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She closes her eyes as Clark smiles down at her, his hand on her shoulder. He’s chatting with Eliza, explaining how the summer would work, why he wants to spend at least a few months with Kara. Yet Kara has stopped listening long ago—around the time Alex had fled upstairs, looking vaguely angry about the arrangement, ignoring Eliza’s protests that Kal-El is Kara’s only living family.

Her eyes remain close as she thinks about the first time she and Alex connected, the first time her foster sister from Earth actually feltlike a sister. (It’s after the whole flying incident, after Jeremiah goes to work for the DEO, after Kara spends months ensconced in the school’s library, her only friend the librarian.) She’d been missing her parents—the again goes unsaid—and Alex had found her on the roof, staring up at the sky. Wordlessly, she’d taken a seat beside Kara, hooked their arms together, and asked in a quiet voice if Kara wanted to talk about Krypton.

(It had been the first time Alex had done anything other than beg Kara to act like a human, please.)

Somehow, this opportunity to spend time with Clark—something she would have jumped at even a few months ago—isn’t a tempting offer. It’s not that Clark is older(he’s just graduated, he says, he’s just found a job at a newspaper) or that she can’t reconcile the man in front of her with the baby she knew back on Krypton, it’s that when she first landed on Earth, her only family said it was too dangerous for her to grow up with him and now he’s offering her a place for a summer. She’s scared that she’ll grow to like being with Clark—with someone like her, someone who is a part of who she is, a part of her past, a part of her parents—and she’ll forget the way it had felt to watch him fly off, that she’ll forget Eliza’s warmth when she hugged Kara, and told her no, no it wasn’t that Clark didn’t want her, didn’t need her.

(She fears she’ll forget the feeling of being abandoned, only to be abandoned all over again.)

When she opens her eyes, it’s Jeremiah who is standing in front of her, a smile on his face as he reaches out and straightens her glasses. He teases her about it, the way she lets the glasses slip down the bridge of her nose, forgetting entirely about them. He tells her it makes her look like a younger Eliza and, every time, the comment makes Kara feel warm. (Because the Danvers are her family now, and she takes pride in being like them, looking like them—being one of them.) Still, she knows what his smile means: she’ll be spending the summer with Clark, but come fall, she’ll be welcomed back in the Danvers’ home with open arms.

(She doesn’t say goodbye, not to Jeremiah, Eliza, or Alex. She just hugs them, as tightly as she can manage without hurting them.

And judging from the way they hug back, they understand everything she can’t bring herself to say.) 

 

x

 

“It’s not much,” Clark says sheepishly as he helps her unpack. His apartment in Metropolis is small, consisting of two tiny bedrooms, a dingy bathroom, and a kitchen Kara is a little afraid to enter. He doesn’t own a television (there’s really not even a living area he can put the TV in) but there’s a desk situated near the window, where a computer and several stacks of paper rest. He rubs the back of his neck as he watches her run her fingers over the sheets of her new bed.

“It’s nice.”

“Kara, I—” He never finishes what he wants to say. Both their heads turn at the sound of a high pitched scream—Kara assumes it’s from several miles away judging from how faint it is—and Clark gives her an awkward smile. “I’ll be back soon, okay? Just make yourself at home.” Don’t leave, he’s telling her. Don’t draw attention to yourself, he’s saying.

He waits until she nods before he’s gone.

Kara doesn’t seem him again until the next morning, as she eats her cereal and reads a book she brought from home. (Home, of course, being the Danvers.)

 

x

 

Her favorite days quickly become the times Clark takes her out of Metropolis—the days they go soaring over mountains and rivers and stop and rest at waterfalls because look at that. He spends most of his time attempting to show her how to reign in her powers, to fit in, but if she smiles just right or softens him up with stories from Krypton, Clark caves and they go somewhere distant and quiet where she’s allowed to soak up the yellow sun’s rays and just do, pushing her powers to their limits.

(When they race, flying miles above the ground, she beats Clark handily, laughing when he rolls his eyes and says it’s because she’s smaller and faces less air resistance.

They argue and bicker and joke like they’ve grown up together when Clark cheats and pretends to be hurt when she slaps his shoulder in retaliation.)

But Clark has work, and more importantly, he’s Superman, so these days are rare and in-between. By the end of her first month with Clark, she’s bored out of her mind, wishing a quick trip back to Alex isn’t out of the question (“You’d be seen, and the point of all this is learning how to avoid using your powers,” Clark tries explaining to her one night as they eat takeout for the fourth time in a row—this time Clark’s favorite: potstickers from the restaurant down the street).

In other words, as much as she hates meeting new people (she still isn’t quite used to this planet and there are still some things she doesn’t understand, which makes her anxious), she’s excitedabout the outing to Lex Luthor’s home, right outside Metropolis.

She doesn’t quite care about Clark’s explanation that Lex is an old friend but that he’s unaware of the fact that Clark is also Superman. Honestly, she doesn’t really pay attention to Clark’s mumbling until he ceases his warnings to not use her powers under any circumstancesand tells her that Lex’s little sister—a girl only a few years older than Kara, adopted like Kara, shy like Kara—is visiting for the summer, and could she please be nice to Lena while Clark and Lex chat? In fact, she’s so thrilled at the prospect of making a friend that she doesn’t notice Clark rolling his eyes when she nods along without listening to anything else he says.

Unfortunately, the Lena Luthor Kara imagines is a far cry from the Lena Luthor she’s introduced to at Luthor Manor.

Lex is charming enough. He smiles at her, shakes her hand professionally, claims that any friend of Clark Kent is a friend of his, asks her if she wants anything to drink or eat, and then dutifully ignores her shaking head and sends someone off to get her a snack. He then leads her to the garden, points Lena out, and tells Kara in a conspiratorial whisper that Lena is fond of flowers and wouldn’t that be the greatest ice breaker, before he and Clark head back into the Manor in order to take care of whatever they’re doing.

With a sigh and a muttered prayer to Rao, Kara steels her shoulders and heads over to Lena is sitting on the grass (a book in her lap, flingers idly thumbing over the pages), holding out her hand like she’s seen Jeremiah and Clark do, her best smile in place, before loudly saying, “Hi! I’m Kara, I like your flowers!” She gets absolutely nothing for her efforts, in fact, it almost seems as if Lena hasn’t even heard her. Clearing her throat, Kara decides to try again. “Hello, I’m Kara Danvers! I’m staying with Clark! I really like your flowers!” Her heart pounds her in her chest as once again there’s no response. She’s just about to try a third time when Lena turns her page, her eyes flickering up towards Kara, one eyebrow rising.

“I’m not hard of hearing,” she says shortly, “and they’re not myflowers. They’re my mother’s.” This is apparently a great deal of information, because she looks at Kara expectantly, and when Kara just blinks, her mouth opening and closing repeatedly, Lena lets out a huff—Kara didn’t even know people on Earth did that other than in movies—and returns to her book.

Kara spends the next hour or so on the other side of the garden, sipping at the apple juice she’d been given as she waits for Clark to finish his business.

She doesn’t bother telling Lena goodbye when they leave.

 

x

 

She doesn’t think she’ll ever see Lena again (not that she quite minds that arrangement), so she’s understandably unhappy when Clark guides the dark-haired girl into their tiny apartment, fidgeting with his glasses as he does so.

“Lex’s company has been targeted by a group of very dangerous men,” Clark explains quickly, his eyes on Kara and not on the look of disgust that passes over Lena’s face as she inspects the apartment. “Lena’s going to stay here while I attempt to contact Superman.” Kara wants to laugh, really she does, but judging from the look on Clark’s face, this is not the time. “Watch over her, okay Kara? I’m counting on you.” Lena looks incredulous at the comment, but Kara hears what Clark is trying to say but can’t. He’s saying, don’t get caught. He’s saying, don’t let her see. He’s saying, use your powers if you must.

So Kara nods.

Once they’re alone, Kara has every intention of not saying a word—maybe only something scathing and rude like what Lena had done to her—until she sees the worried expression on Lena’s face, the nervous way she keeps tugging on her shirt. She can’t exactly help the words that come out of her mouth.

“It’s going to be okay.”

“You don’t know that,” Lena responds, looking just as shocked as Kara feels at her words.

“Clark will find Superman and your brother will be fine. I’m sure of it.”

“Do you live with him?” Lena asks, ignoring Kara’s comment. She would have assumed Lena isn’t worried anymore about what’s happening outside the tiny apartment if it wasn’t for the continued tugging of the shirt and the way Lena’s eyes keep flickering towards the window, as if she expects to see a streak of red any moment. “With Clark, I mean.”

“For the summer. My adoptive family thought it’d be good for me.” She pauses, wondering how to word this without giving away everything about Krypton. “My parents knew Clark, they’d want me to know him too.”

“Your parents are…”

“Dead? Yes.”

“I don’t know about mine. I barely remember them.” She jerks, as if just realizing what she’s been saying, and her eyes flit away from the window to Kara’s face before settling on the ground. “Can I get a glass of water?” she asks, still not meeting Kara’s gaze, and there’s a moment—short and tempting—that Kara wants to pressure Lena into saying more. She wants to know more, wants to know if you ever stop missing the thing you no longer have, wants to know if it ever stops hurting, but she doesn’t know how to word it without coming off aggressive and nosy—two things Alex has assured her won’t make her any friends. So instead, Kara merely nods and heads towards the kitchen.

She misses the way Lena’s shoulders slump as she passes by.

 

x

 

Hours pass and Clark’s still not back, so Kara finds the wad of cash he hides under a loose floorboard (his emergency cash, which she’s not supposed to touch, though the lack of food is definitely an emergency), and she and Lena order pizza. They don’t talk much, but Lena does eventually admit she goes to boarding school, that she was supposed to go home for the summer, but her parents had gone off on some vacation and forgotten to tell her (the they didn’t tell me on purposegoes unsaid, but Kara definitely hears it), so she’s spending her time off with Lex instead (the I prefer this anywayis also unsaid, but Kara hears that too). After gentle prodding from Lena, Kara admits that she doesn’t like Metropolis—doesn’t like the weather, the traffic, the distinct lack of beaches, the loudness. She shrugs as she admits that she’d hoped being with Clark would be different.

(I wanted a family, she doesn’t say.

I found them in the Danvers, not in my cousin, she doesn’t say.)

They don’t talk much, but after several games of something Lena calls ‘Go Fish’ (looking at Kara with wide, disbelieving eyes when Kara says she doesn’t know what that is), they giggle as they eat and gravitate closer, ending up falling asleep together on the couch.

And that’s how Clark finds them several hours later: Kara’s head resting on Lena’s shoulder, playing cards scattered over their laps, their hands tangled between them.

 

x

 

“Kara, you know…you know I didn’t abandon you, don’t you?” Clark asks one night. They’re having potstickers once again, and though Kara hadn’t liked them initially, she thinks she’s gradually warming up to them, snatching the last one before Clark can reach out to grab it. “When I found you…” He trails off, clearly searching for the right words. “You needed a family. A proper one. Like the one I had with the Kents.”

“I understand,” Kara says, nodding. She doesn’t, not really. Her mother sent her down to Earth to be with Kal-El. So why is it that a delay in that plan led to her losing the only blood relative she has? Clark must know her better than he thinks he does, or else she’s not as great a liar as she likes to think, because his face falls and he leans forward, eyes searching hers. He looks so sad, and Kara wonders if he has any right—after all, she was the one who lost everything only to lose one more thing when she arrived on Earth.

“Kara, I’m not—I just—you’re a teenager. I’m not equipped to raise a teenager. We’re family, but you deserve better than what I could give you.”

“I didn’t ask for better,” Kara says quietly, slowly shoving her plate away from her, the last potsticker going untouched. “I just asked for you.”

Clark doesn’t have a response to that, and Kara spends the rest of her night in her tiny bedroom, eventually drifting to sleep to the sound of Clark’s fingers typing away at his computer.

(That night she dreams of the Danvers and of Lena, of birds and of waterfalls, and that ache in her chest seems to subside—even if it’s only for what feels like a moment.)

 

x

 

“If your family showed up tomorrow and said they were sorry for sending you away and wanted you back, would you go with them?” Kara asks, interrupting Lena’s story about one of the girl’s at her boarding school, causing Lena to scrunch up her nose and purse her lips. (She’s not upset at the interruption, but at the topic Kara has chosen to go back to—family, Kara’s learned, is a sensitive subject for everyone, not just for herself.) They’re out in the garden once more, though this time Kara has her head in Lena’s lap, allowing the older girl to play with her hair as they chat. Lena’s fingers cease their movements.

“No,” Lena says resolutely and without hesitation.

“Even if they sent you away for your own good?”

“Even then.”

“Why?”

Lena looks down at Kara, a wry smile appearing on her lips as she leans down and presses the lightest of kisses on Kara’s forehead. Once she straightens, she begins to play with Kara’s hair once more. “Because I have Lex now. He’s my family.”

Kara’s eyes flutter shut both at the kiss and the soft admission and she thinks of Jeremiah and Eliza and Alex and she thinks she understands what Lena means. “And if you left, we might not be able to stay friends.”

“You think we’re friends?”

“Aren’t we?” Kara asks, eyes opening and focusing on Lena in terror that she’s said the wrong thing. The smile on Lena’s face makes her relax.

“We are.” She twirls a lock of Kara’s hair around her finger, eyes glancing down Kara’s face. “Though I can’t imagine that there’s a place on this planet that would prevent me from staying friends with you.”

Kara relaxes, and when she hears Clark call for her, she and Lena both stay still, later claiming that they just hadn’t heard their names.

(Clark doesn’t believe it for a second, and he teases Kara about losing her superhearing as they head back to his apartment.

Kara doesn’t care; when she closes her eyes, she thinks she can still feel Lena’s hands in her hair, still hear Lena’s soft voice drifting over her.)

 

x

 

As the summer draws to a close, Kara spends less time with Clark and more time with Lena, something Clark seems secretly relieved by. Instead of racing through the sky, Kara spends her afternoons watching television with Lena. Instead of learning how to control her powers, Kara attempts to sketch Lena as Lena reads silently in a large chair.

Instead of waterfalls, there’s the garden that Lena is fond of despite what she says.

And while Kara wouldn’t trade the time she spends with Lena for anything, the day she’s set to return to the Danvers arrives alarmingly quickly, and Kara isn’t quite sure how she can say goodbye to yet another person she’s come to care for. Though while Kara decides the best course of action is remaining upbeat and cheerful despite the tightness in her chest, Lena becomes sullen and withdrawn, her shoulders hunching when Kara moves to hug her farewell.

“It’s not goodbye, Lena. Not really,” Kara says earnestly, taking Lena’s hands in her own and thinking it a good sign when Lena doesn’t immediately pull away. “We can write and call each other, and make plans to see each other when we’re off. You’re my best friend. Who else will beat me at Go Fish?”

Lena snorts despite herself and Kara seizes the opportunity to pull Lena into a tight hug—taking great care in not hurting the other girl—trying hard not to be weird and breathe Lena in. “So you’re promising not to just disappear?” Lena clarifies.

“Absolutely. I hate magic. I would never disappear.” Kara feels a swell of warmth and pride when her comment makes Lena laugh again and press her face into Kara’s neck.

“Go easy on Clark,” Lena says softly, well aware of his presence, his eyes fixed determinedly on the ceiling. “He cares about you, even if he doesn’t know how to take care of you.” She’s whispering so that he doesn’t hear, and Kara has no way to tell Lena that it’s a lost cause.

“He can barely take care of himself,” Kara agrees, smiling when she can hear Clark forcibly quell a protest. “But I know his heart is in the right place.” She feels Lena nod and tries not to let her disappointment show when she pulls away, her eyes suspiciously watery.

“I’m going to miss you, Kara Danvers.”

“It is cheesy to say I’ll probably miss you more?”

“Yes it is,” Lena says, and to Kara’s surprise, she leans forward and presses a light kiss to Kara’s cheek, ears bright red as she pulls away. “But it’s also sweet.”

(They hug again, and when Kara thinks on it while she and Clark fly back home—home being the Danvers—she realizes that Lena had not once uttered the word ‘goodbye.’

It makes her smile.)

 

x

 

Saying her farewells to Clark is different. For one, her heart doesn’t pound in her chest when Clark pulls her into a hug, and for another, she doesn’t feel the need to commit his smell to memory. Instead, she just basks in his warmth and the safety she feels whens she’s around him, and she tries to pretend that the feeling deep in her throat is a sob threatening to break free and not hurt at being left behind again.

“I’ll see you soon, Kara,” he tells her with his signature grin, reaching out to ruffle her hair. “And if you ever need anything, I’ll be here. We’re family.”

She nods in response, but she’s not quite sure just how much she believes the comment until much later, when Eliza has finished gushing over having her back and asks her what she wants to eat, and there’s only one thing Kara really wants.

“Potstickers and pizza,” she says, and that ache in her chest is soothed.  

 

xXx Part Two xXx

 

Life on Earth gets easier.

(For the most part, at least. She still gets confused about certain terms and slang, she still finds herself wrinkling her nose at the new sounds, tastes, and smells of this planet, and she still misses her mother and father, the ebb and flow of her sorrow sometimes taking her by surprise as it laps against her chest and threatens to consume her entirely before Alex pulls her out of her despair. It’s easier to breathe, she finds, when she’s with the Danvers.)

Jeremiah and Eliza are particularly proud of how utterly ordinaryshe can pretend to be, to the point that she’s practically invisible to the other students at her school, to the cashier at the grocery store, even to the dentist who spent twenty minutes raving about her perfect teeth the first and last time she went to see him.

She’s just your average teenager—unable to fly, unable to see through walls, unable to stop a semi with her bare hands. Kara Danvers is normal, thank you very much, and normal means after a few months of correspondence, Lena stops writing back, and she doesn’tfly over to see what’s wrong, to try and talk to Lena and fix whatever has broken.

She merely accepts it and moves on.

(Clark invites her to Metropolis the following summer, but Kara can control her powers now and she’s no longer desperate for the safety and familiarity he represents—in fact, she wants nothing to do with him. So though she’s tempted to say yes just for the chance to see Lena again, she declines Clark’s offer, and she and her cousin stop talking entirely.)

 

x

 

A phone call. That’s all they get, a cursory phone call and a few disingenuous platitudes (which Kara only hears because of her superhearing, glad that Alex doesn’t have to listen to it). One call and Earth, which had just started to feel like solid ground beneath her feet, crumbles around her, this time taking Eliza and Alex down as well.

(She doesn’t know what to do. She’s dealt with this, with the loss of one’s entire world. It’s a weight that constantly tried to drag her under, a weight she struggles with even now, after the Danvers took on some of the burden by taking her in. She can’t tell Alex and Eliza that it gets better, because she doesn’t know if it does. And she certainly can’t tell them it’ll be all right, because experience has shown that to be false.

So she stays quiet as the bright, bubbly, warmDanvers home becomes cold and dark.

She stays quiet and merely holds Alex’s hand when she cries herself to sleep.)  

 

x

 

They have a funeral.

The casket that gets lowered into the ground is empty, but that doesn’t stem the silent tears that stream down Eliza’s face.

(Alex rushes off as soon as the first rose is tossed into the grave, but Kara says behind, murmuring a prayer to Rao, asking him to take Jeremiah into his light. Eliza hears this and she gets to one knee, holding Kara by the elbows.

“He thought of you as a daughter, you know that, right?” she says, waiting for Kara to nod. “I do too, Kara. I always will.” She pulls Kara into a tight embrace before getting back to her feet and taking Kara’s hand. They leave the others who’ve gathered to celebrate Jeremiah Danvers’ life behind in search of Alex. When they find her, the three of them travel to the beach and watch the sunset.

And Kara wonders if every human has the quiet strength of Eliza and Alex Danvers or if that’s a quality that unique to them.)

 

x

 

She doesn’t like high school.

In truth, it’s not the studying or the grades or the examinations that annoy her. It’s the other teenagers. Where Alex is patient and kind, where Lena was soft and a little distant, her classmates are loud, obnoxious, cruel, and unnecessarily obsessed with tormenting her. It had been so much simpler to disappear, to be invisible, the previous year—something about high school makes her stand out in a way she’s not used to, tossed into the limelight despite her best efforts.

“Hey, Danvers!”

Kara closes her eyes, hoping against hope that he’s talking to Alex and not her. When she feels a hand on her shoulder, her hopes are dashed and she turns sullenly away from her locker to face him. (He’s a year older than Alex, big and burly, the star football player. And he’s mean.)

“Brad,” Kara manages in greeting, not looking up at his face. She’s focused on the ground instead, adjusting her glasses as she attempts to remember all of Jeremiah’s warnings about using her powers, all of Clark’s advice about how to control herself. “H-how’s it going?”

Brad steps forward, practically pinning her to her locker, bracing himself with one hand to the side of her head. He leans towards her threateningly. “It’s the math homework, Danvers,” he says, raising one eyebrow. She winces out of habit—she’s not actually worried about what he could do to her, but what she’ddo to him if she forgot herself for even a second. “I made a C minus on the last one.”

“It’s complicated, I have trouble with it,” she says, clenching her hands into fists. It’s a huge lie. She wasn’t part of the Science Guild, but her father had been, and while her mother taught her about other species and her Aunt Astra taught her the stars, her father spent hours tutoring her on all sorts of subjects (because ‘everyone should have a basic knowledge of their world and how it worked’), so Earth’s high school math is practically a joke. The truthis that she’s been gradually doing worse on Brad’s homework, making purposeful mistakes that should eventually make even old Mrs. Dickinson suspicious.

But now, staring into his angry eyes, she wonders if perhaps she made him the C minus too soon.

“What’s the point of getting you to do the work if you’re just going to make a C, huh, Danvers?” Brad asks, his breath fanning over Kara’s face, nearly making her retch. “Maybe I should remind you what I could do—” He’s cut off when something slams into him, knocking him to the ground. And where he stood just seconds before, is Alex.

“Leave my sister alone, you glorified punching bag,” Alex sneers. When Brad moves to get up, she slams her foot down, crushing his fingers. “Go on, try something. I don’t care if you are the best wide receiver we’ve ever had, I’d gladly break your fingers.”

“You’re insane,” Brad says, and with one last look at Kara—promising wordlessly that this isn’t over—he scrambles to his feet and shuffles off. After a second, Alex turns to Kara with pursed lips.

“I was handling it,” Kara mutters, turning around and opening her locker once more. She digs through her books unnecessarily, keeping her shoulders hunched and her gaze fixed.

“That was you handling it?” Alex asks incredulously. She places a hand on Kara’s shoulder, gently asking her to turn around. “Why are you so scared of him?” she asks quietly when Kara turns her head.

“I’m not.”

“Kara, you—”

“I’m not scared of him, I’m scared of me.” This shuts Alex up, her eyes wide, her mouth working soundlessly. “The other day,” her voice drops to a whisper, “I broke the remote because I was excited when I changed the channel.”

“Kara—”

“And then there was Eliza’s favorite mug,” Kara continues, ignoring Alex entirely, ticking off a finger, “the hair dryer, my desk chair, the strap of my last backpack, your baseball bat—”

“—that was you?” Alex interrupts, reaching out to grab Kara’s hands and ceasing her counting. She shakes her head, as if physically attempting to dispel her annoyance at the truth about her baseball bat. “Those were accidents, it’s fine.”

“It’snotfine,” Kara says, pulling her hands away and fiddling with her glasses. “You have to tryto break his fingers. I could do it by accident just by squeezing a little too hard.”

“You wouldn’t do that.”

“But I could. Being invisible, never catching anyone’s attention, is working for me. If no one is around me, I can’t hurt them.”

“Kara,” Alex begins, frowning at her, “that’s a really sad way to live.”

“So what?” Kara asks, slamming her locker shut, wincing when she notices the dent in the metal. She gives Alex a look, as if to say ‘I told you so.’ “I don’t have any other choice.”

 

x

 

She sends Lena a letter.

She doesn’t know why, just that if she closes her eyes, she can sometimes still remember the feeling of Lena’s fingers in her hair, of her lips pressed against her cheek, and it makes her feel…nice.

She sends a letter, not expecting much in return, merely needing someone to talk to who isn’t Alex or Eliza. (Because Alex understands keeping her powers a secret, understands protecting her, but she doesn’t understand Kara’s desire to be nobody. And Eliza is endlessly supportive, making Kara feel guilty about not wanting to do anything with her life.)

(Her mother sent her down to Earth with a task, but she’s now aimless and floundering on a world that’s not her own, and she doesn’t want anything…No, that’s not true—it’s just that the one thing she does want, she’ll never get.)

It’s short, consisting mostly of how sadshe is about Jeremiah, how despite how hard Eliza tries, there’s this pervading melancholy that’s seeped into the very foundation of their home, how she hasn’t spoken to Clark in almost a year, how she misses Lena terribly.

(She doesn’t think she’ll get a response. So when she does, the letter written on thick, expensive feeling paper, her heart pounds in her chest.

And for the first time in quite a while, she’s able to stop worrying about what she could accidentally do—after all, Lena’s too far away to hurt.)

 

x

 

She’s remained friends with the librarian—Mr. Stevens, an aging old man with a hearty laugh and a round belly—and he saves her books he thinks she’ll enjoy. It starts with geography, and when he finds that the Earth itself fascinates her (though he never questions why), he gets her books on geology, ecology, and geophysics.

(She literally squeals when he hands her the book on paleontology, igniting a month-long binge on anything related to the dinosaurs.)

For whatever reason, she gets along with him, and she finds herself admitting one day that there’s nothing she wants—nothing she thinks she’d be suited for—and he shakes his head with a smile.

“Well that’s normal,” he says, oblivious to the way Kara’s hands go still, to the way her eyes widen (his back is to her, busy re-shelving books from the cart Kara’s been pushing dutifully behind him). “I don’t think anyone really knows who they are and what they want at only fifteen.” She refrains from saying that sheshould. After all, she was born knowing what she’d do—born with a future and career ready for her. The loss of her friends, her family, her worldstole that certainty away from her. Her silence prompts Mr. Stevens to look her way, his eyes roving over her face inquisitively. “It’s okay to feel lost, Miss Danvers,” he tells her, his penchant for using her last name making her smile. “But that doesn’t mean you should ever stop trying to find your way.”

“But what if I never find my way? What if I’m just…lost?” What if, she doesn’t say, I never belong and never feel at home on Earth?

“Well, all the adventures you’ll have will more than make up for it,” he tells her.

Kara doesn’t understand what he means, but she nods anyway, and they go back to shelving books.

 

x

 

The day before Alex heads off to college, Kara locks herself in their bedroom, refusing to come out.

She’s being childish and silly (Alex has told her so repeatedly, standing outside their bedroom, hands on hips) but she doesn’t care. Logically, she knows that Alex moving away isn’t a big deal. Stanford isn’t too far and if she really needed her sister, Alex is literally a phone call away.

But the truth is, as much as she loves and respects Eliza, Alex is different, Alex is her sister, and Kara shudders to think what life will be like with her not a few feet away. And Kara knows how hard Alex worked to get into Stanford, and she doesn’t want to make it anymore difficult for her sister than it has to be.

She doesn’t want to ruin things for Alex by crying.

But her sister is stubborn (a Danvers family trait, Alex would tell her later), and she picks the lock to their bedroom door, rolling her eyes when she sees Kara curled up on Alex’s bed, hugging one of the bright blue pillows to her chest.

“It’s not the end of the world,” Alex says bluntly, moving so that she’s sitting next to Kara, shoving her a little to get more room. “And I could visit every weekend if you wanted.”

“Your car wouldn’t survive the trip.”

“You could always fly to see me.”

“Oh shut up.” But the comment does what Alex intended: it makes Kara smile, even if it’s small and hesitant.

“Didn’t Lena start college last year?” It’s said with a teasing lilt and Kara blushes, hiding her face with the pillow. Alex had seen a few of Lena’s letters and had said, quite bluntly, that Kara did know Lena Luthor was flirting with her, didn’t she? (Which…well, no. Kara hadn’tknown.) “She likes it so far, doesn’t she?”

“Yeah, but Lena also likes physics, so who said she’s normal?”

“Are you trying to say I’m not normal either?”

“Youaresisters with an alien. So no. You’re not.”

“You’ll be fine, Kara,” Alex says, hooking her arm through Kara’s and pulling her into an awkward side hug. She’s serious now, her big sister instincts kicking in—needing to give Kara comfort and safety before she leaves. “There’s nothing this world could throw at you that you couldn’t handle. You’re way more super than your cousin.”

“You think so?”

“I know so. Clark’s got nothing on you.”

“Can we order potstickers and pizza tonight?” (It’s become her own personal safety net, her comfort food, the one thing that has never let her down. She doesn’t really think all that hard about whether or not that’s sad.)

“Absolutely.”

(She doesn’t tell anyone that without the sound of Alex’s heartbeat, sleep is hard to come by for the next several weeks.

She doesn’t tell anyone because she doesn’t want to think that Alex’s faith in her is misplaced.)

 

x

 

She sees Lena Luthor again after five years of nothing but letters back and forth.

She looks different. Her shoulders don’t hunch anymore, her lips are never tugged into a frown. In fact, as Kara watches her from afar, she doesn’t think she’s ever seen Lena smile this much.

(Lena is also dressed quite differently. Gone are the jeans and the soft dresses. Now she wears tight skirts and blouses that show a hint of skin. Her hair isn’t pulled into a messy bun, made messier by the awkward angle of her head as they fell asleep playing Go Fish—instead, her hair is sleek and shiny, falling past her shoulders, past her red, red lips.)

(She’s not fixated on Lena’s lips. She’s not.)

When Lena notices her, she says something to the men she’s chatting with and heads right over. As she walks, a transformation seems to take place. The smile changes, becoming wider, actually reaching her eyes, something about it looking brighter and softer and kinder all at once. When she reaches Kara she wastes no time pulling her into a tight hug, the two of them swaying a little in place as Kara reminds herself again and again to not squeeze too hard.

“Kara Danvers,” Lena says as she pulls away, not moving too far. “You are a sight for sore eyes.”

“Lena Luthor,” Kara smiles back. “You’re beautiful.” It comes out easily, sounding desperate and deep and just…honest. And for the first time Kara gives credence to Alex’s claims about Lena’s flirting because Lena blushes a brilliant red. “Not that you weren’t always,” Kara continues, now feeling flustered. “Because you were—are. You’ve always been beautiful, I mean. Even your handwriting is beautiful. And your voice—I’m so glad we call each other pretty regularly, it’s so nice to hear from you—oh gosh, I’m hungry? There’s a café with great sandwiches near campus, if you’re hungry. We could go together. If you want! Unless you’re not hungry, in which case—”

“—Kara, breathe,” Lena says with a laugh, reaching out to take Kara’s hand. “I’d love to get lunch with you.”

(One lunch turns into two, which turns into a dinner, and then eventually to Lena spending the night at Kara’s dorm instead of her five-star hotel, lounging in bed with her and watching movies.

Lena calls Kara a few days later and tells her that Lex has put her in charge of a new branch of LuthorCorp, and wouldn’t you believe it, it’s only a ten minute drive away from Kara’s dorm.)

 

x

 

“I studied engineering in college you know,” Lena tells her as Kara grabs another slice of pizza. They’re in Lena’s new office—it’s small, consisting mostly of a desk and a stack of papers, but it’s warm and full of Lena’s personal touches, from flowers to one of Kara’s old sweaters which she lent one time and never got back. Old coffee cups and wrappers from the deli they both favor fill the trashcan in the corner. Lena’s perfume hangs in the air.

“Yeah, I know,” Kara mumbles around her mouthful of pizza. She hasn’t eaten in what feels like forever, finals kicking her ass, so she’s understandably distracted.

“I wanted to be a scientist, is what I’m saying,” Lena continues, smiling patiently. (Kara has learned that Lena has changed a great deal since they were kids—she’s more sure of herself, less prone to emotional outbursts. She’s quieter, stronger, sturdier. Kara doesn’t ask what’s brought about the change.) “But I’m not.”

“Because Mr. Luthor passed away and left LuthorCorp to you and Lex,” Kara supplies, finally focusing her entire attention on Lena. “You were disappointed.”

“I was,” Lena answers, frowning a little. “But the truth is, sometimes what you want doesn’t matter.” Her words seem rehearsed, and Kara thinks to the conversations they’ve been having lately, about how Kara had hoped going to college would help her find her purpose. The fact that Lena’s been giving this so much thought, genuinely attempting to find an answer to Kara’s conundrum, warms her to the core.

“Then what matters?”

“What you choose,” she says simply. When Kara just stares at her, Lena gestures to the office, shrugging a little. “All my life, I was told that I had one purpose, to uphold the Luthor name. Never mind that I wasn’t even a real Luthor. But when my father died, I had a choice. I could have left, I could have turned my back on Lex and the company and this office job.”

“But you didn’t.”

“Of course not. Sometimes what you want is irrelevant, sometimes you have to do the thing you’re supposed to.”

“And if you don’t know what you’re supposedto do?”

“Well, that’s the best part isn’t it? You can decide for yourself what you’re supposed to do.”

“Do you think moving to National City is the best thing for me? Honestly?”

(This has been a sore subject, the fact that immediately after graduation, Kara would be moving to a different city, meaning they likely wouldn’t see each other very often.

For Kara, it’s because she’ll miss Lena desperately, because the pounding in her chest and the warmth in her toes is something she thought would fade, but instead it’s grown stronger and harder to ignore. And for Lena…well, Kara doesn’t know. Lena has changed since they were kids; she’s far more reticent.)

“I think that no matter where you go or what you do, you’ll be amazing.”

“You’re saying that as my best friend.”

“I’m saying that as someone who knows how passionate and driven you are. Trust me, Kara. Whatever you end up doing—supposed to or not—you’ll be great.”

 

x

 

She’s been in National City for two weeks the first time it happens.

Clark—who’s been making quite a name for himself over at the Daily Planet—lands his first cover story, an exposéon Lex Luthor’s shady deals with weapon dealers (in it, there’s incriminating quotes from Superman himself, the Man of Steel providing an eyewitness account for all of Lex’s criminal activities, and if Kara wasn’t so invisible, if she mattered at all, she would have laughed in Clark’s face).

Lex Luthor’s lawyers deal with the article and the subsequent investigation, nipping it in the bud, but the damage is done: seemingly overnight, the Luthor name is synonymous with ‘traitor’ with ‘anti-Superman’ with ‘evil.’

(She calls Lena immediately after she reads the article, and Lena assures her that she’s fine, that she’s busy working with PR teams, that she might be MIA for a while.

After the second article comes out, this time focusing on Lex’s vendetta with Superman, Lena responds with a curt text.

After the fifth article, Lena doesn’t respond at all.)

After Kara’s second month in National City, she lands a job at CatCo, working with Cat Grant herself. And though she’s desperate to track Lena down and explain that she and Clark don’t talk, that despite whatever Lex Luthor has done, she knows Lena is innocent, that she misses and needs her best friend, she does nothing.

(She wants to fix things, she wants to make things better, she wants to matter, to do something—anything. But she can’t.

So she does what she does best: she fits in, becoming practically invisible, and she lets it go.)

 

xXx Part Three xXx

 

Later, she’ll wonder if there’s anyway she could track down that little boy and thank him. (Later, she’ll credit him for changing her life forever with nothing but a few tears, a wobbly lip, and a quiet admission.)

Working for Cat Grant is…not like she expected. She’d imagined that it would be exciting, that the Queen of all Media would be a source of inspiration and admiration—that going into work would involve making a difference and changing the world, one story, one article, one word at a time.

Instead, working for Cat Grant involves a lot of coffee.

(She likes lattes in the morning, but black coffee in the afternoons, and if she stays too late, she likes something sweet with several extra shots of espresso.

Sometimes Kara wonders if it’s the caffeine that makes Ms. Grant such a…presence.)

It’s actually because of her daily coffee run that she runs into the boy. Just as Kara steps out of Noonan’s, she nearly topples over, only able to stay on her feet and not drop the coffee because she isn’t human. But when she turns to complain to whoever nearly knocked her over, she’s met with the most adorable brown eyes, short dark hair, and tiny hands anxiously tugging on a shirt. So rather than a rebuke, the words that escape her are, “Oh I’m sorry, are you okay?”

Instead of responding, the boy continues to tug down on his shirt, exposing his collarbone and a collection of bruises that trail over his shoulder, drawing Kara’s attention to the bluish-yellow marks on his upper arm and wrist. Kara swallows hard and without really thinking about it—all thoughts of Cat Grant, her job, the lessons drilled from the second she arrived on Earth (the reminders to stay hidden, stay invisible) immediately pushed from her mind—Kara drops down to her knees in front of the boy and sets the coffee and bagel aside. Without reaching towards him, not wanting to frighten him, she gives him her best smile.

“Hi,” she says softly, “I’m Kara.”

He doesn’t respond.

“Are you lost?”

He remains silent, but his eyes dart between Kara and the bag from Noonan’s.

“Are you hungry?” Kara guesses. This time the little boy nods slowly, his eyes still moving between Kara’s hands—which are held out uselessly between them—and the bag containing Ms. Grant’s bagel. Yet, when she picks up the bag and offers it to him, he hesitates, looking at her with narrowed eyes. “You’re about seven? Eight?” She doesn’t wait for an answer, sure that he doesn’t intend to give one. “When I was your age, my parents told me that even the strongest of us need a little help sometimes.” He continues to look at her skeptically, so Kara clears her throat and tries again. “Okay, how about this. I take you to Noonan’s and you can order anything you want and we can go from there?”

It’s an hour, three sticky buns, and two glasses of milk later that he quietly admits his name is Wallace and that he got separated from his parents a night ago after there’d been some sort of break-in in their apartment complex. They’ve just moved to National City from Gotham, he tells her, tearing at his paper napkin, tossing the chunks onto his empty plate. He doesn’t know how to get home.

There’s a part of Kara—the part of her that didn’t stand up to Brad, the part of her that is scared of making a ripple, terrified of drawing attention, of accidentally causing hurt—that screams at her to call Alex and get her sister to take care of this. But Wallace looks at her with wide, teary eyes, his lower lip wobbling just a little bit as he abandons the napkin and returns to tugging on his shirt, and her hand—which is reaching for her phone in her pocket—freezes. Wallace’s voice trembles as he admits he’s scared, and Kara can’t bring herself to remain invisible, can’t bring herself to let this go.

So she takes his hand and promises to help him find his family.

 

x

 

“I’d like one good reason, Keira, not to fire you,” Cat says, her eyes less dangerous than they were a minute ago, though her lips are still pressed into a thin line, her shoulders still stiff. Kara’s explanation about Wallace had softened her enough that Kara doesn’t think she’ll lose her job, but she’s still worried about the way Cat’s eye seems to twitch, as though she’s physically holding herself back.

“I’m a good assistant?”

“Good assistant?” Cat scoffs, removing her glasses and placing them on her desk, slowly getting to her feet. “Does a good assistant disappear all morning without calling in? Does a good assistant forget coffeewhen she finally does show up? Does a good assistant mumble some excuse about a little boy?”

“Ms. Grant, I—”

“No,” she interrupts, silencing Kara with just a raised hand and a hard look. “Normally, I’d choose to fire you, but seeing as though this is your first offense, instead I will warn you.”

“Thank you—”

“Do you think,” Cat says, speaking over Kara, “that I amassed all this,” here she gestures around her, raising her eyebrows, “by being late?” She stares at Kara until it dawns on her that she’s looking for an answer.

“No, Ms. Grant.”

Exactly. No, I did not. Do you know what it takes, Keira, to become exceptional at what you do?”

“No?” Kara mumbles, watching as Cat circles around her desk, approaching Kara in almost a predatory fashion. Clark has told her horror stories about Perry White, and she knows Cat worked for him for a while…but surely she wouldn’t be the same, would she?

“It takes commitment,” Cat says softly when she’s barely a foot away from Kara. Then, in a move that makes Kara jump, she snaps her fingers as she says, “Do you understand?”

“I think so,” Kara nods quickly, but this seems to be the wrong answer because Cat rolls her eyes as she sighs.

“No you don’t,” she informs Kara, rubbing her temples as she sits down on the sofa, reaching for a glass of water that sits on the table. “You can’t be good at anything until you give it your all, Keira. And while I admire that you helped the little boy this morning, unless you want to be a police officer or work for social services, your decision to spend the day with him and be there the moment his parents picked him up speaks volumes about your commitment.”

“To what?”

“Tothisjob. To the job you actually have.” She takes a sip of her water and stares at Kara, looking uncharacteristically soft. “You have to eventually make a choice about who you are and what you want to do. Eventually, you’ll have to give all of yourself tosomething, whether that’s to family, or in my case, to a company.” She gets to her feet and returns to her desk, slipping her glasses back on and sitting back down on her chair. “It’s called commitment, Keira. Figure out what’s important to you and commit completely to it—and while you’re myassistant, remember that lateness will not be tolerated.” Kara stands stock still, unsure if that is the dismissal or if Cat plans on saying more. After a second, she gets her answer when Cat looks up and rolls her eyes. “I need the proofs from editing. And it’s time for my afternoon coffee. Of you go now, Keira.”

Kara leaves Cat’s office hurriedly, but as she rushes towards editing, she can’t help but wonder what it is that she’s committed to.

(She thinks of Wallace and they way it felt to help him, the way it felt when he was reunited with his parents, and she wonders if perhaps she’s already found her answer.)

 

x

 

She doesn’t follow the news about Lex Luthor, mostly because every time she reads about him in the papers, she can’t help but remember his offers of snacks and drinks, his suggestion that Kara break the ice by asking Lena about the garden. She knows that Lex is mad, dangerous and horrifying, but she can’t reconcile that truth with what she remembers about him—the way talking about him made Clark light up and smile, the way Lena could never say enough about how wonderful he was.

Thus, she doesn’t find out about Lex’s attempted murders, his final confrontation with Superman and eventually failure to defeat the Man of Steel, through Clark’s articles, but through Clark himself, when he breaks the silence between them for the first time since she lifted Fort Rozz and tells her Lena Luthor is moving to National City and that he’s decided he’ll come by for a visit.

For the most part, Kara’s excited about the visit. Becoming Supergirl—bearing the House of El’s coat of arms on her chest—has made her feel closer to her cousin in ways a summer with him could not. She feels more linked to him, despite the miles that separate them, despite the very tangible wall that keeps them from getting too close—a wall that compels her to smile when he sends her messages and shows her any sort of attention and ignore the feeling bubbling somewhere deep inside whenever she sees his pictures splattered in newspapers and television screens.

(She’s caught herself calling him Kal-El instead of Clark in her head several times, and each time it’s like a punch to the gut because he’s just notthe Kal she knew. He’s not the Kal she imagined up for herself, the one who would help her keep Krypton alive. Aunt Astra was wrong about many things, but she was right about this: Clark ismore human than Kryptonian—Kara is the last of her kind.

And she loves him. He’s her cousin; he’s brave and kind and he understands. He knows what it means to be different—knows what it’s like to always walk on eggshells around others, to always control his strength, his speed, knows the difficulty of blending in and pretending when everything about him sets him apart. She loves him, and she’s not quite sure why it’s so difficult to look him in the eye—why he seems to have the same problem.)

He doesn’t stay very long, but long enough to make Kara wish that it could be more like this every day, that she wouldn’t feel so alone, that she had someone else to share the burden of being the last. He spends just enough time with her that she imagines a whole other life in which he didn’tgive her away—didn’t send her off, and instead let her stay with him, the relationship between the two of them unbreakable as, after all, blood bonded them. Clark stays with her, but just long enough that, when he leaves, it feels like being abandoned all over again

 (Later, she apologizes to Alex through tears, holds her sister as tightly as she can without hurting her, trying hard not to think that this wasn’t something she had to stress about with Kal—no Clark. She apologizes to Alex and she doesn’t think about why it still hurts to be left behind when it seems that’s all anyone does in her life.)

 

x

 

She supposes it’s Medusa that compels her to do it.

She’d been following Lena’s lead before, allowing her to pretend that they didn’t know each other—that they were strangers—even if Lena sometimes slipped up with the easy smiles and soft glances.

But Medusa—watching Lena have to choose between Lillian and doing the right thing, watching her prove that she isn’t like the other Luthors—reminds Kara of Cat’s advice, of how she had to be committed absolutely. While Cat had been thinking of work, it’s advice that helped Kara become Supergirl, and it’s advice she tries to incorporate into every aspect of her life—she wants to be committed totally to her job, her sister, her friends, to all the people around her.  

And, to be quite honest, Kara’s tired of not having her best friend—she’s tired of letting it go, tired of acting as if she doesn’t care.

(Because she does, she cares so much sometimes she worries that Lena will notice it in Supergirl’s earnestness and Kara’s blushing. Sometimes she worries about how much she wishes Lena would quit pretending she doesn’t know Kara and Supergirl are the same person, would quit pretending she doesn’t know Kara, would just quit pretending.)

She lands on Lena’s balcony soundlessly, gently rapping her knuckles against the glass door, waiting until Lena looks up from her laptop, hears the sharp intake of breath and the clear hesitation in the way her throat bobs, before she gets to her feet and slowly slides the door open.

“Even if you wait until I open the door, it’s still not an entrance,” Lena says as Kara walks into her office, lit up only by a few lamps. Not for the first time, Kara wonders if Lena ever gets any sleep at home—on more than one occasion, she’d flown by L-Corp late at night and seen the CEO asleep at her desk, hand still gripping a pen, laptop still on and illuminating Lena’s pale face.

“Sometimes, when I miss you,” Kara says without preamble, “I go to that deli near your old office. Remember? The one we’d basically get lunch from everyday?”

Lena’s eyes widen, stumbling a little on the way back to her desk. “I’m afraid I don’t know what you’re talking about, Supergirl,” she says after a short pause, not meeting Kara’s eyes.

“I thought it was okay. That you don’t want me in your life. I thought maybe it’s better this way.” She pauses, wringing her hands before clenching them into fists. “I break everything I come into contact with. Eliza’s mugs, Alex’s chairs, phones—oh Rao, I’ve broken somany phones.” She chuckles a little mirthlessly, watching as Lena doesn’t sit back down behind her desk. Instead she seems frozen, standing there without looking at Kara, her heart pounding rapidly away, loud to Kara’s ears. “But I wouldn’t be able to bear it if I hurt the people I cared about. So I let it go when you stopped writing letters, let it go after you cut off contact after that first article about Lex, and I let it gowhen I walked in here for the first time after not seeing you for yearsand you pretended we’d never met. I thought maybe you were right. That maybe it was better that you and I became strangers.”

“Supergirl—”

“But we’re not strangers, are we?” Kara asks, not allowing Lena the chance to protest. “We haven’t been strangers since I met you in that garden you never admitted you loved. And I’m so tired of letting things go.” She unclenches her hands and swallows hard. “I’m committed, Lena. I wasn’t before, mostly because I didn’t know how to be meon Earth, but I am now. And I’m going to fight for you, for us, but I’d really like a sign that you’re willing to fight too.”

Silence follows her words, and for the first time since being on Earth, it’s as if everything has been muted. She can’t hear cars honking, she can’t hear the laughter from the apartments several streets away, she can’t hear the skidding of a brake. All she hears, for one short, heavy moment, is the sound of Lena’s heartbeat, her uneven breathing, the tap of her finger against her desk.

(It is a risk, doing this. She knows that Lena isn’t fond of the Supers—she doesn’t need the supersenses to notice that—and she knows that when Clark hears about this he’ll be upset, perhaps even angry. But she doesn’t care.

Lena took a risk and made a stand for her own character—it’s time for Kara to take a risk too.)

As the silence stretches on, Kara figures she’s gotten her answer, so she nods several times and heads back towards the balcony door, only coming to a halt when she feels something tug on her cape.

Lena’s grabbed hold of her, eyes fixed on a point on the ground, a fierce expression on her face. “Please,” she says, and it’s not enough,it just isn’t, and it makes something in her chest twist and fray because it hurts. It hurts more than she thought it would, a hurt that suggests perhaps she wasn’t just missing her best friend. But then Lena looks up, meeting her eyes for the first time, something burning behind them that makes her feel…warm. “Please, Kara.” 

And Kara can’t help her smile as she nods.

 

x

 

“Kara, stop it,” Alex says with narrowed eyes. “You can wait until dinner to finish all my food.”

“You don’t cook often, Alex, can you blame me for getting excited?”

“Yeah, Danvers,” Maggie calls out from where she’s setting the table, “can you really blame Danvers Junior for getting excited?” Laughter comes from the couch, where Mon-El and Winn are sitting, heads huddled together as they furiously whisper to Lena, going on about some television show Kara’s never heard of. She’s glad they’ve taken so well to the CEO, but there’s a little bubble of somethingdeep down that she’s not quite sure how to deal with.

(For one, she’s only ever felt it when she saw Lucy and James together, thus giving the feeling now a whole lot if implications she’s not quite ready for, and for another, she doesn’t want to ruin Lena’s burgeoning friendship with Winn and Mon-El.

ShewantsLena to have more friends—that was the point of inviting her to dinner in the first place.)

“You okay, Kara?” Alex asks, pausing her stirring and staring carefully at Kara. She looks so patient, so calm, that Kara finds herself desperate to confide in her sister. But just as she opens her mouth to speak, the front door flies open, revealing a grinning James and a rather sullen looking Clark trailing behind him.

“Kara,” James calls, looking inordinately pleased with himself, “look who I managed to convince to come over for dinner!” The cheerfulness evaporates quickly when Clark’s eyes fall on Lena, something dark passing over his face, and Kara merely stands stock still. “Guys?” James tries, frowning as he looks from Clark to Kara. “Is there something wrong?”

“Yeah, Clark, isthere something wrong?” Kara asks, crossing her arms over her chest. Out of the corner of her eye, she notices Maggie abandon the table and step closer to them—an attempt to put herself between them that makes Kara want to smile—while Mon-El and Winn get to their feet and stand protectively in front of Lena.

“I thought James was joking. As if it wasn’t bad enough that the detective figured it out, you told a Luthoryour secret?” he asks as he steps further into her apartment, closing the door behind him.

“I told my friend the truth,” Kara says watching as Clark gets closer, her hands gripping the kitchen counter. She’s barely aware of Alex’s soft hand taking her elbow.

“Kara, what’s the point of a secret when you tell everyone the truth about you? Remember what I told you—”

“Yes, I remember. Don’t draw attention to yourself, Kara, don’t get caught, Kara, don’t let them see, Kara, stay invisible, Kara.But I trust them, Clark, and—”

“—it’s not about trust, it’s about protecting—”

“—protecting?” she interrupts, mouth falling open. “I-y-it doesn’t even—what?” She can see Maggie and James’s concerned expression, can feel the worry off Alex, can sense Mon-El, Winn’s, and Lena’s, eyes on her, but not for the first time, Kara finds herself staring at Clark and thinking that they’re the only two people there, stares at her cousin who is both a source of comfort and a source of pain, and the words spill from her lips—words she never thought she’d ever actually say. “Like how you protected meby sending me away?” It comes out bitterly, full of a latent anger she’s never allowed herself to fully inspect, and Clark’s expression—hardened and determined—breaks immediately, his eyes widening as he takes a shaky step forward and reaches out for her before clearly rethinking it and dropping his hand.

“Kara,” he begins, voice softer, almost a croak, and she knows she should stop, he’s her family and she doesn’t want to hurt him, but it’s as if the dam has finally broken, the years of shoving her feelings surrounding Clark away reaching a pressure point that’s too much to handle.

“I lost everything,” she says, voice breaking at the last word, “I lost my friends, my family, my home. I was sent away, tossed into a pod, not even asked if maybe I’d rather my parents came with me, that maybe I’d want to stay with them on Krypton, die with the rest of my planet.” Alex’s grip on her elbow tightens, but Kara’s oblivious to it. “And when I got to Earth, you’re…old. You’re an adult. You weren’t good with the Kryptonian language or the customs, but it was obvious you tried, and for a moment I thought it’d be enough. That at least I wasn’t the last.”

“Kara, please—”

Butyou sent me away too.” Her vision is blurry, her hands are shaking. “I was a little girl who just lost her entire world and you sent me away and thought you were doing me a favor. Thought that one summer with you was enough, that a few texts and a blanket were enough, thought that protecting me was enough even though all I asked for was you.”

She doesn’t know if Clark has a response, and she doesn’t find out. Almost as soon as she’s finished speaking, she hears alarms wailing in the distance, both her head and Clark’s turning on instinct. Without looking at anyone in the room, she wipes roughly at her cheeks before heading towards the source of the alarm.

(She returns hours later, and no one questions her when she mumbles that taking care of the robbers took a little longer than she expected, James even going as far as to turn off the news program that excitedly showed footage of Supergirl stopping the threat in only minutes.)

 

x

 

He joins her on the couch, nabbing the ice cream carton right out of her hands. The only indication that there’s anything strange about the interaction is that he stares at his spoon rather than her. Idly, Kara wonders what he must have said to Alex for her sister to have allowed him to approach her at all.

“You know, sometimes it gets to your head,” he comments lightly, closing his eyes as he licks his spoon clean. “The things they say in the papers and on TV. Truth, Justice, and the American Way!” he sings, waving the spoon a little before wrinkling his nose. “Sometimes it’s easy to forget that I’m just a guy in a cape and not an ideal, not some sort of model of perfection.” He lets out a tiny relieved sigh when she leans into him—ostensibly to get better access to the ice cream carton, though her head remains on his shoulder long after he hands the carton back to her. “I make mistakes, Kara,” he says softly, shifting enough that he can wrap one arm around her shoulders. “I can get angry and bitter and jealous, because my cells are Kryptonian but I’mhuman.”

“Jealous?”

“And sad,” he says, nodding. “You…you had normal. A place you belonged, a place you understood who you were. And when you’d talk about it, especially when you first landed here, I—I got jealous.” He steals back the ice cream, using the few seconds of time it takes to shove a spoonful into his mouth and swallow to think through his next words. “I used to wonder if you had it better than me. You might have lost everything, but at least you had it for awhile. Was that better than never having a home at all?”

(This is something she’s never wondered about. Clark leaving her with the Danvers felt like a betrayal, a sort of rejection of their bond. She never imagined it was because he envied her, because looking at her, at what she represented—a world he never knew, would never know—hurt too much, blinding him much like the sun’s light blinded humans.

Had he really thought she was better off? Is that why he found it difficult to meet her eyes?)

“But the Kents—”

“Are the reason I am who I am. But they didn’t know how to deal with a kid with powers. So they told me to hide it and I…”

“…told me,” Kara finishes for him.

“Remember when I took you out of Metropolis that summer? When we’d go flying?” He waits until Kara nods before continuing. “You called me Kal. Only when we were flying together. And as much as I didn’t know how to feel about you calling me Kal,” he says with another sigh, “it hurt more than I expected when you just stopped. It was as if you decided I wasn’t Kryptonian. And it’s not an excuse for not staying in contact more, but I just figured you didn’t need me.”

“I called you Kal in my head. But you got a funny look on your face when I said it out loud, so I thought you didn’t like it.”

“I am sorry, Kara,” he says quietly. “For whatever it’s worth. I really was trying to protect you, wanting you to have as normal a life as possible, but I’m so sorry I hurt you. I’m sorry for not listening to you when you said all you asked for was me.”

“I got a sister out of it, Kal,” Kara says, leaning further into his side. “So it’s okay.”

He laughs and after a minute of silence, he pulls away to look her in the eyes, his glasses sitting just a little crooked, his eyes suspiciously red-rimmed. She doesn’t have the heart to tease him about it though, but she makes a mental note to mention it later. “I still think you tell way too many people about your secret,” he says with faux-sternness. “Only two people know it about me and Lois guessed and I’m pretty sure she’s the one who told James.”

“You told James about me. And everyone in this apartment knows your secret.”

“Because of you,” Clark jokes, rolling his eyes. “And I wanted James to keep an eye on you,” Clark says with a grin, rolling his eyes again when she just raises her eyebrows. “Right, right. I know. You don’t need any protection.” He shrugs then, looking terribly amused. “But can I give my cousin some advice?”

“If you’re going to mention how much ice cream I eat again—”

“—tell Lena how you feel. That you love her,” he elaborates when Kara just frowns. “You might not get a chance later.”

“Pfft, what? No. My feelings are…friendly. Friendly love. So very…friend-like.”

“Right,” he says, not looking convinced, “but from the way she’s been glaring at me all night, I’d say she feels the same way.” He leans over to press a kiss to her forehead, his voice suddenly soft and serious—something meant for her ears alone. “I’m going to be better, Kara. I promise you. You’ll probably get sick of me.”

(She thinks of how potstickers still remind her of Clark, how she associates them with his tiny apartment and afternoons speeding above mountains, sunsets near waterfalls. She thinks of how potstickers continue to be the thing she turns to when she needs comfort.)

She reaches out and straightens Clark’s glasses, the anger and loneliness she always associates with him mostly overpowered by affection and hope.

“Never,” she says, a promise of her own.

 

x

 

Lena is flipping through a stack of papers when Kara steps into her office, though she immediately pushes it away, looking incredibly relieved by Kara’s appearance.

“Thank you,” she says effusively as she leans back in her chair, rubbing her eyes and then her temples. “I’ve signed my name so many times it no longer holds any meaning, it’s ridiculous,” she mutters, pinching the bridge of her nose before sitting up straight and smiling widely at Kara. “So is this visit for business or pleasure?”

(The words make Kara blush, make her drop her gaze, make her think of Clark’s comment, and she finds herself biting her lip in an effort to keep calm.

It doesn’t really work because when she looks up, Lena’s staring at her almost knowinglyand it makes her immediately look away once more.)

“I-it’s um, a lunch? I—a friendly lunch. Like the ones we used to have when I was in college.” She gestures to the bag she’s brought with her, to the sandwiches and fancy sodas Lena’s so fond of. Lena smiles but before Kara can say anything else, the smile is replaced by a small frown, a worried crease between her brows.

“Did you mean it?” she asks, blinking slowly and carefully, holding Kara’s gaze.

“Mean what?”

“What you said to Clark the other night? Did you—” She stops, and Kara lets out a chuckle.

“Of course you’re my friend, Lena, that’s never—”

“—no, did you really wish you’d stayed with your parents?”

It’s not the question she’s expecting, so she doesn’t think she’s to be blamed for the few seconds she spends opening and closing her mouth, attempting to make something—anything—spill from her lips.

“I-I,” she stops, sits down at the chair across from Lena’s desk and sighs—one that feels reminiscent to the ones she’d heard Clark release. It’s heavy and tinged with resignation and pain. “When I first landed on Earth, yes,” she says, shrugging helplessly. “I was sad and alone. I couldn’t understand why my parents sent me, why I’d been spared.”

“I shouldn’t have brought it up, Kara, I’m sorry, I—”

“It’s okay, I’ve spoken to Alex about it plenty of times.” Once or twice, she thinks, her words muffled as she sobbed against Alex’s shoulder. “She helped. She made me feel…important. Like there was a reason I was here. Some days, she was the only one who could get me out of bed, or talk, or even interact.”

“Kara—”

“It was one thing Clark couldn’t understand. Why it botheredme so much that he wanted me to stay hidden. Becoming Supergirl—using my powers to dosomething, being spared for a reason—is the greatest thing to happen to me.” She fingers the bag, slowly pulling out the food and setting it on Lena’s desk, careful not to let it touch any of her papers. “I don’t feel that way as often anymore. Of course I miss my home but…well, I’ve chosen Earth. To make a difference here, to make a home here.” She blinks rapidly, not trusting the heat behind her eyes. “Besides,” she adds with careful cheerfulness, “I gained a lot on this planet. I have the greatest sister, irreplaceable friends. And you.”

(If Lena notices that Kara carefully didn’t place her in the same category as friends or family—because she’s something else, has been since she taught Kara to play Go Fish as they feasted on pizza—she doesn’t mention it.

Kara knows exactly why that disappoints her.)

She’s surprised when Lena doesn’t speak and instead gets her to her feet, slowly circling around her desk before coming to a halt just in front of Kara. She bends just a little, the two of them eye-level, and leans forward, wrapping her arms around Kara—the very first hug she’s initiated.

(Once upon a time, Kara took advantage of Lena’s proximity to take in a deep breath, commit her scent to memory, to immortalize the beat of her heart and the hitching of her breath. And now, in Lena’s office, she does it again.)

The angle is awkward, but the feeling of Lena’s arms around her—the solidity, the warmth—makes Kara’s eyelids flutter shut. She’d once asked for a sign, and this—this hug, the presence, the silent promise—is enough. So when Lena releases her and returns to her desk, allowing Kara to fill the silence with babble about Snapper and her latest article, there’s no sense of finality.

Rather, it feels a little bit like a beginning.