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No sign of life.

That's what Brainy had said, reading from his scan back at the DEO, right before Kara had punched a hole clean through the nearest monitor. That's what he'd said at least twice more through her comms as she'd forced her way out of the DEO, out into the sting of the night air, out into a world gone dark.

No sign of life.

The words echo through her skull, reverberating in the hinge of her clenched-tight jaw. They don't feel real.

But when Kara touches down in the smouldering ruins of what was once Mount Norquay, no sign of life feels very real indeed.

The bunker is gone. Half the mountain is gone, a charred wound of twisted metal and melted rock. Nothing has survived Claymore 3's blast. Not snow, nor steel, nor stone. Not— not Lena.

Lena is gone.

Something is building inside of Kara, something hot and vicious and searing. Her boots scuff through rubble, through cracked supports and shattered worktops and exposed wiring still live, still sparking. Across the crater, buried beneath chunks of granite and an enormous slab of industrial concrete, pale fingers peek through the debris.

Kara flashes hot-cold from the soles of her feet to the very top of her skull. Adrenaline thuds through her muscles, sweat breaking out on her forehead. In the space of a heartbeat she's bent double, emptying the contents of her stomach onto the smoking mountainside.

The universe ends and another begins in the time it takes Kara to unstick her boots from the earth, to cross the barren waste to the hand lying limply in the dirt. She knows, as surely as she knows her own name, that if she overturns this rock to find Lena's face, her precious, beautiful face mangled and broken by the force of the blast, she will never recover.

With that knowledge lodged like a knife in her trachea, Kara lifts the slab.

 

It's not Lena.

The face beneath the mangled concrete had once belonged to Eve Teschmacher, but it hasn't been hers in a while. Hope had been an AI, not a sentient being, so the sight of her body on this cliffside maybe shouldn't feel like a loss. Still, it does.

No sooner has Kara lifted the slab from the body then she's retching again, the bitter burn of stomach acid all her hollow insides can muster.

Hollow. That's how she feels. Empty and reeling, an echoing shell in the darkness. A vessel devoid of something vital, missing the essence essential to life.

Her gaze catches on a flare of colour in the otherwise grey-black destruction. Beneath a chunk of granite the size of a small car a flash of red pulls her vision and her throat tightens, saliva pooling pre-emptively in her mouth as her body anticipates another round of vomiting.

But it's not blood. Not crimson but deeper, darker. Maroon against grey; fabric, not liquid.

It's Lena's coat, she realises. Lena's long woollen pea coat, the same one she'd worn to so many brunches and game nights and sleepovers in Kara's bed. The same one Kara had traced her fingers over through their many hugs, the same one permanently tinged with a faint hint of Lena's perfume.

Kara is trembling so hard her teeth click together rhythmically. She can't do this. She can't turn over another stone and find blood this time, find Lena this time.

One coat, one body, it's enough. It's too much, already. So much more than she could ever hope to withstand.

No sign of life, Brainy had said.

Lena is here, there's no doubt about that. She was in this bunker alongside Hope when the blast from the satellite canon hit. She was maybe even wearing the very coat Kara can't now tear her eyes from. So. Lena's here. But she's not— she won't be Lena anymore.

There's nothing Kara can do for her. Nothing she could find beneath this rubble that would help either of them, now.

No sign of life.

With those words, that death sentence ringing in her ears, Kara turns and flees.

 

The first thing she does is rip out her comms.

Brainy's voice still chirps weakly in the earpiece, J’onn's and Nia's too. They're telling her to be careful, telling her they're sorry. Asking her to come home.

Alex doesn't say a word. Kara's sure she's there, listening, but she doesn't say a word. That's what makes her tear out her earpiece the second she's clear of the blast site, makes her drop it somewhere over the unending dark of the Canadian Rockies.

Even her sister's silence down the line is too much proximity for Kara right now.

The second thing she does is fly into space. Shoots up, straight up, pushes and keeps pushing until she's breaking through the troposphere, the stratosphere, the mesosphere. It's only when she hits the deadening cold of the thermosphere that she slows, in search of her target.

Her suit, seeming to sense her sudden drop in temperature, her sudden lack of oxygen, deploys her anti-Kryptonite shell without instruction. The helmet clicks into place, dark visor covering her vision just as her eyes land on the nearby satellite she'd been seeking.

Kara sees red.

She only has this suit because of Lena. Lena had built in these protections, these safeguards, a year and a lifetime ago. Had apparently programmed the suit to care for Kara even when she wouldn't, or couldn't, do it herself. Even when Lena couldn't do it herself.

And now Lena is dead, and she died hating Kara, and neither of them will ever care for anything again.

Kara flies at Claymore 3 like a banshee. Gloved hands make contact with titanium and aluminium, silver silicon solar panels crumbling into nothing. She rips and tears, shredding the satellite canon limb from limb, crushing each component part into a dust so fine it will pose no risk to the planet when it re-enters the atmosphere.

When she's through, there's nothing left. She doesn't stop until Claymore 3 is just like Lena. Just like Kara herself.

Gone.

The whole process takes less than two minutes, but even that is long enough for her muscles to burn, her lungs to scream out for air. Lena's design, for all its miracles, is no spacesuit, and for all that Kara's lung capacity far outstrips that of any human, even she can't continue without oxygen much longer.

She plummets back towards the planet's blue glow, tears crystallising into ice in the corners of her eyes. She feels heat build against her suit as she plunges through the Ozone layer but she's not going fast enough to burn up entirely. More's the pity.

Once she's back in relatively breathable oxygen levels Kara slows, ripping off her helmet to gulp in great lungfuls of air. She still can't breathe, and the knowledge of how hard her body's straining, how ardently it's fighting to keep her alive, makes her sick to her stomach.

Why should she live, now? Why should she live when Lena does not?

She stares at the helmet in her hands. Lena might have intended for it to save Kara's life, once upon a time, but there's no doubt her feelings on the subject had changed. In the months before her death she'd hated Kara. Hated her enough to lie to her, to steal from her, to use Kryptonite on her.

To use Lena's technology now to keep herself alive, when she can no longer say with certainty that that's something Lena would have wanted, feels like a betrayal. It's one more act of treachery to add to the pile, and she finds she can't do it. She can't profit from Lena, can't use what they used to be to one another for her own benefit, with Lena no longer around to consent.

She won't hurt Lena, not even the memory of her. Not again.

With a breath too deep in lungs still too starved, Kara slackens her grip and lets the helmet fall.

She watches it sink toward the great blue-green canvass of the planet below. In seconds it's nothing more than a pinprick in the distance. She gasps, straining for air as her eyes fill with tears, and suddenly she can't do that, either.

Whatever their recent history, this suit was fashioned by Lena's hands. It's something she'd poured her mind and her care and her genius into. It's something she made, it's something of her, and now, with the source gone forever— Kara would be a fool to lose this as well.

She hurtles after the dwindling speck of the helmet, harder and faster until she's half-dead with the effort, until she's retching and choking and the precious, precious thing is there in her hands once more.

High above the ink-grey of the pre-dawn California horizon, Kara cradles her helmet to her cheek and cries.

 

She doesn't know what to do.

There's nothing she can do, not anymore, but the restless, frenetic, unbridled despair coursing through her muscles like lightning through water doesn't allow for inactivity. Not for long.

After battering one military-grade satellite cannon into nothing, Kara turns her attention to the mountains. It doesn't matter which. The Rockies, the Andes, the Himalayas— any significant chunk of solid rock will do, when her only goal is to pummel it into pulp.

It's fine, for a while. But the novelty of smashed stone wears off quickly, becomes something a little too close to exactly the memories she's trying to avoid, so she abandons that plan.

Melting vast swathes of desert into magma and sharp, crystalline glass with extended bursts of laser vision comes next. Again, only good for a short while before she's onto the next thing. She barrels her body clean through the Earth's crust, thumps a few dozen handfuls of carbon into diamond with her bare fists, whips up a few cyclones over the prairies, to no avail.

Nothing she tries does anything to lessen the intensity of the screaming void in the centre of her chest, the bloody cavity where her heart used to be.

Shuddering, and crying, and half-mad with a pain she's always known she'd never be able to shoulder, not again, not with her, she stops. Just— stops, somewhere high over the grasslands of southern Manitoba. Stops pushing, stops fighting, and drops like a stone.

The crater she blasts into the earth upon impact is sizeable, but no one's around to see it. Breathless, winded, broken, she considers her next move.

Beating unsuspecting wilderness into submission is mildly cathartic, sure, but it's not productive. Not in any way that counts. There is only, Kara realises with a leaden, dragging surety, one thing she could do now that would mean anything at all.

Lena is gone. All Kara can do is make sure that the forces responsible now follow suit.

 

She flies first to the DEO desert facility.

Its staffing is sparse, its defences sparser still. It takes a matter of seconds for Kara to barrel through the long-range missile bunker, the surface-to-air proto cannons, the watch tower and the armoury and every other vaguely weapon-shaped object in a three-mile vicinity.

She's still spitting Canadian dirt from beneath her tongue when she touches down in the DEO headquarters. Her desert sojourn had barely lasted minutes; in fact, she makes it back to National City before news of her escapades.

Alarms start blaring almost the moment she lands, but Kara pays them no mind. She goes first to the weapons store; spends a satisfying few minutes methodically crushing every bomb and gun and blade and grenade into powder, into nothing, into dust.

Agents appear in the doorway, armed and shocked and yelling, but she pays them no mind, either. There's nothing they can do to her, anyway. Their shouts are meaningless, their sonic cannons nothing compared to the deathly ringing in her ears. Their blasts and batons and bullets don't hurt half as much as the pain in her heart.

When she finishes in the weapons store, she moves to the control room. She flattens a few agents on the way, she thinks. She's not going out of her way to hurt anyone, but neither is she prepared to be stopped. Neither is she in any sort of mood for mercy.

The bank of computers, the wall of screens, they bubble and melt with a satisfying sizzle beneath the blaze of her white-hot gaze. She plunges her hands into the semi-liquid plastic, crunching each motherboard beneath her nails for good measure.

The shouting, the screams and alarms and projectiles whipping around her intensify, the maelstrom of which she finds herself the centre reaching fever pitch. Rubber bullets bounce harmlessly from her back and shoulders. Laser cannons bite through her suit, ripping jagged wounds into the fabric while leaving the skin beneath untouched.

She hears the crackle of electricity and turns to see a row of agents in riot gear advancing on her with batons held aloft, the same kind that had been used to subdue Reign. It's only then that she catches sight of anyone she recognises.

J’onn is shepherding unarmed agents out of the command centre, shouting commands she cannot hear. She feels his psychic powers probing the edges of her mind, feels the calming aura in which he's trying to envelop her, but he can't touch her now.

Brainy is screaming. He's facing her across the smoking carnage of the room, half-shielding himself behind an overturned desk. His expression is ragged, desperate, and so, so sorry. He's trying to talk her down, she thinks, from somewhere deep inside the bubble encasing her body and mind. Trying to reason with her. Convince her to stop.

At the certainty that he will fail, Kara feels a stab of something that could almost, almost be regret.

It's gone in a heartbeat. The wall of agents armed with shock sticks is almost upon her. Kara whips down the line, knocking weapons from hands so quickly the humans register nothing more than a blur of smoke and reddish gold.

A symphony of cracks and crunches accompanies her. Batons hitting the floor, she thinks distantly. Casing shattering. Maybe a few bones. In this moment, she cannot find it within herself to feel sorrow. In this moment, she cannot find it within herself to feel anything at all.

The blaring alarm grates on the exposed roots of her shorn nerves. She plunges one hand into the central control panel on the wall. Up to the elbow in plaster and wiring, she rips out the circuitry, laser visions the alarm casings themselves for good measure.

The impact seems to trip every failsafe the building possesses. Every door slams shut as the building locks itself down, every sprinkler turning on automatically and it's then, through the smoke and the downpour and the hissing steam of water hitting livewires, that Kara sees her.

Alex stands motionless on the far side of the control centre, the only static figure in a mêlée of frantic movement. She ignores the water plastering her hair to her forehead, doesn’t seem to notice the agents looking to her for instruction. She only watches Kara, silent and still.

Alex's gaze catches her own, brown eyes meeting blue, and the look on her sister's face isn't asking why? The look on her sister's face says I know.

Suddenly tiring of the noise and commotion, Kara spreads her arms. Brings her palms together in a clap, just one, the sonic boom a shockwave that shakes the building to its foundations. The room falls blissfully silent as every human in close proximity is levelled, those further out left staggering and clutching their ears.

The force of the blast sends cracks spidering through the concrete, dust raining down from the shuddering ceiling. In the outer reaches of her peripheral vision she watches J’onn and Brainy notice them in the same moment she does, watches a fresh shade of urgency paint itself over their faces.

They begin yelling orders, tugging felled agents to their feet and shoving them towards the sealed exit. J’onn materialises them through in droves as Brainy rounds up the stragglers and spreads the word, evacuating the building's life force before the walls can come crashing down around them.

Alex, though. Alex doesn't move.

She ignores Brainy, ignores J’onn, ignores everything but Kara's eyes on hers. Her lips move, the sounds lost amidst the panic, the words intelligible nonetheless.

“I'm sorry.”

A growl more suited to a cornered beast than her own vocal cords rips free from Kara's throat. Fists clenched, entire body trembling, her lips pull back in a visceral snarl.

“You killed her.”

Alex doesn't flinch. Only presses the tip of her tongue to the ridge of her teeth, biting down hard enough to bleed. “Kara, I'm sorry.”

Dust from the ceiling mingles with rubble from the smoking mountainside, coalescing in thick grey streaks beneath the tattered rips in her suit.

"Don't speak to me,” she says mechanically, the brutal rasp of her tone unfamiliar even to her ears. “Don't say my name. I don't even know you. I'm only here—”

Half a support beam, a chunk of concrete the size of a small car, plummets from the ceiling and crushes the rubble between them into atoms. Neither one of them blinks.

“I'm only here,” she says again, gravelly and cracking, “to make sure you can never do to another person what you've done to her. To make sure, Alexandra Danvers, that you can never hurt anyone again.”

“I had no choice,” Alex breathes, inaudible amidst the chaos. It hits Kara louder than a thunderclap. “She left me no choice. But I'm still— Kara, I'm so sorry.”

It's almost worse, Kara thinks detachedly, that she's sorry. It would almost be easier if she were unapologetic, apathetic. To know that her sister could resent the choice she'd made, could regret it, and could make it anyway— that, somehow, is worse.

More pieces of the DEO crumble around them. Kara can't breathe.

She hasn't been able to breathe since her boots had touched down amid the ruins of Mount Norquay. No— since Claymore 3 had fired, since Alex's fingers had pressed that button. Since she'd watched one of the two most important people in her life consciously, deliberately, destroy the other. Or before that, even. Since she'd learned of Lena's plans with Non Nocere. Since Lena's fingers had closed around Myriad in the Fortress of Solitude. Since Kara had lied and lied and lied, since the first day she'd looked Lena in the eye and smiled, hi. I'm Kara Danvers.

Kara can't— she can't fucking breathe. It's agonising. It's terrifying. And yet, she knows she would give every last breath in her lungs, if it would mean just one more of Lena's.

“You killed her.” She doesn't know where the words are coming from. Only that she can't stop them. “She was the most— she was my best friend. She was mine, Alex. And you— you killed her.” Her voice cracks like a planet, like a world. “How could you do that?”

“She left me no choice,” Alex repeats mechanically, a mantra of desperation. “She'd, she'd turned a corner. She wasn't Lena anymore. She, she was dangerous. She hurt you, Kara, she hated us—”

“Do not say my name,” she snaps, the chill in her tone raising gooseflesh on her own arms. “And don't fucking say hers. I would have her hate me for the rest of her life, if it meant she'd have a life.”

Alex's composure cracks, her face crumpling. One pale hand reaches out, straining across the distance between them. “Please, I—”

“Her hating me means more to me than every single person in the entire fucking galaxy loving me,” Kara says, screams, howls. Her cheeks are wet, alkaline and burning. “Do you understand that? At least when she hated me I still— I still had her.”

“Please,” Alex chokes. “Please. I'm so—”

“I don't know you. I do not know who you are,” Kara realises, and if she had the capacity to feel any more pain right now, that epiphany would scorch more sharply than kryptonite through her veins. “And now?”

The rumble of impending collapse is growing. More concrete slams down around them, the integrity of the building, of their relationship, compromised beyond repair.

“Now,” she breathes, spitting plaster from her lips, “I know I don't want to.”

And then she's moving, cutting through the sealed nth metal doors like a warm knife through butter, shooting into the air above National City.

She's barely made it up a hundred feet when what's left of the DEO collapses beneath her.

 

It's all over the news.

Supergirl's rampage, the destruction at the desert facility, the carnage and injury and devastation at the DEO's headquarters— it's all the city's media outlets can talk about. Kara sees it all, the headlines and the outrage and the accusations, splashed across the wall-mounted flatscreen in Lena's living room.

She'd come here straight from the wreckage. Unearthed Lena's spare key from a lifetime ago and sealed herself inside the mausoleum of this apartment, cut off from everything but the relics of her.

The entire DEO is gone, along with most of the surrounding city block. There are injuries, the news reports, but nothing fatal.

Alex survived. If the lack of a death toll wasn't confirmation enough, there's a glimpse of her in the background of the live footage, soot-streaked and bloody, held upright by Brainy and J’onn.

Kara pauses the feed, freezes it on her sister's face. Stares at it for a long time, unblinking, and feels— nothing. Joy and relief clash sharply with the titans of grief and fury in her chest, cancelling one another out until the net result of her emotional response is a pure and neutral nothingness.

Lena's apartment smells the same. Cool and airy, a chill that might border on sterility were it not undercut with the faint blush of fresh plumerias on the sideboard, the cloying sweetness of chamomile tea in the kitchen, the lingering musk of expensive perfume.

It looks the same, too. Kara hasn't been here in weeks now, months. Not since— before. But her surroundings are largely unchanged from what she remembers, neat and tidy enough that were it not for the scant signs of life, she could be standing in a showroom.

A pair of Lena's heels stand by the door. One is lying on its side, incongruous in the space of tidy angles and neat corners. A blanket lies crumpled on one end of the couch cushions. Lena must have fallen asleep under it, Kara realises, before stumbling bleary-eyed to bed. That's the only possible excuse for her not having folded it straight away, arranging it carefully over the backrest.

It doesn't seem possible that Lena will never come back here.

The succulents along the windowsill are still freshly watered. A slate grey cardigan drapes across the back of one of the dining chairs. There's a faint ring the size of a wine glass on the polished marble countertop, another the diameter of a bottle beside it. How is it possible, Kara wonders, that Lena will never wipe them away?

She doesn't even realise she's crying until teardrops land fat and shining on the marks in question. Without thinking she grabs the cloth draped over the tap, wipes and wipes and wipes until the surface gleams so sharply she can see the ghost of her own desperate gaze in it.

A single clean mug stands upside down on the draining board. There's a cast iron Japanese teapot beside the sink, the dregs of a brew of Earl Grey calcifying in the bottom. Kara lifts it with reverent fingers, presses her mouth to the spout and drinks the cold remnants straight. The tea is over-brewed and frigid, bitter and acrid and so, so precious.

She feels, suddenly, like it isn't enough. Like she can't get enough of this place, cannot possibly soak every atom of it into her pores before the essence of Lena lingering in the air disappears forever, never to be replenished.

She folds the cloth with devout focus, replacing it over the bridge of the tap with trembling hands. Presses her palms to the couch cushions as if they might feel the indent of bodyweight still. Buries her nose in the softness of the cardigan, careful not to dilute the scent with her own pouring tears.

Before Kara knows what she's doing her suit is a crumpled pile on the tiled floor of Lena's en suite. She stands under the scorching blast of the waterfall shower and cries, and while she's crying she lathers Lena's shampoo through her ash-caked hair, works Lena's conditioner into the ends, smooths Lena's body wash over every inch of her skin as though her hands were Lena's instead. As though through sheer focus on the object, she might somehow conjure the owner.

When at last the water runs cold, she forces herself out onto the plush bathmat. She uses Lena's towel – not a fresh one from the linen cupboard, but the one hanging already used from the heated rail – and fancies she can smell her still. Not the soap, not the products, but her.

She finds one of Lena's many moisturisers atop the bathroom cabinet. Scoops a glob onto her fingertips, rubs it into her body anywhere she thinks she might be able to easily smell it, feel it. Anywhere she wants to feel like Lena is touching her still. Has to resist the urge to smear a little across her lips in the vain hope that she might finally, finally, taste her too.

The whir of Lena's remote-controlled bedroom blinds lowering is so familiar, so inextricably linked in Kara's mind to memories of tipsy post-movie night sleepovers, that the tears begin again with a vengeance. Not that they'd ever really stopped.

With the blinds fully lowered the room is dark, despite the insistent blaze of morning beyond them. Beneath Lena's pillow, the left one, on her side of the bed, she finds an oversize science camp t-shirt with a worn-ragged hem. She presses her face to it to breathe it in but doesn't put it on, unwilling to weaken Lena's lingering scent with her own.

She opts instead to slide naked between the sheets, the t-shirt crushed to her cheek, dazed and half-mad with it all and desperate, utterly desperate, to feel close to Lena however she can.

She doesn't think she can withstand this. She doesn't think, really, that she wants to.

She'd often wished that she'd died with her family, with her people, on Krypton. For all that her parents had intended mercy when they'd stood together on that launch pad, Kara's always found survival to be the crueller option, if it means surviving alone.

And now—

Now, she doesn't wish herself dead. Not exactly. She just wishes to be wherever Lena is. There, together, with her, whatever that might mean. Not— not left behind. Not again.

Tears crystallising on her cheeks, heart a gaping maw beneath her ribs, Kara buries herself in Lena and gives herself over to the blackness.

 

Time passes, and it doesn't, and it won't, and it won't stop.

Light turns to dark, to light to dark to light again. Kara drifts through Lena's apartment, pressing pieces of it inside herself as though her body is a palisade within which the essence of her can never be threatened, never be lost.

She sleeps in Lena's bed, wraps her bare body in the cool softness of the sheets and thinks about how she might have liked to have done this with another warm, nude body beside her. Thinks about how she'll never get the chance, and cries herself unconscious once more.

She pulls Lena's sweatshirt over her head and pads barefoot through the apartment, circling and circling like a revenant unceasing. She lays down on the softness of the living room rug, nails digging at the fibres as though she might cocoon herself inside them. She plucks a stalk of kale from the bunch in the fridge and chews it slowly, carefully, as she picks up the book lying on the coffee table and reads the page marked with the torn stub of a movie ticket. Reads it over and over and over again, internalises it, memorises it; this, the last page Lena ever read.

She turns on Lena's home media system, presses play without checking the song. Listens to Fleetwood Mac's Rumours four times through, half-buried in Lena's couch cushions, scream-sobbing the endless tide of grief in her throat into a soaked and crumpled dishtowel. She rubs Lena's chapstick into her lips, drinks from the water glass standing sentinel on Lena's bedside table, fitting her mouth exactly over the smudged imprints left by its previous user.

She rips Lena's phoneline out of the wall the third time the landline rings. Unplugs the wifi and bolts all the doors for good measure. Her own phone, she crushes into a compact mass of solid plastic without so much as glancing at the frantic outpouring of notifications, stepping out onto Lena's balcony and flinging it resoundingly into space.

It takes both too long and not long enough for the others to track her down. Somewhere between the unceasing shifts between light and dark that have punctuated her time in Lena's apartment, there's a knock at the balcony window.

“Don't—”

Her voice, hoarse from days – months? years? – of disuse, cracks on the first syllable. Clearing her throat, she tries again.

“Don't you dare try and come in here.”

She won't have anyone else in this space. No one else to sully, to contaminate, to waste away the scant echoes left to her. No one, no one, gets this of Lena. No one but her.

No one, not even Brainy and Nia. She can see them, standing uncertainly on the balcony, though they can't see her through the lowered blinds ringing the apartment. She knows they can hear her, though. Brainy's Legion ring glints in the waning sun.

“Kara, please.” Nia, eyes red-rimmed, voice tremulous. “We just want to talk to you.”

Kara works her thumbnail into the bare skin of her upper thigh, pressing and pressing until flesh yields to keratin. “There's nothing to say.”

"There is.” Nia's voice wavers. Through the shield of the drawn blinds, Kara watches Brainy take her hand. “We want to— to be there for you. To help you, if we can. And you know, we— we lost her, too.”

Yes, she thinks, barbarous and cruel. They'd lost her too. But Lena hadn't been theirs, not the way she'd been Kara's. They had never been hers.

Kara bites down on her tongue so she won't say something unbearably cruel that she'd only half-regret afterwards. After all, of all of them, Nia doesn't deserve to bear the brunt of her ire.

Alex hasn't come, she notices. Wise.

She says nothing, nail pressing deeper. In the darkness directly beneath her digging thumb no sunlight reaches her cells, no healing takes place. A drop of blood wells against her skin. Kara watches it, fascinated.

It's a long time before anyone speaks again.

“Kara, even if you don't want to talk to us about the past, there are still things we need to say,” Brainy tries at length, tagging a trembling Nia out with a squeeze of her fingers. “There's still the future.”

The blood wells, the droplet growing, shocking scarlet even in the gloom. If she'd had the energy, she might have scoffed. “What future?”

“Well—” Brainy flounders for a moment, and Kara remembers that he'd been there, too. He'd been there, when she'd begged Alex not to use Claymore. He'd been on her side, as she recalls. But he'd still been there. He'd still watched Alex push that button. He'd still let it happen.

Brainy flounders, and Kara is bitterly, sickeningly glad.

“Well, there's the funeral,” he manages at last, and Kara's breath catches in her throat like a knife slammed through her trachea. “Or memorial, or however you'd like to— we thought, after all, that it should probably be you who— though, of course, without a body—”

Kara's head snaps up so fast her neck cracks. Her nail falls away from her thigh, skin healing even as the droplet of blood begins to congeal. “What do you mean, without a body?”

“Well, there isn't one,” Brainy says nervously, shifting his weight from foot to foot. “We’ve looked everywhere at Norquay, through all the rubble, and there isn't a— a body. Lena isn't there.”

Invisible hands tighten around Kara's windpipe, squeezing, choking. “You mean she's— she's—”

She can't say it. Can't even think it, because that is a hope so savage, so jagged and serrated, that she would not survive it being ripped from her again.

She can't say it. She bites down hard on the inside of her cheek, clenches her jaw until tears sting her eyes, and says it.

“She's alive?”

Brainy flinches. Nia presses her lips together, staring up at the sky and blinking rapidly as if to hold back sobs. “We're not saying that.”

Kara's voice is rough as sandpaper, sharp as a whipcrack. “Then what are you saying?”

A long pause before either one of them is brave enough to answer.

“The satellite hit Mount Norquay with a concentrated blast equivalent to an atomic bomb. That kind of cannon can pulverise anything. Metal, concrete, stone.” Brainy's eyes flicker across the blank canvass of the drawn blinds as though searching for her face. “Carbon.”

Carbon, Kara thinks. Carbon, like a human body.

She engages without conscious thought, without even really meaning to. “But— Eve was there. Hope, I mean. I— I saw her in the wreckage.”

This time it's Nia that winces, the tears she's been fighting so valiantly winning their battle to skate down her cheeks.

Brainy shakes his head, his throat working. “I don't know what happened to Eve's body when she became an AI host, but she was no longer human,” he says haltingly. “That's not a good barometer against which to measure your expectations.”

“So what are you telling me?” Kara snaps, meagre patience wearing thin, bitter, treacherous hope curdling on her tongue. “Is Lena dead, or isn't she?”

“I'm not saying she's not dead,” Brainy says softly, so softly. “I'm saying there’s no body.”

 

She's silent for so long that eventually, interminably, Brainy and Nia leave.

Kara doesn't even bother watching them fly away. She's far too preoccupied by the foetal position she's tugged herself into, the shuddering of her limbs, the sleeve of Lena's sweatshirt pressed to her parted lips as though she could swallow the ghost it holds whole.

As if losing her isn't enough, now Kara doesn't even have a body to mourn. Now she'll never again be able to look upon Lena's face, run her knuckles along the arc of her cheekbone and her thumb across the plush of her bottom lip. Now she'll never again feel the silk of Lena's curls through her fingers; will never, even in death, press her mouth against that of the woman she can finally admit that she loves with the incandescent, desolate force of an imploding star.

Lena is dead. There's no body. Those two neat statements, those two simple facts contain so much injustice she cannot stand it. After endless hours of inactivity in Lena's apartment she feels again the pressing, burning, indefatigable need to do something. To tip the scales on this astronomical inequity, even just a little. To avenge her, somehow.

She starts by disrupting Obsidian North's virtual reality mainframe. Disrupting, of course, is nothing more than a tactful way of saying that she plunges her fists through the banks of computers until every flickering light in that great technological shrine goes dark.

It's nothing less than Andrea Rojas deserves, she thinks with a clinical kind of coldness as she easily evades the furious guards and shoots back into the sky. For the part her technology played in permitting Lena to slide further down the slope into darkness, but more importantly for the betrayal that had carved the first scars, laid the blueprint in Lena's heart for Kara's own.

Lillian Luthor's private apartment is next. The fancy silk hangings and luxurious carpeting smoulder in the flames lit by her laser vision, every last crystal bowl and figurine and chandelier shattering beneath her fists.

“If you'd ever shown her even the smallest bit of love,” Kara growls at the CCTV camera above the front door, just before she sets that ablaze, too. “If you'd been any kind of mother to her at all.”

The Luthor Mansion is the logical next step. She stalks its cold unfeeling halls, razing any last trace of Lena's mother and brother into nothing. She rips portraits and melts chessboards, ransacks wardrobes and shreds tapestries. Anything to exorcise the demons of Lena's tormenters from this place. Anything that might have even the vaguest, most distant hope of letting Lena rest easier in death than she ever had in life.

There's more she could do, probably, more revenge she could exact on Lena's behalf. But Kara finds herself exhausted suddenly, drained down to her marrow and yearning for the closeness, the illusory comfort of Lena's apartment, and so she decides to call it a day.

Back in the cool half-shadow of the penthouse Kara moves through the now-familiar routine: Lena's shower, Lena's shampoo, Lena's towel, Lena's moisturiser. She brews herself a mug of Lena's favourite chamomile tea and pulls Lena's faded grey mathletes spirit jersey over her head. It's the one item of Lena's clothing she's decided to sacrifice the scent of in order to wear it, to feel the worn fabric against her bare skin.

She doesn’t wait for the tea to cool before she takes a sip and it burns her throat as she swallows, at once soothing and scalding. Mouth smarting, heart still somehow breaking, she crawls back into bed.

 

She wakes to a muted sunset shimmering in around the edges of the blinds, and a flash of lurid purple against the shadowed far wall.

Mouth dry and eyes gummy, it takes her a moment to realise she is awake. In that second, that liminal, ethereal space before her higher faculties have kicked in, before the godawfulness of it all comes rushing back and she exists once more in a world in which Lena does, too, Kara is happy.

And then reality resumes, and everything turns to ash once more.

Flat on her back, loose hair tangled amongst Lena's copious pillows, she presses the back of her hand over her closed eyes and wills herself not to cry again.

And then there's a sharp intake of breath in the bedroom, and it doesn’t come from her. And Kara's eyes fly open so quickly she jabs herself in the cornea, and the dancing white spots in her stinging vision are only half the reason she doesn't believe what she's seeing.

The other half of the reason is the fact that what Kara is seeing is, in fact, Lena. Lena, in the flesh; the mussed, exhausted, unkempt totality of her. Lena, who is dead, who Kara would fight God to get back, is back. Back, and— and speaking.

“Kara?”

Kara's mouth drops open. She's pushed herself upright – Rao knows when; she certainly doesn't remember doing it – so that she may gape at Lena more comfortably, eyes roving every line of her body, every inch of her existence, trying ardently, desperately, to believe what they're seeing.

And then she's out of bed, once more without conscious thought, and stumbling across the dim room until they're toe to toe. Once she's at least partially assured – by heartbeat, rapid breathing, scent, warmth – that she's not hallucinating this, that Lena won't just disintegrate beneath her palms, she reaches out.

Her hand makes contact with skin. Honest to God soft, smooth, human skin, taught over the sharp cut of Lena's jaw. Kara's legs almost give out.

“What? But you're, I thought you were—” she breathes, breathless and blindsided. “When did— how did— how are you here?”

Lena's mouth opens, the hinge of her jaw working beneath Kara's fingers, and that in itself is confirmation enough.

“No, you know what? I don't care,” she breathes, left hand coming up to join the right, cupping Lena's face carefully in her palms. Her fingers curl against the regal column of her throat, probing for the heady thrum of her pulse, layer upon layer of reassurance.

“Lena,” she gasps like the invocation it is. “Lena. Lena, Lena. Oh, Lena.”

Their foreheads tilt together as though magnetised. The contact is not smooth, punctuated as it is by two sets of heaving breaths and trembling limbs. Lena's nose nudges her cheek, her jaw, the tip of her own, their faces brushing and caressing one another light as the touch of a feather.

Kara wants to keep her eyes open. Wants to keep Lena firmly in her sights lest she disintegrate again without warning. She finds that she can't, that her eyelids flutter closed quite without her permission at the delicate contact between them, her other senses heightened to absorb as much as possible of the woman before her.

She makes up for it with her litany of Lena's name, whispered over and over against her skin. If her open mouth brushes Lena's cheek, her brow, her eyelids, her lips, no force in the cosmos could blame her.

At length, when Kara is just beginning to embark on the journey of trusting that her senses are telling her the truth, aren't lying about the presence of the woman in her arms, Lena pulls back.

She doesn't go far, but she does place some – frankly unwelcome – space between their bodies, and Kara remembers that the last time they'd seen each other, really seen each other, Lena had told her in no uncertain terms to leave her alone. The sharp slap of recollection forces Kara back to herself with a start.

“What— what is happening?” she manages to ask after a long moment. “What are you doing here?”

Lena's brow quirks. “I might ask you the same.”

Her pointed gaze roves the bedroom, flitting from the rumpled sheets to the numerous sweatshirts buried amongst the pillows to the borrowed jersey Kara's wearing with precious little else beneath it.

The shirt is tighter around Kara's arms and shoulders than it would be on Lena, and shorter too. It barely brushes the tops of her bare thighs and she watches Lena's eyes trace the length of her legs, lingering a beat too long at the dark blonde apex.

Kara is conscious suddenly of the way her body strains beneath the borrowed jersey, the way her nipples are visible beneath the taut fabric in the chill of the room. She's conscious that Lena's conscious of these things too, her gaze heavy, her swallows weighted. Conscious, but unrepentant.

When it becomes clear that extended physical contact between them is not an option, Kara steps back far enough to sink down onto the edge of the mattress, shaking her head as she works her fingers through her tangled curls.

“I don't— I don't understand,” she murmurs, trying hard not to even blink for longer than absolutely necessary, keeping Lena captive within the prison of her stare. "What happened? How did you not—”

“Die?” Lena finishes sharply, the set of her jaw turning lethal. “It was a near thing, I'll tell you that for nothing. Luckily—” One finger taps the watch at her wrist; a single, decisive blow.

Kara's eyes slip closed. “You portalled.”

“I did.”

That must be how she's here now, Kara realises. Lucky indeed. Or at least, some twisted facsimile of it.

She blinks her eyes open again. “Where did you go? Where have you been all this time?”

“In hiding.” Lena's tone is brittle, acerbic and accusatory in near equal measure. “Once a covert government agency's launched one military grade satellite cannon at you, it's not too much of a stretch to expect another. Keeping a low profile has become something of a priority for me of late.”

Kara's stomach twists painfully. “But you didn't tell me,” she whispers, aware of her own petulance even as the words pass her lips. “You didn't tell me you were alive.”

Lena laughs, sharp and sour and stinging. “You mean, I didn't tell the person whose hologram was responsible for disabling my bunker's defences, thus allowing said satellite cannon to almost kill me, that she hadn't achieved her goal?”

That deathly ringing has started up in Kara's ears again, that same hollow ache gnawing at her bones. “Lena. You can't think that was my goal.”

Again, a single brow arches. “Can't I?”

“I didn't know.” The words pour out of her in a rush, her spine caving in their wake. Head in her hands, she works the heels of her palms against her closed eyelids as though they can scrub the truth from her memory. “Alex, she— she used me. Used my desperation to talk to you to release a virus into the bunker's mainframe. I didn't know. If I had— Lena, of course I would never have—”

Kara raises her head, desperate to be believed. Still, one eyebrow remains arched, lethal as a blade.

When it becomes apparent that Lena has no intention of responding, Kara tries again.

“Why— why now?” she manages at last. “Why come here now? Why tell me you're still alive?”

“I wasn't planning on it,” Lena admits with an indifference that scores into Kara's flesh as savagely as a brand. Her expression contorts suddenly, teeth pressing hard against the plush of her lower lip. “But then I saw—”

Kara finishes for her. “You saw me destroy the Luthor Mansion.”

“Obsidian North, actually,” Lena says with faux nonchalance. “And the DEO before that, once I started looking."

Kara forces herself to be just as calm, just as casual. “I got Lillian's apartment too. And the desert facility.”

“I saw.” Lena sucks in a deep, shuddering breath that she tries valiantly to pass off as normal. “So.”

Kara watches her. “So?”

Lena's chin rises. “So what?”

Kara is tired. She's so, so tired. “So, why do you care?”

Vulnerability worms its way through the cracks in Lena's stony mask for the first time since their bodies had separated. “Well—” she stalls, fingers fidgeting in too-long sleeves. "That's— that's not you.”

Kara chuckles, and where Lena's laughter had been bitter, hers is only desperately, achingly sad.

“That is me, Lena,” she breathes, not bothering to even raise her head. “That's me without you.”

 

It's silent a long time, after that.

Kara's emotions, her synapses and hormones and neurochemicals are all firing, all of them, trying to outgun one another, to shout the loudest for her attention. The overwhelming, indescribable relief at the simple fact of Lena's continued existence on this Earth is winning, no doubt, but the deadening sorrow of their broken relationship is a close second.

Kara had meant what she'd said to her sister in the smoking ruins of the DEO. She would have Lena hate her with every fibre of her being for the rest of eternity if it meant she'd live. Nevertheless, in all but the most extreme circumstances, it's not a particularly appealing prospect.

She's just mulling over the poetic, cosmic irony of finding Lena and losing her again in the space of the same conversation when she feels the mattress dip beside her.

Unwilling to subject her mincemeat heart to any more false hope, she keeps her head in her hands.

“So, are you saying,” Lena begins haltingly, voice tight with something that might even be nerves. “Are you saying that— that you didn't want me dead? I don't mean the DEO. You?”

Kara does raise her head then, because how could she not?

“Lena.” She tilts her head in the direction of the messy bed, the ransacked apartment. “I, the hero of National City, have spent the past few days razing to the ground anything that's ever hurt you. I ripped a US military satellite apart with my bare hands, in space. I've been living in your apartment, showering with your shampoo, crying into your pillow. Do you think I wanted you dead?”

Lena's teeth worry her lower lip, a flash of white in the growing gloom. “I thought you smelled different.”

“I smell like you,” Kara corrects with the exhausted resignation of one whose cards are already splashed face-up across the table. “I was so desperate to hold onto every trace of you, I would have eaten your damn conditioner if I'd thought it would help.”

“I wouldn't recommend that,” Lena says quietly, anxious fingers twisting in her lap. “I try to buy all natural, of course, but the sulphates and parabens can still be—”

“Lena.”

“—harmful if ingested—”

Lena.”

“Um. Yes?”

“I love you.”

After the week she's had, this confession feels like the easiest thing she's ever done.

“And not just in a you're my best friend and I'm really glad you're not dead way.” She sucks in a deep breath. “I'm in love with you. In a cosmic, half of my soul, I literally cannot live without you way. In an if I could change one thing in all of history, I wouldn't lie to you about who I am or how I feel for even a second way. Well. Also in an I'd stop my sister trying to kill you way, too. In an I'm so sorry I didn't protect you way. An I want to spend my life with you way. A—”

“Kara.” Now it's Lena's turn to interrupt. “I get it. A lot of ways.”

“A lot,” Kara agrees, nodding hard and earnest. She chuckles awkwardly. "Nothing like losing someone to make you realise how much you need them.”

“Yeah,” Lena breathes, her gaze still fixed on the carpet at their feet. “I'm familiar with that one, too. It's a real kick in the teeth.”

Silence, then; the echo after the gunshot. The quiet of settling snow that follows the avalanche. After a long moment the mattress beside her dips further and then Lena is there, knees and hips and elbows touching.

And then a hand materialises on her shoulder and a cold nose materialises in the hollow beneath her ear, and then Lena is pulling back and her nose is crinkling cutely as she sniffs and she's saying, soft and cautious, “I think I prefer it when you smell like you.”

“Yeah.” Kara huffs out a sound that, without too much close scrutiny, could almost be considered a laugh. “Well. You can have your toiletries back now, I guess. They suit you better anyway.”

“I'm still mad at you,” Lena says then, apropos of nothing. Or really, if Kara thinks about it, apropos of the past five years of their relationship. In that context, it's a pretty fair hit.

“We still have a lot to talk about,” Lena continues, the hand that had been on Kara's shoulder fluttering awkwardly in the air between them as though it wants to make contact but doesn't dare. “And I'm not sure I've forgiven you, not for everything. Not yet. It's going to take time.”

“That's fair,” Kara nods, kneading her knuckles against the flesh of her bare thigh. “More than fair. Okay.”

“Okay.” Lena's hand still has not made up its mind, floating jerkily between their bodies.

Kara watches it, wonders what it will choose. “Okay.”

“Okay,” Lena says, the fourth okay to pass between them. Her hand makes a decision, landing warm and sure on the side of Kara's neck. “Okay,” she says again, once more for, presumably, good luck, and then Lena is kissing her.

Lena is kissing her, and they both taste like the same toothpaste and the same moisturiser and the same chapstick and the same tears. And it feels a little weird, sure, but it also feels like the ghost of everyone Kara has ever loved has come back to hug her, to tell her they love her, to promise they've never really left. To welcome her home.

It feels like a gift, like an impossibility and a surety all rolled into one. Like the sweetest relief she's ever known and the biggest surprise of her life. It feels like something that she so nearly never got to experience at all; like something she will never, ever let slip away again.

When lungs at last win out over lips and tongue and teeth and they pull back, panting, Lena wipes the tears from her own cheeks and then swipes the droplets from Kara's, too.

“I'm still mad at you,” she reminds her, flushed and breathless. “And I love you, too.” And then, before the face-splitting grin has even finished splitting Kara's face, “Did you use my toothbrush?”

Kara freezes, halfway to getting her mouth back on Lena's, lips parted and cheeks heating. “Um.”

Lena's nose brushes hers, breaths hot and damp against Kara's mouth. “You did, didn't you?”

Kara presses her lips together into a thin line, then realises that's counterintuitive to her ultimate goal of kissing Lena again, and grimaces instead. “Um.”

“That is disgusting,” Lena declares, fingers twisting into the unruly curls behind Kara's ears. “Even if I was dead, Kara. That's— that's too far.”

“Lena.” Kara blinks, shaking her head a little, trying to keep up with the twists and turns this conversation has taken thus far. “Five seconds ago your tongue was literally in my mouth, but me using your toothbrush is too much for you?”

"You have to draw the line somewhere,” Lena says primly. “I know what I stand for. There'll be no more sharing of dental implements, going forward.”

“Are we?” Kara asks softly, hands stilling where they'd been stroking gently up and down Lena's sides, yet one more continued check that she is, in fact, real. “Going forward? Like, together?”

“Yes,” Lena says shyly, dark eyelashes fluttering. “If you want to, I— I do.” Her hands slip away from Kara's face in favour of tucking her body into Kara's side, pressing the two of them together in a tight embrace. “Like you said, thinking you've lost someone, it's— it's a heady tonic. When I came out the other side of that portal from Mount Norquay, when I woke up and realised I was entirely alone, it just— none of it seemed worth it.”

Lena huffs out a tiny chuckle, and Kara wraps her arms more securely around her waist. "Nothing like trying to cut someone out of your life, only to realise once they actually are out of your life that you never really wanted that at all. I mean, I'd survived, but— I just didn't know what the point was,” she breathes, and Kara's chest tightens. “Not— not without you.”

"That makes two of us,” she agrees, nudging in close to press a trail of kisses from Lena's temple to her jaw. “Good thing fate or destiny or the universe or whoever isn't as stubborn as we are.”

“As stubborn or as blind,” Lena adds, tucking her head beneath Kara's chin, over her chest, over her heart. “Or as cavalier about individual dental hygiene.”

Kara sighs, and presses another kiss to her hair. “Lena. Sweetheart. Miracle of all miracles, keeper of my heart. You have got to let that go.”