Kara should have known better.
She should have known, after all the years her cousin spent loving and fighting Lex Luthor, that his presence in her life would ultimately lead to ruin. Somewhere, somehow. If she could have kept him at arm’s length, maybe she could have kept his sister closer-- but the fact is that he invaded every inch of her personal space, her personal life, until he was close enough to hold that metaphorical gun to her head and twist the handle of the knife he’d lodged into her back at the same time.
Kara should have known that fate never aligns itself with her plans.
It’s almost poetic, then, that she would find herself here, bloodied and defeated on L-Corp’s rooftop, feeling strangely familiar with the poison of kryptonite worming underneath her skin and purpled bruises blossoming over her cheek and jaw. It was like fighting herself all over again, only the hatred in Lex’s eyes is manic and his wicked smile that chills down her spine more painful when she sees how Lena crumbles at the sight of him without his helmet.
Lena holds a gun. It’s unsteady, trembling involuntarily as Lena’s gaze locks onto the battered alien Lex had tossed at her feet.
“After all this time,” he says, and it sounds muddied in Kara’s ears, either from the threat of unconsciousness that flutters at the edge of her vision or from the blood pooling in her ear from when he’d struck her in the head, “and she still doesn’t know?”
He’s looking at Lena, but he’s talking to Supergirl-- Kara can feel it, even though she’s looking at Lena, too.
It’s a stupid question, Kara knows. Because of course Lena doesn’t know yet. And of course Lex does, and of course he’d say it with that smug gloat of his as he parades the knowledge around them like a prized show pony. A taunt that sinks low and deadly into Kara’s bones as she chokes on air at Lena’s feet.
And Lena takes the bait with that hooded, narrowed glare of hers, eyelashes framed in tears and jaw flexed tight to bare white, angry teeth. “What don’t I know?” she probes, in a low voice that growls the words with a wary sort of acceptance. Everyone present on that rooftop is intimately aware of how the mighty Lex Luthor preens under the attention he draws from dangling secrets just out of reach, and Lena is most familiar with it of all-- she’d grown under that pressure, under the insinuations and provocations meant solely to tear her from her pedestal.
Only this time, Kara can feel how deep the blade of this secret will cut, and Lex wields it with such a blatant show of faux concern that she can feel the tip of that blade wrenching deeper into her own chest.
“She hasn’t told you yet, dear sister?” he asks, and the mock surprise in his tone fools no one. Kara feels the boots of his Lexosuit touch the concrete as he lands, but she still doesn’t turn to look at him-- Supergirl just looks up at Lena, struggling to breathe. “I mean, you two seem so… close . But I suppose I’m not surprised. Who could trust you, Lena, my baby sister, after everything?”
Lena’s gaze doesn’t waver from Lex, but Kara can see the uncertainty flicker in her blazing stare, the way her throat moves as she swallows and considers the suggestion underlying in her brother’s speech.
Lex steps closer, then stops. “I do find it strange, though, that I would find out before you. Even Mother knows.” Lena tenses. “You’re pathetic, Lena, but not an idiot.”
Kara opens her mouth to protest, to shout down his insults with whatever she can muster, but all that passes her split lips is a wheezed gasp for air. The kryptonite glows against her skin, but it’s not enough to kill her-- not yet.
“Pathetic I may be,” Lena responds, nearly hissed through the wetness of her voice, “but at least I’m not a monster, like you or Mother. I’ll take pathetic any day if it means I’ll never be like you.”
“Pity,” Lex says. “You always were so much more noble than me. But perhaps it has only blinded you, in the end. I was like you once. Then I discovered the truth. And now--” there’s a pause, and Kara shakes on the ground, rebelling against every screaming muscle to pull herself off the floor, “now, you’ll see what happens when someone betrays a Luthor.”
Lena looks at Supergirl. The wide shine of her eyes pierces through Kara’s lungs, and she nearly collapses back onto the ground under the weight of them, under the bare expectation and the worry. “Supergirl wouldn’t betray me,” Lena says softly, nearly at a whisper and touched by the doubt Lex seeds with every second, as if she has to convince herself of it. Not again , the silence afterward echoes.
Kara wobbles on her boots as she stands, and now the tears are hers, breaking over her cheeks scalding and fresh.
“Oh?” Lex counters, and venom saturates the expression like a purr, “If not Supergirl, then what about--”
“ Let me ,” Supergirl coughs, loud enough that it breaks Lex’s focus, and he pauses. The eerie quiet of the night feels all the heavier around the frayed sounds of her hoarse voice. “Let me-- let me tell her.”
Lena looks between the two of them, gripping the gun so hard that her knuckles are white and the tendons in her arm strain and shake.
Kara turns her head just enough to regard Lex from the corner of a swollen eye. He stands a moment, contemplative, staring at Supergirl with a measured interest. Then, he spreads his palms up and open, inviting her with another cruel twist of a smile.
“Be my guest,” he says.
Lena is still wide-eyed and aching as Supergirl slowly maneuvers around to face her, impeded by the injuries littering her body. When Kara finally meets her gaze, there’s something dark to it-- something braced but wounded, as if she can already see the knife Supergirl holds in her hand and the hole it’s about to carve into her heart.
Kara takes a breath, hollow from the kryptonite, but it steadies her enough.
“I didn’t tell you at first,” she starts, croaked and raspy, “because I told myself it was to protect you. Someone could hurt you, if you knew.” Kara exhales. It’s thin, a reedy sort of noise that whistles out of her chest like a sigh. “I couldn’t-- I couldn’t let you be targeted. Or someone you loved.” A dark chuckle rises from somewhere behind her, amused. “I told myself it was the best way to keep you safe.”
Lena stares at her.
“But that wasn’t the whole truth,” Supergirl continues, “not even to myself. I couldn’t admit it. And maybe it doesn’t even matter now. But I was-- I was scared, to tell you. Scared of what you would think, of me, of keeping it a secret. After what I did, I knew-- I knew it would be the end, and I wasn’t--” Supergirl coughs violently, and blood-tinged splittle flies from her mouth into her hand. She takes a moment to regain herself, wheezing, “I wasn’t ready to let you go. It was selfish. I know that.”
“Hurry it up,” Lex commands.
Supergirl closes her eyes. She tries to focus on sucking in the air to her lungs before it leaves her forever. “I’m sorry, Lena. It’s not fair to you,” Supergirl says, as gentle as she can manage, and when she opens her eyes again, the blank stare on Lena’s face-- void of previous emotion, like a mask was drawn over her while Supergirl wasn’t looking-- breaks Kara’s hold on her resolve, and now the breathlessness that squeezes at her has a tidal wave of sobs following behind. “I’m so-- so sorry.”
“What’s your real name?” Lena whispers.
“My name,” Supergirl says, shaking and fragmented like the words are splintering as soon as they pass her lips, “is Kara Zor-El. You-- you know me,” she clutches to herself to keep upright, barely able to trace the outline of Lena through the blood and tears that blur her vision and then streak freely down her cheeks, “as Kara Danvers.”
Kara hears the air rush from Lena’s chest, sharp and pained and ragged. She sees the wetness gather in Lena’s eyes. But there’s nothing in her expression aside from the briefest twitch of what might have been the beginnings of fury before it melts back behind an impervious wall. It goes dark. Empty.
A beat of silence is all Kara receives before the sound of clapping jars her out of it.
“Beautiful,” Lex says, “just beautiful. Couldn’t have done it better myself, really.”
Kara’s vision is black at the edges, and she teeters dangerously where she stands. There’s nothing left for her to do; her plan to stop Lex had failed, her plan to tell Lena once it was finished had failed, and likely every other plan she’d ever made to right all of the wrongs were just as dashed against the rocks as the first two. The numbing sensation of hopelessness crawls up through her, and if it hadn’t been for the needling pain of kryptonite still burning in her veins, she might have succumbed to the abyss cracked open within her alone.
Lex is suddenly very close. Kara barely lifts her head to acknowledge him, despite that he stands at her side, but he’s not paying much attention to the half-dead Kryptonian swaying mere inches beside him. Instead, Kara watches through tear-soaked eyelashes as he hands something shiny and metallic to Lena. It looks like a gun, and it takes several tattered breaths for her to realize that it’s glowing green along the muzzle.
“Now, baby sister,” Lex is saying, saccharine and soft, holding now to the regular revolver Lena had been gripping before, “Do you know what makes a Luthor, a Luthor?”
Lena is still staring at Supergirl, at Kara, with that haunted, distant look.
“Betrayal,” is what she answers, in a tone that mirrors the vacant expression.
“And are you a Luthor?”
“Yes,” she breathes.
“And what does a Luthor do about betrayal?”
Kara hears the safety click, and a spike of fear courses just behind the kryptonite already pulsing through her blood. The panic is acidic on the back of her tongue, and her breath catches unevenly and rapidly, like the fluttering wings of a bird trapped inside her ribcage that senses death looming above its head. She staggers a step back away from the two of them, still holding herself.
“Lena,” she gasps, “please, I--”
The explosive burst of the gun cuts her off, and she can feel the exact moment that the kryptonite burns through the air. In the milliseconds that it flashes across the space of the rooftop, the radiation leeches farther into her flesh, eating down to her marrow until it feels like her insides are turning to ash.
And then it’s gone, and Kara is still standing there, panting and trembling.
She blinks. The glaze of pain and confusion recedes just enough to focus on Lena still a pace away.
Lena turns slowly to face her from where she was staring down at her brother, who lies motionless on the rooftop. Neon green veins spider-web outward from the hole in his chest and up his throat, down his arms, until it dies to a sickly black beneath his skin. It feels like the world is on tilt beneath her boots, and not because Kara struggles to kept herself aloft; the sight of Lex has knocked whatever remaining wind clear out of her ribcage and replaced it with the low buzz of unrelenting shock. She stares, open-mouthed.
“Even after all of this,” Lena says flatly, “you believed I would become just like him.”
Kara turns her stunned gaze to Lena, who returns it blankly until her focus is dragged back to the body of Lex sprawled out before them. The Lexosuit is damaged, missing pieces that Supergirl had ripped from it during their battle. It’s oddly coincidental that the shield plate of his chest was the last part Kara had managed to wrench from him before he sent her crashing into the rooftop with a bolt of kryptonite to the stomach.
“No.” Kara wobbles, then stumbles onto her knee from the weakness quivering in her muscle, but she doesn’t fall completely. The shock still hums just beneath her skin, mingled with something akin to relief and the frigid wisps of guilt. “I never have. Never will. But I hurt you, and I… I am afraid of what that means for you.” The guilt hardens in her stomach the longer she stares. “Of what I’ve done to you.”
Something akin to a sneer twists at Lena’s face before it’s tucked away behind the cold slant of a glare. She glances toward Supergirl, and then abruptly away, as if she’d seen too much of something painful. As if it’s harder to look at Kara than it is her dead brother.
“Don’t flatter yourself,” Lena says, and the anger Kara glimpsed moments before bleeds into her tone like ice and fire all at once, “You mean nothing to me. And I’m not going to be broken up over nothing .” She tosses the gun on the ground and it clatters onto the cement by the Lexosuit.
Pain spasms in Kara’s chest. “Lena,” she tries, wet and keening, still on her knees, “please.”
Those light eyes turn on her once more, sharp. Unyielding. For a second, Kara sees the heartbreak behind those eyes-- the floodgates that threaten to burst right then and there, but Lena’s become too strong, too accustomed to that damage to let it engulf her again. Too drained by the bullet she’d put into her brother. Kara watches the tears blink back, watches that pain fade into something wretched and unnatural as Lena steps away.
But before the emotion disappears completely, Lena stops, and she says so softly that Kara might have missed it, “Anyone but you, Kara. It could have been anyone but you and I--” she falters a moment, and Kara stills enough to catch, “I could have survived it.”
And then she’s gone.
Those words don’t leave Kara.
They echo, a distant replay every moment that Kara spends awake and a constant nightmare whenever she sleeps. It’s not just the words themselves that yank at the empty space in her chest, but the entire memory; the clench of Lena’s jaw, the raw, throaty sound of her voice, the dangerous shadow across her eyes that sears like a brand over the skin of Kara’s chest where Supergirl carries the El Mayarah . The coldness that Kara had known Lena capable of, but the depth of it is startling, unfathomable in its reach when turned onto her.
She thinks about those words whenever the loss of Lena becomes a palpible entity. Like when Kara steps into the CEO office of L-CORP for the first time since Lex died. Kara almost expected it to be abandoned, covered in dust and untouched-- or maybe she’d find Lena still there, and that would be worse. But instead it’s some nameless face she doesn’t know behind that resin desk, the exact way Lena had left it before. The same new assistant smiling at her from the lobby, letting Kara in only to find a person she doesn’t recognize in Lena’s chair chatting through Lena’s office phone and drinking from Lena’s crystal. Lambert, she thinks he says, and when he offers her an introductory hand shake she simply turns on her heel and leaves.
Or like when Alex finally convinces her to host a Game Night. Everyone is there except Lena, and despite that Lena hadn’t come to many of them, Kara can’t stop staring at a space on the couch that she had occupied months ago. No one sits there, as if they, too, can feel the ghostly presence of Kara’s best friend still lingering there like a malevolent spirit. It’s awkward at best, and Kara spends the whole night lost in her own miserable memories.
Kara doesn’t host another one, after that.
She feels it when she goes to Noonan’s. When she crosses the street and Lena’s favorite kombucha stop is bustling with the midday crowd. Whenever she opens her text message inbox and sees Lena’s name inching slowly down the queue, unused and growing older with every passing day. When she flies past Lena’s hotel at sunfall, and the penthouse is empty-- until it’s filled again with some other millionaire visiting from out of state.
Sometimes, even though Lambert-whoever occupies the office instead, Kara makes her way to the L-CORP building at night and leans against the balcony railing, trying to grab at the remaining vestiges of memory she’d had of Lena there. Whenever the last time she had been standing there with Lena before the vitriol, before the mistrust, before that black mark marred their relationship as a Super and Luthor for the rest of time. Kara had thought it possible to scrub that mark with enough patience, enough goodwill-- and now she sees it as a canyon, torn asunder by a truth Lena couldn’t bear to shoulder and forever cleaved between them.
Kara spends those moments aching from head to toe, a pit of spikes in her stomach and hot tears eking silently down her face. She rubs them away with the sleeve of her suit, but they always return.
Kara doesn’t chase her down.
She’s not an idiot. She doesn’t expect there to be a forwarding address or a phone number or any bite of information that suggests where Lena goes or what she does, though Kara assumes she returns to Metropolis to lead the original branch of L-CORP where Lex had left it. There’s a funeral at some point, but there’s no media coverage and no one dares to track down the youngest Luthor for a comment. There’s only the erection of a large mausoleum in Lex’s name on the Luthor private cemetery, which gets vandalized only two weeks later.
For whatever reason, Kara decides to visit it.
She always makes sure that no one else is there when she descends from the clouds; no groundskeeper, no visitors, no vandals-- though she does chase off the few she finds on occasion-- because the worst possible scenario would be to show her face while Lena was there grieving. Lillian doesn’t seem to be the type to openly mourn her son, but Kara can’t imagine facing the mother of the man that ultimately died because of her.
In a way, at least.
But she visits. She doesn’t do much more than spend a few minutes at a time staring at his plaque or at the gates of the mausoleum. She never enters, either, but remains outside to quietly contemplate everything that had befallen the world since the Luthors and the Supers became connected. Sometimes she prays to Rao; for forgiveness, for light, to guide whatever afterlife Lex finds himself in to something gentler than the world he left. Perhaps then that broken soul of his would find some peace, she thinks. It’s the very least she could do for everything that transpired. For Lena.
Only once does Superman come with her. He doesn’t say anything for a long time, but stares at the grave, one hand on Kara’s shoulder as the both of them stand in silence.
Then, as soft as the breeze, he asks, “How’s Lena?”
Kara doesn’t register the question at first. She turns her head, not looking at him, but acknowledging him with the motion. “I don’t know,” she answers, just as quiet. “I have no right to ask.”
“Do you miss her?”
A dull ache erupts inside her chest at the thought. It takes her a while, and maybe a few measured breaths, before she murmurs thickly, “With all of my heart.”
The wind scatters a few dry leaves from a nearby withering oak tree across their boots. Kara watches the leaves dance away, swept up into a languid whirlwind that twists lazily over the stone. It rustles at their capes, tugging at the crimson hems like it might scatter them across the ground, too.
“There aren’t any flowers,” Kal comments after a moment. The switch in topic makes her blink, and when she looks up at the mausoleum again, she realizes the same. There aren’t any offerings laid out, not anywhere she can see, and she realizes there haven’t been since she first started visiting.
“Maybe they’re inside,” she says back.
“Maybe,” he echoes.
They stay in silence for the rest of their visit, stewing in their separate thoughts and memories.
She brings flowers next time she visits. At first she thinks roses would be appropriate; they’re basic, polite, unassuming. But it feels too...impersonal. And maybe the flowers aren’t so much for Lex, because Kara can’t quite bring herself around to the idea that she’s sorry such a ruthless man is gone, but she is sorry for the broken family he left behind. Particularly the one responsible for taking that life to spare hers.
Kara can’t quite figure out how to properly express that kind of sentiment, so ultimately she brings white plumerias-- they remind her of Lena, and of love, which seems like the closest she could get to an apology. She wonders faintly if Lena would have done the same had Lex told her the truth instead. Or if neither of them did, and Supergirl remained the Girl of Steel and not the girl Lena had come to depend on for integrity and support over the years. Or if Kara told her any sooner, would Lena have had enough time to hate Kara, then, and choose differently?
She places the flowers off to the side, out of the way.
Kara brings more plumerias every so often, whenever she has the chance to fly to Metropolis and visit the grave. In her heart it’s not so much Lex’s grave anymore than it is the resting place of her past with Lena, of the Kara Danvers that Lena had thought she’d known and loved. Perhaps that’s unfair to Lex, but Kara has come to accept that she doesn’t owe him anything beyond the small prayers she offers his marble tower. And perhaps she doesn’t even owe him that.
This night, the air is still warm after a full day of blistering sunshine. Kara presses a hand against the slick stone of his monument and stays there, appreciating the soft caress of early autumn wind as the sky melts from a vivid tangerine to dusky rose. It’s the time of day that reminds her most of Krypton and of the red sun that had cast her homeworld in the same rusted colors.
Kara thinks about her old home. Her family, her people. It’s a small solace to know that some still survived, somewhere out in the universe aboard a shard of their planet, and that Kal’s child would get to experience some of their alien culture she’d once thought lost forever. She thinks of how her clone would have fared better back on Argo, learning of the customs she was supposed to have known instead of the cruelty she suffered on Earth. She thinks Lena might have liked to visit Argo, had the outcome of Supergirl’s secret been any different. Maybe Lex might have too, in another time, another life, when he hadn’t been so intent on destroying every trace of alienkind from Earth.
That sharp pain thuds into her chest again, and all Kara can do is swallow it back.
After a few more contemplative minutes, Kara kneels down to set the bunch of plumerias in her hand against the outer wall of Lex’s grave. Some of her previous flowers are still there, dried and shriveled, and others missing completely-- likely jostled down the cemetery by the wind, or vandals, or eaten by whatever night creatures scamper around when she leaves.
She touches the petals gently. A few murmured words in Kryptonian whisper past her lips, and the prayer is carried out into the wind with Kara still bent low over the flowers. Part of her hopes that the love imbued in those alien words somehow finds its way to Lena through all of the darkness that has plagued the youngest Luthor, and another part hopes that Lena can sense just how much Kara mourns her in every syllable.
She misses Lena so much. The longing is always there, aching, a deep bruise that smarts whenever Kara has quiet moments like these to herself. The intensity of it never wanes, and she knows, now, just how deeply-- how intimately-- Lena had become wound into her heart.
The distant slam of a car door cuts through Kara’s reverie. The prayer halts in her mouth, and she sits up, alert of the presence of someone at the end of the private driveway just beyond the path of the cemetery. She’s dressed as Kara Danvers-- coiffed bun, brown cardigan over a beige turtleneck and skinny jeans-- so at least she’s not wearing the cape like a damn beacon, but she panics just the same. Any figure lifting off from the vicinity of Lex’s grave would have been suspicious enough.
And like any time Kara’s faced with rash, panic-induced decision-making, she does the first thing that comes to mind:
She ducks into Lex’s mausoleum.
“Oh, Rao, I’m an idiot,” she breathes to herself, as soon as the door slides shut behind her. There’s a small shaft of light that beams down from the top of the tomb, illuminating the small interior like a spotlight. It falls onto the lifted vault in the very center with Lex’s full name engraved into the stone. It surprises her for a moment how quaint it all seems, in so much as a mausoleum for a single person could be, but Kara holds her breath and regards the inside of chamber quietly. It’s not ornate or lavishly designed. It’s simple; gray stone, probably granite, composes the walls and the vault. Some of it is inlaid with dark iron, but most of it is bare. Polished, neatly kept, but… empty.
There aren’t any flowers in here either, she notes.
Kara tries not to wrinkle her nose at the stale air of the tomb and steps to the side, hoping that whoever it is walking up the path-- she can hear the gentle crunch of sand beneath shoes approaching-- doesn’t mean to come inside and find a CatCo reporter holed up next to Lex.
The outside of the mausoleum grows silent. Kara leans against the stone, holding herself, keeping her breath as quiet and even as possible.
It’s not until the sunlight begins to fade completely that she realizes someone is still out there. The heartbeat is steady, and the little sigh that she hears mingles faint into the wind.
“I know you’re in there.”
Kara nearly shoves a fist through the granite. Of course it’s Lena.
She should have known.
“Come out, Kara.”
It’s almost as painful as facing Lena on that rooftop and telling her the truth. It’s been weeks-- months, if she had to count properly-- since she’d last seen Lena. Just the sound of her voice is enough to spring tears to Kara’s eyes, and she claps a hand over her mouth to keep the accompanying sound from leaking out into the quiet. Her eyes pinch shut and she presses back against the cold stone.
“ Kara .”
Slowly, resigned, Kara opens her eyes again. She dabs at her face with the edge of her cardigan and takes a breath. It’s not fair to deny Lena, she knows. And it’s probably not fair that Kara’s here, the last place Lena would probably expect, intruding on something private when Lena had made it quite clear she’d wanted Kara to stay away.
Kara doesn’t know what to do beyond whatever Lena asks, so she reluctantly pulls away from the granite and eases open the door to Lex’s mausoleum. There’s still a bit of sunlight left in the day, but it’s pale now at the horizon, leaving a stripe of gold to illuminate the distant hills.
Lena’s standing at the base of the steps in a familiar violet coat. She looks the same as Kara remembers her-- elegant figure, sleek dark hair, beautiful eyes-- but the image is still startling enough. Kara sucks in a breath, looks away, and shuffles out onto the top of the steps.
“I’m sorry,” Kara says, a little too quickly, glance darting from nothing back to Lena’s face to gauge some sort of reaction, “I’m sorry, I was just-- I brought some-- I mean, I just wanted to--”
Lena doesn’t move, doesn’t say anything, except for the pointed raise of an eyebrow that swiftly stops the rest of the words from tumbling out of Kara’s mouth. Kara presses her lips together, hesitant, entirely uncertain how to proceed.
When Lena still says nothing, Kara slowly descends down the steps until she’s at ground level again.
Lena’s gaze moves from Kara up to the top of the mausoleum. It’s domed, and perhaps the most sophisticated touch of the entire monument, with a tiny golden spire at the very top. Lex is the only word on the outside of the tomb, carved into stone large and bold.
“At first,” Lena begins, nearly startling Kara again, “I thought the flowers were from Eve. They showed up out of nowhere. I knew she would come to visit him, somehow.”
Kara is silent.
“I didn’t notice what they were until after she’d been found and sentenced,” Lena continues. Her tone is easy, conversational almost, like she’s sharing a mildly curious thought instead of driving an ice pick into Kara’s stomach. “But then I realized they were plumerias. The only other person that had known about the plumerias was Lex, and he’s dead.”
“I’m sorry,” Kara says softly. It’s an automatic response, like an instinct, pulled out of her before she even realizes she’d spoken.
Lena looks at her then. It’s different than the last time she’d stared at Kara, back on the rooftop facing each other as a Super and a Luthor. It’s not empty, or dark, or filled with contempt and heartbreak. Something’s changed.
But Kara’s not sure what to make of it, anyway.
From the pocket of her coat, Lena pulls something thin and black. It shines of hard plastic in the dying light. Kara studies it, sees damage in the center like a bullet had tried to pierce it through.
“My tape recorder,” she says, touched by wonder.
“The night we fought Eve in Kasnia,” Lena says, and if her voice sounds a little tighter, it doesn’t register in the stoic expression she still wears, “this saved my life. She tried to stab me, and your tape recorder was the only thing that stopped her from running me through.”
Kara recoils at the thought, blinking rapidly. She doesn’t know what to make of this, all things considered.
Lena slides the tape recorder back into her pocket. Doesn’t even offer it back to Kara, and Kara doesn’t ask for it back-- it’s not hers anymore, she knows, and it must mean something to Lena if she’s held on to it after all this time.
Then Lena pulls out her phone, and without preamble, presses in a code to play something as she tilts the speaker at Kara.
It’s Kal’s voice that she hears echo out from the device.
“Do you miss her?”
“With all of my heart.”
Kara stares at the phone. Thickness swells up in her throat and presses heat behind her eyes, but she holds onto her tears as long as she can. It’s her own voice in that recording, sounding more broken than she remembers when she’d said those words to Kal.
“You think I didn’t know?” Lena says, and this time her eyes are red, cheeks flushed, voice no longer hidden behind a disaffected pretense. It wavers like the heart in Kara’s chest. “You think I wouldn’t have noticed Supergirl coming to my brother’s grave at sunset and leaving plumerias behind?”
Wetness slips out from her eyelashes and falls past the frames of her glasses. Kara looks down at the earth, hoping it will ground her when the rest of her feels like she might dissolve into the wind.
The breeze feels colder when it darts between them, carrying pieces of broken leaves with it.
“Tell me why,” Lena says. It’s not an angry demand, like Kara might have expected from someone in her position. It still twists a knot inside her stomach just the same.
“It’s true,” Kara says, when she looks back up at Lena. She clears her throat and sniffs back the rest of the tears that burn behind her eyes. “It’s true. I don’t… I don’t know what else you want me to say. I miss you. I-- I can’t make up for anything that happened. I can’t take back what I did. But I still miss you.” Her breath catches harsh, and she adds, “Desperately.”
The bright jade of Lena’s eyes disappear as they flutter closed. She nods once, as if taking the answer at face-value, and turns away. Cold fear wraps around Kara that Lena might leave-- like she did on the rooftop-- but after a beat, Lena is still standing there, hands shoved into her pockets and her back toward Kara.
She hears, “Take your glasses off.”
The black glasses slip easily into her hand and she folds them, careful not to bend the frames as she places them into her pocket. When Lena turns back around, Kara waits, hands clasped tight in front of herself.
There’s a long moment before either of them move.
It’s Lena who suddenly steps closer. Slowly, cautiously, like the vision of Kara without her glasses might break if she treads too quickly. It’s not until Lena is practically toe-to-toe that Kara lifts her gaze from where she had it securely fastened on the walkway stone.
Lena studies her, eyes flickering back and forth, drinking in whatever it is she sees in Kara’s face.
“You really are her,” Lena says, barely whispering. She’s close enough for Kara to feel the faint brush of her breath, feel the tremor in it as she speaks.
“Yes,” Kara answers, just as soft.
There’s a pause. Then, “Kara… Zor-El.”
Something twitches in Kara’s chest. “Yes,” she repeats.
Hardness settles into Lena’s gaze. “Were you ever going to tell me?” Lena asks, and the question strikes against Kara like flint. Pain smolders in her lungs, in her breath, and reflects through the steely light of Lena’s eyes. “Or were you going to pretend forever until he forced your hand?”
Kara swallows and tries to find the right words. “If you had asked me before all of this, I don’t know,” she says carefully, averting her gaze to the darkening sky behind Lena. “I would have said eventually, I think. Whenever it felt like you might not… hate me.” She takes in a breath, glad when it doesn’t shake. “But after Eve, and Lex, and everything that happened, I promised myself that I would tell you when it was done. You deserved to know.” The exhale isn’t as steady on the way out. “I tried once. On-- on the plane, back from Kasnia. I almost did tell you. You were trying to apologize to me. But when you started talking about Eve, and betrayal, and how you trusted me, I…”
When she trails off, she sees Lena’s mouth form a thin line.
“I never wanted to hurt you,” Kara finishes, and her voice is small this time.
Lena shifts in place, the muscle in her jaw tense. They’re still close, though Kara can’t figure out why or for what possible reason Lena would have to decide to speak to her again. “I told Alex once that her working for the DEO was her secret to keep, as was Sam’s secret about Reign. That it wasn’t my place to expose either,” Lena says. “I deal in secrets every day. I was born from them. Raised by them. They are second nature to someone like me.”
Kara watches her, confused.
Lena runs the tip of her tongue over her bottom lip. “Lex always used secrets as a weapon. To break me, reform me into his tool. It’s practically his signature. It’s what he did with Eve, and our mother, and all of those little journals he left behind at the prison.” She pauses, considering something for a moment. “Eve’s betrayal served its purpose, I suppose. But I still can’t--” her teeth click together, frustrated-- “I still can’t figure out the point of you.”
“I… I’m sorry?” Kara stammers.
Lena fixes her with a curious look. “Obviously he meant to hurt me, that much I know,” she says, “Tear me down one final time. But you won’t-- you aren’t--” She stops, then sighs forcefully. “You’re still...you. You’re here, at my brother’s grave, leaving him flowers for God’s sake. And I can’t figure out why.”
Kara opens her mouth, then closes it, turning the words over in her mind until something short of comprehension clicks into place. “You think I was pretending, this whole time?”
Fury ignites in Lena’s stare. “Why else would you have stayed so close?” Lena snaps, and it’s thunderous, ripped open by a pain Kara hadn’t heard there before. It hurdles down into her core and stays there, blazing like a star. “What, because you wanted to be my friend? Because you liked me? Is that it?”
Kara steps back, away from the dangerous orbit of Lena, one hand pressed against her mouth like she might stop the thoughts from geysering out of her. Anguish and rage and bitterness burn up through her until she feels sick, until it feels like she might come apart at the seams. She twists on her heel, ready to fly, but then whips back around to face the other woman as if possessed by the power of her own tumultuous emotions.
“Because I love you!” Kara screams, arms thrown outward to release the remaining hold on her self control. “You want to know why? Why I stuck around, why I lied, why I could never tell you before?” The words are nearing the edge of hysterical, accented by tears and ragged breaths. “Because I love you, Lena Luthor, with every single part of myself that I have. I couldn’t face the thought of losing you. Not after everything I’ve already lost. But I have always believed in you, even when I was scared. So there, the last of the secrets I have left to give. Believe me, or don’t.”
For the first time since that night on the roof, Lena is frozen, eyes blown wide and lips parted by the raw, wild shock that radiates from her. Kara doesn’t know what kind of answer Lena expected, if she was truly seeking an answer at all, but she can tell from the tremor that travels down Lena’s spine that it certainly wasn’t that one.
Kara wipes hastily at her face and looks at the last traces of sunset to the west. Nightfall brings with it the dull, comforting rhythm of crickets and another drop in temperature. Moonlight brightens the graveyard, haloing every edge in a pale glow that casts just enough light to get by. She’s spent far longer here than she ever meant to, and the desire to flee back home is surging brighter with every second that ticks by after her outburst. She tries, and fails, to steady the rough pattern of her breath, though it no longer threatens to overwhelm her.
A little noise escapes from Lena. When Kara looks at her, she can track the shine of tears down Lena’s jaw.
It’s probably the wrong thing to do.
She should know better.
But instead of obeying the voice in her head that warns her not to, Kara steps closer, closer, brisk and determined, to the woman with her hands clasped hard against her mouth. It’s like she’s being pulled by a chain and dragged there by the sound of muffled weeping.
To her astonishment, Lena doesn’t pull away. As soon as Kara is there, arms hesitantly encircling, Lena pushes up against her and tucks her head to Kara’s chest. They fit together, and Kara embraces her like she’s a fragile thing ready to shatter under the faintest touch.
And Kara holds her.
Lex’s mausoleum is the only other witness when the sounds finally cease and the shaking in Lena’s shoulders comes to rest. Kara lets her retreat, but it’s only enough to put a breath’s worth of space between their chests as Lena settles herself.
“When I left,” Lena murmurs, “the only way I could handle it was to convince myself that everything was fake. That it wasn’t just your name that you lied to me about. If it was all a lie, then I could cut it all out and start over.”
Kara’s not sure if Lena can feel the way her heart trips painfully at the admission.
“But I just couldn’t get you out of my head,” she says. “I tried to hate you. And maybe I did, for a while. And then, I…” She touches her pocket briefly, the one with the damaged tape recorder. “I found this again. I thought about you too much, trying to figure out the purpose of all of this and why you showed up here. I might have driven myself crazy with conjecture, but even I can’t lie to myself for that long.”
Kara inhales, wondering if she should brace herself for more heartache.
Lena sighs, long and soft. Her fingers reach up to brush the damp skin of Kara’s neck, then cheek, then the corner of her mouth. “You are the most difficult person in the world to hate, Kara Danvers,” she mutters.
“Not for some,” Kara responds quietly, thinking of Lex and Lillian and Maxwell Lord, and all of the American people who had turned their hearts against her during Red Daughter’s attack. Of the way Lena had looked at her on that rooftop. “I can be the easiest person to hate.”
Lena taps a finger against her cheek. “Supergirl can be,” she admits, “but not you, Kara.”
Kara holds her gaze. “So, does that.. I mean, you don’t---?”
Lena pulls at her lip, looks away for a brief moment, and shrugs. “I don’t know. Sometimes I do, sometimes I…” She shakes her head. “It’s hard to tell, most days. But when you started showing up on the security footage--” she nods toward the mausoleum, “--it, I don’t know, changed something. Maybe it was the plumerias. Maybe I’m just losing my mind.”
“I can bring you more plumerias,” Kara says. “ All of the plumerias.”
Lena gives her a watery smile. The sight of it soothes the tattered holes in Kara’s heart, just a little. “Bribery is unbecoming of you, Supergirl.”
“Peonies? Carnations? Daisies? I’ll plant a whole field right here. Whatever you want, Lena. Whatever I can do to help, I’ll--”
“Shut up, Kara,” Lena interrupts. She places a hand on the cardigan over Kara’s collarbone and digs her nails into the material. “Shut up and kiss me.”
Her thoughts record-scratch to an abrupt halt.
“I-- wait-- you--” Kara takes in a sharp breath, eyes round and uncomprehending. “Are you sure?”
“No,” Lena says. “Not at all.”
Lena’s thumb skims over her lip, triggering a rush of electric heat from the contact all the way down to the depths of Kara’s stomach. She pulls Lena closer, her own hands lifting to frame the sculpted edge of Lena’s jaw, and presses her mouth against soft, trembling lips.
It’s chaste, and timid, until Lena pushes roughly against her and fills Kara’s senses with nothing else but the taste of her tongue. The way Lena gasps into her mouth, wanting and hungry, sends heat spiraling down her spine and blooming in her chest.
Lena eventually breaks, dragging teeth over the swollen skin of Kara’s bottom lip before pulling back. It leaves Kara dizzy.
“Now,” she says, a little breathless, “I’m sure.”
Kara blinks. “Of what?”
Lena doesn’t say, and maybe it’s too much to acknowledge it outloud, to put it into words so soon after admitting the struggle she’d endured and continues to. Maybe she’s not ready, Kara thinks. But it’s enough for her when Lena drags her back in, kisses her deep and gentle and slowly, never once hesitating at each touch.
“I missed you,” Kara whispers to her.
Lena turns slightly and looks over at the looming shadow of her brother’s mausoleum, still standing silent before them. Kara sets her chin into dark hair as Lena leans her head into Kara’s shoulder, eyes closed. “I missed you, Kara,” Lena returns, hushed and thick, “with all of my heart.”