“What kind of child doesn't run to their mother or doesn't scream for help?”
“I did nothing, I just watched her die.”
“I've always known that deep down inside that… that I belonged with them.”
Lena opened her mouth wider and took a larger gulp of wine. She closed her eyes against the assault of memories but they came with a deeper ferocity, so much so that she could hear the waves again. They were deafening.
They were louder than she had ever heard them before.
The wine was rich on her tongue, full bodied with just a hint of sweetness. The empty bottle was perched against the tiles beside the bathtub and Lena didn't stop drinking until her glass was drained of its contents.
“Time of death: 4:03AM.”
“Time of death: 4:03AM.”
“Time of death: 4:03AM.”
Lena’s head was just fuzzy enough not to question herself. She thought of her mother, what drove her to do it, wondered how she felt when it happened. Lena wondered if it felt like peace.
It wasn't the same, it could never be, and despite having yearned for those answers for most of her life Lena didn't think of them when she slipped under the water. She didn't think of anything.
There was nothing.
No expectations, no noise, no pain.
For a glorious while it felt like a balm to raw skin.
Like most things in her life, that didn't last.
Lena fought against the urge to push to the surface, ignored the burn in her lungs and the way the muscles in her stomach had begun to contract in protest. Lena waited until the roar in her ears began to slow to a lazy thud. Only then did she allow her toes to twitch against porcelain.
That was enough.
She heard a distant smash of glass and she was above water in the next second, a flash of colour all she registered for a moment or two. Red and blue formed into what she was afraid of: Supergirl in her bathroom, kneeled beside the tub with her cape detached and draped over Lena's otherwise naked body.
Lena's chest heaved as she caught her breath and Supergirl stared at her in that desperate, pained way that managed to both cut and infuriate.
It was quickly unbearable.
Lena barely heard it over the roar of her own heartbeat. She clutched the cape to her body the best that she could under the moving water and it spurred Kara into a tentative offer.
“Let's get you out,” she said, half standing with a moment of hesitancy before it was blinked away and she reached down.
Supergirl's fingers barely touched water when Lena visibly tightened, stopping her in her tracks.
“I'm quite capable.”
It was a little snippy and Lena both did and didn't mean it but the immediate withdraw was enough to soothe the sting in her chest upon seeing the Girl of Steel wince at her words. Seconds later and Lena wondered if Supergirl could read minds with the way she looked at her.
As if drowning, shame filled Lena and she averted her gaze downward to the mass of red material floating on and under the water's surface.
Kara was not alien enough not to get the hint, though she was not alien enough to simply walk away either.
“You know what I'm really good at?” Supergirl opened with. “Tea. Like… really good at it. I'll make some.”
“I've never much cared for tea, and I really don't believe now is--”
“You've never had mine,” Kara cut in. “Besides, I can't fly anywhere, you have my cape.”
Lena doubted that so very much.
She wanted to fight but there wasn't much left in her so she accepted her fate of having to awkwardly share a cup of tea with Supergirl, whose relationship to her was complicated enough as it is.
Lena doesn't hear anything in her apartment that would suggest she had company, let alone someone moving around her kitchen until she eventually found the strength to pull herself out of the tub. The loud swish of disturbed water apparently spurred Supergirl into remembering she had a task rather than standing outside of the bedroom.
Lena took her time drying her body and rubbing a towel through her hair. She made an attempt to squeeze some water from the cape but it needed a dryer, or a flight. She was thinking logically when she moved the clean towels from their usual spot on the heated rail to make room for Supergirl's cape.
It certainly wasn't how she envisaged her day ending up, or her bathroom ever looking: like she and Supergirl shared an en-suite.
Kara looked up when Lena finally emerged from her bedroom and adjacent bathroom, finally dressed. Kara looked at her carefully in case she missed anything, like she had clearly done a lot lately, and she liked the way Lena had left her hair down in damp waves. It made her look softer.
It ended there.
Lena's expression was neutral at best.
Kara wasn’t intimidated by many things at any stretch of the imagination, but one glance of Lena Luthor, armor on? Well, it caused a stir of many things inside of Kara. She smiled in hope of breaking through, carefully pushing a steaming mug forward across the counter.
“I wasn’t sure if you took sugar…”
Reluctantly, Lena rose on her toes and shifted onto a stool where she wrapped her hands around the mug until the temperature was biting and she had to release it. She could feel the weight of a dozen questions without Supergirl so much as opening her mouth. She felt them like a hand around her throat and the urge to swallow was so strong that she sipped her drink under the watchful gaze of her… intruder?
What to even describe Supergirl as. It was complicated. Or on the hand, maybe it was incredibly simple.
“What happened tonight?” Kara asked as gently as she knew how.
Lena savoured the tea against her tongue and lips. She had always preferred coffee but right now it felt a little bit like holding a cushion against her front and she was grateful to have something else to focus on, something else in front of her even if it was only a mug.
“Let’s see… I’ve had a rather… trying time at work and I decided to relax with a bottle of wine and a soak in a hot bath when my house was vandalised and privacy annihilated in one fell swoop,” Lena replied with a perfect arch to her brow. “That about covers it.” When it appeared as if Supergirl had something to say, she added, “I also called the police and my security team.”
“Because your stunt set off silent alarms and I already have one uninvited guest this evening, I wasn’t about to entertain a roomful.”
Kara’s brow wrinkled. “I was out flying and I heard- I mean, I thought you were…”
“I thought you needed me.” Kara licked at her lips when a mean smile came to Lena’s mouth.
“You wouldn’t admit it even if were true, would you? Not anymore.” Lena sipped at her drink and Kara felt the crushing weight of regret sit heavy on her chest. Betraying Lena was one of her biggest regrets and she would take the anger Lena had. If she was angry, part of her still cared. “You were under the water.”
“I promise, here on Earth there is no wrong way to bathe.” It was beneath Lena to say but she didn’t take it back.
“I didn’t realise you had gills.”
Lena’s brow cocked. “The many hidden layers of a Luthor.”
“You’re full of it tonight, huh?”
“You know the way out, Supergirl. It’s the large set of doors or the gaping hole where one of my windows used to be. Need I remind you that you didn’t hold an invite tonight.”
“You can tell me anything,” Kara continued, undeterred.
“Except to leave, it seems.”
“You were glad to see me when I helped with Mercy.”
“That was different.”
“Because people I care about were in danger,” Lena says pointedly.
Kara went to adjust her glasses and felt her face instead. She scratched at her skin like it had bothered her. “So if…” She took a deep breath. “If you had Kara Danvers here right now and she asked you if you were okay, to talk about any… personal or professional troubles, what would you say?”
The mention of Kara elicited an outward reaction. Lena’s face hardened. “That’s hardly your business.”
“But she’s your best friend. You love her, right? I know she loves you.”
Lena isn’t sure anybody had ever loved her the way she had loved them.
“For the love of God, Supergirl. I took a bath and you saw fit to burst in. That’s it, end of story.”
It wasn’t. Kara knew that in her bones and it terrified her. She didn’t know how to keep that fear off her face. “But you love her, and you trust her. If something was wrong, you’d call. You know she would drop anything for you, it’s who she is.”
“Kara is very dear to me. If I needed anything at all… I would reach out.”
Except she didn’t. There was no communication whatsoever and Lena was not herself, at least enough to make a dangerous decision.
Kara cringed at the betrayal of privacy she’d committed tonight by listening in during her patrol but after knowing of some of James and Lena's problems she couldn't help herself, she had to check in. She would have stopped by as Kara if everything had been less alarming. Maybe then Lena wouldn't be so angry.
Ill feelings aside, Kara stood by the decision to be there, even as Supergirl, if it meant Lena wasn’t alone.
“I’ll tell her to come by.”
“You will do no such thing,” Lena responded strongly.
It struck Kara how much she and Lena had in common, the roles they both had to play in their lives. Business side of Lena Luthor was as authoritative and intimidating as she was intoxicating. It always quickened Kara’s heart for one reason or another.
This time happened to be frustration.
“Then talk to me!”
Tea forgotten, the frustration was contagious. “I was stressed, I took a bath!”
“You’re lying,” Kara accused, head shaking.
“Humans do a lot of things when they’re stressed out. Had my boyfriend been here, you might have caught me doing him.”
The visual assault was too fast to block out. It felt like an all-out attack and affront to Kara’s entire being. She frowned against it, cheeks reddening.
Lena glanced away, heart pounding. She didn’t know why she’d just said that.
Kara took a moment to compose herself. “You can talk to me,” she said quietly. “I promise, whatever you say is safe with me.”
“ Yes . Always. Lena, please, you have to know--”
“Ms. Luthor is fine.”
“You have to know how sorry I am, how much I regret what happened, and not because I was caught. You mean— you mean a lot to me.”
Lena looked at her curiously. Supergirl looked so… genuine and contrite that it churned her stomach. She wanted to believe her, she did.
“Then I’d hate to know how you’d treat an enemy.”
“I’d never tell anyone,” Kara continued. “Ever. And I know you say you’re fine, you’re always fine, but you’re actually not and I can’t leave until I know that you’re okay, so what can I do to make you believe that you can trust me? What can I say?”
“Two words, Supergirl,” Lena responded easily, like she’d been waiting for that opening for some time, like it had always been the simple solution to whatever problem they had. “Just two.”
Kara felt her eyes sting in a terribly human manner. “You know I can’t.”
“Then thank you for the tea. I’ll see to it that the DEO gets the invoice for the window repair.” Lena’s attention was pulled away by a notification on her phone. It vibrated against the counter across the kitchen and she walked over to it for the distraction more than anything else, feeling the eyes burning into her every step of the way. It was a text message from James, opened curiously. Its contents made her stomach sink. It was good to see you today.
She couldn’t stand him in that moment, and she couldn’t stand herself either.
Lena did the only thing she could do; she lashed out. “Supergirl, I won’t ask you to leave again,” she threatened emptily, like she was any match. “If need be, I’ll—” Her phone clattered back to the counter and she turned quickly, unprepared for her to be so close.
Kara enjoyed their height difference, especially now. The extra few inches gave her some sorely needed confidence against Lena’s cold shoulder. “What?”
Lena’s jaw lifted. “Don’t test me.”
How strange it felt to be charmed right now.
“Can I hug you?”
The puzzled look was valid, Kara would admit.
“I would advise against it.”
“You don’t have to hug me back.”
Lena began to panic and she hated that it was shown on her face. She hated how Supergirl stepped away and raised her hands to appease as she backed off. Lena despised that Supergirl knew her, could read her so well. More than that, Lena hated how much she missed her.
“I was alone,” Kara said. “For years. Twenty four of them, to be exact. I wasn’t awake, but when I was… For years, Lena, I had to live with the fact that pretty much everyone I had ever loved died with my planet. That’s… what I thought. Being here on Earth and having to live with that? For years what felt like my biggest weakness was my humanity. Every time I was jealous or hurt or scared or angry I couldn’t say or do anything because it would have brought attention that I didn’t need, and it sucked. It killed me.”
“I see you outgrew your aversion to the limelight.”
“I did,” Kara mused. “As much as I ever will. But my point is that even living as Supergirl, if I don’t let myself feel those things, or any other valid emotion, it’s like I go into overdrive and shut down,” she tries to explain. “And so I need my safe space even if I don’t want to admit it to anyone, and even though the main reason I was sent here was to keep Kal El safe. ” Kara tried to catch Lena’s eyes. “However strong you are, it’s okay to need one. I won’t ask to be yours, I know— I’ve seen the news, I know who you’re dating and that he’s probably— a-and I know what I did to you, but I could be, if you wanted. Just for tonight.”
Lena sucked her teeth once she felt her lip tremble and reached into the cupboard behind for a glass. Scotch. She needed scotch.
Kara reacted without thinking.
One second she was a respectable distance away and then next she was back in Lena’s personal space with a hand laid gently upon her shoulder. “Please let me.”
“I want you to be human,” Lena confessed brokenly as she turned, not asking for space. Her eyes searched Kara’s, searched over every inch of flawless skin and then down to the symbol on her chest. Lena’s fingers twitched as if she wanted to trace it but she didn’t. “I want you to not be on this pedestal that I can’t take you down from. I’ve tried, Supergirl, and I can’t do it.”
“Part of me doesn’t even blame you. Me and heroes… we don’t exactly mix well.”
“What does that mean?” Kara could feel the pain coming off her in waves and it felt natural to have both hands on Lena now, this time either side of her face. It felt natural and important and exhilarating to have Lena close her eyes and lean in to the touch. It made Kara want to cry.
Lena didn’t say anything right away, she couldn’t.
She saw her mother and she hated herself.
The softness of Supergirl’s touch was more relief than she deserved and Lena reached to cover her hands, opened her eyes to a depth of concern she had never been worthy of. The way Lena shut down was textbook and she played ignorant to the distressed pinch of Supergirl’s face when their connection was broken.
“It means I had a stressful day and I took a bath,” she said as surely as she could manage, side-stepping to make her way over to the wine rack. She wanted something stronger but wine was closer. There was no verbal response, so Lena took it as a step towards victory. “I’ll be sure to schedule a lunch with a friend tomorrow, if that will help you to leave? The city is surely missing your presence by now.”
Defeat was not something Kara knew well, or how to deal with.
Every bone in her body repelled the idea of leaving Lena alone when she knew something was wrong. She wanted…
She wanted to be Kara.
She wanted it to be simple, to go back to the beginning and tell Lena when they might have had a shot at salvaging what was an incredibly important relationship to her. Where would she even start now. Lena would likely never forgive her.
The silence spurred Lena on.
“I promise, I’ll have dropped by my favourite reporter’s desk by nine AM tomorrow. Today is done,” Lena said with a dismissive air. “Alright? All tucked away in a little box.”
“There’s a box?”
“There’s always a box.”
Kara frowned. “But--”
“It’s late, Supergirl,” Lena cut in. “Your cape is drying in the bathroom, but it’s nothing a flight wouldn’t dry.”
They were going around in circles. As much as Kara wanted to stay and comfort, she knew she didn’t have that right. Not anymore.
When she did leave she left with a promise to be back within minutes, and she was.
It was almost comical to see Supergirl holding up a massive plane of wood with one hand, using the other to push and twist screws in to secure it into place until it could be repaired properly. For a moment, Lena imagined a toolbelt around her small waist. It would make her smile hours later when she couldn’t sleep.
Across the city Kara would lay awake as well, nothing close to a smile on her lips despite sending a ‘miss you!’ text and receiving several kisses in response.
She only smiled when, at precisely 8:48am the next morning, Lena Luthor walked into Catco with her usual air of confidence and headed straight for her.
“Lena, hi,” Kara greeted eagerly, relief bleeding into her tone. “Good morning.”
“Ms. Danvers,” Lena answered in that flirty tone that came so easily around her. “You know what I was thinking on the way over here?”
“Uh, nope. No, I do not.”
“I was thinking how much I don’t want to be sat at my desk for hours on a conference call this afternoon and have older men tell me how better to run my company and investments. Lunch instead? On me,” she added.
The amendment was unnecessary.
Kara’s head tipped back dramatically, hoping she wasn’t being too transparent. “Uh, yes.”
Lena smiled. “Yeah?”
“Yes. Absolutely. But I have terms. My treat, okay? You’re in or you’re out, Luthor.”
Lena laughed softly and it reached a part of Kara that it had never reached before. She couldn’t take her eyes off her.
“I am definitely in,” Lena confirmed. “One o’clock?”
“One it is,” Kara agreed.
“I’ll let your boss know you’ll be out of the office the rest of the day,” Lena teased with a wink, and then she was off, apparently taking Kara’s mental capacity with her.
Lunch came and went.
With it came the perfect reason for a hug. Kara focused so hard on not crushing Lena that she forgot about timing and, well, she’d blushed when she finally pulled away with the not untrue explanation of having missed Lena and they hadn’t seen each other enough lately despite sharing a holiday together with their friends.
Lena opened up about James and Kara was so relieved to be able to touch her, for it to be welcomed that she indulged.
Lena didn’t mention Supergirl, or the previous night. Kara wasn’t sure if she expected her to or not.
By the time they’d gotten the check it occurred to Kara that by the time Lena got back to her place, should she be headed straight home, it wouldn't be too long until it was time for dinner. She didn’t want to leave her.
“Thank you for this,” Lena said, readily opening her arms for a parting embrace. “How is it you always know what I need?”
Kara’s eyes closed for a moment. “Ah,” she chuckled, “I could ask you the same question, mind reader.”
Lena glowed at the praise as she always did when she withdrew. “Any exciting evening plans?”
“Nope, just me, myself, and I. What about you?”
Lena seemed thoughtful. “I’m thinking… a steaming hot bath and an even steamier, albeit terribly-written romance novel once I get into bed.” The way Kara’s face fell was unmistakable and Lena winced. “That secret hasn’t affected our friendship, right? A guilty pleasure is a guilty pleasure, Kara.”
“Of course not,” Kara recovered. “I was just thinking… how does a sleepover sound?”
Lena was charmed. “A sleepover?”
“Yeah, at my place.”
“Of course with me! Just us and an interruption from whoever we agree to order in from because you know I’ll be starved. Just… leave your book at home.”
The pink tinge to Kara’s cheeks was so much sweeter than Lena had any right to notice.
“I like to read before I sleep.”
“Just this once. Please?”
“Alright,” Lena relented. She only had to consider it for a second. “I’d like that.”
Kara was part mind reader, Lena was convinced. Nobody had ever known her the way Kara did, nobody had ever had that kind of intuition. She hadn’t wanted to go back to an empty home. Lena isn’t sure she wanted anything specific (she rarely let herself indulge in a fantasy) but now that Kara suggested it, a night together sounded wonderful. James and his half-baked attempt at an apology would just have to wait.
It was wonderful.
Lena was alone on Kara’s couch, marvelling over how lovely it felt to be trusted in being there alone. Their preferred restaurant for delivery had a ninety-minute wait for food and, upon hearing the news over the phone, Kara had shoved her glasses up her nose, eyebrows pulling closer together in such a way that the slow, fond smile on Lena’s lips was unavoidable.
Kara had gone straight for her coat and scarf and vowed to be back within twenty minutes with a disgusting amount of food, rebuffing Lena’s offer to go with her and instead asked her to get the plates heated and a movie picked out. It felt precious. Lena felt safe.
A knock at the window was not what she expected several minutes after Kara had left.
Lena looked up in surprise and scanned the windows until she saw her: Supergirl, floating in mid air.
Lena’s shoulders sagged slightly at the sight. She placed the plates on the counter and crossed through the apartment, reaching to unlock the window and push it open with a deep breath. “No broken glass this time.”
Supergirl smiled. “You seem pretty relaxed tonight; didn’t feel appropriate.”
“What can I do for you, Supergirl?” Her tone wasn’t mean in intention or delivery. “I really did say everything I had to say last night. Perhaps even a few things I didn’t,” Lena admitted.
“No, I know,” Kara said. “I’m not here to bother you about that, it just occurred to me that I never properly thanked you.”
“Saving my life.” Upon a bemused expression, she clarified, “the super, super suit.”
Lena almost smiled as she parroted, “The super, super suit.” In all honesty, Lena hadn’t expected a thank you. Alex’s sincere gratitude and the fact that she had been able to help had been more than satisfactory. “Of course. All in a day’s work.”
“I think a lot more than a day went into that.”
Lena glanced away. “Yes, well…”
The sincerity of it, the look in Supergirl’s eyes was too much and Lena found herself swallowing against a lump in her throat. “Should you ever need me like that, you know I’m…”
“Me too, no matter what.”
Lena eyed the slender hand held out towards her warily. She’d shaken Supergirl’s hand before but her heart stuttered in its beat when any resolve she may have had dissolved with what must have been a Kryptonian’s version of puppy eyes. The hand that could so easily crush hers beyond repair was soft in Lena’s and she shook gently, weakly. Supergirl was so soft with her that they were practically holding hands.
Kara was the first to snap out of it. She still had dinner to get, after all.
“If you need a ride home, I’m faster than an Uber.”
“You are,” Lena smiled, tucking her hand in folded arms once it was released. “But no, Kara has me tonight.”
“She’s a lucky lady.”
All it took was a moment.
“I didn’t mean--”
“I didn’t either,” Kara added, her bashfulness dying down the longer she looked at her friend. “Just like, any time. I’m always faster than a car, so.”
There was no pressure there and it was most welcomed. “I’ll keep that in mind.”
Kara directed a brilliant smile her way. “I’ll leave you to it. Goodnight, Ms. Luthor.” She had begun her descent when Lena called out.
“Take care, Supergirl.”