When Kara returned to National City with Alex, she took her phone off emergency mode. Almost immediately, a flood of texts and emails buzzed. She gave them a glance, and two things became very clear: Lena hadn't contacted her even once, but James had. Four texts and 2 voicemails, to be exact. One text was the most recent of the batch, and that's the one Kara opened first.
James : I know you're on vacation, but we haven't seen Lena around CatCo in days. Eve says L-Corp confirmed she's unavailable. They didn't sound concerned, but it still doesn't feel right. Let me know when you get this.
Dread pooled in the pit of Kara's stomach. It was probably nothing. Lena ran two companies... she deserved some time off, and Rao only knew she needed it. But to take off without warning James, or instructing L-Corp to share more details with CatCo? James was right. It didn't feel right, especially when less than a week ago Lena had been so distraught. No. Not distraught. What Kara had seen that night in Sam's kitchen... it had been despair. Despair and resignation, and neither of those boded well when coupled with an unexplained absence.
"Kara?" Alex called back to her, hand on the door to the DEO.
Kara licked her lips nervously. "Ahhh, I have to go," she said. "Do something. I have to go do something. Tell J'onn I'll check in later."
She didn't give Alex a chance to tell her no. She dodged into the shadows of the secure parking garage and zoomed out in full Supergirl regalia. The trip to Lena's apartment was short-- it took longer to trot from the alley next door to the doorman, who recognized her in a glance.
"Good afternoon, Miss Danvers," Tony greeted, opening the door for her to slip through. "Here to check in on Miss Luthor?"
Kara pasted on a smile. "Yeah. She doing okay?"
The building staff liked Lena well enough. It was hard to dislike someone who greeted everyone by name and always with a smile.
"She was looking a little rough around the edges," he replied. His voice lowered. "It's not my place to say, miss, but if she's ready to get help and support, there's a great group in the next borough she might feel comfortable with."
"Group?" Kara blinked for a long moment before she made the connection. He meant A.A. Lena had come home drunk. "Oh! I'm sure that's not... I mean... I don't know--"
"Again, it's not my place," Tony affirmed. "But they're very discreet, and always ready to help."
Kara escaped the awkward conversation with a nod, and dashed for the elevators. At Lena's door, she knocked emphatically, her heart pounding. She shouldn't have turned off her phone. She should have checked in.
She pounded again. "Lena! It's me, open up!"
Still, no answer came and no sound of movement came from inside. Screw this. Kara whipped off her glasses and stared through the heavy door to the apartment within. The main room was empty, but a suspicious lump lurking under the blankets in the bedroom revealed her quarry. A quick listen confirmed a heartbeat, slow and steady.
With a grimace, Kara's hand tightened on the doorknob. She can yell at me later, she told herself, but only after I'm done yelling at her.
But the knob gave willingly under her hand-- completely unlocked. Rao. "Lena!" She called again, stepping into the room and closing the door behind her. "It's Kara."
Lena didn't budge. Closing the distance in a fraction of a second, Kara stared down at Lena as she slept heavily. She didn't see any wine bottles, empty or otherwise. No signs of sick or disruption save for the tipped over prescription pill bottle on Lena's nightstand.
"No. No, no, no, Lena!" Kara lunged for her friend, only to draw up short when sleepy green eyes opened at her shout.
Kara heaved a sigh of relief, but the knot in her chest didn't relax. Lena stared at her for a long moment until her eyes focused enough to recognize her.
"Kara..." Lena's voice was groggy and thick with sleep and something else. Lena struggled to sit up, but her arms didn't seem to want to hold her up. "Your trip..."
"Got back this morning," Kara said, sitting on the edge of the bed. "James said he hadn't heard from you in a while. What's going on?"
Lena hummed in the back of her throat, her eyes slipping shut. "Mr. Olsen. I-- called him..."
Kara reached out and shook Lena's shoulder, rousing her. "No, Lena, you didn't. What's going on? Did you..." she reached over and picked up the pill bottle. "Did you take any of these?"
Lena didn't respond.
"Lena!" Lena’s eyes jumped open, and Kara tried to swallow her fear and keep her cool. She showed Lena the bottle. "Did you take any of these?"
Lena nodded, but froze halfway through, eyes squeezing shut.
"Two... head hurrt." Her words slurred, and one hand pressed against the side of her head. Her eyes drifted shut, then flashed open to focus on Kara once more. "'S everrthing okay?"
Kara offered a thin smile, reaching out to smooth the hair from Lena's brow. "Everything's okay. Just worried about you."
"How'd'you get in my 'partment?"
"Your door was open." Lena nodded blearily, as though that had been her plan all along. "Go back to sleep, okay?"
"'Kay." Lena curled around her pillow, hugging it to her chest as sleep crept over her once more. Kara shifted on the mattress, moving to rise. "Kar-ra?"
"I'm still here," Kara assured her.
"Stay?" Lena made room behind her on the bed, lifting the covers invitingly. "'S comfy..."
Kara didn't even think to turn it down. In an instant, her shoes and sunglasses were off, and the blanket settled over both of them. After a long weekend spent with a prickly Alex, curling around Lena felt like coming home. Lena was soft against her front, her breaths gentle and steady. As soon as Kara’s head hit the pillow, a new kind of exhaustion washed over her, one that pressed on her from head to toe, and pervaded every inch between. Lena's heartbeat smoothed into sleep within moments, and it wasn't long before Kara followed her into dreamland.
Hours later, Kara woke to a faceful of hair. She nuzzled deeper into the dark locks, breathing in the deep heady scent of Lena. She'd missed this: a bed that wasn't empty.
The thought snapped her into full wakefulness. Kara blinked, lifting her head to gaze at a still-sleeping Lena before carefully peeling back the covers and slipping out. The sun was on the verge of setting when she stepped into the main room of Lena's apartment, casting the wide, open space in long shadows.
She should leave. The half dozen texts from Alex reminded her of other duties, bigger responsibilities than the woman sleeping in the next room. But Kara sent a single text back, requesting more time. She sent another to James, confirming she was with Lena and everything was fine. Looking at the pill bottle in her hand, she hoped it was the truth.
The prescription had Lena's name, and only a couple doses seemed to be missing. As needed was printed across the label, and Kara recognized the pill name as a powerful pain reliever. As far as she knew, Lena had no reason to have such a prescription. She was missing something, and there was nothing she could do until Lena woke up.
It was another two hours before Lena finally emerged from the bedroom, squinting in the low light. "Kara?"
Lena rubbed the sleep from her eyes, shuffling into the kitchen. Sitting at the kitchen island, she blearily accepted the glass of water Kara thrust towards her.
"Thank you.” She pinched the bridge of her nose. “Did... did I ask you to stay?"
Kara nodded wordlessly.
"I'm so sorry." Lena flushed. “God, I can’t believe I--”
"I would have stayed anyway," Kara cut in. Lena looked at her, then dropped her gaze to the pill bottle Kara pushed between them. Tired eyes pressed shut, and her shoulders slumped in defeat. Kara waited patiently, until Lena was ready to speak.
Lena pulled the bottle towards her, fingers worrying the label. "I've been getting headaches. Migraines, really."
Kara nodded. "How long?"
"Since the invasion." Lena combed her hair away from her face. "Turns out Daxamite healing technology isn't that great after all. Or they didn’t bother using it on the Earthling. Who knows?"
Kara swallowed thickly. "You didn't tell me."
Lena met her gaze, offering a gentle smile. "You had other things on your mind," she said, her voice soft. Guilt twisted Kara's insides. "And they'd been getting better, until..."
"Edge," Kara supplied. Lena nodded, gaze darkening.
"Third concussion in ten months." She shrugged as though to dispel the cloud that hung over them. It didn’t work; her gaze remained heavy, burdened by concerns borne without support-- from anyone.
Kara leaned her elbows on the counter, focusing on Lena. “You went to the doctor?” Lena nodded, as Kara expected. She had to have gotten the prescription from somewhere. “What did they say?”
Shrugging, Lena set the pill bottle aside. “Medicate. Rest. There’s not a lot they can do. And there’s no way to predict what kind of symptoms I’ll be facing longer term. That many brain injuries…”
“You’re worried.” Kara studied her friend, reading between the lines of what Lena wasn’t saying. Green eyes flashed up to her, then darted away.
Lena shrugged again. “It’s just-- growing up, my brain was about the only part of me worth anything.” Her eyes glistened alarmingly, and she huffed, blinking the moisture away. “It’s stupid.”
“No, it’s not,” Kara argued, reaching across the counter. Lena reached out, meeting her hand halfway until their finger met. She sighed, the sound trembling in her lungs. “It’s scary.”
“I’ve already noticed a difference,” Lena confessed. “Things have been foggier, my thoughts feel slow. And that thing with Edge-- I should have seen that coming a mile away, but I didn’t ...”
“Okay, first of all, no one could have anticipated that Morgan Edge would poison kids just to drag you down. Secondly, it’s okay to be worried. I’m sorry you’ve been going through this alone.” Kara tightened her grip on Lena’s fingers. “I should have been here for you. I haven’t been a very good friend this summer.”
Lena’s brow furrowed in gentle admonishment. “What was it you said about family still loving you, even after rough times?”
Coughing out a laugh, Kara wiped her eyes. “You’re not allowed to use my words against me.”
“Oh, I totally am.” Lena smiled, bright and intense, and some of the gloom lingering from Kara’s weekend evaporated at the sight of it. “Besides, you stayed when I druggedly asked you to, so I think you won back all the friends-points. Not even my family would have done that.”
Kara didn’t bother to point out that the Luthor family set the bar unbelievably low. It certainly had little bearing on Kara’s poor friendship over the past several months. In the back of her mind, she heard Lena’s voice, that day she had so hopefully suggested brunch, only for Kara to give her a hurried brushoff as she left to tackle some other issue. She had to do better. She would do better.
After a beat, Kara straightened. “Can I make you dinner?”
“Oh, no, that’s not necessary,” Lena waved off with a smile.
“I want to. Please?” She held Lena’s gaze, hoping the Lena would let her take care of her, even if just for a few hours. “How long until your next dose?”
Lena’s lips pressed together uncertainly. “I can usually go another couple of hours before I need to medicate again.” She eyed Kara before caving. “If you’re sure you don’t have anywhere else to be--”
“Nope!” Kara beamed, and turned to start pulling out a pan and the ingredients she’d already been eyeballing while Lena slept. “You ever had a grilled cheese?”
Spending the night introducing Lena to joys of melted cheese on buttered bread and talking about nothing of consequence turned out to be the perfect end to a rough weekend. When Lena started to squint against the low light, and her fingers repeatedly brushed her forehead as though to rub her temples before thinking better of it, Kara knew her headache was on the verge of returning. She recovered the pill bottle and poured two into Lena’s palm while shoving a fresh glass of water into the other.
With a roll of her eyes, Lena accepted the dose. But when she rose to return to her bed, she hesitated. “Kara?”
Her voice was soft, uncertain-- so unlike the Lena she knew. Kara’s mind flashed to that night in Sam’s kitchen, when Lena had come so close to giving up. This wasn’t the same. It wasn’t.
“Could we keep this between us?” Lena wrapped her arms around her middle. “If it got out that I could have some kind of-- I don’t want to give them any more reason to doubt me.”
Kara nodded quickly. She didn’t need to ask what them Lena meant. Her investors, her employees, even James and Sam… if anyone found out-- Rao, if Morgan Edge found out-- Lena’s world could come crashing down around her ears yet again.
“Of course,” Kara promised.
“I’m sorry, I don’t want to make things awkward for you--”
“You aren’t. Really, I understand.” Kara gave her a smile. “But will you come to me if you need anything? And I can check on you?”
Lena’s cheeks flushed. “Of course.” Suddenly, her eyes were glistening again. “Thank you, Kara. For everything.”
Without stopping to think, Kara closed the distance between them and wrapped Lena in a firm hug. Lena’s arms immediately opened, wrapping around Kara’s waist as her chin burrowed into the crook of Kara’s neck. Again, Kara was consumed by the scent of Lena, by her warmth and the thud of her heartbeat and the tremble of her breath.
“Everything’s going to be okay,” Kara murmured softly. “And even if they’re not, we’re not going anywhere. Promise.”
Lena nodded against her. Whether or not she really believed it, Kara couldn’t say. But the fact Lena was willing to entertain the notion was a step in the right direction.
“I’ll clean up and head out,” Kara told her, drawing back just a bit. “Will you be okay?” Lena nodded. “Will you call me when you wake up?”
“Okay. Oh! Here...” Lena pulled away, pawing briefly through her purse and withdrawing a shiny silver key, which she placed in Kara’s palm. “I’ve been meaning to give you this for a while. In case you need to get in, and I’m not here, or… not responding. I’ve also added your name to the list downstairs-- you shouldn’t have any issues coming up. Any time.”
Kara cradled the key like the gift it was. The trust imbued in the small piece of metal nearly stole her breath away. She swallowed, and looked up to find Lena almost swaying in place. “Thank you. Now, time for bed.”
"Yeah." Much like a few hours ago, Lena's voice thickened, turning husky as the pills started to work their magic. Lena reached out for another hug, which Kara willingly reciprocated. What she didn't expect was the kiss that pressed against her cheek for a long, long moment before Lena drew away. "Good night, Kara."
Stunned, Kara watched Lena disappear into the bedroom. Her heart thundered in her ears as she cleared the plates and rinsed them, placing them in the dishwasher. By the time the kitchen was fully cleaned, Lena was deeply asleep, and Kara still had difficulty processing the tingling sensation in the skin of her cheek.
She and Lena had exchanged pecks on the cheek before. Plenty of times. None like that. None that lingered just on the very edge of Kara's mouth. None where Lena's palm cupped her opposite cheek, and none where warm lips brought stars to Kara's eyes. None echoed by a faint hum of pleasure-- or had she imagined the sound she'd heard come from Lena when she drew back?
It didn't mean anything, Kara told herself as she left, locking the door carefully behind her. Lena's pills had kicked in by then; her inhibitions had been lowered, and a loopy Lena usually meant a more cuddly Lena. They'd had enough wine nights for Kara to learn that much. But still Kara's mind mulled over the kiss, replaying it over and over as she circled the skies as Supergirl, keeping one ear tuned to Lena's penthouse apartment. As tactile as Lena was, as many wine nights as they'd had, none of them had ever resulted in a kiss like that. Even if it were a fact of lowered inhibitions-- did that mean Lena wanted to do that all the time?
The next day, Lena called around noon. Kara took her dinner order, refusing to entertain a single notion that Lena would be eating alone. And if she sat a little bit closer to Lena on the couch that night, let their hands brush a little more often... she told herself it didn't mean anything, if Lena didn't want it to. But if she did... Kara's pulse quickened at the thought.
If Lena did want more, Kara might just be ready.