It is a few hours later when Kara shoots up out of bed, her heart racing, head pounding, her breathing heavy. She forgets where she is, having just had a dream where she was back in the phantom zone. It was so vivid, so real, that when she wakes up, feeling blankets, pillows, and seeing her apartment, it takes her a few minutes to remember that she was home. She kept telling herself over and over, “I’m home. I’m home.” She had to keep reminding herself. But no matter how many times she said it, it didn’t seem to do anything for her racing heart.
Kara vaguely recalls picking up her phone and dialing the number in the midst of her panic.
“Kara? What is it? Is everything ok?” Lena asks with slight alarm in her voice.
“Kara, breathe, it’s ok.”
“Right… breathing…” Lena hears the sharp intake of breath.
“Kara, where is Alex?”
“Um… I told her she could go home…”
Lena tries to hide her own frustration at realizing Kara has been left alone. “Ok. I’m coming over. I’ll stay on the phone with you the entire time until I get there.”
Kara hears Lena moving around her place, clearly gathering up herself to leave.
“No! You don’t have to do that!” Kara says, not wanting to freak Lena out.
She hears Lena stop moving. “Kara, Darling. You called me at… 3:40 in the morning, frantic, practically panicking. You shouldn’t be alone right now.”
“What if… what if I just come to you?” Kara asks slowly. “It… it will be faster.”
A few second tick by on the line. “Alright. I’m walking over to my balcony now. I expect you to be here in a few minutes. Stay on the line though, ok?” The concern is clear in Lena’s voice.
“ok… I will.”
Kara doesn’t think about it more, just slips out her window and into the air, flying straight for Lena’s, still in her pajama pants and tank top. She doesn’t even bother putting on shoes. She lands on the balcony a few minutes later to find Lena standing outside in the cold, waiting on her.
“Hi,” Kara says as she hangs up the phone.
“Hi,” Lena says, giving her a small smile. “Would you like to come inside?”
They make their way inside, Kara following Lena quietly. “So, would you like to tell me what happened?” Lena asks, as she turns towards Kara. Kara’s head drops slightly as she looks up at Lena. Seeing the apprehension, Lena says, “How about I make us some tea?”
As they sip the tea on Lena’s couch, memories of her last time here flood Kara’s mind, followed by her conversations with Lena in the phantom zone. She knows they should talk about it. She just isn’t sure how to bring it up. She chews on her bottom lip instead. How does she tell Lena she meant what she said in the phantom zone? That she is in love with her best friend? That she spent the months they were fighting being completely miserable because she wasn’t by her side? That Lena is her sun? How does she begin to unpack any of that with Lena, when it took her months in the phantom zone to begin to understand those feelings herself? Worse yet, what if Lena wants nothing to do with her because of it? After all, Lena said it herself, she was playing along, doing what she needed to do, in the phantom zone, just to get Kara home. Who knows what Lena is actually thinking or feeling?
Lena watches her intently, feeling like she has been walking on eggshells ever since they got Kara back, unsure of what to say or not say, of when to push or not push. She wishes she had a chance to ask Kelly about what to do once they had gotten Kara back. Her advice on what to do while in the phantom zone had been so spot on. Granted – there had been some confessions from the get-go, things that Lena had not been expecting. And then some more developments as they made their way through the phantom zone. Lena isn’t sure how Kara feels now. She knows the wording she used – loved – past tense. But she also knows that Kara had given up hope of ever leaving the phantom zone. But how is it that when the real Lena came, that this had to just also be when Kara decided to give into her desires to kiss a phantom Lena? That just seemed so… ironic. Either fate has a funny sense of humor or the universe really is trying to tell her something.
Kara sets her tea down and smiles at Lena, trying hard to not let her anxiety show as she speaks. “Thank you,” Kara says, “For this, for what you did in the phantom zone… for everything.”
Lena nods. “Of course,”
“And… thank you for not telling everyone… especially Alex… about what I asked you to do… in the phantom zone.” She makes eye contact with Lena, trying to convey her meaning behind the words without having to be specific about which event she is talking about.
Lena lets out a slow breath. “You mean when you asked me about helping you… end your suffering?” Lena asks, using the same phrasing that Kara had used in the phantom zone.
Kara’s head falls to her chest. “Yeah…”
Lena reaches across the couch. “Hey, you don’t need to be ashamed about what happened there Kara. I understand you had lost hope… that you were in a very dark place and just wanted it to be over.”
Kara’s eyes shimmer with tears as she recalls just how hopeless she had felt, and how it felt like she felt nothing else for an eternity. “I just wanted it to stop.”
“I know Kara, I know.” Lena slides over and pulls Kara into a hug.
As Lena holds Kara, Kara talks softly into Lena. “I’m so thankful to be back… it’s just hard… I can’t talk about this with Alex and the others…”
Lena is silent for a moment before she responds. “Kara, I am here, whatever you need. So are the others. All you have to do is tell us. You don’t have to tell any of us what happened. You get to decide who you talk to about what and how you work through what has happened to you. Ok?”
Kara hums in response. “Thank you, Lena. I don’t know what I would do without you. You’re still the only person I feel like I can be just Kara with.”
Lena squeezes Kara tighter. “I’m never leaving again, Kara, I promise.”
The sob that Kara has been holding out finally breaks free and she breaks down in Lena’s arms. Lena rubs her back and lets her cry without much talking after that. Kara cries for a while, letting all the pent-up emotion from the day and from her time in the phantom zone finally come out. Because Lena saw her in the phantom zone, because she knows just how dark it was for Kara, Kara feels like she doesn’t have to pretend with her. With the others, she feels like she has to pretend to be somewhat ok, to hold back the tsunami that has been whirling inside of her since she woke up at the Tower that day.
It’s a short while later, when Kara has cried herself out, that she finally pulls herself out of Lena’s arms and gives Lena a gracious smile.
Instead of any of the million things she wants to say, Kara says “You look tired Lee.” Kara’s observation isn’t wrong. There are bags under Lena’s eyes that look like they have been there for weeks. Her skin looks extra pale in the light from the small lamp. She looks rundown.
Lena smirks, unable to hide her amusement at Kara’s remark. “I haven’t slept much these past few months,” she offers.
It’s then that Kara realizes that when she called, Lena answered on the first ring. “Wait, were you awake when I called?”
Lena eyes Kara, her lips pursed together. “Like I said, sleep alludes me most nights.”
“Lena,” Kara says emphatically.
“Kara.” Lena echoes her.
Kara stands up, holding her hand out for Lena, who raises an eyebrow questioningly. “Come on, let’s get some sleep,” Kara says with a smile.
Lena is silent as she places her hand in Kara’s and lets Kara lead her back to her own bed. The room is dark, with a hint of the light from the moon coming in from the window. Kara notices the made bed and gives Lena a look, though she doesn’t say anything as she pulls back the covers and slides across the bed, patting the space next to her for Lena. As Lena gets in next to her, she feels her own heartbeat climbing. She lays down, putting some space between herself and the Superhero, unsure exactly of what Kara wants right now.
It’s a few seconds before she hears Kara’s voice softly speaking. “Is it ok if we cuddle? It’s just… the reason I called is because I had a nightmare about the phantom zone… and physical touch helps keep me grounded… it reminds me that I am really home.
Lena half-smiles in the dark. “Of course, Kara, whatever you need.” She lifts her arm up and then feels Kara slide over, putting her head on her chest. “Better?” Lena asks as Kara settles down curled up into her.
“Yes, much better, thank you,” Kara says as she lays her hand across Lena’s stomach, hugging her.
“Good, now get some sleep,” Lena says as her own hand finds Kara’s to hold.
Both of them fall asleep almost instantly.
Lena hears her phone buzzing on the nightstand for several minutes before she registers what is happening. She finally reaches over and answers it without opening her eyes to see who it is.
She mumbles a hello.
“Is she with you?” comes Alex’s intense non-hello.
Lena’s eyes shoot open, waking her up in an instant. She takes in her surroundings, feeling the warmth of Kara still wrapped around her. She appears to still be sleeping.
“Yes,” she answers softly.
Alex let’s out a sigh of relief. “I showed up here with breakfast and she was just gone.”
“She had a nightmare, woke up panicking and called me. She ended up here.”
“She still hasn’t talked much about what happened there... did she say anything to you?”
Lena glances down at Kara, her eyes still closed, her breathing even. “Not much. She talked more when we were there, and she thought I wasn’t real.”
“Wait… did you tell her?” Alex asks.
“Alex,” Lena says warning.
“Oh, come on, you said you had to be the one to go so you could tell her.”
“I couldn’t tell her there.”
“Ok… but… she is back now…”
“No, I haven’t told her yet.”
“Alex, we are not having this conversation.” Lena says this in hushed tones, trying to keep her own breathing even so her chest isn’t moving much, afraid to wake Kara.
“Fine. I’ll be over in an hour with breakfast for you both.”
Alex hangs up and Lena let out a breath, thankful to have dodged that conversation for now. She sets her phone down quietly and looks back down at Kara. She sees blue eyes looking up at her.
Shit, Lena thinks to herself.
“Morning. How are you feeling?” Lena says, hoping Kara just happened to wake up as she was setting the phone down.
“What haven’t you told me yet?” She asks shyly.
“You heard that did you?” Lena asks with a small smile, silently cursing Alex.
Kara lifts her head up, moving so she is sitting back against the headboard. Her eyes look everywhere but at Lena as she suddenly becomes anxious. “Is… is it something bad? Did something happen while I was gone?”
“No… not… not exactly. It’s nothing bad, I don’t think.” Lena says it all in a hurry, trying to assuage Kara’s concern. She reaches out and takes Kara’s hands in her own. “I promise we are ok.”
Kara looks back at Lena finally, searching her face for something, though Lena isn’t sure what. Kara smiles. “What is it then? You can tell me.”
Lena takes in a deep breath and lets it out slowly. “I… I have a question first.” She continues when Kara nods. “Did you mean what you told me… when I first got to you in the phantom zone?”
The memory comes to Kara, still so fresh in her mind. “When I said I loved you?” She asks, clarifying. She knows it is, deep down. But a part of her needs to be sure. She needs to hear Lena say it.
“Yes. You… you said you were in love with me.” Lena purposefully emphasizes the word ‘were’, hoping Kara understands what she is trying to say.
“Yes, I meant it,” Kara says firmly.
Lena nods. “And now? How do you feel about me now?” Lena’s heart races as her breathing nearly stops. She can’t believe this conversation is happening here, now, as she sits in her bed with Kara, after cuddling and sleeping with her for the past few hours.
Kara’s heartrate is erratic as she tries to understand why Lena is asking these questions. She looks around the room, searching for the answer she already knows but is afraid will scare Lena away. “I don’t want to lose you again Lee,” she finally says instead of an actual answer.
Lena squeezes Kara’s hands, pulling out one of her own to cup Kara’s chin and pull her attention back to Lena’s face. “Kara, I promise no matter the answer, you won’t lose me ever again. If there is one thing I’ve learned over the past year and especially over these past few months, it is that I am incapable of being without you.”
Kara stares at Lena in disbelief. “Lena… What are you saying?”
Lena gives Kara a small half-smile. “I’m saying that… That maybe you weren’t the only one who had some… realizations while you were in the phantom zone.”
They stare at each other, silence falling over them. Kara’s hand comes up and cups Lena’s cheek. Lena leans into the touch, feeling the warmth radiating off Kara’s hand. Neither of them speaks for several minutes, seemingly unsure in how to proceed.
Kara’s mind races as she realizes that maybe, just maybe, Lena feels the same way. Lena hasn’t been sleeping since she has been gone. Lena was the one who came to get her, somehow convincing Alex to let her come instead. Lena had somehow anticipated Kara’s needs since being back from the phantom zone. And when she didn’t do that, she simply asked Kara what she needed and gave it to her, without judgment or criticism. She is softer, somehow more at ease than she was before. Kara had thought it was because she had left her CEO life behind. And that probably was part of it. But maybe another part of it is that Lena has opened herself up to her feelings, including the ones she has related to Kara.
Lena can’t help but be amazed by how well Kara has adjusted to being back already. Sure, she had a nightmare. But she called Lena, she reached out to someone for support when she needed it. Kara is the strongest, most resilient person Lena knows. She has been through so much and here she is, talking to Lena about her feelings for the woman who cut her the deepest. How have they gotten here? Lena was so close to saying her feelings a moment ago, but she stopped herself. Admitting that she had her own realizations had been hard enough. But she needed to keep going, she needed to be honest to Kara like she has been honest with herself these last few months.
And so, Lena breaks the silence first. “I told Alex something before I came to get you in the phantom zone. Something that… I needed to tell you. She was asking me on the phone this morning if I had told you yet.”
Kara waits patiently for Lena to continue, giving her a small smile and nod for encouragement.
Lena takes in a deep breath, letting it out slowly. “I realized that the reason everything felt so much more raw and painful with you, when they fell apart the way they did… is because it wasn’t just a friendship to me. At some point I had started to fall in love with you, but I hadn’t realized it. It wasn’t until you were in the phantom zone and I was able to take a step back from my toxic family that I understood the depth of my own emotions for you. Kara, I am in love with you. And I know what you said in the phantom zone. But I also understand if you need time to sort through your own emotions and time to adjust back to Earth and if you don’t want anything more than a friendship that is ok too. I just wanted you to-”
Lena is cut off, mid-sentence by Kara’s lips on her own. Lena is surprised at first, but quickly finds herself kissing back, understanding the unspoken words from Kara. Kara’s hand wraps around Lena’s neck, pulling her in deeper to the kiss. Lena’s own hands quickly finding their way around Kara’s body as she is suddenly on Kara’s lap.
When they finally pull apart, a little breathless, they rest their foreheads together. When Lena’s eyes blink open, Kara is staring at her with a wide smile.
“For the record, I’m totally counting this as our first kiss,” Kara says.
Lena chuckles, still catching her breath. “Sure thing, Darling.”
Lena immediately goes back in again, kissing more intensely than before as if all the emotions that have been building up these past few months are finally unleashed. Lena doesn’t have those tiny boxes anymore. Her emotions run free, and she lets them be expressed.
She pulls back again a few moments later. “One more thing… your sister will be here soon with breakfast.”
“Well, we better get in all the kissing we can then,” says Kara with a sly smile, blushing.
“Sounds like a wonderful plan to me, Darling.”