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The last thing Lena sees is a flash like dark shadow pass over Andrea’s eyes, before a kryptonite dagger slides between her ribs. 

The sound she emits is less of a scream and more of a surprised squeak as she sinks to the ground. 

If you want to get to Supergirl, you’re gonna have to go through me.  

It’s not that she hadn’t believed Andrea would do it. Lena was under no illusion of safety when she placed herself between Supergirl and the glowing green rock in Andrea’s hand. She’d come to terms with the possibility of dying for Kara long ago. 

What she hadn’t been able to prepare for was the pain. The abstract of sacrifice was all well and good, but. Reality, this searing epicentre, a point of white hot agony turned molten, seeping through her body. No amount of her mother’s decorum training had prepared her for this. 

Something is filling her mouth, thick and dark and oozing. She can’t scream. Kara sits, eyes silver, a world away. Kara. Lena has to move. She can’t. Andrea steps over her, and is that the pounding of receding footsteps or the dogged beat of Lena’s heart? Either way, it’s slowing. Every inhale cracks her body down the centre, each exhale buries shards of glass inside the gaping wound.  

Her eyes are beginning to mist at the edges but she strains, listens. The sound that cuts through the haze is not the scream she dreads, Kara’s agony as her veins sear emerald. It’s not a scream, but a shout, and then a blur passes over her like light and shadow.  

Concrete cracks, or perhaps it’s Lena’s ribs. Sounds are muffled now, the world dulled down like the inside of a snow globe. Underwater, time passes sluggishly to where she lies, drifting, encased in glass. But someone is fighting the current, resisting the pull. Hands grasp her shoulders, burning where they touch. Through the rolling fog comes Kara’s face, blurring out in red and blue and gold and sickly green. Lena wants to push her away, keep her separate from the venomous substance protruding from her chest, keep her untainted. But Kara’s hands are dancing there-away along her cheeks, her jaw, Lena’s own name sounding from her lips over and over, a siren song, calling her home. It’s raining now, wet spots peppering her brow, or maybe the sun is crying. 

“Lena, Lena,” Kara is saying. It sounds like her heartbeat and she cannot bear for it to stop. 

“Kara,” she manages, a whisper, a prayer. 

Her face flashes within Lena’s line of sight for one perfect moment, and is she green-tinged or is it Lena’s failing vision? A shiver passes through the air between them, I’m sorry fluttering like a bloodstained white flag but whether it falls from her own lips or another’s, Lena cannot say. Then a sudden pressure at her ribs, a heavy push and release that feels like salvation and damnation all at once. 

Lena hears a scream, two screams, billions. She is left gaping, open and exposed. Invaded by the air and exalted by the sticky-sweet blush of her own blood, her body purging itself. Through the slick of gathering crimson her head rolls to the side, darkness pressing in around her, eyes blazing with the final image of a limp hand on the ground beside her, veins shot through with glowing green. 

 

For a long time, there is only darkness. The deepest blackness she has ever known, all-encompassing. Devouring light, thought, feeling. Lena floats, tethered to her own existence only by the pressing weight of the dark, closing in until the end of the world.  

Slowly, sensations begin to blur in and out. Cold, a deadening flow, hooking into her very marrow and stripping her from the inside out. She drifts, and then there’s heat, scorching, radiating out from her ribs in scalding waves, and she wishes for numbness. 

For a moment, Lena thinks she sees the star-burst of veins behind her eyelids, but then they are gone and all is black again. Sound fragments filter through her peripheral awareness. A great noise, banging and shouting and exploding. She slips back under. 

Vibrations reach her, but they must be sounds because Lena no longer has a body with which to feel them. She floats, untethered, sinking beneath the surface of a dark ocean so vast it surely cannot know she’s there. In the deep, voices flicker. 

“Haven’t you heard that you’re supposed to leave the knife in? She’s minutes from bleeding out.” 

The blackness turns to blood around her, not vibrant red but sticky dark, the kind so loaded with the very force of someone’s life that it moves slowly, crawls under the weight of it, sucking light from all it touches. 

“Her veins were green, Alex.” 

An eternity passes. 

She dreams of her mother, dark hair fanning behind her as she cuts through the still waters of the lake. The scene is calm, but the growing dread means Lena knows what’s coming and suddenly it’s not her mother but Kara before her, and the lake isn’t clear but radioactive, glowing green, and still Lena stands at the shore and watches her slip away, helpless. 

Words float through the haze and Lena wishes she could reach out, grasp them, weigh them in her hands to know the truth behind them. Radiation and poisoned and flared and gone, the sounds making physical shapes in the darkness. She thinks of a child, two dark-haired children, of hours spent pouring over a dictionary. A cruel laugh when she got a definition wrong, grudging silence when she got it right. How she wishes now to be wrong, to mishear, a stay of judgment on the world these words conjure into being. But the focus is gone, and she slips away again. 

“—do whatever you have to do! Or so help me, I’ll—”  

Though Lena is nothing now, just an exhale in the wind, she smiles. Warmth blooms, the blackness not crushing but caressing for a moment, and she drifts into memories of happier times. 

A million years pass, a billion. Lena is upside down, and right way up, and no way up at all. If she still had a face, she might feel the pressure of a warm forehead against her own. If she still had hair, the imprint of lips pressed gently against it might still ache. If she hadn’t burned every meaningful bridge in her life in the year before her death, she might believe the trick of a whisper wrapping on the breeze, words of comfort, of promise.  

But she had, so she doesn’t, and time collapses in on itself as Lena watches, motionless and alone. 

 

Though she has always been nowhere, she can feel herself drifting further and further from the last thing that might just resemble a somewhere. The eons slow. If she were a doctor, Lena thinks, then this would be the time to make herself comfortable. To say her goodbyes. 

She cannot look at blackness any longer, cannot bear the glowing green after-image that seems to stick to every corner and edge. She thinks of blue, of rain-washed skies and Kara’s eyes, conjures it into being with every fibre she has left. Wraps herself up in it, plunges headfirst, drowns. 

“Like it matters!” Kara says, no, shouts, from somewhere far above and below her. Lena would flinch, if only she still had a body. The voice rings out through the void. “Like any of it matters now.” 

Lena is privately inclined to agree. She tries to breathe, but the full weight of the universe, of every universe, presses in. As everything, even the blackness, dulls, there emerges a crushing, cracking suffocation, and Lena wonders why she can’t even die in peace. A high-pitched scream, maybe hers, maybe Kara’s, maybe her mother’s, maybe the world’s, stretching out before her like a pathway. Though there’s no doubt where it ends, Lena almost wants to follow it, if only to escape this sensation of being crumbled, submerged, denied life as its very essence is wrung from her being.  

And then a hundred trillion bolts of lightning shoot through her at once, and Lena is gone. 

 

When she wakes, she wakes secure in the knowledge that she must be alive. Sure that the pain that had burst through her, blighted every nerve with an agony so intense she feels its phantom grip even now, could only lead back to life. Sure that no departure could hurt that much. 

When she wakes, it is through cracked, dry eyes to the sight of pipes and ceiling vents, the bland, industrial grey that can only denote underfunded government property.  

When she wakes, Kara is standing at the foot of her bed, hands behind her back and looking every inch the righteous hero, and Lena’s unsteady heart sinks. She’s been on the receiving end of this authoritative pose more than enough for one lifetime. At least her hands aren’t on her hips. 

But Kara’s eyes brighten as they meet Lena’s fluttering gaze. “Lena.” Quiet, reverential. “How are you feeling?” 

Lena takes stock. Alive, to begin with. Every limb still intact. Aside from an unnerving constriction in her chest and the fact that her blood feels a little like it’s burning her cells as it courses through her veins, it could certainly be worse. 

When she speaks her voice is hoarse, cracking. “What happened?” 

The same darkness creeps into the edges of her vision as she listens to Kara list the extent of the damage. She presses her lips together, willing away the blackness, registering only snippets.  

Stab wound. Kryptonite poisoning. Collapsed lung. Cardiac arrest. Resuscitation. 

Leviathan, gone. Andrea, captured. Lex, escaped.  

The words wash over her like a freezing tide, and Lena wonders if maybe the darkness had been easier after all. 

It takes far longer than it should for her to realise that the room has fallen silent. Kara is watching her, concern etched into her features like tears carving through stone.  

Lena swallows as best she can. “And you?” 

A corner of Kara’s mouth quirks up. “I’m fine. Thanks to you.” 

But she doesn’t look fine. She looks exhausted, her face drawn, blue eyes lacking their characteristic shine. Even her hero’s stance can’t mask the fatigue weighing heavy on her shoulders. 

But Lena doesn’t have the strength to argue the point. She rolls her head to the side, joints popping and releasing, noticing for the first time the tangle of IV lines threading into her skin. She lifts her other hand to touch them, feels the warning tug of more needles even as Kara steps forward, arms raised as if to stop her.  

Her hands reach toward Lena, or at least, the spaces where her hands should be. Huge white dressings swaddle Kara from the wrists down, so bulky they do not resemble hands at all. Lena’s breath catches in her lungs as she takes in the unwieldy bandages, third degree burns and possible nerve damage echoing through her mind and she understands now why Kara had hidden them behind her back. 

The inhale she aims for seems to stick in her ribs and she can feel again the crushing, the cracking, the dizzying lack of oxygen as her head spins. Kara is by her side in an instant, radiating warmth and just breathe, Lena, it’s okay, a comforting weight settling against her hip. Lena thanks the thick blanket for blurring the press of rough bandages where there should be warm skin, softening it into something just nondescript enough to be calming. 

When her pounding pulse has slowed, the heart monitor downgrading to a less frenetic beat, she sucks in a breath despite her lungs’ protestation, waits for her vision to clear. Kara is still there, and dread opens up in Lena’s chest. 

“You— you touched it. The kryptonite. You pulled it out.” 

Kara doesn’t move, doesn’t speak. Just nods, her gaze locked on Lena’s own. Lena lies catatonic, paralysed with the knowledge, unable to move even as Alex enters the room. Dimly aware of low words exchanged between the two sisters and then Alex at her bedside, gentler than Lena’s been worthy of seeing her in years. Just rest, Lena, the press of a button on the IV monitor, and she sinks back into oblivion.  

 

Time, in all its irrepressible glory, passes Lena by. There is no outside window in her room, and the hours build into days unshackled from their usual significance, each as unidentifiable as the last. 

She slips in and out of wakefulness with little regard for either, rouses for bandage changes and sips of water, sleeps through IV after IV, gentle sponge baths, her hair being braided.  

Sometimes, when she wakes, Alex is there, quiet and calm and uncharacteristically gentle. Sometimes Kelly, or Nia. Once J’onn, though he lingered close to the door in watchful silence, and her eyes soon slipped closed again. 

Often, Kara is there. Sometimes she’s gone, and Lena finds she gives herself over more willingly to unconsciousness on those occasions. But mostly, she takes up quiet residence in an uncomfortable-looking chair by Lena’s bed, her eyes light years away.  

They talk a little, when lucidity and fatigue allow it. Lena learns that Kara has been spending a lot of time under the sun lamps in some secret corner of the new DEO, reclaimed now that Brainy has re-joined their team. Alex has been gradually reducing her daily exposure ever since she solar-flared in reaction to the kryptonite. 

“You burnt out your powers for three days?”   

“Um.” 

Kara at least has the good grace to look a little abashed, her gaze skirting evasively around the room. Lena’s drug-fogged brain churns as she struggles to make sense of the timeline. 

“But you were there. When I woke up.” 

“Yeah. You were out for five.” 

She learns, in snippets gleaned from Alex and other assorted DEO medics who check in on her periodically, that the burning in her veins is a result of the anti-radiation medication reacting with the kryptonite still circulating in her blood stream. It lessens each day. 

Once, when enough time has passed that she can sit up instead of lying flat, but too early yet for her to make the perilous journey out of bed, she overhears some of the agents outside her room talking about a rogue lava-spewing alien running rampage across the city. She asks Kara about it later and immediately wishes she hadn’t, sees the tension build in the bouncing of her knee, her frustration at being sidelined tangible as she knocks her dressings together. 

“Bit dangerous for me to be out and about like— this,” she mutters, wiggling her eyebrows in the direction of her bandages. “So for now I’m here. Recovering, like you.” The blatant air quotes around the word, the haughty imitation of her sister’s authoritative tone— Lena would laugh, if she didn’t think she might cry. 

That’s how Lena learns that she and Kara are both residing permanently within the DEO, the only overnight occupants aside from a skeletal security crew. It’s confirmed when she wakes from one dreamless sleep to see that a large beige couch has replaced the standard-issue chair beside her bed. Kara is draped across it, one leg kicked over an armrest while the other dangles to the floor, bandaged hands tucked awkwardly against her chest, mouth slightly open in peaceful sleep. 

Neither of them comments on their extended slumber-party. Time rolls effusively on.   

 

Lena’s life progresses, marked not by days and weeks but by medical milestones. First the breathing tube is removed from her nose, then one by one the IVs decrease until she’s only required to wear a heart monitor at night, an oxygen mask and a panic button within easy grabbing distance. 

On the evening that Alex, on her last rounds before she goes home, tells her that she’ll be able to try getting out of bed the next day, Lena cracks a smile so wide the muscles ache from underuse. 

When Kara enters her— their— room that night, cheeks flushed and hair shining from her afternoon under the lamps, it’s with overflowing arms and a furtive expression. She dumps various items of clothing, among them a blue dressing gown Lena remembers from the blonde’s apartment a lifetime ago, unceremoniously at the end of Lena’s bed, checks the corridor twice before closing the door. 

Lena thinks her raised eyebrows phrase her question for her, because Kara turns to face her with an ear-to-ear grin. “Guess what. I’m breaking you out.” 

Her protestations fall on wilfully deaf ears, it’s only twelve hours early and do you even remember what the world looks like outside this room and finally, quietly, I’ll keep you safe wearing her down until she nods. And truthfully, what she wouldn’t do to keep that smile on Kara’s face and that glow in her eyes doesn’t really bear thinking about. 

She's bundled up in the cosy dressing gown, and then bundled up against Kara’s chest – “I still have arms, Lena! Just not hands.” – and she gives herself over to it, resting her cheek against a warm shoulder and waiting to see where she’ll end up. 

 

As it turns out, their destination is the roof. Kara manoeuvres them both onto an upturned crate a safe distance from the edge, leans Lena gently back against the wall so her stitches don’t strain. She then promptly declares any midnight rooftop escape incomplete without snacks, and proceeds to pull what looks like the entire contents of the first floor vending machine out of her pockets with a grin. 

Lena tilts her head back to take in the stars, partially shrouded by the light thrown up from the city at their feet. Fatigue weighs heavy, the toll taken by their short journey indicative of her persisting fragility. Kara radiates heat like a furnace despite the gap between them and the warmth of her fluffy cocoon, the wind-tossed quiet, lungfuls of air that haven’t been recycled twelve times already, it all conspires to lull her into a semi-conscious daze.  

A sharp breeze lifts her hair and Kara shifts closer, pressed shoulder to shoulder despite the layers between them. “So. Worth the trip?” the blonde asks, eyes fixed on the junk food harvest in her lap. 

Lena hums, nods. “Although, really. The lengths one must go to to get an invitation to the DEO rooftop. Maybe we could cut out the middleman next time.” 

Her weak attempt at humour falls flat when Kara hums in agreement, shifting. “Yeah. Cleaning your blood out from under my fingernails is not an experience I’m in any hurry to repeat.” 

Lena swallows hard, watches Kara rifle through her vending machine haul. “I’m so sorry,” she murmurs as the blonde makes her selection, the garish packaging shining dull silver in the faint light of the moon. 

Kara looks up from the delicate snack-opening operation underway in her lap. “What? Why?” 

“It’s because of me that you can’t even open a bag of popcorn right now,” Lena says quietly, pulling the packet from between Kara’s bulky bandages and tearing it open for her with a sigh. 

“It’s because of you that I’m here eating popcorn right now, and not lying in a morgue,” Kara says, equally quietly, the snack lying now accessible but forgotten in her lap. 

Lena runs the tip of her index finger over the rough material of Kara’s bandage, shakes her head. “You didn’t have to—”  

Kara’s eyes cut hard to Lena’s face, a challenge, daring her to finish that statement. Lena amends. 

“You shouldn’t have had to do that, to touch kryptonite, ever.” 

“And what was I gonna do? Let you die?” 

“Yes!” Lena explodes, with as much energy as her battered body can muster. Which, admittedly, isn’t much. “Yes.” 

“Really wish you’d care a bit more about your own continued existence,” Kara mutters, crushing the popcorn slowly into dust between her dressings. “Would save me a lot of trouble.”  

Lena ignores her. “I’m not important. But you, Kara, you’re a hero. You should be out there helping people, saving the world! Not trapped in a medical bay with kryptonite damage and hands that might never be the same again, all because you had to save me .” 

“We saved each other,” Kara retorts immediately, then snaps her mouth shut. They’re both breathing hard. Lena wonders if the blonde is considering the weight, the universality behind the words, the same way she is. 

She forces herself to lower her voice. “From a danger I helped create.” 

Kara shifts, restless, grinding the heel of her boot absently into the concrete. Notices the deep groove she’s created with a start. Kicks a packet of chips over the hole and stands suddenly, stalking to the edge and staring out over the city.  

“It doesn’t matter now. The danger’s gone. You’re fine. I’m fine.” She kicks the low wall at the edge of the roof and a spiderweb of cracks snake through the brick. “We’re moving forward.” 

Lena opens her mouth to argue but Kara turns, and the storm in her eyes kills the words in Lena’s throat. The breeze whips insistently at her hair, and Kara springs into action. 

“You’re cold. We should go.” 

And they’re back in the small room without another word. Kara lays her gently on the bed, arranges the pillows so she’s comfortable, slips the heart monitor against her skin as if she’s afraid Lena will break apart under her touch. Lena wonders how long it might be before she does. 

The blonde mutters something about finding more blankets, and Lena falls asleep alone. 

 

After that, Kara seems to make it her single-minded mission to keep things light and breezy between them. They spend their days watching endless Disney movies on an old TV Kara wheels in that looks like it hasn’t been used since the Civil War, after Lena accidentally lets it slip that she doesn’t have a favourite princess because, well, she doesn’t know who any of them are. Kara takes it upon herself to bestow upon Lena the most extensive Disney training imaginable because what kind of childhood— before her mouth snaps shut and Lena thinks, you don’t know the half of it.   

They watch until Lena can, under protest, sing along to every word of Aladdin – “the parrot’s name is Iago , Lena. It’s basically Shakespeare.” – and as she watches Kara balance Cheetos on her nose and then flick them into her open mouth like a puppy with a treat, she wonders how she ever thought she’d be okay without this. 

Kara invents endless games, coming up with ridiculous back stories for every alien in the holding cells, guessing the weirdest phobia of each DEO agent that walks past their doorway, taking bets on how many marshmallows Kara can cram into her mouth and still have a conversation with her sister before Alex leaves the room in exasperation (nine; Lena is quickly coming to realise that when it comes to her younger sibling, the eldest Danvers has the patience of a saint). 

The blonde invents new food-related tricks almost every day, guessing jelly bean flavours from smell alone, teaching Lena to tie cherry stems into knots with her tongue, popping popcorn in mid-air with a quick burst of laser-eyes (instantly banned; despite their best efforts, the charring on the ceiling could not be concealed). They watch The Incredibles and Kara quickly becomes obsessed with Frozone, decides she is absolutely capable of throwing Lena’s entire water jug into the air, freeze-breathing it, and catching it before it hits the ground. Lena is laughing too hard to articulate her warning and within a moment, Kara has snatched the jug and tossed its contents high into the air. 

Unfortunately, she also chooses the same moment to let out an enormous sneeze and by the time she’s regained her focus, a litre and a half of definitively-still-liquid water has crashed back down over her head, the couch, and the last of her red liquorice.   

The room falls silent as she springs to her feet, dripping quietly onto the concrete floor. Kara’s eyes are comically wide, darting between the soaking couch and the VHS of Tarzan they’re only halfway through watching, consternation so evident in her features that Lena has to bite her lip to keep from laughing.  

Kara towels the ends of her hair and slips into a dry hoodie, fixes Lena with a piercing stare with a muttered not a word to Alex . Lena presses her lips together, nods solemnly and with some effort, shuffles sideways on the bed. Kara, after a moment’s hesitation, climbs in next to her, and Lena drifts off with her cheek pressed against a damp shoulder, blonde curls twisted around her fingers. 

But apart from that, Kara keeps her distance. Physically, at least. Mentally, Lena barely gets a moment’s peace. It’s as though Kara thinks that if she shines brightly enough, keeps Lena smiling at all times with her terrible jokes and goofy impressions, there’ll be no space left for anything mildly resembling an honest conversation. 

It's an effective tactic, and Lena finds that between her lingering exhaustion and the warmth that blooms in her heart at the simple fact of having Kara near her again after so long, she doesn’t have the strength to fight it. 

 

Eventually, Alex decrees that Lena is fit to go home, on the promise that she will take it easy and come back for check-ups every week. Kara, recently downgraded to less bulky dressings that wrap around her skin like translucent gel-filled gloves, is eager to test her new dexterity and volunteers to pack Lena’s meagre belongings, practically vibrating with excitement. As Alex presses various pill bottles into her hands along with detailed instructions that Lena only half absorbs, she finally gets up the courage to ask the older Danvers how long it will be before Kara is allowed to go home too. 

Alex looks at her strangely, purses her lips in consideration. “Kara’s been cleared to leave for a week,” she says quietly, tucking another shrink-wrapped bandage under Lena’s arm. 

She’s dropped off at her apartment by DEO escort and once she finally ushers the last agent out of the door, Lena stands in the middle of her living room and inhales once, twice, three times, forces down a panic attack and pulls out her laptop. 

She moves the next day. The top floor of an unpretentious brownstone in the city’s historic cultural district, with a view of the park from her living room balcony and a glimpse of the ocean from her bed. Three suitcases, the only belongings to survive her fresh start, stand awkwardly in the middle of the empty bedroom for two days as decorator after electrician after delivery man transform the penthouse into a home not haunted by the spectre of her brother.  

It's not perfect, not yet, but after her team finish installing the re-vamped security system and she tips the delivery boy from Noonan’s, settling down at the marble kitchen island to her first meal in her new home, she thinks one day it could be. 

 

Three days after her release from the DEO, Lena goes back to work. Luthor Corp has been quietly ticking over in the absence of both its eponymous directors but the company is drifting, aimless. 

Lena spreads the word that her brother is on indefinite leave for health reasons. No one but the DEO knows the truth about Lex’s disappearance or his nefarious dealings with Leviathan; at least, no one else in this universe. Lena knows she has Kara to thank for that – he’s gone, Alex. The only one we’d hurt by destroying Lex’s reputation is Lena – though they’ve never talked about it.  

On her first day back at work, Lena does three things. 

She calls in her most trusted lawyer, spends the morning pouring over Luthor Corp’s inner workings and discovers that in this timeline, though her brother was the company’s CEO, her own name is listed as Luthor Corp’s chair. Lena rolls her eyes, grateful for once for her brother’s penchant for tax loopholes and, armed with her 51% of the company’s shares, sets about quickly and quietly buying her brother out of the business through endless conference calls with his subsidiaries.  

The second thing she does is call a meeting of every single Luthor Corp employee. Hands clasped in front of her so no one will see them tremble, Lena calmly informs them that her brother will no longer be involved with the company. She briefly outlines plans to rebrand with the name L-Corp, invites all those who share her vision to stay on and build a brighter future together.  

Just under half her staff quit, safe in the assurance of the generous severance packages Lena promised. But just over half stay, and Lena gets a quiet round of applause as she walks shakily offstage.   

She’s exhausted by the time she makes it back to her office, pushes the endless stacks of rebranding strategies waiting for her approval to the side with a sigh. But there’s one more thing she has to do before she goes home, so she runs a quick search on her laptop and then picks up her phone. 

Jessica Hoang, who Lena finds temping at a vet’s clinic and struggling to make ends meet, is as sceptical as she should be when she receives a call from the chairwoman of Luthor Corp offering her a job as her assistant. They’ve never met in this world, but after a ten minute chat and the promise of a salary twenty times what she’s currently making (and no less than she deserves, Lena thinks, if her alternate universe self was anything to go by), she agrees to start the next day. 

In the car on the way home, Lena texts Kara a SparkNotes summary of her day, along with an assurance that she won’t forget to change her dressings and eat something for dinner. Kara texts back immediately with three thumbs up emojis, a popping bottle of champagne, two pizzas and a bright orange heart, and Lena falls asleep feeling genuinely proud of herself for the first time since long before she’d first woken up on Earth-Prime.  

 

A new routine establishes itself in her life, quite without Lena’s consultation. Her workload as the company transitions into L-Corp is staggering but Jess, having already appointed herself Lena’s staunchest supporter and part-time nurse, makes sure she leaves the office by six every day.  

Lena tries not to let anxiety overwhelm her during her quiet car rides home, mind already ticking over the tasks on her indomitable to-do list for the next morning. Pushes away thoughts of failure, thoughts of sabotage, thoughts of her brother. She’d already pulled this off once, made L-Corp a success. She could, she would, do it again. 

Once a week, as promised, she drops by the DEO. Nia and Brainy, back to his usual odd self, are always happy to see her. J’onn, when he’s there, remains distant, but the look in his eyes is at last more grudgingly respectful than openly mistrusting.  

Alex always administers her medical check, and always with more magnanimity than Lena expects. Ever since she’d first woken up in the DEO Alex has been walking on eggshells around her, handling her with kid gloves. It’s so unlike the brash, no-bullshit attitude she’s used to associating with the redhead that it sets Lena on edge. 

Once, after Alex tries to take her blood pressure but is so gentle with the arm cuff that Lena has to yank the thing tighter herself, she snaps. “I’m not going to break, you know.” 

Alex doesn’t look up from the beeping machine in her hands. “You almost died.” 

“Almost. Six weeks ago.” 

“You came close. Too close.” Alex swallows, squares her shoulders. “But you know what? Kara would have died if she’d taken that dagger, no question. And she didn’t. Thanks to you. So forgive me for wanting to make sure you’re alright.” 

Though in some ways this feels more like familiar territory, the no-nonsense approach she’d always secretly admired in the older Danvers, Lena is still blindsided. 

She opens her mouth to protest, but Alex cuts her off soundly. “Listen. Whatever else may have— mistakes made, sides taken, whatever. I need you to know that whatever our differences, I am so grateful to you.”  She meets Lena’s eyes at last, and though there is discomfort there, her gaze radiates sincerity. “And that you’ll have me in your corner, if you need it.” 

Lena wants to ask why she might need it but given her history with the Danvers sisters, it feels a little redundant. So she just bites her lip, a hesitant smile making its way onto her face and after a moment, Alex smiles back. 

 

She sees Kara every day. Whether it’s coffee and blueberry-acai smoothies in her office before work, whisking her away to try every new restaurant in the city for lunch, or appearing with a takeout on Lena’s balcony – always unlocked, but she’d still given Kara a key – for an impromptu movie night, they’re now seeing each other even more than— than before.   

Even if 90% of their activities revolve around food, after Kara’s not so subtle crusade to improve Lena’s dietary habits – “I knew that whole being-fed-through-an-IV thing was secretly kind of working for you. If you won’t make sure you eat, I will.” – it’s still nice. Familiar.  

But things are not back to normal. At least, not pre-shooting-her-brother normal. They talk, but not really. Kara is jokey and Lena is cautious and neither of them ever say what they truly mean, until something slips out that’s just a shade too close to honest and they both ignore it until they can pretend it never happened. 

Kara shows up every day like clockwork, recommends new movies and weekend activities, splits pastries and complains about Snapper, still as much of a grumpy ass in this timeline as he was in the last. Sings A Whole New World loudly and off-key right there in the middle of her office when Lena tells her the plans to make this L-Corp a force for good, before her phone rings and she shoots off to help Brainy subdue a rowdy Loraxan at the DEO, and Lena wonders when checking in on her became just another task on Kara’s to-do list. 

They haven’t had an honest conversation, haven’t talked about the events that have led them to this point since that night on the rooftop all those weeks ago. She’s afraid to bring it up, afraid to shatter this new normal, however superficial it might be. Afraid to lose Kara again.  

So Lena bites her tongue and keeps biting, even when the joy of having Kara back in her life turns bitter and metallic in her mouth. 

  

She goes back to game night. 

It’s hard, walking back into Kara’s cosy apartment like nothing’s changed. It’s harder than Lena had anticipated it would be, and it throws her.  

It doesn’t help that she’d spent over an hour that afternoon hesitating over what to wear, another hour deciding on appropriate snacks and drinks to bring, and a further twenty minutes dithering outside Kara’s building debating whether she should go in at all. So of course, the others are already there when she arrives, and seeing every face in the room swivel in her direction gives her such a strong sense of déjà vu that she feels a little nauseous.  

She presents Kara a little awkwardly with the four different types of wine she’d panic-bought that afternoon, hopes the blonde doesn’t notice the tremble in her fingers. Nia, sweet Nia, leaps up from the couch to pull her into a hug, and if she notices the desperate grip Lena has on her as she tries to calm her racing heart, she has the grace not to comment. She just pours a glass of Lena’s favourite red without needing to ask, prods Brainy in the side when he immediately starts in with a barrage of questions about one of L-Corp’s newest patents, and tugs Lena down onto the couch beside her. 

Kelly smiles at her and Alex gives a mock salute, prompting chuckles from around the room that dissipate a little of the pressure building in Lena’s chest. J’onn, holding court in Kara’s rickety old armchair, just nods at her, expression as unreadable as ever.  

They play a few rounds of Trivial Pursuit before Alex vetoes it – “Brainy is literally a search engine in a skin suit,” – before switching through Go Fish, poker, Uno. 

She and Kara don’t team up. “Alex said no couples,” Nia explains as she shotguns having Lena on her team and if her own heart skips a beat at the potential implication, if the room falls silent for just a second too long, well, at least they don’t dwell on it.   

There are a few rounds of Pictionary and one of charades, but the odd number of their group makes team games difficult. Lena tries not to think about how much easier it must have been over the past few months, without her.  

They take a break to top up drinks, chatting quietly amongst themselves as Kelly refills bowls of chips and Brainy runs a mental search on every game in the universe to determine the best one for their current situation. Alex vetoes the first three suggestions upon realising that they are, in fact, sex games, an implication a wide-eyed Brainy had not picked up on and is disturbingly eager to learn more about. Alex grabs for the bottle of tequila on Kara’s top shelf with a shudder.  

“Comrades,” Brainy announces a few moments later. “Based on the numerical and psycho-social makeup of our current cohort, I have discovered a game that will suit our needs. Further, there is a 74.3% chance that several members of our group are extremely well-suited to its required skill set.” He steeples his fingers together in front of his chest. “It is called Two Truths and a Lie .”  

Kara promptly chokes on her drink, beer spraying rather forcefully out of her nose. Lena, cheeks flaming, stares resolutely down at her wine glass as Alex thumps Brainy so hard his image inducer flickers. The Coluan, oblivious as ever to the discomfort in the room, continues to rattle on until Nia literally claps a hand over his mouth. The room falls silent for a painful breath before Nia and Kelly strike up an overly bright conversation about cushion patterns. 

Kara, beer dripping from her chin, meets Lena in the kitchen where she’s refilling her wine. “Sorry. Y’know, about—” The blonde gestures vaguely toward the living room, cringing. 

Lena is shaking her head before Kara has finished speaking. “No, no, if anything I should—”  

“—wasn’t directed at you—”  

“—certainly not the only one who—” 

“—just doesn’t think about what he’s—”  

They speak over each other for a long moment before Lena reaches out, lays her hand on Kara’s arm. Realises what she’s done as the blonde’s mouth snaps shut, pulls her arm back to her side. 

“It’s fine, Kara.” 

“Okay,” the blonde breathes out, more of an exhale than an actual word. She sucks her bottom lip into her mouth, twisting her fingers together. “And— we’re fine, right?” 

No, Lena wants to scream. God, no. Not when they can barely make it through a casual game night without being unable to meet each other’s eyes. But Kara’s face is pleading, an edge of wild desolation to her expression that makes Lena think of the desperate faith of a castaway waiting to be rescued. Of someone needing to believe. 

And, in the face of that, what can she do? “Of course,” Lena murmurs, lays her hand back over Kara’s, and smiles. 

 

Agreeing to meet Kara and the others at their old favourite alien bar is a mistake. Lena can feel it from the second she walks in, alcohol fumes and stale leather assaulting her senses. Even from across the dim room she can clearly see Kara notice her arrival, visibly gulp, and slam back the rest of whatever amber liquid she’s drinking with the grim determination of a frat boy on spring break. 

Why, Lena wonders privately to herself, did she ever think this would be a good idea? Yes, she and Kara were making progress, slow progress; yes, they were doing more of their old activities together.  

But. Really. When they could barely make it through game night, what on Earth possessed Lena to think that adding copious amounts of alcohol, loud music, and the prospect of sitting awkwardly around a table with people who had, not so long ago, primed a Claymore satellite to literally blow her up, would make things easier? 

She makes it through an hour or two the only way she knows how: by sliding her platinum credit card across the bar and telling the waitress to keep the booze coming. Whatever good favour her offer to cover the table’s tab earns her is lost on Lena as she slams back whiskey after whiskey, eyes down. Hoping to avoid being asked to join or, far worse, becoming the topic of , the conversation. 

When they’re all a little worse for wear and half the group peels off in the direction of the pool tables, Lena seizes her opportunity for a temporary respite. The air in the dingy bar bathroom is fetid, every surface sticky to the touch, but Lena’s two drinks past two drinks too many to care anymore. 

She’s rinsing her hands, revelling in the cool of the water on the flush of her skin when Kara materialises behind her. The blonde is staggering slightly, cheeks rosy and pupils blown. She almost trips over her own feet when she catches sight of Lena, floating slightly off the ground in an effort to keep herself upright. It’s clear that the Maldovian ale she’s been mainlining all night has done its job. 

“Sorry,” the Kryptonian only half-slurs, turning to the door. “I’ll, I’ll leave you—”  

“Why did you invite me, Kara?” Lena asks before she can think better of it. “This is clearly difficult for you. Why did you— why did you even save me in the first place?” 

Kara is frozen, one hand on the door, blinking.  

“Not that I’m not, you know, grateful,” Lena continues, tongue leaden in her mouth, all filters gone. “But wouldn’t your life have been easier if you’d just let me die?” 

She leans heavily against the sink, wafts her fingers in the blonde’s direction. “No judgment, no judgment. But you, you kind of hate me. I’ve made your life hell. So why don’t you just, I don’t know. Let me go?”  

“I could never let you go.” Kara glances down at her own fingers, still curled around the door handle. Seems to have to consciously force them to release their grip, leaving a mangled hunk of metal in their wake. “I mean, die. Not while there was still something I could do.” 

“Of course.”  

She sways a little on the spot, fingers scrabbling against the edge of the sink. She probably should have stopped drinking a few whiskeys back. Probably more than a few. 

"Hope, help, and compassion for all. That's right, isn't it, Supergirl? Can't just stand by and watch a citizen of National City die, no matter how much they might deserve it.” 

Okay. Definitely more than a few. 

Her words aren't even venomous. There isn't room for venom, not alongside the astronomical quantities of liquor in her bloodstream. They're just tired. Resigned. And, well. Drunk. 

Deserve it?” Kara parrots, just as drunk but about twelve shades more indignant. “Lena. Not even close.” 

Her spine straightens, vertebra upon vertebra hardening into the steel that earned her most famous epithet. “And if you think,” she says slowly, and whether the words are weighted down by alcohol or anguish, Lena cannot say, “that I only saved you out of some sense of heroic duty, then you don't know me at all.” 

“Maybe I don't know you,” Lena hums, chin drooping, vision spinning. “Not anymore, at least. Maybe I never really did.” 

She means it as an observation, novel and genuine. Kara takes it about as congenially as a red rag to a bull. 

“How can you say that to me?” she snaps, shoulders squaring, entire form broadening to dwarf Lena in the small room. “Like, what, we're basically strangers? Just ships in the night? After what I did? After what you did?” 

“Look,” Lena manages, the world tilting sickeningly away from her as she sags against the hard edge of the sink. “I'm just saying that we're even. I saved your life, you saved mine, we're square. But that doesn't just magically mean that—”  

She sucks in a deep, scotch-scented breath. “I was hurt, Kara, I was so hurt by your secret. And ever since— I mean, fuck, you can barely bring yourself to look at me!”  

Lena wafts an unsteady hand in the direction of Kara's downturned gaze, hard blue eyes burning a furious hole into the sticky linoleum. 

“Ever since my brother told me the truth all I've done, all I've done, is hurt you.” Her gaze catches on the slim bandages still sheathing Kara's palms, heart catching painfully behind her ribs. “And I just— I don't want to do it anymore.” 

“Right.” Kara's voice is cold, hard, sharp as a blade. "Then don't.” 

The door bangs, a swift breeze blows Lena's hair into her eyes, and by the time her knees have buckled and her body's hit the filthy bathroom floor, she is utterly alone. 

 

Kara leaves the bathroom, leaves the bar without so much as a goodbye, and she doesn't come back. 

In her heart, Lena fears she never will. In her heart, Lena fears it's nothing more than she deserves. 

But the next day, she wakes from a hangover nap on her office couch to find Kara kneeling beside her. She struggles to sit up, a question forming on her lips but Kara just reaches out, takes her hand. 

Her hand. Bandage-free and whole and beautiful. Kara squeezes gently, runs her thumb over Lena’s palm, laces their fingers together with a focus so gentle Lena feels tears spring to her eyes. Her other hand flexes, coming up to cradle Lena’s, still-healing skin running feather-light over her knuckles. 

Lena grips Kara’s hands in both her own, gently, ever-mindful of the tender skin, holds them in her lap and bows her head. Kara can’t see the tears leaking from her eyes but she must feel them, dripping hot onto their entwined fingers. She shuffles closer on her knees, nudging Lena until her head comes to rest against the crook of the blonde’s neck.  

Guilt and relief and betrayal and regret bubble up in her throat and for one white-hot second she wants to shove Kara away, overwhelmed by the maelstrom of her own emotions. But all she can do is cry, and as warm hands twist gently in her grip to squeeze her fingers, she realises that if the past few months have taught her anything, it’s that any pain inflicted by Kara’s continued presence in her life pales in comparison to the infinite ache of living without her. 

 

On the first night of her third week straight of being ripped from unconsciousness by shuddering nightmares, Lena decides to go against everything her mother had ever tried to instil in her through a lifetime of buried feelings and passive aggression, and see a therapist. 

An arsenal of watertight NDAs and a little artful manipulation of a few identifying details later, the emotional bones of her life are laid bare before another human being for the first time ever, and Lena can honestly say she’s surprised it doesn’t send the poor man running for the hills. 

But her therapist is calm and sure, unperturbed by her patented Luthor deflection or any of the defensive barbs she sends his way and, most welcome of all, wholly unprepared to tolerate any bullshit. He sits quietly, one polished black Oxford crossed over the opposite knee, alternately handing her tissues and stress balls and always keeping the top-shelf scotch far out of her reach.  

And slowly, little by little, Lena feels the fortress walls around her heart begin to topple.  

Not bulldozed, not gone, not like it was when Kara’s battering ram of earnest charm cracked through each layer of defence and left her so very open and assailable. Now she is being deconstructed stone by stone, carefully and meticulously, and for the first time in her life Lena wonders if maybe those bricks, that had kept her so isolated behind impenetrable walls, might possibly be used to construct something else instead. Something like an entrance. 

 

“You didn’t tell Kara you were coming?” is the first thing Alex demands when Lena shows up at the DEO to speak to Andrea, still in custody. Alex had acquiesced to that request much more easily than she’d expected; Lena had barely uttered the word closure before the redhead was nodding, a knowing look in her eyes that has Lena resolved to try a little harder to get to know the elder Danvers. To explore the common demons she’s beginning to suspect they may both be battling. 

Lena bites her lip, shakes her head. 

“Why?”  

Lena considers the question for a moment, wonders just how candid she should be. Familial loyalty runs deep in the Danvers, she knows, but. Alex had said she’d fight Lena’s corner. 

“I— wasn’t sure how she’d react.” She shoots for honesty, keeps to her new resolution to give to others what she’d like to receive. “I can’t really get a handle on her at the moment. Before the—”  

She gestures vaguely to her ribs, the fading pink scar hidden beneath her corporate armour. Alex nods. 

“She didn’t want me around. But now, it’s almost like old times, even though nothing’s really been resolved. I know she must still be angry at me, she just won’t acknowledge it. I suppose I— don’t really know where we stand.” 

Alex is quiet as she gestures for Lena to follow her to the holding cells. Lena appreciates it more than she could have imagined, the fact that Alex considers her words, doesn’t just brush her off or jump to her sister’s defence.  

Outside what she assumes in Andrea’s cell, they pause. 

“Kara’s a tough nut to crack when she doesn’t want to talk about something,” Alex says, eyebrows raised in sympathy. “I’m usually the one who has to deal with it— can’t say I envy you” she mutters, and Lena chuckles. 

“But she was so cut up about what happened between you two— this is important enough that she’ll come around, open up. Eventually.” Lena grimaces, and Alex brushes a hand against her shoulder. “You’ll show her that she can. That she has to.” 

“That sounds like an overestimation of my abilities,” Lena half-laughs, discomfort bleeding through her tone. “I think you’re giving me too much credit.”  

Alex levels her with a thoughtful look as she places her palm against the biometric lock on the cell door. “Maybe you’re not giving yourself enough.” 

 

The room Alex leaves her in turns out not to be Andrea’s cell, but rather what appears for all intents and purposes to be an interrogation room. Lena feels like she’s in a bad cop movie as she takes a seat across the table from the brunette, eyes flicking momentarily to the power dampening cuffs on her wrists. The room is sparse and grimy and intimidating, right down to the lone security camera in one corner and the one-way mirror behind her head. Lena can only imagine the décor is deliberate. 

Andrea looks tired, almost haggard, her eyes dull and lifeless. Lena barely recognises the woman across the table from her, finds her utterly separate from the headstrong young girl she’d once called her best friend. She’s not sure if that makes this easier or harder. 

“You’re alive, then.” Andrea doesn’t even look at her as the words leave her, flat and tired. 

“Despite your best efforts.” 

Lena crosses one knee over the other, folds her arms across her chest.  

It’s silent for a long time. “Supergirl’s alive, too,” Lena says eventually, if only to gauge just how in the dark Andrea is being kept. 

The brunette snorts. “Oh, I’m quite aware of just how well Supergirl’s doing.” 

“On your visitation list, is she?” 

“Frequent flyer.” 

The sharp rapport, the quick-fire back and forth is so familiar that for a moment Lena aches with longing for the woman who used to know her better than anyone in the world.  

“Don’t suppose you’ve any idea what they’re planning to do with me?” Andrea’s voice cuts through her nostalgia and the flat tone, the downcast eyes suddenly remind Lena not of shared whisky and daring adventures but of terror, of incandescent agony, of veins shot through with glowing green. 

Lena clicks her tongue. “Can’t say I do. But you did try to kill Supergirl. Not sure you should bank on being home in time for Christmas.” 

“It's not like I have a home anymore,” Andrea says quietly, and Lena forces herself to harden in response. She’s faced down a boardroom full of men who’d rather eat their own Rolexes than see her company succeed, and won. She’s faced down Lex Luthor and won. She’s not going to lose here. 

“If you’re playing the sympathy card, you might want to save it for someone you haven’t already stabbed. In the back and in the chest.” 

A spark of life flares in Andrea’s eyes. “I never meant to hurt you.” 

Lena scoffs. “So you thought the kryptonite dagger you slid between my ribs would, what? Tickle?” 

Andrea meets her gaze head on at last. “You have no idea what they could make me do—" 

“No. I don’t. Because you never told me. You just betrayed me, lied to me, all these years.” 

Andrea’s voice is rising in pitch. “I was trying to keep you safe.” 

Lena laughs, a high, harsh sound. “Bullshit. You were trying to keep yourself safe, your father safe.” 

“Leviathan are dangerous, Lena—”  

“You think I don’t know that?”  

Kara’s winded body smashing into the earth as Rama Khan flipped her easily, as if she weighed nothing. Kara’s pale skin underscored in toxic green, arm falling limp beside her unconscious body. Kara’s hands, scorched into incapability by Leviathan’s dagger. 

Lena feels cold fury begin to build inside her. 

"You could have killed Supergirl. You would have.” 

“Don't worry, she's more than happy to return the favour.” Andrea's lip curls, bitterness soaking the tired lines of her face. “You know she almost killed me, the first day they locked me in here? Had her bandaged hands around my throat with no intention of letting go, because you hadn't woken up yet. Because she thought I'd killed you.” 

Andrea's jaw works, her teeth grinding harshly. “You know, I expected a lot from my star reporter, but I never expected that.”  

Lena's mouth drops open so fast her jaw clicks. “Your—” 

If she dies, I will destroy you. That's what she said to me. Pretty hard to forget the words screamed in your face by an alien with laser eyes and steel fingers locked around your windpipe.” Even in the midst of her blustering anger, Lena doesn't miss the shiver that skates the length of Andrea's spine. 

“She told me she'd take her Pulitzer in one hand and that kryptonite dagger in the other and she would shatter me so thoroughly not even my own family would remember me kindly. Wasn't too hard to figure out who she was, after that. We had quite the heart to heart about the depths of her subterfuge.” Andrea shakes her head, tongue clicking against her teeth. “I should have known from the start. After all, I've seen how you look at her. I've seen how she looks at you.”  

Lena is speechless, mouth dry and heart pounding. 

Andrea's chapped lips tug into a feeble facsimile of a smirk. “Don't worry, her Super secret's safe with me. Especially since I don't think I'll ever get out of this fucking cell.” 

Lena's still gasping. Still reeling. Breathy and disbelieving, she shakes her head. “I'm not sure you deserve to.” 

Grey eyes narrow, the room around them darkening by degrees. 

“Supergirl had to be stopped. Leviathan would never have allowed— I couldn't—” Andrea’s eyes fill with tears even as she spits her words into Lena’s face. “But I never wanted to hurt you! Why did you have to— why did you protect her?” 

Lena's eyes narrow. She doesn't even have to think. “Protecting people is what she does. Protecting her is what I do.” 

“After what she did to you?” Andrea hisses, lips pulling back in a snarl of disdain. “After the lies she told?” 

Lena's fists clench across the cool metal table. “Always.” 

“You promised the same thing to me, once,” Andrea spits. “And look at us now.” 

“Yes,” Lena parries, bubbling fury forcing her fingers to the hem of her blouse, ripping it upward to reveal the angry, puckered scar bisecting her ribcage. “Look at us now.” 

Andrea flinches backwards as though the sight is a physical assault, but her face loses none of its reckless rage. 

“Don't even try and compare it,” Lena snarls, cutting in before the brunette can launch her next attack. “You and she are not the same.” 

"Why?” Andrea's voice is a whipcrack, a gunshot. “Because she loves you? Lena, I—”  

“I don't want to hear it,” she interrupts, desperate and half-wild. “From you or from her. This isn't about that.” 

"No?” Andrea leans sharply towards her, the skin of her wrists bleaching white beneath the restraining pressure of her cuffs. “If it's not about how we love you, it must be how you love us. One more than the other, is that it? One with everything you have, and one with nothing at all?” 

Lena forces herself not to flinch, though her heart is pounding like a jackhammer in her ears. “Don't talk about her,” she gasps, a desolate kind of fear oxidising on her tongue. “Don't talk about that. You've no right.” 

“I betrayed you, and you cut me out of your life,” Andrea yells, half-risen from her chair and straining across the table towards her. “She betrayed you, and you took a dagger for her! Why, Lena? Why?”  

She does cower, then. She can't help it, shrinking back against the hard metal chair as Andrea looms over her, swathed in shadow. Her hands are bound, Lena knows that. But when she looks down, she doesn't see power dampening cuffs locked to the table. She sees kryptonite, a glowing green blade. Sees panic and desperation and awesome, unbearable pain.  

Fear inverts her, twisting her insides into a writhing mass of cold dread. “I, I don't—” 

“You shouldn't love her!” Andrea's tears strike the table as her scream strikes Lena's ears. “You shouldn't have saved her!” 

The table creaks and groans beneath the insistent tug of the cuffs, the entire structure scraping sickeningly across the floor as Andrea strains wildly. 

“Why can you forgive her and not me?” the brunette roars, face a twisting mask of pain. The pale grey of her irises darkens, shadows engulfing the room as surely as the ricocheting accusations. “She doesn't deserve you. You know that, right? She'll hurt you again, she'll only ever hurt you again—” 

Lena's body has locked up, pounding pulse a war drum in her ears. She cowers in the face of this unbridled fury, Andrea's screaming face blurring and transmuting until she sees her father shouting, her brother snarling, Kara hurling words like missiles across the battlefield of her Luthor Corp lab. 

She knows what's coming next. A foot, a fist, a dagger. Frozen in fear, Lena waits for the inevitable. 

  

One moment she’s looking into Andrea’s eyes, watching them darken with shadow just as they had months ago in the split second before a shard of kryptonite slipped between her ribs and the next, she’s staring at the back of Kara’s head. 

Kara, who in less than a second had appeared out of nowhere, lifted Lena from her seat like she weighed nothing and placed herself between her and Andrea, wresting the other woman back into her seat. Her hands are braced against the metal table as she stares the brunette down. Lena notices the ridges of muscle traversing her forearms, the slight quiver of barely restrained force. She’s behind Kara, can’t see her face or the expression she’s levelling on Andrea but when she speaks, Lena feels a chill whisper down her spine. 

“Try it.” 

Kara’s voice is low, soft. The tempting flicker of flame from a lit fuse, momentary calm belying the explosion primed to rip the world in two. The room is deadly silent save for the high, thin creak of metal as the tabletop buckles and warps beneath Kara’s hands. 

Andrea looks, for lack of a better word, terrified. Her eyes, clear grey once again, dart nervously between Kara’s face, her hands, and once, over her shoulder to Lena. She doesn’t move a muscle, isn’t even breathing as far as Lena can tell. Kara leans further over the table towards her and Andrea almost topples her chair as she flinches back and away. 

“Go on,” Kara says again, and her tone is nothing short of predatory. “Try it.” 

Unsurprisingly, Andrea doesn’t. 

 

The time between Lena pressing a hand to Kara’s back, feeling the tension trembling beneath her fingertips, and the door slamming shut behind them as she’s deposited in a neighbouring observation room is compressed into a single moment of weightlessness in which she’s whisked out of Andrea’s cell without even time to protest being, well, flown .  

Lena hears the electronic lock seal them in the sound-proofed box as Kara whirls on her, eyes blazing. 

“What the hell were you thinking, going in there alone? She almost killed you once, Lena! So, what, you thought you’d give her the chance to finish the job?” 

Kara’s voice rips through the small room like an explosion. Lena flinches, backing into the wall. She doesn’t even realise she’s screwed her eyes shut until she opens them cautiously into sudden silence. 

Kara has flattened herself against the door opposite her, wearing the most horrified expression Lena has ever seen. Their eyes lock and Lena braces herself for whatever’s coming next. 

“You’re afraid of me,” Kara breathes into the air between them, shattering the crystalline quiet into a million piercing shards. 

“No, I—” Lena flushes, mortified at her own reaction. All trace of anger gone, Kara looks like she’s about to throw up, if that’s even a physiological possibility for a Kryptonian. Lena isn’t sure but either way, she knows how Kara feels. “Lex— used to shout. Lionel too.”  

She stares at her boots, scuffing a heel against the concrete floor, feeling a little like she should apologise without really knowing why. Before she can figure it out Kara is in front of her, arms raised, a silent question in her eyes. 

The second Lena nods she’s scooped up, literally, into Kara’s arms. No more of their one-armed hugs – Kara wraps herself around Lena like a shield, holding her to her chest, unperturbed by Lena’s feet swinging a few inches above the ground.  

The blonde exhales shakily against her hair, breath tickling the shell of her ear. “I’m sorry, Lena,” she murmurs, over and over and over again until the hush of her words, the solid warming comfort of her pushes the last traces of embarrassment off Lena’s skin. 

Kara holds her until her racing pulse slows, and then holds her some more. “Don’t you ever, ever tell me you deserve to be screamed at. Okay? Never again,” the blonde murmurs against her temple as she sets her back on her feet. 

Lena wants to laugh it off, an exposed kind of vulnerability seeping back in now that they’re face to face. But Kara’s expression has never once, in all the years they’ve known each other, looked more serious than it does in this moment, so she just nods. 

“I'm sorry I shouted,” Kara murmurs as she guides Lena out of the holding cells with a hand splayed warm against the small of her back. “I was just so— I just wish you'd keep yourself safe, Lena. You've been hurt so many times. I can't watch it happen again.” 

Kara's voice is thick with something Lena cannot, will not in this moment put a name to. 

"Please,” the blonde whispers, the press of her fingers like scalding brands through Lena's shirt. “Please, just. Be safe.” 

Still raw, still shaking, it's all Lena can do to nod. 

 

It’s not until much later, tucked up on Kara’s couch at the blonde’s insistence that she take the rest of the day off, twelve empty pizza boxes (eleven and two thirds of them Kara’s) on the coffee table and some cheesy rom-com on the TV with the sound down low, that Lena thinks to ask the question that’s been playing on her mind all afternoon. 

“Kara?” 

“Mmm?” the blonde hums, pushing herself out of her half-collapsed position on the couch, shaking off the remains of her food-coma.  

“How did you know I was there? With Andrea?” Lena pointedly avoids looking at the drowsy Kryptonian at her side, letting her gaze skim over the assorted photographs strung up around Kara’s bedroom. The dividing curtain shifts in the slight breeze from the ever-open window, revealing conspicuous gaps in the pattern, glaring holes where more pictures once hung. “Did Alex tell you?” 

“No. No, I—”  

And the discomfort in the blonde’s voice is enough to draw Lena’s gaze to her face. Kara is twisting her hands together in her lap in an awkward move reminiscent of Lena’s own nervous tell.  

“Kara?” 

The blonde takes a deep breath, biting her lip. “I sort of— heard you? Your heartbeat, I mean. When you got scared.” 

And if that statement isn’t enough to make Lena’s traitorous heartrate tick up, she doesn’t know what is. Kara’s eyes flick down to her chest for a fraction of a second before returning to her face and Lena throttles the blush creeping onto her cheeks. Ignores the way the knowledge of Kara’s intimate knowledge of her shoots a white-hot flash of something undefinable down her spine.  

“You could hear it from across the city?” 

Kara averts her eyes delicately. “Only when I tried to.” 

“So you were checking up on me?” 

“No! Yes? I mean, not in a creepy way—” She pauses, shakes her head slightly. “Okay, in the least creepy way possible. I just check in sometimes to make sure you’re, you know. Okay. Safe.” 

Lena tries to force down the disquiet that rises within her, presented point-blank with proof of Kara’s superhuman abilities. Tries to see the intention behind the invasion of privacy.  

She lets out a slow breath. “Okay. I suppose— that makes sense. Since I was hurt, it’s— understandable,” she settles on magnanimously. 

Kara shifts uncomfortably at her side, eyes darting nervously around the room. “Uh, yeah. Right. Since— since that.” 

They may have had their ups and downs, and there may have been entire swathes of the blonde’s life that Lena was not privy to until recently, but she knows Kara. At least, knows this part of her.  

“Kara.” She fixes the Kryptonian with her most withering stare. The blonde shrinks into the couch like a guilty child, eyes wide in the picture of innocence. “How long have you been— listening for my heartbeat?” 

Kara appears to be weathering a fierce internal debate about exactly how honest she should be. Lena flicks the intensity of her stare up a notch, to misogynistic-old-white-man-in-the-boardroom level, raises one eyebrow for good measure.  

Kara gulps. Her voice is very, very quiet. “Since those thugs pushed you off your office balcony.” 

Lena stops breathing for a moment then reminds herself that Kara can hear it, sucks in a lungful of air. After a long, long pause, she nods. Turns back to the TV, tucks her legs beneath her, pulls Kara’s soft red blanket closer around her body.  

She can feel the weight of Kara’s gaze burning the side of her face, tugging heat into her cheeks, but she keeps her eyes fixed forward. The blonde wavers for an interminable amount of time before her quiet voice sounds hesitantly from Lena’s side. 

“Are you mad?” 

Lena sighs. Finds a smile. “No, Kara. I’m not mad.” Overwhelmed, certainly. Grateful, probably. Confused, definitely. But not mad.  

The blonde seems to take her words at face value – Lena does not let herself consider the possibility that Kryptonian superhearing would know if she was lying – and the tension dissipates from the room in an instant. Kara seems to take the lack of animosity as an explicit invitation, scooting closer across the couch cushions and tucking herself into Lena’s side.  

They make it through another half-movie before they both succumb to sleep but as unconsciousness steals her away, Lena is comforted by the rhythmic warmth of the pounding pulse pressed against her body and she doesn’t have Kryptonian superhearing but with her last conscious thought she thinks that given the opportunity, she'd probably listen to Kara's heartbeat for the rest of her life, too. 

 

When Jess phones through to tell her she has a visitor by the name of Olsen, Lena’s heart sinks. But Kelly, not her brother, pokes her head tentatively around Lena’s office door a moment later, and Lena lets out the breath she didn’t realise she’d been holding. 

They make polite small talk for a few minutes, but it’s a little strained. When they’ve exhausted every possible weather-related conversation topic, Kelly takes a deep breath.  

“So.” 

Lena waits. 

“Alex mentioned—” Kelly starts slowly, as if gauging Lena’s reaction. “You don’t feel that you and Kara have worked through the issues you had. Before you got hurt.” 

One eyebrow lifts. Lena wishes she could say she was surprised. “Did she.” 

“She did. And I may have noticed a few signs myself.” 

“You’re here in a professional capacity, then?” She folds her arms across her chest. “You can send the bill to my assistant.” 

“Lena.” Kelly looks unperturbed by her abrasive tone. Perks of being a trained psychologist, she supposes. Able to see automatic defence mechanisms for what they are. “I’m here as a friend.” 

Lena almost, almost manages to stop the hurt, the mistrust that swells in her chest at that word. She’s worked so hard since Leviathan, hours upon hours with her therapist only for him to end up at the same conclusion that she herself had reached weeks before. That Lena’s real PTSD stemmed not from the stab wound to her ribs, but from the proverbial dagger to her heart. 

How many nights has Lena spent in the quiet of her lonely bed, unpacking the resentment she feels not just for Kara, but for every person in her life who knew how she was being duped, and said nothing. For every person who knew about Supergirl, every knowing smile whose very existence screamed you aren’t worth what they were given. Unwrapping herself from the cloak of suspicion which shrouds her body like a second skin. Forcing herself to open, to be vulnerable, to trust even when every single survival instinct in her body screams at her to not make the same mistake again. 

Every waking moment of every day, Lena sways on the edge of a slippery slope. Some days she loses her grip, slides a little further down the path that once already had led her to darkness, to isolation, to inadvertently helping her brother almost destroy half the world. But every day she digs for footholds, claws until her fingernails bleed, uses every ounce of strength in her aching body to drag herself back towards the light. 

The familiar tide of anger rises, at herself, at her own failure to let this go. You’ll never be worth her trust, a dark voice in her mind whispers. Lena cuts its throat, kicks its useless corpse into a dark corner of her consciousness, forces blankness into her mind and her expression. 

Kelly is watching her carefully. “Lena. I’m here as someone who knows both you and Kara, who’s spent time with you, and who doesn’t want to see you hurt anymore. But if you’d like me to leave—”  

Lena sighs. “No, of course.” She gestures to the chair across from her, offers the other woman a drink. What was it that Lillian had taught her? The world could split apart at the seams before a Luthor would be called a bad host. 

“So,” Kelly says again, and Lena half expects her to pull out a medical pad and pen. “You two have unresolved issues?” 

And Lena thinks, what the hell. If they’re going to do this, she might as well lean in. “She won’t talk to me. Says she doesn’t want to go over the past. Ever since the— kryptonite, she’s been acting like everything is fine. But it isn’t. She isn’t.” 

“And how do you know that?” 

“Because she was so angry. So angry, she could barely look at me. And that can’t have just— gone!” She’s a Luthor, after all. She knows exactly how resentment can fester. “But if I ever bring it up, try to talk about everything we – I – did, all she’ll say is that we saved each other. As if the chapter’s closed. As if that makes everything okay.” 

“Because you took a dagger for her.” 

Lena scoffs. “You’re making it sound much more dramatic than it actually—”  

“Lena.” Kelly holds up a hand. “Try to see the world as Kara does. Her parents saved her when she was a child, at the cost of their own lives. To Kara, sacrifice is—” Kelly seems to be searching for the right words. “It’s the ultimate declaration of love.” 

Lena’s mind seems to catch on that word. It whirs, frozen. She searches for her rationality, forces her brain to unstick. “But— one act doesn’t cancel out another.” 

Kelly’s smile is gentle. “I know that. And so does Kara, in her heart. But that belief, in the redemption of sacrifice? That’s the only thing that has allowed her to maintain an image of her parents that she can live with.” 

Kelly’s voice softens. “They weren’t perfect. They did bad things. But they died to save her. So any anger, any resentment she feels— to Kara, that makes her ungrateful, selfish. So she buries it.” 

Kelly is looking at her expectantly. Lena didn’t get through a PhD at MIT by missing parallels that are laid before her feet. She takes a deep breath. Nods.  

Satisfied, Kelly smiles at her with genuine warmth, moves to gather her things.  

“Wait—” Lena half rises from her chair. “What do I— what do I do about it?” 

The other woman presses her lips together as though she’s considering how best to approach this. How much more Lena can take. 

“Kara is afraid that by showing her anger, she’ll seem ungrateful. She’ll be rejecting your sacrifice, rejecting your love, and she’ll lose you.” Kelly’s soft smile feels like a balm on all of Lena’s jagged, bleeding edges. “You could try showing her that she won’t.” 

 

On the day the official new L-Corp logo replaces the faded lettering of her family’s name, Kara shows up at Lena’s office with enough Chinese takeout to feed the entire building. At first, Lena thinks that might be her plan, but the blonde just spreads endless cartons out over her coffee table, desk, chairs, and floor, producing a bottle of champagne from God knows where and popping it with a flourish.  

“We’re celebrating!” she announces at Lena’s gaping expression. “Lena Luthor, official founder and CEO of L-Corp!” She pauses, bites her lip. “2.0.” 

Kara’s grin is infectious, but Lena is still reeling as the blonde pulls out yet another bag containing scones Lena recognises from her favourite bakery in Dublin. “What is all this?” 

“Lunch.” 

Lena can only watch as Kara stuffs three pot stickers into her mouth, pulling out another full container before she’s even swallowed. “But— why?” 

“Uh, because pot stickers are amazing, and because it’s nothing less than you deserve,” Kara says, rooting through one of the many bags for a moment before emerging with paper plates and cutlery, presenting them to Lena with a comical bow. 

It’s too much. 

Lena shakes her head. “Kara, you— you don’t owe me anything.” 

“Um.” Kara’s eyes cut to her face, incredulous. “It’s the least I can do. Or technically, the least Alex can do, since I used her credit card. What?” she asks innocently at Lena’s disbelieving expression. “She won’t mind. After all, you saved my life.” 

“And you saved mine,” Lena counters. “If you want to look at it like that, we’re— we’re even.” 

“Okay…” Kara drags out the final syllable, raising her chin. “So what’s the problem?” 

Kara’s tone tells her the question doesn’t really need an answer, but Lena’s too far in to turn back now. “This! All of this—” She holds out her arms to encompass the feast laid before them, the chocolate-covered strawberries Kara’s in the process of balancing precariously on the edge of her desk, the condensation forming on the sides of the authentic Italian gelato melting by the couch.  

“It’s too much!” She forces herself to take a deep breath. “It’s not fair to you.” 

Kara’s hands, struggling to unwrap two pairs of chopsticks, drop to her sides. “What are you talking about?” 

“You’re not indebted to me, Kara. You don’t have to be nice to me just because I nearly died.” 

Lena registers the harshness of her own words only after they’ve found their mark. She cringes as Kara visibly recoils, stepping forward when the blonde steps back, rushing to explain.  

“No, I just meant— I didn’t step in front of that dagger as a fast-track to your forgiveness, to guilt you back into my life. I don’t want that.” 

Kara’s face is crestfallen. “You don’t—?”  

“I don’t want you to see me as an obligation,” Lena clarifies. “You were— are— so angry. At me. Almost dying doesn’t give me a free pass on that.” 

“Almost dying for me, ” Kara retorts hotly but the flare passes in a second and her eyes cool, holding all the sadness of a burning planet. “Lena, I wouldn’t— how could you think that that’s the only reason I’m here?” 

Lena smiles sadly. “We weren’t exactly on the best of terms before all this, darling.” 

The endearment slips out with traitorous familiarity before she can think to grit it back. Lena wonders if it burns in Kara’s ears the same way it does on her tongue. 

She thinks that maybe it does, because a minute later Kara is pushing open the balcony door. “I’ll see you tomorrow, okay?” she says with a smile that doesn’t reach her eyes. “Don’t forget to eat.” 

And Lena is left with enough food to feed a small nation, utterly alone. 

 

Tomorrow comes and goes, and Kara is nowhere to be seen. A second day passes, and a third, and still there is no sign of the blonde. Lena’s texts go unanswered, her calls to voicemail.  

She feels that they’ve come to a crossroads, a proverbial fork in the path. Lena can let them slip back into the light, easy, superficial pattern of the past weeks, keep Kara’s sunshine around to illuminate the hollow of her days. Or she can fight for honesty, the one thing she’d asked for all along, the one thing that had, once already, ripped them apart. 

It's a no-brainer, really. In this, she’s a Luthor through and through. At the end of the world with all the cards on the table, enemies on all sides and no hope of escape, she’ll set her jaw and raise her fists and fight until she wins. 

 

Lena knocks on Kara’s door, twisting her fingers together nervously as she waits in the hall. She waits a long time, longer still considering the occupant’s super speed abilities, and with each passing second the knot of anxiety in her stomach grows. 

She hears footsteps, but the door still doesn’t open. A voice from inside— no, two voices. Lena’s not eavesdropping, she’s not. It’s just that Kara’s door really isn’t all that thick. 

“—more layers to this thing between the two of you than a freaking tiramisu! Just talk to her.” 

Alex’s dulcet tones are interspersed with various bangings and clankings. 

“—do I even say ? There’s so—”  

A tremendous crash from inside the apartment. Lena jumps back in shock, but slowly steps closer to the worn wood again. 

“—be honest, maybe? See where that takes you?” 

“But what if—”  

Judging by the sounds coming from inside the apartment, Kara is in the process of single-handedly creating a junkyard band. For a few long moments Lena can’t hear anything besides a cacophonous slamming and rattling. 

“Kara Zor-El, put on your big girl panties and be an adult.”   

The door swings open suddenly and Lena jumps back, guiltily, then tries to act like she didn’t. Alex appears undisturbed by her reddening cheeks, one hand on the door as she nods a greeting.  

“Lena. I was just leaving. Kara’s inviting you in.” 

With a hard look over her shoulder at her sister now perched innocently on the couch, Alex pulls the door shut, leaving the two of them alone. Lena thinks she hears a muttered idiots as the redhead slides past her, but she can’t be sure. 

 

“Hi.” 

“Hi.” 

The tense atmosphere contrasts with the sunny apartment like a bucket of ice water on a hot day. Lena purses her lips. “I thought maybe we should talk?” Her voice trails up at the end, questioning, but Kara’s already shaking her head. 

“No need. Everything’s fine.” 

The smile on Kara’s face is fake. Not obviously so, not flagrant. But it’s such an insult to the real thing, the full force of that megawatt grin that hasn’t been directed her way in so long, that Lena almost wants to cry. 

“I— I’m not sure it is.” She crosses, tentative, to the couch, perches on the opposite end. Kara watches her warily and in the face of their stilted interactions, her own awkwardness, it’s as if the four years they spent embedding themselves in each other’s lives have crumbled into ash at Lena’s fingertips. It makes her angry. 

“Look, I know I apologised before for how I’ve treated you, but you weren’t ready to accept it— which is fine! That’s not what this is—” She forces herself to take a deep breath, steady her voice.  

“But you don’t have to forgive me now, just because of the whole—” she gestures vaguely to her ribs, “—stabbing… thing. I don’t deserve it.” 

Kara’s sigh is heavy. “Why are you so intent on making yourself the villain of this story?” 

“Because maybe I am! Or at least— at least, I was.” Lena shakes her head. “I did awful things to you, Kara. I hurt you—” 

“Like I didn’t hurt you?” Kara counters, resignation giving way to something more heated.  

“It’s not the same.” She presses her fingertips to her temples. “There’s a, a darkness in me—”  

“Being good is a choice, Lena. One you wake up and make fresh every day. Do you think I haven’t made mistakes?” Kara’s fingers tug through her curls. “I pushed Cat Grant off a building . I broke my sister’s arm, I asked James to spy on you, I— I lied to you.”  

Kara’s eyes are imploring and Lena wants, so wants, to lean into her. To give in, to agree. But she can’t, for both their sakes.  

Bright blue eyes beseech her, burning. Pleading. “Lena, a few bad decisions don’t negate the person you’ve built yourself into.” 

“And one sacrifice doesn’t absolve me!” 

A beat of silence. Kara’s mouth opens, then closes, then opens again. “You saved my—”  

Lena shakes her head, pushes off from the couch. Crosses to the fridge just for something to do, a distraction so she won’t scream, won’t keep screaming until someone, anyone, comes to help, to break this endless cycle, wheels spinning, never moving forward. 

Kara is mercifully quiet behind her. Lena tilts her forehead against the cool metal of the fridge, tries to tamp down her frustration. Be rational. Think like a scientist. This method has failed to achieve the desired result. So: switch up the approach. 

Slowly, a plan begins to form in her mind. Kara will not agree with her, not on this. But she will, she’s proven, she’ll fight Lena into the ground to prove her wrong.  

She turns slowly to face the blonde on the couch, calmer now, measured. “Kara. I just want you to have the opportunity to clear the air. To be honest with me, so we can move forward.” 

“The air is clear!” Kara slaps her hand down on the nearest pillow, accentuating her point with such force that the thing bursts on impact, white feathers exploding over every nearby surface. She bites her lip. “Metaphorically speaking.”  

Lena presses her own lips together to keep from laughing as a rogue feather perches itself daintily on the end of Kara’s nose. She can’t afford to crack now. Her Luthor DNA has finally kicked in; she can see the chessboard, plot her strategy, and Kara’s king is unguarded at last. 

“You can’t be okay with how things— with everything I did to you, Kara. Please. You can’t keep it inside forever. You need to talk, to scream at me—”  

Kara takes the bait, as Lena knew she would. She’s on her feet in a second, shoulders tense. “I told you—” voice low, a warning, “—never to say that again.” 

Lena opens her mouth but Kara gets there first, voice cracking through the room like a thunderclap. “I have nothing to say to you! Okay? 

They’re so close. If Kara’s outbursts are machine-gun fire, Lena is a sniper. Poised, sure. Deadly. She knows what she has to do next. She knows she won’t miss.  

“Well then, I guess I was right. Back in the Fortress of Solitude. Our whole friendship was a lie.” 

Kara gapes at her. Outrage bubbles up in her expression, like a pot about to boil over. Lena decides to turn up the heat.  

“This whole thing must have been an act for you. It can’t have mattered.” 

It’s only her knowledge of the absolute falsehood of these words that allows her to say them now without trembling.  

She takes aim at Kara’s heart. Fires. 

“If you don’t have anything to say, don’t feel anything now, after everything—” Lena spreads her arms wide. “Then you must never have felt anything for me at all.” 

A beat of explosive silence follows her words, so loud in its quiet that Lena’s heartrate triples. 

“Never felt —?”  

Kara unfreezes from where she’s been rooted to the spot, advances on her so quickly Lena’s eyes can’t track the movement. The steel in her gaze that Lena’s been nudging up against is bared now, lethal. There is no trace of sunny Kara Danvers in the blonde’s face. This woman is a god, omnipotent and unforgiving and for a moment, Lena worries that she’s gone too far. 

But whatever she half-expects, freeze breath or laser eyes or slamming into the wall like a limp rag doll, it doesn’t come. Steel arms encircle her waist and before Lena can even take a breath, they’re soaring through Kara’s open window.  

The world blurs past and Lena forces down the rising nausea, secures it with an iron will. They’re moving fast but it’s nothing, Lena knows, compared to what Kara could do. She wonders, not for the first time, how much of her life Kara must live in fractions, degrees of control, unfulfilled potential. 

For the first time, Lena is not held bridal-style in flight but is gripped to Kara’s chest, the length of their bodies pressed together. Aerodynamics, she supposes. Or maybe she’s finally lost the privilege of a comfortable ride. Kara doesn’t say a word and from this position, Lena can’t see her face. Every time she tries, the streaming wind forces tears from her eyes, so she tucks her head against the blonde’s clavicle and resigns herself to waiting.  

 

They touch down in the middle of the desert under a heavy, darkening sky. Lena has no idea how far they’ve come, but she’s pretty sure it’s far enough that no one would ever find her. Not if Kara didn’t want them to. 

The reddish earth is strewn with boulders, some smaller than a fire hydrant, some bigger than trucks. Kara all but drops Lena on her feet, stalks away, and Lena wonders if she’s supposed to follow. But the blonde turns, and between the equal parts fury and anguish on her face Lena realises that she’s done enough now. The dam has cracked. Whatever flood is released, Lena will weather, until they can both stop drowning.  

Kara stops, facing her down and her blue eyes hold all the heedless wrath of the universe, the unrestrained blaze of imploding quasars, beauty on the brink of destruction. 

“You know, none of this ever really mattered to me.” The casual nature of her words contrasts with the barely contained bite of her tone. Lena feels the back of her neck prickle, the air charged with latent electricity. “It was all an act. The apologies, the tears. It must not have been real.” 

Lena feels frozen, rent in two by the pain on Kara’s face. 

“Coming out here every night, for weeks—” The blonde’s elbow flies out suddenly, and a boulder the size of a small car explodes into a billion fragments under its force. Lena flinches at the sharp crack, suddenly aware of how incredibly small she is, a tiny dot beneath a gathering veil of indifferent clouds.  

“Just to feel something, do something, as one of the most important relationships in my life fell apart and I couldn’t do a damn thing about it.” A seamless roundhouse kick, and another chunk of solid rock disintegrates into dust. The blonde doesn’t break eye contact for a second and something about her dispassionate strength, her casual devastation, makes Lena’s heart jump up into her throat. 

Lena’s vocal cords feel like they’re laced with glass. “Kara—”  

“No.” A whip-crack, a warning. “No, I must have just imagined doing things for you that I would never have— for anyone else—”  

Another boulder crumbles into nothing under Kara’s fist. “Giving you pieces of myself just so you could use me, manipulate me. Starting to hate the person I saw in the mirror.” She spins, a flash of boot, and another rock is gone. Dust rises from her twirling cape like a halo, ringing her in ochre and she is Kryptonian in the most visceral sense of the word, awesome and impregnable in the red light of a fading sun. “I’m just that good an actress.” 

And this is Lena’s hubris, her downfall. Because she’d believed that this was what Kara needed, that these words had to be said before the pressure in Kara’s chest could cause any more destruction. She just hadn’t figured into the equation that it might destroy her to hear them. 

The look in Kara’s eyes is nothing short of wild. “And I guess I was just imagining it when you lied to me for weeks, gave me hope that the person I was most scared of losing to this damn secret wouldn’t hate me forever, that you could actually love both sides of me—”  

Kara is shaking. Lena wonders if the Earth itself will crumble. She wonders if either of them would care. 

“And then you stole from me, you used kryptonite on me—”  

Lena reaches out a hand without thinking, an unconscious attempt to soothe the wounds Kara is cleaving into both of them anew. Kara jerks backwards, gathering tears unshed and glittering, her eyes ablaze with the celestial light of stars long dead.  

“And I could see in your eyes that I meant nothing to you, and it felt like you ripped out my heart!”   

The half-scream echoes out across the desert, refracted by the huge dark clouds amassing overhead. Kara sinks to the ground, all the fight leaching out of her body as the first drops of rain pepper the dry earth with kisses. Her voice is as defeated as Lena’s ever heard it. 

“But, sure. I guess I never felt anything.” 

Whatever spell had been keeping Lena rooted to the spot is shattered as soon as the first tear breaks free from Kara’s overflowing eyes, and suddenly she can’t get her words out fast enough. “No, no, that’s not true, I know it’s not— I never really thought—”  

And she closes the space between them and drops to her knees, designer pants be damned, gathers Kara’s trembling form into her arms. They kneel together, two battered hearts beneath the heavens, all three cracked wide open. 

“It’s okay,” Lena soothes against golden curls, over and over. “I’m sorry. I’ve got you. I’m not going anywhere.” 

Kara shudders against Lena’s frame as raindrops the size of golf balls thunk into the dust around them, the whole world blurring out into a rusted grey haze. Kara’s exhaling huge, gulping sobs, her fingers scrabbling desperately for purchase against Lena’s body, twisting tight into the fabric of her shirt as though the thin cotton is the last barrier to anchoring them together forever.  

She’s not sure how long they stay there, in the red dust and the pouring rain. But Kara cries and Lena stays and maybe, maybe this is the first step to believing that the scars they’ve left on each other don’t have to ache forever. 

 

When even the Kryptonian begins to shiver, Lena realises they’ve probably been out in the rain long enough. Her own body went numb long ago, muscles frozen into place where they curl around the blonde still crying silently into her shirt. Lena tilts her face down to Kara’s bent head, inhales the heady scent of rain and stardust at the nape of her neck. 

Her words are barely a whisper above the pounding rain. She presses them against Kara’s hair as though she can convey the truth of them more directly into the blonde’s mind through touch alone.  

“I wanted to hurt you as deeply as you hurt me. And— and I think I managed it. I’m so, so sorry, Kara. I should have been better than that. I— I’m trying to be better than that.” 

Kara’s fingers tighten against her sides, her back, for one brief second squeeze hard enough to bruise and Lena thinks, good . Then she’s pushing back, wiping tears from her cheeks that are immediately replaced by raindrops, and she lets out a wet chuckle. 

She pulls Lena to her feet, tucks a dripping lock of dark hair gently behind her ear. “Time to go,” she says quietly, voice hoarse from crying, and she gathers Lena into her arms. 

The driving rain hits her skin with the force of bullets as Kara shoots into the air. Feeling her flinch, the blonde angles straight up and within seconds they burst through the low layer of clouds and Lena feels bright sunlight warming her numb bones. 

Lena keeps her eyes squeezed shut the entire ride, head tucked against Kara’s collar bone and arms tight around her ribs, opening them only once they’ve descended again through the clouds to land in Kara’s living room. 

Dripping quietly on the hardwood floor, Kara makes her way to the bedroom, pushes a fluffy towel and some dry clothes into Lena’s arms and nudges her toward the shower. They switch once Lena’s dry and dressed and she settles into Kara’s couch, snuggled inside the blonde’s too-big NCU hoodie as she waits for Kara to shower. 

She isn’t waiting long. In under 90 seconds Kara is superspeeding out of the bathroom in a worn-soft t-shirt and sweats and plonking down on the couch beside her. She pulls her fluffy red blanket over them both and wraps a gentle arm around Lena’s still-shivering form, tucking her into her side. Lena rests her cheek on Kara’s shoulder, listens to the rain pounding outside the mercifully shut windows, watches drops off water slide off the end of blonde curls and spot her t-shirt, and lets Kara’s warmth sink back into her chilled bones. 

 

She must drift off to sleep at some point, because the next thing she’s aware of is waking to an unwelcome loss of heat. Blinking her stinging eyes, she sees Kara in the kitchen, halfway through inhaling the better part of six oven pizzas. 

The blonde freezes, wide-eyed, half a pizza halfway to her lips. “Sorry,” she mumbles around her current mouthful. “I was trying not to wake you. I just—”  

“Got hungry?” Lena supplies with a smile. She uncurls herself from the couch, helps herself to a glass of water, then another, her throat deciding of its own accord to choose that moment to turn to sandpaper. 

“How are you feeling?” Kara asks, licking the last of the pizza grease off her fingers. 

“Shouldn’t I be asking you that?” 

Kara’s lips quirk as she nods. “I’m— yeah. I’m okay.” 

They make their way back to the couch. Kara throws the blanket back over both their legs but there’s some space between them now, their bodies angled towards each other, bent knees touching. 

Lena takes a deep breath. “Why didn’t you feel like you could tell me all that? Before?” She swallows. Try to see the world as Kara does . “Is it because you felt I’d— sacrificed myself, for you? So you owed me something?” 

Kara sighs. “No. I mean, yes. But not like that.” Heavy blue eyes meet her gaze. “I’m not here because I feel guilty. I mean, I do, but. This isn’t an obligation for me, Lena.” 

The blonde pulls a pillow into her lap, keeps her eyes fixed on it as she plays absently with a corner. 

“I think that maybe, seeing you take a dagger for me—” and Lena thinks, they have to find a way of talking about that without it sounding like some over-the-top historical drama, “—it made me realise that I didn’t really have a leg to stand on, being mad at you.” 

Lena opens her mouth to protest – God, didn’t they both just weather a literal monsoon in the desert just so Kara would finally own her anger towards Lena? – but Kara shakes her head, wrings her hands together, leaving Lena mesmerised by the ethereal shifting of bones under skin still pink, still healing. 

“I know you did some bad stuff, I was hurt, whatever. But you only did it all because you were hurt. And I never acknowledged how much damage I really did to you.” 

“Kara, we don’t—”  

“No, Lena, you were right before. We need to talk about this. Let me, okay? We might as well get all the tears out in one go.” 

Lena huffs out a half-laugh, but her throat feels thick with anticipation. Kara is quiet, formulating her thoughts for a long moment before she speaks again. 

“I told myself I was protecting you. Before. That you would be in less danger if you didn’t know who I really was.” She takes a deep breath. “But you’ve been in danger because of me since the beginning. You’ve helped me, protected me, sacrificed for me— you just didn’t always know that it was for me.” 

Images flash before Lena’s eyes so fast it makes her dizzy. The sickening rush to finish Supergirl’s anti-kryptonite suit. A plane plummeting over the Kaznian wilderness. Mercy Graves and her great big gun. Lena shivers. 

“But don’t you see? You still did it. Even when I was only Supergirl to you, even when we— weren’t seeing eye to eye. You never once let me down. And even, even when you found out and you hated me enough to destroy me, you didn’t. You never revealed my identity and you— you were always there when the world needed you, no matter how much it hurt.” 

Lena swallows hard past the lump in her throat. Blue eyes meet green head on. 

“I was so scared of telling you because I thought I would lose you. But now I see, I always had you.” Kara scrunches her eyebrows, shakes her head. “Like, both sides of me. Kara Danvers and Supergirl have both had you in their corner all along. I should have trusted that much sooner.” 

Kara is no longer fiddling with the pillow in her lap. Her gaze is unwavering and she leans forward, closing the distance between them. 

“And even— Rao, even with Leviathan. I was so cold to you when you showed up at my apartment, and you, you went and took a freaking kryptonite dagger to the chest rather than let Andrea get to me! Don’t—” She raises her eyebrows in warning at Lena’s mouth opening. “Don’t. I know exactly what you said to her. I could hear you, even in there.” 

Lena’s tongue feels too big for her mouth, her words somersaulting over themselves. “I only— I only did what anyone would have—”  

“But it’s not like it’s just this one time, Lena!” Kara runs her hand through her hair, tugging hard at golden curls. Lena tries not to let her breathing hitch at the sight she’s still not fully accustomed to, Supergirl’s face over Kara Danvers’ sweatpants, knowing it would be picked up by Kryptonian hearing.  

Kara sighs, and it sounds like resignation. “This is how it is, every time, in every universe.” 

Lena shakes her head, frowning. “What do you—?”  

And so Kara tells her. Mxyzptlk and the do-over and all the ways it could have been, each and every confession and heartbreak and scar and goodbye. Lena listens, reeling. Tries hard to focus on what Kara is saying and not on the knowledge that this woman sitting on her couch, who lost the man she loved, her parents, her entire world when she was just a child , would use her one and only magic genie reboot on her.    

It's quiet for a long time when Kara finishes. Lena sits silently, absorbing, assimilating. Kara gets up at some point, and a few moments later a pot of tea appears on the coffee table. Kara lets it brew, pours it delicately, and presses a mug into Lena’s cold hands.  

They sit, side by side but not touching, staring out at the rain pelting Kara’s windows for another long moment before the blonde speaks again.  

“You and me, we save each other. We just do. Promises and sacrifice and protection. It's who we are. It's what we are to each other. I think— I think I’ve finally decided to stop fighting that.” 

Lena nods slowly. She’s been coming to a similar conclusion herself of late. She bites her lip, tries for levity past the gravel in her throat. “A Luthor and a Super.” 

Kara’s face turns towards her at last, solemn and sorry and beautiful. “No. Kara and Lena.”  

 

They’re not perfect, she and Kara. Words screamed across a darkening desert, confessions murmured around throw pillows, they don’t work some cleansing magic and suddenly set everything right between them. But they’ve made a start, they’re making progress, and for the first time it feels like they’re building on a solid foundation no longer webbed through with the cracks of words unsaid.  

That doesn’t mean the going is easy. It’s not. Kara’s avoidance manoeuvres, her tendency to evade difficult conversations combines with Lena’s default setting of suspicious insecurity to produce a Molotov cocktail of misunderstandings. 

They fight. Big fights, bad fights, digging up the graveyard of past grievances and using the freshly tilled earth to entrench themselves deeper on opposite sides of a battlefield.  

They don’t speak, sometimes, for days. Supergirl may be the image of measured restraint but Kara Zor-El, Lena learns, can be just as impulsive and stubborn as she is. And Lena’s anger flares hot, sometimes, hot enough to burn brands into Kara as surely as if she had laser vision. But when it cools, when she’s left alone, a familiar chill will settle over her, the unshakeable fear that the darkness that lurks at her core has finally managed to scare away the best thing she’s ever had. 

But there are, there are good days. Days when Lena rejects every dark thought in her head and chooses to see the light instead. Days when Kara wields her care for Lena like a balm, covering every inch of her with it, forcing Lena’s guarded heart to absorb it through every crack, every scar. 

Like when Kara lands uninvited on her office balcony after Lena has dodged her texts all day, after her mother’s surprise visit to L-Corp has dragged every one of her ugliest insecurities screaming into the sunlight. Like when she promptly ignores Lena’s automatic attempts to push her away and plonks down beside her on the couch anyway, wraps an arm around her shoulders. Like when she sits quietly until Lena’s ready to talk, then sits quietly some more until Lena’s all talked out, all the shame and rejection dug up by Lillian’s presence laid bare between them, and Kara doesn’t leave.  

She doesn’t leave. Lena says as much, in a tone laced with wonder and disbelief and just a hint of waiting for the other shoe to drop. Reminds the blonde that she doesn’t have to deal with Lena’s messes, with the mess that is Lena. That she doesn’t have to stay. 

Kara only chuckles, half-fond, half-sad, raps her knuckles feather-light against Lena’s forehead. 

“When is that genius brain of yours going to get it? I’m choosing this.” 

She cuts herself off but Lena hears her next words anyway, feels them score themselves onto her heart. I’m choosing you.   

So, no. They’re not perfect. But, truthfully, Lena’s always found perfection a little overrated anyway. 

 

Lena spends an entire morning when she should be going over rebranding strategies online book shopping instead. She arranges for a woodworker to come in and custom-build floor to ceiling shelves, spends hours ordering every book she’s ever loved, every work she’s ever even thought about reading, and a couple more besides. 

They’re all there waiting for her when she gets home the next evening. The physics textbooks that got her through college, the poetry she and Jack used to recite to one another to see who had the better memory, every novel that offered an escape from the lonely reality of her childhood.  

She organises them all by author, then brews herself a pot of tea and rearranges them again by the colour of their spines. She’s putting the finishing touches to the colour spectrum splashed across her living room wall when Kara knocks, takeaway in hand, bubbling over with stories of her day. 

Lena sits, absorbing it all, feeling warm and free of pain for the first time in a long time. Kara gets a little too over-excited demonstrating her ‘talent’ of throwing pot-stickers across the room and then superspeeding over to catch them in her mouth, accidentally knocking Lena’s full mug of tea all over the new white pashmina rug. 

She’s apologetic and adorable in her haste to find cleaning supplies, splinters one of the new kitchen cupboards and doesn’t even notice as she roots through it for stain remover and Lena thinks, now . Now this is home. 

 

She keeps going back to game night. 

It's still hard, but it's getting easier. The truces painstakingly constructed between her and each one of the Superfriends feel stronger with every joke that she's not the punchline of, every squeeze of her shoulder and comfortable silence and knowing, inclusive smile. 

And just as her new apartment is beginning to feel more like a place in which she belongs, not just exists, so too is Kara's. It had been almost a home, once; perhaps it can be again. When the games subside and the last of the stragglers leave and it's just she and Kara left in the hush of the candlelight, that possibility feels more present than it has in months. 

Kara busies herself brewing a pot of herbal tea in the kitchen and Lena takes the opportunity to reacquaint herself with the space in relative privacy, in comfort. 

It soothes her that Kara's apartment is largely unchanged from before everything fell apart. It feels like a promise, somehow. A physical reassurance that what once was can be again. That nothing here is lost irrevocably. 

Fingertips trailing the throw tossed over the back of the couch, her eyes catch on the photos strung up on twine around Kara's bedroom. Her stomach twists at the memory of the gaps she'd glimpsed a few weeks ago, the conspicuous holes where pictures had been removed.  

Braced against it this time, her gaze tracks the string as it loops beneath endless fairy lights only this time, the spaces have been filled. The photos that had been removed, the photos of Lena, are back. Group shots and Christmas snaps and mementos of game nights, escape rooms, amusement parks and bowling alley photo booths, 

There's more now, too. New rows have been added, more twine looping the circumference of Kara's bedroom. More photos dangle from it, candid and blurry and laughing and pensive and everything in between and all of them, all of them Lena. Sometimes with Kara, deep in conversation or curled close on the couch or with heads thrown back in laughter, but sometimes of Lena alone, too. 

She wonders where Kara got all these, where she's been keeping them all this time. She wonders if she might be able to get copies of the snaps of the two of them. Her own apartment could do with a few more artfully placed frames as well. 

What Lena doesn't wonder is why these photos have reappeared, or why now. She's seen the way Kara's watched her ever since their sojourn to the desert. She's been watching her the same. 

She doesn't need to wonder, not about that. She knows. 

 

Tea brewed, Kara presses a mug into Lena's hands and beckons her out to the balcony beside the fire escape. Above the glow of the city lights the moon is waning, a clear bright sliver hanging heavy in the sky. 

Leaning side by side against the iron railing, they gaze out at the darkness. Lena cups her palms around her tea, warming them in the chill of the night air. The quiet is calm, companionable, and she finds herself loathe to break it. 

Long moments pass before either of them speak, but then— 

“What do you think sacrifice means?” 

Her brow pinches. “What?” 

The blonde won't meet her gaze. “Like, what does it mean to you?” 

Lena tilts her head, watching Kara's profile in the dim light. The blonde's gaze is still on the city spread out before them, a serious slant to her jaw and brow. 

Swallowing hard, hedging for time, her answer is soft. “What are you asking?” 

“Love doesn't always mean sacrifice, I don't think.” Kara's voice is equally soft, barely a whisper on the night breeze. “But sacrifice always means love. I've spent my whole life believing that. I— I have to believe that.” 

The blonde's gaze drops to her own hands, fingers twisting and wringing, tugging lightly at newly healed skin. 

“I would sacrifice a lot for you, Lena,” she breathes. “Anything, probably. My secret. My hands. Myself.” 

“Kara.” 

At last, blue eyes lift to meet green. Lena swallows down the boulder in her throat. “What are you saying?” 

Kara's teeth work against her bottom lip. “I know what I'm saying,” she replies cryptically. “I know what sacrifice means to me. But I'm not the one who fashioned themselves into a human shield against a kryptonite knife. I'm not the one who almost died protecting someone who'd spent the last two months treating her like a villain.” 

Lena's mouth opens, then closes again. Kara is watching her so carefully, so intently, that it feels as though she's being stripped bare by nothing more than the weight of her gaze. 

“You asked me once if I'm still here, still with you, out of a sense of obligation. Because I felt I owed you something. And I guess I also need to know— is that why you've stayed?” Nerves leach into the blonde's voice, trepidation colouring her tone. 

“Is that why you put yourself between me and Andrea?” Kara asks, as though if she could only make the words quiet enough, she might not have to hear the answer, either. “Because I'd spent weeks yelling at you, punishing you, telling you I couldn't forgive you?” 

Lena's heart somersaults against the barrier of her clenched teeth. “Kara—” 

“You stepped in front of a dagger, Lena,” the blonde interrupts, soft and hesitant. Her throat works, a muscle in her cheek flickering in shadow. “So what I'm really asking is, what does that mean? What I'm really asking is, what are you saying?” 

Lena can only stare at her. She knows what Kara's asking. She knows her own answer. But saying it, actually giving voice to it after all this time and all the hurt between them— that, she doesn't know how to do. 

She stays silent and staring for so long that goosebumps erupt across her flesh as the breeze tugs insistently at her loose hair. Kara's eyes track her shivers, her gaze softening. 

“You're cold,” she breathes. “Come inside.” 

Something, possibly her heart, possibly her soul, is stuck unmoving behind Lena's teeth.  

“Kara—” 

"Lena.” The blonde's voice is gentle, so gentle. “Please. Come inside.” 

 

They bypass the couch entirely. Kara leads her straight to the bedroom, nudging her to sit on the end of the bed as she roots through a drawer for a thick knit cardigan to drape over Lena's shoulders. 

“I know, after everything we've— I know it's probably hard for you to feel comfortable, um.” Kara wrings her hands as she fumbles her words, perching so lightly on the corner of the mattress beside her that she may well be hovering. “I know you might not want to answer, not while there are things between us left unsaid.” 

Lena's brow furrows, mouth opening, but Kara gets there first. 

"Let me say them, okay? Just let me say them.” 

Lena nods, huddling deeper into the thick cardigan, hands fisting in too-long sleeves. 

“I told you once that I couldn't give you absolution,” Kara breathes, hushed and earnest. “And maybe I can't. But not because I don't want to. Because— because it's not mine to give.” 

Lena's throat tightens. Already, she can feel the warning prickle of tears behind her eyes. 

Kara worries at her lip with her teeth. Hesitates in a long moment of indecision before reaching out, tentatively covering Lena's tensed knuckles with her fingers. 

“I forgive you, Lena,” she breathes, eyes wide and shining in the glow of innumerable fairy lights. “I think I did a long time ago. I forgive you for trying to break my heart after I broke yours. And I'm sorry, again. I'm sorry for how I handled my secret around you, and I'm sorry for how I handled the fallout afterwards.” 

Lena sits silent, struck dumb, as the vice that's been tightening to the point of agony around her chest for the past year suddenly releases in a rush of blissful relief. 

“I'm in no position to absolve you when I'm guilty of so much myself. A lot of what I said, what I did— I can't justify how I treated you,” Kara murmurs, guilt twisting at the corners of her mouth. "But I can justify the pain behind it. I was heartbroken, Lena. Not over the loss of a friend. Over— over the loss of the woman I love.” 

One or maybe both of them gasps as the words hit the air, shivering between them in a flood of heady revelation. 

“So, that's what I'm saying,” Kara finishes shakily, her expression dazed, a little punch-drunk. “I'm saying that for me, sacrifice always means love. I'm saying that I would do anything for you, Lena, would— would juggle kryptonite daggers if that's what you needed, and I'd do it because I love you. Because I'm in love with you.” 

Kara's breath shudders into her lungs, trembles back out again. Her face is so open, so vulnerable, so afraid.   

“And I guess what I'm asking,” she manages after an agonising pause, fingers fluttering anxiously atop Lena's own, “is whether that's what you're saying, too.” 

“Kara,” she manages, hushed and awed. “Kara. Oh, Kara.” 

It sounds like her heartbeat, and she cannot bear for it to stop. 

The blonde swallows, throat working. “So, um,” she breathes, wobbly and stilted. “Is that a—” 

“Yes,” Lena gasps, throwing herself across the distance between them and into Kara's arms. They tumble backwards onto the bed, a blissful amalgam of limbs and hair and love that she'd be more than happy never to untangle. 

“Yes,” she chants, pressing herself into Kara like her body is a home built just for her. “Yes, yes, yes. That’s what I'm saying. That's what I've always been saying, Kara. Always.” 

“Truly?” Kara manages from beneath her, mouth full of Lena's hair, arms full of Lena. “Even— even after everything?” 

Lena screws her eyes shut, pressing herself tighter into the curve of Kara's body. Moulding herself to fit there perfectly. It doesn't take much. 

“I could ask you the same.” 

"Lena.” Kara's fingers smooth against her hair, trip over her waist. “Sweetheart. You literally took a knife to the chest for me.” 

She pulls back, then, just enough for their gazes to meet. “And I'd do it again,” she says without hesitation, blunt and blisteringly honest. 

“Don't get me wrong, I'd prefer not to,” she hums as the blonde's expression twists in pained disapproval. “But I would, Kara. Of course, of course I see sacrifice as an act of love. I knew what I was doing, and why, and I'd do it again in a heartbeat.”  

She forces herself to keep meeting the blonde's gaze, never wavering for a moment. Kara had been brave enough to start this conversation. She can be brave enough to finish it.  

“I love you,” she says, firm and sure and so, so happy. “I love you, and I forgive you, and I love you. I love you more than I've ever loved anything, and the thought that I'd lost you before I ever really had you— well, you saw. I didn't, ah. Handle it with as much grace as I might have.” 

"Neither did I,” Kara groans, tightening her grip on Lena's body and burying her face in her hair. “Fuck, Lena, when I saw what Andrea had done to you, when I thought that you might not— that you were going to—” 

She chokes off with a whimper and Lena crowds into her hard, soothing them both with the reassurance of pressure, of warmth. Kara's fingers skate beneath her cardigan, beneath her shirt, tracking the ladder of her ribs to the jagged line of the scar still prominent against her skin. 

"Hey, hey, it's okay,” Lena hums as the blonde's fingertips stroke the healing skin with a touch so gentle it feels almost holy. “I'm still here. We're still here. We save each other, yeah? That's what we do. And I'd say we're pretty damn good at it. Nevertheless—”  

She cuts off with a gasp as Kara flips them suddenly, laying Lena gently on her back and nudging her shirt up around her ribs, replacing the tender fingers tracing Lena's scar with lips that are more tender still. 

“Nevertheless,” Lena manages around a breathy whine she doesn't bother trying to hold back, burying her fingers in golden curls. “What do you say we try to avoid the necessity for a while?” 

Kara's mouth lifts from Lena's skin, blown-wide pupils locking with her own as she raises her head. 

“You asked me to be safe,” Lena breathes, stroking a thumb over the proud line of the blonde's cheekbone. “I'm asking you the same. I know we save each other, but it'd be nice if we didn't always need to.” 

Slowly, torturously slowly, the length of Kara's body slides against hers until they're face to face once more. 

“Deal,” she breathes, sweet and simple and lovely. Her hands come up, framing Lena's face with the lightest of caresses. "Lena. Lena Luthor. Saviour, soulmate, love of my life. Can I kiss you?” 

“If you don't,” Lena says solemnly, scratching her short nails lightly over Kara's scalp as she tugs her closer, “I may die.” 

Kara explodes into laughter just as their mouths meet, a messy clash of lips and teeth and tongue and panting breath intermingled with pure, unadulterated joy. 

“That joke,” the blonde giggles against Lena's mouth, nipping playfully at her lower lip, "was about twenty years too soon.” 

“Noted,” Lena deadpans, linking her fingers at Kara's nape to pull her in. She kisses her soundly, all firm pressure and wet heat and sucking gasps and so much brazen adoration there'll never be room for doubt between them again. 

Pulling back at last, blushing and breathless, she nuzzles her nose against the down-soft skin of Kara's cheek. “Do be sure to let me know when it's appropriate to try it again, won't you?” 

Dazed blue eyes blink open, widening as the promise of Lena's words sinks in. 

“I can do that,” she breathes, flushed and grinning. She sweeps Lena's hair back off her forehead, tucking it sweetly behind her ears. “Now, I have an important question. If I want to get to Supergirl—” 

She ducks her head, sealing their lips together in another bruising kiss. “Does that mean,” she husks, hands searing a scalding path over the exposed skin of Lena's chest, “that I still get to go through you?” 

At Kara's suggestively waggling eyebrows Lena shrieks, then laughs, then kisses Kara, then finally, decisively, outlaws any and all near-death-experience-related pickup lines for the rest of their mortal lives. 

It's just one more sacrifice Kara's more than willing to make for her.