Kara lands her first punch slightly off centre of the concrete block, and she knows that if Alex was here right now she'd berate her for her sloppy aim, but Rao, Kara is still so angry after everything that has happened that she just can't quite bring herself to care.
If her first hit was brutal then the second is deadly, and it only takes a couple of minutes before concrete turns to dust before her very eyes. Her next kick meets no resistance at all, just powdery sand that slips out of her grasp in the most frustrating way.
She lets out a heavy sigh and drops to her knees, hands still balled into tight fists, shaking with tension and ready for a fight.
The logical part of Kara knows that there's no real reason for her to feel this on edge anymore. After all, Lena was proved innocent, Supergirl saved her from the scene of the crime just in time, and Kara has spoken to her since. Lena's okay now. Lena is doing okay, and Rao, Kara's office is full of flowers and they all smell so beautiful and, and yet -
There's something about the injustice of it all that gets Kara right at her core. Something that stops her from being able to settle entirely, even though the brunt of the storm is over.
It's just - it's not fair that someone so good has had to face such apprehension and judgement time and time again, to the point where even after facilitating the arrest of her own mother she still isn't given with the benefit of the doubt, not when it really counts.
Kara thinks back to Winn, whose loyalty to their cause has never been questioned despite his father's less than savoury actions. She thinks about M'gann, who was accepted as one of them despite her being a White Martian, despite her peoples' blood-soaked history of genocide and pain. She thinks of Mon-El of Daxam, and how the DEO is still working alongside him despite the mistakes he's made, mistakes that have put people's lives in danger.
She thinks of herself on Red K, the things she said, the things she did.
And lastly, perhaps most painfully of all, she thinks of her parents.
(But she doesn't let that thought linger for too long. It's -
It's too much.)
So, really, the fact that people are so unwilling to accept Lena Luthor as anything less than the extraordinary woman that she is - well, she just can't wrap her head around it.
There are certainly enough reasons for any one of her friends to turn their back on each other, but they don't. They don't, because they are afforded the benefit of the doubt in a way Lena never has been, maybe never will.
Kara doesn't fall asleep at work. She doesn't. It's just that she has spent the past couple of nights sort of...punching things when she should be sleeping, and maybe she drifts off for just a second as she sits at her desk that morning.
Either way, she's unceremoniously awakened from her definite not-sleep by Snapper slamming a file on her desk. He's out the room before she has the chance to compose herself, and she really doesn't want to linger on the fact that her super powers haven't been quite what they were since Metallo's synthetic Kryptonite heart destabilised just meters from her.
Aside from the usual menial errands that Snapper has got her running, there's one note that particularly catches her attention. One note, written in a far larger scrawl than the rest, underlined and in bold.
One thousand word follow up article on your little friend at L Corp by Wednesday afternoon is what it reads.
Kara is up and out of her office and on Snapper's tail before she can really take the time to consider what she's doing.
When she enters his office the expression on his face is less than impressed, and she hopes it's because he can't tolerate her in general and not because he's caught her sleeping on the job.
"I thought - I mean, haven't we already published the follow up?" she starts.
Snapper looks up at her over the rim of his glasses. "Yes, we have," he replies slowly, condescendingly, like he's talking to a child. "And now I want a follow up on the follow up. Is that so hard to understand?"
"Right, okay. It's just-" Normally Kara would jump at the chance to visit Lena, but there's something about the idea of visiting her for another article so soon that unsettles her. "I mean, don't you think she deserves a little privacy after everything she's been through? Uh, sir," she adds, when Snapper fixes her with a look of utter disbelief.
"Privacy," he echoes. He looks up at the ceiling and then lets out a deep sigh. "Sometimes I wonder where on earth your journalistic integrity is. Where you hide your, I don't know, sense of professionalism? You're a reporter, Danvers. Start acting like one. I want that article written up and on my desk by Wednesday afternoon. Without spelling mistakes, if you can manage it."
She gives him a tight, fake smile. "Of course."
"It's not that I want to know why your office has turned into a botanical garden over night - maybe you're having some sort of crisis, maybe you're going through a hippy stage, or perhaps you're thinking of opening up a flower shop. I don't really care. Just get those things out of my damn building."
Kara nods. And she is definitely, definitely not thinking about the fact that she is strong enough to take him by the collar and lob him out the window.
"Before you start your article," he adds pointedly.
"It might be a little difficult to-" she begins, because sure Supergirl could rid her office of flowers in no time at all, but it's not exactly possible for Kara Danvers, normal, non-alien reporter at CatCo, to do the same.
"Not my problem. You've triggered a pollen allergy in half my damn employees. Get them out of here."
Kara pulls in a deep breath, ready to at least give some kind of clever retort, but Snapper's gone before she can gather her thoughts.
"Right," she says to herself, and then marches back to her own office.
She takes a seat at her desk, taking in the pretty sight of her flower-filled office. An idle finger traces across the petals of a plumeria, her tired brain absentmindedly shifting from thoughts of Lena, to her mother, to Astra, until she manages to snap herself out of it and pull her attention back to the prep file that Snapper gave her for the interview.
"Right," she repeats again, and before she can second guess herself she pulls out her phone.
Kara: lena!! good morning!
It takes her a few seconds of deep thought, and then she continues.
Kara: (sunshine emoji) (unicorn emoji) (heart emoji) (puppy emoji)
Kara: i'm sorry for being so last minute but snapper wants an article on you very soon
Kara: oh, maybe i should be contacting jess about this??
Kara: uh anyway just let me know if you're available for an interview today. or tomorrow
Kara: i totally get it if you're not
Kara: or if you just want to move on from this entirely
Kara: sorry for rambling
She sighs. She has mastered physical combat and she has defeated more bad guys than she can count and yet there's still something about texting that she just can't quite wrap her head around.
The article prep is almost done when she receives a reply.
Lena: Oh Kara, how you manage to be so utterly charming all the time is beyond me. Drop by whenever you'd like.
Kara is sure that Lena isn't actually available all day, which must mean she's prepared to reschedule a meeting or two for her and, okay, Lena's selflessness is just another reason why she can't quite get enough of her.
She's up and out the door quicker than she'd like to admit, super speed or not.
Kara stops by at her favourite Chinese place on the way to L Corp to pick up some food for Lena because Rao knows that woman skips lunch more than she should. It's not something Kara herself can relate to, exactly, because she's hardly ever not thinking about her next meal. But Alex has spent enough time explaining that not everyone has the metabolism of, well, an alien, so maybe Kara gets it just a little bit.
When Kara reaches the top floor of L Corp, Jess throws her a curious smile. She doesn't get up to show Kara to Lena's office this time, and that's a first. Instead she just gestures for Kara to go forward, and she just about catches the Kara Danvers here to see you spoken into the intercom before she pushes open the door to the office.
Lena looks up from her desk immediately. "Kara."
"Lena, hi," she greets, and she can't exactly help the smile that breaks out across her own face. It only widens when Lena's does too. "How are you doing?"
"A whole lot better ever since my favourite reporter in National City decided to take my side," Lena says in that low, teasing voice of hers. She takes a seat on her sofa and gestures for Kara to do the same. "Really, Kara, I still can't thank you enough."
She bows her head, waves her off. "It was no problem at all."
"Yes, well. You've also saved me from my two o'clock with an incredibly tiresome investor from Singapore, so..." she drifts off, throwing Kara a conspiratorial smile.
"Glad to be of service to you."
Lena chuckles. "So what can I do for you today, Kara Danvers?"
Kara feels herself flush. "Oh, I-"
She looks over to Lena and notices it then, just how tired the other woman really looks.
It wasn't clear at first, but she sees it now; the slight bags under her eyes, masterfully hidden by her make up but there nonetheless, the way she fidgets with her wrist watch, opens her mouth just a fraction and then shuts it like there's something she wants to say.
"Is there something," Kara starts, tentative, "I mean, is everything okay?"
Lena stills. "Are you asking as a reporter or a friend?" she asks coolly, arching a perfect eyebrow. And as much as Kara wishes it wasn't so easy to put her on guard, she's starting to understand that a lifetime of emotional neglect and collateral damage can't just be unlearned with a single reassuring smile.
"A friend, Lena. Always as a friend," Kara insists, voice soft but forceful.
Lena nods, more to herself than Kara, like she's still trying to wrap her head around the idea that words like that could actually be said in earnest to someone like her, to a Luthor.
"My mother has won, hasn't she?" is what she says eventually.
It's a loaded statement, one Kara can't exactly disprove and -
"That's not true," she tries, but Lena cuts her off easily.
"Is it not?" It's more of a plea than anything, and Kara doesn't need to use her super senses to know that Lena is doing everything in her power not to fall apart right there. "Because as far as I remember, she escaped. She's still out there, plotting god knows what, with god knows who and - and for as long as she is -"
Kara notes the erratic thrum of Lena's heartbeat, the frantic edge to her voice that would conceal itself rather well to any one else, but is no match for Kara's super hearing. The way she clenches and unclenches her fists and doesn't quite take the time to breathe, and really, Kara is half sure that she's going to talk herself into a panic attack.
"Lena," she starts, but she gets no response. Her mind is clearly elsewhere, eyes fixed somewhere far in the distance. Kara leans over, tentative, before resting her hand on Lena's knee. "Lena," she repeats, soft. "Breathe. Please?"
Lena jostles at that, finally. She looks down at Kara's hand on her knee and then takes in a deep breath as instructed, shudders through the exhale. Kara's heart aches for her.
Neither of them speak for a long moment, and it's not uncomfortable but there's clearly something that Lena wants to say, something that hangs heavy in the air between them. It all makes sense when she finally speaks up, voice barely there.
"There's something my mother said to me that night that I just haven't been able to shake," Lena starts, and Kara can't bring herself to reply because this moment that feels incredibly important, incredibly fragile, like it could break if either one of them spoke beyond a whisper.
Lena is silent for a moment longer, chewing on her bottom lip in a way that completely lacks its usual calculating charm. Instead, Kara is looking at a broken woman. Or a woman who thinks she's broken, a woman who feels broken, and maybe that's the same thing.
"She said that Luthors don't get second chances,” is what Lena tells her, and Rao, she sounds so tired, so weary, that Kara has to resist the urge to scoop her into her arms right there.
She frowns. “Lena-”
“No, no, she was right," Lena says, and the laugh that accompanies her words is self-deprecating at best. "She is right. But you should know, Kara, I've never felt like I'm on my second chance with you. You look at me like I don't even need one, like I'm still on my first. And that means an awfully great deal, I can't tell you enough."
"You deserve for people to believe in you," Kara says, firmly, and she's not sure if words alone will convey just how much she really means it, so she runs her fingers over Lena's knee, lightly, and watches the small, delicate smile that forms on Lena's lips when she takes their fingers and links them together.
"Maybe so," Lena replies, and she looks at Kara in a way that makes it feel like she's swallowed the sun. But then all of a sudden her smile is gone, and instead she's frowning prettily, chewing on her bottom lip. "Can I tell you something?"
"Of course." Kara squeezes her hand reassuringly. "Anything."
Lena is silent for a while, and Kara's never really been good with her words, not when she's Kara Danvers anyway, so she instead of filling the silence with meaningless nothings she lets her touch drift from Lena's knuckles, to her palms, over to the delicate skin of her wrist.
"Lex was the best brother I could have asked for," Lena says eventually. "The best friend I could have asked for. Until one day, he wasn't. Even now I think he is the only person who has ever truly loved me."
I love you, Kara wants to say. I vow to protect you when you need protecting. I am trying to protect you.
But she understands that love means different things to different people. The love, the care, that radiates from her body - not every one experiences love like that. For some people, Kara realises, love is so synonymous with pain that it might as well be the same thing. So she stays silent, continues to stroke her index finger over the delicate skin of Lena's wrist instead.
She thinks about it, then, about just how fragile human life really is. She thinks about how if she hadn't taken Lena in her arms as Supergirl just before that synthetic Kryptonite went off, Lena would be dead. Maybe that's the price of being a Luthor, people having so little faith in you that they'd rather leave you to die.
"All I’ve ever wanted is a family," Lena whispers. "I wanted to love her. I still do."
"I can understand that," Kara says, and brings her hand up to rest on Lena's cheek, to brush away the tears that are threatening to spill. She soothes her fingers over the tremble of Lena's lips, the edge of her jaw.
"But - surely that makes me a bad person?"
"No, Lena. Not at all," she counters softly. "You are so, so good, and so, so strong," and really, Kara hadn't exactly planned to kiss her, but she can feel herself moving in, slowly. Lena's eyes widen, just a fraction, and then she's leaning into Kara's touch and meeting her somewhere in the middle.
Their lips brush, barely, and Kara feels it everywhere, an unexpected feeling of warmth spreading through her body all at once, settling somewhere deep in her stomach, and finally, finally, for the first time since the explosion she feels herself settle.
They are interrupted by the shrill blast of Kara's phone as it rings. She feels more than hears Lena sigh, and suddenly her barely-there lips aren't there at all.
"Oh," is what Kara manages to say.
Her eyes remain firmly shut, because she's not ready for this moment to be over yet. And she doesn't like the newly-formed distance between them now, however small it is, so she nudges herself forward until her forehead is resting against Lena's. She thinks she hears a muted laugh, but the only thing she can focus on is the thud thud thud of Lena's heartbeat, the delicious sound she makes as she licks her lips, and maybe Kara could lean in one more time, try again, kiss her properly this time -
"You should probably get that," Lena tells her, gently, and Kara nods in agreement before slowly opening her eyes. Lena is looking at her with an incredibly fond expression, the sort that makes Kara feel like she's swallowed the sun, and - why did we stop? she wants to ask, but then Lena gently nudges her hand with her knuckles. "Kara?"
Oh, yeah, her phone is ringing. Right.
Kara fumbles for her phone, checks the caller ID. "Alex?"
"We need you at the DEO," Alex informs her, tone sharp. "Now."
"I'm on my way," she replies, but Alex has already put down the phone.
In the time it takes her to slip her phone back into her bag Lena has already awkwardly distanced herself. She's standing up now, and Kara shoots up to join her.
"Lena, I - I'm so sorry. It's a family emergency," she says. The excuse sounds flimsy on her lips, tastes bitter.
Lena seems to accept it, though, her smile soft and understanding. "It's okay. Go save the day, Supergirl."
Kara's heart stops.
She's sure it actually, like, stops.
"Wh-what?" she splutters, gaping at Lena. "What did you just say?"
Lena tilts her head, fond but curious, and puts a calming hand on Kara's shoulder. "Kara, darling, relax. I meant because you're my-"
"Hero," Kara finishes, her hazy brain finally connecting the dots. "Oh. Right." She blinks slowly. "Not because I'm - right. Hah. Very good."
"Are you quite alright?"
"Me - I - Lena - psh, am I alright? I'm great, I-"
"Kara." Lena reaches for her hands, which are apparently fidgeting with her glasses rather frantically, and directs them to her waist. Lena's own hands come to rest on Kara's shoulders and, okay, there is something decidedly more seductive about the way she's looking at her now. That fragile, broken woman is gone, and instead the person who stands before her screams CEO, power, hunger. And Kara? Kara wants her.
"It's a pity that we didn't get to finish what we started," Lena begins, voice low as she steps right up into Kara's personal space. She leans forward, ghosts her lips against Kara's jaw and Kara's eyes fall shut, her heart fluttering and pounding and aching in her chest. Lena smooths her hands down her sides (should she be embarrased that she trembles in response?) before settling on her hips and -
And then she's gone.
It takes a second for Kara to realise that maybe Lena is talking about their interview and not the kiss, but then with the way Lena's pupils have dilated, darkened, she's sure there's an innuendo in there somewhere.
"I'll have Jess contact Carr," Lena tells her, the picture of innocence all of a sudden. "I imagine we'll have to reschedule our interview ASAP if you want to meet your deadline."
Oh god, the interview. Kara groans. She'd forgotten all about it. "Thank you, Lena," she says through a sigh. "And again - I'm sorry."
Lena waves her off. "It's no problem at all."
There's a moment of silence, and then -
"I got you lunch," Kara blurts, because she's not cable of being even the slightest bit coherent when Lena is standing this close. "I really, really need to go," she sighs, "but - uh, in that bag over there. I got you - us - lunch. Chinese food. Yum," she adds, needlessly.
Lena softens. "Thank you. You're far too kind to me, I think." And apparently she can tell that Kara is about to protest because, "go," she continues, teasingly shooing her away.
Jess winks when Kara leaves Lena's office.
It's not that Kara breaks into CatCo that night to sneak the flowers from her office into her apartment, except - okay, she sort of does?
Well, she's not sure if it can be called breaking in when she has keys to the building, but she does slip in through the back entrance on the roof instead, so yeah - maybe she's breaking in.
She settles into bed that night with a home full of flowers, content, aching, and with no desire to punch anything at all. Everything feels soft, soft, soft, and she drifts into the calm with a small smile on her face.