It’s not even conscious.
She doesn’t even realize she does it.
But how could she?
Who’s to blame her own body for its involuntary reactions? Who could blame it when Kara is always a scenery to behold?
When she’s a ray of sunshine on a clouded sky and the never reaching top of a mountain no one ever dares to climb. When she’s like finding that song you never knew the name of but always loved. When she brings Lena that same feeling her mother’s baked cookies did and she makes her heart pound in excitement in the way only Kara could.
So, who can blame her own body, her own lungs and her own mouth, if every time she sees Kara, she exhales .
It’s not even her, really. Just her own body. And who could blame it?
It’s not her. It’s just, after all, her own diaphragm relaxing, the pressure in her lungs changing, and the air leaving through her nose and mouth. It’s an endless loop, one she never thinks about. One that she does not know is ever changed when Kara is around.
She doesn’t really know it.
But she starts to. After Nia loudly and dramatically exhales during game night, Kelly laughing at her as they both look expectantly at Lena. She frowns, “What is it?”
Her question only causes Nia to laugh, almost spilling her wine when she throws her head back. Kelly, at least this time, has the decency to not laugh. She smiles at her.
“It’s nothing, it’s just really cute how you act around Kara.”
“What- what do you mean?” she bites her lip, how does she act around Kara? What does she do that was clear enough to catch her friends' attention? Her own feelings are clear, if only to herself. But she likes to think there’s at least enough self control in her to not make it obvious enough for people to realize.
“Oh, you know,” Nia starts, moving her hand in a nonchalant way before she fills her lungs with air and exhales even louder than last time, all while wearing what Lena thinks is a dreamy look. “That cute little sigh you do when Kara is around.”
“I- I don’t do that,” she exclaims.
She doesn’t. Doesn’t she?
“Yeah, and I’m straight.”
Lena’s answer gets caught in her throat when Kara shows up beside her, her arm coming to rest behind Lena’s head on the couch. A blinding smile is directed at her almost instantly and before she’s thinking, a little breath is leaving her, “Kara, hi.”
“Hi back,” she says, eyes purely focused on Lena as she speaks, even though Kelly’s and Nia’s chuckles can be heard right beside them, “What are you guys laughing about?”
It’s her own fear that acts this time, making her hands push a pillow in the direction of Nia’s face before the woman gets a chance to speak. It’s automatic. Just like smiling at Kara is, “Nothing important.”
It leaves her mind reiling, even if the conversation turns to another subject and game night properly starts and it’s not long before she’s battling with Brainy over the last property on the board.
The question stays in the back of her mind because, does she really do that?
First, she disagrees. She definitely doesn’t do that. She doesn’t exhale every time Kara is around her, that’s just ridiculous. There’s no scientifically proven fact to back up a theory on “if you’re in love with someone, you’ll exhale every time you see them.”
It’s ridiculous. Just ridiculous. Just a random idea that Nia and Kelly have, something they made up to laugh about. It is not a thing.
But then, she kinda starts to notice it.
It happens when Kara flies into the tower and there’s a small wind in front of her face that was not created by the blonde’s landing.
When Kara waves at her as she walks into Noona’s and she breathes out. Impulsive. Unprompted. Involuntary.
When two small arms wrap around her legs and she’s unable to force down her eyes to Esme’s form because she’s looking up to Kara, who’s walking out of the elevator, begging her niece to be careful with the superspeed- and Lena breathes out, only covering it up with a laugh and by picking the little girl up.
And fine. She kinda admits it happens. Doesn’t mean she’ll acknowledge it in front of Kelly, much less Nia- both who keep looking at her with knowing smirks every time Kara walks into a room.
But really, who can blame her? Who could ever blame her?
Who can blame her if she breathes out in relief when Kara opens her apartment door for the first time? After all, she wasn’t sure Kara was going to open that door in the first place.
Who can blame her if she breathes out when Kara brings lunch for two for the first time?
Who can blame her if she breathes out when Kara hugs her for the first time?
Who can blame her if she does it every time it happens again? After all, she never knows if it’ll be the last.
Who can blame her if she breathes out when Kara whispers she’s a brilliant, kind hearted, beautiful soul ? After all, she wasn’t sure Kara was going to forgive her.
Who can blame her if she breathes out when Kara is right there, waiting for her, a champagne glass in her hand just for Lena, and she smiles at her?
But it’s too much. She needs to stop.
She can’t let her own breathing, of all things, to expose her feelings. Her feelings for Kara, although not new nor surprising, need to be locked up. She can keep this one box, just this one, neately sealed in the back of her mind- and she cannot let its content be freed with every breath she lets out.
Although it makes sense, that Kara would encourage this action out of her. Breathing out is letting go of all the toxic waste that was formed inside her body and Kara, wonderful and amazing Kara, is like a breath of fresh air- one she wants to stay in forever.
But she’ll never be able to stay in it forever. She won’t. She needs to unlearn this pavlovian conditioning her own body created.
Except that she can’t stop. Even now that it’s conscious, even now that she knows about it- she can’t stop doing it. She can’t stop the little relieved sigh that leaves her lips every time she sees Kara.
Much less after the blonde came back safe from a dangerous mission.
Much less when she wakes up in the middle of the night, screams ripping from her mouth, and Kara is coming through her window before she has time to think about it.
Much less when strong arms are wrapped around her body and soft words are whispered in her ear. She breathes out. And then she breathes in, begging her brain to retain this feeling, this moment, forever in her mind.
“Please, never leave me,” she whispers in the crook of Kara’s neck. She’s not sure what prompted her to say it.
That’s a lie.
She knows. She knows her heart hasn’t stopped beating in fear since the moment she saw Lex in the woods. She knows her mind hasn’t stopped conjuring all the ways Lex could hurt her friends, her new family, Kara .
The image of Kara, lying on the ground, green veins and a pained expression on her face, had been in constant loop inside her brain since that night.
It gets repeated over and over again every time she closes her eyes, the nightmares plaguing her.
It gets repeated over and over again even when she’s wide awake, and she’s updating Kara’s anti-kryptonite suit once again.
But after two days of that, more and more memories start to add up to it. The memory of watching the news back when she was still in Metropolis, seeing all the beating Supergirl was taking on live television- she didn’t think much of it back then, she just thought that Supergirl would get back up, because she’s indestructible, and she always did.
The memory of seeing Supergirl fight with Rhea, with Metallo, with her mother, with Reign . Seeing Supergirl fall down, creating a crater on her wake, and not getting up that one time.
She never thought much of all the injuries she suffered because, a couple days later, Supergirl was always flying around the city once again.
But now she thinks of it. She thinks of it too much. Because now she knows that it’s not just Supergirl, it’s Kara . Her Kara. The one taking the punches. The one getting infected by Kryptonite. The one falling to the ground.
And now there’s no looming anger, no unbearable heartbreak inside of her when something happens to Supergirl to calm her racing heart and push her feelings down. Now her feelings are conscious, acknowledged, well known. And now her heart knowingly breaks when Kara gets hurt.
So, again, who can blame her if every time Kara does something, she exhales? Because, after all, it means Kara is here and she’s fine and she’s not hurt. Because every time Lena walks into a room and finds Kara there, it means Kara isn’t running straight to danger.
“I won’t,” Kara whispers in her ear, pushing Lena closer to her, “I’m not going anywhere, I promise.”
But it’s not enough. Kara can’t promise that because she doesn’t know. She doesn’t know that.
“It’s not a promise you can make,” she says, pressing her ear against the emblem to listen and finding the sound of a beating, alive , heart, “not when he’s back.”
A sob escapes her lips, breaking off whatever Kara was going to say. She clenches her hands around Kara’s cape again. “I just- I just keep seeing it, Kara. He’s right there, looming over you, holding a green knife before he pushes it into you over and over again. And I can’t do anything, I just watch .”
Kara doesn’t say anything after that. Silence overtakes the room, the faint sound of a police siren is heard and Lena holds tighter onto Kara, begging her, even if silently, to not go this time. But Kara doesn’t even move, doesn’t even attempt to go after the person in need. It makes Lena feel selfish, she can’t do this to Kara, she knows she can’t keep just to herself- Kara isn’t even hers.
But it’s like Kara reads her mind when she relaxes her arms, tries to pull away, because the blonde just holds on tighter, whispers is just a drunk causing a little trouble, nothing the police can’t handle.
“I’m scared, too,” Kara says, after a couple of minutes, “I know what he wants to do to me and I know he could very easily succeed. And I know what he’s capable of doing to everyone else, to you . But, just like you said, we’ve beat him before and we’ll do it again.”
She smiles, softly, tenderly, in the quiet of the night and as her face is only visible thanks to the moon light. Her eyes find Lena’s and almost every loop is washed away from her mind because of it.
“Can you stay?” she asks, “Just for tonight.”
Kara nods, the smile not leaving her face, only growing bigger, “Wasn’t planning on leaving anyway.”
So, who can blame her, when Kara changes into one of Lena’s t-shirts, gets into her bed and wraps her arms around her before kissing the crown of her head, if she exhales? After all, it’s the only night her sleep isn’t filled with nightmares in days.
And it’s the last good night's sleep she gets in months. Because Lex is Lex and life hates them and Kara gets hurt. She gets hurt, and even if she took down both Lex and Nxyly while doing it, she doesn’t wake up.
She doesn’t wake up for days, not even if she stays under the sunlamps for days on end, not even after all her cuts and bruises had been healed.
But it’s Kara so, eventually, she does.
It’s 3am and it had been a while since the looking-over-Kara schedule had been put in place. It was usually Lena, the one that stayed up with her during the night. She told everyone she preferred it because she liked to use the day to do other things, even if those other things were trying to find ways to help Kara wake up faster- but the truth was, that she didn’t want anyone to lose sleep, after all, she was barely sleeping anyway. At most, all she could catch in one night was four or five hours, all thanks to the softest blanket ever created that Nia had gifted her.
And the first thing Lena does, unsurprisingly, when Kara opens her eyes, is exhale. The second thing she does, after helping Kara sit up, is hug her. She doesn’t even utter the woman’s name. She doesn’t even care to check on her vitals, which she probably should have and knows that she should have.
But Kara doesn’t seem to have a hurry for any of it either. She just holds on tighter to Lena, an arm around her waist, the other one surrounding her, letting her hand find the back of Lena’s neck and play with the ends of her hair.
Lena’s standing between Kara’s legs, her fronts pressed against each other- the space between them almost nonexistent. And yet it doesn’t seem to be enough for Kara, who keeps holding onto Lena, pressing her harder into her, as sobs break out of her mouth.
“Thank God you’re okay,” Lena finally whispers after she regains her voice, even if she doesn’t pull away from Kara’s neck, “I thought- I-”
“It’s okay,” Kara’s hand goes up and down on her back, trying to comfort her. And by the sigh she lets out, Lena knows it brings as much comfort to Kara as it does to Lena, “I’m right here.”
Kara pulls away, and although disappointed at the absence of contact, Lena starts to move away, too. Except she doesn’t get much further, Kara holds her in place before she can step out of the little bubble they’ve created.
And somehow, it’s even more intimate now, because now Kara can see her and she can see Kara. Eyes red with tears and Lena’s bags under her eyes and Kara’s barely-there scar on her face. Lena gets it, now, when that tv character said to never trust a hug, because it’s just a way to hide your face. Her face is bare now, only for Kara to see, and there’s not enough time nor enough strength in her to try and cover up how relieved she is that Kara is okay, how in love she is.
Kara’s hand finds her cheek, and this time, Lena breathes in instead of out, expecting, anticipating, hoping. Hoping it might lead to what she thinks it will and not something else.
But Kara doesn’t move, she stays still . There’s a sense of deja vu in her heart.
And she exhales. Bites her bottom lip and looks away .
The moment is broken, just like that. Whatever Kara was about to do, whatever Lena thought she was going to do, is not gonna happen.
“Let me go call Alex,” Lena rushes out, the only excuse she could think of to get as far away from Kara as possible. Kara, who feels like a magnet, holding onto her arms, begging her to stay, but at the mention of her sister, she drops her hands and nops.
She sighs, in disappointment this time.
It’s not Kara’s fault, really. It’s not hers either. Wouldn’t have been a good idea to kiss Kara after she just woke up from a coma, right? Even if she so desperately wanted to.
She can wait. She will wait.
She will wait even if she doesn’t even know if there’s something to wait for. Even if she has no proof Kara wants the same thing she does, and yet. She waits.
She can stay in the limbo for a little way longer, until the scars fade and the glimmer of happiness comes back to Kara’s eyes. Until her nightmares are scattered around the week instead of being an every night companion.
It doesn’t seem as a priceless wait, though, when Kara keeps smiling at her- that shy little smile they keep sharing with each other, as they’re surrounded by everyone else. That smile that keeps earning little exhales from Lena.
It’s not priceless, when Kara takes her hand one day as they’re walking down the street, a rosy tint covering her cheeks that could not be blamed on the burning sun.
It’s not priceless, when Kara nervously asks her if she’d like to go with her to Kelly’s and Alex’s wedding, as her date . And Lena exhales again, yes leaving her lips without thinking.
It’s not princeless at all, when Kara leads her to a reserved corner of the venue and pulls her arms around Lena’s waist, pulling her closer.
The music is loud enough to accompany their movements, left and right, left and right, left and right, as they sway around. Lena’s arms rest carefully on top of strong shoulders and her hands play with the end of Kara’s hair, the woman smiles down at the action.
“You know,” she says, breaking the comfortable silence, “I’ve been thinking about courage, since the totem.”
Lena frowns, “I thought you’d figured that one out already?”
“I did,” she nods, “but I’ve been thinking about it a lot. How there’s so many occasions when I’ve lacked bravery.”
“Kara,” she says, her fingers moving to trace the strong jawline in front of her, “You are the strongest, most courageous and bravest person I know. That we all know. It’s okay if your batteries run a little low sometimes, you’re still brave.”
Blue eyes watch her carefully, they drop for a second, before they’re back to green again. A momentary lapse, Lena knows- and yet it makes her inhale in hope and anticipation anyway.
“But…” Kara trails off, breathes in, her fingers twitching on Lena’s hip, “I want to be brave. With this. I want to be brave.”
“What’s holding you back?”
“Fear, as usual.” She scoffs softly, almost annoyed at herself, “It’s paralyzing and I’m so scared. So scared. But I want it so, so, so much."
Kara’s eyes drop to Lena’s lips again, and there’s no mistake about it now, because her eyes don’t go up again. They stay there, unmoving and watchful. Lena breathes in.
"And what is it that you want?”
“I want to kiss you,” Kara says, rushes out of her lips as if she’ll never get a chance to do so again. “I wanted to kiss you so many times, I’ve tried to. When I came back from the phantom zone and you hugged me so tightly that I knew only a kiss would be able to express how I feel about you. When you told me you believed in me and it took everything in me not to lean forward. When I was holding you to sleep that night. That day in the medbay. Right now. ”
As the words leave Kara’s mouth, a small part in the back of her head tells her that it’s such a cliche, to confess your feelings at a wedding, to kiss for the first time at a wedding. And yet, ridiculously cliche and romantic as it is, a romantic movie trope Lena was never that fond of- it doesn’t stop the tears from falling and the smile from forming.
“You shouldn’t be scared,” Lena says, breathing out, “I’ve wanted to kiss you for so long, too.”
Kara smiles, eyes bright and sunlight falling into her hair like golden raindrops. Kara smiles and then she leans in.
The hands on her waist pull her even closer again, one of them finds its way to the back of Lena’s hair and Kara kisses her as Lena always thought she would. Full of love, a lot of smiles that stop them midway, a chuckle here and there, before it starts again- lips finding each other in brand new sync.
The kiss it’s so perfectly Kara. So perfectly them . That Lena can’t do anything, except exhale.