It's like she's made it her personal mission to make you believe her when she says she loves you. You suppose you aren't surprised. Kara comes from a home where there was so much love, even when things were hard and Kara was angry and Alex was lost. The Danvers sisters had still always had each other.
(You'd had Lex once, but that's long over.
The day you'd found out he was trying to kill you, you knew that love was lost.)
Kara is insistent with it, even in the face of your denial. You tell her it isn't possible, you try to take two steps back away from her, but she just says it again. She doesn't leave you. She doesn't let you push too far.
You don't have to say it back, Lena. But I do love you.
When you only shake your head, she smiles and frames your face between hands that are exceedingly gentle.
Number seventeen of why I love you. You stick to what you believe.
And then she kisses you like there's all the time in the world, like you matter, like she wants you and only you. Her fingers stroke over your cheeks and into your hair, down your neck, across your shoulders. And you can only whimper and curl your fingers around her wrists, holding tight to her, the pulse beneath your fingertips strong and steady.
She continues like that, continues to tell you every day all of the reasons she loves you. Through texts, through notes, breathed into your skin.
Number twelve: the way you always look just a bit surprised before you smile, like you can't quite believe you have something to smile about.
Number four: the way you stop breathing for just a moment when I kiss you first.
Number thirty-six: the way you always wake up before me so that you can look at me when you think I don't know.
You save every message, you remember every moment. You write them all down in order and wonder if Kara really has a list or if she makes up numbers off the top of her head.
(You think maybe there is a real list because she never repeats a number. You've written down every one, and you have every number from two to fifty-three filled in.)
(She won't tell you number one yet. Not until you're ready to hear it, she says.)
You start making a list without realizing it. Reasons why you like Kara Danvers. They start off hesitant, perhaps a bit generic. You aren't sure what you're doing or why.
One: caring, sweet, gentle
Three: brave and strong (literally and mentally)
But then you're with her at dinner one night, pressed against her side in a booth across from Alex and Maggie, and you realize that she is always touching. A hand on your knee, a shoulder pressed to yours, fingers toying with the ends of your hair. Not possessive – there is no one here to act possessive for, no one who would care – but casual and warm. You find that you like it and mentally make a note to add it to your list later.
Number ten: the way she touches me like she wants me to always be within reach.
Every night when she holds you close beneath your sheets, she scatters kisses across your skin and whispers the words against your ear. I love you, Lena.
Number twenty-three: the way she always smiles when she says my name, with her lips or with her eyes.
And you start to find the words rise from your chest to your tongue, suddenly so present that you have to bite the inside of your cheek to keep them inside of yourself.
Number thirty-six: the way her heart sounds beneath my ear when she holds me while we sleep.
Number forty-one: the way she looks in the mornings with sunshine in her hair and sleepy eyes and a warm smile.
Number sixty-eight: the way she takes my hand when we walk through the park with ice cream cones and says that she’s holding two of her favorite things.
(You’re starting to think that perhaps it isn’t a list of reasons you like her, but of reasons you…)
By the time you give her the words, she’s told you one hundred and eighty-three reasons why she loves you. Your voice trembles when you say them and your arms wrap defensively around your stomach. There is an embarrassing sting behind your eyes and you never cry, not ever, but she says your name so reverently when she lowers her lips to yours that the tears escape you.
She catches every single one with thumbs and lips and a wide, happy smile before giving those words back to you again, as she has so many times. You can’t help but smile in return, your fingers sliding from her wrists to the crook of her elbows. There is a stretch of silence in which you take the time to steady yourself, to accept, to believe that something good is yours to keep.
Then you ask at long last what number one is on her list.
Number one, she whispers, holding you so carefully in her arms, her forehead dropping down until you’re pressed together and those blue, blue eyes are so close.
Number one, Lena, has always been that I love the way you love me back.