She doesn’t say anything.
Kara comes home, and Lena keeps her mouth shut.
Because the world is falling apart, and saving it seems more important to Lena than potentially humiliating herself and fucking up her relationship with Kara.
So she ignores Alex’s evolution from ‘passive-aggressive gestures’ to ‘overtly aggressive comments’ and continues doing a subpar job ignoring her feelings, and then she literally flees the country.
Things are . . . different when she gets back. Good different, just . . . blurry.
Blurrier than they used to be, anyway, because ‘platonic’ was never something they were great at. It was just something they were great at ignoring being bad at.
Now, their lives have melted together, and it feels, sometimes, like they’re already in a romantic relationship, just without the label. (And the kissing.)
(Not that relationships have to include that.
. . . But she would not complain if this one did.)
Sometimes, it feels like they’ve been together for years; living and sharing a life. So much so that Lena almost forgets they aren’t, and only remembers—like a knife through her ribs—when she can’t kiss Kara on her way out the door or when she gets home at night or any time she does something cute, which is . . . often.
But it won’t last forever.
It’s bound to break, and it will rip Lena apart
if when Kara meets someone and falls in love and realizes she doesn’t want to spend so much time with her best friend anymore, and that maybe it isn’t normal to treat a best friend the way they treat each other.
(Alex has informed Lena that best friends don’t usually live together in an apartment with one bed.)
(She almost defended herself by saying that the couch pulls out, but that really wouldn’t have helped her case.
Alex knows they don’t use it.)
So it won’t last forever and it’ll kill her when it ends, but she has it now, and it’s better to have loved and lost than to have never loved at all.
(“Loss does strange things to my family—” )
So Lena doesn’t say anything.
It’s Kara, who brings it up.
It takes her a while—until Lex is gone and so is Nyxly and the dust has settled and the world quieted, and no one is following her with a camera anymore.
(Sometimes, she regrets coming out as Supergirl.
Most times, she’s happy she did. But sometimes she grieves the division of herself, because now people aren’t normal around her. There’s always someone staring.
Usually, it’s fine, but it isn’t always.)
(Lena, raised in the spotlight, helps her cope.)
She waits until the timing is absolutely perfect.
. . . Meaning she blurts it out completely unprompted just because it’s late in the evening and there’s takeout on the coffee table and Lena is shuffling out of their bedroom in a pair of pajama pants and Kara’s NCU hoodie, and she looks so pretty—
and she can’t hold it back anymore.
“I have to tell you something.”
The words are a jumble, and Lena freezes on her way across the room. She recovers quickly, though, and drops onto the couch with her usual grace, eyes inquisitive as she reaches blindly for a carton of fried rice.
“Oh?” she says, and if Kara were anyone else, she wouldn’t hear the slight waver in Lena’s voice or the spike of anxiety that speeds her heart.
With a jolt, Kara realizes she could’ve started that better. They don’t have a particularly great relationship with secrets, and this. . . . This is a big one.
She doubts, suddenly, if she should say anything at all. Or if she should say something stupid instead and shove this down until the feelings go away, which, based on historical patterns, is a poor choice and won’t pan out well.
(She will never forget how deep it cut her open to lose Lena, and she will always remember, sharp and clear, how it felt when she reached out to touch her for the first time as they tried to rebuild what they’d torn down—
and Lena flinched away.
For the first time since the beginning, Lena jolted away from her in the way Kara had seen her do from people like Lex. And perhaps for the first time, Kara thought of Lena’s heartbreak without shielding herself behind her own.
She didn’t like what she saw.)
The feelings probably won’t go away, anyway. It’s been like five years.
“That was a bad way to start,” she says, sheepish, watching Lena twisting her fingers. The fried rice sits forgotten on the table. “Can I try again?”
Amusement flickers in her eyes and something swoops in Kara’s stomach when she sees it; watches some of the nerves melt out of Lena’s body.
At Lena’s soft, brief nod, Kara straightens her spine and breathes in deep. She tries to fold her hands neatly in her lap but it feels weird, so she crosses them over her stomach and that feels weirder, so they end up hovering awkwardly in the air because she wants to reach out and grab Lena’s hands, stop her from pulling at her fingers like she does when she’s stressed.
But Kara figures she shouldn’t touch Lena right now because she’ll melt into a puddle if she does. (And if Lena is uncomfortable by her confession of undying love and the whole ‘if we were on Krypton the bracelet I gave you would’ve been a proposal and I promise I wasn’t asking but if I did ask would you be open to the idea’ thing, then she wants her to have space.)
Lena’s voice is a soft call home, pulling Kara out of her own head and toward her, where she finds a concerned expression and gentle eyes and it’s amazing, really, how easily the tension drains from her body when Lena smiles at her, small but encouraging.
Kara’s hands are still floundering in front of her, unsure where to go. (What do people usually do with their hands?
She puts them on her hips when she wants to feel confident, but this probably isn’t the time for that. Besides, her right arm is trapped against the couch.)
A light touch brushes along the backs of her hands and pulls them out of the air, into Lena’s lap, where she wraps them both between her own and begins to draw comforting shapes with her fingertips on Kara’s skin. (Shapes that coincidentally feel like Kryptonese, which Kara’s been teaching her in the rare moments of quiet they steal between busy days.
She’s taken to speaking it like a fish to water, but the written word gives her trouble. And here she is, learning Kara’s native language by tracing it on her skin.)
“Whatever it is, you don’t have to tell me if you’re not ready.”
“I’m ready,” Kara says, and she is. She’s just. . . . “I’m a little scared, that’s all.”
Something like sorrow fades into Lena’s eyes and oh crap, she’s made her sad. Her gaze drops to her lap, to their tangled fingers, and her thumb stops tracing along the inside of Kara’s wrist.
Kara hears her swallow and sees her eyes blinking fast and she panics, wondering what she said that was bad and how to make it better.
“Please don’t be scared to talk to me, Kara,” Lena says, so small, and Kara’s heart breaks and breaks and breaks as she sees the wreckage of their fallout flash in Lena’s eyes. She feels it in the way Lena’s hands tug back and she tries to pull away, and Kara clings on tighter, pulls her hands back and into her own lap, tangling their fingers together; “Wait—Lena—I didn’t mean it like that.
“I just. . . . I was being selfish, not telling you I was Supergirl for so long. I don’t want to do that to you again, but this time I’m not sure if not telling you is selfish, or if telling you is.”
“That makes no sense. Just tell me,” Lena says, like it’s that simple. (If only.)
What if she says it, and Lena pulls away and things get uncomfortable or she walks away for good or they try to be in love out loud, but fall apart, and Kara crumbles because she has never been in love like this before. She has never looked at someone and known:
You are forever, and if you let me love you and change your mind, I will not find love like that anywhere else.
(And yet, she’d do it anyway, for Lena.
She’d sit back and watch her own heart shatter; let Lena be the one to do it like a crystal wineglass on the wall, a priceless red dripping like wet paint, wet blood.)
(Years ago, she watched Cat fling her glass at the wall in her office after the door closed behind someone she hadn’t wanted to leave, and the wine dried before it was wiped away and the shards flew farther than she’d thought they would.
It had been the ugliest kind of poetic.)
“I’ve seen what it’s like to live without you, Kara. I’m not eager to do it again. Whatever it is, you won’t lose me,” she says, gentle and soothing and Kara would be lying if she said she didn’t love how well Lena knows her, how she seems to hear what Kara’s saying even when the words aren’t spoken. “Besides, I’m your niece’s godmother; you’re stuck with me.”
She thinks this is the part where she confesses with an eloquent speech she makes up on the spot (because she did not prepare for this at all) that’s beautiful enough that Lena doesn’t get mad about the whole sort-of-but-not-really-except-kind-of proposal that she was not aware was a proposal in Kara’s culture because she did not tell her, or uncomfortable with the fact that Kara’s been in love with her since basically forever.
“I like being stuck with you,” is what she says instead.
By some miracle, Lena smiles at that, her cheeks warm with a faint blush. In her chest, Kara’s heart trips over itself and tries to climb up her throat. She swallows it back down and nearly chokes on it when she meets Lena’s gaze—her best friend’s eyes are soft and sparkly, their pale green color saturated in the living room’s yellow light.
And Kara is in love. (And she can feel, brushing against the base of her palm, the smooth wire of Lena’s bracelet.
Sometimes, she dreams that it’s real, and breaks her own heart when she remembers it’s not.)
“I like being stuck with you, too,” Lena says, gentle and shy, cheeks still dusted pink as her thumb traces circles along the back of Kara’s hand. Her touch is ever-so-light, but Kara can feel it through her whole body.
“Bracelets were for marriage, on Krypton,” she says, so suddenly she surprises herself by saying it. Lena’s eyes widen, and she barrels on before she can cut herself off: “They started like an engagement ring, then there would be a marriage ceremony, and the other person would receive one. Like a Kryptonian version of wedding rings.”
Her fear is a ball in the back of her throat, growing and growing until the words get hard to choke out and she almost wishes she hadn’t said anything at all.
But there’s something in Lena’s eyes that pushes her on.
“I’m sorry I never told you. I should have. I was. . . . I was selfish, and I was afraid. I keep doing that to you and it was so unfair of me. I was scared that even if you didn’t run away from me, you might stop wearing it. I was scared you would take it off.”
“I didn’t, and I won’t now.” Lena is gentle; her voice and her hands and her eyes, gentle and kind and reassuring, and Kara has no idea what she’s talking about.
“What?” Lena asks, tilting her head, like she doesn’t realize she’s said something that makes no sense.
“You said ‘didn’t.’ What do you mean? Were you planning to? When we were . . . fighting?” (She chokes on the word as it comes up her throat, into her mouth.
She doesn’t like to think about what it was like to be without Lena; to be hated by Lena.
“I didn’t hate you, Kara. It felt more like . . . grief.” )
“No! No. It truly never even crossed my mind.”
There’s guilt in her eyes, but she’s not lying. It takes Kara a beat to understand, and another to push the realization out into words.
“You knew,” she breathes. “You already knew about bracelets and Krypton.”
For one moment—one small, long, fleeting moment of caught eyes and charged silence, Kara’s heart lurches in her chest at the possibility that Lena already knew what bracelets mean to Kara , and still never took hers off.
Uncertainty clouds Lena’s eyes, and Kara can see them unfocus as she debates what to say.
“Yes,” she settles for, and Kara’s shoulders drop, tension falling away but confusing clinging on around her ribs. “Alex told me. While you were . . . away.”
(Once again, Kara is not the one to say it.
Once again, Lena has to hear her secrets from someone else.
Her sister instead of Lena’s brother, but just once, Kara would like to be the one to tell her first.)
“I’m sorry,” she breathes, and Lena’s head tilts a bit to the side like she doesn’t understand. Kara chokes on the words, her voice wobbly and rushed and breaking— “I’m so sorry; I wanted to be the one to tell you, but someone else did, again, and it’s not fair—”
“Hey, hey, it’s okay,” Lena breathes, warm and kind, nearly climbing into Kara’s lap in attempt to be close, to comfort, to take her face between her palms and brush away the tear Kara hadn’t realized had fallen.
Everything about her is gentle, from her eyes to her hands to her soft weight on Kara’s legs, to the flannel of her pajama pants on Kara’s skin. (And the way she looks, swallowed in Kara’s old NCU hoodie she pilfered, but still makes Kara wear every now and again; “so it still smells like you.” )
“I’m not upset with you, Kara,” she murmurs, close enough that Kara can count her eyelashes as they flutter and feel the way her words breathe, still warm when they touch Kara’s cheek. “And I’m not taking it off. I don’t want to.”
She pauses, uncertainty bleeding into her gaze, which breaks from Kara’s to look at something—nothing—over her shoulder. “Unless you want me to, in which case I will respect that.”
Instantly, Kara shakes her head, so resolutely that something must click in Lena’s mind, because she relaxes, leaning into Kara’s touch where her hands have encircled Lena’s waist. Hoping, she doesn’t pull away.
It feels like the world is tilting; shifting into place, not out of it.
Lena’s touch turns a little shy, slipping down from Kara’s cheeks to her shoulders and around the back of her neck to weave into the wispy hairs at the base of her skull.
“I’ve never loved anyone like this, before,” she admits, so quiet and vulnerable that Kara almost wonders if she wanted to be heard. If she were someone else, someone who couldn’t hear so well she could count Lena’s heartbeats across the city, she’d think it was an admission not ready to be admitted.
But she can, and Lena knows that, now.
Now, when she speaks under her breath, she knows Kara can hear her.
“I haven’t, either,” Kara says, and she wants it to sound easy, because it is —loving Lena is the easiest thing in the world.
But it doesn’t. It swells with emotion that makes it hard to breathe around the lump in her throat, coming out hoarse, and Kara feels like she’s begging but doesn’t know what for.
“You’re my best friend in the whole world—” Kara traces down the side of Lena’s face with the tips of her fingers, following her hairline to her jaw to cup her face in one hand “—and I just wanted to make bracelets with you. I’d never wanted that before but it’s such a soft, human tradition and suddenly I did want it. With you.
“I swear I wasn’t proposing or anything. I meant it in the human context, but it wasn’t fair of me to push that on you when you didn’t know what it meant on Krypton. Consent is really important and it feels like I took that away from you.”
Her hand falls, but Lena is so close that it lands on her thigh, just above her knee. Her eyes are gentle but wide, like she’s looking for something in Kara’s.
“So you’d propose to me if I gave consent?” Lena says eventually, something in her tone like she’s trying to sound light, to fluster Kara on purpose like she does sometimes, but it falls flat, too raw to be unreal.
And Kara sputters. Practically falls apart; Lena’s words a seam-ripper to her skin.
Her heart crawls into her throat and nearly spills out of her mouth and into her hands, held out for Lena to take. (As though she doesn’t already have it, tucked in her chest alongside her own.
Where it belongs.)
“Sorry,” Lena says, the word quiet and fast. She looks away and Kara misses her immediately, though she’s gone nowhere. “Forget I said that. It was a bad joke.”
Kara can feel her heartbeat in her head. (And she can hear Lena’s in her chest— racing.)
“It didn’t feel like a joke,” she says, hesitant and gentle and oh-so-quiet; she is so close that if Lena would just look up, Kara would go cross-eyed trying to meet her gaze. So close that any louder would break something fragile.
“Is that something you might be okay with?”
Still, Lena won’t look at her.
Instead, her gaze remains, eyes unfocused, on the wall over Kara’s shoulder.
But she’s still drawing patterns on Kara’s hands—except it’s different, now. She’s gone from spiraling in and back out on the insides of Kara’s palms to rubbing her thumb over the nail of her left ring finger, back and forth like Kara’s seen her do before with her own nails when she’s stressed. Like a nervous tick.
(Kara’s not sure she even knows she’s doing it.
Let alone which nail she’s picked.)
“Because. . . . I would,” she admits, and her heart is so loud in her chest that she thinks Lena must be able to hear it, even without super-hearing.
Still, she says nothing, though her eyes snap to Kara’s, wide and shiny-wet and scared.
Kara bites the bullet; swallows it around the lump that won’t leave her throat. “Would you like to get dinner? With me, I mean. Like a date.”
“Why?” Lena asks, finally, and her voice is strangled and broken and Kara’s heart cracks open and apart, the pieces spilling out between her ribs.
(Sometimes, Lena seems so much better—like she’s beginning to understand that she matters, that she’s worthy. )
(Privately, Kara thinks the idea of being worthy of things is stupid, but saying so would not magically chase away Lena’s fears.
So she doesn’t.)
“Because I love you,” she says, simple and soft. For a moment, she holds her breath; there’s a fear, quiet and loud, pressing behind her eyes, that Lena will run away. Afraid of being loved, unbelieving sometimes that she even can be, Lena might pull back.
Instead, she falls closer.
She nearly melts into Kara, tipping forward until their foreheads touch: “Will you say it again?”
Her voice is a whisper—a breath of air against Kara’s skin; a trace of hope.
“I love you, Lena. And we deserve to be happy; I want to make you happy.”
“Kara,” Lena breathes, her voice heavy and wet. The soft palm of her hand slides along Kara’s jaw to cup her cheek. “You already make me happy. I can’t lose you again.”
“You won’t,” Kara promises, earnest and solid like she’s making a vow. (It’s not the first one she’s made her, and it won’t be the last.) “Never again. I promise.”
“Okay?” Kara’s voice is sweet and hopeful where Lena’s was quiet and shy; (she always seems to be waiting for the shoe to drop).
“I love you,” Lena says, and though her voice is not much louder than a whisper, it is solid and sure. It is vulnerable, and she says I love you like an offering at the altar, like she’s holding herself out to Kara and trusting her not to ruin her.
(Kara has never been trusted with something so precious as Lena’s heart, and it breaks her own that she has broken it once before.
She will never break it again.)
“I love you, too.” Kara pauses. “And for the record, I’m not proposing; I think there’s an order you’re supposed to follow and getting engaged comes after dating and I know we’re not exactly conventional and we’re mostly living together already but Alex would so make fun of me if I skipped asking you out and went straight to asking you to marry me.
“I fully intend to, though. Marry you, I mean.”
There’s a beat of silence.
Internally, Kara beats herself over the head with a stick. A kryptonite-covered stick.
Lena just stares, her startled expression wide and doe-eyed; a deer in headlights. Then, she laughs.
It’s more of a light, breathy giggle, her lips pressed together and her shoulders shaking, and she falls until the rest of her upper body is pressed against Kara, her arms around her neck and her nose in the dip above her collarbone.
It’s one of the tightest, warmest hugs Kara has ever been given, and she clings to Lena like she’s never planning to let go. (And if there weren’t logistical issues with that, she’d probably go ahead and do it.)
“I can’t begin to count the number of times you’ve rambled to me about something or another,” Lena says, and Kara can feel the words—each one spoken so close that her mouth brushes against Kara’s skin and it takes everything in her to not let the feeling completely dismantle her sanity. “I think this is my favorite.”
“You’re my favorite.”
“That was terribly cheesy.”
“Did it work?”
Lena breathes a dramatic sigh. “It shouldn’t have.”
But she tilts her head back to look at Kara, eyes glittering like green crystal, and Kara almost goes cross-eyed trying to paint that color on the backs of her eyelids so she can see it every time she closes her eyes. There’s something soft in them, a look so gentle and affectionate that Kara can’t help but kiss her.
It’s hardly a kiss—just a light brush and a flood of warmth that starts in her chest and overflows, and she jolts back almost immediately. Her eyes are wide and guilty as she meets Lena’s, startled and confused.
“ Shoot, I’m sorry, I meant to ask—”
“It’s okay, Kara,” Lena says, and continues, voice almost shy : “You can kiss me whenever you want.”
“Is now okay? I would really like that.”
She’s not sure exactly what response she was expecting, but it was probably something verbal and definitely not Lena twisting sideways in her lap to straddle her and tipping her chin up to press their lips together.
It’s decidedly not a light brush this time but it’s just as warm, and Kara thinks it’s probably impossible but she swears she can feel Lena pouring her love into her body, dousing her in her affection. It’s intoxicating, and if Kara had to pick one moment to live in forever, she thinks she might choose this one.
Lena’s hand moves to cup her jaw and her thumb brushes across Kara’s cheekbone and she’s soft, so soft. She smells like her honey-and-jasmine shampoo that sits in the shower here instead of across the city, in what’s technically her apartment but isn’t her home.
Kara wishes they could live somewhere with both their names on the lease, but she doesn’t know how to ask, or if she’s even allowed to.
She worries it would be too much, too soon.
She worries Lena would say no.
. . . . Lena most definitely would not.
“I haven’t seen the inside of my apartment in months, darling. This is my home; you are my home. Why would I say no?” she will say later, her head tucked under Kara’s chin and her body curled against her chest, limbs wrapped around her like a little koala. She’s all soft edges and warm skin and Kara clings on tighter;
pulls her as close as two people can get, and then a little bit closer.
“Do I have to take my bracelet off, now? I don’t want to,” Lena says that night, a whisp in the dark of their bedroom, lit by nothing but the moon through the curtains.
“I don’t want you to, either. I think my wrist would feel wrong without mine,” Kara says against her neck. Her breath is warm on Lena’s skin, glowing under the dim, white light from the sky.
Everything is quiet, then. It lasts a while—what feels, to Kara, like forever. But her self-restraint runs low and she’s impatient to wait for what they’re heading toward anyway.
So she makes what is perhaps a poor decision.
“Can I call you my fiancée? We can have a really long engagement. I’ve been thinking for a long time what it would be like to see my bracelet on your wrist in that way, and I want to.”
“That was an awful proposal. You can do better,” Lena says, mumbled like she’s right on the edge of sleep, but not quite there.
(Kara was expecting an outright no, and the lack of that is encouraging.
The implication that she should try again is even more so.)
So she rolls on top of her without warning and startles her wide awake, eyes crinkling at the edges with her smile as Lena squeaks in surprise. Gently, she brushes her hair away from her face, tucking the dark curls behind her ears as she holds herself up on her elbows. Her soft smile blossoms and grows and she spends a long moment just memorizing the deeper flecks of green in Lena’s pale eyes.
“Lena Luthor,” she whispers, warm and reverent, “I swore I would never wear a bracelet if it wasn’t given to me by the person I planned to spend my life with. And I never wanted to. But then you were there and suddenly I did.
“I realized I was in love with you as I watched you tie the bracelet you made me around my wrist. I would never have wanted a friendship bracelet from anyone else.”
Lena’s eyes are shiny, but they flicker down to where they’re pressed so close there’s not an inch of space between them, and says, her voice a little too strangled to be light and teasing: “Clearly, your intentions were entirely friendship.”
(Kara’s lips quirk into a wider smile, but she continues as though uninterrupted.)
“I love you, and I’m going to love you forever.”
“What happened to your ‘order of operations’—which I’m fairly certain is not a thing.”
“We’ve been dating for a few hours; that should be enough to check that box. I’m an impatient person.”
Lena laughs, light and affectionate. “You know, Kelly thought our fight was a bad break-up. She didn’t believe me when I told her it wasn’t. Granted, she didn’t know you were Supergirl.”
Kara breaks into a cheshire-cat grin. “Really?”
“Mhm. I told her I’d have noticed if we were dating and she just stared at me for a while, then said: ‘would you have?’ which was very rude, but ultimately fair.”
“Yeah, her argument checks out.”
“I wouldn’t recommend insulting me while you’re trying to propose,” Lena says, but there’s no bite to her words and her smile doesn’t waver.
Shameless, Kara does not take the bait. Instead, she holds Lena’s gaze with eyes so earnest and intense that a shiver jolts down Lena’s spine and a lump of thick, wet emotion climbs up from her chest and settles in her throat.
“Will you marry me?”
It’s like a prayer. It’s so gentle and quiet that someone across the room would never hear.
It’s only meant for Lena.
Her hands reach up and her fingertips, soft and light and delicate on Kara’s skin, tuck her hair behind her ears. Her palms cradle Kara’s face like she’s holding her for the first time.
“Yes,” she says, simple and oh-so-gentle and nothing, nothing, has ever felt like this.
“For the record, I would’ve married you five years ago, if you had asked.”
(“Alex is gonna make fun of me, isn’t she.”
“Oh, definitely. Good luck with that.”)