There’s something that squeezes in Kara’s chest when the Kryptahniuo slips from Lori’s mouth like silk, accentless, perfect in the inflections like she hasn’t heard since her own mother’s last goodbye—and suddenly, the entire moment turns into an ensemble of home away from home. The setting sun glows the red of homesickness, flowing into Lena’s apartment through the two-story high glass wall and brings the ghosts of a morning in Argos city brushing at the edges of her mind.
Lori, a few inches taller than Lena, with the same face and same smile but with Kara’s eyes, with Kara’s language, kissing the side of Lena’s head before heading off with a fond look—all of it is so mundane and yet there’s a gap in Kara’s soul that yearns to fill the mornings of her life with this moment, this familiarity. The could be aches in her chest.
Most of her aches as Lori gently steps away, because Lena’s standing there, so achingly beautiful in the tall shadows cast on the open, wide space. The sunset brings out auburn glints in her dark hair like the firm, encompassing warmth of embers in a languishing campfire, coaxing out the amber sunburst that haloes her inner irises—Lena’s eyes are usually such a vibrant viridian encircled by a ring of deep blue, but right now they remind Kara of young grass peeking through faded red bricks of an old garden by the sea.
Kara’s eyes flit over her pale skin, the way that her cheeks always look slightly flushed like drops of rosewater on parchment—and the purple that’s blooming from the cut on her lip.
“You’re hurt,” she breathes, rushing forwards, hands coming up to hold her, examine the wound—she stops with her fingertips just inches away from Lena’s face, halting at the sudden spike of her human heartbeat. Lena’s eyes flutter from Kara’s hand to her face like shy butterflies. She brings her own fingers up to her lips, pressing gingerly before tucking her chin and averting her eyes, and Kara can hear her breath stuttering in her chest next to her hummingbird heartbeats.
“I’m alright.” Lena’s voice is susurrus and soft in the velvet air between them. She looks back up and Kara can’t help her hyperfocus on the way her lashes flicker so daintily. “Don’t worry.”
Kara’s brows crease. “Does it hurt?”
Lena shakes her head, glancing at the hands still hovering near her face. Kara drops them to her side, tentatively shuffling a little bit out of Lena’s personal space.
“I’m… I’m sorry you got hurt,” she says, guilt gnawing at the hollow of her throat. Lena draws her brows together in a quizzical smile, tilting her head just so—a few locks of dark hair cascade over her shoulder from the movement.
“You have nothing to apologize for,” she half-laughs. “If anything, I should be sorry. It was my mother assaulting you, after all.”
Kara frowns, wringing her hands. “You’re not responsible for your mother’s actions, Lena.”
The way her smile twinges a bit wider with benign disbelief makes Kara want to step forward again and wipe it away from the corner of her mouth, to somehow make her understand how much she doesn’t deserve to bear all that weight—but her ardor catches in her chest again and she just clasps her hands together tightly.
“So,” she starts, trying to resist the urge to rock back and forth on her heels. “Lori’s last name is…”
Lena crosses one arm low across her chest and cradles her other elbow in that slightly vulnerable way that she does, shifting her weight. “Danvers.”
Kara takes a breath. “And she can…”
She makes vague hand motions, trying to convey flying or something to segue into talking about the elephant in the room, but Lena’s soft laugh stops her short. Her hand plops to her side again as Lena bites her lip hesitantly, smile falling into a softer, more solemn expression.
“It’s okay, Kara,” she whispers.
And Kara feels something drain from her shoulders like chips falling into place—of course, of course Lena knows. It would be silly to think she wouldn’t have pieced it together after Lori’s outburst, but more than that, there’s something about the way she smiles at the two of them—the way her eyes always seem to see right past Kara Danvers’s flustered clumsiness and Supergirl’s confident bluster, the way, at some point, she stopped being so disheartened at Kara’s sudden departures or so surprised at Supergirl’s drop-ins.
Blue-green-amber eyes stare into hers—just her. Kara.
(The implication of her own singularity sounds so simple, so right around Lena’s lips.)
“I’m sorry I didn’t tell you sooner.” The apology sounds so lackluster. Lena just smiles.
“Don’t be. There was no reason for me to know.”
The smile she offers is genuine, without a hint of blame or sarcasm but Kara feels her stomach do unwieldy flips regardless.
“Kara.” Lena softly grasps her forearm, sending a blossom of warmth through her bones. “It’s your secret to tell. You would have told me if you needed to.”
Kara stares at her feet. “I don’t want you to think that it was because I didn’t trust you. I do.”
“I know.” Lena squeezes her arm once before letting go, stepping away to lean against the back of one of her couches and sighing. “I won’t… lie,” she says with a small laugh, crossing her arms and tucking her chin for a moment—she looks up at Kara with a small, wry quirk of the lips and furrowed brows. “For a while I was a bit angry. I felt like you were trying to get close to me to keep tabs on me because I’m a Luthor.”
Kara takes a hasty step forward, hand reaching for Lena, throat tightening. “It wasn’t like that—“
“I know, Kara,” Lena reassures her, glancing at the hand hovering near her. “I was how I felt at first, but it’s not how I feel now.” She clasps her hands in her lap. “After all you’ve done for me, it’d be kind of silly for me to hold onto a grudge like that.”
Lena gives her such a soft, frank smile, Kara finds herself hesitantly coming to lean on the couch next to Lena, fidgeting with her hands.
“You’re not angry with me?”
Lena lets out a short laugh. “Of course not, I have no reason to be. It wouldn’t be much of a secret if you went around telling everyone you met.” She smirks at Kara before shaking her head. “I knew you’d tell me if I needed to know.”
Something in Kara’s chest feels hollow, almost as if she’s—unsatisfied with Lena’s response. Like there should be more anger, or more guilt, or something. She takes a deep breath.
“I… Thank you.”
Lena gives another rueful smile before shifting and looking down at her hands. “About Lori…”
Kara sucks in a breath.
“We don’t…” Lena stops frowns like she’s struggling with her words. “We don’t have to talk about us.”
Kara furrows her brows, feeling…. Unhappy.
Lena nods. “I mean, the implications of Lori’s parents being you and I are…” She snorts. “Awkward, at best. What with your boyfriend and how I feel about you.”
Kara’s brain does something akin to tripping over a record scratch noise and she blinks several times.
“How you… feel about me?”
Lena stares at her for a moment before looking away with an exaggerated tight-lipped smile.
“Well,” she says, clearing her throat. “This is mortifying.” She laughs the way that people do while they’re crying out for help inside. “I thought you would’ve definitely figured it out by now.”
“I—“ Kara swallows harshly. There’s a pressure at her throat, something like fear, even as the all the pieces fall into place. (Of course, Lena’s heartbeat always picks up around her. The tension drains from her shoulders as with no one else when they’re together, and she always delights in spending time with Kara like a sunflower yearning after the horizon—all these little things that make Kara’s chest flush with something like joy.
And now she can’t stop thinking about Winn’s stony silence or Mon-El’s heartbroken face.)
“Lena, I had no idea, I’m so—“
“Please don’t,” Lena says, hurriedly placing her hand on Kara’s. “Please don’t apologize.” She looks up, earnest pleading in the crinkle of her brow and twinkle in her eyes. “These are my feelings. I’m responsible for them, and no one else.”
Kara clenches her eyes shut, trying to even out her breathing.
“I didn’t know.”
Lena brushes her thumb over one of Kara’s knuckles.
“And that’s nothing to be sorry for.”
Kara frowns back up at her.
“I don’t want—to confuse you or hurt you, I—“
“You haven’t,” Lena insists. “Trust me, Kara, I’ve been played with before,” she says with a short laugh (Kara’s chest roils), “and you’ve been…” she sighs. “You’ve been a wonderful friend.”
And there’s that hollowness again, that unsettled sort of malcontent, like expecting another step at the top of the stairs and stumbling—her shoulders feel weak, somehow, and she realizes she’s been tensed up for a fight that didn’t come.
“Why didn’t…” Kara gnaws on her bottom lip. “Why didn’t you tell me?”
Lena draws her hand back into her lap, leaning away slightly.
“I meant it when I said that you’re my only friend in this city. And no one’s been there for me like you, ever.” She laughs listlessly again. “I didn’t want to make you feel uncomfortable or worse, lose you.”
Kara shakes her head vehemently. “You wouldn’t have lost me—I wouldn’t abandon you like that.”
Lena smiles at her sadly. “I know. That’s part of why, too. You’re so…” She pauses and frowns at the ceiling for a moment. “You’re so selfless. You would have pushed yourself so hard to accommodate me and I didn’t want that.” She shakes her head. “You’ve been telling me about how big of a change it’s been, having to share your sister for the first time—I didn’t want to make your life any harder than it already was. I wanted to be half as good a friend as you’ve been to me.” She sighs. “I want to be.”
Kara sees the determination in Lena—the ardent caring—and she tries to come up with something to say other than the automatic apologies welling up in her throat.
“Apparently, twenty-two years into the future, I invent a fail-safe for accidental time travel,” Lena pushes on, sighing. “When that version of me comes to rescue Lori, we’ll have our memories wiped. Which is,” she laughs, “a smidge bit terrifying, but… Necessary, I suppose. We’ll go back to our normal lives without any earth-shattering revelations about the future. We can just… wait until then.”
To just wait. Just ignore the fact that it’s the two of them who have a daughter together until they don’t remember anymore. Kara feels sick.
“Yeah,” she says, nodding. “That would… that would probably be the easiest.”
She doesn’t know why she’s nodding along and agreeing—maybe it’s, just that. That it’s easier than having to deal with the fact that she’s going to have a child with someone who she isn’t currently dating and she already loves that child.
There’s a faint groan from outside the apartment.
Kara laughs and turns towards the glass, leg hiking up slightly on the back of the couch.
“Lori. I thought you were going to give us a moment to talk.”
Lena frowns at her, confused, until a petulant Lori drops into view on the veranda. She drags her feet until she’s pressed up against the glass, making an infinitely miserable face at the both of them.
“Stay for dinner at least?” She mumbles. “I have so much to tell you both.”
Kara laughs, turning towards Lena with a bit of a bashful smile.
“What’s she saying?” Lena asks, bemused. Kara runs a hand through her hair.
“She wants me to stay for dinner.”
Lena rolls her eyes, shooting Lori a look. “You don’t have to. After all that’s happened today I’m sure you’re exhausted—“
“No, I—“ Kara smiles, clasping her hands together. “I’d love to. If you don’t mind, of course, I can just, go if I’m being a bother—“
“No, no, of course not—we’d love to have you, if you’d like that. Again, you don’t have to—“
“No, I—“ Kara stops when Lori groans again, loudly enough for Lena to hear this time, and rolls her eyes. She looks at Lena, and they just stare at each other for a moment before breaking into laughter at their own haplessness.
“I have to report back to my, um, organization,” Kara says, finally, pushing up to her feet. “So they don’t mark Lori down as a hostile, but I’ll be back at… seven?”
Lena smiles as she stands as well, starting to walk Kara to the door. “Seven sounds good.”
Kara takes a last look at Lena—at the blue-green eyes burnishing a rich myrtle green and gold—before taking a beat to wave awkwardly and step outside. A short assault of a hug from Lori later, she’s off in the air, hurtling towards the DEO with an unbearable lightness in her chest.
Alex comes up to her immediately when she touches down on the landing, forehead creased with concern. Kara just grabs her hand and starts pulling her upstairs into a briefing room—stopping a moment when they pass by J’onn to grab him as well.
(from the way his eyebrows are inching towards his hairline, he’s already getting a telepathic briefing anyway.)
Kara shuts the door behind them and turns to them with an almost giddy hop.
“Guys, you won’t believe what I found out.”
Alex crosses her arms, shifting her weight. “Did you figure out who that girl really is?”
Kara nods—Alex’s frown just deepens as she looks between her sister’s hysterically happy smile and J’onn’s look of shock.
“She’s my daughter.”
“She’s your what?”
“My daughter,” Kara breathes out again.
“Okay, Kara,” Alex shuffles her feet and holds out a hand, narrowing her eyes. “Last time I checked, it’s impossible for you to have a teenaged daughter right now. So unless I’m missing something about Kryptonian physiology—“
“Time travel,” J’onn cuts in, crossing his arms. “She’s from the future.”
Alex gapes. Kara nods excitedly.
“Twenty two years in the future. And she’s seventeen!” she crows. “I’m going to have a family in five years.”
“Five years,” Alex breathes, still frozen. “Five years, and you’re not fazed by the fact that she looks exactly like Lena, or that she’s pretending to be Lena’s niece?”
Kara grimaces nervously. “Well, that’s the thing—she’s, um,” Kara gulps, glancing at J’onn. He says nothing. “She’s Lena’s daughter too.”
Alex blinks very slowly.
“I’m sorry, I think I just blacked out and hallucinated you saying that you have a child with Lena Luthor.”
Kara groans. “Alex, how many times do we have to go over this? She’s not like her family—“
“That is—“ Alex laughs mirthlessly, emphatically holding up both hands now— “literally the least worrying thing about all this—am I somehow missing the fact that A, time travel isn’t possible, B, you are not currently dating Lena, and C, you don’t have the—the equipment to get her pregnant?”
Kara blanches. “Well, I could’ve—“
“No, you couldn’t’ve, and we both know that.”
Kara swallows and looks down at her, feet, feeling a sudden weight in her chest. She’s always known that she’s unable to have children on earth, because Kryptonian unvulnerability derives from certain organs that absorb yellow sunlight. An embryo would be crushed, unable to push against her body with enough force, before it could develop at all.
Alex grimaces, reaching for Kara’s shoulder.
“Hey, I’m sorry, I didn’t—I didn’t mean to upset you, I—“
“No, it’s okay,” Kara says, placing her hand over Alex’s and looking up with a tentative smile. “I—I know. That’s why—that’s why I’m so excited, you know? I didn’t think that I could ever have kids, and then, there she is.” She squeezes Alex’s hand lightly. “She’s so smart, and funny, and talented—and she speaks Kryptahniuo, Alex. She speaks it fluently. I haven’t had a proper conversation in my first language with anyone in thirteen years.”
She only notices that her voice has started to shake in the middle of her words when J’onn places his hand on her other shoulder, holding her firmly with a gentle smile. A deep tenor of his emotions wisp along the borders of her consciousness like they do sometimes when she’s around him—little dreams of watching two daughters grow up, a blurred glimpse of the euphoria of finding another of his kind after so many resigned years of solitude.
“I’ll have her marked down as non-hostile,” he says, and Kara gives him a grateful smile.
“Are you sure?” Alex worried her lower lip, crossing her arms again. “We don’t actually know anything about her—“
“Kara, I—“ Alex sighs. “I trust you, okay? I’m just worried.”
Kara nods, looking down at her feet. “I’m sorry.”
Alex takes her hand again, frowning. “What are you apologizing for?”
“I—I don’t know, I—“
The door bursts open to a winded-looking Mon-El glaring at her, and she resists the urge to flinch.
“Kara—“ he rushes over, just barely stopping long enough for Alex and J’onn to step away before taking both her shoulders in his hands. “Kara, where have you been?”
Kara tries for a puzzled smile. “Hey to you too—I was working?”
He makes that little angry face where he clenches his jaw and his teeth bare a little bit—the one that makes Kara’s stomach turn.
“You haven’t been answering any of my texts,” he says, voice rising. “I was worried sick, Kara, can’t you check in at least once?”
Kara frowns, shrugging his hands away and stepping back. “Hey, I’m sorry that I have a city to save, okay? Sometimes between that and CatCo, I don’t even have time to stop and eat.”
“Really, you don’t have time for one text?” he scoffs. “You always do this, Kara! You think that just because you’re a superhero, you’re so above it all, you can’t even stop to tell your boyfriend that you’re fine—“ he growls, gesturing angrily. “You are so full of yourself—“
“Hey!” Alex steps in, snarling. “You don’t talk to my sister like that!”
He sneers for a moment, almost as if he’s going to retaliate—Kara moves to step inbetween them, panicked, but he’s already backed off by the time she gets there.
He blinks at her sudden movement, then scoffs. “Are you—are you serious? You think I’d hurt your sister?”
Kara flinches at his pointing. “Mon-El, I—“
“No, this is fine—“ He laughs sardonically, stepping back listlessly, defeated. “Glad to know just how little you think of me, Kara. Just grand.”
His lower lip trembles a little as he glares at her one last time before storming out of the briefing room. Kara screws her eyes shut, winding her hands into her own hair and pacing a bit in frustration.
“I can’t believe him,” Alex scoffs. “Who does he think he is? You’re not responsible for babysitting him—“
“No, no, he’s right, Alex,” Kara sighs. “I’ve been neglecting him, I keep putting work first—“
“As you should, Kara.” Alex frowns at her, disbelieving, and Kara feels some sort of shame burn through her. “You have every right to prioritize your work, you see him like, every night. He’s being a complete asshole—“
“It’s not his fault, okay?” Kara pleads. “I have to run off on him so often, he gets insecure, is all. I need to just—“ she sighs again, heading after him. “I’m sorry, you guys, I’ll talk to you later.”
She steadfastly ignores the ghostly tendrils of deep concern trailing after her.