Lena didn’t know what she expected when Kara finally came home from the Phantom Zone. Kara pulling away from her wasn’t it. But it’s what she got.
Before Kara was exiled, they were in a decent place together. Kara had said that she trusted Lena fully. Sure there was some behind the eyes tension. However, that was to be expected. Lena understood that it would take a while to get back to where they were pre-reveal of Kara's secret identity, to get back to best friends.
At first, that is exactly how things had been. Of course, they had to deal with Lex and Nyxlygsptlnz. And while the team did exactly that, things seemed to be about the way they were before Kara’s unexpected departure. Lena could handle that. She could handle working with Kara to get back to where they were.
Although, if Lena were honest. She wanted more than they had before. Kara's time away had made Lena even more aware of her feelings. Lena wanted to be able to wrap Kara up in a very non-platonic way. Pre-reveal there had been times when Lena had thought that Kara felt the same. Bitten lips. Eyes that roamed up and down. Hugs that lasted a bit too long. These were actions that made Lena believe that maybe, just maybe Kara returned her feelings.
Post-reveal, Lena became sure that Kara didn’t. When Lena shot Lex and he told her who Kara really was. It opened Lena's eyes. Kara most certainly didn't feel the way Lena felt. When Lena finally confronted Kara and told her that she knew about her secret identity. Lena also admitted that Kara had broken her heart. It was as close as Lena ever came to divulging her true feelings.
However, once everything was settled with Lex and Nyxly, Kara seemed to shut down a little. Kara began to eschew physical contact. She tensed up more easily. Lena thought it was perhaps a bit of delayed PTSD, and tried to be there for her friend.
It was in those attempts that Lena noticed that it was only with her that Kara was distant and wary. Lena’s heart broke again. Not as shattered as it had been when she found out the Kara/ Supergirl secret. But a part of it broke once again. And this time it was her hope that was broken. The hope that they would ever be best friends again. The hope that they could be close.
Inwardly she chastised herself for thinking it would be that easy to gain forgiveness, true forgiveness, from Kara. Yes, Kara had betrayed her, but Lena, per usual, had reacted too excessively to that betrayal. That kind of excess is not easily forgiven.
Lena could live without being forgiven, if it was only a matter of earning it. However, Lena couldn’t live without hope. The hope that they were close to being who they were. The hope that they could be what they used to be. Lena needed to escape. She needed to be somewhere that didn’t remind her of Kara or Supergirl. She needed to reset.
Having been gone from Luthor Corp for so long. (And post Crisis it was Luthor Corp not L Corp.) It was easy to not stay. It was easy to turn the reins over to Sam.
Lena announced to her friends that she needed a break, a vacation. The first questions revolved around where she would be going. Lena didn’t know. She was going to travel. She was going to go where the wind took her. That inevitably led to the question of when she would return. Lena didn’t know what she expected from Kara when she made the announcement. Complete silence from the Kryptonian wasn’t it. But it’s what she got. It was actually Alex that had the strongest reaction.
“What do you mean you’re not coming back?!” Demanded Alex angrily. “Lena you’re family! You can’t walk away from family!”
Had Lena taken a moment she might have enjoyed the turn of fortune. When Lena had first come around the group, Alex and James were the most skeptical of her. She had ended up dating James. And now, Alex was furious that Lena would leave them.
Lena didn’t even look at Kara while the discussion was happening. Although she knew that Kara would never want her the way that she wanted Kara, a contradictory word from her may derail Lena’s escape. Eventually, Lena’s need to ‘go find herself’ was accepted by all.
The night before Lena’s departure they held a going away party for her at Kara’s apartment. At first it was the same as any other game night or holiday party. Nia, Brainy, Kelly, Alex, J’onn, M’gann and Kara, of course, were all there. Even Sam and James showed up. Food and alcohol were plentiful and everyone was happy. But as the night progressed, the knowledge of Lena’s departure began to weigh on their spirits.
Much too soon and not soon enough everyone stood crying and hugging as they said their goodbyes. Many promises to keep in touch, to call, to text, to FaceTime were made. Then they were all headed out the door. Well, except Lena couldn’t find her purse.
After everyone else left, Lena stayed behind to find it. It was found in the bathtub. Lena hadn’t even needed to pee that night so she had no idea how it ended up there. Purse in hand she headed for the door. As she walked she took her watch off her wrist. It was the watch that Supergirl had given her for emergencies.
Lena didn’t know what she expected when she held out the watch to Kara. Kara asking her to stay wasn’t it. But it’s what she got.
"Why don't you stay?" Kara said.
Lena shifted. She didn't want to deal with whatever this was.
“I’m not asking you to not go. I'm not asking for tomorrow. I know your plans don’t include me. I'm asking for now. For tonight. I’m just asking you to stay here. Tonight. With me.” Kara’s blue eyes were piercing through Lena. “It’s late and you’re tired. Do you even have a bed at your place?”
“I do.” Lena said, her voice strong, even though she felt herself melting.
“One that doesn’t inflate?” Kara countered. “You can’t start off a road trip with an aching back.” A small wheedling smile was on Kara’s face.
Lena felt hope rising. Hope, that evil horrible emotion that had tortured her for years. Hope that caused her to read into every action and reaction that Kara ever had around her.
Then the broken part of her heart seized control. Stay. It told her. Stay and spend one more night reinforcing that Kara does not love you. Will never be in love with you. Stay and face the pain again. Stay to show yourself that leaving is the right decision. Stay and be hurt one more time. Stay.
“Please, just give me tonight.” Kara asked.
“Awesome.” Kara said as a smile lit up her face. It was like a slap in Lena's face.
Kara turned and walked away leaving Lena still holding the watch up. Kara had never even acknowledged it.
Lena didn’t know what she expected to happen. Kara handing her shorts and a T-shirt wasn’t it. But it’s what she got.
Lena looked down at the offered clothes then looked back up at Kara.
“Well, you can’t sleep in jeans and a button down.” Kara said with a tilt of her head.
It didn’t occur to Lena that they’d be going to sleep. Watching a movie, maybe. Talking, maybe. Sleeping, well yeah, eventually, but not immediately. Lena took the clothes and headed for the bathroom.
“There’s spare toothbrushes in the bottom drawer on the left.” Kara said. “Oh, and makeup remover behind the mirror.”
When Lena came out of the bathroom, Kara was already in bed. A softness entered Kara’s eyes as soon as she saw Lena. “You look good in my shirt.” Kara said barely audibly.
It was another slap.
Lena wondered if this was going to be some kind of pajama party or something. She had never attended one in her life. Skipping grades meant that she wasn’t exactly on the same level as her peers. Being a Luthor meant that her peers didn’t exactly like her.
Unsure, Lena walked over and sat down on the opposite side of the bed. Kara immediately turned out the light. Still hesitant, Lena slid down under the covers and turned her back to Kara. Within seconds she felt Kara spooning her.
Lena’s soul began to fall apart at the contact. Kara’s warmth enveloped her. Lena had dreamed of being held this closely, this tightly by Kara.
Then once again, her anger took hold. She rolled onto her back. “Kara what is going on?”
“I just… I’m not asking for… I just…” Kara stammered. She took in a deep breath. “I just want to hold you. I just want the memory of having you in my arms one last time.”
The broken part of Lena screamed out. LET HER. Feel the emptiness! Feel what isn’t there!” Embrace the pain!
Lena lifted the arm that was next to Kara. Kara snuggled up against the brunette and nestled her face into Lena’s neck. Her arm draped across Lena’s torso, her leg across Lena’s legs.
It was several minutes later when Kara spoke. “I know that we, I... haven’t been exactly…” Her voice trailed off.
Lena felt as Kara’s hand began to fidget. She was suddenly aware that instead of on top of her T-shirt, somehow Kara’s hand was under it. Kara’s hand was directly on Lena’s skin. Kara’s thumb was gently brushing back and forth along Lena’s ribs.
The knowledge caused an immediate and visceral reaction. And for a moment the hopeful part of Lena leaned into it.
Then the broken part reminded her that this was the most she would ever get from Kara. Platonic cuddling from a woman who didn’t even understand the sexual reaction that she was causing.
Anger flared in Lena. If Kara was going to have the feeling of Lena in her arms one last time, then Lena was going to have the feeling of Kara’s lips on hers.
Lena didn’t know what she expected when she moved to kiss Kara. Kara responding vigorously wasn’t it. But it’s what she got.
Kara's hands immediately pulled Lena tight up against her. The blondes tongue shot out and sought entry into Lena’s mouth. Lena accepted it. Kara was suddenly on top of her pressing her down hard into the bed. Lena's brain overloaded. She pushed Kara’s shoulder away, a gust of air later and Kara was across the room.
“I’m so sorry.” Kara said. “I’m so, so sorry.”
“What the fuck Kara!?” Lena said as soon as she caught her breath. Was Kara just trying to use Lena to get her rocks off before Lena left?
“I’m sorry. I know you didn’t mean it that way.” Kara said quickly. “I know it was some platonic something or other. I’ve just wanted you for so long. I’ve been in love with you for so long. I’ve mis-read into so many things so many times. I shouldn’t’ve done that Lena. I’m just so desperate to touch you. I know I shouldn’t be. I know that you don’t think about me that way.”
Lena’s mind raced. Platonic something or other? Kara couldn’t mean those things. Kara had been cold to her for months. “You’ve barely spoken to me since you’ve been back! Barely even looked at me!” Lena accused.
“Because I want more than you can give.” Kara wailed. “At first I could handle it. But then reality set in. At first I could stave off the nightmares with the knowledge that I was home. The nightmares in which you yell and scream and me that you don’t want me. Will never want me. I can’t stave them off anymore because I know that they’re true.”
Lena’s mind raced. Kara wanted her back. Kara had always wanted her. Lena was a dumbass. Kara was just as big of a dumbass as she was.
Lena got up and began walking over to the blonde.
“And now you’re leaving. You’re leaving and you don’t care. I may never see you again. People say they’ll keep in touch but they never do. They do at first but then it peters off. If we ever do see each other again, you won’t be my best friend. You’ll just be some woman that I used to know.”
Lena was close enough now that she could touch Kara. She lifted a hand, hesitated, then dropped it. She still didn't believe. “I thought that you didn’t care.” Lena said.
Kara eyebrows shot up. “I care! I care so much!” Then she added in a near whisper. “I care too much.”
Lena shook her head. “I was leaving because I’m in love with you and I thought that you didn’t care. I thought that you would never feel about me the way I feel about you.”
For a moment Kara stood in shock just staring into Lena's eyes. A moment later she spoke. “Leee-nah. How could you ever think that I don't care?”
“Kah-rah.” Lena teased, imitating the way Kara had said her name. “You stopped talking to me. You stopped looking at me. I nearly lost my mind with fear, guilt and worry while you were gone. Then you come back and just stop talking to me.”
“I only stopped because I thought that you would never love me the way that I love you.”
The pair stared into each other’s eyes.
“So you…” Kara prompted.
“I love you. I’m in love with you. I’ve been in love with you.” Lena said gently.
Kara’s face lit up like sunshine. She wrapped her arms around Lena’s waist.
“And you…” Lena prompted.
Kara smiled brightly. “I love you, too. I’m in love with you, too. I’ve been in love with you too.”
Lena's heart was about to burst. Kara loved her. Kara was in love with her.
"Soooo," Kara said slowly. "Can I kiss you?"
Lena nodded as her heart pounded. Kara gently stepped forward. When Kara's lips first touched Lena's they were softer than a whisper. Lena let the sensation fill her. Kara pulled back. "Is that OK?"
"More than." Lena responded.
Lena didn’t know what she expected when she moved to National City. Becoming a wife, becoming a mother, becoming a grandmother, in short, finding her true love and literally living happily ever after wasn’t it. But it’s what she got.