She doesn’t avoid Kara, Lena knows that would be far too obvious. So she goes to game night and she pays regular visits to CatCo and she talks to Kara as if nothing is wrong at the next L-Corp press conference. Lena knows she’s a good liar— she’s a Luthor, afterall— but not as good as some people, apparently. She continues to see Kara in public, group settings, continuing the facade until she can organize her thoughts enough to confront her. She wants Kara to hurt as much as Lena hurts but for now the wound is too fresh and she knows that, damn her fragile human heart, if she tries to confront Kara now she will lose control of her emotions and that is something she cannot, will not allow.
Another thing she does not allow, cannot allow, is hugging. She subtly avoids it, making sure she always has her arms full whenever she’s around Kara, or excusing herself quickly when the blonde opens her arms in invitation. She knows, after the third time, that Kara notices. Lena can see the hollow, hurt, confused look in those blue eyes, and part of her wants to be pleased at making Kara feel that way, but a bigger part of her feels guilty for causing Kara pain. She pushes that part down deep into a box and tries to drown it with scotch later that night.
She knows she can’t hug Kara. Even on her worst days, Kara’s hugs had a way of soothing her fears, calming her anxiety. She feels treasured in Kara’s embrace, and safe. She’s not sure if it’s Kara’s physical warmth, or the way she always wraps Lena in her arms and squeezes just a little too tightly, or the way her hands pat Lena’s back every time like she’s reassuring her that no matter what everything is going to be okay as long as they’re together. Lena knows that if she hugs Kara she will lose her tenuous control of her emotions, and even if she’s just barely hanging onto that control by her fingertips, she refuses to let go.
So Lena cancels their next scheduled lunch date. She even has her new assistant schedule a meeting during that time so she would be busy, so she wouldn’t have to make up some excuse and lie to Kara— she refuses to be the liar in this relationship. When Kara texts her asking if she can come over— “I really need to talk to you” she says— Lena replies that she isn’t feeling well and doesn’t feel up to having company. That’s not a lie either, the nausea of her anxiety had plagued her since long before she discovered Kara’s real identity.
That evening Lena sits alone in her apartment, the daily news playing softly in the background, picking at her dinner, drinking more wine than she should. She wonders briefly if using alcohol as a coping mechanism makes her an alcoholic, but she pours another glass anyway. She’s halfway through the bottle when something on the television draws her attention.
Live coverage of Supergirl’s latest fight plays on the screen. Lena scowls— even at home she can’t escape the reminders— and she picks up the remote to turn off the television when the superheroine is slammed into the concrete by a large alien with horns and skin that looks like rocks. Instead of the power button, Lena presses the button to increase the volume.
“Supergirl appears to be struggling to get up,” the news anchor says, but it’s not entirely accurate. Supergirl isn’t struggling, she isn’t moving at all. Even with the camera zoomed in at a distance, Lena can see blood oozing from a wound in Supergirl’s forehead and a bruise blossoming on the side of her face. She’s not sure what species of alien Supergirl is fighting, but Lena knows it takes a lot to make the Girl of Steel bleed.
Speaking of, the massive alien roars and brings a closed fist down on Supergirl’s lax torso. The hero’s body thrashes with the impact and her mouth opens in what Lena knows must be a scream of pain, but thankfully the reporters aren’t close enough to pick up the sound. She collapses back into the concrete in pain and the alien raises its other fist to pound her.
“Get up,” Lena hears herself say under her breath. The alien slams another fist into Supergirl’s body. “Dammit, Supergirl, get up!”
Another fist and then another rains blows down on the caped Kryptonian, and with every blow Lena feels as if part if her soul is being crushed as well.
“GET UP, KARA!”
Lena knows it’s not her words that do it. The fight is halfway across National City and even with her superhearing there’s no way Kara could hear her from there. But as soon as the name is shouted from Lena’s lips, Supergirl is up and flying circles around the alien, blasting it s head with her heat vision. It doesn’t seem to be doing any good for a few long minutes, just pissing the creature off more, until Lena sees that one spot of the alien’s stone-like skin is beginning to glow like molten rock. Kara apparently sees the same thing, and she punches that spot with enough force that it shakes the nearby buildings, knocking the alien out cold.
A sense of victorious pride wells up in Lena against her will. The camera focuses on the unconscious alien for far too long for Lena’s liking before panning to where Supergirl is still hovering nearby. The heroine is smiling but Lena knows her well enough in both iterations to see the pain in her expression, the way her blue eyes don’t shine quite as brightly and her lips pull tighter across her face. She was victorious, but she’s definitely hurt.
Lena shouldn’t care. She shouldn’t worry. And she definitely shouldn’t send a text message right before bed, asking Kara to come by L-Corp first thing in the morning.
She’s barely sat down at her desk when Kara enters her office, box of donuts in hand. Lena studies her from a distance, like she’s the one with x-ray vision, suddenly able to see the supersuit beneath the navy button up and gray slacks. What she can’t see are bruises or wounds, which she knows is due to Kryptonians having superhumanly fast healing rates, but it doesn’t stop her worrying after seeing how many times the alien pounded Supergirl into the sidewalk last night.
So she does the one thing she vowed she wouldn’t do. She crosses the office in a barely restrained run as Kara is putting down the box of donuts, and before her mind can catch up with her body Lena has her arms wrapped around Kara.
When her mind does catch up with her, Lena tells herself she’s just checking to make sure Kara isn’t injured— not that she’s supposed to care about Kara’s wellbeing anymore, but that’s beside the point. But when Kara wraps her arms around Lena’s shoulders and envelops her in warmth that she really should’ve known was superhuman, and squeezes her with what Lena now realizes is precise control so that she doesn’t injure the fragile human in her arms, and her hands, hands that have punched aliens into unconsciousness, delicately tap against Lena’s shoulder blade...
Lena loses it. Control slips from her fingertips just before she feels hot tears escape from the corners of her eyes.
“Are you alright?” she asks into Kara’s shoulder. She shouldn’t care, she has tried hard not to care, but she does, she can’t stop caring, and she has to know the answer before she can deal with anything else.
Kara pulls back a fraction, perhaps proving her superstrength because Lena’s arms are wound so tightly around her. Her eyes widen when she sees Lena’s tears.
“Yeah, why wouldn’t I be? Are... Hey, why are you crying?”
Lena feels it then, the flare of anger, but it’s fleeting, quickly replaced by resolve. She unwraps herself from Kara, freeing her arms, but doesn’t pull out of her embrace, and reaches up. Kara’s brow crinkles as Lena finds the clip that holds her hair back and releases the blonde curls. Her expression morphs quickly from confusion to complete fear as Lena delicately grips the sides of her glasses, but she doesn’t stop her as Lena pulls them from her face.
The glasses and clip clatter on the floor as Lena raises her hands again, this time tracing her thumbs over features she thought she was familiar with. She rubs the spot that was an open wound on Kara’s forehead last night and smooths her thumb over a cheek that was a motly purple bruise, reassuring herself that everything is healed. She runs her finger over the small scar above Kara’s eyebrow, now curious how a Kryptonian actually got a scar.
Finally her eyes meet brilliant blue and she sees a reflection of her own fear looking back at her, and rivulets of tears that match her own running over tanned cheekbones.
“Why didn’t you tell me?”