The first letter, accompanied by four thick leather bound diaries arrived three days later, tied neatly together with brown string and perched carefully on the balcony balustrade leaving no doubt about who had delivered them.
Kara left after the real Lena returned (the youngest Luthor refusing to ponder the irony of that statement). The Kryptonian had jerkily departed from the apartment, obeying Lena’s single whispered command of get out, after her emotional monologue, with trembling legs and ribs rolling with anguish and devastation.
Kara left and Lena fell apart.
She screamed and howled like a creature raging against the universe. She sobbed and mewled like a child suffering their first bout of bone deep loneliness. She vented and murmured and shouted and cackled.
She exuded months - years - worth of pent up emotion for hours. Until her voice was a hoarse, broken whisper, until she had heaved up an entire day's worth of sustenance. Until the sky turned pitch black and even the night owls turned out their lights. Until she was a shivering, incoherent mess on the floor, sinking willingly into the abyss she so desperately wished to return to.
Lena awoke in her bed, forehead tingling with a fleeting memory of contact. There was a glass of water on the side, a couple of pills and a bowl of fruit (all her favourites) cut up, precise and even.
She drank the water, swallowed the pills and picked at the fruit. Too worn out and broken to stubbornly hold onto her rage when the pendulum she had transformed into swung to longing for her caretaker, best friend and once love.
She ventured out of bed past midday and completed the actions she had watched Kara do for her everyday for months. She made coffee and lunch, only to immediately pour the coffee down the drain and crack into the dusty liquor cabinet that had gone untouched since her accident . She swallowed the whiskey in large gulps, savouring the burn and the kick that followed, her body’s long built resistances wiped clean after months of sobriety. Lena felt the effects less than two drinks in.
She pottered around her apartment, taking it all in with a critical eye. The touches that had marked Kara’s presence were missing, the blankets and worn-soft jumpers that had littered the space had vanished. The stacks of DVDs that were Kara’s pride and joy - collected over the course of years - were no longer lining the shelves of Lena’s television console. Lena stumbled worriedly into the guest room that had become Kara’s room only to find the bed immaculate and the wardrobe - once bursting with colour - empty. No red super boots tucked under the desk.
Kara had returned and tidied up all evidence of her presence, even the fallout of Lena’s emotional cataclysm.
Like everything when it came to her Kryptonian best friend, Lena didn’t know how to feel about her departure. Heartbroken and lonely were there, undoubtedly, though marked and accented by a vindictive satisfaction. The anger was also present, the one fuelled by a hurt that went beyond reason, but it was muted now. She was still exhausted from last night and the alcohol was giving everything a fuzzy hue - diluting the sharp edges of the recently freed emotions.
She spent the next three days in a drunken haze, collapsing in the early hours of the morning, only to awake each day tucked carefully into her bed to find the havoc she wrecked, cleaned up and washed away.
Water, pills and fruit on the side awaiting her.
The diaries and the letter were there on the third day.
She ignored them.
At least for twenty-four hours, then the looming threat of rain had her retrieving them, leaving them on the unfinished jigsaw puzzle Kara had bought her. It was disney themed, with different segments depicting iconic scenes from films that they had watched during their friendship. Lena didn’t have it in her to finish it, nor did she have the strength to pack it up and throw it away.
She refused to consider how it could represent the current state of her relationship with Kara.
Unfinished, present and taking up space - no interest in resolution nor abandonment.
The diaries and letter sat there in judgement to see out the week of drinking.
Lena had yet to leave her apartment, the shelves and fridge replenishing as required whenever she passed out. Except for the alcohol. If she wanted more of that her guardian angel (personal devil) was making it abundantly clear she would have to sort it herself.
Supergirl was locked in a battle downtown, the news sites were competing to get the best angle whilst Lena wished she hadn’t drunk all the good whiskey, now only left with the value-brand vodka Nia had left behind after games night nearly a year ago.
She wasn’t really sure why she was watching it.
(That’s a lie, it was because not watching made her sicker than watching. Her imagination was always far more active and cruel than anything reality could truly offer.)
Supergirl was knocked down and there was a single beat of inactivity, of complete stillness, before she surged back up again.
Lena retrieved and opened the letter in the handful of seconds that followed Supergirl’s rise and counterattack.
She read it quickly.
Drank some more and watched Supergirl stagger before knocking her foe down with a well-timed sweep of the legs.
She read it again, slower this time, before going to grab the diaries.
She was halfway through the first one when Supergirl ended the fight with an uppercut that highlighted a defined bicep glinting in the moonlight.
She read and drank, the television a quiet and non-intrusive disturbance once it lacked its primary coloured star.
She read about their first meeting through cerulean eyes; Kara’s quiet ruminations on the youngest Luthor. Kara had doubts about her from the get go but they were quieter than what Lena had imagined them to be, more thoughtful than damning. Most of Kara’s words about her in those early days were focused on what Lena had encouraged her to consider. How Lena had identified her as a reporter, prompting a long, rambling passage of scrawling text as Kara tried to analyse her own career aspirations.
She was inquisitive and interested in Lena that much was obvious even from Lena’s viewpoint at the time. She’d assumed it was to do with her last name, her wealth and the secrets and power that pervaded her. And whilst that was clearly some of it, it definitely wasn’t the majority.
The way Kara wrote about her… if Lena wasn’t plagued by doubts she would think Kara had a crush .
The descriptions of her were detailed in comparison to the single words and lines of others. The joy over their interactions and budding friendship would have entire pages dedicated to them whilst Mon-El, Kara’s romantic partner, would be relegated to one-liners. Simple remarks and solitary acknowledgements.
The diary ended just before the Daxamite invasion, twenty pages or so left blank and untarnished.
Lena finished the bottle of vodka and stewed. Stewed on how her heart had fluttered at the compliments, cheeks tinged pink and girlish. Stewed on how if Kara had told her at the end of this book, there would be no need to read the next one. Stewed on what if s and how could you s and why s.
It was the stewing that did it.
Every night for the past week, she had fallen into a cathartic sleep after allowing her emotions free reign. But now she had restrained them a little bit, had pulled them in with every word Kara had written. Had started the nigh on impossible task of trying to understand how she was feeling. She wasn’t emptied out when she fell asleep this time - curled uncomfortably around her vodka bottle on the sofa.
Her sleep was light and disrupted, thoughts still bubbling away across the surface.
It meant that when Kara tenderly picked her up and carried her to her bedroom, she felt it all, and was tugged back to the shores of consciousness.
“You liked me back then.” Lena murmured, voice rough and croaky, as Kara gently lowered her onto the mattress.
The Kryptonian froze, dark blue eyes darting down to meet Lena’s slightly cracked open and bloodshot ones.
“Of course.” The hero frowned like it was obvious, like it was a certainty.
“No, not like…” Lena yawned; Kara reached out for the duvet that had been pushed back to clear space. “Not like a friend.”
Kara said nothing in response, gaze switching to focus on the task of tucking Lena in with practised ease.
“You had a crush on me.” Lena accused, eyes opening just a little bit wider making her head pound just a little bit harder.
Kara sighed, rolling her shoulders, the fatigue clear in her every move and the lines that marked her normally smooth expression. “Yes. I didn’t know at the time, though.”
Lena hummed in reply, snuggling into the comforter.
“You need to stop this, Lena.” Kara whispered - pleaded more like. “The drinking.” She clarified unnecessarily.
Lena chuckled humorlessly, “I know, but it makes me forget.”
“Me?” Kara asked, sounding small and child-like.
“No.” Lena shook her head, burying her nose under the duvet, eyes fluttering closed. “I could never forget you, even if I wanted to. And I still don’t know if I want that.”
Lena didn’t need to see Kara to know she was nodding, half resigned and half hopeful, a balancing act only someone already split in two could accomplish.
“Then what are you trying to forget?”
Lena considered not answering, the shame of it too much, but Nia’s vodka had loosened her tongue and Kara’s written words had softened her heart. “How alone I am.”
Kara’s inhale was so sharp that Lena wondered fleetingly if a Kryptonian could suck all the air out of a room in one breath.
“You’re not alone.” Kara declared fiercely, and Lena knew she wanted to point to herself and shout ‘ look at me, I’m here, I’m right here ’.
“Maybe I should be.” Lena murmured, before slipping back into slumber - though she still felt the gentle press of lips to her forehead.
Lena groaned pathetically, barely resisting the urge to entomb herself eternal in her warm duvet and block out the far too bright sunshine. The repeating blaring sound of her doorbell removed any possibility of her peacefully being laid to rest so it was with no small amount of irritation that Lena dragged herself out of bed and stomped to the front door. She swung it open without even bothering to check to see who it was, her impulsivity was utterly untamed since snapping back to herself - something she would need to mitigate once her recurrent assassination attempts restarted.
“What do you-” Lena began to snap out only to be cut off less than an instant later. She didn’t even get a chance to assess who her guests were before two brown haired figures rushed her, wrapping her up in tight holds and swaying joyously back and forth - Lena’s feet barely touching the ground as she was hoisted excitedly into the air.
“Lena! You’re back!” A familiar teenage girl shouted exuberantly.
“I- huh?” Lena stammered looking between the two Arias girls that she was pressed tight against.
“Oh, careful Rubes, I don’t think she can breathe.” Sam muttered apologetically, the arms surrounding Lena reducing in pressure a moment later.
“What are you doing here?” Lena asked once her feet were firmly settled back on the floor, hands hovering in the air - uncertain if she could reach out for them like they had to her.
Sam grinned, rolling her eyes as if the answer was obvious. “We came to see you.”
“We missed you.” Ruby chimed in eagerly.
“I-” Lena began before promptly bursting into tears.
Oh, shit, Sam squeaked, just as Ruby let out a startled Mum .
“Hey, hey it’s okay.” Sam soothed as Lena was regathered back up into an Arias family hug.
“Group hug to make it better.” Ruby promised, tone gentle and already beginning to emulate her mother’s.
“I’m sorry,” Lena sobbed, “I’m just… learning .”
Lena couldn’t help fleetingly acknowledge how apt that statement was. She was learning. Learning how to control her emotions again. Learning how to care about herself again. Learning how to function and manage.
Learning how to be Lena again.
“Tears don’t need apologies,” Sam replied, pressing a kiss to Lena’s forehead - the youngest Luthor cringing at how she hadn’t showered in days, suddenly aware of her own griminess, “they need chocolate and hugs.”
“One of Mum’s rules.” Ruby explained, nodding her head into Lena’s shoulder where she had tucked herself in.
Lena hiccuped out a laugh, “That is a very good rule.”
Ruby hummed in agreement, squeezing her adoptive aunt just a little bit tighter in appreciation.
“Hey Rubes?” Sam said, and Lena could see even through watery eyes the mother and daughter sharing a deep conversation without any words.
Ruby nodded once before stepping back and shooting Lena a reassuring smile as she jerked her thumb to the apartment’s open door. “I’ll go put our bags in the spare room.”
Sam waited a beat for Ruby to move out of earshot, before placing her hands on Lena’s shoulder and making direct eye contact.
“Kara called.” Sam revealed, providing an answer Lena had already known.
Lena chuckled wetly, brushing away her tears with the back of her hand. “Of course she did.”
“We missed you and… when she told us you were back… ” Sam paused, uncertain how Lena would feel about that particular turn of phrase. How it implied she had been gone , absent and not sat in this very apartment waiting to be freed. Lena felt it was appropriate though. She was back or returned. “Well, we would like to spend some time with you.” Sam mumbled, hazel eyes trying to rein in her own fear of being rejected.
“You would?” Lena asked, eyebrows shooting up in disbelief, lower lip trembling as her heart swelled.
She hadn’t reached out to anyone since her ‘return’, too much of an emotional disaster to plan and contact others. Too much of a wreck to believe that anyone would want to see her when she was like this. A pendulum that swung from one extreme to another.
“Yeah, you idiot.” Sam replied with a fond eye roll, hands moving from Lena’s shoulders to stroke comfortingly down her arms, an action she undoubtedly performed to soothe Ruby numerous times over the years. “But if this is too much or if you need some space-”
“No.” Lena interrupted, quick and panicky, hands lifting to linking with Sam’s. “I…” She swallowed thickly, glancing over her shoulder to where she could hear Ruby bringing life and warmth back to her apartment since Kara’s departure. “This- I need this.” Lena confessed.
Sam hummed in acknowledgement before tugging Lena into another hug, “Just let me know if that changes.”
“Thank you.” Lena whimpered, struggling to hold back another flood of tears.
“How about we get you cleaned up, hmm?” Sam suggested after a couple of minutes producing a rueful grin and embarrassed flushed cheeks from the youngest Luthor, who suddenly felt the need to shower and reclaim another part of her identity all the more acutely.
“Okay.” Lena agreed, happy to be guided back into her apartment by the reappeared teenager.
She took a long hot shower. Scrubbed her skin clean and enjoyed the heated droplets spraying down on her. She hadn’t enjoyed a hot shower in a long time. Kara would guide her into the bathroom, set the water running after carefully adjusting the temperature, leave a clean towel and clothes on the side then give Lena the orders of stripping and showering - hurriedly exiting before Lena had even started to undo the first button of her shirt. She used to clean herself like it was a task. Quick, perfunctory and to serve a goal.
Now she luxuriated. Took her time to smell the various soaps and shampoos, stumbling upon one of Kara’s old ones - raspberry-scented - that she must have missed when taking her leave. Lena used that one, kneading it into her scalp and surrounding herself with Kara’s scent.
She was in there for long enough that Sam knocked to check on her.
She exited, dried herself off and then sat in front of her wardrobe - towel tightly wrapped around her torso - as she stared up at her options. She could pick anything ; from the silky shirts, to the crisp three piece suits, to the comfy jeans and sweats that Kara had steadily encouraged her to buy years ago.
She savoured the choice. Let her fingers run over the different fabrics. Hemmed and hawed over the different colours. Allowed herself to be indecisive.
She settled on a pair of nice jeans and soft shirt Nia had bought her for her birthday over a year ago.
She spent the next couple of days enjoying the comforting support Sam and Ruby’s company provided. They didn’t judge how she would sob and howl over scenes in films that used to only prompt tuts and dismissive eyerolls. They listened when Lena ranted and raved about mild inconveniences - Ruby listening eagerly with popcorn whilst Sam worked to carefully help Lena apply logic and control to her thought processes - steadily bringing the emotions under her sway.
Sam helped her set up therapy appointments, helped her go through her finances that Kara had meticulously looked after, never once abusing Lena’s state.
Sam and Ruby stayed for a couple of weeks, Sam taking an office in the L-Corp headquarters where she steadily started the groundwork necessary for Lena to return. She took Lena to the office, arranging controlled meetings for Lena to slowly be brought up to speed.
Sam and Jess had been running L-Corp in her absence and had been doing an admirable job, stocks were steady but there was an air of stagnation that came without having an innovator at the helm. L-Corp's reputation was as good as it had ever been but it needed a future to head towards rather than just legacy products to depend on.
The company could wait for Lena to recover and get back up to speed but Lena already felt a tug to return sooner rather than later. She had put so much of herself into that company. Had rebuilt it from the ashes of her family, like she had rebuilt herself. And when she had fallen and crumbled, L-Corp had remained strong. It would be nice to lean on its strength rather than her own this time round.
“Why didn’t you call me?” Sam questioned, voice quiet so as not to rouse Ruby who had fallen asleep in the nearby armchair two-thirds of the way through their Saturday Lord of the Rings film marathon.
Lena arched an eyebrow, turning away from the screen as Gandalf appeared on a white horse, marking hope and victory, to look at her best friend’s stoic profile. “Hmm?”
“When it got bad.” Sam murmured, voice thick with emotion. “After your falling out with Kara?”
Lena opened her mouth but no sound came out. How much did Sam know? How much must Kara have told her?
She knew they were in contact, Sam providing the blonde updates every now and again on Lena’s wellbeing.
But she didn’t think they were close enough for Kara to share that truth, because if they were… what did that make Lena? How low must she be in the trust ranking?
But then again, the way Sam said ‘falling out’ and the way she side-eyed her with sharp scrutiny implied a lack of context that she was hoping Lena would provide. Lena, however, remained quiet, mouth snapping shut and lips pressing tight together.
“You know I would have been there for you, right?” Sam continued when it was clear that Lena would not respond. “You’re my friend and after everything you did for me with Reign…” Sam shook her head, gaze downcast and shoulders curled forward as she whispered earnestly, “I would have been there.”
“I…” Lena croaked, arms wrapping protectively around her middle as she glanced away from her old friend, eventually admitting, “I didn’t know that.”
Sam inhaled sharply, the hurt at Lena’s reply abundant in the single exclamation of her name, “Lena-”
“I mean, now I know that,” Lena rushed to explain, to provide clarity to her jumbled feelings - she was getting better at it, the self-reflection and understanding that came with it, “but at the time… it was like I didn’t think there was anything good left for me in the world.” Sam looked at her properly then, as Lena allowed herself to experience that tempest of negativity that had marked her life during that time, and the guilt and shame that now accompanied thinking about what she had been capable of. “That everything and everyone was against me. I lost all my hope. In myself and the world. It wasn’t rational or reasonable , but I was just so hurt , Sam. And I couldn’t see a way out of it. Everything just hurt and I drowned in it. I stopped seeing the rest of the world, I was so blinded by my own pain that-”
“Come here.” Sam ordered, scooting closer to wrap Lena into a tight hug.
“I just didn’t want to hurt anymore,” Lena cried into Sam’s shoulder, “and I didn’t know how to make it stop. I didn’t think it would ever stop.”
“Does it still?” Sam inquired once Lena’s choked sobs eased up, “Does it still hurt?”
“Yes.” Lena answered and she could feel Sam deflate with the answer.
“Does anything make it better?”
Lena's smile was watery but hopeful as she pulled back to meet Sam’s gaze. “This does. You and Ruby. And…” She hesitated for a beat, remembered kisses to her forehead, a hand in hers and a promise of care and love that kept something tender and safe inside of her through the worst of times. “Kara.”
Sam’s expression turned thoughtful and knowing but she didn’t push for more, “We’ll figure this out and until we do…”
Lena snorted, smile turning more real and less sad, “Chocolate and hugs?”
“Chocolate and hugs.” Sam confirmed with a determined nod.
I know the exact moment I lost you.
I was scared, angry and confused, and I took it out on you. The exact moment I lost you was when I did the one thing I swore I would never do. I used your name as a weapon, a way to deflect so I could continue to hide.
I still hear those words echoing in my ears, ‘It's not a great question for a Luthor to ask someone in my family.’
That was the moment I killed any chance of us and I knew it.
I saw how deeply it cut when I said it. When I equated you to nothing more than a Luthor. That was the moment I destroyed Supergirl in your eyes. I extinguished the potential for Supergirl to be your sanctuary so you would never see your best friend lurking behind the cape. I hit you where it hurts so that you would never see me as anything other than the person who thought so little of you once you knew the truth.
(I know it's impossible to believe but I would have done it differently if I could redo it.)
I think you deserve an explanation. You have my diary from that time but it was a mess of confused emotions and righteous (though, not really) indignation. Time has provided clarity and you deserve to know the truth.
Not to justify the harshness of my actions but just so you can understand why. It wasn’t you. It was me.
Kryptonite… I know how ridiculous it seems. I have one weakness and humans, alongside most intelligent species, have far more. I am practically invincible except for one thing and it sounds pathetic to react so strongly when I only have one weakness, to self-destruct so spectacularly when I see so much as a hint of it.
I trust you, Lena. I trust you as much as Alex; yet, I don’t trust anyone with kryptonite.
I want you to imagine that you’re invincible, that you can walk out and need never fear car accidents, falls, fire, electricity - anything you would normally encounter.
But there’s this one thing that makes it feel like the flesh is being stripped from your bones. One thing that all your enemies know about. One thing that all your enemies will harness when given a chance.
There are so many things that can kill a human that the fear is dispersed across thousands of possibilities. You step outside and just face the day, everything has a reasonable chance of harm so nothing is particularly terrifying. Cars are machines of death but also transport and vacations and ways to lull children to sleep. Heights are sheer plunges but also breathtaking vistas.
For everything that can kill you, there is a measure of benefit.
Now imagine being me. I have one thing to concentrate all my fear into.
One thing that can only be used to harm me.
My fear is concentrated to an irrational point and I don't know how to face it. Kryptonite makes me feel like prey backed into a corner snapping at anyone that comes close.
Snapping at you.
I struggled when finding out you had kryptonite, not because of your last name but because you found a benefit to it. You used it to help - to save . And that made me more terrified than I had ever been before.
You made my weakness useful, gave it a benefit because that's what you do - you find the kernel of light in the darkest of places.
If you made kryptonite useful then what was to stop others? The sheer concept of kryptonite being as present as cars or high buildings shook me to my core. So I snapped and tried to extinguish the light you had found.
And it was in doing that, that I made my greatest fear come to life.
I lost you in that moment and I will never forgive myself for it.
She couldn’t sleep.
She had struggled before her ‘accident’ (can it really be called that if it was self-inflicted, a consequence of her own moral retribution? Maybe punishment would be more appropriate). Now returned to herself it was even worse. Sam and Ruby had helped, providing her safe outlets; all three of them curled up in her king-sized bed when her tossing and turning became too much.
But now she was alone, staring into the pitch black of her room feeling… incomplete .
She didn’t even have alcohol to numb the swathe of emotions anymore - Sam clearing out the last of her supplies whilst her therapist lectured her on the dangers of such crutches.
She knew what she was missing. What she was aching for. What she needed .
Her routine for the last eight months was disrupted, missing the critical step that ensured success.
With a mighty huff, Lena heaved the duvet off her too stiff body and stomped away from her bed with a petulant curl to her lip. She crossed the living space and threw open the balcony door, wincing at the chilled nightly wind that stole away the residual heat that had cloaked her pale skin.
Hesitating for only a beat, Lena murmured into the dark night. “Kara?”
“You… umm… called?” The superhero called out timidly, rising up from below an instant later, fingers moving up to push golden locks behind ears - unable to fidget with glasses. Blue eyes wide and timid, bottom lip caught between pearly white teeth.
It was Kara Danvers, hovering in the air. Her best friend defying gravity.
It was suddenly hard to breathe, hard to concentrate and remember why she called the Kryptonian in the first place.
Kara raised a curious eyebrow, drifting helplessly closer to the balcony - drawn in like flotsam on Lena’s tide.
“I can’t sleep.” Lena finally announced.
A lip - worried to a ruby red - broke free to twist into a frown, eyebrows drawing together to create a familiar crease. “Okay…” Kara said slowly.
She could see her now. Could only see her now.
Kara in the hero’s clothes. An amalgamation crafted into a roughly hewn whole.
“Because of you.” Lena murmured, though it lacked the harsh accusation it normally would have. She sounded lost and melancholic which, with a moment of sharp clarity, Lena knew would hurt the blonde far worse than her fury could ever have.
Kara’s expression crumpled, she wobbled in the air as if suddenly gravity had roared at her to fall. “I’m sorry.” The hero whispered defeatedly. Lena couldn’t help but notice the dark circles around Kara’s eyes, the way her lips settled to something neutral and sad rather than hopeful and cheery.
“I can’t sleep without you promising to keep the nightmares away.” Lena revealed into the echoing silence.
Kara swallowed thickly, buoyed back up in an instant. “Oh.”
Lena arched a formidable eyebrow, “So…”
Kara blinked at her, utterly stupefied; Lena merely jerked her chin towards the door into her penthouse. Understanding dawned as the Kryptonian’s jaw dropped, shocked and stammering. “Wait, you want me to… to… to-”
“If you’re not too busy.” Lena replied haughtily. When it became clear that Kara was going to continue hanging there dumbly, she sucked in her lips, inhaling sharply before releasing a word that made her cheeks flush, “Please.”
Kara jerked in the air, brought back to life with that single word. “Right. Yeah.”
Lena didn’t bother to watch her land, striding back through her home and dropping heavily onto her bed, pulling the quilt upto her chin like a child forced to retire when caught out past her bedtime.
Kara followed after her gingerly, like she was awaiting reproach or a cruel dismissal. She lingered in the doorway, gaze sweeping over Lena’s prone form like it was something she never thought she would see again.
“Well?” Lena prompted, she had wanted to sound forceful and demanding but it came out shy and plaintive.
Kara took a deep breath and crossed the threshold, expression turning soft as she carried out the familiar routine. Turning off the light with a flick of a finger and smoothing the duvet out over Lena’s body.
“Sleep, Lena.” Kara requested, the words familiar and welcome.
It wasn’t enough though. She was missing the secret ingredient, the most important element.
“I need you to…” Lena breathed, wetting her suddenly dry lips, “you need to kiss me. My forehead, I mean.” She could make out Kara’s silhouette above her in the darkness, and could hear her shaky inhale of air. “I can’t sleep without…”
“Okay.” Kara soothed, fingers reaching out to brush through dark locks and free a clear space for-
Soft lips pressed against the centre of her forehead and with it all the tension eked out, Lena’s body went lax and limp, eyelids heavy and mind drifting.
Lena returned to L-Corp after a month, part-time at Jess and Sam’s insistence, slowly coming back into the fold and settling back into her old life. Her therapist suggested she take up journaling whilst also giving her exercises if her emotions tried to overwhelm her. She was getting better.
She still didn’t know how to feel about Kara.
The hero stopped by every night. Their only interaction: a kiss and a plea for sleep.
Thoughts of Kara were still a jumble; too much of so many different things but it was easing, coming under her sway steadily with distance and time. Some days were worse than others, pushing her steadily building control to the point where she would crave a return to the quiet abyss that had once housed her; those particular days always involved Kara and the assorted Superfriends.
She hadn’t spent anytime with them since her return, keeping her distance. Unable to reconcile what her relationship with them was or should be. Nia and Brainy had reached out independently and together; Lena had responded with simple answers, reassurances to keep them appeased but nothing to imply she was interested in rekindling their friendship.
The day that had her not just venturing to her breaking point but peering over the edge of it started exactly the way all those straining days started.
It started with her being called into the DEO. (It was the third time since her return.) They needed her help with dealing with a particularly robust alien that wished to re-enact the final climactic scene of King Kong.
By the end of the day, the alien was safely captured whilst Lena’s anger was bubbling away, steams of frustration practically hissing from her ears and she was mere seconds away from punching the wall until her knuckles bled.
Lena’s jaw clenched tight enough that she felt her teeth groan under the pressure. She was so close to the exit, the glass doors metres away, her car’s engine already thrumming to take her away.
Deep breath… 1… 2… 3…
Lena turned carefully, chin held high as she found the older Danvers Sister awaiting her reply, hip cocked forward and lips pursed thoughtfully.
“Director Danvers.” Lena greeted.
Alex’s eyebrows shot up and she let out a low whistle, “Wow. Formal titling me, are we, Miss Luthor?”
Lena’s nostrils flared at the nonchalance, at the friendly banter ; her opinion of Alex had always risen and fallen like a rollercoaster, almost as inconsistent as her feelings towards Supergirl. She’d yearned for the friendship of Alex once, when she’d seen how the older Danvers would throw herself in front of her friends - would go to war for them . But Alex’s affection towards her was fickle and Lena was wary.
“I am here in a professional capacity.” Lena replied sharply.
Alex nodded at the reply; what was once the beginnings of a smile turning downwards at the edges. “You’re here because we asked for a favour - I mean, help . We asked for help.” Alex acknowledged, brown eyes curious and assessing, “Hardly professional when you’re not getting paid for your time.”
Lena sighed, rubbing her forehead to alleviate the pressure that came with holding back the final straw that would break her, “What do you want, Alex?”
“Well, that’s a good start at least.” Alex grinned, inordinately pleased at earning her own name before clapping her hands together decisively. “Come on, you’re coming with me.”
“Am I under arrest?” Lena inquired suspiciously.
“No.” Alex answered, grin still fixed in place.
Lena deflated, accepting that trying to convince a Danvers to do something else once they had set their mind was like trying to bring down a brick wall with a philosophical debate. “Fine, let’s go.” Lena said, accepting that she would have to keep her brewing rage on a tight leash for a little longer.
“Why have you brought me to a batting cage?” Lena questioned as Alex plopped a batting helmet on her head and shoved a bat into her flailing hands.
“Because,” Alex explained, stepping back to inspect the equipment thrown onto the Luthor, “you helped us today and we, in turn, drove you up the fucking wall.”
Lena’s eyes bulged at the declaration, and a high-pitched denial that underlined how dishonest it was started to come out, “You did not-”
“Lena,” Alex said slowly, placing her hands on Lena’s shoulders and staring understandingly into green eyes, “I’m surprised you still have teeth considering how you were grinding them together every time Kara shot you puppy-dog eyes or every time Brainy tried to add unnecessary ‘features’ to the equipment.”
The irritation bubbled up then at the reminder, venting out before she had a chance to shove it back down, “It was a stasis field being deployed in National City, it did not require climate modification features, nor did it require cup holders! The person inside the cage is in stasis , why would they need cup holders?!”
Alex shrugged in commiseration before adding quietly, “He wanted the project to last longer.”
“I…” Lena’s voice cut out, remembering how eagerly Brainy had thrown out suggestions, how he kept trying to entice her to look over other projects and ideas. “I know that.”
Lena’s gaze dropped to the floor, her hands shifting up and down the bat to wipe away the sweat building up on her palms.
“And Kara misses you.” Alex murmured.
Lena deflated further, “I know that too.” She sighed, lifting her head back up, “Look Alex, if this merely to rub more guilt into the wounds-”
“No, that’s not-” Alex replied in a rush, hands waving as if to wipe away even the suggestion. “She’s my sister,” Alex said, those words an answer for every up and down in Lena and Alex’s friendship. “I had to say at least one thing, otherwise they take away your big sister card and trust me that’s not easy to earn. You have to listen to so many bad first date stories - which would be fine if you could laugh at them but supposedly that’s like a ‘Kryptonian rights violation’ or something…”
“I can respect that.” Lena muttered, though it was a response to everything that had gone on between them. She’d always respected Alex and her protective instincts, even if she didn’t always like them.
“I miss you, too.” Alex confessed after a beat.
Lena jerked back at that, brows shooting upwards in surprise. “You do?”
“Yeah.” Alex said quietly, brown eyes flashing with hurt at Lena’s reaction, before she shrugged, expression and tone turning light and teasing, “You’re the only one in the group that got my dark humour.”
Lena hesitated before grabbing with both hands the olive branch that Alex was extending, “The Superfriends are very… puppyish.”
Alex chuckled, rubbing the back of her neck ruefully, “That’s one word.”
“Right, so…” Lena laughed, pleased with how easily the sound of humour came forth. “How do I swing this thing?” Lena asked, lifting up the baseball bat and swinging it like the final girl in a horror film.
“God, you’re even more hopeless than I thought.” Alex groaned before getting her in position, talking her through the swinging motion and setting up the pitching machine to send out slow balls for Lena to practice on.
Lena and Alex spent the next hour taking it in turns to whack balls to kingdom come - though Lena’s hits rolled across the floor rather pathetically. It was fun and by the end the simmering tension that Lena had been restraining for the better part of the day had abated leaving a calmness she hadn’t felt in a month.
“Thanks for this.” Lena said earnestly as Alex returned their equipment.
“You’re welcome.” Alex shot back with a pleased smile, before ducking her head suddenly shy, “If you… uh… ever want company again… let me know…”
“I will, thank you.” Lena replied, astonishing even herself with her own eagerness.
They miss you.
You already know I miss you, and if you don’t… Well, let me reiterate it now: I miss you. I hope these letters show you how you command my thoughts, how you still prompt action and consideration on my part.
They don’t have that.
They are too kind and too respectful to do that.
You have requested space so they give it, regardless of how it breaks their hearts and leaves them yearning for your friendship.
I’m not telling you this to guilt you. I know that’s how it must seem, how these letters filled with pleas for forgiveness for my part and others can be mistaken for cruel and manipulative. That is not my intention.
I just want you to understand how loved you are.
How appreciated and valued and adored you are.
I didn’t say it enough before. I wrote it in my diaries and made declarations of belief and gratitude to others but I never said it directly to you. (Another regret to add to my growing litany).
So let me fill pages, write paragraphs and monologues exclaiming all those sentiments I should have professed earlier.
I don’t tell you how Brainy keeps your side of the lab exactly how you left it to make you feel tethered to that place, but so you know that there is someplace for you that a dear friend is protecting. A sanctuary that you may retreat to and indulge in all that you love.
I don’t tell you how Nia has filled online shopping baskets but purchased no new clothes so you feel uncomfortable with your own wardrobe but so you may understand how valued your opinion and guidance is. How there is a little sister for you that will be ready with a hug and months of gossip the second you knock on her door.
I don’t tell you how Alex frowns during games night whenever someone makes a cheesy joke as she no longer has the option to roll her eyes in your direction, to make you feel excluded or lonely but so you know that your absence is noted and felt as freshly as it had been that very first games night you weren’t there.
I don’t tell you about their suffering or mine to make you feel accountable for solving it.
I tell you so you know without a shadow of a doubt that you are loved and missed .
They won’t tell you any of this because they aren’t as desperate or dishonourable as I am.
I will send letters until you tell me to stop. I will declare my love for you at the start and end of every single one. I will bare my heart and soul in the long hope of one day being gifted with seeing a glimpse of yours again.
Kara hovered uncertainly in the dark aether sprawling out in front of the balcony. It was late and Lena should be tucked up in bed, duvet cocooning her form - ready for the Kryptonian to arrive and perform a reverse Sleeping Beauty on her. Instead of enacting their nightly scene, which had only two words of dialogue, Lena was on the balcony.
There was no glass of scotch in hand as she would have liked - forearms resting on the balustrade and hands dangling without purpose over the edge - eyes drooping with scheduled fatigue.
“I never saw them as mine.” Lena said, throwing the words out into the darkness, knowing Kara would hear her and drift inevitably closer.
“Lena?” Kara murmured, brow pinched together into her recognisable crinkle - Lena hated how that familiar facial expression needled her hurt, flamed her anger and swelled her affection all at once, pulling her in three distinct and opposite directions.
(She held herself together though. She wasn’t ready to admit it was getting easier. The tugs down separate avenues of emotion less pronounced and softer. She only feared now which one would triumph, which emotion would come out as victor, whilst all the others withered and died.)
“The Superfriends. In your last letter… I…” Lena began to explain, faltering slightly at how she had revealed so much in so few words.
Kara tried hard to hide the flair of hope that came with discovering that Lena was reading the letters. Actually, it was even more than that… she was engaging with them.
“I never saw them as my friends.” Lena coughed out, gaze dropping away from the superhero to stare out at the crescent moon.
“Oh.” Kara whispered, and Lena cringed away from the hurt that accompanied Kara’s tone. As if the blonde felt personally responsible for Lena’s failure to identify a sincerely caring relationship which… Lena may have to admit her once-best friend’s betrayal had compounded further.
“I mean… they were my friends but I never thought that they saw me that way.” Lena continued, pursing her lips and regretting even more not having a drink to sip from just to give her hands and eyes something to focus on.
She heard Kara land nearby, and saw a red-blue blur in her peripheral vision indicating that the hero was standing nearby - close but respectfully distant. “But… why?”
Lena chuckled, though she was unsure what she was laughing at. “Because… they were yours . I was linked to you which linked me to them. If… if I lost you,” Lena’s jaw clenched momentarily unable to contain the crescendo of feelings that accompanied the bitter lie (there was no if , she roared internally). “I thought I lost my link to them as well.”
“And then you lost me.” Kara said bluntly, echoing and shutting down the voice inside Lena’s head.
“Mmhmm.” Lena hummed.
Kara didn’t say anything for a long moment, the two of them remaining in a surprisingly comfortable silence - presumably a by-product of their near silent nightly ritual.
“You read them.” Kara muttered hesitantly, shy and spectacularly failing to hide her interest. “The letters?” She prompted entirely unnecessarily.
“Of course.” Lena replied with an eye-roll. No point denying it now.
“I didn’t know if you would.” The Kryptonian admitted.
“I miss you too.” Lena confessed, the sentimentality of the declaration undercut by the dismissive shrug that accompanied it. “I just don’t know if…”
“If you should. If you want to.” Kara guessed, downcast but understanding.
Another beat of silence then Lena felt her mouth curl open and nostrils flare unable to prevent the yawn that had been building from escaping.
“You’re tired.” Kara said, a gentle invitation for Lena to commence their nightly ritual. A kind escape.
“Yeah.” Lena agreed, seizing the opportunity. “It’s well past my bedtime.”
She properly glanced at the hero for the first time that night. The blonde looked melancholic, blue eyes not as sharp or vibrant, but there was a resolve to her that had been missing since their separation and she no longer looked as exhausted as she had before they had started their evening bedtime routine.
Kara nodded to her, smile wan but warm.
Lena smiled back instinctively before heading inside; Kara didn’t follow immediately, giving Lena time to get settled in bed.
“I’ll think about it.” Lena whispered when Kara finally stepped into the room, approaching the bed with a tempered stride. “I miss them too and it’s… easier with them.” Than it is with you , went unspoken but not unheard.
“Good. I’m glad.” Kara murmured in reply, tone always so soft and low at night as if Lena was already asleep. “I don’t want you to be alone.”
Lena frowned at that, pale hands darting out from under the covers to make contact with golden skin.
Kara inhaled sharply; Lena didn’t bother to look up, already knowing she would find teary blue eyes. Instinct made her gently squeeze the hand in hers, thumb brushing once, twice, thrice over knuckles.
“I don’t want that for you either.” Lena breathed, voice barely audible to her own ears over the pounding of her heart, her skin feeling suddenly feverish at their point of contact in the same way her forehead can still feel the fleeting press of lips well into the next morning.
Kara swallowed thickly, the gulp pronounced in the quiet of the room and her voice that followed little more than a croak. “Thank you.”
Lena squeezed the hand in hers once more before pulling away, Kara’s fingers flexing with the desire to give chase after her. “Goodnight Kara.”
Kara took a few deep breaths before confidently proclaiming her standard. “Sleep, Lena.”
Lena couldn’t help but think when Kara pressed her lips to her forehead, that the contact was all too short.
Lena hesitantly stepped into the lab, eyeing the dismantled pieces of tech on one-side - remnants of the last project she had been tinkering with before her return. Abandoned and preserved.
Brainy stood before a bank of monitors, focused so intently that he was blind to his new guest.
She considered calling out to him, making him aware of her presence but her tongue felt thick and unwieldy in her mouth - unable to articulate the awkward re-start of their friendship. Maybe because that wasn’t what united them, at least not to start with.
Ideas, technical discussions and in-sync mechanical actions were the foundations of their friendship. Banter and wisecracks came next - laying effortlessly atop their matched intellect.
(The dark parts of Lena’s mind muttered how she had believed her and Kara’s friendship had been built on honesty and a shared drive to better oneself - she knew that's why the Supergirl deception was so much harder to get past - it cracked beyond repair one of the key pillars of her relationship with Kara).
Lena pressed her lips together, rolled her shoulders and strolled over to her tabletop - picking right back up where she had left off a couple of months ago. Brainy had clearly fiddled with it in her absence, minor modifications here and there that had Lena narrowing her gaze and muttering calculations and factors under her breath. She had started to make headway when Brainy inevitably turned around - eyes growing wide and eyebrows shooting up in an attempt to make a bridge with his hair.
“Uh…” Brainy spluttered prompting Lena to arch an eyebrow at him in bemusement across the no-man’s land of their shared workspace.
“You know,” Lena tutted reproachfully, “considering you’re a twelfth level intellect, your ability to forget basic fundamentals that could impact safety is shocking.”
Brainy’s jaw that had been hanging in the wind, audibly snapped shut, eyebrows free falling back to his eyes in disgruntlement, “I… how dare-”
“This is the second time you’ve failed to consider the heating elements.” Lena explained, shooting the Coulan her signature smirk as she shook the battery for a handheld shield in his direction. “This could reach up to 60 degrees centigrade when being used to its full extent resulting in a burn within thirty seconds.”
Brainy twitched in place, clearly running through the adjustments he made and the various calculations that would produce the result Lena was predicting. There was a pause, then Brainy frowned and petulantly crossed his arms over his chest. “It’s not my fault that humans are so susceptible to any temperature outside the tiniest of windows.”
Lena chuckled, utterly self-satisfied. “I’ll pass that feedback onto Director Danvers.”
“That’s not fair!” Brainy accused.
Lena shrugged, gently throwing the battery over to her lab partner who caught it easily. “What’s not fair is that we are now going to have to spend the whole afternoon re-designing it to either improve cooling or reduce its heating output.”
“It wouldn’t take that-” Brainy scoffed as he studied the device now in his hand, before cutting off and eyeing Lena half hopeful and half-mischievous. “I mean if we are redesigning it anyway…” Brainy murmured shyly, “I had a few choice ideas for optimisation that hadn't been put in during the original design phase and… maybe some additional features?”
Lena tapped her chin in parody of deep contemplation. “That might take the whole weekend.”
Brainy’s bright gaze instantly dimmed and his shoulders dipped with deflation. “You’re right, you’re busy and I-”
“Good thing I’ve cleared my schedule then.” Lena hurried to reassure, not wanting to be the cause of her friend looking so disheartened ever again - even if she was merely teasing him.
It was almost as if Brainy grew an extra couple of inches at the response, asking eagerly, “You have?”
“Yes. Is that okay?” Lena checked, smiling fondly and apologetic at him - really asking if she was still welcome, if he missed the real her and not just her mind, asking if they could pick back up where they had left off this easily…
Brainy straightened up, stepping up to his tabletop and smiling that small, gentle smile that only his close friends were entrusted with. “That is… most agreeable.”
Lena sighed in relief and gratitude, picking up a nearby tablet and loading up the design specs. “Good. Then let’s get started.”
“Lena! Oh, hi!” Nia proclaimed, jerking back slightly in shock upon opening her front door to find the CEO smiling warmly at her from the other side.
“Hi Nia.” Lena greeted, mentally telling her nerves to settle - Nia was kind and sweet, even if she wasn’t interested in rekindling a friendship the young woman would never be cruel.
The two of them stood in the doorway, smiling uncertainly and a little awkwardly at each other before Nia started suddenly, “Oh, please come in!”
“Thank you.” Lena said whilst simultaneously releasing a steathy sigh of relief upon crossing the threshold, Nia closing the door behind her.
“How are you? Please sit down.” Nia asked and ordered in a single breath, turning into the anxious mother-hen that she would assimilate into without realising. Lena nodded gratefully, hesitantly approaching the settee that was covered in a blanket and a pile of clothes that were clearly awaiting folding and putting away. Nia noticed the pause, paling considerably.
“Shoot, I swear I’m not normally this messy.” The young hero sprinted around the apartment, throwing clothes and blankets out of sight and hastily scooping up random items and panickingly putting them away in strange locations. “That’s a lie,” Nia confessed, cheeks flushed with equal parts embarrassment and anxiety. “I usually am but I hide it better.”
Lena deposited her handbag by the coffee table before gently reaching out for Nia’s wringing hands as she attempted to flit back and forth. “I’m good, thank you.” Lena replied, squeezing the other woman’s hands comfortingly, encouraging her to take a deep breath. “And you?”
Nia exhaled, a bright beaming grin lighting up her face. “Great! Fantastic, even.” Nia announced, though the next moment her eyes dimmed and she returned to worrying her lower lip unsure if this was an acceptable response and overthinking it in a way that Lena was starting to believe was a trademark characteristic all superheroes must possess. “I… um…”
“Nia,” Lena began softly, letting go of Nia’s hands, “I hope you don’t mind but I find myself desperately needing your assistance.”
Nia perked up immediately, expression serious and hands finding her hips in classic ‘Supergirl-inspired’ pose. “How can I help?”
Lena’s heart swelled with affection at the sight, at the easiness and eagerness that Nia offered.
No hesitation, no doubt.
An instant offer of assistance.
The last tiny bit of doubt that Lena had been carrying with her that maybe these people - the Superfriends - were beyond forgiveness for the lies was eradicated.
How could Nia not be someone she wanted in her life?
Someone who gave herself so freely to others. Someone who lied to protect a dear friend. Someone who apologised for sins that they had been forced to bear. Someone who - when Lena was empty and hollowed out - spent hours training Kara to do Lena’s hair just the way she liked and picked out clothing options that she knew Lena would choose for herself. Someone who wanted to make a good impression, who cared so deeply about Lena’s opinion that she was on the precipice of cleaning her own home from floor to ceiling.
“Well,” Lena began, quirking an eyebrow at the hero, “see L-Corp is arranging a gala dinner to raise funds for the children’s hospital and also to show off that their CEO has recovered from her…” Lena grimaced momentarily, “ accident . I need to be glamorous and fierce and I find that after eight months in a catatonic state and two months catching up on work I am rather out of touch with fashion. You wouldn’t be able to accompany me on my first foray back into the fashion-sphere would you?”
Nia blinked at her, jaw opening then closing in confusion, “You want me to-”
Lena nodded once, clear and firm.
Nia immediately began to vibrate on the spot with excitement, “I mean, yes! That’s- yes!”
“Are you free now?” Lena inquired.
“As a bird.” Nia declared, practically jogging to her front door to get them going before coming to a sudden stop and glancing down at her own attire that consisted of grey joggers with some dubious food stains and a shirt that asserted ‘MY EYES ARE UP HERE’ with a helpful arrow for those with limited comprehensive ability. “Let me just… um…” Nia coughed, rubbing the back of her neck with one hand and pointing towards her bedroom with the other, “change out of my weekend sweats.”
Lena merely laughed and playfully pushed the young woman in the direction of her bedroom.
Nia stumbled away but not before glancing hopefully back at Lena and asking, “Do you want to help me pick what to wear?”
“Of course, I do.” Lena beamed, following instantly after her friend - something clicking back into place that she hadn’t known she was missing until that moment.
Lena’s social calendar quickly became filled. Saturday mornings in the lab with Brainy trying to out invent the other whilst sharing affection through scientific barbs and childish competitions of intellect - it was everything she’d ever hoped or wanted from Lex. Sundays were leisurely days of pampering she shared with Nia - they had gone to a spa last weekend and rewatched glamorous academy award nights, critiquing the various attires of the attendees, the weekend before that. She got coffee and lunches intermittently throughout the week with both of them (individually and together). Thursday nights, though, were for Alex.
Drinks at a different bar each week, sampling the various whiskies and occasionally dipping into the signature cocktails offered there. She and Alex bonded over professional trials and tribulations - both women in male dominated spheres, both lacking a female mentor to guide them through the challenges their gender offered and subsequently seeking solace in the other’s experiences.
They didn’t really talk about their personal lives - mostly to avoid the caped shadow that loomed with it but Alex made references that Lena absorbed like dry soil feasting on the first drop of rain after a prolonged drought.
Kara was living in Alex’s spare room having lost her apartment during the months she had been looking after Lena. She was also working freelance and loving it, getting the freedom to investigate and write things she was invested in without having to maintain the pretence of being able to work a nine to five job - her Pulitzer prize making her work sought after and highly bidded for.
She wasn’t dating . (Lena pretended this last parcel of information didn’t mean as much to her as it did).
“I’ll get the first round, if you use your patented glare to get us a booth.” Lena offered after they had finished craning their necks around the bourgeois bar (Alex’s request to see what all the fuss was about) and finding all seats occupied.
Alex frowned, “Why can’t you do the glare thing?”
Lena shrugged, “Some people find my glare rather attractive which wouldn’t serve this purpose well.”
Alex’s brow furrowed in genuine perplexion, “Who finds an arched eyebrow attrac-”
“Why don’t you ask your sister?” Lena retorted before she could help herself, before she could even register what she was saying.
“Eww…” Alex made a pained expression, “And also accurate.”
Lena ignored the twist of her heart and the thrum and heat that started somewhere considerably lower at Alex’s confirmation. They split apart then, Alex swaggering away to clear a table for them somewhere near the back whilst Lena went to flash her credit card at the bar. They rejoined each other - two glasses of fine whiskey in hand and only one or two curious looks being cast their way.
“So, how goes dealing with the misogynistic generals?” Lena asked, kicking their night off on the right foot.
“Considerably better since I took your advice.” Alex replied, seeming to relax back into her seat, shoulders de-hunching and creases on her face fading - Lena still couldn’t believe that she could produce this effect on people (her friends). That she could make Brainy bounce up and down with delight when they made a breakthrough or when he surprised Lena with a witty remark related to pop culture. That she could make Nia giggle effortlessly, could instil her with confidence and pride with a well-timed compliment. That she could make Alex - stalwart and suspicious DEO agent - relax and share her insecurities without any sign of distrust.
She knew Kara was responsible for, if not all of it but, most of it.
Knew she would never have been brave enough to reach out to Brainy or Nia, or accept Alex’s offer of friendship, without Kara’s letters of assurance and encouragement. Lena also knew Kara was guiding from behind the scene - not a puppet master but a gentle guide - providing suggestions to the Superfriends in ways they could help Lena. Nia, starting to bring lunch to Lena’s office, had Kara’s fingerprints all over it. Brainy keeping a box of donuts (Lena’s secret favourite) in a corner of the lab was Kara’s input without a doubt. And Alex’s suggestions that they try new bars echoed Lena and Kara trying new restaurants.
She owed Kara for so much of the good in her life. She knew that.
She also knew Kara had inflicted more hurt than potentially even Lex.
Did the hurt outweigh the good?
(Did it really matter either way? A question far more honest and terrifying than any other.)
She pushed all of that to one side even as her heart’s pleas for resolution got that much louder - wanting to either be properly shattered and restarted, or start the far more painful process of healing.
Lena sipped her drink and leaned forward, forcing herself to give Alex her full attention, “Really? Tell me everything.”
Lena wrung her hands together, gaze focused on the floor as she tried to steady her breathing.
She had been standing outside Alex’s apartment, which currently housed both Danvers’ sisters, for nearly twenty minutes trying to build the fortitude she would require to face what was waiting for her on the other side of the door.
The hurt had rescinded, it was still there, but she was more herself - more in control - though no longer reliant on little boxes. Her therapist was talking her through more healthy ways of processing and addressing her emotions. It was the incomplete-ness which drove Lena to Kara’s door that Friday evening instead of returning home after a long night.
She considered giving up and trying again later - slinking away into the shadows - when she was struck with a sudden realisation that made her let out a long, slow breath.
“You know I’m out here, don’t you?” Lena murmured defeatedly.
There was an awkward cough from the other side of the door followed by an uncertain, “No?”
Lena pinched the bridge of her nose, “You’ve been standing right by the door this whole time.”
“No?” The voice repeated, suddenly sounding far more distant; Lena couldn’t help how the corner of her lips curled up in amusement at that.
“Are you going to open the door?” Lena inquired, settling the strap of her handbag more securely onto her shoulder.
“Are you going to knock?” Kara shot back in return.
The door swung open a beat later to reveal the Kryptonian blonde, dressed down in comfy plaid pyjama pants and a blue henley (sleeves rolled up to her elbows), hair tied in a ponytail and blue eyes free from glasses. Lena’s heart and stomach swooped in-sync, leaving her insides out of place with how she became a swirl of affection, arousal and anxiety.
“Hi.” Kara greeted timidly, shifting her weight from foot to foot, drawing Lena’s attention to toes with red nail varnish.
“Kara.” Lena replied, sucking her lips into her mouth to prevent stuttery breaths from escaping. “May I come in?”
Kara blinked in surprise, brow furrowing in confusion even as she stepped to one side providing room for Lena to cross the threshold. “Of course. Alex isn’t here, though.”
“I know. I’m here to see you.” Lena revealed sweeping into the apartment swiftly, trying to emulate her usual confidence.
“Oh…” Kara grimaced, clearly assuming the worst as she followed hesitantly after Lena until they were situated in the open space of the living room, facing each other.
“I…” Lena inhaled steadily, “I have a lot to say to you.”
Kara swallowed, arms crossing her chest protectively even as her chin rose - ready to take the blow she undoubtedly expected. “Okay.”
Lena let her handbag slip off her shoulder, depositing it on the nearby coffee table, “I brought chocolate.”
Kara frowned, eyes squinting in suspicion, “I like chocolate?”
“Good,” Lena asserted, mirroring Kara’s folded arms stance, “because I’m probably going to cry during this. I also might lose my temper.”
“Cool,” Kara rocked back and forth on her heels, shoulders shrugging with the movement. “I’ll probably do the same then.”
“Reasonable.” Lena acknowledged, unbuttoning her coat and draping it over the sofa arm, “Should I start or?”
Kara waved at the open space between them, “By all means.”
Lena took a deep breath, mind suddenly quieting. All the questions she had wanted answered that had been screaming away in her mind since her brother drew his last breath… vanished. The noise faded and only one was left. One single question. The only one that ever truly mattered
“Why?” Lena demanded, refusing to indulge the stinging in her own eyes by letting a single tear drop. “Why was I singled out as being… unworthy of your trust? Of knowing all of you?”
Kara paled immediately, expression distraught and broken. “Is that what you think?” She whispered in sheer disbelief and heartbreak.
Lena shook her head, she was self-aware in a way she had never been before - emotional deprivation and the overwhelming restoration that came next would do that to you.
“No. It’s how I feel .” Lena explained, “My mind and my rose-tinted memories of you are telling me that it must be something different. But decades of emotional scars litter my soul and you carved out a fresh piece of meat to add your own damage to. My heart is battered and bruised. It now assumes the worst in order to protect the little of me that is left. I know you are not cruel but I can’t convince my heart to let down its walls.”
Kara ducked her head, trying to hide the tracks of water down her cheeks. “Would you believe me…” She took a deep breath and lifted her head, revealing piercing and utterly sincere blue eyes, “if I told you it was because of how… unbelievably precious you are to me?”
Lena considered this, “No, though…” Kara looked at her with so much hope, “I would like to. I know what you did for me. How you cared for me.” Kara shrugged a shoulder like it was the easiest task ever given to her. “You treated me better than anyone ever has before, even when I was at my most useless.”
Kara squared up at that, jaw clenching tight with frustration and anger on Lena’s behalf, “Lena, you… that should be the norm . You should expect care and kindness.”
“Why?” Lena repeated, the question changing now in context. Her heart aching for the kryptonian who despite everything was still Lena’s defender, was still crying for her and fighting for her. “I offered little to you before my… accident ,” Lena scowled at the term, the shame and guilt that came with referring to what she truly saw as her come-uppance with such a banal term, “it would be unfair to assume I should get better treatment.” Lena took a tentative step forward, reducing the empty space between them. “I am sorry for that, by the way. For non nocere. I lost my way.”
“You were hurting.” Kara reassured almost immediately, eager to wave away Lena’s sins.
“Don’t.” Lena reprimanded sharply, though the harshness was diminished by the intent - making sure Kara’s own hurt and feelings of betrayal towards Lena were considered valid. “Don’t excuse my actions like I am a child lacking understanding of consequences.”
Kara’s eyebrows shot up, momentarily taken aback by Lena’s fierceness. The hero pursed her lips before nodding once in acceptance. “You’re right. You did wrong.” Kara acknowledged.
Lena instantly felt some of the pressure lift off her shoulders as it removed some of the complexity of all the emotions she had been juggling. The acknowledgement of mistakes made removed the murkiness and made the path clearer and easier to follow.
“You started down a dark path but-” Kara began to add the disclaimers but Lena didn’t need them, she wanted more of the damnation - wanted more of the ease and simplicity that justful condemnation provided.
“I didn’t start down it, I sprinted .” Lena chuckled darkly, prompting Kara to pout in concern.
“I was going to out you.” Lena confessed in a rush, causing Kara to jerk back in shock. “I was going to tell the whole world you were Supergirl. I had it planned, I was going to make the reveal during my speech at your Pulitzer ceremony.”
Kara visibly gritted her teeth, nostrils flaring and eyes darkening. “I know what you’re doing.”
“I’m telling you the truth.” Lena declared.
Kara turned away from her sharply, her entire body trembling, “You’re trying to convince yourself that you are unworthy, that you were always unworthy of trust and love.” Kara revealed, “If you can convince yourself of that then…” Kara closed her eyes, unable to even look at Lena anymore, “you can believe that you never mattered to me. That I lied to you because you deserved to be lied to.”
Lena scoffed, involuntarily taking another step forwards upon hearing the absurdity of Kara’s statement. “Why would I do that?”
Kara inhalend shakily, “Because you believe me when I say that I love you. You just don’t understand how I can love you and still hurt you.”
Lena recoiled, the path she had been building for herself disappearing behind the fog of confusion that had been there prior to her confessions.
“That’s why…” Kara turned back to face the CEO; far less vibrant blue glancing up to meet lost green, “that’s why you don't know how you feel about me. You’re trying to simplify the equation. I just wish you weren’t trying to do it by subtracting from yourself.”
Lena hated this. Hated how the hope of simplicity had been snatched from her. How she was now even more lost and hurt than she had been before coming to visit Kara. She was still a mess. Still incomplete and unreconciled.
Her hands came up to cover her face, hiding the way her face twisted through a plethora of emotions.
“Lena?” Kara asked softly.
“How could you!?” Lena demanded to know, hands slipping away to leave behind a tortured expression as it all came spewing out in a sobbing and choking diluge. “How could you do that to me? I loved you so much . I would have given you anything and you couldn’t even give me your name .”
Kara didn’t cry this time, didn’t flinch or hide, instead she stepped forward, hands reaching out and gently taking hold of Lena’s - squeezing comfortingly. “That’s the thing, Lena... I knew it would hurt.” Kara admitted. “By the time I was ready, by the time I understood how much I loved and trusted you… I knew it would hurt. I loved you too much to hurt you with my name. And now I love you too much to let you go.”
And that… Kara’s soft touch and the earnestness of her words slid a broken slither of Lena’s heart back into place and made the dark, scary unknown emotional path she had been left to traverse look just that little bit less intimidating.
“I don’t want you to let me go.” Lena replied instantly, gripping Kara’s hands so tightly it would be painful for a human. “I want to love you again; I just can’t dig it out from everything else.”
“Oh…” Kara murmured, slumping defeatedly and starting to pull back.
Lena held on, all the more tightly, “But I’m willing to try… if you are?”
Kara looked at her sharply, gaze full of wonder and shock. “Yes… I’ll never stop trying. Unless you asked me to because I respect you and-”
“Kara?” Lena laughed, cutting into the ramble that would have inevitably gone on for hours.
“I think we should break into the chocolate now and you should also hug me.” Lena announced as confidently as she could with a red, puffy face.
Kara’s jaw dropped in disbelief, “I… huh… I can hug you?”
“Only if you want-”
A fraction of a second later she was in Kara’s arms, the Kryptonian’s face buried into her shoulder. Lena’s hands hesitated, re-discovering their past, before settling on the small of Kara’s back.
“Hugging you is my favourite thing in the whole world.” Kara whispered and, despite all the issues they had yet to resolve, Lena believed her.
“Ditto.” Lena whispered in return.
They started slow; a shared coffee once a week and their nighttime routine extending to include ‘hello’s and ‘how are you’s. Lena snapped and scowled every now and again, unable to inhibit the reaction when Kara accidentally pushed too fast or referred to their past friendship like it was something perfect and without flaw - something to work towards when Lena needed something different and contrasting.
Kara kept brushing over Lena’s shortcomings without thinking about it - an action which made Lena tense and untrusting. She didn’t want ‘bottled up’ and ‘brushed over’. She wanted real and stable.
She confronted Kara about it, though confront might be too strong a word. She planned it, working hard to create a safe environment for the both of them. She invited the blonde over to her apartment for their first movie night since their reconciliation, she ordered all of the Kryptonian’s favourite foods and once the credits had rolled and Kara was attempting to inch closer on the settee - she quietly brought up the journals Kara had stolen for her.
The blonde flinched but settled almost immediately a moment later, blue eyes a mix of guarded yet curious.
“I wanted to apologise for that, specifically.” Lena began.
“You already apologised.” Kara frowned.
“I gave you a blanket apology for a list of hurts.” Lena explained. “You deserve more than that. You deserve the bravery and kindness you’ve shown me.”
Kara squirmed uncomfortably, expression unconvinced which made Lena’s heart ache all the more. “I haven’t.”
“The letters, Kara.” Lena reminded. “You addressed every single accusation, every recrimination without hesitation.”
“I should have told you in person.” Kara remarked, always critical of herself.
“I didn’t want that.” Lena pointed out. “At least not then. You gave me the answers I wanted in the format that I felt most comfortable receiving them in.”
“I wanted to make up for the videos. I didn’t… I never should have…” Kara’s jaw clenched, and for a long moment Lena regretted having this conversation.
They’d had a good evening. Kara had been so excited and exuberant but desperately trying to hide it. They’d hugged, shy and sweet, at the door. They talked about their weeks, Kara carefully offering up stories of Supergirl which would once have been absent. They put on a comedy film - Lena watched it, feeling like she had seen it before despite the jokes feeling fresh and new.
She felt such an urge to rewind and undo this entire conversation, but she pushed that thought away. It was leaving the bad stuff to fester and rot which had caused their friendship to sour so quickly when the truth came out and Lena refused to let that happen again.
“They were addressed to you, Kara. It’s understandable-” Lena soothed.
“It was abhorrent.” Kara rebuked sharply. “I violated your privacy by watching them.”
Lena pursed her lips, “You know what is also abhorrent? Trapping someone in the last vestige of their home planet using the one material that could kill them. Leaving them to suffer and taking pleasure in the heartbreak and betrayal on their face when you do so.”
Kara went incredibly still and for once she lacked any semblance of a counterargument. “Why are you doing this? Why can’t we just… be good? Why won’t you let me just let it go?” Kara whispered ( pleaded ).
Lena’s heart hurt at the questions, and the downcastness to the Kryptonian’s expression. She shuffled across the middle cushion on the couch, arm wrapping around Kara’s shoulders in something adjacent to a hug. “Because I want us to stay good. I want us to last, Kara.”
“I don’t want to hurt you ever again.” Kara cried.
“I know. I know you don’t.” Lena promised, because she was sure of that now. Kara was never cruel . The hurts she inflicted had come from fear mixed with a sheer hope that everything would be alright in the end. Naive and misguided, maybe… but never cruel. Kara never wanted to hurt Lena and there’s no way she would ever want to hurt her again. “But I don’t want you to hurt yourself, even more.”
Kara inhaled sharply at that, hands curling into fists in her lap.
“And that’s what you’re doing. You’re pushing all of your pain and anger and hurt as far down as you possibly can to protect me and whilst that’s admirable and heroic. It’s not the right thing to do. I would know, it’s what I tried to do after I found out.” Lena confessed.
“It is?” Kara asked, voice so quiet Lena had to strain to hear it.
“Yeah… after I found out… I spent weeks trying to compartmentalise it all. Pack it away and pretend it didn’t matter. I held it all in and then… I didn’t realise until too late that I… suffocated under the weight of it all. I wish I could go back and change that because it would have prevented everything that followed. I wish I’d spoken to you. Argued with you, more likely.”
Kara snorted at that which Lena took as a victory.
“We would have worked through it, though.” Lena murmured.
“We would have a dark period, I’m sure… but…” Lena hesitated; Kara raised a curious eyebrow at her. “Quantum entanglement.”
Kara’s mouth dropped open into an ‘o’ before snapping shut, her entire face lighting up and making it appear as if the emotional turmoil of a moment ago had never occurred. “You think that’s what we are?”
Lena shrugged, “All I know is, even when I thought I hated you… I couldn’t let you go.”
Kara beamed at that, even as her eyes tightened with pain when she remembered their lowest point.
“I know it's probably too much to ask if you trust me after everything.” Lena said slowly, “But can you at least trust that I won’t go anywhere if you tell me something you think I won’t like?”
“I…” Kara paused, which Lena appreciated as it meant she was seriously giving the question some thought. “I can trust that.”
“Okay, then.” Lena sighed with relief. It was a start, a minor one and yet the hardest and most necessary.
“Not tonight, though. If that’s okay?” Kara requested timidly.
“Of course.” Lena assured. “How about another movie?”
Three weeks and a number of heavy conversations later, Lena felt lighter . It was cathartic, processing the emotion with communication and discussion - her therapist had been kind enough not to gloat at the admittance. That didn’t mean it was easy. It was so far out of Lena’s comfort zone, being shot into space on a flimsy rocket in an attempt to forcibly overcome her fear of flying almost seemed preferable.
They set themselves ground rules.
No shouting was Lena’s first. They’d done that already, all it did was drown out the other and make it too volatile.
Total honesty was a no brainer, though hard to enforce or ensure.
Freedom to leave and take a breather or call an early night was Kara’s request. They agreed trapping each other was not conducive to feeling safe and open.
Kryptonite was the most loaded topic, a nuclear bomb compared to the landmines which surrounded it. They built up to it. They talked about Lex first, his revelation and then Lena’s starting acts of deception. They talked about Rhea and the Daxamites. They talked about Kara’s double standards when it came to Sam/Reign - setting the groundwork for the kryptonite that was looming. They talked about manipulation on both their parts. They talked about Kara’s feelings of disconnection to her human-side and how she had made Lena a lynch-pin in her Kara Danvers identity to the exclusion of sharing the rest of her. They talked about Lena being made to feel the odd-one out, how Kara failed to consider how her lies fractured out into the rest of the youngest Luthor’s support system. They talked about Hope and non-nocere.
Then they talked about kryptonite.
It wasn’t pretty but it wasn’t terrible either.
Lena had taken onboard Kara’s anxieties from her letters and Kara had learnt to evaluate alternate views. They shared more ground than they had three years ago - signs of their growth and understanding of one another.
They celebrated each reconciled subject (though they knew they would recur, the worst had been addressed) by adding new activities to their friendship. Kara started bringing lunch again and Lena arranged dinner at new restaurants they had missed out on over the last year. They had more movie nights and reinstated Games Night, much to the rest of the Superfriends’ delight.
The hate, that was really only a shorthand for feelings of betrayal, anger and inadequacy had separated into its actual emotional parts and been processed through and out of her system leaving behind the affection ( love ) that had always been there, with the added flavour of anticipation (they both knew how the other felt, they just needed to work their way to a place where they could embrace it).
She still got scared and sad but she knew she could call people for support. Sam was there on the other end of the phone or just down the corridor of L-Corp. Brainy always had a scientific project to occupy her time. Alex had a glass of whiskey poured and ready for her. Nia was probably already sitting outside her apartment door, prescient of her melancholy and happy to listen or distract as needed. And then there was Kara, whose crinkly blue eyes made even the darkest of thoughts lighter and whose hugs vanquished all the monsters Lena was too afraid to face.
“I think it's bedtime.” Kara remarked when Lena had yawned for the sixth time in the last ten minutes.
“Nooo.” Lena whined, slumping down on the sofa and curling up closer to Kara’s warmth in one movement.
Kara softened immediately, arm wrapping around Lena and pulling her closer. “We can get brunch tomorrow, my treat.”
Lena merely pouted in response even as she got to her feet, hands interlinked with Kara’s as they trudged towards the bedroom. “Brunch is such a long time away.”
Kara’s cheeks flushed a pleased pink at the response, as if she still couldn’t believe how much Lena enjoyed her company. Lena was better at sharing what she liked and disliked now; no more boxes made it harder to keep it all contained and Lena had learnt how important it was to revel in the good: the happy, the joyful, the funny, the exciting.
She’s not grateful for what happened to her - losing herself - but she’s not going to turn her back on the gifts it's given her in the form of a new perspective.
“It won’t be long once you fall asleep.” Kara assured her, lifting the corner of the duvet for Lena to slide underneath - the CEO had changed into her pyjamas the second she’d gotten home from work, something Kara had trained her to do after the last month or so.
“If you say so.” Lena faux sulked prompting Kara to roll her eyes in amusement. The blonde bent forward to kiss her forehead and complete their nightly routine when- “Wait.”
Kara pulled back, tilting her head to the side.
“You can stay, if you want?” Lena offered shyly.
“What?” Kara exhaled in surprise.
“You can stay. I mean- I would like you to stay.” Lena rephrased carefully, studying her best friend’s reaction closely.
“Do you mean in the guest room or-”
Lena reached out as confidently as she could with trembling hands and linked her fingers with Kara’s, tugging on them gently. “I’m not going to relegate my best friend to the guest room.”
“Oh.” Kara breathed, eyes wide yet expression blank other than that.
“So…” Lena said, swallowing thickly - throat tight around a lump as she exposed a vulnerable part of herself. “Do you want to?”
“I do.” Kara whispered in a rush.
Lena immediately scooted backwards, leaving space for Kara to slide in next to her, their heads on the same pillow, staring into each other’s eyes and their bodies barely occupying half of the king-size bed. “Is this okay?” Lena checked, thumb rubbing tenderly over the back of Kara’s hand.
“Yeah…” Kara hummed, leaning forward to press her lips to Lena’s forehead. “This is okay.”
“Good.” Lena yawned, snuggling infinitesimally closer to Kara as her eyes - suddenly heavy upon completion of her routine - slipped closed.
Kara staying over became a regular thing after that. She’d lived with Lena for months previously so they both had the memory that her presence there was comfortable - natural even despite the fact she no longer stayed in the guest room. Additionally, Alex appreciated having the apartment to herself some nights as her relationship with Kelly continued to flourish.
They caught up on all the television shows and films Kara had saved to watch with her. They finished the jigsaw puzzle that had been lying incomplete on the dining room table together - Lena had it framed and hung in the guest room and then bought them a new puzzle to work on together.
They were practically dating - actually, they were practically in a long-term relationship by this point without any of the typical physical romance to it. Alex, Nia and even Brainy had commented on it to Lena, inquiring if something was happening between them or if there would be soon.
Lena never had an answer. At least not a satisfying one.
It was just… everything was good . For the first time, her life was good and happy and the idea of bringing a new element or addressing the final conversation that her and Kara had avoided during the cathartic reignition of their friendship was terrifying. It could destabilise everything that they had worked so hard for.
Lena’s therapist had rolled her eyes at that which… fair.
Lena was the one that accompanied Kara when she went hunting for her own flat, offering critiques and support. Kara was earning good money freelancing - her Pulitzer prize going a long way in helping her build a network of contacts willing to bid on her work or offer her interesting projects. She actually preferred it to working at CatCo - not just because it freed her from Andrea but she was no longer hindered by the 9 to 5 cover she had to uphold. She could make her own hours around Supergirl.
The biggest issue was finding an apartment that offered privacy when she needed to fly out the window. Her last place had decent-sized windows and was angled to prevent overlooking.
They found a few options but it was clear Kara was settling.
“I found a place that you might like.” Lena revealed after Kara continued to stare abjectly around the latest apartment that was nice, yet lacked the open spaces the Kryptonian craved.
Kara perked up immediately, eyebrows shooting up with interest, “You did?”
“Uh huh.” Lena hummed, hoping her racing heart didn’t give too much away. “Care for a viewing?”
Kara bounded up to her immediately, fingers interlacing with Lena’s, her entire expression glowing when Lena gave their joined hands a familiar and comforting squeeze. “Lead the way.”
The car was already waiting for them outside, Lena having messaged her driver with the request for a pick-up and the destination beforehand. Kara sat right next to her, not even bothering with the pretence of space by leaving the middle seat unoccupied. The blonde peered out the window, gaze scrutinising the streets as they went by - undoubtedly trying to work out where they might be headed. The confusion appeared almost instantaneously as the car came to a stop outside a very familiar location.
“Did you forget something?” Kara inquired even as Lena slipped out of the car, encouraging the blonde to follow her with a reassuring smile and nod.
“This is the kitchen.” Lena announced once they had both crossed the threshold. “It features state of the art appliances that have been used so infrequently you could justifiably sell them as ‘like new’ on ebay.” Lena showcased the oven with a sweep of her arm, perfectly mimicking the intonation and technique of the many real-estate agents that they had been exposed to over the last couple of weeks. “You’ll find that the microwave has been superbly calibrated to reheat a variety of leftovers. The fridge and cupboards are also sized to support all your snacking needs.”
Kara merely stood in the centre of Lena’s open plan apartment, brow furrowed and lips pressed tight together. “Are you being serious?”
“Mmhmm” Lena hummed, cheeks blazing a dark crimson as she strode onto the next stop in her tour. “This is the living room, it comes with a 70-inch television screen linked up to pretty much every streaming service you can imagine.”
Kara quirked her head to the side, settling and growing confident at Lena’s assertion that this was no trick; eyebrows wiggling suggestively. “Every service?”
“Keep it PG-13, Supergirl.” Lena tsked.
“Sorry.” The blonde chuckled, hands raised apologetically.
Lena slapped the grey couch, like a car salesman banging the hood of a car. “The sofa comes already broken in to perfectly mould to your ass. There is also an assortment of blankets and soft furnishings on hand for all your cosy night needs.”
“I do have a lot of cosy night needs.” Kara mused thoughtfully.
“The dining room, which is more or less an extension of the living room,” Lena continued, fingers trailing the edge of the dark wood dinner table, “comes with a table large enough to host thanksgiving without giving out under the weight of all the food.”
“That happened once , Lena.” Kara exclaimed, pouting petulantly.
“There are two bedrooms, both have en-suites and decent storage space. But the apartment’s best feature?” Lena arched a teasing eyebrow before strolling over to the glass wall, “Floor to ceiling windows for those with a… uh… sunny disposition.”
Kara scoffed, rolling her eyes in fond amusement. “Really?”
“And a balcony.” Lena added, “This penthouse is the highest building around providing a high level of privacy for all your… requirements .”
Kara lifted her chin, blue eyes daring and playful, “What requirements would those be?”
“Naked sunbathing.” Lena shot back without hesitation.
“Lena.” Kara whined, suddenly blushing a bright red that cascaded from her head down her neck and presumably lower.
Lena smiled apologetically before tentatively moving closer to her best friend. “So, what do you think?”
Kara sighed, looking away from hopeful green eyes, “The balcony and the windows aren’t the best parts.”
“No?” Lena whispered, stomach twisted into a thousand untangable knots.
“No.” Kara declared, lifting her gaze back up to reveal intensely earnest blue eyes as she reached up to cup Lena’s cheek, thumb caressing her pale skin and bringing a rosy hue to it. “You are.”
Lena curled towards the touch, eyes fluttering closed. “Is that a yes?”
“I…” Kara began, voice strained causing Lena’s eyes to blink open and find a pained expression. “I really want to.”
“I sense a ‘but’ coming.” Lena murmured, deflating immediately.
“I just…” Kara’s hand fell limply back to her side, shoulders rising up to her ears, “when I imagined returning here… living here… . It wasn’t…” Kara’s jaw clenched before she took a deep breath, “I don’t want to move into the guest bedroom, Lena.”
“I don’t-” Lena began, before realisation dawned, “ Oh .”
Kara winced, “Yeah.”
Lena’s heart danced and swooped, even as the mess of knots that was her stomach ricocheted around the available space. “Kara-”
And likewise as they were on the precipice of more - of full disclosure - the world intervened. Kara’s phone - her Super phone - let out a loud chime. Kara fumbled for it immediately, superspeed hands doing little to prevent the clumsiness that came from shaking.
“Shit, I…” Kara grimaced, as she stared down at the message on the illuminated screen.
“You’ve got to go.” Lnea murmured understandingly.
Kara looked at her desperately, “I’m not running away, I promise. I want to have this conversation but-”
“I know.” Lena soothed, stepping forward to cup Kara’s face with both hands, rising onto her tiptoes and pressing a sweet kiss to the hero’s forehead. “Go save the day.”
And less than a beat later, she was gone.
Lena was slouched back on the couch, eyes staring up at the ceiling as the world slowly dimmed around her - early afternoon shifting to the softer evening colour palette to the darker hues of night.
She’d screwed up again. Had done the exact thing that had previously led to her own near-demise.
She’d pushed down her feelings. Had sealed them up and pretended they weren’t there.
She felt so ashamed of herself. Had she truly learned nothing?
Maybe that wasn’t fair.
She hadn’t buried or hid her emotions. She’d let them loose but kept them in the shadows and away from the light of day. They weren’t reconciled or tended to like her anger, hurt or sadness.
Her love for Kara had been told to wait and wait and wait. And it had. Her other emotions looking upon it with fear, disgust and trepidation.
And now? Now, she’d finally realised ( remembered ) the dangers of suppression. The long term scars it can inflict with its pent-up energy.
Lena had potentially damaged something so incredibly precious to her - the hope of more, of a relationship she so desperately yearned for.
Lena blinked back to herself, head lolling to the side to find Kara, in primary colour regalia, peering at her with concern from the balcony doorway.
“I never assumed you would move into the guest bedroom.” Lena confessed timidly, though her words, with their ability to change or malform her relationship with Kara, sounded deafening to her own ears. “I realised after you left that I had just…” Lena licked her dry lips, trying to find the words to explain her jumbled rationale, “I assumed you would stay with me even though…” Lena shook her head, eyes falling closed as she tucked her legs up underneath her and curled up into a small ball on the sofa. “I didn’t want to make things messy. It’s been good, right?”
“It's been amazing.” Kara promised, suddenly right behind her and wrapping strong, reassuring arms around Lena’s smaller frame.
“I didn’t want to rock the boat,” Lena admitted, pressing back into Kara’s warmth, “I didn’t want to jeopardise us but all I’ve done is make it even messier by leaving it all ambiguous and up in the air.”
“I haven’t pushed either.” Kara reminded her as she rested her cheek on the crown of Lena’s head. “We can share the blame equally for this.”
“That’s nice at least.” Lena chuckled, fingers threading with Kara’s ones. “What happens now?”
“What do you want to happen now?”
Lena took a deep breath, eyes fluttering open as she gently lifted Kara’s hands wrapped in hers up so she could press featherlight kisses to the back of them. “I want us to be together.”
Kara gasped sharply in her ear and suddenly the arms around Lena squeezed that much tighter, even as the Kryptonian attempted to keep her tone even and controlled. “We are together, we always will be. How do you want us to be together?”
Lena’s head fell backwards onto a supportive shoulder, face angled slightly below Kara’s - allowing her to blink up with total sincerity into bright blue eyes. “I want to be able to kiss you and do decidedly non-PG-13 things to you.”
Blue darkened to twilight in an instant, and the hero’s throat noticeably bobbed as she roughly declared. “I would be amenable to that.”
Lena smirked, nose inching closer to trace against Kara’s sharp jawline. “I guess this means we need to go on a date; living together will probably be a long way down the line.”
“Not if you don’t want to.” Kara rushed out in a single breath prompting Lena to pull back and arch a surprised eyebrow.
Kara shuffled them around so they were sitting more easily facing one another, though she notably kept an arm wrapped around Lena’s waist as if afraid Lena would wander away once contact was broken.
“Hear me out,” Kara requested seriously; Lena nodded in acquiescence even as she pushed down the palpable disappointment at the loss of where they were heading a moment ago, “we set our own path. We talk, set some ground rules and make our own way. I’m so sick of doing what others expect of me,” Kara proclaimed fiercely, “of what they think I should do. I want to be happy. If you want to go on typical dates and for this - us - to be all cheesy and new then let’s do it. If you want to keep doing what we are already doing and you want to slowly slot in the romantic elements we are missing then we can do that too. I don’t want us to go back to the start just because we are adding a new dynamic. ”
Lena hummed thoughtfully, thinking over Kara’s assertion. “It’s an addition, not a complete redesign.”
“Exactly!” Kara cheered, bouncing up and down slightly on the cushion. “ We know what really matters. How to handle conflict and change. I don’t want to pretend we are starting from scratch when we’re not. But… if you want that-”
“No, oh god no.” Lena reassured, hands reaching out to soothingly stroke a strained neck and bulging bicep that momentarily distracted her from the conversation until Kara ducked her head to meet Lena’s glazed over eyes. “Sorry.” Lena muttered apologetically, leaning forward to press a repentant kiss to her best friend’s cheek producing a fierce blush where her lips had made contact. “I think that’s what scared me the most.” Lena continued, attention back on the matter at hand. “I thought if we tried this out,” She gestured emphatically between them in explanation, “we would have to start it all again and I don’t want to undo all the hard work we’ve put in. It’s the thing I’m most proud of.”
“Same.” Kara replied earnestly.
Lena brushed a thumb along Kara’s jaw, “How do you want to start trying out this new dynamic ?”
“Well, how about…” Kara hesitated a moment, before her eyes shifted into something steely and determined, “something like this?”
Kara’s lips pressed against hers so softly that if Lena hadn’t watched the blonde’s gradual approach, she would think she was imagining it. Kara kissed her like she was a delicate flower petal, too much force and she would wither and shatter beyond recognition. Kara’s hands lightly wrapped around Lena’s wrists keeping the raven-haired woman’s hands against golden skin, encouraging more touches, more softness, more, more, more.
Lena was the one that pushed forward, slotted lips together beyond brief flashes of contact, licked against red-painted lips and invited Kara to explore with her own tongue. She was the one that shuffled forward until she was straddling the superhero, hands unclipping the cape and slipping under the restrictive collar to knead tense shoulders that carried far too much responsibility.
“Yeah,” Lena sighed, breaking away when oxygen was a necessity and not a recommendation. Kara’s hands slipped up the back of her shirt, tracing the notches of her spine as she sucked and nipped at the expanse of Lena’s neck that was stretched back in pleasure. “I like that idea. Let’s try that more.”
Kara hummed her agreement against pale skin.
Lena grinned, burying her face into the pillow, embarrassed by the unprecedented size of the smile on her face as Kara littered a path of kisses from one shoulder to the other before marking a zig-zag trail down to the small of her back, then back again on endless repeat.
“Rao, I love you.” Kara groaned, chin settling on Lena’s shoulder blade, whilst her hand slid under the white duvet, of their newly christened bed, to squeeze her bare hip.
“And I, you.” Lena murmured back, twisting her arm backwards to cup the back of Kara’s head, fingers sliding into golden locks.
“Yeah?” Kara checked, small and shy - still unable to believe this ( them) was real.
“Yeah.” Lena replied, firm and sure.
“Not too fast?”
Lena frowned, words dripping with sarcasm, “Please, take another five years to take me to bed.”
Kara gently sunk her teeth into Lena’s shoulder, the lightest and most enticing of reprimands for her humour. “Pfft,” Kara huffed upon settling back, “like you would have-” The blonde’s honey voice cut off, realisation slowly dawning, “Wait, would you?”
Lena’s ribs heaved with laughter as she rolled onto her back so that she could wrap her arms around the woman she loved who was sporting a considerable pout, “You adorable idiot.”
“ Your adorable idiot.” Kara corrected immediately, snuggling into Lena’s arms and placing kisses on the newly exposed skin.
“That you are.” Lena whispered happily.
They stayed like that awhile, Lena curling her fingers through golden locks drifting in and out of a doze, whilst Kara simply absorbed their closeness and the joy of experiencing feeling Lena’s heartbeat underneath her cheek.
“Can I ask you something?” Kara asked quietly, volume low to emulate the vulnerability and privacy of this moment.
“After what you just did,” Lena smirked, “you can ask me anything .”
“Serious moment.” Kara murmured even as she laughed lightly.
Lena pressed her lips together trying to limit the width of her smile to something more stalwart, “Seriously, you can ask me anything.”
“When you were… fully ‘repressed’...” Kara winced, “is that the best term?”
“Eh, accurate enough.”
“Okay. How much do you remember from then?”
Lena’s brow furrowed, mind trying to cast itself back through the haze of those days, “It’s fuzzy. I was so… locked away. Buried so deep. It was like…” She trailed off, grappling to find a suitable description before thinking up a different way to explain it. “What did you do at work on March twenty-third, four years ago?”
Kara stuttered in place at the question, “Uhh… no idea. I mean it was probably just a normal day.”
“Well, that’s what it’s like.” Lena continued, “Every day felt like any other day, regardless of what happened. No event was given emotional significance so it merely faded into the background. Every day, every action, every moment was… background . So whilst I remember some of it from a clinical ‘my memory is very good’ frame of mind, I don’t remember it from an emotional, sentimental sense.”
Lena arched an eyebrow, hands stilling in their brushing motion, “That wasn’t what you wanted to hear.”
“No, it’s not that.” Kara lifted her head so that Lena could see the truth reflected in cerulean. “I didn’t really know what to expect. I guess a small and selfish part of me,” Kara admitted with a self-deprecating grimace, “hoped that you remembered my attempts to bring you back, that they made a difference.”
“What attempts did you make?” Lena inquired, “And why do I have a vague recollection of you throwing things at me and being exposed to lots of gyrating men?”
“Ugh…” Kara groaned, head flopping back down, hiding away an expression of deep embarrassment, “of course, you remember my crappiest attempts. When has life ever been fair?”
Lena’s heart swelled with affection and sympathy for the sad alien cradled against her chest, arms wrapping around the blonde to hold her tighter against her, “It’s not doing so bad right now, is it?”
“No, I guess not.” Kara agreed, marginally brighter once ensconced by her naked girlfriend. “There’s a list of my attempts,” Kara eventually revealed, “I can show it to you.”
“I would like that and maybe… we could have another go at it. Properly together this time.” Lena offered.
“I would really, really, really like that.” Kara said, lifting back up to share a bright, watery smile. “Though we can skip the Magic Mike experience.”
“Magic Mike?” Lena’s eyebrows shot up.
Kara pressed her lips firmly together, repeating a clearly researched line, “Sexual arousal is a big emotional trigger for humans-”
“I am very aware.” Lena grinned predatorily, hand slipping down to appreciate the firm curve of the Kryptonian’s steel backside. “I am very emotionally triggered right now.”
“You are insatiable.” Kara admonished, even as her bottom lip became snared between her teeth with excitement.
“Why, thank you darling.” Lena whispered against Kara’s ear, tongue slipping out to trace the pink shell.
Kara let out a low moan, hands moving to rest on Lena’s hips as she gently raised herself up and away from Lena’s coaxing. “One more serious question then back to… all this .”
“Okay.” Lena accepted, knowing a good deal when she heard one.
Kara inhaled and exhaled carefully, “Why then? Why did you come back at that moment? In the fortress of solitude.” Kara clarified when Lena stared up at her with bewilderment. “I wasn’t recreating a memory or trying to activate an emotion. So why then?”
“Because…” Lena’s jaw clenched, eyes stinging with so much emotion but she didn’t try to hold it in this time, she danced on the precipice of tears as her love and joy for Kara danced seamlessly with the sadness and loneliness of her past. “I’ve spent my whole life since I was four years old believing that I was beyond love. That I didn’t deserve it. Every time I started to think differently or hope for more something would come along and… reinforce that belief that I wasn’t… loveable.” Kara looked visibly pained but kindly held her tongue to let Lena vent in a safe environment. “And then you…” Lena smiled wide, utterly besotted, “you wonderful, beautiful woman. You loved me when I had nothing and no promise of potentially providing something more. You loved me still when my darkness was at its greatest. You loved me when there was nothing of me left. And that… that re-ignited something in me. You fixed something that had been broken for so long… you fixed something that had been tucked away and hidden for years that it was protected and untouched by the virus. You loved me so purely in that moment. You loved me to the point of hopelessness and beyond. How could that not bring me back?”
Kara raised herself up on her elbow shuffling upwards until her face was hovering directly above Lena’s. “I’m going to love you forever.”
“I’m amenable to that.” Lena grinned, tears of joy slipping free and twinkling in the low light. “But first…” Lena groweld, hands coming up to trace the lines that marked defined abdominal musculature, “can we try out this new dynamic again?”
Kara shook her head in amusement, “I was really hoping that term wouldn’t stick.”
“You forget how stubborn a Luthor can be.” Lena reminded her, slowly arching an inviting eyebrow. “Doesn't mean I can’t be convinced though…”
“Oh, really?” Kara asked even as she lowered herself down, their bare bodies touching nearly everywhere.