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It rains the day that Supergirl kills Lena Luthor.

National City grinds to a standstill, the way the city always does whenever it rains. It makes no difference if the rain falls as a mist or a deluge; all the same, traffic backs up for miles and the whole city seems to call in sick. Whenever rain falls, the windows of the city are filled with eyes looking outwards and upwards, almost insulted to see their arid oasis plunged into clouds.

That’s why there are so many eyes on the air when the side of L-Corp explodes in a kaleidoscope of glass. The explosion isn’t just heard; it’s felt throughout the city, a single pulsing tremor. The smoke comes next, billowing in a single black cloud, and then it parts to reveal the blue and red form that has become a welcome sight in over National City. The press alerts come shortly after, only minutes later, complete with prepared press releases from the NCPD, but they’re unnecessary. The whole city knows what it means the moment they see Supergirl hovering over the building, which has stood empty for months, ever since Lena Luthor set off her first bomb, ever since the chaos began.

They see her, and they cheer. They know the latest villain is dead. They know the storm has passed, once again.

Supergirl hovers for minutes, circling over the building. She doesn’t drop to the ground to greet the firefighters and police officers and federal agents swarming to the scene. She doesn’t beam her typical smile, doesn’t offer a moment of comfort to the citizens who spent the last year cowering in her shadow. Instead, she remains afloat, detached, high above the city she has saved.

Below, no one can see her hands shake.

***

It starts the day after she shoots Lex.

Lena tries to pretend that everything is okay, that her insides aren’t curling with a hate that tastes like acid. It lasts for a handful of hours, at best. That ends with an empty bottle of whiskey and a shattered picture frame in her office.

Kara decides to tell her the moment that Lena leaves game night. She knows that something is wrong, knows that something has shifted inside of Lena. Their eyes don’t meet as often throughout the night. When Lena goes to leave, she doesn’t drift toward Kara like normal, doesn’t make sure to brush against her side or press a hand into the small of her back or drag her into a hug before she leaves. Kara sees the stiffness of her shoulders as Lena leaves, and she resolves to tell her as soon as she can.

She’s met with silence. Lena ignores every text, every call. At first, she figures it’s Lex. After a week, she figures it’s work, which has often pulled Lena away in the past, sending her into flurry of activity that renders her useless to the outside world. But after three weeks, Kara ignores any advice sent her way and forces her way into the top floor of L-Corp.

The truth is worse than silence. Because Lena isn’t working in a frenzy, or falling apart with guilt, or anything that Kara imagined. Instead, she’s sitting behind her desk, chewing haphazardly at a pen. She looks perfect, as perfect as always — dark hair falling gently around her throat, lips lined in a flawless blood red, the collar of her dress framing her throat in a way that makes Kara’s chest tighten for a second. Only a second.

“Hi.” Lena looks up and something inscrutable flickers in her eyes before she smiles. “Do you, uh- you got a second?”

“Always for you,” Lena says, and there’s something off about it but Kara is too damn happy to hear Lena’s voice to care about the way it’s wavering.

“Okay, well you hadn’t responded to my calls or my texts or-“ Kara stops, because the more words she uses the more resolve she loses. “Look, I need to say something and I need you to just stay quiet and hear me out.”

Lena quirks an eyebrow, and after a moment, Kara realizes she’s supposed to continue. Her chest tightens again.

“I’ve been holding something back from you for a long time, and I know it’s going to hurt when I say it.” Kara studies Lena’s face for confusion, or fear, or betrayal, but there’s nothing. “And I need you to know that- that when I tell you this, it doesn’t have to change anything.”

There’s something cold in Lena’s eyes, something detached, but at this point Kara has thought too much about this moment to change course.

“I’m not who you think I am.” She wore her hair down specifically for this moment, and as she tugs off her glasses, she waits for the shock, or the anger, or the- the anything. But Lena just looks at her, even as she says the words that are supposed to break them apart, the words that are supposed to take Lena away from her. “I’m- I’m Supergirl, Lena. And I’m sorry for not telling you, I’m sorry for not being honest or upfront, I wanted to tell you from the moment I first met you but-“

“Is that all?” Lena’s voice is cold, her diction practiced, but Kara can’t miss the fact that her eyes are focused on the papers on her desk, not on Kara. “Look, I’ve got a lot of work-“

“Right,” Kara says, taking a step back, her mind reeling — So Lena knows? Did she always know? Did this change a thing? Was this all a mistake? — as she forces a smile.

The first bomb goes off three days later.

The chaos starts slowly. Bombings. Assassinations. Cyber attacks. Lena doesn’t take credit for it at first. She waits, until the fear is widespread and faceless. When she makes her announcement — that her plan is to destroy the city’s leadership piece by piece, that she won’t rest until she is in complete control — it’s a clear ploy to draw Kara out. J’onn says as much the moment that she storms into the DEO, Alex on her heels, begging her to slow down.

“I can calm her down.” Kara is shouting, but it’s only to drown out the other voices, to quiet the drone that has been buzzing in the back of her head since Lena first plunged her into the dark. “I know Lena, this isn’t like her, this isn’t who she’s meant to be-“

“It’s who she’s become,” Alex bites out. “And like it or not, we have to take her threats seriously-“

“Let me try.” There are moments when Kara’s eyes flash and her sister knows that no simply isn’t an answer. She sees the resolve fade in J’onn and Alex’s faces as they glance at each other. “We have nothing else to lose.”

When she lands on the balcony at L-Corp, Lena is already waiting. The building has been empty for two days, ever since she broadcast her announcement, but there she stands, in a deep purple dress with a glass of wine, her head tipped as if she was late to an appointment.

“Long time, Supergirl.” Lena smirks, but it’s devoid of any humor, any warmth. “How are you holding up?”

“Lena.” Kara hesitates, her hands balled into fists at her sides. “Please, what is going on?”

“Let me tell you something,” Lena hisses, and as she stalks toward Kara, she’s genuinely scared. Superhuman strength be damned, the image of her best friend bearing down on her, with her jaw clenched and her eyes cold, is something more terrifying, more deeply overwhelming than she had ever anticipated. “I don’t trust people, which you should know because I’ve told you that, every damn week since I first met you.”

“I know.”

“No.” There’s an inch of space, maybe less, separating them now, and Lena is glaring at her as if she’s the one who has superpowers, as if she could take Kara right then and there, no questions asked. “My life has been built on lies, by lies, from lies. But you were supposed to be different. You were supposed to be good.”

“I tried to be good.” Kara bites back every urge to reach out, to see if Lena will still soften under her touch. “I wanted to do this for you, to protect you-“

“And instead you hurt me.” There are tears in Lena’s eyes, and Kara can see that under the bravado, under the anger, there is something more fragile, more delicate. “My whole life has been about hurt, about the people who hurt me. You promised to be the one person who wouldn’t hurt me.”

“And I’m sorry.” Kara sees the anger flare again.

“No.” Lena swivels, walks back to where she set down her wine glass and finishes it in a single swallow. “Don’t use that tone on me. Don’t try to placate me.”

“What do you want?” She knows that she sounds like she’s begging, but Kara doesn’t know what else to do. “Please, Lena, I’ll do whatever you want.”

For a moment, Lena is perfectly still, her shoulders shifted downwards. Then she shakes her head, turning to face the edge of the balcony.

“You were my hero.” When she turns, the face that Kara is looking into isn’t Lena. It’s a stranger. “But you don’t deserve that title. Not for anyone.”

Kara feels it then, the rush that seizes her chest, shudders in her throat. She’s rarely this scared, not when she’s facing a human, but now there’s terror flooding her veins because Lena might be really, truly, fully lost. So she does the only thing she can think to do. She runs. She drops off the side of the balcony, forgetting to fly until she’s dropped ten floors, then blasting too high above the city, the rush forcing her eyes to water. Kara regrets it for the rest of her life.

The next week, Lena tries to kill Alex.

The first explosion sends her armored truck 20 feet in the air. The second explosion side swipes the truck, sending Alex flying through the glass, tumbling across the concrete. She has enough time to suck in a breath before two hands grab her from behind and send her flying in the opposite direction.

It’s Lena, in a suit similar to the prototype she made for Kara to fight Lena. Alex sees it, sees the familiar eyes looking down at her, familiar from years of game nights and dinners. She doesn’t reach for her gun, doesn’t even try to defend herself. The blast from Lena’s forearm hits her square in the chest, slams her into the ground hard enough to crack pavement. Lena’s arm is raised again when J’onn arrives, shifting in time to tackle Lena from the side and toss her a few stories into the air. She flees, leaving Alex crumpled on the concrete.

It takes two minutes.

Kara studies Alex, limp in a bed in the hospital ward, for two minutes. Then she turns on her heel, J’onn chasing behind her.

“Kara.” She stops, but doesn’t turn around. “What’s your plan?”

“I’m going to kill her.” Kara bites it out, her voice brittle enough to break.

***

The moment the fight begins, Kara knows she can win.

Lena’s suit is impressive. It heightens the quickness of her movements, allows her to float and leap across the room with inhuman agility. It absorbs Kara’s heat vision and redirects it to Lena’s fists, where she can discharge it in green bolts of hyper-focused energy. But it’s not enough. It would never be enough.

She knew that, of course. Lena always knew this was inevitably useless, that she didn’t stand a chance. It wasn’t that she couldn’t do it. There was plenty of technology in Lex’s files alone to find a way to finish Kara. Lena knew her inside out, knew every single one of her weak spots. But she never even bothered to arm her suit with kryptonite, never even tried to fully overpower Kara. In the end, Lena couldn’t be a hero, but she also didn’t have it in her to be a villain.

She’s on her back in minutes. Lena manages to get off three shots to Kara’s chest before she grabs hold of her arm, twisting it and throwing Lena into the wall. Kara drops on her without inhibition, something white hot and ugly bubbling in her stomach.

Kara’s fists fall too strong, slamming into the metal of Lena’s suit. The first blow dents the armor; the ones that follow bend it, smash it, rip it as if it were paper. Lena wonders, in the moment, if she was every really arrogant to think that she could beat Kara, that she could ever think up something that would be enough to best her. The thoughts come in flashes, broken by the staccato beat of fists against her armor.

A moment later, Kara wedges her fingers under the edge of the helmet, prying it loose and flinging it across the room, locking one hand around Lena’s throat. Lena is flooded with the light of the fluorescent overheads, and as she blinks up, throwing her arms over her face, she screams out the only thing she can think, the only words she can choke out around Kara’s grip.

“Kara-“ Her voice is like gravel. “Please, Kara, please-“

And she stops. Kara stops without hesitation, her fist faltering where she pulled it back, her handing losing its slack on her throat. Lena begs and Kara acquiesces without thought, rocking back on her heels to stare at Lena as if she’s seeing her for the first time all over again.

Then Lena’s suit hiccups, and a green blast shoots from her forearm, slamming Kara in the chest and sending her flying across the room. She lands on her side, rolling immediately to her feet, but the sight of Lena’s crumpled body knocks her out of her fighting stance in a heartbeat.

Because it’s Lena.

Kara is at her side in a moment, her fingers trailing across Lena’s chest, tracking her shallow breaths.

“Please-“ Blood trickles from the corner of her mouth, and Kara brushes it away with her thumb, gentle as she can, trying to soothe with the same hands that broke her.

“It’s okay.” She pulls Lena into her arms, cradles her and mutters words of comfort even as her eyes grow wide with panic. “It’s okay, stay with me, it’s okay.”

“Kara, what’s going on?”

J’onn’s voice is harsh in her ear, snapping her back to the reality of the moment - the mission, her goal, the blood on Lena’s hands.

Kara looks down and Lena is staring up at her as if she hung every star in the galaxy.

She twists the earpiece out with one finger and crushes it in her palm.

“Lena, listen to me.” Her hands are insistent, pressing into Lena’s side, cradling the back of her neck. “Let me take you back.”

“No.”

“Please, Lena, it’s our only choice.” Kara hates the way her voice breaks, hates the way she feels her will breaking already. “I can take you back to the DEO, and I promise we can work something out. This wasn’t you, it was just a mistake, if you please just come back with me I can-“

“I can’t,” Lena chokes out, shaking her head. “I can’t go back and you know that. There’s no such thing as a normal life for me anymore.”

“It doesn’t have to be normal-“

“Please, Kara.” Lena’s fingers find her wrist, tug at her with a frailty Kara has never felt before. “Kill me if you have to, but don’t let me live in a world where I became just another Luthor.”

“Okay.” Kara’s hand traces the line of Lena’s jaw, and there’s something sharp, like love or mercy, in her eyes. “Okay.”

***

It’s not just raining when Supergirl emerges from L-Corp. It’s pouring. The rain falls in sheets, tumultuous, practically flooding the streets.

It obscures the sight of her, reduces her to a dot of red and blue. Maybe that’s for the best. The people in the street below can’t see.

Can’t see that her suit is torn, that she’s streaked in soot. Can’t see the red in her eyes, the tremor in her shoulders. Can’t see how their hero, at least in this moment, looks so deeply human.

***

It rains for a week. Kara doesn’t see. She refuses to leave the hospital bay, hovering at Alex’s side, even when she isn’t needed, even when she can feel that her presence is nothing but a weight on her sister.

“You didn’t do it.”

It’s not a question when Alex says it. It’s not an indictment, either. Kara flinches all the same. She drops her head, her gaze burning into the floor between her feet. She’s slouched in the same chair, in the same stance that she has held for eight days.

“How did you know?” She feels, rather than sees, when Alex shifts up on her elbows, her eyes tracing the exhaustion that fills Kara’s frame.

“Killing Lena would’ve broken you.” Alex’s voice is softer than it’s been in the last year, softer than it’s been since the line of her wedding band was still fresh. “And now, you- you’re broken, but you’re here. If you had really done it, I don’t know if I ever would’ve seen you again.”

Heat fills Kara’s face, and it takes her too long to realize that it comes from tears, dripping damp and messy, pooling in the dip of her collarbone.

“I’m sorry,” she mutters. “I promise you, that was my only intention-“

“I know, Kara.”

Alex shakes her head but Kara refuses to look up, refuses to see the pity and compassion and love in Alex’s eyes. Eventually, however, the silence lasts long enough, and she’s forced to look up at her sister, her big sister, who offered up her life in place of Kara’s without a second thought, who now offers forgiveness as if it’s second nature.

“Why?” She’s begging and she feels weak, less than a human. “Why couldn’t I do it?”

Alex shakes her head, but she doesn’t look lost at all.

“She’s always been your weak spot.”

***

Clark’s farm is both smaller and warmer than Lena is used to living in. It doesn’t feel quite like home, but then again, Lena hasn’t been sure what that word means in a long time.

She remembers a different definition when Kara lands on the front porch for the first time.

At first, she figures that Kara came to retrieve her, to bring her back for punishment or to attempt some kind of salvation. She’s ready, not even trying to run, just tucks her hands behind her back and gnaws at her lip as Kara climbs the steps. It takes a moment for her to realize that Kara is wearing a button up and jeans, not her Supergirl suit, and her hands are filled with takeout bags, not shackles.

“Hi.” Kara’s voice is hesitant, and it’s enough to crack Lena in two. “I figured you missed the food in National City, so-“

She holds up one sack awkwardly, her mouth quirking up in that goofy, stupid, blameless smile. She’s shy, as if she’s afraid that Lena won’t let her inside, as if she’s afraid something might be broken beyond repair. Lena wants to wrap her tightly, to hold her to her chest in some attempt to convey the warmth flooding her from the top of her head through her toes. She should say something, anything, to try to thank Kara, to try to tell her what this means. Instead, she takes a step forward, her smile a mirror of Kara’s, gentle and shy and hopeful.

“I did.” Their hands brush as Lena takes the bag. They both pretend not to notice. “Thank you.”

Kara returns three days later. She keeps up the pattern for weeks, dropping in for minutes at a time, normally with food in hand. She brings enough food for two. She never stays long enough to eat. Lena feels something like loss whenever Kara leaves, but she knows that’s too selfish to even acknowledge.

Then she drops the glass.

It’s stupid. But it’s also been six days since she’s last seen Kara and that’s too close to a full week and she’s tired. And maybe a little bored. Lena refuses to invent anything new at the farm, despite Kara’s constant offers to bring supplies and tools. She wants to be normal, but apparently normal life is often filled with sweeping expanses of boredom.

Then Lena drops the glass. She reaches immediately out of reflex, and at first she feels nothing when the glass sinks into her palm. Then comes the hot streak of pain and the rush of blood, sticky and salty. And really, it doesn’t hurt that much, and a simple combination of water and hydrogen peroxide and pressure with a bandage would fix it. But instead Lena feels something crack, something that has been falling out of place since the first day that she shut Kara out.

She slumps to the ground, grasping at her hand. She’s crying, realizes it too late, and when she wipes at her face it only replaces the tears with blood. She’s crying because she was stupid, and because she was selfish, and because she caused more pain than she can ever replace. But mostly, Lena cries from the loss of it all. Of her life. Of her friends. Of Kara, who comes out of duty, not out of love. It’s a pity she hasn’t indulged in for weeks now, and when she collapses into it, Lena feels weak, crippled.

And she’s crying too loudly to hear when Kara breaks the locked handle off the front door and slides to the ground at her side.

The hands on her shoulders are soft. Lena wonders absently how long it’s been since she’s been touched. Weeks? Months?

“Hey, hey, hey, what happened?” Kara pries her hand open to look at the cut, her other hand smoothing down her hair. “It’s not too bad, we can fix this Lena-“

“I’m sorry.” The first apology comes out, and what follows is a landslide, something that Lena has been holding back without even realizing, without even noticing. “Kara, I know you’ll never forgive me, I know that what I did can’t be erased, but I’m sorry, please hear me, I’m sorry-“

At some point, Kara would have tried to drown her out, to tell her it was okay. But words had stopped being a salve to Lena long ago, and Kara seems to know that, because instead of talking her down, she leans forward and swallows her words with a kiss. It’s quick, all things considered, long enough to turn the flow of apologies into a gasp. One of her hands is still wrapped around Lena’s, where the bleeding has yet to stop. The other tangles in Lena’s hair.

“You’re okay.” Her breath is soft on Lena’s mouth. “We’re okay.”

It’s a first. Lena isn’t sure what to think about — the fact that Kara tastes like peppermint and honey, or the fact that she has forgiven her, or the fact that her light blue button down is now stained with blood from where Lena just reached up to grab her arm. Of course, she fixates on that last fact.

“Shit, I’m sorry-“ She reaches for the shirt, makes it worse by smearing blood on her collar, and Kara almost knocks her off her feet by rolling her eyes as if Lena is the most clueless person alive.

“Stop.” Her hands are on Lena’s wrists, but it’s gentle, guiding instead of forcing her hands down. “You’re okay. We’re okay.”

“I just-“ Kara cuts her off again, this time with her lips on her throat, and Lena’s breath rushes out so quickly that she almost collapses. “Please, Kara, let me apologize.”

There are plenty of times that Lena has been fully impressed by Kara’s strength. She’s seen her carry a plane with one hand, seen her toss cars through the air. But nothing impresses that strength upon her like Kara’s hands on her jaw, cradling the back of her head. There is strength in those hands, and Lena would feel vulnerable, terrified even, if it weren’t for Kara’s eyes. They are soft and full of something, a certain light that completely erases any fear. Lena knows enough to recognize this as true strength — the power to destroy and the power to remove fear, all wrapped up in a single gesture.

“Please believe that I have forgiven you.” Kara’s voice is strong, more forceful than it ever is when she’s out of her suit. “I’ve forgiven you a hundred lifetimes over. I will always forgive you.”

And then Kara kisses her again, and that erases absolutely anything else Lena could feel.

Kara Danvers should be stumbling through this, should be awkward, uncomfortable, shuffling. And Supergirl, as much as Lena ever knew of her, should be different as well. Less gentle. Less forgiving, too. This is new to Lena, because she’s never known Kara in totality. She’s known Kara Danvers and she’s known Supergirl. She never knew Kara Zor-El.

She’s learning, now, as Kara presses her backwards into the kitchen tile. The arm around Lena’s back is immovable, yet it holds her gently, her fingertips tracing soft circles into her back, ghosting over her skin just enough to make her shiver. It’s the same when she lifts Lena off the ground, presses her into the kitchen table, equal parts power and tenderness. Lena’s hand traces up, worrying for a moment at the blood stain on her shirt, and Kara rolls her eyes.

“If it bothers you so much-“ she pulls it off with a twitch of her wrist. Lena gasps out a small oh and without thinking runs her hands up Kara’s sides; in response, Kara slams the palm of her hand down on the table, snapping it in half. The arm looped around Lena’s waist is the only thing that keeps her from tumbling to the floor. For a second, Kara stares down at the cracked wood with her mouth in a wide ‘o’ and Lena laughs. That’s also a first in a long time, but Lena is distracted from that within seconds.

(The next time Kara visits, she brings a replacement table. It’s beautiful, deep oak, hand hewn. Once she’s placed it gently in the dining room, Kara stands nervously next to it, arms crossed, her eyes darting back and forth.

“It’s enforced with titanium rods.” Her voice is odd, clipped, as if she’s barking the words out. “Three of them. Within the wood.”

“Oh.” Lena’s eyebrow twitches upwards of its own accord, and the corner of her mouth follows. Her eyes follow Kara’s, once, twice, before she lets herself smile fully. “Want to test it out?”

Kara breaks it, titanium and all.)

The next time blood is spilled in the house, it belongs to Kara.

Lena nearly knocks over a chair when she hears the knock. She launches towards the door, then pauses to catch her breath, attempting to smooth out the way air rags in and out of her lungs. It’s been two weeks since Kara’s last visit, just long enough for the worry to gnaw at her ribs and the edges of her thoughts.

She opens the door and immediately regrets every second of hesitation. Kara is dropped on one knee, her breaths coming heavy, one hand gripped around a gash in her upper arm. Blood drips sluggishly between her fingers, staining the dull red wood of the front porch.

“Kara-“ Lena falls to her knees in seconds, hands wandering across the places where her body is singed and torn. Kara feels disarmingly human. It’s not just the blood. Her body is fragile, her shoulders small and shaking Lena’s arms. But she turns her head with a smile, small but still stuffed with that bashful humor that is so undyingly Kara.

“Sorry for the mess,” she says, and Lena laughs to choke down her tears.

For once, she’s the one who does the carrying, lifting Kara and cradling her into the house. She’s the one to yell, too, once Kara’s blood is washed away and her muscles are rippling with Kryptonian strength again.

“You can’t do that again.” Lena’s crosses her arms, her jaw sharp. “If you had fallen, if you hadn’t made it-“

“I knew I could make it,” Kara growls, rolling her neck.

“You couldn’t know that.” Their eyes are sharp on one another, neither moving, their stances almost predatory. “There’s no way for you to know that-“

“I know my own strength-“

“You can’t pretend that you always know-“

“You aren’t in any position to say anything about my powers,” Kara snaps, and Lena reels back, so hard that her back slams into the counter.

Kara’s eyes fill with regret immediately, and her hands are on Lena before she can open her mouth. Years ago, she would’ve flinched, withdrawn, stalked out of the room. Now, she slumps into Kara’s arms, swallows up every word of comfort. She needs it, craves it in a way that she might find embarrassing in any other time or place. But Kara gives in a way only she can, pressing her lips and her hands in the places that subtly ache from the the quiet brutality of Kara’s words.

“I can’t lose you,” she whispers, and the apologies, the understanding, flow from Kara before she even finishes the sentence.

The next time Kara leaves, Lena hands her a bulleted list of materials, written in sharp block writing, her eyes downcast to avoid the brightness that alights Kara’s face as she studies the paper.

“You’re back to building?” Her smile is so full, practically beaming, and it hurts Lena, somewhere deep in her gut.

She can see the joy that fills Kara at the idea of Lena returning to her former self, of Lena becoming the woman she used to know, used to love. She knows that Kara loves her now, loves her more than anyone ever could, but she also remembers. Lena remembers the smile that hasn’t quite come back, the way they used to look at each other, unbridled and unburdened. She remembers and she longs, and mostly she waits. For something. Normalcy, maybe.

“Not quite.” She runs her hand over Kara’s bicep, where a slight scab still remains under her shirt. “If you’re going to fly here when you’re hurt, I need to be able to heal you.”

The next time that Kara arrives battered and bruised, Lena has somewhere to carry her, a warm room bathed in light that soothes the ache from her limbs. She becomes accustomed to long nights spent arched over the sun bed, her fingers brushing at Kara’s scalp, her fingertips brushing against her skin. At times it takes a day for Kara to return, blinking blearily and immediately requesting breakfast as she presses her lips to Lena’s fingertips, but there’s something soothing for Lena to be the one in charge, the one who can help, who can heal, for once.

***

From time to time, Alex asks about Lena.

It’s always casual, vague. Kara is sure that her sister wouldn’t press if she remained silent. But she never does. The questions come as a peace offering, a consolation.

“How is she?” The first time she asks, Kara has been gone for almost two days. She’s been on call, available at a moment’s notice, but the moment that a threat is negated she disappears again. To make up for it, she appears outside Alex’s door with a brown bag in hand containing double portions of every item from that food truck in Chicago that Alex loves so much. It almost makes up for it.

“She’s good.” Kara hesitates, and Alex makes a point of not looking at her, even though she can feel the way her sister is studying her from the corner of her eye. “Tired. But good.”

“Good.” She grabs the tray of tater tots and walks to the couch, and the subject is dropped.

She asks again weeks later, when Kara takes a week to heal at Clark’s farm.

“She built a yellow sun lamp?” Alex doesn’t even try to pretend that she isn’t studying Kara. She can tell she’s better. It’s not just that the effects of the sun flare have worn off. It’s something deeper, stronger. Kara’s shoulders are strong, squared, her smile loose and easy. It’s not quite the same as before, but she sees glimpses of her sister — her whole sister — again.

“Uh- yeah.” Kara tenses, eyes darting away from Alex’s gaze. “She, um- I needed somewhere to-“

“It seems to work well enough.” Alex bites her lip. “Maybe better than ours.”

“It’s not.” Kara shakes her head, rubbing her bicep where a ghost of soreness still remains. “Better. It’s not better.”

“Then why are you-“ Her sister’s eyes flicker slightly, then relax, a smile twitching at the corner of her mouth. “You’re happy.”

Kara shrugs, and Alex softens completely. She walks to stand beside her sister, resting her hand over Kara’s fingers.

“It’s okay to be happy,” she says, and Kara’s head twitches to the side, her jaw flexing slightly.

“I just-“ She starts to speak, but Alex cuts her off, and her voice is gentle, more gentle than it’s been in months.

“You deserve it.” Alex pauses, then sighs. “She deserves it.”

And Kara knows that this is her greatest failing as a sister. She knows that she betrayed her sister, chose Lena over her own family. As time winds on, she feels the disappointment dim, sees the shadow of it less and less often in Alex’s eyes. But in these moments, she feels the pain, the loss, mainly in the ways that she feels Alex stretch to accommodate it. She sees Kara’s weakness and she gives, and Kara doesn’t know how to do anything else but accept.

***

Kara pins her on her back, knocking the breath from her lungs, her hands like iron on Lena’s wrists.

“Say it again,” she whispers, and Lena arches, gasps.

When her order doesn’t garner a response, Lena writhing under her hold, Kara smirks, blowing a soft gust of icy breath against her throat. Her smirk curls even wider at the gasp that follows, and she meets Lena’s searching gaze.

“I love you.” Lena’s voice is rapturous. She says the words like a prayer, like a confession. “In this galaxy and the next. Always.”

Kara smiles and it fills her eyes, fills her whole body. She hums with energy, her lips almost vibrating with the sheer joy of it as she leans down, her lips gentle as they press into every crevice she can find — Lena’s cheeks, her throat, her forehead, the curve of her ear, the corner of her mouth.

Lena laughs, a sounds that is clear and bright, like glass with light sparkling through it. Kara hums even louder at that, and she turns her head for a real kiss, swallows the sound whole and tries to take in Lena with it.

If Kara could stop time, if the world never needed saving, she thinks would never leave.

Time passes. Kara stays longer each time, softens more with each visit, her joy beginning to bubble back to the surface. Each time she lands on the porch, Lena feels something catch as it falls into place. Something that feels whole, perhaps normal.

Each time that she leaves in red and blue, Lena wonders.

“You don’t have to come back.” There’s a world hidden in those words. It means I understand, you can leave, the world needs you and it means please stay, I need you, I need you more than they ever had. She’s afraid that Kara will listen to her words, but she’s even more terrified that Kara will hear the words she doesn’t say. “I would understand if you didn’t come back.”

She’s met with a look, one that’s filled Kara’s features too often, something gentler than pity and stronger than fear. Years ago, Kara might have been hurt by this comment; now, she’s used to the way Lena steels herself, as if each goodbye might be the last one.

“I’m with you,” Kara says, and when she lifts her chin she is every part Supergirl and every part Kara Danvers and everything in between. Her eyes are tender and strong all at once, her grip iron and her hand soft where it falls to Lena’s wrist. She is everything steady and gentle that Lena has ever needed. “Always.”

She leaves and Lena waits and Kara returns. The balance holds. Kara saves the world and she saves Lena.

(Sometimes, Lena saves her back.)