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[yeah, we really are]

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“Ms. Luthor? They’re ready for you.”

Lena makes no indication she’s heard, at first. Instead, she takes a slow sip of her whiskey and continues to watch the sun set. It’s actually quite beautiful, the way the fading light reflects on the freshly-fallen snow.

It's astonishing just how small the city looks like from up here, as if it is something out of a winteresque picture book. Every shop window, every streetlight, is merely a dot—the tiniest spot of light, like the city is shining back.

A curt, polite clearing of her throat later Jess continues: “Should I tell them to come back later?”

Lena shakes her head. “No rest for the wicked, I suppose,” she says dryly, setting the half-emptied glass onto her desk. “I’ll be right in, Jess, thank you. Now please, go home. You don’t need to babysit a room full of grown men.”

“You should be at home too, you know,” Jess says, a break from her professional facade; she can’t easily hide her worry well.

“I’ll be alright,” Lena assures her, oddly touched as she may be. She and Jess might not be the best at showing it, but she hopes they’re close enough to be considered friends, almost; Jess has certainly been the one person in her life she can depend on. “Get home to your family. You’ve stayed too long.”

“That’s usually my line,” Jess says. She makes no move to leave yet, opting instead to close the doors of Lena’s office and say, “May I be frank, Ms. Luthor?”

“You may,” Lena replies, slightly amused, but the expression on Jess’s face is nothing but serious.

“You are the most hardworking person I’ve ever met,” Jess says. “And the work you do is immeasurably important, I get it—it’s why I’m still here. But you never let yourself have anything that isn’t related to work. I worry about you.”

It takes a moment to gather the right words to reply to that. “I’m very grateful for you, Jess,” says Lena, finally, and she wishes she could say more. “But National City is an hour’s drive away and I really don’t want to keep you any longer.”

“I know your mother,” Jess says, ignoring the implied dismissal. “I understand why this time of year isn’t the best for you. I might be overstepping, and I’m sorry, but—you should go home, too. Even if it’s just for you.”

“Going home to an empty apartment isn’t as glamorous as it seems,” Lena says. She regrets that it comes out a bit sharper than intended, and tries to force herself to relax by taking a gulp of whiskey. “I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to snap.”

“You’re welcome to come home with me anytime you’d like to, Ms. Luthor,” Jess says quietly, nothing but gentle sympathy in her eyes, and it makes Lena’s chest tighten.

“Your girlfriend wouldn’t like that very much, I think,” Lena counters, a tad playful, and she is relieved to see Jess almost smile at the joke.

“I hate to think of you here alone. Will you consider it? My family is having a party tomorrow evening. I can send your driver the details.”

“I’m not alone. Why else would I have the entirety of the board waiting in the conference room?” Lena smiles when Jess does, though Jess’s smile is borderline exasperated. “I’ll think about it. Thank you for inviting me.”

“That’s all I ask,” Jess says. She still looks about as worried as Lena might expect, but she also looks pleased, smile not fading the slightest as she makes her way back to the door. “Well, if you’re still going to stay, should I redirect the rest of your voicemails here?”

“Yes, I’ll go through as many as I can before I go,” Lena says, picking up her glass to drain the remainder of its contents. “Anything particularly important?”

“The usual. Though there was one.” At this, Jess hesitates, as if she’s torn about whether or not she should continue. “It was from Kara Danvers.”

Lena pauses, glass halfway to her mouth, and she slowly lowers it before Jess can see her hand shake. “Kara Danvers,” she says. Reflexively, she bites her bottom lip so hard that it stings. “Did she leave a reason for her call?”

“I don’t know. I didn’t get a chance to hear it.”

“Right, of course not,” Lena says, and she quickly banishes the thought from her mind. “Thank you for letting me know. I’ll take care of it.”

There’s no mistaking the pity on Jess’s face. “So should I tell the board to wait a few more minutes?”

“Yes,” Lena begrudgingly admits. If she were up to it she’d throw in a mocking happy now, but she’s too wound up to think straight. “But afterwards you’re going home, right?”

“Of course.” It’s not until Jess is half out the door that she turns back; with a small half-smile, she says, “Oh. And Merry Christmas, Lena.”

Lena attempts a smile of her own. “Merry Christmas, Jess,” she echoes lowly, and then the door is firmly shut behind her.

When Jess is gone, Lena allows herself one last longing glance out of the window. She has always hated the view here. Her building towers so much higher than she’s used to, and it makes her feel so detached from the rest of the world, as if she’s locked away in an unreachable place.

She takes a seat at her desk once the sun has fully set, and goes back and forth for a while about whether or not she should call Kara back. It’s not like Lena's the one who called, so it wouldn’t be unwarranted. And surely Kara has something important to be calling about. It probably wouldn’t even take that long.

And yet, here she remains, unable to even swallow the sip of whiskey she’s taken as the phone taunts her. Coward, a part of her brain chants, over and over again, until it gets to be unbearable. Lena abandons the empty glass, and the phone staring back at her, and returns to the window.

The glass is icy beneath her fingertips, grounding in a way she needs. If she weren’t terrified of heights she would risk resting her forehead against it. But the alternative works too, and she spends a few seconds staring out at the sky instead of the city, imagining just how easy it would be for Kara to show up here, in Metropolis, as if nothing has changed.

It’s a foolish wish. Lena draws back from the glass as if she’s been burned all at once, and curls her fingers together with one desperate squeeze. She wills herself to pull it together; she has a room full of board members waiting for the next step in a life-changing deal, and she can’t be locked in her office like a heartbroken teenager.

So she gives herself one last glance. Just one. That picture she really should’ve thrown out three years ago remains faithfully face-down on her desk, and she runs her fingertips over the cracked glass once before she puts it back.

And then a knock at her door sounds.

“Come in,” Lena says, quickly pushing the picture frame underneath a few papers before Jess can say anything. “Did you forget something, or am I that—” She stops when she realizes Jess hasn’t come back in at all, and instead, there is a young girl standing in her doorway. “Oh, hello. Can I help you with something, sweetheart?”

The girl doesn’t reply. She stands maybe four feet tall, dressed in a floor-length white dress, with long blond hair that falls to her waist and eyes so black they are dizzying to stare at; there is no white in her eyes, nothing that indicates she’s human. Lena feels slightly uneasy as the girl moves closer—and, all at once, smiles. Except her lips are thin, and stretch high up into her gaunt cheeks, and the act is so ominous that Lena feels her heart race.

Remember, someone says. But no one has spoken. The smile drops off the girl’s face, and Lena hears the words as if they are being spoken in her own head: Don't forget.

Lena’s mouth is dry, her tongue useless in her mouth; she can’t reply, or even ask remember what? The girl keeps her eyes trained on Lena’s face, and one hand reaches out to touch Lena’s wrist. Her fingers are cold, so cold, but when she squeezes her wrist the touch feels like it’s burning.

I want to help you, comes the next round of whispered words. Will you let me?

“I don’t know what you mean,” Lena croaks out, as if her voice has just been miraculously returned. “How can you help me?”

Will you let me show you?

“Can I...maybe help you find your parents?”

The girl lets go of Lena’s wrist. I can show you, she says into Lena’s head, if you let me. Only if you want me to.

“I don’t understand,” Lena says. “What are you trying to show me?”

A glimpse. To remember.

“I’m sorry,” Lena says slowly. “Can I help you find someone? To take you home?”

The girl takes a step back. You miss something, she says. I can help you. But only if you let me.

Lena hesitates. “Is this about Kara?” she asks. She doesn’t get an answer; the girl stares back at her blankly. “Listen, I’d love it if you could help me—”

The girl vanishes. Not before Lena’s eyes; all it takes is a blink, and like that, in a split second, the girl has disappeared as if she has never been here. Lena is left behind all too confused about what to do, or how to feel, or if she should even say anything.

Jess might be right; Lena really needs to spends less time at the office. She’s begun to hallucinate. But right now she can’t dwell on it, since she has a board room to convince.

So she straightens up, smooths her skirt down, and leaves to do just that.

.

 

.

.

It’s oddly warm. Suspiciously warm, even, and that’s what makes Lena blink awake.

She stares up at the ceiling, a foreboding sense of discomfort creeping over her when she realizes she doesn’t recognize the array of stickers plastered on said ceiling. A more thorough glance helps her note that the light blue walls aren’t hers either, nor are the crumpled cotton sheets thrown around her body.

Even more terrifying is the fact that she’s not alone; there is a warm body pressed against hers. Lena feels soft hair brush against her arm as the body stirs, which is definitely not a common occurrence. As discreetly as possible, Lena risks a glance down to see who it is.

The sight of Kara Danvers sans glasses, relaxed against Lena’s shoulder, makes every thought in Lena’s head come to a screeching halt.

Panic bubbles in her chest, and she reacts before she thinks; she jerks out of the bed, taking the blankets with her in her haste, and ends up in a rather undignified heap on the floor. The unexpected movement makes Kara stir, and before Lena has even managed to catch her breath, Kara speaks:

“Lena, why’re you”—here, she pauses to yawn—“why’re you up so early?”

Lena is still frozen, unable to reply, but she hesitantly gets up once she regains her sense of balance. “Kara?” she manages to stammer, wholly unprepared for the sleepy, soft smile Kara gives her.

“What?” Kara hums, burrowing her face into her pillow with a content sigh. “Come back to bed, the kids aren’t even up yet.”

Lena doesn’t even want to begin unpacking what Kara’s just said. Instead she throws on a sweater she finds hanging on the bedpost, and the first pair of jeans off the floor, and she gets the hell out of there without another word.

She’s definitely not in her apartment, she can say that much. She steps over toys littering the hallway and makes her way down a set of stairs that groan the instant she does, frantically searching for any semblance of reality she can grasp on to.

Nothing about this house is familiar, but it does remind Lena a lot of Kara; its decor is cluttered, but there is something about the place that doesn’t make it feel cramped. It’s homey, definitely lived-in, and confusing toys aside, it reminds Lena a lot of Kara’s old apartment.

Except Lena had gone to sleep last night in her own bed, presumably far away from wherever this is, and she hasn’t said a word to Kara in three years. It’s official: this might be the most surreal dream she’s ever had.

“Okay, dream me,” she mutters, pulling on a pair of boots by the doorway. “Now would be a fantastic time to wake up.”

Speaking it doesn’t will it into existence, so Lena does the next best thing and grabs her cell phone and a pair of keys that are decidedly not hers, but will have to do. Crunching through snow, shivering at the sharp chill of the air, Lena makes her way outside towards….a minivan. Wonderful.

Somehow she’s wound up in suburbia. Maybe this is a sign that she needs to stop drinking.

While she waits for the car to warm up, she calls Jess. She can worry about the reason why her phone background is of two unfamiliar children later; right now, she’s thinking about Jess’s party and how she’ll gladly take it as her way of escaping.

Jess answers on the third ring. “This is early, even for you,” she says, amused. “The whole point in giving us Christmas off is for you to sleep in for once.”

“I’m sorry, Jess, this has been a very....strange morning,” Lena says, and when she leans her face against her hand she feels the cool touch of metal. Specifically, from a metal ring around her ring finger. “I, um, I was wondering if I could still come to your party?”

“What party?”

Of everything she’d anticipated hearing, Jess’s confusion is low on the list. “The party at your parents’ house?” Lena reminds her.

“Have you been drinking?” Jess says. “Or are you just that sleep-deprived? My parents are out of town for the holidays. I told you this ages ago.” There’s something off about the way Jess speaks; it’s so weirdly informal that it leaves Lena surprised. “Put Kara on the phone, I need to talk to her about the amount of sleep you got.”

“What?” Lena turns off the car, a sinking apprehension making her stomach churn. “Jess. How do you know I’m with Kara?”

“...is that a trick question, or…”

Something is wrong. Something is very, very wrong. Lena pushes the car door open and nearly tumbles into the snow, barely able to catch herself on her knees.

“Do you know the date?” Lena asks, swallowing back her panic.

“It’s December 25th. Lena, are you alright?”

“But the year, Jess. What’s the year?” Lena is trying her hardest not to freak out. Really, it’s an admirable effort. At the same time, her horror only grows tenfold when she hears Jess’s reply:

“Uh, 2028. Did you get a concussion since I last saw you, or what? Should I be worried?”

2028. Not 2020. That, at least, makes sense; time travel isn’t as inconceivable as one might think, and Lena’s witnessed much crazier phenomenons. But it does make her head spin, trying to figure out what how she could go to bed one night and wake up eight years later without so much as a warning.

“No,” Lena says faintly, looking back at the house she’d just left with a sinking heart. “Sorry, Jess. I’ll...call you later.”

She hangs up before Jess has a chance to respond. Brushing snow off her jeans, she stands; as much as she would love to avoid it, she knows she has to talk to Kara. Maybe she might have some idea about what’s going on.

The front door is unlocked when she pushes it open. She is crouched over, unzipping her wet boots, when she gets the distinct feeling she’s being watched; when she looks up she finds herself eye-to-eye with a small child, which just might be the reason why.

For a second the girl stares, not saying a word, as she sucks on her thumb. She looks young, and without a doubt, unfamiliar; her wide blue eyes are unblinking, curious, and then she says,

“How come you wented outside, Mommy?”

Lena’s mouth drops open in her shock, but nothing comes out. The little girl seems to take the silence as an affirmative for something, and in the blink of an eye she’s started running; vaguely, Lena hears her call,

“Mommy was playing in the snow!”

A laugh draws Lena away from watching the girl go, and then, as if it’s nothing, Kara Danvers steps right back into her life.

“Couldn’t wait for Lizzy?” she teases as she comes over to the door, shutting it when Lena doesn’t move. Kara is the only part of this place that feels familiar. Everything about the sunny smile on her face—the curves of her lips, the warmth of the crinkles around her mouth—is the sense of home Lena hasn’t seen in years.

Then, as if to add insult to injury, Kara presses a kiss to Lena’s cheek. It makes Lena instantly nauseous, as much as she hates to admit how much she’s missed this intimacy of theirs.

“I’m sorry,” Lena says faintly. “I can’t...I can’t do this.”

And she immediately throws open the door once more.

When she’s back inside the car, she starts it up, peeling out of the driveway so fast the tires squeal. She has nowhere to go, and yet, she drives. She drives out of the suburb, and into the city—which, to her dismay, is not Metropolis. She’s back in National City instead.

It doesn’t look any different. Muscle memory makes Lena take the long way around, back to where L-Corp used to be before she left. To her utter surprise, it still stands there, even though she was sure that it was taken over by some other company.

She makes her way to the doors, to see if it’s just a boarded-up building. From this side of the glass she can see a Christmas tree in the lobby, and working cameras in the corners, so that answers the question about whether or not the company is still running in the future. But she doesn’t understand why she would come back to National City, after three years of reestablishing herself in Metropolis.

On an impulse, she makes her way inside. The key, along with that of the car, are both attached to a garish pink keychain she couldn’t have picked out herself. No one else is in the building, and she avoids turning on any lights in case it might alert someone of her presence. She only has one goal in mind: to get back up to her office. The fact that she feels like she’s sneaking into her own building is irrelevant.

Her phone keeps buzzing with calls from Kara, and Lena silences it. She can’t think about Kara right now.

Her office door is also locked, but this time, the key is nowhere to be found. Lena pushes against the wood uselessly, and sighs; all this, and for nothing. She has no answers, and she’s run from Kara before she could figure out anything either. She wonders if she can find a hotel who will take her, so that she won’t have to return to Kara’s house.

Then she hears it, said softly in the back of her mind: Do you remember?

When she whirls around, that girl—the young alien girl, that she saw Christmas Eve—is back. Her eyes are as black as Lena remembers, and just as searching, yet this time her presence doesn’t feel as ominous.

“You again,” Lena says, stunned. “Was...was this you? Is that why I’m here? In the future?”

You're not in the future.

“It’s been eight years, I have to be,” Lena laughs, a strangled laugh really, and the girl tilts her head almost curiously. “Is this some kind of twisted version of that children’s movie? That—ghosts of Christmas past, and present, and future. Is that what this is?”

I'm giving you a glimpse, the girl says. This won't be your future.

The thought gives Lena pause. “If it’s not the future,” she says, “then what is it?”

A chance. To remember. The girl holds out her hand, and Lena tentatively takes it. Her touch is still cold, but not icy, as if there’s a warmth trying to come out. To see what would have happened.

“What would have happened,” Lena says. She might be a bit slower than usual, but forgive her if her mind’s elsewhere. “Do you mean...what would have happened if I hadn’t left National City?”

The girl smiles. You miss something, she says. I gave it back to you.

And then she’s gone, in another blink of an eye, leaving Lena with her hand outstretched; she can still feel the ghost of that cold touch lingering, and she draws her hand against her chest when it gets to be too much.

“So I take it there’s no instruction manual?” Lena asks the empty hallway.

.

.

.

On the drive back, Lena manages to piece together the obvious bits of what her life must be like. She must be married to Kara, and they must have a daughter, and she must still work at L-Corp—but everything else remains a mystery.

One thing is clear: she can’t tell Kara about this. She just needs this glimpse, however long it might be, to end before she can return to her normal world. Then it’ll be like it never happened, and she can forget about it. She can do that. She’s been in worse situations.

The GPS helps her find her way back home, and she grips the steering wheel so tightly it hurts the entire time.

This time the door is locked, and she has to try several keys before she pushes her way inside. The house is quiet except for the low murmur of a TV somewhere, and this time when she takes her boots off no small child tries to interrupt.

She walks into the kitchen to leave the keys where she’d found them. And, because she hasn’t had nearly enough surprises today, nearly jumps out of her skin because something bumps against her leg. A baby, in a walker, stares up at her for a second before breaking into a wide, toothless smile. When Lena doesn’t do anything beyond staring back with wide, shocked eyes, the baby holds up her arms like she wants to be picked up.

Here’s the thing: Lena isn’t the best with kids. And as she promptly finds out, waiting too long to pick up babies makes them cry. Very loudly.

“Mommy!” comes a shout, ringing out over the sobs. “Ieiu, Mommy’s back!”

Overwhelmed, Lena hurriedly picks up the baby, who quiets the instant she’s being carried. The little girl who had accosted her earlier comes running into the kitchen at that exact moment, excitedly throwing her arms around Lena’s legs.

“Hey, no running! We talked about this!” Kara comes into the kitchen too, and when she notices Lena, gives her a worried look. But she doesn’t say anything right away. “Come on Lizzy, you know you need to finish your breakfast.”

“Uh-uh.”

“Yes, you do, or else you won’t get ice cream.”

With a huff, Lizzy lets go of Lena. “Layla doesn’t have to,” she sulks.

“Layla is going to eat her breakfast too,” Kara says, and thankfully, she takes the baby out of Lena’s arms. “How about both of you go eat together? You can help me feed her.”

Lizzy brightens. “With a spoon?”

“Yes, but you have to be careful, okay?” Kara says, leading Lizzy out of the kitchen and snagging the walker on the way out.

Lena not-so-subtly examines the kitchen when she’s alone, taking in the fridge covered in drawings, the sink full of baby bottles, the mismatched placemats on the old wooden table. Everything about this house is messy in the most intriguing way, so unlike Lena’s empty apartment that it takes a moment to wrap her head around it.

She wonders if she’s allowed to avoid confrontation by avoiding everything Kara-related in this glimpse and booking a ticket out of the country. But she figures that would be too easy, so she resolves to see if she can make something for breakfast. Eggs she can deal with. Everything else is secondary.

Kara comes back, and Lena doesn’t realize this until she looks up from the pan to spot her leaning against the doorway. Gone is that warm smile from earlier; now, Kara looks faintly distraught.

“Hey,” she says when she catches Lena’s eye. Her voice is soft, but the conflicting disappointment in her eyes isn’t hard to miss. “Jess called.”

Lena drops her gaze to the stove. “Oh.”

“She seems to think you have amnesia,” Kara says, coming up beside Lena and rinsing the bottom half of the first bottle she finds. “Apparently you had to ask what year it was.”

“I was half-asleep,” Lena lies. “I’ll call her later to apologize.”

“Lena—you’re okay, right?”

“Yes.” This lie slips out easier than before, and Lena swallows hard. Kara is so close she can almost feel the touch of her skin, can almost imagine how easily it would be to lean to the left and feel the heat of her body.

“Whatever it is, you don’t have to run out looking for answers,” Kara says. She wipes her hands off on her shirt and, before Lena can reply, rests a slightly damp hand on the side of Lena’s face. Her thumb sweeps against Lena’s jaw, and a gentle kiss follows it. “You worried us.”

Lena hates that she almost leans into the touch. She jerks her head sideways with a stilted cough swiftly, and says, “I’m sorry. I just went into town, to...check on some things.” Her heart’s racing and she knows Kara can hear it, but Kara doesn’t comment on that.

“Next time answer my calls, then,” Kara says lightly, likely aiming for teasing, but it falls a peg or two short. “Also, your sweatshirt’s inside out.”

“I know,” Lena sighs, taking the pan off the burner as the eggs start to overcook. She throws them on the first clean plate she can find, all too aware that Kara hasn’t stopped watching her.

“You’d tell me if it was something serious, wouldn’t you?” Kara says. “Or Jess, if you’re back with whatever self-sacrificing schemes you and the NCPD do.”

“Of course,” Lena says quietly, and that makes the corners of Kara’s mouth tug upwards into something like a smile.

“Okay.” It looks like Kara wants to kiss her again, but refrains, opting to start preparing the bottle instead. “Now go take your pants off.”

Lena almost chokes on air. “What?”

“Movie night rule number four, Lena: only pajamas are allowed!”

Lena casts a dubious look at the window, which shows the sun shining high in the sky. “It’s nine in the morning,” she says.

“And?” Kara gives her a playful grin as she leaves the kitchen. “Hurry up, we’re waiting!”

Of all the ways to spend her first day of this “glimpse,” she supposes it isn’t the worst. She curls up in a large armchair while Kara and Lizzy claim the couch, baby Layla quite content in Kara’s lap. She drinks coffee out of a chipped mug that reads “World’s Worst Driver” that probably belongs to Kara, and Kara occasionally throws popcorn in her hair when she doesn’t sing along to every single song in The Little Mermaid. It feels as domestic as one would expect, but Lena doesn’t feel the slightest bit uncomfortable. A bit like a stranger intruding on something that’s not hers, sure, but not in a way that singles her out as unwelcome.

Finding Nemo is next, and Lizzy comes over to Lena’s chair and immediately gets on her lap while it loads. She’s heavy, but Lena wisely doesn’t say a word, because Lizzy apparently is adamant of a “no talking rule” that she herself frequently breaks.

Lena takes that moment to look at Lizzy. She blames the scientist part of her that drives her to observe, to question; Lizzy is not a problem to be solved, but she is an enigma. Clearly she’s outspoken, but easily distracted, and sometimes when she gets too excited she squeezes her popcorn bowl so hard it bursts. When she smiles, it reminds Lena so much of Kara’s that it’s surprising. She’s never been the type of person to remark something like you look just like your mother, but she might make an exception for this.

“Mommy,” Lizzy whispers as the movie starts, “you have to remember the scary parts, okay? So I can pro—pro—”

“So you can protect me?” Lena guesses.

Lizzy beams at her from behind a mess of black curls, which must be her answer. She takes Lena’s hands and makes her wrap them around her waist, and then she snuggles against Lena’s shoulder, hair tickling Lena’s cheek.

Lena still feels awkward about it, but if Lizzy notices, she doesn’t complain. Which isn’t bad. That’s not to say Lena will get the hang of this parenting thing, of course—she’s worried for when it isn't all cozy and domestic like it is now. But right now it seems okay.

Lizzy falls asleep halfway through the movie, despite it being midday, but one curious look Kara’s way gives Lena an answer:

“She woke up right after you did,” Kara explains. “She probably needs another hour or two. Can you finish feeding Layla? I’ll carry Lizzy to bed.”

And what else can Lena do but agree? She takes the baby.

At least Layla’s peaceful now, sucking away at her bottle as her eyes drift shut. It’s odd to have such a small person leaning against her chest, though. Lena doesn’t typically carry babies at all, so this might be the longest time she’s ever spent with one.

The only unnerving part of this is how Layla’s eyes snap open ever so often, as if something’s startled her awake, and then she stares right at Lena before slowly closing her eyes again. Lena wonders if this is a superpowered baby thing. Or just a baby thing in general.

“You know, I’m not your mom,” Lena tells the baby, not even sure if the baby can understand. Layla doesn’t even bother to open her eyes, jaw going slack as she stops sucking on the bottle and fully falls asleep. A drop of milk drips down her chin and onto Lena’s hand, and she sighs; might as well go and figure out where the nursery is now, and get that out of the way.

.

.

.

One disturbingly pleasant part of this situation is that Lena has realized what it would be like, to be in love with Kara Danvers.

Well, that’s not entirely true. She’s always loved Kara. But to see what it would be like to have that love reciprocated makes her stomach fill with butterflies, heart thumping hard in her throat, every time Kara simply exists beside her.

Lena goes to bed and tries to remain impartial by rolling over to her side of the bed, shrugging off Kara’s arm once Kara falls asleep—only to wake up the next day curled up against Kara’s side, Kara’s breath warm on her neck. Kara steals the covers often, and mumbles incoherently in her sleep, and it is all so endearing it makes Lena angry.

She wishes she could hate Kara. That would be so much simpler.

The baby’s cry cuts her thoughts short. For someone with superhearing, Kara doesn’t seem bothered to move a muscle; Lena lets her guilt guide her to the nursery, gently nudging Kara’s arm off her waist as she slips out of bed.

“I wish you could tell me what my routine is, or something,” Lena tells Layla glumly as she deals with changing Layla’s diaper. “Do I even go to work? Who watches you when I’m not at work?”

Answers aren't going to come from a eight-month-old, so Lena gives up talking to Layla and carries her out into the kitchen so she can brew some coffee. Kara ends up getting up soon after, padding into the kitchen as she yawns into her hand.

“Morning,” she says, voice thick with sleep as she kisses the top of Layla’s head, and then Lena’s temple. “Is Lizzy not up yet?”

“I don’t think so.” Lena’s face gets hot; she’s still not used to the casual shows of affection. “I can check.”

“Rhetorical question,” Kara says with a laugh, lowering her glasses to scan for herself. “Nope, she’s passed out.” She comes over to take Layla, much to Lena’s relief, and set her down in the walker. “How do you feel about bagels for breakfast? I can make a stop in New York.”

“Whatever you want’s fine,” Lena replies, pouring two mugs of coffee and offering one in Kara’s direction.

“Bagels it is,” Kara says, accepting the mug gratefully. She proceeds to empty so much creamer and sugar into it that Lena’s teeth hurt just by looking at it.

Absentmindedly, Lena sits down at the kitchen table and stirs her coffee, staring out of the window at the snowy morning. The neighbors across the street haven’t taken off their Christmas lights yet, and it makes her think of Lex; he had always been big on decorating, and was adamant that decorations stay up well into January. Lena has hated Christmas without him ever since, and as a result, no longer celebrates; she guesses that works out well, since Kara is Jewish and their girls must be, too.

Her mother must be horrified that she’s married Supergirl. Lena wonders if she knows.

A gust of air distracts her from the thought; Kara’s used her speed to get dressed, though not in her Supergirl suit. “I’ll be right back,” she says. “Oh! And Alex asked if you’d remember to call her, she wants to talk about Sam’s party I think.”

“Alex?” Lena echoes, but Kara’s already gone by the time Lena gets out, “As in...your sister?” Layla’s walker bumps Lena’s leg as she comes half-walking, half-kicking over, and Lena says, “I don’t suppose I know another Alex.”

Layla pushes backwards, making a small noise in frustration. Right. Still an eight-month-old.

Lena dials the only Alex saved on her phone, keeping it trapped between her shoulder and her ear as she surveys the living room. There are a surprising amount of pictures everywhere. She hasn’t really had a chance to explore the house fully in the new days she’s been here; it might be suspicious, and the last thing she wants is for Kara to ask why she’s so distant lately.

She stops to pick up a framed picture of Lizzy and newborn Layla, noting that there is a distinct lack of a hospital room, and almost forgets about her call entirely until Alex picks up.

“Hey, Lena,” she says. “Sorry I didn’t call yesterday.”

“That’s okay,” Lena says, placing the picture back. “Um, Kara said something about a party?”

“Sam won’t admit it, but she’s swamped—Ruby’s concerned,” Alex laughs. “Any chance you can be in charge of champagne? That way Sam won’t have to go last-minute shopping.”

“Sure,” Lena says. “I can do that.”

“Great. I’ll see you there then?”

“Yes, see you,” Lena says. She is slightly bewildered at the casual tone of the call; she and Alex never were anything but acquaintances before she left, though she guesses a lot can change in eight years.

The only consolation to this is that she and Sam are still friends. The downside is now she has to act like nothing’s changed with a group of people who she’s supposed to know. That, and now she has to be the one to run to the grocery store.

Lena resolves to try her best to fit in; after breakfast, she obliges Lizzy and plays dolls with her as Kara bathes Layla. Then she brings Lizzy with her to the grocery store, as Kara promises to clean up a little and start getting ready for Sam’s party.

Apparently everyone else is on champagne duty for New Year’s, too, because when Lena arrives at Walmart it’s crowded. Lizzy is nonplussed, jumping up and down in line as Lena holds a box of cheap champagne and apple cider in her arms.

“How come there’s no puppies?”

“Because Walmart doesn’t sell dogs,” Lena says. This is the fifth ridiculous question of Lizzy’s she’s answered as they wait, and Lizzy shows no sign of stopping anytime soon.

“Can we buy a puppy?”

“Not right now, Lizzy,” Lena says, setting the box onto the conveyor belt as the line moves.

“Khap sem chahv, Mommy,” Lizzy says, innocently blinking up at her.

Lena doesn’t know how to reply; she doesn’t know what Lizzy’s said. “...do you want candy?”

Predictably, Lizzy lights up; Lena knows some things about kids.

They check out and get home in record time. Lizzy sings along to whatever bubbly pop song is playing the entire time, getting almost every lyric wrong in between bites of her candy bar. When they go inside, Lena almost drops the box in her arms when she sees Eliza Danvers standing in the foyer.

“Grandma!” Lizzy yells at the top of her lungs. “I got candy!”

“You did, did you? Your Mommy’s losing her iron touch,” Eliza says, accepting Lizzy’s tight hug and shooting Lena an amused glance over the little girl’s head. “Why don’t you go help your Ieiu? She needs someone to help her find her shoes.”

“Okay!” Lizzy runs off, emboldened at the important task, and Eliza calls after her,

“Slowly, sweetheart, we don’t want a repeat of the carpet fire!”

Lena awkwardly sets the box down, feeling as though she’s intruding on something. But before she can second-guess herself, Eliza sends her a reassuring smile.

“Don’t worry, dear,” she says. “Layla’s already fast asleep, so I’ve got my work cut out for me. You’d better get ready before Elizabeth refuses to let you leave.”

Lena nods, dumbly, and makes her way upstairs. She picks a random dress from her closet and slips it on, but finds she can’t reach back all the way for the zipper. With a frustrated huff, she makes her way into the bathroom to see if the mirror will help.

She’s not prepared at all to see Kara already dressed for the party, in a backless pink dress that shows every rippling muscle of her back; Lena’s jaw drops, and she quickly tears her eyes away before Kara can catch her staring.

“Sorry, I didn’t know you were in here.” Lena makes to go, but Kara whirls around before she can.

“Oh, hey, you’re back! Need some help?” Kara’s hands come to rest on Lena’s shoulders, and before Lena can protest, Kara expertly zips her up. Her touch lingers; she smooths her fingertips over the small of Lena’s waist, and then kisses the back of Lena’s neck. “You look beautiful.”

Lena’s heart thumps hard in her ears. “So do you,” she says, and feels the vibration of Kara’s laugh against her skin.

“You picked this dress to drive me crazy all night, didn’t you?” Kara murmurs, trailing kisses along the side of Lena’s neck that should be ticklish but are really, really not.

“I...can change,” Lena says, trying to laugh it off as she turns around. Except now she’s mere inches from Kara, their noses practically brushing; her eyes drop to Kara’s mouth without meaning to, because she’s wearing lipstick so red it’s hard not to notice.

And then Kara kisses her, mouth warm and soft and smiling against Lena’s, and Lena reels back like she’s been slapped.

Kara’s smile drops, the confusion on her face as heartbreaking as the kiss itself was. “Sorry, not the time?”

“No, it’s—it’s fine,” Lena lies. Nothing is fine, but she can’t exactly say so. “I still need to get ready, that’s all.”

“Right. Yeah.” Kara doesn’t press this time either, making her way out of the bathroom with an apologetic smile.

Lena grips the bathroom sink and exhales deeply, ashamed that she misses Kara as soon as she leaves. This might end up being much harder than she thought.

It doesn’t help that Kara is endlessly patient with her, even when Lena takes too long to get ready. And as they make their way outside, Kara takes Lena’s hand, pressing a giddy kiss to the back of it before she lets go.

This feels too much like a date she isn’t prepared for. Lena doesn’t even know what to expect, really, but she does know that the way Kara looks at her is disarming. Kara has always been the type of person that is endlessly open, endlessly kind, but not without her own tendency to hide things as well as Lena does.

There is definitely a part of Kara that is worried, a part even she can’t hide. Lena’s guilt increases tenfold when she notices, but she doesn’t say anything about it. She lets them sit in suffocating silence, instead.

Kara breaks first. “Are we fighting?” she asks quietly.

“Of course not,” replies Lena, stunned by the question. “Why would we be fighting?”

Kara shrugs. “I don’t know,” she says. “You seem…” Off is the word she’s looking for, but she doesn’t actually say it aloud.

“I’m sorry.” Lena gazes out of the window, uncomfortably drumming her fingers against the door. “I know I’ve been a little in my head lately.”

“You can tell me anything, you know. Whatever you’re going through...I want to help you.”

“It’s nothing like that,” Lena says, which isn’t easy to admit. Kara had been her best friend, once; it’s hard not to spill about everything that’s happened. She tries a different tactic, a means to better figure out how she is in this world: “Do you think we’re happy?”

“Well, yeah,” Kara says, taken aback. “Are you not happy?”

“I didn’t say that,” Lena says, contrite. “Maybe it’s...my mid-life crisis, or something.”

“You’re still a little young for a midlife crisis,” Kara says, and there’s no mistaking the almost amused curl of her upper lip.

“It’s the Luthor genes shining through—you know us Luthors never live too long.”

“Don’t say that.” Kara casts a fond glance in Lena’s direction just as they reach Sam’s apartment, though the joke has clearly worked to cheer her up. “I intend to live a very long and happy life with you, Lena Luthor. So don’t go all melodramatic on me.”

“Can I blame the dramatic flare on the Luthor genes too?”

“I can’t believe I married you,” Kara says, and this time when she leans in for a kiss Lena sees it coming; she lets it happen, however brief, before she shyly pulls away.

“Kara?”

“Yeah?”

“We forgot the champagne at the house.”

“...shoot.”

.

.

.

Winter break ends for Lizzy, and Lena’s new life gets all that more serious.

She wakes up that morning to Kara crashing around in the kitchen, yelling something in Kryptonese that Lizzy replies to very grumpily. From the nursery, Layla starts to cry, and Lizzy yells even louder at Kara to be heard over her little sister’s wails.

Lena slides out of bed with a groan, making her way into the nursery right away. “Layla, don’t cr—” Any traces of exhaustion vanish when she notices the crib is empty; panic overtakes her without a second thought. “Layla?!”

The crying stops, and Lena follows the sound of the sniffling aftermath to see the baby floating just above her head.

“Um, Kara? Layla’s….she’s...I think she’s flying?” Lena calls.

Kara is in the room in a second, hovering slightly in order to gently bring Layla back down. By the way Kara gapes, it’s clear this is as surprising as it is to her as it is to Lena. “Oh Rao,” she whispers. “Two superpowered kids. Two…”

She wanders out of the room, Layla securely hugged to her chest, as if in a daze.

Lena grabs a blanket hanging on the edge of the crib and follows. “So, um,” she says uneasily. “This is new.”

“Yeah,” Kara says, a pronounced crinkle forming between her eyebrows. “I’ll have to call Eliza and let her know, just in case Layla starts showing other powers…”

Lizzy is sitting at the kitchen table when Lena follows Kara out, scowling as she eats cereal. She does lift her head slightly at the sight of her mothers, and with a disgruntled voice she says, “Layla’s not crying. Can I watch cartoons now?”

“You have school today, Lizzy,” Kara says. “No cartoons on school days.”

Lizzy scowls harder, but doesn’t argue; there goes the soft domestic side of this life that Lena had been living.

Kara leaves to work before Lena does, which apparently means Lena has to drop Layla off at Eliza’s and Lizzy off at school. Normally Lena wouldn’t mind, but she also has no idea where Eliza lives. Or where Lizzy goes to school.

“I’m going to head to the DEO after work,” Kara calls as she spoons baby cereal into Layla’s mouth. “I can pick up Layla and take her with me. J’onn won’t mind watching her while Supergirl’s on duty.”

“Okay,” Lena says, unsure if this is normal. She eats a quick breakfast herself, picking up after Lizzy when she abandons her bowl on the table and runs upstairs to get dressed. “So do I pick up Lizzy from school then?”

“Um, not unless you want to,” Kara says. “But I think she likes walking with Ruby, so, your call.”

“...right, I forgot. Ruby picks her up.”

“Mommy’s so forgetful, isn’t she Layla?” Kara chuckles, ticking Layla’s chin and making her giggle. “Can you say Mommy? Or Ma-ma?”

“Ah!” Layla shrieks.

“Close enough.” Kara kisses Layla’s forehead, getting a smear of baby cereal on her neck for her troubles. “Oh, I hope you’re good for your grandma today. Maybe I shouldn’t go to work today…”

While Kara continues to feed Layla, Lena makes her way upstairs to check on Lizzy; she’s been suspiciously quiet. A cursory glance into Lizzy’s room affirms her worry: Lizzy isn’t bothering to get ready at all, and is instead playing with her dolls.

“Lizzy, you have to go to school soon. Are you ready?” Lena asks awkwardly, because it’s clear Lizzy isn't, but she doesn’t know how to address the obvious in a way that spares the girl’s feelings.

“I don’t want to go,” Lizzy mumbles.

Lena guesses Lizzy must be kindergarten age; she’s still young enough that school must be as exciting as it is frightening. “Why not?” she says, cautiously sitting on the foot of Lizzy’s bed.

Lizzy shrugs, gaze fixated on her toys. “‘Cause I don’t wanna.”

“Is it because you don’t like school?”

“No.”

“Is it because it’s hard?”

No.”

At the defensive edge of her voice, Lena guesses it’s the second. “Okay,” she says. “Then if you like it and it’s not hard, I don’t see why you don’t want to go.”

Lizzy juts out her bottom lip angrily. “I don’t want to,” she repeats.

“How about this,” Lena says, shifting so she’s close enough that her knee knocks against Lizzy’s. “Let’s make a deal. You get ready for school, and I’ll help you with your work after school. Do you get homework?”

Ruby helps me.”

“I can help you too, if you want me to,” Lena offers.

Lizzy’s resolve crumbles, however weakly. “Ieiu would be mad,” she insists hesitantly.

“She would never be mad that you need help, Lizzy,” Lena says. “I’m sure she would help you too, if you asked her.”

Lizzy ignores that part of Lena’s pep talk, of course. “Promise you won’t tell Ieiu,” she says. “Pinkie swear!”

So that’s how Lena saves the day: by linking pinkies with a five-year-old.

After that, it’s a rush to get dressed, get Layla’s diaper bag packed, and help Lizzy find all the school supplies she’s inevitably lost to the couch cushions. Kara has left by then, so Lena is on her own; surprisingly, it’s not as bad as she expected. Lizzy’s breakdown aside, the morning is tame enough that Lena has time to check her GPS and find the right school.

Lizzy pokes her head into the front seat when she unbuckles her seatbelt, and kisses Lena’s cheek before Lena can blink. “Bye, mommy!” she says, and then she tickles her sister, too. “Bye, baby Layla. Wave bye, okay?”

Layla lifts her hand into something like a wave, which satisfies Lizzy; she jumps out of the car, waving all the way as she runs to the elementary school gates.

An odd, sentimental rush of affection for Lizzy makes Lena dizzy. Kids still aren’t really her thing, but...well, maybe she’d make an exception for these kids.

Then she shakes the thought from her mind entirely; she still has to drop off Layla, and figure out what the hell’s happened in L-Corp in the past eight years. Dropping off Layla is easy, but walking up to her own building is remarkably harder.

It feels familiar, and also not. There are new faces at security, but they wave her in without checking her ID like they know her even if she doesn’t know them. The building, while lit, is generally more welcome; when Lena walks up to the elevator, she is surprised to see just how many people stop to greet her. It’s not as if she was impersonal before, but she had been the slightest bit distant, and something has obviously changed since then.

The office she had been locked out of last time is open today, and when she walks in she sees why; Jess is already here, shuffling through a few papers on Lena’s desk with a frown on her face.

“Hey,” Lena says carefully, not sure what Jess’s reaction will be.

Jess’s head bobs up, and she regards Lena for a moment, skepticism written all over her face. “You left your key at my house again.”

“Oh. Sorry.”

Jess makes a show of holding up what must be Lena’s office key, which she then sets atop a stack of papers she’s just finished organizing. “So are you feeling better, or did you forget what year it is again?”

“I was having an off morning,” Lena says, embarrassment creeping up the back of her neck. “It won’t happen again.”

“You’re the boss, it’s all up to you.” Jess is still looking at her oddly, but she lets it slide. “Sam’s already taking over the boardroom, so you’re all good to finish paperwork if you want. Your secretary’s kind of squirrely, by the way.”

“You’re my secretary,” Lena scoffs without thinking, and just like that, the suspicion is back.

“Unless you’re demoting me, you really must have amnesia,” Jess says, slowly crossing her arms. “Did you touch something weird in the lab again?”

“I’ve been a little under the weather,” Lena is quick to say. “I meant that you’re...my favorite secretary. That I’ve ever had.”

“I’d better be, considering my competition is that polo-wearing kid outside,” Jess says. A buzz comes from a device on Lena’s desk that is much like an intercom, and Jess gives it an annoyed tap. “Okay, I need to go. Put a keychain on that key already!”

Just like that, Jess leaves—without bothering to stick around for a reply. Well, at least some things haven’t changed; when it comes to work, Jess is very singular in her tasks. That, and particularly no-nonsense, both of which Lena has always admired.

Unfortunately, Lena doesn’t have much luck herself, because she doesn’t know what she’s doing now that she’s out of the loop. She reads confusing proposals, signs some papers she’s pretty sure aren’t hers, and sends out polite emails to names she doesn’t recognize for a few hours before a distraction comes in the form of her new supposed secretary.

“Ms. Luthor, your daughter is here,” he squeaks out, clearly terrified, because a moment later Lizzy comes bursting through the door.

Lizzy gives the poor young man a venomous glare. “I told you she lets me sit here.”

“Lizzy,” Lena says, surprised. “Hi. Um, did Ruby pick you up, or…”

Lizzy tosses her backpack on the couch, distractedly gesturing behind her. “She went to find her own mommy,” she says, immediately getting on her tiptoes and attempting to reach the water pitcher Lena keeps on one of her shelves.

“...right. Thank you,” Lena says, waving her secretary away and wishing she knew his name.

He offers a nervous smile as he shuts the door. As Lena watches, Lizzy hovers an inch or two off the ground to lift the glass pitcher with a practiced ease the instant he’s gone; this must be a common occurrence, using powers out of sight.

“Mommy, mommy, mommy, guess what?” Lizzy says once she’s poured herself a glass.

“What?”

“You have to guess,” Lizzy says, sloshing some of her water on her collar in her excitement.

Lena isn’t sure how much of this is routine, but she plays along anyway. “You...got an A on your homework?” she says.

“No! Mrs. Hernandez says I can go to the high schools for math now,” Lizzy says proudly. “But you have to sign a paper saying I can! Can you do it?”

“High school math?” Lena repeats, slightly stunned. “I thought you were having trouble with school.”

Lizzy’s smile fades. “No,” she says. “I’m doing cal-cu-lus. Like Ieiu.”

That explains it. “I see,” Lena says. “Is that why you don’t want to tell Kar—I mean, Ieiu—about your school work? Are you afraid she’ll be disappointed if you’re not at the same level she was at your age?”

The way Lizzy stubbornly refuses to meet her gaze is answer enough. Lena gingerly sets her work aside, and stands up to give Lizzy the awkwardest hug in human history. She’s prepared for Lizzy to squirm away like any rebellious child would, and is surprised when she feels small arms encircle her waist instead.

“Reading’s hard,” Lizzy mumbles against Lena’s shirt, voice small and shaky. “I just want to be smart like you and Ieiu.”

Lena tentatively smooths a hand over Lizzy’s hair. “You are smart, Lizzy. You don’t have to take advanced math or read a million books to know that,” she says. When there’s no reply, she continues: “I’ll let you in on a little secret: I didn’t take calculus when I was your age.”

“How come?” Lizzy asks, clearly skeptical, which means Lena must be pretty bad at pep talks.

“Because I wasn’t ready for it yet,” Lena says, aiming for light even though she remembers being that age—smart as she was, she was no Lex, and her mother never let her forget it. “And that was okay. When I was ready, I took school at my own pace.”

Lizzy remains with her face pressed against Lena’s shirt, not speaking, and then after a minute she sighs. “Can I go find Ruby? She has gummy bears.”

“Sure,” Lena says. “Go find Ruby. I’ll come find you when I’m done here.”

It’s not until Lizzy goes, door swinging shut behind her, that Lena feels herself smile; a small, endeared tug of lips really, and that should be the first sign that she’s screwed.

.

.

.

Lena doesn’t know what it is about the house, but it’s oddly calming.

It has a warmth her real apartment lacks, and it compels her to come home to it every day. She doesn’t feel the need to stay late when she has Lizzy to take home, or Layla to pick up. She even finds herself more open to hanging out with Kara, though she’s careful to keep on avoiding the emotional aspect of their relationship. For now, she’s content to have Kara any way she can, and if it’s just under a guise of a marriage she supposes that’s enough.

Kara is as perceptive as always, and senses that Lena is distant more often than not, but she’s stopped bringing it up. The worried look in her eyes stays, of course, but it’s easy to ignore. At the very least, Kara seems to have accepted that there are some things Lena needs to keep to herself for now. She’s too understanding sometimes, but Lena is grateful for that now; the last thing she would want is for Kara to worry too much.

She’s Supergirl, for crying out loud—she has enough on her plate.

Lena does wonder how Kara is still Supergirl, with two kids and a job. She almost asks this one night, as she’s changing a page in her book and catches Kara watching her read. But she thinks better of it, and instead demands,

“Why are you looking at me like that?”

“How am I looking at you?” Kara laughs, gesturing to her own novel that she hasn’t so much as touched in the last ten minutes. “I’m reading, just like you.”

“You’re looking at me, not the book,” Lena retorts, feeling amusement creep into her tone even as she tries to hide it.

“You can’t blame me,” Kara says. “You know when you wear those glasses I get distracted.”

“They’re my reading glasses, what did you expect?”

Kara rests her cheek on her fist, giving Lena a charming grin she’s come to realize as the cute-but-devious one Kara reserves for when she’s teasing. “Hey,” she says. “I love you.”

The words make Lena’s heart flutter, and her cheeks flush pink. “You’re trying to be flattering,” she decides, refocusing on her book even though the words are swimming before her eyes.

“Is it working?” Kara’s grin becomes decidedly less cute, and in an instant she’s abandoned the armchair and is settling right next to Lena on the couch. She kisses the edge of Lena’s jaw, once and then twice, the sensation ticklish enough to make Lena laugh.

“Kara, I’m trying to get through this chapter,” she protests, as if her stomach isn’t doing flip-flops as she speaks.

“Your chapter can wait.” The kisses trail down to Lena’s neck, and become slower, more purposeful. “The kids are asleep, and we have at least three hours before Layla wakes up…”

It’s times like these that Lena really, really hates that Kara has superhearing. There’s no way she can ignore the way Lena’s heart races now.

Lena tries to stay strong. “Kara,” she says, “I don’t think…”

Kara’s mouth slides up to meet hers then, and Lena surrenders; it’s hard not to, because she’s dreamed of this moment for years, and now she can finally see that it’s better than anything she could have ever imagined. To really kiss Kara, to feel the softness of her mouth, to feel the way her tongue skims her bottom lip, to feel the reverent press of Kara’s fingertips against her lower back—it’s intoxicating, and Lena can’t get enough.

Lena feels herself sink against the couch, desperately working her fingers into Kara’s hair as her tongue slides into Kara’s mouth. Her glasses shift uncomfortably on her face and she tries to take them off, but only succeeds in smacking Kara in the forehead.

Kara isn’t hurt by it, but she does laugh against Lena’s lips, drawing back a little to take the glasses off herself. “You okay?” she asks, tracing Lena’s mouth with her thumb.

Now would be a good time to extract herself from the situation. But there is something about the way Kara looks at her—openly loving, tender in the gentlest of ways—that makes Lena’s heart ache, and the only way she can figure out how to fix it is to drag Kara down to kiss her again.

She wonders if it’s selfish to take advantage of this glimpse. This isn’t even the real Kara; this is a Kara she can’t have, a Kara that she could have had if she’d done the right thing and stayed in National City. If Lena were to meet up with Kara again she knows it wouldn’t end like this. She knows Kara won’t love her like this.

But it’s easy to pretend she can, when Kara’s hands are moving and Lena’s shirt is being unbuttoned. Kara’s mouth goes back to Lena’s neck, open-mouthed kisses burning a trail from the underside of her jaw to the top of her breasts.

Lena exhales shakily, basking in the feeling for a minute before she tugs on Kara’s sweater and makes her move back up her body to capture her lips once more. Kara is all too happy to oblige—after she’s taken off her sweater, of course. Once Lena slides her hands over Kara’s bare arms she loses all capability of thinking clearly.

Plus, the way Kara’s fingers smooth over her inner thigh isn’t helping. At first it’s just momentarily distracting, the touch so light Lena almost thinks she’s imagining it, but then Kara pops the button of her jeans open and all bets are off.

All Lena can think about is Kara, and the way she gasps softly against Lena’s mouth, and the way her fingers slowly inch closer to where Lena wants her until—

A cry rings through the air.

Kara freezes. Lena is dragged back to reality, too, when Kara withdraws; she sits up on the couch, running a hand through her unkempt hair as she seemingly does a quick scan of the house, lowering the glasses that Lena can’t believe are still on.

“Layla’s awake,” Kara admits, looking entirely unpleased about the situation, and Lena would laugh if she weren’t still stuck in a Kara-induced haze.

“I can get her,” Lena starts—though truthfully her legs feel like jelly and she’s not sure how far she can really get—and it ends up being Kara who laughs, albeit bashfully, as she stands up.

“No, I’ve got her,” she assures Lena, and as Lena props herself up on her elbows, bends over to kiss Lena’s forehead before she goes.

Lena flops against the couch with a groan. She lays there and feels guilty for all of three seconds before she throws her shirt back on, and buttons her jeans, because she has an inkling of what Layla wants.

Once she has the bottle in hand, she makes her way into the nursery. She’s never particularly liked this room because of how domestic it is; there’s a distinct feel to it that is all Kara, from the sunny yellow walls to the white furniture. There are signs of Lizzy too, from scribbles on the dressers to the toys stacked in the corner of the room that aren’t Layla's. Some parts of it eerily remind her of herself, strange as that sounds, like the mobile hanging over the crib that plays that old lullaby her nanny used to sing, or the high-tech baby monitors that have L-Corp written all over them.

But something about the way it is now, with Kara sitting in the rocking chair and Layla cradled to her chest, makes Lena pause. The lights are off save for the one in the hall, casting the room in a low glow, and Lena knows then and there that she wants this.

She wants late nights with Kara, with their kids, with Jess working by her side and a stable life in National City again. She wants to be close friends with Kara’s family, with Alex, and even with Eliza. She wants to learn Kryptonese, with the idea close to her heart that Kara’s world, Kara’s culture, is growing. She wants to never suffer another lonely Christmas Eve again, and celebrate Channukah with a family who loves her instead.

She wants something she can’t have, and it is the most sobering thought she’s had since she woke up here.

“Lena?” Kara says worriedly, drawing her back to the present. “Are you crying?”

“No,” Lena says, swallowing the lump in her throat as she hurries to hand off the bottle. “I’m stuck in my head again. I’m sorry.”

Kara bites her lip, obviously torn on how to respond, but she settles for a quiet, “You should get some sleep, I’ll put her back to bed.”

“Okay.” But Lena feels no urge to go, as if she is being drawn to the scene before her. The fact that she’s been hit by realization tonight makes her suddenly miserable; now that she’s admitted the truth, it makes everything she’s done harder to stomach.

She waits until Layla is almost done with her bottle before she makes herself leave, and even then, she stays awake until the side of the bed dips and Kara gets in. Kara slings an arm around Lena’s waist as she does every night, and Lena doesn’t hesitate to shift closer, selfishly seeking the comfort of Kara’s warmth.

Lena takes Kara’s hand in hers, and brings it up to her lips to kiss her knuckles. It is everything she wants to say, but can’t.

“Good call with the bottle,” Kara whispers against Lena’s neck, voice already low and sleepy. “She’s out like a light. Fingers crossed she sleeps the rest of the night, but I think her powers are affecting her more than Lizzy’s were.”

“It’s going to be hard,” Lena murmurs without realizing how heavy her words actually are, too consumed thinking about floating babies and all of the other possibilities that she hasn’t yet witnessed. Laser vision? Incredible strength? Impenetrable skin?

Kara smiles; Lena feels the curl of her lips against her shoulder. “Good thing we’ve done it before,” she says, squeezing Lena’s hip comfortingly. “And I think we did a pretty good job the first time around.”

Lena doesn’t reply out loud, but in her head she thinks, I'm sorry I missed it.

.

.

.

It’s late January when it snows hard enough for schools to close.

“Snow day, snow day, snow day,” Lizzy sing-songs all through breakfast, so hyped that Kara doesn’t let her have any sugary cereal. But even being confined to bran cereal can’t ruin Lizzy’s mood; the minute her plate is in the sink she’s disappeared into the backyard.

“That kid.” Kara shakes her head, halfheartedly feigning annoyance. “I keep telling her to at least put on a coat! The neighbors are going to think we’re neglectful parents who let their daughter run barefoot in snow.”

“Technically we do let her do that,” Lena says, snagging a Lego from Layla’s hand before she tries to stick it in her mouth.

“Yeah, but the neighbors aren’t supposed to know that.”

Layla grasps at the edge of the coffee table, pulling herself up on shaky legs, and coos; she’s charming even with drool all over her chin, and Lena can’t help but smile at her.

“I think I’m due at the office,” Lena says, hovering behind Layla in case she falls backward; she’s been very active lately, and one of her favorite activities is making her way around the coffee table in circles. “Should I drop Lizzy off at your mom’s?”

“I have a better idea,” Kara says, poking her head out of the kitchen to give her sweetest smile. “Call Sam to take over your meetings today and stay home with us.”

“Don’t you have work today too?” Lena says, because as tempting as the thought is, she tries to uphold her reputation as the practical one. It is substantially harder to do so when Kara looks at her like she’s the most beautiful person she’s ever laid eyes on, even though Lena’s dressed in a ratty sweatshirt and pajama pants that have long since lost their fuzz; Lena fights the urge to roll her eyes, too, because of course that’s also a tactic Kara likes to use to get her way.

But then again, it’s not like she minds, because Kara kisses her as if trying to sweeten the deal—and Lena feels her resolve fall apart.

“I have the day off,” Kara says, snaking a hand around Lena’s waist and, really, what else can Lena do? She calls in.

One of the perks of accepting the truth and ignoring the guilt that cultivates at the bottom of her stomach is that she can lose herself into this domesticity with Kara; she’s found that she enjoys the glimpse way more this way. Being immersed in this fake world grows easier and easier with each passing day, and Lena knows it has to end eventually, but she doesn’t dwell.

For now, she’ll take whatever she can get, so they have a proper snow day right there in the backyard. Kara invites Alex and Lucy over; their son, Sam (who they affectionately call Sam 2 when the other Sam is around), is Lizzy’s age and has just as much energy as she does.

Alex is enamored by Layla, and as a result, she sticks by Lena’s side. They watch their family’s antics together in relative silence, only broken when Alex says,

“So, Kara got you to play hooky?”

“If Sam asks, I’m sick,” Lena says in lieu of an answer, and Alex chuckles.

“Lucy convinced me, too,” she says. “But it’s nice, isn’t it? I feel like we haven’t met up since New Year’s, and you were drunk the entire night.”

Lena frowns. “I wasn’t drunk.”

“You fell asleep on Sam’s couch spooning a wine bottle,” Alex deadpans. “I’m pretty sure you were drunk.”

“Well, I don’t remember,” Lena says, which is half-true. That was almost a full month ago; she remembers how nervous she’d felt, relatively new in this glimpse, but she certainly doesn’t remember what had happened once she started drinking.

“Yeah, I’ll bet,” Alex snorts, reaching over to squeeze Layla’s fist. “Your mommy’s a lightweight, Layla, did you know that?”

“Don’t tell her that, she’s starting to talk,” Lena says.

“I doubt her first word’s going to be ‘lightweight.’ That’s a stretch, even for your genius kids.” Alex tilts her head thoughtfully. “Though hopefully it won’t be like Lizzy’s first word. What was it again? Fuck, or shit?”

Alex.”

“Right, small ears,” Alex says, covering Layla’s ears and prompting her to giggle. “Sorry. Sam’s so big I feel like I’ve forgotten the baby years.”

“I can’t imagine you miss it much,” Lena says. “No more diapers sounds like a dream.”

“I don’t know.” Alex gazes out to where Lucy and Sam are pelting each other with messy snowballs, fondness playing out across her face. “I’d take them all again without a doubt. We’ve been thinking about adopting, actually.”

“Wow,” Lena says, not quite sure how to react. “That’s...serious.”

“Well, you know, that is what happens when you marry someone,” Alex says, her tone suggesting Lena’s picked the wrong reaction. She rests a hand against Lena’s forehead, next, as if testing a theory. “Are you feeling okay? You look a little lost nowadays, but when I asked Kara about it she said I wasn’t allowed to run tests on you.”

“I’m fine,” Lena says, self-consciously batting Alex’s hand away before she thinks too much about it.

Alex purses her lips disbelievingly. “Okay,” she says. “But when you end up being an alien doppelganger Kara owes me dinner.” There is a teasing lilt to her voice that tells Lena all she needs to know about her relationship with Alex: they’re friends, trippy as that may seem.

Lena supposes that wouldn’t be a terrible development. As it is, she plays along: “That seems more like a punishment than a reward.”

“Obviously she wouldn’t be cooking,” says Alex, with a pointed roll of her eyes that almost makes Lena laugh. “I’ve learned my lesson there.”

From the other side of the yard, Kara cups her hands around her mouth and shouts, “Hey, I can hear everything you’re saying!”

“How can we forget?” Alex snarks, which makes Kara huff indignantly. “Here, let me hold Layla for a while. Go distract your wife before she tries to make us lunch today.”

“I can still hear you, Alex!”

“I’ll go order pizza,” Lena assures Alex as she hands Layla over.

“I knew you were my favorite Luthor for a reason,” Alex says, but just then Layla drops her head onto Alex’s shoulder and she melts. “Okay, maybe you’re my second favorite Luthor. This little one and Lizzy have you beat.”

Lena is halfway into the house when the implications of Alex’s words sink in. She nearly trips over the carpet in her bewilderment, because surely that can’t be right. There’s no way that she would want her kids to take her last name—not when they could have Kara’s, not when there’s even the slightest chance that the Luthor name might impact the way the kids grow up.

Pizza forgotten, Lena makes her way into the living room to try and see if there’s something that might clue her in to the truth. She finds a stack of DVDs that are labelled with packing tape, lovingly nestled among movies and the occasional album, scrawled with names like Lizzy's First BDay and Alex's Wedding.

(One says Lena Singing, and Lena shoves that one to the back of the stack in horror.)

She debates the possibility of watching one, just to better understand how she’s supposed to act around this newfound family of hers. But before she gets a chance to, Kara comes tumbling in, snow melting in her hair and socks sopping wet; when she catches Lena watching her, she says, quite sheepishly,

“I forgot to put shoes on.”

Lena bites her lip, feeling the beginnings of a smile start. “You forgot to put shoes on to go outside?”

“I was excited!” Kara pads into the kitchen, squelching with each step. “Alex’s being mean about it. Have you seen my boots?”

“No,” Lena says, carefully placing the DVDs back in order. She gets up to follow Kara, leaning against the doorway as she watches Kara put the kettle on the stove. “Can I ask you something?”

“Mm-hmm,” Kara hums, preoccupied with taking down a few mugs out of the cupboard.

“Do you think I’m a good mother?”

Kara stops what she’s doing entirely. “What?” she says, blinking, mug in hand lowering to a sharp tap against the counter. “Of course you are. Where’s this coming from?”

Lena shrugs. “I don’t know,” she says. “I feel like I’m doomed to become my mother at this point. Lizzy didn’t even want to tell us about struggling in school because of the expectations we’ve put on her, and I know that’s my fault—”

“What do you mean Lizzy’s struggling in school?”

Shit. “I mean...not struggling,” Lena says weakly. “But she seems to think she has to be a genius like you or me, and—she’s a kid, you know? I don’t want her to think she has to be anything other than a kid.”

Kara’s eyes are heavy with hurt by the time Lena’s finished, so absolutely devastated, and Lena instantly regrets bringing it up. “Did she tell you this?” she asks.

“Not in any certain terms.” Lena toys with the edge of her sweatshirt anxiously, finding that she is genuinely distressed when Kara turns away. “She didn’t want to say anything. Ruby’s been helping her in secret, and…”

Kara’s back is visibly tense as she continues her task from earlier, reaching for a few tea bags to set beside the mugs she’s lined up.

Lena hesitates, unsure how to approach the situation, and before she can think too much about it she walks into the kitchen. Kara steadily refuses to look at her, and Lena tentatively rests her hand on Kara’s waist.

“I didn’t mean to make you upset,” she starts, but Kara shakes her head.

“This is all my fault,” Kara admits grimly. “All those nights I told her about Krypton, and about what it was like for kids her age...I’m putting so many expectations on her without even realizing it. She’s a little girl, she’s not supposed to be worried about—Rao, I don’t even know what. Continuing my family’s legacy?”

“She just wants to make you proud, that’s all,” Lena says. “She loves you so much, it’s...it’s wonderful to see.”

“I don’t want her to internalize anything like that,” Kara says, and it sounds like she’s about to cry. “She’s going to end up resenting me for it, and then I’m going to be just as bad as my parents, and—”

“Kara,” Lena says, itching to touch Kara comfortingly, but ultimately refraining. “Don’t say that. Lizzy could never hate you. I'm the one who probably saddles her with enough issues as it is.”

“You could never.” Kara turns to face her then, eyes shining and wet, and a teary laugh escapes her lips. “Look at us, we’re two kids in and we’re barely having parenting doubts.”

Lena tries to smile reassuringly, though she suspects it wavers. “We’ve always been shit at timing, that’s for sure,” she says.

Kara sniffles, wiping at her eyes with a soft sigh. “I’ll talk to Lizzy,” she decides. “I wish she would’ve told me, but…”

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner,” Lena says. She still isn’t too sure why she didn’t; she didn’t want Lizzy to feel betrayed, and a more selfish part of her wanted to be able to do something right as a mother. “I guess I...well, I thought I could fix it all on my own. But that was wrong, and I shouldn’t have kept it from you.”

But Kara doesn’t look mad about it; instead, she’s gazing at her so reverently Lena is almost caught off-guard. “It’s okay,” she says. “I get it. I would’ve done the same thing.”

It is moments like these that Lena misses Kara the most; she says something so utterly heartbreaking, so utterly selfless, and means it every time. She manages to comfort Lena even when Lena herself doesn’t know she needs it, and Lena swallows back those three words she carries close to her heart and kisses Kara instead.

Her hands cup Kara’s face, thumbs smoothing over her cheeks as Lena lets her lips convey what she can’t say out loud just yet. This is the first kiss she’s initiated since she got here, and every tremble of Kara’s body, every shaky exhale of breath, is worth every shred of guilt still hanging on in Lena’s stomach.

This moment right now is all that matters. Lena wants it to never end, but she is only human; eventually she has to break away, but she stays close, forehead pressed against Kara’s as they remain existing quietly beside each other.

Kara’s hands have come to rest on Lena’s waist, as grounding as they are gentle. Lena knows then and there that it’s the second sign; she’s definitely screwed.

.

.

.

February comes and goes all too quickly, and one nondescript day of the month Lena gets a surprise she hadn’t been anticipating: her anniversary.

Kara doesn’t seem too invested in it, because that morning all she does is press a kiss to the corner of Lena’s mouth and says, “Happy anniversary, Lena,” while on her way to get Layla from the nursery.

That does nothing to stop Lena from feeling like a complete asshole, of course. There’s no way she would have known, but all the same—she wishes she did. And, as she receives the third or fourth sweet, emoji-packed message from Kara at work, she resolves to do something about it.

She enlists Alex’s help. Normally she would’ve turned to Jess, but Jess is already suspicious enough and Lena really doesn’t want to try and figure out the extent of Jess’s involvement in her personal life (aka whether or not she knows about Lizzy and Layla’s powers) so Alex is the safest bet as a babysitter.

When she gets home, Alex and Lizzy in tow, she’s not surprised to see Kara sprawled out on the couch in her Supergirl suit with Layla sitting up on her stomach; some nights Kara ends up too tired to do much, even get dressed in regular clothes.

“Hey, Alex,” Kara says, taking Layla’s fist and making her wave. “What are you doing here?”

“I’m taking over movie night,” Alex says. “We’re watching scary movies, right Lizzy?”

No, Aunt Alex!” Lizzy squeals, jumping away from Alex before she can be tickled. “We have to watch Moana ‘cause Layla likes that movie best. And we need lots and lots and lots of popcorn.”

“You finish that homework of yours and you’ve got yourself a deal,” Alex says, and while the two of them make their way into the kitchen bartering back-and-forth about bedtime, Lena makes her way to the couch.

When Layla catches sight of her, she raises her arms to be lifted. “Ah!” she shrieks.

Lena picks her up, still not used to the way Layla laughs and grips onto her shirt tightly. “Long day?” she asks Kara sympathetically, making sure to give Layla a small smile for good measure.

Kara’s response is a muffled groan into a pillow. “What good is a day off if I have to be Supergirl, too?” she bemoans. “I’m beat.”

“Oh. I’m sorry,” Lena says. “It isn’t exactly a glamorous anniversary, is it?”

“Not exactly,” Kara agrees, lowering the pillow apologetically. “But James is taking over, thankfully. I never want to leave this couch again.”

“Not even to go for dinner?”

Predictably, Kara perks up. “Dinner?”

“Alex agreed to watch the kids,” Lena says, nervous in a way she’s been all day; it’s like she is properly asking Kara out, no boundaries included. “What do you say? I want to take you out for once. Just you and me.”

“Lena Luthor, are you asking me out on a date?” Kara gasps, expression brightening, and Lena feels herself blush. “It’s not some crazy expensive place is it? Do I have to wear something fancy?”

“...well, it’s not too expensive—”

“I’ll dress up,” Kara promises, giving Lena an excited kiss as she gets up off the couch and towards their room.

Lena doesn’t know what it is about tonight, but it feels right somehow, to have this time to themselves. The last time they had been alone like this was Sam’s New Year’s party a month ago, and they hadn’t spent too much time together then at all.

This is different. Lena is aware of everything; the tightness of Kara’s grip on her hand, the way the light reflects off of Kara’s curled hair, the pretty lines of Kara’s smile—she commits it all to memory, because she could never want to forget.

The restaurant they go to isn’t as high-end as Lena had wanted, but it works. She doesn’t really care so much about the food, or the atmosphere, because she could be anywhere with Kara and it wouldn’t matter so long as Kara’s the constant in the equation.

They’re waiting for their food when an impulse hits, and Lena blurts out, “Dance with me?”

“Here?” Kara glances around their little booth, then to the nearby tables. “Right now?”

“It doesn’t have to be now,” Lena says, embarrassed, “but there’s a balcony outside that door and the music still plays out there, so if you wanted—”

Kara takes her hand, effectively shutting her up. “Lead the way,” she says.

It might not be the most romantic night ever, or even the most conventional, but it’s theirs. Kara steps on Lena’s foot at least twice; Lena laughs and assures her that it’s okay, and eventually they stop dancing and end up merely swaying together, barely moving to the music at all.

Lena has her head against Kara’s shoulder, and her arms around Kara’s neck, and she has never felt as safe as she has than now. Kara’s arms are wrapped firmly around Lena’s waist, in an embrace that is overwhelmingly pleasant, and they don’t even talk as they move together. It is as if the silence is preserving the magic of the moment, and they stay out there far longer than necessary.

“Kara?” Lena ventures to say, so softly that she is barely audible over the soft classical music coming from indoors. “Do you remember...when you first told me you were Supergirl?”

Silence greets her first, as if Kara really has to pause to remember. “You were so angry,” says Kara finally, her tone guarded. Maybe it’s even a tad remorseful, if slightly unsure where the question is coming from. “I thought I’d lost you forever, to be honest.”

“As in,” Lena swallows, the action burning a hole in her throat, “you thought I would never come back.”

The truth is, she remembers the day she’d left very clearly. Kara had showed up at the airport—as Supergirl, no less—and Lena had almost burst into tears at the first glimpse of her suit. Then she did cry, but only after Kara had begun to beg for Lena to stay, begging for their friendship and for the people who loved Lena just like she did.

Lena distinctly remembers how she had thought you don't love me like I want you to, and all she’d managed to actually say was a pained goodbye as she left, for good, out of Kara’s life.

“I did,” Kara admits now. “I don’t know what made you come back that next morning, but—I’m glad you did. I don’t know what I would’ve done with myself if you didn’t.”

Except the real Lena didn’t come back at all, and it makes her feel sick. She wrenches herself out of Kara’s arms, and regrets it the instant she sees Kara blink back at her in surprise.

“Sorry,” Lena says. “It’s just...maybe we should get back.”

“Right, we don’t want to miss out on the food,” Kara says, intertwining her fingers with Lena’s as they prepare to go.

“But I’m really glad I’m here with you,” Lena is sure to add as they make their way inside. She feels the need to say everything she has been bottling up for the past two months, to finally make her feelings known; it will make no difference to Kara, but it’s decidedly more impactful for Lena.

“I’m glad, too,” Kara says, squeezing Lena’s hand. “I know we don’t really do anniversary stuff anymore, but this is nice. I can’t remember the last time we had a date night that didn’t involve cheap wine and cleaning up Legos.”

“Speaking of,” Lena says as they reach their table once again, “shall we get a bottle?”

“Of fancy wine? I’d expect nothing less, Mrs. Luthor,” says Kara with an exaggerated bat of her eyelashes. “How long can Alex stay, again?”

“She agreed to sleep over,” Lena says absentmindedly as she reaches for the wine menu. “So we have plenty of time to ourselves.”

Kara’s leg brushes against hers underneath the table, undoubtedly on purpose. “Are you trying to seduce me?” she asks, in that tone of voice that says she certainly wouldn’t be opposed to the idea.

“Is it working?” Lena finds it in herself to tease, and Kara laughs, so carefree and warm that Lena’s heart skips a beat.

“Ask me later,” she decides, “so you have a better chance to woo me. Come on, give it all you have.”

The rest of their evening is spent just talking. Lena has missed being able to talk to her best friend, and it is an absolute relief to get that back. Of course, there’s a weight that hadn’t been there before; Kara always has a secretive twinkle in her eye, and Lena finds herself flushing a lot more when Kara’s silky dress brushes against her bare leg, but it’s no different than before.

In any universe, Kara just...knows Lena. And Lena hates that she let that slip away from her.

But there is nothing Lena can do to fix it here, so for once she tries not to overthink this. She’s just going to have a good time tonight, and she can figure out the rest later.

Except there’s something in Kara this evening that is surprisingly bold; she traces her fingers over Lena’s wrist as they talk, and the amount of times her leg brushes Lena’s cannot be a coincidence. Lena feels her body overcome with heat, a tightness in her lower stomach she can’t ignore, and she thinks, screw it, why put up any pretenses,?

They forgo dessert. On the drive to the hotel room Kara quickly books, they can’t keep their hands off each other. Lena would be embarrassed to have her driver witness this any other night, but the way Kara kisses her neck feels too good not to allow.

They only manage to make it inside, and into their room, after a few more stolen kisses; they look unkempt, Kara’s glasses askew and lip gloss sticky over Lena’s neck, but none of that matters once they are finally alone.

Lena unzips Kara’s dress with quivering hands, and Kara takes over when it gets to be too much.

“You okay?” she whispers against Lena’s temple, hands smoothing over Lena’s lower back. “We can go slow.”

“No,” Lena says, her own hands finding purchase on the sides of Kara’s face to reconnect their lips again. “No, I want you.”

Slowly, Lena is divested of her dress too, and she sinks back against the bed as Kara fits between her legs.

“Tell me if I’m going too fast,” Kara says, and she waits for Lena’s shaky nod before she continues; her mouth goes back to Lena’s neck, and her hands slide over Lena’s arms as she gently tugs her bra straps down.

Lena grasps onto any part of Kara she can touch—the back of her head, her shoulders, her back—and surrenders, eyes fluttering shut at the first touch of their bodies together.

.

.

.

“Ooh, look—crayons!”

“You have plenty of crayons,” Kara says, placing both hands on Lizzy’s shoulders before she dashes off. “We’re here for groceries, remember? No toys.”

“Crayons aren’t toys,” Lizzy says. “I can use them for school.” She is not too invested in the crayons after all, easily striding past the aisle once she sets her eyes on another target. “Can we get chips? Pleeease?”

“How about you help me find the eggs first, and then we talk about it?”

“Yeah!” Lizzy exclaims.

Kara sends Lena an amused glance over Lizzy’s head. “Lizzy and I will get all the dairy products. Do you want to take the cart and get toilet paper?”

“Sure,” Lena says, pushing the cart away as Layla waves goodbye. “Come on Layla, looks like you’re helping me out today.”

“Ahh,” Layla coos, grasping at Lena’s wrists as she moves. She loves sitting up in the shopping cart, wide, curious eyes taking in every colorful display they pass; Lena’s glad they decided to make this grocery store trip together.

“Should we get two packages or one? What do you think, Layla?” Lena says once they reach their aisle, and even though she’s not expecting a reply, the odd silence that follows makes her look back down at the baby.

Layla is staring off in the distance, not afraid, but no longer giggling happily. Before Lena can turn around, she hears,

Did you remember?

And in the blink of an eye, that young alien girl is back. She looks different now, hair reaching just to her chin, missing some of the youthful lines of her face as if she’s grown up. Her eyes remain as inky black as ever, but there is something gentler about them now, as if there is a trace of empathy to be found.

“It’s you,” Lena says, stunned. “How did you…” She whirls around, trying to see if there are any witnesses, but save for Layla the aisles are suspiciously empty.

I hope you understand now, the girl says. Did I help you?

“I...think I do,” Lena says, and when the girl continues to watch her expectantly, continues, “You did help me. I don’t know how you did this, or why, but...thank you. For everything.”

The girl smiles. I gave you something you lost, she says, Don't waste it.

“Does this mean that I have to go back?” Lena asks quietly. She only gets a blank stare in return, and when she blinks again, the girl has vanished.

The heaviness forming in the pit of her stomach stays, even after they’ve left. Lizzy and Kara sing along to whatever pop song is playing on the radio, Layla shrieking in tandem, but Lena can’t bring herself to play along. All she can think about is losing this, losing what was never even hers to begin with, and she knows that makes her immeasurably selfish; the thought wrecks her so much, in fact, that she feels distanced from this reality once more.

She stays like this through dinner, and through her last movie night, before the kids need to be put to bed. Lizzy rushes off to brush her teeth, and Kara chases her to braid her hair, while Lena attempts to rock Layla to sleep after she finishes her bottle.

“You have to be good for your mom,” Lena tells her softly. “I-I know that’s not me, but, you’d probably be better off that way, right?” Layla stares up at her in innocent confusion, and Lena gently brushes the soft hair off her forehead and says, “Will you ever exist? Do you think there’s an Earth where I didn’t leave, and some other version of me is happy here? With you, and your sister, and Kara…”

Layla smiles, reaching a small hand to curl against Lena’s shirt. “Ma,” she says, little nose scrunching as she starts to fall asleep.

Lena feels like she might cry. “Yeah,” she says hoarsely, kissing the small hand and gently placing it back. “Yeah, I’m your Ma.”

She sets Layla in her crib once she’s in no danger to wake up, but doesn’t leave yet, watching her sleep for so long that Kara has to poke her head into the nursery to find her.

“Did she just fall asleep?” Kara whispers, resting her chin on Lena’s shoulder.

Lena nods, silently, even if that’s not true. Even with Kara there she’s hesitant to go; she knows deep down that this is it, this is the last time she’ll ever see Layla like this—and at all.

“Seems like we’re all running late for our bedtimes,” Kara says. “Lizzy just brushed her teeth, and she’s refusing to go to sleep until you go tell her goodnight.”

“I’ll be right there,” Lena says, allowing one last glance into Layla’s crib before she goes to Lizzy’s bedroom.

This room is another that Lena doesn’t really spend too much time in, but mostly because Lizzy is very particular about the way she keeps her room and her mothers apparently aren’t allowed in unless she asks them to; Kara jokes that she’s going to be an insufferable teenager.

Some of that bravado remains in Lizzy even as she lays in bed. “Mommy,” she says, “do I really have to go to sleep?”

Lena takes a seat on the edge of Lizzy’s bed. “You have school tomorrow, remember?” she says.

Lizzy yawns. “But I’m not tired,” she says, always stubborn even when she doesn’t have to be, and Lena smiles.

“Go to sleep,” Lena says, pressing a kiss to Lizzy’s forehead and watching as it seems to weaken her resolve. “Tomorrow will be here before you know it.”

“Can we get ice cream tomorrow?”

“Whatever you want,” Lena says, and she stays here, too, long after Lizzy falls asleep. She smooths the blankets over Lizzy when she finally does leave, just to make sure she’ll wake up warm and comfortable, and misses her fiercely the moment she shuts the door behind her.

Lena takes her time getting ready for bed. The inkling that this is her last night makes her drag her feet in everything she does; Kara, who is already in bed, watches Lena come out of the bathroom after brushing her teeth and laughingly asks,

“Did you drink a lot of coffee today? You’re usually asleep before I am.”

“I’m just not tired,” Lena lies. When she actually gets into bed herself, she doesn’t let Kara hold her like she usually does; instead, she faces Kara, memorizing every inch of the softness in her eyes, of that scar she’s never been close enough to touch before, of the curve of her smile and the way she sleepily kisses Lena’s hand as she thumbs over Kara’s bottom lip.

This might be the only time Lena will ever known what it’s like, to have Kara Danvers love her, and the truth is she hates to leave it. She almost wishes she could stay forever in this world, this world that isn’t a picture-perfect daydream but rather a glimpse of what it would be like to overcome the worst of the world for this one jumbled, loving, chaotic mess of a happy ending.

But she also knows she doesn’t deserve this world. She can’t, not when the truth is she’s let herself be blinded by fear; how is it, she desperately thinks, that she has allowed fear to creep into her life at all? She’s supposed to be the one who takes risks. She’s always been able to fight for what she wants, even if it comes at a cost she can’t pay; however, in matters of the heart she has always been unable to truly encompass that way of thinking.

All of the guilt, the hurt, the shame aside—Lena also knows she can’t leave this alone. Not anymore. And so she takes a risk now, even if it feels like the dizzying equivalent of flying through the air with no guarantee she will be caught:

“Kara?” she says quietly, just before Kara can fall asleep.

“Mm-hmm?”

“I love you,” Lena says, and it feels like a weight has been lifted off her chest; her heart races, and she feels a breath escape as if she’s been holding it.

Kara’s eyes remain closed, but the corners of her lips softly smile; with a barely audible whisper, she says, “I love you, too.”

Lena feels a single tear make its way down her cheek, throat burning as she remains torn between crying and laughing; this might not mean much to anyone else, but to her, it feels exactly like she’s landed.

.

.

.

It’s cold. Unfamiliarly cold, really, and that’s what makes Lena blink awake.

Gone are the stickers on the ceiling, the blue walls, the cotton sheets tucked securely around her body. She’s back in her old apartment, with high ceilings and hospital-like white walls and silk sheets that are cool against her skin.

It’s quiet save for the buzzes of her phone alarm going off, no sounds of babies crying or children’s cartoons playing in the distance. The silence is louder than she had been prepared for, and it takes a moment to get used to it before she slides out of bed.

Outside, it’s snowed again. Lena stands at the window and watches from her tall apartment building just how untouched it looks, the only sign that anyone has been out at all the cleared roadways and a few cars empty of snow altogether.

She checks the calendar on her phone to see that it’s as if nothing has changed: it’s December 25th, 2020, and she is as alone as she was months ago.

The only consolation is that the old Jess is back, and she calls right as the clock hits nine A.M. exactly. Lena almost tears up in sheer relief to hear her voice say,

“Sorry to bother you, Ms. Luthor. I know it’s early.”

“Lena, please,” Lena says. “And no, this is exactly what I needed. How are you, Jess?”

“I’m...well, thank you.” Jess’s voice holds a question about the apparent change of attitude, surely, but she doesn’t relay it. “I wanted to ask if you had thought more about the invite to my parents’ house later today. I did send your driver the details, but if you’d like me to send them to you too I can.”

“Of course I’ll go,” Lena says without a second thought. “But I do have something I have to take care of first. Hopefully it won’t take too long.”

“Oh. Well, that’s—that’s fantastic, I’ll let them know,” says Jess, surprised. “Is there anything I can do to help you?”

“No, please, enjoy your time off. I’ll take care of this myself,” Lena says.

“For the record,” Jess says, “I’m not asking as an employee. I’m asking as a friend.”

Lena feels a rush of warmth cover her from head to toe. “Then between friends,” she says slowly, “I think...I might call up an old friend today.”

“So I shouldn’t book a flight to National City?”

Lena feels herself smile; Jess knows her far better than she cares to admit. “No,” she says, “but I’ll keep you posted.”

By the time she bids Jess goodbye, she is dressed and ready to go; she doesn’t call her driver beyond to wish him happy holidays and give him the day off, and then she drives herself to L-Corp.

Maybe it’s not the most conventional way, to call back from her office phone, but she does it: she waits, heart hammering in her chest, for a reply.

“Hello?”

The first sound of Kara’s voice makes Lena’s mouth go dry. “Hi,” she says, wiping a sweaty palm on her jeans. “It’s me.”

“Lena.” There’s a hint of surprise then. “I thought Jess usually handled your calls. Not that I don’t want to hear from you, obviously, it’s...it’s just unexpected.”

“I know,” Lena says, swallowing thickly. “I was wondering if we could talk. Not just on the phone, but—face to face.”

“It’s been a long time,” Kara says, but there is no accusing lilt to her tone; it remains as confused as Lena expected, because Kara has never been the type to hold a grudge for too long. “Are you...back in National City?”

“No,” Lena says. “I’m still in Metropolis.” She hopes that says enough, and maybe it does; Kara’s line goes quiet for too long, and then goes dead.

And then, right there on the balcony Lena never uses, Kara lands. She’s dressed like Supergirl, hands firmly on her waist, but the expression on her face is anything but brave; she looks cautious, worried, and rightfully so.

Lena opens the door, and when Kara doesn’t move to enter, stands in the doorway instead. It’s so cold that she feels the chill seeping in through her clothes, enough to almost make her shiver, but she can’t let something that trivial slow her down now.

“You came,” Lena says. “I...wasn’t sure if you would.”

“Of course I did.” Kara’s eyes soften, the crinkle between her brows slowly fading. “I’m sorry to intrude like this, I— didn’t think you ever wanted to see me again, let alone want me to fly over here.”

“I hoped you would,” Lena says, admitting the fact as freeing as it is terrifying. “I missed you so much. And I was a coward for never telling you that.”

“Lena—”

“I wasn’t mad that you didn't tell me you were Supergirl,” Lena says. “I knew that. I always figured it was your secret to tell, and I had no right to be mad at you for it. You just wanted to protect me, and I couldn’t possibly hate you for that.”

“But you were mad. You looked so…” Kara trails off, and Lena is ashamed for it.

“I was angry at first, I know,” Lena says. “I thought you didn’t trust me. It was never about hiding your true identity from me that I hated—it was the fact that you went to great lengths to lie to me, and it hurt me so much that when you were forced to tell me it felt so cheap. That was selfish of me.”

“I should’ve told you earlier,” Kara admits, hands falling off her waist as her shoulders dip lower. “I’m sorry I didn’t.”

“You owed me nothing.” Lena takes a tentative step forward, disturbing the snow on the ground that she’s never once stepped on before. “Everything about Supergirl is you. It’s for your pain, it’s for your family, it’s for your heart, and—it has nothing to do with me.”

“I didn’t know how to tell you. Every time I tried, I—I just couldn’t. That was selfish of me,” Kara says. “You were the only person I could just be Kara with and I didn’t want to lose you. And as it turns out, I still did.”

“I was the one who left,” Lena says, and this time she can’t be imagining it; Kara moves a step closer, too. “It’s not your fault. It’s mine.”

“I didn’t go after you,” Kara says. “And I regretted it every day for months. Then I felt like it was too late by then.”

Lena bridges the gap, so close she can see every nervous shift of Kara’s mouth. “But you called me yesterday,” she says quietly. “Why?”

“Honestly?” Kara winces, unable to look Lena in the eye. “Alex asked me to. She’s engaged, and...well, she wanted to invite you on my behalf.”

Lena has to admit she feels a little disappointed Kara hadn’t called her on her own accord, but she understands; she’s certainly never taken the chance to reach out before, and she doesn’t blame Kara one bit.

“I’m glad you did,” Lena says. “It helped me see how much I’d missed you. And,” she hesitates, because she knows she’s never taken a risk larger than the one she is about to take, “I’m sorry I didn’t tell you this sooner, but—it helped me see how much I’ve never stopped loving you.” Even as Kara’s mouth falls open, the shock coloring every inch of her expression, Lena goes on: “Maybe that’s why it was so easy to leave you. I told myself you didn’t love me the same way, and building those walls back up that you’d crumbled was easier than trying to admit it to you.”

“Lena—”

“And you don’t have to love me back, okay? I know I’m digging myself into a hole here and I’m sorry but, I’ll get over you if that’s what you want. If you love someone else or if I’ve missed my chance then I’ll live. But if you feel like you could, even if it’s some small part of you—I can’t stop imagining us, back in National City, and we’ll live in a really ugly house in the suburbs with two kids that will drive us crazy and and they’ll call you Ieiu and call me Mommy and float out of their cribs and run too fast and catch the carpet on fire and—”

Her rambling is cut short by Kara’s lips against hers, and two warm hands cupping her cheeks. Lena grips onto Kara’s cape desperately, heart nearly jumping right out of her chest, and she pours every ounce of feverish relief, of unbridled joy, into that kiss.

Lena’s lips are cold and chapped and it feels like there are tears on both sides that make them both break away all too soon, but it’s simply perfect. She keeps her arms locked tight around Kara’s neck, pressing her cheek against Kara’s for as long as she possibly can.

“Do you really mean that?” Kara asks against Lena’s hair, breathless in a way Lena has never heard Supergirl be. “Do you really love me?”

“I would be a fool not to,” Lena says, and Kara almost laughs.

“I love you too,” Kara says. “So much. And I didn’t think...I didn’t know…”

The admission makes Lena’s breath get caught in her lungs; it’s said as genuinely as the last time Lena heard it, but it is much less bittersweet and all the more wondrous. “We’re truly terrible at timing,” she manages, and this time Kara does laugh.

“Yeah,” Kara says, letting go of Lena in order to look at her again, and her eyes are wet and her hair is slightly messy but her giant awed smile is as beautiful as ever. “Yeah, we really are.”

And that’s how Lena knows that they’ll be okay. The wind whips around them and the beginnings of a light snowfall hit, speckling cold white snowflakes in their hair, but Kara’s arms around her keep her warm, and the promise of what is yet to come keeps her even warmer.