It starts with Kara and Lena, snuggled on the couch, Kara pressed back against Lena and it's soft, so soft, and feeling emotions seeping back in slowly against a long day and some of those emotions might be a little bad but they're also a little bit like butterflies, and most of all there's a bone deep feeling of contentment and she's half asleep as Lena runs her fingers mindlessly up and down Kara's arm, her stomach, her hair.
Starts with Lena biting her lip as Kara does something cute and Kara not seeing it; Lena pressing her lips together before moving to tell Kara of course you're my favorite and you're always worth the extra effort and Kara smiling like it doesn’t mean something right now but it will later; Lena chewing her lip deep in thought as Supergirl flies away with a drawn, exhausted expression so deeply like Kara's.
Like Supergirl let her guard down around Lena. The same way Kara did. And there was a fact that was whispering at the back of Lena's brain, but she pushed it down firmly. It wasn't time yet.
Lena's battled depression before. She has an abusive mother and her brother went insane and became a mass murderer. Of course she's battled depression. But in between moving to National City and making new friends and having too many new and wonderful (and sometimes terrible) experiences, Lena had realized one day that she'd had busy days, yes, but hadn't had one bad depression day in the past month. The trend had continued, and Lena had joked one day to Kara that she was too busy for depression. Kara had chuckled and shaken her head with a not sure that's quite how it works, but I'm just glad you're feeling better. Lena was too. She hadn't even realized she had depression until after she had healed--she didn't realize you weren't supposed to feel that awful and empty until she didn't anymore.
Lena recognizes the signs in Kara, when it comes. Kara and Lena have been best friends with a slight side of flirt for years. Lena saw Kara through the Mon-El/Mike of the Interns disaster, Kara saw Lena through the relationship and subsequent breakup with James after a year and a half of an honestly good relationship. It's been over half a year since that, though, and Lena's long since fallen in love with Kara. Fell in love with her one day when all at once she realized that smile gave her butterflies, that she couldn't remember when she had last been able to tear her eyes away, couldn't call to mind a memory with Kara in the last half year that didn't bring total contentment.
But she pushed it aside. Her feelings were relatively minor when she realized them, and she took the time to just enjoy an innocent crush, because it had been so long since that. Lena didn't want a relationship for the longest time--she had cartwheeled into the last one and didn't want to lose Kara in any sense. But now Lena's watching Kara battle, and Lena's shoved her feelings for Kara away, because they're selfish and they don't matter. Not in the face of this.
She's watching Kara try not to fall down a slippery slope because Brainy and Nia, the two she practically considers younger siblings, are together in a happy relationship and they just don’t seem to need her as much--which she interprets as them not wanting her around in her darker moments. Because Winn, her first best friend, has long since gone to the future and it's hard to hear from someone in a different millennium, hard to laugh at his jokes that always used to brighten her day or see the glow of love he has for her in his eyes. Because despite getting over the weird time when they barely talked and something seemed to be wrong with Alex in Kara's eyes, Kara doesn’t have her sister the way she used to. Kara tells her that while they had a rough patch, it's totally clear--and she doesn't appear to be lying. But Lena can't ignore the cloud in Kara's eyes when it's been several months since Alex married a girl and sister night has been missed three times in that span.
Lena could see the anxiety leading up to Alex's wedding--Kara taking on all the planning, putting herself so far in the backseat she might as well be jumping out the trunk--and the genuine joy on Kara's face during the whole day, but the exhaustion that set in after Alex and her bride had left. Lena had picked Kara up out of her seat three dances after Alex had disappeared, taken her home (they had danced earlier, Lena would toss her fantasies of dancing the night away with Kara when she looked like that) with no resistance and an apology to Brainy and Nia, the pair of them hugging Eliza on the way out as Eliza whispered a thank you in Lena's ear.
Kara had cried helplessly in Lena's arms when Lena took them back to her own apartment knowing Kara's was a mess, happy tears, she insisted, just a little bit of relief and exhaustion and emotion that needed to be let out. Kara collapsed in Lena's bed and lay awake more of the night than Lena suspected she was willing to admit, too exhausted to fall asleep. She smiled blandly through the chocolate chip pancakes Lena made the next morning in an attempt to cheer her up.
She shone a couple notches dimmer than usual when Alex and her wife came back three weeks later and they all went out to lunch. Lena clutched her hand under the table when Alex nearly choked laughing on an inside joke with her wife and the pair of them failed to adequately explain why it was funny despite their attempts, Kara and Lena attempting to laugh along anyway. Kara squeezed back gratefully, her smile somewhat forced.
Kara withdrew a little bit after that, piece by incremental heartbreaking piece each day. Lena hung on.
Lena refused to lose her again--not like after Mon-El left. Not ever again. Kara was there for her through Jack's death, she'd be there for her through this.
"It's stupid," Kara muttered one night, stabbing into her dinner. Lena waited, patiently, always patiently, watching the light in Kara's loft shine off her golden curls falling haphazardly around her face, reaching out to rub the soft fabric of Kara's sweater in between her fingers. Kara sighed and dropped her fork, covering her face in her hands. "I’m so happy for Alex and her wife, you know I love her and I'm so glad Alex found her, I'm so happy for Brainy and Nia, for everything in my life, professionally on all fronts…" she took a shuddering breath. "So why do I feel like this? I've felt my happiness slipping away for the last two months. Today I had to stop myself from yelling at an intern who misspelled my name. That's not me! I know that's not me, so why does it feel like my happiness got stuck behind some door and I can't figure out which?"
"It doesn't have to make sense," Lena murmured softly, knowing Kara would hear it. She could feel tears of sympathy gathering at the corners of her eyes in time with Kara's and pushed them back forcibly. "You don't need to figure it out right now. You don't need to pretend to be happy or to do anything. You can just be."
"Is that what someone told you when you went through this?" Kara pulled her face out of her hands, looking at Lena miserably, and Lena swallowed at the hot weight in her throat. It's not fair that Kara feels like this, it's not fair, it's not fair, it's not fair--
"No," Lena admitted. "It's what I wish someone would have told me." Kara's lips twisted, and Lena smiled a little smile. "I will tell you what someone wonderful told me when they saw me slipping, though. They told me they'd always be right there for me, and they'd protect me."
Kara hiccoughed, rubbing at her eyes with the heel of her hand. "They sound pretty great," she muttered, and Lena grinned.
"You are," she promised, and Kara gave her a small, indulgent smile. Lena felt a small swoop in her stomach at Kara's upturned lips, and smiled back, fully. "Kara," she said quietly, and waited for Kara to look at her. Lena took her hands carefully in her own. "I'm not going anywhere. I will always be here for you. And I will always protect you."
Kara looked back at her carefully, face set into lines of misery that spoke of much more loss than she'd ever tell Lena about, because she didn't want to burden her best friend. Lena held her gaze, held still under Kara's inspection, and waited. Kara's eyes flickered in between her, and Lena waited still, watching her eyes patiently. Finally Kara gave her another attempt at a smile, and her eyes filled with tears.
"Oh, honey," Lena murmured, standing immediately to move closer. Kara knocked her forehead softly into Lena's stomach, and Lena wrapped her arms around Kara's shoulders, hugging her closer. Kara sobbed helplessly into her sweatshirt, and Lena held her, no questions asked. Held her as Kara put tearstains in the kangaroo pocket of her hoodie, held her as Kara clenched her fists around the chair leg so tight Lena thought she heard wood crack, held her as Kara leaned heavily into her.
Lena stood, smoothing out her hoodie with an internal curse. She had gone back to the office after Kara had cried herself out, and Lena had helped her to bed, left water on the table and cleaned the kitchen. It had been nearly four hours since. Supergirl now stood on the balcony, looking at least more composed than Kara was. Lena glanced with disdain at her own outfit of faded mom jeans and a hoodie before brushing off her concerns. It was nearly midnight, she didn't owe her appearance to anyone. Supergirl could deal.
"Supergirl," Lena said courteously, stepping out to join her. "How can I help you?"
Supergirl's eyes flickered to Kara's tearstains on Lena's pocket before jumping back to her eyes. "Still in the office this late?" Lena chuckled lowly. It had become a joke between them over the years. After Supergirl had come by late to apologize for the kryptonite rift. More than once, actually. Lena didn't have the same blind worship she used to have for her, but in its place was something better. A mutual respect--no, a friendship. Supergirl had indulged enough of her scientific fantasies with a warm smile and told her enough stories about Krypton that Lena could call it that with little hesitation.
"If it helps, I had dinner with a friend earlier."
"At least you're eating," Supergirl said, though her smile was wan.
"I'm past the phase of skipping meals, though I appreciate the check in," Lena said. "What can I do for you?"
"Oh, nothing. Just," Supergirl waved a hand. "Was out flying, saw your light, thought I'd stop by."
"You're welcome anytime," Lena promised. She studied the lines of Supergirl's face, which had fallen into a perfunctory thankful smile that was almost…familiar. Lena hesitated. She had sort of had enough of the emotions tonight, but Supergirl wasn't really the type to cry on her. "Anything on your mind?"
Supergirl shook her head, making an unconvincing not really face, turning idly to prop her elbows on Lena's balcony. Lena joined her slowly, leaving a careful several inches between them. There was a comfortable silence, the warm spring night a welcome change from the unusually harsh winter. Lena would really have to get on fixing climate change soon.
"Do you ever wonder what things would be like if they were different?"
Lena startled out of her mental Composter 2.0 designs and looked over. Supergirl was looking up at the stars, but she dropped her gaze to her hands as she said it. "All the time," Lena said, barely missing a beat. Supergirl nodded and inhaled slowly. "Why do you ask?"
Supergirl shook her head the same way she had before, slowly and with a face that failed to convey she was truly alright. "Things change. All the time. Look at Krypton." Her fingers locked together, and pulled, hard. Lena watched them strain for a moment before Supergirl relaxed them, pondering briefly how many metric tons of force she could exert when she pulled. "Look at everything. Everything changes."
"Yes, it does," Lena said softly, not sure what Supergirl was looking for. "And change can be hard, most of the time. But things can change for the better. Like how humans don't smoke anymore, or when the lightbulb was invented."
Supergirl smiled for real, huffing out half a laugh, and Lena felt a familiar glow at being able to make her laugh, a rare thing to pull out of Supergirl when it was dark.
"You have a point there," Supergirl said, grinning at her for a moment, head tilted so blond curls fell all to the side, and Lena felt her scientific brain wonder how much force her hair could withstand. Was it super as well? Pull it together, Luthor.
"I usually do," Lena said nonchalantly, shrugging a humble shoulder, and Supergirl grinned again before facing the city.
"That you do," Supergirl murmured, staring at nothing in particular. "I suppose that's why I came to see you." Lena tilted her head, and Supergirl shrugged, straightening up. "Your perspective is always appreciated." She tilted her head. "I can hear--"
Lena waved her hand. "Go." Supergirl smiled a perfunctory smile of thanks and took off with no fanfare.
Lena watched her go. Curious.
Kara was playing with Lena's fingers.
Lena had diverted her path to the gym when Kara called and asked if she wanted to watch a movie, without thought, and now she was lying essentially underneath her while a movie played, forgotten, and goddamn Lena knew she was supposed to have gotten over this crush but this wasn't very well thought out of her. Kara's head was pillowed against Lena's stomach and Lena wasn't entirely sure how they'd gotten here, but Kara needed to be held, and Lena wasn't about to deny her anything, not now. She'd feel it out one day at a time, but for now, she'd drop everything just to be with Kara.
Kara had idly picked up her hand and held it up for inspection, asking Lena where she had gotten the cut she had noticed earlier. But now she had been thoughtlessly bending Lena's fingers back and forth, gently, always so gently. Lena's sleeves on her workout hoodie had thumb holes that Kara in her exhausted state seemed to be endlessly fascinated with, fingertips slipping against Lena's palms in a way that had Lena struggling hard not to squirm and twitch under her deliberate touch.
Lena was nearly thirty years old and was trying really, really hard not to hyperventilate because of her proximity to her crush. She thought she had gotten over this. She glanced at Kara's hands, holding one of her own. Yep. Definitely did not get over that crush. Put that back on the to-do list.
Abruptly, Kara released her hand and flipped over on the couch, her face buried in Lena's stomach. Lena chuckled in amusement, letting her hand drop to Kara's back. After a few moments of Kara lying almost tense on top of her (Lena actually did enjoy movies sometimes, contrary to popular belief), Lena traced her fingers against the softness of Kara's sweater, tracing out the designs to her latest side project.
Kara hummed satisfaction, relaxing. Lena frowned. "Is this what you wanted?" Kara mumbled something indistinct, voice muffled, but it sounded suspiciously like don't judge me, and Lena giggled. "Fine, you big baby."
Kara huffed into Lena's stomach, and Lena forcibly repressed a shiver. She let her finger resume its track along Kara's back, smiling as Kara relaxed further.
Kara's breath evened out eventually, and Lena just queued up another movie. Her workout was inconsequential. Being here was what mattered.
Kara came into her office on Monday, holding a perfunctory salad and a bag of Big Belly Burger and a determined smile.
"Have I mentioned you're my favorite?" Lena told her, getting up to hug Kara. Kara grinned wider.
"I could always do with hearing it one more time," she said, off-handed.
"Kara Danvers," Lena said solemnly, relieving Kara of the burger bag, "You are, without a doubt, my favorite person in the galaxy."
"Just this galaxy?" Kara sounded like she was trying to tease, but her voice missed the pitch by a half-step.
"All the galaxies," Lena amended, and Kara smiled softly.
"Glad to know I won't be upstaged by an alien anytime soon," she said, sitting down on the chair across from Lena.
"Never," Lena promised. Kara's eyes glowed with happiness for a brief moment, then she focused back on her food.
"So," Kara said after several minutes of eating and small talk, "I owe you an apology."
Kara chewed mindlessly on a piece of lettuce from the salad. "Derailing your life." Lena's mouth opened instantaneously, a freight train of how dare you think that's on the tip of her tongue, but Kara held up her hand. "I know you don't see it that way! At least, not yet. But I wanted to say thank you, for Saturday, for being there with me, I know you were headed somewhere else. And it," she gulped and nodded, fingers fidgeting, twisting together and yanking against each other, "it really helped. You just being there. But," She looked up and met Lena's eyes, hers a little watery but determined, and she bit her lip. Lena's heart twisted. "I can't ask you to do that. You have so much on your plate and your own life and I can't, I can't just ask that of you."
Kara's last words came out in a whisper, and Lena felt like dissolving into the couch to cry. She had been there. She had known this. She had been this person.
Of course she wanted to be there for Kara, whatever it took.
But… Kara had a point. Especially if Lena surrounded herself with sadness again. Kara's mental health wasn't in horrific shape, not yet, especially not right now, but leaning on Lena and only Lena, someone who had a mental health of their own to look after? Lena chewed her lip, thinking. There had to be a solution, hidden easily…
"Kara?" Kara looked up, wiping her eyes hastily, and Lena refused to pity her, all at once. She wasn't some sad object to be discounted. She was a person, going through something rough, and she didn't need Lena's pity. She needed Lena's presence. And that could work. "What if we skip past all the apologies, necessary or unnecessary, and we just… be?"
Kara's head tilted, like an adorable puppy's, and Lena's heart twisted a little more. "What do you mean?"
"I don't want you to feel bad for needing someone next to you, Kara. That's human. That's nothing to feel bad about. It's healing and it's natural. So what if we… were just next to each other?" Kara was frowning in thought, and Lena rushed to continue. "While I enjoy your company, you're also more than an acceptable workspace partner. How many times have we sat in here late at night typing away?" Lena leaned in. "Let it be scientific, if that helps. Humans need touch. Humans need humans next to them. We aren't solitary creatures."
Kara had the tiniest smile on her lips, like she knew something Lena didn't, but Lena was relieved enough to see her smiling that she didn't ask. "What are you proposing, Ms. Luthor?" she asked, and her tone was almost teasing. Lena breathed a little easier. "You sound an awful lot like you're propositioning me," Kara said, and Lena laughed out loud.
"Oh, please, Kara," she said, winking. "I know I could never afford you." Kara blushed, and Lena smiled wider. "No," she said, a little more serious. "Just. Let me hang out with you more. We can drink if you want, we can cook, we can watch movies or read books or do work and not talk… just." she shrugged, suddenly feeling the need to be looking at her food and not at Kara's face, which was the softest and most beautiful thing she'd ever seen. "Let me be in your life. Schedule me in. It's not an imposition, Kara, you're my favorite person. Get used to the idea of me sticking around. Know that you aren't alone, with scientific accuracy."
Kara was standing, and pulling Lena to her feet, and Lena wasn't entirely sure what was going on--Kara was hugging her.
Deeply, and truly, hanging onto her for dear life, and it felt good.
And maybe during all the time I just so selfishly planned with just me and you, Lena thought, Kara's face buried in the crook of her neck, two women wrapped up in each other in the middle of a high-rise office on a lunch break on a Monday, if you so happen to fall in love with me along the way, we could let that happen too.
Three nights a week, plus at least one sleepover but no more than two. That was the original game plan, plus two lunches on the days they weren't together after work.
Lena, being inherently selfish, and Kara, needing more people but not finding the type of people she needed, let it happen. It being more time together. Soon, they were heading to one apartment together nearly every afternoon after work. Lena had taken to leaving when Kara got off and bringing work home, typing away next to Kara while Kara worked on an article or read or watched TV. She had (ok, it hadn't taken like, any effort, all she had to do was cite a study that said it was beneficial) even talked Lena into reading her a book a few nights, claiming Lena's reading voice was "the most heavenly thing, Lena, you could double L-Corp's profits by adding an audiobook department and you reading them all, honestly." Kara's deep and real relaxation when Lena read was enough to keep her reading, despite her initial embarrassment.
It wasn't all novels, either. It was poetry books Kara had tucked away from high school, scientific journals Lena subscribed to, essays from a blogger Alex's wife swore by that turned out to be pretty funny. Kara would lay with her head or her feet in Lena's lap, eyes closed and sometimes a smile playing on her face--
"Okay, that's it."
Kara's eyes opened. "What?"
"You're sitting there all blissed out, I've been reading to you for two weeks, we're switching."
Kara frowned slightly, but Lena held steady for a possible attack of the puppy eyes. She had been watching Kara carefully, and in her quest to comfort but not to enable, she was pretty sure that giving Kara something to change it up, something to do, within this comfortable zone, was the right thing. Kara looked at her thoughtfully for several moments, and Lena's stomach flipped over, but she ignored it.
"Okay," Kara finally said. She held out her hand. Lena smiled, not too triumphantly, and handed her the scientific journal. Kara's fingers brushed against hers, and Lena ritually ignored the sparks that flew into her fingertips at Kara's touch. Kara thumbed open to the page she had been on, adjusting her feet in Lena's lap. Lena dropped her hands to fall against Kara's shins, tucking the blanket more securely around her legs. Kara glanced at her once, an unreadable expression on her face.
"Electromagnetic speakers," Lena prompted, and Kara nodded.
"Electromagnetic speakers," Kara said, adjusting the page, and she began to read. Lena relaxed into the couch after a few minutes of Kara reading. Her voice got a little lower when she read, like her voice was doing one thing but her mind was thinking about another. She sounded a little far away, but in a good way. A curious way, rather than a self-destructive way. "--which is why most headphones survive a trip through the washing machine, okay, I feel ridiculous."
"You don't sound it," Lena said immediately, not opening her eyes. "You sound lovely." She peeled one eye open to see Kara blush. "Voice of an angel," Lena promised, meaning it but intentionally laying it on thick. "Do you sing?"
"Maybe," Kara admitted, looking down at her lap.
"And if I asked Alex if you sang?"
"I would beg you as my best friend to refrain from asking Alex if I can sing," Kara said, still speaking to her lap.
Lena chuckled and let her hands wander to Kara's feet, which twitched in her lap. "I don't know," she said, "It sounds an awful lot like you can sing."
Kara was clearly resisting yanking her foot from Lena's grasp as Lena ran her thumb up the arch of Kara's foot through the blanket. She groaned and slumped deeper into the couch cushions, planting the magazine on top of her face like a tent. "Just don’t bring up tap dancing and I'll sing for you someday, okay?"
"Hmm," Lena said, applying the same torture to the other foot, which also twitched uncontrollably. "Promise?"
Kara lifted up her magazine tent face cover like an annoyed suburban mom lifting her sunhat at a rare beach day. "I promise."
Checkmate. Lena smiled. "Good. Now." She shifted all at once, maneuvering herself so she was parallel to Kara and halfway on top of her. She rested the side of her head on Kara's stomach, reaching up to pat Kara's shoulder. "You can continue reading."
Kara's half-laugh rumbled through her. "Okay," she said on the inhale, and it was Lena's new favorite way to experience Kara speaking. "Electromagnetic speakers were invented in…"
J'onn taking over as Supergirl duties in the evenings for a few hours a day because while he hates playing Kara he won't hesitate to be there when his Space Daughter needs him like this. Never makes her feel bad about it, never rushes her to get back out there. It's rare he has to go, anyway. Alex's strike teams get a lot more experience.
"I think I figured it out."
Lena looked up from her book at Kara's entrance. It was early spring, and Lena had hopes that the renewed sunshine would boost Kara out of the winter blues. It had been four months since they'd had that chat on her office couch, and while not every day was joyous, it had been a while since Kara had called in a panic. Lena was genuinely proud of how her friendship with Kara had been maintained as a friendship, and not a therapist-patient relationship. Kara still listened to her problems and asked how her day was and was trying so hard, all the time. Kara dropped her groceries on Lena's kitchen counter and started pacing, gesturing dramatically and forcefully, brow furrowed in concentration, and oh, Lena was in love.
"Ok, so it's like, I have all this trauma from my past, right?" Lena nodded, the dutiful audience. "Like, hello, that shit doesn't just go away. But I was really young and I was thrust into this whole new world--metaphorically speaking, I mean new country of course," Kara added hastily, and kept going, "I had to learn a new language, I had a sister all of the sudden, new parents, new school, new everything. And while I grieved, I had a sort of… uh, trance, I guess, prior to getting there. Once I got to Midvale, it was like, go go go. I had to just adjust."
Lena was nodding along, mostly understanding what she was saying. She nodded encouragingly when Kara glanced over.
"So like, I was all focused on this adjusting, and I never stopped focusing on that. Like, I focused on who I wanted to be and what I wanted to do now that I was in this new place, and it was so hard to fit in that I, like, just didn't ever have the time to fully process my feelings from so long ago."
"And what are those feelings?" Lena asked softly, and Kara paused in her pacing, stopping in a patch of sunlight. Her hair glowed, and she looked resigned and frustrated.
"Grief," she said simply. "Rage. I'm still angry at my mother, for the things she did, the choices she made. My father, too, but maybe not as much. My aunt, who I still miss and think of every day. My cousin, for not being there for me like I wished he would have been."
"That's a lot to think about," Lena said quietly, and Kara nodded, resumed her pacing.
"And I took those, like, one at a time, if I did take them at all. I was in denial for a really long time because I wasn't ready to process them. And like, there were all these new things for me to focus on. School, fitting in, being Alex's sister, learning how to work a job," Lena was hit with a memory of Kara telling her about her first day at Noonan's and how comically awful it was, and her heart thudded louder for how much she loved Kara, "Learning how to work a different job, and then another one on top of it, huh," Kara's head tilted to the side with the face that usually meant she had an epiphany about the things in her life that she didn't tell Lena, "And then learning to be a reporter, and a few other things… and now…" Kara frowned, stopping her pacing with her hands on her hips. "Now I've done it."
"I have everything under control," Kara said. "I'm not putting out fires left right and center. I have good relationships with people I trust and my life is fine and I…" her face looked slightly wondrous, like Lena's did when she figured out a particularly thorny equation, "It's all caught up to me now that I'm not running."
Lena took that in. It was probably a pretty sound theory. It probably didn’t explain everything or take everything into account, but if it helped Kara heal, she was all for it. "It sounds like you think you have some next steps," Lena said quietly.
"Like forgiveness?" Kara said tentatively, and Lena tilted her head to the side in a whatever you want gesture. "Or at least peace," Kara muttered, then nodded to herself. "Yeah. Finding peace." She nodded again. "Not outrunning sadness or grief or rage. Finding happiness where I stand. Real happiness. From what I have, what I've found and built."
Lena watched her in awe. "Kara Danvers," she murmured, completely overcome with her admiration for this incredible woman in front of her, "Your mind is beautifully wondrous. Never let anyone tell you that you are less than absolutely incredible."
Kara blushed, and Lena felt her heart thud in happiness that Kara wasn't crying. It was the little things. "Thank you," Kara said quietly, and Lena thrilled again that she was taking a compliment rather than brushing it off. Kara's lips twisted into a thoughtful expression as she frowned at the floor. "The question is how I do what I want to without running."
Lena watched her carefully. "Well," she hedged, "How do you feel about talking to a therapist?"
Kara's eyes were wary as Lena pulled up in front of the building. It was in a cheerier wing of National City General, and Lena had scheduled the appointment with Kara watching anxiously over her shoulder last week, the day after she had floated the idea to Kara, and Kara had agreed.
"So," Kara said, her voice tight and her head pressed back against the headrest, "I feel that I should tell you I am very nervous."
Lena smiled, unbuckling her seatbelt and turning to face Kara. "I'd be surprised if you weren't."
"It's normal for me to be nervous?"
"It is," Lena confirmed. "It is also normal for me to be proud of you, which I am."
Kara looked over at her, eyes nervous and reassured simultaneously. "I have to get out of the car, right?"
"Whenever you're ready, but yes."
Kara grinned weakly. "You're too good to me."
"Drat," Lena said, her voice dripping with sarcasm. "You're onto me. I'm secretly in love with you. Driving you to therapy is step number four in my sixteen-step plan to woo you."
Kara giggled, and Lena smiled at the sound. Her giggles were fewer and farther between these days, and Lena had missed them, missed the days when she could pull a flustered giggle from Kara with nothing but a raised eyebrow. "Well, if this goes well," Kara said, leaning back against the headrest and closing her eyes, "You can take me on a date or something. I'm sure that would be jumping up a few steps, but." Kara opened her eyes and looked back at Lena, "I like ice cream."
"Ice cream date the moment you get out," Lena promised solemnly, and Kara gave her a soft smile, not quite reaching her eyes but coming close. "I am so proud of you, Kara."
Kara nodded. She took a deep breath and got out of the car.
"Shut up," Lena told her heart, watching Kara pace into the building, worrying at the strap of her purse even as her head was held high. "She meant the ice cream as a joke. She just likes ice cream."
"What are your plans for the rest of today?" The nice lady asked at the end of the session. "What's one thing that would make you happy?"
Kara smiled shyly. "My best friend promised me ice cream afterwards." Her new therapist smiled.
"That sounds wonderful."
"Actually, uh, can we keep reading your science journals instead?"
"Yeah," Lena said, putting down the novel she was going to start tonight, redirecting for the new edition of Space and Time instead. "Why?"
Kara fidgeted. "Um, it's like this thing, that learning new things give you a bit of a rush. Or at least something for your mind to chew on, I guess. But you know, learning makes you happy."
Lena pushed down the constant, consistent urge to kiss this woman, this adorable, wonderful woman trying so hard. "We are getting all the science books," Lena promised, smiling at Kara's shy smile. "I will read you science until you faint. We will do little kid science experiments and you will enjoy it, Kara Danvers."
"Sounds like a threat," Kara quipped, raising one eyebrow weakly.
"Just wait until you see the soap-powered boats," Lena grinned, and Kara's eyes narrowed in interest. Yeah. She had something good going on now.
"Back at work again, Ms. Luthor?"
Lena smiled and leaned against the doorframe, shrugging at Supergirl. "The press never sleeps," she said. "Taking over CatCo isn't all fun and games."
"You could call some people in," Supergirl suggested. "I'm sure Ms. Danvers would be happy to assist you."
"I'm sure she would," Lena said gently, the suspicion she'd had for the past several interactions with Supergirl growing still. "But she's worked her full day. And I won't have her putting in more hours if I'm not asking anyone else to."
"So she's hardworking and she's kind," Supergirl said, a gentle tease in her voice. She landed easily on the balcony, turning to lean against the railing, and Lena joined her, a smaller distance between them than there usually was. "What are you working on tonight?" Supergirl asked.
"Running our numbers," Lena said, shrugging. "Trying to figure out how we can get people to want to hear what we have to say when Cat Grant isn't at the helm anymore."
"James is great," Supergirl said, shaking her head, "But Cat Grant is one of a kind."
"That she is," Lena agreed, feeling admiration and frustration in equal measure. "I think she kept the company afloat through personal power of will alone."
"The company and the city," Supergirl said wistfully, twisting her lips in a gesture that was so Kara that Lena felt her heart squeeze. She knew now. The realization was gentle and sure, like summitting a steep hill only to look down and see the final steps had been on horizontal ground. Supergirl was stepping back, dusting her hands. "I should let you get back to work. Don't stay too late?" She asked, cocking her head to the side.
"You know me," Lena said, stepping back as well. "Can't make that promise."
Supergirl sighed and shook her head. "Can't blame a girl for trying," she said. "Take care of yourself, Lena." Lena watched her take off with the same sense of wonder she always had. Oh, she couldn't wait until Kara told her some days.
"How was it?" Lena asked, starting the car as Kara got in.
"She started with the same question. How are you today? I hate that question."
Lena chuckled as she pulled out of the parking lot. "Did you ever think she asks it for a reason?"
"Probably to encourage me to start being honest with more than two and a half people about how I'm doing." Lena grinned at the whine in Kara's voice. "You know," Kara said, fidgeting as Lena directed the car towards their favorite ice cream shop, "You don't have to drive me to therapy."
Lena glanced over. "You don't want me to?"
"I want you to," Kara said quietly. "But you're not like--you're not my mom. You're a CEO, you're a literal billionaire, you shouldn’t be driving some second rate reporter to therapy on a Wednesday afternoon, you have things to do."
"You're my things," Lena said without thought, cursing herself for how dirty that sounded, but Kara's blush and smile when she glanced over again was worth it. "Kara, you're my friend. My best friend. And you are not second rate. National City as a whole would be thanking me if they knew, people love you, okay? I'm not the only one. And I like driving, you know that. I don't get to do it enough. I'm glad for the hour to just sit and be and check my emails. Your health is not an inconvenience in any sense, alright?"
Kara nodded minutely, closing her eyes and leaning back against the headrest. It was only the third session. "I am glad I'm going," she admitted quietly.
"Good." Lena said. "Ice cream still sound good?"
"Uh, is that even a question?"
Lena grinned. "That's my girl."
Kara blushed again.
"Wait, is that Big Belly Burger? Have I told you today that you are my absolute favorite in all the galaxies?"
Kara ducked her head, grinning, and Lena wrapped her up tight. "I thought you might work through lunch," Kara said by way of explanation, sitting down on the couch and dropping the food on the table.
"You're lighter today," Lena commented quietly as Kara unwrapped the burgers with a slight smile.
"I am," Kara agreed easily. "The sun is shining, and I've got a lot to be grateful for."
"Yeah? Tell me."
"You," Kara said instantly, and Lena felt that familiar warmth in her chest grow. Kara looked up and winked at her, and Lena's stomach flipped like a kid on a roller coaster. "I had dinner with Alex and Kelly last night. It was really good. I cooked and I didn’t burn anything, and we laughed a lot. I still have leftovers, if you want."
"Leftovers? With you in the house?" Lena chuckled at Kara's eyeroll. "You must have made enough to feed an army."
"A small one," Kara admitted. "I edited some junior reporter's article about economic infrastructure and made him walk me through what he was saying so he could write it better, and I learned a lot. That was pretty cool. And the donut place started frequency cards, so that's something awesome."
"You're counting gratitude," Lena realized.
"Yeah," Kara admitted. "Is that like, cheesy?"
"No!" Lena said quickly. "I think it's amazing. You know studies have shown counting gratitude makes people happier?"
"What?" Kara pulled out her phone, already typing. "I gotta look those up."
Lena grinned. "You know they also show people who swear more are happier."
Kara rolled her eyes, setting her phone to the side, note made. "They do not."
"They do so. Don't you trust me?" Kara narrowed her eyes, and Lena put on her most trustworthy expression. "I promise I'm not pulling your leg. Swearing is a release. You should try it."
"What? No, I'm not gonna swear just because--"
"You definitely should. It feels fucking great."
Kara's eyes widened little as Lena swore, and Lena raised an eyebrow in challenge. "I didn't realize you were gonna jump to the f-bomb straight away!" Kara said, giggling just a little. "I thought you'd start with, I don't know, shit or something!" Lena started to laugh, and Kara realized her mistake. "Crap! I mean--shit! Goddammit," Kara said, starting to laugh as well. "I can't believe you got that out of me."
"I didn’t do anything," Lena defended, still laughing. "But you should definitely say the fuck word."
"The fuck word, huh?--goddammit." Lena was laughing in full now, and so was Kara. "Fuck," Kara said deliberately, and Lena grinned at her in pride. Kara grinned back, wide and uninhibited, on the edge of a laugh. "Fuck," Kara said again. "Goddamn fucking shit, you can make me do anything."
"Nope," Lena said, smiling wide and her stomach flipping circles. "That's all you."
Lena came in the door a couple weeks later to see Kara sitting on the couch reading another book, frowning slightly at the words in concentration. Lena's heart gave the predictable thud-thump, and she smiled.
"What is Mr. DeGrasse Tyson teaching us today?" Lena asked, setting her purse on the table. She shucked her jacket and shoes and sat down by Kara's feet, smiling back as Kara tore her gaze from the book.
"Not Neil," Kara said, closing the book. "He was writing about stars dying and I didn’t want to read that. I picked up a novel from the bookstore, actually."
"Oh?" Lena pulled it from her grip. "Pax, by Sara Pennypacker." It was clearly aimed at middle schoolers, but it had won some prestigious looking prize, according the gold sticker on the cover. It felt quality and the summary on the back was promising. "Good so far?"
Kara nodded. "There's a lot in there about being brave, actually. And finding new things."
"Yeah?" Lena leaned back against the arm of the couch, pushing her feet in between Kara's, facing her. Things have been easier for a while now. Lena wasn't tip-toeing or rushing to her side. She always knew that wouldn’t last anyway. But she was glad it was gone nonetheless.
"Yeah," Kara said, chewing on her lip. Lena's eyes tracked the motion involuntarily.
"Learning about being brave, are we?" Lena asked, trying to focus. Kara shrugged, lip still caught between her teeth. "What do you have to be brave about?" Lena asked.
Kara took a deep breath, shoulders rising and falling. "Honesty, I think."
"Oh yeah? Been lying to me or something?"
It was meant as a tease, but when Kara looked up to face her, there was something deeper in her eyes. Something near grief. A bone-deep fear and sorrow that cut Lena to her core. Kara sniffed and straightened her shoulders deliberately, sitting up straighter on the couch. "Yes," Kara whispered, and Lena knew what was about to happen before it did, wished that she could tell Kara she didn't have to be afraid-- "I'm Supergirl."
It was said with such a flood of tears that all at once Lena couldn't hold it in any longer--she surged forward and kissed Kara.
It was a kiss meant to bring solace, meant to say it's okay, meant to reassure and to comfort and say I love you, I love you, I love you. Lena pulled away after long moments, pressing her forehead to Kara's, eyes closed and breathing deeply.
"I know, Kara," she murmured. "I've always known it was you."
Lena pressed one more kiss to Kara's forehead, leaned back. Kara had her eyes closed in something between concentration and fear, and Lena felt her own fear seep in as she waited for Kara to say something, say anything, kick her out, do god-knows-what--
No. Lena wasn't sure what she'd do, but she was pretty sure she could count on Kara not kicking her to the curb.
Kara took a deep breath and opened her eyes, still red-rimmed and blue. "You feel like that?" Kara asked in a small voice. "You really do?" Lena nodded, trying to pour all her sincerity into the one gesture. And the corners of Kara's mouth began to lift in a smile.
They took it slow.
It wasn't too different at first. A good-night kiss was added at the end of the evenings, a little closer cuddling, and no worrying about suppressing the butterflies. Lena didn't worry if her actions were overly flirtatious and just enjoyed being next to Kara. Kara, for her part, seemed to be happy but cautious, the depression she hadn't quite fully kicked yet telling her she wasn't worth Lena's attentions, but this was just the newest iteration of that same battle, she assured Lena.
And Lena encouraged her to keep healing. For herself. Not for a girlfriend. "No matter how amazing that girlfriend may be," Lena sighed dramatically, and Kara's giggle was wonderful. It was everything.
"She is amazing," Kara promised, reaching for her hand, kissing her knuckles, tugging Lena closer. "She's incredible and wonderful. And I love how much she wants me to be happy for myself, not for her."
"As long as you know that," Lena murmured, tucking a strand of Kara's hair behind her ear. "If we need to wait, I don't want to derail your process, you have a good thing going, it was selfish of me to--"
"If kissing me is your definition of selfish, I need to make sure you are way more selfish," Kara cut her off. Kara leaned in closer and kissed her again, gentle and sweet. "I need to take things slow. Really slow. And if you want to put this on hold then I understand. But I don't want to."
"Kara," Lena murmured, cupping her face in her hands. "We could lose a race to a glacier and I'd be over the moon. You come before us right now, okay?"
Kara kissed her palm, her eyes suspiciously bright. "Happy tears," Kara promised. "Things are just emotional for me right now and I think that's a good thing."
"Yeah?" Lena asked softly.
"Yeah. I'm feeling again. Not just living."