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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. 

Chapter Text

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.

(Again.)

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.

Right?

(“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.)

“Kara?”  

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. 

She’s ethereal. 

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.” 

Oh. 

Snitch. 

(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.” 

“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.

“Mine too.” 

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.”)