Actions

Work Header

Not Again

Chapter Text

Kara lays on the rock she now calls a bed, staring at the ceiling of her cave. She has no idea how long she has been in the phantom zone. Days, weeks, months, years… hell, decades could have passed by now. Her eyes fill with tears of frustration as she silently curses her friends and family back on Earth. How have they not found a way to bring her home yet.

 

“Kara?”

 

By now, Kara doesn’t even react. She is so used to the twisted tricks and mind games that the phantoms play here. They make her see what she wants to see. Each time slightly different, but the ending is always the same. They play out a scene, building up the hope in her, only for it to be absolutely crushed, taken away from her at the last moment.

 

She hears them take a step towards her. “Kara, it’s me.”

 

“Go away, you aren’t real,” Kara finally says. She rolls on the rock, turning so she faces away from her.

 

The figure stops moving, letting out an audible sigh. There is silence for a moment. “Kara, I know it’s hard to believe. I can’t imagine what horrors you have been through. I know it’s taken us too long to get here. But I’m here now to bring you back.”

 

Kara barks out a laugh that is so un-Kara-like, the person visible shudders.

 

“Kara, please.”

 

Pent up frustration and anger finally unleash as Kara sits up and faces them. “It won’t work this time. I know what this is. You. Are. Not. Real. You come to me. Convince me that we have a way out. We traverse through the phantom zone to some other part of it, to some new potential exit. Only for it to be ripped away from me somehow at the last possible moment. Usually with you dying in the process. So, no. I. Will. Not. Do. This. Again. I’m done. You’ve won. Ok. You. Have. Won. I’ve given up hope of ever getting out of here.”

 

“Kara, it’s me. It’s Lena.” Lena’s eyes fill with tears, seeing Kara broken like this.

 

Kara shakes her head. “No, it isn’t. You aren’t real. The real you is on Earth. You’ve all probably given up on finding me already.”

 

Lena runs up, kneeling down in front of Kara. “Kara, you know that isn’t true. We would never stop. Never. Now please, we have to go. The portal won’t stay open for long.”

 

“No,” comes Kara’s curt reply. She looks away from Lena, defeated.

 

Lena sighs, trying to think of a different tactic. “Ok… let’s say you are right. That I am just a figment of the phantom zone sent to torture you again. What if you’re wrong?”

 

“What?” Kara asks, only sounding mildly intrigued.

 

“What if you are wrong? What if I really am Lena from Earth? And you are throwing away your one chance at going home with her? With me?”

 

Kara chews on her lip, mulling over Lena’s words. She lets out a slow breath. “You’re saying even if I don’t believe at all that you are actually Lena, that doesn’t change the fact that I should still follow you. Even if I know this will just end up in catastrophe and heartbreak… I should still try in the slim chance it is actually a way out.”

 

Lena nods.

 

Kara looks away again, debating, her mind in conflict with itself. It’s a few minutes before Kara finally lets out a sigh. “Ugh. Fine. But when you die, I’m going to yell at you that I told you so... Phantom Lena.”

 

Lena smiles. “Deal. Now, let’s get going, please.” She stands up and reaches her hand out, hoping Kara will take it. Kara looks at it and pauses for a brief moment before reaching out and taking it. Kara is surprised when Lena doesn’t let go of her hand after they start walking.

 

“The portal is up and over this ridge, across the valley. It took some time to locate you based on a phantom we have in captivity on Earth. But even that didn’t pinpoint your exact location, just which plane you were on.” Lena says it all in a hurry as she pulls Kara along, who seems to be in no hurry to see Lena die again.

 

“Yeah yeah, I know I know. There is always some really great explanation for how you got here.”

 

Lena grits her teeth but doesn’t respond to Kara’s lashing out.

 

“Is it always me?” She asks Kara after some awkward silence.

 

“What?”

 

“That comes to you? That you see die? Is it always me?”

 

Kara is silent for a moment. “Not always… every once in a while it’s Alex.”

 

“So, it is usually me?”

 

Kara sighs. “Yes. Why are you asking this? It isn’t like you don’t know this. You are creating these things because you’ve seen inside my mind. You know who is most important to me Phantom Lena.”

 

Lena doesn’t respond.

 

They walk another ten minutes in silence before they peak up over a ridge.

 

“There!” Lena says, pointing to a portal. She looks excited, but it quickly dissipates as she looks over to see Kara with a downtrodden look on her face.

 

“Yeah yeah, let’s just get this over with.”

 

Lena nods and continues to pull Kara along with her, hand in hand as they make their way down the ridge and across the valley to the portal. “Come on, we need to hurry. It is set to close in a few minutes.”

 

“And there’s the catch,” comes Kara’s sharp reply as she stops walking, pulling her hand free from Lena.

 

Lena turns around to face Kara, red faced and exasperated. “Kara, dammit! I know you don’t believe me. I know this place has fucked with your head beyond my comprehension. But right now, right here, I just need you to listen to me. Ok. It’s me. Your Lena. The one who totally fucked up this past year and has been trying so very hard to get you back for weeks now. The one who wants nothing more than to pull you back through this portal to Earth so I can finally tell you how much I have missed you and how I might actually be in love with you. So come with me now… Please.” Lena ends her monologue breathless. Her eyes going wide as she realizes exactly what she just said.

 

Seeing Lena so exasperated, hearing the words she said, something in Kara jolts. She nods. Lena again reaches her hand out. Kara takes it. They turn towards the portal and start to run. As they run, Kara sees it, the sides and top of the portal starting to close.

 

“It’s closing Lena!” Kara says.

 

“You go first!” Lena says determinedly.

 

“Lena!”

 

“Kara!”

 

Kara chances a glance over, the memory of the last time she heard Lena yell her name like that coming to her mind. As she does, she sees Lena also looking at her.

 

“You are getting out of here, today.” Lena says this part much calmer. And though Lena doesn’t say it, Kara hears the implied part.

 

With or without me

 

They sprint the rest of the way as the portal starts to close, inch by inch. Kara’s eyes go wide. Her mind is telling her it is too late, but her feet keep racing towards the portal. As they close in on the portal, Kara suddenly feels Lena’s hand on her back. Kara has just enough time to look over and see a sad smile on Lena’s face, before she feels an extra force, pushing her through the portal.

 

As Kara falls through the portal, she rolls and lands hard on the ground. Her vision is blurry, and her ears are ringing. When she finally comes too, the first thing she sees is Alex, bent over top of her, her eyes full of tears of joy.

 

“She did it,” Alex says softly. “She really did it.”

 

Alex pulls Kara into a hug. Kara finally takes in her surroundings, realizing that she is back in the Tower, on Earth. She made it; she is back. She then finally sees everyone else, gathering around. Nia, Brainy, Kelly, J’onn, and M’gann.

 

Kara realizes it then. “Where is she? Where’s Lena?” Kara asks, pulling out of her hug with Alex.

 

Alex’s expression changes from happiness to sadness. “Kara… she… she didn’t tell you?”

 

“Tell me what?”

 

Alex looks away, her eyes full of new tears now. Brainy steps forward. “The portal we managed to design. It only allowed for the same number of beings to pass through in each direction. Therefore, because only one person went into the phantom zone, only one could come out.”

 

Kara leans back, away form Alex as Brainy’s words sink in. “No… no… just… open it back up… open it up so she can come back through.”

 

“We cannot. It was designed to open where you were.”

 

“So… so design it to open where Lena is.”

 

“We do not have the necessary tools to do that. Besides, someone else would need to enter in order for her to come out. The same problem would occur.” Brainy says it all matter-of-factly, though the pain was clear on his face. Nia steps up behind him and put a reassuring hand on his shoulder.

 

“So fix it!” Kara says, looking from Alex to Brainy, back and forth, trying to understand what is happening. Alex gives her a sad, defeated look. Kara’s eyes fill with tears. “No no no. This is not supposed to happen. How can I get out only to still lose her!”

 

That’s when it hits her. The realization dawns on Kara.

 

“This isn’t real. I’m still there.”

 

“Kara…” Alex says softly.

 

“No. This isn’t real. This is another vision. Another hallucination.”

 

The others move closer to Kara, a shared look of concern on their faces. J’onn finally speaks. “Kara, I know this is hard to believe, but you are home, with your family.”

 

Kara crosses her arms and shakes her head. “Lena would never save me just to lose me again. You all would never let her sacrifice herself to save me. This is the phantom zone finding a new way to torture me.”

 

Alex stands up. “Kara, you don’t know what you’re saying. Let’s just get you up, get you into the medbay, under the sun lamp. You’ll feel better.” She reaches out her hand, offering it to Kara.

 

Kara refuses. She keeps her arms crossed and stays planted on the floor. “No, Phantom Alex. You aren’t real. None of this is real. This is all in my head. I’m ready to go back to my rock bed now.”

 

The Superfriends all glance around to each other, before Alex shrugs.

 

“Very well, Kara Zor-El.”

 

The next thing Kara knows, she is waking up, on the rock she has become familiar with, in the cave that has become her home. She stares at the ceiling. The events of the last attack passing through her mind. Phantom Lena told her she loved her. They pulled that from Kara’s own mind. Because apparently, that’s what Kara wants. She wants Lena to be in love with her. Because she is in love with Lena.

 

“Well… fuck,” Kara says out loud to no one but herself.

 

She continues thinking about her own feelings for Lena. How strong her reactions towards or about Lena have always been, since they became friends. How quickly she defended Lena, even when she didn’t know her that well. How much she didn’t like when James and Lena dated, even though she never told a soul about that. How relieved she was when they broke up. How scared she was to tell Lena the truth about being Supergirl. More scared than she has ever been to tell anyone.

 

“Oh… I’m an idiot,” Kara says to herself. “I’m in love with Lena Luthor… and it took being stuck in the phantom zone… with phantom versions of her… to realize this…”

 

Kara stares at the ceiling for a long time after this realization. Because no matter how much of an epiphany this is. It does not change the fact that she is, in fact, still stuck in the phantom zone with no foreseeable way out of it. And while she has faith that Alex and Lena and the others are doing everything that they can to get her out, it is hard not to lose that faith. Because with each passing moment and each time she falls into another vision, she does lose that hope and that trust that she will one day get out of here.

 

But now? Now she might have a renewed sense of that hope. Because now she has a reason to hang on to it. She needs to tell Lena that she loves her. That she has been in love with her for a long time now, but she just didn’t realize it. And that maybe being in love with Lena is a big part of the reason she found it so difficult to tell her the truth. And also, maybe, if Lena is up for it, go on a date.

 

Kara keeps all this to herself though, she doesn’t say it out loud. She wants the phantoms to think she has lost hope so that maybe they will leave her alone for a while, maybe give her a chance to come up with a new plan. Or maybe, hopefully, Lena will come for her, finally.

Chapter Text

Kara walks back into her cave, what has been her home for who knows how long. She has lost track of time, because here, in the phantom zone, it doesn’t exist. Kara can’t even recall how many times the phantoms have messed with her mind, how many times they have come to her in the form of her family, convincing her there is a way out. At first, it was her long lost father, the phantoms convincing her that her long dead father was actually very much alive, trapped here in the phantom zone all these years. It was a harsh reality… one she didn’t realize until after she thought he died… the third time. That’s when it hit her… the phantoms were making her see him… pulling images and thoughts out of her own mind. It was cruel. And yet, Kara loved seeing him again, even if it was a lie, if it was all an illusion. The part she hated was how somehow, just as they were about to miraculously escape, he winded up dead and there way out was no longer viable.

 

Eventually, he stopped returning and those she loved from Earth starting showing up… Alex first. Then Nia, Brainy, and J’onn. Eventually, the phantoms sent her Lena. And once it was Lena, it rarely ever became anyone else ever again. Sometimes the phantoms would mix it up and send one of the others again. Occasionally it would be Alex and Lena together. But no matter who showed up, each and every time, the freedom Kara so desired would be snatched away from her at the last possible second, usually at the same time as she watched someone she loved died. This last time, the phantoms set up their mind games so that she would have to sacrifice everyone she loved for her freedom, knowing full well she would never choose that. And she had to destroy her way out herself, with her own hands. It was devastating, even if she knew it wasn’t real.

 

As she walked back into her cave, she yelled and screamed until her throat was raw. Her face wet from the tears that streamed down her face. She was so tired of these mind games. She was so sick of being trapped here, alone, with only the phantoms to keep her company. She collapsed onto a rock, curled into the fetal possible as the tears continued to fall. She stared at the wall, wanting so badly to rest, to truly be able to sleep. But sleep didn’t come naturally to her here. Since time didn’t move forward, she wasn’t really living, wasn’t aging. Thus, she didn’t experience hunger or fatigue. So, she didn’t seem to require much sleep at all. Occasionally, she would doze off and manage a few minutes. Or at least, that is what she estimated. For all she knew, when she fell asleep, she could have been asleep for days back on Earth. Here, all she could do was stare at the wall and prey to Rao that she could somehow find a way to die.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Some indeterminable time later, she heard an all too familiar voice saying her name from the entrance to her cave. She ignored it, knowing full well that it wouldn’t matter, that they would still approach and say her name again.

 

“Kara… Kara it’s me… it’s Lena.”

 

Kara squinted her eyes and let out a long breath. “No, it isn’t.” She rolled over to face the new phantom Lena.

 

Lena stood a few steps in from the mouth of the cave, eyes wide but jaw firm. “Please, Kara… it’s me… it’s Lena… please come with me.”

 

Kara sits up on her rock and finally meets the phantom Lena in the eyes like she has done with the previous versions. “You know, I loved the real Lena. I mean I was in love with her. And it took coming to this forsaken place to realize it.”

 

She sees the phantom Lena’s eyes widen as she gasps just like the previous versions have reacted. “Kara… I…”

 

Kara hops up then, “I know I know… you’re different… you’re the real deal… finally come to save me… yadda yadda yadda…”

 

She steps up to phantom Lena then, so their faces are only a few inches apart. Phantom Lena freezes, her breath hitches as Kara slowly lifts her hand up and ever so gently tucks a loose strand of hair behind her ear, before withdrawing her hand.

 

“She has no idea how often I wanted to do that. I always held myself back with her, in so many ways. It’s so odd… in so many ways I was my most authentic self… but then, in the way that it mattered the most, I wasn’t.”

 

Kara continues to stare deeply into green eyes when the phantom Lena finally remembers to breathe again, only to ask her, “What way is that?”

 

The small, half-smile as Kara finally looks away seems to shatter the phantom Lena’s heart. “It took being here, of all places, to realize it. Not even the months we spent fighting and being apart did it… no.” By now, Kara is slowly pacing around the cave, a wild look in her eyes, talking more to herself and the walls than to phantom Lena. “No… it took being here… having the phantoms create you and have me lose you over and over and over again… for me to realize the depth of my feelings for you.”

 

Phantom Lena stares on in shock, speechless. When Kara finally turns around to face her again, she lets out a ragged, tired breath. “But alas, it is time again to watch you die. Shall we go?”

 

It’s like a movie or book Kara has memorized from seeing it hundreds of times. She knows the script and the ending. And even though she hates the ending, she can’t help but want to enjoy every moment she can with Lena, even if it isn’t really her.

 

“Kara… I…” She is quickly cut off again.

 

“No no, phantom Lena – it is quite alright. You don’t need to give your monologue speech to convince me you’re really Lena. I get it. I’m just going to enjoy the time we get together before it all goes to shit. And yes I know, I just cursed. It’s a new thing for me, I know. The phantom zone does strange things to us all.”

 

With that last sentiment, Kara gives an odd smile to phantom Lena as she approaches her again. Kara puts her hand out, silently asking Lena to hold it as they walk. Phantom Lena looks from the open hand up to Kara’s face to see another odd, unreadable expression. When a few second go by with neither woman saying nor doing anything, Kara prompts her by saying, “I just want to hold your hand, Lee.”

 

Lena visibly swallows as she takes her hand. They turn and head out of the cave. Kara again looks around the phantom zone. “So… which way?”

 

Lena hesitates for a moment before using her free hand to pull out a small device. It has a screen on it. Kara sees a dot on it in the corner. Lena studies it for a moment before saying softly, “This way,” as she gently pulls Kara along with her.

 

The two women walk in silence for a few minutes as Lena continues to consult the handheld device several more times. She never relinquishes her grasp of Kara’s hand though. As they make their way around a bend in between some rocks and crevices, the phantom Lena finally speaks.

 

“How do I die? In the past versions of this… scenario?”

 

Kara frowns as she looks down and away. “It doesn’t matter.”

 

“Kara.” Lena stops walking and looks at Kara directly now. “Please. Why do you keep seeing me die?”

 

Kara finally pulls her hand out of phantom Lena’s grasp. “No. Lena. Just no. Ok. I just want to enjoy this time we get together. I can’t do that if I’m reliving the worst moments of my time here.” Kara’s hands are tight fists at her side as her eyes fill with tears.

 

Phantom Lena holds her hands up in surrender. “Ok ok… I’m sorry… I’m sorry Kara. I didn’t mean to upset you.”

 

She watches as Kara takes a few deep breaths, trying to calm herself down.

 

“What can I do?” Phantom Lena asks.

 

Kara chews on her bottom lip for a moment, her eyes showing her internal struggle.

 

Phantom Lena takes a tentative step forward. “Please? I want to help.”

 

Kara wants to so badly, but she knows if she goes down this path, it is only going to drive her even more insane.

 

But  then again, Kara thinks, maybe it will be worth it.

 

When Kara doesn’t respond one way or the other, Phantom Lena takes another step closer. She is an arm’s length away now. “Kara.”

 

Kara shakes her head, almost like she is trying to send the thoughts away. “We can’t.”

 

“Can’t what?” Phantom Lena asks softly.

 

“We shouldn’t,” comes Kara’s reply. It’s then that phantom Lena realizes Kara isn’t talking to her. Kara hasn’t had anyone real to talk to in the phantom zone. She is currently talking to herself.

 

Phantom Lena reaches out slowly, inch by inch, giving Kara so much time to stop her or to step away. Kara sees the hand coming and stops talking to herself, just watching. When phantom Lena’s hand is but a few inches from Kara’s face, she stops and looks intently at Kara, and asks tenderly, her voice full of love, “Do you want me to stop?”

 

“Please don’t,” comes out Kara’s quick hushed reply.

 

Phantom Lena lets her hand close the distance them, cupping Kara’s face. Kara immediately melts into the touch, her eyes closing, her heart rate slowing, her mouth forming a small smile. They stand still like that for a full minute before Kara finally speaks again. “You know, I almost forgot you aren’t real.”

 

Phantom Lena smirks and lets out a deep breath before responding with, “We can stay here as long as you like, Kara.”

 

Kara smiles fully at the comment before she reaches out and pulls the phantom Lena into herself. She can’t believe how good it feels to simply hug any version of Lena, real or fake. She hadn’t let herself do this in so long, in so many versions, she forgot what it felt like. She can even smell the phantom Lena. They even managed to get that part right. Kara doesn’t realize she is crying until she finally pulls away several minutes later.

 

Phantom Lena looks deep into her blue eyes, sad to see the state that Kara is in. She reaches up tenderly and wipes away the tears. “I’ve got you,” she says to Kara, “Even if I’m not real to you.”

 

Kara sniffles a little as she takes Lena’s hand again and guides them over to a rock outcropping. She sits down with Lena next to her. Throwing caution to the wind, Kara lays her head on phantom Lena’s shoulder. If she is going to lean into the illusion, she is going to fully lean into it, she decides. “You feel just like her, you know. You hug like her. You smell just like her. God, I miss her so much. Even more than Alex. If I ever get back… I can never tell Alex that, she won’t understand.”

 

Phantom Lena kisses the top of her head. “You should be able to be honest about your feelings, Kara. She is your sister. She would understand. You missing Lena doesn’t negate the fact that you are also missing your sister.”

 

Kara’s eyes fill with tears again as she whispers, “I tried so hard to get back to them. For so long I fought. I stayed sane. But the phantoms… I couldn’t… I couldn’t fight them when they started sending you and Alex…”

 

“Sh… it’s ok…” Phantom Lena puts an arm around Kara. “I’ve got you.”

 

Kara and phantom Lena sit against the rocks for some time while Kara cries about all that she has lost, finally realizing she has given up hope of ever returning to her loved ones. Alex. Lena. Nia. Brainy. J’onn. All of them. She is never going to see them again. Only these phantom versions of them that haunt her, that taunt her.

 

When she is finally all cried out, Kara looks up at phantom Lena, who gives her a sad smile.

 

“Are you ready to continue the journey?” She asks when Kara doesn’t speak.

 

“Almost,” Kara says as she brings a hand up and gently caresses phantom Lena’s face.

 

Phantom Lena softly gasps at the touch. “Kara… what”

 

“You said earlier to tell you how you could help.”

 

Phantom Lena looks at her, trying to read her indecipherable expression. “Yes.”

 

Kara’s cheeks redden as she speaks again. “I… I know this isn’t real… I know what’s about to happen… But can… can I kiss you?”

 

Phantom Lena can’t help but smirk. “And how does that help you, exactly?”

 

Kara shrugs, a playful look on her face now. “It might help me right now. Or look at it this way, the phantoms will like it because it is probably going to make your next death and all the future deaths that much more devastating.”

 

Phantom Lena “So why do it?”

 

“Because I’m tired of pretending it isn’t what I want to do.”

 

Kara sits up just enough, so her face is a few inches from phantom Lena’s. “Are you sure about this?” Phantom Lena whispers, her green eyes drilling into Kara’s ocean blue ones.

 

Kara nods once, firmly, before her head naturally leans forward, her forehead resting on phantom Lena’s, her eyes closing. “Please…” Kara says, even softer than phantom Lena just spoke.

 

Phantom Lena mirrors Kara, her eyes closing as her breath shudders. “Ok.”

 

As soon as the word leaves her mouth, phantom Lena feels Kara’s hand on her cheek as Kara’s lips meet her own. The kiss is soft and gentle at first, but within a few second seconds, Kara’s other hand wraps around her body and pulls her in closer, the kiss becoming more urgent, like it is breathing life back into Kara.

 

When they finally pull away to breathe, Kara and phantom Lena stare intently into each other’s eyes, their foreheads still touching, their hands still wrapped up in each other as they breathe heavily.

 

“Rao, that was amazing,” Kara says in between breaths.

 

Phantom Lena smiles. “Indeed.”

 

“I know I’m a bit crazy from all my time here... But how have I waited this long to do that.” Kara finally pulls back a little and smiles for the first time with this version of phantom Lena.

 

Phantom Lena smiles at her and opens her mouth to respond when the device in her pocket starts beeping. She pulls it out and starts messing with it, a scowl forming on her face as she does. Kara watches her. As she does, the smile fades back into the look of dejectedness she had prior to the start of their journey. She sighs as she stands up. Phantom Lena looks up at her, an eyebrow raised questioning Kara’s sudden behavior.

 

“This is the part where you tell me we need to hurry up to whatever exit you have for us from the phantom zone, am I right?”

 

Phantom Lena frowns. “Kind of.”

 

“Yeah… let’s just get this over with.” Kara puts a hand out to help phantom Lena up, who takes it willingly.

 

As they start to walk again towards the signal, Kara starts to think about the kiss and how this phantom Lena seems open to doing whatever Kara asks of her. She finds herself talking before she realizes what she is saying.

 

“You know… there is one other thing you could do for me… instead,” Kara says hesitantly, almost immediately regretting it. The last time she asked phantom Lena to do this, the phantoms were so angry with her, they left her alone for so long. One might think that is better. But for someone like Kara, that solitude, that aloneness, was worse than dealing with visions sent by the phantoms to torment her.

 

“What’s that?” Phantom Lena asks.

 

“You could… never mind,” Kara says, changing her mind.

 

Phantom Lena stops walking and turns to face Kara. “What is it, Kara? You know I’d do anything for you.”

 

The intensity behind the statement isn’t lost on Kara. “It’s just… you could end my suffering here… now…”

 

Phantom Lena’s head tilts slightly as she tries to comprehend exactly what Kara is asking of her. “What are you…. Oh…” She says as she finally understands.

 

Kara looks away as she starts to ramble, trying to explain. “It’s just… I’ve been through so many of these scenarios now… and I know… I know no one is actually coming for me… they can’t find me… I know that now… but the phantoms…. They’ll never stop sending visions to taunt me… to torture me… but if you… if you help me… maybe we can stop it… permanently.” Kara chances a glance up to see tears shimmering in phantom Lena’s eyes. She looks down at her own feet after that. “I… I can’t keep this up indefinitely Lena…”

 

She feels more than sees phantom Lena’s hand in her own. “Please come with me. I think I have a solution to your problem.”

 

Kara follows though phantom Lena doesn’t say anything else for the rest of the journey, nor does she look back at Kara. She just continues to consult her device as they make their way through the phantom zone. Kara chews on her bottom lip, concerned that she said the wrong thing, that this is about to blow up in her face and she will face the wrath of the phantoms all over again. She thinks that maybe she should apologize, that maybe she can fake hope or fake a smile and that might fix things.

 

As she continues to rack her brain for what to do though, phantom Lena suddenly stops walking. “Ok. Stand right here. Don’t move,” she instructs Kara as she takes out a small disc device from her pocket. She sits it on the ground between them, carefully measuring and appearing to line it up at some exact location based on the handheld device.

 

“What are you doing?” Kara asks, curious now.

 

“Sh. I need to get this exactly right,” is the only response she gets. Kara stands still and waits, looking around the current valley they are in, she realizes she has never been to this part of the phantom zone before.

 

“Ok, stand right there. And I stand here. And I’ll activate this. Once Brainy activates his side in three minutes. We should be good to go.”

 

Kara stares at Lena. “Did you just say Brainy? Three minutes?”

 

Lena nods. “Now don’t move. I have everything set up exactly as needed for the portal.”

 

“What portal Lena?”

 

Lena smirks. “The one that is going to open at our feet.”

 

“Who goes through the portal Lena?”

 

“We do?” She says confused.

 

“Both of us? Not just me?” Kara asks demandingly.

 

“That’s the plan. The portal is big enough for two. That’s why only one of us could come find you.”

 

“But… but… something… something is going to come after us… make one of us have to leave the area…” Kara says it as she looks around the valley, a very desolate looking area.

 

She looks back to see Lena smiling. “We scouted and found the best location for something like this. Nia dreamed it as well. Nothing comes over here, not even the phantoms.”

 

“Why?” Kara asks dumbfounded.

 

Lena shrugs. “From what we could tell, because there are no places to hide, the phantoms knew no one would come this way, so they’ve naturally learned to patrol other areas of the phantom zone and blatantly ignore this one.”

 

Kara stares at Lena, completely speechless. “Oh, here we go,” Lena says as the small disc at their feet begins to light up. Lena looks back at Kara and holds her hands out. “Shall we?”

 

Kara reaches out and takes Lena’s hands in her own. She then looks down to see the light start to expand until it is a circle that is just wide enough for both Lena and Kara. Lena wasn’t kidding, they would be hard pressed to fit a third person in this circle with them. The light from the circle suddenly turns a dark purple with specks of black and swirling light.

 

And suddenly, Kara is falling. Though falling might not be the best description. Kara is being pulled – pulling through an abyss. And spinning. She can feel her hands holding firmly to Lena’s hands, though everything is moving so fast that she can’t see her.

 

And just as quickly, Kara finds herself laying on hard ground, staring up. Her eyes take a few minutes to adjust to all of the light now flooding her. Not only that, but her ears are being bombarded with so many sounds. All her senses are being so overwhelmed that for a moment she thinks she might throw up or pass out. Or both.

 

The last thing she remembers before her vision fades to black is her hand still gripping another and feeling relieved that she didn’t somehow lose Lena through the strange portal vortex thing.

Chapter Text

The first thing Kara notices when she comes to, is the sensation of someone holding her hand, gently running their thumb across the back of her hand. She takes a few breaths as she tries to open her eyes, squinting again at all the light.

 

“Easy, easy,” she hears Lena saying softly as the lights dim from something Lena does on the tablet in her other hand.  

 

She clears her throat, feeling just how scratchy and hoarse it is as she says her name. “Lena?”

 

“I’m here Darling.”

 

Kara gives her eyes a moment to come into focus with the now dark room. As they do, she finds herself sitting in a med bay area in the Tower. Lena is sitting next to her, her hand in her own, giving her a small but tentative smile. Across from Lena, on the other side of the bed, sits Alex, her head on the bed on her hands, asleep.

 

“Who… who is still trapped?” Kara asks, having lived through some similar illusions.

 

Lena frowns slightly. “No one Kara… everyone is in the main part of the Tower. They’d love to see you… when you’re ready.”

 

Kara’s forehead crinkles. “I don’t understand… what’s the catch in this illusion?”

 

Lena lets out a small sigh. “Kara… this… this isn’t the phantoms… this isn’t an illusion… you’re back on Earth… you are home.”

 

Kara stares at Lena like she just spoke in a foreign language that she doesn’t understand. When the words do finally register with Kara, the first thing out of her mouth, though barely a whisper, is, “That can’t be…”

 

Lena gives her a sad smile. “I know it’s a lot to take in… it is a lot to process…”

 

Lena feels Kara squeeze her hand as she reaches up with her other hand, touching Lena’s face ever so lightly. “You’re… you. You’re real?”

 

Lena nods. “Yes Kara. I’m me. I’m real. You are really back.”

 

Kara’s hand drops away as the realization dawns on her. “But that would mean… what happened in the phantom zone… with the last phantom Lena… Oh Rao.”

 

Kara’s cheeks turn a deep red. “Kara, it is ok. I promise.” Lena says firmly. She wants Kara to know that she shouldn’t be embarrassed by anything that happened there. That Lena knows Kara was in a deep place, mentally. Lena wants to say more, but isn’t sure how to explain, in the moment.

 

Kara opens her mouth to respond but is interrupted.

 

“Kara?” Alex says as she lifts her head from the bed, waking up from hearing Kara’s voice. Lena smiles softly as she steps away and quietly exits the room, giving the sisters some privacy for their reunion.

 

“Hey sis,” Kara says softly, turning to look at Alex as she lifts her head. “I’ve missed you.”

 

Alex looks up, tears in her eyes. “You have no idea how much I’ve missed you.”

 

The sisters end up sitting side by side on the bed, with Alex doing most of the talking as she updates Kara on what has been going on in her absence. She is excited to tell Kara about how she asked Kelly to move in with her. She is hesitant to tell her about how she told Kelly she is Supergirl.

 

Kara puts her arm around her sister. “Hey, I’m glad you told her. After everything that went down between me and Lena… we can’t keep putting it off with the people we love.”

 

Alex puts her head on Kara’s shoulder. “Lena was the one who pushed me to do it, actually.”

 

“Really?” Kara says with surprise in her voice.

 

Alex smiles, sitting back up, an odd expression on her face that Kara can’t quite interpret. “She was very insistent about a lot of things these past few weeks actually. She also has a lot to update you on, I imagine.”

 

“Like what?” Kara asks, her heart racing as her forehead crinkles in concern.

 

Alex dodges the question though. “That’s for her to share.”

 

As if on cue, Lena knocks on the door frame. “I’ve made some tea, would you two like some?”

 

They both nod as Kara stomach also gurgles loudly, causing all three women to chuckle.

 

“I have also brought some pot stickers,” says Lena, ever so casually. She sets the plate down in front of Kara, who smiles widely and immediately dives into the food.

 

She smiles at them and turns to walk away, intent to let Alex have this time with her sister. She is stopped though when a hand grabs her wrist. She turns to see Kara looking up at her. Alex is watching the entire interaction with a neutral, unreadable expression.

 

“Stay? Please?” Kara says softly.

 

Surprise flashes across her face. Lena nods and sits back down in her chair that is still next to the bed.

 

Kara eats a few more pot stickers in silence before looking to Lena and saying, “Alex tells me you have some things to update me on?”

 

Lena gives Alex a glare, surprising Kara with how at ease the two of them seem now. Whatever happened these past months without her, Alex and Lena seem to have put the past behind them. “I suppose she is talking about the fact that I quit Luthorcorp.”

 

Kara’s jaw drops to the bed. “You what?”

 

Lena half-smiles. “I realized the only way to actually beat Lex was to stop playing the game altogether. So, I quit. I cut ties with my family and the company.”

 

“But… but your legacy,” Kara stammers.

 

Lena waves her hands dismissively. “That went away with crisis, really. Here, on this Earth, Lex gets away with murder, literally. Anything good I would do under the Luthor name will always be seen as an accomplishment for Lex too.”

 

Kara stares in amazement at Lena. “Wow. Lena. That’s… you’re so brave.”

 

Lena feels herself start to blush from the praise and intense look from Kara. She clears her throat. “Well… it had to be done. I had to focus on finding you, after all.”

 

Kara smiles as she eats two more pot stickers, trying to ignore how that comment sent butterflies through her stomach. “You know, that isn’t the only update, Lena,” says Alex with a smirk.

 

Lena glares again. “Oh?” Kara asks, her mouth full.

 

“Yeah, Lena has been working at the Tower, as part of the team, officially.”

 

Kara’s smile widens. “Lena! Yes! You have to tell me all about it! What have you been working on? Any new inventions?”

 

Alex smiles, content with herself as she snipes a couple of pot stickers for herself. Lena tells Kara about her work with Brainy and her own inventions that helped with fighting the phantoms, with finding Kara, and with the portal technology.

 

“That’s amazing Lee! I bet the team is so happy to have you.” Lena can’t help but smile at how happy Kara seems with this new development in her life, at being a part of the team, for real this time.

 

“Speaking of your friends,” Lena says, wanting to get the attention off herself, “I’m sure they would all love to know you are awake. Would you be willing to have some visitors?”

 

Kara smiles. “I’m… still not sure this is real, if I’m being honest.”

 

Alex glances at Lena with a look of concern. “I know Darling,” Lena says, “I remember what you told me in the phantom zone. We can take it one step at a time, whenever you’re ready, ok?”

 

Kara finds it hard to believe that Alex isn’t pushing her to see them. More than that, she is apparently letting Lena take the lead and call the shots. What exactly has happened here while Kara has been gone? Kara admits to herself that she has missed them all terribly. But she can’t deny that there is a part of her that still fears that if she moves forward with things, that she will discover this isn’t real at all. But Lena, this Lena here, seems so real. Alex too. They are the same, but different, having changed somewhat since she has been gone. That has to count for something, right? That must mean they are real, right? Knowing this, she wants to try.

 

She nods and smiles appreciatively. “Maybe just J’onn?”

 

Lena nods and looks to Alex, who steps out to go get him. Having a few minutes alone, Kara asks Lena the question she has been wondering about since she woke up. “Hey Lena… um… when we were in the phantom zone… why didn’t you… try to convince me… you know… that you were you?” As the question stumbles out of her mouth, she looks down at her hands and realizes she is twisting up the blanket she is under. She hopes Lena understands all the questions behind the questions she asked. Why didn’t she stop her from kissing her? Did she tell Alex or anyone else about the other thing she asked Lena to do for her? Did she tell them what else she told Lena in the phantom zone?

 

Lena takes the now empty plate off Kara’s lap and sets it down before coming back and sitting next to Kara in her chair. “Well, Kelly suggested that when I found you, you might not be able to tell reality from whatever the phantoms had been making you see all this time, and so, instead of fighting or arguing with you about what was real or fake, that I should lean into your delusions and roll with it. So that’s what I did.”

 

“So… when I kept calling you phantom Lena…”

 

“I let you believe that I was a phantom Lena. Because arguing with you would have been a moot point. It would have kept us from getting to the extraction point.”

 

Kara hums in response, trying to process and understand Lena’s behavior in the phantom zone. As she finally looks up, she sees Lena watching her intently.

 

“Kara, I-”

 

There is a knock at the door, and they are interrupted by J’onn and Alex. Lena stops talking and quickly excuses herself to give J’onn and Alex some alone time with Kara.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

It’s a tearful reunion with J’onn, the three of them all hugging and crying for some time. It helps Kara though, realize that this is real, that she is home, with her family again. Shortly afterward, she has Brainy and Nia come visit. And later on, Kelly and M’gann come. It’s been about three months in Earth time since she was taken into the phantom zone. Kara doesn’t have the heart to tell them that for her, she had lived through hundreds, maybe thousands, of escapes that were all illusions. She can’t even begin to explain to them exactly what it was like. Afterall, she can’t recall all of them. Some of her memories are vivid, others are like dreams. And she knows some she won’t remember at all unless they are activated by something in her life. While Lena left Kara alone with Alex and J’onn, with the rest of the Superfriends, Lena hangs back in the corner of the room, typing away on something, appearing to be working, watching closely. Kara catches Lena’s watchful eye every time one of the Superfriends try to ask about her time in the phantom zone. Luckily, Kara is able to dodge the question each time. But she can tell that Lena has a level of understanding that the others just do not, because she found her there. She saw what was happening to her there. And she apparently didn’t tell any of them. Kara is grateful, not yet ready to face the pity in their eyes or the burden of having to share those experiences with everyone.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Kara gets cleared to go home about half a day after waking up.

 

“Here sis, I stopped by your place and picked up a change of clothes, so you don’t have to worry about being seen in public as Supergirl just yet.” Alex lays the clothes down at the end of the bed as Kara is sitting up. She gives Alex a gracious smile.

 

“There is a shower in the bathroom,” Lena says with a head nod.

 

Kara slowly makes her way to the bathroom, thankful for the reprieve from everyone. While she is thankful to be home and with her family again, she was starting to feel a bit overwhelmed with everyone around all the time. Alex told her that everyone was getting ready to go home for the evening and that when she was feeling up for it, they would have a game night. She was glad they knew she wouldn’t be ready just yet, because really, all she wanted to do was go home and sleep in her own bed. Maybe watch a Disney movie and eat some ice cream if she was feeling up for it.

 

She stands under the shower for quite a while, letting herself cry quiet tears. Her first trip in the phantom zone had been much longer, but she was somewhat protected in her pod. This time, she was constantly attacked by the phantoms. She cries for the visions of her loved ones she saw die over and over again. She knows it wasn’t real, but she experienced the emotions each and every time. How could she not? Even when she knew it was fake, it still hurt.

 

As she walks out of the bathroom, feeling somewhat refreshed but also drained from crying, she is surprised to find Lena still in the med bay, again typing away on the tablet.

 

“Hey, I thought everyone was going home for the night?” She says as she wraps her hair in a towel.

 

Lena gives her a small smile. “I just wanted to finish drawing up some plans for some new tech ideas I have.”

 

Kara smiles. “No rest for the world saving genius.”

 

Lena smirks at the comment. “Feel better?”

 

“Yep,” Kara says with a plastered smile. “Where is Alex?”

 

“Oh, she just left to walk Kelly out. I am fairly certain she intends to stay the night with you.”

 

Kara half-smiles. “I’ve been meaning to ask… how come it was you?”

 

Lena looks up from her tablet, her eyebrow in the air. “What do you mean?”

 

Kara’s hands twist each other as she responds, “Instead of Alex. I just… I guess I’m surprised she let anyone but herself do the rescuing.”

 

Lena sets the tablet down and looks up at Kara intently. “I provided a sound logical argument for why it should be me instead of her that should go in the phantom zone for you.”

 

Kara’s head tilts slightly to the side as her mouth opens slightly. “And that worked?”

 

Lena smirks. “I was very convincing.”

 

-------------------

 

“No, Lena, it has to be me. I’m her SISTER!” Alex yells demandingly at Lena, after Lena had stated rather calmly that she wanted to be the one to go through the portal after Kara.

 

Lena takes in a deep breath. “Would everyone excuse us, for a moment?” She looks around the room at the rest of the Superfriends, who nod and make their way out of the room they had been working in as they made the final preparations for the rescue mission. Once everyone was gone and the door was closed, Lena looks back to Alex, who stands against a wall, arms crossed, ready to rebuke any arguments Lena might present.

 

“Alex, you have Kelly. You have someone to lose. I have no one.”

 

Alex’s facial expressions falter for a moment before they harden into determination. “I have to save her, Lena.”

 

Lena approaches her slowly. She figured her first argument wouldn’t work but thought it would be worth a try. Time for counter-point number two.

 

“And I’m her former best friend who betrayed her trust after finding out she lied to me for years, who then showed up at her door and practically forced her to work with me again to stop my brother, which is how she ended up in the phantom zone. I have to do everything I can to fix this.”

 

“I was supposed to protect her,” Alex says through gritted teeth.

 

Lena lets out an exasperated sigh. “You’re really going to make me say it, aren’t you?” She spins away from Alex, making a beeline for the cabinet where she hides the scotch.

 

Alex looks at her with curiosity. “Say what?” She takes a few steps to follow Lena after seeing Lena pull out two glasses. She waits in silence as Lena pours them each a drink.

 

Lena turns and hands her one before drinking her own, downing it in one smooth swallow.

 

She looks intently at Alex. “I’m in love with your idiot sister. I have to go save her so I can tell her as much.”

 

Alex stares at Lena in shock, forgetting about the drink in her hand.

 

-------------------

 

Kara hums in response as she folds up her Supergirl suit and puts it in the bag. Alex walks in a few seconds later.

 

“Ready to go?” She asks. Kara looks from her sister back to Lena, who is again silent but watchful. Kara finds herself not wanting to leave Lena. But asking her to come home with her feels different than asking her to stay in the room earlier that day.

 

“Yeah…” Kara finally says.

 

Alex walks past Kara and gives Lena a knowing look before pulling her into a hug. “Thank you, for everything.” Lena embraces the hug with a smile, giving her a nod when they pull apart. Alex turns then and loops an arm around her sister. Kara gives one last look back at Lena, who gives an almost imperceptible but encouraging nod to Kara with a small smile. Kara gives a little wave as they leave the room.

 

On the drive home, Kara stares out the window. The sounds of the city are again loud, and she focuses on her breathing, trying to not let it get to her.

 

“You ok?” Alex asks from the driver’s seat.

 

“Yeah… it’s just… so much noise… compared to the phantom zone.”

 

“Right. Lena said that might happen. Check the glove box.”

 

Kara opens the glove box to find a pair of noise canceling headphones with the House of El symbol on them. She looks over at Alex confused.

 

“Lena might have taken some noises canceling headphones and amplified their abilities for you.”

 

“When did she do that exactly?” Kara asks.

 

Alex shrugs. “She likes to stay busy and plan ahead. She tried to think about all the things you might need when you returned from the phantom zone. This was one of those things.”

 

Kara’s eyes widened in surprise as she slipped the headphones on.

 

And… silence. Wow. Kara couldn’t believe it. She could no longer hear the other vehicles or people talking or radios or even Alex next to her. Whatever Lena did to these headphones, it works wonderfully. Kara closes her eyes as she lays her head back, content to enjoy the silence for the rest of the way home.

 

---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

 

Kara sends a quick message as they pull into a parking space.

 

KD: These headphones are unbelievable. YOU are remarkable. Thank you.

 

She receives a reply before the elevator reaches her floor.

 

LL: Anything for you, Darling. <3

 

Kara smiles at her phone as her and Alex make their way into the apartment. They settle in the couch, eat ice cream, put in an old movie. Kara isn’t paying much attention though, as she finds herself feeling very sleepy shortly after finishing her ice cream. Alex notices Kara’s droopy eyes.

 

“Why don’t you get some sleep? I can stay out here and crash on the couch when I get tired,” Alex says.

 

“You don’t need to stay, I’ll be ok,” Kara says, feeling bad that she is so tired already. She wants to spend time with her sister, she really does. But she also can’t shake this feeling of exhaustion that has come over her.

 

“I want to stay,” Alex responds resolutely. Kara can feel the protective sister vibes radiating off Alex as she says it. She doesn’t want Kara left alone after being in the phantom zone.

 

“Alex, I’ll be fine. You should be spending time with your girlfriend, who you will be moving in with soon. I mean, I am sure you’ve been spending all your time focused on getting me back. Well, now I am back. So now you should focus on your relationship.”

 

Alex pauses but shakes her head. “Kara, it’s fine. Kelly understands.”

 

Kara huffs. “I know she does. But she doesn’t have to. I promise I’ll be ok. If anything happens, I will call, I promise.”

 

Alex stares intently at Kara, who gives her a smile. “I really don’t mind staying, Kara.”

 

“I know you don’t. And I love that. But seriously, I’ll be ok. All I want to do is curl up in an actual bed with actual blankets and sleep.”

 

Alex eyes her cautiously. “Alright… I’ll stay until you fall asleep and then let myself out. But you will call me if you need anything, anything at all, no matter the time, right?”

 

“Yes, Alex, I promise.” Kara holds out her pinky like they used to do when she first got to Earth.

 

Alex takes it. “Good, now go get some sleep.”

 

Kara gives Alex a big hug before making her way to her bed. She quickly falls asleep and doesn’t even hear when Alex lets herself out, several hours later. Alex had wanted to stay to make sure Kara was able to sleep, knowing she was prone to nightmares, but didn’t want Kara to feel smothered by her. She knows Kara would feel like she was overstepping, being overbearing if she woke up to find her sister still there after being told to leave. So, close to midnight, a few hours after Kara had fallen asleep, Alex gives her sister a kiss on the forehead and slips out the door.

 

Before she goes, Alex leaves a note on Kara’s nightstand, by her phone, letting her know she will bring breakfast by the next morning. Unfortunately for Kara, when she wakes up a few hours later, she is in such a state of panic she isn’t even sure where she is at first.

Chapter Text

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.

 

“Um… I…”

 

“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.”

 

“Why not?”

 

“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.”