"I know you said you were sorry, and I said I was sorry, but we can't just leave it like this," Kara had said quietly, leaning close to Lena to avoid being overheard.
They had been working to defeat Lex for several weeks with not much progress, and it felt wonderful and heartbreaking to be so close to Kara again after so much time apart. The tension between them was still high, the chasm of broken trust far too wide to cross with a simple handshake. It was becoming too much to sit through, was tainting their work environment, was killing them both. Kara finally made the leap, Lena had agreed, and they left the Tower, making their way to Kara’s apartment in silence.
That's where they are now. Sitting on opposite ends of the couch, both clutching mugs of hot tea and looking anywhere but each other. Kara had changed out of her supersuit once they got there and is now sitting in a worn out sweater and sweatpants, hair down and glasses set on the coffee table in front of them. There's a softness to her that Lena is certain she hasn't seen before in their years of friendship.
Well, Kara was always soft, of course. Subtle cardigans and quiet button-up shirts. Business casual soft. Soft in the way that a hotel room is soft — comfortable and welcoming, but still neatly organized. Put together, established, even through her clumsiness and awkward mannerisms. Now, though, as she sits cross-legged on the couch, sleeves pulled over her hands, with the dim pink glow of the evening sun streaming through the window, Lena thinks she looks soft in the way a college dorm room is soft — cozy and lived in, filled with personality but so, so exhausted. Dim lights and childhood mementos, an odd combination of youth and adulthood.
Lena has never seen her like this, she realizes.
No glasses, hair haphazardly brushed over one shoulder. It's like seeing Supergirl in her pajamas, Lena thinks in amusement, only to realize with a jolt that she's spot on. The two names, the two separate people she's come to know in completely different ways, refuse to merge together in her mind, even after all this time. She sips her tea and looks away, pushing the conflict from her mind.
"You told me you wanted to protect me." Lena breaks the silence. Might as well get on with it. "You also told me you were selfish. Which one is it?"
Kara stares out into the city, thumb tracing the top of her mug in silent, anxious circles. Her chest aches with vulnerability, something she never really allowed herself to show in front of Lena, not with the secret hanging over them like a shadow, forcing her to choose words carefully as to not reveal herself. Self-preservation is no longer an option.
"Both," she admits.
Kara looks nervous, Lena observes. Her leg is bouncing and her hands won't stop moving, twisting in her sleeves or fiddling with her cup. More than once she reaches up to adjust glasses she's not wearing. Lena can't help but wonder if Kara has grown too used to wearing a disguise in front of her, too used to leaving enough room between them for a secret to take up space. The thought makes Lena's stomach roll in discomfort.
"I did want to protect you," Kara continues. "It's in my nature. My therapist calls it a coping mechanism, but I don't really agree."
"You see a therapist?" Lena looks at Kara in surprise. Maybe it was the superhero persona, or the sunshine reporter attitude, but hearing that Kara Danvers goes to therapy is both shocking and relieving.
Kara shrugs, still not looking at her. "Yeah. It's, uh, sort of new for me. Can't say I enjoy it. But turns out being the sole survivor of your culture brings a lot of baggage, on top of being a superhero. Alex has been pushing it for years."
(Lena files the detail away for another time, for whenever they can figure out how to be normal around each other again. She wants the baggage, wants to drag Supergirl down from the pedestal Lena put her on, desperately wants to know if Kara Danvers is just as broken as Lena Luthor.)
"Anyway. Yes, of course I wanted to protect you. People who know my secret are in constant danger, and I know—" Lena opened her mouth to speak but Kara presses on, shifting on the couch to angle her shoulders towards her. "—I know you were already in constant danger for being a Luthor, I know that, but you think that makes it easier? It felt like every other day I'd hear about an assassination attempt on you or I'd come save you from one. And bad things always happen to people close to me just for knowing my secret. My secret is leverage to anyone who's out to get me, and I know you're strong, but I couldn't bear to see you get hurt because of me."
Kara snaps her mouth shut, feeling herself get too defensive, her rambling already revealing much more of her heart than she planned.
"Alex," Lena says, and Kara tilts her head questioningly. "You said someone got hurt. You mean Alex."
Kara is silent for a moment, forgetting just how well her best friend really knows her, and shrugs.
"Alex gets the worst of it. I mean, she's worked at the DEO for years, way before I even became Supergirl. So she was always, you know, at risk. She signed up for that. But it got worse when I started working there. And then—" She broke off, throat tightening a little in fear. She shifts in her seat, trying to figure out how to expel her anxious energy without pacing.
"Us working together is amazing. But when people are after me, they go for Alex. They figure out we're close, someone hears her call me Kara, and they go after her. And it's awful. And it's happened more than once."
Kara stops then, biting her thumb as her vision blurred. She takes a sip of her tea and sets it down before she breaks it on accident. She remembers every incident, every moment that Alex got hurt, and categorized them by whether or not they were her fault. (Most of them were.)
Every time she sees Alex soften around Kelly is a reminder that Alex deserves a life outside of her sister, deserves a job that doesn't revolve around watching Kara's back. Kara has no right to claim her, not when Alex sacrificed so much for her. Her chest aches at the thought of Alex abandoning her, but she swallows back her selfishness.
She feels Lena sliding closer but not close enough to touch. Kara does not invite her any closer and Lena does not offer. The gap between them feels enormous.
Kara clears her throat again. “Alex has gotten hurt a lot over the years, and most of the time it’s because of me. I’m the common denominator, is all I’m saying. I can recognize that.”
"It isn’t your fault," Lena says quietly, knowing full well that it’s not enough. Kara only laughs sadly and shakes her head.
"You know, the rational part of me knows that. Alex is an adult and can make her own choices, and I’m grateful to know that I can count on her, and she had a dangerous job before I became Supergirl. But when you break your sister’s arm just because you can, or you watch her nearly drown after being kidnapped, or remember that you’re the reason she was recruited to the DEO in the first place, well —“ Kara turns and looks at Lena, face full of regret and eyes wet with tears. “Wouldn't you blame yourself, too?"
Lena, for her part, is a little too stunned to respond. She didn’t know most of what Kara told her, doesn’t have the context, can’t see the full picture. Doesn’t know if she should file this information in her Kara Danvers box or her Supergirl one, doesn’t know how to combine those two boxes at all, or if she should just make a new one entirely.
(She tries to push down the resentment at being so left out of Kara’s life that she feels like she doesn’t know her at all.)
She tries to help anyway. "Kara, hey, it's not your fault —"
“Gosh, can you stop saying that!"
Guilt and frustration simmers under her skin and oh, Kara is angry. Angry that everyone seems to forgive her for mistakes and forget the decisions that ruin lives, as if anything is ever that simple. She whips around and glares at her best friend on the couch, who looks stunned at her outburst, but not afraid.
Rao, she is tired of this.
Tired of being blamed for betraying Lena when it wasn't always her choice. Tired of begging for forgiveness when Lena hurt her too. Tired of being a symbol of justice while everyone ignores the crimes she was so clearly guilty of. She's almost killed her sister. All her friends, her family, everyone she has ever loved, is in danger because of her. It is her fault. She became Supergirl to help people, to use these powers she sort of hates having and do something good with them. But all she ever does is cause pain and death and destruction. No good deed goes unpunished. And she is exhausted.
"Don't you see how Alex being in constant danger would make me never want to tell anyone my identity ever again? How I wouldn't even want someone to guess? The people I work with and the people I love are always in danger, no matter how smart or prepared they think they are."
There’s a beat of silence.
Kara is practically trembling with energy, vibrating with frustration and guilt and the desperation to be understood. Lena, however, is stock still. Kara wishes she could see Lena’s thoughts, nearly begs her to talk to her, scream at her, anything. But Lena only stares at Kara, her eyes darting around her face, as if she’s collecting data on her, this Kara with no glasses, this Supergirl with no suit, this best friend with no secret.
(Kara wonders if Lena sees her as a stranger now. She doesn't want to know the answer.)
She breaks the silence. “It wasn’t about you, you know.“ She doesn’t have to explain what she means.
Lena blinks. “How can I possibly believe that?”
“I never cared that you were a Luthor. Well, okay, maybe a little, at first. Alex is overly cautious and I didn’t really know you. But I had a feeling, y’know? When I first met you during that interview, when you said you wanted to make a name for yourself outside of your family. I understood you. I believed you. Related to you, even.”
Eyes red with unshed tears, Lena sucks in a breath. “So why?” she chokes out, emotions finally spilling over. “Why couldn’t you just tell me? Do you know how ridiculous I feel, knowing that everyone has been tiptoeing around your secret just to keep me in the dark? Knowing all the terrible things I said about Supergirl to Kara Danvers, not realizing they were the same fucking person?”
She swipes angrily at her eyes and Kara looks away. The anger has receded and left hot piercing guilt in its place. I have to get this right.
"I'm a protector, Lena." She's desperate for Lena to understand her side of the story. "It's how I was raised — it's my purpose. I was sent to Earth to protect Kal-El, and since I failed that before I even got here, I protect Alex, Eliza, my family. I've been a protector long before I became Supergirl. It's in my nature. When I said I will always protect you, I meant it. Promises are kind of a big deal to me." Kara shakes her head, still trying to understand her own actions as she explains them.
"Somehow, not telling you my identity became part of that. I convinced myself that not telling you was the safest. I — I don't always know how to see the big picture, I guess, but I knew I was hurting you, and I convinced myself it was for the best. I put everyone else's needs ahead of mine, practically to a fault, and I'm so afraid that everything good in my life will slip away from me if I don't have a tight enough grip on it, so I just hold on tighter and tighter until I choke the life out of it."
Kara squeezes her eyes shut as she cuts herself off, sucking in a deep breath to prevent herself from hyperventilating. Lena doesn’t respond right away, and Kara chances a look from the corner of her eye. She is staring out the window, tears tracking lines down her cheeks that glisten in the glow of the city lights. The guilt threatens to choke her at the thought of being the cause of her suffering again, knowing that she went through so much trouble to prevent the pain of the reveal just to force Lena to relive it again.
Kara wants to leave, then. She's said too much, exposed herself when Lena still has the power to break her all over again. Wants to run from this conversation and never look back, wants to find Mxy and search for more timelines where this never happens, because really she could have spent years finding the perfect moment, just to ensure that Lena never cries because of her again. Selfishness runs hot under her skin right next to the guilt. Selfish for wanting Lena in her life, guilty for not putting her first, selfish for making this fight all about her, guilty for being the cause in the first place. The cycle continues. Kara wants to throw up.
"Do you mind if I talk now?" Lena asks quietly, still staring out the window. Kara nods, embarrassed that she even had to ask.
"I'm not mad that you're Supergirl," she starts, and Kara looks at her in confusion. "It hurts, looking back now, knowing there's so much of your past that I don't know about when I showed you so much of mine. It hurts that I was the last to know, that at every game night everyone was holding their breath, that every time I mentioned Kara in front of Supergirl or vice versa, everyone but me knew I sounded like an idiot. But I know rationally that you had a good reason, in some sense. No, that's not really why I'm upset."
Lena's had a lot of time to process her reactions, to understand why she was so hurt. She understands now.
Because, Lena thinks, it wasn't just a hairstyle and thick-framed glasses that fooled her. It was a change in posture. It was Kara calling her Lena and Supergirl calling her Miss Luthor. It was the soft corners of cardigans contrasting the hard lines of the suit.
It was falling in love with Kara Danvers and resenting Supergirl, only for the two of them to be one in the same. How could it be possible — to love one version of a person and resent the other? Which version is real?
As the two women sit in silence again, Lena stares at her best friend who, somehow, looks so different but still exactly the same. She knows that Kara is Supergirl, has known that for months, should understand that their faces are the same. But being so close to her, names keep flashing by, as if her brain can't decide which person is sitting next to her.
"The problem is not that Kara Danvers is Supergirl, or that Kara Danvers is an alien. The problem is that Kara Danvers and Supergirl are not always the same person."
Again, Kara looks at her, confusion etched into her expression, eyebrows knitted close together, clearly trying to understand. "I'm . . . not sure I follow," she replies slowly.
"You treated me differently based on how I was perceiving you." Lena says plainly. "If I disagreed with Supergirl, you'd come to me as Kara to change my mind. Kara was my best friend, Supergirl was my business partner. Kara trusted me, Supergirl didn't. You used your secret identity to take advantage of me, whether you knew you were doing it or not."
Kara just stares at her, stunned, mouth slightly agape. Lena can tell by the look on her face that she's trying to find a defense, trying to think of an excuse, anything to justify her kindness as Kara and cruelty as Supergirl. Lena lets her think it through with a cool, pointed expression. Lets her consider their interactions through Lena's eyes, lets her process the severity of her betrayal. Lena has been through this already. She has combed through every interaction they had, trying desperately to decipher which moments were genuine, which moments were lies.
She's already done this.
Lena thought her anger was mostly over, burnt out after the long burning months of plotting against Kara and working with Lex, leaving nothing but ashes when she knocked on Kara's door. But now, bringing it up again, seeing that Kara didn't even realize what she was doing, she feels the bitter taste of rage in her throat again, the hum of betrayal vibrating under her skin.
She swallows it down and waits.
Finally, finally, Kara looks at her again. "You're right," she whispers, the guilt written all over her face. "I didn't — it wasn't supposed to be like this."
"I know you didn't mean to," Lena says, "but that's still what happened."
She pauses for a minute, and makes a decision. Reaching out slowly, she takes Kara's hand softly in hers. Kara looks down, a little stunned, before softly tracing circles over the back of Lena's hand. Her heart skips at the gentleness of the Kryptonian, and she marvels at the control.
"I've thought a lot about it," Lena starts slowly. "Your secret identity works because people don't get close to Supergirl and Kara Danvers as two separate people. Supergirl is a figure to almost everyone. Everyone close to Supergirl knows your identity. Except for me. If Supergirl never worked with me, if I never set foot in the DEO, if we truly had just been Lena and Kara, well, we might not be in this mess."
"I'd also be dead," Kara interrupts. She glances up at Lena through her lashes, looking deadly serious. "You've saved my life countless times. If you weren't around, I'd be dead. If you found out I was Supergirl any earlier, we wouldn't be here at all."
The last comment throws Lena off. Kara sits up abruptly, as if surprised it came out of her mouth. She attempts to pull her hand away but Lena holds on.
Kara sighs, closing her eyes for a moment. "Long story short, a fifth-dimensional creature came to me and showed me all these alternate timelines where I told you my identity at different stages in our friendship. I thought, you know, if I had just told you sooner, we could still be friends, and none of this would have happened." She exhales dejectedly and looks down at her hands, still resting calmly on top of Lena's. "But the timing was never right. You either left the city and couldn't save me, or something went wrong and I couldn't save you. It was awful."
Kara swallows back the tears and shakes her head in an attempt to clear the sense of dread in the pit of her stomach.
"That was the night I called you a villain," she finally confesses. Lena stiffens. "And I shouldn't have said it, none of this justifies what I did that night, but Rao, I was so hopeless — I felt like we were doomed from the start, like the moment I stepped into your office I would ruin you, and even the best timeline still ended horribly, so what was the point? I felt like I lost everything when I lost you."
There's a lot there to unpack, Lena realizes. If Kara could fix anything in the past, why would she choose them? If they were truly doomed, what was the point of being friends at all? Why fight for this if they were destined to destroy each other? Was this conversation even worth having?
She opens her mouth to ask one of those questions, but what comes out is a broken — "Which timeline was the best?"
When the tears finally spill over Kara's cheeks, she almost regrets asking.
"The one where I told you from the very beginning, the first day I met you," Kara whispers. Lena watches Kara's gaze turn wistful at the memory, sees the longing in her eyes. It stirs something odd in her chest. She promptly ignores it.
"It was amazing. We were a team, a Luthor and a Super, and we were unstoppable. There were no secrets, no lies, the DEO trusted you, the public trusted you. It was . . . it was everything I ever wanted."
And I think we were in love, Kara remembers with a pang. She remembers the spark in Lena's gaze whenever she looked at her in that timeline, the feeling of her hand placed on the small of Lena's back. Remembers the confidence in Lena's voice as she pled the fifth amendment in court. And — although it could just be wishful thinking, or a trick of the light — she could have sworn she saw a thin silver bracelet on Lena's wrist.
She ignores the tightness in her chest at the thought of being that close to Lena, doesn't let herself think about the possibilities, doesn't consider herself worthy of that kind of relationship with anyone, let alone her best friend. She doesn't even know if they could get there, after all of this.
(But oh, how she wants to.)
"What happened there?" Lena interrupts her thoughts and she blinks back into focus.
"You were cross-examined in court to reveal my identity. When you refused, you were kidnapped and used as bait to lure me out. I revealed myself as Supergirl at a press conference, the whole world knew, and everyone close to me was killed for it. Alex, my friends, even Cat Grant. I was . . . alone. Again."
Her voice cracks at the end, and she can't bring herself to look at Lena, radiant Lena, the most effervescent being she's ever seen. Rao, this hurts. Nothing she loves stays hers for long, everyone she cares about is leverage to her enemies, she is destined to be alone.
Lena squeezes her hand. Kara couldn't stop the tears if she tried.
She swallows the knot in her throat only for a sob to gasp out anyway. None of this is fair. How is it possible that there wasn't a single moment in their friendship that wouldn't end in pain? How could their relationship be so doomed? Doesn't she deserve something that's hers for once?
This isn't how the night was supposed to go. This isn't how she wanted to explain this to Lena, this isn't how she was supposed to tell Lena that her life is confusing and messy and lonely. That she hates how the only solace of having powers is using them to help people, but half the time she just makes things worse. Hates that being herself makes things worse. Hates that the memory of her planet exploding still plagues her in sleep, that she memorized the names of everyone whose death she caused, that she isn't sure if she should count her mother once or twice. Tears blur her vision entirely and she inhales sharply through her nose and coughs it out, desperate to clear away the guilt.
"Sorry," Kara whispers after a few seconds of pulling herself together. "This isn't how I wanted to tell you all of that." Because she doesn't regret saying it, really. Lena needed to hear it, and Kara needed to peel the words off her chest and get them out in the open. But she wasn't planning on telling Lena about Mxy tonight. Didn't think it was that important to fixing this.
"Thank you for telling me all of that." Lena squeezes Kara's hand again.
(Seeing the clarity in Lena's gaze makes Kara wonder if she should have told her about the tapes ages ago.)
"I don't know how I messed everything up," Kara whispers, her throat tight. She tips her head back against the couch and stares at the ceiling. "All I wanted to do was use my powers for good. To stop hiding this huge part of myself, to understand the way my body works, to fulfill my purpose for being sent here in some way. But Supergirl causes pain too, has hurt people. I've hurt people. Does my intention really matter if people die anyway? Is being a hero worth the risk?"
These are the questions that keep Kara awake at night, staring at the stars from her rooftop, wishing she could see the sky she saw as a kid. Becoming Supergirl was the best thing that ever happened to her, and the worst thing that ever happened to her loved ones. Is being a hero worth it? Is using her powers really what's best for the city? Is this what she wanted? Is performing good deeds and saving the world just a byproduct of her selfishness and ego? Does she really have a god complex?
"I can't see myself clearly anymore," Kara confesses. "Everything I thought was solid and secure can slip away so easily. Good intentions don't create perfect outcomes. Nothing is as simple as I want it to be."
Lena stills. "If there is one thing I understand," Lena says slowly, "it's trying your hardest to do what's right, only for the world to remind you how wrong you really are."
Kara doesn't respond. She knew the day she met Lena that they had a connection no one could come close to; atoning for the wrongs of their families. They're so similar it aches, and Kara desperately wishes they could go back to the easiness they had before. The simplicity of lunch dates on borrowed time, instead of the complicated mess they're in now.
Kara glances back at Lena to find piercing green eyes staring at her. There's an understanding in them, and Kara dares to hope that there's forgiveness there too, forgiveness she doesn't deserve.
She looks away. Selfish, her mind hisses harshly, and she squeezes her eyes shut.
"I'm sorry I lied," Kara whispers.
"I'm sorry I manipulated you," Lena whispers back.
"I'm sorry I treated you differently as Supergirl."
"I'm sorry I used you to get to Myriad."
"I'm sorry I called you a villain."
"I'm sorry I acted like one."
"You mean everything to me."
Kara squares her shoulders towards Lena and pulls her hands in her lap. She hears Lena's breath hitch but she doesn't pull away.
"I never wanted to lie, but I just couldn't live with myself if something happened to you because of my identity." Because of me.
She feels like a broken record, saying the same thing over and over again, but she’s desperate for Lena to understand why she did it. Lena pulls Kara closer, closer, wraps her arms around the Kryptonian's shoulders. Kara presses her nose into Lena's neck and breathes deeply, overwhelmed with relief and exhausted. The talk leaves her exhausted and emotionally spent, and Kara can't remember the last time she hugged Lena with no secrets between them. The ache in her chest settles and she pulls Lena closer, afraid that if she let go, Lena would run again.
"Tell me why you were selfish." Lena stares directly ahead, not daring for a moment to look at Kara and ruin this.
"So many reasons," Kara whispers back. "Because you make me forget." She doesn't dare look Lena in the eyes. "The time I spent with you was ours. Not the DEO's, not National City’s. You make me forget I have anything else to be doing except talking to you. There's no one to save, no mission to finish. There was just us. People knowing I'm Supergirl changes everything. I didn't want to change how you looked at me. I couldn't lose that."
Despite having superpowers, despite having a family that loved her and friends that cared for her, no one quite focused on her the way Lena did. She looked at her like she was a marvel, regarded her as an equal, wanted her opinion on her ideas. Without even knowing she was Supergirl, Lena treated her like a hero anyway. She would do just about anything to keep Lena's eyes on her like that.
"I forgive you," Lena whispers into Kara's hair, but Kara shook her head. She isn't done, there's so much more to be said, another secret buried so deep in her chest she was afraid it won't come up if she tried.
"It's not just that I felt normal, Lena, I was. . . I was so scared you would hate me." Kara hears Lena's heartbeat quicken, and she rushes on to get the words out before Lena could stop her.
"And I knew you would. I knew this would ruin everything because I know you, you're my best friend, and you trusted me and I trusted you but it wasn't enough, and I thought if — if I could just find the right time, when the world wasn't ending and no one was trying to kill you, it would be fine. But it wasn't fine, and we weren't fine, and you hated me, and I hated me too, and everything was spinning out of my control, and Rao, I spent the last three years convincing myself that nothing could be worse than launching my ex-boyfriend into space, or my sister forgetting who I am, and then I fell in love with you knowing you would end up hating me."
Lena inhales sharply at the confession but Kara barrels on to the point of rambling.
"And I held onto to just being Kara because you loved Kara and I was selfish, and I give so much of myself to this goddamn city, to this world I don't fit into, that doesn't want me here unless I wear a cape, and I just wanted one thing that was mine —" Kara stutters at the slip. "— I mean, not mine, but, I, look, our friendship, it was everything to me, and it was something I chose, and I would have done anything to keep from messing it up, including lie to you over and over again, digging myself deeper and deeper into this awful disaster and I ruined everything anyway, all because I loved you and couldn't bear to watch your heart break in front of me when you found out."
Tears flowed freely down Kara's face and onto Lena's neck. She hears consoling whispers pressed into the top of her head as she cries, but she can't process them. Her senses are overwhelmed with Lena, Lena, Lena, the smell of her perfume and the thud of her heartbeat and the smoothness of her skin, it's all too much.
"I can't lose you, Lena," Kara finally chokes out. She pulls back and looks Lena in the eyes. "I've lost so much, so many people that I love, and I can't —" she breaks off, shaking her head and taking a shaky breath in. "If something happens to you, or if I do something to break your trust and you leave again. . ." She presses their foreheads together as Lena gently holds Kara's elbows. Kara takes a shaking breath before whispering, "Rao, I think it'll break me."
It hits Lena with startling clarity that this is all a control thing for Kara.
Really, she should have see it before. Getting sent to Earth, losing her planet, losing her culture, nearly losing Alex. Everything terrible in Kara’s life has been out of her control, so she obsessively protects. The blow of her secret was inevitable, so she tried to control when it landed.
Lena supposes she can understand delaying the pain for as long as possible. She also supposes she can understand going to extreme lengths to preserve any sense of normalcy.
(Perhaps their methods of self-preservation are not so different after all.)
Lena realizes that she has never really seen Kara this upset. Or Supergirl for that matter. She has seen Kara stressed, has seen Supergirl angry, but never . . . distraught. For all their years of friendship, even in the last few months, it was usually Lena breaking down in front of Kara, leaving her best friend to pick up the pieces. But Kara Danvers was always the strong one, always making promises she couldn't always keep, listening to her and defending her behind closed doors. And Supergirl defended the city, the face of justice and hope. She could never be truly vulnerable in her suit. Perhaps Kara Danvers and Supergirl had more in common than Lena thought.
It’s in this moment, as Kara’s sobs soften into the occasional sniff, that Lena truly and fully forgives Kara.
"What's your real name?" Lena whispers. It's like I’m meeting a whole new person.
"Kara Zor-El," Lena repeats carefully, her lips turning up at the corners into a gentle smile. Kara adores the way her name fits in Lena's mouth, the way she forms each syllable with care and precision. "It suits you."
For a moment, everything is still. Kara stares at Lena, cheeks colored pink from hearing her name dance over Lena's lips, and Lena stares back, finally seeing her best friend through new eyes.
"Say it again," Kara breathes out, her gaze flickering down to her best friend's mouth, desperate to hear her name said by the most important person in her life. Never wants to stop hearing it, never wants to be called anything else.
"Kara Zor-El." Lena whispers just as softly, the awe and wonder seeping into her voice, and Kara can't help it.
She leans forward and crashes her lips against Lena's, tears still leaking out the corners of her eyes.
Lena responds instantly, carding her fingers through Kara's hair and tugging her closer, closer. Kara has imagined this moment so many times, in quiet, selfish moments where she imagined a world where her lies didn't tear them apart. She always imagined something gentle, like soft summer rain against her skin. But here and now, coming together after months and months of being apart, kissing Lena is a torrential downpour. Lena kisses like each moment could be their last, all teeth and touch and heavy breaths, and Kara is absolutely wild for it. It's wet and messy and Kara is sure she has Lena's red lipstick smeared over mouth but she can't find it in herself to care.
Minutes or hours could have past when Lena pulls away, her thumb tracing brushing tears from the Kryptonian’s cheeks.
“I’m so sorry,” Kara whispers, ignoring the shake of Lena’s head in response. “I’m sorry for hurting you, I’ll never stop being sorry, and I’ll say it every day for the rest of our lives if that’s what it takes.”
“Kara, darling,” Lena whispers, pressing her lips to Kara’s forehead. “I know. And I’m sorry, too. Can we maybe, just, accept the apologies and be done now? I’m quite tired of fighting.”
The guilt still stings in her throat, but she nods. Her shoulders slump, the tension drifting away, relieved to be so close to Lena again. Rao, she is exhausted. For a Kryptonian who typically doesn’t need much rest, Kara thinks she could probably sleep for a year. When Lena stands up and tugs on her wrist, Kara allows herself to be pulled up, ending in the two of them standing toe to toe, chests nearly touching.
“Will you stay here with me?” Kara asks quietly, praying she doesn’t come off clingy. “I just want to sleep, but I — I don’t want to be alone.”
Lena, wonderful, radiant, beautiful Lena, smiles her wonderful, radiant, beautiful smile, and nods. “Of course.”
Once they're laying in bed, under the cover of darkness, Kara allows herself a moment of boldness and pulls Lena closer, tucking her into her side and resting her chin on her head. Lena only shuffles closer, grabbing her hand and interlocking their fingers.
“Tomorrow,” Kara whispers into Lena’s hair, breathing in the smell of her rose shampoo. “I’ll tell you all about Krypton. I’ve been dying to tell you.”
Lena hums in response, nestling even further into Kara’s embrace. “I can’t wait, darling.”