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same old blues

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"It is your life, which is so close to my own that I would not know / where to drop the knife of separation. And what does this have to do with love, except / everything?" - Mary Oliver

 

 

“Desflurane.”

That's the first thing Lena hears when the darkness recedes and a foggy haze she vaguely identifies as reality comes creeping back in. “Mrgh?” is the first thing she manages to say in response, tongue heavy, lips slack and uncooperative.

“Desflurane,” that high, feminine voice says again. A pale face materialises slowly in Lena's swimming field of vision, blonde ringlets spilling over armour-clad shoulders. “Before you start with the usual litany of questions. What did you do to me, where am I, why me, blah blah blah. I'm just trying to save time here, Lena. Cut out the boring bits.”

Lena's brow furrows. Her mouth feels like sandpaper. “The— the boring bits. Of... kidnapping?”

“Exactly.” Eve Teschmacher clicks her tongue, ticking items off on her fingers. “So. Desflurane is what I did to you. Quite the handy little inhalational anaesthetic. Expect some coughing and shortness of breath.”

She beams, sickly-sweet, ticking off another finger. “You're being held captive. The where is really none of your concern. And as for the why—”

“Oh, I have a catalogue full of guesses about the why,” Lena cuts in. Eve's right, her chest does feel a little tight. But she'll be damned if she lets that stop her. “Number one, corporate espionage. You finally realised you're just not as good a scientist without me. Number two, jealousy. You're bitter than my brother always paid more attention to me than to you. Number three? Oh, I don't know. Let's call it obsession.” She quirks a brow. “I always did get the impression you had more than a little friendly interest in me. Am I close?”

Eve's lips press together in a grim line. “I'm not the one with a penchant for the ladies.”

Lena shrugs, as much as one can shrug while suspended from wrists ziptied to a ceiling pipe. “Your loss.”

“It's cute, Lena,” Eve says then, and before she can even think to question what her captor is talking about Eve raises a thin steel baton and clubs Lena in the kidney. She gasps as her body convulses, desperate to shield the site of the wound yet unable to bend far, dangling as she is from her handcuffs. In the semicircle of her streaming vision, the patent leather of Eve's boots appears.

“It's cute that you still believe you hold any of the power here,” Eve says lightly, running her palm along the baton almost lovingly before twirling it in her grip, using the tip to force Lena's chin up.

"Now.” Eve's eyes are hard, cold. Colder even than the steel digging hard into Lena's flesh. “Enough small talk. What's your PIN?”

Over the pounding of blood in her ears, Lena barely hears her. “What?”

“What's your PIN?” Eve asks again, each word articulated by a jab against Lena's windpipe.

“5272,” Lena gasps out before clamping her lips together, eyes widening in shock, in horror.

Before her, Eve only smirks. “Good,” she praises sweetly. “That wasn't so hard, was it? Let's try another. Who was your first kiss?”

“Isabella Fleming, in the seventh grade.” Again, the answer is out before Lena can do a thing to stop it. Her mind races, unable to assess this new threat, unable even to comprehend it. “What—” she wheezes, hoarse and croaking. “What the hell have you done to me?”

"The baby Truth Seeker is a fascinating creature,” Eve starts, light and conversational, and Lena rolls her eyes even as a pit of dread opens up in her stomach. She must have been truly awful in a past life, to have to weather such an astronomical number of soliloquising villains in this one.

She twists, shoulders pulling painfully, trying to get a glimpse of her own forearms suspended above her.

“I injected you with its serum, Lena,” Eve calls as she struggles, sounding far too pleased with herself. “It's already in your bloodstream, and thus unavailable to be conveniently cast off. Apologies. You'll be telling the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth for— oh.” She glances carelessly at the watch on her wrist. “At least the next six hours.”

Lena sags against her bonds, momentarily defeated. “Why?” she asks tiredly. “What's the point of all this?”

“You're right,” Eve agrees. “We should get down to business.” The tip of the steel baton leaves Lena's chin to track her throat and the length of her sternum, lingering in the hollow of her solar plexus.

Eve's gaze is hard as diamond. “Who killed Lex Luthor?”

Despite herself, Lena barks out a laugh. “Really?” she chortles. “All this, for him? You didn't need to drug me to extract that admission, honey. It's right there on my LinkedIn profile.”

Steel pushes insistently at the soft epicentre of Lena's chest. A modicum more pressure and she'll lose the ability to breathe. She decides to make the most of the time she has left.

“You really need to get over him,” she continues, gasping as the baton pushes harder. “Centring your whole story around a man like this? Christ, Eve. It's the twenty-first century. We both have PhDs. Let's at least try to pass the Bechdel Test.”

When steel cracks against her ribs, it's hardly a surprise. Eve gives her no time to recover, lifting Lena's drooping head with the length of the baton and pressing down hard on her windpipe.

Her voice is half-whisper, half-snarl. “Who killed Lex Luthor?”

It's hard to maintain one's bravado with broken ribs. “I did,” Lena croaks, tears gathering at her lash line as fire races through her side with each shuddering breath. Beneath the insistent bubble of truth serum through her veins, the words require no effort at all.

"Thank you,” her captor says evenly, the baton she's using to steadily asphyxiate Lena dropping from her throat as she steps backward. “I've always known it was you, Lena. I just wanted to hear you say it. That personal touch, to make this next part all the more poetic.”

Lena's feet slide against the concrete floor. Dangling from her bound hands puts an almost unbearable pressure on her wrenched shoulders, but it's getting harder to convince her own legs to keep her upright.

“What next part would that be?” she manages to say around the smallest inhales she can manage, struggling not to jostle her surely fractured ribcage.

“Oh, it's nothing much,” Eve hums, inspecting the tip of her baton with a critical eye. “Just two little words.”

“I've got two little words for you,” Lena wheezes, head held high atop trembling shoulders. “Fuck off.”

The baton strike is as painful as it is expected. This one hits her across the back, a sickening thwack of metal on bone that sends her pitching forward as far as her trapped wrists will allow before snapping her backwards, leaving her dangling even more pitifully than before.

Eve barely blinks. “Lena,” she chides with a shake of her head, a clicking of her tongue. “Lena, Lena, Lena. What's Supergirl's real name?”

And— fuck. She should have seen this coming. She should have known that this would be the goal. It's obvious, really. Textbook. After all, what's the most valuable secret in her possession? Kara always has been the most precious thing Lena's ever had.

She can feel the answer on the tip of her tongue, feel the way the words strain against her teeth. Four syllables, desperate to break free. Four syllables, that would spell the end of any life worth living.

“K—” her truth serum-laced muscles try to pronounce. “K—”

Lena clamps her jaw shut against her own traitorous response, letting free a garbled sound akin to a bird choking on a popsicle stick. “Didn't he tell you?” she gasps out instead, trying desperately to sidestep the imperative to speak true, to buy her, buy them a little more time.

Eve's eyes narrow. Lena scents blood in the water.

“You're telling me you don't already know?” she gabbles. Maybe if she keeps talking, the urge to spill Kara's name will ease some. “My brother knew Supergirl's identity. He'd known for years. And yet you, the love of his life—”

Lena has to force herself not to gag on the words. “You don't? Lex never saw fit to tell you, then? Didn't trust you enough, maybe. Didn't think you important enough.”

Eve's lips pull back in a snarl. “Lex told me everything.”

“Mmhmm.” Lena shifts her weight, trying desperately to ease the pressure on her wrists, her elbows, her shoulders. “Everything except this.”

Eve's fists clench, and Lena braces herself for another blow. But it doesn't come, and a moment later the blonde's furrowed brow smooths.

“It doesn’t matter,” Eve says, preternatural calm retuning. “It doesn't matter that he didn't tell me then. You're going to tell me now.”

Lena grits her teeth. “Like hell I am.”

Eve advances on her once more. A baton strike to the weak spot behind her left knee sends Lena crumpling, entire bodyweight wrenching down upon her suspended wrists.

“What's Supergirl's real name?”

Lena presses her lips together, biting down on her tongue to keep from screaming in pain as much as to keep from answering. Eve's face looms close in her swimming vision, cruel and composed.

“What's her name, Lena?”

Something about this situation feels wrong. Something isn't adding up. After everything, all her research, all the time she'd spent with Lex, how could Eve still not know Supergirl's true identity? How could she think that this would be the most efficient way to get it?

She doesn't have time to ponder it for long. A well-aimed kick sweeps Lena's feet from under her and she's left dangling from her handcuffs once more, a wrenching agony blazing through her arms and torso. She struggles to get her feet under her again, to ease this unbearable pressure. Eve doesn't let her, pitching her forward with another blow to her shins.

“Tell me her name, and this will all be over,” Eve murmurs from somewhere above her. “For you, at least. For her, it'll just be beginning.”

Blood blooms across Lena's tongue as she bites down harder. Her efforts to keep her own mouth clamped shut are failing, and they're failing fast.

“I know you know it,” Eve coos. “I know you know her. I saw the two of you, in that supply closet. If you're close enough for that, you're definitely on first name terms. Tell me who she is, Lena.”

Lena has to talk. She has to. The chemical compound in her system has lowered her inhibitions tenfold. The creative centres of her brain are being suppressed, preventing her from inventing a plausible lie, even as the neural pathways used to access her memories are crystal clear. She can feel it happening and really, that's the worst part of all of this. That she can feel the way her mind and body are gearing up to betray Kara, even as it happens. That she can feel it; that she's powerless to stop it.

Four words. Just four words. Kara Danvers is Supergirl.

When she'd heard them, from her brother's dying lips, Lena had thought they might kill her, too. And then in the months since, that same refrain, playing through her head on a loop. Kara Danvers is Supergirl. Four words that had shattered Lena's life before her waking eyes, that had let forth a tide of torment from which she'd been able to find no respite.

Four words. Kara Danvers is Supergirl.

Lena had thought it would kill her to hear them, once. Then she'd thought she might like to kill Kara, for keeping them from her for so long. For confirming they were true.

Kara Danvers is Supergirl.

Now, though. Now, Lena realises, with the exhausted resignation of a prisoner at the scaffold, she would die before she let those words be spoken aloud. Before she'd allow them to harm a single hair on Kara's lying, deceitful, beloved head.

Eve clicks her fingers in front of Lena's streaming eyes. “Tell me Supergirl's name.”

“What's in a name?” Lena says, just for something to say, just to have any words leave her mouth that don't rhyme with Schmara Schmanvers. "That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.”

Thank fuck for all those years of God-awful private tutors, drilling her Shakespeare until she could recite it by rote at any required Luthor charity function. Who knew the muscle memory of Romeo and Juliet might one day save Kara's life.

“Supergirl by any other name will still be stronger than you, Eve,” she chokes out, undeterred even when another baton strike hits her in the side. “She'll still beat you. She'll still win.”

Eve straightens, gazing down at the steel rod in her palms almost pensively. "Maybe,” she shrugs, expression neutral. “But you won't. I've got you trapped, Lena. I've got you beat. That's good enough for me.”

“Don't worry.” Lena spits blood from her tongue, watches the reddish foam splatter the toe of Eve's left boot with a distant sense of satisfaction. “Supergirl will save me.”

Eve smiles then, the first flash of genuine emotion she'd shown since Lena had first woken. “Oh, I'm counting on it.”

Lena's mid-way through opening her mouth to ask Eve just what in the hell she means by that when the roof caves in around them.

 

Everything is noise and dust and pain and confusion.

Lena spits grit and debris from her mouth, cursing her eternal streak of rotten fucking luck that even though half the warehouse's corrugated ceiling had collapsed around her ears, the pipe from which her handcuffed wrists are dangling remains as structurally sound as ever.

Eve is gone. In the space she'd been occupying up until a moment ago there's now a blur of red and blue and gold.

"Now, I don't like to kill people.”

Firm and soft and razor-edged. Kara's voice. Kara.

Lena blinks hard, struggling to clear her burning eyes. “I don't like to kill people,” Kara says again, and past her pooling tears and pounding heart Lena hears a thud, a scream, a grunt. “But if you touch her again, Eve Teschmacher, you had better believe I will make an exception.”

And then Lena sees a wind-up, a flex, a tense. And then Lena watches as a vaguely human-shaped lump sails through the air, crashing clean through the opposite wall.

Kara is in front of her in the span of a heartbeat, one strong arm at Lena's waist, lifting her to relieve the pressure on her arms as the other rends the metal of her cuffs as easily as if it were Silly Putty.

"Lena, Lena,” she breathes, as soft as she had been ferocious a mere moment before. “You're hurt.”

It's a rather redundant observation, really, given the gasping cry Lena bites out as her restraints are loosed. Her shoulders ignite in an inferno of blinding pain as the weight of her arms drags the stiffened joints down, releasing them from the unnatural position they've been forced into for the entirety of Eve's interrogation.

The pain is so bad that Lena can't even begin to fight it. Bruised knees buckle as her throbbing arms fall limp and useless to her sides. Kara follows her down, gripping at her waist, using her own legs to cushion Lena's descent. She lands half in Kara's lap, unable to quell the tears that streak from her eyes at the sharp stab in her ribs, the unbearable ache of her shoulders decompressing.

“I'm sorry, I'm sorry,” Kara chants over and over, her hands on Lena's body as gentle and delicate as though she's handling spun glass. “I'm sorry I didn't get here sooner. I'm sorry I didn't stop her.”

Lena can only shake her head. Her chest has tightened so much, entire body tensing beneath the onslaught of pain to the point that she can't even speak. She tries to lift a hand to her face, to wipe the tears from her eyes, only to find that she can't move her arms.

“Shh,” Kara soothes at the panicked gasp she releases, reaching up to massage her biceps and deltoids gently. “It's just a lack of circulation. Give it a minute, sweetheart. You're okay.”

Lena hiccups past the tight band of terror constricting her ribcage. She should hate that Kara is the one to see her like this. To witness this vulnerability, to be the one to soothe it. She finds, resignedly, that she can't. She finds, despairingly, that she's glad.

“Eve?” she manages to choke out when she finds herself once again capable of speech.

Kara's chin tilts in the direction of the crumbling hole in the opposite wall of the warehouse. “She won't be going anywhere for a while.”

“You should cuff her,” Lena stumbles out, feeling beginning to return to her extremities as a vicious bout of pins and needles explodes in her fingertips. “Capture her, while you can.”

“I'm good right here, thanks,” Kara says without missing a beat. Her hands are still on Lena's arms, stroking up and down. “Eve can wait. You can't.”

Kara leans back a little, eyes narrowing. X-ray vision, Lena realises, as bright blue eyes sweep her body, their owner sucking a sharp breath through her teeth.

“Lena, your ribs,” Kara breathes, worry carving through her features. “What else hurts? What else did she do to you?”

Lena winces, wriggling her fingers carefully, conducting a mental inventory of her injuries. “I'm fine. Nothing else broken. Oh.” Heat floods her already flushed cheeks. “She also, um. She injected me with the, uh. The venom of a baby Truth Seeker.”

She maybe shouldn't have told Kara that, she realises belatedly. Maybe shouldn't have revealed that particular weakness at a time when she's already so exposed. She finds, once again, that she no longer gives a shit.

Kara's face is the picture of anguished concern. She winces at the admission, reaching up to brush Lena's sweat-matted hair out of her eyes. “Right,” she breathes, quiet in the cavernous ruins of the collapsing warehouse. “So, would this be a bad time to ask what you've bought me for Christmas?”

Despite herself, despite it all, Lena snorts. The truth of the matter is that she doesn't have the energy to fight Kara, right now. Doesn't have the energy to fight her own instincts whenever Kara's around.

She only sighs, lets her head loll forward until her forehead rests against the ridge of a royal blue-clad shoulder. “You, Kara Zor-El, are such an inconvenience.”

“Yeah,” Kara agrees affably. “But a convenient one.”

 

She doesn't know how long they kneel there. Doesn't know how long she spends wriggling feeling back into her numbed arms, moderating her breathing so as not to strain her injured ribs, allowing the solid warmth of Kara's body to return her to a place in which she feels at least partially prepared to deal with the shitstorm that surely awaits them.

“Alright,” Kara says at last, quiet and close, nudging Lena's forehead up from her shoulder. “Come on, sweetheart. Time to move.”

Lena sighs, a little more coherent and a little less pain-addled than she had been when Kara had first busted through the ceiling, but not much.

"Why are you doing this?” she asks as Kara supports her carefully to standing, grip steady and sure at her hips and waist. “Why do you help me, save me, do all this for me when— when it's unreciprocated? “

Kara pauses. Meets Lena's eyes, steady as a monolith. “It isn't.”

Lena finds she has to look away. Can't stand the sight of those earnest blue eyes, not while guilt and shame are waging vicious war in the battleground of her intestines.

“I'm awful to you.”

Kara shrugs a shoulder. Squeezes Lena's hip with one hand. “Not without cause.”

Lena staggers a little once she finally makes it to her feet. The back of her left knee throbs concomitantly with every beat of her heart, the imprint of Eve's steel baton a brand across her flesh.

Strong arms lock around her, steadying her, trapping she and Kara chest to chest. Lena shakes her head. Doesn't push herself away.

“Don't martyr yourself for me, Kara. Don't.”

"There are worse things to suffer for.” Another half-shrug. “Worse things to believe in.”

Lena's teeth work over her bottom lip. “There are better choices, too.”

Still, Kara will not break her gaze. “None I want to be making.”

“Kara.”

“Lena.”

“This isn't a game. You know that, right?”

They’re toe to toe. The press of Kara's hands at her waist is the only thing keeping Lena upright. The weight of Kara's gaze on her face is the only thing keeping her from disappearing completely.

"This thing between us, whatever's left of what we had—” Lena forces her voice not to tremble in time with her body. "It isn't a joke, or a verbal sparring match or— or one-upmanship, or something. This isn't— it isn't a game, to me.”

This is my heart, is what she wants to say but won't. This is whatever's left of it, laid at your feet.

“It's not a game to me either,” Kara replies, just as soft, just as serious. “I'm not trying to beat you, Lena. I'm trying to keep you safe. I'm always trying to keep you safe, trying to make sure I get at least another day with you. And I think—”

Long eyelashes flutter, dark pupils blown wide.

“I think you're trying to keep me safe, too. I think— I think it might be for the same reason.”

She can't tell her she's wrong. Can't, because of the baby Truth Seeker's venom still percolating in her veins. Wouldn't, even if she could, for reasons upon which she chooses in this moment not to dwell.

Lena licks her cracked lips. Doesn't think about what she's doing until Kara's gaze flickers down, until it catches on her mouth and sticks.

When her voice comes out hoarse this time, it's got nothing to do with her screaming ribs. “You seem awfully sure that I want you around.”

Kara's eyes are still locked on her lips.

“You seem awfully keen to keep me around. Can't blame a girl for hoping.”

It's happening again. That same magnetism from the supply closet, from the training ring, from every too-long hug and lingering stare dating back to the very beginning of their entanglement. The air around and between them thickens with tension, the quiet only amplifying the thudding of their hearts.

“Lena,” Kara says then, whispers, really, one hand coming up to cup the purpling line of her jaw.

There's none of the heat of their hide-out in the cupboard, none of the flirting or banter or unsubtle innuendo but— God. There's still all of the intensity.

This – Kara's palm on her lower back, Kara's breath on her face, Kara's fingers at her cheekbone – this is warmth, not passion. Tenderness, not fervour. Intention, not instinct.

It's going to happen. They're going to kiss. Kara's lips part, just slightly. Her eyes flutter closed.

It's going to happen. And then Lena stops it.

Her head tilts; not much, but enough. Kara's nose nudges her cheek, forehead brushing her temple. The sigh she releases at the change in destination is disappointed, but not surprised.

“Why, Lena?” she asks, quiet and small. Her lips, those lips brush the underside of Lena's jaw as she speaks, an inch and an infinity away from where they'd both prefer them to be.

“Why what?” she breathes, though she already knows.

She just, she can't. Maybe it's the truth serum in her system, maybe it's the release of something too long imprisoned and ignored in her heart, but she can't do it. Can't take this step, can't cross this line with the weight of their shared history, their shared agony, still yoked around her throat.

If she opens her mouth now the only thing that can possibly spill forth is the truth and while Kara may be ready to hear it, Lena isn't.

Kara pulls back until there's enough space between them that Lena can breathe again. Strong hands stack on trim hips, a smooth brow furrowing as Kara squints at Lena like she's a puzzle to be solved.

“Why won't you kiss me?”

"Because I—”

Fuck. Direct questions and truth serum do not a safe combination make. Lena claps a hand over her own mouth hard enough that she basically slaps herself in the face, biting down on her cheek so roughly the copper tang of blood blooms across her tongue. The urge to spill the uncensored truth, to answer Kara's question honestly and instinctively, is almost irresistible. She can feel the words bubbling in her throat, pushing for release behind her teeth.

But. No one can make Lena Luthor do a damn thing, not if she doesn't want to. Baby Truth Seeker or no baby fucking Truth Seeker, no one decides how much she shares but her.

Kara is still watching her, one brow quirked in what Lena would label, if pressed, as amused apprehension. “Well?” she prompts, and Lena's traitorous mouth tries its best to open again. She clamps her lips shut with her fingertips. Forces herself to use her brain, to exploit the Truth Seeker's loopholes in order to override its effects.

"What makes you think that's even a possibility?” she grits out between her fingers.

There. Mentally, Lena pats herself on the back. It's not a lie, but neither is it the truth Kara's probing for. She's rather proud of herself for that deflection.

Of course, it's a rather weak one, given the proximity of their involvement mere moments before. Given how close Kara had come to kissing her. Given how close Lena had come to letting her.

But Kara appears undeterred. “Because,” she drawls, drawing out the syllables as she taps her fingertips lightly against her chin. “Because, I think you want to.”

She takes a step closer again, and Lena has to fight the urge to use the hand still clamped over her mouth to pinch her nostrils, desperate to avoid the intoxication of Kara's heady scent.

Blue eyes bore into hers, equal parts daunted and daring, certain and wondering.

“Do you want to, Lena?”

And this really isn't fair, because Kara's just saved her life and Lena has truth serum running through her veins, and her question is unethical but it's also so unnecessary that Lena could scream, because Kara is Kara, and of course Lena wants to fucking kiss her.

Kara is so much a part of her now that every moment Lena spends not kissing her feels like a moment in which she's denying the very essence of her own nature, truth serum or no truth serum.

But that, unfortunately, is exactly the problem. She'd indulged herself before, when it came to Kara. Had taken and taken and taken, anything Kara had wanted to give her, anything she could get. She'd let herself get hooked and then, when Kara's betrayal had cut off her supply line, the withdrawal had almost killed her. To fall off the wagon now, to have to go cold turkey once more when Kara inevitably shatters her all over again, will surely finish the job.

“Do you?” Kara asks once more, fervent and low. If ice could burn, it would be the colour of her eyes.

Lena opens her mouth to answer. Against every one of her better instincts, Lena opens her mouth to tell her the truth.

And then there's the sound of shifting debris, and then Eve Teschmacher steps through the ruined wall of the warehouse with an uninjured smile on her uninjured face.

And then she raises a weapon, some kind of rocket or missile or bazooka, something bigger and meaner than Lena's ever seen before. And then she aims it right at Lena. Lena, who's closer. Lena, who's already crippled. Lena, who's weak and fragile and human.

Eve pulls the trigger. The interior of the warehouse lights up like the blaze of a collapsing star.

Lena can do nothing but watch as the missile that will spell her end sails through the air towards her.

Lena can do nothing but watch as Kara appears, eyes wide and hands reaching. As Kara pushes her out of the way, all but throws her across the room, and takes that death sentence for her own.

 

She finds her in the rubble.

Somewhere between Lena’s echoing screams and the deafening force of the blast, Eve has disappeared. Somewhere beneath the collapsed ruins of what was once an industrial warehouse, Kara has disappeared, too.

Lena digs through concrete and steel and sheet metal with her bare hands until she finds her, dust-streaked and bloody. Heedless of her own injuries, she wrenches and tugs at the wreckage until Kara's body comes free, limp and unmoving in her grasp.

Dread locks its claws around her windpipe, running her through with terror. Blue eyes are closed, remain closed even when Lena pokes at her, prods at her, shoves. Beneath the tattered remains of a royal blue crest, Kara's chest isn't moving at all.

What wouldn't Kara do for her? That's long been the question, and. Well. Lena's finally found the location of that line in the sand. Only, it's not a line. It's a grave. It's Kara's grave.

Running on pure adrenaline, barely feeling anything at all, Lena hooks her damaged arms beneath the last lump of breezeblock weighting Kara down, shifts it free of her limbs with an inhuman scream.

And then the body beneath her is coughing, convulsing, spitting up red-tinged dust onto the knees of Lena's suit and Lena could not in this moment care less about anything on Earth because that body, that moving, breathing, choking body is alive.

She drags Kara onto her side, helps her clear her airways before easing her upright. Sickly green pulses bright beneath golden skin. Lena's stomach turns. There'd been Kryptonite in Eve's artillery, enough to kill. Enough that it still might.

They have to get out of here. The thought is as imperative as it feels impossible.

Kara's eyes can barely open, blonde lashes clagged with blood oozing from a deep wound at her brow. Her voice is a thickened croak.

"Lena?”

It's sickening is what it is, the visceral way her body reacts upon hearing her own name from that mouth. Sickening that despite all this time and all the hurt between them, two little syllables from Kara's lips are enough to light her soul on fire.

She cannot, she cannot live another life with Kara in it. Cannot open herself to the possibility of being taken advantage of all over again, of being hurt so deeply by one so cherished.

And Lena cannot, as clearly and inarguably as the sun rises in the morning and sets at night, live a life without her, either.

"Lena?” the body slumped against her own wheezes once more. Blue eyes are fully closed now, blood draining beneath paling skin. “Is— is that you?”

Lena sighs. Hoists Kara's limp arm round her shoulders and staggers them to standing, squeezing their bodies together as though she can secure their collective future through sheer force of will and underdeveloped biceps.

“Who else would it be?”

 

The portal spews them out atop frigid concrete, two bodies sprawling across the dusty floor of Lena's Mount Norquay lab.

Safety. That's all she'd been thinking when she'd pressed the button on her watch. She had to get them away, somewhere Eve couldn't find them. Somewhere she could conceivably shelter a half-dead Kryptonian, somewhere she could somehow stop her dying the rest of the way. Somewhere safe.

A mountain bunker isn't ideal, in the scheme of things. But, hey. Beggars can't be choosers. She supposes she should be grateful her pain- and adrenaline-addled mind hadn't transported them to her childhood treehouse instead.

Lena's shoulders are screaming, courtesy of her wrists’ extended vacation suspended from a ceiling pipe. It takes every ounce of gritty determination her body possesses to push herself up from the ground, to reach for Kara's slumped form and drag her upright.

“Don't— don't feel so good,” Kara mumbles as Lena tries valiantly to manoeuvre her feet beneath her body. Her face smushes against Lena's shoulder. “Hurts.”

Lena's heart trips in her chest. If she softens now, she will break forever.

“Well, you were hit with a straight shot from a concentrated Kryptonite blaster,” she grits out, bracing Kara's sliding feet with her own as she tries to tug her to standing. “I wouldn't expect it to feel good.”

Kara groans, plaintive and small. The burden of her unreceptive body is becoming more unreceptive and burdensome by the second.

Frustration rises in Lena like flames from a hearth. She lets it fill her, warm her, fuel her. Fuel them both, at least long enough to get them through this.

“Why the hell did you do it?” she pants as she manages to right them both at last. There are medical supplies in the lab's antechamber. She can get the two of them there. She has to. “Why couldn't you have stayed out of the line of fire for once in your goddamn life?”

“Couldn't. Had to,” Kara manages, barely a whisper below Lena's ear. Her feet are dragging more than stepping, the majority of her leaden weight left to Lena to carry. “Save you.”

“You idiot,” Lena pants, hefting the blonde's limp arm higher across her shoulders. They've made it halfway across the lab. Her nails dig unforgivingly into Kara's side, scrabbling to maintain their grip. “Is there even an ounce of self-preservation bouncing around inside that thick skull of yours? I thought we already had the conversation that very firmly established that you can't protect everyone.”

"Not everyone,” Kara mumbles faintly, her unwieldy weight growing heavier with every step. “You.”

The cavernous lab is filled with nothing but the laboured sounds of their breathing, the jagged stagger of their footfalls. Two thirds of the way. Lena can see the door, behind which she'll find the medical equipment that might just save them both. She can see it. She can reach it. She can.

"Hurts,” Kara whispers again, weaker even than she had been moments before.

The ungainly rhythm of their steps doesn't falter. Lena doesn't let it.

“I know.”

The way Kara's body sinks against her own no longer feels like balancing. It feels like begging.

Hurts, Lena.”

“I know, darling.” The endearment she doesn't have the energy to hold back contrasts sharply with the rough tug of their bodies. The sliding grip Lena's maintaining on Kara's lolling form cannot afford to be tender. She cannot afford to be anything but bruising. “I know. Just hold on.”

 

In the cramped cavern that constitutes the lab’s antechamber, buried within the cupboards lining the rock-hewn walls, Lena finds what she's looking for.

First, a translucent photovoltaic yellow sun patch she'd privately referred to as a portable Kryptonian charger, slapped against the bare skin of Kara's bicep beneath the tattered remains of her suit. Next, the spring-loaded disc containing a backup anti-Kryptonite get-up, smacked against the charred outline of the crest on her chest.

Kara, slumped on the ground, propped upright only by the rock wall at her back, groans plaintively at the impact as the anti-K suit begins to materialise around her. Lena ignores her whimpers, rooting determinedly through the stash of medical supplies that would be enough to kit out a hospital full of Kryptonians on Argo. All of it, created by her own hands. All of it, only ever meant for one.

She finds the heart monitor she'd been searching for, reaches out to unclip the dark shield of Kara's helmet so she can fix the sticky pad over the pulse point beneath her jaw. Yellow sun battery pack beginning to take effect, blue eyes flutter open for the first time since the warehouse.

“Wassat?” Kara slurs as Lena continues to hunt through her arsenal, pulling out gauze and antiseptic and any number of other potential aids. Her lolling chin juts towards a lead-lined case by Lena's elbow.

Lena swallows hard. “Don't try to talk.”

“S’lead,” Kara persists stubbornly, her splayed knees bumping pointedly against Lena's thigh. “S’Kryptonite?”

"Needles,” Lena confirms, resigned. For all her sins, she won't lie to Kara, even without the imperative of truth serum in her veins. Not with the agony of dishonesty still burning so fresh between them. “Kryptonite needles. Stop talking. Hold still.”

Kara does hold still, as Lena advances on the oozing cut above her left eye with a wad of thick gauze. She does not, however, stop talking.

“Why?” she mumbles, barely intelligible but insistent nevertheless. “What's in ‘em?”

Lena grits her teeth.

You are going to turn over the formula to Alex, you are going to take any Kryptonian elements from your lab and bring them to the DEO, and you are never going to make Kryptonite ever again.

Supergirl's words, Kara's words, burn as sharply in her mind as they had the day she'd first heard them. Lena bites down hard on the inside of her cheek, pressing the gauze to Kara's bloodied face.

You think I should be grateful that you learned how to make the one substance on this planet that can kill me?

Kara's eyelids flutter shut for a moment, wincing at the sting. When they open again her gaze is clearer than it's been for hours, eyes that same determined shade as all those years ago. Ice blue. Steel blue.

Even if I did trust you. Even if we were on the same side—

Lena shakes her head, desperate to clear away the memories. “It's not important.”

A knee nudges her thigh again, firmer this time. “Tell me.”

She sighs, reaching for more antiseptic. “Kara—”

“Lena.”

Her cheeks heat, hands trembling beneath the weight of her memories. You have secrets. That changes things. Like so much between them, this topic hasn't gotten any easier with time.

That's not a great question for a Luthor to ask someone in my family.

Lena cringes. She doesn't want to talk about this. Hadn't meant for Kara to ever be here, to ever see these supplies, to mount that high horse all over again. Despite their rift, despite all the bitterness and anger and vitriol Lena's spent the last few months drowning the two of them in, she will not be able to weather this particular fight a second time.

She will not be able to withstand the sight of those eyes looking at her like she's the villain of their story.

“Please.” She's barely even whispering. “Please drop it.”

“Lena,” Kara breathes, firmer than someone in her current state of ill health has any right to sound. “Tell me what's in your Kryptonite needles.”

“Painkillers,” Lena bites out sharply, defeated. “Alright? Analgesics. Drugs. Drugs meant for you, should you ever need them. Drugs meant to stop you suffering. Are you satisfied?”

Kara's body slackens. “Yes,” she wheezes, one gloved hand encircling Lena's wrist. “Use them.”

Lena jerks backwards. The movement is entirely involuntary. “No,” she gasps, bloodstained gauze fluttering from her fingers. “No, I couldn't, I—”

She'd crafted the needles, yes. She'd filled them with the strongest pharmaceuticals she could formulate, capable of quelling pain even in cells strong as steel. But the thought of using them now, of taking that vile green substance into her hands and piercing Kara's flawless, precious skin; of injecting her with that poison, of causing her pain—

“I can't,” she whispers, horrified to feel her throat close over amid the tears pooling at her lash line. “I shouldn't.”

“Can,” Kara argues weakly, sounding close to unconsciousness. “You can. Trust you.”

In her chest, Lena's heart backflips off the top diving board and plummets through the air, cracking its skull against the platform on the way down. She feels breathless suddenly, a little dizzy. Winded by those two little words that prove how everything has changed completely and not at all.

“Please.” Despite the sun patch, despite the suit steadily filtering Kryptonite out of her system, Kara's skin is still so, so pale. “Lena, please.”

Her hands are shaking. She fights down the sudden urge to vomit.

She realises now: it's not just about what Kara would do for her. It's about what Lena would do for Kara. And the answer to that, regrettably, is anything.

“Okay,” she mumbles, fumbling fingers struggling with the box's latch, with the syringes stacked neatly inside. “Okay. I'm sorry.”

And she plunges a green-tipped needle into Kara's thigh.

The effects take only seconds. In the span of a breath Kara's taut features slacken, her body relaxing further against the wall at her back. The rigid line of pain in her shoulders loosens and drains away, a dazed kind of serenity colouring her face.

“Thank you,” she mumbles thickly, as if her tongue is suddenly too big for her mouth. Her fingers are still at Lena's wrist. “Thank you for using them. Thank you for making them.”

Lena cannot force her body to stop shaking. “I didn't think I'd ever have to— you know I never planned—”

“I know.” Kara's grip tightens. Even through the thick polymer suit encasing her hands, Lena can feel the residual warmth of her skin. “I know, Lena. Thank you. I love you.”

Something hot and sharp breaks in Lena's chest. It feels like a rib, maybe. Like a heart.

"God, Kara—”

She wrenches herself away, tugs her knees to her chest, a trembling mass of limbs curled on the frigid stone. She bats roughly at the hair falling into her eyes, feels herself split apart at the seams.

“Alright,” she gasps, pressing the heels of her palms to her eyes. “Alright. You've won, okay? You've won. I can't fight you anymore. You did it. You wore me down with your warmth and your earnestness and your never-fucking-ending devotion. I give up, alright? I give in. You've won.”

“I've won?” Kara looks as exhausted as Lena feels. Slate blue eyes narrow, pale lips tugging down into a frown. "There's nothing to win here, Lena. We've both lost.”

“Oh yeah?”

Lena feels hysterical laughter bubble up behind her teeth. She's powerless against this woman; she always has been. Has lost to her her faith, her trust, her fight, her heart. The fact that Kara can't seem to see that, isn't even aware of the astronomical concessions she's attained, only makes it worse.

“What the hell have you surrendered through all of this?” she asks, a bitterness born of aching vulnerability pooling in the hollows between the words. “What did you lose?”

Kara meets her gaze steadily. Those big, sad, beautiful eyes don't even blink.

“You.”

 

Kara falls asleep in her lap. Lena tries to pretend that the submission, the trust inherent to such a concession doesn't hew her open from the inside out.

She strokes blonde curls back from closed eyes, traces the contusion on her cheek and the wound on her brow with hesitant, reverent fingers. Looks at Kara, beaten and bruised and bloodied for her, and feels the ineluctable urge to kill something.

No, not something. Someone.

She eases herself out from beneath Kara, lays her unconscious body gently on the cold stone. Cracks a bottle of her own human-strength painkillers and swallows down a sizeable handful dry. Wraps her fractured ribs in as tight a bandage as she dares, rolls her protesting shoulders a few times, and sets off to commit a murder.

It isn't hard to find Eve, this time.

She's right there, right in the cabin Lena and Lex had loved when they were children. Right there, in the spot where her brother had died. Right there, in the spot where Lena had killed him.

The ease with which she tracks down her quarry does set off alarm bells in Lena's mind, tiny red figures screaming trap! trap! trap! as they tap dance through her limbic system. Unfortunately, these little red do-gooders are immediately squashed flat by the swirling black monstrosity of furious vengeance currently piloting most of Lena's higher faculties, the one directing her palm towards the gun she'd picked up from her lab, the one directing her finger to the trigger.

Eve doesn't seem at all surprised to see her. More alarm bells ring, only to be immediately quashed by rage.

“She dead, then?” is the first thing Eve says to her, leaning against the edge of Lex's old desk, palms braced against the antique wood.

Lena growls.

Eve's smirk drips with self-satisfaction. It makes Lena want to shoot her. She contents herself with shooting the ground beside Eve's foot, watching in sick gratification as she flinches, pales.

“Your missile hit the wrong target.”

Lena's voice is cracked and barbarous, sanded down by pain and emotion and exhaustion and wrath. Eve composes herself after a beat, quirking a brow.

“My missile hit exactly where it was meant to.”

Lena's getting tired of these riddles. She fires another warning shot into the mahogany beside Eve's left knee, ignores the way her own throbs with the lingering caress of Eve's baton.

“You aimed at me,” she snaps. “And Supergirl happened to get in the way. I was your target.”

“You were,” Eve confirms benignly. “You are. But that missile was never meant for you.”

“For fuck's sake,” Lena snaps. The metal of the gun in her hand is growing warm, slick with sweat. “Enough games. You kidnapped me, you shot me up with truth serum to find out Supergirl's identity, you failed. You tried to beat me, you tried to kill me, you failed. I won't.”

She raises the gun. Just like last time, the target before her has threatened the people Lena loves. Just like last time, she will shoot them, so they can never threaten anyone again.

Just like last time, her hands are shaking.

"That isn't why I injected you with truth serum. Surely you can see that.”

The tap-dancing alarm bells in Lena's mind have multiplied to form a full-blown chorus line, thudding out an enthusiastic Cancan atop the trigger of whatever self-preservation instincts she's got left.

She wants to shoot Eve right here, right now, if only so that she doesn't have to hear one more cryptic word fall out of her smug little face. But her mental chorus line are working themselves into a frenzy begging her to slow down, to be careful, to take a glimpse at the bigger picture Eve's offering.

She narrows her eyes, grinds her teeth. “Why, then?”

“I needed a pretence, Lena. A credible reason to kidnap you. I needed the trap to be believable.”

Lena's stomach sinks.

Eve's grin widens. “You're starting to get it now, aren't you? At last. Yes,” she says, gloating and almost gleeful. “I already knew Supergirl's name. I only wanted you to tell me so that you'd believe it was your fault, when I destroyed her. So that you'd blame yourself. And you do, don't you? You know she's dead because of you. You know that everything that's happened to her is your fault.”

Lena wants to protest. Wants to, but can't.

“You see it now, don't you?” Eve asks, and the maniacal joy in her eyes is so closely an echo of her brother's particular brand of sadism that Lena shivers. “I didn't kidnap you to hurt you. I kidnapped you so that I'd have bait.”

"Why, Eve?” Lena asks. The gun is suddenly leaden between her palms. She's so, so tired. "What's your problem with Supergirl? Why are you so desperate to hurt her?”

“Lena, Lena,” Eve chides. “Come on. I thought you'd finally understood. This isn't about her. This was never about her. Supergirl has always been means to an end.”

Bile rises in the back of Lena's throat. “What end?”

Eve's eyes flash in the dim light. Her smile is nothing short of predatory. “You.”

Lena's stomach plummets to her boots. Her eyes slide closed.

“You were always my target, Lena. I told you that already. You, and you alone.”

Lena works her teeth against the meat of her cheek, trying in vain to regulate her faltering breathing. Kara, in the firing line because of her. Kara, hurt because of her. Again. Again.

“I wanted to hurt you the way you hurt me when you killed your brother,” Eve says, each word coldly and clearly enunciated. “I wanted to return the favour, to take away the person you love most in the world. I wanted to get to you, Lena, wanted to make sure you'd never recover. And how do I get to you?”

It's not a question that begs an answer, really. Not while Lena's standing here, the salt of Kara's tears staining her jacket, the echo of Kara's cries ringing in her ears, the grit of Kara's drying blood coagulating beneath her fingernails.

Eve's eyes flash, dancing with the fire of triumph.

“I get to her.”

 

Lena could scream.

She could scream at the insulting simplicity of Eve's plan, now that she can see it in its entirety. She could scream at being manipulated like this, at being punished not through her own pain, but through Kara's. She could scream at how effective a gambit it is. She could scream at how easily it had worked.

Lena could scream and so, she does. Long and loud and animal in its acrimony, launching herself at Eve like she's her own damn missile cannon.

Eve may have been expecting a bullet, but she was not expecting Lena's elbow to her sternum, Lena's knee to her kidney or Lena's fingernails clawing against her flesh. The surprise knocks her off balance and Lena presses her advantage, leaning in close to growl against her ear as she immobilises her target with a forearm braced against her windpipe.

“You don't get to get to her,” she snarls, free hand pressing the muzzle of the gun unforgivingly into Eve's side. “You don't get to shoot at her, or hurt her, or use her to get to me. You don't get to come near her.”

Eve's face is reddening beneath the pressure of Lena's arm. Even still, even now, the shadow of a smirk plays at the corner of her mouth.

“She's mine,” Lena grunts through gritted teeth, fingers flexing on the trigger, “and I will end you for what you've done to her.”

“Even after she lied to you?” Eve chokes, eyes bulging. “Even after her betrayal?”

“Even if she picked up this gun and shot me clean through the heart,” Lena grits out, the words shining with truth in the filth of their struggle. “You hear me? Always.”

The body beneath her own relaxes, Eve's lips pulling up into a smile even as they purple from lack of oxygen. "Then you finally know how I feel,” she wheezes, pitiful and weak. “Then I've taken from you the same thing you took from me the day you killed your brother. I've gotten what I wanted so, kill me. Go on. Do it.”

Lena growls again, lungs searing.

“Do it!” Eve rasps, pushing against the arm at her throat, the gun at her side. “Kill me!”

Lena's fingers clench. She is so sick of being used, of being deceived, of being exploited for others’ ends.

“Don't tell me what to fucking do,” she bellows, contrary to the last, and in a scream of pure frustration and a haze of lurid purple, Eve Teschmacher disappears from Lena's life for the last time.

 

"Lena!” a familiar voice yells, and then familiar arms are closing around her, plucking the gun delicately from her grasp before crushing their bodies together. Their bodies, battered and bruised; one human, one Kryptonian, both broken, both breathing still.

“Kara,” she shudders out, the bright lilac of the portal she'd just conjured winking out into nothingness behind them.

“Where did you send her?” Kara asks as she staggers to keep them both upright, supporting Lena's weight as the adrenaline wears off and the shock sets in and every cell in her body turns to molten, dragging lead.

“DEO desert facility,” Lena mumbles against Kara's chest as she forces her hands to rove the blonde's body, checking pulse rate, breathing, lingering injuries. “Portalled her right into a maximum-security cell, which is more of a courtesy than your sister deserves.”

Kara chuckles, her own fingers mirroring Lena's as they probe one another for fresh wounds. “You didn't kill her.”

Lena sighs. “Well, she told me to. No way was I gonna do it after that.”

A snort of laughter buries itself in her hair. Kara seems stronger than she had when Lena had left her lying on the floor of her Mount Norquay bunker, steadier. She's still wearing the anti-Kryptonite suit but her skin is flawless gold once more, no trace of green poison in sight.

Relief hits Lena like a punch to the gut. “Besides,” she mutters with a grim shake of her head. “I wasn't going to give her the satisfaction. I want her to live knowing she didn’t win. You're still alive.”

Kara pulls back then, breaking the contact between them. When their eyes meet, her expression is unreadable. “You want her to know that you didn't need to kill her because she hadn't killed me.”

The day's tolls manifest suddenly as a rocking dizziness that trembles through Lena's bones. She fights to clear the blurriness from her vision. “Yeah.”

"That she can't use me to get to you. That I'm yours.”

The edge to Kara's tone is indecipherable past the pounding in Lena's head, the adrenaline-spiked thudding in her ears.

“Exactly.”

“Even if I picked up this gun and shot you clean through the heart.”

A beat of silence, of stillness. Then another, and another.

Lena sighs. “You heard that part, did you?”

Kara's lips purse. “It's mostly how I tracked you here, once I woke up and realised you'd left me behind to play out your little suicide revenge mission solo. You have a very piercing shriek.”

Quiet falls between them once more. Lena watches Kara watching her, feels the cosmic scale upon which their relationship rests teeter between what they are to one another in this moment, and what they've always been destined to be.

“Did you mean it?” Kara asks, gossamer-soft in the crystalline hush. “Always?”

Lena shrugs one shoulder. Every cell in her body feels like it's vibrating. Whether it's from the weight of what's happening between them, or the astronomical ass-kicking she'd recently received, she couldn't say.

“I'm still here, aren’t I?”

Still, the look on Kara's face is utterly inscrutable. “Yeah,” she breathes, full of wonder suddenly, full of awe. “Yeah, you are. Always.”

Lena swallows, tongue sticking a little against her dry lips. “That's how it felt, you know. When I found out you'd lied. Like you'd shot me clean through the heart.”

If it's a little hyperbolic, Kara doesn't seem to mind.

“I know,” she murmurs, dirt-streaked fingers twisting and clenching against the tops of her thighs. Charged silence once more, and then— “I won't do it again.”

Lena allows every last molecule of air in her cracked and screaming chest to sigh out of her at once.

“I know.”

Hope flickers in the depths of Kara's eyes like an ember undampened amidst graveyards of ash.

“You do?”

“I do,” she says, because some truths simply cannot be ignored forever, and because saying it feels like salvation, like giving and receiving forgiveness in the very same breath, the very same heartbeat.

She steps forward, holds out her hands. A gesture of trust. A gesture of peace. “Kara. Take me home.”

 

Kara takes her home.

Kara sweeps her into her arms like it’s the very motion for which she'd been designed, and cradles her close until they touch down in the middle of her sun-drenched loft, and Lena doesn't even need to say aloud that this is exactly what she'd meant.

Even once Kara sets her back on her feet, she doesn't go far. Just tugs Lena behind the curtain that demarcates her bedroom and leaves her there as she flits around gathering bandages, painkillers, towels.

And then she's back and stepping into Lena's space like it's where she belongs because, frankly, it is. And Kara's hands are steady and sure as she strips Lena of her ruined jacket, her filthy sweater. As she catches the trailing end of Lena's loosened bandages, lifting the hem of her shirt to trace it to its source. As her investigation reveals instead the slim holster at Lena's hip, the secondary pistol she'd stashed there just in case.

Kara quirks a brow in concert with one corner of her lips as she slips the holster deftly from Lena's belt, discarding the weapon on the bedroom dresser. “One gun not enough for you?” she asks, amusement colouring the sweet planes of her face. “You wanted one for each hand?”

Lena clicks her tongue. “You think one for each hand would be enough for me?”

Kara's eyes widen in surprise, narrow again as she deploys her x-ray vision, and then she's laughing loud and beautiful as she walks Lena backwards to sit on the edge of the bed, kneeling before her to pull the Derringer from its holster at her ankle, slipping a dagger from one of her boots and a slim canister of mace from the other.

Blue eyes blink up from between her knees, pink lips quirked in poorly concealed amusement. “Dare I ask if that's all your weapons?”

“I don't know.” Lena quirks a brow, leaning back on her hands. “Dare you?”

Kara chuckles. “Your personal arsenal is a thing of beauty.”

Lena shrugs. “I was on my way to confront a dangerous lunatic. You can never be too prepared.”

A nod, mock serious. “Definitely not.” And then Kara is sliding back up the length of her body, broad hands palming the span of her waist to extract the taser concealed at the small of Lena's back.

“Is that all?” she husks, throaty and low and okay, it's definitely symbolic, the way Kara's stripping her of each of her weapons, of every last one of her defences. It's metaphorical and emblematic and significant, sure, but it's also hot as all fuck, having Kara on her knees like this between Lena's spread thighs, hands coasting over every inch of her body, and Lena's tired of pretending not to want the only thing she's truly wanted for the past five and a half years.

She reaches out, fisting two hands in the heavy fabric of Kara's collar. "My earrings also double as miniature throwing stars.”

Kara comes willingly, laying Lena down on her sheets with careful hands. “I think I can manage to avoid those.”

“Can't be too careful,” Lena gasps, ripping the studs from her own ears and hurling them carelessly into the corner of the room. She's barely got them free before Kara's hovering over her, braced against the mattress, the lengths of their bodies perfectly aligned.

“No, you're right,” she hums, leaning in to nose against Lena's jaw, lips ghosting the shell of her ear to land a sucking kiss to the newly bared lobe. “This is definitely better.”

Lena's breath hitches, hips twitching, and when her pelvis connects with Kara's the body above her sinks down, pressing her deliciously into the mattress and it's all good and right and wonderful until Lena is suddenly unable to breathe.

She hisses out an involuntary wheeze of pain and Kara's weight disappears in an instant, blue eyes blinking down at her wide and worried.

“Your ribs,” she gasps, fingers returning to the hem of Lena's ruined blouse. “Shit, I'm sorry.”

And then she's deftly unfastening the buttons, revealing the faded white of her haphazard bandage job before unwinding that too, sucking a sharp breath through her teeth when the mottled watercolour of Lena's bruised torso is revealed.

Kara doesn’t even hesitate, leaning down to press her lips to each purpling mark, mouth tracking a trail of fire up the blue-black ladder of Lena's ribcage. It's exquisite, even through the pain. Lena would take a body full of fractures any day of the week if it meant even one more moment of this.

Only when Kara's nose bumps the underwire of Lena's bra does she raise her head, the pads of her fingers replacing the plush of her lips against Lena's skin.

“What can I do?” she asks, wide-eyed, worrying her bottom lip between her teeth. “What do you need?”

And it's such a cliché, but it's also bone-tremblingly, teeth-achingly true when Lena gasps out, “You.”

And that, at the last, is all it takes.

In the next instant Kara's mouth is on her own, hotter and wetter and softer and better than Lena could ever in her wildest fantasies have predicted. The past weeks, months, years of tension and strain and anticipation between them surge through their kiss, a conflagration of want and need that threatens to engulf them entirely.

Lena finds she's more than happy to burn atop Kara's pyre.

Her fumbling fingers find the release at Kara's collar that has her anti-Kryptonite suit dematerialising back into nothing. She pulls and prods at the rest of the layers between them until Kara's hovering above her once more, the divinely sculpted peaks and planes of her body bared to Lena for the first time.

And then Kara's eagerly levelling the playing field, stripping what's left of Lena's suit down her legs, bending her knees open and positioning herself between them.

Lena reaches down suddenly, hastily, fingers twisting in golden curls to bring Kara's eyes up to her own.

“I love you,” she gasps, urgent all of a sudden, as if they're running out of time. As if this is the end of something, rather than the beginning of the rest of their lives. “You know that, don't you? You have to have known. I'm in love with you, too.”

Kara lifts her palm from the swell of Lena's inner thigh to grasp her hand instead. Brings Lena's fingers to her lips, kissing them, sucking ever so lightly on the tips before pressing them over her own pounding heart.

“Yours,” she breathes, eyes big and blue and close to buckling beneath the weight of the moment. “Always.”

And then she leans down, and presses her open mouth between Lena's legs, and the rest of the world whites out in a haze of kaleidoscopic pleasure.

Kara's tongue works over her with single-minded intensity, dipping and curling inside her as her hands press Lena's hips down into the mattress. She catapults Lena over the edge with a rough graze of teeth and then flips her over, mindful of her injuries, before she's even stopped trembling. Before Lena can catch her breath Kara's bearing down, pressing one of Lena's thighs against the other so she's even tighter as she drives into her from behind, so deep and so slow that Lena's toes curl against the sheets, moaning and mouthing wetly at the pillow beneath her.

Lena's barely regained the ability to breathe, has barely reached out a hand to cup between Kara's legs before she's being lifted once more, cradled to Kara's chest as the blonde's knee keeps her thighs spread wide.

Kara mouths at her hairline as she pulls her close, presses kiss after kiss to her flushed cheeks and fluttering eyelids. She strokes at her with the very tip of one finger until Lena's moaning and begging and writhing against her, crooks another just so and presses firm and unmoving, watching as Lena's hips shift against it, seeking friction, rubbing and dragging herself against Kara's hand until she's half-mad with the suspense.

This is what I wanted to do,” Kara pants against her temple, the delicious pressure of her hand encouraging Lena to move that little bit faster, that little bit harder. “In the training room, when I had you pinned to the wall. This is what I've always wanted to do, since I saw you in your office that very first day.”

Lena whines, both at Kara's words and at the empty ache between her legs at the teasing, hips stuttering in their rhythm as she chases the white-hot blaze of pleasure.

Kara chuckles breathlessly, leaning down to suck Lena's tongue into her mouth, releasing it with a wet pop. “Told you you didn't want to know.”

Lena gasps, dizzy with the weight of it all. Determined, she flips them until she's straddling Kara's thigh, the burning of her injured ribs barely registering beneath the flames licking over her skin.

She reaches down, tracing through slick heat, and uses the leverage of her own thigh between Kara's to drive two of her fingers deep, dragging them against the softness of her.

Kara gasps, back arching, the tendons in her neck standing out in sharp relief as she shudders.

“I absolutely did want to know,” Lena purrs, pressing hot, open-mouth kisses along the column of Kara's throat. "Maybe if you'd kissed me instead of lying to me all those years ago, we could have gotten here sooner.”

A hoarse sound cracks from the depths of Kara's throat as Lena spreads her fingers, twisting and curling. “Maybe,” she rasps, fingers smoothing over the curve of Lena's ass before dropping lower, rubbing at her from behind. “But then I never would have gotten to feel you up in a supply closet.”

Lena lets out a gasp which Kara swallows, tongue probing hot past her lips, her tongue, the clean edge of her teeth.

“I knew that was your aim the whole time,” Lena accuses once she's reclaimed her own mouth, thrusting faster as Kara's fingers match her frenzied pace. “Dark cupboard, cramped quarters. Oldest trick in the book.”

“What can I say,” Kara pants, pressing a sloppy kiss to the swell of Lena's bottom lip. “You're so hot when you're trying so hard to hate me.”

Lena tries to snort, only it turns into more of a gasp, which turns into more of a moan as Kara slips three fingers inside her to the knuckle, the tight angle meaning she hits that spot with every thrust. Lena speeds up her own fingers in response, adds a third, and then Kara's surging up to kiss her like it's the only thing she's ever wanted to do and then they're both floating, falling, flying.

After, with the sweat cooling on their bodies, with her cheek on Kara's chest and Kara's fingers carding through the unruly mane of her hair, Sam's words float through her mind unbidden.

Lena's brow furrows.

“So, are we— are we hate fucking right now?”

Kara laughs, tilting her chin to kiss the crinkle between Lena's brows until it softens into nothing.

“Baby, you know damn well that this is nothing short of making love,” she grins, peppering the final three syllables with smacking kisses to Lena's lips and Lena does know that. She does, she does, she does.

Kara's smile is infectious, her eyes – those eyes, those bright eyes that have lied to her, saved her, condemned her, and loved her through it all – still that same old beautiful blue.

“But you tell yourself whatever you need to.”