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something i can't see

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She hears the call over a police radio on her way home—suspicious package outside L-Corp, bomb squad en route, evacuate the area—and whooshes off in that direction. Her takeout is scheduled for delivery in twenty minutes but explosives can usually be dealt with in two, so as long as there’s fry-able circuitry or the device is easy to relocate to where it won’t hurt anyone, she’ll soon be devouring potstickers at their ideal temperature.

The package is surrounded by police tape on all sides and a row of cruisers blocks off each end of the street. She lands right at ground zero, listens to echoes of “Supergirl is on location” crackle around the plaza, then aims her x-ray vision at the unassuming box a few yards ahead.

There’s no timer, just a piece of very alien-looking tech, and she hasn’t even finished her thought about calling Alex when a violent wave of bright green blasts her backwards; every inch of her burns as the Kryptonite surges through her body, and she’s unconscious before she hits the ground.

 

< - >

 

Either the DEO medical wing finally upgraded to actual beds like she’s been begging them to, or the exam tables have gotten outrageously comfier in the last few days. And the temperature is different; even the smell, somehow.

“What happened?” she mumbles as she comes to, not yet opening her eyes or really moving at all, because ouch. Alex doesn’t answer, nor J’onn, but she remembers the flash of green, the special pain that comes from the only substance in the universe that can harm her. “That bomb wasn’t meant for humans,” she manages, “it was meant for—”

“For you, apparently.”

Her brain is still too foggy to place the voice, but it’s not unfamiliar, and she forces her eyes open… and sees nothing. “Wh—what’s happening? Where am I? Why can’t I… Who are you?”

“Whoa, whoa, slow down,” the voice coos, very close to her head, but there’s only murky fog beyond her pupils. “It’s Lena Luthor. You’re in my office. I saw what happened and had security bring you up.”

“Was anyone else hurt?”

She tries to sit up but a gentle hand on her shoulder keeps her in place. “Just you. And based on the shape you’re in, I’d say that was the intention.”

Kara blinks a few times. “My eyes.”

“Milky-green isn’t your natural color, if I remember correctly.”

Her hand flies up to touch her own face in spite of the pain lurking in every individual muscle. “I need to go,” she whispers, attempting again to sit up, but she’s groaning and grimacing and completely exhausted within seconds, and Lena doesn’t have to force her back down this time.

“I think you need to stay here and rest until you’re running on more than five-percent battery.”

Kara glances around determinedly as if her vision will suddenly come back. “Whoever made that thing knew what they were doing. Is this what a hangover feels like?”

Something is poured and then set near her head with a quiet clunk. “They can’t be that smart, since they chose to blow you up in front of a corporation owned by a very resourceful CEO. Are you thirsty? Do aliens get dehydrated?”

Cold, smooth glass presses against her palm and her fingers flinch at the contact, but then she grips it carefully and takes a few sips with Lena’s help.

“I’ve got it,” Lena says, her own fingers overlapping with Kara’s, and Kara lets go of the glass. “So, what’s the protocol for Kryptonite exposure? This can’t be your first rodeo.”

Kara shakes her head. “I’ve never gotten hit with this much before. Usually I just have to wait it out, but I also usually can stand upright and, y’know, see.” Her eyes are burning now, and it has nothing to do with the explosion. “What am I gonna do?”

The edge of the couch by Kara’s stomach dips under Lena’s weight. “My people are analyzing the mechanism’s fragments as we speak. I can’t promise I’ll know what any of the information means, but maybe you will.”

“Why are you helping me? Why do you keep helping me?” She hopes she’s looking at least vaguely in Lena’s direction.

“Because powerful women need to stick together. Plus—you save me from a fiery helicopter death, I save National City from losing its one positive alien icon. Repeatedly.”

She hates not being able to read Lena’s face. “So all of this has been a PR move? I hope you don’t expect me to become a spokesperson for that alien detection device.”

“Supergirl’s been reading CatCo Magazine.”

“Kara Danvers is a close friend of mine.” A brand new shock goes through her system, not because referring to herself in third-person is anything new, but because her still-muddled brain has connected her human name with her human profession with her current alien handicaps, and she’s suddenly upright. “Oh no,” she blurts, wincing at the pain but pushing it away. “What am I—I-I mean, what is she going to do if—” She freezes.

There’s a heavy beat of silence. “If what?”

Kara clears her throat. “Uh. I-if… I mean, it was still a bomb, right? So there may have been other damage, y’know, around the city. And we—we don’t really know what effects Kryptonite has on humans yet… I’m just a little… worried about National City’s boldest new reporter, is all.”

A phone rings across the room and Kara’s heat vision goes off before she can stop it; the smell of burnt plastic hits her nostrils and she collapses back onto the couch. “Sorry.”

“At least we know your eyes aren’t completely useless.”

“But I have no idea if they actually still work, or if that was just my instincts. For all I know, I’ll never be back to normal.”

A set of fingernails tap against the coffee table once, twice, three times. “Only one way to find out.” The weight beside her disappears. “Do you trust me?”

“Do I have a choice?” Kara challenges, and swallows hard when she feels one gentle hand take hers and another grip her shoulder. Lena helps her slowly sit up, gives her a moment to adjust and breathe, and then delicate fingertips turn her head just a little. “What are you doing?”

“Try it again. Aim straight ahead.”

Kara lets out the smallest puff of air and focuses what little energy she has on her eyes, and soon she hears something crumble to the floor. “Did it work?”

The fingertips brush down her cheeks, her neck, and Lena squeezes her shoulders. “Perfectly.”

“What was that?”

“A wall I’ve been meaning to knock down. I think it’ll open up the space nicely.”

Kara laughs a little, then winces and lets Lena ease her back against the cushions again. “Where’s that water?” The glass is placed in her hand again and she aims, takes a deep breath, and blows out, then coughs a few times as the temperature drops against her palm. “Freeze breath is still good,” she wheezes.

“You're exhausting yourself,” Lena says gently and takes the glass away. “You should rest.”

“Nothing an L-Corp-grade espresso machine can't fix,” Kara manages, but doesn't move another muscle, and she thinks her eyes might be closed.

Lena chuckles softly. “Goodnight, Supergirl.”

 

< - >

 

“We know she’s in there. Release her to us and we won't harm any of your humans.”

“Start with Richard from Accounting. He calls me a bitch when he thinks I can’t hear and I know for a fact he’s cheating on his wife.”

Kara awakes with a start and sits up a lot more easily than she did the first few times; a reassuring hand squeezes her shoulder. “Where are they?” she whispers.

“Right outside.”

“Is the door reinforced?”

“From Earth-based intruders? Of course,” Lena mutters, sounding calmer than Kara expects.

“And from intergalactic ones?”

She feels Lena shrug. “I assume we’re about to find out.”

Kara takes a deep breath in and out; she already feels a little stronger. “Aim me at the door,” she instructs, holding out her hand, but Lena doesn't move. “My heat vision can burn through virtually anything. You really wanna let me guess?”

Lena takes her hand and pulls her up off the couch. Kara steps forward, lets Lena pivot her body, and waits.

“You don't have to do this. My office is very well-equipped, I can assure you.”

“What, are you gonna detect the aliens to death?”

Lena lets out a sharp sigh and disappears—or, she moves away from Kara—then a drawer opens and there's a distinct click of ammunition being loaded.

“What are you doing?” Kara demands.

“Exactly what it sounds like.”

“You don't need a gun. I'm right here and perfectly…” Kara hesitates. “Mostly capable of defending us both.”

She can practically hear Lena’s eye roll. “You also got blown up a few hours ago.”

“I’m fine.”

“Yeah? How many fingers am I holding up?”

“Three,” Kara states with as much confidence as she can.

Another click. “Wrong.”

“Seriously,” she insists, “I can do this. Look! I’m standing upright! No problem!” Something small and hard hits her collarbone and her heat vision goes off again, this time with more force.

“You just blasted a hole in the door,” Lena announces, sounding more irritated than scared.

Kara pouts in her general direction. “You just threw a—a…?”

“An apple.”

“You threw an apple at me!”

“To demonstrate why the gun is perfectly reasonable. If you can’t protect yourself from a piece of fruit, how will you—?”

A small explosion interrupts them and suddenly Lena’s perfume is right in front of Kara’s face.

“Good afternoon, boys,” Lena says sweetly. “Did you take care of Richard like I asked?”

“We only want the Kryptonian,” someone growls.

“I already told you that isn't going to happen. At the very least, you'll have to go through me first.”

Kara reaches forward and navigates around, then in front of, Lena. “Don't be an idiot,” she grumbles under her breath.

“I'm not the one who's being an idiot,” Lena hisses and once again puts herself between Kara and whoever’s on the other side of the room.

“You really want to be in front of me the next time my heat vision goes off on instinct?” Kara asks pointedly, earning another loud sigh, but Lena lets her step forward again.

“Enough!” the other voice bellows, and the floor trembles beneath their feet. “Surrender yourself before we lose our patience.”

“Now that I think about it,” Kara replies, “aliens are a lot less intimidating when you can’t see how big or scary they are.”

“We will take you by force if we have to.”

“How do I know you’re not, like, three feet tall?”

An angry roar slices through the room and Kara once again feels Lena’s fingertips at her temple, her cheek, her jaw. “Now!”

A burst of heat surges from her eyes, then another, and she keeps firing as Lena turns her head. “Am I getting them?”

“You’re getting them to move a lot faster,” Lena answers, and puts even less space between her and Kara.

Kara feels movement in front of her and swings her fist but only hits empty air, then something blasts her square in the chest and they’re both knocked to the ground. “Lena?”

“I’ve got you,” she grunts as she braces Kara from behind.

“No, are you okay?” Kara doesn’t get a response, only feels Lena aim her again, and she shoots without hesitation.

There’s a loud commotion across the room a split second later and Kara turns on her own, but Lena shields Kara’s eyes completely. “Wait.”

Gunshots, then silence, then a voice belonging to the most important person in her life.

“Supergirl!”

“Alex!” She gets to her feet with some help from Lena and freezes. “Where… where are you?” Several hurried boot-steps later she’s engulfed in a tight hug.

When Alex pulls back, she tucks a few locks of hair behind Kara’s ears and doesn’t speak right away. “The Kryptonite infected your eyes,” she observes quietly.

“I’m fine, I promise.”

“No, you’re not,” Alex and Lena retort in unison.

Kara crosses her arms over her chest. “I’m mostly fine. And what took you so long?”

“We’ve been trying to get to you for hours. National City is on complete lockdown because of those bombs.”

“Bombs, plural?” Kara echoes. “Are they all Kryptonite or is each designed to harm a different alien species?”

“Questions we’re still trying to answer. We’ll take it from here,” Alex says, presumably to Lena, then puts her arm around Kara to lead her away. “C’mon, we need to start you on dialysis.”

Kara stumbles forward a few steps, but eventually plants her feet. “Alex, wait a second. Just… wait.” She turns back and uses just a touch of super-hearing to find Lena still standing a few yards away. “I just wanted to say—” Four fingertips on each cheek turn her head a little, and she blushes more than she’d like to as she rotates her body to match the angle. “Thank you. For everything. For stopping your mother, and for protecting me.” She wills her vision to work again, even just for the next ten seconds, but all she gets is a moment of unreadable silence.

“I’ll see you next time, Supergirl.”

“Hopefully by then I can see you too,” she jokes, gesturing at her eyes.

Lena lets out the smallest gasp. “I’m sorry, that was insensitive of me.” She’s quiet for another beat. “Could you drop by once you recover? So I know you’re alright?”

Kara wishes she could stop blushing. “Sure.”

“Supergirl,” Alex calls out, “it’s time to go.”

Gentle hands are on her shoulders before she can say another word; they turn her around, and then there’s warm breath against her ear.

“Straight ahead,” Lena whispers.

 

< - >

 

She’s so nervous, or maybe excited, or maybe both, about this meeting that she forgets her notebook and pen at home and has to buy new ones on the way, which has her arriving at L-Corp five minutes late because flying would’ve made her hair look awful.

It’s been a very Kara Danvers kind of morning.

“You should’ve been here seven and a half minutes ago!” the receptionist hisses as she scrambles for her phone. “She’s going to think I delayed you again.”

“It wasn’t your fault, I had to—”

She pauses her dialing. “Would you be willing to submit that in writing?”

Kara jerks her thumb toward the elevators. “Or… I could just go upstairs and tell her—”

“Yes, please, go, she’s been expecting you for five minutes and twenty-one seconds.” She hits a few more buttons and snaps to attention. “She’s on her way up, Miss Luthor. No, I didn’t make her sign in…”

The door to Lena’s office has already been restored to pristine condition, and it’s wide open when she reaches the top floor. She finds Lena’s desk empty, a sight so strange it stops her in her tracks.

“Come in, Kara,” Lena says from her seat on the couch, sipping a mimosa like this is their daily routine. “Forgive my spontaneity, but I thought we could be a little less formal today. That bomb forced Supergirl into quite a vulnerable position, and I think it’s only fair if our discussion recreates that vulnerability.”

“You’ve thought about this a lot.”

Lena takes her time with the next sip. “It’s a critical part of my job to be thorough.”

Kara adjusts her glasses and opens her notebook. “So, can you, um. Begin by describing what happened last week?”

“I’m not sure what I can tell you that hasn’t been all over the news. I’d been watching it all play out, I saw Supergirl arrive, and then that ominous flash of green… When she didn’t get back up, I sent my team down to retrieve her.”

“Why didn’t you let the police handle it?”

Lena scoffs. “They may support and even appreciate extra-terrestrial assistance, but they don’t know the first thing about the science behind the super-powers. The biology.” Now she shrugs. “I’ve seen firsthand what she can do—been up-close and personal with most of her abilities—and I figured I could provide better assistance.”

“If Supergirl hadn’t already saved your life, would you have saved hers?” The question pops out so unexpectedly that Kara’s hand almost flies over her mouth, but by then the damage is done and she has to watch Lena’s jaw muscles work through whatever response she’s chewing on.

“That’s the sort of question one only asks if they think the answer might be ‘no’.”

Kara’s pen snaps in her hand and she shoves it into her purse. “I-it’s a critical part of my job to be thorough.”

The corner of Lena’s mouth twitches. “National City’s boldest new reporter, indeed.” She downs the rest of her drink. “It’s not just a PR move, if that’s what you’re getting at. Supergirl doesn’t seem to trust me, but I mean it sincerely.”

“I trust you,” Kara blurts.

Lena laughs softly. “Well, put in a good word for me, would you?”

She sets her empty glass on the coffee table then double-takes. “Kara, your hands are covered in ink.”

“Oh, shoot,” Kara mutters, staring down at the dark blotches on her skin. “I think my pen leaked. Could I use your bathroom?”

“Of course. Take a left at the end of the hall, then it’s straight ahead.”

Kara freezes halfway off the couch. “Excuse me?”

Lena’s looking at her curiously. “Down the hall,” she repeats, “take a left, then straight ahead.” She cocks an eyebrow. “Do you need me to walk you there?”

“Nope, mm-mm, I got it,” Kara insists as she scrambles to her feet, then bolts from the room before… well, she’s actually not quite sure, to be honest. Of that, or why she’s breathing so hard when she reaches the bathroom, or why she decided to try to take notes about Lena Luthor with something from a clearance bin.

Oh right, because she spent all morning thinking about “Do you trust me?” and “You’ll have to go through me first” and not about the special super-strength-resistant pens J’onn gave her when she started her new job or making sure they were in her bag.

She rolls her eyes at herself and puts the faucet on full blast, adds several pumps of soap, and starts to scrub.

“That’s the sort of question one only asks if they think the answer might be ‘no’.”

Kara wonders why they would put such heavy duty ink inside such a piece-of-crap pen, and adds more soap.

“Could you drop by once you recover? So I know you’re alright?”

The water is finally getting darker as her hands get lighter.

“I know what it’s like to be disillusioned by your parents. But I’m a pretty good judge of character, and you are not like your mother.”

She thinks about Lillian and Lex Luthor, and about Lena and L-Corp and distancing yourself from darkness, and scrubs harder; thinks about waking up in Lena’s office, and about fingertips against her temple and cheek and jaw, and about “I’ve got you,” and abruptly turns the water off.

It’s not until she crosses the threshold of Lena’s office that she realizes she didn’t dry her hands. “Supergirl trusts you,” she announces breathlessly as she shakes away the excess water. “Wait, crap, I’m getting your floor wet.”

“It’s alright,” Lena says, slowly putting down her tablet then opening the top drawer of a bureau against the adjacent wall. “Would you like a hand-towel?”

“Yeah, actually, that would be great. There were plenty of paper towels in there, by the way. I just kind of—forgot to—” She trails off as Lena approaches her, holding out the towel, and then remains directly in front of her while Kara dries off.

“Did she tell you she trusts me?”

Kara’s eyes snap to Lena’s and then drop back down to the towel. “Mm-hmm.” Lena doesn’t say anything and Kara clears her throat. “Do you not believe her?”

“She hasn’t given me much reason to. It’s been a week since the bomb and I’ve only seen her in headlines. I’d hoped she would—”

“I’m sure she absolutely will come back at some point.” She locks eyes with Lena again. “N-not that I can really speak for Supergirl. Y’know, she’s her own alien, and she’s probably very busy, but I bet she has you pencilled in somewhere.” Lena is still staring at her. “At least, I assumed that’s what you were—I mean, you put all that effort into helping her out. Of course you’d want her to follow up. Make sure there’s a clean bill of health and all that.”

The corner of Lena’s mouth twitches again. “Are you done?”

“Yes.” She takes a moment to catch her breath, then Lena gestures expectantly to the towel. “Oh! With the—yes, all set. Thank you for… for that.”

Lena turns away to put the towel back and Kara glances down at her hands: dry, but faint shadows of ink are still visible.

“I think I have everything I need,” she says, and Lena closes the drawer so carefully it doesn’t make a sound. “Between your perspective and what Supergirl told me, I think I have a pretty good idea of what happened.”

“Well,” Lena replies, perching on the arm of the couch, “I look forward to seeing your take on it.”

Kara nods, and finds herself walking toward Lena again, one step at a time. “Thank you for agreeing to the interview. “I know how busy you are.”

“It was a pleasure,” Lena assures her, “and I’m never too busy for Kara Danvers.”

Now that Lena’s right in front of her again, she has no idea what to do except offer her hand, which Lena accepts without hesitation. But then she leans in close, maybe holding her breath the whole time, and kisses Lena gently on the cheek.

“I’ll see you next time.”