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you are the fire (and i'm gasoline)

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Lena meets Kara for the first time when she’s fifteen years old. Lena’s parents, Lex, and herself go down to their beach house in Midvale, like they do every year, except this time it’s different. Because this time there’s a new girl at the house just down the hill from the Luthors. From her bedroom window, Lena can see her running around the backyard with other girl, the one who has been there for as long as Lena can remember, blurs of blonde and brown hair shimmering in the sunlight every now and then.

It makes her wish Lex would still play with her, but he says they’re too old for that now—he’s twenty, and thinking about masters degrees and other important things she, according to him, can’t possibly understand yet. (She does understand. She wants to go to Harvard and study biomedical engineering to make a difference, but she hasn’t told anyone yet. Everyone thinks Lex is the genius, not her, and it’s easier to be invisible, anyway.)

Even though it’s summer break, everyone is busy with work. Her mother is reading scientific articles like they’re morning newspapers, and her father is doing paperwork for his company. All around the house, staff is working around the clock to keep it clean, which Lena appreciates, but it also makes everything look too white and too impersonal.

Everyone seems to know exactly what to do, except Lena. They’ve only been here a week and she has already read all the books she brought with her, one of Lex’s books on space and alien life, and even the really complicated one from her mother’s library about something medical she couldn’t quite wrap her head around. She has beaten the two only video games in the house three times at different difficulties, and explored every corner of the house.

So the only logical option now is to leave the house. She decides to ask her mother, because she’s the most likely to say yes. She does say yes.

(“Mom, can I go and play outside?”

“Whatever, Lena. Don’t forget dinner is at six.”)

Lena doesn’t waste another second. She quietly pulls open the front door, but as soon as it falls closed behind her, she starts running. Down the hill, to where the two girls are playing. As Lena gets closer, she realizes they’re holding jump ropes and there are several types of balls scattered around the grass, but then she’s too close and there’s hedges separating them from her and she can’t see anything anymore. Between the swishing sounds of the jump rope, she can hear them laughing and talking.

They sound like they’re having a lot of fun with the two of them, and Lena skids to a stop. Who says these girls will want to play with her? She doesn’t even know them, even though she’s been coming here for years. Who knows what the people in the town are saying about them—the Luthors. If they even notice their presence at all, since they never really come out of the house.

Something in her stomach twitches and she feels like she might be sick. These girls are having so much fun, they probably don’t want Lena to interrupt them. They’ll probably think she’s obnoxious and not as much fun. But she also can’t go back to the house, not now that she finally got out.

Feeling conflicted, she tentatively takes a few steps closer to the hedges to look through them. The girl with brown hair is now pitching balls at the other one with impressive swings, and the blonde is catching them with ease. It seems like a silly game—especially because the taller girl seems to be around the same age as Lena—until one of the balls flies over the blonde’s head by at least two yards. At first Lena thinks it was a mistake for the ball to have been thrown that high, but then the small girl levitates off the ground and catches it with a grin.

“Throw it higher, Alex,” she says, feet landing back on the grass, the ball still clutched in her hands.

“You know we’re not supposed to,” the brunette, Alex, says. “What if someone sees you? Mom and Dad would kill us.”

“No, they won’t. And no one is going to see us. I scanned the area, there’s no one around.”

Lena frowns. Something strange is going on here… Surely that girl can’t have really flown up to catch that ball. It must’ve been an optical illusion, caused by the dry air and the sun reflecting in Lena’s eyes. But still—somewhere deep down, she knows it was real. She doesn’t know what, but something is going on with that blonde girl. Part of her wants to stick around and find out, but part of her knows it’s private. According to Alex, no one was supposed to know. Lena is part of no one.

She lingers around for a moment longer, before deciding that whatever is going on here, it’s really none of her business. She takes a few steps backwards, meaning to turn around and going back to the house, or maybe even farther down the hill, but her foot gets stuck behind something and she feels a sharp pain shooting up her leg.

“Ow,” she groans, struggling to regain her footing. It’s hopeless, and she tumbles backwards into the dirt. In a reflex, she lets out a yelp, and reaches for her ankle. She wraps her hands around it, unhooking it from the hedge roots sticking out from the ground. It doesn’t actually hurt as much anymore now that she’s on the ground, but she still presses her fingers into the skin to feel for the painful spot.

On the other side of the hedge, the two girls have gone silent. Lena’s too preoccupied with her ankle to pay attention to them, and she doesn’t hear their footsteps approaching until they’re right on the other side of the hedge. Two pairs of eyes are staring at her from between the branches, one bright and one dark.

“Who’s there?”

“Uh—” Lena says. “No one?”

“Bullshit,” the same voice says, followed by another voice saying, “You’re not supposed to swear, Alex.”

“I won’t tell if you don’t.” The dark eyes disappear, and then the bright do, too. Lena can see movement behind the hedge, and less than ten seconds later, the two girls emerge from the gate a couple yards down.

Alex towers over Lena, hands on her sides, and she raises her eyebrows. “How long have you been there? Did you see anything?”

“N-no, I didn’t see anything. I just fell over,” Lena stutters, gesturing at her ankle. “I hurt my ankle.”

“Oh, Rao, I mean gosh,” the smaller girl says. She kneels down next to Lena. “Is it broken? Humans are so fragile.”

Lena blinks. She slowly lets go of her ankle, shaking her head. “No, I think I’m good. Um. I wasn’t spying on you guys or anything. I literally just walked by and made an unfortunate misstep.”

“Yeah, of course. Alex is just overreacting. She’s, uh, very territorial.” The girl reaches forward, fingertips hovering over Lena’s ankle. “Can I look?”

Lena looks at her then. Why does this girl think her opinion on the current state of Lena’s ankle is any better than her own? She looks like she must be at least two or three years younger than Lena, and Lena knows for a fact that she’s pretty smart for someone her age. But this girl has pretty eyes—they’re blue, she sees now—and for some reason, she nods.

From the corner of her eye, Lena sees Alex sighing and staring intently at them, and Lena decides that she doesn’t really like Alex. She’s too big and intimidating, and there’s something protective about the way she looks at this strange, strange girl. It reminds Lena a little bit of the way Lex used to look at her.

(He meant well, protecting her from bullies at school, but it kind of backfired and caused her friends to be too scared to hang out with her as well. She didn’t mind, at the time, because she had him and he was all she needed.)

“Does this hurt?” the girl puts a little bit of pressure on Lena’s ankle, and Lena shakes her head.

“What about this?”

“No. Uh—look, I’m fine. If you just help me up, I’ll go and leave you two alone,” Lena says, looking anywhere but Alex’s face. She grabs the girl’s extended hand and pulls herself up, surprised at how steady the girl’s footing is, and pats her pants to get rid of the dirt.

The girl frowns. “You don’t have to go. We don’t even know your name.”

“Lena,” Lena says. “Lena Luthor. I live up there for the summer.” She gestures at the house up the hill, prepares herself for those pretty blue eyes to turn cold.

But they don’t. Instead, they light up. “Really? I didn’t know anyone lived there. Anyway, this is Alex, my sister, and I’m Kara. Kara Zor—I mean, Kara Danvers.” Something does flicker in her eyes then, but when Lena blinks it’s gone, and she doesn’t want to intrude even more.

“Kara, can I talk to you for a second?” Alex makes it sound more like a demand than a question. Kara seems to notice this, too, because she doesn’t object this time.

“Wait here, we’ll be right back,” she smiles at Lena, who somehow can’t do anything but nod along stupidly.

She shakes her ankle and pats some more dirt off her pants, knowing full and well this is gonna result in a speech from at least one of the staff members and, if she’s unfortunate, her mother, and tries really hard not to pay attention to Kara and Alex’s conversation. But—

“You really shouldn’t be making friends with everyone you meet.” Alex’s voice is stern, like she’s still trying to demand things from Kara. Lena doesn’t like it. She knows what happened with her and Lex, and it might only be a matter of time before Alex turns her back on Kara, too.

“She seems nice, Alex. And humans have friends, right? If I should act more human, I should have friends.”

“I’m just saying she isn’t the type of person you should be friends with.”

“How do you know that?”

“She’s a Luthor. As in, LuthorCorp?” And then, after a moment of silence, “Her father owns the company. They’re really rich and not at all who people like us hang out with.”

Lena tries not to cringe at that, but she fails. Part of her really wants to walk away now, but Kara is defending her against her own sister, and they only just met. It would be disrespectful to just leave, for one thing, and she thinks Kara has been really nice to her so far, for another.

“Back on—” Kara mutters something that’s too low to understand. “We just hung out with whoever we wanted, rich or not. Lena seems nice enough. You don’t have to be friends with her, but I want to be.”

A pause. Then, “You don’t even know her.”

“All the more reason to give her a chance.” Kara’s voice is stern in a way Lena didn’t think was possible, and even though she tries really hard not to look, she spots Kara mirroring Alex’s hand-on-the-hips pose in what looks like a failed attempt to come across as more intimidating.

Alex, however, does give up, dramatically throwing her hands in the air. “Whatever. You do you. But I’m not responsible for the outcome.”

Kara smiles up at her, and then at Lena. She’s pretty when she smiles. And sure, there are some weird things going on here, but Lena is so desperate for friendship she doesn’t care. Kara is being nice to her, and just because she’s different than anyone Lena knows, that doesn’t mean it’s necessarily bad.

Kara comes up to her, leaving Alex cautiously eyeing the both of them, and smiles. “Sorry about that. What do you want to do?”

“I don’t know,” Lena says, trying very hard to focus on Kara and not look back at Alex. “How about we just play catch or something?”

 

They hang out—Lena doesn’t like the word ‘play’, it makes her feel like she’s still a child—in the Danvers’ backyard until Kara and Alex’s mother calls them for dinner. It’s 6:30 PM.

Lena has completely forgotten about the time until she realizes she promised her mother to be back at six, and suddenly she’s scrambling on her feet and yelling something about how she had fun and hopes they’ll enjoy their food, already running back up the hill to her own house.

Truth is: she can’t remember the last time she had this much fun. It’s not like they really did anything. They just laid in the grass and looked at clouds and played ball games. Most of the time Alex stayed in the background, watching their every move, while Lena and Kara laughed and talked and had fun, but didn’t really mingle.

Lena thinks it might be because Alex doesn’t like her—or trust her. Normally she would be worried about it, but Kara pretty much makes up for her sister’s cool attitude. Throughout the afternoon, Lena found herself paying less and less attention to Alex and more to Kara, which she considers a good thing.

She likes Kara. She’s easy to talk to, and she makes Lena forget about the stiff manners she’s been taught. With Kara, she’s just Lena, without the Luthor. It makes her feel lighter, like smiling isn’t just to pose for pictures.

(And because of that, Lena is quick to brush aside the fact that she literally saw Kara fly, and that sometimes Kara says odd things like she’s from another world.)

Out of breath, and undoubtedly red in the face from running uphill, Lena pushes open the front door. She steps into the hallway, once again patting het pants to shake off whatever remaining dirt is still on them, and makes her way to the dining room.

Everyone is there. Her parents, Lex, and pretty much the entire staff all look up and stare at her as she stumbles into the room. “I’m sorry for being late.”

“Lena,” her mother says, and the sharp edge to her voice makes the name sound like a gunshot in a quiet room. “Where have you been?”

Lena blinks, scrambling into her seat. “Uh, downtown?”

“Must’ve been very interesting, if you didn’t remember to check the time and be in time for dinner.” Her eyes flicker to somewhere behind Lena, and she holds up her hand palm facing forward with a shake of her head.

Lena’s father sighs in response, and Lex just looks down at his steak like none of this is happening. Lena just barely manages to glance over her shoulder to see one of their staff members walking away with what looks like a steak—her steak.

“Mom, please,” she begs, turning her attention back to her mother. Her stomach grumbles, and she presses her elbows into it in an attempt to silence it. “I’m sorry I was late, it won’t happen again, I promise.”

“You also promised to remember dinner at six, so clearly you don’t care about promises that much if you keep breaking them.” Her mother sighs exasperatedly. “I want you to go to your room and think about what you’ve done.”

“Mom—”

Now, Lena.”

Lena fights against the angry tears burning in her eyes, desperate not to show weakness in front of her mother. She slides out of her seat, the pain in her ankle playing up as her feet touch the floor, and half hops out of the dining room.

She hates it when her mother is like this. All she did was make a simple mistake, one that didn’t even really affect anything, and still she’s getting punished for it. It isn’t fair.

When she gets to her room, she feels her empty stomach weighing heavy in her body. She looks around the room for something to eat, but all she finds is an empty bag of potato chips, and some stale biscuits.

Feeling defeated, she climbs onto her bed and presses her face down into the pillow until her lungs are burning, screaming for air. Rolling onto her back, she takes a few deep breaths. She stares at the ceiling, the anger slowly drifting out of her body with every exhale. Her fists unclench. Her eyes dry. Her stomach still grumbles.

She lies on her bed for a while, trying to fall asleep so the morning comes sooner, because morning means breakfast, and she could really use some food right now. Eventually, though, she realizes she won’t be falling asleep any time soon. She’s too hungry, and even after playing around with Kara all day, she just isn’t tired enough.

Kara.

A small smile fights its way onto Lena’s lips, and she grumbles. Kara probably had a great dinner, one that involved actually eating food instead of being yelled at. Her mother—Eliza, Kara called her—seems much too nice for that.

Lena crawls out of bed. She crosses her room to sit down in the windowsill, the one from where she can see Kara’s house down the hill. It looks the same as this morning, except now Kara and Alex aren’t outside like before. Still, Lena keeps staring at the house, at the warmth she now knows radiates from it, wishing she could be down there instead.

Minutes turn into hours, and Lena grabs one of her favorite books to reread, glancing at the Danvers’ house every now and then. Nightfall comes, and everywhere along the path down the hill, windows light up one by one. Lena’s heart starts beating faster when the lights in Kara’s house turn on, for no reason at all except the knowledge that Kara’s down there, and she almost forgets about her empty stomach.

A knock on the door startles her, and after a beat of silence, Lex’s muffled voice reaches her ears. “Hey, Lena? Dad said to bring you some food.”

“Oh, did he now?” Lena bites her tongue to keep harsher words from slipping out, because he always does this. First he says nothing at all, then he tries to make it up by taking away one part of her mother’s punishment, like that’s the worst part of it all. And it’s not like Lex is much better these days. So she barely keeps herself from projecting her anger onto him. Instead she closes her book and says, “You can come in.”

Lex comes in, a sheepish look on his face. He’s holding a plate filled with mashed potatoes, some vegetables, and the steak that was taken away from Lena earlier. “Sorry mom was so hard on you earlier. You didn’t deserve that.”

“Yeah, well.” Lena shrugs, taking the plate from him. She digs into her food without another word, barely able to keep herself from gobbling it all down in one go.

Lex closes the door, and he pulls up a chair to sit next to Lena at her desk. “Where were you, though? You never stay out that long.”

And Lena wants to tell him. She wants to tell him about Kara and Alex, she wants to gush about Kara’s pretty eyes, her gentle voice, her beautiful smile. She wants to tell him about how she saw Kara fly up into the sky to grab a ball, and about how Kara sometimes speaks like she’s from another planet. But she doesn’t trust him anymore—not like she used to. He’s been too distant, lately, too focused on pleasing their mother. And who knows how much her views have started to influence his own.

So she lies. “Just down by the beach. The water was nice.”

He looks at her with a doubtful look in his eyes—he doesn’t believe her. For a moment she worries he might push her, but then he smiles that old Lex smile she loves so much, and ruffles her hair. “You’re a weird one, sometimes, Lee. But I love you. You know that, right?”

“Yeah,” she breathes, between bites. “I love you, too.” And she means it, despite him being withdrawn and distant lately. He’s her only friend. He’s all she has.

 

For the rest of the summer, she spends nearly every day with Kara. Sometimes Alex is there, sometimes she’s not. As more time passes, the less she sees of Alex, which is a development Lena doesn’t really mind.

After that first night, Lena makes sure to always be on time for dinner, and her mother mostly stays off her back. One time she jokes that she feels like Cinderella, always having to leave before the clock strikes, but it seems to go over Kara’s head, because Kara just stares at her blankly before forcing a laugh.

(On one of the more clouded days, they watch Alex’s VCR tape of Cinderella in Kara’s living room. Kara’s eyes light up at everything that happens, like she’s not quite used to the concept of movies, and afterwards she keeps singing the Fairy Godmother’s song to the point where Alex throws a pillow at her to shut her up. But Kara’s singing voice is nice, so Lena doesn’t mind.)

Spending time with the Danvers’, and especially with Kara, makes Lena’s heart feel lighter. Days seem to fly by, and for the first time in what feels like forever she finds herself dreading going back to boarding school at the end of summer. Where it used to be an escape from her mother's reigns, now it's just saying goodbye to what might be the best summer of her life. 

Near the end of summer, Lena and Kara convince Kara’s parents to let them go downtown. (As it turns out, Alex’s protective attitude is just copied from their parents, which Lena can understand because Kara is a… special girl.) ‘Downtown’ is actually literally going down the hill to the town, and Kara is a couple of feet ahead of Lena, running. Her hair is flowing behind her, and she laughs.

They go into town to go window shopping, and Kara actually gasps when they reach the toy store. It’s not big at all, but there’s wooden toys placed strategically, and some of them are even moving. There’s a little train driving around wooden track, carrying its cargo around and around, that’s Kara’s favorite. She stares at it for what feels like thirty minutes, and Lena watches her face and knows she could probably afford to buy it from her allowance. But before she can make up her mind to actually do it, something else has caught Kara’s attention: a deep blue spaceship with the S from Superman painted on the side of it hanging from the ceiling.

Her eyes flicker up, and Lena senses a shift in the air. She sees several emotions flash over Kara’s face, emotions that no thirteen-year-old should feel, that end in sadness. Kara’s shoulders hunch, and her hands ball into fists ever so slightly.

“Uh,” Lena says, in an attempt to distract Kara from whatever is making her sad. “I have some cash. Do you want to get ice cream?”

Kara blinks, snapping back into reality. She slowly turns to look at Lena, taking just a moment too long before nodding her head. “Yeah, I’d like that.”

Lena wraps her hand around Kara’s wrist, and gently tugs her towards the ice cream parlor Lex takes her to sometimes. She doesn’t know what’s going on with Kara, but they’re friends, and she has to take care of her friends. So she buys them both ice cream cones with two flavors and a lot of whipped cream on top. It seems to work. Kara relaxes as they walk down the street, eating their ice creams, and when they’ve both finished their own, she’s smiling again.

Lena makes a mental note to not bring up spaceships or Superman, because either of those upset Kara. She’s not entirely sure how Superman could upset anyone, really, because he’s doing great things like saving people’s lives, but whatever. She doesn’t want to lose Kara, so she doesn’t question it.

They walk down the main street, subconsciously following the signs pointing towards the boardwalk and the beach. When she was younger, Lex used to take Lena down to the beach all the time, and they’d build sandcastles and play in the ocean all day long. He’d tell her about all the strange creatures living in the deep blue, and about how the moon caused the tides to change. She used to think she’d be able to listen to his stories forever.

“Hey, Lena,” Kara says, staring at her with narrowed eyes. “Are you okay?”

Lena nods. “Yeah. Just thinking about my brother.”

“You have a brother?”

“His name is Lex.” Lena glances up the hill. From where they’re standing she can’t see their house, but she knows he’s there. Up in his room, doing whatever he’s been doing the entire summer. “We used to be close, but not anymore. I don’t think he wants to hang out with me anymore.”

“Well, he doesn’t know what he’s missing out on,” Kara says. She holds out her hand, waiting for Lena to grab it, and intertwines their fingers. “Come on, let’s go to the boardwalk. I’ve never been here without Alex.”

“Me either. Without Lex, I mean.”

Kara squeezes her hand firmly, and Lena briefly wonders how such a small girl can hold so much strength in her body. “That’s funny. Our siblings have similar names. You just add an A to Lex and you get Alex.”

Lena chuckles, letting herself be pulled towards the boardwalk. “If only they were such good friends as you and I.”

“Yeah, we’re best friends,” Kara grins, in such a casual way it makes Lena’s heart beat out of her chest. Then she frowns, and continues to add, “Actually, you’re also my only friend. But I don’t think anyone else could ever be as nice as you are, so even if I had a lot of friends you’d still be my best.”

“You’re my best friend, too.” Lena smiles. Her face must be flushed from the way she can feel her skin burning, but it doesn’t matter. She’s Kara’s best friend. It’s something she never knew she’d want, and everything she never wants to let go of again.

Once they’re on the boardwalk, Kara lets go of Lena’s hand in favor of climbing on the guardrail. She towers over Lena as they walk along the beach, placing each foot carefully in front of the other, her arms spread to her sides for balance. It’s stupid and reckless, and typically Kara—risking her life doing dumb, unnecessary things for fun. Yet somehow Lena isn’t that worried. She trusts Kara.

When they reach the end of the boardwalk, Kara gracefully jumps off the guardrail. She immediately kneels down in the sand to take off her shoes, an example Lena quickly follows, and less than a minute later they’re both running towards the water.

Lena drops her bag and shoes right before the wet part of the beach, and she doesn’t stop running until she’s knee-deep in the ocean. The waves crash against her thighs, splashing water onto her shorts, and she shivers involuntarily.

Kara, on the other hand, doesn’t seem to notice the cold at all. She’s shorter than Lena, so her shorts are pretty much soaked when she stands next to her, but there’s not even goosebumps on her skin.

For a long moment they stand next to each other, quiet and unmoving. And then, out of nowhere, both of them run their fingers through the water, splashing water on each other. They shriek at the same time, and Lena clenches her jaw to keep her teeth from clattering.

“You splashed me,” she growls, between laughs and shivers. “I’m literally soaked, Kara!”

“You splashed me first,” Kara laughs. Her hair is a couple of shades darker now, sticking to her forehead, and blue eyes are twinkling mischievously. Before Lena realizes what’s happening, Kara lunges at her, knocking them both over. Lena opens her mouth to scream, salt water immediately streaming into her throat. She coughs, laughs, and shrieks at the same time, struggling to push Kara away from her to get some air into her lungs.

Kara,” she manages to get out, resurfacing. She gasps for air, fingers digging into Kara’s arms just to have something to hold onto. “S-stop, I can’t b-breathe.” It comes out in gasps and laughs, but Kara immediately pulls her out of the water, worry flashing over her face.

Lena brushes her hair out of her face, leaning her hands on her knees as she takes deep breaths—in and out, in and out. Slowly her lungs stop burning, and the salt on her lips no longer tastes like suffocation. Kara’s hand is on her back, warm and secure, and Lena unconsciously leans into her touch.

“Are you okay?” Kara asks, voice shaking. “I’m so sorry.”

Lena looks up. “Yeah. Kara, I’m good. I’m great.” She doesn’t fail to notice the confusion in Kara’s eyes, but she can’t quite put it into words. How do you explain to someone whose eyes shine brighter than the stars what it’s like to find someone you genuinely care about after feeling alone for most of your life? Sure, she had Lex, and she supposes she cares about her father, too, but it’s not the same. They’re family. She didn’t choose them. But she chose Kara. She chooses Kara over anyone else. And even though they’ve only known each other for a couple of months, she’s pretty sure she’ll keep choosing Kara forever.

A gust of wind makes her shiver. “I’mma go out of the water now.”

“Oh, yeah, it’s a bit chilly,” Kara nods, but the reaction is delayed, like she’s reminded of how cold the water is supposed to be but doesn’t feel it herself.

They walk back to where their shoes are, and Lena takes the towel she brought from her bag, wrapping it around herself. With the bright sun shining down on them, it brings quite a bit of warmth.

Kara plops down in the sand, and Lena follows her example. Kara protectively wraps her arms around Lena’s waist, resting her head on Lena’s shoulder, and Lena can barely remember what it was like to be cold.

Minutes pass. Lena puts her arm around Kara’s shoulders, covering them both with her towel, and Kara moves closer to her on instinct. And they sit. They stare at the horizon, watching the sun move along the sky, not saying anything.

It’s a new thing for Lena—physical affection. But Kara seems to be overflowing with it. She finds she doesn’t mind when it’s Kara. She doesn’t mind a whole lot of things when it’s Kara.

Eventually she sighs. “You know, summer is coming to an end soon. Which means I’m going home soon.”

Kara looks up. “To Metropolis?”

“At first, yeah. And then back to boarding school.”

“In Ireland.”

“Yeah.”

“Ireland is far away from here, isn’t it?” Kara sounds sad.

“It’s in Europe,” Lena nods. “Pretty far away.”

It’s quiet for a moment. Then Kara lets go of Lena, and she looks down at her hands. “I’ve never been to school. I mean—not here. I wish you’d be there to help me through it.”

Lena gives her a soft smile. “You’ll be okay. I’m sure you’ll find new friends really quickly.”

“I don’t want to find new friends. I want you.” Kara glances up at the sky for a moment. She flexes her fingers. “Other people might think I’m weird.”

“There’s nothing wrong with weird, Kara,” Lena says. “People can love you even if you’re a bit weird.”

Kara sighs, leaning back into Lena’s shoulder. “I guess.”

Lena presses a kiss against the side of Kara’s head, pulling her closer. “I’ll be back next year, and I’ll fight everyone for you if they’re being rude.”

“Okay,” Kara smiles. “But summer’s not over for another week. We still have time. Can we go explore the caves in the hills tomorrow?”

“Sure,” Lena nods. “And you’re right. We still have time.”

 

But when she gets home, at 5:50 PM, there’s suitcases in the hallway. Staff is walking around with cleaning utensils, and her father comes rushing towards her as soon as she sets foot inside the house.

“Good, you’re here. Remind me to get you a cellphone when we get back to Metropolis so we can call you if necessary.” He places his hand on Lena’s back, leading her to the dining room, where Lex is the only one sitting at the table.

“What’s going on?” Lena asks, wearily. “Why are all those suitcases in there? Is mom going somewhere?”

“We’re going home early,” her father says. “I’m needed back at the company, and your mom and I decided that it’s best if we just go back with the four of us.”

Lena’s eyes widen. “What? No! We can’t. I promised—”

“It’s not up for discussion, Lena.” Her father’s voice is stern, but he softens when he sees her shocked expression. “Look, we know you’ve been making friends here, but you always knew we had to go back to Metropolis at some point. And school starts in less than two weeks for the both of you. Now come on, let’s eat dinner, and then you can go up to pack your bags. We’re leaving later tonight, so we’ll be back in the morning.”

Lex gives her a sympathetic smile. “You can use my phone to call your friend and tell her what’s going on, if you want.”

Lena picks up her fork to stab at her potatoes. “She doesn’t have a phone, and I don’t know her landline.” She doesn’t add that she’s pretty sure Kara doesn’t know how to use a landline.

“Then send her a letter. Surely she has a house with an address. She’ll understand.” Lex taps her shoe with his own underneath the table, something he used to do all the time when they were younger and their mother went off at Lena for whatever reason. And Lena appreciates how he’s trying to cheer her up, but it’s not about that.

She knows she can contact Kara. She can write her, figure out the Danvers’ phone number and ask for Kara, but she’d thought they’d have another week together and now all of that is cut short. And for what? Business. It’s always the same thing, and Lena’s tired of it.

All through dinner, Lex tries to cheer her up. He even offers her half of his dessert, which is always his favorite part, but his efforts go to waste.

As soon as she’s allowed to leave—her mother never shows up to dinner, and Lena sort of wants to yell at her about it for being a hypocrite—she flies to her room, and climbs into her windowsill. Down the hill, Kara and Alex are in their backyard, laying in the grass. They’re cloud gazing, or doing something that looks a lot like it, and after a minute or two, Kara curls into Alex’s embrace.

Lena throws a pillow across the room. She hates this. How she’s being swept away like it’s nothing, without an opportunity to say goodbye to Kara in person. She briefly considers sneaking out of the house, but there are too many people downstairs, and she wouldn’t make it out of her bedroom window without breaking at least four bones.

When Lex comes into her bedroom to help her pack her bags an hour later, she’s on her bed, reading a book. Next to her are two suitcases, fully packed and ready to go. He smiles and gives her a hug, and she tries to push away the overwhelming thought that she should’ve hugged Kara longer when they said goodbye earlier.

 

She does write her letter, on the plane on her way to Ireland. But the words sound too whiny on the page, and her handwriting suddenly looks illegible, and it could never be a sufficient explanation of why she didn’t show up to explore the caves the next day.

She rewrites the letter in her notebook when she’s in her dorm room, a stranger sitting across from her on the other bed. She rewrites it during History class, when she’s supposed to be taking notes on the philosophies of Ancient Greece. She rewrites it a thousand times, and in the end there’s nothing left of the original message. Instead it becomes a catharsis, an entire journal addressed to Kara, rather than a letter.

She stops writing eventually. She figures that since it’s almost Christmas now, Kara probably hates her for not showing up, for not writing her, for not frantically looking for another way to contact her. And when it’s Christmas break, and she’s back in Metropolis for two weeks, she doesn’t try to convince Lex to drive them down to Midvale for a couple of days.

Chapter Text

Lena!”

Lena barely has time to turn around before two strong arms are flung around her, squeezing her impossibly tight to the point where she can barely breathe. If it had been any other person, she’d have pushed them away, but all she can do now is hug Kara back.

“I’ve missed you,” Kara says, all bright smiles and warmth. She reaches up to adjust glasses that hadn’t been there before, and her hair is longer. She’s even prettier than Lena remembered. “When you didn’t show up the next day I went up to your house with Alex, and when someone finally answered the door he told us you and your family had left for Metropolis in a rush.”

Lena forces a smile, shrugging. She studies Kara’s face for any sign of anger or blame, but there’s nothing but sincere glee. “Yeah, we left during the night.”

She hadn’t meant to run into Kara. They’d been back in Midvale a couple of days now, and she’d succeeded in avoiding Kara so far, but today she’d gone to town to run some errands for the cook, and she hadn’t seen Kara until it was too late.

“Alex said something like that must’ve happened. I was kinda upset about it, until she said your parents probably kept you from coming down to say goodbye.” Kara reaches forward to touch Lena’s arm. “I’ve been looking out for you, though, ever since the start of summer break. Did you arrive last night?”

“Something like that.”

“You have to tell me all about your year,” Kara continues, clearly not noticing something is wrong. “And, by the way, no offense, but your accent is really bad now. You kinda sound a lot like an Irish tourist exploring the extremely interesting town of Midvale.”

Lena can’t help but crack a grin at that. She puts on her best accent and says, “Go way outta that,” which earns her a confused look and a loud laugh from Kara. Her heart jumps.

“That didn’t even sound English,” Kara laughs, almost bending backwards from laughing too hard. “Gosh, I’ve missed you.”

“Yeah, I’ve missed you, too,” Lena admits. She’s about to say something else when Alex seemingly appears out of nowhere, glancing between her and Kara. It’s clear she didn’t brush off Lena’s disappearance and radio silence as easily as Kara did.

“If it isn’t Lena Luthor,” Alex says, giving Lena a strained smile. “Didn’t know you’d be coming to town.”

“Every year.”

“Oh, I know. I just wasn’t sure you’d be coming this year, too. Guess you are.” Alex protectively wraps her arm around Kara’s shoulders, nudging her a little. “I guess I shouldn’t be surprised you managed to find Lena in the two seconds I left you alone to grab the bread mom asked us to bring.”

Kara’s eyes widen. “Oh, shizzle. Mom. Um. Hey, Lena? Can you come by my house later today? In, like, an hour? We’re baking cookies, and it’s a great catching-up-on-each-other’s-lives activity.”

Lena wants to say no. Partly because she’s still half convinced Kara hates her and is just being nice because she’s a nice person, partly because she feels bad for ignoring Kara’s existence for months and months when all she had to do was send the letter. But Kara is looking at her with large blue puppy eyes and a slight pout, and Lena finds herself saying yes instead.

 

After dropping the groceries off in the kitchen and tactfully avoiding any family members, Lena is back outside. Her stomach feels like it’s filled with butterflies, and as she’s walking down the path to Kara’s house, she starts doubting herself again. Should she really be doing this? Alex hadn’t been amused earlier, and Lena can’t blame her. She messed up big time, and she shouldn’t be getting a second chance.

Then again—it’s Kara.

It goes without saying that if Kara asks something of her, Lena does it.

Kara’s house hasn’t changed in the year that passed. It’s still light and pretty, with big windows looking out over the ocean. The path leading up to the front door is still the same, and a sense of familiarity washes over Lena. She spent a lot of time here last year. She knows this place.

She squares her shoulders a bit before ringing the doorbell, putting on her brightest smile as she hears footsteps approaching. The door swings open, and before she knows what’s happening, Eliza greets her with a hug.

“Kara’s been talking about you,” she says, a knowing smile on her face. “They’re in the kitchen. You know how to get there, don’t you?”

Lena pretends her heart doesn’t skip a beat upon hearing that Kara’s been talking about her, keeping her face straight. “Yeah, thanks, Mrs. Danvers.”

On her way to the kitchen, Lena passes the couch where she and Kara spent hours upon hours watching all the movies Lena made Kara watch for her general education—Mean Girls and The Princess Diaries included, but also tearjerkers like Titanic and The Notebook.

Kara and Alex are laughing when Lena steps into the kitchen. Kara is covered in flour while Alex is relatively clean, and when Lena clears her throat to announce her arrival, they both send a handful of flour her way as they turn around.

“Lena!” Kara exclaims, abandoning the pile of dough she’d been kneading in favor of throwing her arms around Lena—covering them both in flour. Lena’s heart sinks at the realization that she’ll have to sneak into her house later on to change before her mother finds out, but it beats twice as fast as she returns Kara’s hug.

“You’ve already seen me today,” she grins, missing Kara’s warmth the moment she pulls back.

Kara shrugs. “Well, yeah. But I haven’t seen you in all the days before that so we have to make up all the hugs we missed because of that.”

“Alright,” Lena nods. “How far along are you with those cookies?”

“Um, we burned the first batch—”

“You mean you burned the first batch,” Alex interrupts, nodding her head at the trash can. “If you’d just paid better attention we could’ve been eating cookies now.”

An exaggerated pout finds its way to Kara’s lips. “I was just a little excited.”

Lena glances between Kara and Alex, and she feels a little like she’s missing out on something. In the past year the sisters have clearly grown closer, and they seem more comfortable around each other. Whereas last summer Alex would sometimes treat Kara as someone inferior to her, they’re equals now.

And as they’re baking cookies, Kara and Alex fooling around with inside jokes and violent flour attacks, Lena can’t help but feel a little left out. Catching up with Kara turns into staring at Kara bantering with her sister from across the kitchen, something Lena probably should’ve seen coming but somehow didn’t.

Lena keeps to herself, cutting shapes in the dough and watching Kara choosing someone over her, until all the dough is gone and the oven is turning it into cookies. She’s quiet while they’re all cleaning the kitchen, mopping up spilled flour and pretending she knows what she’s doing because she never cleans except when she’s at Kara’s. It’s not unpleasant.

What is unpleasant, however, is when Eliza needs Kara for something upstairs, and Lena is left in the kitchen with only Alex to keep her company. Alex, who never liked Lena and who never pretended to.

Alex, who is now towering over Lena as she’s scrubbing the floor. Alex, whose hands seem to be permanently planted in her sides and whose eyebrows are always frowning whenever she’s looking at Lena.

Lena tries to smile at her. It backfires.

“Where were you?” Alex asks, although it sounds more like a demand than a question.

Lena blinks. “Ireland.”

“Yeah, no fucking shit. I meant why didn’t you write Kara? She waited for a letter or a phone call until Christmas before giving up. More than once my dad had to carry her upstairs after she’d fallen asleep next to the phone or the mail box.”

A million thoughts race through Lena’s mind, but none of them are substantial enough to grab her attention, except… “She waited for me?”

Alex crosses her arms over her chest, rolling her eyes so hard they might just fly out of their sockets. “You were her only friend, Lena. She was desperate for some sort of contact with you.”

And that’s when it dawns on Lena—she was what Kara was to her. A friend, someone to take your mind off of things when the world got too overwhelming. Just because Kara has Alex doesn’t mean it makes everything okay, just like having Lex doesn’t mean Lena isn’t still miserable most of the time.

A rush of guilt washes over her, and she blinks and blinks and blinks until she’s sure she won’t start to cry. She has no right to cry.

“I didn’t know—” she starts, but as the words fall out of her mouth, she knows it’s bullshit. She knew. She spent all summer with Kara. She knew.

Alex looks like she might punch Lena in the face, and Lena wouldn’t blame her, and there’s fire behind her eyes.

But before she can do anything, Kara rushes into the kitchen. “We have to take the cookies out before they burn again. Didn’t you guys hear the alarm going off?”

Lena snaps back into reality, and suddenly the blaring of the kitchen timer is everywhere. She rushes to turn it off at the same time Alex grabs a pair of oven mitts to pull out the final batch of cookies. (From the corner of her eye, Lena sees Kara reaching out for the still-really-hot cookies and stuffing two of them into her mouth simultaneously. She doesn’t mention it.)

 

After the cookies are done and the kitchen is all cleaned up, Lena makes up a lame excuse that she promised to help her father with something in the house to get out of spending any more time with Alex than absolutely necessary.

Kara’s disappointed expression makes Lena’s heart clench, and without intending to, she promises to be back the next day and that they can catch up then. It makes Kara smile as she hugs her goodbye, rambling slightly about how they can go to the secret spot she discovered a couple of months ago.

When Lena gets back to the house, her parents are in their respective offices, and Lex is stealing a slice of pizza from the fridge. He offers to steal some for her, too, but she isn’t hungry so she shakes her head. He gives her a long look, and then he ruffles her hair with a grin and disappears back into his room upstairs.

She misses him, almost just as much as she misses Kara. Despite going to college in Metropolis, he moved out into his own apartment across the city, and throughout the year he was often too busy studying and interning at LuthorCorp for their weekly Skype-sessions. Even now, during the summer break, he’s in his room even more than last year.

Lena can’t help but wonder if somehow it’s her fault he’s withdrawing from her.

 

She goes down to the Danvers residence after breakfast the next day, and thankfully Kara is on her own when she emerges from the house. “Hey,” she says with a smile.

“Hey,” Lena smiles back, glancing over Kara’s shoulder. “Is Alex not coming with us today?”

“No, Alex already knows the spot I wanna show you. She said she didn’t wanna come.” Kara swings her bag over her shoulder and readjusts her glasses—they look good on her. Somehow, they make her look more mature, or perhaps just less nervous.

“Oh,” is all Lena manages to say without sounding too relieved at that. She doesn’t want Kara to know she’s slightly afraid of her sister. “Well, okay. Where is this spot?”

“It’s actually a little up there,” Kara says, vaguely pointing in the direction Lena just came from. “Come on.”

Lena’s not sure how up the hill can be exciting in any way, but, judging from the way Kara is practically bouncing on her feet, she clearly disagrees. So she follows Kara back up the path towards her house, the slightest of nerves humming in the pit of her stomach. What if they run into someone she knows? Her parents and Lex have never actually seen Kara. All they know is that Lena has a friend downtown that she prefers to spend her time with over her own family. What if her mother sees them from inside the house? What if—

But then Kara veers off the path. They’re technically not on Luthor property, Lena knows, because there’s a fence around her house, but that fence has security cameras attached to it.

“Are you sure this is the right way?” she asks, taking a few long strides to keep up with Kara. “I’ve never found a spot of any kind here.”

“Yeah, but you only live here a couple of months a year,” Kara says. She seems to realize she’s walking too quickly for Lena, slowing down a bit. “I’ve had the entire year to explore all around here. And have you ever gone off the path outside of the fence?”

“No, but—”

“See? You can trust me.”

Lena nods. She trusts Kara. She just doesn’t trust her parents and their staff to be okay with her and Kara sneaking around the cliffs like it’s no big deal.

They hike for another ten minutes before Kara quite suddenly stops walking. She looks around, taps her foot in several places, and then smiles. “We’re here.”

Lena frowns. “I don’t see anything?”

“It’s underground,” Kara says in a mysterious voice, wiggling her eyebrows. She sinks down to her knees, and then she’s gone.

Lena’s eyes go wide in shock, and she looks around. “Kara? Where are you?”

“Down here! Be careful, there’s a hole in the ground, and—”

Lena’s foot steps into nothingness, and with a shriek she slides down a semi-steep slope of dirt and rocks that sort of hurts her butt. (With a sigh, she wonders why hanging out with Kara always ends in having to wash her clothes.)

When she comes to a stop, she takes a few deep breaths before looking around. Right in front of her is Kara, grinning at her with her arms spread wide like a bird. Pretty much all around her is more dirt and more rocks, except behind Kara, where all she can see is the blue of the sky. The ground is covered in a soft white sand.

They’re in a cave.

Lena scrambles to her feet. “How did you find this place?”

“Like I said, I was exploring.” Kara’s eyes wander the walls of the cave, the ceiling that may or may not collapse on them while they’re in here, down to her feet—anywhere but Lena’s face. “You can see the entire ocean from here.”

Lena’s heart skips a beat as Kara walks to the edge of the cave. “Um, Kara? Come back here, please? You don’t know if the ground here is strong enough to hold you. What if it breaks and you fall all the way down?”

“Lena, stop worrying,” Kara grins. She sits down and pats the ground besides her. “Come sit with me.”

“No thanks, I’d rather stay here.”

Kara turns her upper body, legs dangling over the edge of the cave. “Are you afraid of heights?” she asks in an amused voice. “I always thought you weren’t afraid of anything.”

Lena purses her lips. “No. I just don’t want to fall to my death. And you shouldn’t either.” I can’t lose you is on the tip of her tongue, but she stubbornly swallows the words.

Kara stares at her, but with the sun shining into the cave from behind her, Lena can’t actually see her facial expression. “I promise you, I won’t fall. And you won’t either.”

Somewhere in the back of Lena’s mind, she remembers Kara flying up to catch a ball last year, before they became friends, and she knows, deep down, that Kara is right. She won’t fall. But it doesn’t take Lena’s anxiety away. At this point she’s not even sure if what she saw really happened. People don’t fly. Not even Kara, who seems so much like an angel sometimes.

“Okay, how about you stand a few feet away from the ledge, and I hold your hand for if you do fall. You have to see this view, Lena. It’s the prettiest thing ever.” Kara jumps to her feet, holding out her hand. And, like, Lena can’t really resist that.

With her heart beating in her throat, she complies. She’s pretty sure her palms are sweaty the whole time Kara holds her hand, but neither of them says anything about it. Her feet are unsure as she steps closer to the edge, and her stomach turns as she looks over it. They’re at least a thousand feet up high, the cliff going down so steeply she can’t see the bottom from where she’s hesitantly leaning closer to the edge. Down below and all the way in front of them is the ocean, stretched out for as far as she can see, in a certain blue that makes it hard to see the line where the sky meets the sea.

 “Pretty, isn’t it?”

“More like terrifying.” Lena counts to ten, twenty, even makes it to thirty before closing her eyes and leaping backwards. Her shoulder almost gets ripped out of its joint from Kara still holding her hand, but at least she can breathe again.

She crosses the cave as far away back as possible—which isn’t far, because it’s not that deep of a cave—and bends forward, her hands on her knees. “Okay, maybe I am afraid of heights. Please don’t ever make me do that again.”

Kara lets out a laugh, and she follows Lena farther into the cave. She plops down in the sand. “I’m sorry. I didn’t know you’d be scared.” She doesn’t sound very sorry.

“It’s okay,” Lena sighs, finally calm enough to take control over her body again. She sits down next to Kara, pressing her palms flat against the sand. It’s comfortable, warmed up by the rising sun, and she breathes. “The view is pretty. But I’d rather see it from here than there.”

Kara looks at her with a soft smile on her lips. “Do you want to go back? We can just hang out in my backyard instead of here, if you want.”

“No,” Lena says. “I’m okay now.”

They sit in silence for a while. Across the ocean, the sun continues to rise, warming up their faces. Somehow they end up lying down, Kara curled into Lena, and Lena closes her eyes for just a second.

 

A sound she can’t quite place wakes her up, and it takes her a moment to realize it’s Kara whimpering softly in her sleep. Behind closed eyelids her eyes are moving back and forth—REM sleep, Lena knows—and it’s not hard to figure out she’s dreaming. Or rather, having a nightmare.

For the first time since they met, Kara’s face is drenched in sweat, and her hands are balled into fists. She’s trembling all over, muttering something in a language Lena has never heard before.

“Kara,” Lena whispers. “Kara, wake up.”

She reaches out to shake Kara’s shoulder, but before she gets the chance, Kara’s eyes fly open. Within a second after waking up, Kara leaps backwards until her back hits the wall of the cave with such force a few pieces of stone fall down from the ceiling. Her eyes hold a bewildered look, like Kara’s looking at Lena but not seeing her, and she’s breathing heavily.

Minutes pass as they stare at each other, unmoving and not making any sound. Lena doesn’t know what to do. Obviously Kara wasn’t having a regular nightmare, and Lena’s pretty sure she’s not equipped to deal with whatever is going on here. Then, just when she starts to worry that Kara’s forever frozen in this position of what seems like pure fright, something changes.

Kara’s muscles relax, and she slides down to the floor with her back to the wall. Her shoulders are shaking in what Lena recognizes as sobs, and suddenly she realizes the wetness on Kara’s cheeks isn’t from sweating but from crying.

“…Kara?” she whispers, reaching out her hand. She doesn’t want to overstep her boundaries now.

Kara’s eyes snap up to Lena’s face. For a moment nothing happens. Then Lena takes a leap of faith and surges forward to wrap her arms around Kara’s shoulders.

Kara doesn’t push her away.

She feels too small, too thin, too young in Lena’s arms. They don’t talk. Lena’s never been good at comforting other people, but she does know how to hold someone, so she holds Kara until she’s no longer crying and her breathing slows down.

“I’m okay now,” Kara whispers eventually, which Lena takes as a sign to let go. She retreats to the other side of the cave, trying really hard not to watch Kara at the same time. She forces herself to stare at the ocean instead, at the clouds drifting by, miles and miles away from them.

It seems to be the right thing to do. Kara sits across from her, her arms wrapped around her pulled up legs. It’s quiet for a moment.

“My parents, they’re—” Kara pauses to take a few shaky breaths. In and out. “I lost them. It happened years ago, but I still get nightmares sometimes. And sometimes I don’t know what’s real and what’s not real. Like, the specifics all blur together and I just…I don’t know. Eliza says it’s normal, that I’m processing a trauma, but where I’m from those things don’t happen.”

Lena looks at her. Kara is only fourteen. Fourteen-year-old girls shouldn’t have to deal with things like this. And she really doesn’t know what to say. So she says nothing. She’s not sure Kara even notices.

“And they’re all really nice, you know? Eliza and Jeremiah didn’t have to take me in, but they did, and Alex is the best sister I could ever wish for, but there’s just something missing. My—everything I knew is gone, and—I can’t…” Her eyes find Lena’s, a certain kind of desperation shining through them. “They don’t know. They don’t understand. They try to, but they can’t.”

For some reason, perhaps in an attempt to make Kara realize she’s not alone, Lena blurts out, “My parents died in a car accident when I was three. It was a drunk driver, I guess, that crashed into us at a crossroad. I’ve still got a scar from where the broken glass cut me when they pulled me out of the wreckage.” She gestures at her eyebrow. “I don’t really remember a lot, except my mother screaming and the smell of burnt tires.”

It helps, maybe. Kara’s brow furrows, and she blinks. “I thought Lionel and Lillian were your parents.”

“They are. I was adopted.”

“Oh. I guess I am, too.” Kara fidgets with her glasses. Her hands are steady again, no longer shaking. “Thanks. For telling me that. It, um. It helped.”

Lena gives Kara her best smile. (She doubts it’s convincing.) “You’re welcome.” She feels lighter too, now, like by telling Kara she took off some of the weight. And maybe it’s the way Kara’s looking at her now, with a certain tenderness shining through the sadness, that makes bringing up painful memories worth it.

“Today was supposed to be a fun day,” Kara sighs, crawling across the cave to where Lena is sitting. “Sorry for ruining it with my stupid nightmare.”

Lena reaches out to pull Kara closer, leaning her cheek against her hair. It feels good, this type of physical contact after letting out some feelings. It’s new to her. “It’s not stupid. You’re never stupid. You just went through some shit, and that’s not your fault.”

“You’re not supposed to say bad words,” Kara mumbles then. “Eliza gets mad at Alex when she does it.”

A moment passes. Then Lena starts laughing. “Out of everything I just said, that’s what you chose to comment on? My use of swearwords. Seriously, Kara?”

And Kara laughs, too. A lighter laugh, without the weight of the past pulling it down. It’s beautiful.

 

Despite Lena’s fear of heights, the cave sort of becomes their spot. Instead of Kara’s backyard, they now spend a lot of their time there, talking about pretty much everything—from the newest movie that’s supposed to come out later that week, to the people in Kara’s school. Sometimes they even talk about Kara’s life from before, but only when Kara brings it up, and the details are always a little vague.

Lena learns to love the cave. Mostly because Kara likes it a lot, but what makes it even better is that it’s always just the two of them. Kara never brings Alex, because it’s their spot. Lena’s and Kara’s. No other people allowed.

As they spend more and more time in there, the sand no longer gives enough comfort, so Lena steals pillows and blankets from one of the spare bedrooms in her house that no one ever enters, and they build a blanket fort looking out over the Atlantic Ocean. Kara provides food, of which she eats most herself, and halfway through July, Lena is pretty sure she spends more time in the cave than in her own room.

One night they go back after dinner to watch the stars spread out over the ocean, and it’s so pretty Lena almost forgets how high up they are, until she’s less than a foot away from the edge. She jumps back with a shriek and bumps into Kara, who topples over, and then they’re both in the sand, laughing.

Lena forgets all about the stars and how pretty they are at the sight of Kara laughing, because even in the bad torch lighting, Kara is prettier than all the stars combined. Something twists in Lena’s stomach. She wants to lean forward and press her lips against Kara’s, and she almost does, but then she realizes what she’s doing and she stops herself just in time before Kara notices anything.

 

Lena tries not to think about it too much. Kara’s just a friend—her best friend—and she doesn’t want that to change. Her life is hard enough as it is, and she doesn’t need the pain of heartbreak added to that mix. The fact that Kara’s a girl, like herself, doesn’t bother her—courtesy of going to an all-girls boarding school, she figures.

Of course, the more she tries not to think about it, the more she finds her heart beating in her throat every time Kara smiles at her.

 

They’re in the middle of watching Ice Age: The Meltdown with Alex in Kara’s living room with when Lena’s world is flipped upside down. Everyone is only just figuring out the ice is melting when Kara peers up with the strange look in her eyes she gets sometimes, a slight frown between her eyebrows.

Lena ignores it, like she usually does when Kara does something out of the ordinary, but Alex throws a piece of popcorn in Kara’s face. “You okay?”

“Yeah, I just—” Kara shakes her head. She readjusts her glasses, sinking back into the couch. “It’s probably nothing.”

It doesn’t look like nothing, but Lena knows better than to push Kara into talking. She tries to return her focus on the movie, where everyone seems to be panicking about the melting ice, and not to pay too much attention to Kara. Of course, she’s still hyperaware of Kara. She’s always hyperaware of Kara, and even though they’re not necessarily sitting close to each other, she feels like a small amount of electricity is bouncing around inside of her.

A few minutes pass in relative silence, the only real sound coming from the television, and things almost go back to normal. Then Kara sits up again, eyes snapping to the wall separating the living room from the front yard, and both Alex and Lena stare at her in confusion.

“Kara, what the f—” Alex starts, but the answer to her question comes before she can finish.

Outside, the blaring sirens of an ambulance are approaching quickly. All three of them jump up, because none of that ever happens in Midvale, and because if they’re this close already, the chances of them knowing the ambulance’s destination is pretty big. For a moment, there’s nothing to see. Then a flash of white and red flies by, up the hill.

Lena’s blood goes cold. “Lex,” she barely breathes, staggering backwards. “Shit. I—I have to go.”

Kara looks like she’s about to say something, but Alex is faster. “Of course. Let us know when you hear something, okay?”

“Yeah. Fuck.” Lena doesn’t bother to grab her coat or say anything else. Her heart is beating in her throat as she runs out of the Danvers’ house, up the hill to her own. There are no other houses, and she knows she shouldn’t be surprised at the ambulance standing on her doorstep but it causes her to stop in her tracks anyway. All its doors are open, and when she runs inside some of the staff are waiting anxiously in the hallway.

“What’s going on?” Lena asks no one in particular. “Is Lex okay?”

“Your brother is fine, Ms. Luthor,” Carl, the butler, says. “It’s—”

Right at that moment, the door of her father’s study swings open, and a bunch of people come streaming out of it. First is a medic, then a stretcher, then another medic, and, finally, her mother with a stoic face, but emotion reflecting in her eyes. Which means…

Dad,” Lena all but screams. Her knees feel weak, and she isn’t confident they’ll be able to sustain her weight much longer. “Mom, what’s going on?”

Her mother’s eyes focus on her, and for the first time in years, she doesn’t look at her like Lena’s a pile of dirt. “Dad had a heart attack. They’re taking him to the hospital now. I’ve already called Lex—he was out of town for business, but he’s coming back as soon as possible.”

A heart attack. “But that doesn’t make any sense. Dad ate healthy and exercises regularly, and—” Lena’s rambling, digging through all her knowledge on cardio and health, but her mother shakes her head, and she stops.

“Sometimes bad things happen, Lena.” She’s no longer looking at her now, instead returning her focus to the stretcher. Lena follows her gaze and almost chokes on a sob.

Her father is lying pale and unconscious on the stretcher as it’s being loaded into the ambulance. One of the paramedics climbs into the front seat, behind the steering wheel, and the other stays with Lena’s father in the back.

“We only have one seat left,” he says, and even though Lena’s mother doesn’t physically push Lena away, it feels a lot like it when she brushes past her into the ambulance without saying another word.

“Mom…” Lena manages to croak out. “What am I supposed to do?”

It’s the medic that replies. “We’re going to Midvale Hospital Center. Do you have any way of getting there?”

Despite the entire staff staring at her, Lena’s first thought is Kara—or, well, Kara’s parents. She nods. “I think so.”

“Have faith,” the medic says, and then he shuts the door and the ambulance is racing back down the hill, sirens flashing and blaring.

For a few moments, Lena’s too numb to do anything. Her tears have stopped falling, and she’s not really sure how she hasn’t crumbled to the ground yet, but when someone puts a hand on her shoulder, she’s shaken awake.

Ignoring Carl, she wipes her face with the back of her hand, and starts running back down the hill.

 

Kara holds Lena’s hand all the way to the hospital. They’re squished together in the back of Kara’s parents’ car, Kara insisting to sit in the middle seat instead of by the window.

Lena’s face is tear-stained and puffy, and she’s pretty sure that if her mother saw her now she would scold her about professionalism and the need to always look camera-ready. And despite knowing that it’s a perfectly normal reaction for a sixteen-year old whose father was just taken to the hospital after a heart attack to be crying, she hides her face by staring out the window instead of at Kara.

Lena knows she doesn’t deserve a friend like Kara, but she can’t help but be grateful for the soft circles drawn on the back of her hand. She clings to them like a lifeline.

 

Once they’re in the hospital, Kara’s parents sort of guide Lena through it all. They talk to the receptionist so Lena won’t have to do it herself, and they figure out exactly where to go to wait for Lena’s father to get out of surgery.

Her mother is already seated in the waiting room, looking professional and camera-ready, like she didn’t just hitch a ride in the ambulance that picked up her husband after he almost died. She doesn’t look surprised when Lena walks into the room, but her eyes do flicker to the Danvers’, and Lena wishes she’d just gone to the cafeteria instead.

It’s the first time any of her family members meet Kara and her parents, and this is not how she wanted that to happen. (She never wanted it to happen in the first place, but alas.) The air is tense, and no one really seems to know what to do or say. Lena never elaborated on where she disappeared to every day other than the fact that it was a friend, and other than sometimes mentioning Lex, she barely spoke of her family to Kara.

She squares her shoulders and sits down in a seat a couple away from her mother. “How’s Dad?”

“They just took him up for surgery,” her mother replies, eyes still focused on the Danvers’ as Kara sits down next to Lena, and her parents sit down opposite of them. “He’s in good hands.”

A wave of relief washes over Lena, and she allows her shoulders to relax a little. Next to her, Kara’s fingers twitch against her side, but she ignores it—just because Eliza and Jeremiah are used to seeing their daughter and Lena being close doesn’t mean Lena’s mother is, too.

“Where’s Lex?” she asks instead, feeling like she can breathe for the first time in what feels like hours but realistically can’t be more than forty-five minutes.

“On his way from Metropolis. He was meeting with some people for the business.” Her mother’s voice is cold, and Lena knows not to ask any further questions. She doesn’t need to. Her father will be okay.

The hour that follows must be one of the most uncomfortable ones Lena has ever lived through—and she lived through many. Kara is restless, getting up to get everyone plastic cups of water at least three times, and whenever she’s seated, she’s tapping her foot or drumming her fingers. Kara’s parents are talking in hushed voices, and her mother is quasi-casually flipping through magazines without actually reading a single word. And Lena keeps her eyes trained on the door, in case someone—anyone with news—walks through.

Finally, a woman in blue scrubs and a white coat opens the door with a timid smile. Directly behind her is Lex, and while Lena’s mother leaps up from her seat in an uncharacteristic manner to talk to the doctor, Lena flies across the room into her brother’s embrace.

“He’s out of surgery, Lee,” Lex says into her ear, rubbing up and down her back. “It went well. I ran into the doctor on my way here, and she told me all about what they did. He’s gonna be fine.”

Everything is blurry as Lena pulls back from the hug, and she wipes her face with her shirtsleeves. Lex is looking down at her with a soft smile, his hand hovering on her back like he’s ready to catch her if her knees buckle. He reaches out to wipe away a last tear running down her cheek, before his gaze flickers to where their mother is talking to the doctor. In any other situation, Lena would’ve been interested in hearing what they had to say, but right now she can’t really think anything else than dad’s gonna be fine.

“Can we see him?” she asks, her voice surprisingly hoarse.

“Doc said one at the time,” Lex says. “Mom’s probably gonna wanna go first, so how about we grab something to eat from the cafeteria in the meantime?”

Lena nods. “Yeah, okay. I just gotta—” She turns around to where Kara and her parents are standing, looking both relieved and slightly out of place in this family matter. Putting on her best smile, she takes a deep breath to steady her voice. “Thank you for driving me, and for staying with us while we waited for news.”

“Of course, Lena,” Eliza smiles. “No problem at all.”

Lena looks at Kara, who’s staring at Lex, and suddenly she realizes the two most important people in her life haven’t been properly introduced yet. Which, admittedly, is what she was hoping for because while she loves Lex, he has some… interesting views, and she’s not sure she wants to expose Kara to that. But now that they’re in the same room, she can’t not introduce them.

“Oh, before we go,” she tugs Lex’s sleeve, gesturing at Kara. “This is Kara. My friend. And her parents. They drove me to the hospital because I couldn’t come along on the ambulance.”

“Yes! Kara.” Lex smiles at Kara like’s heard that name before. (He hasn’t.) He steps past Lena to shake Kara’s hand. “Hi, I’m Lex. It’s good to finally meet the girl Lena has been spending so much time with.”

“Kara Danvers,” Kara says, without any hesitations. “Nice to meet you, too.” She has to physically look up at Lex, even more than Lena, but for some reason the two of them shaking hands doesn’t feel off. Lena can’t help but smile and wonder if she was wrong for building such a wall between them.

“And you must be Kara’s parents,” Lex continues, shaking both Eliza and Jeremiah’s hands. “Thank you for driving my sister to the hospital. I would have done it myself, but work got in the way—you know how it is. I’m glad she’s got such a strong support system in you.”

“Likewise,” Eliza smiles. And then, “We’ll leave you two be now. Keep us updated on the situation with your father, alright, Lena? Come on, Kara. Let’s give them some privacy.”

Lena nods, and gives Kara a quick hug. “I’ll see you tomorrow, probably.”

Kara grabs Lena’s hand to give it a soft squeeze, and then she follows her parents out of the waiting room.

On the other side of the room, Lena’s mother is done talking to the doctor and hugging Lex now, looking more vulnerable than she has in the past couple of hours. Once they pull apart, however, she regains her cool composition. “I’m going to see your father now. I’ll let you know when I’m done.”

They all exit the waiting room together, but then Lena and Lex go left, while their mother goes right. Lena glances over her shoulder with a sigh.

“If she’s going first I doubt we’re going to see him at all today before visiting hours are over.”

Lex lets out something between a hum in agreement and a chuckle. “Then we’ll go see him tomorrow. He’s probably still knocked out anyway, so we’re not missing much.” He wraps his arm around Lena’s shoulder. “Stop worrying so much, Lena. He’s going to be fine, and we’ll have him back in no time.”

“Do they know what caused it?”

“Atherosclerosis,” Lex says. “It’s when a plaque builds up in your arteries and keeps them from carrying blood properly. He’ll probably have to make some changes to his lifestyle—take down his workload. But seriously, there’s no need to worry. We’re Luthors. We’ll manage.”

 

She does end up seeing her father that day. He’s pale and hooked up to a bunch of machines, and his speech is still slurred from the anesthesia, but he smiles at her and squeezes her hand, and he apologizes for scaring her. He tells her the same thing Lex said: they’re Luthors. They’ll manage.

 

When her father is discharged from the hospital, he actually does cut his workload. It’s a relief, but at the same time it means Lex is taking on more and more work, and he’s barely at the house anymore. Lena misses him in a way she’s never missed anyone before—it’s unlike the sharp ache for when she’s missing Kara, and more like a dull throbbing every time her mother lashes out at her and Lex isn’t there to make up for it with a hug and kind words later at night.

She doesn’t mention this to Kara, though, not wanting to burden her with any more tragedy on top of her own. But Kara’s smart, and her hugs become tighter and longer and warmer, and for now her arms are enough to keep Lena together.

Chapter Text

Veronica Sinclair is everything Kara Danvers is not, and perhaps that’s why Lena’s so attracted to her. She can’t see Kara’s blue eyes in Veronica’s brown ones, Veronica’s hands are rough and steady where Kara’s are soft and nervous, and Lena can’t imagine Kara ever saying the words that fall from Veronica’s lips.

Whatever is going on between them is purely physical, and at first Lena feels bad about blatantly flirting with a girl that isn’t Kara. But Veronica flirts back just as shamelessly, and their all-but-innocent interactions push Kara to the back of Lena’s mind. Veronica is a distraction, and Lena needs distracting.

Because being back in Ireland, away from Kara, means liking Kara has become a rather painful thing instead of the constant twitch in her chest she’d gotten used to over the summer. It means waiting for letters and sneaking out of her room at impossible times for a ten-minute phone call just before Kara goes to sleep because time zones are a bitch.

Something about the two of them, Veronica and Lena, seems inevitable. They get paired up for a science project, and Lena doesn’t actually hate it like she normally does. Veronica is almost just as smart as Lena, and they challenge each other to be on top of their game. They take Lena’s idea of building a robot, and Veronica’s idea of teaching it a few basic taekwondo moves, and all of it reminds Lena of how she and Lex used to do things like this for fun. When they put the final touches to their robot, hours after class has ended, it brings a euphoric rush of adrenaline, and before Lena has the chance to process what’s happening, Veronica is leaning in to kiss her.

Her lips are soft and hungry at the same time, tasting faintly of cigarette smoke and something Lena can’t put her finger on. She gasps into the kiss, her eyes fluttering closed as she leans forward to kiss back, and Kara’s as far away from her mind as possible.

Veronica knows what she’s doing. It shows through every sound she makes, every curl of her fingers, and every carefully placed kiss on Lena’s body. Between that and the last time Lena had sex being over a year ago, she falls apart quicker than she would have liked. Her breath hitches against Veronica’s lips, and she shudders underneath her.

After that it becomes a common occurrence. Every spare moment between classes, before lunch, before dinner—they familiarize themselves with the building and all its secret spots away from the other girls. No feelings and no strings attached. It works, somehow. Lena never finds herself staring longingly at Veronica, or thinking about her when she’s not supposed to, and she’s certain Veronica doesn’t do either of those things either. It’s simple and it’s effective.

Lena actually convinces herself she’s getting over Kara for longer periods at the time. As long as she doesn’t hear from Kara, she forces herself not to think about her—not to crave her. It works for a couple days at the time, days turning into weeks, until eventually the illusion of her strength is torn apart with one letter, a few days before Christmas break.

She rereads it three times, before putting it in the box with all the other letters, and stomping out of her room to find Veronica. Suddenly all she can think about is Kara—Kara’s eyes, Kara’s smile, Kara’s voice. It’s maddening and overwhelming, and she needs it gone.

Veronica is in her own room, and she doesn’t push Lena away when she almost pathetically throws herself at her. Lena presses angry kisses against Veronica’s lips, her neck, her collarbone. She zips down Veronica’s dress and pushes the straps off her shoulders, trailing her mouth down the freely exposed skin, and Veronica lets it all happen. She kisses back, moans when Lena presses up against her, and then comes quietly like she always does.

It doesn’t make Lena feel better.

When Veronica tries to flip them around to return the favor, she shakes her head, and sits down with her back against the wall instead. Veronica rolls her eyes at that, and she cocks an eyebrow. “Is this the part where I’m supposed to ask what got your panties in a bunch?”

“No.”

“Okay,” Veronica says. She steps out of bed and starts tugging her dress back on. “Thanks for the orgasm, then. You fuck better when you’re angry.”

Lena wants to smirk and accept the compliment with grace and cockiness, but instead she sighs. “My best friend is going to stay with her cousin in Metropolis for a couple of days next week.”

Veronica rolls her eyes. “So?”

“She wants to have a sleepover. At her cousin’s place.”

“Better get her cousin some earplugs then,” Veronica smirks. She zips up her dress in a skilled manner, running her hands through her hair to make it look less disheveled. “Or are you gonna be all lovey dovey and soft with each other? Because like I said: you fuck better when you’re angry.”

Lena sends a glare her way. “We’re not going to have sex.”

“But you’re in love with her.” Veronica reaches underneath her bed, pulling out an unlabeled bottle. She unscrews the cap and takes a sip, before holding it up to Lena.

Lena wipes her hand on the sheets before taking the bottle, and the liquor burns all the way down to her stomach. It feels good—pain she can control. “I’m not in love with her.”

“Sure. Keep telling yourself that. Give me back my booze.”

Lena takes another sip before handing it back to Veronica. The burning feels less pleasant this time, and she gets up from the bed. She should’ve known she wasn’t going to get a sensible answer out of Veronica anyway, and she regrets even trying. “Whatever. Merry Christmas, Sinclair. Stay out of trouble.”

“You too, Luthor. Get the poor cousin some earplugs for their own sake.” Veronica’s laugh drowns in another sip of whatever was in that bottle as Lena closes the door behind her. For the first time, she regrets hooking up with Veronica for the sake of forgetting Kara, and she really doesn’t like it.

 

She calls Kara later that night to tell her that she’d love to have a sleepover, if that’s okay with Clark. Kara lets out an enthusiastic whoop that makes Lena’s heart swell, and she promises that he will be okay with that. She then continues to ramble on about all the new things she learned in school and asking if Lena also knows those things—yes, she does—and all the things they could do while she’s in Metropolis. And Lena listens to her voice from across the ocean, and she decides that maybe this isn’t such a bad idea after all.

 

 All her worries come flooding back in as soon as her plane touches the ground and she’s back in Metropolis. For the first time in months, Lena and Kara are in the same city again, and Lena’s body buzzes with how physically close they are. It’s bullshit, of course, because biology doesn’t work that way, but every time she thinks about how she’s going to be hugging Kara in a few days, her stomach twists and she can’t fight the stupid smile off her face.

Lex picks her up from the arrival gate, and his grin widens as she walks through the sliding doors. His arms wrap around her with a strength that wasn’t there before, and his embrace feels harder, like there’s more muscle.

Lena takes a step back to look at him. His chest and shoulders are bigger than before, almost straining against his suit. His bright blue eyes, that somehow are nothing like Kara’s, twinkle with a certain confidence she’s not sure if she likes, and there’s just something that feels off about him. But his smile is still the same. Wide and unconstraint; the polar opposite of Lena’s. He seems happy to see her, and Lena doesn’t doubt that it’s genuine.

 “I didn’t know you work out,” she says, reaching out to squeeze his bicep. “Looks good.”

He shrugs, offering to take her suitcase. “I took up a self-defense class. Seemed like the perfect time to start making use of all that gym equipment Mom bought a couple years ago.”

“Self-defense?”

Lex wraps his free arm around Lena’s shoulder and pulls her closer. “The world is a cruel place, Lee. You never know what might happen.”

For some reason, Lena thinks about Superman and how he always stops the bad guys. In the three years he has been flying around in Metropolis, she has only ever seen him on the news. She’s not sure why Lex would feel the need to be able to protect himself if Superman is out there, ready to protect him in times of need, but she doesn’t question it any further. Lex has never been too keen about aliens coming to Earth and becoming US citizens, and Superman is definitely doing more than that—people see him as a god. And, as much as it pains her to admit, Lena can see why some people find that hard to accept, or even disapprove of it. Just because one man decides to use his powers for good, doesn’t mean they all do. In fact, there have been plenty of situations where Superman had to fight against another alien to keep the city safe, and while he’s doing an excellent job, Lena can’t deny that there’s some truth in Lex’s rants. If Superman does decide to turn on the city, it could very well mean the end of Metropolis as they know it. But still. Just because it’s foreign and unknown doesn’t mean it can’t be trusted. Superman has done great things for Metropolis, and Lena can’t not give him the benefit of the doubt.

Lex’s car is just a short walk away from the airport, and while Lex puts the suitcase in the trunk, Lena makes herself comfortable in the passenger’s seat. She flips through the radio stations until she finds one she likes, and the music provides a nice soundtrack to her stories about boarding school. She tells Lex about cool projects she did, including the robot she did with Veronica, but she doesn’t mention the relationship her and Veronica had. Not because he would disapprove—out of all the things he disapproves of, her sexuality isn’t one of them, because, “Of course that’s okay, Lee. You’re my sister. I love you, and I’ll always be proud of you. And I’ll also kick your girlfriends’ asses if they break your heart”—but because she feels a flare of anxiety every time she thinks about Veronica. They didn’t end on great terms, and she has no idea what will happen next time they see each other.

After she’s done explaining how exactly they taught the robot to fight, Lex breaks the news that their parents won’t be at home until Christmas Eve. Apparently LuthorCorp has been expanding since the start of this year, which includes a west-coast department in National City. Their parents flew over there to officially open the new building, and oversee things for a couple of days before flying back for Christmas dinner. Lena can’t say she minds not seeing her mother, but she’d been worried about her father ever since his heart attack, and she’d hoped to see him before leaving for Kara’s cousin’s place until Christmas rolled around.

Lex gives her a sad smile when she mentions this, and promises that their father has been doing alright, and that his checkups at the hospital have all had positive outcomes. It does make Lena feel a bit better. And she’ll see him at home in a few days, anyways.

The Luthor Mansion stands just outside the suburbs of Metropolis. Tall, dark, and covered in glistening snow, it might as well be a castle from a fairytale. As a kid she loved exploring the inside and the grounds surrounding it, pretending like she was the princess in some dark fantasy world who just escaped imprisonment. Lex would sometimes join in, taking on the role of the dragon slayer who protected the princess from harm, and later he would take the blame if their mother reprimanded them for their dirty clothes.

Lex pulls up the car next to Lena’s, which is actually Lex’s old car, and which she never drives. Snow crunches beneath her feet as she takes a few steps, breathing in the cold winter air, and she spreads her arms in a melodramatic pose. Despite everything, this is where she grew up—this is her home. It’s not where she feels most comfortable, but it’s what’s most familiar. She made some of her fondest memories here.

On these steps leading up to the front door is where she met Lex for the first time, in a too large suit with a messy tie around his neck, waiting for his new baby sister to arrive with their parents. He had been only nine at the time, but even then he’d already had a certain charm about him, and something in his smile made Lena feel safe for the first time since the car crash.

A smile tugs at her lips at the memory, and she spins around to where Lex is unloading her suitcase from the car. He notices her smile, raising his eyebrows in an unspoken question. His suits are tailored especially for him now, and his tie is done perfectly, but he still has that same charm. He’s still her big brother.

Lena looks at him, at the house, at everything around them. “I missed you.”

“I missed you, too,” Lex grins. He carries the suitcase up the steps with ease, setting it down to unlock the double front door. “You’re almost in your final year, though, and when you graduate you’ll go to Harvard, which is way closer to Metropolis than Dublin, and we’ll be able to spend more time together. I’ll help you study for your exams, and stuff.”

Lena likes the thought of that. Being closer to Metropolis also means being closer to Midvale, and the prospect of being able to see Kara more often than just during the summer is a good one.

Lex pushes open the doors, gesturing at her to enter first. Lena steps inside, and they’re met by Carl almost immediately. He offers to take her coat and suitcase upstairs, and Lex asks him to send a message to the kitchen for some hot chocolate. Carl nods and, right before he rushes off, turns to Lena. “Oh, and before I forget: welcome home, Ms. Luthor.”

 

“Have fun, Lee. Say hi to Kara from me,” Lex says through the rolled down window, and Lena makes a thumbs up at him from the sidewalk. She watches as Lex takes off, stares at his car until it disappears in the morning traffic. As soon as he’s out of sight, her stomach sinks.

It’s not that she doesn’t want to see Kara, she does, but at the same time she’s been dreading it. Somehow she managed to fall for her even more in the months she didn’t see her, and part of her is scared she’s just setting herself up for heartbreak.

She takes a deep breath, looking up at Clark’s apartment building. Somewhere up there, Kara is waiting for her. That thought is enough to push Lena to just go for it. She walks up to the main entrance, glancing down at her palm where she wrote down Clark’s apartment number. She punches it into the keypad, her heart beating in her throat as she waits for the doors to open.

“Hi, Lena! Door is open, you can come up now!” Kara chirps, a metallic edge to her voice through the speaker.

“Okay,” Lena manages to say, before pushing open the door. She rides the elevator up to Clark’s floor, readjusting the straps of her overnight bag five times, and cursing at the strand of hair that keeps falling out of place.

She tries to prepare herself for what’s about to come, but before she gets the chance to even take a moment to breathe, the doors slide open with a ding. For a moment, she’s disoriented, but then she spots a pair of blue eyes through a half open door across the hallway, and her smile widens.

The door opens wider, revealing Kara, and Lena stops right in her tracks at the sight of her. Somehow, in the past couple of months, puberty has hit Kara—hard. She’s shot up several inches, she’s almost taller than Lena now, and her face has lost some of its childhood softness. Of course, Lena should’ve known, because Kara’s fifteen, but for some reason she didn’t expect it to make Kara…hot. Like, Kara was always beautiful and attractive, but now she’s hot, and Lena doesn’t know if she’ll be able to handle that.

“Hey,” Kara grins, spreading her arms to hug Lena.

“H-hi,” Lena stammers. She returns the hug, breathing in Kara’s familiar scent, and maybe she holds on a little too long. “I missed you.”

Kara sighs into Lena’s hair, tightening her grip on Lena’s waist for a moment, before letting go. “I missed you, too. How are you?”

“I’m, uh, I’m good. I’m—” She’s interrupted when a young man who looks a lot like Kara sticks his head around the corner.

“You must be Lena. Hi, I’m Clark. Kent. Clark Kent.” Clark smiles, readjusting his glasses the same way Kara does.

Lena shakes his hand, narrowing her eyes at him. “Have we met before? You look familiar.”

Clark’s eyes widen and he pulls his hand out of Lena’s, and for a moment he looks like a deer caught in the headlights of an upcoming car. Then he lets out a shaky laugh, his shoulders relaxing. “Maybe you’ve seen my picture in the paper. I write for the Daily Planet.”

Oh!” Lena snaps her fingers, nodding. “You’re the first reporter who managed to interview…” She hesitates, glancing at Kara to make sure she’s not gonna freak out. “Uh, Superman. You interviewed Superman.” Kara looks a little uncomfortable, but not as much as she would probably have two years ago.

And definitely not as uncomfortable as Clark Kent. He’s clearly flustered, and Lena worries she went too far somehow, but then, surprisingly enough, Kara’s the one who breaks the tension. She slaps Clark on his back, ushering him towards the door. “You should get to work. Bye, Clark.”

“Right,” Clark says, nodding to himself. “Work. It was nice meeting you, Lena. I’ll see you tonight at dinner?”

“Yeah, see you tonight,” Kara says for the both of them, closing the door behind him. “Sorry about that. He’s secretly a giant nerd. Still can’t believe the whole getting-to-interview-Superman thing. Since he’s only still a rookie, you know?”

Lena nods. “I guess. I thought I’d said something wrong, to be honest.”

Kara reaches out to squeeze Lena’s bicep. “Nah, you’re fine.” She grins, flashing a row of perfectly white teeth that makes Lena’s knees go weak, and then she takes Lena’s overnight bag from where she’d dropped it. “Are you ready for the grand tour?”

 

Clark Kent’s apartment is technically a two-bedroom apartment, but since he lives alone, he uses the smallest of the bedrooms as his office space, as well as a guest room. Which means that there is only a twin-sized bed in the room Kara tells Lena to ‘dump her stuff’ in, and Lena has to sleep in a sleeping bag on a mattress on the floor. It’s not what she’s used to, but she’ll suffer through it if it means staying with Kara for a few days.

They never had a sleepover before, and Lena can tell Kara’s excited. She’d been bugging her about having one during the summer, but with Lena’s mother wanting her home every night at dinner it didn’t work out. Lena told Kara her mother had said no, but she never actually bothered to ask. But, apparently, the same rules don’t apply during the Christmas break. And it’s not like her parents are home to enjoy their daughter’s company, anyway.

They spend the day hanging around in Clark’s apartment while he’s at work. After the tour is over—it lasted ten minutes in total—they settle on the couch in the living room with hot cocoa Lena makes for them, and for a couple of hours they fill in details of events only described in their letters.

Kara talks about a few friends she made in school, and that she’s finally starting to fit in. “People don’t look at me like I’m the weird kid anymore. I think it might be because one of the freshmen ate a live worm on a dare during lunch break a couple of weeks ago. Or because Alex threatened to beat someone up after they made fun of me for how I always adjust my glasses.”

“Or because they finally realized you’re not a weird kid but actually a really nice person who deserves to have lots of friends,” Lena says, leaning over to squeeze Kara’s knee. It feels nice to touch Kara, even in an innocent way like this, and she has to gather all her willpower to pull back her hand. She learned not to trust herself when it comes to Kara a long time ago, and she’s not sure if she let her hand linger on Kara’s knee too long, but Kara doesn’t really react to it other than giving her a sad smile.

“Maybe,” she says. “But none of them would ever be a better friend than you. You’re, like, the best friend ever.”

Lena almost wants to laugh. Real best friends don’t fall in love with their best friends. They don’t spend hours fucking another girl’s brains out to forget about their feelings for even just a moment. And they certainly don’t have days where they just can’t think about them because sometimes they can’t breathe when they do.

But she doesn’t laugh. She just smiles back, and sighs. “You’re my best friend, too.” Then she averts her gaze to something, anything, and her eyes fall on a picture of Kara and Clark. Kara’s on Clark’s back, and they’re laughing at something that’s happening behind the camera.

“You look like him,” Lena says, after a moment of silent debating whether it’s a good idea to bring this up.

But Kara’s face lights up, and her smile turns into a grin. “You think so? I don’t see it, but people told me before.”

“You do. He has, like, stronger features, but I can see the resemblance.” Lena looks back at Kara, thinks in the back of her mind that Kara is a lot more beautiful than Clark. “Is he your…?”

“His dad was my dad’s brother,” Kara nods. “But, um, we’re the only ones left. He would’ve taken me in after…you know, but he’s only, like, he’s still young. It wouldn’t have worked out. We try to keep in touch, though, but sometimes it’s hard. He has a lot of things going on right now, with his work and stuff, and he doesn’t always understand. He never knew his parents. He doesn’t like talking about them, or our family, but he’s the only one who, like…I don’t know.”

“He’s family,” Lena says. She tries to ignore the way her stomach twitches at Kara’s story, at how she still has someone she’s related to by blood. Lena doesn’t have that. She doesn’t know why no other family members took her in after her parents died, but fact is they didn’t, and that’s the end of it. Now there’s only questions that will be left unanswered.

Kara nods. “Yeah.” She looks at Lena, chewing her bottom lip, and there’s something in her eyes that wasn’t there before. Lena can’t put her finger on it, and she’s not sure whether it’s good or bad, but then Kara blinks and it’s gone.

 

That night, Lena wakes up to the sound of Kara crying. It’s soft and muffled by the pillow, but those tiny sobs are still heartbreaking. And Lena knows what Kara’s feeling right now—the loss of your parents, of the people who were supposed to see you grow up but never got the chance to, it’s indescribable.

Lena barely remembers anything about her parents, and she’s not sure whether that’s a blessing or a curse. On the one hand it’s probably easier to have no real memories to grief, but sometimes she thinks that might be the worst thing. Sometimes her imagination isn’t enough and she needs to remember what it felt like to have her mom her hug her tight, or to have her dad kiss the top of her head with a proud smile, and she can’t. Sometimes it makes her want to scream and curse at whatever took her parents away—whether it was a god, or fate, or stupid coincidence. Sometimes all she wants is to miss them, and not the idea of them.

But all that is different for Kara. She knew her parents, loved her parents, remembers their smiles and voices and hugs. And perhaps it’s because of that that Kara still calls Eliza and Jeremiah by their first names; because her parents are irreplaceable, no matter who tucks her in at night or who will see her live out her life.

“Kara,” Lena says, barely above a whisper. “Are you awake?”

Kara doesn’t reply for half a minute, but then she sniffles. “Yeah.”

“Are you okay?”

“Yeah.” A pause. “I mean, not really.”

Lena swallows. “Need a hug?”

Kara doesn’t reply to that, but she folds back her covers, and Lena doesn’t waste another second to wiggle out of her sleeping back. She climbs into Kara’s bed, which, admittedly, is a bit too small for the two of them, and tries to keep her heartbeat steady as she inches closer to her.

Kara has her back to Lena, and for a second she tenses when Lena wraps her arm around her waist, but then she relaxes into her and lets out another soft sob.

“It’s okay,” Lena mumbles against the back of Kara’s head. “You’re okay.”

Kara’s nods, feeling around for Lena’s hand. She squeezes it, and tangles their fingers together. For a moment, it’s quiet and Lena can almost hear her own heart beating against her chest. Then Kara exhales, and her shoulders relax. “Lena?”

“Hmm?”

“Promise you won’t leave.”

At any other time, with any other person, Lena would hesitate. But this is Kara. With Kara, it’s real. So she replies almost immediately. “I promise.”

 

The next morning, Lena wakes up on the brink of Kara’s bed, scooting a little closer to Kara to keep herself from falling out of bed, and she thinks she should probably be used to Kara by now, but at the same time she fears the feeling of her heart beating against her chest will never really go away.

While Clark is at work they explore the city Lena grew up in. She shows Kara all her favorite spots, treats them both to takeout Chinese food, and spends the entire time telling herself it’s a bad idea if she tried to hold Kara’s hand.

At night, they watch the first two Harry Potter movies with Clark, eating potato chips and chocolate and more takeout Chinese. (They have a brief discussion about what Hogwarts houses they’d all be in, and while at first Lena has some doubts about supposedly being a Slytherin—she’d much rather be a Ravenclaw, because they get to be smart and don’t have Slytherin’s reputation—Kara is adamant about how Slytherins can be good people, too. And with that bright smile on her face, and their hands almost touching underneath the blanket thrown over the both of them, Lena can’t disagree.)

Halfway through the second movie, Clark gets an emergency call from work and has to leave, mumbling something about deadlines. Kara veers up a little as he hurries out the front door, an odd look in her eyes, but before Lena can ask what’s wrong, it’s gone.

Kara remains fidgety, though, her eyes darting to the clock on the wall every now and then, and when the movie is over, she not-so-subtly flips through the news channels. When Superman’s logo appears on the screen, Kara sits up and watches the entire news segment about Superman saving an entire family from a house fire, with that same look from before written all over her face. Lena figures that she might be looking for Clark, who is a journalist after all, or that perhaps it has something to do with the family’s house burning down to the ground. Kara told her that her parents died in a fire, too, after all.

After the program is over, Kara relaxes back into the couch, resting her head on Lena’s shoulder. She flips to some cartoon about people who can manipulate the elements, and for a minute or two they watch it in silence. Lena’s all too aware of how Kara is pressing into her side, and she doesn’t dare to move in case it scares Kara off, pretending to watch the cartoon instead.

Eventually, though, she gives Kara a soft nudge. “Hey, you okay?”

“Yeah,” Kara says, softly. “Just tired.”

“Do you wanna go to bed?”

Kara shakes her head. “Clark should be coming home soon.”

“Okay.” Lena shifts a little in an attempt to make her shoulder more comfortable for Kara, pushing more of the blanket Kara’s way. Kara lets out a sigh, readjusting her head, and hooking one arm through Lena’s.

“Is this okay?” she asks in a small voice, her fingertips pressing into Lena’s wrist. It sends a million tingles up Lena’s arm and almost stops her heart, but in the best way possible.

She nods. “Of course.”

Kara falls asleep within minutes, her breathing pattern slowing down to long, deep breaths, and her hand goes slack against Lena’s palm. Despite the two of them being just best friends, it feels awfully romantic.

Clark comes home just after Lena switched channels to something more educational than a bald boy with arrow tattoos and the ability to manipulate the elements, and he frowns when he enters the living room. “Hey, Lena. I thought you both would have gone to bed by now.”

“Kara wanted to wait until you got home. So she fell asleep on me.”

“Obviously,” Clark says, a grin spreading across his face. “Give me a second to put my bag away, then I’ll carry her to bed.”

Lena makes a thumbs up with her free hand, listening to Clark rummage in his bedroom for a few moments. When he re-emerges, he carefully slides his arms around Kara. She looks younger in her sleep, less there’s less of a weight on her shoulders.

Lena turns off the television, and takes her time folding the blanket and taking their used cups and empty wrappers to the kitchen, before following Clark into the bedroom. Somehow he’s managed to change Kara into pajamas without waking her, and he’s pressing a kiss to the top of her head when Lena enters the room. He lingers for a moment, staring at Kara, before turning around and giving Lena a smile.

“Good night,” he says, his voice strained like he’s overly emotional. But it’s too dark to really see his face, and Lena doesn’t know him as well as she knows Kara, so she doesn’t say anything except to return his good night wish.

Once he’s gone, she quickly changes into her own pajamas, and she’s just getting ready to fight with the sleeping bag again when Kara’s rolls over in her bed.

“Come cuddle,” she mumbles, still half asleep, patting the now-empty space besides her. “I miss you too much all the time not to cuddle now that we can.”

Lena blinks. Something’s shifted. She’s not sure what or whether it’s a good thing or a bad thing, but she doesn’t try to fight it. Like, not at all.

She climbs into Kara’s bed, and wraps her arms around Kara’s waist, and wishes she’d never have to let go.

 

When Lex picks her up from Clark’s place a couple of days later, Lena’s bed is still unslept in. If Clark notices anything about Lena sleeping in his cousin’s bed every night, he doesn’t mention it.

 

At Christmas, most of the conversation is about the company and how their profit has increased over the past couple of months, since Lex started taking on more of their father’s duties as the CEO.

Lena tries to be interested, but her mind is elsewhere. She thinks about how Kara must be having dinner with her family now; Alex, her parents, Clark and his parents…she wonders how much different their Christmas dinner is from hers.

Her attention is snapped back into reality when her father is suddenly overcome with a coughing fit that seems to last forever, and for a moment Lena fears that she’s going to see her him die in front of her eyes. It’s an exaggeration, because of course he’s fine, but she can’t get his red face and bulging eyes out of her mind for the rest of the evening.

After dinner, when it’s just her and Lex, she dares to ask how their father is doing, and her stomach sinks at the change in Lex’s eyes at her question.

“He’s, uh, his bi-monthly checkups have become monthly checkups, just as a precaution.” Lex sighs, rubbing his bald head, and shrugs. “He didn’t tell me much, except that I shouldn’t worry or tell you because he knows you’re going to worry, but you deserve to know. He’s barely at work anymore—the trip to National City was an exception, and it left him exhausted.”

Lena swallows. “Oh.”

“Sorry for not telling you sooner. I’ve just been busy with the company, and Mom and Dad didn’t want me to tell you, you know how they are, and—” He gives her an apologetic look. “I’m sure he’ll be fine. He’s not even really needed at LuthorCorp anymore. We’ve got everything under control.” He doesn’t sound like he really believes what he’s saying, and, frankly, Lena doesn’t either.

She hugs her father extra tight when she says goodbye to him at the airport a couple of days later, trying to memorize the way his hugs feel like in a way that’ll last forever.

 

Back in Ireland, Lena focuses on her schoolwork to take her mind off everything. She misses Kara more than ever, and she worries about her father’s health, and hooking up with Veronica turns into working through a year’s worth of coursework in one semester. Her teachers are impressed by her sudden burst of motivation, and they all start to look into ways to help her graduate early somehow.

She writes countless letters to Kara, to Lex, to no one in particular, only sending half of them; the ones filled with every day thoughts and experiences, none of them touching upon how miserable it makes her feel to be across the world from the only three people she loves.

And then, one night, when the leaves of the trees outside Lena’s window start to grow back, she’s woken up by a knock on her door. It’s the headmaster, and the look on her face tells Lena it’s bad news. They rush through the corridors of the school to the office, where Lena picks up the phone with shaking hands.

It’s Lex. Of course it’s Lex.

“Something happened, didn’t it?” Lena says, blinking furiously and trying to swallow the lump in her throat. Her fingers are barely strong enough to hold onto the phone.

“I—yeah. He had another heart attack. It…it was bad. Worse, than last time.” He pauses, to take a few shaky breaths, and to sniff in a way that makes it sound like he’s been crying. At that, something in the back of Lena’s mind clicks into place, and alarm bells start ringing because Lex never cries. Not even when he broke his arm after falling off of his skateboard when he was twelve, and there was bone sticking out of his skin.

Lena takes a deep breath. “Is he—?”

“No, not yet. Um.” Another pause, longer this time. Somewhere in the background there’s voices, and it dawns on Lena that Lex might still be in the hospital, making the call that will haunt his baby sister forever. Then, surprisingly steady, he speaks again. “How much do you know about brain death?”

 

Lena is not in the room when her father dies. Technically he’s been dead for two days by the time she gets to him, but thanks to Lex he hasn’t been taken off life support yet. She sits with him for a few hours, first not speaking and then trying to fit everything she still wanted to tell him into the same sentence. She talks about school, and how she’ll be there for LuthorCorp if it’s necessary, about how much she’s going to miss him, or rather the knowledge that no matter what he’d always be there for her, and finally she allows herself to speak about Kara.

“I love her, dad,” she says, barely above a whisper. “I think she might be the one.”

She takes his hand, closing her eyes, and remembers the soft look on his face when she came out to him. She’d been worried about their reactions—the Luthors were not exactly known for their kind and accepting hearts—but he didn’t hesitate for even just a second to pull her in for a hug. A few tears run down her cheeks at the realization that he’ll never be there to see her get married, maybe even have kids, and even though there are things that are much worse than that, that knowledge is what finally breaks her.

She chokes on tears and buries her face into the clean sheets of the hospital bed, and struggles against Lex’s arms when he rushes into the room to hold her. Eventually she turns around to cry into his chest, exhausted, and he picks her up like she’s still a child and carries her out of the room so they won’t have to see their father’s last breath.

 

In the days leading up to the funeral, Lena finds the numbness ebbing away, only to be replaced by a certain type of emptiness she can only describe as pure grief. It’s the second time she’s lost a father now, and while she barely remembers anything about the first, she can’t imagine it being worse than this.

Despite never being as close to her father as she is to Lex, he was still her father. He raised her, he gave her all the best opportunities to develop into a strong, independent young woman, and when he looked at her she could feel how much he loved her. Maybe even more than he loved Lex.

Lex, is in charge of all the funeral arrangements, because Lillian is too busy channeling her grief through anger. Anger towards the staff members, towards Lena… One time she even snaps at Lex, and that has never happened before.

Lex is in over his head. He is officially the acting CEO of LuthorCorp now, and on top of keeping his company running, he’s taking care of everything that needs to happen after someone dies at home, too. His smile is gone, his shoulders are tense, and the security has disappeared from his eyes. He’s exhausted, and Lena can’t blame him.

 

By the time the funeral rolls around, everyone is on edge. Two staff members quit their job over the course of two days—one after Lillian’s outburst, and one after Lex’s—which means the rest of the staff are working their asses off to cover their shifts.

Lena hasn’t been out of her room much since it happened, hasn’t been doing much at all, and the entire time she spends on getting dressed and forcing herself to eat something, she wishes today would be over already. She doesn’t want to bury her father. It’s not fair, and even though it goes against all the laws of nature, she just wants him to come back to life. Joke’s over. She still needs him.

A soft knock on the door makes her look up, and Lex pokes his head inside her room. “Ride’s here.” He disappears before she can reply.

Lena straightens her dress, puts the finishing touches to her makeup, and grabs her purse from the bed. When she emerges from her room, Lex is waiting for her on top of the stairs. He holds out his arm, as if it’s a ball he’s escorting her to instead of a funeral, and she notices his hand shaking.

“We’ll get through it,” she tells him, smiling despite the rock in her stomach. “Together.”

He doesn’t reply.

The ride to the cemetery is a short but tense one. Lillian is in the passenger’s seat, and Lex and Lena are in the backseat, and no one says a word. The silence is heavy, pressing down on Lena’s chest, making it hard for her to breathe.

When they arrive at the cemetery everyone is already there. The entirety of LuthorCorp employees, old friends and distant relatives Lena barely remembers the names of, and even some bold press all watch them like hawks as they get out of the car. They probably overanalyze the way Lex and Lillian ignore everyone, or how Lena tries—and fails—to smile like she doesn’t want to disappear.

The funeral itself is a blur. Lex holds a speech about the funny, courageous, or loving moments he shared with their father, and even though Lena’s probably the only one who can see it, she’s pretty sure he’s on the verge of crying the entire time. After that, one of her father’s colleagues says a few words about how he was such a hard worker and a great boss, but Lena’s eyes are on Lex, whose hands are shaking and whose eyes are practically shooting fire.

Before Lena is truly ready for it, the coffin holding her father’s body is lowered into the ground, and everyone around her is crying, and all Lena can do is stare blankly. She’s still numb, and the tears just won’t come.

She’s still staring at the spot as everyone places their flowers on the coffin, and leaves to drink coffee and catch up with each other like they didn’t just watch two children bury their father. She’s still staring, and she’s not sure if she’ll ever be able to stop.

“Lena,” a familiar voice says, soft and hesitant. From the corner of her eye, Lena can see a flash of blonde, before two hands are wrapped around her own, and Kara’s pressing her face against Lena’s shoulder.

She wants to react, to smile and hug Kara like she normally would, but she can’t stop staring. She swallows, her fingers twitching against Kara’s, and Kara seems to understand.

She doesn’t say anything, but somehow, that’s everything. I’m sorry. You shouldn’t have to go through this. I’m here for you. We can do whatever you need. Do you need to stand here? That’s okay. We’ll stand here. It’s going to be okay, I promise.

Lena’s not sure how long they stand there, unmoving, but gradually a warmth starts spreading from Kara’s hands into her body, and eventually she’s able to make her muscles listen to her commands again. She looks up into Kara’s eyes, and in the same movement, she throws her arms around Kara’s shoulders.

Kara’s grown even more in the past few months. She’s definitely taller than Lena now, and her grip on Lena’s body is stronger. Different. There’s a certain air of confidence about her that wasn’t there before, and it’s exactly the kind of comfort Lena needs right now.

“We saw it on the news,” Kara says, after Lena’s done recharging and starts pulling back from the hug. “I tried to call you, but the people at your school said you’d gone back to Metropolis, and they wouldn’t give me your landline.”

“You—” Lena can’t help but smile the tiniest bit at Kara’s words, looking down at where her hands are aching to hold Kara’s again. “Wait, how did you know the…it was today?”

“We got an invitation. Well, I got an invitation.” Kara reaches into her back pocket and hands Lena an envelope. And, surely enough, Kara’s name and address are written on it in Lex’s handwriting. “So then I made Alex drive us here, because, like, you know.”

“Hi,” Alex says from a few yards behind Kara, waving awkwardly. “Sorry for your loss.”

Lena blinks. She hadn’t seen Alex at all, but she’s suddenly glad she didn’t reach out to grab Kara’s hand again after the hug had ended. Alex would’ve probably killed her if she made a move on Kara right in front of her big sister.

“Thank you for driving Kara all the way up to Metropolis,” Lena says, giving Alex her best smile.

Alex nods once. “Of course.” The anything for Kara goes unsaid. Finally something they can agree on.

Lena looks at Kara again, giving back the envelope. “I, uh, I should probably show my face inside. You know, let all the people tell me how much they liked my father as if it’s supposed to make me feel any better.”

“Maybe it will, though.” Kara reaches out to squeeze her hand. “Want us to stay with you? We’re staying with Clark, so we’re in no hurry to get back.”

“Yeah,” Lena nods. “Please.”

“Okay.” Kara hooks her arm through Lena’s, gesturing at Alex to follow them. They walk to the funeral home together, and Lena glances back at the grave only once, feeling a thousand times lighter now that Kara’s here.

Chapter Text

Lena doesn’t go to Midvale that summer. None of the Luthors do. Lex is too busy with LuthorCorp, Lillian decides to spend her time across the world visiting a friend, and Lena attends summer school in California for the better part of her break in order to graduate high school early after next semester.

Instead, when Lena’s back, Kara comes up to Metropolis for a week. She stays with Clark in his apartment, and during the day Lena drives downtown to hang out with her. The thought of having Kara over at the Luthor Mansion instead crossed her mind, but for some reason it didn’t feel right. While the place used to feel like home, now it just reminds Lena of her father. And, even when she’s not physically there, Lillian’s cold-heartedness seems to have left a permanent imprint on the house. Lena doesn’t want to bring Kara into that.

Clark is dating a woman named Lois now, and one night when he kicks Kara and Lena out of the apartment, Lena quite literally drags a protesting Kara out the door. She thinks that technically Kara could put her foot down and become impossible to move anywhere, but Lena manages to pull her into her car before Kara turns to look at her with her eyebrows raised.

“What was that for?”

“Lois is coming over,” Lena says, and when Kara still looks confused, she rolls her eyes. “They’re dating. She’s coming over.”

Kara blinks. “So? That doesn’t mean we can’t be there, too.”

Lena stares at Kara long enough to feel like her eyes are going to dry up, before giving up hope that Kara will ever understand. “They’re going to have sex, Kara.”

Oh,” Kara says, covering her face with her hands. “Oh my gosh, yes, we definitely don’t wanna be there for that.”

Lena laughs, putting her car in drive. She’s not sure where they’re going, but she figures that now that Kara knows what’s going to happen upstairs, she might not want to hang around for it.

They drive around for a while, Lena honking and cursing at everyone cutting her off to stay in their lane. It seems to amuse Kara a little, and eventually her shoulders relax, and she leans her head against the door to look out the window.

A silence falls over them, the only source of sound being Lena’s car radio, and Lena glances at Kara. “Hey, what are you thinking about?”

Kara doesn’t reply for a while, and then she takes a deep breath. “Just trying to look at the stars. They’re not very clear in the city.”

Lena pulls up for a red light, and she takes the moment to look over at Kara—really look. Something about the stars reminds Kara of her parents, Lena knows this, and suddenly she knows exactly where they should go. When the light turns green, she takes a sharp turn, which makes Kara squeal in surprise.

“Where are we going?”

“You’ll see,” Lena says. “First we’re getting food, though. I’m starving. Pizza?”

Kara nods, a curious smile tugging at her lips. “Pizza sounds great.”

Lena drives them to the nearest pizza place, where they get two large pizzas, and while they’re both munching down on a slice, she steers the car towards the outskirts of Metropolis. She stares down the street she’d normally take to go back home, driving right past it to take another exit.

After another ten minutes of driving, they cross from the city center to the suburbs, and quite suddenly all the lights are gone and they’re mostly surrounded by darkness. From the corner of her eye, Lena notices Kara leaning closer to the window.

And, surely enough, there’s a twinkling sky stretched in front of them. But there’s still some light pollution from the houses and street lights, so Lena keeps driving until they pass the city limit. She pulls up on a hill just outside of town, from where they can see both the city lights down below and the bright stars shining down on them.

As soon as the engine is shut off, Kara pulls open the door and stumbles outside. She stretches her arms to her sides, spinning in circles as she looks up at the sky, the smile on her face almost brighter than the stars.

Lena takes her time unbuckling her seatbelt. She slowly opens her door and steps out of the car, giving Kara a moment to herself.

Kara stops spinning, and Lena thinks she might be floating a couple of inches above the ground, letting her arms fall to her sides. She takes a deep breath, holds it in for a couple of seconds, then lets it go. Lena almost feels disrespectful watching her in what seems to be a very private moment, but she can’t help it. Kara is the most beautiful thing she’s ever seen, and even if someone held a gun to her head, she wouldn’t be able to look away.

She’s not sure how much time passes before Kara turns her head to smile at Lena, her teeth flashing white in the dark. “This is perfect,” she says. “Thank you.”

Lena smiles back. “I know it’s not like the cave, or the stars in Midvale, but this is where my father used to take me to watch the stars sometimes.”

Kara walks to the front of the car, eyeing the hood with an asking frown, until Lena nods. Then she carefully climbs on top of it, holding out her hand to help Lena climb on, too. They lay with their backs on the metal, watching the stars twinkle in the endless darkness above.

“Do you miss him?” Kara’s voice is soft, almost hesitant.

“Yeah.” She waits a beat, and then, “Does it ever go away?”

Kara lets out a breath, barely audible. “No.”

“Oh.”

“But you get used to it. You learn to deal with it, and—” Kara grabs Lena’s hand, “you find other ways to fill up the emptiness it left. Other people to love.”

Lena’s heart jumps, both because Kara’s holding her hand and because she just sort of told Lena she loves her. She doesn’t dare to look at Kara, knowing that if she did she wouldn’t be able to control herself and just kiss her. Instead, she doesn’t say anything, holding her hand still in Kara’s until Kara lets go. It feels like forever, and despite herself, Lena misses it instantly.

Kara lays her hands on her stomach, her left elbow touching Lena’s, continuing to stare at the stars in silence. Lena turns her head, then, and stares at the side of Kara’s face, barely suppressing the need to kiss her.

She thought if she didn’t act on it, ignored her feelings like they weren’t there, that maybe they would go away. If she doesn’t tell Kara how she feels, about Kara or girls in general, she could pretend she was content with being friends. That she didn’t want Kara in another way than as a friend. But she can barely remember the last time she wanted to be just friends, and over the years that feeling has grown to the point where Lena isn’t sure she can keep it inside for much longer.

“Kara,” she says, so low it’s almost a whisper. And even though she’s done this a bunch of times before, she doesn’t think she’s ever been as scared as this. “I have to tell you something.”

Kara blinks, and turns to look at Lena. It’s so dark her face is barely visible, let alone her expression, but maybe that’s for the best.

For a moment, Lena contemplates what would be the best way to say this. Last year I slept with a girl named Veronica for an entire semester. You know how we were flipping channels last year and we watched a few minutes of South of Nowhere, and I grabbed the remote when Spencer and Ashley started kissing? Have you ever noticed how I never talk about boys like your friends from school? But Kara can be slow-witted sometimes, and there can’t be any misunderstanding about this. So, Lena takes a deep breath, and then blurts out, “I’m gay.”

Kara sits up, almost toppling off of the hood. “You’re what?”

“I’m…gay. I like to kiss girls? I don’t like boys…?” Lena sits up, too, not sure what else to say.

“No, yeah, I mean—I know what gay means. I just…you’re gay.”

And—oh. Lena subconsciously scoots to the left. She never considered Kara not being okay with her being gay. Like, if even her conservative parents could accept the fact that their daughter likes girls, sweet Kara Danvers surely would, too. It hurts, and without warning, tears spring into Lena’s eyes, and she has to look away to stop herself from crying.

But then Kara inches closer to her, places her hand on Lena’s shoulder. “No, no, Lena. I didn’t mean it like that. It’s fine. I mean, it’s okay. Like, I don’t care. I mean—I do, because I care about you, but like—I…I’m only making this worse. What I mean to say is, I’m okay with it. I just—” She takes a deep breath, shaking her head to make sense of it all.

Lena looks at her then, and they’re so close to each other that she can almost see Kara’s eyes. They’re still so genuine, so Kara, that Lena can’t do anything but believe. It feels like a weight being lifted off her shoulders.

“I’m sorry for throwing this on you like this,” Lena breathes. “I’ve been out to my parents for a while now, and I never thought you wouldn’t be okay with it. Like…maybe that sounds weird and too hopeful, but I just never considered otherwise. I mean, you’re you.”

Kara’s lips curl up into a soft smile. “I am okay with it. More than okay. I was just confused, because…um. Sometimes Alex gets really upset whenever the subject comes up, for whatever reason. Where I’m from, like, you know, with my parents, it’s not a big deal. So when Alex said...some things, I just thought it wasn’t like that here. That, you know, it’s bad to not be straight. And now you—I mean, I don’t know. You know?”

Lena nods, swallowing hard. No matter how hard she tries to like Alex, or at the very least appreciate how much she means to Kara, she makes it so hard sometimes.

“Alex is wrong.” It comes out harsher than she meant, but for once Kara doesn’t seem offended at Lena voicing her dislike of her sister.

“I know that now,” she says. And then, because she’s Kara and Kara wants to always believe the best in people, especially if they’re people she cares about, she adds, “She’s probably just repeating what she hears at school, or something. I’m sure she doesn’t mean it.”

Lena isn’t too sure about that. Maybe Alex is just an asshole who’s destined to hate everything Lena Luthor. But for Kara’s sake, she shrugs. “Maybe. I don’t really care what Alex thinks, though. You are my best friend, not Alex.”

Kara smiles, and then she pulls Lena into a tight hug. “You’re my best friend, too. And I love you, no matter what.”

Lena relaxes into Kara’s embrace. She wraps her arms around Kara’s waist, buries her face in Kara’s neck, and closes her eyes. She wants to cry from happiness and from how much it hurts to be in love with Kara, and she wants, more than anything, to kiss Kara. When she pulls back from the hug, she shuts off that voice in the back of her head for a tiny moment, and before she can change her mind she presses her lips to Kara’s cheek. She lingers, maybe too long, but, and she knows she’s probably making this up because it’s too good to be true, Kara smiles a little and leans into her, until it’s definitely no longer acceptable for two friends to sit like that.

They settle back on the hood, a little closer than before, and Lena dares to breathe again.

 

Things miraculously don’t change after that. Kara doesn’t look at Lena any differently than before, but unfortunately Lena also still can’t look at Kara without dying a little inside.

After Kara goes back to Midvale, with the promise that she’ll text Lena when she’s home, Lena locks herself up in the garage to play with the engine of an old second-hand car she bought until it’s time to go back to school.

Now that they both have cellphones, communication between Kara and Lena is a lot easier and a lot faster, and they spend an insane amount of money on credit for text messages and phone calls. More than once, Lena sends Kara money to cover her phone bill, because she knows that it’s one hundred percent her fault it’s always too high, but she loves keeping in touch with Kara too much to put a stop to it. And it’s not like she needs that money anyway.

Somehow she also manages to still focus on her school work, and with the prospect of graduating a semester early, her grades are better than ever. She works her ass off, barely leaving her room except to go to class, and by the time the semester comes to an end, she’s ready to graduate.

Lex flies to Ireland to hug her and tell her he’s proud of her, and he takes an insane amount of pictures when she receives her diploma. He helps her pack all the stuff she gathered over the years into a box, after she’s done saying goodbye to the place that’s been her home for the past five years. She’s not sure she’s going to miss it.

There’s a part of her that feels like this should be grander—graduating high school, and flying across the world without the intention of coming back. But, for some reason, it doesn’t. She’s just a couple of months shy from eighteen, which means that, soon, Lillian will no longer have any legal power over her, and Lena’s ready to be free.

So when she’s on their private jet, and the airport is getting smaller and smaller beneath them, she doesn’t feel like part of her life is over. Her life is only just beginning.

 

Back in Metropolis, Lena doesn’t waste any time hanging around the house. She packs all her clothes and most important belongings into suitcases, throws them all in the trunk of her car, and, without properly saying goodbye to Lillian, starts driving south.

 

Lena has never been in Midvale without her father. Somehow, that’s the first thought that crosses her mind when she passes the sign that says, ‘Welcome to Midvale’. It feels like a stab in the chest, but then she thinks about Kara and the excited exclamation marks when Lena told her she’d be staying in Midvale until she started college in the fall, and how it’s enough to fill up some of the emptiness.

She wants to drive straight to Kara’s house, but that would be a waste of time. It’s Tuesday afternoon, and Kara’s still at school, and without any staff at the Luthor house, Lena will have to take care of the household herself.

For the rest of the day, she busies herself with doing grocery shopping, cleaning the most important rooms in the house, and unpacking her suitcases. This is going to be her home for the next eight months, and she wants to feel as comfortable as possible during that time. The only rooms she doesn’t touch are her parents’ and Lex’s rooms. She leaves their doors locked, and only lingers by her father’s office for a few minutes, allowing herself to miss him.

And then it’s five o’ clock, and her phone buzzes with a text message.

KARA @ LENA [5:03 PM]: im home. are you there yet??? eliza said she thought she’d seen you drive by!!

Lena doesn’t bother texting back. She shrugs on her coat, and tries to calmly walk down the hill to Kara’s house. She fails. About halfway, she starts running, almost trips three times, and eventually ends up slightly out of breath in front of Kara’s house.

Before she can ring the doorbell, the front door flies open, and Kara runs outside. Lena doesn’t get the chance to take a good look at her before she’s nearly being tackled to the ground, Kara’s arms like steel around her body.

“You’re here!” Kara yelps, lifting Lena off the ground to spin her around. “And you’re going to be here for a really long time!”

Lena clutches to Kara’s shirt, a little panicked at how fast they’re spinning, but her senses are being overwhelmed by all things Kara, and she thinks she thinks she might cry from happiness.

“I’m here,” she laughs when Kara finally puts her down. “And I’m not going anywhere.”

“That might literally the best thing you’ve ever said,” Kara grins. She’s grown even taller, and her grip has become even stronger than before, and she’s really growing into herself. Her smile is wider than ever, and her eyes are shining brighter than Lena remembers, and she’s so incredibly beautiful it knocks the breath out of Lena.

“Come on, let’s go inside. My parents are super excited to see you again, it’s been way too long.” Kara grabs Lena’s hand and starts tugging her towards the house, and Lena barely has time to register that holy shit Kara is holding her hand before they’re inside.

Lena takes off her coat, and when they enter the living room, Eliza and Jeremiah are already waiting to welcome her with hugs and kisses on cheeks.

“Kara said you graduated high school,” Eliza says, when she finally lets go of Lena. “Do you have plans for college yet?”

Lena nods. “I applied for a bunch of colleges, but I think I’m gonna stay in Metropolis. With my brother at the company, it’s the perfect opportunity to immediately start an internship there, and the combination of things just seemed the best option to me.”

Jeremiah gives her a warm smile and a pat on the back. “We’re sure you’re sick of hearing about this, but we haven’t had the chance to give our condolences about your father in person yet. We didn’t want to intrude at the funeral, since the invitation was specifically sent to Kara, but we hope you know.”

“I know, thank you.” Lena’s smile falters for a moment, before she regains her composition. “And it would’ve been totally fine if you guys had come. Lex hadn’t told me he’d invited Kara, so it was a complete surprise for me when she showed up.” She glances over her shoulder at Kara, who’s currently trying to open a pack of cookies. “I appreciated it, though.”

“Of course I showed up,” Kara says, her mouth full of cookie. “You’re my best friend.”

“Yeah, well. Still.” Lena looks down at her hands, picking at her chipped nail polish. She doesn’t want to talk about the funeral anymore. Even though it’s been nearly a year since her father died, she still tries to avoid talking about him as much as possible.

Eliza, probably sensing that, gently puts her hand on Lena’s shoulder. “Well, we’ll leave you girls to it, then. It’s nice to see you again, Lena. Are you staying for dinner?”

Lena’s first instinct is to decline the offer, but then she realizes there’s no one waiting for her to come home now. Lillian isn’t there to order her around anymore, and that realization sends a shiver down her spine. She grins. “Yes, I’d love that.”

 

A few weeks into May, Lena’s more grateful than ever that she decided to go to Midvale for a couple of months. Being here without her family is, honestly, a delight. Sure, she misses Lex every now and then, but it’s not like she’d see much more of him if she had stayed in Metropolis. Especially after their father’s passing he’d started to stay in his own apartment more often, both because it is closer to LuthorCorp and because it doesn’t have as many memories tied to it. Lena understands that—everywhere in the house in Midvale she’s reminded of her father and how much she misses him, and in the Luthor Mansion all of that is even worse.

But, obviously, the biggest reason Lena feels lighter than ever is Kara. They don’t see each other every day, like during the summer break, because Kara is still in high school and has to actually attend class and do homework. As it turns out, Kara’s not great at doing homework when Lena’s also in the room.

Lena spends the days they don’t see each other in the workshop at the back of the house, covered in grease and oil, tinkering around with old projects she started but never got to finish. Some days she sleeps until noon, only to stay up until late after midnight playing loud music through the speaker system and dancing around the entire house.

It’s on one of these nights that, for the first time since they’ve known each other, Kara rings the doorbell. The first few times, Lena doesn’t notice, but after a while the monotone ringing doesn’t seem to belong in the song anymore. She turns off the sound system and, surely enough, the doorbell rings another time.

Lena wipes her hands clean on her overall. She frowns, briefly wondering who would be at her door this close to midnight, but she gets up from under the car anyway and, accompanied by the constant ringing of the doorbell, she makes her way through the house to the front door.

When she opens up, slightly disheveled from working on a car the entire day, Kara’s tear-stained face is on the other side.

Lena’s eyes widen. “Oh my god, are you okay?”

“Yeah, I—I got into a fight with Alex, and that never happened before and—” Kara shuffles past Lena into the house, wiping her face. “Sorry for barging in here. I know it’s late and I have school tomorrow and you’re probably busy doing other stuff, but I had to get out for a bit and I saw the lights were still on so I thought—”

“No, that’s okay,” Lena says, closing the door. She studies Kara—her eyes are red, her cheeks are puffy, and there’s a downwards tilt to the corners of her mouth. Without another word, she pulls her into a hug. “You’re always welcome here.”

Kara wraps her arms around Lena’s waist, a little too tight, and buries her face into Lena’s shoulder. She’s not crying anymore, but Lena still holds her until she lets go. She sniffles and takes a deep breath. “I’m okay now.”

Lena gives her a soft smile. “I hate to ask, but…do your parents know you’re here?”

“I may have yelled something about it, and then ran off up the hill,” Kara sighs. “’s really only one place I could be going if it’s up the hill.”

“Okay.” Lena looks down at herself, highly aware of the fact that Kara’s never seen her in an overall before. “Um. Do you want something to drink? I can make hot cocoa, if you want?”

“Yeah, I’d like that.” Kara smiles, eyes flickering over Lena’s body. “What were you doing to be wearing that?”

“Just something with a car,” Lena shrugs. “Come on, kitchen’s this way.”

Lena leads Kara through the hallway to the kitchen, trying to ignore the way Kara’s eyes are wide with wonder as she looks around the house. With lots of modern blacks and whites, it’s a stark contrast to both the Luthor Mansion and Kara’s own house, and it’s definitely way too big for an eighteen-year old to be living in.

“I can’t believe I’ve never been inside before,” Kara says, already a lot calmer than before, as she settles on one of the stools surrounding the kitchen island. “It’s really pretty.”

Lena grabs cocoa powder from the cabinets and milk from the fridge to prepare their drinks, glancing over her shoulder to where Kara is craning her neck to see through the half-open door leading to the dining room. She knows damn well why she has never invited Kara into the house before, and after a while it just became habit for them to always hang out at Kara’s place.

“You can take a look, you know, if you want to? It’s just me in here, no one else,” she says, grinning at the way Kara leaps out of the stool to check out the dining room.

“This place is amazing!” she exclaims, the way her voice echoes through the house ironically confirming the spaciousness. “How many rooms does this house have?”

“God, I don’t know? A lot. There’s my parents’ bedroom, Lex’s room, my room, a bunch of guest rooms, and then every one of those rooms have bathrooms…office spaces, the workshop, the living room, dining room, kitchen, staff rooms…there’s a lot of rooms.”

“Rao, that’s a lot,” Kara says, stepping back into the kitchen, where Lena’s just finishing their drinks. “I want to see all of them.”

“You want to see all the bathrooms, too? They’re not that special, I’m afraid. Just bathrooms.” Lena places two mugs filled with hot cocoa on the kitchen island, climbing onto a stool.

Kara frowns, pretending to be deep in thought. “No. I wanna see your room, though. I’ve never seen your room, but you’ve seen mine a billion times.”

“Sounds extremely unfair,” Lena grins. “I’ll show you after we’ve finished our cocoa.”

Kara makes a move to chug the entire mug all at once, a smile tugging at her lips. When she sets down her mug again, she sighs, glancing in the general direction of where the Danvers’ house is located.

Lena watches her for a moment, before gently nudging Kara’s knee with her own. “Hey, c’mon, I’ll show you around. Be careful with your mug, though. If you spill it, you gotta clean up.” She gestures at the dining room. “You’ve already seen that. It’s where we usually ate, except now it’s just me and I don’t see the point in taking all the shit I cooked to another room if I can just sit in the kitchen.”

“You cook?”

“Eh, not really. Just the bare minimum,” Lena shrugs. “At school we ate at the cafeteria, and at home we had a cook. I bought a few cookbooks, though, so I’m learning.” She places her hand on the small of Kara’s back to guide her back into the hallway.

From there, she shows Kara the living room, the empty office space Lex and Lillian used, and the staff rooms—all of which are pretty much empty. When they arrive at the workshop, Lena explains what she’s been working on, and, to her surprise, Kara makes a few smart remarks about the car’s engine.

“I didn’t know you liked cars,” Lena says, rushing to a notepad to write down the ideas, in case she’ll forget about them in the morning. “If you want you can help me fix this one up.”

Kara’s eyes flicker from the car to Lena back to the car, and her lips curl up into a grin. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah, of course. You seem to know what you’re talking about. It’ll be fun, working on this project together.” Lena gestures at her overall. “And I have another one of these that you can wear. Wouldn’t want your neat button ups to get all dirty now, would we?”

Kara glances at her for a moment, her gaze lingering on Lena’s overall. “I guess not.”

Lena tries not to stare back too obviously. Kara doesn’t look like she was crying just thirty minutes ago anymore, but there’s still a hint of exhaustion pressing down on her shoulders. It makes Lena want to hug her. Then again—Lena always wants to hug Kara.

After the workshop they go up the main staircase, black and imposing, in the middle of the hallway with railings perfect for sliding. Upstairs are the bedrooms, all of them vacated except for one, and after a quick tour around the upper floor, they end up in Lena’s bedroom.

The two large bookcases lining the walls, filled with books of almost every genre, are probably the most prominent items in the room. Most of her possessions, including the rest of her books, are still in Metropolis, but there’s a good amount here, and it’s one of her favorite parts of the house. Other than that, her room is filled with warmer colors than the stark black-and-white, although it’s mostly pillows, curtains, and bed sheets that make it feel homelier than the rest of the house.

Kara stands in the middle of the room for a few minutes, taking it all in, while Lena sits down on the edge of her windowsill, watching her. The fact that Kara is in her room right now is kind of surreal. She almost has the urge to pinch herself to see if she’s dreaming.

“I like your room,” Kara says, after a while. She’s still clutching her mug, taking a sip as she looks around. “It’s like you. Tough on the outside, soft on the inside.” She walks over to the desk, where Lena has a total of two framed pictures: one of her, Lex, and their father, and one of her and Kara from last summer.

Kara picks up the latter. “Don’t you think it’s crazy that we met years ago, and this is only the first time I’ve been to your house?”

“Yeah, well, you know my mom. She’s not the type that likes having other people over at her house, especially not if they make me happy.” Lena looks down at her now-empty mug, her hands wrapped around the cool material. “I’m just…glad to be away from her.”

“Sorry,” Kara mumbles. She sits down next to Lena, even though the windowsill is barely big enough for the two of them. It forces them to sit close enough to each other that their arms and sides are pressed together. “I didn’t mean it like that.”

Lena forces a smile, trying not to get too distracted by their current sitting situation. “I know. It’s okay.” She looks over at Kara, whose face is suddenly much closer than she anticipated. So close she could kiss her, if she wanted. And she wants to. She can feel the warmth of Kara’s skin through the fabric of their clothes, see the different shades of blue in her eyes, smell the shampoo in her hair. She could kiss her. In a moment of lost self-control, she starts to lean in, and—

Kara turns away, a childlike innocence in her smile when she nudges Lena’s ribs. “Hey, you can see my house from here.”

Lena blinks, light-headed from the almost kiss. Something twitches in her stomach and she’s not sure if it’s good or bad. Her right side is still on fire from where Kara was pressing into her, and suddenly it’s too much. She has to snap out of it.

With more force than necessary, she leaps up from the windowsill. “Um. What? I mean—yeah. Yeah, I know. Um. Yeah.”

“That’s so cool! I wish I’d known, then I could’ve waved at you after dinner when you weren’t allowed outside anymore.” Kara’s grin widens for a moment, but then her face falls and she lets out a deep sigh. “Do you think Alex is still mad at me?”

Lena frowns, glancing back and forth between the lights of the house down the hill and Kara’s pout. It’s distracting, but Lena isn’t sure what she’s being distracted from: Kara’s question, or the fact that she was this close to kissing her best friends just moments ago. She takes a few steps back, giving herself the space to think and breathe, until the back of her knees hit her bed, and she sits down. She puts her mug on the nightstand.

“I don’t know. What did you fight about?”

Kara bites her lip. “Just something…stupid.” Her hands move, followed by the cracking of ceramic, and before Lena realizes what’s happening Kara’s on her feet to scoop up the broken pieces of her mug. “Oh my g—I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean to…darn it. Sorry.”

“No, no don’t touch that!” Lena leaps up from her bed to grab a dustpan and brush set from the cupboard in the hallway, but before she’s even halfway across the room, Kara’s voice stops her.

“I got it, Lena. Where’s your trash can?”

Lena turns around to find Kara standing with broken pottery in her hands, as if the sharp edges don’t bother her at all. With a soft smile, Lena points at the trash can next to the door. “Be careful not to cut yourself. I’d hate for tonight to turn into a trip to the hospital.”

Kara manages to throw away what’s still left of the mug without any blood being spilled, but Lena still goes to get the dustpan to brush up the small pieces that can’t be picked up without the edges tearing your skin.

After they’re done cleaning up, Kara looks at her with guilty eyes. “I’m sorry for breaking your mug. I can pay for it, if you want.”

“Not that I don’t appreciate it, Kara, but look around you. I bet there are more mugs in this house than in a fucking Starbucks.” Lena purses her lips. “What happened, though?”

“Guess I dropped it,” Kara shrugs, reaching up to her face to readjust her glasses. “I can be clumsy sometimes.”

Lena gives Kara a long look. “Well, don’t worry about it. Happens to the best of us.” She pauses. “Hey, what did Alex say?”

“Nothing…” Kara sighs, sitting back down in the windowsill. Her eyes briefly flicker to the house, then back to Lena. “She was pissed because I’m always spending time with you now, instead of her. It’s not like she doesn’t have other friends, too.”

Lena’s heart flutters in her chest at the realization that Kara got into a fight with her sister, arguably the person she cares about most in this world, to defend her. But, “Kara…you know Alex doesn’t like me. That’s not worth fighting her over.”

“I know.” Kara’s eyebrows knit together, balling her fists. “It just doesn’t make any sense. She has no reason to dislike you. I just don’t understand—I mean, it’s not like I have a bunch of friends to choose from, you know? I have you, and a few people I talk to at school sometimes, but that’s it. She’s just, like, jealous, or something, like I’m choosing between you two. And that’s just so unfair.”

Lena gets up from the bed to sit next to Kara again, gently placing her hands over Kara’s fists. “She’s probably just scared of losing you. You’re her baby sister. She doesn’t want to see you get hurt.”

Kara lets out a long sigh, her fists slowly unclenching. She twists her hands, absentmindedly rubbing her thumb against the back of Lena’s. “Still makes no sense. You’re not gonna hurt me. Right?”

“Of course not,” Lena smiles. “She’s just worried. It’s in the job description of older sibling. Lex says he worries about me all the time.”

“I guess. I just wish she’d stop, sometimes. I can handle myself. I’m not broken. I’m not thirteen anymore. I’m—” Her fingers twist against the palm of Lena’s hand, and she leans her head on Lena’s shoulder. “I’m okay.”

They sit like that for a few minutes. That overwhelming urge to kiss Kara comes back, but Lena closes her eyes and leans her cheek against the side of Kara’s head, focusing on how Kara’s still drawing small patterns on her palm instead. It’s okay.

After a while, Kara starts pulling back, and Lena instantly sits up. She glances at the clock on her nightstand—it’s already an hour past midnight.

“You should probably go home,” she says, nodding at the clock. “I bet your parents are worried about you, even if they know you’re here.”

“I, um, kind of yelled I wasn’t gonna come home until Alex stopped being rude, so there’s that? Is that okay?”

“Yeah, of course,” Lena nods. “I probably have some oversized pajamas you’d fit. And you can pick any guest room—they’re all free.”

Kara frowns.

“What?” Lena asks.

“Can I pick this room, too? I don’t wanna be alone.”

“Oh.” Lena’s stomach makes a backflip. Sharing a bed with Kara means cuddling with Kara. Which is fine. Totally fine. It’s just that maybe she’ll die tonight. Which, all things considered, wouldn’t be the worst way to go.

Kara narrows her eyes, tilting her head slightly as she studies Lena for a moment. “Are you sure?”

“Yeah,” Lena nods. “Of course.” She gets up to walk over to her closet. She pulls out an oversized shirt and sweatpants, throwing them at Kara, who has no trouble catching them.

Kara goes into the bathroom to change, and when she comes back Lena’s heart stops beating for a moment. She’s not sure why Kara’s so much prettier when she’s dressed in Lena’s clothes, especially if they’re just pajamas, but holy shit.

Kara glances down at herself. “What? These fit, right?”

“You’re beautiful,” Lena blurts out before she can stop herself. Then, when she realizes what she just said, she immediately regrets it. So much for no homo. Great thinking, Lena. Just great. Now Kara will definitely know she’s in love with her.

But Kara just flushes a deep shade of red, and fidgets with her glasses, avoiding all eye contact. “You think so?”

“Y-yeah,” Lena stammers. “I do.”

“Oh. Thank you.” Kara gives her a hesitant smile, running her hand through her hair to flip it to the other side of her head—which, also, holy shit.

Breathe, Lena. Breathe.

“You’re beautiful, too,” Kara says. “Like, really beautiful.”

And Lena decides, in that moment, that it doesn’t matter if she forgets to breathe or not because she’s probably already dead. She’s staring at Kara like she’s spent years underground and Kara is the fucking sun, trying to remember how to make her body move on her command, but she’s just frozen in her place.

And Kara’s just staring back, that same shy smile on her lips. Radiant as ever, more beautiful than Lena can remember.

Lena’s not sure how she manages to climb into her bed, but somehow she ends up under the covers, with Kara to her left, and she’s still not sure her heart is really beating. She turns to her side, facing Kara, and smiles.

Kara smiles back.

 

When Lena wakes up to a full bladder later that night, Kara’s arm is wrapped around her waist, and her warm breath on the back of Lena’s neck sends shivers down her spine. Needless to say, Lena doesn’t wiggle out of the embrace to go to the toilet until Kara sleepily mumbles Lena’s name and rolls onto her back.

 

That night seems to somehow set a new standard for them. Sleepovers become a weekly thing, usually from Friday to Saturday because after Kara missed school a couple of times Eliza yelled at the both of them for a few minutes and prohibited weekday sleepovers, and it feels awfully domestic when Kara starts leaving a toothbrush in Lena’s bathroom.

Occasionally they’ll be in Kara’s house watching a movie when they fall asleep and they’ll stay there instead, but Lena’s pretty sure they both prefer Lena’s house because there’s no parents who could bust them cuddling in bed. Which, even though neither of them has explicitly said anything about it, they both know is not entirely a platonic thing to do. Lena doesn’t mind. Not at all.

 

In the first weeks of summer, Lex comes to visit a couple of times. He usually stays a few days at the time, keeping up with the business through lengthy phone calls and late night emails, and him and Lena try to do as many things as possible during that time. Seeing Lex means not seeing Kara, which sucks, but Lena also really missed Lex, and Kara will still be there after he’s gone back to Metropolis. He tells her about the latest developments with LuthorCorp, teaches her some of the basics of running a company, and, like a true brother, gives Lena an amused look when she gushes about Kara, but lets her ramble about how pretty Kara’s hair shines in the sun.

Lillian doesn’t come to visit. She calls, twice. One time to ask if Lena has put the house in ruins yet, and one time to ask if Lena can look for a specific book she left in her office.

Lex tells her Lillian has been doing better, though. She doesn’t spend all her time hauled up inside the house anymore, picked up on doing some medical research for LuthorCorp again, and Lena hates that she feels glad to hear about that. She hates that she still cares.

 

Towards the end of summer, when Kara and Lena finish their car project, Clark comes to visit. He spends a week with the Danvers, and for the first time in months, Lena misses Kara. She eats dinner with them once, but afterwards she sleeps in her own bed, and it’s almost like she can physically feel Kara’s absence.

So, after Clark is back in Metropolis, she texts Kara to come meet her in their cave. Despite the both of them being too tall to stand upright when they’re inside anymore, it’s still one of their favorite spots.

Kara is glowing when she slips down the entrance, giving Lena a slightly-longer-than-normal hug before pulling a bag of potato chips from her backpack and starting to stuff her face with it. “Clark says hi.”

“Hi back,” Lena grins, reaching into the bag to grab some potato chips. Her hand brushes Kara’s and she feels like there’s current running through her skin upon the contact, and even after all this time she’s still not used to that feeling. “Lex said he’s gonna cover some piece about LuthorCorp soon. Not sure if I’m supposed to know about it or not.”

“Clark told me,” Kara nods. “Reporting sounds cool, don’t you think? I think I might join the school newspaper next year. I mean, I have to start thinking about college soon, and stuff.”

“If you’re gonna be a reporter you can write articles on all the cool medical stuff I’m gonna design,” Lena says. “‘Lena Luthor Finds Way To Prevent Atherosclerosis.’ Sounds like a good headline to me.”

Kara flicks a potato chip at her. “More like ‘Lena Luthor Finds Way To Somehow Steal All Of Kara Danvers’ Potato Chips’.”

“It’s not stealing if you throw them at me,” Lena shrugs. She leans back into one of the pillows lining the wall, drawing circles in the sand. “I missed you. Did you have fun with Clark?”

“Yeah, I guess,” Kara says, her shoulders slumping ever so slightly. “I don’t know why, but there’s something about him that’s different. Like, he doesn’t seem to wanna talk to me about stuff anymore. Which makes no sense, you know, because I’m getting older which means he should want to talk to me more, right? Instead he’s being weird every time I bring up, like, my parents, or something.”

“Shit. Did you talk to him about that?”

“…No.”

Kara. He’s your cousin. He’ll understand.”

Kara looks at her, the potato chips long forgotten. “I guess. I just don’t wanna push him away, or anything, you know?” She fumbles with her glasses, readjusting them twice. “He’s, like, all I have left of them. And I’m scared I’ll forget.”

“You won’t,” Lena says, almost immediately. She moves closer to Kara, squeezing her knee. “Honestly. Maybe you won’t remember all the little details, but your memories of them are too big and too important for you to forget.”

Kara is quiet for a minute or two, leaning into Lena’s side. It’s a familiar weight by now, and Lena almost gasps from how much she’s missed it. She readjusts her sitting position to make it more comfortable for the both of them, and Kara subconsciously reacts by pressing her cheek into Lena’s shoulder and linking her arm through Lena’s.

“Don’t you ever have that, though? Like, I always doubt whether it’s really their voice that I remember, or if it was actually really different and I’ve somehow made all of it up in my head.” Her voice is soft, but strong in a way that tells Lena it’s okay to talk about this right now. Kara’s not going to break—she hasn’t for a long time.

“Sometimes. But I have Lex, and pictures. That’s why you should talk to Clark about it.”

“He doesn’t rem—” Kara starts, stopping herself mid-sentence before continuing, “I mean…it’s not like…I don’t know. Maybe.”

Lena looks at her, trying to make something of Kara’s expression, but her face is blank. At moments like these, Lena is forcefully reminded of how much she doesn’t know about Kara, of how different Kara can be sometimes. Over the years she has nearly perfected her mask, but at the same time Lena developed the ability to look past that, and even though she knows not to ask questions, the answers have started to fall into place one by one like pieces of a puzzle. Unfortunately, the puzzle that is Kara Danvers is still too big with too many missing pieces to see the full picture, and Lena can’t figure out the exact image just yet.

“Hey,” she says, so low it’s almost a whisper. “It’s okay. Whatever it is, it’s okay.”

The corners of Kara’s lips curl up into the tiniest smile, and she nudges Lena’s side with her elbow. “I know.” And then, out of nowhere, “I love you.”

Lena freezes. Her heart suddenly feels too big, like it’s ready to burst out of her chest, and her face feels warm. For a moment she panics, barely remembers how to breathe, because this is exactly what a heart attack is supposed to feel like, and it takes her a second to identify the feeling as falling even more in love, instead.

She opens her mouth to reply, a casual I love you, too, like they’ve said so many times before, but her tongue is paralyzed and the words get stuck in her throat.

It feels like the world is spinning around them, and she blinks a few times but all she can see is Kara, Kara, Kara. Kara’s cheek on her shoulder, Kara’s eyes staring into hers, Kara’s hand on her arm as a worried frown finds its way to the spot between Kara’s eyebrows. Kara, Kara, Kara.

“Are you okay?” Kara asks.

Lena swallows, focusing on the concerned look in Kara’s eyes, blue, like the ocean stretched out in front of them, and she starts to nod but instead she leans closer to Kara and presses her forehead against Kara’s.

All of time and space seems to fade away then, and Lena’s unsure whether she’s in control or not, but Kara doesn’t move away and she doesn’t push against Lena’s shoulders and she’s right there. So when Lena draws a sharp breath and presses her lips against Kara’s, the only word that comes to her mind is finally.

Chapter Text

Kara gasps into her mouth, and for half a second a wave of panic rushes through Lena’s body, but then Kara’s hands are cupping both sides of her face and she’s kissing back.

It’s soft and sweet and even better than Lena could’ve imagined. She can’t breathe and she might be crying, but Kara’s kissing her back and that’s almost too good to be true, so Lena doesn’t dare pull away in fear of waking up.

Eventually it’s Kara who pulls away first, gently. One of her hands is still on Lena’s cheek, the other tangled in her hair, and there’s something about the look in her eyes that Lena has never seen before.

“Hey,” Kara whispers, wiping a tear off of Lena’s cheek. “Are you okay?”

Lena tries to speak, but her tongue is paralyzed so instead she just nods. She can almost feel the blood rushing through her veins, hear the thump thump thump of her heart against her ribs, but all she can do is stare at Kara. Kara, with eyes are bluer than the ocean. Kara, whose lips are curling up into a hesitant smile. Kara, who’s still here, even though Lena just kissed her.

“Was that okay?” Kara asks, dropping her hands from Lena’s face. “I’ve never kissed anyone.”

Lena blinks, because here she is, finally letting herself be in love with Kara, and Kara’s talking about how this was her first kiss. And it’s cute, but it’s not how Lena imagined it going. She thought there would be more yelling and calling Lena names and Kara running away from the worst friend she ever had.

“What?” she mumbles, wanting to pull away and stay close to Kara at the same time. “You’re not mad?”

Kara raises her eyebrows in surprise. “Mad? Why would I be mad?”

“Because I kissed you,” Lena starts, suddenly highly aware of how her mouth still tastes like Kara, and how her lips are still tingling. “Oh god, I kissed you. I didn’t mean to—I never wanted to ruin our friendship but I couldn’t help it, and now—”

“Ruin our friendship?” Kara interrupts. “You—wait, what?” She reaches forward to push a strand of hair out of Lena’s face. “You think I didn’t want that? Lena, I know I’m not the best at talking about my feelings and stuff sometimes, but that doesn’t mean I don’t feel anything at all. I—I feel a lot of things, and you…I mean. Duh.”

And before Lena can process what’s happening, Kara leans in to press her lips against Lena’s again. She’s rougher, more aggressive this time, but also tender and full of compassion. Lena reacts to it without a second thought, reaching for the back of Kara’s neck to pull her closer. Her side is pressed uncomfortably into the wall of the cave, but she barely feels any of it. All she feels is Kara’s lips on her own, and fire spreading rapidly through every cell of her body.

 

For about a week, they spend their time sneaking around. Stealing kisses when no one’s looking, covertly holding each other’s hand underneath the table at dinner, snuggling up to each other while they’re watching a movie…all the things Lena thought she’d never have. Not with Kara, at least. She imagined all of this so many times, yet somehow the reality is even better than the dream.

One day, when they’re walking back from a day on the beach, Kara hooks her arm through Lena’s. “I wanna tell them. Eliza and Jeremiah, I mean.”

“Tell them what?”

“That you’re my girlfriend,” Kara says. “I think they’ll be okay with it. They like you, and one time when Alex said something dumb she got yelled at by Eliza. She kinda deserved it.”

“Wait, I’m your girlfriend?”

Kara stops walking, her smile faltering ever so slightly. “Um…yes? Unless you don’t want to? I kinda just assumed…is that not okay?”

Lena tries to nod and shake her head at the same time, nearly tripping over thin air if it weren’t for Kara holding onto her. “No, I mean, yeah. I’d love to be your girlfriend.”

“Okay,” Kara smiles, bright and beautiful. “So do you wanna tell them tonight? You can stay for dinner, and we’ll tell them.”

“Yeah, we can tell them.”

Kara narrows her eyes. “Are you sure? You don’t sound very sure.”

“No, I’m sure,” Lena says. “Just…unexpected. I literally went from thinking I’d never even get to hold your hand to being able to kiss you whenever I want to, and suddenly everything is happening really fast. I haven’t even told Lex yet.”

Kara squeezes Lena’s arm. “We can wait, if you want. There’s no need to hurry. Summer’s not over for, like, a month, and if you’re not ready we’re not gonna tell anyone anything.”

Lena gives the possibility a thought, but then she shakes her head. “No, it’s okay. And you’re right, I do think your parents will be okay with it. I can beat Alex up if she makes a dumb comment.”

“I’ll beat her up myself if necessary,” Kara says, her tone suddenly grim. “I love her, but I deserve this. We deserve this.”

Lena glances around and, after making sure there’s no one who could see them, presses a quick kiss against Kara’s cheekbone. “I’m sure it’ll be fine.”

Kara frowns. “I hope so. I really don’t want to beat Alex up. She’s, like, small and fragile.”

“Alex is taller than me.”

“Yeah,” Kara nods, as if that’s exactly what she meant. “You’re also small and fragile. I keep thinking that if I make one wrong move I’m gonna break you in half.”

Lena tries to hide her laugh with a faux-offended purse of her lips. “I’m average height.”

“Small people always say they’re average height,” Kara shrugs. She slides her backpack off her back, bending her knees a little. “Come on, I’ll give you a piggy back ride and if I’m not out of breath when we get home, which I won’t because I’m super awesome like that, you have to accept that you’re small and fragile.”

For a moment, Lena hesitates. Then she grabs Kara’s backpack, swings it over her shoulders, and climbs on Kara’s back. She can feel Kara’s muscles flex against her body as she leans forward to wrap her arms around Kara’s neck. Kara’s hair smells like coconut.

“You ready?” Kara asks, turning her head slightly in a failed attempt to look at Lena.

“Yeah,” Lena breathes.

She barely has time to steady herself before Kara starts running up the hill. Lena has ridden a horse a few times, and in a way this feels similar to that experience. Suddenly Kara seems to be all power and muscle, and Lena has to tighten her grip in order not to fall off.

By the time they reach the garden fence surrounding Kara’s house, Lena’s the one who’s out of breath, while Kara still seems fine. Before Lena has time to process what’s happening, Kara’s strides become longer and then she leaps off the ground to jump over the fence. Lena yelps and buries her face in Kara’s hair, but then they’re back on the ground, and Kara’s slowing down.

It reminds Lena of the first time she saw Kara, levitating a couple of yards above the ground to catch a ball, and with a jolt she’s reminded of how Kara’s not like anyone else.

Feeling shaky, Lena presses a kiss to the back of Kara’s neck, before sliding off her back. Her knees feel like they’re going to give out, but there’s adrenaline rushing through her veins, and a laugh bubbles up from her throat. “That was cool.”

“And I win,” Kara grins, briefly reaching up to graze her neck with her fingertips. “Do you admit defeat?”

“Fine,” Lena grumbles. “But it’s not out of free will.”

Kara laughs, digging her house key out of her pocket. She unlocks the door, and as soon as it opens, the smell of food drifts towards them. They find Jeremiah in the kitchen, stirring in some pan.

“Is it okay if Lena stays for dinner?” Kara asks.

“Of course, sweetheart,” Jeremiah smiles. “Did you two have fun at the beach? No sunburn on your pale faces?”

“I don’t burn,” Kara says, at the same time Lena says, “I put on a lot of sun block.”

Jeremiah lets out a laugh. “Well, okay then. Dinner’s ready in a few minutes.”

 “Okay,” Kara says. She wraps her fingers around Lena’s wrist, tugging her upstairs. They pass Alex’s room, loud music with a heavy bass sounding through the closed door, on their ways to Kara’s. They used to share a room, but a couple of years ago Eliza and Jeremiah cleaned out the second bedroom they used as an office space for Kara’s birthday, and they’d each had their own room ever since.

Kara’s room is a mess. Everywhere are bright colors that aren’t supposed to match but somehow also don’t look terrible together, and there’s even more colorful clothes scattered all over the floor. The walls are plastered with pictures: Kara and Alex, Kara and Lena, Kara with Alex and their parents, Kara and Clark…Pretty much every combination of people Kara knows is present on the walls of Kara’s bedroom. One time when Lena asked why Kara wanted so many pictures of the same people staring down at her while she was asleep, Kara replied something along the lines of wanting to remember and keep them close forever in a tone that was both cute and also a little sad.

Lena plops down in the old armchair by the window, while Kara sits down on her bed. She’s fidgeting with her glasses, and tapping her foot against the floor.

“You okay?”

Kara nods. “Yeah. I think so.”

Lena stretches out her arms. “Come sit with me.”

Kara crosses the room to sit down on Lena’s lap. The sudden weight is a little uncomfortable, but Lena wraps her arms around her waist and pulls her closer. She presses her lips against Kara’s arm, which tastes a bit like salt from the ocean, and smiles.

Without a word, Kara shifts so she can lean down and kiss Lena. Her lips taste like salt, too. Lena closes her eyes, leans up to kiss Kara, and wonders how wrong it could be to love someone who’s so clearly different.

They kiss, soft and gentle, until Eliza knocks on the door to let them know that dinner’s ready. They break apart, both of them slightly out of breath this time, faces slightly flushed and lips slightly swollen. They run into Alex on the way downstairs, and Kara makes small talk while they all sit down at the dinner table.

Lena tries to join in, but her throat feels thick and she doesn’t trust her voice not to shake. It’s dumb, being this nervous when it’s not even really about her, but coming out in any way is nerve wrecking, and she doesn’t think she’ll ever get used to it. She’s not sure how Kara can appear so calm, when she’s about to do one of the scariest things Lena can imagine, but then again—what could go wrong? Eliza and Jeremiah are the best parents in the world, and if her own, conservative parents can accept it, surely they can, too.

But as dinner progresses, cracks start to show in Kara’s calm façade. Underneath the table, she’s holding Lena’s hand so tightly she almost cuts off her blood flow, and with her other hand, she’s shoveling nearly double the amount of food she’d normally eat inside, which leaves barely anything for the rest of them.

Lena catches Eliza and Jeremiah exchanging glances a few times, but eventually it’s Alex who says something when Kara takes the last potato despite having already eaten four.

“Kara, what’s up with you? You’re acting weird. Like, weirder than usual.”

Kara’s hand grips Lena’s even tighter, and then she blurts out, “Lena is my girlfriend. We’re dating. Oh Rao, I did not mean to say it like that. But yeah. That’s what’s up. Um…yeah.”

In the long moment of silence that follows, a lot seems to happen at once. Eliza and Jeremiah’s heads snap up to look at each other, the two of them immediately in a silent conversation through glances and eyebrow movements. Alex’s eyes go wide, and her feet jerk involuntarily against Lena’s shins, like she wants to run away. And Kara, no longer trying to hide her emotions, is frantically chewing her lip, her eyes darting everywhere but her parents’ faces. By now, she’s squeezing Lena’s hand so hard it feels like Lena’s bones are gonna break, but Lena lets her, because she knows what it feels like to sit and wait and nearly die inside.

“Well,” Jeremiah says eventually, breaking the silence. “That sure does explain a lot.”

“What he means to say is that it’s okay, Kara,” Eliza says, shaking her head at her husband. “And that we were already expecting something like this to happen since, you know, we’re not blind.”

Kara blinks. “What?”

“What?” Alex says, before anyone else can say something. Her shoulders are tense, and there’s something in her eyes that Lena’s not sure about, and her voice is high-pitched. “Kara’s dating a girl and you’re just okay with that?”

Lena draws a sharp breath. The only reason she hasn’t started yelling yet is that she’s in someone else’s house and even though this is kind of her business, it’s certainly not her place to tell Alex off about it.

“Yes, Alexandra, we are,” Eliza says, slowly. “Are you implying you’re not?”

Alex slides down in her seat, arms crossed over her chest. There’s an unreadable expression on her face, eyes darting everywhere except Kara or Lena. “No, it’s whatever. I don’t care. Kara can date whoever she likes, I guess.”

“Yes, I can,” Kara says, her eyes practically shooting fire. She reaches for Lena’s hand again, rubbing the back with her thumb. “You’re wrong, Alex.”

“We’ll talk to her.” Eliza gives Kara and Lena a tired smile. At that, Kara shoves her chair back and all but storms off, and Lena follows her lead. She’s not sure what to make of Alex. Something about her is off, but Lena isn’t sure what.

But Kara’s upset, and Lena cares way more about that than whatever stupid opinions Alex has. She finds Kara in her room, balled fists and whispering to herself in what sounds like a foreign language. Her first instinct is to wrap her arms around Kara, but something inside of her tells her that it’d be a bad idea.

Instead, she lingers in the doorway. “Kara?”

Kara’s head snaps up. Her eyes are swimming with tears, and when they lock on Lena’s, her lower lip trembles. Lena leaps forward then, pulling her close in a tight hug, rubbing her back.

“I thought she’d at least try to accept it, you know? She’s my sister, she’s supposed to wanna see me happy,” Kara mumbles into Lena’s shoulder, not quite crying but definitely on the verge of tears. “I don’t understand what’s so hard about that.”

“Neither do I,” Lena whispers back. “I’m sorry.”

Kara pulls back, wiping at her cheeks with the back of her hand. “For what?”

“I don’t know. Lex was okay with it when I came out to him. I guess I hoped Alex would be the same.”

“No, don’t say that.” Kara reaches out to cup Lena’s face. “Alex will get over it, I’m sure. She’s not a bad person, she’s just—” She groans, shaking her head like she can’t believe they’re even having this conversation. “Dumb.”

“She kinda is,” Lena agrees. She leans into Kara’s hand, her eyes fluttering closed. She doesn’t think she’ll ever get used to this—Kara showing this type of affection, like she’d dreamed about so many times. It feels surreal, to have something this good happen, and while there’s a part of her, the realistic part, knows that this can’t last forever, at moments like this she lets herself believe it can.

After all, when she leans in to kiss Kara now, Kara will kiss back, and that is something she’d never thought would happen either.

 

Alex apologizes to the both of them a few days later. She doesn’t quite look them in the eyes yet, and she shuffles her feet a lot, but there’s a genuine tone to her voice and Lena can’t help but believe she’s really sorry.

 

With the end of summer nearing, it’s almost time for Lena to go back to Metropolis. She’s been accepted into Met U, and while there were definitely good options for on-campus housing, Lena’s done with living in dorms. She’s done enough of that in Ireland, and since she’s been living on her own for the past couple of months already, she wants to get an apartment somewhere in the city instead.

Which means she has to go apartment hunting. And, with a budget that’s pretty much unlimited, that’s definitely not the worst thing in the world.

Not wanting to stay in the Luthor Mansion with Lillian, she calls Lex to ask if she can stay in his apartment until she’s found her own. He promises to have his personal assistant, apparently it comes with the job of CEO, make the bed in the guest room before Lena’s even finished asking her question.

Unfortunately, with making their relationship official came a few cons—one of them being that Kara’s parents no longer want their sixteen-year old daughter to stay with Lena overnight. Which means that it’s fine if Lena stays at the Danvers’ residence on a mattress on the floor, but they don’t allow Kara to sleep over at Lena’s place anymore. Sort of understandable, but annoying all the same.

It also means that if Kara comes up to Metropolis, she’s supposed to stay with Clark in his new and bigger apartment, not Lena. It’s fine, Lena thinks. Until she has her own apartment, she’d rather not have Kara and Lex in the same place too much, anyway. Whenever Kara’s comfortable in her skin, she has the tendency to…slip up, sometimes, acting different like she’s from another culture, and with Lex’s view on everything that’s different, having the two of them in the same apartment doesn’t seem like the best idea.

But at least Kara can tag along on the apartment hunt, which has the two of them stuffing their suitcases into the trunk of Lena’s car one early morning about two weeks before school starts back up.

“Let us know when you’ve arrived at Clark’s, okay?” Eliza says, hugging both Kara and Lena goodbye. She grins, jokingly adding, “And don’t forget to send us an invitation for the housewarming party.”

“Will do. Bye!” Lena turns the key in the ignition, and then they’re off. She reaches over the armrest for Kara’s hand, pressing her lips against Kara’s knuckles with a smile.

“I made a great playlist for any roadtrip,” Kara says, digging into her bag with her free hand. She pulls out a burned CD, which inevitably has the entire Top 40 and quite possibly N’Sync’s entire discography on it.

Lena groans. “Can’t we just listen to the radio?”

“Nope.” Kara puts the CD into the slot in Lena’s car radio, fiddling with the knobs for a moment. And, surely enough, the first beats to Lady Gaga’s Pokerface blast through the speakers.

Lena rolls her eyes when Kara starts to obnoxiously sing along, but she doesn’t pull back her hand, and doesn’t tell Kara to stop.

 

They drive for hours on end, only making one pit stop to get gas and to pee, and Kara somehow manages to sing the entire time without her voice going hoarse. By the time they reach Clark’s apartment, Lena’s definitely tired and annoyed, but she still kisses Kara goodbye with the promise to pick her up the next morning for the first sighting.

Lex’s penthouse isn’t too far from Clark’s, but it’s completely different. When she enters the building, the doorman stops her to ask for her business, and she has to show her ID to prove that she really is Lex Luthor’s little sister, only to be informed that, “Mr. Luthor hasn’t been home since last night,” and, “No, sorry, I don’t have a spare key to his front door because Mr. Luthor is very keen on his privacy,” and, “You should probably give him a call.”

Lena’s half inclined on turning her car around and driving back to Clark, and ask if she can stay with him and Kara instead of her idiot brother who forgot she was coming, but they deserve some time together, and Lena really does want to see Lex. So she gets back into her car and calls him, first on his cell and then, when he doesn’t pick up, to his office.

His assistant picks up, admits that she’s the one who forgot to be at the penthouse when Lena arrived, and promises that she’ll be there soon.

“No, that’s fine. I’ll drive by LuthorCorp myself to pick up the key, if that’s okay,” Lena says. Lex’s assistant sounds relieved she won’t have to drive across the city, and Lena hangs up the phone with the feeling that she’s doing a good deed by making the drive herself.

She hasn’t been to LuthorCorp since before her father died, and it’s different than she remembers. Taller, more prominent in the skyline of Metropolis. Darker, maybe.

A sense of foreboding overcomes her as she steps into the building. She reaches for her purse to grab her ID once more, but the receptionist waves her through before she can show it. Lena gives her a smile, but it goes unreturned.

A cold shiver runs down her spine as she rides the elevator up to the floor the CEO’s office is located, and Lena decides she doesn’t like what Lex has done with the place. It’s not even the slight changes of the interior design—which used to be fairly light with the occasional oddly colored wall, instead of the distant whites and grays—but something about the ambiance feels off, like something has been feeding off of the happiness of the employees.

Lex’s assistant, Lena thinks her name is Cindy, is waiting for her when Lena steps out of the elevator. She looks nervous, not meeting Lena’s eyes when she hands her a set of keys, barely smiling when Lena thanks her.

“Is Lex in there?” she asks then, pointing at the closed office door that says CEO Luthor’s Office. Lena rolls her eyes at the sign. How typical of Lex to put his name on the door, as if there are multiple CEOs at LuthorCorp.

“Yes, ma’am, but you can’t go in there. He’s busy,” Cindy says, straightening her blouse even though there’s not a crinkle in it. “I can take a message for you, if you’d like.”

For a brief moment, Lena considers barging into Lex’s office and demand his attention. She hasn’t seen him in months, for god’s sake. But she doesn’t want to get Cindy in even more trouble, and she also doesn’t want to cause a scene in what might be her future workplace.

She gives Cindy a smile. “Thank you. Can you just let him know I’m expecting him to be home sometime tonight?”

“Of course, Ms. Luthor,” Cindy says, even though she’s probably a few years older than Lena. “Good night, Ms. Luthor.”

“You too,” Lena smiles, sticking the set of keys into her purse. Suddenly eager to leave this place, she hurries back into the elevator, and out of the building as soon as she can.

 

Lena wakes up to someone carrying her, and her first thought is Kara. But it’s not Kara, it’s Lex, and his biceps are straining more underneath her weight than Kara’s ever have. She vaguely remembers she’s supposed to be upset with him, but she’s tired and she’d been dreaming about flying just seconds ago.

“Hey,” she mumbles, as Lex lowers her into her bed. “Missed you.”

He smiles and disappears for a moment. When he comes back, he’s holding Teddy Bear, the only thing she still has from her birth parents. “Sorry. Work was crazy.”

“’s Okay,” Lena sighs, nuzzling her face into Teddy Bear. “’m Staying here anyway.”

“Okay,” Lex says. His tie is hanging loosely around his neck, and the top buttons of his shirt are undone. He looks exhausted, even in low lighting. “Are you going to be viewing apartments tomorrow?”

Lena nods.

“Want to do dinner afterwards? My treat.”

 “’Kay.” Lena wants to have a conversation with Lex, she really does, but she’s not sure she can keep her eyes open any longer. In fact, she’s not even sure they’re still open in the first place.

Lex notices. He leans closer to press a kiss to the top of her head. “Sleep tight, Lee. Don’t let the bed bugs bite.”

She’s asleep before he leaves the room.

 

The next day, Lena puts herself in business mode. Instead of jeans and a button up shirt, she puts on a black dress and red lipstick, taking out most of her earrings and tying her hair up in a high ponytail. As a finishing touch, she puts on high heels that click when she walks. Her look demands both attention and respect, and it makes her come off as older than she actually is—all of which are things she can definitely use when looking at apartments in this price range.

She leaves Lex’s penthouse early, in case she gets stuck in traffic on her way to pick up Kara, but by some kind of miracle she manages to avoid all the traffic jams. Putting her car in park, she pulls out her phone.

LENA @ KARA [8:26 AM]: I’m here. Are you almost ready?

KARA @ LENA [8:27 AM]: shoot no not yet you said 8:45

LENA @ KARA [8:27 AM]: I know, sorry. I’ll just wait in the car, okay? Across the road.

KARA @ LENA [8:27 AM]: come up. clark hasn’t left for work yet he’ll entertain you while i get ready

Lena shrugs, deciding that it’s definitely more fun to wait with Clark than sit in her car alone. She takes her purse and keys, crossing the road to the building. She hasn’t been in Clark’s new apartment yet, but this place already looks better than the previous one. Apparently it has a separate office space now, too, which means Kara’s twin bed has been upgraded to a queen.

Lena checks her lipstick in the mirror on the elevator ride up, not quite used to the feeling of makeup yet, but so far it hasn’t been smudged. When the doors slide open with a ding, she steps out onto a gallery with lots of plants and other types of green. It even smells like flowers. Clearly one of Clark’s neighbors is big on botany.

A door across the gallery flies open. “Over here, Lena!”

Lena walks past the flowers, smiling when she sees Kara hanging out of the doorway. “Hey, beautiful.”

“Hey,” Kara grins. “You look hot. You always do, but now you’re even hotter. Woah.” She leans in for a kiss, but Lena tries to dodge it to save her lipstick, which results in Kara’s lips grazing Lena’s cheek instead.

“Sorry,” Lena says apologetically, debating whether she could still save her makeup if she made out with Kara right now. Unfortunately, the more rational side of her wins. “Lipstick.”

Kara pouts a little, but then she goes in for a tight hug instead. “I didn’t know looking for apartments involved looking like you’re about to have a photoshoot.”

“Just figured it couldn’t hurt to look a little more professional,” Lena shrugs, following Kara into the apartment. “We’re going to be dealing with a lot of money today. Maybe the Luthor name won’t be enough.”

“I guess,” Kara says, frowning. She glances up and down her own body. She’s wearing a light pink sweater and light blue skinny jeans, which is so typically Kara. “Do you think I should change? I brought, like, one sort of fancy dress.”

Lena shakes her head, a soft smile on her lips. “Nah, you look great. We don’t want the real estate agent to shit their pants now, do we?”

Kara laughs, opening her mouth to say something, but before she gets the chance she’s interrupted by Clark.

“Hey, Lena, long time no see. You look great.” He gives her a quick hug, all hard muscle, and Lena briefly thinks he could probably throw her across the country if he wanted to.

“I gotta brush my teeth. Please try not to flirt with my girlfriend while I’m getting ready,” Kara says, before disappearing through a half-open door to where Lena guesses is the guest room.

Clark laughs, beckoning at Lena. “Come on in. Do you want something to drink? My fridge makes ice cubes these days, and Kara’s very excited about it.”

“No, thank you,” Lena says with a smile. “I just had breakfast, and we should really get going soon.”

“Okay.” Clark leads them into the living room, gesturing at Lena to sit down anywhere. He himself sinks down on the couch, while Lena sits down in the comfortable arm chair that was in his previous apartment, too. “So you’re going to study at Met U? Any idea what you wanna do?”

“Something in biomedical engineering,” Lena says. “Just wanna make a difference.”

Clark’s eyebrows knit together. “Yeah, I understand that.”

Two arms wrap around Lena’s shoulders from behind, a kiss pressed against her cheek. “I’m ready.”

Lena instinctively leans into Kara’s touch. She looks up, finding Kara with a bright smile and her hair down, and wow she’s breathtaking. Lena’s very aware of the fact that she’s staring, but soon they’re going to be separated by school again, and she allows herself this one moment.

Right,” Clark says, getting up from the couch. “I should leave for work, and the two of you have apartments to look at.”

Lena snaps out of her trance-like state, reaching over to grab Kara’s hand as she stands up from where she’d been sitting. “Right, yes. We should do…that.” She turns to leave, then remembers Clark, and spins around again. “Bye, Clark.”

He has his eyebrows raised with an amused smirk tugging at his lips, giving her a small wave. “Bye, Lena. I hope you find an apartment today.”

On their way back outside, Kara quickly dashes into her bedroom to grab her purse, while Lena gets the elevator. Kara tries to kiss her again on the ride down, and Lena lets herself be tempted just a little bit, which has her reapplying her lipstick once they’re back in the car.

They make it to the first apartment building just in time, and the real estate agent, a small woman with reddish brown hair who introduces herself as Hannah Song, is already waiting for them.

“Good morning, Ms. Luthor,” she says, shaking Lena’s hand with a grip stronger than Lena anticipated. “And…?”

“Kara Danvers,” Kara offers, smiling brightly as she reaches out her hand.

Hannah glances between the two of them. “Friend?”

Lena hesitates one second, then decides she’s not here to have friendly conversations, but to find a place to live. And if Hannah or anyone else has an issue with that, it’s their problem to deal with, not Lena’s. So she squares her shoulders and, in a low, serious voice, says, “Girlfriend.”

“Ah,” Hannah nods. She glances down at her papers for a moment. “I thought you were looking for a one-person apartment.”

“I am. She’s just here for moral support,” Lena says, relaxing a bit at the lack of reaction on Hannah’s part. “I presume that won’t be a problem.”

Hannah shakes her head. “Of course not. Well, let’s get started, then. I have picked out three very different apartments for us to look at today. If you don’t find what you like, I will be able to make a selection based on which one you liked best. The first one is here, on the tenth floor. If you will follow me.”

Lena grabs Kara’s hand and gives it a soft squeeze, and Kara pecks her cheek with a smile.

The first apartment is very modern and open, with lots of blacks and whites, like the house in Midvale. It’s already fully furnished, although that would be easy enough to get rid of, and everything looks like it belongs in some kind of museum of modern arts rather than a place to live. Lena feels Kara being restless as Hannah goes over the basic information like the size, price, and utilities. And while it’s impressive and undoubtedly in the best location for commuting to both Met U and LuthorCorp, Lena quickly decides to give it a pass.

The second apartment is smaller, but upon entering Lena immediately has a better feeling about it. This one is still unfurnished, and the walls are painted a faint beige color. In the back of the living room, windows are stretched all along the wall, looking out over the city. Even at first glance, Lena’s already filling in the empty space with lots of furniture and decorations.

It’s located on the edge of downtown Metropolis, with a view of the river on the left, and the city’s skyline on the right.

“Hey, Lena, you can see the Daily Planet and LuthorCorp buildings through this window,” Kara shouts enthusiastically, pointing at the two tall buildings in the distance. When Lena and Hannah join her to look out the window, Kara points again, and Lena smiles.

From a distance, LuthorCorp still looks like it did when she was younger, before her father died. She allows herself to miss him for a moment, leaning slightly into Kara’s side, but then she turns her business mode back on.

“How much is this one?”

“This one, with full access to the building’s facilities like the gym, the swimming pool, and the laundromat, is about seven-thousand a month.”

Next to her, Kara chokes.

Lena smiles. She really likes this place—it has a nice vibe, and with the right interior design she could really see herself living here. It’s so different from the Luthor Mansion and the house in Midvale, it could be her own place. One that’s completely hers.

She turns around, leaving Kara and Hannah at the window, to walk around the place once more. From where you enter the apartment, you have the kitchen and one bathroom on the left. On either side of the living room is a bedroom, of which Lena already knows she’s gonna use one as an office space or a small library or something, and they both have a large window overlooking the city.

She looks at Kara and Hannah talking by the window, envisions furniture and decorations everywhere, and makes her decision. She walks up to them, giving Kara a shaky smile because she never felt more responsibility over her own life than right now. “I want this one. I’ll take it.”

Hannah frowns. “Are you sure, Ms. Luthor? We still have one apartment to go.”

“I’m sure,” Lena nods. “It feels right.” Better than any place she’s ever lived, but she doesn’t say that. With Kara standing by the window, smiling at the view, Lena can see her future.

“Alright,” Hannah says, her lips curling up into a grin. “Well, then I believe congratulations are in order.”

 

Lena makes out with Kara in the car, on the elevator up to Lex’s penthouse, against her bedroom door. Her breath hitches when Kara kisses a trail down to her collar bone, running her tongue over her neck with each kiss, and sucking a hickey on her shoulder.

Lena hooks her fingers through the belt loops of Kara’s pants, pulling her as close as possible, and slips her hands underneath Kara’s shirt to scratch at her stomach, and Kara’s hips buck into her involuntarily.

“Lena,” Kara whispers, her voice low and raspy and sexy. She follows it up with something that’s so low Lena can’t hear it, and it doesn’t quite sound like English, but before Lena can ask what she said, her phone rings.

“Fuck,” she sighs, pushing Kara off of her to cross the room to where she threw her purse on the kitchen table. It’s Lex.

“Hey, Lee, I’m afraid I’m gonna be a bit late for dinner,” he says, sounding slightly distracted. “You, Kara, and Clark can go to the restaurant, and I’ll just come in later, okay?”

Lena sighs into the microphone, loud enough for Lex to hear. “Yeah, whatever. It’s fine. We’ll see you when we see you, I guess.”

“I’m really sorry.”

“I know.”

“It’s my assistant, she was bad at her job. I had to fire her. But now I have more paperwork that needs to be done and no one to do it except me. And it has to be finished tonight, you understand, right?”

“You fired Cindy?”

“Yeah.” Lex sounds surprised that Lena knows her name. “She messed up one time too many. Anyway, just wanted to let you know.”

“Okay.” Lena looks up to find Kara standing a lot closer than before. There’s lipstick stains on her face and her neck, and it’s almost enough to lighten Lena’s mood again. She reaches out her hand, and Kara wraps her arms around Lena’s waist, leaning her forehead against Lena’s.

And something inside Lena snaps. She interrupts Lex’s goodbye, her voice sharp. “I have to tell you something. I wanted to tell you in person before dinner tonight, but if you’re not gonna be home before I think you should know—I’m dating Kara. Like, finally, right? But yeah, just thought I’d let you know.”

Lex is quiet for a moment. Then he says, “Finally indeed. I’m happy for you, though, and for Kara. I can’t wait to see you both tonight and see how disgustingly in love you two are.”

And Lena hates the way he sounds genuinely happy for her. She wants to be mad at him—for being too busy to spend time with her even though it’s been months since they had a real conversation, for what he did to LuthorCorp, for no longer being the brother she remembers him being. But he loves her, she can hear it in his voice, and she loves him because he’s still her brother.

“Thanks,” she says. “See you tonight.”

“I promise,” Lex says. “Fuck work. We’re celebrating tonight.”

 

Lex cancels last minute.

Lena’s not even surprised when he texts her that he’s sorry but something came up and can they please reschedule for another night? She texts him back two hours later, after she’s done ranting to Kara about how much of a workaholic ass Lex is becoming, a simple “Whatever, Lex,” that he doesn’t reply to.

She packs her bags and goes to Clark, who lets her in without a word, and spends the night crying in Kara’s arms.

She makes up with Lex the next day when he drops by during his lunch break to apologize, and promises to do better. She forces a smile and a hug, but she doesn’t believe him anymore.

 

The rest of the summer flies by. Clark, Kara, and, one time, Lois Lane, help Lena move into her new apartment, and somehow it turns out exactly like Lena wanted it to. With lots of light colors and the occasional black details, it’s elegant yet homey, and even though there are still unpacked boxes everywhere, every time Lena walks through the door it really feels like coming home.

A few days before school starts back up, Kara drops by with Chinese takeout and pizza. When Lena opens the door, Kara pecks her lips and smiles. “It’s so weird that this is where you live, now. Fancy buildings like these always look like no one actually lives there, you know?”

With a nod, Lena takes the pizza boxes, putting them on the kitchen counter. She searches through her drawers for a pizza cutter, still not used to all the new placements. “Unfortunately people do live here, and they look at you like you’re dirt. Especially if you don’t wear pencil skirts and high heels all the time.”

Kara climbs onto one of the kitchen stools, reaching into the paper bag to grab a potsticker. “Ignore them. Just because you’re a giant lesbian who prefers flannel doesn’t mean you can’t pull off a pencil skirt.”

“I’ll tell them that next time,” Lena grins, taking a bite off her pizza. She lets out a soft sigh. “I’m gonna miss this.”

Kara’s smile falters for a moment. She reaches out to place her hand on top of Lena’s, rubbing her thumb over Lena’s palm. “Me too.”

“Are you gonna come up for Christmas?”

“Probably. I already talked to my parents about it. Might kidnap you to celebrate Christmas with us, though. Unless Lex wants to do something? Or your mom.”

Lena rolls her eyes. “She might try. I’d rather spend my time with you, though, regardless of whether it’s a holiday or not.”

“Already can’t wait.” Kara stuffs another two potstickers into her mouth at the same time, mumbling something incomprehensible. She laughs when Lena raises her eyebrows with an amused smile on her lips, almost choking on her food before swallowing. “I said Christmas is only a few months from now. We’ve done worse.”

“Yeah, we have.” Lena turns her hand so she can tangle her fingers with Kara’s, smiling at the way it still sends a rush of warmth through her body. “I still wish we didn’t have to.”

She looks down at her pizza, her appetite suddenly gone. They knew this moment was gonna come—at some point Kara would go back to Midvale while Lena would stay in Metropolis, and it was gonna suck. She just hadn’t realized how much she’d gotten used to Kara being around all the time, just one text away, and the prospect of any of that changing left a hollow feeling inside her stomach.

“Hey.” Kara’s voice makes her look up again. “We’ll be okay, right? Nothing’s gonna change.”

“Of course not,” Lena says, shaking her head. She brings Kara’s hand up to her lips, pressing a soft kiss against her knuckles. “And it’s not like Midvale is that far away. Not like you’d have to hop on a plane to see me. Just a couple hours by car.”

Kara bites her lip, her shoulders falling even more. “Except I don’t have a car, and Alex is already off to National City for college, and—everyone is leaving.” Her voice breaks at that, her eyes filling with tears. She pulls her hand away from Lena, taking off her glasses to press her hands against her eyes.

“Oh no, baby,” Lena whispers, hopping off of her stool and rushing to Kara’s side. She wraps her arms around Kara’s shoulders, and Kara melts into her. Lena rubs her hand up and down Kara’s back, holding her as close as possible. “It’ll be okay. I, for one, know that Alex is gonna text and call you all the time and make you feel like you’re there with her, and I’ll visit as often as possible, and—”

“No, yeah, I know,” Kara sighs, her voice muffled against Lena’s shirt. “I just wish things didn’t change. Makes me think, like, it was good before, right? Why change a good thing.”

Lena smiles into Kara’s hair. “Sometimes change can be good. If change never happened we would still be just friends, for example.”

“Yeah, that’s true.” Kara pulls away a little, her face tear stained even though she’s no longer crying. Her eyes lock with Lena’s, and she leans up. Her lips taste salt from the tears, but she’s smiling into the kiss, and she pulls Lena a little closer.

Lena kisses her back, eyes closed and without holding back, trying to memorize the way it feels. She wishes she could bottle this feeling and keep it with her at all times, because no matter what she tells Kara she knows she won’t be able to drive down all the time. With her plans to take up classes for both biomedical engineering and business, and the internship at LuthorCorp Lex arranged for her, she’ll be drowning in work, and weekly five-hour drives to see her girlfriend just don’t fit into that.

Kara is soft and gentle, and their kisses are no longer laced with hesitancy. Kara pulls her closer, her thigh pressing between Lena’s legs, and Lena cups Kara’s face with both her hands as she licks her way into Kara’s mouth. Kara hums in approval, the vibrations of it sending shivers down Lena’s spine, and she straddles her even more, until she’s in Kara’s lap with her legs wrapped around the kitchen stool’s.

She barely notices Kara standing up, holding Lena up with ease, too engrossed in kissing her like her life depends on it, only realizing they’re no longer in the kitchen when Kara sets her down on the bed. The roles are reversed now, with Kara on top of Lena, pressing her down into the mattress with kisses down her neck and her fingers fumbling with the buttons of Lena’s jeans.

And as much as Lena wants to lose herself in the moment now, they never actually went beyond making out with the occasional second base touching, and Kara’s still a virgin. So she grips at Kara’s waist, gently pushing her away an inch or two.

Kara blinks. “What’s wrong?”

“Are you sure about this?”

“Oh,” Kara breathes. “Yeah, I am. Are you?”

“Yeah, me too.” A grin spreads across Lena’s face, and now that she has permission, she doesn’t hold back. She reaches behind Kara’s neck, pulls her down in another kiss, her hands working to undo Kara’s shirt.

By now, Lena knows nearly every part of Kara’s body by heart, and where to kiss for Kara to gasp and press herself a little closer to Lena. The spot behind Kara’s ear, the soft skin down her collar bone, the birthmark just above her breast…

Despite Kara’s inexperience, she seems to know exactly what to do. She leaves a trail of kisses down Lena’s stomach, sucks a hickey right above her belly button, and when she presses into Lena it feels like fireworks. Lena whimpers when she comes, and I love you sounds a lot like Kara’s name when it falls off her lips.

When Lena flips them around with a smirk, Kara’s eyes widen, and for a moment it looks like she’s gonna say something. But then Lena’s on top of her, thigh pressing between Kara’s legs, and all signs of doubt leave Kara’s eyes. Lena tries to hold off for some time, kissing Kara on the lips, down her jaw to her neck, her breasts, her abs, but Kara’s already practically writhing underneath her, gripping the sheets with one hand, the other one tangled in Lena’s hair, and Lena gives up. She smiles a little at the way Kara’s hips jerk up slightly as she kisses her center, thrives on the sound Kara makes when she comes.

She doesn’t think something is wrong until she’s kissing her way back up to Kara’s lips again, and Kara’s still rigid, her eyes still tightly shut.

“Hey,” she mumbles, pressing a soft kiss against Kara’s jaw. “You okay?”

For a long moment, Kara doesn’t reply. Then, she opens her eyes and sighs, relief written all over her face. She relaxes.

“Yeah.” Her voice sounds hoarse but content, and she wraps her arms around Lena. “Sorry, I just zoned out for a bit. I love you.”

“I love you, too.” Lena frowns, taking a second to study Kara’s face, but there’s really nothing she can find, and she decides that maybe she’s just overreacting.

So she puts her arm around Kara’s stomach, closing her eyes, and allowing the warmth from Kara’s skin to soak into her own.

Chapter Text

The first months are the hardest. Just when Lena finally got used to having Kara around all the time, Kara is gone, and the only way she could talk to her is through calls and texts. But it isn’t enough. She wants to kiss Kara, hold her when she’s feeling blue, fall asleep with the sound of Kara’s steady heartbeat in her ear.

Before she left, Kara scribbled cute messages and doodles onto post-it notes, putting them all around Lena’s apartment, and now, nearly five months later, they’re still everywhere. Lena knows them by heart, now, but waking up to good morning sweetheart, hope you slept well I love you still lightens her mood a little every time.

But, as hard as it is, she gets used to it. Between the good morning and good night texts, they talk to each other almost the entire time they’re awake, keeping each other updated on all the little things that happen. Kara texts Lena about the cute dogs she played with on the beach, and Lena complains about how she’s drowning in schoolwork.

At first, Lena tries to visit Kara once every two weeks, but that soon proves to be impossible with both their schedules, so they resort to once a month instead. Most of the time, it’s Lena who goes down to Midvale to see Kara, but one time, just before Christmas, Kara visits Metropolis instead. They spend a few days in the city, before going back to Midvale together to spend the holidays with Kara’s family. For ten days, everything feels right again.

At the end of January, Kara turns seventeen, and Lena works her ass off in advance to be completely free to celebrate. They don’t do anything special, except wake up in each other’s arms and have slow and sweet birthday sex. As a birthday present, Lena gives Kara the keys to the car they spent the previous summer fixing up, despite Kara not having her driver’s license yet. Part of it is for personal gain, because if Kara can drive up to Metropolis every now and then, it would mean they could see each other more often. Kara smiles and nearly cries and kisses Lena in the soft and gentle way only Kara can.

 

After that, things get rough for a couple of months. Both of them have a sudden influx of schoolwork, and there’s a new top-secret project at LuthorCorp that has Lex so closely involved he asks Lena to take care of some of the CEO paperwork. Despite his otherwise open attitude towards his sister about whatever the company is up to, this time he’s more secretive than ever, and only a handful of people are allowed access to the lab. Lena, unfortunately, is not one of these people. But how many people can say they sort of ran a multi-billion dollar company at the age of eighteen? So she doesn’t really complain.

By the time spring break rolls around, though, the project is mostly done, and Lena feels like she can breathe again. And, to make things even better, Kara announces that she’s going to spend the entire break in Metropolis, and she’s in desperate need of cuddles.

To celebrate everyone getting their life back on track, Lex invites Kara, Lena, and Clark, whom, apparently, he’s taken a liking to, to dinner, with the promise of not bailing this time.

 

Lex keeps his promise, sort of. He’s only fifteen minutes late, and he’s still wearing his suit from work, half-running towards their table.

“Sorry I’m late,” he says, squeezing Lena’s shoulder as he sits down next to her. “Got stuck in traffic on my way here. Lots of people on their way home, I guess.”

“That’s okay,” Lena says. “I’m glad you’re here.”

“It’s nice to see you again,” Kara smiles, briefly letting go of Lena’s hand to shake Lex’s. Lena barely has time to miss Kara’s hand, though, because as soon as it’s Clark’s turn to greet Lex, Kara’s fingers intertwine with her own again.

“Did you guys order food yet?” Lex asks, opening his menu. He scans the pages with ease and comfort, clearly not shocked by the prices—unlike Kara and Clark, whose eyes almost bulged when they opened their menus for the first time.

Lex looks up, a big, charming smile written all over his face. “Order whatever you like, tonight’s on me.”

“Are you sure?” Clark asks, frowning a little. “I can pay for myself and Kara.”

Lena can almost see the numbers flashing behind his eyes as he tries to calculate how much he’d be spending to pay for two meals at this ridiculously fancy restaurant, and Kara looks a little uneasy at the idea of basically making her cousin go broke with one dinner, but Lex laughs and shakes his head.

“Of course I’m sure. Don’t worry about anything tonight, alright? Me and Lena, we come from good money, and I’m the CEO of LuthorCorp. I want everyone to enjoy themselves.”

Kara gives Lena a quick look, making sure it’s really okay to spend this much money on food, but Lena gives her a subtle nod. Lex is right. Tonight should be about having fun, and spending time with people close to them.

Something changes in Kara’s eyes and she picks up her menu again, looking over her options with less restraint. Lena and Clark do the same, and for a few moments it’s quiet at their table while everyone is picking something they want to eat.

When the waiter comes by to take their orders, Kara and Clark still sound a bit unsure, but Lex waves their concerns away and orders a bottle of champagne. The waiter’s eyes flicker over Kara and Lena, but Lex says something to him, and he shrugs before nodding his head.

Lena feels Kara’s hand tighten around her own for a moment, and she looks at Lex. “What did you say to him?”

“What I told you guys—we have something to celebrate, and no celebration is complete without champagne. One bottle won’t hurt. I know for certain you drank before, Lee.”

Lena rolls her eyes. “If you get Kara drunk you’re carrying her home.”

“Hey!” Kara says. “Who says I’m gonna get drunk from a bit champagne?”

“She has a point,” Lex grins. “Just because you’re a lightweight doesn’t mean everyone else is, too.”

Lena playfully flips him off, and then turns to Clark because at least he doesn’t bully her. They make small talk about his job and his relationship with Lois, which is still going strong, until Kara comments that she’s been thinking about joining the school newspaper next year. Clark immediately goes off to give her writing advice, and Lex cracks a joke about if she ever wants to write about something more exciting than Midvale’s pretty view she should come to Metropolis to interview him.

It’s nice, and Lena hasn’t felt this at ease in a long time. Here she is, with people she cares about, having dinner in a city that no longer feels as daunting as when she was growing up, and everyone seems to be having fun.

The only thing she tries to actively avoid is discussing politics, because ever since Superman revealed himself to Metropolis, alien amnesty has been a big topic, and Lena knows for a fact that both Kara and Lex are very passionate about this topic—just both on opposite sides of the discussion, and she doesn’t want to ruin the night with a stupid fight.

When the food arrives—along with the bottle of champagne—the mood is better than ever, and Lena’s laughing so hard at Clark’s impression of Batman that she thinks she might start crying.

All in all, it’s a great night, until Kara and Clark’s heads snap up so fast they almost make a swooshing sound, and there’s a panicked look in Kara’s eyes that Lena doesn’t know how to fix. She’s about to reach out for Kara’s hand when Lex’s phone rings, and he excuses himself from the table, distracting Lena for a second.

When she looks back at Kara, her girlfriend is sharing a glance with Clark, who has that same panic hidden behind an apologetic smile.

“I have to go,” he says, shoving his chair backwards. “Tell Lex I’m sorry for leaving so abruptly, alright? And thank him for dinner, on my behalf. I had a great time.”

Lena opens her mouth to reply, but before she gets the chance to say anything, Clark is gone. She turns to Kara, who’s watching him weave through the tables with a worried frown on her brow.

“What was that?”

“He has a deadline he forgot about,” Kara says, her unstable voice a clear indicator that she’s lying. Her eyes dart back to where Clark disappeared through the glass doors, and Lena raises her eyebrows.

She knows there are some things Kara is hiding from her, but she never caught her in an active lie before, and it bothers Lena more than she expected. There’s clearly something going on, and she should probably be worried about Clark, but instead she feels like she just got stabbed in the gut.

“Right,” she says in a sharp voice, and from the corner of her eye she sees Kara flinch. But she’s hurt and confused, and she takes a second too long to think about whether she should comfort Kara instead of being upset with her, because before she can change her mind, Lex makes his way back to their table again.

“Lena, I’m afraid I have to cut dinner short,” he says, a bewildered look in his eyes. “I’m really sorry.”

Lena blinks. Of course. “What? Why?”

 “Someone, or something, tried to break into LuthorCorp, and when the alarms went off he, or it, became violent. Police is on site, but I have to be there, too. It’s my company, and I need to do damage control.” Lex rubs the back of his neck like he does when he’s nervous, and Lena gets up.

“I’m coming with you. It’s my company, too.”

Lex’s eyes widen. “You can’t. They haven’t caught the…whatever it is yet. He’s dangerous.”

“I’m not in any less danger than you,” Lena shoots back. She throws her cutlery on the table and pushes her chair back. “If you’re going, I’m going. It’s not up to you to decide.”

For a moment, Lex looks torn between protecting his baby sister and his company, but then he sighs. “Fine. But you’re staying in the car until whoever is responsible for this is gone.”

Lena rolls her eyes as if to say we’ll see about that, but Lex is too distracted to notice. He takes a couple hundred dollar bills from his wallet and throws them onto the table, not even bothering to put on his jacket as he starts making his way out of the restaurant.

“I’m coming, too,” Kara says as they follow Lex. Her voice is higher than usual, and she keeps turning her head like she’s trying to listen to something in the distance, but Lena can’t be bothered to ask what’s wrong. Someone tried to break into LuthorCorp, and there’s definitely something Lex isn’t telling her.

The three of them rush out of the restaurant and into Lex’s car in silence. Kara and Lena climb into the back seat together, more out of habit than anything else, but Lena doesn’t reach out to grab Kara’s hand. It feels weird and maybe she’s overreacting, but there’s something strange going on, and she can’t put her finger on what it is.

Lex drives like a maniac. He’s not known for being the safest driver in the first place, but now the seatbelt is straining against Lena’s chest, and she actually grabs the roof handle to hold onto in order not to be thrown around the car.

When they reach LuthorCorp, there are cops everywhere, and even a couple of ambulances. Paramedics are tending to a few people on stretchers, but most of the people are staring up at the sky. And, high up in the air, is Superman. He’s fighting another flying thing, moving so fast all Lena can see are flashes of red and blue, and blurs of brown from the other thing, which she guesses is another alien.

Despite having lived in downtown Metropolis for quite a while now, this is the first time she sees Superman in person. And if she wasn’t thinking about Lex, LuthorCorp, and Kara, she would’ve been impressed by the way fighting a hostile alien mid-air seems to be second nature to him, but she doesn’t have time to be in awe of the Man of Steel right now.

Lex barely takes time to properly park his car, jumping out of it and running straight towards LuthorCorp without locking the doors. Lena starts to follow him, but before she gets the chance, Kara’s hand wraps around her wrist.

“Stay back, Lena. Whatever’s going on, it’s dangerous.”

Lena tries to pull out of Kara’s grip, but Kara’s hand is like steel, and she has to bite her tongue in order not to spit curse words at her. “Let go of me, Kara.” She tugs at her hand again, trying to find Lex in the chaos of cops and blaring sirens, but he’s not anywhere in sight. She sighs, and gestures at the crowd with her free hand. “Great, now I have no idea where he is.”

“I’m sorry, but you can’t just run in there. We don’t know what happened inside, and if the situation is stable. And it’s not like you can do anything to make the situation better, except stay right here, where it’s safe. You know Lex would agree with me.” Kara’s eyes briefly flicker up to where Superman is still fighting the alien, but she doesn’t loosen her grip on Lena’s wrist. In fact, it’s becoming rather painful now.

Lena tries to breathe, to think rationally. Deep down inside she knows Kara is right, that technically she can’t do anything to help and if this was about anyone else she wouldn’t just run towards the danger like that, but this isn’t about anyone else. It’s about Lex. It’s about her brother. And for all she knows, he just ran straight into the line of fire.

She can’t lose him.

He’s the only family she has left.

Somewhere above them, someone, Superman, screams.

For a second, Kara’s distracted, and her fingers loosen. Lena pulls out of her grip. She starts running towards the building, to where she last saw Lex. She’s almost at the door when the bomb goes off.

And then everything happens all at once. A deafening explosion. The ground underneath her feet shakes. Something hits Lena from behind, throwing her to the concrete. Her ears ring, and her elbow hurts from where she hit the ground. There’s a weight pressing down on her.

She thinks she might be dying, but it’s not nearly painful enough for that.

All around her, shards of glass rain down from the sky, and she almost waits for them to pierce through her skin, but nothing happens. She tries to move her hands to cover her head, like she was taught to do in case of an earthquake, but she can’t seem to move at all.

Perhaps she broke her back when she fell and now she’s paralyzed and all she can do is wait for death to come. Or perhaps she’s underneath rubble from the building, and it’s slowly crushing her until her body can no longer sustain the pressure. Or she’s already dead, and death is not nearly as peaceful as she’d hoped.

She isn’t sure how much time passes—it could be seconds, it could be hours—but eventually the ringing in her ears decreases. Quite suddenly she can hear sirens blaring, and people yelling, and…Kara?

She waits a moment longer to be sure, but it’s definitely Kara’s voice whispering, “It’s okay, you’re okay. You’re safe, Lena. You’re okay. We’re okay. You’re safe,” in her ear, repeating the same words over and over again like a mantra.

Lena stirs, and at the same time Kara’s voice stops and the pressure is lifted off of her body until all that’s left is a soft hand on her shoulder, she realizes that it wasn’t concrete that had been holding her down, but Kara.

“Lena? It’s over. You’re safe. Are you hurt anywhere?”

Lena blinks. She rolls over to her back, and she sees Kara standing over her. Against the setting sun, her silhouette looks a lot like a superhero standing up after battle.

Kara reaches out her hand, pulling Lena to her feet with ease. There are dried tear stains on her cheeks, and her fingers are trembling slightly against Lena’s, but other than that she seems to be fine.

The ground around them is covered in broken glass and pieces of rubble, and across the street from them, the cops are apprehending a tall brown figure with a mean snarl on his face. He’s yelling things in an extraterrestrial language, tugging at his cuffs. And barely a couple feet away from them is Superman, staring down at them.

Lena’s head spins. Her knees buckle for a second, but Kara’s quick to grab her waist and keep her on her feet.

“What happened?” Lena asks.

Kara clenches her jaw, her eyes more serious than Lena has ever seen before. “Superman flew the hostile alien into the LuthorCorp building, but they hit an engine in the process, which exploded. It blew out an entire floor, and a bunch of windows broke—hence all the glass. If I hadn’t—” She shakes her head, letting out a shaky breath. “You could’ve died, Lena.”

“I thought I did,” Lena admits. Then she frowns. “How did you—” She pulls out of Kara’s embrace again, circling around her, and gasps. The entire back of Kara’s shirt is ripped to pieces by the raining glass, and without thinking about it, Lena tears Kara’s shirt even further to examine her skin for any cuts or bruises. But it’s just as soft and flawless as always.

“What the fuck?” she mutters, running her fingers over Kara’s back. “Kara, if you were on top of me during all of this,” she gestures at the glass around them, “you should be bleeding from hundreds of cuts, if not more.”

Kara mumbles something along the lines of, “Guess I got lucky,” but Lena’s too busy studying Kara’s skin to respond. When she’s sure there’s nothing wrong, she takes off her flannel and hands it to Kara to put on, since her shirt is practically non-existent now, and shakes her head.

Strange just got even stranger.

And then she remembers the reason they’re here in the first place.

Lex!” And despite what just happened, she lunges forward, towards the building that just exploded. She jumps over shards of glass and piece of concrete, ignoring the way Kara’s screaming her name, and her body feels like it could give out at any second. All she can think about is Lex, and how he couldn’t have survived the explosion if he’d been inside the building. She tries to fight it, but images of his lifeless body fill her mind, and she can almost see herself standing over her family’s grave that now holds two people instead of one.

Her hand is already pushing at the glass when something strong wraps around her waist and sweeps her off her feet. She screams, either Lex’s name or something meaningless, fighting against the arms that are now tightly wrapped around her body, her feet kicking in the air.

“Let me go!”

“Careful, Ms. Luthor,” a low voice says, close to her ear. “You’re going to hurt yourself.”

“I need to go back! My brother is inside.”

“Your brother is fine, Lena.”

“No, you don’t understand, my brother—wait, what?”

Superman lets out a soft breath. “He was stopped by the cops before he could go inside, and he was out of range when the explosion happened. He’s safe.”

“Oh,” Lena says, and without a warning she bursts into tears. Lex is okay. He’s alive. He’s safe. She doesn’t want to, but she buries his face in Superman’s chest—the S bringing a comfort she didn’t know she needed. He tightens his grip on her mid-flight, as if he’s hugging her. There’s something familiar about him, but Lena’s too busy trying to get herself together and realizing the seriousness of what just happened to give it any thought.

When he puts her down, she clings to him like a lifeline, until another pair of hands coax her off of him, and she throws her arms around Kara instead.

“Thank you, Superman,” Kara says, an odd edge to her tone, and he says something back to her. He lingers around, glancing back and forth between the building and the people in the crowd, dejection written all over his face. It’s odd, how easy he is for her to read, and how familiar he looks up close.

“Get out of my way, my sister…I need to—Lena!”

Lena’s head snaps up to see Lex breaking through the barrier the police are trying to set up, running towards them. His tie and jacket are gone, and there’s blood running down his cheek, but he’s alive and he seems okay.

Kara steps back just in time for Lex to put his arms around Lena, crushing her in his embrace.

“Thank god you’re okay,” he breathes into her hair, and she can feel his heart beating rapidly inside his chest. “I couldn’t find you. I don’t think I’ve ever been this scared in my entire life.”

Lena buries her face into his shoulder for a moment. Lex is fine. He’s just a little shaken up, but who isn’t in this moment? “It’s okay, I’m okay.”

When she pulls back, she examines his face. There’s a cut on his cheek, probably from the glass, and while it doesn’t look deep, it’s definitely still bleeding.

“You should have that looked at,” she says, gesturing at the crowd behind them, where more paramedics are arriving to help the people that got hurt in the explosion—and, possibly, to take away the bodies that are left inside the building. Lena shudders at the thought, turning to Kara. “And you—are you sure you’re not hurt?”

Kara shakes her head. “I’m okay.” Her eyes flicker up and down Lena’s body, before she turns to Superman again. “You helped a lot of people today.”

Next to Lena, Lex scoffs. “Tell that to the people whose family members are stuck inside the building. A building that, by the way, wouldn’t have exploded if he,” he gestures at Superman, “hadn’t thrown that other scumbag into a fucking engine.”

Lena raises her eyebrows at Lex’s outburst, but it’s not the first time she’s heard him speak ill of Superman and his methods. And, in all fairness, the LuthorCorp building is kind of in ruins right now. It makes sense that Lex is upset.

Kara, however, doesn’t seem to agree. She crosses her arms over her chest, and stands protectively in front of Superman. “Are you implying this is Superman’s fault? You know, the man who just saved Lena’s life?”

Saved her?” Lex aggressively points at the shards of broken glass all around them. “Because of him, she could’ve been hit with flying glass. One wrong piece in the wrong place and she would’ve bled out right—”

“Lex! Shut up,” Lena snaps. She shoots an apologetic glance at Superman and Kara, putting all her strength into pushing Lex away from them. He doesn’t give in at first, making her feel like she’s pushing at a brick wall, and continues to yell about how Lena could’ve gotten seriously hurt if Superman had been more careless. Then, when he finally seems to realize neither Superman nor Kara are going to continue to fight him about it, he allows Lena to push him across the street to where a paramedic takes them to an empty ambulance.

 “You don’t have to treat me like a baby,” Lex says, his voice still half a growl. “I had it under control.”

“You yelled at my girlfriend,” Lena replies coldly. “For no reason, if I may add. All she did was defend Superman. And that stupid cut on your cheek still hasn’t stopped bleeding. You—I don’t know. Just…get it checked out.”

Lex rolls his eyes, and when he speaks again he almost sounds like Lillian. “Whatever, Lena. Clearly you don’t understand how severe the damage is.”

Lena opens her mouth to reply, but then takes a deep breath. He’s upset, and fighting him is a waste of time—if there’s anything she learned growing up with him it’s that Lex gets irrational when he’s emotional. And right now, Lex is very emotional.

“Right, okay. Just because I don’t blame the man who tried to help you, I don’t understand. I think you’re in good hands here, so I’m going back to Kara now.” Lena looks over her shoulder, where Kara is hugging Superman. “She looks like she needs a hug.”

“She’s hugging someone right now, it seems,” Lex says back, but Lena doesn’t reply to him. Instead, she turns around on her heels and walks back to Kara and Superman.

“Sorry about that. He’s just being an ass,” she sighs, rubbing her forehead. Her head is swimming, and she wants nothing more than to lie down and sleep for at least twelve hours. “Lots of shit happened today.”

Superman frowns. “Tell me about it.”

“You did great,” Kara says, giving him a proud smile. He smiles back, and, seemingly out of nowhere, Lena’s overcome with a strong feeling of déjà vu. She has seen that smile before. The way Superman’s eyes lit up when Kara told him she was proud of him, the way they were hugging just now, the way his arms felt when he was flying her back to Kara…

And suddenly it all clicks.

She recognized Superman’s mannerisms, because she’s seen them before. All the little things that felt familiar are familiar. And now that she’s figured it out, she can’t not see it anymore. All of the sudden it makes perfect sense that Clark had to leave at the same time Superman was needed at LuthorCorp, because Clark is Superman.

Which means—

Lena’s eyes snap back to Kara, who’s talking to Clark in the low voice she only uses when she’s comfortable around someone, and she blinks slowly, watching all the puzzle pieces fall into place. If Clark is Superman, a known alien from the planet Krypton, and he’s the only living member of Kara’s birth family, that means…holy shit.

Lena swallows, shaking her head. She can’t believe it took her this long to put it all together—Kara was flying the first time she saw her, her grip can be strong as steel at times, and the vague story about how her parents died…Maybe the reason Kara talks like she’s from another world sometimes is because she’s actually from another world.

“Lena?” Kara’s voice snaps her back into reality, but now that she knows, she can’t stop thinking about how Kara must see the world. And, fuck, how she must see Lex and therefore, by extension, maybe also Lena, in a way. “Are you okay? Are you hurt? Maybe a paramedic should take a look at you, too.”

“No, no, I’m fine, I…” She looks from Kara to Clark and back to Kara, still baffled by how she didn’t see the striking resemblances between the two of them before she realized Clark is Superman. “Can we go home? I’m sure C—Superman has somewhere better to be than here.”

Kara frowns a little as she studies Lena’s face, but she nods nonetheless. “Yeah, of course. Um. Bye, Superman.”

“Good bye,” Clark grins. “Bye, Ms. Luthor.”

 Watching him fly off and knowing Kara could probably follow him, if she wanted to, feels surreal. Kara feels surreal.

Lena needs to feel her. Make sure Kara’s still the same Kara she’s known for the better part of her life. That Kara’s still her Kara.

She forces herself to wait until they’re around the corner, away from the curious eyes of bystanders, before she grabs both sides of Kara’s face and pulls her into a long kiss. Kara gasps a little, but then she relaxes into it, deepening the kiss with a smile. And it still feels the same. Of course it feels the same. Just because Lena just realized Kara’s a fucking alien doesn’t change anything about who Kara is now. And it doesn’t change anything about how Lena feels about her, either.

(She knows she should, in a way, feel different about Kara now that she knows the truth. That’s what Lillian kept drilling into her growing up. Aliens are bad. Aliens came to invade the planet. Aliens can’t be trusted. But if Kara’s an alien, and Kara’s one of the only people who make Lena feel loved, then how can she possibly believe that?)

Lena pushes Kara backwards until they hit a wall, and Kara lets her, possibly sensing that this is something Lena needs right now. She kisses Kara until she’s out of breath, and even then she’s not fully satisfied. But Kara’s still Kara, and Kara seems to have some kind of sixth sense that tells her exactly when to worry about her girlfriend.

So Kara carefully touches Lena’s face, brushes a few hairs out of her face, and kisses her nose. “What was that for?”

“I love you,” Lena blurts out, her heart beating in her throat even though she’s said this countless of times before. “I really, really love you, and I want you to know that. Like, no matter what happens or whatever the fuck other people say, I love you. I don’t think I can ever stop loving you. You know that, right?”

Kara smiles, albeit hesitantly, gently pushing the two of them off the wall. “I think I do. Are you sure you’re okay? Because as much as I love you, too, and I definitely don’t mind hearing how much you love me, you don’t sound okay right now.”

“No, yes, I’m just a little shaken.” Lena blinks a few times. Kara’s hand still feels the same in hers. She draws a circle on her palm with her index finger. “Maybe we should just go home.”

“Sounds like a good idea. I’ll make you tea, and you can calm down a bit.” Kara presses a soft kiss against her cheek, squeezing her hand.

(God, how much must she be holding back? If Superman can hold buildings together, how much strength must be hiding underneath those gentle touches that feel so natural to Lena?)

They get a cab to drive them home, because Lena has no idea where Lex is and, frankly, she doesn’t really care too much right now. Because while she’s trying to still look at Kara the same now that she knows, she’s not sure she can even look at Lex at all right now.

 

Later that night, Lena waits until Kara’s asleep before carefully slipping out of bed. She freezes when Kara mumbles her name in her sleep, rolling over and grabbing a pillow to hug instead of her girlfriend, and then tiptoes into the living room.

She grabs her laptop, opening her browser, and searching for ‘superman powers’. A lot of results pop up, including entire websites dedicated to Superman, where people blog about his latest saves and, occasionally, how hot he looks in his suit.

Eventually she finds a page that lists all the powers he’s shown so far, including flying, super strength, heat vision, freeze breath, and many more. According to whoever wrote the article, all of his powers originate from him being from Krypton—which would mean Kara also has all of them.

Lena tries to imagine Kara with glowing eyes, or ice shooting out of her mouth, but all she can see is loving blue, and all she remembers is the warmth of Kara’s lips on her own. It’s not that she can’t believe or accept that Kara is an alien, far from it, she just can’t figure out how she didn’t see it before when all the signs were clearly there. The first time she saw Kara, she was fucking flying, for god’s sake. But, alas, apparently it’s easy to trick yourself into believing one thing, even when all the evidence points to another.

With a sigh, Lena closes her laptop. Part of her wants to ask Kara about all of this, get the answers straight from the source itself, but she also knows that if Kara wanted to talk about it, she would have. It hurts a little, knowing that even though they’ve known each other for years and have seen sides of each other they don’t show to anyone else, Kara doesn’t trust her with this secret, but at the same time she understands. If something as simple as falling in love is hard to talk about, something big like being from a completely different planet must be even harder.

And there’s Lex, with his outspoken opinions on aliens. Lena knows that Kara doesn’t see her as ‘Lex Luthor’s little sister’ like the rest of the world, but she can’t imagine it making the conversation any easier.

Kara will tell her when she’s ready, Lena’s sure of that. And until then, Lena will keep the secret with her.

She’s just about to go back to bed when her phone lights up with Lex’s name flashing on the screen. For a moment, she’s tempted to let it ring and call back tomorrow and pretend like she was already asleep, but then she picks up anyway.

“Hello, Lex,” she says, coolly, hoping it won’t wake up Kara.

“Lee, thank god. I was worried you’d already be asleep.”

Lena rolls her eyes at the nickname. “I was about to, so make it quick.”

“Right, of course. I just got back from a meeting with the board, and I just wanted to apologize for being an ass to you and Kara earlier. I was out of line, and I’m sorry.” He sounds genuine, but it’s not enough. Not now that Lena knows the truth about Kara.

“It’s not us you owe an apology to,” she says, wishing things didn’t have to be so complicated. And, when Lex doesn’t reply for a second too long, she adds, “He just tried to help, Lex. If it weren’t for him, more people would’ve gotten hurt, and the building would’ve been in just as bad a shape as it is right now.”

On the other side of the line, Lex draws a sharp breath. “You don’t know that. And it’s not just Superman I’m mad at, and the board agrees with me here—that other person was also an alien. Aliens and LuthorCorp just don’t go together, it seems, and I’m not sorry if I’m on the side of my company instead of the people that came to this planet thinking it was fine to make it their home. Earth is a planet of humans, Lena, not aliens. You’ve seen the damage they can do. You almost got hurt because of them.”

“It was one person. One. And I didn’t get hurt, did I? Kara—” She stops then, just in time to prevent Kara’s secret from slipping out. “Kara and I were both fine, thanks to Superman. You should be thanking him, instead of blaming him.”

“Clearly you don’t understand—”

“No,” Lena interrupts. “You don’t understand. Aliens have done nothing wrong, and the fact that you’re putting all the blame on someone who has always tried to do the best thing for this city is low and something I’d expect from mom, but not from you.”

“Nothing wrong? Lena, he destroyed the building. If aliens had just stayed on their planets, LuthorCorp wouldn’t have had needed to build defensive weapons/systems/defense mechanisms, and no one would’ve gotten attacked in the first place!”

“You built what?” Lena exclaims, before realizing it’s already past midnight and Kara’s asleep in the other room. She takes a deep breath, pinches the bridge of her nose, and shakes her head. “No, you know what? I don’t care. I don’t want to know, because I don’t want to be involved. You’re on the wrong side of this, Lex.”

Without waiting for his reply, she hangs up the phone, barely keeping herself from throwing it across the room. She’s not one for physical violence, but her arms are actually aching with anger right now, and her knuckles itch to hit something.

“Lena? Are you okay?”

Lena looks up to see Kara standing in the doorway, rubbing her eyes, still half asleep. She sighs, feeling all the anger flow out of her at the sight of her girlfriend.

“I’m fine,” she says with a tired smile. She crosses the room, reaching up to tuck a strand of Kara’s hair behind her ear. “Let’s go back to sleep, okay?”

Kara nods sleepily. “Okay.”

They climb back into bed, Lena’s feet cold against Kara’s warm legs, and Kara nuzzles her face into Lena’s neck. She wraps her arm lazily around Lena’s waist, falling asleep almost instantly, and Lena kisses the top of her head.

Without warning, a few tears drip down her cheeks into Kara’s hair, and she moves to wipe them away. Kara unconsciously hugs her even tighter at that, almost like she knows Lena has to be physically held together in order not to cry.

 

Now that Lena knows about Kara and Clark she starts noticing small things she would’ve otherwise simply brushed off as an odd quirk; sometimes Kara glances over her glasses to look at something, and Lena figures something about her glasses inhibits Kara’s x-ray vision. Sometimes she’ll tilt her head a certain way, like she’s listening to something, and Lena quickly realizes it’s because Kara is listening to something.

And then there’s bigger things, like how Kara freezes up during sex, keeping her hands away from Lena when she comes, shaking for different reasons than Lena’s skilled tongue. Things that show that Kara’s aware of how her hands could break everything in reach, that she puts a lot of effort and focus into not hurting anyone.

Lena finds herself looking at Kara like it’s the first time she really sees her, like everything that came before this was just practice for the real thing.

She thinks Kara is even more beautiful now.

But she seems to be the only one. For a few days, the break-in at LuthorCorp is all everyone in Metropolis can talk about. Every latest news update makes it to the front page of the Daily Planet, and dinner plans with Clark and Lois get cancelled because they’re too busy running around trying to figure out all the details behind it.

Alien rights become the most talked-about topic on social media, and everyone seems to have an opinion. Newspapers dedicate pages to interviews and columns viewing the issue from various points of view, television networks make entire shows around the question whether aliens should be generally accepted as American citizens, and all of them feature Lex Luthor and the press conference he held about the break-in.

In it, he puts the emphasis on the part where two aliens ruined the company’s building, and highlights other incidents where Superman did more damage than good, seemingly forgetting about all the lives he saved. He puts forth the notion that, because of Superman’s presence, Metropolis has turned into a beacon for aliens, and all the dangers that come with it.

When someone dares to ask about how Superman also did good things for the city, Lex points out the amount of money that needs to be put into fixing the collateral damage. When someone wonders why that one alien tried to break into LuthorCorp in the first place, Lex tells her it’s still confidential but that it’ll be the start of a new era for both the company and the city. When someone questions Lex’s personal motivations and reasoning, he replies with a sob story about how he almost lost his little sister in the attack, and how, without the presence of aliens, Metropolis and the lives of everyone in it would be much safer.

Lena watches with horror as people start to take his words for true. She turns down all the people asking for an interview, telling them all the same thing: “I don’t agree with what my brother says, and I think that without Superman to save the day, the damage would’ve been much worse.”

But, despite her efforts to oppose her brother, the Luthor name quickly becomes synonymous with the anti-alien movement that seems to be catching on all over the country, and there’s nothing she can do about it.

And, worst of all, she can feel Kara withdrawing from her more with every passing day. They stop watching the news, the both of them knowing it’s the same thing over and over again anyway, but conversations don’t seem to carry themselves anymore, and by the end of the week, Lena stops trying altogether. She can’t blame Kara for the look in her eyes every time she looks at Lena, and even though her heart breaks when Kara almost flinches when she tries to hug her, she doesn’t try again.

She hates herself for feeling relieved at the sight of Kara’s packed suitcase. It’s not that she wants Kara to leave, but Metropolis isn’t safe for her anymore, and, on top of that, Lena isn’t sure she can continue to live in silence any longer.

So when Jeremiah calls to tell them he’s waiting for Kara down in the car, she doesn’t offer to walk Kara out.

Kara does one last sweep through the apartment to make sure she hasn’t forgotten anything, and then she looks at Lena. “I guess it’s time.”

“I guess,” Lena says. She hops off the kitchen stool to open the front door for Kara, not sure if the way her stomach twists is of sadness or relief. She hates it.

Kara drops her suitcase just outside the apartment, and then she turns around. She readjusts her glasses, her eyes darting everywhere except Lena’s. “I’m not mad at you.”

Lena blinks. “I didn’t think you were.”

The corners of Kara’s mouth twitch a little, but it doesn’t come to a full smile. She steps forward, pressing her lips against Lena’s. Kara tastes like desperation and exhaustion. Then she wraps her arms around Lena’s waist, and hugs her for a long time.

Lena hates that Kara is upset, and she can’t help but feel partly responsible. If she’d called Lex out on his hateful views earlier, if she’d realized the truth about Kara sooner, if only she’d had done something to keep all of this from happening…but she knows there isn’t anything she could’ve done to prevent Lex from becoming the biggest anti-alien advocate in less than two weeks, no matter how much she might’ve wanted.

“I love you,” she whispers in Kara’s ear, closing her eyes. She leans her head against Kara’s, tries to memorize the smell of her shampoo.

Kara nods against Lena’s shoulder. “I know. I love you, too.”

“Okay.” Lena pulls back, squaring her shoulders. She forces a smile. “Text me when you’re home, alright?”

“I will,” Kara nods. She reaches up to stroke her thumb over Lena’s cheek, and Lena leans into her touch almost instinctively. Suddenly she wishes she could stop time and stay in this moment forever, just the two of them without the world falling apart around them.

But then Kara drops her hand and picks up her suitcase and pecks Lena’s lips one last time, and then the elevator doors slide open and she’s gone.

Lena stares at the spot where Kara was just standing for a few more seconds, before closing the door. Her hands tremble as she turns the key. Her eyes burn with tears. She takes a deep breath, but it’s no help. A tear runs down her cheek, quickly followed by another and another, until her shoulders shake and she sinks down on the floor.

After losing her father, she can’t lose anyone else, but the only two people she cares about are like water slipping through her fingers, and there’s nothing she can do about it.

Chapter Text

It’s close to midnight when Lena finally shrugs off her lab coat. She reaches up to undo her hair, running her hand through it out of habit, and sighs when it falls into her face. She has to get a haircut soon, but between going to classes, the piles of homework, and her internship at LuthorCorp, she barely has time to breathe.

She hangs her lab coat on the coat rack with the others, and flicks off the lights. As always, she’s the last to leave, but she doesn’t mind—she likes working late at night, when there’s no one around to distract her.

After picking up her stuff from the staff room, she briefly considers taking the elevator up a couple of floors to see if Lex is still in his office, but she’s tired and not in the mood for another discussion about his stupid secret projects and how they’re supposed to make the world a better place. She just doesn’t see how ridding the world of Superman, and all the other aliens, would do anything but cause chaos and despair, but clearly Lex disagrees.

So she presses the down button, and avoids her brother for another day. Unfortunately, when the doors slide open, his assistant’s inside, looking dark and dangerous as ever.

“Good evening, Mercy,” Lena says, entering the elevator. The button for the floor level has already been pressed.

“Ms. Luthor,” Mercy nods. She’s been Lex’s assistant for a couple months now, and Lena still knows nothing about her. Apparently she’s trained in several types of martial arts, and for as far as Lena’s concerned that’s why Lex hired her in the first place, rather than her talent to make phone calls. And, frankly enough, she scares the shit out of Lena.

There’s an awkward tension as the elevator drops down fourteen levels, and when the doors open again, Lena dashes out of them as quickly as possible. She checks out with her keycard and pushes at the turnstile—another security measure Lex took after the attack on LuthorCorp. Lena isn’t sure how turnstiles are supposed to protect the employees and company’s secrets, but they make people feel safer for some reason.

Lena’s almost too lost in thought to notice a lone figure sitting in one of the uncomfortable plastic designer chairs, her head placed on her arms as she’s leaning on the table in front of her, clearly asleep. But there’s something inside Lena that always tells her when Kara’s near, even when she’s not expecting it, and she looks up just in time.

“Kara?” She shakes Kara’s shoulder. “What are you doing here?”

Kara shoots up, blinking against the bright lights, a big smile spreading across her face as soon as she realizes Lena’s in front of her. “Surprise!

“I thought you were going to visit your family,” Lena says, frowning a little. “That’s why I didn’t take time off of work to spend your spring break with you in Midvale.”

“I am,” Kara nods. “I’m actually staying with Clark, but since you live in the same city I thought I’d split my time between you two. I wanted to surprise you, that’s why I didn’t say anything.”

“Oh. If I’d known I would’ve stopped working earlier. We could’ve grabbed dinner. How long have you been here?”

“Just a while. I actually got dinner with Clark. We went to an all-you-can-eat place and ordered all the food off the menu. Between the two of us, we probably ate six times the amount of food normal people eat.” Kara grins and gets up from the chair, spreading her arms to pull Lena into a hug.

Lena drops her bag to hug her back, still a little taken aback by Kara’s surprise visit. When they pull back, Kara’s eyebrows knit together in a frown.

“What?” Lena asks, picking up her bag again.

Kara blinks. “Nothing. I just…You look tired.”

“I am tired.”

“You work too much,” Kara says, her eyes briefly flickering up to the ceiling, as if she’s glaring at Lex through the eighteen floors separating them.

Lena wants to roll her eyes and shoot back some comment about how it’s none of Kara’s business and that she just didn’t expect her to be there, but when she looks at her girlfriend, all she can see is the genuine concern in her eyes. So she lets out a sigh and nods. “I know. Are you going back to Clark’s place tonight or are you staying with me? I haven’t had time to clean my apartment and the maid just got married so she’s on her honeymoon so it’s basically a mess.”

“It can’t be as bad as my room,” Kara shrugs. She slips her hand into Lena’s, rubbing her thumb over the back of Lena’s hand. “And either way, I missed you too much to care.”

Lena gives her a soft smile. “I missed you, too.”

Kara offers to carry Lena’s bag for her, and since it’s pretty heavy with all her schoolwork and LuthorCorp paperwork, Lena’s quick to hand it over. The weight doesn’t bother Kara anyway, and she’s too tired to fake pride and carry it herself.

Lena’s car is in the parking lot across the building, and they hold hands until Lena has to drive. During the entire ride home, Kara talks about the multiple articles she has written for the school newspaper so far, and how she’s getting more creative freedom now that she’s been part of the team for nearly an entire schoolyear, and that she might follow in Clark’s footsteps and become a reporter.

Lena only pays half attention to the story, focused on the road and barely able to keep her eyes open, but she nods and smiles at the right times, even managing to encourage Kara to keep going with a hum every now and then.

Kara carries Lena’s bag again as they ride up the elevator to Lena’s floor, her free arm loosely wrapped around Lena’s waist like she knows Lena could collapse at any minute.

Lena stares at her reflection in the mirror in the back of the elevator, unsurprised at the bags underneath her eyes, the wispy hair looking more like a dead animal than an actual hairdo, and her already pale skin being even paler than before. She looks like she hasn’t slept in a month, which isn’t actually far from the truth; she can’t remember the last time she had more than four hours of sleep.

She can see why there’s a worried look in Kara’s eyes—why there’s been a worried tone in her voice for months now. Things haven’t been okay since that attack on LuthorCorp last year, since Lena found out the truth about Kara, since Lex decided that all aliens are bad and need to die. Lena hasn’t been okay, and she tried to fix it by ignoring the problem and focusing on something she can control; school and work. Lena and Kara haven’t been okay, and Lena doesn’t know what to do about it so she doesn’t do anything. Things always worked out before, and she’d hoped they would, again, but she’s slowly losing hope.

She unlocks the front door and pushes it open, kicking aside the several trash bags next to the door. She hadn’t lied when she said her apartment was a mess. Dirty dishes are piling up in the sink, there’s laundry everywhere, and pretty much every flat surface is covered in notebooks and sheets of paper and flashcards.

“Sorry about the mess,” she says. “I didn’t know anyone else would be coming here. I would’ve tried to clean up if I had.”

Kara’s face is stoic as she makes her way to the living area, finding an empty spot on the floor next to the couch to put down Lena’s bag, and she glances around. “I lied. This is way worse than my room. It looks like a whirlwind passed through here.”

Lena knows she should laugh at the joke, but she’s too tired to make any unnecessary movements. “Sorry.”

“It’s okay. Suddenly I’m the organized one.” Kara makes her way over to where Lena’s still standing in the doorway, holding out her hand for Lena to grab. “Did you eat? Do you want me to make something for you? I can...fry an egg.”

“I ate at work,” Lena says, which is true. Somehow Lex always knows when she forgets to eat, sending someone down to the labs with a plate of food to make sure she doesn’t starve.

“Alright,” Kara nods, squaring her shoulders. “Wanna go to sleep, then?”

Lena nods.

They use the free path between the bedroom and the kitchen to cross the room, and Lena sort of wants to just crawl into the bed with her normal clothes still on, but Kara makes her change into pajamas before lifting her up and carrying her to the bed.

Lena’s asleep as soon as her head touches the pillow, only briefly waking up when Kara climbs into bed and wraps her arm around Lena’s waist, pressing a soft kiss against the back of Lena’s neck.

 

Lena’s still tired when she wakes up the next morning for class, but she’s slightly more aware of her surroundings, like the way Kara’s sprawled out next to her. She smiles and kisses her nose, careful not to wake her as she slips out of bed.

Lena showers and eats yoghurt for breakfast, reading over her notes from last lecture. Kara stirs but doesn’t wake as Lena gets dressed, and she’s still fast asleep when Lena hurries off to class.

 

One of her business classes gets cancelled last-minute, and while normally she would take that opportunity to catch up on some homework or go to the lab, Lena finds herself driving home instead. It’s barely noon, but Kara hasn’t responded to her texts yet so she might still be asleep, and Lena makes a detour to Kara’s favorite restaurant to pick up lunch.

Even though lately it’s easier to pretend she’s okay when they’re not together, she did miss Kara a lot, and she’s glad she’s here. As she pulls up into her regular parking spot, her phone buzzes with a text.

KARA @ LENA [12:02 PM]: good…afternoon beautiful, i have a surprise for you

Lena’s mind immediately starts racing as she tries to figure out what Kara could’ve done in the couple hours she’s been away, but she doesn’t have to wait long to find out. As soon as she opens the front door, she’s met with the smell of cleaning products and a spotless apartment.

Kara’s standing in the middle of the living room with her arms spread out, a bright smile on her face. “I cleaned!”

“I can see that.” Lena lets out a laugh, leaving her school bag and the food in the kitchen, before walking up to Kara. Without another word, she grabs the sides of her face and leans in for a kiss, clearly catching Kara by surprise because she stumbles backwards a little under Lena’s weight. But she quickly regains her footing, eagerly kissing her back.

“I think I’m going to clean your place more often,” Kara mumbles against Lena’s lips. She studies Lena’s face for a moment, nodding a little at what she sees. “You look better. Still tired, but not like you could pass out at any given moment.”

“Pretty much how I feel,” Lena says. She wraps her arms around Kara’s waist, a guilty smile tugging at her lips. “Sorry for yesterday. I didn’t expect seeing you, and I was too tired to really process what was happening. I’m glad you’re here.”

“Me too,” Kara nods. “And it’s okay. I should’ve texted or called. I was just too set on surprising you, but it kinda backfired. So I decided to try a second time.” She gestures around them. “I didn’t know a person could have this much trash.”

Lena’s eyes widen. “You do know not everything was trash, right? There were some extremely important notes between all my shit.”

“I know. I put all of that in the study, sorted into clear piles based on what classes or projects they belong to, and the date written on top.”

“My hero,” Lena sighs, falling into Kara’s arms. “What would I do without you?”

“Probably die from disease after being bitten by the rats who’d definitely move in after you spent any more time in that mess you made.”

“Probably,” Lena nods. She pecks Kara’s lips again, before tugging her along to the study room. Like Kara said, there’s a couple of piles on the desk, each of them labelled a certain topic. Lena flips through the papers and notebooks, realizing that everything is filed exactly where it’s supposed to be.

“How did you know where to put everything?” she asks, baffled at the accuracy.

“I know things,” Kara grins. “Is it correct? Did I do it all right?”

Lena nods, unable to keep the surprise out of her voice. “You keep surprising me, Kara Danvers.”

Kara’s cheeks flush, and she looks down at her feet. Lena presses a kiss against her jaw, brushing her lips against Kara’s ear. “You know, I have a couple hours to pass until my shift starts.”

“Hm, do you now?” Kara says in a low voice, placing her hands on Lena’s hips.

Lena can’t be bothered to reply. She stands up on her toes to kiss Kara on the mouth, hooking her fingers through the loops of Kara’s pants. Kara exhales sharply and kisses her back, a grin spreading across her lips as she easily lifts Lena off the ground and carries her into the bedroom.

 

It feels like déjà vu when Lena slips out of bed, leaving Kara behind. Except this time, she’s awake, watching her with bright eyes, and still slightly out of breath.

“Do you have to leave? Can’t you call in sick or something?”

“I wish,” Lena says, apologetically. “But I really can’t. Sorry.”

She puts on clean underwear, jeans, and a T-shirt, and leans over to press a kiss against Kara’s lips. “I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Kara sighs, clearly disappointed. “Do you wanna get dinner with me and Clark later? I think we’re trying some new place that opened up a couple blocks away from his and Lois’s apartment.”

Lena frowns. “I’ll try, but I’m probably gonna be stuck in the lab. I’m sorry. If I’d had known you were coming I would’ve taken a couple days off, but—”

“No, it’s my fault. I should’ve told you I was coming.” Kara swings her legs over the edge of the bed, hunching her shoulders slightly. “Let me know, okay?”

“I will.” Lena cups Kara’s cheek and kisses her again. Then she dashes out of the bedroom to grab her bag, and leaves the apartment in a rush with a goodbye call over her shoulder. The door falls closed before Kara’s able to reply.

 

A few days pass before Lena gets the chance to have dinner with Kara. She doesn’t actually have time, but spring break’s almost over and Kara’s only got one full day left in Metropolis. So Lena skips class to finish an essay before the deadline and calls in sick to work in order to spend the night with Kara.

She initially wanted to take Kara out for a surprise dinner, but then Kara shows up a little early with Chinese takeout, and Lena caves for that radiant smile on her face.

They settle on the couch with a movie, Kara with twice more cartons than Lena, and for a few moments it’s quiet in a way Lena almost forgot existed.

As she swallows the last of her food, she feels her muscles relax as she leans into Kara’s chest, who absentmindedly wraps her arm around Lena’s waist. With a sigh, Lena closes her eyes for a second, deciding that maybe life isn’t that bad after all.

She wakes up to Kara carefully lifting her off the couch, and her first instinct is to bury her face in Kara’s chest and continue to sleep. But Kara’s leaving soon, and Lena doesn’t want to waste their last night together by sleeping, especially since she isn’t sure when they’ll see each other again.

“I’m awake,” she mumbles, weakly kicking her feet.

“Are you sure? You don’t look very awake,” Kara chuckles, but she gently puts Lena down anyway, pressing a kiss against the top of her head.

Lena rubs her eyes, probably smearing makeup everywhere, and nods. “Yeah. I’m—” She stops to suppress a yawn. “—just a little tired, ‘s all. I’m gonna drink some water.”

“Well, okay, if you say so.” Kara follows her into the kitchen, hopping on one of the kitchen stools as Lena grabs two bottles of water from the fridge.

Handing one to Kara, she unscrews the second one and takes a sip. When she looks up, Kara’s staring at her.

“What?”

“I’m worried about you.”

Lena blinks, casting her eyes down at her hands. “You don’t have to be, I’m fine.”

“Lena,” Kara says, and her voice is so heavy it sends a shiver down Lena’s spine. “You’re drowning in schoolwork, not to mention your internship. If I hadn’t been here, you would’ve been at LuthorCorp right now. It’s not healthy anymore.”

“I said I’m fine,” Lena says, putting her bottle down on the counter, hard. “I can’t help it that I’ve got a lot of things going on, okay? I can’t just not do my homework, or not show up at work whenever I’m tired. That’s not how things work.”

“I know that. But that’s not what it’s about, is it?”

Lena frowns, barely keeping herself from rolling her eyes. “What are you talking about?”

Kara swallows. She puts her hands flat on the counter, staring at them for a second before looking up with a determined expression in her eyes. “You’ve done this before. Put all your focus into school or work, using it as a distraction. When your dad died, you—”

“What? He has nothing to do with this. I don’t—what are you saying?” Lena shakes her head in disbelief. “That this is about my dad? It’s not. I’ve learned to live with that, Kara.”

“No, I know, that’s not what I meant.” Kara lets out a sigh, running her hand through her hair. “All I’m saying is you have a tendency to distract yourself from things by focusing on school or work, and that’s not necessarily a bad thing, but when it keeps you from taking care of yourself, it is.”

Lena clenches her jaw, trying to clear her head and have a normal reaction to Kara’s words. Because sure, there’s truth in them. Lena’s go-to coping mechanism is throwing herself into something that’ll challenge her mind, keep her occupied with facts rather than feelings, and sometimes it pushes her limits. But she’s not breaking them. And there’s something that doesn’t feel right about being confronted about bad habits by someone whose secret is partly responsible for what’s causing them.

“I’m fine, Kara. I have everything under control.” She doesn’t mean to sound angry at all, but she’s running on barely any sleep, and fire has been building up in her veins for a while now. “Can we just go back to watching a movie and not talking about all the bad things I’m doing to myself for whatever reason?”

“No,” Kara says, crossing her arms over her chest. “You know I’m right, and I’ve tried to let you do things your way, but anyone with eyes can see you’re not doing fine. And it’s my job as your girlfriend to help you. Please, let me help you. Tell me what’s wrong, and we can figure it out, together.”

And something inside of Lena snaps. She can’t stand here and listen to Kara telling her to talk about everything wrong with her life when Kara’s been hiding this huge secret from her for as long as they’ve known each other. Especially now that that secret is partly the reason she can barely look at her brother anymore, or Kara herself, for that matter.

Something snaps, and Lena sees red. In the back of her mind she hears Lillian saying that a real Luthor never loses their calm, always thinking before speaking, but her head feels like it’s about to burst and she can’t think.

“Right. Why don’t you start? Spill your secrets, Kara. I’m listening.”

Kara’s eyes widen, and something flashes behind the blue. Something like panic. “What? I don’t—what are you—I—”

Some of Lena’s fire dies out at that, and she shakes her head with a long sigh. “Whatever, Kara. You’re right, I’m tired and half asleep. I put too much on my plate, because I feel like I’m losing everyone I care about, which is exactly two people to begin with. Is that what you wanted to hear?”

“It’s not what I wanted to hear,” Kara says, softly. She reaches over the counter top to grab Lena’s hand, but Lena pulls it away and sticks both her hands in the pouch of her hoodie. Kara bites her lip and hunches her shoulders forward a little. “You think you’re losing me?”

Lena looks up to meet Kara’s eyes. “Am I?”

“No!” Kara shakes her head. “Of course not. I love you.”

Lena can’t help her heart from leaping a little, still not used to Kara’s affection, but there’s a twitch, too. She can’t look into Kara’s eyes and not wonder what they’ve seen—what planets, what alien cultures, what different creatures.

“I love you, too,” she says, maybe a heartbeat too late. She pushes a strand of hair behind her ear, walking around the corner towards the bedroom. “I’m going to bed. You coming?”

“Yeah.” Kara slips from the stool, following Lena into the bedroom. As they’re both changing, Lena keeps catching Kara’s eyes on her, and even though it sort of pisses her off, she really is too tired to talk anymore.

She knows that Kara’s had her own issues in the past, and that maybe Lena’s problems aren’t all that bad in comparison, but Lena just doesn’t know what to do anymore. She can’t talk to anyone because she doesn’t have anyone to talk to about this, and she can’t keep it to herself because it’s driving her crazy. She’s stuck between a rock and a hard place, and there’s nothing she can do about it.

There’s an awkward tension as they brush their teeth and wash their faces, and Kara keeps staring at Lena like she’s going to break, and Lena keeps trying to ignore her. She crawls into bed, tensing up only slightly when Kara wraps her arm around her waist and presses a soft kiss against the back of her neck.

“I’m not going anywhere,” she whispers, barely audible. “We’ll get through this, I promise.”

Lena doesn’t reply. She closes her eyes, and hopes Kara is right.

 

When Kara leaves Metropolis the next day, Lena’s relieved. Partly because now she can go back to mindlessly throwing herself back into work, but mostly because if Kara isn’t in Metropolis, she’s safe from Lex.

 

Lena doesn’t realize just how worried she is about Kara until a few weeks later, when she drops by Lex’s office to say goodnight. Despite fighting Kara about it earlier, she is trying to take better care of herself, and part of that is trying to rekindle her relationship with her brother.

Mercy’s at her desk outside of Lex’s office when Lena steps out of the elevator, but as soon as she notices her, she gets up from her seat. Before Lena realizes what’s happening, Mercy’s in front of her with stretched out arms.

“You can’t go in there. Mr. Luthor is busy.”

“Mr. Luthor is my brother,” Lena says. “I can say goodnight to him if I want to. I’m off the clock.”

“Of course, Ms. Luthor. Just not tonight. He specifically asked not to be disturbed by anyone.” Mercy glances up and down Lena’s body, cocking an eyebrow at the flannel tied around her waist. “You appear to be part of ‘anyone’.”

“Let me through,” Lena says, crossing her arms over her chest. “All I want is wish my brother goodnight. If he has a problem with that, he can tell me myself.”

Mercy purses her lips, a dark look in her eyes. Her biceps flex underneath the tight sleeves of her dress, and Lena’s heart momentarily jumps at the realization that Mercy could probably kill her if she wanted to. She probably wants to.

In an attempt to hide her discomfort, Lena rolls her eyes. “Lex?” she calls out, raising her voice enough for it to be heard all over the floor. “Your assistant won’t let me through.”

“Just a second,” Lex shouts back, almost immediately.

For a few very awkward moments, Mercy and Lena wait in silence. Lena can feel Mercy’s judging glare all over her body, but she tries to keep her eyes at Lex’s door instead of turning it into a staring contest. She’s not one to shy away easily, but something about Mercy is extremely unsettling.

Eventually, Lex’s door swings open and he half steps into the hallway. “What’s up, Lena?”

“Just wanted to say goodnight,” she says, moving past Mercy with half a grin tugging at her lips. “We’ve barely seen each other lately, so I thought it might be nice.”

Lex’s eyes light up and he smiles. “Yeah, it is. Sorry I’ve been so caught up with work, and stuff. I really miss you.”

“I miss you, too.” Lena stands up on her toes to give him a hug, and he doesn’t hesitate to hug her back. It causes him to bend down a little, just enough for Lena to be able to see past him into his dimly lit office, and catch sight of some glowing, green thing underneath a piece of cloth on his desk.

She pulls back. “What’s that?”

Lex’s eyes widen, and he swiftly moves into her line of sight. “Nothing. It’s not important. Good night, Lena. I’m glad you came by.”

“Clearly it’s something,” Lena says, pushing at Lex’s shoulder. He doesn’t cave, instead stepping forward to block her view even more.

“I said it’s nothing.”

“Which always means it’s something.” Lena rolls her eyes, continuing to push at his shoulder. “Is that why Mercy told me you didn’t want to be disturbed? What are you hiding, Lex?”

“It’s none of your business, Lena.” Lex tries to step into the hallway and close the door behind him, but Lena is quicker. She pinches his side, like she used to do when they were kids and he was winning their play fighting. He barely flinches, but it’s enough for her to duck past where his hands are trying to stop her, into his office.

On Lex’s desk is a glass box with the top removed, poorly covered with what looks like a dishcloth. Green light shines through the fabric, bright and steady, and for a moment, Lena can’t stop staring at it.

“Lena…”

Lena turns around to see Lex standing behind her, a defeated look on his face. “What’s this?”

“It’s called Kryptonite. It’s a rare material from—”

“Krypton,” Lena finishes. “What are you planning to do with it? Where did you even get it? I thought Krypton was gone.”

“Apparently Superman brought fragments of it with him on his pod when he came down to Earth. They were scattered all over the world. All I had to do was find and collect them.” Lex lets out a sigh. “It’s gonna help me save this planet, Lena. I don’t expect you to understand, but—”

“You’re right,” Lena says, sharply. “I don’t understand. I don’t understand why you’re willing to put so much effort into killing Superman, and I don’t understand why you’d even want to kill him.”

“He’s dangerous, Lee. The power he has, no man ever should. If he ever decides to use it against us, we’re fucked.”

“He’s using it to protect us!” Lena exclaims. “There’s no reason for you, or anyone, to doubt that he’s ever going to do otherwise.”

 “You don’t know that.”

“Neither do you!”

“I’d rather have a precaution and be able to keep you safe than be too late if it ever goes wrong.” Lex gestures at the window overlooking the city, but Lena knows he’s gesturing at the world.

“So you’re not going to use it before he fucks up?” she says, turning around to look at the Kryptonite again. Without warning, she takes the cloth off the box, revealing a ball barely the size of her hand, glowing even brighter than she expected.

“Don’t do that.” Lex rips the cloth out of her hands, throwing it back on the box. “For all we know it could be dangerous to humans, too.”

Lena almost chokes on air at that. “You have, what is it? Radioactive? It looks radioactive. You have a radioactive substance in your office that’s supposed to be able to harm Superman, the strongest person on Earth, and you don’t know if it’s harmful? Meaning it could potentially kill you? And what about your employees? Who knows how stable this stuff is. Probably no one, because it’s an alien substance, Lex.”

Several emotions flash over Lex’s face, most prominently anger, and he starts pacing back and forth, constantly keeping his eyes on Lena and the Kryptonite. “If it could really kill me, I would’ve already been dead. I just want to protect you. Why can’t you see I’m trying to protect you?”

Lena shakes her head. “You’re not trying to protect me. You’re mad at Superman for the damage he did to the building last year, and how much time and money went into the repairs. And maybe you’re scared, because you see this powerful man who’s able to do things you can’t do. Maybe you’re even a little jealous. But none of that has anything to do with me. Don’t tell me you’re doing this for me, because if that were the truth you’d throw that shit out and stop all of this.”

Lex stops his pacing. “You don’t know what I want,” he shouts. “I’ve been working my ass off for this company, and then some alien pretending to be god sweeps in and ruins it all. Do you have any idea what that’s like?”

Lena thinks of Kara, and how all she ever did was make an unbearable situation bearable. How Kara’s arms held her when the ground got swept away from underneath her feet. How Kara was the one person she could always count on, even if they were on opposite sides of the world. She thinks of Clark, and the affection in his eyes every time he looks at Kara, or Lois, or even sometimes Lena. How he risks his life time and again just to save those of strangers. How he manages to continue to be good and never give up, even though bad things happen every day.

She tries to understand how Lex must see the world. Dark, treacherous, untrustworthy. If he sees the personification of good as bad, she can’t imagine how he must view everything else.

“You’re not the only one with a hard life, Lex. We were raised by the same parents, remember? In fact, I think you had it easier, with mom practically worshipping the ground you walked on. And when dad died—”

“This is not about our parents,” Lex bellows, stomping his way over to Lena until he’s inches away from her. “If I don’t stop Superman now, who says it’ll stop there? Who says the earth won’t be overflowing with aliens like him, or even more powerful than him? It’s not just about him, Lena. It’s about setting an example that this is our world, and we’re not afraid to defend it.”

Lena’s nostrils flare, and she balls her fists to keep her hands from shaking with anger. “If you kill Superman, or any other alien for being who they are, I’m not sure this world is worth defending, Lex.”

She doesn’t wait for his reply. She pushes herself off of the desk, bumping her shoulder against his as she moves past him in a straight line to the door. With her hand already on the doorknob, she turns around. Lex is staring at her, but it’s too dark to see his face, one of his hands on the box with Kryptonite. She opens her mouth to say something else, changes her mind, and stomps out of the office, slamming the door shut so hard she can feel the floor shake underneath her feet.

 

Worried she’s gonna punch Lex in the face if she sees him again, Lena doesn’t go into work for the first couple of days following their fight. She has no doubts he continued his research into Kryptonite, and, knowing him, he’s already found a way to make it into a weapon. Despite sharing a name, she doesn’t want to be associated with the man who tried to kill Superman, and if that means not working at LuthorCorp anymore, so be it.

Without work to focus on, though, she has a lot more free time to think, and in hindsight she’s not sure that’s much better. She tries to busy herself with schoolwork, but after she runs out of essays to write and articles to read, she’s left with only her mind.

And there’s one thing on her mind: Kara.

Lex made it pretty clear he didn’t want to just kill Superman, he wants to show all the aliens residing on Earth that they aren’t welcome here. Which includes Kara. In fact, Lena’s pretty sure Kara’s in even more danger than any of the other aliens, simply for being related to Clark.

As much as Lena wants to deny the impending danger hanging over Kara and Clark, fact is that Lex did manage to get his hands on what might possibly be the only thing that could hurt them. Even if he doesn’t know Kara is from Krypton, the chances of him figuring it out are getting bigger and bigger—especially now that he’s so dead set on killing her cousin. Surely he must know Superman has an alter ego, someone to be whenever he’s not saving lives, and Lena wouldn’t be surprised if Lex was working day and night to figure out which of his fellow citizens was hiding a cape underneath their clothes. And once he finds out about Clark, he finds out about Kara.

And if that happens, or when that happens, Kara has to be as far away from Metropolis as possible.

 

Lena arrives in Midvale just a little past midnight. All the lights in Kara’s house are turned off, and she resists the temptation to just stop and stare for a few minutes. Her cheeks feel hot, despite the AC being cranked up all the way, and she can’t seem to swallow the lump that’s been stuck in her throat since she left Metropolis.

She presses her foot down on the gas, speeding up the hill towards the big house, the gates already sliding open. It’s dark and there’s an eerie feel to the way the wind blows in her face when she gets out of the car—there’s not supposed to be this much wind at night, but, of course, Midvale has never been a town where things happen the way they’re supposed to.

Everything inside the house seems to be covered in dust. Clearly it’s been a long time since anyone has set foot inside of here, and it feels a lot like an abandoned building by the side of the road. Lena almost expects the walls to crumble and cockroaches to flee from the sound of her footsteps as she carries her bag up the stairs to her room. She doesn’t bother turning on the lights, using the flashlight on her phone instead, casting animate shadows on the walls.

She used to be scared of them, when she was little and Lex or her father would say they’d come and bite her toes at night. Now she can’t see how something that insignificant could keep her awake for hours until she finally couldn’t handle keeping her eyes open any longer.

Without brushing her teeth or changing into pajamas, she climbs into bed with Teddy Bear, underneath the pink covers she’s had since her first summer here, and wonders if this crushing feeling of loneliness will ever go away.

 

A sense of nostalgia washes over Lena as she pulls up her car in front of Midvale High School. When she lived here two years ago, she used to pick Kara up from school all the time, and they’d go down to the beach or up to either of their houses. She briefly smiles at the memory, but it fades away quickly as she remembers what she’s about to do.

It doesn’t take long for the school bells to ring and students to start filing out of the double doors. Lena recognizes some of them from pictures Kara showed her—some of her friends, or people she strongly dislikes. She cranes her neck to spot Kara, but it’s not hard to find her at all.

Kara’s walking with two of her friends, Dolly and Jen, and she somehow manages to stand out from everyone else. Her movements are more graceful, and, compared to everyone’s dullness, she seems to almost glow.

Kara spots Lena’s car immediately, and a smile spreads across her face as her eyes lock with Lena’s. She says something to her friends, who follow her to where Lena’s getting out of her car to greet them.

“Lena!” Kara exclaims, as soon as she’s close enough. She drops her backpack on the ground to wrap her arms around Lena’s waist, briefly pecking her lips. When she pulls back, there’s a concerned look in her eyes and a worried crinkle between her eyebrows. “What are you doing here? Is everything okay? Did something happen?”

“No, nothing happened. I—” Lena glances at Dolly and Jen, who are both standing awkwardly behind Kara. She lets go of Kara’s waist, giving them a wave. “Hi, guys.”

“Hi Lena,” they say in unison.

Kara looks at them apologetically. “I think I’m gonna have to cancel on that study session. Sorry.”

“No worries,” Dolly says, grabbing Jen’s wrist. “We’ll manage just fine on our own. C’mon, Jen, we have studying to do.”

“Yeah, it’s okay,” Jen nods, right before being pulled away by Dolly. “Bye, Lena, it was nice seeing you again.”

Lena gives her a forced smile, turning back to Kara. She frowns. “Sorry for showing up unannounced. I, uh—we have to talk.”

“And we couldn’t have done that over the phone?” Kara picks up her backpack and walks around the car, opening the passenger’s door. Lena follows her example, climbing back into the car with a sigh and a heavy feeling in her stomach.

She gives Kara a long look, her mind racing to find a better way to protect her for the millionth time today, and turns the key in the ignition. “I’m afraid not. Sorry, Kara.”

“Oh.” Kara swallows audibly, leaning back into her seat. She turns her head to stare out the window, and neither of them speak again.

Lena’s given a lot of thought to the right location to break her girlfriend’s heart. First she thought the beach, because it felt like habit to go down there after picking her up from school, but then she decided that’s too public. Then she thought of their cave, but she can’t bring herself to ruin that place for the both of them. So instead she drives them up to her own house, where bad memories are already carved into the walls, and where Kara will never have to go again.

Kara still doesn’t look at her as she unlocks the front door and leads them both into the kitchen, where she gestures at Kara to sit down.

“Do you want anything to drink?” she asks, more out of habit than anything else.

“Are you breaking up with me?”

Lena freezes, looking up at Kara, who’s eyes are already filling with tears. She takes a deep breath. “Yeah. I am.”

Kara blinks, not bothering to wipe away the tears spilling down her cheeks. “Why? Don’t you love me anymore?”

“No, that’s not it—”

“Then what is?” Kara interrupts, her voice sharp and trembling at the same time. “I know we’ve had a rough year, but it’s nothing we can’t fix. I’m graduating next month, and after that I’m moving to Metropolis and we can be—”

“It’s not about that.” Lena suppresses a sigh, pinching the bridge of her nose. “Look, Kara—”

“Is it because of what I said last month? I can take that back, I didn’t mean any of it. We can pretend nothing ever happened and all we did was eat a lot of food and watch a movie.”

It hurts, seeing Kara’s lips trembling and hearing her voice shake and knowing it’s all Lena’s fault. Her chest is hurting, and there are tears burning behind her eyes, and every fiber of her body is screaming at her not to do this. And it’s temping, oh so tempting, to shake her head and reach forward and kiss Kara with the promise of forever. But she can’t. She has to be strong, even if this is the hardest thing she’s ever done.

“I’m sorry,” she whispers. “I don’t know how to explain…but we can’t be together anymore. I wish we could, but it’s too—we just can’t.”

Kara buries her face in her hands for a moment, and when she looks up there’s a desperation in her eyes that Lena has never seen before. “Please don’t do this,” she whispers. “Please don’t leave me. I—I can’t lose you, too. Please, Lena.”

Lena swallows, tearing her eyes away from Kara before she changes her mind. She forces herself to think about Lex, about his Kryptonite, about how he’ll hurt Kara if she shows weakness now.

“I have to,” she says, barely keeping her voice from breaking. Her throat closes up and tears threaten to spill, and she looks up at the ceiling in an attempt to stop herself from crying.

“No,” Kara mumbles, almost inaudible. “We can fix it. Whatever it is, we can fix it—together. We’ve been through so much and we always came out stronger. If you just give me another chance, we—please, Lena.” And then, half choking on tears, she adds, “You promised. You said you’d never leave me.”

Her words hit Lena like a bullet, tearing irreparable holes in her already worn-down heart. She actually feels her knees buckle, and all she can do not to sink to the ground is replay the image of Kara’s broken body glowing from all the Kryptonite in her mind, over and over again until her vision is no longer clouded by dancing black spots.

“It’s too dangerous, Kara,” she manages to get out. “Lex—he’s out to kill him, and if he figures out you two…I can’t risk your life like that. You’re too important to me. I can’t imagine life without you, and that’s exactly why I have to let you go. You’re not safe with me, Kara. Do you understand?”

Kara’s eyes widen. She gasps for air. Her nostrils flare, and she clearly wants to say something but no words come out of her mouth. Lena can almost hear the gears inside Kara’s head turning, putting everything together like Lena did over a year ago, and she hopes she hasn’t overstepped.

But it works. Kara clenches her jaw and something changes in her eyes. For half a minute, she doesn’t move, and Lena can see the realization setting in. First realization, then acceptance.

“Oh,” she says, after a while. “I—I gotta go.”

“Okay,” Lena nods, not sure whether she should be relieved or upset that Kara doesn’t keep trying to convince her. “I’ll show you out.”

“No need, I know the way.” Kara hops off the stool, suddenly very close to Lena. The look in her eyes reminds Lena of their first kiss, and how everything seemed to fall into place exactly how they were meant to be. Except now, when Kara leans in to press her lips against Lena’s one last time, everything seems to fall apart, and all Lena can do is close her eyes and try to memorize every last detail.

“I love you, Lena.” Kara’s lips barely move and her voice is so low Lena’s not sure she even said anything, but the tears on her cheeks are real and so is the soft touch of Kara’s fingertips against her jaw.

Lena forgets to breathe as she moves closer, ready to give up and be selfish and keep Kara forever, but then there’s a rush of wind and the slamming of the front door, and her lips find nothing. Eyes still closed, she reaches out her hands, but all they grasp is air.

She’s alone.

Chapter Text

Lena’s late.

She’s never late, because being late is unprofessional and Luthors are never unprofessional. She can still hear Lillian scolding her every time she made everyone wait for even just a minute whenever they were rushing to get somewhere.

But today it’s technically not her fault. First she overslept, but that was compromised by skipping breakfast and throwing on whatever outfit she could find. And she would have made it to work in time if her stupid car battery hadn’t died and she hadn’t had to ask her neighbor to help jump-start her car. Turns out not everyone knows a thing or two about cars, and the whole thing wouldn’t have taken way longer than necessary if that guy had just done what Lena said, but apparently he was convinced he knew more about this sort of thing than her. She had to bite her tongue in order not to start shouting random complicated car jargon and make him feel bad about himself, but she’d really needed his help.

Now she’s running an hour late, ready to start screaming in every man’s face if he tries to outsmart her, with at least twelve texts from her coworkers wondering if she’s dead.

Lena half-runs into the building, rushing to clock in and hopefully not get into too much trouble. If Lex hears about this he will want to talk to her, and she’s been doing a pretty good job avoiding him for the past couple of months, only seeing him when it’s absolutely necessary. She misses him, but only the person he used to be. Not the revenge-obsessed, hateful person he has become.

Across the room, the elevator dings and the doors slide open. A woman steps out, and at first Lena doesn’t realize who it is, mostly because she didn’t expect her to be here, but when the familiar scent of perfume hits her she looks up instantly.

“Mom?”

“Lena,” Lillian says, barely surprised. “I’m surprised to see you here.”

“Yeah, me too.” Lena mutters under her breath. It’s been years since she talked to her mother about anything worthwhile, and most of the times they did speak it was about mundane things like the company or the weather. She didn’t mind, and she knew Lillian didn’t either. “But, you know, I work here, so I’m supposed to be here.”

Lillian makes a point of looking down at her watch. “Aren’t you a little late, then?”

“I ran into some trouble on the way here,” Lena says, cocking her eyebrow. “Anyway, I have to go. Gotta catch up on what I missed.”

She starts walking away, but she’s only a couple steps away when Lillian’s voice stops her. “Wait, Lena—”

She turns around on her heels, crossing her arms over her chest. “What is it, mom?”

“How are you?”

Lena narrows her eyes, scanning Lillian’s face for any hint of what she’s getting at. But either Lena’s face-reading skills have decreased or Lillian’s gotten better at hiding her feelings, because there’s nothing.

“I’m fine.” Lena’s voice is cold and probably not what Lillian expected, but she has moved past the whole ‘I need my mother’ stage by now. She hasn’t needed her in a long time, and every time she did feel like she needed a mother-figure in her life she reminded herself that Lillian had never been that to her in the first place.

Lillian seems unfazed, giving Lena a forced smile. “And how about your girlfriend? Kara, right?”

Lena tenses, still not used to the sting in her chest every time someone mentions Kara’s name. And to hear it in this context just feels like a rusty knife being twisted inside her heart. But she clenches her jaw and makes herself look at Lillian. “Last I heard she moved to National City to attend college, after I, you know, broke up with her six months ago.”

“Oh.” Lillian frowns. “I’m sorry to hear that.”

Lena rolls her eyes. “Save it for someone who cares, mother. If that was all, I really do have to get upstairs now.”

“I’m sorry,” Lillian calls after her, but those words don’t sound genuine coming from her mouth.

Lena doesn’t turn around, pressing the button of the elevator again and again until the doors slide open. She rushes inside, fighting the tears burning in her eyes, determined not to cry in front of Lillian. But as soon as the doors close behind her and she’s alone, she can’t stop a few tears from rolling down her cheeks. It still hurts, even after all this time. Every time she thinks the wounds are starting to heal, something will remind her of Kara or she’ll hear her name, and before she knows it she’s back at the start.

The only consolation she has is that her plan worked, and Kara moved across the country—away from Lena, but also away from Lex. Lena’s still certain it was the only way, that Kara wouldn’t have listened to her otherwise, but that doesn’t mean she’s okay in any way or form.

Missing Kara doesn’t come in waves, like people always say. It’s a constant pain, sometimes low and humming, other times sharp and like there’s fire running through her veins.

As the elevator shoots up, Lena wipes her tears away and focuses on regaining her posture. Shoulders straight. Chin up. Eyes forward. She’s been working on this act for years, and by now she’s pretty much perfected pretending to be okay.

 

Two years pass. Every day, Lena expects to wake up to the news that Lex did something stupid and either got himself arrested or killed, but that never happens.

Sometimes she wonders if she did wrong by distancing herself from him, because now she doesn’t know what he’s up to all the time, but then again—it’s probably best to know as little as possible in case he does ever go into full blown attack mode.

She also wonders if she acted too prematurely by breaking up with Kara. Nothing happened so far, which means Kara wouldn’t have been in too much danger if they hadn’t broken up. It’s a thought that drives her crazy at night, and at first she often finds herself scrolling through Kara’s social media pages to see how she’s doing and if she’s dating anyone. (She’s not.)

But time heals all wounds, or at least attempts to. As more time passes, Kara slowly becomes a thing of the past, and Lena stops thinking about her as much. Sure, there are times where she misses her, mostly when something reminds her of Kara, but she slowly starts to accept the fact that she can’t text Kara every second of the day anymore. She made her decision, and she has to learn to live with it.

And it takes a while, but eventually she does. Still, it becomes bearable at most—never okay.

 

At Lena’s graduation ceremony, the air buzzes with excitement. Students are ready to be done with school, and parents are proud of their children. As everyone files into the auditorium and sits down in their assigned seats, Lena checks her phone—again.

There are no new messages, just like there were none ten seconds ago.

She’s not sure why she’s disappointed. She knows Lex has been in London for the past week for business meetings, and last night there had been a storm raging through Europe that kept planes from departing. It’s not like she isn’t used to doing things alone—she just wishes she didn’t have to sit next to an empty chair today.

One of her friends, Jack, smiles at her from across the room where he’s sitting with his entire family, all of them dressed up and with a proud look on their face. His eyes linger on the empty seat next to her, and cocks his head to the side in a silent question if she’s okay. She makes a thumbs up at him, grimacing at the contrast between them.

Her phone buzzes and she looks down immediately, but her heart quickly settles as she sees Jack’s name flashing across her screen.

JACK @ LENA [4:56 PM]: Do you want to get dinner with us tonight? My family won’t mind, they’re all very excited to meet you.

She smiles, finding his eyes again. She nods until he grins back, but before they have time to do anything else the lights dim and someone pulls Jack’s arm, forcing him to sit back down.

Lena leans into her seat, putting her phone on silent and slipping it into her pocket. Lex isn’t coming. If he were, he would’ve at least sent her a text.

“Welcome, ladies and gentlemen,” the dean says into the microphone, gathering everyone’s attention. He starts to make a speech about how exceptional this group of students have been—something Lena’s sure he says every year.

Her mind wanders quickly, the dean’s endless droning about Met U traditions and his pride to represent the university turning into white noise in the background. She looks around, recognizes faces and finds some new ones, wonders where everyone will be in a couple of years, and whether they’ve all found jobs or want to keep on studying after today.

From now on, Lena’s time will be spent in the labs of LuthorCorp as an engineer, instead of as an assistant. Rumors have it Lex pulled some strings to open up the position right as Lena is about to graduate, but she doesn’t care. She’s smart, and she knows what she’s doing. She worked hard for this job, regardless of her last name and connections to the top, and it paid off.

She’s proud of what she’s accomplished, and she won’t have her joy be trampled on by other people’s jealousy.

On stage, the dean has finished his speech and they’ve started calling students to the front to come and collect their diplomas. Lena stands up along with everyone else, shuffling towards the front to wait for her name to be called, and ends up next to Jack, who’s pushing her forward by her shoulders as they both get stuck in the crowd.

It’s a mess and Lena loses sight of pretty much everything as she tries not to be trampled, but in the best way possible.

When it’s finally time for “Luthor, Lena” to pick up her diploma, Jack lifts her out of her crowd and onto the stage, and she thanks herself for picking sneakers and not heels to walk across the stage today.

The dean rattles off an entire list of Lena’s accomplishments, including the fact that she’s the only one with a double degree who graduates summa cum laude today. Pride bursts inside her chest as she accepts the diploma, and she sends an uncharacteristically bright grin into the applauding audience.

And among them, right next to where she was sitting just minutes ago, is Lex. There are spotlights shining into Lena’s eyes and she can barely make out anyone in the crowd, but it’s unmistakably her brother grinning back at her.

“Excuse me, Ms. Luthor,” a voice says softly, right behind her. A soft nudge against her back, pulls her back into reality, and she realizes she’s been staring into the audience for way too long. With a few long strides she reaches the end of the stage, where she’s welcomed by her fellow students, each of them with their diploma’s awkwardly positioned between their ribs and elbows as they applaud the others walking the stage. Lena follows their lead, clapping a little bit harder as “Spheer, Jack” receives his diploma.

He pulls her into a bone-crushing hug as he steps off the stage, tapping her graduation cap with a laugh. “I’m gonna miss this. Now you’re gonna be all serious working for your brother.”

“I’ve been working for my brother since we know each other,” Lena shoots back. She gazes at the crowd, spotting Lex sitting on his assigned seat, looking down at his phone not paying attention to the ceremony at all. “Speaking of my brother, he’s here. He made it.”

“He did?” Jack looks up, scanning the crowd, before nudging Lena’s side. “That’s great! Does this mean you’re not going to dinner with us, though?”

Lena shrugs. “Not sure. I’ll let you know, okay?”

Jack nods, but before he can reply there’s a loud bang and confetti is shot into the audience. Everyone starts yelling excitedly, and all the students are made to stand on the stage again. Someone counts down from three, and on zero, Lena tears the cap off her head and throws it into the air with a loud laugh. Next to her, everyone else does the same.

After the official ceremony is over, Lena flies off the stage to find Lex standing next to their seats, typing something on his phone.

“Lex!” she shouts, and his face lights up. He puts his phone away, spreading his arms to hug her.

“Hey, you! I’m so proud of you, you looked amazing up there,” he says into her hair, squeezing her tightly. “Sorry I didn’t text you, but I wasn’t sure if I was gonna make it and I didn’t want you to be disappointed.”

“That’s okay. I’m so glad you made it.”

“Me too.” He smiles down at her, tugging at the graduation gown. “Come on, let me take your picture. You’re gonna wanna remember this moment when you’re older.”

Lena rolls her eyes but poses for a picture anyway, and after Lex has taken at least five, she flips him off. “Alright, that’s enough.”

“Lena!” Jack calls out, before appearing by her side. “We’re about to leave. Are you coming or not?”

Lena looks from Jack to Lex and back at Jack. “Um. Lex? This is Jack. He’s my friend, and he invited me to have dinner with his family, but if you want to do something instead…”

Lex nods at Jack, shaking his hand. Then, with an apologetic look in his eyes, he turns back to Lena. “I’m sorry, Lee, but I have a meeting at LuthorCorp in an hour. Work never stops, I guess.”

Lena tries not to look too disappointed, but she can’t help the slight downwards tilt tugging at her lips. “No, it’s okay, I understand.”

Over the past two years, the both of them have tried to work on their relationship, but at the end of the day there were always things they prioritized over the other—work, school, and in Lena’s case, Kara. Things have gotten better, but Lena’s pretty certain they will never go back to the way they were, before. And she’s pretty sure she’s okay with that. Most of the time, at least.

“Okay. Sorry, kid. I’m proud of you, though.” Lex wraps one arm around Lena’s shoulder and presses a kiss against the top of her head, already pulling out his phone to make another phone call. “Bye, Jack, it was nice meeting you.”

“Bye,” Jack says, waving awkwardly at the spot where Lex had been standing. “Um—”

Lena takes a deep breath, shaking off the disappointment of Lex having to leave so soon. “Alright. Guess I’m going with you and your family, then.”

 

Lena’s hands are trembling as she repeatedly pushes the elevator button, hopping from one leg to the other. Flashes of the video footage published on every news website race through her mind, and no matter how hard she tries to think about something else, she can’t.

Finally, finally even though it’s only been seconds, the elevator doors slide open. Lena rushes inside, hitting the top floor button first, then the one to close the doors. As the elevator flies up to the top, she taps her fingers against her thigh, the handrail, the metal doors.

Even before the doors are fully opened, Lena’s out on the gallery and practically running towards the only other door on this floor. Rapping her knuckles against it while simultaneously ringing the doorbell multiple times, she calls her brother’s name.

“Lex, I know you’re in there. Open the fucking door.”

Lex’s apartment must be soundproof, because she doesn’t hear his footsteps approaching before the door flies open. She almost knocks him in the face at the sudden lack of door, taking half a second to regain her posture, and push past him into his apartment.

“Hey, um,” he says, spinning around to face her again. “This really isn’t a good time.”

Lena rolls her eyes, reaching for her phone. She unlocks the screen, shoving it into his face. “What the fuck is this?”

He blinks, a heavy sigh escaping from his lips. “I don’t know what you’re talking about, Lena. Like I said—”

MPD has confirmed a green substance has been found at the site of the crime, most likely in the spot the bomb was detonated,” Lena reads, shoving her phone back into her purse. “A green substance? Really, Lex? It was Kryptonite, wasn’t it?”

“I—” Lex’s shoulders drop. “Yes, it was, but I can explain—”

“No need for that,” Lena says. “You tried to kill Superman today. Don’t even try to deny it.”

Lex’s eyes narrow and something flashes behind them. “Since you already seem to know all the answers, why are you here? To yell at me?”

“Yeah, exactly. I could’ve gone to the police with this information, you know? They haven’t figured out who was behind the bombing yet, and I’m pretty sure they’d be interested to hear what I have to say.” Lena crosses her arms over her chest, squaring her shoulders to seem more intimidating. She’s not afraid of him, even though there’s almost literally a danger sign hanging above his head.

“You’re bluffing. If you wanted to do that, you would’ve already done it.”

“I wouldn’t be so sure of that,” Lena shoots back. “You killed people today, Lex. Ten people died, because of your stupid feud with Superman. You crossed a line.”

Lex’s head snaps up, fire shooting in his eyes. “There is no fucking line, Lena. When will you realize you’re on the wrong side of this war?”

“I don’t know.” Lena clenches her jaw. “When will you?”

“This is pointless. Yeah, I set off the bomb. Yeah, people died. So what? Sacrifices must be made for the greater good. You can’t fight a war without casualties.”

“You can’t fight a war without an enemy!” Lena yells. “God, can you stop and think for a second? You’re never going to win this, and you’re giving me no choice but to turn you in if you don’t stop.”

“I’m your brother,” Lex says, too calm and too reserved, and in that moment he looks so much like their mother it sends a cold shiver down Lena’s spine. “You’d never betray me.”

Lena looks at him with venom on her lips, her hands balling into fists to keep them from shaking. He stares back at her with a cold, hard look in his eyes, his lips pressed into a thin line. The crease between his eyebrows makes her want to throw up.

The fire dies down in her veins, a numb feeling spreading through her body instead. She shakes her head. “You’re not my brother. My brother was full of love, set on making the world a better place. I don’t know you anymore, Lex, but whoever you’ve become is sounding just like mom.”

He doesn’t flinch at her words. He doesn’t do much of anything, really. For what feels like forever, the apartment’s completely silent. Lena’s heart is beating against her chest as regret fills her, but she doesn’t try to take back her words. She meant what she said, even though her heart is shattered in a million pieces.

Lex swallows. He blinks. He draws a sharp breath. His body tenses, and for a moment it looks like he’s going to hit her. Then he turns around, opens the front door with more force than necessary, and, without a word, lets his gaze fall to the ground.

Lena’s nostrils flare, a sudden sadness washing over her. Tears burn behind her eyes, but she clenches her jaw to keep herself from crying, and nods. Despite everything, an apology starts to form on her lips, and she opens her mouth to speak, but her tongue is paralyzed.

As she walks past him, her arms ache to hug him one last time, and it takes everything she has not to fall to her knees and beg forgiveness. But she forces her chin up, focuses her eyes on the elevator doors in front of her, and doesn’t turn around until the door falls shut behind her.

 

Lex gets arrested barely two months later. It happens around two in the afternoon, while Lena’s buried away in her lab like usual. The news spreads like wildfire through the entire company, and before she knows what’s happening, Lena finds herself watching the news in one of the conference rooms with her coworkers, trying to grasp that this is live footage shot from an actual helicopter, and not some fake video.

Lex is standing amidst a pile of rubble, wearing a green suit powered by what Lena quickly identifies as Kryptonite, opposite of Superman in all his red and blue glory. Superman, Clark, seems to be saying something, but Lex doesn’t reply—he charges. When his fist hits Superman’s jaw, Superman is sent flying and it takes him a good couple of seconds before he realizes that Lex is serious.

Just when Superman flies at him with full force, Lena’s knees buckle. Multiple sets of hands grab her arms and push her into a chair, several voices asking if she needs anything, but all she can focus on is the television screen showing her brother fighting with Superman.

A million questions run through her head, like where did the suit come from? How is Lex able to punch Superman without breaking his hand? Is Clark not using his powers because of the Kryptonite, or is he genuinely trying to spare Lex’s life? And, most importantly, why is no one doing anything to stop them?

Someone pushes a glass of water into Lena’s hand, and she takes a big gulp. The cold feeling of the water going down her throat feels grounding, and she shakes her head. This can’t be happening. She should’ve gone to the police the first time Lex attempted to kill Superman. She could have stopped this. She should have stopped this.

Fear settles in the pit of her stomach. What if Lex is strong enough to hurt, or kill, Superman? Even worse, what if he is not? Clark wouldn’t kill him, would he? He has never killed anyone before if he could help it, and according to the news outlets he has been devastated every time he didn’t have any other choice. What if, even if he’s about to lose, Lex still doesn’t stop?

It feels wrong, worrying about her brother when he is literally committing the worst possible crime at this very second, but regardless of her last words to him—he is still her brother. Despite the burning hatred she feels for him, it’s fueled by love, and fear of losing him.

The fight seems to go on forever, and all around her people seem to react to it as if they’re watching a football game. They gasp whenever either party lands a punch, groan when someone falls to his knees, and some even cheer when it looks like Lex is winning.

But then there’s a blast, and Lex is thrown back into the air by the sheer force of it. A blur of red and blue flies across the screen, and barely a second later they’re both on the ground. Superman’s putting out the fire on Lex’s suit with his freeze breath, and almost simultaneously punches through the mask protecting Lex’s head with his fist. They’re too far from the camera to be seen clearly, but Lena thinks she sees Lex’s head snap back before lolling forward.

He’s unconscious.

The fight is over.

Superman has won.

Clark stands up, chest heaving heavily, his hands on his sides. His cape is blowing in the wind in the perfect superhero pose, but his perfect face is bloody and contorted in pain, and his perfect hair is a mess.

He places one foot on Lex’s chest, pushing him down even though Lex still hasn’t moved, and gestures at something behind him. The camera moves to show a military car driving into view—the source of the blast, Lena realizes with a start—along with a couple of men and women in uniform.

When they reach Lex, they pull him out of his suit without caring about any possible injuries, cuffing his hands behind his back despite him still being unconscious. As he’s taken into the car and disappears from view, the cameras move back to Superman, who’s bent over with his hands on his knees, panting.

Someone, a major in the US Army if Lena’s not mistaken, approaches him, carefully. She says something to him, he nods and says something back. Then he looks up, and shoots up into the sky. The camera tries to follow, but he’s too fast and disappears from sight before it catches him. After a few unsuccessful attempts, it turns to the news broadcaster who has apparently been commenting on the entire thing, but Lena’s interest is lost.

She’s staring blankly at the empty glass in front of her, ignoring the questioning stares from everyone in the room. Lex, her brother, just tried to fight Superman in person, and got himself arrested. Lex. Arrested. For fighting Superman.

Images of the fight float in and out of her mind. Her breath is ragged, shallow. Her hands and feet tingle. Flares of hot and cold flush through her body. Her head feels light.

Lex fought Superman. Lex fought Superman and lost. Lex fought Superman and lost and got arrested. Lex fought Superman and lost and got arrested and—

“Steady now, Ms. Luthor,” a voice says next to her, close to her ear. “Breathe into this, it’ll help.”

Something is pressed into her hands—a plastic bag. She blinks, suddenly aware of a warm hand on her shoulder. She’s hyperventilating, she realizes, and without a second thought, she presses the plastic bag over her nose and mouth, forcing herself to breathe normally.

As her breathing slowly returns to normal, the light-headedness disappears and she can start to feel her limbs again.

All around her, curious eyes are staring at her, but she focuses on the voice of the hand’s owner. It’s low and gentle, probably male, and even though she’s not really reacting to anything he’s saying, he keeps talking. His words are meant to comfort her, but as reality sets in, all she feels is…nothing.

“I’m okay,” she manages to say, pushing her chair backwards and forcing herself on her feet. “I’m okay.”

“Ms. Luthor,” the man, she doesn’t recognize him but he must work on this floor as well, says. “With all due respect, but you’re not okay. Please, tell me how I can help.”

Lena shifts her gaze from the table in front of her to him, focuses on the blue in his eyes. Blue like Kara’s. Oh god. Kara.

She stumbles backwards, but the man’s arms catch her before she can fall, pushing her back into the chair. His blue eyes are filled with concern, and even though he looks nothing like Kara, she can’t stop seeing her face where his is supposed to be.

“Is there anything I can do?” he asks, again.

“I—” she starts, but her throat is thick and her tongue is heavy, and the words don’t make it past her lips. She takes a deep breath, allows her eyes to flutter closed for a second. “I want to be alone.”

“You heard the woman,” the man says, gesturing at everyone in the room. “Get out of here. Don’t you all have something better to do? Just because Luthor—I mean, just get out, alright?”

The murmuring swells as everyone files out of the room, leaving just the two of them; Lena sitting in the chair, and the man standing next to her.

“Alone…” Lena says. “Don’t you know what the word alone means?”

“Oh, I know. It just doesn’t seem like such a great idea to leave you alone at this moment in time.”

Lena lets out a dry laugh, curling her fingers so her nails are digging into her palm. “Why not? Because I’m a Luthor? Because we can’t be trusted?”

“Of course not, Ms.…Luthor. Because you just witnessed your brother, I don’t know how to put this any other way than…lose his mind. I don’t think it’s good for anyone to be alone after such a thing.”

Lena looks at him, avoiding his eyes. “What does it matter to you.”

“You’re right, it doesn’t matter to me. But I am trying to help, which I can’t do if you don’t let me. Now, please tell me, is there anything I can do? Someone I could call? Something you trust?”

Lena barely registers any of his words, her mind still replaying the fight over and over like one of Kara’s broken VHS tapes. But her mouth opens anyway. “My friend.” The only person in Metropolis she trusts. “Jack Spheer.”

 

She doesn’t know how she gets home that afternoon. Everything is a blur—Jack arriving to pick her up, Jack fighting off the press as they try to get the first shot of Lex Luthor’s little sister, Jack’s protective arm hovering around her waist as they enter her apartment.

And then the ringing of the doorbell. Half the MPD storming into her apartment to apprehend her for conspiring with her brother in the fight against Superman. The coolness of the cuffs around her wrists.

She twists her ankle as they force her into the cop car. Oddly enough, that’s one of the things that registers in her mind, amidst all the cold numbness. Everything else is just noise.

 

Lillian’s eyes shoot fire when she meets them as she walks back to her seat after giving her testimony.

Lex just looks at her with a sad tilt of his lips. He doesn’t seem mad she just gave them all the information needed to lock him up for good. Maybe he knows it wasn’t out of free will, that it was the only way to keep her out of prison, too, for withholding information.

She believes him, now. Everything he ever did, he did to protect her.

 

Lex is sentenced to thirty-two consecutive life-sentences with no chance at parole. Lena cries when she hears the verdict.

 

For the hundredth time in a month, Lena’s thumb hovers over the call button underneath Kara’s name. She sighs, and locks her phone.

 

On her first day as CEO of LuthorCorp, Lena has absolutely no idea what to do. She knows she wants to change something, do something to shine a positive light on the company again, but she can’t figure out what needs to be done to accomplish that. Lex hadn’t used the company itself in his rage against Superman, just the building’s facilities like the lab, his office, and some of the storage units. Most of the employees didn’t even know what was going on, and all the ones that did have either been fired, arrested, or both—like Mercy Graves.

It doesn’t feel right, sitting in Lex’s office. Even though it’s technically her office now, with her desk and computer and door leading to her private lab, it still feels like all of this is his. Was this how Lex felt right after their father passed away and he became CEO? It must be.

She glances around the room, a heavy feeling in her stomach. After the police came and raided the place for evidence to use against Lex, she spent hours upon hours cleaning up. It helped clear her mind.

From the corner of her eyes she sees movement in one of the security screens, barely giving her enough time to straighten her back and look like she’s doing something important before the door is pushed open, and Lillian walks in.

Lena’s eyes flicker over to her mother as she crosses the room and sits down in one of the chairs on the other side of the desk. “Good morning to you, too.”

“I see you don’t have an assistant yet,” Lillian says, without greeting. She looks up and down Lena’s body, disdain coloring her face. “Or the appropriate wardrobe.”

Lena feels her cheeks flush, suddenly highly aware of the tears in her jeans, and her signature flannel shirt. She squares her shoulders, puffing out her chest a little. “Is that the reason you came here? To mock my outfit?”

“No,” Lillian replies coolly, ignoring the sarcasm in Lena’s voice. She reaches into her purse and produces a neatly wrapped box, shoving it towards Lena with a wry smile. “Happy birthday.”

Lena stares at the present, not making any effort to reach for it. “My birthday was yesterday.”

“I was busy yesterday.”

“I’m busy right now,” Lena says, crossing her arms over her chest. “And I don’t want your present.”

Lillian grimaces. “And I didn’t want you to betray my son, but we can’t all have what we want now, can we?”

Her words are like a knife cutting open the barely holding stitches in Lena’s heart and she recoils. With a swift movement she reaches forward to grab the present, unwrapping it hastily. Underneath the paper is a box with a familiar watch inside of it.

She frowns. “This is Lex’s.”

“Actually, it’s your father’s,” Lillian corrects her, a dreary tone to her voice. For half a moment she looks vulnerable, the weight of losing two of her family members obviously still crushingly heavy, but she regains her posture before the sadness is ever really there. “And it’s not my present, it’s Lex’s. He said he wouldn’t be needing it in prison and that he’s sorry he can’t make it to your birthday.”

Despite Lillian’s attempt to deliver the message in the least emotional way possible, Lena’s stomach still clenches. Yesterday she had missed three calls from an unknown number while she was taking a shower, and with no way to call back she’d forgotten about it—until now. Clearly it had been Lex trying to call her for from prison, and she curses at herself for not hearing her phone ring.

She runs her fingers over the brown leather, taking her own watch off and replacing it with Lex’s. It’s a little loose, even on the tightest setting, and she’ll have to get that fixed, but it still feels right, like she’s carrying part of both Lex and her father with her at all times.

“Thank you,” she says, earnestly. “It means a lot to me.”

Lillian’s smile doesn’t reach her eyes, but she reaches forward to squeeze Lena’s hand anyway. “I’m sorry for earlier. We only have each other, now, and I want to do better, as your mother.”

Lena blinks in surprise, a spark of hope spreading warmth through her body before she realizes it’s probably just one of Lillian’s tricks. She tries to pull back her hand, but Lillian tightens her grip and doesn’t let go.

Reserved, Lena takes a shaky breath. “That’s okay, I’ve learned to fend for myself these past couple of years. I don’t need you anymore.”

Lillian ignores Lena’s words, finally letting go of her hand. With another forced smile, she looks around the office. “How’s your first day going?”

 “Shit,” Lena sighs, wiping her hand on her jeans. The watch slips down her wrist, and she subconsciously fiddles with the band. “Everyone’s looking at me like I’m a child.”

“You are a child,” Lillian says, her tone hard at first, before she seems to realize she’s still not doing a great job at being a better mother. Her face softens, but only barely. “I mean, you just turned twenty-three.”

Lena purses her lips. “I’m also the CEO. People need to start taking me seriously, otherwise I won’t be able to do anything to get this company back off the ground.”

“You should have let me take the job,” Lillian says, and—oh, there it is. The real reason she’s here. Now that she’s said the words, everything about her screams impatience and authority. “You’re not fit to be a CEO. You don’t even know what a CEO does, Lena. And these people know that. All they need to do is take one look at you to know you’re even less than inexperienced. You’re never gonna last as the CEO of this company, and you know it.”

Lena huffs, rolling her eyes. “You didn’t want to be CEO, mom. All you cared about was Lex and his stupid trial, and now it’s too late.”

“Pretty much anyone would’ve made a better CEO than you,” Lillian snarls, but Lena isn’t affected by her tone of voice anymore.

“No one wanted to be. I was the only one willing to stand up and do what is needed to get this company up and running again. If it weren’t for me, there would be no LuthorCorp anymore. I don’t care what you say, I will get us back in the game, no matter what it takes. Even if it’s only to make sure Dad’s work won’t go to waste.”

Lillian lips curl up into a wicked grin. “Lionel would turn in his grave if he heard that. You may think you’re saving the company, but don’t come crying to me if you ruin it instead.” With that, she stands up from her seat and leaves the room, heels clicking against the floor.

Lena sinks back into her seat, letting out a sharp breath of both relief and frustration. She doesn’t know why she still bothers with Lillian, and she hates that there is still a part of her that keeps hoping for some kind of reconciliation. But, despite everything, there is some truth to what Lillian said. Most of LuthorCorp’s board, her board, has been working here for longer than Lena’s been alive, and they know she’s inexperienced. Just because she managed to win the respect of the engineers and other researches doesn’t mean anything—building tech and running a company are two very different things.

And yet, even though all the odds are against her, she refuses to believe Lex did irreparable damage. All she needs to do is win back the people’s trust in the Luthor name, and all her problems will disappear.

She knows it’s gonna be hard to convince even one person that not all Luthors are inherently bad, but she’s more than determined to make it work. She’s going to fix Lex’s mistakes, and she’ll stop at nothing to accomplish that.

 

Supergirl emerges in National City after saving a plane from crashing. It happens on a Tuesday, when Lena’s still in her office, taking a break from the paperwork she’s been doing all day.

She’s flipping through channels on the large television screen behind her desk when a familiar face is staring at her from the screen. Her heart does a double backflip inside her chest. The picture is blurry, and it’s been years since they’ve seen each other, but there’s no doubt in her mind that it’s Kara.

Her suspicions are confirmed a couple weeks later, when CatCo magazine publishes a piece on Supergirl, which includes a line drawing the connection between her and Superman—they’re cousins.

Despite their history, Lena’s chest swells with pride every time Kara makes the news with another heroic save, blood rushing a little faster at the footage of Kara lifting trees and cars and entire buildings all by herself.

It’s the first time Lena sees Kara using her powers to their full extent, and even though she’s used to seeing it from Superman it’s so much different seeing it from her. Kara has a certain elegance Clark doesn’t, and there’s something about the red and blue that turns Lena’s insides into mush.

More than ever, she aches to reach out and contact Kara again, but just because the imminent threat is over doesn’t mean they can just pick up right where they left off. As much as she wishes they could go back to the way things were, fact is that she broke Kara’s heart, and she needs to respect the possibility that Kara doesn’t want anything to do with her anymore. After all, Kara never bothered to reach out, either, not even when Lex was arrested.

Lena keeps an eye on the news, though. She’s happy for Kara, even if it hurts to see her smile.

 

Lena proves Lillian wrong in many ways. She starts dressing in business attire, often paired with a dark red lipstick, to demand both attention and authority. She spends most of her time learning everything she can about the company, exhausting all the board members with questions, and memorizes every single one of her employees’ names and faces.

Over the course of a year, she becomes most well-liked CEO the company has ever had, and even though she’s not flawless and occasionally makes a stupid mistake, like accidentally sending an email meant for just the other board members to the entire list of LuthorCorp employees, she’s a fast learner.

By her twenty-fourth birthday, she’s no longer ‘Lex Luthor’s kid sister playing boss for a day’, but ‘Lena Luthor, respected CEO of LuthorCorp’.

Unfortunately, progress is mostly made within the company and some limited relationships with other companies, while private sales and most mass sales have stagnated far below the break-even point.

She wrecks her brain over the problem, until Natalie, her assistant—because she has an assistant now, a real life person who helps her with pretty much every part of her life—hesitantly puts forth the idea that it could be the Luthor name people still fear.

Lena’s first reaction is to get mad and yell at her, but after some contemplation she, albeit reluctant, admits that it might be true. It’s the Luthor name that’s branded into all their products, and it’s the Luthor name that is associated with Lex’s attempts to murder Superman that cost so many innocent lives.

Which means there’s only one thing left to do: take the name, her father’s name, out of the company.

 

No matter how many times Lena sees him, she’s pretty sure she’ll never get used to seeing Lex in his dark red prison jumpsuit, handcuffed to a table like they’re worried he’s going to hurt her.

The security guard finishes cuffing Lex to the table, and says something to him. Lex doesn’t really respond, but he doesn’t seem to care. With one last glance at the other security guard standing in the corner, he opens the door and steps outside.

“You can go inside now, Ms. Luthor,” he says, a sharp edge to his voice at her name.

Lena forces a smile and nods, running a hand through her hair before stepping inside the room. She hates being here, unable to shake the feeling that even though she’ll be able to leave whenever she wants to, Lex will never see anything else than the inside of these walls ever again.

But seeing Lex’s face light up every time he sees her makes it worth it. A smile forms on his lips and his eyes don’t seem as dull anymore. “Hey, Lee. I’d stand up to hug you, but—” He tugs on his handcuffs, rolling his eyes when the security guard in the corner moves his hand to his taser.

“How are you?” Lena asks, sitting down at the chair opposite of Lex. She studies his face, sunken in and grayish, and makes a mental note to yell at someone to make sure he gets enough to eat.

“Better now that you’re here.” Lex’s grin turns boyish and for a moment he looks like her brother again, and Lena misses him more than ever.

“Sorry I haven’t been visiting a lot lately. I’ve been busy.” She lets out a shaky breath, looking down at her hands. “Suddenly I understand why you never had time to just hang out anymore once you became CEO. I’ve barely had time to breathe in weeks.”

Lex narrows his eyes, studying her like she just studied him. Worry flashes behind his eyes. “If those grays are up your ass about shit just threaten to fire them. It always worked for me.”

Lena can’t help but crack a grin. “Yeah, but I’m a girl. Some wannabe news outlet would write an article about it, and I’d never be taken seriously again if I didn’t actually fire the guy. And I really can’t do that right now, because—” She stops, hesitates, and then, because they don’t have much time, blurts, “I’m moving to National City.”

Lex’s face falls, his eyes widening. “What?”

“To rename the company. Our plan is to eventually rename all our branches, but for now we’ve decided to try out—”

“Renaming the company? To what?” Lex interrupts her, a frown starting to form on his brow. His hands are clasped together, his knuckles white from the tension.

Lena takes a breath, forcing herself to stay calm. “L-Corp. The L is for Luthor, obviously, but we couldn’t…keep that. We tried, but it didn’t work, and this seemed the best solution.” She averts her gaze, suddenly feeling like a child again. “Are you mad?”

It’s quiet for a long time, and Lena bites her lip so hard she tastes blood, the only sound being their breathing—Lena’s shallow and nervous, Lex’s deep and slow.

Then, he reaches forward the best he can to cover her hands with his. “No.”

“Hey, no touching,” the guard in the corner says, taking a step forward, his hand on his taser. Lex rolls his eyes and leans back, leaving a warm imprint on Lena’s skin.

She smiles, weakly. “You had me worried there for a second.”

“I’m not happy about it, but I understand. You have to do what you have to do. I’ll miss you, though. When are you leaving?”

Lena doesn’t miss the change of topics, and decides not to linger. She looks up at Lex, wishing she could reach out and hold him so he wouldn’t look this broken. “Tonight, actually. There, um, there’s a cab waiting for me outside to drive me to the airport. I just came to say goodbye.”

“Oh,” Lex says, and he sounds like he just got punched in the stomach. “Okay.”

“I’m sorry,” she murmurs. “I wanted to tell you sooner, but, you know, things got in the way. I couldn’t leave without seeing you one more time, though.”

“I understand.” Lex’s voice is hallow, like he’s already distancing himself from her. She tries to meet his gaze, but he’s looking everywhere but at her, and with a defeated sigh she gives up. It feels stupid, feeling bad for leaving Lex when in reality he’s the one that left her, all those years ago, but he’s still her brother, and right now he needs her more than ever.

“How much longer do we have?” Lex asks the guard, who holds up his hands with three of his fingers spread out. Three minutes.

“Well,” Lena says, not sure what to say next.

Lex swallows audibly. “Yeah.”

They sit in silence as the minutes tick away. Lena feels pressured to say something, to make this time worthwhile, but she can’t think of anything. The time where they could talk for hours is long gone, and making small talk seems almost rude when there are so much more important things going on.

When the guard informs them that there’s only one more minute left, Lex’s head snaps up, like he just thought of something. “Hey, doesn’t Kara live in National City?”

Lena blinks. “Yeah. She’s graduating this year, I think.”

“Is she dating anyone?” Lex wiggles his eyebrows.

Lena chuckles in disbelief, shaking her head. “I don’t know. I doubt we’ll see much of each other. National City is big.”

“You gotta believe,” Lex says. “If it’s meant to be, you will.”

“Thanks, Mr. Relationship Advice.”

Lex smiles at her, warm and caring. There’s a sad look in his eyes, but at the same time he looks content, almost at peace with how things turned out for him. But Lena’s heard the stories from the guards about how he rages at night, cursing at all things Superman, and how he once hit his fists bloody against the concrete walls. It’ll never be okay, she knows, but she can’t stop living her life because of it. Not anymore.

“Time’s up,” the guard says.

Lena looks at him. “Can we have one hug?”

For a moment, she’s hopeful. Then the guard shakes his head. “No, can’t do. Sorry, Ms. Luthor.”

“Go,” Lex says, nodding at the door. “I’m proud of you, Lee. And I know Dad would be, too.”

Lena’s breath catches in her throat and she feels tears burning behind her eyes. She blinks and wills them away, but her smile falters and she’s almost inclined to break protocol—just to hug him. But she forces herself to stand, and walk to the door. Turning around, she gives him a long look. “Bye, Lex.”

He waves his shackled hand the best he can.

 

National City is hot. Lena’s only been here for a day and she’s already looking forward to her next trip to Metropolis, away from the dryness.

Her apartment is only a couple of blocks away from the company’s west coast establishment, already fully in construction to make the necessary changes to its exterior design. Within a week the large LuthorCorp sign will be gone and replaced by the new L-Corp sign, as well as the smaller signs all around the building.

Her new place is different from her apartment in Metropolis, mostly because it’s a two-story penthouse with more space than she needs, and a terrace that almost wraps around the entire apartment. On one side is a swimming pool with a bunch of sunbeds around it, and on the other is a more traditional balcony type of terrace.

The penthouse itself came fully furnished a strange mix of warm browns and cool whites that somehow really work. The lower level contains the living room, a luxury kitchen with a cooking island, two bathrooms, and the home cinema Lena plans to never make use of. On the top floor are five spacious bedrooms, three of which have their own bathroom, and one of which she has decided to use as one large walk-in closet instead.

It’s obnoxious and unnecessary, but there’s a part of her that really enjoys all this luxury.

From the balcony side of the building, she can see the soon-to-be L-Corp building, and most of the city’s skyline. And, if she stares past the buildings hard enough, the shimmer of the ocean.

Even though she promised herself she wouldn’t do this, as she sits on the overly expensive designer chair, overlooking the city, she wonders in which of these buildings Kara lives, and if she can see it from here. She knows the chances of running into her are slim, but if she’s learned anything, it’s that the universe likes to smack her in the face with all the things she so desperately wants to avoid, and she’s pretty sure she’ll never be able to set foot outside without subconsciously looking for Kara’s face in the crowd.

It’s surreal, being in the same city again.

Down below, a siren blares. Barely half a minute later, something red and blue flashes though the sky.

Lena’s heart leaps in her chest, and she smiles.

Chapter Text

CatCo’s Annual Fundraiser Gala is on a Thursday.

Being a Luthor and the CEO of a multi-billion dollar company, Lena’s not surprised when an invitation lands in her inbox. And being the sister of America’s most notorious alien hater and the CEO of the company that has become synonymous with xenophobia, Lena can’t decline.

She has never been a party animal. College came and went without crazy alcohol-driven adventures, and the only experimenting she ever did was inside the lab, wearing safety goggles. She used to hate it when her parents dragged her to events all the time, teaching her how to walk, talk, and act like a Luthor. She can’t stand the fake laughter and feigned interest that comes with these kinds of events, where everybody is just out to socialize and create or strengthen connections with other high class people.

Unfortunately, that’s exactly the reason she can’t skip this party. She has a reputation to rebuild, and showing her face at one of the most extravagant events of the west coast will help with that. Everyone who’s someone in National City has been invited, and if she wants people to know she’s doing her best to right Lex’s wrongs, this is the perfect place to start. And, on top of that, donating to charity is always a good idea—not just for herself, but also for the people she’ll be helping.

As Thursday night draws to a close, she keeps that thought in her mind to suppress the dread building up in her stomach. This year’s charity busies itself with helping children in third world countries by building fresh water taps, giving them free vaccinations, and an education to give them a chance at a better future. Even if she doesn’t enjoy herself, she’ll at least do something useful. Something good.

The night of the party, she sends her assistant home early, changing into a different dress in her office. It’s simple and black, and not unlike the ones she wears on a daily basis now. She retouches her makeup, and practices her polite smile in the mirror on the elevator ride down. In the back of her mind, she hears Lillian repeating the lessons from years ago.

Shoulders back, Lena. No one likes someone who slouches their shoulders. And keep your chin up, otherwise you’ll have a double chin. Suck in your stomach, it looks fat in that dress. And smile, Lena, you’re at a party, not a funeral.”

She greets the doorman on her way out, climbing into the backseat of the car Hector’s already running. With a sigh, she kicks off her heels, pulling her legs up to her chest. “Good evening, Hector. Sorry for making you work late, I would’ve driven myself but apparently that’s not something CEOs are supposed to do.”

Hector flashes her a grin in the rear mirror. “It’s no problem at all, Ms. Luthor. Just sit back and relax, it’s a short drive.”

Lena puts her seatbelt on and leans back, pulling out her phone. She scrolls through her social media pages, some news feeds, and, even though she’s technically free from work, replies to an email.

“You might want to put your shoes back on, Ms. Luthor. We’re only just a block away.”

Lena glances through the blinded windows and, surely, CatCo is right in front of them. Once again, Cat Grant went all out. On the outside, there’s a red carpet, swarmed with press, and even Lena has to admit she’s slightly curious to what’s on the inside.

A few seconds later, when they pull up at the start of the red carpet, a handsome man wearing a suit opens the car door with an inviting gesture. Lena, shoes on and all, takes his hand to step out of the car, tightly clutching her purse with the other.

A buzz that sounds a lot like her name goes through the crowd, and she barely has time to blink before all cameras are pointed at her. Flashes are blinding her, microphones are being pushed into her face, and a dozen voices start asking the same questions all at once.

It’s overwhelming.

Ever since Lex started his tirades against Superman, Lena’s been stalked by press. To a certain extent she’s used to it. People seem to wanna know a Luthor’s opinion on everything these days, and most of the time she has no problem ignoring them. But she’s here for a reason, and the press plays a vital part in how the world sees her. So she smiles for the cameras and answers as many questions as possible. For a few minutes, she’s the center of attention. Then the next guest arrives, and she’s free.

With a relieved drop of her shoulders, she continues down the red carpet, until a security guard stops her to ask for her name.

“Lena Luthor,” she says, reaching into her purse. “I’m on the guest list.”

He scans the list in his hands for her name, giving one short nod and a forced smile. “Alright, ma’am. Enjoy yourself tonight.”

“Thank you. You too.” Lena frowns at how weird that sounds, wondering why she said anything at all, but the guard doesn’t really react to it, already busy with the next guest.

Lena walks inside, through the hallway to where the party is being held. The hall itself is barely decorated with just a few cocktail tables, some ambient lighting, and a couple of banners with the charity’s website and social media on it. Plain and simple, but it gets the job done.

Staying close to the wall, Lena overlooks the scene. A few dozen people are already inside, standing in small circles with champagne glasses. Caterers are walking back and forth with food and drinks, and there’s a stand where volunteers from the charity are talking to people about the cause.

She recognizes a few faces from business contacts—people she could start talking to, because she’s pretty sure they know who she is, too. But every single one of these people saw her brother getting arrested on national television. They all know exactly what happened, and every time she tries to talk to someone she can see the judgment in their eyes. Judgment, and fear that she’s gonna turn out the same way. And Lena’s not made from ice, and the overwhelming prejudice towards her last name hurts.

Her eyes land on Cat Grant, who’s on the other side of the room talking to Maxwell Lord, CEO of one of L-Corp’s biggest competitors in National City. Their technology is similar in many ways, but they were was never a real threat, until the whole thing with Lex. Lots of customers have switched from L-Corp tech to Lord Technologies, and it’s been a pain trying to get them back. Lena’s never met Maxwell Lord, but according to Lex and some other board members, he’s smug, arrogant, and he has an amazing brain.

Lena has always hated him, and seeing him in person doesn’t help change her mind. He’s smirking at something Cat Grant said, holding up one finger to accentuate his reply. Lena has no idea what he’s saying, but she wouldn’t be surprised if it was something sexist.

She’s just about to look away when a young, blonde woman walks up to Cat, interrupting their conversation. Lena gasps.

It’s Kara.

Lena chokes on air, clasping her hand over her mouth to smolder her coughing, but it’s too late. Kara looks up, peering over Cat’s shoulder to where Lena’s standing. Her eyes widen and her hand flies up to her glasses to readjust them.

Unable to tear her gaze away from Kara, Lena walks up to the closest caterer to grab a glass of water. She takes a sip to stop her coughs and hydrate her throat, a thousand thoughts racing through her head.

How is Kara here? According to Facebook, she was graduating college just a couple of months ago. Did she really manage to climb her way up to becoming one of National City’s finest in such a short amount of time? Or is she with the charity? Lena wouldn’t be surprised if she is, Kara’s always had a hand for helping people.

It’s almost too much of a coincidence that they’re both in the same place at the same time, and Lena’s not sure what to do. She hasn’t seen Kara in four years and—oh god she’s coming over.

Kara says something to Cat Grant, pushing past her towards Lena. She crosses the room with a nervous grin on her lips. Lena’s not sure she’s still breathing, her heart beating out her chest as she watches Kara move closer and closer until—

“Hey,” Kara says, awkwardly waving one hand in the air. “I was hoping you’d be here tonight.”

“Hey,” Lena says, breathlessly, unable to process it all. Kara expected her to be here? “You—you did? How did you know I’d be here?”

“I sent out the invitations. Ms. Grant had me put together a list of National City’s wealthiest, and, well, you’re one of them. Top three, actually.” Kara lets out a nervous chuckle, hands fumbling with a loose strand on her dress. “I’m sorry, this is weird, isn’t it? I should…” Her voice trails off, eyes filled with a hopeful look.

“No,” Lena says, perhaps a little too loud and eager. “I mean, just…give me a second. This all kind of came out of nowhere.” She forces herself to take a couple of deep breaths, closing her eyes for a second. She almost doesn’t expect it to be real, expects Kara to be gone when she reopens her eyes, but when she does, Kara’s still there—still smiling at her.

Her blonde hair is pulled back into a ponytail, light blue dress bringing out her eyes in a way Lena almost forgot was possible. Her glasses have been replaced with a new frame, and she’s grown into her body more—her limbs aren’t ridiculously long anymore, and actually rather muscular now. She’s stunning.

“Wow,” Lena says, shaking her head. “You’re here. How are you here? You said you sent out the invitations. Do you work for Cat Grant, then?”

“Uh, yeah,” Kara nods, suddenly looking a little sheepish. “I’m her assistant. Arranging things like this is kind of what I do these days.”

Lena blinks. That’s not what she expected, but at the same time she’s not really that surprised. Kara has all the traits that make a good assistant, and god knows someone in a position like Cat Grant needs one. She smiles. “That’s great, honestly. So you put all this together, huh?” She gestures around the room, relieved when the insecure tilt to Kara’s lips turns into one of pride.

“Yeah, it was a pain organizing everything.” Kara looks around the room with a content grin on her face. Then her face falls and she bites her lip, upper body half turning around to glance back at Cat. “I have to go, Ms. Grant needs me for something.”

Lena barely has time to nod before Kara’s on her way back to the other side of the room, her backless dress leaving little to the imagination. Lena’s mouth goes dry at the sight of Kara’s bare shoulders, and she forces herself to look away. They haven’t seen each other in four years, and she doesn’t want to start tonight off with some awkward, preteen staring.

With Kara back at Cat’s side, Lena feels like she can breathe again—although barely. Running into Kara tonight was the last thing she expected, and she still can’t comprehend how it happened.

It’s one thing knowing Kara’s in the same city, it’s another knowing Kara’s in the same room.

Lena finishes her water, placing the glass on a cocktail table. Almost instantly, one of the caterers offers her another drink, and she opts for champagne this time. If she’s gonna have to spend the night in such close proximity with her ex-girlfriend she may or may not still be very much in love with, she’ll need the alcohol to take off the edge.

An hour or so passes, in which Lena hangs around the charity stands, only half-listening to what the volunteer is saying. She’s hyperaware of Kara’s presence across the room, standing next to Cat Grant while she’s talking to business men and women, involuntarily looking over every couple of seconds to catch a glance of Kara’s polite smile.

An hour passes until Kara’s able to get away from Cat again, popping up next to Lena the second she’s no longer needed. “Hey, again.”

Lena looks up from pretending to read a flyer about vaccinations, surprised at how easily a smile spreads across her face. “Hey. So do you get paid for this or are you just here for the free food?”

“I get paid,” Kara says with a mischievous grin. “But I also get to eat all the free food, so it’s kind of a win-win situation. And it’s not like I have a lot to do—mostly Ms. Grant wants to have me around in case of an emergency, but I don’t think anything is gonna happen.”

Lena nods slowly. “Yeah, I can understand that. If I were to hold an event, I’d feel a lot better if Jess was there, too. Jess is my assistant.”

“I figured.” Kara’s eyes flicker up and down Lena’s body, a hint of something vaguely familiar behind them. “I can’t believe you’re a CEO now. I don’t think I know any CEOs below the age of forty-five, with the exception of Ms. Grant, of course.”

“God, I know, right? Must be a Luthor thing—Lex was twenty-two.” The words leave her mouth before she realizes it, and her eyes widen when she does. She hasn’t brought up Lex in a casual conversation since his arrest last year, but she can’t help but feel comfortable around Kara, somehow. Despite the fact that they haven’t seen nor spoken to each other in over four years. Despite the fact that you’re not supposed to feel comfortable around your ex-girlfriend.

But Kara doesn’t even flinch. She just gives Lena a sad smile, and instead of resentment there’s sympathy written all over her face. It’s almost ironic, the way Kara’s the first one to respond with something other than hatred or agreement, when it’s her cousin Lex tried to kill. When it’s her Lex would’ve tried to kill if he knew the truth.

Lena swallows, willing the moment of tension to pass. “But enough about me, how have you been? How are Eliza and Jeremiah? And Clark and Alex?”

Kara lets out a short laugh at the sudden outburst of questions, counting down on her fingers. “Great, even better, engaged to Lois, less of a pain in the butt.”

“I knew Clark and Lois were meant to be,” Lena grins. “They always had this vibe around them, you know? When did he ask her?”

“She asked him, actually,” Kara says, almost whispering like they’re discussing conspiracy theories. “He didn’t expect it at all, but then one night when they were on a trip to his parents’ house last year March she just asked him while they were standing in the middle of a cornfield, putting up a scarecrow. I think she wanted to keep it casual, but she told me he actually started crying and couldn’t say yes for, like, at least two full minutes.”

“Oh my god,” Lena laughs, muffling the sound with her hand to keep others from listening in. In the back of her mind she’s putting the events on a timeline—last year March was when Lex got sentenced to prison, and she can’t shake the feeling that Lois’s proposal hadn’t been all that random. If that’s the case, at least one good thing came out of it all. It makes Lena feel better, oddly enough.

Kara’s grinning at her with a soft look in her blue eyes, completely relaxed. It’s so unlike all the other people Lena’s met these past couple of months, and Lena’s still trying to wrap her head around it when a young man with boyish features walks up to them.

“Kara? Ms. Grant is looking for you.” He glances at Lena and his eyes widen. He straightens his shoulders and unsubtly leans closer to Kara. Barely below normal speaking level, he whispers, “Is that…?”

Kara slowly tears her gaze away from Lena, a sigh escaping her lips. “Yes, Winn, that’s her. Winn, Lena. Lena, Winn. He’s my coworker from CatCo.”

“I’m the IT guy,” Winn says, shaking Lena’s hand with a firmer grip than Lena expected from his nervous attitude. “Kara’s told me lots about you.”

Lena raises one eyebrow. “She has?”

“Maybe a little,” Kara says, pinching her fingers together, glaring at Winn. “Just that we used to, um. I mean, you’re my ex-girlfriend. It came up once or twice.”

“Once or twice,” Winn nods frantically. “Anyway, Kara, Ms. Grant is—”

“Looking for me,” Kara says, giving Lena an apologetic smile. “I’m sorry, I’ll be right back, okay? Don’t go anywhere.”

Lena smiles back. “Good luck.”

She watches as Kara walks back to Cat, who immediately starts talking to her with lots of hand gestures and facial expressions. When she turns her attention back to Winn, he’s still staring at her, wide-eyed.

“What?”

“N-nothing,” he says, retreating like she said something hostile. Lena has to keep herself from rolling her eyes at the contrast between him and Kara, wondering what qualities he has that makes Kara want to be friends with him.

From the other side of the room, Kara catches her eyes with an amused grin, and Lena has to bite her lip to stop from chuckling.

As the night progresses, Kara manages to get away from Cat Grant a few more times, although it’s just for a couple minutes each time. They mostly talk about insignificant things like work and living in National City, but it’s enough for Lena to realize how much she’s been missing Kara all this time.

Over time, the pain has turned into a dull throbbing every now and then, no longer a constant ache inside her chest. With other things to keep her busy, missing Kara had kind of taken a backseat, always there but no longer a priority. But now, after talking to her once more, Lena’s not sure she could go without talking to her ever again.

One time when Kara’s busy, Lena writes a generous check for the charity that makes the volunteers’ eyes light up and call his colleagues to show them the number. Another time she spends some time talking to one of the board members of the National City department of Wayne Enterprises, who somehow doesn’t shy away from talking to a Luthor and seems, in fact, rather interested in Lena as a person.

By midnight, Lena’s surprised at how quickly time has passed and how energized she’s still feeling, although her feet are starting to hurt and her dress is starting to feel a little tight. Most of the guests have already left, and the party is slowly coming to an end.

She’s sitting in one of the chairs lining the walls when Kara plops down next to her, letting out a long sigh. “So Ms. Grant finally went home. Usually she’s the type to leave her own party early, but of course tonight is the one time she stays until the end.”

“You just can’t have two good things in one night, Kara,” Lena grins, patting Kara’s hand. The touch sends a jolt of electricity down Lena’s spine, and she quickly pulls away when she realizes what she’s doing.

Kara gives her a tired smile. “I guess that’s true. I still can’t believe you actually showed up—you hate parties.”

“I’m glad I did. I—” She hesitates, before deciding that it doesn’t matter. Kara’s clearly glad to see her, and she doesn’t want this feeling to ever end. “It was really nice seeing you again.”

Kara’s smile widens. “I missed you, too, Lena. Do you maybe want to hang out again? I’d understand if you don’t, but…”

“I’d like that,” Lena says, nodding her head, forcing her voice to remain steady even though her stomach feels like it’s doing a dozen backflips. “Are you free for lunch tomorrow, if that’s not too soon?”

“Tomorrow sounds great.” Kara’s grin turns into a yawn, and she hides her face in her hands as she stands up. “I think I’m gonna go home now, though. Sorry if we didn’t get to talk a lot, I really wish Ms. Grant left us alone a bit more.”

Lena shakes her head, getting up from her chair as well. “It’s fine, Kara. I had a good time, and we’ll see each other again tomorrow.”

“Okay, that’s true.” Kara nods. Then, without warning, she steps forward and pulls Lena into a quick hug, squeezing her shoulders. It’s over before Lena knows it, before she can hug her back. “See you tomorrow. Text me the address, my number’s still the same.”

Lena’s tongue feels too heavy to speak, but she somehow still manages to call out an okay, before Kara turns around with one last smile, and disappears towards the exit.

Lena’s hands are trembling against her purse, her mind working overtime to memorize the way hugging Kara again felt.

Warm. Familiar. Home.

 

LENA @ KARA [12:32 PM]: Hi, Kara. Sorry I’m running late. Had an unexpected meeting. Are you still up for lunch?

KARA @ LENA [12:34 PM]: no worries, I know you must be extremely busy. still up for lunch. if you want I can bring by some food? then you don’t have to go out

LENA @ KARA [12:34 PM]: Sounds great! I’ll let Jess know to let you in.

KARA @ LENA [12:34 PM]: :)

 

A knock on the door makes Lena’s heart jump. She looks up to see Jess sticking her head inside. “Ms. Luthor? Ms. Danvers is here to see you.”

“Jess, I told you it was okay for her to come in,” Lena says, though her tone is light. She spent all of last night and this morning looking forward to having lunch with Kara, even though anxious spiders crawl around her stomach at the mere thought of it.

Jess gives her a tightlipped smile. “Just wanted to make sure.”

“Thank you,” Lena smiles back. She stands up from her chair, walking around the desk to be able to properly greet Kara. Her hands are trembling slightly and she has to remind herself to breathe normally, but she hasn’t felt this alive in years.

“Thank you, Jess.” Kara’s voice reaches Lena’s office before Kara does, and when she finally does enter it takes Lena’s breath away.

Kara isn’t wearing anything special, just a light blue blouse with a white collar and jeans, but she’s still the most stunning she’s ever been. Her hair is up in a ponytail, her glasses slipping halfway down to her nose, and there’s a bright smile on her lips.

It’s surreal, the fact that she’s here, in Lena’s office. She seems so out of place, a bundle of colors amidst blacks and whites and grays. A single ray of sunlight in an endless night.

“Hey,” she says when she sees Lena. She places the two plastic bags she’d been holding on Lena’s desk, quickly wrapping her arms around Lena’s shoulders.

Lena hugs her back this time, rubbing her hand over Kara’s back before she can stop herself, but she reminds herself not to linger. Letting go, she leans back against her desk. “Hi. Did you find everything okay? Sorry I couldn’t meet you at the restaurant like we planned, I was held up.”

“L-Corp is one of the tallest buildings in National City. It was easier to find than a good Chinese restaurant,” Kara says, spinning around on her heels to look around the office. Her eyes lock on the windows behind Lena’s desk, and her grin widens. “You have an amazing view from up here. Can I…?”

“Yeah, of course,” Lena nods, gesturing vaguely from Kara to the windows.

Kara pulls at the glass door with ease, stepping onto the balcony. When she leans over the railing to look down, Lena’s stomach twists anxiously like it would back in the cave every time Kara crawled too close to the edge. Of course, even if Kara did fall it wouldn’t do any harm, but the concept of Supergirl is still new and unfamiliar, and Lena somehow can’t imagine the girl standing on her balcony wearing a cape.

“Have you ever been out here?” Kara asks, turning around to face Lena. “It’s not that high.”

“Kara, you just said L-Corp is one of the tallest buildings in National City. We’re on the top floor.”

Kara chuckles. “Alright, point taken. You should try it sometime, though. Nothing’s gonna happen.”

“I’ll have you know I have been out there,” Lena says, crossing her arms over her chest in feigned offence.

Kara steps back into the office, closing the door behind her. Instantly it’s a lot warmer. She looks around, before plopping into Lena’s desk chair. Leaning back, she folds her hands over her stomach and closes her eyes. “This must be what it feels like to be a CEO.”

Lena grins, pulling up one of the other chairs, opposite of Kara. “Being stressed out of your mind is what it feels like to be a CEO, although the chair’s definitely a plus.”

Kara opens one eye. “You should get Jess to do more of your stuff then. I’m pretty sure I do half of Ms. Grant’s job, and her half mostly involves yelling at people.”

“I’ve noticed that.” Lena pretends to shudder at the memory of meeting Cat Grant. “Probably for the best she doesn’t leave that part to you, though. Wouldn’t have worked out.”

Kara huffs. “I’m great at yelling.”

“Sure.”

“I am!”

Lena rolls her eyes. “Unless your personality made a complete 180 these past couple of years I beg to differ.”

Kara mumbles something inaudible under her breath, reaching forward to the plastic bags. She tears them open and takes a box of food and chopsticks, breaking them apart with a feigned upset look.

“What was that?”

Kara looks up from where she’d been poking at the rice with one of the chopsticks, a grin tugging at her lips. “I said you we’re right. Looks like you still like to get your ego stroked, too.”

“Ha,” Lena chuckles. She follows Kara’s lead, taking one of the boxes. It’s filled with orange chicken, and Lena hums in approval. “Doesn’t everyone? And besides, I’m always right.”

It’s quiet for a moment, and when Lena looks up, Kara’s staring at her with a serious look in her eyes. Her lips are curled into a sad smile, and Lena swallows at the realization of what she just said.

She hadn’t been right when she didn’t stop Lex as soon as she realized how serious he was about Superman. She hadn’t been right when she broke up with Kara, no matter the reason. She hasn’t been right a lot of times, and they’ve both suffered from it.

It’s just—she barely suppresses a sigh. It’s so easy to be around Kara that she almost forgets it’s been over four years since they’d spoken, and even in the year leading up to their breakup things hadn’t been easy. Not in the slightest. But here they are. Here she is. Blue eyes still as beautiful as always. Blonde hair tied up into a ponytail. Lips Lena’s never been able to forget.

Lena looks down. “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean it like that.”

“I know.”

Not knowing what else to do, Lena forces down a couple of pieces of chicken. She usually likes this, more than Kara’s preferred potstickers, but right now it leaves a bitter taste in her mouth. The silence is pressing on her shoulders and she wishes she could travel back in time and change her own mind all those years ago. She hates to think about what could’ve been if they’d never broken up.

She could’ve been happy.

“Um,” she says, unable to bear the silence any longer. “So how have you been? We didn’t really get to talk that much at the party yesterday.”

Kara’s eyes flicker up to meet Lena’s, a mix of emotions flashing through them. Most of all, they’re reflecting what Lena’s been feeling all along: hurt. But then Kara blinks and the pain is gone, and all that’s left is a soft smile on her lips. “I mean, I’ve been pretty good. I’ve been in National City for a couple years now, and I have a job that’s not too bad, some really good friends—you met Winn yesterday, right?—and…I’m good here, I think.”

Something changes inside of Lena. A weight is lifted off her shoulders, and she feels like she can finally breathe, somehow. In the back of her mind, she was always worried she’d not only messed up her own life, but Kara’s as well, though that clearly isn’t the case. Then again, maybe she’s giving herself too much credit. Kara did always have more going on in her life than Lena. She always had friends, a loving family, and actually liked going out to do social activities with those people, whereas Lena’s only true friends had been Kara and, now, Jack. And even with them, her favorite thing is to sit and talk, or work on some project in the lab.

“You?” Kara asks, fumbling with her glasses.

Lena sticks another piece of chicken into her mouth to give herself some more time to think. With a soft sigh, she shrugs. “You said you followed the news, right? That’s pretty much what’s been going on, not much else.”

“It was kind of hard to get around,” Kara admits, putting down the now-empty yellow box. “I think if anyone tried to hurt Superman it would’ve made the news.”

“He tried to kill him, Kara. You don’t have to downplay it. What Lex did was wrong, and I—I’m sorry. I should’ve stopped him, somehow.”

Kara’s eyes widen for half a second, before she frowns, a crinkle forming between her eyebrows. “What do you mean you’re sorry? It’s not your fault, and even if it were, why would you be apologizing to me?”

For a moment, Lena blinks in confusion. Then it dawns on her. Maybe Kara didn’t get it, when she hinted at knowing Kara’s true identity during their breakup. Maybe Kara’s hoping she misunderstood, and Lena still doesn’t know. Maybe Kara’s so used to pretending to be human it’s hard to stop, even when she’s around people who know her secret. Either way, Kara’s hiding the fact that she’s Supergirl, and Lena’s not about to disrespect that just two days into reconnecting.

So she clears her throat and forces a grin. “Oh, yeah, sorry. I guess I’m just so used to apologizing on his behalf it’s become second nature.”

Kara’s shoulders relax as she leans back into the chair. “It’s okay, I was just confused for a second.” She almost looks like a real CEO, some of the power of her Supergirl persona shining through. “But didn’t you do anything else? Surely Lex wasn’t the only thing that kept you busy.”

“School and work, mostly,” Lena shrugs. “I spent most of my time in the lab with Jack.”

Kara’s eyes narrow. “Jack?”

“He’s my friend. We took a few chemistry classes together, and then we started spending time outside of school working on some experiments together at LuthorCorp. I think we both almost lost our eyebrows at some point.” Lena chuckles, reaching up to touch her eyebrows. When she looks up again, Kara’s staring at her with an odd look in her eyes, and—oh.

Lena arches one eyebrow up. “He’s just a friend, Kara. I’m into girls, remember?”

Kara’s gaze snaps off of Lena in an instant, and she very intensively stares at a spot on the wall behind her instead. “Yeah, I know. I wasn’t, like, jealous or anything. Just…wondering. A friend, huh?”

“A friend,” Lena nods, trying to hide her amusement. Her heart flutters at the thought of Kara being jealous of a potential boyfriend, even after all these years, but then again, she would be, too. She’d be jealous of anyone who got to spend time with Kara when she couldn’t.

 Kara’s phone beeps twice. Both of them look towards the source of the sound—Kara’s bag—and Kara leans forward to grab her phone. She swipes at the screen, reading the text she just received. When she looks up again, there’s a slightly bewildered look in her eyes.

“I have to go,” she says, standing up from the chair. “Winn just texted me with a…work thing. It’s an emergency. I’m sorry, I really liked catching up with you. Can we do that again, soon? Maybe. If you want, of course. It’s fine if you don’t, I’ll understand.”

Lena blinks, her mind racing to process what’s happening. Kara’s moving her head back and forth like she’s trying to listen to something. And then it clicks. It’s a Supergirl emergency. Something happened, and Supergirl is needed to save the day.

She smiles. “I won’t hold you up, then. And yes, I really liked it, too. Text me, okay? I’d love to hang out again, even if you did steal my chair for half an hour.”

“Yes, I will.”

Kara steps around the desk at the same time Lena gets up from her seat, and suddenly they’re barely a foot away from each other. Kara’s eyes flicker down to Lena’s lips, tongue darting out to wet her own. For a moment, time slows down. Lena’s heart is racing, blood rushing through her ears, and she’s pretty sure even if Kara didn’t have super hearing she would’ve still been able to hear it, too.

Kara, seemingly forgetting about the emergency, moves closer. Lena tilts her head backwards slightly, barely able to breathe.

Then Kara’s head snaps up towards the window, glasses slipping down her nose as she stares at something in the distance. “I’m sorry, I really have to go now.” She leans forward again, but this time her arms wrap around Lena in a quick yet tight hug. Lena squeezes Kara back barely long enough for it to mean something, and then Kara’s running out of her office.

Lena lets herself fall back into her chair, only now realizing that they’d really almost just kissed. In fact, Kara had been the one who almost kissed her. Kara, whose eyes had gone slightly green at the mention of Jack.

A smirk spreads across Lena’s face. She would’ve been content with being just friends, as long as it meant having Kara back in her life, but if there’s even the slightest chance that Kara still feels the same, she’s gonna grab it with both hands.

 

Later that day, a local news anchor comments on the viral video of Supergirl jumping out of a burning house with a puppy in her arms, and Lena can’t stop smiling at the fact that this is what Kara rushed out of her office for.

 

Whenever Lena thought about having Kara back in her life, she always expected some grand feeling to accompany her, but in reality it’s just a gentle ‘oh’ and a smile. It’s easy, somehow, instead of complicated.

She wakes up to texts from Jack and Kara now, reading and replying to those first before scrolling through the endless emails sent from other time zones throughout the night.

Every couple of days, Kara drops by L-Corp with lunch, and by now Jess knows to just let her through. Most of the time they talk, catching up on lost time. Lena learns that Kara spent her college years waiting tables at Noonan’s Restaurant, which is where she heard Cat Grant was looking for a new assistant. She learns that Kara still dreams of becoming a reporter like Clark, but that she’s also grown fond of Cat Grant and CatCo to the point where she’s willing to take a slower track towards her goal if it means she can stay there. She also learns that Kara’s one attempt to get back into dating failed miserably, and from the look in Kara’s eyes, Lena can’t help but wonder if she was part of the reason why.

One time Lena’s in a conference call when Kara bursts through the doors of her office unannounced, and Lena spends the entire meeting distracted by Kara playing a game on her phone from the couch across the room. After finalizing some business negotiations with a large company from China, Lena closes her laptop and leans back into her chair with a sigh.

“I didn’t know you spoke Manderin,” Kara says, looking up from her phone.

“Barely,” Lena shrugs. “It helps people ease up to me, a young, female CEO of one of the most infamous companies from the capitalistic United States, and at this point I’m willing to take whatever I can get my hands on.”

Kara puts her phone away, grabbing the bags of food as she crosses the room to sit down opposite of Lena. “I think you’re doing great. You might not see it, but as an ‘outsider’ it’s pretty clear that people are slowly starting to trust your tech again.” She uses air quotes on the word outsider, and an unexpected, warm feeling spreads through Lena’s body. “Baby steps.”

“I don’t want baby steps, I want giant steps,” Lena sighs, rubbing her temples to fight off an upcoming headache. “But you’re right, I guess. I’m just impatient.”

“I know,” Kara grins. She looks through the plastic bags, handing one of them to Lena. “I got you a salad, by the way, like you requested. Not that I’ll ever understand why people would eat willingly eat leaves, but whatever.”

Lena chuckles, taking the salad out of her bag. “I’m getting old, I think. If I’d still eat the same way I used to, I soon wouldn’t be able to fit through the double door.”

“You ate kale the other day. There’s a difference between eating healthy and eating kale.” Kara looks like she’s gonna throw up just from saying the word kale twice. “And by the way, it’s got nothing to do with age. Alex is still trying to beat me at eating the most pizza—which she will not succeed in—and she’s the same age as you.”

Lena stops poking her salad at the mention of Alex’s name. She hasn’t thought about Kara’s sister in a long time, and most of her memories of her aren’t that great. Alex never liked her, and Lena’s pretty sure none of that changed when she broke Kara’s heart.

“How is she?”

If Lena fails at sounding casual, Kara ignores it. “She’s okay. Pretty, great, actually. She has a really cool job, doing field work for the, um, FBI, that I’m sure you’d like. And she’s, um, her and Maggie just celebrated their first anniversary together.”

Lena raises an eyebrow. “Maggie?”

“Yeah, um,” Kara frowns. “She’s Alex’s…girlfriend? I mean, yeah, she’s definitely Alex’s girlfriend.”

“Alex has a girlfriend?”

Kara nods. “Yup.”

“Oh, wow. I did not see that coming.” Lena purses her lips, remembering the hateful looks Alex shot their way whenever they used to show too much affection or kissed in public. Suddenly she feels bad for her. It couldn’t have been easy for Alex to see her sister happily in a relationship with a girl when she probably spent years hating herself for wanting that very same thing.

“Neither did I, but we had a really long talk about it. She explained her side of the story, and I forgave her. Like, yeah it sucked back then, but she was scared, and she’s still my sister.”

Lena takes a thoughtful bite, chewing slowly. She’s not sure she can forgive Alex that easily, but she’s doesn’t exactly have the ideal older sibling either. And it’s been a couple of years—Alex deserves a second chance. (Maybe a tenth. But still.)

They finish eating their lunch under a much lighter topic—the latest issue of CatCo—until Jess knocks on the door to let Lena know her 2PM appointment is waiting downstairs.

Kara gathers her things and hugs Lena goodbye, and even though it’s easy to get used to having Kara back in her life, Lena’s not sure she’s ever going to get used to the way it makes her feel.

 

Weeks pass, and one night Lena finds herself sitting on her balcony. It’s late, close to midnight, and she just got back from work. But somehow she isn’t tired, and the weather’s still surprisingly nice for this time of year.

All around her are the city lights, the lit up L-Corp logo screaming for attention. They’re doing better. People are slowly regaining their trust in the brand, and no longer look frightened at the mention of the Luthor name. Even the Metropolis department met the breakeven point this month, according to the reports she received today. Things are finally looking up, and Lena feels like there’s a weight lifted off her shoulders.

Patience and baby steps, like Kara said. She was right, of course.

Over the past couple of weeks, they’ve been hanging out a lot to make up for all the lost time, to the point where Lena isn’t sure how she could’ve ever lived without her. Spending time with Kara feels like second nature, even when they’re not doing anything special. Especially when they’re not doing anything special.

She’s pretty sure she’s falling all over again, and would that really be the worst thing? Kara’s not seeing anyone, and without the threat of Lex pressing down on them, things might actually work out this time.

A faint breeze blows Lena’s hair into her eyes, and when she tucks it back behind her ear there’s a figure slowly gliding through the air, cape waving behind her. It’s dark and there’s a lack of sirens, but Lena can’t be mistaken.

Supergirl.

She’s never actually had the courtesy of meeting Kara as Supergirl—although that might just be a good thing. During her stay in National City she’s seen her flying around from a distance or on TV a couple of times, mostly doing small saves like stopping bank robberies, blowing out house fires, and apprehending hostile aliens alongside the FBI. But she’s never seen her up close, or this peaceful.

It’s almost like she’s waking over the city while it sleeps, keeping watch over its citizens.

Lena puts her wineglass down on the floor next to her, walking closer to the edge of the balcony. In the dark, it’s hard to see how far down it is, but her stomach still twists a little.

“Kara,” she whispers into the night, unable to stop a grin from spreading across her face when Supergirl falls down a couple of yards, a dark spot against the city lights, before turning to speed towards Lena’s building.

Supergirl is almost as fast as lightning, and the sudden rush of air almost knocks Lena’s chair backwards.

Lena runs her hand through her hair, looking up at where Supergirl is hovering a couple of feet away from her, just out of reach from the balcony. She gets to her feet, slowly approaching the railing.

Even knowing it’s just Kara, Lena can’t help but feel intimidated by Supergirl. Her right leg is slightly bended, and her arms are crossed over the S on her chest. It’s slightly different than Superman’s, she realizes, without the yellow background. Whereas Kara’s usually all smiles and giggles, Supergirl’s demeanor is a lot more serious, somehow. But the crinkle between her eyebrows is the same, as is the scar she’s had her entire life, and her eyes—oh, her eyes. She would recognize those eyes anywhere, even when they’re covered by glasses.

“Supergirl,” Lena says with a slight dip of her head.

“Lena,” Supergirl nods back. She uncrosses her arms, gliding closer to the railing and then over it, landing on the balcony with a thud. “You know.”

Lena turns around. With the heels underneath Supergirl’s boots and Lena not wearing shoes at all, she has to physically look up to Kara, surprised at how tall she really is. She gives her a small smile, unsure whether she crossed a line or not. “I’ve known from the moment you put on that cape.”

Silence. Then, “How?”

“How? I recognized you. We’ve known each other for years, and I hate to break it to you, but putting on glasses doesn’t make you unrecognizable. And even if it did, I know what you look like without them.” Lena’s eyes flicker up to Kara’s face, trying to meet her gaze. But Kara’s looking at something behind her, or perhaps she’s just blankly staring. It’s hard to see in the dark.

Something in Kara’s Supergirl mask crumbles, and her shoulders relax slightly. All of the sudden she looks tired and vulnerable, and Lena wants nothing more than to rush forward and wrap her arms around Kara’s waist.

“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you before,” Kara says, after a long moment of silence. “I should’ve told you before.”

Lena swallows down the yes, you should have, shaking her head instead. She knows why Kara never told her. Some things are better kept a secret, especially from someone who’s brother is America’s most notorious alien hater. “It’s okay, I understand.”

“No, I’m serious,” Kara takes a step forward, uncrossing her arms. She pinches the bridge of her nose, before looking back up at Lena again. “I should’ve told you when we were kids. You were my best friend, and for a long time my only friend. But Eliza and Jeremiah insisted I kept it a secret from everyone, and then Alex started saying the same thing, and I just…listened. Maybe things would’ve been different if I’d told you sooner.”

“I don’t think—”

“I wanted to you tell you,” Kara interrupts, taking another step closer. “You were my girlfriend for two years, but I was too scared. My entire life on Earth I’ve tried to keep that part of myself hidden, and until I became Supergirl I barely used my powers at all, convinced that if I just hid them I could be like any other person. I wanted to be normal, and I was scared that if I wasn’t normal you’d leave.”

“That’s—”

“—Stupid, I know. And in the end, it didn’t matter. In the end, I lost you anyway.” Kara’s eyes glaze over with tears, and when she blinks they run down her cheeks. She rubs them away with the sleeve of her suit, her hand trembling.

For a few seconds, Lena doesn’t know what to do. Words fill her mouth, but none of them seem to be right. She takes a shaky breath. “I’m sorry for breaking up with you. I—I was trying to protect you.”

Kara’s eyes narrow. “I wasn’t Supergirl when we broke up.”

“Yeah, but you’ve always been an alien. I’ve known you are Supergirl since the moment you became Supergirl, but I knew you weren’t human long before that. Remember that day in Metropolis, when that alien attacked LuthorCorp and Superman defeated him? There was something familiar about the way you two communicated, and I guess I just put two and two together.” She gives Kara a soft smile, before adding, “I never told anyone, though. Especially not Lex. I’m pretty sure he has no idea Clark is Superman.”

“Oh Rao,” Kara sighs, rubbing her forehead. “Now I just feel stupid. All this time you knew, and you never said anything. Why?”

Lena shrugs. “It wasn’t my place to ask. Just like you shouldn’t ask someone about their sexuality, I figured I shouldn’t ask you about this. I wanted to, plenty of times, and sometimes it felt like shit knowing you didn’t trust me with that secret, but I understand why you didn’t. This,” she gestures at Kara’s suit, “is bigger than just us.”

“All those years ago, when you said that stuff about Lex trying to kill Superman, that’s really what you meant, wasn’t it? I thought I’d imagined it, somehow, trying to justify why you would do something like that, but—you knew. All this time, you knew.”

Lena swallows. “I’m really sorry—”

But before she can finish her sentence, she’s cut off by Kara’s lips pressing against her own. Her first reflex is to freeze, and Kara notices immediately. She pulls away, staring into Lena’s eyes as if she’s looking for something. “Sorry, I didn’t mean to…I shouldn’t have…” She trails off, her fingertips trailing the outline of Lena’s jaw in silence.

“It’s okay,” Lena whispers, her voice hoarse. “I just wasn’t expecting it. I haven’t really kissed anyone since…you.”

Kara’s lips curl up into a smile. Her palm flattens against Lena’s cheek, sending a rush of electricity down Lena’s spine. When she speaks again, her voice is soft and almost inaudible. “Can I kiss you again?”

Instead of replying, Lena stands up on her toes and presses her lips against Kara’s, her eyes fluttering closed. Her arms wrap around Kara’s waist, underneath the cape, pulling her closer. Kara’s mouth is warm and wet and smiling, and it feels like their first kiss all over again, yet at the same time there’s a sense of familiarity, like this is exactly where she’s supposed to be.

Holding Kara feels like coming home. Kissing Kara feels like flying. Falling in love with Kara all over again feels like it has always been inevitable, and Lena never stood a chance.

Chapter Text

Out of all the things Lena has done in her life, nothing has ever made her feel more nervous than this. On the elevator ride up she checks her appearance in the mirror for what might be the twentieth time that night, and she reaches into her purse to double check if she’s got everything—phone, wallet, lipstick. Her free hand is holding a bottle of the most expensive tequila she could find, and she’s pretty sure she’s overdone it, but she wants to make the best impression possible, and if everyone’s drunk off their asses they probably won’t hate her anymore by the end of the night.

A few days ago Kara casually invited Lena to game night, which is apparently a thing now, to meet her friends. It may have caused Lena to have a tiny little heart attack and some difficulty breathing, but she agreed nonetheless. Kara’s friends are important to her, and Kara’s important to Lena. Therefore she figured she should at least try.

But the truth is—people don’t tend to like Luthors, and even if they don’t care about the name, Lena’s personal history with Kara probably won’t win her any favors either. Just because Kara likes to see the best in everyone doesn’t mean everyone else will, too.

Her heart is beating out of her chest as she walks up to Kara’s front door. She tries to calm her breathing, too aware of how Kara can probably hear it from the other side of the door, but it’s no help.

Before she can raise her hand to knock on the door, it slides open to reveal Kara’s smiling face. Her hair is down, curling over her shoulders with an almost extraterrestrial glow. She’s beautiful.

“Hey,” she says, leaning forward to peck Lena’s lips.

“Hey,” Lena replies, breathlessly. She forgets about her nerves for a moment, unable to do anything but stare at Kara in awe. Then she remembers the bottle of tequila in her hand, and she holds it up. “I brought booze.”

Kara takes the bottle from her, grinning from ear to ear. “You’re amazing. C’mon, I’ll introduce you to everyone. They’re excited to meet you.”

Lena doubts that, but she still lets Kara take her hand and lead her to the sitting area, where a handful of curious faces are looking up at them. Lena recognizes everyone from her thorough Facebook stalking session the night before; there’s Alex and her girlfriend Maggie, Winn, whom she met before at the fundraiser, Superman’s running buddy Jimmy Olsen, and his arm is loosely wrapped around the shoulders of Lucy Lane, Lois’ sister.

“Everyone, this is Lena,” Kara says, her hand sliding from Lena’s hand to the small of her back. “Lena, these are Alex, Maggie, Winn, James, and Lucy.”

Lena does a circle of shaking hands, trying to give off friendly vibes and sunshine smiles. She fails at both, but her grip is firm and no one acts like she’s venomous so either they’re great at hiding their hate or they’ve decided to give her a chance.

Kara smiles at her as she sets the bottle of tequila on the table, earning a small whoop from Maggie and Lucy, and excuses herself to grab a couple of shot glasses, limes, and salt. Alex follows her to the kitchen, and Lena sits down in the empty chair next to Lucy in an attempt to stop herself from reading into it too much.

“So you’re Lena,” Lucy says, wiggling her eyebrows. “The Lena.”

“The one and only,” Lena nods, silently wondering what Kara told about her. Knowing Kara she said way too many nice things and way too little bad things. “So how do you all know each other?”

“Well, I work with Kara and Winn at CatCo,” James says, looking up and down Lena’s body, and oh—there it is. A flare of dislike flickers in his eyes. He blinks it away, but Lena knows what judgment looks like and that was it. His grip on Lucy’s shoulder tightens slightly.

From the corner of her eye, Lena sees Kara and Alex walking back to the sitting area, both wearing a slightly pressed look on their faces. Alex sits down between Maggie and Winn, keeping noticeable space between herself and Maggie. She glances at Lena with guilty eyes, clearly uncomfortable with how things turned out.

Lena tries not to feel too good about that—internalized homophobia is shit and even though it doesn’t justify Alex’s past actions, it doesn’t mean she deserves to be punished for it. But she can’t help feeling a little victorious at the sight of that guilt eating at Alex. Just a little, though.

“Hey, scoot,” Kara says, pushing Lena to the side of the chair. She plops herself down in the tight space between Lena’s right leg and the armrest, the whole side of her body pressing up against Lena’s. Her arm snakes around Lena’s waist, and she smiles, redirecting her attention to the others. If she notices James, Winn, and Alex looking slightly uncomfortable, she ignores it. “What games are we gonna play tonight? We have Cards Against Humanity, Monopoly, and Clue.”

“Last time we played Cards Against Humanity you wanted us all to only play wholesome cards for teambuilding purposes,” Maggie says, giving up on trying to get Alex to sit closer to her. “We’re not doing that again.”

“Yeah, it’s called Cards Against Humanity, not Cards For Humanity,” Lucy agrees. “What happened to Charades?”

“I don’t wanna play against you and James,” Kara huffs. “You read each other’s minds, it’s unfair to the rest of us.”

Winn puts his hand to his chest. “Yes, I’m with Kara, it’s no fun if you’re playing.”

“Fine. Lena, you pick, you’re the guest,” Kara says, lowering her voice to whisper, “Pick Monopoly, I hate Clue.”

Lena blinks. “Um.”

“I heard that,” Lucy exclaims, pointing her finger at the two of them. “Lena’s a CEO, playing Monopoly against her is suicide.”

“Monopoly is a game based on chance,” Lena shrugs. “I’m not sure me being a CEO makes any difference. You just gotta roll the dice and see where it lands you.”

Lucy crosses her arms over her chest. “You have to make business decisions and use tactics to win. Come on, Sawyer, help me out here.”

Maggie looks from Lucy to Lena to Kara, and back at Lena. “Actually, I’m quite good at Monopoly. Defeating Luthor would definitely make me the queen of board games. I vote Monopoly.”

“Me too,” James grins. “I dabbled in CEO waters once before. I’m in.”

Even Winn looks eager to play, and Alex only needs one dimpled smile from Maggie to be convinced. With every person that gets on board, Kara becomes more enthusiastic, slapping Lena’s knee with increasing strength each time.

Lena briefly widens her eyes with a competitive grin, leaning forward. “Alright, I’ll play. I haven’t played a board game in forever.”

“Yes!” Kara yells, fist pumping the air. She wiggles herself out of the chair, crossing the room to grab the game from the cupboard. When she returns, Lucy rolls her eyes and cracks her knuckles.

“Alright, bring it on.”

 

Over the course of two-and-a-half hours, everyone slowly goes bankrupt. First Winn, who owes the bank a mere two hundred dollars. Then Lucy, who angrily exclaims she’s always hated Monopoly because Lois used to defeat everyone within an hour. Alex is third to go bankrupt, forced to hand all her properties over to Maggie, who’s repeatedly singing the phrase, “I’m the queen of board games,” before trying to steal a kiss Alex refuses. Fourth is James, handing all his money and properties to Lena with a dark look in his eyes that Lena isn’t sure is because he just lost the game. It takes a combined effort from Kara and Lena to wipe Maggie off the board, Kara muttering Maggie’s song under her breath until Maggie reaches for her gun.

And then it’s just Kara against Lena. Kara has hotels on the most expensive, dark blue properties, and all the orange, but Lena has all the green, and yellow ones. Neither have full control over red or pink, but Kara owns brown, and Lena owns light blue.

Their odds are pretty much equal, and for the first time there’s no trace of kindness or affection in their hearts. Kara looks just about ready to melt Lena’s face with her heat vision, and Lena’s already thought out a comprehensive plan to steal Maggie’s gun and distract Kara with a shower of bullets.

 By now everyone else is only half watching the rest of the game, caring more about the movie they put on after Alex went bankrupt, and doing shots of tequila. Lena’s pretty sure she could pull it off. She can already see the headlines: LENA LUTHOR SHOOTS SUPERGIRL.

It’s her turn to roll the dice, and even before she moves her token, Kara starts screaming in victory. With a sigh, Lena moves her token to Kara’s most expensive property, the Avenue of Tomorrow in Metropolis, and starts counting her money. She barely makes the full $2000, knowing that if she lands on anything again she’ll probably go bankrupt.

On Kara’s turn, she lands on one of Lena’s less expensive properties, handing her back half her money. Lena lands on her own property, passing GO and collecting 200. For a few turns, nothing interesting happens. They exchange money for a while, until Lena rolls doubles and consequently lands on orange and dark blue.

Kara starts collecting the money with a big grin on her face, but when Lena’s counting her stack of one-dollar bills, something changes in her eyes. “I have a proposition for you.”

“You can’t do that,” Maggie says from where she’s laying on the couch with her head in Alex’s lap. “Propositions aren’t part of the game, Kara. Beat her while she’s down.”

“I’m interested,” Lena says.

No cheating, Luthor,” Maggie all but screeches, nearly falling off the couch in an attempt to sit up.

Ignoring her, Kara stands up and reaches out for Lena’s hand. Curious and slightly suspicious, Lena takes it. Kara leads her to her bedroom, which is cut off from the rest of the apartment with just a curtain, so they can still hear Maggie going off, her speech no longer coherent from the alcohol.

“So what’s your proposition?” Lena asks, trying very hard not to look around Kara’s bedroom too much. There’s a queen-sized bed, and some clothes draped over a chair. From underneath at least five blouses and three pairs of pants, she can see the blue of Kara’s Supergirl suit poking through.

Kara sits down on the edge of her bed, patting the space beside her. When Lena sits down, she reaches for her hand again. “Be my girlfriend.”

Lena blinks, taken aback by Kara’s question. “What?”

“I know it’s kinda out of nowhere, but that night we kissed a couple weeks ago I promised myself I wouldn’t let you go again. I’ve had to do that once, and I don’t ever wanna go through that again. You and Alex have been the only people who ever made me feel at home here on Earth, and losing you was, like, almost just as painful as seeing my planet explode in front of my eyes.” Kara’s voice starts to shake toward the end, and she takes a deep breath. “Please say yes.”

“Of course I’ll be your girlfriend,” Lena says, almost tripping over her words to get them out in time. Her mind is racing, trying to process both Kara’s question and the fact that, for the first time, Kara just told her about her world ending. She reaches up to cup Kara’s cheek, wiping away a stray tear with her thumb. She leans in, pressing a soft kiss against Kara’s lips before smiling. “You won’t lose me again, I promise.”

Kara lets out a shaky breath, the air feeling warm against Lena’s mouth. She locks her arms behind Lena’s back, pulling her into a tight hug rather than a kiss. Lena’s eyes flutter closed, and she rubs Kara’s back.

“I promise, Kara,” she whispers, and then, “I love you.”

“I love you, too.” Kara’s voice breaks and she presses herself even closer to Lena, breathing heavily. “I love you.”

For a few minutes, they sit in silence, their beating hearts drowning out the sound of the television in the living room. For the first time since Lex started to go mad, Lena’s thoughts are quiet. All she cares about is Kara, Kara, Kara.

After a while, Kara’s grip on her loosens, and Lena slowly lets go. She kisses Kara again, short and sweet, grabbing her hand. “Are you okay?”

Kara nods, her lips curling into a smile. “I am now. I’ve been wanting to ask that for a long time.”

Lena strokes Kara’s jaw with her free thumb, nodding towards the living room. “I’m never letting you go. But I am going to beat you at Monopoly and be crowned queen of board games.”

Kara’s eyes widen as if she only just remembers the abandoned game of Monopoly, and she jumps to her feet. They hold hands as they walk back to the living room, where the movie is just ending.

Five heads turn, and Maggie crosses her arms. “You cheated at Monopoly. Sex is not a substitute for paying rent.”

“We didn’t have sex,” Kara says calmly, sitting back down, shoving Lena’s money back at her. “We simply had a talk about the important things in life, and now we’re continuing the game.”

“Your hair is messed up,” Lucy points out. “And so is Lena’s.”

“We hugged,” Lena says, not wanting to tell them they’re girlfriends again if Kara’s not saying anything. She never wants to do anything Kara doesn’t like ever again.

“Sure,” Maggie and Lucy say at the same time, followed by James saying, “Whatever, guys. Just finish the game. We’re all tired and slightly drunk, and it’s no longer fun.”

They do as he says, and within a few turns, Kara lands on Lena’s green property, losing most of her money. Lena gets send to jail, strategically deciding to try and roll doubles in order not to land on any more of Kara’s properties. After that, it’s over pretty quickly. Kara lands on another of Lena’s properties, not even the most expensive ones, and loses the entirety of Metropolis. Then, in the next round, Lena breaks out of jail, and Kara lands herself on Metropolis. She declares bankruptcy, and Maggie actually cheers, forgetting she was supposed to be on Kara’s team.

“She literally just lost the game,” Lucy says, throwing one of the dices against Maggie’s bicep. “You’re drunk.”

“Yep,” Maggie grins. “Luthor’s the queen.”

“You lost,” Winn tells Kara in an accusatory tone. “I thought we were all trying to beat Lena together.”

“Yeah, well,” Kara says, eyes flicking up to Lena’s face. They’re impossibly blue, the soft look reminding Lena of the way Kara used to look at her back in Midvale. Kara smiles, bright and beautiful. “I’m still the winner.”

 

Lena gets invited to almost every game night after that. She figures Kara must’ve told her friends they’re officially back together, because Lucy and Maggie tease them endlessly about it, James still hasn’t toned down his jealousy, and Winn just looks at them with a more obvious sadness than he could possibly intend. Alex still doesn’t seem to trust Lena, but they seem to have a mutual understanding not to bring up anything that happened between them in the past, and it actually works out.

Lena is tempted to bring it up once, when Kara’s out for some last minute shopping, leaving Lena with Alex and Maggie. As if it’s rehearsed, Maggie excuses herself to make a phone call, slipping into Kara’s bedroom with her phone to her ear.

Alex stares at Lena, her eyes darker than Lena remembers. Then again, she seems like a completely different person altogether now. Over the years Lena hasn’t seen her, Alex started carrying herself with confidence Lena didn’t even know was lacking before. Her hair is shorter, barely grazing her jaw, and the lines around her eyes are more defined. Alex has grown up just as much as Kara and Lena have, and the only things that seem to be the same are her protectiveness of Kara, and the fact that she hates Lena.

She tells Lena as much. “I don’t like that you’re dating my sister again.”

“I do,” Lena says, unsurprised at Alex’s words. “And Kara does, too. It’s none of your business.”

“She’s my sister.” Alex stands up from where she’d been sitting on the couch, placing her hands on her hips. The way she’s towering over Lena is intimidating, but Lena’s pretty sure she wouldn’t dare hurting her in any way for Kara’s sake.

It gives her the confidence to stand up, too. “She’s my girlfriend. I love her.”

“Doesn’t matter. You loved her last time, and we both know what happened. Did you know she beat herself up about it for over a year? She thought it was her fault, for not telling you about being Kryptonian earlier. She thought you hated her for being an alien, just like Lex. Did you know that?”

Lena resists the urge to take a step back, away from Alex. She squares her shoulders. “Yes, I did. We talked about it. She told me all of that, and much more. I’m not going to hurt her this time. The reason I broke up with her in the first place was to protect her from Lex, because I knew what he was capable of. Did you know that?”

“You should’ve told someone what he was doing. It would’ve saved everyone a lot of trouble.”

“Is that what you would’ve done if it were Kara? Lex may have lost his mind, but he’s still my brother. And I love him for that. Just because he did all those things doesn’t change that. Everything I’ve done I did to protect the people I love, just like you. Believe it or not, but I’d rather see Kara alive and without me than dead because I couldn’t bring myself to do what needed to be done.” Lena takes a deep breath, ignoring the way Alex opens her mouth to say something, continuing before she gets the chance. “But danger has passed, and I’m in a place where I can be better than I was then. Kara wants to be with me, and I’m not going to let her go because you disapprove.”

Alex looks like she’s going to explode, but then her eyes flicker to Kara’s bedroom, and she relaxes. Running her hand through her hair, she sighs. “Okay. You’re right. Kara never got over you, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised she wants to try again. But if you hurt her again, I swear I’ll find you, and I’ll make you regret it.”

“I don’t doubt that,” Lena says, slightly taken aback by how easily she got Alex to shut up. “But I won’t. I promise.”

“We’ll see.” Alex sits back down and grabs the remote, turning on the TV. Barely a second later, Maggie emerges from the bedroom, climbing onto the couch with Alex.

They watch daytime television in silence until Kara comes back. She shoots Alex a glare that tells Lena she knows exactly what happened just minutes ago, kissing Lena for a beat longer than usual.

Alex watches them with resourceful eyes, but she allows Maggie to press a kiss to her cheek and tangle their fingers together, and something about her not pulling away from it while Lena’s in the room feels significant.

 

Where Lena had always expected Alex to threaten her life for dating Kara again, she’s surprised by the second defender of Kara’s heart—James Olsen. Sure, she’s seen the looks he’s been giving the both of them, loving ones for Kara and hateful ones for Lena, but despite that he seems quite happy in his relationship with Lucy.

So when he opens the door and steps out Kara’s apartment instead of letting Lena in for game night, she’s taken aback by his protective stance. His voice is low and with his nearly 6 foot 3, he's intimidating to say the least.

"I'm sure Alex has already done this, but if you hurt Kara, I'll have to hurt you. She's one of my best friends, and if I'm being honest, I don't know if I can trust you."

Lena looks at him, tries to imagine Superman by his side. The entire country knows they're friends, and everyone has seen his picture at least a dozen times. With two Supers as his friends, James must feel invincible, yet there's a certain vulnerability in the way he says Kara's name.

She blinks. All the pieces fit. The way he looks at Kara, the way he tightens his grip on Lucy's shoulders every time Kara so much as smiles at Lena--he's in love with her. She wants to tell him, confront him with his feelings and point out the obvious jealousy dripping from his words. But she's trying to be a better person, and honestly, she can't blame him. Kara's the best thing in the world, and with a smile that can light up the room, she can't imagine anyone not falling for her. And, also, if she wants to win over Kara's friends, she can't fight them over something they can't control--and something that ultimately doesn't matter, because Kara chose her.

"I won't hurt her," is all she says, pushing past him with newfound confidence. Something tugs at her chest, and before she can stop herself, she adds, "Be careful you don't, either."

She leaves him in the hallway after that, opening the door to find a concerned Kara on the other side.

"Everything okay?" Kara asks, a crinkle between her eyebrows.

Lena kisses it away. "Yeah, nothing to worry about. What game are we playing tonight?"

 

One of the things that has changed now that Kara’s secret is out, is the way it suddenly becomes even more apparent she’s an alien. Every now and then she’ll drop a random comment about how they didn’t have a certain thing on Krypton, and Lena learns not to worry when she wakes up to an empty bed and the super suit is gone.

The first time Kara landed in Lena’s apartment with her suit still on, smelling like gasoline and smoke, Lena almost tripped on her feet trying to get to Kara to see if she was hurt anywhere.

Of course she has always known about the powers that harbor underneath that smile, but reading about how Kara flew straight into a house on fire is a lot different than coming home to Kara showering for the fifth time, desperately trying to get the stench out of her hair.

And being physically invincible doesn’t mean there isn’t another type of pain that can tear her down. It almost seems like now that Kara has embraced her true self, wearing her family’s coat of arms on her chest like her cousin, the emotions she spent years suppressing have returned full force. More than once, Lena wakes up to a quiet sobbing in the middle of the night, Kara’s otherwise powerful body drenched in sweat. Usually it takes a couple of minutes to wake her up, after which she rarely goes back to sleep, instead disappearing into the night with the empty promise that she’s okay.

Tonight, though, she stays in bed, arms folded over her chest like she’s trying to keep herself from falling apart.

Lena turns to look at her. She reaches out her hand to brush a strand of hair out of Kara’s eyes, flattening her palm against Kara’s cheek. “Talk to me.”

Kara’s jaw quivers. She blinks up at the ceiling. “It’s like—like I can’t remember what happened. I can hear the explosions, and I remember feeling the shockwave that knocked my pod off course, but it’s all so fuzzy. Like I’m trying to hold water, but every time I get a handful it just slips through my fingertips. But at night, when I’m asleep, everything comes back like it’s happening all over again.” Tears run down her temples into her hair, and when she speaks again, her voice is impossibly small. “I don’t know what I’m more scared of, forgetting or remembering.”

Without a word, Lena scoots closer to Kara, wrapping her arm around her waist. She kisses the trail of tears. “Remember when we were in the cave one time and you had a nightmare? You talked about your parents then, too.”

Kara gives a slight nod. “I remember.”

“You said Eliza had told you the nightmares were because you were processing a trauma. But I think you never fully processed it, just got better at ignoring the way it made you feel. But now that you’re Supergirl, you can’t run from it anymore, and even though you think you’ve made peace with what happened to your parents and your planet, it’s still always in the back of your mind. Does that make sense?”

“I guess…?”

“Maybe you should talk to someone sometime. I know it sounds scary, but if I’m right it might help you work through what’s left of your trauma,” Lena says, slowly. “Do they have, like, psychologists at the D.E.O.?”

Kara shrugs. “I don’t know. Most of the people who work there are humans, with human problems. Me and J’onn are the only aliens that aren’t contained in cells.”

“Maybe J’onn can help you? He sort of went through the same thing, right? I don’t know if that makes any sense, but do you think you’d be willing to give it a try?” Lena chews the inside of her cheek, unsure whether she’s crossing a line here.

But Kara takes a deep breath and nods, more determined now. “I think I will.” She finally turns her head to look at Lena, a small smile tugging at her lips. “Thanks. I love you.”

“I love you, too,” Lena says, pecking Kara’s lips. “And I’m proud of you. Not just for the things you do as Supergirl, but the things you do as Kara, too.”

Kara bites her lip, turning back to stare at the ceiling again. “I wish you could’ve met my parents. I think you’d like them, and they’d like you. Especially my dad. He was a scientist, too. You would’ve gotten along great, talking about quantum whatever theories.”

A grin spreads across Lena’s face. “Quantum entanglement.”

Kara rolls on her side, tracing her fingertips over Lena’s upper arm. “I should ask Alex if they still have the crystals Clark and I brought to Earth in our pods. They have all kinds of scientific information on them, you’d probably be able to use that for something.”

“Kryptonian technology?” Lena frowns. “I never thought about that before. Would that work on Earth?”

“Why not? I doubt it’s bound to a certain planet, otherwise my dad wouldn’t have put it on there.”

“I thought they contained information about Kryptonian cultures.”

Kara shrugs with one shoulder. “Our culture was very dependent on our technology. It’s why the science guild was so important. Science can be very powerful.” She falls silent. Her eyes are soft, barely brimmed from when she was crying in her sleep. A soft sigh escapes her lips. “I think, if I wanted anyone to look at the crystals to use their information, I’d want it to be you. The D.E.O. used them to develop weapons against alien invaders, but there is so much more. Our transportation system was one of the most advanced in the galaxy, and our medical knowledge was thousands of years ahead of yours. With your brain, I’m sure you’d be able to figure out how to use that information and do something useful with it. Something good.”

Lena blinks, unsure if Kara knows what she’s implying. “Are you sure? I mean, a Luthor using alien technology to advance Earth’s? Don’t you think that’s a little too controversial.”

For a moment, Kara’s quiet. Her eyes lock with Lena’s, and she leans forward to press a soft kiss to her lips. “I know you, Lena. You’d never abuse that knowledge, or do anything that puts alien life in danger. Out of all the people that I know, you have the biggest and purest heart. It’s time the world sees that, too, and I think this would be a good start.” The corners of her mouth curl up a little. “And besides, no one has to know it was Kryptonian technology.”

Lena’s chest suddenly feels tight, her heart beating against her ribs. Barely two inches away from her, Kara’s smiling at her like she didn’t just offer to share the most sacred thing—the last of what she still has left from Krypton. She can’t really breathe, and yet at the same time she’s never felt this alive. Unable to get her mouth to form a single word, she leans forward.

Kara’s lips are soft and wet, instantly reciprocating the kiss. Lena wraps her hand around the back of Kara’s neck, her pulse beating against her palm. There’s something about hearing or feeling Kara’s heart beating, knowing that even against all odds she’s still alive somehow, that makes Lena’s throat tighten.

When she pulls away to breathe, Kara’s crying again, but this time it’s from happiness instead of pain. She smiles through her tears, leaning into Lena’s hand as she wipes the tears away.

“I’ll run everything I do by you first, okay? And if at any point you don’t feel comfortable with me using the crystals, I’ll stop, no matter what. I promise,” Lena whispers, struggling to talk with the lump in her throat.

Kara nods. “I trust you.”

 

For the next couple of months, Lena spends every free second studying the crystals. Along with the crystals themselves, Kara also brought a USB drive with the information the D.E.O. extracted from them translated to English, and with Kara’s help Lena sets up the most basic Kryptonian—English dictionary.

Every time she tries to speak Kryptonian, Kara patiently corrects her pronunciation, a proud smile tugging at her lips. They start having simple conversations in Kryptonian, and Lena progresses quickly to the point where she can figure out what certain, unknown words mean from their context. Despite Lena’s Earthen accent, Kara seems to be delighted to be able to speak Kryptonian to someone who isn’t Clark. (He also has an accent, Kara tells Lena one night, but Lena’s is more bearable, somehow.)

On top of being able to decipher the words encoded in the crystals and conversing with Kara in her native language, learning Kryptonian also helps with figuring out the Kryptonian science. More than half of it is completely new to Lena, developed a thousand years into Earth’s future and with elements that can only be found on certain planets—none of which are Earth. Not having to translate non-existent words into English definitely makes understanding the science a lot easier.

Kara helps out wherever she can, but since she never actually got to join the science guild she only has basic knowledge on the vast amounts of information on the crystals. They learn about it together, spending all their free time in Lena’s private lab at L-Corp to experiment with everything they can.

It reminds Lena of when they used to fix cars together back in Midvale, before everything got complicated and almost unbearably painful.

Thanksgiving and Christmas roll around, both of which Lena spends with the Danvers’ and Maggie, who apparently also has no family to return to during the holidays. After Christmas, Lena spends a few weeks in Metropolis for business, and to visit Lex. He’s thinner than she could’ve imagined, and his skin is closer to gray than she would’ve liked, but his eyes light up when he sees her and his smile is still the same. She promises him she’ll try to visit more often, and he doesn’t try to talk her out of it—just accepts it with a relieved sigh.

When she gets back to National City, Kara’s waiting for her at the airport with a single red rose and a surprise.

 

Lena would’ve never thought she’d be putting on a space suit at six in the morning, on a Saturday. But it’s Kara’s birthday, and they’re going into space to celebrate. Hence the space suit.

“Are you sure you want to do this? We don’t know what might happen up there,” Kara says, tugging at the straps that attach her cape to the rest of her suit.

Lena stops fumbling with her gloves. “Yes, Kara, I’m sure. Nothing’s gonna happen. This suit was made by the D.E.O. in collaboration with NASA, remember? It’s been thoroughly tested.”

Kara sighs. “I know, I know. I’m just worried. I don’t want you to implode on my birthday, that would be very upsetting.”

“I’ll save the imploding for tomorrow, then.” Lena finishes putting on most of the suit, tapping the back of her mask to let it extend over her face. The suit was developed with alien technology and it’s supposed to protect her even outside of Earth’s atmosphere. But they won’t be going that far today. Just high enough to see the sunrise.

Kara taps the mask. “Can you hear me?”

“Yeah. Can you hear me?”

“Yup. Alright, I’m ready. Are you ready? You can still change your mind.” Kara places her hands on her hips, pacing back and forth for a few seconds. “Are we really sure about this? Lena…”

Lena taps the mask away to kiss her. “I won’t do it if you don’t want to risk it, but we both know you do want it. Come on, I’ll hold your hand the entire time in case you get scared.”

Kara huffs in feigned offense, but her eyes soften when Lena’s hand slips into hers. When Lena’s mask is back on, Kara carefully wraps her arm around Lena’s waist. “Like this?”

Lena nods, putting her free arm around Kara’s neck to support herself. Kara carries her to the balcony, before taking off.

They go slow at first, easily gliding upwards through the sky. Despite Lena’s fear of heights, she doesn’t panic at the sight of National City growing smaller and smaller, until it disappears behind the clouds. As they gain more and more altitude, Kara keeps speeding up to still make it in time. By the time they’re high enough for land to look like mere islands, all Lena can hear is the roaring of the wind as they shoot through the sky. She flew with Kara before, but this is something else entirely. Faster. More powerful. And the suit works—she barely feels anything from being this high up.

“Almost there,” Kara shouts over the sound of the wind, already slowing down. Her grip on Lena’s waist is still tight as ever, and it’s starting to hurt being held up like that, but Lena tells herself to get over it. Today is Kara’s.

And then it’s over. Lena has no idea how much time has passed when Kara’s cape flutters behind her, and the wind falls away. She looks down, expecting a heart attack, but they’re so far up it doesn’t seem like anything could happen if she were to fall. It feels surreal. It is surreal.

“We’re just in time,” Kara smiles. Her eyes are focused on the horizon, and she doesn’t take them off of it as she readjusts her grip on Lena, turning her around in her arms. “Look there.” She points with one hand, and Lena follows her finger.

For a minute or so it’s completely quiet. All Lena can hear is her own heartbeat drumming against her chest, and her breath against the mask. Other than that, there’s nothing. It feels like they’re nothing, too. Like they’re completely detached from the world down below, free to do anything and everything, without there being any consequences.

“When—” she starts to ask, but Kara presses her cheek against the side of Lena’s mask.

“Shh. It’s starting.”

Across the world, the first sunrays struggle to rise over the horizon. Golden rays illuminate the oceans and lands below, reaching farther and farther until there’s not a spot left untouched. Light breaks through the clouds, coloring the sky a light red.

It’s breathtaking. Lena doesn’t know where to look trying to take everything in, and every time her eyes dart from left to right something has already changed. Red turns to pink turns to orange turns to blue, until the sun is fully visible from where they’re floating in space. It's so bright Lena has to look away to keep herself from going blind.

When Lena twists her upper body to look at Kara, Kara’s still looking past Lena at the horizon, but her lips curl up into a soft smile. “When the light breaks over the horizon like that it looks almost exactly like a Kryptonian sunset. It doesn’t last very long, but it’s beautiful. Every time I come here, I wish it could last forever.”

“Do you come here often?”

Kara’s jaw tightens. “Sometimes I’m scared I’m gonna forget everything. Not just big things, but smaller things too. The other day I couldn’t remember what my mom’s perfume used to smell like, and I almost had a panic attack. This,” she gestures at the horizon, “helps me remember at least this one thing.”

A wave of sadness washes over Lena as she pictures Kara floating in space, all alone, watching the sunrise because it’s the only thing that reminds her of home. More than anything she wishes she could bring Krypton back, but no matter how detailed she’d be able to replicate it, it would never truly be the same.

She puts her gloved hand on Kara’s cheek. “Thank you for sharing it with me. Happy birthday, Kara.”

“El mayarah,” Kara says, softly. She lets out a breath, leaning the side of her head against Lena’s. “I love you. Thank you for sticking with me.”

“Of course,” Lena smiles. “For you I’d do anything. Including flying up into space in a borrowed space suit to watch the sun rising over what looks like a bouncing ball from this height.”

Kara grins, blinking her tears away. “Let’s go back, before Jess files a missing person’s report for you because you’ve been untraceable for more than two hours.”

“Okay,” Lena laughs, readjusting her grip on Kara’s waist. “Take us down, Supergirl.”

 

They arrive in Midvale late at night, the engine of Lena’s car suddenly too loud for the silent streets of this small town. All the houses are dark as they move past them, slowly driving up to the white house on top of the hill.

Lena hasn’t been here in years, but nothing seems to have changed. If it hadn’t been for everything that happened in the past five years, it would’ve felt like no time has passed. There’s some irony to the way Kara’s asleep in the passenger’s seat, her hand warm on top of Lena’s.

Somehow everything always comes back to Kara. From the moment they met, her life has revolved around Kara almost just as much as it has around Lex—and maybe even more. Because Kara’s right here, and she hasn’t heard from Lex in weeks.

Lena pulls up in front of the closed gates, gently pulling her hand away from Kara’s to reach for the remote to unlock them. Even though the house is technically Lillian’s, Lena’s the only one with a key. Lillian doesn’t care for this house, and she hasn’t been down here since Lena’s father died. She doesn’t need a key.

“Kara,” Lena whispers as she drives through the gates, the pebbles crunching underneath the wheels. “Wake up, love. We’re here.”

Kara blinks her eyes open, not bothering to stifle her yawn. “We are? Did I fall asleep?”

“Yeah,” Lena nods, putting the car in park. She turns off the engine, a silence falling over them. She isn’t used to it anymore, not when she’s been living in big cities for five years. “But it’s okay. It’s been a long couple of days. You deserved some rest.”

“So do you.” Kara unbuckles her seatbelt, giving Lena a tired smile. “What time is it? Maybe we can still go see my parents.”

“It’s two in the morning,” Lena grins. “We’ll go see them first thing tomorrow, okay? As much as they love you, I doubt they’d appreciate it if you woke them up in the middle of the night just to say hi.”

“You’re probably right.” Kara climbs out of the car, tilting her head back to look at the stars. Lena follows her example, walking around the car to wrap her arms around Kara’s waist. She leans her cheek against Kara’s neck, feeling her pulse thump against her cheekbone. She closes her eyes.

“Hey, no falling asleep,” Kara grumbles, twisting around in Lena’s arms. She kisses Lena, before unwrapping herself and starting to unload the car at super speed.

By the time Lena makes it through the front door, their luggage is already upstairs in Lena’s old bedroom, and Kara’s nonchalantly leaning against the staircase post with a grin.

“Took your time, didn’t you?”

“Hey, no fair.” Lena rolls her eyes, stomping upstairs, past Kara. “We’ll unpack everything tomorrow. First, sleep. I’m exhausted.”

“Okay, slowpoke.” Kara follows behind her, at human speed this time. They get into Lena’s bedroom where everything’s dusted and smaller than Lena remembers. She smiles at the picture of her and Kara as kids, grinning at the camera Eliza was holding, Lena’s face red from being sunburned.

“Imagine the sun being harmful to your skin instead of making it impermeable,” Kara says from where she’s changing into pajamas, eyes on the same picture Lena’s looking at. “Oh wait, you don’t have to.”

“Fuck you,” Lena huffs. “You wouldn’t last a day without your powers.”

“Oh, but I have,” Kara shoots back. “Complete solar flare after fighting some dumb robot. It was awful. I broke my arm, like, two hours in.”

Lena arches an eyebrow. “And how does that not prove my point?” She stifles a yawn, crossing the room to where Kara put their suitcases. Plucking a pajama shirt from the pile of other shirts, she changes into it.

“Well, for one I’m not dead,” Kara says, rummaging through her own, much messier, suitcase for her toothbrush and makeup wipes. “And besides, people need me to have my powers. I’m Supergirl. National City would be a mess without me.”

“Sure. That’s why it has survived for all those 147 years without you.”

Kara gives Lena a long look. “You know when National City was founded? Of course you know. Nerd.”

Lena flashes a smile. She takes her makeup bag from her suitcase, waiting for Kara before making her way over to the bathroom. “I also know that the founder was Frank Kimball, who had a pretty good life even without Supergirl to save the day.”

Kara pouts into the mirror while taking her makeup off, but Lena doesn’t pay attention to it. She continue to brush her teeth and take off her makeup until Kara gives up, hanging her shoulders in defeat.

Lena grins, pressing a kiss against Kara’s cheek. It tastes like makeup wipes. “I love you.”

“Whatever.”

Lena kisses her again. “I love you.”

Kara softens. “Fine. I love you, too.”

“I win,” Lena says, wiggling her eyebrows. Before Kara can reply, she dashes off, back to her bedroom, and climbs into bed. Kara follows right behind her, wrapping her arms around Lena with a sigh.

“Some people need me,” she says, voice soft. “Right?”

Lena blinks. “I need you. And Alex, and all your friends. Like, Winn needs you.”

“Winn?”

“He’s in love with you.”

Kara pulls away slightly. “What? No, he’s not. We’re friends. Why would he be in love with me? I’ve known him forever. Oh god, is Winn in love with me?”

“James is also in love with you.” Lena tries to bring it lightly, but James is the only one of Kara’s friends who hasn’t even tried to be accepting of her. His threat to hurt Lena if she ever hurt Kara is still fresh in her memory, and she really doesn’t like the way he looks at Kara.

Kara sighs. “Yeah, that I knew.” She turns to her side, propping her head up with one hand. “We used to date.”

“What?” Lena’s eyes widen. She sits up, trying to process what Kara just said. “You dated James? When? Why didn’t you tell me sooner?”

“It was way before you came to National City. We…It was nice. While it lasted. But then Lucy came to town, and she was his ex, and it made me realize I wasn’t over you. As much fun as James was, I could never fall in love with him, because I was still in love with you.” Kara gives her a soft, tired smile. “I never told you because I didn’t think it mattered. I want you. I’ve always wanted you. James was just a distraction.”

“Doesn’t seem like he thinks it didn’t matter,” Lena says, unsure whether she should be happy with Kara’s answer. On the one hand she’s glad Kara and James is a thing from the past, on the other she wishes Kara would’ve told her sooner. “He’s jealous of us.”

“Yeah, I know,” Kara sighs. She presses her palm against her forehead. “I’ll talk to him about it. I should’ve talked to him as soon as you were back in the picture, but…I guess I don’t want to hurt him. He’s a good guy, you know?”

Lena swallows, forcing a smile. “Yeah, I guess. I’m glad you told me about him, though. It sort of gives context to his behavior.”

“Also he’s Clark’s best friend. He got a front row ticket to the whole thing with Lex, and he’s a lot more unforgiving about it than Clark and I. Probably because he didn’t know you before all of that happened.”

“I figured that had something to do with it,” Lena nods. She rolls onto her back, letting her eyes flutter closed. “It always does.”

“Hey,” Kara whispers, moving close enough to Lena for her body heat to radiate off of her in waves. “None of that matters. I’m in love with you, and I’ll always be in love with you. Don’t doubt that, okay?”

Lena leans into Kara. “Hm. Yeah, I know.” She lets out a breath, rolling onto her side. “Can we talk about this in the morning? I’m sorta falling asleep.”

“Yeah, of course. Good night. I love you.” Kara presses a kiss against Lena’s shoulder, wrapping her arm around Lena’s waist. Lena squeezes her hand, already half asleep by the time she lets go.

 

Partly due to the lack of food in the house and partly because Kara’s too excited to see her parents again to wait any longer, they descend the hill to Kara’s childhood home for breakfast. It’s the first time Lena’s talked to Eliza and Jeremiah since their breakup, and she feels slightly awkward as Kara hugs them with jokes and laughter, unsure of whether she’s even wanted here.

But Eliza hugs her just as tight as she remembers, rubbing up and down her back a couple times. “I can’t believe how much you’ve changed. You’re all grown up now.”

“Of course she’s grown up,” Jeremiah mutters under his breath, winking playfully at Lena. “She’s the CEO of a multibillion dollar company now.”

“I wore flannel and ripped jeans on my first day,” Lena says, grinning back at him. “Wasn’t a success. People like it more when I intimidate them.”

“You’re never intimidating,” Kara says, pressing a kiss to her temple. “You’re like a Chihuahua who thinks she’s a Rottweiler.”

Lena purses her lips. “Did you just call me ugly?”

 “Yep. What’s for breakfast, mom?” Kara squeezes Lena’s side, before walking off to the kitchen, leaving Lena with Jeremiah.

“So Kara told us you’re into the secret now, too,” he says, but his voice isn’t threatening. He’s just making conversation. “Explains a lot, doesn’t it?”

“Oh, so much.” Lena doesn’t comment on how Eliza and Jeremiah were mostly to blame for Kara not telling her years before, knowing it wasn’t their intention to push Kara into hiding that part of herself even from the people closest to her. “I’m glad I know, though. Makes it a little easier for her to do the whole superhero thing when I’m around.”

“I suppose that’s true,” Jeremiah says, at the same time Kara calls their names from the kitchen.

The smell of bacon and pancakes fills Lena’s nostrils as she approaches the kitchen, unsurprised to see Kara digging into the first batch of pancakes already. It’s doused in maple syrup and covered by at least five slices of bacon, and Lena’s skin crawls at the sight of it.

“You’re weak,” Kara tells her between bites. “You won’t get fat from just one batch, I promise.”

“You don’t know what it’s like,” Lena sighs, struggling to remember the last time she unapologetically ate that many calories in one meal. “Will you still love me when I’m fat and ugly?”

“You’ll never get fat and ugly,” Kara says. “But yes, I will.”

“Gross,” Jeremiah interrupts. “First it’s Alex and Maggie being all over each other like we’re not in the room, and now you guys? What did we do to deserve this?”

Eliza pretends to hit him over the head with her spatula. “We raised two loving children who aren’t ashamed of who they love. You’re just bitter because you got sick one time after competing against Kara to see who could eat more pancakes.”

“Kara has an unfair advantage,” Jeremiah whines. “It wasn’t my fault.”

Lena watches them bicker with a content smile. She missed this. She missed having Eliza and Jeremiah around when she needed them, caring for her like a parent within the boundaries of her being someone else’s daughter. She supposes she even missed Alex, for completing the picture of what seems like the perfect family.

As she finishes her yoghurt, she catches Kara staring at her with a loving look in her eyes, and an easy smile on her lips. She reaches across the table, intertwining their fingers, rubbing her thumb over the back of Lena’s hand.

From the corner of her eye, Lena can see Jeremiah giving Eliza a look of pride, and she smiles.

 

After breakfast they head into town, window shopping at all their favorite places. It’s almost like time stood still while they were away, all the same people still doing all the same things like clockwork.

It's the end of April, and the mercury is rapidly creeping up. To cope with the heat, they get ice cream from the ice cream truck, walk along the boardwalk to sit at the very end and stare over the water, and splash around in the ocean until their clothes are soaked.

Lena peels her dress away from her legs, pretending to gag at the squishing sound it makes. “I’m never going near water in a dress ever again.”

“You could wear clothes that aren’t used for formal events, you know? You don’t have to be CEO Luthor here. You can just be Lena.”

“I like being CEO Luthor,” Lena shrugs. “It makes me feel hot and important. In that order.”

“You’re always hot and important.” Kara picks up her shoes from where they left them in the sand, unbothered by the way her shorts are dripping water everywhere. “Come on, we’ll get changed before we do anything else. Want me to fly us up there?”

Lena narrows her eyes. “Probably a bad idea. You left your suit in the house, and also it would be a little suspicious if Supergirl showed up in a small town she has no business in.”

“I can’t believe you’re better at this whole covert superhero thing than I am,” Kara chuckles, reaching for Lena’s hand with her free one. Lena switches her shoes to her left hand, grabbing Kara’s.

“It’s not that hard, to be honest. You’re really bad at keeping it a secret. I doubt there is anyone that knows both of you that doesn’t know you’re Supergirl.”

“Ms. Grant doesn’t know,” Kara says. “She thought she knew, but J’onn and I confused her with his cool shapeshifting ability. I wish I could do that, too.”

“Of course she knows. She’s just keeping your secret for you.”

Kara frowns. “You think?”

“I know,” Lena nods. “I wouldn’t be surprised if she knew all the secrets of everyone in National City. She definitely knows. But that’s good—she’s not telling anyone, not even you. You can obviously trust her.”

They’re quiet for a few minutes as they walk up the hill, only stopping for Lena to put her shoes back on for walking on the pavement. Kara doesn’t seem bothered by the blazing street underneath her feet, calmly strutting on until they reach Lena’s front door.

“Do you think I should talk to Ms. Grant about it?” Kara asks, sitting down on the steps leading up to the door while Lena’s digging through her purse for the keys.

“You could, if that’s what you want. If she hasn’t said anything until now, she probably isn’t planning on saying anything any time soon. Could be nice, having someone who ‘doesn’t know’,” Lena says, making air quotations. “But it’s up to you, really. Whatever you feel comfortable with, I guess.”

“Hm,” Kara hums. “I’ll think about it.”

Lena opens the front door, kicking off her shoes as soon as she steps into the hallway. She’s already zipping down her dress on the stairs, pulling it off to throw it over the railing before she enters the bathroom. “I’m gonna take a shower to wash off the ocean. Are you joining?”

“Yeah, give me a minute.”

Lena leaves the door unlocked, turning on the shower. It takes Kara a couple of minutes to join her, quickly washing off all the salt from the ocean’s water.

Afterwards, Lena decides to follow Kara’s advice and put on something a bit more comfortable. She digs up an old pair of black jeans, puts on a white T-shirt, and ties a flannel around her waist. Taking off the remains of her makeup, she glances in the mirror. Jeremiah was right, she does look a lot younger like this. Closer to her own age.

When she enters the kitchen, Kara’s already there, snacking on a half-empty bag of potato chips. She turns around on her stool, her smile faltering slightly as she lays eyes on Lena. She almost drops the bag of potato chips on the floor, throwing it onto the kitchen island instead.

“What?” Lena asks, looking down to see if she forgot to put on pants.

“N-nothing. Woah.” Kara hops off the stool, gaze flickering up and down Lena’s body. “You’re stunning.”

“Oh.” Lena bites her lip to hide a smirk. “I’m not wearing anything special.”

Kara shakes her head, vaguely gesturing at Lena. “No, but I fell in love with this. Like, I love all of you, but you used to look like this all the time and—” She sighs, reaching up to cup Lena’s face between her hands. “You’re beautiful. Absolutely beautiful.”

A flush creeps up Lena’s neck to her cheeks, and suddenly she feels shy. She dips her head to hide it, but Kara gently tugs on her chin, leaning forward to capture Lena’s lips between her own.

Lena inhales sharply, pressing into the kiss so hard Kara actually has to take a step backwards. Her hands wrap around Kara’s waist, pulling her closer with a grin. She should be used to the way kissing Kara makes her feel, but her heartrate still speeds up impossibly fast and the jitters in her stomach aren’t likely to calm down any time soon.

It feels like forever and like barely a second has passed at the same time when they pull back, both panting slightly. Kara smiles that blinding smile, carefully tucking Lena’s hair behind her ears.

“Hey,” she says.

“Hey.”

“Wanna go to the cave? See if it’s still holding.”

Lena’s nod, still dizzy from kissing Kara just seconds ago. “Yeah, sure.”

 

As they’re walking, Kara slips her hand into Lena’s. It feels bigger than it is, with these surroundings where they both grew up so much. Every stone here has a story, and everything brings up memories and old feelings Lena had long forgotten about.

Like when she used to pine after Kara without knowing the feeling was mutual, or when she used to hang around with Lex without having to worry about what crazy thing he was gonna do next. Like the way Lillian’s eyes showed nothing but disappointment and hatred, when her dad used to smile at her with that proud look in his eyes.

The cave is still there, unchanged like everything in this town. Over the years, nature erased all the traces they left, smoothing out their footsteps with sand, leaving it even softer and even prettier than Lena remembers.

Kara immediately leaves her side to sit at the edge, feet dangling. She half turns around, patting the empty space beside her. “Come sit. I’ll catch you if you fall.”

“I’d rather not fall in the first place,” Lena says, shaking her head. She sits down a couple yards away from Kara instead, leaning her back against the stone wall. “Not all of us can fly.”

“I used to want to leap down from here and just take off to wherever. Sometimes, when the world got too loud, all I wanted was to leave. But there was nowhere to go, and everything I had was here.” Kara gets up, crouching slightly in order not to bump her head on the ceiling. “You make it go quiet. When I’m with you, I can just listen to your voice or your heartbeat, and it drowns out the noise. You always have, from the moment we met. I don’t know why. I think you’re just special.”

She turns around, a teary-eyed smile on her face. Then she steps backwards, into nothingness. But she doesn’t fall. She hovers close to the cave’s entrance, like she’s walking on air, her dress moving in the wind.

Lena watches her do it—this amazing, unnatural thing that’s somehow become the new normal for them. Even when she’s not wearing her Supergirl suit, seeing Kara fly just makes sense somehow. She was always destined for greater things than being human.

“Maybe it’s because I think I’ve loved you from the start. Maybe you knew.”

“Maybe. It’s like you’re on a different frequency than everyone else.” Kara floats back into the cave, barely touching the sand as she moves closer to Lena, finally sitting down next to her. “When I’m with you, nothing else matters. Everything else just gets ciphered to the background, and it’s just us.”

“Us against the world,” Lena says, softly. “Feels like it sometimes, doesn’t it?”

Kara laces her fingers with Lena’s, squeezing her hand. “No, the world is lucky to have you, Lena. One day it’ll realize that, and it’ll lay down at your feet. Everyone will know your name, and,” she holds up a finger to stop Lena from interrupting, “it’ll be synonymous with good. If they can embrace me, an alien, for flying around with a cape, they can embrace you for all the great things you’ll do. You’ll make them believe.”

A warm feeling swells up in Lena’s chest. She leans her head against Kara’s, closing her eyes. She imagines the scene Kara just described—lives being saved by L-Corp tech every day, children being fed all over the world, nature thriving after she introduces products that are 100% recyclable with 0% waste.

“Yeah,” she says. “I think I will.”

 

Later that night, when the stars are out, they’re in Kara’s backyard. They’re lying on their backs in the grass, staring up at the sky, finding as many constellations as possible. Occasionally they kiss.

Stargazing with Kara is probably one of Lena’s favorite things to do. None of the constellations are the same as on Krypton, Kara’s told her, but there are a few that resembles ones she remembers from her childhood, including the ever present Ursa Major. Kara’s face lights up every time she sees it.

Lena sits up, looking at Kara, whose eyes are still casted at the sky. “Kara?”

“Hm?”

“How would you feel if I used the crystals to try to figure out where Krypton was located? With Kryptonian technology, we could build a drone, or even a spaceship, to send there and gather information. Who knows what we might find, you know? Even if it’s just pictures from the sky, or the sunset.”

Kara’s eyes flicker to where Lena’s sitting, quiet for a moment. “You can do that?”

“I don’t know,” Lena admits. “But I could try. You can help me, obviously, if you want. It doesn’t have to be for anything, just us trying to learn more about what happened after, you know, the explosion.”

Kara looks back at the sky, her hand tightening around Lena’s. “I think I’d like that.” She sits up then, tilting her head backwards to keep looking at the stars. “When I first came here, I didn’t know what the purpose of pictures was. On Krypton we had 3D holograms you could interact with, but here on Earth all you guys had were pictures, and sometimes videos. It seemed awfully bland and boring, and I couldn’t understand why anyone would bother to take them. But then, when I started to realize the severity of what had happened, all I wanted was to see Krypton again, and the sky and Rao and everything. And I understood why people take pictures. It’s not just for entertainment, it’s also to keep some things with you forever.”

Lena nods, her mind jumping to the photo album she keeps in her nightstand with pictures of her father and Lex, before it felt like the world had ended. But Kara doesn’t have that, and her world did end. Suddenly she’s even more glad she brought it up.

“We’ll start working on it the moment we get back to National City,” she says, lying back down in the grass. It tickles the back of her neck.

But Kara jumps to her feet, holding out her hand to Lena. “Dance with me.”

“Dance?”

“Yeah, dance.” Kara reaches into her pocket for her phone, putting on a random song. It’s not dance-material, but Lena laughs and gets up anyway.

Kara wraps one arm around Lena’s waist, squeezing Lena’s hand with the other one. The sound coming from Kara’s phone is metallic and muffled, but it doesn’t matter. For a few minutes, they sway their hips from side to side, and then they’re no longer dancing but jumping around like idiots, heads thrown back in laughter.

More than once, Lena steps on Kara’s feet, but Kara doesn’t seem to mind, lifting Lena up from the ground and swinging her around with a laugh every time it happens.

It’s one of the things Lena loves most about being with Kara. One moment they can be all serious, and the next they’re just goofing around, like Kara doesn’t still get nightmares and Lena never really got to have a childhood. With each other, they can be whoever they want to be, but all they wanna be is themselves. Happy, worriless versions of themselves. And it doesn’t feel forced. It feels right. It feels perfect.

Lena’s the first to stop jumping, leaning forward with her hands on her knees as she tries to catch her breath. When she looks up, Kara’s floating, just a few inches above the ground, slowly circling around Lena with a happy grin.

She floats down to kiss Lena, soft and sweet, smiling into it. Lena cups Kara’s face, stroking her cheekbone with her thumb. Despite the only source of light coming from the house, across the backyard, she’s beautiful. She’s the most beautiful she’s ever been. Every day, Kara’s the most beautiful she’s ever been.

“What?” Kara asks, shyly.

Lena leans her forehead against Kara’s. “I love you so much.”

“Oh.” Kara traces Lena’s jaw with her fingertips. “I love you so much, too.”

“Who knew this is where we’d end up again, after all these years?”

“I did. Or, at least, I hoped.” Kara lets out a breath, the corners of her lips twitching. “I think if you hadn’t moved to National City, I would’ve eventually moved to Metropolis, or accidentally on purpose ran into you while visiting Clark. I would’ve done something.”

Lena blinks. “Why?”

Kara gives her a tired smile. “I know you think I’m more important to you than you are to me, but you’re so wrong. You and Alex are the only ones that made me feel like I could really live here on Earth. I’m not gonna let that go. I’ve lost everything once, maybe even twice, and I’m not gonna go through that again. You’re stuck with me, whether you want to or not.”

“Good thing I want to,” Lena mumbles, pressing a kiss against Kara’s lips. She sighs. “I’m sorry for breaking up with you. It was the worst decision I ever made, but—”

“You were trying to protect me, I know,” Kara says. “And you were right. I didn’t understand at first because I never needed protection, but I know better now. And I’ll forgive you ten times over, until you finally stop apologizing. It sort of makes you appreciate this,” she gestures at their surroundings and themselves, “a lot more. We should never take each other for granted.”

“Okay,” Lena whispers. She stops swaying, leaning up to wrap her arms around Kara’s waist. Resting her head on top of Kara’s shoulder, she closes her eyes. “But I’ve never taken you for granted. Every day I wake up with you by my side, I feel like I’m blessed all over again.”

Kara smiles, tightening her grip on Lena’s body. “Yeah, me too.”

Lena’s heart swells in her chest, and she thinks that maybe Kara’s right. Maybe they’re equally important to each other, even though Lena can’t imagine anybody ever loving someone else as much as she loves Kara.

She feels Kara’s heartbeat through her chest, and for a few minutes that’s all there is. Just the two of them, underneath the stars. And maybe this is where they’re supposed to be. Where they belong. Because after everything that has happened, after Kara travelled through space and time, somehow they still found each other. And that’s all that matters.