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wherever is your heart I call home

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She's curled in the corner of the balcony, knees to chest, and doesn't hear the door open.

“Did you sleep here?” it's indignant and jarring and startles Kara out of a daze.

“No - I, well I guess kind of…” she’s flustered, wide eyed and looking pained. They haven’t spoken in months; she hasn't seen Lena in weeks.

“Care to explain?” Lena’s voice is still harsh, flat and questioning.

“Um..” her eyes dart to Lena’s face, take in the clench of her jaw, move down to the set of her shoulders. Every part of her is rigid, radiating tension. Kara exhales “I know you said – I know you don't want to see me. I didn't mean to – I meant to leave before you woke up.”

“That's really not an explanation.” The lack of emotion, any emotion, in her voice eats at Kara. She pushes herself up from the concrete to lean uneasily against the railing, her eyes are downcast, left arm snaked across her torso to hold her right elbow. She is the picture of contrition. Lena doesn't balk, a single eyebrow raised, questioning.

“No, I know, I just … I'm not-”

“Spit it out then.”

Kara can't help it, her eyes filling with tears at the bite in Lena’s voice. She takes a deep breath, “I know you hate me now, I know that I did this, but sometimes,” her chest shudders, “you don't understand what it was like-”

“To lie to my best friend for years? No I suppose I don't.”

“No!” Kara’s voice is pained now, breathy as she struggles to keep her composure, then, softly “to live without you. You were …gone. You, Alex - everyone was gone, but you-” the lump in her throat bars the rest of the words from escaping for a moment. “You were just - and I couldn't” her gaze is far away now, focused somewhere over Lena’s left shoulder. She sinks back to the concrete balcony, her back to the railing again, gulping shuddering breaths as she tries to compose herself.

Lena moves closer, not entirely able to tamp down her emotions at the superhero, clearly distraught at her feet. She wants to kneel down, reach out, lay a hand on Kara’s forearm, but hesitates. When Kara finally meets her gaze it’s with quiet devastation, eyes so blue that it takes Lena a moment to realize the Kara is actually speaking again, soft but steadier now.  “Sometimes, when the nightmares are really bad, I come here and I listen to your heartbeat - just, just to make sure,” she shudders, “I know it's invasive and usually it's just for a second just when it seems too real, but I haven't really been sleeping and last night after the fire I was just so tired and I guess – anyway, I'm sorry … I'm sorry,” she curls in on herself and Lena knows the apologies are for more than the extended stay on her balcony.

And then all Lena can see is her best friend, soot and dust still in her hair, sitting on the floor in a tattered supersuit. She can feel the pain radiating off Kara, tears threatening to fall.

“Do you want to come inside for a minute and get cleaned up? It’s cold out.” Kara’s head snaps up at the trace of softness creeping into Lena’s voice, but she hesitates, words stuck in her throat.

“Please?” she responds finally, tremulous.

Lena takes a step closer and offers her hand, pulling the weary superhero to her feet. Kara stumbles a little. Lena can feel her trembling as she guides her toward the door.

And then Kara’s standing awkwardly in the kitchen, taking in the scene in front of her, shiny eyes tracking Lena as she puts a kettle on for tea.

“I have – would you like to shower?” it’s hesitant, and formal, but not cold, and Kara nods softly.

“Thank you, yeah, that’d be – that’d be good.”

“Go ahead, use mine, there’s shower stuff and towels on the rack. I’ll bring you some clothes.”

“Okay. Um, thanks.” It’s watery, Kara’s eyebrows still knit together with worry, but she exhales a fraction of the tension that’s been held in her chest for weeks.

****

Kara pads softly to the kitchen, ruined suit exchanged for clothes she hadn’t even realized she’d left at Lena’s until she saw the pile left outside the bathroom door. She’s wrapped in the scent of familiar laundry detergent and shampoo, cloud of warmth surrounding her as she moves down the hallway. She stops at the doorway; Lena’s perched on a barstool, staring through a steaming mug of tea, her hands holding up her head, buried in her hair like she gave up halfway through running her fingers through it. Her shoulders are slumped, shuddering slightly in time with her breathing and Kara aches – a violent knot clenching in her chest as her eyes burn with tears again.

She clears her throat softly as she moves into the room; Lena doesn’t startle, just sighs and straightens up, gesturing to the second mug of tea on the counter.

“Thank you.” Kara breathes out, wrapping her hands around warm ceramic, staring at the wisps of steam that rise from it.

“Before,” Lena pauses, “what did you…” she trails off, not sure where she’s going. But Kara gratefully takes any opportunity for conversation.

“It’s so…quiet there. You’d think after 20 years floating in space I’d be used to the quiet, but it’s just – it pushes down on you until you can’t breathe.” At Lena’s questioning glance she elaborates, “the vanishing point, it’s where we went, when everyone – it’s where we went after everything, the paragons, where we worked to try and fix it.”

“No, I know, I meant – 20 years?” Lena’s face must betray her thoughts, there’s so much she doesn’t know.

“Oh. Yeah, I, when krypton was burning, when they put us in the pods, Kal was just a baby. I was uh, I was 12. I was supposed to take care of him, when we got here, I was – but the explosion knocked me into the phantom zone, and I got stuck there for 24 years. And then he was already superman when I got here. I was supposed to protect him, raise him, I – I was supposed to do a lot of things.” Her voice trails off as she looks up, realizing Lena’s watching her with sad eyes and a hint of curiosity, she continues “but it was that same kind of quiet in the phantom zone, and then when I got here everything was… too loud, too much, so I learned to focus my hearing in to Alex’s heartbeat, and then, later-” Kara’s eyes dart to Lena as the ‘yours’ hangs unspoken between them.

“There’s a lot I don’t know about you.” It’s diplomatic, but Kara can feel the emotion thrumming beneath the surface.

“I – I could tell you about it, sometime, if, if you want?” Kara’s nervous, fidgeting with the tea bag before setting the mug on the counter, already overwhelmed with the amount of Lena in the last 45 minutes after so long without her – the prospect of more time together, of sharing more of herself is as terrifying as it is exhilarating. The silence that follows her offer is mostly terrifying.

“I think I’d like that.” It’s quiet, but resolute. Kara feels a smile creep onto her face and she physically can’t stop the words bursting out of her.

“Are you busy right now?” she regrets it the moment the words leave her lips, raising her palms, racing to retract the words immediately, terrified of overstepping and shattering the fragile peace. But Lena. Lena laughs. Oh and the sound of it rips a sob from Kara’s chest, all the air leaving her lungs and she’s weeping, arms wrapped around her middle as if she could ever hope to contain feelings of this magnitude.

“Lena.” It’s an exhale as she’s shuddering. She thinks she sees Lena bite her lip, holding back her own tears, but Kara turns around, presses her forehead gently, so gently, trying to ground herself with the cool metal of the refrigerator. She hears Lena approaching, bare feet on the tile, and then there’s gentle hands at her hip, her shoulder, turning her slowly.

“Lena.” It’s a prayer, Kara’s eyes stubbornly upward before she drags her gaze down to meet shining green. A slight inclination of Lena’s head is all the invitation Kara needs and she dives into welcoming arms, folding in on herself to bury her face in the crook of Lena’s neck. Kara’s fingers gather the soft fabric of Lena’s sweater at her lower back. Lena’s got an arm around her shoulders and one hand cradling the back of her head and it’s so much.

“I miss you.” Kara chokes, “I’m sorry, I miss you so much.”

“I know. I see you. I –” Lena swallows, pulling Kara tighter against her.

“I promise – I’ll be better, I swear, I – if we can go back, I’ll -” Kara trembles, “anything.”

“Come on, sit down. Let’s talk.” Lena guides them toward the couch.

*****

It’s been hours, hours of questions and explanations. Apologies from both of them, stories and history, and, mercifully, less tears than the morning. “I just” Lena pauses, “I still don’t understand why you lied for so long, how you thought – why I couldn’t know all of you? Did you think -” she trails off, almost fearful, continues, apprehensive “I don’t really know how to articulate – what I mean is just, why?”

Kara is silent for a moment, “I don’t have a good answer. I have excuses – to protect you, to keep you safe, but that’s, I should’ve told you years ago. And I knew that. I knew it then too. But I didn’t know how to do it without hurting you, and then” she takes a deep breath, “then I didn’t want you to hate me. I knew. I knew it would hurt you and I didn’t want to lose you, I – when the others found out, with anyone else, if they didn’t want to be my friend, or our friendship changed, it would’ve been okay. I would’ve been okay. But with you – with what we had, the way we were? I couldn’t lose that; I couldn’t lose you. And the longer I waited the more sure I was that I would. That I would tell you and you would hate me and I would lose you. So I was selfish, and I lied.” She takes a breath, digging the heels of her hands into her thighs, glancing at the ceiling, “there’s nothing I regret more than not being honest with you, I should’ve told you in the beginning, at the start, but when I tried – it was, it was awful. I mean it was wonderful sometimes too, at first, but then – ” she trails off, tearful.

Lena’s look of concentration had turned to confusion “When you tried? What?”

“Oh.” All the air leaves Kara’s lungs. “Well.” She scratches her temple, “it’s kind of a …funny story.” Lena quirks an eyebrow, nods softly, encouraging.

“So. There’s a fifth dimensional imp named Mxy who became rather …attached to me” Lena’s jaw has dropped a few millimeters, her confusion growing, “and he appeared a while ago and - oh also he can time travel and change reality - so he popped out of my fridge and offered me a chance to go back in time and change something, so I tried to fix it, to fix us. I tried to go back to your office that day Mercy attacked L- Corp, I tried to go back further… Remember that night with the kryptonite in the atmosphere? In that timeline you were in Metropolis and you couldn't save me. I died. I went back again, I told you when we were trying to save Sam from Reign, it was ok until she killed- she killed you. So I went back to the beginning. The day I met you I told you everything; we were partners, it was amazing, we were doing so much good, and then Ben Lockwood kidnapped you to blackmail me for my identity. I told him. Obviously. I saved you and then,” she gulps “he killed everyone. Alex. All of you. So, I thought, what if –” Kara’s voice is thick and somewhere along the way Lena had reached out and taken her hand. She stares at their interlocked fingers. “I thought. What if we never met – Lena I'm so sorry in that timeline your mother pulled you out of the helicopter crash and she turned you into-” she grinds out “I wouldn't fight you. You killed me.” Kara exhales, relieved of the burden of more secrets and looks up to find Lena with silent tears running down her cheeks. Kara takes her free hand and cradles her face, wipes gently at her cheeks. “It's alright. It's - the point is that I tried. I tried, but the only timeline that didn't end in death was this one, and even though it was awful at least there was a chance that I could fix it here. That I-” she cuts herself off, then, quietly “I could still hear your heartbeat here.” Desperation creeps into the edges of her voice layered with guilt that Lena doesn’t understand.

“Kara.” It's heavy and filled with something that sounds so much like longing that Kara physically can't hold in her thoughts.

“I love you.” it's soft, but there's no uncertainty, just resignation. “I couldn't lose you. I wouldn't survive it. Couldn't survive it.”

“Kara.” Lena’s voice is broken now, wanting and hurt, and so, so soft. She meets Kara’s faraway gaze and in a second she's pivoted to sit in Kara’s lap, bracketing her thighs and wrapping her arms around Kara’s shoulders. Light seeps back into Kara’s eyes as her arms snake around Lena and pull her tight to her chest, holding steady for several breaths as they sink further into each other.

Lena sits back with a thousand yard stare, reluctant to break contact, her fingers absently trailing up Kara’s arms, over her shoulders, coming to rest at the base of her neck, thumbs resting in the hollow of her throat. Slowly, her eyes refocus, crawling up to Kara’s warmth. A sense of inevitability settles over her, like she was always somehow going to end up here. She can feel the ghosts of Kara’s exhales as the blonde remains perfectly still underneath her, matching Lena’s exterior but contrasting wildly with the erratic beat of her heart. She feels Kara’s hands splay over her ribcage, soft like she’s trying to calm the storm raging in Lena’s chest, and then they’re kissing, the space between them eliminated again.

Kara kisses like she wants to crawl into Lena’s chest and build a home there, like she’s wanted this forever. Her right hand stays at the center of Lena’s back, holding her steady but inching them even closer as her left hand drifts upward, landing eventually beneath Lena’s jaw, reverently trailing through the waves of Lena’s hair.

It feels like just a second, a flash, before Kara’s pulled back, creating space between them again with a look on her face like it physically pains her to do so, baleful eyes peering up through long lashes. She opens her mouth, but it’s several long seconds before she can form words. Then, in a voice so small it barely fills the inches between their lips:

“Do you-” she pauses, her body trembles but her voice is steady, “I don’t want to pressure you, but I can’t do this and then go back to-” and the steadiness is gone as the lump in Kara’s throat cuts her off, eyes glued to the path her fingers are tracing along Lena’s collarbones.

“Oh honey no.” Lena steels herself, tips Kara’s chin up with her fingertips to meet her eyes “I don’t want to go back.” She hopes the meaning is clear, guesses it is as Kara lets out a shaky exhale.

“Okay.” She breathes, “Okay.” And her forehead tips forward to rest on Lena’s shoulder, lips following the path her fingertips just traced. “Can I – I just want to be close to you.” Her hands are back around Lena’s ribcage, mesmerized by her heartbeat, her warmth.

“Come on, it’s been a day. Let’s go lie down, I know you hate this couch.” Kara smiles up at her, hands sliding under her thighs and standing slowly.

“It’s really more of a decoration than a piece of furniture” she trails off as Lena smiles at her, eyes catching light from the skylight as they move down the hall.

Lena’s bedroom is a cavernous thing, softer than the austere décor of the rest of the apartment, but still a little dark, heavy curtains mostly shut in the windows.

Kara sets her gently on the edge of the bed “Do you wanna change – soft clothes?” Lena hums softly in the affirmative and reaches for the pajamas under her pillow. A worn t-shirt and a pair of Kara’s sweatpants in hand, she pads to the bathroom.

As Kara settles at the edge of the bed, she looks around the room, eyes bouncing from trinkets and a jewelry box to the framed photos along Lena’s bookshelf. Her gaze settles on a photo from last year’s new years party, Kara’s arms around Lena’s shoulders from behind, faces smushed together, grinning at the camera, and she wonders if her feelings were always that transparent. Her thoughts wander as she listens to the water running quietly in the bathroom, soft light spilling out the half open door.

Lena reappears, hair corralled into a bun, makeup free and looking more comfortable. She climbs into the opposite side of the bed, burrowing beneath the comforter and murmuring to Kara

“C’mere” Kara’s initial movements are cautious, but she finds herself under the blankets as well, moving toward Lena, stopping a few inches short of the middle of the bed. Lena turns to face her, interlacing their fingers beneath her chin, her knees bumping Kara’s. “Close enough?” She breathes the question into the space between them, almost playful.

“No.” Kara’s eyes are dark, the longing evident on her face. Lena’s smirk turns into a soft smile as she unlaces their fingers and gently pushes Kara flat and settles across her chest. She breathes for a second before resting her chin on Kara’s sternum.

“Better?” she smiles.

“Yeah...” Kara’s exhale sheds tension as she melts into the mattress, her fingers carding gently through the strands of dark hair that escaped Lena’s messy bun, “Yeah.”

Lena settles her ear against Kara’s chest, listens as her heartbeat steadies, slow and rhythmic as they relax, jumpy as she trails her fingertips up and down Kara’s forearms, listens as it jackhammers against its cage as she murmurs “I love you too, you know.”