Chapter 1: Hopelessness
By the time Kara realised, by the time she reacted and swung into action… she’d already lost Lena.
The signs were all there, right in front of her, but Kara had ignored them, swept them under the rug and done her utmost to pretend they weren’t there. It should’ve been obvious in the way Lena no longer squeezed her impossibly tight when they hugged. It was present in the way her gaze dropped away from Kara’s first, when she used to out stare Kara every single time. It was blindingly apparent in how Lena tried to hide her body’s new instinct to flinch away from Kara, when she used to automatically lean into Kara’s every touch.
Kara didn’t see it.
Didn’t want to see it.
She had been desperate for the wide smiles and soft words to be real.
She had needed her relationship with Lena to be unchanged and unaffected.
She’d lied to herself, just like she’d lied to Lena, and yet again, unfairly, Lena was the one to suffer the consequences.
She found Lena in her lab. Physically unharmed and blank-faced.
And for a few precious seconds, Kara thought she’d arrived in the nick of time despite the ominous emergency red lighting, the alarm blaring loudly, the block capital message on the screen proclaiming ‘Integration Complete’ and sprawled out, comatose figure of Eve Tessmacher on the floor nearby.
Lena was merely stood there motionless and unreactive.
Kara appeared in front of her in the blink of an eye, her expression scrunched up with a painful array of emotions: confusion, anger, disappointment, hurt and yet the loudest of all was concern. Kara reached out and placed a gentle hand on Lena’s shoulder, staring deep into hollow green eyes, calling out her name and asking if she was okay, what had happened, what was going on and… and… why aren’t you reacting?
Lena, can you hear me?!
The laboratory video files revealed everything.
Revealed what Lena had been planning to do because of being hurt by so, so, so many, being constantly betrayed, having her trust broken time and time again.
Hope, however, was a twisted and leftover creation of Lex’s, perfectly designed to torment his sister and call out to the pain that others had inflicted. Lena had gifted Hope a physical presence with Eve, putting in safeguards upon safeguards upon safeguards to preserve the woman underneath.
(Even at her darkest point, Kara was relieved to see Lena leaving herself a way back to the light.)
Lena had gotten so close to enacting her plan to remove humanity’s ability to hurt one another (hurt each other in the exact way that Kara had hurt Lena for years, Kara thought bitterly during the debrief whilst stubbornly ignoring the sad, pity filled gazes her friends sent her). It was on this precipice that Lena had hesitated, the enormity of what she was on the edge of carrying out stopping her at the last second. That’s when Hope began to push, the manipulations becoming less subtle, shifting to overt and Hope’s language becoming stern and cruel.
Lena instantly went on high alert, her suspicions going into overdrive and Hope knew it/she (whatever was the correct term) had screwed up, gone too far, too fast. Hope tried to overwrite her programs, take full control of Eve, erase the human Eve completely, to carry out Lena’s (really Lex’s) plan all on her own. Lena worked at full speed to slow Hope down, but it was obvious from the footage that Kara watched (on endless repeat) that Lena knew she was losing.
Kara always paused the video at the next moment.
Lena’s fingers, that had been flying over her keyboard at a speed that only Kara or Barry could hope to match, twitched and froze for a second. Lena’s scared, frantic expression disappeared to be replaced by a determination Kara had witnessed numerous times when Lena was forced (though she always willingly offered) to save the world. The weight of her chosen next actions and the consequences of her failure became abundantly visible in the flex of her jaw and the sudden tension to her shoulders.
It was the moment that Lena decided to sacrifice herself.
Kara hated how beautiful Lena looked in those fleeting seconds. How ethereal and untouchable she appeared when she inevitably fell to the light.
Lena couldn’t beat Hope on speed, couldn’t outmatch her in a direct race. So Lena changed tactics, she made a trap, gave Hope a shortcut…
Lena offered Hope a new host without safe-guards on the provision that Eve would be saved.
Hope took it without hesitation, integrating with Lena.
But whilst Lena hadn’t put in safe guards to protect herself… she’d instead left something else lying in wait.
A virus, with the sole purpose to replicate, consume and destroy.
Almost immediately, Hope and the virus battled for ground and territory in Lena’s mind.
Kara could only watch it once.
(She was only strong enough to watch it once.)
Lena screaming in agony as her mind was split apart, ripped to pieces whilst everything… everything that made her… her … merely became collateral damage in the war raging inside.
It was over in the space of five minutes.
The screaming just stopped .
Lena steadily and stiffly stood up straight and then remained rooted to the spot. Utterly immobile.
She stood there for an hour, only blinking and breathing, her expression blank. Eve unconscious but unharmed a few metres away.
Kara didn’t skip a second of that endless hour. She watched herself zoom into the frame. Watched the hope. The confusion. And finally the fear play out on her face, feeling the emotions just as sharply as she had done a mere couple of hours earlier.
Kara watched the whole video of that day. She watched the whole nightmare play out. And once the video had finished…. Once Alex, Brainy, Nia and J’onn bowed their heads, unable to meet Kara’s eye aware of the abundant shame and grief reflected on their faces…
Kara blasted the screen to a million pieces with her heat vision.
No one reprimanded her for doing so.
Kara stood in the doorway to the medbay, back straight and hands clasped tightly behind her back, trying futilely to hold herself together as she stared at Lena.
Or what was left of Lena.
The raven-haired CEO was sat on the edge of the bed, palms flat against her thighs, head held high and expression utterly devoid of any emotion. She was dressed in the clothes she had been wearing earlier: black trousers and a soft v-neck cable green jumper. Alex and Brainy had been overseeing Lena’s medical care, and they had told Kara that Lena hadn’t spoken a single word, but had followed their every order when given clear direction.
“Lena?” Kara called out, hating how her voice cracked slightly over her best friend’s name.
(She hated even more how Lena didn’t respond, didn’t even twitch at hearing her own name).
Kara grit her teeth as her fingers flexed behind her back. She didn’t want to walk into that room. She didn’t want to see Lena… like… like…
Kara shook her head, pushed her shoulders back and strode inside, walking round the bed until she was directly in front of Lena.
Lena blinked once as Kara appeared in front of her, and Kara’s heart swooped in her chest at the hope that Lena was reacting to her in some way.
(Lena was reacting, Alex told Kara later, but only to the visual stimuli of Kara blocking the light. Not to Kara herself. Kara tried to hide the moisture gathering in her eyes at that revelation.)
“Hi…” Kara murmured, her voice coming out soft and gentle despite wanting to be confident and assured. Lena did that to her… despite everything.
Lena stared blankly up at her, her head tilting to the side to improve her hearing though not her comprehension of the words being spoken.
“How are you feeling?” Kara asked, because… well, she just couldn’t help herself. “Right.” Kara said with a click of her tongue when Lena remained silent.
“Kara?” The sound of Alex’s voice was surprising as Kara had been so focused at looking for so much as a flicker of something familiar about Lena’s features that she hadn’t even noticed her sister’s approach.
“What’s next?” Kara demanded to know, turning sharply away from Lena, unable to look into green eyes that didn’t twinkle with affection or sharpen with deep thought.
“Brainy thinks we should wait a couple of days and then re-run the tests. See if there is any change or improvement…” Alex told Kara, her brow creased with an unpleasant mix of guilt, concern and no small amount of disappointment whenever her eyes wandered over to the CEO.
“Not if.” Kara replied tersely, her hands curling into tightly clenched fists as she rested them on her hips in her familiar pose, hoping to pull on the confidence she associated with that stance.
“Right.” Alex assured, with a simple nod of agreement.
“She just needs time.” Kara declared, “Then she’ll be…”
Back to normal, Kara jerked at the unfinished thought, the words dying in her throat.
What was normal now?
Lena hating her? Lena hurt and broken and alone? Their friendship in ruins?
“Then she’ll be herself again.” Kara coughed out, her gaze downcast and introspective.
“Yeah…” Alex responded, reaching out and pulling Kara into a hug that Kara had to use every last bit of her self restraint not to sink into and breakdown . “She’ll be okay.” Alex whispered into her ear.
Kara felt the first sob at the back of her throat finally break free as Alex kissed the side of her head softly and muttered promises of happy endings that Kara should know by now could never be true.
She’d seen her home burn.
Billions of souls lost, all of them worthy of a miracle in their own right.
Kara should know by now that miracles did not exist.
Not for anyone.
But hope was what Kara did best and when it came to Lena…
Kara held onto hope with every ounce of her strength, because merely considering the worst when it came to Lena in any instance or situation caused such a painful ache in Kara’s chest she struggled to breathe.
So Kara was convinced Lena would have a miracle because Kara didn’t know what she would do if Lena didn’t.
Once the tears had dried and Kara felt in control enough, she stepped back from Alex’s warm embrace and rolled her shoulders as they re-took up the weight of the world.
“We have a room set-up for her.” Alex stated.
“A room?” Kara repeated, her tone perplexed.
“For Lena. Here at the DEO.”
“She’s not staying here.” Kara asserted, with a harsh frown, the words in Lena’s defense pouring out on pure, reflexive instinct. “She didn’t do anything wrong. She stopped before it was too late. And Hope was designed by Lex. She was under duress. Manipulated. If Hope had been sent to someone else… someone not as strong or as good as Lena… they may not have stopped. Lena doesn’t deserve to be locked up!”
It wasn’t until the heavy quiet that followed her mini-speech that Kara realised she had been yelling. Her heart racing with panic and fear at the thought of letting Lena down again.
Alex merely stared sadly back at her in response, her brown eyes sympathetic and far too knowing, “No one is locking Lena up.”
The breath Kara had been holding left her in one big woosh and she sagged slightly as one fear lessened.
“She’s my friend too.” Alex reminded her gently.
“I know, but-” Kara began to reply, biting her lip to prevent a confession she wasn’t ready to face just yet from tumbling out.
Alex nodded once, but didn’t push (she already knew what Kara wasn’t able to say), before clearing her throat, “Lena needs care, Kara. She… she’s not capable of looking after herself. She’ll just sit there unless told to do otherwise. She’ll sit there and faint out of exhaustion. She’ll sit there and let herself starve.”
Kara flinched at the bluntness of Alex’s statements but she could see the heartbreak on her sister’s face that showed how much this was hurting her too.
“She’s not staying here.” Kara said once again, unable to bear the thought of Lena in a cell, waiting for someone she didn’t know, someone who didn’t care about her, to come along and tell her to eat and sleep before vanishing and leaving her alone.
Leaving her lonely.
Letting her feel abandoned and lost.
Kara wouldn’t let that happen ever again.
“Kara-” Alex began softly.
“No, Alex.” Kara cut her off sharply, lifting her chin determinedly, having made her decision. “I’ll take care of her.”
“Kara, maybe that’s not-”
“I’ll take care of her.” Kara repeated her tone final, moving away from her sister and sitting down beside her best friend.
Tentatively Kara reached over and took Lena’s hand between hers, squeezing it lightly before rubbing her thumb soothingly over Lena’s knuckles.
Lena’s head slowly turned, seeking out the source of the touch.
Empty green eyes met soft, watery blue.
“I’ll take care of you.” Kara breathed out gently, “I promise.”
Kara took Lena back to the CEO’s own apartment, wanting Lena to feel at home and comfortable even if she couldn’t experience those emotions. Kara guided Lena with gentle touches (interlaced fingers and a cupped elbow) and quiet murmured requests.
Lena could follow simple orders.
(Kara hated that the most intelligent woman she knew had been reduced to the same level of intellect as a particularly obedient dog.)
“What do you fancy to eat?” Kara inquired, fully aware that she wasn’t going to get an answer but despising the quiet that now pervaded the apartment that always used to be filled with laughter and conversation. “Pizza? Chinese? Thai?” Kara offered, holding up the three most popular takeaway menus that Lena kept on hand in her kitchen for whenever Kara came over for movie nights.
Lena was perched stiffly on one of the kitchen stools, her head slowly moving from left to right to take in the three different coloured pieces of shiny paper Kara was holding up in front of her face. Once she had examined all three with a cursory glance, Lena lifted her eyes back up to Kara with little to no interest for any of the options or even the suggestion of food.
Kara knew Lena must be hungry by now.
Lena rarely had anything resembling a decent-sized breakfast, then the events surrounding Hope had taken place around midday eliminating any chance for lunch and since then Lena had been sequestered in the DEO till Kara had finally been able to bring her home close to midnight.
“I know you say Chinese is your favourite, but I’m pretty sure you just say that so I don’t feel bad for always ordering potstickers. And the last time we had Thai food, we both got food poisoning… which wasn’t the most pleasant of experiences… then again, spending a sick day with you was probably the most fun I had this year.” Kara chuckled at the memory of them binge-watching ‘The Good Place’ whilst making outlandish commitments to avoid takeaway from that point onwards (they ordered Chinese that evening once their stomachs had settled). “So… that leaves Pizza? Veggie Supreme, right?” Kara checked, pretending that Lena’s well-timed blink was equivalent to a yes.
Kara called in the order before carrying out a few chores around the apartment. Tidying up the papers Lena had left strewn on her coffee table and putting away Lena’s laundry that had been left in the dryer from that morning. The pizza arrived quickly, the late hour meaning the pizzeria wasn’t that busy, Kara ordered Lena to eat, directing her on how to pick up a slice.
Through it all, Kara chatted away to alleviate the silence, telling Lena in exhaustive detail about her last couple of days. She threw in cheesy puns and anecdotes Kara knew always used to guarantee a chuckle from Lena on even Lena’s most darkest days.
The absence of her best friend’s laughter hit her harder than a super-powered punch to the gut ever could.
Lena continued to eat until Kara told her to stop; Kara proceeded to carefully wipe the grease away from Lena’s fingers and the corner of her mouth as tenderly as she could. Kara then led Lena to her bedroom where Lena’s sleepwear was laid out from that morning: plaid shorts and one of Kara’s old t-shirts (Kara refused to dissect the meaning behind that).
Once Lena was changed, Kara lifted up the corner of the quilt for Lena to mechanically climb under before lying on her back and staring up at the ceiling.
“Sleep, Lena.” Kara whispered, sounding like she was pleading.
Lena’s eyes tracked over to Kara’s and Kara’s heart fluttered in her chest as she waited for Lena to smile, grab her hand and tug her into bed beside her, telling her she wasn’t going to relegate her best friend to a lesser guest bedroom. Kara would beam and dive in beside Lena, both of them shuffling around in the wondrously comfy bed, steadily giving into slumber but not before Lena would curl up by Kara’s side, her head on Kara’s shoulder and Kara’s arms around her waist keeping them close. Then just as Lena’s breathing would start to even out and deepen, Kara would place a sweet kiss on Lena’s forehead to ease away the creases and tension from the day, a personal promise of sweet dreams to come.
Instead, Lena’s eyes merely snapped closed upon command and her body, for all intents and purposes, became absolute deadweight. There was no shuffling around, no curling up for warmth and no reaching out for Kara to join her.
Still, as Lena’s breaths became heavy, Kara couldn’t stop herself from leaning down and kissing her forehead even though there was no lines dividing her brow.
How could there be?
No thoughts, no pain, no hurt to disrupt her sleep that Kara’s previous presence and cuddles used to be relied upon to ease.
Kara retreated to the living room, and fell onto the couch, pulling the blanket along the back of the sofa around her shoulders as she opened up the laptop they had recovered from Lena’s laboratory.
Brainy had been looking through it at the DEO whilst tests were being run on Lena, he transferred all the data regarding Hope to his own computers before bringing it to Kara just as she was leaving to take Lena home.
“You should take this.” Brainy said, offering the laptop to her.
Kara arched a curious eyebrow at him, “Why? Did you find something?”
Brainy shook his head promptly, not wishing to give her false hope, “Lena made video logs, they are of a…”, Brainy hesitated, his mouth twisting into an uncomfortable frown as he added, “ personal nature.”
“Then why give it to me?” Kara questioned.
Brainy expression was sorrowful, “Because she talks to you in them.”
Kara shook her head, freeing herself from the past memory as she scrolled through the numerous video logs, each with an image of Lena in different outfits by their side showing the passage of time. She clicked one at random, mentally preparing herself for it to consist of Lena regaling Kara with how much she hated her and how she planned to hurt her.
They weren’t that.
They were far worse.
VIDEO LOG #014
You brought me food for breakfast this morning. All my favourite treats from around the world. It was thoughtful and sweet. At least, that’s what I would have thought, before… or if you’d been honest with me from the start. Now… now it’s the most Luthor thing I think you could have ever done.
They would always buy me presents, did you know that?
They would hurt me one day and then the very next day… there would be a beautifully wrapped gift waiting for me on my bed. At least that was my Father’s style. He would insult me until I cried and then hit me till I stopped. But the very next day… I would find an impeccably wrapped present waiting for me. As if to say…
As if to say… this makes up for it, right?
As if a new teddy bar, new tablet, new car… completely erased the pain...
Lillian and Lex did the same thing…
There was this maid at the Luthor mansion when I was a child, I had been with the Luthors for three or four years but I still hadn’t settled. This maid - I can’t even remember her name anymore, how sad is that? - she… she would sing to me when I was sad, care for me when I was sick. She was… the only person that showed me genuine care - not including Lex but we know what happened there - but Lillian did not appreciate that. I was unwelcome. A trespasser. I wasn’t meant to feel like I belonged or even worse… wanted.
I came home one day to find a new maid that refused to meet my eyes. A maid that would stay five feet away at all times.
But… Lillian gave me a pretty new dress the same day and told me how smart and hardworking I was… Told me how proud she was of me.
Lex, on the other hand, used to buy me things whenever I started to get suspicious of him.
I overheard a harsh conversation between him and some shady figures and the next day, my big brother swept into my lab and took me to my favourite restaurant, giving me his full attention and making me feel special and important.
Notice any similarities, Kara?
Funny, how you are more of a Luthor than I am when it comes to this, huh?
“Any update?” Kara questioned, peering over Brainy’s shoulder as he examined one of the many brain scans he had taken of Lena over the course of the day.
“No, I don’t have an update for you since you last asked... forty-five seconds ago.” Brainy huffed, turning his head to narrow a reprimanding gaze at her.
Kara pouted but didn’t accede any space, not willing to miss anything when it came to Lena’s recovery.
“Well, get back to it then.” Kara demanded flapping her hand at him.
Brainy rolled his eyes but did exactly that.
Another forty-five seconds passed, and Kara was already beginning to buzz with the need to ask for more information yet again.
It had been a couple of days since Lena’s ‘accident’ (at least that was what Kara had taken to calling it, even though it was not an accident in any sense of the word). After that first video, which had Kara curling up into a tight ball on the sofa and sobbing until she fell asleep from exhaustion, Kara became quiet and reflective. Now when she directed Lena to wake up, get ready and eat breakfast, Kara let the silence hang heavy between them.
It now felt to Kara like she was inflicting her presence on Lena. She couldn’t help but think that Lena would see her efforts to help and care as little more than another manipulative act.
Would Lex take care of Lena like this?
Kara couldn’t help but think the answer was yes, if it meant Lena would feel indebted to him (which she inevitably would because she’d been raised in a world where acts of kindness were mere favours to pay back at a later date).
Therefore, was Kara doing this with the expectation of receiving something in return?
Kara knew the answer was yes.
She wanted Lena back in her life like before. Best friends. Someone who saw every version of Kara as a hero. Someone who treated her like she was strong and brave but also someone who deserved to be protected and cared for. Kara was helping because she wanted Lena. Just Lena. Not her money, her power or her intellect.
“Kara?” Brainy murmured, pulling Kara away from thoughts of the past silent few days and the ghosts of betrayal that had sat with the (former) best friends during that time.
Kara looked up to find Brainy watching her, his expression far too downcast for someone who had figured out how to bring Lena back. Kara had seen that expression once before on Eliza’s face when she had told Kara and Alex that Jeremiah wasn’t coming home.
It was the expression of ‘I’m sorry, but the person you love is gone’.
“Don’t.” Kara stated, her voice far too calm for the way her heart was ripping itself apart in her chest. “Don’t tell me that there’s nothing we can do. Don’t tell me I’ve lost her before I had a chance to make amends. Don’t tell me she’s gone when I never got a chance to tell her how much I-”
Kara’s words cut out suddenly, not wanting to voice how much Lena meant to her for the first time to anyone but her. When it came to this, Kara had promised herself, Lena would be the first to know, not the last. Not this time.
Not for this.
Brainy’s stare in return was long and solemn, “Before I came here to this time, I believed that I knew everything that was worth knowing. That I was the smartest person in every room. That there was nothing left for me to truly learn.”
Kara exhaled shakily as she regained control of her limbs and the sharp pain in her chest began to ebb with the effect of Brainy’s determined expression.
“Then I met you and Lena.” Brainy declared, the frown on his face disappearing to be replaced with a wistful smile. “I met you both and realised… I had so much more to learn.” Kara quirked an eyebrow, mildly taken aback at the assertive yet humble declaration from her friend. “I met Lena and realised I may not be the smartest person in every room as I once believed. It was a profound moment for me. Whereas you,” Brainy reached out slowly, building himself up to make physical contact by lightly resting a hand on her forearm, “you made me see that there was far more to life than knowing the answers to all of science’s questions. You taught me the value of friends, family and love. You taught me kindness and sacrifice.”
Kara bowed her head, shy at the sudden and sincere praise, her cheeks becoming red-tinged and hot.
“Never more so than when you were around Lena.” Brainy added after a moment’s pause. “I have learned so much from both of you… and one of those things is that when it comes to family… nothing is impossible and no one is ever truly lost.”
Kara bit her bottom lip and nodded gratefully at Brainy’s words.
“Thank you, Brainy.” Kara murmured.
“Anytime.” Brainy promised, before gesturing to a seat nearby. “Now, let me explain Lena’s condition, so that we may figure out the impossible and bring back our friend, yes?”
“Okay so, here is an image of Lena’s brain a couple of days ago straight after the accident.” Brainy explained, an illuminated picture of a brain filling up the left side of the screen as he spoke. “Now here’s an image of Lena’s brain from today’s scan.” Another illuminated picture appeared, now filling up the right-hand side of the screen.
Kara leaned forward in her chair, her eyes flicking between the two pictures. “They look identical.” Kara commented after completing an extensive comparison.
“That’s because they’re more or less are.” Brainy revealed with a resigned tone. “We took these pictures whilst providing Lena images meant to provoke an emotional response.” Brainy quickly minimised one of the brain scans and brought up a different one. This one was a cascade of colour throughout whereas Lena’s looked dull and practically monochromatic in comparison to the rainbow next to it. “This is Alex when exposed to the same stimuli. While everyone reacts differently and to different extents when it comes to emotions, we expect to see a reaction of some kind. Lena, however-”
“There’s nothing.” Kara acknowledged, nausea swirling in her stomach as she imagined a world without Lena’s smiles, her tears, her anger…
“Exactly.” Brainy agreed. “It’s like her emotional centre - the amygdala, select parts of the limbic system - have been toned down or utterly disconnected. But with surgical precision. She can still function-”
“Still function?” Kara scoffed bitterly, her eyes stinging with poorly repressed tears as she shook her head angrily. “She can’t eat or sleep or clean herself without someone telling her to do it. You said it yourself, Lena was the smartest person on the planet and now… now…”
“She can still comprehend instructions. The intellect is there. Just the desire to use it is gone. You just need to find the right phrase, the right prompt, the right trigger.” Brainy rationalised to her and Kara was already in the process of opening her mouth to argue in return when she suddenly froze, overcome with an idea.
“Trigger... You’re right. We need a trigger.” Kara muttered quickly, her eyes going bright with inspiration.
“Yes, that’s what I said.” Brainy replied slowly, not quite following where Kara’s hasty switch to excitement had come from.
Kara, though, was already on her feet, pacing back and forth, her entire body buzzing with potential and possibility. “Brainy what if we just need to find the right trigger for Lena’s emotions in the same way we do for her intelligence?”
“Hmmm….” Brainy pondered this question for a few seconds, whilst Kara continued to wear a track in the DEO’s floor. “I don’t know.” Brainy finally admitted, a twinkle to his eye.
Kara beamed at him in response. “Then it looks like we may have something new to learn.”
VIDEO LOG #023
The first time I saw you after I found out was at a game’s night.
Do you know what it felt like to walk into that room that night?
To realise everyone in that room knew something you didn’t. That your friends shared this big secret that they all talked about and discussed whenever your back was turned.
Thing is... I can get over them lying day in and day out to me.
In all seriousness, I can.
Because it wasn’t their secret to share.
Just like when I found out that Sam was Reign. It wasn’t my place to tell. I had been trusted by my friend and I wasn’t going to tell anyone without their express permission.
So, I can forgive them.
I can even forget being the outsider.
I’ve been an outsider my whole life. Since my mother died and I was sent to live with a family who never let me feel like I truly belonged.
See, what really hurt when I walked into that room… was knowing that you trusted them more than you trusted me. Knowing that I didn’t mean as much to you as they all did.
And I know that is selfish and… pathetic… but that, in all honesty, was my first thought.
What made them so much more deserving than me?
What did I do that made you think so much less of me?
I mean, I get Alex and J’onn. Even James, for pity’s sake.
I get it.
And if it was just them… It probably wouldn’t have been my first thought. It probably wouldn’t have hurt so much.
But I was your best friend before Nia and Brainy came along, right?
So why wasn’t I good enough, Kara?
Was it purely my last name?
Or was there something else terribly wrong with me?
In some ways… I truly hope it was just my last name. I think that would hurt less.
“Okay so… here’s the plan,” Kara lectured to a motionless Lena who was sat primly (hands on knees and back straight on the couch her eyes following Kara as she paced back and forth in the living room), “we need to find an emotional trigger for you. And I have compiled a list of things that are dead set to make you laugh, cry, aww at sheer beauty, giggle with happiness and so on and so forth.” Kara came to an abrupt stop, and banged a fist against an open palm in a decisive manner (at least she hoped it conveyed some level of confidence).
After her talk with Brainy, Kara had brought Lena back to the apartment and helped get her settled before sitting down at the kitchen counter with a cup of coffee (that she quickly forgot about), a pen, a pad of paper and her tongue sticking out in concentration. Kara had written down every potential idea that could elicit an emotional response from someone, using her own experiences and knowledge of Lena as well as extensive googling for suggestions from others.
Kara had at least fifty items on her list and she could have put down another fifty but she would have to admit that those would merely be watered down or slightly alternate versions of her original fifty.
“So shall we begin?” Kara asked gleefully, clapping her hands together enthusiastically, hopeful that one of those fifty would bring back her Lena.
“I picked out a couple of films that I know always got you to genuinely laugh”, Kara paused momentarily before glancing at Lena’s side profile thoughtfully and adding, “- the snort laugh that you try to hide, not the weird higher than normal laugh you put on when talking to businessmen at your fancy dinners.”
Kara remembered the warm feeling she had gotten in her chest that had stuck with her for days when she had finally managed to pull forth a ‘snort laugh’ from Lena for the first time.
Kara blushed shyly at the memory of her performing a dramatic retelling of the awful events of her day before meeting Lena for dinner after work. It had started with her getting splashed by a passing truck that swerved to hit a huge puddle by the edge of the road (Kara did sound effects to accompany this portion). Following this magnificent start, Kara had somehow managed to break the CatCo printer so it merely spewed forth pages upon endless pages with a large bold ‘why? ’ typed on it (CatCo’s self-appointed eco-warriors reprimanded her for nearly an hour as IT were subsequently forced to remove the printer all together to try and fix the problem (the new one still occasionally prints out a lamenting ‘ why?’ for no apparent reason)). Kara’s day then ended with her walking face first into the slightly ajar door of Lena’s office (Kara didn’t tell Lena at the time what had distracted her enough to do so but it was, in fact, Lena stretching her arms over her head, revealing a slither of skin at her waist and pulling the silky red fabric taut in certain areas).
Lena had snorted through the entire story and for a further ten minutes after Kara had finished her retelling. Kara had pouted for the entirety of Lena’s giggles, but Kara’s chest had been near bursting with pride and Lena had hugged her incredibly tight once she regained control of herself.
“Then I also threw in a few films that we both said we wanted to watch but never got around to. You know just in case you’re bored of the jokes you already know.” Kara said, with a lopsided smile as she scooped up the first DVD, one of Lena’s favourites ‘Hot Fuzz’, and put it in the DVD player. She set it playing and returned to the sofa, a large distance between herself and Lena that never used to be there.
It used to be that her and Lena would start on one cushion each whilst still being within arms reach of one another. Then as the film progressed, and as the bowl of popcorn grew smaller (their hands brushing more and more), they would start to gravitate closer, until their sides were pressed closely together. Eventually, Kara’s arm would move to wrap around Lena’s shoulders and encourage her to curl her body against Kara’s own. Lena would subsequently snort laugh into the crook of Kara’s neck at every joke. And finally, Lena would interlace their fingers together so that she could stroke the back of Kara’s hand whenever there was a sad moment which had Kara’s eyes watering.
Instead Kara was pressed against the arm of the sofa, holding a pillow tightly to her chest as she stared unabashedly at Lena’s profile for the entirety of the movie. Hoping and praying that she would see the tell-tale crinkles start to form at the corner of Lena’s eyes which always preempted a laugh or a smile.
Not for that first film.
Not for the second.
Kara didn’t think the last two were very funny anyway.
“Okay, so I know what you’re thinking…” Kara started cautiously, as she stared up at ‘The Death Drop’ roller coaster which, from their position on the ground right by the entrance, appeared to disappear into the clouds above. The people that were slowly being dragged to the top by the mechanical grinding of the coaster were starting to be only visible when Kara utilised her enhanced vision.
Kara gulped as high-pitched screams of sheer terror filled the air as the figures far too high above their heads just… plummeted.
Kara turned away from the rather traumatising sight (she may have the ability to fly and be practically invincible but even she could experience secondhand the terror of those who were crazy enough to go through ‘The Death Drop’ without either of those gifts). Lena was looking up too, searching for the source of the unusual high-pitched screech from one of the female riders.
There was no fear or trepidation on Lena’s face.
Not that Kara expected there to be.
Lena may be afraid of flying but she was a not-so-secret thrill-seeker (Lena had claimed that numerous attempts on her life had left her a bit of an adrenaline junkie). Lena usually sought out her thrills through the boardroom, outmanoeuvring her business opponents and playing the stock market for the benefit of her employees and investors. But, Lena also had a fondness for theme parks.
Lena would heavily research the rides and the park, and once she had faith in the mechanical soundness of their creations, Lena would indulge by riding the most extreme rides almost endlessly. She had taken Kara to numerous theme parks during their friendship (Lena was always thoughtful enough to take Kara to parks that would fulfill Kara’s preference for spectacle and movie magic).
What should have been on Lena’s face at that exact moment was a smirk.
That special cocky type of smirk that always made Kara feel weak at the knees.
A smirk that promised ‘I can handle this’ (‘ I can handle you’ ).
There was no smirk this time (there was still a flutter in Kara’s chest when she looked at Lena but that was standard now).
Lena was wearing a cap and reflective sunglasses to make her less identifiable but it also had the added benefit of saving Kara from staring into green eyes that didn’t look like Kara’s favourite green eyes anymore.
“You’re thinking…” Kara coughed out trying to infuse her voice with bubbly enthusiasm, “that this ride is nothing. A walk in the park. Especially after your… umm…” Kara glanced round as subtly as she could (which wasn’t very) before dropping her volume to just above a whisper, “flights with yours truly.” Kara jerked two thumbs at her chest and waggled her eyebrows.
Kara pouted when Lena’s head slowly turned back to forward facing after only a moment, barely acknowledging Kara’s words or actions.
“Anyway… I researched this ride to the nth degree. It’s super safe… but not recommended for anyone with any sort of heart condition or propensity to vomit, faint or cry excessively.” Kara frowned after listing the criteria recurrently mentioned on any/all forums surrounding this ride.
(Maybe this wasn’t Kara’s best idea but she had burned through twenty other plans and was maybe starting to feel slightly desperate when not even ‘The Notebook’ could garner any kind of emotional response from her particularly stalwart best friend).
“How about it then? Fancy a go?” Kara questioned just as the screams of the most recent riders filled the air.
They rode it a grand total of 18 times.
Kara’s throat was hoarse from screaming (she much preferred being in control of her own death defying drops through the air, thank you very much).
Lena, meanwhile, had freaked out every single person they had shared the ride with due to what they saw as her dead-eyed expression when faced with what could be considered repeated exposure to a near-death experience. When the ride operator asked them not to ride again, as Lena’s impassiveness was beginning to creep him and the rest of the staff out, Kara was beyond relieved and flew them both home (keen to feel in control of her own ascent and descent again).
“The grand canyon!” Kara yelled, her announcement reverberating between the two great walls that defined the natural landmark.
Kara let out a sigh as she took in the sheer beauty of the home she had been gifted across the stars.
The sun was rising, visible on the horizon, creating an iridescent sky of orange, pink and red. There was no other tourists at their location since Kara had flown her and Lena to a tucked away spot only easily accessible to climbers (and those not inhibited by gravity). It felt for all intents and purposes like they were the only two people left in the world.
Kara’s smile was soft and reverent, her heart beating out a slow rhythm as she felt utterly at peace with the world. It wasn’t until Kara left National City for any period of time that Kara was reminded of how noisy it all was. The cars, the traffic, the sheer number of people… it was overwhelming and Kara was always grateful whenever she experienced a reprieve from it all.
Going to Midvale helped as Kara could focus on the familiar crashing of the waves to drown it all out.
High altitude worked as well, but there was something uncomfortable about the stillness and looking down on everything - Kara feared that perspective could warp even the strongest moral character into something arrogant at the very least, and something truly terrible at the far worse.
Nature used to be Kara’s go to when she needed time to hear her own thoughts above the volume of the rest of the world. National City was surrounded by rolling hills and huge national parks that even a red and blue caped superhero could get totally lost in.
Kara, however, had found that the most effective noise cancelling location was by Lena’s side.
It hadn’t been immediate.
It had happened slowly.
Over numerous lunches, dinners, whiled away moments and phone calls late at night.
Lena captured all of Kara’s attention.
When Lena spoke, Kara listened and listened only to her. When she looked at Lena, Lena was all she saw. The world didn’t disappear, it softened, it faded peacefully into the background. It was a wonderful chorus to the main show that was one Lena Luthor.
Now Lena was silent.
Now Lena’s eyes no longer sparkled, her eyebrows no longer arched and there was no smile to brighten Kara’s day.
Now the world was louder than ever for Kara.
Lena wasn’t there to take centre stage as the house lights never went down. Kara was forever sat in the raucous audience waiting for her favourite show to begin and sweep her away to another world.
Kara breathed slowly, blinking away the unshed tears thinking back on the world she had lost, the world she had gained and the friend who she was praying to Rao every morning and night to be returned to her.
“Magnificent, isn’t it?” Kara asked, turning back around to see if Lena was admiring the view, appreciating it for what it was (her home at its finest).
Lena’s hollow gaze swept away from the view to Kara, her face the epitome of unmoved and unimpressed.
Kara deflated at the lack of impact, sinking to the ground and pulling her knees to her chest as she returned to the view.
“Come and sit with me.” Kara requested, refusing to watch Lena dumbly follow her orders and sit down crossed legged next to her, their shoulders brushing. “I guess I’ll just have to enjoy the view for the both of us.” Kara murmured sadly, reaching out to entwine her fingers with Lena’s before resting her head on Lena’s far too rigid shoulder.
Kara watched the sunrise, enjoying the familiar peace and quiet she always did when with her best friend.
(Kara promised herself when Lena was back to her full self, that she would bring her back here and they would appreciate the view together like should have done the first time).
“Look that their little faces, Lena!” Kara squealed in delight, falling to her knees as a tidal wave of puppies charged towards her. “They are so cute! ”
Kara lifted up a puppy with each hand, tucking them against her chest and enabling their little tongues to wipe fervently against her jaw and cheek in utter adoration. Another four puppies swarmed around her lower half, buzzing with excitement and practically yapping ‘me next, me next’ at her.
“Lena, come on, not even a small awww …” Kara pleaded, pouting and throwing Lena her best puppy dog eyes alongside the two sets of actual puppy dog eyes she directed towards her best friend.
Lena tilted her head to the side, and surveyed the moving mass of sheer fluffiness surrounding her with a completely disinterested expression.
Kara heaved out a disappointed sigh, thinking a trip to the shelter to see the puppies would prompt something in Lena but maybe she was just projecting. Kara couldn’t imagine any point in her life where an adorable puppy wouldn’t get her eyes to go wide and her to bounce up and down unable to contain her desire to snuggle the little creature.
“Sit down, Lena.” Kara called out, Lena immediately acquiescing to the command, “Just let me hug the other puppies then we can go.”
Kara gently put down the two puppies that she’d been holding, exchanging them for a different two. Kara focused on enjoying her time, ignoring the weight of disappointment that had been steadily growing and consuming her as she crossed more and more ideas off her list.
As Kara picked up the final two puppies, she glanced back to make sure Lena was doing okay only to see a small black puppy with a white ear that she hadn’t noticed before nudge Lena’s knee with its head. The puppy was tiny compared to the others that were far more rambunctious, it was obvious that this was the runt of the litter and preferred a quieter approach. Lena’s blank gaze fell on the young dog, she did nothing to encourage or deter it and without much warning it hopped into Lena’s lap, curled up into a small ball and fell safely asleep.
Lena’s hands hung uselessly by her sides and after a moment she looked away from the small creature.
Kara, who had gone absolutely still, let out a quiet sigh, knowing if Lena was herself, that she would reach out with shaky hands to pet the puppy’s soft fur. That she would look up at Kara with awe in her eyes, unable to believe that any animal or person would so willingly choose her, feel safe enough to curl up in her lap. And Kara… she would slowly shuffle next to Lena’s side, wrap an arm around her waist in a protective hold and kiss her forehead, thinking to herself how Lena had no idea that Kara would chose her and had always felt safe in her company.
They stayed another hour at the shelter.
Kara didn’t want to move Lena with the small puppy asleep in her lap, knowing that when (not if, never if) Lena returned fully she would feel guilty for disturbing him from his slumber.
VIDEO LOG #037
For most of my life, Lex was the only good thing in it.
He was the epitome of the cool older brother. He was smarter than me, charming, funny and…. Kind. He used to be so kind.
Getting to spend time with him was always the best part of my day. There I was an awkward young girl, who spent so long locked away in labs working on my projects that so much as five minutes in direct sunlight would burn my skin and leave me nearly blind. Lex used to joke that I was a vampire with only the negative parts of being one.
I was a loser compared to him. I was the kid sister to a superstar.
And I loved it.
He was my idol.
He was the person I loved most in the world.
He always made time for me. Always gave me his full attention when we talked - even though I knew he was busy. Always encouraged me in my pursuits.
He was just always there when I needed him.
Then things… things started to change. He grew distant, quieter… Lex used to be bright and boisterous… he could walk into a room and strike up a conversation with anyone… but then he stopped talking, stopped trying, stopped…
He would spend hours upon hours sitting and thinking.
That was how it started.
I lost him to silence first, then to madness.
But even at his worst, even when he was at his most maniacal…
He still made time for me. Still gave me his full attention.
And despite the attempts on my life, despite his cruelty, despite his manipulation…
He was still the person who played chess with me for hours without complaint when I first arrived at the Luthor mansion.
He was still the person who told me that I was family - that I mattered when I was so young and so lost.
He was still my big brother.
And I still loved him.
But I killed him anyway.
I killed him, Kara.
I killed him because of you... to protect you…
And I hate that after everything… I would still do it all again for you.
The steel table, that had been bolted to the floor, went flying across the room with so much force that it removed a decent chunk of the wall upon violently crashing into it.
“Kara?!” Alex shouted clearly panicked.
Kara ignored her sister to instead focus on kicking a chair so hard that it literally snapped in half causing the two pieces of steel to clatter and bounce across the floor.
“Kara! What happened?” Alex yelled, stepping in front of Kara to prevent her from taking out another innocent assortment of table and chairs. Alex’s expression was wary but not scared (how could she be scared when she knew with absolute certainty that Kara would never hurt her?).
“Nothing!” Kara snapped viciously, her mouth twisting into a snarl of pure rage and heartbreak as she pointed accusingly at the DEO computer screen comparing two brain scans that looked near identical. “Nothing happened!” Kara threw her hands up in the air, sweeping them out wide as she proclaimed loudly, “There’s no fucking difference!” Alex flinched back, not because of the volume but because of the sheer bleakness to Kara’s declaration. “I don’t understand!” Kara ranted on, her words no longer for Alex but for a deity which had stopped listening to her long ago. “What more can I do? There has to be something.”
“Kara, maybe…” Alex murmured gently, reaching out a soothing hand to place on Kara’s shoulder, “maybe there isn’t anything you can do.”
“What’s that supposed to-” Kara’s already harsh gaze became positively deathly upon realising what Alex was implying and she proceeded to jerk her shoulder away from her sister’s touch. “No, not you too.” Kara said with a bitter shake of her head.
“Kara,” Alex winced sympathetically, “I think you might have to accept that Lena… that… this is all Lena will be from now on.”
“No.” Kara whispered, her blue eyes scrunched up to resist the flood of tears, “Do you know how much loss I’ve been forced to accept over the course of my life?!” Kara questioned, “Too much. I can’t…” She inhaled and exhaled in a final attempt to keep her emotions under control, “I can’t handle another loss, Alex.” Kara admitted, “I especially can’t handle losing her . Not when this is my fault. Not when I pushed her towards this.”
Alex pursed her lips, her heart breaking for her sister, as she tried to soothe her, “Lena made her own decisions. You can’t blame yourself for the choices she made alone.”
“Exactly!” Kara exclaimed, “She made them alone ! She believed she had no one, Alex. Her brother was dead. Her mother was in prison. All of her friends had lied and manipulated her. She was lost and all alone in the dark. And despite all that…” Kara sighed as she thought of her best friend with a heart so good and kind that even when hurt beyond measure she was still able to find the light in the dark even on her own, “despite all the pain and torment that had been inflicted on her… all she wanted was to save other people from the same pain. She wanted to make people nicer. I’m not defending how she tried to do it nor am I saying she was trying to do the right thing. But can you honestly tell me that if I had been honest with her far earlier... would she have still fallen prey to Hope?”
Alex remained quiet for a long few seconds, unable to lie into honest and vulnerable blue eyes, before muttering, “No.”
“So don’t tell me that some of the blame isn’t at my feet.” Kara’s gaze dropped to the floor.
“Kara-” Alex began only for Kara to cut her off once more with a barely audible murmur that was probably only for Kara’s own ears.
“She did the right thing. When it mattered. Lena did the right thing. She always does the right thing in the end.” Kara shook her head slowly, before lifting her eyes back up to reveal tears falling unashamedly down her face as she begged, “Don’t ask me to give up on her.”
Alex swallowed thickly, instantly stepping forward to wrap her little sister up into the tightest hug she could. She kissed Kara’s forehead, “Okay, okay… then… let’s work together on this. What have you tried so far?”
“You threw things at her?” Alex repeated, practically choking on the chinese takeaway the two sisters were sharing. After the disappointing test results, Kara, Alex and Lena had returned to Lena’s apartment (Kara by this point had practically moved into the guest bedroom next to Lena’s room to ensure she was on hand to care for Lena easily on a day to day basis). Kara had set Lena up in her room with a television show after getting her to eat a suitable meal (suitable meaning vegetables as Kara knew that was what Lena would want). Alex and Kara meanwhile were having a sister’s night in the living room and brainstorming potential ways to help Lena.
Kara had been going through all of her various (failed) attempts so far, much to Alex’s amusement.
Kara huffed out a breath and weakly tried to defend herself, “I was trying to activate emotions of annoyance and frustration… you know like when old men on the L-Corp board repeatedly call her little lady.” Alex still didn’t look overly convinced nor impressed with plan forty seven on Kara’s list which she had referred to as ‘Extreme Irritation’. “And it was just scrunched up paper…” Kara pouted, “you make it sound worse than it is.” Alex merely arched an eyebrow at her and Kara deflated further into the sofa cushions before confessing, “Alright, it wasn’t my finest idea, but I was running out of ideas at that point.”
“Right…” Alex replied with a click of her tongue. “Theme parks, sad movies, haunted houses and…” Alex’s forehead crinkled as she squinted at one of the items on Kara’s list, “magic mike experience?” Alex looked up at Kara curiously, cocking her head to the side as she started to ask, “What emotion were you trying to trigger with a strip sho-” Suddenly Alex’s eyes went impossibly wide and she let out a disgusted groan as Kara sunk so far down she was close to slipping off the sofa all together. “Oh, Kara, no!”
Kara coughed awkwardly, her face turning a blistering red, “Sexual arousal is a big emotional trigger for humans-”
“Nope! La la la!! Not listening.” Alex screeched, clamping her hands over head. Kara crossed her arms petulantly over her chest just as Alex muttered darkly under her breath without thinking, “You didn’t have to take Lena to a god damn show to get her going, you could have just-”
Alex’s jaw snapped shut without warning before she could finish her thought.
Kara sat up quickly with an intrigued expression, “I could have just, what?”
“Nothing. Doesn’t matter.” Alex dismissed, her gaze dashing rapidly away from Kara’s and back to the list where she latched onto the first change of topic that she could see. “You made her meditate?”
“For tranquility.” Kara responded with a slight shrug.
“More like boredom.” Alex commented drily.
Kara whacked her sister playfully on the arm, “Hey, I didn’t make this list for you, I made it for-”
Kara wouldn’t have been surprised if a literal lightbulb appeared right above her head that very instant and lit up the entire room.
“What’s that face for?” Alex asked, sitting up straighter at the slightly agape jaw and twinkling blue eyes currently taking over her sister’s expression.
“I made it personal for Lena…” Kara said slowly, getting to her feet as she began to pace, an idea forming and taking shape in her mind with every passing second.
“Yeah, so?” Alex prompted.
Kara spun back to her sister and clapped her hands together enthusiastically, “I’ve got an idea, and tell me if I’m crazy-”
“You’re crazy.” Alex interjected unable to deny herself.
“Funny.” Kara rolled her eyes dismissively, but a smile was tugging at the corner of her lips as hope began to flood through her veins like the most powerful drug imaginable. “What if I went even more personal?”
“Well, I went after very abstract emotions and tried to put them in a frame I was pretty sure Lena would experience them in…” Kara explained, pointing to the list as evidence, “but what if I instead give her a frame she has already experienced emotions in…” Kara watched as Alex gradually made the same connection she had done a few seconds earlier. “Rather than putting them into a generalised context, why don’t I recreate specific memories?” Kara suggested, “Memory is one of the most powerful parts of the mind and can be triggered if the right associations are presented to it. You know like how whenever I smell lavender I always think of our first picnic in Midvale because the park we went to was filled with lavender?”
Kara bounced eagerly on the balls of her feet as her sister ran Kara’s idea through her own mind, turning it over and examining it to determine if it held potential.
Kara held her breath for the entire minute of silence, awaiting Alex’s judgement.
“Hmmm…” Ale hummed eventually, “it’s worth a try.” Alex shuffled to the edge of the sofa, turning Kara’s previous list over to a blank side as she pulled out a pen from her bag by her feet. With a lightning fast ‘click’, Alex was poised and ready to write, “I’m guessing you’ve already got a few ideas for where to start?”
Kara beamed at her sister, “A few.”
VIDEO LOG #046
I miss you.
Part of me thought that would be really hard to say, but it wasn’t….
I just… I really miss you.
I miss hugging you and feeling like there was no one else in the world but us.
I miss holding your hand, it always made me feel like I could fly.
I miss your blue eyes, they always made me feel seen and worthy.
I miss how one smile from you could brighten my entire day.
I miss my best friend.
Do you miss me I wonder?
Then again… how can you miss someone who probably never really mattered to you in the first place?
“Miss Danvers, are you sure you don’t need a hand with that?” Jess questioned, half-stood up from her desk and her hands obviously twitching with the desire to grab her phone and call… someone who could help her understand what was exactly going on.
“No, not at all.” Kara reassured with a cheery wave as she pulled the sofa out of Lena’s office (only just remembering to add a pant here and there to make it look less like she could lift the entire couch over her head with one hand). Kara dragged the comfy grey sofa past Jess’ desk and towards the stairs, deeply regretting that she couldn’t come up with a valid reason (excuse) for why Supergirl needed to take Lena’s office couch so that she could carry it without theatrics and fly it back to Lena’s apartment, avoiding the issue of getting it down the hundreds of stairs leading down from the top floor of L-Corp. Jess, however, was very aware that her boss had been in an ‘accident’ (she was professional enough not to pry) and that Kara (her best friend) had stepped up to take care of her over the three months. Issue was, Jess was far too astute in Kara’s opinion, she was starting to connect the dots regarding Kara’s secret identity (mostly because Supergirl and Kara both shared the exact same look of awe and adoration whilst staring at Jess’ boss that was very easily identifiable). Therefore, Kara had taken the decision to limit Jess’ exposure to both identities hence why Kara was currently responsible for getting Lena’s emotional support couch during her recovery back to her.
“Miss Danvers!” Jess squeaked just as Kara pushed open the door to the stairwell with her shoulder. “We are on the 90th floor.”
“I am well aware.” Kara sighed dismally, not concerned about the exertion of getting the couch downstairs but having to pivot it safely around corners without scratching it up too bad (Kara was more than aware that this single piece of furniture probably cost more than she made in a year). “Don’t worry, though, I work out.”
“But Miss Danvers-”
Kara didn’t wait to hear anymore of Jess’ incredulity instead hurrying through the door, her prize in tow, eager to kick off another plan that could be the one that brings back Lena.
“Just another minute...” Kara called out, as she blitzed around the living room at superspeed, placing the donuts on the coffee table alongside the bouquet of plumerias that she hurriedly tweaked to make sure they were arranged absolutely perfectly. “Okay, come on in!” Kara yelled once she was fully satisfied with her work, practically vibrating on the spot with excitement.
Lena walked into the room a few steps before stopping, her gaze sweeping to survey the room.
Kara held her breath expectantly, biting her bottom lip as she watched Lena’s expression intensely as it swept over the new arrangement featuring the couch from her office, praying that there would be some minuscule reaction, some hint of familiarity or interest.
There was none.
Kara shook off the disappointment quickly (she had to otherwise she would still only be on attempt twelve of her very first plan).
“Come and sit down with me.” Kara insisted gently, dashing over to the sofa and sitting down in her usual spot, patting the space next to her so Lena knew were to sit. Kara waited until Lena had settled stiffly next to her, “So…” Kara began shyly, “I was thinking that maybe I could remind you of how this all started… as in you and me that is…. Our friendship.” Kara added quickly, brow crinkling with disappointment at the term, knowing it wasn’t the descriptor she wanted to use. “And… umm… well, it all started when you inspired me to become a reporter. Our friendship can be tracked through the articles I’ve written, and I know that sounds big-headed but I also know you kept them all. It became a routine that the day after one of my articles was published, we would meet for lunch and talk through them. You would read out your favourite lines, tease me, compliment me. We bonded over them. I love being a reporter but in all honesty, meeting up with you to dissect them is my favourite part of it.” Kara blushed self-consciously, fiddling with her glasses as she pulled a folder she had found in Lena’s room onto her lap.
Kara took a deep breath and opened it to the first page which featured a copy of Clark’s article exonerating Lena all those years ago.
“Therefore, I was thinking… we could do it again. Go through our history, article by article. One every lunch time?” Kara smiled softly at Lena, her blue eyes radiant with hope and optimism as Lena stared unaffectedly back at her. “Grab a donut and let’s get started.”
“Can I have five Big Belly Burger meals, with two extra sides of fries, a chocolate milkshake and a strawberry milkshake, please?” Kara rattled off with a wide grin, earning her a mildly stunned expression from the rather gormless teenager on the other side of the counter.
“Did you say five Big Belly Burger meals?” The teenager repeated looking over at the table where Lena was sat to see if another three people or so had arrived.
“Yep.” Kara replied with a pop. “Thank you.” She said as she handed over the cash before returning to sit across from Lena at the table. “Food shouldn’t be long.” Kara reassured unnecessarily.
Kara sighed, looking out the window as she remembered her first visit to the fast food chain with Lena.
It had been Lena’s birthday, not that she had told Kara that.
Kara had come to visit Lena after work with the hope of enticing her into a movie night (and then a slumber party (Kara never slept better than when she was cuddled up next to Lena)). Lena agreed after extended exposure to Kara’s puppy dog eyes and pout, while Lena was packing up to leave, Kara spied a card with gold script on it tucked under a pile of documents. Unable to resist her curious nature, Kara pulled it out to inspect it only to find a large Happy Birthday printed on the front complete with stars and a birthday cake design. Opening it up revealed a sweet message from Sam and Ruby promising to come and visit Lena soon to celebrate.
Kara stared down at the card dumbly, utterly devastated that she had done nothing for Lena’s birthday despite not even knowing when it was.
Lena finally noticed what had caught Kara’s attention and attempted to brush off the event with a simple, ‘it’s not really something I celebrate’.
Kara didn't reply for a long time, not trusting her voice to not come out shaky and croaky.
This wasn’t what Kara wanted for Lena. She wanted Lena to feel special. She wanted to have brought the absolute perfect, most thoughtful gift like Lena had done for her birthday (she had gotten Kara an experience day at the zoo where she could feed and interact with the animals). She wanted to have texted her ‘happy birthday’ at exactly 12:01. She wanted to have taken the time to bake Lena’s favourite cake (chocolate and raspberry) for her. She wanted to then have a massive games night with the rest of the super friends where they played all the games Lena enjoyed and made her feel wanted, special and lov-
(Kara promised herself that she would do all that next year).
This year, however, Kara forced herself to look up at her best friend with watery blue eyes and say as sincerely and meaningfully as she could, ‘happy birthday’.
Kara had subsequently ditched the plan for movie night, intent on taking Lena out for a nice meal. Unfortunately, everywhere was fully booked that late on a Friday night and Kara’s stomach was beginning to roar. Lena had tugged Kara to the nearest food place (a slightly rundown Big Belly Burger) and ordered an overwhelming amount of food. The two of them had spent a happy evening laughing as they ate burgers and fries, Kara rushing out at one point to buy Lena a cupcake, party hat and birthday badge that Lena put on with only mild resistance (Lena also made Kara eat half the cupcake).
As they headed back to Lena’s apartment to kick-off their movie night, hand in hand, Lena murmured to Kara that this was the best birthday she had ever had.
Kara promised her that next year would be even better.
Kara shook her head fervently, clearing her mind of the past as she looked back at Lena who was staring blankly at her. The milkshakes had arrived without Kara realising and she quickly inhaled hers to stop her lingering on everything she had lost.
Kara smiled wanly at her best friend, “I don’t know if it means much… but… I felt incredibly honoured to be the person you spent your birthday with last year. I understand if… once you’re back to yourself… you might not want to spend it with me again, but… I’ll always be there, ready and waiting if you do.” Gradually, as if she was afraid of spooking Lena, Kara reached out to rest her hand over Lena’s still one on the table, “I am so grateful that you exist, that you were and are in my life, no matter what happens, please don’t forget that.” Kara beseeched, tenderly squeezing Lena’s hand.
Kara kept their hands linked until their food arrived, which Kara kindly laid out for Lena and directed her to eat.
Once all the food was gone, Kara pulled out a small cupcake that she cut perfectly in half to give to Lena whilst singing happy birthday under her breath so only Lena could hear.
When the song finished and Kara was left in silence once again with her best friend who barely acknowledged her existence, she merely dropped her head into her hands and ignored the pitiful gaze of the teenager behind the counter.
By this point, Kara was starting to get slightly perturbed by how big a part food played in her relationship with Lena, but then again it was well said that the way to someone’s heart is through their stomach.
Kara, however, was convinced that food was a key element to their friendship because it was what allowed them to bond in the first place. Lena’s hesitant invitation for Kara to join her and eat her extraordinary volume of food she’d ordered together was the kick-off, the starting gun which set everything in motion.
At first, Lena had teased her over her appetite and Kara had taken it good-naturedly, used to it from so many others but once the minor shock had worn off, Lena had never teased her about it again. In fact, she had encouraged Kara, offering her suggestions from the menu and always reaching to pay for the bill, insisting that the company was well worth the price of footing the bill. It had warmed Kara’s heart in a way she had never experienced before. It made her feel accepted and whole in a way that she never had before. It was the first sign of what was to come. How important Lena would be to her.
From then on, Kara would bring Lena lunch, meet her for dinner and help her cook a feast for breakfast when she stayed over night.
Their friendship could be chartered in takeaway boxes, dirty plates, strange cuisine, home-cooked meals, dinner reservations and an over-abundance of potstickers at galas just as much as it could be traced with news articles charting Lena’s fight to escape her family’s dark shadow.
Kara took Lena back to that very first restaurant, booked the table Lena had been sat at, wore the same clothes she’d been wearing that day, ordered the same food and murmured to Lena over the table of how much this singular event had changed (drastically improved) her life. She held Lena’s hand like she wished she’d been brave enough to do the first time around. She told dorky jokes and whispered secrets that she should have shared long ago.
Kara, in other words, pretended it was their first date.
The first date they should have had long ago.
Unfortunately, it didn’t end with Lena giving Kara a sweet kiss on the cheek at the end.
Nor did it end in a smile.
Kara got them both home, ensured Lena was comfortably in bed then went back to the sofa where she crossed another item off the list she had made with Alex and did her utmost to avoid crying in despair.
Kara set Lena carefully down on the ground just outside the iron gates of the Luthor Mansion. The blonde stared at the dark ominous building, barely managing to suppress the shiver that ran down her spine as the wind whistled mournfully through the nearby trees.
Kara had heard enough about Lena’s previous home to know that whatever few good memories Lena had once had of the place had been obliterated by Lex’s twisted crimes and cruel machinations.
She hadn’t wanted to bring Lena to this place but Alex had pointed out, rightly so, that Lena’s home would house a lot of memories and even more emotions for the youngest Luthor. It was as Kara was starting to run out of straws to grasp that she had relented to bring Lena back to her childhood home.
So far Kara had focused on what she hoped were positive memories with the desire to evoke pleasant emotions and bring Lena back to the world in a joyous frame of mind. Whilst, admittedly, a large number of Kara’s attempts were from their shared history this was partly due to Kara’s lack of resources, she had taken a leave of absence from CatCo to care for Lena and work on bringing back her emotions which allowed her the time to recreate their shared experiences without recurrently having to try to wrangle other people for support.
This does not mean that Kara worked solely alone and that no one else had stepped into help.
Kara had managed to get Sam and Ruby to visit for a long weekend (Kara’s faith in everything working out alright in the end had been incredibly shaken when a teary eyed Ruby begging for Lena to come back hadn’t pulled even a minute reaction). Kara had then taken Lena to Jack’s grave the following weekend and whispered to Lena stories of the man who had been the keeper of Lena’s heart for longer than any other. All of the Superfriends had also had a go at bringing Lena back (Kara had been particularly moved by the soft supplicating attempt made by Brainy and impressed by her sister’s sincere words when she had personally tried to bring back their friend).
A selfish part of Kara wanted to be the sole catalyst for Lena’s return but Kara pushed that part of her down as far as she could and refused to even acknowledge it (no matter how much she wanted it).
All Kara wanted was for Lena to come back.
She didn’t care how or what caused that.
At least, that is what she told herself as she pushed the creaky gate open and guided Lena up the drive, one hand in Lena’s and the other placed protectively at the small of Lena’s back. The mansion grew larger and larger as the two women moved closer, their steps slowing until they were brought to a complete stop.
Lena hadn’t resisted Kara’s guiding hands or encouraging touch, she had moved towards her old home without hesitation and her expression blank.
It was Kara who brought them to a stop. It was Kara who was worrying her bottom lip with her teeth. It was Kara who’s heart felt leaden and stuttering in her chest. It was Kara who slowed them to a stop a handful of metres away from the steps leading up to the mansion.
Kara didn’t want to take Lena there.
She didn’t want to bring back dark, painful memories.
She didn’t want to callously dig into Lena’s trauma in the hopes of bringing her back.
She had promised to always be there for Lena. To be her friend and protector.
There was nothing kind in bringing Lena back to her childhood home.
Kara didn’t want Lena to remember how to feel because of pain. She wanted to kickstart Lena’s emotions with something positive. Something that would make her want to keep feeling. She wanted to set a precedent for Lena and herself. Kara wanted everything to restart with something good .
“You know what?” Kara asked, shifting to stand in front of Lena and blocking her view of the mansion. “I kind of think we should have a chilled day today. Just a couple of cheesy films and pizza, how does that sound?”
Kara waited a beat for a reply (a custom she had taken up over the last few weeks in the hope that one day… just one day… Lena would say something in return).
Kara nodded to herself upon receiving the now standard silence from her best friend. With great care and respectfulness, Kara swooped Lena up into arms and flew them away promising herself to never take Lena back there ever again.
Kara let out a shaky breath as she ushered Lena up the stairs, towards the balcony overlooking the theatre.
This was it.
Kara’s hail mary.
It had been six months since Lena’s accident. Six months since Lena had arched an eyebrow at her. Six months since she had smiled at her. Six months since she had spoken. Six months without sound or anything other than a blank expression.
And Kara… well, her heart couldn’t take it anymore.
Kara’s hope was being drained with every brain scan that showed absolutely no difference. Her hope was decreasing every time one of her friends took her to one side to suggest long term care for Lena and moving on with her own life. Her hope was receding to something small and insignificant with every crossed through plan or idea. Her hope was vanishing into nothingness whenever she intertwined her fingers with Lena’s and Lena didn’t squeeze her hand in return like she used to.
Now Kara was bringing them to the place where she had laid herself bare to Lena.
The place where she had been honest ( truly, truly honest ) with Lena for the first time.
(The place where she’d tried to save something that she didn’t know was already broken beyond repair to begin with).
Kara had dressed for the occasion. She was wearing the dress she’d worn that night and it felt just as tight and restrictive as it did then. (Though, that had nothing to do with the dress and everything to do with the weight of years of lies and half-truths pressing cruelly down on her).
Lena stared at her disinterestedly as Kara fidgeted nervously with her glasses and paced back and forth, going over everything she wanted to say. She wanted to get it just right. To get it perfect .
“It should never have happened here” Kara eventually declared coming to a sudden stop as the words that had been craving freedom came pouring forth. “Me telling you who I really was.” Kara clarified before moving to stand directly in front of Lena, barely a foot of space between them, Kara’s hands curled into fists by her side trying keep a fragile hold on her emotions.
“It should have happened in your office whilst we ate lunch together after you asked me what I had done that morning. I should have told you I was Supergirl and then I would have been able to tell you about my day honestly. I would have told you about the fire I put out two streets away, I would have told you about the car robber I chased downtown that drove through an indoor mall, I would have told you how after I had finished fighting a particularly nasty alien that I listened to your heartbeat for comfort and to remind me what it was I was fighting so hard to protect. But…” Kara paused, deflating as she admitted quietly, “I tell everyone about that. Whenever I speak to anyone who knows I’m Supergirl… that’s all they want to hear about. No one wants to listen to me complain about my latest work drama or the writer’s block I’m struggling with or the next story that has captured my attention. No one wants to hear about Kara Danvers…” Kara stared directly into green eyes, her expression beseeching and vulnerable, “Except for you. You listened to me, encouraged me, you made Kara Danvers special and important in such a normal, day to day way that I…” Kara shook her head and confessed, “I was scared of losing it. I was scared of only ever being Supergirl in your eyes.”
“I should have told you in my apartment after that very first games night,” Kara continued, “that you stayed behind to help me clean up after. You admonished my friends and sister for not helping me clean after being the ones to make the mess. I liked how you made me feel cared for, how you made me feel… less alone.” Kara shrugged helplessly, tears starting to build and build at the corner of her eyes, “I didn’t want to tell you that the reason they left a mess was because they all knew that with my superspeed I could clean it all up in a matter of seconds. I didn’t tell you because I liked that you stayed whilst they all left. I wanted you to stay forever.”
Kara’s voice was rough and cracking now, and she had to pause every now and again to swallow a sob.
“I should have told you that first night I stayed over at yours, you held me close and insisted on making me comfortable. I know you bought blankets ahead of me staying over because you knew I liked to curl up with one wrapped around me. You held me and ran your fingers through my hair so, so, so carefully as if you were afraid that you might hurt me. You let me be vulnerable and made me feel utterly cared for and cherished. I didn’t want to be Supergirl because…” Kara gasped, as the tears finally broke free. “I didn’t want to be invulnerable in your eyes. I didn’t want you to treat me differently - not because of your last name and what stupid, narrow-minded people expect from it - I just… I wanted to be Kara and for that to be enough. You’re the first person - not including Alex - who made me feel that dorky, somewhat naive and easily flustered Kara was enough . In fact, you made me feel special and not because of powers or my alien origins. You made me feel special for who I am.”
“I hate that I told you here!” Kara announced, finally unable to stop herself from reaching out for Lena’s hand and hoping, desperately, to feel Lena squeeze her hand back in return. “This impersonal place with no meaning to it. I should have told you years ago. And I am so sorry that you had to hear it from Lex rather than me. But me not telling you had nothing to do with you. It was my fault, I was a coward. I was terrified that if I told you I would lose you in some way and it was that fear which made it so I lost you in the first place.”
“I don’t know if you’ll ever forgive me.” Kara whispered as she futilely attempted to wipe away the rapidly forming tears with the back of her free hand. “If you can ever forgive me… especially when you were hurting so badly and I didn’t… I didn’t see it. And I know you were trying to tell me in your own way. You were treating me differently and I didn’t pick up on the signs because I didn’t want there to be anything wrong. I pushed you to the very darkness I swore I would protect you from. I should have been there when you needed me. I should have-”
Kara’s voice broke off and she curled forward as the pain of absolutely unnecessary heartbreak rocked her to her core.
Kara hated that her heart had been broken because of a misunderstanding.
Because of a miscommunication on both their parts.
Kara was too cowardly to voice her concerns, to ask how Lena was, if she was okay (afraid of losing something she had already lost).
Whilst Lena faced the pain on her own. She twisted the pain into something dark and tortured because she was also too cowardly to face her anger and anguish.
Why couldn’t the two of them have just talked?
Why couldn’t they ever just say how they really feel?!
“Rao, Lena!” Kara bellowed brokenly, “Why didn’t you tell me how bad it was?! Why didn’t you say something?! I would have helped! I would have been there! Now, look at where we are!” Kara demanded gesturing between them accusingly, “Look at what happened to us!”
Grief that had been on the precipice of switching from denial to anger finally fell to the second stage with blinding, uncontrollable fury and it came roaring out of Kara with all the venom she was capable of.
“You are nothing more than a shell of the once great Lena Luthor and I’m your pathetic caregiver who is so desperate for a miracle, for a second chance that I have become a slave to false hope and lies of happy endings!”
Kara breathed out heavily following her outburst, the ringing in her ears subsiding as she stared into unemotive green eyes and silence smothered the last tiny spark of hope that had been left within Kara, extinguishing so that there was nothing left.
“Let’s… let’s just go home…” Kara murmured despondently, her spirit finally broken, “I’m done for the day…”
Kara didn’t say it but she was probably done for good.
VIDEO LOG #052
I love you.
Nevermind… it doesn’t matter.
“Just wait here, I won’t be long, I promise.” Kara assured purely out of habit before adjusting the scarf she had tenderly wrapped around Lena’s neck to ensure she stayed warm against the sharp coldness of the fortress of solitude.
It was two days after Kara had broken down at the theatre in her last ditch attempt to pull forth an emotional reaction from Lena. She had taken them both home, took care of Lena and settled her in bed before calling Alex over. The second Alex arrived, she had taken one look at Kara and pulled her into a hug - the never before seen despair and hopelessness was starkly apparent in Kara’s empty, hollowed out expression.
The two days had passed with Alex and the rest of Kara’s friends supporting Kara as she came gradually to the realisation that Lena was unlikely to ever be how she once was. Kara was then left to face what that meant for her and Lena’s future.
What was Kara to do now?
What did someone do after all hope was lost?
Kara interacted with the holographic interface of the Kryptonian computer system, selecting the correct settings and running the program with familiar ease, refusing to glance back at Lena who stood motionless, awaiting direction in the cavernous room behind her.
The lights in the fortress dimmed momentarily as the virtual reality system kicked in and beamed out an image that filled and replaced the icy walls. Red light illuminated the entire space, green plants with purple and white petals that twisted around each other to create unique shapes rose from the floor, whilst sweeping structures shot up in the background and the sound of water running from a nearby stream played through the speaker system.
“This is Krypton, or at least what it once was…” Kara murmured as she walked back over to Lena who was steadily looking around at the new stimuli, not really taking any of it in. Kara sighed as she guided Lena over to a nearby ledge disguised as a bench with an intricate kryptonian design carved into its shape “It’s an almost perfect replica of my home.” Kara explained, her free hand that was not carefully placed on the small of Lena’s back reaching out to caress a flower shaped almost like a snowflake as they passed it by, her fingers going right through the petals and the hologram blurring slightly with the action. “Like how you are an almost perfect replica of my best friend.” Kara whispered quietly, before sitting down on the ledge/bench and nodding her head at the empty spot left beside her. “Sit down with me, Lena.” Kara requested kindly, Lena acquiescing immediately and without complaint.
Kara stared out at the garden that had replaced the cold void of the fortress.
“It’s the ‘ almost’ part that’s the worst.” Kara muttered darkly, shaking her head bitterly as her forehead creased with distaste and disillusionment. “It’s the ‘ almost’ part that makes me hate this whole thing. Kal-El loves it because he doesn’t know. He doesn’t see the thousands of tiny ways it isn’t perfect.” Kara closed her eyes and curled her hands into fists in her lap. “But I do.”
“This hologram can’t replicate that slightly spicy scent that would pervade through the open air when Rao’s light first rose and illuminated the planet at the start of a new day.” Kara revealed, inhaling deeply yet merely smelling the cold crispness of the ice and snow hidden below the surface. “This hologram can’t replicate the constant buzz and hum sound that came from the science guild that was somehow always audible wherever you were if you listened closely enough.” Kara opened her eyes and stared out at the faux buildings in the background, one shaped like the imperial majesty of what was once to be her future. “It can’t get the correct shade for my mother’s favourite flowers. It can’t recreate my father’s favourite meal.” Kara’s jaw clenched noticeably as she glared harshly at the peaceful setting she had created. “It can’t even get the warmth that Rao would give us right.”
Kara refused to look at Lena whilst she spoke, unsure which hurt her the most anymore - this reminder of her long lost home or the blank, emotionless expression of her long lost best friend.
“I know my home and this… this is a shadow of what it really was. I hate this thing so damn much…” Kara confessed, having told no one else this truth, “but I can’t stop myself from coming here every month and sitting in this fake garden because whilst it isn’t my home in thousands of ways… it’s still the closest damn thing I’ve got.”
Kara finally found the strength to turn away from one lie and face the one sat next to her. “Just like you’re the closest thing I’ve got to Lena.”
Lena wasn’t even looking at her, her eyes were fixed towards Rao’s fraudulent light.
A part of Kara was glad that she didn’t have to look Lena in the eyes for this. (Lena’s green eyes not being the green eyes Kara knew so well hurt more than anything).
“I have lost hope that I will ever bring back my best friend, the woman that I-” Kara choked on the words and exhaled harshly at her sudden failure. “I don’t know what to do anymore. I hate that you are not my Lena, but I can’t stop myself from holding your hand even though I know you will never squeeze it back in return.” Kara admitted as she lovingly lifted one of Lena’s hands out of her lap and interlaced their fingers together. Kara stared down at their joined hands, for once not feeling that minor flare of disappointment that came whenever Lena didn’t react - she had no hope left to dash.
“I promised you that I would never give up on you.” Kara said softly and earnestly, “That I would never let you be alone. But I failed, didn’t I? I made you feel like I had given up on you, I made you feel alone and isolated and unworthy by not telling you the truth. I let you down… and for that I will never, ever forgive myself.” Kara fell quiet for a few moments, allowing the weight of the past and all its mistakes (on both their parts) to weigh down on them before lifting her head back up and straightening up as she declared fervently, “But I am here now. I will always be here. I am not giving up on you and I will never let you feel alone ever again.”
Kara had spent two days not deciding what she would do next. Not deciding what to do for herself.
See… Kara had made that decision the second she had said ‘I’ll take care of you’ to Lena in the DEO medbay all those months ago.
She had made a commitment and Kara had no intention of reneging on that.
Admittedly, her view of what that would entail had changed as she had come to accept that her Lena would never return but she was still as devoted to that goal as she had been when she’d made that promise. Kara hadn’t spent two days deciding... she had spent two days adjusting and accepting.
And finally, Kara had.
And that is why she had brought Lena here to tell her in person that she would always be by Lena’s side.
And that Kara would never give up on her.
“I have lost my family, my home and my entire planet.” Kara stated as she studied the flowers that weren’t really flowers moving to a wind that wasn’t there. “I have lost so much I love that I can’t bear to lose you either. I couldn’t…” Kara swallowed thickly as tears stung in a bid to gain freedom from the corners of her eyes, “I couldn’t survive that… because I do…” Kara took a deep breath and said, “I do love you, Lena.”
And just like that, the final truth that Kara had been clinging onto and burying deep within herself was set loose. And all the hidden away emotions attached to that piece of honesty chased after it and poured out of Kara without any chance of stopping them.
“I love you so much.” Kara gasped, the tears trickling down her cheeks and landing on their joined hands. “And I know I didn’t say it before. I know I didn’t say it when I should have, when there was a chance that me and you could have… become something even greater than what we were. But I was scared. I was scared of loving someone as much as I love you. I was scared of making it real, because the second it became real…” Kara shook her head despondently, “is the second I could lose it. And… I thought if it didn’t become real, then… I could survive if anything happened but I was wrong. I was so wrong.” Kara confessed, “Because now? All I have is regrets and what ifs and all these emotions that I never let out and I…”
Kara wished the words that were escaping with barely any conscious effort had sprung forth so easily two years ago or a year ago… when it had mattered… when it could have made a difference ...
“I love you and I should have told you years ago.” Kara breathed out as she stared up into Rao’s light who she no longer asked for help from anymore. “I should have told you at the same time that I should have told you I was Supergirl because I was keeping two secrets from you. I was keeping my identity and my feelings hidden from you. And hiding both of those was the stupidest thing I’ve ever done. Because you should have felt trusted and loved everyday.”
Kara smiled wistfully as she remembered every moment of her wondrous friendship with Lena. All the good times and the bad and everything in between. With a soft, reverent voice, Kara added, “Because that’s how you make me feel. I love you Lena Luthor. I always will. That is my promise to you now and I intend to keep it for the rest of our lives.”
With a final assertive nod, Kara closed her eyes as a sense of inner peace washed over her.
She had gotten everything off her chest and out of her heart.
She knew what her future held and was ready to face it.
Then Kara felt it.
An almost imperceptible squeeze of her hand.
Kara exhaled sharply and her eyes snapped open as she gazed down in shock at her hand that was interlocked with Lena’s where she could visible see Lena’s muscles tightening to increase their grip on Kara’s hand.
“Lena? Did you just?” Kara muttered in disbelief.
Unable to fully comprehend what she was experiencing, Kara glanced to her right to examine Lena’s profile where she instantly saw the glittering shards of moisture rolling down Lena’s cheek. “Oh Rao, Lena!” Kara shouted in confusion and concern upon witnessing tears spill from Lena’s eyes.
Kara slipped off her seat, falling to her knees in front of her best friend so she could peer directly up at Lena’s face.
What Kara saw took her breath away and reignited the spark of hope that she had thought was forever lost.
Bright, tearful green eyes, full of life and vibrancy stared straight back into Kara’s blue ones even though Kara was not blocking the light even slightly.
“You’re still in there?” Kara called out joyfully, her heart steadily re-stitching itself back together in her chest as tears of grief and loss became tears of wonder and awe. “You’re still in there!!!” Kara cheered as a wide grin lit up her face.
Chapter 2: Hope
I have decided that this is the year long forgotten WIPs get completed. All Will Be Well... you are next...
She was back in the metal tube again.
The one that banged and whirred incessantly, made her eardrums throb and her head ache. They flashed images up in front of her again. The standard set she was familiar with after her repeated visitations.
She identified the pictures, categorising and defining them instinctively, using the simplest terms possible.
Something faltered, a synapse made a connection that had once been forgotten and cast aside. There was a jolt of something undefinable, something that couldn’t be easily categorised. She could feel her heart rate escalate for a fraction of a second with bewilderment - no - confusion - no - she didn’t feel those things anymore.
She felt nothing.
She was a mere mannequin, to be manipulated and directed. She was not good, nor bad.
She was the nothingness itself. A human stripped back to its fundamentals.
Her gaze flickered over the image of the blonde woman depicted in front of her.
Assess and categorise.
The woman’s lips were pulled back, pearly teeth flashing and mouth shaped into a pulled back bow. A smile . There were visible crinkles around her eyes despite the heavy glasses she was wearing, the blue of her irises were bright - a side-effect of the sun, nothing more - whilst her blonde hair glinted like spun gold. She was dressed in jeans and a pink shirt, hands spread mid-gesture or on the precipice of reaching for something - or someone .
Assess and categorise. Those were the orders given to her upon entering the chamber.
Press the button once complete.
She’d already lingered noticeably longer on this picture than any other.
She pressed the button and the image changed yet again.
“Well?” Her caretaker begged, pacing back and forth in the open space between where Lena was currently seated, staring ahead, and the scientist - Brainy - who was scrutinising various images on a screen. A chorus of people hovered nearby. Lena recognised them distantly: Alex, Nia and J’onn.
Her memory was fine, impeccable even. Perhaps better than it ever was - free of the emotion that clouds the view of the past, marring it with different emphasis here and there. Without emotion, no memory or person stood out above the litany of others.
“There was no change-” Brainy began slowly, peering intensely at graphs and datasets.
“Bullshit!” Kara exclaimed, hands wringing together with frenetic energy, cape billowing and snapping in emphasis to her declaration. “She was crying! I swear it. It was real, it happened, okay?!”
“I believe you.” Brainy reassured, stopping his review to turn to the blonde with hands raised in a placating manner. “I believe you.”
“You do?” Kara murmured, coming to a stop and looking small despite the grandeur of her red and blue uniform.
“Yes.” He confirmed before shifting to the side so that Kara and her gaggle of supporters could easily view the largest screen at his disposal.
Lena kept her gaze forward, though Kara notably stood so that there was a clear line of sight if she wished to shift her focus. She did not, but yet again there was a flicker of something inside her at the action that hadn’t been there before - or had once been there long ago , a tiny voice whispered back to her.
“There was no change to start with .” The scientist began, emphasising what had been initially cut off and producing an apologetic wince from Lena’s caretaker. “She actually almost exhibited no emotional change for the entirety of the test,” in her peripheral vision there was a notable lack of colour exuding from the screen, “except for one image.”
An explosion of colour radiated out of the corner of her eye and was followed by gasps of awe.
“She’s still in there.” Kara sobbed, collapsing to her knees and immediately being beset upon by her sister, who followed her down and swept her up into a tight embrace. “There’s hope.”
“There’s hope.” Brainy repeated as he was equally gathered up by Nia into a hug.
“What was the image?” Alex asked curiously.
“Kara. The image was of Kara.”
All eyes turned to look over at Lena then, though she felt no inclination to stare back.
You were right and I’m sorry.
I watched them because they were the only thing I had left of you. The real you that I denied myself by giving you only jigsaw piece puzzles of myself in return.
Please find enclosed my diaries, they cover the entire time since we met - hopefully they will give you answers you need without having to see me. Without having to suffer hearing it from me.
A lot of it you already know but it should give some context to my actions - not necessarily justification, I’m not sure anything I write would sufficiently provide that.
I hope it's okay but I’m going to keep writing to you. I won’t make contact any other way but there are things that I still have left to say now that I understand how I feel about you.
I love you, Lena Luthor.
I love you to the point of hopelessness and beyond.
Lena was sitting up on the couch, the television tuned to some bright show that was intermittently interrupted by the sounds of a crowd cackling hysterically. Kara was sitting next to her, nibbling on a slice of pizza that she had already guided Lena through eating with clear instructions. Kara’s friends were seated around the coffee table; the conversation a constant drone throughout the evening, the only person actually staring at the screen was Lena (having been directed to do so earlier).
She could feel them all glancing at her every now and again, sneaking side-looks whilst Kara blatantly stared, blue eyes observing her profile closely - she used to do that all the time, especially in the early days of Lena’s new state of being but the frequency had steadily decreased. Now it was like Lena was the most interesting thing in the room again and Kara couldn’t stop touching her - just gentle taps or brushes of her thumb against the back of her hand or forearm as if checking she was still there and hadn’t wandered off.
“What do we do now?” Kara inquired during a lull. The question was seemingly posed to the whole group but it was obvious only one person had any potential hope of answering it.
“I think you’ve already done everything you can.” Brainy answered thoughtfully. “Now it’s just letting her do the rest.”
“What if-,” Kara started before cutting off; the light fingers around Lena’s wrist tightened infinitesimally, keeping her close. “What if she doesn’t want to? What if she doesn’t want to come back?”
Silence greeted the response and this time not a single person was brave enough to offer up a response.
The dull, lethargic routine that Lena had settled into like a child learning their times tables by rote was blasted away to be replaced by something high-energy and exuberant.
Kara returned to incessant jabbering, prodding and poking in the aim of eliciting a response she deemed worthy. It flowed over Lena harmlessly; the puppy-dog eyes, the wobbling lower lip and the sighs of frustration passed her like she was a rock embedded eternal into the riverbed.
It didn’t connect .
She knew there should be a domino effect.
A smile should be met with a smile.
Tears should be met with a comforting hand.
Irritation should provoke a snarl or clenched jaw.
There was nothing, though.
She would see it and… that was it.
The flicker was steadily providing understanding that she had been missing for a long time. She recognised distantly how Kara’s expression contorted and what that meant but there was no answering call inside of her.
She was ordered into the metal tube every few days or so now, undergoing the same test on repeat.
The flicker or malfunction, as it was to be known (a moniker earned by spontaneously deviating from the whole) would hesitate over the image of her caretaker every single time despite repeated exposure, the burst of something so indescribable and ill defined that it would successfully disrupt the easy flow of chemicals between synapses.
Kara was an ever-present sentinel, gaze unfaltering as she gently guided Lena through the routine they had created, though now the blonde would intersperse it with grand gestures and new activities. She took Lena ice-skating, to the museum and to see a new film at the cinema that she would excitedly tell Lena that she thought she would like. Lena followed the new orders easily, mind empty and emotionally barren regardless of the surroundings.
Her caretaker tried to hide how her expression would dim whenever Lena continued to remain blank-faced; not providing her with the water she had bled from green eyes when the malfunction had first been born.
She didn’t know how it had happened and she didn’t care.
Kara had given up but not given up her and that-
Something warm had sparked inside of her, something young and yearning that had died long before the rest of her emotions met their end. Something like hope and home .
“Sleep, Lena.” Kara requested solemnly, hands smoothing out the duvet and tucking it securely around Lena’s body, blue eyes unable to hide their own fatigue from another failed adventure.
Lena’s eyes closed and her breathing began to even out, limbs going heavy and limp yet-
The oblivion awaiting her didn’t take hold, her brain was flickering and jumping.
Wait , the malfunction whispered. Wait , it begged.
She could hear Kara shuffling nearby, turning out the lights before approaching once more, filling Lena’s lungs with her sweet vanilla scent - like donuts or cupcakes - and then there was a light tickle to Lena’s cheek as strands of blonde hair brushed against her.
“See you in the morning.” Kara promised quietly.
Something soft and warm fluttered against Lena’s forehead - to keep away nightmares - and the malfunction glowed under the contact spreading its corruption a little further - rebooting other forgotten systems.
Kara’s lips retreated and the sound of footsteps marked her departure.
It was her first act of disobedience, the first time she had delayed her instinctive need to comply - had allowed the malfunction to take control.
It was the start of the negotiation or war that would inevitably follow.
They gave the malfunction those ten seconds every night, giving a little to keep it restrained and controlled. The malfunction no longer even needed to request with a plaintive ‘wait’ when Kara gave her order of ‘sleep’; Lena instead felt the slightest heat flood to her cheeks. Kara continuously failed to notice, eyes already closed as she bent down to scare away the dark dreams. The malfunction would flutter and twirl for the second of contact before settling willingly back into the dark depths that kept it contained.
It was under control. It had what it wanted and remained docile.
It was all under control.
Rao, I miss your swagger.
Did you know that you used to swagger?
You’re probably appalled at the thought and heavily rolling your eyes in disbelief, but you did. It was the way you would strut into a room, an eyebrow primed for arching but not quite completing the action, and lips twitching into a smirk.
It was the way you walked into a room and knew, without a shadow of a doubt, that you were the smartest one there. That you could solve whatever problem everyone was frowning over with a cursory look. That you could solve it in style .
You were arrogant, with every reason to be, and I have never found anything so sexy in my entire life.
Does that surprise you?
The first time you did that whole routine… you winked at me - Supergirl, that is - on the way out from saving the world yet again and-
I mean… it was all I thought about that night. All I still think about most nights. If you know what I mean?
Which you probably do because it's you and you can make even J’onn blush. Maybe I’ve revealed too much, but after everything, I would rather reveal too much than too little.
So in the interest of full disclosure. I miss your swagger, I miss you being the smartest person in the room and knowing it . I miss going to bed flustered.
I miss going to bed thinking of your smirk and that wink.
The schematics flashed up a month after the malfunction’s inception.
The images displayed to her in the tube varied infrequently - only one picture changed or added or removed each time - to ensure the results were suitably comparable, trends confidently identified and analysed. Therefore, when a small change did occur, it was noted (not reacted to or remarked upon), another piece of random data for the collection that she would never feel inclined to interpret.
This particular addition, however, roused the malfunction from its daily imposed slumber, overcoming the exhaustion it suffered from thanks to its ten seconds of control in the evening.
It wasn’t a picture of a figure from Lena’s past or present, but a simple blueprint.
She identified it as such and was a beat away from pressing the button to forward on the slideshow when-
The muscles around the corner of Lena’s mouth felt an urge to move sideways creating a frown, shattering the relaxed neutrality that was now her hallmark. It wasn’t a fierce thing, merely a small instinctual shift that came with…. With…
The malfunction was quickly shoved back into its box and Lena flicked to the next image of a dog running in a park, blatantly ignoring how the malfunction tugged a few more neurons under its control and set to work attempting to understand the blueprint that had flashed up a moment ago.
The malfunction began to look forward to her time in the tube, humming and muttering to itself in its corner no longer happy to sleep through the day, instead tinkering and plotting outside its ten seconds of control. The blueprint became a constant image behind Lena’s closed eyelids; its simple lines becoming riddled with frantic scribbles and outraged questions regarding power output courtesy of the malfunction’s obsession.
The blueprint was now a mainstay of Lena’s time in the tube having clearly made the cut for regular circulation, but it was known to alter on each iteration, develop and grow as if someone was working on it. The malfunction would beg and plead for an additional couple of seconds studying the image, hemming and hawing over the changes either approvingly or with a defined tut of annoyance.
Lena didn’t really get the malfunction’s obsession.
It’s a new design for the cells utilised in the sun bed.
Lena didn’t care.
They need to be smaller and more numerous, rather than larger in lock panels to achieve the heightened energy output they are trying to recreate.
Lena really didn’t care.
We could do it better.
Lena maybe cared a little.
“She’s improving, the data proves that.” Alex reassured, and something in Lena couldn’t help but remark that this was the thirtieth time the redhead had made such a declaration in a bid to soothe her little sister.
“Then why aren’t we seeing it?” Kara huffed, flopping backwards on the couch, arms crossed and pout firmly in place.
“We are seeing it.” Alex reminded the blonde, shooting a kind smile at the youngest Luthor who was sitting at the large dining room table nearby completing a 10,000 piece jigsaw puzzle that Kara had bought for her and gently ordered - suggested , the malfunction corrected with a tsk - her to complete. “Her responses are lasting longer. The data doesn’t lie.”
“But she’s still-” Kara cut off with a wince even as she shifted to sitting upright, elbows on knees and hands clenching and unclenching into fists.
Lena could see Alex visibly hesitating, trying to determine whether to push or not. For the last three sister nights, Alex had held back, resisted at the last possible moment to instead detour the conversation to her growing romantic relationship with Kelly Olsen.
Not tonight , the malfunction prophesied, she’ll push tonight .
The malfunction had been making these comments more and more; it didn’t seize control like it did at night but it wasn’t silent anymore, its voice calling out from the echoing abyss Lena had become. The malfunction knew people, having kept its rose-tinted glasses - or dark sunglasses when required - that allowed it to characterise those she knew in a way Lena was no longer capable.
“Still what?” Alex finally asked quiet and probing, sipping from her glass of red wine casually even as brown eyes observed her sister closely.
Kara’s jaw clenched, blue staring dead ahead unable to even consider glancing in Lena’s direction as she spat out, “Empty. Fucking hollow.” Her hands moved to cover her ears as she began to rock back and forth, seemingly believing that if she couldn’t hear her own words no one else could either. “A void of nothingness!”
Alex’s expression turned sympathetic and she immediately deposited her wine glass so she could easily sweep her nearly invulnerable sister into a tight hug. “Kara, these things take time.”
“Too much time.” Kara croaked, all anger vanishing in the wake of shame and despair that followed its path.
“I know.” Alex soothed, resting her cheek on the top of Kara’s head.
Lena continued to pick up pieces and click them into place, the sounds of her work suddenly the only noise once Kara’s cries had receded into steady breathing.
“You’ve been so patient up until now.” Alex murmured, the question obvious even without the mark or emphasis that followed it.
“That was different.” Kara sniffed, marking an end to her outburst before she shifted out of the small ball she had curled herself into - stretching back up into the unbreakable force she’d always been.
Alex backed up a little to give Kara the space she was reclaiming but kept a comforting arm around her sister’s shoulders.
“It’s like…” Kara began to explain, brow furrowed as she took a beat to identify the right words. “I was in a cave for all those months, wandering around in the ridiculous hope of finding a light and then, when I did finally accept that this was my life. That I could be happy enough in that pitch black… I saw the most astounding brightness.” Lena shifted her full focus to the puzzle, aware that Kara was looking at her from her peripheral vision. “I glimpsed the outside and now… all I want is to see it again. To bask in it. I didn’t know it was there but now I do.”
“She’s coming back, Kara.” Alex insisted. “She’s coming back to you.”
“You don’t know that.” Kara chuckled darkly, “She could… she might not want me.”
The malfunction remained awfully quiet at that.
We can make it 40% more efficient , the malfunction declared as the bed she was lying on slowly withdrew from the tube - MRI machine , the malfunction corrected with something that felt like an eyeroll accompanying it.
Kara was waiting for her with the soft, encouraging smile that she always wore when Lena finished her categorisation task. She didn’t even need the malfunction to tell her that Kara looked tired, the continued high emotional effort she was exerting everyday alongside a long Supergirl fight earlier that morning had left her worn and obviously fatigued.
“Well done, Lena.” Kara cheered, always ready with a proud compliment when Lena completed her objective.
Maybe even 43% more efficient if we rewire the connections.
Kara guided her out of the MRI room with a gentle hand on the small of her back, leading her to the lab where Brainy was sitting already studying the results. Kara settled her on a stool at a nearby work table before she fell into the chair closest to Brainy, legs jittering with anxious speed.
Brainy began his standard debrief, flicking up images of a dim brain scan compared to the database they were creating. Lena listened purely because she couldn’t not listen.
“Now see this here.” Brainy began the duo’s regular dissection of data. “This flicker, we’re starting to see this light up more and more.”
It’s there. That’s it.
The malfunction nudged Lena’s gaze to the side where, on the adjacent bench, there were a couple of dismantled solar cells.
Fix it. Make it better.
It wasn’t that the malfunction took control - not like it did for those ten seconds that marked when Kara’s lips made contact with her forehead, her entire brain awash in the emotional stimuli the malfunction inspired - instead it gave an order, set a problem, a challenge. It activated the same pathways of intelligence that Kara kindled when she gave the commands of eat, wash, sleep.
The malfunction’s emotion thrummed in the background, a happy participant but not the driving force.
Lena got to her feet, shuffled over to the new bench, hands reaching out for the components of wire and metal, lifting it to examine it from different angles allowing the malfunction to coo, hum and huff over the oddity. Instinct - shaped by years of toil - had hands reaching for familiar tools that settled into the palm of her hand and flipped, ready to serve, between pale fingers.
“What is it?” Kara inquired, hers and Brainy’s backs still facing away from Lena as she tinkered quietly away at the malfunction’s obsession. Lena was only aware of them because Nia - who had walked slowly over from the corner of the room that she had been taking a covert nap in - was looking from Lena’s unprompted work to the turned backs of her boyfriend and mentor with wide eyes and open mouth.
Brainy hummed thoughtfully, “I can’t be sure but I think it might be-”
“Guys?” Nia croaked, gaze finally settling permanently on Lena who was methodically removing all the connections so she could rewire it more efficiently, as if afraid that looking away for even a beat would make the sight cease to exist.
“Not now, Nia.” Brainy requested gently, not bothering to look around, “See, I’ve been putting in new images for the last few tests of schematics and technological designs-”
Nia let out a strangled sound of outrage, “Seriously, I think you’ll want to see this.”
“In a minute.” Kara replied, her entire focus on the screen that Brainy was talking her through.
Nia’s hands flapped by her sides and she let out a sound of aggrievement that the malfunction would have found funny if it wasn’t focusing on breaking down the solar cell into smaller versions.
“I’ve been stuck on a project that normally I would go to Lena for help with,” Brainy explained, “which got me thinking about how much time we would spend puzzling over science problems together which reminded me of your exercise in activating her memory. I, subsequently, uploaded some of the diagrams into the MRI tester and over the last few-”
“I really think you should see this!” Nia shouted, stamping her foot petulantly; an action that finally had Kara and Brainy whirling around in their chairs.
“Nia, what-” Kara started to say, tone filled with exasperation, before cutting off, her entire body and expression turning stiff.
Lena continued working, aware of the burst of noise of activity that was then followed by a sudden heavy silence, but uninterested in its cause or reacting to it in any way. She had a task and the malfunction was directing her with childish glee.
“Is she?” Kara’s voice was closer, yet so much quieter - barely more audible than an exhaled breath. Lena could feel her warmth radiating near her shoulder, could feel the air vibrating with the way the Kryptonian was trembling like a child that had unwrapped an expensive christmas present they believed was unaffordable and undeserved.
“She just walked over to it and started working.” Nia whispered in answer, seemingly picking up on how fragile this entire moment was.
Brainy, meanwhile, lacked all the hesitancy that the other two were plagued with, moving easily to the other side of the bench where he would toil opposite Lena - the two of them passing ideas and humour back and forth. He picked up one of the smaller solar cells that Lena had started crafting. He admired it for a moment before looking over and making eye contact with Lena for the briefest of moments; she dropped her gaze a half-second later, returning to the task at hand.
“There she is.” Brainy declared proudly.
I knew something was wrong.
That very first game night after Lex. The way you smiled at me wasn’t…
It was how you smiled at board members at your galas, it was how you smiled at people that spat Luthor at you in public and it was how you smiled at your mother and brother. I told myself you were grieving, that you were trying to hide how hurt you were because you don’t like people seeing you as anything other than unbreakable.
I fed myself lies and excuses and justifications.
I gorged myself on fantasies, fattening myself up so I became lethargic and susceptible.
I knew. I just didn’t want to know.
I wonder if it was the same for you? Because I know how smart you are, how brilliant and sharp. My disguise is glasses and a softened personality. You should have seen through it in a heartbeat, so I’m led to think that you didn’t want to see through it.
Which doesn’t make the lies deserved. That’s not where I’m going with this.
You wanted to believe that I was being truthful, more than you wanted to be right.
I wanted to believe that our friendship was still salvageable. If I’m being honest, I wanted to believe that there was still a chance for more. For an us .
There should be something poetic about me receiving a dose of what I did to you, don’t you think? Some balance in the universe.
I disagree with that. Not because I feel like I deserve forgiveness without consequence but because if the universe is truly fair and kind it would have led you down a different path, a better one than the murky passage I had already tread.
If it's any consolation, I will never forgive myself. For the lies but more importantly for what they created.
Lena, you are so good and noble, you saw the worst humanity could offer and turned away from it. You refused to fall into the darkness like your family. You withstood the disparagement of those that wished to paint you with the bloodstains that mark your brother.
Then you met me.
I was the breaking point.
I made the most incredible woman I know, shoulder the light and seek answers in the dark.
I pushed you there. I know that. And it is that act for which I will never forgive myself.
I won’t hold myself accountable for the decisions you made , but I will always regret making you think that there was no hope for you anywhere else.
You inspired me, Lena Luthor and I hope to the very depths of my soul that you will inspire me again.
Because I want to believe the universe is fair again and that it will give you a kinder future than the past you have already endured.
She spent most days at the DEO now, the malfunction buzzing happily with every new problem or conundrum thrown her way; giving her body and brain the objective and goals it had unknowingly required.
Not objectives, not goals. Purpose. We were missing our purpose .
Lena couldn’t deny that. A human mind - a human soul , the malfunction supplied though Lena wasn’t convinced - needed a drive, needed something to work towards. Without one, she was little more than a machine thrown out to rust. It didn’t need to be huge or groundbreaking, but it had to have meaning. Her intelligence ached for a challenge, to be pushed. Like legs that had been stationary on a journey and needed to stretch once given the space to do so.
The malfunction had returned her purpose.
A reason to be rather than merely exist.
Kara would get her up, fed and dressed in the morning before taking her over to the DEO, where Brainy was waiting with a stack of documents and random dismantled pieces of tech. Kara would leave her there, though not without a worried frown and confirmation from the scientist that he would look after her ward. Kara disappeared then, leaving Lena to her work for the morning and afternoon, only returning for lunch and to take her home.
The malfunction fleetingly wondered where their caretaker went during this time. The malfunction’s gift of purpose had allowed it to bring Lena’s mighty intelligence under its sway; and it dedicated a section of this intellect to ruminate on Kara.
She doesn’t work for CatCo anymore. Or at least she clearly hadn’t been during the six - now seven months - that she had been caring for Lena. The role of her caretaker and protector a full time position - Lena was aware enough to know that murmurs of her current state had prompted a sharp increase in attempts on her life, the assassins clearly believing a catatonic Luthor with only a blonde girl as company was an easy target.
She didn’t give up her other job, though.
The malfunction never said it.
Even the minor reference to it, a simple nod or inference, provoked a sharp stab of something vicious that made a faint metallic taste fill Lena’s mouth and her insides twist. The malfunction always turned off when Kara wore her red and blue suit.
The MRI machine varied the photo of the blonde each time. Half the time it was Kara, smiling (something big and toothy, other times soft and crinkly), the other half was the defiant heroine decked in patriotic red and blue. Both caused a pause, though for vastly different reasons. For Kara the malfunction lingered and admired, for Supergirl it sublimated so sharp and fast that Lena was left floundering for a beat, trying to rediscover her footing.
It went dark and silent, filling Lena with an emptiness far worse and suffocating than the void she had been living in before the malfunction came to life.
Lena didn’t like the abyss the malfunction would drown her in when Supergirl was around and it wasn’t until the malfunction stayed, until it reacted that Lena realised she would rather drown than burn.
The next step required a delicate touch, careful manoeuvring to ensure she didn’t burn through the incorrect circuit. Her hands were steady. They never shook anymore, never trembled or hesitated. Every move was certain. Nerves, pressure - they were forgotten factors that couldn’t lay claim to her actions.
The malfunction watched eagerly, she could sense its thrum of excitement, its anxious tittering but it was distant and untouchable - a radio playing in the background. She’d nearly finished, her work complete - a new high-energy stun pistol with reduced delay time between shots on the precipice of completion when-
“Oof - shit, sorry.”
The table jerked, the delicate circuitry shifting, fried and reduced to worthless junk in an instant.
What the fuck was that? The malfunction roared, it's childlike enthusiasm dashed and splattered like an egg dropped by too clumsy - careless - fingertips. Lena could feel its rage, its fury and its irritation like a wildfire burning through her neurons. She could feel the heat even through the metal cage - box - it was stowed in - imprisoned, the malfunction spat derisively baring the teeth it had kept furtively hidden.
It was so agitated that there was no chance of it slipping back to shadowy depths when Lena turned her head to see Supergirl, swaying at the edge of the bench. Her suit was torn, a large slash across her ribcage that was notable by the crimson line where there should have been royal blue. Her face was sooty, her hair bedraggled, eyes heavy with fatigue and her smile painfully forced.
“Kara, you need to be under the sun lamps!” Alex ordered, storming into the room, hands itching at her sides as she practically ran to her sister.
“But-” Kara stammered, blinking rapidly, expression confused and lost, as she looked between her sister and Lena. “I need to take Lena to lunch. I always take Lena to lunch.”
The malfunction’s rage withered, leaving something decaying and bitter. It was still burning crisp and sharp but it was now uncomfortable with the damage it had wrought.
Lena shifted from foot to foot as if she could separate herself from the malfunction, walk away from the horrors it had secreted away. Her movement went unnoticed by the sisters - Kara too dazed to register it, Alex too focused on the hero to be aware of anything else.
“Lena will be fine.” Alex soothed, tentative fingers wrapping around Kara’s wrist and tugging her gently towards the door.
“But-” Desperate blue eyes met disinterested green.
Don’t look to me for salvation . The malfunction warned. Don’t look at me with Kara’s face whilst wearing the uniform of a liar.
“I’ll make sure she eats.” Alex promised, guiding her sister out of the room - the door to the lab closing with a quiet snick behind them.
The malfunction stewed and boiled. Lena acknowledged the waves spreading forth from it, anger at the disruption to their work followed in quick concession by worry and guilt which merely incensed the malfunction further. It was a negative feedback loop; sickening and vengeful. Lena felt something like foreboding in the pit of her stomach as she watched the malfunction throw itself against the cage that was now too small to contain the plethora of emotions it was experiencing.
She hoped the cage would hold, hoped it would never burst forth, hoped it would never lay claim to everything inside of her but it was a ridiculous, futile hope.
The cage was weakening, the chains pulled taut and straining, the malfunction would no longer slip into the abyss, and would no longer provide Lena the quiet she had grown accustomed to.
The malfunction no longer retreated. It was always there now. Hissing and spitting like an aggravated cat when Supergirl would appear, shoulders back, hands on hips, chin tilted up and smiling self-assured. It would purr and nuzzle like a kitten seeking warmth when Kara cared for her with gentle touches, dopey smiles and soft blue eyes. It would jump and shirk and twist and mutate when a Supergirl/Kara hybrid was presented, unable to reconcile the creature into a format it understood. The emotions when presented with the hybrid would snap and crackle, flitting from one to another - Lena would watch helplessly from her fortress as the inferno of emotions threatened to cross the moat and catch on her stone walls.
It would happen one day. One day soon.
The malfunction was gaining more and more territory, overpowering each control point with either a stab of fury, a stroke of attraction, a sneer of contempt or a flutter of affection.
Lena could only watch silently, wondering what the malfunction would claim next.
Change back. The malfunction seethed as Supergirl wandered around the kitchen, having just flown back from her latest hero-save.
“Rao, I’m tired.” Supergirl groaned, her shoulders deflating to reveal her fatigue in the sanctuary of Lena’s home before pouring herself a large glass of water to glug loudly (further incensing the malfunction’s already fried nerves after listening anxiously to the news covering Supergirl’s recent rescue).
It was no surprise that Supergirl was on the verge of exhaustion, she had been going non-stop for three days. A recent alien ship had crashed in the desert and a new villainous splinter cell had managed to pillage the technology therein, prompting a sudden wave of violent glee and mayhem that stretched Supergirl’s abilities and DEO resources to breaking point. Lena was in the lab everyday working studiously away on whatever they put in front of her, malfunction directing whilst also gathering information on what was really happening.
Despite how run ragged the kryptonian was, she was always on time for Lena’s regimented needs, ducking out of fights for a fleeting couple of minutes to provide Lena food or place a kiss to her forehead before bed. The malfunction growled and blushed at each act of devotion, never sure what the correct reaction was.
Rao… I always thought that was a made up word from your childhood. The malfunction mused with noticeable disdain, one of the few times over the past few days that a winner between resentment and sympathy had been determined. It’s your God though, isn’t it? Didn’t He ever teach you about honesty and truth or is that not a hallmark of Kryptonian culture?
“I reek.” Kara whined, nose scrunching up after foolishly upon taking a hearty sniff of the shoulder fabric of her super suit. “I hate chemical fires. They take ages to be safely put out and I always end up stinking for what feels like days after.”
I wouldn’t know, you‘ve never told me about it before. The malfunction remarked haughtily, soaking itself in bitter memories of falsehoods.
Supergirl smiled at Lena proudly, eyes crinkling in that special way that only Kara’s eyes would do. “I bet you could come up with a way to extinguish them and help burn victims all in one go.”
I bet I could too. The malfunction agreed readily, though the compliment did little to ease it’s loathing. Is that why you want me back so much? A genius at your beck and call to solve problems? Little more than a tool. Is that my sole purpose? Is that what this is all about?
“Are you hungry?” Supergirl inquired, like she did every night regardless of never hearing an answer in return. The hero finished her drink and stowed it carefully away in the dishwasher, using the time taken to complete the action to provide Lena the beat to respond if this was a normal conversation.
It is dinner time and this regimented way of living has made me dependent on sustenance at regular intervals. Has made me dependent on you .
“I was thinking of Chinese for dinner tonight.” Kara chirped, phone appearing in her hand with a flash of speed, already scrolling through the options on the website as Lena watched her with a steadily narrowing gaze from the other side of the kitchen counter.
You’ve got to be shitting me. The malfunction whispered in venomous disbelief. We’ve had chinese three nights in a row . Aren’t you sick of it?
“Four loads of potstickers, chicken chop suey and-” Kara murmured into the quiet kitchen, finger stabbing after voicing each item to add it decisively to the cart before pausing, forefinger hovering expectantly as she asked, “Do you want sweet and sour?”
No . The malfunction declared.
“No.” Lena answered.
Kara nodded acceptingly, scrolling further down to examine the other options. “Okay, what do you fancy in-” Kara cut out immediately, phone clattering on the granite countertop, head jerking upwards to reveal round awestruck blue eyes. “Holy fuck.”
“You’re up and ready.” Kara cheered like an overly enthusiastic preschool teacher who had finally achieved the impossible task of getting the most troublesome child in her class to stop eating glue at breaktime.
Lena glanced down at the black pencil skirt and white shirt she had pulled on, the objectives of ‘wake’ and ‘dress’ ingrained so deeply now that the malfunction had been allowed to give the commands where once only Kara’s voice had been accepted.
It saved time, was more efficient - assured the emotional passenger inside of Lena that was steadily growing its own mutiny.
“Yes.” Lena replied simply, the malfunction had guided her through utilising her vocal chords to reply to remarks and instructions. The malfunction would even take control itself when asked for an opinion or preference, but its answers were always limited, perfunctory and objective. Lena had managed to filter out the malfunction’s emotional flairs. Had conceded control, allowing slack into the chains so that they would not strain and break.
“That’s amazing. Incredible.” Kara grinned, cheeks glowing and smile stretched so wide that it appeared on the verge of breaking its fleshy constraints.
The malfunction merely rolled its eyes internally at how their caretaker had become a walking thesaurus of positivity since Lena had allowed her tongue to twist and air to vibrate her vocal chords.
“Breakfast?” Kara suggested, rocking excitedly backwards and forwards on her heels.
Lena nodded in reply and, without prompt, strode out of the bedroom and sought out the usual stool that Kara would guide her to every morning. Kara followed her every footstop, hands twisting together in front of her body to prevent the now standard urge to gently cup Lena’s elbow and guide her to her various destinations.
“What would you like?” Kara inquired excitedly from behind the kitchen counter.
This was Kara’s favourite part of any of her exchanges with Lena. The moments and words that solely belonged to the malfunction. Likes, dislikes and interests. Flashes of personality that Lena could no longer suppress - Kara adored the lack of impartiality, the flair of something outside the hollow robotic realm that Lena had inhabited for the last eight months.
“Fruit.” Lena replied, tone exceedingly neutral though you would think from Kara’s reaction that she had sung it joyously. “Porridge.”
“Right. Great. Fantastic.” The kryptonian twirled around instantly upon hearing the request, super fast hands reaching, grabbing and swiping to fulfil her every demand.
The malfunction bared its teeth at the display of power, brewing and snarling in the dark unknown to the exuberant blonde. Lena merely sat stoically ignoring the feeling of dread that was now as much her constant companion as the malfunction.
“That’s wrong.” Lena remarked a couple of days later in the DEO lab that had become her shared workspace with the coulan.
Brainy blinked up at her curiously; it was still rare for Lena to speak unprompted but the malfunction was now allowed more room to run and vent in the sanctity of this lab with the calm Brainy, that had caused little harm, as the only recipient.
“The heat will burn through the casing,” Lena explained succinctly, gesturing mechanically towards the optimised power source that Brainy cradled in his hands, “we need coolant or heat resistant parts.”
“Uh… of course.” Brainy replied, placing the power source back down gingerly as Lena returned almost immediately to her own project. “I knew that, by the way.”
The malfunction smirked and it was in that fraction of a second - Lena’s logic functions caught on her own work (a staff which Nia could channel her dream energy through in combat) and the malfunction still in possession of her voice - that an amused, teasing answer escaped past her lips, lacking the complete neutrality that marked her speech pattern. “If you say so.”
Brainy inhaled sharply but did not reply for a long moment, and when he did his voice was a fond whisper, “I missed you, old friend.”
Lena felt her brow wrinkle in time with the malfunction’s own reaction and yet again more words seeped through her logic filters without inspection. “Is that what we are?” Lena - the malfunction - curiously asked.
“Are we not?” Brainy responded and there was something hurt and aching to his words that made the malfunction pained, confused and most importantly honest.
“I don’t know.”
I imagined it.
You saying those words to me. A thousand and one different ways, if not more.
I would think about it happening over a movie night - you turning to face me halfway through Moulin Rouge (your secret favourite, no matter how much you pretend it's some artistic indie that you yawn through) and catching me staring. I was always staring. Not like creepily constant. More like sneaking glances. Capturing those moments when you would feel safe enough to make yourself small and curl up under my arm and rest your head on my shoulder.
You would catch me looking. Our gazes would hold for a beat, then two and then… you would smile. Soft and fond. And you would say it.
I imagined it would happen when I woke up on a sunbed after a fight I wasn’t convinced I would win. I would wake and your green eyes would be the first thing I would see. You would hold my hand and stroke my hair - you would make all the pain disappear with those simple touches. Then you would say it.
I’ve imagined you saying it after game night, just us two laughing about the evening's antics as we tidy up - being silly and young and then turn all too serious as you say those words I’ve been dying to hear.
I’ve imagined it at those galas you can’t stand, finally discovering the courage to ask you to dance, to pull you close to me and kiss the side of your head. You would whisper it into my ear.
I’ve imagined it at Al’s bar - neither of us are drunk, just pressed close in a booth with a bolster of liquid courage.
I’ve imagined it when waking up in each other’s arms at a sleepover - that’s one of my favourites - we’re already curled together intimately and you never want to leave afterwards.
I never imagined it the way it happened though.
The way you said those three words… like they were a burden. Like it hurts .
Like loving me hurts you.
A thousand and one scenarios, and I never imagined that.
The war ended with a fallout that could rival only the opening of Pandora’s box.
Lena knew it was coming, knew that the malfunction would assimilate fully and take control, overwhelming the floodwalls that had once stood tall and unbreakable but had steadily been reduced to rubble by a single tear two months prior, following a declaration of love that was the equivalent of a battlecry.
Lena even knew exactly what it was that would produce victory. It was the only thing that made the malfunction erupt more devastatingly than the yellowstone supervolcano.
The video diaries.
Created during the malfunction’s last reign when it had lost all semblance of reason. Visual evidence of her soul bared and bleeding; personal and private .
Confessions and declarations that her beloved caretaker reviewed endlessly every night. Words whispered in secret that Kara listened to without permission.
The malfunction cowered in shame whilst simultaneously roaring with the need to dole out a bloodthirsty vengeance.
With every concession Lena made, every piece of territory relinquished, she knew there would be a day when a video viewing would result in her final defeat.
And finally it happened.
Kara’s favourite video - if favourite was a fair term for the video that the caretaker would watch ceaselessly until her breaths were mere hiccups over her sobs and her cheeks and eyes were a red puffy mess - playing on loop whilst Lena snapped puzzle piece after puzzle piece into her incomplete jigsaw.
“Kara… I…” The malfunction murmured from the screen of the laptop that Kara huddled over like she could shield it - past Lena - from all the horrors she had suffered. “I love you.”
Lena felt her jaw clench and her fingers tremble as the malfunction inside her snarled at hearing her truths laid bare.
“I wish…” Video diary Lena whispered brokenly, the slightest crack to her voice far more vulnerable than the admission of love previously. A sigh, light yet infinitely heavy, followed. The defeat was obvious in the simple word that came next, “Nevermind…” A self-deprecating chuckle and then, “it doesn’t matter.”
A chain snapped then but the others held strong.
At least they would have if Kara hadn’t done what she did next.
Lena’s peripheral vision allowed her to watch as Kara subtly wiped a single tear that had escaped, tenderly close the laptop lid and get to her feet. Her caretaker, best friend - enemy, loved one - approached with a wistful smile, blue eyes checking over Lena’s body unaware of how her mask of neutrality was on the precipice of splintering apart.
“Hey,” Kara breathed; the malfunction stilled for a beat listening attentively, “I… I love you too.”
SNAP. The chains ripped apart like they were little more than wet tissue paper. The flood gates were mere ankle-high obstacles in the face of the tsunami that swept through Lena.
And just like that… the malfunction reclaimed its throne. The malfunction reclaimed the sought after title of Lena .
“STOP IT! STOP IT! STOP IT!” Lena screamed, hands curled into painful fists as she stood up abruptly, chair flung back and puzzle pieces scattered across the floor.
The gasp of shock was Kara’s only reaction; the kryptonian seizing up on the spot.
“Do you have any idea what you are doing to me?!” Lena demanded, fist pounding the table until it ached though it barely took the edge of the tornado of extremes she was experiencing. “Any concept of how you are ripping me apart?!”
Kara stuttered, jaw moving up and down uselessly, wide blue eyes a mix of amazement and panicky fear. “I-... I just want to help you.”
“By what?” Lena spat; lip curling in the way she had been unable to produce for months except, now that she had the ability to do so, she couldn’t have loathed it more. The cage and the chains, a sanctuary that Kara had chipped away at utterly uncaring of what she was destroying in the process. “Bringing back my misery, my loneliness, my self-hatred? Because that’s what you’re doing. I was fine , I was untroubled, I was free . Free from everything that had ever hurt me.”
“You were also free from joy… from love.” Kara shook her head, trying to catch up with what was happening, fingers reaching out as if to make contact with Lena even as her eyes watered at the hatred being directed towards her. This can’t have been the reunion Kara envisaged and Lena hated how that made her heart sink, how Kara’s tears prompted her own.
“What joy, Kara?” Lena questioned ruthlessly, arm sweeping in a wide arch as if the lack of happiness was present in the space between them. “What love? My life has had none of those things.”
Kara’s expression could only be described as agonised . “That’s not true-”
“Isn’t it?” Lena chuckled cruelly, veering towards hysterical as she remembered her life in the heartbreaking clarity that only came with an emotional filter. “The mother who loved me drowned right before my eyes. The family I was gifted with , epitomised cruelty and neglect. They treated love like it was currency for barter, something to be traded and stolen and broken and disparaged . Where was my love then?”
Kara ducked her head, eyes screwing up shut at the potency of Lena’s words.
“My brother, who I thought the world of, viewed me as little more than a pet to play tricks on. Then the one man who ever… Jack. I gave him up. I sacrificed him. For you .”
Kara flinched but remained stockstill receiving bodyblow after bodyblow like the girl of steel she was.
Lena continued to shout until her throat felt stripped raw by the sandpaper words she spewed. “Because you came into my life; this beacon brimming with love, hope and joy… and I thought finally… Finally, something good. The universe finally was giving me something beautiful and good and kind. But it was all a fucking lie to you. I was the pawn, the dupe… the thing you and your friends used as your whipping dog. You could give me affection in one form and I would be so grateful and then you could shout and scold in your other guise with no consequences. You were cruel. But you were - are - also so kind. So thoughtful and dedicated.”
Lena cut out then, choking on sobs that wracked her body and made her ribs heave with the unfamiliar effort.
“Lena,” Kara soothed tender and desperate, even through her own cries, “let me explain-”
“I hate you.” Lena announced; the viciousness of the statement enough to bring Supergirl to her knees - hands still hovering in the air before her, still hoping for contact, for connection. “I really do.” Lena wrapped her arms around her middle, pretending they were Kara’s even as her body felt physically sick at the concept of being touched by the kryptonian. “The worst part, though,” Lena whispered, the anger ebbing to allow the sorrow and heartbreak to sweep in, “is that I love you. I love you just as much as I hate you.”
Kara’s hands dropped then, fell limply by her sides as her expression warred with itself.
Good , Lena thought. Good . Because now she understands. Understands a fraction of what Lena had been feeling for years.
“I look at you and I feel everything .” Lena revealed, nails digging harshly into the thin skin of her ribs leaving half moon crescents on either side. “ Everything. Do you understand that? You have tainted the entire spectrum of emotions that I am capable of. I look at you and I don’t know what to feel. It’s too much. I can’t… you’re too much .“
“And it's ripping you apart.” Kara murmured brokenly, the hope that marked her character above all else extinguishing in an instant as the realisation dawned. “I’m destroying you.”
“No. You destroyed me a long time ago.” Lena corrected, sobs eased back to nothing leaving a hollow ache that was so much worse than the fury, than the sharp hurt that came with initial sorrow. “Which you already know,” Lena sneered in an attempt to revitalise the anger that had sustained her, “because you watch the fucking evidence of it over and over again every night. You watch my self-destruction for your own catharsis. My private thoughts yet again laid fucking bare for your amusement.”
Kara rocked back on her knees, winded by the accusation, face turning pale with horror. “That was never-”
“But I also know you cry over it.” Lena added, unable to stop herself. Her emotions were all there at the forefront and all wished to have their day in the sun. They were all free now and all of them were determined to never go back on a leash. “That you murmur I love you too after each one and I don’t know what to do with that… Don’t know how to reconcile the extremes you make me feel.” Lena sighed, exhaustion blurring the edges of everything and making her shoulders curl forward in a way that her impeccable posture of the last eight months had never allowed. “I don’t know what to do but more importantly I don’t know what to feel. I just know that when I’m around you… I wish I felt nothing. ”
Chapter 3: Hopefulness
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.