work better. You two could maybe use a minute anyway, yeah?”

Still no one’s eyes moved.

“Yeah, I think so. Ummm…” Lena finally shifted her eyes from Alex’s face to Kara’s. She considered the shocked and contrite crinkle between Kara’s shining blue eyes. Seemingly coming to a decision, she stepped into Kara’s space and kissed the corner of her mouth. “I need to wash my hair anyway. You two, relax maybe? Take your time.” She pressed a quick kiss directly on Kara’s mouth then turned toward the shower.

Kara really should have focused on her sister standing there with her jaw dropped to the floor. Or the coffee she was squeezing way too hard in her hand. Or even the doughnuts on the counter calling out to her in sugary temptation.

What she actually did was watch the slow sway of Lena’s hips as she walked away, her thoughts drifting into the knowledge that Lena was about to be completely naked and covered in warm soapy water a few measly feet away. She took two unbidden, magnetized, steps to follow her before her sister’s voice snapped her out of the daze.

“Seriously?!”

“Alex! Sorry! Hi!”

Alex suddenly started laughing and didn’t stop for way longer than Kara found comfortable.

“Yes yes, very amusing.”

Still laughing.

“I get it. Enough. Come on, grab a doughnut, let’s talk on the couch.”

More laughing, now also waving her hands haphazardly in Kara’s direction. Kara rolled her eyes and grabbed three doughnuts: one stuffed immediately between her teeth and one for each hand. She mumbled around the fried sugary comfort. “Mmhmm. Hilarious. You done?”

“Sorry. I’m sorry—“ Another bout of laughing. “Sorry, you’re right. Just… Sorry.”

Eventually, Alex calmed down. She wiped tears from her eyes and grabbed the rest of her coffee and a glazed doughnut as she followed her sister to the couch.

“I really am sorry, kiddo.” Alex stooped to kiss the top of Kara’s head before circling the couch and tucking her legs under her as she sat against the opposite corner.

Kara placed her doughnuts on top of a napkin on the coffee table and brushed her hands together before laying them in her lap. She slowly finished the large bite in her mouth, her eyebrows pinched together around a deep crinkle. She didn’t look up as she shifted in her seat and softly asked, “Is it really that surprising? Or hilarious, or whatever?”

Now Alex’s eyebrows pulled together. “Is what?”

“Lena. And me… Lena and me.”

“Oh, honey.” Alex’s face suddenly wasn’t amused at all. Kara chanced a side glance her way and relaxed when she saw the calm seriousness there. “Kara, that’s not why— I’m sorry. No of course not.”

“I mean, I know it’s kind of sudden, but is it really so unbelievable you couldn’t stop laughing for like 10 whole minutes?”

‘“Okay, we’ll circle back to your baffling use of the word ‘sudden’ there.” Alex shifted across the couch until her knees touched Kara’s thighs, reaching to take both of her sister’s hands into her own. “Kara, there’s nothing unbelievable or ridiculous about you and Lena. It’s always been you and Lena really, in one way or another.”

Kara breathed out a long sigh and turned to look into her sister’s eyes. “Yeah?”

“Yeah.”

Kara’s features pinched together and her eyes started tearing up. Rao, the speed of her emotional swings this morning were enough to give even a Kryptonian whiplash. “I like her so much, Alex.”

Alex actually laughed at that, but in a soft, endeared way. “Kara, you’ve been in love with Lena for, what, at least two years? I could be convinced to say six? I think we can skip over the ‘like’ phase of this confession.”

Kara smiled, but a tear snuck down her cheek. “Yeah, that’s fair. Alex, I’ve never felt like this before. I’m—“ A sob snuck up her throat and cut off her words. She swiped at her cheeks and took a loud swallow. “I’m kind of terrified, Alex.”

“Yeah.” Alex pulled at Kara’s hands until she leaned into a sideways hug, her head rested under Alex’s chin while Alex threaded her fingers soothingly through Kara’s hair. “Yeah you are.”

They stayed like that for a few long minutes. Kara listened to the sound of her refrigerator, the steady thump of her sister’s heart, the constant patter of the shower running in the next room. Eventually their breathing synced up and Kara relaxed fully into her sister’s side.

“So, you’ve really known for years?”

“Kinda?”

“And you didn’t think to tell me?”

Alex shrugged. “Would you have listened?”

Kara just snorted into her sister’s shirt. “No, not a chance.” A thought suddenly struck her and she stiffened in Alex’s arms. “If I was that obvious— I mean… do you think Lena knew this whole time?”

Alex laughed again. “No, kiddo.” Another endeared chuckle. “No. I think Lena’s standing in that shower right now, wondering if you realized she doesn’t deserve you in the last fifteen minutes. Or if she misinterpreted this whole thing in the first place and you just platonically had sex with her all night because that’s what friends are for.”

“Aaalllexxx. I’m being serious.”

“Oh, let me be perfectly clear.” Alex actually pushed Kara back to her own spot, took her face in both hands and ensured eye contact. “I’m saying it in a light-hearted way, but I am 100% serious about that answer.”

Kara sniffed again. “What do you mean?”

“Kara, I don’t know when all this started—“

“Last night.”

“Oh, seriously?” Alex’s eyes were comically wide for a moment before she blinked away her surprise. “Okay, wow. Anyway, the point is, I know you’re scared, but so is Lena. I promise. She’s never loved a single person who didn’t betray her at some point.” Kara winced and pinned Alex with pleading eyes. “No, I know it’s not easy to hear, Kara, but it’s true. You guys have forgiven each other, you’re obviously past it. But that doesn’t change the big picture here. Lena has never, not once, let her guard down and not had it end in a brutally broken heart.”

Kara’s tears were flowing fast again. “Rao, Alex, could you maybe pull your punches a little? Kinda’ overwhelmed here to begin with!”

“No. Actually, I don’t think I can.” She grabbed Kara’s hands again and let all four fall tangled into the hero’s lap. “You know you’re my favorite person in the universe, Kara.”

Kara just nodded, staring down at their hands.

“Mmm. But I love her, too. And I don’t think there’s anyone else around to make sure you hear this. To make sure you don’t let your own terror distract you from protecting her heart, too.”

Kara sighed out a long breath. “Yeah.” She looked toward where she could hear the shower still running, then back down. Her shoulders were hunched and there were tears dripping onto their joined hands.

Alex extracted her right hand, lifting it to brush a strand of hair away from her sister’s face. “Hey, hey. You’re good for each other, yeah?”

“I really think so, Alex.” Kara turned, looking pleadingly into her eyes again, latching on to any glimpse of respite from this fear and doubt and regret she was unexpectedly drowning in.

“Me, too. And she doesn’t— I mean you don’t—“ Alex paused to regroup. She shook some tension out of her shoulders, and tried again. “It’s just, you’ve mentioned, with people in the past, you’d get kind of, um, overwhelmed? And they would just make things worse?”

Kara was shaking her head long before Alex found the words to ask. “No. No, she centers me, Alex. It’s crazy. It’s like she knows what I need before I do sometimes. Most of the time, even.”

“That’s great, Kara.” They smiled at each other, and Kara felt the rush of love she had for Lena squeeze at her heart again, but Alex wasn’t finished. “Now just make sure you do the same for her.”

Kara’s face scrunched again into that familiar crinkle and she let out an anguished whine: “How?”

“I’m not the one to ask, Kara. But.. but…” she caught Kara’s eyes before she could huff away at the undesired response, “but, I know one thing. That woman has been lied to, manipulated, and gaslighted relentlessly since she was four years old.” Alex’s voice got quiet: “Even by us.”

Kara whimpered and her hands flinched in her sister’s, but Alex just squeezed them tighter and kept going. “So, more than anything else, Kara, just be honest with her. Make sure your actions and your words match.” Kara was avoiding eye contact again, but she was nodding her head as she stared at her lap. “Even when you’d rather hide them, even if you think it would be to protect her, even if you’re angry or unsure or questioning everything. She’s gonna’ pick up on it, so just make sure your actions and your feelings match your words. Always. Okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I can do that.” Kara’s cheeks were flushed and her face pained, but she nodded to herself with conviction.

“Beyond that, you’ll have to figure it out on your own.” Kara winced. “But I know you will, Kara. Come on. You can do this.” She poked Kara’s side until she met Alex’s eyes again. “And… I’m proud of you.”

Kara searched her face. “Really?”

“Yeah, really. It’s crazy brave to love someone so hard it could break you. And you both deserve to have someone take that chance. I’m happy for you, Kara.”

“I’m happy for me, too.” Kara was smiling wide now, if still a little cautiously. They stayed like that a few more minutes. An awful lot of words just got sent into the air around them, and Alex knew Kara needed a stretch of silence to let them all sink in. She had just started drifting off into her own thoughts when Kara’s head lifted suddenly and her face scrunched again. Kara side-eyed her sister.

Alex chuckled uncomfortably. “What?”

“Well, if you’re okay with this, and it’s not ridiculous or gross or whatever, what were you laughing so hard about before?”

Alex had primed herself for another difficult question and she huffed out a laugh as she relaxed into the lighter topic. “Oh, that?”

“Yeah, that.”

That was at the idea that all of this…” she waved both hands in broad circles gesturing at all of Kara, “could be responsible for all of that!” She motioned toward where Lena was still showering and then dramatically waved her hands up and down her own neck. Kara blushed hard and bit her bottom lip. “Plus, when she left for her shower I swear to god you were halfway to following her despite the fact I was standing. Right. There.”

If possible, Kara blushed even harder. Her eyes drifted back toward her bathroom and the unbelievable truth that the woman inside it loved her, too. “I totally was.”

Alex’s eyes narrowed, then she slapped both hands against Kara’s thigh and stood up. “Actually, you know what, I don’t think that’s such a bad impulse any more.”

Kara’s head snapped back to her sister. “What?”

“Go. Tell your girl you love her. She’s been in there way too long, I’m starting to think my joke earlier was more of a premonition.”

“Really? You sure?” Kara was already standing up and backing toward the bathroom.

Alex laughed. “Yeah, I’m sure. Enjoy the doughnuts. Oh, but hey, swing by the Tower later? I did actually have stuff to talk to you two about.”

“Of course, and Alex?”

Alex pocketed her phone and keys and looked up at Kara. “Hmmm?” She had her arms full of Kryptonian before she could blink.

“Thanks. I love you.”

She squeezed back and kissed the side of Kara’s head. “Love you, too. Now go!” Kara was already out of sight before she got the words out. She shouted after her as she stepped out of the apartment and pulled the door closed: “And have your girlfriend wear a scarf!”

Chapter Text

Kara had quietly knocked and was just stepping into a warm, thick steam when she heard Alex’s goodbye shout from the front door: “And have your girlfriend wear a scarf!” She grimaced as she moved toward the frosted glass of her shower and pulled the bathroom door closed behind her.

“Hey, Lena, just me. Wasn’t sure if you heard me knock.” Kara stopped just next to the shower, facing sideways, suddenly a little worried she was overstepping.

“Girlfriend, huh?”

Kara frowned. “Mmm… you heard that?”

“There are ice truckers in Alaska who heard that.”

Kara gave a half-hearted chuckle. The steam was already seeping into her clothes and she was starting to hate the damp cling of them against her skin. She rolled her shoulders in irritation and pressed her glasses up the bridge of her nose, only to remove them a second later as she realized they’d completely fogged over. She folded them and placed them on the sink.

“Um, Alex took off. She asked if we’d come by the Tower in a bit though.” Kara was fiddling with her own toiletries and she huffed when she realized, turning to lean her hip against the sink and stuff her hands into her pockets so they’d behave. She let out a deep breath. “Did it bother you?”

“What, being summoned to the Tower? Kind of used to it at this point, darling.”

“That she called you my girlfriend.”

Kara watched as Lena’s silhouette stepped under the stream of water and slicked her hair away from her face before turning to pull the sliding shower door open several inches. Kara straightened up from the sink and tried to relax as she felt the seams of her pockets strain against the push of her anxious fists. Swiping water from her eyes with both hands, Lena searched for Kara’s face, pulling the shower door open a few more inches when their eyes finally met.

The sound of water hitting the tiled floor seemed exaggerated with the door half-open and no body to deflect the stream. The echoing drops and pounding of Kara’s own heart filled her ears as beads of mist clung to her skin. She flinched one shoulder up in discomfort, but held Lena’s gaze steadfastly until she answered:

“No.”

Kara didn’t realize just how nervous she’d become until her muscles started to relax with Lena’s answer. “Oh, good. Okay, that’s good.”

Lena smirked and reached a dripping hand out toward Kara who took it immediately and stepped closer as Lena tangled their fingers together.

The wisps of hair at the base of Kara’s neck and near her temples were starting to curl in the humidity, tickling and catching at the steam. She was so uncomfortable she’d all but forgotten why she came in there in the first place. “You must be almost done, right? I should let you finish up.”

“Hmmm, you could. Sure. Or…” Lena tugged suggestively at their linked fingers.

Kara’s eyes rounded. “Oh… really?”

“Hmmm, how fast do you think you can get those clothes off— Oh!” Lena laughed up into the face of the completely naked Kryptonian already standing in front of her in the shower. “So, pretty fast then.”

“I felt highly motivated.”

Lena giggled. “Is that right?”

“Mmmm hmmmm.”

“Well… good…” She draped one hand behind Kara’s neck and lifted onto her toes to lean into a soft kiss. Kara smiled into it and hummed at the first press of Lena’s skin against her chest. Lena moved her other hand to Kara’s hip and gently urged her to switch places so Kara could ease back into the steady stream under the shower head. As the first strong beats of water landed against her neck, Kara tilted her head back and lifted both hands into her hair to soak it through. She heard Lena’s breath hitch and opened one eye to peak, but Lena’s eyes were fixed well below her neck and she didn’t notice. If Kara arched her back and flexed her arms a little more than strictly necessary, well, who could blame her, really?

Lena stepped closer, biting her bottom lip as she reached both hands to Kara’s sides, sliding them along every ridge and divot of her abs, up the smooth ladder of her ribs, cupping her breasts and smiling at the soft whine she earned with a gentle brush across Kara’s nipples. She pulled Kara forward just enough to make sure the water rolled down only her back, then lowered her mouth and swirled her tongue around one quickly hardening nub while her fingers continued to play with the other. Kara sighed, lifting her head away from the water and bringing a hand gently to Lena’s hair.

“That feels really nice.”

Lena spoke around Kara’s nipple before closing her lips and sucking lightly: “That’s kind of the idea.”

“Mmmmm.” Kara opened her eyes and let her hands slide along the wet skin of Lena’s shoulders and arms. “Lena can I ask y—“

“Come here, turn around.”

Kara hesitated briefly, but turned as requested. It almost seemed like Lena cut her off on purpose. But any concerns were quickly replaced with the sensation of Lena working a fistful of shampoo against Kara’s scalp and through her soft, water-heavy hair.

“Oh Rao, wow, okay.”

Kara released a deep breath and focused on the feeling of her lungs exhaling. It had long become second nature for Kara to tune out the majority of her sensory input, and to experience the world at the same speed as everyone else (as far as she could tell). But, now and then, she would relax the vice grip of her subconscious and allow the world to slow down around her — and not just so she could disarm a whole mob or catch a spray of bullets. No, every now and then she did it just to enjoy the details she otherwise missed.

Like now. As she exhaled, the solid streams of water beating against her chest became a million smooth drops of shimmering heat, caressing every inch of her torso, arms, and legs, as they slowly kissed down her body. Lena’s fingers dragged against her scalp, and she felt as each individual follicle was lovingly disturbed, prickling to attention like goosebumps before easing back into place. She heard the fragile bubbles of shampoo as they slid and popped whisper-soft above her ears. She could almost taste the scent of coconut as it swirled in the steam and caught in her nose while she drew in long, slow, deep breaths. She sighed as she felt Lena’s hands pull away for a moment, only to return slick and soapy to start trailing along her neck, across her shoulders, and down her arms.

Kara spread her hands as Lena continued her exploration, allowing their soapy fingers to slide against each other for long moments, turning, squeezing lightly, drawing across palms, dipping along the delicate webs between the long slender lengths. Every neuron in her brain filtered its attention to the frictionless glide of Lena’s hands against her own.

She leaned her head back and allowed it to rest on Lena’s shoulder. Closing her eyes, Lena placed her forehead against Kara’s skin in return, letting her hands move next to the rippling muscles of Kara’s back. Her thumbs dipped and pressed lightly against the dimples at the base of Kara’s spine, before sliding even lower to palm a few firm, broad, self-indulgent circles against her ass. She let her hair slide against Kara’s back and along her hip as she slowly bent to clean every inch of Kara’s long legs, easing them apart just slightly as she moved her hands across the front and back of a strong thigh and lean calf. As she moved up Kara’s left leg to start on the right, she allowed the length of her thumb to press briefly into warm, soft folds before continuing on. Kara’s hands shot out to splay against the tiled wall and glass door on either side as she twitched in response. “Fuck!

Hiding a satisfied grin, Lena pretended not to notice and devoted just as much time to Kara’s right leg as she had the left. Kara’s breaths were getting deeper and faster, catching in the back of her throat occasionally when Lena’s hands would soap a particularly sensitive spot. She sighed out loud as Lena slowly stood up, eased Kara around to face her again, and stepped closer until their bodies were completely flush.

Kara allowed the world to ease back into real-time as they leaned their foreheads together, breathing in synchrony against each other’s lips. The spray was mostly warming Kara’s back, but a few streams cleared her shoulders and landed between them on Lena’s chest. The rivulets traced the full curves of Lena’s breasts where they rose and fell pressed tightly against her own. Kara took a moment to wonder how she got here, and pray she’d be allowed to stay.

After a few more blissful seconds, Lena raised her head and, gripping one hand against the small of Kara’s back to keep their hips tightly against each other, coaxed her other hand into Kara’s hair, easing her head under the shower to start working out the shampoo.

Kara’s mind was beginning to spin, so she closed her eyes, filtering out at least that one sensory onslaught. She was undeniably disappointed to realize she was too overwhelmed to appreciate much of Lena’s similar treatment for the front of her body.

Eventually, Lena’s hands came to a stop and Kara slowly opened her eyes, waiting for them to begrudgingly focus again. The image that coalesced before her stole her breath completely. Lena had their bodies gripped as tightly together as she possibly could, her face no more than three inches from Kara’s, staring into the Kryptonian’s eyes with so much unfiltered heat she looked almost surprised at herself. Kara’s lips parted and every thought in her brain evaporated except an almost worshipful loop of “I love you I love you I love you.” But, her own unspoken mantra brought Kara suddenly back to the original purpose behind joining Lena in the shower, however many aeons ago.

“Lena…” It came out as a squeak and Kara paused to get her bearings, keeping Lena’s body pressed close as she willed herself to remember how to speak. “Lena…” Slightly better. She swallowed and pushed on: “What Alex said before— I mean… I mean, Lena, last night was—“

“Kara.”

Kara stopped and refocused her eyes again. She really wanted to talk about this, felt compelled even, but just as she was opening her mouth Lena tangled her fingers in water-darkened hair and pulled down hard. The pressure sent skittering sparks of fire across Kara’s scalp, down her neck, and into the flush of her cheeks. She felt Lena’s soft lips brush against the shell of her ear and hover through two labored breaths. Lena whispered just as Kara felt long fingers sneak between her legs and cup firmly against her.

Kara.”

Whatever Kara tried to say in response came out as nothing more than a whimper. Lena’s fingers eased between her folds and she pressed her middle and ring fingers in, only up to the first knuckle, with slow, hard, circling drags around Kara’s entrance. Kara whimpered brokenly again and felt the slightest graze of teeth against her earlobe before…

I want to know how you taste.”

“Fucking Rao.” Yeah, they could talk any time.

The water was off and Lena was nestled between Kara’s legs on her bed before she even realized they were moving. Her eyes went wide and Kara grinned at her repentantly as Lena husked out: “Fuck, that’s going to take some getting used to.”

But, it didn’t take her long to recover. Not with the slick warmth she could feel pressing against her belly and the flush spread across Kara’s entire chest. Their eyes were locked, unblinking, as Lena planted her hands against the bed on either side of Kara’s slim waist. She deliberately dragged her body forward, pressing down hard, lost in the wet slide of heat against her stomach from between Kara’s legs.

Kara had pushed both pillows to the side, resting her dripping body against the sheets. Her knees were bent and spread wide, body propped up on her elbows, head falling back to paint dark lines where her wet hair pooled against the cotton as she groaned shamelessly through Lena’s slow roll forward.

“Kara, are you okay if I…”

Please.”

Lena couldn’t deny the relief that shot through her at Kara’s clearly voiced consent. Relief that was immediately bathed in a flood of desire as she drew herself back down Kara’s body. Droplets of water were quickly cooling where they trickled along the definition of Kara’s abs, some catching in the downy white-blonde hair just below her belly button. Lena licked at them, hot tongue dragging cold beads across feverish skin, leaving the thin cool dew of her breath in the wake. Kara screwed her eyes shut against the overwhelming contradictions of sensation.

Fuck, Lena.”

Long, indulgent, torturous minutes passed with Lena’s tongue playing against her stomach and the slightly darker skin at the apex of her thighs. Kara was breathing hard, fingers clenched in the sheets at her sides, still propped up on her elbows with her head thrown back. Finally, mercifully, Lena dragged the tip of her tongue slowly up the entire length of Kara’s folds, agonizingly careful not to touch her clit just yet. Kara sighed, then lifted her head to protest when the movement wasn’t repeated. She watched breathlessly as Lena lifted to hover over her, hips pressed back together, rocking forward and back in a gentle, rhythmic, tide. Lena lifted one hand and pushed against the middle of Kara’s chest, flushing with pleasure as the superhero wordlessly took her direction and lowered her head and shoulders onto the bed, fists still twisting in the sheets.

Lena smiled, dragging both hands along Kara’s shoulders and down the length of her strong arms as she settled back between her legs. When her hands reached Kara’s tight fists, she coaxed them open and laced their fingers together, bringing all four slowly up to tangle in her wet hair just as she nosed forward and dipped her tongue into Kara for the first time.

Kara’s quick exhale sounded almost like a cry and Lena moaned at the taste as she licked in again. Kara’s hands tightened in her hair, but then flinched away. Squeezing her fingers more securely around Kara’s, she looked up. “You won’t hurt me.”

“You don’t know that.

“Kara, I trust—“

“Lena, please… I don’t know if I can…”

Lena paused, noticing the slightest tremor sneaking into Kara’s arms and fingers. She disentangled their hands and braced against the mattress at Kara’s sides again, delicately retracing her earlier path up Kara’s body, this time bending forward into a desperately gentle kiss.

“Okay, darling, that’s okay.”

She lowered her body weight fully onto Kara and angled her face to allow the kiss to deepen, moaning into Kara’s mouth as their tongues danced against each other. It was the softest heat they’d ever shared, smoldering heavy and thick like creeping lava across her skin. No teeth, no awkward bumping or clashing, like they’d been lovers for years rather than hours. She let herself lean into the heat, opening up to its tacit invitation, wanting to cry at how safe it felt to be consumed.

Licking between Kara’s lips, she reached blindly for her hands and tangled their fingers again. This time, as she continued the slow rock of their hips, the deep searching of their mouths, she eased Kara’s hands up over her head and placed them palm down on the headboard, closing her fingers over the edge, leaving her own hands warm on top of them as she pulled back to look into Kara’s eyes.

They stared for several heartbeats, hips rocking, breaths clipped, until Kara almost imperceptibly nodded. Lena bent down into one more soft but achingly deep kiss, then retraced her open-mouthed journey across Kara’s chest and stomach. As she kissed and licked, her hands smoothed along in the wake until she ducked them under Kara, circling her arms around thick legs to splay her fingers across Kara’s flexing abs. Her shoulders pressed into the dense muscle of Kara’s thighs before she leaned forward and licked into her for another taste.

Kara whined out, long and slow, relaxed and completely still. But after three agonizing circles of Lena’s tongue around her entrance, just as Lena moved to dip back inside, Kara risked a gentle raise of her hips. Lena shivered, then pushed her tongue again, moaning when she felt another answering thrust from Kara’s hips. Kara’s movement stayed shallow, but she didn’t stop, and Lena lost herself in the gentle pulsing sway of slick skin against her face as she sunk into Kara as deeply as she could, again and again and again.

She reveled in the heat, the salty-tang of Kara’s desire, the quickening pace of her breaths. Lena drank in every escalating moment of it until Kara’s panting sounded more like pleas. She slowly eased her tongue out and finally, deliberately, licked her way up along one side of Kara’s clit, circling above the hood and drawing back down the other side. Kara groaned and lightly squeezed her thighs once against the sides of Lena’s head. Humming in response, Lena pressed her chin forward for Kara to grind into as her tongue retraced its path in a consistent rhythm of long, hard circles.

Eventually the thrust of Kara’s hips got stronger and less predictable. Lena could just barely feel the fluttering pulses inside Kara where her jaw was keeping a broad, firm pressure against Kara’s center. She braced forward, sucking lightly as the circles of her tongue got faster and tighter.

Lena, fuck… fuck… Lena… Lena!” Kara sucked in a sharp breath and went completely silent.

There was an odd creaking sound as Lena felt a rush of warmth against her chin. She pressed her tongue flat and hard against Kara as the hero’s hips dragged through shallow, pulsating thrusts against her face. Kara’s entire body trembled with a final quaking wave of pleasure before she collapsed against the soaked sheets, completely limp except for the still-flexed arms bracketing her own head, the straining tendons of her long neck, and her flushed, heaving chest. Lena sighed contentedly and eased away, wiping the back of her hand across her chin as she allowed her eyes to rake up the otherworldly body beneath her.

Her attention snapped up to Kara’s face when she heard a whispered, stuttering, “Le-ee-na.” She laid her hands completely over Kara’s again and let her full body weight descend onto the Kryptonian as she pressed into an immediately reciprocated, painfully intimate kiss. Kara moaned at the first taste of herself on Lena’s tongue.

A soft whisper caressed her lips: “I love you. I just— Lena, I—”

“I love you, too.”

It was several minutes before the heated pressure of the air around them eased into a gentler warmth. Eventually, Lena lifted her hands from on top of Kara’s and pressed a last humming kiss against her lips. She nudged Kara to the other side of the bed, away from the sheets they’d soaked with their freshly showered bodies.

Shuffled comfortably into a drier spot, she cradled her head against Kara’s shoulder, running her fingers absently along her chest and stomach. She followed the lines the sun made as it streamed through the windows, peaking now and then behind clouds or swaying leaves before washing over Kara’s unblemished skin. Kara stroked her still-damp hair and hummed along to the shapes she traced.

Several calm minutes later, they’d both nearly drifted to sleep when Kara’s stomach growled so loudly Lena actually jumped.

Kara started giggling at the exaggerated response and Lena pinched her side before sitting up. She yawned and stretched her back, hands linked and arms extended high over her head.

Rao.” Kara whispered as she reached and trailed a hand down the space between Lena’s breasts. Easing out of her stretch, Lena turned to give Kara a teasing kiss but her eyes suddenly widened in alarm.

“What, what is it?” Kara asked as she started to sit up and twist her head to follow Lena’s line of sight.

“Kara, oh my god.” Lena started laughing and Kara grimaced.

“Oh, shoot. Uhhh… Oops?”

That made Lena giggle again and she leaned forward to get a closer look at the two deep, dark hand-shaped imprints in Kara’s headboard. ‘At least that explains the creaking sound’ Lena thought to herself.

“Well, that’s kind of embarrassing.”

Lena searched Kara’s face, and while there was a trace of embarrassment, it did little to hide the concern billowing beneath it. The tech side of her mind drifted into blueprints for various power-dampeners, but most of her focused on redirecting Kara’s attention to the more important takeaway here: “It’s kind of sexy, is what it is, Kara.” She gripped Kara’s chin, twisting her face gently toward her for a soft peck on the lips. “And kind of flattering.” She winked and then gasped out a laugh as Kara reached and pulled her down on top of her, leaving tickling kisses all along her neck.

“Hmmm, guess I should leave it then.”

“Oh, definitely. So hot.” Lena braced one hand against the mattress and reached the other absent-mindedly onto the headboard to lift herself up, accidentally landing exactly in one of the newly formed canyons. “Holy shit, Kara, literally hot! Feel this.”

Kara blushed and twisted under Lena’s body to reach out to where Lena was almost reverently tracing the outline of her handprint. The light-colored wood had some small, almost imperceptible cracks, but had mostly stayed in tact around the deep, dark indentations Kara had apparently compressed into it. It was undeniably still warm to the touch.

Kara let the pads of her fingers dip into the marks but quickly switched to running them along Lena’s fingers instead. Lena shivered at the sensation and turned to smile into Kara’s eyes when the Kryptonian’s stomach grumbled long and loud again. So long that there was enough time for Kara to bite her bottom lip in embarrassment and for Lena to lift an eyebrow and bark out a surprised laugh. When the growl finally ended Lena teased: “I think it might be time to feed the beast, darling.”

Kara grumbled and wrapped both arms around her, dragging her body back to where it had been before the first growl interrupted them. “Noooo, five more minutes.”

“It’s your monster, Kara.”

“It’ll be fine, five more minutes. Just ignore it if it complains again, it’s stupid and selfish and we shouldn’t be rewarding its bad behavior, anyway.”

Lena chuckled against Kara’s neck and relaxed into her, perfectly fine with stalling as long as she liked. Kara’s stomach seemed to get the message and after a few minutes, they were both lost in their own thoughts, surrounded by all the soft warmth and combined scents of their recent shower and its aftermath.

As Kara lay there, relaxing beneath the comforting weight of Lena against her side, running her fingers along soft black hair and smooth freckled skin, she found herself replaying recent events. It seemed like a lifetime ago that she was cuddling on the couch, eating potstickers, aching with restrained love for the best friend curled innocently against her side. Each flash of memory from that moment until now made Kara’s smile grow wider, but she couldn’t help faltering at how quickly everything was changing.

In the shower, Kara had tried to slow things down. She really did think she and Lena needed to talk. I mean, Alex was right: this wasn’t rushed, calling it sudden was laughable. But things had undeniably shifted — tectonic plates and continental drift-level shifted — and it felt dangerous to leave it unspoken.

But, Lena hadn’t wanted to talk in the shower. And Kara had allowed her to deflect. She silently mused that it would’ve taken more than one superhero’s amount of willpower to deny Lena what she’d wanted right then. But, she wasn’t sure why Lena had deflected to begin with.

“Hey, Lena?”

Lena hummed into Kara’s skin in response.

“Can I ask you something?”

“Mmm, of course…”

“Why did you stop me? In the shower. You kind of cut me off… twice. Why?”

Lena nuzzled her nose against Kara and smiled, leaning to press a line of kisses across her stomach. “I’d thought that was fairly obvious.”

The kisses tickled, not unpleasantly, but it had always been hard for Kara to concentrate through much sensory input, and this was important. She turned in Lena’s arms, shimmying lower in the bed so their eyes could meet, making sure to keep their bodies close in reassurance. “I’m serious.”

Lena’s eyes shifted between Kara’s. She wasn’t hiding, she remained unguarded, and Kara took a moment to cherish that. But, she didn’t answer, either. Kara hesitated to continue, she wanted Lena to feel in control here, to not feel called out. But…

“Lena, you said— You said, in the shower, that you… that you, um, wanted to know how I taste—” Kara inadvertently relived the moment as the words escaped her mouth and she felt the answering arousal like a punch to the gut. Her body trembled with the force of it and she closed her eyes, silently reprimanding herself and trying to shake her thoughts back into focus.

“Um…” She forced her eyes open again. Lena couldn’t have missed the response, but she was patiently letting Kara work through it, no teasing or deflecting, and Kara once against took a moment to appreciate the silent effort. “You said, um… that… and, I mean, I know it was true, obviously…” Their faces mirrored each other’s half-smiles, and Kara blinked, then pushed on. “But you said it like… Lena, you said it like, on some level, you were worried that might be your only chance?” Lena flinched. “Like, um… Like if we talked first, maybe you’d never find out.”

Kara.” Lena closed her eyes and lowered her chin. Kara watched an unexpected tear squeeze out and drip onto the bed in confirmation. At least now she knew what was going on, but she couldn’t even begin to fathom the reason. She eased her arm from under Lena’s body and slowly reached the pads of her fingers to wipe along the trail the tear had left down her cheek.

“Lena… why?”

Lena didn’t answer or even open her eyes, so Kara launched into her reassurances blindly.

“Lena, you said ‘everything.’ Last night, you said ‘everything.’” Kara was brought up short at her own words and the reminder, again, of just how new this really was. As she regrouped, she had the suspicion Lena needed her own minute to work through that particular detail.

Honestly, how was it less than 24 hours since the thought of being tangled together naked like this still seemed at worst like a far-fetched dream, and at best a distant, distant, inevitability?

She gave Lena a few more moments and took a deep breath of her own before she continued. “And I think — I’m pretty sure — I made it clear my answer was ‘everything, too.’ Did you… Lena, did you think I meant everything for one night? Did you think—“

“That in the morning, you’d run? If you were even still here in the morning?” Lena’s eyes had shot open and Kara recoiled at her words. Kara’s face was flushed with surprise, and no small amount of hurt, but Lena needed to get this out. “Did I think that as soon as we were apart for more than five minutes, the next time I saw you it would be like nothing had ever happened? That if you put any of it into words, you’d rewrite it all into a safer script… and… and I’d let you.” The last words came out strangled and helpless.

“Lena.” They were both crying now. Heavy, silent, inconsequential tears sliding unacknowledged behind the spotlight on their words. Kara was reeling; how had hours of comfort been snatched so thoroughly away with one rush of doubt? “How can you say that, Lena? Everything that happened last night, this morning, Lena, how can you—“

“Kara, there have been a thousand moments for us. For me at least. A thousand times that I’ve gone over every second of an interaction, every word we said to each other, dissecting and analyzing for any hint of a consistent narrative. But no matter how sure— No matter how unambiguous I thought something you said, or something I did— Kara, it never changed anything. The slate always got wiped clean. Every day. It was always ‘that’s what friends are for’ the next time I saw you, and me standing there convinced I was crazy for thinking— That— That I was so stupid for thinking—“

Le-na—“ It came out as a broken plea, but Kara didn’t even know what she was begging for.

Lena had started to pull away as she spoke. It was subtle at first, moving her hands from Kara’s body to wipe her own tears, then placing them on the bed between them instead of back on Kara’s skin. Shuffling backwards almost imperceptibly between sentences. It all added up to Kara realizing suddenly that Lena was beyond her reach. And she hated it. Felt it burn across her skin, how much she hated it.

“I don’t know how to trust this, Kara. Whatever this is. How can I trust it will survive even the shortest break in momentum?”

Lena’s words were piling up on Kara’s chest and she was starting to panic under their weight. “Whatever this is?

Lena flinched a little at the hurt in Kara’s parroted back words. But she didn’t respond. She climbed out of bed and pulled a t-shirt over her head, dragging her hair out of the collar and looking around for the rest of her clothes.

“Lena… what… what’s that even mean, you can’t trust ‘whatever this is?’” There was more bite to Kara’s words this time, with a twinge of desperation barely concealed. But Lena was struggling, too. She had years of hard-learned lessons with comparatively very little experience pushing them aside. She ignored Kara’s question with practiced ease and continued searching the floor.

As Kara’s brain forced her thoughts into an inward spiral, Lena’s pushed her thoughts out, locking them on the far side of familiar and well-fortified walls. Neither was able to notice the other flagging as they tried to keep their own head above water.

Kara was blankly watching Lena pull on her pants as her mind relentlessly whispered ‘she doesn’t trust you with this, Kara? Or herself?’ The idea that Lena might be one weak moment — or wrong move by Kara — from allowing herself to cut and run, kept banging at the edge of her brain, and it was taking all of her energy to keep it from breaking in. The room started spinning and the edges of her vision began to blur. It had been ages since she’d worn her glasses at home with Lena, and she missed their sensory dampening desperately at the moment.

Outwardly, Lena seemed calm, focused on mindless (and evasive) actions as she checked her phone for messages before slipping it into her pocket, turning to grab her sweater from a chair by the window. But inside, Lena’s heart was tripping through an inconsistent tempo, battering Kara’s ears so loudly that her vision pulsed along with it. Kara heard the screech of car brakes slamming on the street below and smelled the burning rubber like someone had smashed her face into the fresh dark marks. The image was so strong in her mind, she could feel the rough heat of the asphalt against her cheek.

As everything swirled around her, Kara kept her eyes focused relentlessly on the single unmoving image of Lena’s socks balled at the foot of the bed. She wasn’t leaving, she couldn’t be leaving, her socks weren’t on, if Lena was leaving, her socks would be on. As long as those insignificant pieces of fiber and dye sat motionless on the floor, Kara was convinced she still had time to figure this out.

She wanted to scream at her own body in frustration as she felt it unwittingly clamor for Lena’s touch. The soothing trail down her back, so familiar it might be calloused if she still lived under a red sun, felt raw and raised like a fresh welt. The skin burned for Lena to trace it with her cool fingers, and Kara hated herself for it. How had she let her comfort become reliance?

Mired in her own thoughts, Kara had no idea that on the other side of the room, Lena was also standing completely still, staring at her own socks. Without permission, her mind was flashing triple-speed through her current intended timeline.

She watched a replica of herself slip on those socks and mutter meaningless words over her shoulder as she moved from the bedroom. She’d already texted future-Luke and was sliding into her town car before the front door to Kara’s building even closed. Vision-Lena nodded to the doorman at her new high-rise, rode the elevator to the top in the blink of her mind’s eye, and stood suddenly in the middle of her sterile living room as the speed slowed right past real-time into the dramatic cinematography of a world paralyzed for her perusal. Everything down to the dust motes reflecting in the sun through her windows hovered motionless as she looked around her mind’s image of her apartment.

It looked like the early scenes of The Wizard of Oz: black and white and oblivious to the colors thriving just beyond it. Her own personal Kansas with its immaculate white counters, black and white kitchen backsplash, steely grey couch and sleek chrome coffee table. All of it hemmed in by bare white walls and empty, curtainless windows.

As if some invisible hand was tapping certain objects to highlight, she began to notice one-by-one the few defiant bursts of color. The pink cardigan Kara had left on the back of a kitchen chair the other night (‘It’s one pint of ice cream, Lena, I think we can safely skip the bowls. Just grab two spoons.’). The yellow daisies sitting in a glass vase in the windowsill (‘they just made me think of you.’). The single photo on her spotless black refrigerator, stuck beneath a potsticker-shaped magnet (‘what do you mean, you don’t have any magnets? You know what? Never mind, that’s fine, be right back.’). That photo practically screamed with the unrepentant colors of flushed, happy cheeks pressed against each other, endless-blue eyes crinkled beside her own piercing green, and bright red lips spread in matching impossibly wide smiles.

Why was she here?

With a sudden snap of her head, Lena remembered that she wasn’t. Not yet. Not in this timeline, where she was still standing in the warmth of Kara’s bedroom, beside a dresser with a bottom drawer of her t-shirts and underwear, and a clothes rack that held as many pencil skirts and gaudy blouses as it did sundresses and chinos. She turned to the bedside table and its shameless display of dark-framed reading glasses, a broken-spined science journal, and two discarded hair ties sporting lingering strands of raven-black hair.

She finally lifted her eyes to Kara’s face as she willed her world to please just slow down and let her figure this out.

Kara was standing frozen, unblinking eyes fixed on the floor at the foot of the bed, arms crossed against her chest, the fingers of each hand alternately tapping against the front of her shoulders.

Kara?” She breathed out as quietly as she could. Her fingers twitched toward Kara in an almost Pavlovian response to the hero’s distress. A part of her longed to offer the soothing comfort that had become so familiar to them both, but she didn’t have a drop of calming strength or reassurance to spare. She was floundering beneath her own deluge of doubt and long-repressed frustration over the years of ambiguity between them. She crossed her arms and squeezed her rebellious fingers almost painfully around her biceps.

Kara blinked and hummed in response to hearing her name, briefly holding up a single finger before returning to her measured tapping. As the rhythm slowed, Kara’s breath evened out and she closed her eyes and let her arms drop slowly to her sides.

She hadn’t looked up yet when she finally spoke. “Lena, we need to talk about this.”

Lena nodded. “I know.” She squeezed her arms even more tightly and shifted her weight from foot to foot.

Kara’s phone lit up as it silently buzzed beside the bed. They both ignored it.

“I just— Lena, look, just talk to me, okay? You seemed totally fine this morning, like way better than fine. And then, well then Alex. But… but…” Kara paused and furrowed her brows, lifting unfocused eyes toward the wall over Lena’s shoulder. “It’s funny, actually, Alex actually said something… she joked you were in the shower… that you were in the shower thinking…”

Lena fidgeted, releasing her hands and tensing her arms tightly around her waist instead. She knew exactly what she had been in the shower thinking. And judging by Kara’s face, she was starting to have an inkling, too. Her eyes snapped back to Lena’s and she took a step forward, her expression a strange combination of reassuring and attacking.

“Lena, this wasn’t some ambiguously flirty comment, or, or, like holding eye contact a little too long, or— we had sex, Lena. I told you I love you!”

Lena flinched against those words like they’d punched her straight in the heart, sending contradicting but compounding waves of burning arousal and spiking hot fear across her chest and arms. “Yes, but you’ve been telling me that for years, Kara.”

“Not like— not like— Lena, Rao! What, did you think I wanted, like, a fuck buddy?! Or… or…”

“Of course not.”

“Then what?!”

Now they were both ignoring Lena’s phone as it buzzed in her pocket.

She didn’t know what to say. She didn’t know how to tell Kara that what she actually thought was that Kara would pretend they hadn’t had sex at all. That standing in the shower, she couldn’t stop thinking about god-damned Groundhog Day, of all things. Of Bill Murray, helplessly watching Andie MacDowell fall asleep, certain that once the clock turned over he’d be the only one who remembered, no matter how much the day had changed his life forever.

Momentum. She’d been desperately chasing it, terrified of just how much Kara might be willing to “forget” once their clock turned over.

She hadn’t answered Kara’s question. In fact, her face was motionless, as though she hadn’t heard Kara’s words at all. So Kara pushed harder.

“Fucking Rao, Lena! I love you! I’m always trying to be close to you, trying to spend every minute I can with you, we… we… Lena, you practically live here.” She dramatically scanned the room, waving her hand toward the clothes rack, the kitchen where Lena knew her favorite mug sat on the counter with a lipstick stain from yesterday, the bathroom where Lena’s products took up twice as much space as Kara’s. “All of this… all of this, Lena, and you still don’t trust what last night meant to me?”

That spun Lena into motion again. Even all these months later, trust was still a loaded word for them, and saying it now felt like a low blow. But using it in an attempt to lay all the blame here on Lena alone? Yeah, no, fuck that.

“That’s exactly the point, Kara! That! Exactly what you just said. All of this!” She waved her hands, a little maniacally, gesturing at the whole of Kara’s apartment. “All of this. And you still managed to fit every touch, every ridiculously obvious gesture, into a fucking “friendship” box.”

Lena knew Kara’s boxes weren’t the same as hers. Kara’s boxes had no lids. They weren’t meant to hide things away, to be buried and forgotten. Her boxes were for sorting, for naming things so she knew how to approach them, how to interpret them. A holdover from her early life growing accustomed to Earth. But Lena had also come to realize that they were no less adept at enabling avoidance. Sometimes mislabeling something was just as effective at making it disappear.

Lena narrowed her eyes derisively as she pushed on. “And some of those things were pretty hard to fit in that box, Kara. But you managed. You twisted them, made them small, whatever you had to do to squeeze them into that damned box. Now, how was I supposed to know that fucking you was the one thing that might not fit?”

Kara flinched hard at those last words. But then stood even straighter and glared at Lena. “I squeezed them in?!”

Kara’s comms started crackling and both their phones were buzzing now.

“Fucking FUCK!! What, Alex, what?!” Kara had grabbed the comms from her bedside table and was nearly crushing them in her hand as she held them to her ear.

“Geez, Kara, what did you two run out of hot water or something?”

“Not a good time, Alex.”

“Yeah, okay, sorry sorry. But this can’t really wait.”

“Alex, I swear to Rao if this is some fucking cock-blocking sister prank or something—”

“Supergirl, there’s 800 people stuck in a building downtown, we’re not sure how the fire started, J’onn’s been trying to—“

“No, no, okay, right, send me coordinates, I’m on my way.”

Alex answered darkly with not a trace of humor: “I think you’ll know the one.”

Kara was in her Supergirl suit before Lena could blink.

“I have to—“

“Yeah, no, I know.” Lena was hugging herself again, so tightly it would probably bruise, her head ducked, refusing to meet Kara’s eyes.

“Can we just—“

“Kara, just… just you need to go. I’ll see you at the Tower later.”

Kara paused one last moment, made a small move like she was coming toward Lena instead, then was out the window with a gust of wind.

Lena stood in the suddenly empty room, staring at the dark, damp stretch on the entire right side of the bed’s rumpled sheets. If any day was ever going to convince her that time was just a construct, it was this fucking day.

She let gravity do the work of uncrossing her arms then sighed as she stepped forward to pull the sheets off the mattress. She threw them in a ball onto the bathroom floor and pulled the first clean set she could find onto the bed. When she’d finished, she stood and stared at it, crisp, spotless, dry, no longer offering any hint of everything it had experienced since the night before.

The clock had turned over.

She grabbed her socks and headed for the door.

***

The rest of that day was a blur. They still didn’t know who was starting the fires, but as soon as the first one was handled, they were called to another. Then another, and another, popping up like some sick version of whack-a-mole.

Lena didn’t see Kara at the Tower later, because Kara still wasn’t back when Alex convinced her to leave and get some sleep. It had been just the two of them holding down headquarters for hours now. Everyone else was out helping with the fires or the evacuations. Lena was so drained, she was making mistakes in her calculations; Alex was right, she wasn’t helping anyone like this.

Five minutes later, Lena slid exhausted into the back seat of her town car. Luke startled and quickly turned off the radio, but not before Lena heard the tail end of a report on Supergirl’s ongoing battles against the prolific unknown arsonist. She closed her eyes and leaned her head back against the seat. “Luke, take me home, please.”

When the car pulled up outside Kara’s apartment ten minutes later, she didn’t even bother to argue. She caught Luke’s eye in the rear view mirror and offered the closest thing to a smile she could manage at the moment.

“Get some sleep, Ms. Luthor. Kara’ll be all right.”

Lena nodded and reached for the door before the words sunk in. Her eyes darted back to the rear view mirror, questions or denials or who knows what poised on her lips. But all she saw were Luke’s calm, reassuring eyes.

She sighed. “Good night, Luke.” Then hesitated before adding: “Thank you.”

Lena pushed herself out of the car, up Kara’s stairs, into the apartment with the key she’d had for months, and straight under the covers on Kara’s side of the bed. She was asleep against the smell of Kara’s pillow within seconds.

***

You’re here.”

Lena was pulled out of visions of fluttering red fabric licked in flames, and flashes of red and blue plummeting from windows and rooftops over and over.

“Kara?”

The smell of ash, electrical burns, and somehow still a hint of coconut tugged her into consciousness as a dirty hand brushed hair away from her eyes. “Yeah, it’s me. Lena I’m so glad you’re here.” The words came out rushed, wet, and broken. This was beyond being afraid Lena needed to cool off from their fight alone. This was Supergirl on a night she couldn’t save them all.

Lena scooted back toward the middle of the bed and lifted the covers. “Get in.”

“Lena, I’m filthy.”

“Kara, get in.”

She didn’t even take off her boots. She crawled under the covers, her back to Lena, and relaxed as she felt soft fingers tangle in her own and pull every inch of her against Lena’s warm, safe body. Kara woke the next morning in the same exact position, having no idea that Lena had stayed awake beside her, long after she’d cried herself to sleep.

***

Monday Morning

Lena woke up to sun streaming through the windows and a cold, dirty stretch of bed beside her. She sat up way too fast and called out through the thickness in her throat and swimming in her head: “Kara?”

“In the kitchen, come have breakfast, sleepyhead.”

Lena splayed back onto the bed and put a hand over her closed eyes. She willed her heart to slow down, knowing Kara could hear, grateful she was ignoring it.

It was twenty minutes later before Lena felt ready to face the world beyond the curtain of Kara’s bedroom. She was in tight jeans and one of Kara’s old t-shirts, hair up in a hasty bun, teeth brushed and cheeks rosy from a quick scrub over the bathroom sink. A steaming cup of coffee and thick green smoothie sat in front of her chair at the counter, but Kara was on the couch with a half-eaten mountain of pancakes watching cartoons. She was scrunched against the backrest, legs pulled up against her chest, socked toes dangling over the edge, with her plate balanced on her knees. She’d obviously showered and was wearing navy yoga pants and a loose grey t-shirt that hung low off one shoulder, displaying the thick strap of a white cotton sports bra.

Lena considered joining her, but eased into her stool at the counter instead, staring at the back of Kara’s head and sipping her coffee. At some point, Kara turned to look over her shoulder and catch her eyes. She smiled around a mouthful of syrupy pancakes, and it was bright and genuine, but it didn’t quite reach her eyes. Lena smiled warmly back, as best as she could, and Kara turned back to her cartoons.

They didn’t talk about it. They didn’t talk about the new list of names Lena knew Kara had memorized. Names that would leak out in her sleep on the bad nights. This was how a girl who lost her whole world handled the losses her new world felt entitled to throw relentlessly her way. No, they didn’t talk about it. They didn’t talk about anything.

Eventually Kara turned off the TV and carried her plate to the sink.

“You want a lift to the Tower? J’onn’s been interrogating the guy all night. They want us to head over when we can.”

“So you caught him… does he have demands? Did you find out who he’s working with?”

“Oh, yeah… Guardian found him late last night, before I came back. Um… no to the other questions, though. Doesn’t seem like he’s working with anyone. He’s an alien, but we can’t figure out how to communicate with him.” Kara paused and rolled her neck as she sighed toward the ceiling. “Honestly, not even sure he realized the harm his fires were causing… he, um, just sort of starts them? Like just by touching things, I guess? I don’t really understand it yet.”

“So he was just jumping around National City lighting skyscrapers on fire by accident like some Northuldra fire spirit? And now J’onn’s what, sprinkling psychic snow on his head to cool him off?”

“Okay, first, I love everything about everything you just said… except, like, the real-world consequences part… but literally everything else. But second, no. At least we don’t think so. He seems to be doing it on purpose, we’re just not sure why, or if he realized people would… people would…”

Die. People would die. People did die, and Lena didn’t know yet how many. She’d ask Alex later. Right now they both needed distractions.

“Okay, well, time to send in the reinforcements then. Sounds like J’onn and Alex took the night shift, so…”

“Yeah, right, yeah. Want me to wait for you? I can fly us both over if you’re almost ready.”

Lena stood up from her seat and brushed her hands across her lap, looking around the room to find her jacket and keys. They were by the front door and she started that direction. “No, that’s all right, I need to stop by my place first, but I’ll see you there soon.”

“Oh, um, okay. I mean, I can still fly us, we’ll just swing by the penthouse first…”

“Kara, really…” She was pulling sneakers onto her bare feet, one hand propped against the front door, keys hanging from her fingers, “you don’t have to. You should get to the Tower as soon as possible. I won’t be too long, just need to grab a few things and maybe freshen up a little.” Her heel finally squeezed into her still-tied Nikes and she straightened up. “Maybe grab a scarf.”

She watched Kara’s face scrunch as she started to say, “why would you— Oh! Umm…”

She smiled at the small triumph of seeing the desired blush spread across Kara’s cheeks.

“It may feel like three years have passed since yesterday morning, but my neck is stubborn proof to the contrary. Alex’s suggestion may not be such a bad idea.”

Kara’s head was ducked and the blush was only getting brighter, but she seemed uncomfortable, not so much shy or coy like Lena was aiming for. She narrowed her eyes at Kara, who was standing there with her hands twisting in the low hem of her shirt, rubbing the toes of one foot against the back of her other ankle.

“Right, of course, yeah, that makes sense. I’ll just, um, I’ll see you there.” She never looked up, just gestured her thumb over her shoulder at the end of the sentence and was gone in a gust of wind before Lena could respond.

She swallowed around a lump of unease and let herself out into the hallway, turning to lock the door behind her. She was being silly, wasn’t she? This had been more intimate than a typical morning, explicitly out of place in a ‘friendship’ box, right? Except, as Lena walked down the steps and out into the warm air of early October in National City, it occurred to her the answer to both of those questions might actually be: No.

Chapter Text

Continuing its assault on Lena’s frayed tether to reality, the time on her watch showed barely 10am when she stepped into the Tower elevator. She’d stood in her penthouse shower for, she thought, about seven hours, agonizing over every moment of her morning with Kara. As the elevator inched upwards, her brain briefly ran through the consequences of never showering again, as it was obviously detrimental to her well-being.

Well… showering alone, anyway. She shook that memory from her suddenly blushing head as she stepped through the sliding doors and, out of habit, scanned the room for Kara.

Alex and Kara had both looked up immediately at the sound of the elevator. Alex to level Kara with a teasing smile, Kara to snap her attention for the 900th time that morning toward any sound that might possibly, maybe, conceivably indicate Lena’s arrival. So far she’d knocked over a computer monitor, two cups of coffee, and J’onn in her frantic haste to catch Lena the moment she walked in.

But now that she was here, they both just froze. Their eyes locked and their lips raised in matching soft, slightly sad smiles. As they stood staring across the room, neither knew they were both replaying the morning, trying to decrypt how the other was feeling about, well, everything.

_______________

Earlier that morning…

Kara:

Kara had woken up with Lena’s body still pressed seamlessly against her back, breath hitting between her caped shoulder blades. Lena was shuffled low in the bed, her bent knees tucked fully into the bracket of Kara’s longer legs. Tear-caked ash covered Kara’s face and every inch of her itched from sleeping in the dirty supersuit.

She rushed through a pragmatic shower and made herself a huge stack of comfort pancakes, plopping down in front of cartoons to try and distract herself from the urge to wake Lena. It had been a long night for all of them; Lena deserved the rest without Kara begging for attention. Still, she couldn’t help how much her mood elevated as soon as she heard the slight change in Lena’s breathing and knew she was easing into wakefulness.

Lena’s voice was sleep-rough and anxious when she called out Kara’s name. But the unique lilt of it from Lena’s lips had always been a balm for Kara’s nerves, and she almost surprised herself with how effortlessly cheerful her reply was.

“In the kitchen, come have breakfast, sleepyhead.”

She’d already jumped up to start making Lena’s go-to breakfast, expecting to hear the soft padding of Lena’s footsteps any moment. But as the coffee started percolating, she could hear Lena still in bed, heart beating wildly.

Kara resisted the impulse to abandon breakfast and rush to Lena’s side, knowing how much Lena disliked company, any company, when she felt out of control. Kara figured she’d come out when she was ready and they could talk on the couch, over a mug of warm, fortifying caffeine. Maybe even indulge in a quick reassuring cuddle.

But when Lena finally shuffled out of bed, she headed straight for the bathroom. She was gone so long, Kara had to hop up twice to use her laser vision and freeze breath to keep the coffee and smoothie temperatures just right. By the third time she was rearranging her plate of pancakes on her lap, her mind had started to race.

[Everything’s fine, right? Sure, yeah, everything’s fine. Probably. With Lena, at least. Everything with Lena is probably fine.] …

… [Right?]

Kara didn’t even realize how her body had closed in on itself as she let the anxious thoughts take hold. All she knew was that when she finally noticed Lena in the room, she was perched at the counter with her [disgusting] drinks and an unconvincing smile.

[So… no couch cuddles today. That’s all right. No big deal. Besides, she hates when I get syrup on her. I shouldn’t have made the pancakes, maybe? Doesn’t matter. We have to get going soon, anyway.]

Kara assured herself she’d be able to sneak in some comforting contact once Lena was ready to go. She sometimes felt a little guilty about how much she enjoyed their closeness when flying together. But, this morning she’d decided not to beat herself up about it and was almost achingly anticipating their “morning commute.”

It was hard to hide her disappointment when Lena so casually declined.

Trying to gather her now-decimated confidence to step forward for at least a see-you-soon kiss [undeniably appropriate for our new dynamic, right?] Kara was stopped short by Lena’s reference to needing a scarf.

[Is she embarrassed? Lena has never been timid about sexuality, so she’d have to specifically be embarrassed about me. But, I asked if she minded that Alex called her my girlfriend, and she said ‘No.’ Oh! But maybe she just meant it was okay because she knew it was just a misunderstanding, no harm done. I should have asked what kind of no her ‘no’ was. Oh sweet Rao, why am I so bad at this?!]

Because you’re hopeless’ one inner voice replied. ‘Because you’ve literally never been completely open and honest with a single person in your entire adult life, Kara. Allow yourself a learning curve and just keep trying’ chimed in a kinder voice. It should shock exactly no one which voice was louder.

So, she’d given Lena space and tried to regroup in time to bravely re-assert her undying love for her best friend the moment Lena arrived at the Tower. Going into minute two of frozen staring instead, she had clearly and spectacularly failed.

All she wanted to do was cross the seemingly-infinite span of five steps that separated them and sweep Lena into her arms. She had just mustered the will to step forward toward that end when Lena nervously pulled her scarf a little higher, breaking eye contact and lowering her head as she walked toward the main Tower console.

Kara pulled up short, put her hands on her hips, and quickly turned toward the screen she’d been pretending to study before Lena arrived. She stood tall for less than a minute before her shoulders sagged.

[What the hell am I doing?]

Earlier that morning…

Lena:

Lena had woken up exhausted from a night of crying behind the superhero twitching through nightmares in her arms. The idea of losing Supergirl had always been a lingering specter in Lena’s mind; a tragedy she dreaded for everyone’s sake, and hoped, a bit helplessly, the Luthor name would have no part in. When she’d found out Supergirl was Kara, the specter had taken a different shape, to say the least.

It had been a twisted and mocking thing for many tortured months. Kara’s betrayal cut deep — far deeper, and for more desperately heartbroken reasons than she’d wanted to admit. And for a terrible span of time, that specter haunted her most in its dark temptation. She would lie in bed at night, under the spell of several glasses of scotch and a cruelly selective eidetic memory, and wonder if it would be her Luthor blood that finally spilled a Super’s.

She was never clear on exactly when she started to forgive Kara — likely long before their actual reconciliation — but it prompted a somehow even more devastating spectral shift.

It was so startling the first time she sat next to Supergirl on a couch. It never occurred to her before that moment how much stature had figured in to the disguise. Supergirl’s eyes were kind but steely, reassuring but firm, and, in Lena’s mind, always always just a little above hers where they perched atop strong shoulders and a wide-set stance, facing her straight-on.

It was only ever Kara’s understanding, welcoming, fathomless blues that greeted her from the side. That leaned forward across cushions to offer the anchor of a held hand. That ducked shyly after traded compliments. That lowered below her own as a sleepy head rested on her shoulder to watch TV, side by side, facing the same direction, together.

The first time Supergirl plopped onto her couch and it was suddenly Kara’s eyes beside her, it hit like a rocket to the chest. If the suit and cape next to her ever fell, it would be Kara’s eyes that lost their light forever. She’d known it for a while, sure, but she didn’t feel it until that moment. And then she couldn’t stop feeling it.

But nothing prepared her for the first night she dreamt of Supergirl falling, while in a bed they’d finally, truly, and completely made theirs. That specter settled into the handprints etched above her, on darkened wood she could’ve sworn still held residual heat, and whispered that the warm body who created them might be cold forever by morning.

So yes, Lena woke up that morning exhausted. And alone on cold, ruined sheets.

Of course it only took seconds to learn Kara was fine… well, no, Kara was alive. Uninjured. Just hearing her voice exiled the specter to the shadows of Lena’s mind, where she kept it most days so she could continue to function. But she was aching for more tactile reassurances. She knew though that Kara was struggling, so she took a few extra minutes to gather and center herself before entering the hero’s space and adding in her own needs.

She walked in and smiled at the steaming mug of black coffee and frosty kale smoothie, reaching to grab them and move to the couch. But then she looked at Kara’s body — so scrunched up and guarded, eyes fixed on cartoons — and wondered if Kara maybe left her breakfast on the counter as a silent request for a little distance. It wasn’t what she wanted — god no, what she wanted was to crawl all the way inside Kara until the blazing heat of her banished every specter from Lena’s entire life. But it was the least she could do, if it was what Kara needed.

So she sat at the counter and infused as much warmth as she could into her smile when Kara looked over. As Kara turned away rather than beckoning her to the couch, or joining Lena at the counter, she felt confident she’d done the right thing staying put.

The fight the day before was unresolved, and Lena knew they had a lot to talk about, but right now she just wanted to be there for Kara, however Kara needed. So, when Kara tried to default back into taking care of her, she quickly brushed it aside. Kara didn’t need to be flying her around running morning errands. The least she could do was take care of herself so Kara could head to the Tower without distraction.

But, she couldn’t deny the desire she felt, practically imperative, for a trace of intimacy and hint of levity. Flustering Kara was always a sure thing, so she quipped from the doorway about her need for a scarf. She brightened at Kara’s immediate blush, but then Kara avoided her eyes, nervously ticking before flying away like she was making an escape.

Lena fretted the entire time between then and the moment she stepped off the Tower elevator.

When their eyes met, her chest constricted with so much love and doubt, affection and fear, that she couldn’t breathe let alone move. She stood and stared and started replaying their interactions in reverse. But she forgot to stop at this morning, or even the night before. No, her traitorous mind sped all the way through to the morning before that and an unbidden rush of desire sucker punched her at the thought of Kara’s mouth on her neck. Her fingers twitched unconsciously to her scarf as the images flooded her mind. This was the last thing Kara needed, and she ducked her head in embarrassment and self-chastisement as she hurried to distract herself with work.

God, Kara needed understanding, support, and space, and all she could think about was how much she wished Supergirl would cross the few short steps between them and sweep her into those arms of steel.

[What the hell am I doing?]

_______________

“What the hell are you doing?”

“What? Hey! Ow!” It was only due to years of conditioning that Kara’s head snapped forward and Alex didn’t break her hand as she slapped the back of it.

“Oh, bullshit ‘ow.’ Don’t deflect, answer the question.”

“It’s not bullcrap, I told you it hurts… for a second…”

“I believe the specific measurement of time you described was nanosecond, but more importantly, I don’t care. What. Are. You. Doing?”

“I don’t know what you mean.” Kara’s eyes darted toward Lena, undermining any possibility that her response was truthful.

Kara!” Alex whined in exasperated response.

“Look, I think maybe she needs some space. Or something.” Kara dropped her head back and sighed at the ceiling as Alex looked on completely unimpressed. “I don’t know, it’s been weird all morning. We kind of maybe fought a little yesterday?” Alex just blinked at her so she continued. “And, uh, we haven’t had a chance to talk and, I don’t know, maybe she’s still mad...” Blink blink. “...maybe she regrets everything. Or maybe I’m hopeless and— Hey! Owwwwww.“

“Not maybe, definitely. Definitely hopeless. And stupid, blind, idiotic, and the most useless—“

“Got it, got it, thanks.” Kara was rubbing the back of her head dramatically, despite it quite obviously not still stinging from Alex’s second swipe.

Alex narrowed her eyes and stepped menacingly toward her sister. “Do you? Do you got it?”

Kara started to back sulkingly away, hands raised in surrender, certain she knew what Alex meant, but in exactly no other way feeling confident that she got literally anything at all in the slightest.

But, even if she was going in blind, she was headed toward the only place she wanted to be. She’d face the terrain once she got there.

“Hey, can I talk to you?” She finally reached Lena, who startled when she heard Kara’s voice so close. She looked uncomfortable, but she was blushing at the proximity and Kara drew some courage from watching Lena’s eyes dart to her lips as she replied.

“Sure, yeah, everything okay?”

“Oh, yeah, of course. Or no, I mean, no nothing’s really okay, but that’s not— Look, c’mere…” She gently held Lena’s elbow and guided her to an empty room. They were standing maybe three feet apart and all Kara could think about was the taste of her lips.

Lena hadn’t waited for Kara to explain what she wanted to talk about. She’d instead launched into every reassurance and critical update imaginable: about the fires last night; how nothing was Kara’s fault; how they’ll figure this out, she knows they will. Kara was nodding, face drawn around a crinkle appropriately deep for the topic, and she was trying, she really was, but…

“Lena, Lena, please… I’m trying so hard to listen to you right now, and I know it’s important, I do, but Rao all I want to do is kiss you, and I’ve been wanting to kiss you all morning, and I don’t know if I’m allowed to kiss you, but am I allowed to kiss you? Lena, can I— Oh thank Rao.”

The last three words were mumbled around slightly chapped lips as Lena pressed into her, the tablet still cradled against her right side, left hand gripping tightly against the back of Kara’s neck, eyes squeezed shut as she whimpered into the contact. “God, Kara. Yes. I just thought— I thought…“

“What?”

“Nothing. Nothing, please just kiss me again.”

Kara happily complied and parted her lips around a sigh when Lena’s hand relaxed and started to soothe along the nape of her neck. She pulled back just long enough to slide the tablet from Lena’s other hand, place it on a chair nearby, and gently urge Lena backwards until she was pressed against the wall. There was nothing urgent about it, nowhere it could lead in a room without a door and their friends just feet away. But it was still blissfully deep as they sank into each other.

Eventually Kara leaned away and rested their foreheads together. Her fingers had ducked underneath Lena’s shirt and were tracing patterns along the skin just above the waist of her pants. They both sighed and she closed her eyes at the feeling of Lena’s chest pressing into hers with the motion.

“Rao, I love how you feel.”

Lena’s lips twitched up at the corners. “Hmmmm. I love you, too.”

Kara chuckled and pulled back to catch the playful glint in Lena’s eyes. “Not what I said, Ms. Luthor.”

Lena looked up through her lashes and raised one eyebrow. “Isn’t it though?”

Another slow, soft kiss. “No, you’re right, it totally is.”

Now Lena chuckled, fully on board with Kara’s deviation from the script of yesterday’s warm, interrupted morning. Kara allowed herself to be distracted by a few more minutes of lazy kisses and cautiously wandering hands before forcing herself to focus.

“Lena.”

“Mmmm?”

“Not that I don’t love the diversion, but what were you going to say?”

Lena pulled back just enough to focus on Kara’s beautifully flushed face. “When?”

“Right after you kissed me. You said you thought… thought what?”

“Oh.”

Lena looked down for a second and Kara placed a finger under her chin to gently coax it up.

“Lena, I’ve wanted to kiss you so badly it hurt from the moment I woke up this morning, and from your response, I’m thinking maybe you wouldn’t have minded so much?” She paused and Lena just smiled. “But I was so sure you didn’t want me to. Did you also think—“

Lena blushed a little darker and nodded. “I was absolutely convinced you needed some space, Kara. And it’s okay if you did, I wanted to be able to give you that, I just—”

“Yeah, except I like really really didn’t.”

Oh.” Lena’s eyebrows pinched and she brought her hand up to cup Kara’s face, brushing her thumb along her cheekbone. Kara closed her eyes and leaned into the comfort, turning her face to press a kiss into Lena’s palm. She breathed in the soft scent of Lena’s soap, the always lingering metallic bite from endless hours of fiddling with tech, and the sweet undertones that were just her, the ones Kara had never smelled anywhere but against Lena’s skin. She drew them in hungrily and let all the tension of the morning release with a heavy exhale. She opened her eyes to find Lena’s again and felt her face stretch into a lopsided smile.

“So… here’s a crazy, ludicrous, absolutely last resort, what kind of monster would even suggest such a thing, idea…” Kara paused.

“Go on…”

“What if maybe we talk to each other?”

Lena’s shoulders relaxed as she laughed. “I don’t know, Kara, that’s pretty drastic.” She was smiling into Kara’s sparkling eyes, knowing it wasn’t nearly as simple as they were making it out to be, but so grateful for the lighthearted broaching of a conversation that had frankly devastating undertones for the two of them.

“I know, I know. But, when all else fails… time for the nuclear option.”

Lena curled her fingers more tightly where they’d settled in the cape around Kara’s shoulders. “Yeah, I think I’m ready to try the last resort.” She smiled again and it brought Kara’s attention to her lips (not that they’d ever needed much convincing for that). Her breath caught at the intensity in Kara’s face as she leaned into a kiss so soft it hurt.

They stayed like that, Lena loosely pinned to the wall by Kara’s hips, playing with each other’s fingers, hair, lips… taking turns voicing their side of things from the moment they’d each opened their eyes that morning. Their foreheads were leaned together while they laughed into the shared space between them by the time they made it back to the present. For a moment they just allowed themselves to appreciate the ridiculousness of it all. But eventually, the air grew quiet and heavier again with all the things they still had to say.

Kara sighed and pulled back, taking Lena’s face in both her hands. “Look, I know this doesn’t solve everything. I know we still haven’t even really talked about our argument yesterday. And unfortunately, we can’t really now, either.” Lena’s eyebrows flicked up briefly and she ducked her head before looking back up at Kara through her dark eyelashes. It wasn’t really a surprise to either of them that finding uninterrupted personal time as world-saving heroes was going to be a challenge. “But, until we have time to talk out, well, everything, could we maybe just promise to at least check in with each other if we start to get a little lost again?”

Lena stared into Kara’s earnest eyes and thought she’d give this woman anything it was in her power to give. And truthfully, always would have. But…

“Honestly?”

“Of course.” Kara frowned at that.

“Honestly, that’s going to be really tough for me, Kara. I’m awfully used to hiding…” She paused and raised an eyebrow self-deprecatingly, “and then attacking.” Kara let out a mirthless laugh paired with her own raised eyebrows, but then smiled understandingly at Lena and pulled her a little closer, waiting for her to continue, hoping there was more. “But, I promise to try. Be a little patient with me?”

Kara exhaled. “Yeah. Yeah, me too, actually. I think we can both work with that?”

Lena smiled softly. “I hope so.”

“I love you, Lena. Okay?” She waited for Lena to nod, tears starting to threaten at the reddened corners of her blue-green eyes. “Completely. I love you.”

Lena only got out part of her “I love you, too” before Kara’s lips were on hers again. It was rougher and more intense than their earlier kisses. Lena had both hands tangled tightly in Kara’s hair, and Kara’s hands were no longer hesitating by her waist. The strong fingers beneath Lena’s shirt dragged hard across every inch of her back as Kara’s tongue filled her mouth. The hero sighed as she angled even deeper into the kiss, pressing Lena’s shoulders into the wall at the same time her flattened hand pulled her hips away from it and desperately into her own.

Kara began almost imperceptibly rolling her hips up and into Lena’s, and heat started to build low in their bellies. They both moaned when Kara suddenly rocked forward and pressed all of Lena’s body hard against the wall again, mouths never breaking contact. She angled her thigh between Lena’s legs, finally breaking the kiss and panting into each other’s mouths through several small, tight, aching thrusts.

Fuck.” They whispered at the same time, blue eyes staring into green with unguarded intensity, as if the unbroken eye contact was creating a feedback of sensation, shared pleasure building and spiraling between them.

But, they were distantly aware of just how little privacy they had, and the obligations waiting for them to come up for air. Before too long, they slowly, reluctantly, wordlessly reined themselves in, allowing the atmosphere to drift and settle into something more playful again.

Kara was grinning into a slight nip against her bottom lip when she heard combat boots approaching. She backed away, keeping her fingers loosely tethered to Lena’s hips, shaking her head, but smiling, as Lena tried to chase her lips.

“Oh, no please, don’t stop on my account. By all means, grope away, we’re doing fine out there, totally under control. Perfect time for a make-out session in a common area.”

Kara leaned back in, brushing the tips of their noses, bringing their lips together yet again. Of course Alex was kidding, and of course Kara was a little embarrassed, she was just already addicted to kissing Lena a little more. Lena laughed into it, but still kissed back.

“Jesus, Kara, not actually! Come on, I need you to look at this.” Alex grabbed a fistful of cape and yanked as she started walking toward the main room of the Tower. Kara opened her eyes and scrunched her nose above a wide smile as she lifted her feet just slightly off the ground and pretended to let Alex pull her stupidly smitten, floating self out of the room. Lena laughed, grabbing her tablet and holding it to her chest with both arms, wondering how such a Serious Scientist had fallen for the biggest, most wonderful dork on this or any planet.

***

Over the next couple of hours, Kara tried to pay attention, honestly she did, but there just wasn’t much for her to do at the moment. The alien arsonist was in containment and they still didn’t know how to communicate with him. There had been a couple fires set by idiotic copycats enamored with the previous day’s infernos, but the NCFD was on high alert and things were handled so quickly there had been no property damage, let alone danger to civilians.

And it didn’t help that Lena was devastatingly distracting. Kara found every possible moment to sneak them into corners or closets, the elevator one time, twice in the armory. She’d back an (arguably) respectable distance away, silently grateful they’d both skipped lipstick today, any time she heard footsteps. Well, except Alex’s. She decided Alex already knew, and was already teasing, so there was nothing to gain in sparing Alex. As a result, her sister was quickly becoming jaded to the sight of Supergirl lost in Lena Luthor’s lips.

Kara felt like a high schooler sneaking under the bleachers, making out at the drive-in, ducking out someone’s bedroom window at the sound of their parent’s footsteps in the hallway. Except, she never got to be a recklessly smitten teenager. She was never comfortable enough with herself or her powers. So this was all new and intoxicating. Lena was intoxicating. How had she spent so many years of her life not kissing Lena Luthor?

Besides, Lena decidedly did not seem to mind. Throughout the day, after every stolen kiss and blushing distraction, her features were that much more relaxed, mind clearer and more focused, movements stronger and more assured, eyes sparkling with fiery intelligence and dangerous determination. And Kara fell a little more in love every time.

***

It was just after five when Nia managed to duck out of CatCo and swing by the Tower. She and Lena were huddled over a large touchscreen displaying nearby solar systems and search results for alien firestarters. There were a couple hits, but no good matches, and the whole gang was getting frustrated at the lack of progress. Lena had already picked everyone else’s brains for ideas, but she hadn’t had a chance to talk to Nia since before the whole fiasco had begun.

Nia said something that Lena hadn’t considered, and she stood up quickly, gesturing with her hands as she ran the idea through her genius mind. All the movement caused her scarf to slip just enough for Nia to notice the barely fading mark under her ear. Lena heard a tiny gasp and turned quickly toward Nia, causing the scarf to slip further. Nia’s eyes went wide as she took in more of Lena’s neck. “Oh, wow.”

Lena blushed furiously when she realized what Nia was staring at. She was unable to stop her eyes from darting quickly in Kara’s direction as she tugged the scarf higher again and launched back into her musings, voice a little louder than before.

Nia took the hint and didn’t ask any questions. But, once Lena was back to fiddling with the touchscreen, she chanced a look at Kara, out on the balcony facing toward the city, leaning forward with her elbows on the stone enclosure. She looked so worn down, so exhausted. So hopeless. Nia understood why Lena wanted to hide this specific situation from the over-encumbered hero. If she didn’t love Lena so much, she might even be a little angry that she could be so careless about something she obviously knew (if that inadvertent flick of her eyes earlier proved anything) would hurt the struggling superhero immensely. Even if that superhero would never admit it to herself.

A few minutes later, Lena was engrossed in her work again, and Nia took the chance to slip away unnoticed and check on her friend and mentor.

“Hey.”

Kara turned at Nia’s greeting, smiling at the young hero and leaning her back against the stone balcony. Nia turned and leaned back next to her, bumping their shoulders together with a reassuring smile. Her friends all knew that situations like the night before weighed heavily on Kara. Especially when there was no one to really blame, no evil mastermind behind it all, no one to punch or fling into the sun.

Kara detested not being able to help, and as her mind started to drift into unpleasant, unhelpful thoughts, she let her eyes wander to Lena for comforting distraction. Just watching her move around their space, such an integral part of the team, of Kara’s life, always helped Kara relax. She let out a small sigh and looked down with a grateful (if a bit overwhelmed) shake of her head. She’d all but forgotten Nia was beside her, and didn’t notice Nia following her line of sight and frowning when Kara ducked her chin.

“Kara… you doing okay? This can’t be easy for you.”

Kara picked her head back up and met Nia’s concerned eyes. She appreciated that Nia was worried about her, but she really couldn’t face talking about the losses last night yet. It was too fresh. Even hinting at the pain was making her uncomfortable, so she employed her most effective deflection technique: superheroic confidence. She pushed up from the balcony and straightened her posture.

“Yeah, of course. I mean, ‘unidentifiable-fire-alien’s’ a tough one, but I know we can handle it. Stronger together.” She gave Nia her trademark nod-and-encouraging-smile combo.

Nia blinked and shook away a moment of confusion. “Yeah, oh yeah, sure, of course. Um. That’s not really what I meant though.” She flashed Kara a compassionate half smile half grimace and Kara cocked her head questioningly.

“Kara...” Nia lowered her eyes and shook her head like she was dealing with a naive preschooler. She figured deep down Kara must realize what was happening, even if she was allowing herself to pretend otherwise. And Nia didn’t think the avoidance was doing Supergirl any favors. She glanced up through thick eyelashes and a pinched brow: “Don’t you think it’s a little warm for scarf weather today?”

“Oh, for sure!” Kara huffed out a breath and smiled wide at Nia. “Thought you wanted to talk about— Nevermind, yeah! Gorgeous today! Wish the city would mind its manners so we could get out of here and maybe go to the beach or something, right?!”

Nia just stared at Kara, her mouth opening and closing a couple of times.

“What?” Kara felt like she was missing something.

“Yeah, no, the beach sounds great. Just. Kara, come on, you must have noticed Lena’s… neck.”

At that Kara blushed scarlet and dropped her eyes immediately to the floor.

Nia’s face was all sympathy again. “I’m sorry, Kara. If you want to talk, about anything, I’m here.” She half smiled half grimaced once more and Kara ricocheted right back to confusion, tilting her head and narrowing her eyes.

“I mean, I kind of always want to talk about Lena, so… thanks?”

“Yeah, I know you do.” Nia was now comfortingly rubbing both of Kara’s arms. She leaned forward, somehow both conspiratorially and apologetically: “I always figured it would be the two of you, to be honest.”

Kara fully cocked her head at that in a final moment of complete and utter confusion before her eyes opened wide in understanding. “Ohhh… Yeah, yeah, me, too, Nia. Um. Can you wait here just a sec?”

“Of course.” Nia was in full ‘I’m sorry for your loss’ mode.

Kara bounded over to Lena’s side and bent down to whisper in her ear. Nia stepped back inside and leaned against the interior railing, watching the interaction with guarded interest, poised to intervene and comfort (or explain things to) Kara if need be. Kara leaned away and Lena turned toward her, tablet cradled against her chest with both hands. Lena said something Nia couldn’t hear and Kara glanced Nia’s direction before shrugging one shoulder while she nodded her head. Lena smiled at Kara and the Superhero’s shoulders relaxed. At least they were talking through it, Nia thought.

Then Lena shifted the tablet to her right side and lifted her left hand toward Kara, tangling her fingers in Kara’s hair and coaxing her down into a family-friendly but undeniably not-platonic kiss.

Nia’s jaw dropped. The kiss continued and just as it was about to trip across the borderline of PG-13, Alex walked behind Kara and said, full-voiced, without pausing or raising her eyes from the tablet she was tapping, “floating again.”

Kara landed back on the ground with a thud, breaking the kiss and sending Lena into a short fit of chuckles before she returned to her screen after a last peck on Kara’s cheek. Kara spun around and headed back toward Nia, lips a little kiss-bruised, cheeks still scarlet, eyes absolutely sparkling.

“Oh.” Nia was going to need a minute or two to regain her eloquence. “What did you say to her?!”

“Just wanted to check in, make sure she was okay with everyone knowing, see about her feelings on PDA, that sort of thing. You know, boundaries, consent, open communication.”

“Boundaries. Consent.”

“Yeah.”

Nia finally relaxed her shoulders, but was still gaping in Lena’s direction. “I take it she’s okay with it?”

“Yep!” Kara popped the P and lifted all the way up on her toes as she crossed her arms against the emblem on her chest, a downright gleeful expression on her face.

“Good, that’s good.”

Lena glanced over her shoulder, clocking one proud and one stunned (but undeniably pleased) Superhero standing side by side, both staring her way. She laughed again and shook her head as she turned back around to her work.

Suddenly Nia’s eyes snapped into focus and she spun toward Kara. “YOU did that to her neck?!”

Kara threw her hands in the air, exclaiming “Why is everyone so surprised by that?” at the same time Alex’s voice boomed from an adjacent room “Right?! Thank you, Nia!!”

Lena let out an uninhibited laugh and grabbed her tablet, pacing straight toward Kara and right into her personal space. She wrapped her fingers in blonde curls and pulled an indignant-looking Kara into a decidedly not family-friendly kiss this time. Nia yipped and quickly shuffled away.

Once convinced Kara was fully and completely immersed in nothing outside the bubble of Them, Lena kissed along her jaw and whispered, an octave below her usual tone: “I wasn’t surprised, Supergirl.” Kara shivered scalp to toes. Lena pulled back, fingers still playing at the base of her neck. “But, maybe you all could let me focus so we can figure this out soon? I was hoping Supergirl might be available to fly me home tonight.”

Kara glanced over Lena’s shoulder to make sure no eyes were on them anymore, then leaned to whisper in Lena’s ear, pausing a moment to bite hard around her earlobe first. Lena wasn’t expecting that, and her knees buckled slightly, which only served to make Kara tighten the grip around her waist, pulling their bodies completely flush. “At your service, Ms. Luthor. ”

Lena drew her head back again and stared up at Kara, eyes slightly hooded, pupils blown, cheeks stunningly red. “You know… I haven’t eaten a thing since breakfast. Awfully hard to concentrate. Maybe time for a dinner break?”

Kara grinned: “Hmm, I could eat.”

J’onn simply nodded at them a moment later as Lena handed him the tablet with a mumbled explanation. She laced her fingers with Kara’s and led them back to the balcony. Alex came into the room, looking up from her own tablet just in time to watch Lena ease herself into Kara’s arms bridal style like it was as normal as sliding into a taxi. They took off and Alex turned toward J’onn with a question on her face.

He shrugged, not overly concerned with Alex or the ‘new’ couple. “They said something about a dinner break, said they’d be back in an hour.” He paused, lifting his chin slightly. “No… two. I think Kara said something about it might take two.” He nodded and walked over to the main console to start fiddling with variables in their search algorithm.

Alex gaped at him. “Oh, come on!!”

J’onn briefly scowled at the outburst before returning to his task. Nia just laughed and headed to the elevator to see if she could find Brainy. M’gann, in all fairness, hadn’t looked up from her console in the last twenty minutes; the only indication she was aware of the rest of the Tower was an amused smirk on her face. So Alex stood in the middle of the room, arms raised at her sides, face contorted in apparently solitary exasperation.

As she turned with a huff, her mellower sister-side peaked through for just a moment, secretly allowing for a slight grin and loving shake of her head as she walked away. Then she raised an eyebrow and pulled her phone from her back pocket, shooting a backwards glance over her shoulder.

She spoke softly as soon as she heard the line connect. “Hey babe, you done downtown?”

“Yeah, actually finished a little while ago. I was just heading home to change. Though, since you called… I’m actually starving, wanna grab dinner?” They never ate dinner before 9pm. Kelly could actually hear Alex’s amused smile through the phone.

“Hmm, I could eat.”

***

Twenty minutes later, six cellphones lit up with the same message: “It’s been a long day, everyone get some rest tonight. M’gann and I will hold down the fort.”

M’gann looked up from the message she’d just sent and smiled as J’onn walked toward her, tapping the front and back of his (very pocketless) supersuit while his eyes darted around the room. “Have you seen my phone? I could’ve sworn it was right here…”

Chapter Text

Lena was already naked and spent, too busy trying to catch her breath and calm her heart to notice both their phones buzzing. She absently registered Kara stretching across her lap and then speaking casually, as though coherent thought wasn’t an extravagant achievement.

“Guess we have a Papa-Bear-approved night off.” Kara settled against her side, fingertips dragging along the sheen of sweat across Lena’s breastbone and the slight swell of her stomach. “No argument from me, how about you?”

Lena’s brain managed to formulate an articulate, if reluctant, response. Her mouth, however… “Hmm-mm-mm.”

Kara laughed and Lena squeezed her eyes shut, huffing as she batted Kara’s hand away from where it was now drawing lazy circles around her nipple. Kara chuckled through two more rounds of chastisement as her hand unrepentantly returned to its desired spot.

Lena’s face relaxed into amused exasperation as she rolled onto her side, trapping Kara’s incorrigible hand between their chests. She slotted her leg between Kara’s and grabbed the back of one thigh to coax it up over her hip, shuffling slightly until they were flush against each other. They both sighed and she nuzzled under Kara’s chin, resting her temple over the hero’s heart and relaxing her body into the warmth. “No, no argument here either.”

Kara smiled and closed her eyes, cradling Lena tightly against her, cataloging every inch of heated skin where it pressed against hers.

The air around them felt soft somehow, evening sunlight dancing across their naked bodies, carrying an early autumn breeze through the open windows. Kara could hear the birds and traffic choppers, kids in playgrounds and cars inching along crowded highways. The hum of National City’s constant thrumming movement, and the calm lapping of the bay against the pier. It wasn’t unpleasant, but it seemed heavy in its distraction.

She focused on that sound of the bay, imagining herself lying prone, staring up at the sun-drenched sky, gently rocking atop the shifting water. She closed her eyes and pictured every insistent city sound swirling together into a controlled chaos of color, then disappearing into the atmosphere as she let her body sink below the waterline.

There, beneath the surface, every bit of her caressed by cool, even pressure, she hovered and waited. Waited until the only sound left, suffused in the water so that it surrounded her entirely, was Lena’s heartbeat. Strong and steady. Close enough to feel. Lena.

Her shoulders relaxed into a long exhale. She opened her eyes to the dappled light in her bedroom and kissed the dark head of hair cradled beneath her chin. “You asleep?”

Lena just snuggled closer in response. She grumbled briefly when Kara shifted to pull a cover over their bodies, humming when they settled back beneath its warmth, somehow even more entwined than how they’d started. Lena felt another soft kiss linger against the top of her head followed by a whispered, “get some rest.”

“M’not tired.”

Kara giggled quietly. “No, you’re not. You’re exhausted.”

Lena’s voice was soft and low, the syllables dragged out by fatigue. “But you didn’t even… I could still…“

“Baby, I’m fine. Better than fine. Go to sleep.”

Lena felt her whole body flush. Kara had never called her by anything but her name in all the time they’d known each other. Lena had uttered “darling” years ago, quite by accident, and Kara hadn’t minded. She’d adjusted her glasses over the light dusting of pink on her cheeks and just smiled, so it stuck. But, if you’d told Lena, even a week ago, that she’d be naked in Kara’s arms, feeling the word “baby” breathed out against her skin, she’d have bet every penny of her billions against you.

And she’d have eagerly paid up to be so blissfully wrong.

She squeezed her arms around Kara as tightly as she could, craving the soothing pressure against the sudden ache in her chest. A long minute passed as their hearts tripped along, settling eventually into a matching beat as she finally relaxed her grip and breathed out: “Okay, I am lil’sleepy. You’ll stay?”

Kara chuckled, “it’s my apartment, silly.” But Lena didn’t laugh back. In fact, she held perfectly still. “I’ll stay. Promise. We could both use some sleep.”

Lena relaxed and Kara heard her breathing even out and her heartbeat slow. “Okay. I love you.”

The words were still new enough that Kara’s heart clenched, despite how casually they’d been said.

Or maybe it was exactly because of that. Maybe an ‘I love you’ with no added purpose or layers of intent, one that didn’t bear the weight of a first time, or a last, was something she wasn’t sure she’d ever have again. She rested her cheek against the top of Lena’s head and closed her eyes. “And I love you.”

Within moments they were both sound asleep beneath the flutter of evening sun.

***

Tuesday Morning

“Kara, darling, it’s just a dream. It’s okay, you’re okay. Wake up, Kara.”

Kara’s eyes shot open as images of crumbling walls, burning clothes, and terrified faces blurred and disintegrated, receding into her subconscious to lurk and bide their time.

“Lena?”

“You were having a nightmare. You okay?”

No.

“Yeah, yeah, I’m fine.” Kara eased onto her stomach, begging her heart to slow down, eyes faced away from Lena as she screwed them shut against the last lingering images of soot-covered skin and hair in flames. “I’m fine.”

“Mmmm. Liar.”

The teasing tone did more to calm Kara’s mind than she would ever have expected. She exhaled slowly, willing the last embers of her dream away before turning toward Lena with a soft smile.

“Maybe. But, I am fine… ... ... now?”

Lena reached to smooth Kara’s hair away from her face. “True enough. Do you want to talk about it?”

Kara just shook her head, closing her eyes and sinking into the feeling of Lena’s fingers, now tracing along her neck and shoulder. “What time is it?”

There was a rustle of sheets as Lena turned to check her phone. Kara frowned at the momentary cold along her skin until Lena settled back against her. “Almost 5. You should go back to sleep.”

Kara hummed in agreement. No one was expecting them anywhere for at least three more hours, they should both try to rest as long as they could. She turned on her side and exaggeratedly wiggled backwards until her body was pressed against Lena’s, hissing when she hooked a foot around Lena’s ankle and came into contact with some very cold toes. “Why are you always freezing?”

“Says the solar-powered alien.”

Kara scrunched her face dramatically, despite being faced away from Lena, in the dark. “I’m not hot, you’re just always cold.”

“Oh darling, you are incredibly hot. But you also run warm. I’d estimate roughly two degrees higher than the average human.”

“Mmm, yeah, talk science to me, baby.”

Lena snorted, feeling another deep blush at the pet name, as Kara continued: “But, I should probably let you know, that pun was way too obvious to be funny.”

“Kara, all puns are way too obvious to be funny.”

She laughed as Kara gasped in outrage. “Dr. Luthor, you take that back. This. Instant.”

“I’ll take it back if you ever prove me wrong. Wait, no—” Lena dropped her forehead against Kara’s shoulder, regretting the words before they’d even left her mouth.

“Oh no no, challenge accepted.”

Lena groaned. “Oh my god, just go back to sleep.”

Kara smiled and eased onto her stomach, reaching her hand to grab the back of Lena’s thigh, encouraging her leg to drape low over Kara’s hips. They wiggled and shuffled a bit, a couple quiet ‘sorries’ as they settled in, both sighing contentedly into the eventual comfort. Kara had both arms hugging her pillow, turned crooked beneath her head and chest as she burrowed into it, her legs splayed like a backwards “4”.

As the quiet settled around them, she worked at persuading her muscles to release. The sun had only just begun to creep through the windows, and in the last dregs of darkness, hazy nightmare visions lurked in the periphery, patiently waiting for sleep to overtake her. She squeezed her eyes a little tighter, silently reprimanding herself, and promising her mind (uselessly and absurdly) that it was safe to give in, that she’d keep the nightmares away.

It should have been expected. They had spent months in this comforting pattern. But Kara surprised them both with a tense gasp at the first stroke of fingernails along her spine.

Lena stilled immediately. “Kara?”

Kara couldn’t convince the tension in her shoulders to relent. She felt that familiar path along her back raise up in a demanding trail of heat, just like two mornings before, and she was struck with another wave of shame and self-directed anger. “You don’t have to.”

She could actually feel the hurt in Lena’s hesitant reply. “Is something wrong? Does it not— Do you not want me to?”

Kara shook out of her haze of self-deprecation. She wasn’t about to allow a repeat of yesterday’s pointless miscommunications. She turned to face Lena with as much affection in her features as she could muster, hoping the slowly brightening sky would allow Lena to see it.

She sighed in gratitude as she watched Lena study her face and immediately melt in relief before the words even passed her lips. “Of course I want you to, it’s basically my favorite feeling in the universe. But, Lena, you don’t have to. I’m okay. And even if I wasn’t— Lena, it’s not your job to make me feel better.”

Lena’s eyebrows pinched and she backed away a bit, keeping their lower bodies entwined in intimate reassurance. “Of course it’s not my job... Kara? Hey, what’s going on here?”

Kara sighed, grabbing her pillow and rearranging it under her head to fully face Lena. “I just, when we had our first fight the other morning—” Lena raised her eyebrow… “I mean, our first fight since we— after we— Leeeenaa. No teasing.”

There was such relief in being able to joke about this. Their past fights had cut deep. They would never fully disappear. But they weren’t always at risk of re-opening anymore. The raw angry skin above them had finally become scar tissue. It would be there forever, but it no longer bled.

Anyway, during fight number whatever… the other morning…” Kara regrouped and allowed her tone to settle back into the intensity she felt this deserved. “Lena, I was so upset. And all I could think was that your hands on my back would calm me down. And, Rao, I hated myself for it.”

Kara…” Lena rested her hand against Kara’s jaw, gently soothing her thumb across the hero’s cheek.

“Lena, you were so angry. And you had every right to be! But all I wanted was for you to put it aside and touch me. I wanted you to touch me so badly my skin burned. And that is so unfair to you. I know— I know I shouldn’t rely on you like that.”

“Darling. Of course you should rely on me.”

Kara started to shake her head, but Lena readjusted, now reaching both hands out to cradle her face. “No, listen, I’m not disagreeing with you, Kara. You’re right, it’s not my job. And it sure as hell would’ve been ugly if you’d asked me to focus on your needs at that moment.” She raised an eyebrow and Kara sighed into a half-smile, forehead scrunched around a deep crinkle. Lena raised one hand to gently smooth it away with her thumb.

“But, Kara, of course we should rely on each other. Of course you should trust that when I’m able to, when I can give you what you need, I will. And that I’ll want to.” She leaned forward to place a gentle, brief kiss against Kara’s lips. Kara winced at the pressing swell of love in her chest as Lena pulled back slightly, their noses still close enough to touch, tucking Kara’s hair behind her ear while she continued.

“Kara, I love feeling you calm under my touch. Hearing your little sounds and seeing all the pain and hurt and worry you carry just evaporate. You should be able to trust that I want to give that to you.” She paused to trap Kara’s gaze. “And that I’d never keep it from you just because I can.”

Lena flinched slightly at her own words, more than a bit surprised as they tumbled unexpected from her lips. They were undeniably true, she could feel the ache of their truth pulsing in every inch of her body. But, that’s what made them so shocking. She’d never even considered the possibility of feeling this way. Not for anyone. Maybe, she realized, she hadn’t even known the option existed.

A lifetime with the Luthors had taught her nothing if not the purpose behind reading someone. There was no better guarantee of power and influence than knowing what someone wanted. And if you were blessed enough to control access to that desire? Well. Only a fool would relinquish that kind of advantage.

She clenched her jaw against every lie, every cruelty they’d ever cloaked in ‘wisdom’ and ‘strategy’ and doubled down, willing Kara to understand this went so far beyond a soothing touch. “Never.”

Her breath hitched as Kara captured her lips.

The intensity quickly receded though, as they let the soft heat calm and relax rather than excite. After a few minutes gently exploring, trading tiny nips, enjoying brief slides of velvet tongues, they rested back against their pillows with matching smiles.

The sun had finally broken through the horizon, creating a fuzzy halo of morning light along the outline of Lena’s dark hair and strong shoulders. Kara hummed and leaned forward to drop a kiss on the tip of her cold nose. “Well, in that case…” Kara smirked as she withdrew and plopped dramatically back onto her stomach, shaking her shoulders in invitation.

Lena laughed and reached to gather Kara’s thick, golden hair, spreading it across the pillow and leaning to kiss just under her ear. “You’re ridiculous.”

“Mmm. And you love me.”

She leaned back and settled into her pillow, tangling her fingers in the soft hair at the base of Kara’s neck and flexing into a scratch against her scalp before starting the worshipful path down her spine.

“And I love you.”

***

“Does it really feel that good?”

At this point, they’d both accepted they wouldn’t be getting any more sleep. But it was still early enough to pretend. So they’d sunk into the mattress and Lena allowed the minutes to slip by as her mind and hands wandered on their own.

As for Kara, her senses were overwhelmed by the all-consuming comfort of Lena’s touch. She knew she was moaning almost pornographically as Lena’s fingers scratched across her back, but she’d spent months enjoying every second of this experience while having to control her more vocal reactions. It was thrilling to let that last bit of restraint slip away.

“Sorry, was I being subtle in my appreciation?”

Lena chuckled and Kara smiled at the feeling of a soft belly kissing against her side with each laugh. “No, darling. You’re anything but subtle.”

Kara suddenly pushed up off her stomach and sat back on her knees, facing Lena. “Here, switch!”

Lena’s hand was hovering in the air above where Kara’s back had been just a moment before. “Switch?”

“Yeah, roll over! Your turn!”

Lena’s eyebrows pinched then raised in a ‘why not’ gesture. She moved to reposition herself fully onto her stomach, letting her eyes linger on Kara’s freshly exposed skin. The wide set of her soft, high, slightly uneven breasts. The impossible expanse of hard abs that shifted beneath warm, flawless skin as she shuffled on her knees and waited for Lena to settle in.

She closed her eyes against a flush of heat after her gaze drifted just slightly lower. It was still so unreal to her how that sight brought forth actual memories of taste and smell; that she could remember, and not just imagine, the wet heat she would find, and every sound she might earn.

Pointedly ignoring the renewed pulsing between her legs, Lena folded her arms beneath her head and shook her hair gently away from her face. She could practically hear Kara’s excitement, like a puppy whimpering and bouncing at the sight of a new toy. She smiled, relaxed her muscles, and exhaled at the first drag of nails across her back.

Kara eased herself onto her side, head propped in the palm of her right hand as she focused her attention on the deliberate path of her left hand across Lena’s back. She watched already pale skin grow even lighter in long lines behind the trail of her nails, only to darken as seconds passed. Long swooping blushes of pink highlighting the effect of Kara’s hands, of Kara getting to touch Lena like this. She was so lost in watching herself paint Lena’s perfect skin, she’d forgotten to listen for the happy mewls of contentment.

No, wait, there were no happy mewls…

“Lena?”

Hmmm?

Okay, she did at least sound very content. But… “Feels nice, right?”

“It feels amazing, darling. I see why you love it.”

“But…”

Lena’s entire body was relaxed now and her face serene, but of course it was different. “It’s lovely, Kara. I mean, it’s not the same for me as it is for you. But that’s hardly surprising.”

Kara’s hand stilled and Lena whined in complaint. She pouted out in long exaggerated syllables, “Noooo don’t stttooooppp.” She wiggled her shoulders to try to shift Kara’s hand into motion again. “Just because I don’t have supersenses doesn’t mean it’s not nice.”

“Oh, sorry…” Kara absently allowed her fingers to slide back into motion, but her eyebrows were pinched as she stared unseeing toward the wall across the room. Lena melted again under her touch while Kara’s mind replayed Alex’s words from two mornings ago: ‘Do the same for her.’

Kara knew that didn’t mean giving Lena what Kara needed. She knew that, of course. She just had to figure out exactly what Lena needed. And back scratches might be nice, but they weren’t it. Kara might not have meant to, but she’d spent the last six years of her life becoming the world’s leading expert on the woman in her bed. This shouldn’t be hard, she should know the answer, if she could just figure out the right question.

“Hey, Lena?”

“Mmmmm?”

“Can you— Can you look at me for a second?”

Lena’s eyelids struggled open and she smiled wide as Kara brought their faces closer together.

“I’ll look at you as long as you want. I used to have to remind myself not to.”

Kara let herself be distracted for the length of one soft kiss, muttering: “Yeah, I think that’s a battle we both lost more often than we’d like to admit.”

Lena giggled and leaned in for another chaste kiss. “Kara, what is it?” Her face was so soft and open as she shivered beneath a slightly harder pass of Kara’s fingernails and snuggled closer into the Kryptonian warmth beside her.

“It’s just… you always know exactly what I need. Exactly how to calm me, or reassure me… I don’t know, I’m not sure how to say this…” Kara sighed and looked over Lena’s shoulder for a moment before blinking back to focus on her calm, fortifying gaze. She’d always been amazed at both the warmth and the steel infused in the blues and greens behind Lena’s dark lashes.

She gathered herself and tried again. “Lena, every time I get lost in my fears or doubts, when everything starts to spiral and I just… I just want to run. It’s like I don’t even know what brought me back down until I’m already calm. Then I realize it was you. It’s always you. For the longest time now.”

She paused, wanting to broach the subject, but worried this wasn’t coming out right. “And it’s not— It’s not that I can’t do it alone. It’s more like you create the safest possible space for me to do it myself. I don’t know, does that make any sense?”

“Kara, hey…” Kara hadn’t realized how tense she’d gotten, trying to find those words.

She hadn’t grown up a Luthor, she’d never been taught the transactional power of love. Lena said ‘never’ and Kara easily believed her.

But the Universe had taken plenty. And any want, desire, comfort… any love spoken out loud felt like tempting the cosmos to test her again. To see just how much loss it took to break a hero.

Kara whimpered as Lena reached a hand out to cup her cheek and angled forward for a kiss so soft it made her chest ache.

“Thank you. For telling me. But, Kara… isn’t that a good thing? I want to do that for you, can you… can you please trust it, please let yourself want it, too?” She was smiling softly, completely focused on Kara, stroking her cheek, entirely unprepared for the response she got.

“Then tell me what you want?”

“What?”

Kara was staring intense and unblinking into her eyes now. It was undeniably a challenge, and Lena was tempted to shrink away from it. She probably would have if Kara hadn’t managed to somehow twist her features into a very clear message: I’m not challenging you to do this, I’m challenging you to let us do it together. Lena’s eyes flitted quickly between Kara’s, the first hints of panic setting in, as the hero continued.

“You asked me if I can trust this. If I can say what I want, actually put it out there, and trust that I’m allowed to. That it won’t just get taken away. Well that’s my answer: tell me what you want?”

Lena’s chest constricted and every word she’d ever known fled her mind in a mad rush to avoid having any part in that answer. “Oh.

Kara relaxed her face, the crinkle smoothing away, and she sighed into the few inches between them. As Lena stared at her with wide eyes, Kara nodded slightly. She was giving Lena the space and time to realize just how scary this was. And then say it anyway.

The problem being, Lena didn’t have any clue what she wanted. Not really, not except…

“You, Kara. I just want you.”

Kara shook her head. “No. You have me, Lena. You already have me. What do you want.”

As Lena tried to wrack her brain for an answer that would satisfy Kara — completely unaware of the irony in that endeavor — Kara started to shift to get more comfortable. But, as soon as she felt Kara move, Lena’s eyes widened and she reached to close her fingers tightly around Kara’s bicep.

Kara froze and studied Lena’s face curiously until… of course. Of-fucking-course. Kara wanted to kick herself as she looked into Lena’s scared, slightly embarrassed eyes. Memories flashed through her mind: Lena’s barely spoken words that first night ‘Just, don’t leave;’ the panic that set in the next morning; the disproportionate comfort she took in Kara playfully sneaking Tower kisses; ‘You’ll stay?

Of course. Of-fucking-course.

“I’m not going anywhere, Lena.” Lena whimpered at Kara’s words. “I was just getting comfortable, but that’s… that’s not… Lena, I’m not going anywhere.”

“You can’t promise that.”

Oh.

Kara flinched at the response. But she recovered quickly. “No, no I can’t. You’re right. But, no one can. Not really. So I guess… I guess what I mean is, I’ll never choose to leave. I’ll always choose this.”

Kara squared her shoulders and held Lena’s gaze, instinctively channeling every bit of Supergirl as she reinforced this newfound conviction.

“Lena, I’ll never choose to leave you. Okay? That’s my promise. I’ll always choose us.”

Kara held Lena’s hands in her own and Lena choked on a sob. She was shaking her head, her face pinched like she’d never been in so much pain. Kara watched, concerned and a bit confused, as Lena closed her eyes and quaked out a breath. She squeezed Kara’s hands twice, as hard as she could, and nodded one exaggerated, quick, but deliberate time. She took a long fortifying breath before slowly opening her eyes and staring hard at Kara through thick, wet eyelashes. “Okay.”

“Okay?”

“Okay.”

Kara held Lena’s face and searched her eyes. “I love you.”

Lena nodded, easing her hands up between Kara’s to wipe at her own wet cheeks. “I know. I love you, too.”

Kara kissed her forehead and they settled back into each other, every inch warmly slotted together. The sun was fully up now, but the angle of the shadows stretching across her room let Kara know it was still fairly early. They had a bit more time before they’d be missed, and this conversation had been draining. Essential, reaffirming, but draining.

So Kara let herself drift. Before long, as she was easing into a fuzzy-edged dream, she heard Lena speak. It was so quiet, she almost didn’t catch it. She wasn’t even sure she was supposed to; maybe Lena thought she was already asleep.

But she heard it.

I think I don’t believe you.”

Kara’s entire body tensed. “What?” She hadn’t meant to raise her voice above a whisper, but she did, and Lena startled. “I’m sorry. Sorry. But, Lena…?”

Lena looked up into Kara’s eyes and said it full-voiced this time. “I think I don’t believe you.” She could feel the specter lean forward from its perch on the headboard, smiling as it whispered in her ear and stroked her hair.

Kara wanted to be happy that Lena was being honest with her. Was being honest with herself. But she found that she couldn’t. She didn’t expect it, couldn’t even explain it, but she was angry. Skin-buzzingly angry.

How can you say that?”

“Never mind. I know what you meant. Let’s just rest a few more minutes before we have to go.”

“No, Lena, what does that mean? You think I’d lie to you about this, about anything ever again for that matter, but this?”

Lena sighed, resigned but determined. “I don’t think you’re lying Kara, I think I don’t believe you.”

“How is that different?!” Kara bolted upright and turned toward the middle of the bed. Lena slowly sat up as well, pulling some covers into her lap to twist between her fingers.

“Look, I want to believe you Kara — god you have no idea how much I want to — but I don’t. And I’m not sure that’s something I can change. But I’m pretty sure it isn’t something I should hide.”

Kara was now fully shocked at her own reaction, but she felt helpless to stop it. Her body was leaden, while her skin felt hot and too light, like it was trying to lift away from her bones. Something about this had needled into a surprisingly sore spot, and even if she didn’t understand all of it, wasn’t quite sure of all the buttons it seemed to be pushing, she knew one thing: she was already wracked with guilt for just how much she prioritized Lena. And if Lena couldn’t see that…

“How can you say that? Do you have any idea how many times I’ve already chosen you. How much I can’t stop myself from choosing you, even when I shouldn’t. Even when if I were half the hero I’m supposed to be I wouldn’t, but I still do. I still choose you every time.”

“But I’m not the only one you have to choose to choose ‘us’.”

Kara froze. “What?” She was so confused, and hurt, and angry. And the small voice in her head whispering ‘but why are you so angry?’ was only making it worse.

“I believe you’d choose me every time, Kara, I do. But choosing us means putting yourself first, too. Letting the world burn for me doesn’t do a damn thing to protect ‘us.’” Lena’s words started spilling hard and fast, like they did when she explained a new theory, when she solved a problem, when she knew exactly what she meant. “Can you honestly look me in the eye, right now, and promise that you’ll choose you? That you’ll put your needs, your wants, your time, your life above everyone else’s?”

“Lena—“

“Because if not, then what are you really promising, Kara? Because it’s not ‘us.’”

“Lena, you can’t— you can’t ask me to do that.”

“You can’t ask me not to!”

The room was fully drenched in sunlight now. The slow plodding of dawn had given way to a brutal, impatient morning. There was glare coming off the windows and sirens cutting through the birdsongs. A garbage truck passed by under the window and Kara could hear the squeak and crunch of the bags being mechanically compressed, a sour taste coating the back of her tongue from the cloying smells it released.

She snapped.

“So, what? So I just stop?! Just try not to listen when I hear people calling out for help? Just ignore it when the only thing standing between all those people out there and the end of the world is me? Just say, sorry, I can’t right now, I’m more important than you are?!”

Yes!!!

“Lena!”

At some point they’d both gotten out of bed and were now standing at opposite sides staring at each other. Kara could feel how wide and hot her eyes were, how her hands were shaking, the tremors of hurt and fear laced through the rage of her words. Her voice was low and challenging; she barely recognized it as her own. “You don’t mean that.

“Oh, but I do. How can you say you’d let the world burn and not expect me to feel the same way? Huh? But I can’t. Kara, I can’t. I don’t get to. You get to.”

Lena’s words were shot toward Kara and the hero flinched against them. “Lena—“ she started again, honestly not sure what would have followed if Lena had allowed it.

“No. No. You get to stand there, all strength and righteousness, and say that if it’s between me and the world, then you choose me. And you know what? It’s fucking selfish.”

Tears were falling freely, and ignored. Lena’s face and chest were flushed and her bottom lip was trembling. She stood glaring, a vengeful goddess, naked before her lover, haloed by a righteous sun, untouchable in her fury. And Kara couldn’t breathe.

“… Because I don’t get that choice. You get to choose for both of us. You choose when something’s worth my life and when it’s worth risking yours. I don’t get to put you first. I don’t get to sit here beating myself up but comfortable with the knowledge that I’ll never let anything happen to you. Because I can’t stop you! I don’t get to choose and I can’t make you choose yourself.

All the fire and hurt finally flared out and Lena slumped forward, bracing herself against the bed. She turned and let herself sit on the edge, facing fully away from Kara now, shoulders splotchy and sagging.

“Lena—“

“I think— I think I just need to be alone for a while.” Lena was reaching for her clothes where they lay on the floor by the bed. Her bra and shirt were already on and she was pulling her underwear up her legs before Kara even processed the words.

“Lena, please.”

“I can’t right now, Kara. Look, I’ll call you later.” She was pulling her socks on now, and Kara felt about a hundred steps behind.

Please, wait...”

Lena grabbed her phone from the bedside table, slipping it into her back pocket as she walked around the corner of the bed toward the room divider. At the point of her path that brought her closest to Kara, still standing in shocked stillness on her side of the bed, she paused for a moment and Kara’s chest fluttered with hope. But Lena didn’t even look up. “I’ll call you later.”

Kara couldn’t get her mind to work. She shook her head twice, but everything felt viscous and muted. She registered nothing but the relentlessly reverberating thump of her heart for several long moments.

It was the sound of the front door sliding open that finally shocked Kara into action. Lena sucked in a startled breath as her path was suddenly blocked by a solid wall of naked Kryptonian, door closed tightly behind her.

“No.”

Kara.” Her eyes narrowed, and the word hissed from her lips every bit the warning she intended. She watched Kara’s entire demeanor slacken, the cool blue of her eyes replacing the momentary flare of orange heat.

Kara’s head cleared so fast it made her sway, but her heart kept up its breakneck pace. “I just meant… Lena of course you can leave if you want to. I would never actually stop you or force you…”

Lena felt her posture relax, too. She knew that, of course she knew that. It was an instinct to rebel against any semblance of constraint, any possible challenge to her self-determination. But Kara didn’t deserve that, and Lena didn’t want it. Not here. Not with them.

“No, I know, I’m sorry. It’s just— Kara, look, I’m not running, I just need some space.”

“I don’t think you do.”

“Excuse me?” Her hackles raised again. But Kara held her eyes, soft but entreating, her face more like the gentle touch of fingertips on a retreating hand than the abrasive cut of restraints around a wrist.

“Just, Lena, hear me out. Please.”

Lena wasn’t sure she’d have relented if not for the way Kara instinctually stepped to the side as she spoke. She held fast to Lena’s gaze, prompting her to turn as well so that they still faced each other, but affording Lena a clear path again to the door. Lena glanced at the doorknob for one long, weighted moment, then dropped her gaze to the floor. She crossed her arms and waited, knowing that was all the go-ahead Kara would need.

“Look, we’ll both need space sometimes, obviously, and when you do I will give it to you, no questions asked. No judgment, no pouting or whining—” Lena quirked an eyebrow… “Mostly. Mostly no pouting or… whatever, no deflecting. I’m serious, Lena.” Kara squared her shoulders, but lifted her hands, palms facing Lena in submission. “I get that you’ll need space. And if that’s really what you want right now, then absolutely. I’ll see you later, or text me or whatever.”

Lena sighed and felt her shoulders slacken even as her fingers dug hard into her crossed arms.

Kara continued: “But, I don’t think that’s actually what will help. I think— I think wanting me not to leave is only part of it. If I’m wrong, please just tell me. But, I think, maybe you want me not to let you leave, too.”

Lena stared at her feet. Her head was swimming and her eyes stung. She honestly wasn’t sure if she wanted Kara to stop her right now or not. “Maybe.”

“Look, I think you’re scared. I mean, I know I am—“

She glanced up through her eyelashes. “Are you really?”

Kara’s eyes went wide and she stepped a little closer, finally reaching for Lena’s fingers where they clenched around her arms. Lena loosened her grip, allowing Kara to tangle their fingers and drop their hands to sway slightly between their bodies.

Kara ducked her head to catch Lena’s gaze. “Of course I am. Rao, Lena, I’m terrified. I’m so unbelievably terrified of losing this, of losing you. But, what? Then I let myself run? Isn’t that just losing you faster?”

Lena searched the constellations in Kara’s eyes for any hint of hesitation or doubt, any sign she was offering something she wasn’t truly prepared to give. All she found though was determination and hard-earned hope. Hope in the face of immeasurable losses. Hope despite years of bone-deep loneliness and alienation in every sense of the word. Hope for connection and meaning and more, when no one could have blamed her for struggling just to put one foot in front of the other.

But all it made Lena feel was the impulse to scream. To pound against naked, impervious shoulders that all of that improbable, incomparable hope should be directed at anyone but her. That she couldn’t cradle it and nourish it the way it deserved. That she’d be as likely to steal it, twist it, crush it, as she’d ever be to earn it. That maybe the best she could do was cast it away before it got too comfortable and complacent to realize it deserved to find something better. Someone better.

Her eyes must have hardened, her jaw flexing with self-defeating determination, because suddenly her fingers were free and Kara was cradling her face with both hands, close enough she could feel the words against her lips.

“No. No, don’t do that. Don’t.” Kara’s eyes were cold steel, so intense sparks of orange embers seemed to explode in their depths and Lena couldn’t stop a small gasp. “You’re right, it was careless to say it how I did before, and I’m not sure yet how to make it true in every way you deserve, but I meant it Lena. I choose us. I choose you. Rao, Lena, I’ll always choose you, please… please let me.”

Lena’s tears were catching along Kara’s hands where they gripped her jaw. Everything inside her was screaming ‘I can’t I can’t’ but the words stuck in her throat. She stared at the hero standing naked in front of her and knew with absolute certainty that if she ever reached for this and her hand came back empty, she would never recover. [‘I can’t I can’t.’ Just say it. ‘I can’t.’]

But the words wouldn’t come. What came instead, unbidden and brutal in its clarity, was the vision of an all-too-familiar young girl. She watched helplessly as her four year-old self learned the exact shape that trust, warmth, and love cut when they dipped beneath the surface of a lake for the last time; the exact feel that comfort, familiarity, and companionship left on uncalloused skin when a final plush piece of home was dragged from tiny fingers.

She sobbed, her mind’s eye looking across the still surface of the lake, then down at the worn stuffed bear somehow in her grown-up hand, and finally into the shining viridian eyes looking up at her for answers.

Would she really tell this heartbroken child, with her own dark unruly hair and cruelly brilliant mind, to learn not to love a little sooner? To sleep in her own bed when the nightmares came? To leave the bear behind when those nightmares came to life?

Never.

She’d bend down and cradle her and whisper she was right to hold her most precious things close. To grab tight when she feared they’d be taken. To cherish every warm moment, even if the cold would always come.

So, when did she ‘learn’ to discard her dearest wants to avoid the pain of having them taken away? When did she decide it was better to start with nothing than risk losing anything at all?

Kara.” It was wet and broken and all she could manage.

It was also all Kara needed to hear. She had Lena in her arms before the second syllable formed. “I know, I know. I’m so sorry, Lena. I’m so sorry.”

“I don’t want to leave.”

“I know. Can I carry you?”

Lena sniffed and nodded into the crook of Kara’s neck. She had no energy left for embarrassment, taking a deep pull of Kara’s comforting scent — of honeysuckle and coconut, fresh air and sex — as strong arms cradled her back and thighs and walked her oh-so-slowly back to the bed.

Once Lena was settled, Kara spared a single moment to shoot off a text.

Kara to Alex:

(7:38 a.m.):

No.

She placed the phone face-down on the nightstand and eased into bed beside Lena.

They hadn’t even paused to take Lena’s shoes and clothes off, and the stiff catch of fabric felt like sandpaper against Kara’s skin. She was considering pulling away to ask if she could lift off Lena’s shirt when a soft, wet voice drew her attention.

“Should it be this hard?”

“Should what?” She knew what, and she was holding her breath to brace for the inevitable impact.

“Us.”

She still winced.

But it was a fair question, and if she was being honest with herself, she’d been asking it, too. The answer she’d been mulling over wasn’t fully formed yet, and she hesitated to offer it. “I don’t know.”

She felt Lena tense in her arms at her words, and warm tears were tracking down her chest where Lena’s head was cradled.

“But I’ve been thinking about it. The metaphor’s kind of half-baked, but bear with me?” She took Lena’s silence for the agreement it was. Kara closed her arms just slightly tighter, looking for comfort as much as she was offering it, and kissed the top of Lena’s head before continuing.

“Actually, let me back up first. I should’ve led with this, um…” She shook her head lightly. “Lena, for me? For me it’s worth thinking about, but it doesn’t change anything either way. Not really. I don’t care how hard this is. I don’t need it to be easy to know it’s what I want.”

Lena was completely still in her arms and she worried there was a bit too much pressure hidden in that reassurance. “Um… I understand if—“

“Me, too.”

Kara didn’t even remember taking the deep breath that released at those words. “Oh. Good. Okay. That’s good. Good…”

Lena pulled back and looked up into Kara’s face. Kara’s throat tightened seeing how the shifting greens and blues of her eyes were even clearer and more startling beneath the sheen of tears. Sparing a half-smile of encouragement, Lena waited for Kara to push forward with her answer.

“Okay, um… Look, the year we fought, when I… when I wasn’t sure we’d ever… Rao, I still hate talking about this… Lena, that broke me.” Lena winced and Kara closed her arms a little tighter again. “There were so many times I thought maybe I’d never get you back. And, honestly, times when I convinced myself I didn’t even want to. We felt so completely, irreparably damaged.”

“I know. I felt it, too.”

Kara nodded and closed her eyes against shadows of hurt that still felt so dangerously solid sometimes.

“Yeah, I know you did. I know. And I think we’re both pretty clear now that the relationship we broke… Look, I don’t know when it changed, or if it was always… I don’t know. But it wasn’t just a friendship that broke. That hurt, Lena… I think we both know we were already something more.”

This territory was still a little raw for Lena, but she just nodded and waited.

“And the work we’ve put in, I’m not taking anything away from that. We spent months slowly rebuilding. I don’t think we did anything wrong… that time, that care we put into getting back to each other, that means the world to me.”

Lena meant to squeeze words past the lump in her throat, but nothing would come out. She just nodded again and blinked as Kara placed a short, soft kiss against her forehead.

“But when we put this back together, when we reassembled ‘Us’… It’s like… It’s like we only rebuilt the friendship. It didn’t mean any less, not to me, but it feels like we rebuilt with only pieces of us. And the other night… the other night… holy Rao, how was that not years ago?”

Lena actually chuckled at that. “Yeah, time’s felt a little, mmm… malleable lately? Or maybe abstract and brutally unpredictable is more accurate.”

“Potato potahto.”

Lena chuckled again and fittingly took a moment to force time to slow. She reached up and traced her fingertips along Kara’s jaw, the gentle curve of the shell of her ear, the soft, straight line of her eyebrows. Kara released a strangled breath when Lena’s fingertips came to rest against the warmth of her bottom lip.

Kara frowned momentarily as Lena pulled away from her. She watched Lena stand and deliberately but pragmatically, without flair or performance, peel off every piece of clothing and climb back under the covers and into Kara’s arms. Kara closed her eyes at the relief of feeling smooth, warm skin against hers. She nodded as Lena reached back to trace her features again and prompted with a whisper: “Pieces of us…”

“Right. Um…” Kara opened her eyes and tried to focus on her words. “The other night, when we finally… when we… Look, bear with the analogy here, but it’s like there wasn’t any room, with how we rebuilt it, to squeeze in these other pieces.”

Lena’s eyebrows pinched but Kara stumbled on. “It’s not lost time, I think we needed to build that first. But it feels like finally being with you like this, finally admitting I’m so absolutely, irrevocably in love with you...” Her heart stuttered through an extra beat when she heard Lena’s breath hitch, but she couldn’t let herself get sidetracked before she got this out. “There was no room for that. And letting it in brought the whole thing down again.”

“Oh.”

Kara hurried to continue. “It’s so completely worth it for me, don’t get me wrong. But in some ways, Lena, I think we’re starting from scratch here. Acknowledging what those pieces really were, and all the new parts we’re finally admitting we want to add, there’s no way to just tack that on. I think we’re building from the ground up again.”

It was clunky, but it made a certain kind of sense to Lena, too. She nodded. “Yeah. Yeah, I can see that.” She gave a half-smile, trying to let the inherent promise laced through Kara’s words, that they would face this together, calm her heart.

After a heavy silence, both lost in their thoughts, a memory tickled at Lena’s subconscious and she quirked a teasing eyebrow. “You have a natural gift with words.”

Her face broke into an unrestrained smile when Kara laughed out loud. “You know, my favorite person in the world said something like that to me once.”

“You don’t say.”

“Mmm hmmm. Maybe not so accurate when that person’s, like, in my bed naked and I’m baring my soul, but, yeah, the words ring a bell.”

Lena ducked her head back under Kara’s chin, watching tanned skin gently rise and fall beneath her head as they both fell silent again. The sun was warm on her back, and it felt insistent in its reminder that the day was slipping away and there were people somewhere, everywhere, waiting on them.

“Can you just hold me a little longer? I know we have to go soon, but—“

“I’ll hold you as long as you want. I texted Alex. There’s nowhere else we need to be.”

“Oh.” Her whole body melted. “Oh, okay…. Thank you.”

It seemed ridiculous to Kara to be thanked for something so completely selfish, but she assumed Lena knew how much Kara needed this, too. “Always.”

Nothing was solved, there was no easy fix. But they held tight to each other. The last daughter of Krypton and the sole Luthor heir, two orphans on heroes’ journeys, all but destined to travel in loss, bracingly asking for more.

They stayed like that for hours. Sometimes trading whispers and laughs, tears and soft smiles. Sometimes lost in sliding heat and gasping pleas. Always wrapped in the promise of facing their myriad demons together.

It was noon by the time they emerged to face the day. The yellow sun centered high in the sky, only man-made shadows to face for one still moment.

With a sigh, they both reached for their phones and finally allowed the world to break into their morning.

Naked shoulders pressed together, they laughed out loud, glancing at each other’s screens as they read the string of texts that followed Kara’s earlier ‘No.’

Alex to Kara:

(7:38 a.m.):

???

Kara?

(7:39 a.m.):

Kara, is everything okay?

Alex to Lena:

(7:41 a.m.):

Hey, hope I didn’t wake you. Kara texted me something weird and now isn’t responding, is she still with you?

(7:44 a.m.):

Wait…

Alex to Kara:

(7:45 a.m.):

Please tell me that wasn’t some weird text version of a sock on the doorknob.

(7:50 a.m.):

Kara?

(7:59 a.m.):

Oh my god it was…

Ugh 🙄 Fine, we’ll cover for you.

But you owe me!

(8:25 a.m.):

Also, ew. I don’t love this.

(8:26 a.m.):

But I do love you.”

(9:02 a.m.):

I mean part of me loves this, because I love you both and omg FINALLY.

But, also: Ew.”

“❤️”

(9:46 a.m.):

Nia says CatCo says ‘hi, remember how jobs work?’.”

And something about toilet paper?

(9:47 a.m.):

Omg OTP! Can I delete that? Kara please delete that. How long before Esme’s a teenager? I’m already old, how am I already so old? God I’m so screwed.

Alex to Lena:

(10:38 a.m.):

THREE HOURS?! OH MY GOD STOP HAVING SEX WITH MY BABY SISTER AND GET YOUR ASSES OVER HERE!!!!

(11:04 a.m.):

I hate you both. Please tell Supergirl to never again inform me of your impending quality time. Feel free to just not show up. No questions asked. No details necessary. Or accepted. Don’t even raise that damn eyebrow, Luthor. 🤬”

Nia to Kara and Lena:

(11:38 a.m.):

Alex says to tell you both she quits.”

She’s still stomping around in overly dramatic eyeshadow being all bossy, so I don’t really believe her, but yeah.

(11:48 a.m.):

Maybe pace yourselves and stop by soon?

(11:54 a.m.):

Or not. To heck with Big Sister. You do you.

(11:55 a.m.):

Or each other 😂 🦸 💼♾😘”

Kara squinted at her screen. “Do you have any idea what—“

“Absolutely none.”

“Oh, okay. Good, that makes me feel slightly better.” She traded her phone for a glass of water and drained half of it. She inclined the glass toward Lena, who shook her head, then stretched to place it back on the nightstand as she continued: “We can ask Nia when we get there.”

Lena sighed and locked her phone. “Mmm. I guess we should get going soon.”

“-ish.”

“-ish?”

Kara smiled and rolled over, easing the phone from Lena’s fingers, then sliding her hand to splay along Lena’s lower back, coaxing her down the bed and pinning her against the damp cotton sheets. “Mmm hmmm. Soon-ish.”

Lena raised both eyebrows “Kara, you can’t seriously—“

“I mean, we should at least shower first.”

Lena covered her eyes with a hand and smiled. “Right. Yes. Very wise.”

Kara eased Lena’s hand away, cradling those long, perfect fingers and placing them gently above her head. She kissed along every freckle of Lena’s alabaster neck, groaning at the vibrations against her lips as Lena continued talking.

“Although, if I’m being honest, showering alone has been very hard on my mental health lately.”

“Is that right?” Kara laughed before licking along Lena’s collarbone.

“Mmhmm.”

“I might have a solution.” She teased a light nip under Lena’s jaw.

Lena shivered and tried to keep the tremor out of her voice. “I was rather hoping you would. Care to tell me about it?”

Kara grinned against her skin. “I’m much better at showing.”

Within a heartbeat, Lena’s back was pinned to the bathroom door, one leg hooked over a strong broad shoulder, while the shower water slowly heated up. She gasped, stomach flipping and heart rate spiking for multiple reasons, distantly wondering if she’d ever get used to Kara’s newfound applications for her superpowers.

Her eyes fluttered closed as she leaned her head back against the door. “What a thing for a Pulitzer-winning journalist to say.”

Kara pulled back to respond and Lena’s fingers shot down to grip hard in her hair.

“No, no, I take it back. Don’t you dare fucking stop.”

Kara’s smirk was fully hidden from view as she hummed out her reply. “Never.”

Chapter Text

Tuesday Night

The nighttime sounds of National City played soft in Kara’s ears, like a car radio turned down to search for an unfamiliar street. She let the more urgent notes swell in turn: a baby crying, already being soothed by her Dad; first responders on the scene of a small pile-up, shuffling between the injured and reassuring central everything was under control; a few teens releasing frustration by smashing bottles against an alley wall; the click-clack of agile fingers against a keyboard followed by a lilting whispered “Damn it! I don’t care if you’re a 19th level intellect, you mess with my code one more time…”

A smirk forced its way across Kara’s cheeks. She would have to remind her subconscious about the purpose of these sweeps, the category of sounds they were meant to let through. Her eyes eased open and landed on tense shoulders hovered over the Tower’s central control panel, hiding the perfect lips that were muttering frustrated threats to an empty room.

“Wanna’ take a breather?”

Lena startled and turned toward the balcony. “Kara… hey. How long have you been standing there?”

The hero shrugged and relaxed back against the balcony wall, shaking her hair away from her face carelessly as it caught in the light autumn breeze. “A few minutes? I took a couple laps, but everything’s pretty quiet out there, so… You looked really focused, I didn’t want to interrupt.”

Lena nodded and started walking toward the balcony steps, tugging a hair tie unceremoniously from her hair and scratching against her scalp to loosen any remaining tension.

Kara watched, heart in her throat at how beautiful the city lights looked against pale skin and sparkling eyes. She shifted her weight, shuffling slightly to the side to let Lena ease in beside her like she always did. Only Lena never swerved, she just walked straight into Kara’s body and sank against her chest, hair tickling Kara’s neck where she buried her head with a sigh.

Chuckling lightly, Kara grabbed both sides of her cape and wrapped it around Lena, pulling her closer. “Oh well, hello.”

The responding “hi” was almost fully muffled by the supersuit where Lena nuzzled unrepentantly.

“No progress I take it?”

Lena groaned. “Did you really have to ask?”

“Mmmm. You’ll figure it out. You always do.”

“I’m not so sure, honestly, but I appreciate the confidence, darling.”

Kara wrapped her arms a little tighter, swaying gently and humming just loud enough for Lena to feel the vibrations against her cheek and chest. “Always.”

They’d urged everyone else to go home a few hours earlier, even though J’onn maintained: “You have nothing to make up for. Supergirl’s allowed a day off now and then.” Lena hadn’t called Kara out on the unconvincing smile she sent his way in response.

“Did you eat?”

“Mhmm. You?”

“Yeah, I stopped at Lorenzo’s during patrol.” She kissed the top of Lena’s head and swayed a little more. “So how about that breather?”

Lena’s eyes burned beneath her heavy eyelids. The cots in the break room couldn’t compare to the California King in her penthouse with its soft-as-butter sheets, but they’d never sounded more appealing.

“Please.”

Strong, sure hands were under her back and thighs in an instant and she laughed into Kara’s neck as they started down the stairs.

“I can walk, you know, Supergirl.”

“I mean, true. But why would you?”

Kara’s palms were warm and reassuring where they cradled her, the supersuit surprisingly soft against her cheek. And she’d long ago admitted to herself that the peculiar scent of Kara’s skin at the pulse point on her neck — a combination of fresh air, honeysuckle, and something uniquely Kara — was the greatest comfort in the universe.

“I can’t think of a single reason.”

The last few days had proven, delightfully and without a doubt, that Kara could’ve had them in bed before she blinked. Lena used the light twirling of her fingers on the back of Kara’s neck to express her gratitude that they were taking the human approach instead. She loved feeling the gentle rocking of Kara’s plodding steps, the soft jostling of her forehead against the hero’s neck. It was so soothing, she was half asleep by the time Kara eased her onto the edge of the stiff mattress.

Lena pushed off her shoes as Kara whispered: “Back in a sec.” She didn’t even blink at the increasingly familiar rush of air before sleep shorts and a ribbed black cotton tank top were placed in her lap. Lena sleepily mumbled “thanks” as she changed, yawning when she stretched across the lumpy mattress and nestled under surprisingly soft sheets.

She felt a quilt being tucked under her chin. “I’ll go set the L-gorithm and be right back.”

Even half asleep, Lena groaned out: “Oh my god, Kara, please stop calling it that.”

A gentle singsong reply echoed from the main room: “I have no idea what you’re talking about.”

“You do and you— oh!”

“At some point this will stop surprising you, right?” Kara chuckled against Lena’s neck, bare arm draped over her waist and four socked feet tangling together. In the space between Lena’s words, Kara had turned off all but one dim light and plastered her now pajama-clad self against Lena’s back.

“Unclear.” She grabbed Kara’s hand and pulled it more tightly around her, entwining their fingers. “And don’t try to change the subject. You think I can’t hear the difference, but I can, and I will delete the damned algorithm if that’s the only way to end this torture.” Her sentence trailed off into another yawn.

“Empty threats.”

A few months before, Lena had developed a nuanced and comprehensive algorithmic filter based on a combination of emergency and police scanners, all possible realtime image captures across the city, international news alerts, and a million other inputs Kara had stopped paying attention to in favor of imagining how the lipgloss on Lena’s lips would taste. (You know, platonically.)

Every data point was assigned an urgency level, with anything above a six alerting the on-call Superfriend, and anything above a nine signaling them all. It was brilliant, and elegant, and it afforded the heroes of National City a way to truly relax during their down time. It was also adamantly, unequivocally, aggressively not called the L-gorithm.

“Try me, Supergirl.”

“Fine, Luthor, you win. I won’t call it that.” [In front of you. It’s the friggin’ perfect name.]

“Good. Now shut up and scratch my back until I fall asleep.”

“Oh ho ho, really?”

Lena blushed a little and nuzzled further into the blankets, pointedly releasing her grip on Kara’s hand. “It felt really good and so relaxing and honestly how was I not getting turns this entire time?”

“I have literally no good answer for that. Here, scootch a little.”

Lena squirmed closer to the edge of the cot and legitimately moaned when Kara’s hand snuck under the tight tank top and dragged across her skin. Kara blushed, deliberating for a minute before whispering against Lena’s ear. “You said for sleep, right?”

“Correct.”

“And you probably meant it?”

“I did.”

“Okay, cool cool, just making sure.”

Lena chuckled and hooked her foot over Kara’s ankle to fully tangle their legs. Kara sunk her nose into Lena’s hair, unabashedly taking in her comforting scents, as her fingers mapped a trail across her lower back.

The distracting heat building between her legs with each pass of Kara’s nails was hard to deny, but Lena was far too tired to indulge it. “Darling, I promise you can see what other responses this might elicit once I’m not so exhausted.”

“Shhhhh… trying to sleep here.”

Lena chuckled again and shook her head gently before burrowing it into her pillow. She let everything but the feel of Kara’s hand on her back and breath on her neck disappear, drifting into sleep within minutes, one very content superhero following not far behind.

 

***

 

Alex’s voice buzzed, uneven and urgent in her ear, as she pressed faster toward the building.

“Everyone else is accounted for, Supergirl, we need you here.”

“Do you see her? Has she answered?”

There was static in her comms, but no response. The distinct blare of the level 10 Algorithm-Alert still wailed through the night air.

“Do you see her?!” Still no answer. She pulled the earpiece out and crushed it into dust as she closed the distance between herself and the burning remains of L-Corp.

The force of her landing caused a small crater in what had once been an immaculate lobby. She frantically scanned the rubble, brushing cinder from her eyes, until two stories above, trapped beneath a support beam, she saw a dark figure sprawled across a broken staircase.

No.

Before that single syllable was fully breathed into existence, the beam was hurled away and Lena was cradled in her arms. “Lena, no. Look at me, Lena, please. Please.”

“Kara?”

Kara almost doubled over in relief at the sound of her voice. “Yeah, yeah. It’s me. Rao, Lena—”

“Kara, is that you?”

The hero’s brow furrowed and she reached to brush wild, singed hair away from Lena’s eyes. “Yeah, it’s me… Lena?”

Her breath caught as she realized her fingers had trailed blood across Lena’s forehead. But blood from where? She looked down and finally took in the long piece of rebar sticking from Lena’s side. She started to shift Lena fully into her arms, suddenly frantic again in her need to get them out of there. “Lena, we have to go, can you—“

“Did we get him?”

“What? Yeah, yeah, of course. Of course we did. Can you grab around my neck? It’s gonna’ hurt when I move you, I’m so sorry.”

“Did I get everyone out of the building in time? Did my plan work? Are they safe?”

“Every single one, you crazy, stupid, wonderful, idiotic—“

“Good. That’s good.” The typical breakneck pace of Lena’s lilting speech was replaced with dragging syllables, hanging heavy, and wet.

“Sure, fine. Can you please hold onto me, I have to—“

“Kara, stop. It doesn’t matter.”

Kara felt her eyes starting to well up as she shook her head. “Shut up. Just shut up and hold onto me, please.”

“Kara, it’s okay. We saved everyone. It was worth it. Kara, everything’s okay.”

Tears were falling freely now and Kara’s vision was getting hazy. She wiped frantically, needing to see Lena’s face clearly. But the more she wiped, the blurrier it got.

“What are you talking about?! How is any of this okay?! I told you— I told you not to—”

“Kara, shhh, it’s okay. Darling, everything’s fine.”

Lena!!

Lena’s hands reached up to wipe away Kara’s tears and her face came clearly into focus again. She looked so serene, so content.

It made Kara’s blood boil.

“Everything’s fine, Kara. You’re okay.”

Her eyes narrowed as she heard Lena’s mantra repeat, while her lips stayed closed in that satisfied, infuriating smile.

Kara shook away her confusion. They didn’t have time for this, she had to get Lena out of there. She wiped her eyes with the back of her blood and soot-stained hand. “How could I possibly be okay?! Lena!! Please just let me—“

“You’re okay, Kara. Shhhh, you’re safe, everything’s fine.” Her eyes were soft and knowing, but her lips still motionless.

“Lena?”

“Kara, darling. Wake up.”

(Wednesday Morning)

Kara’s eyes shot open and her whole body twitched violently. She curled in on herself, breaths shuddering out of her around dry sobs, frantically trying to remember how to filter out the onslaught of sounds pressing down on her from all sides.

“Breathe with me, Kara. Listen to my heart and breathe with me.”

“I can’t.” Kara’s chest was aching, heaving lungs bringing in less and less air.

“You can.”

Kara shook her head, eyes still squeezed shut.

“Darling, breathe with me.” Kara felt the familiar soothing scratch of fingers easing into the hair at the base of her neck at the same time Lena whispered the phrase still ringing in her subconscious. “Everything’s fine.”

It took every ounce of restraint not to scream that nothing was fine. Her entire body vibrated with lingering fear and rage. “How could you do that to me?” She wasn’t even aware the words escaped her lips until she felt Lena tense behind her, hand pulling back as if stung. Kara’s eyes shot open, the curdling venom that dripped from her question still burning on her tongue.

She spun around, eyes wide, pupils nearly pulsing as she pulled the hurricane of her thoughts into focus on Lena’s face through sheer will. “Oh Rao, Lena I’m so sorry! I didn’t—“

“Hey, hey, don’t apologize. But Kara…?“

Months of sleepovers had given Lena a clear and heartbreaking window into Kara’s fears. The visions her trauma’s chose, the costumes they wore. And she was brutally aware of her place in many of those tormented dreamscapes. From repeated betrayals and kryptonite hearts to assassination attempts Kara failed to thwart and lifetimes spent apart by choice. Their own history combined with the lingering false memories from the Phantom Zone were relentless, but at this point, predictable. And Kara had never, not a single time, awoken with anger toward her. Hurt, fear, confusion, guilt, an unquenchable desire for the comfort of touch. But she had never once pulled away, or lashed out. Until now.

“Kara what were you dreaming about?” Lena’s eyes were flitting between her own, hand warm and heavy on her cheek. Kara opened her lips, willing any words to form, when they both flinched at a teasing voice calling from outside the door.

“Everyone decent in there?”

They answered at the same time, Kara with a defeated “Yes” and Lena a determined “No.”

It was Lena who doubled down. “No, Alex, give us a minute, okay?”

Alex adopted a more cautious tone. “Oh, sure. Everything all right?”

“Yep. We’ll be out in just a minute.” Lena never took her eyes off Kara’s face as she answered. She waited for the muted sounds of combat boots against waxed wood to disappear, but as soon as she started to speak, Kara shuffled out from under the covers.

“We should get in there. I didn’t even mean to fall asleep. What time is it?”

Kara had already triggered her supersuit and was dragging fingers through her sleep-mussed hair, eyes scanning the ground for some imaginary lost item.

“I think they can endure two more minutes without us. Kara, what’s going on?” Lena quickly tugged yesterday’s clothes on over her sleepwear, eyes locked on Kara every second except the brief moment she pulled the shirt over her head.

“I’m fine, really, Lena. Let’s just— Look there’s nothing to talk about. I had a nightmare. It sucked. Huge surprise. Can we please just get back to work?”

Lena narrowed her eyes as Kara finally stopped her transparent distraction of searching the empty floor. The unusually pallid superhero hugged her arms tightly across her chest and tried to lift her chin in conviction against the piercing glare being leveled her way.

“I’m taking you home.”

“What? Lena, that’s ridiculous. I’m fine, and they need me out there.”

“You’re not, and they don’t.”

That was not the response Kara expected and her eyes widened, hands dropping to her sides. Lena took that as an invitation to lace their fingers and start pulling toward the door. Kara followed numbly, staring at the back of Lena’s head like it was whispering riddles she had to solve to survive.

Alex glanced up from her tablet as they entered the main room. “Good, finally. Here, I need you to—“

“Except you don’t.”

“I’m sorry?” All movement in the entire room stopped and several eyes snapped toward Lena and the mute superhero still staring at her without blinking. Lena stopped walking long enough to shoot a close-range challenge along the current of eye contact with Alex, Kara nearly walking right into her before she resumed their march toward the balcony.

“I said you don’t, Alex. You don’t need us at the moment and I’m taking her home. We’ll check in later.”

“You can’t— Lena! Hey, wait!!” Alex moved toward them, arms stretched out at her sides, face contorted in disbelief. “Look, I’m as happy as the next Superfriend you two finally figured your shit out, but we’re not here to babysit while you keep sneaking off to make up for lost time. The city needs Supergirl! What if—“

“Well they don’t get to have her. Not today.” Lena stopped, eyes radiating both understanding and a challenge so deadly Alex actually retreated a step. “And I’ll pretend I never heard the rest of that, because I love you and I’m sure you’ll regret it without any help from me.”

She started walking again, dragging Kara the last few feet toward the balcony stairs. “If you really can’t handle things, well I assume J’onn put these up for a reason.” Lena motioned toward the engraved tiles lined across the Tower wall, hiding beacons specially designed to call various superhero allies. Her shoulder twinged as Kara stopped without warning, frozen in front of the row of engravings with an indecipherable look on her face. Lena gently tugged at their joined hands. “Kara?”

Kara’s eyes refocused slowly and she shook away whatever emotion Lena was still trying to decode, reaching for her other hand and bringing all four to rest between them. “Can you go grab a sweater or two? I’ll meet you on the balcony in a minute.”

Lena searched her face for a moment, but quickly agreed, squeezing their fingers once before walking back toward the break room. Kara’s eyes were still following the movement when she heard Alex’s voice and dropped her head with a slow exhale.

“Kara, come on—“

Kelly stepped forward and placed her fingers gently on the older Danvers’ arm. “Babe…” The effect on Alex’s body was eerily similar to watching someone un-cock a gun but not lower it.

“No, what the hell is going on here? Am I the only one willing to say maybe getting laid isn’t the top priority at the moment?”

“Alex.” Kara was standing within arms reach of her sister now and it was suddenly Alex who was avoiding eye contact. Kryptonian eyes bored into her face regardless, kind but unwavering, despite the terror and confusion buzzing relentlessly behind them. “Alex, I’m not really okay.”

Kelly soothingly squeezed her fiancé’s arm as she heard the sharp intake of breath that accompanied Sentinel’s face snapping up to lock on Supergirl’s. All that breath rushed back out in one anguished whisper. “Kara?

This time their eyes were locked and Alex felt the full impact as Kara repeated: “I’m not okay.”

All the aggressive tension instantly released and Alex’s features morphed into penitent concern. She finally took in the superhero standing in front of her. How each blink took just a tad too long, looked just a bit too much like a wince. The rhythmic flutter of her jaw as it clenched with her pulse. How her hands were trembling and she kept slightly lifting her right shoulder — a tick Alex knew well from countless battles with Kara’s sensory overloads through the years.

“Shit, Kara, I didn’t— God I don’t even know why I said that before. I’m so sorry, I should’ve noticed you—“

“You don’t have to apologize, Alex. I’m not angry, and I know you weren’t really mad at me either, but…” Kara’s eyes darted toward the beacons again and Alex followed them with a million questions all over her face, “but I think we need to talk… think maybe some things need to change. Not— Not today though.”

“Yeah, yeah, of course. Fuck, I’m such an asshole.”

Kara rasped out a subdued laugh. “Well, true, but that’s not gonna’ change.”

Alex’s shoulders sagged in full-bodied appreciation for the half-hearted attempt at comic relief. She reached out and nudged Kara’s shoulder with an exaggeratedly disgruntled “hey!”

Rather than flinch away, Kara used the motion to pull Alex into a tight hug. They sighed into each other and Alex squeezed extra hard before stepping back at the sound of footsteps. Both Danvers sisters turned toward Lena, who faltered as her eyes flitted from Kara’s to Alex’s then back to the floor as she walked briskly toward the balcony.

“Hey, Luthor.” Lena slowed to a stop at the bottom of the balcony stairs, one hand on the railing, eyes still on her feet. “I was out of line. Sorry. And, um… thanks.” At that last word, both Alex and Lena’s eyes darted toward Kara — who was distractedly staring at the beacons again — then to each other. Lena gave a crooked smile and a wink; an understanding, forged in agonizing history, of the mutual trust to take care of the hero who took care of everyone else. “Always.”

 

***

 

Kara wasn’t sure how many minutes later a gentle touch on her shoulder brought her out of her thoughts. She glanced toward the balcony where Lena now stared out over the city, elbows resting on two layers of sweaters folded over the stone railing. Alex’s voice was soft and Kara met her eyes with a pained smile.

“Get outa’ here. But, hey, call me later if you want, okay?”

“Yeah. Yeah, I will.”

“I love you.”

Kara pulled her sister into another tight hug. “Love you, too.”

Alex was dragging her fingers through her own hair, rubbing her palm along the soft undercut and walking quickly in Kelly’s direction before Kara’s arms even settled back at her sides. She checked the room as she moved toward the balcony. Everyone was immersed in various activities, pretending she’d already left so she might actually believe she could. Her eyes settled on Lena as she started quietly up the stairs.

From the day they’d met, there was something different about the way her name sounded on Lena’s breath. She’d noticed it long before she understood exactly why the soft richness of it affected her so much. And she’d often wondered if it was something everyone could hear, or if it required the unique alchemy of Lena’s voice vibrating in her Kryptonian ears.

She’d also wondered if everyone else could hear the confession she knew danced from her own lips with every “Lena.” With every time her tongue licked along ‘Lee’ then let her breath do all the rest. She must’ve said it a million times, but her mouth had decided every single one would expose how it inevitably, eternally, just slightly knocked the wind out of her.

A part of her figured all lovers’ names sounded different on each others’ tongues. Even before they were lovers. Even if they never took that step in the end.

What she hadn’t expected was the intimacy laced in this one other common syllable. How Lena could make an otherwise unremarkable word — whether said casually or dripping with meaning; a filler or a stand-in for fully formed warnings or reassurances — feel like an entire secret language all their own. The marvel of it settled gently along her shoulders as Lena turned at the sound of her cape catching in the wind and whispered:

Hey.”

This one said: ‘I love you.’

It promised: ‘I see you.’

This one offered, without hesitation or judgment: ‘Crawl inside me and hide for as long as you need. I’ll love you all the while, and see you just as clearly the moment you come back.’

She wondered what Lena heard when she whispered ‘Hey’ in return.

“You ready to go? Think you’re okay to fly us?”

“Oh, um…”

Lena hugged the sweaters to her chest, despite the relatively warm morning air, and studied Kara’s face. She was still flinching slightly, pursing her lips the way she did when she wasn’t sure how to say something, looking out over the city rather than meeting Lena’s eyes. A fire truck siren echoed in the distance, and while Lena’s senses didn’t register anything else, Kara’s nostrils flared and her eyes slammed shut with a small but full-bodied tremor.

Understanding hit all at once. She started pulling one, then the other sweater over her head, and stepped right into Kara’s body, standing directly on her boots and wrapping her arms around her neck. “Show me?”

Kara’s eyes opened and slowly focused on the face just inches in front of hers. Her hands moved without thought to grip around Lena’s waist, foreheads leaning slightly to rest together. Somehow Lena had answered the question before she’d gathered the courage to ask. But… “Are you sure?”

“Please.”

Kara pulled Lena’s body as tightly into hers as she dared and lifted smoothly into the air. Lena nestled her head into Kara’s neck, eyes closed, breathing in the comforting honeysuckle scent, lips gently grazing along Kara’s skin. They rose so slowly she barely felt the change in altitude until her nose and ears registered the cold. She knew they were high enough when, after several quiet minutes, Kara’s muscles finally relaxed. She barely heard the whispered request: “Baby, open your eyes.”

The sight that met her stole her breath completely. The Sun was at her back, flushing the clouds beneath them in every color imaginable. The air was sharp and cold, whipping Kara’s golden hair in and out of Lena’s shadow, creating flashes of reflected light like flames licking around her face and shoulders. Lena couldn’t hear anything but her own halting breath and Kara’s cape snapping in the wind. As she shifted slightly, unobstructed sunlight caught in Kara’s eyes like struck flint, sparking to life with an intensity that made her tremble. This had to be the vision people conjured when they called Supergirl a god.

But the voice that broke her reverie was Kara. Just Kara.

“You’re cold. Here…”

Before she could think to respond, Kara was wrapping her cape around Lena’s shoulders, attaching the clasps together near the hollow of her neck. Lena grabbed the edges as they fluttered at her sides and wrapped them around Kara’s back, tying them together just above the hero’s waist as tightly as she could. She leaned against the still-warm material, satisfied with the support, and brought her hands to rest against the crest on Kara’s chest. “There. Safe and sound. Don’t know what I was so worried about.”

Kara smiled and leaned her forehead against Lena’s again as long fingers traced the Kryptonian symbol on her suit.

Months ago she’d mentioned that when things got really bad, when she was losing the never-ending battle against the insistent barrage of sensory input, she escaped straight up. High enough the city sounds faded like distant waves against a shore. Scents barely intruded, only the occasional earthy flash of wild feathers or hint of fresh rain. She would sink her fingers in the clouds, close her eyes, and wait for the universe to stop spinning. Stop asking for quite so much.

Lena had tensed just hearing the words. She’d never liked flying, and her time in National City had done nothing to ease that fear, between crashing helicopters and weaponized planes, falls from balconies and cliff-side leaps of faith. Kara knew she trusted her completely, would never say no to flying in her arms. She also knew Lena appreciated that she’d never asked.

But she had no idea how Lena knew this was the question stuck behind her teeth as they stood on the Tower balcony. How she knew that every ounce of fear, doubt, guilt, and rage — about the fires, the years of losses no amount of superpowers could prevent, the more intimate wounds only now being discovered in the nakedness between them — had finally broken through her defenses. How she was drowning in them. And how desperately she wanted permission to not face it all alone.

“Thank you for bringing me here.”

Kara laughed, a little surprised at how wet it sounded. “I think we both know who deserves the thanks right now.”

“Thank you anyway. It’s beautiful, Kara. You’re beautiful. Thank you for letting me see it.” She wiped a few stray tears from where they glistened against Kara’s cheek, tilting her chin to press their lips firmly together.

They stayed like that, bodies pressed close inside an indestructible cape, hidden from all evidence of responsibility and indebtedness, no movement except the gentle rise and fall of their chests with each calming breath. Lena waited until she felt strong warm hands start sliding along her hips and back. Once Kara was comfortable enough to seek out touch again, she was usually ready to talk.

“Darling, what happened in your dream?”

Kara tensed and her hands stopped, but only for a moment. Soon enough they were tracing light, pleading patterns under Lena’s sweaters as she whispered all the haunting words she could bear to repeat.

Lena listened, and soothed. Coaxed and reassured. And waited until Kara’s words caught up with her own memories before she let the full breadth of her understanding draw darkly across her features.

Kara.”

“I know.”

And Kara did know. Now. This morning’s nightmare had made sure of that. Now she knew just how it felt to watch someone she loved sacrifice their heart, willfully ignorant of how her heart would stop, too. The way it hurt to watch someone you would give anything to protect, mercilessly deny you the right. To so contentedly give up what you would burn the world to keep. She felt the anger rise in her throat again as the images swam behind her eyes.

But she’d realized this anger wasn’t meant for Lena at all. Just like the anger from their fight the morning before. Just like with the Big Lie that so nearly broke them for good.

She’d fumed, and lashed out, clinging to the escape route of self-sacrifice, of all that the world seemed comfortable expecting of the last daughter of Krypton. But the truth was, every single time, she was furious with herself. For taking away Lena’s choice. For stealing it ruthlessly, and pretending it was for her own good. For everyone’s good. She was terrified of the damage she might cause, but so conditioned to hide and sacrifice that she couldn’t see another way. So she clawed and spat and convinced herself she was faultless. Helpless to change the script. That even asking her to was a betrayal of her Hero’s Destiny.

Lena hadn’t deserved it then, and she didn’t deserve it now. And honestly, neither did Kara. They were in this together, had been for years really, and she couldn’t keep hiding the theft of Lena’s agency, or her own, behind a veneer of heroism.

“I’m so sorry, Lena. I’m so sorry it took a stupid nightmare to realize what I was asking of you. I’m just— I’m so sorry.”

“I don’t really need you to be sorry.”

Kara hurried to nod in agreement. “No, no, I know.”

A plane rumbled by in the distance and Kara waited for the dull ache of it to pass, eyes closed, hands still against Lena’s back. The low thrumming tugged at the frayed edges of her attention, straining her grip as she tried to remain present and centered. Until the taut lines of her thoughts released in unison, turning gratefully to sink toward the feel of warm lips against her cheek. She smiled at the tickle of eyelashes as Lena withdrew and waited.

Kara shifted their position ever so slightly and the heat of the sun prickled warm and effervescent against her skin. “I owe you a promise. And this time, I actually know what it means.” She shook the hair from her face and made sure all the greens and blues of their eyes were locked on each other before continuing. “Lena, I will always choose us.”

“You say that, but—”

“Lena. I choose us.”

The sun burned against the back of Lena’s head, tripping hot along the tips of her ears. A gust of wind circled them, sending ripples along the taut material of the cape and pushing wisps of blonde hair across Kara’s face. Lena caught them in trembling fingers and tucked them behind the Superhero’s ear. “How?”

“By asking for help. It’s a little crazy that I didn’t before.”

“Kara, I think the Superfriends are helping as much as they—“

“Not the Superfriends. Lena, we’re all here. It’s like you told Alex this morning. There’s help literally the push of a button away, and none of us are using it. Why? It’s insane.”

It seemed so obvious, Lena didn’t know how to respond. It was true. Flash, the Legends, Batwoman, Black Lightning, Superman… and more, more heroes than she could count, all struggling on their own despite the offer to work together. All she could say was: “Oh.”

“Yeah. ‘Oh.’ For being a bunch of literal geniuses, we’re kinda’ stupid sometimes.”

The only reasonable response was to laugh. It broke free from her chest so rough and wild she clasped her hand over her mouth in surprise. Kara gently moved her hand away, cupping it in her own palm and staring at the unbridled smile it had tried to hide. She gave herself the space of a few heartbeats to enjoy the sight before continuing.

“But, honestly, that’s the easy part. I’m asking a lot more from you on what’s next. Though I’m betting Iris and Ava and everyone will want in on this one, too.”

“In on what?”

Kara squinted into the Sun, willing the whirlwind of ideas careening inside her skull to weave into something coherent. “Do you remember, at the Fortress, right before I— right before Lex— Um, of course you remember…”

Lena tensed in her arms, heart pounding and eyes wide at the unexpected mention of a memory that had blades for skin.

“I know, I’m sorry. But I have to say this. Lena, when I went to meet Lex, I knew. I knew what would happen. I knew exactly what the plan truly was. The thing is, we all did. And no one really tried to stop me. We’ve all just kind of decided that’s what heroes do, I guess.”

Kara…” The sudden mirth of just seconds ago was replaced completely, like the flip of an old-fashioned slide projector, no trace of the image before it lingering in the frame of the next captured moment. Kara brushed away the first tear just as it trailed onto Lena’s lips. But she couldn’t stop now.

“Even Alex. She hugged me goodbye and just, that’s it. Just walked away. She believes in me beyond reason, that’s how she makes herself okay with it, I think. But we both knew, deep down. I said goodbye to her knowing the odds, knowing my intent, and she let me. You’re the only one, Lena.”

She was panting from trying to force the words from her chest before it closed off, before the fear and pain and guilt squeezed too tight to breathe. “Only you. And when you couldn’t stop me, when I basically told you ‘then I’ll die,’ you just turned around and screamed ‘then I’ll bring you back to life.’ Even if I couldn’t hear you right away.”

They were both crying now, gripping tight enough to bruise. This was the promise that counted. The most selfish one she’d ever make. And she’d never been more sure of the rightness of anything in her life.

“You will never. Never. Have to do that again.”

Lena’s sobs were coming out in hiccups. She searched Kara’s eyes like she could dive into them, pushing aside the debris of hurt and fear to cradle the stone of this promise, gasping as the truth of it exploded in blinding light between her fingers.

“I would never let our plan be to risk your life, Lena. Never. I don’t know when I somehow convinced everyone, convinced myself, that risking mine was such a reasonable Plan A.” She eased her other hand out of Lena’s sweater and brought both up to cup the perfect, splotchy skin of her tear-stained face. “That’s the second half of my promise. Risking my life will never ever again be Plan A. Or B. Or Plan C, D, E, Z part 2 b-side remix. None of the plans. No more idiot heroes drawing straws to fulfill our destinies of massively pissing off the women we love before they save our stupid butts—”

Kara’s deluge of words was mercifully cut off by soft, salty lips pressing hard against her own.

“Oh my god, shut up. Just— Kara just shut up and kiss me. Please.”

That plan sounded infinitely better, and Kara greedily obliged.

The kiss was hungry and achingly pure. Behind Lena’s eyelids, a fuzzy orange glow flared in time with every third beat of her pounding heart and she realized Kara had started to spin. Feet trailing in the clouds, indestructible swaths of red binding them softly together, she spun beneath a yellow sun, tangled in the arms of the last daughter of Rao.

Neither had any idea how long they stayed there, drinking each other in, offering whispers of reassurance and devotion. But eventually they broke apart, as far as the cape allowed, smiling dopily around still-wet cheeks.

“Rao, I love you so much. I mean, I’ll be forced to call you a liar if you ever tell Alex, but you really are my absolute favorite person on Earth.”

“Just Earth?” Lena teasingly replied.

“No, you’re right, you’re my favorite person in the universe.”

“Mmmm. Better.”

“In any universe. You’re my favorite person in the multiverse. Oh… I mean…” All the sunshine drained from Kara’s face in an instant. Damn it, could she not spend a single moment being happy without inadvertently recalling the magnitude of her responsibilities, the weight of her losses.

“Hey, darling, don’t do that. Come back. Hey… Don’t you think we’ve filled our hero-guilt quota for the morning?” Kara offered a half chuckle and Lena waited until their eyes met again. “Kara, you did everything you could. We’re still here, in large part thanks to you.”

“Yeah, no I know. I know. You’re right.”

“I’m always right.”

Kara chuckled and closed her eyes, pushing the shame and pain into the recesses again to focus on the perfection of this moment. Of the woman wrapped in her cape, fingers tracing her family crest. “You really are.”

“Mmhmm. And that is one of the many reasons why you, Kara Zor-El Danvers, are my favorite, too.”

Kara leaned into a soft, chaste kiss. “And I’d say that’s a pretty impressive status, even without other universes’ aliens to compete with. Well, except the ones that were in Al’s bar.” Kara shook her head and laughed, a little darkly. “Rao, Crisis really makes just no sense. Anyway, in the interest of precision, Lena Kieran Luthor, you are my favorite person on Earth-Prime-plus-whoever-happened-to-be-in-Al’s-bar-when… when…”

“Kara?”

Kara’s face had suddenly frozen, eyes wide and unfocused. “Earth-Prime-Plus.”

“Kara, what are you—“

“Hold on tight!”

“What?!”

Kara was already zipping toward the ground, Lena’s head braced firmly against her chest, cape fluttering wildly against her back. They’d landed on the Tower balcony by the time Lena found her words again.

“Kara, what’s going on?” Her stomach was still swooping and her legs more than a little wobbly as she pinned Kara with highly unamused eyes.

Kara pressed forward for a quick kiss. “What’s going on is you’re a genius.”

She bolted into the main room leaving Lena in a gust of wind, brushing tangled hair from her face as she called after the streak of red and blue. “True, but non-responsive!”

Alex walked into the room just in time to see Kara slam her hands into two of the engraved tiles over the beacons.

“Kara? Did something happen? We’re okay here, why the, you know, emergency broadcast?” She waved her hand toward the beacons, confusion etched across her face.

“He’s not an alien.”

J’onn walked over, hands on his hips, eyes questioning but supportive. “What do you mean, Supergirl?”

“The firestarter. Guys, he’s not an alien. He never was.”

Chapter Text

Several hours later, the Tower was crowded with antsy Superfriends, and a couple less common faces. Kara, Barry Allen, and Sara Lance were gathered in a corner, Barry’s hand comfortingly on Kara’s shoulder, Sara nodding along to whatever was being said. Alex couldn’t make out any of the conversation, but she narrowed her eyes when she noticed a tear sneak down Kara’s cheek. She was just about to walk over when Brainy cleared his throat to get everyone’s attention.

They all gravitated to the center of the room while Brainy tapped a few last keystrokes. Alex broke the silence: “Not that I’m not glad for the assist…” She inadvertently peaked at Sara Lance as she spoke and was greeted with a wink and a smirk. Trying to literally shake the blush from her cheeks, Alex cleared her throat and continued. “Right, but, um, what’s with calling in the reinforcements?”

“A completely unnecessary distraction, agreed.”

“Brainy!” Kara shot a disappointed glance toward the Coluan who crossed his arms and turned toward the Tower’s large display of screens. “I invited them, and it would have taken much longer to confirm our theory without them, wouldn’t it Brainy?”

His bottom lip turned down briefly as he shrugged. “Perhaps.”

Nia chuckled affectionately, bumping her shoulder against his.

Brainy huffed a bit in response, but eventually cocked his head in reluctant agreement, one side of his nose twitching upward as he forced out: “Nnnnnnnyes.”

“Hey man, I get it, not here to step on any toes. But when this lady calls, I come running.” Barry motioned toward Kara and she managed to convey gratitude and an apology in her lopsided smile.

J’onn stepped forward, squinting up at the screens and effortlessly wrangling the group’s attention. “This appears to be Earth, but these read-outs… Brainy what are we looking at here?”

“Right. I assume we are all familiar with the many consequences of Crisis…”

The room erupted in simultaneous groans.

“I will take that as a yes. Supergirl proposed a theory to me this morning and after extensive research and statistical analysis—“

“And a little help from our boy Barry here and Gideon’s records.” Sara interrupted and leveled Brainy with a smirk somehow both playful and terrifying.

Brainy shot two furtive glances her direction before straightening his posture and continuing. “Yes, of course. After combining my findings with their… admittedly helpful contributions… I can say with 97.2% probability that our firestarter is in fact not an alien at all.”

All eyes shot back to the screens, only Lena’s slowly widening in understanding.

“But how is that possible? We have no record of any remotely similar species ever existing on Earth.” J’onn’s eyes flitted across the screens, waiting for Brainy to explain.

“Not this Earth.” Everyone turned toward Kara at those words, and after a few beats Alex spoke up.

“Kara, isn’t this the only Earth?”

It was Nia who answered. “Oh my god… Al’s Bar.”

Brainy beamed at her as all eyes now flashed her way, then back to the screens. “Precisely. As we already knew, the exact location of Al’s Bar experienced an anomalous response to Crisis.”

Brainy waited for everyone to nod then pushed forward. “While we never closely examined this for an explanation, we do know that various entities from other Earths who were in Al’s at the time of Crisis somehow migrated through a wormhole to Earth Prime. We had assumed,” Brainy mumbled the word with obvious derision, “that this applied only to the space within the confines of the structure itself, as it existed on various Earths. That assumption has now been called into question, if not outright disproven.”

Lena responded: “And on an Earth with no multiverse, the records of species from other Earths is incomplete at best.”

Brainy nodded. “Indeed.”

Lena’s eyes were scanning methodically across the screens. “That’s why we couldn’t find anything. And would Gideon have more complete records?“

“That’s why I called Sara,” Kara answered, nodding her head and pushing away from the desk she’d been leaning against, “and Barry, since he’s Earth-hopped more than most. Again, thanks for coming right away, you guys.”

Sara smiled and Barry pulled Kara into a tight side-hug. “Any time, seriously.”

Brainy’s voice was slightly louder than necessary as he swiveled his chair to highlight various outputs on the monitors. “Yes, well, as I was saying… Imagine an Earth where Cyanobacteria never evolved…”

Over the next several minutes, Brainy described the unique planetary conditions he extrapolated must have led to the existence of the species still held in containment.

An Earth where sentient beings never emerged from the Oceans. Where little land existed above the surface at all. An Earth containing a species with unprecedented bio-camouflaging, allowing it to appear anthropomorphic, but just inhuman enough to be easily mischaracterized as ‘alien.’

A species with not only no need for oxygen to survive, but no understanding of its properties. No possible way of knowing that the same chemical processes it used to consume minerals deep within its home Earth’s oceans, would cause disastrous combustions in Earth Prime’s oxygen-rich atmosphere.

A species with a singular creature, sitting in a sterile containment cell, unknowingly representing the last living remnant of an extinguished planet.

As Brainy reached his conclusion, a room full of faces showing various levels of understanding, J’onn spoke up again. “You’re certain, Brainy?”

“To a reasonable degree, yes. There is no proof, since across the previous multiverse, this iteration of Earth’s climate would have been exceptionally rare, perhaps unique, for, errr… whatever reason.” Brainy paused to grimace, pursing his lips together to partially hold back a strangled whine that flowed seamlessly into a tight “you’re welcome.”

Several eyebrows quirked in confusion as Nia added offhandedly: “He knows the exact reasons, they’re just not important right now and would take I’m guessing like literal days to explain.”

Barry chuckled. “Thanks for keeping to the Cliffsnotes, buddy.”

Brainy’s face contorted very briefly as Nia spoke up again. “Yeah, he already said you’re welcome.”

He pointed toward Nia — who shot him a quick smile — then spun back toward the main Tower console. “So yes, incontrovertible proof is impossible, but the conclusion is sound. He is not an alien.”

“Also explains why we can’t communicate with him verbally.” Lena squeezed beside Brainy and typed some things into the console, both of them immediately lost in reading the outputs on one of the smaller screens.

Kara smiled at the casual and pointedly rare display of respect, then turned to the rest of the group. “It also means we can’t hold him.”

Alex swung her head around. “What?! Why?”

“He didn’t realize what he was doing, Alex. He’s probably never even been above water before. There’s no intent here, no proof he even knew touching things would ignite them. There’s no crime. We can’t hold him.”

Alex looked unconvinced, but J’onn was slowly nodding. “No, Alex, she’s right. Arson is a crime of intent. It takes nothing away from the tragedy, but this entity, whatever he is, he’s not a criminal.” J’onn stroked his cheek and looked sideways at Kara. “Though, of course, we were never exactly holding him for prosecution, Supergirl, but rather as a matter of public safety.”

“Exactly! We can’t just let him go!”

Kara rolled her eyes at Alex, already aware of the safety issues but frustrated at her sister’s willingness to latch onto the excuse. “No, of course not. Sara, um…”

“We’re taking him.” Sara stepped forward as she interrupted. “We have containment that will hold him and we can try to find somewhere, or somewhen, that he can safely be reintegrated. For his sake, though, we’re honestly hoping he’s not alone. You’ll get in touch if any more non-alien firestarters pop up, right?”

The last part was directed at Kara who immediately agreed. “Of course, yes.”

“Great! I’m off then, but we’ll be seeing a lot more of each other.” Sara winked at Kara who rolled her eyes at herself and the unnecessary and unbidden blush she felt spreading over her cheeks. “Aww, cute and sexy.” Sara clapped her hands together and started backwards up the balcony steps. “Thanks for the party invite! Always a blast.” Her ship appeared and she was gone before the final words settled.

Barry pulled Kara by the shoulders into a short, tight hug, then stepped toward the elevator. “I should get going, too. I’ll let you know what everyone says, but I really don’t see there being any hiccups. Or holdouts. We’re all in, Supergirl. We just don’t all know it yet.” He finished with a broad smile as the elevator doors closed between them.

The air in the Tower’s main room was heavy in the breathless still that followed the fading sound of the elevator. No one moved a muscle as the unexpected emptiness of this conclusion loomed, unfulfilling and taunting across their shoulders.

Containment was empty. No sirens rang in the distance. Brainy wordlessly closed out of his various programs and the idle hum of the monitors became the only sound that lingered. Their roles were finished, but there’d been no final battle, no test of will or fortitude, no Hope to spread or villain to reveal and outmatch.

Just a tragic stranger, alone in a place he never chose, no way home, no home to go back to even if there was, leaving ripples of loss behind him with every step. Kara’s shoulders tightened to the point of pain as her own list of names — long enough to creep down her spine, curdle in her stomach, and snake back up to fill her mouth — burned heavy on her tongue.

She heard Nia’s voice like an echo from another room as she plopped beside Brainy and started scrolling through her phone: “This usually feels funner. Who wants Thai?” Kara closed her eyes and tried to breathe down the rising helpless panic in her chest, when all her attention flushed to the feel of cool fingers easing between her own.

Lena didn’t say anything. And even though Kara’s eyes were closed, she could feel that Lena spared her even the sensation of searching eyes across her face. She merely leaned slightly into Kara’s side, gaze still fixed on the empty monitors, and squeezed Kara’s hand with as much strength as she could.

Kara’s breathing slowly evened out and as soon as her shoulders relaxed she heard the muted approach of combat boots over the sound of various takeout requests. She squeezed Lena’s fingers gently then let go as she opened her eyes to meet her sister’s.

“Listen, I don’t really know what Barry meant by that, and I’m hoping you’ll fill me in soon. But, I don’t have to understand to know he’s right. We’re all in, Supergirl. Always.” Alex stepped a little closer and held Kara’s gaze. “Whatever you need, Kara. You know that, right?”

Kara’s eyebrows pinched together as tears continued to threaten behind her eyes. She pulled Alex into a soft hug, bending to hide her head against Alex’s shoulder as her arms draped around her big sister’s waist. “Thanks, Alex.”

Alex couldn’t help the flashback to a teenage Kryptonian burrowing into her shoulder, terrified of her strength, drowning in her losses, clinging to the first small glimmer of acceptance Alex had offered. “Yeah, well, I love you.”

Kara closed her eyes for one more deep breath, then they both straightened up. “Love you, too.”

Alex tried to hide the motion of her hands swiping away a few errant tears. “Well, now that we have that settled, how about you tell me what Barry and Sara were talking about. And then I believe someone very strongly advocated for a day off for you, and I’m thinking you should take four.”

Kara’s eyes widened. “No, Alex, I’ll be okay tomorrow. You guys—“

“Can handle things just fine while you rest and recharge.”

Kara’s face scrunched around a sideways grimace as she released a heavy and unconvinced exhale. “I don’t know, Alex.”

“Well I do. Listen, Kara, I’m not saying spend the next four days hiding under the covers with a tub of ice cream… necessarily. Just, let us handle all the sirens and stuff for a bit. Come back Monday.” She leaned toward her sister and mumbled almost soundlessly against her caped shoulder: “Plus, Lena Luthor fighting for what Kara Danvers needs might just be the one thing in the universe that can make me shake in my boots. Just take the damned days off, Kara. I have a reputation to uphold here.”

Kara breathed out a full-throated laugh and all eyes shifted toward her briefly before settling back to their distractions. “Yeah, okay Alex. For you.”

Alex wrapped her arm around Kara’s shoulder and started walking them toward an empty room. “Good. Now, tell me about Barry’s big mission and how I suspect it fits into those changes you mentioned this morning, unless my unmatched powers of deduction are failing me.”

Kara laughed again and allowed herself to be led to a more private space for this essential Danvers Sisters talk. “No, they’re still the best. And yeah, a talk sounds good.” She pushed gently into Alex’s hip to coax her path slightly to the left. “Let’s pick the room with the doughnuts in it, though.”

Alex huffed, but veered left. “Please, like I don’t know you have snacks stashed in every room.”

“Doughnuts, Alex. This is a three doughnut conversation, and I resent the implication that just any snacks would do.”

Alex wrapped an arm around Kara’s neck, tugging her into a sideways hug as they stumbled around the corner. “Doughnut room it is.”

***

It isn’t easy to admit you’re not as okay as you’ve let on. And it’s just as hard to hear you’ve let someone you love take on more than they should. Three doughnuts, some Thai food, a fair amount of tears and reassurances, and another fresh dozen doughnuts later, Kara and Alex walked back into the main room and hugged before wearily walking toward the understanding embraces waiting for them on opposite sides of the Tower.

Kara buried her face in the soft warmth of Lena’s sweater and the soothing vibrations of Lena’s voice echoing low in her chest as she said: “Ready to take us home?”

Kara smiled and nuzzled further at the purposeful comfort in Lena’s always carefully chosen words. “Yeah. Let’s go home.”

Kara knew exactly how she was going to spend the next few days, and it was far from a vacation. She figured she’d be no good to anyone without a few hours of that downtime that had been dangling just out of reach all day.

She barely remembered the flight back to her loft, or the gentle hands that undressed her and led her under the covers. By morning, all she would recall was the slow filtering of sounds down to the steady beat of Lena’s heart where it pressed against her back, and the sweet mix of minty breath and lavender skin as she breathed “I love you” across tangled fingers, just as soft lips molded the same words against her neck.

_______________

 

Friday morning, 9 days later

The prickling sensation of the downy hairs along Kara’s arms reaching toward the sun pulled her gently into wakefulness. A slight breeze from her windows carried the sounds of bikes and strollers crunching over fallen leaves, jumbles of morning conversation, and tires against asphalt, blended with the smell of takeout coffees, car exhaust, and the ever-present mix of countless soaps, shampoos, and perfumes.

As a warm body shifted against her, everything narrowed instead to the soft dragging sound of cotton sheets and a waft of lavender mixed with sleep-damp skin. Lena’s breaths were still deep and steady against Kara’s back, so she kept her eyes closed, lingering between reality and dreams.

The last several days had been exhausting, in a way Kara was far from accustomed to. They hadn’t heard from Sara and the Legends since they’d taken over direct handling of the firestarter. Barry had stopped by barely 24 hours after they parted with the news that every known Superhero was fully on board. Everyone was looking forward to sharing the burden, especially the prospect of getting some set days off without guilt. And there was a tense but committed agreement to hold each other accountable on the whole “self-sacrifice is actually a shit strategy” team motto.

Kara had allowed the delegation, and more-active promise of teamwork, to convince her to take the entire following week away from typical Supergirl duties. No one had batted an eye at the request.

But she hadn’t mentioned to anyone except Lena how she planned to use the time “off.” How compelled she felt to focus on the consequences of the fires, now that she’d allowed someone else to handle the cause. How all those names slipping past her lips in the dark of her dreams had begun crawling along her tongue and playing between her teeth even while awake.

As Supergirl, she’d spent the last nine days helping with restoration efforts, aiding Lena’s attempts to create or bolster current relief programs, and sometimes just standing in silent support of anguished families. It wasn’t always embraced. She’d had nearly as many crying fists pounding against her family crest as she did teary whispers of gratitude. She stood tall, imperceptibly flinching with each strike, willing her body to give just enough to not break grieving bones.

As Kara Danvers, she’d returned to Cat Grant’s office with excuses for her absence trapped in her throat as her prodigal boss started talking before Kara even made it through the door.

“Oh, please Kiera, spare me. I stopped listening to your weak and, frankly, uninspired excuses for your absences years ago. Honestly, you’d think a writer could come up with better stories.”

Cat took her glasses from her face and teased one arm between her lips as she looked up momentarily from her work to consider her own words. She never did bother looking at Kara.

As Kara opened her mouth to reply, Cat waved her hands dismissively, replaced her glasses, and returned her attention to the layout spread across her desk. “Anyway, I couldn’t care less what you do when you’re not here. As long as you tell the stories that need to be told when you are.”

Kara again had any attempt to reply immediately cut off by Cat’s booming voice. “Ms. Nal!!!”

Nia glanced sideways at Kara as she skidded into Cat’s office, fingers clenched tight around a notepad. “Yes, Ms. Grant?”

Cat narrowed her eyes as she glanced between the women crowded in her doorway. “Hmm, yes. I want the two of you to start a new column, each week focusing on a victim of National City’s endless disasters. Focus on their life, not their death; reach out to survivors, or surviving family. I’m trusting you’ll trade subjects if either of you was too… close to the action. Just pull someone from the bullpen if Dreamer and Supergirl were both involved.”

Both women’s eyes widened as their mouths opened to spew overlapping sputterings of feigned confusion and denial. Their mouths also snapped closed in unison as Cat Grant rounded her desk and prowled toward them with an unamused glare.

Nia whimpered before turning on her heel and dashing through the door. Kara let her head drop forward on her shoulders and huffed out a chuckle before meeting her mentor’s eyes again. “Of course, Ms. Grant.”

Cat was halfway back to her seat when Kara continued. “I’d also like to run a piece about the decision not to hand the firestarter over to the authorities.” Cat leveled Kara with another glare, one hand on her hip and the other steepling her fingers against the desk. Kara took a step closer and adjusted her glasses. “You know, let there be a dialogue about the use of old criminal codes on our now-openly-intergalactic society, and the ostensible versus actual goals of imprisonment, and other forms of punishment.”

“And you think you’re the one to lead that conversation?”

“I… I don’t know. But I’m the one asking.”

Kara Danvers’ week had been even more draining than Supergirl’s.

And Lena’s hadn’t been any less busy. She’d been focusing mostly on the Tower for weeks and the new head of her company was hounding her for input on several significant corporate decisions.

A few months earlier, she had decided to step away from a fully hands-on role at the (again) newly rebranded L-Corp. Kara had agreed with her that putting this on Sam and Ruby was not the best decision at the moment, and there was only one other person Lena thought of when choosing a successor as CEO.

The next day, Lena, Supergirl, and a reluctant J’onn had walked into Jess’s VP office at some downtown accounting firm. The woman didn’t even put her pen down as she glanced up at them.

“Well, Dr. Lena Luthor. Nice to finally meet you. Is this where you explain to me why I feel like I’ve known you for years?”

Lena raised an eyebrow and turned toward J’onn with a smirk. He was always hesitant to restore pre-Crisis memories, but he’d agreed to come and help if he got the sense it wouldn’t be too harmful to the young woman. He chuckled as he stepped forward and raised his hand to hover between them. “It’s easier if I just show you. This will feel a bit strange, and there’s no going back. So, Ms. Huang, I need to know if you’re—“

“Mmhmm, quite busy. Mind if we skip ahead?” Jess had already stood from her desk and moved J’onn’s hand to her temple as if this was her weekly massage therapy appointment, not a recalibrating of her entire life and concept of universal existence.

Jess put in her notice less than ten minutes later and had made Lena’s old office her own within the month.

Kara never failed to smile when she recalled the first time she had shown up hoping for an L-Corp-related quote from the new hotshot CEO. A flustered assistant moved in front of her before she even looked up from dropping her phone in her purse, preparing to announce herself.

“Oh. Oh okay. You’re Kara Danvers, aren’t you.”

Kara’s brow furrowed but she reached a hand out with a friendly smile. “I am! Nice to meet you. Is Jess—“

“I am so sorry, but I have been given very specific instructions from Ms. Huang that you are to be stopped at the door and required to book all meetings at least 48 hours in advance.”

Kara barked out a laugh and looked fondly at the doors she hadn’t stopped in front of in over six years. Not since the day she’d first met Jess… and promptly risked the assistant’s job with a shameless dash of super speed and dramatic flinging open of one billionaire-CEO-and-virtual-stranger’s office doors.

“I see. And does Ms. Huang have any availability in the next 48 hours?”

The assistant rushed back behind her desk and pulled a calendar up on her monitor with a frown. She pressed an intercom button and mumbled something Kara purposefully didn’t listen to. She was trusting this was a good-natured ribbing from someone she hoped to call a friend, but if it truly was a brush-off she’d know soon enough.

She smiled as she watched the assistant nod and then surreptitiously rearrange Jess’s afternoon.

“Ms. Huang can squeeze you in today at 4:30. She’s hoping that will work because she is booked the rest of the week. She, um, also would like you to know that you always used too much sugar in your coffee bribes so please adjust accordingly.”

Kara laughed again. “Noted. I guess I’ll see you at 4:30 then. And how do you take your coffee, …?“

“Oh! Um, Amy. I’m Amy. And you don’t have to do that.”

“Three creams five sugars it is. Good choice.”

“Black!”

Kara’s cheeks were almost hurting at this point and she could’ve sworn she heard soft laughter from behind the heavy, familiar doors.

“Nice to meet you, Amy. See you in a few hours, with one nice, hot, vengefully bitter, caffeine pick me up.”

Kara was still lost in the memory — smiling with fondness while her face scrunched at the very idea of unsweetened coffee — when the feel of blunt nails tracing patterns along the back of her thigh pulled her back to the present and overshadowed every other thought. Soft blonde hairs tickled as goosebumps shivered slowly across her skin.

Kara rolled over, slotting their lower bodies together and kissing Lena’s forehead before resting her chin on a crown of dark hair. Lena’s hand resumed the light strokes along the back of her thigh, fingers no longer trapped between their bodies.

“Good morning.” Kara smiled out against Lena’s hair.

“‘Morning. Did you sleep well?” The question fell soft against the top of her breast, ending with a light press of dry lips.

“Yeah actually, I did. Really well. You?”

“Mmhmm. You’re probably starving…”

Kara was helpless to stop the answering grumble from her empty stomach. But words, words were a choice. “Nah, not really.”

Lena released a breathy chuckle and let her nails scrape a bit harder on their next pass across Kara’s skin.

They stayed like that, trading reminders about what snacks and drinks they needed for game night later, what meetings were scheduled for the day, if they had time to meet up for a quick lunch at Noonan’s in between.

All the while, Lena’s hand traced figure eights lightly along the back of Kara’s thigh, slowly allowing the path to inch higher and higher. She smiled against the hero’s chest when her heartbeat stuttered and quickened the first time soft fingertips reached coarser hair and warmer skin. The pattern went back to its starting size and Lena repeated the whole teasing process as they talked.

With how busy they’d both been, they had barely seen each other in over a week. Most nights ended with them in the same bed, one way or another. But more often than not they were exhausted by then, and distracted by the day ahead of them come morning.

The previous night was the first time in almost two weeks that they fell into bed at the same time, the knowledge of a slower Friday and two weekend nights planned off stretching before them. They’d barely peeled off their clothes before Lena’s thighs were trembling against Kara’s ears. A few short, crescendoing minutes later, it was only a whispered “Kara” and a light tug of the fingers tangled in long blonde hair that stopped Kara from falling asleep right there against the slowly relaxing muscles of Lena’s belly.

But now, with the gentle morning sun filtering across the bed, Lena’s voice sending low vibrations through her chest, and long mischievous fingers playing across her skin, Kara’s body was quickly reminded of the previous night’s unfinished activities.

Her words were lost by the fourth lap, and the ninth time Lena’s fingers finally reached to tease between her legs, Kara’s heart was pounding and she couldn’t stop the pitiful whine that escaped when Lena’s path shrunk again.

Lena… please…

Lena relented with a hum, lifting her head to leave a hot, licking kiss at the hollow of Kara’s neck. Her hand traced a direct line this time from the back of Kara’s knee up a toned thigh and straight into wet heat. Kara released a very different whine and Lena nuzzled back into her neck.

She adjusted her arm where it draped across Kara’s hips and angled her wrist from behind, pressing the side of her thumb and palm against the heat of Kara’s center. She crooked her middle finger to brush slick, frictionless circles across Kara’s straining clit. Kara opened her mouth to release panting breaths, but stayed otherwise frozen.

As the minutes passed, Lena’s movements became faster but not harder, increasing to an almost vibrating speed of barely-there flicks. She could feel against the side of her hand how Kara’s center rhythmically clenched into imagined thrusts, yet everything except her chest, expanding around labored breaths, remained stoically still.

“Kara?”

Lena—” A sharp intake of breath stopped any further answer.

“Kara, is this okay?”

A small tendril of concern that this feeling might get taken away forced Kara’s brain into three breathy moments of articulation. “Yes… Rao... don’t stop.”

Lena shuffled lower to ease the tension in her right arm, careful not to disrupt the hummingbird rhythm of her finger. She felt Kara lift her leg almost imperceptibly away from Lena’s hip and turn the hand still trapped between them, balling it into a fist against her own chest.

“You can let go, Kara.”

Kara’s chin moved side to side slightly against the crown of Lena’s head, then lifted away entirely. She was beginning to tremble. “No.”

“Kara—“

“I can’t— Lena— Just— Just please don’t stop.”

She didn’t stop. She didn’t change the speed or pressure or contact at all, leaving it completely and blissfully predictable as Kara gasped beside her. She kept her head exactly where it was against Kara’s chest, opening her eyes to stare at the perfect, soft breast and hard, pebbled nipple just inches from her mouth. She ached to reach forward and pull it between her lips, to circle her tongue and suck hard when she could tell Kara was right at the edge. But Kara had pulled every inch of herself away except the skin under Lena’s cheek and right arm. She was afraid any additional sensation would overwhelm her and that was the last thing she wanted.

So instead she watched as the slight tremors in the softness of Kara’s breast began to increase. Until the strength of her breaths made it shake exquisitely in front of her eyes. Until it pressed forward and stilled completely, her nipple so dark and hard it looked almost painful. The heartbeat below her cheek skipped a beat before pounding against her ear as Kara’s body quaked beside her with a drawn out “Lena…”

She kept the pressure against Kara’s clit feather-light and slowed the circles to almost nothing, swiping long and light to the tempo of the last few spasms of Kara’s body as her muscles started to relax. She stopped completely when she heard Kara whimper and lifted her chin to find Kara’s eyes.

There was nothing tired or sated about the blown, hungry pupils that met her. She felt a quick stab of heat between her legs, green eyes locked on unblinking blue as Kara shifted her body to slide her hand between them. Kara inched forward and sucked Lena’s bottom lip between her teeth just as two fingers slid easily inside. She gasped into Kara’s mouth, eyes slamming closed. Her body ached around the pressure of Kara’s knuckles against her, two fingers circling, bending, dragging as deep inside as they could reach.

Kara’s voice was low, the words tripping over the gravel still shaking loose in her throat. “You okay?”

“Fuck, Kara. Yes.”

She dug her hands into Kara’s hair, rocking her body forward in time with Kara’s hand and licking into her mouth. A coil of heat was already building when Kara suddenly slowed her hand, swallowing hard as she released Lena’s lips and waited for eye contact. Lena whined as she felt her body left unexpectedly empty.

“Kara?”

“Um, can you— is it okay if you—“

Kara couldn’t seem to get the words out, but her hand, fingers slick and slightly sticky against Lena’s skin, gently found the hand trapped between their bodies and circled Lena’s wrist. She stared unblinking into Lena’s eyes as she hesitantly guided her hand, easing her thigh over Lena’s hip, pressing her fingers gently against the back of Lena’s as she led them into unexplored heat. She pulled her hand back slowly as Lena cautiously pressed in on her own. They both closed their eyes, mouths falling open at the sensation with a simultaneous “fuuuckk.”

“Lena… oh Rao… Lena is this okay?”

“God yes. I just— I didn’t think you’d want me to. Is it— Oh!

Kara had weaved her hand back between them and two fingers again circled deep and pressed hard. They shifted against each other, the angles slightly awkward, readjusting until they both had room to push slowly forward, eyes wide and cautious but welcoming.

“I wasn’t sure you’d want me to, or… or even if it was…” Lena trailed off, not wanting Kara to feel doubt, or fear. But Kara just kept their eyes locked and finished for her.

“Safe?”

Their hands still worked slowly in time with each other, pulling whimpers in between careful words. Lena nodded when a particularly deep thrust stole her breath just as she was about to answer.

As Kara spoke, she began to increase the speed of her hand and her hips, but by the time she reached the end of the sentence, her eyes had clenched closed. “Honestly, it’s not usually what I— What I want. I just… oh Rao. Okay, um… just is it okay if we try though?”

The weight of her question, of the trust involved and the effort of Kara’s decision to even ask, laid heavy, wet, suffocating across their bodies. “Just when I’m, you know, before I… maybe just pull out?”

Kara seemed so caught up in delivering the speech, she was forgetting to taste the words. She didn’t register Lena’s hand slowing inside her, her hips gently stilling and eyebrows furrowed. Lena’s free hand was now cradling Kara’s clenched face, as she resolutely ignored the wave of heat from Kara’s insistent fingers.

“Kara?”

Kara didn’t respond, didn’t even slow down. If anything, with Lena’s fingers now still against her, she’d increased her movements, hips searching for pressure and friction.

“Kara.”

Still no reaction, so Lena tried a different tack. “Darling, you’re old enough to know pulling out is not an effective method of birth control.”

Kara was caught in whatever determination and avoidance tangled in the darkness behind her eyelids. “What? That’s not— Lena, I can’t— we wouldn’t— What?”

Kara finally stopped the rocking motion of her body and opened her eyes. Lena stared, warm and patient as Kara recalled the frantic threads of her anxieties and brought her focus back to the slim, welcoming space between them. Once her heartbeat had slowed, she watched Lena lift one eyebrow and the side of her mouth, and Kara huffed out a laugh as she let their foreheads rest together again.

Lena slowly withdrew her fingers and eased her hand up to cradle both of Kara’s cheeks. “There you are.”

“Yeah, sorry, I um… think I got a little lost there for a minute.”

“Kara…?” Kara opened her eyes and tilted her chin to place a ghosting kiss on Lena’s nose. She leaned back just far enough to shift her shoulders and nod for Lena to continue. “Is this something you want to try?”

“Yeah, yeah I think so. Yes.” She didn’t hesitate to answer, but the hesitation in her features was impossible to miss.

“But you’re worried.”

Kara slowly eased her hand from where it had paused deep inside Lena, her mouth opening into an awed breath of pleasure as she watched Lena shiver through the sensation. She waited another beat until Lena opened her eyes, then answered. “I don’t want to hurt you. If I get… distracted… I could hurt you.”

Kara watched dark pupils fluctuate through various thoughts and scenarios as they played out in Lena’s brilliant mind. She couldn’t count the times she’d witnessed the landscape of Lena’s eyes shift and bloom as she attacked a problem. Kara nearly laughed out loud at the idea that all that genius was exploring, experimenting, carefully tending to hypothetical solutions for being able to… well… fuck each other at the same time.

But this problem had a lot fewer variables than bottling the sun or traveling through space and time unscathed. Kara barely had time to appreciate the surreal moment before Lena’s eyes refocused on Kara and she started to speak.

“So I see two basic issues here: concern that you’ll lose focus, and worry about causing me pain. Well, more pain than I might— Anyway. Let’s start with the second part. Are you familiar with traffic signals?”

“For sex?”

Lena smiled through a small laugh. “Yes, Kara, for sex.”

If Kara’s cheeks had any shades of blush left to darken to, they would have. “Uh, yes?”

“Okay, so green is good, yellow slow down, red…”

“Stop. Yeah. Lena… you feel safe enough with that?” Kara’s eyes were narrowed and pleading in concern. Lena had the suspicion a good part of Kara was hoping she’d say no.

“Yes.”

Kara’s face twitched and Lena reached to caress the tension out of her jaw.

“Kara, yes.”

Kara’s next exhale was a little exaggerated, but she gave a quick nod. “Yeah. Yeah, okay.”

“And that’s for both of us, okay? If you need me to stop, or slow down, just tell me.”

“Lena, you’re not going to hurt me.”

“Pain isn’t the only thing that can get overwhelming, Kara. Use the colors, promise?”

Kara blinked at her, then nodded again. “Yeah. Yes, I promise.”

Lena smiled into Kara’s flushed, determined face and leaned forward for a short kiss. Kara closed her eyes at the sensation and when she opened them again several heavy layers of concern had lifted away. She smiled and jerked forward into another quick kiss before wiggling a little lower in the bed, bringing their thoroughly entwined bodies even closer together. “And the other part?”

Lena hummed and searched Kara’s face. “Kara, have you…” She stopped and pursed her lips for a moment. “What has sex been like for you in your past relationships?”

She felt Kara tense again in her arms. This wasn’t exactly typical pillow talk. And, she realized with a bit of surprise, this was the most she and Kara had ever talked about Kara’s sex life in the more than six years they’d known each other. She was shaken out of beginning to analyze that peculiarity by Kara clearing her throat a little nervously.

“Oh, um… fine?”

“Fine?”

“Short?”

“Kara…” Lena’s eyes softened and she brushed her thumbs across Kara’s cheekbones. “Okay, first of all I’m hoping you’ll tell me the answer, not ask me. Just talk to me, okay?”

Kara bit her bottom lip and nodded a little sheepishly. “Yeah. Yeah, okay. And second of all?”

“Oh, well, second of all, since you did ask: No. The answer is no. In this context, those two words are almost definitely not both true at the same time.”

Kara laughed bright and surprised, and Lena smiled at the sparkle in her eyes as Kara shook her head and regrouped.

With their bodies warm and tangled, the sun easing across bare shoulders and crumpled sheets, Kara explained, a little shy but without shame, that her sexual history wasn’t exactly long and fabled. She’d dated a bit after high school, but never very seriously. She’d always been so worried about keeping her alienness a secret.

And the broken noses didn’t help. She didn’t have to worry about any of that with Mon-El, but…

Kara reached out and started playing with the hairs by Lena’s temple, brushing them behind her ear and trailing her fingers through them casually. She didn’t draw attention to it, didn’t pause the conversation. But she hadn’t missed the tell-tale flinch of Lena’s jaw and slight flare of her nostrils around a steadying breath at the mention of Mon-El.

Kara’s fingers soothed as she continued explaining how with Mon-El she could let go, powers-wise. Well… mostly. Kara smirked and raised a cocky eyebrow at the reminder of just how much stronger she was than even her Daxamite ex. Lena laughed at the tangent, shaking her head fondly as she waited for Kara to continue.

The truth was, Lena was right: There had always been two parts to Kara’s concerns. And while she wasn’t afraid of hurting Mon-El, that did nothing to counter the other effects of losing her focus. The avalanche of sensory input that threatened to break through her carefully maintained mental defenses every second of every day.

And, even with the couple of people who knew about that struggle, to whatever extent, no one had really talked to her about it. No one had prioritized it, especially in the context of chasing their own pleasure. No one had made her feel comfortable enough to even consider ‘letting go.’

“It’s not that I’ve never, um…”

“Had an orgasm?” Lena smirked at the all-powerful alien, tripping over basic sex terms with a tongue that had done sinful things to her not 12 hours ago.

“Yeah. I mean, alone, obviously. But um, not alone, too. It’s just… well you probably noticed.”

Lena internally flinched at that. Had she noticed? She figured she could be forgiven for getting a little lost in the breathtaking experience of watching Kara Zor-El come undone in her arms. Only… had she truly come undone? Lena forced herself to play through their few experiences so far with a scientist’s eye.

“You get overstimulated if you try to give and receive, if you can’t focus on keeping your powers in check with just one or the other. And even then…”

Kara nodded. “Yeah, basically. I just, I have to hold back so much, even when I do, um… you know… and honestly it’s usually been too much work to be worth even trying to… focus on me.”

Lena couldn’t help the disappointment that leeched into her voice. “Kara…”

“No no, don’t get me wrong. I still enjoyed it, the intimacy of it and everything. Plus, well…” Kara smirked and Lena felt her own lips being tugged along in reflection. She raised an eyebrow as Kara leaned forward and spared a single nip against her bottom lip before licking deep into Lena’s mouth.

Lena whimpered. Kara’s kiss was soft but hungry, a deliberate reminder of how worked up they’d both been just minutes earlier. The rest of Kara’s sentence emptied straight into Lena’s parted lips. “Lately, focusing on someone else can be incredibly rewarding.”

“Is that right?”

Kara gently coaxed Lena onto her back, settling between her legs and slowly rocking forward as she dipped to kiss along Lena’s jaw. “Mmhmm, super fun.”

Lena groaned at the choice of words, but the sound trailed off into a clipped hiss as Kara’s teeth teased at her earlobe before she continued. “And so fucking hot.” Kara punctuated the last words with an unexpectedly hard bite and swirling tongue beneath her jaw. Lena felt it like a bolt straight from Kara’s mouth to the pulsing between her legs and her hips bucked up as her fingers shot reflexively into thick blonde hair.

“Jesus fucking hell, Kara. Okay, wait… wait… look at me.”

Kara’s eyes were bright and clear around her blown pupils as she lifted her head to meet Lena’s gaze. Kara was shifting her hips against Lena’s, an impatient hand already slipping between her legs. But she didn’t hesitate a moment to follow the unspoken suggestion when Lena’s thighs squeezed around her, urging a switch in positions.

Lena flushed at the effortless trust, at the openness in Kara’s face as she allowed the most powerful body on the planet to mold and bend beneath Lena’s hands. Kara bit her lip in a useless attempt to stop her smile as her hand again snuck straight between Lena’s thighs with devastating precision.

“Kara… fuck…” Lena’s hair spread across Kara’s cheek and shoulders as she fell, one hand braced in the mattress beside Kara’s shoulder, the other slightly dwarfed where it reached, cradled in a deep wooden handprint. She brought her hips down hard on Kara’s fingers and rolled forward, lost in the dizzying pressure, the searing drag of her clit against a circling palm. It took longer than she’d planned to bring her thoughts back into focus, but after a few more self-indulgent thrusts, she leaned forward into a devouring kiss.

She used the distraction of her tongue working a broad circle around Kara’s to reach between them and slowly remove Kara’s hand. She swallowed the small disappointed whimper when Kara realized the loss, shifting to settle her weight back and allow both hands to reposition Kara’s exactly into the handprints behind them.

Trusting Kara to leave her hands where they’d been placed, she finally pulled out of the kiss and smiled as Kara craned and arched her chest and shoulders to chase Lena’s lips.

Leeenaaa…” The whine disappeared as Kara settled back against the bed. Replaced with an honest and shy “but I thought— aren’t we going to…?”

Lena relaxed her body and sat low on Kara’s stomach, thighs warm against her sides. “We are. But, Kara. Not today, not all at once. No, listen…” Kara had moved to interrupt, but settled back against the mattress, hands flexing a bit where they pressed into their own dark imprints.

“Kara, has a human ever been inside you when you had an orgasm?” Lena paused a moment to let Kara shake her head with the answer they both already knew. “Exactly. Look, Kara, I trust you, without exception, but we’re talking about something literally out of your control. And to couple that with the new experience of trying to divide your attention? All at the tail end of two weeks of physical and emotional exhaustion? Kara…”

“Yeah, you’re right. Of course you’re right. I’m sorry, I just—“

“No. No apologizing. Wait, hey…”

Kara had started to shift to roll out from under Lena’s body, but stopped as Lena splayed a hand across her chest and ducked her head to catch blue, watery eyes.

“Kara?”

The first sob took them both by surprise. Lena rolled them back onto their sides, clutching shaking shoulders against her chest as she rested her chin against thick blonde curls. Kara wrapped both arms around her waist and pressed their bodies together so tightly Lena prayed, for Kara’s sake, that she wouldn’t bruise.

Neither said anything for a long time as Kara’s tears slid along Lena’s skin and soaked into the sheets beneath them. When the shake of her shoulders finally gave way to gentler hiccuping, Lena encouraged Kara to lift her head. Blue eyes slowly opened to meet hers and Lena released a long exhale as she smoothed damp, errant strands of hair away from flushed cheeks.

Kara knew Lena wouldn’t press her to explain, would let her lean into a kiss and ask to save it for another time. And part of her was more-than-tempted to do just that. Especially since she wasn’t entirely sure herself what had set her off to such an extreme. But as she stared into Lena’s eyes, the warmth of her skin practically holding the pieces of Kara’s body together, the words started coming on their own.

“I think I used it.”

“Used what?”

“I think… I think I used the fear, the hypersensitivity, all of it, to let myself stay distant. To not want certain things.” Kara winced and shook her head. “Or maybe not wanting those things in the first place let me ignore the fear and everything else. I don’t know. Maybe it’s both. It’s just— There was nothing to lose as long as I didn’t get too close. And I had an excuse not to get too close because it might be overwhelming or dangerous. But now… but now—“ A few tears were burning in her eyes again and she paused to wipe them away impatiently. Lena hummed and wrapped her leg even tighter over Kara’s hips.

“You’re right, Lena, and I didn’t mean to rush anything. I just, Rao, I want everything with you. I want… I just want. Like I don’t ever remember feeling. And I wanted everything else to just go away because of that. But they weren’t just excuses. They don’t just disappear because I changed my mind.” She wiped her hand across her cheeks and tried to hold back a fresh stream of tears. “But admitting I want to get past all this stuff just means, now I’m actually thinking about it. And… and what if— Lena, what if I never can?”

She lost the battle and a new sob crashed through her shoulders as Lena pulled her close again.

“Then you don’t.”

Lena.”

Lena spared a moment to hope she’d never again hear her name sound so anguished on Kara’s lips. “Kara, I just mean… Look. I’ve got ideas already forming for how we might take the edge off your powers, or test for safety, or a million other things we can try together if that’s what we want. But Kara? It might not go away. Or you might decide you don’t want it to. And listen… that’s okay. Kara, that’s okay.”

Kara was shaking her head, but Lena pressed on. “I want you to have everything you want. I want that for both of us! And honestly, I don’t think there’s a problem the two of us can’t solve. But if there is? If this is the one? Well then… then what Kara?”

“What do you mean?” Kara was completely still now in Lena’s arms, searching her face, drinking in the gentle support and blunt words.

“I want everything, too. But if everything isn’t in the cards. Then what, would you leave me?”

“What?! No!” Kara’s eyes blinked wide, the fog of her concerns lifting without preamble as her mind spun to attention at Lena’s suggestion.

“Do you think I’d leave you?”

Kara breathed out all the insecurities that stood between her and the only truthful response. “No.”

“Okay then. So we tackle this together, like we do everything else. Only, maybe we keep the experiments slightly more confidential than usual.” Kara’s lips barely twitched at the attempted humor, but it was just enough to lighten the mood away from overwhelming.

And just in time for the alarms on both of their phones to pierce through the heavy atmosphere of the morning and allow the day’s responsibilities to sneak back in. They both groaned as they stretched their arms toward opposite sides of the bed, keeping their legs entwined as they tapped their phones silent.

They settled back into the middle of the bed and Kara let her eyes flutter shut as Lena stroked long fingers across her cheek, scratching as they eased into her hair and started that blissful trail down her back.

“Kara, I love you, okay? Even the parts you wish you could change. Even if those parts do change. There’s no rush. There’s no pressure.”

“Yeah, yeah okay.”

“Well, no rush or pressure outside the few things we absolutely promised we would do before the game night we foolishly said we’d host tonight.”

Kara gave half a smile. “I love you, too.”

A bit of tension Lena didn’t realize she was still holding released from her shoulders and she leaned into a gentle kiss. She pulled back and opened her eyes to see Kara staring at her with unfiltered affection. “You’re amazing, you know that? Rao, how do you always manage to help me, even when it’s something you can’t fix?”

Lena’s eyes sparkled at the unexpected and painfully genuine praise. She pressed forward into another kiss, fingers still spreading calming shivers along Kara’s spine. “Well, you do the same for me.”

For a moment, Lena thought a cloud passed over Kara’s features, but it was gone by the time she blinked. Kara’s eyes were clear and brilliant behind her wet lashes when she spoke. “So, game night tonight, and I promised Alex a sister time brunch tomorrow afternoon, but just you and me tomorrow night?”

Lena smiled. “Saturday night movie night. You think anything could keep me away?”

Kara didn’t answer, just smiled. Lena’s eyes narrowed in slight confusion, but Kara interrupted any questions before they could form. “6 o’clock?”

“It’s a date.”

They were both a little wound up, from the heavy conversation and the lingering arousal neither had intended to get distracted from so completely. But the day had started, whether they were ready for it or not. And Lena suddenly wanted nothing more than the reassuring comfort and intimacy she always felt as they effortlessly navigated their shared routines.

She kept her fingers laced with Kara’s as she eased herself over the Kryptonian’s body and slid out the side of the bed closer to the bathroom. “But for now, time to face our Friday. And I seem to recall someone promising to always protect me from the horrors of showering alone.”

“A solemn vow. I wouldn’t think of breaking it.”

Lena’s chest cleared with the first full laugh of the morning as Kara swept her into her arms and floated them the few feet into the bathroom.

“My hero.”

 

***

One nearly missed CatCo deadline, a minor L-Corp acquisition finalized, and two quick runs to the store for last-minute snack additions later, everyone was gathered in Kara’s loft for the first game night in weeks. A round of drinks was quickly downed with a toast to friendship; a blatant excuse to take the edge off. And not a single person complained when Alex said “don’t move” and returned with an immediate round two.

They all chatted for a bit, moving furniture around and catching each other up on anything they might’ve missed over the last several days. But before long, they separated into groups to finish prepping for food and games.

Alex was glaring at her phone, muttering to herself about forgetting to plug in when she’d gotten back to the Tower. “Hey, Kara, can I borrow your charger?”

“Sure, yeah…” Kara was busy setting up the games with Brainy, Kelly and J’onn while Lena and Nia were getting snacks and drinks together in the kitchen. “It’s on my bedside table.”

Just as Alex ducked around the curtain, Kara and Lena’s eyes snapped up to meet each other in simultaneously dawning realization. Kara leaped up and shouted: “Actually, Alex, why don’t you—“

“Oh for fucks sake Kara, seriously?!”

Everyone else looked up at Alex’s sudden outburst, which was immediately followed by what could only be described as cackling. Lena’s eyes dropped back to her hands while she tried to bite back a laugh. Kara sprinted toward the bedroom curtain just as Alex snuck back around its edge.

“Alex, I uh—“

Alex was still laughing, but brought a hand up to her lips in an attempt to regain her composure. “Yeah, Kara? How about we don’t talk this one out.”

“I am so sorry, Alex.”

“Kara, you have nothing to be sorry about. Except for maybe not getting the damned charger for me yourself, but…”

“Rao, I am so embarrassed.”

“Well, now that is a totally reasonable response.”

Alex was cackling again as Kara stood mortified, face a worrisome shade of red. J’onn, M’gann, Brainy, and Kelly had returned to game setup, leaving the Danvers sisters to whatever strange inside joke they were experiencing.

But Nia kept glancing between Kara, Alex, and Lena, who was standing beside her in the kitchen and biting her lip in a losing battle against laughter as she pretended to focus entirely on the plate of snacks she’d now needlessly rearranged twice. Nia watched Alex, still laughing as she plopped onto the couch beside Kelly. She looked next at Kara, still tugging at her own fingers, then turned to Lena, who was again fiddling with the snacks. “What was all of that about?”

Lena kept her attention on the food. “No idea. All set?”

Nia narrowed her eyes, but allowed the evasion. “Yeah… here, carry this for me? I’m right behind you.”

Lena wiped her hands in the old “Kiss the Ch[i]ef [Executive Officer]” apron tied around her waist and smiled at Nia as she grabbed the plates of cheese, crackers, fruit, and doughnuts (of course) and started toward the coffee table. Nia waited until she was a few steps away, then rushed over to the bedroom curtain, useless when it came to denying her own curiosity.

“Oh. My god.”

Five heads snapped up from where they were gathered around the coffee table to see Nia standing with Kara’s bedroom curtain flung wide open. All eyes followed Nia’s gaze directly to Kara’s headboard, then to Kara and her lowering jaw and rising blush.

“Nia!” Kara rushed to close the curtain, turning back toward her friends with her cheeks furiously red. Lena was again trying to smother her laughter, M’gann was staring at her plate, failing to a hide a smile, J’onn was gaping at Kara, and Brainy was just glancing from one face to the next, completely confused.

Nia started apologizing profusely: “Kara, I am so sorry, I thought… I just thought… I mean, I don’t know! Like an oil painting of *NSYNC or a photo of you making out with a giant potsticker or something!”

“What would be embarrassing about those things?!”

Lena lost her battle and barked out a full-bellied laugh and Kara turned toward her indignantly. She was about to go admonish Lena when she heard Nia whisper to herself: “Is it weird I think it’s kinda hot?”

“Nia! Superhearing!”

“Unfortunately, Nia, that was a remarkably loud whisper and I suspect we are all now aware of your assessment.” J’onn added, eyes closed and chin angled toward the ceiling.

Lena was trying so hard not to laugh, tears were leaking from her eyes as she mouthed an apology toward one stricken Kryptonian.

Brainy moved to stand beside Nia, taking a bite of carrot as he saw his opportunity for a relevant contribution: “Objectively speaking, Nia, our friend group is uncommonly attractive, as far as 21st century standards are concerned.” He turned toward Nia and nodded, placing a hand reassuringly on her shoulder. “The activities you are deducing happened here are indisputably ‘hot.’ You need not feel weird.”

Confusingly, Nia did not seem placated, and as Brainy glanced around the room, no one else appeared to be responding how he would expect either. “What?… Oh! Were you not all able to see?” He nodded as he swallowed another bite of carrot, then settled into his helpful explanation. “Well, you see, the state of Kara’s headboard quite clearly indicates that Lena recently, my calculations suggest most likely through oral stimulation, succeeded in—“

“YOU KNOW, actually, J’onn, did you forget to turn the stove off at the Tower?” M’gann had finally lost her battle to hide her amusement, but was practically drowning in the psychic distress emanating from her partner.

J’onn shook out of his stupor, “The what? There’s no stove at the—“

J’onn…”

“The Stove! Yes! Right, oh thank Ronmir you reminded me. I am so sorry, Kara, Lena, it would appear M’gann and I must leave early tonight.”

Nia was already pulling Brainy toward the front door as he protested: “It won’t be nearly as fun without you, J’onn, surely you could return after handling this minor situation.”

“We’re leaving, too, Brainy.”

“We’re not, no.” He stopped, brow furrowed, arm stretching out where Nia continued to pull toward the door. “Nia, I fear we are being unforgivably rude to Kara and Lena. I’m frankly surprised at you.”

“I’ll explain it to you when you’re older.”

Lena was moving toward the door to intercept J’onn and M’gann as Brainy indignantly told Nia: “Now that’s just shamelessly illogical, purposefully impudent, and, and, and entirely uncalled for.”

“I came out to James by forgetting there was a strap air-drying in my bathroom.”

The apartment’s flurry of motion came to an immediate stop as Kelly’s announcement reverberated against the walls. Alex snapped her head toward her fiancé with an amused “Im sorry, you what?!”

Kelly just shrugged and reached for her wine glass. “We were home on leave and he wasn’t supposed to come until the next day.” She raised an eyebrow and spoke the next words straight into her glass with a smirk. “Frankly he’s lucky he didn’t stop by an hour earlier.” Alex laughed out loud and knocked her knee against Kelly’s as she continued her story. “Would you believe he didn’t know what it was? Actually came out of the bathroom holding it with his brow all scrunched in confusion.” Kelly started laughing into her wine glass too hard to take her next sip.

“J’onn broke our bed.”

“M’gann!”

Several surprised and amused sets of eyes turned toward the doorway where M’gann was ignoring J’onn’s interruption. “Accidentally phased us right into the middle of the mattress.”

J’onn glared at her and crossed his arms, face dark and scowling as she simply crossed her arms as well and met his glare head-on. The stare down continued for a few tense moments before M’gann leaned toward the center of the room and added with a stage whisper: “Twice.”

She turned back to her partner, face full of amused challenge, and J’onn’s shoulders relaxed. He dropped his chin and glanced up sideways with a slight shrug. “What can I say? I was… distracted.”

Kara choked on air and the rest of the crowd devolved into giggles and excitedly overlapping additions to this impromptu potluck of embarrassing stories. As Lena crossed the room toward Kara, she spared a moment at the couch to squeeze Kelly’s shoulder. Kelly placed her hand on top of Lena’s, then twisted to lean against Alex’s side as she watched everyone settle back in around the coffee table.

Dozens more anecdotes streamed out through the night as they squabbled over Pictionary and Charades, eventually abandoning Cranium halfway through to focus on easy conversation and a second round of takeout.

Eventually everyone’s shoulders and eyelids started giving in to the weight of full stomachs and tipsy heads. J’onn and M’gann ducked out first, with Nia and Brainy following not long after. Half an hour later, Kelly was by the elevator scheduling a Lyft home while Kara stood by the front door with her sister.

Alex shrugged her leather jacket onto her shoulders and peaked around Kara to where Lena was placing dishes in the sink. Kara turned to follow Alex’s gaze, then spun back with a goofy grin and light blush already creeping across her cheeks. Alex smiled at her. “Good for each other, yeah?”

Kara snuck another peak at Lena who looked up and caught her eye, face immediately breaking into a wide, soft, double-dimpled smile. Kara couldn’t drag her eyes from Lena’s as she absently answered her sister the same way she had that very first morning. “I really think so, Alex.”

Alex laughed and pulled Kara down sideways to press a smiling kiss against her temple. “Yeah. Me, too.”

Alex stepped back and stole a glance toward Kelly leaning patiently against the open elevator door. She looked up at Kara and knew they had matching dopey smiles on their smitten faces. “Danvers sisters really got our girls, didn’t we?”

Kara laughed, bright and warm. She gave Alex another tight goodnight hug then started backing toward the kitchen, arms raised casually as she called out just before Alex shook her head and pulled the door closed between them: “Was there ever any doubt?”

Chapter Text

They were in Kara’s loft for movie night. A reinstated tradition Lena had missed desperately in the year and a half it was abandoned, and loved every minute of in the several months since its return.

And, as of exactly two weeks ago, one forever associated with the single best memory of her life. A memory now playing in her mind as she closed the door behind her, causing the lingering blush from a brisk autumn breeze to darken as a soft smile spread across her face. But as she turned toward the room and started unbuttoning her jacket, her eyes narrowed in confusion.

The TV was dark and silent behind a coffee table notably lacking an array of takeout containers. A particularly good bottle of wine sat open on the dining room table, nestled inexplicably between two large salads. And slowly walking toward her, in sinfully tight jeans and a light blue button down (Lena once mentioned was her favorite), was a smiling superhero nervously twisting a single white plumeria between her fingers.

Lena motioned vaguely toward the room. “Hey, what’s…”

Her words trailed off as Kara leaned forward to place a lingering kiss where her jaw angled below her ear. As she pulled back, Kara let their cheeks slide gently together, the way Lena used to when she first learned about the hero’s heightened sense of touch. It sent a pleasant shiver down her spine and she barely swallowed a whine when Kara stepped away. She blinked up to find a bottom lip half-trapped between pearly teeth and a hand reaching out to offer the meaningful flower.

Lena’s smile stretched impossibly wider as she took it, allowing their fingers to brush together, warmth spreading through her chest. Their gaze stayed locked for several stuttering heartbeats before she glanced down at the plumeria then lifted her eyes to sweep across the room again. “So what’s all this?”

Kara blinked and followed her gaze, as though taking in her loft for the first time. Lena watched in amusement as Kara failed to hide a small grimace when her eyes landed on the salads, then straightened herself and turned back to Lena with exaggerated seriousness.

“I’ll tell you what it’s not… it’s not a date.”

Lena lifted the flower to her nose and scanned the layout again before responding. “It’s not.”

“Nope.”

“And why not?”

“Oh, well…” Kara shrugged one shoulder almost all the way to her ear, “… because at some point, we’ll have a real first date, and it will be awesome and amazing and we’ll tell our kids about it some day, and it will not include salad of any kind.”

Lena laughed around a fluttering sensation in her stomach at the casually intense words hidden in that explanation. “Okay. Fair enough, but then…”

“Well, we’ve had probably a million not-dates, so let’s call it one of those.”

“Oh-kay—“

“But kind of a meta-not-date.”

“And you’ve lost me.”

“Just, here silly, give me your stuff and go sit down.”

Lena did as Kara suggested and settled into a seat while Kara hung her coat and purse by the door. Kara came back to the table and plopped down with a pleased smile. “Hey.”

Hey.” Lena’s shoulders relaxed and she beamed across the corner of the table. Whatever this not-date was, it was with Kara, so it was fine by her.

Kara leaned forward, stopping an inch from Lena’s lips, and Lena happily took the invitation. She closed the distance and hummed into a short, soft kiss that sent pleasant ripples all the way to her fingertips. Kara pulled back, smiling even bigger, and just as eloquently as before, said: “Hey.”

Lena chuckled. “Kara, seriously, this is lovely, but what’s going on?”

“Right! Well...” Kara settled back into her chair and tucked her left hand under her thigh as she reached with her right to pour a glass of wine. “This is a themed not-date. What theme, you might ask?” Lena lifted an eyebrow and nodded. “Well, the theme of this not-date is all of our other not-dates.”

“You’ve lost me again.”

“You said we’ve had a thousand moments, Lena. Well, I think you’re right.” Kara finished pouring her glass and held the bottle up, waiting for Lena to nod before filling hers as well. “And I think you should spend this entire not-date asking me about every single one of them.”

“What?” Lena’s mouth fell open and her eyes went wide. “Kara, really, it’s okay. I don’t need— You don’t have to do this.”

“I want to!”

“But we already— I mean…”

It felt like a lifetime had passed since Lena offered up this first, foundational fear. And while they hadn’t explicitly faced it, the conversations of the past several days, the openness offered and trust promised, seemed to cover it well enough. At least, that’s what Lena had assumed. That Kara had either forgotten, or determined a promise of transparency moving forward was sufficient.

And shouldn’t it be?

Lena shook her head as casually as she could and decided to let Kara off the hook. “You probably wouldn’t even remember half the moments I was thinking of.”

“I remember every second we’ve ever spent together.”

That brought Lena up short. She blinked and tried to respond, but nothing would come out.

Kara set the bottle on a coaster and unconcernedly continued: “So, now that that’s cleared up…” She placed Lena’s drink in her hand, clinked their glasses together, then leaned back and casually drew a long sip of wine. “… Fire away!”

Lena brought her own glass to her lips, oblivious to the taste as she took a drink then set it on the table.

She couldn’t deny the pull of curiosity. There were so many words, looks, touches, so many contradictions that had assaulted her trust in her own perception over the years.

She’d immolated herself in righteous anger over the lies and obfuscation about Kara’s identity. To the point she nearly became the match that burned down the world. But, she suddenly realized, she’d only ever blamed herself for any confusion over the nature of Them. She reeled at the inadvertent dichotomy, so objectively unreasonable and steeped in self-deprecation.

But even now, with Kara patiently waiting less than an arms-length away, cheeks flushed and eyes soft and reassuring, she knew not all the truths would be kind. She knew even the most favorable retelling would have Lena falling first, and a part of her preferred to never be explicitly proven right.

Anyway, shouldn’t she let go of their complicated, ambiguous past and focus on moving forward on equal footing?

Yes.

Definitely.

Maybe?

Or…

Or maybe Lena would never fully embrace her own intuition again without this unusual retrospective? Maybe a controlled burn would clear the lingering debris of doubt? Maybe she ached for this chance to recalibrate her trust in herself and, somehow, Kara knew it.

Oh god, was she really going to do this?

Yeah, she really was: “The day we finally got you back from the Phantom Zone, after you hugged me—“

“I wanted to kiss you so badly I thought I’d die.” Kara interrupted, as if buzzing in to give a trivia answer.

She took another sip of wine and started talking again before she’d even finished swallowing. “Come on, Lena, too easy. I practically did!” She sat up straighter in her chair, placing her glass on the table, unable to stop her expressive hands from joining in. “Totally almost risked it all right there in front of everybody! Oh!” Kara’s face contorted with unexpected enjoyment. “That felt good to say out loud. This is fun! Next?”

Lena was just staring at Kara with her mouth open.

Well.

I mean, it felt pretty good to hear out loud, too. And Lena trusted this wasn’t a one time offer. She knew this was a door Kara had taken right off its hinges; it would never shut again. So why not ease into the idea? Why not have some fun indeed?

“The Morgan Edge party…” Lena cocked an eyebrow… “it really seemed like you kept — how should I say this — checking out my—“

Kara blushed and giggled as she interrupted again. “Boobies?” Lena laughed out loud, but nodded yes. “Lena, Rao, that dress?! Um, yeah I was. How could I not? I’m not saying I knew why, back then, because I did not. I was honestly so confused when my stomach kept doing these little flips, and I couldn’t figure out why I just wanted to… I just wanted to…“

Kara stopped as she heard Lena chuckle. She realized she’d not only been blatantly staring at Lena’s ‘boobies’ as she answered, but had actually started gravitating toward them. She blushed even brighter as she slid back into her chair. “Can you blame me?” She grabbed her wine glass and stretched one finger toward Lena accusingly as she brought it to her lips. “Anyway, it honestly feels like you wore that thing on purpose just to torture me.”

“Oh I absolutely did.”

Kara laughed into her glass then clutched her chest in mock outrage as Lena narrowed her eyes.

“Well, maybe not torture. Test, maybe? Fluster, definitely. But torture? I think I only ended up torturing myself with that one.” Her eyebrow flicked up again as she reached for another sip of wine.

“Hmmm… only because you fell in love with an oblivious alien who didn’t realize visualizing drowning in your friend’s cleavage maybe wasn’t a completely platonic pastime.”

“I really did, didn’t I?”

“Hmm?”

“Fall in love with an oblivious alien.”

Kara’s face softened into a broad smile and she leaned forward for a short kiss. “I sure hope so.”

They stared at each other as Kara leaned back into her chair, eyes sparkling with affection, faces blushing above close-lipped smiles as wide as they could possibly stretch. Lena blinked slowly into the warm heat of that unfettered eye contact and then shot up straight.

“The Christmas party!”

“What?” Kara tried to shake herself out of the daze that staring at Lena always seemed to trigger.

“That. That look you just gave me. You gave me that exact same look at the Christmas party, right before James and I, well, that whole thing. Even though Sam was standing right there—Oh!” Lena looked away, dropping her shoulders in sudden distraction and practically whining: “God I miss Sam. We should really get her down here with Ruby soon.”

“We really should.” Kara nodded vehemently and snuck another sip of wine as Lena straightened up again.

“Anyway, Sam was right there, and James was somewhere ogling me… actually I think that’s what we were talking about… and, anyway, you gave me that exact same look.” She pointed at Kara’s face, wagging her finger accusingly at every inch of it. Kara scrunched her nose and closed one eye, half her bottom lip trapped between her teeth, failing to stop a smile.

“Mmmmmmmm I totally did, didn’t I?”

“Mmmm hmmmm.”

“I just— Lena you looked so beautiful, and the Christmas lights were, like, dancing in your eyes, and, just… Ugh, whatever. You know what? You gave me that same exact look right back.”

“Oh, absolutely. But I was hopelessly in love with you, Kara. What’s your excuse?”

Lena had looked down at her wine glass, finger trailing across the rim as she answered. When she looked back up, Kara was unabashedly beaming at her. Lena shook her head and rolled her eyes affectionately. “Don’t try to distract me with those big heart eyes, Kara Zor-El Danvers. Answer the question.”

“Okay, okay.” Kara tucked her hair behind one ear, crinkle emerging in all its glory. “Honestly, at that point? I think part of me already knew I was in love with you. But, I just wanted you to be happy, Lena. And, well… I wasn’t being completely honest with you yet…”

“Mmmm… because you’re an idiot.”

“Because I am an idiot, correct.” She glanced at Lena who winked to let her know the dig was good-natured at this point. “But, anyway, I don’t think I was even letting myself consider how I felt about you, because of that. But, Rao, Lena…” She sighed and grimaced a little apologetically. “Truth is, I hated it. I hated every second of you and James. I never let myself ask why, and I felt so bad for feeling that way, so bad. But I did. I hated it.”

Kara wasn’t sure how she would take that. Lena and James had gotten pretty serious before they ended things, and she felt guilty for how selfish her jealousy was. But Lena just raised an eyebrow and took a long slow draught of wine.

“I kind of hated it, too.”

“What?!” Kara couldn’t stop the loud laugh that pushed out of her. Lena just shrugged and smirked into her wine glass as she took another sip. She swallowed and placed it back on the table, shrugging one shoulder as she explained herself.

“I mean he’s gorgeous—“

“So hot.”

“Mmmm. And he has a good heart, he really does.”

Kara nodded exaggeratedly, trying to hide her enthusiasm to hear the ‘but…’ she knew was coming.

“But… he kept saying things like, ‘with you by my side…’ Not with us side by side, no, with me by his side—“

“He didn’t.” Kara was shaking her head, her jaw hung open.

“He did! More than once! And all I could think was, ‘honey, I’m a billionaire tech genius’… uh, humbly…” She stopped for a moment but Kara just shook her head and raised her glass.

“You speak only the truth.”

Lena chuckled and continued, blushing a bit again. “I’ve faced egomaniacs like Morgan Edge, psychopaths like Lex, and my Mother, on my own, and come out on top. Please, Mr. Olsen, I’m nobody’s— nobody’s— … Oh my god!

“What?” Kara was on the edge of her seat now.

“Do you know, he called me his co-pilot once?”

No.” Kara breathed out in a gobsmacked rush.

“Yes! Something about, ‘with you as my copilot, I could do anything.’ Something along those lines.” Lena was just shaking her head and swirling the wine in her glass, but Kara was frozen in disbelief.

Until indignation muscled through. “James! Ugh! You kind, sexy… butthole!

Lena started giggling and Kara narrowed her eyes. “What?”

“Butthole, Kara? Really?”

“He deserves it!”

“Oh no, he absolutely does… affectionately. Just, ‘butthole?’”

Kara’s cheeks blushed a few shades darker as she shrugged her shoulders casually, now avoiding eye contact. “Well, very few things make me actually swear.”

Lena felt her chest flutter at the implication. She knew exactly what made Kara swear, and the images were delightfully distracting all of a sudden.

“But, anyway, as if Lena Luthor is anyone’s co-pilot.”

Lena’s face softened again as she shook away the lingering memory of Kara gasping beneath her. She banished any hint of teasing or innuendo so her next words would convey nothing but sincerity. “Oh, I think I’d be Supergirl’s co-pilot any day.”

Kara shook her head slightly, like the response that followed was too obvious to deserve any weight. “Pretty sure Supergirl would be yours.”

Lena just stared at her. It was an absurd thought. Something she was (wrongly) convinced not a single other person in the world would agree with. But there was no denying the earnestness in Kara’s eyes. Kara meant every word. And Lena had the crazy notion she suddenly knew how it felt when Supergirl absorbed a sun grenade.

“Kara.”

“Yeah?”

“Kiss me?”

Kara moved immediately out of her chair and onto her knees in front of Lena. She reached up and cupped her face with both hands, stretching toward her while gently pulling Lena down into the kiss. It wasn’t meant to go anywhere, this wasn’t a kiss to start something. And Kara found that she loved that about it. She loved the next two minutes of calm searching lips and just a gentle hint of tongue.

Without the heat of escalation, she was able to focus on the smell of Lena’s shampoo and last bit of perfume still clinging to her skin. The whisper of her breath each time their lips parted, letting out traces of mint that told Kara she’d freshened up sometime between the Tower and now. The little whimpers she probably wouldn’t have even heard without superhearing, that made her feel more powerful than anything she’d ever experienced.

She did that. She made Lena Luthor make that sound.

Eventually, she settled back onto her heels and Lena looked down at her. “Thank you for this.”

“Of course.”

“I love you, Kara.”

Kara’s heart thudded an extra beat then clenched tight in her chest. It was far from the first time Lena said it. Not even the first time that day. But there was something different in it. Something that seemed to acknowledge how long it had been lurking there, how hard it was to say, and how it wasn’t about to change. There was a promise of saying it every day for the rest of their lives in that ‘I love you.’

“Marry me.” [What did I just say?!]

“What did you just say?”

[Kara, backtrack for Rao’s sake.] “Marry Me.” [Kara, no.]

“Kara… No.”

“What do you mean, ‘no’?”

“I mean no, Kara.” The tension broke and suddenly Lena was struggling to hold back her laughter as Kara pouted up at her from her knees. But not even Kara’s patented puppy eyes could sell this one.

“Kara! We’ve been sleeping together for exactly two weeks. We haven’t even had our first date yet!”

“Sure we have. This was actually a date, I was totally joking before when I said it wasn’t. And now we could say we got engaged on our first date! That’s so romantic.”

“I am struggling so hard not to make another Frozen reference right now, and I resent you endlessly for that.”

If possible Kara’s eyes got even bigger. “Oh my Rao, I didn’t think I could love you even more. Marrryyyy meeeeeeeeee.”

Lena was fully laughing now and pulled them both to their feet. “Absolutely not.”

Kara was pouting, lips pressed together in a thin line as Lena tried to coax them into a kiss with her own. When Kara actually huffed into her mouth she finally withdrew.

“Kara, enough. Be serious.” She dusted off an old L-Corp boardroom look and pinned Kara with it.

Kara relented (no judgment, that look had literally never failed) and relaxed her face out of its pout. She wrapped her arms loosely around Lena’s waist and gently pulled her closer, eyes unfocused as she stared off somewhere over Lena’s shoulder.

“Okay, you’re right, you’re right, it’s way too soon…”

“Thank you.”

“Technically. Although, when you look at it—“ Kara dared to peak at Lena’s face and saw a dangerously raised eyebrow. “No, right, you’re right. It’s too fast. Alex would never let us live it down.”

“The real point here is how much your sister would tease us?”

“Exactly.”

Lena laughed, but then Kara brought her eyes back into focus and stared into Lena’s with such sincerity and unguarded love it took her breath away.

“So, let me do this right…”

“Kara.” It was meant as a warning, but it came out no louder than a whisper, dripping, as ever — helplessly, infuriatingly, and quite counterproductively at the moment — with awe and affection.

“Dr. Lena Kieran Luthor. Two years from now, when I get down on one knee and ask you to do the dumbest thing in your life and agree to be my wife, will you say yes? And one year after that, after a completely reasonable amount of time, in front of all of our friends and exactly none of your family, will you marry me?”

They stared at each other for several long seconds. Lena was afraid if she even breathed, the air might form itself into a ‘yes’ with or without her permission.

Her brain flashed through every moment they’d spent together. Every fight, every comfort. Every challenge, defeat, and triumph. Every doubt. Every night spent alone, or in another’s arms, thinking about Kara either way. Right back to the first moment she felt her heart start whispering dangerous things. Things like ‘maybe’ and ‘friend’ and ‘why not?’ Right back to an unexpected blush and defensively dismissive “And who are you, exactly?”

Lena was pulled into the present by the sensation of her mouth opening to speak. She didn’t know what she was about to say; probably something she didn’t even believe about soulmates and magic and love at first sight. She was indescribably grateful to be interrupted by Kara, whose face brightened as she plopped back into her chair.

“Well that’s not a ‘no.’” Here Lena was, dying, and Kara had the nerve to wink. “And, you know what? I think I get to play, too.”

“Wha— what?”

“It’s my turn.”

“Your turn for—“

“The gala. The first one…”

Oh. Okay. Okay. Right, yes, okay. Lena had learned from the best (worst) how to steer a conversation. How to balance or unbalance someone at her will. It was easy to spot when employed by someone else. She spared a thought of love and gratitude on behalf of the whole world for Kara’s unfaltering conviction to use her countless powers only for good.

She looked into that bright, easy smile and felt immediately clear-headed and moored again, releasing a cleansing breath and relaxing into her seat as Kara casually continued.

“You came to CatCo and—“

“Totally a date.”

“What?!”

Lena laughed. “Kara, I was so obvious!”

“Well, I mean, I kinda thought maybe, but… Ugh!” Kara dramatically slumped back in her chair and glared at the ceiling. “I am so mad at past-me.”

Lena was still laughing, both dimples now out in full force. “You had to know I didn’t personally invite everyone who came that night. That I wasn’t strutting through National City stopping at everyone’s workplaces, batting my eyelashes and biting my lip.”

“Oh Rao, that wrecked me! I was so confused why I couldn’t stop staring at your mouth. And then Mon-El said something and I could not figure out why I wanted to punch him right in his twizzler-filled face.”

Kara rolled her head to face Lena and relaxed into a wide smile. They stared at each other for a long moment as the laughter settled. Lena blinked her eyes slowly, peering at Kara through her eyelashes, and Kara blushed again.

“You know what I wish?”

Kara shook her head back and forth where it still rested on the back of her chair.

“I wish you’d have asked me. One of those times you wondered, I wish you’d have asked.”

“Hmm.” Kara sat up and turned her body to face Lena. “I wish I had, too.”

They stared at each other for a weighted moment, a touch of sadness and regret passing between them. Yearning for a past with just a little less fear, a little less hesitation. Bruising sadness at all the pain that might have avoided.

The corner of Kara’s mouth twitched into a barely there smile. She knew better than anyone how futile wishing for a different timeline was, but the temptation was hard to deny. She opened her mouth to say something when Lena suddenly sat up straight and brought her hands together.

“Okay. I have another one.”

Kara blinked to clear her head, then leaned back in her chair. “Shoot.”

“Right now.”

Oh.

Kara felt all of her focus narrow with almost assaulting precision on the woman in front of her. The loose waves of her raven hair falling imperfectly around her face and shoulders. Her flushed cheeks and slightly sad eyes from an evening that could only do so much to smooth the rough edges of years of second guessing and mixed messages. The small flex of her strong jaw as she swallowed whatever emotion she was fighting at the moment. And the steel and fire, conviction and hope, swimming in the countless shades of blue and green ever-shifting in her eyes.

She thought of those eyes closed tight in breathless pleasure. Thought of them half-hidden and sleepy in the morning. Bright and cutting when devouring a problem. Sad and aching when they shared the hurts, the fears, the doubts that a Super and a Luthor were taught to never say out loud to anyone, let alone each other.

She looked into the galaxies of those eyes and her chest ached with the knowledge of how many things had to go heartbreakingly wrong to get them to this moment. To bring them — across planetary divides and mismatched timelines, obstacles both self-made and divine, realities at once brutally imperfect and ecstatic in their inevitability — to right here. Right now. Close enough to touch.

The words practically tripped over each other in their haste to seek shelter in Lena’s chest.“Right now I’m so in love with you I can hardly breathe, and it aches how much I want to touch you, and I’m just really hoping that’s what you want right now, too.”

Lena bent forward slightly, every movement laced with devastating calculation. Kara sucked in a breath, buzzing with electricity as the room’s mood shifted again.

Lena fixed her with eyes begging to both consume and be devoured. “Then ask.”

The superhero slid out of her chair like she’d been waiting for her cue. She closed the small distance between their seats on her knees, gently coaxing Lena’s legs apart with warm hands and slipping between them, never breaking Lena’s piercing gaze.

Their eyes stayed locked until the last possible moment as Kara leaned forward and up, finally dipping her head to draw her mouth from Lena’s collar bone all the way up the side of her neck. She let her breath tease hot against Lena’s skin, lips never quite touching, watching the trail of goosebumps erupt along the pale expanse of skin until she stopped beside her ear.

Lena…”

The breathy way Kara always said her name sent a shiver down her back. “Mmm-mm?”

There was a soft brush of lips on her earlobe: “Can I kiss you?” The hairs along the back of her neck prickled at the barest hint of teeth against her jaw: “Pretend this dinner never existed?” A flick of tongue across the mark in the middle of her throat, then the searing wet pressure of claiming lips after the next words dripped out: “And find out how many times you can come before sunrise?”

Her lungs burned as she finally remembered to breathe. “Holy fuck, Kara… Yes.”

 

***

 

The answer was eleven. She hit three right there at the table before Kara even got up off her knees.

Some minutes before the sun rose, when an uncommonly smug Supergirl asked the obvious, if impertinent question, Lena mumbled: “Four… but, um, alone.”

Kara’s eyes narrowed and she braved a follow-up as she leaned to nuzzle against the flushed sweat-slick skin of Lena’s neck: “And who were you thinking about for those four?” The intensity of Lena’s blush answered for her, and Kara was nearly convinced to try for number twelve.

Late the next morning, the hero woke up to a breakfast-in-bed layout so huge it made the mattress sink. She ate every bite before being pulled into a long, hot shower that included the first of what would be Kara’s new personal high.

Both records stood untouched for a long time. In fact, Kara maintained they were never actually broken. Since, three years later, in a cabin at the top of a seaside cliff in Ireland, with not another soul for two miles in any direction, the new records technically belonged to Lena and Kara L-Danvers.