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Kara is not a self-reflective person. It is the one area she and Lena differ in. Lena will pore over books in her efforts to understand herself, her pain, while Kara will make ill-fitted decisions and never bother to find the reason why.

 

Alex comes out to her unexpectedly. Kara really loves her outfit, feels good in it, and she’s looking forward to walking along the pier with her sister because the sky looks so beautiful and they haven't been able to talk much lately; and then Alex comes out, unexpectedly.

 

She stutters through it, and Kara doesn't help. Somehow she had never considered it- that Alex could be gay, that Maggie could be gay.

 

Alex talks about Vicki Donahue, her best friend from highschool. She talks about how she loved sleeping at her house, in her bed. She talks about how she had felt something, and how that something had scared her, and how the next thing she knew she was picking stupid fights, and they had drifted apart, and she hid that something she didn't understand so far deep inside herself that even she couldn't find it.

 

Kara is not a self-reflective person. The venn diagram of it all never truly forms, and the circles of their truths are two separate entities, never coinciding in the great planes of Kara’s mind. ‘I loved being in her house, sleeping in her bed,’ has nothing to do with the warmth glowing from her chest while watching Lena strip her layers one by one- her makeup, her tight bun, her impeccable dress -and replace them with the softest pyjamas. It has nothing to do with the satisfaction and pride in being the one, the only one, to see her that way, with her armor undone. 

 

Then Jack comes to town, and the cogs in the part of Kara’s mind where she stores anything and everything she’d rather not look at start whirring like an ancient machine finally being put to use. 

 

****

 

She isn't jealous.

 

Ha! Jealous! How about that? 

 

It’s just that... she remembers Lena's voice when they first met- remembers everything about Lena on the first day they met, really -how she had said those words, ‘and who are you exactly?’ on the tail end of her conversation with Clark, as if Kara was a second thought.

 

It’s that voice- the one that she, annoyingly, gratingly, keeps going back to every night before she goes to sleep, inevitably granting it passage into her dreams -that she is reminded of when they meet Jack at the unveiling. Lena's voice goes smooth and silky, her fingers flirtatiously dancing and touching and ghosting.

 

A flare of something spreads through Kara’s chest. It’s not jealousy, it’s, it’s- well, she hasn’t found a word for it yet.

 

The thing is, Lena never talks to her like that. Her grin is always fully bared and teethy- never sly, never as dangerous as the quirk of her lips, the jut of her jaw, the angle of her brows, when she’s speaking to someone else. The only reason Kara has ever seen her do any of those things, heard her speak in that tone of voice, is because she’s always managed to somehow be in close proximity to someone else Lena's actually interested in. 

 

What about him does Lena like? That he’s tall? Kara's tall. That he’s muscular? Kara’s muscles are more defined than his will ever be. That he has facial hair? 

 

Kara is willing to concede on that, but it’s not like she doesn't have any. It’s just that she’s blonde, so. You can't really see it.

 

Kara craves Lena. That's the crux of it. Her friendship is intoxicating, like a drug. She thinks she wouldn't mind kissing her on the lips, because a lot of best friends who are really really close kiss on the lips. It's just something humans do. Having that part of Lena hidden away from her, it makes Kara feel some kind of way.

 

She wishes Lena was even the slightest bit interested in her. That she would notice her broad shoulders when they work out, or touch her jaw with the pads of her fingers to get her attention.

 

But that’s not who Kara is to Lena. She would be jealous but they’re just friends, best friends, so.

 

She’s not. 

 

At all.

 

Maybe a teeny-weeny bit, but that’s all. 

 

****

 

That's not why she starts her investigation. She starts because her first priority, always, is the people of Earth, and Jack's product is harmful to them. 

 

It’s also not why she hijacks their date. She’s reporting, thank you very much, all part of the job, and also doing her best friendly duties. The idea that Jack could hurt Lena in any way, or involve her in a scheme when her one and only goal coming to National City was to clear her name, fills Kara with a manic anger. No concrete block is safe around her.

 

The pride she feels when Lena stands by Jack and uncovers Beth's involvement is unparalleled, but inevitably mixed with dread, because she was counting on Jack being the bad guy this whole time, hiding behind it, flailing at this new want that had taken her so suddenly. Want Lena to look at her that way, want Lena closer- want Lena, period.

 

And then Lena has to make a choice between her or Jack, and in the moment Kara is only terrified of dying, but underneath that is another layer of fear, a fear that Lena would choose Jack. That she would choose Jack over her.

 

Then she doesn't, and Kara just feels… guilty. 

 

****

 

It’s that voice that she now imagines is coming out of Lena’s mouth as she watches her talk to James from across the room. She doesn’t peek, doesn’t try to listen in, but she can imagine it vividly enough that it’s almost like she is.

 

Teeny-weeny, she reminds herself later on in the day, watching Lena’s phone ping with several rapid texts. The TV is playing a rerun of their favorite sitcom to watch together, and Kara anticipates Lena’s laughter at all the right parts, even her gentle huffs of amusement, or her unimpressed, blank stares.

 

It’s odd, she thinks, cupping the arch of Lena’s ankle in a warm palm, heavy lids fighting sleep. She feels closest to Lena, and yet she is threatened by a guy who by all means should be jealous of her. 

 

No one will ever understand Lena as deeply as Kara does. She understands, intellectually and through years of living with humans, that it’s silly to think that, that each person you meet learns you differently, but not necessarily more . Alex and Eliza know her differently, Lena and Winn know her differently, Cat and Kelly know her differently.

 

Still, she can not help but think it.

 

James, though, will always have something Kara does not. He has Lena’s passion, her nakedness- not the way she is around Kara, hurriedly getting dressed and not bothering to hide her breasts, but the kind with her clothes strewn at the foot of the bed, skin on skin, unhurried, spilling secrets across the pillows. A part of Lena that Kara will never be able to learn, not like James can.

 

Another joke plays out on the screen, and when Kara looks over Lena is none the wiser, attention caught by her phone.

 

Kara palms her ankle, and it’s not a plea to not be forgotten. It’s not.

 

Lena doesn’t heed it anyways.

 

****

 

Kara is a very kind person. She is almost incapable of not being nice, and its led to many odd friendships throughout her life that she didn’t exactly set out to form. She can distinctly remember accompanying her college roommate to a drug deal, thinking they just wanted to hang out in a shady alleyway behind the mall.

 

It’s how she ends up here, across from Lena and James. A smarter person, a person more in touch with their emotions, a person less inclined to please everyone around them just so that they will be liked, would have mustered up the courage to decline the invite.

 

Maybe it has a little something to do with the fact that Kara is incapable of saying no to Lena, and also a little something to do with the fear that being left out of one aspect of Lena’s life will expand until she is left out of another, and another, and another, until they’re just two ships passing in the great big sea, just two women living in the same city.

 

The scorn pricking the inside of her chest feels uncomfortable. James is sitting where she should be, his arm around Lena’s shoulders, Lena’s hand on his knee. She and Lena share more inside jokes and secret smiles together than any of their respective flings combined, but this time Kara’s the odd man out, lost as she tries to follow Lena and James’s cryptic conversations.

 

She’s not yours, Kara tells herself, fighting against the wave of, of, something, that goes through her. She’s not jealous. She’s not jealous because this is what she wants for Lena. She wants her to be loved and appreciated and cared for.

 

James can give that to her. He’s a hero, but he’s not Supergirl. The target on his back is smaller, and he will never have to choose the world over her.

 

Kara was selfish to believe, however privately, that she could give that to Lena.

 

“I have to go, guys.”

 

The conversation halts. Lena turns from where she was aiming her blinding grin on James and pins Kara with her astute gaze. Kara avoids it as she gathers her stuff.

 

“I thought you had the rest of the night off,” Lena says.

 

Kara lurches out of her seat. “Something came up,” she says, and switches her phone off before she even leaves the restaurant, planning to fly someplace Lena can't find her until she’s stopped panicking.

 

Maybe it’s more than a teeny weeny bit of jealousy. Kara’s so ashamed of it that it burns.

 

****

 

It’s a long couple years, after that, of simply being forgotten. Sometimes she does the forgetting herself, just to spite Lena, just to try and keep denying her love for her- but when she nearly loses her one too many times, because of Lex, because of her own lies, because of the trauma that stops her revealing her alienness to anyone who isn’t an alien themselves, those feelings become too big to deny.

 

****

 

“Are you drunk?” Kara asks, though she already knows the answer. 

 

She knows because Lena’s hair is down, the way Kara’s always preferred it- not that Lena looks any less beautiful when it’s not, of course not, but she always ties up those buns so tightly, so pristinely, and Kara knows humans get headaches from the pressure.

 

Lena never lets her hair down unless she’s really, really miserable. And when Lena’s really, really miserable, she likes to get drunk.

 

Lena yawns, jaw cracking from the force of it. She pours some more liquor into her glass, the brown liquid splashing over the edge tellingly. “No,” she lies, easily, like it means nothing, even as the empty decanter on the coffee table is clear evidence to the contrary. “Maybe tipsy.”

 

Kara sighs, caught halfway between giving Lena up and never letting her go. She didn't think it would be easy after they made up, wasn’t delusional enough to believe that a handshake fixed everything, but—

 

Okay, maybe that’s a lie. Maybe she did think it would fix everything. And why was that so crazy? They’ve done it before. 

 

They’ve done it before, but that was between Lena and Supergirl. This time it’s between Lena and Supergirl, Lena and Kara, Lena and all the parts of Kara, all of them eager and desperate to make things right, each part needing something else from Lena and Lena needing something else from each part.

 

She did think it would be easy, and that’s on her, but she could never give up. It’s only ever never let go, and it more often than not feels like Lena’s dangling off the other end of the rope and down the edge of a cliff.

 

It’s the third game night that Lena’s spent drinking alone in her office instead of with her friends, and this time Kara doesn't bother asking why. Lena always answers the same grating way. Why should I? I don't belong there. 

 

You’re not a villain. Kara wants to hold her face in loving hands and speak it with such conviction that Lena has no choice but to believe her. You’re a hero, just like the rest of us. But the lines are so shaky and she doesn't want to lead them into a fight, not so Lena could let go of the rope and the one person that still cares about her in this world. 

 

“I think you should talk to someone,” Kara says tentatively. “About your guilt.”

 

Lena leans sloppily against Kara’s side, free arm held by both of Kara’s to keep her steady. “Talk about what? How I almost helped my psychopathic brother mind control all of humanity?”

 

Kara’s lips twist around themselves. Lena reminds her of herself after the red kryptonite, grappling with all the things she’s done, all the soft boiled ideas buried deep inside her. Except Lena wasn't affected by red kryptonite. She did all those things herself. Kara doesn't know how to deal with that, how to fix it. How to help.

 

“Can I hug you?” she asks quietly. They haven’t done that- touched in any way other than perfunctory -and Kara itches for her constantly, for her smell and feel and the rapid beat of her heart so close that she doesn’t need superpowers to hear it. 

 

Lena puts her glass down. Her face is the same mask she puts on any time she’s upset, but her voice transmits volumes of pain as she speaks. “You never used to ask. I wish you wouldn't ask.”

 

Kara pulls her in, manhandling her until she’s ensconced in her arms. She squeezes the tightest she can without fracturing her bones. She knows Lena so well that she can see to the core of her that that is what she expects, to be hurt, and it amplifies Kara’s already unmanageable need to show Lena just how soft she can let herself be, how Kara’s hands would never, ever hurt her. Kara would never. Red Kryptonite or white or green be damned.

 

“At least talk to me,” she whispers.

 

Lena’s breaths start coming quick like she can't get a hold of them, her shoulder quaking under Kara’s arms. “Kara, I...”

 

Kara waits, her own heartbeat starting to resemble Lena’s frantic breaths. She’s breaking through, she can feel it.

 

“That’s enough.” Lena’s hands push at her shoulders, standing and rounding the desk before Kara can get a good look at her. “I need to go,” she says, the way she wipes at her cheeks strumming Kara’s heartstrings, urging her to replace the rough treatment with her own gentle fingers.

 

Kara doesn’t follow through with the impulse. She lets Lena leave.

 

You’re putting too much of yourself in her, her sister had said, but Kara can't help it. It hurts her to see Lena hurt and it scares her for Lena to ever think that she’s alone. She listens to her heartbeat and the closing of a car door and waits for her to get home safe. She resists the urge to follow, to hover over her building and make sure that she sleeps through the night okay after all the drinking she’s done. Lena might not be taking care of herself very well but Kara cant let herself reach that point.

 

****

 

I can’t let myself reach that point becomes a mantra that joins Alex’s voice in her head, chanting at various points throughout the day when her resolve starts to weaken. 

 

I can't let myself reach that point grows weaker and weaker as the days pass without Lena’s heart beating within reach, without a single call or a text. 

 

I can’t let myself reach that point disappears entirely because Kara can’t find Lena.

 

She tries not to freak out, to be pragmatic, but it’s hard for her not to just act. When there’s an alien tearing through the city you punch, and when your best friend, who you love, who you just barely got back, goes missing, you look. When the rope’s pulling taut you hold on tighter.

 

She looks for her in the obvious places- her apartment, her lab, her office -and tries not to lose herself to paranoid scenarios, like Lena strewn across the floor in a puddle of her own blood, or held captive, starving and hurt, by a goon. She asks Jess and James and they both lead to nothing- Kara’s slightly relieved for the latter and doesn't have the time to unpack it -then she thinks to ask Lena’s chauffeur who finally leads her to the airport.

 

She wasn’t kidnapped, she’s not in danger. She’d asked to be driven to the airport and flown in her private jet. Kara fails to wrinkle her whereabouts from the employees, calls Alex to have her come and flash her badge but is told off so severely that she leaves the building in fear that the employees can hear Alex yelling through the cell phone.

 

She stands outside the airport, thumb hovering over Lena’s contact number but never making contact. The voice comes back. You can’t let yourself reach that point you can’t let yourself reach that point you can’t let yourself reach that point. 

 

Lena’s a grown up. Lena’s her own person. She can go anywhere she wants. If she wants to be away from Kara she can. If Kara’s being overbearing then she’ll pull back.

 

She doesn't send any more texts and she keeps to herself. 

 

****

 

Still, her ears are always craning, listening for any sign that Lena might be back, and when she picks up Lena’s heartbeat a week later she’s back at square one, all the fears she’s kept under a tight lid boiling over. Before she can help it she’s storming up to Lena’s office with no plan at all except to see her again.

 

“Where were you?” Kara asks, more desperate than angry and unwilling to discern why. “I was worried sick.”

 

“You don't have to be,” Lena says. She’s wearing the same coat she had on the last time Kara saw her, and she's carelessly throwing the contents of her drawers into a cardboard box.

 

“What are you doing?” Kara asks. The implication is unfathomable. Maybe Lena is redecorating, rebranding, reorganizing- resomething.

 

“I don't want to work here anymore. I don't want to reverse the Luthor name, I don't want to do anything.”

 

Kara’s hands close into helpless fists over her hips. She has to stop herself from whirling into her suit and demanding: put that stapler down right now or else. She imagines it wouldn't go down very well.

 

“But you love your job.”

 

“Do I?” Lena asks. She carries the cardboard box to the coffee table, finally allowing Kara to see her. “Let's sit on this couch. One last time.”

 

Kara obeys, if only so she can buy enough time to come up with a coherent argument as to why this is not a good idea.

 

“Those are your mother’s favorite,” Lena says, gesturing towards the plumerias on the coffee table with a smile. “She’s a lawyer. I never met her.”

 

“You saw her, though. At the DEO, after we defeated Reign.”

 

“I did?”

 

“Yeah, in the suit?”

 

Lena laughs, her head falling to Kara's shoulder. “You big, fat liar.”

 

Kara doesn't know what she means. She can't catch up with her lies. Lena probably has a list of them, in chronological order. Probably goes through them every night.

 

“Lena, why are you doing this to yourself?” she asks, covering Lena’s hand with her own. “The world needs you. Without you we’re a crumb of dust. I’m a crumb of dust.”

 

“Who says you don’t have me?” Lena cheek moves against Kara’s shoulder as she speaks, her voice reverberating through Kara’s bones. “Do you only need me when I'm building you a kryptonite suit?”

 

“Of course not.”

 

“And the world doesn't need me to invent more things that will be misused. I’m done.”

 

Lena stands, takes the box back into her hands and leaves with the same immovable certainty of last time. 

 

Kara doesn’t follow. She lets her go.

 

****

 

Kara listens to Lena’s heartbeat at regular intervals throughout the day. It’s not creepy. It’s not. It’s only for a split second. She’s just afraid that Lena will run off, and Kara will never find her, and that will be the end of them, just a tiny bruise on Kara's heart and the blood will never pump right again. 

 

****

 

National City’s newest nuisance goads her into a fight and refuses to surrender, no matter how many full-hearted speeches she manages to piece together, no matter how many times she throws a warning punch, and she’s so sick of it, so sick of all the evil in the world and all the sadness where there shouldn’t be any, so sick of people not listening to her, so she uses her heat vision until it turns purple and her cheeks glow from it and the big bad goes down but she also loses her powers.

 

I can't listen for Lena anymore, is her first thought. She’s revolted by her own self.

 

Maybe this is good for her. Kara had decided to give Lena space and, although Lena doesn't know it, she’s been doing the exact opposite. 

 

****

 

Kara’s powers don't come back. Alex suggests they ask for Lena’s help multiple times but Kara refuses. She’s giving Lena space. She’s waiting for her to reach out first. For an indication that she wants Kara just half as much as Kara wants, needs her.

 

For an indication that never comes. Weeks pass. Weeks. Kara’s lost her place in Lena’s life. That’s just a fact, and trying so hard only for it not to be reciprocated drains her. 

 

She heads up to Lena’s apartment, knocks and knocks but it’s nearly midnight and no one answers, and it’s really draining her, she’s drained- maybe it’s her lack of powers or maybe it’s Lena but it’s something, and she needs to fix it or else she’ll just drain like yolk through the cracked shell of an egg handled too roughly, like the egg she dropped that morning because her fingers were shaking so much and she couldn’t get a grip on it. 

 

She’d stared at the empty shell and the yolk like a detective at a crime scene, looking for clues, until Alex knocked on her door and jolted her out of it.

 

She uses a key Lena had given her before, and it works, Kara hasn't used it for nearly a year but it works. Kara’s eyes drag over the pristine furniture and she calls out Lena’s name, in the kitchen, the bedroom, the bathroom. Nothing. Everything’s pristine like nobody even lives there, and she’s sure if she opened a drawer it would be empty. 

 

“Please,” Kara whispers, standing there with her eyes closed and her bruised heart and her runny yolk.

 

“Kara?”

 

The front door’s open, somehow, and Lena’s standing in the open doorway, hand still on the door knob. She’s got a blue dress on that touches her curves almost as gently as the hands of the beautiful woman standing behind her.

 

“Are you okay?” Lena asks.

 

“Fine,” Kara says. “Where were you?”

 

“I was at a bar. What’re you doing here?”

 

Kara feels her next breath rattle through her lungs like it’s fighting to be let out. 

 

“No, Kara wait,” Lena says, but she lets Kara through.

 

****

 

Kara still works. She still helps J’onn and Nia with attack strategies at the DEO. She’s not broken. She’s still a person, still feels like herself, even without her powers. She’s just tired, is all. Drained. She needs a break, she thinks. A long, long nap.

 

She hears the door, the rattling of keys, and opens her eyes to Lena staring down at her. 

 

“What was that about the other day?” Lena asks. No hello. No hug. 

 

“I thought you’d left,” Kara says, before she can stop herself. She tries to wake herself up. It wouldn’t do her good to let her mouth do the talking without her brain’s consent.

 

“I don’t want to hurt you again,” Lena says, brows furrowed. “I wouldn’t leave without telling you. Why do you look so tired?”

 

I wouldn't leave without telling you. Not I wouldn't leave. 

 

Kara doesn’t bother sitting up.

 

“Nothing.”

 

“It’s not nothing. Is it me?”

 

“No.” 

 

Kara won’t tell her about her powers. She’d gone to her apartment the other day, wanting, meekly, to ask Lena to fix her. Lena always fixed her when there was too much pain, always protected her- when the atmosphere was poisoned with Kryptonite, when she had to send Mon-El away to die. 

 

It was not a test, it was a desperate plea, a prayer- do you still love me? Do you care for me? 

 

And then she’d remembered Lena’s words from the other day- do you only need me when I’m building you a Kryptonite suit? She remembered her face when she had screamed, crying, in the fortress, you used me. And then she’d seen Lena, Lena with a gorgeous woman behind her, Lena with her hair down and dressed not for a meeting or an event but for someone.

 

She wanted to prove to Lena the opposite. She didn’t want her to think she was using her. Didn’t want to force her to invent, to help. Lena doesn't want any of that. Not for anyone, and not for Kara. 

 

“Fine,” Lena says. “Don’t tell me. But do not lie to me. No more lies.”

 

“Fine,” Kara says, but she stays quiet. Lena leaves. It hurts like the throbbing of old scars in the middle of the night, deep and incurable, refusing to completely fade away.

 

****

 

“We need Lena’s help,” Alex says. 

 

Kara blinks up at the DEO lab’s ceiling, so slow it’s dark for a full moment, so slow she watches her eyelids pull back up like curtains.

 

“No,” she says. 

 

“Kara, you’re falling apart. Your cells absorb less and less sunlight every day. It’s like you're deteriorating.”

 

A long pause. Was Kara supposed to respond?

 

“Do you want to die, is that it?” Alex asks heatedly.

 

“Of course not,” Kara says. She looks down at the book in her hands, runs her finger through the worn pages. She’d stopped reading because her arms got tired of holding the book up. She just needs a short break. 

 

“Then stop being dramatic! Or I’m gonna call mom. I will.”

 

“I’m not going to die,” Kara says. She knows she won't. It just feels like she is. It’ll pass.



****

 

Lena is furious when she lets herself into Kara’s apartment and demands that Kara gets up.

 

Kara opens her mouth— you don't have to do this, she wants to say. I don't need you, like how you don't need me. I only want you. I want you so much.

 

“I don't want to hear a word,” Lena warns. “You’re coming.” 

 

So Kara goes.

 

****

 

Lena’s silent as she works. She pulls blood from Kara’s elbow, gentle fingers probing for a vein, and it really does feel like a Shakespearean moment. If only you knew what you’ve done to that blood in your hands, Kara thinks. How you’ve changed the way my whole body works.

 

“Are you in pain?” Lena asks, her hand holding a cold stethoscope under Kara’s shirt, and Kara laughs a little. There’s a hickey peeking through Lena’s v neck and she’s not even trying to hide it. 

 

“God damnit,” Lena mutters. Kara lets herself be guided to her back on the examination table. 

 

“I told myself I’d never do this,” she says, the remnants of her laughter in her voice. “When Mon-El left I was stronger. Now I'm just weak.”

 

“What does Mon-El have to do with any of this?”

 

“Nothing... everything.”

 

“I wish you’d get over that guy already.” 

 

Lena pulls Kara back up in a sitting position and sticks a thermometer under her tongue.

 

“I am so over him,” Kara warbles. “So.”

 

“Is this about William then?”

 

“William has the personality of a white bread with like, one sesame seed on it.”

 

Lena smiles, cold hand around Kara’s jaw as she checks the temperature of the thermometer. Kara reaches out and pokes a finger into her hickey. Lena bats her away.

 

“You’re delirious.”

 

“You’re gorgeous.”

 

Their eyes meet for the first time, even as Lena had seen her blood and heard her heart and touched her with her cold, cold hands. Kara blinks at her, heart fluttering wildly, an urge she doesn't entirely comprehend waking up in her fingers.

 

Lena walks back to the monitors.

 

Kara falls back on the examination table. 

 

“I don't think it's science.”

 

“What do you mean?” Lena asks.

 

“I think it’s just me,” Kara mumbles. She puts a hand on her chest and almost expects for something to be there, a weight pressing down that she’s too weak to carry off and Lena’s too busy to remove. “I think you broke me.”

 

****

 

Lena fixes her. Kara doesn't remember how but she does it, but she does. It was a chemical in the big bad’s suit that was activated by her heat vision, Alex tells her. It was clever, she says. They hadn't thought of it, but Lena did, because Lena’s a genius like that.

 

She’ll miss Lena, always and forever, like a missing piece, like a piece of Argo City hovering in the sky without the rest of Krypton and without her or Kal or her father. She’ll miss her but their time is over and there’s nothing she can do about it but move on.

 

Her heart never beats the same, but it beats. She keeps the spare key to her apartment- the one she had given Lena so long ago and recently found slipped under the front door for her to find -in a cupboard where she keeps her junk, along with her own spare key to Lena’s apartment. She takes down the photo hanging on the wall from one of their game nights and slips it into an album instead- one day she’ll be able to look at it. She doesn't use her super hearing to check for her ever again. She’s afraid of what she might find. Nothing, or more than she can handle.

 

****

 

Kara moves her head, left right left right left right. When she closes her eyes she can still see the orange strobes behind her eyelids each time she blinks, like her own private fireworks show.

 

She takes another sip of her cocktail, humming out loud at the taste. The alien vodka mixes well with the mango and passion fruit, and she’s barely tipsy but she feels good. There’s a buzz to the air, and the entire room tastes like her drink, somehow. She’s dancing with Nia, dorky moves like the sprinkler, and then she’s dancing with Brainy and then with the both of them and then they’re dancing with each other and she buys another drink and then she’s with someone else, someone she doesn't know, slow movements and hands on hips. She dances and dances and dances, passing down the room, licking her lips for the remnants of her drink and sticking the tip of her tongue out to taste the air.

 

She’s dancing with a girl now, she realizes, and her hair is so soft and smooth in her hands. She presses their bodies together and goes to let her own hair down, but a cold hand slips around her wrist. 

 

“You shouldn’t do that,” the woman says in her ear, and everyone else in the room had warm hands and no one sounded like her drink and it’s Lena. It’s Lena.

 

Kara takes a hold of her hair tie, Lena’s hand still around her wrist, and pulls it down. Lena’s fingers slide down her wrist and let go and then Kara’s walking back to the bar.

 

“I’ve never seen you this drunk,” Lena says. The wide expanse of her neck is showing, legs and thighs and arms, and when Kara drags her eyes back up Lena's nowhere to be seen.

 

“Let me,” her voice says from behind her. There’s hands on her scalp, fingers skimming her ears as Lena pulls her hair back into a sloppy ponytail.

 

Don’t tell her you’re in love with her, Kara thinks, and then says, “I was in love with you.”

 

Something washes over Lena's face, a look Kara identifies and immediately forgets.

 

“I was so in love with you,” she says again.

 

Lena’s fingers touch the crook of her elbow, the last place she’d ever really felt her, seen her. “Me too.”

 

Kara snorts. “No you weren't.”

 

“I was,” Lena says again, that same way she said everything the last few months before she was gone, that immovable way that gives no room for haggling barters.

 

I was. Did Kara say was , too? She can’t remember. She doesn’t know if it would be true.

 

A woman comes up to them, her hand falling on Lena’s shoulder. Lena turns and in that split second Kara leaves. 

 

****

 

Kara goes back to the bar, this time alone. She half believes last night was a dream, a drunken hallucination of some kind, and if Lena doesn't show up today she’s more than willing to write it off as just that.

 

Except Lena’s there, and she’s dancing with a woman that’s different from last time, the light strobes falling over their bodies in beats- Lena’s hands on her hips, her back, her neck.

 

Kara ducks her head, feels that familiar pang in her chest, the pain she hoped would weaken with time. Maybe it hasn't been long enough.

 

****

 

“Do you want a drink?” Lena asks. She’s by herself, thank Rao, and suddenly all her attention’s on Kara. “A real one?”

 

“Did you mean what you said the other day?”

 

Kara had dredged it up from the deepest depths of her memory, replayed it over and over again, written it down and read it to herself like Rao’s book.

 

“I’m surprised you remember,” Lena says, stepping closer to the bar. “Yes, I meant it.”

 

Lena flags the bartender for a shot, leaning against the bar as she waits. Kara runs her eyes down Lena’s body, cheeks warming up. Her dress cuts off just halfway down her thighs, the material threatened by the soft rise of Lena’s butt. 

 

“I've always hated the taste of tequila,” Kara says softly, leaning into the moment, feeling the rope loosen and drape to the floor between them with a sigh of relief. It’s frayed but it’s still there. 

 

“What would you prefer?” Lena asks. She’s closer, hand around Kara’s knee, fingers spreading secrets over the skin.

 

Kara sips her own drink, the mango and passionfruit cocktail she can't get enough of, and leans up, an offering. Lena takes it. 

 

It's over before Kara can settle into it. Lena licks over her own lips and hums, her fingers spreading higher up on Kara’s thigh. She steps closer until she is the only thing Kara can see, a whole world in between her thighs. 

 

“I like it.”

 

It’s sweet, the next kiss, sweeter than the drink, softer than anything Kara’s ever felt. Each point where they touch lives and dies and lives again, and she can feel everything so keenly, never wants any of it to stop- Lena’s hand cups the back of her neck and it’s a slow burn, their noses touch and it’s a soft hello.

 

Kara’s hands are clenched on her thighs. Lena eases them open, guides them to her hips, and steps in even closer. “Relax,” she whispers, never once pulling their lips fully apart, and finally Kara does. She stops thinking about the rope and whether this will be the first or last time and she just lives here, right now, kisses Lena back, lets the fire burn between them. She imagines embers flying off their skin and scalding anyone that dares come close. 

 

“Take me home?” Lena asks, a question, a demand, a plea.

 

****

 

Lena lays down over the maroon sheets, her hair spreading across the satin pillows. Her lips match the color of her cheeks, a deep pink that borders on red. Her eyes are dark and deep, and her fingers flirty, tugging Kara closer by her collar.

 

“We can stop, if you want?”

 

Kara falls down into the sweetness of Lena’s lips. Lena is naked underneath her, squirming, and Kara’s been kissing her for so long that she can't fault her for asking. 

 

Lena takes her hand, fingers softly travelling up Kara’s own until Kara’s index is held inches from Lena’s mouth. “Can I?” 

 

“Yes,” Kara whispers, finger abruptly jolting to touch Lena’s lip. She gulps and softens her touch, lets her finger go slack and Lena take the lead. Lena’s teeth graze down the tip of her finger, wet tongue pressing up to taste her skin.

 

“Show me,” Kara says.

 

****

 

Kara wakes up first. She doesn't check the time. She watches Lena’s naked back rise and fall, resists the urge to kiss the freckle marking the halfway mark up her spine, and tries to rehearse what she should say when Lena wakes up, but all that is going through her mind is please love me back.

 

So when Lena does wake up, and switches sides so they’re facing each other, what comes out of Kara’s mouth is the dumbest thing she could’ve said.

 

“Thanks for letting me stay.”

 

She cringes inward, feels so stupid. And then Lena says, “Of course, it wouldn’t be right to kick you out,” and it’s so deeply humiliating that she slips out of bed, buck naked, and grabs her pants.

 

“Kara, did I say something wrong?”

 

Kara shoves one foot in her pants, and then the other, and searches for her shirt. “If you feel obligated to let me stay, don't. I’ll show myself out.”

 

She turns back to the bed to find her phone, vaguely recalling the sound it made when it fell to the floor the night before, and catches sight of Lena’s clueless expression. All at once the fight leaves her and her shoulders slump. “I’m being ridiculous.”

 

“No,” Lena says, though her tone sounds like she is inclined to agree. “Come back to bed. I want you to stay.”

 

Kara hesitates, chewing on her bottom lip. “Please,” Lena says, and it’s like the words have their own force, pulling her to the bed.

 

****

 

“I missed you, you know,” Lena says softly. 

 

Kara takes a moment to take her in. They’ve had sleepovers before, even cuddled before, but now they’ve just had sex, and they’re naked, and Lena’s hair is all sorts of wavy. Kara kind of wants to dig her nose in it, and she realizes there’s no reason not to. 

 

“You’re the one who stopped reaching out.”

 

“Cut me some slack, will you?” Lena teases. She runs her hand down Kara’s bare back, and it’s different now that they’re sober, that the sun is out. Lena’s fingers ghost over her lower back, ticklish, and Kara arches away from them and into Lena’s body. Lena’s fingers become a solid palm holding her close.

 

“What did you miss?” Kara asks, shy and soft. She’s fishing- she knows it, Lena knows it -but she can’t help it. She wants to hear Lena say nice things to her. She wants Lena to keep holding her. She wants her to keep kissing her, and touching her. She wants to know if she still loves her, or if Kara ruined everything. 

 

“I think I missed your laugh most of all,” Lena admits, just as soft. Softer, even. Kara can barely hear her. She noses out of Lena’s hair and nuzzles her neck instead, lips tentatively finding her skin. Lena’s other hand burrows into her hair, keeping her there, so Kara settles into the contact, mouth helping Lena loosen in increments. 

 

“Your heart is beating really fast,” Lena says.

 

Kara pulls back to blink at her owlishly. “That’s ‘cuz your hand is on my butt.”

 

“My hand has always wanted to be on your butt. It’s a privilege and an honor.”

 

Lena smiles cheekily, almost goofily, but stops palming Kara’s ass and grows somber. She looks away from Kara’s eyes and down, tracing her collarbone. “I’m scared to ask…” she starts, and never finishes, swallowing around a lump in her throat. 

 

“I love how unintentionally funny you are,” Kara says, and when Lena relaxes, she knows she’s saying the right thing. “Like, you don’t actually mean to make a joke, but you’re so hilarious everything you say sounds like one. I love your smile. How riled up you get when you can’t solve a problem. How elegant you usually are, but after a long day I can hear you stomping up the flight of stairs to my apartment. The whole building shakes, Lena. You’re like a walking earthquake.”

 

Lena pushes her away, but she’s laughing, and she crowds after Kara, the sheets falling as she straddles her hips. She traces Kara’s brow- she’s been doing that a lot, tracing her jaw, collarbone, the curve of her butt, like she’s memorizing her.

 

“I was going to ask what you missed. Not what you loved.”

 

“Oh.” Kara hadn’t even realized her slip. “Same thing, really,” she says, before she can stop herself, and then Lena’s kissing her.

 

****

 

It’s New Year’s Day. Kara spends the first half of it having brunch with Kelly and her sister, and the second half marveling at everything that manages to go wrong on this day that’s supposed to, according to every human ever, define her next whole year on Earth.

 

She stops three consecutive muggings in the same block, ones that might be interrelated, though she’ll leave that to Alex and J’onn to figure out. She loses her wallet at some point, probably having flung it while whirling into her suit, and retraces her steps twice, during a thunderstorm, until she finds it in a puddle of mud. When she returns home, irate and exhausted, it’s to leaks all over the apartment, and her fridge fried from the storm. Then, when she starts eating everything inside before the food rots, a cranberry seed gets stuck between her teeth and refuses to come out, for hours.

 

A cranberry seed! Kara Danvers, Earth’s protector, bested by a seed.

 

Kara’s standing over the kitchen sink, gurgling her second cup of salt water and cursing the toothpicks that keep breaking against her teeth, when she hears heavy footsteps climbing up the stairs to her floor. They sound familiar, but she dismisses the notion completely. After such a horrible day, the least possible outcome would be to open her front door and find Lena on the other side. 

 

Still, her ears keep tracking the footsteps, all the way to her front door. If it is Lena, Kara is sure that she is there to tell her that she never wants to see her again. She wonders how she could possibly live through 364 more days of this terrible, horrible year. She wonders if she should just quit her job and stay in bed forever.

 

When she opens the door, Lena is holding flowers. A beautiful arrangement of plumerias, one that looks befitting of a wedding. “You said I broke you,” she says, and Kara rips her eyes away from Lena’s white knuckled grip around the stems to meet her eyes. “You said I broke you, and it made me angry, because you broke me; but, you know what, you’re right. You broke me so then I broke you. That’s the only thing I know to do. That’s what I’ve been taught my whole life. I wanted to see you cry and beg and scream and I wanted to hurt you with my words- all of it. It felt so awful, but I kept doing it- like Lillian, like Lex, like everything I was acting like I was not, like I was all high and mighty and above. That’s a fact, and I can’t change it.”

 

Lena stops. She hadn’t taken a single breath during her spiel, and when she finally does it’s a long, greedy inhale.

 

“But I can be better. I am trying to be better. And part of that is letting go. Of L-Corp, of the Luthors, of those tight, uncomfortable skirts.” Lena steps closer, wide eyed and honest. “I don’t want to let you go. I know I don’t deserve you, but I can’t help it.”

 

She looks away, chuckles a little, but it falls flat. She holds out the bouquet, arm stretched between them like a clumsy teenager. “So, I wanted to ask you out on a date. You can totally say no. I’m happy to take your lead.”

 

Kara takes the flowers and lifts them to her nose, smiling at Lena from behind the petals and watching her slowly light up as she anticipates Kara’s answer.

 

****

 

Kara stands in front of her clothing rack, tongue playing with the half-dislodged seed between her teeth as she considers her options. She’s not even sure if the seed is there anymore, really, or if it’s just a trick of the mind, a phantom of the seed.

 

It’s the middle of winter, so there aren’t many options, but if Kara lets herself think for one more moment about how she’s going on a date with Lena- her best friend Lena who now speaks to her in that tone of voice, Lena who now touches her jaw with the pad of her fingers to get her attention, Lena who she can now be naked with in the way that she desired all along -she’ll stop functioning entirely.

 

Kara’s not a self-reflective person, we’ve been through with this.

 

Lena always looks nice. Kara wants to look nice, too. She wants to be admired.

 

She super-speeds through every combination of clothing possible until she finds just the thing.

 

****

 

Lena’s new home seems to be the small of Kara’s back. Her hand slides under Kara’s blazer and guides her into the front seat of the car, down the street to the restaurant, away from a puddle of water. It’s nice. People seem to think that, because she’s a superhero, she wouldn’t like to be treated like a girl, but Lena finds the perfect balance of being gentlemanly without being overbearing.

 

They sit outside, near a fountain, and eat from the new place that exclusively serves fluffy pancakes. Breakfast for dinner, the way to Kara’s heart. She gets the cheesecake flavor, and Lena gets it plain, and Kara teases her endlessly for it. 

 

Kara is reminded, several times, that this is a date. She is reminded by the shy manner with which Lena meets her eyes and holds her gaze. She is reminded when their legs touch under the table. She is reminded when Lena starts pointing out constellations in the sky, and getting closer. 

 

“Is this weird?” she asks, hesitating before she swipes Kara’s hair behind her ear. “Me and you, like this?”

 

“No,” Kara says, leaning into her touch. She sort of wants to take her hand and put it firmly on her butt, but she’s enjoying this tentative dance way too much. “I’ve always wanted it this way.”

 

They take a long, endless walk, for hours, their hands touching and Kara waiting to see how long Lena would take before she gives in and joins their fingers. Kara guides them to her favorite place for hot chocolate, the only shop in National City that has perfected the ratio of sweet to bitter and delivers it with an unhealthy dose of whipped cream. 

 

“I didn’t know you were gay,” Kara admits, under the soft orange streetlights. The moon is half-hidden behind dark clouds, the kind of sight you expect to be accompanied with a werewolf’s howl. They’re at that point where you’ve spent enough time talking about the silly and shallow stuff that the conversation begins getting deep and personal.

 

“No one knew,” Lena says. She holds the hot chocolate under her red tipped-nose, letting the steam warm her face. “I didn’t… I guess I didn’t let myself be myself, not until a few months ago. It was just this thing I felt that I never showed.”

 

“Why?” Kara asks. “I mean- I know it’s hard, in general, but why was it hard for you, especially?”

 

The whole air changes, when Lena’s about to share something that’s hard for her to speak about, as if even the wind quiets down to hear.

 

“I met Eliza a couple times now, and she’s, just, wonderful. My dad, and Lillian, their favorite topics at the dinner table were aliens, and their disdain for anything remotely gay. It affected me, I guess. I was the two things they hated the most, and they never knew it.”

 

Kara fishes a marshmallow from the bottom of her empty cup. The wind starts howling again, satisfied by Lena’s answer. “I’m happy you get to be yourself now.”

 

“Thank you,” Lena says, bumping their feet together under the table. “I didn’t know you were gay, either.”

 

Kara shrugs. “I didn’t know either. All I’ve ever wanted was to be loved, but I never stopped to think about all the people I could be loved by. Not until I realized I liked you.”

 

“And when was that? When did you realize?”

 

Kara is embarrassed to admit, but she’s not here to lie. She’s here to be open and honest and to love. “When Jack came into town.”

 

Lena’s brows shoot up. “You knew for that long? Why didn’t you say anything?”

 

“Lots of reasons,” Kara says.

 

“Like?” Lena takes the empty paper cup, crumpled to an amorphous shape, from Kara’s hand and joins their fingers. “Tell me.”

 

Kara sighs. “Mainly that… At that point, the world had proved to me time and time again that love wasn’t meant for me, and I believed it. I didn’t think you could ever love me back, and even if you did, I didn’t see it working out.”

 

Lena draws faint lines with the tip of her index on Kara’s palm. She squeezes the tip of each finger, deep in thought.

 

“I’ve loved you all along, you know,” she says. “I suck at showing it, don’t really know how, so I don’t blame you for thinking that. I didn’t think someone as good as you could ever want me, with all my dark bits, but it was enough that you at least trusted me. When I found out that you didn’t… It’s not an excuse. All my dark bits went darker. I don’t like that… I don’t like that after all you’ve been through, you get me. Me who’s mental and all sorts of fucked up.”

 

“We’re all a little mental,” Kara says gently, closing her palm around Lena’s finger so she’ll look up. Lena doesn’t- just keeps staring at their hands with eyes lined with tears. “I zapped my mom’s hologram to pieces cause I was so angry at her. Ever since I found out she’s still alive I’ve been afraid I’ll be poisoned with Red Kryptonite again and zap her for real. I could just talk to her about why I’m upset, but no, ignoring it for the rest of my life will do.”

 

Lena can’t help a little snort at Kara’s delivery. 

 

“I just want you to know that I’m really, really sorry,” she says, earnestly, like she’s speaking from her heart and not her lungs. “I should’ve taken you being Supergirl better, no matter how I found out. I shouldn’t have made it about me, especially considering that I know exactly the feelings involved with hiding a part of yourself out of fear. I’ve been going to therapy, like you suggested, and all those dark bits are becoming lighter, and I plan on never letting them go that dark again, ever.”

 

“Okay,” Kara whispers. “I’m proud of you, and I accept your apology.”

 

Lena looks up, finally, eyes managing to be so bright even in the absence of any light. “Just like that?”

 

“Not just like that. You apologized, sincerely. We can move on, if you want.”

 

Lena’s brows furrow cutely. “Guess I’m not used to that. Sorry in advance if I keep bringing it up.”

 

“Apology accepted, in advance. Just like that.” 

 

Kara grins, and Lena grins back, and their conversation devolves into meaningless, enjoyable chaos as their date stretches into the night.

 

****

 

Lena drives her home. The streets have emptied out enough that the only thing slowing them down is the traffic lights. Kara connects her phone to the car speakers and plays soft music, pretending not to notice Lena’s eyes on her as she sings along.

 

Lena hovers as Kara unlocks her front door. Kara leans against the wood with her hand on the doorknob. “Do you want to come in?”

 

Lena squints at her. “Are you trying to seduce me?”

 

Kara takes Lena’s hand and puts it, solidly, on her butt. “Is it working?” she asks, and she can taste Lena’s laughter on her tongue. 

 

****

 

They both come out to Alex unexpectedly.

 

It’s a beautiful morning, and they’ve just woken up to each other, and Kara is so happy that she could be a caricature of herself. Lena’s feet, one socked and the other lost sometime during the night, are wiggled under the legs of Kara’s sweatpants. Her arms are under Kara’s sweatshirt, and her nose is nuzzling her shoulder. She has effectively and entirely invaded Kara’s space and Kara loves it.

 

“It’s hard enough to get out of bed in the winter,” Lena had whined, “Harder when you’re here. How are you so warm? ” So Kara fully planned on staying still all day and testing how long Lena can go without her morning cup of coffee, but then Alex knocks on their door, and Kara has to get out of bed. Alex takes one look behind her shoulders and her jaw stretches in the most delighted smile possible. “Not to make any assumptions,” she whispers, leaning in close, “but did you sleep with Lena Luthor?”

 

Kara is not a self-reflective person. Her decision to come out as Supergirl had been one of impulse- not something she thought over, but something she had to do. Red kryptonite had widened her insides like a big dark chasm, and then she had stuffed it with cotton and sewed it shut, and jumped into rehabilitating her image. She thought she might be in love with her best friend so she locked the thought away in a closet and swallowed the key.

 

She finds that that habit of hers can't be kept up any longer.