Chapter 1: Her Own Space
It had stung, when Kara told her that she didn’t know what it was like to connect with someone as her whole self. And when she followed it up with a comment about never having had a friend quiet like Lena, who pushed her more, it was rubbing salt in the wound. But Lena was nothing if not highly skilled at masking her emotional pain. So she smiled, chin quivering, as she told Kara that she’d made her a better person. It wasn’t untrue, but it was a half truth. And then she’d gone back to the party, for an appropriate amount of time, waited to see people starting to disperse, and then slipped away without saying goodbyes.
She goes home to her empty, cold apartment. It was half-packed already; she had decided after the fight with Lex and Nyxly, and after Lillian died leaving her the entire Luthor estate, that she wanted something less Luthor-esque for this next stage. Silently, secretly, she had hoped that maybe Kara had felt something more for her, the way Lena did for Kara, and that maybe, with a little honesty and time, she might have somewhere to live that was homey and inviting like Kara’s loft. Exactly like Kara’s loft.
But the obvious lack of reciprocation that Kara so clearly voiced tonight was enough to tell her to stop dragging her feet. It is time to pick a new apartment, or house, and it would need to be a reasonable size for one person, just one. But she is Esme’s godmother now, so she should probably find someplace that had room for Esme to come visit and stay over. She looks around her apartment, boxes stacked around the outsides of the rooms, and realizes she didn’t care if she ever saw the insides of this place again.
She trudges through the living space to the bedroom, and into the en suite, stripping out of her wedding clothes, and removing the jewerly. She doesn’t bother with make up wipes, just grabs an extra stack of wash clothes and stepped into the shower, turning the heat up as high as she could stand it, scrubbing away the day, the disappointment, and mentally berating herself for how much hope she had held for Kara to return her affection.
She wasn’t going to blame it on being a Luthor. The weeks of intensive therapy she’d been investing in had at least helped her acknowledge that she wasn’t unlovable, but that she believed she was from years of experiences. But right now, she just wants to scrub all that off of her skin, and figure out what her life free of Luthors, and knowing she won’t be building a shared life with Kara will be.
By the time she finishes in the shower her skin is pink from the hot water and the scrubbing, and she spends the appropriate amount of time moisturizing while trying to decide what she needs to do feel like she’s in control. It’s barely 7 pm at this point, still early in the evening for her, Alex and Kelly had opted for a brunch-hour wedding, to not keep Esme up too late.
Lena redresses in leggings and a sweatshirt. She is careful not to grab the NCU one that was two items down in the drawer, instead digging further to get her own MIT one. She knows it makes no difference, one way or the other, if she wears Kara’s stolen sweatshirt, but right now, she feels like she can’t. She trudges back out to her kitchen, pouring herself a glass of water, and opening her emails to finally look at the links her new real estate agent had sent a few days ago.
She sets a kettle to boil and after getting her tea, she spends the next hour looking through listings, eliminating ones for size, location, terrible kitchen layouts, ones that would be hard ot host game night, and any other reason that pops up. In the end she has three that she considers viable, and one that just feels right.
It’s a brownstone, its closer to Alex and Kelly than it is to Kara, which, considering Kara’s clear statements, she feels is a reasonable and responsible priority to chose. It’s not driven out of hurt, but practicality, at least that’s what she tells herself. And it has three modest bedrooms, one for her on the top floor, one for her office and one for Esme’s room on the middle floor, and a nice open floor plan kitchen and living area on the main floor. The kitchen opens into a small, fully fenced backyard that was strung with lights, and filled with a wild garden that calls to her. And more important than all of that, there isn’t a single white wall in the place. Lena was so sick of the pristine, clean, sterile life she’d had. She wanted color. And joy. And freedom from expectations of her name and position.
So, Lena does something she was getting more used to doing, trusting her instinct and makes a decision. She emailed her real estate agent, Sheryl, who happened to respond immediately, confirming that Sheryl had seen that place in person already, and that she felt that the asking price was fair. So Lena bought it. She did the paperwork that night, asking for cash transaction, and by 10 pm, she was under contract, with a closing less than a week out.
She was proud of herself. She’d certainly bought much higher priced property before, like CatCo. But this, it was actually for her. Done to make her happy, not to try to impress or woo someone. She was being Lena, not Lena Luthor. And for the first time in her entire life, she was going to have her own garden.
She wanted to share that joy with someone, but she was still very hurt by Kara’s words, and she wasn’t going to text Kelly, and Nia was likely enjoying a very romantic evening with her boyfriend who shirked his responsibilities in the future to be with her. J’onn wasn’t the texting type, and Sam was three hours ahead of her in Metropolis. So she text Andrea.
I bought a house tonight. Just for me. I don’t want to live like a Luthor anymore.
It only took Andrea a minute before the three bubbles appeared.
That’s great, cariño. Do you have a link? Let me see your new, Lena-only house.
She exhaled at Andrea’s response. They may still be working on recovering trust, but Andrea certainly knew her insecurities and knew how to be supportive when needed. Lena sent her the link, and they texted for a short while, discussing furniture and decor. Andrea letting her fully escape the sting of rejection that she’d been ignoring for the last few hours, until she asked,
Wasn’t the wedding tonight? Why are you buying property and not wrapped around your far too optimistic blond crush?
Lena started typing and then deleted three different snarky rebuttals before being startled by her phone ringing, an incoming facetime call from Andrea. She lets out a sign, and answered.
“Andi, I don’t want to talk about it.”
“Cariño, I shouldn’t have said that. I realize it was insensitive,” she looks genuinely contrite, “and I also know Kara is an absolutely oblivious idiot, and that you are gun shy, so I shouldn’t have said anything.”
Lena’s face relaxes slightly, deciding if she should confide in Andrea, if their resurrected friendship is ready for this conversation.
“I’m not gun shy. She just, told me in no uncertain terms how important my friendship is to her,” Andrea starts to interrupt but Lena presses on “And that she doesn’t know what its like to connect with anyone as her whole self.”
Andrea lets that one sit for a minute, brow furrowed while she turns it over, looking for a silver lining or way to give her friend hope.
“Okay, so you got friend-zoned by Supergirl.”
“Andi, you know I hate that term. It’s so entitled.”
“I know, I know. I was going to tell you, join the club.”
Lena’s mouth drops open as she realizes what Andrea just said.
“What?!” Lena is incredulous at the thought of Andrea hitting on Kara. “You made a pass at Kara?”
“God no! I couldn’t stand Kara. I did however try my damndest to flirt with Supergirl. Who had absolutely none of it.”
Lena is still frowning at her screen. Angry and relieved and irritated. Of course Andrea made a pass at Kara. But at least Kara rejected her too.
“Kara is Supergirl. You know that.”
“Yes, but I didn’t know that when Supergirl was assigned to be my personal body guard.”
“Ugh, Andi, you are the worst.” Lena lets her head fall back and collects a few breaths. She knew people flirted with Kara all the time, she was one of them, but realizing just how widespread that experience was made her feel even more hurt at the rejection since she wasn't a random woman, or Kara's loathed boss. She was her best friend. Shouldn't it have made a difference.
“Seriously Lena, I want to tell you that you misinterpreted Kara’s words, but I wasn’t there. So what I will tell you, is that you are a wonderful, kind, caring person with a killer figure, and a few mildly embarrassing tattoos, and that she would be a fool not to see that.”
“Thank you, I needed to hear that.”
“Good, now, let’s talk about couches for your new place. I’m shopping right now and found the most luxurious chesterfield that would look amazing by that fireplace.”
The wedding itself was chaotic, and a mess of emotions for Kara. She was so immensely happy for Alex, and watching her and Kelly exchange vows had tugged at something deep in her chest. She had been sorting through those emotions when Cat had called, adding another layer to the absolute blender of emotions that she was already experiencing. And then she attempted a heart to heart with Lena while still completely unable to give proper voice to most of her feelings. The conversation was a blur in her memory, but she remembers Lena supporting her, and how hearing her native language from Lena make her chest feel warm.
But somewhere in the mess of chasing Esme, saying goodbye to Winn for real, and making sure all the catering and event staff had what they needed to close down the event, Lena has slipped away, with most the guests. And while the plan had always been for Kara and Eliza to return to Alex and Kelly’s apartment as her week-long babysitters, Kara couldn’t help but feel disappointed that Lena left without her, or at least without saying goodbye.
“Aunt Kara!” The whirlwind of a five year old crashes into Kara’s legs while she is rinsing out their morning dishes after their first night of their extended sleepover. The girl’s mimicking powers made it a solid crash, knocking Kara to the side a few steps. “Gramma-liza said we could go up to Midvale today, and spend the night! And that we can play on the beach!”
“Did she now?” Kara turns off the sink, turning to her niece and picking her up. She can’t believe how wonderful it felt to be able to love a small child, the first one since Kal-El’s pod took off ahead of hers. She had always felt the distinct loss of that promised experience, of getting to raise and teach a small soul all about where she came from. Esme isn’t Kryptonian, but she is a fellow alien refugee who lost her family and home at a young age. This gift of a second chance was one that Kara isn’t going to pass, and she is going to revel in being the doting aunt. She swings Esme around in a circle, earning a delighted squeal from her.
“If that’s so, I think you’ll need to go pack a bag. Think you can handle that?” She sets her back down, looking through the open kitchen to the living area, planning on asking Eliza what the plan was, knowing she hadn’t packed the right clothes for Midvale’s coastal winds. Not that she felt the wind, but people looked at her strange when she was dressed inappropriately for the weather, and she loved the coziness of bulky sweaters and jackets. The clothing makes it feel like home, so cold or not, she is going to enjoy the coziness.
After confirming that Eliza did offer a trip to Midvale, and that if they left before 2pm they would be there in time to make dinner and enjoy an evening walk on the beach, Kara rushes back to her loft to pack a quick bag, grabbing her favorite sweatshirts and sweaters, and watering her plants. She’s still feeling a little unsettled after the emotional tornado that was the wedding the previous day, and she still hasn’t figured out exactly why. But she can’t leave town without letting Lena know. In fact, Kara thinks that an unplanned getaway to Midvale might actually be a great experience for Lena, and what a great way to celebrate her new title of godmother, and official member of the Danvers-Olsen family. And, she knows Lena and Eliza got along well, for what little time they’d spent together. It is the perfect plan.
Without thinking too much more, Kara dials Lena’s number, noticing it’s just past 10 am, which is a perfectly acceptable time to call, even after a party. It rings out, clicking over to voicemail, and Kara hangs up before it starts recording. She didn’t really know what she was to say, yes, she wanted to invite her along, but more than that, she had just been feeling like she needed to hear Lena’s voice, and she’s perplexed at the amount of disappointment she feels that Lena didn’t pick up. Of course should could be hungover, not that she’d noticed Lena drinking that much. But humans have that issue.
Whatever the reason, Kara sets to getting her bag together and straightening things up around her loft. It was still a bit of a mess from her foray into floral centerpiece arranging. Her phone buzzes on the kitchen island and she makes her way over to check what turns out to be a text from Lena.
Sorry, I can’t talk. Started a big project and I need to focus on it. Everything okay?
Kara is both relieved and disappointed. Relieved that Lena is fine, not hungover or worse. But Disappointed that she’s busy with a big project the day after the wedding. They hadn’t made any plans because Kara’s commitment to watching Esme, but Kara had assumed Lena would join them at least a few days. Especially now that she’s officially Esme’s godmother, and she knew how seriously Lena would take that title and was hoping to get to revel in the joy a little with them.
Everything’s fine. I was going to invite you to join me and Eliza in taking your goddaughter to Midvale for a few days. I didn’t know you had a big project starting.
Kara can hear the hurt feelings in her reply, but she sends it anyway, hoping maybe Lena will pick them over a project, whatever that means. She sees the three dots flashing on a her screen, then disappear, then flash again. Lena’s changing her mind about how to respond.
I wish I could, but I think this project is going to keep me tied up for the next week. Have a great time!
The disappointment settles in her stomach. She knows she shouldn’t take it personally, after all, it is a spur of the moment decision to make a three hour drive up the coast. But it’s there. Her phone buzzes again and she sees one more response.
Send me lots of pictures. <3
That at least softens the blow. Disappointment aside, Kara grabs her duffel bag and heads back to Alex and Kelly’s, ready to load up Eliza’s car and get on the road early enough they might make it to Midvale in time for a mid-afternoon ice cream parlor trip.
After an early arrival in Midvale, a trip to the ice cream shop for a mid-afternoon snack, and then a long walk on the beach with plenty of time for Esme to explore the tide pools and driftwood log highways, the trio has a cozy dinner around the kitchen table before Kara sets up her and Alex’s old room for a sleep over with Esme. Not shockingly the five year old falls asleep halfway through her second bedtime book, and Kara tucks her into Alex’s old twin bed and slips out of the room, rejoining her adoptive mom on the living room couch and glancing again at her phone.
“Relax, I’m sure National City will be fine without you for a night,” Eliza gently chides.
“Oh, no, I wasn’t worried about that,” Kara dismisses quickly.
“Oh, so what has you checking your phone so much today? You’ve been acting like you’re waiting for something important.”
Eliza’s look is steady, waiting for Kara to share.
“I… I had invited Lena to come with us, but she said she had started a big project. But she hasn’t told me anything about a project.”
Kara is frowning and Eliza studies her, wondering exactly what Kara’s telling her. She knows her adopted daughter well, well enough to know that her own emotions often trip her up more often than complex puzzles. Does Kara know what she’s upset about?
“Okay, are you upset that she has a project she didn’t tell you about, or upset she wasn’t available to come on a last minute trip?”
Kara deflects, “I didn’t say I was upset.”
“No, you didn’t. But the crinkle tells me you are. So let’s figure out why,” she gently prods, Kara studying her hands.
“I don’t know. I just, I feel like we were doing so much better, like we weren’t just getting back to how we were before Lex, before,” she makes meaningful eye contact, willing Eliza to know the meaning of before, so she doesn’t have to voice that part. Eliza understands and nods for her to continue. “But then she disappeared last night, she didn’t say goodbye. Which, I know I was busy, but she always says goodbye.”
Eliza waits, seeing if there is more. When Kara doesn’t continue she prods her again.
“And that, her departure from the wedding without a goodbye, and her declining a last minute invitation is enough to worry you?”
“Yes. I mean, no, not just that, but yes.” Kara has found something on her joggers to pick at, avoiding eye contact.
“What’s the piece that I’m missing, Kara? It sounds like nothing major to me, Lena, who has always been introverted and a bit shy around large groups, snuck out of the party without drawing attention to herself, and then today, she wasn’t able to accept a last minute invitation. This all feels like it’s perfectly normal, acceptable.”
Kara lets out a huffed breath, irritated and also grateful her earth mom has learned her tells so well. She’s not entirely sure what it is she’s trying to vocalize, but she knows there is something bugging her.
“I know. Its more,” Kara huffs again. “Up until the wedding, we were spending almost every day together, and it was wonderful. And I knew all the things she was working on dealing with her mother’s estate, and trying to set up a new foundation, turning over Luthor Corp to a blind trust and working to get Sam installed as CEO, all of it. And then at the wedding she was so happy, and open, and I tried to talk to her about all the things I am worried about, and I am not good with words and emotions.”
Eliza reaches over and softly stills Kara’s hand that is picking away at the fabric of the couch, worried she’s going to put a hole in the cushion. Kara continues trying to explain.
“I don’t remember all that I said, but I know that I stumbled over a lot of it. But I thought she’d understand, even if it was jumbled. But now she left without saying anything, and threw herself into a project I don’t know anything about, which makes me think it didn’t exist until today, and she passed on spending time with Esme. And me. And I can’t help but feel like I screwed up something, or am missing something. It feels abrupt.”
Again Eliza waits, giving Kara the space to add more if she wants.
“Well honey, I don’t know,” Eliza finally offers, “I don’t know if something was said in your conversation with Lena that struck a nerve, it very well may have.” Kara starts to protest but Eliza squeezes her hand, continuing. “You have to remember that all of you in your circle of friends, carry your own insecurities and past wounds, some you’ve given each other, some you’ve brought from experiences long before meeting, and some are fresh. Either way, you all have them, and how you deal and express and engage, is not the same.
“So if you did say something, or someone else did, or no one said anything and this is all a non-issue, my advice, is to give it all some space to breathe. You all have just gone through one major shared trauma after another. You all need some time. If Lena’s way, regardless of how you feel about it, is retreating, let her. Remind her you’re there for her, but don’t force it.”
Kara’s shoulders slump and she leans in, resting her head on Eliza’s shoulder.
“I know you’re right, but I don’t like it.”
“I know, honey. You’ve never liked too much space. But you’re not the only one healing.” She places a kiss on the crown of Kara’s head. “So, what terrible show are you going to make me watch tonight?”
Thank you to those of you who reached out with Spanish language help last chapter. I really appreciate it.
I've been enjoying the escape of writing, and am really happy that some folks are enjoying my interpretation and head canons.
Chapter 3: The Project
Lena was standing in the open floor plan kitchen-living area with Andrea and Sheryl when her phone started ringing. She looked down and saw Kara’s face light up the caller ID and panicked, eyes darting to Andrea and then back to the phone.
Sheryl in all her professionalism, read the tension and excused herself, saying she needed to check that the water heater was in good working order, and disappeared down the stairs to the basement.
“Is that your blond puppy?”
“Andi, please,” Lena’s tone is decisive, letting Andrea know teasing is not an option right now. Andrea heaves a sign as Lena’s phone continues to ring until it clicks to voicemail and the room falls silent.
“So is avoidance your plan, then?”
“I don’t have a plan.”
“Cariño, you two have been attached at the hip for months, since she came back from her extended absence that now that I think about it, probably wasn’t a secret assignment with Cat Grant.” Lena has the decency to look away and not verbally confirm that she’d been involved in the lie to Andrea, and Andrea pushes on. “You aren’t going to be able to just sneak off into the shadows without her noticing. Regardless of her implied lack of romantic interest, what’s changed?”
“My hope! I don’t have any hope left that she’ll see me, and want me.” Lena deflates after the admission. Andrea crosses the room and wraps an arm around Lena.
“You don’t know that hope is gone. Granted my experiences with Kara are mostly limited to the workplace, but she seems to struggle with expressing herself in conversation in a way that she doesn’t in written word. She misspeaks often, and has to come back and correct herself.”
“Andi, I can’t keep clinging to the hope that she’ll ever be anything more than a friend. It’s not healthy, and I really want to let go of all those habits.”
“You’re still going to have to talk to her.”
“I know.” Lena agrees. But she’s not ready to talk to her yet. So she texts.
Sorry, I can’t talk. Started a big project and I need to focus on it. Everything okay?
Andrea watches over her shoulder, not remotely pretending to give her space.
“Project? Lena, you’re buying a new house, creating a new lifestyle for yourself. Don’t you think you should mention that to your ‘best friend?’”
“No. Let me have this. I want to do this for me. On my terms.”
“And what, you think Kara will ask you to not, or to do things on her terms?” Andrea is perplexed by this.
“No, of course not. No, but I would, I would change my choices to make her happy. And I need this one to be able to make me happy, even if she’s not a part of it. For when she finds someone, and leaves.”
“Lena,” Andrea’s voice takes on a pitying tone, and Lena bristles. Just then her phone dings with a response from Kara.
Everything’s fine. I was going to invite you to join me and Eliza in taking your goddaughter to Midvale for a few days. I didn’t know you had a big project starting.
“You’re going to have to tell her.” Lena rereads Kara’s response. She can hear the whine in Kara’s voice as she reads it. And the idea of a spending a few days with Kara, her adoptive mother, and their shared niece/goddaughter pulls at something deep in her chest. It is simultaneously the most wonderful and horrible idea. It would absolutely make her believe she has a chance at being a family with Kara, and she needs to shut that down. She taps out a response.
I wish I could, but I think this project is going to keep me tied up for the next week. Have a great time!
“You’re being a coward, and I’ve never known you to be one.” Andrea says with disappointment evident.
Lena makes eye contact, lifts one brow and then looks back at her phone and adds.
Send me lots of pictures. <3
She looks back at Andrea who sighs.
“Listen Andi, I appreciate you pushing me on this, but, right now, can you just be excited for me. I’m doing something entirely for me right now. Not for Lillian, or Lex, or Lionel, or the Luthor legacy slash redemption. And not for Kara, or the Super Friends, or even you. Just for me. Let me be selfish for a few days. Can you?”
“Yes. I can do that.” Andrea huffs. She still has opinions, but she can certainly get in the swing of decorating this new, adorably quaint little house. “What did your security contractor say? Do we need to plan for any walls changing or will they be able to retrofit everything?”
Lena smiles at the change in subject.
“Everything can be retrofit, tied into the electrical and ducting already run, apart from a pressure sensor that they will be able to put into the floor from the basement access.”
They continue their walk through, taking pictures and measuring the spaces so that they can go furniture and decor shopping with their afternoon. Andrea offers ideas for layout, furniture styles, and how to get the best natural light. Lena takes an especially long time in the backyard, wistfully planning her own garden, and what ingredients from her mom’s grimoire she will be able to plant in which sections.
The next three days go by in a blink. Kara, Eliza, and Esme are wrapped up in their beach escape, Esme taking to the beach like she’d lived there her whole life, and Kara and Eliza getting to experience the beach with her.
Kara is diligent in sending Lena picture updates throughout the getaway. Pictures of Esme running on the driftwood, Esme watching the sandpipers scurrying in the sea foam, Eliza and Esme covered in flour while they roll out pie dough, a selfie of her and Esme at the ice cream shop with their giant cones squished into the frame in front of their faces. Lena dutifully comments on each picture, short and sweet comments. Look at her run! So fun! Wow, what a mess to clean up! Looks tasty! Nothing more than a comment for each, but none left unanswered.
Kara sent a few inquiry texts, asking how the mysterious project is going, and Lena gave polite, political non-answers. Things are moving. All good. On track to wrap up on time. Nothing that gave any indication of what the project was. If it were a few months earlier, before the Phantom Zone, before Kara had handed over Myriad and declared her trust, these types of evasive answers would be a red flag. But they’re fine. They’ve made it through that period. They trust each other, so Kara reminds herself that Lena will share when she’s ready.
The getaway that was only going to be a night or two turns into almost the entire week, Esme had been so smitten with Midvale, and Eliza was so happy to have a full house again, that they just stayed. But now, it’s been five and a half days, and Alex and Kelly are due home from their honeymoon tomorrow, so the three of them pack up, and drive back to the city.
It’s late afternoon and Esme is clearly exhausted, draped across the couch watching a cartoon and Eliza suggests they get take out. Kara agrees, offering to pick it up, as she wants to swing by her apartment and leave the duffel bag of coastal weather clothes there. She’ll only need one more change of clothes so no need to keep the bulky bag with her, and she wants to water her plants. Eliza calls in an order and tells Kara she has thirty minutes before its ready, so Kara takes off.
After dropping her bag, and watering the plants, she looks around. The last time she was here she tried to call Lena to invite her along, and Lena didn’t pick up. She really wants to see and actually talk to Lena, a week feels like way too long to subsist on just short text messages, and it’s left her feeling unstable. So she makes the split second decision to drop in on Lena’s balcony, and invite her to dinner.
She materializes her suit and flies over to Lena’s apartment, but as she’s dropping down to the balcony she is painfully aware of how dark it is. She lands anyway, stepping up to the window to peer in and is shocked to see the place is empty. Not empty of humans, but empty. Not a single piece of furniture or decoration left anywhere within sight. Panic sets in. Did Lena get kidnapped? No that wouldn't explain it being cleared out. Is she running from someone? Why on earth is her apartment completely cleaned out? Is she running from Kara?
Kara listens hard, trying to zero in on Lena’s heartbeat. She picks it up, calm, steady, a few miles away, and takes off without thinking. She lands in a wild backyard of a small brownstone house, pea gravel of a path crunching under her feet. Lena is seated in a deck chair across from Andrea. They were laughing until being startled out of their conversation by Kara’s arrival. Lena stands, a flurry of emotions playing across her face in fast succession.
“Kara? What, hi? What are you doing here?” she asks, flustered and trying to gain some footing on the situation. Her heart rate is taking off, and she knows Kara can hear it, but for all her years of Luthor training, she can’t will it to stop.
“I, I went to your apartment to invite you over for takeout, but it is empty. Completely empty. And I was worried. What… what is going on, Lena?” Kara squares herself to Lena, pulling her shoulders back in stance that shows she’s ready for a fight. She glances between Andrea and Lena.
Andrea pushes up from her chair.
“I am going to go use the ladies room,” she excuses herself, not wanting to intrude on, or honestly be drug into the conversation that is about to happen.
“Lena, what’s going on? I’m so confused.” Kara’s voice cracks at the end of the sentence, and she softens her stance. Andrea’s absence makes her feel less territorial and confrontational, but she’s still struggling.
“Um.” Lena looks around the backyard, trying to find a words. “I bought a house?” It comes out as a question, not a statement. Kara looks around, taking in the homey backyard, the comfortable chairs in the surrounding garden, the fairy lights that are strung along the fence line. Her eyes return to Lena, brow furrowed and mouth still agape.
“This is the project?”
“Yeah. It is.”
Kara continues to stare at Lena a flurry of emotions are raging through her, the only one that she has words for is What the Fuck? But she doesn’t give voice to that. She just stares. Lena gets nervous, which is unusual given her history and experience in hostile boardrooms with Lex and Lillian’s minions and leering old men. But this is Kara, who is supposed to be an ally, not an enemy, and the silence is worse than anger.
“I wanted,” she starts, her voice shaky, “I wanted to not be Lena Luthor, last living Luthor, but just Lena, like how you want to be just Kara, or Kara Zor-El. And I couldn’t stand being in that penthouse anymore. And, since Lex wrote this reality differently, the Luthor name isn’t hated, and I don’t have quarterly assassination attempts, just, a very recognizable name and face. So, I can have this, a normal home, without white walls, without million and millions in security details, and without the Luthor snobbery. So I did it. I bought it, and I moved.”
Kara stands, searching her face as she talks. She gets it. The need to just be herself, not who people want you to be. But there’s a piece that isn’t making sense.
“Okay, but why,” her own voice cracks at this, “why didn’t you tell me? I would have helped? I would have been so happy to help.”
“I know, I know that. It’s just. I didn’t want help. I wanted to do it on my own.” Kara’s eyes jump over Lena’s shoulder, looking to the house where Andrea is hiding from this confrontation.
“But, Andrea’s help, Andrea’s presence was fine?”
Lena can hear the hurt and the accusation in the question. Do you like her more? Is she your best friend now? And it feels overwhelming.
“I’m sorry.” She’s contrite. “I’m sorry, I wanted to tell someone, I wanted someone to be proud of me for being selfish. And you and Eliza had Esme, and I didn’t want to intrude or take away from that.”
Kara’s face crumples.
“Lena, I can be there for Esme, and be there for you. It’s not an either-or situation. But okay, I get it, I do. I just, I thought we were… Are we okay? I feel like we were doing so well, and were spending so much time together, and then this. This isn’t a, this isn’t a haircut or a new wardrobe style or any of the normal 'I want more control' moves people make. Lena, you bought a house and moved in less than a week and didn’t say a thing?”
The air is practically crackling with emotions. Lena stares for a minute gather her thoughts, taking deep breaths. She thinks about telling Kara the truth. I love you, you idiot, but you don’t love me. I needed something to make me feel like I had some control. But that is far too honest, and it’s not Kara’s fault she doesn’t get it. She huffs out a breath. Kara for her part is blinking back the tears that are threatening to fall.
“We’re fine Kara. I told you, I wanted to do something selfish. I wanted to feel like I was entirely in control. And I did.” Kara looks down, tears still burning at the corner of her eyes. Lena presses on. “I’m sorry I kept it from you, but I wanted to know that I could do something entirely on my own.”
Kara’s phone dings in her pocket. No doubt Eliza checking in, since it’s been over 30 minutes now, and Kara is never late with the take out.
“Okay,” she chokes out hoarsely. “Okay, I. I have to go. Eliza and Esme are waiting for me to bring the take out.”
She starts to bend her knees, getting ready to take off, but makes eye contact one more time. Her voice is still thick with hurt when she talks.
“Congratulations, Lena. The place looks amazing from what I could see. You. You deserve this, and I am proud of you for being selfish.” And then she launches into the air.
Lena stands there a mix of regret and indignation. She deserves this. She deserves a chance to be her own person, and to make decisions without anyone else’s approval. So why does it feel like she locked Kara in kryptonite all over again. Pea gravel crunches under her steps as Andrea rejoins her in the yard.
“So, how badly did it go? I couldn’t hear much, but it didn’t look like she understood.” Andrea drapes her arm across Lena’s shoulder, knowing she needs contact right now.
“No, no she did not.” Lena leans her head against Andrea’s neck. “Why am I so bad at this?”
“What, relationships? Letting people in? Telling the girl you've been pining over you want her?” Andrea’s attempt at humor falls flat. “I don’t know, cariño. I don’t know. But if it helps, I’m terrible at it too. So let’s open another bottle of wine and see if we can salvage some of this evening.”
Chapter 4: New Awareness
Kara had returned with the take out feast, and had tried to focus on Esme. Eliza could tell something had happened, but wasn’t going to push Kara to tell her. So instead the three of them ate, and played a few board games, and then started bedtime.
By the time Eliza emerged from Esme’s room, Kara was standing near the door, her shoes and jacket on.
“I figured I’d go home tonight, no need to sleep on the couch when Alex and Kelly will be landing before Esme’s awake. Are you okay with that?”
Eliza studies Kara for a minute, noticing the crinkle in her brow, and completely slumped shoulders, as well as her refusal to meet her eye.
“Sure, honey. I can handle it. Is everything okay?”
“Yeah, I just, I just want to sleep in my own bed.” The lie falls flat but Eliza gives her this one. She knows that Kara won’t talk before she’s ready. So she kisses her cheek and tells her she loves her and sends her home.
Kara doesn’t sleep much. She is upset, and she isn’t entirely sure why. Yes, she’s upset that Lena made such a drastic change without including her in the process. But would she be this upset if Nia had done the same thing? She’s not sure. Is it because Lena is her best friend? Or is it because they have a history of a deep rift, and this feels like a reminder of that? That could be it.
Is it because it’s tapping into the same feelings she encountered when she found out that Lena had already known about her identity, and had been orchestrating a revenge plot? But this wasn’t ill-intended, Lena’s move. It was meant to give Lena more agency and claim her own identity. So why did it feel so personal?
Kara spent most of the night up, replaying all the pieces, trying to make sense of it. She managed to doze for a few hours, but was woken up by her alarm, letting her know it’s time to head to the Tower so she can pick up J’onn’s car and go to the airport to pick up Alex and Kelly. It would have made more sense to take the car home, but J’onn didn’t want his car/ship to be parked on the street overnight.
Kara was waiting at the curb when Alex and Kelly emerged from the airport at 6:08 am, welcoming them back with big hugs, and asking about how their week in the tropics went. They chatted amicably for the drive back to their apartment, where Kara dropped them, promising to see them later at the Tower. Alex had certainly noticed that Kara was avoidant and keeping things light and breezy while the telltale crinkle was present. But she also didn’t want to force the conversation, particularly since she’d missed her daughter and wanted to hurry inside. Kara would tell her if it was urgent, and if not, it could wait until Kara was ready to talk. Kara turned the car back towards the Tower, figuring she’d find something to keep herself busy while waiting for the rest of the team to show up for the day.
The Super Friends trickled in, J’onn arriving a little after 8:00, Nia and Brainy showing up a half hour later, Lena hurrying in right before 9, with Alex and Kelly only a few minutes behind her. The group gathered around the tall table, asking how the newlywed’s honeymoon was, and chatting about travel. Kara, while physically present, was not really hearing much of what was being said. She was focused on Lena, her body language, how she could tell she was nervous, but also, excited. Kara felt a pit of guilt settle in her stomach. Lena did deserve to be excited, and proud. And she worried that the nervousness was entirely because of how Kara had reacted yesterday.
“So um, not to steal anyone’s thunder,” Lena starts, fidgeting with her hands, before smoothing them down the front of her pants and holding them still at her sides. “But, I, uh, I made a significant purchase and change. And I wanted to invite you all over this evening, for an informal house-warming of my new place.” She smiles shyly while her eyes dart around the circle. They meet Kara’s briefly, questioningly, and Kara drops her sight to the table in the middle. The exchange is noticed by Alex.
The group let’s the announcement sit for a few seconds, each person processing what Lena had just announced before they all break into loud congratulations and questions together. It’s chaos. And joyous. Kelly hugs Lena, whispering that she’s proud of her for making such a significant decision, and in centering herself in it. Nia is grabbing Lena’s phone, flipping through the photo album Lena had pulled up. Brainy is inquiring about what kind of gift is considered an appropriate house warming gift, and J’onn is squeezing Lena’s shoulder in the proud-dad way. Alex is watching Kara the whole time, who is watching the interactions with growing guilt. This is how she was supposed to react.
“Hey, want to talk about it?” Alex asks in a low voice, not drawing any attention away from what is happening. Kara’s eyes are glued on Lena who is standing in the center of the circle of support, soaking up the experience of being celebrated. Lena’s eyes seek out Kara again, holding contact for a split second before returning to Nia, explaining the layout of her new home.
“Yeah,” Kara husks out, voice thick with the mix of guilt and absolute joy watching Lena be completely embraced by their friends, like she should be. She takes a step back and says in a low voice, “I’ll be on the balcony. Take your time.” She offers a half smile as she steps away from the table.
Twenty minutes later, the group breaks up, having agreed to meet at Lena’s that evening. Brainy and J’onn head off to deal with a mechanical issue, and Alex excuses herself to follow Kara to the balcony, leaving Lena, Kelly and Nia still at the table.
“So, what was that about?” Nia asks with no preamble, nodding towards the doors to the balcony where the Danvers sisters are. Kelly nods, looking at Lena, who ducks her head and scratches at the wood grain of the table.
“Oh, um. I didn’t tell Kara what I was doing. And she found out when she tried to drop by my apartment last night and it was empty.”
Kelly nods, waiting for her to expand. Nia is trying not to smirk while also waiting.
“And?” Nia finally prompts.
“And when she found me, Andrea was with me. And she was hurt that I’d tell Andrea and not her, I guess?”
“That checks out.” Nia confirms. “She and Andrea were antagonistic on a good day. On a bad they outright hated each other, and it felt like witnessing a professional Mean Girls competition for who could wound the other’s pride more.”
Guilt swept through Lena. She knew that her two best friends didn’t see eye to eye, and she’d heard each one of them complain about the other, but never an outside view. It turns out that each had been softening how much they didn’t get along for Lena’s sake. Kara was hurt because Lena had picked her nemesis to share her huge new experience with.
Kelly chose to interject at this point, reaching over and squeezing Lena’s hand, “Hey, you are not responsible for anyone’s emotions, remember that.”
“I had no idea that things were that bad between them. I feel worse knowing that.”
“No, Lena. You had no idea. Because neither of them told you. You aren’t responsible for anyone else’s emotions or reactions. You deserve to be excited, and I’m sorry this huge, wonderful, momentous change inadvertently caused a conflict. Kara will come around.”
Nia nods in agreement. Kelly gives her fingers another squeeze and Lena pulls a hand back to wipe at her eyes, taking the break as a chance to change the subject.
“So how was your honeymoon? Did you two see any sights, or just, have a really nice hotel room?”
Kelly smiles lecherously.
"I think that was the nicest hotel room I've ever seen." And Nia hoots in delight.
Kara is standing at the edge of the balcony staring in the distance, not really seeing anything when Alex joins her.
“So… want to tell me what that was about?”
Kara lets out a deep sigh.
“I got jealous and mad, and didn’t react appropriately when I found out Lena moved.”
“Okay.” Alex let’s the admission sit for a minute. Not sure which part of it was most important, but deciding to start at the beginning of Kara’s sentence. “Jealous of what? Or who?”
Alex turns that over in her head for a minute continuing to stare out at the city with Kara.
“Okay, you were jealous that she told her ex first?” Alex slowly clarifies.
“No, ex? What? Alex, Lena isn’t gay. Andrea isn’t an ex.”
Alex struggled not to choke on her laugh as she tried to strangle it.
“Kara, you of all people should know it’s not a binary either or. And Lena and Andrea have definitely boned. C’mon, I know I was oblivious for a long time, out of avoidance of my own stuff, but Kara, ‘old friend from boarding school,’ and ‘had a falling out, betrayal,’ I know Lena has been prone to dramatics at times, but the language isn’t exactly veiled.”
Kara sputters while she processes this new information.
“That’s not, that’s not the issue. I was jealous that Andrea, who hates me, and whom I don’t particularly care for, was allowed to be a part of this huge, claiming of identity move that Lena made. After I told her I was considering coming out as Kara Zor-El. Like I wanted her to share that experience with me, but she didn’t want me to share this one with her.”
“Now I’m definitely missing a piece. When did you tell her you wanted to come out as Kara Zor-El, and is that related to Cat’s job offer she made you before my wedding?”
“Yeah, I didn’t want to steal your thunder. But Cat called during the reception, told me she knew about Supergirl, and suggested I didn’t have to chose. I could just be Kara instead of Kara Danvers and/or Supergirl. And I talked to Lena about it. Told her I was scared because I didn’t know what it would be like to connect with anyone as my whole self…” Alex audible scoffed at that, and Kara turned to her, looking perplexed at the reaction. “What?”
“Seriously Kara? You’re an idiot. You told Lena, Lena who you were so afraid to tell your secret identity to because she was the only person you could be ‘just Kara’ with, that you didn’t know what it was like to connect with someone as yourself?” Alex leaves that hanging, waiting for Kara to connect the dots, but the crinkle stays in place and Kara continues to stare.
“You’re an idiot. You belittled, downplayed, however you want to phrase it, the weight and importance of Lena’s presence in your life, to Lena, who has a deep seeded fear of rejection, and then you got mad, hurt, jealous, whatever word you pick, that you weren’t her first pick to support her in a huge, metaphorically life-changing decision?”
Kara’s face crumpled at that. She really had fucked up her heart-to-heart. When Alex laid it out in such plain terms, it was clear that this whole mess was entirely Kara’s creation, and that she had no right to be upset. Tears leaked out, and she reached up to brush them away.
“Oh. I guess I really screwed this one up, didn’t I?”
Alex softens, and steps up next to her, wrapping an arm around her shoulders and squeezing.
“Yeah, but you two have worked through far worse.” She rubs her hand up and down Kara’s arm and they both stare out at the city for a few minutes.
“While we’re on the topic, first of all, I will fully support you in coming out, no matter what that means,” she clears her throat, “but especially if it means you want to claim or acknowledge or explore your pansexual identity you alluded to all those years ago when I came out to you.”
Kara sucks in a breath. This is the first time it’s been given words, aloud.
“I know you shared that with me, when I was coming out, and I was so caught up in my own shit, that I never circled back. But I’m here, if you want to talk about it. If you need someone to help you make sense of it all.”
Kara nods, continuing to stare, more tears streak down her face.
“And, eventually, if you want to talk about what you might have really meant when you picked the word ‘jealous’ about Andrea,”
“Alex, please stop. I. I can’t go there yet.”
Alex nods, rubbing her arm. “Okay. That’s okay too.”
After a few minutes Alex adds, "But I hope you have a good groveling house warming gift in mind. You're going to need to do some apologizing tonight."
"Yeah. I am."
Chapter 5: Party Preparations
Kara has no idea what a good groveling housewarming gift is. But Alex had told her to come up with something good. She hadn’t bothered to excuse herself from the group before leaving the Tower, just took off from the balcony after her chat with Alex and headed home to think.
She immediately had thought about flying around the world to get Lena all her favorite foods, because that’s the kind of gift she would love to receive herself. But she remembered that when she’d done that, Lena had been secretly, silently furious with her. So reminding Lena of that emotion would be worse than leaving things the way they currently are. No, no world-delivery foods.
She’s hunched over her laptop at her kitchen island, with 12 different tabs open suggesting the hottest house warming gifts of the season. But they are all impersonal and so capitalistic. She can’t help but wonder why would anyone want the decor that makes your home look like a hotel room? It takes her close to an hour to realize that all the lists are useless. She thinks about calling in help. She’d really love to be able to call Winn right now, he’d be able to help. But he’s back in the future again.
Out of muscle memory she immediately then thinks of calling James, since they’d been her set of best friends / best bros. But James dated Lena for a year, and the break up was not great, and if she’s honest, she’s not sure why Lena was interested in James since he was always so insecure about his masculinity. Not just with Lena, It had been a major problem in her own relationship with the man, with him creating a whole secret vigilante identity because he didn’t like that Kara was always saving people, him included.
No, James was not who she wanted to talk to about picking out a groveling house warming gift. Although, now that Kara thinks about it, he probably does have some insight on how best to grovel to Lena. But no, she doesn’t want his advice.
She opens up another tab and changes her search. Instead of looking for gift suggestions, she looks for how to pick a gift. Maybe there will be some advice that will help. Not that she normally needs help, she generally just sees things that make her think of her friends and loved ones, and buys those things. She skims the advice. It’s surface level at best. Think of what you know about the recipient, find something that matches their interests. God, how is she an unemployed journalist but someone got paid to write these articles.
She pushes the computer away and stares across her loft. What can she possibly draw on to help her grovel, show Lena she fully supports, and understands, her choice. She wants to be done with the white walls and the austerity of being a Luthor, and that sparks and idea. Kara glances across the room to the her painting corner, and the pile of filled canvases.
Kara hurries over to the pile, and starts sorting them, taking in the subject matters. Her painting had been something Eliza had gotten her into as a teenager, as a form of therapy. Her subject matter skips all over, sometimes its landscapes, both from earth and Krypton. Sometimes its abstract, sometimes she plays with modernist techniques. She rarely paints people though.
She sorts through the paintings a second time, setting aside ones that feel particularly resonant. She finds a series of abstract color studies. The first one is from the height of their rift, dark with blacks, and marred with reds, but also plenty of blues around the edges. It shows the anger and frustration of that time, but more it shows how much sadness was ever-present. The second she picked is from the time just before she told Lena, its frantic, but the color choice is much softer, hopeful. It has an abundance of colors, the full rainbow, but in muted, hushed tones. And the final piece she had done just after the battle with Lex and Nyxly. Its organized, less frantic, less angry, more precision in the blending and transitions. The colors are bold, not muted, but work in harmony for the most part.
The triptych she’s accidentally made is perfect. It is the perfect blend of showing that she was listening to Lena when she said she didn’t want white walls anymore, and of giving Lena something that is meaningful to her, a piece of her, that’s also, in a way, a piece of their history together.
The idea makes her stomach do somersaults. She knows this is an intimate gift, at least for her. She lets people see her paintings, while they’re in process, propped on the easel facing into the room. But once they are done, she never gives them to anyone. She stacks them against the wall, in a pile, that people can flip through if they take it upon themselves, but really, only Eliza and Alex make a habit of it. Is giving Lena three pieces of her art, that she painted while processing things that happened between them, too much?
After wavering for a minute she decides she’s going to do it. Alex told her she needs to grovel via a present, and this truly feels like a groveling move. It is vulnerable, and heartfelt. So Kara grabs the three paintings, and brings them to the table before sorting through her wrapping paper stash to find an appropriate paper for housewarmings. She decides the dogs in party hats wrapping paper is event-neutral enough to work for a housewarming.
“Okay, so what is your job for the evening?” Lena levels Andrea with a stern look. Andrea sips her fresh glass of red wine, and sets the stemmed glass on the counter.
“I am going to keep an eye on you, and any time it looks like Kara is trying to steal you away for a heart to heart, I will swoop in and redirect.” Andrea singsongs.
“Yes, you are.”
Lena is trying to hype herself up for this. Her friends were so happy for her this morning, and she knows they are going to love the place, she’s just, not ready to have to unpack Kara’s reaction yesterday. And she really wants to get to celebrate this.
“For what its worth, I think you’re an idiot, and for the first time in our adult lives, a coward.”
Lena scoffs at Andrea, ready to shoot a barb right back, but Andrea continues.
“I am the one who is the coward regularly, so I would know. And Lena, I may be a decently shitty person, who yes is trying to be better, and I may be Kara Danvers new least favorite person since both your mother and brother are gone now,” she raises an eyebrow and lets that statement settle before continuing, “but I do think both of you deserve better than this middle school avoidance game that you’re cooking up.”
Lena has the decency to look insulted at the equivalency that Andrea just made.
“Andi, I know. But, just remember you’ve seen me deal with loss before. It’s never graceful. And I’ve lost a lot in the last few weeks. My mother, who was generally not great at loving me, but was still my mother, my brother who was an absolute shit and I will need years of therapy to unpack all the damage done, but worse than those, I’ve lost my hope that Kara will ever love me back.”
Andrea is staring at Lena. She knows all this is true, but they have always talked around big issues like this, she’s not used to Lena addressing things openly. She also wants to argue with the hope piece, but she doesn’t know how. Lena continues, reaching across the counter top, grabbing Andrea’s hands.
“So please, just for tonight, indulge my juvenile request. Pretend we’re 16 again, and I just told you that Veronica broke up with me, but keeps trying to get me to make out with her, and I need you to be my backbone. Help me keep some space tonight. Please.”
“Fine.” Lena squeezes her hands once and released them, turning back into the kitchen to finish setting out snack plates and appetizers.
“But if Kara tries to stick her tongue down your throat in the bathroom like Veronica did, I am not coming in after you this time.”
“You’re right, because if you’re doing your job, I won’t be in the bathroom, alone, with Kara.”
Andrea mutters something else under her breath and picks up her wine.
Chapter 6: The Party
Each of the Super Friends arrive promptly, with gifts in arm. J’onn and M’gann arrive first, with a supply of alcohol, both earth-based and alien, as well as a few small wrapped presents. Brainy and Nia, and Nia’s roommate Yvette arrive next, Nia holding a single wrapped box, and a stack of home decor and architecture magazines. Brainy has a bag that appeared to be filled with garden tools, and a toilet bowl brush.
“I know your old apartment only had two toilets, but this new place has three, on different floors, so I assumed you would be needing an extra toilet brush,” he explains when he notices Lena’s gaze linger. She smiles at this very practical, very thoughtful, if not extremely non-traditional gift. “I also assumed you’d need tools for gardening since you now have a yard, so I got a selection for you.” Lena hugs him, thinking not for the first time that this is the brother she wished she’d had her whole life.
The final arrival is the Danvers-Olsen crew, with Kara having accepted a ride in Alex and Kelly’s new minivan. Kelly had insisted that they needed a safe vehicle for their family, and Alex had tried to talk her into a fancy SUV with a fast engine. Kelly had been firm, stating that when Alex felt like driving fast, she could take her motorcycle, but their family car needed be big enough for Esme’s friends, and needed a good safety rating. So they pick up Kara in their new shiny grey van. Kara appreciated their new vehicle since her canvas gift fit nicely in the back.
When they arrive, Lena is in the kitchen, deep in an engineering based discussion with Brainy and J’onn. Andrea opens the door for the group, which immediately set Kara on edge. She doesn’t like how at home Andrea seemed in Lena’s new space. She reminds herself that tonight is about Lena, not about her past conflicts with Andrea, and she forces a smile when Andrea welcomes them into Lena’s home.
Esme makes a beeline for her godmother, throwing her arms around Lena’s middle, and then pulling back to thrust a messily wrapped gift into her hands. Kara tucks her large wrapped canvases against the wall by the large chesterfield couch and watches her niece and her best friend interact, letting the joy of the scene wash over her.
“I got you pictures of us for your new home!” she announces proudly. Lena grins at her goddaughter, enjoying that she gets this small child in her life. She kneels down and hugs Esme, asking her about her day and then looking up to greet the rest of the family. She meets Kara’s eyes for a moment, offering a half smile before asking the room who wants an official tour.
It takes an hour to make it through the brownstone, Lena narrating what she loves about each space and what her plans are for the rooms. When she opens the second door on the second floor and announces “And this one is Esme’s room,” the small girl squeals and runs in, jumping immediately onto the full size bed before scrambling down immediately when she notices the dollhouse in the corner. The rest of the group steps into the room, Alex tearing up when she sees just how much love Lena is willing to offer her child, even after the bad times between the two of them.
Kara for her part, stands towards the back of the group, watching in awe, and feeling more and more guilt for how she reacted, and for how she spoke to Lena at the wedding. Lena’s new home is beautiful, and fits her so much better than the austere white penthouse. This is warm, cozy, color in every space, already filled with Lena’s small touches to make things feel like a home, despite only having been in it for a few days. And she’d even set up a room for Esme, so that Esme would always feel like she had a place.
After they return to the main floor, to settle into the living area, Lena heads to the kitchen to grab more snacks to put out. Everyone files into the living room, picking spots in the variety of seating options, but Kara follows Lena to the kitchen.
“Hey,” she startles Lena who had been trusting Andrea to run interference. She didn’t expect Kara to slip by her so easily, so early in the evening.
“Hey?” she responds, preparing to channel her years of etiquette training and play the host to divert the conversation away from anything uncomfortable, but Kara barrels ahead without giving her a chance to catch her breath.
“This place is lovely. And you were right, you deserve to be selfish and do things just for you, and I am really sorry for how I acted last night,” Kara is not waiting for Lena to respond as she continues, “And I wanted to do get you something that would convey how happy I am for you, and I really, really struggled to figure out what gift would convey that, and also, you know, how sorry I am for being such an idiot, not just about the house thing. I also wanted to apologize…”
“Hey! You’re taking a while, so I figured I should come help you grab some of the snacks. Lena?”
Lena is staring like a deer in headlights, and Kara looks like she’s about to strangle Andrea. She hadn’t gotten to say everything she wants and needs to say. But Andrea is standing there with her stupid charming smile, one hand resting on the small of Lena’s back and Kara can feel the beginning tickle of her heat vision prickling to life. Lena snaps to, while Kara’s still considering if there is a barge off the coast that she could drop Andrea on right now.
“That would be lovely, Andi. Can you grab that plate, and I’ll get these ones. Kara, can you grab another bottle of wine off the table over there?”
Lena dutifully directs everyone back to the group. She can feel the frustration rolling off of Kara, and does feel a small bit of disappointment that Kara hadn’t completed her thoughts. As much as she knows she needed to create some distance, for her own mental health, she doesn’t want it. She very much wants to return to the trajectory they’d been on before the wedding, but she also feels so heartbroken, and if she’s fully honest, foolish for thinking that Kara might be able to love her too. So no, the space is good. She knows it’s for the best.
They settle back around the living room, depositing their snacks on the coffee table as Nia is playfully ribbing Alex and grilling her about an art exhibit that she had claimed that she and Kelly had seen on their honeymoon. Nia knew full well that they had only seen the advertisements, Kelly having divulged that they barely had left their hotel room for their week away. The group is laughing as Alex continues to pretend they had seen it, agreeing with Nia’s assessment of specific, fictional art pieces in the exhibit.
Kara settles on the floor in front of the coffee table, joining Esme hovering close to the fun snacks, but watching as Lena settled into a soft chaise reading chair, with Andrea perched to her right. It really, really bugs Kara to see Andrea acting the role of best friend. She knows they had years of history, and are working through their own past transgressions, but it still irks her. So she turns her attention to Esme who looks up at her and grins, and she can’t help but smile back.
“Aunt Kara, when I mimic your powers, I get really hungry,” she shares, perplexed at the idea. The group laughs at the admission.
“Yeah, sorry kid. I have to eat a lot to fuel my powers.”
Kara’s not listening in so she doesn’t hear the dirty comment Andrea whispers to Lena to make her choke on her wine, but she turns her attention to Lena to see her blushing a deep red, and shooting Andrea a very angry look. She’s still frowning when her super hearing picks up on screeching tires and the sound of crunching metal. It goes on for several seconds, indicating multiple vehicles crashing one after another.
Esme has also heard it, clapping her hands over her ears and leaning into Kara. The laughter around the room stops immediately, all attention on Esme. Kara tries to hug her but Esme turns into her, staring.
“Aunt Kara! Are you going to go help them? They need help!” Esme pleads.
The party has ground to a halt, everyone watching the distressed interaction and Alex and Kelly both on the edge of their seat ready to jump in. Kara’s eyes shoot around the room, stopping on Lena first, then Alex, then back to Lena. She’s not sure she’s seeking permission or seeking guidance, she hasn’t done any true Supergirl duty since before the wedding, all the Super Friends enjoying the bubble of having defeated Lex and having inspired National City to be their own heros. Kara’s eyes meet Alex’s and then jump over to Lena.
“Just go,” Alex responds first, sounding firm.
“It’s fine, go.” Lena adds, much softer, she’s sliding out of her chaise, onto the floor to rub Esme’s back and take over doting aunt duty.
Kara nods, pushing up off her knees, and starting to head towards the backdoor. She turns to talk to Lena, despite the room being full.
“There’s, there’s a card with your gift, you should probably read first, it’ll help it make sense. You don’t need to wait for me to come back, it sounds like it might be a big one.” Her eyes move to J’onn and she adds “I’ll call over comms if I need back up.”
And then she slips out the door, materializing her suit and takes off.
Chapter 7: The Party, part 2
The party continues, despite Kara’s departure, and Lena soaks up palpable joy. She’s still not used to being allowed this, a group of people who truly celebrate her milestones, with no backhanded comments about how she could have done better. Esme ends up falling asleep in Lena’s lap before they get to the presents stacked on the dining room table.
Kelly lifts Esme out of Lena’s lap, asking quietly if its okay to deposit Esme in the room set aside for her. Lena nods, smiling warmly at the idea that Esme will get to sleep, at least for a short bit, in her room for the first time. While Kelly’s taking her up, Lena gets up to use the bathroom while the rest of the Super Friends refill their drinks and bring their presents back to the living room, fully intent on making Lena open them in front of the group.
When Lena returns to the kitchen from the bathroom, Alex is there, filling two glasses with water. Lena avoids eye contact as she gets herself a glass too.
“So.. Uh, Andrea, huh?” Alex awkwardly asks. The tone startles Lena as much as the question, she’s not used to Alex coming across as anything but sure and confident.
“What do you mean?”
Alex clears her throat and tries again.
“I mean, I get that she’s hot, but… I guess I just didn’t picture you getting back together with her after… you know.”
Lena almost chokes on her own saliva. She turns to face Alex.
“What? Alex, I am not dating, nor sleeping with Andrea. We’re working on our friendship.”
“So why is she glued to your side, and seems to be working really hard to keep you and Kara from talking?”
Lena looks down quickly before meeting Alex’s eye. She’s used to sizing up business adversaries in a single look and being able to meet their every move, but she’s struggling in this moment to figure out what the best course of action is. She decides after a short pause to be as honest as she can. Alex has been treating her like another newly adopted sister, and she wants to honor that trust.
“Andrea is here because I asked her to be, and she’s been running interference because I’m not sure what to say to Kara. She told me some things, that while honest and heartfelt, didn’t feel great to hear, and I just, need some time.”
Alex’s shoulders soften at the admission, she had been expecting more resistance from Lena, and she’s happy that she opened up so quickly.
“You know, it’s not my place to speak for Kara, but, I will just say that she’s a writer for a reason. She really needs time to edit and revise and make sure she’s communicating what she means to communicate. It’s hard to remember sometimes, but English isn’t her first language, and earth customs aren’t her default.”
“I appreciate that, Alex, but as kindly as I can put this, you don’t know that Kara misspoke or needed any time to revise her thoughts, or misinterpreted earth customs.”
“Actually, I do.” Alex is firm. The firmness startles Lena a little. She’s still trying to figure out what exactly Alex is saying when Nia yells at them from the couch, and they both grab their glasses and rejoin the group.
The present opening is joyous and none of the angst of the conversation with Alex follows Lena for this part. The Super Friends had all agreed on a theme for their main gifts, each gifting Lena their own favorite game night board game. Each of them had also brought little trinkets, framed pictures, or in Nia’s case, vouchers for a shopping buddy, which Lena highly suspected was just as much for Nia’s sake as it was for hers.
The group started to wilt around 10pm, with the Danvers-Olsens bowing out first, followed very shortly by J’onn and M’gann and then Nia, Brainy and Yvette. By 10:30 it was just Andrea left, and Lena moved around the room gathering glassware and discarded plates.
“Alright, woman. You’ve avoided it long enough, and my need for juicy gossip has to be sated before I go. What’s in Kara’s gift?”
Lena had forgotten about the large package tucked against the wall, and her eyes immediately find it. She sees an envelope taped to a top corner and pulls it off, leaving a small rip in the paper, but she studiously doesn’t peak. Not until she reads the note. She opens the card to find it packed with Kara’s messy, small writing.
I am horrible with words sometimes, which is impressive for a writer, but I know I did not do you, and our relationship justice when I told you that I didn’t know what it was like to connect with someone as my whole self. I do. Because you’ve always let me be just Kara, and I am sorry that I failed to let you be Just Lena when you told me about your new house.
You deserve this joy, and this home. I hope you can accept this gift as a peace offering, and a sign that I do listen. So that you never have to look at white walls, I picked three of my paintings. These are all reflective of our journey together, the ups and downs, and you’ll see on the back of each the date which it was completed.
I wish you nothing but joy and peace in your new home. Hopefully, I will get to share some of that with you.
Lena had not noticed Andrea hovering over her shoulder, reading along.
“It is taking every ounce of my new-found goodness and strength not to tell you ‘I told you so,’ right now.”
“I told you the middle school avoidance game was far beneath you.” Andrea does not shy away from the confrontation. “You are an idiot. She clearly cares about you, deeply, and also, she knows she’s fucked up. Give her a chance.”
Lena is a little stunned at Andrea arguing for Kara, and knits her brows together trying to make sense of this turn of events.
“Listen, I know I’ve never been Kara’s biggest fan. Her perpetual optimism and need to be moral, regardless of profit margin, drove me crazy, but now knowing that she’s Supergirl, it makes sense, and makes me reevaluate my stance on Kara Danvers. And I think she genuinely is trying to apologize. But by all means, let’s look at the paintings she picked to represent your ‘journey together.’”
Lena’s eyes dart back to the wrapped canvases. She is dying to know what Kara picked, but also don’t know if she wants to share this with Andrea. But she reminds herself that now she has expectations of these paintings, and if she opens the gift, and its underwhelming based on her newly formed expectations, having moral support would be good. Smart even. So she nods once to herself and reaches for the present.
After ripping away the paper, she lifts the first painting out, looking at the date before turning it around and studying it. It’s modernist in it’s composition, a color study without a subject. The date places it in the time between when Lex outed Kara’s secret, and when Kara confessed. Lena remembers her emotions of the time, angry, furious, and channeling that into revenge. Kara’s emotions seem to be painted on the canvas, muted but hopeful. And it takes her breath away with the visual representation of Kara’s experience of that time.
She takes a deep breath, setting that one to the side and pulling out the next, checking the date again. This one puts her right back in their rift, and if she remembers correctly, right around when Kara’s adopted father died. She can see the anger, the frustration, the hopelessness. This one at least, reflects the same feelings she’d been experiencing at that time, where the first was the opposite. She takes a few steadying breaths.
The final one is just a few weeks old. It’s from the days immediately following the final battle, and Lena absently wonders if Kara had stayed up one of the nights to paint this, since they’d spent most of those days together. It’s calm, while still being bold and defined. She stares at this one for quite some time, wondering if this is Kara Zor-El, not Kara Danvers that’s shown through on this canvas. She’s lost in thought when Andrea interrupts.
“Well, I think my job as your keeper is over, and I will say one more time for good measure, I think you’re an idiot. That girl just gave you the single most personal gift you’ve ever received, and it is beautiful, and I think maybe, just maybe you should still be hopeful. So stop avoiding her, and have an adult conversation.”
Andrea leans over and kisses Lena’s cheek while Lena’s eyes are still on the canvas in front of her.
“Go to bed, cariño.”
Lena stands there a little longer, staring at the paintings, and trying to make sense of the thoughts and emotions they’ve stirred up. She re-reads Kara’s note twice, not sure what she’s hoping to find, but needing to confirm that it is real. Finally, she grabs the 3 canvases, and climbs up the two flights of stairs to her bedroom, depositing the paintings on the floor, leaning against the wall opposite her king sized bed. She’ll need to get picture wire tomorrow and put some nails in the wall, but they belong on the slate blue walls of her new bedroom.
Chapter 8: One Step Forward
Lena wakes up the next morning after having slept poorly. She lays in her bed staring at the ceiling, she hasn’t been able to make sense of Kara’s note and gift. Andrea was right, this was the single most personal gift anyone had given her. The Luthors had been masters at high-priced, utterly meaningless gifts. Lionel had given her a diamond tennis bracelet for her 16th birthday, and for her 21st, Lillian had gifted her enough L-Corp shares that she could have a seat on the board, and Lex had gifted her her own slush fund.
But no one had ever given her a handmade gift, apart from Esme and Ruby. No adult, no peer, had given her something that they’d made. Sam had been the closest friend, most intimate platonic relationship she’d ever had and Sam had gifted her plenty, but most her her gifts fell into two categories: things to do together, like play tickets, concerts, one year a weekend cabin trip with her and Ruby, or alcohol. Kara had gotten her used to small food-based gifts, meals, snacks, coffee, delivered when she was in need of human contact. But prior to this, the only non-food gift Kara had brought her had been the planner she was given on her first day at CatCo.
Lena had already been outside of her comfort zone with the rest of their weird friend-family coordinating to give her enough board games that she could host game night. That alone showed more care and thought and coordination than 24 years of Luthor status gift receiving. Then to have Kara completely break every expectation with a gift of three paintings that reflected and were inspired by their relationship.
She knew she needed to initiate contact, Kara had put herself out there by giving such a vulnerable gift. But she’s not exactly sure what she should say. Or how.
But then Kara fixes that issue for her, and while she’s staring at her phone trying to decide what to do, Kara texts.
I’m sorry I missed most of the party, the accident turned out to be a bit of a mess, and by the time I had finished and had time to shower, it was after 11.
Lena lets out a sign of relief of not having to figure out how to open the conversation. She starts typing.
No need to apologize.
She pauses to sit up in her bed and snap a picture of the canvases leaning against the wall, and attaches the picture to her next message.
Thank you for this beautiful gift. Any interest in helping me hang these later?
She doesn’t think through it before extending the offer, it just felt like the right olive branch. She sees Kara’s three dots show up, and disappear, then show up again.
I’d love to! I have a meeting with Ms. Grant at 10, but I can be there by lunch. Want me to bring burgers?
A meeting with Cat Grant. That meant Kara was going to accept her proposal in some form. That idea turned Lena’s stomach, but she swallowed that feeling and plowed ahead.
Burgers sound good. I’ll get some supplies for picture-hanging. See you then.
She drops her phone on the bed next to her and scrubs her face.
Kara shows up at her door just three minutes past noon with two take out bags of burgers in her hands, in an outfit reminiscent of the early days of their friendship, chinos and a button up. Lena opens the door to her, stepping to the side to let her in. She feels awkward, torn between guilt and shame over avoiding Kara, sweet Kara, who is truly trying right now, and between still feeling like she needs to keep her defenses up. Because what hope does she really have that Kara will ever be able to return her feelings? Not much.
So she closes the door and follows Kara into the space, Kara pausing at the dining room table and assessing where they should eat, at the table or on the couch, like they normally would. The indecision feels like an indictment of Lena’s mismanagement of this transition. It reminds her of when Kara first started showing up to her office with snacks and lunches, hesitant, but eager to meet Lena where ever she was. Like Lena was a stray cat, and Kara was patiently waiting to be invited to come closer.
“Why don’t we sit out back?” As soon as she says it, she realizes its the perfect solution, at least for her guilt. To reset, start over in the space of her new home that Kara first saw, but this time invited, and intentional. Kara has a similar thought and gives a soft smile, nodding her agreement.
“Let me grab us water and I’ll meet you out there. There’s a couple of chairs and a small table in the garden.”
She busies herself getting them glasses of water, no ice for Kara, the way she likes it, plenty of ice for herself, then exits the backdoor, finding Kara leaned back in the Adirondack chair, face tilted back basking in the sun. She’s the picture of contentment and Lena feels the pang of longing, noticing just how beautiful she is almost glowing in the sun. Her footsteps in the gravel of the path announce her arrival and Kara opens her eyes, giving her a lazy smile.
“I never knew we were missing something so wonderful all living in buildings without yards.” She sits up, reaching for the glass Lena offers setting it on the wide arm rest of the chair, and waits for Lena to settle into her seat before handing her a burger from the pile on the small table.
Its an olive branch, and Kara’s already offered quite a few.
“I know. I saw the listing for this house, and it was pretty perfect in general, but then I got to the pictures of this yard, and I bought it that night.”
She really does want to talk to Kara about the whole experience, she’s not sure where to start, but Kara takes the lead.
“I know I’ve said it in my note, but I want to say to you, I’m sorry. My reaction to your news was unfair, and you deserve this. I am happy for you, and this place already feels more like you than your penthouse ever did. So, if you’re willing, I’d love to hear how you picked this place. Tell me the story.”
So she does. She tells her about coming home — she doesn’t say when — and just not wanting to be in her apartment ever again. She was already half-packed, but decided she needed to do it. And how it felt like the first and only decision she’d made that was entirely for her. So she looked at the email from her agent, liked several, but this one stood out. Between the lack of sterile white, the right amount of space, and the beautiful wild garden, it was an easy choice. So she made the offer that night, and threw herself into it, getting to define her new identity, and home.
Kara listens closely, making a few casual comments here and there to show she was engaged, but letting Lena talk, watching her radiating joy. When she slows Kara waits giving her space to decide if she was done telling her story, or if she wanted to keep talking. Lena finally looks down and sees that she still has half a burger in her hand, getting cold, she glances at Kara to see a pile of crumpled wrappers indicating that she’d finished several in the time Lena was talking, which was to be expected. The quiet lingers for a few minutes, and Lena focuses on eating her burger, and lets her eyes wander her backyard.
“You know, of all the versions of you and all the timelines I tried, this one really is my favorite.” Kara offers the statement with complete conviction, and Lena knows she’s missing a piece. What timelines? What other versions of her?
She turns to look at Kara fully, seated slightly to her left in their matching Adirondack chairs. Kara seems nonplussed by the strange statement she just made, and is back to studying the wild flower garden surrounding them.
“I think I need you to explain that statement a little more, Kara. What do you mean by versions of me and timelines?”
“Oh!” Kara’s eyes snap to Lena. She realizes that this isn’t something that they’ve talked about yet. “Okay, this is going to sound strange, but, well, you’ve recently found out you’re a bloodline witch, and you did fly through space to find me in the Phantom Zone, so, maybe not that strange…”
“Kara.” Lena interrupts the rambling with a firm redirection.
“Right, so remember that night I showed up and told you I’d treat you like a villain?”
The hurt flashes across Lena’s face, and she doesn’t have to answer.
“Of course you do. Your best friend who had recently betrayed your trust in a major way showed up and was an even bigger asshole. Okay, so the story behind that is that Myxy, the fifth dimensional imp that Nyxly trapped in her orb, he had tried to force me to marry him once.”
Lena’s look of confusion only deepens at that.
“So anyway, he showed up again, that night, to try to make amends. So he offered me a chance to go back and change the timeline, tell you about Supergirl, about me, at any other point, and see if it went better, and if so, I could make that timeline the real one.”
Lena is gawking at Kara at this point. But Kara just plows ahead.
“So we tried a few different times, me telling you sooner, even tried one timeline where I told you right after we met. But in every one, someone died. Sometimes me. Sometimes you. Sometimes everyone. In the timeline where I told you right away, we were amazing partners, from the beginning, but you and everyone else I love was killed to get to me. So anyway, I even tried a timeline where we’d never met, but that was… terrible.”
Kara seems to shake herself out of the memories, turning to hold Lena’s eye while she finishes.
“So I chose not to change it, which was the right decision. But then I flew to you, and gave you an ultimatum, which was so not the right decision.” Kara chuckles mirthlessly. “Yeah, I am really quite terrible at words sometimes, aren’t I?”
The statement hangs in the air and Lena lets her brain try to catch up with everything just said. Kara had tried to change the timeline of reality to make amends for the betrayal. Granted it was a little bit of overkill when it comes to groveling, but it makes sense somehow. She wonders what her reaction would have been that night if Kara had talked to her instead of drawing a line in the sand. Would she have been ready to hear her? She doesn’t know.
They sit in silence for several minutes, Kara stealing glances every now and again, checking that Lena is still processing. Lena is studying Kara, and she knows it must be making her uncomfortable, but she can’t look away while she thinks through what she’s just been told. The voice in the back of Lena’s head is shouting that the significance of Kara wanting to change reality to save them.
Then she remembers that Kara had just come from a meeting with Cat Grant.
“Hey, how did your meeting with Cat go?”
She can see Kara’s exaggerated inhale, wondering exactly what news Kara’s trying to share.
“Well, for one, I accepted the job. I’m going to start in a few days, once all the paperwork is done.”
She reaches down and wipes her suddenly sweaty palms on her pants.
“And I agreed to an exclusive on-camera interview, coming out as Kara Zor-El, to National City, to be filmed in a week.”
If Lena had been stunned by the revelation of Myxy’s timeline reset offer, it gets eclipsed by this one. Her immediate reaction is fear, and wanting to protect, but she takes a few breaths before she gives voice to the million questions and worst case scenarios she’s already thinking about.
“You seem nervous.”
Kara laughs, this time a little more genuinely.
“Yeah, I am very nervous. But I also, I am really tired of being two different people.” She turns to look at Lena again, who’s eyes haven’t left Kara in quite a while.
“I really need to start accepting that I can’t save everyone from everything, and the way everyone rallied to help us fight Lex and Nyxly, I think now might be the best, the only, time when the general public is ready to see me as just Kara. And yeah, it could go horribly wrong. But I think, I think I need to stop being so afraid of all the bad things that could happen if people know my identity, and focus on all the amazing things that might happen because I’m not hiding anymore. Does that make sense?”
Lena gulps in a breath of air, not realizing that she had been holding her breath during Kara’s whole speech.
“Yeah, yeah that does.”
She looks like she’s searching for words to say more when her phone starts ringing, interrupting the moment. She looks down at it, where it’s sitting face up on the arm of her chair, she knows Kara can see Andrea’s face on the screen from her seat.
“It’s just Andi, I can call her back in a bit,” she says as she silences the call. Kara stares for a minute.
“‘Andi?’ I, uh, I didn’t know you two were nickname close again.” The statement has an edge to it, and Lena can’t quite decode it.
“Well, we are working on our relationship. And it’s not a new nickname, it’s from boarding school.”
The phrasing makes Kara stumble. Was Alex right, was Andrea an ex of Lena’s? And if so, does “working on the relationship” mean that they are getting back together? She should pause to gather her thoughts before she speaks, but instead, she opens her mouth.
“Alex said Andrea is your ex.”
Lena had still been trying to figure out what to say about Kara coming out via a national interview with Cat Grant, so this non sequitur catches her entirely off guard.
“And. Is that true?”
“Sure, but it was for like three months when we were teenagers, so does it really count for much? But yeah, technically she is an ex.”
Kara stares, and shifts in her seat, looking away again. The confirmation was not what she expected, and means something significant that she hadn’t known, hadn’t acknowledged before. Lena was interested in women. It makes her stomach flutter thinking about, and she isn’t sure what that means.
“Is, is that a problem? I mean, your sister is gay, so you usually aren’t upset by queerness.”
“No! No, not a problem! I just, I didn’t know. And I am, sometimes suddenly reminded that I even though I’ve been here for most of my life, I am still, not great at human nuance sometimes.”
She laughs again, painful, but genuine.
“No, not a problem. I’m just, so bad at human interaction, and words, and context, and sometimes I wonder how I’ve managed to keep Supergirl a secret for so long. Oh, also, I should mention, by default on Krypton, everyone was what we here would label pansexual, gender playing no role in matches and since we had a birthing matrix, no role in procreation either. So no, no problem.”
After that admission, Kara relaxes again, leaning her head back against the chair, and enjoying the sun. Lena studies her again, still trying to make sense of all the emotions around Kara coming out publicly, and now around Kara revealing her lack of concern about the gender of potential partners.
“I am going to need you to explain the birthing matrix to me sometime. But right now, we should hang some paintings.”
Chapter 9: Not Quite a Second Step
After their talk over lunch in the garden, they managed to get the paintings hung before Kara got called away by Alex. Lena was relieved and disappointed. She really did miss Kara, but also, needed time to process all the new information and pieces she’d learned.
Kara for her part was beyond happy. She felt like they’d started to move forward after a weird, stressful and angsty week and a half of separation. Alex noticed the difference in her attitude right away and waited to finish their task before asking. They’re settled at the tall table in the Tower, seated across from each other on the stools.
“So I’m guessing you and Lena made up.” Alex leans forward on her forearms as she cuts right to the point. Kara’s smile somehow gets a little bigger and brighter, leaning back slightly in her seat.
“Yeah! It was great. We talked about a lot of stuff, and I helped her hang the paintings. She picked her bedroom, so I think she really liked the gift. I mean, I was expecting her to pick like the hallway, or maybe a bathroom, somewhere sort of out of sight, but she picked her bedroom, so she must like looking at them.”
Alex snorts a laugh, which stops Kara’s rambling. She cocks her head to the side and tries to figure out what about what she just said was funny.
“What? Alex, I don’t get what’s funny.”
Alex responds to Kara’s whining with an eye roll.
“Seriously, you two are so dumb. Like you deserve each other.” Alex takes a fortifying breath, deciding she’s just going to rip the bandaid off, and force the conversation today. “While we’re on the topic, let’s go ahead and just get some things out in the open. You’re coming out on national television next week. Exactly how many ways will you be coming out, and will it include your sexuality that you still haven’t said aloud to anyone, to my knowledge?”
The crinkle on Kara’s forehead deepens as she tries to keep up with the abrupt change of topic, as well as how it fits into the previous topic. Her hands begin to fidget on the table top, before she decisively laces them together as a reminder to herself to stay still.
“Um, I hadn’t, I guess I hadn’t thought about it. I mean, I’m so used to just ignoring that. Like I’ve been ignoring it since I got to Earth. Why stop now?”
Alex’s face looks almost enraged, her frustration is creeping up on her.
“C’mon Kara. Work with me here.” She says dropping her shoulders and letting out a huge sigh.
“Okay, let’s try it this way. Kara, yes or no, are you attracted to more than just men? Cis men specifically?”
“Oh, um, yes?”
“Is that an answer or a question?”
“Yes. Yes, I am attracted to more than just men.” It comes out firm. And Alex’s mouth quirks up with a small smile. She leans forward over the table again.
“Great, that’s great! I'm proud of you. Okay, are you interested in pursuing any form of romantic or intimate relationship with people other than men?”
Kara takes a deep breath, and tries to calm the way that question made her heart race.
“Yeah, I think I am.” This one comes out much softer.
“Great! That’s great! You’re doing great. Okay one more,” she coaxes. “Did you think of someone specific when I asked that?”
Kara squeezes her eyes closed, almost like she’s trying to hide from the reality that Alex is pushing her to admit. Her answer to this one is soft. Barely a whisper.
Alex reaches across the table and covers Kara’s hands with her own, squeezing once. Her voice softens now, filled with encouragement.
“So, maybe it’s time you tell her that. I think she’d like to hear it.”
Kara startles and starts to pull back, Alex squeezing her hands again as a resistance, knowing full well Kara could if she wanted, but it placates her.
“Alex, I… I can’t. I feel like I just got her back, and then I screwed up in a conversation, Alex, just a conversation, and felt like I lost her all over again last week. I can’t… I can’t do it again.”
Kara is fighting tears, and Alex can sense her anxiety rising, so she answers quickly, but firmly.
“Kara, you ‘lost’ her last week because you downplayed her importance in your life and she was hurt. Lena has deep rooted fear of rejection, which is entirely understandable given the Luthors and their repeated emotional manipulation and outright rejection of everything about her. And you Kara, you have just as deep rooted of a fear of abandonment, again, totally understandable given your life. But here’s the thing. You both deserve to be happy, you just need one of you to be bigger than your fear and take that plunge.”
Kara chokes out a strangled sob, and Alex finally gets up to move around the table, to wrap Kara in a hug.
“Really, please, just tell her. Ask her. Just talk. You guys deserve it. And Esme keeps asking when Aunt Lena and Aunt Kara are going to get married so that she can wear her wedding dress again. And get a cousin. Her words, not mine.”
Kara’s sob turns into a laugh. Of course Esme was in on this.
“Rao, you are such a softie for your kid. You’ll bully your own sister out of the closet just to make your daughter happy.”
Alex laughs at that, then squeezes Kara one more time, planting a wet kiss on the side of her head.
“No, I bullied you out of the closet for my own sanity, but its a bonus that it’ll also make Esme happy too.”
The next day the whole team is gathered at the Tower, scattered around the makeshift living room style seating area, discussing the progress that Alex and J’onn have made in reestablishing the DEO, which is a bureaucratic nightmare. They’ve been discussing what type of formal relationships, if any, the Super Friends want to have with the newly reformed government agency and the conversation is tense.
“Okay, I think we have a lot more to think about and discuss, but I promised to not take too much time today,” J’onn concludes the discussion before Lena and Alex can restart their heated debate about whether or not trusting a formerly covert now defunct but soon to be resurrected government agency, regardless of their relationship, is by definition, stupid.
J’onn pushes up from the arm chair he’d been sitting in, glancing between Alex and Lena who are both sitting at the front of their respective couches, leaning forward, looking like they’re ready to start yelling again. He wants to break the tension.
“Lena, you had said you had a new design you wanted to talk to me and Brainy about, is now a good time?” The three depart to go to Lena’s lab to discuss. As soon as they’re out of sight, Nia turns on Kara and pins her with the Catco gossip.
“Soooo, Kara, did you know MacKenzie keeps asking when you’re coming back? And then fishing for information about whether you’re dating anyone.”
“What? Why would MacKenzie care? She never liked me, she always ignored me, even when I tried to be nice, she’d never say more than a couple words back to me.”
Nia looks at Kara like she’s being intentionally obtuse.
“What? I don’t get it!”
Nia looks to Alex and Kelly for support. Alex avoids eye contact and shakes her head, and Kelly is studying Kara, trying to solve a problem in her head.
“Kara, have you ever liked someone but not known what to do with that?” Kelly tires to explain how some people struggle with talking to their crushes, but she’s not sure how to make this relevant to Kara’s experiences.
“You mean like, not knowing if you should compliment them or just ask them out?” Kara responds, genuinely curious.
“No, more like, you get so flustered you can’t talk at all.”
At the explanation Kara slowly blushes. Nia rushes to add to the explanation.
“Like you get so flustered because you’re picturing the other person banging you, that you can’t talk to them.”
Just then Lena returns to the room, hurrying back to the couch she'd been seated on. Kara's blush is turning deeper.
“Sorry, I forgot my tablet,” she reaches for the item, which is on the couch next to Kara. As she grabs it she glances at the interaction, and sees Kara blushing a deep red, Alex avoiding eye contact with one arm around the back of the couch behind Kelly, Kelly giving Kara a gentle supporting look, and Nia trying not to laugh. “I’m clearly interrupting something, so I’m just going to go.”
Nia lets out a cackle at that.
“It’s fine, Kara just realized that a three year awkward work relationship is entirely because said coworker was picturing herself being railed by Kara every time Kara tried to talk to her!”
“Oh.” Lena’s reaction is flat. Not joining in Nia’s enjoyment. Alex shifts nervously, and Kelly has now shifted her attention from Kara to Lena, watching her reaction closely.
“Its not, that’s not…” Kara is trying desperately to gain some control of this situation, the phrasing that Nia used to Lena was even worse than how she had first phrased it, and Kara hates how crass it sounds. She leans forward elbows resting on her knees, and buries her face in her hands before straightening up again. “Seriously, Nia. MacKenzie can’t stand me, that isn’t what’s happening.”
“No, no. It’s definitely what’s happening. As is evidenced by her anxiously awaiting your return. In fact, I imagine she will be one of the first to welcome you back, hoping for some extra ‘face time’ with the new boss, if you know what I mean.”
Both Kara and Alex look mortified at the innuendo, and Kelly watches on, while Nia laughs at her own joke and Lena looks like she might throw up. She takes a step backwards.
“Okay, well, I need to get back to J’onn, and Brainy,” Lena turns quickly, tablet in hand and rushes from the room, as Nia’s smile grows. The door closes and Nia abruptly stops.
“Okay, so we all saw how quickly Lena booked it when a mention of Kara having sex with someone else came up, right?”
“Nia! Oh my, Rao. Please, I am begging you to stop,” Kara whines. She slumps back on the couch, head tiled to the ceiling.
“Nope, we’re going to talk about this. What’s going on with you and Lena?”
“Nothing!” Kara’s moved quickly from flustered and embarrassed to panicked. She quickly turns her head towards the balcony. “Oh! There’s an accident, gotta go!” and is gone. All three watch the exit.
“So… are we going to talk about the massive amounts of panic we just witnessed between those two?” Nia asks cautiously.
Alex finally breaks her silence and answers.
“Nia, I say this not just because the use of ‘railing’ in reference to my sister was a bit much, but I think we need to let them figure it out themselves.”
Nia looks to Kelly, who just nods.
“Fine, but c’mon. Those two have been in love with each other for years. A little push could end all of our suffering. And theirs.”
Kelly smiles at that.
“You know, when I first joined the group, and didn’t know Kara was Supergirl, I thought their falling out was a break up, that they just weren’t out.”
“It was a breakup, they just, are too stubborn to do anything about it,” Nia whines her response.
“Okay sure, but please, just let them have some space, no meddling?” Alex asks.
Chapter 10: I Promised Not to Meddle
Lena wasn’t sure what she’d just walked away from, with Nia cackling. But she knows that she felt deep green jealousy at the idea of Kara fucking a coworker. She knows that Kara had not exactly expressed an interest in that coworker, but Kara has been so oblivious to all things remotely related to women flirting with her. The best example being the time Lena had filled Kara’s office with flowers, and Kara had thanked her for being a good friend. She pauses in the hallway outside her lab, giving herself a minute to try to calm her heart rate and make sense
So no, she knows that Kara didn’t engage willingly in flirting with MacKenzie, but she also knew that Kara was kind, genuine, and eager to connect with people honestly, which can be read as flirting. So it was fine. Totally fine. Lena had flirted with Kara for years without her realizing or intentionally engaging. Really, she should feel camaraderie with this coworker, but instead she felt like throwing up.
Nia noticed this coworker’s interest in Kara. Does that mean that Nia also noticed Lena’s unveiled interest? She hadn’t really tried to hide it, but the realization that other Super Friends might be able to read her and haven’t ever said anything to either her or Kara sends a sudden panic through her. She takes a deep breath, reminding herself she can’t control this, any of it, and just needs to move forward. So she steps back into the lab, ready to continue her talk with J’onn and Brainy.
A few hours later, J’onn’s departed, leaving Lena and Brainy tinkering in companionable silence, occasionally exchanging engineering related conversation, but otherwise enjoying their projects together.
“Hello my favorite bitches!” Nia announces her presence, startling both out of their focus. She wraps an arm around Brainy’s shoulder, leaning in and giving him a loud kiss on the cheek.
“Hello, my favorite female woman!” Brainy responds in kind. Lena’s mouth quirks up in a half smile at the Coluan’s attempt at returning the greeting. Nia gives him a second cheek kiss.
“Getting closer, baby,” she offers the encouragement, then looks around the table at the collection of soldering irons, circuit boards, and tweezers. “What have you two been up to? Making progress on something fun, I see.”
“Yes, our progress was slow to begin with, Lena was quite distracted for the first hour, and was not up to her usual quickness. I had been worried that perhaps she was falling ill, but she’s caught up so now we are making good progress on this polyphasic…”
“Hey, love,” Nia softly but firmly interrupts Brainy’s rambling. Lena’s eyes have dropped back to the table and she’s trying hard to cover her blush. “I was hoping you’d be willing to run out and pick up some pizzas. I would really like some pizza. From that place.”
She knows Brainy has no idea he just embarrassed Lena and confirmed Nia’s suspicions about Lena’s reaction to the previous conversation. He also has no idea that she’s trying to get rid of him but he happily agrees, excusing himself to return with sustenance. The room is awkwardly silent in the wake of his departure, Lena looking anywhere but at Nia, as Nia studies her.
“So,” she starts, waiting for Lena to meet her eyes. “Spill.”
Lena looks startled at the simple order. Not quite sure what she’s supposed to spill, but also pretty sure she does know.
“Start talking. You’re acting weird, and while I love this new ‘I do things entirely for me, like buy a house and move without telling anyone,’ Lena, I also want to know how she’s connected to, or intersects with ‘I run out of the room at the first mention of Kara having sex,’ Lena. Because you’ve never shied away from conversations about sex before.”
Lena feels like Nia just laid her bare. She had no idea that the younger reporter was seeing so much, but she shouldn’t be too surprised.
“Oh, um.” She sets her soldering iron down, noticing that her hands feel unsteady, she doesn’t want to injure herself. Instead she pulls her hands into her lap and intertwines her fingers. “I am not sure what to say.”
Nia lets her sit for a minute, studying her.
“What if you just started talking, and didn’t worry about saying the right thing?” She offers kindly. “I am your friend, and I want to understand what’s going on. So tell me, what’s going on?”
Lena huffs out a breath, blinking back the wetness that has crept into her eyes.
“Well, I don’t know if I’ve said it to you before, but loss does strange things to Luthors,” Nia interrupts her.
“You’re not a Luthor. You are not a Walsh, or any other name that comes with a legacy you didn’t earn. But keep going.”
“I appreciate that, but, Nia, I am a Luthor,” Nia starts to protest and Lena keeps plowing ahead, “I am a Luthor because they raised me, and taught me how to engage with the world, and so many of my defense mechanisms are because of them. So I am a Luthor, and loss does strange things to us. And I’ve just lost a lot. More than I realized.”
She takes a breath, and lets that piece of information sit in the space between them. She’s not sure how else to explain this.
“I’ve lost a lot: my mother, the woman who raised me, my birth mother, the few memories I had of her, but more importantly, the fantasy I had created of her. I lost my brother time and time again, and this time, I’m hoping its for good. But throughout all that, I had a secret hope that maybe, maybe if I was good enough this time,” she hiccups a breath, not realizing that a few tears have started to escape.
“If I was good enough this time, if I proved that I was truly good enough, that maybe someone might be able to love me. She might be able to love me. Like actually love me.” She pauses to catch her breath, and wipe furiously at the tears that are escaping, plowing ahead now that the admission is out there. “But she said something that made me realize I can’t keep hoping. So I need to start to do some things to make me happy, to make me feel stable and lovable to someone, and just not keep waiting for her.”
She hadn’t intended to reveal so much, but Nia had asked, and pushed, and Lena did trust her. As much as she loves to meddle, she has been nothing but a trustworthy and supportive friend, and Lena knows she won’t repeat this without permission.
Nia steps around the table, pulling Lena from her stool and wrapping her arms around her. Lena lets herself be wrapped up in the taller woman’s arms, and presses her face into her shoulder while she tries to control her breathing. Then she continues to whisper her confession.
“But also, I don’t want to think, or hear about, or joke about who she might soon be sleeping with. It stings, really hurts too much still.”
“Oh honey, I didn’t know it was such a raw subject. I’m sorry. But I also want you to listen.” She pulled Lena back, looking her in the face. “You have no reason to give up hope, and while I have no idea what Kara said to make you think she doesn’t love you, or can’t love you, whatever, I promise that isn’t true.”
“You don’t know that, Nia!”
“Yes, I do.” Nia doesn’t offer anything else, no evidence, nothing but the statement. “Listen, you two need to talk. Like actually talk. Like adults. I get that you are both scared, that you’ve just gotten each other back, trust me, no one liked the Great Divide. I get it. But you’re also a grown ass adult, in your late twenties, with a therapist on retainer. Girl, get your shit together and talk to her. We are all suffering with you at this point. You two can start by both admitting how scared of losing each other again you are.”
Nia gives Lena a meaningful look, then another squeeze, before she steps back.
“Oh, and I promised not to meddle, so this conversation didn’t happen, k?” And then she’s disappeared through the door, leaving Lena entirely confused, standing next to the table in her lab.
Chapter 11: The Danvers-Olsen Help
Lena doesn’t get much time to make sense of the odd conversation with Nia before Brainy returns with a stack of pizza and Kelly and Esme come to fetch her to join the group for lunch. Esme buzzes with energy as she pulls Lena towards the big living room area, talking about her morning at day care.
The group gathers around the coffee table, loading their plates before each retreating to the same seats that they’d each occupied that morning, this time with Esme settling onto the couch between Lena and Kara. She continues to chat happily between bites, and Lena half listens while observing Kara’s very stiff body language and quiet demeanor. Its unlike her to sit quietly in the midst of their weird family unit.
Lena looks hard at Kara, waiting for her to notice, which she does. When Kara meets her eyes, Lena mouths “you okay?” with a furrowed brow. Esme is happily focused on her pizza and retelling an interaction she’d had with someone named Landon and doesn’t look up. Kara’s forehead crinkle deepens for a moment before she makes an effort to relax her face and body, and nods. She can tell Lena isn't buying it.
“Can we have a sleepover tonight, Aunt Lena?” Esme breaks the charged moment. She swivels her head between her two aunts. Both are startled by the change in topic, not sure exactly who she’s asking. Esme turns her gaze to Lena.
“I want to sleep in my new room, can we have a sleepover?” She asks again. Lena’s focus jumps to Kelly and Alex, who she notices is watching them closely. The hairs on the back of her neck prickle at the attention. She raises an eyebrow both in a challenge and a question.
“Oh, um, if it’s okay with Aunt Lena, and you promise to go to bed when its bedtime, and listen to whatever Aunt Lena and Aunt Kara say, yes, you can have a sleep over tonight,” Alex answers.
At the mention of Aunt Kara also attending the sleepover, Lena’s heart skips a beat, and Kara’s head inclines slightly, indicating that she may have noticed. The crinkle returns and she studies Lena for a second.
“Well, what do you say, Aunt Kara?” Lena defers the attention turning to Kara, not thinking through the fact that their niece just invited herself and Kara to spend the night, but Lena only has two beds. One in her room, and one in Esme’s room.
Kara for her part startles out of her thoughts at the idea. She recovers quickly, turning her attention to Esme.
“We should probably go pack a bag, don’t you think? I need my pajamas if we're having a sleep over.” She directs to Esme, while glancing at Lena. Checking that this is really okay, and when she sees no negative reaction, she smiles widely at Esme.
“What time should we come over, Aunt Lena?” Kara’s question is joyful and lilting in using Lena’s title, earning her a glowing smile from Lena.
“Esme, did you pack clean undies and socks?” Kelly asks, turning Esme back towards her room and giving her a soft push, knowing full well she had not packed those items. As soon as Esme is out of earshot she turns her attention to her sister-in-law, who is seated next to her on the couch.
“I feel like I should warn you that Esme is gunning hard for you and Lena to ‘give her a cousin,’ and if you aren’t fully prepared for the wing-manning that’s about to happen tonight, things are going to get awkward.”
Kara’s eyes grow bigger at the statement, but she’s not entirely unprepared for this since Alex had given her a similar heads up the day before.
“Oh, um, I’m not sure what to say to that.” The response is awkward and honest. Kelly reaches over and rubbs Kara’s forearm before settling back in her seat.
“You don’t have to say anything. I’m just giving you time to prepare,” she offers kindly. Kara’s crinkle settles between her brows. “But if you want to talk about something, I’m happy to listen, and Esme will need at least another 10 minutes to remember what she was sent to pack.”
Kara glances at Kelly, and then over her shoulder to the door Esme had disappeared through.
“I, uh. I think I might be in love with Lena.”
Kara, though often oblivious, has never been one to hint at topics. It was direct, or not at all. Kelly studies her face as she lets that statement sit untouched.
The question perplexes Kara.
“And? And I don’t know what to do with that. How to do anything with that.”
“This isn’t your first time being in love.” Kelly states the fact, implying that Kara might know what to do.
“No, but, with Mon-El, I didn’t start out in love with him. I barely liked him. But I slowly warmed up, we started dating, and slowly I started to love him. I really loved the idea of him more than I loved him, which was proven when he came back from the future, married, and mostly I was irritated and embarassed, not heartbroken.” Kara takes a breath, gathering her thoughts. “This is different. I, I didn’t hesitate to push that button, knowing it would make Earth uninhabitable for him. I, I couldn’t do that if it was Lena. I wouldn’t make that choice. And that is terrifying.”
“So you’d rather not say anything?” Kelly clarifies.
“I don’t want to lose her again.” It comes out weak, soft.
Kelly leans forward, turning towards Kara and taking her hands.
“Not saying anything doesn’t guarantee you get to keep her. She could meet someone, fall in a love, and move away. Or she could decide she’s tired of waiting for you, do something like buy herself a new house, throw herself into discovering herself, and start slowly pulling away.”
Kara startles at this statement, pulling her hands back and sitting back against the couch. Kelly had always been more intuitive and able to read everyone that the rest of their friends, but that statement was more direct than she was prepared to hear. The idea scares Kara.
“Is… is that what you think is happening?”
Kelly studies her for a moment, trying to figure out how to respond.
“Lena hasn’t said anything to me. But she is a close friend, someone I care deeply about. I know you have lost a lot, and shouldered a lot of responsibilities throughout you life, and it would be wonderful if this one didn’t fall entirely to you. But Kara, I don’t think Lena will risk rejection, even for you. You are going to have to do it.”
Kara sucks in a deep breath. She hears Esme zipping her bag and knows their time is limited before her niece rejoins them now.
“Alex said something similar. I guess I need to figure out how to,” and she motions in the air in front of her, frantically waving her hand. Kelly catches her hand in the air, giving it a quick squeeze and setting it in her lap.
“Please do. But maybe wait until Esme is in bed tonight. As much as you two could use a cheering section, I don’t think the added pressure of that cheer section would help you find your words.”
Esme barrels into the room, and Kelly pushes herself up from the couch.
“Alright, let’s take a look at your packing job and make sure we have everything!”
It’s just after six in the evening, and Lena has only been home for a half hour, quickly getting things together for their sleep over. Esme’s room is ready, it needed no prepping. But she’s been trying for the past fifteen minutes to quickly set up and pay for a Disney+ account, wanting both her niece and Kara to get to watch their favorite movies, she's picturing a sing-along in her living room. She finally clicks through all the sign up pages and gets into a profile screen, just as she hears the doorbell ring.
She opens the door to Kelly holding a box of donuts, Esme carrying her backpack and clutching Lovey, and Kara standing at the back of the small group, duffel bag slung over her shoulder and slightly puzzled look on her face. She’s not sure what to make of Kara’s expression, and it makes her stomach flutter, so she turns her attention to Esme greeting her and starts to shuffle them inside.
Kelly lets Kara and Esme pass, then steps forward to pull Lena into a half hug while handing off the box of donuts.
“I’m just dropping them and heading home to my wife. Have a great night, call if there is anything you can’t handle,” she turns her head and plants a kiss on Lena’s cheek. “And sorry in advance for anything that comes out of Esme’s mouth about you giving her a cousin. Love you, have a great night!”
Chapter 12: A Wingman and a Proxy
“No, Aunt Kara, you have to kiss her to break the spell!” Esme directs from the coffee table she’s perched on. The group had watched the first half of The Little Mermaid before Esme insisted the three of them get up and act it out. Lena was cast as Ariel, because she’s the prettiest according to Esme, Kara as Prince(ess) Erik, because she is the strongest, and Esme had gravitated immediately towards Sebastian, the bossy crab.
“Okay, but Es, I don’t think that’s how the story plays out,” Lena tries to offer, from where she’s perched on edge of the couch, body facing Kara, but head turned to Esme. They were re-enacting the rowboat scene. She can feel her own anxiety increase at the idea of Kara kissing her but only as part of a make believe game with their niece, she’s pretty sure she couldn’t survive knowing what Kara’s lips feel like, but also knowing it wasn’t ever intended for her.
“No! You can’t talk! The witch took your voice!” Esme directs. Kara for her part looks perplexed and uncomfortable, trying to figure out how to redirect Esme’s stage directions.
“She’s right, Esme. They get interrupted here.” Just then the kitchen timer goes off, indicating their brownies are done. Lena jumps from her spot on the couch, hurrying to the kitchen to turn off the timer. She had thought of many experiences she’d always wished she had had as a child, and making brownies during a sleep over seemed like a great one to start with tonight.
After silencing the timer, she carefully removes the pan from the oven, turning it off and setting the pan to cool before awkwardly returning her attention to Kara and Esme. Kara seems just as relieved at the break, and jumps on the opportunity to redirect their activity, offering a new course of action for the evening.
“How about we get changed into our pajamas, settle back down to watch the second half of the movie, and eat some fresh gooey brownies?”
Esme’s eyes light up at the offer of brownies, and she’s off the coffee table in an instant, running for the stairs to her room.
“Okay! Be right back! No brownies without me!”
After she disappears from sight, Kara turns back to Lena, giving her a pained expression.
“Kelly warned me that Esme might be a little, focused, on…” she struggles with words, not sure if she should say ‘getting us together’ or ‘making us kiss’ or ‘making sure she gets a cousin.’ None of them feel like they can be left unexplained. Esme had indeed brought up the idea of a cousin within the first 10 minutes, and again two more times in the following hours.
“It’s fine!” Lena jumps in, cutting off Kara’s growing distress. “Kelly warned me she might say… some awkward things. It’s fine.” Lena also doesn’t want to address exactly what is happening. “I’m going to go get changed, then check on Esme.”
She exits, hurrying upstairs hoping the quick stair climbing will explain away her increasing heart rate.
When she finishes changing her clothes, she stops in Esme’s room where Esme had, predictably, gotten distracted by the pile of toys Lena had been slowly amassing for her. With minor redirection, Esme finishes getting changed and the two rejoin Kara, who has slipped into the powder room to change, and now has a plate of warm brownies waiting for them on the coffee table. She was curled up in the corner of the chesterfield couch, legs tucked under her.
Esme pulls Lena into the room, pushing her onto the couch next to Kara and climbing up, leaning her whole body into Lena, who in turn was pushed against Kara. She blushes, clearing her throat as she tries to find a way to settle in with a squirming five year old on top of her.
“Aunt Kara you get to be the Mama in the cuddle, Aunt Lena, you’re the mommy. And I’m obviously me.” Esme once again gives them their assigned roles, clearly recreating how they watch movies at home.
“Hold on, Esme,” Kara interrupts Esme’s shuffling, “We need the brownies before we get too settled!”
Esme immediately leans forward, grabbing the plate, Lena taking the opportunity to straighten up and resettle her hips, and Kara re-angling herself and draping her arm over the back of the couch behind Lena. Esme settles back in, pushing Lena back into Kara, this time more comfortably a cuddled in. Lena forces herself to take a breath and relax, giving into the cuddle. Esme lets out a contented sigh, and starts eating her brownies, as Kara hits play on the remote.
The movie continues, and Esme and Kara pass the plate back and forth, across Lena’s lap, while keeping her trapped and warm between the two. Kara slowly relaxes into the cuddle, her arm dropping from the back of the couch to drape loosely around Lena’s shoulder, playing with Esme’s hair where she’s leaned back into Lena.
The movie ticks on, and Lena relaxes more into Kara, letting her own arm soften where it’s draped over Kara’s lap, and tilting her head back to rest against the shoulder behind her. She lets her eyes droop closed, enjoying the warmth and the fantasy of being a small family. She knows that later she will regret this indulgence, but right now, it feels wonderful, warm and safe. And loved. Nia had insinuated that Kara did, or could love her back, and in this moment, she let’s herself believe it. Kara is also having a silent, private freak out about what this family cuddle could mean, replaying both Alex and Kelly's pep talks, reminding her she will need to be the one to make a move.
Lena dozes lightly until the end of the movie, waking up when Kara shifts her gently, settling her into the corner of the couch before leaning down to scoop up Esme. She notices Lena’s eyes are fluttering open and she’s starting to push herself up, and whispers her plan.
“Shhh, I’m going to sneak her up to her bed and tuck her in. I’ll be back down in a few. No need to get up.”
Kara easily lifts their niece and disappears up the stairs. Lena sits forward, giving herself a minute before she stands up and heads to the kitchen to put the brownies away and pour herself and Kara some wine. She assumes they will do what they normally do when they spend an evening together, sitting on the couch talking over wine.
Kara returns just as she setting two glasses of a new bottle of Malbec, one that Andrea had given her, on the coffee table. Kara hesitates for just a minute before sitting down next to Lena, taking the glass Lena hands her, then turning her body fully to face her.
“So, that was interesting,” Lena offers first, acknowledging the awkward attempts Esme had been making all evening. Kara gives her a slightly pained look, trying to figure out how to respond.
“Yeah, our niece really seems to want us to, you know, be together.” She decides to name it. See what Lena says. Lena sits, watching her, somewhat frozen. Kara can hear her heart beat pick up slightly, and hopes that it is an indication of interest, so she plows ahead without thinking through the best words.
“And honestly, I wouldn’t mind.”
Lena caulks her head, her face still not showing any expression but slight shock.
“I don’t mean, I wouldn’t mind. That isn’t the right phrase. I mean, I think I’d like that. If you would. But only if you would, obviously.”
Lena leans forward setting her wine glass back on the table, then turns to mirror Kara, fully facing her on the couch.
“Is… Is this your way of asking me out?” She sounds genuinely confused, like she's trying to solve a complex puzzle. “Or, or am I completely misinterpreting what you’re trying to say?”
Kara huffs out a laugh, then takes a huge gulp of her wine, which will do nothing to actually settle her nerves but feels reassuring nonetheless, before reaching blindly to set the nearly empty glass on the table.
“Yeah, yeah that was my very sad attempt at asking if you’d want to go out with me. On a date. Together. In a romantic way. Because I have romantic feelings for you.”
At the admission Lena ducks her head, and takes a large breath. When she looks back up, there’s tears shimmering in the corners of her eyes, and Kara immediately panics, thinking she’s upset Lena, and struggles to find words to fix it.
“But it’s totally okay that you don’t want to, I promise I won’t let this ruin our friendship, ruin us. I just, I just want to be in your life however you will,”
Lena clamps a hand over Kara’s mouth. Letting out a strangled laugh.
“Shut up. Please, stop talking.” She sucks in another big breath through her nose before responding. “Yes, I want that. A date. In a romantic way. Because I also have romantic feelings for you.”
Lena’s hand is still clamped over Kara’s mouth, but she can feel the smile forming under her palm. She can’t help but return the small smile. Kara reaches up, softly wrapping her fingers around Lena’s hand and pulling it down from her mouth, her grin growing.
“So Esme’s wing-manning worked? Does that mean I should kiss you now?”
Lena barks out a laugh, then leans forward, their tangled hands resting on the sofa between them.
“Yes, I think you should. We wouldn’t want to leave the story incomplete.” She raises one eye brow while grinning wider.
Kara reaches up with the hand not tangled with Lena’s, softly cupping the back of Lena’s neck, using her thumb to tilt her jaw back slightly, and leans in. The first slotting of their lips together is soft, and a little hesitant, but both melt into the kiss. Lena’s unoccupied hand comes up to fist into the collar of Kara’s t-shirt, pulling her forward.
Kara has read her fair share of romance novels and has seen a hundred different tropes for a great first kiss. Fireworks, magic, electricity, the world around dulls. But none of them really feels like they fit. All are too melodramatic while also being not descriptive enough. All she can think is that this feels right. It makes sense.
The break apart for a moment, catching their breath, and opening their eyes to check that this is real. When Lena pulls Kara back in by the shirt collar, she pulls her other hand from the space between them and slides it around Kara’s back, pulling her in, and over her as she leans back onto the couch cushions. Kara willingly follows, slotting herself over Lena, and diving back in, introducing tongue to the kiss this time. They both lose themselves in the gentle exploration.
Just as things are starting to skirt the line of fairly innocent exploration, Kara’s phone dings with a text message notification. They slow their kiss, but don’t pull away. Then it dings three more times in quick succession. Kara pulls back and rests her forehead against Lena’s neck, giving herself a minute to catch her breath. Lena scratches up and down her back with soft touches.
Kara’s phone dings again, and Kara pushes herself up, pulling Lena with her and reaches for the offending item.
“Of course it’s Alex.”
How’d bedtime go?
Hopefully not too dramatic or obstinate.
I hope you’re not avoiding answering because you let Esme stay up this late.
Or are you busy making out with your future wife.
Seriously, are you Kara???? I can’t believe you!
Kara’s head drops back to look at the ceiling and Lena leans over stealing a glance at the chain, and then a laugh boils out of her, bright and joyous. Kara tips her head towards her, watching her, a slow smile spreading.
“So, should I tell her that yes, I am making out with my future wife and we'd like to be left alone?” Kara teases, but Lena straightens up, fixing her with a serious look.
“Did you seriously let your niece wingman you, and then let your sister propose for you?” The question is equal parts serious and teasing. Kara’s mouth drops open at the realization that she had in fact essentially proposed by proxy by carrying her sister’s phrasing forward. Panic once again sets in, and she tenses as she starts to try to dig her way out of this mess. Before she finds any words her phone starts ringing with an incoming facetime call.
“Seriously, c'mon Alex!” she stares at the screen without answering. She’s trying to figure out what the priority is in this situation. She really didn’t want to screw up her and Lena so early, but also knows that she needs to respond to her sister about Esme’s well-being. The decision is made for her when Lena leans over, planting a soft kiss on her cheek while slipping the phone from her hand and answering Alex’s call. She leans in close, one arm propped on the couch behind Kara's shoulder, head resting on the hand. Kara's just barely in the frame.
“Hello Alex, bedtime went great, no issues at all. Esme fell asleep watching the The Little Mermaid. No, Kara wasn’t avoiding your call because Esme is up too late, yes she was making out with me, but it’s yet to be determined if I’m her future wife since she just let you propose to me for her, which I have to say is a bit disappointing after this long. But thanks for checking in, sorry to take so long to respond, your child is fine. But now, if you don’t mind, we have a conversation to continue.”
Alex’s face had morphed from irritated to amused to shocked during the course of Lena’s monologue. As Lena wraps up and she recognizes that she’s about to be hung up on, she interjects loudly, while also fighting a grin, “Don’t you dare have sex while my child is spending the night. You two idiots waited six years, you can wait another 12 hours!” They can hear Kelly cackling in the background.
And with that Lena hangs up on Alex, turning her attention back to Kara who is staring at her, still trying to calm the panic of having sort of, unintentionally proposed less than 20 minutes after kissing her for the first time. But if she was being honest, yeah, she did want to and plan to marry Lena, now that she knew the feelings were mutual. But they had a lot to discuss before that point. Kara's dazed smile is too tempting and Lena leans in and kisses her again.
Lena smiles softly, dropping the phone on the table before reaching up and running her thumb over Kara’s cheek bone.
“We can pretend the proposal by proxy didn’t happen. I realize that we have a lot we need to talk about and figure out before any real conversation about that,”
“Okay, but I will propose for real. Someday. When you’re ready. When we’re ready.” Kara offers without hesitation. The warmth that Lena had felt during their movie cuddle pales in comparison to the warmth she feels at this admission.
“I guess we’re going to jump right in then,” Lena takes a steadying breath, dropping her hand to her lap and squaring her shoulders, preparing to discuss big things. “So, to clarify, when you said you have romantic feelings for me,” she prompts.
“I meant, ‘I’m in love with you.’” Kara supplies without hesitation. As serious as this conversation is, Lena can’t help the smile that spreads at the admission.
“Wow,” it comes out a little breathless. “I didn’t think that was possible, let alone that you would ever say those words. And also, I'm in love with you too.”
Kara reaches over and grabs her hands, lacing their fingers together.
“I know, I am terrible at communication, and I am so, so used to burying almost everything about myself, to keep everyone safe, to keep myself safe, that I never let myself acknowledge my feelings, which I’m sure sent all kinds of confusing, mixed messages. And I’m sorry. But I do love you, so much, and I really, really want to try to make it up to you.”
Lena squeezes the fingers tangled with hers.
“Shh. I know. I am not asking for you to change anything that’s been done, or make amends, I’m just, I’m going to need to get used to this. I never thought I could have it.” The admission is soft, vulnerable.
“Okay. I get that. But also, will you tell me if there is something I can do to help?” Kara watches Lena as she thinks hard.
“Yes, I can’t think of anything. But I do think as part of this conversation, we should talk about your upcoming coming out interview. Not that I expect or want or need you to, you know, come out as queer or anything to do with your sexuality, but I do think we should discuss what the increased exposure will mean for us.”
“Oh.” Kara visibly deflated. She hadn’t thought about the implications of her choice for Lena, and she certainly hadn’t thought she would be in the first days of a romantic relationship when she agreed to the interview. Kara starts to try to put her anxieties in words, “I completely understand if you aren’t ready for anyone to know about us,”
“No, no, that’s not the issue,” Lena interrupts. “I am more than happy with this development, and, if it were up to me, would rather not do any secret relationship nonsense. I did that in my teens and early twenties and its unnecessarily stressful. And honestly, I don’t care what the public thinks of my private life.”
She takes a deep breath, recovering her thoughts.
“But, that being said, I won’t force you out, especially when you’re already taking a huge risk, emotionally, by coming out as Supergirl. I am happy to be your biggest supporter, from the wings, without this being anything to do with me. I just want us to have some understanding and expectations around exactly how much change we’re about to experience, both with our relationship, and with the public.”
Kara lets the statement sit, considering what Lena has just offered.
“I really appreciate that, but also, I am not, and will never be ashamed of you, and the place you have in my life. If you are okay with it, I’d rather not do anything to hide you. I don’t need to announce on TV that we just started dating this week or give any information, but I want to do nothing to hide it. I know we haven’t discussed anything related to PDA yet, but I want to hold get to hold your hand whenever one of us wants to or needs touch reassurance. I want to be able to kiss you, Rao, I just want to be able to kiss you whenever one of us wants that, regardless of who is around”
Lena’s cheeks hurt from smiling, and her chest feels so full, she’s not sure what to do with the feeling.
“I want that too.”
“Okay, do you think we’ve done enough talking for now? Maybe we can do some more kissing?” Kara’s tone is hopeful and genuine. Lena grabs her by the nape of the neck and pulls her back in, both sinking back into the couch as they resume their exploration.
It feels way too early to Lena when she is jostled from sleep by the bed dipping and the covers being pulled down from where she’d pulled them to her chin. She’s on her side, and can feel warmth pressed against her back, a strong arm wrapped around her middle just barely sneaking under her t-shirt where it's creeped up, and a nose pressed to the back of her neck. She vaguely remembers going to bed with Kara, and hopes that all the kissing and shared feelings hadn’t been a dream, but she’s not awake enough to reason through it all.
She can feel a much smaller source of heat slipping into the covers in front of her, and cracks an eye to see Esme’s tangled mess of hair as she snuggles under Lena’s arm and into the spot as littlest spoon, she closes her eyes and enjoys this. She hears Kara’s deep inhale behind her and start to move. When she talks her voice is deep and gravely, dripping in sleep.
“Hey,” Kara flexes her hand on Lena’s stomach, noticing there is something warm pressed against it, and peers over Lena's shoulder. “Oh, when did you sneak in?”
Esme giggles, and twists around as she whispers, even though all three are semi-awake now.
“I just got here, Aunt Kara. My room is too cold.” Kara hears Lena’s soft inhale, and knows she’s going to try to fix the temperature now, so she tightens her hold around Lena’s stomach, flattening herself even more against her back.
“Well it’s a good thing we have a nice warm spot in this giant bed, and good thing that Aunt Lena loves to cuddle.”
At this the corners of Lena’s lips perk up in a smile, and she cracks an eye open again, first greeting Esme’s smile with a bright one of her own, before looking over her shoulder to gind out a gravelly, “Lies!”
The defense earns giggles from both Kara and Esme, and Lena closes her eyes again, settling back in, fully intent on sleeping another hour at least. Kara and Esme take the hint and settle back in, and the three fall back to sleep.
Several hours later, all three have finished eating pancakes, and Kara has been sneaking brownies to fill the void. It’s slowly approaching 10 am which is the time Alex and Kelly had promised to return to gather Esme, in case the first sleep over was a little too light on sleep.
Lena and Kara have been stealing soft touches, a hand down a back, a quick hand squeeze, a hip bump, anything to feel physically connected, while also keeping their hands to themselves because they hadn’t actually gotten around to explaining to Esme that they were now together.
Lena looks at the clock and sends Esme up to her room to get her bag packed in case Alex and Kelly are in a hurry. She wants to make sure that she’s followed all their rules and expectations so that they don’t hesitate to let Esme come back. She knows the prolonged wait times before their text responses last night were a strike against her over-night babysitting privileges.
As soon as Esme’s all the way up the stairs, Kara pulls her in for a deep kiss, threading her fingers into the baby hairs at the back of her neck and tilting her head just right. Lena’s fingers dig into Kara’s t-shirt at her hips, before she firmly pushes her back, reluctant to end the kiss but trying hard not to get carried away. She takes a step back, but keeps her hands on Kara’s hips.
“You, are really good at that, but we have a niece to distract and entertain until we send her home, at which point we can resume this, okay?” It’s half stern, but half pleading.
Kara lets out an overly dramatic sigh, dropping her head back, putting on a show of her protest. She’s about to respond when her head quirks towards the door, indicating that Alex and Kelly had arrived. Lena lets go of her hips and heads to the door.
When she opens it she’s shocked to find not just Esme’s parents, but also Nia and Andrea standing on the door step, Nia is holding a pastry box and Lena can see that Andrea has two bottle of champagne, the good stuff, clutched to her chest.
“Um, hi?” Lena isn’t sure what to say at this impromptu party. Kara steps up behind her to get a clear look at the chaos that she could hear through the door.
“Surprise! Congratulations! We’re so happy!” Nia barks out, and barrels forward, the rest of the group following her into the house and gathering around the kitchen counter where Nia dramatically opens the top of the box to display a half sheet cake. Scrawled across it in beautiful loopy writing it says “FFS, Finally!”
Lena feels her cheeks burning and Kara erupts in laughter when she sees the message on the cake, once again stepping up behind Lena and wrapping her arms around her waist, and pressing a kiss to Lena's hair. Esme, having heard the arrival runs down the stairs to join the group, hugging her moms before asking what the cake is for.
“We’re celebrating your aunts finally figuring their shi- iii out…” Alex catches herself but can’t come up with a decent replacement for the swear word, so just lets it go. Kelly looks at her unamused and Andrea tries not to burst out laughing at the terrible attempt not to swear.
“What do you mean?”
“Well, we’ve all suffered waiting for them to get together. And they are finally together.” Andrea, surprisingly, is the one to explain in the simplest terms.
Esme looks like she’s about to say something, possibly about cousins, and Kelly jumps in to head that one off.
“So what better excuse for mid-morning cake? And champagne! Andrea, you get those open and I’ll get the glasses! Who wants to cut the cake?”
As they shuffle around the space, getting plates and glasses, Esme climbs up on one of the stools and tries to sound out the sentiment written on the cake. Which leads to Nia trying to explain that FFS is an acronym which means it stands for a series of words, and when Esme wants to know what words, Nia offers For Fudge Sake. Which leave Alex cursing Nia under her breath, because she knows this one is going to come back to bite her.
In the chaos around them, Lena and Kara stand, pressed together with Kara hugging Lena from behind, and Lena tilting her head back to rest on Kara’s shoulder, and bask in the joy of their weird family. They aren’t really paying attention to the chatter until Kara hears Alex talking to Andrea.
“FYI, that idiot over there got really jealous of your proximity to her woman, so for your future safety, just know that Supergirl has a big jealous streak.”
“Hey!” Kara lets go of Lena to turn to interject, but the whole group is nodding their agreement, and confirming that Andrea does in fact need to watch her back. “I’m not that bad!”
Lena leans up and places a soft kiss on Kara cheek, then pats it once before turning back to reach for a glass of champagne.
“Oh, darling, it’s not that embarassing. Besides, I reacted to you ‘friend-zoning’ me by buying a new house and moving.”
“Wait, what? That’s why you moved?”
Alright, I'll admit I had zero plan for this one after the first 5 chapters, so this has been an exercise in following where the characters lead. It's almost done now, so thank you to all who've left comments and feedback. I'm terrible at responding, but I do read them.
Kara and Lena arrive at Catco hand-in-hand, stepping off the elevator to a few raised eye brows. But no one dared say anything to the new editor-in-chief who had arrived to film her one-on-one interview with Cat Grant.
They make their way through the floor towards the executive office suite, where the blinds on the wall of windows are closed, and cameras and chairs have been arranged. Cat was giving a monologue of instructions to the lighting and sound crew and if she notices the hand-holding, she doesn’t react as she nods a greeting from the far side of the room.
Lena gives Kara’s hand a quick squeeze and lets go as Cat approaches.
“Kara, it’s a relief to see you, if I hadn’t grown used to your late arrivals and flimsy excuses as my assistant, I would be worried that you were standing me up.”
“It’s 10 minutes before the agreed upon time, Cat.” Lena rebuts the accusation immediately.
“Oh, well, isn’t this the most unsurprising surprise?” Cat purrs, eyeing Lena and then Kara. “So, exactly how many coming outs are we planning on doing today, Kiera?”
“You just called her the correct name, why switch back? You’ve already shown your hand.” Lena takes the bait, while Kara watches, unsure of what to do in this situation. She knew that Cat and Lena respected each other, otherwise Cat wouldn’t have sold her empire to Lena all those years ago. But she’d never witnessed them interacting, and it was both terrifying and exciting.
“Call if foreplay.” Cat responds, clearly baiting Lena with each quip. Lena responds by arching one eye brow and holding Cat’s gaze. “But something tells me you know a bit more about what kind of foreplay Kara likes.”
Kara chokes on air, but Cat and Lena hold their gaze, neither one breaking from the stare down for several seconds. The employees and camera crew in the room are silent, while also trying to disappear into the background, fully aware of the showdown happening between the two moguls. Finally Cat breaks, smiling and loosing all combativeness in her posture.
“Don’t worry, everyone here has signed a binding NDA, and only what is edited to air will be discussed. Kara, Lena, great to see you both,” She steps forward giving an air kiss to each cheek for each woman, before stepping back and eyeing Lena again. “Lena, both my condolences and congratulations on your recent tragic-slash-theraputic loss of your mother and brother. You look well.”
“Thank you, Cat. I see you are settling back into your role here. Glad to see Andrea hadn’t done too much damage with her ‘strategic direction.’”
“Don’t remind me that I’m mad at you for selling to her, but I suppose you redeemed yourself by alerting me that Andrea was looking to sell.”
“Wait, what?” Kara finally finds her voice in this exchange. “You were involved in this?”
Lena’s cheeks redden.
“I didn’t know Cat was going to offer you a job, I just had talked to Andi and knew she wanted out, and I do not want to return to any CEO positions anytime soon, so the number of people who I knew had the assets and also knew would care about the future of Catco were limited.”
“Oh, I see I have stirred up trouble for you and your … lover? Girlfriend? Partner? Oh, don’t tell me, you two are secretly married? That would just be the best headline. A super and a Luthor.”
“Cat, no.” Lena is firm. “Today is about Kara, coming out as herself, and not about me. I’m here to support her, not be part of the interview or prompt any salacious gossip.”
Cat turns to Kara, fixing her with the look that used to terrify her, the one that was equal parts “don’t disappoint me,” and “I can see right through you.”
“Alright, I suppose we should go through exactly what topics we will and won’t be talking about today, Kara Zor-El. Lena, I suppose you’re here to stay, as would be expected of the fiancée.”
The use of her real name, the one hardly anyone had spoken aloud in the last twenty years of her life, felt affirming in a way Kara hadn’t expected. The continued digging for confirmation of their relationship was also amusing. She smiled softly and moved to the couch area, sitting down and waiting for Cat and Lena to join her. Cat grabs a legal pad and perches across from her and Lena settles down next to her before holding eye contact with Cat while reaching over and lacing her fingers into Kara’s.
“You know,” Lena starts, “you’re the second person to propose on Kara’s behalf.”
Three days later, Kara and Lena are preparing to host a combined game night and viewing party for Kara’s coming out interview. They’d decided on Kara’s loft, despite the fact that they hadn’t spent a single night there since they’d gotten together. It felt right that Kara’s night should be in her home, where she’d watched the first Catco coverage of Supergirl’s debut and naming over six and half years earlier.
Lena has brought a supply of nice whiskey for Alex and herself, good wine for Kelly and Nia, and selection of alien liquors for Kara, J’onn and Brainy. She also had bought all the ingredients for Shirley Temples, along with fun straws for Esme, never leaving her out of their celebrations.
Kara has laid out all the games, and arranged a smorgasbord of snacks across the tiny kitchen counter and kitchen island in her loft. She steps back and appraises her work. Lena is behind her, futzing with a veggie tray.
“You know, I was really upset when you moved,” she starts thoughtfully, slowly.
“Yes, I know. That was not lost on anyone.”
“Yeah, well, I don’t like change.” She defends. “But, mostly, I didn’t like that you’d moved forward without me, and I had secretly been fantasizing about us, together, and how when we each moved on from our apartments, it would be something we picked together.”
A rush of regret passes through Lena. She didn’t regret making the choice she made, no, her new home was a very important step for her. And she knew the choice had been a catalyst to push them to admit their feelings aloud. But hearing that Kara had also thought about them picking out a place together felt like she had created a loss for herself.
Kara continued her thought aloud.
“But, you picked a pretty fantastic place. I love it for you. And if and when we’re ready to officially live together, if you don’t mind me moving into your space, I think it’s perfect.”
She turns to look at Lena, who takes a deep breath, setting down the veggies she’d been arranging and turning to Kara. She studies her for a minute, gathering her words.
“So we’re just saying ‘fuck it’ to all normal pacing and relationship expectations, then?” Kara gives her a lopsided smile, shrugging one shoulder. “I, uh, I bought the place because I felt sure that you’d never love me back, and I needed to let go of my own fantasy of us picking a place, a home, together. I love that you love it too, but,” Kara starts to interrupt and Lena plows forward, “But, I think when we’re ready to officially move in together, it can be a temporary place for us, because I would still like us to have that experience of finding something that fits us, together.”
Kara grins, stepping forward and wrapping her arms around Lena, who returns the embrace, while leaning back to make eye contact.
“Is that okay?”
“Yeah, yeah, it is. But also, we don’t have to hurry. We can, you know, wait until we’ve outgrown the space, like when we need more bedrooms.”
“Need more bedrooms? Excuse me, Kara, but are you not-so-subtly bringing up the discussion of a future baby?”
Kara pulls Lena in, burying her face in Lena’s hair to hide her embarrassment.
“So what if I am?”
Lena’s heart feels like it’s going to burst, her chest is so tight.
“Well, I think we have a lot to discuss, and a lot of milestones to pass before then. I should tell you that the idea of being a mother is terrifying, because I don’t exactly have a great model, but when I think about doing that, having a kid, with you. I, I think maybe I could get past those fears.”
Kara grips her tighter, swaying slightly.
“We don’t need to rush the conversation, I just, wanted to know if it was a possibility,” she tells Lena softly. “Thank you, I, I love the idea of raising kids with you. You will be the best mom.”
“Oh, kids? Plural? Oh boy. Yeah, we should wait a bit for this conversation. At least until after everyone leaves or else I’m going to have a full panic attack before the party.”
Kara laughs, pulls back to face Lena, and then lean in, placing a soft, soft kiss on her lips.
“Deal. Okay, what else do we need to do to get ready for everyone?”
Thank you all for reading and for your comments. I really had very little plan for this one, so happy that its turned out well.