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“I’m in love with her, Alex, and I wish I’d never figured it out!”

It’s two in the morning and Kara can’t get comfortable.

She’s tried everything, but none of it’s worked and now she’s laying in bed and staring at the darkened ceiling, her apartment windows open wide and her comforter thrown back, and she still can’t sleep. It’s been nearly three hours since she got home from Alex’s, and a little more than five hours since she told her sister exactly how she feels about Lena, and still the adrenaline seems determined not to dissipate.

She keeps playing the confession over and over in her head, torn between being glad that Alex finally knows and fear of what it could mean now that she’s put this out into the universe. In truth, Kara had been looking forward to sister's night precisely because it was supposed to be a reprieve from this particular train of thought, one she’s found impossible to derail since Lex banished her to the phantom zone. She wasn’t kidding when she told Alex she wished she’d never figured out her feelings for Lena; she’d been afraid even to say them out loud.

Once she started, though, the words were impossible to stop. She’d told Alex everything.

She rubs the heels of her hands on her forehead, rolls onto her back, tugging the sheet with her. Being in love isn’t supposed to feel like this.

Kara thinks she should want to shout it from the rooftops; love should make her want to dance around her kitchen, make her want to fly. And in truth, for the briefest of moments in the Fortress when it hit her for the first time, the realization that she’s in love with Lena did make her feel like she was soaring.

It was the cascade of fear about everything that love could break which tugged her back to earth, made her blood freeze in her veins and a terrible tightness radiate out from the center of her chest as if she’d plunged herself into icy water.

It’s like she explained to Alex: it’s always been near impossible for her to stop thinking about Lena, that’s been a constant since they first met.

But historically? Historically she’d focused on her best friend in ways that managed to keep herself out of the equation; the constant, repetitive questions intruding into every waking moment were always along the lines of is Lena safe, does she need something, is she under attack

Now all Kara can seem to think about is what Lena might do if Kara were to kiss her.

And in the intervening months since her discovery, all she’s been able to do is focus on the consequences of thoughts like that. What if she ends up hurting Lena somehow, what if she breaks everything, again, only this time it’s the end of them…? She’s only just gotten Lena back; why would she put their relationship at risk?

But tonight, with the sounds of the city filtering in through the windows and nowhere else for her mind to go, Alex’s words from earlier come back to her, reminding her there are no guarantees they won’t hurt each other again, no matter what shape their relationship takes.

There’s something strangely freeing about that.

She flips onto her stomach, pulls the pillow away to lay her cheek on the cool sheet.

She’s been so focused on trying to get back to how things used to be—minus all the lying this time around—that she hasn’t spent much time thinking about whether getting back to how things used to be is even possible. The way she feels about Lena…it’s as if she spent five years flying through clouds, unable to see the ground below, but assuming it would be familiar, and suddenly everything is clear and she doesn’t recognize the topography at all.

Maybe that’s the point.

She takes a deep breath, holds it for a moment, and then releases it.

She loves Lena—there’s nothing new about that—but she’s also in love with Lena and that feels very new indeed. And despite spending the last weeks after getting back from the Phantom Zone terrified that the latter will in some way compromise the former, it’s possible the reason she’s feeling so scared is that she’s so focused on getting back to a relationship she’s only ever understood at the surface level.

Lying in bed, restless and uncomfortable, turning the conversation with Alex over and over in her mind, it occurs to her that this being-in-love piece that’s throwing her for such a loop, this thing that’s so scary because of all of the ways it might change her and Lena—what if the only change is that she’s aware of it now?

Okay, she takes another deep breath and lets it go, maybe being in love with Lena doesn’t change anything at all.

She turns her head, smooshes her face into the mattress because her feelings aren’t the only variable here.

Alex seems so sure, so certain that Lena feels the same way; even the possibility is enough to catch somewhere in Kara’s chest.

She spins onto her back again, pulls a pillow to her chest and wraps her arms around it. Her sheets are now hopelessly tangled. She kicks at them to free her legs.

There’s a straightforward way to find out how Lena feels, of course. They’ve agreed that honesty is the only way forward, so, in theory at least, Kara could just ask.

The idea of asking Lena directly, which would mean confessing to her own feelings, makes Kara want to scream into a pillow. It’s too much risk right now, too much uncertainty.

But.

But if Alex thinks she can tell how they feel about each other just by looking, and if she was right about Kara…then maybe, if Kara pays more attention to Lena and less attention to how scared she is, maybe she’ll be able to see something too.

She’s always found herself looking at Lena whenever they’re in a room together, can’t stop herself in fact, but Kara resolves that come tomorrow, she’s going to try watching with a question:

Do you love me the way I love you?

_________

Kara doesn’t have to wait long to put her plan into action, she and Lena already have a lunch date scheduled the very next day.

She beats Lena to the restaurant—a new Cuban fusion place not far from the harbor that Kara wants to try—and asks for a table by the windows. She’s about to text Lena that she’s here and has a table, but the view means that she has the pleasure of seeing Lena walk down the sidewalk, smiling at her phone screen and texting as she approaches the front doors.

Lena looks gorgeous (distractingly so) in a navy blue t-shirt, her hair down and straight, sunglasses pushed up on her head—when Kara’s phone vibrates, it startles her enough that she nearly takes out the waters on the table knocking into it with her knee. She glances away from Lena briefly and swipes at the notification.

Walking in, are you here or should I grab a seat for us? ❤️

Kara’s smile is reflexive, and it grows bigger when she looks back up to see Lena making her way into the restaurant itself.

“Lena!” she calls out, lifting her right hand in a wave.

It isn’t like Lena hadn’t already been smiling, but Kara can tell the microsecond Lena sees her because the concentrated affection that rushes onto her best friend’s face makes her heart trip in her chest. It’s a powerful feeling, being the only thing Lena Luthor cares about in a room.

She swallows and wills her heartbeat back into something more recognizable while Lena threads her way through the lunch crowd.

“I know you have superspeed,” Lena says quietly when she reaches Kara, cheeks dimpling as she pulls her seat back, “but just once I’d like to beat you getting somewhere.”

Kara laughs and ducks her head. “I didn’t beat you by much, I just sat down.”

“I’ll console myself with that, then. What looks good?”

They order grilled sandwiches and Kara sets about demolishing hers as soon as it arrives, listening to Lena talk about a piece of tech she and Brainy are working on for the Tower in between bites.

“Anyway,” Lena takes a sip of her water after swallowing another bite, “we’re just playing around with this last bit—what?”

“You have a little…” Kara gestures to her own face in an approximation of the bright yellow mustard smear on Lena’s cheek, smiling. “No, not quite,” she starts laughing as Lena swipes at her own face, missing the mustard each time and frowning. “Hang on.” Kara wipes her fingers off on her napkin and leans across the table to help.

It isn’t until she’s swiping her thumb softly at the corner of Lena’s mouth, millimeters from the space where Lena’s lipstick has begun to fade, that the intimacy of the gesture hits her. The restaurant seems to have gone silent and suddenly staring at Lena’s lips feels like a very dangerous thing to be doing, but when Kara tips her gaze up she’s not so sure that looking at Lena’s eyes is much better because Lena is very clearly looking at Kara’s mouth. She can feel herself start to sway forward across the small table—

“Sorry!”

Kara startles as a waiter next to them knocks over a plastic water glass while clearing a table. By the time she’s turned back to Lena, her best friend is sitting further back in her seat and Kara’s hand is just out of reach of Lena’s face. There’s a bright flush on Lena’s cheeks. Kara clears her throat and sits back herself; her heart is pounding, a cacophony of sound roaring in her ears—the restaurant’s volume suddenly turned back up to eleven.

“Got it,” she says, holding up her thumb, a tiny dab of mustard bright on the end of it. She smiles at Lena who returns it immediately, wipes the mustard off onto her napkin.

She wonders if her own face is as red as Lena’s and, for a brief second, Kara wants to tell Lena how she feels.

She takes a sip of soda instead.

The rest of lunch passes in somewhat of a daze. It doesn’t feel awkward or stilted, there’s almost no pause in their conversation, and Lena picks up right where she’d left off, but for the remainder of their meal Kara keeps catching herself wondering what might have happened if they hadn’t been interrupted. Would she really have done it? Would she have thrown caution completely to the wind and kissed her best friend over cubano sandwiches in the middle of a busy dining room on a Monday afternoon?

Back in her office, she finds herself playing the meal over and over again in her head while she reviews and approves next month’s design layouts.

She knows without a doubt, with absolutely one hundred percent certainty in fact, that she’d been about to kiss Lena. She can feel her cheeks heat up again as she thinks about how close she came. What makes her heart really thunder in her chest, though, is that Lena might have been about to let her.

The look on her face when Kara started to lean forward…

Kara stares down at the proposed first page for their cover story—the typography choices, the photographs, the pull-quotes her section editors have selected—and finds she can barely concentrate. She shakes her head to herself. One almost kiss in a public place isn’t enough to risk an entire friendship, or at any rate it’s not enough to make her share Alex’s certainty about Lena’s feelings.

She isn’t sure what she’s looking for, exactly. She just knows she needs something more than that.

________

Kara gets closer to the elusive something more at game night two weeks later.

It’s not that she hasn’t seen Lena in the interim, but it’s been limited to fifteen minutes here and there, a coffee or a walk in the park—certainly nothing that’s given her much to go on. Lena looks at her, well, how she’s always looked at her, and Kara isn’t too sure how to go about testing the waters, as it were.

It isn’t just the two of them not having time, either. Everyone has been busy, even more so than usual. It takes Nia texting the group chat and telling them all that she’s hosting a game night on Friday and that they “better be there or else” to get everyone in the same space for something beyond a ten minute debrief at the Tower. So when Lena walks through the door to Nia’s apartment, Kara is already halfway through the Zakarian ale Nia had pressed into her hands the moment she’d arrived.

She usually feels like she does an admirable job of holding back on her desire to barnacle onto Lena at every possible opportunity. Get her a little tipsy, though?

The surprised noise that Lena lets out when Kara scoops her up and spins her in a circle by way of greeting is adorable. Everything about Lena is adorable. Kara sets her down after one revolution, Lena’s still wearing a light jacket and she probably wants to take it off.

“Happy to see me?” Lena asks when Kara slips her arms from around Lena’s waist and steps back, like that isn’t the most ridiculous question in this (or any other) universe.

“Of course,” Kara says, grinning and feeling lighter than she has in a solid week. Lena does slip off her jacket, reaching over to the coat rack by Nia’s door to hang it up. “Aren’t you happy to see me?”

“Always.” Lena turns back from the rack, smiling at her, and gosh, there’s no better feeling in the entire world than having all of Lena’s attention.

“Lena!” Kelly yells from the open kitchen on the other side of the apartment. “Lena, please tell me you brought wine!”

“Is the pope a Jesuit?” Lena calls back, her attention drifting past Kara for a moment. She leans down to pick up a bag at her feet that Kara hadn’t even noticed, the necks of two bottles sticking out. She reaches out to Kara before walking over to Kelly, puts her hand on Kara’s forearm and says, “Save me a seat?”

As if Kara would do anything but.

The space she ends up saving Lena is her own, though; Nia’s apartment doesn’t have a lot of options. She brushes off Lena’s protests, practically pushing the other woman into the armchair she’d been occupying, and settles in between Lena’s legs on the floor. It means her arms are bracketed by Lena’s shins and that every time Lena leans over to place a bet or shake the dice, she has to grab onto Kara’s shoulders for balance. It also means that Kara can rest her head on one of Lena’s knees in between turns.

It’s nice. Everything about it is nice, there’s something about having constant physical contact with Lena that just settles her. Alex keeps looking over at them, but Kara’s had enough to drink that she’s not even worried about it any more.

They run out of popcorn halfway through trivial pursuit and Kara volunteers to get more, unwinding herself from Lena’s legs, gently squeezing an ankle as she does so.

“Anyone need anything else?” She asks, grabbing the empty bowl from beside the game board.

Alex lifts her beer bottle to the light and squints at it. “I’m running low.”

“As am I!” Brainy says, starting to tip his upside down to demonstrate until Nia stops him.

“M’gann, J’onn?” Kara turns to them but they shake their heads, continuing to confer about the current card. “Kelly?”

Kelly, it turns out, does want a glass of water, and Lena must do the math in her head faster than Kara—three beverages plus the popcorn is going to be too much to carry—because she offers to help.

Kara nudges Lena playfully when they’re next to the sink. “Think you can handle the drinks while I make the popcorn?”

Lena scoffs, pushes her back lightly and reaches for the faucet. “Try not to burn it this time, Supergirl.”

“Hey!” Kara grumbles, turning to the stove and pouring a small puddle of oil into a pot. She clicks on the burner and tosses a few kernels to help gauge when the oil comes up to temp. “That was one time!”

“It took a week to get the smell out of my apartment.”

“Yeah, okay, look, you’re the one who said I could use heat vision.”

Lena hums something that sounds like maybe she’s agreeing to disagree. It makes Kara smile to herself. She can hear Lena turn the faucet off, a clink as she sets Kelly’s glass down on the counter.

The kernels are just starting to hiss, tiny bubbles streaming from their points, when Kara hears Lena walk over behind her, her arms coming around Kara’s middle in a hug. She settles into Kara’s back and rests her head against Kara’s shoulder blades. Kara holds her breath for a moment, her heart picking up dangerously and a swooping feeling suddenly in her stomach. She can feel Lena settle, leaning her weight on Kara.

“How’s the popcorn coming?” Lena’s voice is muffled in Kara’s shirt.

“Almost ready to put the rest of them in.” One of the kernels bursts, followed swiftly by two more, proving Kara right. She pauses before reaching for the bag with the rest of them, sure that Lena will move.

But Lena doesn’t seem to be letting go. If anything, she seems to have settled in for the duration—her breathing is slow and steady against Kara’s back, Kara can feel her exhale.

Kara reaches for the bag, careful not to jostle herself too much or to bring Lena’s forearms (still wrapped around her stomach) anywhere near the open flame on the stove. She pours kernels onto the thin layer of hot oil, nearly covering the bottom surface of the pot, then sets the bag down and picks the pot up by the handles, shaking it to coat the kernels evenly.

When she’s done, she sets the pot softly back on the stove. Lena is still looped around her, so Kara does the only thing that makes sense: she crosses her own arms, resting her hands on Lena’s where they come around her ribs. Her heart isn’t beating so dangerously anymore. It’s as if, the longer Lena holds her like this, the safer she feels.

Someone comes into the kitchen behind them and opens the fridge, but they don’t say anything and Kara doesn’t turn around. She doesn’t want to disturb Lena, not if it means that whatever this is might stop.

Lena doesn’t let go until Kara needs to dump the finished popcorn into the bowl (she’d left it by the sink). And when they settle back down for the remainder of the night (Lena still in the chair, Kara dutifully on the floor below), Lena rests her hand at the nape of Kara’s neck. Kara doesn’t score a single point the rest of the round.

She doesn’t care.

Most days, Kara doesn’t spend much time thinking about physical contact, but that night, after she’s home and getting ready for bed, it’s all she can focus on.

Touch is an easy way for her to convey love and affection—both things she has a surfeit of—and it’s absolutely one of her love languages, one that comes easily to her. She knows her propensity for it might have something to do with how difficult touch was for her when she first arrived on earth, all the time she had to spend learning how to control her strength until she could hold Streaky or hug Alex without the constant fear of broken bones.

The point is, she’s a tactile person with all of her friends—and she’s never been one to second guess things like throwing her arm around Nia’s neck; or walking along, elbows-linked with Kelly; or leaning her head on Brainy’s shoulder during a movie.

Lately, though, with Lena, it’s been more difficult. The realization that her feelings for her best friend aren’t strictly platonic was accompanied by a strange and almost paralyzing fear about how she expresses those feelings through touch. Realizing she wants to kiss Lena was only the tip of the iceberg—when it comes to Lena, Kara’s first instinct is to get as close as she can, as close as Lena will allow.

But that’s not very platonic. So, while she’d been fixated on trying to return things to how-they-were-before, Kara chose to navigate the minefield with an eye toward resisting her instinct. Game night saw her blow that approach to smithereens.

Maybe half a beer is exactly enough to make her forget all the things she’s worried about when it comes to Lena, but she’d been unfettered enough to greet Lena with the exact level of enthusiasm she was feeling the moment she saw her. And Nia’s apartment is small, that’s not her fault, so it had just made sense to settle on the floor between Lena’s legs for games, the warmth in her belly from the alcohol relaxing her enough to throw caution to the wind, leaning against her friend or resting her head on Lena’s knee.

But everything that Kara did can be explained: by her excitement on seeing Lena after missing her for an entire week, by the lack of seating options, maybe even by half an alien beer.

It was Lena who’d done something inexplicable.

Even now, just thinking about the soft, easy way Lena fit against her back causes butterflies to take up some sort of extended residence in her stomach. And there wasn’t any reason for Lena to do it, no explanation for why Lena wound her arms around Kara’s middle, why she stayed like that. Kara shows her affection through touch, but Lena’s always been a little more reserved.

In fact, she’s never done anything like it before.

It’s hard not to read into it when reading into it is all Kara wants to do: it gives her hope.

_______

Over the next few weeks, Kara finds even more reasons to be hopeful.

Game night makes her brave—brave enough to start pushing the boundaries she’s set for herself with Lena. The next time they have lunch, Kara gets up from the table to greet Lena with a tight hug instead of staying seated, and the joy she feels when Lena practically melts into her could power a space station. When Lena falls asleep at the end of a movie at her own apartment, Kara picks her up and carries her to bed instead of tucking her in on the couch. The sleepy kiss Lena leaves on Kara’s cheek sends the butterfly colony (now permanent) in her stomach into a riot.

It’s an extraordinary, albeit nerve-racking, positive-feedback cycle: the more attention she pays to Lena, looking for clues as to how her best friend might feel about her, the more Lena seems to reveal.

She takes Lena’s hand when they’re at the National City Zoo—there’s a bajillion families and she’s done it before to get them through a crowd—but this time she links their fingers and she doesn’t let go once they make their way through the crush of people. She’s trying so hard to be calm about it that she ends up dropping Lena’s hand on accident when Brainy startles her by coming out of nowhere and reading aloud from some animal atlas he’s borrowed from a child.

The panda facts he shares are neat (she honestly had no idea pandas could swim), but she’d rather still be holding Lena’s hand.

Brainy drifts away after he’s done, saying something about needing to return the book and muttering that it doesn’t make any sense that the gift shop is at the exit to the zoo rather than the entrance because he very much needs to procure a copy.

“He knows he can just look all of that stuff up on his tablet, right?” Kara says to Lena, knocking their shoulders together just because she can. The crowd around the panda enclosure has thinned out now that feeding time is over. She leans against the railing in front of her and looks over at Lena.

“I think he has Esme in mind. I know they’re not officially fostering her yet, but Brainy is taking the potential-Uncle situation very seriously.” And, duh, of course that’s what he’s thinking. She loves that Lena knows Brainy so well. “Speaking of, I think I heard Kelly say they’re headed over to see the giraffes, shall we join them?”

Another thing that Kara loves is Lena referring to herself and Kara as a packaged deal. “Yeah.” She can feel her stomach grumble. “It’s almost lunch time right?”

Lena laughs. “Almost. I’m sure we can find a food stand on the way if you need something to take the edge off.”

“You know me!” Kara grins at her. Zoo food is amazing, it’s all hot dogs and cotton candy and animal-themed ice creams.

“I do.” Lena’s smile softens, taking on a quality that makes Kara feel like they might be standing entirely alone. And then she does something that sends Kara’s heart into some sort of hyperdrive: she holds out her hand for Kara to take. “Lead the way?”

Lena’s still smiling, but there’s something almost vulnerable about the way she’s looking at Kara, like she thinks she’s taking a risk. And maybe she is—there’s no crowd to navigate, no possible reason to hold on to each other beyond the wanting.

Kara can relate. The only thing she’s wanted to do since dropping Lena’s hand is take it again, and the vulnerability in Lena’s expression sparks something in her brain: recognition. She reaches for Lena’s hand and interlaces their fingers again. If Lena’s going to take a risk, so will she.

They don’t let go of each other until Brainy needs help carrying his purchases from the gift store.

It’s wonderful.

________

This feels like a date.

That’s the thought that keeps playing over and over when Lena comes to Kara’s for a movie night nearly six weeks to the day after their lunch by the waterfront. Six weeks of slowly immersing herself in the world’s most terrifying what-if thought experiment, of playing chicken with her feelings, of daring Lena to draw a line somewhere (anywhere!) when it comes to the two of them.

Except that not only has Lena failed to draw any kind of line at all, Kara’s pretty sure that Lena has been trying to tell her that whatever Kara wants is okay. And now she’s here, in Kara’s apartment, pressed into Kara’s side, snuggled up under a blanket watching Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck banter on-screen and…

This feels like a date.

“You okay?” Lena asks, lifting her head off Kara’s shoulder to look up at her.

If this were a date, I could kiss you right now, Kara thinks. “Yeah,” she says instead. “Just got worried I forgot to charge my phone.” It’s not a lie, that is a constant worry of hers, actually. Alex is always grousing about how she’s impossible to reach. She has superhearing though; Alex can just yell.

“Do you want to pause the movie to go check?” Lena starts to sit up.

“No,” Kara shakes her head, tightens the arm she has around Lena’s shoulders, pulling her back. “No, I have the night off. And besides, it’s not like everyone doesn’t have your number.”

Lena laughs, but she puts her head back down on Kara’s shoulder. She hums. “And how do you know my phone is charged?”

“As if,” Kara scoffs. “You’re just as much of a workaholic as you’ve always been. Just because it’s the foundation now instead of L Corp doesn’t mean you’re not checking your emails at eleven at night.”

“You can’t prove that,” Lena says before shushing her. “Quiet. You’re making me miss all the best parts.”

Kara wants to say something dumb, like sitting here with you is the best part. It would be ridiculous, though, it would be silly, would probably be too much… “Sitting here with you is the best part,” she whispers before she can stop herself.

Lena doesn’t say anything for a moment and Kara wonders if she’s overstepped the mark. She thinks about whether or not she should turn it into a joke, something they can both laugh off, but Lena replies quietly before she can come up with anything.

“For me, too,” Lena says, still looking at the screen.

It’s all Kara can do not to kiss her.

They say goodnight after the movie ends. She’s right, Lena still works too much and needs the sleep, and they both have early meetings the next day. Kara misses her so fiercely after she leaves that she finds herself brushing her teeth and texting Lena, asking if she can bring takeout over for dinner tomorrow. And Lena responds so quickly with a yes that Kara wonders if she already had her phone in hand, as if she, too, was missing Kara and thinking about when they’d see each other next.

It’s a warm night so she leaves the windows open. She tosses and turns once she makes it into bed, stares at her ceiling, barely illuminated by the ambient light from the city, and watches shadows from the curtains on her windows playing across the walls.

It felt like a date.

It could have been a date.

What if it was a date?

Kara’s played so many what-if games with herself about Lena, it’s a natural thought. She picks up the thread easily. They’d have sat exactly as they did, Kara’s arm around Lena, holding her close. She would have kissed Lena on the couch and after the movie was over. Maybe Lena would have stayed. They could have gotten ready for bed together, Lena wearing an oversized t-shirt and a pair of Kara’s sleep shorts, a speck of toothpaste at the corner of her mouth where she’d missed rinsing it off. Maybe they’d read in bed together, talk about their plans for tomorrow before turning out the light.

Kara closes her eyes for a moment, pretends that Lena really is next to her in bed, sleeping. It feels…easy, it feels right. It fills her chest with longing.

She opens her eyes, but keeps her gaze on the ceiling. I wish it had been a date.

A month and a half ago, Kara had been terrified of her feelings, uncertain about Lena’s, and convinced that if she acted on them, it would be the end of everything. Laying in bed right now, it doesn’t feel like any of that; it feels like this might be the beginning of everything instead.

Alex’s words come back to her, “She makes you happier than I’ve ever seen.”

That was never the question for Kara. No, the question has always been, does she make Lena as happy as Lena makes her?

She thinks about sitting on the couch earlier, Lena whispering “for me too” in the dark. And then she thinks about Lena offering her hand at the zoo, about sleepy cheek kisses, about hugs that never seem to end, about the way that Lena lights up when she sees Kara—she thinks about how Lena never seems happier than when they’re together, and about how Lena had let Kara almost kiss her that day in the restaurant.

If Lena wants more, and if Kara does too, then what’s stopping them?

Fear, her brain supplies. Fear that it won’t work, that it won’t last, that one of you will break the other’s heart.

But oh gosh, what if it does last?

It’s not hard to imagine, really, the future laid out in front of her and having Lena by her side for all of it. Lena, next to her, in her bed, holding her hand, for all the good and the bad and the in-between yet to come.

It’s what she wants, more than almost anything in the world. It feels like Lena might want it too.

She rolls over onto her side and swipes for her phone on her nightstand. The screen lights up and she’s startled to see the time. It’s nearly 5 in the morning.

She pulls up her text messages, finds her sister’s name and types out, Up for coffee at Noonan’s this morning? My treat!

She’s just drifting off for what will be a very truncated two hours of sleep when Alex texts back, Of course. See you at 8!

________

Alex beats her to Noonan’s, unsurprising considering the difficulty Kara had getting out of bed when her alarm went off. Her sister has already ordered their coffees and is waiting for them at the counter—so much for it being Kara’s treat—so she finds seats for them in the crowded shop, two high bar-style chairs against a wooden counter that runs along one of the wide front windows.

She’d felt almost calm, texting Alex and asking to meet up, but now she feels like she might fly apart with nervousness.

Telling Alex what she wants to do is going to make it real.

She waits until Alex sits down next to her with the drinks, then swallows a large mouthful of her own, and says with no preamble, “I’m gonna tell her.”

Kara can tell Alex knows immediately what she means. Her sister freezes for a moment, then affects an air of casual interest. “Yeah?” She has to admire Alex’s restraint, appreciates it actually.

“Yeah,” Kara echoes, turning the question into a statement. She feels herself break into a smile, couldn’t stop it if she tried, and looks down as her cheeks bunch with the size of it. “You, um, you were right. She makes me happy. And, I think I make her happy too.” That’s what this all comes down to, in the end, all the turmoil and anxiety: the only world Kara wants to live in is one where Lena Luthor is happy. “And maybe there’s no guarantee we won’t hurt each other somehow, but I can’t imagine my life without her in every part of it. And if she wants that too?” She lifts one shoulder in a small shrug. “Then it’s worth the risk.”

“I’m so proud of you.” Her sister bumps their shoulders together and Kara can feel some of the pressure in her chest ease. It’s not that she’d been worried Alex wouldn’t approve—Alex made it clear she wants Kara to be happy, wants her to be happy with Lena, even—but it’s still nice to know her sister is proud of her. “So, what’s the plan?”

“I don’t have one yet. I only decided this morning, I haven’t gotten that far.” She glances over at her sister and finds that Alex’s smile is wide, something close to relief on her face.

“Well, do you want help coming up with a plan?”

“Gosh yes,” Kara blurts out. “Please. I almost kissed her last night.”

“What?!”

Kara can feel her cheeks heat up as she remembers saying goodnight. How Lena had lingered in her space after their hug, waiting just too long for it to be an accident. “She kissed me on the cheek to say good-bye, and then—I don’t know, she got this look. Like she was waiting for me to do it.”

Alex’s eyes go wide. “Why didn’t you?”

“I don’t know!” And she really isn’t sure. She’d spent a sizable chunk of her ready-for-bed routine asking herself the same question. “I wasn’t—I hadn’t—” She stops herself, tries to collect her thoughts. “It’s Lena,” she finally says, and she’s not sure if that really explains anything, but Alex gets a soft smile on her face, like maybe she gets what Kara is trying to say. “I want to do this right.” She takes a sip from her mug and puts it back on the countertop. “I’m not just, I don’t know, gonna kiss her and hope for the best.”

“Look at you, coming up with a plan before rushing in.” Alex has that proud smile back on her face. “Okay, so you want to tell her how you feel.”

Kara nods. “I need her to know, Alex, really know how I feel about her. That,” she swallows, mouth a little dry, but practice makes perfect, “that I’m in love with her.”

“Well, you can’t go wrong with that as an opening line.” Alex takes a small sip of her coffee. “So I’m guessing you don’t want to sit on this for very long.” Kara shakes her head. “Right, right, you might do something impulsive.”

“Hey!” She kicks her sister in the shin.

“What?” Alex puts her hands up, feigning innocence. “You’re the one who said you already almost kissed her. I’m just saying it seems like the sooner the better. Do you guys have any plans this week?” She picks up her coffee again.

Kara twists her own mug in her hands. “I’m bringing takeout over to her apartment tonight.”

“Well?” Alex pauses mid-sip to look at Kara.

“What?” She can hear the way her own voice comes out a little high, a tiny bit of panic bleeding through. When Alex just looks at her expectantly, she clarifies, “You think I should tell her tonight?”

She knows the whole point of this conversation is having Alex help her come up with a plan to tell Lena, but the idea that there might honestly, really, in this universe be a plan to tell Lena Luthor that Kara Danvers is in love with her, and that it might happen within the next twelve hours—

“Why not?” Alex asks, finishing her sip.

Why not? It’s a great question and, even with her heart doing its best to beat right out of her chest at the prospect, it’s one for which Kara doesn’t have any answer. She’s already decided to tell Lena, she’s feeling pretty good about the potential outcomes (at least in the immediate sense)—waiting won’t change her calculus. Why not, indeed?

She can start to see it in her head, showing up with the food, Lena opening a bottle of wine, the two of them sitting at Lena’s kitchen island side-by-side like she and Alex are right now. She’ll probably wait until they’re cleaning up, until Lena is asking what she’d like to do for the rest of the night. Kara will say she wants to tell Lena something, she’ll take Lena’s hand, lead her over to the couch, and…

“I’m gonna tell her tonight.” Saying it settles her.

She’s going to do this.

“Yeah you are.” Alex grins at her. “Come over after work if you need a pep talk, okay? Kelly’s great at those.”

________

Kara picks up dinner after leaving Alex and Kelly (Alex is right, Kelly does give a good pep talk), making two stops before getting out of a rideshare in front of Lena’s apartment building. She gets waved through at the desk with a smile from the doorman and steps into the elevator. All things considered, she’s doing pretty well in the anxiety department until the doors of the lift open onto Lena’s hallway, her heart picking up in an escalating rhythm she can feel between her ribs and her palms going sweaty, the plastic handles of the takeaway bags beginning to get sticky between her fingers.

The last time she felt this nervous because of something she needed to tell Lena, she was coming out as Supergirl. Even now, the reminder of that secret—the fallout and each of their broken hearts—is enough to make her breath catch in her throat.

This couldn’t be more different, she thinks to herself, raising one bag-laden hand to knock. It swings open immediately and Kara panics for half a second that in her nervousness she’s broken Lena’s door, but Lena herself is on the other side, smile wide and inviting.

Just like that, Kara feels the tiniest bit of her anxiety melt away.

“Kara! Harvey just called to say you were on your way up—I still need to change,” she gestures down and Kara follows the movement. Sure enough, Lena’s still in a silk blouse and slacks. “I just opened a bottle in the kitchen, help yourself.”

Kara laughs. “I knew you didn’t leave work when you said you were going to!” She steps over the threshold. Usually she’d give Lena a hug in greeting at this point, but the bags in each hand make this a physical impracality. Lena solves it for her, leaning in to kiss her on the cheek, even as she starts unfastening an earring.

“You think you know me so well,” Lena says, pulling back and rolling her eyes in clear affection. She looks so relaxed that Kara feels her own heart start to slow, almost like it’s trying to beat in time with Lena’s, her anxiety receding even further. “I won’t be a minute.”

Etta James is already on the speaker system, singing about wanting love that lasts past Saturday night, when Kara walks the bags into the kitchen and puts them on the counter. She grabs a handful of serving utensils and a fork for each of them from the drawer. Pulling out a container of pad kee mao and dishing it onto plates, Kara can hear Lena singing along under her breath in her bedroom.

She doesn’t realize she’s stopped unpacking the rest of the bags to listen, with what must be a very stupid smile on her face and a feeling in her chest she’s only ever associated with Lena or flying, until she hears Lena pause and turn on the tap in her en suite. Kara laughs to herself, shakes her head. How did I ever think I wasn’t in love with her?

While they eat, Lena catches her up on one of the new green initiatives the foundation is pursuing in partnership with the city. Kara’s listening, honest she is, it’s just that no matter how hard she tries, she keeps finding herself distracted by the way Lena lights up talking about the project, excitement clear on her face, gesturing with her fork between bites.

She does a little better when Lena turns the tables and asks about her plans for the latest issue, but it’s hard to concentrate when a small voice in the back of her head keeps chanting, I’m in love with you.

Kara’s heart seems to remember it’s on the line when they start to clean up, a now too-familiar arrhythmia kicking in that Alex says is all in her head (she’d hooked Kara up to a monitor anyway, just to check). Her mouth gets a little dry while she packs the remains of the green curry into a smaller container and passes it to Lena to put in the fridge. This is it. You’re going to take her over to the couch and you’re going to sit her down and tell her.

She’s so wrapped up in her own thoughts that she almost misses what Lena is saying, picks up on it only when she hears her sister’s name.

“So anyway, I really need Alex’s help on it, but it’s not an emergency and I know if I text her tonight she’ll see it and start working—I owe it to Kelly to make sure Alex actually takes a night off.” Lena holds up Kara’s empty glass in question and starts to pour her more wine when Kara nods.

“She would, she’s never off her phone,” Kara agrees. She doesn’t even think about her next words. “I texted her at like, five this morning, and she responded in seconds.”

“At five this morning?” Lena puts the bottle down and picks up their glasses. “Is everything okay?”

“Yeah, totally.” She reaches a hand up to her face and then remembers she’s not wearing glasses. She tucks her hair behind her ear instead, takes the glass Lena hands her. “I just needed some advice about something.” She takes a deep breath. Here we go. “Do you want to sit on the couch?”

She almost expects Lena to ask what the advice was about, but Lena lets it go and follows her. They end up sitting close together, Lena in the middle of the couch, Kara leaning with her back against the arm.

“I’m so glad you have Alex,” Lena says before Kara can get a good grip on how to start. Lena settles in against the back of the couch, tucking her knees underneath her and angling herself to face Kara. “Jealous, of course,” she laughs dryly and takes a sip of her wine, “I’m not sure Lex ever would have been the kind of brother I could text at five in the morning, even if he hadn’t turned out like he did.”

“You have her, too, you know?”

“I know.” Lena pauses. “Finding that out was the only good thing that happened while you were gone.”

She and Lena haven’t really talked about it still, but Alex has told Kara how much time she’d spent with Lena while Kara was trapped.

“I had a…” Lena takes a breath and then continues, “a really hard time when we were struggling to get you back. I’m sure she’s told you that I,” she places her glass on the coffee table and looks down at her hands, “that I came pretty close to making some very scary choices. Your sister is exceptional—”

Kara can’t help herself. “You’re exceptional.” She puts her glass next to Lena’s.

“No, Kara, that’s not.” Lena huffs out a breath as she meets Kara’s eyes and smiles, but there’s pain in her expression. “You’re very sweet. But I was ready to sacrifice thousands of people to the phantom in order to get you back. I would have, if Alex hadn’t stopped me. At the time I was so worried that wanting to make that choice made me a liability, but she helped me see it differently. She said it wasn’t a sacrifice you’d want someone to make for you, but she understood why I’d wanted to do it. She knew what you’d want, if you’d been there to tell us.”

“It’s funny, I always…” Kara trails off, looking down at her own hands. Her fingers are shaking. Alex already told her what happened, but it’s different hearing it from Lena. What Lena’s talking about…

The only time she was asked to choose between the person she loved and the welfare of others, she’d made her choice—not without guilt or sadness, but without second guessing it. It had broken her heart at the time, but it was never really a question.

She chances a glance at Lena, who is studiously staring at her own lap, and thinks, Would I be able to choose the world over you? And even though it’s not real, even though it’s hypothetical, her heart catches in her chest and her stomach feels like it drops out of her body.

It doesn’t even startle her to realize that if she was faced with that choice, the world or Lena, Alex might have to make it for her. At Mt. Norquay, Alex very nearly did…

She clears her throat. “Kal once told me that if it came down to a choice between Lois and the world, he didn’t think he’d be able to choose.” Lena looks at her, brows furrowed. “It was after Mon-El,” she swallows and this isn’t how she’d planned on starting the conversation, but it will work just as well, “after I dispersed the lead. He thought Mon-El was my Lois, exce—”

“Your cousin isn’t the metric by which I measure myself.“ Lena interrupts, clearly missing where Kara is heading, but it throws Kara off because the whole world seems to measure themselves by Superman some days. Heck, even Kara used to. She must have a puzzled expression on her face because Lena reaches out and puts her hand on Kara’s knee. “It’s you, Kara.” Her expression is so earnest that Kara nearly blurts out the words right then. “I measure myself to you. I always have—as Supergirl, before I even moved to National City, and then to you when I knew you just as Kara Danvers—” Lena squeezes her knee and starts to lift her hand away, but Kara reaches out, lays her own over top. Lena turns her own hand over underneath Kara’s, links their fingers together.

The look Lena gives her is soft. “Kara, I know for a long time I had you up on a pedestal, but it isn’t that. It’s that you have made so many hard choices, given up so many things, and Alex stopped me because she knew you wouldn’t want to come back to a world that had suffered because of you. I admire that, even if I know I would still choose you. I’m selfish when it comes t—”

“I’m in love with you.”

Lena goes quiet. Her eyes are wide, and there’s a stunned sort of expression on her face. She’s holding onto Kara’s hand with such force that Kara can tell if she were human, it might hurt.

“I’m in love with you,” she says, again, feeling like she’s stepping off a high dive, “and I’m not sure I could choose either, if it was you.”

Alex hadn’t been wrong; Kara wouldn’t have wanted others to suffer just so she could be saved, but if the tables were turned, if it were Lena…Lena doesn’t seem to realize that she’s been Kara’s exception since they met. How could she, when it took Kara so long to figure it out herself?

“I thought for such a long time that being Supergirl meant I didn’t get to choose myself, so I tried not to. You’re right, I made hard choices, I sent Mon-El away, I hid my identity from the world to try to stop the people I love from getting hurt. I thought I’d done everything right for so long, but I have always chosen myself when it comes to you.”

“Kara—”

She squeezes Lena’s hand gently and Lena closes her mouth.

“It took me a really long time to figure out why it was that I kept making all the choices I did around you,” she takes a deep breath. “Why I couldn’t leave you alone when we met, why I could never think clearly when you were in danger, why I was so scared of losing you that I hurt you as badly as I’ve ever hurt anyone.” Lena looks like she might cry, but she hasn’t let go of Kara’s hand, is still hanging onto it like it’s the only thing tethering her to earth. “There are a lot of reasons why I missed it, and when I did finally realize, I wasn’t going to tell you because I didn’t want to risk losing you again—if you didn’t feel the same, or if I screwed it up—but being with you makes me so happy. And I think I might make you happy too. So I wanted you to know that I’m in love with you, in case you feel the same.”

She stops, swallows, her mouth is dry. She’s done it. It’s out there, now it’s up to—

“Kara, I’ve been in love with you for years.”

And then Lena is leaning forward, the hand not holding Kara’s is slipping around the side of Kara’s neck and threading into her hair, pressing Kara back into the arm of the couch and kissing her.

Their first kiss is unrefined, eager and messy and Kara feels like she might fly apart, an electric energy building inside the moment Lena’s lips touch hers. She lets go of Lena’s hand in favor of wrapping her arm around Lena, meeting her with the same desperation and pushing her back until Lena is stretched out on the couch underneath her, both of Lena’s hands in her hair, while her own wander along Lena’s hips, the outside of her thighs.

For her part, Lena seems just as lost in it as Kara feels, breaking their kiss to pull in a ragged breath which turns into a high moan when Kara starts trailing kisses down her neck, Lena arching below her and pressing into her in such a way that Kara feels as if her entire body might be about to combust.

She’s not sure where she ends and Lena begins. It’s everything.

“Wait,” she says. It takes every ounce of willpower to pull back, and the wrecked way Lena is looking up at her, chest heaving, lips parted and wet nearly makes her reconsider. As much as she wants this, though, wants Lena more than she thought it was possible to want anyone, she meant what she said to Alex: she wants to be sure Lena knows how serious this is for her.

“I want to take you on a date first. Before…” She trails off when Lena starts to smile, looking almost like she might be about to laugh. “Not that we were about to! Not that I don’t want to, I do want to, I really want to, b—”

Lena reaches up and puts a finger to Kara’s lips and Kara doesn’t think she’s ever fallen silent so quickly. “I love you.” Oh gosh, hearing Lena say it, knowing how she means it… “If you want to take me on a date before we have sex,” and hearing Lena say that makes her feel like she’s just jumped off a skyscraper, “then I will happily go on however many dates you want.”

“Yeah?” We’re gonna go on dates. Lena wants to date me. She can’t help the size of her smile, it makes her cheeks hurt.

“Yes.” Lena takes a breath, her expression softening, and she seems to contemplate her next words. “Do you want to watch a movie and maybe spend the night? No funny business,” she adds quickly. “I just, I don’t want you to go. I’m worried I’m going to wake up and all of this will have been an elaborate dream.”

“Not a dream,” Kara says, leaning down to kiss her again. It’s soft, this time. “And yes to spending the night.” She rests her forehead against Lena’s temple. “I love you,” she whispers into Lena’s ear, pressing another kiss at the corner of her jaw. “I love you.”

“I love you, Kara,” Lena loops her arms back around Kara’s shoulders, pulling her closer until they’re just holding each other. “I’ve loved you for so long.”

They barely separate to watch the movie, an old classic in black and white that Lena loves, and Kara can’t help comparing it to their night just twenty four hours ago. It’s the same in all the right ways, and yet impossibly different. Now, instead of sitting next to each other, they’re wrapped together on the couch, Lena’s arms around her middle, their bodies impossibly close. When she looks down at Lena halfway through and wants to kiss her, she does.

It feels like magic.

Lena really doesn’t seem to want to be far from her and Kara finds she doesn’t want to be either. They get ready for bed together. It’s hard to brush her teeth when she can’t stop smiling, but Lena isn’t any more successful. Even though she’s slept over at Lena’s and Lena at hers plenty of times before, the few times they’ve fallen asleep in bed together have been by accident—the result of watching a movie on Kara’s laptop instead of the television on nights where one of them is more exhausted than usual. The light blush on Lena’s face when she asks if Kara will sleep with her in her bed makes Kara want to climb up to Lena’s rooftop and tell the whole city that she’s in love with this woman.

It isn’t until she’s setting her alarm, sheets already pulled up to her waist, while Lena reaches over to her bedside table to turn off the light, that she realizes she never texted Alex to tell her how things went. She’d thought about it, had even taken a picture of her and Lena on the couch before the movie, but Lena had kissed her right after and then for a while Kara’d forgotten all about pictures and phones and having a sister.

She pulls up their thread and types out, IT WENT WELL!!!! Can’t wait to tell you everything. Sis Night this weekend?! Then she sends the picture too—it’s cute.

True to form, there are speech bubbles almost immediately and then a text from Alex, I’m so happy for you! Yes! Can’t wait

“Alex?” Lena guesses. Her lamp is off now, her face illuminated by the light from Kara’s phone screen. She’s so beautiful it’s hard to remember how to breathe.

“Yeah,” Kara says, clicking the screen off and setting it down on the bedside table on her side. She lifts up the arm next to Lena and Lena slides over, places her head gently on Kara’s chest and her hand on Kara’s stomach. Kara kisses the top of her head. “You know it was Alex who told me I shouldn’t be afraid of this.”

“How did she convince you?”

“She said you make me happier than she’s ever seen, and that there was a chance you felt the same.”

“A chance, huh?” Lena laughs quietly and tilts her head to look up at Kara, she’s just visible in the dim light from the city that filters through the windows. “What gave me away?”

“The way you looked at me, I guess.” She kisses Lena lightly, marveling at the idea that she can do this whenever she wants. “And it was enough to give me hope.” She kisses Lena again. “I’m the Paragon of Hope, actually, didn’t you know?”

“Mmm, are you also the paragon of obliviousness?” Lena smiles into the next kiss.

“Hey,” Kara starts, but whatever protest she might have is forgotten when Lena deepens the kiss. Maybe Lena’s right, she knows there’s a lot she missed. But she got here in the end. That has to count for something.

A little later, when she’s finally on the edge of sleep, Kara can’t help drifting over the last six weeks in her mind. She finds herself back at the sister’s night that got her here, through all her worries and all the fear that had been holding her back. Alex was right, of course, there are no guarantees that they won’t hurt each other in the future. She can feel Lena’s breathing, the soft and even puffs of air warm against her shirt. Worrying about the future won’t stop it from coming. And laying here with Lena tucked in beside her, only one thing really seems to matter right now anyway:

She’s in love with this woman.

She’s so glad she figured it out.