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swing low, supernova, & come to carry me home

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They deny their feelings admirably for a long time. Until they can’t.

For Kara, that is the day they make friendship bracelets. (For Lena, it takes a little longer.)

She’s not thinking about it . . . except that maybe she is. Maybe while they’re laying on the cool floor before the sun comes up, a little tipsy and softer than sober, trading things they never got to do, Kara means to say it.

“Ride a bike,” Lena says, and Kara never did that one either.

“Make friendship bracelets,” she says, even though she shouldn’t.

But she’s had a bit to drink and she’s a lightweight (—she’s barely fuzzy at the edges) and Lena is really pretty in the moonlight through the kitchen window.

“That one’s easy.” Lena sits up on her elbows. “I’m assuming. I haven’t done it either. But how hard can it be?”

This is how Kara finds herself in Walmart at three in the morning, giggling as they trail lazily through the aisles one by one, floating on the edge of tipsiness, almost sober but feeling far from it. When they finally make their way home, it’s with more craft wire (“it lasts way longer than string, Lena,” ) than a professional craftsperson could use in a lifetime. (“We need all the colors, Lena!” )

(Unsurprisingly, they’ve also ended up with two tubs of ice cream—and golden beads shaped like stars, because Kara saw them and her lip started wobbling, and Lena snatched several packets off the hook to make her smile come back.)

Kara blinks and they’re back in her apartment on the carpet in front of the coffee table again, taping wire to the wood and squinting at instructions on her laptop that would probably be easier to understand if Lena weren’t sitting so close to her.

“I’ll make yours and you can make mine,” Kara had said, because she’s an idiot. “Is that okay?”

And Lena had nodded with that bright smile she only ever aims at Kara, the one that makes her all warm and fuzzy—which she is not ready to analyze, especially when it’s four in the morning and she’s sober enough that she can’t blame it on alcohol.

So now she’s braiding together red, blue, and gold wires and slipping on small stars at random, uneven internals.

She’s making a bracelet, with her family’s colors and star-shaped beads, for Lena.

Lena, her best friend who she might be a little in love with.

Lena, who she holds out her hand for and lets tie a neatly braided bracelet of green and gold wires, weaved with stars, around her wrist.

If she were feeling just a little less selfish, this is probably where she would realize she was making a poor decision, and stop before she does something stupid like confuse her own feelings about bracelets with the human ones that Lena has.

Instead, she watches the knot pull tight and ties her own bracelet around Lena’s wrist while the sun climbs over the windowsill and glitters off her eyes like magic. 

And she tries really, really hard to regret it.

(No, she doesn’t.)

(To make sure they don't come undone, they cover the knots in hot glue and blow them dry.

It feels beautifully forever in a way nothing has before.)

 

-

 

For Lena, it takes a little longer.

She’s spent a lifetime repressing her emotions, and she’s good at it, great even. Still, denying her feelings for Kara takes an absurd amount of effort.

But she ignores it and ignores it and ignores it until she finds out what a bracelet on her wrist means to Kara.

It’s a long wait.

Even when she knows Kara is Supergirl; Supergirl is Kara, she still doesn’t know that when her best friend tied a handmade bracelet around her wrist at dawn in her quiet apartment on a Sunday morning in late autumn, she’d been giving Lena something else entirely.

Ultimately, it’s Alex who tells her, when Kara isn’t even there to tell her why, because she’s lost in the phantom zone and no matter how hard Lena tries, she keeps failing to find her.

(Later, she’ll wonder how Alex had not realized before, if she always knew about Kryptonians and bracelets, that Kara had been wearing one for years.

And she’ll remind herself of how easy it is to not see something, when you aren’t looking.)

 

-

 

She’s taken to playing with her bracelet, twisting it around her wrist and rubbing her thumb over the beads, feeling the rounded edges against the pads of her fingers.

It’s a new habit, one that’s developed since Kara was torn away from them, and has only gotten worse in the time she’s been gone. 

It’s been weeks.

Days after days of nothing.

She thinks it’s possible she’d have worked herself to death by now if it weren’t for Alex and Kelly, who’ve all but adopted her.

(At first, she tried—rather weakly—to fight them off. 

But she gave in fast, and now they bring her food when she’s locked herself in the lab for too many hours in a row and drag her out of the tower every night and drive her to Kara’s apartment, where she wasn’t expecting to take up residence, but it’s been a long time since she’s slept at her own.

It’s like Alex knew she needed to be there, because she has a key now and the landlord’s number is saved in her phone but she doesn’t remember being the one to put it in.)

When Alex finally notices the bracelet, it’s because of Lena’s fiddling. And in typical Alex fashion, she’s unabashedly abrupt and blunt in her questioning.

“What’s that?” she asks, her voice startlingly crisp in the early morning. 

For a moment, she thinks Alex is here to lecture her because she never went home last night, even though she promised to leave the tower at a reasonable time. (In her defense, she forgot.)

But when Alex’s footsteps stop, she peers over Lena’s shoulder and asks again: “What’s that?”

Stupidly, Lena says: “What?”

Reaching out, Alex taps the bracelet with her pointer finger and Lena drops her hands, unable to stop herself from flinching. She’s better about it now, but sometimes she still jumps when people touch her, expecting something violent instead of kind.

Even though she knows Alex has no intention of hurting her.

(Kelly says that’s normal, all things considered. Lena thinks it’s pathetic, and almost hates herself for it. But she hates the Luthors more.

She hates Lionel, who was an angry man when he was sober, and wanted his family to feel it when he was drunk. 

She is broken by the fact that she still wants Lillian’s love to be kind, after years of believing her mother hated her. She hates the fact that she isn’t sure she hates Lillian.

She does hate Lex, who may have never loved her at all. Who’s tried to kill her so many times that she can’t look at him without wondering if he’s going to pull out a gun and put a bullet in her throat—

Like she did to him. 

It’s funny, how the brother she thought loved her never did, and the mother she thought never would might have always.

It’s not funny at all.)

Alex mumbles an apology, because of course she noticed.

“Oh,” Lena says, a bit confused but mostly just so tired she’s almost swaying on her feet.

Or maybe she is swaying a little, because Alex’s hands take her by the shoulders, barely touching, and lead her across the room, guiding her to sit on the platform steps.

She drops down beside her and reaches out to grab Lena’s wrist and examine her bracelet, and Lena has to fight the urge to yank her hand back and clutch it against her chest and never let anyone touch it ever again. 

Except Kara.

Kara, who used to play with it all the time. She’d fiddle with it during their movie nights when they sat cuddled under a pile of blankets, and in her office on the couch while they talked after eating lunch.

Kara, who isn’t here anymore.

“This looks homemade,” Alex says, but her voice is absent, like she’s not really talking to Lena, she’s just thinking out loud. “It’s Kara’s colors.”

Lena hums, fighting to keep her eyes open. For a moment, she almost regrets not getting any sleep last night. She can’t remember any of the last four or five hours.

“Did you make this?”

“Kara did,” she says, letting her eyes flutter shut. Maybe she could just fall asleep here. Just for a moment. She could totally sleep sitting up. 

But Alex’s grip on her wrist tightens. Reflexively, she tries to pull away, her eyes opening just enough to glare half-heartedly and a little pathetically; she’s far too tired to be properly upset about anything.

(Alex could punch her in the face and she’d probably thank her for the time spent unconscious.)

“Ow,” she whines, though it didn’t actually hurt. When Alex speaks again, her voice is quiet and strained. It strikes Lena as being rather odd, but Alex is rather odd. So.

Kara made this for you?”

“Mhm.”

“Lena.” Her voice is sharp now, and the urgency in her tone is enough to jolt Lena into a little more awareness. Eyes open, she tilts her head at Alex, who continues: “Kara made this bracelet and gave it to you?”

“Yes,” she says, quiet and nervous, because something is clearly wrong and she doesn’t recognize the look on Alex’s face. It’s unsettling and unfamiliar and she doesn’t like it. “Is that bad?”

(She hates how small she sounds.

But this bracelet is the most important thing she’s ever owned and it burns to hear Alex say Kara made this for you? with all that disbelief in her voice, like she can’t comprehend that Kara would have done something like that for her.) 

“No!” Alex jumps and turns her body toward Lena, who’s shrinking into herself on instinct, heart crawling up into her throat. “Oh my god, no, Lena. That’s not what I meant at all. I was just surprised. I didn’t realize you and Kara were . . . you know. Especially . . . now. ” 

Well that makes no sense. 

“I don’t think I do know,” she says. The confusion swirling in her head is making her feel dizzy, but that could also be the overwhelming sleep-deprivation. (She might be imagining it, but Alex looks almost

sad.)

“Why didn’t you guys tell me? Did you think I’d be upset? Lena, you’re my family, you know that, right?”

She didn’t, actually.

Something that feels far too much like longing bubbles up in her chest and settles as almost-tears in the corners of her eyes and her chin wobbles.

Family. Family. Family.

You’re my family, Lena.

For a brief, terrifying moment, a colorless memory flashes behind her eyelids in the time it takes to blink once, and she feels like that little girl in the mile-long driveway that split the sprawling lawn of the Luthor mansion down the middle, clinging to a single suitcase with a rough hand pushing her forward.

“This is your new family, Lena,” someone whose face she can’t remember had said.

But no, it hadn’t been.

Not really.

Because Lena has seen family, now. She hasn’t wholly felt a part of it, but she’s seen it, and she knows what it looks like, even if she doesn’t know how it feels.  

Because the Luthors are not a family.

They’re just three people who keep breaking each other, and one who’s dead now and never said I love you, so Lena will never know if he did. If he did, he loved with his fists, and that’s not really love, anyway.

The Luthors are just a mother who ran her very own terrorist organization and sends assassins instead of birthday cards and poisons her son’s tea.

A boy, twisted into a man, who should be in prison for longer than he’d live to serve. Who ran from his sentence, but whose name still means terrorist, murderer, evil evil evil;

who tries to kill his sister and his mother again and again and again until she can barely remember the child he once was.

A woman, barely old enough to be, who calls the police on her own mother and shoots her brother twice in the throat. Hung like a marionette who cuts her strings; who runs and runs and runs

and it’s never fast or far enough.

The Luthors are not a family. 

(And Lena hates herself for the fact that Lillian told her she loved her for the first time and for a moment, one ugly, beautiful moment—

she felt it.

But the Luthors are not a family, even when she wants them to be.)

The Danvers are, though, and Lena wants them to be hers.

Maybe, maybe, maybe.

“Lena?”

“I don’t deserve that,” she says, so soft it barely comes out; so soft it’s a wonder Alex can understand it.

“Yeah, you really do,” Alex says, gentle and kind and so much like a sister and Lena tries really hard to not think about Lex, who isn’t her beloved brother anymore and maybe never was, but she thought he was, once, and he’d promised he always would be.

Turns out, when your brother loses his mind, sometimes you lose his promises. (Or they twist and crack and hurt so badly you break them with a bullet just to get away, and can’t even regret it.)

(Or they were never real in the first place. 

Lena’s been having trouble untangling it all. Real, fake. Fake, real. 

None of it, all of it.

She’s afraid of the thought that she might have always known he was using her.)

“And I’m sorry for making you feel like you don’t, and like you and Kara couldn’t tell me about this.”

That doesn’t make sense, Lena thinks.

“Tell you what? That we got sad and tipsy and made friendship bracelets at four in the morning? Alex, that was years ago, and it wasn’t a secret. I would’ve thought it was a fever dream if I didn’t have proof.”

“Wait, what?” 

Great, now they’re both confused. Lena knows she’s sleep-deprived, but not so much that she shouldn’t be able to hold a simple conversation. 

“You’re not making any sense,” Alex says.

I’m not making sense? You’re the one being dramatic over a bracelet made of craft wire and plastic beads.” She tries to scoff, but it comes out more than a little defensively and she curls her wrist against her stomach like she’s trying to keep the bracelet safe from some invisible threat.

But Alex just looks at her. It’s unsettling, like she can see through Lena’s eyes into her head, and Lena would really prefer Alex not see everything in her head. 

“If you’re trying to downplay how much that bracelet means to you, you’re doing a really bad job.”

Inside, Lena coils up and rises like a viper to strike, but when she lashes out, it’s not as strong as she wants it to be. 

Instead, it’s just sad and quiet. 

“It was the first thing anyone had given me in years, okay? And certainly no one had ever made me anything before, and it was Kara, so yes, it’s the most important thing I own. Happy?”

Alex’s shoulders drop and her face softens, and the ‘no, of course not, that’s really sad,’ in her eyes goes unspoken.

“Lena,” she says, her voice low and careful like Lena’s a spooked animal poised to run. “Can I give you a hug?”

It’s almost pathetic how easily she caves. 

Lena folds and falls, her temple dropping to Alex’s shoulder as an arm wraps around her back, and it’s suddenly so clear why a lost little girl from a world that caught fire and burned had clung so tightly to her. 

She’s like an oasis in the desert. 

Her hug is safe and warm in a way that’s so different from Kara’s, but still so consuming; nothing has ever made Lena feel as loved as the Danvers sisters have. 

Kara holds her like she’s trying to melt two bodies into one; trying to press her soul as close to Lena’s as she possibly can—her soft embrace wrapping all the way around her until she can barely tell if there’s still a line where she ends, and Kara begins.

(Sometimes she swears she can feel Kara’s heart slowing to match the beat of hers.)

Alex hugs like she’s making a promise. 

Like she’s ready to stare down at Lena’s greatest demons and dare them to step closer. Like she’d go to war and bring down hell to keep them away. (It reminds Lena of how Lex made her feel, once. 

But different.)

“Thank you,” she whispers.

“You don’t have to thank me,” Alex says, but Lena knows she always will. Alex deserves to be thanked, and Lena is so grateful for her support that she doesn’t even have room for it all.

For a long moment, everything is quiet. The room is otherwise empty, though if she tries, Lena can hear Nia talking down the hall. She must’ve just arrived; it’s still early enough that most of the city is asleep. 

“Does she have one, too?” Alex asks, but her voice sounds like she already knows the answer.

“Yes,” Lena says, though she’s still unsure why it matters so much to Alex.

“Does she wear it?”

“Always. Even when things were bad.” There’s a moment where she tries to hold the rest of the words in, suck them back behind her teeth and swallow them whole— “I didn’t take mine off, either.” 

It’s quiet; confessional. When Alex responds, her words are just as soft, but not as sad.

“How did I never notice that?”

“It’s easy to not notice something you aren’t looking for,” Lena says, staring unfocused at the far wall, her words hanging like a ghost in the air; haunted.

For a long time, they sit in silence. A silence she can’t step away from.

Her eyelids are so very heavy and her mind is slow around the edges, but then Alex speaks again, and she’s suddenly wide awake.

“Bracelets meant something different, on Krypton,” Alex says. Lena’s heart aches in her chest.

She didn’t, in definition, know this. But she thinks she may have felt it; may have always felt it. That maybe somewhere inside, she has known what this meant to Kara from the moment it happened, from the way her face glowed with wonder and heartbreak as she tied the bracelet around Lena’s wrist in the dim morning light, and Lena could tell it flowed deeper than a child-like symbol of friendship. But it had vanished behind her eyes, and Lena couldn’t follow it there.

Still, she thinks she may have always known that to Kara, a bracelet was more than a bracelet.

Still, it strikes her like lightning to hear it out loud.

“She didn’t tell you that, did she.” It’s not a question. It doesn’t need to be; they both know the answer. So Lena stays quiet, and lets Alex go on.

“Romantic relationships were really different there,” she starts, still looking at Lena like she’s worried about her reaction, like she’s a small, frightened animal, wavering between fight and flight.

(Which may be true, she thinks.)

“The entire culture was, so things don’t always translate over quite right. But the closest equivalent for us would be a wedding or engagement ring.”

Something in Lena falls into place; the universe in shambles builds itself back together.

“Lena, do you have feelings for my sister?” 

The room is silent except for the soft hum of the computers against the opposite wall, but the sound of her own pulse in her skull is ripping her open.

“It’s okay if you don’t,” Alex says, gentle and quiet in a way Lena hasn’t heard from her before. “Kara knows bracelets don’t mean the same thing here; I promise she doesn’t think you’re engaged or anything.”

She pauses, like there’s something else she wants to say but isn’t sure she should.

She does anyway.

“But I think you should know. . . . She swore to me she would never wear or give a bracelet to anyone if she wasn’t sure she wanted to spend her life with them.”

(This is what dying feels like, Lena is certain.

Maybe it’s also what living feels like, though.)

“That was years ago and she could’ve changed her mind, especially considering how scared she was that whoever she fell in love with wouldn’t want that, but I don’t . . . I don’t think so.” 

Everything is still. 

If she didn’t feel so absent from her own body, Lena would almost feel peaceful.

But she does, because it’s like her soul is trying to free itself from her chest and float away, in whatever direction it must go to find Kara.

(Kara, who is lost, who is alone.

Who Lena can’t save, even though she tries and tries and tries—)

“Bracelets are for marriage on Krypton.” Lena’s voice is no more substantial than smoke in the wind.

“Yes,” Alex says, just the same.

“And Kara said she’d never wear one for any other reason.”

“Yes.”

“But she made me one, in her family’s colors, and tied it on my wrist.”

“Yep.”

“Then asked me to do the same for her.”

There’s a pause, and then— “You have family colors?”

“What?” Lena asks, thrown off. “No? She just asked for green.” 

If anything, this seems to amuse Alex, who presses her lips together like she’s working really hard to fight a smile, but still ends up with one, upside-down and strangled.

“What’s so funny?” Lena says, almost pathetically huffy, but in her defense, she hasn’t slept in like, a while.

“Your eyes are green, Lena.”

Oh.

“Oh.” Her voice is a wisp—a soft sound that dissipates as quickly as it’s said. The only response is a small nod and a silence that stretches on. It’s not awkward, though. 

It’s just quiet.

But there are still words swimming in her mouth, and she isn’t sure she wants Alex to hear them. But she remembers: “you’re my family, Lena,” and “can I give you a hug?” and “do you have feelings for my sister? It’s okay if you don’t,” (like it would be okay if she did) and she thinks maybe—

it would be okay. Maybe Alex wouldn’t mind if Lena were in love with Kara, even though there are so many better people who could love her.

Who have, and who do. Regardless;

“I love her.”

Nothing has ever been so easy and so hard to say.

“I know,” Alex says, calm and steady to counter Lena’s stress—a pile of words and sentences building in her throat, confessions and buried emotions and two-and-a-half decades of little boxes that have never been big enough for everything she’s trying to keep inside. Her heart is spinning.

She misses Kara. She loves Kara.

She has never said it out loud before.

“I just—I love her. I’m sorry, Alex. . . . Fuck—I’m so sorry.

She chokes on the words as they break out of her, having crawled up from her chest, dragging her heart into her throat and scratching at the inside of her mouth, prying her teeth open so they could spill out. 

Everything burns and she’s tired; terrified. (What if she spends the rest of her life trying to atone for her sins trying to bring Kara home and never comes close? Can never fix what she’s hurt? What if it’s never enough?)

(What if she’s never enough—)

“Shit, Lena,” Alex mutters, her hands hovering awkwardly in front of her like she wants to help, but doesn’t know how. “Don’t apologize; you haven’t done anything wrong just by loving her.”

(There’s the beginning of a tear hanging in the inside corner of Lena’s eye, and she swipes at it with her forefinger.)

“You’re good for her, okay? I’m serious. There was a moment there where I thought I was gonna have to take you out ‘cause there was no way she could’ve done it, but y’know. Aside from that. You’re good for her.”

“I hurt her, Alex.”

“She hurt you first.” 

It has the intended effect: Lena snorts and Alex grins, and the heavy shadow in the air lifts just a little.

“The two don’t exactly equate,” Lena says. 

“No,” Alex agrees. “But you’re still allowed to be hurt. You don’t have to be okay with what she did just because you did some morally dubious shit when you found out.”

“That’s putting it lightly.”

“You’re deflecting.”

“I thought Kelly was the psychologist?”

“Lena.” 

Something heavy settles in Lena’s throat, and she’s not sure if there are any words in any language that could say what she needs them to. (She’s never been good with words, anyway. Not when it matters. 

Words are more Kara’s thing.

On paper, anyway.)

Instead of finding something to say that wouldn’t be right, Lena tips backward until she’s lying on the floor, and stares blankly at the ceiling. Beside her, still upright, Alex sighs.

But she follows suit, head landing next to Lena’s on the dark floor, and she folds her hands over her stomach as Lena drapes an arm over her eyes.

“The first time Kara said she wanted to tell you about Supergirl, she’d known you about five months. I almost checked her for a fever.”

Lena’s heart nearly stops in her chest, and she feels her body stiffen. Five months?

(Then why did it take years?)

“I told her to wait, and she said to me: ‘with all due respect, Alex, that’s not your call.’ Which was true, but I wasn’t happy to hear it.”

“Your Kara impression is shit,” Lena offers, because what else is she supposed to say? The last ten minutes have unraveled her entire life, and she’s not sure how much more she can handle before her brain melts. 

Alex, for the best, ignores her and keeps going; a bludgeoning weapon to Lena’s mental stability.

“She didn’t end up doing it, obviously. And when I asked why, she told me she needed someone who only saw her as Kara, and still thought she was special.”

Oh, god.

It’s like there’s a fist in her chest around her heart, squeezing tight, knuckles pressing into her lungs until she can’t breathe. It’s a quiet violence; a silent type of heartbreak.

“I realized I’d treated her that way before. I’d made her feel like what she could contribute as Supergirl was more important than what she could contribute as Kara. You never did that.”

She sounds so sad, so full of resignation that it makes Lena wonder if she’s ever said that out loud before.

(“To be fair, I didn’t know they were different people,” she almost says. Instead, she keeps her mouth shut, because there’s a higher chance she’d just sob if she opened it.

“That didn’t matter,” Alex would’ve said. “Supergirl saved your life on a regular basis, and Kara Danvers was still your hero.” )

“Of course, it was also about protecting you,” she adds. In the corner of her eye, Lena watches Alex talk with her hands, and it’s almost odd to see. “Honestly, you’re a danger magnet.”

“My record for the longest amount of time between attempts on my life is four months and five days.”

“Shit, Lena, that is so depressing.”

“To be fair, most of them were Lex or Lillian.”

“The fact that you think that makes it better is really disturbing.”

Lena doesn’t have anything to say to that. There’s no effective way to counter a statement like: your family is actively trying to kill you and there’s no positive spin you can put on it.

So she just laughs. And yeah, it’s more than a little fucked up to laugh about such a thing, but the only other response she could manage is breaking down in tears, and that’s maybe the last thing she wants to happen at the moment. (Or at any moment, really.)

“It’s mostly just Lex, now. If that makes it better.”

Not much,” Alex says, but she’s smiling, and the room doesn’t feel so heavy anymore. A spark of hope flares in Lena, flickering to life like blowing on warm coals until they catch fire.

Alex’s words echo in her head: “Lena, you’re my family, you know that, right?” 

And Lena thinks that maybe she knows now what family is supposed to feel like.

She runs the pads of her fingers along her bracelet—the braided wire and the small, golden beads, and she can almost feel the ghost of Kara’s fingertips alongside her own.

(Almost; not quite.)

With fluttery-closed eyes, Lena touches the soft, copper wires looped around her wrist and imagines, for just a moment, wearing the bracelet Kara gave her in the way Krypton would’ve intended.

A future she wishes she could have flashes in color behind her eyes, almost like a memory she hasn’t made yet.

“We’re gonna bring her home, Lena,” Alex says. The summer sun is bright through the east-facing window, and for the first time, Lena truly believes they will.