lullaby • (noun)
a soothing refrain
specifically, a song
to quiet children
or lull them to sleep
-Merriam Webster English Dictionary
In the darkest hour of the night, Kara is pulled from the depths of sleep by a melody.
The tune is familiar; it scratches some long-forgotten spot at the back of her brain, like a memory that she can’t quite assign shape or meaning to. It’s simple and soft, sweet and melancholy, seeping warmth into all the empty spaces of her body. She blinks at the ceiling, trying to pull together the fragments of memory that float to the surface at the sound. Fingers, smoothing back hair from her forehead. Lips, brushing against her cheek. Hazy purple nights, stars scattered across the sky in familiar formations.
She doesn’t realize she’s gotten out of bed until she’s drifting across the room, feet brushing against hardwood floor. At the window, she looks out over the city and up at the sky, trying to catch a glimpse of the stars.
The music has already faded back into non-existence. Kara isn’t sure it was ever really playing.
“Kara? What are you doing?”
When Kara turns back, Lena’s half sitting up in bed, propped up on one arm and rubbing her eye with the heel of her hand. A strip of moonlight illuminates her face with silvery light, casting shadows across the curves of her bleary features.
Kara shakes her head. “I don’t—I was…”
“Come back to bed, darling,” Lena says, patting the mattress. “It’s late.”
Sparing one last glance to the stars, Kara walks back over and slips under the sheets, letting Lena tuck them back in and lay a soft kiss on her cheek, thumb grazing her cheekbone.
“There we go,” Lena whispers, snuggling back in close, all warmth and familiarity. “Sleep, sweet girl.”
So Kara does.
Halfway through the next day, she remembers: the song is a lullaby.
She’s sitting on the floor of the bedroom, methodically removing Lena’s shirts from their box and refolding them to fit into the empty drawers of the new dresser. It’s work that Lena has told her she doesn’t need to do, can do herself, but Kara likes it. Tucking each article of clothing into its new home feels like slotting a piece of her heart into place.
Some might say it’s too early for them to move in together. But Lena’s spent almost every night since they’ve been together in Kara’s bed, and it was far too easy to ask her, as they lay facing each other, fingers and legs and heartbeats tangled together in the sheets, if she wanted it to be her home officially too.
Besides, neither of them can bear the coldness of being alone for a second longer than they have to, and Kara’s known since before their first kiss that this was it, the final homecoming, so really, why wait?
As she takes a new shirt from the box—a soft red one—and shakes it out to refold, the memory hits her suddenly. The refrain from last night has been running through her head all day, though she can’t remember more than one line of tune and no words. But now, with a jolt like an electric shock that makes her drop the shirt, she remembers where it’s from.
An old Kryptonian lullaby, one of her favourites from childhood. As soon as she remembers, she can hear it in her mother’s voice, a little rough, but still beautiful, her fingers brushing the hair from Kara’s forehead as she sings. She finishes the song, and Kara tries to blink open heavy eyes, reaching for her mother’s wrist and mumbling again, and Alura laughs and says last time darling. Kara closes her eyes again, clutching the comforter closer to her chin, happy, warm, safe.
When the memory fades, Kara finds herself half-slumped against the dresser, a trembling hand pressed to her mouth. There’s the same shakiness in her bones that she sometimes feels after a long day of being Supergirl, of chasing crisis after crisis until she starts to forget her own name.
She wishes she remembered the words.
“I brought you tea,” says Lena from the doorway. Kara looks up at the sound of her voice. She has a mug in each hand, both printed with little cartoons of Supergirl—a gag gift from Alex a few Christmases back. At the look on Kara’s face, Lena deposits both mugs on the dresser and sinks down to the floor beside Kara, shoving a box aside. “Hey, are you okay? What happened?”
Kara shakes her head, pulling her knees in close to her chest. Lena shifts closer, her hand finding Kara’s and squeezing. “I had this… memory,” Kara says.
“Another one?” asks Lena softly.
A month ago, Kara did something that she never imagined that she would: she revealed herself to the world as Supergirl, combining the many versions of herself into one for the first time since she was thirteen. The transition hasn’t been the easiest. People recognize her on the street now, even in civilian clothes, ask her questions or for her autograph or for help. People talk to her differently and fumble over their words even when she’s doing mundane things, like trying to order coffee while half asleep. For years, Kara Danvers was essentially invisible, and it was often a relief to step back into anonymity after a particularly heavy day of being Supergirl. Now, it’s like she’s stepped into a spotlight.
Lena says that it will die down eventually. That she’ll always be recognized now, but that as time passes, people will stop talking about it as much. Life will settle into something more normal, more manageable. Kara isn’t sure.
One strange thing, however, that has happened since she revealed her identity is the memories. As though reconciling Kara and Supergirl has fixed some deep fracture that’s been sitting inside her mind for years, memories have started to come back. Memories from the early days of her life, memories that she repressed down deep into some forgotten corner to stop them from hurting too much. Memories damaged and worn from years in the phantom zone. Things she sealed away when she realized that landing on earth meant starting a new life, designing a new version of herself.
Usually, they emerge slowly over weeks, new pieces surfacing in her mind as she goes about her day. Sometimes, bits hit her all at once, like the lullaby.
She doesn’t remember what it’s called yet. Or any of the words. But she remembers the sound of her mother’s voice singing it, and the deep, permeating sense of safety that had come with it. The sort of safety she hasn’t truly felt since she watched her planet burst in the rear-view mirror of her pod.
“It was a song this time,” she says, as Lena traces soothing patterns across her palm, her eyes focused closely on Kara’s downturned face. “A lullaby. My mom used to sing to me when I was a kid.” She swallows, placing each word carefully to stop it from wavering. “It was my favourite.”
“My mother used to sing me Celtic lullabies when I was tiny,” says Lena. “Hearing them now still makes me tear up.” She traces a heart on Kara’s palm, then lifts it to her mouth to brush a kiss across her knuckles. “Do you remember what the one your mother sang sounded like?”
“Just a little bit of the tune,” Kara says. She clears her throat and hums it for Lena, her voice catching a little on a few of the notes. “Like that.”
“That’s beautiful,” Lena whispers, like they’re in the presence of something sacred.
“I wish I remembered the words. They had something to do with… stars, I think.” As she says it, she knows it’s correct, and another little piece of memory slots into place. “We had a lot of songs on Krypton about the stars.”
“You’ll remember them. We’ll write them down when you do.”
That’s something they’ve started doing—writing things that Kara remembers down in a little notebook. Sometimes Kara talks and Lena writes for her in small, tidy handwriting, sometimes Kara writes things herself, handwriting becoming messier and more frantic the more words she puts on the page.
The first time Kara started remembering something, was struggling to pull it from the depths of her mind, Lena gently asked if she wanted to contact her parents on Argo to ask about it. Kara said no. She wants to recall these old memories for herself.
And besides, her parents have been almost strangers to her since she left Krypton, the safety and comfort of their presence gone. Seeing them again has never made her feel less like an orphan. The mother in her memory is different from the one she knows is still alive on Argo. The mother who sang her lullabies died in the explosion that destroyed her planet. Kara needs to recover the memories of her on her own.
“Here,” Lena says, reaching up to the top of the dresser and retrieving a mug of tea. She places it in Kara’s hands, gently closing her fingers around it, then reaches back up for the other for herself. “Drink that. It’ll make you feel better. I even put honey in it for you.”
“Thank you,” Kara says, mechanically bringing the cup to her lips. The tea blooms hot in her mouth, the honey sweet and rich on her tongue, and warms her chest from the inside as she swallows it. She sighs, closing her eyes and falling back against the dresser. “Thank you,” she says again, this time with more feeling.
“You’re welcome, darling,” Lena says, leaning in to kiss her on the cheek. She takes a long sip of her tea, then sets it on the ground and picks up the shirt that Kara abandoned. “Why don’t I help you with this? It’s silly that you’re putting my clothes away anyways. We can do it together.”
“That sounds great.” Kara takes another sip of tea, letting its warmth and sweetness sink in, then shifts away from the dresser to help Lena. A laugh bubbles out of her, as she regards the drawer full of Lena’s clothes. “I can’t believe you’re going to live here with me. All the time. Forever.”
Lena finishes folding her red shirt and tucks it into the drawer, shaking her head. “I don’t know, forever might be pushing it.” At the alarmed, slightly wounded look on Kara’s face, she cracks a smile. “I mean, if we have six kids your apartment probably won’t be big enough anymore.”
Kara chokes out a startled, relieved laugh. “You scared me. You’re such an idiot.”
“And you love me,” Lena says, singsong.
And the moment passes on.
On a night clear enough for a few stars to break through the barrier of light pollution that surrounds National City, Kara remembers the first two lines of the lullaby.
Today has been a rough one for Supergirl. She made a mistake. Miscalculated. Lost a life where she could have avoided it. There are many things that she likes more about being Supergirl now that people know who she is, but this is not one of them. This kind of mistake is worse now that people know her name, her life. Now that they can look her in the eyes with recognition, seeing a person and not just a figurehead, when she approaches them with wringing hands to say I’m sorry.
After days like this, sometimes she needs the comfort of another person, needs to go home and sink into Lena’s arms and let her whisper soothing words into her hair and brush tears from her cheeks. Other times, like tonight, she needs to be alone.
She lies on the edge of the roof of her apartment building, her feet dangling off the side. It’s a quiet, empty sort of place where she knows no one will bother her, but still close enough to home for her to hear Lena’s heartbeat as she does chores around the apartment. If she tilts her head back far enough, she can make out a few scattered stars dotting the sky, the brightest ones that made it through. Her eyes fix on a particularly bright one, and she scans the stars around it, trying to make out a constellation. After a moment she finds one—the Big Dipper.
The memory doesn’t crash down on her this time. Instead, as she picks out the constellation, a smile playing at the edge of her lips, the first two lines of the lullaby run through her head in Kryptonese as though she’d never forgotten them.
Sleep my dearest darling
Dream of distant stars…
Kara sits up abruptly.
There’s more. Hovering at the back of her mind, almost in reach, and she stretches as far as she can, trying to pluck the rest of the lyrics from her brain, her eyes screwed shut as she tries not to lose them and…
It’s no use. They’re gone.
Without pausing to think about it, Kara stands up and blasts off.
She flies far. Out over the Pacific, until National City is just a speck of light on the horizon, until the coast is gone altogether, until there’s nothing around her but cold dark ocean, stretching for miles upon miles in every direction. Then she turns and flies up, higher and higher, until the air turns frigid, coating the skin of her suit and her hair with frost. Then she looks to the sky.
And ah. Here, there are stars.
Here, the entire universe is on display, every inch of sky bursting with unobstructed stars, tiny windows into the light of the galaxy. They stretch down to the horizon, weaving together in constellations that have looked down on this planet since its dawn. There are stars in this sky that Kara knew once, from a planet light-year away, that she long since learned to find in this new sky. She reaches up to touch them with the tips of her fingers. The Milky Way haloes the heavens, a bright arch glittering across the sky, replete with more stars than Kara could count in a thousand lifetimes.
It’s as breathtaking as the freezing air.
Under the stars, Kara closes her eyes again, letting them shine on her face, and waits for more of the lullaby to return.
She doesn’t know how long she waits. Maybe a minute. Maybe an hour. No more lyrics come. Eventually, Kara blinks her eyes open again.
The stars are unchanged. Her memories are, too.
But still, she has two lines. Two sweet lines, that she can hear clearly in her mother’s voice.
The rest will come.
When she gets home, Lena meets her at the door. Kara loves to see her treating the apartment like home, comfortable cooking and cleaning and working and just existing there even when Kara isn’t with her. And being there, always, at the end of a long day. Lena whispers hey you, leaning up on her tiptoes for a kiss, but her hands pause on Kara’s shoulders before she can settle into a hug.
“You’re shivering,” she says, frowning. She presses the back of her hand to Kara’s cheek, then withdraws it as if burnt. “Fuck. Kara, you’re freezing. What happened? I thought you didn’t get cold.”
“I—d-don’t,” Kara says, her teeth chattering. “Barely.”
“Get inside,” says Lena, grabbing one of Kara’s still freezing hands and yanking her in. She pushes the door shut behind her with one foot. “I don’t want you to get sick. Take that suit off and put something cozy on, I’ll find some blankets. Then you can tell me what happened.”
“I won’t get sick,” Kara says, through clacking teeth. “I don’t get sick. I have superpowers.”
Lena ignores her, already disappearing in search of blankets. Kara rolls her eyes and goes to the bedroom to find something that Lena will deem appropriately cozy. She pulls on a long-sleeved shirt and some sweatpants, then finds an old MIT hoodie of Lena’s in the back of the closet, worn soft with time, to wear on top. There are plenty of her own hoodies that she could wear—in fact more often than not it’s Lena who steals her hoodies—but tonight she craves the comfort of something of Lena’s to wear. Something that she can imagine Lena wearing throughout the years, curled up asleep in the corners of libraries or drinking scotch on the couch of her old penthouse. She buries her nose in the collar of the sweater and breathes the sweet smell of Lena’s lavender perfume deep into her lungs.
She does feel better when she’s snuggled on the couch, wrapped in at least four blankets with Lena tucked into her side and a mug of hot chocolate in her hands. She hadn’t realized how cold she’d actually been.
After the Phantom Zone, she had willed herself to forget what cold felt like. She thinks she had almost succeeded, until tonight.
“What happened today?” Lena asks, her head resting on Kara’s shoulder, one hand draped protectively over Kara’s stomach, fingers drumming lightly.
Kara considers where to start. There was the fiasco of Supergirl, which on a more practical level, seems like the thing she should be the most pressed to tell Lena about. But then then there were the lyrics that she recovered from the depths of her memory, and the stars, oh the stars. Maybe the Supergirl fiasco can wait.
“I remembered another part of the lullaby,” she begins.
Of all the things in Kara’s life that have changed in the last nine months, the shift to more in her relationship with Lena has been her favourite.
Perhaps it’s incorrect to say a shift to more, because really, Kara’s not sure that they were ever just friends. The more was always there, lingering under the surface, whether they acknowledged it or not. Maybe it would be more accurate to say that now they’ve accepted the more, embraced it even, and that’s the true change. Regardless, it’s the best thing that’s happened in Kara’s life in years. Lena is the best thing.
And despite how much hurt there was in the years when they refused to acknowledge the thing between them, the thing that’s been growing since the first day they met, endlessly ensnaring them in each other’s orbit, Kara thinks they came together at exactly the right time. Any other time, it would have been turbulent, painful even, a struggle to reconcile all the different sides of them into people that would have worked as a couple. Now, it’s easy—not to say that it’s been one hundred perfect effortless, but still, Kara feels like they slipped from friendship to love with no real struggle at all.
It had been quiet. No dramatic confessions of love, bursting out in the height of an emotional yelling match. No drenched, tearful confessions in the rain. No shouting at each other across a crowded airport trying to confess their love before it was too late. Just one of the Friday movie nights (and sleepovers) that had become a ritual of theirs, where they were cuddled together on the couch, and Kara whispered “I love you” into the sweet-smelling skin of Lena’s neck.
They’d said it before, quick love you’s as they parted from lunch dates and as farewell greetings over the phone, but Kara didn’t need to elaborate that she meant it differently this time. She could tell that Lena knew in the way her fingers paused in combing through her hair. There was a moment where Kara didn’t breathe, a fistful of Lena’s shirt clenched in her hand. Then—
“I know,” Lena said softly, resuming the motion, repetitive and soothing, her fingernails grazing Kara’s scalp. There was a hint of a smile in her voice, curving the vowels. “I love you, too. So… so much.”
Kara laughed, breathless, brushing her lips to the delicate skin of Lena’s collarbone.
And that was that.
There was so little real change in the way that they looked at each other, interacted with each other, that it took the rest of their friends almost a week to even notice anything different. Before leaving the tower for a mission, Kara cupped Lena’s cheeks between her palms and kissed her gently, lingering for a moment longer than was maybe polite in public just to feel the soft meld of Lena’s lips between hers. It was only when she pulled away, depositing one more light kiss on the tip of Lena’s nose, that she realized what she had done.
Nia shrieked loudly enough that Kara was genuinely afraid it would shatter her eardrums. Alex yelled, “You asshole!” and punched Kara in the shoulder. Kelly smiled the same knowing smile she’d been directing at them for months, and J’onn congratulated them both heartily, and Brainy teared up and then started babbling about how the dust concentration in the room must have increased and irritated his eyes.
And by nearly all respects, the last three months have been wonderful.
Kara loves every second that she spends with Lena, especially now that the drama and pain of their relationship has faded into the past, errors rectified, hurts forgiven. Being with Lena isn’t like any other romantic relationship she’s been in—they don’t get along all the time, of course, but Kara never finds herself wondering when their next fight will be or walking lightly to avoid setting Lena off. Loving Lena is as easy as breathing.
Loving Lena is this: breakfasts where Lena pushes her eggs around on her plate, grumpy and bed-headed and unpolished, and whines about how much she wants to go back to sleep and not bother with work today. It’s Kara forcing her to drink a full glass of orange juice and actually eat something other than the normal ungodly amount of coffee that she drinks and laughing when Lena makes faces.
“It’s only because I love you,” Lena says, as she gets up to pour herself another cup of coffee. “Otherwise, I would have kicked you out months ago.
“This was my apartment first!” Kara protests.
“Doesn’t mean I couldn’t get you evicted anyways.” Lena leans back against the counter, holding her steaming mug just below her mouth, and smiles mischievously. Her ankles are crossed, accentuating the smooth curves of her legs, a soft bit of her thigh visible through the parted sides of her silk robe. At the peak of where the robe parts, there’s a freckle that Kara has kissed more than once. “After all darling, I am a Luthor.”
Loving Lena is brushing their teeth side-by-side over the sink, and Kara smacking Lena on the ass as she leaves the bathroom, cackling at the indignant hey! that follows her.
It’s also this: slow-dancing in the living room, overhead lights turned off so the room is filled only with the quiet light of their various scattered lamps. It’s soft music playing from the record player Lena bought for Kara’s Earth birthday as they circle the room, giggling and twirling each other and eventually ending up pressed so close together in each other’s arms that their foreheads touch, just swaying.
It’s evenings where they lie on the carpet, hands clasped together between them and talking about anything, everything, funny jokes they’ve heard or interesting facts about the creation of the universe or secrets pushed so deep down they’ve never been allowed to surface before. It’s nights where Kara presses Lena into the sheets and learns the taste of her skin and the way her body moves and the things that make her sigh, then learns the feeling of Lena’s fingers and lips and teeth and tongue in turn. It’s fingers laced together on pillows and lips kissing away tears and arms around her waist through long nights, keeping her safe.
It’s good. Beyond anything else, it’s good.
“I swear, my new assistant is going to put me in an early grave,” Lena groans.
Over the past few months, Lena has been working harder than Kara has ever seen her work to put together the Lena Luthor Foundation, and Kara’s never felt more pride in another person. Some nights, Lena comes home victorious, pencils still tucked behind her ears and hair starting to fall out of her bun, flushed and talking a mile a minute and spinning Kara around the kitchen as she laughs. Other nights, she comes home and collapses onto the couch and doesn’t move for several hours or until Kara manages to coax her to eat dinner.
Tonight is one of the latter, and Lena is lying on the couch with her legs draped over Kara’s lap, massaging her temples. There’s a movie playing quietly on the TV that neither of them are really paying attention to, and empty Chinese take-out boxes scattered on the table.
“That incompetent?” Kara asks, giving Lena’s thigh a sympathetic squeeze.
“Not even,” says Lena. “No, he’s good at what he does and that’s why I hired him, but oh my god that kid never shuts up. He asks so many questions and he never stops bouncing around and yeah, he puts as much effort as I could possibly ask of him into every task, and I am forever grateful for that, but he just has this boundless energy all the time, and I don’t know how much more of it I can—Kara?”
Her question comes because Kara has gently pushed Lena’s legs off her lap and walked to the window, her feet carrying her without really asking permission. She stares down at the street below, watching cars the size of toys rattle past, curtain pulled aside in her hand. Then she turns her face upwards. Tonight is a purple sort of night, where the sky seems to hang low enough to touch the tops of the buildings, haze blocking out the few straggler stars that sometimes make it through.
“Kara?” Lena asks again.
Kara turns. Lena’s head peeks up over the back of the couch, brows furrowed in concern.
“Boundless,” says Kara.
Boundless. The word in Lena’s voice unlatched something in her brain, opened some little box that she hadn’t been able to find. Today, she doesn’t remember like an electric shock or like a gentle caress. She remembers like something that grows, bigger and bigger, expanding inside her chest. She remembers the next lyrics of the lullaby like a plant pushing up from the ground.
Sleep my dearest darling
Dream of distant stars
And think of how their boundless light
Has travelled from afar
She doesn’t realize that she’s murmured the lyrics out loud until she notices the curious roundness of Lena’s eyes.
“You remembered more.”
Kara nods. “Boundless,” she whispers.
Somewhere in the distant past, before years she doesn’t quite know how to count, her mother sang those lyrics to her. And Kara had complied, closing her eyes and vowing to dream of the stars. She had, many nights. Dreamed of what it must be like to travel among them and visit distant planets and meet strange people.
The reality wasn’t as sweet as her dreams, but there have been good parts. Better than she could have imagined.
“Is that the whole lullaby?” asks Lena, getting up and coming over to take Kara’s hands. She pulls Kara gently back towards the couch, guiding her to sit down again.
“No,” Kara says. “There was another verse. Sang to the same tune. I don’t… I don’t remember how it went.”
“You will.” Lena’s voice is assuring, and it’s a balm over the rawness of Kara’s memory. “Do you want to write it down?”
Kara does. Lena finds the notebook, and Kara scribbles in the lines in handwriting that looks almost like her mother’s once did, then sits back and stares at the letters like she’s waiting for them to float off the page. She stares until Lena shuts the notebook, and gently takes the pencil from her hand.
“Do you want to watch a different movie?” Lena says. “We missed most of this one anyways. But we could watch something nice to fall asleep to?”
“That sounds good,” Kara says, finally looking up at Lena’s face. Lena smiles.
So, that’s what they do. They pick The Sound of Music, and true to her word, Lena falls asleep halfway through, when they’re still in the nice part of the movie that’s all Julie Andrews traipsing around the Austrian hills with the von Trapp children dressed in curtains. Kara carries her to bed before the Nazis can come.
“You’re the strongest person I know,” Lena mumbles, half-slurred, as Kara deposits her on the bed. She has to manually unhook Lena’s arms from around her neck.
“I am Supergirl. I would be concerned if I couldn’t carry you to bed.”
Lena turns her head into the pillow, rubbing her face against the cotton. Her words run together. “Mm. S’not what I mean. I mean… you’ve survived so much more than I think I ever could. And it could have turned you into someone awful. Might have done that to me. But you’re so good. You’re the most wonderful, beautiful person I’ve ever met. The strongest person I know.”
Kara snuggles into the bed beside her, draping an arm around Lena’s waist and letting her eyes flutter shut as Lena’s fingers caress the side of her face. “I don’t feel that way,” she breathes, because the space between them is so small, and she doesn’t want the world to overhear. “Sometimes I feel like the weakest person alive. Like I’m so much smaller than I should be. Like… like a pebble could crush me, and I would let it.”
Lena tucks her head onto Kara’s shoulder, her breath warm on Kara’s neck, and lets her lips brush the softest baby skin under the curve of her jaw. When she speaks, it travels through Kara’s entire body, buzzing over her skin.
“That’s alright. When you feel like that, I’ll be strong for you.”
Kara’s worst nightmares are of nothing.
There are many iterations of her nightmares. Sometimes she watches Krypton explode again, bursting like a grape pinched between someone’s fingers. Sometimes she’s back in the phantom zone, so cold that she can no longer feel. Sometimes she makes a mistake as Supergirl that leads to the loss of someone she loves, Lena or Alex or Esme or Nia or any number of an ever-rotating roster of faces.
But the nightmares that rattle her the most deeply, that worm their way under her skin until she can’t shake them off, are the nightmares about nothing. Not in the sense that her nightmares hold nothing significant, but in the sense that she dreams about nothing.
Kara dreams of the void. An eternal vacuum, empty and all-consuming and so silent it presses in on her ears, so dark that it presses in on her eyeballs. So nothing that it compresses her brain from all sides until all she wants to do is scream, but the vacuum eats her voice.
In the void, there is no happiness. There is no sadness either. There isn’t anything.
Minutes pass like years, and years pass like minutes. There is no up, and there is no down. There is no one else. There is barely Kara.
When Kara wakes from these dreams, there’s always a moment where she’s paralyzed. She can’t breathe. She can’t move even the smallest of her toes. Trapped and unable to call out for help. Usually, this only lasts for a few seconds. But Kara’s always afraid that this will be the time that it doesn’t end.
It does end, though. It always ends. And then Kara is left breathless in the warm dimness of their bedroom, clutching her pillow like a lifeline. There’s always a bit of the void leftover in her chest, and it burns around the edges.
Tonight, when Kara wakes from one of these nightmares, her heart is pounding like it’s trying to leave her body. It takes more effort than she uses in the most Herculean of Supergirl tasks to get even her pinky to twitch, but she does, and then she’s free, gasping and curling in on herself like a leaf.
She never wakes Lena after a dream like this. She just lies quietly on her side, arms wrapped around her pillow, and lets tears slip down her cheeks and soak into the sheets.
She’s always been the type to cry quietly.
She never wakes Lena, but Lena always wakes up anyway, no matter how still Kara lies or how quietly she shakes. Lena wakes up, and she pulls Kara into her arms, and she holds her as tightly as she can, rubbing Kara’s back or brushing fingers through her hair or whispering soothing words into her skin. And Kara clings to her, breath hitch-hitching, and tries to memorize how solid she is, how warm, how alive.
Lena is not nothing. Lena is here, alive and beautiful and breathing. Her presence fills the leftover void, sews the edges back together.
“Sweetheart,” Lena whispers, pressing gentle kisses into her hairline. “Sweet Kara. You’re safe. You’re alive. You’re here. Everything is going to be alright.”
And because this is Lena, and they’ve promised never to lie to each other again, Kara believes her.
Eventually, Kara’s breathing slows down, and she lays her head against Lena’s shoulder and inhales cool air deep into her lungs, eyes fluttering shut in exhaustion. They’re tangled together, warm under the sheets, and Lena rests her cheek on the top of Kara’s head.
“Can you fall back asleep?”
Kara shakes her head, eyes still closed. “I don’t think so. Not yet.”
“Do you want to get up then? We could go get some water or something, and then sit up and talk for a while? Or just watch something mindless? Or I could read you something.”
“You have work in the morning.”
“I have you right now.”
Kara laughs a little. It comes out scratchy, like her throat is unfamiliar with the form. “Yeah, okay. I’d like that.”
Lena makes the tea her favourite way, with lots of milk and a generous spoonful of honey, and they settle down on the couch with all the blankets they own. There are nights like this for both of them, where they wake at some timeless hour of the night from dreams that shake something deep inside them. Sometimes it’s Lena who wakes up gasping, and Kara kisses her tears away, holds her until she knows she’s safe. They’ve never said it out loud, but Kara thinks part of the reason they’ve barely slept apart since before they were technically together—why Lena had practically moved in before they’d even had their first kiss—is because they sleep better together.
And even when they don’t, it’s being there to hold each other that makes all the difference.
At the bottom of Kara’s bookshelf, she keeps some of her favourite books from her first years on earth. Children’s books mostly, things Eliza read to her when English was still unfamiliar to her ears. Books with simple language and simple plots and characters who got happy endings. The books she was particularly fond of are tattered now, spines cracked and pages worn soft around the edges, but on nights like tonight, sometimes she still pulls them out to reread.
Tonight, she lies her head down on Lena’s lap, both hands wrapped around her mug of tea, and closes her eyes as Lena opens The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.
It’s a story that Kara’s always loved. She loved it especially in the early years, this tale of children who fell into a world completely different than their own and made it their home.
The apartment is quiet at this time of night, and the things that she normally tunes out make more noise than usual—dripping taps, the buzzing of the fridge, the rattling of pipes, the tick tick tick of the clock. Lena clears her throat and begins.
“Chapter one—Lucy looks into a wardrobe…”
One of Kara’s favourite things about Midvale is the stars.
They’re not as beautiful here as they are in the middle of the ocean, of course, where there’s no one around for miles upon miles in any direction, but they’re beautiful all the same. Much more so than the few nomads in the National City sky. The light emitting from the town of Midvale is humbler than that of National City, and it doesn’t pollute the heavens in the same way. Kara always spends a lot of time watching the stars whenever she’s back home.
She and Lena have been planning this weekend getaway for weeks now, and it was Lena who suggested they go back to Midvale. She claimed it was because she wanted to see Eliza again and get her famous lasagna recipe, though Kara knows that it was actually for her sake—the lasagna recipe could easily have been obtained by email. Kara hasn’t been back to Midvale since Alex and Kelly’s wedding, and she knows that Lena thinks she needs the familiarity of her first home on Earth right now. Not that Lena has said anything of the sort, but Kara can tell.
And she was probably right. Being back in Midvale quiets something in her brain. Kara likes being able to walk around the town the way she can’t really in National City. She likes going down to the beach and feeling the cool sand squish between her toes and looking out over the Pacific. She likes being close to Eliza, getting to sit in the kitchen while she makes food and sneaking snacks from the cutting board. Most of all, she likes seeing Lena at home in the house where she grew up—well, spent her teenage years, anyways—reading with her feet on the coffee table or sitting on the porch swing or chatting easily with Eliza. Seeing Lena in the bed where she slept the first night she came to Earth, dark hair splayed soft against the pillow, unlocks something warm in her chest.
“I want to go stargazing tonight,” Kara says, sitting down on the porch swing, where Lena is currently curled up with a book.
Lena sets the book down, open, over her lap. “That sounds nice. Here?”
Kara shakes her head. “I was thinking we could go down to the beach. Bring a few blankets, maybe. Sometime late, after the sun is really gone.”
“Okay,” says Lena. “That’ll be good. We can bring binoculars, too. I think the moon is almost full.”
At eleven minutes to midnight, they set down to the beach, blankets packed into a bag and binoculars slung around Lena’s neck. Despite the late hour, there’s still a hint of sunshine warmness to the air, energy that Kara can feel in her bloodstream. The night breeze is cool against her skin, the chorus of crickets filling the quiet air. They settle their blanket in the middle of the beach, on a smooth patch of sand, and lie down with their feet to the ocean. Waves break gently against the shore.
They picked a good night. The stars are beautiful.
Early on in her days on earth, Kara took to memorizing the constellations in this new sky. It hurt that the sky was different here, in a way that squeezed and tugged at her heart like putty. From Krypton, the sun that’s most important here on Earth—the one that makes the world go around and the seasons change and life itself possible—was just another star in the milky way.
“Do you know how fast light travels?” Kara says.
“Two hundred and ninety-nine million, seven hundred and ninety-two thousand, four hundred and fifty-eight meters per second.”
Kara snorts, turning her head to look at Lena. “You could just say three hundred million meters per second. That would be faster.”
“It would also be less accurate.”
“Well anyways, my point is. That sounds really fast, and it is—it’s the speed limit of the entire universe. But it’s also not. In the grand scheme of the universe, even light takes eons to get anywhere. It takes eight minutes for light to get from the sun to Earth. It takes two thousand years for light to get from Rao to here.”
“It’s very far away,” Lena says quietly.
Kara has her arms crossed over her chest, her hands clasped together above her heart as she stares into the depths of the heavens. “The light that left Rao when Krypton exploded, when I was child even, will take almost another two thousand years to reach here,” she whispers. “And I’ve never been able to stop thinking about how, if I could just see far enough, I could see Krypton, still whole. The memory of its light is still whole. If the universe is infinite, Krypton will always be whole.”
“Like an imprint,” says Lena. “A shadow.”
Lena is used to hearing her talk about Krypton. Kara didn’t used to talk about it much—it hurt too intensely—but ever since she revealed her identity, she’s found herself wanting to talk about it more. Like all the thoughts that she’s shied away from in the eighteen years she’s been on this planet have finally surfaced and want out. So, Kara talks about Krypton. She tells Lena about the things she misses and the things she does not, about people she loved and places that were beautiful and songs that were popular and any and every memory that surfaces as she starts to let them. She tells Lena about the constellations on Krypton, about how they told different stories than the ones on Earth. Some of the stars were the same, yes, but they were arranged into different formations, in different parts of the sky. She tells Lena all about them, the stories behind them, traces their patterns on Lena’s skin and remembers them in her freckles.
And Lena, perfect Lena, gives Kara the best gift that anyone could: she listens.
More than that, she hears, like only someone who loves both knowledge and Kara above anything else could. She listens and asks questions and remembers fine details and absorbs it all, prods Kara at odd hours of the night to ask her about some connection that she’s made between two topics that Kara’s been rambling about. She never makes Kara feel as though she talks about it too much, or like she doesn’t have time for it. If she’s busy, she’ll kiss Kara on the cheek and say, “Tell me about it when I’m done with this? I want to be able to really listen.”
Tonight, looking up at the stars, Kara feels Krypton in her bones. She has to talk about it. And she knows without a doubt that Lena will listen.
“People don’t really get what losing a planet is like,” she says, watching a shooting star flicker across the sky. It’s gone in a moment, and Kara wishes she could rewind, watch it go by over and over again.
“No, I don’t imagine that they would,” Lena says. “That kind of loss… I don’t think you’d be able to understand unless you had experienced it. I know I don’t, really.”
“But you don’t try too hard to guess. You let me share it with you. Other people try to figure out what it would be like, and they do it to your face. Especially the strangers. The people who think I’m like some sort of television character. They like to speculate about it, and they don’t have any shame about doing it right in front of me.”
That’s been perhaps one of the worst parts of publicly being Supergirl—people who want to hear all about the girl from Krypton, who find her when she’s trying to live her life and demand answers from her for their own entertainment value. And yes, talking about Krypton is something that she finds she wants, needs to do now, but it’s hard. It’s vulnerable. Sometimes, it hurts so much that she thinks she’s dying. It’s something that she has to do somewhere safe, with someone she trusts.
“They’re always asking about the technology on Krypton, for some reason,” Kara says. “About how much more technologically advanced we were on Krypton, and how I must miss all the technological advancements I lost when I came to Earth, but the truth is… I don’t miss Krypton’s technology. I’ve never missed it in more than an oh that would have been convenient to have right now sort of way. I miss the culture. People never ask about the culture.”
“People forget where the real heart of humanity lies, I think,” Lena says.
Kara closes her eyes, and the stars continue on the back of her eyelids. “I miss the art. I’ve never been able to find anything even close to Kryptonian art on Earth. I miss the dances. The ones we did at parties and ceremonies and weddings and just for fun because we were happy. I miss the music.” She presses her hands, still clasped together, to her mouth, “Rao, I miss the music. And I can’t help thinking about all the songs that are just… lost forever. Sure, some of them will be remembered on Argo, but Argo is just one small city out of an entire planet, and there is so much music and so much culture that’s just… gone forever. I would remember it if I could, but I never learned them all, how could I possibly have done that, and I’m just one person, I’m just me…”
Lena reaches over and unclasps her hands, and pulls one hand into her own. She brings it to her lips and kisses the back of it, and then sets their intertwined hands down on her stomach so Kara can feel the rise and fall of her breath. “You’re just you,” she whispers. “And whatever you remember is enough.”
“I wish I remembered more. I wish I remembered everything.”
“I know you do, darling. But you’re not a database. You’re a person.”
“I know, I just…” Kara sighs, and Lena squeezes her hand. “Sometimes I find it hard to justify. That I have this life, here on Earth, that I love so much, but I had to lose everything on Krypton to get it. I go in circles, and I think... I think I might be a bad person, because... I don’t know if I would change it if I could. I miss so much about Krypton, but I love so much about my life here, my family and my work and you, and I can’t imagine what my life on Krypton would have possibly been like…” Her voice is starting to get clogged in her throat, the slight burn of tears stinging the back of her eyes, and she stares stubbornly up at the stars, refusing to let them fall. “It wouldn’t have been this, though, and I can’t bear the thought of losing this. I just… don’t know how to justify having a life that I love here on earth when it took the destruction of a planet to bring me to it.”
Kara still remembers Krypton exploding. That was the one memory she never quite managed to forget—she’s seen it again in too many dreams for the burn of the image to fully fade from her retinas. She remembers the months before, when neither day nor night remained. Smog smothering the globe and blocking out the sun’s tender rays, trapping in the city light until the air was the colour of an ember. The air a warm blanket wrapped around your head, pressing deep into your nostrils, your lungs. Days, hours, seasons, meaning nothing anymore, creeping by in a haze.
So it remained until the moment her pod took off, and Kara watched her home burst from the inside out behind her. No sound came to meet her through the cold, vast expanse of space. It felt like a glitch in reality; there was no way her entire planet was gone, when she could still walk every hallway of her home in her mind. She watched the world go up in flames and understood what she was seeing and didn’t believe it for a second. The death of a planet. Of a thousand civilizations. Of so many cultures.
“Oh, sweetheart,” whispers Lena. Kara can hear the tears in her voice, and it makes the burn behind her own eyes fiercer. Lena wraps Kara’s hand in both of hers and holds it to her heart. “Sweet Kara. If you had gotten to grow up on Krypton, you would have made a life you loved there and couldn’t ever imagine changing. Here, despite everything that’s been thrown at you, you’ve made a life and found a family that you love. You’re not a bad person for finding home where you are, and not wishing that you could change what you have. And either way, darling, you don’t have the ability to sacrifice the life you’ve made to change the past. You don’t have to know what you would do if you did. You’re allowed to love your life here and not feel guilty about it. Please don’t feel guilty about the life that you’ve made.”
Kara squeezes her eyes shut, lets the tears that have gathered in her eyes slip quietly down her temples and disappear into her hair. She feels Lena’s thumb against her skin, gently brushing them away.
“You made a life, darling,” Lena whispers. “You made a home. Shouldn’t that be worth something? It’s not about what you lost. It’s about what you made.”
“I don’t know what I would do without you,” Kara says, trying to speak around the wavering in her voice. She hates it when it does that. Makes her sound unsteady, betrays what she’s feeling. “I don’t know how I went so long without you knowing who I was. I’m sorry for that.”
“Please don’t be sorry, darling, I forgave you a long time ago. I just… I didn’t understand why back then. That was part of where all the hurt came from. I couldn’t understand why you felt that you couldn’t trust me enough to share your identity with me when we were so close otherwise. But I know now that it was never about trust.”
Kara gives a little laugh, a sound that has a sob stuck somewhere in it. “It’s funny,” she says. “For a long time, one of the things I liked about our relationship was that to you, I was just Kara Danvers. To you, I was just your best friend, just another person, not a superpowered alien. Not Supergirl. I think… I forgot there was a third option.”
“A third option?” Lena asks.
“Kara Zor-El,” Kara whispers. “I thought… for a long time, I thought Kara Zor-El and Supergirl were one and the same. That when I was being Supergirl, I was being her. But Supergirl is a hero. She’s a figurehead. She’s a face and a suit and a solar powered battery that fights everything evil. Kara Zor-El is just a girl from Krypton. She’s a girl from a dead planet, she’s… who I was before.” For the first time in a lifetime, she turns her head to look at Lena, and they’re almost nose to nose. Kara can see her own reflection in Lena’s eyes. “I didn’t realize what I was missing by not sharing her with you. I thought Kara Danvers was enough.”
“But she’s not.”
“No, she’s not. Because she’s not all I am. Supergirl isn’t all I am. It’s confusing, you know. Having all these… different versions of yourself to fall back on. It’s too easy sometimes to lean on one of them when one of the others is hard. I thought… I thought that it would be easier if, to you, I was just one thing. That I was just me, without all the extra frills. I forgot—at some point I forgot that Krypton was me, too. Kara Zor-El, as well as Kara Danvers.”
“They’re all you,” says Lena, freeing one hand to lay it on Kara’s cheek. “Separately, and all at once. And I’m so… so grateful that I get to know all of them. All the parts of you.”
“You could have someone easier, you know,” says Kara. She doesn’t say it like it’s a truth that she’s afraid Lena will one day realize. In fact, she’s certain it’s something Lena’s always known. She says the way it is: a simple fact. “Someone without all of… this. This baggage. Someone less broken.”
“I don’t want easy.” Lena tilts her head forward so their foreheads are touching, her thumb grazing over Kara’s eyebrow. “I don’t need whole. I just need you. And everything that comes with you. I’m not exactly easy either, darling. But we can be difficult together. And I think that’s most important.”
“I think so too,” Kara whispers.
“I love you, you know that? More than anyone that I’ve ever met. There isn’t a bit of you that I would trade. No matter what.”
“I love you too. So much that I don’t know where to put it all sometimes.”
They stay there like that for a long time. Not quite kissing or holding each other, but lying on their blanket in the sand, waves breaking at their feet, breathing in the same air. The night sky turns slowly above them. A breeze whispers through the trees. The crickets sing.
When Kara turns to look back at the sky, she knows the final verse of the lullaby.
She doesn’t remember it like anything this time. She just knows. Like she’s known all along and been waiting for the right time to let herself see it. Her cheeks are raw, and Lena is drifting off beside her, and as she stares up at the stars, cold and distant, she knows the final verse to the lullaby. The breeze hums it, the crickets know the words.
In your dreams, dear darling
Count each shining sun
And know my love for you will last
Beyond the furthest one.
When Kara gets home from work on Tuesday, there’s a piano in her living room.
This is odd because she and Lena have never owned a piano before, and Kara stares at it as she drops her bag on the floor and slips off her shoes. It sits innocuously against one wall, no suggestion as to why or how it got to be there in sight. The clock is sitting on top of it, as well as several piles of books that were on the table that used to be there. Kara walks over to get a better look and runs her fingers across the keys, perplexed.
Lena must have gotten it, there’s no other explanation. And from the piano itself, Kara suspects it was meant as a gift for her. Had Lena been buying a piano for herself, she would have gotten something fancy, something expensive. This piano looks like it could have been sitting in this room for years—in fact the only indication that it hasn’t always been there is the fact that the lid is clean of dust. It’s an upright, not a grand (not that a grand would fit in here anyway), and it looks second-hand. Or maybe third-hand, even. Inherited from someone’s grandfather. The polish is scratched off the wood in places, the keys a little battered around the edges. When Kara presses a key down, cautiously, there’s a characteristic twang to the sound.
“There’s a piano in the living room,” she says, when Lena gets home a few hours later.
“There is,” says Lena, walking over to where Kara’s stirring a pot of soup and wrapping her arms around her waist from behind, pressing a kiss to her cheek.
“How did it get there?”
“Well, it didn’t fit in the elevator, so the movers had to bring it up the stairs. But they said that it wasn’t too heavy.”
“Ha ha,” Kara deadpans, setting down her spoon and turning to face Lena, who bites her lip like she’s holding back laughter, her arms still looped around Kara’s waist. “I mean why is there a piano in our living room?”
“It’s a gift,” Lena says. She boops Kara on the nose. “For you.”
“Lena, neither of us know how to play the piano.”
“I know. But Nia does.”
Lena starts shifting her weight between feet, turning Kara so they’re doing an odd sort of dance around the kitchen. “I was thinking about how you like to write the things you remember from Krypton down in your notebook. But then with the lullaby, the lyrics are the only part we have written down, even though there’s music that goes with them. And I thought you might like to have the music written down, too. So, I talked to Nia, and she agreed to help—she plays the piano, and she thinks she should be able to transcribe the piece. Only if you want to, though.”
The dance stops. Kara says, “Oh.”
“Yeah,” says Lena. “I just thought… there was a part missing if you didn’t have the music, you know? Especially now that you remember the whole thing. Everything else we’ve written down, but the melody was the first thing you remembered. I thought you might like to have it. On paper.”
Kara doesn’t trust herself to take another step. Or to speak, really. Lena seems to recognize the emotion rising in her limbs, and gently slides her hand down to intertwine with Kara’s, abandoning the soup to lead her to the couch.
“Did you tell Nia? About the lullaby?” Kara asks as Lena sits down beside her, pulling Kara’s hand into her lap.
Lena shakes her head. “I told her that there was a song that I thought you might like to have a copy of that we couldn’t find an existing arrangement of anywhere. Not exactly a lie, but… I hope that wasn’t overstepping? I know it’s something that’s very personal to you, so I didn’t feel like I had the right to tell Nia everything, but I also wanted it to be a bit of a surprise.”
“No,” Kara says, watching as Lena fiddles with their interlaced hands, folding and unfolding Kara’s index finger. “No, that’s… I’m glad you didn’t tell her about the lullaby. I don’t think I would mind her knowing, but I think… I think I would want to tell her about it myself. But Lena—you bought a whole piano? Just for that?”
Lena flips their hands over and starts tracing an idle pattern on the back of Kara’s. She draws something that feels like a heart, then something that feels like a star. “I thought that maybe… you might like to learn how to play. Afterwards. I know how much you love music.”
It’s true—Kara does love music. She has always been the type to sing wherever she is, in the shower and while she does the dishes, when she’s alone and when she’s with other people. She hums while she waits in the elevator and whistles while she walks down the street and makes up little songs to go along with menial tasks that she has to do at work. If Lena is having a hard day, sometimes she sings to cheer her up. There’s usually music playing somewhere in the background if Kara is nearby.
The first few years that she was on Earth, Kara lost music. She didn’t sing anymore, and if Alex started playing music she got up and turned it off, much to Alex’s irritation. The music on Earth was so different than that on Krypton, it felt like a betrayal to participate in it. In those years, she convinced herself that she didn’t like music anymore, unable to admit that it caused her too much pain to listen to.
Music came back gradually. She still remembers the first time Alex ever heard her sing, trying to call back and forth with a bird they found in the forest. She remembers the awe in Alex’s face.
Being able to play the piano would be nice, actually. Even if she never got very good. She would be able to pluck out chords to go along with the tunes that she likes to make up, and play accompaniments for some of her favourite songs, and there’s something about the idea of being able to make music that just fits.
“Maybe I would like to,” says Kara.
“If you did,’ says Lena, kissing the side of her hand, “I would love to hear you play.”
Nia comes over to help with the music on the weekend, and Kara tells her the whole story from start to finish, the moments that each piece of the lullaby fell into place. The whole time she talks, Nia sits quietly on the couch and listens, her shoulder resting against Lena’s as Kara paces. When Kara finishes, Nia stands up and wraps her in a tight hug and doesn’t let go for almost a minute, her head buried in Kara’s shoulder. Kara can feel Nia’s ribs shaking as she holds her, and over her shoulder Lena gives her a small smile, a little sad.
Sometimes, Kara forgets that Nia is part alien too.
Together, they assemble the pieces of the lullaby. Squished beside each other on the piano bench, shoulders pressed tight together. Kara sings a few notes, and Nia picks them out on the keyboard and then adds them to a sheet of paper organized into staff lines. Lena hovers nearby, always trying to be as helpful as she can—Kara can tell that she’s tried to teach herself some music theory for this, in the way that Nia will scribble a note down on the page and Lena will proudly say something like that’s an F! or that’s an eighth note! It makes it almost irresistible to kiss her every time she comes to peek over Kara’s shoulder.
And slowly, the lullaby comes together. It’s strange to see it written in the sort of notation that Nia uses—they had a different sort of notation on Krypton. Seeing music from her childhood written in an Earth style should feel wrong, blasphemous, somehow—perhaps her ancestors are shaking their fists down at her—but it doesn’t. Instead, it feels like Kara, created in one place and written to completion in the style of another.
With Nia’s and Lena’s help, she makes the lullaby a new home, in the way that she has made Earth hers.
Nia writes the lullaby out a second time with chord progressions, and a third time for good luck and safekeeping. She promises that if Kara ever wants to try and write a full accompaniment to go with the lullaby, she can try and help, although writing music more complicated than chord progressions is not exactly her forte. She even found a way to create a professional-looking digital copy that she printed for them, though Kara prefers the one written in the smudgy prickly letters of Nia’s handwriting. That’s the one that’s tucked safely away in her notebook.
“I’m really, really glad I was able to help you with this,” Nia says on the night they finish the last copy of the lullaby. She leans to give Kara a peck on the cheek. “And I’m really glad that you were able to trust me.”
“Thank you, Nia,” Kara says. “Really, truly, thank you. I don’t think I can… I don’t think I can really appropriately express how much it means to me, but… thank you.”
“Always,” says Nia, scrunching her nose as she smiles. “You’re welcome.” She eyes the way that Kara is sitting at the piano bench, idly trying to pick out the simplest of the chords that Nia used for the lullaby, and adds, “You know, I used to teach piano to some of the kids in my neighbourhood when I was a teenager. It’s been a few years, so I might be a little rusty, but if you ever wanted to learn…”
Kara smiles. “I would really like that.”
After Nia leaves, Kara sits alone on the piano bench, trying to pick out a few of the simplest chords that Nia used in arranging her lullaby. C-major, she’s pleased to realize she remembers correctly, and a couple of its chord progressions. As she plays them in a slightly stumbling loop, Lena slides onto the bench beside her. Kara plays the three chords over and over, letting them build together into a ringing mass of sound that fills the apartment, bouncing from the walls and the ceilings and encompassing them in its field. Then, abruptly, she flips her hand over and leans her whole arm on the keyboard, interrupting the harmonic progression with a discordant clangour. Then she wraps her arms around Lena’s waist and buries her face in her shoulder.
Rain patters against the windows of the apartment, beads of water dripping steadily down the cool glass. Low, rumbly clouds cast a heavy hush over the city, and it seeps in the cracks as the echoes of Kara’s chords fade. A small lamp lights the piano, one Lena bought specifically for this purpose, and its light shrouds them like the warm glow of a spotlight. From the top of a pile of books, the clock ticks. Lena runs her hand up and down Kara’s back and murmurs, “Hi darling.”
“Have I ever told you that you’re the best girlfriend ever?” Kara says, muffled into Lena’s neck, inhaling the clean scent of lavender and home.
“You might have once or twice. But I could afford to hear it again.”
Kara pulls away to look her in the face. “I mean it. Thank you, so much, for making this happen. I love you, I love you, I love you.”
Lena smiles, tucking a piece of hair behind Kara’s ear. “There isn’t much I wouldn’t make happen for you. I’m just glad that this worked out.”
“It’s perfect. Everything about it is just… perfect.” Kara runs her fingers lightly over the piano keys again, not pressing down hard enough to make a sound, as Lena’s arm falls to loop around her waist. “Maybe you should learn to play the piano too, now that we have one. Nia could teach us both. We could do it together.”
Lena chuckles. “I don’t know about that. I’m not exactly, uh, musically talented. Lillian tried to put me in piano lessons once as a kid, and I hated it. I whined so much that my teacher refused to teach me anymore. Lillian was not impressed.”
“You could always try again now. Maybe you’d like it this time around. It’s a skill as well as talent, Nia says it’s half math. And you love math.”
“That’s true.” Lena drops her head onto Kara’s shoulder, mirrors the motion of her hand grazing the keyboard. “Maybe I’ll try.”
“The lullaby is done now,” says Kara with a sigh, and saying it settles something that’s been rattling around in her ribs since it all began. The lullaby is complete. The memory is intact. Every rock turned over, every piece of the puzzle slotted in where it belongs, every star in the sky in its place. “I feel like I can rest now.”
Lena kisses her temple, arm loose around Kara’s waist. “Then rest, love.”
There’s a restlessness in Kara’s bones.
She was meant to be asleep hours ago, but it’s one of those nights where sleep refuses to take her. Hours tick past, and Kara tosses and turns and tries to find a comfortable way to lie down that will allow her to drift off, but none exists. Eventually, she flips onto her back and stares up at the ceiling, watching faint light shift as cars pass by on the street. She’s grown to know this kind of night intimately over the years. There will be no sleep tonight.
Determined not to disturb Lena, Kara pushes back the covers and slips out of bed, creeping across to the window on tiptoes. She tugs back a corner of the curtain to peer out into the night. The sky is clear, a deep navy, so far away that Kara could keep flying forever and never reach it. If she was far enough away from the city, the stars would be stunning.
Every so often, she gets this restlessness. It’s been a more common phenomenon since she revealed her identity, but it happened sometimes before, too. She feels like there’s something she’s forgetting, something she’s trying to find. Something about Krypton, always something about Krypton. She’s gone out searching for it on many occasions, flown out to the Fortress of Solitude and looked through every artifact, flown as high as she can into the sky to try and find Rao and Krypton by extension, searched for lost traces of Kryptonite. She’s always come home unsatisfied, the restlessness unresolved, pushed back for another night.
Tonight would be a good night to go out to look at the stars. To fly out into the middle of the pacific and float on her back in the air and watch the world turn until exhaustion overtook her again. Yes, that sounds like the best idea. She’ll come back when she starts to see light on the horizon, and Lena will never be any the wiser. Kara lets the curtain fall and starts towards the door.
“Where are you going?”
Crap. So much for not waking Lena.
Kara turns. Lena is sitting up in bed, frowning like she already knows the answer to her question. How long was Lena watching her look out the window? Had she even been asleep when Kara got up?
“Couldn’t sleep,” Kara says. “I’m going out to look at the stars for a bit. I won’t be gone too long. Go back to sleep, it’s fine.”
Lena’s mouth tilts. She pats the bed beside her. “Come sit with me for a minute?”
Kara spares one last longing look to the door before returning to the bed, sliding under the covers when Lena holds them up for her.
“There we go,” whispers Lena as Kara lies back down and tucks her hands around the pillow. Lena shifts closer, so she’s sitting right beside Kara’s head, and starts running her fingers through Kara’s hair. “What’s keeping you up?”
Kara shrugs, feeling childish. “Nothing in particular. Just restless. I tried to fall asleep, but nothing worked.” Her throat sticks a little, like the beginning of tears. Frustrated, exhausted ones that feel like staring at the ceiling and willing sleep to take you, please.
“Thinking about anything specific?”
“No,” Kara says. “Yes. I don’t know. Krypton, maybe.”
Lena hums, and looks away, her fingers still moving mindlessly on Kara’s forehead. The repetitive motion, the warm weight of her hand, is not quite enough to lull Kara to sleep, but it’s enough to make her eyes flutter closed, just feeling.
“I have to tell you something,” Lena says, after a long moment. “I was going to save it until the right time, but I think that might be now, so I’m going to tell you now.”
“Yeah?” Kara asks, opening her eyes and tilting her head up so she can see Lena’s face. Lena smiles down at her, the curve of her smile soft in a way that Kara can only describe as tender, and runs her thumb gently over Kara’s bottom lip.
For one heartbeat, two, three, she says nothing, like she’s waiting for the clock to hit the right second before she shares. Her fingers return to Kara’s hairline. “I’ve been learning your lullaby. The Kryptonian one. Um, and I’m not a very good singer, and I know my pronunciation isn’t great, and I understand if you would like to keep it as something that your mother used to sing you and leave it at that but… I thought it might be nice. If I could sing it.”
Kara’s breath trips a little. “To me?”
“Of course to you, love. But only if you want me to.”
“You hate singing.”
Lena gives a quiet laugh, and it’s musical in its own right. “It’s not my favourite activity in the world, you’re right. I don’t usually like other people hearing me. But I don’t mind if you do. And I know that this is something important to you. I thought… it might feel more complete. To have the lullaby used as it’s meant to be.”
There’s an ache in Kara’s heart, one that squeezes and flutters and makes the tips of her fingers tremble. She swallows, then she nods, then she whispers, “Okay.”
In the dim light of the bedroom, with Lena’s fingers brushing through her hair, Kara closes her eyes. And Lena, sweet Lena, wonderful, beautiful Lena, clears her throat and begins the lullaby.
Her voice is low and warm and slightly scratchy, halfway between a whisper and a tune. On the higher notes, she falls a little flat, and her mouth can’t quite fit around the pronunciation of some of the Kryptonian words. As she sings, Kara’s breathing grows more even, the tremor in her chest starting to steady. She sees Krypton behind her eyelids, the way it was in the best moments of her childhood, the ones where she was safe and happy and proud and everything in the universe was made for her.
Lena reaches the end too soon. It’s a short lullaby, after all. After she finishes, Kara reaches out and catches her wrist, her eyes still shut. She wants to live in the residual wisps of the song forever, the moment after the final note where no one takes a breath.
“Kara?” whispers Lena.
Kara opens her eyes. Lena is looking down at her, her smile a little sad. Her thumb touches the damp corner of Kara’s eye, follows the trail of a tear down to her hairline.
“I miss my mom.”
“I know, sweet love,” Lena says. She leans down to kiss Kara on the forehead, and lets her lips stay there for several long moments, soft. “I miss mine, too.”
Kara presses her cheek into Lena’s hand, closing her eyes. “Again?”
“As many times as you want.”
As Lena sings in her sweet, imperfect alto, the words of the lullaby flowing more easily from her tongue the second time, Kara starts to drift. Lena’s fingers are a constant beside her ear, brushing back her hair like the tide, the side of her thigh warm against Kara’s forehead. The longer she sings, the richer purple the darkness in the room becomes. And Kara sinks deep into the bedspread, like she’s sinking to the bottom of the ocean, to the bottom of the star-dusted sky.
More than she has since her pod left Krypton, and so deeply it sinks into every inch of her being, she feels safe.
The lullaby rocks her to sleep.
Sleep my dearest darling
Dream of distant stars
And think of how their boundless light
Has travelled from afar
In your dreams, dear darling
Count each shining sun
And know my love for you will last
Beyond the furthest one.