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The Woman in the Painting

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In hindsight, trading an alien relic for a set of magical paints probably wasn’t Kara’s brightest idea. 

However, in her defence, the relic was once owned by Greg’s ancestors and was thought to be lost to time, and the paints were glowing in an incredibly fascinating way. So she buys a big canvas on her way home and preps it for painting that night. 

It sits and collects dust for weeks, the sad little blank canvas propped up against her bedroom wall taunting her in all it’s blank glory. The alien paint glowing softly with the setting sun pulsing like a heartbeat by her bedside. Time muddles itself together until her world-ending supergirl duties combined with being held to the mercy of snapper’s red pen in her day job make her so desperate for something creative that she might snap. Wound tight and tense.

A rare weekend with a blank calendar shines like a beacon at the end of a long week. The acts of prepping her brushes and setting up her canvas felt almost meditative. She takes her time to prep her brushes, setting up her easel in the space that gets the most light. Struggling to open the contraptions legs, she pries them open with a snap. She lays out all her paints by colour, sitting on her little stool and letting the sunlight wash over her. 

Suddenly there are no red pens, no bi-annual world ending disaster, just her and paint that glistens iridescent in the light that pours through her living room window. 

Electricity zips up her arm as her brush makes contact with the canvas, shocking her hard enough that she drops the brush, it hits the floor and rolls itself round in circles, paint still coating its bristles. Kara bends to clean up her mess but the paint appears to have adhered to the brush, Sticky like slime refusing to budge from the bristles. Kara turns the brush over in her hands, giving it a cautious flick forward, but the liquid remains in place, shifting like water but never dripping.Her next stroke is significantly more tentative, the paint vibrating at the contact with the  canvas. Painting a broad stroke like nothings amiss. 

Truth be told Kara has never been the kind of person to make plans. Not in life or in paintings. So her art has no sketches or references just Kara and the why she feels. That’s why the majority of her art is abstract, playing with colour and shapes, swirling landscapes and splattered forms. Kara paints with feeling, she paints to connect to herself. 

But this doesn’t feel like that, whatever Kara’s connecting to certainly isn’t herself. A portrait coming to life under her brush. 

It feels out of body, like someone is guiding Kara’s hand for her, precise and unyielding. She zones out as she watches herself continue to move. Adding layers and details without a single thought from Kara. She just knows she can’t stop, can’t stop moving, even when she tries to. 

A person is beginning to take shape amongst the swirls and strokes, the bust of a woman. A beautiful woman with raven hair against fair skin. A woman that Kara is pretty sure she’s never met. 

The appropriate times for lunch and then for dinner passes and disappears without participation from Kara. Continuing to layer the paint, just barely letting things dry before going in again. Stuck in a cycle, a fixation that is neither normal nor natural. The canvas has developed its own gravity and Kara is caught within the orbit of something she does not fully understand, adding the reflections into a young woman's eyes. 

The sun is rising as she stops, this time for more than a fleeting pause. The connection she’s been bound to fizzles and drops away with the clatter of her paintbrush to the floor, the bristles dry.

Kara breathes for what feels like the first time in far too long, brushing away at herself as if to remove a layer of dust. She steps back and away from her work barely looking at it, suddenly bone-tired and aching, grateful for the excuse of a Sunday to rest without judgment. Well, she stares in puzzlement at the rising sun, at least she assumes it's Sunday.

The bed frame creaks and groans in protest as she collapses into the mattress. Her phone is dead but the city sounds quiet as she stretches her hearing in the golden hours of the morning. The city can handle itself without supergirl for a few hours. With her curtains wide open and the sun streaming bright and warm across her torso, Kara falls asleep exhausted and dreaming of paint that glows. 

She wakes in a cold chill, the sun having passed the window to beat down upon the buildings to the west. Her phone buzzes from her nightstand, The evidence of her sister trying to contact her clear in the missed calls that flash across her Home Screen. She’s so not going to be able to talk her way out of this one.. She takes a moment to roll her eyes whilst she can still get away with it. 

There’s something charged about stepping into the living room. Something poised and ready to strike. She scans the living room for threats but comes up blank. 

Her paint supplies remain scattered around the portrait, haphazard on the floor, balancing precariously on her easel. She groans for the mess she’ll have to clean up, mourning her brushes for the paint that’s surely set in their bristles, running her hands over her face. 

Wait. Her hands? She pulls them away from her face, inspecting them closely. They’re clean. Like freshly washed, manicured clean. Entirely removed from the usual completion of a painting mess that one would expect. She looks down at her clothes, an old hoodie and pants also free paint. Almost like it never happened. 

But it did happen. The evidence being the massive portrait standing upright and proud in her living room. She did paint that, didn’t she? Her memory is fuzzy. The brushes she picks up from the floor are certainly dry but despite not being washed they appear as if paint never touched them, not a speck on the bristles regardless of the angle. And the paint pots, they still glow fully in the shadow of the canvas but they’re clean too, glazed clay shiny as Kara holds them to the light. Like every drop of paint had disappeared. Kara would be impressed if she wasn’t wholly disturbed by the whole thing. She retreats to the kitchen with her findings. 

It’s as she’s opening the fridge that something moves in her periphery. The door snapping closed as her vision glows white hot. Scanning the apartment once more. Just her empty living and dining, the portrait somewhere in between. The portrait seemed to track her movements, piercing green and watching as she washes her hands. Must be a trick of the light , she thinks as she turns on the sink, the generic soap washing away nothing in particular. Kara takes extra time in her scrubbing regardless. 

The feeling of being watched in her own apartment makes the hair on the back of her neck stand on edge, but every time she looks up there’s no one but the portrait, still and unchanged. There’s a bounce to her knee that she can’t seem to tamper down, there’s something familiar about the woman she’s painted. But surely she’d remember meeting someone as striking as that. She finds herself itching to take on a field mission. Somewhere far away from her apartment. 

It’s after she’s made herself a meal that she takes a moment to study the painting, the portrait is completely outside of anything she’s painted before. It’s also quite a few notches above her skill level, using techniques she doesn’t recall being familiar with. Realism has never been her strong suit, always enjoying the more abstract movements in her paintings. Messy and meaningful. 

She doesn’t even remember painting most of it if she’s entirely honest, everything just seemed to appear under her paintbrush. She sips at her coffee and stares at the still drying paint, those alien paints must’ve been oil-based. How did she even achieve the gloss in the woman’s eyes? She steps closer to inspect the portrait further, tilting her head. Is she... blinking? 

Her phone buzzes from her bedroom, but Kara hesitates to answer it. Something compelling her to stay where she is, to keep staring, to keep watching as the paint dries. It takes making a conscious effort to step backwards for the feeling to leave her, she has to super speed to answer the phone before the ringing ends. 

“Kara what the fuck is wrong with you?” Her sister hisses down the phone upon her answer, “you had me worried sick, why haven’t you been answering your phone?” 

“Alex, I’m sorry I wasn’t paying attention to my phone, and then the battery died, and then I was just so tired that I passed right out.” 

“You are so lucky that the DEO put me in charge of cleaning up after your little conversation with that group of white martians.. I nearly had your door broken down.” 

“You have a key-“ 

“That’s not the point.” Alex takes a breath that’s clearly meant to calm herself but the exhales come out more like a groan down the phone line. “We just had a major alien attack on the city and then the person who was mostly responsible for subduing them goes silent for 20 hours.” 

“I can see how that might be a little scary” 

“Try terrifying-“

“-Ok, ok I get it. Won’t happen again.” 

“It better not.” 

“I promise.” 

“You’d better.” She sounds exhausted, her sister works far too much overtime. “I worry, Kara.” 

“I know.” 

“I love you.” 

I know.” She draws it out, smiling at the chuckle she hears, “I love you too. I’ll see you on Tuesday, after you’ve taken Monday off.” 

“I highly doubt that.” Alex sighs, shuffling the papers in front of her, and sighing again, “See you Tuesday.”

Neither of them hang up for a long moment, Kara dragging her phone from her ear slowly, a picture of her sister pouting and giving the finger to the camera reappearing onto her screen. She hangs up as she exhales. 

Her food is cold when she returns to it, she eats it at room temperature and winds her way back to the portrait, she recognises this woman in some way. The echo of something rattling around in the back of her mind, calling out to her. There's a clarity to the way the portrait stares back at her, green eyes piercing from the canvas, staring Kara down until she feels compelled to look away. There's a burn to the way the woman continues to look unmoving, unflinching. 

Kara flees to the kitchen, unnerved and thoroughly confused. She takes a moment from her new distance to look again. The woman’s skin is starkly porcelain against long raven hair, red lips matching the lace of her dress at her throat that trails down to a deep v at her chest where the portrait comes to a stop. The woman stares ahead blankly into the open space of Kara’s living room, sharp cheekbones and jawline highlighted in the lights and shadows of the paint. She’s attractive, so striking that Kara is certain they haven’t met. Any woman with a face like that would surely stick out in Kara’s mind, surely she would remember if she’d met her before.

From her distance Kara could almost be fooled into thinking the woman is breathing, she wonders absently what a woman like that would sound like, what kind of life she would live. Perhaps she’s a phantom memory from Kara’s time on krypton, a ghost that has been living at the edges of her consciousness. Because how could she possibly paint such a detailed portrait of someone she doesn’t know? 

There’s a deep pull in her heart, the familiar ache of a world no one else remembers stealing her breath. Maybe it’s time to lie down, there’s a burn to the back of her skull as she turns. Back turned to the living room she pauses, rubbing at the hairs on the back of her neck. The feeling persists until she retreats behind the curtain that separates her bedroom from the rest of the apartment. from the safety of the curtain she scans the apartment overtop of her glasses. In her refined vision she can see the microscopic particles that appear to leak from the portrait, an odd fluorescent glow rising in waves from the canvas like a green pulsing aura. Kara elects to ignore it, chalking the irregularity to alien paint. Surely it’ll go away eventually.

The paint dries gradually over several days, a lot slower than Kara would’ve initially thought. But on the fourth day as she inspects the canvas there’s still little pockets of shining wet paint, darkening patches of the portrait in odd ways. As the patches begin to shrink the portrait seems to become more realistic. It’s unnerving, and Kara makes an extra effort to never make direct eye contact. 

She makes sure to keep tabs on it though, the sooner this thing is dry the sooner she can put it away. Somewhere not in her living room, somewhere not in the centre of her home. 

Her phone goes off, startling her out of her inspection. She looks away to her phone screen for a moment, typing out a quick response. She’ll have to leave for work soon. 

It’s an odd belated thought to have but as she’s headed out the door on some strange impulse she says. “I’ll be back this afternoon, I'll see you later.” 

What she doesn’t see is the way the portrait raises their hand to wave goodbye. 

_______

“Do you ever eat anything other than junk food?”

Kara startles, the thin plastic of the container ripping open as she tenses. She throws what’s left of her dinner to the side as she turns towards her empty living room eyes blazing. “Who said that?” She demands to the space, scanning the area for intruders. Finding only her dining table and the portrait. 

The portrait that is staring right back at her, eyebrow arched and arms crossed. 

Kara relents her heat vision, stumbling back, cape catching in her boots. The woman patiently watches her as she struggles, not seeming at all surprised by her clumsiness, pausing to study her fingernails as Kara rights herself. She looks remarkably bored for a woman who just watched a superhero throw half a container of lo mein across her living room. 

“Wha- how- who- what?” 

“Seriously, it’s been nothing but take out this past week.” The painting talks like talking is a normal thing for her. Kara has to look away. “It's sort of impressive.” 

“I-“ Kara shakes her head, “I cooked on Wednesday.” Kara reasons. 

“You reheated on Wednesday.” 

“Rehe- I cooked.” Kara turns to look at the woman, startling again as paint stares back at her. “Who are you?” The woman looks to the side, giving Kara a moment to study her profile that recognition finally dawns on Kara. Flashes of a media stand still, a trial, the wall of screens behind Cat Grant’s desk at Catco, all set to covering the scandal. A young woman meant to testify against her brother suddenly disappearing. “You-you’re Lena Luthor.” 

“And you’re Supergirl.” The painting- Lena sets her knowing gaze upon her once more, ruby red lips smirking. “How fortunate I must be to fall into the hands of the only super in the city.” She laughs as if she’s told a joke, Kara supposes she sort of has, whilst Lena shakes her head. 

Supergirl crosses her arms, straightening her shoulders, watching as the portrait’s eyes trail to settle at the crest covering her chest. She tightens her arms further before clearing her throat. “I’m not at liberty to answer that.” 

Watching a painting roll their eyes at her is an interesting experience. 

Kara leans against her kitchen counter and takes a deep breath through her nose before diverting the topic, “How-uh. How long have you been-“ she clears her throat, standing so the countertop digs into her hips less, brushing at dust she knows isn’t there. “How long have you been like… that?” She gestures vaguely at the canvas who brings a paint streaked hand to run through her hair. Kara watches the gesture with rapt attention. 

“I am cursed to animate when the painting is complete.” 

“Oh.” An image of her previous weeks activities involving an impromptu radio sing-along and her penguin themed underwear flashes red across Kara’s mind, burning across her cheeks and flushing to the tips of her ears. “You never said anything.” 

“It’s a… gradual reanimation.” Her eyes shift to the side. “I’ve been trying to get your attention for quite some time.” Lena looks up at Kara again, coughing to cover a laugh. 

“So-” Kara clears her throat and tries again, “-So, the paint is dry and you’ve.,” Kara gestures vaguely at the canvas, “animated. How do you stop being a painting?” Smooth Kara smooth. 

“I’m not exactly sure.’ Lena runs her hand through her hair. “My assassin never really got around to explaining that part.” Lena sighs, “I was sure it would be after all the paint had dried but I’m here now and,” Lena bangs her hand against the canvas like it’s a pane of glass. Solid and unwavering. Kara steps closer, inspecting the paint, there’s still an aura lifting from the canvas. Kara’s careful not to touch it. 

“I have friends at the DEO, they probably have some databases with cases like yours.” Kara watches as the green aura pulses, “they could probably-“

“No. No governments.” Lena is quick to interject. “Any government organisations will be too far in my brother’s pocket to risk it. I’ll be dead or worse by morning if they’re involved.” Lena has a scrunch to the space between her eyebrows that seems to betray her fear. Kara tries to ignore the implication that the organisation that her sister works for is corrupt. She bites her tongue and tries to think of alternatives.

Lena’s request means ruling out help from basically all of Kara’s friends, the blonde takes a few steps back rubbing at her temples to try and combat the headache that’s clearly beginning to thump at the back of her head. The alien assassin must’ve left something behind. Right? There has to be something that can be done. He wasn’t much of an assassin type by Kara’s recollection, round and softly spoken. Docile by all appearances, fiddling with his bowtie as he asked her to find his family’s heirloom. Though, she supposes a perfectly well meaning man wouldn’t have traded her a trapped woman’s soul he’d failed to murder. Not knowingly at least. Thinking back on the way he had sweated as he emphasised the fragility of the little clay pots, the fidgeting he’d done as he handed the box over. She should’ve known something was up from the beginning. What an observational journalist she’d turned out to be. The blonde shakes her head, rubbing at her temple and grimacing. 

Kara digs through the back of her closet, if anything were to have any clues it’ll be the alien paint pots. There has to be something important hidden in the symbols she vaguely remembers littering their sides. Tossing aside dirty clothes and old shoes in her search. She really needs to organise these things better. She finds them against the wall, glowing softly in the dark shadows of the corner. Cradling the small clay jars, she carries them to the living room, kneeling to spread them out on the coffee table.

The symbols are small and intricate, utterly removed from any language Kara recognises. Swirling and crossing in odd ways, Kara traces the flourishes with her fingertips. It looks almost like old Daxamite, perhaps a sister language that Kara’s not aware of. She picks up the jars one by one, inspecting first the outsides then the insides, running her fingers along the seams of the pots, within the concave spaces in their lids. Her finger snags on the inside of the fourth lid, pulling out a short scroll of paper no wider than her finger. She raises to the light of the setting sun. The symbols are simpler but still beyond Kara translating abilities, at least this sting of shapes looks like a full sentence. 

“There’s something here but I can’t read it.” Kara directs her attention back to the painting. “We need something or someone to translate.” She states looking up at the brunette, looking pensive amongst the strokes. Kara stands, brushing at her knees. “And with the DEO apparently out of the question there’s only one place we can go.”

__________

The fortress is as cold and towering as ever. Geez, Clark you could at least decorate a little , she thinks as wanders through the stark white space. With Lenas portrait under one arm and the pots cradled in the other she sidles up to the main computer console, gently placing Lena on a nearby stool and logging herself into the terminal. She places the pots and scroll down where they can be scanned, watching as the machine whirs and beeps. Lena stretches up to watch over the blonde’s shoulder, watching the hologram twitch as it thinks. The brunette tries to look around as much as she can from her perch, sneaking glances when she thinks Kara isn’t looking. Kara certainly pretends not to notice. 

This is a dangerous game to play given the painted woman’s family. Alex would have a field day if she were to ever find out. Which she won’t. The sister of lex luthor the mass murderer and number one alien hater in the fortress of his arch rival, absorbing all of its secrets, taking a peek over all their precious Kryptonian technology. Though, given he tried to murder her and she tried testify against him, Kara really doubts there’s any chance they’re on the same side. 

Ding! The translation pops up, hovering in place above the artefacts. The pots are no helpful spelling out things like ‘paint’ and ‘art’ but the scrolls prove far more interesting, a phrase now hovering over the parchment. “One must go in to get out, true desire will return you.” She reads out loud, placing her hands on her hips and cocking her head, as if looking at it from a different angle will make it make more sense. “What do you think that means?”

“I was hoping for something a little more straightforward to be honest.” Lena stares up at the screen displaying the translated riddle. “A diagram at least.” She continues staring, shoulders slumped. Eyes shiny as she reads again and again.

Kara nods along, a diagram would be useful, she’s never been one for word puzzles. “Maybe the Kryptonian databases have something about your situation.” Kara begins typing quickly flipping through holographic screens of witch curses and entrapments. Surely there’s something on reversal they can use. There are multiple diary type entries from a small scale Kryptonian coven and one additional entry from a particularly angry house plant. Unfortunately, nothing that seems to apply to their specific predicament. 

“One must go in to get out, true desire will return you. On must- true desire? Which desire? What does it want-“ Lena mutters mostly to herself. Looking more despondent than ever. 

Kara types a few key words into her computer, scanning for something, anything more. It’s no use. Any more info is either unknown to krypton or lost to the dead world. She refrains from slamming her hands into the console in her frustration, crossing her arms over her chest instead. She picks up the small scroll, turning it over and flattening it out, scribbling the phrase in English along the back of the parchment and slipping the scroll into a pocket in her suit. _______

She sidesteps her post mission briefing after a particularly low scale scuffle to track down her alien trader friend. Making a beeline for m’gain’s dive bar downtown. 

The bar is somewhat a haven amongst the alien community, looking every bit your everyday dingy drinking hole until you take the time to take in its clientele. If you were to take a moment you would notice that the woman perched on the stool at the bar boasts a delicate and glistening set of wings, that the man in the booth at the back has tentacles where his hands should be. Kara is sure to change out of her supersuit before she strides through the front door. 

M’gann behind the bar smiles and nods in her direction, pouring her a club soda before she can say a word. 

“What’s going on with you Kara?” M’gann slides a full glass her way. “Just watched the news. Supergirl seems busy at the moment.” 

“She’s definitely busy, that's for sure.” Kara takes a moment to sip at her drink, scanning the room behind her over her glasses. 

“Anything I can help with?” M’gann inquires, smiling over dishes she’s taken up.

“Greg. He uh- owes me something… do you know where he is?” 

M’gann thinks for a moment looking over Kara's head to the rest of her patrons. “He was here.” she frowns, scanning their surroundings again. “Happy hour’s his favourite.” 

Kara turns to scan with her lifting her glasses from her face to see through the furniture. A small ball of a man cowers in the furthest booth, hiding behind the e high back of the couch seat. Kara casually strolls towards the alien.

“Greg. Just the person I wanted to talk to.” Kara slides into the booth across from the little man, smiling as she crosses her legs. 

“Supergirl.” Greg's shakes. “I like what you’ve done with your hair..” the alien’s complexion has a green tinge to it as he gestures about his own head “Is it- is it new?”

“It’s not.” Kara leans back into the chair, “But I was wondering if you could answer a few questions for me. About that trade we made.” 

“T-trade?” Greg stutters and fumbles to sit up straight, “Forgive me but I don’t recall.” Greg scoots to the edge of his seat, slowly turning towards the exit. As if he believes moving slowly will stop Kara from seeing him leave. 

“So you would know nothing about the soul of a woman trapped in those paints you gave me.” Kara lowers her voice like she’s telling him a secret, greg visibly pales. Still edging his way out of the booth. 

“No, nope. Don’t recall any of that.” He gulps hard enough that his little bowtie bobs with his throat. 

Kara leans forward to place both of her hands on the table in front him, letting her eyes simmer just enough to glow. “Are you sure about that?“ 

The little alien cowers. “Oh- oh ok. Yes. Yes I know about miss Luthor but please I was trying to help!” He squeaks, shielding his face with his hands.

“Help? How is trapping a woman helping her?” Kara cools down, at least he’s not trying to flee anymore. 

“I thought under the protection of a kryptonian would be the safest place in the city.”  He continues to cower, bringing his hands away from his face, peeking up over them at Kara.

“You intended to give her to me?” She cocks her head. 

“I did.” Greg nods, letting his shoulder relax. “And I’m sorry supergirl but it was the only way I could sneak her away without-“ he catches himself and glances around himself. “Without him knowing.” He whispers through his teeth.

Kara changes tactics, leaning back in her chair again and squinting at the man across from her. “The riddle. what does it mean?” 

“One must go in to get out. True desire will return you.” Greg recites, drumming his fingers on the table between them, “It means what it says.” He shrugs as if the whole thing is obvious.

“But what does it-“ 

Greg begins to repeat himself, chanting the riddle over and over under his breath and rocking to calm himself. It sounds almost like a prayer, it’s incredibly off-putting. “One must go in to get out. True desire will return you. One must go in to get out. True desire will return you. One must go in to get-“ 

“Stop fooling around!” Kara lunges forward to grab at his collar pulling him up and out of his seat. “Stop repeating yourself and tell me what I have to do.” She yells in his face, the patrons around them pay no mind. This isn’t the first fight she’s started. 

“I’m telling the truth, I promise you.” He whimpers, tears welling in all three of his big brown eyes. “The only way to get her out is for her to let you in.” He falls back into his seat with a plop, clutching at his throat and wheezing. Kara leaves him there. If he can’t tell her no one can. 

Kara heads out with the distinct feeling of needing to punch something. Hard.

______

Coming home that night is difficult, Kara takes on an extra shift on the night patrol simply to avoid her own apartment. She can’t face Lena with what happened today. She can’t face her with nothing new. 

So she floats, well above the city, amongst the clouds. Condensation making her hair wet as the night continues on in the streets below her. She breathes for the first time in a week, letting the cool air wash over her. The stars are bright tonight, Kara looks to the red dot past the constellations, from here krypton still glows the light from the other end of the universe hasn’t extinguished yet. Her home still lives from earth. She lets the sight fool her for just a moment. Just one moment. 

She swirls herself through the sky letting her cape flitter out behind her, flying through her bedroom window as she comes home. Flopping into bed in her suit, smelling of smoke and ozone. Some questions Kara will spend a lifetime trying to get answered. She won’t let Lena live like that. There has to be something they’re missing. There has to be some hidden message behind it all. 

“She has to let you in.” Kara whispers to her ceiling, turning over, holding her cape like a blanket. “You have to go in to get out.”

_______

Kara sits at her kitchen counter, morning coffee in front of her. She's not the biggest coffee fan but tends to enjoy it when it's milky and filled with sugar. She watches Lenas portrait, empty as the painted woman sleeps. I wonder how far back it goes . She thinks as she looks it over. just how confined in place is she? Can she walk around? 

“Oh god. I can smell your coffee.” Lena groans, popping into frame, hair noticeably mussed. “Do you know how long it’s been since I had coffee?” 

“Hey, at least your sense of smell has returned.” Kara grins over her coffee cup. Lena groans while Kara laughs, the brunette running her hands through her hair and huffing. “I’d share it with you if I could.” 

“I know you would.” Lena laments, “this is a special and confusing from of torture.” 

_______

One night during a hushed conversation over the quiet mumbling of the tv, Kara decides to be bold, “if all your senses are returning, what about touch?” She asks as she repositions the canvas to see the screen in the corner, trying to avoid eye contact, “I mean that’s the only sense you haven’t regained right?” 

“I suppose so.” Lena looks contemplative, flexing her hand in front of her face. “I haven’t really thought about it.” Lena shrugs.

“May I?” Kara lifts her own hand, and Lena gives a small nod as Kara reaches forward, brushing her fingers against where Lena's cheek would be amongst the swirls of paint. Except, they’re not swirls of paint. They both gasp as Kara’s tentative fingers brush against Lena’s skin, bolder still Kara reaches to rest her whole hand on Lena’s cheek, her hand inside the canvas down to her wrist. 

The barrier is crossed and they both stare at each other from opposite sides. Lena’s eyes are shiny.

“Do you think I could..?” Kara indicates moving further in. 

“I don’t know If you’ll be able to leave.” Lena whispers, taking a step back.

“Can I try anyway?” 

“Yes.” 

Kara pushes forward and into the canvas, feeling distinctly as if she’s falling, she tumbles. Suddenly, laying flat on her face in a room she had never seen before. She catches herself with her hands, except these can’t be her hands; they look as if they were painted, each stroke pulsing and shifting as she moves them around. She sits on her knees and looks up at the woman in front of her. It’s Lena, all of Lena. Kara surges forwards to hug her. Lena is hesitant at first but soon raises her own arms to embrace her. 

Untangling from the brunette, Kara takes in the room around her, a small stone cell with just enough room for a bed and a window, a window that currently has quite a good view of Kara’s tv. The window is framed with an intricate gold pattern, symbols etched into the metal, Kara traces them with her fingers. The glass of the window shines with a pearlescent glow, shimmering and shifting in the light. 

Kara reaches her hand out, just touching the surface, it ripples like water at her touch, the barrier giving way. She can leave. “You have to go in to get out.. Lena.” She turns towards the brunette taking her hands, “the note! That’s what it said. Lena, you could leave with me.” She smiles brightly as Lena looks to her and then the window. Her hands are shaking, she nods lightly giving Kara a small smile. 

They step together with Kara leaving first, climbing up and out but never letting go of Lena’s hand, there’s a falling sensation once more and Kara comes to on her living room floor with Lena beside her. in her apartment, In the real world. They’ve done it.

Kara stumbles to her feet helloing Lena up, the paint strokes that once occupied her replaced with fair skin.  “Are you ok?” Kara fusses over the brunette, “nothing hurt from the fall?” Kara searches her face for signs of pain but finds none.

Lena smiles, right and radiant, staring at her hands then reaching to feel face, running her hands down the fabric of her dress, scrunching it in her fingertips. “I’m ok.” She asserts, reaching to run her fingers through her own hair, “I’m ok” she laughs, eyes glittering in the dull light of Kara living room lamps. She laughs loud and carefree and Kara joins her. 

Everything is alright, for approximately fifteen minutes. Something strange starts to happen at the fifteen minute mark. Lena begins to.. flicker. It starts in her hands and spreads like a disease from there. She begins to blur back and forth from real to painted, at first slowly then all at once, the force of it crumpling Lena to the floor. Her whole body flickering in and out. Kara bends to help her stand. 

“I have to go back.” Lena grit out between her teeth, “ I have to go back into the canvas Kara.” 

“You can’t leave now,” Kara shakes her head supporting Lenas whole body weight as she pitches forward. Lena screams. Unable to stand, Kara scoops her into her arms, cradling her close ass he continues to groan. The canvas glows bright, pulsing with Lena’s heartbeat, the green aura extending out towards them, wisps curling at the brunette's feet. “I can’t let you go now.” 

“You have to.” There’s a strain to Lena’s voice, like talking is hurting her. Tears spill out over her cheeks as she hugs closer, gripping Kara's neck desperately. 

“We’re going to figure this out Lena, I promise.” Kara lifts her back towards the canvas. “I promise ok? I'm going to get you out of her for good.” She feels Lena let go and the barrier forms between them once more, Lena back to her painted appearance, crying in earnest and sniffling. 

“I’m so sorry Kara.” 

“I’m sorry too.”

___________

True desire will return you. 

Kara thinks about that line as she lies down to go to sleep that night, staring at her ceiling fan and pondering. She went in, she got her out, surely that’s all that had to be done. Did they lack true desire? What did that even imply? Did she not want Lena to be free enough to save her? 

That can’t be it. Kara’s a superhero for a reason, saving people is in her nature. She must have wanted it enough. 

Was it Lena? Did she- did she not want to leave the portrait? To leave her dark dingy cell? Kara remembers her eyes, the way she’d looked as Kara led her out of the canvas, eyre full of light and hope and….. fear. Fear as she stepped forward shaking clammy hands in Kara’s. Oh Rao, she was scared, of course she was scared. And Kara pushed her to do everything at once. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid Kryptonian.

Lena’s been looking in from the outside so long trapped in a constant state of observation. To suddenly leave all she’s known for months on a whim was just too much, Kara pushed too far. Kara treads carefully the rest of the week and Lena remains quiet in her canvas. They don’t try again.

________

Kara wakes to the distinct sound of her front door hitting the floor. She rolls out of bed and crouches on the floor, scanning through the walls to the three men that now occupy her living room. Advancing towards her easel. Lena. 

She speeds out from behind the curtain blocking as the first man lunges towards her with a crowbar, feeling the metal give and bend around her arm as he strikes out with it. His eyes go wide under his mask and Kara takes great pleasure in the little whimper that escapes him at the sight. Her entrance has successfully gained the attention of all three men. one holding a peculiar device like a baton in his hand, the end of which sparks a sickly green. Luthor tech. Lex luthor has found them. 

Greg had betrayed them. 

The man with crowbar lunges again screaming like a battlecry holding his bent crowbar above his head as he shrieks, Kara pushes him back with just enough force to send him flying back into the hallway. A second man approaches, baton in hand. Kara can see Lena over her shoulder as he advances. Swiping wilding with his baton, the first strike is minimal but makes her woozy, the second she catches, the force of her knocking him back into the floor with a sickening crack. The baton rolls to the floor as the third man steps back towards the canvas, looking at Kara with his hands raised. He takes another step back as Kara steps to him, face a picture of horror as his eyes flit from the man on the floor to her. 

She steps forwards once more before his shock turns to a sly smile producing a knife from his wrist and flicking the bright green blade her way. Off guard, she doesn’t stop it as it strikes her in the shoulder, she hits the ground hard. 

Lena is careful not to move as the man turns, sly grin still fixed as he reaches for the canvas, lighter in hand scorching the fabric. What he didn’t expect is the canvas reaching for him. Lean grabs him and pulls with all her body, bracing a foot on the wall of her cell as she pulls with both hands, the window gives way spitting the man out as it pulls her in, she tumble back through the barrier as he falls in. Leaving the would-be assassin behind her she turns, his lighter in her hands. She sets the canvas alight before he has a chance to follow her back through. 

“Kara!” She exclaims as she lands on wooden floors, crawling towards the blonde, “Kara, you’re hurt.” 

“Lena,” Kara exhales, removing the knife from her shoulder with a hiss. “Lena, you’re you.” She mumbles swaying forward to touch a bloody hand to the brunette's face. 

“I’m me.” Lena confirms cradling Kara’s hand where it rests on her cheek. “and you’ve been stabbed.” 

“Mmhmm. It’s fine, just need some sunlight. That fixes everything.” Karma dismisses waving the hand not on Lenas cheek around. Lena smiles down at her. “Hey! Hey, you’re not disappearing.” Kara exclaims grabbing Lenas hand to inspect it. 

“I’m not going anywhere.” 

“Promise?” Kara looks up at Lena, eyes glistening. 

“Promise.” 

Now that curse had never said a word about a true love's kiss, nothing on the subject at all in fact. And Lena’s not entirely sure ‘love’ is quite the right word just yet but as the blonde leans forward and she leans down. She thinks they’d better try it just this once, as their lips meet. Just to make sure.