The first time Kara notices is during sister night.
She forgets exactly what they were talking about. She remembers being on her couch, cuddled up beside Alex. She remembers the dumb Christmas movie they were watching – and rewriting it in her head because the lead obviously had more chemistry with the best friend character. She remembers the topic somehow turning to Lena.
“She’s your… friend.”
And she remembers the lengthy, blatantly obvious pause preceding the word friend. She wanted to ask about it, but Alex carried on with whatever she was saying, and it slipped out of Kara’s mind.
The next time is at work.
There are a few things Kara is almost always passively listening for. People in distress, calls for Supergirl, the heartbeats of her family and friends, and any mention of Lena’s name.
(Just so she can get ahead of the latest gossip people are spreading about Lena. To hopefully nip it in the bud, or to be ready to be there for Lena when it does blow up. What are friends for, right?)
When she hears Lena’s name and her own, she focuses in on the conversation. Nia is speaking, answering a coworker who apparently just asked her something about Kara and Lena.
“They’re ‘best friends,’” she says, with finger quotes. “Y’know, gal pals.”
The other woman responds with an exaggerated ohhhh. Kara resists the urge to zap her (and Nia too) a little bit with her heat vision. But then a source calls her back, and she gets a new lead for a story she’s working on, and this is forgotten.
Until game night.
They’re gathered at Kara’s, as usual. They haven’t quite started yet, and Kelly realizes they left some of the snacks in the kitchen. She’s about to untangle herself from Alex to get them, when Lena stands.
She’s still laughing at a joke Nia just told, her laughter and brilliant smile bleeding into her words. “Stay! You’re a guest. I’ll get it.”
As Lena leaves, Kelly relaxes back into Alex’s side. The two share a brief look, then Kelly’s eyes linger on Lena and strange little smile grows on her face.
It’s after this that Kara pays attention to everyone, and their interactions with Lena. Throughout the night, she catches all of their friends watching Lena like that at least once or twice. And sometimes, they’ll glance over at Kara only to find her looking back and quickly avert their eyes. One time, when she’s talking to Lena, she catches J’onn in the corner of her eye, staring at Lena intently as if trying to pick up an impression of her surface thoughts.
Five days later, they’re all at Kara’s again.
All except Lena.
“I’ve gathered you here tonight to talk about Lena.” She pauses, and corrects herself. “To talk about how you’re treating Lena.” A collective groan ripples through her audience, but she silences them with a glare. “I know some of her past actions were… not ideal, but she’s part of this team now. Part of this family.”
“Kara – ”
“She helped get me back! She fought Nyxly with us! What more does she need to do to earn your trust?”
“Kara!” Alex tries again, louder, interrupting her impassioned defense of her best friend. “We do trust Lena. We,” she nods towards Kelly, “asked her to be Esme’s godmother, remember?”
“Lena is as much a part of this family as you are, Kara,” J’onn chimes in.
“Then why are you all always watching her and suspicious with her and calling her my ‘friend?’” She punctuates the last one by glaring daggers at Nia, who seems to be trying to stifle a laugh.
“Oh my god, Kara! Do – ” Nia is silenced by a look from Kelly, then Alex speaks up again.
“Okay guys, I think this is something I need to talk to Kara about alone.”
The rest of them murmur in agreement, and start collecting their coats and heading for the door. Kara’s weak protests of “But… Lena!” don’t do much.
Finally, after a lingering hug with Kelly, Alex closes the door, and they’re alone.
“What – ”
Alex holds up her hand. “Can I just ask you a couple questions first?”
Kara nods. They sit at opposite ends of the couch, turned to face each other.
“Why did you do this now?”
“Because I want to know why everyone’s being weird with Lena.”
“No, I mean tonight specifically.”
“Oh, well, Lena is out meeting with some potential big donors for the foundation.”
“Uh huh. And where would she be on a normal night?”
“Here, usually. Unless there’s Superfriends stuff, or she’s visiting Andrea or something. I’ve got her to mostly keep work to actual work hours now.”
“Okay, okay. She’d be here. And what about after she’s done tonight?”
Suddenly, Kara feels put on the spot. Like she’s in a courtroom drama and the opposing lawyer just asked a question they definitely know the answer to and Kara definitely should’ve seen coming.
“She’s coming home?” It comes out like a question not because she’s unsure of Lena’s plans, but she’s suddenly unsure of where these questions are going.
(Or, she does see where they’re going and it’s a place she hasn’t let herself actively think about.)
“Home,” Alex repeats softly, and Kara can just from the look on her face that she’s thinking of her wife and daughter. She’s thinking of her home, with her wife and daughter, but she talking about Kara’s home, with Lena.
And suddenly, just like that, it all comes rushing out. Every stray thought and feel she’s bottled up. All the strange looks and calling them ‘friends.’ Basically everything from the last few months – hell, the last five years. It all comes together and fits into the proper context and she’s feeling approximately every emotion, all at once.
Alex scoots closer, and wraps an arm around Kara. “I know it can be hard taking that step when she already means so much to you. But Kara, I don’t think there’s anything for you to be afraid of.”
Alex leaves just when Lena is coming home. They chat briefly, then Alex is gone and Lena is hanging her coat in its place next to Kara’s. Kara absentmindedly returns her greeting, but remains deep in thought, staring blankly at the window.
She’s almost startled when Lena drops onto the couch beside her. “Hey,” she says, her voice low and a little smile on her lips. “What’s on your mind?”
Kara comes very close to answering you. It’s almost a surprise when she realizes that the way the thought makes her heart pound is less fear and more anticipation. She’s been analyzing and overthinking it all while Alex tried to reassure her. But now, all of that suddenly seems distant and strange and nearly incomprehensible. Another wave of realization, a sense of everything finally fitting into its proper place, comes over her. Now, with Lena in front of her, all she feels is happiness, contentment, and that she is exactly where she belongs.
She also realizes that Lena is looking at her with that little concerned scrunch in her brow. As adorable as it is, Kara just wants to ease her worries. She meets Lena’s gaze, and sees Lena make the subtlest of movements. A flick of her eyes slightly upwards, a little inclination of her head towards Kara. It registers to her then that she still has her glasses on, and returns Lena’s silent communication with the tiniest of nods.
Lena reaches out slowly, letting Kara see clearly what she’s doing. With the lightest touch of her fingertips, she gently lifts the glasses from Kara’s face. Briefly, she pulls back to set them on the coffee table, then settles back even deeper into Kara’s space.
“You okay?” Her voice is quieter still, barely a murmur in her throat. That rush of emotion, the contentment, the belonging, overcomes Kara again. The way Lena, even knowing her power, is so careful, so gentle with her when she thinks Kara needs it almost overwhelms her. This, she finally really, deeply understands is the true connection she’s been looking for. This is Lena seeing, knowing, understanding – and loving – all of Kara.
“Yeah, I’m good.” Her breath hitches as she says it. She knows Lena can see the tears sparkling in her eyes, but knows she can also hear the truth in Kara’s words. Kara takes Lena’s hand, and Lena squeezes back, just enough for Kara to feel. “Alex was just helping me figure something out. Y’know how I said I wanted to connect with someone?”
Lena nods, not daring to speak, as if she too senses what Kara is heading towards.
“I think that connection, that person, has been right in front of me for a long time, and I wasn’t letting myself see them.”
“Who,” Lena asks, “who is it?”
“I think you already know,” Kara whispers in reply.
There’s a sharp, but quiet intake of breath. The look on Lena’s face is the most open, vulnerable Kara has seen her. At once so hopeful and so fragile. “Yeah?” she asks.
Lena lets out a quite little laugh, so sweet and joyful, as the tears spill out of her eyes. She shifts her hold on Kara’s hand, clasping it in both of hers. She lifts their joined hands and, never looking away from Kara’s eyes, plants a feather-light kiss on Kara’s knuckle.