“I once adored her— that demands revenge.”
- A. J. Morrison et al.
It's barely 7AM and she hasn't even had her first cup of coffee when yet another man aims yet another gun at Lena's face.
A blast of self-immolating purple goo – the third since she'd arrived – torpedoes towards her unprotected head like a glittering lilac death sentence. She drops, rolls behind the nearest support column and covers her head as the wall behind her explodes into flames.
This particular one of Lex's hardcore goons doesn't look particularly inclined to go down without a fight, and Lena's rapidly running out of defences. In fact, the lapels of her blazer are already smoking. She swats at the pale indigo flames, tutting as another ceiling joist crashes to the floor behind her. This suit is many things – Balenciaga, for one, and an absolutely devastating cut over the curve of her ass for another – but flame-retardant it is not.
The goon yells another taunt, no doubt something calamitously witty and horrifically xenophobic, and Lena decides it might be time to cut her losses. She'll get him another day, come back with a fire extinguisher and a bigger gun.
She hears the tell-tale whir of his fiery purple goo blaster winding up for another shot and books it towards the wall of windows. The column she'd been hiding behind detonates upon impact, a violent violet inferno that singes the ends of her eyelashes. She has just enough time to register the goon's outraged yell and gracefully flip him the finger before she's crashing straight through the plate glass and out into the open air fifty stories above National City.
The rushing wind at least extinguishes the last of the flames as she plummets, smouldering, toward the concrete below. And then suddenly she's slowing, the contents of her stomach protesting loudly as her body gradually halts its descent, hovers, the begins to gently rise once more.
“I didn't ask you to catch me,” she manages to snap once her breath has caught up with her, pouting hard at the face attached to the strong arms now cradling her thighs and lower back. “I had it handled.”
“Oh, sure.” Kara, perfect, handsome, infuriating Kara is gazing at her innocently, nodding in angelic agreement.
Lena huffs. It pisses her off that Supergirl never has a hair out of place even when she's cracking through the sound barrier. It pisses her off that she's so damn considerate, floating downwards with Lena as she'd fallen, slowing their descent to avoid Lena crashing straight into the steel beams of her arms at full speed. It pisses her off that— well. Suffice to say, Kara pisses her off.
“You totally had it handled,” Kara says with mock sincerity. “I'm sure you've got a parachute stashed somewhere around here that you were just about to deploy.” Her hands palm Lena's body none too subtly, coasting over skin-tight material. “I'd be interested to know where exactly you've hidden it.”
Lena growls, wriggling forcefully enough that Kara has no choice but to stop her impromptu frisk or risk dropping her completely. “I said I had it handled.”
“Well, if you don't want my help, I'm happy to leave you to it.” Now hovering higher than the building Lena had leapt out of, Kara makes as if to release her.
Lena doesn't even flinch. It's an empty threat and they both know it. She quirks one unimpressed brow. “Well, all you've ever done is let me down,” she bites out. “No sense changing the habits of a lifetime now.”
Kara's jaw tightens, a muscle in her cheek flickering. A thrill of satisfaction zings through Lena's stomach.
“Where to, then?” Kara asks stonily, all trace of teasing gone.
Lena smirks. Another round won. “L-Corp,” she says beatifically, flicking purple-tinged ash from her blazer. “Though I must warn you, my office has proto-canons primed to fire automatically on any Kryptonian that hovers in its airspace for more than sixty seconds, so. Better make it a speedy drop-off.”
Kara gapes at her, momentarily frozen. “Seriously, Lena?”
“What?” she asks sweetly, making sure to flutter her eyelashes a few times. “You'd prefer if I didn't defend myself against a superpowered alien that lied to my face for four years? After you'd spent so long telling me to take better care of myself as well.” She sighs dramatically, lining up the fatal blow. “I suppose concern for my wellbeing was all just part of the deception, in the end.”
Kara's audibly grinding her teeth as they approach Lena's office, a biting retort brewing inside her like a gathering storm. “You're welcome,” she snaps as she deposits Lena on her balcony, already backing away from the railing. “You know, for saving your life.”
“Oh, thank you, Supergirl,” Lena calls theatrically to the rapidly retreating blonde, hand pressed over her heart. At least Kara has finally amassed enough good sense to take her threats as seriously as she intends them. “Thank you so much for saving my life. You know, after you ruined it.”
Now hovering a good few hundred metres away from the building, Kara groans loudly enough for it to still be audible, sending a frustrated burst of laser vision straight up through the clouds.
“Thanks so much for dropping by,” Lena calls, fluttering her fingers as she turns toward the balcony door. “Don't let the proto-canons hit you in the ass on your way out.”
She wraps her fingers around the handle, waiting for the faint hiss of the biometric lock. “Or do,” she mutters as she steps inside, knowing the words will be picked up easily by Kryptonian superhearing. “It's the least you deserve.”
She takes a seat at her desk as a great booming crack echoes across the city, then another, and another. A quick glance out the window at the cloud of red-tinted dust on the horizon confirms that, yes, Supergirl is punching some mountains into rubble again. That's got to be the fourth time this week. She smirks. A new record.
Bitter satisfaction smouldering in her veins, Lena settles in to begin her day.
Ostensibly, officially, she and Supergirl are on the same side.
True to form, her ass of a brother has left an absolutely enormous mess to clean up, and dismantling the legion of followers Lex had ingrained into every level of the city's bureaucracy is certainly more than a one-woman job. Supergirl and Lena Luthor have spent the two months since her brother's untimely death (by death she means murder; by untimely she means she should have done it years ago) tracking down and rooting out Lex's loyalists, from high-ranking government officials to entry-level Children of Liberty thugs. On paper – and in the papers – they're the city's crime-fighting dream team.
No one knows the truth.
No one but Kara and Lena and their respective siblings – one of whom is now very much dead – have any idea that Supergirl and the one remaining Luthor can scarcely stand to inhabit the same room. No one knows about the years of deception crowding between them, about the devastation of the eventual reveal. No one else heard the gurgle of blood in her brother's lungs as he told Lena the truth, a fatal secret for a lethal price.
No one knows of the endless fights between she and Kara. No one else had witnessed the tears, the screams, the sobs and the recriminations. No one else overheard the accusations of betrayal, the declarations of hatred, the pleas for forgiveness that went ungranted.
To the rest of the world, Lena is the lone atoning Luthor, and Supergirl her redeemer. And the only thing in the universe more potent than her fury at her ex-best friend is her drive to right the wrongs committed by her bloodline, so Lena lets them believe.
If that means she has to spend her days shoulder to shoulder with the woman who broke her heart, so be it. She's learning, at least, to have a little fun with it along the way.
The thing is, Kara isn't very good at being her enemy.
She gets flustered and grumpy and snaps back at Lena's incessant needling at times, red-faced and pouting up a storm. But when her temper cools and her fists unclench she's all anxious eyes and apologetic lips, working harder than ever to win back Lena's trust, her friendship, her forgiveness. To win back Lena.
And Lena, she doesn't want that. Kara's lies had cut her deeper than anything had since the death of her mother, the betrayal of her brother, and she's in no hurry to welcome her back with open arms.
In public, she's happy to maintain an alliance with the city's superpowered sweetheart. It is, after all, beneficial to the smouldering ruins of the Luthor name, and being on Supergirl's guest list grants her access to resources and opportunities she couldn't otherwise dream of.
But in private, she reiterates her wrath over and over again, pushing and pushing at Kara's fault lines until there can be no doubt that she means to shatter her as thoroughly as she herself had been shattered.
The problem is, Kara doesn't fight back. Outside of a few heat-of-the-moment jabs and grumbles she's just there, steadfast and hopeful and irritating beyond measure.
Lena doesn't want a friend. She doesn't want a saviour or a partner or a lapdog. She doesn't even want a punching bag, really. What she wants is an enemy. A nemesis, an adversary, a target for the rage and betrayal still scratching through her veins.
She wants to be able to lash out at Kara and not feel bad about it. To have her lash right back. It's the only way she can see to navigate this minefield of her splintered faith, to one day make it out the other side. To let the fires of her fury rage until they burn themselves out.
But even in this, Kara can't seem to help her out. Instead, her compounded guilt and regret and whatever other emotion lurks in the depths of those bright blue eyes has her bending to Lena's every whim even more enthusiastically than she had before everything they'd ever built had crumbled around them.
Kara, it seems, will do whatever she asks. She breaks into federal facilities to steal items Lena needs. She grants her unrestricted access to the Fortress of Solitude within the course of a single conversation, a feat her brother had failed to accomplish in a lifetime. She comes unfailingly when Lena calls, and plenty of times when she doesn’t. Snatches her out of mid-air, shields her from bullets, absorbs blows meant for her and many more besides.
Her dedication, her selfless malleability, it doesn't sit well with Lena's image of her ex-best friend. There wasn't, Lena is convinced, a single honest moment in their friendship. Kara never cared for her the way she'd professed to, or else she never would have hurt her so deeply. Kara never loved her, or she wouldn't have broken her heart.
And yet. Recent evidence, annoyingly, does not support this most fundamental belief of Lena's new mindset. Kara's willingness to show up unfailingly, to take the hits Lena rains on her and keep coming regardless, paints a somewhat different picture.
There must be, Lena reasons, some other motive at play here. Yet another elaborate deception she's failing to see, another way for Kara to worm inside and break her down, strip her bare and leave her reeling.
She'll be damned if she lets herself fall prey to that earnest charm again. Once was more than enough for one lifetime. So Lena will crack this. She will work with Kara and she will watch her and she will figure out what her play is, and then she will take her down.
And then, just maybe, she'll finally find some peace.
So the question becomes: what wouldn't Kara do for her? It's an interesting notion to puzzle, and an even more interesting theory to test.
It had begun as penance, Lena knows. Once she'd shown her hand, made it clear to the blonde that she knew all about her superpowered double life, Kara had come crawling to her over and over again. Literally, at times; the image of her best friend on her knees before her, heart-shattered and sobbing as she'd begged for forgiveness, is not one she's likely to forget.
But it's also not an image Lena can allow herself to trust. Not if she's to have any hope of guarding her heart against this woman who had, once already, cleaved it in two.
So Lena sat, stone-faced and silent, as Kara had cried her anguished apologies into the dark fabric of her designer suit. She'd arched a single, wordless brow at the blonde's vow to make it up to her, to prove herself as loyal and true as she'd always claimed to be.
And then, she'd sat back and watched her try.
She'd watched Kara as Supergirl give interview after interview that distanced Lena from her maniacal brother, that positioned her firmly on the side of the good guys. She'd watched those red and blue shoulders tighten in irritation as reporter after reporter dragged the Luthor name through the mud, airing the laundry list of sins committed by her bloodline in front of the whole damn world.
“Not the Luthors,” Supergirl had growled, over and over again. “Lex.”
She'd watched Kara receive a Pulitzer prize for her whistleblowing exposé on Lex, watched her use almost her entire acceptance speech to talk about Lena instead. And she'd watched her make – and, thus far, keep to – the promise to dedicate herself to rooting out Lex's loyalists, freeing the city from every last remnant of Luthor-sponsored extremism.
That's what they do, now. Kara has Catco, has the DEO and Alex and J’onn and Nia and Brainy and Kelly. Lena has L-Corp, and none of the above. And in and between their other responsibilities, Super and Luthor team up, day after day exacting a systematic takedown of every official in National City and beyond that exudes so much as a whiff of Lex-leaning sympathies.
It's no easy feat. Even with first-hand knowledge of exactly how deep, how all-encompassing Lex's manipulation can run, the sheer number of supporters her brother had managed to convert to his cause before his long overdue murder staggers her.
Lena manages to fell a large swathe of them in one swoop when she has the bright idea to freeze all her brother's accounts, stopping his substantial outpouring of bribes dead in its tracks. But a disconcerting number of his supporters remain, from state governors to White House janitors, and many of them seem less than inclined to go down without a fight.
It's hard work, exhausting and gratifying and dangerous in near equal measure. After the third time an overzealous Lex fanatic takes it upon themselves to visit Lena at her office armed with a baseball bat and a gun, Kara gives her a signal watch, tells her to use it whenever she needs her.
“I don't need you,” Lena spits, as though if she can only make the words drip with enough venom, they'll be poisoned by the truth.
Kara, damn her, doesn't even bother to answer. Just smooths her thumb beneath the fresh blood coagulating along Lena's left cheekbone with a wry arch of her brow.
So, whatever. She'll take the watch, and use it too. After everything Kara's done to her, all the pain she's caused, saving Lena's ass whenever she needs it really seems like the least she could do.
And, fuck, if Lena wants to use her stupid fucking signal watch adorned with her stupid fucking house crest and colours to call Kara and tell her to bring her a pizza when she's working late at the office, then she's more than entitled to that, too. She never does it, but it's a nice thought.
So. What wouldn't Kara do for her? If that line in the sand exists, Lena hasn't crossed it yet.
Kara flies her around the city, around the country, making frequent trips to DC with Lena in her arms so they can clap handcuffs on yet another scumbag on Lex's payroll. She pulls every DEO string she can for intel on Lex's supporters, borrows and barters and sometimes outright steals tech and weapons that will make their capture easier. She shows up unfailingly at all hours of the day and night, whenever Lena finds herself in a tight spot. Catches her when she leaps from bridges, balconies, cliffs.
Kara's just there, eager and earnest, whenever Lena needs her. The knowledge lodges itself like a splinter in the icy shell of her cold, unfeeling heart.
She likes to push it sometimes, prodding at that splinter until it smarts.
The day one of the top Children of Liberty thugs kidnaps her on her way home from spin class, bundling her into a helicopter and flying her a good fifty miles out over the middle of the Pacific, Lena doesn't even bother to press her signal watch until she's already been shoved out of the cockpit.
She's falling fast, the diamond-bright surface of the ocean rushing up to meet her, yet her fingers pressing at that goddamn crest are lazy, unhurried. And still, still, Kara appears between Lena and danger, wide-eyed and breathless and so warm against her in all the wrong places.
Kara's devotion, her malleable fervour is so incredible to Lena that she can't help but push it that little bit further. When their feet touch down on her office balcony once more, the hero all nervous eyes and wringing fingers at her back, Lena thinks, why not.
“Kara,” she says slowly, firmly. “Jump.”
And before she even has time to blink the Kryptonian is up and off the floor, hovering a good three feet above the balcony tiles as she stares at Lena with wide, expectant eyes.
Well, fuck. She hadn't even asked how high?
And that, that is why Lena pushes. Why she prods and keeps prodding at that splinter, just to see if it will split. The thing about it, the troubling, infuriating thing, is that it never does.
It's just another ordinary day taking down ordinary assholes of her brother's extremist persuasion, when something quite extraordinary happens instead.
She's in an abandoned warehouse somewhere out by the docks, because of course she is. Of course she's here, beneath cracking corrugated roofing and support beams more unstable than her personal life, breathing the salt and kerosene scented air as she faces down a handful of nasty looking thugs a solid five miles away from the nearest person who might hear her if she screamed. God forbid the outrageous outpouring of her brother's bribe money ever be used to secure more comfortable accommodation for these little showdowns.
The thugs – what would one call a group of meatheads, anyway? A pack? A flock? – circle her menacingly, yellowing teeth bared.
Lena sighs, mentally running through her schedule for the day. She's got a conference call with her Munich investors at ten and a meeting with her head of R&D at eleven, neither of which are particularly reschedulable. That leaves her with a scant ninety minutes to dispatch of this particular – gaggle? Gang? Pod? – and make it back to the office in time for a quick reapplication of lipstick.
Lena sucks her teeth. Piece of cake.
She hadn't told Kara about this particular clean up. She never does, until there's no other option. Calling for back up when everything goes tits up is one thing, but pre-warning? Joint planning? Collaboration? That all smacks a little too much of partnership for Lena's taste.
Besides, she may not possess the preternatural advantage of sun-given strength and speed, but Lena Luthor is no damsel in a tower. With a trip of her fingers over the modified signal watch at her wrist, a solid silver-green gauntlet materialises around her forearm with a satisfying click.
Her brother's Lexosuit had been horrifying, yes, but not without its uses. With a few weeks of delicate tinkering and an agenda orientated toward helping rather than destroying the planet, she's managed to convert it into an extremely effective goon-fighting machine.
The first of the – herd? Pride? School? – charges her suddenly, eyes narrowed and spittle flying. With an easy flick of her wrist Lena freezes him in place with a proton beam from her gauntlet, tossing him casually out of range like a ragdoll.
His compatriots shriek in outrage, and then three of them are on her at once, a whirlwind of fleshy biceps and booze-soaked breath. It's almost painfully easy to keep them at bay – a proton blast here, a well-timed left hook there – and with the space in her brain not required to fight these sentient beer bongs Lena finds herself surprised and a little disappointed by how simple the whole mess has become.
That is, until the one meathead of the meathead collective she hadn't been keeping an eye on rushes her from behind, catching her midway through subduing two of his pals. Lena's already turning, gauntlet primed, ready to dodge yet another liquor-loose predictable attack, when something collides with her kidney with the force of a steel beam.
Lena's breath chokes out of her, her vision blackening at the edges as she stumbles, gasping for air. The two she'd been subduing break free and join the third, the one with iron rods instead of bones, the one who's bare hands should not have been able to hit that hard, all three of them hemming her in.
Tasting blood and humming with pain and adrenaline, she tries to straighten. Tries to get her fingers on her gauntlet, on her signal watch. Tries to open her mouth to deliver yet another devastatingly witty rejoinder to buy herself some time.
No such luck.
The one with mallets for hands steps forward, swings, and with the inevitable crush of a comet striking the surface of the world his fist connects with Lena's temple, and she's gone.
The last thing she registers before the starburst of agony turns her world to quiet darkness is the gleam of hit jet-black eyes.
It's embarrassing is what it is, waking up in the DEO's med bay with Alex Danvers’ supercilious face gazing down at her.
"Morning, sunshine,” the redhead grins cheerily, seemingly enjoying Lena's loud groan and accompanying grimace far too much. In the current Super-Luthor spat, it's no secret whose side Alex has taken.
“I'm not dead, then,” Lena establishes wearily, pressing her fingertips gingerly to her throbbing temple and wincing at the sizeable lump making itself at home atop her cranium.
“And with your famed powers of expert deduction still intact,” Alex deadpans, flicking through a rapid-fire slideshow of scans and x-rays on her tablet.
“What's the damage?” she inquires, wincing at the deep ache pulling at her kidney as she swings her legs over the side of the gurney.
“Renal haematoma caused by blunt force trauma,” Alex reels off, bored. Her eyes flick to Lena's fingers, carefully cupping her side as she fights down a litany of curses. “Though I'm guessing you already knew about that.”
Lena narrows her eyes. Alex could at least pretend not to be having a good time right now. Bedside manner, and all that.
“And I don't think you have a concussion, though you are sporting a rather lovely watercolour of bruises,” the redhead continues, motioning Lena toward the mirror on her desk. Lena complies, then sighs. The right side of her face from the jaw up is covered by a swirling mass of blue-black contusions, her left cheekbone scraped red raw from where she'd hit the ground like a sack of bricks.
She turns away from the mirror to find Alex beaming at her beatifically. "Good thing purple's your colour, huh.”
Lena's face pinches into a too-sweet smile, nose wrinkling to grin fakely at her unsympathetic nurse.
“Keep an eye on that head trauma overnight,” Alex continues unaffected. “Otherwise, you're fine. I'd be less interested in which injuries you sustained, and more interested in how. The force of that punch would have shattered your skull if the angle had been a few degrees off.”
“It felt like getting hit by a concrete glove,” Lena sighs, too weary to fight her agreement.
Alex hums, a deep crinkle forming between her eyebrows. “No human should be able to hit that hard. Not without help.”
“He had help,” comes a voice from the doorway, a swirl of cool air tinged with the scent of rain and moondust announcing Kara's sudden presence. She's across the room in less than a heartbeat, warm fingertips tracing the smattering of bruising over Lena's temple as their owner sucks her teeth in a sympathetic wince.
Lena ducks sharply away, and Kara's hand hovers sadly in mid-air for a moment before dropping back to her side. Resigned, she turns back to face her sister.
"He had Harun-El.”
The rest of the story, Lena gleans in fits and starts from various inhabitants of the DEO.
Kara had arrived at the warehouse – without the invitation of Lena's finger on her signal watch, but with the apparent invitation of Lena's thundering heartbeat in her ears – to find Lena already crumpled unconscious on the ground. She'd fought off the four regular goons with ease, and the one remaining super turbo goon with somewhat less ease, aided as he was by the black Kryptonite swirling in his bloodstream.
After a lengthy tussle and the eventual deployment of a handy pair of power-dampening handcuffs the turbo goon had been deposited in a holding cell, and Lena had been deposited in a hospital bed.
Kara doesn't ask her why she hadn't called for help, and Lena doesn't thank her for providing it regardless. Neither one of them mention the implicit admission of one set of superpowered ears tuning into one specific heartbeat with neither invitation nor permission. Bringing it up right now, while her face is still the colour of a flattened grape, feels a little too close ungrateful. Even if Kara is being particularly unbearable today.
“You drooled on my suit, you know. While I was flying you here.”
Lena's mouth drops open. “I did not—”
“You did,” Kara says around a mouthful of chicken Caesar wrap. “But it's okay, I don't mind. It was cute. Cute little unconsciousness dribble.”
“Kara, I swear—”
“Sleepy drool. No big deal, Lena. Happens to the best of us.”
“I have never once in my life—”
“We can just add the dry-cleaning bill to your tab.” Kara grins a wide, half-masticated grin. “Underneath all the times I've saved your ass.”
“I didn't ask—” Lena starts heatedly, but Kara's already shot out the door.
Temporarily defeated, Lena beats a tired retreat back to her penthouse. Cancels her meetings for the rest of the week and crawls into bed with the express intention of sleeping straight through to the following evening.
She would have managed, too, were it not for the Kryptonian who creeps into her bedroom every two hours on the dot like some kind of solar-powered alarm clock, waking her up to ensure her possible concussion hasn't caused her to spontaneously die.
“I,” Lena slurs, sleep-thick and groggy on the third of these night-time visits, “am installing Kryptonite-laced locks on my doors first thing tomorrow.”
“Of course you are, sweetheart,” Kara agrees mildly, prodding at Lena's shoulder until her fluttering eyelids open fully. “Now, are you nauseous? Any visual impairment? How many fingers am I holding up?”
"How many fingers am I holding up,” Lena grumbles, snaking one hand out from under the quilt to flip the blonde an inelegant bird before sleep reclaims her once more.
She's picked up the next evening and flown reluctantly back to the DEO for Alex to check her over once more, an indignity she agrees to only to prevent the inevitable media storm that would be generated by Lena Luthor showing up to Urgent Care with a face full of bruises.
Alex decrees her as fine as she can be with the imprint of an iron fist in her skull and her kidney, and releases her from the med bay only to corral her toward the command centre. It's only her lingering tiredness and the faint throbbing behind her eyes that prevents her twisting to bite at the fingers the redhead has wrapped around her bicep like a feral animal.
“So. Harun-El,” J’onn starts with his usual miserable inflection when they're all gathered around the central console. “When we took down your brother we thought we got it all.”
Lena presses a pointed hand to her temple. “You evidently thought wrong.”
The Martian doesn't even have the good grace to look a little abashed.
“So there are still some caches left,” Alex says, as if this is a startling revelation and not an obvious conclusion. “Caches that Lex's supporters are using— why? To continue their superhuman mission? To rebuild the Children of Liberty?”
“It doesn't matter why,” Kara cuts in, her eyes never leaving Lena's face even as she addresses her sister. “It only matters that we find it all and destroy it, so they can't hurt anyone else.”
J’onn nods, his calculating gaze flicking to Lena. “A team-up?”
“No, thank you,” Lena says stiffly. “I'm doing perfectly fine dismantling my brother's legions of demon spawn alone.”
Alex scoffs so loudly the other agents in the room stop working to stare. “Oh, absolutely,” she sneers. “The unconscious woman who was deposited in my med bay yesterday sure looked like she was doing perfectly fine.”
J’onn no longer addresses her by her first name. That fact is almost as painful as it is necessary.
“Miss Luthor, like it or not, you are already in an unofficial alliance with the DEO,” J’onn says carefully. “We can help each other. We need each other.”
Lena's blood, already simmering, begins to boil in her veins. She stares at the ring of faces, the ring of faces who had conspired to betray her, to keep her in the dark, to make her out to be the fool she'd tried so hard never to become. Her lip curls.
“You made it crystal clear that none of you needed me when you lied to my face for four years,” she spits, low and vicious. “And I am in no such alliance with the DEO. Believe it or not, I'm not in the habit of collaborating with people I wouldn't trust as far as I could throw them. I have never been your employee, J’onn J’onnz, and I will never be your partner.”
J’onn's brow furrows. “But, you and Supergirl—”
Fire races beneath Lena's skin. “What's between she and I,” she hisses, hiking a thumb in the direction of the wide-eyed blonde, “is between she and I. It's none of your concern, and I would appreciate it if you'd act as such. I am nothing to you, and you are nothing to me. I'm grateful for the medical assistance, Director Danvers,” she says crisply, turning on her heel. “Let's leave our alliance at that.”
Kara catches her, of course, before her dramatic exit can really take full effect.
"Lena, Lena,” she calls over and over, making such a scene that she has no choice to stop in the corridor lest the blonde decide to get her attention by breaking into song.
“I get that you don't want anything to do with them,” Kara mumbles once they're finally face to face, working the toe of her boot against the concrete floor. “But I, well, I'm here for you, you know. Whatever I can do. Whatever you need. You know that, right?”
Lena doesn't even bother with an acerbic retort, half because the pain in her chest caused by Kara’s deception is still too raw, and half because she does know that, despite it all. She just quirks one unimpressed brow, and leaves it at that.
“I'll keep trying, Lena,” the blonde hushes, low and earnest to evade the hearing of the agents milling around them. “I'll keep trying to make it up to you. I'll keep trying to get you back. Forever.”
Lena blinks once, deadpan and inflectionless. “Lucky me.”
“So, I was thinking,” the blonde continues, back to her normal buoyancy once more. “I know you're going to keep going after these guys alone, no matter how many times I tell you it's too dangerous. And if you won't let me come with you from the start, then I at least want to know that you're as well-prepared as you can possibly be.”
She steps forward, halving the distance between them, cutting off Lena's indignant retort with wide, shimmering eyes. Those eyes, Lena thinks hatefully. Those earnest, eager, fucking gorgeous blue eyes. How can they look the same, after everything that's passed between them? How can they possibly hold so much love, while also possessing the power to rip her apart?
“I want you to be safe,” Kara whispers, and Lena hates how much she doesn't hate her in this moment. “I can't see you hurt like that again.”
No. No. This, see. This is how it happens. This is how Kara worms her way in once more, and the enemy within the fortress walls is far more dangerous than the enemy without.
She hardens her face and her heart. “My safety is none of your concern.”
Kara doesn't even bother to point out the falsity of the statement. She just fixes Lena with a long, pointed look that would have had a lesser woman squirming in their Louboutins.
“So,” she continues, as if Lena hadn't spoken. “I was thinking, since now we're dealing not just with idiots but with idiots hopped up on Harun-El, it might be time to upgrade your self-defence tactics.”
Lena's stomach sinks. She has a feeling that she knows where this is going, and she hates it just as much as the blonde appears to be enjoying it. “No.”
Kara beams. “Yes,” she crows. “I can teach you.”
Lena's eyes roll heavenwards. “No way.”
“You need to learn to defend yourself against this new type of threat, Lena,” Kara says authoritatively. It makes Lena want to smack her. “You need to practice.”
Her teeth grind. “I'll build a training simulator.”
"No simulation can compare to the real thing,” Kara says smugly. “You need to really feel it, to learn the techniques of fighting advanced humans, non-humans. And who's got two superpowered thumbs and a wide open schedule?” the blonde beams, hiking both thumbs toward her own chest with a broad grin. “This Kryptonian.”
Lena sighs so heavily she almost falls over. “Surely you don't mean—”
"Train with me,” Kara interrupts soundly, looking far too satisfied with the turn of events for Lena's taste. “I'm the closest you'll get to facing someone injected with Harun-El, without risking them actually killing you. You can calibrate your suit so it's better equipped, learn how to fight most effectively. I'll teach you the strengths to avoid and the weaknesses to exploit.”
Internally, Lena growls. She's smart enough to know when she's been beat, and stubborn enough not to go down without a fight. Unfortunately for Kara, it's a lethal combination.
Something snarling and bitter curls through her throat like smoke, dark and dangerous. She takes a step closer, allows the fine bones of her wrist to graze the blonde's forearm light as a feather.
"Have you got some weaknesses you'd like me to exploit, Supergirl?” she hums, sultry smooth and saccharine sweet as she gazes up at the blonde from beneath her fluttering lashes.
Kara, bless her heart, appears to momentarily swallow her own tongue.
Lena only smirks, turning on her heel and accidentally-on-purpose whipping her long ponytail in the blonde’s face as she makes her way toward the DEO training room.
Kara may have cornered her into this, but that doesn't mean Lena's planning to let her out of it unscathed.
As soon as the door has sealed behind them, Kara fiddles with a control panel on the wall until the sickly green hue of Kryptonite fills the room.
Despite herself, Lena flinches. And, okay, what the fuck. What does she care if Kara's shoulders tighten in obvious discomfort, if her mouth twists in silent pain? She doesn't. She doesn't, she doesn't, she doesn't.
“You don't have to do that,” she says before she can think better of it. The words are heavy and foreign on her tongue. She hates how they feel in her mouth, hates how they sound in her ears. She says them anyway. “We can train without Kryptonite.”
"Oh, this isn't for your benefit,” Kara says with a pained little smile, one that absolutely does not land like a stick of dynamite in one of the many fissures of Lena's cracked and crevassed heart, forcing it to widen even further.
“It's for my peace of mind,” the blonde continues as she gathers her loose hair into a ponytail, snagging it tight with an elastic from her wrist. “I don't want to hurt you.”
"That must be a recent development in your morality,” Lena bites out, any latent sympathy for the blonde disappearing back into the gaping maw of resentment clouding her chest.
Kara ignores the barb, securing her hair tie with a sharp snap. "The emitters are on 18%,” she says with a barely detectable grimace. “I'm still stronger than you but I won't seriously injure you. And you can hit me without breaking your hand.”
Lena rolls her eyes. “Promises, promises.”
Again, the blonde ignores her. “So, the Harun-El makes humans erratic, but their attacks are pretty predictable,” she says, gesturing for Lena to join her on the raised platform that constitutes the training ring. "They go for the easy in, and they're strong. Whatever you do, don't let them get a good grip on you.”
Kara straightens, tapping her fingertips against her breastbone. “Okay. Come at me.”
Well. Lena doesn't need to hear that invitation twice. She rushes Kara, ducking at the last second to convert her obvious frontal attack into a shoulder to the softer target of the blonde's belly. Kara huffs out a surprised breath and Lena's blood runs hot in victory for a moment as she forces the Kryptonian backwards, feet sliding across the smooth floor. Her self-defence coach would be proud.
But the victory is momentary, as a second later Kara's arms lock around her waist and suddenly Lena is upside down, all the blood in her body rushing down to her head.
Faster than she can blink she's being spun, shoved backwards and flipped until her chest is pressed to the wall, cheek grazing the rough concrete. Her arm is pinned behind her back, immobilised in such a way that any attempt at escape would dislocate her shoulder.
Kara's body crowds against her back, fingers hot on Lena's wrist, thighs firm and strong against her own. “Harun-El gives humans strength without skill,” the blonde pants, millimetres from Lena's cheek. “You can't hope to beat them through brute force.”
The smooth jut of her pelvis grinds surreptitiously against Lena's ass, Kara's broad shoulders dwarfing her frame entirely. Lena's breathing hitches, heart machine-gunning against her ribcage.
"They're all brawn and no brain,” the blonde hums, and Lena forces herself not to shiver at the exhale that hits her exposed neck. “So you have to use yours. Your mind’s what will save you.”
Lena clenches her jaw. “Ow,” she hisses through her teeth. "Kara, you're hurting me.”
The blonde releases her instantly, as Lena had known she would, eyes wide and apology already forming on her lips. Lena uses the moment of distraction to twist and duck, takes advantage of her newfound freedom to slice her shin across the back of Kara's knees. The hero buckles instantly and Lena follows her down, landing heavily with her knees on either side of Kara's hips as she grapples with her flailing arms, pinning her wrists to the ground.
Kara gapes up at her, winded, genuinely immobilised by Lena's grip on the pressure point at her wrist thanks to the low hum of the Kryptonite emitters. “What the hell was that?” she gasps, wild strands of hair sticking to her flushed cheeks.
"That,” Lena pants triumphantly, “was me using my mind to save myself.”
Kara's brow crinkles, pink lips pouting. “You know Lex's cronies won't go easy on you just because you say ouch.”
"No?” Lena arches an eyebrow, pressing the blonde's hands harder into the concrete. “Then maybe you shouldn't, either.”
Kara's frown deepens, a muscle in her cheek flickering. “What's the matter?” Lena goads, relishing the breadth of Kara's trim waist between her spread thighs. She leans in close until their noses are almost touching, fluttering the tips of her fingers over the exposed skin of Kara's inner wrist and feeling her abs tighten as she gasps.
“Afraid to fight me for real, are you?” she pushes, enjoying the way Kara's jaw clenches. “Has Supergirl gone soft?”
It's easy, it's painfully easy, to work Kara up this way. It feels cruel, almost, in its simplicity; like taking candy from a baby. Like taking candy from a baby who's holding the candy out in offering beneath a glowing neon sign that reads steal me, please.
“You can't kill me, not like this,” Lena pants against Kara's open mouth, shrugging a shoulder in the direction of the Kryptonite emitters. “And it's not like we're friends. No reason for you to go easy on me. So,” she smirks as Kara's face darkens, her teeth grinding. “Why don't you show me what you've got?”
The last thing Lena registers is Kara's tongue darting out to wet her spit-slicked lips before she's sailing weightless through the air. The Kryptonian doesn't even let her feel the inevitable impact with the opposite wall, speeding across the room and fisting a hand in the collar of Lena's tight black combat jacket to spin her in mid-air, knocking her body to the ground. Lena's barely caught her breath when Kara's tugging her to her feet again, forcing her backwards with a series of jabs and feints that stretch the outer limits of Lena's lifetime of self-defence experience.
She manages to land a single hit to Kara's ribcage which, she realises a split second too late, was the blonde's intention all along. Kara uses Lena's momentum to duck beneath her second fist, whipping a corner of her cape out to snag around Lena's ankle.
Lena hits the ground again, hard, blinking up at the drab grey ceiling as she tries to catch her breath. Kara's face appears at the centre of the white lights swarming her vision, pink-cheeked and breathing hard. “Enough?” she puffs, holding out a hand.
Something hot and molten cracks open in the centre of Lena's chest, spreading like magma through her veins. No one, no one gets the better of Lena Luthor. Especially not this overgrown cheerleader in a glorified baby romper.
She latches onto the hand extended in her direction, tugging hard as she swings her shin against Kara's ankles to knock her legs out from under her. Then they're scrambling to face each other again across the training ring, both a little winded, both utterly unwilling to back down.
Lena lets the pain and rage and heartbreak and betrayal of Kara's deception light up each cell of her body like electricity through water. She flies at the blonde like a banshee, shoving and slapping and clawing, all training and finesse lost in the wake of her unbridled ferocity.
It seems to be all Kara can do to try and contain her, grappling for purchase against Lena's body as she ducks and dodges flailing limbs. After a few breathless moments of furious stalemate Lena finds herself bundled back against the training room wall, this time face to face with her adversary as the blonde struggles to immobilise her. She ends with one forearm pinned against her own chest in an iron grip, the other wrist restrained against the wall above her head.
“Stop,” Kara pants, leaning her weight heavily into Lena's body. Whether it's intended to secure her immobilization or is just a result of the blonde's Kryptonite-induced exhaustion, she doesn't know.
“Stop struggling,” the Kryptonian breathes, tone bordering on pleading. “This isn't what I— you're not learning anything like this.”
“I think I've learned everything I need to know,” Lena hisses, tugging hard at the arm Kara's pinned to her chest and grimacing at the resulting friction burn.
"Lena, please. I want to help you,” Kara pants, pressing Lena more roughly against the wall when she tries to squirm free. “I want to teach you.”
Exhausted by the effort of trying to shift Kara's leaden weight off her body, Lena spits a rogue strand of hair from her mouth with a huff. She might not have a hope of beating Supergirl even with Kryptonite emitters but, as the blonde had so kindly reminded her, hand to hand combat is not the only tool in Lena's arsenal.
“Is that really want you want?” she asks, pitching her voice low and suggestive as she moves her hips again, not fighting now but pushing, pressing. Wide blue eyes blink back at her dumbly and Lena allows the corner of her mouth to quirk, watching the way Kara's gaze tracks the movement.
“Is it?” Lena hums, fluttering the fingers of her pinned hand so the backs of her nails just barely skate the angle of the blonde's jaw. “You've got me here, pinned to a wall, and the only thing you want to do is teach me?”
It's cruel, maybe, to exploit Kara like this. Or it would be cruel, if Lena's own cheeks weren't also heating up at the prospect, if her pulse wasn't pounding wildly beneath the blonde's fingertips and all the blood in her body weren't migrating south with pinpoint precision.
"What is it that you really want to do, Kara?” she manages to ask, husked and smouldering.
The grip pinning her wrist to the wall loosens, the blonde's fingers snaking up to rest lightly in the cradle of Lena's curled palm instead. Kara thumbs deliberately over the delicate protrusions of Lena's wrist as her pink tongue darts out to wet her lips once more, and Lena feels her mouth go dry.
“Oh, Lena,” Kara breathes, a low rumble in her chest that hits Lena square between her legs. The blonde's grip on her other arm loosens, relinquishing her hold on Lena's forearm in favour of skimming her fingernails down the length of Lena's side.
Lena's hips twitch involuntarily and Kara counters the movement with one of her own, pressing their bodies together so sharply that Lena gasps. She leans in close, the backs of her fingers brushing Lena's tangled hair from her neck and shoulder to clear a path, breath hot and damp against her ear.
“You don't want to know.”
A tiny sound, high-pitched and desperate, builds in the back of Lena's throat. By the time it pushes its way out of her mouth, Kara is gone.
"It is not enough to love you. It is not enough to want you destroyed."
- Terrance Hayes
There are no more training sessions, after that.
Kara continues to badger her incessantly about upping her self-defence skills to help her handle the latest batch of Harun-El hooligans. Lena, mostly out of spite and only a little bit out of fear of her own traitorous libido, continues to refuse.
Operation: De-Lexify National City continues much as it had ever since the death of her brother. Lena gets tip-offs regarding the location and affiliation of her brother's devotees, and sets to busting their balls for them armed with a souped-up gun and a metric tonne of unearned confidence.
It only sometimes doesn't pay off. She detains four Lexophiles this way over the course of the next week, two of whom are flying higher than steel-armoured kites on stolen Harun-El.
This, she feels, is a fairly respectable tally. At least, until the fifth goon – huge, mean, and so burly she probably wouldn't have been able to take him down even without the superhuman cocktail bubbling through his veins – crushes her Lexosuit gauntlet into atoms with his bare fist and proceeds to lock the thickset bulk of his biceps around her chest, squeezing tight.
Eyes bulging, lungs bursting, it's all Lena can do to slam the open face of her signal watch against her captor's ribcage in the hope that some part of his enormous girth will press down on the emergency button for her.
Kara's there before she can even try – and fail – to suck in another breath. It all happens so quickly; one moment the oxygen is being wrung from her body like blood from a rag and the next, the clammy sweat of the meathead's arms around her is replaced by a cool softness, gentle hands scooping her clear of her collision course with the ground.
“Lena,” comes that horrible, beautiful voice from somewhere above and beyond her swimming vision. Damp fingers brush her hair back from her cheeks. “Are you hurt?”
Gasping and choking, it takes a solid ten seconds for Lena to suck a single breath back into her protesting lungs. It takes ten more for her to gather enough oxygen to articulate her response.
“What the fuck does it look like?”
"Yeah, right,” Kara mutters, seemingly distracted by something below the level of Lena's eyes. Her chest, she realises— is she bleeding? Fuck, did the meathead also manage to stab her at some point while she was busy being distracted by choking to death?
Struggling to her elbows, Lena forces her white-spotted gaze down to her own torso. No blood, she notes. A strong start. No protruding daggers, no burns or bruises or, really, any cause for concern at all. So what, then, is Kara looking at with such incredibly focused— ah.
Yes. Right. So. It appears, upon closer inspection, that at some point during their tussle, the meathead's claw-like nails had caught in the front of Lena's thin base layer, ripping it open from shoulder to navel.
“Kara,” she hisses at the blonde still staring at the pale green lace of the bra exposed by her current state of disarray with an expression much akin to a milk-drunk baby. Wide blue eyes snap guiltily back to her face and Lena gestures weakly to where their hulking adversary is clambering out of the hole in the alley wall Kara had blasted him into. “If you could focus just a little longer, honey.”
That's how it goes, most of the time. Lena either takes down her nemeses alone, or else she fails to take them down and calls for eleventh hour Kryptonian backup. Kara arrives in a whirlwind of vicious punches and panicked eyes, flattening whichever foe had gotten the better of Lena that day before turning to her with a frantic concern that Lena invariably bats away.
Kara comes to her aid in the middle of the workday and in the middle of the night. She leaves Catco, leaves the DEO, leaves dinner and breakfast and free donut day at her local café, all to show up unfailingly whenever Lena calls. She arrives fully suited and booted, she arrives fully pyjama-ed and slipper-ed. She arrives, once, in hip-hugging miniature running shorts and a slate grey sports bra, unbrushed hair still dripping wetly onto her shoulder straps.
“I had literally just,” she pants as she flips a charging Children of Liberty hooligan neatly over one shoulder, flattening another two with a well-timed blast of freeze breath, “gotten out of the shower. I think I might have left the water running.”
Lena, dry-mouthed and panting as she watches droplets of water soak into the thin fabric highlighting the swell of Kara's chest, cannot even manage an apology.
Two weeks after her first encounter with supercharged adversaries, Lena hits the jackpot. In the depths of a private lab belonging to a geneticist she'd long suspected of harbouring Lex-leaning sympathies Lena discovers a cache of Harun-El the size of a small car.
There's no hesitation this time. Her fingers are on her signal watch before she's even fully through the door. Kara materialises, blessedly fully clothed, hands stacked on trim hips as she appraises the stash.
“Nice,” she whistles through her teeth, long fingers tapping absently against the faint lines of her abdominals that Lena is definitely not ogling through skin-tight spandex. “How are we gonna get rid of it?”
"That's what I called you for, muscles,” Lena mutters derisively. “I can't even lift it.”
"The offer to train with me always stands,” Kara hums as she appraises the stash, measuring her arm span against the width of the enormous crates. “I could still help you, get you all worked up. Out,” she corrects with a gasp, wide-eyed, face flushing a gratifying shade of puce. “Get you worked out, I meant. Work you out. Give you a workout— oh, Rao.”
Lena snorts. “Got a passion for fitness and physique, do you, Supergirl?”
Kara's pink cheeks are radiating heat like a burning star. “Only yours.”
Her eyes widen comically as her own words register. “No, I mean, I didn't—” she struggles as Lena sniggers loudly behind the fingertips she presses to her lips. You know, like a lady.
“I didn't mean, you know, your physique,” Kara tries again, hands flailing desperately in the air as if attempting to convey the truth of what she feels for Lena's body. “Just, you know. Your physique.”
“Kara,” Lena interrupts, fighting hard to ignore the heated weight of those blessed blue eyes roving over every inch of her frame. "For the love of God. Shut up.”
Kara's mouth snaps obediently shut. In the charged silence that follows, her gaze never deviates from the trail it's scorching across the length and breadth of Lena's body, and suddenly it's not just Kryptonian cheeks that are flushing.
Lena forces down a heavy swallow as the quiet between them lengthens, the tension stretching taut. She notices the exact moment Kara notices the uptick of her heartbeat, blue eyes flicking to her chest, and suddenly the expression on the blonde's face is not merely desperate but desperately interested.
Kara's shoulders square, the beginning of a smirk making itself known at the corner of her lips. Low and husked and maintaining torturous, torrid eye contact the entire time, she steps forward.
“You gonna make me?”
Which, alright. Fuck her.
Fuck her, the filthy perfidious lust demons in the darkest corners of Lena's mind agree enthusiastically. She douses them in a bucket of ice water, squaring her own shoulders to match. No. Fuck her.
“If you'd be so kind,” she manages haughtily, gesturing toward the crates upon crates of Harun-El and snapping the two of them firmly back to the matter at hand.
Kara only shrugs, pink lips still quirking up in the shadow of a smirk that Lena would like very much to slap clean off her handsome face. With barely a huff of exertion she scoops the whole lot up and shoots out the door. A moment later Lena sees a red and blue blur streak by the window as her superpowered lackey flies the vile stuff into space.
Lena takes the momentary respite to slap herself resoundingly in the face. “Get it together,” she hisses, praying Kara's far enough away by now not to overhear.
A few deep, cleansing, diaphragmatic breaths later, her cheeks have returned to their usual colour and Lena has returned to her usual sour mood. She doesn't bother thanking Kara when the blonde returns, flying her across the city and depositing her back on her office balcony with a flourish.
"That must have been their main source of Harun-El,” Kara chirps proudly, triceps and deltoids flexing beneath her suit as she preens in the slanting sun. “And now it's orbiting Jupiter. Not bad for a morning's teamwork, huh?”
“We,” Lena articulates slowly and deliberately, carefully looking anywhere but at the posturing superhero seeming to fill her entire balcony, “are not a team.”
The tip of a pink tongue pokes out between plush lips. “Hey, whatever you say,” Kara simpers, turning on her heel. “Partner.”
If the blonde hears the litany of curses Lena hurls after her into the crisp morning air, she doesn’t seem to mind.
There's no more Harun-El.
Each one of Lena's black Kryptonite scans has come up clean. The last remaining cache of the foul stuff has been launched into space, alongside the Kryptonian elements any remaining Children of Liberty thugs would need to make more.
There's no more Harun-El and so, the threat is over. Her brother's lackeys – at least, the ones who aren't powered by alien drugs – are a comparative walk in the park. The threat is over.
And so, Lena turns her attention to other things. And so, work on the suit she'd been making for Kara – the one with needles containing Harun-El antidote ready to deploy in its sleeves, the one with an automated emergency distress system, the one with shields and armour and protection protection protection – falls to the back burner.
There's no more Harun-El, so the threat is over, so Kara is left unprotected. And then, she falls out of the sky.
The fight is all over the news. Lena pays it no mind. At least, not until Jess, in her office to deliver a stack of contracts requiring signatures, drops the pile all over her desk with a gasp.
Lena's eyes snap to the wall-mounted television, following her assistant's line of sight. The news footage is grainy, but it's distinguishable, and it's live.
Lena watches along with all of National City as a dark-hooded figure lands a punch so vicious to Supergirl's jaw that her entire body slackens, teetering dangerously before it slips over the edge of the skyscraper upon which she's perched. Lena watches along with all of National City as Supergirl lands, crack, unmoving amongst the shattered concrete of the sea wall a hundred stories below. Amid all of National City, only Lena knows which substance had made Supergirl's assailant strong enough to accomplish his goal.
A boulder of leaden dread in the pit of her stomach almost brings her to her knees. She refuses to let it. “Helicopter,” she snaps at her still-frozen assistant, not bothering to temper the bite of her tone. “Now.”
Jess gapes, gaze swinging back and forth between Lena and the newsfeed. “But,” she stumbles, mouth open in shock. “But, Supergirl—”
Lena sets her jaw. “I'll handle Supergirl.”
Ninety seconds later, Lena's private helicopter is lifting off the roof of L-Corp. One hundred and eighty seconds later, it's touching down atop the fractured concrete of the decimated waterfront.
Lena pays no mind to the crowd of solemn onlookers. She pays no mind to the gathering TV crews, the reporters shouting questions, the cops erecting cordons. She pays no mind even to the armoured SUVs that announce the arrival of the DEO, to the agents that swarm the building from which Supergirl had plummeted, looking for her assailant.
The only thing in the world that exists is Kara's unconscious form. Four and a half minutes after she'd watched her hit the ground, Lena – with the assistance of her pilot and head of security – lifts Kara's battered body into the cockpit of her helicopter and gets her the hell out of Dodge.
Kara wakes less than an hour later.
She is, by this time, laid out along the length of Lena's expensive white couch, ice packs positioned beneath the plum-coloured bruising of her joints, portable heart monitor affixed firmly to her chest.
Long lashes flutter open. A painful breath shudders beneath aching ribs. Blue eyes blink wide and beseeching.
“Can I have a hug?”
The vice-grip of tension hooking into every inch of Lena's body releases all at once; an invisible, inaudible sigh of relief
Her tight jaw unclenches. “Somebody's feeling better.”
“No,” Kara drawls, pink lips pouting up a storm. “Still bad, so bad. Need a hug to make it better.”
"Nice try.” Lena reaches out, slipping the ice pack from beneath the purple-mottled skin of Kara's shoulder and replacing it with a heating pad. “How are you feeling?”
“Like I fell of a building.” Kara wriggles her fingers and toes, testing out each of her limbs with a growing grimace. “What's the damage?”
“The fractures to your spine and skull have healed,” Lena says bluntly, biting hard at the inside of her cheek. “As have your broken arm and two broken legs. Soft tissue damage is all that's left, some contusions and bruising. Your body burnt out your powers repairing the damage, though. Solar flaring is the only reason you're still alive.”
Kara lies quiet a long moment, absorbing. At length she rolls her bruised shoulders, cracking her neck with a wince. “Don't sound like nothing a hug couldn't fix.”
“You are an idiot,” Lena informs her calmly, with only about 40% as much venom as usual. “A reckless, cavalier, hopeless idiot.”
“Your reckless, cavalier, hopeless idiot,” Kara corrects affably, struggling to sit up. “I got that guy real good for you. At least, until he got me.”
Lena supports her charge to sitting, rearranging her healing nest of ice and heat and pillows to account for her new position. “He'd gotten his hands on more Harun-El, hadn't he.”
“Unless he'd recently procured some pure black contacts and replaced all his bones with titanium rods, I'd say so, yeah,” Kara agrees around a grimace she fights valiantly to hide. “Did you get him?”
“Your sister did.” Lena holds out a bottle of pills, the strongest painkillers she'd had to hand, and a glass of water to match. “I saw the DEO carting him off on the news.”
"Yeah, where is Alex?” Kara asks, throwing back the meds. “I can't believe you've managed to keep her at bay. Fussing over me when I'm injured is, like, her second favourite pastime.”
“No one from the DEO is welcome in my home,” Lena says stiffly, conveniently ignoring her current houseguest's affiliation with said blacklisted organisation. “Though, I have kept her informed of your condition,” she concedes with marginally less acerbity, cutting her eyes sideways at the blonde. “Do you— do you want her here?”
Kara meets her gaze levelly. “Do you?”
"Very obviously not,” Lena mutters, teeth grinding. “But do you?”
"No,” Kara answers, light and easy. “Her fussing is way too overwhelming most of the time, plus she's always trying to stick me with needles whenever I flare. And anyway—” Blue eyes flick almost shyly to Lena's face before dancing away again. “I have you.”
It would be nice if Lena could claim that wasn't true. Unfortunately, every single thing about their current situation screams otherwise.
“I do, don't I?” Kara asks into the silence unfolding between them, voice soft and careful. “Have you, I mean. You came when I got hurt, didn’t you?”
Lena sighs. She doesn't even need to answer, really. Not when it's her helicopter that had lifted Kara to safety, her apartment that’s standing in as her hospital bed, her hands that had trembled as they'd coaxed her back from the brink of death.
“Kara Zor-El,” she breathes instead, hushed and resigned and so, so tired, wrung out by terror and relief and struggle and exhaustion. “You have ruined me.”
Blue eyes watch her a long moment. Lena feels her chest tighten, pulse thrumming wildly in her ears.
It's just, Kara does this thing, sometimes.
Well, not sometimes. She does it when she looks at Lena.
It's— subtle. The inclination of her head. The slight dip of her chin. The crinkling around her eyes, the dropping of her shoulders in a silent sigh.
It's a gentle sort of welcome. It radiates familiarity and affection. It's a softening of her entire body.
It's a move that says, you, oh, it's you, and Kara does it when she looks at Lena.
The blonde's voice is just as gentle, just as quiet. If she notices the conflict raging in Lena's eyes, the war of want and fear being waged in her heart, she gives no indication.
“I'd say I'd gladly let you return the favour but, honestly?”
Even bruised to high heaven, Kara is so beautiful. That bright blue gaze is so earnest it's no wonder there was once a time Lena had taken her word as gospel.
“Honestly, Lena, I think you already have.”
Kara stays in her apartment for twenty-five hours.
This is fine, because for the first twenty-four of those hours, Kara is asleep. This is also decidedly not fine, however, because for the final one of those hours, Kara is awake.
Unconscious, Kara is almost tolerable. Curled up on Lena's couch amid a maelstrom of blankets and cool packs, skin streaked purple-blue and eyes dark-bruised, the sight of her inspires in Lena's chest a burning quite different from the usual fury that festers in her heart. This feeling behind her ribs is softer, less angry; a mellow kind of relief undercut by bitter guilt.
It's Lena's fault, after all. Her fault that Kara had taken up the anti-Lex crusade and gotten embroiled in the war against Harun-El hooligans in the first place. Her fault that she'd gotten careless, gotten complacent. Her fault that she'd assumed the threat was over, had failed to provide the hero with adequate protection against the danger that endured.
That’s why she's letting Kara stay, she reasons, despite the agony still pulsing in all the cracks between them. Because she feels guilty, and because when Kara is asleep she isn't talking, and when she isn't talking Lena doesn't feel the urge to slap her nearly as often.
Also, Kara sleeps like the dead. Lena worries that she actually is dead, for a while. Has to spend a tense five minutes watching the rhythmic beeping of the heart monitor just to assure herself of the blonde's continued existence.
It takes Kara not waking through three hours, half a TV show, and a dropped fork that makes the most earth-shattering clatter against the edge of the sink before Lena realises that an airhorn in her ear probably wouldn't wake the sleeping blonde right now.
She'd always known Kara to be a light sleeper, jumpy and responsive to every minute creak and scrape within a five-mile-radius of her bed. But that, Lena realises, was when she'd had superhearing. Now, with her powers shot to hell, National City's resident Kryptonian brings new meaning to the definition of the word comatose.
This works to Lena's advantage around the five-hour mark of Kara's habitation of her apartment. Lena's leaning over the sleeping blonde, reaching beneath her warm body to change out the cool packs working hard to reduce the swelling around Kara's battered joints, when her phone starts up a lively rendition of SexyBack from her back pocket.
Lena jumps, heart hammering as her eyes dart to the unconscious blonde, but Kara doesn't even flinch at the loud personalised ringtone. Relief flooding her veins, Lena sinks down onto the edge of the couch by Kara's hip as she answers the call.
“So, were you ever going to tell me that Kara Danvers is Supergirl?” comes Sam Arias’ unimpressed voice down the line. “Or was I just supposed to learn that from your latest homoerotic publicity stunt myself?”
Lena blinks. At her back, Kara rolls over and sniffles, curling herself around Lena's seated body. “What?”
“Don't what me, Luthor.”
Sam pauses to slurp something loudly on the other end of the line. Lena would bet her inheritance it's something that involves copious ice cubes and inhuman amounts of caffeine.
“I watched your little Supergirl heli-rescue on the news,” Sam gets out around the wet sounds of her chewing on her straw. “I haven't seen you look that panicked since the first time you held Ruby as a baby. I haven't seen you move that fast since the last Louboutin sale.”
“Other than insulting me,” Lena asks primly past the blood flushing her cheeks, “what's your point?”
“What's my point?” Sam parrots, incredulous. “How long have I known you, Lena? No, don't answer that, I'm feeling sensitive about my age right now. I was there,” she snaps, “for two long years, watching you and Kara Danvers make big sapphic heart eyes at one another as you played the most insufferable game of gay cat and mouse I've ever had the misfortune to witness. I know what you look like when you're worried about someone you love, sweetie. I know what you look like when you're worried about her.”
Lena's mouth opens, then closes, then opens and closes again. Kara, eyes shut and breathing deep, presses her face to the side of Lena's thigh, nosing into the material of her yoga pants.
“So, my point,” Sam finishes resoundingly, “is that it was not Supergirl-worry, but Kara-Danvers-worry that I saw plastered all over your face on the six o’clock news.”
“I—” Lena tries weakly. “That wasn't— she—”
"Save it,” Sam cuts in in a tone so firm that Lena decides right then and there to save it. The Kryptonian is out of the bag, now. There's no stuffing her back in.
“So, question number one, is she okay?” Sam asks into Lena's cowed silence. “And question number two, what in the actual fuck?”
“She's alright,” Lena mumbles. Kara, still unconscious, nuzzles her cheek into Lena's thigh as if in agreement. “And— yeah. I know. I don't know. Yeah.”
“Oh, honey, she's got you bad.” Sam whistles long and low through her teeth. Lena is privately, silently, inclined to agree. “How long have you known? How did she tell you?”
“She didn't,” Lena mutters bitterly, and then it all comes spilling out. The lies, the deception and the hurt and the years of betrayal pour out of her like the breaking of a tide into Sam's safe harbour.
“So,” Sam hums at the end of the whole sorry tale. “Now what? Like, you hate her – and I totally get that by the way, babe, one hundred per cent justified – but also like, do you hate her? I mean,” she barrels on, cutting off Lena's indignant response. “You took her into your helicopter, Lena.”
Kara's sleepy fingers nudge their way into the fabric of Lena's cardigan, twisting tight. Lena watches them, considers, and doesn't brush them away. “Is that a euphemism?”
“Bound to be,” Sam says cheerfully. “Got her into your cockpit, engaged in some rotator action, joined the mile high club, take your pick. The point is, you saved her. The point is, you wanted to.”
Lena sighs so heavily she almost falls off the edge of the couch. Kara grumbles at the disruption to her quest to wind herself as tightly around Lena's body as Kryptonianly possible, brow crinkling and closed eyelids fluttering.
“Do you think you could try being a little less astute?” she asks Sam quietly, tiredly. Lays her palm lightly against a warm crown of golden curls until Kara stops fussing in her sleep and settles down once more. “Pay a little less attention to me, maybe?”
"Not a chance,” Sam chortles happily. “Embarrassing my daughter and my best friend at every given opportunity is what really makes life worth living. The disasters of your life, of which there are many, are wildly entertaining, sugar plum.”
"Well, that's a relief,” Lena sighs. Her hand is still on Kara's hair. “Don't suppose you've got any actual advice on how to navigate the minefield of my fractured relationship with my ex-best-friend-come-superhero-come-reluctant-partner-come-unconscious-saviour?”
“Can't say that I do,” Sam crows, utterly unapologetic. "But I will say this: the sexual tension between the two of you is visible from space. Hell, it’s visible from Metropolis, so if I were you I'd focus on deciding whether you want to kill her, or just want her. After all, it's like I always say,” she finishes resoundingly, sounding for all the world like she's about to impart the deepest secrets of the cosmos. “Hate sex is always an option.”
Lena's mouth falls open. “That's what you always say?”
One unhelpful Sam Arias phone call and several hours of furious Googling later, Lena's knee-deep in research and couch-deep in the arms of a comatose Kryptonian.
It's just, Kara hasn't let her go. She's still asleep, muscles slack and breathing heavy, yet the twisting grip she's maintaining on Lena's seated form is as unyielding as ever.
After a few fruitless attempts at extricating herself from the horizontal bear hug in which she finds herself, Lena gives up. Gives into the warmth of the unconscious body at her back, snagging her laptop from the coffee table and setting to work deciphering just where in the hell Kara's attacker had gotten his Harun-El from.
Lena stares at the blood chemistry reports Alex had sent over, based on samples taken from the jackass now in holding at the DEO. She stares at them until her eyes cross and her vision blurs and two movies start and end on the TV, and she hopes that she's wrong, and she knows that she isn't.
The thing is, the Harun-El in the bloodstream of the guy who'd knocked Kara off a building— well, it's familiar. Very familiar. In fact, it's Lena's own recipe, right down to the filtration residue on the drug that could only have been left by someone who knew to use the same model of centrifuge sitting on Lena's own lab bench.
This is not information that Lena had ever shared with, well, anyone. There had been no break-ins at her home or office, no theft of the notes and directions required to produce a fresh batch of Harun-El to the exact specification that Lena herself had managed it.
There is, simply put, no way for anyone other than Lena herself to produce Harun-El like the stuff bubbling away in Kara's attacker's bloodstream. No one, of course, except her ex-lab partner.
Lena leans back sharply, shoving her laptop onto the coffee table as her mind races with the implications. Kara, still sleeping, huffs at the sudden movement, grumbling and fussing at the disruption to her octopus cuddling technique.
Lena strokes her hair absently until the blonde quiets again, her head spinning.
“Son of a bitch.”
After twenty-four hours of sleeping slash trapping Lena with inescapable snuggles, Kara finally wakes.
Her powers aren't back, not entirely, but her body is almost fully healed. The bruises mottling beneath golden skin are fading to a dull brownish green, the deep shadows under her eyes softening.
She looks a whole lot better than she had when Lena had scraped her off the sidewalk. Thus, Lena feels no guilt over greeting the blurry-eyed blonde with her most recent discovery before she's even had a chance to stretch.
“It was Eve.”
Kara, still sleepy and soft, crinkles her nose as she wiggles her toes deeper into the blankets. “What?”
“Eve Teschmacher made the Harun-El that fuelled the guy that punched you off a building,” Lena says bluntly. “She must be continuing the work my brother started. Carrying his torch.”
Kara pushes herself upright, quiet as she considers the implications. “You're sure?”
“As sure as anyone can be.”
Kara nods. She doesn't ask Lena how she knows, she just believes that she does. Lena appreciates this. She can't say she'd be so trusting should their roles be reversed.
“What does that mean for us?” Kara asks after a long moment, rolling her neck as she takes a long gulp from the water glass Lena had left for her. “What do we do now?”
Lena's chin lifts. “We find her, and we stop her making anything that can get anyone else hurt. Tomorrow, though,” she adds, glancing sideways at the blonde's wan complexion. "You're not kicking any ass fresh out of a twenty-four-hour solar flare nap.”
“I was out for the whole day?” At Lena's nod, Kara grimaces. “Yeesh. Sorry.”
Lena shrugs briskly, turning her attention back to her laptop. So absorbed is she in her quest to track down the location of Eve's new lab that she almost, almost doesn't feel the heavy weight of Kara's gaze on her face. Almost.
"Hey,” Kara says after about ten minutes of pointed staring. “Why are you letting me stay?”
Lena keeps her eyes on her laptop screen. “I can't throw an invalid off my couch. I know you love to treat me like a villain, but I do have some standards.”
“You're not a villain, and I'm not an invalid.” Kara sits up straighter, her gaze a scalding brand. “I'm fine, and you know it.”
The words hang in the air between them, unrebuffed. Lena pulls up a new search window, sets herself to stalking the social media accounts of Eve's family members for any mention of her whereabouts without a word.
Kara, true to form, can only manage about twelve seconds of silence before she feels the need to break it. “So?”
Still, Lena does not lift her eyes. "So what?”
Kara clicks her tongue, exasperated. “So, why are you letting me stay here?”
“Debt repayment, I suppose.” If silence won't shut the blonde up, perhaps a half-truth will. “Can't have you deciding not to come the next time I use the signal watch because I'm too ungrateful to return the favour.”
Lena's gaze does snap up then, brow arched and mouth opening. “I beg your pardon?”
“You know you don't have to repay me.” Kara shuffles forward on the couch cushions, angling her body toward Lena's. “You know that this thing between us could be one hundred per cent one-sided, that you could be the most ungrateful brat on the planet, and I would still come for you. You know that, Lena.”
It's flippant, a blatant evasion. A poor attempt at distraction from the way her heart has taken off behind her ribcage like a fighter jet down the runway.
Kara's gaze is hard and unflinching. There's no room for jokes or avoidance. Beneath the weight of those piercing blue eyes, there's no room to breathe. “Don't you?”
Lena snaps her laptop shut with a sharp thwap. “Alright then,” she bites out, something hot and stinging rising in her throat. “Since you seem to know everything I know, why don't you tell me why I'm letting you stay?
Kara doesn't even blink. “Because you want me here.”
Lena's brows hit her hairline. “I do not.”
Bright blue eyes don't even blink. “I don't think you're even convincing yourself at this point.”
“You are such an ass,” Lena informs the embodiment of earnestness ensconced on her couch cushions calmly. “I want you in my apartment like I want a hole in the head.”
Pink lips quirk. “Given the frequency with which you put yourself at risk of assassination, I'd say that's quite a lot.”
Alright, fuck her.
Lena's spine straightens. “I'm mad at you.”
“You know, I don't think you are anymore.” Kara's demeanour has relaxed, smugness rolling off her easy posture in waves. “I think you're trying to be, but you're not.”
Lena scoffs. “When did you become the expert on the whole world's feelings?”
“Not the whole world.” Kara might actually be inspecting her fingernails right now. “Just you.”
“You know, there are times— and this is one of them, in case you were wondering,” Lena starts conversationally, pushing up from the opposite couch. “There are times that I absolutely despise you.”
"Well, you know what they say.” Kara's still watching her, the shadows of a smirk playing at the corners of her mouth. “It's a very thin line between hate and lo—”
“Don't you dare.”
Her own voice is vicious suddenly, sharp as the blade of a dagger. The temperature in the apartment drops twenty degrees, a tense and frosty silence crystallising in the chasm between them. So, the two of them have reached a point where they can stand a little superficial teasing, a little casual banter. Fine.
But if Kara thinks for one second that the position she now occupies in Lena's life entitles her to talk about anything deeper, anything real— to talk about that with such levity, such irreverence— no way. No fucking way.
She will not withstand a lecture on matters of her own heart. Not from the woman who shattered it.
“Don't you dare say that to me.”
Kara's on the back foot now, hands up and blinking fast. “Lena—”
Pink lips gape at her. Cold fury shudders through Lena like a magnitude ten earthquake. “I'm serious, Kara. Like you said, you're fine. So, leave. Right now.”
Whatever Kara sees in her eyes is enough to cut any argument dead in its tracks. She's gone without another word.
She refuses to call Kara, after that.
Seething with the righteous indignation of the wronged, Lena dedicates herself to tracking down Eve Teschmacher in single-minded solitude. After hours upon hours of research and snooping and cursing and tearing out of hair – metaphorically, of course; no way in hell is Lena sacrificing her five-hundred-dollar Brazilian blowout over her – she finally starts to get somewhere.
Tracing backwards through her brother's interminable list of affiliations, alliances, and alumni associations is as mind-numbing as it is alliterative. Somewhere around her nine thousandth Google search, though, she comes across a standing lab booking under the name of Jack Worthing – one of her brother's many aliases – at the Faculty of Chemistry at MIT – one of her brother's many alma maters.
Lena's never been one to believe in coincidences. Five hours aboard a private jet later, she's pulling the collar of her pea coat tighter against the brisk Massachusetts wind, keeping the lowest profile she can manage as she slinks into the chem building after classes let out.
She finds the lab Jack Worthing has booked out easily, and thirty seconds inside it is enough to cement her suspicions that Jack is actually Eve and that both of them are slobs.
Every available work surface is covered in sheaths of paper and hastily-scrawled notes, beakers of viscous black liquid in various stages of filtration scattered between them. This is Eve's lab, alright; the distillation process, just as Lena had suspected, has been copied exactly from the time the two of them had worked together. So this is Eve's lab, and Eve's lab is the source of the Harun-El still flooding the xenophobe market.
Lena feels cold fury seep through her veins like ice water. Not only had Eve betrayed her all those months ago, zip-tying her to a chair and pointing a gun at her head, but she's still betraying her now.
The deception, the lies, the double life— it stings. Not as much as Kara's had, of course; atop the weighing scale of importance buried deep in Lena's heart, one blonde does not equal another. But it stings nevertheless; salt in the wound of her foolhardy trust.
She's just about ready to start smashing things, to maybe spray paint a few choice obscenities over Eve's meticulous whiteboard calculations, when the window at her back shatters.
Adrenaline spiking hot through her muscles, Lena turns to find the last person she wants to see. Or, maybe second to last. Lillian's still alive, after all.
Kara's hands are raised, fingers still clasped around the now-empty frame of the window she'd just decimated. Her eyes are wide, features frozen in shock.
Lena appraises the shards littering the floor, pitying the pane that had been a poor match for Kryptonian clumsiness.
Kara blushes, swinging herself through the gaping window hole and grinding her toe bashfully into the debris. "These windows must be really old.”
“Or maybe you're just a buffoon,” Lena counters tiredly. “What the fuck are you doing here?”
Kara's chest puffs out. “I came to help.”
Lena's eyes roll so forcefully back into her skull that she gives herself a headache. “I don't recall extending an invitation.”
Her unwelcome visitor appears irritatingly undeterred by the frosty welcome. “You didn't have to.”
Next time, wait for one, is what Lena plans to say in response. All she actually gets out is a clipped ne— before she's winded, all the breath forced from her lungs in an ungainly oof as something solid collides with her abdomen.
By the time she's caught her breath Lena blinks to find herself stuffed into a small cramped space, pressed up against a big cramped Kryptonian who's hurriedly tugging the door to their cave shut behind them.
“What in the hell—” Lena starts to say before she's once again cut off by a warm palm clamping down over her mouth.
“Quiet,” Kara whispers urgently, more a rumble through their joined bodies than an audible sound. “Someone's coming. We can't be found here.”
The urge to bite the hand covering her mouth is one of the strongest Lena has ever felt. She's halfway there, lips parting in a silent snarl, before it occurs to her that the ultimate casualty of such an attack would likely be her own teeth. The need to not crack her enamel on Kryptonian bone wars with the need to show Kara exactly how she feels about this new development in their mission and Lena hesitates halfway between the two, open mouth pressed awkwardly against Kara's palm.
In the narrow darkness of their hiding place and quite unintentionally, the very tip of Lena's tongue brushes the crease where two of Kara's fingers meet. Kara gasps at the contact and something happens between their bodies, something that feels distinctly like the twitching of hips.
The blonde drops her hands as though the contact had burned, breaths coming in suddenly shallow pants. Unfortunately for her, there isn't anywhere else to go.
The supply cupboard Kara has apparently stuffed the two of them into is, frankly, tiny. It deserves the title of supply cupboard the way a cucumber deserves the title of berry: on a technicality, and not much else.
What it is, really, is a hole. A dark, miniscule hole in the wall, already full to the brim with papers and pipettes even before Kara had so gallantly stuffed two fully grown bipeds inside it. The two of them are pressed together chest to chest, hip to hip and, most upsettingly of all, inner thigh to inner thigh.
Owing to some unknown crate-like thing taking up the majority of the already limited floorspace, there's only room for one person to stand upright in the cave-like gloom. The net result of this predicament is that Lena's feet have ended up sandwiched on either side of Kara's, their legs slotted together as Kara holds Lena's slanting body up at a 45-degree angle to her own.
If anyone had though to ask her opinion on the matter, Lena would have been able to tell them in no uncertain terms that this arrangement is pretty much the exact opposite of how she would ideally like to spend her time. Unfortunately, no one had thought to ask. Lena takes it upon herself to inform her cellmate of her stance on the subject regardless.
“I swear to God—” she starts viciously, only to be cut off from blaspheming any further by the opening of the lab's outer door.
“What on Earth?” comes a tired, feminine voice, accompanied by a weary sigh and the unmistakeable squeak of a custodial cart. Lena, cowed into tense silence once more, makes a mental note to make a sizeable donation to MIT's janitorial staff as the sounds of broken glass being swept into a dustpan filter through the cupboard door.
“The janitor has headphones on,” Kara whispers a moment later. “Are you okay?”
She's so close in the pitch darkness that her breath tickles Lena's eyelashes. Lena flinches instinctively, leaning away, a move for which Kara is forced to compensate by tugging them closer together, keeping Lena suspended awkwardly over the unknown object taking up most of the floorspace.
“I'm in a cupboard,” Lena hisses with as much quiet venom as she can muster, “with you. Do you think I'm okay?”
“We just have to wait till she's gone,” Kara breathes, appeasing. “Shouldn't take long.”
“It wouldn't have taken any time at all if you hadn't broken the fucking window,” Lena bites out, fighting hard to ignore the feeling of Kara's broad hands fitted to the soft curve between her ribcage and pelvis.
Invisible in the darkness, Kara clicks her tongue. “Occupational hazard. Hey,” she hums, shifting her weight. Lena clamps down on her tongue at the feeling of Kara's leg moving between hers. The blonde's hip presses into her pelvis, something hard and uncomfortable trapped between them.
“Is that a gun in your pocket?” Kara asks quietly, cockily. “Or are you just happy to see me?”
It's only the current limitations imposed upon her arm span that prevent Lena from clocking her square in the jaw, Kryptonian bones or no.
“It's a gun.”
Kara's grip shifts, one arm sliding around Lena's waist as the other presses between her shoulder blades. Lena would shove her away, would shove her away in a heartbeat, except that doing so would certainly result in her falling loudly and inelegantly atop the enormous trip hazard currently digging into the backs of her calves.
The hand at Lena's hip smooths that little bit lower. “Have you been working out?”
“Are you serious right now?” Lena chokes out, furious. She shoves against Kara's chest; cramped, ineffectual. Her hands end up trapped between them, pinned and overwarm from too much close contact. “Don't you have any shame?”
“Not really, no,” Kara admits guilelessly. Lena can't see her at all through the impenetrable darkness but dear God, she can feel her.
She tries to lean further away, to put a little space between them. She fails, teetering dangerously backwards over the supplies stacked in the footwell. Kara's sliding grip on her body tightens.
“I'm just saying,” Kara just says into the increasingly weighted silence between them. “If I had to be scrunched into a cupboard with anyone, I'm sure glad it's you. This is kinda fun.”
"No part of this is fun,” Lena informs her primly. “You appear to have forgotten that I loathe you.”
Beneath Lena's palms, still trapped awkwardly between their bodies, Kara's chest pushes incrementally closer. Her thumb rubs lightly at Lena's hip.
Unable to fight their proximity with any level of efficacy, Lena allows her body to slacken into Kara's grip. If this decision presses the two of them closer still, well, it's like Kara had said. Occupational hazard.
Kara's voice is cocksure, gloating. “You appear to have forgotten as well.”
“This is not some middle school game of seven minutes in heaven,” Lena tries with as much conviction as she can muster with two large Kryptonian hands stroking over her body. “We're here to track down a dangerous criminal. To rid the world of a lethal substance. Not— not to be closeted together.”
Just as soon as the words leave her mouth, Lena wishes with the burning fire of a thousand suns to be able to suck them back in.
“No, that's not what I meant,” she tries weakly as Kara lets out a restrained snort of choked laughter. The leg between her own shifts again, pressing a little more insistently.
“I bet it's not.”
Damn Kara. Damn her broad palms and her big shoulders and her firm thighs. Damn the way her mere proximity melts each one of Lena's higher faculties into malleable goo, even still, even now.
And damn, particularly and right at this moment, the fingertips that have snuck their way ever so slightly beneath the waistband of her jeans, pressing like brands against her pelvis.
“Kara,” she manages, and if her voice is a little breathy it's only because she has to be quiet, right? Because whispers are breathy. That's all.
The hand not absorbed in toying lightly with the waistband of her G-string slides into the back pocket of Lena's jeans, moulding warmly to the curves it finds there. God, Kara is solid. The arms currently bracketing Lena's waist could be made of steel. Hot, delicious, knee-weakening steel.
The whisper is angelic, and decidedly closer to Lena's face than before.
Lena swallows heavily, grateful that in the darkness of their cupboard-tomb she at least isn't subject to the intensity of those bright blue eyes. “This isn't—” she tries, hoarse. “We shouldn't, we're— we're no good for each other.”
You're no good for me. That's what she'd meant to say. But somewhere along the path from brain to lips, the message had gotten twisted.
Kara doesn't seem to mind. “Why not?”
There are a million excellent answers to that question. A billion answers. A trillion.
Right now, Lena can't think of a single one.
The janitor could be dancing the Can-Can accompanied by a full symphony orchestra right outside the closet door at this very moment, and Lena wouldn't hear it. The only sounds that exist in the world right now are the frenzied thudding of her heart in her ears, the cotton-soft static of two bodies shifting together in the darkness.
Kara's face is so close in the gloom that when she speaks, her nose brushes Lena's jaw. She lifts her head and then there's hot breath against Lena's neck, lips light against her cheekbone.
Something hot and wet slicks briefly inside the shell of her ear. Teeth graze momentarily over the lobe.
“Why not, Lena?”
Lena doesn't manage to answer so much as she manages to expel an involuntary sound, high and breathless and desperate and utterly, unbearably embarrassing.
Their faces are so close in the opaque blackness that when Kara smiles, Lena feels it against her skin. Pink lips part, brushing deliberately against Lena's ear once more, as their owner undoubtedly prepares to deliver yet another devastating double entendre that will shatter whatever's left of Lena's mental faculties once and for all.
And then, the door to their cupboard wrenches abruptly open.
The sudden light is blinding.
She and Kara stand there, frozen and blinking hard for a long suspended moment; two deer interrupted mid-something by mood-killing headlights.
Human eyes must adjust slower than Kryptonian, because Lena's still only perceiving mutable shapes and blurs against the blinding glow when Kara gasps, stiffening against her now in a way that is far more scared than sensual.
A high and vaguely familiar Lena? is the last thing Lena hears before she's sailing weightless through the air once more, clutched tight to the chest of a panicked Kryptonian.
“What— what?” she manages to gasp out over the roaring wind as Kara catapults the two of them high into the air above the Cambridge skyline. “Where are we— who was that?”
The line of Kara's jaw is hardened with tension. “That was Eve.”
Lena's heart sinks. “Fuck.”
Thin wisps of cloud whip by, misting against her skin. “So she knows it was us.” Lena shivers, only partly from the cold. “She knows that we know.”
“Fuck,” Lena says once more, loudly and with feeling. “Can you fly any faster?”
Steely blue eyes are fixed straight ahead, the tendons in Kara's neck straining beneath golden skin. “Not without hurting you.”
“Wouldn't be the first time.”
“Will you let me protect you?” Kara demands after she's set Lena down in her office once more, diligently checking the biometric lock behind them.
Lena sinks down into her desk chair with a sigh. “No.”
“Eve is dangerous, Lena.”
Kara doesn't shrink under Lena's incredulous stare. If anything, she becomes more earnest still.
“Now that she knows that we're onto her, she has no reason to hide,” the blonde entreats, stacking her hands on her hips in an authoritative move that has Lena remembering viscerally and breathlessly just how solid those same hands had felt upon her own body. “She'll come after us in the open, and if she can make Harun-El, who knows what else she can do. You have to let me protect you.”
“I have to do no such thing.”
“No,” she reiterates firmly, rifling through some papers on her desk. “Do me a favour and try and remember that you and I are not partners. You're not responsible for me.”
Glossy blue eyes widen. “But I want—”
“We gathered some vital information today,” Lena interrupts sharply. “We know where Eve is working, and what she's doing. So, we've lost the element of surprise, but nothing more. We're going to get her. Things can continue just the way they were before until we do.”
Kara shakes her head rapidly, looking for all the world like a golden retriever that's just emerged from a river. “But it's different now that Eve—”
“Don't you have a job?” Lena cuts in, eyes on her papers. “Two jobs, in fact? Don't you think that maybe you should be there, doing them, instead of here, pestering me?”
“I am doing my jobs,” the blonde insists petulantly, pressing closer to the desk between them. "But I also need to be here—”
“You can't always be my saviour,” Lena snaps irritably. "Not even the world's peppiest Girl Scout can be everywhere all at once. You can't protect everyone.”
“I can try.”
Kara's bottom lip is stuck out so far that Lena wants to punch her in the mouth. Wants to lay her fist, or maybe her lips, right over that plump pout and—
God, God. No.
She forces rigidity into her spine and acid into her tone.
“Oh, sweetheart,” she all but sneers, hardening herself to her own words and the woman who'll hurt because of them. “Save the valiant hero act for someone who actually cares.”
It's Kara or her, Lena reminds herself sternly as the blonde's expression falls. One of them will bleed from this; one of them always does. It's Kara or her. Better to cut first than be cut deepest.
“Lena,” Kara says softly, so softly now, all trace of bravado gone. “You really— I thought—”
She cannot, cannot allow their recent— closeness to cloud the memory of the agony she'd suffered at Kara’s hands. Even if those same hands can heal. Even if they can stroke and caress and cherish, they can also bruise.
Never again. Never again.
“Once again, you thought wrong.” Lena forces herself to drive the final blow home. Cut or be cut. Wound or be wounded. “Now. Catco is not paying you, which means I am not paying you, to not be at your desk in the middle of the workday. So unless you'd like this meeting to progress into a professional disciplinary hearing, I suggest you leave. Now.”
Kara stares at her with big, sad eyes. Her lips press together tightly, but Lena could swear she still sees them tremble.
“Yes, boss,” Kara whispers, and she's gone.
She doesn't stay gone, of course.
Kara takes to patrolling conspicuously in the skies around L-Corp whenever Lena's in the office. She flies above her town car when her driver takes her home. She hovers over the roof of Lena's apartment building in the mornings, in the evenings, and through much of the night as well.
She's just, she's always there. Distant and withdrawn and with her wounded puppy expression turned up to maximum, but there nevertheless. With a sigh and a flood of despairing self-hatred, Lena deactivates her anti-Kryptonian proto-cannons, and tries not to think too hard about it.
At first, she reckons Kara's reaction is overkill. Thinks it's unnecessary, thinks it's irritating, thinks it's ridiculous.
That's when Eve tries to kill her for the first time.
Attempt number one is a bomb. A pressure switch installed in her office chair, like the kind used on military-grade land mines. If Lena had sat down, the switch would have been activated, and when she'd stood up again—
“It would have released” Kara finishes for her when she arrives, her mouth set in a grim line. “You could have been blown to pieces.”
"I wasn't, though.” She clears her throat. “I put my bag down on the chair first, and heard the click.”
The cold arch of Kara's brow and the brutal set of her jaw as she flies the rigged chair into space tells Lena exactly what the blonde thinks of her most recent stroke of luck.
Next, it's a gunman.
The corner of Kara's cape just barely deflects the first bullet, the next two catching her full in the chest as she shoves Lena roughly out of the line of fire. Lena threads a thin layer of Kevlar into the lining of one of her favourite suits, and starts taking her bulletproof SUV to work.
Eve sends her poison, sends her nerve gas, sends her hitmen. “Any barrier to progress is the enemy of progress, and must be destroyed,” one of them hisses in her ear before Supergirl kindly breaks both arms for him, payment for the ring of bruises he'd left on Lena's throat. “Eve Teschmacher sends her regards.”
After the assassination attempts hit double digits, Lena is forced to concede that Kara's vigilance may not be entirely unwarranted.
Today, when an explosion rocks the floor beneath her feet mid-way through her appraisal of L-Corp's quarterly reports, the first emotion that floods Lena's mind is exasperation. How anyone is expected to run not one but two multi-million-dollar business empires under these conditions is, frankly, beyond her.
Fear isn't far behind the irritation, though, and Lena throws herself beneath her desk with practiced ease just as an enormous souped-up drone armed with at least four separate missile rockets comes into view through her wall of windows.
She's barely got her fingers on her silent alarm when a streak of red and blue crashes into the drone from above, ripping and shredding metal as though it offers no more resistance than cotton wool.
So effective is Kara as a one-woman defence system that Lena feels safe enough to crawl out from beneath her desk, reaching for her tablet to coordinate her own counterattack to function as Kryptonian backup.
She's primed her proto-cannons, calibrated and ready to blast the god-awful drone to high heaven, when something starts to niggle in the back of her mind.
It's just, that drone had never actually fired at her. It had barely come close, launching missiles into the sky above her building and at angles through the surrounding skyscrapers, but never at Lena, vulnerable behind her wall of glass.
Up till now it had been Lena, not Kara, that had been the target of Eve's attacks. It had made sense: a human was far easier to take out than a Kryptonian. Yet now, as hero and machine tussle in the air above National City, the blonde appears to be its primary— its only target.
That's weird. Not only is it a break in Eve's pattern but it's foolish. A third-grader could see that while today's drone is fitted with enough lethal kit to keep a Kryptonian busy for a while, it's nowhere near enough to do one any real damage.
Lena's eyes narrow. Eve is brazen, sure, but she isn't stupid. If Kara was the real target here, this is not the weapon Eve would have chosen. If she can synthesis black Kryptonite she can almost certainly synthesise green and yet, there isn't so much of a trace of it to be found in this fight.
Something isn't adding up. Lena's finger hovers over the release button for her proto-cannons, unsure.
It's a stoke of pure luck that she happens to glance up when she does. There, high high above the current fight, is a black dot in the sky. It's coming closer, it's coming fast.
Lena holds her tablet up, using its camera to scan the incoming object. It's another drone, but bigger. Much bigger. Enormous, armoured to the nines, and fitted out with missile launchers that make the first drone's weapons look like BB guns. And, worst of all— there.
Lena scans the projectile for traces of Kryptonite. Her screen flashes the results. Her heart sinks. The second drone is carrying enough of the green poison to crack a planet down the centre, never mind one unarmed Kryptonian.
Lena's heart migrates into her throat. In less than five seconds that drone will be in range to fire at Kara. One of those missiles would be enough to kill her ten times over. The drone is fitted with at least twenty.
Her palms are sweating. Still, her finger hovers above the red button.
Proto-cannons wouldn't even make a dent in the thick armour of the beast making a beeline for Kara right now. Eve's made her play, and it's a beauty. Kara is utterly unaware, and Lena is utterly unable to do a damn thing to save her.
Blissfully unconcerned, Kara fights on. Even Lena screaming her name in pure, primal terror isn't enough to distract her from her target.
Time slows. Lena's heart thuds so hard in her throat she fears she may vomit it clean out of her body.
The second drone is nearing, now. It's almost in range. Kara is about to die.
Lena sucks in a shuddering breath. Her entire body is trembling.
She taps unsteadily, desperately, at her tablet. The tip of her index finger lands upon the red button. And four blasts of white-blue energy fire from the sides of her building, converging seamlessly upon a single target.
Seconds before the Kryptonite missiles above her head launch, Lena's proto-cannons blast Kara out of the sky.
An hour later and right on schedule, her phone rings.
She's exhausted, wrung out from a combination of lingering tension and the desperate search she's been on ever since the drone's appearance, her need to find Eve's current hiding place and kick her traitorous ass clean into next century now stronger than ever.
Lena hits the green button with a long-suffering sigh.
“You shot me!”
Despite herself, despite her stress and her worry and her weariness, Lena smirks. “You're welcome.”
Kara sounds like she's still trying to wrap her head around it. “You actually— you actually shot me!”
“Yes, and you're fine,” Lena points out. “Recovery was, what? Twenty minutes under the sun lamps?”
“Twenty-five.” Kara's voice is incredulous, full to the brim with the righteous indignation of a Super. “Seriously, Lena? I know you hate me and everything, but to actually—”
“It was my proto-canon or Eve Teschmacher's Kryptonite missile,” Lena snaps, her patience for the situation already beginning to wear thin. “Would that have been preferable?”
Silence on the other end of the line. Lena pictures Kara's mouth opening and closing like a goldfish, cheeks pink and eyes bulging. It's a satisfying image. “You mean she—”
“Sent that drone as a distraction? Exactly.” Lena pinches her fingers together at the bridge of her nose. “You were so absorbed in your mindless punching that you didn't even notice she had you in her sights. If I hadn't knocked you out of the sky, Eve would have. Permanently.”
There's a very long moment of silence. “Oh,” Kara says eventually. “Oh.”
“Yes, oh,” Lena snaps, huffing. “Fuck, no one ever accused you of being the brains of the operation, did they?”
Kara ignores her. “Can I see you?” she blurts suddenly, seeming to surprise even herself with her urgency.
“What?” Alarm bells start blaring in Lena's mind. “No.”
And there it is, that desperate, intimate tone of voice Kara uses when she's on a one-track mission to accomplish something devastating like worming her way into Lena's battered heart again. Fuck, maybe she should have let Eve take her out.
“Please.” Kara sounds annoyingly unrejected. “You can't only hate me if you're still saving my life. There has to be something else there, something more still in your heart. I want to see you, Lena. I want to say tha—”
She hangs up before the blonde can finish her sentence.
Lena needs some air.
Even through the phone, Kara's devotion is smothering. It's oppressive, this faith she has in Lena. Her selflessness, her undeterred affection, her tenderness. It's suffocating.
She stumbles out on her balcony, palms pressed to her flushed cheeks. She needs some distance from Kara, from the echo of her enthusiasm down the phone, the all-encompassing presence of her.
She's distracted, is the thing. Lena is busy, busy thinking about Kara, and that always has come before anything and everything else.
That's why she doesn't notice, not until it's far too late, the faint whir of drone engines from the wind-tossed dark above her head.
That's why she doesn't notice the soft hissing of gas releasing all around her. That's why she doesn’t notice anything at all, until the world turns black and she hits the ground.